I have moved

You can mostly find me here these days instead. I'll do cross-posting for a while longer though.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Dark is Rising

I joined a FB-group dedicated to re-reading The Dark is Rising sequence in honour of the 40th anniversary of the titular book’s release and it led me to this link with reviews of the books.

I am reading them to Isabel at the moment. We are almost finished with book 4, The Grey King and I’m constantly reminded of how much I loved them as a child and how much they shaped what I’m looking for in books.

I was 10 or 11 when my teacher, who was also the school’s librarian, handed me The Dark is Rising one day at school and said “I think you’d like this one”. I took it home and showed it to my Mum who asked if she could read it first. Not sure if she was vetting my reading or not and I said sure – I was a little scared by the cover illustration.

She finished it quickly and handed it back to me saying I should definitely read it, but that it was a bit scary. Which of course made me put it at the back of the queue – I had mostly read Little House and Anne of Green Gable by then so scary books weren’t really my thing (or so I thought).

Then the date when I had to bring the book back to school was getting closer and I sat down to read it after all. And my memory is that I devoured it in one sitting, berating my mother for saying it was scary and immediately bringing it back to my teacher asking for more of the same.

For some reason The Dark is Rising was the first book to be translated into Swedish so I read them out of order.

I got four of the books over the next year or two and read them over and over again while hoping to get the fifth and last book for my birthday. A few weeks before my birthday I was home sick and I got permission to take a nap in my Mum’s bed. I put my hand underneath her pillow and pulled out Silver on the Tree. She had bough it for me and was reading it herself before giving it to me.

It took all my willpower to put the book back without reading it and then wait until the book turned up, wrapped for my birthday.

As I learned more English in school I found myself attempting to translate the books into English in my head as I read them. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to read them in English. So – this was before Internet and Amazon in the late 80′s – I went to a book store in town and asked them to track the books down for me and they found the sequence – all five books in one.

I brought it with me on our graduation trip to Yugoslavia (before the Balkan-war) and got a lot of comments from my class mates on why I read in English and what a snob I was. I didn’t care.

Since then I’ve read it several times – usually when I’m sick and need a distraction from my stuffed nose or sore throat. I can usually finish one book in a day so they are on my annual re-read list – sick or not.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lucia Cats – Yule Boars


I made saffron rolls last week which were very tasty but the traditional use for saffron at Christmas is in “Lussebullar“.

Traditionally made for Lucia which always fall on Dec 13th to celebrate the martyr Lucia who wore a crown with candles on her head to keep her hands free to carry food and drink to the poor and to persecuted Christians.

I can’t really tell you why Scandinavia celebrated an Italian saint but we have done it this way for about 100 years now. The Lucia day has been a day of celebrations for much longer than that though so it may be a case of hostile take over of a pagan tradition.


The s-shaped bun is the traditional shape but I did a few variations. In the upper picture you can see a Lilly, a swaddled child and a Yule carriage (the double bun with the spirals going outward).

Sadly (?) the saffron make the buns go stale rather quickly so you either eat them all at once or freeze them and take out only what you “need”.

Straight out of the oven they are so good I could inhale the lot.

Windows and hatches


Rickard took the day off on Thursday and put in the wooden boards around the windows (embrasures, google translate tells me) in our windows in the attic.

After a line of putty on the outside against the wall the windows look really good. Now we’re just waiting on a delivery of the stone windowsills. I’m told we should be able to pick them up this week.


Each of the rooms has two inspection hatches so we can check the ventilation and electricity systems. The doors are flush with the walls but the board around it stick out. I’m not sure how to decorate around it but we’ll work it out.

The board on the right hand side (where the hinges are) is stuck on with magnets so we can open the hatch as well.

The floors are swept and vacuumed and ready for the floor boards. We finally managed to get hold of the plumber and he may have an opening next week to put in our radiators. We’ll have to hold off with the floor until he’s done. But I am itching to start.

Friday, December 6, 2013


Another thing that is quintessentially Christmas to me is saffron. I rarely use it at other times of year. The usual way of using it is in sweet rolls where you shape the dough into s-shapes and decorate with raisins.

I plan to do that too but yesterday as the storm Sven raged outside I made almond paste filled saffron rolls.


I made a standard sweet roll dough. The recipe was printed on the back of the flour bag. I let it rise for 40 minutes and then divided it in two and rolled it out.

I just love that colour! So wonderful.


I grated a stick of almond paste and mixed it with butter and vanilla sugar then rolled it all up into a long snake. I did take a picture with the almond paste mixture on but it just looked the same as before I spread it on.


Cut the snake into 20 or so pieces an put them in little paper cups (I can’t remember the name for that).


Let them rise for another 40 minutes then brush them with an egg wash and sprinkle pearl sugar on them. We had run out of eggs so I had to use milk instead of an egg wash, but it turned out just as well.


This is pearl sugar. Coarse grains of sugar that is mostly used to sprinkle over sweet rolls.


I got 43 rolls from this recipe. The end pieces that turn out a bit smaller than the rest I put two and two in the same liner.

You get used to the smell of it when you’re at home, but I anticipate our house will smell really good today when I get back after having been away for a few hours.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Recipe: Gingerbread


I finished baking the gingerbread last night. I haven’t counted them and given that they are of such varying size I don’t think a number is really helpful.

Like I said the recipe is super easy to make. You just need to plan ahead since it does need to rest overnight. It’s also not suitable to make large cookies from or gingerbread houses. I have another recipe for those.

My Grandma has made this gingerbread recipe since I was a little girl. She got it from her mother (Inez) so it is tried and tested.

I can still remember the smell in Grandma’s kitchen when she made gingerbread. Traditionally they are only made for Christmas so it was quite a treat when it was finally time to make them. Plus it meant that Santa was coming soon. I remember the scent of ginger and cinnamon filling her kitchen and wafting through the rest of the house. I remember the feeling when you eat the very first gingerbread if the year, fresh from the oven. How you almost, but not quite burned your tongue and how it was totally worth it. I remember how I waited until Grandma turned her back or went to the doorstep to let the baking trays cool, then I’d quickly steal another one, and another and yet another. And of course she knew exactly what was going on.

Grandma Inez’s Swedish Gingerbread

200 g golden syrup (not quite a cup)

200 g butter

200 g caster sugar (almost a cup)

2 egg yolks

1 tbs ground ginger

2 tbs ground cinnamon

(1 tsp ground cloves – optional)

1 tbs baking soda

600 g wheat flour (Leave enough so you can roll out the cookies)

Heat syrup, butter and sugar in a pan, but do not let it boil. Leave to cool slightly before mixing in the egg yolks, spices, baking soda and flour.

Pour it into a bowl or soup plate and let the dough set in the fridge over night.

When you’re ready to start making the cookies, preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Roll out the dough as thinly as you can. It should only be a few millimetres thick. Mark off cookies with cookie cutters in different shapes. Traditionally you use hearts, stars, pine trees, men and women, but today a wide range of shapes are available. We have a dolphin and I found a bat that I will buy for this year. I got this set at IKEA and they made really cute bears.

Place the cookies directly on the baking tray or use a baking paper. Try to bake a few cookies first, if they spread you should add more flour. Bake them for 7-9 minutes. Watch them closely so they don’t turn too dark.

The gingerbread is quite soft when it comes out of the oven so let them cool on the tray before you move them to a cooling rack, or they will mould to whatever you place them on.

Let the cookie sheets cool before new cookies are placed on them, that way they’ll come out smooth. If you don’t they form bubbles which doesn’t look very nice.

I don’t ice this gingerbread. I save that for gingerbread houses and the larger figures.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


After our lovely dinner last night (fried herring with mashed potatoes) we drove to the hardware store to get moulding for the hatches in the attic and for the window sills.

Let me just say that the mix of fresh gingerbread and fried herring that hit us when we came back home was such a gross combination.

Never again!


On Monday night I mixed up a batch of my great grandma Inez’s gingerbread.


It’s a dead easy recipe to make but it needs to rest overnight or it will be too runny to work with. I dropped it all in a plastic box and left it on the patio over night.

Once it was time to bake it needs a lot of work to soften up and the girls were both waiting impatiently for me to work the dough into shape.


I let them work on their own baking paper to make it easier to transfer the cookies to a baking sheet.


They came out a little on the dark side for my taste. I’ll need to watch them more closely tonight when I finish baking the rest of the dough. The moose on top is from a cookie cutter set I got at IKEA and below it are houses, stars, hearts and angels.

They tasted exactly as they were supposed to, even though Rickard distracted me while I was putting the ginger in.

Monday, December 2, 2013


We celebrate Advent in Sweden. Four Sundays before Christmas Eve we light a candle and meet with friends and family to celebrate with big cocktail parties or just coffee and cookies.


This candle holder has been with me and Rickard since we moved in together. I decorated it with ribbon one year and it’s sort of stayed on. Some years (like this year, I decorate it with moss and assorted bling. Other years I leave it empty.

The yarn bullfinches are a gift from my grandmother (I think).

The little white bowl is filled with Christmas-y spices (star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamom) and some little spruce branches.


I also try to light the date candle every day. It started out well yesterday morning, but today we forgot so I think we will save this one for evenings. I have fond memories of my grandmother forgetting this candle (it looked the same thirty years ago) in the mornings and burning it past the day’s date and then not being able to have it lit for a few days.


I finally got around to make spruce wreaths for my china cabinet this year. Isabel doesn’t like that they’re not even, but I like them because they are not even. I did notice a mild allergic reaction when I made them so I won’t be touching them too much. As long as I leave them hanging I can handle them just fine.

This is about how much I decorate before Lucia (Dec 13th). Everything else will have to wait until then. And the tree is brought in on the 23rd. (Although it looks like we won’t have a tree this year.) I also decided not to change the curtains by our dining table to the Christmas-y ones. They are brown and steal too much light from the room.


When the sun starts to set just after 3 pm you need to make sure to get as much light as you can possibly can into the room.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


In these days of short-lived tv-shows (Firefly anyone?) it’s no small feat to have a tv-show last 50 years.

I came to Doctor Who late and I haven’t seen any of the Classic Who episodes (other than the very first episode and a short bit of the first episode of the Third Doctor).

I wrote the local cinema about a month ago to inquire if they were going to show it but I got a standardised reply back telling me “to keep an eye out – maybe it will turn up at a later date”. Luckily the Science Fiction book-store managed to convince an independent cinema to show it and in my town they hosted three sold out viewings on Saturday and Sunday. I managed to score tickets to the first viewing of them.


There was a TARDIS, a Dalek and a Cyberman set up in the lobby of the cinema and there was a throng of people both in and out of costume who lined up in a very orderly fashion since there was no pre-assigned seating. We got great seats and I loved the atmosphere in the theatre. Everyone seemed to be there determined to have a great time and everyone was excited about being part of this.

The sort of cheesy PSAs at the beginning with Commander Strax telling us about proper cinema etiquette and turning our mobile communications devices off was met with laughter and cheers as well as the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors’ information about the 3D-glasses.

There was a very climactic moment near the end when the whole theatre exploded in cheers as we saw a distinctive pair of eyes and eyebrows, as well as a sweet sentimental out-pouring of emotion when a well-known face from the past turned up.

The most difficult part of the evening was keeping a straight face as we exited the theatre right next to the line of people getting in to see the second viewing. No spoilers, please.

We drove straight home to find the BBC had released not only a teaser trailer for the Doctor Who Christmas Special (Daleks! Cybermen!) but also a teaser for the new Sherlock series 3!

It’s going to be a busy season.


Once the girls’ rooms were painted I realised I had lots of blue and pink paint left over and so I do what you do when you’re bitten by a bug. I looked around to see what else I could get away with painting.

I settled on the closet the girls will use for their clothes and for storage.

They’ll each get one side of it and I measured out where the shelf and rack will be and marked off an 80 cm wide strip to paint in their respective wall colours.


I did it all by the book. I masked off the area I wanted to paint, then painted over the tape with the original wall colour so that if anything was to seep in underneath the tape it would be the wall colour.

Then I painted it all twice and took of the tape immediately. There were a few minor mistakes but they were all on the upper edge and will be hidden by the shelf once it’s installed.

I’m already looking for a new painting project. Our bedroom is looking like a likely target.

Monday, November 25, 2013


After two weeks of inactivity we finally got to finish the paint job in the attic. The walls are all painted now – we ran out of paint with a wall and a half left in the stairwell and had to thin it out with water to make it last.

It worked.

Rickard masked off the wall so I could start painting the pink focus wall in Sofia’s room. It was really very pink. The name of the shade was Flamingo and it’s a suitable name.

Flamingo Pink

I have promised her gold circles or stars (she can’t make up her mind) on the left half of the wall where her bed will go. I’m not sure how to go about it but I’m sure it can’t be all that difficult.

We only got to one coat on Saturday because we were otherwise engaged in the afternoon and evening (more on that in another post). But Sunday morning, bright and early .. well – at 11 am because we over slept – I got up there again and painted a second coat before I started on Isabel’s blue wall.


And it is as blue as Sofia’s wall is pink. This shade is called Grekland (Greece) and it looked hideous in the can but I actually really like it. In the picture I’ve only done one coat. After the second coat the colour really pops. I have a package of big paper pom poms in blues and greens I plan to give Isabel for Christmas along with a string of Happy Lights in blues.

Sofia will also get a string of Happy lights but I’ve not yet decided on what colour scheme to get her.

Both girls have approved of the colours and we are moving ahead with installing the inspection hatches in the walls so we can insulate around them and put up some mouldings.

We’re also trying to co-ordinate with the plumber guy who’ll install the radiators. We want him to do that before we put down the floor boards.

It’s all moving along nicely.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I’m seeing Shakespeare on Wednesday. The RSC puts on Richard II in Stratford-upon-Avon and send it live in theatres around the world. I’m so excited to have a ticket to see it.

And on Thursday next week I’m seeing a taping of the Macbeth play from Manchester this summer with Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston in the title roles.

I studied two terms of English at uni when I was 20 and one term we had an entire class dedicated to Macbeth. It was so interesting to dissect it and I am very much looking forward to seeing it.

I’m a big fan of Alex Kingston but I have only ever seen her on telly. I’m sure it’s quite different to see her in a play.

Now if I could swing a ticket to Hamlet in London next fall to see Benedict Cumberbatch play Hamlet I’d be thrilled.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


On Friday I left the girls home alone and drove to pick Rickard up from work. Next stop was a gas station near home to rent a trailer then off to Staffanstorp to pick up 14 more liters of wall paint, 3 liters of ceiling paint, brushes and 50 sq meters of oak parquet.


This is 35 sq meters of it on the trailer.

We had to do a mad dash because the trailer rental place was only open until 7 pm and we picked it up at 5 pm.

When we got stuck in a queue on the way to Staffanstorp we started to worry if we would make it.

But we got it all loaded, paid for (yikes!), driven home and unloaded in our hall and the trailer returned with 30 minutes to spare.

Now we just have to carry it all upstairs.

Lazy Saturday

We had a rainy and dreary day here today.

I spent most of it running errands dropping off and picking up kids.

Isabel went geocaching with her hiking group but since they were doing that in the little wooded area behind her school she dropped herself off via bike. It felt weird seeing her off from the front steps. Going hiking on her own.

It rained most of the time so they cut the day short and she was home, wet and cold almost an hour earlier than expected.

I can still remember coming home from a rainy day in the woods and sinking into a hot bath to warm up then lounging in sweatpants and a tee the rest of the day. Glorious.

The fact that I finished her new leggings as she was in her bath didn’t go amiss either. She was very pleased, even though they weren’t a perfect fit. Too short in the leg and too high in the rise.

Back to drafting for me.

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