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.

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