Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More birthday cake for OK

Socker, grädde, nötter och mandelflarn,
å så sist men inte minst en liten ros av marsipan,
smörkräm, krikon, snabbkräm och gott gelé,
Frasses deg och en flaska saft och så en liten klick med sylt!

"Sugar, cream, nuts, almond flakes
and last but not least a small rose of marsipan,
buttercream, plums, fast cream and good jelly,
Frasse´s dough and a bottle of lemonade and a small dot of jam!

Fotnot: A recipe of a perfect cake from a TV-serie called Tårtan or "The cake".

Happy birthday! or in Swedish Grattis på födelsedagen!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Two Canadian walls

I don't yet have many photos of Canadian houses, but I have these two from the University of British Columbia campus. First the Chemistry building, with colored glass in the slits in the wall.And another building with narrow windows. Seems like they don't like sunshine in their buildings, strange.

Early morning on Wreck Beach

Sunrise in the east, over Vancouver city.
Wreck beach, the only nude beach in Vancouver, but it was empty when I was there early this morning.
Wrecked logs, some really large.
When I was standing here looking at a great blue heron (I think), a bald eagle suddenly flew over me, all quiet. Those are really majestic birds!
The tide was out so kelp and seagrass on the rocks were above water.

Update: The day after the walk down to the beach I woke up with horrible pain in my legs. To get to the beach you have to walk down a steep, steep path that probably has at least 150 wooden stair steps in a nice conifer forest with lots of lush ferns. To get back up the cliff you have to walk up the same way. It is not easy, but certainly worth it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada - first impressions

This is how summer is supposed to be - 20 degrees Celsius, low humidity, and a little rain now and then and sun in between. I now remember how much I really, really dislike New Jersey summers, especially after the horrible downpour in the dark on the highway this morning on the road to the airport. Six hours on a flight and I am in a different country, both literally (feels like Europe!) and climatically.n Everything is green, deers are not eating all the plantings, I hear seagulls, and I have only been here 6 hours. So far I haven't seen the city, only the airport and the university campus, but I love it. The houses are cool, with cedar roofs and steep angles, lots of wood, not one McMansion seen so far. Even the money is more beautiful - oh, well, most everything is more beautiful than the US dollar bills. With the cooler summer days flowers last longer so everything is in flower everywhere, lavender, spiraea, hydrangeas, and much more. Now I know why my Dad wanted to emigrate to British Columbia as a teenager, but I am also glad he didn't, because then I wouldn't have been born in Sweden. But Canada doesn't seem to be far from Sweden. Oh, the airport, I have to talk about that too - it is CLEAN, nicely designed with stainless steel and glass, SPACIOUS, with over 30 luggage carousels (Newark has maybe 9 in each terminal, always overcrowded), the customs and immigration area is superefficient, etc, etc. Leaving the newest terminal at Newark Airport and arriving her was like going from a tired 1980s-decorated restaurant serving lukewarm canned soup with stains on the tile floor, to a cool and funky-fashionable sushi place with Swiss-designed lamps and perfect floor cleaning habits. Small details can really give big impressions. Like the chair in my room, in one of the student apartments - it is made to lean on if you like! And free internet, and birchwood furniture in clean design, and all for half the price in a regular hotel.

On Thursday I plan to go to the old parts of Vancouver and see the world's only steam powered clock. I also hope to go down the cliff to the ocean close to here and maybe see a sea otter, only issue is that the cliff is very high and the beach below is a nude beach :) But I want to see sea shells, drift wood, and the Pacific waves before I leave. More later...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Calculated joy

How many % cacao do you think? If you don't know, you can use the chocolator to figure it out. Here too.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

a life lesson?

Hello all,

The blog is going on low speed with people overheated by summer weather, on vacation, moving, traveling, working, and busy with other things. In the meantime, enjoy this quote, that I am sure some of us can relate to:

"Good judgement comes from experience,
and a lot of that comes from bad judgement."
- Will Rogers

Monday, July 21, 2008

In memoriam, kind of, and Quote of the Day

TV dinners, say no more! Wink wink, nudge nudge... No, Monthy Python never made a skit about TV dinners but they could have done that. Imagine a dead parrot filet inside a foil package. "This parrot is not dead, it is just stunned!"

OK, I admit I have bought and eaten TV dinners earlier when my life was rather despaired (PP will be horrified by these news). In Sweden I don't even know if you can buy them, but I guess so, even if I have no idea what they are called. "TV-middagar?" It is simply overcooked, overfrozen, divided dishes in minuscule portions in a plastic or foil tray so you can eat it while you are watching the latest show on TV, and it saved lots of times for housewifes and men alike. Originally they were heated in the oven, but these days it is all microwavable.

TV dinners started in the 50s and apparently are still going strong based on the meters and meters of freezer space in the store that are occupied by HungryMan's steak and gravy, Swanson's turkey meatloaf, etc. I am often filled by a mixture of amazement and sadness when I see what people have in their shopping carts at the store - TV dinners, soda, cheese sticks, chips, and maybe some ready cut carrots and fruits. And this is the regular, not the unusual.

I haven't eaten a TV dinner in probably 10 years, and I am not planning to eat any more ever. I remember them as being bland, salty, boring, and ugly. But when you are hungry, you eat. I remember that the kids hated them - good job kids, you knew better already then. More pasta with homemade pesto, beer butt chicken, and green chili stew for the people!

Woody Allen is the source for the quote of the day:
"Why bother to cook TV dinners? I suck them frozen." (Woody Allen)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Somerville Classic Car Cruizin' night

A TRIUMPH-ant night! Cars, cars, cars. Here is a sample.

I don't know much about cars, but I have lots of opinions about them. This night we saw: the best hang-outside-box on a Buick ever, the most Americanized engine, a wonderful T-ford with wooden spoked wheels, the best little FIAT, a giant mosntertruck that was not meant to be on a regular road (2 miles per gallon maybe?), a Jaguar race car that might cost half a million dollar (no photo, it was too fast, PP can say waht it was in the comments), lots and lots of cars from the 60s and 70s like Impala, Chevrolet, Mustangs, and Thunderbirds, and then a car that was suffering from sticker shock. We are going back, and this time AREA will bring her camera so we don't just have my little pocket camera. The event is every night in Somerville, NJ.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wood travel

A group of people have built a car in Sweden that goes on firewood, similar to the system used during World War 2. The car, based on a 1970's Volvo passed inspection, and then went on a trip back and forth through all of Sweden. During the trip they used up about 6000 liters (1250 gallons about) of firewood. I think this is very ingenious, even if I don't know exactly how it works. More here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A tiny place in a not so big sea...

I have been to this place, as has EH and our Dad... an island north of Gotland in the Baltic Sea all made out of sand and gravel, filled with pines and birds and with a light house on the northern end. Lots of ships got stranded on the sand barriers and many sailors died around this island, called Gotska Sandön. There was no store, only a camping place without electricity I think, and you could wash your body and hair in the sea. Sun, sand, and sea - everywhere.

Gotska Sandön island

This photo really brings back memories of my teenage years. Macaroni and ketchup for lunch, cooked in the Trangia, and hopefully not with too much spilled T-röd (cooking alcohol, tastes horrible) in it. Two loaves of bread for a week, cheese that turned into something else without refrigeration, sweaty mornings in hot tents with too little fresh air, the hunt for the elusive 'sommargylling' bird, and all the old stories about pirates and Madame Söderlund that tricked poor sailors and raided their boats. I have some old black and white photos of the trip in 1983 I think, I should dig some up and scan them.

Jewelry transformation

How do you take something like this
Getting Sorted

and make something like this?

Knitwit Necklace - The Blues

or this?

Curio Necklace

or this?


or this?

Tupperware Jewellery

Plastic Girl on Flickr knows, and here is her blog and website too. These are so inspiring, fun and recyclable!

Otavalo market - a study in handicrafts

Images of handicraft from the market in Otavalo, Ecuador. The creativity and color is everywhere, and even if a lot is marketed to tourists, there are still a lot of things that locals sell to locals.

There are of course a lot of cotton and wool weavings in the Andean tradition, but also wood tools for the kitchen, bead, coral, and horse hair jewelry, Indian dream catchers which I don't know if they are part of the Andean tradition or not, spices and dyes, pottery (including many copies of pre-Columbian pottery), and wooden boxes. The market is big, it covers one large square and many of the side streets. You can walk for hours here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bath Time

Norfolk & Western # 475 has been pulled out of the engine house by #90 and is getting a bath in preparation to being fired up. The high season for the Strasburg starts the weekend of July 4th, after which, they run 2 trains a day. The Strasburg is a tiny 4 mile railroad in Amish country in PA. I delighted in one sight seen but not photographed. I was waiting at a railroad crossing to photograph the train. An Amish family was just crossing the tracks:

First the father reached down as they rolled by and picked one of the the daylilies and handed it to his wife. Just about where they are in this pic the train blew it's whistle and was approaching the road crossing from the left. The family stopped their buggy and waited for the train and they all watched it go by. Then they were on their way again.

If your in Lancaster county, stop by and ride the Strasburg, it's friendly little rural railroad.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Saving money and energy takes a lot of time and effort

Recently we have made a large effort to make our living here in New Jersey better for the environment and cheaper (after realizing our oil costs would be at least $5000 next year). We still don't have the solar hot water/wood burning heat system we are dreaming of, but I think it is in the works, at least in our heads. But smaller steps are good too.

So, we got an expensive, 10-year warranty Australian laundry line, and we now dry our laundry (mostly) outside. This works great, but you have to hang and unhang and fold it... and keep an eye on the sky. With about 6 laundry loads a week in this house, I bet this will cut down on our electric bills and our arm muscles will swell.

Collect water in rain barrels to water the garden - this hasn't happened yet. I called the vineyards and they want $100 for a used wine barrel, so I think we will stick to plastic which lasts much longer anyway. We are going to collect rainwater from the house and store it and then gravity feed the garden hose for the vegetables. So instead of more sustainable wood, we will probably have plastic...

We bought 4.5 cords of fire wood and stacked it all, it is about 4 cubic meter I think. It wasn't free but it is cheaper than oil, and we are lucky that we already have a wood/oil furnace. Now we want to get a Smart Splitter like at barking Dog Plaza and a Husqvarna chain saw to attack the bigger pieces. And then in the winter we will have to light the fire in the basement instead of just letting the automatic oil burner take care of it all.

No air conditioners this summer either, yet. Take off your clothes instead and sweat.

Next on the agenda - do temporary fixes to the kids' windows that are in bad shape to reduce winter drafts, until we can replace them. Fix the seal on the front door. Get solar power to the barn so we have light in the winter when we chop wood. Catch all ground hogs, especially those that trick the trap repeatedly. Dig a new fence around the vegetable garden. Put in a tile floor in front of the main door to the house. Paint around some windows. Drain hot tub, which has been turned off to save electricity (who needs a hot tub in the summer anyway).

While I was swimming my 22 laps recently in the township pool I realized that it is so easy for people to do the 'wrong' thing. It really takes a lot of effort, time, and sometimes muscle power to live more cheaply and sustainably. Why would anyone that is rich stack their own firewood or hang their own laundry? Being environmentally friendly is inconvenient and sweaty. Our whole society has been going towards more and more convenience and easier-living, and now this? Why can't environmentally friendly solutions be easy? Solar power should be cheap! It isn't. This country (USA) is so far behind Europe it is not even funny.

All of this of course reminds me of growing up at Barking Dog Plaza - hanging laundry, wood fires in the morning, chopping wood (all free there), and so on.

(Updated with photos)