Wednesday, June 30, 2010

OK snapshot: Prospect

LS comment: In Sweden Harley-Davidson is trying out a new marketing strategy
to entice the more environmentally friendly people, maybe?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Book review: Malaria dreams by Stuart Stevens

You meet a friend you don't know so well in a bar. This friend tells you he has a Land Rover stuck in the Central African Republic, and wonders if you feel like going there and drive it back to Europe.  Sure you say, and manage to get another friend along for the adventure.  You go to CAR (Central African Republic) and the car is nowhere to be seen.  Three months later you manage to get to Europe, despite a million mechanical problems, African bureaucracy (which seems to be even worse than Central Asian bureaucracy), fun and unfun adventures, some malaria and dysentery, and not in the Land Rover.  And this is what happened.

This book, Malaria Dreams: An African Adventure by Stuart Stevens is a true story, and sort of like a diary of the way Africa works.  Things take time.  Creativity is a must. Italians are the best mechanics.  Don't trust the guides to take you to their home villages.  Insurance, what insurance?  Sleeping on the roof of a 4-wheel jeep under the stars - this is really Africa.

It is a great read, even if slow sometimes in the beginning, but this is a diary and there were many days of just waiting for something to happen.  The author, Stuart Stevens, have a great way with words and was one of the writers for our favorite TV series Northern Exposure.  I want to read more by him!  I am so amazed at their  persistence to actually do this trip, despite all the problems along the way.  Including a car that you can't turn off and that can only run in one gear, through Sahara.

OK snapshop: Under undervegetationen

Underneath the understory.
Added by LS: This is leaves from the bracken fern ('örnbräken'), a species they just showed to produce carcinogenic compounds that are not broken down in nature and that can enter the drinking water.  It has been eaten in Asia, but in Sweden it is mostly thought of as nature's umbrellas and a common sight along roadsides and on forest clear cuttings.  It is a gorgeous plant, even if toxic and invasive in many parts of the world.

OK snapshot: First swim of the year

In the lake Bårsten, Södermanland, Sweden, 27 June.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sad news from Chama, New Mexico

"Steam-powered trains on the New Mexico side of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic railroad have been cancelled after a fire destroyed ties and track structure on a high bridge in the San Juan Mountains." link to more

This is where we are going this summer to ride the old trains...

Update: The trains will still be running this summer, and the bridge will be rebuilt, yippee!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Vermeer Milkmaid in Pennsylvania

Look how Hank Conner transformed one of my photos from the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in Doylestown, PA. Isn't it nice? Click on the image for more information.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Things that I don't think were meant to be

I wonder, if paper wasps are good for anything? I mean, they don't pollinate anything, as far as I know they don't eat mosquitos or japanese beetles, and they seem so spend their days just annoying people.  I admit this is a very anthrophosophic viewpoint, but I think I have the right to it, since I got stung three times by the same wasp this morning, and now can barely walk due to a very large, swollen foot. I don't talk about  very useful parasite wasps that kill insect pests, but the ones that build there nests under gas filling lids on trucks (x 2 and two years in a row - ask PP), or inside hot tubs or nice deck lamps.  And then they attack you when you are minding your business just cutting grass in the vegetable garden, aiming for your ankle through the sock.  The one that bit me looked like a European paper wasp, but I don't know if they are in the US.  At least it was yellow and black, not brown. And since they don't die after stinging someone, it is now happily flying someone, while I have a foot like a swollen red club.  Not fair.

(PS.  OK, I so realize that evolutionary speaking nothing is here on earth for the purpose of making the life of humans easier, but in this case I think I am allowed to be a little bit selfish for a change.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, OE!

Brower Hatcher, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

Photo of a tiny detail from a Brower Hatcher sculpture at the Grounds of Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ. I love combination of the 'soft' glass and hard steel.

floating blueberries

floating blueberries, originally uploaded by aroid.
Have you ever noticed before how those little triangles are sticking up from the blueberries out of the milk? Those are the old sepals (calyx, 'foderblad') of the flowers. In July I am planning to go to the Pine Barrens of NJ to pick lots and lots of blueberries for jams and pies. Great photo by aroid on Flickr.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Very crafty things...

... can be found on Etsy, an online shop for handmade things.  People are so creative!  Some examples from among the over 5 million things on sale (click on the links to see photos and other information):

Ctrl+Alt+Del pillows (for the sleepy geeks)  Cufflinks made from old maps (I love old maps).   If yuo don't know where you are, you need this. A cool bracelet of unusual design, like a straggly underwater seaweed...  A tie for my brother? Industrial cocktail rings (serious steampunk stuff). Statements for the really hot ones.And Swedish Lapland bracelets made with tin wire - gorgeous things.

You can also learn how mother-of-pearl buttons were made in the past in Mississippi, and there is even a museum about these wonderful things. I also remember our grandmother's box with miscellaneous buttons, just like EH does.

At IKEA in China...

swedish meatballs, ikea, originally uploaded by myshoes51.
They have little Swedish flags in the meatballs! And neat mashed potato balls too. Globalization in action is not always what you expect.

Photo copyright by myshoes51 on Flickr.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Italienska läckerheter (Italian delicious dishes)

The last couple of weeks we have been cooking a lot from three cookbooks by famous chef Mario Batali - Simple Italian Food, Molto Gusto, and Italian Grill, all fantastic and mouth-watering cookbooks with easy recipes of Italian food that is not the usual lasagna, spaghetti with meat sauce and pizza, but more authentic, more tasty, and more real. And more vegetables.  Lots of them. The difference between Mario and many other famous chefs is that you feel that he really cares, and he really LOVES this food.  It is not some gimmick to sell more cookbooks or gadgets branded with your name. So we have been cooking away, and it has all been delicious.  Above - grilled baby octopus salad (you marinated the octopusses in oil and lemon juice and scallion, grill them and then throw them back in the marinade and eat). It is like eating tender sea rubber bands in a very good way. (Click on any photo to see a larger version)

Steamed globe artichokes, more dense and less prickly than regular artichokes.  You cut the top of the artichoke and put it in a steamer pot for about 40 min, and make sure to add some cut up lemon, black peppercorns, salt, and herbs (tarragon, thyme... whatever) to the steam water before you start.  Serve as is, with garlic aioli as dipping sauce and you will be in heaven. Take a bract (yes, that is what they are), dip in sauce, rip off the inner fleshy layer with your front teeth, and discard the rest of the bract in the 'dead soldier bowl' on the table. Repeat. Repeat.

A new take on eggplant - slice them thin, thin, then grill them and roll them up with goat cheese and pesto inside, put them on top of some home made tomato sauce and eat, eat, eat.

Spaghetti a new wonderful way.  Make a broccoli rabe pesto, and mix it into spaghetti.  Absolutely delicious.

More cabbage related plants.  Broccolini, like broccoli but not as mutated, cooked for 5 min and then dressed with orange-garlic dressing.  Scrumptious!  Now there is a word that sounds like it describes dried sheep's testicles, but it really means something really, really good.

Grilled halibut with broccoli rabe with grated cheese in the background.  The halibut is a giant flat fish, like an overgrown flounder, with fantastic white flesh.  It lives its whole life sideways (and if you haven't seen the movie Sideways, do it, and it has nothing to do with halibut). On top of the halibut is a herb sauce, just olive oil, lemon juice and herbs.  Did I mention simplicity? Below is a plate of broccoli with "whipped parmesan".  A new favorite.

Bean salad with asparagus, really, really good and so healthy and green.  Very good.

And now for something different.  Make homemade pizza dough, roll it out in little pieces and fill them, make flat and grill on the hottest part of the grill. We used a variety of fillings, leftover goat cheese mixed with basil pesto, caramelized onions, Kalamata olives, and rosemary leaves.  A giant hit, especially with the younger crowd at the dinner table. The name - grilled flatbreads.

If you want any of the recipes, put a note in the comments or e-mail me.

And while eating on the deck, the giant Citronella candles are burning to keep bark beetles (yes!), mosquitos and other buggers away, and it works. When it gets dark the fire flies are starting their stroboscope symphony, blinking away and competing with the stars...

And I agree with Mario: 

"Once you've put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided."

Good food doesn't have to be expensive, but it takes some thinking, long before you turn on the stove.

More colors in the garden

a snake in the garden

The new snake is watching over the birdhouse (and the whole garden).  It is made from some giant Indian glass beads I bought in Vermont last summer. Snake closeup here. Maybe I should rename the kitchen garden to Eden, what do you think?  But I have no apple trees there, only pears, peaches, and a suffering kiwi shrub. (Click on photos for larger versions)

Indian glass beads
More Indian beads, these were put up on a temporary string as suncatchers.

the blue eye in the old pasta stirrer

And old wooden pasta stirrer broke, was glued together, but could no longer be a useful tool in the kitchen, so it got remade into the good eye that keeps all evil away from the garden. Evil in this case is considered to be unwanted chewing animals, from large furry things like deer, groundhogs, and rabbits, to slimy and scaly things like japanese beetles, potato beetles, slugs, and squash bugs. All other creatures can stay.

Giant Leopard Moth, Ecpantheria scribonia

Our garden is full of amazing and unexpected things, just look at this 5 cm long moth found by PP last weekend. Who expects something like this? Every year is different in the garden - one year we have japanese beetles invading, another groundhogs, and a third one it is turkey vultures mating on our chimney. This year's common animals seems to be ants, rabbits, and yellow snails. And the ever-present white-tailed deers of course, which seems so desperate they are even eating butterfly bushes (Buddleja) right now. Planting mint, sage and lavender in our borders instead of regular flowers have resulted in that we now really have nice thick borders again, albeit it is mostly mint and other herbs, which is not a bad thing, just unusual.

Friday, June 4, 2010

BP = before present (oil spill and pink assumptions)

The oil is still gushing out from a giant toxic sludge sewer pipe, killing and poisoning, and BP is getting more and more disliked. There is a contest going on to redesign BP's logo to a more fitting one, from the green and yellow flower to something infused with oil, like these dead animals.There are many suggestions on how to fix the leak and the spill too...

On a totally unrelated note, I find that people who insist that baby pink T-shirts for women and green T-shirts for men (with no option to switch or choose) to not be a sexist thing to be very, very oblivious, uneducated and misinformed about gender roles and prejudice.  Let the men have some pink shirts if they like, and don't assume the women should have pink, please. This happened today at work, as part of a public celebration...  Pink is fine as a personal choice, but not as an assumption and expectation linked to all people with XX chromosomes.  (And don't get me started on pink toys and clothes for little girls... pink stinks even more there).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

White gorgeousness

The white Penstemons (beard's tongue) are flowering in our garden here in New Jersey.  EH, how about your seedlings from last year?  Did they flower yet?  If not, here is a photo of the beauty to come.

I think this is Penstemon digitalis, talus slope penstemon, but I am not 100% sure.  I can't even remember where the seeds come from.  Penstemon is a giant genus of plants in the plantain family (Plantaginaceae).  It used to be in the foxglove family (Scrophulariaceae) before that family got split up because of new scientific findings.  It turned out that the old Scrophulariaceae was a
'trash-bag' family of plants that didn't really fit together. (Of course old databases such as the USDA's still have it in Scrophulariaceae... but Wikipedia is updated.)  Other plants in the Plantaginaceae are plantain (Plantago, 'groblad'), snapdragon (Antirrhinum, 'lejongap'), and butter-and-eggs (Linaria, 'gulsporre'). Left in the new small Scrophulariaceae is mainly mullein (Verbascum, 'kungsljus') and the stinky Scrophularia ('flenört'), which smells like a dishrag infused with old milk and grease and that should have been washed weeks ago.