Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Old and real things last longer

In the small, semi-northern Swedish province of Gästrikland, there is an old village mainly consisting of a 1600s iron foundry with worker's baracks, mansion, farm buildings, storage cellars, and so on.  This is Gysinge Bruk, which has recently been restored and is now used as a conference center.  These rural places have a hard time to survive financially, but Gysinge has found its niche in the Swedish economy.

examples of outside historic paints for sale

Some passionate people founded the Centrum for Byggnadsvård (approximately the Center for the Care and Restoration of Historic Houses, website is unfortunately mostly only in Swedish) here, and this has become a pilgrimage place for many Swedes who have old houses they want to care for using old practices.  Paints are sold using old recipes using either oil or flaxseed oil (no acrylic here), and copies of old electrical, lightning, or metal parts are sold for replacement of broken old parts.  They have courses and workshops in careful and thoughtful renovation of these soulful houses, and there are many, many historic houses in Sweden, so the interest from the public is huge.

partially renovated kitchen

Part of their center is a hands-on demonstration of a work-in-progress where 1700s farmhouse is being restored and simultaneously converted into a suitable and efficient house for a modern family.  Nowhere do you see chrome, plastic molding, and other modern materials, even if the tools they use are sometimes high-efficient and modern. This creates a unique atmosphere in these houses, a warm welcoming feeling of memories and recognition, at least for me who has lived in several old houses and seen many more in Sweden.

window detail
old electric style - and approved for useThe appreciation for the natural materials, the simplicity of lines and designs (even when elaborate), and the history of craftsmanships are all things that form the foundation for this amazing place.  What this center provides is incredibly important for Swedish culture and history, and they really create new life in old buildings. Of course many people use these designs in their modern houses as well, inspired as they are of seeing the shapes, colors, and lines of times past.

On the website the founders of this center asks us the question: "Who would cut up the side of an old T-Ford to press in the door to a new Toyota Corolla?"  Still, this is what many people do when they own an old historic house.  Then they point out that many times this is done because people don't know they can replace old with old, because they don't know about the center in Gysinge where you can buy parts and products. They sell not only paints and parts, but also moldings, wall paper, brooms, windows, flower pots, kerosene lamps, signage, railings, electric switches, tiles and chairs.

More photos from Gysinge here. Click on the photos above if you want to read more about them,

Stamp of the day: Harvest time

This stamp might have been blogged before, but it´s so nice you can look at it again! Food for thoughts, so to speak.

Skrattar bäst som skrattar sist- Pica pica

Picture by Anders Norrsell, Jönssonbilder AB.
Here´s an embroidery with a Swedish saying, "Laughing best is the one laughing last". Since our birds "skata" (magpies) sound like they´re laughing I thought this was a very fitting picture. More in swedish here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just another photo...

the view, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

....from Blue Lake Ranch. Do you understand now why we loved this place so much?

Guess what this is...

DSC_6941copy11, originally uploaded by Scotty Da Q.
Click on the photo to find out. :)

We got what we needed!

Svartkål med regndroppar, originally uploaded by annsofic.

This gorgeous photo by ansofic of raindrops on tuscan kale on Flickr represents today's weather in New Jersey, USA. Rain, slow, steady rain. After weeks and weeks of too little or no rain, we are finally getting wet. I hope it rains for 2 more days, just this slow steady drizzling to sink in deep in the soil to all the water-starved roots. It is too late for many trees and shrubs around here, many have already dies, but it will save some. For our vegetable garden it will be a great beginning on the fall-winter season too, even if those seeds are not yet in the ground. But by the end of the week, they will be!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

After sunset

Hesperus - Blue Lake Ranch, Colorado, 10 PM, a day in August 2010:

sunflower and moon
At first I thought it was an owl, but then the tone was joined by another yapping sound and another howl and another.  They hunt in packs, communicating by eerie sounds in the night.  I love this sound - last time I heard it was in Yellowstone National Park when at 5.30 AM during a meteor shower in early September a few years ago we heard a coyote pack on a mountain across the wide valley, soon answered by a wolf pack howling from another mountain ridge nearby.  In southern Colorado, you only hear the coyotes, but they are the real thing.  It makes you think about wide expanses of land, the Wild West, and old western movies.  I love the sounds of coyotes!  We have coyotes in New Jersey too, but they are quiet, probably because there are so many more people, cars, dogs, and houses in NJ and the coyotes try to avoid detection.  Out here in the west they can roam free.

Oh, and if you want to go to one of the best bed and breakfasts/ hotels/ inns in the USA for an unforgettable stay, book a room or cottage for a few nights at Blue Lake Ranch in southern Colorado.  The breakfasts are amazing, and Jackie makes the best biscuits and sausage gravy (a very American thing) and chicken tortilla casserole (a very Southwestern dish) for the breakfast table. What a treat!  The gardens are gorgeous, the place is like an oasis in the dry high-desert and pine forests. It is the kind of place you are glad you know about as a refuge that day when you need to get away.  It is probably one of the best and nicest places I have stayed at ever.

More photos from Blue Lake Ranch here.

There are more lichens in Stockholm...

lichens, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

than in Philadelphia and New York. This is the truth.

Swedish food, now and then

While in Sweden recently I had many memorable meals, in very different settings, and from the fancy to the everyday, from the modern to the traditional or even ancient, and from pure Swedish to authentic Italian via swedish-inspired Thai and swedish-style pizza.  During our trip north to the province of Gästrikland we stopped in at the restaurant Furuviks Brygga (Furuvik's Pier), which is a fancy and rather new restaurant located on the Baltic seashore near the town of Gävle (a word that is not related to jävlar) of Botnia, or literally translated 'the bottom sea".  Furuviks Brygga is quite isolated and was very hard to find - they certainly need some help with their way-finding signage. 

Furuviks Brygga restaurant
But we found it and despite it being a cloudy, semi-chilly September day in the beginning of the off season (= very few guests at the restaurant), we loved the setting and atmosphere of the building, which was architecturally inspired by old Falu red fishing huts along the coast. We stared out at the horizon and looked for eagles and seals, but only a cormorant and a heron showed up.

fish dish
The food was excellent, focused on Swedish delicacies in the nouveau way of cooking them, but the service could have been a lot better. Above is hälleflundra (halibut).

Furuviks Brygga restaurant and the ocean
For a near empty restaurant you think you could have gotten your check in a timely manner, and that they could have made sure the glasses on the table were clean. "Oh, our dishwashing machine is having a problem", is not an acceptable excuse.

reindeer carpaccio - the best!
But the reindeer carpaccio (above) and the fish dishes were amazingly good, and fed both the stomach, eye, and soul. I would definitely visit this place again.

A very different place was Sjätte Tunnan (The Sixth Barrel), a medieval-themed restaurant in a medieval cellar in the Old Town (Gamla Stan) of Stockholm. My cousin AI (thanks!) had recommended it as a fun place to take some non-Swedes, so I ended up here with eight non-Swedish friends from all over the world (Belgium, Mexico, Colombia, USA, UK...) during one of the evenings of the scientific conference I attended. 

medieval cellar, where you eat at Sjätte Tunnan, medeltidsrestaurang
From the street in this old cobble-stone part of Sweden's capital you sneaked down a deep and steep stone stairway and found yourself in a cellar of small interconnected vaulted rooms with thick stone-walls.  You could nearly hear the walls talking about times past, from the Hanseatic trading times to the Stockholm bloodbath when the Danish King cut the heads of Swedish noblemen and bishops. That was a long time ago, but it had an enormous influence on Swedish history.  The son, Gustaf Eriksson, of one of the killed, got mightily pissed off and went north to Dalarna to engage the grassroots (farmers mostly), and he later became the king Gustav Vasa (famous as Wasa crispbread these days).  Gustav Vasa started out as a revolutionary but after getting royal powers, he as many others around the world, turned into a megalomaniac, selfish, and power-hungry dictator (I think).

menu at Sjätte Tunnan, medeltidsrestaurang
The menu was long, long, long, but with rather few items, since all items were described in detail and there were also introductions and explanations to the purpose of the restaurant - authenticity.  They had an English version of the menu too, so I didn't have to translate it all... For many dishes the original publication of the recipe was cited, such as "Le Viander from the 14th century".
      The drink menu was regular beer and wine, but they had many special and home-made meads (mjöd) as well (mead is beer made with honey, famously drunk by the vikings), and hard cider from local Swedish apple orchards and breweries.  And then the food - only ingredients present at medieval times... so no potatoes, tomatoes orchards and chili peppers (all from the New World and absent from Europe before 1492).  Lots of game and wild meat and fish - chicken, wild boar, beef, lamb, trout, and even beaver (when available).

medieval cellar, where you eat at Sjätte Tunnan, medeltidsrestaurang
We were sitting along a long rough-hewn table in candle-light on long plank benches - all to create the right atmosphere.  On the table were knives and spoons, a rock, and candles.  The rock was the salt - if you needed some you just scraped some off with your knife.  Forks were not around in medieval times, but you could get one here if you asked, and we did.  The waiter was dressed in coarse fabric, maybe linen, and in clothes that looked homemade and were rather holy (as in holes, not religious).

medieval mooseballs at Sjätte Tunnan, medeltidsrestaurang
I went for the moose meatballs ('älgbullar') with mashed rutabagas ('rotmos') and lingonberry jam ('lingonsylt').  There were very few greens available with the dishes, because medieval people were very suspicious of greens - they were meat-and-potatoes kind of people (except the potatoes were turnip, cabbage, rutabaga, etc.).  The food at this place was great, but not exceptional, and in fact one of my meatballs had so much salt in it it wasn't really edible, but everybody else's food was great and the atmosphere was fascinating.  Experiences like this are so much better than reading about history in some old boring schoolbook.  I really recommend this restaurant, and especially to Americans that need a dose of hands-on history, since there are no medieval buildings in most of the USA.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Around the Solar System by The Big Picture

New images from our Earth and the space surrounding us, by here. For everybody but especially for LA.

Friday, September 24, 2010

horizon and islands - update from NJ

horizon and islands, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.
Friday night post from New Jersey - the boys in the family are watching a hilarious 1980s movie, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, which I tried to watch but gave up on, all the homemade pizza is gone (either eaten or in the fridge for lunch tomorrow), my virus-infected computer might be rescuable (yeah!), and I have been uploading some more photos from the Sweden trip here in the kitchen while listening to the excessive and funny sound effects of the banzai movie.

Here is the ocean, as it looks when you look eastwards toward Finland from the Gävle area in Sweden. Those islands are Swedish, not Finnish :)  I had lunch here with my family, looking out over the ocean and thinking about infinity and space...

Outside the heat is on, it is probably around 25 degrees Celsius still and humid, and the grasshoppers and katydids are still going crazy with their noises. We have caught 7 mice in 48 hours inside our house and there are still many more to catch - that is what happens when you let your inside cats move outside...

Yesterday and the day before we saw migrating dragonflies here at home - there is a species here that migrates like a bird or monarch butterflies.

Mornings are turning cool, finally, and it is time to plant garlic and spinach for harvest next year. It is far to the first frost night, but the owls are howling their noses off at night, especially during the full moon the last couple of nights.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

OK snapshot: Puzzling street art

Torget utanför teaterhögskolan. (The square outside the Theatre
college). Stockholm, Sweden

OK snapshot: Kulen höst (Cold fall)

LS comment: The knitting mafia has left some traces again.

American colors in Sweden

At the Hötorget market in Stockholm the berries were in season when I was there about 3 weeks ago. WIld lingonberries (red), wild Swedish lowbush blueberries (dark blue), and American highbush blueberries (light blue). Also for sale were large amounts of wild mushrooms, some probably imported from Polish forests, and other seasonal vegetables. Wait, mushrooms are not vegetables. I wonder how USDA classifies mushrooms. They are certainly not fruits, even if they have fruiting bodies with spores.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Stamp of the Day: A Swedish horse for AREA

A Ford Mustang convertible from the 1950s, and red of course. This Swedish stamp came in 2009, and American 1950s-1960s cars are still very popular in Sweden.

Monday, September 20, 2010

edible delights

Bento 17-260710Nuit, originally uploaded by NoveiMC.

This is actually the inside of a lunch box, a bento box from Japan, and you can eat all the contents. Some amazing kitchen artist (and mom, maybe) have made this just to it can be eaten a few hours later for lunch. Like that fish for the cat. Isn't it amazing? I would never have time for things like this, but I like looking at them. There are more bento box photos here.

Verbal snapshot: DNA

Yesterday, after a long day's workshop on genomics and DNA, a repairman talked to me in the elevator.  When he heard that I worked with DNA, he asked me:
- How much DNA is active in humans?
- I don't really know, I said, it depends on how many genes that are turned on that very moment in your body.
- Oh, no, he said, it is 3 percent.
- 3 percent?, I said.
- Yes, he said, but you can raise it if you meditate very hard.

I didn't know if I should laugh or sigh.  I just said 'oh really' and left the elevator on my floor.  Where do these people get these facts? I mean, someone must be feeding them this fake science. 

Ponderings on embroidery

WP #027
World pillow by Rosaechocolat on Flickr.

This is art made with love and care! I really feel for this "world pillow". Inspiring. I am following the news on various Flickr groups like the one "Embroidery" and "I Made it myself". Later on I will show you my own efforts. I will go to a weekend course in crewel (wool) embroidery in october and hopefully get some more inspiration and knowledge.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Stamp of the day: squids, whales and other politicians

Tonight's stamp ends the whale/val-theme here at the blog.  This goosebeak whale is more commonly called Cuvier's Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris), and it eats deepsea fish and squids as you can see on this Dominican stamp. And with that, we close this Swedish val-watching season on the blog.

Valar på riktigt (Whales for real)

, originally uploaded by Minette Layne.

I borrowed this gorgeous photo from Minette Layne on Flickr - real whales are a lot more fun than politics and elections.

Valvaka i Sverige (Whale watching in Sweden - well, more like election night)

I wish I could have voted, not that one vote would have mattered, but still.... the Green Party (Miljöpartiet) could have used one more vote.  Next time Sweden, make sure you send me the complete election package here in the US.   The election result is not reaching Madagascar's levels of chaos and intrigue, but is still historic.

The Alliansen (Alliance) of liberal-conservative parties have led Sweden for the last couple of years and they got the largest share of the votes, but, since for the for time the racism-party Sverigedemokraterna ('Sweden democrats') passed the 4% voting level and get representation with 20 seats in the parliament, the Alliance will not have a majority.  Nobody wants to collaborate with the racists, so now the Alliance will have to try to get the Green Party on their side, which will not be easy.  Only three parties gained more votes in percent than last election - The greens, the racist Sverigedemokraterna, and Moderaterna (the conservatives).  The social democrats, who led Sweden for centuries, had their worst election result since 1914.  That is first World War numbers... when their supporters, workers and such, were attacking the bourgeoisie in the towns and the noble men at the rural mansions, when there were general strikes and no food security, general health care, or welfare support to talk about.  Well, they succeeded in 80 years or so, and now Sweden don't need them anymore because they have what they need. 

Here are the percentages as reported right now, with my little comments for non-Swedes. 

ALLIANSEN: 49,3%   (the conservative-liberal ALLIANCE, generally more liberal in their politics than the Democratic Party in the US)
Centern: 6,6%  (The old farmers' party, used to be environmentally friendly, I am not sure anymore what they stand for)
Folkpartiet: 7,1% ('The People's party, and no, not communists, but the liberal party)
Kristdemokraterna: 5,6% (the Christian Democrats - stands for family values and other things that doesn't really work well in a country were 50% of marriages never happen when kids are born and 50% of the ones that do happen end in divorce)
Moderaterna: 30,0%  ("The Moderates", are not at all moderates, but hard-core conservatives Swedish style (think low taxes for rich, and harsh cuts for poor and sick people).

Rödgröna: 43,6% THE REDGREEN GROUP - named after the red socialists and communists and the green party. 
Socialdemokraterna: 30,8% (Socialdemocratic party - huge party with lots of union support that have lost lots of support among younger voters.  This party built up the Swedish welfare state from the 1930s and onwards.)
Miljöpartiet: 7,2% (The environmental party, the greens; huge boost in this election most from younger people, works for pragmatic and substantial improvements that lead to better sustainability and quality of life.  No longer associated with Birkenstock shoes, homeknitted sweaters of lumpy homespun wool, and impossible utopian goals... at least not so much).
Vänsterpartiet: 5,6%  (The left party - this party was called the Communist Party until the Berlin Wall fell and soon after that they changed their name.  Did I mention that many Swedes are pragmatists?  Anyway, they have a reputation of being very environmentally friendly, but are lost somewhat in a post-USSR swamp.)

Sverigedemokraterna: 5,7%  (the Swedish Democrats, entering the Swedish national parliament for the first time with this election.  They already have seats in several city councils.  Who knows what they really think about many things, since most of their rallying cries are anti-immigration proposals. New York Times article about them here.

All opinions mentioned above are just mine, nobody else's. And I might be very wrong, since I am looking at Sweden from the outside. More from BBC here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Not a plant to forget...

zartes blau, originally uploaded by

Isn't this a gorgeous photo of a forget-me-not (förgätmigej)?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Recent stops on my internet wanderings...

Now you can find out how it is to have a ball: LINK
...or 'knorr': LINK  (the name of that pig appendage is 'knorr' in Swedish, just like the food company). 

New York Times thinks we should all draw. Great article in a new series.  It made me doodle much more coherently than usual today, resulting in little sketches of a gutter, leaves, tree, the end of a lemon, and dragonfly eyes.

Some amazing photos are here

The best homemade pizza ever
And this is for dinner tonight:
(I know, I know, I have posted this photo before, but I love it so much...)

Some like it hot, but it is not me....

"According to State Climatologist David Robinson of Rutgers University,
New Jersey is experiencing its warmest summer (June-August) on record
since weather data has been kept starting in 1895. This followed the
warmest spring on record. Every month since March has ranked in the top
10 of all time for heat, with August ranked 10th, July ranked 2nd and
June as the first hottest month in the past 105 years. At the same time,
below average rainfall has accompanied the heat. The preliminary average
for summer precipitation stands at 8.35 inches statewide, making it the
10th driest summer of all time and the driest summer since 1966."
Summary: Dried and brown.

Gorgeous things from Sweden

Some of my recent finds, more kitchen towels for our collection, which we use all the time. These towels are from Ekelunds Linneväveri and building on hundreds of years of weaving tradition.  Of course the designs are new, but the methods are old.  And they are sustainable and environmentally friendly! You can see more of them here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Some more of AREA's recent art


When food gets scarce...

... reach upwards.

This is an old heritage breed cow from southern Sweden from an isolated farm who kept the same group of cows (and their calves) over nearly 50 years, thereby preserving their genetics and not replacing them with the high-yielding superbred cow breeds that are common today. So kind of a living fossil. This is the kind of cow that was common in the early 1900s and is shown in the books by Astrid Lindgren. And now this cow is in a living farm museum in Södertälje, Sweden.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Whale in Sweden (Val i Sverige)

Swedish lesson 101:

val = whale, election

In 3 days Sweden is holding their elections, and for the first time in a long while I actually registered so I could cast my vote for the parliaments.  I got my voting card in time, but so far, not a single little envelope has arrived so I can mail in my vote. This is unusual, in Sweden things like this usually work very smoothly.  Oh well... it seems that the party I would vote for won't be part of the ruling group anyway.

When I was in Sweden there were election advertisement everywhere.  You can't give money to parties for the elections, so they get money from the state instead so it should be more fair.  However, the posters they use can be less fair.  The conservative party, 'nya' Moderaterna, are busy recasting themselves as the 'worker's party' (nya arbetarpartiet).  Yeah right.  They are the worker's party as much as you can force an ostrich to swim.  They are just doing the same thing as the British conservatives, fooling the masses while making tax cuts for the rich...  And yes, their (and Sweden's current) leader has no hair.

Here is an election poster for your enjoyment... For more from the green party look here. I really like the simplicity of their posters, and I like the message too. They have railroads, gay rights, circuit boards, wind power, organic food and immigration, all in there...

Sweden has a 1-chamber system in the parliament, and currently a conservative-liberal alliance (4 parties) is in power.  The green party in partnership with the left party (=former communist party) and socialdemocrats want to take over, but people are not trusting the socialdemocrats much anymore.  40 years ago they were the largest party by far, but not so anymore.  The green party is doing fine, it is small but has a lot of influence. 

The treasures of the forest

When I was in Sweden, my sister (EH) and I went mushroom picking in the free-for-all Swedish forests.  You can walk anywhere you want, not a No Trespassing sign anywhere, which is one of the best things in Sweden.  So we walked, looked, stepped over rocks and moss humps, avoided some ant trails, and picked mushrooms.  It was a bit too dry for the chanterelles (kantareller), especially my favorite brown-yellow ones (trattkantarell), but we did find some. The yellow chanterelles turned up along the road, not the in the forest, which was unexpected.

wild chanterelles
Orange-footed chanterelles collected by me! These are among my favorites.

citrongul slemskivling
This one you can eat, but you have to peel off the slimy layer first.  In Swedish it is called "lemon-yellow slime mushroom", citrongul slemskivling.  Not an appetizing name, but it is good.

We also found lots of Boletus (Karl Johan), and saw many inedible and poisonous mushrooms that we left to the wild boars, who had tore up the ground in many places.  The boars where somewhere else, but their marks on the earth were very obvious.  The lingonberries were starting to ripe, but still a bit too tart for my taste. In total, we probably had 5 pounds of incredibly tasty mushrooms at the end of the day.  The chanterelles ended up in cream sauce served with Canadian bacon and potato gratin - yummy.

fly agaric (flugsvamp)
Do not eat this, or you might get very, very sick.  This is fly agaric, an Ammonita. I have read that the vikings used this as a drug to get high on, something I do not recommend.  A Swedish man just died after eating one of its relatives by mistake, the white agaric which can look a lot like a portobello if you are not careful.

fjällig taggsvamp
Inedible but funky mushrooms. In Swedish they are called 'fjällig taggsvamp'.

Later that day we went to Taxinge castle (Taxinge slott), also known as the Cookie Castle, because they have a fantastic cafe there with an amazing amount of homebaked cakes, cookies, and sandwiches. They also had a farmers market and gardening fair, selling everything from whimsical gardening art to lingonberries. Here are some photos from this place, and more photos from the Södertälje area in Sweden are here.

lingonberries for sale
Lingonberries (lingon) for sale, $2.50 per pound.

wild-collected chanterelle mushrooms
Yellow chanterelles for sale. You can tell that these have been around for a while and are not freshly picked.  The edges are dry and broken and the color is turning more brown.  A lot of mushrooms sold in Sweden are actually from Poland. I don't know about these, but it is better to pick your own if you can.

shrimp sandwich, so tasty!
Swedish shrimp sandwich on homemade bread.  Tiny sweet shrimps, mayo, hardboiled egg, lemon, and dill all has to be there for perfection.

bakery feast, all locally made
Some of the delicacies at the "Cookie Castle".  This place would make Sarah happy! :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Things I would like to know...

is how to make nice embroideries like these by Elena. More of her nice work here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Wood garden in Wij

Last weekend we went on a car trip to Wij trädgårdar (gardens). It´s a lovely inspiring place, a garden with large influences of swedish nature. One such example is "Skogens trädgård" designed by Ulf Nordfjell. He is also the winner of Chelsea Garden Show 2009.

Sten och vägg
This is a part of his northern garden inspired part,

Gräs mot vägg and high grasses stand tall against windbattered wooden walls.

Skogsgläntan In a secluded area a lake is reflecting the trees.

More photos are here

More from Torekällberget

I wish to add to LS post about Södertälje with two more pictures of Flax products from Axlings Linne. Their bed sheets are wonderful by the way!

Axlings linne

I would love to have a drying line like this, a pleasure to the eye! Axlings linne