Monday, December 26, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Your fake name is good enough for me"

I went back to Mariatorget to buy the light fixture.
We should have bought it weeks ago instead of using the xmas tree for light in the living room.
I wrong about the price, actually the fixture was about half the cost of what I remembered. This turned out to be lucky as I found a fixture for the bedroom as well.
All the snow has melted in time for Christmas- sad but true.
Snow on the ground really does lighten up winter.
Without all the glimmering white sparkles winter does feel like almost endless night.
Zok is happy that our names are finally on the door and down in the entry way listing.
Somehow the names on the doorway really brings me to mind that I am living in an apartment.
Inside a building.
Ten days until we leave for Tasmania.
2012 seems like it will be strange indeed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lussekatter Jul Recipe Swedish Saffron Buns

Lussekatter is traditional for all Swedish Christmas gatherings. Lussekatter can be found everywhere, and people eat a lot of them because they only eat them at Christmastime.
Even 7-11 and the Stockholm version of 7-11 (Pressbryån) have them.
Last week I had my first one ever, thanks to a new friend, Kelly and I liked them so much I begged Zok to make more.

Zok combined a recipe we had from Rosendals Trädgårdscafe, and Kellys' which she kindly sent to us.

Rosendals as you might know if one of my favorite places in Stockholm.

Basically Lussekatter is a saffron bun in a cute shape with just the two raisins.

We had some friends over for Glögg, sugar cookies, and Lussekatter.
I think now, that baking Lussekatter is good luck, because as the first batch came out of the oven snow started to fall!

160 grams Butter (unsalted)
2 cups of full fat milk
50 grams of yeast
.5 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup of sugar
1 gram of saffron (some say a little more, I thought this was plenty)
1 egg
6 cups of flour
1 egg for glossing the tops

Melt butter in a pan
Add Saffron
slowly add milk and heat to 37 C- keeping the constant warm temperature
Take out a small amount of the liquid to then crumble in the yeast to dissolve the yeast.
Then transfer the rest of the melted mixture, dissolved yeast mixture, and the rest of the ingredients.
Zok took his mixing bowl from his electric mixer and used that bowl to first dissolve the yeast.
Then he added in the melted saffron and butter from the stove pan.
Then the salt and sugar which he mixed a bit with a rubber spatula before turning on the mixer.
He used the dough hook attachment and the mixer set on low adding in a half cup of flour at a time.
Mix until smooth and elastic dough then he removed the bowl and covered the dough which took about thirty minutes to fully rise.
He then floured his baking board and kneaded the dough a bit by hand, cutting and making the s-curl shapes which he covered again and let rise another fifteen-to twenty minutes.
Add raisins.
Pre-heat oven to 180c, lightly beat the last egg and brush on rolls.
Bake about 5-10 minutes.

Zok said the Lussekatter was easy to make, just remember you need time to let the dough rise.
Serve warm with mulled wine or glögg and invite nice friends.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Here in Stockholm there is a charity shop chain called Myrona.
We have been to a few, some are better than others- each seems to buy certain items. I found almost all of my Christmas items at the one in Sundbyberg- I got our tree stand for 10 kr. (We are holding at about 6.5 kr to 1 AU dollar) Tax is included in the prices in Sweden as they are in Australia.
I got old fashioned Christmas ornaments, with the frosted glitter for about 1 kr. each.
What we haven't been able to find or decide on is furniture. We gave in and bought a folding table and folding chairs from IKEA. We have two outdoor areas that will need furniture, so when we find a better solution for the kitchen, then we will just switch out the furniture.
Our last trip out to Sundbyberg ended in no finds at all, and I was thinking we had just run out of luck. But then we heard about a Myrona we had not been to yet.
The store was HUGE.
We found so many bits of pottery, material, plates and glasses that we couldn't give proper attention to the furniture.
We found more Höganäs
and I found a couple of Xmas textiles for less than $1 AU each, as well as material I think I will make into curtains for the bedrooms for about $8.
I want the light fixture for the living room, only it is pricey. Less than a new one but expensive for second hand. But as 'the dude' would say "it will really pull the room together man". Also my idea of what is expensive might be skewed as when we left Myrona with almost more than we could carry, and I said "What have we done? We gone spending crazy!" and Zok replied, "Baby, we just spent $43 dollars Australian...".

Rain, rain, and more rain I am positive the snow will come as I fly back to Tasmania.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I have only seen a few xmas tree lots which are a favorite of mine as I am reminded about them each time I watch an American movie like 'Charlie Brown's Christmas' or 'A Christmas Story'. There are live trees for sale all over the city though, and more seem to appear each day.
Zok was a bit hesitant about getting one home, but as you see not only do people find taking them home by subway normal, every seller has a machine that quickly wraps the trees up nice and tidy!
Of course my huge collection of ornaments is in Tasmania. But I find that I am happy with what I have come up with. Monte and Roberto bought me fabulous ornaments, a platypus and a hedgehog, two of my favorite animals.
Zok and I also picked up a couple ornaments in Budapest.
I am still making a paper ring chain for the tree as soon as I find the time.

I also studded an orange with cloves, although I doubt it will be dried by Christmas day, but already the smell is really nice, and I have it stashed in the headboard cupboard of our new bed.

Sadly, the sprinkling of snow you see here in our courtyard is the most we have had so far. I am being tortured by the stories of how much snow there was last year at this time.
I am keeping a positive outlook and appreciating the lights and early dark days.
Next on my list is more Christmas crafts and trying to make eggnog, but the warm kind as this year I'll be drinking eggnog while it is cold, not out on my lawn in the sunshine.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lights to stave off winter

Tomorrow is a big day because we are going to pick up a couch.
So far sitting on the floor has been our one option.
There are thirty stairs from the front door of the building up to our apartment door.
When your shopping list is as basic as 'condiments', toilet paper, step ladder, trash bin there are a lot of trips to various stores and up and down the aforementioned stairs.
We did have boxes to move but that mostly consisted of all of Zok's paperwork from the last twelve years of tours in Sweden.
Oh, and many, many bags of apparently very important free clothing that has never been worn...
The apartment is way too white.
Zok was very happy to find out that there are like seven chopping boards built into the kitchen.
I plan on fixing that as soon as I know what our furniture that we haven't found to buy yet looks like.
I don't think or I don't remember ever living in an actual apartment before.
At least never in a large building. Mostly I kept to guest houses, or bungalows where my front door opened to the outside world. I came close when I first moved to Seattle, I lived in a small brick place with six apartments.
But this place is large, we have maybe 8-10 per section and maybe 20 sections? I am just getting used to all the differences. However, the design of our building is a half circle, and our apartment has great windows, a small enclosed front porch and a large terrace on the other side.
I am happy.
I am also very tired.

In Sweden 'Jul' or Christmas starts about the 30th of November.
All at once almost every window has lights in it, mostly paper stars of various sizes and colors and sort of punctured with designs so the light streams through in patterns of shadows and light.
I choose a copper star. There is also a wooden traditional light fixture with about seven small lights-painted in a Swedish folk style. We have one in Tasmania that gets very little use as the seasons are reversed. When darkness falls by 3:30 p.m. lights seem much more of a necessity.
Also almost every apartment complex has a live tree with white lights adorning the branches.

Meanwhile Team Sweden is playing in the Blood and Thunder Roller Derby World Cup and I have been getting up at odd hours to try and watch them play live, streamed online.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"lift my head...I'm still don't shake me..."

Why have I never considered how people sleep?
Or more specifically what they sleep on.
I have never been any conventional (what I now know to label conventionally American) standards.
I slept in a hammock for all of 7th grade.
The hammock was not my oddest childhood idea of a good bed.
Later there were futon cushions to fit into a built-in loft.
Finally when I decided to 'grow up' a bit, I still chose some complicated vintage bed, that needed some sort of rigging to work- slats created and hammered into place to hold the box spring.
When the time came that I had money to buy any type of bed I wanted, I had a black smith make me a four-poster bed. One that could be draped with elaborate feet meant to look like rays of the sun. The metal sun rays were a hazard to all with bare feet walking near the bed.
But these sort of fancies, are I think now, an American luxury.
For shopping, Americans as the Australians would say are "spoiled for choice".
Here in "Scandinavia" I have been told, and told there is one type of bedding.
"We in Sweden, like to have this top bit...what if you spill coffee? or have cats?" they say.
or "How do you air out a large mattress?"
or "Here in Sweden we have small apartments." That last statement at least I think does not bear real historic scrutiny nor does it likely apply outside the cities. This is not so odd, the 'top layer', I have a feather bed in Tasmania which I love although as with any 'raised consciousness' I doubt I could bring myself to buy a second one.
So here- the common bed is a version of a box spring mattress that has legs and is covered in material of some kind, usually a sort of upholstery fabric. Then there is a lot of molded foam made to look like a mattress, but is as I wrote...foam. With a thin top layer of more foam. I don't find 'foam' very inviting. Often the bed is actually two smaller beds pushed together. Often the duvet covers are also sort of smaller individual covers.

There seems to be four choices, cheap foam, more expensive foam, foam make of latex, or on the higher end Hastens (that is the word for horse and yes horse hair is the fabric inside) or Tempur a "space age" NASA fabric.
I am not kidding.

Our choice is the Tempur.
Which costs much more than foam but much less than horses...
And yes even in Sweden, if you ask "Where should I buy a bed frame?" the answer is IKEA. We are going there next.
Six days and counting until we get our keys.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"...I was walking far from home...and I found your face mingled in the crowd'

A decision made.
Zok and I are going to try living part of the time in Tasmania (which I do think of as home) and part of the time in Stockholm.
This decision is pretty large, and I can only take the year as I experience it day by day.
I am very excited to move, and be in my own space.
I have always needed my own space and all that goes with a home is very important to me.

Getting an apartment in Stockholm is rough. I think of the process as being like finding a place in a large city such as New York.
Officially we gets keys on December 1st.
We actually do not own anything here- a few odds and ends but very little.
Zok and I have been exploring and do a lot of shopping at second hand stores.
Of course I should buy a kettle...but I only came away with Christmas lights.
Here are the only photos I have of the apartment.
We viewed a lot of them. There was always a huge crowd. The showings are usually short, about a half hour. So each time slot came with twenty people waiting outside the door and crowding in together...
I felt uncomfortable snapping away when people still live in the places and I was surrounded by other people who were viewing the property.

Basically Stockholm apartments are divided by how far they are out on the subway lines.
Not just on a city line, but if they are on a 'good' subway line.
Being on a subway line and not a 'commuter train' or a bus.
Bathtubs, shower stalls are rare. Mostly a corner of the bathroom has a shower head and it is just sort of curtained off.
Balconies are the number one feature people want. So the quality and size of the balcony is very important.
Charm as in marble, inner city ambiance, older windows, beams are very, very expensive. Many of the inner city apartments are very small.
So all in all, we had very few compromises with this apartment. We are ten stops out, but on a good line. With a flat walk to our apartment from the station.
We have a tub, a small second room (read guest room and office). The bedroom is small BUT we have a tiny enclosed sun room or enclosed balcony at the front AND what can only be called a terrace- larger than a balcony. Large enough to fit many Derby girls on a nice summers day.

I will keep posting updates here.
I will giddy with tasks and the amount that needs to be done!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What comes after 'All Saints' day? 'All Souls' day

Sweden has just had a long weekend, with businesses and government offices closing up early on Friday. Many staying closed through Monday morning.

Saturday was 'All Souls' day, where graves are spruced up, new plants are planted, wreaths are laid out. The most common activity is to leave out a lit candle.
Now that so many people live in Stockholm but come from other parts of Sweden, common areas in the cemeteries are being open to any person who can not make it back to where their loved one is buried. So, thousands upon thousands of candles get massed together.

I have been here on All Souls day before but I have only gone to older, small church yards where maybe a few hundred candles were massed together. But this year, as you may have read, I learned about Skogskyrkogården, which is about 250 acres of forest with graves set back into the forested area. The walking lanes were lined with candles and wreathes. Candles were massed on the tops of serenity areas, and areas where ashes are scattered. Some people ringed the trees off the pathways. Then beyond the mayhem of brightly lit areas, there were the graves that lie throughout the forest, this area was lit up subtly, but in a regular fashion so that there was a sense of wonder to the scene.
I, thought of fairy tales, fireflies, or a movie set.
But I am shallow like that.
The sight of thousands and thousands of candles is hard to describe.
We went in the crowded front entrance with hundreds of other people, but we left through a lesser used corner of the cemetery. We walked for over a half hour though the mist with the candles to light our way.

I could not capture the sight well with an iPhone.

I had scrimmaging with Team Sweden during the day, then the cemetery in the evening, followed by a nice, loud, fundraising party for Team Sweden.

Monday, October 31, 2011

" sure as clocks are bleeding time..."

A little colder each day.
Slightly darker, a bit earlier each day.
I am loving Autumn.
Zok just rolls his eyes as I kick my way through any pile of leaves I see.

"...The night is still, and the frost it bites my face..."

I think I did more socializing in a week than I would normally do (in Tasmania) in a couple of months.
Zok and went out with an American friend- the day before my birthday and I believe I fell in love when she stated "What do you want to drink? I only drink champagne".
On my birthday I got up and went to my Swedish language lessons, which continue on- less about language and much more about being indoctrinated to 'being' Swedish. We had another week about why taking a 'Svart jobb' aka 'black job' aka 'under the table work' is very wrong for the fabric of society.
The subject matter does not bother me- much, but the fact that the teacher is there for maybe ten percent of the time, and then we are left to study on our own or chatter as we can in broken English or shattered, limited Swedish.

My birthday improved greatly after class. We went out to dinner with Tove and Andreas at my favorite french crepe place right up the road. The next day was the rather large Halloween party.

I've had so much skating/coaching/playing that three days off together was really strange.
But there is four days of practice coming up and a fundraiser for Team Sweden so normality will be restored.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"...What you're missin' missing, round those brick walls..."

The countryside of Wales and the walls of Chester are one of my favorite places to be. I always feel calm and I always feel a sense of home.
Whatever that is.

Here are some of my favorite points. The weather has been perfect Autumn weather, moody with bright hours of sun, warm but not too warm for a scarf, hat, and gloves. I feel as if it has been a long time since I was in the Northern Hemisphere to feel the familiar sense of the season turning.

My aspiration is to do a walking tour of the Northwest area of Wales. I love the mountains of slate, and narrow stone villages that are still populated and in use. I love the tones of color here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011