The Best From 2016

Hej hej! I hope you all had a magical Jul and New Year and that 2017 is being kind to you.

I’m so relieved to be waking up in a fresh New Year, and am using every second to live as fully and as happily as I can.

This year I will be getting to know Sweden on a much deeper level…but more about this in one of my next posts!

For now I want to share my favourite posts from 2016! I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed living them.

My Initiation Into The Swedish Tradition Of Semlor

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I Could Smell Spring

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My Week In Photographs

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Photographing My Viking

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An Interview With Bronte Aurell Of Scandinavian Kitchen

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To My Dear Swede

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Roadtrip To Hagfors In Värmland

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Sebastian’s Family Home In Hagfors

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Rimfrost Live In Trollhättan

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Rimfrost Live In Göteborg

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Fishing In Värmland

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Thrift Haul

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My First Swedish Midsummer

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ATrip Out To Borås Djurpark

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Meeting My Friend After Six Years

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Turning 30 In Sweden

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Re-Shaping Fika : Mandelkubb & The Skogstroll

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Re-shaping Fika : My Man Made Blåbärspaj

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Bride Of The Birds

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I Couldn’t Stay Out Of The Forest

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Jul I Sverige : Making Orange Clove Pomanders

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Our Holiday In The Motherland : Climbing Roseberry Topping

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On The Shortest Day

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My First Jul In Sweden

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My Favourite Photos From July

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Sebastian and his step-father Peter picking harvesting blueberries in the forests of Hagfors. The contraption they’re using is called a Jonas Berry Picker. You rake it through the bushes – while gently coaxing the berries – and it plucks them for you.

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Sebastian’s hand after blueberry picking.

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I tried smultron berries for the very first time. Another name for them is Hideaways. They have a unique, very purfumey taste.

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The first blueberries we picked this season in a beautiful, hand painted basket I picked up from a second hand store for 30 kroner.

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Sebastian’s mother Pia and his step-father Peter cleaning blueberries. It’s actually an incredibly relaxing and enjoyable activity…believe it or not! And it’s ever so satisfying when you have a big bowl of shining, leaf free berries ready to be bagged up and frozen.

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Deep in the forests of Värmland…it looks like a gnome has come along and taken a slice out of this mushroom.

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My very first kanelbullar! Rough but still beautiful and, not meaning to blow my own trumpet, but they tasted divine.

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Caught while hurrying to a friend’s house…

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Relishing the rare sun that shines in Borås.

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Sebastian and I walking through the woods of his childhood.

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I feel so blessed to have been welcomed into Sebastian’s family. Here we are out walking in the woods of Hagfors.

June Was An Invigorating & Inspiring Month

July 1st already? It seems only hours ago that I was telling you about the month of May.

June was a month where I let loose and had fun. Lots and lots of fun. My relationship with Tyra continued to develop  and grow stronger by the day, which made my heart sour to entirely new heights.

I re-connected with people close to me, and learned, on a deeper level, how my man works. My fear of colour was challenged when I found some clothes that I loved that didn’t happen to be black, and I was also introduced to the beautiful celebration of Midsummer, which was the crowning glory of the past 30 days. Thank you June, you were wonderful.

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I managed to uncover some great thrift finds,  and I introduced some colour into my wardrobe.

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We took a day trip out to Borås Zoo

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…and I ate my first Svenska jordubbar

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had a wonderful reunion with a good friend

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…and developed a taste for blåbärssoppa.

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I became obsessed with Wasa Kanel.

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I started writing for budget Swedish travel site Routes North. (My first article for them was about the Swedish artist John Bauer.)

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My relationship with Little Tyra continued to progress…

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I celebrated five months with Sebastian!

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I took part in my very first Swedish Midsummer

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…and treated myself to a haircut to round off the month.

Getting My Hair Cut At Salong X-Trem

After a monumental morning where I let go off all of my insecurities, I decided that it would be a great idea to go and get my hair done. Popping into the hairdressers is easy enough…right? Well, actually, no. It isn’t. Not in Sweden. Not for me.

You see, I had been struggling to step foot inside the nearby hairdressing salon and ask for a price list. I have no idea why I felt so insecure about doing this. Going shopping wasn’t a problem, so why was going to the hairdressers such a big deal? (I ended up finding the price list for the nearby salon online – and realised it was way out of my price range anyway…)

I mentioned this issue to my England born, Sweden based friend Cat when she was visiting the other week,  and she told me that she had exactly the same issue. We both agreed that we felt embarrassed by the fact we don’t speak fluent Swedish, and were worried people would laugh at us. But I think there was more to it than that. A hairdressing salon is an entirely different environment to a supermarket. At the supermarket the staff deal with English speakers all the time, but it’s a different story when it comes to getting your hair cut. The fear that I had still remains something of a mystery though.

But this afternoon I gathered up my courage and walked into Salong X-Trem, near the centre of Borås. The man who greeted me was extremely polite, offering me an appointment for today, which I snapped up immediately.

I arrived a little bit early for my appointment and, as I skimmed the hair magazines, I watched the hairdresser work some magic on another client, and silently congratulated myself on bring brave enough to come inside.

My appointment came round and I was treated with the utmost kindness and respect. The hairdresser listened to what I had to say, and then made his suggestions which I took on board. He then went to work and never, in all of hair cutting experiences, has someone worked so gently with my hair. It made me feel as though I was carrying something precious on my head. He was gentle but fast with the scissors and precise. We didn’t exchange many words, but when he was done the only words I had to give were ‘perfect’ and ‘thank you so much.’My hair was sleek, the ends even, my fringe full and shiny. I felt like I could quite possibly fly home.

The price tag of 220 kroner was a welcome surprise. For what he had done you would have paid twice the price in the UK. I handed him 250 kroner and the temptation to tell him to keep the extra 30 kroner as a tip was enormous. But being a skint writer, I sadly wasn’t able to.

As I walked back home, I held my head high. I felt beautiful and happy and so proud of my shorter, sleeker look. Salong X-Trem is a place that will see me and my hair again.

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My First Swedish Midsummer

636026207626600283_Afterlight_Edit.jpgMidsummer is, according to every Swede I’ve talked to, and Sweden.se, the most Swedish tradition of all. This Pagan celebration brings families together in the countryside to eat pickled herring and fresh potatoes, drink lots of beer and be very, very merry around the midsommarstång, an ancient fertility symbol.

Sebastian was working Friday, the actual day of Midsummer, so our celebration with his family would take place the following day. As this was the case, I went out into the forest to celebrate in my own little way.

It had been raining long and hard the night before, so I could smell the tress before I had even left the apartment.

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I met this little lovely as I was heading home. He was stalking the reeds surrounding the lake, but as soon as I approached he became all butter wouldn’t melt.

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The  midsommarstång stood in pride of place in Pia and Peter’s garden in Hagfors. The beautifully decorated pole actually resembles the penis and testicles…because summer in Sweden is all about making babies.

Sebastian’s step-father Peter decorated the midsommarstång. Traditionally it’s always decorated with flowers, foliage and ribbons the colour of the Swedish flag.

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Pia placed  little fertility symbols all around the garden and in the house…

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The garden was busy with life all through the weekend. I think even the bees had joy in their tiny hearts.

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Pia and Peter make a great effort to grow their own fruit, and have cherries, apples and strawberries to name but a few. On Saturday, I inspected the strawberries to find many of them still wore white coats…but on Sunday it was a different story.

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Sebastian and I spent Saturday morning on an adventure. A few minutes drive from Hagfors and after a short walk up an easy trail we had this view. The waterfall, known as Brattfallet is usually teaming with visitors, but on our trip, they were few and far between. The river and the surrounding landscapes have been shaped by glaciation, melting and active erosion over thousands of years, and landslides and avalanches occur regularly as the earth shifts.

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On our way back from Brattfellet we took a minor detour to Ekshärads Stavkyrka, a church built in 1998 using traditional medieval church building techniques. Though neither of us are religious, we could appreciate the beauty of the place and the calmness that we found there.

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I had been anticipating my first traditional Swedish midsummer meal for bloody ages. Herring and fresh potatoes were the topic of conversation for weeks. It only came to my attention at Midsummer just how proud the Swedes are about their potatoes. But rightly so because they taste better than potatoes should taste, if you get what I mean. A potato shouldn’t be able to taste so bloody good. I think the Swedes must put some magic in with the water when they boil them. I can’t think, off the top of my head, of many meals that can top this one…thank you Pia!

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The herring – or sill, as the Swedes call it – that I sampled was coated in a herby, creamy sauce which I think made it that bit easier to swallow for a first timer. The texture was bizarre, one I’ve never encountered before. If you can imagine catching a fish and biting into it moments after it’s come out of the water, that’s what I think of when I eat herring. Sushi is baby food in comparison. There’s something much more manageable about sushi…but herring, you’ve got to have an iron will and a stomach of steel to eat it. But…I can see myself getting used to it!

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While Sebastian and I has been out, Pia magicked together the traditional Swedish strawberry cake – jordgubbstårta. It was happiness in cake form. I think I could have devoured the whole thing by myself had I been left alone with it.

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Sebastian and I are a morbid twosome, so no Midsummer would be complete without a trip to an execution site. Located about ten minutes from the centre of Hagfors, it’s a mosquito hotspot right in the middle of the woods.

Several executions were thought to have taken place here during the 17th and 18th centuries, with the last being in 1823. The dead bodies would be hung upon the wooden half crosses, and the heads plunged onto wooden spikes. The bodies were buried close by as it was forbidden to bury them in blessed soil.

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As is Swedish tradition, we feasted on BBQ food then got active with badminton. Sebastian knew how to celebrate when he won…

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Around the side of the garden, there was a piece of allemansplats – or all man’s place. This little meadow was home to countless delicate flowers. On any other day it would have been lovely to crawl among them and sleep for a while.

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Leaving Hagfors is always difficult, and the weather turned sour as soon as we started heading back south, but my weekend was spellbinding. I couldn’t have wished for a more enjoyable Midsummer. I feel blessed to have been welcomed into such a kind, loving and generous family and I’m already longing for next year.

 

 

Fika With Wasa Kanel

And so the knäckebröd obsession continues! This time with something I’ve been eying up for a while now…Wasa Kanel. In case you haven’t been here before, I’m attracted to anything containing cinnamon.

The reason I hadn’t sampled these before now was the price. 18 krona (at IKA) felt a bit steep, but if I’d only picked the packet up I would have known immediately that I was getting a good deal. These rustic looking cracker rounds might be slim but they fill a void! One is more than enough for a snack. In hindsight, they were actually excellent value and worth every krona. From now on, there will always be a packet in the cupboard.

Wheat based and baked to perfection, they taste – and feel – like really well-done cinnamon toast. I eat them by themselves with some cold milk, but I’m always open to ideas of what I can combine them with.

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A Trip Out To Borås Djurpark

We usually have to keep our purse strings very tight, but yesterday Sebastian and I voted for a day at the Borås Djurpark with little Tyra, our friend Briggi and her baby daughter Isa, and I can tell you, hand on heart, it was worth every  krona.

The zoo is practically on our doorstep, and sometimes it’s possible to hear the monkeys screeching…though I’ve yet to hear them.

I was bowled over by how beautifully well kept the place was, as well as the sizeable enclosures that each species had. I’ve visited many zoos in a number of different countries, and Borås Djurpark has impressed me the most with its attention to the animals needs.

I was particularly impressed with the bear enclosure, which provided vast amounts of green space and running water for the several brown bears to roam and enjoy life in.

In 2012 I visited Tallinn Zoo in Estonia, and was devastated to see awe inspiring animals such as the polar bear trapped in a minute concrete enclosure, with nothing but a crude water pool and a beach ball for entertainment.

I don’t know if Tallinn zoo has made improvements since I visited – I truly hope so – but I felt a tug in my heart when I was observing the bears yesterday who were clearly content in their surroundings. I was ecstatic, of course, to be getting so close to an animal for which I had such great admiration for, but simultaneously I was thinking of the polar bear back in Estonia, and wondered if he was still pacing his grim, concrete enclosure.

Sadly I didn’t get the opportunity to spy on the grey wolves. My reckoning tells me they were wisely dozing in the shadows, well away from the sun and the fence.

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I was so close to this African bush elephant that had I really wanted to, I could have reached out and touched his inquisitive trunk.

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Sweden isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you look at this photograph…African Savannah more like. What I really respect about the zoo is their focus on ensuring that the animals environment is as  close to their natural habitat as possible.

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Though sometimes, the boulders and the flowers gives its Nordic setting away…

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The highlight of the trip for me was getting to see the brown bears or brunbjörn. They were incredibly active, especially considering how sweltering the heat was. Where Sebastian is from in Värmland, these handsome creatures roam the forests alongside grey wolves.

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I caught this little fellow in the children’s area of the zoo, darting around in the sunshine.

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The children’s area of the zoo was such a joy to experience. I’m one of those who melts in the presence of goats, so relished each moment spent close to these horned beauties.

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Horses always have a mystical air about them, don’t you think?

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As we were leaving the zoo, I caught sight of the lion price on the prowl. Moments after I paused by their enclosure they settled themselves down and I was able to capture these glorious shots.

For prices and more information about the zoo, head to their website.

Fika With Wasabröd

I’ve been fond of crackerbread, or knäckebröd as they call it in Sweden (though Sebastian’s family call it hardbread) since childhood, when we always had half a dozen open packets lurking in the cupboards.

It’s more than likely that you would have seen the Wasabröd brand at some point, as this Swedish born company holds the position of the largest producer of Scandinavian crispbread in the world. There’s a great little video to watch here about the history of Wasa.

Way back when, knäckebröd was seen as the poor man’s choice, but apparently, 85% of Swedes have this fibre fueled snack in their houses nowadays. At Sebastian’s family home, knäckebröd is brought out for practically every meal.

We always have a double packet of the Wasa Sport + variety at home, and after my run in the morning I like to top one slice with cottage cheese. With the slice being so thick and crunchy and studded with seeds, it always feels like I’m having a treat instead of a healthy snack. Today I felt like satisfying my sweet tooth, so added a few raisins, and sprinkled some cinnamon on top of the cottage cheese.

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I Always Make Time For Fika

I always make time for Fika in the afternoon! It helps to keep me motivated knowing that I have a treat coming at around 3pm. Over the past few months I’ve become just a bit obsessed with kardemummabullar, and my palate nowadays is preferring the taste of cardamom over cinnamon. (For some reason I feel a tad guilty about this, as though preferring another spice over cinnamon is, like, a really bad thing.)

But it seems like the rest of Borås has been craving cardamom too, as the  kardemummabullar have been sold out whenever I’ve gone to hunt some down. So today it was kanelbullar instead. From my experience kanelbullar are usually a bit dry when they come already packaged, but the god’s decided that I was due a good time, because this cute thing was so soft and fresh it almost melted in my mouth.

I’m also a little bit in love with the mini Swedish flags on toothpicks that I see popping up everywhere. So when I saw them for sale in the supermarket at only 20 kroner for 40 I plucked them up and stowed them away in my basket. I even saved the little one I used here. I didn’t have the heart to throw it away.

The little wooden plate (or coaster…) was found for 10 kroner at one of the three thrift stores I visited today. There were five others, all different shapes and sizes, but, being a responsible adult and thinking about my budget, I put them back. Not going to lie though, I’m keeping my fingers crossed they’ll still be there on my next thrifting trip…

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