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 First Jul In Sweden

‘We celebrate on the 24th, watch Donald Duck and eat ham with mustard,’ Sebastian told me months ago when the subject of Jul first surfaced. As my first Jul in Sweden approached (at an unfathomable speed), the all encompassing magical festive spirit – which had been laying dormant ever since I still believed that he existed – awoke.

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Sweden and England share some similarities when it comes to celebrating Jul. One being the mammoth decision of ‘whose house this year?’ I was quietly ecstatic when I learned we would be heading North to Hagfors to spend Jul with Sebastian’s family.

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The sky was crowded with stars when we started our four hour car journey, and I watched the road side in the hope of seeing at least one of the 400,000 moose that roam Sweden. But the giant beasts were wise and stayed in the shadows. Only mice, deer and fox made themselves known to our headlights.

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When we arrived in Hagfors, Pia and Peter had illuminated the dark garden. I could feel the spell of a new experience taking hold. Inside in every room white candles burned, lit paper stars hung from window frames and straight legged straw Jul Goats stood to attention.

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Pia had gone for a minimal colour palate with her decorations – red, white and grey with accents of green here and there.

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A petite Christmas tree was guarded by Father Christmas and two Jul Goats. I could see some of the presents stacked underneath were tagged with my name…

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On the morning of the 24th (Swedes celebrate Jul the day before we do in England) I woke up to a breakfast of Risgrynsgröt, a semi-sweet rice porridge served hot with milk and dusted with cinnamon and sugar. It was delicious in its sweet spiciness, and I found enough comfort in one bowl to see me through into the new year.

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We made a brief but memorable visit to the home of Sebastian’s Grandmother’s  where I found myself amidst dozens of merry, polite Swedes. I was introduced to members of the Svedlund clan, including Riccardo who originally came from El Salvador and married into the Svedlund family, and Julia, a biologist with a burning desire to have a career as a novelist. We ate handmade pepperkakor while talking about the Swedes obsession with coffee and the sad reality of the job situation in Sweden.

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Sebastian was always animated when her talked of the Swedish julboard, and I knew a little of what to expect, but the quantity and variety was staggering. Alongside three different types of herring, I found myself plating up halved eggs topped with shrimp and caviar (it was my first time eating caviar and it went down like a dream), salmon, prinskorv (prince sausauge), köttbullar (Swedish meatballs, every family has their own recipe), beetroot salad, pork ribs, Janssons Frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation) and julskinka (Christmas ham). Pork is something of a sacred tradition with the julboard. A few pigs always made it past the fall slaughter, and would instead be slaughtered on the shortest day of the year – the 13th of December (Lucia Day).

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Come 3pm we had all congregated around the TV in the living room for the annual viewing of the 1958 Walt Disney Presents Christmas special, ‘From All of Us to All of You.’ It dawned on me that the entire day had been arranged as so not a minute of the show would be missed. Jiminy Cricket had the role of presenting fragments from Disney cartoons including Robin Hood, Lady And The Tramp and The Jungle Book. It’s the same format year in year out, that is except for the ending when they present something new that Disney have in the works.

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After Donald Duck, Sebastian’s step-father disappeared and returned in his guise as Tomten. He moved slowly across the garden, a lantern swaying from one hand. Little Tyra wasn’t in the least bit afraid. She welcomed Tomten in, and as the sky darkened, he handed out our gifts one by one. When it was time for him to pick up his lantern and leave, Little Tyra presented him with an orange and a clementine for the ‘long’ journey home. I rediscovered Jultide magic this Jul in the far north, and I intend on holding it close and never letting go.

Jul Thrifting & My Winter Berry Crown

Every time I step over the threshold of a thrift store, my senses spark like flint on steel, and I’m ready to burrow through intriguing odds and ends on the hunt for something extraordinary that I can give a new home.

I thrift throughout the year, but in winter, and especially around this festive time, thrifting feels like a special kind of magic. This blog is called The Girl With Cold Hands for good reason – winter is my season! My mood sits well with the cold, snow and early nights.

Which is why, when I see baskets stuffed with knitted scarves crafted from the thickest wool, Tomtes hiding under enormous pointed hats and fluffy bears and Jul goats made from straw and red ribbons standing stocky and noble, my hands can’t help but tremble, my lips can’t help but shape themselves into a half-moon.

Living in Sweden, I had imagined that come Jul, I would be surrounded by legions of Nordic sweaters when I went thrifting. Sadly, I haven’t found this to be the case. Every now and then I’ll encounter a Lusekofte which has found its way across the border from Norway. It was an entirely different situation in Iceland. When I visited Reykjavik the thrift stores were waist deep in Lopapeysa sweaters. I suppose the Swedes hold their traditional Scandinavian knits close.

The other day I went thrifting with a purpose – to find things that I could use as props in my winter photoshoots. (I’ve recently started releasing a weekly photo series, so I can keep continuously pushing myself as a photographer.) I found this beautiful wreath snuggled away and quickly whisked it away to the changing rooms to see if it fit on my head. I suppose I was the only person who actually tried on a Jul decoration in Emmaus that day! I couldn’t have hoped for a more perfect fit. I took it home with me for 20 krona, then, later, out into the forest where, with the work of the great John Bauer in my mind, I captured this self-portrait.

P.S. The white shawl was also thrifted. 25 krona from Myrorna.

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My First Lussekatter

The celebration of Lucia has always been ‘around’ in my life as it were, since I was seven years old and started attending a Rudolf Steiner school. I discovered the candle crown through the illustrations of Elsa Beskow and John Bauer.

Now, Lucia is a festival which has quite complicated origins, but it’s dedicated to a Saint Lucia, a Christian martyr from Italy who was executed during the Diocletianic Persecution.  Simply put, it’s a celebration of light, as St Lucia is traditionally thought to ‘wear light in her hair and she occupies the role of bearing light in the dark of the long Swedish winters.

In homes across Sweden, the eldest girl gets up before the sun and bakes lussekatter (saffron buns). She dresses herself in a white robe, ties a red sash around her middle, places a candle crown on her head and delivers coffee, the fresh lussekatter, and pepparkakor (gingerbread) to her parents, accompanied by singing siblings.

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But Lucia has a darker side too, a side which I found myself all too eager to explore. In old Sweden, Lucia night, also known as the longest night of the year, was a dangerous one. In Pagan lore on this night all animals were possessed and developed the ability to talk. Up in the north of Sweden, there was a legend that Lucia was in fact Adam’s first wife and she consorted with the devil.

Now, you may have already made the connection, but lussekatter translates to Lucifer’s cats. These especially vibrant (that’s the saffron), S shaped buns represent a curled up cat, and are traditionally handed out during the Lucia processions which take place across Sweden. Traditionally there’s two raisins – the eyes, Lucia is the patron saint of the blind and was herself blinded before being executed – one at either end of the lussekatter.

I would have loved to have made my own lussekatter, but time wasn’t on my side today, and shelling out for a packet of saffron wasn’t within my means. (Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, is sold at the cash registers at supermarkets and pharmacies here in Sweden.) So I bought a lussekatter instead.

As advised, I warmed it up gently before eating. I can say now that saffron isn’t a favoured spice of mine. The bun wasn’t unpleasant as such, it was wonderfully soft, buttery and slightly sweet, but the saffron gave it a slightly off taste, a taste that cannot compete with kanelbullar or pepperkakor. I was thankful for the accompanying glögg!

 

The Girl With Cold Hands : Jul Gift Guide

This Jul will be my first in Sweden, my first with Sebastian and his family. I can promise you…I haven’t trembled with excitement like I’m doing now since I was a child, and still believed it was Father Christmas who carefully arranged the presents under the tree, while his reindeer waited patiently on the roof of our lilliputian cottage.

Naturally, I wanted to do something to celebrate life, this blog and all of you! So, as a thank you for following me on my Swedish journey I have reduced the price of every product in my shop! You will have from today until the 13th of December to place orders.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the getting of gifts, please let me help alleviate some of the stress. Below you’ll find options galore for the loves in your life. My personal favourite is The Whispering Forest Acrylic Block.

For Her

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After The Cold Of The Silver Night Chiffon Top – $26.64

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From The Forest Laptop Skin – $23.68

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For Him

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Woodpile Travel Mug – $18.74

mwo500xipad_2_snap-pad600x1000ffffff-u1The Family iPad case – $44.71

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Not The Road Home Graphic T-Shirt – $27.62

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Midday In Winter Drawstring Bag – $24.66

For Them

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The Whispering Forest Acrylic Block – $22.99

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Her First Day To Breathe Framed Print – $68.91

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Forest Dark Hardcover Journal – $15.78

Jul I Sverige : Making Orange Clove Pomanders

On arriving in Borås last Sunday after our trip to England, the city had decorated for Jul and was a sea of illuminated paper stars. It was so beautiful I could have spent the whole night drifting through the streets, taking in the gentle light at almost every window. In England we have a bad habit of going horribly overboard with the decorations. The Swedes, on the other hand, keep things simple.

I always look forward to when the sun dips below the horizon at the end of another day, but now it’s another, special kind of anticipation. I’m waiting for the glow from the stars in the windows of the apartment block just across the way from us. They will light up the nights until January.

Our own decorating has been delayed…but today I started in my own little way, by making an orange clove pomander. For as long as I can remember, my Mum has made these most fragrant of decorations around this time, and they’ve always been my favourite winter adornment. I’ve forever been weak for the intense, spicy, warming scent of cloves combined with the sweet, fruity, lush perfume of oranges, and seen as though this is my first Jul away from England, I thought it important I continue the tradition myself.

I’m admiring my pomander now, nestled among some evergreen and pine cones which I collected from the forest earlier today. I’m reflecting on how much I enjoyed the slow crafting process, when I was focused on nothing but carefully pressing one clove after another through the giving skin and flesh of the orange. I hadn’t felt so relaxed in months. As a Pagan, bringing the natural world into the home all year round is important, but especially so in winter when I pay homage to the old traditions that celebrate my most favourite time of year.

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How I Spent October

October was an extremely special, productive and, despite the darkening days (which I love anyway), an enlightening month. I’ve always held Autumn close to my heart, but I had no idea quite how strong a spell the changing of the leaves could hold over me. I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve spent simply staring out of the window.

It was a month where I really focused on my photography, and pushed the boundaries of what I thought I could accomplish as, dare I say it, a photographer. With the help of two special ladies and our art project The Divine Weirdos, I’ve been able to explore new darknesses. I’ve never had the courage to call myself a photographer before today, and when I say it it is with a slight waver to my voice. I think it’ll be a while before I write it anywhere other than here. I’ve always felt there were too many ways in which I still have to develop before I can give myself the title.

October also found me being proactive in terms of discovering new Swedish foods and culinary traditions. It’ so easy to get stuck in routines…and I made a determined effort to lay some to rest.

October was all of this, and so much more. I hope you enjoy the following photographs and words and where they lead…

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My talented friend Erzabeth Svedlund and I magicked up Bride Of The Birds, a photoshoot involving a wedding dress, owl like makeup and our beloved forest.

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Photo : Erzabeth Svedlund

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Photo : Margit Angéla-Brigitta Mortrand

October saw me get crafty…especially crafty actually. I’m so proud of how crafty I was. I manifested the creature you see above you (for a Divine Weirdos photoshoot) creating the fingers out of silver foil and black tape.

They celebrated National Poetry Day in Britain on the 6th of October, so I did my part here in Sweden and wrote this poem.

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The first episode of a documentary which I’ve been working on with my man and his band Rimfrost was released…and very well received!

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I tried Swedish blodpudding for the first time (and adored it!) ….

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…and re-shaped how I take my Fika for a week. (Click on the photo you like to go to the post).

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I uploaded new photos for sale in my shop, including images I caught of dewy spider webs in the early morning.

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We enjoyed the Halloween celebrations at Liseberg.

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I went out before breakfast to catch the mist

…and was contacted by Douglas Elliman Real Estate to take part in a Fall Style Board Challenge…which I graciously accepted.

I also helped Rimfrost to take some photographs…which will be revealed soon…and filmed them LIVE shopping! If you want to know what I’m talking about, head to their Facebook page.

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I eagerly anticipated my first Halloween in Sweden, and celebrated in a way much more my style than heading to a loud party…by taking photos in the forest, eating cake and watching Penny Dreadful. The festivities aren’t quite over yet though…the pumpkins will stay alight until the 6th of November!

 

A cold winter is predicted, and snow is already on the way! I’m shivering with excitement over what November will bring.

 

 

Fill Your Life With Swedish Misty Mornings

I don’t know about you, but I can never have too many misty mornings. If it was up to me, half of the year’s mornings would be mist shrouded, the other half, snow covered. If you’re fond of waking up to find a pale haze across the world, then you might like to treat yourself to one of the new prints available in my Redbubble Store. As always, each print is available in multiple formats.

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Re-shaping Fika : Morotskaka & Crafting

When I first started this Re-shaping Fika series one lovely reader recommended I indulge in some morotskaka (carrot cake) and, as luck would have it, on Saturday Little Tyra’s Mother Erzabet, who’s also my good friend and fellow creative-in-action over at The Divine Weirdos, invited me over for some crafting and morotskaka.

I knew that the Swedes baked the best cinnamon buns. I knew that they made the best chocolate. But I didn’t know they made the best carrot cake too. Friends, if you can get your hands on a morotskaka from Hägges, do so. (It’s available at ICA). As well as devouring multiple slices of cake, Erzabet provided a hefty sack of godis! Saturday has an alternative name here in Sweden – Lördagsgodis, and the day involves the consumption of vast mountains of candy by children and adults alike. I’m currently finding it really difficult to stay away from Marabou Chocolate (the variety here is packed with pieces of Oreo), a brand which has been around in Sweden since 1916, long enough to perfect their craft.

We spent the afternoon at the kitchen table – surrounded by little reminders that Halloween is on its way –  making props for a photoshoot that we’d be doing the following day in the forest…photos of that coming soon.

Taking Fika with Little Tyra and Erzabet rounded up my little series perfectly. I’ve developed my appreciation for ‘the moment,’ spent more time with those I love and expanded my knowledge of Swedish sweet treats. I couldn’t have asked for more! Fika, I’ve discovered, plays an invaluable role here on The Girl With Cold Hands, and I’m looking forward to seeing where my exploration will take me from here…

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