Friday The 13th In Sweden

It has been a (wonderfully) mad few weeks! I’ve started writing for the brilliant website BabyGaga , have been leaving the house at the crack of dawn for SFI five days a week and I’ve taken up cross stitch. (Addicted and can’t stop. Send help. Not really. I love it.)

My Friday the 13th started off particularly unlucky. I’m especially superstitious…most of us English are, so I didn’t expect much else. I don’t think the Swedes take today particularly seriously though. They’re far too progressive and level headed. In England we still have something a bit Middle Ages with our thinking.

I managed to get about an hours sleep last night because one of the cats is in heat, and the other one has sickness and diarrhea. Then my rucksack opened itself up on my way to school and I nearly lost everything to the slush. I also ended up being fifteen minutes late to class, then did spectacularly bad with my work, ballsing up things which I knew, and repeatedly asking my lovely and especially patient teacher questions in English instead of in Swedish…like I’m supposed to do.

However! Today did have its positives. Here they are.

During my SFI class I learned the word ‘skrock’ which means ‘superstition’ in Swedish.Immediately I thought to myself ‘cross stitching that when I get home!’ Learning this new word improved my mood ten fold, and I found myself scouring the English/Swedish Ordbook during the break for other weird words that I could stitch.

When I got home I sat down and did my cross stitch. I should have been working solidly on articles due in this weekend, but I needed some me time after the monumental stress of the morning. So I spent an hour or so crafting and then, very gently, getting the sleeping cat’s tail to lay artfully across my finished piece. Instagram demands this artiness. She wasn’t particularly happy about this however, even in her sleep.

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I added an Algiz rune to my cross stitch, which, when inverted means ‘hidden danger, taboo, warning…’ Quite suitable I think for today. Friday the 13th also held significance for the vikings. 12 gods were feasting in Valhalla when in walked a 13th, uninvited guest…the mischievous Loki who arranged for Hodor to kill Balder the Beautiful with a mistletoe tipped arrow.

This evening I heard a bird calling from the forest. No idea what I was hearing (okay, my first thought was EAGLE! Which was silly. I’ve seen National Geographic. I know an eagle doesn’t sound like that.) I hurled the door open and recorded the sound with my phone and promptly uploaded it onto Facebook and Instagram.

Coming from the forest…does anyone know what sort of bird this is?

A post shared by Katie Metcalfe (@katiemariemetcalfe) on

Within about five minutes, the web and its people had gifted me with an answer…what I was hearing was a tawny owl (even better than an eagle!), specifically a territorial female owl. Apparently they get like that in winter. It is the males which make the ho-hoo calls and the females make the ke-wick noises I was hearing. I’m thanking the universe for letting me off ‘lightly’ this Friday 13th and for giving me some light relief at the end of bloody long day.

 

Start As I Mean To Go On : Breakfast With Havregryn

We all do it…we all say to ourselves, be it in a quiet whisper or a proud announcement on social media, that ‘this is the year we’re going to eat better.’ I’m managing this, in little ways, like by eating havregryn (rolled oats) for breakfast instead of a bowl of sugary, processed cereal.

Now, I’m not sure exactly why Swedish rolled oats taste different to the Scottish rolled oats that I’m used to, though it’s probably something to do with the crop. They taste healthier, more rustic. Havregryn is what I imagine porridge to have tasted like when the Vikings ate it three times a day.

We make it with water here and cook it on the stove, just as I did in England The Swedes like to add a bit of salt too. Instead of topping it with treacle though, we add a spoon of apple sauce, lots of cinnamon and sometimes a splash of milk.

Thankfully, it’s just as filling as the porridge of home, and though its taking me a little while to get used to the taste, I’m looking forward to adding some of the blueberries we gathered in the forests during summer to my next bowl.

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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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From Sebastian, With Love

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I had no inkling as to what Sebastian had bought me for Jul…but my limbs went all weak at the sight of this Moomin Winter Mug by Arabia. The mug features Moomintroll, Hemulen, Sorry-oo and the Snowhorse from Tove Jansson’s book Moominland Midwinter.

In the story, Moomintroll wakes from hibernation and goes onto meet – and initially be afraid of – the snow horse which stands outside the snowed under Moomin House…

(The book laying next to my mug is The Arctic : An Anthology edited by Elizabeth Kolbert.)

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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On The Shortest Day

Yesterday the sun didn’t show itself and the fog never lifted. Unsurprisingly I had a difficult time staying within our four four walls. The forest was calling me.

After following a path I’d only walked once before, I found myself in a part of the forest that appeared far more ancient than any of the other places I’ve wandered in this part of Sweden.

Most of the trees had branches formed like witches fingers, and were enveloped in linchen that hung like old skin.  I felt as though I was wandering from one John Bauer painting into another. I didn’t want to leave my new wandering grounds, but the dark was quick in coming. I’m going to be sad to see the days lengthening, I treasure the early dark.

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Our Holiday In The Motherland : Our Last Day & Walking In Studley Royal Park

Do you remember the film The Secret Garden? The 1993 version? It was my favourite thing to watch as a child. I received it on video one Christmas, and kept it at my Nanna’s house, convinced that if I took it home my brothers would end up breaking it. I don’t know what happened to that video tape. I hope it’s stacked away inside a cardboard box, snuggled up next to White Fang and Call Of The Wild – two other valuable films from my early years.

Much of The Secret Garden was shot in Fountains Hall and the grounds of Studley Royal Park, a World Heritage Site within short walking distance of Ripon, the third smallest city in England, and from where the majority of my family hail. The park’s most valuable feature is Fountains Abbey, one of England’s largest and best preserved Cistercian monasteries. Founded in the 12th Century by a small group of monks, Fountains Abbey would grow to become one of the wealthiest and most influential Cistercian abbeys in Britain. That is until  1539 when Henry VIII commanded the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

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As a child, my Dad would spend hours roaming Studley’s steep-sided valley, and pitching himself over fences to avoid paying the entrance fee to the Fountains Abbey. When my siblings and I were growing up, my Dad would often bring us to Studley (rarely Fountains because it was too expensive, and pitching four kids under ten over barbed wire fences wasn’t that simple). He would point out significant spots, like where he was once chased by an irritable stag after snapping its photograph and blocked up ‘hidden tunnels’ which, he claimed, were once used by the Abbey’s monks.

Bringing Sebastian to this most important of places felt somewhat necessary. Our family has explored the acres of parkland for over half a century, and I felt that Sebastian, as the latest addition to the Metcalfe clan, ought to experience this valuable part of our history for himself. I held the belief that it would, in a way, enable him to understand me – and my family – on a deeper level.

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On our way into the park, I had my fingers tightly crossed that we would encounter at least one of the five hundred deer (Red, Fallow and Sika) which freely roam the park. The gods were on our side that day, and within moments of us crossing the cattle grid into the grounds, we lurched to a stop as there, standing mere meters from the side of the road was a doe and foal. I couldn’t have wished for a moment more perfect.

There was no visit to Fountains on this occasion – you need a full day there and we didn’t have that – but we did make our way through the valley. We passed by ancient trees, many of which are over three hundred years old, most standing, some fallen, their great roots exposed to the sun…a sun which had been shining for us since we’d first arrived in England.

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It felt somewhat surreal, but gorgeously so, to be walking the familiar route as a thirty year old English woman with her Swedish partner. I remember the walk taking forever when I was small, sometimes we didn’t even make it to the end before our little legs were tired and we needed to turn back. But Sebastian and I were at the boundary of the park before we could work up a sweat. My Dad retold tales from when he was a lad, and it was all almost too much for my emotions to take.

Sebastian went on to meet my Nanna, and I was so proud that he was able to decipher her thick Yorkshire accent. Bringing Sebastian to where my family originate was the most beautiful way to round off our short but blissful trip to the motherland.

 

 

 

 

Our Holiday In The Motherland : Climbing Roseberry Topping

In my previous Holiday To The Motherland post I mentioned that when we first found out that we’d be going to England, I made a mental note in my head of all the places I wanted to take Sebastian to…Roseberry Topping was also on that list.

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This iconic, strangely shaped hill (though as a child I always, with great pride, called it a mountain…) can almost be seen from my parent’s home. We used to drive past it every day for several years, and I would press my nose against the car window, achingly hungry for the view, desperately eager for the adventure of the climb.

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When I did eventually climb it, it shook up my soul. I wanted to go higher, higher, higher. Little did I know then that explorer Captain James Cook used to climb Roseberry when he wasn’t working on his parent’s farm, and it was during these climbs that he came to the realization that exploration was to be his life’s work.

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Roseberry has many different names, but the one my heart has always liked best is Odin’s Hill. Roseberry was sacred to the Norse settlers, and, in theory, where they worshiped the one eyed god. The Viking connection had always been of great significance to me, and to take my own Nord to the peak would be, I imagined, almost like closing a circle.

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And it was. I was glowing as we hiked. Everything felt as it should as our breathing became more laboured, and we needed to look more carefully at where we were placing our feet. Despite having made many ascents to the peak, the view is always something which chokes me up.

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From the top, we slowly turned clockwise to take everything in. From one view point we could see the vast industrial landscape of Teesside. From another just rolling moors for mile after mile. From another laid forests, fields and the blue swell of the North Sea. As we sat at the peak, squinting into the sun and eating hunks of stollen, I felt beautifully complete. Roseberry does that to you.

 

 

 

 

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

tb,1200x1200,flat.2u1.jpgAutumn Mornings Tote Bag – $13.99

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