I’ve never much been one for liking Valentines Day. Funny that, because I’ve always very much liked love. Maybe I rebel against the steroidal materialism and waste that oozes from this holiday. Or maybe, I am just being stubborn and would much prefer to celebrate love in my own way, in my own time, without the forcefulness of it all.
Honestly, I think I am so awkward about this holiday because I feel that it should be a love day everyday. Authentic, honest, generous love.
Vomit? Not so much. I do. I love love.
So I’ve given in to the holiday and my exceptional cynicism, and am celebrating my love for my love with an evening picnic by the river. Hooray! And to add to the celebration, I wanted to share with you all the beautiful process that is the art of drying roses. Just in case you would like to make your love day last just a little longer…
Happy love day. xx
Sometimes you have to forage to find beautiful things. Sometimes you find yourself among beautiful things without effort or search. Sometimes, these are the best times. Spontaneity. Surprise. Chance. Moments.
This time, I found myself among bubbles in Central Park.
I am certain that in NYC, it wouldn’t be very hard to find yourself surrounded by a spectacle or situation that you didn’t set out to find. In fact, I think it could become difficult to do the contrary. But to stop and appreciate that moment, in all of its beauty… that is what makes that moment.
So when I found myself in this situation, watching faces in the park as gigantic bubbles were spun and burst – I stopped. And it was pure and utter joy. I was glad to be there. In that un-foraged moment.
On the western side of New Hampshire is a small village cluster that surrounds Lake Sunapee. We arrived at our modest lake side cottage in the tiny village of Georges Mills to discover that everything was frozen, including some water pipes and the lake. Winter, in all of its glory, had been found. It didn’t take us too long before we were out standing on the lake. This surreal (and slightly scary) feeling wasn’t new to me. I had done this many times before in Sweden (once, my host dad insisted on driving the car onto the lake). However, standing on a large, frozen body of water was still as exciting for me as the first time. I swear I kept hearing it crack. It was 4-6 inches deep, we were told. Thick enough to head out and ice fish. Instead we just walked, and skidded, and tried our very best to chase Taj the dog around without falling over.
Things I will remember about Lake Sunappe: the joy of cooking a simple meal in the kitchen for the first time in over a week, exploring the streets of New London, Wilmot, Andover and Potter Place, neatly piled fire wood against the red timber houses, drinking red wine on the lake as we rolled snow balls and the snow fell, the fire place at one of the local restaurants, watching movies in the cabin while it was storming outside, the weight of the snow on the leaves the morning after the storm, shoveling snow from the drive way, the endless amount of white.
Boston was beautiful.
On Christmas Eve we watched The Nutcracker by the Boston Ballet. What a treat. By this stage, after our long drive North and three days experiencing what is the hurly-burly of New York before Christmas, we needed to slow down. We headed to the North End Italian Quarter for a big bowl of pasta. The perfect Christmas Eve dinner tradition. Our tummies quickly filled up and we began to digest the holiday.
On Christmas day the city was quiet and the air was cold. Really cold. We took the day slow, enjoying each others company – eating, walking and eating some more.
On Boxing day it snowed. I couldn’t have been happier. The city woke up and it was the perfect opportunity to bundle up and wander the streets of Beacon Hill, to ice skate on The Frog Pond, to venture to South End and eat a post Christmas cup cake at South End Buttery and to hunt for the perfect wine & cheese at Formaggio.
I loved the way the season was celebrated here. It seemed as though every door and lamp post was adorned with hand made wreaths and swags – giving evergreen & appeal to the dead of winter. And just as we left, the sky cleared and the sun came out. As though the entire snowy Christmas holiday was a secret.
It was a very special Christmas. We were far from our homes, but relished the comfort and slow pace that Christmas in Boston gave us. This – our wintry, northern Christmas – felt right.
We woke up to rain. Rain in the city – any city – is one of my most favourite things. Reflective puddles of light, tall buildings hidden by low lying clouds, muddy taxis, sidewalk seas of umbrellas and the opportunity to wear gumboots.
We ventured to the highest points, to the oldest bridges, to the freshest restaurants. Like a sponge, we soaked up every possible drop that the city was willing to give us during our final hurrah to our surreal dream – meeting New York City…
We fell into a daze as we looked down to the island below.
We warmed up and dried off by spending time watching people outside, through beautiful old windows.
We relished yellow cab rides, until traffic jams stopped us from moving and we had to get out.
Once, Jakob sat in the front.
We became mesmerised by grand buildings and their grand light displays.
We were disenchanted by all things touristy. We looked else where for inspiration.
We went to Brooklyn.
We ate at Vinegar Hill House. We discovered pear and fennel and fell in love with linen napkins.
The rain cleared. We walked past back streets filled with wire mesh and stopped into a bar to listen to a band playing Christmas carols.
We walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and quickly became mesmerized by its presence at night and its view of the glowing, festive Manhattan skyline. We stopped to take silly photos and to breathe in the view.
One the bridge, we found love.
We huddled inside cosy library bars to keep warm. We drank tea and hot chocolate until we could feel our toes again.
It was so nice to meet you.
One day soon, we will meet again.
It was like deja vu. An encyclopedia of this place had already been penned into my head. Despite never actually having been to this city, all of the movies, songs and stories had me believing that I already knew this place. Its neighborhoods. Its culinary musts. Its residents. Its sounds.
Three days before Christmas and many, many days longing after its charm, this city and I finally met. For real.
We wandered through parks. We looked up at the buildings and they looked over us. We chased squirrels and watched people ice skating through the trees. We listened to buskers and bought soft salty pretzels.
We found strange, beautiful objects on the ground. We stood by the pond and watched the ducks stand on the ice.
We went on long walks, miles from our apartment. We ate hot dogs from hot dog stands and sat outside a patisserie. We were cold and cheerful. We found streets with brownstones that were being covered with steam from chimneys coming up from underground. We wandered past museums and watched a homeless man write a haiku in the street.
We found Christmas markets and stood under the twinkling lights. We drank hot cider. When our feet hurt and we felt tired, afternoon naps helped.
We took the subway downtown. We explored Nolita in the dark, sometimes finding alley ways and cobble stones.
We caught our first yellow taxi.
We slept on the Upper West Side alongside a view that disappeared into the night.
We dreamt of being in New York.
I just love this time of year and it seems that our neighbourhood does too. The houses around us are completely adorned with Christmas lights (our back neighbours entire house and garden has turned into a flashing, luminous light land) and everywhere else you look or turn something festive seems to be brewing…
For weeks now I have been hearing all about and very much looking forward to our neighbourhood’s Yuletide tradition, Luminaria. This beautiful tradition takes place around the winter solstice, when the local folk of Riverside and Avondale place lanterns made of candles in paper bags all around the houses, parks, churches and shops. The candles are lit at sundown and the streets begin filling up with people enjoying the glowing neighborhood and seasonal cheer. Front doors and porches are open to passing partying people, cars and trucks are decorated with lights, churches are lit up with live nativity scenes and hot apple cider is passed around.
Seeing as I have a little bit of history and a lot of love for Sweden, Luminaria immediately reminded me of the Swedish tradition of St Lucia. So, I thought, why not make the most of our very first Luminaria experience and celebrate with a big Swedish Christmas feast! The plan was to prepare all of the food first so that we and our friends could walk around the neighbourhood and enjoy the lanterns, Christmas lights and the street parades. Then once we were tired, hungry and cold, we would come back to the house for our Swedish feast.
The morning of Luminaria I was in complete heaven preparing food, mulling the wine (glögg) and decorating the house in all sorts of Christmas trimmings – including my favourite part, decorating the table light in delicious flowers and shrubbery to create a floating wreath centerpiece. That evening, once our guests had arrived and the final food preparations were made, we lit our own lanterns for the garden and downed a cheeky mug of glögg. Then, we headed out to enjoy Luminaria.
The streets were glowing. We wandered and sightsaw. Taj our German Shepherd dog met a sheep at the live nativity scene. Their meeting soon ended when the sheep decided to head-butt him… I guess he wasn’t made to be a shepherd afterall. Then, our evening became far more exciting than we ever could have imagined when one of our friends offered us a seat on her brothers Hay Ride! So we jumped on an old wooden wagon and were towed around by a tractor with an excellent view of the neighbourhood, throwing hay off the side to other passersby who threw lollies and marshmallows back at us. So much fun. And so very American!
Once we got back to the house, the fire was lit, our toes were warmed and the food was laid out on the table for our very own smorgasbord or ‘Julbord’. We feasted on a myriad of Swedish fare – Homemade Meatballs with lingonberry sauce, Jansson’s Temptation, beetroot salad, home cured gravad lax, red cabbage, boiled potatoes with dill, varieties of pickled herring (sill) and boiled eggs with herring and dill mayonnaise. And for dessert, ginger snaps (pepparkakor) and saffron buns (saffransbullar).
After dinner, I was in a complete and happy reflective coma. It was the most wonderful evening. I took in a deep breath of seasonal air and became very thankful. Not only was I full of food, but I also had a very full heart. I felt lucky to live in this vibrant, cultural neighbourhood that has become our home far away from home. I felt lucky to be able to enjoy it and the seasons festivities with my husband, our dog and our most beautiful and sincere group of American friends. Thank you for eating my food. Thank you for being so lovely. And happy Yuletide cheer to everyone, however you are celebrating and wherever you may be. xx
3 g (1/8 oz) saffron threads
50 g (2 oz) yeast
200 g (7 oz) sugar
300 ml (1½ cup) milk
150–200 g (5–7 oz) butter
1 tsp salt
750 g (26 oz) flour
100 g (3½ oz) raisins
2 tbs water
Grind the saffron along with a cube of sugar, using a mortar and pestle. (For those who think ahead: drip a little cognac on top, and let stand a few days.) Crumble the yeast in a bowl and stir in a few tablespoons of milk. Melt the butter and pour on the milk.
Add the rest of the ingredients, except the raisins, and knead the dough in a dough mixer for 10 minutes. Carefully mix in most of the raisins, cover the dough and let it rise for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Divide the dough into 25 pieces and roll the buns in an oblong shape, about 10 cm (4 in) long. Cover them and let rest for 10 minutes, then roll them twice as long and twist the ends of each bun in opposite directions to form a sort of figure 8. Put one raisin in the middle of each half figure 8.
Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise under a towel for about 90 minutes, or until the buns have doubled in size. Bake in the oven (220°C/425°F) for 5 minutes. Beat together the egg and water, brush the mixture on the buns. Allow to cool on the baking sheet.
750 g (26 oz) fresh salmon filet with skin on
85 g (3 ¼ oz) sugar
120 g (4 oz) salt
8 tbs chopped dill
1 tsp crushed white pepper
2 tbs mild Swedish mustard
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbs sugar
1½ tbs red wine vinegar
salt, white pepper
200 ml (1 cup) oil (not olive oil)
To minimise the risk connected with eating raw fish, you might want to freeze the salmon before preparing it. When defrosted, scale the salmon and remove the small bones, but leave the skin on. Make a few cuts in the skin so the marinade will penetrate from below. Mix salt, sugar and pepper and sprinkle it beneath and on top of the salmon filet along with plenty of dill. Place a weighted cutting board on top of the salmon filet and let it marinate at room temperature for 2–4 hours. Then refrigerate for 24−48 hours, turning the salmon filet a few times. Rinse the salmon in cold water. Cut into thin slices without getting too close to the skin, so the dark salmon is included.
To make the gravlax sauce mix the mustard, sugar and vinegar and season with salt and fresh-ground pepper. Stir vigorously, while pouring on the oil in a steady, thin stream. When the sauce has attained a mayonnaise-like consistency, stir in the chopped dill. Serve it along side the salmon.
Ewa`s Janssons Frestelse.
Jansson’s temptation, or Janssons frestelse is a creamy potato and anchovy bake. I was given this recipe from my Swedish host mum, Ewa. I have left most of it exactly as she typed it – it was far too cute to alter…
Gratin preparation time approx 10-15 minutes.
In the owner time about 45-50 minutes.
Ingredients for 4 persons:
5-6 medium sized potatoes
2 yellow onions
7-10 whole anchovies (Clean and bone the anchovies if whole fish are used) * I use 15-20 pieces of anchovy filèer instead:
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (395 degrees F).
Peel the potatoes and shred it (fries) Scale (slice it in thin slices),
and fry the onion so it becomes soft in butter!
Unwind the shredded potatoes, onion rings and anchovies in the shape.
Top layer should be potatoes. Pour over anchovy water
Turn over the cream, sprinkle liberally with bread crumbs and then cut thin slices of the butter and sprinkle over bread crumbs if desired.
The Christmas season is upon us – and I am loving every stocking hanging, carol singing, present wrapping bit of it. Last weekend was the very exciting task of finding ourselves our perfect Christmas tree. We foraged through a local farm and found ourselves a beauty – a sand pine, ready to be cut down fresh, ‘shaken’, tied on top of the car and taken back to our living room to be covered in little lights…
- ‘shaking’ the tree -
- A roof top tree, a sunset and a self portrait -
Autumn truly is the king of seasons. It bursts with colour, it creates the most playful mess on the ground and it furnishes the sky with bedazzling, leaf filtered light. Where I come from, the changes in seasons are quite mild and deciduous trees aren’t native. You can imagine then, why I am truly fascinated by seasonal changes and deciduous trees – especially the way they behave in the fall.
This past weekend we traveled with a group of our American friends up to North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving in the mountains. Apart from eating stupid amounts of food, most of the group were set on rock climbing the entire weekend. I on the other hand was ready to hold on to and completely surround myself in the last light and leaf fall of Autumn. We all managed to fill our boots with our chosen mountain adventures… walls were climbed, leaves were played in, turkey was eaten, villages were foraged through and trails were followed to reach the most breathtaking views.
After travelling north from Florida where summer is so insistent to hold on, it was lovely to feel the fresh mountain air. We may have frozen a little and lost feeling in our fingers more than a few times – but it brought about such a wonderful festive feeling. Knowing that a wintery Christmas is hiding just around the corner is about as fascinating to me as those deciduous trees. I think now I am more than ready to say goodbye to Autumn and let the winter season begin…
During this time of year in the States, pumpkins are everywhere. It started with Jack-o-lanterns & pumpkin patches for Halloween, now they are sitting on peoples front porches as ‘fall’ decorations. Then there are the popular food items that pumpkins star in, such as pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin doghnuts… pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin!
So, I decided to dive right into the festive season and bake me some warm pumpkin & coconut muffins – inspired by the recipe from the lovely food blog, Green Kitchen Stories. And then I got my iphone out (I am still waiting for my dear DSLR to return) and took some photos of the baking fun!
My very kind neighbour brought over some local delivered veggies for us to use – and in amongst the veggies was a squash. It may be a little controversial to most Americans to use a squash for baking sweets – but to me, a pumpkin is a squash is a pumpkin and this one was going to become muffins!
I do love that these muffins are so healthy – they are dairy, gluten and sugar free. But don’t be fooled, they hold their own and taste like little bits of heaven. They are going to be the perfect road trip snack during our long drive up to the mountains tomorrow to celebrate Thanksgiving. Feeling very festive indeed!
Happy pumpkin baking!
Warm Pumpkin & Coconut Muffins
1/2 cup (60 g) almond flour
1/2 cup (65 g) fine coconut flour
1/2 cup (70 g) buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or ground vanilla
1 pinch sea salt
1 small pumpkin/squash OR 1/2 cup (140 g) pumpkin puree
2 organic eggs
5 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/3 cup (80 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
1/2 organic orange, juice and zest
1/2 cup raw pecan nuts (or walnuts), coarsely chopped (reserve a little for garnish)
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Cut the pumpkin into quarters, remove the seeds and place pumpkin pieces on a baking tray, covered with baking paper. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of the pumpkin). The pumpkin halves are ready when the skin is bubbly and slightly browned. Remove from oven to cool a bit. Spoon out the flesh from the skin and puree in a food processor or blender. Measure out 1/2 cup puree and set aside. (Store the leftover puree in the fridge for up to a week).
Lower the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Sift togehter all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat the eggs, in another mixing bowl, for about a minute. Then add the rest of the wet ingredients while constantly stirring. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, using a spatula. Add pecan nuts and gently fold until combined. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Divide the batter into them, it should be about 2 large spoonfuls in each. Sprinkle with a few extra pecan nuts. Bake for about 22-25 minutes, or until golden on the outside and baked through. Enjoy warm.