• 16Jun
    Categories: Everything! Comments: 1

    Last year a Swedish friend posted on Facebook that she was making syrup from the new growth on spruce trees.  I was intrigued, and asked for more details.  I got better than that.  Bob and I got an invitation for a visit and a taste!  Iris served it over ice cream and sent us home with a little in a jar.  It’s hard to describe the taste except to say it tastes like spruce!

    syrup on ice cream1

    I could hardly wait to try it this year.  And I was double blessed because I was home in in Washington in May when the spruce shoots were ready there, and in Sweden in June, when they were ready here!

    spruce syrup1

    Iris’ method was a no cook method.  You pack a jar with spruce tips…

    spruce syrup2

    …and add an equal amount of sugar.

    spruce syrup3

    This you put in a sunny windowsill and shake it everyday.  Leave it for a few weeks.  The result will be a beautiful, very light colored syrup.

    BUT, I’m not always so patient!  I did some research online and found you can cook your ingredients and have results much faster.

    It was fun but time consuming to gather the spruce tips.  The variety of spruce seems to be a little different in Long Beach than it is in Sweden.  In Sweden, a gently pull was all that was needed to remove the tips.  In Long Beach, I found it was easier to use a pair of kitchen shears, as they didn’t pull right off.

    spruce1

    Following the recipe I found online, the Long Beach batch used equal parts tips, sugar and water, and it took nearly five hours to cook it all down enough to make a syrup.  Below is the Long Beach batch.

    spruce syrup4

    In Sweden, I reduced the amount of water and the syrup cooked down much faster.  The result was a syrup that is a bit thicker and also darker, but I don’t know if that was the cooking method or the difference in the spruce.

    spruce3

    Here’s my recipe.

    SPRUCE TIP SYRUP

    4 cups water

    8 cups spruce tips

    8 cups sugar

    Note: It’s easy to adjust the amounts, depending on how much you pick.  Just figure one part water, two parts spruce tips, two parts sugar.

    Rinse spruce tips in a colander to remove any dust or dirt.

    Put tips and water in a large pan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and let set 24 hours.

    Strain liquid.  Discard spruce tips.

    Return liquid to the pan and bring to a boil.  Add sugar.

    Return to a boil, being careful not to let it boil over.  Reduce heat and simmer 1 – 3 hours.

    Enjoy!

    Besides eating the syrup on ice cream, we’ve eaten it on toast–like honey.  If you try it, let me know how you use it, too!

  • 14Mar

    Our small Swedish House had three bathrooms!  That’s quite unusual for a house here.  They were all quite small and I think they were probably added to the house in the 1989 remodel.

    Just off the entry hall was a long, skinny half bath.

    bad1

    Next to it, but accessed from the bedroom was the long, skinny master bath.  It had a sink, toilet and shower stall squeezed into the small space.

    bad2

    And upstairs, under the eaves, was another small bath.

    bad3

    Bob and I thought bathroom remodels were above our pay grade (read skill level) so we hired a local firm to do it.  We decided that we could eliminate the half bath off the entry hall.  We took the front half and turned it into a coat closet.  The back half we opened up to the master bath and used the space for a shower.

    The work happened while we were gone, but our neighbor Anna was good enough to send us update photos.

    We opted for floor heat.

    bth1

    Bathrooms in Sweden are ‘wet rooms,” so the walls have a special vinyl covering.  We chose this design for the master bath.

    bth2

    They have the coolest shower doors here.  They’re curved! It makes the corner shower feel quite spacious.

    bth5

    But even better, when you aren’t showering, they can be swung against the wall, making the room feel much bigger!

    bth4

    We got a new sink and toilet, but they are in the same space as before.

    bth6

    By taking space from the hall bathroom for the shower, we were able to bring the washing machine up from the cellar and put it in the bathroom where the old shower was.

    bth8

    We tucked the toilet in the upstairs bath under the eaves and we have the same shower arrangement up there as in the master bath.

    bth3

    Perfect for overnight guests!

     

  • 06Jan
    Categories: quilting Comments: 0

    I love sewing any time, but it’s always a little more fun at Christmas!  This Christmas, I really got a bee in my bonnet and sewed up a storm.

    I made a two little fat quarter bags for my Swedish neighbor girls.

    xms01

    And some bigger bags for our five grandkids.  It’s always fun choosing fabrics to match their interests.

    xms14

    I was most excited about sewing some fleece onesies!  I fell in love with this polka-dot fleece.

    xms05

    I made five—for the little kids.  A hoodie and shorts seemed more appropriate for our 15-year-old granddaughter.

    xms07

    And long pants and a hoodie for for the 12-year-old.

    xms08

    Thanks to my friend Robin for steering me through the process!

    xms09

    It was so fun to see them on the kids!

    eom1

    cms1

    cms3

    We also gave each of the grandkids their own Nisse—the Swedish version of a house elf!

    xms02

    I made them each their own mattress…

    xms12

    …and matching scarf.

    xms13

    I think they’ll be happy in their new homes.

    cms4

    I made passport holders—one for myself…

    xms10

    …and one for Melissa.  Hint, hint.  Come to Sweden, Melissa!

    cms5

    I came across some adorable dice fabric and just had to make a couple of table runners for Sally to use at Bunco.

    xms11

    And, lastly, this wall hanging for Sally’s Gingerbread Christmas that I blogged about before.

    ggb01

    Fun, fun!

     

  • 23Dec

    I sneaked off to Sweden for two weeks in early December to get a little taste of Sweden at Christmas and do a little shopping.  My neighbors, Ronny, Anna, Maya and Elwira picked me up at the airport and we spent two days in Stockholm!

    swdc08

    It was late in the afternoon by the time we got there, but we went to Gamla Stan – the old city – and enjoyed the Christmas Market!

    Screen shot 2014-12-23 at 6.31.32 AM

    It was crowded but a great way to get some Christmas spirit.

    swdc63

    The next day we went to Skansen, the outdoor museum.  Our first stop was the old bakery.

    swdc05

    It smelled wonderful in there!

    swdc01

    The breads were beautiful.

    swdc02

    And the cookies delicious!

    swdc03

    Instead of gingerbread men, there were goats, pigs and hearts!

    swdc04

    There were dozens of booths selling items, including this one selling a thin, hard bread.  I brought some home with me!

    swdc07

    It was so fun checking out all of the wonderful offerings.

    Screen shot 2014-12-23 at 6.32.09 AM

    I would have liked to have it all!

    Screen shot 2014-12-23 at 6.32.34 AM

    When I got to our house in Nås, I discovered Anna had a surprise for me.

    swdc15

    She had decorated my front porch!

    swdc16

    After a few days in Nås, Anna and I went to Borlänge to do a little more retail therapy.

    swdc28

    I fell in love with the Christmas stars…

    swdc30

    …and bought one for our dining room window.

    swdc48

    Here’s some of the other loot that I bought that day!

    swdc29

    These tomte tidbit plates were just too cute to pass up.

    swdc31

    Before coming home, I got to go back to Stockholm with Sven-Eric.

    swdc75

    The windows of the NK Department Store were absolutely charming.

    swdc67

    They were animated and drew quite a crowd.

    swdc68

    Inside this giant tree hung from the ceiling.

    swdc69

    There were rows of tomtar.

    swdc71

    They were pretty hard to resist.

    swdc72

    Some of these little guys found their way to our grandchildren this Christmas!

    swdc74

    It was a great start to the holiday!

    Tags:
  • 19Dec
    Categories: Everything! Comments: 3

    Gingerbread Wall Hanging

    My sister decided to do a Gingerbread Theme for Christmas this year.

    ggb10

    I thought she should have a new wall hanging to fit the new theme.

    ggb09

    I searched for a pattern…

    ggb08

    …without much luck.

    ggb07

    Then I saw a block designed by Amy Bradley.

    ggb06

    It was just the inspiration I needed!

    ggb05

    I thought there should be girls, too!

    ggb04

    It was lots of fun to pick the fabrics — and the jewelry for the girls!

    ggb03

    It was fun to sit in the evenings and do the buttonhole stitching.

    ggb02

    I put them together in a simple setting.

    ggb01

    How handy that Sally has a December birthday!

    ggb11

    Happy Birthday, Sally!

  • 28Oct

    I’ve known for a long time that I wanted a “kitchen sofa” for the Swedish house, and I’ve been looking for one every time I’m in Sweden.  I’ve seen a lot of these wooden sofas, but I had a very specific style in mind.  Shortly before we left last summer, Torsten called one afternoon to say he was on a service call and the customer had a sofa for sale–a sofa he was sure I would like.  And he was right!

    ks1

    It was in an out building at an old farmstead, and Bob and I took the trailer over and picked it up.  I love the shape of the back, the rolled arms and, best of all, the faux finish.  A lot of antique Swedish furniture is painted with a style meant to imitate a more expensive wood.

    ks2

    Oh, and the front pulls out so it can be used as a bed!  This sofa is missing it’s seat, but that will be an easy fix.  A wooden seat and a nice cushion and it will be good to go!

    ks3

    I had the bright idea that I might make a quilt that could be used to cover the cushion.  I don’t do a lot of quilting with turn-of-the-century fabrics, but their earth colors seemed perfect for this sofa.  Then I decided a postage stamp quilt would be “fun.”  So, I set about cutting a lot of little squares and sewing them together.

    qlt1

    I wanted the design to be on-point…

    pst10

    …so I had to construct the quilt diagonally.

    pst01

    That requires a lot of thinking!  Finally, I had the top pieced.  4224 pieces, but who’s counting!

    hq1

    But I had a lot of squares left, so I decided I could use some of them for the “label.”

    pst03

    So, just five hundred and some more squares and I had a label.

    pst04

    I sewed it into the back of the quilt.

    pst06

    I wasn’t sure how to quilt it.  In the end, I chose a Baptist fan design.

    pst07

    You can see it a little better from the back.

    pst09

    I’ve decided it will just be a sofa quilt, not a cushion over.  I have something else in mind for that!

    A little footnote.  Last week, the farmhouse and the outbuilding where we got the kitchen sofa burned to the ground in a horrible fire.  I’m so glad the sofa is with us.

    fire1

     

     

     

     

     

  • 26Oct

    “Sju sorter kakor” – that’s Swedish for “seven kinds of cookies.”  Seven kinds of cookies is a centuries old tradition in Sweden.  Any hostess worth her salt always offers her guests seven kinds of cookies.

    Cookies05

    Now I love to make cookies, but it’s a lot of work to make seven different batches of cookie dough.  Last Christmas when I was in cookie making mode, I noticed how similar all the cookie doughs were for the different cookies I was making.  I wondered if I could make one big batch of dough and turn it into seven different kinds of cookies.  The hardest part was narrowing my list down to just seven!  Once I’d decided on the seven cookies I would do, I mixed up the dough and began the experiment.  I ended up with over 13 dozen delicious cookies. Here ere are the results.

    Basic Cookie Dough

    1 lb butter at room temperature

    1 cup sugar

    2 eggs

    1 tsp vanilla

    1 tsp salt

    5 – 5 1/2 cups flour

    In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, vanilla and salt and beat until incorporated.  Slowly add flour until you have a soft dough.  It’s better to have it a little soft, to make it easier to incorporate the additional ingredients.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times until smooth.  Form into a large log 10 1/2″ long.

    Cookies01

    Make a mark along the top every1 1/2″.

    Cookies02

    Cut the dough into seven pieces and set on a lightly floured Silpat or piece of parchment paper.

    Cookies03

    Now it’s time to add additional ingredients to the dough or shape it for seven different kinds of cookies!  As you’re working with the different doughs, you might want to add more flour if you think it’s too soft—but not too much.  The dough will firm up in the fridge.  I labeled my doughs after I wrapped them so I didn’t get confused later.

    1. Raspberry Caves – To one piece of dough add 2 tablespoons fresh orange zest.  This adds additional moisture to the dough, so work in 2 – 3 tablespoons of flour until dough feels smooth.  Form into a ball, press to flatten a bit, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

    2. Cranberry Orange Squares – To one piece of dough add 1 tablespoon fresh orange zest, 1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries and 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans.  Hint: Add a tablespoon of flour to the dried cranberries to keep them from sticking to the knife when choppin.  Add additional flour to the dough if necessary.  Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

    3. Coconut Walnut Crescents – To one piece of dough add 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts and 1/4 cup finally chopped coconut.  Form into a ball, press to flatten a bit, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

    4. Pistachio Almond Cookies – To one piece of dough add 1/4 cup finely chopped pistachios and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.  Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

    5. Chocolate Mint Thins – Divide one piece of dough in half.  To the first half add 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder.  Once cocoa powder is incorporated, roll dough into a log 6″ long.  To the second half add 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract and 2 – 3 drops of green food coloring.  Form into a log 6″ long.  Wrap the two logs around each other and roll a bit more until the log is about 8″ long.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

    6. Sanded Shortbread Coins – Roll one piece of dough into a log 6″ long.  Roll in 2 tablespoons of sanding or colored sugar.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

    7. Lingonberry Logs – Shape the last piece of dough into a ball, flatten slightly, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

    At this point you can start making your cookies or leave the dough(s) in the refrigerator for up to three days.

    Cookies04

    When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  All the cookies will be baked at this temperature.  I use Silpats on my cookie sheets.  If you don’t have Silpats, use parchment paper.

    Raspberry Caves – This is one of my favorite Swedish cookies.  If you want to make a big batch of just these, I’ve blogged about it before.  You can find the recipe here.  Divide the dough into 18 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball and place into a small fluted paper.  Brush the top of each cookie with a little cream.  Sprinkle with pearl sugar.  With the end of a wooden spoon make a hole in each ball.  Put a small amount of seedless raspberry jam in each indentation.  Bake for 15 minutes.

    Cookies07

    Cranberry Orange Squares – Roll the dough into a 7″ x 10 1/2″ rectangle.  Cut into 24 1 3/4″ squares.  Bake for 10 minutes.

    Cookies11

    Coconut Walnut Crescents – Divide dough into 12 pieces.  Roll each piece into a rope about 4″ long that is a bit thicker in the middle than on the ends.  Form into a crescent.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Let cool about 2 minutes and press tops into powdered sugar.

    Cookies06

    Pistachio Almond Cookies – Roll dough 1/4″ thick.  Cut with a 1 3/4″ round cookie cutter.  Press a blanched almond into the top of each cookie.  Bake 10 minutes.  Makes 24.

    Cookies09

    Chocolate Mint Thins – Cut dough into scant 1/4″ slices.  Bake 10 minutes.  Makes 36.

    Cookies08

    Sanded Shortbread Coins – Slice log into 1/4″ slices.  Bake 10 minutes.  Makes 24.

    Cookies12

    Lingonberry Logs – Divide dough in half.  Roll each into a 9″ log. Press a shallow trough down the length of the log.  Fill with lingonberry jam.  Bake 15 minutes.  While cooling, make a glaze from 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract and 1 – 2 tablespoons of cream.  After the cookies have cooled for 10 minutes, drizzle with glaze and cut into 1″ pieces on a slight diagonal.  Makes 20.

    Cookies10

    Brew up some strong coffee and enjoy!

    plate1

     

     

    Tags:
  • 25Oct
    Categories: musings Comments: 2

    In Sweden last summer I learned to make “saft,” a fruit concentrate that you add to water to make a yummy drink.  I made rhubarb saft and currant saft.  Both were delicious.  But now that it’s cranberry season here at home, I decided I should try my hand at making some cranberry saft!

    saft1

    It was mighty tasty!

    A few people have asked for the recipe, so here it is.

    Cranberry Saft

    8 cups cranberries

    4 cups sugar

    4 cups water

    Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves.  Add berries and bring to a boil.  Boil 15 minutes.  Pour into a jelly bag and let drain several hours.  Voila!  Saft!

    Add your syrup to still or sparkling water for a refreshing drink.  I find a 1 to 4 ratio of syrup and water suits my taste, but experiment and see what you like.

    This will keep several weeks in your refrigerator.

  • 08Oct
    Categories: musings Comments: 2

    Nås, our village in Sweden is known for it’s potatoes.

    onp2

    The West Dala River runs through our village and the sandy soil is perfect for producing potatoes.

    pt1

    When we got to Sweden in June, the little plants were just poking up through the soil.

    ng1

    Nås is so far north that there’s about 20 hours of sunlight a day in June.  This is the same field two weeks later!

    ng3

    Here in Long Beach, we have very sandy soil, too, which means potatoes are a great crop to grow here, too.

    Since we were going to be gone for two months this summer, I didn’t plant a garden this year—except for potatoes.  They were left to their own devices while we were gone except for a timer on the sprinkler.  Thank goodness they thrive on neglect!  A few days ago I dug them all up.

    pot4

    I guess we’ll be eating a lot of potatoes!

    Tags:
  • 06Oct
    Categories: Everything! Comments: 3

    Kryddhylla?  It’s Swedish for spice rack!  I’ve always thought these under-counter spice racks you find in lots of Swedish kitchens are very cool.

    kry1

    You can see a red one behind me here in Skräddar Anna’s kitchen in this picture taken in 1984!

    ska1

    This one’s a little different.  It’s in Berit and Gunnar’s house.

    b&g1

    I wanted to find one for our Swedish house and was looking for an antique one that would go under our upper cupboards.  But if you look at the picture below, you’ll see that blank panel on the very left.  It was kind of boring, and kind of bothered me.

    kit17

    It was just there to hide some electrical.  Hmmm.  Why not put the kryddhylla there!?!

    kit26

    It would be a bit nontraditional to run it vertically, but, hey–why not!  I found a source for new ones, that had four containers.

    kit23

    The glass inserts were square.

    kit24

    So they could go into the holder either way!

    kit25

    Five seemed to be right for the space, so we ordered a second one and did some creative carpentry.

    kit27

    And now we have our own kryddhylla!   Yeah!

    kit31

    Oh!  But on the other side of the cupboards, there’s a skinny space.  It didn’t bother me so much.

    kit16

    But then look what I found!

    kit36

    Baby ones!  Stay tuned!