• 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!


    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!

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


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


    It smelled wonderful in there!


    The breads were beautiful.


    And the cookies delicious!


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


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


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

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    I would have liked to have it all!

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


    She had decorated my front porch!


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


    I fell in love with the Christmas stars…


    …and bought one for our dining room window.


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


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


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


    The windows of the NK Department Store were absolutely charming.


    They were animated and drew quite a crowd.


    Inside this giant tree hung from the ceiling.


    There were rows of tomtar.


    They were pretty hard to resist.


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


    It was a great start to the holiday!

  • 19Feb

    Once the cabinets were in, it was time to put up the wainscoting, which was painted a pale gray.


    I had hoped to find a wallpaper that looked like stenciling, and I did!


    Lucky for us, Torsten is a jack-of-all trades.


    I couldn’t be happier with the way the wallpaper looks.


    You can see how the wallpaper wraps around the room.


    Corner and ceiling moldings complete the look nicely.


    Our refrigerator didn’t arrive before we left, but Torsten sent a picture.  I love the shape and the color!  Now to find the perfect skinny cabinet to go next to it!


    The window still needs molding, but I had to play with placing a Dala horse on the sill.


    Or perhaps he looked better in one of the high cupboards?


    I even had a few things to put inside the cupboards.


    It’s really looking great, but there are a few things to do, like the hood and tile black splash.


    I love the little details, like the porcelain knobs on the kitchen cabinets,


    We used similar hardware on the door.


    We chose a vintage style for the light switches and…




    The faucet, too, has a vintage feel.


    After weeks of construction, it was fun to put out the towels I’d made.


    I had fun adapting some Aunt Martha patterns.


    I added a Dala horse to each one.


    Even though they are a bit corny!



  • 08Feb

    At the end of December, we returned to Sweden with the plan to get the new kitchen done in just under a month!  We were down to bare walls and floor.  My first job, hammering in all of the nails on the floor to be sure everything was smooth!


    I mentioned in an earlier post that the existing window came down too low to allow a counter under it, so we bought a new window.


    You can see how much lower the other one was.  You can also see that it’s very dark out!  Sunrise was at 9:30 and sunset at 3:00!


    We covered the walls with new plasterboard and decided to paint the ceiling white.  Bob suited up and put on four coats of paint–two of oil based sealer and two latex.


    In the meantime, I painted the panels for the wainscoting a pale gray.


    I had chosen linoleum tiles for the floor, mostly gray with a few red.


    Torsten and Bob did a good job of interpreting the design I sketched out on a piece of plasterboard!


    Ever since we’d bought the house in September, I’d been planning the kitchen on Ikea’s nifty kitchen planner.

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    So off we went to Ikea, plan in hand.


    Bob and Torsten looked over installation brochures while we waited for assistance.


    Here’s our kitchen – in boxes!


    It took two rooms to put them all!


    And then the fun began!  Torsten and Gunnar figuring it out.


    Is it all going to fit?


    The Ikea system uses rails that are mounted on the wall, and the cabinets hang from them.


    You have to love the Swedish instructions, because they tell you to take a “fika” (coffee break) after getting the rails up!


    We did as told, then the guys started hanging the cabinets.


    Let’s see, put tab “A” in slot “B”.


    Like all old houses, are walls weren’t exactly straight, but with some tweaking, everything went up.


    It was exciting when the doors started going on.


    I couldn’t resist putting a Dala horse in one of the cabinets!


    The new stove fit perfectly between the cabinets and the wood stove!


    Once the cabinets were in, the wainscoting was next.


    A little electrical work….


    ….and the proud installers!


    Next, the finishing touches!

  • 07Feb

    I think at one time, every Swedish house had a vedspis – wood stove.  Often they had one in the kitchen and one in an upstairs apartment.  Many houses still have them, but many have been removed.  Our house had one originally, but it had been replaced by the freestanding fireplace which we removed when we dismantled the old kitchen.  They are quite different than wood cookstoves in America.  I decided right away that I wanted one, and when I mentioned to one of my Swedish relatives, Sven-Eric, that I was going to look for a renovated one, he told me he had two in his barn, and I was welcome to take one!  I learned this on my way to the airport, so I didn’t get a chance to look at them.  Luckily, Torsten took charge and uncovered them.  One was cracked, but one was in good shape.  Well, relatively speaking!


    Before we returned to Sweden, Torsten and his mason friend, Mikael, got the vedspis put in place for us.  First they had to shovel a path to the barn where it was stored.


    These wood stoves aren’t freestanding, so a brick base had to be built.


    They could see where the original vedspis had been.


    This part is for wood storage.


    It is cast iron like the stove and has two doors.


    Once the base was built, the vedspis was set on top.  Nice and level!  The top left door is the firebox, the one below is the clean-out and the big one is the oven door, with a built-in thermometer!


    More bricks to surround it.


    The right side is complete.


    Mikael is leaving a space for a water cistern next to the firebox.


    Then the bricks get covered with a special cement.


    It’s beautiful!  If you compare this photo to the first one, you can see that Torsten did a lot of work removing old rust and, undoubtedly, years of grime!


    Here’s the wood storage with the doors on.


    The stove was in relatively good shape, leading Mikael and Torsten to speculate that it was in an upstairs apartment and not used too much.


    You can see the layers of paint on the old chimney–and evidence of a chimney fire!


    We had to grind all of the old paint off so it can be re-cemented.  Ugh.  It was a nasty job.


    We found an old copper cistern on an online auction site.


    The heat from the firebox heated the water, so you always had hot water to wash your dishes!


    Did you know there is really something called Stove Black—and it does just what the name says?


    You can see what a difference it made!


    The cement will be painted white, as will the hood which will be built over this and the electric stove.


    And it makes the kitchen so cozy when you have a fire!


    Thank you, Sven-Eric, Torsten and Mikael!




  • 06Feb

    When we bought our house in Sweden in September, we knew the first thing we wanted to do was remodel the kitchen.

    It had a large, freestanding fireplace that kind of blocked the door as you entered.


    We knew it had to go!  Let me tell you, it was one heavy dog!


    There was a lovely window that let in a lot of light, but it was so big, that there was no room to put a counter under it.


    And the sink and stove were right next to each other.  I thought it would be nice move the sink under the window.


    There was an island and two floor to ceiling cabinets on the left in this photo….


    …one of which held the oven.


    And on the opposite wall was a huge refrigerator and huge freezer!  It was all quite cramped.


    We decided to take it all out!


    Right down to the bare walls.


    So that’s what we did!


    It’s amazing what you uncover in an old house, like an old doorway, layers of old wallpaper and signs of a chimney fire!


    I loved looking at the old wallpapers, and tried to preserve a little of each.  This is the oldest and original, from 1930 when the house was built.


    This one, which has orange in it, was next.  It almost looks like old linoleum.


    There was this rather plain basket weave.


    My color scheme for the new kitchen is white, gray and red, so imagine my delight when I found this one in those very colors!


    Tearing out a kitchen is a big job–and we did it in two days–then headed back home.


    Of course we were anxious to get back and start on the new kitchen, but that had to wait.


  • 28Sep

    We really did it.  We bought a house in Sweden.


    This has long been a dream of mine.  I fell in love with a different house on a real estate website and we went to Sweden intending to buy it.  However, it didn’t live up to the photos, so, disappointed as I was, we said “no.”  Luckily, there were two other possibilities.  I love the setting of this one.  The house and outbuildings surround the yard.


    The house was built in 1930, and an addition, including the porch and an entry hall seen here, was added in 1989.  The house is very livable, but we already have plans for some changes, including removing this porch and replacing it with something more like the original.


    The outbuilding on the left is made of log and part of it was built in the 1200’s!  It’s hard to wrap my mind around that date.


    These pictures are from the real estate listing.  When we saw it, it wasn’t furnished.

    Here’s the entry hall that was added in 1989.  The two round windows were originally on the outside of the house.


    The living room is a nice size, as it used to be two rooms–the living room and a bedroom.


    The short wall behind the corner fireplace used to extend across to divide the two rooms, and it’s kind of awkward with the fireplace sitting at an odd angle–something we plan remedy, although we don’t have a definitive plan for it yet!


    This free standing fireplace is in an odd location–the doorway that leads to the kitchen.  It was part of the 1989 remodel and was attached to some ductwork that helped spread the heat throughout the house.


    The kitchen was rather awkwardly laid out without much counter space.  I’m sure the island was there to remedy that problem, but it made it hard to move around.


    We only had possession of the house for two days before we came home, but we have entirely removed the kitchen and made plans for a new one!


    The dining room is a part of the 1989 addition.  There is a ton of built-in storage along the right wall.  The sellers left us the table and chairs and the little cabinet on the left wall, so we’re not entirely without furniture!


    The other part of the addition was a bedroom and three bathrooms–two down and one up.


    Upstairs, at the top of the stairs, is a bonus room.  The doors to the left lead out to a deck that looks toward the river.  I can’t wait to sit out there on a warm summer morning, enjoying a cup of coffee.


    Here’s the upstairs bedroom.  I think we’re going to have to fill it with beds and make it dorm so everyone can come visit!


    So many of the homes I’ve visited have aerial photos taken in the fifties.  I stumbled onto a website that has thousands of them, and found one of our house!  I’m going to order one to hang on the wall.  If you look closely, you can see the original porch.


    So, what was my first purchase for the new house?  The little tart forms you can see in our China cupboard!


    Here’s what they look like close up.  Perfect for individual apple pies!


    The second was a pair of chairs from a loppis, a kind of permanent garage sale.


    I can’t wait to get back do more!

  • 29Aug

    I am fascinated by the Swedish fäbod.


    The best translation for a fäbod that I know is a summer pasture…


    …but it’s more than just a pasture.


    In the province of Dalarna, where Anna Lena came from, it wasn’t easy to eek out a living on the small farms.


    Most of the farms were near small villages in the valleys.


    In the summer, you couldn’t turn your animals out into the fields around the farm because you needed the grass to grow up so you could cut it for hay.  That way you’d have something to feed the animals in the winter.


    So in the summer, the animals were taken high up into the forest to forage.


    Each farm had grazing rights in certain areas of the forest.


    Small cabins and barns were built and the old grandmas and young women would spend the summers there, tending to the cows and goats.


    It was a big day in the spring when nearly the entire village would drive the animals up to the summer pastures.


    The men helped ready things, then left the women there for the summer.


    The work was hard, beginning at 4:00 in the morning.  The women milked the cows then let then out into the forests.  While the animals grazed, the women made cheese and butter.


    In the evening they would bring the cows back in from the forest.  It was a big responsibility, and many things could go wrong.


    My grandma always told me that her mother, Anna Lena, left Sweden because she didn’t like taking care of the cows.  The first time I visited relatives there in 1981, I told this story and they told me about the fäbods. Perhaps it was life at the fäbod that Anna Lena didn’t like.


    The fäbod system died out decades ago, but some of the old buildings still exist in some areas.


    This summer we were lucky enough to visit one near the village of Äppelbo.


    Our host, John, told us that many of the old buildings were taken down in the 1930’s and the logs were sent to Stockholm to be used as firewood!



    We fed the calves hard bread!  Who knew calves liked hard bread!?!



    We also took turns blowing the horn to call the cows.



    No cows came, but we all got some sound out of the horn!



    It was a wonderful day.

  • 28Aug

    When I was in Sweden this summer, Sven-Eric allowed us to go into his attic and look through four trunks of very old clothing.  It was like finding hidden treasure!  Among the wonderful finds there were two old leather aprons.


    Every farmer, blacksmith and craftsman probably had an apron like this.


    Even though they were stiff as boards, Torsten tried them on.


    One had a lovely, hand woven neck band.


    Sven-Eric generously gave one to Torsten, who has worked some conditioner into it and made it soft and supple again!


    Torsten has formal Nåsdräkten, but also the everyday clothes, which he has on here.


    Don’t you love the birch bark knapsack?


    It’s great to see new life given to old things.

  • 23Aug

    Of course Midsummer’s Eve is the big summer holiday in Sweden, and I love being there.  We enjoyed music in the church that morning.


    Everything is decorated with small birch trees and birch branches, even the entrance to the church.


    In the afternoon we went to the folk park for the community celebration, which starts when the musicians arrive.


    Many of my Swedish relatives were already there.


    And the maypole was decorated and waiting to be raised.


    I love seeing everyone in their folk dress, especially the children.


    Everyone from the parish has the same dress.  This is my relative, Inga-Britt, whom I hadn’t seen in many years!


    Here’s Emmy in her Nås dress, and don’t you love the man’s clothes?  I especially love Torsten’s frock coat.


    With lots of help, the maypole gets hoisted into place.


    It’s hard to take a picture with people and a maypole!


    The park is right on the river, part of the same park where Ingmarsspelen is performed.  I told Torsten that during the intermission of the play, we were walking along the bank and we heard violin music coming from across the river.  It was hauntingly beautiful.  We looked and looked and Bob thought he could make out someone standing in the reeds on the other side.  Torsten said, “Oh, that was Näcke!”  At first I thought he was naming someone he knew, then I remembered that Näcke is the water sprite who makes beautiful music!  It must have been him!  Sometimes Näcke lures humans to a watery death, but other times he shares his talent for making beautiful music with them.  How lucky were we?


    The wild lupine is in full bloom at midsummer and it has been a tradition to have my picture taken standing in a field of lupine.


    Bob got creative with the camera!


    We were invited to Sven-Eric’s for a midsummer meal.  It’s also traditional to mow around the daisies that bloom in your lawn!


    The food was delicious, and there was plenty of it!


    The weather was getting cloudy but it was nice enough that we could eat outside.


    Two very happy guests.


    And we even had room for dessert later as we sat up and talked into the wee hours of the morning.


    Fabulous memories!

  • 14Aug
    Categories: Everything!, travels abroad Comments Off on Ingmarsspelen 2013

    Inmarsspelen is a play that has been performed in Nås every summer since 1959.  It’s presented in a beautiful setting along the river.


    It’s based on a true story and adapted from the book Jerusalem by Selma Lagerlöf.


    The story focuses on Ingmar Ingmasson and the Ingmar farm.  The farm is one of the largest and most respected in the village.  There has always been an Ingmar Ingmarsson on the farm.  But young Ingmar wasn’t oldest enough to inherit the farm when his father died, so the farm has passed to his sister, Karin and her husband, Halvar.


    Ingmar is in love with Gertrude, and he wants to buy the farm back.  Halvar agrees to sell the farm to him if he can earn the money, so he goes into the forest to start a sawmill to make the money he needs.


    While he is gone a preacher comes to the village preaching fire and brimstone.  Many people in the village become followers of Helgum, including Halvar.


    Karin isn’t convinced, but a strange affliction has caused her to lose her ability to walk, until one day when her little girl almost drops her doll into the well and and Karin runs to save her.  She converts after that.


    Even Gertrude becomes a follower of Helgum.


    One day Helgum says that the world will end and the only place that will be saved is Jerusalem.  He wants his followers to sell their farms and belongings and follow him to Jerusalem.  He asks them all to listen for the God to call them.


    When Ingmar returns from the forest and learns that his brother-in-law is going to sell the farm before he has enough money, and the Gertrude is planning to go to Jerusalem, he is angry and heartbroken.


    Eventually, Gertrude decides to stay with Ingmar and marry him, even though he won’t have the farm.


    The farm goods are auctioned off and plans are made to sell the farm.


    But Ingmar is approached by a wealthy merchant who says he would like to buy the Ingmar Farm and give it Ingmar as a betrothal gift–if he will marry his daughter.


    Ingmar has a dilemma.  In the end, he chooses the farm and marries the merchant’s daughter.


    Gertrude goes to Jerusalem.


    Footnote: In 1896, 38 farmers sold their farms for a pittance and moved to Jerusalem and join the American Colony there.  Families and friends were torn apart.  They day they left the skies grew dark and thundered rolled across the heavens as their wagons rolled out of town. You can read more here.

    Some photos were taken from the Ingmarsspelen website.