• 28Aug
    Categories: Everything! Comments: 2

    Sweden has a long history of baking hard bread from rye flour.  The hard, crisp bread was often hung from a pole suspended from the ceiling, where it would keep all winter.


    It’s still hugely popular.  In many households it’s served with every meal.  Every grocery store has an aisle filled with lots and lots choices.


    For years there was small bakery that still baked their bread in wood fired ovens.  It was called Vika Bread.  They had eight wood fired ovens and a great package!


    About a year ago, Vika bread was bought out by one of the big hard bread producers.  Sadly, they moved the operation from the small town where it was produced and—sadder still—they destroyed the wood fired ovens.

    But….a couple of young entrepreneurs have started a new wood fired bakery!  It’s in the little town of Stora Skevdi, and is called Skevdi Bread!


    They have four ovens—and the public is welcome to come observe the operation! The dough is mixed in giant mixers, rolled by a machine and the big rounds are cut out—with a little hole in the middle, just like in the old days.  They spend a short time in a proofer, then it’s off to the ovens.


    There are slabs of wood burning on each side of the domed oven—each one tended by a single baker.


    They use large paddles to slide the rounds into the oven.  Each oven holds fifteen rounds.  After they’re in the oven a few minutes, they move the ones in the middle to the edges.


    They don’t bake very long.  When they’re finished, the baker slides them over a metal pole to cool.  That’s the purpose of the small hole in the middle.


    When the rods are filled, they’re moved to a specially made rack.


    While we were watching, one of the bakers came over and asked if we’d like to try a warm sample.  you bet!


    It was really tasty.  I’d never had warm hard bread before.  It was delicious!

    The cooled rounds are inspected…


    …and hand wrapped.


    The yellow wrapped are “regular” and the blue ones are “dark” baked.


    Last summer at “Cow Midsummer, ” a festival in Dala-Floda, I’d purchased a hand crafted wooden basket to serve hard bread in.


    At Skevdi Bread, they had a great storage box with their logo cut into it.  It reminded me of the one I already had—and I decided to buy it.  When I got home and compared the signatures on the bottom, sure enough—made by the same craftsman!


    Now you’ll find Skevdi Bread on our table for most meals!








  • 16Jun
    Categories: Everything! Comments: 2

    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.


    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.


    Here’s my recipe.


    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.


    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!

  • 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!

    Screen shot 2014-12-23 at 6.31.32 AM

    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.

    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.


    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!

  • 10Sep
    Categories: Everything! Comments: 1

    It all started when our summer neighbor in Sweden, Karin, brought us a bottle of homemade rhubarb saft (pronounced “soft”).


    Saft is a fruit concentrate that you add to still or sparkling water for a refreshing summer drink.  It’s so delicious, I just had to try making some myself.  And Karin was nice enough to share the recipe.

    You will need:

    4 – 5 pounds rhubarb

    2 lemons

    Boiling water

    5 cups sugar

    2 pinches sodium benzoate

    2 pinches citric acid

    Wash the rhubarb and cut into 1/2″ slices. Place half in a heatproof pan or bowl.


    Wash the lemons and slice thinly.  Spread over the rhubarb in the pan.


    Add the rest of the rhubarb.


    Cover with boiling water.


    Cover with plastic or a lid and put in a cool place (our cellar worked great) for four days.


    Strain the fruit through a jelly bag or two layers of cheesecloth.  Let it run about 60 minutes.


    Add the sugar and boil for 20 minutes.  Let stand for five minutes and skim.

    Add preservatives.  Pour into warm bottles and seal.


    Pour about 2″ in the bottom of a glass.  Add flat or sparkling water.


    Perfect on a hot day!


  • 20Apr

    I found an inexpensive airfare to Sweden in March and decided to take a quick trip over there to look for some furniture for our Swedish house, primarily a bed so we’d have someplace to sleep this summer.  Instead, with Torsten’s help and encouragement, we remodeled the dining room!

    Here’s what it looked like in the real estate listing photos.


    The ceiling was natural knotty pine, the walls had plywood panelling….


    …and there was a wall of built-ins along one side of the room.


    It isn’t a very big room, so we removed the built-ins.  Since you can never have enough storage, we’ll find someplace else in the house to use them.


    Then I pulled the moldings and plywood paneling off the walls.  The old glue was quite dry, so they came off easily, but it took a lot of sanding to get rid of the glue that was left on the particle board.


    Now we had a bare wall where the cabinets used to be.


    And we just happened to have an extra window that we took out of the kitchen when we put a smaller one in there.  So, Torsten cut a hole in the wall and, voila! A new view!


    It even makes the outside of the house look better.


    I put a coat of paint over the particle board to seal it and mudded the seams–all in preparation for wallpaper above the wainscoting.


    Torsten nailed up the wainscoting…


    …and I painted it the same gray as we used in the kitchen.


    All of the moldings were painted white.


    The ceiling got four coats of white paint.  This is my “three-ladder-method” for ceiling painting.  Luckily the room wasn’t any bigger, or we would have needed more ladders!


    The old flooring was a yellowish brown sheet vinyl.  It didn’t look so great up against the gray Marmoleum in the kitchen.


    The solution?  Winter Oak Pergo!  Here it is, laid out in the bedroom acclimating to the house.


    I loved it from the minute we started putting it down.


    What do you think?


    Then my favorite part–wallpaper!


    Torsten is a saint.  Not because he can do everything, but because picking a geometric wallpaper for an old house would make most people swear like a sailor!


    He didn’t utter one cross word, and it looks terrific!


    The previous owners left us the dining room table, so of course we had to have fika in the newly finished room.


    There are still some things to do–like paint the table and the corner cabinet, and put up window coverings, but I think it looks pretty darned good for two weeks work!


    And, oh, I did buy some furniture.  On the last day before I left, we went to Ikea and bought a bed and nightstands–and this cute rug for under the table!


    I’ll be ready to host a dinner party before long!


  • 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!



  • 14Feb

    While we only took a day and a half off from working on the house while we were in Sweden, don’t think it was all work and no food!  From the very first day, we made sure there was coffee and a little something to eat, even if the atmosphere left something to be desired.  In Swedish, a coffee break is called a fika (FEE-kah).  And in Sweden, fika is taken very seriously.


    Luckily, Bertil and Sonja left us a dining room table.


    Berit and Gunnar came often to help—and bring fika!


    And our neighbor, Byns Mats and Annacari welcomed us with a pensionärer kaka — a special and delicious cake.  Good thing I’d brought linens!


    For awhile we had to move the table into the bedroom, but that didn’t mean we skipped fika!


    My Aunt Evelyn was responsible for keeping my family in contact with our Swedish relatives, and I thought it fitting that I bring her china with me to our Swedish house.


    I used it for the first time when Sven-Eric and Anna came for fika.


    It was very special.


    Fika isn’t always something sweet.  Sometimes it’s a sandwich.   Don’t you love a country whose cheese puffs are shaped like hearts!?!


    And if we had Coke instead of coffee, there was no problem keeping it cold!


    One day, when I had to drive to Vansbro to the hardware store, I stopped at the Vansbro Konditori for semlor – wonderful buns filled with almond paste and whipped cream!


    Sometimes we brought a Thermos of coffee from Torsten’s, sometimes we got coffee at the mini-mart, and sometimes family or friends brought coffee.  Luckily, a few days before we left, we got our electric stove and were finally able to boil our own coffee!


    So, as you can see, we worked hard, but, like good Swedes, we didn’t skip fika!


  • 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.

    Screen shot 2013-12-07 at 9.41.22 AM

    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.