• 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.


  • 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.