• 10Sep
    Categories: Everything! Comments: 1

    One of my favorite things about summer in Sweden is all the wild flowers.  I always have at least one bouquet in the house.

    You might not think of lilacs as wild flowers…


    …but they do grow like weeds all over the countryside.


    They’re really fragrant so these bouquets are often relegated to the porch!


    Of course daisies are the quintessential Swedish wild flower.


    Like our neighbors, we mow around them in our lawn.


    I see them everywhere on my morning walks.


    These were on our table at midsummer.


    The orange lily and blue flowers are something that come up every year in our yard.


    There are lots and lots of long stemmed butter cups in the fields around our house.  I think they look so pretty with the daisies.


    Lupine have to be one of the most prolific and showy of all the wildflowers.


    They grow in abundance along the roadsides.



    They make great bouquets.


    The blue flowers seen here…


    …and here is the meadow bell.


    It’s our provincial flower in Dalarna…


    …and grows almost everywhere!


    Another prolific flower is “hundkex,” the white flower seen here with buttercups.  The translation for “hundkex” is “dog crackers!”


    I think the mixed bouquets are my favorite.


    There’s never a shortage…


    …and there’s quite a variety.


    The yellow flowers here are a type of dandelion.


    This sweet bouquet was on the counter of Jobstryck – a shop that hand prints fabric.  So simple but so appealing.


    My grandma always called these Johnny-Jump-Ups.


    They are tenacious little things–growing between the rocks next to our log building and even poking their heads up through our porch steps.


    I love their little smiling faces.


    Wildflowers everywhere–even along the ditches.



  • 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!

  • 19Dec
    Categories: Everything! Comments: 3

    Gingerbread Wall Hanging

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


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


    I searched for a pattern…


    …without much luck.


    Then I saw a block designed by Amy Bradley.


    It was just the inspiration I needed!


    I thought there should be girls, too!


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


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


    I put them together in a simple setting.


    How handy that Sally has a December birthday!


    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!


    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.


    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!


    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.


    I wanted the design to be on-point…


    …so I had to construct the quilt diagonally.


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


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


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


    I sewed it into the back of the quilt.


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


    You can see it a little better from the back.


    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.







  • 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.


    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.


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


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


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


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


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


    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.


    Brew up some strong coffee and enjoy!




  • 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.


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


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


    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.


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


    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.


    The glass inserts were square.


    So they could go into the holder either way!


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


    And now we have our own kryddhylla!   Yeah!


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


    But then look what I found!


    Baby ones!  Stay tuned!

  • 03Oct
    Categories: Everything! Comments: 1

    What’s not to love about a country that has a designated Cinnamon Bun Day!?!  October 4 is Kanelbullens Dag – Cinnamon Bun Day!  As a Swedish-American, I feel compelled to celebrate my heritage!  😉


    If you want to celebrate your Swedish heritage, or just be a Swede for a day, I thought I’d share my Cinnamon Bun recipe with you.  I make my dough in my bread machine, using the “dough” setting, but you could do it the old-fashioned way.

    Bread dough ingredients

    • 1-1/4 cups milk – room temperature
    • 3/4 cup melted butter
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1-1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
    • 2-1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (1 packet)
    • 4 – 4-1/2 cups flour

    Put all these ingredients in your bread machine and set it to the “dough” setting.  Shortly before it’s done, gather/prepare the following ingredients.

    Filling ingredients

    • 1/4 cup melted butter
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
    • 1 egg
    • pearl sugar

    When the dough in the bread machine is done, turn it out onto a floured surface, punch it down and knead until smooth and shiny.  Let rest a few minutes.


    Roll dough into a 12″ x 18″ rectangle.


    Brush with melted butter. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over the dough.


    Beginning with the long side of the rectangle, roll up jelly roll style.


    At this point, it’s time to cut the dough into 20 slices – or something close to that. I use a serrated knife to mark the top of the roll.


    You can use a sharp knife or use a length of dental floss to do the cutting.  If you use dental floss, slide it under roll, cross the ends and pull to make a clean slice!  (I learned this tip from Bob, who used to watch his grandmother do this using a piece of string!)


    Swedish cinnamon buns aren’t crowded into a single pan, but baked in baking papers, individually, on a baking sheet.  You can use cupcake papers for this, but they are a little deeper than needed.  You should be able to find baking papers at a kitchen store.

    Place each slice into a baking paper and place on a baking sheet.  Cover and let rise until double—about 45 minutes.


    Make an egg wash with 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water.  Brush rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar.  Don’t know about pearl sugar?  It’s a coarse, dense sugar available at specialty food/kitchen shops or Ikea!


    Bake at 425º for 7 – 10 minutes.







  • 01Oct
    Categories: Everything! Comments: 7

    After we demoed the kitchen in our Swedish house last fall, Torsten and Mikael put in the wood stove.  Then, in January, we installed the floor and cabinets and got close to finishing the remodel.


    Before we returned to Sweden for the summer, Torsten and Mikael built the hood over our stoves.  It started with Mikael putting a fresh layer of cement over the chimney.  This is the hall side of the chimney.


    This is the kitchen–with the wood stove covered up and the electric stove temporarily removed.


    Traditional Swedish hoods are very different than the prefab hoods we’re used to in the US.  Torsten built the steel framework…


    …and installed it.


    Then Mikeal started building the hood with bricks.




    While the work was in progress, this was the only photo Torsten sent me!


    Once the bricks were in place, Mickael covered everything with a layer of cement.



    And I got my second sneak peek!  It’s hard to be half a world away!




    Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer!  I had to make a trip back to Sweden.


    Everything looked fabulous, including the white tile back splash.


    This summer, Bob painted all the cement.


    Traditionally these hoods are painted white, and that’s what we did—with the first coat.


    But it seemed so stark white that he put a second coat on with a tinge of gray in it.


    And it looks fantastic!  The vedspis (wood stove) and hood really make this my Swedish dream kitchen.


    Thank you Torsten, Mikael and Bob!



  • 14Sep

    I decided I wanted something red and white and simple for the beds in Sweden.  A checkerboard quilt seemed perfect, so I cut  a bunch of 2″ strips from my red and white fabrics and sewed them together.  Then I cut them in 2″ segments.


    I hauled them to a retreat with me!


    Then it was just a matter of sewing them together into longer and longer strips.


    You know the drill.  Once the strips were long enough it was time to sew them together.


    Here’s the first one when I finished it at the retreat and spread it on my bed.


    In keeping with the “simple” theme, I just quilted diagonally with wavy lines.


    But I didn’t go all the way in one direction, I did more of a chevron pattern.


    I was really pleased with the way it turned out.


    I found this cute bird print for the back.


    Each quilt was 40 squares by 50 squares, or 2000 squares!  (Scary when you say it that way!)

    full shot1

    Yes, I said “each quilt” because I made two of them!


    Here’s Bob getting his.  I gave it to him before we left home so he could put it in his suitcase!


    When we first got to Sweden, we had to sleep upstairs because our bedroom wasn’t remodeled yet.


    But once the remodel was finished, we brought the bed—and the quilts—downstairs to their new home.


    I didn’t like the way the Dala horses showed through the wallpaper.  It looked like they were in jail!  So, I added some fabric to the back of the headboard.


    Now I really must do something about pillows!