Archive for May, 2009

Of UFOs and dinner plates

Last weekend, a UFO appeared. And I’m not talking about the dandelions in the garden either. But now you mention them, they are as large as dinner plates. (I tell you: either the dandelions are getting larger every year or dinner plates are getting smaller…)

The UFO I’m talking about shimmered in the air, its blue and black body casting huge shadows across the miniature lawn; its blue and green legs as spindly and those of a spider. Slowly. Painfully. It took shape while excited children looked on and tried to help it become steady on its legs.

When it was ready, it spun a fantastic web of strong, black thread around itself. There it was: firm, full of confidence, ready for anything.

Trampoline

Bring it on!


What’s smelly and not so deadly?

DurianI’m so glad to be able to bring you this breaking news… Perhaps that’s because I have a good nose for a story. And talking of noses, what kind of food do we prize for its smell?

Well, there’s the durian, deliciously enthralling with its smell of rotting compost. (Smells rotten, tastes delicious!)

And, of course, the smell of fermented herring is enough to make you wish for a permanent loss of smell and taste. (But more about that in another post.)

And then there is cheese. Cheeses that run off the plate, ooze down the sides of dishes, and run away screaming gleefully, “I stink!” After all, who wants a pungent-free cheese? Not the French or the Italians, and certainly not the British!

We may not be well known for our cuisine or our fine cheeses, but when it comes to stinky food, by golly are we good! Did you know that we hold Britain’s Smelliest Cheese Championships every year? This year’s pungent winner is none other than Stinking Bishop. Apparently, the cheese “blew the judges away and was described as smelling like a rugby club changing room.”

What an accolade! It smells better than cheesy socks or a hundred sweaty armpits or those clothes that have been slept in for over a week. (What is it about a rugby changing room that makes it smell like rotting cheese? Could it be the oddly-shaped balls, the violent tackles, the broken noses?)

Stinky_cheese

Still, if you don’t like the taste or if you suffer from insomnia, you can always use the smell to knock yourself out. Is there a burglar in your house? Then just waft a hunk of Stinking Bishop in front of him. That should do the trick!

How did the cheese get its name? Well, apparently the cheese-maker named it after a drunken farmer who was famous for shooting his kettle when it took too long to boil.

It’s odd stories and eccentrics like these that make us proud of our British achievements.

Now – look at the camera and say …

Cheese!


Outrageous fortune

fortuneThis debut from Tim Scott, who used to be a plasterer and painter, before turning his hand to humorous sci-fi is a quirky book, which left me laughing out loud while also scratching my head and wondering where the plot had run away to.

Outrageous Fortune can best be described as a fast-paced combination of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. It starts off with dream architect, Jonny X, discovering that his house has been stolen. All that is left is a card from the thieves with the question: Don’t you hate it when this happens?

Things go rapidly downhill from here and he finds himself at the clutches of a parachuting saleswoman who wants to sell him a set of encyclopedias, being chased by a mad motorcycle gang called the Four Horsemen and at the mercy of lifts who tell bad knock-knock jokes.

Fuelled by numerous Long Island Iced Teas at the Most Inconvenient Bar in the World and with the help of his friends, he goes about trying to get his life back.

In this future world, the city is arranged by music zones, where people live in neighbourhoods according to their musical preferences. I must say that I found this rather topical as in this new California, media companies have become so powerful that they now rule the roost.

Throw in a bit of big brother too in the form of the Zone Police and Skin Media that allows your every move to be monitored and a lot of zany humour, and you have yourself a refreshing and entertaining romp. Recommended for all those who like oddball stories, even if the plot gets lost a little now and then.

If you are a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, then you’ll find yourself laughing out loud faster than my kids can say slartibartfast or you can finish a tall glass of Long Island Iced Tea.


Polar bread

Do you remember this picture? I took it to show you how crazy-looking I can be, but forgot to tell you a bit more about what I am eating in the picture…

Crazee_mee

Some of you recognized the ‘rågkakor’ straight away. “Polar bread!” you cried in  joy.

‘Rågkaka’ means rye cake, but actually these babies are round bits of soft rye and wheat bread with a few spices thrown in. They are still made in the traditional way up in the north of Sweden – way up north where the polar circle can be found.. hence the name: polar bread.

People used to bake these unleavened bread rounds in stone ovens once upon a time and they are still used in Sweden to make sandwiches.

Personally, I eat them toasted for breakfast with the drizzled honey melting on the slightly crispy bread.

Polar_bread

If that is too tame, then you can go wild and use them as pizza bases, top them with mozzarella, mango and rucola (that’s rocket or arugula for some of you) or play frisbee with them. And if you toast them over a candle, then they’ll catch fire!

They are nothing if not versatile.

For more versatility, then visit: That’s my world!


Masked!

You’ve probably seen the photos going around the Interent showing Mexicans wearing masks as a precaution against swine flu  – right? Proof – if it is needed – that even in times of terror, people can still retain a zany sense of humour.

swine-flu-mask

And if you’ve always wanted a droopy moustache, then why not go ahead and make your dream come true?

At first I thought that these humorous masks arose due to swine flu. But, apparently not. Back in 2003, when SARS was scaring the living daylights out of us, people were making fashion statements back then too.

SARS_mask

After all, they didn’t want any monkey business out of SARS, did they?

I started wondering if these funny masks only made an appearance during times of pandemics and mass hysteria. But they don’t.

During the flu and allergy seasons in Japan, it is common to see people sporting masks, both to keep out other people’s germs and to keep in their own.

snap_masks,0

Although the Centre for Disease Control states that wearing a surgical mask is not likely to prevent you from getting a virus, if you want the comfort of wearing one, then you may as well do it with style.


Of silken scarves and early mornings

We’re enjoying a long weekend here in Sweden. Countless days unfurling like a baby’s hand or a silken scarf – full of endless possibilities. Of activity and stillness. Of reflection and action.

Reflection_dog

Early morning relaxation

In the early morning stillness, I sneak away to the woods with my dog. Time to enjoy the coolness of the day, the birdsong searing the verdant silence of the woods. The reflections of the trees look on as the ripples from the lake tell the story of a swimming dog and a woman at peace.


Awesome-proof

Oh, all right! I’ll join in… Both Kelli and Patti in Denmark tagged me separately to tell me that I was … well … awesome! Proof, if you need it, that they are bonkers…

The difficult part of this tag is that instead of telling you all how wonderful I think they are, I’m supposed to tell you why I’m so great. I’m not sure if you are ready for this – but here goes!

phd-in-awesomenessI am awesome because:

  • I’ve got my own teeth, hair and wrinkles. And I don’t bite my nails, eat my hair or suck my toes.
  • I can already embarrass my kids at the tender ages of 6 and nearly 8. Just imagine how honed my skills will be when they are teenagers!
  • What I lack in sewing, housekeeping and cooking skills (I’ve got milk splashes on my ceiling, for goodness sake!), I  make up for with my imagination.
  • I can scream like a girl. In fact, I spend all summer screaming whenever I see wasps. I’ve developed a scream that can kill them of a heart attack from a distance of 3 metres.

Pig

  • I can cut off a subject’s head when taking a photo and have mastered the art of lop-sided composition. (That pig just wouldn’t pose!)
  • I climb the stairs instead of using the lift or moving escalator.
  • I encourage my kids to play, scream and get dirty. My motto is: You’re kids! You’re supposed to run around screaming and get dirty! Whenever I complain about the anklebiters being too noisy or bringing in too much dirt into the house, then they throw that motto right back in my face. In fact, once my daughter looked down at herself and said apologetically, “Sorry, mama! I wasn’t doing my job today. I’m just too clean!”

Wooden enemies and other flowers

I’m often asked what certain flowers and birds are called in English. I usually cover up my lack of knowledge by saying that they are called Bert or Sally or … You get the picture!

However, I have learnt the name of some spring flowers. After twelve years of living in Sweden, I suddenly decided to use the dictionary. Enterprising, I know!

Sometimes, I wonder if it is worth the trouble… You see, every spring beautiful flowers grace the forests with their lovely faces and prompt Swedes to ask me what they are called in English. When I tell them, they usually respond, “Wooden enemies? That’s a funny name for a flower!”

Er... I think you mean wood anemones!

Er... I think you mean wood anemones!

Yes – indeed!

They are really called wood anemones and are very plentiful in the spring.

It’s much easier when people want to know what these cheerful flowers are called:

Blue anemones

Blue anemones

The blue anemone is a protected flower in the Stockholm region – and that means we can enjoy looking at them in the woods, but we are not allowed to pick them. (By the way, this picture was taken by my 7-year-old daughter! )

OK. Sorry about that proud mama interlude!

Last week, her class walked around the lake to a special place where you can gaze in wonder at thousands of these perky little flowers in full blossom. The verdict? It’s like a magical carpet woven out of purple flowers!

For more fun, then go visit That’s My World!


Thank you Norway!

CakeOn 17 May of every year, an entire country takes a holiday to go out onto the streets and take part in parades, bands, marching and general celebration.

If you happen to be in Norway, then you cannot help but be affected by the music, the rosy-cheeked smiles, the traditional costumes, the joy…

Now, if you ask them what they are celebrating, they will tell you that they are celebrating their National Day. The day they became an independent nation.

Independent from Sweden, no less. That’s right, Norway used to be under Swedish rule once upon a time… (But,  hey, let’s not mention that again. OK?)

And although the Norwegians will insist that they are celebrating syttende mai (17 May); celebrating their independence…

17mai

… they are not.

What they are really celebrating is my (and Sir Pe’s) wedding anniversary!

So, thank you Norway, for all the music, cheering and celebration… we appreciate it.

Let’s  make a date to do it all over again next year!


Mystery object: revealed

Mystery_ObjectThanks for your suggestions: you managed to raise my eyebrows many a time! And a couple of you even got the answer correct. The cosmic cookies are yours…

This contraption is actually a snake catcher. That’s right: a snake catcher!

It’s a home-made catcher and those grey handles at the bottom are actually skipping rope handles. Our next door neighbour is our local snake whisperer and is often called out by others on the street to remove snakes from gardens. So far, all the snakes he has caught have turned out to be harmless grass snakes.

He either puts the noose at the other end from the handles around the snakes, then grabs them, puts them in a box and releases them into the woods. Or sometimes he just holds them down with the forked skipping rope handles and then picks them up. And yes – he wears gloves!

The warm weather here has brought out the snakes in force. Last weekend, the kids nearly sat on one in the garden, and then later on, we saw a couple swimming in the lake and some more basking nearby. I have to stress that they were all just grass snakes and nothing to be frightened of.

However, you do get adders here in Sweden too – and they are poisonous! Our first dog was bitten twice on two separate occasions by adders, and he nearly died the second time round. His neck blew up like a huge balloon and was totally black in colour.

So, that is why caution – and our local snake charmer – is needed. Adders are a protected species over here, thank goodness. Some of our neighbours would like to kill any snake on sight, but they can’t.

And just because we are a little frightened by a snake – does that give us the right to kill such a magnificent creature?

I don’t think so.


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