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.


Mystery object

Mystery_Object

What's this?

Today, I have a little mystery for you to solve! I know, I know – you really are very grateful to me for jumpstarting your grey cells, right?

See that mysterious object? No, not the number 15. A bit lower…

Not that low… that’s actually the neighbours’ garden rubbish if you must know.

Think vertical! See that object dangling from the number 15 – the object with the two grey handles sticking out of it? Yes – that one!

Here’s the puzzler of the day: What is this weird object?

If you guess correctly, then your reward is a raised eyebrow and a big packet of cosmic cookies.


I’ve got me some history MoJo

rune_stone_225I was quite surprised to hear that some of you had never heard of rune stones before.

Then I realized just how lucky I was to live in a part of the world with a rich tapestry of history, old buildings (in England) and even older stones (Sweden).

Some of you live in countries where the buildings are fairly new in comparison, and it is not every country (in fact, nearly none at all!) that has stone slabs lying around everywhere like discarded pieces of clothing.

Rune stones are memorials to people who died way back when… The tradition of raising stones goes back back back to the 4th and 5th century, although most stones were raised in the 10th and 11th centuries in Sweden, Denmark and, to some extent, Norway. The fad died out after a couple of generations, except in this district, where it hung on for a hundred more years. (Yup – there were redneck Vikings even then!)

The stone on the left is called U 225, but I usually call him Mo.

I like Mo as he is made of the traditional red granite and is painted with a colourful red. He was raised by two brothers, Arnkell and Gýi (amazing how easily those names just trip off your tongue), to honour their dead father.

This other stone is U 226 – also known as Jo.

rune_stone_226

Jo was raised by a wife and her family in memory of her husband in the 1010s – same time as Mo more or less. Both were carved by the Runemaster Gunnar. (That’s right – they’re called Runemasters! Great name for a rock band.)

In other words, rune stones are a bigger, older (try a thousand years old) version of a any gravestone that you might see in a cemetery, stating: In loving memory of…

I meet Mo and Jo nearly every day, in rain or shine. They sit there peacefully on the banks of our local lake, enjoying the view of the water and the woods. (Note to self: Do NOT let the dog pee on these historic monuments…) In fact, the whole area where they live is a protected area because of its history.

You can find Mo and Jo around the corner from our house in a place called Arkils Tingstad – or the Assembly location of Arkil. The stones set in a square that you can see nowadays are the remains of a Viking assembly place, probably an outdoor court where justice was delivered. (Mo and Jo are located very near these stones.)

assembly_place1

The stones of this assembly place are a great spot for a picnic and the anklebiters love hopping from one to the other while the dog rushes past Jo and Mo without even a hello to jump into the waters of the lake.

I thank you all for demanding this follow-up post as it has really opened up my eyes to the wonder and history on my doorstep.

What surprises are there under your nose, I wonder?

If you want even more fun, then head on over to That’s my World!


Croc hunting

When I catch the crocodile who materialized out of my son’s imagination and into his bed at three in the morning, causing him to shriek so that the very heavens split apart, my heart stopped beating and I lay bolt upright for the next hour or two in a state of shock while comforting said son…

saltie

… I’m going to turn him into particularly ugly pair of Crocs.


What politicians really do at top summit meetings…

Slide_fist_bump


Madness

Going bonkers (or crazy) can come in many forms…

My barefoot sister on our frozen lake in Sweden

My barefoot sister on our frozen lake in Sweden

… and disguises.

One thing is certain though:

bonkers

Me

It seems to run in the family!

By the way: Happy Birthday sis!


Sick – and tired

I don’t have much for you today because I spent all day yesterday being sick. It seems I might be allergic to the allergy remedies I was taking. And when you mix three different remedies with some painkillers, stand well back! It is not a pretty sight.

I used up a whole roll of toilet paper yesterday – and that’s a record, even for me: Queen of the Toilet Rolls!

So, I have nothing else for you…

… except this.

tired_dog


Unusual visitor

For the past couple of days, this unusual visitor has been floating around. The swans just don’t know what to make of it…

viking_boat

It’s a replica of a Viking boat.

However, I think that it’s looking in the wrong place. If it would just row itself around the corner, I’m sure it would find what it is looking for!

rune_stone

Rune stones (also dating back to Viking times)…

Little known fact #1: The district in which we live has the most rune stones (in the whole of Sweden).

Little known fact #2: We also have the highest number of horses. 1 in 5 inhabitants in this district are, in fact, horses. (Closely followed by dogs and snakes, I imagine…)

Mind-blowing, I know!

Here ends Lady Fi’s Useless Facts Service.

If you want to find out how others live, then check out That’s my World!


Laughing it off

Did you just hear a loud explosion? The sound of a thousand clog dancers tap dancing on a railway line? Or perhaps something that sounded like an earthquake – only squeakier?

laughing-buddha-maitreya-alflred-tan

It’s only me… do not be alarmed. Although I might warn you that a face mask or an umbrella might come in handy right now. Because no matter how I try, I can’t hold back my sneezes.

It’s the explosion of birch pollen and flowers that does it. And the sound of me sneezing is just the sound of spring gone mad.

A bit like me. As it’s World Laughter Day on May 3rd, Sir Pe suggests that I try to laugh and turn the allergy misery into fun.

weird_inventions10

I think having one of these nifty little toilet hats would help: I could blow my nose while people had a good laugh. Twice the fun and twice the value!

And if that doesn’t help, I could always turn to some good, clean, light-hearted fun.

karma

Because, the more you laugh, the better you feel.

And the better you feel, the more you want to laugh.

That should scare my birch allergy away, don’t you think?

At least until next year.


The signs of spring

At last – spring is here!

anenomes

Wood anenomes

Walpurgis Eve falls on 30th April in Sweden and large bonfires are lit to bid farewell to the winter. Hands are held and voices raised in song to usher in the spring.

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossom

Flowers peek shyly through last year’s leaves or blaze brazenly with colour to welcome in the long, light days.

The Swedes break out into T shirts, shorts – and happy smiles, blossoming in the sunshine just like flowers.

Froggy love

Froggy love

Oh yes! Things are definitely hotting up around here.


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