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Archive for the ‘Sweden’ Category

If you’ve been following my puppy posts (all four of them) you know I’ve been super excited to finally be in a good space and situation in my life to add a puppy in the mix (read: not working a gazillion hours, traveling around the globe, and generally just being too stinking busy most of the time). Fattie and I researched local Swedish breeders, sent a bucketful of emails, spoke to some over the top folks (memories of the hilarious spoof Best In Showwhich pokes fun at these ‘kooky dog show people’ who take themselves way too seriously came flooding in – check out this famous clip of Parker Posey ~ Where’s the Busy Bee?), and finally stumbled upon a wonderful breeder who was just getting ready to have a litter from one of her prized bitches.

After meeting with her and her family we reserved a baby French bulldog puppy who was born about three weeks ago. But like all good stories there is a surprising twist…..we have ultimately decided not to bring home one of those French bulldog puppies. I know, kinda sad.

But the really exciting news is………we opted to take home this little cutie instead.

We saw Jasper on our initial visit to the kennel to meet the pregnant mama, Esther, who was due to have puppies any day. We fell in love with this black bundle of cuteness (his current owners call him Jeppe, pronounced ‘yep-pee’, which is apparently a nickname for Jasper) but wasn’t aware he was available.

Attentive, kind, with deep thoughtful eyes, Jasper has an amazing pedigree with champion parents in Holland. He’s adorable. This dawggie is just under a year old so technically he is still a puppy – but comes with the benefit of already being house trained. (a MAJOR, MAJOR plus!)

And the extra bonus is……our cute new dawggie doesn’t even snore! Which I hear is pretty rare for a Frenchie.

We get to pick up Jasper (after some vaccines, a thorough health check, and some tedious paperwork) and bring him home next week.

We’d love to hear from you. Let us know if you have any great puppy advice or any how to welcome-home-&-acclimate-a-new-dog suggestions!

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Yesterday was a great day. Having the day off I decided to spend some time alone shopping and running errands. Even though my blog doesn’t reflect it, I do like love shopping. It’s not the actual act of buying lots of stuff it’s more finding that fabulous piece at just the right price. (Okay. Who am I kidding? Maybe there is something to buying loads of goodies…..)

I have many reasons to squeal like an over-excited-schoolgirl being chased on the playground by her-favorite-snot-nose-crush today, but here are just a couple simple ones:

1. IKEA. Yes, IKEA in Sweden is the same old place as in the states only with funny looking signs, sing-song Swedish being spoken, and a grip of Swedes downing meatballs and sipping on lignon berry juice. And yes, regardless of what country you’re located in, I realize shopping and especially shopping at IKEA is a nightmare for most folks – including Fattie, so I was delighted to trot down there with me, myself, and I. With hours to browse, measure, and contemplate that perfectly cheap disposable item, I was happy and in my element.

Now I don’t live for IKEA and my house is NOT a home filled with IKEA “stuff” and neither are most Swedes homes I have visited, but it is certainly amusing to find that one item that does work and doesn’t set you back a truckload of dough.

I ended up with these gorgeous plates/bowls.

I know they’re not high-end expensive china from a designer store but I just love, love, love these bowls! I already own a complete set of 365+ dishes but had been on the hunt for awhile for this type of deep plate-bowl combo. These everyday white bowls, that I plan to serve just about everything in, are also from IKEA’s 365+ Dinnerware Series and designed by Susan Pryke. They run $5.99 in the states and 59:- Swedish kroner here, roughly $10.00 each (grrrrr, I loath paying more – but had to remind myself of the 25% sales tax here – not kidding). Even with the thought of shelling out a bit more coin, I was thrilled and loaded up my cart with twenty of these bad boys. Twenty? Yup, twenty. See Fattie has four brothers and sisters, so with spouses, children, and in-laws busting in for some chow it’s easily twelve hungry relatives at any given time and I assume that number is only going to get larger as more folks are added into the mix. I adore entertaining and a girl can’t have enough dishes…..So, I need want place settings for thirty but for now am settling on three different sets of twenty each. That should be good.

Just one of many cabinets loaded with white dishes....

I also snagged some white square appetizer plates from the same 365+ line. I had been eyeing similar porcelain plates at Crate and Barrel but had completely spaced picking them up before I left the states. Since I was getting the square side plates I knew I just must have the dinner plates, and these adorable little side/sauce cups as well. Uh-huh, twenty of each of those too. And before I knew it, I also threw in some new Cognac and dessert wine glasses. (shhh…don’t tell Fattie…..they are washed, dried, and put away so he hasn’t noticed yet)

Just some glassware...

Flying high from my kitchen fix, I stumbled on these bad boys in hammered silver.

I adore lamps. I had close to thirty-some-odd lamps at my home in the states – and for a single girl living on her own, I’ve been told that’s a lot.

So, yeah. I love lighting…..and yeah, not the over head variety. Uh, unless of course it’s a chandelier. As you can probably determine on your own, due to the electrical and voltage difference here in Europe, my fabulous lamps could not make the journey to Sweden. (insert sad face here). This past year I’ve been looking left and right for some affordable lighting. You thought gas was expensive, jeez, just try to purchase a few lamps…. (and no complaints from US folks please….gas is running close to $10.00 a gallon here!) These babies weren’t exactly the “right” price but they were less than most others I had run across and I actually liked the chunky design. The bonus? A built in dimmer switch. Yeah! $39.99 in the states and 450:- Swedish kroner here, roughly $75.00 for the lamp base plus another 22 bones for the shade. So, at about 100 bucks a pop I somehow managed to squeeze two in hammered silver and two in dark brown into my already over stuffed cart. Lovely.

2. Fattie. He’s such a love. And generously agreed to some IKEA assembly. I know putting together anything from IKEA is Fattie’s nemesis and probably everyone’s worst horror, so the fact that after a hard day at a work he cracked a beer, rolled up his sleeves, and jumped in with a big smile on his face just makes me love him even more. He deserves a big squeeze.

3. Mail. More precisely any mail that is not a bill or an advertisement. Upon arriving home to unpack my treasures I was greeted by a big brown package on the porch. And a package from the states! Did I already mention how much I like getting mail…..! My brother and his wife spent a few weeks in Europe last month for our wedding and a European sight-seeing-adventure. We had a glorious time together and seriously can’t wait for them to get their booties over here so we can do it again next year. As a thank you Joe, Janet, Jameson, and Jenna (yes, that’s a lot of J’s) sent me us the most wonderful package ever! Filled with treats from home. I’m sure the neighbors heard me squealing like a little piglet! I had a grin on my face all night. The highlights are:

  • Ziploc baggies IN GALLON SIZE! Seriously I know it’s not environmentally friendly but I miss Ziploc bags. I might even turn into one of those little ladies who wash them out and reuse them. I mean is that really so bad? Don’t tempt me….
  • Kitchen Calculator Pro! Oh, I am in love. I had mentioned back in April I wanted one of these useful gadgets to help with my cooking adventures and am over the top thrilled to have it in my hot hands.
  • iPod accessories. My sweet twelve year old niece noticed me eyeing her cool iPod cover so she decided I needed one too. How thoughtful. And the cutest pug card to go along with it. Thank you Jenna!
  • Baking soda! OMG. You just don’t know how much you miss something as simple as Arm & Hammer baking soda until you get over here and try to whip up some of your favorite cookies….This is brilliant!

This package not only made me giggle and smile it truly warmed my heart. Thank you so much! It’s the little things from home that bring comfort when you are far away. And their thoughtfulness made me happy.

I am feeling full of gratitude. Thankful I could afford the gas to drive to IKEA to load up on kitchen goodies, thankful for Fattie who never complains and loves me perfectly, and so grateful for my wonderful family.

See, I really am a simple happy girl.

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I was fumbling through my iPod to resurrect some long forgotten tunes and I decided to give my older Jason Mraz CD’s a whirl again. I’ve been a fan of San Diego based Mraz for years but haven’t spun his older tracks in many moons. I’m sure you’ve heard his current hit, I’m Yours, that’s been circulating on the radio, from his recently released May 2008 CD, We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things. I just adore his sassy lyrical wordsmith style.

Listening to his earlier songs reminded me why I like him. He makes me smile. And smiling feels good. 

There are plenty of tracks you can sink your teeth into and hum over and over again. I heart Mr. Curiosity, The Remedy, You and I Both, Bella Luna, and of course who doesn’t love Geek in the Pink, made even that more famous by the American Idol contest, Chris Richardson. (But of course, Jason’s the real rhythm and rhyme master). Mr. Mraz will be in flapping his chops in Sweden this September and Fattie just surprised me with tickets! Yah! 

Here are just a couple videos to get you in the mood.

Jason’s current hit, I’m Yours

and one of my favorite songs, Life is Wonderful from his CD, Mr. A-Z:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkHTsc9PU2A

www.youtube.com/watch?v=7l74d1fmZbw

 

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My brother Joe and his lovely wife, Janet

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Janet for over twenty years. She has an amazing smile that sparkles from across the room, finds humor in even the small things, competes in triathlons AND in addition to be an incredible mom to the sweetest niece and nephew an aunt could want, coach & mentor of young girls, den mother, PTA leader, (uh, yeah, I could keep going on here!) is ALSO a personal chef. So, I must say, I feel fortunate this talented lady is my sister-in-law. After our wedding in Spain last month, my brother and his family joined us in Sweden for a week of sight-seeing, golfing, and lounging out on the lake. Sadly, the latter two didn’t really make it on the agenda….but next time Joe, I promise!

One night hanging out in the Swedish midnight sun (Yes, it’s true. The sun sets at midnight in the height of the summer) Janet made us the most scrumptious salmon cakes. Her clients, including her own family, rave about these fish patties and I can see why. Simple, easy to prepare, and just plain delicious. You’ll love them.

Janet’s Salmon Cakes on Mixed Baby Greens

Makes four servings

You’ll need:

  • 1 lbs salmon
  • 1+ cup white wine
  • 1+ cup cracker meal
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 round tsp Old Bay Seasoning or seafood seasoning (see below for recipe)
  • 1/2 red bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 20 blades chives
  • 1 tbs dill, fresh
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper sauce
  • 2 lemons, juice and zest
  • Salad greens – mixed baby greens
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1+ tsp chili sauce, such as Siracha
  • 2 tbs dill pickle relish – or chopped dill pickles

Preparation:

1. In covered pan, poach salmon in wine and enough water to just come to the top of fish. Quarter a lemon lengthwise and add 1/4 piece to pan along with a few sprigs of dill and chives. Cover and simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain and cool.
2. In medium bowl, flake the cooked salmon with a fork. Add about 1 cup cracker meal and work through with hands. Add the eggs, Old Bay, bell pepper, chives, dill, cayenne pepper sauce, and the zest and juice of 1 of the lemon and continue to blend well. If the mixture is wet, add more cracker meal. Let stand 5 minutes while pan is heating. Form into 4 patties about 1 inch thick.
3. Heat heavy skillet with just enough oil to coat the bottom.
4. Cook until golden brown, about 3 – 4 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towel-lined plate.
5. Combine mayo, and relish and chili sauce to taste in a small dish.
6. Toss salad greens with course salt and the juice of the remaining lemon. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
7. To serve, place salmon cake on a bed of baby greens, and top with chili mayo.

Old Bay Seasoning

The exact recipe is a secret, but this is a close approximation.

  • 2 tablespoons ground bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Store in an airtight container in a cool place. Makes about 1/4 cup.

July 2008 - Midnight Sun in Sweden

July 2008 - Midnight Sun in Sweden

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Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone, but we know a guy who has a cousin who knows someone else who got us into this A.M.A.Z.I.N.G warehouse (read: not open to the public and or for sale in this country) stuffed to the gills with gorgeous antiques.

Now, those who know me and have been to any of my current or previous homes (in Europe or the US) know I’m much more of a modern kinda chick, but even I must admit some of these pieces were just absolutely to-die-for. And although my tendencies lean towards clean modern lines, I adore mixing old and new together. Just imagine one of these chandeliers over your tub or in a little girls rooms. Everyone needs a little luxury.

Honestly, the sheer volume of furniture collectibles in these buildings was a bit overwhelming. You’ll notice in this photo Fattie is just a speck with chairs, armories, and settees lining the walls five to six levels deep. We were even given special treatment to check out the fresh incoming merchandise while they were unloading some trailers full of goodness. We ended up roaming the aisles for a good couple hours and ultimately Fattie had to pry me away.

I stumbled upon and fell in love with these sexy curved sage green velvet rounded arms chairs (I envisioned recovering them in some fabulous fabric that matched our interior) and I squeaked – or maybe it was a squeal – to Fattie that we MUST have them. I think I’ve been a good girl lately, because Fattie agreed they would be a nice contrast in the family room and said he would ‘talk’ to the owner to see if something could be arranged. Something can always be arranged. All this mysterious speak was kinda exciting and I was already visualizing myself in front of the TV, resting my bootie on the comfy feather pillow, feet up, glass of Ferrari Carano, catching a little BBC Food.

A couple days later we had our answer. This perfect twosome were available and the owner would be happy to deliver them to us this week. Luv it! Along with that news, Fattie also dropped this bomb, “We’ll, it’s the Audi or the chairs – you pick.” Now, I love our efficient little green car – a must have when gas is around $7.00 USD a gallon here – but do we really need a second car? I mean, I could walk to work if I had too.

The pair of stunning seats were hand made in Russia for a ‘particular’ embassy/palace (sorry – no names here – it’s extremely hush-hush) and were going for 140,000 Swedish Kroner WHOLESALE. Now, seriously. Maybe you don’t know the exchange rate to SEK, but I can inform you – that’s a helluva lot of dough to rest your bum on. $23,500 USD to be precise (well, give or take some change). So, how come in a land of antiques, where I know diddley squat, I pick the most expensive pieces of loveliness? Do you think I could add these to my wedding registry?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ‘antiquing’ on my days off but I want to go back here immediately……

Apologies for the picture quality – I was snap happy but didn’t get the best shots. These pix don’t even do this place justice.

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Not something I would normally ever in a million years come in contact with back home in my Whole Foods Market, so you can imagine I was a bit jolted when I rounded the corner in the grocery store and laid my big brown eyes on this guy. He was marketing, Polar Bread or Polarbröd as it’s known in Swedish.

Polar Bread originates far north in Sweden – where reindeer are also born and raised. It is a soft flat bread with dimples, sometimes square but usually round, excellent for sandwiches. Extra tasty with a fresh slice of juicy reindeer….Oh, come on! Ease up. I would never consider munching on Santa’s helpers! At least not Rudolph anyway. But apparently, for fifteen pounds, you can get darn close to the red nose leader.

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I’m up to my eyeballs in conversions. Every day, all day long, I am converting something, someway in my teeny tiny head. Miles to kilometers, gallons to liters, inches to centimeters, USD to SEK, cups to deciliters, Fahrenheit to Celsius, acres to hectares, tablespoons to grams, pounds to kilos, feet to meters – when will it end? Luckily, I paid attention in algebra class.

Right now, I can truly see the geeky benefits of a wristwatch that doubles as a calculator.

To help make my journey acclimating to a new country a little smoother in the kitchen, Fattie bought me a cute widget that has some of the conversions I need for whipping up dishes at home but it leaves me wanting more. What I didn’t tell him – but he’s a smart cookie and I’m sure it was no secret – is I usually stick to US recipes, my American cookbooks, favorite cooking sites originating in the states, and that I made damn certain to pack up my measuring cups and spoons in the moving container so I wouldn’t feel so lost and God forbid lose my adoration for cooking when it becomes too mentally challenging just whacking the ingredients into the bowl.

He also surprised me with a shiny scale. Which I must say has come in very handy. I test myself daily. When a recipe calls for say – 125 grams of butter, I’ll eyeball it and slash off a yellow slab that appears to me to be around the intended amount and then weigh it to see how close or off base I am. It has both the metric and the U.S. customary units so I can visually take in how many ounces 125 grams of butter is to my eye. It’s a little game I play in the kitchen. Yes – D is for dork. I know.

Now what I could really use is a KitchenCalc Pro. I’m planning on picking this guy up on my trip to the states next month. I think there’s even a pocket version. Carrying around this puppy in my purse would positively solidify my dorkiness.

Here are a couple conversion sites in case you need an ounce or two of help yourself: Gourmet Sleuth and Online Conversion.

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