Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Hej då

How sad I am to be leaving this beautiful town. 

I have spent the last week with new people and I have had such a wonderful time. My friend came to stay from London and we spent the week meeting new friends, drinking and having cozy evenings together. 

When I met some of Björn's family, they asked me what differences I noticed between England and Sweden and during my time here I have come up with many. One of my favorite things about Sweden is how free I feel here. The first night I met everyone, we went to another town to stay with a friend and we spent the evening down by a lake and it felt as though we were in the middle of nowhere. We went swimming and built a fire to warm up. As night fell the lake looked so beautiful and mysterious and we sat around just drinking and chatting. It isn't really possible to do that in England, there are always too many people around and the scenery is often far less impressive than here.

And that is it for now. I'm too sad to update anymore right now.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Unusual foreign foods

I went out for lunch today with Björn and met some of his family from his father's side. They were extremely warm and friendly people and I had a lovely time talking with them. It was a buffet-style lunch and at one point I decided against picking up some strange looking sausage, which I was later informed had been horse meat. Björn attempted to get me to try some, but I really couldn't face it. This got me thinking about why people feel ok about eating certain animals while there are others that they cannot stomach. Perhaps horses, for example, are less of a familiar animal here than in England and therefore people find it easier to remove themselves from what they have on their plate, whilst I couldn't take my mind off of the horses that live at the end of my garden at home!

What is the strangest food you have ever eaten? I became a vegetarian when I was 16 and a vegan at 18 before becoming a meat-eater again at the age of 20. However, it wasn't until I visited Sweden that I really began tasting some very different dishes to what I was used to. After a couple of weeks of trying different foods we finally had something I recognised: Tacos. (I found it a little unusual that this mexican food seemed to be a very popular ''Swedish'' meal). When I was making mine, I noticed that the mince looked a little strange but didn't think much of it until I tasted it and was met with a very strong and quite bizarre flavour. Tentatively, not wanting to appear rude, I asked Björn's mother: "What meat is this?", "Moose", she answered, very non-chalantly. I gulped a little and managed to murmur a small ''ok'' before continuing eating. Perhaps this was quite a Swedish dish after-all! Of course I am used to coming across the occassional unusual animal at dinner time now, and have learnt to avoid anything slimy looking that has come from a jar, due to a small issue I have with fish, but I was wondering how you find the food when you go to different countries. Do you like to try unusual foods or do you steer clear and stick to what you are used to? I think it is nice to try delicacies, but I draw the line at anything remotely pet-like!

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Friday, 1 July 2011

Just a little something...

I just wanted to share this video with you. I was at this concert last year and it was amazing. I'd never seen special effects used in this way, on stage. I love what he says at the beginning of the video, it's such an inspiring thought - chasing your dreams and not allowing yourself to be weighed down by your fears.

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Wednesday, 29 June 2011


I have never experienced heat like this before. The little town I am staying in, Falun, is in a valley which means that the summers are extremely hot and the winters are extremely cold. The last two days have been so incredibly hot and it has been a little hard to adjust. Yesterday I spent the day in a very grumpy mood, quite unable to do anything due to the heat. Today was far far better. We woke up and walked to the little supermarket to buy some food for our picnic. Then we cycled up to the lake - an enormous effort since it was uphill the entire way! As soon as we got there we ran straight for the lake and jumped in for a swim. One of the things I love most about Sweden is the fact that the nature cannot be owned by anybody and that anyone is allowed to be there. This means that you can swim in any lake that you find and walk in any area you like - far better than all the prohibitions and restrictions you find in England. After our swim we set off walking around the lake, through the forest, finding a beautiful log shelter on our way which was perfect for our picnic! After one last swim in the icy water (it was so strange to be shivering in the cold water one minute, to be absolutely boiling again the next) it was time to go home. Cycling through the forest, downhill with the wind in my hair was such a lovely feeling. Even though I have been here many times now, I still cannot get over how beautiful the scenery is. I often wobble on my bike purely because I am too busy looking around and staring into the forest to concentrate on where I am going! It's the most perfect place in the world.

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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Sunday Recipes

I have decided that since I have so many delicious Scandinavian recipes to share with you, it would be nice if I could post them weekly. Since Sunday is usually such a lovely, quiet day, I thought it would be the perfect day on which to post these recipes. Due to this being my very first post, I have decided to start with two very easy but very nice recipes that I have learnt since staying in Sweden:

Pytt i Panna 

6 - 8 cooked potatoes
1 - 2 cups of cooked meat (ham is best, in my opinion)
1 medium onion
5 - 6 eggs
2tbsp butter 
A little oil for stir-frying

This recipe makes 5 - 6 servings and is the most basic version of this dish. You really can add whatever you like into this - any type of meat or vegetable. It works really nicely with diced beetroot. This dish is really lovely after a long day's travelling or work as it can be frozen and just needs frying in a little bit of butter before serving. For the British among you, think ham, egg and chips, just in teeny tiny pieces!

1. Dice the potatoes, onions and cooked meat into about 1cm cubes.
2. Stir-fry the diced potatoes in a little oil until browned and crisp. Remove them from the pan.
3. Melt the butter and gently fry the onions until they are soft. Add the meat and brown it for five minutes. 
4. Reduce heat to low and add the potatoes, mixing until warm. While you are doing this, fry the eggs in a separate pan.
5. Serve with a fried egg on top of each portion. 

Chokladbollar (Chocolate balls)

100g butter
1dl sugar
1tbsp vanilla sugar (vanilla extract works just as well)
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3dl rolled oats
3 tbsp cold strong coffee 
pearl sugar or dessicated coconut for the coating

These are one of my favourite things. They are so simple to make and go really nicely with a cold glass of milk or some coffee. You can alter this recipe fairly easily according to taste, for example, the coffee can be substituted with water if desired. It is also really funny to make with children since it is easiest if you mix all of the ingredients by hand, a lovely excuse to make a mess!

1. Mix the oats, sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla sugar together in a bowl
2. Add the butter and rub the ingredients together to form a dough. Make sure all of the butter is rubbed in before mixing in the coffee/water. (If you are using vanilla extract, rather than vanilla sugar, this is the best time to add it)
3. Once the mixture is thoroughly blended pour some pearl sugar or dessicated coconut or whatever you fancy onto a plate. Using your hands, form balls out of the dough (they can be any size, you can also press the whole mixture into a cake tin, cover with melted chocolate and sprinkle coconut on to make a cake version!) Roll the balls around on the plate until fully coated.
4. Leave them in the fridge to cool. Eat them with a great big glass of ice cold milk!

I hope you enjoy them! Please remember to leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions for me!

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Weekend Adventures

What activities do you like to do at the weekend? Both yesterday and today my boyfriend and I took our bikes and cycled to the forest on the edge of his little town. We took some drinks with us and stopped at the local supermarket on the way to buy some chocolate. The forest here is absolutely beautiful and if you have the energy to cycle or walk uphill a little you are rewarded at the top with some of the most breathtaking views over the town. Cycling is such a lovely way to get around, especially when it's such a lovely sunny day! Today we went up to where the towns ski jumps are and wandered around a little, picking some flowers - I am amazed at how many pretty wildflowers they have here! 

I hope you had a relaxing weekend. 

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Friday, 24 June 2011

Glad Midsommar! (+ tutorial)

I am currently in Sweden and have spent a very lovely day celebrating midsummer here. 

"Midsommar" is a tradition widely celebrated in Sweden with parties that include dancing and singing around a midsummer pole (midsommarstång) - a type of maypole which is traditionally in the shape of a cross with two wreaths hanging from either side of the horizontal arms of the cross. Although we did not see one of these today since we didn't go out into the countryside, we did observe another midsummer tradition. After a relaxing walk through another part of town, we came to some fields by a forest where we spent an hour or so picking as many different coloured wild flowers as we could find. Afterwards we found a cozy spot on a hillside by the forest where we sat down to make a midsummer wreath (midsommarkrans) for my hair! Below I have included a tutorial, but first, look how beautiful this one is! And in my own country's colours! 

1. Pick a large bunch of flowers with as many different kinds as you can find. I also used reeds and some different kinds of grass to make it look a little more interesting.

2. Gather some birch-shoots. These need to be bent round into a circle large enough to sit on the crown of your head. Twist and twine the shoots around one another (use 3-4) to ensure they stay put and, if necessary, tie the ends together when forming the ring using thread, wire or string. 

3. Arrange the flowers into smaller bunches and cut the stalks down until they are just a few inches tall. 

4. Secure the smaller bunches to the wreath, placing one behind the other, fastening each bunch with a little thread. Be generous with the amount of flowers in order to build the wreath up into a pretty arrangement. 

5. Once you have fastened the bunches all the way round the wreath, check to see if there are any gaps that need filling. If you have any flowers left over, thread them into wherever you can find thread. It will not only make the wreath appear fuller but will also cover any threads that are still visible. 

Mine ended up enormous, so perhaps it is better to trim it a little so that it looks neater! 

Swedes usually end the day with a surprisingly simple meal of pickled herring and new potatoes before setting about dancing and singing into the night, which at this time of the year, never quite makes it to darkness! 

In what I think is a rather lovely and romantic tradition, many Swedish girls on their way home from the nights' celebrations would pick seven flowers of different varieties to place under their pillows in order to dream of the man they would someday marry. Who would you hope to dream of?

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Friday, 15 April 2011

The Snowman ☃

Jo Nesbø has been labeled as the next Stieg Larsson. What do you think of his books?

His 'Harry Hole' series is about your typical crime investigator - a lonely, alcoholic man battling both authority and ex-girlfriend issues but Jo Nesbø does an extrodinarily good job of building such a strong character out of what can be criticised as a far from original crime fiction character setup. It tells the story of a string of murders that have terrorised the local town - a murderer who leaves behind snowmen in the gardens of his victims. With equal parts suspense and gore, it deserves the 5/5 rating that it has been given by some book reviews. Not only does Nesbø deal with the personal issues of the protagonist, engaging intelligently with the causes and effects of these but he also manages to keep up the fast-paced, page turning quality of the book, building up more suspense than is often managable along the way. 

Jo Nesbø has been compared to Stieg Larsson many times but in my opinion he is almost better. If you're looking for a novel filled with suspense, terror and plenty of bloodshed without troublesome dialogues and complex social issues then Jo Nesbø is the man for you.

I have only read The Snowman the 7th book in Nesbø's 'Harry Hole' series. It was given to me as an early christmas present and I took it with me when I travelled to Sweden where I was spending Christmas. I began reading it while I was travelling but it wasn't until we reached my boyfriend's winter cabin that I really got round to reading it properly. Curled up in an armchair by the fire, wrapped up tight in a thick, Norwegian blanket I began what I had not realised was going to be a very gory journey. Sitting on a plane, in broad daylight the novel had seemed relatively tame but sitting in a darkened cabin up in the mountains, surrounded by snow (and, following a visit from my boyfriend's little nieces, a terrifying snowman of our own smiling outside) it quickly became quite horrifying. In terms of a horror rating I wouldn't give it more than a 6 or a 7, it was the gore that got to me the most. 

Have you read The Snowman? What 'horror-rating' would you give to it?

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Thursday, 14 April 2011

Til hamingju með afmælið, Eyjafjallajökull (Happy birthday, Eyjafjallajökull)

One year ago today a volcanic eruption occurred underneath Eyjafjallajökull, sending ash clouds billowing up into the sky and causing the biggest disturbance to air transport since World War ll. Millions of people were left stranded and it was estimated that $200 million would be lost per day by the airline industry. 

Still I think that there was something kind of beautiful about it. This video was taken at the beginning of May but it is my favourite of all of the footage that was captured during the time that Eyjafjallajökull was erupting.

How were you affected by Eyjafjallajökull? My mother was unable to go away skiing and my boyfriend ended up visiting later than scheduled but we were so lucky in comparison with many other unfortunate people.

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Travelling from my desk

Writing letters to others in different countries to your own seems like an old fashioned hobby, however a couple of months ago I decided to give it a try and I have since fallen in love with this form of correspondence. When you receive a letter filled with details about somebody else's hometown, their culture, even their own travels it makes you feel as though you are taking a little trip abroad. This is especially noticeable when you receive such delights as postcards, photos, collages or stickers that someone has carefully put together in a little package for you. This morning I got a lovely surprise when I opened a letter to find some tea that had travelled to me from Germany! 

This is another reason why I have decided to start this blog. I want to share my passion for culture and language, for travel, particularly in the Nordic region. I'd like to think that there is somebody out there who likes to travel through their computer as much as I do and will enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing it. 

Do you correspond with someone from a different country? What is your favourite experience of doing so?

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Wednesday, 13 April 2011


To begin this blog I have chosen to write about Brennivín as a friend brought some to our house as a surprise a couple of nights ago. 

Traditionally served alongside something called Hákarl (a dish consisting of putrified shark that deserves a blog post of its own), its name translates literally to 'burning wine' and it is easy to see how it received such a name. 

The aforementioned friend told us that it is traditional to drink it to the power of three - I'm not sure whether this is true but I wasn't going to argue. The alcoholic content is 37.5% and it is often referred to as an (unofficial) national beverage of Iceland. Prohibited between the years 1915 - 1922, it is believed that Brennívin was nicknamed as 'Black Death' and it was during this time that the Icelandic government had a skull and crossbones depicted on the label. 

The best way to drink Brennivín is ice-cold, either in chilled shot glasses or poured over ice. However beware of its strong and unusual flavour - it is made from fermented potato and is flavoured with caraway seeds.  

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