December 31, 2014

A Happy New Year to You All!

I haven´t blogged over the holidays - I have been standing a lot in the kitchen, we´ve had guests in the house, and unfortunately, we have had to spend much time in the hospital. Luckily, the mum-in-law was with us on Christmas Eve and we are heading to her place this evening, to make a New Year´s dinner. Hopefully, she will get better and be more stable going into the new year, her 96th.

We were lucky with the Christmas weather, the snow finally fell, and the temperatures were as low as -26 degrees. It was my Swiss brother-in-law´s first visit this far north, and my sister (who lived here for five years, going to university) really wanted it to be proper winter weather, which it was. The moment they stepped on the plane back south, the temperatures rose, a whopping 30 degrees in two days! It´s all melting away now. Talk about answered prayers...

I had all sorts of plans to draw, to take photograps, to make sweets, to take long walks, to read good books, see good films, but nothing came of most of that. Still, I am happy the way everything turned out, and happy that we managed to gather so many, even though the mum-in-law´s bad health put a damper on the Christmas spirit.

I have a feeling that 2015 will be an exciting year, with many positive changes. I ended a lot of projects in 2014, dealt with a lot of personal issues, and now I am ready to - in some respects - start over. It feels like I´m pretty much ready for anything.

Hope you are all well and that you feel good about the year to come. My best wishes to everyone!

December 23, 2014

Christmas Ghost

I found this very cute little film on youtube, about Laban, the Little Ghost, who is afraid of Santa.

(on youtube by Lilla spöket Laban)

December 22, 2014

Angel Song

I am really too busy and stressed out (yes, tried to deny it, but I really am, haven´t even put up Christmas decorations yet) to post, but I decided to sit down and find my favourite Christmas song ever, all categories (it´s actually a psalm). This is a lovely version from Swedish Television a few years back with Sofia Karlsson looking like an angel, singing "Frid på jorden" (= peace on earth) and then "Gläns över sjö och strand" (= glitter over lake and shore). Enjoy!

(on youtube by Kaare K Johnsen)

December 17, 2014

Big Talker

Today is our 10th wedding anniversary, and we have been almost as bad at celebrating it as usual. I am in the middle of Christmas cleaning and the husband has spent all his evening in the supermarket, hunting for the perfect ham and salmon and such indispensables. Our meal came from the new deli at the large Coop. Well, at least we didn´t forget.

We married in Paris, it was a private affair at the embassy, just the two of us. We exchanged our vows in a library, actually, as they were renovating the proper wedding room. I am particularly pleased about that. I don´t exactly remember when I told my relatives, but I suppose I did when I got home - not that it was a big thing, we had lived together for more than thirteen years. However, we did make an attempt to call the mum-in-law from a street corner in Paris. She was in Spain at the time, with her partner Ove.

My mum-in-law is a good talker, imagine a big tank running over you. She is also of the generation who had to pay much for phone calls, particularly international calls. Well, the husband called her, said hi, listened and was then hung up on.
"You didn´t tell her," I said.
"Damn," said he. "I´ll tell her when we get home."
"You better, or I will accidentaly give it away when I talk to her." I did think it should come from him.

Well, we got home and everything was as it always had been, except that I had a name change, which hardly anybody noticed (no, we don´t have rings). I reminded him, he forgot, and in May, I happened to let the cat out of the bag, as the mum-in-law and I were discussing my sister´s wedding plans.
"They are thinking of eloping abroad, like we did," I said. She was silent, and I realized.

It never seemed like she minded awfully, she has never been one to keep track of birthdays and such, and she had an un-announced war wedding herself with only two friends for witnesses. A few weeks later, when we had them over for dinner, they gave us a wedding present from that whole side of the family. It has been very useful, every day, and still works. It reminds me of Ove (who I´m sure came up with the idea), who passed on almost eight years ago now.

Yesterday, the mum-in-law called me to tell me she had to go to the hospital just for the day to get some more blood (they are so good at treating her now, we hardly have to do anything), bla bla, and then she said: "But I´m just going on and on, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?"
"Öh," I said, "it was you who called me."
"Oh? Well, bye then."

December 15, 2014

Ice Hotel

It´s a bit embarrassing that I live only hours away, yet have never been to see the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi. I have been to an ice bar, though, and had a glass of whisky in an ice glass, some twenty years ago when they built one in the southern harbour here in Luleå. After seeing these photos of this year´s version of the hotel, I think I should try to get there... More info on the hotel here.

December 12, 2014

Progress Report

I am starting to feel a bit bad vis-à-vis the Notebook. Can´t remember when I last put in a proper post - whatever that is. Something personal and thought out, I guess; something communicative that I´m happy with. I am not very communicative at the moment, my focus is on work and my drawing course, which is wrapping up next week. Then I have blocked out two whole days in my calendar for Christmas cleaning and tidying up. At least I got the gifts for the nephews and the niece sent off. The husband is occupied at work night and day, having one of his PhD students defending his thesis today. I hope it all went well.

In the middle of all this we should be celebrating our tenth (!) wedding anniversary, which is at this awkward time of year simply because we decided to go to Paris ten years ago and the embassy was so busy with couples wanting to get married that we had to wait until the 17th of December and the very last slot of the year (if we had waited any longer we would have had to renew our wedding licence...). I don´t think we have celebrated "properly" one single time - I mean, what are we supposed to do? I´m allergic to flowers and fancy food is pretty wasted on me. A visit with a friend to one of the more upscale eating places last week made my tummy rumble for the entire week afterwards. Considering I paid more for my single meal than we usually do for both of us, I really am not eager to return there. I simply don´t know how to party any more, that´s what it is. Besides, we are pretty good at creating a celebratory mood without having any particular reason to, every day. I really appreciate the husband, I do. I don´t know who else would put up with me and he always makes me laugh.

Also, it is dark out. Like the inside of a sack, more or less. We have maybe one or two hours of almost daylight, when I am fast asleep after having worked through the night. This photo is taken at four o´clock this afternoon. As you can see, there is no snow, only water on top of a treacherous layer of ice. It´s a bad idea to walk anywhere without spikes attached to one´s shoes.

I am looking forward to having people over for Christmas. My nephew-in-law is coming to stay for a couple of weeks, and we haven´t seen him for a whole year, so that will be wonderful. My Swiss sister and her husband are also making an appearance for a few days and for the brother-in-law it´s the first visit anywhere this close to the Polar circle. I hope we´ll have a bit more snow by then. 

The cute snowman/santa is a gift from the mum-in-law´s
neighbours, it is battery-powered and changes colours
every few seconds. It amuses her greatly.
The mum-in-law is stable and in a good mood, she and I did the Christmas baking this Sunday last, which really made her happy. (She was the overseer, I did all the kneading and rolling.) Particularly as we managed to get the dough for lussekatterna to rise perfectly! I didn´t bring my camera, but I did make a sketch (on yellow paper, very fitting) of the enire batch cooling on an oven rack as we had a well-deserved dinner and fika later in the evening.

We didn´t make gingerbread biscuits as those can be bought everywhere, but rather a star-shaped almond cookie that the mum-in-law has been making since she was 13 and got her first cookbook as a gift from the Rumford company, who makes baking powder. That book is now in shreads, literally, but the recipe is part of the family tradition and will continue to be made for as long as I am around, at least. My Swiss sister loves them too, and took lessons from the mum-in-law years ago, which the mum-in-law remembers fondly, that is why these cookies were especially important this year.

So, that´s what´s going on. I should - I mean, I will - put up some recipes on the Kitchen blog later. I have a stack of books to read during the quiet days between Christmas and New Year, and I have some books read but not yet blogged. I supposed it is as it should be; for a while there, blogging started feeling like work, and I still have a twitch of that, but not nearly as much.

Life is good. I hope that it is for you, too.

December 9, 2014


I passed the art gallery in the Culture House last week and looked at the latest exhibitions. There was one thing that stuck with me more than the others, and that was Kari Steihaug´s installation "Det rummet du säger vi inte har" (= the room you say we don´t have). She also exhibits part of an ongoing project called "De Ofullbordade" (= the uncompleted), which is a number of photos of unfinished textile craft projects that she has asked people to send to her, with a note on who, where, and why. She started it in 1998 and now has 150 unfinished objects in her collection. (I could certainly have contributed one or ten in the past, but I have come to the point where such objects are unravelled and re-designed or sent to a thrift shop.)

But it´s the installation is what really caught my eye, and my heart. She has taken a number of knitted objects and unravelled, knit together, positioned them in relation to each other, and has made this poignant weave of hand-made clothes and yarns that you would associate perhaps with your grandmother, mother or sister spending hours and hours making things for you and other loved ones. Yes, the materials invoke feelings of family, kinship, solicitude and love.

I also find myself reminded of the transience of the objects, their wearers, and the relationships that exist between them. Perhaps these days it doesn´t take much to remind me of death, to enjoy each day and make the most of it. And what of the title? "The room you say we don´t have"? Is it a call for hospitality? To "open our hearts", as the retiring leader of the conservative party (and our former Prime Minister) keep saying (regarding sheltering refugees from Syria and other places)? I´m not sure, but it is something to consider.


You must check this out: the Monster Project! Sounds like some dedicated artists - dedicated to teaching and inspiring the very young.

December 8, 2014

Swedish Composer - Wilhelm Peterson-Berger

There is no way one can try to map out the Swedish national sound and pass by Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, I didn´t even have to consult the husband to figure this one out. Peterson-Berger belongs to the national-romantic tradition, a visit to Jämtland in the 1880´s so influenced him that he built a house on Frösö, where he lived in his retirement. He was also for many years a music critic at Dagens Nyheter, a Swedish national newspaper.

Here is Frösöblomster (= Flowers at Frösö):

(on youtube by PalmideArtaserse)

December 4, 2014

Swedish Composer - Hilding Rosenberg

Hilding Rosenberg is considered the first modernist composer in Sweden, and composed, among other things, seven symphonies, seven operas, and seven ballets. He was the son of a gardener and able to study at the Royal College of Music thanks to a scholarship. He took private lessons from Wilhelm Stenhammar.

This is the ballet "Orpeus in Town" (I´m not sure why the film is numbered 1/2, it seems to be the whole ballet), inspired by the Orpeus statue by Carl Milles that stands in front of Stockholm Concert Hall.

(on youtube by bartje11)

December 1, 2014

Swedish Composer - Wilhelm Stenhammar

Not only was he very handsome - I have become quite obsessed with drawing his wonderful, aristocratic features (really, his mother was a countess) - but Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871 - 1927) is one of our greats, with many symphonies to choose from. He also composed for the theatre, wrote chamber music, choir works, and piano pieces.

I asked the husband for a "hitsong" by Stenhammar, but he couldn´t really name one. So I have listened through some of his repertoire on youtube and came up with this: Petter Mattei´s and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra´s performance, conducted by Manfred Honeck, of "Ithaka", a poem by Oscar Levertin, set to music by Stenhammar in 1904.

It is particularly apt right now, since it was only a few weeks ago that Peter Mattei recieved an honorary doctorate at our local university. Yes, he is one or ours! When I moved to town, he was just starting out, and was known as the guy working for the local sewage cleaning company, who had one heck of a voice...

(on youtube by Канал пользователя aoidedioa)

Jag drömt som främling på en främmad strand (as a stranger on a strange shore I have dreamed)
Gud vet hur många år.                                   (God knows how many years)
Nu vill jag hem. Jag redan lagt från land,          (now I want to go home. I have already left the shore)
i silkesseglet stormen slår.                             (my silk sail flaps in the wind.)

Framåt mot obefarna vattendrag                     (towards unchartered waters)
förbi Herakles' stoder                                     (past the pillars of Heracles)
mot fjärran ö i blå arkipelag                             (towards a faraway island in a blue archipelago)
jag vridit skeppets roder.                                (I have turned my ship´s rudder.)

Där ligger solskenslyst i havets mitt                (there, lit by the sun in the middle of the sea)
mitt Ithaka, den ö,                                         (is Ithaka, my island)
där fruktträdsvalven evigt lysa vitt                     (where the fruit trees arch, ever white)
och dyningarna dö                                          (where the swell dies.)

i säven som en mattad aftonsång                    (In the rush, as a muted evensong)
från kärleksdomnad lyra,                                 (from a love numb lyre)
dit, vore färden än så hård och lång,                 (there, even if the journey is hard and long)
vill jag min farkost styra.                                 (I want to steer my vessel.)

Där stå det vita, marmorsvala hus,                   (there stands the white, marble cool house)
i vilket jag vill bo.                                            (in which I want to live)
Där silverpoppeln har det högtidssus,                (where the silver poplar sings to feast)
som hägnar med sin ro.                                  (enticing me to rest)

Ack, världens vägar, jag är trött på dem!            (oh, how tired I am of the world´s roads)
Jag hör det dunkla kravet                                  (I hear the vague demand)
mot längtans Ithaka, mitt hjärtats hem,              (fromthe Ithaka of my longing, the home of my heart)
min vita ö i havet.                                             (my white island in the sea)

På hemfärd stadd jag lyssnar så förstrött            (going home, I listen absent-mindedly)
på livets lust och larm                                        (to the noise and joy of life)
som på en man, som av en slump mig mött         (as at a man I have met by coincidence)
och håller fast min arm.                                     (who holds my arm)

I bröder, än jag går som en bland er,                   (you brothers, still I walk among you)
men ren mot slag som smekning                        (but numb to both slap and caress)
med avskedsstundens gåtfullhet jag ler.               (I smile the enigmatic smile of parting)
Jag har gjort upp min räkning.                             (I have settled my debts)

Blott starkare förnimmer jag var dag                    (I percieve stronger by the day)
den manande musik,                                         (the calling music)
som eko är av kvällens böljeslag                         (as echoes of the evening waves)
emot min hemös vik.                                         (towards my island´s bay)

Jag drömmer lutad över skeppets toft.                 (I dream, leaning on my ship´s thwart)
I skum delfiner skalkas,                                     (dolphins are playing in the waves)
än syns ej ön, men luftens mandeldoft                (the island is not yet sighted, but the scent of almonds)
förtäljer, att jag nalkas.                                       (tell me that I am near)

Så vill jag bära allt, vad än en man                       (so I want to carry all, that a man)
kan bära utav ve,                                                (can carry of woes)
ty ett jag vet, ej evigt räcka kan                            (because I know this: not forever can this)
mitt hjärtas odyssé.                                             (journey of my heart go on)

Min sorgs, min glädjes skiljemynt--allt glöms         (my grief, the token of my joy, is all forgotten)
som mull i mull begravet,                                     (as earth buried in earth)
när skeppet når sitt Ithaka, sin dröms                   (when the ship reaches its Ithaka, its dream´s)
vårvita ö i havet.                                                  (spring white island in the sea)

(my own quick&dirty translation)