travel

Butterfly summer

Well if all the experts are to be believed, this summer in Sweden is going to be a scorcher!

Yep, according to the butterflies it is going to be hot, hot, hot.   Folk-lore reckons that the very first butterfly you see in the year can predict the weather.

Not literally, obviously; but apparently if the butterfly you spot first is light-coloured, then the summer will be good:  if you set eyes on a dark-coloured butterfly, then the prospect is gloomy and a bad summer is on the cards.

So, if Swedish butterfly intuition is to be believed, things are looking good; as the first two butterflies I saw yesterday, busy checking out my newly planted pansies, were creamy white. http://wp.me/p4kEQ0-9F

Like most predictions, the butterflies and I have a 50/50 chance of accuracy.   Though I am a bit inclined to hedge my bets, as there is another piece of Swedish folk-lore regarding the Rowan (or Mountain Ash) which is not exactly foolproof.  Tradition has it that, if the Rowan tree is full of red berries in the autumn,  the ensuing winter will be hard.  Last October, the Rowan here were heaving with berries; so much so that bird-lovers were busy picking and freezing them as winter bird food (great idea if you can be bothered).

By that reckoning, we should have had an awful winter: it was, however, one of the mildest on record.

Still, ever the optimist, I’m busy digging out my sun cream, mosquito repellent and sunglasses in the hope that we get a butterfly summer.

 

 

 

 

Cupboard love

 

Tacos a top 10 weekend meal in Sweden!

Tacos a top 10 weekend meal in Sweden!

You never really know what goes on behind closed doors, especially if that door leads to the kitchen.

And sometimes I can’t help wondering just what the average Swede really eats for supper. As a Brit living in Sweden I’ve  mostly – but not always – enjoyed trying out Swedish food.  I love food, and can think of nothing nicer than idling hours away leafing through a cookery book.   But, despite that, and trying to be inventive, I always seem to end up cooking the same 10 dishes on some strange sort of rota system.

So you can imagine my surprise as I was busy preparing our Saturday night Tacos, when I discovered that I was far from alone in my choice of meal; it seems, in fact, that well over 840,000 other people in Sweden would also be tucking into Tacos over the weekend!

This is according to a recent survey that was featured in our local paper on Saturday.  So, if you’ve ever wondered, here are Sweden’s Top 10 Weekend Meals for 2014:-

  1. Beef with chips, 12.1%
  2. Chicken, 11.1%
  3. Tacos, 8,8%
  4. Pork fillet with side dishes, 8,1%
  5. Pizza, 6.8%
  6. Fish with side dishes, 6,4%
  7. Salmon, 4,4%
  8. Casserole, 4,1%
  9. Steak/entrecote with side dishes, 2,7%
  10. Hamburgers, 2.4%

As I tend to cook at least 6 of these meals on a regular basis, I begin to wonder if I am more Swedish from a culinary perspective than I realized?

Note to Selfie: Time to dust off my Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson cookery books!

 

 

 

 

Of Birch twigs and feathers

Birch twigs, feathers and eggs

Birch twigs, feathers and eggs

So, it’s Birch bashing time in Sweden!  Bundles of innocent-looking birch twigs, known in Swedish as Påskris, are now on sale in markets ready for the Easter ritual.

Not unsurprisingly, most if not all people nowadays refrain from what was once the tradition of  bashing one another on the legs with Birch twigs; an activity geared to cause pain and act as a reminder of Christ’s suffering on the cross. In fact,  the symbolic, religious significance seems over the centuries to have been completely lost in a bizarre haze of fluffy feathers.

Instead of flagellation, the Swedes now prefer to whack their birch twigs into a jug; which then takes pride of place amongst the Easter decorations.  The Birch, picked just as they have come into bud, are then decorated with garish, brightly coloured feathers.  Packs of these feathers are sold everywhere, and in every possible colour of the rainbow.   Initially only available in hues of egg (cream, white, orange and yellow), the feathers now tend to reflect the latest interior decorating trends; the fashionable among us this year opting, apparently, for a simple palette rather than a riot of colours.

Many Swedes, in fact, don’t stop there and feel the need to adorn their twigs with mini hollow, painted eggs, ribbons, tiny chicks, cockerels and other Easter-related paraphernalia.  Really it’s become a sort of Swedish version of a Christmas tree, but for Easter.

For those of us who live in the country, we have the added options of either:-

a) installing our feathered twigs outside so that the world and his wife can see them

or

b) decorating our bushes with feathers instead.

Somehow, I feel spoilt for choice.

 

Birch twigs, Påskris

Birch twigs, Påskris

Note to Selfie:  Birch trees here I come – it’s PYI (pick-your-own) time in the forest!

 

 

 

Potting the pansies

Pansy fever

Pansy fever

Ready, steady – plant!  The annual race is now on to see who in the village will be the first to pot their pansies and put them out on the porch.

Every year, it’s the same:  As soon as mid-March arrives, so do the pansies: loads of them.  The shops, garages, DIY stores and markets all have racks of these uninspiring little plants jostling for our attention.

Pansies had never, until I moved to Sweden, entered my world; I knew they existed, but that’s as far it went.  Pansies over here, though,  seem to have taken on a bit of a minor celebrity status and you’d be hard pushed to find a garden without them.  You’ll find them growing in window boxes, pots, planters, old wheelbarrows and  hanging baskets.  And really any other ingenious container that the ingenious Swede can think of. This year the knack is, apparently, to colour co-ordinate pansy and pot; and colour co-ordinate pot and porch.

From a purely practical perspective, I can see their appeal;  small, tough plants, pansies are hardy enough to survive the few minus degrees and any light touch of frost that an early Swedish spring might throw at them.  So if you do buy some, they’re almost guaranteed to survive.

But what I really don’t share is this zealous pansy-purchasing, and the need to demonstrate every year that Spring has most definitely arrived on my porch – way before any of my neighbours’.

The pansy derives its name from the French word pensée which means thought (in Sweden pansies are called penseér).  And it is said that the plant represents ‘free thought’ as its flowers are reminiscent of small faces bobbing in agreement.  If that’s the case,  I guess that I’d better join the scramble to pot up, put out my pansies and pave the path to spring – after all I am also a free-thinker!?

 

Note to Selfie: Time to dig out my gardening gloves ….

 

Pansies

Potting the pansies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right of way

So, I was out on a walk in the woods this morning when I found myself unexpectedly confronted with a bit of a thorny dilemma:: should I, or shouldn’t I?

I’d taken my usual route:  downhill towards the lake, then I’d turned off by the edge of the water before lunging back uphill, though this time through the forest.  The intention being to continue to where the forest track reached the road, where I could then veer off and loop back home.

And that’s just where I came unstuck.  In order to get to the road, I had to go through a small property.  It was once upon a time a farm, but is now only rarely used by the owners as a summer retreat.  Every morning, I follow the dirt track as it skirts the side of the house and every morning I peer through the windows; as the light often catches on the ancient tiled wooden stoves.

This morning was different.  As I left the shelter of the forest and approached the house, I could clearly see a plume of smoke coming out of the chimney.  It was cold and the smoke was being sucked up by the  frosty air.  The sight of this smoke, however, completely unnerved me, and I was thrown into some sort of instantaneous fluster-mode.

Should I just stroll on as per normal?  And if I did, what were the chances of the owners just happening to open their door at the exact, precise moment I was passing by?  Admittedly this was pretty unlikely at 7 in the morning, but you never know with the outdoorsy Swedes.

Or shouldn’t I?  Wouldn’t  it just be safer  wimping out, turning around and taking the long route home?

What added confusion to my indecision is that, thanks to a traditional right, almost nowhere in Sweden is off-limits.  The Right of Public Access, or Allemansrätt, allows you to roam freely throughout the Swedish countryside, even on private land – just such as this.  So, basically you’re pretty much free to walk, cycle, horse-ride, ski or jog almost everywhere so long as you don’t disturb the landowner or cause damage.

Obviously, I wasn’t intent on destruction.  I was just keen to get home and have some breakfast.  But, would I be disturbing them?  I couldn’t help feel that, as the track ran so close to the house (I could have reached out and tapped on the windows), I was treading a fine moral line.

After a few moments of reflection; weighing up the situation and putting everything into perspective, I made my move.  I did just what any typically apologetic British girl would do.

I turned tail, ran back down the dirt track hoping and praying no one had seen me, and  disappeared into the forest;  and took the LONG way home.

That was the right way, wasn’t it?