Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stamp of the Day: Oyster Art

Henri Matisse's Still Life with Oyster is shown on this stamp from the Maldives [probably first link to CIA on this blog], a place I always wanted to visit. I wonder if that country will survive with the sea levels rising due to melting ice. It looks like Matisse didn't have a real oyster knife to open his dinner. If you want to get a real oyster knife, beware of DUKA employees in Sweden. They told a friend of mine that a parmesan knife was an oyster knife! Those two types look totally different.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Movie review: The Matrix

I feel old. It is not that I am actually not understanding the movie The Matrix, it is just that I think it is irrelevant, weird, and too futuristic. My teenage kids loved it, however. So, what is so special about this movie? I don't get it, please enlighten me.

Last Look at Duke Greenhouses

The French Garden
Playing with some HDR software, still have not bought
it, thus the name of it imbedded in the image. This
is 6 exposures combined into one.

Skärgårdsnytt i Washington Post

It is not everyday you can read about Dalarö, Fjärdlång and Utö in an american news paper, but here it is. Some excerpts:

"Layer upon layer of isles, islets and barren outcroppings instantly begin to reveal themselves. There are more than 24,000 in all, stretching across a 50-mile arc that extends nearly into Finnish waters. The vast majority are uninhabited."

"The farmer surprises us all: Arriving in his truck, chatting on his cellphone, we soon realize that he doesn't speak English. That's rare in Sweden, even on a rural island, even for a farmer, even one who looks about 60. In fact, there's a good chance that anyone you happen to run into under the age of 65 or so will speak English nearly as well as you do.
Which is almost a shame, because the Swedish language is so melodic and sometimes so wonderfully confounding. Sure, it often seems easy, especially in writing: "bageri" for bakery, "parkering" for parking. Then there are the words that look like you should know them, such as "snart" (soon) or "snabbacash" (the "speedy cash" offered at the ATM)."

Maybe EH or O.K. could post some nice pics of the Stockholm archipelago (skärgården, which literally means the "island garden'), one of my favorite areas in the whole world? Please?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Godless people

Quite interesting article about religion in USA, a hot topic.

"The fastest-growing faith in the country is no faith at all. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released the results of its “Religious Landscape” survey in February and found that 16 percent of Americans have no religious affiliation. The number is even greater among young people: 25 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds now identify with no religion, up from 11 percent in a similar survey in 1986."

Does anybody know the percentage of atheists in Sweden?

Restaurant review: Sergeantsville Inn in Skunktown, NJ

On my recent birthday we did a little tour here in New Jersey and ended up having lunch at Sergeantsville Inn, in Sergeantsville, Hunterdon County, NJ. It is a tiny town, once called Skunktown, but the US post office forced them to change the name when they built a post office there. So it was renamed after the family Sergeant. The inn is in an 1800s building that has served as inn, ice house, store, and much more over the years and now is beautifully restored and old fashioned.

Nice pansies!
AREA has calamari appetizer with chinese flavors and it was really good. This was my appetizer, escargot snails baked inside puff pastry.
Very, very good, and buttery and lemony. (The Firefox spell checker wants to replace escargot with either cargoes or Descartes!)
With lunch AREA had root beer, the real brand, Stewart's of course. I think it tastes like peptobismol = a pink thick liquid they give you here in the US for tummy aches.
Our lunch room was the Wyeth room, decorated with copies of paintings by the Wyeth brothers. AnS would have loved it, and we did too.
Tomato bisque (creamy tomato soup), LA loved it.
I think this was pheasant terrine, which is pheasant liver/meat paté served with apples, bread, mustard, and pear that you can assemble in different combinations. PP's appetizer.
For entree I had this dish that I have forgotten the name of - it was a spicy stew of bulgur wheat, vegetables, and shrimp and heavenly good. Probably Italian or Spanish.
BLT sandwich with bear (THE animal) bacon, lettuce, and tomato. AREA wolfed down the bear (and the rest of the sandwich).
Cheese burger for LA, before assembly. Looked great and tasted great. Mmmmmm!
Carpaccio for PP, raw sliced meat and arugula (ruccola in Swedish) salad. So Italian. It is truly raw, not cured like gravlax. We are missing one dish that PP ordered as a side, but I can't remember what it was.

Conclusion: A fantastic place, has it all. Excellent service, ambience, food, and surroundings. We will be back!

Stamp of the day: Insects

I wish to illustrate the fantastic insect wildlife we have around us, now that summer is here for real. It´s still chilly nights but days are warm and everywhere it´s creeping and crawling and flying insects. They are all interesting, and most are very beautiful.

Snapshot: Wet and cold

Photo by PP at Sergeantsville Inn on my birthday. It is just water. Cool.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

English food

Another quote from my little book:

The English have the undeserved reputation of ruining all the vegetables they can lay their hands on. - Frank Oliver (an Englishman)

I still remember the first time I was in London, around 1991, and the two memorable meals I had there. The first was greasy fries and some beef pie at a pub for lunch - all I remember is the grease and the lack of anything vegetable-like except the fried potatoes. The second was an evening when I for the first time in my life went to an Indian restaurant and I had chicken tandoori, and it was great. I didn't understand anything the waiters said, and thought it was strange that you ordered bread and side dishes separately. But since then I have loved Indian food.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Snapshot: Growing pains

Memorial Day weekend is over and all the plants are having growing pains from all the rain and hot weather. We better fix that flat tire on the lawn mover fast! Photo from Missouri Botanical Garden, and it is Papyrus.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan!

May our next eight years be better than the eight we have had here in the USA:

(From Masters of War:)
How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

And this, from If not for you, a song I love:
If not for you,
Babe, I couldn't find the door,
Couldn't even see the floor,
I'd be sad and blue,
If not for you.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Diner breakfast in Philly

From our recent trip: Diner breakfast in Philadelphia, very heavenly. I don't remember the place but it is a source for pilgriming on weekend mornings. The ketchup was homemade and delicious.

We had omelet (me) and 'shit on roof tiles' (PP). PP's was really called something else, but I can't remember the real name, this was the nickname among the workers. It is corned beef with white gravy and grits I think. PP can enlighten us in the comments.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Archeological" find on my desk

I was digging through old papers and found some paragraphs I had written the first year we moved to this house, now 4 years ago. It is in Swedish, I could never write this well in English, so the translation isn't the same thing. I thought it really describes the area here, so different from where I grew up in Sweden, and still similar.

"I USAs mest tätbefolkade stat, bortom motorvägar och flygplatser, finns ett skogsklätt berg. Det är egentligen ingen märkvärdigt berg, bara drygt 300 m över havsytan, men det sträcker ut sig över några mil mot Delaware-floden. Sourland Mountain, det näringsfattiga berget, reser sig från de bördiga åkrarna runt omkring. Överdådig intensiv lövskog klär nu berget och under vårnätterna kväker de små bruna lövgrodorna livligt. Grackle-fåglarna med sina metalliskt skimrande huvuden på sned väntar ivrigt vid fågelbordet. När de flyger vrider de den breda stjärten som ett vindroder genom luften, styr ömsom hit, ömsom dit. Ovan dom i den blå skyn hänger kalkongamarna i osynliga trådar från himmelen, med majestätiskt stela vingar spanar de efter skrovmål."

Simple translation:
"In the most densely populated state of the US, away from highways and airports, there is a forested mountain. It really isn't a very special mountain, only about 900 feet above the sea, but it stretches itself out for a dozen miles towards the Delaware River. Sourland Mountain, the nutrient poor mountain, rises up from the fertile farmland around it. Amazing intensive deciduous forest now cloaks the mountain and during the spring nights the small brown leaf frogs are quaking lively. The grackles with their metallic shimmering and tilted heads are eagerly waiting at the bird feeder. When they fly they turn the broad tail like a wind rudder through the air, first this way, then the other. Above the, in the blue sky the turkey vultures hang like in unseen strands from heaven; with royally stiff wings they search for the big feast."

That is really how it is here, New Jersey nature at its best.

Extinction is forever?

Someone made a predictive extinction time line here. Look, Hope is already extinct (but Obama is winning!), repair shops will be extinct by 2009, blogging by 2022, coins by 2033, and oil by 2035. How did they calculate these things? Sorry kids, household chores are not extinct until 2047.

24 different accents

How about that! I only know three accents in Swedish and switch between mine involuntarily when I talk to people from these regions. (Göteborgska, bräkig Eskilstunska, and inflyttad stockholmska, if you would like to know). In America, I just speak English with some dubious northern Scandinavian accent.

(found this on swissmiss)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Handmade in Ecuador

I thought I should cheer you all up in the rainy spring weather with some colorful photos from travels past.

A young girl selling wall hangings in Otavalo market.

Fishes, cats, birds, houses, people....

I bought a hammock in this market stand, in rainbow colors. It might even be the one on the photo. It can't be outside all summer, but I have already found the two trees we will use for the hooks. The hammock is a double-size, with place for two. Well, maybe to Ecuadorians, not two of us :)

These are bracelets made from horse hair.

The tourists that came to Otavalo seemed to love these handmade copied of pre-Columbian pottery, but I was less excited. Maybe it is because they are so dull-colored, or that I know too little about their history.

Food climate in relation to drinkables, another quote

Another thing, why do terrible cooks always have their houses so hot, their coffee so cold. - Betty MacDonald

I have always wondered that myself.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A small world - Finland in the morning

I woke up this morning in a hotel room in Washington DC, USA, turned on the TV, and guess what was right there on the screen. Mushroom hunting for chanterelles, boletus (Karl Johan svamp), and other delicacies in a Finnish forest. Looked just like Sweden! The reporter was so excited over all the mushrooms they found during a short walk, but he made a big botanical mistake, he said that they leave the root stumps in the forest because that is where the spores are. Hmpf! The spores are under the hat, mister!

The program went on to a restaurant where they made an old-fashioned lunch dish for workers. They took a whole fish (caught that morning) and baked it rolled into sourdough bread, so it just looks like a loaf of bread but inside there is a fish for easy transport and keep during a long workday. I haven't seen anything like it in Sweden, but it looked good. And I love Finnish dark sourdough bread, the kind you can't buy here.

Right now they are having a crawfish party in an old inn. "That slurping sound is considered a healthy sound, and is appreciated by the host". The reporter said this for real, and he got it right. Now I am getting hungry, off to breakfast. (This was all on the VERIA network channel, and the program was Under the Sun with Nathan Leroy.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Star trek goes to the clouds?

I found this image of the enterprise-shaped cloud, what do you think?

Fat quote

As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. - Joan Gussow

Endangered hardwood in Philadelphia

Nice old sign from Philadelphia, from one of the few, and now endangered, workshops in the center of the city that are still in business. And look, the sign is on Youtube!

John Grass Wood Turning Company
Manufacturers of Wood Poles, Rollers, Handles, Mallets, Mauls
Lignum-Vitea blocks

Lignum vitae is a really hard type of wood, and I have seen the real lignum vitae trees in the Dominican republic. I'll dig up a photo later. More info here, isn't the wood beautiful!? It is sad to see these old workshops being replaced by Starbucks and fancy stores with things made in China.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Off the grid in Vermont

One of my friends live in Vermont, in a handmade (literally) log house situated in their own forest, on a south-facing slopes with a garden, hens, and sheep (or are they goats? I know they eat the meat). Here is her vegetable garden in early summer last year, with poppies, sage (?), and cabbage coming up. No deer problems there, especially not with three sheep dogs that take care of the property. It is a lovely place. They live off the grid = they are not connected to the electric system of the country, but they have solar-generated electricity, phone service (with dial up internet), and shower inside and an outhouse outside as the bathroom. I envy them their lack of neighbors, the lack of deers, and their beautiful setting outside Brattleboro, but I would like an indoors bathroom. Their kitchen has a nice old woodstove, and when we were there we were served a wonderful omelet before we walked around the wonderful gardens with ferns, rocks, and flowers of all kinds. The dogs are trained not to dig and lay in the flower beds, imagine that!

Ketchup no 2

I couldn't find a stamp with ketchup, but I found this Del Monte ketchup ad from 1953 instead. Maybe typical of the times, but today this ad would never be used... I have a horrible time opening jars and bottles with my hands, but I find this ad funny and offensive at the same time. These days there should be an ad of those blister packs of pills and the text should say: "You mean a human could open this?"

Ketchup quote

Another food quote, which I am sure some in this world will not like:

Americans will eat garbage provided you sprinkle it liberally with ketchup. - Henry Miller

There is a lot to be said about ketchup. That Reagan himself tried to classify it as a vegetable in the school lunches is not true, it was someone down in the administration that came up with that idea which never passed as a rule. But the rumor exist, and I bet there are people that think ketchup is really nutritious (but check the sugar and sodium in this table). After all, it is a mellowing agent (listen to Prairie Home Companion and you will find out more). In the stores right now they sell purple and green ketchup to the kid crowd and stressed out parents that give in to wishes from kids that have seen too many ketchup TV ads... "Heinz Ez Squirt Funky Purple Makes Kids want to eat their dinner!"

I used to eat a lot more ketchup than now. As a poor college student I often had cooked spaghetti with ketchup and grated cheese for dinner, that is all I could afford. Ketchup is a must on fried egg sandwiches and hot dogs, but on burgers I like BBQ sauce better. Not that BBQ sauce has better nutrients, it is just more tasty and not so sweet. Ketchup is among the most American and widespread food I can think of. Hot dogs and French fries were imported here, but ketchup was innovated in the USA.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Old town from the water

Last weekend we suddenly had full summer in Stockholm - a really hot day. As it happened my job arranged a conference that day in the Stockholm archipelago. When we left the city we saw "Old Town" disappear in the wake. It was a great day!

Dripping trunk

I want a bird bath like this. Hollowed out sassafras tree trunk with a brass dripper. "Only" $139!! (hutlöst). I wonder what it would cost to make yourself?

Strong coffee

I bought a little book about food quotes:

The coffee was so strong is snarled as it lurched out of the pot. - Betty MacDonald

This quote make me think of my brother, O.K. I can imagine his espresso maker hissing and spurting really strong coffee drips....

Mail from friends

I have noticed that most mail today is bills and advertising. I miss the time when I had long nice handwritten letters to come home to after school/work. I know, the internet is fast and so, but I sometimes feel it´s to fast. Maybe the same way PP feel about fast travel? Rather train than plane, an a nice letter in my new mailbox from time to time....

To illustrate this I´ve chosen two matchbox labels.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Drinks for aliens

Would you drink this soda? Seen in a market in Ecuador.

A spring walk in Rosedale Park, NJ

AnS and I went for a walk in Rosedale Park in Mercer County, NJ, a few weeks ago, and were pleasantly surprised by the nice little river, more like creek in fact and all the spring flowers. In many forests around here the native spring flowers have been totally obliterated by the invasive garlic mustard (löktrav, used to grow at the compost heap where I grew up in Sweden) or the deers are having a party on the native flora. I wish deers liked garlic mustard, japanese stiltgrass, and invasive rose bushes!The forest floor was littered not only with dead beech leaves but also may apple, a plant that shoots up one stem with an umbrella leaf on top. If they flower, then the flowers hang below the leaf and is up to 5 cm in diameter. Later they get a large fleshy fruit called mayapple (of course). The plant is being used as an anti-cancer herbal. More propeller plant pictures:
This is how the spring forest looked like in photos before 1950 when color photography became popular (I know it started earlier, but it wasn't in everyman's camera). I like black and white photography, but for spring it doesn't give it justice.

Flowering dogwood, I love it!
This tree stuck its gnarly rooted fingers in the ground.

One of my favorite plants, ramp, a wild onion that you only see in spring in these types of forests where it can cover the whole ground in large colonies. It is a delicacy, but I have only seen it in preserved areas where you can't pick it. It is so good in soups and omelets!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Springtime in Sweden

After a visit to the USA with a wonderful time I came home and was met by white flowers in my apple trees and blue scilla in the ground.

And when I entered the kitchen my windows was full of flowering Geraniums. In 14 days I will plant them in wooden boxes outside and that will be great.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What do to with 'kirskål'?

While surfing today I came across a recipe for muffins with ground-elder. What is that? Turns out it is the same as the horrible kirskål weed in EH's garden (and at Barking Dog plaza too). It spreads with underground rhizomes like a green plague. So here EH, time to take out the muffin pans and send out the boys to cut down some weedy leaves. I remember mom cooking this for us as kids and trying to make us believe it was spinach, but we weren't fooled. In muffins it probably tastes better.

Stamp of the Day: Disneyesque swans

Swan stamp from USA, inspired by PP's photos below.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I still like trains too....

OK expressed some concern about my new interest in birds...
Rest assured I still like the big iron machines!
New Hope & Ivyland, RR, New Hope, PA.

A Swan Story, Cape May, NJ

Lets go for a fly, I'm tired of just swimming around and around.

Are you back there? Get a move on, lets go!

Yeee haaa! This is still fun every time I do it!

I'm coming in now my wings are tired.

Lets pose for them, maybe they will go away and leave us alone.

Come on, don't be shy it will only take a second...

OK, lets give them the classic heart shaped pose, there perfect!

OK, just one more, lean on me, yeah that's it!