Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Travels in Ecuador: Otavalo Indian market

These images from the Ecuadorian village of Otavalo and its famous Indian market largely speak for themselves, I think. These are proud Indians that dress traditionally, and make wonderful knitted and weaved things by hand. They carry their babies on their backs and wear thin white blouses and long wool skirts.

Otavalo is in a dry high-altitude valley in the Andes, a valley between the eastern and western mountain chain. Some were looking for food in the garbage cans, some were selling food from their gardens, like the woman selling shelled peas.

I took over 1000 photos in Ecuador (those digital cameras!), but I promise I won't show all here on the blog. Only selected ones of some of the wonderful things we saw and tasted.

Monday, January 28, 2008

From 4500 m to 100 m

I am on my way home, right now sitting in Quito (Ecuador) airport waiting for my flight to Miami, and then on to Newark. Ecuador has been wonderful, but quite rainy. It is the rainy season after all. First six days in the rainforest at about 1300 m altitude - rain started every afternoon at 1 PM. Lots and lots of cool birds, especially hummingbirds, and other animals. In our room we had at some point a frog, a bat, two cockroaches, and large moths. In the forest there were many strange plants, and I will post photos of everything later this week. We also spent one day in Otavalo, in the drier valley between the two Andean mountain chains, and this is a city famous for its market with products from the local weavers and knitters. Sweaters, hammocks, mittens, hats, table cloths, everything. The food market was great too, but the lack of hygiene bothered me a bit. Photos are coming of this too. Finally, yesterday we went to the volcano Cotopaxi, and drove up to 4500 m, the highest I have been. The others in the group climbed another 300 m (took them over an hour because of the high altitude) in rain and snow, but I was satisfied at 4500 m and looked at rocks in the parkinglot instead. Some great birding at a 3800 m lake too! OK, all for now, I have missed you all and soon I will be back blogging with some of my 600 Ecuadorian photos, at 100 m altitude in New Jersey.

Friday, January 25, 2008

From one jungle to another...

LS is away and she´s visiting a rainforest among other things. The closest you can get a rainforest in Stockholm is this, the "butterfly house".
This photo is also from a humid hot place, in NJ, USA in June last year.
Very nice and very beautiful. Nice company too. Miss you all.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

On the attempt to travel to South America

You get up at 5 AM, get a taxi to pick you up at 6.30 AM, drive to the university to pick up the others at 7:15 AM, get to the airport at 8 AM and find out that your 10:20 flight to Miami has been canceled due to mechanical problems. Well you think, we have a long layover in Miami so that should be OK to get on another flight, so we can make our 3:45 PM flight to Quito. Not so fast... after searching for one hour a flight clerk finally found an option that wouldn't mean that we had to postpone the trip a full 24 hours. All flights to Miami were full, and she checked everything, including flying via Mexico City, Los Angeles, Boston, Sao Paulo, Panama City.... There were probably a hundred people in line after us waiting to hear what flight they could get on in a few days. This is what flying is about these days - all planes are full, there are no buffer zones, and when one flight is canceled there are HUGE problems.

Finally we had to settle on taking a 6.40 PM flight out of La Guardia airport to Miami, sleep overnight in Miami (hotel paid by airline), and get on a 7 AM plane to Ecuador in the morning. Still, we will be 16 hours delayed, but that is better than 24 hours. So we get a shuttle after waiting an hour to La Guardia airport, but have to go via Kennedy Airport to drop people off, so we get to La Guardia maybe 1.5 hours later. Spend 4 hours at LGA, eating dinner while our plane to Ecuador is leaving Miami without us, get on the plane to Miami, uneventful flight, when we land we have to wait at least 30 min for a free gate, then find a service desk to get our hotel vouchers.

All hotels close to the airport are closed, so we are put at a Comfort Inn 20 min away (which is actually quite OK, and has free internet!), wait another hour for a shuttle at a hot, humid, and exhaust-stinky Miami airport, get to the hotel, find out that the shuttles in the morning that American Airlines pay for are completely booked so we decide to order a taxi and send the bill to American Airlines. Finally, at midnight I am in my room, and I just ordered a wakeup call for 3:45 AM. Three hours from now. What a trouble traveling is these days.

Next blog post hopefully will actually be from my destination.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Poem of the day: Before the trip...

In just a few hours I am off to a foreign country (you'll see which soon), and everytime I am about to travel far I start thinking about Gustaf Fröding's [English] poem "Eufori" [Euphoria], one of my favorites. Here is an excerpt, with my translation:

Som vore det sista kvällen före en lång, lång resa:
Man har biljetten i fickan och äntligen allting packat.
Och man kan sitta och känna de fjärran ländernas närhet,
känna hur allt är i allt, på en gång sitt slut och sin början,
känna att här och nu är både ens avfärd och hemkomst,
känna hur död och liv är starka som vin inom en!

As it if was the last evening before a long, long trip:
You have the ticket in the pocket and finally all things packed.
And you can sit and feel the foreign countries closeness,
feel how all is in everything, at the same time its beginning and its end,
feel how here and now is both the departure and return,
feel how death and life is strong as wine within oneself!
[translation by LS]

You can read the whole poem in Swedish here. The poem isn't really about travel, but life and death and its transitions.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Värsta svenska skämten?

O.K. and I was joking around, and this is what we came up with. They are all brand new jokes, untranslatable to English if you want them to still be funny, and typical of the bad humor we have :)

Vad är en dålig krukmakare känd för?
Svar: Lurendrejeri

Vad fick mannen som var gräsallergiker till middag?
Svar: vetekli
Men hur tog han sig hem till middagen ?
Svar: Han red på pållen!

Hostattack i en höstack! (säg snabbt tio gånger)

And finally, for you non-Swedish speaker, ponder the horrible fate of this squirrel:

Note the Swedish colors!

Snapshot: Winter at Barking dog plaza

Instead of this beautiful landscape we have rain, mud and clouds and a temperature above zero for weeks now...


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Becoming partly American...

"All Things Considered, January 17, 2008 · More than a million legal immigrants applied to naturalize last year, a sharp spike driven by fee increases and — for many — a desire to vote in this year's presidential race.

But the immigration agency says it's overwhelmed and can't process the applications until after the vote. That has led to charges that a Republican administration is blocking new voters who are likely to lean Democratic.

Now the head of Citizenship and Immigration Services tells a congressional panel how he plans to speed up processing." (link)

And guess who was one of the ones that applied? Me! One week before they raised the fees with 60%. It still cost me hundreds of dollars. My application, submitted in July was processed timely, and I am taking the history/citizenship test in late March. And they are right - my main reason was that I wanted to have the right to vote in a country where I pay my taxes. I can keep my Swedish citizenship, so don't start calling me 'that American'. And wish me luck on the test.

Stamp of the day: Another large tree

In response to LS blog post about a large tree being found, a new species, I post another large tree...


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The latest science news - humongous palms, dinosaur killing insects, and google brains

A few hand-picked favorites by LS:

Death by flowers: giant, suicidal palm has botanists stumped
"tree grows some six sto­ries tall be­fore sprout­ing hun­dreds of suc­cu­lent flow­ers"
"is so huge it can be seen in Google Earth"
Extra points for silly headline. Stumped, haha!

Google’s kinship with the mind
Our brains think just like a Google search. Maybe. Maybe it was just Google imitating our brains to begin with?

Did insects take down T. rex?
"The rise and evo­lu­tion of these bugs—the bit­ing dis­ease-carriers,in par­ti­cu­lar—co­in­cided fate­fully with the mighty rep­tiles’lat­er days
“In di­no­saur fe­ces, we found ne­ma­todes, trema­todes and even pro­to­zoa that could have caused dys­en­tery and oth­er ab­dom­i­nal dis­tur­bances. The in­fective stages of these in­tes­ti­nal par­a­sites are car­ried by filth-visiting in­sects.”

All from World Science.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Stamp of the Day: Design Italiano

Now this all looks all very familiar, don't you think? I had no idea the torch lamp and bean bag were Italian innovations. They forgot the pasta shapes and Ferrari cars...

New google gadgets

Today's PHOTO OF THE DAY at the National Geographic Society's website is this amazingly red Forest Chaser Dragonfly.

I get every photo of the day automatically loaded on my igoogle home page. If you haven't tried it yet, check it out. You go to, and log in using your gmail account (same as for posting here). Then you can arrange and add all kinds of information to your home page, including a clock, weather, news, photo of the day, and on and on. You decide where things go and what you want on the home page. You can have links to Wikipedia, Google maps, NPR news, and much much more. You add all this by clicking on the little "Add Stuff" on the igoogle home page. When you don't want anything anymore, then you just click on the x in the top right corner and it is gone. There is even more - stock market, games (tetris and PacMan, remember that?), photo of the day from Flickr, National Geographic Society or NASA, To do lists, sticky notes, the current moon phases, new recipes from Epicurious, and RSS feeds from lots of blogs - all of this on one starting page.

While writing this, I ran across this blog, 101 cookbooks, about a blogger that decided to start blogging about her cooking from her one hundred and one cookbooks, one recipe at the time. Check it out! This lentil soup looks really good!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Atomic fun

Number one
An atom walks into a bar looking depressed.
The bartender asked "What's wrong"?
The Atom replied "I just lost an electron".
Bartender asks, "Are you sure".
The Atom says "I'm positive".

Number two
A proton, neutron, and electron went out to dinner. After the meal, the waiter brings the bill to the proton and the electron. The neutron asks the waiter, "Why don't I get a bill?" The waiter explained to the neutron, "For you, there's no charge!"

Sweden gets a B in design?

Sweden gets a B-

While I agree with many of this person's choices I really do not agree with Sweden's grade. In fact none of the A grades would have made an A for me. I had this same problem in design school...maybe I am not cut out for that business...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dog memories

A friend of mine lost her dog yesterday and I was reminded of my special dog Sancy. She was part of our family for 6 years.
This is not her but it could have been.
A labrador puppie found on the net..


Klart ljus stiger över horisonten
och omfamnar världen
jag vaknar och öppnar ögonen
går ur mitt dystra vintermörka ide
och möter solen

Ser mot solens skiva
Så ljus att ögonen ger mig en stroboskop-effekt
den växlar mellan ljus och mörker

Vitt ljus ger en gul himmel som blir ljusblå högre upp utan att nånsin passera grönt....

Translated for PP

Clear light rises over the horizon
and embraces the world
I wake up and open my eyes
walks out of my dull winterdark den
and meets the sun

Looks at the sun plate
So bright that the eyes give me a stroboscope effekt
alternating between light and darkness

White light creates a yellow sky that becomes lightblue without ever touching green...


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Scraps and bits from the internet

Found a great photo from 1936 here. What a scary sky!

Photo of the day on National Geographic is a bull seal in a kelp forest. It looks wet and cold!

Main Street Bistro in Princeton have great food when the fancy Chinese restaurant we had planned for AREA's birthday dinner was fully booked.

Gloria Steinem (famous feminist) thinks that a woman won't be president of the United States, simply because she is a woman, and points out the hypocrisy of emotional women vs emotional men in this New York Times editorial. This was published the day before the New Hampshire primary election, and some analysts have said this article might have made voters change their minds about who to vote for. Hillary Clinton won, against all predictions. I am for John Edwards at the moment.

Over 130 million lightning strikes have hit the Earth this year. None hit me.

...and there are some very funny cats in the world!

AREA, Happy:

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I am longing for SPRING

"Spring" (Våren) by Carl Larsson (Swedish link, English link), finished in 1907, 100 years ago. I want birches with mouse ear-sized leaves and white bark, clean melting water rushing down in streams, and sunshine through tall trees! No more of these dark mornings and muddy, rainy days. I wish there were more birches in New Jersey too, like the ones they have in Maine.

Where to get Bangers in New Jersey

In Sergeantsville in Hunterdon County, NJ, there is a little butcher shop called Maresca & Sons, started in 1943, and still run by two very old brothers (78 and 80 years old). This place is small but famous, and have been reviewed in New York Times (twice) and in American food magazines several times.
"Workdays find them together in a kind of bachelors' mess, where, in the detritus of old cookbooks and random wall hangings, the brothers fashion artisanal sausages, pâté and house-smoked meats to sell to neighbors and the culinarily forward who read Saveur magazine and make the pilgrimage." (link)

Bangers is of course sausages, but you knew that, right? Here they make their own sausages.

"Joe Maresca, 71, and his brother, Emil, 69, would like to retire. But they don't think they can. ''If we did, where would our customers get good meat?'' Joe asked." (link)

I can't even remember what we bought, but I know we used up all our cash, because they don't take credit cards or checks. I hade 10 cents left in my wallet when we left. I think we had lamb chops and sausages.

The glass counter is filled with meat of many kinds and from local farms - lamb, bacon, hot dry sausages, sweet Italian sausages, beef, pork chops, liverwurst and so on. Behind the counter is an old scale, and a band saw which is used to cut up meat while you are waiting. People are served slow, but you get excellent service. I just wonder what will happen when the two brothers get too old to run the store, I am sure it will be closed then. And it is already the last of its kind in this area of New Jersey. Visit before it is too late, and buy some great meat.
Of course there is no website, but the address is:
RR 523 Ste 763, Sergeantsville, NJ 08557, Phone: (609) 397-3543.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Sitting in the dark.. our garden right now, at 10 PM at night, is a little Northern Saw-whet owl. How do I know? It says 'poh-poh-poh' now and then. Welcome back, we had one last spring too. Maybe it is the same?

Food and flowers and art glass: Wij trädgårdar (gardens)

Wij trädgårdar blev utsett till Sveriges vackraste park 2007. Själva trädgården får ett eget inlägg en annan gång, idag handlar det om maten och konsten.
[I, LS, am taking the freedom to translate this into English for our Americanized part of the family. Translated text will be in dark green. Here we go:]
Wij Gardens were elected Swedens most beautiful park in 2007. The gardens will get their on blogpost another time, today it is about the food and the art.

Wij Trädgårdskök satsar på närproducerad mat med ekologisk inriktning, och grönsakerna är mestadels ur egna ekologiska odlingar. Kycklingen uppfödd i Ockelbo. Getosten kommer från Trönögumman i Hälsingland, laxen är fiskad av Anders Bergman i Norrsundet. TeWes bageri Söderhamn bakar till den utökade caféavdelningen och självklart bakar Mattes bröd i Ockelbo brödet till cafét. Här åt vi en lunch ur deras sommarmeny.
Wij Gardenkitchen offers locally produced food with ecological focus, and the vegetables mostly come fromm their own organic gardens. The chicken is from Ockelbo. The goat cheese is from "The old Trönö lady" in Hälsingland [a semi-northern coastal province], the salmon is fished up by Anders Bergman in Norrsundet. TeWe's bakery in Söderhamn bakes for the cafe, and of course Mattes Bread in Ockelbo bakes bread too. Here we had a lunch from their summer menu.

Detta lagade kökschef Pär Johansson och hans personal till mig och AnS en skön dag i juli 2007.
This is what chef
Pär Johansson and his staff cooked for me and AnS a nice day in July 2007.

Tartar på lax från Norrsundet i Gästrikland smaksatt med vanilj. Serveras på vitt bröd med hackat ägg, rödlök, handskalade räkor, liten sallad och lättrökt blomkålscreme.
Salmon tartar from Norrsundet in
Gästrikland [another semi-northern coastal province], with vanilla. Served on white bread with chopped egg, red onion, hand-peeled shrimps [the small, sweet Atlantic kind!], a small salad and slightly smoked cauliflower puree.

Efter denna försvinnande goda förrätt som vi delade på fick vi in våra varmrätter.
After this disappearingly good appetizer that we shared, we got our entrees.

"Sprödstekt kummelfilé med grönsaksconfetti från vårt eget trädgårdsland. Serveras med färska örter, skummig kräftsås och potatisterrine smaksatt med parmesanost."
"Crispily panfried 'kummel' filet [a kind of fish] with vegetable confetti from our own garden. Served with fresh herbs, frothy crawfishsauce and potato terrine with parmesan cheese."

"Halstrad kycklinglårfile från Ockelbo med champinjoner, färska bönor och rostad majs. Serveras med vitlökssås och kroppkakor med knaperstekt bacon."
"Grilled chickenleg filet from Ockelbo with mushrooms, fresh beans, and roasted corn. Served with garlic sauce and 'kroppkakor' [a kind of boiled potato cakes, very traditional] with crispily fried bacon."

Dessa tallrikar var upplagda med mat som hade en fantastisk smakbild, rikt och fylligt utan att vara starkt eller ta överhanden. Alla smaker harmonierade och såserna imponerade stort och vi gick och hämtade bröd att "torka upp" såsen med så inget gick till spillo. Båda anrättningarna var fantastiska och såhär när 2007 är slut så kan jag ärligt säga att det var det godaste jag ätit i Sverige i år och att detta var mat för själ och sinne.
These plates were plated with food that had a fantastic tasteview, rich and full without being too strong or overpowering. All tastes harmonized and the sauces impressed greatly and we went and got bread to soak up the sauce to nothing was left on the plate. Both dishes were fantastic and now when 2007 is over I can honestly said that this is the best I have eaten in Sweden that year, and that this was food for soul and heart.

Efter att ha ätit oss så glada och nöjda man bara kan bli, gick vi till turbinhallen i valsverket vid Ockelboån och tittade på glaskonst av Kjell Engman som normalt verkar i Orrefors i Småland.
After we had eaten us as happy and satisfied as you can get, we went to the turbin hall in the foundry at the Ockelbo River and looked at glass art by Kjell Engman, who normally works at Orrefors in Småland [a more southern province, nicknamed Glasriket = The Glass Country].

Valsat glas [not sure what this is called, it is a kind of pressed glass]

Fina småfigurer med vackert innanför den mörka ytan.
Nice small figurines with beauty inside the dark surface.

Fullstora klänningar i glas!
Normal-sized dresses in glass!

Vem spelar på denna fela?
Who plays on this violin?


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Stamp of the Day: Impossible drawing

Images like this has always fascinated me. Who came up with this idea? When you look at the final drawing it seems so simple, but I don't think I could have made it.

This is of course the work of Oscar Reutersvärd, famous Swedish artist. More here.

Food heaven: T. J. Buckleys in Brattleboro, Vermont

Food. Can. Be. Art. But so often isn't. We don't think about food as art that empower all the senses when you have a glass of milk or French Fries with ketchup. But when you experience something like a dinner at T.J. Buckley's, you realize that food must be the most multi-faceted artform there is. Not only is the visual senses involved, but it is also smell, taste, hot/cold, sound, and touch. It is a total experience, nothing like 'just eating dinner'.

T. J. Buckley's is a tiny restaurant housed inside an ancient diner car on a street in Brattleboro, Vermont (132 Eliot Street). It only has about 5-6 dining tables, and the kitchen is right next to you, so you can see the chef a few meters away while he is working. It is obvious from the very beginning that this place is not about making lots of money, but about loving and making exceptional food. The menu is short, but anything we ordered was out of this world. We had dinner here one night, and then decided to come back the next night.

Looking into the kitchen you can see the chef and his staff (only one other person), prepare your meal, from peeling apples to washing lettuce and taking out the steaks from the tiny fridge. Everything is spotlessly clean, smells great, and done with love.

Appetizer plate with chicken liver pate and slices of pears, apples, and cornichons served with crackers. So incredibly good!

The appetizer to the left was a small smoked salmon tart or quiche, and to the right is a beet salad. The presentation of the food was a feast for the eyes. Every little detail was part of the beauty, even the pepper corns were perfectly positioned on top of the salads!

A glass of champagne in handmade glasses.

There is only one other restaurant that I think is as good as this one - Albert's Kitchen in Trollhättan, Sweden. If you travel to Vermont, this is the only place you HAVE to eat at.

There are some reviews of this restaurant (here, here, here, and here). I don't think the restaurant itself has a web site.

I think the appetizer to the left is a crab cake, and to the right is their 'regular' salad, which is not regular at all. It includes flowers and petals of unusual, but really delicious plants, such as nasturtium (Indiankrasse).

Entrees, one New York strip steak and I think the one to the right was rabbit. I didn't write it down and it was more than 7 months ago, so I have forgotten exactly what it was, but it was fantastic. Melt in your mouth meat, excellent vegetables, and smooth mashed potatoes.

To the left is the salmon I had- outstanding, amazing, incredible! To the right is scallops with polenta. We have to come back here, this was a memory of a lifetime!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Top of the world

Panorama made from 120 photos taken on top of Dent de Vaulion in Switzerland, 1483 m above sea level, by Flickr photographer gadl. Really cool!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Stamp of the day: Snowflakes

For a few days we have a snow blanket covering wintertired lawns and trees and bushes without leaves. And today the sun comes out too!
It must be celebrated and what could be better than stamps of snowflakes. Amazing things really, snowflakes. As always the beauty of nature increases when you get close enough.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Signs: Trenton Farmer's Market

A nice old sign, without neon or any lights, at the roof to Trenton Farmer's Market. You never see these kinds of signs being put up anymore. And these kinds of markets are disappearing too. Small, semi-dirty, with locals shopping, and old-fashioned scales and worn-down doors, and with so much wonderful charm and culture. This is real food shopping! "Two pounds of liver wrapped up in some paper, thanks!" A bag of cider donuts in a brown paper bag. Hot chicken wings on a paper tray with barbecue sauce. Just imagine.

Inside the indoor market are lots of miniscule stores, including two old-fashioned butcher shops (one polish), an Italian cheese and pasta place, a watch repair place, fresh vegetables, and sandwich and other lunch food places. It is a fantastic place, but not in an direction where we usually travel, so we have only been there two times. The fried onion rings are yummy!!!
And a sign on a door, also at Trenton Farmer's market, for the Nuts & Honey Store. But what does 'scrumpy' mean? Sounds good, whatever it is.

We had a scary experience here too; we followed signs to the "Crab Shack", which was in a real little shack on the other side of the parking lot. We went in and was met by 1) horrible old fish smell and 2) construction equipment and sawdust, and when we managed to get into the little room inside where the actual fish on display was both PP and I immediately knew that this is a place we never will buy any fish. The fish looked old, it wasn't much, it smelled like fish, and a guy was standing there smoking. It should never smell like fish in a fish store - just ask our favorite Michael at the Lobster Dock in Hillsborough. He is the best when it comes to fish and shellfish.

Viking Chicken Hat

So, I've become a member of this crafting community, Crafster, that has knitting, crocheting, cooking, you name it!

I was looking around the crocheting section, and found this hilarious hat! Yes, it's a hat!

Check out this topic for more pictures of it.

Interesting Online Shopping

Here is a neat online shopping page from Dutch store HEMA. Rather a gimmick, but a good one though!

Interactive Shopping

Stamp of the day: An earlier rat year 1995