Thursday, December 25, 2008

Swedish Christmas Food

The social justice part of me acknowledges how so many have so little...the former cook and appreciative eater details the Jul table...what I find most interesting about Swedish Christmas food is how such a large portion of the population eats the same thing: hard to wrap your head around as an American where one of our blessings (and challenges) is our diversity.
So, before lunch on Christmas Eve Day (a three day holiday here, interesting for a secular nation), we headed down the icy road to a neighbor´s collection of cabins. They met us on the porch where we sipped glögg while watching the men (also interesting in a nation with a certain amount of equality between the sexes) hang sheaves of wheat and bird food among evergreen branches. Inside, we consumed cheese and Jansson´s Frästelse (potatoes, anchovies, milk/cream and of course, butter) and beer, cider or aquavit. Then it was home to watch Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck: great classic animation from the days before digital, the golden age of the fourties through the sixties.
Christmas Feast proper began at home around three in the afternoon, at sunset. Appetizers were more Jansson´s, boiled potatoes, herring, little hot dogs & meatballs. Moving along the protein chain, our entree featured ham surrounded by mashed potatoes,applesauce, red cabbage salad, rutabaga gratin and mercifully: a green salad. All this was washed down by Christmas beer, gooseberry cider, seltzer and Julmust (a special sweet cola). And before we could even stretch our legs by the fire, coffee arrived with butter cookies and chocolate mousse.
Twenty-four hours later, we continued keeping the cold & dark at bay with the traditional rice porridge sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar, butter & milk. Coffee cut the white and more sugar & wheat appeared in the form of gingerbread and butter cookies, saffron buns and a wonderful Finnish plum pastry that reminded me of the kolatchky my grandmother used to bake. By the time we waddled home, bright stars punctured the black sky like cunniform and the snow sparkled as magically as in those childhood cartoons.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


We are about a half-hour drive from the town of Mora. Mora is famous for two things: the fantastic Zorn Museum (celebrating the greatest Swedish painter, Anders Zorn) and the Vasaloppet which is, I believe, the oldest cross-country ski race. It commemorates Swedish History and involves a lot of blueberry soup.
Last night we were graced by a little bit of snow. As a layer on top of ice, it makes the perfect cross-country ski surface. I headed down the ski-path towards NUSNÄS (all those cute little wooden horses are made in two factories in this tiny Dalarna village). Cross-country is now my preferred method for getting close to the trees (mostly birch, spruce & Scots pine); Having been reared on skis & skates, my Swedish husband sticks with downhill...I returned for a camera, but my trek was cut-short by my mother-in-law´s concern that I might meet up with a moose, a possibility that hasn´t created a problem before. Once, we did meet up with a female moose: she stayed by the fence and we walked parallel for about 20 minutes. What amazed me, having been raised on Bulwinkle, was her quizzical & gentle manner and her enormous size. I felt totally dwarfed & human.
When we return to the States, I will add images taken in the exquisite Northern light..


All the real snow seems to be in Chicago though there is white stuff covering the ground here. Tons before we arrived which melted and turned to ice the day we arrived. Sun out from 9 am to 3 pm. Fires mesmerize & food is heavily calorie laden. Swedes we´ve spoken to are happy about Obama.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Purple Grass: Pennisetum 'Prince'

Pennisetum purpureum 'Prince'

With today's temperature ranging between 4 & 12 degrees F,
nostalgia for warmer times beckons. Above, in October, see a cool new
grass that I plant to use as an annual in our zone 5. It was sent to trial by
Athens Select (which highlights plants that tolerate heat & humidity). Well,
I certainly put it though the ringer, but not as expected. My garden's all
shade (nasty overgrown still-full-of-leaves Bradford Pear on the city parkway),
dogs wander & pee at whim and I am in my clients' gardens...This new cultivar
is a zone 7 - 11 perennial and wants lots of sun. But even pushing it as much as I did,
I was delighted by both its firm architecture (purple stems to entice Karl Blossfeld)
and the way the leaves diffuse the light like stained glass. As long as I don't
expect it to be tall & bloom, I am very happy. And plan to use it again.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rosa Jordan: Far From Botany Bay

Well, actually here is Rosa on the Malibu pier the
morning of the Earthways Board Meeting in early
November. Far From Botany Bay is the title of her
latest book, an inspiring historical novel, set in England,
Australia & Timor during the 18th C. True to form
(for Rosa), the protagonist, Mary Broad, is a woman of
amazing spirit and action: the only "convict" (her hanging
commuted to being sent to the penal colony for
stealing a cloak) to escape Australia. By boat. Don't
read this before bed or you will be up nights as the
dramatic plot compels page turning. But the real pay
off is in the character development towards the end of
the story. After suffering horrors and humiliations beyond
imagining, Mary has humanity enough for self-reflection.
A timely role-model as global collapse occurs daily. This
edition is a lovely object to hold (still important for a
reader like myself who loves the physicality of books)
published by the Canadian literary press: Oolichan Books.
What a perfect escape during these dark, winter months!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Last, My Favorite Springs

Natural & Artificial hybrids.

Springs Seasonal Touch

Rudolph the Recycled Reindeer.

Barrel cactus festooned with blue lights.

Springs Subtle Desert Palette

Seasonally low-light perfect for diffusing via plants.
Note groundcover below, under ocotillo, is recycled glass.

More Springs Preserve

Wind & Watering ideas.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sustainable Springs Preserve

Vegas is great because you can go to this new, nifty, green
And Springs Preserve is right in the city, en route to
Red Rock...more later. Solar parking etc. for now...