Friday, December 17, 2010

Flowers at Christmas time

It is obvious: it is Christmas time, but we can't speak just about food, decorations and presents.
There are also flowers, although this might sounds a bit out of context.

Well, first of all, I must say that my schlumberga has flowered really fine this year. Perfect colors for Christmas time!

And we got some nice jacynth, which I have to learn to take care of before killing them, with a wonderful smell and shape.

It is holiday time now. Let's see if there will be more updated here! :-)


Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Last year I started a personal tradition of punishing myself by baking some hundreds of the ginger bread cookies.
This year of course, I had to respect such new tradition and I started by doing them for our other new tradition, the Christmas dinner with our friends.
Unfortunately, I need to improve in taking pictures. Sorry for that.

Here there is my recipe:
 Plan the gingerbread in advance, since it has to rest in the fridge for at least one day.
Ingredients for about 300 gingerbreads:
300g butter
5dl sugar
1dl light syrup
1 spoon of ground ginger
1 spoon of ground clove
1 spoon of ground cinnamon
2 tea spoons of ground cardamom
1 spoon of bicarbonate
2 dl vatten
15 dl flour

 Take the butter at room temperature and mix it with the sugar and the syrup. Create an homogeneous dough.
 Pour down all the spices (I usually grind most of them myself, it tastes much better!) and the bicarbonate and keep mixing.
 Add the water and at the end the flour. I add both gradually. If you use an electric device, you are done. Otherwise you need to work the dough on some surface and make it looks homogeneous and with a quite compact consistency.

 You need then to put some plastic wrap or some aluminum foil around it and let it rest in the fridge. I think that if it remains in the fridge a couple of days more the taste will be even better.
 Take out a bit at the time of the dough, cover your baking board with flour and the rolling pin and start to stretch the dough over the surface. I have a little bit of water on the side in case the dough is too dry. If it is too soft I add a bit of flour.
The dough should be quite thin, that is the hardest part :-)
 Choose your favorite molds  (these years I added new animals to the lonely cats) and create the shapes for the cookies. Prepare an oven plate with some baking paper and put the cookies on top.
Warm up the oven to 200-225 °C.
If you don't have the baking paper you can put butter on the plate. But then it is harder to clean!
Let the cookies be in the oven for 4-5 minutes (if they are quite thin, otherwise around 7 if they are a bit thicker). Nevertheless, until they look golden-brown.
Take them out of the oven and let them rest. They will be a bit soft at first but they will become harder with time.
You can preserve them in boxes for 1-2 months at room temperature or chillier. You can also freeze them and keep them for 3-6 months.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Still work in progress!

This autumn we started a quite huge project, although it might seem quite small from other eyes (certainly, compared with putting a roof on a house it is indeed small).
However, the "project" doesn't involve just painting and putting a wallpaper, but also "ordering" everything, covering boxes with nice paper, putting labels on things and so on and so forth and it is quite challenging considering that the room in itself is quite small.

We have as the matter of fact decided to make nice our "walk-in closet", which is not just a simple walk-in closet, but a room where we store also several things.
We have not yet finished with the project, we are actually at the very beginning!
The worse problem is that all the objects stored there are now spread everywhere in the guest-room, which has become inaccessible! I am longing for proceeding with this project after New Year so that we can finally free up the guest-room and find our objects again, without digging.

Without looking at how it was before we took out everything, this is the working site. Must say that the original work done on the walls here was quite accurate...not.

An enthusiastic worker is enjoying his task and his tools!
Finally, the results of the first task: a nice pink-cream color on all the walls, except one. There we will put some wallpaper.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How to make recycled candles

It has been quite some years that I have started my collection of candles leftovers.
Yes, every time we have been using a candle, I have always put in a box all the leftovers. Big candles, small candles, extremely small ones.

I thought it was a waste to throw them away and that there should have been a way to take them, melt them again and make a new candle out of it.
Some time ago, then I searched a bit on Google and I found some indications. However, I lacked time and inspiration for putting myself in action.
I decided, after consulting myself with my friend Johanna, to make the idea concrete this autumn. Not an easy thing. Work, several activities and trips have been hindering the execution, although I have finally started to collect input on how to do them (for example, where to buy all the equipment) and the items themselves and last week, we found a time to execute the plan!

Of course the first thing to do is collecting candles leftovers. If you have big pieces you can choose to put them in the freezer for a while and then smash them in small pieces with the hammer (in a plastic bowl). This might help to melt the candle faster. I didn't see a big improvement. As preparation, we have put newspaper all around the kitchen stove in order to avoid stains or other mess.

You take then an old pot (I bought it in some second hand store for 4€) and fill it quite little with water. If you put too much water the containers will float around.
I am using some metal cans for melting the candles. You can buy even some special container, but I thought this worked really nicely.
We put in each can pieces of candles of about the same color, otherwise we risk to come some really fancy disgusting color. White makes it a bit lighter.
You can melt it even if there is some metal part from the tea light candles or some leftover of the wick. You can remove them easily with a stick when the wax is melted.
I used some old bamboo sticks for stirring the melted wax.

In the meanwhile that the wax is melting we prepared the forms for the candles.
I used some old paper plate as bottom, in case the wax decided to leak out and old paper containers, like milk packages or juice packages properly cut, or toilet paper rolls, with the bottom closed by silver tape.
The only object I bought was the wick. Johanna fixed the bottom to the bottom of the form with some tape and the top was knot around a bamboo stick so that the wick was almost straight.

Once the wax was melted we poured it into the container and let it rest for a while.
I was surprised that out of a lot of candles rest just little "new" candle could be made. Hence, we decided to experiment to make stripes.
The important thing is that the candle solidify before pouring another color on.

Unfortunately, in this attempt the wax in the container seemed cold enough, but it was not, so some color went up and got mixed with the new one.

Once the wax is solid (after one day of rest), it is enough to remove the paper package and cut the wick until it is of a proper length.
I think this, for being the first experiment, was quite good and since I have been using mainly leftovers from perfumed candles, I didn't have to add any essence to the melted wax and the candle still is smelling pretty  nicely (although of a not precise odor).

Good luck!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas time

Outside it is really snowing. This is the first time that it snows so much so early, even for being in Sweden.
Anyway, the whiteness makes it even more "Christmas time" and now, with all the typical lights at the windows, we know that the countdown has started.
For me, putting the Christmas decorations "so early" have been always quite strange.
In my family we (I until few years ago) were doing the Christmas tree the 8th of December.
Here in Sweden I was putting up those few decorations we had (3 objects) that date, but going away about 10 days afterwards for our Christmas holidays, it was really sad to not use them at all.

Last year, I also added more decorations, finally. The work for having a nice decoration set is still at the very beginning but I think it has improved a lot the cosiness of our apartment.
Except for the light on the balcony (for which we are simply waiting some less critical temperature), I have already prepared everything and I am afraid I will not have the time to enhance it due to other tons of plans we have between a weekend away and another.

Last year, I also decided to uniform to the Swedish (roman catholic based) advent and put up the decorations then. If we would really like to be picky, in my case (ambrosian catholic church) the advent starts even two weeks earlier! But that would be TOO much here, so I feel for the Swedish tradition. At least we have in general three weeks for enjoying the decorations!

And a Christmas dinner is planned already...the menu "simply" needs to be designed yet.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Bloomy November

I do not believe that November is such a bad month, as tendentially Swedes/Scandinavian believe, instead.
As the matter of fact some of my flowers have decided to bloom and some are supposed to bloom now and got back to life.
 St. Paulia (African Violet)
 Pelargonium (terrible picture, the blossoms are pinkish and rose-like shaped)
 Pelargonium (classical red)
 Both the pelargonium
 Schlumbergera ready to bloom


Sunday, November 14, 2010

The name of the Rose

When the movie came out in the 80s, I remember that everyone was extremely interested in watching it. Of course, that was not a movie for me and I was sadly supposed to watch Labyrinth, which became a chain-view of 20 times in few days.

Nevertheless, it was just few years ago that I had the occasion to view the movie and I thought it was really beautiful. Plot, characters, a fantastic Sean Connery, the setting: it was just great and being an historical setting, it was plinging the right chords for me.

However, I haven't yet read the book. Strangely enough, since usually, if Mattias have been watching a movie, I have been reading the book of it. But here I was completely blank.
Thanks to a present, though, I finally got hands over it, in Italian of course (while Mattias had already read it in Swedish).

Must say that it was not the fastest reading I have ever done, and this can be of course due to several reason, but the book has a slow start (the author admits to have the first 100 pages to be quite deadly and decided to keep them as such although the editor recommended him to change them) and there and then, in the middle of the historical regressions, it was hard to keep track of all the facts.
Indeed, the book is incredibly complex, with the historical plot mixed with the novel itself mixed with the everything-but-trivial characters and the quite tough language.
I must confess I was losing myself in certain points, longing more for the detective part, which at the end can't be distinct that much from the setting/context.

One might come at the end and be very surprise of it. And I was. I was trying to remember the movie all the time and that helped for visualizing the scenario and give a more round taste to the setting, but there was really little in common between the two stories, in a certain sense.

A brilliant book, demanding a lot for the reader, but that will not let him down if he will manage to reach the end and understand at least some part of the several messages, stories and characters.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rain, wind and golf

Last months that we have been playing golf, it has been quite hard. Not only my scarce skills need much more intense training than this sporadic attempts to hit a ball, but the weather conditions have not been that friendly either.
Or helping newbies.

If we exclude last time, where the weather was ok, but it was like digging in a swamp, September and especially October have been quite cold, but especially extremely windy.
Playing in these circumstances has just been too annoying, but also too cold.

Instead of using some Mattias' old jacket, I thought it was time to look into buying something.
We went to some sport shops nearby, but we could not find anything that had a decent price and the features I was looking for: windproof, waterproof, nice cut and a bit warm inside and of course, not too expensive.

My last hope was the Esprit website. When going to the shops I can't really find anything inspiring, but the website has all the collection of this planet and I really wanted to try to buy something from there, since it has the possibility to return whatever item for free to them.

Must say, I was not wrong!
There is a quite decent collection of jackets available on the web, with different "features" and there was one that was absolutely what I was searching (actually there were two, but the second was over already in the right size!)
I decided to risk, and hence I ordered it. It took about one week to arrive, but for 5 euro of transport I was more than happy.
It is windproof, waterproof and it is warmish inside. It is quite tight to the body, so since it is not that warm, when it is quite cold I put an extra jacket on top (Mattias' old one) if we need to play golf and it works like a charm!

I am really happy of this purchase, and exploring the webshop for other items seems quite tempting after this positive experience!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A different weekend

Darkness and cold are soon going to take over completely and we decided to spoil ourselves and do something a bit different from usual.

We ended up choosing to go to a hotel with a spa and spend the night there (hoping that the cats would do a good guard to the apartment). Based on some seminar/conference/presentation/whatever that Mattias held in the place, the location and the reviews we went to Ystad Spa Saltsjöbad.
We had gone previously to another swedish spa and we were not super enthusiastic, but the premises here were pretty good and the expectations were kinda high.
Like always, of course, since I am not yet a professional blogger, I haven't taken 200 pictures to put here, but I will bore instead with my usual detailed stories...zzzzZzzz

We arrived to the place and the exterior was not what had imagined. I thought of something more classical and instead here it was a bit some sort of collection of buildings put together, without big harmony.
"Well, maybe it is just the appearance".

After checking in with a confused receptionist, we went in our room. Modest, but with a really nice view. I bet that during summer it is even nicer!

We enjoyed then some tea and scones, although not exactly in English style and investigated the dinner options. It seems that the restaurant was going to serve some sort of 3 dishes menu over a quite ok menu a la carte.

It was time for enjoying the SPA, but problems starting to arise. When in the room we got called by the SPA reception.
Guess what? We were late for one of the treatments and instead of offering some replacer, saying we could come down anyway and have it shorter, they just kindly told us we would not pay for this one.
Aha. Thank you very much! We never got the information about the time of this treatment!

We arrived, after a lot of walking, at the SPA section and the atmosphere was really nice. We explored a bit and there was a really nice atmosphere. One of the sections had big white beds were people were waiting to be called for the treatments.
The common SPA parts were quite small and we were a bit disappointed over this. There is just a small warmed pool, a whirlpool bath, a sauna and then some chairs to look at the sea where people were sitting and reading. Some also other minor amenities were present: a shower with RGB colors (!), a cool water small pool were people were going to bath between a sauna session and another.
We also found out the day after that there were warm pools outside and steam saunas in the changing rooms (pity nobody told us).

Time to get ready for dinner! We arrived at the restaurant of the hotel and the atmosphere was quite alright. There was a bit of queue to sit, but we had our table booked. We looked at the menu and we could find something to eat there for us, but then we saw what our neighbors were getting and it looked like the portions were for cats and even the quality... (or even worse!)
Luckily, also the service was terrible. We waited 20 minutes and then we just stood up and left!

And now? What to do?
We went downtown Ystad and we totally improvised. We reached the center of the town and we were looking desperate for places where to eat, ready even to eat at Max.
But, eventually, we spotted a place called Store Thor and we just went there.
Nice place in a cellar, with a really nice atmosphere!
We managed to get a place quite quickly and we looked at the menu and what everyone around us was getting. Big portions ;-)
We chose some things to eat and finally our food arrived.
My hamburger was just too small ;-)

What a dinner! We were really satisfied that we managed to escape the hotel restaurant and ended up there!!!!

On the Sunday, we finally had the occasion to deal with the SPA treatments, after an average typical scandinavian breakfast (not that many cakes and juice from concentrated :-/) and for my sake that was quite alright, in Mattias' case he was really happy about it!

Let's not talk about other misunderstandings with the receptionist, the SPA receptionist and whatever.
In general we can say for sure that the service simply sucked as well as the synchronization between restaurant, hotel and SPA. The SPA is nice, but too small for the amount of people that was there and surely should improve for what concerns organization (and prices).

Nevertheless, we had a lovely weekend (even though we missed Pico & Romeo) but that was the goal we wanted to achieve :)


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A day in Copenhagen

I forgot to add a post about our day trip to Copenhagen.
This was supposed to be our third anniversary celebration. Unfortunately, for that day Mattias was extra sick, so we had to stay home :-)

We have then decided to postpone the visit later on and we booked a day for it. The visit was including a stop at the Tivoli, some walk in the center with some shopping and then, finally a dinner at some nice restaurant recommended in TripAdvisor.

When we went there though the Tivoli was closed. So typical us! We didn't check that and assumed it was opened. Anyway, it was alright anyway and we took a long walk over the town, hate in some average place in Nyhavn and walked and walked. We didn't buy so much but we ate quite much, stopping at the super turistic Cafe' Norden.

And of course, we haven't documented everything with proper pictures, like every super blogger would do...

Finally, it was time to eat. The place is called Restaurant Krebseegarden (really easy name) and it is not so far from the station and the traditional center of the town. That evening it was promised to be a jazz evening and, although not a jazz freak myself, it was a pleasant change and it turned out to make the evening quite atmospheric.
We were the first in the restaurant and it looked quite small. It seemed like we entered the house of somebody!

They told us (in Danish...) what we were supposed to eat, since, due to the fact that it was a special evening, the menu was fixed. Argh! There were mushrooms! We mentioned my fear of such thing and I got a special alternative made just for me ;-)

Anyway, we got full and pleased with three dishes. Some sort of goose lever pate' (that Mattias didn't appreciate super much), a lovely dish made with some poultry (in my special version without mushroom sauce) and a dessert made with rhubarb.
Unfortunately, it was some time ago (almost one month) so I do not remember the details of the meal!
But everything was really nice and we felt like we were well appreciated guests in a friendly environment.
The prices was not incredibly friendly, but we knew it would have been like that and it was all worthy considering that we were not hungry at all after all and that with music, service and food we were really happy!

If you go to Copenhagen and want to have a special evening...I really recommend this restaurant!


Friday, October 15, 2010

A special occasion

We have finally reached a big goal in our relationship: 8 years and half together!
Since we have survived each other for such long time, we have rewarded ourselves by going to have dinner at a place where we had dinner before, for our second wedding anniversary.
Back then (just one year ago), the restaurant was called "Vendel at Sturehof" and it was a quite fancy, "fine dining" place.
We actually enjoyed the dinner then very much.
The restaurant itself is very nice, classic style, and we had a really nice service and really interesting food.

The restaurant though has changed "target" and now it is not as fine dining as it was before, although, in our opinion it is still on that kind of level.
It even changed the name, now it is called Sture and instead of having a complicated long dinner of 7 dishes, it is possible to pick up from a la carte, choosing between small and big dishes and a dessert.

We went for the proposed menu (4 dishes), which was quite affordable, considering the price of each singular item.
We ate some vintage matje herring on a bed of potatoes, which was much sweeter than usual.
We were still in the "small" dishes context, when we got a seafood soup with squash pure'. That was really really good.
Already here we were quite happy and we could also enjoy some nice bread in order to clean up properly the plates.
Finally, we had the big piece of the evening: a piece of pork belly which was just really really nice, served with potatoes and some senap sauce. We were basically licking the plates and this is one of Mattias' favorite dishes, actually.
We were slightly disappointed (compared to the rest) with the dessert, some apple pure' with vanilla ice cream, which was "ruined" by some crunchified cinnamon.
Nevertheless, everything was really good and what we could see from the menu is that there is an attempt to use the most trendy words ever: ecological and locally produced, made in a southern swedish way, which was not bad at all.

Thumbs up for this dinner!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cthulhu is calling!

We are not happy to play a game against a big squid and some other fancy monster just on a board game, we want also to do a role playing game about it.
Well, we have got involved into a group of people that have (impressively semi professionally!) played such RPG for some years now.
We have met just once but that was a good occasion to get an idea of the atmosphere, rules and mechanics of the games and also for starting to give some sort of personality to our characters.
We play a version based on the5th edition of the RPG:

Then the problem is of course, what kind of character one must have. And since sparkling silverish elves are not in the setting, I was in trouble more than ever.
I don't know how it started, but it turned out that I have created a character, whose name is Jennifer Lopez (!) who is mainly a revolutionary, who has though studied some chemistry there and then. We are in 1920s and the Mexican revolution happened during 1910s.
Coming from Mexico, suspicious and quite pretty and smart (and rich), Jennifer lacks though any sort of feminine touch to her personality, but it is quite clever and always trying to make the most out of a situation.
Maybe she would look like this?
Let's see how she will turn out to be...!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Hole in One

Ok, I must admit that the title of this post might be misleading to the most malicious minds.
However, it is completely innocent and it is simply the name of a board game that we got as present some dinner ago. Board game that was published 1987.

The game mechanics are actually quite simple and they are resembling as much as possible real golf rules. All the clubs, except the putter, are dice, and the game is simply about luck. Roll and choose the path, choose the right club, roll and see where the ball goes!
Not the most incredible game on the planet, but funny enough if one is crazy about golf and doesn't want to use that much brain :) (which is not connected of course, to the golf matter at all ;D)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Golf equipment

So far, I haven't invested in any golf equipment since I have just started playing and since my skills are not that great. Nevertheless, I had the need to buy some shoes.
I know that the season is basically over, but we have still 4 green fee entrances to use in order to fulfill our "greenfee membership" and it means a lot of kilometers.

I didn't want from start to buy something golf specific because its usage would have been rather limited, but we went to Dormy and check out what they had there anyway.
Well, maybe because the season is basically over the prices were good, but the choice was extremely limited, and the sizes available even less. I didn't manage to find anything, but that was not too bad, since I thought that buy some other kind of training shoes would have worked anyway and I could then use them for something else as well.

We went then to Stadium and they had a good choice of walking shoes. At the end, 18 holes is about 6-7 km, which means a lot of walking. And my back could not take anymore my 10€-shoes for all those meters.
There were also good prices and I managed to find two models that I liked.
At the end I came back home with these:

The model is "Reebok Walk XC GTX3", not exactly elegant like a golf shoe, a bit big and probably the black will be hard to make it look nice in a golf setting, but well, they seemed comfortable, they are in Goretex and hopefully, they will help out my back to tolerate all that walking :-)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cozy autumn

One of the most beautiful things of the autumn is the darkness. At least, this is for me. Not so many Swedes like that and they even complained plenty about it! Well, here in the south of Sweden I don't notice such enormous difference with the darkness in Gallarate, but of course, there are less artificial lights here.

I like to pass around the houses of people and since there are not blinds that make the houses look dark from outside, one can spy a little bit inside and it is nice to see all the lights at the windows and so on.

And of course, one of the most coziest things ever is to light candles. So, I have big plans for candles this year (which I have meditated upon for several autumns, but now I have all the tools I need and I need just to start my plan...) and so I have started to light also outside in our "renewed" balcony.

I am definitely proud of the lantern purchase :-)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It's cookie time!

After a moment of silence, from both the blog and from the kitchen, I have produced yet another recipe from the usual website. This time the recipe was about cookies.
I must say I was expecting a more compact dough, but maybe I did something wrong (just maybe?), either way, I tasted one of the cookies and the taste was more than alright!

Like always, my great manual skills do not make the appearance of the cookies as they should be, but we can't have everything....

I used for the cookies several types of jam: raspberry, peach, apricot, sea buckthorn, redcurrant jelly and japonica (a sort of apple).
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