Friday, November 21, 2014

Twinkle Stars by Natsuki Takaya

星は歌う 11星は歌う 11 by Natsuki Takaya
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first impression I got when reading Twinkle Stars (Il Canto delle Stelle, in italian) was not very positive.
I thought it was one of the usual school-set love story between incredibly unlucky characters, that casually do not have a normal family situation.
Well, those are for sure the premises of such story and one can't deny it. For being teenagers, these kids have gone through very heavy hardships.
On top of that, there is the "silly" passion for the stars, which doesn't seems to have any specific role in the story, than a tiny spark that connects some characters together. In reality, there is little said about that and there is not so much to say about it - it doesn't give so much input neither to the story nor to the characters, according to me.
But, finally, when the story was approaching the end, I saw its beauty: the characters per se and how they develop, learning to deal with issues and with relationships. It is also at that point that the main point of the whole story emerges, what is love, true love, and how to give happiness to somebody.
It turns out to be a very touching story, that made me believe again in the kind of love that one is dreaming about. The characters are very different from each other and they have clear weaknesses that are not hidden, but complete the portrait of each of them.
One of the things I enjoyed the most was the character of Se-Chan, that without any filter, behaves as she really wants and is giving a big touch of humour to the whole story/plot/scenes.
It was a pleasure to read this manga, although its slow start, also thanks to very expressive drawings.
A story for everyone that needs to see some great happy ending.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Via Napoli, Malmö

For a serie of circumstances, we have ended up going to Via Napoli with a big bunch of relatives, including the Italian ones: we wanted to celebrate Oscar's baptism (which happened about a month ago). Despite some misunderstanding at the moment of the booking, we managed to fit all of us including all the kids and high chairs. The restaurant was full, but despite that we got a good service considering the circumstances and it was great to see that also the waiters were Italians. Everyone ordered different kind of food, so it is hard to judge all the dishes, but I took a simple antipasto (ham and melon) and a second (saltimbocca alla romana) and both were very good, almost as if I would have ordered them in Italy. The menu lists dishes from different regions and although it seems strange to have somebody capable of master them all, it works in Sweden, while it would be very odd in Italy. The place itself is rustique but it fits the atmosphere and the name of the restaurant: I wouldn't have expected a fine dining place :) During our dinner, there was also a pianist playing live and, although I was initially scared that it would disturb us, instead it was very pleasant and much better than some tedious stereotyped CD. We will surely return without such big company to have a calmer dinner and hope it will be tasting good also this time. And possibly, this time I will take some pictures which in the confusion, I totally forgot to take!

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tiger Man, by Ikki Kajiwara

L'uomo tigre vol.15L'uomo tigre vol.15 by Ikki Kajiwara
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tiger Man is one of the most classical serie I know.
The protagonist is an unlucky orphan. He decides to devote his life to the ones like him, by doing what he has been learning to do: wrestling.
His path is filled with episodes where he will show his true self and he will grow as a person, and as a hero. He will be surrounded by true friends, who he will try to abandon because he doesn't want to reveal his true identity. And his true identity will remain hidden until the very end.
It is surely not a realistic story (sometimes it is very much overdriven, as many mangas are), but its highlight are the high moral and the peculiar subject.
Wrestling is surely not the most popular sport, although it has been having quite some followers in some time period, but this manga manages to put the reality (with real wrestlers) and fantasy in a intricated pattern.
It could have been a very trivial manga: meeting at every episode "the evil of the day", however, although there are these less eventful episodes, the story is still told without resulting too boring or ripetitive.
The Italian edition is enriched with small articles about wrestling, the "real" Tiger Man and gives to the reader a deeper understanding.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Summer projects: a garden playhouse

Yes, it was summer and we thought of resting. The thought disappear very fast when, when being in Kalmar, we saw the playhouse in Mattias' parents garden and Isabella. We had a summer project to accomplish! The restoration of the 30 years old small house!

It looked like there was no hope
The playhouse structure was simple, but very cute. A very heavy roof has made the roof support a bit too fragile and the lack of maintainance had made few boards rotten on the little entrance. Otherwise, we thought it would be enough to refresh it a bit.

Interior with small piece of leftover 80s posters

Somebody wrote a note on the masonite 
The yellow interior was definitely not inspiring and although the outside pink was not too bad, we thought that "falu red" would fit better with the rest of the buildings of Wallergården and would make it having a more traditional Swedish look.

A first layer of paint
Unfortunately, we were time optimist and we were hoping we would manage to at least complete the painting task before leaving Kalmar. We didn't count on having to deal with an Isabella that wanted to help by provoking us and painting herself instead of the walls. Luckily, we had the great help of farmor and her experience on the subject.
We were sad to have to drop the project on Mattias' parents, but the result was in this way better than if we - amateurs - would have tried to complete everything by ourselves.
The floor of the little verand is not yet painted, but everything else yes!
Farmor had some fun shopping second hand toys and decorate the little room. It became a very cosy place which Isabella adored (we a bit less, forced to sit on the small chairs getting served some coffee and tea).

A prepared dining table, with a beautiful textile hanging on the new peach colored walls
A very modern kitchen
What is also missing now is fixing the roof - those tiles are just not the right ones to have on such light building - and the floor. Maybe a nice piece of parquet would suit? :)
In any case, Isabella loved it and I hope she (with Oscar in few years) will have a lot of fun playing there when we go and visit her grandparents!
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wool wedding anniversary

For celebrating our wedding anniversary (7 years is "wool and copper"), we have decided to move east for the day and visit some nice place in Österlen.
It had been a while since we could visit Buhres, a very nice restaurant and fish shop in Kivik.
We were very much longing for a nice herrings buffet - which we haven't been tasting for a while, since few years ago, the restaurant was burnt down and it was not so long ago that they reopened it to the public.

New interior at Kajplats restaurant
The place looks again very beautiful. The interior has a strong connection with the marine style. It is light and fresh and each table is unique with the decorations.
We were though disappointed when we couldn't see anymore the spectacular buffet we were so much looking forward too. We looked at the menu and everything seemed very tasty and fish oriented. There should be more places like this also on the other side of Skåne - but possibly, half price ;-) The prices seem to have gone up to the sky!

We ordered the suggested three dishes menu. The waiters that were attending us didn't really wait that we would feed the kids for starting to bring us food, so we had to do, as always, a bit of multitasking.
We ordered a child hamburger for Isabella, which tasted absolutely ok, but was surely not made of hyper high quality meat. It was quite ordinary, still the price wasn't.

Our appetizer (unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it) was supposed to be a Toast Skagen (a toast with a creamy shrimp topping), but it turned out that for that day they had it with crayfishes instead. We went for it anyway.
Beautifully served, the dish was in line with my expectations. It is a bit hard to fail such a dish, I suppose, when you cover the "fish" with a lot of cream fraiche and dill and afterall, you are just putting everything on top of a toasted bread.

Char swimming in butter
The main dish was a char filet with a potato mesh. The fish was beautifully cooked and the potato mesh tasty and creamy. There were nice vegetables to follow and I didn't mind them at all. What I did mind was the amount of butter on which everything was served. Totally unnecessary. It made the dish too heavy, too rich and too greasy. What a pity!
On top of that, the waiters forgot to bring us bread for the whole meal. At that point we were still hungry, so we asked for some. First they agreed in doing so, then they wanted to bring the dessert anyway...Luckily, we managed to get some bread in our bellies before proceeding with the meal.

Nice but is this a kid portion?
The dessert was presenting a typical Skåne speciality, a spettekaka, a merengue based dessert. It was just a small bit of such a cake, served with whipped cream and strawberries sauce. It tasted marvellous, but it took the waiters about 20 minutes to bring them to our table, after the bread accident and it was definitely a small portion.
Maybe they are trying too hard to be too sophisticated?

After eating, we decided to take a walk at Stenshuvud National Park. We have been discussing for ages to go there and we finally took a chance. Unfortunately, the weather was not really on our side, so we had to deal with a lot of rain at the beginning of our excursion.

We are finally getting out and walking a bit
We didn't have any specific plan, but I decided we should visit the beach.

The beach was absolutely worthy to be on. The sand was beautiful - and managed to go everywhere, especially since Isabella decided to wet her feet in the ice cold and jellyfish populated water. The scenario was breathtaking, with the high hill, the blue sky and the vastity of the beach extending on the small bay. There was also noone there, except that at a certain point we heard a very common language...italian!
An half italian family arrived and we ended up having the kids playing with each other. That was nice for Isabella, who probably had the most boring experience of the day at the restaurant.
The beach
I had planned to go on the high hill of the park, thinking about the view from there. However, time was running out and we were supposed to present some form of snack for Isabella, so we decided to challenge the rain and direct ourselves to the nearby cafe'. Annorlunda.
The place suits us perfectly. Cosy, old fashioned and service a very interesting home made cookies buffet for a decent price. Nice service and also nice ice cream. Isabella got a different version of "Twister" that tasted much better than the original ;-)

Cafe' Annorlunda
Unfortunately, we had just half an hour to enjoy ourselves there. The cafe' was closing and for us, it was time to go home where dinner and the evening routines would take place.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014


When we got the invitation from my current company (KnowIt), we had no idea what Bakken was.
We were also quite in doubt to attend such family event. An amusement park with a small baby and a three year old? We had no idea how much we would have managed to enjoy or do!

But things turned out better than expected!
Isabella enjoyed it very much, although she got stuck on an attraction. The mood was already boosted by the fact that we went by bus. Mattias got star strucked noticing that on the other bus there was some famous swedish bass player (the one that guesses who win 1 kg of apples!).
There were some minor accidents: it started to pour rain in a couple of occasions, all the times we were eating something; Isabella got berserk when her current fav ice cream was over and Mattias had go to and find it in another place; another child passed next to us with a fairly huge balloon with princesses that we had to go and buy for Isabella and that cost like a real castle.
We also managed to make everything work with the logistic bringing food from home and Oscar showed to be decently flexible with his meals/sleep, although, poor him, this must have been a deadly boring day.

Bakken seems to be a very old amusement park, according to the sources, probably the oldest in the whole world. What struck us was that there were tons of places where to eat, of all kind! Differently from usual though, we decided to bring food for us and that was possibly a bright choice since everything, from our "Swedish Crown" perspective seemed utterly expensive.

We started by going on the Swan, using muscles I haven't used in a couple of years. Looking at the ones that were getting wet on Water Slide was very tempting, but since we had already got plenty of water with the rain we have postponed such an emotion to another time.
Swan and Water Slide
 At the beginning Isabella was not interested even in trying to go on the Swan, but we convinced her and as a teaser that was perfect.

The next emotion turned out to be the Samba Tower which though Isabella digested without too big problems.
Samba Tower
 Her absolute favorite became though the Ladybug ride, a small rollercoaster on which we went 500 times. After a couple of times she didn't even want to be held any longer!
On the car, the day after, she said that when Oscar will grow up they will go together on the Ladybugs :-)

Another success was the Radio cars (Dodgem), which was also quite brutal. During an occasion, Mattias gently inserted his pointed elbow in Isabella's forehead, creating a dramatic "tragedy-crying" event, which however turned out smoothly the moment that Isabella realized that her father wanted to bring her away from the car.
Crashing with the others
 We tried also other attractions, but we avoided many others since Isabella couldn't go (for example she wanted to go on the Kangaroo but she was 5cm too short) we skipped them. Others would have been just too much for us indipendently of the kids.

Airplanes on the horizon
 In many occasions, though, we were surprised that Isabella didn't want to try because she considered them too scary. We didn't want to push her, so although we could have technically jumped on many more strange things, we were saved. Afterall, we are not that brave either...

The crocodiles were too scary
Anyway, after the last ride on the Ladybug, we went back on our bus and Isabella was just showing off her balloon, which occupied almost all her sit and which is now in her room towering over her bed at night. Shouldn't THAT be scary!?

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden, by Yuu Watase

Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden, Vol. 12Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden, Vol. 12 by Yuu Watase
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although strongly connected to Fushigi Yugi, Genbu Kaiden manages to be a perfectly stand-alone story where natural associations to the older story are seldom popping up.
In this case, I believe that this prequel exceeds not only the reader expectations (since it has been written after the "sequel") but also the sequel itself.
Finally, the author is getting better in telling such stories: in 12 volumes one can read what happens to the Genbu's priestess without getting involved into too much unnecessary finery and the action doesn't lag in time repeating itself into some strange loop.
The last two volumes could have possibly be compacted in one, skipping some extra drama steps that seemed to me too forced, though.
The strongest points that made this reading endearing are a couple:
1)the presence of a great heroine (sometimes though, too much of an heroine too little of a real human being). A strong female character, Takiko, who is determinated, gentle, loving and grows out of her initial troubles. Sometimes a martyr, though, but possibly this is a trait that makes her perfect to be Genbu's priestess, afterall.
2)the love relationship between the two main characters, Takiko and Rimdo/Uruki. It is very beautifully depicted and, although it develops possibly a bit too fast, it is not the only moving force that makes the action go, but, even though it is central, it surrounds the action more than driving it.
Certainly, I might have been changing the end, if I would have been the mangaka, but I can't deny it somehow fits the plot.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Skåne Matfestivalen - The Skåne Food Festival

Last Sunday we decided to go to Brösarp for the food festival. From the program, it looked quite interesting and for certain aspects, it was.
This was a very little event compared to Copenaghen Cooking, which we visited few years ago and I think, a bit inspired by that: on a big tent there was the possibility to sample food from some special restaurants in a very small format. But in Copenaghen Cooking the choice was huge and there was a little competition between the different participants. Here there were just 6 possibilities and although it was Sunday at 15 (and the festival was supposed to end at 17) 2 places did go home because they had finished the food. So, we had to take the same food twice from two places.

Backside overview of the festival
 We started by eating at the restaurant there. Food was served by Brösarpsgästgivare and considering that we were in a tent with surely not a real kitchen, the food was great! It was clear that they were trying to impress with the adjectives that are now very trendy in the food business: locally produced and genuine. And possibly also organic!
There were many stands focusing on organic and food sustainability. If we would not have two kids, both annoyed by the heat and the sun, probably we would have investigated such hot topic in a better way.
Instead, we were trying to catch on of the kids' attention with some more friendly approach. There were cows and chickens. It was interesting to see which is the difference in space for the hens by looking at the type of eggs...
Cow and veal

Hens and the space for them
 I almost attended a little lecture about pork meat, but I ended up running away for something that was the funniest thing Isabella experienced that day: the train tractor!
Everything you need to know about pork meat...
 The train tractor brought us to an "apple safari", because yes, we have never seen an apple tree before ;-) Despite that, it was anyway quite interesting. We went around the Källargården apple cultivation, which offered also the view of about 40 lambs/sheeps. The place is famous because it has been the setting for the Brothers Lionheart movie (Astrid Lindgren's Bröderna Lejonhjärta) in the cherry valley (Körsbärsdalen).
The tractor train

The best part for us was the apple stand (yes, always apples...). The tent was having all sort of apple juice producer of the region (among which Sövde Musteri, with possibly some of our apple juice) and they offered the possibility to taste them all. That was great! It was very interesting to feel the difference between juices and juices.

At the end, when it became a bit cooler and Isabella was finally warmed up, we went around some food stands and bought some small products but the place was closing down quickly and it was not possible to taste that much interesting food. I felt that there was too much pressure for selling rather than letting a visitor explore food - or have some different food experience. 
Alltogether, it was a nice day, but I feel that these kind of events need to be more accessible and friendly so that one shouldn't rob a bank for visiting!

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Monday, May 26, 2014

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started reading the book, I didn't know anything about it nor what to expect, I did though know that a lot of people enjoyed it and found it a marvellous book.
This was a book that I didn't want to put down. Each page of the book was like a magnet, keeping me there and making me curious to know how things would develop.
There is though quite an introduction to the serious "action" and that is a tiny bit too slow - but possibly, necessary to give a lot of background information about the three main characters and the people they are involved with.
The rythm changes when all the secrets, stories and the day-to-day life are finally getting unveiled and one is wondering what is going to be the big thing the three women will share together and what really is going to happen to everyone.
There is an attempt to connect the story with historical events - which gives a robust context to the plot, but could have possibly be presented in a better way. I love the way the 60s are told with the details of how everyone is living. One gets also to understand a bit how that generation has been growing up and influenced.
The final chapters of the book are the best: one does understand more and more of the situation, feels deeply connected to the "heroines" and wants of course an happy ending. It is a beautiful story where certain boundaries of the time are broken but it is also sad and enlightning because I would have not expected things to be in this way, in that period of time.
I found though that the final could have been better. There are some few open points and all the tension is resolved in a bit ridicolous way. Despite this, the narrative is great: the story is told sequentially connecting the three women's point of view while it goes hand in hand, almost in parallel with the story that the women will put together.
I am not curious to watch the movie and hope it has not destroyed the atmosphere of the book!

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Southern Fried Chicken with Sweet Potatoes mash

After watching too many seasons of Masterchef US, it is natural to want to try some dish that is mentioned 700 times.
We are no pro, so our first attempt here has been a basic recipe, which turned out to be incredibly easy and good for frying also vegetables.


  • 2,5 kg of chicken in pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper
  • 0,3 l of milk
  • 0,5 l of flour
  • 0,6 l of vegetable oil

The batter
 Mix milk and eggs in a bowl by whisking them properly.
The magic bag used to put the flour on the chicken
 Combine in a plastic bag the flour, salt and pepper. In some recipe there are often added paprika or pepper as well, but not in this basic one.

The chicken is ready to be fried
 First we dip the chicken in the milk mixture and we shake the excess off. Then we shake the chicken inside the bag so that it gets covered by the flour. We take the chicken out of the bag and we fry it at 170 degrees, for about 10 minutes. Smaller pieces can get cooked in a shorter time.
Fried chicken
 Move to paper towels to drain the oil and serve!

Ingredients for the potatoes mash

  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 0,15 l milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Sweet potatoes to be peeled
Dice the potatoes, after peeling them. Put them in a large pot, covered with water and bring them to boil. Let them cook for 15 minutes, or about the time they are tender.
Drain the water.
Add all the other ingredients and mash to a smooth mix.

Sweet Potatoes Mesh

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Measure of the Magic, by Terry Brooks

The Measure of the Magic (Legends of Shannara, #2)The Measure of the Magic by Terry Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the necessary chapter that concludes the chapter of the "Legends of Shannara". It is interesting that the word Shannara is used to define the saga, when nothing explicit is said about it, so it is a bit unclear which is the connection with that - it is surely clear that this is a sequel to the last trilogy, where the worl is on the verge of being devastated by humanity and not only.
Finally, after a book of preparation, there is some action and some magic. Finally, some of the elements that constitute a red thread for the Shannara stories are appearing and marking the territory (Silver River King, for example).
The characters are now all of a sudden developing, forced by the circumstances to mature and take risks. But I do still find them weak and possibly forged based on similar characters of the same saga. I can't recall exactly who they are reminding me of, but they are not bringing any tone of originality in a story that is already lacking that characteristic.
It is then obvious that this part of the story has been written just as a link between the apocalypse and the Shannara fantasy starting setting and it is a pity, since it could have been used for bringing light into the genesis of that world.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

The birthday party for the three years

Isabella has been keeping mentioning having her birthday party as soon as the Christmas festivities were over. For four months, she has gone on and on about her friends coming over and receiving presents.
Yes, she got the sweet taste for opening packages with Christmas. And when Oscar arrived, she has been lucky enough to get small presents as well.
So, in our house, it has been Christmas for about 4 months :D

For her party, we tried to fix sunny and warm weather, all her friends coming over, a lot of food that anyway she would not eat and candies hidden in a pirate bag. What she loved most was the pirate bag (which will probably become a tradition, since she has already decided that when Oscar grows up he will have a birthday party and the bag will return) and having all her friends, farmor and farfar over.

I didn't know what happened to me. I wanted to do something simple and I ended up preparing so much fingerfood that laste for one week. I had in mind to prepare what can't be bought here in Sweden: the classical "children (and not only) party food" that is served in Italy. Mini pizzette, other salty finger food, and the milk buns. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to succeed with the latter: the taste was ok, but they were slightly compact.
With this, there was also a lot of fruit. I was hoping that Isabella would at least be eating that!
The buffet
Ingredients for about 21 pizzette

  • 1 roll of puff pastry (230 gr)
  • 100 gr of tomato sauce
  • 5 anchovies filet
  • 100 gr of mozzarella 
  • 1 egg
  • some oregano
With a glass, I cut the shape of the pizzette in the puff pastry. I take each pizzetta and put it on an oven plate covered with baking paper. 
I whisk the egg and I brush the pizzette with it. Then I put on top the tomato sauce (for best result I prepare the tomato sauce by warming it up for about 15 minutes with a bit of olive oil and salt/papper and a basil leaf) staying away from the edge. I put a little bit of mozzarella, a small bit of anchovies (not too much or it will be too salty) and I add a bit of oregano on top. 
One could have some other cheese instead of the mozzarella and surely, top it with anything else. For the kids and the vegetarian friends, we used olives instead of the anchovies.
Put them in a warm oven at 200 degrees for about 12-15 minutes.

Frankfurter in puff pastry
Ingredients for 12 frankfurters
  • 12 frankfurter (of about 25gr)
  • 1 yolk
  • 1 spoon of milk
  • 1 roll of puff pastry (230 gr)
This is a very simple recipe but if the pastry keeps its consistency can be very tasty. One could also dip the frankfurters in ketchup or mustard.
I cut in stripes the puff pastry. I roll each frankfurter with the stripes. I whisk the yolk and then add the milk. I brush each frankfurter with the yolk. 
They need to be cooked in the oven at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes.

I will skip writing the milk buns recipe until I will actually manage to do it properly :-)

We had also three cakes for celebrating her. I did two of them. One is the classical "cold cheesecake" that I do for her birthday, another one was a nutella enriched pie, which usually turns out pretty good, but was a bit strangely cook at this occasion.
We asked our friend Ullis to bake a cake for Isabella and it turned out to be one of the best cakes we ever had! 
Ullis' cake for Isabella
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