Long time no blogging, feel like it’s hard to beat my last blog post, the Island doesn’t get much more beautiful than that…no who am I kidding, it is a small paradise whatever the weather. That said I’ve spent most of today indoors baking. Second of advent I have a Christmas market in my gallery/barn and there is so much to prepare! Last year the gallery looked great but I didn’t put any xmassy decorations in our home until a few days before Christmas. Today I washed all the windows, put the traditional lights up and also had time to pimp the barn a little bit. I’ve started baking already, the traditional Swedish Lussebullar or Lussekatter as most people say. The are buns with lots of saffron, decorated with raisins and we also put sugar on top. We also made a ginger cookie and white chocolate cheese cake which tastes very promising!
The weather this winter has been as usual varied…we did have heavy snow for a day but then it rained away. That morning with the snow the chicks were so funny. They all queued to get out as usual but froze in their tracks and then desperately dove back in. Before when we’ve had only Hedemora(a traditional Swedish heritage breed) they haven’t minded it too much but this mixed race bunch did. Only Lilja(Lilly) dared to get to the food outside and then dove back inside. He(we hoped that is was a she when we named him) is so gorgeous, pitch black and the tail feathers are growing by the day. I had to kill two cockerels last week and it was the toughest so far because they were so big and strong. Now we are hoping that Lilly will get to stay all depending on how load he will be. Peanut the other cockerel born in spring is doing great, he is so goofy but still manages to keep the flock at peace. We caught him chasing his own tail feathers one day…but if any of the hens are mean to another hen he is right there to brake it up.
Peanut with his posse
Soon I’ve picked every berry in the garden! So far we’ve made black currant cordial, red currant jelly with mint, red berry syrup and red gooseberry marmalade. The husband has made “No mango sauce”, a hot sweet fruity chili sauce with lots of canned fruit but no mango(hence the name), and the traditional thai garlic chili jam Nam Prik Phao. It’s like Santas workshop in the kitchen. I’ve also been baking loads of cakes. Every weekend during summer we keep the gallery open and soon it’s time for the yearly “Art wave”. The busiest weekend for us of the whole year. We’re planning on selling plenty of cakes, garden goodness and hopefully some of my photographs as well. I’ve invited another artist to sell her glass artwork in the gallery. She thought it would be fun to combine our products so we did a little photo shoot of her glass vases and some of the little chicks. What is it they say? Never work with kids or animals…well we had a lot of fun but it sure wasn’t easy! I made some quick prints in the darkroom before the weekend, now they say it’s gonna rain for a week so I’ll have lots of time to make more without feeling guilty about missing out on the sunshine. The youngest chicks got rained on for the first time today, they weren’t happy at all! They all let me catch them without trouble to go under the heating lamp in the basement. Growing fast I’m pretty sure they can stay out in the henhouse with the rest soon but I’ll pamper them just a little bit longer…
There’s been some fantastic sunny days and I should have been out taking pictures but as always I do things the wrong way around so I’ve been cooped up in the darkroom instead. I love experimenting but in some ways I’m a person of habit like sticking with the same film and developer, recently everything’s changed. I accidentally ordered the “wrong” film, a new developer and my Swedish retailer stopped selling the Lith developer that I’ve used for years so I had to try a new one from Germany. I’m glad for it! The Lith prints have a lovely “pop” to them and beautiful tones. Feels like I got my mojo back. What’s even better is coming up from the basement after hours in the dark finding out that my husband’s got his baking mojo on. Fresh baguettes, sourdough bread and a large dish of shepherds pie in the oven. My daughter got inspired and decided to try out the new baking book we bought. Also a change in life, I’ve been using the same recipe book all my life, once in a while trying something from the internet but we invested in a new cookie book. She is very pretentious so one type of cookie wasn’t enough instead she declared that we had to try three recipes. The kitchen looked like someone had dropped a flour bomb in there but the cookies were great! Especially the chocolate/almond/peanut ones, gone already.
Lussekatter (typical Swedish buns with saffron)
Santa turned up!
Preparations have been going on for weeks baking and making pictures to sell. Last weekend we had a xmas market in the gallery and this Saturday it’s time to do it all over again. I baked loads of cakes, biscotti and meringues. My husband made Daal and surprisingly it was a best seller! We had potato and leek for the less adventurous visitors but most people still chose the spicy Indian Daal. For this weekend I’ve baked mini meringues (chocolate, vanilla and liquorice) and some more cake. We will do the Daal and also a tomato soup with focaccia. I’ll be making wet plates of visitors that they can buy if they are happy with the result. This morning I took a break from all preparations and helped out for some charity. Sometimes when you have so much to do your head is spinning it’s nice to just take some time off and do something else, the world will seize to exist. So for two hours I sat counting how many sacks, boxes etc that the second hand shop in the harbour Hönö Klova Second Hand have collected for Rumania. They do this 2-3 times a year but before xmas it’s a bit special. They send off boxes of food that the generous islanders have given, this year 63 food boxes. On top of that sacks of clothes, furniture, beds etc. Everything is named with either the names of the families who will receive it or villages. It’s all very organised and I think it’s good to know that all the help will actually reach the goal. I did feel a bit sorry for everyone carrying everything(while I sat counting), my guess is the average age is above 60 for all of them(hope I don’t offend anyone!). In spite of bad backs, shoulders etc they had after two hours packed a huge trailer with 200 sacks, 120 boxes, 14 beds, a freezer, 3 hospital beds, a wheel chair and a lot more. Very impressive I think!
It turned into a very productive Halloween! Halloween is still very confusing for most Swedish people. It didn’t make it here until a few years ago and every year Facebook is flooded with questions and statements about when to actually go out to do the trick-or-treating. I think most people confuse it with All-saints when you go to the cemetery and light candles. A lot of people also seemed to think that because the 31st fell on a Monday it would be ok to go out the weekend after. We did bunker up on sweets and the doorbell rang three times. I had my own fun ignoring the mask ban(this was sparked from the world-spread clown scare and last years shooting at a Swedish school but it didn’t register my mind at all until afterwards -doh!) and opened the door with an alien mask(cause it was still in the hallway since last year) on going -Whaaaa!!! All the kids looked a bit stunned but then asked for sweets. My daughter picked a very detailed pumpkin pattern and I thought she would give up but in ten minutes she was done!
In the morning I started this years Glögg, a Swedish kind of mulled wine, first time ever actually for me. It’s very simple. Made of cut raw potatoes, baking yeast, ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, raisins, sugar and a soda called Svagdricka which is only sold about this time of year. You mix it all together and leave it for six weeks. We also made Hönö bread in our own oven for the first time. Usually it’s made in a wood oven like you can read about in my past post. It did take a lot longer because our oven only heats to 275°C, even with an oven tray over it and baking it on a pizza stone but I’m very happy with the results! Hönö bread is very sweets and fluffy, nicest when still warm from the oven or the day after I think. Ours turned out a bit too sweets but with butter and sprinkles of salt it was still yummy. We’ll do another batch before the xmas market and tomorrow we will experiment with crisp bread. If you have any suggestions for a recipe please comment!
A very blurry me
It’s hard to keep concentration with cats and chicks around…
A happy audience
Didn’t get an image of my husband but this reward is good enough
As my son pointed out -Mum, you’re doing everything the wrong way around! True that, the other day I spent all day in the garden getting drenched in the rain and today I spent all day in the barn and down the basement even though the weather was glorious. I’ve definitely caught the wet plate bug again. Yesterday was Wet plate day and I got a few plates made but today I started in the morning and carried on until the cats started naming me for food at 6pm. Decided that every year around this time I will do portraits of my family and me(well the husband was too busy baking and sleeping, maybe next year…). I called in my daughter to help with the exposure for my “selfie” and after it was her turn. I lectured her about how important it is to sit still for 20 seconds, she answered -Piece of cake! My answer was -Well you think you sit still but then when you see the picture you will see what I mean. Pah! She won the sitting-still-competition big time.
All work no play
better than it was
Thought I would get most of the bottom frame for the floor done this weekend but turns out I bought the wrong fastening thingies at the wood shop. Chose the biggest ones thinking the bigger the better and sturdier but realised they were for wider boards and of no use for me. Anywho I got lots of other things done. My neighbour lent me a carjack to lift part of the old floor that I’m leaving as it is. I didn’t dare to lift it up all the way to make it completely straight, the barn was creaking and I’m afraid it will do more damaged than good. Now it’s not sloping as much though and I could get the old beam out from underneath that it was resting on. Put a big rock and some wood under instead, big improvement. Then I cut all the pieces to the garden fence that I’m building, to stop the chickens from escaping ten times a day. Oiled them and left the end bits in oil over night. My cousin lend me his electric saw so that was a piece of cake. Well it actually took me a while to figure out that the saw was cutting about half a centimeter off of what I had measured. Instead of measuring every time I used the previous piece as a template so they were getting shorter and shorter… Never mind, it’s a great learning process. In between I did some Cyanotype printing in the sunshine. The only good thing about long dark Swedish winters is that you appreciate the sun coming back even more! The chickens are also loving the sunshine and kept me company. My husband kept busy baking all day so I had freshly baked sourdough bread with strong smelly Danish cheese and Nam prik pao for lunch, yummy!
Chickens checking out my printing frame
Grahams sourdough bread