Nine Years Old

Today, Freya, is your birthday, and we are celebrating it whilst in the north of Sweden with your cousins, Jocke and mormor.

The weather has not been the best since we got up here three weeks ago, but today the sun pushed up the temperature to an almost uncomfortable (for me) level.

As usual, mormor and Mum made a selection of pies and cakes. Along with the three different types of biscuits and ice-cream, we indulged in the sugary smörgåsbord presented to us, washing it down with fizzy drinks and coffee.

The sunshine gave us the chance to play brännboll (one of your presents). Despite some similarities to cricket, there are some parts of the game I simply do not understand, though it did not lessen the enjoyment that we had.

The rest of the afternoon you spent swimming and hanging out with your cousins, whom you and Zelda seem to like very much. Your socialising has meant that some of your presents are waiting patiently for you. You did play Monopoly with me this morning, for about half an hour, and Super Mario 3D for you 3DS is yet to be opened. The present that you have used most so far today has been the one that you have (not so quietly) wished for these last few weeks: a camera.

Oh, and Jo thinks that she may have broken something in her foot whilst swimming this afternoon.

Jämtland Bean Burgers

Our summer holiday in the north of Sweden has been, thus far, more like a rainy autumn week. We have ventured outside as much as we dare, though the inclement weather has given Jo the justification she requires to continue the renovation of our house.

We have also taken time to evaluate the contents of mormor’s fridge, freezer and food cupboards (I believe her house is old enough to include a “pantry”). She has accumulated far too much food for her own requirements, so I have taken it upon myself to decrease the amount of extra ingredients she has, at the same time making cheap meals for the family.

I get a good feeling from making food out of otherwise forgotten bags, packets and tins that lie hidden away. Some of the items found have gone past the best before date. This does not overly concern us, as long as any item looks, smells and tastes ok. There have been a few, however, that have not got to the taste test, being some eight to ten years old.

The other day I tested a burger recipe that was very loosely based on a few recipes I had seen, using up some leftover bulgar and a couple of packets of precooked beans. I cannot remember exactly the quantities, as I was not convinced the recipe would a) hold together when fried b) taste nice. I was greatly surprised that the burgers were tasty enough that even Freya liked them. As a note to myself, the recipe goes more or less so:

Fry half a finely chopped onion and add to 2dl bulgar (precooked with a bullion cube). Add tomato paste, garlic salt, dried Italian herbs and one packet each of half mashed black beans and butter beans. To make the correct consistency, add breadcrumbs. Form burgers to falafel size and fry on medium heat with a little oil.

41 plus 5

This week has seen two family members celebrate their birthdays: Jo and Zelda.

Jo received a couple of presents that she wished for earlier this year. My memory, at least when it comes to presents, is mighty fine. Jo only needs to mention an interest in something one time, and it is stored in a part of my brain that actually works. I also use my phone to make notes, so armed with a double hard drive, I am force to be reckoned with.

Now Jo is the proud owner of a pizza stone and a staple gun. Unfortunately, a couple of gifts are still being delivered, but there is still a lot one can do with a pizza stone staple gun.

In the evening the family surprised Jo with one more present: a visit to the comically named Wong Kee restaurant. The food is a bit overpriced for what it is, but it is still tasty, the offspring like it, and it is near to where we live.

Today, Zelda had her birthday, starting with breakfast in bed, which consisted of five strawberries and some orange juice (Zelda’s wish). Her presents, as always, are quite difficult to think of. She requested a pony and a mobile phone, though I do not think she was disappointed to get a new scooter, kite, and swimming goggles, amongst other things.

After a small party in the park, and time spent by the water nearby, we ate pizza using Jo’s newly acquired stone. Because the girls were famished, we opted for a shop-bought pizza base. We soon realised that this was not the optimal way to start experimenting with pizza, the base being difficult to work with. The end result was very similar to the normal way we have it, but the girls did not complain.

So, congratulations to Jo and Zelda on their birthdays. I hope you both have many more, and I hope I get to see many more.

ESC in Malmö – Saturday

Saturday started off with an unexpected piece of news. As we were slowly getting ready for another day in town, Jo received a Facebook update that Hop Louie, a well known Swedish street artist, was having a vernissage in a gallery in Malmö. Today. In a gallery that was situated about 200 metres from our flat. We had our first mission of the day.

The gallery was quite small, and there were probably only about fifteen Hop Louie pieces. In another small room was an exhibition from a woman calling herself ItchySoul, whose art was both humourous and interesting. Jo and I stood there with our glasses of white wine, when Jo expressed an interest in buying one of Hop Louie’s pieces called Framåt. It did not take me long to persaude Jo that she could use some of the birthday money she had got from me to buy a pair of vegan shoes. So, within half an hour of entering the gallery, Jo was the proud owner of an original Hop Louie, which will be sent to us after June 1st, when the exhibition comes to a close.

It was an odd feeling. Jo has been into street art a couple of years, and has done her best to photograpgh as much as she can, sometimes placing herself in potential danger to get a good shot. From the start she has liked Hop Louie, and while it feels natural to support him, there is a part of me that feels uncomfortable standing in a gallery, drinking wine, and looking at a price list of, what is essentially, street art. A far cry from walking through a dark, icy, disused train tunnel in the hunt for new pieces. Still, I am glad that Jo made the decision to purchase the piece. Who knows, it may even be worth something in the future.

After our departure, we strolled up to and around Old Town, taking in the Eurovision atmosphere that was oozing from the main streets. Our next mission involved food, in the form of falafel. Since Malmö is known for its falafel, it would have been rude to have left without trying at least once. Luckily, we arrived at Meze de falafel, just before four o’clock. It did not occur to me that any restaurant would close in the middle of the afternoon, and looking at their website gives conflicting information about weekend opening times. Not that it mattered, as we ordered a falafel in Libabread each. The portion size was more than enough, and the price was a very decent thirty-five crowns per roll. The only thing that brought down the whole experience was accidently eating a small slice of lemon in the tabbuleh. Lemon rind, even in small quantities, is extremely sour, and not recommended.

After eating, we made our way back to the flat, to prepare for the main event. We chose to go to Folkets Park a few hours before the start of the final, in order to get a decent place. On our arrival, we saw that many others had had the same idea, though we found a spot just on the wrong side of the path that intersects the park. We did not count on the park, and the path, being packed full of people arriving later than we did. Some people even sat on the path, making it more and more difficult for the public to traverse the path, and resulting in our view of the screen being obscured.

For a while I became increasingly irritated at the general impoliteness of people vying for their own personal space in the park. It goes against the sense of Brittishness I have, especially when I saw people complaining who themselves had commited a social faux pas in my eyes. By the time the final had started, I was in a better mood, even though we had to stand to see anything. The evening ended pleasantly, the result expected: Denmark won. We had other countries as our favourites, but a Scandinavian victory means that we could possibly do a similar journey next year. Something we have vowed we will do.

ESC in Malmö – Friday

The main event for us is now over. Yesterday we attended the second semi final, the first and last time we would visit Malmö Arena, where the real festivities take place. So today was a welcome distraction, allowing us a whole day to chill, explore the city, and try out some of the restaurants we had on our list. Malmö caters well for vegans, and falafel seems to be the city’s speciality.

Our first port of call was Glassfabriken, a cafe run by left wing youths, where toasted sandwiches, veggieburgers and the like are on offer. As expected, we got good value for money, as well as plain, decently prepared grub. They will never win any prizes for their cuisine, the decor was not really inviting, and the music inside was not at all soothing, but it was an affordable way to get some tasty food in our tummies.

We made our way to Folkets Park, or were we led there in our hunt for street art? As it turned out, the park was both large and child friendly, more than normal parks are. There were many things for the kids to do (playground, paddling pool, a water structure in the form of a flower, terrarium and very small theme park with a couple of rides), with the essential pub placed near the hub of the park. We decided it would be here we would watch the final. A scene had been built for pre show entertainment, and a large screen erected next to it. It looked like there was enough of a grassy area to hold many hundreds of people, and since there were other places doing something similar for the final, we would have a calm and pleasant time here.

A quick drink and visit to the paddling pool later, we took ourselves to the nearby raw food place, Raw Food House. We were not overly hungry, but it gave us the chance to tick off one of our desired food experiences. And, of course, they served wine. We tried three different cheesecakes, all of which were excellent. We also polished off a bottle of white wine. Our overall impression off the establishment was positive, and the interior was fresh and simple, without crossing the line to hippiedom. It would have been nice to have tried one of the main dishes, but we were simply too full from our earlier meal.

After a time out at the flat, we made our way to another talked about vegan restaurant, Vegegården. A vegan Asian restaurant with self proclaimed well spiced foood, this place had received good reviews, and our expectations were high. Sadly, the food was neither exciting or well spiced. In fact, it is probably the blandest Asain food we have tasted, and their red curry could have easily been replicated with any shop bought red curry paste. The best part of the meal was the spring rolls, but those were merely average. A very disappointing offering, which is a shame, since it is not a satisfactory advert for vegan food.

We went home and got a bit drunk. That saved the evening a tad.