Kroppkärrsjön.

Taking a wrong turn trying to find my way out of Karlstad last week, I came across this beautiful lake just outside the city. Every place I went past on my little road trip last week looked like it was on fire, sparkling in reds, yellows and browns under a clear blue sky. Sweden had really put on her finest autumn colours this year.  I almost wish I had counted all the times I was amazed by the splendour, again and again along the way.

My trip went from Oslo to Hallunda just outside of Stockholm to watch my favourite Swedish singer/actor in a new musical, then following the highway south of the lake Vättern, and across the country to Göteborg to watch a non-replica version of Phantom of the Opera at the Göteborg Opera House.

Thanks to the wonderful scenery, my trip became quite memorable, and even though I spent most of the time all alone in my car, I had a great time. I really needed this, some proper “me-time” all alone, just with my beloved car as my only companion, doing whatever I wanted to and listening to my favourite music on repeat.
And, having this obsession with Swedish singers and musicals at the moment, I often found myself just listening to people talking in stores and in the streets, admiring their language (and kinda fangirling a tiny bit because that’s how my idols speak, haha).

Anyway, Karlstad was my first stop on this trip, where I spent the night before continuing towards Stockholm the next day. And this wrong turn I took on my way out of the city centre, resulted in a lovely little walk along the lake Kroppkärrsjön.

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Old stone fences.

Taken out on a drive with the pony. This is one of the most charming spots along this route, with the old stone fence and the huge tree behind me in the first shot, and a lovely view of both the village by the fjord and the mountains. Nordviksula covered in mist and the old fence, telling their tales of times gone by..

Making my own vanilla sugar replacement!

Mead wort, or meadowsweet, meadsweet, bridewort, queen of the meadow (filipendula ulmaria) is a quite commen herb in Europe and Western Asia, and has been used for thousads of years, both as a medical herb, to flavour drinks and food, and as a strewing herb to make the house smell good. (The history of strewing herbs and a list of used herbs and their purposes can be found here, very interesting!)

Mead wort, as I prefer to call it, has a sweet, honeylike aroma, and adds a subtle almondlike flavour to jams and stewed fruits. I recently came across a video showing how to make your own vanilla sugar using this herb, and wanted to try it out myself.

The herb is easily recognized with it’s cluster of flowers, pinnate leaves and characteristic red stem. It is found in damp meadows, fens and often close to water sources. Here in Norway it’s very common around cultivated land and in neglected fields and grazing areas.

 

The flowers are used as both tea and to flavour jams, mead and wine, and the leaves can be used in a medical tea to relieve a number of ailments. For this project you only need the flowers.

First, remove as much of the stems as possible, before spreading the flowers evenly on a baking tray covered with baking paper.

This goes in the oven at 40°C with the door ajar for at least six hours, making your kitchen smell sweet and lovely.
The video said 60°C, but I read somewhere else that herbs might loose some of their aroma and flavour when dried at more than 40°, so I followed that advice instead and it worked just as well.

 

Then it’s ready to grind, using a mortar or a blender. I can’t stand the noise of those kitchen machines, so I used my new stone mortar, which I mentioned in my last post. It took me a while and my hands got quite tired, but I still adore my little mortar.

When you have grinded everything, the last step is to sift the powder through a sieve to remove the rest of the stems. I did this above the baking paper, so that I could easily fold the paper and use it as a funnel to put the powder in its new container.


This was a nearly full basket of flowers, so I decided to make another batch a few days later to fill the jar completely. Luckily, we have a lot of mead wort by our driveway and even more at the bottom of our fields, so I didn’t have to go far to gather more.

I even found one in my slightly neglected flower bed the other day!

And voilá, a jar full of sweetness to be used in various desserts, cream, buns, biscuits and other baked goods this winter. Can’t wait to try it out!

Sweet second hand treasures.

Making mead wort powder – to be used as a vanilla essence in such as baked goods, for example, in my "new" mortar. The mortar must be the best find I have ever done, in a teeny tiny Swedish "loppis" – flea market, along the way on our camping trip last week. And I paid only 60SEK for it! That's about £5,60, and incredibly cheap for one here in Norway. And it's the perfect size as well!

This is going to be used a LOT for my herbs and spices!

Farewell..

… and may we meet again in happier times.

Our dear Bustopher passed away two days ago, and we lost the greatest cat anyone could ever ask for. He was as loyal as can be, he guarded the house and its inhabitants, and he always looked after the other cats when they were out. He was the perfect gentleman for his three ladies, always on guard, and he was also the most loving and caring cat. We could ask him to go find one of the other cats, and he would do so. Minutes or hours later (depends on how far he had to go) he would turn up, followed by the one we wanted him to find.
And all this from a former stray, that was so terrified of us that he ran away just seeing one of us through the window.

After a very cold winter 5-ish years ago, he turned up here just skin and bones and so exhausted he couldn’t walk for more than a few feet before he had to lie down to rest. We had seen him on and off for two years, but never in such a bad state. My mom started feeding him because we couldn’t watch him suffer any longer, and little by little he started trusting her, and on his own initiative, he slowly moved into the house. Since then he hasn’t been away at all, he claimed himself as the guardian of the house and always taking his responsibilities seriously.

So two days ago, we lost more than “just” a cat. I’m sure no one can ever fully replace Bustopher, he was really one in a million.

Throwback Thursday: Wonderful Oxford!

This Thursday is dedicated to my fond memories of my short stay in Oxfordshire last year. I had a wonderful time, I stayed with a lovely family whom I hope to meet again soon, the weather was impeccable and I was as happy as can be.
Looking through this blog post and the photos brought me back there for a moment, and I realized it has been over a year already! Crazy how fast time flies. I really miss Oxford, and I’m definitely going back there the next time I visit the UK. Those scones at The Rose tea rooms were to die for!!

Here’s a copy of the original blog post from Oxford. You can find more posts from my stay in the UK in the archive.

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My stay in the UK didn’t go as planned at all, but it turned out almost better than I had expected it to be. I spent just one week at the stable I was supposed to stay at, and returned to the stable in Surrey. Just a couple of days later, kind of before I could wrap my head around everything, I was on my way to Bicester, Oxfordshire where I was going to be like an au-pair for my employer’s sister for about a week. I helped out painting the living room and looking after the four lovely kids, and even got days off to go to Oxford.

And from the moment I stepped out of the bus in Oxford, I fell in love. There’s old buildings and historic sites everywhere, and more universities than I had ever thought. And they were stunning as well, with cathedrals, towers, huge buildings and green parks.

The photos are from my first visit, and it was such a lovely day. My Nikkor 18-200mm lens is not working properly any more, so I mostly used my Nikkor 18-55 kit lens. I really wish I had a wide-angle lens, as I struggled to get good photos of some of the buildings and views.

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A Bicester cat, enjoying the morning sun while I walked to the bus.

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University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. 

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This rather small church along the High Street made a bigger impression on me than even the big cathedral at Christ Church University. The tree with pink flowers outside, and the calm, relaxing and welcoming athmosphere inside.. I can’t explain it, but I just really liked it there. I liked the interior, with the wooden benches in contrast to the white pillars and arches. And the huge stained glass windows weren’t dark as they often are, they let in a lot of light and made the church feel open and bright.

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The Radcliffe Camera – such an impressive building!

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Clarendon Building

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The view from the Carfax Tower.

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Oxford is now one of my favourite places in the UK, and I will definitely be back there some day. I also had the best scones ever at The Rose tea rooms on High Street, with jam and delicious clotted cream, and a lovely cup of tea.
The brownie in my last blog post was at the Queen’s Coffee House, also on the High Street. My waitress was Danish and super friendly, and the brownie was to die for. I thought it a bit expensive at first, but the slice was huge and SO tasty. I highly recommend both places if you’re ever in Oxford and looking for somewhere to have tea or something sweet.