He's flabbergasted, I'm flabbergasted

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Off topic, I love the light at the cottage. It’s been consistently magical.

Acquiring real estate is always risky business. Who knows what dwells behind that lovely wallpaper and under that parquet flooring? So you can't smell mold or fungus, but that doesn't mean it's not under there, lingering and waiting for the perfect time to eat your house alive in under 12 months. So your foundation is pretty dry? Well, there are house funguses that create their own little pipeline with water so they can keep devouring all that you hold dear, quietly channeling the water they need from meters away. It's not until you ask your partner if he's dropped cinnamon on the floor again, that you realise that it's not cinnamon at all; No, it's house hell, spreading its devil-spores into your living quarters.

So the seller has used bathrooms and the ventilation and electricity for years before selling? I'm not that old but have still managed to, as an adult, move into two houses with lethal electricity, that wasn't obviously lethal until one started breaking open paneling and detaching appliances and the shiny, de-insulated live cables showed themselves to our terrified eyes.

What I'm trying to say is, houses (and DIY-owners) are fickle creatures. Nature has its silly little fingers in everything, incessantly breaking down everything by means of weather, flora, fauna and the passing of time. In colder climates like Sweden, a tad too much wrongly placed insulation to keep you warm in the grueling winter months may mean that your house is instead melting with the help of mold because that tad of moisture and warmth that you exude by living, hits the cold outside air in just the right spot inside your walls to keep them constantly wet, and it's all a secret until you find a weird smell that won't go away. It's the recognizable smell of empty wallets, cancelled vacations and carpenter farts.

It's one thing to see things go downhill, and it's another to helplessly chance it if you can't get into the foundations of the house or into the chimneys to see if they're ready to crumble or not.

But in spite of knowing this, it's exactly what we did. We chanced it.

A hasn't been forced to acquire quite as much knowledge about accommodation-entropy as me, but since we moved into this house, his journey has begun for sure. Arriving at the cottage that first time, I brought my experience from living in chaotic houses and we went on to look at that little dwelling that seemed to fulfill everything we wanted in a simpler vacation cottage.

I stared, sniffed, poked, crawled, knocked, listened, flashlighted, stepped around, tugged, opened, closed, lifted and looked under, squinted and felt the cottage. Yeah, the windows are quite literally on the brink of falling apart. Yes, the paneling has started its final countdown to demise. Yup, the roof has to be cleaned and painted and that's a fucking mess to do. The barn has to be cleaned and the little workshop building has to be fixed because it has insulation exposed to the elements. All that is fine. I can see it, and fix it. Of course, I can't see the foundations or the inside of the chimneys or how the walls are insulated, but from what we could gather, it was worth chancing.

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The cottage is an old house that has been a summer home for the last 25 years. You can't expect it to be in great nick, in need of no renovations, and we're on board with a hefty dose of pessimistic pragmatism. The house is 120 years old with renovations in the '40s, including the chimneys we think. This makes the entire thing I'm about to tell you just more flabbergasting.

Let's start this way: I want to lounge in the cottage during the colder months. Things one need to lounge in a cottage specifically during the colder months is; a heat source.

Because in all it's simplicity, the house manages quite well without the modern fancy stuff. There's an outhouse loo, no running water inside (though we still need a hand-pump for the well), no fan-driven ventilation and I have a rocket furnace to cook on outside. That combined with an underground food cellar that holds refrigerator temperatures even during the summer, I don't need electricity to survive out there, of course not counting the need for 21st-century entertainment.

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In the summer that's all fine and dandy, but in the other nine-ten months of the year, one needs a heating system to survive in the great wilderness that is Sweden. I mean, I COULD bolster myself in survival-burritos and accept around-freezing temperatures inside too, but the motivation for that is a little lackluster when knowing that I have a warm home with all life's necessities and modern luxuries just 35 minutes from the cottage.

So, we need a heat source. The cottage has three! Great! We've stared at the two cast iron stoves and the masonry stove since we bought the place in late June, but haven't been able to use them since we had no movement of air in the stoves and no idea what shape the chimneys themselves were in. Also, we're guessing that no chimney sweep had been there this generation (In Sweden you do need to either prove you've done it yourself sufficiently or have a professional sweep your chimneys in order to legally utilize fires inside), since there were no ladders on the roof and I'm pretty sure that they've demanded ladders to do their job for a long time, for obvious reasons; less risk of dying.

Haplessly assuming the chimneys and chimney/stove joints were in bad condition, I imagined not being able to hang out in the cottage until next summer when we'd had the chance to sell our souls and a few of our belongings to afford someone to redo the chimneys and re-set the masonry stove. Patience, dear, I thought to myself. We're in it for the long haul after all.

Yes, there is a portable radiator to plug in but the electricity was installed in the 1940's so we don't want to use that more than is absolutely necessary. The coffee maker is necessary (ahem, lazy) but not much else.

But if we could get the stoves going, we'd be able to heat rooms, cook, have warm water for doing dishes or bathing or cleaning, and just have a nice time all in all. Home and hearth, ya know.

Being responsible homeowners, we brought in the chimney sweep to see if he could at all determine if we could make fires, but he couldn't. There was no ladder on the roof so he couldn't safely access the chimneys and he couldn't do it properly just from below. So we took in a handyman that mounted a ladder and ramp on the roof, and then a company to look at the chimneys and the masonry stove and give us an offer to redo stuff (FYI: It's expensive, hurr) but he thought the chimneys looked okay with the need of some renovations and that things will need maintenance within the next couple of years so why not do it right away right, like a person selling expensive services would say. So then we called in the chimney sweep again because now we could.

Last Friday, he showed up again, merely minutes after the time window he stated earlier had begun, impressive in itself! Climbed the ladder to the roof, gushed over the lovely ladder and ramp, and filmed down the chimneys. Muttered a little to himself. "Chimneys that have been covered are often in worse shape because of moisture getting caught..". Then he went silent up there. I stood on the lawn below, nervously fiddling with things. It felt like an exam. If we passed, we'd be able to really spend time in the cottage right now. If we didn't, at least a year would go by before being able to, and a huge load of money was to be thrown at professionals.

He filmed both chimneys in silence and then decided to come down. Before he went down, he took the boards that had been covering one of the chimneys and threw them off of the roof. A smidgeon of hope flashed inside me. Why would he throw them down and say "You shouldn't have flammable things laying around on chimneys" if we weren't risking setting them on fire?

But I didn't dare hope for reals. We went inside and he took on the first stove. Shoving meters and meters of pipe cleaner devices into the outlet behind the stove, connecting them to a screwdriver and funneling the bristles to the top of the chimney, vacuuming and all that jazz that chimney sweeps do. The soot escaped his attempts to keep it contained in the soot drawers and the pleasant smell of extinguished fires filled the kitchen. I love that smell. It's the scent of life and every day and a sense of connection with the past when electricity wasn't here to solve all of our worldly problems. Don't get me wrong, I love all that jazz, of course. I love having hot showers and being able to make grilled cheese when I'm too lazy to use the regular stove to boil and fry something, and I love having a system that automatically regulates the inside temperature with just the poking of a little lever. But there's a time and a place for winding down and doing things the slow way too, and I really enjoy it.

He poked around and I tried not to hover as intensely as I felt like doing, because being hovered over is truly annoying. Chatted a little about the cottage and what our plans were and ya know, made the time go by on what felt like a path of forever leading to a paper saying "Fires prohibited". But he collected his things, and just said: "So yeah, that's fine". I stared at him. "It's approved?" "Yes!"

You know that moment when you realise how little you believed or dared to hope for something and then it comes true anyways? Blankly I stared at our functioning stove.

He continued into the main kitchen and did the same procedure there with all shoving stuff into holes and screwdrivers and vaccuming. I tried not to hover this time as well, finding ground on a chair that kept me in my place. He crawled around and did his thing. Talked a little about stoves in general, how to retain heat in them etc etc. And then, almost passer-by-like said "Well, you have around 6kWh here", waving a little towards the small kitchen and the stove nearest.

What! Gosh darnit whowuddathunkit! SURE AS HELL NOT ME.

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But then, it was time for the masonry stove... The main hero when it comes to survival in the colder months, because of its heat retaining properties. You only light two fires a day in it and it keeps ya toes from frostbite! It's like magic! The iron stoves are for cooking and heating water (for radiation heat!) and more short-term warmth, while the masonry stove gives off warmth for hours and hours after lighting it.

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On he went, with the same procedure there too. I sat on an old chest to not hover this time as well, but the nerves tickled my inside. If this isn't okay, we still have to redo everything and can't get a stable temperature in here until next year. He lit balls of paper to get the draft going, made a little fire, lit a smoke capsule and checked everything.

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Then he got up, patted the stove and said: "Well, this stove isn't gonna kill you either".
"What?"
"I'm surprised too! What a nice way to end the working week, I didn't think it would all be in such good condition!"
"HAPPY DAYS!"
"Yes, nice!"

I COULDN'T BELIEVE IT. I still can't believe it. Oh man. The joy! The day after I tried making hot water for chai for the first time in a cast-iron stove. And ya know, I made it. I did it! ... A and I sipped our cups of hot chai and listened to the crackling firewood like two old people. Well, not long before that it was an experience not far from the warlike conditions of the battle of Lützen in 1632 from what I've heard, but it sorted itself out when the draft got going.

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I think it's some sort of remaining disbelief that's made me not try and make a fire in the masonry stove just yet, but it's coming. Soon. Yes. Soon. Very soon.

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It looks like a regular cup of chai latte, but it’s really the start of a new era. No dramatization!

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I'm ready for autumn

I remember writing a similar post two or three years ago, about stumbling out of the tattoo studio I worked at and getting hit in the face by Mr. Moist, aka summer in late August.

He's here again my fellow internetters, oh, he's here again.

That time of the year when you find spiders in the basement surprisingly often, like, almost every night just before bedtime, and of course just by your bed. It's that time of year when you try to take an evening walk but have to admit defeat before even leaving your own street because you've already almost stepped on 25 snails that have taken the chance to relocate when everything's terribly wet and moist - just like they like it.

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Everything feels weirdly cool to the touch, because everything's a little moister than what it should be. Clothes feel clingy, sweat breaks long before my body temperature usually requires it, and the misty sunlight fries everything in sight without lifting the heavy feeling.

I mean, I guess it's fine because we have a bajillion tomatoes and chilies in the garden that need to ripen but I as an individual does not appreciate it. I never really appreciate 27C/80F, but even less so now. The moisture content in what used to be called "the air" lays like a heavy blanket atop my breathing organs and it even makes everything smell differently. You know when you walk through your house and all of a sudden it smells like.. building materials? That you haven't smelled before? So you instinctively assume you have water damage and that's gonna suck so bad to clean up because gawddangit you're just finished with the dang carpenters? And then realise it's just September soon and that's how life works?

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BUT, my friends, the wet blanket of hopelessness will eventually lift and it will leave us with my favourite season - autumn. So I'm making all the preparations for it! Curtains are changed and the dining room and the fireplace is kitted with autumny colours and fake flowers because I am a thousand years old. Autumn scented candles have been picked and put on display and I've colour-coordinated some others, which I may say is easy, because my entire house is well adapted for the autumn life.

I've put hours into boiling purees and making apple sauce and have frozen and preserved berries and fruits for later (ya know, I'm AM a newbie at preserving so some of it goes into the freezer in case of failure). I've made pumpkin puree and picked plums off of our neighbour's trees and sorted out convincingly summery clothes, all of which I wanted to throw into the laundry bins because of their apparent wetness, but then I again realised it's September and that's just how life works some years.

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So yeah I accidentally broke off the more yellowy pumpkin when digging around, so it had to come in prematurely. Ahem. But at least we finally got an orange one!

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I've googled recipes for fall and baked an autumn spice cake (SO GOOD!) and eaten warm plum compote with ice cream. We've invited way too many people for the traditional crayfish celebrations and it's gonna be great!

We've planned loosely for the Swedish version of Thanksgiving because we have one! It's the 13th of October this year and is apparently for giving thanks to God for this year's harvest. Being the heathen that I am, I'm opting for nature and the universe and maybe the trolls that keep stealing our socks, leaving the monotheistic deity-bit to my partner.

Hopefully, we'll be able to have a Halloween party as well, we'll see. The autumn plans drifts over into Christmas, having to prepare things here and there for that glorious time of the year as well. Christmas cards are to be made, wreaths decorated, glögg has to be mixed six weeks in advance.

The house is ready. The garden is almost ready. I'm ready.

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In case anyone of you wonder where I spend most of my down time, it’s right in that corner. Love my corner, inspite of looming ancestry in the shape of oversized Polish clocks. It’s the only place in this entire house it fits, haha!

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The "gardener" status update of August

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Our past Sunday dinner: Chard, tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, garlic-tossed beans, cheese-stuffed Jamaican bell chilies and red peppers. The pumpkin is sitting on our kitchen counter because I don’t know if it’s ready to become pumpkin puree or not. The glee in eating stuff that you’ve just dragged from their homes in your own garden, it’s very pleasant!

You guys know my struggles this spring when the weather sexily gyrated between negging (snow) and sultry tease (actually spring), and this summer wasn't much more reliable. The summer-tombola offered everything between 12 degrees and cloudy for weeks to 30 degrees and sunny days on end.

In the middle of all that the plants on the patio started getting bigger and... well when the cucumbers grew eerily big and the cherry tomatoes reddened, the even more gigantic beef tomato plants together offered us... one tomato. One. All the flowers just rotted away and fell off, yellow flecks covering the floor as sad reminders of plants not being in their prime conditions, making sure we'd know about it.

So we threw two of them out and kept the other two on the patio. My partner, fortunately not following my tip of not being sentimental, what-the-hell-planted them outside instead. Same with a few Jamaican Bell-plants that looked mostly like Jessica Day's feeling stick, the travel version. In spite of being a little curious of what the plants were feeling, I thought it'd be somewhat demeaning to wave one of them around while asking the others if they had anything to add, so I didn't.

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Like reproducing phoenixes they rose from the sad ashes of their pot-living and shot out a thousand flowers and tomatoes and chilies. Inside, their species-kin still dwells in pots, clearly demonstrating their displeasure by giving off small, few and overall lackluster fruits to match my labour. Tomatoes and Jamaican Bell chilies, next year you're going right out into the garden.

No fussing around with you bishes, I get it.

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So yeah they love it outdoors, point taken.

In May, I took a piece of broken off cherry tomato plant, let it grow roots in a glass of water for a week and then shoved it into one of the beds as well, along with weaning pumpkin shoots and beans. All of them looked like death for weeks, but I thought I'd just leave'em because we didn't plan on trying to incubate anything else there anyway. We watered them a little and just, well, whatever happens, happens.

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So yeah, this happened.

I should add; we didn't plant any yellow pumpkins. Flat beige ones and tall orange ones and some other version, yes. Round yellow ones? No. So... I guess we have to find a new strategy for next year, huh. *takes notes* Don't let the pumpkins cross-pollinate. *check* Oh, and don't let pumpkins grow ON our garage while slowly destroying the trellis. *pushes glasses up the nose and takes even more notes* I mean, we all know about the square cucumber and how that ended, AMIRIGZFHT wheeze laughter!*

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One of my favourite things about growing veggies: Suddenly, you just find gigantic produce that you haven’t seen before, just like that, without any effort! Like this under-arm-sized zucchini that we hadn’t seen until this picture was taken!

And we have apples, red currants, raspberries, chard, beetroots, zucchini, yellow onions, Aronia berries, leeks and carrots coming up. Well, if they haven't cross-pollinated as well, we'll see. Now, let’s go make some sauced up apple sauce and get sloshed!

* I will tell you about the square cucumber someday.

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A bit late: The semi-sloppy cold-brew showdown

Earlier this summer, in favour of not procrastinating any more than I had so far, I thought I'd make a challenge for myself, with a clear deadline; 24 hours. So I did it! I kept that deadline! But... that was seven weeks ago and I've been dragging out writing this post anyways... Let's just move on and do it even though all you basic bishes (me) out there are already planning your pumpkin spices lattes. *stares at pumpkin in garden*

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Intro to a probably way too long post about coffee

In the rather singular event that any of you, my dear readers, would be this interested in coffee and its chilled companion that you actually get through all of this text (I'm not getting paid by the word, sometimes I'm just like this, sorry), I will let it be known that I appreciate the attention and I would like to inform you that I did this for you.

Yes. Not for me, not for the two other coffee-guzzlers in my household. Especially and assuredly not for my lazy side that wanted to find a better way of sifting the magical brew for a week's worth of always ready coffee. I did it for you. Accusing me of having a personal interest in how to get away easier with the quite tedious assignment of sifting five liters of coffee through paper filters that jam extraordinarily fast would be unfair. Are you calling me lazy because I do not want to spend three and a half hours every week slobbering with coffee grounds all over the kitchen? Do you not want me to be happy?!


Cold-brew the right way?

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Because I'm trash-fancy like that, so far I've made my cold-brew coffee with regular brew coffee. We all know, (okay, just us who have googled it a little too much perhaps), that apart from all the other minutiae about water temperature etc, the coffee nerds think you should use a coarser ground coffee to steep your energy tincture the proper way.

One of my main gripes with this method has so far been 1; that going to a coffee retailer in Sweden to buy a coarser ground coffee would cost my non-existent first born plus taxes per half a pound of coffee and that 2; If I were to buy whole beans, I would have to grind the beans myself and this means that I probably would have to buy a burr grinder that would scream at me furiously during use, to then break after a few months, leaving me with a useless appliance as a sad reminder of today's capitalist consumer-driven market.

But wait!

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Cue; The manual grinder. No electricity used. No bits to fall helplessly apart after doing what the appliance is actually made to do. It's just two pieces of metal with a lever and a box underneath. I wished for one for Christmas. I can grind coffee in it and heaps of other stuff. Like.. spices. And a crayon or two. Great! Now that I had one of those, I could TRY GRINDING A COARSER GRIND MYSELF! Cue life-supporting experiments, ya'll!

So I did try and grind the coffee needed for a liter of coffee in that little box with the lever. It took hours. Literally hours. I watched the entire Godzilla movie from 2014 and got like.. a third of what I needed. Doesn't bode well for the convenience of that method...

You've made cold-brew for years without a fancier grind. What gives?

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A MESS!

The problem with my regular method is... sifting regular ground cold coffee through paper filters, is a real bummer. And I mean a real bummer. It’s nothing like hot coffee happily running through the filters into the pot, offering itself to your longing palate. It takes hours, changing filters and messing around with different containers. "But why not just settle with the more permeable built-in filter that you have on your coffee maker then, Ellet?" you say. Because I happily tried that and it lets a lot more silt through and it affects the taste. *waves gourmet palate hand* Having properly sifted cold brew versus kind of sloppy, silty cold brew, makes a world of a difference with the actual taste of the coffee and when you make it, you're stuck with that batch for like eight days. It's like if I allow the silt to tag along into the fridge, it corrupts the spirit of the coffee. Like hanging out with someone that has a little grudge against you, and you low-key can tell. It just ruins the good mood, man.

Why not iced coffee, that's so much easier!

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From what I understand, most people drink iced coffee, aka hot brewed coffee chilled over ice, milk or whatever. When I made my first round of iced coffee in 2014, trembling with the few little fucks I had left to give about surviving the blistering summer heat, I had to drench that shit in sugar and milk to make it passable at all. I couldn't understand why people were going wild about that bitter reminder that we're all are born into suffering. I clearly remember it to this day. That morning included 29C/85F winds already when I got up at 8 AM and then I had to fight a blackbird that had fallen down our chimney and gotten caught in our fireplace and get it out without hurting or killing the bird, or me, in the process. When I returned to the coffee making and sampled the ghastly concoction, I remember giving up and going back to bed for a few more hours. It was that bad.

A few weeks later I followed the cold-brew rabbit hole deeper and made my first round of the real stuff.

I made it from regular brewing coffee steeped overnight in the fridge and it tasted lovely! Mixed with milk and a dose of sweetened condensed milk, it was now a staple in my summertime household!


"Yeah yeah, but after all this, is coarse grind cold-brew worth sacrificing my first-born for? I mean, I've raised that kid for ten years now and that investment isn't ditched easily”

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So, I decided to actually find out and set up a sampling fest that I forced three companions to try with me.

  • Regular ground coffee ratio 1:5 coffee/water, 12 hours.

  • Coarser ground coffee, ratio 1:5 coffee/water, 24 hours.

  • Coarser ground coffee, ratio 1:10 coffee/water in case I want to drink it just like it is (you usually cut the concentrate 50/50 with milk/etc), for 24 hours.

I had earlier made coffee 1:5, coarse grind, and steeped that for 12 hours and found that it didn't suit my fancy. It tasted like I would imagine the ocean tasting when you're keen for a real fine cold glass of water. Therefore I opted for the 24 hour-steep for the coarser ones in my spectacularly professional taste test.

Result: Both the coarser ground samples tasted more like hot coffee, but with a bitterness that the 12-hour regular grind coffee didn't have.

The unanimous result;

All four of us that tested the different samples preferred the regular-ground brewing coffee,
steeped for a mere 12 hours.

And there we have it!

Somewhat happy that I don't need to get a burr grinder that will scream and break on me, and somewhat sad that I have to keep on sifting that shit through paper filters, I will continue making my cold brew with regular coffee maker-coffee. And I will sift it. For hours. And hours. And it's gonna be worth it.

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Yes. We have an entire shelf with just condiments. I know.

A hint of sunshine before we go: A potential method that I realised though; Keep pouring that coffee into the filter as long as you have something to pour and don't let it settle because it will jam. When I tried this, it brought a little more silt into the end coffee than I wanted, but I managed to filter a lot more before it seemed to jam! Pray for me peeps, pray for me.

*staring at the decimated amount of coffee in the fridge*
*stares at me in the mirror*
*stares at the other two consumers in the household*
*sweat breaks*

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My blog 10 years ago

Okay, so I KNOW you guys, after all my whining, are like "Seriously Ellet, what in the world was so great with old school blogging? I bet you were as useless then as you are now!" and lemme tell ya; No, I was more useless! I didn't add any concrete value to anyone's life because that was the common way of blogging back then (now I'm at least giving out warnings about dyeing your own leather chairs, right). The haphazardness of it all made it quite relaxing and not as demanding, even though the bouts of "why do I do this?" were present then as well. But I'm sure you're all skeptical still, so I thought I'd dig deep in my old archives and just show you.

So, where WAS the blog ten years ago?

Well, how about looking at this masterpiece from 2009! I can't cite any posts closer to the 14th of August because... well let's just say my blog was anonymous for a reason...

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The girl that was wrapped around his leg on that party hooked him for reals shortly after, and is now his wife and the mother of his child. So we never did find out his secret.

And then there was stuff like this; Blog Awards. And yeah, there were real awards and conventions that people went to, but there was also these silly little badges and awards that individual bloggers themselves gave out, and I got at least four of them. So nice. They plastered the side of my blog because fun.

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Awards I was given!

Nowadays I have to unfollow people because they get shilly with brands and trying to sneak-sell products (or get pregnant, sorry, I'm not about that mom blogger life), back then I sometimes had to unfollow in pure grief because the blogger in question got a book deal and therefore disappeared or made the blog to be just about the book they were releasing.

I narrated my living in the dorm that I called the cookie collective, me moving across the country, my jobs, my unemployment (with a twist: Unemployement Idol!), and wrote an epic 18-part story about everything that led up to me kissing a man that wasn't my boyfriend that one time. I gave my friends thoughtful aliases and made e-friends that turned into real life friends. And I had a great time doing it all, inspite of doubts and blogger's block and all that jazz.

I read classics like "Getting Single" (that cliffhanger yo, it went on for months, so EXCITING!), The Angry Owl, The Monster Apathy, SecretOfficeConfessions, Steam Me Up Kid, Erisgirl, Hyperbole and A Half (ya know, before she released an awesome book and now is picked apart in sourceless memes), Father Muskrat, Living Shallow Living Well.

Some are still semi-active, like Vegetable Assassin, *Insert My Blog Name Here*, Pearl.. Why You Little, Bridget Jones Has Nothing On Me and The Junk Drawer.

And I'm still around too, though under another name for the fifth time.

So what's in for the next ten years of this blog?

In 2005, I started my first blog on LiveJournal, when I moved away from home for the first time, and since then I’ve been at it. That in itself says something, right? And after having a blog in one form or the other for almost 15 years by now, one of the greatest questions isn't -really- whether to blog or not, but it's whether to blog anonymously or not. Being a heathen from a Protestant country, I somehow carry the severe Catholic shame that leads me to feel in my entire existence that if I, say, joke about sex or drinking, on the internet I will ruin all chances of a future career and probably get shunned by society. But having an anonymous blog in turn makes it impossible to tell everyday stories or use my own pictures as people in my life can recognise them so easily, which takes away some of the fun of blogging as well. Back then, soo many wonderful writers were anonymous, having their own little secret online. It was fun!

At this point I've settled on my actual life and voice being more interesting than any seedier sides (I mean, if my life had any) and therefor even have my face plastered on here. To get my point across; I got a bottle of tequila for my birthday last year. It's been in the pantry for nine months. Still unopened. BOOYAH!

For the coming years, I’m probably just gonna chug along, doing my stuff. I have no plans, no goals, I just figure I’ll be doing whatever I feel like. Maybe I should make an award badge, just for old times sake…

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I choose social internet, and opt-out of social media

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I feel like a broken record, nagging about social media and its ever-changing algorithms and how everything just seems to speed up, watering down voices to favour pretty pictures. Like the old crumpled lady that I am, I'm reminiscing about the golden days of blogging while remarking that the fast media just isn't for me.

I've been on social media (Instagram, have hated Facebook since the start) since 2010, trying to keep the amount of dumb scrolling to a minimum, but you know how it goes; you're just gonna check the date and suddenly you find yourself having wasted 20 minutes on Instagram anyways. Instagram has so much to offer, but the algorithms and the tag clouds and the ads and the super-dopamine inducing UI just finally ruin the joy I had with the app.

Another point of contention is the feeling that if I let the scraps of connection with my non-IRL previously-blogger-now-Instagram friends go, that's it. Then they're out. And I don't want that.

But I've been dragging along, questioning why I'm still blogging when the social relations on the internet feels so lackluster for me. I've thought about shoving the blog into the box of memories and just keeping on with social media instead. There are far more people there, on Instagram, both IRL- and non-IRL friends, than there is in the blogging realm as of now. So why save the blog if I want to prioritize relationships?

But after I dug a rabbit hole for myself by frustratedly googling "old-school blogging" in a bout of questioning why I even bother to blog when everything feels off, the doubt crystallized into the realization that I don't think I am connecting with those people over Instagram. That's what's been tickling my tech-skeptic, and I realise I've bundled the blog in the social-media-swamp. To be truthful, I think blogs and social media are worlds apart in how much I enjoy and savour the content.

On Instagram, I see what they see momentarily; the cliffs that they sip wine on or the flowers outside their houses, but I still don't know much, or anything at all, about how they're feeling, what they're up to, what they're thinking or what their plans are. Essentially, it's like passing someone by now and then and overhearing six seconds of their conversation with a friend. Is that quality? Does that build relationships? In some ways, yes. In others, no. Even though I do care about the people, I'm actually not that interested in what they're commonplace DOING (we all need to cook, right), I'm much more interested in what they're thinking. And while I could just ask every one of them personal questions to follow up their posts, I know I won't. Partly because it's weird, and partly because I long for volunteer storytelling. Hanging around, scrolling through Instagram has been my last scrap of those connections.

I have been active on Instagram throughout the years and while there's nothing inherently wrong with that, for me it's been intermingled with a gnawing feeling of doubt, self-doubt and... it feels like screaming out into the void. Some likes trickle in like usual, but it's... more of a thumbs up from across the street, and less of a conversation. Ya know?

It's like Instagram is such a pseudo-social media, going under the guise of connectivity but when there is so little actual personality and speech, it all becomes depersonalized making new, and sometimes old, connections more difficult. For me at least. Following and getting a follow back and then never ever see them even liking anything I post. Commenting on a post and getting a like on my comment back. I feel like I'm flashing acquaintances passing by images of my life and they smile a little, then move on to the next person flashing images.

Honestly, it's draining.

And let's not get into the fact that while scrolling, I can see pictures I've liked, that I can't remember having seen. The meaninglessness of the whole thing becomes jarring.

So we're doing it again. Going off of social media, once again, but I think with more clarity this time. Earlier, it has been a more diffuse sense of really not fitting in, but now I'm more set in why I feel out of place. I will have no time limit. It's all an investment in putting my energy towards getting off of the couch and into the real world, though not necessarily out of the house. I AM an introvert after all. YOU CAN'T MAKE ME GO OUTSIDE!

I'm not deleting any apps. Instagram is my main time-waster but I'm keeping the app in order not to miss private messages. The main objective is to mindfully consume content on the internet that brings me value while giving myself all the possibilities of connecting with friends and meeting people IRL.

I will check in on Facebook, maybe once a week or so, because of events. Being an event-arranger myself and getting invited to smaller events here and there, abandoning a part of a platform I currently have and risk missing real-life hangouts is beside the purpose of the digital semi-detox.

Lastly, I will absolutely and definitely keep updating my blog and keep reading the blogs I have selected to go into my Feedly feed. It's not content-devouring itself that is the problem, it's partly when platforms decide what I get to see that my frustration arises. Blogs have always been my favourite kind of content because it's people's voices, on their own platforms I get to take part of, and that's a wonderful thing. I've been called a storyteller and I enjoy stringing together words and putting images to those words, however serious or humorous the result may be. I hope that spending more time adding value will inspire me to write more often and better, as well.

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This is my final non-hurrah on summer

Disclaimer and TLDR: I’m tired, allergic and a little pouty. Fall and spring are my seasons, yo!

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It is upon us again. Regardless of blistering heat or grey, rainy days, I trudge through the days with crippling allergies that make sitting up a strain on my oxygen supply. I down an allergy pill buffet for breakfast while nursing a calf-sized lump of horse-fly bite that got inflamed because I'm allergic to those fuckers as well. The UV-rays shining upon my corneas throughout the years caused one of my eyeballs to develop a bump just before Midsummer's Eve. 6x6 millimeters of pure fear shaped as a yellowish-white nodule decorated and chafed my left eye for two days, constantly reminding me of the frailness of my worldly body. According to medical resources, said bump could either disappear or in worst case make your vision do the same. Luckily, it went away, but once you've got it, you're more likely to get it again and risk surgery, again.

My complexion is riddled with rosacea and being near the warming beams of the sun, mind you, not even IN them, makes my face turn into the lovely colour of a screaming new born-baby, prompting questions from everyone that doesn't know me very well. Have I run all the way here? Have I burned myself in the sun? Am I angry? Why am I so red?

When I happen to forget sunscreen or just happen to be outside more than I intended and happen to tan my face a little, it tans unevenly and causes spots. The whole "tan and the acne goes away" does not apply to my special sensitive kind of skin. My skin does whatever it wants to do. And while others bask in the golden goddess glory of a freshly tanned summer skin, I'm in the background, red as a beet, uneven complexioned, sweating with rubbed raw inner thighs, sleep-deprived and looking like a teenager with spots all over my face. Needless to say, I don't fit in with the glorious summer crowd.

I do appreciate a bunch of aspects of summer, of course, I'm not whole-heartedly a shadow dweller. BBQs, hanging around outside, reaping the fruits of the season, not having to wrap myself in a survival-burrito just to fetch today's mail by the postbox at the end of the short driveway.

Growing up, I spent my summer breaks bathing in the nearby lake, fooling around outside with friends until our parents ushered us in because it was getting late. Lieu of horseflies, I can appreciate dipping my sweaty, red, chafed teenagery revelation into the brown waters of regular Swedish lakes (there are crystal clear exceptions of course), and watching fresh batches of birds learning how to fly is one of the most endearing practices I've spent time on.

Midsummer's Eve is one of my favourite holidays and the light evenings are magical. That said, the point of this post is none. I'm just worn out, having spent weeks not doing anything because I can't. The allergy to everything out there takes a toll on my immune system and makes me tired, all the time. To follow up those meaningless weeks, I have had to cancel trips to favour a fever, snot and not sleeping at all for days. Whether it has to do with allergies successfully tripping my immune system or not, we will never know. But I do know that it's August, and somehow, even though I always look forward to fall, this year I need it. Now.

I don't want to be the Negative Nancy that complains along with other summer-haters, but I'm spent. So tired, so allergic, just wishing for some energy and be able to breathe again. The crisp winds of fall arriving will bring me relief and my body the break it craves.

The rustling leaves beneath my feet will tell the tale of me surviving another summer. Yes. Yes they will!

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The jelly maker

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I had a short bout with jelly years ago, bravely stepping into the ongoing bird-feast that was our rowan berry trees, fighting off the feathery party while trying to get ahold of two pounds of rowan berries before the birds ate them all in a delirious six day-long noisy binge that started shortly before the crack of dawn and kept going until the dark settled itself over the plains of Västergötland, Sweden.

I also made jalapeno jelly once, being lured in by the thought of devouring it with crackers and brie. While the jelly itself tasted lovely, according to the one who ate it, the process of boiling jalapenos together with sugar and vinegar for an hour made my then-husband flee our home two hours early for work because he couldn't stand the smell of rotting sports socks. I bravely stood my ground only because I'd already started the whole thing, I couldn't just give up in the middle of it even though I really, really, really wanted to.

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So yeah it smelled equally bad this time. But it tastes good!

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Rowan trees before the feasting

Now, rowan berries grow on trees and get eaten by birds at such a rate that their oncoming doom doesn't bother me really, but lately, I've found myself staring out of my window onto three shrubs lighting up in red, feeling the angst of having edible stuff go bad on me. Between our residential garden and the cottage's, we have six shrubs of red currants, and three with black currants, all intensely yeildy.

On top of that, we were three brave souls who tried BBQing and tasting three of the 60 Padron chilies we've been growing, and all three BURNED OUR FACES OFF. "One in ten is hot so beware!" my ass! I'm no stranger to heat, but those little green fuckers packed a punch. My gums stung for 10 minutes afterward. Clearly not edible as is or even with cream cheese, we had to do something else with them. We have jalapenos maturing too. Everything at once!

Now, I know that this is the way it works. No yield, nothing, nope, not yet, not quite, OKAY NOW ALL THE THINGS. That knowledge didn't stop me from becoming overcome with edibles and not having a real clue what to make out of them. A bunch of sweet cherries ended up in the freezer, and a bag of red currants joined them.

So what the hell do we do now?

Well, we make jelly. Lots of it. Lots and lots of it.

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I mean, my 98% vegetarian stature knows that currant jellies go best with a roast, potatoes and a creamy sauce, but I'm doing it anyway. Firstly because it's necessary not to spoil everything out in the garden, and secondly because making jelly is SO. MUCH. FUN.

I can't explain it. Pick berries for hours, unknowingly stick your hands into spider's nests and have to brush off earwigs, boil the berries and then juice the mess and then tip two pounds of sugar into the juice and let it boil, skim endlessly and make all these awkward steps of sterilizing jars and making sure there's a vacuum in said jars and hope it's not all gonna spoil because you're terrible at sterilizing stuff as a newbie, having sticky jelly everywhere and your socks stick to the kitchen floor in the same spot for days because sugar is terrible to drop on the floor but then just look at the jars of semi-clear jelly (because I can't help myself but to squeeze the pulp, hee hee) and feel so content with your doing. Like you've been working magic when it's all mostly just you doing the same thing as any housewife like, ever.

Even A, who spent a traumatizing amount of time picking berries from the very same bushes as a teenager on the demand of his mother, willingly joined in and reflected on the soothing, therapeutic nature of the activity.

So we're making jelly. Red currant jelly, black currant jelly, rowan berry jelly, jalapeno, and padron chili jelly, you name it. When the time is right, I'm even gonna make champagne jelly because I've wanted to try it out for so long! And glögg jelly for that Christmassy trifle. And cola jelly! And... If you don’t hear from me again, I’m stuck to the kitchen floor.

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The cottage

I don't know where to start really.

You know how you want something so bad, for years, and then all of a sudden it happens? The feeling of surrealism mixed with excitement and fear that it's all just a dream that will get ripped out of your hands by that damn mosquito flying into your ear, waking you up at 3.30 AM, AGAIN.

As you groggily slap your own face to get rid of the pest, the realization that the dream was just a figment of your brain's imagination stings just as much as your face does.

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But this seems to be real. My feet ache after walking around for hours to, from and around the cottage, my hands buzz after being used too much. My sunglasses are not at home, because I forgot them over there. Hell, I even have video proof of me ripping out a carpet. Let's hope it's MY carpet, and not someone else's.

We didn't really plan on it. We had toyed with the thought of getting a cottage somewhere rural because I have fantasized about it for so long, and because A have been thinking about it too. We were just supposed to look at old random cottages to get a basis for comparison, so we would know when we tripped over the exact right house in the right spot.

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So yeah we won’t be using that oven. I’m sure it still works, but… no.

So when this popped up on the market, we figured we'd go there. On the way over, we discussed what dealbreakers we have. Big, costly needs of acute renovations, too harshly renovated, dwelling too much in the shadows of woods, too far out into nowhere, too small of a plot, too much traffic, too modern, no electricity, no water source.

The main idea with a country house was getting away from today's connected world, being able to go somewhere and relax, connect with nature in a more natural way. Somewhere where I can hang around old things, build furniture and interior decor that doesn't fit into a modern, sellable house (like building my own kitchen counter, for example). Somewhere to experiment, take care of the old, make a fire in the old cast iron stove and be forced to slow down. The old saying, and I'm paraphrasing, "when the hands work, the mind can rest", is so true for me. A wants to build and experiment with off-grid solutions to modern problems, and while we have a house to do this at, it's just not the same.

In our house, we have warm water, electricity, WIFI, microwaves and all the common comforts of modern life. The feeling of connecting an off-grid solution here just doesn't make sense.

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Important information from 1962

So we got there and were welcomed by the sellers. Walked around with them, and then by ourselves. It's built in 1880 and from what my researched ocular inspections say, it was added-to and renovated around 1930. There's no water or drains inside but has a well outside. It has wooden stoves and a fireplace and the two kitchens from 1930 have probably lethal appliances. There is electricity. Uninsulated attic and a mess of a remade hallway. But the magic happens where the family that sold it, has been living there in succession from the start, and they've left so much old stuff. The barn is filled with random stuff that is worth zero in money, but so much for me. The attic has old furniture and table cloths and pots and pans, that one can find in any old second-hand shop. But it connects the house and the location to the people who have lived there all these years, and I think that's lovely.

Now, you're not supposed to fall in love with real estate and especially not the first one you look at, but I admit, I'm one of the people who do. One of the selling points was the massive amount of stuff they had in there, and we asked if they would leave everything they didn't want to take with them. Of course this saved them days, if not weeks, of work so they said yes. The thought of furnishing an entire house didn’t really gel with us either, it would be too much. With all the perks of this house and the absence of our dealbreakers, it tickled our fancy.

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Drawings from 1955. As personal as it gets, without diaries

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When I a little later, on our alone tour around the property, pointed at the old stone wall and without thinking about myself said "Does this belong to our cottage?", A said he knew that a bid was the table.

And here we are. Life's short, let's chance it. Let's hope we make it through life in regular with all it's obligations and can feel that the cottage provides us with a welcome breeze of calm and old-time renovations that fuels the mind and heart. Wish us luck. We're probably gonna need it.

And also, I'm asking for forgiveness from you guys that are not at all interested in old houses and old stuff, because... yeah you know that's it's gonna be a lot of that from now on.

Midsummer's Eve 2019

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Looking a little worse for wear the day after, but hey. Still beautiful!

Having been brainwashed by the traditional Midsummer celebrations in Dalarna during my upbringing, this year I kind of missed all that jazz. The decoration of the Maypole, the dancing, the schnappsing (I didn't do this in my youth, just to make it clear), the cabin hanging and the BBQing and most importantly, the new potatoes! The classic Swedish Midsummer celebrations are not quite as unsettling as that new horror movie Midsommar wants to make it out, as the biggest threats to one's person are flying blood-sucking terrors by the hundreds and getting rogue pieces of wood tossed at you by sloshed participants in the classic game of "kubb". Oh, and the Chinese water torture that in this country goes by the epithet "rain" that most Midsummer Eve's have to withstand.

After a short session of getting my plans enabled by my dear partner in crime and household, I invited all the peeps. In the end, around 25 people came and celebrated with us. And, as usual, I ran around doing stuff and trying to be a hostess and then suddenly, the day had turned into night and the last guests left in a taxi. Someday, I'm gonna learn how to plan better so I can hang out more with my friends when having heaps of them over. Someday...

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Kubb, the epitome of “use what we’ve got”, aka throw pieces of wood at other pieces of wood.

But the weather was beautiful and sunny for once, and just windy enough to help keep the mosquitoes at bay. We ate, schnappsed, laughed, talked, threw sticks at each other, played traditional Swedish music. We decorated a wonderful Maypole with scraps from our yard, heaps of daisies and pieces from a thuja we're taking down when we find the energy. You take what you have, ya know? It was a lovely way to celebrate and at least three people have already said “Next year…” as if we’ve started a new tradition. Well, I don’t mind!

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The plundering of the daisy field in our backyard didn’t even cause a dent in it.

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“Pfff, see if we care!”

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Done! Beautiful!

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The inauguration of the pole by “troll dancing” and stomping around. Yeah, I don’t know either, but it was great!

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The thoughtful club

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Mingles

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Ponderings and the obvious signs of a party having taken place. Also, a heap of old wood and trash that we have to cart away to the recycling yard. It’s in half of the pictures. #neverforgetthemess

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