Sunday, July 29, 2007

WCB #112 - A look speaks louder than words

The look - or sometimes non-look - from a cat's eye, the expression on the face, really speaks loader than words sometimes. Let me give you some examples -
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No cats were harmed in taking of these pictures.
This week's WCB is hosted by Puddy and Kate at A Byootaful Life - come join the party!

Personal ads

I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds personal ads fascinating. It's not that I read them on a regular basis, but when I now and then stumble over a newspaper with personals, I find it quite intriguing to read and try and figure out what kind of person that hides behind a certain kind of phrasing.

Sometimes the ads are so boring, impersonal and seem to be taken from a Personal ads phrasing-collection, option A. But who knows, maybe phrases like walks in the woods, evenings in front of the fireplace, cooking, sailing, well-trained and fit, good-looking, kind and love children are the ultimate ones for getting loads of replies from other love-starved seekers?

If I was searching for love in the personal section of the local newspaper, I sure wouldn't go for that. I'd look for the thought provoking ones. The ones in which you might detect a hint of personality, a hint of layers, a hint of something, someone worth knowing and exchanging thoughts and ideas with. And I'm sure that someone would be capable of writing a more interesting personal ad than a fit, wood-walker with a passion for sailing and fireplaces.

Some ads are just rather repulsive, others completely sad. Both somehow can leave a feeling of I really should answer and state my opinion on the matter. But instead I just hope the senders get all they deserve in life...

Some ads are just hilarious, completely unique and well-written, interest-rousing and probably makes a very good beginning of a book. One day...

So what of interest, if any, did I find in today's newspaper? And I'm skipping the completely uninteresting, the majority, ones, the ones with bad grammars, too many, and end up with these;

Father of three children looking for a new girl. My children think I work too much and that I need someone that makes me slow down - um, I wonder if that should be considered charming and appealing or possibly too much work...?

Beautiful, whole-formed nurse looking for older financial independent man who can stabilize my economy and future - yes I know, it actually says whole-formed and not well-formed, makes one wonder if there's such a thing as half-formed women too? And well, the words nurse, older man with good economy at least stir my imagination...

Frenchman with houses in Sweden, France and Spain is looking for a cultural woman to share his life - that one will most definitely get a lot of answers...

Man who likes trotters seeks woman who likes animals, trotters and cosy evenings at home - another imagination stirring one...

Single guy seeks female 35-55, you can most definitely be overweight or immigrant - somehow this one does leave me with a very sad feeling...

I'm especially fond of the ads searching for someone you've lost contact with or have seen on town, in the supermarket etc, like;

I saw you at the subway 22/7 between 3-4 pm. I got on at station Odenplan, you had a large mug and got off at the Central station - ok, but who are you behind the ad, male or female, and is it a man or female you're looking for? Purely statistically, how many people with large coffee mugs in their hands can be found at the subway...

And this one is my happy favourite this time around;

Blond amazon with a magic smile, frontmost in the no 2 bus, July 17th, 5.45 pm. You wore a pink blouse and had princess feet in flowery sandals - I so hope you find eachother!

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Road trip - Alsta Gardens

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About 60 kilometres west, slightly north of Stockholm you'll find Alsta Trädgårdar/gardens - a little, or not so little really, oasis in the middle of nowhere. A personal garden created, in an old nursery, by a landscape gardener.

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The Alsta gardens give you a relaxing and inspirational experience for all senses. You can buy plants - at nice prices, although I'm not all that impressed by the overall quality of the plants... - and creations from different craftsmen. Like furniture, silver, paintings, fabrics, jewellery, pottery, books and stationary etc.

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There are also arts and crafts exhibitions held in the greenhouse. And if you want to not only feast your eyes on ceramic food, you can get something light to eat in the delightful café. If the weather permits you can enjoy your coffee outdoors. And if not, relax indoors either in the café or in the grapehouse.

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The sandwiches are so very nice, made to order. The cheesecake (vanilla/lemon) doesn't look much, but oh my was it tasty, definitely on my top five list of the best cheesecakes I've ever tasted *yup sort of have a list of that too...*
If you're looking for help in planning and designing your own garden, that service is apparently also on offer at Alsta.
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In My Garden

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When I bought this place years ago, the first thing I did fall for was the amazingly well kept and adorable garden. This I must have!

I had every attention to be a good little gardener and keep it like that, and of course improve it. But as I've said before, I am the truly, madly, deeply the black sheep in my family of green fingered ones, so those intentions have since been up for reevaluation several times... But plans are made to be changed! Period.

I've planted and seeded countless flowers, plants and herbs over the years. Some of them have been a success, most haven't.

Some, few, of the feline members were more than inclined to use the trees to reach the sky. They most certainly didn't get any further than the tree tops. But that's more than enough. And even if the trees in question were rather unhappy to still be alive, it was no fun, at all, to be forced to cut them down... A couple of tuijas and a cherry tree.

I'm not very interested in conifers in my flowerbed, so I did get rid of them almost immediately. I wish they could have gotten a new home elsewhere, but they didn't. They were sent to conifers' heaven.

I threw out the huge compost barrels, they really didn't fit in and well, recycling in all its necessary glory - I don't want to have barrels of mould in my own, smallish garden.
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I expanded the flagstone part of the garden and got one of the my dream-must-have-items in a garden - a hammock.

I got rid of the butt ugly wash stand and planted what was to be a huge hosta there instead. I prefer to have my vagrant camp-corner more discreetly placed under the veranda roof. I hate ugly wash stands and hanging your laundry out to dry in plain sight.

Even if this is a perfectly view-free garden, I really very much hate the sight of a wash stand in what's suppose to be a green oasis, an area for contemplation and afterthought.
I'm not very interested in keeping order and looking after a plot of vegetables, and those darn blueberry bushes never really liked it there. So it became a part of the lawn.

And yes, under the lilac hedges is the main place for the eternal feline rest.

I do have a book in which I planned to write down every little thing I planted, every little thing I changed, if the invited green guests liked the nursing ethics or not. I rarely remember to do that. Sometimes I'm just pleasantly surprised about what decides to reappear the next year. Or not.

Years with a hefty amount of rain - like this one - keep the garden looking all green and delightful. Years with just too much sun, and a very small amount of rain, the lawn gets all dried up and dull, the flowers never really reach their ultimate look for the season.
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Some flowers are just a gift from the birds above. I like that! Others my mother secretly plant somewhere to see if I've yet learned to distinguish flowers from weeds. Most times I haven't. I'm just happy that so many things like to grow in my garden. Weeds or not.

It's muckin' afazing that they decide to stick around for yet another season, and give it that certain fluff, lush, thriving, irresistible look of a garden hosted by yours truly, with a Master's degree in Non-green fingering.

My favourite plant of them all is most definitely the larger than large clematis - a survivor from the previous gardener of the mansion - who every year keeps getting larger and larger and embed a large part of the garden with the most delectable white flowers. It really takes care of itself in the most gorgeous, exemplary way. And every summer I'm proud to be its host for yet another season.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Practical Quackery

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Let's see, if I show my beautiful head and you your attractive behind, throw in a couple of insignificant walk-ons - there we have it, the perfect picture!

The birds were in charge, I'm not sure I agree on this being the best way of posing, but they were adamant. Really.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


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One might say that the Dalahorse is the ultimate sign for the Swedish province of Dalarna. All handmade and painted in that special beautiful curbits style - remember the clogs from I so want to get? One of these days... - of the region.

As I wrote before I didn't embrace the province, despite many merits, but I still think there are many interesting things to see and do while there. And I do love all the plentifulness of handicrafts and not forgetting old, traditional methods while producing great design there.
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One of my favourite kind of handprinted fabrics - which I vividly remember from both grandmother, old aunties and from my own home. And many of the very same patterns are still being produced! - can be found at Jobs Handtryck (Handprint).

I've always found these fabrics to be great gifts for sending abroad, as well as having myself of course. Since everything is carefully printed by hand it's also rather expensive. But so very beautiful, colorful, vivid and wonderful! The prints don't only come in fabrics my the metre but also in handbags, rucksacks, chairs, slippers, wallets, trays, coasters, vanity bags, children's clothes etc etc.

The prices still high, but considerably less so than in a "fancy" store in the city, when visiting the small factory outlet in Dalarna. I always get all starry eyed and salivating when looking at these fabrics, seeing all the wonderful things one might do with them... But I mostly settle for smaller items in the end *good girl*
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If you're short for time and want to make the most of it, I'd say keep on the road around the lake of Siljan. Apart from Jobs Handtryck, you'll find several other interesting things both historical and designwise.
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In the town of Leksand you'll find the beautiful manor and gardens of Hildasholm - which I wrote a bit about here - and also quite a magnificent church with intricate, beautiful details.
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The small village of Tällberg offers adorable houses in quaint style and winding streets. But frankly, I did find it *a bit* too touristy and somewhat distorted for my personal taste...
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An impression that got a bit mitigated by the fact that I had a rather wonderful fetacheese pastasallad with loads of lovely garlic tsatziki and freshly made bread at the little quaint Bagarstugan/Baker's Cottage...
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And as I wrote, Dalahorses being the ultimate symbol of the province, of course one ought to pop by the tiny village of Nusnäs, where it all began once upon a time. One of the factories is Grannas which celebrate its 85-year jubilee this year. For that jubilee they've produces quite lovely black and white Dalahorses with silver/gold paintings. Myself I opted for really tiny pink and blue ones... *just what an already full home needs*
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In the nearby small town of Mora you'll find the goal for the world famous ski marathon Vasaloppet - its looks kind of very non-glorious when seen in the summer... Well, that is if any kind of sports or therewith related issues can ever be considered glorious...
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The sign says "I fädrens spår för framtida segrar" which translates something like "In the ways of the fathers, for future victories".
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My victory in Mora must be considered finding quite a nice place, Wasastugan, which served quite the unusual thing for this region, Cajun food. And a nice vegetarian version of fajita was served on my plate.
Anders Zorn's - the famous Swedish painter who lived around the turn of the 19th-20th century, amongst all his works of art you also find portraits of three American presidents - house, Zorngården and the nearby museum with the Zorn collections.
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Such an interesting man, with an interesting wife and an intriguing life. Definitely a must-see! He was also friends with another famous Swedish painter, Carl Larsson, but more about him and his home later. Many things in Zorngården and its garden is in shape of hearts and adorned with owls. The hearts was a wedding-gift to his wife and the owl was his favourite animal.
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Zorn also collected old traditionally built farmhouses and apart from his art and paintings, one of his legacies to the world was an open air museum with the name Gammelgården, which can be found in the outskirts of Mora.
Close to Gammelgården you can see an example of very modern, but still with a Dalecarlian touch, piece of "art" - graffiti on an electrical station.
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In the town of Falun you'll find mainly two places of undisputed interest, one is an UNESCO World Heritage Site - Falu Koppargruva/Falu Copper Mine -, the other is the wonderful home of the above mentioned painter Carl Larsson.
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Let's just say I'm not very interested in old Swedish, or otherwise, industrial history. And some years ago I was more or less forced down that copper mine. But once down - with an elevator - it was quite interesting, and more than a bit eerie... Another must-see!
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But my very favourite place is absolutely the home in Sundborn, just outside Falun, of Carl Larsson and his equally talented wife Karin. In Sundborn they lived and worked for many years, bringing up an extensive family and creating a home that's been and interior design inspiration and delight to many. Including yours truly.
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It's such a delightful combination of old traditions and new thinking, and after reading books, seeing his paintings it's just wonderful to be able to experience it first hand! The home is not only very charming and homely, but also so innovative and modern in parts, making it difficult to grasp that it was actually created some hundred years ago. A place that makes you happy!
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Being a Cat Amongst Ermines

This feeling doesn't come only when travelling or on holiday - in your own country as well as abroad - but for now I'll just stick to writing about those times on the road. Or really a very specific time. But just to make an introduction to the subject, so to write, I'll keep it in a bit of broad perspective to begin with.
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The feeling I'm writing about is the one of not really fitting in, the feeling of discomfort, the feeling of really being from a very different place, a very different country, a very different city, a very different background and way of looking at things.

Sometimes this feeling can be turned into something good, it's exciting and it'll definitely be transformed into something thought provoking and mind evolving, something to treasure, something that'll make you grow.

Sometimes it's quite the opposite, even if it's really difficult to actually pinpoint the exact reasons for getting the feeling of inconvenience and I-want-to-go-home-blues, you have it and you're stuck with it for the rest of the journey no matter what.
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Or something, somethings, might possible happen a long the way - all that long way before you're able to return home and heave a sigh of relief being back in safe and sound (?) surroundings... - that'll get you to change your mind. A detail here, a detail there, a meeting, an experience, a word. Something that'll make you go ah, it isn't too bad really, perhaps it'll grow even more...

I can totally understand getting the feeling when travelling abroad, to a place with a whole other way of seeing things. The culture, manners and habits are, if not out of this world at least out of your realm of the world. The part you know and understand, and hopefully feel really at home, comfortable and relaxed with.

The reasons for the feeling isn't as easy to grasp when it happens in you own country. While away for the weekend or possibly a longer trip of some sorts, you might find that this is really different to what you're used to. The way people conduct business, the way they dress, the way they walk, the way they talk, look at you, interact - it's like another country. And not in a good sense.

The only things that are alike are the chain shops and ATM:s. Other than that, a foreign country that makes you feel completely uncomfortable and out of place, even when speaking the same factual language (with dialectal differences).

Some times you share the experience and the feeling of slight alienation with others and possible travel companions. Others the feeling is all yours to handle and live with.

Having that feeling when people rave about a place, a country, about it's beauty, experiences, people, food, town and country, gives it a new degree of discomfort.

Perhaps you can see the beauty of the place in a purely objective way, if you step out of yourself for a moment or two. But you'll never feel comfortable, never embrace it fully, never rave about it to others. And the homesickness never take a step aside.

It might possibly be a question of having too much time to watch, think and analyze every little detail. But on the other hand, when you fully embrace a place, a country, you rarely do that without also seeing the flaws.

It's the ambiance, the combination of details and the fact that nothing, no one, no country, no city is flawless but with its very own style and personality, cityality, countryality *Practica Pia times two* pros and cons that makes one embrace it/him/her in full.

I have a friend who'd always lived in the Stockholmian suburbs and being used to the huffs and puffs in city life. After uni, work took her to small towns and suddenly she was different. Different in the way that she felt really uncomfortable when in Stockholm, everything went so fast, the way they served lattes in cafés, the way people went shopping, the public transportation system. Everything she did had a feeling of awkwardness and discomfort. All of a sudden comfort equalled small town.

I wonder if living in a city, and it doesn't have to be a larger than large city like London, makes you feel more comfortable in another big city in another country, than in a smalltown, a village, in your own country? Myself I think so, I mostly feel comfortable in cities, no matter where they're situated, but I can feel so terribly out of place in a small town. The feeling of Scotty-beam-me-up can get really intense.

Oh my, the ramblings of feelings became a bit drawn out... What I was meant to be writing was that our recent trip to Dalarna was rather disappointing, because of many of the above mention feelings of being so out of place. Yes, I can objectively see why many people find the province a lovely and delightful piece of countryside as well as historically interesting.

There are many artistic craftsmen and old small scaled businesses in that province, many of whom you can visit in open workshops as well as buy all sorts of peachy things. The typical way they build their houses and the way they decorate them is just delightsome. It's very rural, very provincial, very old fashioned in parts.

Things that do sound very sweet and appealing on paper, and in pictures. But guess what. I could never shake the feeling of being a city cat amongst rural ermines. And I'd swap it for walking down the streets of a Yorkshire- or Scottish village anytime...
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Next posting will be about some of the things I saw and experienced in Dalarna, this time and before - yup, been there before, obviously never had the time to get the alienage-feeling those times... - and a whole lot of pictures too *surprise*
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