Friday, 30 September 2011

Mushrooms Galore!

 Of course, gathering all those mushrooms meant that pappa and I had to pick over the mushrooms--dust off leaves from their tops, snip off their bottoms, and slice them down the middle--for SEVEN hours today. We watched films to while away the time and managed The Clash of the Titans, Finding Neverland, Jonah Hex, and an time-traveling, timeline-disrupting episode of Stargate SG-1.

I never thought mushrooms could be so demanding. We are trying to dry them on newspaper, which soaks up the moisture.We had to spend a while this evening changing out the soggy newspapers for fresh ones. Can't help but feel mushrooms are like babies who need their nappies changed.

A Shortcut to

Mushrooms! Heaps of them! Yesterday mamma and I headed for the woods to do a bit of mushrooming before the frost nips over the land. It was a glorious day with a proud sun blazing over the rolling hills and the woods full of cool mosses and shifting hues and leaves floating lazily through our field of vision. Karl--a man with a twinkle in his eye and a white beard, a sure sign of gnome magic--and his wife were our gentle guides, and he led us to a location which I cannot divulge; I am sworn to secrecy. It helps, of course, that I do not possess a keen geographic mind or that we took so many turns on the road I have only a muddled recollection of directions. But I can tell you it was deep in the woods.


We were on the hunt for chanterelles, which are distinguished by their funnel-shaped crowns and the veining underneath. And we found enough to fill all our buckets--our guides exclaimed in surprise at the amount we found. They had never seen so many in so small a space.

A short respite

I found a bit of heaven in the earth.

 The woods are lovely, dark, and deep
but I have promises to keep

But I must disagree with you, Mr. Frost, just this one time, for this day my promises were to the woods.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Heard around the Dojo

In karate today, the seven-something-year-old son of one of the blue-belts came up to me. "I'm much higher up than you." He shows me his blue belt with a stripe.
"Yup," said I. "That's right. I'm just a white belt."
"Very much higher."
"I'll have to work hard and get better."
"Yeah. Yesterday we ate at a restaurant. I had chicken. It was really good."

Ah! My Childhood Calls

Today was a terrible day for writing. I did almost nothing. But it was a good day for buying rice crackers at the Sari Sari Asian store. The store is innocuously tucked away in a basement of Bankgatan 16; there is barely a sign to mark its presence, and I would walked by without a second glance if not Samuel and Oscar had shown me the stairs into the earth.

It was wonderful, like unexpectedly finding a little piece of home. I need it in this country so far removed from my childhood's climate and culture. The two filipino ladies in charge of the store were only too delighted to have us, even opening up a styrofoam case to show off their new acquisitions--two spiky kings of the fruits, durian.  I bought rice crackers and Milo and dried mango from the Philippines (the best) and Zesto Mango Nectar and a jar of red curry paste for my mother. I restrained myself from buying prawn crackers and Jack 'n Jill potato chips and and sesame seed cakes.

Now, where is the glass case for Yakult? and the steamed bao stand?

Monday, 26 September 2011

Exciting things to have happen today:

1. After class, joined the karate club for pizza and a viewing of videos of the matches held last Saturday
2. Got my tongue stuck in my water bottle cap
3. Father hemmed his trousers by himself; it only took three hours


Today I made waffles, and father and I ate them with homemade blueberry jam. If I didn't make lunch, we both would have forgotten about the midday meal altogether and only looked up from our work when mother came home at six, asking "Has anyone made dinner?" The answer is almost always a resounding no, unless mother has ordered something--today it was beetroot soup. Tomorrow she has ordered an apple pie and rice (enjoyed separately).

Many Firsts

And the list of firsts lengthens. Ida and I lead worship yesterday. We made quite the pair. She had never played in public before, and I have never sung. She has a beautifully clear voice, and I being the chief sound technician, I turned up the volume on her microphone to drown out any of my own quavering false notes.

After the service, a church meeting was held. Now, I'm no expert regarding church meetings as this was my first, but it was hysterical. We have some very funny characters in our church. Gustaf pretended great indignation at each speaker's grip on the microphone and offered a demonstration as to proper usage. "Hold the mike to your mouth. Oscar."
Oscar, from the back, accepts the verdict. "Okay."
"That goes for you too Erika."
My mom holds up her hands, innocent as a dove. "I never do anything wrong."

We went through the order of business, discussing church attendance, and possible new locations for our church, as it is most inconvenient to have to cart all parts of the church to and from, in and out of our current premises. (Father and I have to climb into our basement every Sunday and pull out the synthesizer, speakers, mixer board, microphones and respective cords, microphone and music stands, and toy box.) Imagine having a place to store our things! Gustaf suggested the new place should have a resting room, in case the sermons got too long.
Pelle smirked, from his seat. "Yeah, that never happens."
Pappa smiled. 

And to finish a good day, I somehow dipped the neatly-tied ribbon around my neck into my teacup.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Cold Creeps

 The past two days have been rather dreary; now that the cold has set in, it finally feels like autumn has come. We visited grandmother today, only too happy to remain indoors and try our hand at crossword puzzles.

My grandmother types all her letters on a typewriter. It has recently broken down, and as there is no one who specialises in fixing typewriters anymore, she is on the hunt for a new one. I tried to show her the merits of a computer, even used as a simple document maker, but she would have none of it, "No, no. I won't have one. Now show me that gog of yours."

 Mormor och jag


Friday, 23 September 2011

A Day Spent in Surplus

 I met up with Anna in town today and after a quick fika at Kafe Station, we were off to the army surplus store known creatively as Armyshopen, wherein we rummaged about the wide selection of war memorabilia and old army uniforms. I found a nice pair of wool trousers from 1943, perfect for tromping around the forests of the north and which I bought promptly for the very reasonable price of fifty crowns. Alas, they had no coat in my size, but the owners were very accommodating and told me to stop in next week, when they would outfit me with the very best. 

You see the little, pint-sized jacket in the very front? It's from the American army. 

One of the employees took us around, pulling out coats and jackets and coveralls and hats and telling us bits of history, to our mutual amusement. He was a true storyteller who genuinely enjoyed his matter. He thought one particular hat made him look poetic and posed for us. It only costs, he added, twenty crowns.

A gas mask for infants. You know the world has come to sad ends when it necessitates we take such precautions.
I will be going back next week and buying the other fifty percent of my uniform, and perhaps I'll take a picture of myself out mushroom picking, perfectly dressed for the occasion in my gray wool attire. I showed off my new purchase to my parents--Mamma couldn't quite see the point, exclaiming "Oh, how horrid. I would never buy that!" But Pappa seemed more inclined to know if they came in his size. Which they did. There may yet be two of us dressed in uniform.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Velvet Nights

I sleep on a trundle bed, next to a bookshelf. When I pull the covers up to my nose and turn over, I stare straight at an old green, gilt-edged copy of Medicinal Terminology by Acke Renander and Joseph Heller's Catch-22, which I suppose isn't a bad way to fall asleep at all.

Good night, rest well, know peace.

It's been raining all day, from the moment I woke up to when I caught the bus into town to buy some fabric, to now, when I sit on the sofa and watch a show about houses--I want a Victorian house with arched doorways, a study with deep armchairs, a library with a fireplace, a bathroom with its lion-footed tub and copper piping, and a garden filled with apple trees and gooseberry bushes. And a gray cat, of course, sprawled across a green cushion in the conservatory.


Wednesday, 21 September 2011


One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an errant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.
- Robert Louis Stevenson


Admiration in Purest Form

Today I finished reading through the last of the newsletters on hand, which covered the years 1995 to 2000; and I am now looking over even earlier newsletters from when we moved back from Singapore the first time. It's rather odd working with such material as it gives me glimpses of unremembered days in my own life. I come across such passages as this:

"Since we left Singapore and came back to Sweden we have been able to settle down and get things going again. The children are fine, enjoying life in Sweden, but Sanna (our daughter) sometimes asks when we are going back to Singapore. She wants to go to 'Big Splash' or 'Bedok Swimming Complex.'"

 The most fascinating entries, however, have been the letters written by my twenty-two-year-old father during his mission trips in the late seventies. They are simple newsletters, single, typewritten sheets sheets that my father took the time to punch out on a basic typewriter. My father was younger that I am now when he wrote these, and he tells of travels I cannot even imagine.

With Operation Mobilization, he rode--ate, slept, talked, read books--in the back of a truck for four weeks as his team drove from Belgium to India, traveling through Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey (sidling past Mr. Ararat), Iran (avoiding Tehran because of political turmoil), Afghanistan, and Pakistan (they just made it through the Kyber pass on the border between Aghanistan and Pakistan--after four o'clock the pass was closed down because the military could not guarantee safe passage in the evenings through a territory ruled by the local tribe, the Pashtuns). He threw himself head-first into a hot, chaotic world completely unlike his own, and he fell in love with it, despite his bout of dysentery in Jaipur. 

"When we drove through the city we were jostled along with horse- and ox-carts, cows and pigs, chickens that roamed around freely. The streets were teeming with people. There was the butcher's table right next to the street dentist, there sat the peanut seller on the sidewalk together with the banana man, the orange seller, etc. There, some blankets and pots that made a home for someone on the side of the road. Tire services almost in the lap of those who ate in the street restaurant. The rich, the beggars, the lame, the crippled, and people, people everywhere."
- Lahore, 1978

I find my own heart responding to my father's words, though I am thirty-three years removed from their writing. In a letter dated from New Year's Eve 1978, he expresses a longing for something other than his current circumstances, a thought which I understand intimately:

"In all honesty, I must admit that over these last few days I have been missing home quite a bit. Therefore, it is good to know that the Lord wants me here, even though right now my feelings tell me otherwise. For the Lord has several times shown me that I must put my trust in him. Even if I do not understand now (Proverbs 20, 24, 16, 9), He will guide me and lead me in his paths, and I shall later understand."

  There are more stories, but I'll save them for the book.

I'm with the Band

Check out my new album. I always knew I'd make it as a musician. Well, not really. But if I did manage to rally the troops and string them into an eclectic neo-classical post-hardcore band, we would call ourselves Autodrome.

Father, Son, and Holy Toast

For the past few mornings, I have been making toast. My sister gave my mother this Virgin Mary toast press a few years ago for her birthday. I discovered it in a drawer and have been using it since, because no one ever said my daily bread couldn't be toasted.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Chocolate Balls

Our baking had a rather unceremonious beginning. The recipe calls for sugar, as all sweet treats do, and instead of pouring it into the metal bowl I tipped the measure into the oatmeal container. We had to find a sieve and sift the oatmeal to separate it from the sugar; but still, Amelia gave me only one of those you're-rather-hopeless looks.

Sweet cousin Amelia

Regardless of my own shortcomings, I give you the recipe in hopes that you fare better on your journey. This is a tried and true no-bake classic, a delicious memory from my childhood when my mother and I made chocolate balls around the kitchen table.

Chocolate Balls

100 grams butter
1 1/2 dl sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla powder
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
5 dl rolled oats
2-3 tablespoons water

pearl sugar or coconut flakes

Stir sugar with room temperature butter. Add vanilla powder, cocoa, rolled oats, and water. Mix well. Pinch off bits of dough and work into balls by hand. Roll balls in a bowl of pearl sugar or coconut flakes. Store chocolate balls in a lidded container, preferably in a cool, dry place. (We always keep ours in the freezer.) Enjoy!

Fall Days

 After a few hours of working, I caught the bus to my cousins' house. It's a bit of a walk from the bus stop, but I didn't mind as it was one of those beautiful autumn days: the sun slanted warm across the puddles left over from last night's rain.


Their kitty greeted me at the door. Freya, whom I named, is a ship's cat--she has extra toes on each foot to keep her safely balanced on a tossing ship. She doesn't much like to be touched and sniffed at me and darted away, pretending to be startled by the wind in the reeds. 

The Garden

Helle bought fall plants to punctuate her withering garden with colour. I've been trying to get mother to do the same, but to no avail. I suppose it would help if we had a garden.

Once inside, I pulled off my boots and dropped my bag and spent the remains of the day with my aunt and cousins--I vacuumed for Helle and helped William with his homework (he insisted on reading the biology textbook out loud like an old man from the heartlands of Sweden) and cooked dinner and made chocolate balls with Amelia. As I haven't been there for a bit, I had forgotten where things in the kitchen were--I resorted to pulling open drawers and peeking into cupboards to orient myself--it is the oddest feeling to have only a general sense of direction when one is usually so precise.


I have overtaken the kitchen table with my work. Writing this book is very much like writing a comprehensive research paper--in this case, my research exists in the form of old newsletters, which I have to scrutinize for events and underline and outline to my heart's content. I have yet to look at old photos and letters, and only after that can I start the process of writing. But it's not a bad way to spend the day.