Thursday, 29 December 2011


Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Miscellany of December Days

I know very little about photography and can therefore make wild speculations into art theory without shame. Black and white photography, I say, is a survivalist sort of art. When colour is sucked from the picture, its subject cannot help but fight its way to the forefront, ferocious in its focus. It must be seen. Reduced, stripped to the bare necessities of interpretation, it is the Bear Grylls of the photographic world.

Joel sitting for a test shot before the annual family photograph

Joel and Jachin out for a walk in the vast wilds of the North

 Grandmother's house: after supper, before dessert

Annandag jul

I haven't been writing much because of the holidays. I feel I have not much else to say apart from the pictures that I take, and they say enough. They capture the melancholy of the land, the ageless feeling of a frozen winter wood, a silent road. The twenty-sixth of December is Annandag jul, two days after our Swedish Christmas eve. We drove to our cottage in the woods for a walk along ice-encrusted trails and then to grandmother's snug house for dinner with the extended family.

 All this beauty also resulted in three falls. First Sofia, then Jachin, then Joel. They all slipped without a shout, sliding suddenly and gracefully to the ground where they lay in a mess of moans until someone helped them up.

Warm indoors, we enjoyed dinner, after which there was After Eight chocolates and Sofia fell asleep on the couch and us young folk--Joel and wife Sofia, the cousins Inga-Linn, William, and Amelia, and myself, of course--tried out a variety of no-props-necessary games. We had no board games to entertain us, not even a deck of cards, and so we fell to other means and enjoyed ourselves just the same. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Throwing Rocks at the River

My brother Joel and Jachin have been best friends for a very long time.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Friday, 23 December 2011


Defending the nation, one tea towel at a time

I bought perfectly new kitchen towels from the Army shop for only five kronor a piece. In descending order, they read armed forces, defense forces, and the marine corps. They remind me of adventure on the high seas. I'll use them and pretend to be a stowaway hauled from her hidey-hole by an angry cook and forced to peel potatoes under threat of the cat'o'nine tails.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Girls Who Play Chess in Coffee Shops

Maria and I, unlike this girl and her intelligent friends, play no chess. We did, however, do very little as it was one of those wonderfully unproductive days where we looked at houses on the internet and set up a facebook page for Maria's website and discussed our training regimens. At two o'clock, I was meeting Anna, and I waved goodbye to one friend to meet another, who I found waiting for me outside of Ã…hlens clothing store. We browsed the Army shop and admired the hustle and bustle of a city in Yule tide bliss, before we grew too cold and took the bus to her house, where her family was quick to greet us. Little Emmanuel showed me his new car; mamma Elsa gave me a hug; Samuel shaved his beard, I take it, as a sign of respect; and finally, Anna and I went downstairs to play Legend of Zelda, a game presided over by the honourable Evelina, who watched from the sidelines and laughed when I made Link pick up and put down pots. I quite like having a good many people in a single houses. One is never in want of company.

Speaking of which, my brother Joel, his wife Sofia, his best friend Jachin, and my sister Sofia all arrived today by car from the south of Sweden. They are here for Christmas! Mother greeted them with hot mulled cordial and gingerbread cookies, which was followed by dinner--hainanese chicken rice, made from a packet brought all the way from Singapore--and a dessert of vanilla ice cream and raspberries. We had a good time of it, idling long at the table, our conversation drifting in and around a manner of subjects and sliding easily into laughter, as it should be when family gets together. Let Christmas begin!

Eleven in the Morning

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Three O'Clock in the Afternoon

We live in a land of perpetual dark.
Under black skies we light torches,
we light candles to stave off the night.

Mamma admires the Christmas market lights 

Sunday, 18 December 2011


In the beginning, karate had no belts of colour, no carefully ordered hierarchy by which to distinguish the beginners from the experts. All students wore a white belt, which eventually grew darker with every passing year, stained by experience--the original black belt. One of the yellow-belts told me a true student never washes their belt for fear of washing away her carefully collected experience. Oops.

Orange you going to level up?

I spent three hours in karate today and another forty-five minutes attempting to rise in rank. Despite what would appear to the amateur witness as so much trial and more error, I did win a coveted place among the orange-belters. I wasn't intending on going back tomorrow for the optional workout with the inner circle of hard-core kyokushinkai adherents, but I do owe the blue-belt 100 kronor, and I don't know when I'll be able to give it to him next.

P.S. See, this is why you should neither a borrower nor a lender be. You'll find yourself getting a beat-down in some conveniently placed dojo.

Sewing Machine

See my sewing machine.
See it sew.
See? It comes in its own traveling case.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Bart Tocci

This is Bart Tocci. He is a writer. I asked him a long time ago if he wouldn't mind that I borrowed a section from one of his works and featured him on my blog. He didn't mind.

I Love You, Grey Sweatpants

If a good man is hard to find, does that make a good woman easy to find? Yes. Every woman is good. According to Oprah, every woman should be put on a pedestal. Besides the obvious physical impracticality of this, it makes perfect sense. Statistics show that nine out of ten guys are jerks, and that one out of ten guys are gay—no wonder women struggle in finding the perfect man. I’ve been doing some research, and if Facebook photo albums are any indication, most girls have no problem finding the bad guys. Thankfully for the good guys, a number of women have posted what they require from us.
My research led me to a quote that sums up these wild expectations—it’s written by an unknown author who was a recent champion of Sapfest2009:
Find a guy who calls you beautiful instead of hot, who calls you back when you hang up on him, who will lie under the stars and listen to your heartbeat, or will stay awake just to watch you sleep… wait for the boy who kisses your forehead, who wants to show you off to the world when you are in sweats, who holds your hand in front of his friends, who thinks you’re just as pretty without makeup on. One who is constantly reminding you of how much he cares and how lucky his is to have you…. The one who turns to his friends and says, ‘that’s her.’

What would it look like if we actually lived out this poppycock? A wedding abiding by these nonsensical desires would prove an interesting sight: Folks would be enchanted by the bride, who showed up, apparently just out of bed, frizzy hair, bad breath, wearing sweatpants with “bride” written across the butt and an old Property of XXL t-shirt. The guests would all be saying, “awwww” when the groom kissed the bride’s forehead instead of her lips. The groom holds his wife close at the reception, listening to her heartbeat:”70 beats per minute. That’s a great resting heart rate, hun!” The bride gets up to go get a chocolate covered strawberry and on her return the groom taps his best man and with a proud smile says, “That’s her.” To which the Best Man responds, “I know…I introduced you guys four years ago, honestly if you tell me ‘that’s her’ one more time I’m going to lock you in a closet and burn this reception hall to the ground.”

There is more to this posting, and there is much more to his collection, which you can find at We Were Merely Sophomores.

Friday Night

I was going to tell you of my beatiful new, second-hand sewing machine, but before I got my camera out, the light had faded and night had come, which would only result in poorly-lit pictures. Therefore I will put one up tomorrow. Tonight I will go visit my cousins. Micke and Helle are going out to a concert, and William and Amelia and I will most likely eat crisps and play video games. What does your Friday night look like?

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Tied Up with Strings

I love brown packages in the mail. My friend Jessie told me the other day that she wanted to knit me a hat and send it along when she was done. I had forgotten about this exchange and was therefore very surprised to find I had a package waiting for me at the post office.

Look at my new hat! Just what a girl needs in cold weather. Jessie keeps her own shop on Etsy, and if you would like a hat as fine as this and, like me, are too incompetent to knit anything other than a woebegone scarf, I suggest you stop by for a visit. Thank you, Jessie!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Hamsters are nocturnal creatures; they hang all over the four walls of their cage and rattle the pipes (so to speak) so loudly that I must put them in another room.
"Here." I put the cage down in my father's study. "Have some hamsters."
"I'll have them for breakfast," said father.

Kyokushin - 1, Sanna - 0

Is it possible to feel stupid in something that requires no mental ability? Yes, yes it is. Especially when a certain teacher makes you high-knee up and down the length of the court, followed by a bout of shadowboxing with invisible enemies, followed by riding piggyback on a fellow student as he performs zenkutsudachi, the formal stance. (I feel fake-white-belt and I have now reached a more meaningful level in our friendship.) And then, to finish the evening, Shihan trussed me up in sparring gear and set three six-foot blue-belts on me to open up a can of whoop aaaah--yes, sir. That is your knee in my spleen.

Monday, 12 December 2011


I am thankful for perfect winter days. Cousin Amelia has been feeling under the weather for the past few days, and I visited to keep her company while the rest of the clan was away at school and work. We lunched in the bright conservatory and took Zita for a walk and played videogames (she the soldier, I the mage) and made funny shapes out of our saffron buns before we ate them; and when the sun had set, we dressed in heavy coats and tasselled hats and gloves and ended all with a snowball fight in fresh snow.

It is the best way to cure a cold.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

This one's for you, Pat.

I have an infection on my hand. It started as a small burn from when I brushed my hand against the oven ceiling, but it has refusedd to heal properly. I didn't think much about it until today; it leaked, and mother ordered me to leave a cotton swab soaked in alcohol on it overnight. I am quite fascinated by infections. All I can think of is the heroism of the white blood cells that march to the site of inflammation and throw themselves headfirst into a war where they will founder and fall, giving themselves over to the greater cause of a healthy kingdom. Selfless sacrifice on a microscopic level.

Yo-ho, yo-ho, a Pastor's Life for Me!

I have good news to share before I fall asleep. Our church Christmas party was a success! Alas, I have no pictures to share with you--I was told I would be the royal photographer at the event--but as I was running around doing many other things, I took perhaps three pictures in all. Instead you can imagine a room with long tables covered with red paper tablecloths, tea lights in glass holders and vases filled with boughs of holly and red berries. Before all this materialized, before we even arrived at the church, I was woken from my sleep by a terrible racket in the kitchen, tin pie pans and metal pots and pans falling from what could only have been a great height. Through the door, I heard mother exclaim that she was burning the rice porridge and that she was quite done with this particular thick-bottomed pot and that--by Aslan's mane--she would buy a new one to keep if it so cost her a thousand kronor. Then father pulled open the door to my room and leaned over me to look through our collection of cds, currently housed in our bookcases.

We spent the morning packing up everything we would need for church--candles, biscuits, vases, flowers, decorations, bread, breadbaskets, microphones, cords, stands, to name a few--and mother made strong coffee in our two French presses, whilst I helped father pick out a tie to go with his waistcoat. Arriving at church was no small matter--we packed and pushed all our things into the car, and still we had to drive back for a second helping--but thankfully, volunteers descended upon the building to arrange tables and decorate, giving me the time to set up the sound system and slip on some sugar. Ida arrived with a tall, silvered candelabra, saying she thought the church needed one, and we found a quiet corner to practice our song, to which I was forgetting either the words or the melody in rapid succession.

The evening passed too quickly as I ran from place to place to move things along, and while I realize they were important and necessary, I cannot help but wish I could have been a little bit less like Martha. I felt I was leaving my friends halfway through the conversation, darting off to attend to something or other. I have trouble forming an opinion of the evening (I was much too disconnected), but I have been told that everyone enjoyed themselves, and it was a splendid evening, all in all. I gave up my position as a spectator to become an active part in the evening's engineering and execution--to my loss, but to the benefit of others--and for that I can only be thankful.

Someone once said, every pastor should try their hand at mission work, and every missionary their hand at pastoring. Only then could they understand not only the importance of the other's work, but also its joys and hardships. Pappa is used to tent meetings, to large crowds that come with a free and open spirit, that expect God to show up in full form, trailing miracles in His wake. Now he has to contend with a much smaller group, a church that has suffered through hard ground and declining membership and is only just beginning to cautiously sprout again. He must lug boxes and synthesizers and sound equipment from the cellar every Sunday, must be the first there and last to leave, must see the same people every week, encouraging their talents, tempering and training their personalities to work together in the cohesive whole. He must, quite simply, tend to a flock for an extended period of time (a new dynamic for him altogether), and of course, rejoice in the results of his care--increased interest and a growing spirit of unity among the members of our tiny but hearty church.

It is not easy, but it is worth the doing.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Snow Day

E.T. II: Revenge

I have had a very busy day. I spent the morning editing my friend Maria's blog, and in the afternoon Ida stopped by to teach me the song we are to sing at the church's Christmas party this Sunday. We are singing a song together--an old Swedish psalm with quite a few throat-wringing trills--and Ida tells me I am singing the first verse solo. I've never done that before, but I am not one to step away from a challenge. The snow was falling thick and heavy by then, with the wind howling around the corners of the house, and Ida had to leave at four to visit her grandmother, before she was completely snowed in (Ida, that is, and not the grandmother). The moment the door closed behind her, mother set me to work on lighting arrangements. I helped her fill two vases with a string of lights and move plants around and put up Christmas stars in the window and carry boxes down to the storeroom in the cellar.

 Mike looking decidedly proud in father's Scottish kilt-apron

Samuel and Oscar are usually the ones in charge of youth group on Friday evenings, but they were both busy and so the responsibility fell to me. But as there was a blizzard raging outdoors, no one showed up except for Mike, who arrived bundled up to his eyeballs and wet from melting snow. We put on aprons and made saffron buns, forsaking traditional shapes for the creative marvels of camels and pirates and ducks, and while we waited for the dough to rise we watched Jamie Oliver's Thirty Minute Meals (while discussing how we'd like our future kitchens) and an episode of NCIS, and later on, when mamma, pappa, Mike, and I were all sunk deep into the recesses of the leader-clad couch with a freshly baked saffron bun in one hand and a glass of cold milk in the other, we watched Alien 3, which makes me think I should watch the first two as well, though I doubt they play out very differently. Animatronic monsters that slink about the crevices of a convoluted ship and people who expire in an explosion of red. My mother thought a bit about this and came to the conclusion that E.T. must have been the source of all such thrillers.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Coffee Shop

Maria and I sit across from each other and work separately.
I'll read something out loud. She'll tell me a story.
It works.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Woe Is Me

"Pappa, I'm in so much pain!" I cry, dragging my limp leg across the hall, looking for sympathy. Four days a week my parents listen to me moan and adjust my knee brace and hobble about with the same lithe elegance of Long John Silver.
"It's your own doing," father replies from his office. He disapproves of my karate lessons, mostly because I come back with a medley of bruises on my shins.
I stop in the hallway to flex muscles mostly held up by lactic acid. "Mamma, look at my muscles!"
"Yes, yes, very interesting." She stirs the soup simmering on the stove.
"You're not even looking!"
"Yes, yes."
In other words, mother finds me less interesting than dinner.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Fuzzy Hat

"Mother," I said. "I might need to trim the front hair of my hat. It keeps getting in my eyes."
"Use some hair pomade," she replied. "Slick it back."

She Walks in Beauty

like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that 's best of dark and brig



Writing this book has put me in possession of a mass of information I will most likely never be able to bring up in conversation, merely because of its irrelevancy to my present circumstances in life. Who will ever ask me about India? For example, did you know that growing discontent among the untouchables of India resulted in the Quit Hindu movement in 2001? It did. Its leaders met on the fourteenth of October to decide on what religion, and on the fourth of November, 100,000 dalits converted to Buddhism. And did you know that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was elected into office in 1998 and lost their position in 2004 to the  National Congress party?

And He Grinned His Toothless Grin

Willy and I were standing by the fika table in church. I snagged another gingerbread cookie ('tis the season) and held out the tin to him. "Would you like one?"
"No, thanks. I'm driving."

Monday, 5 December 2011

Snow Haiku

Snow at last! A light dusting, but I'm not one to look a gift snowfall in the mouth. I insisted mother and I take a walk before the sun set (it sets at three in the afternoon these days), and I enjoyed shuffling through the snow in my brother's old boots.

Prophetic paper
snowflakes in the window make
it snow. Now, more please!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

I Like It

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we are moving the youth group to our house, where there is a selection of Christmas movies. Come and see our family's excessive Christmas decoration hysteria.  -Oscar

Can you guess which window belongs to my American friend Oscar?

I spent last night with Oscar and Jenny and their twin daughters, Tracy, Jakob, and a few othters: we ate popcorn and watched Home Alone. It reminded me to tell my friends that I'm gonna give 'em to the count of ten to get their ugly, yella, no-good keisters off my property before I pump their guts full of lead. Oscar and Jenny had put up the rest of the decorations, which were loud and outrageous. There was Santa Claus in his sleigh, his reindeer looking the worse for wear without their antlers; there were the strings of lights and the many tiny Christmas trees and long bows of plastic holly.

There is something serene about a kitchen scene. I realize I have taken quite a few pictures of kitchens, and you perhaps (rightly so) would say they look the same. People clustered around a kitchen table cluttered with bowls and warm cups of tea and elbows on the worn wooden surface. But I suppose that is the point. It's the world as it should be. The kitchen, the nave on which the wheels turn in the sanctified ritual of saying grace, of takingt that first stab at a potato, hot in its jacket, of leaning on family and passing the milk.

Yeah Toast!

I am now a breadmaker. To my knowledge I have never before made bread on my own, though I have dabbled in the similar culinary arts of bun making. Saffron and cinnamon, specifically. My friend Kraken, a bread aficionado and Google employee, sent me a recipe for a honey wheat bread, which I tried my hand at and succeeded. Heartily dared, half won, you know. I am always fussing over the water temperature; I am always afraid I'll kill the yeast (I have such violent tendencies), but in the end, I fret over nothing.

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup vegetable oil
5 cups plain flour

Dissolve the yeast in warm water (not too hot or cold--test with finger if all else fails). Add honey and stir well. Mix in the whole wheat flour, salt, and vegetable oil. Work plain flour in piecemeal. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knee it knead until it is smooth and elastic. Place in a well-oiled bowl, turning it to coat the entire surface of the dough. Cover with a red-checked cloth and let it rise in a warm place (I'd recommend on top of the oven) until double in size. 

After it has doubled, punch down the dough and shape into two loaves. Place loaves in buttered bread pans. Allow to rise until dough has risen three centimeters/1 inch over the rim of the pan. Bake at 190 degrees C/ 375 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes. Let loaves rest (they've had a long day) and settle for at least twenty minutes before cutting and serving. Invite Englishman over for tea and toast.