We are easing into Spring with variable weather and longer days. Nori is adjusting well, finding all the nooks and crannies our apartment offers with only minor disruptions and growing pains. She enjoys playing fetch, keep away and “the floor is lava”, traversing furniture with incredible dexterity, but she can usually be found napping on her favorite step on the staircase where she can see what’s going on in the main room and upstairs simultaneously!

Upper right photo is Nori waking up from a nap on her favorite step.

I hosted Cooking Club at our place with The Minnesota Table as inspiration. The menu was Wild Rice Turkey Soup, corn bread, and salad with maple balsamic dressing and Rhubarb crisp for dessert. We had to add strawberries because I couldn’t find enough fresh rhubarb but it was still pretty good. Several people had never had corn bread or wild rice before and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. In order to keep the kitchen clean on Monday evening we ate out at a place recommended by Bryant’s coworkers. I had never even noticed the little basement restaurant before and it was fun to try something new.

Art galleries are a great blustery weather entertainment and this week featured several art events. A quick visit with Melissa to the Livets Museum and an exhibit of Rosa Bonheur, (presumably related to international women’s day) with an article from the early 1900s, mansplaining about why there aren’t any great women artists (because women are incapable of greatness… after all, they have so much more leisure time in which to pursue the arts)

Then came a guided tour of Lund Konsthall‘s new exhibit with several artists. The creature sculpture is a mathematical representation of the acceleration curve and bunkers built in the bomb testing zone near Kiruna, which the Swedish government claimed was uninhabited, in spite of the fact that it is home to the Sámi people. The “compromise” was to build bunkers in which people could take cover if they were in the area during bomb testing. 

One member of our International group is starting her own business offering a variety of guided art experiences for individuals, companies and groups…painting parties, lessons etc. and she invited us to be a test group. Our workshop was on Impressionism and we used acrylic paints to create our own impressionist inspired works. Mine was based on a photo I took at Clemenstorget and is not finished but Ghada helped me get going on it at least!

Nori, the Siberian Forest Cat

One of the biggest reasons to buy an apartment in Lund was that most rentals do not allow animals, and the youngest Noice has been wanting a cat. So now that we are settled in our own place, 6 month old Katara aka Nori, joined the family on Feb 28. After careful consideration and much debate, “Nori” is the name that stuck, and it fits her well. She’s still a bit shy but quite playful and curious. She loves to perch on the staircase in the kitchen to watch the goings-on. She’ll be kitten-like for a long time yet and will not be considered full grown until age 5 or so, when she’ll weigh around 12 pounds. She is mostly fluff!

We try to have at least one of us home with Nori as she adjusts to life without her feline family. Siberians are especially sociable and do not like to be alone. Luckily the kids have been home a bit more than usual this week and I was able to continue my own busy social life without too much trouble. It was nice to go to Malmö for Bagels and Banksy with Erin and Melissa after several days spent home recovering from the Vinterkräksjuk/ stomach virus, which only Bryant managed to dodge. It was rough…really, really bad, but short-lived thank goodness!

A fascinating collection of protest art

Other recent activities included American International Club Pie night in Flyinge, a couple of birthday fikas, Happy Hour in Purgatorio, cooking club baking -SouthAfrican rusks in Södra Sandby, spotting a cool, unidentified owl at the botanic garden, a performance by Mare Balticum at the history museum featuring prehistoric instrumentation and music from the middle ages through Renaissance, exploring Sankt Hans park trails, a guided tour of the Skissernas Sketch Museum and new chores such as pruning the rose bushes of Spolegatan and working on projects for the Food Co-operative.

Maybe a short-eared owl
baking rusks, Co-op bread and honey, spring flowers

Keeping busy in Lund

Just north of our apartment building, along the railroad tracks, is a park where I walk most days (photos from September) with the monument, a pond, and paths around the burial mound known as Lerbäckshög which is loosely translated as Muddy Stream Hill.

Here is a translation of the above text…The site, with the highest elevation near Lund, has been used as a ceremonial space since before the Bronze Age and was the site of many important meetings from the 12th century through 1676 when it played a role as an observation point in the Battle of Lund. The park features the monument commentating the battle next to Lerbäckshög, a burial mound from the Bronze Age (around 1800-500 BC). At the mound, from the 12th century to the 17th century, the Skåne county council met, which was a court where judgments from lower courts could be appealed. At first, the county council’s area covered all of Denmark east of the Öresund, but Halland and Blekinge later got their own county councils. At the county council, a judge with court clerks and jurors made their judgements. Until 1660, Denmark was an electoral kingdom where a new king was formally elected and this took place at the county council of representatives of the provinces in the Danish kingdom. Several such ceremonies have been held at Lerbäckshög, including in 1584 when the future Christian IV was appointed heir to the throne. During the Battle of Lund, Lerbäckshög was used as an observation point.

I found these photos of Lerbäckshög in earlier times. The painting was done when it was the last “king’s hold” in Lund. Now the wind mill is gone and the park is bordered by city streets to the east, train tracks to the west. Kävlingevägen is still there, the highway leading to the village of Kävlinge (wrestler, fighter)

which probably relates to the many battles fought in this area. I’ve been seeing lots of European robins, tits and black birds as spring returns, though the views aren’t nearly as picturesque as this nostalgic image I came across!

Sportlov week is back…winter sports break with lots of sports and activities offered through community education/ parks and rec programs. But the kids prefer to hang out at home, and Bryant is saving up some vacation time so we are staying here.

I’ve been keeping very busy with cooking club, citizens hub etc and have joined Lund’s local organic food co-operative.

The group is undergoing some restructuring and is in need of help. I’ve been pitching in as needed, starting with promoting new products for which I’ll test and post recipes. I made lupin bean hummus which was delicious and received nice reviews at a members meeting.

As luck would have it, cooking club was Palestinian food this month and I was able to implement some tips I learned from our host, Shereen, on making hummus- ice cubes help make it creamy!!! We made hummus, falafel, tabbouleh and baba ghanouj with amazing basbousa semolina cake for dessert!

Wild weather with “nearly hurricane” Otto interspersed with pleasant sunny days has made a nice break in the monotony of cloudy drizzle.

Winter excursions

Melissa had a passport appointment in Copenhagen so Erin and I joined her to see more of the city across the bridge. I hadn’t even seen the obligatory mermaid of HC Andersen fame. That was fun if a bit anticlimactic.

We wandered around the 17th century fortress or Citadel and then Christiania, the infamous hippie “free town” before finding an amazing lunch at a French bistro. We were enjoying it so much we nearly missed our library tour but thankfully they let us join anyway.

Touring the Danish National Library/ Black Diamond, named for its modern addition, was a fantastic option for a Monday when many museums are closed. Our guide told lots of intriguing stories about the library’s long history, and the art and architecture are definitely worth a visit.

It seems visiting libraries is the thing to do in winter and ICH hosted a tour of Lund University Library.

Lund 1Runestone moved to the library to protect it from the elements.

And we again heard stories of past scandals, controversies and intrigues associated with the collection and preservation of EVERYTHING published in Sweden, one copy of which is stored here (and in several other archives) That includes every IKEA catalog, grocery store ad, newspaper or newsletter, brochure etc. Every. Printed. Item.

Even those who self publish are supposed to send one copy to the archives by law. They are now using AI to create digital copies of the catalogues. The AI can even be taught to read the handwritten cards.

One of my favorite “scandals” is quite recent… in 2009 a student sculpted a plastic bust of himself and secreted in in an empty niche amidst the busts of famous historical figures. It remained unnoticed for years but once discovered became a feature of the library. There is even a QR code to scan

Katte had its Open House where the eldest helped run the Debate team info booth while the youngest tagged along to see if she wants to go to the same school when she finishes at ISLK.

I think this is part of the law school, maybe. It looked nice in the sun.

I also walked in the cemetery a lot recently and found a few graves with QR codes that tell some interesting details. Many have dob from the late 1700s and died in early 1800s. I wish there were more with codes because I’m very often curious about them.

And the green houses are still open at Botan. I try to go as often as I can because a huge renovation is set to begin soon, and I guess it will be closed to the public for a long time.

And Carole and I went to Helsingborg for an art therapy workshop (which was rather lame) but then we used our 24 hour train ticket to have breakfast the next day (a sunny one!) in Malmo.

And I’ll end with this oddity: a weird note from a Helsingborg bathroom (in English)

Exploring Vienna

Vienna was excellent for a weekend trip. The Noicelings did not enjoy the Viennese Waltz muzak as we boarded our early morning flight. I thought it was a nice touch to set the mood for Austria.

Failing to make our teens appreciate the adventure

We arrived in time for brunch and I wished, not for the first time since moving to Europe, that I had the nerve to order two coffees for myself right away, because it’s so good, and the portion size (one size only, a bit bigger than a shot glass) is so tiny that I always finish that first “cup” immediately. There’s no such thing as a warm-up because it’s not filter coffee. Vienna has it’s own coffee drinks menu, my favorite was the Vienna mix or melange. Delicious! The trick is to make frequent stops for coffee.

These are very small cups for a shot of espresso with room to combine milk, water or cream etc.

The Museum of Natural History is absolutely amazing. I could spend many days there, but since we only had time for a sampling, I tried to stick to the top 100 exhibits with an audio guide and 3D tour also accessible online. Using my phone and the audio guide together I was able to find most of the items and descriptions in English. The space itself is fabulous, and if I had to choose one favorite from the trip I think this would be it. Everyone enjoyed it. But finally my crew gave in to exhaustion so I persevered and finished on my own, emerging after dark into a misty, old-world cityscape.

so many beautiful rocks

It is always fun to see things recognizable from pop-culture, such as a sculpture (Jondalar’s “Mother”) from the Jean Auel books, a rare mounted oarfish, and extremely rare taxidermied specimens like a nearly complete dodo, tasmanian tiger, fantastic fossils etc, stuff so bizarre they seem fake!

center: six meter long oarfish or king herring, very rare

Next up was the Belvedere: 800 years of art history, where we had a timed admission, and it was still pretty crowded in the popular galleries. We probably should have paid for audio guides and we’d have gotten more out of it. It was cool but less interesting. We got hangry before we were finished and the cafeteria was swamped, so we had to settle for the coffee shop cakes. Not bad, but too sweet. The truffled celery soup was very nice, and the kids were sorry they didn’t order it. I shared a little bit just to keep the peace.

After lunch we walked down to the lower palace for this exhibition, GROW-

Art as reflection of the symbiosis between humans and trees: The Lower Belvedere exhibition builds a conceptual bridge from the tree as knowledge of good and evil, to the tree of wisdom, to the tree as the metaphorical axis of the world. The significance of the tree in art is explained by a thematic “branch” that stretches from the spiritual to the rationally perceptible to statements of environmentalism.

The selection of works is drawn from the Belvedere’s collection, supplemented with international contributions. The artistic works cover a period from the 15th century to the present.

The tree exhibit was intriguing. It had a more relaxed feel and no crowds. But we ran out of juice for the last gallery and caught a taxi back to the hotel.

Upper Belvedere Palace

There you have it, three days in Vienna!

New Year’s Eve: Vienna

The kids requested a quiet Holiday break in Lund, which was quite nice for all of us. We had a chance to tackle a few more items on the to-do-list as well as enjoy local festivities. Erin and Ramesh hosted a wonderful Christmas brunch and we had our second annual group Julbord in Malmö. After lots of low-key merrymaking we were up for a long weekend in Austria to celebrate New Year’s Eve Viennese style!

Midnight waltzing on Graben Street

We managed to get ourselves nearly to Stephansplatz, the main square for NYE celebrations. Luckily we made it onto Graben street where revelers waltz under the chandeliers. The Blue Danube waltz fills the air as the bells of Saint Stephans toll. Let the waltzing and cheering commence! It was so charming and manageable as far as big crowds go. People were mostly calm and happy. We caught only a glimpse of the fireworks show, and once the waltzing ended we took a scenic route back to the metro and the hotel, feeling that we had hit most of the highlights and joined in a unique NYE tradition.

Earlier in the evening we managed another traditional Austrian pub meal, including excellent house beer and another version of my new favorite thing, iced apricot dumpling!

melange coffee, Klimt torte, truffled cream of celery soup, a tiny sausage pretzel, viennese breakfast, iced apricot dumpling

We burned some of those calories walking to the Billrothaus Festsall to hear the Vienna Kaiser Orchestra

which was better than we’d anticipated.

The program was short and highly entertaining (the conductor told stories and set the scenes) with a sampling from Vienna’s historical music scene’s “greatest hits.” The space seemed much too small for dancers but somehow they delivered, and the intimately sized theater made for excellent sound and a nice connection to the performers. The only downside was rude behavior by many in the audience who were distracting with their smart phones and chatter. We had a hard time ignoring some of the drama of audience members attempting to one-up each other with their bad manners. Seriously embarrassing. One alternative would be to book a concert with the Vienna Philharmonic, but the seats sell out about 5 years in advance and even the standing room only tickets are expensive. Plus we would need fancy clothes for that while this venue allows casual dress and a smaller time commitment. We even had time for a short nap before hitting the “New Year’s Eve Trail”

Once back at the hotel we tried to get some sleep but the fireworks and partying was still going strong at 3am. We were running on adrenaline the next morning for breakfast at Aida and while the kids were packing, Bry and I headed back to see Stephansplatz since we never made it there the previous night. We enjoyed some of the live broadcast of the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Day concert and saw quite a bit of the area before we had to get back to fetch the kids for our return trip to Lund. Short and sweet!

Vienna Philharmonic broadcasting live and finally the sun came out!

India, Part 3

The last post of my India trip is really just about the drive back from Kabini to Bengaluru. Of course, on that drive, we stopped in Mysuru (Mysore) to see the amazing palace. We got a tour, and did some sketchy things with a little extra contribution to the local economy. :-/ But it meant that we skipped a giant line, got a great guide, and maybe got blessings from one of the processional elephants of the King of Mysore …

There was so much info dropped by the guide that I am still a bit overwhelmed thinking about it. One fun trivia is that the current (young) king of Mysore went to BU (but graduated in 2017, about 23 years after I did. 8-/

Suffice to say, the art and architecture was amazing. There were 3 architectural styles combined into the building because the king was a very “ecumenical” person who wanted architects from christian, muslim, and hindu faiths to design the building together to make sure that it reflected all the people in the kingdom.

India, Part 2

So, part 1 was all about my “work trip”. Part 2 is about the weekend in the country that I had between Mumbai and Bengaluru. I visited Redearth Lodge in the Kabini reserve with Wim and Parag. Super awesome venue with amazing food, and here are some pics from the resort.

Here is a little video tour I took walking the paths.

Of course, the real reason to visit is the wildlife, we did 3 safaris. There were 2 kinds – jeep and boat. We did 2 jeep safaris (which left at 5:30 in the morning) and one boat safari (that was mid-afternoon). Saturday morning was the first jeep, Saturday afternoon was the boat, and Sunday morning was the second jeep.

Here are some pics from the first jeep safari. And, yes, that is a tiger in the wild. 🙂

Safari 2 was the boat. The elephant was amazing, and the croc on the shore was really interesting. Also, the grey fisher eagle with some kind of fish that was as long as it was!

Safari 3 was back to the jeep on Sunday. We saw a leopard, which was very rare, but it was very obscured in a tree. We learned that the langurs will mess with the tigers – pull their tails and then escape into the trees, but they do not mess with the leopards. Leopards climb trees. Also, mongoose are quite cute.

And that is it for Part 2. Part 3 will be all about the Palace of Mysuru!

Advent season

I hosted fika at our apartment one afternoon and served glögg using the collection of cups that I collected from thrift stores around town.

A clerk at the Grand Deli advised me what to serve for the most traditional glögg party. She recommended lingon knäcke, a kind of flat bread/ cracker, along with ginger cookies and cheese. I bought the first two items (lingonknäcke älg, and some fancy ginger bread) at the Deli and proceeded to the grocery store for the cheese. I asked more people for help finding the correct cheese and several of them had strong opinions about the “best” ost… so I ended up with two types of blue cheese. To my surprise it is served on the ginger cookies, not the knäcke! The lingonberry flat bread is delicious (and so adorable) but not meant to go with cheese for some reason.

I didn’t take photos during the party so these were done after the fact and the cheese is long gone. The cookie cheese combo was not a hit. One person said it was OK and several enjoyed the cheese with the crackers rather than the cookies. No Swedes were present so we could be blunt!

After sampling the traditional foods and enjoying lots of Christmas cookies saffron buns and candies provided by the guests, we made Scandinavian woven hearts. Carole gifted me the Christmas plate from 1970. We’ve had fun searching thrift stores for 1966 because she wants that year for another friend. It was a nice way to welcome December.

Soon nearly all the International ladies will leave Sweden for the Holidays. I could use more downtime here to get settled in the apartment. There have been so many projects to do. Bryant finished the kitchen island and spice rack installation! Both turned out really well and the kitchen is feeling more organized.

After the party I started feeling tired and run down. Sure enough I woke up with cold symptoms and had to cancel my plans for nearly a week. I missed cooking club, several concerts, coffee club, sewing club and other social events. I was able to continue my daily walk since the cold air helped clear my sinuses. I think it was just a cold…I had almost recovered by the time Bryant returned from India.

We’ve been getting lots of frost and even a bit of snow. Bry and L were happy to get out for a winter hike. We also started digging out the holiday decorations. We found most of the items we wanted except for Bry’s winter coat!!! He is making do with layers.