In memory of my father

Exactly a year ago my father died in Washington DC at the age of 92. He was there on a mission with the Norwegian army, as part of a delegation to honor, amongst other things, American soldiers of Norwegian descent who had served during World War II. His death was unexpected as he had left Norway reasonably fit for his age. As of the moment we received the call that he was very ill, everything became a turmoil for me. Trying to reach him before he died, getting the message on the airplane on the way over that it was too late and then traveling home with him on the plane was a tough time. Little did we know at the time that this event would also change the direction of our lives.

My father was a veteran of the Korean war, Norwegian UN soldier nr. 2, in charge of setting up the Norwegian MASH hospital there. One of the highlights of his stay in Washington DC was the tour of Arlington cemetery. At this point he was already ill, but he would not let this event pass him by. To me, the most poignant picture from this time, is this one where his image is reflected in the stone memorial of the Americans who fell in Korea.

Credits: Erling Eikli

It is an image expressing to me that he was already on his way over.

The funeral was very much the way he would have wanted it. We will forever be grateful to the Norwegian Army for the way they assisted us in every way.

Credits: Christian Nørstebø

One of my dad’s strongest wishes was for me to take over the farm. Unfortunately he never got to know that his wish would be granted. It was only after spending quite some time here sorting through things that we realized how lovely and peaceful this place is and that we decided to move here permanently.

Dad – thank you for the gift you have given us. Thank you showing us your love for this place and for opening our hearts to its loveliness and to the people who have so warmly included us in their lives. I just pray that you somewhere, somehow, know that we are here, taking care of your beloved Bjørnerud.

We miss you! Your memory will always be kept warm in our hearts.

Credits: Christian Nørstebø

This coming weekend we will make and drink a Mannerheim’s schnapps in your honor. You always had fun trying to adjust it to your taste with different kinds of Norwegian aquavit, but for those of you outside of Norway, here is what is supposed to be the original recipe. Make sure that all the ingredients are ice cold.

Mannerheims schnapps

  • 1 liter vodka
  • 100 ml dry gin
  • 200 ml dry vermouth

 Dad’s alternative

  • 500 ml vodka
  • 500 ml Faun akevitt
  • 100 ml dry gin
  • 200 ml dry vermouth
Stir and serve in brimful shot or aquavit glasses.

SKÅL!    

I will always remember the sparkle in your eye when you looked up at us after the first sip to see our reactions to the current mix.

Advertisements

A little sad, a little weary and definitely a little worn at the edges and out of focus

Dear friends,

My only excuse for not having posted for ages has been that we have had a lot of work  with the process of selling our house, restoring the farm and preparing to move. Perhaps the excuse is good enough? Having made the commitment to have a blog, I know it is a “no no” not to keep it up, but the energy levels and the creative inspiration have not been readily available.

To cap it all I broke my arm yesterday. So here I am, a one-handed typist, trying to get a few words out to you, before you totally give up on me. Please tell me you will be there still when my arm is out of the cast in six weeks time!

The other day I came across these words by Margery Williams from ’The Velveteen Rabbit’:

“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day…”Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

Perhaps this process of moving, breaking my arm and blogging is part of becoming real? Hopefully my hair will not have been loved off, and my eyes not dropped out by the time I have become real …

Waiting for spring

The Easter holidays have started here in Norway – and it is a strange one at that. The weather has been incredibly warm this past month and the snow has melted faster than usual. We have had temperatures up towards and above 20ºC, which is the warmest ever recorded. Easter holidays here normally mean that very many people head towards the mountains, either to cottages or skiing from hut to hut. It also means lots of snow, great tans, oranges, chocolate and good food. Tired, sweaty people who have gone for long ski treks, sitting in front of fireplaces, enjoying the physical tiredness and looking forward to a sauna and a shower, before falling into bed to sleep well before another ski trek the next day.

Unless you have the possibility to head deep into the higher mountains, this is not how Easter will be for most of us this year. Around our cottage there is hardly any snow and the only way to get around is on foot. Yesterday the temperature had dropped and ice had formed during the night, creating beautiful ice patterns and crunchy sounds underfoot. In Oslo spring is well underway, with crocuses and other spring flowers springing forth. Up here however, the greys and browns still dominate, but green patches are gradually pushing through.

We had a lovely walk yesterday in spite of the freezing wind. The wind chill factor was high and it was lovely creeping down into a sheltered warm spot and to smell the earth gradually warming up. Perhaps this little slideshow can show you the treasures we found ….

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Snooping around on the hayloft

Spring has bounded in and the snow has melted faster than anyone has expected. Access to the hayloft in the barn has been blocked by hard packed snow which has fallen from the roof during winter. I knew there was lots of interesting things to take pictures of there, but I dreaded climbing ladders with photo equipment to get there.

Last week end I was able to press the barn doors slightly ajar behind the mound of hard packed snow and got in to see all the old machines and other equipment which has been stored up there for years and years.  It always surprises me to see how beautifully things were made even back then. In our arrogance we tend to think that we invented good design, but they certainly new how to create beautiful things in the past as well.

Just look at the fantastic colors and the design of this roller,

and how age has worked on the colors, making them even more beautiful.

See how the iron is bent to form this lovely figure attaching the wood to the iron.

Look at the lovely iron work on the trestle carrying the old sewing machine and how the sun shining through the slats of the walls creates a lovely pattern on the floor.

This wheel is about a meter and a half in diameter. I really wonder what it was used for.

The hay wagon has not been in use for at least 80 years and still the grass huddles close to its wheels. The swallows have been flying in and out  of the barn, their droppings unfortunately creating a mess.

Tucked away in a corner is an old machine of sorts, the burlap which was placed over for protection has gradually slipped way, uncovering muted colors and beautiful designs.

We find it hard to disturb these things and will most probably leave them here for the next generation to come and admire them. All these things carry with them the history of the place and we feel we need to give them due respect.

Our lovely ball of fur

Brian’s lovely post “forever shining”made me want to share a picture of our lovely fur ball “Snorre” – an icelandic sheepdog we have grown to love deeply over the last 13 years. He is still going strong and insists on his carrot everyday after his evening meal.

He is a character, well known all over town, with friends every where. Whenever my husband has a stop in a store or other places where his errands take him, he sends Snorre in first to do his greeting rounds. He knows exactly where to go to get the most cuddles and where he might find an extra tidbit. Some are even known to have their own stash of carrots to give him. He especially likes the small snacking ones. He “owns” the front seat of my husband’s Chevy van and if I need a lift for some reason I get delegated to the back seat ;D

I hope you enjoyed meeting him! He is so much a part of our lives that I need to share him with you.

To post or not to post …

My life has been like a roller coaster the last two weeks. Too much to think about, too many decisions to make, too many things and people needing attention. Time and inclination to blog has therefore been rather scarce. However, I can’t leave you hanging too long, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite pictures from some time back. The pictures were all taken an autumn day, when the first cold nights had started to cover the small pools of highland water with thin crusts of ice. I only had a point and shoot at that time, but I still think the pictures came out all right. What do you think?

The ice adds a lovely sheen to the water and creates beautiful cracked mirror images of the trees and bushes.

The silvery branches hang low over the water and create lovely patterns.

The iron ore in the rocks add a warm glow.

As does the heather and the moss.

The low autumn sun paints with light and shadow and the ice glistens with highlights.

Edradour

Yesterday was a dismal day here at the cottage. The fog hung thick around the walls and the newly prepped ski tracks were ruined by rain. There was nothing to tempt us to go outside and it was a challenge to find something to take photographs of.

However, it was a very good excuse to do nothing except snuggle up in a comfy chair and read a good book. In my case “From Plate to Pixel“. I am trying to get better at taking food photographs and found the book both inspiring and full of practical and useful advice. As today is “Fastelaven” (Shrovetide in English – at least that is the best translation I have found) I also wanted to make some buns. This Sunday is the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent and traditionally it is also the last opportunity to eat well before the fast. Fattening yeast buns filled with cream are usually served sometime during the day.

When the children were small we often filled a basket with hot chocolate and buns and carried it off to Ulabrand, to sit there looking out over the sea on a cold and crisp winter’s day.  Buns filled with whipped cream in a basket and walking is not a good combination, so we created our own tradition by inserting a piece of chocolate in the buns. The challenge was to get to Ulabrand whilst the buns were still hot and the chocolate inside meltingly soft.

The recipe has gradually evolved, from using white flour and sugar, to using spelt and raw sugar. Yesterday it dawned on me that chocolate and orange is a lovely combination, so why not include orange zest in the recipe… The smell of baking orange filled the cottage and the buns turned out exceedingly delicious. If you would like to have a go, the recipe follows below.

Now what has all this got to do with Edradour? Nothing, except that a “wee dram” at the close of a mellow day was the perfect ending. In June last year we visited Scotland’s smallest whisky distillery. They only produce two barrels a day and everything is done by hand, including shoveling the malt. We bought a bottle of one of their most smooth whiskies and it is only brought out at very special moments. Yesterday, for some odd reason, was one of those. The ambiance in the cottage, the warm, snug feeling of sitting by the fireplace, with the dog at our feet – everything was the perfect setting for a wee dram.

The day drew to a close, you could nearly hear the angels whispering good night.

Chocolate and orange yeast buns

For 15-16 large buns you will need:

  • 350g cold milk
  • 100g cold butter
  • 100g raw sugar
  • 1tsp dried yeast or a peasized lump of fresh yeast
  • grated rind of one well washed orange
  • 550g sifted spelt (farro) flour and a little extra flour if you think the dough is too loose.
  • 15-16 pieces of good dark chocolate
  • A little flour for shaping the dough
  • 1 egg whisked with a tablespoon of milk for egg wash
  • A little rough cut sugar brown or white for topping

Use a Thermomix or a food processor to incorporate the butter in the flour together with the dried yeast if you’re not using fresh. If you are using fresh yeast dissolve the yeast in the milk and add the orange zest. Tip the flour mixture into the bowl and mix well. Cover, and let stand for 8-10 hours (or overnight) at room temperature. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead for a minute or two. You may need to add a little more flour at this stage. Divide the dough into two parts and roll each piece out into a “sausage” which you cut into 7 or 8 pieces. Insert a piece of chocolate in to each and roll into a ball. Place on a baking sheet. (You will probably need two baking sheets.) Let rise under a tea towel for 45 min.

Set your oven to 225ºC. Brush the egg wash on the buns and drizzle some sugar on top. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes depending on how hot your oven is. Keep an eye on them the last few minutes. You don’t want them getting too brown.

Serve warm with a cup of hot chocolate. Enjoy!

PS: I am thinking of replacing the milk with orange juice next time. I think they may become even more delicious.

PS for Thermomix owners: You may wonder why I don’t use the TM to knead the dough. This dough is a little sticky and I find it more of a hassle to scrape out the dough to let it rise in another bowl, than to mix it quickly by hand.