Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Splendor of Västervik's Archipelago

Serene and beautiful, Sweden's archipelago - the skärgården, they call it - is truly magnificent. During our week-long holiday in Västervik, we ventured out to one of the islands overnight - my first true island experience, you could say. I visited to tourist-riden Fjäderholmen, just 20 minutes by boat from Stockholm, 4 times last summer - and promised I'd go further than that first stop-off this year. And now I've done it - beyond Stockholm to Tjust skärgård!

The island was small - enough so that I could leisurely swim around it in about 15 minutes (Michael Phelps could probably do it in 5, tops). We spent the afternoon lounging on this dock (see photo), soaking in the streaming sunshine on one of the few gorgeous days this summer has brought, and taking a dip before we ever completely dried off.

In the evening, we re-located to the westward-facing dock, perched on a small cliff above the water, from which we sat with bar-b-qued pork and boxed wine, watching the sun set and the moon rise.

When the sky was nearly dark - around 1030pm - and our mosquito spray could no longer ward off the swarming bugs, we took a late-night swim before crawling into our bunk beds by candlelight (no electricity or running water on the island). Ahhhhhhh the Swedish summer!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Homemade Flädersaft aka Elderberry Juice

Flädersaft! A Swedish summer tradition!

fläder = elderberry
saft = juice/ concentrate

I've never actually made my own juice before (unless you count powdered lemonade), and hadn't thought to make it until coming to Sweden where everyone talks about their flädersaft. Have I ever even tasted elderberry before moving to Sweden? I think not. Is this homemade juice a new trend? Perhaps - and I like it! 

Fläder/ elderberry is a white flower of tiny petals that grow on bushes. The flowers come in late spring/ early summer, so the time is now - and going fast. To start with our creation, Greta and I gathered 50 of these blooms, easily accessible right in our neighborhood. We then mixed these blooms with lemons, water, lots of sugar, and some other stuff I don't know the name of in English. And - viola! - we got this:

After stirring this mix of deliciousness once a day for 5 days (thank you G!) and draining it (again, I cannot take credit for this part either), we had one heck of a juice, or rather a concentrate to mix with aqua. 

And so it was time for the official taste test (see above). After much deliberation between our choices: this year's homemade juice, G's homemade juice from last year, and a store-bought version, we decided (without prejudice) that our batch was the best! I now have my first partially frozen batch of elderberry concentrate in my freezer. Come rain or shine (more likely rain of late), I have a small taste of summer to last through the year.

NB- Mix with bubble water for an extra kick!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Celebrating America in Fredhäll Park!

The 4th of July has been my favorite holiday since the days running around Market Street barefoot covered in raw egg and water balloon remnants of games, helping clean up in exchange for a box of sparklers. Things have changed a bit - for one, I've yet to find sparklers in Stockholm - but we still celebrated with a bbq in the park.

Even with our turnout of nearly 40, there were only 4 Americans in attendance (+ 1 later on) - so naturally, we had to represent our country with a rendition of "America" (chosen as the song to which we all knew the most lyrics). There is a film of our performance somewhere, but I won't subject you to it here. 

I can't claim to be the creator of these beautiful cakes (Tracy is!), but I did supply the  burgers and dogs, potato salad (made by NS), and fruit salad. Everyone brought something small to share, so we had plenty of food. The grilling was done on all of 7 disposable grills. The games were played by all, and ranged from the classic water balloon toss to throwing ping pong balls into cups on top of people's heads. We even adopted a couple Swedish classics like kubb and "the ring game" (does anyone know the official name?).

Despite calls for thunder storms, not a drop fell (Swedish weather forecasting per usual). Our celebration of America ended up just as we had hoped - a warm, glorious day in the park among good friends and food.