The elderflowers are just about to bloom here now, which would mean they have already started most other places. Elderflower drinks are best if made from recently sprung flowers. Recipe here. Go pick some flowers!
I have started planting a few vegetables, I’m loving it. But suddenly decided that I would like to try tomatoes as well. And I just have to tell you, if you would like to do the same, that you can’t wait any longer. Planting tomato seeds now will give you tomatoes in late August. If you’re as far north as I am, or somewhere with similar temperatures you should get cracking now. It’s not expensive and it is very simple.
You need a bit of good soil and obviously tomato seeds. I bought two types, one bush plant and one that stretches upwards and becomes about a metre long. I filled soil in some empty milk cartons, but you could use any type of paper or plastic based container. Fill two thirds or three fourths of soil, plant the seeds as deep as said on the package and spray with water. Cover the container with cling film or a see-through plastic bag. The plastic will keep the moist in and also work as a green house. When the seeds sprout and have grown up to touch the plastic, remove the plastic. When the sprouts start looking sturdier and taller, replant them in separate containers. Keep them inside a little longer. Plant them outside in a pot or in the ground at a sheltered place with plenty of sunshine.
If you find marigold seeds try planting those as well. Plant them with the tomato plants when you later plant them outside. The Marigolds are good for keeping away certain bugs and pests that could hurt your tomato plant. Basil is also a good companion plant for tomatoes. The petals of the marigold are edible, so with a bit a basil and a few marigolds you’re suddenly growing a proper salad right there in one pot.
I cut open a tomato here the other day, an organic tomato that had been laying around for some time, and noticed that two of the seeds had started to sprout. The tomato was still good and the skin was still firm. As I had my tomato containers on the windowsill I planted the two sprouting seeds among the rest of my tomato sprouts. I’m very excited to see if those two manage to grow into proper tomato plants, and very curious about what type of tomato plant that will be.
Today is May 17th and that is not just an ordinary day in Norway. In 1814, on this day, our constitution was written up and signed. A little later it was rewritten a little to suit the union we joined with Sweden, but by and large it was significant to Norway’s later split with Sweden and the nation’s independence. This days has been celebrated extensively every year since, and this year, for the 200th time. We call the day simply ‘syttende mai’ which translates to ‘the 17th of May’, and if anyone asks we say it’s our national day, ‘nasjonaldagen’.
I really enjoy this day. It’s always been a tradition, but after the rose parades of 2011, I wrote about them here and here, I’ve learned to appreciated this day a lot more. And also now that I have children who participate I have been forced to look at it all from a different angle which has also improved how I see this day.
The day starts with salutations being made. I’ve never really checked just how early this is done, but I’ve always considered extremely early. The salutations are often cannons being fired or something similar. These are often followed by early rounds of parading brassbands, I’ve often slept through these too. Then, sometime between 8 and 9 in the morning all school children, and younger children, gather to parade. The children group up or line up with their class, their kindergarten or with their brass/marching band to parade the streets for about an hour. Where I lived before it was always the head of the police who fronted the parade, where we live now it’s a fire truck. Everyone is dressed up, men in suits, women in dresses, and a whole lot, maybe even the majority is dressed in their ‘bunads’.
The ‘bunad’ is Norway’s national costume, and they are different depending on where you’re from. It’s similar in idea, but not in style, to the tartans of Scotland. The embroideries of many of the ‘bunads’ can be traced back to specific farms where the patterns are based on family heirlooms with rose-paintings on or floral patterns on items found in the vicinity or made by residents of the farms. I got mine for my confirmation (a Evangelical Lutheran tradition to celebrate your transition into adulthood – I’ll get back to that in a later post) when I was fifteen. My ‘farmor’ (my father’s mother) embroidered mine and I cherish it more every time I wear it. It really is special to me.
Norwegians are seen as cold and unfriendly, at least through an untrained eye. And in this part of the world, street parades are not very common. And that it is not combined with alcohol can also seem shocking if you’ve spent some time in Norway. But the 17ht of May is a day for the children. It is mostly the children who parade while the parents cheer as the parade passes. After the parade everybody gather up at school or in the town square, or in a similar area, there are a few speeches and then activities for the children.
The tradition in our family is to join the parade in the morning. When I was younger I went with my school, now I go with my children. We spend some time participating in the post-parade activities before we go home and eat ‘lapskaus’ (recipe here). When I was younger it was always ‘farmor’ and ‘farfar’ (my father’s mother and father) who made the lapskaus and they had all children and grandchildren over to eat. Now it is my parents (my children’s ‘mormor’ and ‘morfar’) who visit us. Often we also have friends over and there’s usually cake. It’s a good day.
A general rule is also that children are allowed about as many ice-creams as they can today, or the same number of ice-creams as their age. My five-year-old is allowed five ice-creams (poor boy only had two today – he’s still not aware of this rule).
One of the smartest things I did last year was build myself a herb-garden. I thought that if I had plenty of herb easily available at all times I would use more. And I was right. I have been dreaming lately of small vegetable or kitchen garden, but I can’t keep anything alive inside, so I’ve assumed that nothing will live any longer outside. The herb-garden has now, a year later, proved me wrong. The herbs are thriving! And, best of all, they require little to no maintenance. Survival of the fittest is what rules my garden and only the strongest survive.
I wanted to go organic with this, and googled about a bit. Apparently, building a box needs a little more thought than pick a few planks and nail them together, or at least if you want to get picky, like I did. So I found a producer of planks that are not full of all things yucky that will transfer to the soils, the roots, the plants, and to us. I ended up with decking boards(planks) from the Finnish producer Lunawood. Ask around where you are and I’m sure you’ll find something similar to lunawood (maybe with a less cool name).
I had the planks cut in lengths of 120 cm and 50 cm and simple made a box with them. In each corner I had a small 2×2 (I would think) to support the corners and stabilise the box. And after being told so by Husband dearest I used screws instead of nails. I have no idea why I did this, except that I was told. I did do everything myself though! Yes, I’m a little proud of that. It’s been years since I last used a saw.
I talked to someone from a local garden centre concerning the soil. I had no clue what to get, but I wanted something low maintenance, organic (or as close as I could get) and healthy. Apparently the soil you buy in bags vary dramatically in quality. I bought by the bucket (which meant I actually had to bring my own buckets) rather than the bags. And also some cow manure. It’s supposed to be the shit!
After placing the boxes where I wanted them I started with a layer of newspapers. This is to make sure what’s underneath the box doesn’t compete with what you want inside the box. Then I added a layer of stones, and here I just took what I had. It’s for better drainage, but it’s not very important unless your boxes are placed on solid rock as the soil underneath will help drain excess water. I have a thin layer, for Justin (Case). Then I added a layer of soil mixed with the manure, about 2 thirds soil and one third manure. Loads of good food for the herbs!
For the herbs I wanted something that I use, and perennial plants, so that they will surprise me with their return every year. I chose rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, chives and mint. All good choices, except for the mint. When they all came back this year, the mind had spread through the entire box! It’s the only work I’ve done relating to the box this year, but I had to dig it out, find all little strings of root and try to get rid of the entire plant. The mint killed the chive, so that is new this year. The mint was replaced with lemon balm. I bough organic herbs from the shop, drenched their roots in water before I planted them in the box. No magic formula or ancient dance ritual. It worked.
I was a little disappointed with the herbs in April when they first came back. But logically they don’t come back full size. Now they’re perfect! Please, if you consider it, give it a go! I haven’t pulled weeds, I haven’t done anything this year except to eat and kill of the evil mint. It’s fun, and I did it, so you can too!
We had a few days of perfect summer weather last month. Temperatures above 20 C, blue sky, burning sun, bare, white legs and arms, and sunburned noses. The children loved it, especially our daughter who was allowed to play in the garden all by herself for the first time. The door to the kitchen was open so I could hear her at all times and she could run in and out as she wanted, euphoria for a toddler. Those days have now passed, but only for now. We need some proper spring days before we can take on the proper summer.
I thought of a pineapple drink that Husband and I used to make some years ago. I couldn’t find the recipe for it during those warm days, but I knew it called for frozen pineapple, so after a Friday taco-dinner I froze the leftover pineapple, to have it ready for the next warm day.
I had a rough day today. I feel the stress of the exams and everything getting to me. And I needed to cheer myself up. This drink, a mix between a milkshake and a smoothie, is summer in a glass and exactly what I needed. I found the recipe without having to tare the house down. A few minutes later I had more than half a litre of sunshine. The children tried it for the first time, Son was particularly suspicious to what he was served, but he downed two glasses. Daughter walked around with her smoothie cup, singing and talking in a perfectly happy mood, but gave out a shrilling scream if anyone came near her cup. A perfect afternoon energy boost.
Also, if drunk properly, it’ll give you a moustache.
- 4 dl of pineapple juice
- 1 dl coconut milk (with plenty of the good coconut fat for the kids)
- 2,5 dl of frozen pineapple
- 2 small scoops of vanilla ice-cream (or frozen yoghurt)
Mix well in a blender and enjoy the summer!
I’m a little behind on my blogging, or rather, I have things I would like to blog about that I haven’t yet got around to. But who cares if easter was over a few weeks ago? In Norway we say that yule (christmas) lasts until easter, which I think would mean that easter should last until yule again.
Easter is ‘påske’ in Norwegian. The funny letter is pronounced like the vowel in ‘bought’ or at least if you pronounce the word like the Queen of England does. Or it’s at least a very similar sound. Whatever sound you manage to produce you’ll anyway be fine, as we have such dialectal variation in this country that it would fit into one or another. The word derives from Hebrew and has obviously followed the introduction of Christianity. Before the introduction of easter, or ‘påske’, the spring equinox was celebrated, so easter has proper roots in our culture. It’s still standing strong, despite the decreasing popularity of the church.
Today påske is ideally spent in a cabin, somewhere in the mountains, where you can ski wearing less clothes than you need while skiing in the winter. You should come home with rosy cheeks, white circles around your eyes and a white line across your temple (yes, from the sunglasses). You should eat oranges, marzipan, kvikk lunsj (a chocolate-covered biscuit), lamb, and eggs, but not combined.
I spent the beginning of easter by myself in my in-laws’ house while they borrowed my family and spent some quality time at their cabin, in the woods, with no snow, but with some sunshine. I had exams due, but worked efficiently for some days in order to push school work out of my mind completely for some days and spend some lazy days in the cabin with my loved ones.
I have no idealised pictures of us out skiing with our oranges and kvikk lunsj in tow. I did get a few freckles though, but not enough to brag about here. But just to show you how perfect it all was anyhow, I’ve added the one and only photo I took during those days in the cabin. A quiet sunset by a small lake in the woods about an hour from the coast. Easter was good this year!
Food in France is generally an adventure. If there’s something the French do well it’s food. Nice was a place for many firsts and wonderful experiences for the palate (if you could in fact taste anything with your palate…). It’s been a while since we were there, but I had to write this down. If we ever go back there are places I’d revisit, and if you’re going to Nice, you should check these out.
There’s only one place you need to go for ice-cream in Nice and that’s Fenocchio. Being so close to the Italian border the French in this area do ice-cream just as well as the Italians. And the man to go to is Fenocchio, a company that’s been around now for some time. Fenocchio boasts a number, and a LARGE number at that, of different flavours. You’ll find anything you can think of and the repertoire is changed every year, some flavours fall out new ones are tried. I had a go at rose and tomato/basil. Tomato/basil was refreshing and surprisingly good, but not quite like the traditional, sweet, desert-like type of ice-cream. Rose became a bit too much after only a few bites. Daughter on the other hand ate them both as if it was the best she ever had (but then she’s like that with everything she eats…). Anyway, Fenocchio, recommended!
We lived near the Saleya market and thus this is the market we visited. I’ve been told there are larger and more impressive food markets around Nice, with fewer tourists, but we didn’t venture too far from our base. The market was still great. Except for the fruits and vegs and everyday-food I would recommend you to buy home fruit vinegars (I have mango and passion-fruit), lavender honey (no less that two large jars, it, is, that, good) and the flower (rose, lavender, etc) syrups.
We had already been out walking all day when we decided to go try some Socca. We did not know what Socca was, except that it was a specialty from Nice. We hit the streets and took to walking to a restaurant that I had been recommended, Chez Pipo. We were starving when we got there. And that was a mistake. They served socca, which was very good, with different pastes and sauces. It was good, quite different to anything I’ve had before. But for six hungry vikings it was not very filling. I’ve seen hints that Pipo also serves other dishes, but for some reason there was not much else while we were there. But while in Nice you have to try the socca, and to try the socca, you have to go to Pipo.
The real gem in Nice is the cosy, warm and intimate restaurant Lou Pistou. The restaurant is run by a couple who serve homemade, traditional dishes from the Nice area. We had to visit multiple times, there was so much deliciousness and such a perfect little place. In September we had no trouble getting a table. In summer, I’ve been told, the line is long. But no matter how long the line is the food is worth it. We tried almost all local specialties on the menu, and I would recommend them all. What I remember best are the filled vegetables and the deep-fried courgette flowers, surprisingly delicious.