kareina: (Default)
The overwhelming sensation of spring in the north is LIGHT! BRIGHT! Ow! The snow is slowly melting, which means that it is gone right up next to the south sides of the houses (which reflect heat), along the roads and bike paths (which had been kept mostly clear all winter), but everywhere else the snow is still there, but its surface has melted and re-frozen often enough that it is really, really reflective. Add to that the bright sunny days, with every increasing hours of daylight (15 hs, 23 minutes today, and increasing by more than 7 minutes a day) means that the world is so very bright to the point of being overwhelming. These things happen in the spring.

I think I will stay inside and work on projects, now that I am past the worst of the symptoms of being sick. Tomorrow work resumes again.
kareina: (house)
Some of my friends in southern locations have flowers growing in their yards. We have snow that has melted enough that it is only about knee high over most of the yard, though the patch of ground between the walkway and the house has melted all the way to grass for most of that area.

However, the bike path has been completely clear all week, so I pedaled to work most days (one day I had to bring the car so that I could go replace the headlight, as I needed it that evening). A couple of the days it was cold enough in the morning that my breaks and gear shift were frozen, but, luckily, I don't actually need them to get to work, and it was above freezing on the way home each day. I have even managed to chop the softened ice away from most of the walkway. However, our driveway will be only treacherous ice for some days yet.

I love winter. Summer is nice, but I am not so fond of the transition periods, where we alternate between freezing and thawing, with all of the trials and tribulations that goes with that.

Today was an at-home day for me--my first in several weeks. I managed to sleep in, do some laundry, read some of my book, painted more on my banner (I started a new silk banner to replace the one that got stolen last summer at the Frostheim meeting last night, and took it home to continue work on it this weekend, so that someone else can use the frame next week), and spent several hours sending notes to loved ones. Now I think I will paint a bit more and do my yoga before crawling into bed with my book.
kareina: (Default)
At the SCA event this weekend I spent the first part of the event wearing a tunic and my new Tjorsberg trousers, with the really comfortable sheepskin feet, but as it came time for the evening feast I decided to change into a dress. Remember how some weeks back I said that I had needed to change out the underarm gores in my 12th century underdress so that the sleeves would fit over my larger arm muscles? Well, this time, when I put on the dress I noticed that the fabric was kind of straining over my lats. (Which explains why I found it so difficult to put on. Yes, it has always been difficult to wriggle into this dress, but I barely managed getting the narrow part of the waist over my shoulders at all this time.) Yet, it was still reasonably comfortable, providing the same really good breast support it always has, so I put on the overdress and enjoyed the evening.

However, late in the evening I managed to move my arms and flex my shoulder muscles in such a way that I heard a ripping sound, followed by several other ripping sounds. We looked, but saw no damage to the over dress (which laces up the sides, so better handles the larger muscles), so suspected that it was the underdress. Sure enough, when I finally took it off that evening I saw several rips in the part of the dress that falls between the shoulder blades--a long one pretty much dead center, and a few smaller ones parallel to it between the mid point and my left shoulder blade. Sigh. Luckily, none of them extended low enough to compromise the breast support the dress provides, since that mostly comes from the fact that the dress diameter just under the bust is exactly the same as the circumference of my ribs at that point, and that point is all ribs--it is just under the newly bulging lats.

Therefore today after work I cut out a diamond-shaped hole from the back of the dress and sewed in a diamond shaped replacement, cut on the bias, so it is a bit stretchier, though the same size (after finishing the seams) as the shredded part which I removed. Then I opened up the seam between my back and the underarm gore from the bottom of my lats to where the underarm gore hits the sleeve, and added an insert there. I used the original square underarm gores for this--sewing one straight side to the bottom edge of the underarm gore, one straight side from that point along the body rectangle to the point at the bottom of my lats, and then sewed along the hypotenuse of the triangular gap to let third the edge of the new gore curve to fill the space. Then I trimmed off all of the square that wasn't needed and finished the seam. This adds about 2 cm at the widest point, which takes the strain off of the fabric over my back. With luck I won't grow so much more in the way of muscle bulk, even though I have every intention of continuing to train and get stronger. But the new underdress in progress will be cut a bit loose over the shoulders, just in case.

Other than damaging the dress (which was fun when it happened), the event was a good one. I did much crafts, got to visit with many delightful people, did some dancing, some singing, and even took a short walk. I should have brought my fur hood and muff though. I hadn't expected to go outside, but I did try to watch the fighting, both the torchlight tourney Friday night (where my poor champion took a cup shot :-( and the day time tourney on Saturday. I didn't stay out long for either of them--while the weekend weather was generally warm and sunny, there was also an icy breeze, which I wouldn't have noticed if I had brought the fur.

It must have been sunny and warm at home over the weekend, too, since the bike path between here and uni has pretty much had all of the snow and ice melted away from it since last I took it. Only places which are shady still have some ice. I noticed when dropping O. off at home after the event that the part of the path I can see from the road was clear, so I opted to take my trike in this morning, and was pleased that my 45 minute walk was thus shortened into a 26 minute pedal. (good thing, too, since the above mentioned repairs to the dress took nearly 4 hours!)

My apprentice was supposed to do her analysis of the Roman coins today, but we are nearly out of the Argon gas needed for the ICP-MS, so instead we just set up the experiment, polished the coins, and took photos of them under the laser camera--it will automatically stitch together as many as 7 x 7 photos (which measures about 4 mm wide and 3 mm tall), and it took six sets of 7 x 7 photos to get the entire coin cross section photographed. But it makes sense to get good photos of "before" we fire on it with the laser.

So the plan is (assuming that the gas arrives on time) to run her analyses as the demo experiment on Wednesday during our lab demo day. Hopefully my colleagues will be ok with this.
kareina: (stitched)
The last couple of days, when my friends in Alaska were complaining of -50 it has bee 5 degrees above freezing during the days. It has dropped below 0 Cat nights, so the melting isn't as bad as it could be, but still I wish we could just have a proper winter with snow that stays snow and doesn't melt and re-freeze into a lower harder crust. So far the record number of days in a row of temperatures below freezing this year is six days (in December the record was 11 days). This morning it is a lovely -7 C, but my phone says that it will be above 0 again in a couple of days. This makes several years in a row wherein winter has been replaced by winter-spring melting-winter-spring melting-etc.

But even if the weather isn't living up to my ideal, the rest of life is going well. Work is fun, Frostheim is fun (we had only three of us for this week's social night, but it was a delightful time chatting with them and making progress on the new pair of Thorsbjorg trousers I started at the workshop last weekend), choir is fun, Phire practice is fun, my love life is wonderful, and I am looking forward to dance starting back up on the weekend (it actually started last Sunday, but D & C were too tired after the costume workshop and I didn't want to stop sewing, so we didn't go.
kareina: (house)
Some time back one of you (I think it was [livejournal.com profile] hrj) shared some of the signs of fall in her area, and asked what were the signs of fall where the rest of us are. I didn't reply, as it happened to be on a day I didn't have time, but when she asked we had already lost most of our leaves, and some nights were dipping below freezing, and then warming back up to a few degrees above during the day. In the weeks since winter has crept gradually closer, and for the past several days we have enjoyed temperatures which stay below 0 C. When I got home from Finland we had had our first snow--a cute little dusting just enough to fill much of the space between the blades of grass, but not actually hide all of it. This, of course made me happy, as I love snow.

This weekend [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar and C. did the 2.5 hour drive down to Bureå to attend a party at his little brother's house, but I stayed home, as the trip to Finland was quite enough time away from home for me for one week, so instead O. and I worked on some projects. However, when they got home they told me that in Bureå there is half a meeter of snow, and now I am so jealous. Why did that cloud have to drop it all down there, why couldn't it have moved just a bit further north? Why didn't I go along (and bring snow pants) so that I could play in it. Not that I didn't enjoy being at home, of course I did, and it was nice to make progress on projects.
kareina: (house)
It is now summer in the north, the birch tree has managed to grow most of its leaves, the smultron(wild strawberry) have started to flower, the current bushes are putting out clumps of things which will become flowers, followed by berries. The spinach and chard seeds we planted are starting to grow tiny little leaves, and the day time highs are getting up to around 20 C.

Now that it is warm enough to open doors and windows in the house I have finally started scraping away the wallpaper on the west wall of the kitchen in preparation for painting that wall. I have never liked that paper, and only tolerated leaving it there because we had covered most of the wall with bookshelves to serve as a pantry, so only a few of the huge, ugly, teal flowers showed above the top of the shelves. However, [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar wanted more room in the kitchen, and we have decided to build a small walk-in pantry on half of that wall, and open up the rest of the space for other use. Step one towards this goal was building the downstairs pantry, where the duplicate packages of food now lives, so we don't need as much shelf space. Now I have moved the remaining bookcases into the living room just on the other side of the kitchen door, so that the wall is empty. Based on how long it took to remove the first panel of wall paper, I think it will take about 12 hours to get the wall clean and empty, then we can sand it up, fill in holes, and paint it. After that we can finally start building my new pantry.

One could argue that pantry building should have been a winter project, because now it is earth cellar building season. Indeed, today would have been a fabulous day for it. But this weekend C. is home for a visit (her summer job is in the south of Sweden, and was too good of an opportunity to refuse just because she had only just moved here), so [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar set aside the weekend to relax with her instead of working on projects.

Most of the rest of my free time is spent doing stuff for our Medieval Days at Hägnan event in July, since I am one of the autocrats.

Monday & Tuesday I have an obligatory "meeting" for work (read excursion to see a mine up in the Gällivare area and stay overnight at a hotel there before returning on Tuesday), so nothing will be accomplished on the work front.
kareina: (stitched)
We had seven of us for Frostheim's craft night tonight. Not quite all at the same time though--V. arrived early and left early. S. came a bit later, but also didn't stay long, and J., a totally new guy, arrived during the last 45 minutes we were there. However, I am glad I did, since O. had asked me to bring in my armour and swords and stuff to show him, and he sounds keen to try fighter practice on Sunday. Also, since the armour was there O. spent the evening trying stuff on and thinking about what he will want to do differently when he builds his own, so it was worth the effort of bringing all the stuff.

L. had finished the nålbinding project she started last week (her first, ever), and was ready to be shown how to start a project again. She is one of the students in the group who is also in my department, and trying to decide what she wants to do for her Master's project, so I shared some ideas of projects she could do with the laser. My apprentice, E. is the other, and she is also considering laser-based projects for her Master's, if she doesn't go with a geophysics project. It will be interesting to see what they wind up choosing.

My other apprentice, A. finished a project tonight--a lovely blue wool triangle cloak for which she has tablet woven a maroon and grey edging. I quite like how it came out. I have made progress on my glasses case--the strap is nearly completely attached now, only 12 cm of seam left to do on it, but now it is finally wearable. I made the strap for this one a good bit longer than the last, so it rides down by my hip, instead of my waist, which means that I don't have to remember to take it off when I put on my coat, which will make life much easier. It will also be nice to always have all four pairs of glasses in reach, so I can just grab the pair I need for any given task, and not try to use the wrong ones because I couldn't be bothered walking all the way to my backpack.

Last night's snow actually stuck in a few, isolated, spots, which meant that tiny pockets of the world were fresh and white this morning (if only about 1 mm thick), but, of course, it didn't last, and by the middle of the day it was +5 C. Even so, there is still a fair bit of snow out on the field, even if it is mostly gone in the forest and up by the house. I need to remember to take a photo of the yard tomorrow to compare with the ones I took last year and the year before on that date.
kareina: (house)
Was it just yesterday I posted about how nice it was to finally get some decent snow? Today it warmed up above freezing, with a warm wind, and the roads and walkways have a film of melt water over ice. Ick! Hopefully we will return to proper winter temperatures soon. I hope this won't be another of those dreadful winters wherein every snow is promptly followed by melting. I didn't move north for that.

In other news, I had a great work out today, which got my arms recovered from the pain from Friday's aerial silks--now they are just normal after-workout tired, rather than hurting.

I am also pleased to have gotten lots of award recommendations sent in today.
kareina: (me)
When we walked from the house to [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar's parent's motorhome to sleep last night the driveway was comprised of a thin layer of snow left behind after plowing, the texture of which was that perfect consistency to make that squeaky-crunchy sound snow makes on a cold day. Winter-perfect.

When I woke up this morning and walked into the house it was necessary to be careful, as now the driveway is comprised of ice with a film of water covering it, and all of the drain-spouts from the roofs of the house and out-buildings were running liquid water. It was also lightly raining, but I suspect that most of the water film over the driveway came from melting rather than precipitation.

We had planned to spend some of today wandering in the forest here so that [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar and his brother start to get familiar with it (remember that his parents only bought this farm in May). However, with the rain it was decided to do a bit more work to finish up the new car port instead. While the boys did that I made progress on my book and took a nap.

Since the 25th is just an ordinary day in Sweden, dinner for the eight of us tonight didn't have quite so many choices as yesterday. I took "only" the roast moose, moose balls, baked omlette with cheese, salad, potato, and left over mixed root vegetables dish from yesterday, and ignored the saussage, normal meat balls, pork dish, the fish and potato dish, the other fish and veg salad, or any of the five or six store bought bread options.

It is always mind boggling to me how his mother manages to produce dinners like this--I never see her doing the food prep, other than the last minute putting it all out. It is nearly enough to make one believe in magic.

Not that I would want to eat like this most of the time. I am content with my one-dish meals or soups, and with grazing all day, one item at a time and wait an hour before the next thing. My poor tummy doesn't like getting it all in one go like today. Especially when my mouth wins the debate and I take seconds because it was tasty.

Edited to add: and then she fed us blueberry cake with whipped cream and some other sweet fluffy sauce thing (I skipped the latter). My poor tummy is so full, but my mouth thinks longingly of thirds on desert...
kareina: (stitched)
As most of you have probably noticed by now, I am really fond of winter and snow, and have been unhappy with the really mild winters we have been having because they aren't cold enough. Because I thought I might just be imagining it, I started keeping a record of how many days in a row the weather was either above zero C, below zero C, or saw both sides of zero in the same day. In my opinion, winter should be a several month long period of time wherein the temperatures never rise above freezing. By that definition we haven't had winter since I started keeping records. I just checked my records--the longest period we have had where it didn't warm up above freezing was 16 days in January. In contrast, we had 101 days in a row this summer that stayed above freezing (the last day of which was 1 September). So far our record number of days in a row wherein it was both above and below freezing each day was 13 days.

I was really hoping that this winter would be better--that once it got down to decent winter temperatures it would stay there. But so far it isn't looking good. We just had three beautiful cold days, but it has warmed up, and they say it will rain tomorrow. We don't have much snow yet--only a handful of cm covering the ground--too much rain will wash it away, and then it will be dark again. I hope it doesn't get that bad...
kareina: (stitched)
I am sad to report that after last night's snow we had rain this morning, which has removed all the snow on the roads and side walks, and all but a tiny hint of it on the fields. I hope this doesn't turn out to be the pattern for the winter, yet am fearful it might be, since that it what happened the winter before last...

However, anytime I am despairing over our weirdly warm winters here in the north, I can read [livejournal.com profile] blamebrampton's reports on spring and summer heat down under, and realize that, actually, this isn't anywhere near as bad as things could be. Take care, drink water, keep cool...
kareina: (BSE garnet)
When I first got off the plane in Prague the heat didn't feel *that* bad. Sure, the guy in front of my said something like "holy shit!" when it hit him, but since I had dressed for the expected heat and didn't add any layers during the flight my body was kind of cold when we landed, so I coped just fine with the walk from the plane to the bus, from the bus to the terminal, and from the terminal to the airport bus to the city center (Note: one does need Czech cash to buy tickets on the bus--go ahead and stop at the ATM on your way out of the building, or you will need to go back in for it.)

Sadly, in my pre-trip research I failed to think about the all important question "on which side of the city is the airport?". Therefore, I didn't realize when I sat down on the right hand side of the bus that it would be the sunny side for the whole way in. I took my spare shirt and held it between me and the window for the whole drive, but still, 35 C is brutal hot when sitting in a hot bus with nothing for shade save a light weight cotton shirt.

By the time we got to town and I met up with [livejournal.com profile] clovis_t my shirt was quite wet from sweat. We met inside the metro station, where, being under ground, the temperature is much nicer, and bought me a three-day pass for all the buses, trams, and metro lines. Then we took a tram out to the Birkenstock shop, where the proprietor spoke nearly no English. She had just enough to explain that replacing my sandals (which are in rather bad shape from years of use) was possible, but not in black (what I had on me). I managed to convince her that I wanted a wider pair than last time (I have been wearing Birkenstock, size 40, for many, many years, but last time I needed some was right after moving to Sweden, and there is no Birkenstock shop here, so I ordered a pair on line, and accidentally wound up with a slightly different model, a "narrow" pair, which mostly fit my feet, but also caused an unpleasant ridge to form on my little toe from crowding it up against its neighbors. The "normal" width I found today feels *much* better already--width matters, even in sandals. Sadly, by "not black" she meant "dark brown straps with bright blue rubber sole under the cork. I am so not going to lose these, nor mistake them for any other pair of Birks I have ever seen in Sweden. But comfort matters more than looks, so I will cope.

After a hint of sight seeing we came back to his apartment and have been hanging out. I baked a Swedish oven pancake for dinner, and [livejournal.com profile] clovis_t agreed that it is, in fact, as yummy to him as I expected it would be. Now I have left over pancake to take with me to class tomorrow and Sunday.

I will be sleeping in the guest-hammock. I hope that it cools down enough to make it possible to get a good night's rest before heading to the workshop.
kareina: (house)
I have heard a couple of people locally complain that they are still waiting for summer to arrive. Me, I say it has been here for 70 days, and that it has been wonderful. Why 70 days? because that is the number of days it has been since temperatures dropped below zero C. Why wonderful? Because temps have been mostly ranging between 15 and 20 C, and it hasn't gotten unpleasantly hot yet, and we have had a good mix of rain and sun. The strawberries seem to agree--they didn't like last summer's two weeks of 35 C temps and not much rain*. This year the berries are more numerous, and more than twice the size of what they managed to produce last year, and this makes me happy.

Hopefully the raspberries will also do well, though it still seems to be too early for them, judging from the few bushes near the strawberries. The rest of the raspberries are down on the lower part of the property, with the mosquitoes, so I haven't checked them yet. I should also take a walk out to the forest to see if there are any blueberries yet...

*to be fair, they didn't like having been transplanted last spring, either, but they would have liked having been plowed under even less, we we moved them anyway before taking the plow to the field.

Edited to add: Yes, there are blueberries out there. The nearest patch was only a 7 minute walk from my door. However, just now they are so jealously guarded by viscous mosquitoes that I was only able to pick a large handful of them before being forced to retreat--this despite the fact that I made certain to bundle up in jeans, heavy long sleeves, and a shawl wrapped around my head and neck--since they couldn't get anything else, they flew into my face and behind my glasses till I gave up. Perhaps another day.
kareina: (house)
Spring is well along here in the north--the only places where snow remains on the ground now are shady areas and places which had had snow piled up deeper than normal (sliding off of the roof, or shoveled off the driveway) and grass and a few other early-waking plants are beginning to turn green here and there. These changes are, of course, caused by the return of the sun and while it isn't up anywhere near as long as it will be at mid-summer sunset today was officially at 21:12, which meant that when I looked out the window at 22:30 it was to see a nearly full moon filling a deep blue sky to the south. Therefore, of course, I went out for a quick walk--the sky to the north west was still a much paler blue, too bright for stars, so only one particularly bright planet glimmered in the sky. I love living in the north, and I love moonlight walks, but this may be the last one I get before autumn--soon it will be too bright all night for the moonlight to change anything.
kareina: (house)
Some of my friends have been posting photos or descriptions of the new spring growth in their areas. I see these, look out my window at the snow we still have, and smile at how good I have it.

True, winter has been hit hard. Not only have temperatures been above freezing for at least part of most of the days since late February, the last couple have been above freezing all day, and made it to +12 yesterday. Despite that, the remaining icy snow in the yard is a good half a meter thick, except for that little patch between the walkway and the house, from which all of the snow has melted.
kareina: (stitched)
life is busy

Spring (which is to say weather that flits back and forth above and below zero every day) came early, just before I got back from Australia and is still here, so the snow is steadly melting. However, we had enough that it is still nearly knee high in some places, so I have been out cross country skiing fairly often. Not that I need to mind you, I could just walk on that solid icy stuff if I wanted to.

Been working on that paper from my Italian research, and managed to finally finish editing a 75 page manuscript for some of my colleagues. Still no laser at work.

Tomorrow we head to the Skellefteå area for an SCA event.

My bliaut isn't done yet, but it is getting closer--one last seam to finish before I can start attaching the trim to the hem and do the side lacing.

We decided to head to Double Wars in May, which will be a long drive. One could do it in 15.5 hours if one didn't need to stop, and could do the speed limit the whole way. We will have a trailer, so no faster than 80 km/hr, and we will stop often to stretch, and at least once to nap, so we guess at least 24 hours.
kareina: (stitched)
Tonight, at our normal Sunday evening folk dance session, I got to fly (like this) for the first time in a long time! That is just so much fun. I was enjoying dance before that moment, but adding that into the mix has me home after dance bouncing and full of energy! There are actually four of us in the group who want to fly, but only two these days with the strength to be the supports, and one of them is shorter than I am, so our dance teacher thinks it looks better if the shorter girls fly instead. We so need more tall, strong, dancers in the group. Know anyone you can send our way?

In other news, today we got the forge out and we made a tool for tuning the piano. I get to say  )

Now he is happily tuning the new piano (did I remember to mention the new piano? His sister called a week or three back to say that one of her colleagues had an old walnut piano they wanted to be rid of, and did we want it, free. Well, plus the cost of shipping it here, but that is close enough to free for such a nice instrument) while I bounce happily to you guys about my day.

The day also started nicely, with delightful -6 C temps, so I went skiing. Not that one actually needs skis just now--the hard packed ice we have left from all the beautiful snow we got at the end of January is more than firm enough to support my weight if I wanted to walk on it, but skiing is better exercise, because it uses arms too, so I should do it as often as I can before that nasty spring weather we have been having ever since I got back from Australia finishes killing off my poor ailing winter. Seriously--it has gotten above zero every single day since I have been home. There was a time when March was one of the the coldest times of the year, but not this year. Not last year either. Oh, wait, no complaining--the day has been too fun for that...
kareina: (BSE garnet)
When last I posted it was the first week day of my second week in Tassie. At the time I rather expected that I would continue to check in each day and record my adventures. Nope. Been home for the better part of a week, and haven't posted any of that, either. So, what can I remember...

Ok, the training week was both really, really useful, and a bit disappointing. The latter because, while I know I learned lots, I am also aware of just how much more I am going to need to learn to be able to do my job well, once our lab actually exists. I did wind up making a rater long list of stuff that our lab will need to acquire, preferably by the time we are operational. Did you know that there exists a hand-held meter for measuring the energy of a laser beam? Neither did I. The model of laser they have in Tasie has two different places one can measure it--once at the beginning, right after it gets generated, and again at the end before it gets focused and goes into the sample analysis chamber. The way the tool works is that it has a little round bit of (glass?) in a frame that gets slotted into a gap in the machine, blocking the laser path. The laser beam travels right through the gas, and sensors built into the frame send a message up the wire to the hand-held unit, which converts the information to an number, which it displays on the screen. If everything is working properly then that number will match the one you entered into the controlling computer saying how much energy the laser is supposed to be firing at today. It will also be the same both at the beginning of its path, and after traveling through the machine (and being bent around corners by the mirrors). A good lab checks this daily. Oh, and that gap into which one puts the sensor? One can stick ones finger in there--at that point in the process the laser hasn't been focused--it is still a fairly wide beam, and you can't feel anything more than what you would feel to have any other beam of light shining upon you. Yes, the laboratory analysis demonstrated this for me.

The adventures I did during my second week in Tassie included:

Monday: Contra dance. So much fun! I have missed contra dancing. I did my best to convince my friends D & C who run the contra dances there to come to Sweden and teach a contra dance workshop here.

Tuesday: SCA dance practice: More fun! It was good to practice a bit of Italian Ren dances--we don't tend to do them up here, and I will need to do some at the Known World Dance event in Germany in April. Held at the home of a friend who has a lovely house built in a really pretty farming valley about a half a hour south of Hobart. His cow had a new calf, and the flock of wallabies which graze in his paddock includes an albino wallaby.

Wednesday: Walked into town and met my dance friend C, then drove to a home on the other side of the river, where lives a man who has been making and selling leather hats at the Salamanca Market in Hobart for more than 40 years. I bought two hats from him--one for [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar, and one for me. Then we did a walk along a lovely sandy beach, and after that we drove a bit further down the road and walked along another beach, which was muddier, had lots more plant life, and a fair bit of wildlife (crabs, etc.). She showed me one of the plants along the shore, which is mostly green, but it has red bits, which start low and gradually work their way to the tips, and then the red bit falls off. The red part is where the plant is concentrating all of the salt it takes up, and getting rid of it when it falls off. She then plucked up a bit of red end and bit it to taste the salt. Since she didn't seem hurt by doing this, I tried it. Yup, really salty. I only tasted, I didn't eat any--I don't tend to use salt in my cooking, so strong salty taste isn't appealing.

Thursday: The only evening I spent in my hotel room instead of adventuring with people (I needed it by then!) I had thought to catch up on posting to livejournal (I do my reading on the phone during my morning situps, but it isn't practical to post then), but instead spend the time on a skype call to my sweetie at home, and showed him the hat and other stuff I had gotten for him. I also showed him the SCA stuff we had gotten from [livejournal.com profile] clovis_t's mum, and he surprised me by saying that he wanted more of the armour and shields and costumes than I had expected. This complicated things, since my luggage on the way down was already 15 kg of my 30 kg limit, and it took a bit of effort to manage to make it all fit. In fact, I wound up leaving behind the aluminium heater shield with metal basket hand protection, and only brought home the aluminium round shield--it wouldn't have been worth paying the excess baggage fees for that last 4 kg. So an SCA friend kept it and said she would sell it and give
[livejournal.com profile] clovis_t the money for it.

Friday: met up with my friend E, with whom I had done adventures the first weekend, and we did one final adventure, walking on a beach (it was a hot day, so that sea breeze was really welcome). I gave her the last bit of food I had purchased and not yet eaten (a little bit of flour, 4 eggs, and part of a pack of butter--I did alright guessing how much to buy, I think), and then she took me to the airport for my flight to Melbourne to visit my step-sister, K and her husband and their sons. I had only met the boys once before, back in 2011. Now the oldest is almost 10 and his brother about 6.

Saturday was really hot (35 C). K and I went in the morning to a yoga studio near her house. She did the 1.5 hour beginning class, and sent me to the next room for the intermediate class. This is the first yoga class I have attended in many years, and it was rather nice to just follow what someone else was doing for a change. She also had a couple of poses I hadn't seen before, which was nice. In the afternoon we drove further up into the hills (they live in Belgrave, which is as far from the city as one can get and still be on the train line) to a park on a river, and we kids played in the river while K relaxed on the beach in the shade. Ok, I spent a bit of time on shore at first too, because the ankle-deep water next to our blanket was in the sun, but then I discovered that just down stream a bit there was a stretch where the river was in shadow and the water was deep enough in one spot (next to some lovely rock outcrop) that if I stood up in it only my head and shoulders would stick out.

Sunday we just hung out with one another, visited, and lounged around the house and tried to keep cool (went through a fair bit of ice in our water) until it was time to head to the airport for my long journey home.

The trip down had involved:

*~1.25 hour flight to Stockholm
*~2.25 hour wait at the airport in Stockholm
*~6.25 hour flight to Dubai
*~4.5 hour wait at the Dubai airport
*~7 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur
*~1.5 hour wait at the Kuala Lumpur airport
*~7 hour flight to Melbourne

By comparison the flight home was faster:

*~14 hour flight to Dubai
*~2.25 hour wait at the Dubai airport
*~6.25 hour flight to Stockholm
*~2.25 wait at the Stockholm airport
*~1.25 hour flight to Luleå

Luckily, that plane for the 14 hour flight is a huge one, which meant that the area at the base of the stairs and next to the toilets was large enough that it was possible to do yoga there. I did yoga and the physical therapy exercises they gave me to keep my hips from hurting when I sit three different times that flight! (and in every airport on the way,and the trip down included both yoga and physical therapy at every airport--next to a nice little waterfall in Dubai).

I arrived home to what seems to be a really early Spring. The temperatures here have been hovering around 0 C, and often warmer than that, and predicted to be mostly warmer than zero for at least the next nine days. This means that there has been a fair bit of melting--huge puddles in parking lots and on some roads. Slippery sidewalks. I remember complaining about this kind of weather last year around this time, or perhaps a bit later. I still don't like it much and would rather have the nice -15 C temps and fluffy snow, but I must confess that after two weeks of summer, which both begun and ended with temps of +35 C, and am really enjoying the comfort of temps ranging from -4 to +4. Though I shouldn't have worn that cotton sweater under my coat the other day for the walk home from work--I wound up sweating.

One advantage of the warm weather is that it has made it slightly easier to deal with one of the downsides of home ownership--the filter pump on our septic system has died (after many years of use). So [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar ordered a new one, and while waiting for it to arrive rigged up a temporary one run by an extension cord from the house (ok several of them to reach that far) with an attached hose he ran over the snow from the one tank to the next. Since it has, just, been freezing at night he has had to go out each evening after work to bring out the pump and turn it on for a few hours, then bring it back in before bed. But the new pump arrived Friday, and it has the correct fittings to attach to the underground hose (or pipes?) connecting the two tanks, so it can be just left out there. Tomorrow he will attach it to the underground electric cable that the old pump had been running from, and we will be able to bring back in those electric cables. If it had chosen a week of -20 for this I am not certain it would have worked to run the hose over the snow--at those temps perhaps it would have frozen even though the pump was running.

Now that I am home we finally have a date (17 April) for the arrival of the Argon gas canister, being shipped from the US, that is needed for the installation of our laser--it needs the Ar to make the plasma so we can analyze the samples, and apparently it isn't permitted to use European gas canisters with their different sized openings. Assuming nothing comes up between now and then we will have the laser installed promptly after the gas arrives, and my job as a laser operating mad scientist will properly begin. In the meantime my Master's student, who was supposed to finish up last spring, has finally returned from his holiday in Thailand and given me his latest draft to check, and a couple of my colleagues have given me a long manuscript they have been working on to check it for good use of the English language, so I have plenty to do to keep me busy at work.

I am certain there was more, but I have been typing quite long enough...
kareina: (fresh baked rolls)
One of our friends, K, who lives about 45 minutes south of Umeå, and so nearly 4 hours south of us, had decided she wanted to host a sit down dinner for New Year's Eve. She first considered a potluck, so that no one person would be overburdened with cooking. However, reading my friends' reports on their Thanksgiving dinners had me wanting to cook a traditional Turkey dinner just like I grew up with. When I suggested this she was enthusiastic, since she has seen them on TV, but never had a chance to try it. I couldn't do exactly what my family always did, since we normally roasted a twenty pound bird (one at Thanksgiving, and one at Christmas), and the largest I could find in the grocery store here was 5 kg. Therefore I bought two of them.

Since I would be cooking in someone else's kitchen a long way from home I did as much pre-cooking in advance as I could manage. I baked bread for the stuffing on the 27th so that it would have a bit of time to dry out before putting it in the birds, which I moved to the fridge to start thawing that afternoon. On the 29th I started the piecrust dough. This turned out to be the best crust I have made. My grandmother used to make hers with lard and (at least when doing a large batch, like for pasties) she would beat an egg with a spoon full of vinegar and enough water to make one cup of liquid for the dough. However, whilst that results in a good texture, I really don't like the flavour, since I don't like the taste of any pork products and I truly hate the smell and taste of vinegar. Therefor I used butter, as I always do (1 cup butter to 3 cups flour), but this time I used egg, lemon juice and water for the liquid, and it came out perfectly. I also started the refrigerator roll dough, browned up a mixture of ground moose meat, oats, egg and spices to be used for the stuffing, and mixed the spices with sugar for apple pie that day.

The next morning we packed up everything, and got on the road in the early afternoon, arriving at our destination at a good time to start baking the pies. We had brought with us our cool tool for peeling, coring, and slicing apples with an easy crank of a handle, and K. had gotten one for Christmas, so it took pretty much no time at all to get the apple pie ready, with two people slicing, me rolling out the dough, and a fourth nicely arranging the sliced fruit into the shell. I always do my apple pie the way my Aunt taught me—with the sliced apples piled up a good 4 inches higher than the top of the pie plate. This results in a nice domed crust, and the fruit cooks down to level with the rim during baking.

The pumpkin pie filling had been pre-cooked back in October, when the local store actually carried pumpkins (something that doesn’t usually happen in Sweden)—I had cut it up and roasted it then, and mashed the result and froze it. So on the day I needed only combine it with milk, cream, eggs, and spices. I had considered baking the rolls that evening, too. However, when I had consulted Google about turkey roasting times it was convinced that two small birds take way less time than one large one of the same mass. Therefore I decided to do the roll baking in the morning, before putting the turkey in the oven. (Can I just mention here how much I miss living in a house with two full sized ovens, so that one can bake rolls to be done at a similar time to the turkey, instead of hours in advance?)

Since I believed the estimates of timing I had read on line, I opted to sleep in on the 31st—instead of getting up to start the turkey around 06:00, I didn't even finish my morning sit ups till nearly 08:00, which meant I had the rolls out of the oven and the birds in by 09:30. This turned out to be too late for our originally planned eating time of 14:00. However, this also turned out to be a good thing, since the weather had turned crappy—with lots of rain and melting and very icy roads, so some of the guests were later to arrive than they had planned, and our actual meal start time of 15:15 turned out to be perfect for them. Even so, if I ever do two birds at one time again I will do the 06:00 start, as it will be easier to relax during the process.

While the birds baked we did the mashed potatoes and fruit salad (read: a large variety of fruit + whipped cream). I skipped the almonds in the fruit salad this year due to a nut allergic person. However, that person was also a vegetarian, so I left the nuts in the stuffing, which consisted of the above mentioned home baked bread, cooked moose meat etc., some quinoa, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts, and more herbs and more spices. We cooked most of the stuffing inside of the birds, and the overflow got put into the oven with milk poured over it when the turkey came out. This worked out well, since some of the vegetarians present will eat wild game, but not store bought meat, so they could try that version of the stuffing.

In addition to what I cooked a few of the other guests (there were 26 of us for that meal) brought vegetable side dishes. All of my life when guests asked my mother "what can I bring" for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, she would give them the list of what we are making and suggest that they bring a vegetable side dish. I do not remember one time when the vegetable side dish turned out to be something I was interested in eating. This time was no exception, since it had mushrooms in it. Sigh. There are ever so many vegetables I like, yet people seem to think that holidays are a time to combine the few I don't care for in new and interesting ways. It is not easy being fussy.

The nicest thing about doing the turkey dinner was that it meant that we ate early enough that I actually got to eat, too! I get so tired of attending SCA events where the feast isn't served until my weird appetite has turned itself off for the evening and I am just not interested in food at all. It was nice to be able to eat with everyone else for a change. I even tried a small bit of the turkey, even if is store bought meat, and, of course, I ate the gravy. I love making gravy, and think I make a very tasty one.

After that meal we cleaned up a bit and spent an hour or so with people chatting in small groups. Then our hosts passed out pieces of paper to everyone, with a short character description on it, and we had asurprise mini-LARP )

After the game we did some SCA dancing, and then there was another pot-luck meal (but that one was late enough that I didn't eat anything), followed by going outside to shoot off rockets for midnight. I considered going to bed after that, since I was tired, but then they started singing, so I couldn't resist staying away and enjoying the singing, so I didn't actually get to bed till almost 03:00. However, [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar and C didn't come in till 05:00—they sat up with a couple of the guests who had arranged a ride home from another friend who was working night shift and could pick them up on the way home from work. Pretty much everyone else stayed the night—the advantage of our hosts having a large house—there is room enough for everyone.

I had started boiling the turkey bones to make a soup the night before, and then turned it off and put it into the cellar to keep cool sometime in the late evening. Then the next morning I warmed it up enough to separate out the bones from the liquid and bagged the stock up to be frozen. Our hosts enjoy cooking, and they said they would happily make use of the stock later, since we wouldn't be heading home for a few more days, and therefore didn't want to bring it with us.

We had planned on heading over to another friend's house to spend the afternoon with him, but we got a late start at leaving K's house, in part because I was still dealing with turkey stuff, but also because [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar was helping them deal with their heating unit, which was having issues. [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar grew up with the same sort of pellet-burning heater, so he knew some things one can do with them. Hopefully the repairs they did worked—one does not want the heat in a house to go out in the middle the winter—frozen pipes are a very expensive problem, and best avoided.

We did eventually make it to D's house a bit after 15:00, which didn't leave as much time as I might have liked to hang out with him, but it was long enough for me to try on his re-enactment costume, for he and [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar to play violin, and to just hang out and chat for a bit. Then he had to go meet some friends for dinner, so he walked us to a Chinese restaurant (since the Indian one next door, which had been our first choice, was closed), and we three had a lovely dinner and conversation, followed by a nice long walk (the warm weather had, by then, been going on long enough that the ice had completely melted from the sidewalks, so it was, finally, easy walking), and then we went to a grocery store to pick up stuff for breakfast the next morning. This got us to late enough that we could meet our friend LH at the hospital where she works just as she got off of duty, and then we went back to her place, where we cooked some scones and whipped cream to serve with the jam we had bought (I didn't eat any that night, of course, but it made a lovey breakfast the next morning.

We spent both that night and Friday night at her place, just relaxing and hanging out. [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar had had a slight cough for weeks, but around this time it got much worse and he wound up with a fever, too, so he was really content to just relax and be social. I went out each day for a walk, because she lives in a pretty area in the countryside north of Umeå. He was still feeling under the weather on Saturday, so C and I did most of the driving back to Luleå, letting him drive only for the last 40 kilometres, when he was feeling rested, and we were tired.

She drove as far as Skellefteå, where stopped by [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar's brother's house exactly on time to be invited to dinner (and early enough that I could eat, too!), and I drove from there north.

We got home before 21:00 on Saturday, with enough energy left to put everything away, do yoga and play dulcimer before going to bed. Sunday we spent a good hour shovelling snow. While it warned up so much in Umeå that most of their snow melted from the rain and huge swaths of grass was showing (looked rather like late March), up here it warmed up only enough to put a bit of a crust onto the snow, and there was new snow, too. This meant we had a bit more than a decimetre of snow on the driveway, which had a thin crunchy crust, and it held together very well. This meant we could slide the shovel under, break it up, pick up chunks of it, and then stack them on top of what was already on the shovel, before pushing it over to an appropriate place to pile it. That hour was long enough for C. and I to clear one entry to the driveway and paths to both cars, but it took another 45 minutes the next day to finish the rest of the driveway and parking area. I love winter—it comes with a built-in work out plan.

[livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar had also scheduled Monday to be a vacation day, so he didn't have to go into work, but I hadn't, so I had planned to go in. However, when I started walking in Monday morning I realized that the only reason I was going in was to get some exercise, and that I could just as easily work from home, so instead of walking to work I turned the other direction, to enjoy the pretty moon in the western sky, and did a short loop before heading home and settling into a day with the computer being useful.

Monday evening C started coughing, and I noticed that my lymph nodes were swollen. Not wanting to experience the bad cough that [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar hadn't yet completely gotten over, I decided that the best defence is a good offense, and we turned on the sauna and cooked ourselves for a while. I did my yoga in the sauna as it heated, then relaxed, and went to bed straight after getting out (they sat in the sauna longer, as they hadn't been in there during yoga (it is a small sauna)), and I was asleep by 21:00. I slept under two thick feather doonas, and between their warmth, having pre-heated my body in the sauna, and my immune system doing battle with little invaders, I sweat fairly heavily all night long, which was probably a good thing, since I woke up at 06:00 feeling a fair bit better (if still a bit tender in the lymph nodes). So I got up, tossed my pillow cases and doona cover into the laundry (leaving the other doonas and bottom sheet on the bed since they were still sleeping, not having gone to bed themselves till midnight) and did a bit of sewing and went for a walk. Then I crawled back in bed and took a bit of a nap before we all got up and had breakfast together.

After breakfast he and I were motivated enough to build a stand for the moraharpa, so now both the cello and the moraharpa can stand up on display, ready to use at a moment's notice. We have also worked on sewing projects, and I managed to get caught up on some computer stuff. Now it is time to do yoga and get to bed—I should actually go into the office tomorrow to see if the department head is back from holiday—I need his signature on the form to get reading glasses, and my appointment for that is Thursday.
kareina: (stitched)
First of all, I am really delighted with the weather we have been having lately. We have had six days in a row with temperatures below 0 C, and on Friday night/Saturday morning we got a couple of decimeters of snow, which, thanks to the nice weather, is staying nice and soft and fluffy and beautiful, and I am ever so much happier. This is so much better than the warm and rain we had for my birthday and the couple of days thereafter--it got so dark and dismal after the last of the previous batch of snow had melted away from the yard, fields, and forest (while leaving wet ice on all the roads and walkways). The Swedish weather service (via my phone app) says that we should have good temps for at least the next ten days (which is as far ahead as they predict), so it will be winter at least through new years. I hope it lasts longer than that, and I have started counting the number of days in a row we stay below zero.

Secondly, Frostheim Jul was fun! The hall was supposed to open at 11:00 for a crafts afternoon, followed by a potluck feast in the evening. I decided that we should bring the moraharpa, in addition to my hammer dulcimer and [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar's nyckleharpa and violin, so Saturday morning while I was outside shoveling snow from the walkway onto the sledding hill (to make it bigger) he went downstairs and built new arms for the stand we had built for the cello last week so that the stand would hold the moraharpa (since changing that one would be much faster than building a whole new stand).

He was nearly finished with that when it was time to head to the hall (we had the key, so needed to be on time!), so he drove me and my stuff (crafts projects, hammer dulcimer, and food) over to the hall, then he returned home and finished up the project and then brought the rest of the musical instruments plus the four or five things I had thought of that I should have brought but didn't.

I was alone in the hall for a while, which gave me a chance to get my stuff unpacked and set up some tables for craft stuff, and then I was joined by the weaver I have become a patron for (I have bought so much of her tablet weaving) and her husband, and we had a delightful time chatting and working on projects for a while. Then I decided it was time to start my broccoli pie and went into the kitchen about the time that the fourth person arrived.

E. is a delightful person--I first met her a couple of years ago when I was one of the staff members to accompany the undergrad geology students to Cyprus. She was the only one of the students on that trip with whom I really clicked--she just seemed like the kind of person who would blend in with my group of friends. When we landed at the airport in Luleå and one of my friends picked me up I found out that, actually, she is friends with him and a bunch of other people I enjoy spending time with. Since then our paths have crossed a few times, and, when she joined a student club for fire dancing and they decided that they wanted to become jesters the group joined Frostheim to get help with costumes.

What I didn't know about her before this weekend is that in addition to common interests in gaming, geology, and medieval stuff, she is also a very talented musician. She has been playing clarinet since she was nine, and this summer while at the Visby Medieval Week she purchased a Renaissance style olive wood clarinet which has the sweetest sound. She had it along this weekend, and she, I, [livejournal.com profile] lord_kjar, and a couple of our other friends spent a good sized chunk of the day playing music together. For the songs I didn't know she would tell me a few notes to just play as accompanying cords or single notes, and it was so much fun. She is really interested in learning to play dulcimer, and she is a good enough musician that when I slid the sheet of paper under the strings to reveal which note was which she could play simple tunes right away. So we have planned that we will get together regularly come January for music lessons--she will teach herself to play dulcimer, and then teach me.

By late afternoon we had both the group of musicians at one end of the hall, and a group of crafters on the other--some people working on their own projects, others learning tablet weaving (from my weaver). Then, as time for the feast approached more and more people arrived. I forgot to actually count, but given that each table seats eight people we had to have had somewhere between 30 and 50 people on site for the feast (I am not certain if that count includes the kids, of whom there were at least seven of them who appeared to be having lots of fun running around).

The parents all packed up and took their little ones home fairly early, and when they started packing everyone else cleaned up too, which meant that we were ready to lock up the hall around 22:00. One of our friends, who lives a good hour or so north of here, had been enjoying some mead and had had enough that he shouldn't be driving, so I offered to drive him back to our place, where he could sleep over and head home the next day. He appreciated that--he had expected to sleep at the hall, like we did for Norrskensfest last month. I appreciated it to, since it meant we could put our chests and bags of stuff in his car, and the musical instruments in ours and get everything home in only one trip instead of two.

Sunday morning we hung out with him a bit, then had some time for projects before it was time to go to the airport to pick up our current houseguests--an old friend of ours who moved to Stockholm a couple of years ago, and a friend of his who is visiting from Colorado. They are out at another friend's house for a gaming session tonight, but we opted to stay home and relax.

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