Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Swedish bread update

After my trip to Sweden I'm interested in recreating the delicious brown bread I had several times there. I talked a bit about it in a recent post.

I've made two attempts so far, but I'm not there yet! Both were edible, the second more so than the first.

In the first, I used the crazy rose hip meal (or whatever it is) that I brought back. It's ... weird. Very red in color, and very vitamin-C-like in flavor, if that makes sense. I don't think I'm going to use it in further attempts, unless I get a lot closer to the ideal and am in tweaking mode.




You can see the redness of the meal in the finished product.



The second attempt was better - it tasted pretty good and was rather hearty-seeming: 

But the attempts so far haven't even BEGUN to match the real thing, or even the photos in the recipes I used. (Here's a link to the recipe I used as a starting point for the first attempt. The second attempt came from The Rye Baker: Classic Breads from Europe & America, which I got from the library)

Obviously I'm not using the right flour, so my next step is to get my hands on dark rye and/or pumpernickel flours. Fortunately I'm in driving distance of Bob's Red Mill - and they sell in bulk, so I can buy a few cups, not a few pounds of flour while I'm in test mode! 

One good thing is that I've been scaling these recipes WAY down - I think I calculated them down to an eighth of the original volume. I've been making 3-4 muffins with each attempt. Thank goodness for digital scales and recipes written in grams! 

Friday, February 10, 2017

More about Sweden

Here's a fly-by upshot:
We had a half-day and then two full days in Stockholm:



Then we took an overnight train 12 hours north:


And stayed in the OMG WOW TreeHotel - we got the MirrorCube:
  

Inside picture, and picture of the on-site sauna:
  


Then we went even further north:

Where we saw Northern Lights (not a great show, unfortunately, though I know it sounds ungrateful), and enjoyed some fresh air as we hiked around a little:


And finally, we went to the Ice Hotel which was as amazing and crazy as it sounds. It's built every fall and is gone - melted! - by May. Since it's so popular they've now built IceHotel 365 which will use solar power to generate a cooling system and keep the rooms below freezing year-round.

 
Our room - brrrrrrr! Though the sleeping bags were quite snug:
 

Finally, we returned to Stockholm for some final walking-about, great meal, and final night.

In general, Sweden is very easy to visit - everyone speaks terrific English, the exchange rate was decent at this time (apparently not usually the case), and the food was amazing. Here are some final food shots:
      

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Swedish goodness

Sweden was awesome! No surprise, I suppose, since it WAS vacation after all. It's a great place to visit - everyone spoke excellent English, it was easy to get around, heck, my cell phone even got data service there! (Thanks, provider!)

One thing I loved was the breakfast buffets - lots of delicious food, usually included in your lodging cost. My boyfriend and I would usually eat a hearty breakfast, skip lunch, have a late afternoon snack and then have dinner.

I have come back vowing to recreate the bread I found at every breakfast offering. It's dark, but not dry or heavy. It's got some nuts or seeds in it but no heavy flavoring. I've found some recipes that call for orange or anise or fennel and I'm certain the ones I had didn't have those elements - some posts hint that's a Christmas-related flavoring choice.

 

At one place I cleverly took a picture of the label, so I would know the ingredients involved when looking for recipes.



The above label indicates it's bread made with filmjölk, or sour milk. I have a friend in Sweden (who we didn't get to see) who tells me it's sort of like a cross between buttermilk and yogurt; they always have it on hand for their kids to drink. He even made a little video as he poured it into a glass so I could get a sense of its density!

I've tracked down some recipes for "sour milk bread" and also found this post for so-called Kavring, or dark rye bread. It calls for plain yogurt and a little milk or cream if the dough is too thick, so I think that is her attempt at substituting for the sour milk ingredient used in Sweden.

There are two more odd ingredients on that label: one is mörk sirap - aka dark syrup. Apparently it's kinda like dark corn syrup, sorta like molasses crossed with light syrup.. on that I took no chances. I bought a bottle and brought it home.

The final mystery ingredient is nyponskal. Here, I'm sorry to say, the internet has not been helpful, nor has my friend. The best I can find that this is rosehip husk... it can be used in soup. I'm thinking it's kind of a ... bran-like thing? Anyway I bought a bag of what seems to be rosehip meal.. so I will try that and see if it works.

I'm going to construct a recipe that mainly follows the Kavring one but has some additional elements, and will sub in my best guess at the Swedish-specific options.

Stay tuned!


Monday, January 16, 2017

tap, tap, tap



*clears throat*

Well it's been a while! I'm resurrecting this blog because on Friday I'm heading to Sweden for a week and putting stuff up on social media is fun for the likes, but isn't easy to look back at later. I don't know if I will REALLY update this every day, but I might.

Agenda:

  • arrive Stockholm on Saturday the 21st, explore the city all day Sunday & Monday. Take an overnight train 12 hours north to be above the Arctic Circle. 
  • Tuesday night: stay at the TreeHotel in the MirrorCube 
  • Wednesday night: stay in the Abisko Mountain Station at the one combination hotel/hostel. I'm vague on what this thing is - but the entire point is to go to up a chairlift to the Aurora Sky Station for a swank dinner and then a Northern Lights observation (we hope)
  • Thursday night: stay at the IceHotel - yep. Yes, we will be sleeping in a room that is cold enough to have its very own ice sculptures. Yes, I am open to the idea of finding the sauna and sleeping there! 
  • Friday: fly back to Stockholm, last night there in a yacht hotel! 
  • Saturday: bonus excitement, flying back in international business class as a way to extend the vacation just a leeetle bit longer. 

What else is going on with me?
Job: I'm five months into my new job and it's still feeling pretty good. I took a month off between jobs (which was SO GREAT) and then was in training for pretty much the entire rest of 2016 (which is an astonishing investment for a company to make). I'm actually/finally now going fully live on doing my job and it's a lot to juggle but so far I am very happy I made a change.

Image may contain: snow, sky, tree, outdoor and natureFitness: this fell apart. I did summit South Sister with friends in August, and it was so hard - 13 hours of hiking because it was a LOT of very steep up and down, and I'm slow. But my running practice ground to a halt and hasn't been replaced by anything. I have intentions of getting back into it if we ever see the ground again.

Snow! We get snow here in the Pacific Northwest every now and then but we got about 8 inches a week ago and it's just lingering. It's been temps in the 20s, we don't have plows, ice and snow still all over the side streets.. I haven't been in a car since last Tuesday, and I ventured out on foot last Thursday night and on Saturday afternoon - that's been the extent of it!

The state of the world: big enormous panicked grump. Trying to focus on the good, learning how to use my voice politically. Very sad I'm going to miss all the amazing energy of the political protest march here in town on Saturday - I think it would be enormously uplifting. Stockholm is hosting a march that day as well, but I don't know if we will get there in time to participate.

January challenge: For the weeks between Christmas and Sweden, I've done a challenge to have no sugar/no alcohol/no restaurants. Part of this is health-related, part of it is financial: I think by spending NO money (except on groceries and doing some political activism), I will balance the spending in Sweden and come in okay for the month's total.

On the plus side: Cutest niece ever. Knitting some more. Cooking a lot of good food.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Changes are afoot!

So I got a new job. I've only been at my current job for 15 months, and there are parts of it I like. My current title is customer success manager (which I cringe at, a little) and I've liked helping people using our software get the attention & information they need when they need it. But I haven't liked having too many accounts to serve well, and I haven't liked that our software is so complex that I'm not expected to really know much about it (it's back office enterprise software, aka accounting, HR, professional services... complex stuff).

I applied for a couple of jobs last summer, and I wrote great cover letters to explain why I was looking after only 4 months on the job, but I knew it was too soon and so I stopped searching. And then, one of my coworkers let me know she was in the final stages for a job at another company, and they might be adding another person. She asked me to hold off on applying until she got her offer, which was fair, and I officially applied in early June.

They really did an awesome job of getting me through the process, and I got a job offer last week - whew! It's a 4% pay cut (6% if you factor in that they don't pay for home internet & cell phone like my last job did) but that's okay - I'm making enough money and think this will be a better fit.

I'll still be at a software company, with a better title (Strategic Account Consultant), fewer accounts to manage, and will be expected to be pretty skilled with our software so I can advise my accounts on best practices and help them use the software more & better than they might be currently.

Of all my jobs it's most like the one I was most enthused about, way back in the late '90s. I don't know if I can love a job, but it feels like this one has a chance at that. We shall see.

What was nuts that when I gave notice, my current job offered me a 20% raise. That is SO MUCH money. But... though I was dazzled, I wasn't tempted in the slightest. I feel super lucky to be in a place where I can make the best choice for myself by weighing all the factors, not just financial ones.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hiking hiking hiking FOOD

So far I've been doing a lot of hiking this year - in preparation for doing South Sister (outside of Bend, Oregon) in August!

Avalanche lilies


Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, ten million flowers


Mount Hood 

Mount Shasta

I also added yet another activity to my non-working hours: cookbook club! A friend organized this, and I'm so grateful she did as it's something I've wanted to do for a long time but didn't have the right people/energy to get it going. We pick a cookbook, everyone gets it from the library (or buys it I guess), we each pick recipes and tell each other what we'll bring, and then we have a potluck made up of dishes all from the same cookbook. OOOOOOH it is so good. 

Food from the Jerusalem cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi

Food from Mallmann On Fire by Francis Mallmann

Running continues to be a major challenge - namely, finding shoes that don't make my legs ache - and I've tried yoga three times at a spot in my neighborhood. Today I get to take off since I hiked 10.5 miles yesterday; since I had an enormous dinner after the hike, I might walk a couple miles today just so I don't feel like a complete slug. We'll see how the weather is looking when I get off work! 


Monday, April 25, 2016

Doing a Duathlon

I've had a few fitness goals for this year:

  • March: 5k run (completed in really awful weather)
  • April: 62-mile bike ride in Salem (an hour south of Portland)
  • May: 55-mile bike ride to the coast
  • August: summit South Sister in the Bend area
I was supposed to do the 62-mile ride yesterday. It hasn't been a great training season so far - I haven't had a ton of motivation, and my training partner has really been off for a few years now, but hasn't fully admitted it. I think it's a combination of something medical going on, and also not being in the same place mentally she used to be. We've done some training together but everything is a struggle and she's exhausted after not a ton of effort - and I'm not motivated enough to do more on my own! 

So, she got a bad head cold before this event, and her longest ride for the season was only 25 miles (at which point she was exhausted). I'd ridden longer, a couple whopping 36-mile rides, but wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to do more. So when she got sick I was actually kind of glad - the weather was looking horrible anyway, and I didn't want to drive 2 hours and bike for 6 hours in crap weather... or at all, to be honest. 

BUT THEN I remembered that another friend was doing a duathlon this weekend! So I joined her. We had to run 5km, bike 15 miles, and run another 5km. I hadn't even been running in a couple of weeks and have been struggling with discomfort, so I wasn't sure how it was going to go at all! 

The weather was actually not bad at all, so that was the first good news. We got there early to set up our bikes and gear in the transition area - every athlete stages their biking shoes, helmet, gear near their bike so they can change from running mode to biking mode and then back again. Some people had their stuff in buckets which was pretty smart - gives them a place to sit to change their shoes! I just piled my stuff on the ground and then draped a trash bag around the shoes & helmet in case of rain. 

The first 5k went reasonably well - I ran (...trotted) the whole thing which was a pleasant surprise. I got to the bike and felt a little bit tired/unsteady, but once I was geared up and got to pedal, it felt nice to use my legs that way. It took me an hour to do the 15 miles, which is a pretty good pace for me! We had to go east, then west, then east again along a flat and open stretch of road, and the westward part had a fair bit of headwind, so it was nice to finish with the tailwind pushing me along. 

I got back to the transition area and hung up my bike...and couldn't believe I had to do MORE...putting on my shoes I was kind of in a daze and really not sure how I was going to do anything else. I knew there were only about 10-15 people behind me in the event, but at least I wasn't in last place! 

Somehow I managed to trot almost the whole first half of the final 5k, and on the turnaround I alternated walking and jogging as much as possible. I ran across the finish line and only got rained on a little bit! I knew that my friend was behind me so I hung out about ten minutes so I could see her cross the finish line and walk back to our gear together. 

I never ever ever would have expected to do a duathlon. I honestly don't know if I'd do it again, but at least I know (at the moment) that I can do it if I want to! Talk about unexpected places in life!