Monday, September 30, 2013

Skokloster Castle

Christian at Skokloster Castle
Skokloster Castle is located on a peninsula in Lake Mälaren between Stockholm, Uppsala and Enköping, near Sigtuna and Arlanda, Sweden.  (Just in case you feel like driving over for a visit.)

It's considered one of the great Baroque castles of Europe, and lucky for us, has remained virtually untouched for more than 300 years, giving us a perfect glimpse into the past.

I love these black and white photos my brother took on his recent visit there.  It's a beautiful place.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Jack and the Box

Wow.  Look at this!
It's a box, Jack.

It's very interesting.

It's just about my size too!

Smells funny.
That's just the tape, Jack. 

Hey don't eat it! It's to play with.

I see you brought Mr. Kitty to play with you.  That's great, Jack.
Mousies and birds work, too.
Still, the jury is still out over the controversy:  boxes versus bags!

Bag makes noise, mom!
So, it does, Jack.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dala Horses

The World's Largest Dalecarlian Horse - made of concrete
Avesta Municipality, Sweden
When my brother Jay returned from his missionary adventures in Sweden, many years ago, he brought me a little Swedish Dala Hest (or horse).  I have treasured that little red horse for many years and it has a place of honor on the piano.  (Well, it did until my cat Jack wrestled it off of the piano. It currently lies forlornly behind the piano - trapped - for now.)

The Dala horse is said to be a copy of the Norse god Odin's horse Sleipnir, but unlike Sleipnir it does not have eight legs!

These horses have been toys for children for many generations.  Creating the little toy horses may have started as just something to do during the long, dark winter months.  Eventually the cute little horses became an important item of barter and were often traded in exchange for household goods.

Horse carving and painting skills have been passed along from generation to generation ever since.

Legend has it that the Dala horse became a national toy back in 1716 when they were made for the Swedish King Charles XII.  It is said the soldiers loyal to the King were quartered in the Dalarna region of Sweden and carved the toys as gifts for their hosts.

However, the earliest mention of little wooden horses for sale is way back in the year 1623.

The horse has become synonymous with Dalarna, the Dala area of Sweden, and a symbol of Sweden itself.

My brother with the largest Dala Hest in the world
Today's Dalecarlian horses are still handcrafted and made of pine wood from a pattern that is approximately 150 years old.

Amazingly enough there are three of these giant Dala horses in America!  Two are located in Minnesota, in the cities of Mora and Cloquet.  The third is found in Minot, North Dakota.  All were gifts from groups or municipalities in Sweden.

They are adorable, aren't they?  Well, the little ones are.  The big ones are a bit intimidating! (I keep expecting Trojan soldiers to pop out of the one above!)

After writing about them, I think I need to see if I can figure out a way to get my own Dala hest out from behind the piano...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Women's Conference on Saturday

Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President, flanked by her counselors: Carole M. Stephens, first counselor and Linda S. Reeves, second counselor
"Relief Society sisters worldwide are invited to view the satellite broadcast of the general Relief Society meeting, which will be held on Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 6 p.m. mountain daylight time and broadcast to many areas of the world."

So reads a statement on regarding the upcoming Women's Conference session.

Live video streaming of the broadcast will be available at in 16 languages: ASL, Cantonese, Cebuano, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Tagalog, and Tongan.

Archives of the broadcast will be available in those same languages at the same site within 24 hours.  Live video and audio will also be available in English and Spanish at  Live video will also be available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese on Mormon Channel's YouTube platform.

In addition, English print versions of all the proceedings should be available by Wednesday, October 2nd on  Other language print versions usually follow fairly quickly.

If you live in the Whittier, California area, come join us at the Whittier Stake Center (off Mulberry and Cole) at 4:45 PST.  The broadcast will be followed by a (free) light dinner.

The Relief Society is a tremendous force for good in the world - a truly worldwide sisterhood of service.  It has the distinction of being the oldest, and the largest women's organization in the World.  I'm proud to be a member of it.

This is an uplifting and inspiring event for all women, 18 years old and older.  Dare to share it with us!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Mission Call!

It is with great pride that I announce my nephew Anders has received his mission call to serve as a full-time representative of Jesus Christ in the Fort Worth, Texas (USA) mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He reports to the Mission Training Center on November 20th.

Anders will serve in the state of Texas for 24 months at his own expense. This is a family tradition.  He follows in the footsteps of his grandfathers who served missions to Sweden and Norway; his father, who also served in Sweden; as well as his brothers, one who served in the Germany/Austria mission (Daniel) and one who recently returned from missionary service in Mexico (Nils).  He also has three uncles who have served missions for the Church.

I'm so excited for him!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Summer's End

Jeff and Anders skipping stones at Lake Målaren, Sweden
I have to say I'm not a summer person.  I know there are people like that in the world - the ones who delight in the sunshine and heat of summer.  I'm not one of them.  I prefer the cool nights of autumn, as the weather begins to turn and there is a hint of coming winter in the air.  The trees begin to burst into color...  From there it's the promise of holidays to come and a hop, skip and a jump to Christmas.

Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.

The 22nd marked the Autumnal Equinox, and with it, the end of summer. So, today is the first full day of Autumn.

I can't say I'm sad to see summer go. Yet, even as I write this, I'm sure that here in Southern California, even though the nights are already cooler, summer will hang on for at least a month or so more.

In Sweden, and in many other places around the world, summer has already lost its grip and the world is slipping into the rain and darker days of Autumn.

Bring it on!

Photo: J. Evensen

Friday, September 20, 2013

Brasilia Cathedral

The Catheral
The Cathedral of Brasilia, Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida - or Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady Aparecida - is a Roman Catholic cathedral serving the City of Brasilia, Brazil.  It also serves as the seat of the Archdiocese of Brasilia.

It is an unusual structure, resembling very much a rib roast from the outside... and I hope that's not being disrespectful!  Apparently the columns are supposed to represent hands stretching upwards to heaven.

The interior, however, is quite lovely.

On the grounds is a remarkable bell tower.  To me it almost looks like a Menorah.

Bell Tower
The Evangelists:  Nearly 10 foot tall bronze statues of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John stand at the entrance. Traditional Christian iconography usually tells you who is who, however, I found it hard to puzzle out from these images, each of whom is holding a scroll.

Sadly, they were cleaning the entrance when my friend visited the Cathedral, so the workmen are in the way of this photo. It is interesting to note that visitors enter into the cathedral through a dark tunnel.  It is perhaps symbolic that they eventually emerge into a bright worshipful space with a mostly glass roof.

Entrance to the Cathedral
Inside the cathedral hang sculptures of three angels, suspended from the ceiling by steel cables.

The shortest is about 7 feet long and weighs about 220 lbs, the middle one is 11 feet long and weighs 440 lbs, the third and largest is nearly 14 feet long and weighs 660 lbs.

I hope they never have a major earthquake.  Living in earthquake country as I do, I think I'd be very uneasy having those huge things suspended in the air above me, even though the effect in the space of the cathedral is truly beautiful.

The sculptures are by Alfredo Ceschiatti, in collaboration with Dante Croce, and were done in 1970.  The altar was donated by Pope Paul VI.

The stained glass is actually suspended between concrete pillars and fiberglass,  The artwork, done in blue, green, white and brown glass was created in 1990 by artist Marianne Peretti.

Good name for an artist.

Just sayin'.

The Stations of the Cross can be found in this unusual display on one side of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of Our Lady of Aparecida.  She is proclaimed by the Church as the Queen and Patroness of Brazil.

The Cathedral was designed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer.  It went through a complete renovation in 2012 to update and repair the building.  This coincided with the 50th anniversary of the City of Brasilia.

In 1990 the building was declared a national historic and artistic monument for the country of Brazil.  More than a million visitors each year come to view its treasures.  However, extremely poor acoustics and bad ventilation make it difficult to hold services here.  Brasilia is a very sunny city!

Still, as a work of art, it's a pretty amazing edifice.

Photos: M. Torres 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

An Ancient Church

Kirsti in front of the church
We've been visiting a few churches on this blog lately!  This Swedish Church was built in 1320.

It's strange to think that this church was built nearly two hundred years before Columbus sailed for the new world.

The beautiful interior was done more recently.

Christian inside the church
More recently in this case means that the wall and ceiling murals were painted in 1480.

Kirsti, Anders, Jeff, Nils and Christian being tourists
1480 is still twelve years before Columbus.

I love this chandelier.

Anders and Linnea at the entrance of the church.

Nils lookiing manly

This little church is a real gem.


I wonder how long it took to paint all the murals on these walls, and what it looked like when the paint was fresh?  

The church grounds are unique with their box hedges.

This is a beautiful little medieval church.  It's funny how the exterior looks quite modern in some ways!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Only 2 More Performances - Don't Miss It!

Whittier Community Theatre's Cast of Man of La Mancha
There are only two more performances of Man of La Mancha at the Whittier Community Theatre: this coming Friday and Saturday (9/20 and 21) at 8 p.m.

Don't miss the opportunity to see this inspiring show live on stage.

Tickets are still available.  Call (562) 696-0600 for reservations, or purchase tickets on-line at

For more information, please refer to my blog post of September 5th.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Tale of the Szechuan Peppercorns

Sichuan pepper, Szechwan pepper or Szechuan pepper, a common spice used in Asian cuisine, belongs in the rue or citrus family, and, despite its name, is not closely related to either black pepper or chili pepper.
- Wikipedia

Saturday afternoon, my neighbors and good friends David and Ray went off shopping.  I had the door open, as my cat Jack was playing in the courtyard and I was keeping an eye on him.  As they pass my door, the neighbors announce they are off to try to find Szechuan peppercorns, and if they do, there will be dinner.  I’m not sure whether or not they are actually including me in this, inviting me to dinner, or what, but I wish them well and they take off. 

Later, I get Jack back inside, close the door and start reading.  I’m lost in a book and it’s nearly 8 p.m. before I start to think about making something for myself for dinner.  I get a call from the guys next door about this time.  They’re back from their shopping expedition.  Have you eaten yet, they ask?  No, I haven’t, so I troop happily over next door.

Ray is always experimenting with new recipes.  He's found some recipe online and has made what looks like a delicious dinner.  It's oriental noodles with this pork and mushroom mixture over it.  It really looks yummy.

This looks fairly close to the dish Ray made

Well, I am hungry – I take a big bite – and nearly choke.  I chew thoughtfully, carefully swallow, try to be polite.  What is that horrible taste?  My mouth feels numb and tingly all over.  I try drinking some water – it doesn't help.  The water suddenly tastes carbonated.  What!?

I bravely try another bite before I announce “this is inedible!”  

Now David finally takes a bite.  He makes a face!  “This is completely inedible”, he echoes.

Ray is the last to try it.  He hasn’t really paid attention to us so far and he actually spits out the food.  “Oh my GAWD” he says.

“How many Szechuan peppercorns did you put in?” David asks.

“Three tablespoons.”


We double-check.  The recipe actually calls for 3 tablespoons of the stuff!  It has to be a misprint.

Poor Ray!  This was not his fault at all.

This is such a shame, too, because the other ingredients just look delightful – there’s tender pork strips and fresh mushrooms and other veggies over the noodles.  I’m hungry, but can only stare at the bowl wistfully.

David hastily calls for pizza and we then begin laughing.  The guys dig up every snack product they can find in the house, trying to get the awful taste out of our mouths.  We’re eating mini-babybel cheeses and cinnamon pita chips…

Pita chips
The cinnamon pita chips seem to help.

The guys show me the bag of peppercorns they bought.  These things aren’t actually a pepper, but an aromatic spice.  I open the bag and smell it.  It is so fragrant you could fill sachets with the stuff.  They have been searching for a week to find this locally. The smallest portion they eventually find is a huge bag (the size of a small pillow) that cost them $25.  What they are going to do with the rest of it, I have no idea. 

The pepperoni and black olive pizza and antipasto salad arrive fairly quickly and, finally fed, we settle down to watch a movie that David has taped for us.  It's Parental Guidance with Billy Crystal and Bette Midler.  

The movie is very funny.  I laugh out loud frequently.  

At one point Bette Midler’s character has made a vegetarian meal for the kids and they all take one bite – look at each other – and Billy Crystal’s character says, “I’m calling for pizza”. 

At this point we are all three just cracking up.  “Life imitates ART!” I cry.  “Or should it be, ART imitates LIFE?”  I have no idea.  What an experience.

So, later I'm reading about Szechuan Peppercorns and realize from other recipes I see on-line that usually a 1/2 teaspoon of this spice is enough.  (Obviously 3 tablespoons is way over the top!)  And then I come across this passage:
Sichuan pepper has a unique aroma and flavour that is not hot or pungent like black, white or chili peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth (caused by its 3% of hydroxy alpha sanshool) that sets the stage for hot spices. According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, second edition, p429, they are not simply pungent; "they produce a strange, tingling, buzzing, numbing sensation that is something like the effect of carbonated drinks or of a mild electrical current (touching the terminals of a nine-volt battery to the tongue). 
This is EXACTLY what the experience felt like.

I just couldn't help but share this experience with you, 9-volt battery and all.

Let this be a lesson to you, if you are experimenting, or trying to learn some new Chinese recipes.  

Happy cooking!