Category: Life

Midsummer’s reflections 2020

Pickings from the garden.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

On Saturday, 20 June 2020, Sweden celebrated Midsummer’s Day. A celebration that traditionally coincides with the summer solstice. Usually the inevitable – How’s your Midsummer this year? question, would be answered with the similarly inevitable reply; – As usual. Plus 10 degrees, and rain. – Ah, same as New Year’s eve then, – Yep.

It might sound sarcastic but really, I can’t think of a sunny Midsummer’s Day since I first landed in Sweden in 2002. I remember when I first landed that I wrote home to my parents and told, “Sweden got only two seasons leh”. They had winter, which was cold and wet, with possibility of some snow, and summer, which was cold and wet, with no snow. This year was certainly different. There’s been as much sun as you could wish for, in Sweden. I can only assume that this, in some kind of quantum entanglement of weather, is dependent on me having relocated to Tromsø, the very arctic part of Norway. Living in Tromsø by the way, has given me a completely new understanding of winter, and summer. Tromsø also has only two seasons. Winter, without daylight, and summer, with daylight. Endless dayligt. Sunrise in February and sunset basically in November. This said, to be fair to Sweden, I have over the years managed to get some nice midsummer pictures in my album labelled “Sweden”.

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A touch of rosé in celebration of the spring-summer transition

Côtes du Rhône Rose Millésime 2017, complementing a shrimp sandwich.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

In celebration of the spring to summer transition, this is a period of the year when the days get gradually longer till the summer solstice on 20 June 2020. Complementing the shrimp sandwich is a bottle of Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2017 by the Guigal family. The wine is a lovely hue of peach-rose that reflects beautifully with the evening light. Light and fresh with burst of red fruits, the aroma and flavour of the wine complements the slight saltiness of the peeled shrimp.

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Salvia officinalis and Stellaria palustris

Salvia officinalis and Stellaria Palustris
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Salvia officinalis (native to the Mediterranean region) and Stellaria palustris (native to Britain, Ireland and the Nordic region) make an unlikely combination in a flower vase. What they do have in common however, is that they are perennial and come warmer spring weather, they grow in the Nordic garden year after year.

Stellaria palustris or Meadow Starwort are some of the most beautiful flower blooms you can encounter in the Nordic countries. Reputedly growing in peaty soil, I’ve seen these flowers grow sturdy in much different soil conditions too. Soft and flowing when the evening breeze sweeps in, they look like a waterfall of flowers lining rocks and garden paths.

Salvia officinalis or Garden Sage might not look like much, but it makes a wonderful tea. Belonging to the mint family, Lamiaceae, and native to the Mediterranean region, this plant has naturalized and taken root in the Nordic region, growing outdoors without problems. Savoury and peppery, this herb has appeared in European cuisine from the 14th and 15th centuries, used to enhance sauces and condiments and often paired with turkey, chicken, pork and sometimes, fish.

Nordic style oven baked fish gratin

Nordic style oven baked fish gratin.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

One of the absolute easiest Nordic dishes to put together when expecting friends for dinner is a fish gratin. It’s like an all-in-one recipe. You take a freshly caught cod, have it filleted, put it in a glass or ceramic tin, add some butter, salt and white pepper. Add a cover of white bechamel sauce, stir in some dill. Wait for the magic to happen in the oven and dribble some newly peeled shrimps on top just ahead of serving. A slice of lemon and a fresh piece of dill adds merriness to the eyes. Freshly boiled potatoes – or why not surround the fish with a generous surrounding wall of mashed potatoes, or Pommes duchesse; great either ways as long as you are generous with the butter – and bake the whole thing together. Wine paring is easy as long as it is Chardonnay but admittedly now when the spring is approaching, I’d consider a rosé while the gratin is taking care of itself.

Upon arriving in Northern Norway slightly more than a year ago, a main curiosity was to find out what the region had to offer for traditional dishes. Tromsø’s main historic economic activities were being base to arctic hunting and whaling. It is today well known for landing some of the world’s freshest, highest quality fish. It is thus not surprising (or I might have well guessed, but didn’t) that fish pie or fish gratin served with mashed potatoes on the side is one such traditional dish. As testament to its popularity in households, you can find ready made fish gratin sold in individually packed boxes at the local grocers in Tromsø.

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Marta’s (Swedish) Chocolate Slices and a walk down culinary memory lane, Singapore

Märtas skurna chokladkakor or Marta’s Chocolate Slices are the quintessential Swedish chocolate cookies that are a staple at cafés in Sweden. When I got to Sweden in the early 2000s, I found these chocolate cookies in large boxes sold in grocery stores. These distinctive looking chocolate cookies are also available at grocery shops in some Nordic countries.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

In the past weeks, I’ve taken a culinary walk down memory lane to when I was growing up in Singapore. I’ve been revisiting in my mind, bakeries and coffeeshops of where I’ve eaten and spent time for afternoon tea with my parents and father’s mother from when I was five or six years old. Katong and Marine Parade were favourite areas to spend Sunday afternoons. Katong is the predominant living quarters of Eurasians and there were many confectionaries and bakeries that sold pastries and cakes liked by the Eurasian community. Two places I frequented as a child with my parents, and with my father’s parents were Katong Red House, at 75 East Coast Road, and Chin Mee Chin Confectionary at 204 East Coast Road. Chin Mee Chin was located at the corner of Chapel Road where the Holy Family Church is still located. They opened in the 1920s and was famous for cream horns and chocolate éclairs, the favourite pastries of my father’s father, and my father. I grew up eating plenty of those, together with Portuguese egg tarts.

Labelled as “old school” pastries and biscuits in today’s context in Singapore, some of my absolute favourites were the basic mix and bake of flour, butter/ghee and sugar (lots). Chocolate biscuits or cookies were certainly on the list but they hardly came plain. Most chocolate biscuits in cookie jars at home were made to sandwich lemon or coffee cream frosting. The vanilla cream frosting filled chocolate Oreo cookie, was a much later addition to my cookie repertoire even if it was launched in the early 1900s in the USA. In a seeming quantum moving of Time backwards, it has also been interesting to observe the 2012 limited edition Lemon Twist Oreos (a variation of their original lemon Oreo in 1920s) because that flavour combination took me back to when I was five or six years old, eating lemon cream frosting filled cookies from Singapore neighbourhood heartland bakeries.

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Drömmar och havreflarn

Drömmar / Dreams, the Swedish version of sugee / shortbread cookies. On the side, chocolate truffles and a glass of chocolate-coffee yoghurt parfait.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Shortbread is one of my mother’s favourite cookies. Growing up in Singapore, you could find the Singapore version called sugee cookies in the smaller covenience stores in the neighbourhood heartlands. They were sold in plastic cookie jars and you could buy one for about ten cents a piece. From the 1980s onwards, as Singapore developed, the smaller convenience stores gave way to larger grocery stores. Favourite places of mine to visit, food shops and streets changed. Available consumption developed too, the shortbread consumer market segmented and grew more sophisticated. You could now find luxury versions of shortbread, as well as neighbourhood heartland versions.

For a few years after I had left Singapore in the early 2000s to live in Scandinavia and upon my return trips, I found it increasingly difficult to find heartland neighbourhood baked sugee cookies. There was of course Bengawan Solo sugee cookies, but there were some variations I felt I missed. One afternoon, my mother thought it nice to roam Chinatown. She wanted to buy some cotton threads with which she could crochet a new blouse. As we walked the inner alleys and streets of Chinatown Singapore, I chanced upon a shop that sold traditional, old school biscuits. I identified the biscuit tins immediately and could not help but pull my mother inside the shop with me in swift motion.

“Mommy! Look!” I cried, “They have these traditional biscuit tins!” I was excited and beyond disbelief. It’s been some years since I even laid eyes on such biscuit tins! My mother smiled and nodded. “I haven’t seen these in the longest time – what, since I was a child?” I said, exploring the biscuit tins that seemed to stand from floor to shophouse ceiling of the shop. The biscuit tins were designed each with a see-through panel on the front, so that you could always tell exactly which type of biscuit it housed.

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Oxtail soup, Asian light

Oxtail soup, Asian light.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

When you´ve lived almost an equal number of years in one part of the globe (Asia) as another (Scandinavia), it comes a point in time when you realize – right, I´ve managed to get some oxtails from the nearby farm, super! Now what and how to do with them? And that question is legit because I found myself standing over the kitchen counter, staring at the oxtails unwrapped from their paper package, with at least 3 recipes in mind. Coupled with recipe juggling, I wondered who in the family was going to enjoy which version the most. The go-to recipe in Scandinavia is based on the classic French style, using tomato puree, root vegetables such as carrots, celery and herbs such as thyme, bay leaf, parsley, then topping it off with some port/sherry. You have the Eastern European recipe sans tomato puree but using chopped tomatoes, potatoes, leeks and ground allspice. “I’m bored with my cooking. You come up with something.” was the feedback. When in Scandinavia, that meant, go as Far East as your recipe books take you, and see what inspiration you can find.

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20200419 Sunday inspiration in synopsis

Pärlhyacinter or Grape Hyacinth, currently blooming in the garden along the Swedish west coast.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Sights and sounds from the west coast of Sweden inspire me. The calm and still of the ocean in the early hours of the day, the call of the sea gulls and the smell sea water lightly salted. While Tromsø is slowly thawing into spring, the west coast of Sweden at the southern archipelago of Gothenburg is in spring bloom. These flowers, the purple pärlhyacinter and the Russian blue star are in full flourish in archipelago home gardens. They´re beautiful. In Sweden, a signature sight in early spring are park gardens carpeted in these little blue flowers. Tromsø will have its flowers in bloom too, albeit just a little later.

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20200413 April snow, Tromsø, Northern Norway

In April snow, Tromsø, Northern Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

From the pages of Ken Wilber´s One Taste [1]:

“As the Witness, I-I do not move through time, time moves through me. Just as clouds float through the sky, time floats through the open space of my primordial awareness, and I-I remain untouched by time and space and their complaints. Eternity does not mean living forever in time—a rather horrible notion—but living in the timeless moment, prior to time and its turmoils altogether. Likewise, infinity does not mean a really big space, it means completely spaceless. As the Witness, I-I am spaceless; as the Witness, I-I am timeless. I-I live in eternity and inhabit infinity, simply because the Witness is free of time and space. And that is why I can drink vodka in New York and get drunk in L.A.

So this morning I went jogging, and nothing moved at all, except the scenery in the movie of my life. (p.68)

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Eggshell blue and spring florals in a dress, Easter 2020

In a pencil dress by Zara. Loving the eggshell blue and light florals that reflect spring in this dress. Violet sunglasses are Gucci. The velvet purple belt is a vintage purchase from a second hand boutique here in Tromsø, Northern Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

In the early 2000s, I was obsessed with all things fashion and fashionable. From nail polish colours (only Chanel) to skirts, dresses, shoes and bags (only Louis Vuitton), I wanted to know and own the latest. It was a period in my life where I thought next week´s store items were outdated, and there is no such thing as one too many pairs of stilettos. I mean, nude doesn´t go with everything right? Reading some comments to my fashion blog posts from the early 2000s, “bimbotic” didn´t even bother me for the reason, I liked it.

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Marina in early April 2020, Tromsø, Northern Norway

April weather in the Arctic. Snow dusted over a thin layer of ice in this marina along the coast of Tromsø, Northern Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Different from the Swedish west coast marinas and Tromsø marinas is how the boats remain moored through the winter season. On my walk this morning, I found several people tending to their boats, doing spring cleaning of sorts on the inside. Temperature outdoors this day is around -3°C with alternating snow and sunshine. Along the Swedish west coast, no one would consider tending to their boats if temperatures were in the minus outdoors.

Thursday, 19 March 2020 marked the spring/vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere. In Tromsø, you can feel daylight stretching to cover more hours over the day. There´s still snow outside but there´s much more sunlight too, which cheers people up some. I wonder if the neighbour´s heavy dragging of metal over the balcony floors meant they were readying the barbeque grills for the summer? Here in the Arctic, seasons don´t really languidly morph from one to another. Overly long winters means that summer rather rushes up at you as a concrete floor to your face when you´re in free fall, so best to bring out those summer things already now.

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20200328 A different bruktbokhandel in Tromsø, Northern Norway

A Saturday used books haul, Tromsø, Northern Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

In the past week, I´ve returned to reading some of Ken Wilber´s works that appear in scientific journal articles. In particular, my favourite paragraph thus far is from an article of his that appeared in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology in 1982, when Wilber unpacks structural analysis and deep structure in cognitive development:

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Saturday morning 14Mar2020. Thoughts on the Nordic Food Lab testings with animal blood in Nordic cuisine

This dish of slow cooked beef tongue, animal blood and eggs takes on a dark burgundy, dark chocolate colour after cooking. On top, a dollop of setertype smør, a Norwegian butter with 4% salt.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

I was in Gothenburg, Sweden, the past weekend, and with Europe now being the epicenter of Covid-19, I´m currently sitting at home in quarantine for 14 days. This weekend, I thought I´d research a familiar but marginalised ingredient in Nordic cuisine – animal blood.

This morning´s food adventure is around the marginalized and forgotten food, animal blood, in Nordic cuisine. Animal blood has a long culinary use in Nordic and European food. Blodpudding / Black Sausage / Sanguinaccio or Biroldo / Blodpølseare all variations of blood sausages that you can find across Europe. In Sweden, blodpudding is eaten fried, with a side of boiled potatoes and lingonberry jam. This dish is absolutely delicious, particularly when fried in lard or butter.

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Semla of the Year 2020 at Ahlströms Konditori, Gothenburg, Sweden

Settling in at Ahlströms Konditori in Gothenburg, Sweden, for that semla fika.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

It’s been a number of years since I stepped into Ahlströms Konditori, one of Gothenburg city’s oldest confectionaries. Here, you’ll find that the late morning crowd consists mostly retired elderly individuals. They sit, absorbed in their own worlds, and read the news in a scene that could come from any early 1900 Paris café postcard. It´s a beautiful scene to observe. The atmosphere at Ahlströms is languid but very much cheerful. The city’s local newspapers have done their annual semlor best-in-test for 2020, and Ahlströms won top-3 for serving up the city’s best semlor.

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Duck eggs from Lofoten. Sunday breakfast, Tromsø, Norway, Mar.2020

Duck eggs from Aimee´s Farm in Lofoten, each dated on the day they were picked.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Last Friday (28/02) was farmer´s market evening at Tromsdalen in northern Norway. Farmers from the surrounding region, from Balsfjord to a little farther south, Moskenes, gather in Tromsø to sell and distribute their products. At this small make-shift market, you´ll find traditional Norwegian smoked salmon, farm made yoghurt, eggs and various cuts of meats from lamb, sheep, cow and pigs. I noted that one farm, Aimee´s Farm (located in Lofoten), had duck eggs for sale. My eyes lit at the information.

In Singapore, salted duck eggs are served together with Teochew porridge and salted duck egg yolks are used in custard to fill soft steamed buns as well as the mid-autumn festival staple, mooncakes. The last I remember eating a duck egg was when I was a little girl back in Singapore. So I could not help but jump at the opportunity to purchase 30 of them. I was totally curious about the flavour profile of duck eggs compared to chicken eggs.

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The lunar new year sequin dress dance 2020

Dancing to Súbeme La Radio by Enrique Iglesias. The song was released 24 February 2017 by the label RCA‎ Sony Latin.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

This weekend marks one of several Lunar New Year celebrations across the Far East and Southeast-Asia. The Chinese Spring Festival was celebrated this year on 25 Jan., ushering in the Year of the Rat, with 15 days of celebrations in China. In Singapore, it is most likely one of the rare times of year where Chinese food stalls at hawker-centres and food courts are closed.

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New Year’s Eve 2020, Styrsö, Sweden

Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

My reads of interest have for some years now, revolved around unified theories, amongst which are Integral Theory by Ken Wilber, the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology, UTAUT by Viswanath Venkatesh et al. and general systems theory, GST from Ludwig von Bertalanffy, whose ideas were carried forward, amongst others, by Fritjof Capra. The turning point of curiosity on this new year’s eve is the realization that systems theories are too, inherently axiomatic and as such, need a system or unified foundation of their own.

This evening’s read and reflection comes from a 2015 paper written by Cabrera et al. [1] A unifying theory of systems thinking with psychosocial applications in which the authors address the very challenge of how the field of systems thinking is intrinsically methodologically plural. Pluralism is the result of the processes of diversification, specailization and differentiation in scientific innovation over time. In this context, plurality of methods and plurality of interpretations both create and perpetuate each other, emerging and growing as fractals. How then to reconcile universalism and pluralism?

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Evening by the window

Chewie
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

He does this sometimes. Sits by the window, watches the evening go by. He´s a very tall, long limbed Maine Coon, born in Northern Norway, 8 years old, almost 9 years old now, and weighs in ca. 8 kgs. He now lives along the Swedish west coast at Styrsö. He´s darling.

Zucchero Guantanamera (Guajira)

Some people think that the summer’s polar light, when there is sunshine the whole day – and night – is great. But me, I look forward to the winter’s polar light, where you can get a proper night’s sleep, when no sunlight is peeping in anywhere during the night – or day – and it is feeling just like Christmas all the time. It is not completely dark, the sky lit in a magic blue. If something, the colour of the night sky between November and January reminds me of the Grotta Azzurra in Capri, Italy. In Tromsø where I currently live and work the winter polar light is called Mörkertid. It begins this year on November 28 and the sun will not rise over the horizon before January 15 next year. Yay!

Postcards of late autumn, Styrsö, Sweden

On the grill in late summer, along the Swedish west coast.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

Spring is often the more colourful season, with trees coming back to life and flowers blossoming. Bees are a delight to sit and watch as they make their rounds around the garden flowers. Come late summer and early autumn, the garden tends to take on a more varied hue of green. We’ve managed to change that some over the past few years by growing different types of garden friendly vegetables. Or at least, Swedish west coast garden friendly vegetables. The Swedish west coast has relatively shallow soil with rocky soil beds that need clearing out before planting. So we built a few sand boxes and experimented some to see which vegetables felt at home in them. Carrots were a hit a few years ago. This year’s harvest is also interesting with garden sweet peas, Västerås cucumbers (great for pickling) and different types of lettuce. A small harvest of tomatoes also seems on the way. Most delightful are the herring wood barrels filled with rainwater. We use them to water the plants, “indoors-outdoors, can-can”.

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Farmer’s autumn market, Haga, Gothenburg

Saturday morning marketing in Haga, Gothenburg. Picking up autumn harvests for sale from farms in the surrounding region of the city of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

It was a dark and stormy night…

Well, no. Not quite. But yesterday morning was a little wet and windy to do some proper marketing. Still, the charming cobbled streets of Haga in Gothenburg is always inviting, rain or shine.

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Styrsö festival weekend. 5-6 July 2019.

Styrsö, Swedish west coast, July 2019.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

Tourism is certainly in full swing this summer at the southern archipelago of Gothenburg. 5-6 July 2019 marks the much awaited Styrsö Festival 2019 (styrsofestival.se) with 20 music artists performing over Friday and Saturday. By noon, the ferries were packed with visitors on their way to the islands, ready to party! With slight winds and clear skies, we’ll be expecting an electric evening with good music at Styrsö Bratten.

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Spanish orange almond cake to Easter, Styrsö, Sweden

Spanish orange almond cake, with orange crème anglaise, a variation of the Eurasian almond sugee cake. Topped with meringue.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

One of my favourite things to do when back in Sweden is to bake, and oddly enough, go back to cooking Straits Chinese / Peranakan dishes. Easter culinary traditions (as with Christmas, weddings etc.) however, are most often influenced from my Portuguese / Spanish heritage. This year, I thought to bake a variation of my father’s mother’s Eurasian sugee cake, a Spanish orange almond cake [1], layered with orange crème anglaise and topped with meringue. David Lebovitz has a brilliant recipe to orange crème anglaise to which anyone can refer/use [2].

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Morning skyline in Shanghai, China 2019

Morning skyline in March 2019, Shanghai, China.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro 2019

I’ve often written that landing in Shanghai, China, feels as if I were coming back home. If there was a city in China that I have visited the most, it would be Shanghai. Between 2010 and 2014, I found myself almost annually in Shanghai for various work and study visits. It’s been about five years since I was in Shanghai and expectedly, the city has developed some, a morphing burgeon of its 1920s and 1930s personality from Paris of the East unto its own. I do not know how else to describe other than, it is, Shanghai, lacking nothing.

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Valentine’s at Graffi Grill Tromsø

Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

The roses were brought out in most flower boutiques here in Tromsø on Sunday 10 February 2019. It was in celebration of Mother’s Day in Norway. The Feast of Saint Valentine which falls on 14 February in celebration of love and friendship, seems a fairly understated affair in Norway, and in particular as observed, in this city in the Arctic Circle. In a walkabout the city centre prior to dinner, I came across one of my favourite flower boutiques. There was a significant absence of bouquets of roses for the Feast of St Valentine’s. The shop had for ready-made bouquets, clusters of chrysanthemum and lily blooms. Roses were available but firmly potted. In Gothenburg, I loved to have tulips at this time of year sitting on the kitchen table in a vase. In Tromsø, four metre high snow walls built from clearing snow off the sidewalks and driveways is not encouraging weather for tulips, even in vases. I did however, bring home a new pet plant from that shop, a ficus elastica robusta.

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Fractal organizing on the eve of 2019, Styrsö Gothenburg, SE

In the moment of a Walden read. Although this article post is mostly about Taleb’s 2004 incerto meta-framework of writing.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2018

I received this year as part of the Christmas presents exchange, one of my favourite books written by Henry David Thoreau, Walden1. What’s special about this Pan Macmillan Collector’s Library 2016 edition is that it is petite, and bound most decoratively in floral print, in the colours of the planets Saturn (pale gold) and Uranus (pale blue)2. Another book received was written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Fooled by Randomness3 (2004).

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Good morning Sunshine! Styrsö, Gothenburg, SE

A winter’s sunrise along the Swedish west coast, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2018

Out at the Gothenburg southern archipelago, it seemed a perfectly mundane winter’s morning, albeit a little warm hovering between 5 to 6 degrees celcius. The big family gatherings on 24 and 25 Dec. is done, the quayside this morning was parked full of shopper bags and luggages of varying sizes, with varying goods belonging to individuals moving between points of interest. Christmas was warm and cozy, now it’s time to prepare for a sparkly new year’s!

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Christmas at Styrsö Gothenburg, Sweden 2018

Christmas market tranquil at Saluhallen in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2018

Even if the markets are not as populous in Scandinavia as they are in Southeast-Asia where I grew up, there’s always a certain sense of panic with last minute shopping, especially during festive seasons, like Christmas. I was however, pleasantly surprised to find the main market hall Saluhallen in Gothenburg, in complete calm during the late afternoon on the eve of the eve of Christmas, Christmas eve being the big family meal for most families in Sweden.

So it was thoroughly enjoyable doing this year’s Christmas marketing, picking up a bit of liver pâté, an assortment of cheese and some more preserved herring to add to our existing collection of flavoured herrings for the home Christmas table. Since Gothenburg is a coastal city, our own Christmas table very much reflects the culinary traditions of the region with an emphasis on piscatorial dishes. A favourite this year seemed to be smoked rainbow trout. That, and there’s always room for dessert. This year’s favourite was caramelized baked apples with vanilla cream. The vanilla cream was made the old-fashioned way with lots of egg yolks, and vanilla beans.

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Arctic Circle light on an October morning, Tromsø, Norway

Arctic Circle (latitude of 66°33′47.3″ N) morning light in October 2018, an intense gemstone colour of orange spinel, Tromsø (69°40′58″N), Norway
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro 2018

If weather was a significant fika topic in Sweden, the changing light reflected in the Arctic Circle through the seasons captures greater conversation interest over fredagskaffe sessions. These pictures were taken this morning at about 0725 hrs. I sit at Tromsø, staring at a morning sky that streaked an intense gemstone colour of orange spinel to the left over the mountains at Tomasjord. Moving the eyeline from left to right over Tromsdalen, the morning light turned an ametrine bi-colour, cleaving both mountain and ocean at an almost surreal perpendicular. Moving the eyeline further right towards Solligården, the morning light turned gradually into shades of pale amethyst.

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A walk through Tromsø sentrum, Sept 2018

Strandgata, a main shopping street in Tromsø city centre, Norway
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2018

With houses built from the 1700s that remain standing along narrow cobbled streets close to the waterfront, the city centre of Tromsø makes for romantic evening strolls and compact access. One could spend just about 20 minutes navigating the main shopping street from end to end. And where I have bypassed souvenir gift shops in most other places I have visited, I would certainly recommend visitors to stop by a souvenir shop in Tromsø. Souvenir shops here offer some well crafted, artisan Scandinavian products that range from sustainable fashion made from salmon leather, kitchen wear made from reindeer antlers and natural pure wool throws that is perfect for cooler nights in.

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Äggboden, a boutique farm shop in Halland, west coast Sweden

Standing outside of a gårdsbutik/farm shop called Äggboden, where a variety of woven goods for sale are displayed. This shop is located along Sandövägen in Vallda, Halland country, along the west coast of Sweden. At fifty percent summer sale discount this basket, I thought, would be nice for a bushel of apples that are just coming becoming ripe for the season.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2018

One thing I love doing during summers in Sweden is to drive along the west coast of Sweden and visit small farms and flea markets along the way. Halland county is about a 2 hour drive south of the city of Gothenburg. We counted about four flea markets situated around the area of Lerkil and Smarholmen that we found by driving around some.

The region is full of small farms and private markets of whatever those who live there can think up to entertain tourists and temporary guests. One that has stuck in my memory was a place where they had combined an outdoor café, a barnyard flea market with a small farm animal zoo. On our comments about a particularly cute shaggy little pony, the managing lady said, “We love to have visitors over to give our animals something to look at.”

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A Côte d’Azur morning

Along the Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2018

During the 19th century, the season for visiting Nice was during the winter months in northern Europe. Later in more modern times, the season extended to include also spring and summer. The most popular place is still the beachfront, where the old villas are located between Promenade des Anglais and Rue de France. With increased urbanization, the private villas have now been turned into hotels and museums. The beachfront today seems a favourite place for morning strolls, bicycle rides and workouts by the beach. The Mediterranean waters are pleasantly warm, even at hours just after sunrise.

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Bohr’s compIementarity and a celebration of an anniversary

In celebration of an anniversary, with a Brut Vintage 2009 Champagne Pol Roger. Aged for 8 years before being released onto the market, this vintage champagne consists of a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay gathered from 20 Grands and Premiers crus vineyards in the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2018

I don’t think I could ever tire of contemplating Niels Bohr’s (1885-1962) complementarity applied to subjects beyond theories of quantum physics. My latest read on the subject is an article by Filip Grygar [1], on Bohr’s complementarity related to the field of biosemiotics. Grygar discusses the application of complementarity to three existing models of living systems that include mechanistic (molecular) biology, biosemiotics and phenomenological hermeneutic biosemiotics. Overall, I think the article gives a good summary of Bohr’s complementarity applied to living phenomena.

Complementarity was the foundation perspective upon which Bohr viewed the many seeming contradictions of life as unity of knowledge. Just as the phenomenon of light cannot be adequately accounted for by mechanical measurements, but rather captured in the complementarity of it being both wave and particle, so the phenomenon of living needs be viewed in complementarity:

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Under the Swedish sun

Under the Swedish westcoast sun, with Cat.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2018

The winters in Sweden can be long and cold, so for those who are visiting Sweden, what might come as unexpected are the very warm Swedish summers. With low cloud cover and low humidity levels, I think a quintessential equatorial method of keeping cool might help – a broad hat, broad UVA/UVB 50 SPF coverage, and a furry Cat?

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Baileys Mille Crêpe

Baileys mille-crepe, topped with chocolate ganache and whipped cream.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2018

It looks pretty, the gâteau mille crêpe. So I thought I’d have a go at making one myself. I think I was at a corner near the Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Paris when I came across a bakery-café that was serving the most aromatic and gorgeous looking filled crêpes, the type that you can always find room in your stomach for no matter the time of day. In Paris, if the bakery-café had the ingredient, you could most likely have it on the crêpe as filling, from fresh strawberries to strawberry jam, whipped cream to nutella and banana. Looking for recipes online, I could see that most recipes would recommend to have the crêpe made with as little fat as possible on the pan itself in order to give a pale golden hue to the stack. But the ones I made were done in Swedish pannkaka style, with plenty butter in the pan so you get caramelized frilled edges to each crêpe. The difference? The mille crêpe I made is more, …Swedish?

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Tjolöholm Christmas 2017

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Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2017

Our first julbord sitting at Tjolöholm Slott was in 2014. Tjolöholm Slott usually has two julbord sittings per day during julbord season. Although most pictures from 2014 indicate a clear silver-grey horizon from the garden out back of the castle grounds facing the sea, I think this year’s dining was distinctly selected for the lunch hour. This lunch hour sitting offered us a view of the castle grounds by daylight. Different to previous Christmas sittings, most notable this year was the opening of the basement as closet for guests, and glögg served at the respective tables of the guests. This shift of welcome glögg from common area to individual tables opened up the possibility for guests to move around the hall and dining areas in their own space and time, unstressed by crowd following procedures that usually accompanies julbord sittings as a means to facilitate crowd control experienced at other dining places. Variations in the annual Christmas decorations include the decorated tree in what was formerly designated as closet space. Activities to the event ran more smoothly this year, with the usual impeccable hospitality from the services team, and a more streamlined visualisation of the presentation of the julbord that gave plenty of room for guests to take their time exploring the julbord’s offerings.

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Strawberry and shrimp

At Brogyllen konditori, Västra Hamngatan, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2017

It might have been as early as 2003 or 2004 during my first years living in Sweden, that I visited Brogyllen. Brogyllen konditori is a bakery-café located at the southwest corner of Hamngatan in the city of Gothenburg. The café opened early, at half past seven in the morning, and my doctoral studies courses usually began at nine. This gave me ample time to sit, have coffee with a Swedish kladdkaka, a sweet, sticky chocolate fudgecake served with whipped cream on top, and watch the trams go by. In a routine sitting, I could almost tell the time by the tram number that went past. From the time I sat down, by three tram no. 2s gone by, it would be about time to leave for university campus grounds.

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Styrsö Uttervik



At Styrsö Uttervik, a seaside bathing spot well-liked by both locals and visitors to the Swedish west coast during the summer months.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2017

There are a number of seaside bathing spots to go to when visiting the harbour city of Gothenburg. Some of the most scenic of swim areas can be found at the southern archipelago islands of Gothenburg, along the Swedish west coast. Styrsö Uttervik, located at the island of Styrsö is one of them.

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Kristiansand, Norway, summer 2017

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Postcards from Kristiansand, Norway, summer 2017.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2017

The initial expectations of a long and tiring drive north along E18 from Gothenburg, Sweden, to Kristiansand in southernmost part of Norway, via the Bastø Fosen ferry between Horten and Moss turned out to be one that was scenic and comfortable. The comforts of a long drive being provided for in terms of a more than adequate number of rest stops, and eateries dotted along the way.

Kristiansand is Norway’s fifth largest city with the sixth largest municipality. The city has about 90,000 inhabitants. A number that can swell to more than a hundred times its local population during the summer months when tourism is at its peak.

Most houses in the city and in its archipelago are beautifully kept, pristine in detail of wood oak panels, generously coated with linseed oil paint in colours of mostly white or earth yellow for houses, and red for boat houses and barnyards. Some barnyards are so large in comparison to the main house that they looked more like mansions in themselves from a distance. Driving along the coast in southern Norway, the small clusters of houses and villages are breathtakingly beautiful. This drive reminded me of the drive along the coastline of the French Riviera some years ago, the houses here being distinctly Nordic in architecture.

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Styrsö Valborg 2017

Valborgsmässoafton with perfect weather along the Swedish west coast for a funfair and playing outdoors.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2017

It is the weekend of the Swedish Valborg in celebration of Saint Walburga. Despite its naming heritage, this festivity has little to do with religion but rather everything to do with the ushering in of spring. Across the land, large bonfires are lit in symbol of cleansing of the past (plus, a fantastic way to getting rid of unwanted wooden furniture) and welcoming the season that sees trees visibly come back to life and flowers blossom. There are few, if hardly any, Swedish festivities that do not in essence celebrate fertility in one form or another. It is only that some festivities have a touch more explicit use of fertility symbols than others.

As indication that globalisation and cultural confluence was already in place thousands of years before scholastic theorising, in Viking folklore the lighting of a bonfire is believed to scare off witches and evil spirits, this night being the night when witches gather on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains in central Germany. Sweden and the Nordic region would be just a swish of a broomstick’s flight away from the woods of central Germany, so one could never be too cautious. The larger the fire, the better. On the practical side, the bonfires also work well in keeping predatory animals such as foxes away from newborn farm animals who are often let out to graze freely from the beginning of May.

On Styrsö, an island located in the southern archipelago of Gothenburg, Valborg is celebrated with a funfair held on the island’s school grounds filled with games, bingo lottery playing and traditional Swedish fika fare such as cinnamon rolls, marzipan filled sugar cakes topped with various fruits and creams. Come evening, a bonfire is lit and neighbours and friends gather around the bonfire in song and dance. Apart from keeping witches away, the presence of a bonfire fills all with anticipation of the long summer nights to come. Nights presumably similarly filled with more drink, song and dance.

Donated Flee market bargains for the benefit of the 5th Year annual School outings.

Face painting.

Flee market bargain hunting. Both sad and a blessing that you can now have printed books for next to nothing.
I haven’t decided yet if I should be sad about this or just dig in and carry home the loot…

– That’s a monstrosity of a barbecue grill! Who would want such a thing in their garden? – Who wouldn’t?
At this time the highest bid was about $50 USD. I certainly hope they got much more for it at the end of the day. Imagine how quick you could become the happy owner of something you didn’t knew existed just a few minutes earlier. Flee markets are plain dangerous.

In that sense, books are much safer.

Not too far from the funfair grounds is this sheep farm, the quiet of which is punctuated with the occasional bleats of the tiniest of bouncing balls of black, tight ringlet wool.

The sweetest. This one took the time to come say hello to us.

Pretending not to be curious this soon to be mother of a lamb, nibbled its way towards us on the sparse fresh grass strands.

We had an instant connect with her. So amazingly alive and so closely related to us humans.

Located center of the funfair grounds, a café tent pitched and ready for guests with traditional Swedish fika items such as these cinnamon knots.

Carrot cake cupcakes topped with cream cheese frosting, and chocolate swiss rolls in the background topped with fresh strawberries.

Easter 2017 reads after moons of Jupiter and Saturn discoveries by Cassini

Planning for the long weekend, in reads.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2017

One of the most interesting news releases that would have certainly captured the imaginations of many out there was the announcement of the discovery of hydrogen molecules in the plumes around Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth largest moon by Cassini, a joint space exploration endeavour of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) [1]. Part of a twenty year long spacecraft exploration project, this Cassini discovery points towards increased prospects of the existence of microbial organisms other than those found on Earth [2,4]:

“In 2005, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spied jets of water ice and vapor erupting into space from fissures on Enceladus, evidence of a salty ocean beneath the saturnian moon’s placid icy surface. Now, it turns out that the jets contain hydrogen gas, a sign of ongoing reactions on the floor of that alien sea. Because such chemistry provides energy for microbial life on Earth, the discovery makes Enceladus the top candidate for hosting life elsewhere in the solar system—besting even Jupiter’s Europa, another icy moon with an ocean. “We didn’t see microbes,” says Hunter Waite, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, and the lead author of a study published this week in Science. “But we saw their food.”” [2]

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Modeling a Heideggerian Valentine’s

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Anemone, roses, and two pinkfluffers on a carrot cake. St. Valentine’s Day 2017.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2017

For philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), human capacity to think cannot be the most central quality of being, since the very act of thinking is in itself but a reflection of what in essence is. For Heidegger, the human being is intrinsically structured by Time and our relationship with Time [1]. Human beings are in essence existing at the edge of possibilities-for-being. If considered in that light, humans tend to exist in a mode of constant intersubjectivity [2], between tending to the pressures of the external world and of other minds, and of themselves experiencing tending to the external world and other minds. In my view, the essence of Heideggerian philosophy resonates much with J.A. Wheeler’s one particle theory, and Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. And it is this constant play of intersubjectivity in Heideggerian perspective, that forms the spacetime fabric of the possibilities-of-being.

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The little chocolate shop, Kronhusgården, Göteborg 2016

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Inside the little shop Göteborgs Choklad & Karamellfabrik, 2016.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2016

Part of the fun of the winter’s festive season in Sweden, is to make time to visit the various Christmas markets. Located in a corner of Kronhusgården at Kronhuset, the city of Gothenburg’s oldest secular building designed by royal architect Simon de la Vallée and built from 1643 to 1654, sits Gothenburg’s Chocolate and Caramel Factory. It’s the kind of a small chocolate shop that reminds me of some scenes described in Enid Blyton’s stories that I read from when I was a little girl. With old fashioned wallpapers and the numerous clocks that adorn the wall, this shop is a little magic come winter evenings. Place chocolate concoctions of different sorts in the middle of it all and you have a place that even I might find difficult to walk out of even after acquiring what I want packaged and bowed in a brown paper bag. Continue reading “The little chocolate shop, Kronhusgården, Göteborg 2016”