Remembering Christmas in the Caribbean

11 12 2010

And why not another post about Puerto Rico when I am already at it 😉 After celebrating Christmas completely (2007, 2008) and partly (2009) in the Caribbean, I can’t help being a little nostalgic while at the same time very pleased that we are actually going to be in Sweden this year.

Here are some photos from one of the Christmases we spent in Puerto Rico, you can see and read more under the category “Christmas in the Caribbean”:


Some of you might remember the very detailed and illustrated paella recipe I published a few years ago? Well, these photos are from that December evening when O made a huge paella for all his colleagues. When I wasn’t the paella maker’s assistant, I took photos of O’s colleague’s garden and neighbours’ house.


For me it was very exotic to see poinsettias (julstjĂ€rnor) outside in the garden… The hostess told me that she had bought more than 75 poinsettias – big and small. The small ones she had planted in the flower beds by the house while the big ones were in pots. After Christmas she would dig up all the holiday flowers and throw them away!


The orchids were also growing outside – on the palm trees


The neighbours were busy putting up all the Christmas lights in the garden and on the house. It seems that they had also bought lots of poinsettias for the flower beds…


The end result looked quite cosy once night had fallen.


20th Day Knut

13 01 2010

Today it is 20 days since Christmas, which in Sweden is called Tjugondedag Knut or “20th Day Knut” (Knut is the name in the calendar on the 13th January), and it is [un-]officially the end of Christmas! If you haven’t removed the Christmas decorations and the tree, it is time today.

If you’d like, you could organise a “Christmas tree plundering” (julgransplundring) where the guests help you remove the tree decorations, and eat the last Christmas sweets. One of my childhood best friends used to have one, where we threw the tree out the window at the end of the party!

A real Xmas tree in Puerto Rico
The condominium had a REAL Christmas tree in the lobby, and it smelled wonderful of pine – it has already been “plundered” though

We didn’t put up our Christmas tree this time, and hardly any decorations, but I need to remove the few Christmas things, wash the Christmas napkins and tablecloths, and pack away the Christmas china that we used for our Swedish Christmas dinner on the 22nd December (before heading to Europe).

Swedish Xmas dinner in Puerto Rico
No Christmas china in the photo, but this is how our Swedish Christmas dinner looked like – including olives and pineapple soda!

Christmas china
Mixed Christmas china

Christmas runner from 1952
Christmas table runner from 1952, made by my grandmother

Decorative Christmas pillows
Decorative Christmas pillows in the armchair

Christmas tree decorations on a plate
Christmas tree decorations on a plate


Christmas napkins
The Christmas napkins need to be washed. I am not too fond of the Alessi products (usually too plastic for my taste) but I love our napkin rings in metal. We always have textile napkins, a tradition from my family where every family member has his / her napkin ring in silver

I am starting to think that this is more a photo blog than a “written text” blog, but I will try to write more in the coming weeks. It is just that I have so many pictures from the last month that I would like to share – I still have to show you the last islands of the cruise, the new year’s celebration in Spain and our almost-finished room there, our castle-excursion in SkĂ„ne with my grandmother and aunt etc.

What do you think – more text and less photos, or is the blog interesting enough as is?

Gran's tomte collection
A tiny part of my grandmother’s “tomte” collection – I used to love helping her put them in the looong window in the living room (in the old house where my parents now live)

Christmas preparations

21 12 2009

Incredible, it is Christmas in two days and I have a looong to-do list:

  • make meatballs and
  • pepparkaks-cheesecake for our Swedish Xmas dinner tomorrow evening
  • lunch with my Peruvian friend and her daughter – at my favourite restaurant, St Germain, in the Old San Juan
  • Plaza ColĂłn, Old San Juan, PR
    Plaza ColĂłn, Old San Juan lit up by Xmas lights

  • pack and try to fit everything into two suitcases (American Airlines only allow 23 kg per person – how ungenerous!)
  • hand over Swedish Christmas kit to the neighbours
  • Swedish Xmas kit
    Swedish Xmas kit

  • tidy up the apartment
  • vacuum-clean
  • host the Swedish Christmas dinner with friends
  • Making rice pudding while watching Swedish telly on the internet
    Stirring the rice & milk for rice pudding is sooo boring, so I placed myself on a stool and watched Swedish telly on the internet at the same time!

  • write the last Christmas emails
  • put photos on my USB-key so that I can blog from Europe about the cruise etc
  • call my grandparents
  • make sure O comes back from the office on time on Wednesday morning…

… before we leave for Spain on Wednesday at 13.10, arriving in Madrid at 9.40 on Christmas Eve morning. It is 265 km from the airport to O’s parents’ village so we will arrive in time for lunch (one of O’s brothers is picking us up by car).

Nativity scene in San Juan, PR

I should write about the other islands we visited during the cruise but it will just have to wait (hence the saving of holiday photos on a usb-key)… In the mean time, I hope that you enjoy will these photos of “Christmas in the Caribbean” (see more posts and photos from previous years under that category).

Plaza ColĂłn, San Juan, PR
Plaza ColĂłn, Old San Juan

A few weeks ago when I had friends over late in the afternoon, we head some noise from the street so we went down to see what was going on… It was a Christmas procession (by car, of course, we are after all in Puerto Rico!!) including parranda* singing and handing out of footballs to the children!

Parranda in the streets – not the best quality, but it gives you an idea of how it can sound…

Santa arriving with his reindeers in San Juan, PR
Santa arriving with his reindeers

Los tres reyes, San Juan, PR
The three kings also came!

My blog friend Emma who lives in Aberdeen came up with the great idea of a Xmas present exchange among the Swedish [expats or not] bloggers, and last week I received my present – from the initiator herself!

Xmas present?
Xmas present?  😕

Xmas present from blog friend!
Phew, there was a proper xmas present inside the box 😉

Xmas present from blog friend - IQ test and Swedish chocolate
Now you know what we will be doing on the flight to Europe (the chocolate is already gone though)… Thank you Emma!!!

*) I never know if I should spell it “paranda” or “parranda” – a Puerto Rican Christmas tradition to sing and play (maracas, gĂŒiro and palitos (wooden sticks) – see the film above). I was actually woken up one night on the cruise by people doing a parranda in the corridor at 01 in the morning. Fortunately it was a short one 😉 – That the tradition is usually to wake people up was probably not appreciated by the non-Puerto Rican passengers…

Wednesday recipe: PepparkaksCheeseCake & Etiquette poll: My or Our?

16 12 2009

Since it is that day of the week today, I am taking a break from the cruise stories to give you a Wednesday recipe and a new etiquette poll! I can’t believe that it is Christmas Eve in one week +1 day! We are heading to Spain in exactly one week, flying via Miami to Madrid.

I have been really excited about the cold weather in Spain at the moment (2-4 degrees and chances of snow) but the weather forecast looks depressing for next week – who wants to have THIRTEEN* degrees on Christmas Eve? Oh well, at least I won’t have to worry about bringing long johns to keep warm indoors…

Taxi in Dominica
Taxi in Dominica – God is my guide

So, one week to Christmas and I have finally succumb (how do you conjugate that verb?) and decided yesterday to bring out a few Christmas decorations after all. I was first thinking that it was pointless since we are going away for the holidays. However, we then decided to have a small Christmas dinner next Tuesday with Swedish B, her father and his girlfriend, and of course the home has to be a little Christmassy for that!

So I started looking for Christmas recipes and remembered a yummy cheesecake recipe I made in January with some left-over ginger snaps (pepparkakor). It was more popular than the store-bought cheesecake that some guests brought!!

PepparkaksCheeseCake with Lemon Sauce

~30 Swedish ginger snaps (I find the brand Annas in Walgreens all year around), smashed into pieces
100 g melted butter
Mix together the crushed ginger snaps with the melted butter (in a food processor if you prefer). Spread in a greased round springform cake tin, wrap some aluminium foil around the base since it might leak a little. Bake 5-10 min. in 200 C / 390 F.

First layer:
400 g Philadelphia cream cheese
3 eggs
1œ dl sugar
Stir into a smooth mixture and add on top of the base. Bake in 180 C / 350 F for 35 minutes. Let it cool.

Top layer:
4 dl crĂšme fraiche / sour cream (not non-fat)
1 table spoon vanilla sugar
1 dl sieved icing / confectioner’s sugar
Mix the ingredients and spread on the cool cake. Bake in 180 C / 350 F for 6-7 minutes. Let the cake cool.

Lemon sauce:
freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1-2 lemons
3/4 dl water
1 egg yolk
1 table spoon Maizena
1œ dl sugar
Simmer while stirring. Add 1 table spoon cold butter and let the sauce cool.

Serve the cake with a few spoonfuls of the lemon sauce.

(inspired by a recipe in “Vinterns goda ting” by Anna & Fanny Bergenström)

I love my Island - St Martin
I love my island-poster in St Martin

The etiquette poll today refers to something that I have noticed people do in all languages and cultures – and regardless of what they refer to; kids or a house (or something else). They always say my kids and my house, even when they obviously share the “ownership” with a husband / wife / partner. Is it just me, or do you also get confused and wonder if they are talking about a child from a previous relationship when people talk about “my daughter” while their partner is next to them? And think that maybe only one of them owns the house they live in (which of course might be the case!)?

Antiguan beer
Our beer in Antigua

Maybe it’s a silly reflection, and I was told many years ago that I referred too much to “we” when I was doing activities with a boyfriend or friend, so maybe I should have written above that I am going to Spain next week? But wouldn’t some of you then wonder if I was going without O? Of course it might depend on the context – I am sure that I do say “my” or “I” in certain situations when I refer to something that belongs to both O and I, or something we will do together.

British Commonwealth poster
We are family – Commonwealth poster in Dominica

Anyway, it is mostly when both persons are present and one keep saying “my” about a child that I react. This happened to me recently when we had Christmas dinner with O’s colleagues and all the women were talking about “mis hijo(a)s” (my children) while the husbands were sitting next to them. Only once did one woman actually correct herself and changed to “nuestras hijas” (our daughters).**

It would be interesting to see how I would express myself if we ever have children!? Maybe not the same thing, but I always refer to the apartment as our home – it is not just mine… (that we don’t actually own it is another issue, ha ha)

And don’t worry, tomorrow I will continue telling you about the cruise!

*) I hope everybody understands that this is a European blog and therefore I ALWAYS talk about Celsius (if not mentioned otherwise) when it comes to temperature  😉
**) This is especially confusing in Puerto Rico where a lot of people actually have children from different relationships – divorce rates are higher than in most countries.

Disney designed maxi taxi
We are one! Taxi-van in St Thomas, driven by a proud scholar and army mom

Wedneday recipe: KlenĂ€tter or Swedish deep-fried Christmas cakes

14 01 2009

Time for Wedneday recipes again and I wanted to share some great photos I took of O’s baking skills on Christmas Day, which by the way had been one of those “lost” days for me if it hadn’t been for the photos! The lost days are the ones that I can’t remember, I don’t know if it only happens to me but sometimes I just can’t remember what I have done on a particular day – just one or two days afterwards…

Very often the reason is because I haven’t done anything special but I find it really scary when my memory is failing me and I try to keep a brief journal to not lose days! Anyway, Christmas Day was one of those lost days until I found the photos and realised that O did some baking and we went for a walk + coffee in Starbucks… Nothing very exciting and I think we actually wore our PJs until we took that afternoon walk but I guess that is part of having holidays 😉


Rolling out the dough for the klenÀtter
First photo is unfortunately a little blurry…

Anyway, back to the recipe – first of all, I know that most people spell the name of the cakes in Swedish klenĂ€ter but I just think it looks strange with only one -t and my grandmother has spelt it with double-t in the recipebook she prepared for me. She also sometimes calls the cakes klenor instead of klenĂ€tter.

Cutting a slit through the cakes

However, O didn’t use my grandmother’s recipe but a recipe from a cookbook in English. The same day I bought the Julie / Julia book in Borders I also found a book called The Food and Cooking of Sweden – how could I not buy it!!? (espcially as it only cost $4,99… I even bought two as I thought that they would be great as presents!) So, O got one of them for Christmas as he enjoys cooking and is very interested in Swedish food and traditions. The book has an initial chapter explaining the different traditions, geography, products etc of Sweden.

The klenÀtter ready to be deep-fried

All in all it is a great book, but what really annoys me, as I am a bit of a spelling fascist* (heard of spell check, hello!?) is that there are numerous spelling mistakes in the Swedish names of the recipes and sĂ€rskrivningar (words spelt apart that should be together – an English example is cook book instead of cookbook).

The klenÀtter should get golden brown...

O chose to start with the recipe for klenĂ€tter because they reminded him of some Spanish deep-fried cakes – the Spaniards loooove deep-fried cakes such as churros. And he didn’t even know that it was one of the Swedish things I really missed the most at Christmas!!

Deep frying the klenÀtter

The cakes turned out well but next time I will make him try my grandmother’s recipe – she puts lemon peel in the dough which gives that little extra flavour and deep fries them in coconut “fat / grease” … She also makes the cakes thinner and longer but O’s cakes looked very much like the ones in his cookbook so I was very impressed!

3 ready klenÀtter

My grandmother’s klenĂ€tter / deep-fried Christmas cakes
3 egg yolks
1 egg white
1œ decilitre sugar
1œ decilitre cream
75 grams butter / margarine – melted
7-8 decilitres flour
Peel of one lemon – grated
cooking oil

Mix all the ingredients together and leave to rest for at least 2 hours (my grandmother wrote over night). Thinly roll out the dough and cut into 1 cm x 5 cm rectangles, cut a slit in the middle and fold each piece in half and then put one end though the hole and press down to flatten the cake (quote from the English book, I have never understood actually how my grandmother made the cakes into the shapes they have).
Heat the cooking oil on a frying pan to 180 degrees centigrade / 350 degrees Fahrenheit and drop the cakes into the oil. Fry them until golden brown and then turn them in some sugar. Let the cakes cool or eat them hot.

KlenÀtter - close-up

*) I am aware that I might not always spell correctly but I try to avoid spelling mistakes as much as possible, and at least I am not publishing a book!! And despite the fact that I insist on mis-spelling the name for these cakes in Swedish… 😀

Fler onsdagsreceptbloggare: Marianne i Kairo, Anna in Stockholm

La Vaca Brava – waiting 4Âœ hours for a huuuge plate of meat

5 01 2009

Just after Christmas we were invited by one of O’s friends, J and his family to join them for an excursion to the mountains – to the famous restaurant Vaca Brava close to Barranquitas. We had heard so many good things about this place, and had been meaning to go for a long time so we were really excited – as well as looking forward to a social gathering.

A new bridge on the road from Bayamon to Naranjito
A new bridge, el puente Atirantado, on the road from BayamĂłn to Naranjito

The weather had not improved since Christmas, it was still very grey and rainy but we were optimistic that maybe the sun would be shining in the mountains… We arrived around 2 o’clock to La Vaca Brava (the Brave Cow) after a break at McDonald’s in Naranjito where O and I were clever enough to eat a cheeseburger each, because we were in for a loooong wait for lunch!

The very steep entrance to Vaca Brava
The very steep entrance to the Vaca Brava

We were told that there was at least a 2-hour wait for a table for 13 people, which was expected – the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations and is wildly popular on the weekends. Efforts have been made though to entertain people while waiting; the location is almost like a small theme-park with life-size dolls showing country-life such as the roasting of a lechĂłn, and there are stands selling drinks, pinchos (brochette / kebab – served on a skewer) and all kinds of products, and a play area for children – unfortunately it was still raining, and people were huddling together under the roofs. Spirits were high though, and we were treated to an improvised parranda with people singing and playing typical Puerto Rican Christmas songs, while we munched on some pinchos and had a few drinks.

Vaca Brava park
La Vaca Brava park

Everybody seemed to have come in big groups, and every time a family or group of friends got their table big cheers were heard, and people called out how long they had been waiting! We heard that some people had waited for 4-5 hours before being seated, but then again groups of 30-40 persons were being accommodated – no wonder the long wait! And everybody ran into a friend or two – O met a few colleagues while we waited.

Vaca Brava car

When we finally got our table ~4 hours later our group had grown to 17 and it was a great mix of different family constellations and generations. Fortunately the service was very quick, once we had sorted out our orders, and soon the huuuuge plates of meat arrived! Even though we had seen the big portions being served while we waited, we had still miscalculated the sizes and ordered one plate per couple instead of 1 plate / 2 couples which would have been enough!! They say that hunger is the best seasoning and in hind-sight the food wasn’t that good, but we were starving… The food is simple; no fresh veggies, just meat with fries or rice and some extra toppings such as bacon, cheese or mushrooms. Too bad that the mushrooms were canned – I absolutely detest canned mushrooms which don’t taste the slightest like fresh ones! It is also cheap if considering that you can easily share the big portions among 4 adults (our dish cost $29,99).

A huge pile of meat, Vaca Brava (too bad regarding the [canned] mushrooms...)
A huge pile of meat and fries

Conclusion: it was a nice excursion and a great opportunity to socialise (and speak Spanish for me) but we all said that “been there, done that” was enough – we don’t have to go back.

Happy New Year 2009!

31 12 2008

I usually write a summary of the year in the form of a top list around New Year’s, but this year it will have to wait until next year 😉 (next week hopefully).

We have decided to stay at home tonight and celebrate just the two of us. First of all because it is actually our first New Year’s together! Last year O headed to Spain a few days after Christmas, and the two years before I was in Sweden, and he in Spain. But tonight we will be drinking some bubbly and eating the 12 grapes together at midnight! But first we are making a menu inspired by the Barefoot Contessa (Food Network’s Ina Garten) – marinated salmon, fresh asparagus, pear clafoutis…

Table decorated for New Year's dinner 2004
The table set for New Year’s celebrations at my sister’s place in 2004

Happy New Year everybody and I hope that 2009 will turn out to be a great year for everyone, with lots of happiness and love!

Happy New Year 2008!
New Year’s fireworks in San Juan 2008