on an unexpected yard sale and building a chimney


When we moved into our tiny red house, we brought with us a toolkit containing one screwdriver, one hammer, one set of pliers, and that’s about it. While this had been quite enough to tackle any home improvement we had been facing in rental apartments where hanging a picture on a wall was taking the risk of loosing a substantial security, it soon appeared to be slightly too little in this new situation.

One day as we cycled through the neighboring village, we saw a sign saying “yard sale” in front of a beautiful old house, and stopped to have a look. We found nice little glass jars for our kitchen, and were about to leave when I asked the lady who lived there if, by any chance, she didn’t have any tools for sale. It turned out that she did. Her husband opened the garage for us to see if there was anything we would find to our taste. He explained that he and his wife were moving into a small apartment and that everything we saw was for sale.

As we were unable to know what to buy, we told him a price and asked what we could get for this. While we went to withdraw some cash, he put together three big toolboxes for us.

Long story short, we had never used a jigsaw before. And now we’ve installed a chimney and a wood stove.

It must have been heartbreaking for this couple to leave a house like theirs, and all these things, a whole life, behind. I hope we will bump into them again, so we can thank them once more, and tell them about this little achievement. For we can tell, now, how generous this man has been. There was everything, everything we needed in these toolboxes.


on neighbors and apple cake


My neighbor is almost 90 and we don’t speak the same language. In his garden, he has a beautiful apple tree.

When I first moved to Scandinavia, I landed in a big city. I rarely stammered anything in my new language because all my neighbors spoke English very well. In my green, tidy, fancy neighborhood, every garden had its own beautiful apple tree.

The apples, though, remained largely unpicked. They fell, and rotted. Sometimes, a few remained on the trees after the snow came, dressing them with red dots, looking like Christmas bulbs. It was beautiful, and stupid.

This fall, just a few days after I ended up in this tiny village here up north, my 90 years old neighbor, who doesn’t speak English, told me that he had too many apples and that I could pick as many as I wanted from his tree.

I stammered, in my new language: thank you, thank you so much, that is so nice of you.

I’ve spoken different languages and lived in neighborhoods with apple trees before, but this, you see, had never happened to me.


The apple cake of good neighbors


3 dL flour
2 dL sugar
1 ts baking soda
1 dL sour milk or yoghurt
2 eggs
1/2 dL neutral vegetable oil (I use peanut oil)
1 pinch of vanilla sugar

2-3 of the neighbor’s apples. (If your neighbor happens to have a plum tree instead, grab a bunch of plums. It’s delicious too)


Mix all dry ingredients together. Add liquids/eggs and mix well. Pour in a buttered pan. Slice the fruits and arrange them on top of the batter. Place in a warm oven (200°C). Bake until the top is golden (about half an hour). Lower the oven temperature to 150°C and continue baking for another half hour or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.