Every second train in Sweden might be canceled this winter
SJ (Swedish railways) might cancel as much as 50% of the departures for passenger transportation if this winter will be as cold and snowy as the previous one (And it certainly looks as if it could be!). The reason is that the steel industry lost several hundred million SEK (1 million SEK is roughly $143,000) due to delayed transports last winter, so in the name of fairness this year goods transports will get priority.

Pippi Longstocking 65 years old
You would never believe it by looking at her, but our favorite redhead Pippi Långstrump just turned 65, which in Sweden is the standard retirement age. The spunky girl with superhuman strength (whose full name is Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter Långstrump) is the brainchild of Astrid Lindgren, and one of her most beloved characters. It was Lindgren’s daughter Karin who named her, and it was also Karin who asked Lindgren to tell her the story one day when she was home sick from school. Pippi frequently mocks and dupes adults she encounters, an attitude likely to appeal to young readers; however Pippi usually reserves her worst behavior for the most pompous and condescending of adults. In retrospect it is interesting that Bonniers Publishers rejected Pippi, when Lindgren sent in the manuscript in 1944. Lindgren instead sent it to Rabén and Sjögren, and the rest is history. The first three Pippi chapter books were published from 1945 to 1948, with an additional series of six books published in 1969–1975. Two final stories were printed in 1979 and 2000. The books about Pippi and her adventures have been translated into 64 languages.

Julmusten – 100 years
Even older than Pippi (and just as loved by Swedes) is the julmust, which was launched in 1910 by the Roberts family in Örebro as an alternative to all the beer that was consumed during Christmas. The sweet brown syrupy soft drink took years to develop. Harry Roberts had studied chemistry in Berlin and wasn’t happy with the result until he had added some 30 different tastes (among them malt and hops). Sparkling drinks with different flavors were exotic in Sweden in the early 20th century, and the Roberts family first called their invention Christmas beer. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that julmust became julmust. Breweries around the country then bought the secret extract and began making their own versions. The original julmust is shrouded in as much secrecy as American Coca-Cola, perhaps even more. The secret extract consists of a recipe that only two people know: Göran Roberts, fourth in the generation of Roberts connected to the factory, and his daughter. Says Göran Roberts: “”This is something you are born into, it’s a heritage you have to take care of.”

Christmas brownie
An old friend of ours in Sweden sent us this wonderful recipe, which we recently tried and love! It’s a classical brownie with a twist: The chocolate has been replaced with Christmas spices, ginger, cardamom and cloves – a perfect addition to the julbord. Kajsa calls them “Pepparkakskladdkaka” – say that quickly several times in a row – we call it Christmas brownie. Call it want you want, chances are you will eat it before you have even figured out a name for it. If you read Swedish, you can check out other recipes by Kajsa on her blog: http://kajsaargskokbok.blogspot.com/ For this Christmas brownie, use a springform pan. Ingredients: 100 g butter, 2 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 0.5 Tablespoon ginger, 0.5 Tablespoon cloves, 1 Tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cardamom, 2/3 cup flour. Preheat oven to 390 F. Melt the butter and let it cool. Butter the springform pan. Beat eggs and sugar, then stir in the melted butter, the spices and the flour. Pour the batter into the pan and let bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Rapidly decreased support for the King
Just over half of the Swedish population, 51 %, want the king (Carl XVI Gustaf) to remain on the throne, compared to 64 % in February, according to a new poll made by Synovate for the newspaper Dagens Nyheter. The support for the king has decreased rapidly; in February only 17 % wanted the King to hand over the throne to Crown Princess Victoria, now 31 % like the idea. Also, the monarchy as a whole is losing support. Seven out of ten Swedes want to keep the monarchy, compared to eight out of ten five years ago.