Category Archives for Mushrooms

From the Farm: Striking it rich in morel games of chance – Traverse City Record Eagle

From the Farm: Striking it rich in morel games of chance
Traverse City Record Eagle
Jess once described hunting for morel mushrooms as the same as playing slot machines in a casino: you wander around hoping to win it big and are often disappointed. To be sure there are people who are skilled at both playing the slots and hunting …
Recipe: Tangle of Spring Greens With Warm Morels and LentilsMinneapolis Star Tribune

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Most People Throw Away Avocado Pits, But This Artist Carves Them Into Magical Forest Beings

Jan Campbell was preparing an avocado for lunch one day when she was struck by the beauty of the pit inside, an object most people throw off without a second thought. After weeks of meditating its potential, a deeply pigmented surface scratching inspired her to engrave away its layers until a beautiful piece of art appeared.

Ever since that day, the Irish artisan has been turning avocado pits( or ‘stones, ‘ as she calls them) into tiny, intricately detailed figurines inspired by Celtic folklore. She carves the tranquil faces of forest spirits, the flowing hair of ancient goddesses, and even a handful of wild mushrooms now and then. The miniatures can be simply displayed as statues, or worn as pendants, and are meant to provide right holders with a unique sense of companionship and comfort.

Explore some of Jan’s finest creations below, and follow the links underneath them to see if they’re available to buy.

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Nuclear collision sends ‘harmless’ radioactive cloud over Europe

French institute tells pollution suggests release of nuclear material in Russia or Kazakhstan in September

A cloud of radioactive pollution over Europe in recent weeks indicates that road traffic accidents happened in a nuclear facility in Russia or Kazakhstan in the last week of September, the French nuclear safety institute IRSN has said.

The IRSN on Thursday ruled out road traffic accidents in a nuclear reactor, saying it was likely to be in a nuclear gasoline treatment site or centre for radioactive medicine. There has been no impact on human health or the environment in Europe, it said.

IRSN, the technical arm of French nuclear regulator ASN, said in a statement it could not pinpoint the place of the release of radioactive material but that based on weather patterns, the most plausible zone lay south of the Ural mountains, between the Urals and the Volga river.

This could indicate Russia or possibly Kazakhstan, an IRSN official said.

” Russian authorities have said they are not aware of an accident on their territory ,” IRSN director Jean-Marc Peres told Reuters. He added that the institute had not yet been in contact with Kazakh authorities.

A spokeswoman for the Russian emergencies ministry said she could not immediately comment. It was not immediately possible to reach authorities in Kazakhstan or the Kazakh embassy in Moscow.

radiation leak graphic

Peres used to say in recent weeks IRSN and several other nuclear safety institutes in Europe had measured high levels of ruthenium-1 06, a radioactive nuclide that is the product of dividing atoms in a reactor and does not pass naturally.

IRSN calculates a significant quantity of ruthenium-1 06 was released, between 100 and 300 terabecquerels, and that if road traffic accidents of this magnitude had happened in France it would have been able to required the evacuation or sheltering of people in a radius of several kilometres around the accident site.

The ruthenium-1 06 was likely released in a nuclear fuel therapy site or center for radioactive medication, Peres said. Because of its short half-life of about a year, ruthenium-1 06 is used in nuclear medicine- for example in cancer therapy for eye tumors- but can also be released when nuclear ga is reprocessed.

Jean-Christophe Gariel, director for health at the IRSN, said the responsibility for identifying the source of the nuclear cloud was now with the Russians or Kazakhs. If they failed to identify where the contamination had come from, the issues could be referred to the United nations organization, he said.

” The matter is closed as far as France is concerned. It’s not a problem for France, what is not satisfactory is that ruthenium-1 06 has been detected across Europe and that poses a question ,” Gariel told the Guardian.
Gariel corroborated the IRSN’s conclusion that the radioactive pollution had no detrimental consequences of human health or the environment in Europe, and said he had spoken directly to Russian colleagues.

” We have come up with a plausible zone of where it could have come from; we can’t do any more. Russia is a vast country and we’re not aware of all the installings on its territory. The ball is now in the other camp .”

He added:” I have spoken to my Russian equivalents; these are people we know and they have told me in all franknes they have had no reporting of industrial accidents .”

The IRSN ruled out road traffic accidents in a nuclear reactor, as that would have led to contamination with other substances. It also ruled out the crash of a ruthenium-powered spacecraft as an investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency has concluded that no ruthenium-containing spacecraft has fallen back on Earth during this period.

Measurement from European stations depicted relatively high levels of ruthenium-1 06 in the atmosphere of the majority of European countries at the beginning of October, with a steady reduce from 6 October onwards. The radioactive element has not been detected in France since 13 October.

Duncan Cox, leader of Public Health England’s radiation emergency response group, said:” Radioactivity monitors at our sites in Oxfordshire and Glasgow have been checked since September when this substance was reported by other European radiation monitoring institutes, and we have not seen any unusual sources of radioactivity .”

Monitoring stations in Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland all saw very low levels of ruthenium-1 06 from late September. Seven German stations recorded levels from a few microbecquerels to five millibecquerels per cubic metre of air, posing no hazard to health.

The French institute also said that the probability of importation into France of foodstuffs , notably mushrooms, contaminated by ruthenium-1 06 near the site of the accident is extremely low.

Reuters contributed to this report

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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18 fabulous fungus photos that call into question everything you know about nature.

It’s 2016. Isn’t it day you let mushrooms into your heart?

Fungi( believe mushrooms, lichens, and slime molds) are actually really fun, guys.

Dad gags aside, mushrooms and other fungi are diverse, colorful, textured, and just plain strange. Their beauty is remarkable and unexpected, challenging every notion about what fungi should be. I wanted to know more about these organisms, so I ran straight to the source: fungi fanatic Stephen Axford.

Axford takes beautiful photographs of weird and wonderful fungi near his home in rural New South Wales, Australia, and on expeditions around the world.

He’s traveled to China, Thailand, and Russia to shoot nature at its best. But why fungis?

“I was into going out as far away into the bush as I could, away from people. And I arrived across mushrooms, and they seemed quite photogenic, ” Axford said. “I didn’t know much about fungi at the time, but … people explained things and I got to know quite a few mycologists, and one thing led to another.”

Now, Axford operates his own photo website and a popular Facebook page dedicated to his fungi photography. His work is also slated to appear in BBC’s “Planet Earth II.” And as you can imagine, his passion for these organisms is contagious.

Think you can get through this collecting of Stephen Axford’s photos without falling in love with all things fungus? Good luck.

I mean, come on, the colourings of this Anthracophyllum archeri are almost intoxicating.

And the smooth lines of this Bisporella citrina are the stuff modern artists dream about.

Fungi shapes can differ wildly too. This crinipellis looks component jellyfish.

And did we take a journey under the sea? Nope, that’s not coral. It’s Clavaria zollingeri.

The Cyathus striatus or “bird’s nest” fungi is less “birds nest” and more “straight-up magic.”

And the Cookeina tricholoma look like … well. OK, let’s just move on.

Mycena interrupta might appear to be something out of “Avatar, ” but they’re here. On this planet. RIGHT NOW. No hair-horse bond required.

Prefer something a little more, “Seuss-ian” in nature? Say no more, fam.

Or perhaps you require a mushroom where you can keep earrings, paper clip, secrets, and spare batteries. Cue the Plectania campylospora.

And Leratiomyces may look like a fancy sugar cookie you buy at the bakery, but do not eat it. Trust me on this one.

I’m sorry, is this not a magical house where fairies live? Oh, simply a Leptonia. My mistake.

Now you may be thinking, “Glittery, glamorous fungis? That don’t impress me much.” Well, these creepy seeming lichens are just for you, Shania Twain.

Or better yet, how about this fungi that is not here for your body-shaming.

And this slime mold screams personality. Not genuinely though, that would be terrifying.

And ultimately this Mycena chlorophos glows in the dark. It GLOWS IN THE DARK! Are you not entertained?

The beauty, wonder, and ecological diversity in fungi are genuinely staggering.

Axford is essentially a citizen scientist, traveling and giving his talent to experts and researchers, many of whom haven’t had the opportunity to document these particular types of mushrooms and fungi in their natural state. It’s his own route of contributing to the greater good and advancing conservation in his corner of the world.

“There aren’t enough scientists to go around, ” he told. “So people like myself can actually do something useful, something important, in tracing how things work.”

Whether it’s fungi photos or something altogether different, taking part in the care and conservation of our natural lands is something all of us can do. And who knows what gems and astounds you’ll discover along the way.

Read more: www.upworthy.com

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A vegan coffeehouse in meat-mad Mexico City

Los Loosers restaurant and delivery service is a product of its owners passion for vegan food( and cycling ), offering animal-free versions of some classic dishes

One of Mexico Citys most popular street snacks is tacos de cabeza corn tortillas stuffed with beef engraved from the animals skull. This is a city of meat devotees, and may seem an unlikely spot for vegan restaurant Los Loosers.

The food is cooked from scratch each morning, then either served at this tiny restaurant in the Roma Norte neighbourhood or delivered by a team of cyclists. Mushroom tacos with habanero salsa , vegan chilaquiles with blue corn tortillas and black bean dip, and vegan burgers are regulars.

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Photograph: PR Company Handout

The welcoming space is decorated with fairy sunlights and lamps repurposed from bike handlebars, and has just one large wooden table. Non-alcoholic aguas frescas ( homemade fruit/ grain drinks ), tea and Oaxacan coffee are available. The daily special expenses less than 4, pudding 1.50. Theres no website( as yet) customers check the Los Loosers Instagram page, then order via direct message on Twitter or Facebook. The cyclists will deliver anywhere, even to parks and hotels. They once journeyed six hours out of sprawling Mexico City to deliver an order, utilizing specially designed knapsacks that protect the food from the citys potholed streets.

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Los Loosers take on pozole, a traditional Mexican stew. Photo: Clare Wiley

Los Loosers is the brainchild of Mariana Blanco, who quit her job as a journalist in 2011 with no savings or business plan, simply a passion for bicycles and vegan food. The name was inspired by a friend who once taunted her for having to be different, cycling everywhere and insisting on animal-free maggot. He called her a loser. The double-O represents bike wheels.

Mexico City has a small but growing vegan community, tells Blanco. Around 60% of their orders go to locals. And while the delivery-by-bike outfit is surely a welcome addition in one of the worlds most polluted cities, Blanco admits the environment wasnt her first priority.

Specialities include pozole , a popular stew usually made with pork. Blancos take utilizes five types of wild Mexican mushroom in a rich broth, decorated with edible blooms. Mexican ramen marriages Japanese mushrooms and poblano chillies, while the Los Loosers burger is made from huitlacoche , a black fungus that grows on corn and is considered a delicacy.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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Backlash after Planned Parenthood branch tweets: ‘We require a Disney princess who’s had an abortion’

A local Planned Parenthood office in Pennsylvania had some advice for the creators at Disney Tuesday after tweeting about the need for princesses who have “had an abortion” or are “trans.”

The tweet from Planned Parenthood Keystone, which was viewed by Fox News but had now been been deleted, said, “We require a Disney princess who’s had an abortion. We require a Disney princess who’s pro-choice. We require a Disney princess who’s an undocumented immigrant. We need a disney princess who’s actually a union worker. We require a Disney princess who’s trans.”

The tweet was posted around 9:30 a.m. and taken down a few hours later.

But before it was removed, social media users shared captured screenshots of the post.

In a statement provided to Fox News, Planned Parenthood Keystone President and CEO Melissa Reed said “Planned Parenthood believes that pop culture – television proves, music, movies – has a critical role to play in training the public and triggering meaningful conversations around sexual and reproductive health issues and policies, including abortion. We also know that emotionally authentic portraits of these experiences are still extremely rare – and that’s part of a much bigger lack of honest depictions of certain people’s lives and communities.

“Today, we joined an ongoing Twitter conversation about the kinds of princesses people want to see in an attempt to make a point about the importance of telling tales that challenge stigma and championing narratives that too often don’t get told, ” Reed told. “Upon reflection, we decided that the seriousness of the phase we were trying to make was not appropriate for the subject matter or contect, and we removed the tweet.”

The tweet promptly sparked a social media backlash.

“We need a disney princess who can stop my fund from going to planned parenthood where they expend it on killing future princesses, ” one user wrote. Another deemed the tweet “disgusting” and an attempt to “indoctrinate our kids.”

The decision not to defund Planned Parenthood was amongst the criticisms leveled against the $1.3 trillion spending bill President Trump signed last week.

Read more: www.foxnews.com

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How death get cool

The long read: The latest demise tendency is a cross between hygge and Marie Kondo: a sign that dying well has become one of the defining obsessions of our times

Last spring, at Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn, where the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is buried, another conceptual artist, Sophie Calle, launched an installation called Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery. For the next 25 years, anyone happen by will be able to write down their most intimate secrets and inter them in a tomb designed by the artist. The cemetery also hosts moonlit tours, cocktail parties, dancing performances, and even yoga classes.

Death is hot right now, and upbeat gatherings in cemeteries are just a small part of the trend. One of the chief passions of our time is to turn everything we touch into a reflection of who we are, how we live and how we want others to view us- and death is no exception. Once simply the inevitable, death has become a new bourgeois rite of passage that, much like bridals or births, must now be minutely planned and personalised. Not since the Victorian era’s fetishisation of demise, with its all-black garb, elaborate mourning jewellery and seances, has demise been so appealingly packaged. Every demise must be in some way special and on-trend. Finally, the hipster can die as he lived.

If you imagination an environmentally friendly burial, you can choose to be wrap in a biodegradable artisanal shroud, decorated to your specifications by the bespoke company Vale for $545.( It’s just $ 68 for pets .) Or you can be interred, as the celebrated California chef Alice Waters tells she wants to be, in a burial pyjama suit seeded with mushrooms that help your body decompose more quickly. A few years ago, artist Jae Rhim Lee delivered a Ted talk while wearing one such suit- a black hooded one-piece threaded with white veins infused with mushroom spores. On stage, Lee cheerfully has pointed out that she is educate mushrooms to feed her when she dies by feeding them her hair, nails and dead scalp so they recognise her body.

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Artist Jae Rhim Lee devoting a Ted talk in a special burial suit seeded with pollution-gobbling mushrooms. Photograph: TED

For people less worried about the environment and more worried about the terrifying prospect of dying alone, there are now solutions( or at least partial ones ). You can hire a demise doula, a trained professional who will assist at the end of life in the same catch-all way that birth doulas are there during labour. You can request a home funeral, in which your friends and family pay their respects to your corpse in the convenience of your living room, with every detail as carefully planned as a bridal. And before that day arrives, you can discuss the facts of demise with like-minded spirits at a Death Cafe, a meeting of the global motion started by Jon Underwood in 2011( who died last summer of acute promyelocytic leukaemia) as a style for people to gather and reflect on mortality.

One of the people pioneering this new route of approaching death is Caitlin Doughty, a young, Los Angeles-based mortician who looks like a lost is part of the Addams Family. She has written a bestselling memoir, hosts a YouTube series called Ask a Mortician and has founded a” death acceptance collective” called The Order of the Good Death, whose youthful members promote positive approaches to mortality.

” It’s OK to be openly interested in demise practises ,” Doughty told me while driving through LA one afternoon last autumn.” It induces you an engaged human who cares about all aspects of life. Ghettoising it as an interest particular to goths, weirdos or people preoccupied with murder generates a dearth of honest dialogue about demise in the western world .”

This growing interest in alternative” demise practices” began as a way to skirt the commercialism and uniformity of the funeral industry. And it appeals to a diverse decide of people.” This desire for a pine box in the ground brings together hippies and libertarians, stay-off-my-land handgun proprietors, certain religious people, Trump voters who don’t want big business dismissing what they want ,” Doughty told.” They might not all have the same back-to-the-earth vision, but it’s the same fight for their fundamental rights. They don’t want a bland corporate infrastructure to dictate what happens to their mortal remains and what represents their life .”

Given that the idea of rethinking death connects with millions of people who are tired of the rampant commercialism and homogeneity of modern life, it was only a matter of time before commercial interests caught on. Just as the Danish concept of hygge was sold- in the form of scented candles and hand-knitted woollen socks- to consumers looking for convenience in distressed periods, there is gold, too, in our preoccupation with a good death.


Publishers, including with regard to, have latched on to the trend. Books about death are nothing new, of course, but the pace at which they’re arriving seems to have accelerated. Last year considered the arrival of a stack of literary memoirs about demise by authors such as Edwidge Danticat and Robert McCrum. In his memoir, My Father’s Wake, the writer Kevin Toolis explains why the Irish get demise right, while Caitlin Doughty’s new book, From Here to Eternity: Travelling the World to Find the Good Death, investigates the way cultures across the world, from Indonesia to Bolivia to Japan, approach death.

But perhaps it is not the Irish or the Bolivians who have perfected the art of succumbing well, but the Swedish. In recent months, thanks to a publisher-led information campaign, you may have come across the concept of dostadning , the Swedish practice of” death clean “. Death cleaning applies a simple formula to the process of dealing with our possessions before we succumb. In Marie Kondo‘s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, a bestselling guidebook to tidying up your home, and thus your life, the essential question is whether a devoted object” sparks pleasure “. In death cleaning, it is” Will anyone I know be happier if I save this ?”

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Death cleaning addresses many of the aspects of contemporary life that stimulate us most anxious. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

It is easy to see the appeal. Death cleaning address many of the aspects of contemporary life that construct us most anxious. For the individuals who feel that they have accumulated too much stuff and that all this stuff is getting in the way of their spiritual growth, it offers a practical guidebook to de-cluttering. For those who worry about their privacy or the prospect of relatives discovering their secrets, it offers sensible precautions. For the individuals who dread a long, bewildered, incapacitated old age, it is a way of coping through clear-eyed preparation and understanding.

While Silicon Valley billionaires search for cures for demise, the rest of us are just seeking ways of accepting demise, ordering a long and messy old age and inducing peace with our relatives, who are already frightened at the idea of looking after us in our incontinent, incoherent dotage. The fact of living longer doesn’t just dedicate us time to think about demise, but also plunges us into chaos, sickness and disarray, and demise cleaning seems a valiant attempt to counter this.

Death cleaning is a concept that has had passing mentions in Sweden, but it is not a well-known part of the national culture. In truth, it seems to be more talked about by foreigners who like to imagine Scandinavia as a place where people have life sorted out than it is by Swedes themselves. But even if Swedes rarely talk about dostadning, there is something authentic about the underlying philosophy. The Swedish ambassador to the US, Karin Olofsdotter, lately told the Washington Post that demise clean is” almost like a biological thing to do”, the natural product of a society that prizes living independently, responsibly and thoughtfully, and whose homes reflect that ideal.

A friend of mine who works as a radio producer in Stockholm told:” My mother is dostadningincarnated. She has been in the mode of frenetic clean for couple of years now- she is 65-[ and thinks] hurling stuff out will make it easier for us children when she is no longer with us. She doesn’t want us to be left with difficult decisions about what to do with it and she doesn’t want personal stuff to get in the wrong hands. And ever since I was a teen she has forced me to get rid of stuff- my earliest paintings, old clothes, volumes I read as small children, memorabilia. Keeps telling me that it’s the best for everyone. I don’t know if it’s typically Swedish, but it is very, very rational and unsentimental .”

The well-funded Swedish welfare state enables elderly Swedes to live independently.” Perhaps this also adds to the sense that they feel they must get their things in order before they die, so that no one else should be responsible for it ,” tells Michael Booth, writer of The Almost Nearly Perfect People, a culture tour of Scandinavian countries.” Swedes are deeply, profoundly responsible people. It is very important for a Swede to do things properly , not to be a burden on others, to take responsibility in this way. Swedes are very’ proper ‘.”

According to Booth, the decluttering part of death clean” chimes with members of the general parsimony and minimalism of Lutheranism, which you find tracings of throughout many aspects of Scandinavian culture. In Sweden especially, they value the’ modern’ and’ new ‘, and so, if you visit a council dump or recycling centre, you find some reasonably eye-popping items discarded- stuff Brits would never throw away .”

Others are more sceptical about the idea that demise cleaning is the product of a distinctly Swedish sensibility.” It sounds like a mind-body-spirit thing that could have come from anywhere ,” says Robert Ferguson, writer of Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North, another book that tries to figure out the roots of our fascination with Scandinavia.” Actually I’m still waiting for the world to discover the pleasure of kalsarikanni , a Finnish term that entails’ drinking beer on your own at home in your underpants with no aim of going out ‘.”


The book responsible for spreading the death-cleaning gospel is by Margareta Magnusson, a Swedish artist who describes herself as between” 80 and 100″. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter came out in English a few months ago. It is part practical guidebook to getting your affairs in order, component discourse on accepting the reality of death. Over the course of 38 very short chapters with titles such as If It Was Your Secret, Then Maintain It That Way( or How to Death Clean Hidden, Dangerous and Secret Things ), Magnusson sets out her pragmatic and upbeat approach to mortality.” Life will become more pleasant and comfortable if we get rid of some of the abundance ,” she writes.

” The message was: we just have to accept that one day we will die ,” said her literary agent, Susanna Lea.” Either our loved ones will begrudge us, or they will hold on to this wonderful memory and love us for sorting everything out. Which one do you want ?”

As soon as Lea sent the book proposal out, publishers eagerly snapped it up. A German editor made an offer after only four hours. A couple of days later, it was sold to a publisher in Sweden, and then Lea took it to the 2016 Frankfurt book fair, the marketplace for international sales, and sold it to the UK, US and Australia. It is now being translated into 23 languages.

” Interestingly enough, the eastern Europeans have been the slowest to buy it ,” told Lea.” They told:’ We just don’t talk about demise .’ I supposed the Latin countries might not talk about demise, but they altogether got it .”

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Margareta Magnusson, the author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/ TT News/ PA

The title has been a challenge. Some countries balk at having demise in the title of a volume that is slim and small, and packaged like a gift book sold at check-out counters. Others struggle with translating the phrase itself. The Swedish only call their edition Dostadning( the subtitle translates as” not a sad story “). However, nettoyage de la mort does not work in French- they are going to call it instead La Vie en Ordre. The Germans get around it by giving it a title that translates as” Frau Magnusson’s Art of Putting Her Life in Order “.

As the book proposal appeared in the year that hygge and the decluttering guru Marie Kondo conquered the world, it’s not surprising that a book that could be pitched as” Marie Kondo does hygge” was a big hit with publishers. But Jamie Byng, head of Magnusson’s UK publisher, Canongate, strenuously rejects the comparing.” We were not looking for another Marie Kondo, fuck no ,” he told me.” I was taken by the idea that this elderly Swedish lady had written a book about leaving this world gracefully and with as little mess as is practicable. There’s something of Swedish zen about it .”

Magnusson lives in an apartment in a large development in the Sodermalm neighbourhood of Stockholm , not far from the upmarket raincoat brand Stutterheim( whose motto is” Swedish melancholy at its driest “), and shops that sell elegant, spare Scandinavian furniture. She’s tall and slender, wearing a striped French sailor-style shirt, faded jeans and trainers, with a grey bob and a long, oval-shaped face. Her most striking feature is her big, round, wet blue eyes. She seems healthy and spry and fashionable without trying hard, which fits the image of her as a mellowed, slightly kooky but wise Scandinavian grandma who writes things such as:” Maybe Grandfather had ladies’ underwear in his drawer and maybe Grandma had a dildo in hers. But what does that matter now? They are no longer among us; if we liked them it actually should be nothing for us to worry about .”

The first thing to note about Magnusson’s home is that it is not in any way minimalist. In her living room there are shelves of hundreds of volumes, and gentle abstract paintings by Magnusson herself on the walls. There are a surprising number of stuffed playthings and masks from Asia( her late spouse was Swedish but born in Japan, and the family lived in Singapore and Hong Kong as he moved frequently for work ), presumably all of which have passed the making-people-happy test. The flat is packed with objects of sentimental value that have accrued around an elderly person who once lives in a larger home. It’s all cheerful and very, very neat.

Magnusson noted that Sweden used to be a country of big, quality companies that induced things you might want to pass on to your children, or at the least that lasted a very long time.” Swedish safety matches and Volvo- the safest automobile. Now, Sweden is just H& M and Ikea, stuff that doesn’t last more than five years if you’re lucky. It must have changed the culture in the country in a way, I believe .”

She has a large collage of family photos hanging in her bedroom: a sister and brother, who are both dead, and her husband, who died in his mid-7 0s. Her book suggests that sorting through photographs is not the place to begin your death-cleaning process- too many memories to get swept up in, and too much sentiment. Better to start with the kitchen. But when it’s time to declutter your photos, she advises, be ruthless. One of her points is that if you don’t know the names of the people in a photo, feed them to a shredder.

Magnusson has a style, when talking about her life, to presume the mode of a literary narrator. Everything she says sounds like a first line to a self-consciously ruminative memoir.” I grew up in Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast, and was born on New Year’s Eve ,” she told me.” I believe I was born in a happy route. It was happy, I don’t know. It started happy .”

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An ecological coffin under construction. Photo: Luis Robayo/ AFP/ Getty

Her pragmatic nature is such that she seemed nearly thwarted explaining simple notions about death and decluttering to a non-Swede such as me. She plans to be cremated when she succumbs, which is common in Sweden, and for there to be a memorial plaque their own families can visit.” I don’t believe in life after death. When I’m dead, I will be dead ,” she said.

” To think that you cannot handle yourself, that you think you don’t know what’s going to happen- that must be terrible. I don’t have that fear. I almost succumbed some years ago .” She had woken up in the middle of the night with some kind of heart difficulty.” On the way to the hospital, I was just gone ,” she said.” Then I really realised that I didn’t see any sunlight in passageways. I was so happy when I woke up, but I realised that nothing will happen .”

There’s a tipping phase in your life, she told, when “youre starting” attending more funerals than weddings.” Maybe in the 50 s or 60 s it starts to happen: my parents, my mother-in-law, my husband and friends ,” she told. By that point, Magnusson’s daughter Jane, who lives merely across the road, had come over.

” We had a funeral on Friday. It was actually very pleasant ,” told Jane.

” Yes, it was very nice. You meet a lot of friends that you had together ,” said Magnusson.

” You get to have a good shout ,” Jane said.

” Yeah, you have a good sob ,” said Magnusson.” But you have also a good laugh .”


Swedish death cleaning has procured a kind of American counterpart in the rise of a pair of young man from Ohio who call themselves the Minimalists. When one of the duo, Joshua Fields Millburn, lost his mother in 2009, he was left wondering what to do with everything she had amassed in her small apartment. In the end, he decided to donate it all to charity. It was something of an epiphany for Millburn, who began throw away one thing he owned every day for a month. What would go on to become the foundational principle of his brand of minimalism dawned on him:” Our memories are not inside of things; they’re inside of us .” From that moment almost a decade ago, Millburn and his friend Ryan Nicodemus have constructed a Minimalist empire- volumes, podcasts, documentaries, speaking tours- based on the idea that amassing stuff is simply what we do to distract ourselves from our real problems: absence of gratification with run, love, life and, ultimately a way to deny the inevitability of death.

Isn’t all decluttering about demise? I asked Doughty, the mortician.” It is a little death to give away a keepsake or an item ,” she concurred.” For most people be recognised that they should be keeping track of stuff and getting rid of things is extremely threatening to their sense of self and idea as mortal .”

For many of us, the main route we try to look at death is by not looking at it. My own parents constantly talk about how they want their dead bodies to be dealt with- my mother has run from wanting her cremains to be flushed down the toilet to wanting her corpse fed to dogs- and yet the elaborated plans for demise are a route around dealing with it. My parent won’t even write a will, instead preferring to phone me at odd hours from California to get me to construct solemn promises that, after he is gone, I will do or will not do certain things( such as maintaining his house in the family, or attaining sure to invite specific people to his funeral ).

This highly developed awareness of their own mortality and careful consideration of how to dispose of their remains, combined with a total lack of planning for what happens in the weeks, months and years after the funeral, sometimes feels like my parents’ way of ensuring that their big personalities will gently haunt me from the afterlife. Or, to set it more politely, it seems like a style to guarantee their presence in my life as long as possible.

Mortician
‘ Even surrounded by loved ones, you check out alone’ … mortician Caitlin Doughty. Photograph: Sammy Z

But I also sympathise with them. Both of my parents are 66, and will hopefully be around for some time. Dealing with one’s own legacy is a stark business. It involves accepting that you are the one who cares most- or perhaps the only person who cares at all- about your own legacy. At the same time, it means confronting hard the issue of the people you will leave behind. Will your last gift to your loved ones be to leave them a few valuable possessions, or a photo album full of memories, or simply the great favour of not burdening them with “ve had to” sort through all the stuff you amassed over your lifetime?

Doughty says that any parent who is” unwilling to have a basic conversation about death with your desperate children- that’s a profound unkindness “. At 33, she has a will and a plan for what will happen to her business and the smaller cabin she owns when she dies. That has brought her convenience, she tells. At 40, I don’t have any schemes in place for my own death, unless you count drunkenly asking various friends to promise they would take my dog in the event that she becomes an orphan. Perhaps I am more like my mothers than I would like to think.

Planning for demise is hard, because it means that one must accept that you are the one who cares most, or at all, about your own legacy. To plan for death is to accept both notions simultaneously.” There might be no one at your bedside. You might not be found for two days and feed by cats. That’s all in the realm of prospect ,” Doughty told.” But even surrounded by loved ones, you check out alone. This is your personal journey to go on .”

The idea of death as a solo journey is redolent of the language of wellness: the style people talk about get into their fitness or diet or mindfulness routines. This new view of death borrows heavily from another trendy theory: self-care, the idea that looking after oneself is a political act, shoring yourself up to be able to keep struggle and facing the world. Self-care, too, has been co-opted to be about treating yourself to bath products, massages, face masks and yoga retreats- granting yourself an excuse to make it OK to buy stuff. The commercialisation of demise is the inevitable sequel to the monetisation of every other part of life.

Death cleaning is possibly more potent than other wellbeing trends in that it taps into deep feelings: anxiety, remorse, regret. The death industry exploits people’s dreads of inadequacy. You can’t only succumb- at the least, you’ll need to invest in a house-tidying consultant, a death doula, an environmentally sound bespoke shroud, and a home funeral, to prove just how well you lived.

Main image: Getty/ iStockphoto/ Guardian Design

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Can I cook like … Donald Trump?

Can I cook like … Donald Trump? Minced meat for every meal isnt all its cracked up to be

Donald Trump is an angry guy, and I suppose I know why: his diet is terrible. His favourite food is meatloaf, which I agreed to cook because I thought that “meatloaf” was what Americans called beef wellington.

Beef wellington, in case you don’t know, is a delicious dish of fillet steak, covered in a mix of pate, mushrooms and herbs, wrap in puffed pastry and then baked. It’s delightful, but I don’t know how to cook it myself, and thought that cooking a la Trump( or, more realistically, a la Trump’s chef) would be a good excuse.

But meatloaf is not beef wellington. To attain meatloaf, you take minced meat, spices, stale breadcrumbs and eggs, mix them together into a kind of paste, set it in a loaf tin, bake it for two hours, then serve with some form of carbohydrate. I accompany mine with “loaded” mashed potatoes for the authentic Trump experience: that is to say, I add sour cream, milk, fried bacon and onions to regular mashed potato.

How is it? Well, it’s not beef wellington, that’s for sure, and I find my disappointment not to be eating steak, mushrooms and pastry hard to separate from my judgement of the dish. My partner, who guessed meatloaf was some kind of savoury cake with mince in it, pronounces herself “relieved” with the meal, and I guess on balance I am, too.

The problem with meatloaf is not that it is difficult, but that you put in a lot more endeavour than you get back. It requires assembling the ingredients for a good ragu( plus breadcrumbs and eggs, natch) and waiting as long as it would take to prepare a good ragu, everyone to make something much less appetising than a ragu.

The same is true of Trump’s favor lunchtime snack: the hamburger. My burger a la Trump is a lot better than the burgers I made in the style of Paul Newmanand Andy Warhol, but it’s still a bit disappointing. I am sure that, given time, I will be able reliably to assemble a flawless and delicious burger with just some braising steak and the right herbs every time. But that eventual good burger may never be worth the number of indifferent-to-poor burgers I will have to construct to get there. Instead, it’s all-round easier to get somebody to make one for me. That really is cooking like Trump.

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