Thursday, January 31, 2013

An outfit! And I hold a (fake) bird!

On a previous outfit post, my mom commented that the photo was made better by the little bird (a Christmas ornament she sent me, except that I didn't have a tree, so I pinned it to the wall). I was laughing about how I should pretend to hold it, and then immediately after I said that I went ahead and took this photo.

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This is an example of an outfit I wore two days in a row. I've never been the type of person to wash my clothes after wearing them just once (unless I spill food on myself or get really sweaty or something). And if I like an outfit one day, chances are I will still like it the next. And I work with physicists, who would never notice or care if I wore the same outfit for a week straight (some of them do). Maybe this is more of a European mindset? I don't really know. All I know is that I wore this two days in a row. And I liked it both days.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Scones!

Sometimes I see recipes posted online that are modified versions of another recipe.

Separately (but which will be related in a moment) my favorite sources for recipes come from Smitten Kitchen*, The Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks, and America's Test Kitchen cookbook(s?).

Neglecting the fact that I've been making mac & cheese from a Test Kitchen recipe without actually following the recipe (only due to laziness, not due to any crazy ideas about being able to improve the recipe), I have a really hard time understanding why you would modify a recipe from any of these three sources. I just feel like... I don't think I'd be able to make a recipe that did that.

Except when a Smitten Kitchen recipe is a modified Test Kitchen recipe. Then I get confused and end up with a lot of really delicious scones in my house. Also, the reason I was looking for scone recipes in the first place was because I found lemon curd at the grocery store and needed a reason to buy it. Now if only I could find clotted cream. Then my tea time dreams would be complete.

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*I just went to the page to include the link here. Looks like I'll be making Chocolate Sables in the near future.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Snapshots from a Sunday

On Sunday when I woke up, I had the task of taking one photo. I had decided to participate in the Snapshots from a Sunday project (I don't think anyone else calls it a project, but I like to call it a project). Originally, I was thinking that this would give me a great reason to go exploring Uppsala on a Sunday morning to try to capture some beautiful images. But if the point of Snapshots is to share a glimpse of your daily life, I was certainly not going to embody that point.

So then I started thinking about how I could beautifully capture the ordinary that is my life on a Sunday morning. This is when I got the idea of playing with a long exposure to capture movement and activity in a still image. Normally I don't make the room as dark as possible while I make coffee, but on this particular day, I figured it would be worth it to get the longest possible exposure time.

This is the image that I chose to include in the Project.

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I had the 3 am eastern time slot (9 am in Sweden). I loved looking through all the other images from the day, which you can view here.




Fun fact #1: I took eleven photos during my one hour slot. Here are a few of the others.

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Fun fact #2: Snapshots from a Sunday is also a good project to motivate cleaning up your kitchen counter. Before I took these photos it was covered in dirty dishes and tons of recycling.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dancing - my favorite kind of athletics

Photo on 1-27-13 at 12.41 AM

This is me. I took this photo last night (technically early this morning) after I got home from a night of folk dancing. Folk dancing may sound tame, but it is an athletic venture. Those electrolytes are crucial if you want to wake up in the morning without a headache due to dehydration. (I like to refer to this as a dance hangover, despite no alcohol being involved.)

Last night was a wonderful time. I had many good dances and several really really good dances. I think my favorite of the night was the Finnskogpols, which I danced twice, which was twice as much as I have ever danced it in the past. It is a really fun and spritely kind of dance. Here is a video I found:



Also, the band last night was spectacular. There were almost more musicians than could fit on the stage. They were a spelmanslag, which translates to something like "large group of folk musicians," which means about 20 violins, plus some other fun extras.

Friday, January 25, 2013

7QT

Another round of quick takes.

- 1 -

I don't know how long this has been going on, but on my boss's door, just under where it says his name, it says "Jedi Master."

- 2 -

Earlier this week I realized that it was not totally dark at 3:30 pm. Hooray! The days really are getting longer!

- 3 -

I did some recruiting for the concert and dance on Saturday. I feel so true to myself! Also, it is like a tree of recruitment. I invite one person, who then invites two more people. Big things are happening here.

- 4 -

I watched Downton Abbey. Obviously it was good. The reason it is worth writing about is that I managed to spoil it for myself. I wasn't actually too worried about spoiling it, and guess what, the wikipedia page contains spoilers. Who knew?! It also doesn't help that I accidentally watched an episode from season three first, which was really confusing. It was like the time I accidentally read book two of the Dragon Tattoo Girl series first. I kept thinking about how much I had to focus to figure out who all the characters were and whatnot. At least with Downton Abbey I went back and watched all the episodes. With the Dragon Tattoo books the first one was never available at the library so I figured since I had already read the second I could just go for the third. And the first never ever became available, so I'll just never know how they started. Probably that influenced my rating on goodreads, but whatever.

- 5 -

If you need to work on the muscle tone of your teres major and teres minor, learn to dance the Bakmes.

- 6 -

You were hoping I included a little hockey clip, weren't you?



How crazy is that?

- 7 -


If a recipe name contains the word "skinny" I immediately lose respect for it. Can't we all just agree to stop that now? No one eats a chocolate chip cookie because they are looking for a healthy snack. I think in general I am just not a fan of adjectives in recipe titles.

I am not this kind of doctor (I really need to incorporate this phrase into more of my life), but I do have strong opinions on this topic which I'll share here. Recipes that replace items with all sorts of magical zero-calorie "foods" just sort of freak me out. The only item I am comfortable with consuming that contains zero calories is water. If we put other things in our body that are zero-calorie, it is because our body does not recognize these items as 'food'.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Accessorizing

I couldn't even spell accessorizing, if that is any indication of how infrequently I utilize such a thing. But I'll tell you what I do do. I choose a mug that matches my outfit. Most of the mugs at the office are black or green Ikea mugs. There are a few exceptions, and I have one most favorite mug. It is a really nice color and shape, and it has a cute little handle. But it is a specialty mug. I'm always a little hesitant to take the specialty mugs, because they might be someone's own personal mug (although that didn't stop me from once using the mug that has a person's name on it.. desperate times require coffee, one way or another).

Anyhow, I don't use my favorite mug often, but when I do use it, I make sure it will match my outfit.

Photo on 1-21-13 at 9.20 AM

Makes for a pretty good accessory, wouldn't you agree?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Stunned

This morning when I woke up (aka when the alarm went off) the first thing I noticed was that our delightful blue skies of the previous few days were replaced with grey. Lately my mood has been pretty susceptible to grey skies. A lot of books like to equate weather and moods. I present to you one of my favorite examples:

Milady derived a consolation of sorts as she saw Nature partaking in the disorders of her heart.
The three musketeers


So, I was sort of expecting one of those days. But when I got outside, the world looked so stunning! There was frost covering everything in a most beautiful way. I considered going back to get my camera when I remembered that I had my small camera with me, so I took a quick photo to share. 

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Music and dance

Being away from contra dancing while living in Sweden has been really unfortunate. One thing I am so glad to have found is the group Philochoros, which welcomes non-students. And what I am realizing is that folk dancing is folk dancing and the people who enjoy folk dancing are the people who enjoy folk dancing. And I love the dance and I love the people, and those two things are not so different between my contra-world and my philochoros-world. One day I will write more on my thoughts on the types of people I find drawn to contra dancing, but that is for another time.

A thing I find interesting is that with Swedish folk dance (as with contra dance) you have events that focus on being traditional, where people dress in folk costumes and the mood is sort of historically-based (whatever that means). And then there are events that have a more modern-type mood. For contra dancing it would be like the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend versus a Brattleboro Dawn Dance. I absolutely love them both, but they have very different moods, and are thrilling in different ways.

In a week I think I will experience the Dawn Dance of Swedish Folk Dancing. The event is Grandkväll with Bollnäsbygdens Spelmanslag. Here is a video of them:



I have been listening to their music for the past week and will probably not be able to listen to anything else this week either. Needless to say, I am getting really super excited.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Another outfit

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Here is me again. Wearing clothes.

I guess when it comes to taking pictures of myself, I end up liking the least-posed ones the most. Hence the face and no attempt to hide my nifty little remote as I try to force it to communicate with my camera.

Anyhow, one day by chance I happened to wear an outfit with purple pants and a (slightly different shade of) purple scarf. (Sidenote: the scarf is a made-by-my-mom Christmas gift!) I liked the outfit of purples, so I wore it again and took this lovely picture.

These are the purple pants that I slimmed up a bit and also the purple pants that taught me my lesson in thrift store clothing.

The End!

Friday, January 18, 2013

7QT: the cross-stitched dog version

I didn't partake in the quick takes last week, but I guess I missed it, so I'm back again this week to join the party

- 1 -

I moved offices this week. The old space I was in was working fine, but wasn't entirely ideal. So far my new space is treating me really well. There is a very large plant that I think could be called a tree. And also there is this:

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This is my favorite part of the whole office. Meet my newest love, the cross-stitched dog. Partly I just love imagining that it was made by the person who previously occupied this office (male, Chinese, physicist).

- 2 -

And the person who made this was clearly very dedicated to their project. I only ever attempted cross-stitch when I was a kid, and the furthest I got was to finish the pink part of two kitten ears. And this dog is pretty sizeable. It must have taken hours upon hours to craft!

- 3 -

That is my plant in that photo (not the tree). It is the one a co-worker is letting me have while she is away for half of the year. She left shortly after I arrived, so she thought I might want a plant since I didn't have any yet, which was a thing I really appreciated. My favorite thing is to rotate the plant so that the newest leaf is facing the window, and then it grows straight up like that for a week or so before it starts to get horizontal like a normal leaf.

- 4 -

Also, this plant is a kind that spits its seeds out as a means of re-populating. I've yet to be hit in the face by a flying seed, but I am just waiting for the day. I did find three seeds on my desk so far, so I collected them up and plan to plant them so that I can hopefully have my own baby plant one day.

- 5 -

Photo on 1-15-13 at 5.37 PM #2

I figured you'd want a second photo.

- 6 -

I don't know how you follow something like that, so now I'll talk about the weather. I used to like looking at weather forecasts a lot. For the past few weeks I just stopped doing that. I am already dressing at my warmest, so it is not like I'll add any extra layers. And my warmest coat can handle precipitation, so that really isn't a concern either. Plus it is kind of fun to just wake up and see what kind of weather we are handed that day. I don't know for sure, but I think it dropped at least 10 degrees in the past day. This morning it was -20 C (which is just below 0 in F).

- 7 -

The tradeoff is perfectly clear blue skies! And I also saw the sunrise on my walk to the office. The cold weather is completely worth the banishing of the dreary grey skies.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Living it up on a Saturday night

If you really want to live it up on a Saturday night, here is an idea: make cheese! This was actually my second time making cheese, so I basically felt like an old pro going into it. The first time I made saag paneer, because it is one of my favorites. This time, I figured I would try something that I didn't already have really high standards for, with the hopes of really loving my final product more. So I figured I'd try the paneer butter masala that Brian posted about. I'll repost the recipe, which comes in the form of a video, in case you were interested.



I had to watch the video a couple times before I decided that it just didn't matter that I had no idea what spice comes before the ketchup. And for that matter, I also decided I didn't want to cook with ketchup, so I just skipped that. Also, Sweden has fried onions in practically every grocery store, which was not something I would have expected.

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Two liters of milk in a giant pot.

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curds & whey

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finished cheese cubes!

It still surprises me how easy it is to make paneer. I guess this is the simplest cheese to make, but that doesn't mean it isn't incredibly gratifying. The hardest part this time was figuring out a way to get the cheesecloth to stay in the strainer without having to hold it in place. It had these loop things on it, so while it didn't fit over the edge of the strainer, I was able to use some twist ties to hold it in place.

And this is why we don't ever throw away a twist tie, Greg!

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finished paneer butter masala

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And then I devoured it, because it was super tasty. I think the only thing I might do differently next time is to quickly fry the paneer. I wanted to try not frying it, because I hadn't had it like that. So now I know that I prefer it fried.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

An outfit

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And now I venture into the area of blogging about clothes I sometimes wear. This is what I wore one day to work. I think it is a pretty typical outfit for me. Lots of layers (and yet I still froze). Partly I think outfits look different when you see a photo of them, so I kind of wanted to try that out.

Monday, January 14, 2013

More birds!

Joel properly identified that last bird I posted about. He was a Eurasian blue tit. Pretty cute.

I figured I would take some more bird photos when I had a good opportunity. I got a lot of good ones!

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Over-exposed magpie, but I thought the photo looked pretty neat anyhow.

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Three birds there, in case you didn't notice at first.

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Still three.

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Maybe they are Eurasian bullfinches?

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A close-up of the two that had been more hidden in the previous photos.

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Not sure what these little guys are.

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Bird butt.

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Bird eating.

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Yes, I am aware that all of these are just a tad blurry.

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I love the little tracks they leave in the snow.

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And last but not least, the driveway dwellers.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Getting inventive with foods

On Saturday I had the option of leaving the house and walking to the grocery store (less than 500 feet from my apartment) or staying in the house and getting inventive with the foods I had. Obviously, I chose the latter. This was my creation:


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I present to you: lemony hummus on a bed of spinach and shredded carrot, topped with caramelized onion.

And it was actually pretty delicious.

I almost made some sort of flat, crispy pizza thing, because I had ingredients (minus yeast) for that. It would have taken more time to make though, so that pretty much made me go with the above option. Plus, once you think of a food invention that seems like it should be delicious, it is hard to turn your back on it without ever knowing for sure.

Friday, January 11, 2013

We're talking about boots.

I came to Sweden with the following footwear: chacos, small (dressier, but still pretty casual) sandals, brogues, short boots, and hiking boots. The change in weather eliminated the possibility of wearing either of the first two. The brogues were the cheapest shoes on the planet, and as such are just not very comfortable. Also, they are quite slick on the bottom, so it is basically impossible to wear them once it snows. So those got eliminated. Then the short boots that were nice-looking and comfortable for everyday wear started to get a bit too worn down. One day I noticed that I had worn through the sole and my heal was stepping onto a bolt which was leaving a mark.

Then I spent a few weeks wearing only hiking boots. It was pretty awkward. Hiking boots aren't super comfortable. They are made to be stiff and give support. And I am just so bad at shopping that I never changed the situation for kind of a long time. But before I went to Prague I was determined to buy new shoes, because I really didn't want to be meeting colleagues while wearing hiking boots (even though our community is quite casual).

So.

Greg suffered through several horrible shopping trips with me. On at least one of them I was ready to go home before we even started. Actually, I think it happened at least three times where we would head into town with the intention of running some errands and doing shoe shopping, and then I would back out of the shoe shopping. Once we did start shopping, I sort of had to figure out what I wanted. I also had to be okay with spending a large sum of money (Sweden doesn't really do "inexpensive" (Ikea is an anomaly), usually most places sell quality items at a quality-item-price).

By the end of one trip I had found a suitable boot, but then it was only available in a tiny tiny size, so that was no good. So I decided that I'd just buy something online and hope that it fit me. Shopping online is something I can do quite easily. So I settled on a boot that was similar to the idea I had gotten of the type of shoe I wanted. Except that the expected arrival date was one day after I left for Prague.

So then we had to make another shoe-shopping trip. Except this time, my standards were seriously low. I already had good boots on the way (assuming I chose the correct size), so I would just pick anything to have as Prague footwear. And in the first store we walked into, I saw nearly exactly what I had been hoping to find.

And that is how this happened.

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Yes I basically own two identical pairs of boots. At least give me credit for knowing what I want (once I know, that is)?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Birdies!

As seen through my window!

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First was just this magpie, bathing in a puddle in the melting street.

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Slightly blurry, but so cute!

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Same bird, different angle.

When I was in the US I liked to stop by whatbird.com on occasion. I really like their search tool. So I can say, "I saw this duck on a lake and it had, like a brown head and a grey body?" And they just always know what the bird is! Aptly named webpage for sure! I haven't found anything like that here yet. So I see or hear these birds and think "oh I have to remember that! rising song, little bird, white belly... oh wait a second..."

Dear whatbird.com,

Please extend your region to Europe. I would be very grateful.

Ever so kindly,
Meghan

_______

Also, here is the best Swedish thing I heard today:
Hur många baka kaka?
It means, How many are baking cake?
I have no idea of the context for this question, but I hope there will be cake in the office soon.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A retreat of sorts.

Greg has been back in the States for almost two weeks now. During that time, I've been living a rather solitary life. At first it just felt incredibly lonesome. Now, it still feels lonesome, but it also feels like a bit of a retreat. Even though there had been very few people in the office last week, I still got really excited for my solitary Saturday. Having time to myself has been quite nice (if I allow myself to think about the nice aspects). I like choosing the pace of the day. I like living in a more contemplative manner. I like having time to send some of those emails that have been on the back burner for far too long.

Maybe it is not healthy for me to get all of my socializing through email or blogging. I don't know if it is enough, to socialize primarily virtually. I feel slightly detached from the real world, from the fact that right now I am in Sweden. When I finally did leave the house this weekend (not until Sunday evening, thank you very much), I was sort of brought back to reality when I walked past two people speaking Swedish. Oh yes, of course. In this country we speak a different language...

That being said, folk dance starts up again next week. So my life is not totally without real interactions with real people. I'm not sure if I'll take the next Swedish language course right away, or maybe put it off for a bit. I have a couple weeks to decide. The weeks were pretty long and exhausting when I was doing both, and I'm not quite sure I am ready to jump at the opportunity to completely lose my solitary life.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Really good photos of First Night fireworks

On Flickr there is an Uppsala group, and I saw these lovely images posted of the fireworks that I could only take low-quality photos of. Enjoy!

Note that these were not taken by me (click the photo for the credits)!

Fireworks

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Now just imagine that times twenty, spread all around the city. Fabulous!

Friday, January 4, 2013

7 Quick ones

Linking up again on this Friday.

- 1 -

The ninth day of Christmas was a particularly giving day. I got to my office and found a package of crack cookies (because they are so addicting they must have crack in them) that my cousin had lovingly sent to me.

Photo on 1-2-13 at 1.15 PM #2

- 2 -

And then I had an email from my landlord saying a package had arrived for me. It ended up being gifts from my dad and stepmom, a package which I was sure had gotten lost somewhere.

- 3 -

Photo shoot outtake!

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Because you all were begging for it (and by all I actually mean no one).

- 4 -

Don't you sometimes think that it would be so nice if certain things you read on the internet were actually true? For example, if I could leave a bowl of cut onions in my home and it would absorb bacteria and prevent sickness, wouldn't that be so spectacular? Unfortunately that seems to be entirely mythical. But the good news is that I found several articles proclaiming the great health benefits of onions (and also garlic)! So I am going to incorporate more of those where I can. Anyone care to share a recipe that calls for a lot of onion?

- 5 -

I am a big fan of the Bowerbirds. Greg and I saw them this past summer at this little place in MA, and they were just hanging out and talking with people after they finished the concert. I don't typically go to shows/concerts and if I do, it is not with groupie-intent, but man, I just like those Bowerbirds.

Here is a cool video about the things they are up to. Also, they have a cabin with an indoor swing.



- 6 -

On Wednesday I made a most delicious batch of hummus. Partly because I love my immersion blender, partly because I recently discovered that I love my homemade hummus! This is what I put in it: one can of chickpeas, a couple scoops of tahini, juice from half a lemon (I like it really lemony), a few glugs of olive oil, salt, a shake of cayenne pepper, and two cloves of garlic (as per #4). And then I ate the entire batch for dinner with some bread and carrots.

- 7 -

Last night I remembered that a friend had sent me a really good mac & cheese recipe. (I think at some point I had whined about the lack of mac & cheese in this country.) Well, I didn't feel like spending a lot of time cooking, and I wasn't really sure if I was getting the ingredients right, plus I was just eye-balling measurements because I wanted a half batch instead of a batch to feed 8-10. So I was fully expecting the end result to be completely inedible (mainly because I never know what dairy products I am buying. I needed cream, but in Sweden they sell this fil stuff which is like the consistency of cream, but it has a sour aspect to it? So I bought something that didn't say 'fil' anywhere, but said a weird word somewhere. I mainly picked it because it had a picture of cooking on the front, so I figured it was cream for cooking, aka what I needed for mac & cheese. Long story short, I was feeling completely out of it, and couldn't focus on thinking about Swedish dairy products, so I just bought one and hoped for the best.). Luckily, it was completely delicious. I think the secret is that the sauce is made with broth. It really adds a lot of flavor (salt) and keeps the richness in check.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Around here lately

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My evenings are looking something like this lately. Soon I will need to replenish my supply of candles. I like that Sweden is pretty into candles, and I really like that you can buy candles for low prices here. So far it is the only thing I have found and considered to be inexpensive. I guess the price of frozen salmon isn't terrible either.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Really bad photos of First Night fireworks

Fireworks on New Year's Eve are quite popular here. Like really quite. Yesterday starting at around 4 pm (the time at which all possible hint of twilight has fully disappeared) the fireworks started. They continued sporadically throughout the night. Starting at about 11:45 pm they got quite regular. Regular enough for me to take my first bad photo.

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I had remembered being told about fireworks on New Year's Eve. It was one of those "you need to go up to the castle (because it is the highest part of the city) and there will be tons of fireworks!" This had also happened for the first Sunday of advent "go up to the castle and you'll just see them!" The difference was that the advent fireworks were organized by the city (and choreographed to music!). The quantity was abundant, but also short-lived (just three songs... I guess there aren't too many poppy songs with the word 'up' in them?). I don't think there were any official new year's fireworks. Instead, there were just fireworks everywhere, presumably being fired by anyone who felt like it? Starting at midnight and lasting for thirty minutes were fireworks everywhere! It was crazy!

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