Wednesday, June 26, 2013

shampoo update

So here's a thing I never expected. This is my most popular post of all time. By a lot. Like an order of magnitude. It gets hits from google all the time. And the thing is, I actually do use shampoo now, but I am a more informed user. This post sort of summarizes why I stopped not using shampoo.

Then I moved to Sweden and everything was so weird and my shampoo had sulfates again. Even using an ACV rinse after washing was not fixing my problems. My scalp hated me so much. I think my scalp actually still hates me, because I am in the recovery phase from that.

I guess it took me about ten months to realize that I am in a place where you can find sulfate-free shampoos as long as you go to a salon. So now I am using the most expensive shampoo I've used in my life. (Which is slightly comical, considering one of the primary reasons for ditching shampoo in the first place was to not spend money on it.)

I worked up the courage to walk into a salon, and I just went straight to the woman and asked her if they had any shampoo for me, and she pointed me to all sorts of options.

I chose this one. It is made with quinoa. How weird. Part of me feels slightly guilty for loving quinoa, and maybe I feel like it is wasteful to use quinoa in shampoo? Because when I first heard about quinoa as the "supergrain of the future" I was so excited, but then I found out that the health of everyone in Peru was majorly declining because it was more profitable to export their quinoa instead of eat it themselves.

Anyhow. So now I'm using this shampoo, and slowly but surely, I think my scalp is starting to appreciate the lack of sulfates I am putting on it. I also bought the matching conditioner, but just the other day, approximately twenty days after I made this purchase, I realized that it is a leave-in conditioner. I've just been washing it down the drain this whole time! I need to learn how to use leave-in conditioner!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Baking a cake!

I guess I have this cake thing going on now? I don't actually do a lot of cake-baking (yet), but I just feel really into cakes these days. After Greg's defense, I decided I needed to bake him a cake, even though he isn't really a huge cake fan. But he is a huge coffee fan, so I decided to make a coffee cake. And by that I mean a real cake, with a coffee flavor, not like the kind of cake that is intended to be eaten for breakfast with coffee.

I ended up going with this Smitten Kitchen recipe, because that is one of my favorite recipe sources. What really sold me was at the end where she suggests a cappuccino chiffon cake variation. No fudge frosting for us! We want whipped cream! It is how the Swedes would do it!

This was one of the more complicated things I've made, but the effort was totally worth it. It was incredibly delicious, and very strongly coffee flavored. I highly recommend this cake!

Friday, June 21, 2013

7QT: allergies, swedish, and reading edition

- 1 -

Last week I meant to link to this article that I read for one of my takes. Luckily I only forgot about it for one week, and so now it makes its appearance. I like Jonathan Safran Foer's writing, and I didn't even realize this was written by him until I was mostly through the article and had to check who the author was.

"Let’s assume, though, that we all have a set number of days to indent the world with our beliefs, to find and create the beauty that only a finite existence allows for, to wrestle with the question of purpose and wrestle with our answers."

- 2 -

And now I have allergies. How a person can spend nearly 30 years with no allergies and then have them is a very unpleasant mystery to me. Allergic to Sweden in June. I am not good at finding good weather forecasts in this country, so keeping that in mind, I found some webpages with pollen counts and allergy info. (I am implying that these sites are either not good or unreliable.) The next three days is in the category of "extreme" or "very high" or "three orange dots" depending on which page you check.

My husband is a longtime sufferer of allergies, and now I think I sort of get it. Why have I gone through three boxes of tissues this week? Because I have allergies. Why are my eyelids all puffy? Because I have allergies. Why don't my clothes match today? Because I have allergies. Is it really possible for a person to sneeze this many times in a day? Yes, yes it is, if you have allergies.

- 3 -

Is it proper English to say I need to bolster my reading habits? I love goodreads, and I love looking at the stats, but 2013 is not looking so good for me. See for yourself.

I hope 2011 wasn't the best it will ever be. Time to start reading children's books to increase the number of books, even though that doesn't do much to help with the page count. I actually have been reading the Anne of Green Gables books, which are quite entertaining. I don't think I had read any of them but the first either, so this is quite nice.

- 4 -

Plus they are mostly free for kindle. I got them from the Project Gutenberg page. (Amazon tried to make me pay $.99 for Sense and Sensibility. No thank you. I'll get it free from these guys instead.) The problem is that they do not have book #4 or #6. Luckily the local library had #4 so I got myself a library card. I love libraries. Also, this book return system is so high tech with a conveyer belt and everything. Unfortunately the library doesn't have #6 (in english, bara på svenska) so I'm not sure what I'll do.

Although maybe I should be reading the books in order of date published, as opposed to chronological order in Anne's life? I don't know. I need an Anne expert to help me out with this one.

Either way, I'm eventually going to need Anne of Ingleside. And borrowing the Swedish version is not my ideal choice. That would basically be doing the opposite of bolstering my reading habits I think.

- 5 -

Home rememdies for allergies that I might consider trying:
-saline solution (least appealing option, as it is intended to be sucked up the nose and allowed to drain out of your mouth or nose)
-shower more frequently (also not very appealing)
-drink mint tea (very appealing)
-keep the windows shut all the time (not ideal, but would solve more than one problem)
-eat wasabi peas (okay)

- 6 -

I was really excited to find this Swedish word of the day page. (Sidenote: this is why I can't quit google reader! I signed up for bloglovin but it won't let me import any ole rss feed.) Unfortunately, on thursday I noticed that listening to the pronunciation is not always correct. The sentence was something about "they sell" and the Swedish word for they is 'de' but it is pronounced 'dom' (which is actually pretty strange, even for swedish I think). So, I'll still try to use the page for new vocabulary, but I definitely cannot trust the pronunciation. Too bad.

- 7 -

For the first time in my life I was not the bona fide mosquito magnet! Normally mosquitos love me, but for some reason they were leaving me alone and bothering someone else. I was told that what you eat can make a difference, which is how I ended up finding that article. And, well, not to try to say a sample of one is statistically significant, but I cooked a dinner last night that was heavy on the garlic, and then ate leftovers for lunch today. Garlic for the win!

PS The food I invented was pretty delicious so I will share my methods. Frying pan on stove. Heat olive oil. Add shallots. Add carrot. Add green chili peppers. Add garlic. (The previous items were all added after the amount of time it took me to chop said item.) Add diced tomatoes or tomato sauce. Add a can of black beans. Season with salt, garam masala, coriander, a little cinnamon, a little ginger, a little chili powder, maybe a little turmeric. Let simmer while making rice. Delicious!

- The End and Jennifer's linkup -

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Petite apple pastries

It happened that on Sunday I was thinking of going to a cafe after church to get a cappuccino and an apple pastry. Partly because those things are delicious, partly because it was my anniversary and I'm sure my husband would have wanted me to do that, because that is our idea of a celebration.

But I didn't go to the cafe, and I remembered that it is possible to buy pastry dough pre-made here. Pre-made foods are a bit of a rarity in this country, so I thought it probably wouldn't exist at my small close store. But it did! And I bought it! And I baked these lovelies!


For the pastry 'style' I followed this how-to written by my friend Brian. I am in full agreement on intricate-looking pastries (although I can't say I've done much (any?) pastry baking before, soooo...)

I was slightly worried that these wouldn't work out, since I wasn't baking the shell and the filling separately. Luckily the dough baked up around the apples quite nicely, and also the apples were not still raw when it was done baking. A delicious success!

PS I brought these to the office and was once again thanked for the 'cake.'

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A full Sunday

Good morning and happy Sunday!

This morning I woke up nicely early, which is so easy to do when there is no alarm or office to be getting to. I decided to make the most of it and went to the early Mass. I even spent two minutes to get an outfit photo before I left so that I could join the What I Wore Sunday and Sunday Best link-up parties (sidenote: yesterday I was reading Anne of Avonlea and read a line about wearing "purple and fine linen" which made me smile).

"Is it starting to rain or is the wind just blowing water off these leaves?"


Or at least most of an outfit photo. I definitely had shoes and socks on. I guess living in Vermont for five years made me comfortable with the whole shoes-socks-dress-thing, but not comfortable enough to make a permanent record of it. I wish I had documented me in my helmet, riding my bicycle off into the morning. Next time.

When I got home I made myself a ridiculously delicious white chocolate mocha, because today is not just a regular Sunday. For one thing it is Father's Day (although not in Sweden, minor detail).

Happy Father's Day to the kind of dad who will dance at my wedding even though I don't think he really likes dancing(:

This photo of me and my dad was taken one year ago, to the date actually, adding to the cause to celebrate. They say the first year of marriage is the hardest one, so I'll just go ahead and check that off the list and hope they are not lying. Hopefully they don't actually mean the first year of marriage that you spend together. So, well, it is too bad that Greg and I don't get to spend our first anniversary together, but there is major consolation in knowing that he'll be moving here in about a month. So at least there is that. Plus I feel like I have a good excuse to browse through our wedding and engagement photos(:

(photo credit to Garren for these last two)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

7QT - How many years did You go to school?

- 1 -

Yesterday evening it started pouring and I got really excited and I took 72 pictures, mostly of rain on windows. I haven't been using my camera much lately, so I was glad to see that the theme of next week's Theme Thursday was a theme I could really get behind. Water. I've missed some good themes these past two months, but water is one I will not be missing out on. No way. Probably about a dozen of the 72 will make their way onto the photo blog side of things here, but I haven't picked my favorite yet. Good thing I've got a week to decide.

- 2 -

Here are three outtakes, which do not fit the theme, but are photos I still like:


- 3 -

On my most recent trip back from the States I managed to include the Gilmore Girls on the list of items which definitely must fit in my suitcase to bring back to Sweden. I think I'm going to use it as my rewards system for spending time doing Rosetta Stone lessons.

- 4 -

I did (nearly) sign up for the free Swedish for Immigrants course. They are changing the system around so they have a bunch of different schools where you can go. I need to choose which one I prefer and then I'm good to go. Or at least, ready to wait until the next round of courses start in August.

- 5 -

On the form, I had to write the number of years of schooling that I have had in my life, not including kindergarten.

t  w  e  n  t  y       t  w  o

That is just so much school.

- 6 -

My seven quick takes each week has sort of turned into me just writing about one or two things and then spacing it out with numbers every now and again. Cheating? Perhaps, but I am okay with it. And if I can get a photo in just one take, then I call it complete!

- 7 -

I feel like I need to start doing embroidery? I want to get in touch with my inner prairie-woman. Is there such a thing as embroidery that is not the same as cross-stitch? That is what I feel the need to be doing.

---- The End (and more)----

Fantastic Folk Festival Fun









Over the weekend I went with the folk dance group to Ransäterstämman. One of the others told me he was surprised to see me there since usually the foreigners don't invest in a full weekend of dancing. I'm all dedication. And gladly so! The weekend was filled with amazing dancing, and spectacular music, and beautiful weather, and lovely camping, and a freezing river. I borrowed such a great green ridge tent. It did rain a bit on Saturday, and the tent held up wonderfully. Also, across the river there was a pasture with cows and apparently it is mating season, so those cows were making a lot of loud calls to each other at really early times of the day.

The dance was held at the Ransäter Homestead, and such a great little homestead it was! There were always plenty of little packs of musicians playing in every spot you could find. I never took any photos during the busier times, because I was plenty occupied with dancing or watching concerts. I just had to take a photo of that one sweet couple who was playing though. I danced to their music at least three different times throughout the weekend, and I was told that they show up every year. The last two dance photos show the inside dancers and the outside dancers who were listening to the music and trying to teach/learn the basic dance steps. 

Each evening the dancing started at about 6pm, and then it continued until past the sunrise. It was really nice to be dancing and having it get darker and darker and then start to get lighter and lighter. I've never experienced a summer at such a high latitude. The full night of twilight is quite surreal. 

On one of the evenings at 2am, one of the most popular Swedish folk bands started playing. Often in the dance halls the music was done by a playlist where anyone could sign up. I had been told that sometimes the big musicians will sign up using pseudonyms just to surprise the dancers. I was never checking any lists since I don't know any of the bands yet, so if it was a surprise that MP3 was playing, the word sure spread fast. The musicians were so super amazing, and the dance floor was completely packed. 

Lastly, because I'm really good at the internet, I'll include some items that I found on the web.

(My fame and glory starts at about 00:28 (looks like just walking, but I promise, it is dancing).)

I found some really great photos on this blog, and I am 99% convinced that I am in this photo (dancing with the tall guy in the white t-shirt who is a fellow philochoros dancer).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Food in tubes!

Swedes are so practical. Part of this practicality comes in the form of putting foods in tubes (like how toothpaste is in a tube, only not the toothpaste part). For example, tomato paste comes in a tube. So practical! I always hated those tiny tin cans.

Then there are the more interesting foods that come in tubes. Such as this:

And this:
The top photo being ham-cheese/crayfish-cheese and the bottom being caviar, of course. (I guess sometimes when I link photos from around the web they don't always show up in posts for everyone? I don't know how to fix the problem or even properly diagnose it, but I apologize if you can't see the photos I'm referring to (because they are super good)).


I was feeling inspired to buy some cheese in a tube after seeing it being eaten by several people I respect. Also, I feel like I need to have more Swedish experiences. 

One cheese tube was called Chevre-ost, and that sounded pretty good to me. I had been thinking that these cheese tubes would resemble EZ-Cheeze, but in fact, the ingredient list seems to be all real foods. My little store didn't have the chèvre, so I just got the classic mild cheese. And I put it on my knäckebröd, because that is how it is done.


tube cheese

It tasted quite good too, although while I was eating it, I had to really focus on not thinking about how it looked like mayonnaise and looked like I was eating mayo by the spoonful, no less.

Monday, June 10, 2013

7QT - the joy of no screens on my windows edition

- 1 -

Earlier this week I was awoken by the sound of a rapid fluttering inside my bedroom. I quickly realized that a bird in my bedroom was not ideal. Probably I said out loud, "Nooo." And I sprang out of bed and ran out and shut the door to keep the bird from moving any further into the house. Luckily it left in no time, because my plan didn't really extend beyond the action I had already taken.

- 2 -

Then a bee/wasp/buzzing creature decided to come on in. I repeated the successful move of running out of the bedroom and shutting the door. The bee wasn't so quick to leave, but luckily he eventually did.

- 3 -

I can't imagine I'm the only person in this country with animals letting themselves in through my open windows. Maybe the people of Sweden should reconsider the concept of putting screens on windows.

(I nonchalantly slipped this story into a conversation at the office, and based on the complete lack of responses of the --OMG! A bird! Inside your apartment?!?-- variety, I am guessing this is just standard procedure, no big deal.)

- 4 -

My grocery store added an American section! This week I got a creme soda and peppered beef jerky! Next up: vanilla coke, jumbo marshmallows ($8 for a normal-sized bag), and reese's peanut butter cups. If only they would bring in graham crackers, then my stereotypical delights would be so much more complete.

- 5 -

On Tuesday I saw a man riding a bicycle whilst wearing a suit. And then. I saw a second man in a suit on a bicycle. Same day, same trip, two suit-clad bicycle riders.

- 6 -

My cousin sent me a scarf with little cute bicycles on it!
bicycle scarf
I was just grabbing my scarf to model for a blog photo, and I was thinking to myself, "Oh I need to go do this in front of the mirror because every time I put a scarf on the ends always look silly somehow."

And then.

I realized that it is one of those fancy loop scarf things with no ends! I could not be any more lucky!

- 7 -

I went to Ransäterstämman this past weekend (major folk dance festival, it will get its own post soon, with a couple photos even). And I intended to post this the morning before leaving, but there was no time, hence the super huge delay in my Friday Quick Takes.

---- The End ----
And linking up, of course.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ramblings upon returning to Sweden

It is the middle of the night here. I keep trying to shut out the light and fall asleep with little success. Tomorrow is a work day (probably will be a rough one) but my body refuses to acknowledge that we've just skipped time zones.

I've been gone for three weeks and things are different here. Lilacs are in bloom everywhere and the air smells so lovely. The trees are all filled out with leaves. It looks so wild here.

And like the people said, it is not fully dark, despite it being the middle of the night. I don't even know what time the sun set, and I'm not going to look it up right now, because sometimes it is okay to leave a question unanswered. I do know that at 10 pm it was a very bright twilight kind of time, which allowed me to see a cute little hedgehog wander through the front yard. I really love wild hedgehogs. Welcome to Sweden - Where the air smells like lilacs and wild hedgehogs are a reality.

A lot of people seemed concerned that there are so many hours of daylight and I don't have curtains on most of my windows. I pretty much had myself convinced that I'd need to get some blackout curtains for the bedroom at least. But the thing is, I am not a person who only sleeps when it is dark. I kind of feel like most people are not that person. I feel like a person who is awake for sunrise is a rare thing. So I'm not concerned about that anymore. Birdsong starting at 2 am seems like a more valid concern.

Time to try to fall asleep again.