Friday, October 25, 2013

7QT: language learning, dancing, and the existence of mint-fig ice cream!

1. Long live flashcards! I had been thinking a lot about how a key element to learning a language is learning vocabulary. And in high school when I was taking Spanish classes, the only way I passed my vocabulary tests was to study using flashcards. So then I was thinking that there must be a new 'modern' way of doing this, and that surely a flashcard program (or 'ap' (or is it app) as the cool kids say) must exist. Well well well. Much to my luck I had a couple to choose between. I was immediately sold on Anki when I saw a youtube video demonstration, which showed that decks are shareable. This means I can go to the Anki webpage and search Swedish/Svenska, and immediately have a deck of flashcards (more than one actually) ready to go. Amazing! Even more amazing is that someone has shared a deck of the vocabulary list from the textbook I am using in my class. Bonus!

2. Greg and I have two beers fermenting right now. The first is our Christmas beer, which is now in a secondary with vanilla and cinnamon, and I have such high hopes that those flavors will really be present in the end product. The second is a pale ale, which is our first hoppy beer and also our first beer that we designed (as opposed to following a recipe). I have some brewing photos to share as well, so at some point in the future I might write a post dedicated to the topic.

3. Tonight and tomorrow are full of Swedish folk dance! I am really super excited, especially since the concert/dance tonight is free. Even though I go to our regular dance session every Wednesday, I feel like it has been awhile since I've gone to a proper dance event. On Wednesdays we usually focus on learning a new dance, or trying to improve a particular aspect of a dance, or things like that. So while there is plenty of dancing, it is geared toward instruction and learning. The dance events are more like a party where you just go and dance all the different dances!

I really have to work on making my words about folk dance sound as enthusiastic as I feel about folk dance. Just adding an exclamation point doesn't really help much.

4. In two weeks Greg and I are spending a weekend in Denmark. For a dance weekend of course:) A Contra Dance Weekend! Basically Sweden has no contra dancing, but Denmark has quite a lot. So we will travel there for the weekend. Contra dancing has been in Denmark for 25 years now, which also means that the group of people who enjoy the dance have aged by about that much. It is often said that the popularity of contra dance sort of goes in waves, and sometimes it gets really popular with younger people and sometimes it sort of fades away. I guess in Denmark right now there is a big lack of young people, so we'll be bringing down the average age of attendees. If people only understood that they were missing one of the greatest contra dance bands and two of the greatest contra dance callers, they would regret not going. And for the record, I have no familiarity with the other band, so I can't claim that they are a favorite.

5. They make mint-fig ice cream here. Mint-fig! I found this out the way I find out about a lot of good things you can buy in Sweden - someone was reusing the container for their lunch yesterday. And clearly I have not been paying enough attention to the ice cream section of the grocery store, because if I had seen this I just would not have been able to pass it up. I cannot even imagine what this would taste like. My new goal in life is to find this ice cream.

6. Shall we talk about the weather then? It got below 0°C a couple days ago. The outside temperature likes to surprise me, although it is not too difficult to do so. Our apartment is always very warm now that the heat is on, and it never occurs to me that I should be expecting the outdoor weather to have changed drastically in just one day. I'm bored of talking about the weather now.

7. I found this really nice flickr photo stream called Beautiful Uppsala. Such a nice reminder that I really live in such a beautiful place. This also makes me want to take my camera out more. Plus I love seeing this city in all the different seasons. Here is a particular favorite (note this is not my photo, but clicking it will take you to the photo stream).



As always, that is all from me for Friday Quick Takes; thanks for reading!

Friday, October 4, 2013

7QT - tiny cup photo, reading, dancing, and food (and working all night long)

- 1 -

Oh yeah.

Stylish Bruins players who must be thinking 'why is my cup so tiny?'

- 2 -

Alternatively, in the above photo, you might have noticed that nice outdoor wooden dance floor. I certainly did.

- 3 -

I'm not really proud to admit it, but right now I am reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Two years ago I tried to read these books, only I messed it up and accidentally read the second book thinking it was the first. As I was reading I figured out my mistake after realizing that the author was writing as though the characters had already been introduced to me. So then after reading book #2, I basically already knew what happened in book #1 and figured it wouldn't be as exciting, so I just went on to #3.

So now, two years later, I figured that since I couldn't even remember what happened in the books I did read, hopefully that would mean I had forgotten any spoilers to the first book. This way I could essentially start over. Except that once I started reading I sort of remembered at least one big outcome. Although I don't know how the outcome comes to be, and that almost seems to make it more thrilling? I don't know. Either way, I hate being so engaged by a book that is sort of a cheap thrill, but engaged I am.

Oh! My favorite part is that living in Sweden for a year has taught me some cultural context which I never would have picked up on before. For example, when the guy goes to live in a cabin that is not very well equipped, the author writes that there was not even a cheese slicer with the kitchen appliances. The essentiality of the cheese slicer to Swedes is a thing worth knowing.

- 4 -

Here are some thoughts on dancing, because a week wouldn't be complete without it. (Except for last week, because I had to miss dance to go to my first Swedish lesson.)

At the weekly dance sessions, I would classify several regulars as extremely good dancers. It is really nice to be able to dance well with someone, and it is interesting to see how certain dances work better with different people. When I first started dancing I was told that the best dancers will make you feel like you are doing everything right without any help from them. So when I end up dancing with certain people (ahem, like perhaps the person doing the instruction for the dance) I automatically know that if things aren't working out, it is really most likely to be my fault. Sometimes it is easy to start thinking that I've got the hang of a thing, and then we rotate and I start stepping all over the next person. Plus, even before the dance starts, just knowing that my partner is far better than I am makes me nervous, which causes me to be less good than I ought to be.

So, that is an interesting thing that I like to think about.

- 5 -

Have you ever bought a vanilla bean? I just bought the first vanilla bean of my life. Technically I got a pack of two. I should take a photo maybe, because they came in this long skinny tube. I feel like I just joined an elite club. The vanilla bean buyers. You should seriously try it.

- 6 -

Today is the Swedish National Cinnamon Bun day - kanelbullens dag. While still a fairly young holiday (introduced in 1999), it is certainly much loved by the people.

- 7 -

I'm running out of topics here, so let's talk about work. I am finally one of those physicists who uses a computer program that takes hours upon hours to run, so I can set it running, and just walk away (or go to sleep or whatever) and then I can brag about how I worked All Night Long! Seriously. 6pm last night until 6am this morning were incredibly productive.

- The End and The Linkup -

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pumpkin bread!

Last week we found a cooking pumpkin in the grocery store! Greg is a major pumpkin pie lover, so I had to let him down gently when I told him I wanted to make pumpkin bread. I think we need to go buy more pumpkins so that pies can happen. I also remembered that I once made a pumpkin lasagne which I loved so much! (recipe here, if you are interested)

The store had a few pumpkins, with short descriptions in Swedish. I don't remember the name of our pumpkin, and I can't be sure of all its qualities, but I do know that it had an orange flesh and was good for soups. And it turned out to be good for pumpkin bread.

I don't have any photo documentation of this, but here is what I did. I chopped the pumpkin in half, and also chopped off the stem. Then I removed the goop and seeds (the seeds were HUGE, and Greg baked them the next day). Then I put the two pumpkin halves in a baking dish with the cut side up, and put a little water into each pumpkin half. I don't know. One time my friend who is a nutritionist introduced me to the concept of spaghetti squash and she put the water in the squash halves, so I now do that with pumpkin halves. Also, the pumpkin descriptions at the store listed a spaghetti squash, but there were sadly none in the bin, but either way that is the closest I've gotten to getting a spaghetti squash in this country. So I baked the pumpkins at a temperature that was probably too high, maybe like 190C? They were done in only a half hour, which is a shame, because the heat hadn't been turned on yet and our apartment was getting cold, and I was banking on an hour of oven-use.

After the pumpkins were cooled I scooped out the flesh. Then a couple days later when it was time to bake the pumpkin bread, Greg used the immersion blender on it, so that it was a nice pumpkin puree. I used this recipe, which calls for one 16 ounce can.

So here is a really important thing, which the internet world doesn't always understand. The ounces in '16 ounce' are a measure of weight. Since I don't have a kitchen scale, I needed to figure out what volume (aka how many cups) of pumpkin I needed. I did some searching, which informed me that a 16 ounce can of pumpkin contained either 2 or 4 cups of pumpkin. That is a pretty big discrepancy, but there is no way that you can fit 4 cups into one of those cans. Plus since I had just shy of 2 cups, I just used all the pumpkin I had.

Now that I look at the pumpkin lasagne recipe, I see that a 28 ounce can of pumpkin is equivalent to 3 cups of pumpkin. So that means I should have used 1.7 cups of pumpkin in the recipe that called for 16 ounces of pumpkin.

This is my attempt to get some blog hits via google searches for 'how many cups of pumpkin are in a 16 ounce can?' and also my attempt to never again have to do that very same google search because the results are painful.

Pumpkin Conversion
16 ounce can = 1.7 cups
28 ounce can = 3 cups

So anyhow, the pumpkin bread was really delicious, and I've been taking it for a snack every day this week. Since I like to keep the quality of the photos here high, behold.

Photo on 10-1-13 at 4.31 PM