Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday thoughts

I understand essentially everything my Swedish teacher says. Of course, she is speaking slowly and using simpler words, so it is not a huge brag for me to say so, but it is still a little bit of a brag. She still manages to use some words I don't know on occasion, but I can always hear what word she is saying and look it up. Hearing what word is being said makes all the difference. When normal people speak Swedish, I hear a new word and ask what does dayjorja mean? And the problem is that they were saying three simple words that I know and can use properly.

And here is a thing. The bathrooms in my school have some sort of weird feature where sound just travels between them (they are individual rooms, Sweden isn't really into a stall-system) incredibly well. The other day it sounded like a person was standing next to me talking on their phone. And today, just as I was about to flush the toilet I heard someone start chanting? I'm not sure what was happening, but I felt SO disrespectful to just flush a toilet in the middle of it.


Today is another super hot day. I 'cooked' veggie wraps for dinner. Sometimes I start thinking about how there are days (maybe consecutive) where I just don't eat vegetables? I've been trying to avoid this by eating a carrot appetizer if there is not a vegetable included in my dinner choice. Today's veggie wraps had spinach, zucchini, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, avocado, and a pesto+mayo spread. Pretty delicious. Pretty friendly for a warm day.

Yesterday Greg started a trend of playing classical music while dinner is being prepared. I continued the trend today, because I like the idea of giving myself some musical education. Yesterday was a little Bach, today a little Vivaldi. Did you know that Vivaldi was a Catholic priest? And that Bach was influenced by Vivaldi's work (even though Vivaldi was only 7 years his senior)? The things you learn! Thank you wikipedia.

Did you know that rocket boots are a real thing? Leonardo DiCaprio knows it. Apparently a friend of a friend is 'rich and has fun toys' including a set of these things.

Enough topic changes without segues. Time to publish!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cultural research

Sweden has been unusually warm lately. Since it is not typically so warm, most homes do not have air conditioning. There is just no need. Except for the past two weeks there has sort of been a need. Our apartment is on the second level, and it has been getting unbearably warm in there. We are getting a nice routine down for keeping the apartment as not-warm as possible. No oven use. Minimal stove use. Keep the window shade drawn. Hang a white sheet over another window that lets in a lot of sun but doesn't have a shade. And by hang, I mean, pin it to the wall, because sometimes that is just how things are done in our household.

And then there is the increased ice cream consumption. Swedes seem to eat a ridiculous amount of ice cream. I base this on the number of ice cream stands located throughout the city. And since it has been so warm lately, I've also decided to just go ahead and eat a ridiculous amount of ice cream. Partly, it is a way for me to cool off, and partly, it is a way for me to experience more Swedish culture. I am not like the children of Sweden who grew up eating Piggelins.

I like to think of it as cultural research to try out all of the different options. And if it weren't for this mindset, then how would I have ever discovered how amazing the Hilda is?! This is strawberry ice cream, coated in a thin layer of white chocolate, and covered in sprinkles. The box has a picture of an anime character, Swedish style.


Aside from the fact that the real-life colors of the sprinkles are hardly as sparkly and aesthetically pleasing as the picture on the box, this was a super amazing treat. If it weren't for Greg and his reason, I'm sure the entire box would already be gone.

On a similar but different topic, there is a very similar type of ice cream treat which is made by a different company. As far as I could tell, the difference is that there are layers of white and pink ice cream in the center, and maybe the sprinkles are a nicer color. The other difference is that the name of the treat is Sitting Bull and it features a picture of a cartoon native person on the package. I feel like this is sort of a questionable thing, and I don't know if I want to be seen purchasing such an item. So, as much as I like to eat ice cream in the name of research, I think I might be sticking with the Hilda.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sometimes life calls for pink beer

Somehow I got it in my head that Greg and I needed to brew a pink beer. Probably it started because we had this idea to brew a beer with lingonberries, and then I realized that the result could be a pink beer. So we designed a recipe to ensure that the result would be pink. Mostly that involved making it as light in color as possible so the lingonberries had more opportunity to provide the color. Behold.




Friday, July 25, 2014

7QT: ginger, beer, swedish quizzes and introductions, & a banana

1. On Monday I had a low blood sugar moment, and I ate a banana. I haven't eaten a banana that wasn't disguised in a smoothie since I reached the age of reason. Bananas are the one food that I claim to despise. But on Monday I was desperate, and the banana was the only option. So I ate it, and it wasn't actually terrible. My mother is smiling the biggest smile in the world right now (am I right?).

2. I made progress in my goal to make my own ginger beer! I made a ginger simple syrup that can be added to bubbly water to simulate ginger beer. The ginger simple syrup was made by heating 1 dL water with 1 dL sugar (1 dL is about a half a cup) just until it started to bubble. Then I added ginger. I got about a 5 inch piece which I peeled (not perfectly) and sliced thinly. Once the mixture began to bubble again, I removed it from the heat and let it steep for about an hour. After filtering out the ginger pieces I was left with a super delicious concoction, which I intended to add to bubbly water except that I accidentally bought still water (language fail). But still. Tasty!

3. An advantage of going to the grocery store practically every day and only buying food for one or two meals is that you increase your chances of finding discounted, soon-to-expire foods. 30% off local thick-sliced bacon? YES Please! Change of plans honey, we are having three packages of bacon for dinner tonight!

4. In my Swedish class I got to participate in my first 'tipspromenad.' This is a thing that is maybe popular to do in Sweden? Or at least it is very popular with some Swedes. The tipspromenad, also called tipsrunda, is a quiz that involves going around to various questions which can be posted around a house or around a park outdoors even, and choosing the correct answer from the three choices. Sometimes it is competition style, involving prizes for the winners. I guess this is an activity you can do at parties. Which brings me to my next take!

5. I have this idea to include a tipsrunda the next time we have people over for brewing. It could involve all questions about beer/brewing. Yay or nay?

6. In Sweden, when meeting new people, you simple shake hands and state your name. No extra rambling or other words that would be the equivalent of "hi, I'm" or "hi, my name is" but just your name (super nice when you don't speak Swedish). Likewise, when answering your phone, it is typical to just state your name. Some people answer their phone by saying "hi, this is ____" and I'm not sure if one way is considered more polite than the other. What I do know is that answering a phone by saying "hello?" causes a lot of confusion. I won't claim that my way is better, because really, what do I even mean with that question? And why (in both cases) are we acting like it is unlikely either of us knows who the other will be without first stating it?

7. Have we talked about Penny In Your Pants?

Penny In Yo Pants from Johanna Holtan on Vimeo.

I was super fascinated when I first saw this video, and I filed the information away in the back of my head for future use. That use came on Wednesday. I wanted to wear a skirt, because it is super hot here (tropical, I believe (based on temperatures remaining above 20C throughout the night)), and because I was going to a dance in the evening. Normally I'll just put bike shorts under my skirt, which works well for both biking and for dancing. It can get warmer than necessary though, what with the extra layer of clothing and all. So I decided to try the penny trick, and I was pleased with the results. I actually just left my skirt 'buttoned' all day, because I didn't want to deal with the hassle of re-buttoning, and also because a really wrinkly spot on your skirt is inevitable and I didn't want to end up with multiple wrinkly spots. What I'm trying to say is that I spent the whole day wondering why culottes aren't a thing anymore!!


The End & The Link-Up!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hunting and gathering, minus the hunting


Greg and I have always liked the idea of gathering food in the wild. This past week in my Swedish class, we talked about various rights and responsibilities with regard to nature in Sweden, and I think it gave new life to that interest.

So yesterday we went out for a hike in the woods, with a strong emphasis on keeping an eye out for berries or edible mushrooms (chanterelles, specifically). While it is still too early in the season for the mushrooms, we had really good luck with berries. Primarily this is because my husband has eagle eyes for spotting berries, apparently.

First he spotted the blueberries. And then we couldn't stop seeing them! There were loads of them, and they were incredibly delicious. We also spotted a few raspberry bushes, but those were not quite ripe (I think we each got one ripe berry). The best find of the day was when he paused and crouched down to verify that, yes indeed, he had found smultron! The Swedes go crazy over these wild strawberries, and I never understood the appeal. At least not until yesterday when I got my first taste of them. This must be one of the most delightful flavors of the world.

We stopped and sampled several on our outgoing portion of our hike. We decided to continue on, since we heard some people coming and didn't feel the need to let them in on the secret if they weren't keen enough to find them on their own (totally selfish, totally worth it). Plus there could easily have been more further down the trail. Unfortunately we didn't come across more. On our return trip, as we approached their location, we started to smell them before we could see them, which was a really lovely thing to experience.

Friday, July 18, 2014

7QT : Swedish, kale, coffee : some of these got kind of wordy

1. I'm trying to not sit on my computer as often as I usually do. On Monday evening I decided I just would not even turn on my computer, and I accomplished so much. I read an entire book (in Swedish, so that counts as studying and leisure), did some cleaning, some cooking, some baking, and probably other things too! The really crazy part was how often I felt like I wanted to just go sit at the computer, but realizing it wasn't an option, opted to do some other task which I typically would have ignored all evening (dirty dishes, I'm looking at you!).

2. On Sunday we harvested our kale! We had just enough to make a small salad to accompany our meal. It is really nice to be able to grow a little bit of our food, but it makes both of us really miss having a plot of land where we can garden and grow larger quantities of delicious foods.

3. I have finally found a way of learning Swedish which I really enjoy - reading books in Swedish! I am currently only reading books written in "easy Swedish," but I am finding it really helpful and really enjoyable. I have written a lot about how I am not naturally good at language-learning, and that it is really a chore for me to do any of the things that are helpful for learning more Swedish. But this is one thing that does not feel like a chore. Finally! Of course, there is no way I could have just started at this step. It is only possible because I've built up a small vocabulary to start with. I still have to always have my pocket dictionary at hand to look up words I don't know, but I am needing it less and less with each new book. Plus it makes me feel awesome when I read a book that is not already listed on goodreads.com and I have to add it.

4. Did you know there is a simple English wikipedia? Most of the articles use only words that are among the 1,000 most common words. I find language things so much more interesting now that I'm in the process of learning a new language. It makes me wonder how many Swedish words I know.

I know that I am in the B1 level of CEFR, so I thought that maybe there was a list online showing approximately how many words are known at each level. Apparently this isn't a thing they do, although random online reading makes me think that it is possible I do know 1,000 Swedish words.

BUT. More importantly, my internet searching led me to discover the Kelly Project, which I might be a really big fan of! They have a list available of the 9,000 most commonly used words taken from nine different languages. I got the Swedish list, which looks good, but it didn't include a translation to English… They also have an app for language learning. Super cool, but I have no device that handles apps. Oh well.

5. This week I started preparing myself two cups of coffee to drink at home before I leave for the day…  as in, two distinct mugs of coffee… 
Maybe it seems strange, but to me it feels so smart! I always drink two cups of coffee, but after I finish the first one, the coffee has cooled down a bit and it takes forever for my sugar cube to dissolve. Plus! (science lesson coming up) When you add milk or cream to coffee, if you add it immediately, your final result (coffee + milk) will be hotter than if you wait some amount of time and then add it. This is just thermodynamics.
Even including the time it takes to wash a second mug, I feel like I am saving so much time and effort with this new method!

6. There is an … ad? … well it functions as an ad, but is actually an interesting video from PhD Comics about coffee … that plays if I watch youtube videos that starts with "How much coffee is too much coffee?" Or something along those lines. It just makes me think of this old post of mine.

7. I won a round of Bingo in Swedish class! Unfortunately, I felt a bit sheepish, because I had previously tried to say I got a Bingo (blackout round, too!) but I had wrongly marked a number off that was never called. I blame someone else for having poor pronunciation… it could never be due to my poor comprehension of spoken Swedish. No sir. Also, for the record, it ended up that the number I wrongly marked did not even exist in the group of little balls of numbers. Vindication.


The End & The Link-Up!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Musik vid Siljan

I have recently returned from Musik vid Siljan, which is a sort of folk festival that takes place over a week. Each night there is a different dance in a different location, all near Lake Siljan in Dalarna. It was my first time going to this event, and I couldn't be more pleased. I even took some photos, because I wanted to be able to show Greg some of the things I saw. Although none of the photos are of dancing, because this girl doesn't have time for taking photos when there is dancing to be had.

A group of people who are members of my same dance organization go every year and rent a centrally-located cabin. Here is the itinerary we followed:

Sunday: drive from Uppsala to Dalarna
Monday: Svabensverk
Tuesday: Vikarbystugedans
Wednesay: Bingsjöstämman
Thursday: Östbjörka stämman
Friday: Bodastämman
Saturday: drive home

My two favorite nights were Thursday and Friday. They weren't too big, and there was a lot of nice dancing to be had. Actually there was a lot of nice dancing on all of the nights. I was given some wise advice to resist the urge to dance until dawn every night until the final night. That way I would have enough energy to dance every night of the week, without feeling super tired and having sore muscles. So most nights were concluded at around midnight or 1am. On Friday we danced until 4am I think. It was awesome. Commence photos.














Isn't Dalarna beautiful? Every day we explored a new place, and every time I was surprised to find that, yes, Dalarna can get even more beautiful. I think my enthralment reached a peak when I saw noctilucent clouds on our drive home from the dance on Thursday night. I was skeptical that I was even seeing what I thought I was seeing, but after returning home I saw this notice about a noctilucent outburst. Wowza.

Friday, July 11, 2014

7QT - mostly on food/beverage

1. Sometimes it is the perfect day for sushi, and you spend most of your day thinking about dinnertime, and then it is time to leave the office, and as you pull your bicycle up to the sushi place you realize things are looking a bit dark. The sushi place is closed for summer vacation! Why??

2. Then it took me an hour to decide egg salad sandwiches would be a suitable replacement. I almost never eat egg salad sandwiches, but I don't know why. I made this with hard-boiled eggs (I used to start the eggs in cold water… shameful), an avocado (makes the color questionable, if you care about that sort of thing), a scoop of mayo, a scoop of mustard, some shakes of hot sauce, salt, pepper, and paprika. On a sandwich with some cheap-o lettuce? Super tasty.

3. Speaking of mustard. I bought a new mustard the other day. I was trying to twist the lid off of the jar when I realized it was just a pop-off kind of lid. And then I realized that the 'jar' the mustard was in was eerily similar in size/shape to our drinking glasses. And I now I am 99% convinced that our drinking glasses originated as mustard jars.

4. Lemonade-Beer. I did a quick check to see if I had written about this gem of a beverage before and I was led to this post. I am definitely wearing the same exact shirt as I type this, but I am not located in France (no worries, I like Sweden better).

5. I have a small obsession with beer in cans. I just love been in cans, okay?! Sometimes I pretend like I am a beer snob, but really I think this makes me the opposite of a beer snob.

6. Yesterday I made the perfect dinner to accompany beer in cans - nachos! Greg thought I was not being serious when I suggested nachos as a meal, but I was as serious as a thing that is incredibly serious. I even made some nacho cheese, loosely following this recipe, which was super delicious!

7. I have just returned from a little city walk with my Swedish class. I had seen most of the sights that we stopped by, but I learned some new and interesting things. Plus it is a gorgeous day to be spending several hours out wandering around.

Mostly I guess that wasn't so interesting to write, but I felt the need to mention one non-food item this week(:


The End & The Link-Up!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Folk Festival, Round 2

I had the opportunity to go to Ransäterstämman for the second year in a row. I really embrace that time, being outside of the normal, living in a tent in the wilderness, and dancing until dawn. This year was just as wonderful as last, which I had written a bit about here, but I wanted to write down a few details specific to this year that I know I'll enjoy re-reading in the future.

I think my favorite moment of Friday night, and possibly (probably) of the whole festival was that at some point, I think even before the 1am break, one of the musicians said something (in swedish, so just consider this a loose translation, which might be totally wrong) that we are here in this place dancing and our roots go back to the hambo, so we should dance a hambo! In the big hall the hambo is Never danced, so that was a really special treat. I expected a lot of people to leave the floor due to a lack of interest, but the majority stayed. And the most amazing part was that it just worked so perfectly, despite how crowded the floor was. Or maybe because of how crowded the floor was. It was just a really lovely moment of togetherness, and it made me glad to see that the people in the big hall can enjoy a hambo too.

That night I managed to stay dancing until 4:30am (aka sunrise). When I got to my tent I made sure to use some facial cleansing wipes in lieu of a shower. Greg predicted that one cloth could basically clean an entire body, and he was right. I was still pretty warm from dancing, and also since it had gotten to be so late/early, I missed the super cold part of the night, and slept comfortably without freezing or overheating.

During the day on Saturday, there isn't any dancing so I just stayed in my tent, having an introvert's dream day of seeing no people for 8 hours. I spent my time reading and sleeping, and it was just so lovely. It also worked out perfectly that at just the time when I started to get really warm and think I needed to get out of my tent, a gentle rain started and cooled the air to a perfect temperature. Oh it was just such a nice sleepy, dreamy day. 

I had a slow start to dancing on Saturday evening. Maybe I was slow to warm up to dancing, or maybe just slow to warm up to people again. Plus I don't always have the courage to ask people to dance. Most of the time I don't actually. I would feel bad if someone felt obligated to say yes and then ended up hating dancing with me. There are some obvious things a person can do in order to get invited to dance, and I usually take that approach. Unfortunately, it wasn't working super well. I think this was largely due to other dynamics (aka usually older men will just never ask younger women to dance, despite the fact that I wouldn't be hanging out in the dance hall with all the old people if I didn't want to dance with them).

Eventually I had to give up and head to the overcrowded dance hall, and on my way I ran into a friend who said he would dance with me. We agreed to go to the big hall and dance together a bit. That was good and helped get me out of my funk. And then somehow I just was in a mood to ask people to dance. And I just asked anyone I happened to see, the only criteria being that they were wearing dance shoes. I actually got consistently good results and was starting to have a better and better time.

Now for a twist in the story!

I went to the back of the hall to get some water, and as I was enjoying my water and thinking about who would be the next person I'd ask to dance, the guy next to me said something to me. I thought he was asking to dance, but then he was with a friend and he was trying to get the friend to dance with another girl who was standing on the other side of them, but the friend wouldn't. So this was a sort of funny and interesting situation, and I definitely had to switch to English to figure out what was going on. 

It turns out that these two guys lived in the area and just stopped in to check it out and see what the stämman was all about. They were completely unaware of all things relevant to folkdancing in the present day world. It was really entertaining for me. I think they were both sort of shocked because it was just such a new and strange world to them.

The three of us ended up standing in the back talking for a long time, while they asked questions and tried to wrap their minds around what was happening. It was SO interesting to me to see an outsider's reaction. I did eventually get each of them to dance a tiny bit with me, despite the fact that they insisted it was 'not their thing!'

All in all, the weekend was just so lovely and enjoyable. I hope there will be many more in my future!