Something Swedish


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Pears, pears, everywhere

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pear flavored pastries

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pear flavored ice cream

One of the things I noticed when I moved here was how much Swedes love anything pear (päron) flavored. It’s everywhere, and for me it was strange. I’m not sure if this is just because I hated pears growing up, but I’ve never noticed “pear flavored” anything in New York.

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pear flavored syrup

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pear flavored cheese

Since moving to Sweden I’ve had pear flavored candy, pastries, cheese, ice cream, soda, juice and cider.

To me pear flavor is “lagom” because it’s fruity without being overly sweet like apple. I’ll never go back to drinking apple-anything and I even eat pears now.

Thanks Sweden!

Has anyone else noticed this?

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pear flavored juice

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pear flavored cream

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pear flavored candies (The green ones aren’t just apple or lime!)

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pear flavored soda

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pear flavored cider


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Veggie Progress

The first month of my 12-part “Resolution Evolution” (read about it HERE)  is over half way done, so I thought an update was in order. So far it has been a successful and interesting eye opening experience. It’s difficult for a non-vegetarian to not eat meat for a month (even if I do still have fish once a week), but I’m pleased with the results.

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Success: I haven’t caved and eaten any meat (who knew that veggie schnitzels and filets are so tasty?), I have been taking my vitamins every day, I pay more attention to what I eat, I’ve tried new recipes and discovered foods that we didn’t know we enjoyed.

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 Interesting: A side effect I didn’t expect is that I’ve been cooking almost everyday and my love of cooking has been rekindled. It’s a lot harder to make a meal without meat and takes a lot more thought to “mix it up.” Because of this and since most of our meals revolve around vegetables, I’m getting better at planning meals ahead and wasting less food.

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Eye-opening: Mostly though, I’ve “walked a mile in their shoes” – vegetarians that is, and it’s uncomfortable. On the social level I found it shocking and aggravating how many people are almost offended by ME not eating meat for a month. There was a lot of “But why would you do that? Meat is awesome” or “You’re not becoming one of them, are you?” or “I don’t understand vegetarians, it’s so stupid.” My reasoning was constantly dismissed and I was given strange looks for wanting to try something new. I can only imagine what real vegetarians have to go through to defend their choice. I hope people aren’t so blunt to people who have a reason/principle/belief behind not eating meat.

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On a logistical level, being a vegetarian is difficult because your options are so limited when eating out and you always feel like an inconvenience. Unless you are going to restrict yourself to eating french fries and mozzarella sticks, it’s hard to find decent vegetarian food at most places. Even if you know you’ll find something wherever you go, it becomes a huge awkward discussion with all the attention centered on your eating habits. I’m on a mission to find good vegetarian options in town and make a list of the best fast food veggie burgers for the next post, along with my top 5 favorite vegetarian recipes of the month (Spoiler: vegetarian chilli is in the lead).

Does anyone have any vegetarian recipes for me to try?


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Studying Swedish in Sweden – Comparing EVERYTHING about SFI, SAS Grund and SAS Gymnasiet

SFI vs. SAS Grund vs.  SAS Gymnasiet

This comparison chart is based off of my personal experiences studying in Halmstad 2012 – 2014 and researching information online. Things might vary by town or teacher but most things are regulated by skolverket. If anything has been updated or changed, or if you have anything to add or ask, let me know!

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Today is two years since starting Something Swedish, and in two months it will mark two years since I started going to school to learn Swedish.  Since then, I’ve tried to keep my progress in school up to date, without overloading the blog. Catch up here:

Applied to SFI Feb 7, 2012
Started SFI  March 27, 2012
First SFI National test  Sept 20, 2012
(Finished SFI Dec 15, 2012)
Started ground level SAS/Comparing SFI and SAS  Jan 16, 2013
Finished SAS (18 weeks early) June 27, 2013

Being back in High School:

I somehow failed to mention that I started taking high school (gymnasiet)  level Swedish in August. So, here’s an update and an in depth comparison post that I hope helps people just starting out!

Three weeks ago the first level (1/3) of SAS gymnasiet ended. I had mixed emotions about the class, and put in a mixed amount of effort. This was partly because of being tired of studying, being bored with the difficulty level, being busy working, and focusing on a more difficult class (civics/political science) I was taking at the same time. I got an overall grade of B in the class, as well as on the national exam (oral presentation = A, reading comprehension =A, essay = C)

I was excited to start SAS1 because I read that it would be challenging and center around literature, which I love. Finally I would be learning Swedish on a level where other Swedes study! I was a bit disappointed to find out that this first class is a mix between a repetition of SAS Grund and preparation for SAS2. I understand it’s purpose, but I was bored – and unlike all of the other classes I’ve taken, you don’t have the option to go through the material quicker: 20 weeks means 20 weeks. If I had known that, I would have taken a test to be places in SAS2. Thankfully I had a teacher I like and find easy to learn from and understand (and have had before) and was in a class with some people I knew from SAS. Even if it was a bit slower than I would have liked, it fit my schedule perfectly and still challenged me from time to time.

I’ll be updating the chart and writing more in depth about the national exam once I complete the whole course and have more insight – which feels like forever away.


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2014 Resolution Evolution – My New Years Monthly Challenge

Happy-New-Year

Gott Nytt År! We decided to end 2013 by celebrating with a candlelit homemade meal, wine, a movie, chocolate cake, champagne, and then watching fireworks over the river.

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How will we start 2014? With a New Years Resolution, of course.

Last year a few of us decided to have a one word New Years resolution – mine was “success.” Did I fulfill my goal? In many ways, I suppose I did. Did I think about it and strive after it the whole year? Unfortunately not.

This year there will be no typical throw away resolution easily forgotten after a few weeks. This is a year-long project designed to take it one month at a time: 28-31 days dedicated to something different.

Goal: For me to find new ways to enjoy and improve my life through these monthly challenges and to hopefully incorporate some of them into my life.

Why: I want to experience new things, find new hobbies, change my habits, broaden my horizons, try new foods, do  things I’ve been meaning to, reach more goals, make a difference and see a difference in myself.

2014 New Years Resolution:

Improve/change/develop in 12 different ways

JANUARY: Be a vegetarian

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How: Avoid eating meat, eat protein substitutes and take vitamins.

Why: Even though I love meat, and have nothing ethical against eating it – I am curious about how it is to be a vegetarian.

Goal: Eat healthier, be more aware of what I eat, eat less, eat different types of food, form the habit of taking daily vitamins.

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FEBRUARY: Be fit

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How: Exercise everyday – Push myself to start running again, go to the gym, learn yoga, work out at home.

Why: I need better self discipline.

Goal: Get back in shape and back in the habit of working out with a touch of meditation.

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MARCH: Be a dancer

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How: Take dancing lessons. “Bugg” to be precise – a Swedish style of dancing similar to swing.

Why: I’ve always wanted to take dancing lessons, it seems like a fun way to gain confidence and coordination, and continue working out.

Goal: To finally learn how to dance.

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APRIL: Be musical

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How: Pick an instrument, take lessons, practice and learn!

Why: I played saxophone in band when I was 15 and have wanted to continue playing ever since.

Goal: Reconnect with an old passion, pick up a new hobby/skill

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MAY: Be more fluent

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How: Speak only Swedish for a month. No English TV shows/movies/music, conversations, texting, writing or reading.

Why: Because it’s the best way to learn and I use too much English at home.

Goal: Become completely immersed, improve my Swedish skills and lengthen my minds stamina.

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JUNE: Be more Swedish

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How: Become more Swedish through meeting certain stereotypes and realities of being a Swede. Taking suggestions and listing the ways I have (imo) already transformed.

Why: 2014 is the year I become a Swede with dual citizenship and a Swedish passport – I want to fit the part (at least for this month, to try it out!)

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JULY: Be more giving

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How: Volunteer, give donations/raise money, participate in fundraisers

Why: I think it’s important

Goal: To help as much as possible

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AUGUST: Be a traveler

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How: Visit as much of Sweden as possible via day/weekend trips.

Why: I’ve never been much of a traveler and think that being a “get up and go” type would be fun.

Goal: To see more of Sweden, to get a better understanding of Swedish geography.

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SEPTEMBER: Be more IRL

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How: Disconnect to reconnect. No social media, minimize time on computer, gaming and TV, don’t constantly check phone, don’t take pictures of everything.

Why: I hate how much time I spend in front of the PC -doing nothing- and how people, including myself, can’t go 5 minutes without looking at their phone.

Goal: More face to face time with friends, more concentration, be more productive, find other ways of spending time.

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OCTOBER: Be more literary

reader1How: Read every single day.

Why: I have always loved to read but haven’t prioritized it lately.

Goal: To read as much as possible and to remember how fun it is to slow down and read as a pass time and get lost in a book.

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NOVEMBER:  Become an author

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How:  Participate in Nanowrimo – National Novel writing month (Write everyday – goal 50,000 words)

Why: I love writing and have book ideas that are rattling around in my head that I need to focus on getting down on paper.

Goal: Dedicate all the time, focus and creativity needed to finally write a book I’ve always wanted to.

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DECEMBER:  To Be Announced

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How: This month is dedicated to my readers who I hope will give suggestions and make this month as memorable and worthwhile as the others. There will be a page dedicated to suggestions, ideas, and voting.
Why: tba
Goal: tba

Happy New Year!!! And good luck on any New Years Resolutions you have!


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Facebook fun 2014

My real New Years resolution/project/challenge will be posted tomorrow (So excited!!), but for now I wanted to introduce something a little more “Something Swedish” related.

In 2014 I want to make better use of the Something Swedish Facebook page! I’ve come up with a fun way to keep the Swedish stuff coming your way!

Facebook Fun:

tisdagstipset (The Tuesday tip): Recommendations (Swedish books, movies, songs) – or advise!

onsdagsordet (The Wednesday word): Words/phrases I find interesting, fun, or helpful

lördagslänken (The Saturday link): Links to anything Swedish – Youtube clips, useful websites, news articles, funny memes

It’s unlikely that all three will be posted in the same week – but it will be fun to have some themed days!

So, don’t forget to join the other 218 followers by liking the page and stay tuned!    —>>>  Something Swedish Facebook Page

julbock


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Julbock: The Swedish Christmas Goat

If you’ve ever spent the holidays in Sweden then you’d recognize this common Christmas decoration – the julbock. Usually made out of straw and sitting on a table, but sometimes as a candle holder, an ornament in the tree, depicted on Christmas cards or table clothes — goats are largely associated with Christmas here in Sweden.

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There is even a famously gigantic Julbock made of straw that has been built in a town called Gavle every year since 1966, which measures 13 meters tall (43 feet) and is  burnt down year after year. Although this is not the intention of the Julbock nor is it legal, it is an expected fate.

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There is a long history behind the Julbock which goes much deeper than the decorations we see today.

The origin of the Julbock dates back to before Christianity in Scandinavia, from the worship of the Norse God Thor and his two goats, Tanngnjost och Tanngrisner, that pulled his flying chariot.

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Later, the Julbock was depicted as a humanoid goat figure with horns and hooves, said to represent the devil, ensuring that people deserved their presents. This version of the julbock was altered into a scary prankster who caused trouble and demanded gifts.

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Julbocks being made of straw is nothing new, as it was always associated with the last harvest of the grain. It was once believed that the Julbock was only a spirit, and anything made of straw could be the Julbock. This spirit would check that the house was clean and the preparations were done correctly for the celebrations.

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For a long while the Julbock was the one who would deliver and hand out the Christmas presents – an original Scandinavian Santa. This is the most widely accepted and known version of the Julbock.

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Just as someone in Swedish families dress up as Santa to give out the gifts to the children nowadays, the same was done back then. Dressing up as the Julbock for Christmas also included singing, acting, and pranks while wearing something like this:

mask

During the 1800′s, people would throw the straw made Julbock back and forth, yelling “Take the Christmas goat!” The straw goat was also passed between neighbors, hiding it in each others houses without it being noticed, in an effort to get the Julbock out of their own house.

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Hoping all of my readers had a wonderful Christmas and that I taught you a bit of Swedish Christmas trivia. If you’re interested in reading more about Swedish Christmas traditions – follow these links:

Julbord: Christmas table (Christmas food)
The first advent
Swedish Santa: Tomte


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Celebrating St. Lucia with the kiddies

While everyone in the states is “celebrating” (or at least posting on facebook about) Friday the 13th, the atmosphere here in Sweden is very different. December the 13th (no matter what day it falls on) is St. Lucia – a day of candlelight and song when the winter nights are so dark and long.

Last year was my first St. Lucia and I celebrated by going to the church to see the traditional luciatåg – which was breathtakingly beautiful and magical. If you missed the post about it, see the photos and read all about the history and how it is celebrated here.

This year was a little different, this year it was a kiddie Lucia for me. Instead of going to the church after sunset, we gathered at “folkets hus” (The peoples house) before sunrise.

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photo from: http://fruerlandsson.blogspot.se/2010/04/sondrums-fokets-hus.html As I never got to see it during day time.

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The bulletin board invite

At 7:30am the kiddies started showing up dressed with their Lucia outfits on, ready to sing – at least most of them, naturally there were some tears and screaming when it was time to go on stage. If the traditional church Lucia I went to last year was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen, this was the cutest. The outfits that kids wear for St.Lucia are adorable! Of course, the girls all dress up as Lucia with a crown of (electronic) candles on their heads and a red belt, while the boys all want to be tomte (santa), leaving my two favorites ignored: stjärngossar (Star boys – which look like little magicians with star wands and pointy wizard hats) and Peperkaksgubbar/pepperkaksgummar (gingerbread boys and girls).

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Gingerbread outfit – so cute you can eat it up!

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stjärngossar hat and star

And then of course there are tärnor, Lucia’s “handmaidens,” dressed in long white robes to match Lucia but without the crown of candles, but strings of silver garland around the head and waist. This is the best way to “dress up” for Lucia without really dressing up. All of us teachers sported our garland crowns as we walked with the kids and helped them muster up the courage to sing  on stage for so many parents.

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Celebrating St. Lucia

The kids did great! They were able to sing all the songs and had a great time. (and now I’ve learned some more Swedish songs myself!) I wasn’t able to get any good photos, but did record a little bit for your listening pleasure (Yes, it was very dark and yes, I cut away any parts where I was singing along.): 

After the songs everyone sat down and had fika that all the families brought from home. It was still dark out, so the room was still dim – illuminated with candles on the long tables. At the “teacher table” we enjoyed lussekatter (holiday saffron buns), ginger bread cookies, and clementines. Similar to a “lussefika” we had last Sunday to socialize outside of work and celebrate the holidays with a special secret santa game:

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Photo from afterwork fika, not Lucia.

After fika one of the parents made a speech to thank the school and teachers and then, with the help of the kids, handed out beautiful flowers and cookie tins with cards for each of us.

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And to think I was hesitant about having to wake up at 6am. So worth it to see this other, adorable, side of Lucia.

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