Something Swedish


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Feeling Helpless Abroad: Losing a Loved One

am and me crop 2I know she hasn’t been healthy enough to read my last few posts, but it hurts to write my first post KNOWING she CAN’T read it and comment. My most loyal follower, my most active commenter,  my biggest supporter, my most frequent Skype buddy, my Aunt Maria (Some might recognize her comments signed as “Aunty Ree”). I won’t get too personal, except to say that we were making up for lost time when her time was cut short yesterday. Moving to Sweden brought us closer together, closer than anyone else over the past two years. And I am thankful for that.

Moving to Sweden also means not being there. For any of it. The good or the bad: bridal parties, baby showers, funerals, weddings. I can’t be there to hug a friend who needs comfort, or wildly jump up and down with a friend who just found out she’s pregnant. I can’t be there for my cousins graduation, or my uncles operation. I couldn’t be there to help anyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. I can’t help my besty find the perfect wedding dress, and I can’t meet my brothers new girlfriend (if/when there is one). I can’t say my good byes in person, and I can’t share the still silence of sorrow with my family. I won’t be there to smile, laugh, and share stories after the wake with my family to celebrate her life, as I know that’s what she would want us to do.

Despite which occasion it may be, it’s hard not being there sometimes – whether for good or bad. I’m not really one sensitive to things like homesickness, but being a bit bitter about missing out on time and experiences with people I love and care about is something that hits me now and again. This time harder than others. That’s part of moving around the world though, it’s a package deal – experiencing a new side of life while missing out on experiences in the life you kinda left behind.

It’s not always/only these big occasions and experiences, but the small every day things too – the things you don’t even know or realize you’re missing out on, or the things you would be glad you missed.

In a huge way I’m thankful I moved to Sweden; not only to start my life with someone I love in a beautiful, new, and exciting country with new opportunities,  but because moving here did, in fact, bring me CLOSER to many people – more phone calls, emails, Skype video calls – despite the distance or time difference. Keeping in touch and staying in the loop is a delicate balancing act – here and there, old and new. She was one of my “anchors”  (of which I think I have a solid ten) that made me feel like I was still back home, living in a town not too far away.

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Thank you for keeping me connected and always helping me stay positive. I’ll miss your stories, advice, and you Skyping me first thing when you wake up, while I eat lunch – sometimes for hours. I’m happy we got to spend time with you right before you went away. Thank you for the memories. I wish i hadn’t missed your call last week…I wonder how you were feeling and what you would have said. I’m sorry I can’t be there now, but I know you’ll be here whenever I need you most.


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Something Swedish in New York City: Visiting The Highline

2013-06-24 05.50.06It’s that time of the year! Visiting family, friends, and good ol’ NYC. Last year was my first “visit” back home, but not my first time being a tourist (I’ve done that every time my husband came to visit me over the years). Experiencing your own town as a tourist is like visiting a completely different place. You want to do, see, and learn more which means actually appreciating all that stuff around you that you would normally ignore. This is especially true in NYC, where there is so much going on all the time and not enough time to slow down to even notice.

Last year I had been in Sweden for only 6 months before we came back, this time the gap has been a whole year and a lot has changed in that time: Namely me. I’ve adjusted and adapted to my life in Sweden, so I’m here to tell you that reverse culture shock is a real thing. For my visit last year I ignored Something Swedish, since it wasn’t anything to do with Sweden, but since I now have readers from all around the world who might think it’s fun with a change of scenery, I’ll try to give you a taste of my trip!

Our first big outing was to the Highline, which we have been meaning to see since it was opened in 2009. The Highline is a public park built on an old elevated freight train track which preserves the old history and structure and adds a beautiful touch of greenery, artwork, and plenty of places to sit down to relax and soak up some sun. Stretching between Gansevoort street (south of West little 12th) and W29th street, it’s a great walk above the busy yellow cab filled streets below with an awesome view of Manhattan from a new angle among the rooftops, which is amazing for photos.

The old tracks:

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The view down Manhattan Streets:

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Artwork:

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Relaxing:

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The rest/random:

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There are lots of entrances/exits so this is a great way to walk through a small part of the city to get where you need to go with some refreshing scenery, no cross walks, honking cars, or street vendors. Great for easing back into the hectic city from a small laid back town in Sweden.

Bonus! Hubby has started up his own blog and his first post is featuring his select favorite photos from today’s outing. Check it out here: Ensorcella

Julbord: Christmas Table

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I’ve eaten Christmas dinner in Sweden four times now, but it wasn’t until this year that I realized how traditional it really is. A week before Christmas we had lunch at a restaurant, which happened to be serving a “Julbord.” Christmas in Sweden is all about the Julbord – think “Smörgåsbord” but with all the classic Christmas foods. The restaurant Julbord was serving the exact same Christmas foods as I’ve eaten in Sweden the last few years; it’s not just a family tradition.

Come noon on December 24th (Swede’s celebrate on the eve, or afton) our Julbord looks something like this every year:

Except this year we somehow forgot the boiled eggs – a Swedish tragedy. So, whats on this Christmas Table? Let’s see!

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Julskinka: Naturally, The Christmas Ham – only eaten after smothered in mustard.

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Dopp i gryta: “Dip in the pot” –  Using the rich flavored Christmas Ham broth, it is very traditional to dip dark bread and to eat the soaked bread along with Christmas dinner.

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Janssons Frestelse:  “Janssons Temptation”a delicious dish with very thinly cut potato ‘sticks’ is cooked in the oven with a secret ingredient that makes many non-swedes squirm…

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Anchovies. and anchovy juice.  Sounds gross, I know, but it’s awesome and full of flavor!

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Kålpudding:  Cabbage pudding. Thinly chopped cabbage, fried with syrup, baked with a thick layer of seasoned ground beef in the middle.

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Some Kålpudding and Janssons Frestelse  preparation.

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Fläskkorv: large pork sausage

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Prinskorv: “Prince sausage”  mini hotdog-like sausages

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Köttbullar: The homemade meatballs, of course.

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Brunkål: Brown Cabbage, served as a side dish. Cabbage is boiled and fried and seasoned with vinegar, salt and syrup.

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Christmas Bread

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Cheese, bread, butter, and salad.

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My Christmas feast. Bottom center is the Kålpudding and Janssons Frestelse.

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Alongside we drank Julmust, beer, and snaps.

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Julmust is a very popular cola beverage that is Christmas themed and has a distinctly different “holiday” flavor.

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After dinner and before the presents we eat Struva and glögg - a Swedish mulled spiced wine served warm with raisins and almonds.

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Later that evening we enjoyed Swedish cheesecake, icecream, jam, and cream with coffee, tea, and liquor.

If we had any young kids in the family our Christmas eve festivities would be very different, having to schedule around the must-watch 3:00pm Christmas cartoon, “Kalle Anka,” or as we know him – Donald Duck.  Every year half of Sweden faithfully sits around the television and watches “Kalle Anke och hans vänner önskar God Jul” or “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas.”

Which would probably be followed by a mysterious Santa knocking on the door and giving out presents.

Christmas eve is also filled with tons of chocolate treats and candy, both as dessert and presents.

On Christmas Day, as if we aren’t full enough, we have our next food tradition – Lutfisk served with boiled potatoes.

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Lutefisk is a white fish that is air dried to later be re-hydrated with water and lye. The fish soaks in the lye water for weeks before it is ready to be cooked. The fish has a strange consistency the first time you eat it, but it is easily forgotten because it is served with a ton of white sauce, salt, and pepper. There are very small bones in the fish,  so be careful!

One last thing – it is very popular to make gingerbread houses in Sweden, as well as to eat ginger bread cookies throughout the month.

This gallery contains 23 photos


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A Swedish Thanksgiving

Figures that the first time I host my own Thanksgiving dinner, I’m in a country that doesn’t celebrate it! My first year away from my family traditions and celebrations, I wanted to start my own – so I brought Thanksgiving to Sweden, to share it with my Swedish family.

Turkey nails for the occasion

On The Menu:

Turkey & Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, String Bean Casserole, Cauliflower Casserole, Fruit & Walnut Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes, Glazed Carrots, Pumpkin Cookies, Cannoli Cups, Mulled Apple Cider

Eight over-sized American dishes I’ve never cooked before for seven new Swedish family members who have never tasted my cooking? No Pressure! It’s not as if I only started cooking a year ago and have hardly stepped foot in a kitchen before then or something… No Problem! Thankfully my husband helped me through it all, my mother-in-law made sure the turkey was cooked and made the gravy, and my sister-in-law brought the apple pie and vanilla sauce.

Chopping nuts and veggies at 9 am, handling a knife this early is just not safe!

My Swedish Thanksgiving breakfast.

Initially I thought celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving in Sweden would be hard to do, as Turkeys aren’t really sold here, but about a month ago I was shocked to see a small part of the freezer in Hemköp filled with small-medium sized turkeys! And about a week later, it was empty. I guess there are other American expats out there! Thankfully my in-laws were able to buy one in time. The store “defrosted” it for us for three days – but it was still half frozen!

We placed the turkey in the cold laundry room with the window open overnight, while it was brining in a pot of water, salt, sugar, and spices. After it didn’t fit in the refrigerator we didn’t know were to put it! I’ll never forget my husband running around with a huge turkey pot, “New Plan! New Plan!”

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is the canned cranberry sauce. I asked my cousin to mail a can, but neither of us thought that it was worth the $13 shipping. I spotted fresh cranberries two weeks ago, thought it was normal, and didn’t rush to buy any. When they were gone, my husband said he has never seen them being sold fresh before. Luckily we found frozen cranberries and I made my own. It was easier than I thought: cranberries, water, orange juice, white & brown sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, salt & pepper. Tasty tasty.

I was tempted to buy an extra pumpkin after Halloween, because canned pumpkin isn’t sold here in Sweden and I thought I would have to make my own if we were to have a traditional pumpkin dessert. Then, I heard rumors of it being stocked in the international section of MAXI. I made Pumpkin cookies instead of pumpkin pie; they were gobbled up quickly, being compared to different sorts of Christmas cookies. I also made a batch of cannoli cups, which were a hit.

My cousin sent me a care package with some Thanksgiving essentials like a turkey baster and French’s fried onions – without which, a classic dish would have been missing (Yes, I added bacon):

She also sent festive turkey napkins and paper plates. The decorations pulled it all together.

As soon as we arrived I realized I forgot the marshmallows at home. THE MARSHMALLOWS! A Thanksgiving tragedy, I thought – our poor sweet potatoes!  Seeing as I already cut out half of the sugar and mixed in white potatoes to make this dish more “Swedish” the lack of marshmallows was probably a good thing.

When we started talking  about celebrating Thanksgiving one of the first questions was, “Are we going to stuff the turkey??” Having seen Thanksgiving celebrated on T.V and movies, I guess this part of the meal was a staple for my Swedish family’s knowledge of the holiday. At first I said “Sure!” which lead to a bit of disappointment when I decided not to do it, as it can be potentially dangerous, too salty, and too much work for a first timer.

I was probably just as nervous about the fruit & walnuts stuffing as I was about the turkey. It came out very good, and now I know what to do to make it better next year! (Smaller, torn pieces of bread)

Next year I need to make more cauliflower casserole and green bean casserole:

Of course we had  to Swedify Thanksgiving a bit and have some boiled potatoes and meatballs -

Once all the side dishes were done, and the kitchen was clean (Thanks to my incredibly helpful & supportive husband, who also did all the peeling and mashing) we had time to sit back for an hour before we started prepping the bird.

Being in Sweden means having no roasting rack or pan, but we made do with what we had!

Hubby had the honor of  washing, handling, and carving the bird, while I prepped the flavoring.

While it was cooking everyone was in the kitchen saying “luktar så gott!” – “Smells so good!”

I tried the method of cooking it upside-down for half of the time, which seemed to make the breast less dry and more tasty. The gravy from the juices was delicious!

Tasted, smelled, and felt like home.

Thanksgiving in Sweden was officially a success! Everyone took seconds, and had a favorite dish. The next day we all enjoyed a full plate of left overs. I took home enough sweet potatoes and stuffing to last a few days. Looking forward to next year with notes of improvement from this very first Thanksgiving! Happy Gobble Gobble Day!

Vocabulary

Turkey: Kalkon

Give thanks: Ge tack

Family: Familj

Tradition: Tradition


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My First Birthday in Sweden – Hurrah Hurrah Hurrah Hurrah

Celebrating my first birthday in Sweden couldn’t have been better. I got birthday wishes, presents, hugs, and cake from new family and friends. Phone calls, Skype calls, messages, and photos from friends and family back home.

Gift from hubby!

I was a bit nervous about my first birthday in a new country: What will it be like? What are the cultural differences?
Last weekend we celebrated my birthday with my family-in-law. They bought a banana cake, gave me presents, and sung happy birthday to me:
 

The Swedish Birthday Song:

Ja, må hon leva, Ja, må hon leva, Ja, må hon leva uti hundrade år.

Ja, visst ska hon leva, Ja, visst ska hon leva, Ja, visst ska hon leva uti hundrade år.

(x2)

“Ett fyraldigt leve… leve hon. HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH.”

English Translation

Yes, may she live, Yes, may she live, Yes, may she live for a hundred years.

Oh sure, she will live, Oh sure, she will live, Oh sure, she will live for a hundred years.

“A four fold cheer … cheer for her. HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH.”

Listen to it here:

My in-laws taught me how to knit for my birthday! They own a knitting and yarn store, Lerdalaboden, so learning from them was easy- even if it was in Swedish! I’m working on a hat and scarf right now. My husband cooked some delicious chicken Alfredo and bought another cake today!

Some Common Swedish Birthday Customs

  • Breakfast in bed- unfortunately this is usually only for children. The family comes into the room with breakfast (sometimes with cake) and sings for the birthday boy/girl.
  • Some Swedes enjoy Smörgåstårta (Sandwich cake) on their birthdays. Read more about that in a previous post. Hubby bought me a shrimp sandwich this morning instead.
  •  A popular birthday cake is Prinsesstårta (Princess Cake)- a sponge cake with lots of cream inside and a shell of marzipan. Read more about that in a previous post.
  • Swedish flags are often used to decorate the birthday cake.
  • Bring your own birthday cake to work to celebrate yourself with your workmates.
  • Surprise parties are not common in Sweden, instead you plan your own festivities if you want.

Vocabulary

Grattis på födelsedagen: Happy Birthday!

Grattis: Congratulations

Tårta: Cake


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Crayfish Party!: “Kräftskiva”

I celebrated my first Kräftskiva this weekend! With special decorations, special food, dedicated drinking songs, and plenty of snaps –  to call it a crayfish “party” isn’t enough. All throughout the month of August Swedes are throwing or attending Kräftskivas. While its not an official holiday, it is a festive tradition with history.

The king of Sweden started eating crayfish in the early 1500’s, then in the mid-late 1500’s crayfish were brought to Swedish waters. It wasn’t until the 1700’s that normal country men began to eat them. In the early 1900’s a bacteria started to wipe out the crayfish in Europe. It became illegal to fish for crayfish in Sweden throughout the year, except for a short period in August – thus Kräftskiva, a celebration of being able to eat crayfish once a year. Even now that the prohibition was lifted in 1994, and crayfish are readily available all year long, Swedes wait until the “Kräftpremiär” date to celebrate and eat.

The Man on the Moon plays a big part in Kräftskiva, presumably because fishing for crayfish takes place at night, guided by the moonlight. Continue reading


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Swedish Wedding: “Svenskt Bröllop”

Last week I went to my first Swedish wedding!

Attending weddings from different places is a huge insight into the cultures, traditions, and beliefs of the country and people. Having already researched Swedish weddings for my own wedding here in Sweden last year, I knew what to expect but was excited to see if we did it “right.”

1. The Church vs Civil Marriage: (Kyrkbröllop vs. Borgerligt) Despite being a secular country, where most Swedes don’t attend church on a regular basis, many Swedes choose to have a church wedding. Many Swedes have their weddings in church because of strong long standing traditions and/or to have a higher power present at such an important moment. Civil marriages are also very popular and common because many weddings in Sweden are more casual and small. Civil marriages are often done outside of city hall, on a beach, in a field, in the garden, at the family’s summer cottage.

Our friends had their wedding in a picturesque  church with red and white wooden exterior. It was beautiful and quaint, with a view of the ocean. Their ceremony was surrounded by old paintings, stained glass, and candles. Our civil wedding was outside surrounded by nature, in the  grass and sun, under a tent with birch trees. To me both locations/styles seemed perfectly Swedish.

2. Vows & Ceremony: It is not common to write and say your own vows in Sweden, especially when you get married in a church. Although, that tradition has been catching on and is becoming more popular recently. The “I do” I’m so familiar with is replaced with “Ja,” the Swedish word for “Yes.” The legal rights are the same between church and civil marriages, but the ceremony is not. The “long” version of the civil ceremony is two minutes. Our officiant was nice enough to extend and alter the short civil ceremony to include both English and Swedish, our own vows, a poem, and a sand ceremony.

3. Seating: The most common way to arrange the table at a wedding in Sweden is in the shape of a “U.” All the tables are connected and everyone is together. There is a “head table” but it is not separate than the others, just in the center. I think this is a great way to seat all the guests, easier to mingle and meet new people. We sat families and friends together, basically creating an English side and a Swedish side. At our friends wedding they decided to make it fun and mix it up by seating new people next to each other (even couples are slightly separated) with information about each guest in the program, this is apparently a very common thing to do at Swedish weddings.

4. Wedding Favors: It is not common to give out wedding favors in Sweden, unlike  in the U.S.. Wanting to bring the two cultures together at our wedding, I decided to give wedding favors anyway since it is a pretty big part of American tradition. I was not surprised to see no wedding favors at the wedding we attended.

5. Presents: A different tradition that I was looking forward to seeing is the opening of the wedding presents at the wedding in front of the guests. We did not do this at our Swedish wedding because we thought it might make American guests uncomfortable.

6. Toastmaster: In Sweden each wedding has a person especially appointed to handling the organization of toasts, games, and events. Anybody and everybody gives toasts at a Swedish weddings so it is a big deal and commonly takes up a large part of the reception (Making the meal last a long time!), the toastmaster makes sure this goes smoothly by being notified of all speeches beforehand and timely introducing each toaster throughout the party. The toastmaster is commonly the best man or maid of honor, but not always.

7. Games & Songs: Unlike an American wedding, most Swedish weddings have a variety of entertainment planned by the toastmaster – usually at the expense of the bride and groom. The games are often “tricks” or quizzes that the newlywed couple need to play. This is something we did not include, so I was thrilled to see it at our friends wedding. The first game was for the blindfolded bride to pick her husband by feeling the legs of the groom and three other men. The second game was for the groom to pick the bride by being kissed (on the lips) by her and three other women. Except that the when the blindfold went on, the women were switched with men!

8. Bridal Party: In Sweden it is uncommon to have the large entourage of people involved in the wedding like in America. Instead of five or six bridesmaids/groomsmen it is usually only one or two.


Some More Traditions:

  • Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” holds true for both American and Swedish weddings.
  • In this gender-equal society the father of the bride never “gives the bride away” at the ceremony, instead the couple walk into the wedding together- hand in hand, as equals.
  • When the groom leaves the room at the reception it is common for people to jump up and kiss the bride (on the cheek) while he is away. Same goes for when she leaves.
  • Some Swedish brides wear a bridal crown of flowers, ribbons, and/or myrtle leaves.
  • Swedish brides traditionally have a silver coin in the left shoe from her father and a gold coin in the right shoe from her mother. This is so she will ‘never go without.’
  • It is said that whoever steps inside the church first or says “Ja” (I do) the loudest will ‘wear the pants’ in the marriage.
  • Throwing the bouquet and garter belt is not a tradition in Sweden.
  • The cake cutting does not typically involve smashing cake in each others faces.

Swedish Wedding Trivia:

  • Try not to wear a red dress to the wedding – some might think that you slept with the groom.
  • The bouquet used to be made of the foulest smelling weeds to ward off trolls, thankfully this is no longer tradition.
  • The verb for “Married” in Swedish is “Gift” [yift]. If read as a noun “Gift” means “Poison.”
  • Civil weddings were introduced to Sweden in 1908
  • Sweden was the 7th country to allow same sex marriages. In May 2009 civil marriages were allowed, in April 2009 all marriages are gender-neutral, and in November 2009 same sex marriages are allowed in churches.
  • The bride usually wears three bands, one for engagement, one for marriage, and a third for motherhood.
  • Midsummer is an extremely popular time to get married in Sweden, but according to a poll in 2010 August has the most registered weddings in Sweden.
  • The Bride is called “Brud” and the groom is “Brudgum” (Bridegroom) and the two together are “Brudparat” (Bride pair).

GRATTIS PÅ BRÖLLOPET!

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