Something Swedish


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New York City

Being back in Sweden reflecting over our vacation to New York City, I realize how odd it feels to call two places “home.” To call your parents house “home” because you grew up there is hard to compare to relating to two entirely different countries both as “home.”  To feel like you belong – to be comfortable, connected, and relaxed – to fit in –  to be able to make friends – to know people, the area, and things to do –  to be able to be yourself. To be coming and going all in the same visit.

Home is where the heart is, and you leave a piece of your heart in every place you’ve been and with every person you’ve met along the way.

This was my first time actually visiting New York City, spending time with friends and family, seeing the sites, making memories, shopping, eating American food, trying to do as much as possible in three weeks.

Reuniting with so many people was much needed, even if we sadly didn’t get to see everyone. BBQ’s, road trips, picnics, dinners, shopping, laughing, talking, or just sitting around doing nothing. Catching up and telling stories. Celebrating birthdays. Jumping in the ocean. Riding on a Ferris wheel. Going to the mall. Aimlessly walking around Manhattan. Watching fireworks. Going to museums. Just spending time doing anything with people we love and miss.

I tackled my Things I Want to Do Eat List. Continue reading


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Cooking Eggplant: “Aubergine”

My dad always says you can judge a pizzeria by the quality of its eggplant, weather its on a pizza, on a hero, or eggplant parmesan. So, when I had the craving to make eggplant for dinner last week I felt a bit of pressure for quality and knew it is a dish that can turn out less than good. I didn’t let that stop me as eggplant is one of my favorite foods and I’ve wanted it ever since spotting some in the city square market.

I learned that the first key to good eggplant is draining out the bitterness. Once you cut them (And peel, if you choose)  you sprinkle salt on each piece to make it sweat out a dark juice. This meant having two colanders sitting around and waiting for 30-60 minutes for each one, then rotating in the next batch.

Something to do in advance, before you are actually prepping or else it will feel incredibly stressful and tedious to wait for since you can’t do much else until after it is done. Make sure to pat them completely dry with paper towels when you are finished. You can set up the bowls for breadcrumbs with flour &  seasoning and one for the beaten egg. Don’t forget to set up an area with paper towels to place the eggplant on to absorb the access oil.

The second key is the thickness of the slices. They should be 1/4 – 1/2 inch (between .6 and 1 cm) and all uniform thickness to cook evenly. I think I cut mine a little bit too thick, on the 1/2 side.  As you can see in the photo above I must have gotten tired because I had a monstrously thick slice in the mix. Don’t do that :)

I think next time I will cut the slices length wise instead, should make it easier and quicker- both to fry and to place in the dish.

When I finished frying up each slice of eggplant (2-3 minutes on each side in oil) I realized that while this is one of my favorites my husband might not like it, ya know…since there is no meat! When he came home and saw the cooking process (aka, The Big Mess) he asked what I was making and “Is that all?” I could tell he was hesitant.

Over all it is a pretty time consuming dish to make and I have to admit I was frustrated and found it tedious by the end. Now that I know what to expect though it won’t be so bad.

Thankfully it was a success and he admitted that he was sad to have a vegetarian meal but that he liked it a lot and it was better than he expected. Overall the dish came out yummy enough to put up with the peeling/draining/frying process, (and the mess) the rest is easy – just make sure you have enough sauce!

Is eggplant a common food in Sweden? I was a little surprised to see it at the city market but I don’t recall ever seeing it where I buy groceries. Does anyone else have any eggplant recipes to share? Suggestions? Eggplant parm had to find its way into my recipe book- I’m looking on improving it before then though!


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This Weekend: “Den gångna helgen”

Spending three days in a row with new friends really makes you realize that you are adjusting to your new life a lot easier and smoother. I know a lot of people would love the opportunity to help meld into a new culture and language without feeling so alienated and alone. On Thursday I was invited for some shopping and fika. We planned a small surprise birthday party for one of the girls, went searching for a present and talked about the plan over cups of coffees and tea. I asked if there would be decorations or something of the sort, not realizing it would only be the four of us. I felt included, like a part of the group. The next day we showed up at her door and surprised her with presents, wine, and cake. Knowing that they are all making a small sacrifice to their comfort level by needing to speak in their second language  to accommodate when I am with them really makes me feel special to be involved. It also gives me an extra motivation to learn Swedish even faster. I love spending time and going out with the hubby but it’s also a great feeling to know I can comfortably socialize on my own so soon after moving to a new country.

It was a fun night out filled with chatting, drinking, & laughing. Hubby and I were invited along to go to Ikea the next day with the birthday girl and her fiance. (For those who aren’t aware, Ikea is actually Swedish, and if you are in the states its a decent place to get Swedish meatballs and lingonberry) The trip is an hour each way and we spent quite a few hours exploring the store (I’m a huge sucker for house items). It was pointed out to me that I didn’t take any photos of Ikea, and I explained that I was trying to behave and refrain from being an obnoxious blogger in front of new people.  And so the photo here was taken in June of 2011, the first time “discovering” a Swedish Ikea, although we only ate lunch there and did not shop, unlike yesterday:

Along with two large bags of random things mostly for the kitchen, we bought a kitchen side table/counter/shelving unit named “Bekväm” which translates into “comfortable.” Reminds me of how confused people back home are when they pick out furniture from Ikea, not understanding what they are ordering, how to pronounce it, or why each item is named something so strange. When we were (finally) done in Ikea the four of us went to the food court in the mall near by and desperately searched for food. We found a food court and one of the choices caught my husbands eye:

Hubby has been on the hunt for a good tasting juicy burger in Sweden ever since he started coming to New York, so he will never pass up on a new place to try a new burger, especially if it claims to be American. He went for a double bacon cheese burger and I explored their version of pulled pork. The wait time for our food was the same as being in a real restaurant, so we thought the food would be of good quality. It was nothing special, edible and maybe “good” but not American by any standards. He said it was the same dry burger with the same seasonings as all other Swedish burgers. While eating I was asked something with a hint of hesitation, “Have you ever had…a…creme ball?” Realizing that the hesitation came from translating the name, I asked hubby and he confirmed that I have not. We all wandered to the store and  “oooh’ed” and “aaahh’ed” at the selection. Turns out it is the first store dedicated to “Gräddbulle” in the world, hence the confusion over never seeing one before.

Depending on where  in Sweden you are, these are otherise known as

Photo from Wiki

skumboll” (foamball). In Skåne, which is Southern Sweden, they are called Gräddbulle, which directly translates to creme bun but they are actually creme balls. Inside each chocolatey treat is a rich creamy and foamy whipped gelatin atop a biscuit base. This store, “Gräddbullerian” specializes in different flavors, such as banana, mint, popular Swedish candies, or white chocolate, where as the original is just cream covered with dark chocolate occasionally with coconut. According to Wiki they are from Denmark, first made in 1807. Very yummy, but maybe a bit too rich for me, perhaps it’s because I had just eaten though.

Another new Swedish treat I had for the first time this weekend was “Bilar.” These are a very popular classic Swedish candy in the shape of cars. These have been around since 1953 they are known as “the world’s most sold car,” which is certainly true if you are loose with your definition of “car.” This reminds me of a fact I was recently told about White Castle being the first fast food company to sell a billion hamburgers, which makes sense considering how tiny and almost bite sized each burger is. We have been munching on our bilar candy all day, they are basically car shaped marshmallows in white, green, and pink. Quite addictive, I can see why Swedes love them.

I watched the Melodifestivalen last night (Which was terrible for the most part, I am glad I watched it for the first time last week instead of this week) and decided to tweet about it as I watched, while reading all the other tweets being posted at the same time. Amazing how many people were posting about the show, most were in Swedish but a few were in English and I reached out to them, which was pretty neat. It’s the first time I used Twitter as a conversation, it felt a bit obnoxious but was pretty neat to feel in the loop with others doing the same thing.

And so after three days of socializing, and shopping we stayed home today, a lazy Sunday of playing video games and watching a movie. Hubby assembled our new piece of furniture which transformed our kitchen, giving us a lot of extra counter space and more shelving room, living up to it’s name and making us more Bekväm:


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Cooking in Sweden: “Matlagning i Sverige”

Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew (as my hubby reminded me of yesterday as he rescued me from my own cooking). I’ve been finding a few difficulties as I start to cook more, and maybe its a mix of being in Sweden and “Meg…you don’t know how to cook.”  For now though lets ignore that small personal detail (Which I am getting better at – I have yet to kill anyone or have any major complaints) and talk about why Sweden is making my cooking even harder than it already is.

I thought it would be a great idea to make chicken potpie, something different and it seems easy enough… if you have the ingredients. Chicken: Check. Peas, corn, carrots, string beans, mushrooms: Check. Chicken broth or soup or condensed soup...Eh? No check. Okay…Pie crust, Don’t see those...lets make it simple and throw some biscuit mix like Bisquick or Jiffy on top to make a pie topping. Huh? Where IS this stuff? Okay, I’ll substitute. Condensed mushroom soup instead of chicken broth and croissant sheets for the pie top. Thankfully hubby stepped in once he knew what I was planning on cooking and helped out, because my substitutes weren’t cutting it and I was in over my head. So together we made an awesome meal, I love cooking together.

Tangent - Its great to have a Swedish husband- they know how to cook. No, seriously. Everyone in Sweden is required to take Home Economic classes, both boys and girls. Which means that men actually have a basis for cooking, cleaning, and sewing (for example). Now, I speak only from my own experience and knowledge but I haven’t heard of a high school having home ec except in T.V. shows (or at least NYC, or at least the schools I’m familiar with?) [also based on not knowing many/any guys who cook] I remember being told that it’s no longer taught in high schools, and I’m pretty sure those classes were 90% female students. – End Tangent

Getting back to Sweden messing with my cooking. It’s so hard to find what I am looking for. I understand translating the ingredients, that’s expected. But some of the things that I am so used to are no where to be found. Most of which are very insignificant, but sometimes I do find myself walking in circles desperately searching for something that either doesn’t exist or is packaged and categorized so differently there’s not way for me to find it. (The second obstacle being easily remedied over time).  I have found myself looking up recipes to ingredients of the main recipe that I would normally find in a can or a box, like corn bread or creamed corn. I know, I know – that’s not Sweden’s fault. Its a personal preference type of issue that I’ll adjust to.  HOWEVER it is partially the U.S.’s fault. There I said it! I am so used to everything being instant! Nothing is from scratch anymore, which is a great convenience but the knowledge and know how is also fading fast throughout generations. 

What do you mean I should make the pie topping out of flour and butter? (“You can do that?” “Yes…” “Well I never had to..”) But I have these handy dandy croissant sheets!  Yes, a lot of this just showcases my cooking ignorance, but the point remains that there are more quick/instant substitutes in the States. I know a lot of my friends in NY would have the same issues.

Going to the store to buy oatmeal (Havregryn), and not understanding what to look for. “This isn’t oatmeal! This is just a bag of grains.” “What do you think oatmeal is?” “Well, ours is instant.” “So is this.”  Yes, of course I know that this exists, I have some in my pantry N.Y. (That I used for a Swedish desert recipe one time…), but it’s not what I think of when I go shopping for oatmeal. I’m used to individual serving sized packages perfectly flavored for you. Easy Peasy! Now I’ve learned to add my own sugar and fruit and/or jam and a lot more milk than I’m used to.

I am not writing this as a complaint about missing rice-a-roni or mac-n-cheese (of course there very well might be all these things and more in Sweden, I am only referring to the local grocery store in a smallish town). I hate reading forum discussions of people badmouthing their new country because of its differences and things they “lack”. I just thought it was a cultural difference worth sharing.

On a food related note, last week I made sauce (from scratch, which came out good, but not great) for the first time and while shopping for the ingredients I picked up a fresh basil plant.  It was so tempting, I thought how nice it would be to have growing on our window sill. A small plant to brighten up our apartment, something to cook with and smells delicious. What a bad idea! Little did I know only a few hours later it would be seriously dying because it couldn’t survive leaving the store and being in the cold for the 5 minute walk. And so I used what I needed for the sauce, tried my best to keep it alive longer by watering it and keeping it away from the cold windowsill during the night and in the sunlight the next day. It was no use… BUT I did find that you can grow basil  from clippings being submerged in water. So, a week later and my baby basil is still alive and kicking! Looking 110% healthier and maybe even growing? But it still hasn’t formed roots, so we will see!


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When the Cat’s Away, the Mice will Play – “När Katten är Borta Dansar Råttorna på Bordet”

Min Katt, hon heter Delilah

Hmm, not really, but tonight is the first night by myself in Sweden. The hubby has to travel for work sometimes and so here I am while he is in Denmark until tomorrow. I wish the title of this post could be a little more accurate, but I guess we don’t actually have the roles of cat and mouse so it wouldn’t work regardless, I just really wanted to use it as a title and show a photo of my cat.

For anyone who knows some amount of Swedish will recognize that the Swedish title isn’t an exact translation of the English one.  Instead of translating word for word, which would be, “När katten är borta, möss spela” (When the cat is away, mice play). Swedish has a corresponding idiom as English which has the same meaning but is said differently, the text in the title translates to: “When the cat is away dancing rats are on the table.”

It is almost 8pm here (20:00- I don’t think I’ll get used to saying time this way) and the most “playing” I’ve done was to take a lovely two hour “tupplur,” which means “nap.” I learned that word yesterday- from twitter! And I certainly haven’t danced on any tables!! (I think I like being likened to a mice over a rat)

I suppose my version of “playing” will be staying up later than normal  to see if I can make some phone calls to some family and friends. With the six hour time difference it’s hard to get a hold of people who work until 5 or 6pm, since I am usually sleeping or at least off the computer at that point since hubby wakes up kind of early. The timing hasn’t been too hard to deal with though, it turns out that when I wake up early enough (7 – 8 am) a handful of friends are still awake in NY from that night before since its 1 or 2 am for them (Gotta love the night owls, the bar hoppers, the bar workers, and the insomniacs). And then there’s my Aunt who wakes up super early and is usually the first person I talk to once or twice a week around noon my time. Some friends and family don’t work or have traditional hours so I’ve been pretty lucky to get a few calls every once in awhile.

Technology is amazing, having Skype has allowed me to be in another country and not feel as alone. Sometimes its a 60 minute video chat and other times its a quick cigarette break phone call from a best friend. Skype is how we managed a long distance relationship for three years and its how I will keep in touch with friends and family now. Its cheap and easy and even allows me to buy a NY phone number so its affordable for everyone. I know I sound like a commercial, but that’s only because there are still people not taking advantage of it and it helps  me so much on a daily basis.

So, my other “playing” for today was actually pretty routine- shopping for the apartment. There are a few shops in town that I always go to because I love to buy little things to organize and decorate with. I shop carefully, knowing that money doesn’t grow on trees (Why, oh why!?), but it  IS my first apartment and I AM home a lot, so every once in awhile I’ll go to  AhlensLagerhaus, Clas Olson, or TGR to see if I can find something useful. Today felt like the colorful jackpot! Min nya kudde och tre nya korgar – “My new pillow and three new baskets”

Tomorrow I will force myself to study Swedish, I have been slacking; twiddling my thumbs while I wait for my “Personnummer” which will (Aside from making me a real person!) allow me to start SFI, Swedish for Immigrants, and start looking for work. I didn’t come here to wait, I came here to live and learn. And I will!

Reach for the moon, the worst that can happen is you fall short and catch a star.

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Feeling at Home: Känna sig Hemma

I know today is a day to support the website black outs, but while I support it, instead of talking about that, which I assume will be a popular topic for today’s bloggers, I will carry on with my regular content.  Learn more about the SOPA/PIPA  black out here, here or here.

Everyone moves at some point, be it down the block, a few miles away, a different state, a different country. Every time you move you almost rediscover yourself, and in a way need to reinvent yourself. Its a fresh start, even if it’s a five minute walk away from where you were. Moving becomes more and more drastic the further the distance.Why? Even if you are not materialistic, the fact of the matter is you need to start over.

You go through your old stuff, find that a lot of it can be thrown or given away, not worth the hassle of bringing, doesn’t fit, too old, no longer your style or hobby. You organize while you pack, every box has a label and you know where everything is, it might be the most organized your belongings have been in years. You unpack into a new place, new space, new dimensions, new colors. You find where everything has a place. If you can’t make it fit you get rid of it. You are a master of your own domain, but that environment also makes the person. You create it the way you want it to look and feel, the flow of the furniture, the functionality of your belongings. The further you go usually means the less belongings you bring with you, so the less control you have. It’s not about being materialistic, its a comfort zone. Some people pack three suitcases for a 5 day trip, for flexibility, comfort, and security.

Home is where the heart is, I believe that completely. That’s why people are able to move around the world or across the country. Sometimes home is where the money or success is too, it depends what you already have, who you are with, what you need in life. Your “house” changes, not your home. Home is where you make it and it is what you make it to be. My home is now in Sweden, with someone I love, in a small apartment, with about a fourth of my belongings. For those of you that have moved to another country, what did you bring with you? What was important enough to bring and easy enough to leave behind? How many suitcases did you drag to the airport?

Once you’re there, how do you make it feel like home after you threw out or gave away (or left behind) a lot of your stuff? You shop. You decorate. Well, at least I do.  We started transforming the apartment to be more “ours.” We shopped at Ikea (Which is from Sweden for those who don’t know, and usually has a nice cafeteria with some Swedish food  if you are ever curious), we bought from nearby stores, we scouted thrift shops, and flea markets, trying to tastefully meld our styles.

Its also about which things you bring. Sentimental items, photographs, memorabilia, decorative touches, hobby supplies. Those are the items that make the place more your own, no matter where you are.

(Yes, that is my first NY souvenir, bought out of JFK Airport right before my  flight to Sweden)

Maybe this post is a sentimental follow up of yesterdays post about adjustment, or maybe it was triggered by a thoughtful gesture the hubby made. He didn’t only make a gesture. He made a cubby.  That’s right, my hubby made me a cubby! Apparently the word “cubby” doesn’t translate well into Swedish, so it threw him off when I said I needed a cubby and that I would go and shop for one. Cubby, short for cubby-hole, being a small space or enclosement used for storage, I suppose is not an often used term. I fondly remember having cubbies in elementary school for our jackets and belongings.

So, yesterday he arrives home from work with a bag from Clas Ohlson, a large Swedish chain that has a little bit of everything-household, in one hand and a large plank of wood in the other. Whats in the bag you might ask? A large hand saw, nails, and some ruler-leveling tool, of course! Before I knew it my husband transformed into a carpenter right before my eyes and build me the most perfect cubby ever! What do you do to save space or get organized? Apparently I love shelves and hanging things up!

It’s the little adjustments we make that makes a house feel more like home. Just like the adjustments you need to make in yourself to make your new life feel like home. Three small shelves has made my day and made me feel more comfortable, I can only imagine what it will feel like once I learn the language. What makes you feel more at home after you move?

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