Monthly Archives: November 2010

Word of the Day: Hjärnsläpp

I’ve been going through the archives of the “Swedish Word of the Day for Beginners” on the ever-helpful to keep building my vocabulary, and I was really amused by this entry from April 2009.

No comments? What do you mean, no comments?

Internets HODGEPODGE: language-learning and bike riding

On language and learning languages that aren’t your own

From the Johnson blog on language:

“Do you have to pause a bit with lay, lie and their conjugated forms? At the risk of sounding like a self-help book, I can tell you you’re not alone. The past tense of lie (to be recumbent) is lay, the same as the present-tense verb meaning ‘to deposit something [eg, on a table]‘. And if I asked you to match up present-tense lay and lie with the correct choice of the participles laid, lain and lied, if you were diligent you could possibly match lie to lain and lay to laid, winning bonus points for noting that lied is the past participle of to lie—to tell an untruth. But I bet you’d have to think for a few seconds. And these are among the commonest verbs in the language…

One of the delightful things about studying related languages is seeing the family resemblences. But as a German-speaking American learning Danish at the moment—and thus trying to keep 27 maddeningly similar forms distinct—this is a bit like looking at photos of second cousins and great-uncles and realising where you got your cowlick, buck-teeth and monobrow. A similar mess exists in the sit/set, sitzen/setzen, sidde/saette, zitten/zetten group, the hang/hang group (one used for puting something on a hook, the other used for being on a hook), and others. These so-called ‘strong verbs’ are, simply put, hellish to learn for the aspiring Germanicist.”

YES. Leaving aside the fact that “commonest” is apparently a word in British English (I would say “most common”) and that one can say monobrow instead of unibrow, YES. (I really have no clue what passes for British English anymore. I have to stop saying that certain words don’t exist when it’s altogether possible that they do on that island of theirs.) ANYWAY. The blog even has a diagram to illustrate the madness.

"Strong verbs: Lie, lay, laid, lain, lied, and more" from the Johnson blog on language.

I studied just enough German to thoroughly mangle the language but be mostly understood by sympathetic listeners. Now I’m in the middle of studying Swedish, which I can speak at a level that allows me not only to be understood, but also to be a true pain in the ass when I desire. Let me tell you, JOHNSON SPEAKS THE TRUTH. For reals.

On bike riding

A little while back, I went on a half-day road trip through Skåne with my friend Steve and his friend Laura. We were in a borrowed car that had only a tape deck and a radio for music. We decided to let Swedish radio play the soundtrack to our wandering day.

Sounds peaceful, right? The highlight of an afternoon and listening was definitely the soon-to-be-classic tune you can listen to below, in which we learned that Mark Ronson is going to “ride his bike until [he] gets home.”

I really love the rap interludes. Hee hee!


If you like this post, you might like…

First Aid Kit: Swedish Pop Folk Band

Those Dancing Days

Punch it, Chewie! Jojo Sommarkort, Charming Ystad, and MacGyvered Swedish

The German Language

Eines kleines RANT-chen for all the German language learners out there

The German Keyboard and some thoughts on Kate Gosselin

Grammar is a Woman (I knew there was something I liked about her)


All Saints’ Day

Growing up in Michigan and taking Spanish class for my entire public school career, Halloween meant one thing: learning about “El Día De Los Muertos,” or the Mexican Day of the Dead. I’m not actually sure if the Day of the Dead is a tradition throughout Central and South America as well, but our Spanish lessons the day before Halloween would always center on the festivities and traditions of our neighbors to the South. As far as lesson plans go, as a Spanish teacher, you know that’s got to be the jackpot, year in and year out. Show the kids a movie about all the parades and parties, show them the intricately designed skeleton made out of egg whites and sugar that you picked up that time you were in Mexico, and otherwise surrender to the sugar-induced insanity of the day. I mean, really. Half of your students are dressed as 80′s aerobics instructors anyway, so why should the teacher take it any further than that?

There is something to be said about a day set aside to revere the dead, however, and that’s the message that has stuck with me after all this time. Veterans’ Day was always a big deal at my high school, and that was a really special day to reflect on the sacrifice of soldiers. Since then, though, I can’t really think of a time that I have spent in serious reflection on those who have passed besides my grandfather’s funeral. Maybe I’m missing something big, and then my mom will let me know the next time we talk over Skype. Overall, though, I think it’s probably a healthy thing for a country to have a holiday that does that, and it’s kind of too bad that Halloween has eclipsed All Souls’ Day to such a degree.

Last Saturday was All Saints Day, or Allhelgonadagen, in Sweden. Traditionally, people go and visit family members’ graves as the sun sets. They bring candles, wreaths, and flowers to decorate the grave, but besides that, I’m not sure what happens. I didn’t go. Simon’s grandparents are buried in Stockholm and Öland, both of which are too far away for a day trip, really. I meant to go to a cemetery in Lund anyway, just to observe, but then I forgot. (Terrible cultural explorer, forgetting significant cultural days.)

When I realized I forgot about the day, I had to do some internet research in earnest. I don’t want to go overboard describing the day since I wasn’t even there, but I found some amazing pictures on Flickr and some basic information if you’re interested in reading more. You can get the historical background from the Swedish government’s website, “All Saints’ Day,” or you can see what my friend Laura had to say about it (she’s another girl who’s in Sweden for love). You can also read about it from the perspective of a Swede in a blog post about her day at Skogskyrkogården, a cemetery in Stockholm.

None of the pictures below are mine. They are all from Flickr and they all have different degrees of copyright applied, so to be safe, I just put them below without any editorializing, with the title, author, and permalink that I found. If anyone reads this and recognizes a picture as their own and wants it removed, just email me or leave me a message in the comments section. I’m not sure how this stuff works, but you can be sure that I’m not making any money off of this blog, so by extension, I’m not making any money off of your photos.


All Saints' Day 1 by Per-Arne Wallström,

Skogskyrkogården på Allhelgona by Pelle Sten,

Skogskyrkogården på Allhelgona by Pelle Sten,

All Saints' Day by Kaj Bjurman,

All Saints' Day by Kaj Bjurman,

Enter by Kaj Bjurman,

Råå Kyrkogård by Erik Forsberg,

Allhelgona på Haga Norra by palicki,

STORMY DAYS (and nights) in Vienna


Something was afoot when I was in Vienna at the beginning of October. Something that smelled like sweet, fermenting fruit and a name as lascivious as daytime television. That’s right—I arrived in Vienna right in the middle of the Stürmische Tagen (or Stormy Days).

Die/Der/Das Sturm: Tastes Like Juice, Acts Like Wine

Let’s face it, I never got that good at German, and for some reason I wasn’t taking notes on the correct article for “Sturm” while in the midst of all the festivities. Sturm represents the middle ground between grape juice and wine: a cloudy, alcoholic, slightly-fizzy drink that comes from casks tapped before the wine reaches maturity. In other words, sturm tastes like juice and acts like wine.

Photo by Adam Troldahl. Check out his blog, Unschuldig Weise Fromm, for nonstop Vienna-related hijinks.

Like wine, sturm can be red or white, and different varieties are named according to terroir and varietal. Sturm is only available during the fall as a new batch of wine (do you say batch?) begins to ferment, and throughout Vienna, you could see signs of the season. In the Naschmarkt, in cafes and restaurants, and in grocery stores, bottles of sturm bottled and distributed by vineyards just on the outskirts of Vienna to southern Germany were on display.

As Patrick Matthews of Food & Wine writes, “A capital city might not seem the most obvious destination for a wine lover, but Vienna is part of a real wine region; the Baroque buildings of this former Hapsburg center are ringed with well-sited vineyards.” I think a lot of people are unaware of the huge amount of wine production that goes on even within the city limits. You can read more about wine culture, Viennese wine trends, hotspots and wine tasting events in Vienna from the official Vienna tourism site’s page on “Viennese wine and heurige.”

Stürmische Tagen in Stammersdorf

Stammersdorf is a little suburb that is officially in Vienna, but by the time you take the Strassenbahn all the way out there, you feel like you’ve left the city and the 21st century. It’s ridiculously cute in Stammersdorf. There are small old houses, craft workshops, and cobblestone courtyards leading into garages that are startlingly full of casks of wine.

See what I mean? This is someone's garage. And this was just on the way to the festival.

Besides being a wine-producing suburb of Vienna, Stammersdorf is distinguished by the long, winding “Kellergasse,” or “cellar/basement street.” For one full weekend, Stammersdorf is transformed from a sleepy little wine village to a sturm-epicenter of eating, drinking, and partying. According to ORF, a leading Austrian radio program, 25,000 people participate in the “Stürmische Tagen” in Stammersdorf every year. (Of course, that’s assuming that I understood the German correctly. So maybe not.) There’s a breakdown of all the wineries and heurigen (old-fashioned wine taverns) in the area in English on the official Vienna tourism site.

Think: a wide road lined with wine cellar-garages, doors flung open, music blaring, sausages cooking, little kids chowing down on schaumrolle (gross), political party members passing out buttons and shaking hands, brass bands marching up and down…

My favorite non-sturm part of the day was when I got a bunch of blue glowsticks that I could hook together into bracelets, which was great until we realized that it was the ultra right-wing anti-foreigner political party that was handing them out and so we had to throw them away.

Happiness abounds in a glass of sturm.

Please see below.

This photo also by Adam Troldahl, Unschuldig Weise Fromm.

Another weekend, more projects…

Last night, Simon and I went to Nils’ and Anna’s apartment for dinner and sitting out on the counter was this pile of absolutely beautiful looking sourdough bread. I’m talking… to-die for sourdough bread. I’m not sure if I’m up to the challenge yet because it seems like a pretty intense process with multiple kinds of flour and a yeast fermentation period that lasts a couple of days, but I was definitely inspired to try out something a little easier.

Ta-dah!! “Knubbiga Limpor”

I was convinced for the longest time that oatmeal just doesn’t exist in Europe, and I would frequently bemoan the loss of my dear, dear friend as munched down on an arguably equally-delicious replacement (muesli, of course). But oatmeal does exist, it just comes in large paper bags like flour and sugar do instead of that round cardboard cylinder we all know and love. In Sweden, it’s called “Havre Gryn.”

Anyway, on the back of the bag is the recipe for “knubbiga limpor,” which means “chubby loaves.” You gotta love it. So I made myself some chubby loaves in between canvassing most of central Lund in the rain in search of a job. Masala Hut, an Indian restaurant across from the train station, said they’d call me if they need me as a substitute waitress. The overwhelming majority of the other establishments I visited gave me snooty looks and told me to leave my CV. Yeah, they’re totally going to call me.

At least I have my knubbiga limpor to be proud of.

In other news…

I’m going to see Ratatat performing in Malmö in about two hours!!!! AHHH!!! I am so excited. I have loved this band for FOREVER, or at least since high school, which is obviously about the same thing. I found a video of them performing live at Calvin College, of all places, and I am even more excited than I was before to see them. And did I mention that it’s free……. woohooooooo!!

Calvin College is in East Grand Rapids, where I grew up. It’s this small, extreeeemely conservative Christian Reform college, but for some reason it has this amazing music scene. It’s one of the only places President George W. Bush gave a commencement speech, if not the only. And then all these great bands play to the hordes of hippy Christians who love independent music. It’s all good with me… especially when I lived there. Yayyyyyy!!

Västra Hamnen at Sunset

This is the view from Västra Hamnen in Malmö at sunset. I’m babysitting and tutoring for a family that lives in this neighborhood, which is also where the Turning Torso building is. After walking past the Turning Torso a bunch of times, though, I’m starting to get more intrigued by the really beautiful area that surrounds it.

The bridge you see is the Öresund (or Øresund, in Danish). It is the longest rail and road bridge in Europe, connecting Sweden on the left with Denmark, which is just out of the picture on the right. I love Västra Hamnen.

H&M + Lanvin

H&M will feature a line by Lanvin that will be released on November 23. Let’s just call it one more reason I wish I had a job. The clothes look really awesome… want want want!!

I want to be the woman on the left.

Lisa Marsh from writes: “The collection, more than other H&M collaborations in recent memory, does two things: It provides head-to-toe dressing from lipstick to shoes, and, much more importantly, it really looks just like the Lanvin designs you are familiar with from the runways — not a knockoff, but a collection of inspired Lanvin pieces at lower prices… There are full-on party dresses — fluffy tulle and floral confections with volume, tiers of ruffles, illusion necklines, and one-shoulder looks. Coats are another bright, bright spot in heavy satins and faux fur of many persuasions.”

The Swedish newspapers and magazines are waaaaay excited about this news. I found the whole Lookbook on Nitrolicious and the campaign ad photos by David Sims on Fashion Gone Rogue.

I would like to imagine this as my two sisters and me heading off into the night with a very watchful and fashionable Nonna looking at us suspiciously.

All right, now you know what’s up in Sweden: all the pretty people are gettin’ even more well-dressed than before. It never ends around here.  I leave you with the H&M/Lanvin campaign video, which is pretty awesome.

GAHHHH i’m back online!

After a very extended hiatus, both my computer and I are (mostly) up and running. In the time since I last posted about how my computer was dying and I was moved to recognize that the force (for destroying computers) is strong within me, my computer actually completely died and I was moved to tears. And then one of Simon’s friends found all my photos, and that was a bright spot in the midst of otherwise gloomy technology times.

BUT! Be ye not suspicious, lo, that I have been doing nothing in all this time! I have baked all sorts of exciting things, like focaccia and biscotti and PUMPKIN PIE from REAL PUMPKIN. I went to an Austrian restaurant and ate pancake soup and before that I traveled to Ystad and Smygehuk and wondered at old-timey Sweden! I have introduced 2 Swedes and 1 Tunisian-Swedish transplant to the art of pumpkin carving! I was a SuperNanny all last week, and I am kicking butt in le Swedish, so much so that I am practically fluent and often mistaken by the natives for one of their own!! (Some parts of the above paragraph may not be 100% true.)

I leave you with a picture that I didn’t take of food that I haven’t eaten from a place that I haven’t been to:


“Well there’s a dubu house down here that I haven’t been to in a while, so why not there. I can get jungguk and lots of sondubu jjigae.”

My friend, Josh, lives in South Korea and has a blog. He wrote this fantastic blog post about how he lives for South Korean side dishes: “It’s all about the banchan, baby.” I want to eat some of this.