Monthly Archives: March 2011

Waffle Day: The Good, the Bad, and the Sold Out

Imagine you live in a magical, far-away land. A land clothed in graceful swathes of Lollipop woods and Gumdrop mountains, populated by chocolate monsters and gingerbread people. Imagine a world where licorice is king and waffles get their own holiday… Oh wait. Sorry, that’s Sweden.

This is Marjorie and me. We are enjoying some Belgian waffle stand-ins.

Malin and her brand spanking new waffle iron.

To read more, check out my latest blog post at The Expat Blog on Sweden.se!

Weekend Update! Daylight Savings! and other methods of procrastinating

I had kind of a lot to do this weekend, but I’ve been such a good girl and working so hard that I decided to take a break from everything on Saturday morning and do nothing but be lazy and relax.

Unfortunately, now I am having major problems getting back down to work, and for those of you in my time zone, that is actually kind of a problem now, because it is 7:19 pm at this exact moment and I am teaching at 8 am tomorrow morning in Malmö. This means that time is le running out.

As I was sitting here at my computer, trying to write and mentally searching for more and better ways to procrastinate, I caught a glance of the wine left over from my birthday last weekend. Ah ha! Now won’t that be a nice reward! Or motivation! Too bad it’s only 4 pm and I woke up less than 5 hours ago and it’s probably highly inappropriate to have a glass of wine under the circumstances!

Then Simon wandered into the kitchen on a study break. He has actually been working really hard all weekend, studying for a big test next week, and I think it’s a bad influence on me. All the focusing going on in the other room makes me want to jump around and create distractions, which is not very nice, so I’m trying to keep a lid on it. But anyway. He wanders in and sees me leaning back in my chair and looking at the clock and asks me what’s going on. (First mistake.)

So I explain to him the situation with the wine and the procrastination and the not-5 o’clock, and he kind of laughs and says, “Well, actually. It’s summer time!” And I looked at him kind of confused while he takes the clock down from the wall, thinking but it’s not really summer… and is he really winding the clock forward so that I can have a glass of wine?

Love.

Before.

Reasons for true love aside, “summer time” is Europe-speak for “daylight savings time,” and it actually was 5 pm, almost to the minute. Wine o’clock, here I come!

After.

Except then I realized that I had still only woken up a little while ago, and probably it was still disgraceful to have a glass of wine before even one word of my blog post had been written, so I took a shower, got dressed, made myself lunch for work tomorrow, prepared dinner, and then… at 6 pm, had myself a nice glass of wine. Woohoo!

In other news, I had a great weekend full of friends, food, and video games. Yes, video games.

I am 24 now, which means that doors have opened to a whole new world of adult experiences, and not one but two nights in a row I played video games with people my own age, which I don’t think I did during the entire time I was ages 20-23. So that’s funny.

Malin and I playing Kinect.

Happy weekend everyone! And stay tuned for an update on Sweden.se, because I’ll be posting my article… any minute now…

Sometimes I just don’t understand Twitter

I’m all about social media and everything, but sometimes I just don’t understand, and then I feel like a really old person and a misfit in my generation.

Can someone please explain this to me?

Thank you very much for your help in advance.

Sincerely,

Kate Wiseman

The red panda: my spirit animal

As probably most of you know by now, the red panda is undoubtedly my spirit animal and will remain my spirit animal until the day I find a cuter, cuddlier, more playful animal to obsess about (not likely). My friend Cecile sent me this video of two little red panda cubs (baby bears?) playing in the snow. I love it!!

You know, this might seem like a strange obsession (and maybe it is), but let’s be serious: how cute are these guys???! I’ve tried finding out if there are any in Sweden, but it doesn’t seem like it. And I asked for one for my birthday, but no one went for it. I really don’t understand.

First Aid Kit: Swedish Pop Folk Band

I was surfing through NPR Music yesterday, and I came across this band from Sweden that is totally folksy and totally cute. And they’re sisters! Love it.

Of course, as is always the case with music and me, I’m not really on the “cutting edge” here. First Aid Kit, made up of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, has been around since 2007. They’re heavily influenced by Bright Eyes, Fleet Foxes, and Joanna Newsom, and one of the songs that first got them a lot of attention was a cover of Tiger Mountain Peasant Song by Fleet Foxes. You can see the two of them singing it in what appears to be a Swedish forest below.

NPR’s All Songs Considered did a feature on a newer song of theirs, “It Hurts Me Too,” which is being released on their newest album, produced by Jack White. You can listen to the song there and get a little more background on the band if you’re interested.

First Aid Kit: Hard Believer

First Aid Kit: Ghost Town

First Aid Kit: Tiger Mountain Peasant Song (Fleet Foxes Cover)

I have to say, I really like the music, but if you look up some recent live performances, they sort of love dressing like cult members. I don’t know if their style has the same connotations in Sweden as it does in the US, but someone should tell them that they look like they’re trying to convert people and maybe sell them on the advantages of polygamy.

First Aid Kit performing on Sweden's leading geography quiz show, "På Spåret."

See what I mean about the cult vibe? I like this photo, though.

HEY HEY it’s my BIRTHDAY!

I’M GETTING OLD(er).

TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY! Which means that my birthday festivities are in full swing. I don’t know if this is now a common happening for all the 20somethings, but I talked to my sister about the festivities I was planning and she spoke HIGHLY, even GLOWINGLY, of a month of self-celebration, a re-invention of the birthday as the BIRTHMONTH. And I am with her on this idea! To the moon and beyond! I now pronounce this a month of JOYFUL CELEBRATION! Sally forth into April with your Kate Banner held high!

In all seriousness, I had a truly lovely weekend full of relaxation, a day trip to Copenhagen, and Mexican night with some of my friends. And then tonight, Monday, Simon took me out for dinner at V.E.S.P.A., a delicious Italian restaurant in Lund that does in fact have a Vespa in the window.

But first! Lest I forget! I have a guest blog! And it is for the entire country of Sweden! I am practically a princess already! My weekend started on Friday afternoon with a new blog post, and I would hate for you to miss EVEN A SINGLE SECOND OF THE UNMITIGATED EXCITEMENT that is otherwise known as THE EXPAT BLOG. So read my blog post regarding festivities ON THIS VERY DAY, precisely two years ago! It is called “We’re having a party. The theme is Sweden.”

In other news!

On Saturday, Simon’s parents took Simon and I on a day trip to Denmark, where we went to the Louisiana Museum (no relation to the great state of Louisiana) and saw the “Picasso: Peace and Freedom” exhibit. The exhibit title is much snappier in Danish: “Picasso: Fred og Frihed.” See what I mean? Snappy. If you’re curious about the exhibit, you can follow the link to see a video of the exhibition space. This also goes if you want an interesting demo of the Danish language. It sounds a lot like the Swedish chef, except for no muppets and drunk.

All that aside, the exhibit was really interesting and focused on the relationship between Picasso’s political beliefs, his involvement with the French Communist Party, and his art throughout his career. I hadn’t realized that his dove of peace basically invented the dove as a peace symbol, and even that was kind of arbitrary—it was a party leader who liked his realistic rendering of the dove and suggested it as the image for a peace conference. Picasso himself thought that doves were quite violent animals. There was also a lot of emphasis on a couple of still life series I hadn’t seen before, especially a couple featuring an antagonistic cat-and-lobster duo.

So there you have it. "Still life with cat and lobster." 1962.

The weather was pretty fantastic for a weekend in March, too, and so we wandered outside for a quick walk through the park!

Look! Art!!

So we spent all day out and about, and we had this delicious buffet lunch at the museum, and then we drove back through Copenhagen and stopped for a quick fika at Café Norden.

Get in my belly.

I had very strong intentions of doing my proofreading work and preparing lesson plans for the week and maybe even planning a blog post or two, but by the time we got home, I was so tired from I don’t know what that I just crawled into bed and fell asleep for three hours. Oops! Not the most productive night.

I might look a little rough, but at least the cake is looking good. As does the apron, which happens to be for sale! Homemade and custom designed by a dear friend! Look how flattering it is to the bosom! As well as pleasing to the eye!

Then Sunday. I cooked Mexican food and the cheesecake you see firmly grasped in my hands (above). It was delicious. We had a great evening with friends, lots of food, and lots of cake. And, surprisingly enough, lots of singing. I was serenaded in multiple languages throughout the night. You know how awkward it is when everyone sings Happy Birthday to you and you’re really happy because it’s your birthday but also it’s hard to look people in the eyes because, well, they’re singing to you, and then you get a little fidgety and you start blushing and then your nervous reactions snowball from there? Imagine that happening multiple times in one night. It was delightful. Or something like that.

(Ok, fine. I loved it. But don’t tell anyone.)

I wish I had photos of the Mexican food, because it was delicious and it defied the Swedish notion of “Mexican food = tacos”, which is also fun. Carnitas! Guacamole! Fruit salsa! Furthermore, I challenge all the top chefs in the land to go toe to toe with me in a guacamole contest. I will vanquish all challengers. My guacamole is that good. HA!

Stay tuned for more updates, both here and at blogs.sweden.se. Hope you’re having as good a day as I am!

Serious Eats’ Meatball Slam

Serious Eats (gi-normous food blog/food culture compendium) just did a feature on the 15 best meatballs in New York. And may I just say, if I previously suspected them of having a slight bias towards Italian-American food, MY SUSPICIONS HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED. 12 out of the 15 “top meatballs” in NYC are what could be loosely called “Italian-ish,” featuring in large part spices like basil and oregano and topped with tomato sauces and pecorino, ricotta, or mozzarella. (Normally I wouldn’t consider a meatball sandwich or meatball sliders to be Italian, but the flavors were there and so, I think, is the intent.)  The other three ethnic options are Turkish, Thai, and Swedish.

Are you trying to tell me that in the great big world of meatball choices in New York City, only one Swedish meatball made the cut?? As much as I love Italian food, I’ve go to say… I wouldn’t really consider meatballs as the height of the cuisine. I’m outraged.

These are the Swedish meatballs that did make the cut, from Ethiopian-Swedish chef (haha… bork bork bork) Marcus Samuelsson’s new restaurant in Harlem, Red Rooster. I don’t really know why there seems to be so much foam in the general proximity of the meatballs… that is a strange thing that I have never seen before. The New York Times just wrote a quite positive review of Red Rooster in its Dining and Wine section, although its worth mentioning that they get higher marks for the atmosphere and the concept than the food.  Next time I’m in New York, I’ll be going.

Check out that meatball feature in Serious Eats. Am I being ridiculous here or what? What about delicious Greek meatballs? Or Tunisian? When Sabri makes his traditional meatballs, they are delicious. There must be some North African restaurants with meatballs in NYC. Come on, Serious Eats! Go try them!

I’M A WRITER! I’M A BLOGGER! GET ME MY AGENT!

It’s been a seriously busy week, and it feels good to be tired from working. Jag är riktigt, riktigt glad. I’m getting closer and closer to having a full 40 hours of work a week with teaching, tutoring, babysitting, and writing combined, and I’m definitely there if you count the unpaid hours I spend preparing lesson plans. Hooray!

My big news (drumroll please) is that I am now a BIG SHOT BLOGGER!! In my own mind, at least. I’m blogging at blogs.sweden.se, which is the official blog portal for the Swedish Institute. The Swedish Institute is a division of the Swedish government, and they’re in charge of promoting Swedish culture around the world. They have 7 different blog topics, and I’m writing about life in Sweden from the perspective of an expat, of course. It’s just called “The Expat Blog.” It feels like an incredible opportunity to be working for them and have this chance to grow as a writer as well as to reach out to a very different (and much larger) audience than I have with this blog. Plus my face is on the Swedish government’s website. This has got to help my chances for renewing my visa.

I’ve already written two blog posts, Welcome to the neighborhood! and In Sweden and “On Track”. Check them out!

In other news… here’s what happened this week.

Tuesday: Fat Tuesday/Semla Day, International Women’s Day, and a professional soccer player in Sweden comes out as gay.

Polish people have pączkis, the Austrians have krapfen, and Swedes have semlor as their pre-Lenten fried-dough-with-filling indulgence. Semlor madness is nothing to scoff at. The Swedes are seriously crazy for them. Simon and I found this tray at a bakery last weekend.

International Women’s Day was on Tuesday, and unlike any other country I’ve ever lived in, people in Sweden actually cared. The newspapers were full of articles about the status of women in different countries, there were a variety of op-eds and perspectives on women’s issues in Sweden, and even the sports section had a woman soccer player on the front page. I watched a really outstanding documentary that was on SVT1 (one of the Swedish national television channels) called Women are Heroes. The movie weaves together incredible personal stories from women in Brasil, Cambodia, India, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Paris, Brussels, London, and Los Angeles together with political and social commentary, and because the film is directed by French street artist JR, it also documents his work on massive mural projects at the same time. You can take a JR tour of the favelas and see his work in this video clip, from the BBC, and you can see more of his work on his website.

Also, I published my first blog article on Sweden.se today. Welcome to the neighborhood! Go read it!!

Baby semlor are just the cutest.

An example of JR's work in the favelas in Brazil. I really recommend the documentary, "Women are Heroes."

Then a Swedish professional soccer player publicly came out as gay, and basically all of Sweden was like, “Well, good on you.” And that was it. It was like a collective national response of, “Well, that’s nice, and I hope your openness makes other gay players feel better about coming out as well.” Nothing more. One sports commentator was quoted on the matter in one of the free papers you get on the train, “So, you’re gay. That’s nice. And?” I really love how freaking nice and reasonable the inhabitants of this country are.

Wednesday: Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of my vegetarianism.

I’ve decided to go veg for Lent. I wanted to do something kind of hard for Lent this year because I haven’t been that observant of this time over the last couple of years, mostly because for the last couple of years I’ve been distracted by moving and study abroad and my thesis (that would be good old 2009). I think that Lent is a valuable opportunity for me to step outside of my comfort zone and be more deliberate and conscious about my relationship with God, and choosing to be vegetarian is something that will be not only challenging, but also good for the world. So that’s that. Vegetarian it is, for the next 40 days at least.

Also, remember that post I wrote last Sunday about the first flowers of Spring and how Spring had finally come? Well, it snowed today. Real snow. I was not amused.

Friday: the end of the work week, the beginning of the weekend, insane weather, and my second Sweden.se blog post!

That title might be a little over-exuberant. However, it was a great day. I survived my third five-hour session of one-on-one tutoring this week, which was totally exhausting, and it felt so good to stroll out into the sunshine around 3:30 pm and be on my way home. Then I bought my plane ticket home to see my sister’s graduation in May (yay!!!!!!!) and wrote my second Sweden.se blog post (In Sweden and “On Track”!). Then it was time for the all-important På Spåret season finale, then Frida came over to chat for awhile, and then it was time to crash. The weekend is so much more fun when you’ve actually been working all week!

One note about the insane weather. When I woke up at 6:00, the sun was coming out and at 8:13, when I caught the bus to the train station, it was a legitimately sunny day. Then, throughout the five hours I spent teaching in front of two quite large windows, we had hail with sunshine, stop. Then we had hail that was so big it made car alarms go off. Stop. Then it started to snow, not just gentle little drifts of snow but a serious blizzard-style snow downpour. Stop. Then it rained. Stop. Then the sun came out.

Please explain this to me. I am le confused.

Off to dinner now… Simon’s parents are having us over, and we’ll be hanging out with Pernilla, Sabri, and Adam too. I hope you all are enjoying your weekend as much as I am!

The first flowers of the spring!

Oh happy day!

The sun shone, we had above-freezing temperatures, we frolicked outside, and we found the first flowers of the spring!

the first flowers

today's breakfast

so happy to be in the sun!

world's happiest baby, world's proudest uncle

adam and sofie's puppy, ulvis!

learning how to be friends

It was a really, really nice day. I can’t wait until spring is here to stay!!

The National LIVE and in MOVING PICTURES

My friend Steve, the one responsible for

(a) alerting me to the fact that the National would be coming to Lund (five months in advance),

(b) obtaining backstage passes through his intimate relations with certain band members (more on that later),

(c) my birthday party, which will be held in early April (not related)

is quite droll, blessed with infectious good humor, and probably not going to be friends with me anymore if I don’t post videos from The National concert. Seriously. I have lots of footage of other concerts I’ve been to with him as well, but I never really took the steps to put it on YouTube because, well. I don’t know why. Too much effort.

The stakes feel quite high this time, though, so I actually went ahead and uploaded the videos, which I will post below. However, please observe the email I received from YouTube promptly upon my first upload.

I feel like I just got a giant black mark from the Google-YouTube technological industrial complex. Dear Kate, congratulations on joining your own generation, and welcome to the 21st century. OUCH.

I guess I just had to wait, though, to be ready. You know, for it to feel right. To understand what I was getting into. But now, YouTube tells me that I’m “ready to go even deeper into the YouTube experience.” Oh baby, oh baby.

Anyway, I guess I’m a big girl now that I have a YouTube channel, which you can of course check out JUST IN CASE this blog wasn’t enough personal connection with le moi.

The third video is definitely the best. For starters, we actually got the first part of the song on the video, which was a major technological accomplishment. Also, it was just a really cool way for The National to end the concert. The concert was at The Mejeriet in Lund, which is a really small and intimate venue with great sound. There’s not a bad seat (or standing spot) in the house. Actually, The Mejeriet is just an old converted dairy, and “mejeriet” just means “the dairy” in Swedish. If you ever find yourself in Lund, you should totally try to see a concert or watch a movie there.

The downside to the video is someone’s voice is caught on there a little, and no, it’s not mine. I was surrounded by Americans and Swedes and one Canadian and one Chilean-Swede for good measure, so say what you will about the vowels sounding American, it wasn’t me.

Here are some more photos of the night.

steve’s ride is a quickie. bwuahaha.

whiskeys were had by (nearly) all.

end of the night.

The story of the backstage passes is long and winding, so it is forthcoming.