Monthly Archives: May 2011

so true.

(c) someecardsfrom someecards

Quotation of the day

The significance of a man is not in what he attains but in what he longs to attain.
Khalil Gibran

I like this quotation because it allows me to cast my constant search for my life’s big, great passion as potentially ennobling and transformative rather than as symptomatic of constant dissatisfaction.

My two wishes for today: to live in the same place as my family, my boyfriend, and my friends all at once; inner peace.

European Style Yogurt at Trader Joe’s

I was at Trader Joe’s yesterday to get some lunch, and look what I found: EUROPEAN STYLE YOGURT! Amazing!

I was a little puzzled by the lowfat part, though, since as far as I can tell the main advantage of European style yogurt is that it’s thick and creamy (read: fatty). Some day I have to sit down and write something coherent about yogurt in the different places I’ve lived, because Swedish yogurt (and close-to-yogurt variations) are totally different than what I ate in Austria or Italy. And it’s definitely nothing like the Greek Fage yogurt that I used to love, because now I kind of can’t stand it. Too thick and clumpy!

In conclusion, I have to admit that I didn’t even try the European Style Yogurt because the only flavors that were available were mocha and chocolate, and I’m kind of a plain or vanilla kind of girl. So I cannot comment on the authenticity of the aforementioned yogurt. The regular vanilla yogurt with almonds was quite tasty though.

My BFF from college, Lara, and I are going on a tourist expedition of some sort today. I have until about 2 pm to hang out in DC before I have to head to the New Carrollton commuter station and meet up with my sister, who will take me home. We’re thinking a museum, perhaps… we’ll see!

A few thoughts on finally seeing your friends again

I was excited to come to DC, but I was a little nervous, too. When I’m in Sweden, I miss my friends and family. Truly. But I’m terrible at staying at touch. So I tend to shortcut the staying up to date process by stalking my friends on Facebook instead, which of course takes just as much time as writing an email would, but without the actual benefit of showing that you care. So that’s dumb…

My friends are amazing, though, and they all seem to take it as a given that we are all going to do different things, live different places, have paths that wander farther from and nearer to each other as time goes on. And when we’re all together, we just pick up where we left off.

I can’t tell you how much better that makes me feel.

The Expat Blog: Expat life, Sweden, cardamom, the flavor of life, and why I had to bake a cake

Sometimes, when I start writing about an interesting subject, I just keep going. And going. And going. And then I have to split one blog into two, and then everyone is like, come on Kate, get real. No one has that much to say about cardamom. Except that I do, and I even cut parts. SO NOW WHAT.

Cardamom Part One Cardamom and the flavor of life: It’s the little things that stay with you.

Cardamom Part Two Expat life, cooking, and why I had to bake a cake.

So. Did you know that Scandinavia is the number two most important import market for cardamom in the world, second only to the Middle East? (India is huge on cardamom, but they’re a producing country, so they’re not in the running.) Also, did you know that the per capita consumption of cardamom in Sweden is 60% higher than in the United States? And then there’s a recipe in the second post.

And oh my goodness. Grind your own cardamom. It is, in the Queen’s English, da bomb diggity. Mmmhmmm.

And here’s some extra-special director’s cut stuff.

  • There’s a Norwegian children’s book called When the Robbers Came to Cardamom Town about (as Wikipedia explains) the peaceful town of Cardamom (Kardemomme in Norwegian) and the people there, including three robbers, Casper, Jasper, and Jonathon, who stir up trouble.
  • In Cambodia and jutting into Thailand (again, as Wikipedia says), there is a mountain range called the Cardamom Mountains (Krâvanh Mountains). These mountains are largely inaccessible, which helped preserve it during different periods in Cambodia’s history and prevented these Neolithic jar sites from being destroyed. [I'm basically just paraphrasing Wikipedia right now.] The jars have the bones of dead people in them… possibly dead Cambodian royalty.
  • There are two kinds of cardamom: green and black.
  • In Sweden, a famous humor writer and playwright wrote under the nom de plume Kar de Mumma, which is Swedish for cardamom. Born 1904, died 1997. I don’t get the joke behind his name, but he was probably funny anyway.

What are these things?

I went for a walk a little while ago on the nature paths outside my parents’ house, and I got totally fascinated by the plants you see below. What are they??

Beth says these look like furry penises on a stick. That's gross.

These plants are totally beautiful and completely amazing with the way they’re molting and unraveling from a tightly wound mass to a frizzly, frazzled, cottony mess. What are they? I thought pussywillows, although even saying the word just in my head creeped me out a little. But then I looked them up, and these are definitely not pussywillows. And they’re not whippoorwills, because as it turns out, those are birds. Someone, please, put me out of my misery.

A father-daughter outing in Easton, Maryland

My dad has the week off from work this week. This doesn’t happen that often and the weather was great and my dad was ready to take a break from all the home improvement projects he’s working on during his break. So we decided to go sailing.

La dee da, it’s just my dad and me, off on a wonderful adventure, going sailing. My dad owns a little Hobie Cat, but one of his friends has a larger and presumably more fun boat that we were going to use.

We get in the car and we’re off! A little inquiry reveals the story behind the friend’s eagerness for my dad to use his boat. Turns out the boat is a little bit of a “work in progress,” a little bit “in need of repair,” one might say. The friend, Rob, bought the sail boat at an auction for a fraction of a seaworthy vessel on the regular market, and the catch was (one of the catches was?) that he had to move it out of the marina within 24 hours or something like that. My dad was available that day, so he offered to help, and then they of course ran into a slew of problems on their 35 mile, 13 hour jaunt down the Maryland coast.

But, you know, Rob’s been working on it, and the boat has a few quirks and all, but it’s a great boat. We’re going to have a grrrrrrreat time. Rob has been urging my dad to use the boat even when he’s not there so that he can reap the rewards of what will probably one day become a legendary trip once they’ve put enough time between themselves and the actual event.

We drive up to Rob’s house and we’re greeted by three dogs. Totally cute. They’re all jumpy and frisky and accompany us to the dock, where there are two sailboats and a motor boat just chilling. Boats! Excitement! This is going to be sooo funnn!

this collage has adventure written all over it, right??

OBSERVE THE HAPPINESS. BOATS. DOGS. MY DAD'S HAT. HAPPINESS GALORE.

So we tinker around a little, trying to figure out which switches do what and what ropes go where. Sailboats are a little more tricky than motorboats, mainly in respect to the part where a motorboat is pretty much ready to go once you turn the key and a sailboat is fickle sea demon that demands animal sacrifice to leave the dock. Other than that, not much difference.

In this situation, we had to get the motor going to sort of putter out of the narrow, more shallow area of the creek towards open water where we would be able to really let out our sails and let down our hair (at least me, because Dad is definitely in charge of steering). It took a little while to get the engine going because of the aforementioned quirks, plus, you know, maybe it needs to warm up a little, or maybe we didn’t sacrifice the right kind of animal, or not enough… but anyway, I digress. Finally we get it going.

Chug a chug chug, Chug a chug chug, Chug a chug chug HERE WE GO WE’RE ON AN ADVENTURE LOOK AT US FATHER-DAUGHTERING THE DAY AWAY I BET YOU NEVER SAW SO MUCH FUN AS THIS and then the engine died again.

The fun thing about the engine dying was that we had already untied all of the ropes holding us to the dock and had gotten a little momentum out towards where we would start to aim towards the open water. Once the engine died, we sort of continued in that trajectory… across the creek… slowly… drifting… and basically into the water equivalent of their neighbor’s front yard, during which time my dad is very patiently and methodically (no, really) trying to start the engine again and adjusting the choke to different positions to see if that will make a difference.

Which it didn’t. And then we were actually in danger of running aground on the other side of the creek, so we had to throw out anchor and stop ourselves from hitting truly hideous levels of ignominy. Then my dad called his friend.

(I’m paraphrasing) “So, uh, Rob. Can’t start the engine. Uh uh. Really. Hmm. (There may have been a knee slap somewhere around here to indicate hilarity.) Ok then, we’ll just wait here!”

Synopsis of the other side of the conversation: “Oops, I should have told you to refill the gas tank. I’ll be there once I’m done putting in this epidural.”

My dad was insisting that the epidural was just a pain procedure, but I insisted on believing that Rob was doing an epidural for a pregnant woman in labor and that WE WERE DOOMED TO WAIT UNTIL THE BABY WAS BORN.

So there we were, stuck on a boat with no gas, a mere 50 feet from where we started, waiting for A BLESSED BABE to be born, what an adventure OH WHAT AN ADVENTURE.

I decided to take matters into my own hands and be a fix-it kind of girl, so I jumped in the water and swam vigorously about a quarter of the very small way across the creek, then a little less vigorously for the next half, then made it to the dock at a very dignified crawl. I was like, yeah! I’m going to save the day! I’m going to find the gas can, and then I’m going to get in a canoe (they actually had a couple on the lawn), and I’m going to sit that gas can down in the canoe like it’s my best friend because maybe it is, and then I’m going to paddle paddle paddle back to Dad. And then he can take it from there.

But then I couldn’t find the gas can, and I felt weird exploring someone else’s yard for their gas, and I additionally could not find the paddles to any of the canoes, so I had to give up on the whole Sacagawea-style rescue plan. It was very disheartening. I swam back.When I got back on the boat, my dad suggested an alternate method of transporting the gas to us, and I rued the day I didn’t think of tying a rope around the gas can and holding it in my teeth as I swam across the creek myself. I’m really not living up to my potential. OH MY GOD EXISTENTIAL ANGST WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT MYSELF ISSSSS MY BRAIIIIN DETERIORATING ALREADY??!?!!??!

Anyway, eventually Rob did come, and all I’m going to say is that he must have greased that baby up to help it come out faster because it really didn’t take half as long as I had expected it to for him to appear on the dock and just kind of look at us like “Huh. So there you are.”

Then, of course, this being a magical day in which everything makes sense and proceeds as it should, he drives his motor boat over to us with a gas can and we refill the tank and live happily ever after OH WAIT THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED. He got in his sailboat and puttered over to us sans gas and then we lashed our sailboats together like we were the next incarnation of The Slightly Less Impressive Pirates of the Caribbean (I want to be the Kiera Knightly character because OMG she’s so HOT and INDEPENDENT, that’s what it must mean to be a LADY PIRATE) and then we went back across the creek and retied our boat to the dock and that was that.

I am a lady pirate.

There wasn’t any gas in the tank, but the engine still wasn’t quite running up to what it should have been, so we just left for the day, holding on to whatever shreds of dignity we had left and going to recover with ice cream. LET’S GO TEAM FATHER-DAUGHTER!

Graduation weekend is over

Graduation weekend at Bryn Mawr is over now, and it was wonderful. Lots of things to share and write about, but for now, this picture will have to do it.

My wonderful, intelligent, beautiful, loving, incredibly-accomplished sister walking back down the aisle after having graduated. Congratulations, Emily!

The Highs and the Lows of the Sweet Life: Swedish Candy Mania VS. Salt Licorice

It’s not easy being an expat in Sweden, what with the eating cake and drinking coffee and taking long walks and enjoying the free health care. Seriously. I work very hard at all of this. It’s not like it comes naturally to me or anything. Eating candy is just one of the many areas where I try to fit in, and to some extent I succeed.

So for all of you candy enthusiasts, I present to you:

THE HIGHS AND THE LOWS OF THE SWEET LIFE! (FROM THE EXPAT BLOG AT SWEDEN.SE)

PART I: THE HIGHS. SWEDISH CANDY MANIA

There are times when I feel like I’m becoming Swedish, and there are times when I know I’ll never be one of them. Then there are times when I can’t tell which side I’m actually on. Take candy, for example, a totally harmless, nice treat to be enjoyed now and then… or IN MASSIVE QUANTITIES ALL THE TIME.

See, here’s the problem. Swedish candy is so amazingly, mind-bogglingly good that once I start eating it, I can’t stop. No, really. I am physically unable to stop myself. And I’d love to think that this lagom thing I’m always being told about—you know, the Swedish concept of having “just enough, but not too much”—is going to rub off on me eventually. But no. I go straight into an American-style eating frenzy like a fat kid at an all-you-can-eat ice cream bar. It’s not pretty.

But what makes it so good?

Keep reading here!

Life cycle of a bag of candy in Kate Wiseman's hands

PART II: THE LOWS. SALT LICORICE

It arouses the passions, inflames the mouth, causes some to jump for joy and others to scream in pain. Traveling under a false name and lurking in the midst of innocent sweets, it ranges in strength from this is just unpleasant mild to I think I’m going to hurl strong.
SALT LICORICE!!

Except… gasp… it’s not really salt licorice. It has a salty taste, but there is, in fact, no salt in it. As Bronte, co-founder of London-based Scandinavian Kitchen Deli and Groceries, explained to me via email, the taste comes from Ammonium Chloride, and it is this taste that non-licorice people find difficult to understand. That’s why salt licorice often goes under the name “salmiakki,” which is the Finnish word for Ammonium Chloride.

Keep reading here!

Varieties of salt licorice

Have a great weekend, everyone! I’m off to Philadelphia for Emily’s graduation. Can’t wait!!

Much love from the States…

xoxo kate!

Being home: it’s like the zoo, but with better food.

Being home is super-awesome not just because I have the unwavering attention of my parental units and a neverending supply of unbelievably delicious food and drink, but also because my parents’ new house is surrounded by wildlife. Their backyard is a lot like my backyard will be once I have my zoo, except I will have fewer squirrels and more red pandas.

I went on a walk with my Nonna today, and the first thing we encountered was a baby turtle right in the middle of the path.

What a cutie!! It pulled its head and legs in the second I picked it up, but then it got really brave and started running and jumping around. Since when can turtles jump? I was like, “My friend, despite your outward appearances, you are clearly the hare, not the tortoise. Live long and prosper, little warrior.” Then we set it down in the grass and kept moving.

Nonna and I continued on our walk, and after a while we found a bench by the side of a pond. Nonna took the opportunity to sit and gaze at the ducks. What a lady. I had to keep us moving because we were following in the wake of a lawn-mower and all the grass clippings were making me feel extremely itchy.

See how carefree and relaxed I look in the above picture? This is about two minutes before I realized that we were totally lost in the housing development. I have no idea where I’m going, and Nonna’s almost blind. It was literally the blind leading the dumb. (In this case, I’m the latter, obvs.) I became increasingly nervous about our combined lack of direction, but Nonna was unfazed.

Then I was put in charge of holding the bottom of the ladder while my Dad climbed very high up to the roof and cleaned out the gutters. This made me extremely nervous because the ladder did not seem, ahem, stable and if my Dad fell on me, it would not, ahem, feel good. Not even a little bit. There were two bright spots in the situation, though. One, the rabbit above. Two, the inevitable Dad pose below.

what a man.

Now that’s a manly man. Am I right, or am I right??! Go, Dad, go. You still got it.