Monthly Archives: June 2011

Sausage Man Overshadowed (Lomma Beach)

When Emily was here visiting me, we went to the beach. Whoduthunkit?! You go to Sweden, and not only are there no polar bears, but you might even get a tan as well?! Life is cray cray is all I’m gonna say.

Anyway, while at the beach, I was pretty enchanted by the Korv man that you can see below. “Korv” means sausage in Swedish, so that guy is walking up and down the beach with a portable version of those rolling hot dog grills that I usually associate with gas stations and 7/11. According to my friend Malin, he’s been around for a long time… always the same guy, every year, hawking his sausages up and down the beach.

Of course I had to take a picture. But then when I was looking at them a little later, I saw something else happening in the foreground that seemed very strange.

At the very least, I know my mom is going to think this is funny. Happy hippity dippity summer.

Oh, snap(s)… it’s Midsummer. (from The Expat Blog)

There’s no use trying to be delicate about this. A crucial part of the Midsummer festivities is the drinking. I’m trying very hard to sound very adult-like and responsible in this blog, but even the totally responsible adults I know seem to be prone to, ahem, a little excess during Midsummer.

Snaps! Aquavit! Brännvin! Bål! Where to start?

Delicious glasses of bål chilling out with the Midsummer Head Wreaths. Photo: Kate Wiseman.

Here’s the basics.

Bål (pronounced like “bowl”) is an alcohol-based fruit punch, usually made with soda for a light and bubbly taste.

Aquavit is the traditional pairing to pickled herring and is made from a vodka base (either potato or grain). Like parmesan and champagne, aquavit is an EU-protected label that must be made with either dill or caraway or both, a baseline flavor that can then be paired with other herbs and spices to make distinctive varieties.

Brännvin is any kind of flavored, distilled alcohol, including but not limited to aquavit. The name “brännvin” refers to the “burning” or distillation of an alcohol, and different kinds of brännvin have been made throughout Scandinavia for centuries.

Snaps is not a type of alcohol; it’s the way a shot of alcohol is drunk. Snaps can be any liquor or combination of liquors and other ingredients, but snaps must be taken in combination with food. At Midsummer, snaps of aquavit or other types of brännvin are usually taken after “snapsvisor” (traditional Swedish drinking songs) are sung.

Keep reading…

Follow this link to the Expat Blog, where you’ll hear about my adventures with home brewing, learn more about bål, and even score a recipe or two for your next summer party!

 

We make it look easy, right?

Measuring, grinding, steeping, smelling... and voila! Our very own homemade snaps. Photos: Kate Wiseman.

Follow this link to the Expat Blog to keep reading!

 

Cederlunds Caloric Punch: Almost guaranteed to be an old-timey drink

How many people think that this drink was created and branded in the last 25 years?

Almost definitely old-timey liquor

Photo: Kate Wiseman.

Nobody? Nobody? Weird.

In brief: Finnish liquor, 26%, serve it warm with pea soup or cold as an after dinner digestive. (Obviously. Those would have been my choices anyway.)

According to Systembolaget, the Swedish national alcohol monopoly, it has a slightly thick, sweet taste with a strong affinity towards arrack as well as hints of citrus and herb tastes. As long as I translated all that correctly.

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

Steve has decided to learn Swedish.

That in itself is a big deal, because Steve has lived in Sweden for awhile now, and while he is totally fluent in local customs and could probably tell you the name of every barista within a 15 km radius of Malmö, he’s avoided learning Swedish because he thought his stay would be temporary. If you ask me, the man will live here until the day he dies. He remains in quasi-denial about the fact that he is totally not going to move back to the US again, but at least now he’s decided to learn Swedish.

Plattan i mattan, Chewie!*

The Jojo Sommarkort (summer card) from Skånetrafiken

Anyway, not only is Steve kind of over his denial, but we both have the Jojo Sommarkort (summer card) from Skånetrafiken, which, let me tell you, is the best thing ever. Between June 15 and August 15, we can travel as much as we want throughout all of Skåne (the southernmost state in Sweden) on busses, trains, and Sweden’s famous public transit donkeys. (Just kidding about that last one.) All this, and it costs less than a normal monthly pass between Lund and Malmö, which is a tiny subsection of the vast expanse of Skåne we now have at our disposal.

End result: we’ve decided to take random day trips throughout Skåne and I’m supposed to teach him Swedish. The latter part of this equation is totally ludicrous, but we’re going with it anyways. Little does he know that he’s going to end up speaking with the vocabulary of a sailor and the grammar of a four year old. It’s going to be awesome.

It was a cold and rainy Friday when we decided to do our first excursion. Neither of us were in the best of spirits, but we met at the Malmö train station anyway. And then we got on a train to Ystad because that was the next train leaving.

Charming Ystad

Ystad is a small coastal town in southern Sweden, and while we mostly just wandered around for the afternoon, we did manage to wander through a fair number of nice areas. It’s most famous for being the setting for Henning Mankell’s Wallander detective series. If you want to get a glimpse of the city in moving pictures and color, you can watch the British miniseries, featuring Kenneth Branagh as Detective Wallander—it was shot on location.

Old timey "half-timbered" Ystad houses, dinner-ish at the Bryggeriet, happiness on the train!

Here are the things we did: wandered through the main shopping streets on our way to Stortorget, had a snack at Espresso House in Stortorget, wandered some more, saw the Catholic Church (a pretty rare sight in Sweden), and then meandered on down to the Bryggeriet (Brewery) for the meal of appetizers that you see in the top right photo above.

It feels kind of silly to go to an Espresso House when you’re touristing around because as far as I can tell, they’re the Swedish equivalent of Starbucks, but I have the member card and you get a 20% discount when you use it, so now it’s kind of my go-to coffee house. Those member cards. They’ll get you every time. However, I can also tell you that there’s a really good cafe right next to the Espresso House… I just can’t remember its name. (Rookie mistake.) I went there last fall with Steve and his friend Laura, and thanks to Laura, I had a taste of the most delicious sandwich ever: homemade pesto waffle (the thin kind) grilled cheese. Oh, the joy.

This time, the call of nature (the hungry call of nature) led us to the Bryggeriet, where Ystad’s very own beer is brewed. We had a cheese and sausage platter, french fries, and garlic bread, plus some delicious fresh beer. Steve thought the sausage was to die for (my words, not his) and didn’t like the garlic bread. I had said that I wasn’t hungry prior to ordering and then plowed through the french fries, the cheese, the quasi-nachos that came with the cheese and sausage, and both of our portions of garlic bread. Plus a beer. Typical.

Then we got back on the train for Malmö and headed home… Free trip again! Oh, how I love thee, Jojo Sommarkort!

View Steve and Kate’s Adventures: Week 1 in a larger map

Next week: more adventures. Punch it, Chewie; ahoy.

*Swedish that I learned from Steve, who learned it from his roommate M-Lou. It’s the Swedish translation of “Punch it, Chewie!” Which is, of course, from Star Wars. Obviously important.

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MOVIE MADNESS! (GIFF 2011)

 

The day after Midsummer’s, which is actually Midsummer’s Day, which is now.

Holy confusing holiday scheduling, Batman. Midsummer was yesterday, except for it kind of actually wasn’t, since today is Midsummer, but we celebrated the holiday yesterday on, of course, Midsummer Eve (Midsommarsafton). Seriously, people? You have no interest on celebrating a holiday on the right day ever. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Midsummer is technically a holiday celebrating the Summer Solstice, which was June 21, aka last Tuesday.

So there you have it.

Anyway, Midsummer was awesome, and no doubt I will write very many more things about it in the coming week, but in the meantime, here’s a quick recap of what happened:

  • Punch was drunk.
  • Games were played.
  • Dinner was served; gluttony ensued.
  • Songs were sung; shots were taken. (These parts in quick succession.)
  • A bevy of strawberry cakes were presented to the masses.
  • The sun set; the party moved inside.
  • Heavy drinking of alcohol paired with heavy drinking of water. (That’s right, Mom. I am sooo responsible.)
  • Bike ride home. Slightly drunken pasta massacre.

All that, and almost no hangover. Sweeeeet. Of course, I did wake up without an alarm at 7:30 am and then couldn’t fall asleep for another 3 hours… but then I was all good. I had delicious hangover-killing toasts: one European-style, one American-style.

The European-style hangover killer is made with Nutella. The American-style hangover killer is made with peanut butter. My foggy, foggy brain thought this was really clever this morning. But also! Have you heard about the restorative powers of bananas? Science!!

Anyway, it’s almost 9:30 pm and I’m finally feeling totally recovered. Now it’s off to work on researching more about the J 1 visa program so Simon can eventually move to the US and live there with me.

Glad Midsommar to everyone in Sweden, and happy summer to everyone else!

I am so obsessed with the head wreaths.

Happy Midsummer! (from the Expat Blog)

I started writing this last night in the quiet of my apartment, feeling a little like a child the night before Christmas. All the preparations for Midsummer were in order, there were certain tasks that need to be completed in the morning (among those: making another flower head wreath), and now, this morning, all that stands between me and the Midsummer festivities is time.

Although the weather is less than perfect at the moment, I’m excited to see what the day will bring. Undoubtedly herring and snaps, fresh potatoes and a strawberry cake. (See fellow Sweden.se blogger Anne’s Midsummer strawberry cake for an example.) But what else? Should I have bought a traditional folk dress? Now I’m just making myself nervous.

I thought about live blogging Midsummer from beginning to end for a moment, right before I realized that combining aquavit consumption with internet access was not a good idea. I’ll be taking lots of photos instead so I can report back to you all later.

Will we dance around a maypole? Will traditional songs be sung? Will we channel the spirit of the Vikings and summon the ghost of Leif Ericsson? (I really hope so.) On a related note, do you think that Ikea makes ready-to-assemble maypoles? Because that would be awesome.

Here is a small sampling of photos from the week’s Midsummer preparations—making snaps, weaving our own flower head wreaths, and tapping centuries-old Midsummer magic. There will be much more later on all the action.

In the meantime, happy, happy Midsummer to all of you! I hope you enjoy the day no matter where you are.

 

Midsummer Challenge

The following picture illustrates the preliminary step of what essential Midsummer ingredient?

First to guess correctly gets fame and an immortal soul.

Those who want to make this an open book test can refer to the KokBlog. And no, it’s not the elderflower cordial. You can find photos of that here.

Swedish Midsummer: An Insider Video

In the midst of my Midsummer’s-themed blogging week at The Expat Blog, I wanted to share with you this slightly less-than-sanctioned video of a Swedish Midsummer.

Produced by German Ikea (thus explaining why the chapter titles are in German), and subsequently banned by corporate Ikea.

And obviously awesome. Friday is going to be grrrrrreat!

Japanese candy arrival: Beth Wiseman, eat your heart out

Looooooooooook what I got in the mail.

Please notice the “Detailed description of contents” parts. Ryan Fark is the sweetness.

More on this later. Japanese candy from Japan deserves a whole post, and I am busy. Busy making snaps, as it happens, and writing. And preparing my lesson plans. And having dinner with Simon’s mom. And then tasting snaps and writing some more. You see what I mean.

5 Steps to Making Your Own Midsummer’s Head Wreath

My Swedish friends would probably laugh at me if I called them exotic, but to be honest, there is something so old-fashioned and nostalgic about creating flower head wreaths that they do seem foreign, enchanting, and even, well, even exotic to me.

That said, it’s all good and well to want a flower head wreath of your very own, but I had no idea how to make one.

“Oh, if only I were a Disney princess,” I thought to myself, wistfully, while standing at my window and gazing out over my kingdom courtyard. “Then all I would have to do is stand here and absent-mindedly sing as I gaze, and a host of forest animals would come bearing flowers, and then probably some remarkably humanoid mice would assemble them for me, and a team of birds would assembly to carry it to me and place it on my head, whistling industrially all the while. If only! If only.”

And then I sighed and gazed out at the courtyard again, longing for an answer to my plight.

Fortunately, I was jarred out of my reverie by my friend Anna calling, reminding me that we had already discussed the head wreath situation and had decided to meet today to do a pre-Midsummer’s trial run. Phew. Thanks to Anna, magical woodland creatures are not a necessary part of the head wreath process. Anyone can make them in five simple steps.

To read more—and to learn how to make your own Midsummer’s head wreath—follow this link to the Expat Blog at Sweden.se!

from the expat blog
The final product: two satisfied girls and a beautiful flower head wreath. (Mine became more of a garland… newbie mistake!) Photos by Kate Wiseman and Nils Bylander

More photos come with the instructions. Follow this link to see more!