Baby Showers in Sweden – Better than Halloween!

Last week my friend and I threw a baby shower for a dear girlfriend of ours. Most of you non-anglophones are probably wondering what is a baby shower.

Tissue pompom fun – so cute!
dessert table with tissue pompoms

A baby shower is a party thrown for a mom to be having her first child one to two months prior to her due date. A couple best friends throw the party to welcome the mom-to-be into the ‘club of moms.’ Women have an afternoon to chat, eat, and enjoy each other’s company.

A usual women-only event, baby showers can be tailored to be co-ed; add in the beer baby bottle game and you’re set. But for guys attending, let them skip the present opening time. They will die with the amount of of ‘ooohing’ and ‘awwwing’ happening.

Plus, guests bring gifts for the newborn baby which are opened at the end of the shower. The gifts are practical: onesies, diapers, bottles, and anything new parents may need. A baby shower helps offset the expensive cost of clothes and items for newborns.

The baby shower we hosted mixed American and Swedish culture. The party itself was of course American but we kept to simple styles and colors to be elegant, which brought out the Swedish style.

Mom to be with her presents!
mom-to-be with gifts

We played a couple fun games such as matching guests names to their meanings and a short story game.

We skipped the super gross game where you smash different type of chocolate candies in diapers and then everyone has to guess which candy it is. It’s meant to look like poop. Ewww.

And of course we had a food table since the party was late afternoon along with a dessert table. A dessert table is a must!

I baked a whole ton of cookies, cupcakes, and a four layer cake. It was catatonically wonderful.

All the girls enjoyed the shower, especially the Swedes. As one girl remarked, “why did we have to import Halloween? Baby showers are much more fun!”

True! How can you not love whimsical and happy?

I think every mom-to-be should have an opportunity for a baby shower. It’s an afternoon to feel special and enjoy time with your friends.

If you want to throw a baby shower in Sweden, here’s what you need:
1. 10-20 female guests – this includes friends, sisters, mom-to-be’s mom, and sister in laws. However one to two best friends hold the shower.

2. Invitations – Ecards work best and are cheap and easy to keep track of.

3. Decoration – Cutlery – Cute, baby decoration is hard to come by in Sweden so I suggest going with whimsical colors instead. Solid or polka dotted pastel colored napkins and tablecloths are perfect. Buy little plates or pull out your dessert plate collection (I picked up 18 porcelain dessert plates for 200:- at Stockholm Stadsmission).

4. Decoration – Tissue pompoms – Tissue papper {silkespapper} is really hard to find. You can find 8 sheets for 30:- but when you need to make 15-20 pompoms, that will be ridiculously expensive.

And forget Panduro, they are the worst craft store ever. Ever. Go to Matton (store on Luntmakagatan 66 at Rådsmansgatan) for tissue papper, crepe papper, pens, and basic art supplies. For paint, oil pastel, pencil and canvases visit Kreatima on Sveavägen.

5. Desserts – Cake – A cake is a must. Ours was a four layer cake in pink ombres. It’s easy to make provided a layer does not crack apart, which happened to me. Still delicious and with a cream cheese frosting. Yum!

pink ombre cake

6. Desserts – Cookies – Whimsical cookies according to the theme of the party are great. For the baby shower I did a take on Noah’s Ark so did a pair of animals. If you want the recipe for the sugar cookie and royal icing, post a comment and I’ll throw one together. And if you have to buy cookie cutters {pepparkaksformar} in Sweden, which is expensive, I recommend here or here but not Kakburken.

Mums…desserts!
dessert area

7. Games – Two to three games are plenty to get the group involved with each other, especially if you notice people are not mingling. My favorite games are:

* Meaning of Names – Take all the guest names and find their meaning through one of the baby name or Swedish name sites. Print out a sheet with the guest names and meanings jumbled up and the players have to match the correct ones to each other.

* Story game – Give everyone 20 words, 10 baby words (barnvagn for example), 10 non baby words (beer for example). Players have five minutes to write a story using all the words. Players can be as silly or serious as you want.

* Stoller race – If the weather is great then take a game outdoors. Strap in a teddy bear to a stroller and set up a makeshift racecourse. Players are timed for fastest racing as well as keeping teddy intact.

Baby showers usually take place in the afternoon or late afternoon. If you’re having a party in the late afternoon, provide some food of substance instead of desserts only.

And of course, in a non jante way, make the mom-to-be feel special!

9 Issues That Tear America Apart {And Don’t Need To}

I know I complain a lot about Sweden and Stockholm and the Swedish people but there are days when I am ashamed to be American. That is because there are Americans who choose to force their ‘rights’ onto others because of their religious believes or morality. I am fine if you want to express yourself religiously, but at the cost of my rights and common sense, it is unacceptable and illegal.

Many of these ‘issues’ in the US are not issues in other developed societies (gay rights and abortion for example), yet we make an entire political campaign on a wedge issue that does not to improve the economy or state of the union.

 

Abortion
The hottest topic ever to cross modern societies: do women have the right to abort fetuses? And where does a embryo become a fetus with feelings?

I am pro common sense and I am pro rationality but I will not stand for people who pledge abstinence, are against abortion, and then use welfare stamps to feed their many babies because they lacked common sense to do family planning.

We should institute a new bill. If one believes contraception and abortion is immoral, then they and their family are not eligible for welfare stamps, Medicaid, or any poverty assisting program benefits. They are too poor to take care of a child but too ignorant to use a condom? I am not using taxpayer money to take care of more ignorant children they create.

Just like the people who want welfare recipients to take drug tests to get benefits, welfare recipients should take “Common Sense” tests to prove they have enough brains to not screw up the next generation of babies they create.

 

Gay Marriage
It is shameful to know a that country like the United States can stand at the same level as Uganda. They want to pass a bill that will not only criminalize homosexuality but can carry the death penalty for engaging in homosexual acts. Who’s helping them? Conservatives in the United States.

When people still feel it acceptable to strip others of their human rights because they share a different point of view is a slippery slope to playing God and marginalizing people. In extreme cases that leads to genocide.

Contraception
Most epic idiotic battle ever. The Senate votes 51-48 to table a bill that would allow “employers and health insurance companies deny coverage for contraceptives and other items they object to on religious or moral grounds.”

Hypothetical stupidity: If you are an employer, you could deny health coverage for X-rays because you know, taking an x-ray is stealing someone’s soul. And that violates you religious beliefs. Therefore all your employees covered under company insurance will not be allowed to get x-rays.

Quoting Rush Limbaugh, the conservative pundit who has a drug problem amongst a myraid of other personal issues.

What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

Yes, he really said that. He also said that these women should post their sex videos since taxpayers are paying for them to have sex. Posting the online videos includes married people too; because married people should not have safe sex either.

It should be noted that many women take the Pill not because they are sexual active, but because it helps regulate menstral flow, decrease acne, and can lessen heavy bleeding.   They too would be denied coverage if the bill passed.

According to conservatives, no one should be having sex, ever; before marriage and in Limbaugh’s case, after marriage.

 

Guns in Bars
The second amendment has done a number on people’s beliefs to carry guns wherever, whenever, however. Even if you are not drinking, you should not carry a gun in a bar. It’s dumb and unsafe.

Would you feel safe knowing the guy next to you was packing heat and drinking a supposed Coke-cola? Because you could always end up like the Tennessee senator arrested for DUI and carrying a gun in his car. And he was the one who introduced this bill.

And in light of the recent murder of Trayvon Martin, self defense gun laws need to investigated at a deeper level.

 

Universal Health Care 

Call it whatever you want Bill O’Reilly and other conservative pundits. The fact is 49 million people are uninsured. When one of those people get sick and go to hospital, guess who pays the bill? Taxpayers. Hospital care is costly and can be 10-50 times more expensive than if a person was treated at a doctor’s office and received care.

I do not want to pay from my tax money for people to fall extremely sick and burden our dysfunctional health system. We pay the highest amount per capita (double the amount of Switzerland that is in second place) and yet still do not have the healthiest people. The system is totally fucked up.

Source: barackobama.com via Barack

Let’s fix it, get people coverage (not free coverage), and make American healthier to work and live.

Hasn’t anyone realized that a healthy American is a hard working American? And a hard working American leads to a economically stable society?

 

The Tax Code
The IRS and the myriad of forms to fill out in tax season is bat shit crazy insane. I am never sure what the hell I am supposed to be filling out. Add to that, that Mitt Romney’s tax pressure is barely 14% and mine is close to 30% pisses me off.

Ideally we would trash the current system, put a new one in that based on income (and by income I mean ANY way the dollars enter your bank account – stocks, equity, trusts, W2) and make life simpler and fairer for all.

Unfortunately, the tax code is the most complex set of rules and laws, that it will take years to fix.

Until then, please don’t arrest me because I forgot to disclose my ICA card in my Treasury filings.

 

Intelligent Design
Awesome, so you really believe that Mr. T-Rex roamed around with our forefathers. Just please, keep your tyrannosaur off of crack.

English as the National Language
We live in the United States. Our Constitution and all our bills are written in English. I know people speak Spanish but none of our legislation is written in Spanish. Pass a bill that English is the official language of the United States but that Spanish (or any other language) can be used as a working language.

This is the same mess happening in Sweden since the government forgot to make any language the official one of the country. Opps.

In addition, students have the right to learn second or third languages as long as their main language is English in school. Students should be required to learn second languages from grade school to high school. We need the next generation to speak English fluently and prove they are capable of competing with global workers who also speak second and third languages.
 

Higher Education
Yes Rick Santorum, President Obama does want people to have higher education, even for just one year. And calling him a ‘snob’ makes you a fucking moron.

Every American, legal or not, should obtain some form of higher education. Be it a vocational degree or a PhD, everyone should be able to be a better, more educated American.

The idea that we will “bring our jobs back onshore” only works if people are capable of doing those jobs. If Americans are not educated enough or lack basic skills, why would anyone want to hire them?

Get people educated to compete against the world, that will bring our jobs back home.

 

There are more issues, but these are the main ones that make me want to be a better American and stand up for those who have had their rights trampled upon.

Here are some organizations to read more about:
National Organization of Women – http://www.now.org/
Planned Parenthood – http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
The American Jewish World Service – http://ajws.org/who_we_are/
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – http://www.aclu.org/
The White House – www.whitehouse.gov
Fact Check – http://factcheck.org

I love you America, but don’t break my heart and take part in archaic ideology. Let’s make the country a better place to live and work.

The discussion may get heated. Please keep it civil and read the Comment Policy before you say something idiotic. I have the right to take down your comment if it is counterproductive, inflammatory in nature, discriminatory, threatening, or non-productive. But do have a discussion!

Easter Traditions in Sweden & The United States

It’s Easter weekend {Påskhelg} and for the Swedes, we began the celebrations/penance yesterday, Good Friday. Easter in Sweden is like many other holidays in Sweden, a mix of Christian, secular, and mythological traditions.

If you would like to have to a traditional Easter in Sweden, it doesn’t veer too far off from American traditions, just add witches and burning pyres.

Confused now? Waiting for the Easter Bunny to show up? He won’t; he’s dead to Sweden, but here is how we celebrate the coming spring (if it happens) and the crucification of Jesus.

Easter in Sweden

  • Easter traditions begin with Fettisdagen {Shrove Tuesday} where Swedes eat the sweet, almond-filled buns called semlor.
  • Candy is a major part of the celebration leading to Easter. Swedes love the lösgodis; chocolates, licorice, or gummies. Americans have the microwave exploding Peeps and jelly beans while the Brits have chocolate Easter eggs filled with more chocolates and Candbury cream eggs.

    And yes, Swedes do consume the most candy per capita in the world.

  • On Skärtorsdagen {Maudy Thursday}, young children dress up as påskkärringar {Easter witches/hags} and go door to door begging for candy and treats with a copper kettle. Little girls dresses up in rags and old clothes, oversized skirts and shawls.
  • It was also on Skärtorsdagan that the witches flew to the magical island called Blåkulla to consort with the Devil. The witches returned to their dens on Saturday and families burned pyres to ward off them off from cursing their homes and lands.

    Europe, during the mid 1600s, battled for religious power across the continent with fervor spreading throughout the continent and abroad. From 1668 to 1676, Sweden was immersed in large witch hunts and executions of them. The Blåkulla fable rapidly spread through the country to warn of witches and caste them from society. Across the pond in the US a mere twenty years later, New England was embroiled in the Salem witch trials.

  • For decoration, birch twigs have brightly colored feathers on the end and placed in vases around the house. According to ancient beliefs, birch twigs hastened the onset of the spring season.
  • Families also paint eggs and put them out for display. However, the selection of pretty stamps and stencils and colors to dye eggs is dismal.
  • Young children partake in an egg hunt with little papper eggs filled with lösgodis {loose bin candy} on Påskafton {Saturday}. It is not common for communities or large groups to do the hunt; this is more of a family affair.
  • Traditional Easter lunch consists of various flavored sill {pickled herring}, cured salmon and Jansson’s Temptation. The table is often laid like a traditional smörgåsbord.
  • At Easter dinner, families eat roast lamb with potatoes au gratin, asparagus (if the season has started), and other fresh spring vegetables (i.e. potatoes and carrots).

Easter in the United States

  • Children participate in large egg hunts to find colorful plastic eggs filled with chocolate.
  • Easter Friday is a somber day to acknowledge the crucification of Jesus. Jews observe the first day of Passover with a sedar.
  • Families decorate eggs and fill the house with spring flowers like tulips and daffodils.
  •  

  • Some Americans observe the idiotic and unethical tradition of buying bunnies or colored chicks for children as presents. Just dumb to turn living pets into goodie bag gifts. If you want to volunteer or help save a bunny visit the House Rabbit Society in your area.
  • Source: nytimes.com

     

  • Chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, Peeps, and chocolate eggs are popular candies for children and adults to consume. Personally, I love Cadbury creme eggs, that delicious sweet cream filling.
  • Easter Sunday dinner is similar to a Swedish dinner with roast lamb and potatoes.

You can mix the beauty of Swedish food and crazy witch trick-or-treating with the American decorated Easter eggs and egg hunts and have a wonder Easter!

Glad Påsk!

Valentine’s Day {Alla Hjärtans Dag} – You’re Lame

Valentine’s Day in the United States is this overloaded, gift giving holiday invented by the flower, diamond, and chocolate cartels and headed by Hallmark, the godfather of greeting cards.

The benefit for them – they make a lot of money; the benefit to you – you’re stuck in a vicious cycle as a guy to give, give, give some more.

V-Day is a holiday that makes me puke. Men are coerced into buying useless gifts for women they are barely dating. The holiday revolves all around “making her happy” and sexist ideaology.

It is a codified domestic prostitution day: man buys gifts, woman wears skimpy lingerie. Hmmm, what could possibly happen next?!

Now I don’t have a problem with women wearing sexy lingerie or men buying gifts. The issue is doing it on one a single day because society and industry convinces you it is the right and only thing to do.

* Whatever happened to buying roses for your sweetie, guy or girl, when you felt like it?

* Whatever happened to going on a weekend trip, just because you want to with your sweetie?

* Whatever happened to women buying chocolates and roses for their men?

How has a holiday about love turned into a materialistic game for men to be “real men” and buy lavish gifts? And for women to dress super sexy because the way to show your appreciation for gifts is to wear sexy lingerie.

American commercialization happened. Here’s a series of online advertisements from websites in the US. I’m sure you Swedes will find them amusing and insane.

1800 Flowers – MAKE HER HAPPY!

 
Victoria’s Secret – Expect nothing less from them

 
Tiffany – For a $20,000 ring, sure, I love you!

 
Sears – Quite possibly the only store advocating that men can receive gifts too! Sacrilège!!

 
Kays Jeweler – They never have enough TV ads to hammer in the point

 
Godiva – Because without chocolate, Valentine’s Day is a useless holiday

 
De Beers – The master of making a carbon ston

 
Hallmark Greeting Cards – Seem to be coming to their senses by saying V-day is for everyone, meaning “us”.

Valentine’s Day in School in America
I remember in seventh grade, a girl named Yvette received some 200 helium balloons, dozens of dozen roses, several boxes of chocolates, and a couple dozen teddy bears. It took AND her possy to drop everything off at the school admin desk so she wouldn’t be a “distraction” for the students.

And in seventh grade, boys use all their income to woo and coo a girl who probably doesn’t care they walk the earth. A Shakespeare tragic comedy in the making.

And Valentine’s Day in middle/high school usually means girls are either crying or boasting their new-found riches. I was in the former category as dating was never an option on the table until I was 20. Guys were therefore just friends, and I quite liked it that way. But still, being one of the many people who were not showered with Valentine grams, roses, chocolates, teddy bears, makes you realize how unpopular you really are.

That’s the psychological impact of Valentine’s day: no one can be as popular or well showered with gifts as the next person. I think many of remember having conversations of,
“Oooo, what did he give you for V-day?
Oh, did you hear Becky’s boyfriend gave them a week holiday to Hawaii!
Oh sweetie, it’s okay to not have a valentine, you’ll meet someone special I promise!”

 

At home, my parents and I always celebrated Valentine’s day together. After all, it was only our little nuclear family in America, so sending me off somewhere for a weekend away from them didn’t make sense.

Even though my dad bought my mom beautiful roses for V-Day, he bought her roses and flowers all year long. When he traveled for work, he would buy us little gifts and even real NY apple pies when coming from NY. He bought mom jewelry whenever she wanted and Dunkin donut’s for me as a treat.

{And of course he bought her things when he was in the dog house}

It was Valentine’s Day every month in our house.
 

Today, I’m really happy to not have to deal with that shit and I pray Sweden’s little kids don’t get sucked up into a cultural phenomena that men have to buy gifts to prove their “love” and women can demand gifts from any potential boy in their class.

{Though I did torture my husband and tell him he had to buy a valentine gift on our sixth date in three weeks. He bought a full set of lotions and scrubs from The Body Shop. It proved that we are both crazy.}

But tonight, we’re making crepes with friends and drinking a good bottle of champagne and eating treats. Valentine’s day is a holiday for everyone, even our little bunny.

And because I don’t need lame ass roses for my husband to prove his worth.

Thanks for Your Support for the SOPA Blackout Protest

Just a thanks to you readers who supported our blackout to protest SOPA and PIPA. More than 4.6 million people signed the Google petition alone.

And Twitter.com CEO Dick Costolo, said Wikipedia’s blackout is: “… just silly. Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish.” Who’s foolish now poop head?


Should these laws ever go into effect, even if rewritten, sites like mine may never see the light of day again. Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, WordPress, and even Google will have one hellava of a time.

But, first a public service announcement from Senator Chris Dodd, president of the MPAA {Motion Picture Association of America}:
“Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.

It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.

A so-called “blackout” is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals. It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this “blackout” to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”

I never knew Hollywood hated gimmicks!

For more reading about the United States Congressional bills titled HR 3261 and S968, visit:

Learn More

Information on H.R.3261 – Stop Online Piracy Act at OpenCongress.org

EFF Blacklist

Information on S.968 PROTECT IP Act at OpenCongress.org

In Fight Over Piracy Bills, New Economy Rises Against Old

Reddit /r/SOPA FAQ

Problematic language in the bill pointed out by a redditor.

Video examination of bill’s language.

Get Involved

Electronic Frontier Foundation: Petititon to Stop SOPA Legislation

List of companies that have expressed support for SOPA or PIPA.

List of companies that have expressed concern with SOPA and PIPA.

Take Action Checklist at Stop American Censorship.

Contact Your Representative with info and a widget to find them by EFF and Wired for Change.

Directory of Representatives

Senators of the 112th Congress

Helpful info on making phone calls to your Senator or Representative.

SOPAOpera.org keeps track of where your Congressmembers stand on PROTECT-IP and SOPA.

And a very funny but serious video about the consequences of these laws. Thanks to A for sending it to me.

The irony if this video is taken down for copyright violation.

Swedish Culture Win – Shoes Off Please

There’s this ongoing battle in many countries. The dispute can destroy dinner parties and make friendships awkward. Some people compare this battle to the War of the Roses, eternal until death do us part.

It is called – The Battle of Wearing Shoes Indoors!

I for one, do not allow shoes in the house. I never have. I never will.

Here’s why:

  • I am Indian, and like all other Asians, our home is our sanctuary.   To not takes shoes off is a sign of disrespect to the owners of the house.
  • I am a Hindi and a Jain, and as such, our home is also a place of worship.   God doesn’t like people schleeping in with shoes and shit on them.
  • I live in Sweden and not wearing shoes indoors is the biggest Swedish cultural win ever. Most of the year it rains or snows in Sweden. Why on earth would you drag stone, snow, mud filled shoes into a home? And Swedes pride themselves on keeping fastidiously clean homes (Americans, for all your cleaning supplies, the Swedes are better at keeping a home tidy). Plus, Swedes find it rude to walk around in a home with shoes you wear for the outside world.
  • Shoes indoors are gross.  No matter how many times I hear the, “ohhh, but it can make people uncomfortable to take their shoes off.   What if they have smelly feet or bunions or holey socks?” Seriously?  If someone gives me that dumbass rhetorical question, my answer is “maybe you should see a doctor and buy a pair of socks without holes.”
  • I am lazy and do not want to wipe scuff marks or water marks from your shoes in my home.
  • Your home is your home.   You have the right to ask, request, and in standoffs, demand people to remove their shoes.   Just as a guest does not have the right to eat food not served to them or throw their coats on the floor or eat before the host (in a formal dinner), a guest can certainly take their shoes off.
  • Wearing shoes all the time is stifling for my feet.  Who wants their feet to be smushed all day long in a pair of sneakers or heels?

no shoes indoors please

When I grew up, half the homes I would visit would take their shoes off and half would not. Even when I lived in New York and the temperature was -30C and blizzard conditions, I saw some friends keep their shoes on.

At my birthday parties, which occurred in December, my mom would always run around and ensure kids took those shoes off. I’m glad she did; no wants to clean up snow blizzard crap on the carpet. Plus, it was a to teach the kids, and adults, that we do ask for respect when you come into our home.

There were always some kids who would cry when they had to take their shoes off. They probably turned into the same adults who “can never take their shoes off because I’ve been doing it for 15 years.” Gross, don’t you want your feet to get some air? No wonder athlete’s foot is a huge problem in the United States.

But after doing some reading, the shoes on indoors turns out to be Anglo-Saxon tradition. Britain, northern Germany, the United States, the Netherlands, and some South American countries.

The Daily Mail had a hilarious article about wearing shoes indoors.

“Is asking guests to remove their shoes before they cross your ­threshold good housekeeping or horribly naff? After all, the suggestion is that your friends’ shoes are so grubby that they are bound to be treading something unspeakable over your carpets.”

Insinuating that your friends shoes are “so grubby” is misleading; shoes ARE dirty. What “unspeakables” would someone tread? Dirt, leaves, mud, water, snow, stones, dog shit, cigarette butts, snus, gum. No unspeakables here, shoes tread dirt.

“One poster wondered whether it was OK to ask guests to remove their footwear at the housewarming party she was hosting. ‘No,’ was the overwhelming response.
‘I’m picturing a Barratt home, twigs in a vase covered in fairylights and that Ikea picture of pebbles,’ sniped one woman on the forum.”

Remind me to never invite the nay-sayers into my home.

“Podiatrist Kate Millns says: ‘Asking people to remove their shoes is giving your guests unnecessary stress, as most people like to keep their feet hidden. It’s more hygienic to make them keep their shoes on, especially if they are not wearing socks or tights.”

By far the most bizarre of all, how does keeping one shoes on be more hygienic than taking them off? Honestly, if your feet smell a lot, you should be seeing a doctor, and possibly not wearing shoes every second of every day.

What to do in a Nordic household:

  • Please do take your shoes off being being asked to do-so.   The whole “Opps, I’m American, I didn’t realize it” is a lame and disrespectful excuse to a homeowner.
  • If you are attending a dinner party and do want to wear a pair of heels, ask the host if it is okay to bring the heels in a bag. Clean the soles with soap and water and wrap them up in a nice bag to take to the party.
  • I sometimes take a pair of my flat jutas to a party. I have cold feet and these shoes are meant for indoors only. They’re also very cute and stylish.
  • Some hosts will have a strict no shoes policy. That is especially true with people who have soft wooden floors. My friend had an inflytningsfest (housewarming party) and made the mistake of allowing people to wear clean heels in the house. Only two of the thirty or so guests did. And one of them left divits across a brand new floor. We tracked her “footprints” from the living room to the entrance to the bathroom and around. The cost to steam and fix the imprints will be 3000-6000SEK.
  • When in Sweden, embrace some new traditions. This is an instance of a great tradition.
  • Buy a shoe rack and a chair to help make it easier for guests to arrange their shoes and sit comfortably when taking them off.
  • Last, think about how much money you can save when not needing to buy shoes in Sweden for every new outfit! I call that winning!

shoe and jacket rack

From the forum, Imamother.com:
“Yes its YOUR home but wouldnt you want people to be comfortable in your home? Lets say they put on their worst pair of socks with holes in the front, not knowing that you had such a “policy”. Would you like to take the risk of embarrasing the visitor by them having to wear “holey socks” or putting them in the position of not wanting to take them off?”

If my friends had a pair of holey socks, it is not my problem.  It’s also NOT for me to make fun of them and make it an issue.

One of these days, I will stitch a sign to say “Inga Skor.” And if someone questions me, I will say “we’re Swedes, take off your damn shoes!”

UPDATE: Temporary Stockholmer found a doormat sold at Home Sweet Home.

Q&A on American and Swedish Christmas Traditions

I’ve been thinking about what makes Swedish Christmas different from American Christmas. After emailing with a friend back home in America, I realized there’s so many Swedish traditions not found in America and vice versa.

I put together a list of questions and answers on how Christmas is celebrated in each of the countries. This is thanks to my friend EC who bombarded me with similar ones by email and chat.

When is Christmas celebrated?
United States – 25th – Christmas Day. In the morning families enjoy sticky/cinnamon buns for breakfast. After breakfast they open presents, starting with the stocking. Stockings are the large “socks” hung over a fireplace. They have small goodies, especially candies and favorite snack in there.

Christmas dinner is similar to the Thanksgiving dinner. There is mashed potatoes, stuffing, bread, pies, cookies, but instead of turkey most families have a honey baked ham.
Sweden – 24th – Christmas Eve. Families start the festivities by watching Kalle Anka Önskar God Jul, a Disney collection of songs from the last sixty years. During the show, they eat pepparkakor and drink glögg (Swedish mulled wine). Then for dinner, Swedes partake in the famous Christmas smörgåsbord called Julbord; which is a collection of different foods.

On Christmas Day Swedes rest and enjoy a smaller meal.
christmas stockings
Do you go caroling?
United States – Yes, it is common in neighborhoods with children that kids and parents go door to door singing Christmas songs. At the end of the evening, the group gathers at a home for hot chocolate and cookies.

Sweden – It’s very uncommon. But, in church, families gather to sing songs.


When do you put up the Christmas tree?

United States – The weekend after Thanksgiving which falls on the first Advent.

Sweden – On the third Advent or after. It is not uncommon to put up the tree just a few days before Christmas Eve.


What are the most popular decorations?

United States – Wreaths, Christmas lights, and stockings. And when it snows, there’s always Mr. Snowman.

Sweden – Christmas stars to represent the town of Bethlehem and candle lights. Both are displayed in the windows.


What kinds of sweets do you eat?

United States – Cookies are most popular during the holidays. Everything from traditional chocolate chip to peppermint bark to decorated sugar cookies. Candy canes are well known to hang on the tree and of course eat.
Sweden – Swedes are not big on cookies but they enjoy other treats. The only cookie exception is gingerbread cookies called pepparkakor. The Swedish version are thin and crispy and more spicy and flavorful than the American counterparts, which are chewy-soft and sweeter.

Saffron buns, or lussebullar, are soft rolls made with saffron, kesella (quark), and touch of sugar. Swedes also enjoy a hard candy called knäck, literally meaning crack. It is hard toffee candy and can be flavored with almonds or exotic spices.

sticky buns for christmas

What kind of drinks do you have?
United States – Eggnog is a classic love-hate Christmas drink. Made with eggs and cream and flavored with anything from rum to cinnamon, eggnog is one of those drinks you imagine Auntie Georgia getting smashed on.

Similar to Swedish glögg, there is mulled wine and mulled cider. They are flavored with the traditional Christmas spices: cinnamon, clove, cardamon, star anise. For children there is hot chocolate with whipped cream and/or marshmallows. I’m a total kid; I love a dollop of whipped cream with dark hot chocolate.

Sweden – Glögg is the ubiquitous choice of drink to have on any cold afternoon or evening. Drop a few raisins and blanched almonds and you have the perfect strong drink to survive the Swedish winter. For toasting and Christmas dinners, there is aquavit or snaps. Children and non-drinkers can enjoy julmust, a Christmas cola soda, or a non alcoholic version of glögg.

What food do you leave out for Santa (Jultomten)?
United States – Cookies and milk. Any sort of cookie will do but most popular are sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and gingerbread cookies.
Sweden – Risgynsgröt. It is a rice pudding with cinnamon and brown sugar. Some tales call for a pat of butter on top of the pudding to ensure Jultomte does not break out in a rage.

What does Santa (Jultomten) look like?

United States – The American version of Santa can be credited to the Dutch’s Sinterklaas, cartoonist Thomas Nast, and folklore from other countries.

The modern version of Santa we know today is based on Coke-Cola’s creation by Haddon Sundblom in 1931. He based the modern day St. Nick on Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”) and Nast’s work from 1862.

Santa Claus is seen as jolly, fat, well tempered and with a large white beard and red outfit.

Sweden – Santa is known as Jultomten in Sweden and julnisse in Norway. Jultomten derives his name from tomte, a small man living in a farm who worked using magic. The tomte could be very kind and bestow gifts but also very moody and sometimes borderline sociopath. In folktales he’s known to kill a cow out of anger for not receiving his pat of butter on risgrysgröt and beating those who do not keep the house/farm well.

Jultomten however has a better temperament than the tomte. The name Jultomten came into use somewhere around the 1500-1600s. He rides on a giant goat, like Thor, and hands out presents.

Today’s Jultomten are similar to the American Santa Claus who is a fat, jovial, old man riding a sleigh. But you can still find the traditional jultomtar statues in the store; big hat, lots of hair, little nose, and faceless.

Note: Anyone who has more knowledge about how Jultomte derived his name from tomte and what he looked like in Sweden let me know. It’s tricky finding good information about jultomte in Sweden.

You can guess that our home is an amalgamation of both cultures with a dash of Indian (lots of color!) and Jewish (rugelachs, latkes and when younger, dreidels).

christmas in north carolina
More reading on Christmas
http://gd.se/extra/nuardetjuligen/1.241333-sa-kom-jultomten-till-sverige
http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jultomte

Thanksgiving Shopping in Stockholm

Fellow Americans out there, tomorrow is the most important food day of the year, Thanksgiving! For everyone else, you will think we are crazy folks who stuff ourselves silly with turkey, watch a parade, and yell at the Dallas Cowboys.

It is my favorite holiday of the year though! While Thanksgiving has dirty roots and is followed by the vain Black Friday, to me it’s about family. I will leave mushy family post until tomorrow.

Right now it is about buying all the supplies to make a proper turkey dinner. This will be my third Thanksgiving in Sweden and I have all my spots scored on making a proper American dinner.
thanksgiving in sweden
Here’s a rundown of what I make and where I buy the ingredients.

Stuffing
Forget the store bought, Stovetop crap, make your own stuffing, it’s super easy.
What you need:
2-3 stalks of celery (not heads!), sliced into 1/4cm pieces
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, sliced into 1/4cm pieces
1 garlic clove, diced into little pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup dried cranberries. Cranberries are tranbär in Swedish and you can dried ones in the Fruit/Nut bins or some in snack packs. If you cannot find them at all, grab a box of frozen tranbär.
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
day old bread, cibatta or any large loaf. no sliced bread
salt, pepper to taste

You also need – skillet (frying pan), large bowl, large spoon, foil, 1/2 cup boiling water

1. Heat oil in a small pan on medium heat.
2. Add onions and saute for 4-5 minutes.
3. Add garlic and carrot and continue to saute for another 4-5 minutes. It’s okay if the vegetables turn slightly brown.
4. Add celery and saute again for another minute or two.
5. Turn off and remove from heat.
6. In a large bowl, add the vegetable mix. Chop the bread into small pieces (about 1 cm) and throw into bowl.
7. Pour 1/2 cup boiling water and immediately cover with aluminum foil. This keeps the steam inside and softens the bread. However, we don’t want the bread mushy. Let sit for 5 minutes.
8. Take off the foil and give everything a mix with a large spoon. [If you find the bread to be rock hard, add another 1/4 cup (very small amounts!) and cover again with foil.]
9. Add the nuts and cranberries.
10. Finally season with salt and pepper and even a dash of oregano.

thanksgiving desserts stockholm

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread
This is one of my favorite and easiest dishes to make. It is like a banana bread and served as a dessert. It will make four small loaves or one very large loaf.

Pumpkin – Can buy at most large ICAs now or at Ingelsta Kalkon. Ingelsta Kalkon is all over Sweden and your best bet for finding American turkey day sides as well as delicious turkey.
Cranberries – Buy them frozen from any grocery store.

Adapted from the foodnetwork.com.
4 eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sour cream (gräddfil)
4 cups sugar
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon ground allspice
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups cranberries

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

In bowl combine eggs, pumpkin puree and oil.
In another bowl, add all dry ingredients and mix.
Combine the two bowls and gently mix with a hand whisk.
Add cranberries and mix for a couple more minutes.
Divide dough into 4 small loaf pans or two large ones. You should not fill more than 75% of the pan with batter.
Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Pumpkin Bread

Cranberry Sauce
Again, forget the Ocean Spray cranberry gelé in a can. Instead, make a fresh sauce. You’ll never turn back after.
What you need:
1 box (225g) frozen cranberries
1 orange
1/2 cup sugar
1 cups water
Dash of vanilla extract

1. Bring water to a boil and add sugar. Stir so the sugar dissolves.
2. Add frozen cranberries and bring down to medium heat (4-5 on an electric stovetop). Cover the pot with a lid and let simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Check on the sauce. It should be thicker and the cranberries should have burst apart by this point. Continue cooking with the lid off so that the sauce can become a bit thicker (should be thick enough to cover a spoon).
4. Using a microplane or small grater, grate the peel off the orange and add to the sauce.
5. Turn the heat off and add a dash of vanilla, about a 1/4 teaspoon.
6. If too tarty still, add another few spoons of sugar.

Ready to serve alongside the turkey and stuffing.

Pumpkin Pie

I can’t find my favorite recipe at the moment, but send me yours or post a link your favorite!

Fresh Whipped Cream
3dl whipped cream (vispgrädde), 36% or 40%
approx 100 dl powdered sugar (florsocker)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Endive Goat Cheese Salad
This salad provides a balance to the heavy dishes offered on thanksgiving day. It also takes out the drab in some old dishes, like the mushy green been casserole.

I don’t even make a dressing for it since it would add a heaviness to the dish. Besides, once everything ends up on the plate, it gets all mixed.
3 endives
1 packet goat cheese – the President pre-chopped 12 pieces is the best one
1 pomegranate
1/4 cup walnuts
1 package arugula
1 pink lady apple
salt, pepper

Large serving bowl.
1. Chop up the endives into small pieces. Give it a quick rinse using a strainer so that there’s no dirt.
2. Throw the endives into a bowl. Add the package of arugula.
3. Open the package of the goat cheese and crumble into small pieces. Add to salad. If you find a log of goat cheese, just make sure not to use the ‘skin’, it has a bitter taste and doesn’t go well with the salad.
4. Cut open the pomegranate and get out all the red seeds. Throw into the salad bowl.
5. Chop up the pink lady apple into small pieces.
6. Chop the walnuts into small pieces and add.
7. Toss together and add salt and pepper to taste.

endive salad

More to read:
Thanksgiving Wines – Check out the New York Times for the best pairings
Vegetarian dishes – Plenty covered by the NYT for those looking for meatless dishes

PSA on New York – It’s a STATE

This is a Public Service Announcement.

Swedes, Americans, and the rest of the world, please take note that New York is a state, not a city. New York City is a city and no matter how much the people bitch, they’re still going to be part of the state of New York.

state of new york versus new york city
[Image by Sarah Roberts]

 

Being from New York, it becomes annoying when people say, “I love New York City.”
Me: No, “I’m from New York. The State. You know?”
Confused fool: Blank stare.
Me: “You know, where Niagara Falls, Finger Lakes and the rest of mass between NYC and Canada exist.”
Confused fool: “Ohhhh…I’ve never met anyone from outside the city.”
Me: “Yea…we do exist…”

New York Staters are in danger from being wiped out by city folk. Please save us.

Thank you.

End of Public Service Announcement.

Happy (Illegal) Holiday!

Today is Constitution Day. I have no idea what that means except Constitution Day was passed over 100 years but strengthened in 2005; sometime during the abyss of the Bush years.

Constitution Day is simply a day to celebrate our Constitution because it was signed this day in 1787 (though not ratified until 1788).

The irony of the day is that it is most likely unconstitutional. “By Congressional mandate, all educational institutions receiving federal funds — from preschools to universities, whether public or private — are required to provide relevant educational programming to observe the occasion,” said Kent Greenfield, Op-Ed contributor of the NY Times.

Schools and colleges are as a result forced to teach about the Constitution on this day or risk losing federal funding. And when it comes to millions of dollars in funds to cash strapped schools, few would disagree. And schools are pushing the Constitutional talk even though it is unconstitutional to be forced to teach it.

I’ll save you Miss Liberty!
superwoman american flag

For students this can be a great opportunity to learn about the most important document in American history. Read the preamble, discuss the most influential cases by the Supreme Court, keep a pock guide of the Bill of Rights.

This gets weird when the Tea Party gets involved. They are on their gung-ho crayola wagon to push coloring books, and videos, and everything possible that of course supports the Tea Party angle. Why discuss the right to taxation (Sixteenth Amendment) or birthright citizenship (Fourteenth Amendment) when we can scream about states’ rights (Tenth Amendment) against the big bad government?

I love that students will have an opportunity to learn more and understand the philosophy behind our laws. I hate that a radical conservative political party (bat shit crazy sometimes) is using this day to force its own philosophies, conservative at best.

In any event, at least I can express my First Amendment right that the Tea Party is full of idiots and exert my Fifth Amendment rights to refuse to answer questions about calling a certain party idiots.

Happy Constitution Day!