December 14th, 2014
Yesterday was Lucia Day, and of course, I did the obligatory baking of lussekatter, or saffron buns. Then I put a few on a festive holiday plate and photographed them by the light of the Christmas tree. After that, we feasted until there was nothing left on the plate but crumbs.
Speaking of things Lucia, Friday afternoon was Yrsa’s Lucia pageant at pre-school. i didn’t get any good video, but I did capture, in the half-light, this picture of her wielding her candle. Like her sister, Brynja, before her, Yrsa somewhat misses the point of the candle, preferring to use it as a wand or a pointer instead of standing sweetly and reverently with it as she sings. At least, however, she gets points for not challenging any of her classmates to a duel.
December 10th, 2014
Tage and Petra played in Christmas concert this morning with the other kids at their school who play instruments. Unlike in the States, they don’t have a band class, but instead have lessons individually or in small groups. It was fun, then, to see them all playing together in the show’s finale, with the beginners and the more advanced students joining in on “Jingle Bells”. Tage, in his fifth year of violin, is an old hand at this concert stuff, but it was Petra’s very first show and she was fairly brimming with excitement (she’s in turquoise hoodie, playing trumpet, at the right of the screen).
December 8th, 2014
One of the many things about life in Sweden that I’ve embraced wholeheartedly is a love of saffron. In keeping with my newly rediscovered domesticity, I whipped up a batch of these saffron-lemon cookies the other day and managed to get a festive picture before they were all devoured.
These are from a recipe that Tage found in the newspaper a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t get out of his head. I swear, he asked me at least a half-dozen times over the course of two days if I’d made them yet, so clearly I had no choice. In fact, the cookies in the picture are from the second batch I made. They’re just that good.
Here’s the English translation:
makes about 30 cookies
½ gram ground saffron
1 Tbsp. water
2 cups flour
slightly less than ½ cup potato starch (corn starch will also work)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
½ tsp. ground vanilla (or 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
2 cups butter, softened
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Stir the saffron into the water in a small bowl.
Mix flour, potato starch, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and butter to a crumb-like texture. Divide mixture in half, putting each half in a separate bowl. Add saffron water to one bowl and lemon juice to the other, mixing well into a dough.
Roll each ball of dough, between sheets of parchment paper, into a rectangle measuring approximately 12×15 inches. Lay one rectangle on the other, rolling them lightly with a rolling pin so that they stick together. Take away the top paper and, starting from the long side, roll them together carefully. Refrigerate the roll at least 30 minutes (I usually leave it in the fridge overnight).
Heat the oven to 350°F. Cat the roll into slices about ½-inch thick and put them on a baking sheet. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes, until the cookies start to take a slight color, but no longer.
Let cool and enjoy!
December 4th, 2014
You guys, my house is so clean. For real, people who’ve been here would hardly recognize it. It’s not spotless by any means–we do, after all, have seven people, two dogs, and two cats living here–and to be completely honest, I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would say that it isn’t very clean at all, but compared to how it usually looks, it’s downright spick-and-span.
I’ve been feeling at kind of loose ends this fall, so I decided it was finally time to get the house in order. If I should get a Ph.D. position (please, oh, please), I’ll be pretty busy come spring, so it would be good to go into that with the house somewhat organized. And if I don’t get a spot (perish the thought), then I’ll be spending a lot of time here at home, and it’s always nicer to live in a tidy space.
When I’m not doing housework, I’ve been occupying myself with other domestic tasks, finally finishing the afghan I started crocheting for Brynja when she was a baby (she’s nearly seven now; egad). I’ve got a good start on Yrsa’s afghan now, and I’ve also managed to teach myself to knit, at long last. I’m really proud of myself for finally getting over that hurdle, even though it will be a good long time before I embark on any real projects. I love to crochet, and consider myself pretty good at it, but it’s just not as versatile as knitting.
In the midst of all that housewifery, I even managed to get the Christmas decorations up in a timely manner. The past two years, when I was busy with my studies, I scarcely decorated at all, but this year we got back to normal and transformed the living room into Holiday Central. The kids were chomping at the bit to decorate the tree of course, so for the first year I just left them to it and haven’t changed a thing. It looks nice, if you don’t mind uneven distribution of ornaments. Usually that sort of thing drives me completely nuts, but this year I’m pretty zen about the whole thing and find it rather charming (especially if I don’t look too closely at it).
November 30th, 2014
So yeah, I guess I’ve been putting off blogging long enough. It’s not that I’ve been avoiding it, really, just that nothing’s really happening around here. I’m still waiting to find out whether I’ll get a Ph.D. position (seventeen days until the decision is expected!), and in the meantime I’ve been doing a whole lot of housecleaning and watching no small amount of reality TV (Dancing with the Stars and Sister Wives are my current favorites).
Yesterday, however, we did have a newsworthy event in our annual Thanksgiving dinner. We had a full house with sixteen people and the requisite plentiful amount of food. We even had enough kids (and little enough room at the big table) to have a kids’ table. Here’s the picture that Lydia took, with Debbie’s three kids and my four younger ones:
November 16th, 2014
Last fall I was on the commuter train from the airport to Uppsala, and there were two men sitting next to me, talking. One was sixty or so, and the other was probably about my age. They were speaking Swedish and the older one had a marked accent. At first I thought the younger one was Swedish, but after some time passed, I noticed that he spoke with an accent as well. Both of them spoke good Swedish, better than I do, and their conversation indicated that they were professors at the university. After some time, my curiosity got the better of me and when they came to a lull, I leaned over and asked where they were from, telling them that I was American myself.
The older gentleman was French, though he’d been living in Sweden for more than thirty years, and the younger was Dutch. We chatted for a while about being foreigners living in Sweden, university life, and whatnot, and as we pulled into the station in Uppsala I got to feeling a little self-consious about my rudeness in interrupting their conversation the way I had. They assured me it was okay, and the French man joked, “though if you’d been Swedish you wouldn’t have asked”. We all laughed, then laughed harder when the Dutch man added, “and if we’d been Swedish we couldn’t have answered”.
November 8th, 2014
We’ve got almost all of our Christmas shopping done, and it feels good to have got it sorted on the early side this year. Usually I do like to have it all taken care of before Thanksgiving–some years I’ve managed it even before Halloween–but the past couple of years, when I was in school and traveling a lot, I let it go right up to the last minute. As usual, we spent more than we had budgeted for on the kids, but I think they’ll be especially happy with their gifts this year.
As the years go by, I’m less and less of a Christmas person. It’s all just too much of everything, and my heart’s not really in it. I think I put on a good show for the kids, though, which is the most important thing for me these days. Apart from a couple years of trying in my teens, I’ve never been a Christian, so the holiday has never been meaningful to me in that sense, and I’m on a completely different plane, religiously speaking, from my family (who, being Swedes, are all just about as non-religious as people can be). In a perfect world, I’d live closer to a community that I could share religious celebrations with, but I don’t see that happening any time soon, if ever.
As far as holidays go, Thanksgiving is, and always has been, my favorite. It’s completely devoid of any of the pressures of this religion or that, and there’s no pressure for it to mean anything more or less to any person than it does. A professor I had during my undergrad days used to say something to the effect that Thanksgiving was the most American of holidays, not only because of its history, but also because it’s observed by the vast majority of Americans in the exact same way, regardless of religion, ethnic background, or other factors than tend to color people’s holiday celebrations. There are minor variations, to be sure, but it is mostly the same everywhere, and I love that.
This year I think we’ll be having Thanksgiving dinner at our house again. The past couple of years we haven’t been able to rent the locale that we’d been using for a while, so our house is as good a place as any. We’ll be having the traditional dinner, with our usual company of Olof’s parents, Lydia’s best friend, and my American friend, Debbie, her husband, and their three kids. Lydia was talking about inviting her boyfriend and another friend, but she’s not happy about it being at our house, so I’m not sure if that will happen. I hope it does, though, because I like it when she’s involved and shares our traditions with the people outside our family who are important to her. Either way, though, it’ll be a full house, and I’m very much looking forward to it.
November 1st, 2014
I did stay up for the game on Wednesday night, and it was absolutely worth the loss of sleep. It was an amazing game, one of the best I’ve ever seen, and I’d have been kicking myself forever if I hadn’t watched it live. It was nearly five o’clock in the morning by the time I crawled into bed, and it took me until this morning … well, afternoon … to feel caught up on my sleep.
Today was pretty much a wash in terms of getting anything done, but it felt very good to have a long lie-in without worrying about getting up at a specified time. Tomorrow I think I’m going to take Petra to town for lunch and then the evening undoubtedly will be dedicated to getting the kids back in the swing of early-ish bedtimes after a week off from school. So far the transition from our room to upstairs has been very smooth for Yrsa, but I think some of that has been due to us letting her stay up until she’s practically ready to fall asleep on her feet. I’m a little apprehensive about how it will work out once she has to go to bed and get up at a set time.
October 29th, 2014
Since moving to Sweden, I usually pay scant attention to the major league baseball playoffs once the Braves are knocked out of the running (which, yes, means that I usually pay scant attention to the playoffs, period). Most years the World Series is barely a blip on my radar. This year, however, it’s a little different. I haven’t stayed up to the wee hours to see any of the games, but I have been avoiding the morning-after scores and watching the archived games the next day. And in case you haven’t been following it yourself, it’s been a pretty rip-roaring series.
To the extent that I have a second-favorite team, for the past few season that team has been the San Francisco Giants. They have a number of players that I really like (not least, Buster Posey!), and what’s more, my favorite Braves pitcher from recent years, Tim Hudson, started playing for San Francisco this season.
The Series has gone to seven games against a team of unlikely heroes, the Kansas City Royals. Last time the Royals were in the Series, in 1985, I actually did watch it, and even rooted for them (two of my favorites then were George Brett and Bret Saberhagen), but these days the only American League time I can ever find myself pulling for is the Boston Red Sox. Still, I admit that it would be a cool end to a magic season for KC if they do end up pulling it off.
Game 7 is tonight, and though it doesn’t start until one o’clock in the morning over here, I’m toying with the idea of staying up and watching it live. Whichever way it goes, it should be a hell of a game.
October 26th, 2014
Our house has six bedrooms, three upstairs and three downstairs. As our family has grown, tastes have changed, et cetera, the division of these rooms has changed, but the current set-up is this: the office, Tage’s bedroom, and Olof’s and my bedroom–shared by Yrsa–are downstairs, and Lydia’s room, Petra and Brynja’s shared room, and an empty room are upstairs (oh, how I wish it were truly empty; it’s currently full of miscellaneous crap awaiting sorting and storage so that Petra can move in there).
Yrsa will be four before too long, and though she’s has her own bed since she was two, it’s getting about time for her to move out of our room altogether. The plan has been for her to move up with Petra and Brynja, who have one of those “family bunkbeds” with a single bed on the top and a double on the bottom. We wanted to wait until we were positive that she’d be okay coming down the stairs on her own if she woke during the night, so we haven’t been in a huge hurry. I started talking to her about it last night, though, mostly just to plant the idea in her mind. Unexpectedly, she was all for it and wanted to make the move right away.
So, after a bit of wrangling with Brynja about how many stuffed animals Yrsa would be allowed to bring into the bed, we tucked our baby into bed last night with the big girls, fully not expecting it to last the night. To our surprise, however, we didn’t hear a peep out of her until almost eight o’clock this morning, when she came down and told us she needed to go to the bathroom. Even better, she says she wants to sleep there again tonight. I don’t want to be too hopeful, but moving her from our bed to her own a couple of years ago was remarkably easy, so perhaps this transition will be similarly painless. And finally, after more than twelve years, Olof and I will have our own room again.