December 31st, 2014

Boring night in

Nothing much is happening here this New Year’s Eve. The biggest excitement was probably that Olof and I both took pictures of our cat, Gwen, snoozing in a box (the top one is mine).



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December 23rd, 2014

Birds of a feather

Last week, before we finally started getting some snow, I took this picture of a flock of birds on the tree behind our garage. Appearances to the contrary, this is a color photograph, not black-and-white. That should tell you something about how grey the days can be up here.


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December 20th, 2014


I suppose this post is overdue, as I know there are people still waiting to hear. The notification of selections for Ph.D. positions in Uppsala and Stockholm were made on Wednesday, and I did, in fact, get a position at “my” university, Uppsala University. I’ll be working on the country house project, examining economic and cultural conditions of the clergy in relation to country estates on Sweden in the early modern period. The other position in Uppsala went to my school bestie, Astrid, and the fact that we’ll be working together for at least another four years is the icing on the cake. The whole thing is really a dream come true for me, and I can’t quite believe yet that it’s real. I have my first meeting with my supervisors on January 13, and I’m sure it will start feeling more real then.

I know it’s a little gauche to toot my own horn like I’m about to, but I suppose my own blog is a reasonably appropriate place to do it. Not only did I place highest among the applicants for the position I was offered (a group that, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll acknowledge included only three other applicants), I also placed second in a pool of 45 applicants for the non-project positions in Uppsala and Stockholm. That fact still blows my mind, particularly when I recall how uncertain I felt about my abilities in the first year of my master’s program. It took me a long time to stop feeling like I was swimming ridiculously out of my depth and, to tell the truth, I still don’t think I’ve got over that feeling entirely.

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December 17th, 2014

Happy holidays from the Tjerngrens!

We wish you peace and joy in every season. (Kind of like the peace and joy I managed to enforce for a few minutes here. ;) )

Tage, Petra, Brynja, Yrsa, and Lydia

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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.


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December 10th, 2014

A holiday gig

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).

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December 8th, 2014

A tasty treat

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:

Saffron-Lemon Spirals
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!

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December 4th, 2014

Keeping myself busy

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).

Christmas 2014

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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:

Kids' table

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November 16th, 2014

It’s a little bit funny

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”.

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