26 June 2006

Midsommar fest var underbar

For the non-Swedish speaking population: the Midsummer party was wonderful. I took some pictures of the food and the friends and will post some of them soon. (I actually use a real film camera....so you will have to wait until they're developed!)

21 June 2006

Getting ready for Midsummer

Midsommar afton, (Midsummer Eve) the date when Swedes celebrate Midsummer, is this Friday, June 23rd. I'm having a party to celebrate it on Saturday, since that works better into my life/schedule. Midsummer is one of Sweden's biggest holidays, perhaps only Christmas (also celebrated on the "Eve") is bigger. When I was an exchange student, we took folding chairs to the lake that lies near Kungsör and sat on the shore and watched the whole lack-of a sunset. While the picture below isn't EXACTLY where we were, it is close. Gives you an idea of what my environment there was like.

This is really hard to describe if you've never seen the phenomenon, so please forgive me while I explain some basic (very basic) planetary science. Here in Oh-hi-ia, the latitude lines that run through the state are numbered 40-41. Where I lived in Sweden, the latitude is 59.4167. The Artic Circle is at 66. Anchorage, Alaska is 61, so where I was in Sweden is pretty far north, y'all. And the axial tilt of the earth at that latitude is such that during Midsummer, the sun does not rise in the east and set in the west. It kind of makes a circle around the sky, dips down towards the horizon, and comes right back up. It is amazing, and I feel really lucky to have witnessed it. If you've ever heard someone talk about "The Midnight Sun", that's what it is!

Swedes generally gather at the lake or seashore, have family picnics, drink vodka, dress up in their national costumes and dance around the maypole for a midsummer celebration. It is a leftover from pagan rites, and the missionaries who converted the Vikings just folded it right into the Christian calendar, conveniently taking the birthday of John the Baptist, which falls on the summer solstice. Bonfires are also traditional, but my homeowner's association might frown on that, so we'll be skipping it here in Oh-hi-ia. I’m not erecting a maypole for the same reason, sorry.

It is difficult for me to find a comparable holiday in the American calendar, but if I was pushed, I'd have to say that it is a bit like the 4th of July. But Midsummer isn't a celebration of independence like the 4th. Swedes do have a national day, June 6th, I think. But not the same thing at all. And I don't remember fireworks on Midsummer, but there might have been.

Traditional Midsummer foods are sill (pickled herring) new potatoes with dill, strawberries and cream, always always knäckebröd (a crisp bread that looks like big crackers). Personally, I don't care for sill, so I didn't buy any. I did buy some Gravlax, though.

I'll be serving
Lingonberry Mousse
-Lingonberries taste like cranberries, but better. They're yummy.
Swedish Meatballs
-my DH informs me that I'm not allowed to have a Swedish-themed party without them.
Blueberry Soup
-Not a traditional Midsummer thing, but definitely Swedish. I like it; I'm encouraging everyone to give it a taste by serving it in shot glasses.
-OK, not Swedish at all, but a summer thing for me personally. I boil the brats in beer with onions, garlic, and cracked black peppercorns. Then I grill the brats. I strain the onions out of the beer and fry the onions with a stick of butter. Serve brats with onions, with or without a bun. Gooooood.
Potatoes with Dill
-I'm hopeful that I'll be able to find some "new" potatoes, but it isn't likely.
-I only bought a really small amount of this b/c I think I might be the only person who will eat it. Smoked salmon, and it is yummy.
-of course. About 6 different kinds
Strawberries and Cream
-I'm thinking no explanation needed there.
Vanilla ice cream with Cloudberry Preserves
-Cloudberries look like little orange raspberries and are delish served warm over ice cream.

You're only invited if you know me IRL...but if you didn't get an Evite invitation and want one, let me know. Cheers!

16 June 2006

Again with the Friday.

Wozzat? How'd Friday get here again? What happened to the week? Wasn't it Tuesday just yesterday?

I've been reading the fun across the pond bloggers that I check in with oh, daily or so and have discovered that the resto the world is caught up in World Cup fever. I did see a bit on ESPN about the US beating Italy, and I was pleased that the yanks managed a good showing, but then in the next heartbeat disappointed when my local rag of a newspaper printed an article on the front page of its sports section titled, "Why do we hate football(soccer)?" The article is typical of my local rag...not very well written...the writer is too fond of parenthesis, as if I have room to talk about THAT. But while I wish I could link it to show it to you, that would give away where I am, I'm afraid. And the reasons listed about why Americans hate footie are silly. One of the dumbest things the writer sites is the fact that soccer matches can end with a score of nil-nil. He says that isn't life. Haven't you ever had a situation in your life that was a draw? Really? I think you're lying if you say no!

I've said many times before that I detest American football; soccer players are lithe, athletic, hell, those dudes RUN for the majority of the matches. I'd love to see the average linebacker last for an entire match. Oh, and a must jab, and slightly off topic, sorry. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers QB was injured in a motorcycle accident last week. He WASN'T WEARING A HELMET. D'ya know what they call motorcycle riders who don't wear helmets in the Emergency Room? Organ donors. That isn't Steeler's hating. Or big Big Ben hating. Or motorcycle hating. I love motorcycles; have been known to ride from time to time. But I wear a helmet, long sleeves, sensible shoes, and jeans EVERY TIME. Know why? If you ride, you WILL fall. Digging gravel outta your skull should never be on your list of things to do today. I truly hope that he's OK and still able to follow his chosen career path, but I also hope that he starts to wear a helmet if he continues to ride motorcycles. Anyway.

I guess we can only chalk the football (soccer) hating up to yet another thing that America stands in opposition to the rest of the world; see system, metric and Iraqi war, opposition to for other examples.

Happy Friday, y'all.

15 June 2006

Blatant photo-op, blatant photo-op, blatant photo-op

So W's ratings in the polls are way, way down. What does he do about it? Why, he takes a trip to Iraq, of course. What else would ya do? And then he lands himself on the cover of every daily newspaper in the country with the new Iraqi PM. And his ratings are bumped up a notch. Could this possibly have anything at all to do with the fact that there are primary elections in several key districts in the south this week? Noooooooo, course not. Why would you think that?

12 June 2006

A good rant.

Went to see Dave Matthews Band on Friday and Saturday nights in a land far, far away otherwise known as Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. I love Dave Matthews Band. If you don’t, you probably want to skip the rest of the post as I will be geeking out over the songs they played each night and what my friends and I thought. Sorry, anyone who is looking for political stuff today. It ain’t happening.

Friday night’s show was a much different vibe than Saturday’s. While B from AZ said he thought the crowd was younger on Saturday, I thought it was older. And older fans would have loved Friday’s set. They played “Satellite”, “The Dreaming Tree”, “Grace is Gone”, and “Jimi Thing”, all of which are older. The opener, “The Best of What’s Around” is one of my favorite ever DMB songs. Brings back memories of being on the train, in Sweden, traveling from Stockholm to Kungsör. I haven’t seen that live before, so that was a big thrill for me. But just about every song that I mention, I’m going to end up saying, “One of my favorites.” I’d be hard pressed to find a Dave song I didn’t like.

One of the things that JAMIL and I have noticed as we continue to go to shows (our first together ever was, according to her, in 1998. I think it was 1995, but what do I know?) is that we don’t see them play a big fan favorite, “Ants Marching” very often. After seeing more than 20 shows together, we have become even bigger fans, but more than that, sometimes guides to the much younger concertgoers around us. More about that later. In our infinite wisdom, we think they play “Ants” rarely because the band gets tired of being drowned out by the crowd when they play it. Yes, the crowd screams along to the song so loudly that they drown out the band. That takes some doing, let me tell you. A few other songs are becoming a problem with the crowd…”Dancing Nancies” being a great example. You also don’t see them play one of their biggest radio hits, “Crash” for the same reason.

JAMIL and I are often older than many of the concertgoers around us, which mortifies me and amuses her. Friday there were 2 very young couples in front of us that were so incredibly cute that I couldn’t stand it. They couldn’t have been any older than about 16, all 4 of them. The boy who sat in front of us was at not only his first ever DMB show, but his first concert. We told him our theory about “Ants” and “Crash” and he was really disappointed, and then we felt bad. Those were his two favorite Dave songs. But the band proved us wrong, playing “Ants” as the final song of the encore.

DH and I went to the Saturday show together. I had said on Friday that I wanted to hear “One Sweet World”, but they didn’t play it Friday night. Saturday, though, what did they open with? Yeah, that would be “OSW”. God, I love that song.

Nine planets around the sun
Only one does the sun embrace
Upon this watered world, so much we take for granted
So let sleep outside tonight
Lay down in our Mother’s arms
For here can we rest safely

Tomorrow I’ll be back to my usual politicking. Cheers!

Soundtrack: Dave Matthews Band Live at Central Park

08 June 2006

Really, Friday Can't Come Soon Enough.

Having had a miserable week at work, which is a verboten topic, I must just instead say praise whatever you find holy that tomorrow is Friday.

I'm intentionally coy about where exactly I call HOME, because it is a small place and I don't want to be "outed" professionally, so this won't be a clue to where I live. That said, I'm going to see Dave Matthews Band on Friday and on Saturday at a venue called The Post-Gazette Pavillion, which isn't really in Pittsburgh, PA, but close enough. I'm really excited about it, I've seen the band in concert every year since I was 19 or 20, and that's been awhile. Last year I got to see about 3 shows and this year there are a bunch of old high school pals are going too. So that should be lots and lots of fun.

It can't come soon enough.

04 June 2006


Didja miss me? I went to Naples, Florida, to visit my grandmother and several cousins who live there. I had a wonderful time; took long solitary walks on Vanderbilt Beach each morning, shopped a bit, and had an unbelievable experience in a Target that has me reconsidering my views on the "English as the official language of America" debate. More about that in a second. There are a couple of topics I want to get to today.

First, I want to talk about this article that ran in the Naples Daily News, Gran's local paper. Can you say YUM? I'll be giving this very fussy recipe a shot soon and let you know how it goes. I'm not sure about being able to find banana leaves in Ohio, but I do mean to try.

I don't know if the Naples Daily is a conservative or liberal paper; I was down there for all of 4.5 days, and only read it twice, but since Florida in general is very conservative, I'll assume that the paper is too. That said, great heavens, how much better that paper is than my local rag. I was impressed with their balanced coverage of local news, and the first day I was there, there were about 10 foodie articles! Gotta love that.

It was hot there. F-ing hot. Really f-ing hot. Hot enough to remind me why I don't live there. Each day would start in the mid 70's (maybe 17 or 20 for you Celsius fans) and get to 90 or 91 (30C) by the middle of the day, with 100% humidity ALL THE TIME! Ugh. Too hot. I would get up each day around 6.30 and get to the beach by 7, but I'd be done there by 9 or 9.30, because by then it would be too hot. I'm very pale white, and I wore 30 SPF the whole time I was there, along with a big floppy white hat to keep the sun off my face. The dangers of skin cancer are very real, and I know I'm neurotic about it, but I don't care. I would rather be the palest girl at the party than making an appointment to have my 3rd melanoma removed. Ya know?

I managed to get all the way to Grandma's house without a bathing suit. I'm blonde. I know. I just forgot to pack one. So the first night I was there, we went to the Naples Target, located at 2322 Pine Ridge Road in Naples, Florida, United States of America, to get a cheapie suit, and I'm astonished (still) about what happened next.

There were a bunch of Isaac Mizrahi swimsuit separates right inside the front door that were selling for $17.99 for each piece. I'm a cheapskate and didn't want to spend $35 for a bathing suit that I would use for 3 days. I looked around for a salesperson, and there was a woman folding t-shirts sitting on the floor with the Target red polo shirt and a name tag on. Before I could open my mouth, Gran asked her where the fitting rooms were. She pointed to a HUGE sign on the wall that said, "fitting rooms" and while I thought that was a little rude, it wasn't uncalled for. I worked once upon a time in a dollar store, and people would come up to the cash register all the time and ask, "How much is this?" And I would answer in a monotone, "Everything in the store is a dollar." So I can understand being irritated that about 50 people a day ask you where the fitting room is when it is really clearly marked. But I didn't see any other bathing suits, so I asked her if the two racks by the front door were all the bathing suits they had, and she looked up at me and said, "¡No hablo ingles!"

Now since I was with my 86 year old grandmother, I did not do what I would have had I been alone, which was to say, "Are you fucking kidding me?" Instead, I smiled, nodded, said OK, and thanked her in Spanish. I looked around for someone else to ask, and Gran suggested I ask her in Spanish....I can't. I know enough Spanish to ask where the bathrooms are (important, no?) and to order a beer (also important), but my conversational skills are pretty limited. I told my Gran that I didn't know enough Spanish to do that, and another customer standing nearby offered to translate. So no big problem, and I did find a cute tankini in a wine color that only cost me $17, which means that the adventure ended well. The thing that astonishes me is that you can apparently work in the United States of America at a job that requires you to interact with the general public and not speak English. I'm still trying to get my head wrapped around that one. WTF? As I have said on this blog before, if you are going to live in a country that isn’t your native soil for 20 years, learn the $@%^$ language, dammmit.

Many European countries require that you take language classes as a prerequisite to getting the equivalent of a green card. As should we. When Gran and I got out to the car, I asked her if things like that happen all the time in Naples, and she told me that the last time she went to the grocery store that the check-out clerk hadn’t spoken any English either. Gave her the total of her grocery bill in Spanish, counted her change in Spanish, and told her “Thanks and have a nice day” in Spanish. When I told my cousins the above story, none of them reacted with any surprise. My aunt works in construction down there in FLA, and she told me that her company offered free English classes to their employees, with transportation provided, books paid for, and not one single person took the classes.

There’s a huge Hispanic population there, and I think part of the problem is that the communities enables them by staying pretty insular. There’s Spanish-language TV and radio stations, and I get that; I don’t object to folks holding on to their native culture, in fact I think it is a great thing that we no longer push people to subsume their foods and customs in an attempt to be “more American” as my great grandparents were. And please don’t mistake this as an anti-Hispanic rant. It isn’t. I want you to learn English if you come here from Germany, Indonesia, or Saudi Arabia.

I said above that my opinion about the official language thing has changed, and I’m contradicting myself a little bit by restating that everyone who lives here or intends to live here for 20 years should learn the language. I didn’t really have an opinion before, kind of thought that making English the official language of the US was really more than what we needed to do. Now I think we do need to take that step.

Here in O-hi-ia, the woman that I talked to at the Naples Target wouldn’t have gotten hired, because there isn’t anyone to do your interview in Spanish. We too have a sizable Hispanic population in my part of the state, and companies are thrilled if you’re able to speak Spanish. But they wouldn’t hire someone who couldn’t speak English. Is that prejudicial? I don't think so.