Enjoy Not Knowing

Just another American living in Sweden


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what is fika?

Listen up! This is important. Open your eyes now, people, you’re about to gain some knowledge!

An immediate differentiation should be made, that fika and FICA are two very, very different things. The latter is a taxing system that funds Social Security and Mecicare. That’s definitely not what this is about. The former is what we’re here today to discuss.

Fika, with the all important “K”, is a Swedish tradition, incurred daily, which allows for the intake of caffeine and sugar. Some argue that this event should take place at 2:30 pm on the dot, but I’m not here to set the rules, I’m here to enjoy the party!

In this instance, when I say party, I mean an often quiet moment during the day where you sit down with co-workers, friends or family and take a second to enjoy their company. As well as the aforementioned sugar and caffeine. Not to be confused with the British tea-time, Swedish fika is a beast of its own.

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Fika can actually happen anytime, anywhere. From meeting up with friends at a local café or in the comfort of your own home alone or with your favorite family members (let’s be honest, we all have favorites). Swedes can fika in public, from outdoors in a park with a homemade selection of sweets and a thermos of coffee to riding a SJ train from Malmo to Stockholm in the dining car. Fika isn’t only a daily break from the hustle and bustle that is our fast-paced lives, it’s a lifestyle of taking the time to stop and smell the coffee.

As previously mentioned there are no rules when it comes to fika, but one of my favorite treats to enjoy with my coffee are Swedish chocolate balls. (If you know anything about me you know how extrememly dificult it was for me to decide on just one treat). Here’s the recipe so you too can enjoy a moment of Swedish fika in your busy busy day:

Ingredients:

  • 2 dl oats
  • 1 dl sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cold coffee
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 150g butter 
  • Coconut shavings or sprinkles or both


Directions:

  1. Convert everything to cups if you don’t have a deciliter measuring device. I’ll help you get there by telling you that 1 dl is 0.42 cups.
  2. Mix all ingredients except the coconut/sprinkles in a bowl.
  3. Roll mixture into balls. Larger balls will be about 1.5 inches in diameter smaller balls can be about 1 inch in diameter.
  4. Pour a small amount of coconut (or sprinkles) on a plate, one or two handfuls will be enough to get started. Coat the balls with coconut or sprinkles by rolling them around the plate. As the coconut/sprinkles run out, add more to the plate. 
  5. Makes about 14 large balls or 20 small balls.







Side bar: For those of you who like words, I just had to check the etymology of the word “fika” and according to professor Lars-Gunnar Andersson at the University of Gothenburg the word fika comes from an alternate form of a Swedish word for coffee (kaffi). The word “kaffi” is cut in the middle and each side swapped, as a type of slang (since that just seems like the easiest kind of slang there is…) which results in “fika“!


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on this, brother, the day of your birth

I’ve started a little tradition by writing a blog post on my brothers’ birthdays, and it’s that time of year again! Ryan has become another year wiser, Happy Birthday brother!

Today I want to share our most recent memory, that is to say our most recent IRL interaction.

Sidebar: (IRL = in real life)

Ryan came to visit during his spring break this year. *WOO HOO!* He got to do super fun things, like meet his niece for the very first time.

But first coffee:

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Cuddle time:

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Doctor’s appointment:

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Games galore!

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Food time (for everyone):

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Even Ryan got in a hockey practice (can’t let Dad one-up you!):

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I hope you have just as much fun today as you obviously had on your latest trip to Sweden.

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the new year’s tradition

Did you guys know that Ryan was here over New Years? Again. The first time he came for New Year’s he ended up belly dancing in a restaurant.

There's picture proof, so you know it happened

There’s picture proof, so you know it happened.

While that will be hard to beat, I’m glad he took my invitation seriously, and showed up this year as well.

#nye13

It was great having him. On #nye we enjoyed a home cooked meal at Evelina’s parents house, and then walked/ran down to the city in order not to miss the fireworks. We did not.

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I took some time off work, so we took it easy and ate a lot of fika. It was excellent.

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FIKA!

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Besides all the fika-ing we also spent a lot of time at the rink. Ryan got to try out his goalie skills in one of our practices, and I was thoroughly impressed. He also helped out the coaches as well as got some lifting time in the gym. We even ran together, seeing as I went a little crazy and signed up for a marathon. Ryan, consider this your official invitation to run the marathon with me.

Look who's in net

movies 3D style

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Movies were also watched, with HFR, hence the wicked cool shades.

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Having Ryan to visit is always a blast, and I hope we keep the New Year’s tradition going strong. In reminiscing about Ryan’s most recent visit, a summertime visit comes to mind. Both Ryan and Tyler came to Sweden the summer of 2012.

They had both just gone on a tour of Great Britain and Wales, and had had a great time.

lazing about

(Clearly not more fun than Sweden though)

Lucky for me they decided to stop by Sweden before making the trip back across the Atlantic. We spend the time riding bikes around Eskilstuna, and having fika. I hope you sense the theme. A day trip to the Natural History Museum was also in order.

The National History Museum

Where we posed creepily with the animals. Obviously.

There were serious moments as well:

the siblings

Ryan, Tyler, consider THIS your open invitation to visit Sweden the summer of 2014!

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lindsey visits

This past weekend my friend Lindsey came to visit! My oh my was I excited. Lindsey is the first friend to come visit Evelina and I from the US at our Eskilstuna abode. (Yes, Ryan came to visit last winter, yes, he is a friend, but first he is a brother. Yes, Katie came to visit us in Linköping, and she will forever hold the award for first North American friend to visit Sweden.)

I suppose Lindsey had it easy, since she technically only came from Denmark where she’s studying for her semester abroad. I mean really technically she came from the US originally, so it still counts. Also, no points were deducted from Katie for having flown to Sweden from Spain.

I can’t help but to break down our weekend as I did Katie’s.

Friday:

12:50: Lindsey landed in Sweden, and promptly bussed it to Stockholm Central Station where she trained it to Eskilstuna. She did all this on her own, and I must say I am greatly impressed. (My own personal difficulties in getting on the correct SL trains is a story for another time.)

14:45: I met Lindsey at Eskilstuna’s Central Station. After which we walked to Evelina’s and my apartment to drop off Lindsey’s things before taking a stroll in to the city.

17:00: Dinner at Papas Tapas. This is my number one favorite restaurant in Eskilstuna. It’s a combination of Spanish and Mexican food, and you almost always need to book a table if you want to eat there. So good.

19:30: The three of us, after returning home for a quick change, went over to a friend’s housewarming party. Don’t worry, I told everyone they had to speak lots of English so Lindsey could follow along. I was pleasantly surprised at the over all English skills at the party. (Just kidding guys, I’ve always know y’all are good at English.) But seriously though, give a Swede a few beverages and the English just starts flowin’.

Saturday:

7:00: Early wake-up call today, because it’s time for Three Kronor Hockey School! Just enough time for a quick breakfast before our ride came to get to the rink.

8:00: Arrival at Smehallen. Last Saturday was the first day of hockey school for this season. Evelina and I are coaching the girls, so our attendance was mandatory. Lindsey stepped up and was a big help on the ice. She asked about a few key Swedish phrases to help her talk to the little ones.

  • Stand up! – “Stå upp!”
  • Walk like Daffy Duck – “Gå som Kalle anka!”
  • Do you need help? – “Behöver du hjälp?”

Now you also know all the phrases necessary to teach a small Swedish child how to skate!

TKS

10:30: Still at the rink, our team’s practice started at 10:30. Lindsey was absolutely up for a go at it on the ice, and it was certainly a success. Evelina’s and my teammates were impressed, and most importantly so were our coaches. Lindsey officially has an invitation to come play in Sweden when she has completed her studies in the US. Seriously, Lindsey, you should come.

12:15: Lunch time. Evelina and I did our best to impress Lindsey by showing her the finest cuisine of Sweden. Just not at this meal time…left overs it was.

14:30: After lunch and a little down time we walked into the city again to look around at the shops. There’s a bit of construction at the main square in Eskilstuna right now, but City Hall is still pretty, and there was a lot to see. We were on a quest for shoes, so we visited all the shoe stores. Unfortunately we did not find what we were looking for, so we recharged with a little fika. It was necessary.

The classic Swedish fika, coffee and a chocolate ball

The classic Swedish fika, coffee and a chocolate-ball

16:00: Still on a quest for shoes we walked out to the mall.

The walk there was beautiful. Peppered with views of the changing trees. Fall is here!

The walk there was beautiful. Peppered with views of the changing trees. Fall is here!

Where both Lindsey and Evelina were lucky enough to find some fall shoes! Shoes…let’s get some shoes!

18:30: Once the mall closed we joined Evelina’s mother, Maria, back in to town. We had been invited for dinner, so we enjoyed some classic Swedish home cooked food. Followed by apple pie, coffee and tea. You could say it was slightly better than the lunch we had to offer… In fact you probably should say that.

Sunday:

9:00: Wake up call! Although it wasn’t too late of a sleep in, Lindsey and I had gotten train tickets in to Stockholm for Sunday morning, so up and at ’em! After packing up and saying bye to Evelina we took a stroll through some parts of the city we had missed before on our way up to the station.

10:30: Train departs from Eskilstuna Central Station.

11:45: Arrival in Stockholm. We (I) decided we should walk down to the water and take a look at the old part of Stockholm City. It is one of my favorite places in the city, and not something you should miss. When we first left the train station and looked right we got a good view of Stockholm’s City Hall. My fun fact was that they had recently cleaned all the gold on top of the buildings in all of Sweden for the crown princesses’ wedding (other probably factual things I know about the royal family found here). Along the way in to Gamla Stan (the old town) you get a glimpse of Riddarholmskyrkan, which is most known for as a burial-place for kings. (I say “most known for” I mean most known by me, as in it’s the only thing I know about it. More informed people might have other opinions.) On our way in to Gamla Stan we also walked past Riksdagshuset, or the parliament building. (This time we didn’t venture in side.)

Gamla Stan!

Gamla Stan!

There are a ton of cute little shops in Gamla Stan, so we slowly made our way through.

12:45: After exploring Old Town we arrived at Vapiano. Still my favorite Italian place to eat in Stockholm. The Vapiano in Old Town is my favorite of the three in the city because of the location and the atmosphere. This is how excellent and fabulous the food looks:

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13:15: Once we had eaten our fill of excellent Italian food we took a stroll down to the water again to loop the other way through the city. Looking across the water we saw Grona Lund, some beautiful boats, and the National Museum.

Another breathtaking fall foliage view.

Another breathtaking fall foliage view.

Stockholm on the water

Turning back up to the city by the Royal Castle, we arrived just in time for the ceremonial changing of the guards.

changing of the guards

After which we made our way through the commercial side of Stockholm and saw all the stores and shopping. Since we weren’t looking for anything in particular we had a nice opportunity to have fika outside Ahlens and people watch.

more fika

We then made our way back to the train station.

14:05: Arrived back at Central Station and went over to the Arlanda Express tracks where Lindsey and I said out good byes. I hope you had an awesome visit to Sweden, Lindsey, come back soon!

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book of september: inferno

Inferno, by Dan Brown.

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I just gotta say I love this guy. Danny Brown, he can really write some fiction. (Just Dan, not Danny, my bad, we’re not that close.) Inferno is a real page turner. The fourth Robert Langdon book, and I am loving it.

A friend of mine wrote a quite humorous review of his book on Facebook:

Stan and Dan

Also, Stan has an awesome blog, check it out.

I chuckled. And essentially agree with Stan. What Danny does really know is his readers. I was fully entertained. And fully intrigued into Turkish coffee. I wonder if it’s similar to Arabic coffee? I like coffee. More coffee I say.

You know what though? Maybe Dan Brown doesn’t understand a lot of those things. But it doesn’t matter, know why? Because he can fake it. Fake it ’til ya make it, guys. Fake it ’till ya make it.

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seven more things i’ve learned about sweden

A while back I posted about seven things I knew about Sweden that you should too. Since then I have learned a WHOLE LOT. Yes, all caps. That’s how much I learned. Are you ready for the second installment?

Here’s a list of abilities that, when living in Sweden, one must have (at least they’re highly recommended):

  1. Speak Arabic.
  2. Bicycle on ice and through snow.
  3. Drive on ice and through snow. Initially I didn’t think of this ability, because where I come from we also get snow every winter. This is not the case for all locales, so one should remember that it snows in the winter. Plan accordingly.
  4. Have an extremely high caffeine tolerance. The coffee here is strong. Like kill you with its bare hand’s strong. (I’m mostly kidding, although the coffee at my previous place of employment may beg to differ.)
  5. Have an extremely high sugar tolerance. When in Stockholm do as the Swedes do. This means fika, daily. (Like I instructed you to the first time around.) I still haven’t figured out how everyone is still so skinny.
  6. An ability to talk about the weather with old people. Believe me, this is an ability; which leads us to our last point:
  7. Speak Swedish – I know I’ve said this before, but I really just want to emphasize the fact that yes, in Sweden they speak Swedish. If you want to communicate with the Swedes…you don’t actually need to know Swedish…but it really does help.

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paella is good, but tinto is better

I promise this is the last time I’m going to talk about it. But heavens to Betsy it is cold! Since I can’t go outside without freezing my toes and my boogers, I’m going to handle the situation how I handle situations best. Denial.

In that light, I’m going to take a stroll down memory lane, and in the coming days I hope you’ll join me. To scorching summer sun we go!!

Spain part 1 of 3: Madrid

What you’ve all been waiting for. The much alluded to, and previously mentioned, trip to Spain! This past May Evelina and I embarked on an adventure to Madrid.

While we were there we did touristy things. Like live in an apartment building that, upon our arrival, we were locked out of for an hour. While the guy who had our key walked/ran from his apartment to give us keys and instructions about our stay. It was classy. Luckily we felt just like home, seeing as our apartment was on the top floor of the building and had slanted roofs. (Those of you lucky enough to visit our Linköping apartment know.) The similarities ended there, however, as it was approximately 107 degrees up there. Celsius. (Possible hyperbole in action.) Oh, and everyone in the building spoke Spanish. Not Swedish.

During our stay we made our way up and down hills to see touristy things like:

Go in the Catedral de la Almudena (Almudena Cathedral)

Visit the Catedral de la Almudena (Almudena Cathedral)

And go to Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace) This is the view from the Cathedral.

And go to Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace) This is the view from the Cathedral.

Enjoyed the astounding view of Madrid from the Almudena Cathedral.

Enjoyed the astounding view of Madrid from the Almudena Cathedral.

We searched out the best shopping, and the prettiest buildings.

We searched out the best shopping, and the prettiest buildings.

We procured our favorite American coffee drinks!

We procured our favorite American coffee drinks!

Took a stroll down to Palacio de Comunicaciones (City Hall)

Took a stroll down to Palacio de Comunicaciones (City Hall)

We explored some amazing churches.

We explored some amazing churches.

Wandered on over to Puerta de Alcalá (Alcalá Gate). Unfortunately not at night, that's on the list for next time.

Wandered on over to Puerta de Alcalá (Alcalá Gate). Unfortunately not at night, that’s on the list for next time.

Visited Museo Reina Sofia (Reina Sofia Museum) I WAS SO PUMPE FOR THIS!!! Saw my favorite painting in real life!

Visited Museo Reina Sofia (Reina Sofia Museum) I WAS SO PUMPED FOR THIS!!! Saw my favorite painting in real life!

Besides my favorite painting, we also got to see other art. This is clearly art.

Besides my favorite painting, we also got to see other art. This is clearly art.

It was a little bit exhausting trekking around Madrid in the heat, but totally worth it. Most importantly we found El Corte Inglés. Where we bought Evelina’s mom a birthday present. And, well, obviously, we bought ourselves some presents. Evelina bought a beautiful watch. And I, in accordance with my 25 before 25 list, bought a pair of wicked-super-awesome sun glasses. Ray Bans. They’re blue. Don’t take my word for it, check out the pics.

sunny sun glasses

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chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’, all cool

In the evenings we ate paella outdoors and sipped tinto late into the night. Strolling along the restaurant lined streets in a comfortable warm breeze. One thing, at least, that Spaniards have in common with Swedes is the desire to eat out doors. In the summer this is an awesome way to dine.

Part one of what we’re now calling “The Spain Trip” went swimmingly. I had an amazing time in a foreign land with my dearest. I highly recommend Madrid for all you city lovers. A city vacation isn’t for everyone, but Madrid has the big things a city vacation needs: beautiful architecture, fun landmarks, museums and castles, and shopping. I recommend all of this to all of you.

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