Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fare thee well, 2013!

It's time to say goodbye, farewell, adieu. Out with the old, in with the new! 2013 has been an incredibly eventful and most memorable year. I'm the first to admit that there have been times of fatigue and despair, but as I leaf through my calendar I can't help but smile at all the awesome things I have experienced during the past twelve months.

Babies have been born and cuddled with: Cian, Aiden, Felix, Emil.
Cities and places have been explored: Washington D.C., Whistler, Portland, Oak Ridge, Vancouver Island, Olympic Peninsula.
Friends and family have visited: Patrik, Anton (twice), Anders, Sofia, Martin, Tomas, Kerstin, mum, dad, Erik + friends.

I've experienced 4th of July, gone whale watching, survived a muddy zombie apocalypse (almost), tried square dancing, finished my first full marathon, and celebrated Christmas with my extended family. I've met such wonderful individuals and made so many new friends, learned so much at work, and connected with a whole bunch of interesting professionals. Music, movies, food, sports... The list of explorations goes on and on. And tonight it's time for another first: New Year's Eve at Kiran's. I can hardly wait!

To all of you: Happy New Year - Gott Nytt År! I have no idea what 2014 has in store for me, or even what part of the world I will reside in a year from now.

But I know this: I will see you on the other side.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Glowing gardens

I thought I should share some highlights from my visit with the Frayos to the Garden d'Lights 'Construction Edition' in Bellevue Bothanical Garden last week. I didn't get a good shot of the adorable slug (or its twinkling, glittery trail) but I snapped a few other colorful pics. My favorite pieces were the two setups with plants and gardening accessories that reminded me of my mum. Very pretty!

On our way to the park we passed by the massively decorated houses on Candy Cane Lane in Ravenna, eating cookies, drinking hot spiced cider, listening to Christmas music, and being blown away by Cian's spitting up capabilities. That boy! Whoa.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


...blog posts later, and all that really remains is wishing you all a Very Merry Holly Jolly Christmas!

I'll start December 24 with my traditional Christmas Eve half-marathon run and then work for a few hours before heading up to the Hill to occupy David's guest room. We'll enjoy a lovely Christmas dinner with friends at his house and then spend Christmas Day on the couch watching movies, eating candy, drinking glögg, and being joyful.

Thank you all for Christmas cards, presents, warm thoughts, and well wishings. I'm as spoiled as ever... On Sunday, the Frayos even surprised me with a little tree! My apartment is now bursting with holiday spirit and thankfulness.

Love to all! You're the best. God Jul, mina fina!

Monday, December 23, 2013


...hours of Christmas movies?

No problem! Here goes:

It's a Wonderful Life (1946) 130 min
Miracle on 34th Street (1947) 96 min
Gremlins (1984) 106 min
Christmas Vacation (1989) 97 min
Home Alone (1990) 103 min
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) 85 min
Batman Returns (1992) 126 min
8 Femmes (2002) 111 min
Elf (2003) 97 min
Love Actually (2003) 135 min
The Holiday (2006) 138 min
Un Conte de Noël (2008) 150 min

Ok, we're actually 6 min short of 23 hours... Hmm... Got it! Just add these two 3-min clips from The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) to the list:

What's This?
Kidnap the Sandy Claws

Mission accomplished. Have a wonderful day-before-Christmas-Eve!

Sunday, December 22, 2013


...days from today plus 22 more days plus the quotient of 22 days divided by 2 equals February 15.

What's so special about February 15? you ask. Well, on February 15 I take off from Seattle–Tacoma International Airport towards sun and warmth. Towards beaches and djungle, fresh fruit and volcanoes. Towards pura vida and the motherland of my favorite Tico David. That's right, I've finally booked my plane tickets to Costa Rica! I'm staying there two weeks, exploring and enjoying life. Two lovely, lovely weeks...

But today I'm still in winter mode, celebrating the fourth Sunday of advent. The candles are lit, the Christmas presents wrapped, and the second batch of glögg bottled.

Tonight, the Frayos and I will revisit Bellevue Botanical Garden; the park made famous by blog posts such as A weekend to remember - Part I from last year. Lena and Sofia, we'll miss you!

Saturday, December 21, 2013


...is the legal drinking age in the US. I'm not sure what the legal bowling age is, but I didn't get carded at tonight's holiday party with the Pagel lab so I guess I looked mature enough.

I sure am a terrible bowler, but  wine helps. Wine helps a lot.

Friday, December 20, 2013


...mm of snow made my morning. For the first time in Seattle I was walking through silently falling snowflakes, dreaming of a white Christmas.

Then reality caught up and snow turned into water...

...but it was lovely while it lasted!

Thursday, December 19, 2013


...thousand billion one hundred and two gingerbread cookies.

(or something like that)

This was the first and last time I ever make ginger thins on my own, because holy cow! that was boring. Normally I love making these guys, but apparently it's all about doing it in the company of others. Note to self.

Aesthetically, the result was quite terrible; I simply ran out of patience after the second pan. Or was it the first? Flavorwise, I'd say they were not that bad. The chemist in me couldn't resist experimenting a bit with the spices, but I think I can probably be even more adventurous next time.

However: no company, no next time. Basta.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


...seconds into this clip, Will Ferrell is presented with a bottle of OP Anderson, inspiring an entertaining interpretation of the drinking song Helan går after some Q&A regarding Swedish Christmas traditions.

I can assure you that I will not miss that particular item on the Christmas buffet this year. Good riddance!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


...is a song by Johnossi and Anna Ternheim that I listened to at least twice a day this spring. And summer. (And fall.) Perhaps it's time to pick it up again..?

Johnossi, Anna Ternheim - Seventeen (Bonus Track / Alternative Version)

But first: more of this!

Loretta Lynn - Country Christmas


Monday, December 16, 2013


...days left until 2014. Can you believe that!? I sure can't.

16 days. Boom!

Sunday, December 15, 2013


...red envelopes with holiday cheer and season's greetings for Sweden. One less thing to cross off my to-do list!

Saturday, December 14, 2013


...days into December, and even the Fremont Troll is getting into the spirit of the season.

(Still quite ugly, though.)

Friday, December 13, 2013


...is the smallest number with eight letters in its name spelled out in English. It's a prime number and an emirp (a prime that is another prime in reverse). It's a musical, a film, a song, and an album. It's bad luck, good luck, and the number of stripes on the American flag.

And December 13 is Saint Lucia's Day in Sweden. Like many of the Swedish traditions, especially around Christmas, it sounds awfully religious... But fear not; just like the rest of our holidays it's just another excuse to get drunk (lussevaka) and indulge in sweet treats.

Want to know more? Check out this instructional video.

Happy holidays and lusse lelle! says Rambo Lucia (who did not dare to light those candles).

Thursday, December 12, 2013


...letters is all it takes to spell out the most important happening in Sweden right now: 
H I S E M Ä N K P L U J  
All right, what can we make of that? Hit me with suggestions!
Hold on, that doesn't make any sense at all. Let's try again, shall we?
Mhmm... No...That's not an activity I want to applaud, really.
Now that's something I could easily promote! However, we're not requesting any Trojan headgear this time; what I'm referring to is of course...
...which is an ongoing six-day fundraising event during which three radio/television personalities are broadcasting live, 24 hours a day, on Swedish national publicly funded radio. Money is collected in a number of ways; through song requests, auctions, and various initiatives from celebrities and regular folks. The 2013 drive benefits something I feel very stongly about: every girl's right to survive her pregnancy.

According to WHO, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day. Every day. With better maternal health, improved sex education, and safer abortions many unnecessary deaths of young girls in developing countries could be avoided. And it's so easy to contribute! A simple text message with a song request is all it takes to donate 50 SEK, but there are other ways as well.

If you haven't done it already: please go to musikhjalpen.se and learn more about the cause, find out how to request a song, and check out the auctions and virtual collection boxes. It's a delight seeing all the creative ideas people come up with for raising money!

This little guy's mother is a very important person, to him and to me.

All of you who recently had a baby, or know someone who just did: imagine having to go through childbirth without anesthesia, trained midwives, or even a clean bed to lie down in. Then imagine that you are 17 years old. Or 15.

I urge you: please contribute to the fight against maternal mortality. Every donation counts, no matter how small (or large). Thank you!

musikhjalpen.se #mh13 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


...words to describe my volunteering experience from the Hutch Holiday Gala:

It was not as fun as I thought it would be.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't terrible or anything; I just didn't get to see as much of the auctions as I had hoped for, and some of the (non-Hutch) people I worked with weren't as friendly as one would have expected.

That being said, I met some truly lovely people too; among the organizers as well as the guests. And it sure was interesting to listen in on some of the bidding... Seattle really has some generous individuals who are willing to pay a lot for luxurious golf trips and helicopter rides, all for the benefit of the Hutch. For that I am very grateful! I'm not sure if we live in the same universe, but the truth is we couldn't do what we do without them.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


...fun facts about Fremont:
  1. The township was originally a separate city, incorporated into Seattle in 1891
  2. It is named after Fremont, Nebraska, the hometown of two of its founders
  3. It is sometimes referred to as ”The People's Republic of Fremont” or ”The Artists' Republic of Fremont”
  4. The official motto reads: ”De Libertas Quirkas” (”The Freedom To Be Peculiar”)
  5. It harbors the Center of the Universe (N 35th, Fremont Place N & Fremont Ave N)
  6. Ingrid Bergman is depicted on a big mural by the outdoor cinema
  7. The park to the west of the Fremont Library is called ”Slippery Slope”
  8. Trolloween is a yearly event that celebrates the birth of the Fremont Troll, who lives under Aurora Bridge
  9. Signs throughout Fremont give the following instructions: ”set your watch back five minutes”, ”set your watch forward five minutes”, and ”throw your watch away”
  10. The controversial Lenin sculpture placed in the heart of the township weighs over 7 tons and is currently sporting a festive holiday getup

Why so serious?

Monday, December 9, 2013


...am, Monday morning. Yet another interesting week ahead; lots of work, lots of dreaming. Late nights, early mornings. Cold toes, white fingertips. Running, cycling, boxing, reading. Writing. Deleting. Writing again.

People back home. People here. Always on my mind.
Home here. Home there. Hemma.


They say home is where the heart is. Luckily, I've got lots of heart.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


...kinds of stress struck me this morning.

The laundry stress.
The workout stress.
The making saffron buns stress.
The not enough sleep this weekend stress.
The dear Lord why is my internet connection still down stress.
The it's 2nd avent and I still haven't had time to prep my advent candlestick stress.
The crap did I just spill sugar all over the floor; now I need to vacuum as well stress.
The jeez I really didn't think through this whole blog calendar thing properly before starting; sure, 1-2-3 is easy but when you reach 8-9-10... it starts getting troublesome stress.

So, yeah... That happened.

Then the day got better! But I'll refer to the previous post for that.

Saffron buns! A whole dish drainer full of them. Tasty little buggers.


...items for glögg making. (Yes, I'm counting the pot.) Tomorrow we'll see how the Frayos like it, in the great 2013 Pacific Northwest Glögg/Glühwein Holiday Showdown.

...well, technically tomorrow means earlier today. Due to internet connectivity issues this post was published after the actual event. Nevertheless, the glögg was a success! As was the glühwein. And the saffron buns. And the traditional German wespennester (wasp nest) snacks. And the juleskum from Sofia. And the cozy open fire. And Shani's homemade pizza. (What? That's not Christmassy? Um, yes it is. Well shut up. No, you shut up. Well then take this.)

(Hah! BURN!)

Friday, December 6, 2013


...reasons why today will be a most merry (but somewhat busy) day:
  1. Hairdresser time! A well-deserved treat after a couple of intense work weeks, just in time for the...
  2. ...Student/Postdoc Advisory Committee (SPAC) Holiday Party at Fred Hutch...
  3. ...where I get to present a prestigious mentoring award to an inspiring faculty member...
  4. ...and indulge in pizza and desserts, before heading off to...
  5. ...David's housewarming party on Capitol Hill, after which I have to go home and rest in preparation for...
  6. ...the Hutch Holiday Gala, where I'll be volunteering on Saturday.
Awesomeness times six!

The gala on Saturday deserves a blog post of its own I think, being the single biggest fund-raising event in Seattle (or so I've heard). It's a black tie event, which means I get to use my black/golden floor-length dress again (or some other cocktail-worthy garment). Sweet indeed! More on that later. Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, December 5, 2013


...pm today, I finally get to play tourist and take the Seattle Underground Tour. For those of you who don't know, downtown Seattle has an underground network of passageways and basements that used to be ground level in the mid-19th century. After the streets were elevated these paths stopped being used, but this afternoon I will tread the hidden streets together with a bunch of colleagues, courtesy of Fred Hutch's HR department.

Finally, I get to cross off one of Seattle's popular attractions from my to-see list. Not a day too soon!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


...happy horses in the quiet countryside (one hiding behind me).

A flashback to November 24; a much appreciated break from city life, courtesy of my warmhearted colleague Mark and his wonderful family who invited me to their ranch in Stanwood for pre-Thanksgiving celebrations.

Monday, December 2, 2013


...sweet surprises made my day; one at home and one at work.

From mum: crossword puzzles, kakuros, and my favorite kind of Christmas tea from Köpmansgården in Halmstad.

From Sofia: an advent gift box with 24 individually wrapped little packets, one for each day of December until Christmas Eve.

If you only knew how much these things mean to me... Thank you! Thank you so much. Love and joy!

Sunday, December 1, 2013


...excited marathoner (pre-race).

I would gladly go on for hours about the run, describing every twist, turn, and hill, every detail and sensation, but I will spare you that. It was a truly unique experience, and I exceeded every expectation I could possibly put on myself.

Despite the piercing pain in hips and calves during the last 10 kilometers it was impossible to wipe the smile off my face. I'm so proud and happy!

What a great way to start December!

Friday, November 29, 2013

It's official...

...Christmas has begun! The tree is lit, as is Macy's gigantic star. And I only cried once! Well okay, twice. I couldn't quite handle being in the midst of a sea of Seattleites solemnly singing Silent Night in unison, and when the countdown ended and thousands of little lights started twinkling in the dark November night my eyes filled up with tears once more. I'm such a softie!


To me, living in the US means trying lots of strange things I would never venture elsewhere. Hence, when a new Fred Hutch acquiantance proposed gathering a group of friends for a night of square dancing at Tractor Tavern, I immediately and enthusiastically agreed. And guess what? I had a blast! At first it looked absolutely terrifying with all the intricate steps and combinations of moves, but I didn't even have time to hesitate before someone asked me to dance and the rest of the night was a jumble of spinning and laughing.

Let me tell you this: I love sweating hipster cowboys. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Yulefest! (And a little Thanksgiving)

Today is Thanksgiving, but I will not go on too much about that; I spent the day with friends and family, being thankful for all the good things in life. Fun times, as always! Oh yeah, and I got photobombed.

Instead, I will describe an event that took place last weekend: Yulefest at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard. Yup, we're talking Finnish folk dancers, Norwegian pastries, Christmas decorated Dala horses, accordions, straw ornaments, and lots and lots of old people wearing folk costumes.

Awesomeness was abundant. Just watch this

 and this

and this

not to mention this

Okay, I realise that I might come across as very sarcastic but truth be told, my friend and I had a great time. It was really interesting and fun to see the American interpretation of Nordic traditions. However, I have to say that they really messed up the Lucia procession... Honestly, I have no idea what was going on, but it included a bunch of little Lucia maidens doing the chicken dance around a man in a yellow feathered mask. Oooh-kay... There was no singing, no reading of verses, not even a Lucia! David Lynch could not have made it weirder; I was too shocked to even take a photo of the travesty. But hey, at least we got gingerbread thins afterwards so I guess that makes up for it? (Not really.)

On Sunday, I can finally surrender completely to my Christmas yearnings; I will be able to light my calendar candle, make myself a cup of Christmas tea and press play on my Spotify X-mas playlist without any remorse. At last!

After the marathon, that is...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Parking violation

How embarrasing! I obviously put my bike in the horse rack by accident the other day. Luckily, I got away with it without a ticket.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday status update

This weekend has been a real treat! Happy hour with good friends, drinks with new acquaintances. Hanging out with David; eating brunch, watching movies, making plans. Sunday was all about me: I began with trying a new class at my gym (body blast), then cleaned my apartment, Skyped with Sofia, did laundry, checked out quirky Christmas knick-knacks at the Fremont Sunday market, got groceries, prepared lunches for the upcoming week, listened to podcasts, emailed, danced in my kitchen, dreamed of fun times to come... A day of crossing off items on my to do-list. A day of recuperation. And now it's finally time to curl up in that chair, enjoying a good book... Bliss!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Nerding out

Enjoy math? And Simpsons? ...maybe even Futurama? Then you're most likely a geek like me, and should definitely check out the new book by Simon Singh; a science author/journalist with a PhD in particle physics who visited Seattle last Thursday to give a talk about his new baby, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets. Having much enjoyed two of his previous books, Fermat’s Last Theorem and The Code Book, I eagerly joined my fellow Comic Book Guys in Town Hall to hear his lecture.

My verdict: Fun! Interesting! Curious! In fact, I took the opportunity to chat with the author for a couple of minutes after everyone left the auditorium, which certainly added to the whole experience.

I should do these things more often!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Under my umbrella

Hey, November! I know most people hate on you, but I don't. In fact, I like you quite a bit.


Cheers, November!

Making Christmas*

I'm well aware that it's only November, but 2013 will be the year when this Christmas junkie spends her first X-mas away from Sweden, and it takes some preparations to make it bearable. Hence, stocking up on important (and not so important) accessories and ingredients on the brief sojourn back home was essential.

Below are some of the items I collected: bitter orange peel (pomerans) for ginger thins, a sample of my favorite Christmas tea blend, spice mix for mulled wine (glögg), almond paste (mandelmassa), traditional cookie cutters (piglet, angel, star), a calender candle, a knitted heart, dry yeast for saffron rolls, and some typical holiday sweets (Marianne mint candies and juleskum). I also got myself a star shaped paper pendant lamp to hang in my kitchen window in time for advent (not shown below).

So far, so good! I'm ready for December to start. Like, right now. Now!

*The title of this post refers to the No. 1 Christmas movie out there: Tim Burton's “Nightmare Before Christmas”. But you knew that, of course. If not: check it out!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Exit through the gift shop

01:24 am. About an hour left to go. These alpha camera images better be worth it...

Monday, November 4, 2013


A lot of people have asked me why I chose to go back to Sweden now, instead of waiting for the holidays. It's quite simple: I wanted to partake in the Conferment of Doctoral Degrees at the University of Gothenburg, which took place on October 25.

Crystal clear? No...?

Okay, the Conferment of Doctoral Degrees (doktorspromotion in Swedish) is the university’s largest ceremonial occasion when new doctors, jubilee doctors and honorary doctors receive their insignia as confirmation of their position at the university. I was supposed to attend last year's ceremony, but since it took place shortly after my move to Seattle I chose to postpone it until now.

The 2.5-h ceremony was highly formal and perhaps not the most action packed activity I've engaged in, but I'm nevertheless very glad I went. I'm even happier that my brother, sister, mother, father, aunt, and two grandmothers could share this big day with me. And they certainly did it in style; the ceremony was followed by a banquet with formal attire, and all of them had gone through the trouble of gearing up properly for the occasion. Much appreciated!

The handsome parents.

The brother (a.k.a. the date for the evening).


The siblings (and the diploma).

The Frosts.

For those who have 6 minutes and 13 seconds to spare, here's a video from the University of Gothenburg showing some highlights from the ceremony.

Even though I've had my doctoral degree for over a year now, this ceremony truly marked the end of my graduate studies. Icing on the cake!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Well, hello there

I'm back! My days in Sweden went by way, way too quickly, but I'm back and ready to kick some butt at work. Studies will be finished, meetings attended, conclusions drawn, and papers drafted. But first: a hot bath and a good night's sleep... Yawn!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Up in the air

I'm off! Back to the motherland, back to native soil. Ten days of love, hugs, giggles, and warmth; just what the doctor ordered. After that, I'll return to sweet Seattle with renewed powers and reinforced motivation. Bye for now!

Sunday, October 20, 2013


When I found this scarf on sale a couple of weeks ago I didn't look too closely on the pattern; I just liked the colors and the softness of the fabric. Unfolding it some days later, I discovered what I had bought.

Resistance is futile; assimilation is inevitable.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hanging on the telephone

It's not all work and no play these days; there is time for fun as well. When my friend and Fred Hutch colleague Kiran was looking for participants to form a FHCRC volunteer group for KUOW's fall pledge drive, I saw an opportunity to do some good while adding to my collection of odd American experiences, and signed up. We did a 4-hour shift on Thursday night, answering phones, recording donor information, and gossiping away between calls. Lots of good laughs!

Kiran and Reed, and our wicked old-school phones.

KUOW is a public radio station whose mission is "to create and serve an informed public, one challenged and invigorated by an understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures". More than 89 percent of their revenue comes from individual and business support, while the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the University of Washington provide 9 percent. Twice a year they arrange major pledge drives to fund their operation.

If you missed the drive but want to support KUOW, you can make your pledge here. Thanks for supporting public radio!