Thursday, September 26, 2013

Singing the homesick blues

This happens every time a trip to Sweden is approaching... I start dreaming about home; about my family, my friends, and all the familiar places that brings me comfort and joy. And when I wake up there is a big hole in my stomach; a wistful hunger that breakfast won't solve.

What's annoying is that I'm really perfectly happy over here. I have a great job, fantastic friends and a wonderful extended family. It's just that when the Old Country keeps messing with my subconscious I have to struggle really hard not to bury myself in uncontrollable longing and negative thought patterns. (Not to mention self-pity...)


Ah, well. I'll just keep repeating the mantra that usually brings me solace in times of gloom and grief: This too shall pass.

It will, I'm sure.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Serving Swedish sweets

I love baking - yes, love it. Bread, buns, cakes, cookies, scones, cupcakes, crackers... All of it! But since moving to Seattle, the baker in me has been hibernating together with my pâtissière alter ego, mostly because of a mixure of fear and mistrust towards my gas oven. Sure, there have been some exceptions; I've produced some easy no-brainers like rhubarb crumble pie and Swedish spice cake (mjuk pepparkaka), but nothing that required active yeast or more serious thought.

However, a colleague at the Hutch turned 70 (sic!) yesterday and somehow I had been tricked into promising to bring Swedish cinnamon rolls (kanelbullar) to our little lunch party. Finding everything I needed required a bit of research, the most challenging ingredient turning out to be pearl sugar (pärlsocker) to top off the buns with. I eventually found some from the brand ”Lars Own” at Scandinavian Specialties in Ballard, and after some improvisation with the dry yeast I managed to produce some rather tasty and absolutely authentic cinnamon rolls. The mischievous gas oven did indeed pull a prank on me by burning the buns on the bottom with unevenly distributed temperature, but the result was a success nonetheless; everyone seemed to enjoy the treat. One of my colleagues even asked for the recipe, and I had to promise another to make a batch for her birthday too. Fun!

My kitchen has no room for special baking accessories, so the buns had to cool down on my dish drainer. Classy!

I actually made another Swedish speciality for a birthday party on Saturday as well, but that time I chose something simpler: a rich, chocolatey sticky cake (kladdkaka) with chocolate frosting and Seattle blackberries in the batter (picked by me, of course). It was just as yummy as it sounds...

A fun detail was the excitement over the ”home-made” whipped cream I served with the cake; in the land where canned whipped cream is religion, people are apparently vastly impressed by someone actually mixing the cream themselves. Very amusing.

Behold the floating cake!

I'm certainly inspired to take on more adventures in my kitchen after these positive experiences. Perhaps it's time to try a bread recipe or two...?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

When good times go BAD

Sunday morning, 9 am. I'm standing in a light drizzle on the corner of 2nd and Seneca, waiting for Shani to come pick me up and take the two of us to Tiger Mountain on an adventurous chanterelle hunting expedition. Little do I know of the dramatic events that will transpire in just a couple of hours; an unexpected emergency that will force us to abort our mission and remind us of the importance of a well-stocked first aid kit.

Well, something like that.

What happened was this: after hiking up the steep mountainside through vicious blackberry bushes and other seriously unfriendly vegetation we finally reached Shani's secret spot in the forest. I'm not at all knowledgeable when it comes to mushrooms, and as this was my first official mushroom expedition my biggest concern was being able to spot the golden prey. That turned out to be a non-issue; the place was packed with chanterelles and no one had been there before us. Great! We started picking immediately and trailed off a bit from each other, Shani consistently making sure that I was within hearing range when she called my name.

I had just found a nice spot with plenty of goodies when I suddenly experienced a very distinct pain in my left leg. I cursed and looked down, seeing a wasp sitting there. It hurt like crazy, and I tried to smack it. However, as I attempted to do so another wasp attacked my other leg, the first one seeing an opportunity to sting me again. I found myself surrounded by a whole crew of pissed off yellow jackets, taking shots at me both here and there. I yelled and ran towards Shani, dignifiedly waiving my arms as I went. When I reached her I hurt all over; being stung several times on each leg and a couple of times in the face. She asked me if I was allergic, but I didn't think I was and ensured her that I could keep going.

We split up once more, and I felt okay; at least for five minutes or so... Then I suddenly got a sensation that felt just as if someone had stuffed my ears full of cotton. My face and lips started tingling and my eyes began to water. I kept telling myself that I would be just fine - I'm not allergic! - but when my tongue and throat started swelling up I realized that being alone in the middle of nowhere might not be the best idea if I suddenly learned that I was in fact allergic. I called for Shani, who heard that my voice was all funny from the swollen throat and I was having serious problems talking because of my newly developed Angelina Jolie-lips.

At this point we decided to abort the mission and started heading back towards the car. On the way down we both managed to hilariously slip and fall; first me sliding on my back for a couple of meters and then her completely falling over, head-down-feet-up in a hidden trench. Somehow we successfully kept the precious chanterelles in the baskets through all this hubbub, and when we finally got back to the car we were wet and dirty, but mostly laughing at our own misery. We picked up some antihistamine in Snoqualmie for me, and about half an hour later I was able to talk normally again (almost, at least) and my hearing returned.

The rest of the day was spent on Scott and Shani's couch, playing with Cian, watching football, drinking tea, and eating nachos. Not too bad, really. Shani even cooked some wonderful butternut squash chanterelle soup that I got to take home; so kind of her! Or perhaps it was just a very clever way of making sure that I will not be deterred from joining her on similar expeditions in the future... (Which I'm not! I promise.)

Some pre-wasp attack photos; notice the steepness of the hill I'm standing in. I had no idea mushroom picking was that challenging!

My golden treasure, which would have been way more impressive had those stupid insects not been so protective of their territory...

My body still hurts where the wasps stung me, my swollen left eye making me look like I was a major player in an Irish pub brawl, but I'll certainly live. I tried to document the swollen post-wasp face, but the pictures were not adequately conveying the reddish puffyness, so you'll just have to trust me when I say that I look like crap.

Guess it's time to pop another couple of pink pills and hope that I will look more like myself when I wake up tomorrow. If not, I'll have a fun day at work explaining my beat up features...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Music under a moonlit sky

Tuesday 7:30 pm, Marymoor Park.

Got a last-minute invitation to watch the new wave/punk legends Blondie perform in Redmond last night. Thank you, David! For the ticket, the twilighty photo, and the opportunity to see my old idol Debbie Harry bounce around on stage wearing a fluorescent tie, leather skirt, and pointy witch's hat. Punk is not dead! (It may be a bit confused, but it's not dead.)

Something tells me it might have been the last summery night in Seattle for quite a while, but I certainly won't mind being proven wrong. On the other hand, I've been not-so-secretly longing for fall for some time now, so I can just as easily go all in for tea-lights and warm socks... Either way, I'm content.

Monday, September 16, 2013

As time goes by

Hey, what am I up to these days? Well I'm supporting Sounders FC as they climb to the top of the MLS table, finding Bill Murray's roman ancestor at the Seattle Art Museum, watching Seahawks destroy 49ers on Sunday Night Football, and celebrating the fourth annual National Postdoc Appreciation Week. Anything else? I'm trying to catch up on some sleep, dreaming about my trip to Sweden in October, planning future adventures, thinking about career goals/personal goals/other people's expectations, and starting to get really, really excited about fall (although last week was somewhat hot with 31C/88F on 9/11).

Oh, and I'm working too. Yeah.

And running! Most of you might already know, but I guess I should make it official: if all goes according to plan I will complete my first full marathon December 1. THE RACE IS ON!

(And my shoes are apparently on fire.)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Skyping with my youngest friend

He: ...I wasn't born yesterday, you know.
I: Yes you were.
He: ... DAMMIT!
I: You watch your language, little boy!
He: Moooooooooom!

Welcome to the world, lil pumpkin - I can't wait to meet you in person! (Oh, why is October so far away?)

My warmest congratulations to the new parents. <3

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


On this day a year ago I arrived to Seattle, frazzled from the long flight, yet anxious to begin a new chapter of my life on a faraway continent. Owning no more than I could carry in my two hands, I was picked up at the airport by Ollie and Nancy and taken to Fremont where I installed myself and soon started exploring my new hometown. Right from the beginning, I knew that this would be a passionate love affair. Seattle and I found one another straight away, and I just keep falling in love, over and over...

In no way have I been disconnected from my roots, though. Twice have I been home during this first year, and I have had visitors over from Sweden on no less than six occasions - thirteen different people, all in all. My head and heart is constantly filled with thoughts of dear and beloved back home, but not in a painful way. It's a soothing, homey white noise. You are there, I am here. Life goes on.

But don't worry, I will be back - eventually.

That being said, I am far from done with Seattle... Since I came here I have learned so many things and travelled so many places. The fun times I have had! The moments I have experienced. The friends I have met and the families I have joined. And yet there is so much left to do and see and feel and try... I would not trade this adventure for anything in the world.

One year has passed, and I can't wait to see what the next is going to offer. I hope you will keep joining me on my ventures in this fascinating land!

Photo by Göran Frost, edited by Isaac Price.