Thursday, April 17, 2014

O ~ "Open Space" vs. Allemansrätt #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

I had not heard of the concept of "open space" until we moved to Colorado in 1983. We lived on the East Coast where one city bleeds into another with no space in between. Trees line the roads so you can't see very far. The sky is hazy with humidity.  It feels crowded, only you don't know that until you move to CO and can see forever.

That was my first impression.  Wow, I can see.  There's nothing blocking my view.  I can see the horizon.  I can see THE MOUNTAINS. Oh my gosh, I live in a postcard.  It was browner and drier than I had expected, but the view went on forever, the sky was right there, and usually blue, maybe a few puffs of cloud.  Bliss.

As I became an adult, I noticed signs.  "This Open Space bought with..."  "This is a designated Open Space, no trespassing." Um, what does open mean? Closed I guess...

Compare this to Sweden, as well as other European countries where there's a law called allemansrätt which directly translates "everyman'sright".  In Sweden, you may go ANYWHERE, including private property.  You may pick your berries, or your mushrooms ("very Swedish" activities still today).  You may tarry.  You may set up your tent.

You may pull over to the side of the road ANYWHERE and have a picnic.  You don't have to look for a designated "picnic area" with the sign with the table.  Nor do you need to worry about the sign with the table and a big, red X over it.  Find a spot, lay out your blanket, or set up your folding table and chairs.  Enjoy.

If you'd like to stay there and camp, have at it.  None of those, "No overnight parking.  No camping.  Area closes at dusk" signs.

I remember Farfar telling me about this amazing right on a summer visit, and being just astounded. However, I remembered it as any public land.  When I did my research and talked to the Swede, it's much more than that.  It's "anywhere."  So you will not find a "No Trespassing" or  "Private Property Keep Out Sign" in Sweden.  I think that's wonderful.

Sounds rather welcoming, doesn't it?  What are the laws/norms in your country?  Ever heard of this? Does your state buy "open space" and not let you into it?

~Tina, really wondering about my adopted country's policies today...

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit: Amanda Lee of House Revivals

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N ~ Not Your Business #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

If you were a true Swede, you wouldn't have a blog like mine.  I'm not "Very Swedish..." when it comes to my online life.  I don't have an online persona.  Tina is my real name.  Doesn't take much to figure out my last name.  I've told you where I live.  I've shown you pictures of my family.  I've shared embarrassing stories, my faith, my struggles, my successes, MY LIFE.

I called The Swede and asked him to speak openly about the famous Swedish reserved personality.  (We both got a chuckle out of that oxymoron.)  Remember that we're talking generalities here, because I am not your average American, I am much more outgoing and let-it-all-hang-out than most people.  There's also that spectrum of course when it comes to Swedes.

In general though, they tend to be more reserved, and keep their thoughts, problems, etc. private, maybe sharing with a best friend, but certainly not "with the world at large" or a casual friend.

This trait isn't just Swedish, it's more a northern European quality, as The Nutritionist likes to say.  It's not that they're unfriendly - a clerk in a store is just as likely to engage you in a casual conversation as is an American clerk.

If you want a good example of reserved, there's this really wonderful, quirky movie called Kitchen Stories about Norwegian bachelor farmers being observed by researchers as to their cooking habits. The main character just stops using his kitchen, and cooks in a closet over the kitchen, cutting a hole in the floor to observe the lonely observer, who is sitting in the kitchen wondering what the farmer is eating, and where...I'd call that being private.

Since this is all about privacy, and being reserved, that's all you get today.  OK, truthfully, it's not about me all of a sudden changing my personality.  I'm just out of time!

Would you say you lean more toward the quiet, keep to yourself side, or are you more let it all hang out?  Is that a cultural trait would you say, or just YOUR personality?  It's just so fun to have such an international group of readers to learn from.  I'm SO enjoying your comments.

~Tina, who will continue to just blab away about anything and everything, again tomorrow ;-)

©2014 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M ~ Make it Yourself! #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

I feel like I'm letting you down on the whole childhood pictures thing, so I went on a quest for you today.  It was a quest through four photo-albums, with a completely different agenda than when I first wrote the title to this post back in January.

I was going to talk about scratch cooking, but we've really covered that topic quite thoroughly, so I thought I'd keep the title, but share some of the things that I've made, or helped make, or had made for me.

Some of these were made when we still lived in Sweden, but some are from after we moved to the US.  I guess my cultural comparison point is that it's the family that makes the difference, not the culture.  I have a lot of American friends whose moms made all their clothes and cooked from scratch, and some who did not.

Some of my Swedish friends had all store bought clothes, some did not.  One common thread (pats self on back for clever metaphor) is that knitting and crocheting have been a part of my life and the lives of my friends in both my countries.  That makes this a, "I guess we're a lot alike in a lot of ways, too!" post. Enjoy the pictures.  May my siblings not kill me...

This is Farmor, with about 1/8 of DataBoy, rolling out the dough for the buns from the B post, with Swissie in the background, working on something else.  We baked a lot with Farmor. She was infinitely patient.

This is me baking with Farmor, I'm guessing the summer I was either 14 or 16, because it's Farmor's kitchen, but I'm older than when we lived there. Notice we're still making buns...told you a lot of them were made.

What do you do when you're crazy about horses, but can't have one?  Make your own, out of the swing set. Notice we're riding horses NOT swinging.  Joachim is banished to the stable for some crime I no longer remember.  The Swede helped us build the stable. (Yes, I'm in the red shorts.)

I'm in the blonde braids (surprise) and that's my best friend Ann-Charlotte, 2 magical years older than me, and our neighbor across the backyard.  It's her little brother, my age, who was banished to the stable. She taught me a lot about sewing, and we're making doll clothes.  Note the hanging bibs we made.  Of course I copied hers...though you'll notice her embroidery is better.

Ann-Charlotte's mom made her those groovy overalls, and I had to have some, so The Nutritionist, who could also go by The Seamstress (she made me almost all my nightgowns and dresses and bathrobes of my childhood), made me a matching pair. (That's Swissie between us.)

Here's one of the bathrobes she made me.

Here's something *I* made.  I knit this teddy bear, with lots and lots of help from Farmor, and then she sewed it together for me, but I did the knitting.  I still have it.  Yes, I save too many things.

Not sure how old I am in this picture, but it's at least fifth grade, which is when Swissie got her cat, Pippi, as in Longstocking, by famous Swedish author Astrid Lindgren.

Did you learn crafts growing up? Who taught you?  Do you still craft?

~Tina, dying to procrastiknit, but has way too much to do...procrastination will have to wait...

©2014 All Rights Reserved
All photos taken by family members.  Probably Momarazzi...

Monday, April 14, 2014

L ~ Lagom, Revisited #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.


I've written about this word before, in my 2012 series, and looking over the comments from that post, I gotta tell you it just makes me smile from ear to ear to see how many of you are still around, listening to me.  Thanks, you.  I don't want to just give you the post again, but there are some parts I think I nailed, and then I have a "where is she now" perspective.

So, to the past:

Of all the lessons I'm teaching through my postcards, this one is the lesson I've most looked forward to. The word I'm teaching you is probably THE most famously in-translatable word in Swedish. 

What word am I talking about? LAGOM.
Pronunciation: la + gum. The la is as in lalalalala I'm not listening. Gum? You chew it.

Translation: This is where it gets tricky. It takes more than just a few words. It takes an entire fairy tale to do the translation justice. Hence the postcard.

In the Goldilocks and The Three Bears story, our heroine explores the house of mama bear, papa bear, and baby bear. Wherever she goes, there is only one of the three choices which satisfies her. Only one of them is “lagom”. I suppose if I had to put a definition on it in just a few words, they would be, “just about right.” Don't you think a word in English with this meaning might be very useful?

Today, I am struggling mightily for a lagom.  A balance.  A "it's just about right" in how much time I spend on my writing pursuits, and how much time I spend being a wife, mom, friend, sister, daughter, aunt, etc.

It's not an easy juggle, even if you have THE right word to describe it.  It's no secret that co-hosts of this Challenge are stretched mightily thin with ALL the blogs to visit, blogs in our specific assigned section to mentor, our chosen "jobs" as part of the engine that makes this whole crazy train keep rolling, and then comments we long to return, and emails that keep rolling in.

I love it all.  I am a person who thrives on leadership and tasks all lined up, organized, assigned, and checked off the list.  However, it's not about me.  It's about a huge community event, and sometimes I lose the "lagom" amount that I can realistically do, and try to do it all.  

I had a different word for today.  It was Lördagsgodis, the Swedish tradition to buy a small bag of candy for your kids on Saturday.  The Swede said, "You are writing about lagom, aren't you?"  I decided I needed to. Even if it's just a reminder to me that balance, the "just about right" of work, family and fun is what keeps it all moving.

What is your biggest struggle in finding the perfect balance?  How do you make it all work?

~Tina, who hopes you're finding the lagom in your life

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K ~ Kaviar, the Peanut Butter of Sweden #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

Yes, more food, but I really can't write about cultural differences without kaviar and peanut butter.  No, still haven't lost it, though some of the info@ email is making me just scratch my head in wonder...

How can these be the same?  One is creamed cod roe with some color added, and comes in a toothpaste tube for pete's sake, and the other is a staple of life, no kid grows up without it, peanut butter!

Well that would depend on where you grow up, now wouldn't it.  What if you have a split childhood like I do? 

This is the kaviar spread out on the WASA (previously discussed) bread, and sprinkled with, wanna guess? Dill.  Pampered Chef Dill Blend, to be exact.  Yummy snack.  Salty, crunchy, has some spice to it.  Perfect afternoon treat.

Versatile.  Kaviar can top anything (like an egg! or a shrimp sandwich!) and BE topped with a wide variety of delicious condiments.  I like cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, fresh herbs from my garden, fresh DILL.  The combinations are limitless, really. Anything you'd put with fish tastes great.

Over the years, I've made most (the willing) friends try this.  I now have a convert.  SMK tasted it one night, and liked it.  Took a couple of WASA's home with her, with kaviar.

Next thing you know, she's texting me late at night, "Do you have a tube I could buy?  I'm just craving it!" I, like any good dealer, gave her the first one for free. She was all excited because she had found a snack she loved that none of her kids would touch.

Wrong.  Turns out the SoccerBoy2, OYT's friend, likes it too - ate the rest of her tube. By the way? OYT is probably THE pickiest eater on the planet.  He loves kaviar.  I have to ration his consumption or I'm left in dire straits.

When is she going back to the peanut butter? Now. Most Swedish kids grow up with that blue and yellow tube of kaviar in their fridge, eating sandwiches with it spread on them. Most American kids grow up with a jar of peanut butter in the house, eating sandwiches spread with that.

When we lived in Sweden, Grandma Vivian had to send us peanut butter.  Not available in Sweden.  Here in the US, we have to import our kaviar, or travel far to a specialty Scandinavian grocery store.  (Well, until IKEA.)  I still order mine from Sweden's Best. They have the most reasonable price, and it comes cryo-packed, and is on sale often.

I was all ready to give SMK another tube when she confessed she'd researched, found my preferred dealer, and ordered a 6-pack. I'm so relieved.  Now I have a back-up stash across the street for when OYT finishes the last tube and leaves me kaviar-less in Colorado.

Does your culture have a food product that defines childhood like this?  Please share.

~Tina, who really enjoyed consuming the photo props

©2014 All Rights Reserved
All photos by me.  Green plate from Farmor's precious dishes.

Friday, April 11, 2014

J ~ Jantelagen - It's Not About Me #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

Today's topic isn't food!  It's an idea.  A law if you will. Jantelagen = Jante's Law and originates in the novel A Refugee crosses his tracks by Aksel Sandemose.  He was a Danish/Norwegian who set his story in the town of Jante, where there was a sort of jealousy where you weren't allowed to think more highly of yourself than others. (Source)

It's evolved to a Scandinavian way of thought, and has also been found in other cultures.  When The Swede asked me if I had something for J, I said sure, I'm writing about real Christmas trees (julgranar).  

He told me about Jantelagen, which I'd never heard of, and I thought it was such a neat idea, and so different than American culture today that I threw the Christmas tree in the trailer and took it to the tree limb recycling facility.  (Ok, The Engineer did, a long time ago...but I thought it was kinda funny...but I'm delirious with blog visiting and Twitter chatting so what do I know.)

In American culture we're bombarded with ads that say, "You're worth it!"  "If you don't do it for yourself, who will?"  We strive to achieve, we want the credit for the idea, we seek the center of attention (ahem, that one strikes rather close to heart) and we want that trophy proclaiming we won.

Not so in Scandinavia.  There's a striving for NOT getting the attention, NOT getting the glory, NOT getting the credit.  Work quietly in the background, and give the other guy the credit.  I find this a refreshing idea.

How do you feel about this "law"?  I know from the comments that you readers are from all over the world.  Is there something similar in your culture? Does your culture lean more towards the American way or the Swedish way?

~Tina, who is going to try to recede more into the background and practice her Swedish roots :-)

P.S I did promise embarrassing childhood photos, and so far you haven't gotten many as fish, dill, ice, etc. aren't really embarrassing. So here you go:  me and Swissie.  I'm all gussied up to win first place at a gymnastics meet...

©2014 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I ~ Ice, Ice Baby #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.


I remember visiting the US when I was six, which was three years before we moved here, and seeing these set at the table.

I whispered to The Nutritionist, since it was a dinner party with non-family guests, "What's in those glasses, and why are the glasses so big, and why are they on the table?"

I was told it was water, there were cubes of ice floating in it to keep it cold, and that people drank it with their dinner when they got thirsty.  I was in shock.  I was used to small glasses, filled with either fruit juice, or for special occasions, sparkling cider, or if it was at home for dinner, then milk.

Why would anyone drink water?  It was for washing stuff.  I mean, I'd certainly had it before, like when I was pukey sick, but that was it.  In Sweden, water with dinner isn't normal.

Oh, how I came to regret those thoughts.  I soon acclimated to a giant glass of thirst-quenching goodness.  Then when it was time to visit Sweden for the summer, I'd sit there parched at whatever food occasion it was. Ice cubes? I don't think they even have the removable, fill them up yourselves and dump version.  Certainly not a luxury such as this:

Having an ice-maker is like flying first class. Once you've had the chance, you know what you're missing, and going back to coach stinks.  So does going back to making your own ice after living in a luxury apartment equipped with the magic machine.

Here in arid Colorado, I have no idea how I'd survive without ice water.  Please meet my constant companion:

I always carry my water bottle.  I probably fill it five times a day.  Yes, it's glass. I like to put peppermint extract in there, and the essential oils eat plastic.

To my friends in Europe: Unless times have changed drastically since last time I was home, it's still hard to find an ice-cube across the pond.  Please correct me, and educate my readers, if that has changed.

~Tina, drinking water, and soon celebrating the taxes being done with a dinner out with The Engineer!

©2014 All Rights Reserved
All pictures taken by me