Monthly archives: April 2012

Witches and communists and fires, oh my!

I’m not much for right-wing politics in the US, and usually their talking points about Sweden tend towards the incendiary at the expense of the, ahem, facts. IT’S A SOCIALIST NATION!!! FULL OF GODLESS HEATHENS!!!! they cry from inside their padded cells TV studios.


Normally, I would laugh at them and their exaggerations, but just this one week, they are totally right.

Thanks to the annual double-whammy of Valborg and the 1st of May, we are about to be immersed in first, a wave of pagan celebrations and second, the worker’s holiday (a.k.a. the Communist’s Day to shine).

With the Swedish name, “Valborgmässoafton,” it’s a little tough to know what exactly we’re supposed to be celebrating. Other languages have a name that is more clearly connected to the holiday’s origins: Walpurgisnacht, Walpurgis Night, la Noche de Walpurgis, Noc Walpurgii, Valpurgiya gecəsi (ok maybe that last one is a little hard)—all honoring St. Walpurga, of course.

St. Walpurga: a lovely, oily, foaming-at-the-mouth kind of girl. Photo: Johnny Chicago/Wikipedia commons

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A Romantic Getaway at Ystad Saltsjöbad

Have you ever heard about the one marshmallow/two marshmallow dilemma?

In the late 1960s, Stanford professor of psychology Walter Mischel ran a series of tests on children to measure their levels of self-control. He would allow them to choose a treat of their choice (one of which was a marshmallow), and then leave them alone in a room with the treat. The children got a deal, though: if they could resist the temptation to eat the marshmallow until the researcher came back, they would be rewarded with an extra marshmallow. Pretty sweet deal… if you can resist temptation.

When I was young, I was a classic two-marshmallow kid.

Lindt truffles, for example, were a special treat for extra special good behavior. I would carefully bite the little ball in half and save the second part for the next day. My mom thought there was something wrong with me. (Or just as likely, that I had been switched for another woman’s child at the hospital.)

These days, the two marshmallow behavior manifests itself in my habit of spreading out special treats and events so that the calendar is evenly peppered with things to look forward to. The bigger the treat, the more likely I am to postpone it so that I can look forward to it for a long, long time.

Which brings us to last weekend, when Simon and I finally took advantage of the romantic getaway to Ystad Saltsjöbad we had been given for our wedding a mere five months or so ago.

My favorite part of the trip (besides all my other favorite parts) was undoubtedly the apparel. Have robe and monogrammed slippers, am ready to relax. Photos: Kate Reuterswärd

Part of me is tempted to just say, “HOOOWEE! WHAT A WEEKEND!” and leave it at that.

You guys have seen The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, right? So you know what life is like in Sweden. Just take Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and put it in a spa, take out the violence and abuse, and add ridiculous amounts of eating, and you’re so there. Catch you on the flip side.

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The Agony and the Ecstasy of Tax Season in Sweden

You’re all alone, and every little noise is magnified by the solitude in your apartment.

Somewhere in the hall, you can hear footsteps and the sound of something heavy being dropped unceremoniously outside your door. Then the creak of a rusty hinge; the swoop of something smacking on the floor. You sit, quivering: trying not to make a sound, already fearing the worst.

And then slowly, haltingly, you get up from the couch, silently cursing as a noisy floor board gives away your movements to no one in particular. And as you near the door, you reach out with trembling fingers for the large envelope that’s fallen to its resting place on your door mat.

I knew it. I had hoped it wouldn’t be true, but there it was. Undeniable.

Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

My tax statement from the Swedish Tax Authority.

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Adventure to Vollsjö Mill

You don’t meet many people who are passionate about historic windmills. (I don’t, at least.) This weekend was the exception.

I first started talking to Cecilia about the windmill in Vollsjö sometime last fall over Twitter. At the time, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the 140-characters-or-fewer messages I was reading—Does this woman really own a windmill? How? WHY?

In the following months, a few things became clear: she is an expat living in the countryside of Skåne (the southernmost region of Sweden), she is learning Swedish, and yes, she owns a windmill.

From the way Cecilia tells the story, her family’s life story sounds a lot like a romantic comedy mixed with a historical period piece. Add a few vampires into the mix, and you’ve got a best-seller on your hands: multinational couple with family moves into historic building with the best of intentions, weird stuff starts happening, VAMPIRES! And of course there will have to be a girl with a dragon tattoo.  (I made up the last stuff. That was not part of Cecilia’s story.)

On our way to Vollsjö Mill. Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

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Feather-crazy, bedazzled twigs: The true story behind the Easter Feathers

In the United States, where I’m from, Easter is a pretty child-safe holiday.

You eat chocolate, you paint some eggs, your clothing suddenly becomes pastel, floral napkins mysteriously show up on your table… nothing that would be out of place in your average daycare. The whole thing is quite tame for a holiday based on commemorating the brutal crucifixion of a religious leader 2000-some years ago.

My kind of Easter decorations: slightly saccharine, totally innocuous baby chickens! Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

In Sweden, Easter is similarly tame on the surface. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find some pretty scary stuff.

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