Thursday, December 31, 2009

Two Thousand Nine

In January I rang in the New Year with The Swede and his best friends. 

In February I celebrated Valentine's Day with my best Nashville girlfriends.

In March my college friend Becca came to Nashville on her spring break.

In April I drove to Ohio for my college friend Kristen's bridal shower.

In May I spent time with friends from work, especially Corie.

In June The Swede came to the US and met my family and friends.

In July I said good-bye to Grandma and Grandpa and everyone else and headed to Sweden.

In August I spent time at the ocean with my new Swedish friends, Jesper and Isa.

In September Mama Swede and I entered a fishing competition.

In October we enjoyed a lot of fredagsmys because the days got short and cold and the couch seemed so inviting.

In November AIK won the championship.

In December I had my first Swedish Christmas.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Catch You Later

I'm working on something a little special for tomorrow, so please forgive me for not posting a photo today.  Plus I need to paint my nails for tomorrow's New Year's Eve party.  You understand. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This Seems to Be My Destiny

I spent the day at the office with The Swede because some of the walls needed to be repainted and, as we all know, I am a master of the trade.  Or at least it seems like I must be by now because I've spent more time painting than any other activity since I've been here besides, you know, being the world's best girlfriend.  We painted all day, with only a 45 minute lunch break.  The lenghty The Ellen Degeneres Show and Seventh Heaven breaks that characterized my autumnal apartment painting were conspicuously missing, I am sorry to say, and I have strained muscles by stretching all day that I didn't even know existed this morning.  P.S. My apologies if the photo is a little fuzzy.  The Swede played photographer today and this is the only shot that doesn't prominently feature my backside. 

Sunday, December 27, 2009


On Christmas day while we were still down south, we took a drive to see a series of locks on the Göta Canal.  Okay, sure, a canal.  It doesn't sound so amazing, right?  But this was really special, let me tell you.  What you're looking at here in this photo is a portion of the 118 mile canal that makes it possible for boats to literally drive up- or downhill.  I imagine it takes awhile, as the boat must take each section one by one as it fills up with water and raises the boat to the next level, but it sure is effective and has been in use for about 180 years.  It's impressive to see even without water, but I'm really looking forward to summertime when I'll insist upon a roadtrip to see this sucker in action.  

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Better Get a Bigger Tree

A couple of months ago, when I first told The Swede that we would be included in The Great Maruna Family Ornament Exchange 2009 he said that he knew exactly what he was going to make.  While I appreciated the enthusiasm, I explained that you have to wait to find out who you're making the ornament for before you plan it because it needs to be specific to the recipient.  "It doesn't matter," The Swede replied, "because this is perfect for anyone.  It's going to be a life-sized LeBron James."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Daily Damara Christmas in Sweden

It all started last night, before bed, when I was warned that if I found the almond in the rice porridge at breakfast the next morning I'd better just swallow it and forget it ever happened.  You see, the person who finds the nut gets to have a wish and apparently Sarianne has found it since the beginning of time and her record is not to be challenged.  Last year when she got the almond she wished that she would get married the next year and SHE TOTALLY DID.  This morning Magnus evidently thought it would be okay to take a stroll into the lion's den by finding the almond and actually admitting it.  I think he may have wished for me to get an Ikea gift card from Santa this evening because I TOTALLY DID.

After breakfast, most of us headed outside for a little walk and some sledding.  This is what you get when you tell Swedes that you want a candid shot so please act natural:

Next we drove into town to light some candles at the cemetary and do a little extremely-last-minute shopping. 

We spent the afternoon playing Wii and watching the Disney Christmas Special.  I tried to concentrate, to play it cool, but I was dying with anticipation of the julbord.  I tasted many new foods (and by 'foods' I mean varieties of fish) and also savored an American classic:  turkey.  Mama Swede made one for the first time and it was perfect.  And, because only Americans know how, I was asked to carve the bird.  And I don't want to seem like I'm bragging, because I certainly wouldn't want to jinx myself next time seeing as this was my turkey-carving premier, but I was awesome at it.  It may have been in my favor that the others didn't know what good carving looks like, but let's just not think about that, okay?  Good.

When everyone was stuffed with silt, sausages, meatballs, potatoes, eggs and so on, we headed into the living room to wait for Tomte to show up.  Okay, now I'm going to make an assumption here that if and when the kids can read this blog post in English they will have realized that Tomte (that's Santa to you and me) isn't real.  So, with that in mind, I'll let you in on a little secret:  Tomte was the neighbor.  He creeped around the house outside in the dark, then banged on the door and was allowed inside to pass out a few packages before leaving us to distribute and open the rest. 

And it was a three hour package peeling fest which left a layer of paper and ribbon up to my armpits throughout the house. You remember those foam parties from college where they filled up a small room with suds? This was a wrapping paper party. I'll be washing the bits and pieces from my hair for weeks. At any rate, it was a wonderful day and I'm so glad to have spent it with such a warm, funny and generous family!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Daily Damara Christmas in America

As long as I can remember, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, my brother and sister and I geared up for the holiday by gorging ourselves on such classics as A Muppet Christmas Carol, A Muppet Family Christmas, Emmit Otter's Jugband Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Berenstein Bears Christmas Tree and other titles with the word Christmas in them.  Whatever.  We didn't discriminate.  Though we were obviously Jim Henson fans.  The year I was 14 we got a fake tree, but until then we decorated either a bookshelf with lights and ornaments or a green tree-shaped piece of fabric tacked to the living room wall.  Sorry, Mom, but it's true and the internet needs to know.  We never had a real tree because my pops loved trees and didn't want to kill one, and I'd like to say the reason we didn't have a fake one until 1997 was because they weren't invented yet, but I just don't think that's true.  Anyway, my siblings and I never cared and had a blast decorating the bookshelf with all of the homemade Maruna family ornaments.  More on those later.  On Christmas Eve we would pick up a couple of pizzas, pack together in front of the TV, and watch Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.  Big Bird and the gang would sing, my sister would cry (she's the sentimental one in the family), and us kids would head to our rooms where we would sit up all night, sick to our stomaches with excitement for the next morning.  We'd sneak into each other's rooms, out into the living room to look at our presents and generally make it impossible for our folks to sleep.  Finally, at what feels now like an outrageous hour, they would give us our stockings to satiate us and get a bit more sleep.  And my mom made the best stockings!  Chock full of candy, of course, but also cool pens and pencils and toothbrushes and always an orange at the toe.  When Mom and Pop woke up we'd run into the living room and, as I recall, go buck wild.  There was no system of present distribution, which was fun because after we'd all opened everything we could spend the rest of the day checking out what each other got because we missed it in the fury of our own present shucking.

In my third year of college in Ohio I started spending Christmas with my mom's family in Cleveland.  Mom had moved back to Cleveland then too and my brother and sister were married and starting families and traditions of their own.  Of course I still watched the films and would call or text my sister to exchange vintage movie dialogue and sing our favorite 'keeping-warm-while-you're-rowing-home' kinda song from Emmit Otter.  I haven't been watching Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, though.  It doesn't feel right without her.  Anyway, there were new plans.  My mom's family, The Maruna's, consisting of my grandparents, three uncles and their wives and a still-growing number of cousins, all celebrate the holiday together on Christmas Eve.  But it starts earlier than that; on Thanksgiving, in fact.  After the turkey dinner Uncle Larry starts asking when we're going to draw names for the ornament exchange, a tradition dating back to a time before I can remember.  Each person in the family draws another person's name on a slip of paper out of a hat and makes a Christmas tree ornament for that person.  The ornament is supposed to be special for the recipient and creativity is highly valued, so having a month to plan and create is important.  Then on Christmas Eve, ridiculously early in the morning, everyone meets at Cracker Barrel restaurant for breakfast.  The reason we meet so outrageously early is that after breakfast everyone goes home and, last minute style, makes their ornament for later that night.  Naturally, I've had a masterpiece wrapped and ready to go for weeks, but my cousins aren't generally as judicious with their planning.  At any rate, I've never been at a Christmas Eve party where someone failed to produce an ornament at all so obviously each person's system is working.  So in the evening all the families caravan to Aunt Mary and Uncle Larry's to eat lasagna, cheesy potatoes, meatballs, ham, shrimp, cookies galore and drink Aunt Mary's signature sherbet punch.  When everyone is sufficiently stuffed, we all move into the living room and sit in a circle to exchange ornaments and other gifts.  Now this part is very systematic, although no one can remember from year to year what exactly the system is.  About 10 minutes are spent determining whether it should be oldest to youngest, all at the same time, and so on and so on and SO ON.  It's a dynamic group.  Anyhow, once we finally get going it's a lively time of passing the ornaments around the circle, admiring each other's handiwork and zinging one another.  When it gets late we all go our separate ways to celebrate the next day with our individual families.  The past few years, I headed to church after the family party and swung the censer at the Christmas Eve service then spent the night and the next day with my friend Kate's family.  And last year I flew to Stockholm!  This year I insisted that The Swede and I be included in the ornament exchange and we have my ornament from last year hanging in our apartment.  As for the ornaments from my childhood, my sister has them.  The sentimental one, remember?

Stay tuned for Christmas in Sweden!

My Apologies

Regarding yesterday's post, I believe I owe my dear readers an explanation after receiving some critical feedback.  Yes, apparently the constant reinforcement of her preference for Sarianne's blog isn't painful enough, because my mom pointed out that I'm not as hilarious as I think I am.  Irony and the written word, in the wise words of Cher from Clueless, "don't mesh well".  I thought it was obvious that I was trying to be funny about the luxurious life of babies, but I guess it came across as actual contempt.  I am so, so sorry for that because I actually love babies and aspire to have my own some day and cater to their every need and desire.  Dylan in particular is a smiley, adorable sweetheart with a normal-sized head and I treasure him and his family and hope they understood my word play. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

Babies: Who Do They Think They Are Exactly?

I accompanied Petra and Dylan to the latter's monthly check-up this afternoon.  Surely the head measuring picked up on this little fella's inflated self-opinion.  Listen to this dude's life:  whenever he wants to wake up, everyone has to wake up.  He makes the slightest sound and he has food in front of him, indeed fed to him.  He needn't exert the slightest effort to clean himself.  He gets carried and wheeled all over creation and gets cranky when he's tired when really all he has to do is close his eyes and go to sleep since his obligations are nonexistent and he's already lying down.  And everyone just goes along with this narcissism as though it's totally normal.  No wonder his head is so huge.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Not My Cup of Tea

Please take a look at this "Long Island iced tea" that actually contains a tea bag.  I'm quite sure that there is not supposed to be any actual tea in a Long Island iced tea.  Indeed, so was the friend who ordered it, even after the bartender insisted that ever other bartender who had made him a Long Island in his entire imbibing history was doing it wrong.  What he should have been arguing about, however, was the fact that this cocktail cost 214:-, about the equivalent of $30.  Adult beverages are expensive here, yes, but I think we can all agree that this one crosses the line.

Our Household Represents the Best and Worst Bowlers

The Swede's buddies set up a bowling date for their families and significant others yesterday.  It was a grand time, marred only by my colossal failure to perform, which was highlighted by my partner's victory.  Nevermind, though, as I am awesome at other things.  Like blogging.  Heh.    

Thursday, December 17, 2009

We Still Say a Blessing When We Plug It In

Last year I arrived in Sweden for the first time on December 26th at about ten o'clock in the morning.  A couple of hours later when it grew dark I looked out the window and saw candelabras in almost every window of the building next door.  'Golly!' I commented at the time, 'Who knew there were so many Jews in Sweden?!'  Um, duh, they're not Menorahs, they're adventsljusstakar.  Advent candelabras.  Super Christian, except that we're talking about Sweden here so they've been converted to an almost strictly secular custom.  Ours is in a rather contemporary style, but you can see why I got a little confused by the more common model

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stone Cold

I've been walking past this cemetary for seven weeks now on my way home from school but I've been waiting for a little snow before doing any exploration.  Snow is so pretty, right?  Plus, by the time I got out of class with my old afternoon schedule it was dark and, yeah, I have ample grit, but I'm sure not cruising through a cemetary after sunset even if it is only 2:30 in the afternoon. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It Doesn't Show Signs of Stopping

Sweden finally lived up to its reputation and dropped a heck of a lot of snow today.  I bundled up for my walk to school and, waddling like a dweeb in my pom-pommed hat, nearly fell no fewer than nine times.  It's been about five hours since I took this photo and the depth has surely doubled and I am so excited.  Not only is this my first real snow of the season, it's my first real snow of the year.  Nashville produced jack in terms of precipitation last winter.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Miniature People

This afternoon I travelled south with The Swede's parents to see Sarianne's daughter Julia in her daycare's Santa Lucia pageant.  When we got there, Elin wanted to show me Julia's new bed - purchased at Ikea yesterday, I understand - and they went so far as to give me a demo.  I wish my sister loved cuddling as much as these two do, but whatever.  Life goes on. 

At the daycare, there were maybe seven toddlers and fifty adults.  And those children didn't sing a note.  Not.  A.  Note.  Nevermind, though, because just sitting there they were the cutest thing I've ever seen.  Teeny tiny Lucias and pepparkakor and Santas.  They were just like real people in costumes... only smaller.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Celebrating the Season

The Swede and I spent the past 24 hours with his folks in Kungsängen and it was action packed!  First, we swung by the town center where we met Santa Claus (Swedes call him Tomte, but I know better) and I embarassed the family.  Fortunately for them I was feeling extra sophisticated and elected not to ride the ponies.

Next, it was back to the flat for some pepperkakor, lussekatter and glögg (gingerbread, saffron rolls and mulled wine, if you know better, like I do) and a little tree-trimming.

Please look at how cute The Swede already was as a small child in the picture over Papa Swede's head!

Mama Swede created something amazing for dinner:  smörgåstårta (or sandwich cake if Americans were smart enough to have such a thing).  Inside of this roe-, egg-, shrimp-, tomato- and cucumber-topped tour de force are four layers of various fish spread between two loaves worth of sliced bread.  Whoa. 

And after dinner I taught them my favorite card game, Kings in the Corner, and nearly tore the family apart.  I feel it is fair to say that they were rather competitive.  Papa Swede won six times in a row after a couple of fast victories from Mama Swede in the first few rounds.  Who knows what's going down in that house now that the company has left. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

One of Their Own

A lifetime AIK fan passed away recently and this display was pieced together by other fans and possibly players in his memory outside of the stadium.  I passed it while out walking this morning and thought for sure it was for some team VIP, but when I told The Swede about it later and he explained that it was for a fan, a regular Joe, I was even more impressed and touched. 

Taco Night

It's the Swedish Idol finale tonight and - woot woot - TACO NIGHT!!!  As you know, I love tacos, even if they have cucumbers and corn on them, as in Sweden.  The best thing about tacos is making them together, cramped in our tiny kitchen.  The Swede does the meat and I chop the veggies.  It's super romantic in case you were wondering.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Svenska skolan art project, you ask?  Hah!  They wish.  These are just some of the many supplies required for The Swede and me to create the Christmas tree ornaments that we're making for two lucky recipients back home in Ohio.  Buckle up, Maruna family.  Two weeks from today you're going to have your worlds rocked big time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

These Swedes Don't Even Realize They Have a Genius in Their Midst

You'd be ashamed to be affiliated with this blog if you knew how much giddy satisfaction I get out of successfully navigating the Swedish public transportation system, as I did today.  You wouldn't know it to look at me, but as I sit with my little hands clasped around my gigantic purse on those bright blue pendeltåg seats, I have a feeling brewing inside of me that could warm every home in the city.  It's the same feeling you get when you do anything grown up for the first time like making yourself a dentist appointment even though you totally don't want to.  I think this feeling appears less and less as we get older, so tonight I'm going to really revel in how awesome I am for getting myself from Point A to Point B.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Apparently They've Named a Snack After Me

Can you blame them, though?  I mean, how do you explain ranch to a non-American, really?

Dylan's First

Tomorrow is baby Dylan's first birthday, so we headed over to the casa de Petra and Thomas this afternoon for a little party.  Thomas made a couple of delicious cakes, presents were opened and subsequently ignored in favor of the grown-ups' cell phones and cameras, and plenty of what I suspect was delightful Swedish conversation was had.  The only bad part was that Dylan's cousin Frida had to make it all awkward by flirting with my boyfriend almost the entire time.  Right in front of me.  Not cool, Frida.  Not cool. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Världens Största Dalahäst

Today The Swede drove us two hours north to see the World's Largest Dalahäst, which I have been bugging him about since I arrived here.  It was totally worth the exhaustion I have experienced from all that cajoling because it was significantly bigger and more beautiful than I had imagined.  It was, however, just as The Swede described in his dismissals of my pleading, just a giant Dalahäst on the side of the highway, so after a little photo shoot there was nothing left to do except turn back and head home.  Still, though.  Just look at it!

Stockholm Advent

Petra and I met up in the city yesterday and took these pictures around Sergels Torg.  It was at about 3:30 pm, not midnight as it seems.

It was such a lovely evening and the city was packed with folks doing their Christmas shopping.  The best part, though, was that when I got home The Swede had a dinner of tortellini with mushrooms, pinenuts and proscuitto and a glass of wine waiting for me.  Wow, I have an incredible life.