A Swedish Christmas

Christmas came early for me this year. I know its only early November but I’m excited for the first of many celebrations. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays as I am sure it is for many people. There is something about the coziness that surrounds the Christmas season. The sound of Christmas carols and smooth piano ballads in the background. The smells of cinnamon and spices, peppermint and freshly baked cookies. The knowledge of the bitter cold and snow while being inside with a warm drink in your hands and watching snowflakes fall with the soft glow of Christmas lights behind them. Being surrounded by people who care for you and the sense of magic and excitement that the season brings.

One of my favorite things to do as a child, and still to this day is baking. I love to make Christmas cookies, whether it’s with my grandparents and many siblings and cousins or with some of my closest friends. I’m sure my friends get annoyed every year by my constant plea to make a gingerbread house and then our joint inability to eat even a fraction of it. So when I suggested making Christmas cookies with my visiting host family, my host mom Lena went all out with a Swedish Christmas experience.

When I arrived to my visiting host family’s house, I was immediately greeted by the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg and a mix of leftover Halloween and Christmas decorations. My first introduction to a Swedish Christmas was drinking glögg and rolling out pepparkakka. Glögg is a mulled/spiced wine served warm and with whole almonds and raisins. It might sound strange but the warm sweet and spiced drink was a perfect way to start the evening (of course it was non-alcoholic since it was a school night). We then started rolling out some pepparkakka which is just a gingerbread cookie but thinner than how we would make it in the US.

After getting the cookies made, we started to make dinner, which was (you guessed it) Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. I was honored for my host mom to show me how to make her grandmother’s meatball recipe. I thought it was going to take forever to cook them all, but it turned out that rolling out the almost 200 meatballs between 3 people took the longest. She also showed me how to make the sauce that goes with them because it is a little different than how I would make gravy back home.

After dinner, it was time for us to make the Lussebullar (saffron buns). As we were waiting for the dough to rise, we all gathered around and watched an episode of the newest season of Allt för Sverige (Translates to Everything for Sweden but known in the US as The Great Swedish Adventure). It was great to hear my host family talk about the show and how excited they would be if the got the chance to be on it and meet some of their family that immigrated to the US or Canada. When the episode was over, we got the chance to roll out the dough and make fun shapes.

It was such a memorable experience to have the opportunity to be apart of a Swedish Christmas even though it was so early, now it just needs to snow! It made me even more excited to start celebrating and looking for Christmas activities to do before I leave. I know I am already excited to go to a Julbord (Christmas table) where they serve a spread of other traditional Swedish Christmas foods, shop at a few of the Christmas markets, go ice skating in Kungsträgården, and attend a St. Lucia day service!

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t already listening to Christmas music but I can’t contain my excitement. I will always treasure my time being in Sweden around the holiday season and although I will miss my family once Thanksgiving gets closer, I can’t wait to introduce my family to some Swedish traditions once I get back!

Happy Holidays!

Music Monday: Oscar Soul Experience

Happy Monday! I am alive! I apologize for not posting last week. It’s been a rough part of the semester with midterms going on but I’m feeling pretty good now. This week seems like it will be pretty low key so I am hoping to write an update soon!

I am super excited about the band this week. I know I say that every week because I haven’t found any music that I don’t like. I just had a lot of fun seeing them perform on Friday. My friend and I randomly decided to go to a Facebook event that was recommended. We headed to Södra Teatern without knowing what to expect and had an absolute blast! If you want to join me on November 15th, I will be going to see them again because it was an incredible experience.

About the Band

This week, I am talking about Oscar Soul Experience. The band is made of several members which include: bandleader Oscar Ögren (Vocals & Guitar), Lucas Johansson (Keys), Niklas Krantz (Guitar), Oliver Löwenham (Bass), Noa Svensson (Drums) as well as members on the trombone and saxophone (I couldn’t find their names). The band was started in 2016, since then they’ve has played over 200 shows and toured around Sweden, China, Finland, the UK, and the USA. They are passionate and talented performers who bring everything they have to the table and aim to spread their love for music and soul to bring people together.

Their Sound

The band’s sound is rooted in old school soul and funk with influences from other genres such as R&B, rock, and jazz. Their sound is inspired by artists such as Bill Withers, Al Green, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, and D’angelo. Besides playing covers, they also write and perform original music. No matter what type of music you are into their music will get you off your feet and dancing all night long.

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Music Monday: Mind Us

It is a beautiful Monday here in Stockholm. It might be the sunshine, the fact that I am no longer sick, I have had a great weekend or that I’ve been surrounded by great music. I think its all of the above…

One of my friends and I needed something to do on Friday night and so we decided to head to Eataly in Stockholm and see Mind Us perform. We got some great pizza and gelato and made friends (maybe?) with the guys in the band.

I am so excited to highlight their band this week. Unfortunately, I don’t have too much information about them to share except that their music is great and everyone in the band is so sweet and of course, Swedish 😉 I might be a little biased since I know Mattias (he’s my LLC coordinator, there will be info about it soon!) but that shouldn’t sway you from listening to them!

About the Band

The band, Mind Us, is made up of four friends: Hjalmar Paulsson Rokke (guitar, lead vocals), Erik Jalkéus (bass, vocals), Kalle Hammarberg (percussion, vocals) and occasionally Mattias Olofsson (jazz guitar).

Their Sound

We actually had a great conversation about genres and what their band might fit into. (if you’re curious about genres, these two sites are interesting, one about history and one that’s explorative ) My first thought was they have a sound that’s similar to John Mayer. The chill singer/ songwriter vibes with a little alternative blues and pop sounds. I think the genre neo mellow actually works really well for them. They have a sound that’s easy to listen to at any time of day, whether it be with morning coffee or an evening dinner.

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Vaxholm

One of my first Swedish Adventures was to a city called Vaxholm. My roommate Val and I wanted to go somewhere in the Swedish Archipelago so we did some googling about recommended places to go. Found the website about the archipelago (found here) and got on a train and then a bus to get to the city. We had no idea what to do or what we wanted to do, besides see what the hype is about.

Getting there

From my house, Vaxholm is only 24 miles away, but it took less than an hour and a half to get there. We ended up taking the Red 14 line almost to the last stop and taking a bus. The bus ride felt a little on the longer side since it was somewhat crowded with people.

The bus ride wasn’t all bad we had some nice views for part of it!

What To Do?

We had no idea what we wanted to do once we got there and just figured it out as we went which was a fun way to do it. We saw lots of cute buildings and boats!

We were also intrigued by this round building that we later found out is the Vaxholm Fortress. We took a ferry over to the island to check it out.

Fun Fact: The fortress was used as a movie location for the 1970’s movie, “Pippi in the South Seas” which features Pippi Longstocking on an adventure to hunt for her father who’s been kidnapped by pirates.

We didn’t get a chance to tour the museum or walk the plank (I’m a little disappointed it wasn’t available…) BUT we did walk up several flights of stairs to see the view from the tower.

We also found some great photo spots, one with a sea mine and the other at a random table that was kind of cute.

Lunch

After walking up all those stairs we worked up quite the appetite. We found a restaurant that wasn’t going to hurt the wallet too much because we are still students with tons of debt even if we are studying abroad. I didn’t end up getting the name of the place because we were very hungry.

I wanted to be adventurous and get a traditional Swedish meal and a Swedish beer of course. I got fried herring and mashed potatoes with some lingonberries and a salad on the side. I thought it was alright, the herring was a little too bony for me, but I would be willing to try it again.

I’ll be back to the Swedish Archipelago at some point and get to see a few more islands, until then…

See ya later, Vaxholm

Music Monday: Veronica Maggio

This weeks artist is often referred to the Queen of Pop, if you don’t know already know, it’s Veronica Maggio! The best way to blend in like a local in Sweden is to be singing any of her songs, just not out loud on the t-bana because they will think you’re crazy…

I actually already knew this artist but rediscovered her while I’ve been here. A few years ago I made a playlist with Scandinavian artists to help me with my listening skills to help me learn Norwegian and she was on the playlist, so when I heard her song at an event I surprised myself that I knew it.

Veronica Maggio @ Stadion, Stockholm, 2016-08-13 Foto: Sofia Blomgren/Rockfoto

About the Artist

Veronica Maggio is a Swedish singer and songwriter from the city of Uppsala (which is only like 45 miles from Stockholm). One of her many claims to fame was that she helped write the 2013 hit “Hey Brother” for Avicii. Shes won several Swedish music awards including the 2007 “Årets Nykomling” (Newcomer of the year) at the Grammisgalan and later in 2012 won “Pop of the Year” along with many other awards.

Her Sound

Despite her songs being in Swedish the melodic lyrics easily get stuck in your head. Her sound ranges from an energetic unapologetic pop beat to a sweet heartfelt ballad. Much of her songwriting is based on a “write what you see” perspective and often contains lyrics regarding every life such as restlessness, parties and hangovers and relationships. If you need a new song to dance in front of the mirror to, I’m sure you could find a favorite within Veronica’s discography. Jeg kommer (translates to: I’m coming) has been one of my favorites lately!

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