Saturday, December 6, 2014

YFU: Cody in Sweden > Food, Family, and Friends

Throughout the world, we brand our countries with food. Cultures are known by what they eat. Americans are famous for hamburgers and fries; Italians are known for pasta and the French excel at making pastries. The list goes on. Our food options include Chinese fried rice, Indian paneer, and Thai curry. My favorite is black beans and rice, Cuban style.

International Food
None of these dishes are exactly the same when prepared outside of the country of origin, but we experiment, enjoy, and come closer to our neighbors through food. How does the world view Sweden? With meatballs, cinnamon buns, and lingonberries, of course! The country is also known for herring and often times people want to know about the extreme version of that fish, surströmming.

Hi Cody, what can you tell us about surströmming?

Cody Hangs with Celebrities
Cody: Surströmming is a special type of fish. From what I've heard, you put herring in a can, wait for it to go bad, wait a month after that for it to turn to liquid, and then wait just a little longer before you eat it. We went to Ulvön when I first came here. Ulvön is famous for surströmming and we met the "King of Surströmming" (pictured left) who showed us around and told how everything was made.

Leslie: That sounds like fun! I read an article online that Ruben Madsen was called in to disarm a 24-year old tin of herring last February. There was some concern that it might explode but all went well and the only result was a bad odor. The fish had completely dissolved and was impossible to eat.

Cody: Yeah, surströmming is something like Brussels sprouts. Most people don't like it. Magnus says he doesn't hate eating it but it's not something he would choose to eat. Maybe some people just eat it to show off that they can.

Leslie: I saw Magnus put a call out on Facebook for moose meat. Have you eaten any moose meat?

Cody: No moose meat yet, but I hear that many people do eat it here, along with reindeer jerky.

Real Food
Exotic foods are interesting but when time is limited, or tastes are more subdued, our diets on a daily basis are quite different from what we eat when out and about.

Leslie: What kinds of food have you been eating?

Cody: We've been eating "tonnes" of sausage at school and home, and we have fish once a week at school. With sausage we usually have noodles similar to the ones we use when eating macaroni. We also have Swedish pancakes quite frequently. I actually just had them today! They are very thin pancakes that you put jam on and roll into a sort of cylindrical shape. That's the best I can explain it.

Leslie: Are there any foods that remind you of America?

Cody: I've had tacos a few times, maybe three times in school and three times outside of school. They are very similar to American tacos, but they can also put them together with chips like we do nachos.

Traditional Food
Leslie: Thanks, Cody, let's take our conversation back a few generations and interview your grandfather Bob who lived in Sweden during the late 1940s and your dad Eric who was there in the early 1970s.

Hi Bob, what kind of food did you eat when you lived in Sweden?

Bob: When I lived in Sweden, breakfast on the farm consisted of hard black bread spread with salted lard (butter was expensive), small amounts of cheese, herring, sausage, hard-boiled eggand jams prepared from the family garden plot. It was said that some city folks actually ate corn flakes for breakfast, but corn, an import from the US, was at that time still considered animal fodder. A coffee break with sweet rolls, both morning and afternoon, was obligatory and we still adhered to the old traditional menus of pea soup, potato soup, and brown beans on specific days.

Leslie: Do you remember which days you ate which foods?

Bob: I seem to recall that the boarding house where I ate in Osby served mashed potatoes with milk and a very small piece of pork for Tuesday dinner, Wednesday was brown beans with again a small piece of pork, and on Thursday it was pea soup with a small amount of ham for flavoring. Friday we had pytt i panna which consisted of potatoes chopped in small cubes and anything left over during the week - then fried with onions. Black rye bread was served with all meals but without butter or even lard. This was the cheapest boarding house in town for good reason. But I'm not sure the memory of a kid in his mid teens is completely reliable.

Leslie: Thanks, Bob. Cody tells me he doesn't eat specific foods on specific days, either in school or at home, but I've read that yellow pea soup served with pork, mustard, and pancakes on the side continues to be a common meal in restaurants and households on Thursdays.

Hi Eric, what kind of food did you eat when you visited Sweden?

Esther as
a young woman
Eric: In 1973 my grandmother Esther lived in a typical red cottage on a small plot of land near her childhood home in Marklunde. She grew an assortment of vegetables in her modest garden. My favorite of all of her veggie dishes was rhubarb pudding. She had some chickens running around and each morning I would search in hopes of finding some eggs for breakfast. My favorite breakfast was a thick gob of butter slathered on bread, cold fish, and cheese, with a glass of milk. Yum! It's still my favorite.

I foraged for berries in the countryside and would bring home a pail or two. It was the first time I'd ever seen a gooseberry. Grandma had a pot with coils that went from one pot to another which she used to distill the crushed berries down to a highly concentrated juice. She canned them in jars and stored them in the root cellar next to her other preserved foods. Instead of Coke, or other store-bought drinks, we would just pour a little concentrated juice into a cup, add water, and voila! a delicious nutritious soft drink!

Leslie: Do you have any food memories with your grandmother?

Eric: Yes, I was invited to have a meal at a relative's house. I'm sure there were a variety of foods but I can only remember there being fish, cheese, butter, and bread. What I remember quite vividly, however, was my grandmother handing me a plate containing one lonely piece of bread with some food piled on it. I thought she had forgotten to put the second piece of bread on top, so I requested another piece. She explained that it was an open-faced sandwich and that this is how it was done in Sweden. Second slice denied.

Well, one piece of bread just didn't seem right to me and how was one supposed to eat this open-faced sandwich without getting their fingers all over the food anyway? I figured that no one must have shown them the right way to make a sandwich, so I made plans to do so. Alas, my request for a second piece of bread was met with quick withering glances from the relatives, some guttural throat noises, and a quiet … no. It's been forty years since then and I still think two pieces of bread are better than one.

Leslie: Thanks, Eric. I hope all of your sandwiches come complete with two slices of bread. Now back to the modern day.

Foreign Food
One of the benefits of becoming or hosting a YFU student is that the experience is a cultural exchange. So, in the spirit of sharing, Cody and his host family invited 19 people to a traditional American Thanksgiving Dinner last weekend.

The menu was extensive. Teresia, with the help of her friends and family, prepared two big turkeys, mashed potatoes and gravy, a green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, potatoes au gratin, macaroni and cheese, glazed carrotsasparagus, corn pudding, corn bread, cranberry bread, cranberry sauce, spinach/artichoke dip, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, pecan pie, ambrosia salad, and ice cream (plus whipping cream for all of the deserts).

Leslie: How did you preface the Thanksgiving Dinner to your guests?

Cody: I told everyone that Thanksgiving was originally a feast that the native Americans had and they invited the European Colonists to eat with them. But then they stopped inviting the Colonists (for some reason) and Thanksgiving stopped until Abraham Lincoln brought it back to unify the country during the Civil War. I also told them that Thanksgiving is now mainly about giving thanks for the things that we have and being able to see relatives we don't usually see every day.

Teresia: I thanked Cody for being with us.

Leslie: I hear you downloaded a football game?

Cody: Yes, we did, the Bears vs. the Lions. I can't remember the score because, much like a real Thanksgiving football game, we used it as background noise.

Leslie: What did everyone have to say about the celebration?

Cody: My friends, Mert, Olivia, and Leo, said there was so much food they didn't know what to do!

Teresia: Everything tasted soooo good. The most unusual food I think was the sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. We have never tasted anything like it.

Magnus: It was a very good party! A lot of new tastes for all of us Swedes. I think everybody was satisfied.

Cody: Yep, it was a perfectly accurate Thanksgiving Dinner.

Food, Football, Family, and Friends, American Style, in Sweden.
Mert, Cody, Olivia, and Leo
With Special Thanks to Teresia for putting so much heart into such a wonderful party. This blog series and Cody's YFU experience would not be possible without her love and willingness to share.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

YFU: Cody in Sweden > The Great Darkness

Gimme me some sun!
Be careful and watch out. Today, in Örnsköldsvik, the sun rose at 8:47 and set at 14:19. That was only about five and a half hours of daylight. In December, when our northern hemisphere is at its most extreme tilt, the daylight hours will reduce even more so that by Christmas there will only be about four and a half hours of natural light per day.

This increasing lack of sunlight and rise in melatonin is known to cause depression and lethargy. While most people talk about how cold Nordic winters are, I am told the greatest difficulty is in learning how to overcome the great darkness. Let's see how Cody is adapting.

Hey Cody, how's it going now that the weather is colder and the days are shorter?  

Cody: I have been sleeping way too much during the past three months. -- It was officially three months last Tuesday since I arrived in Sweden. -- I don't know if I have been sleeping so much because of the lack of sun, doing exhausting things all day, or just being a teenager, but it has been extremely difficult to get up now. I've started setting multiple alarms in order to get up.

Leslie: You've experienced a lot of new things recently and that's bound to make you tired. Do people use sun lamps to combat SAD (seasonal affective disorder) or take vitamin D supplements? 

Cody: I haven't heard of anyone using sun lamps or taking vitamin D pills, but maybe up in the far north they do.

Leslie: I read an article that describes how they added special UV bulbs at bus stops in Umeå to simulate sunlight. They call it light therapy. Are there any special efforts being made to account for the increased darkness in Örnsköldsvik?

Cody: Right now the city has put up Christmas lights on nearly every street so that helps keep it light out.

Leslie: What would you say is the most difficult thing about the darkness?

Cody: I think the thing most affected by the darkness is my hanging out with friends. Before it wouldn't be uncommon to hang out with my friends after school, but now it's so dark at 16:00 that you can't see your hand in front of your face without street lights.

Leslie: Wow. I did not realize it gets that dark. Is that degree of darkness a safety issue for pedestrians?

Cody: Everybody seems to wear reflectors here. Even I have started to wear them now. I have two. One goes around my arm. The other goes on my backpack. It's supposed to start getting light longer on the 21st of December. Everything is longer after that.

Leslie: Yes, the winter solstice is less than one month away. Thanks, Cody. I hear November is the toughest month to endure.

Here are some tips I have found online that are said to help make the darker months easier to get through.

Keep active. The most often cited tip for enduring dark and cold winters is to keep active. Cody has joined a gym and works out three times a week with some of his friends from school.

Create Light
Everywhere, in all kinds of ways, using candles, lamps, and fire. Maia, an American woman living in Sweden, published an interesting and in-depth article here about how light is created in Stockholm. She, like Cody, mentions Christmas decorations as being a good source of light.

Enjoy the Snow
The snow is said to reflect the street lights and make everything brighter. Rather than looking at the snow as something difficult to endure, a lot of people look forward to snow and see it as something positive.

And, when all else fails …

Plan a Vacation
Stay tuned to the "Cody in Sweden" series to find out just what he has planned for late February 2015. It might look a little something like this …

Photo from Lonely Planet. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

YFU: Cody in Sweden > MODO Hockey

When Cody first arrived, it was still late summer in Sweden. There were plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy: fishing, hiking, boating, and grilling. But now as the weather gets colder and people are forced indoors more often, one of the activities of choice is ice hockey.

MODO Hockey (SHL)
Örnsköldsvik is a hockey-friendly town with six indoor skating rinks, including the Fjällräven Center where MODO plays. Cody tells me kids under 18 can attend games for free!

Founded in 1921, the ice hockey club MODO (Mo och Domsjö) is well known for players like Peter Forsberg (inducted into the Hall of Fame this past week) and Marcus Näslund. Other notable players born in Örnsköldsvik include Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Anders Hedberg, Niklas Sundström, and Andreas Salomonsson.

MODO took home the Le Mat trophy in 1979 and 2007. Currently, MODO has two Americans on their team: Klye Flanagan from New York and Travis Roche from Alberta.

Washington Capitals (NHL)
Back in the day, I made a decision to like hockey. It's not like I was raised up with the sport. No one introduced me to hockey. I looked around at all of my local teams and decided which one to follow. For superficial reasons, I went with hockey instead of football, basketball, or baseball. The players were good looking and not too tall. I like the speed of the game. I know how to skate. Plus, there were months and months of games. The season runs from October until June (if you include the Stanley Cup finals) and, best of all, hockey is a sport kind to age. With tennis, players are gone at age 30, but, hockey will keep a man in the game well into his 40s. Michael Nylander (AIK IF) and Jaromír Jágr (NJ Devils), both one-time Caps players, are still skating pro at age 42. 

Helmet Rules
My first few games were back in the day when Rod Langway was grandfathered in and did not have to wear a helmet on the ice. The rule book changed in the 1980s and while I agree it's essential for all players to cover their heads, there was something exhilarating about watching Langway skate without a helmet.

Fighting on the Ice
Yes, hockey's becoming gentrified. It's a fast-paced sport. It's loud. Sticks clash. Bodies slam against the walls. Players fight. That's been the game of hockey for years but there's an ongoing debate in the NHL about the elimination of fighting. Many people feel that the skill of the game should be the focus of the sport and brawlers should be removed. An October 2014 article in the Boston Globe compares hockey without fighting to coffee without caffeine. Where's the kick, they ask?

Let's see what Cody's host dad thinks. He's a former left wing who knows the game well. In fact, he's played many times against Salomonsson, mentioned above.

Hey Magnus,
What's your opinion about fighting in professional hockey? Do you think there's room for it or do you think it should be eliminated?

Magnus: I wouldn't want the old times back when a player can stay in the NHL with no other talent than fighting; however, my belief is you should be very wary with changes in the rules. I think big tackles and even some fighting belongs in the game.

Leslie: And there you have it. We all need a little caffeine in our game. What about Skröder? Some of the forums I have read say that Per-Åge Skröder (age 36 BTW) is a fighter. Do you think Skröder is a fighter, or is he simply a player who can take care of himself?

Magnus: Skröder isn't a fighter, just a great power forward with a nice ability to score goals. His last year was disappointing but he looks to be back in good shape.

Leslie: Thanks, Magnus. I hope Cody learns to enjoy ice hockey as much as we do. And I hope MODO does well this year.

Cody and Magnus on their way to a MODO hockey match.

Friday, November 14, 2014

YFU: Cody in Sweden > Norrtälje (and Fika)

Cody and Katarina in a Cafe
After Cody's big adventure in Stockholm, he met his host mom (Teresia), sisters (Lovisa and Emilia), and aunt (Katarina) in Norrtälje for a few days. Sweden is known to be one of the world's greatest consumers of coffee. When Cody left America, he was not a coffee drinker, but now after twelve weeks in Sweden, here's proof that Cody has adopted one of his host country's most-loved social activities, fika.

According to my research, fika is a social institution in Sweden; it means "having a break, most often a coffee break, with one's colleagues, friends, date, or family." If you google "fika," most sources will tell you fika is much more than a break; it's an social obligation that Swedes honor on a daily basis.

In the US, we drink coffee, probably just as much as they do in Sweden, but we do it on the run. I buy my coffee at Starbucks as I head for the Metro and then drink it quietly in solitude on the bus and train. Americans meet up for coffee but it's not a daily ritual and sometimes it's not even coffee. Sometimes, it's a euphemism for a casual date or a promised reunion. You know, let's have coffee. Not dinner. Not lunch. Not for any length of time. Not even for coffee. Maybe not at all. In Sweden, fika is a "tradition observed frequently," a time set aside for relationships and relaxation. Let's chat with Cody about coffee and fika.

Leslie: Hi Cody, are you drinking coffee now?

Cody: I have been trying to get used to coffee since so many people drink it here. I will drink maybe three cups of coffee a week.

Leslie: How do you define fika?

Cody and Teresia
in Norrtälje
Cody: Fika is like a snack break or a dessert break. The same way Americans take smoke breaks, Swedes take fika. Well, maybe less frequently, but it's about the same. For fika, you can have anything you want, anything from chocolate cake and cookies to just a sandwich. The weirdest thing about fika, though, is you don't plan it; it just happens. You will be walking through the city and all of the sudden you are in a cafe having fika.

Leslie: That's how it was for me when I lived in Adams Morgan. I would frequently meet friends on a whim. I loved it. When you meet friends for fika, do you have coffee?

Cody: I don't think most teenagers drink coffee. Most of my friends will get a soda or some water when we go out for fika.

Leslie: At what age do Swedes start drinking coffee?

Cody: I would guess somewhere around age 20 people start drinking coffee.

Leslie: Do you like your coffee black, with or without sugar, with or without milk?

Cody: I drink my coffee black about 75% of the time and use milk only about 25% of the time. During my entire time in Sweden, I haven't seen a single person put sugar in their coffee. Some people will put milk, but not many.

Leslie: Thanks, Cody. Norrtälje looks like a lovely visit and fika seems like a nice tradition.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

YFU: Cody in Sweden > Stockholm

Sweden's capital Stockholm has a lot of history. By 1000 AD Vikings were in the area. In 1252 it was founded as a city. Stockholm is spread across fourteen islands and includes a large number of parks and green space. It's said to be one of the sunniest cities in northern Europe and has won multiple awards for also being one of the cleanest. Stockholm is similar to Washington, DC in many ways. Both cities are highly walkable, well maintained, and brightly lit. Both have distinct seasons. The leaves on deciduous trees change color in the fall and shed in the winter.

Cody's been to Stockholm three times now. He tells me it's a beautiful city. The first time Cody was in Stockholm it was a brief visit when he passed through on his way from the airport to the train that took him north to Örnsköldsvik. The next time was for his YFU orientation in September, and, more recently, Cody was in Stockholm for three days as part of a YFU camp.

Hi Cody,
Tell us about your trip to Stockholm last week.

Cody: On the second day in Stockholm, we went to the Vasa Museum together as a group. After about an hour and a half there we had a lot of free time to do whatever we wanted. A couple of friends and I went into the city to meet up with another exchange student who lives in Stockholm. She's from the USA so of course we had to go to McDonald's.

The Vasa Capsizing (taken from
Leslie: Of course! It makes sense that expats visit places that remind them of home! Tell us about the Vasa Museum. In 1628, a Swedish warship, the Vasa, sank on her maiden voyage. How did that come about?

Cody: The way it was explained to me, the Vasa was designed to be the prize ship of the Swedish Navy. The king at the time (King Gustav II Adolf) told the ship builders that he wanted it bigger and better, so they built another unexpected row of cannons higher on the ship. This made it top heavy and a gust of wind came by and knocked it over.

Leslie: Better to sink in port and not out to sea, I guess. In 1961, the Vasa was salvaged and put on display in the Vasa Shipyard and the current museum opened in 1988. I have read that the wreckage provides a lot of information to historians about shipbuilding techniques and everyday life at the time. The museum is said to be one of the most highly-visited non-art museums in Scandinavia. Do you recommend people visit the Vasa Museum when they are in Stockholm?

Cody: Definitely! It was a beautiful ship with almost all original parts and you can tell they had worked so hard on it.

Leslie: So, let's come back to the 21st century for a minute. When you went to McDonald's, did they have a specifically Swedish item on the menu?

Cody: Not that I noticed. I asked what types of McFlurrys they have and they said chocolate fudge, strawberry fudge, and smarties. My friends from Germany pointed out that smarties are what we call M&Ms.

Leslie: I see online that they also have cinnamon buns and double chocolate muffins! Thanks, Cody. Next week, we can talk about your visit to Norrtälje.

Photo taken from the YFU Sweden Facebook page.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

YFU: Cody in Sweden > Why Sweden? Why Now?

Sweden has an official typeface! And it's a good looking one, too. Commissioned by the Swedish government to provide brand identity for international promotions and communications, Sweden Sans was created by Stefan Hattenbach in collaboration with the design agency Söderhavet. Inspiration is said to have come from old signs. Take a look to your left to see the typeface in print, and, for all of you type geeks out there, Sweden Sans is mono spaced, meaning that all of the letters are the same width.

But to answer the question, Why Study in Sweden, let's go now to Cody's dad, Eric.

Hi Eric,
Tell us about your decision to send Cody to Sweden.

Eric: Much of my childhood was spent in Germany being raised by multilingual parents. Our home was filled with folk music from foreign countries and decorated with exotic curios from around the globe. A holiday meal just wouldn't be the same without Dad's fascinating stories about his travels around the world and his teen years spent in Sweden. Conversations about foreign languages and cultures were standard fare. My father instilled in me a thirst for adventure and a fascination with the world beyond my front door. My decision to send Cody to Sweden was in large part a desire to pass this priceless gift on to my son. And, of course, I couldn't ignore the "awe factor." A year abroad is waaay too cool an experience to pass up.

Leslie: Why a full year? Why not a summer abroad or a gap year?

Eric: For high school students, YFU offers either a summer or a junior year abroad, or a gap year between high school and college. Cody's junior year was fast approaching and the cost for both high school programs were exactly the same so it was an easy decision for me. Convincing Cody took about three and a half minutes. Convincing his mom was another story altogether.

Cody's high school guidance counselor argued against a junior year abroad claiming that his graduation would be delayed if his Swedish credits did not transfer. My (mostly intuitive) understanding of the benefits of travel and foreign language acquisition led me to conclude that a year in Sweden would more than compensate for any delay in his graduation or entry into college.

A year living with a host family in a foreign country as a 16-year old would be a far more transformative experience than the same year spent as a 19- or 20-year old gap year student. Language acquisition is quicker and easier when younger and relationships formed as a teen are more likely to be strong and lasting. Here are just some of the benefits of becoming an exchange student. The student:
  • discovers new strengths and abilities
  • increases his or her self reliance and confidence
  • becomes adept at creative problem solving
  • develops a deeper passion for learning in general
  • improves inter-cultural communication skills
  • learns a foreign language
  • expands career options
A YFU year abroad is a qualitatively superior experience to just visiting a country as a tourist. Cody's immersion into Swedish culture will most certainly expand his world view and give him a more mature and objective perception of the USA. More importantly, it will make him a really interesting first date. :-)

Leslie: So, why Sweden, especially since you spent your early years in Germany?

Eric: YFU offers exchange opportunities in a number of countries, but in my mind there was really only one option. My father's parents were both Swedish. My father spent his teen years in Sweden and still maintains contact with his relatives. As a 12-year old, I spent a summer in Sweden living with my grandmother and meeting relatives. In the US, most of us come from somewhere else and many of us take great pleasure in identifying with our countries of origin. I am no exception … and I expect Cody will forever-after feel a kinship with Sweden.

Leslie: Thanks, Eric. It gives me great pleasure to chronicle Cody's year in Sweden.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

YFU: Cody in Sweden > Language Study and Host Sisters

Lovisa, Cody, and Emilia
The Swedish Language
Swedish is a northern Germanic language, spoken by almost 10 million people. Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish people normally understand each other, but Finnish is completely different, with its roots in what are called the Uralic languages.

Around 9 million people are native Swedish speakers, of which 8.5 million live in Sweden. In Finland, some 300,000 people have Swedish as a native language--around 6 per cent of the country's population. Swedish children start studying English in the third year of primary school. (Information quoted from

Language Study Abroad
One of the benefits of studying in a foreign country for a full year as opposed to a semester or summer abroad is the opportunity it provides to learn a new language. While Cody's classes are in Swedish, his host parents speak English (as do about 86% of all Swedes). In recent weeks, however, Magnus and Teresia have started to speak Swedish more often in the home. Cody's immersion in the Swedish language has started to intensify. Let's find out how well he's doing.

Hi Cody,
Tell us what it's like to live in a country that speaks a different language. Are you learning to speak Swedish?

Cody: Well, living in Sweden is not the same as it would be in most foreign countries. Everybody here speaks English so even if I never tried to learn Swedish, I would still be fine.

In the first month, people could somehow "smell" that I was an American. They would speak to me in English before talking in Swedish. Then after about a month, I was mistaken for someone who could speak Swedish. At that point, I had learned enough Swedish to understand key words in sentences so I was doing okay.

I started to understand a lot of what people were saying to me by the end of my first month and I could say quite a few things by then as well. Right now (after two months), I am working to increase my vocabulary and have started to learn more about grammar. I am starting to put together more complex sentences. I am no where close to being fluent in Swedish yet, but I'm getting there.

Leslie: Thanks, Cody. Let's ask your host sisters what they think!

Hej Lovisa and Emilia,
Does Cody sound funny when he speaks Swedish? Is there one particular word Cody says in Swedish that makes you laugh?

Lovisa: Cody låter väldigt rolig när han ska uttala ord som innehåller bokstaven R. Han gör något gulligt med munnen när han ska artikulerar, speciellt ordet RÖST låter roligt.

Translation: Cody sounds VERY funny when he expresses words with the letter R in them. He does something cute with his mouth when he tried to say words like "röst."

Emilia: Jag gillar det sätt Cody säger Emilia på!

Translation: I like the way Cody says my name!

Leslie: Thank you, Lovisa and Emilia!
Hugs require no translation.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

YFU: Cody in Sweden > High School / Gymnasium

A few days after arriving in Sweden, Cody enrolled in Nolaskolan, a local gymnasium where he was assigned a temporary guide, given a tour of the building, and placed in the Natural Science program.

While the Swedish educational system has a structure similar to the American model with grades 1-9 compulsory and grades 10-12 optional, I have read online that there are major differences in how the Swedish classroom is managed. Here's what various websites have indicated:
  • Swedish students address their teachers by their first names. 
  • Swedish students do not have to report to class or explain their absences. 
  • Swedish students are not given homework assignments. 
  • Swedish students are expected to learn the material on their own.
Hmmm ... that sounds a bit too good to be true. Let's ask Cody about it.

Hi Cody,
Tell us what it's like to attend gymnasium in Sweden. How does it compare to the American high school?

Cody: I read a lot about how relaxed school was in Sweden before moving here, but it's not how I expected it would be.

Regarding your statement about being tardy or absent, it's only partially true. You still have to call or e-mail the school to say you won't be coming in, but you can walk into class 30 minutes late and no one will say anything. There's one student who comes in to every class 10 minutes late.

We do have homework albeit not as much as in America. I have only had five or six hours of homework in the two months I have been here and I used to have two to three hours of homework every night in America.

Teachers are like friends here, unlike in America. I have a friend from Estonia who lives here and he went to his teacher's house to watch soccer. My teachers in America were afraid to add us on Facebook because they might have been fired. That's a huge difference!

We have so much time between classes that we can play games. The least amount of time I have between classes is ten minutes and on average I have between 15 to 25 minutes. We have so much time during lunch that sometimes my friends and I will walk into town to have fika.

But don't worry! I still learn a lot. Each lesson is usually around an hour, or an hour and a half. The teacher spends about twenty minutes or so lecturing and the rest of the time going around helping people individually who don't understand.

Leslie: Thank you, Cody. Maybe next week we can tell everyone about the Swedish custom called fika. :-)

Cody is in Sweden for his junior year of high school. Come back often to hear more about his adventures as a foreign exchange student. And to learn more about YFU, go here.

(Photo from the Nolaskolan website.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

YFU: Cody in Sweden > Örnsköldsvik

So, just how far north is Cody?

Boston, Massachusetts, a place most Americans consider cold and snowy, is a mere 42 degrees north. Moscow, Russia, a bit higher, measures at 55. Juneau, Alaska, the land of the big black bear, is 58 and Helsinki, Finland, is 60 degrees north.

Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, Cody's new home, is 63 degrees north, almost in line with Reykjavík, Iceland, and Fairbanks, Alaska, both of which register at 64. Cody grew up in Alexandria, Virginia (38 degrees north since I am citing map coordinates here) and specifically asked YFU to send him to a distant part of Sweden.

Cody is living in Fälludden, a quiet and beautiful neighborhood about 20km (12 miles) outside of Örnsköldsvik. The number of residents living in the city and surrounding area is approximately 55,000. When you compare that number to the DC Metro area, which is estimated at 5,860,342 residents, it's quite a contrast. Here's my question for Cody:

Hi Cody,
Tell us about your first impressions of Örnsköldsvik. Did you feel far away?

Cody: Well, I didn't notice much the first day since I was so tired after having been awake for 30+ hours, but the day after I arrived, my host family and I went into the city and I noticed just how small everything was by comparison. Örnsköldsvik has most of what we have in Alexandria; it's just that the buildings are much smaller and don't fit as many people. I felt like I was in another part of America for some reason, not in Sweden. I still don't feel as if I've actually left. I'm not sure why, but it feels normal being here.

Leslie: Thank you, Cody. I guess we are all more the same than we are different.

Fälludden, Sweden
Fälludden is located on the Gulf of Bothnia in the northernmost arm of the Baltic Sea. For more photos, "like" the Fälludden Facebook page here.

And for more information about YFU's international educational exchange program, visit their website here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

YFU: Youth for Understanding > Cody

Youth for Understanding (YFU) is an intercultural exchange program that promotes the tagline Make the world your home. YFU's history began in 1951 in an "effort to heal the wounds of World War II" and today the organization hosts more than 4,000 exchange students annually to approximately 60 countries worldwide.

Cody, featured here, here, and here, is currently one of YFU's exchange students living abroad and, for the next few months, I will profile his adventures and those of his host family here on my blog. Here's my first interview with Cody:

Hi Cody,
Tell us why becoming a foreign exchange student appealed to you.

That's actually a tough question. There were so many reasons. It's hard to pick just one, so I'll give you a few.

The first thing I thought about was learning a new language. One of the most important skills you can have nowadays is being able to communicate well with other people and knowing many different languages can definitely help with that.

Another thing that appealed to me was the idea of being immersed in an entirely new culture. I've been around America all of my life and it's all I have ever known so I thought it would be great to learn how people in other countries live.

I also thought I could benefit from meeting new people and making new friends.

Leslie: Thank you, Cody. It's going to be an awesome year.

Becoming a Foreign Exchange Student
It was a lengthy process becoming a YFU student. There was an online application with an essay to submit. A packet to mail with personal photos, recommendations, and several years of notarized and sealed school records. There was an interview process, passport and visa requirements, shot and health documents, and, in between that, a lot of explaining to do about why the high school experience was preferable to the university semester abroad experience.

Cody was accepted into the program and attended two team-building events, one here in Washington, DC, and the other in Chicago, Illinois. Everything was set, or so we thought, but the departure date came and went. There was no host family for Cody.

Panic set in. How can Cody spend a year abroad with no host family?

But everything worked out and just kept getting better and better. The details were soon announced. Eric, Cody, and I met Magnus, Teresia, Lovisa, and Emilia via Facebook. Cody's host family is warm, friendly, and welcoming. It's so much better leaving home when you know who's there to greet you.

And then a flurry of rapid activity. Going away parties with grandparents, cousins, and aunts. Last-minute shopping, list making, and luggage labeling.

August 26, 2014. Cody's travel date. Cody flies from Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia at age 16 to Frankfurt, Germany, alone. And then Frankfurt to Stockholm, and Stockholm to Örnsköldsvik by train.

Yes, Cody's in Sweden. 

For his junior year of high school.

Tune in often for more news about Cody's adventures as a YFU foreign exchange student in the far north of Sweden.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Richmond - Main Street Station

I have tagged posts from all over Virginia - Alexandria, Arlington, Fredericksburg, Urbanna, and the Northern Neck. This is Amtrak's waiting room in Richmond's Main Street Station. Looks like a cosy living room, doesn't it?

My mom and I witnessed the investiture of a family friend and attended a celebration in honor of the new federal judge, returning home the next day after a restful night at The Berkeley Hotel. Richmond is old money, history, and status as it relates to the legal profession, finance, and government. A quick trip by train but a world away ...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Miami - Summer 2014

Bright sun, sea, and sand. Cuban food. A quick few days away cut even shorter by airplane delays. The Leslie Hotel. A place where Spanish is spoken first and English second.

I've been to Miami only one time before and oddly enough when I arrived this past summer, I felt as if I were home, as if I'd been there a hundred times before …

Monday, October 6, 2014

Guadalajara - Summer 2013

Guadalajara, summer before last, for two weeks. I never blogged about it. Eric, his daughter Cassedy, and I stayed in the historic center and took language classes at IMAC. We drank machine-drip coffee before school but had the best bakery items possible during break. I savored my infrequent lattes, made a few friends, took a carriage ride, and now know a little bit more about Mexico.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Literature in the 1940s

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

The Body in the Library* by Agatha Christie

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Hungry Hill* by Daphne du Maurier
The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn*  by Betty Smith

Gigi* by Colette

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by Josephine Leslie/ RA Dick
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Village in the Sun by Dane Chandos

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House by Eric Hodgins

Gentleman's Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson

Maigret's First Case by Georges Simenon

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
No Boats on Bannermere by Geofrey Trease

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Village in the Sun (1945)

This book is about Ajijic, a small village situated between a lake and a mountain, found within close distance to the larger Chapala and the even larger Guadalajara. Currently, Ajijic is a thriving expat community full of Americans and Canadians, but in 1945, when Village in the Sun was first published Ajijic was a remote, hard-to-reach pueblo accessible easiest by water. The author Dane Chandos (a pseudonym for Peter Lilley, Nigel Millet, and Anthony Stansfield) was one of the area's earliest foreign residents.

Very little happens in this book. The writing is heavily descriptive about birds, dogs, the water, light, sunsets, fruit, and flowers. It's a beautiful night-time read, very painterly and restful, right before you go to sleep. A paradise of Eden in print.

The narrator, known only as el Señor, is kind but remote to the story's plot. He is primarily an observer. The real characters are the Indios: Candelaria the cook, Cayetano el mozo (a joven/youth with butler duties), Don Bernabe the builder, and to a lesser degree many others including the three seamstress sisters, Aurora the laundry woman with a sour face, and the revolving maids who work together to keep the position filled. While the Indios may be antiquated in practice, their dialogue is translated with an elegance reminiscent of Shakespearean English. Chandos clearly has respect for the culture in which he lives and writes. El Senor's visitors are not quite as accepting, though. Some of the Europeans who breeze through the small town and some of the big-city Mexicans are condescending and rude. Social class is definitely an issue in 1940s Mexico and the external world is moving in. At the end of the novel, the presence of a powerboat on the lake sums it up. Mexico is changing. And so is Ajijic. The future of the small village is foreshadowed by Don Pedro who takes a loss every year in anticipation of the time when Ajijic will become a resort town with conveniences. That time is now.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Summer Place (1958)

A Summer Place by Sloan Wilson begins in Pine Island, Maine, and moves midway through the story to a vacation spot in Florida. The author's focus is on the social issues surrounding sexuality and adultery during the 1930s and 50s. He describes how one family, torn apart by divorce, suffers guilt, resentment, and unresolved anger for many years. The pain the characters feel is ameliorated, though, by the fact that Ken Jorgenson's wife Helen is frigid and more interested in money than she is in her marriage, and it's a bit easier for us to forgive Sylvia for her transgression when we learn that her husband Bart Hunter is an advanced alcoholic.

The reader's allegiance, while Ken is building his financial kingdom and Sylvia awaits her punishment, goes to the children, Molly and Johnny, who in their innocence inherit the sins of their parents. They struggle throughout their teenage years amidst their family drama and eventually find their own place in the world, back home where they met on Pine Island.

I recommend this novel because …

1) the casting off of the old caretaker, Todd Hasper, with his evil dog Satan, from the island paradise, at the very end, is overwritten and cruel, but symbolic;

2) these mid-century novels all have a certain elegance of life that escapes us now;

3) and, because the author served in the Coast Guard.

Yes, Sloan Wilson gets it. 

Palm River, Florida, is full of characters who live the boating life. Yachtsmen wave as they take the inland water route down to Miami and parts south. A woman lives on a houseboat and walks her dog every night with a man who dreamed of sailing around the world but decided to settle down instead. Another man, not quite right in his head, keeps a grand piano on his motor boat and anchors out all alone in the river. Molly and Johnny bond romantically while they sail their dinghy farther and farther, eventually capsizing and in need of rescue.

For all of the books I sought out (68 Knots and Adventure on the High Sea) and for all of the books I cannot bring myself to read (Moby Dick), this is the one story that gave me in part what I was looking for … a little bit of the boating life, some glamour, and a nice conclusion. "Well done, and good luck."

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Ice Princess (2003)

From Scandinavian Crime Fiction: Writer Erika Falck returns to her hometown after the funeral of her parents. She finds no solace. Erika is instead met by the news that the body of her childhood friend Alex has been found frozen in an ice cold bath. Her wrists have been slashed, but did Alex really take her own life? In order to deal with the tragedies, and to overcome her writers block, Erika starts working on a memoir (about) her dead friend. The writing process turns into an obsessive interest in Alex and her fate, and soon Erika's research leads her to local detective Patrik Hedstrom. Only when they start working together are they able to find answers, and to unfold the small town's deeply disturbing past.

The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg first drew my attention on the Metro. I don't remember what the advertising poster said but I went so far as to seek the book out with no luck at my local library and bookstore. Time passed and I forgot about the novel until recently when Chuck, a fellow mystery reader, recommended I read it.

Now available via download, The Ice Princess is a good BBC-style mystery with a Swedish village as its backdrop. The mystery itself and the conclusion to the story are satisfying but I can't fully recommend the book without telling you about its multitude of faults, primarily its lack of organization and content editing.

Too many primary characters. 
The most confusing structural problem with The Ice Princess is its lack of a primary character. To whom do I owe my allegiance? Eilert Berg introduces the book as the man who finds the body. Erika Falck follows as the main character who cares about Alex's death. And then suddenly, halfway through the story, Patrik Hedstrom takes over as the detective who drives the story to its conclusion.

This problem with focus is further evidenced by the fact that Goodreads initially called the series the "Patrik Hedstrom books" and now has revised that title to read the "Fjallbacka series." I have read books where there are many people narrating the story but it didn't work easily in this case.

Too many minor characters. 
I know it's a literary device for writers of crime fiction to create an entire village of people so the killer is better hidden from the reader's suspicion but there were just too many minor characters. The inner life for each was well done and interesting to read but I began to feel as if the vignette was more important to the writer than the character was to the story.

Too much information when it comes to romance. 
The budding relationship between Erika and Patrik was central to the story but it was TOO detailed, particularly when it came to underwear choices and the avoidance of urinary tract infections. YUCK. What kind of book is this?

Too many pages in each chapter. 
Hundreds of pages, in fact, with no clear reason for the text division when it finally did occur. Where is this going? I like organization within a book that makes sense and I like a clear place to stop and take a break.

Too chatty.
Overall, the book was satisfying but a big red pencil would have helped it read better. Hopefully as the series continues, Lackberg will have learned how to remove the excess and focus on building her story and characters with more relevant information and less inconsequential detail.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars (2012)

I was pushed really really hard into reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Asia, my 11-year-old niece, wrote the title on all of my note lists. She asked me about it every time we saw each other. She told me it was the Best. Book. Ever. That I HAVE TO READ IT NOW!

So, with that pressure on my back, I finally took the time to download the book and started reading it. It's not often I come across a book I read non-stop until finished. It's not often I take a book (hidden on my iPad) to meetings and read a page or two under the table when the conversation becomes dull. It's not often the whole family reads a book and talks about it during long distance phone calls.

This book is considered children's literature. Really? It's about two kids, teenagers, both dying of cancer. They are smart, clever, deep, intellectual, and care about each other and the big questions. What happens when you die? Is it important (or even possible) to do something heroic that makes your life worthwhile or are we all destined to oblivion any way?

To give you more information about this "amazing book" Asia wants you to read (or else), I now turn my review over to a Q&A session with Asia "the great and powerful"...

Asia, The Fault in Our Stars is a love story. What do Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters mean when they tell each other every thing is okay? When Hazel and Augustus say everything is okay, they are referring to their friends, Isaac and Monica, who tell each other "always" so that they will "always" be there for each other. Hazel and Gus mix this statement around to create their own "always;" it is okay.

Which scene in the book do you remember and love the most? The scene from this book that I remember most is Augustus' pre-funeral. SPOILER ALERT!!! I loved this scene because the connection between Augustus and Hazel is emphasized in a way that you understand what they are going through.

Why do you think Augustus carries a cigarette in his mouth but never lights it? Augustus is a very metaphorical person. In the book, Augustus says that he is putting the killing thing in his mouth (the cigarette) but not giving it the power to kill (lighting it). It's a metaphor.

What do you think Hazel means when she says she is like a grenade? Hazel has cancer in her lungs. When she says she is like a grenade, she is stating that one day she is going to blow up and obliviate everything in her wake and she doesn't want to hurt anyone.

Are you glad you found out that Sisyphus the Hamster ended up okay? Yes, because at least when Hazel and Gus went to Amsterdam they weren't totally disappointed.

Even though the "world is not a wish-granting factory," if you had a Genie foundation wish, what would you ask for? I don't know what I would do with my wish. I have a good life so I would probably give my wish to someone who needs it more than me.

Do you think Augustus chose a visit to Amsterdam because he wanted to give Hazel her wish or do you think he chose Amsterdam because he wanted to make Hazel fall in love with him? Or both? I think both because Augustus is a very charismatic person and he wants Hazel to have a good life before she dies but Gus has very strong feelings for Hazel and the trip to Amsterdam shows his affection for her.

Why do you think we like to read sad stories that make us cry? Because it's real life. Real life is hard and it will make you cry. But it also makes you laugh and smile. That is what I love most about this book. You are crying because Hazel is sick or because Gus dies, but you are laughing at the jokes and you feel happy when you think about the love they share for each other!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Love Story (1970)

Having recently read The Fault in Our Stars, I decided to revisit the love story that broke the young romantic hearts of my generation: Erich Segal's Love Story.

I will say up front and center: The Fault is better. The writing style is more sophisticated. The characters are more developed. The story deals with death more intimately and much more realistically. The connection between Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters is deeper and more heartfelt than the relationship between Oliver and Jenny, even though they are all supposed to be intellectuals of some sort.

Love Story is almost still an outline. The story was published too soon and still needs work. It isn't finished! Yes, it's a classic but it can never be called literature. The success of the story in 1970 must have been due to timing. Jenny was ethnic in an era when the blonde-haired blue-eyed standard of beauty was being challenged by the "other." It was what we wanted to read and see at the time.

Here's a brief summary of the story: Harvard jock meets Radcliffe music student. Oliver Barrett IV has generations of wealth and accomplishment behind him. Jenny Cavalleri is the daughter of an Italian baker, although her father is specifically not an immigrant and does not speak Italian. The social gap between the lovers is wide but the disparity of their class is part of what attracts them to each other. They date, marry while still in school against the wishes of Oliver's parents, and then struggle to make ends meet. Oliver achieves success with his wife's help and then - blam - she dies.

The heart of this story is about Oliver and his father, not about Oliver and Jenny. 

Oliver gets good grades, excels in sports, but is angry at his father because he gets no recognition for his accomplishments. Oliver is expected to do well because he's a Barrett and generations of Barretts have always done well. There's even an underlying suggestion that many of Oliver's accomplishments are due, not to his personal efforts, but instead due to his last name and the financial contributions made by his father.

Jenny is this perfect character with no apparent faults. Everyone in the neighborhood loves her. She sleeps with Oliver without expecting a relationship. She marries Oliver when he's broke and then helps her husband through law school. Jenny doesn't even suffer tremendously when she becomes ill and only asks to be held tightly right before she dies.

Jenny's illness and death scene is shorter and less detailed than Oliver's opening hockey games which play no significant part in the story. (And what's with the doctor telling Oliver that Jenny is sick and asking him to keep the information to himself? WTF? My God, times really have changed.)

Love Story is about how Oliver stands up to his father, makes his way in the world, graduates third in his class without his father's assistance, learns the value of money, and then acknowledges the unconditional love he feels for his father after he has matured and become a successful man in his own right. With a little more work, Love Story might have been a work of literature but probably not the great success it was in theaters.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Repair: Old Storage Box

We found this box on an abandoned ship. It's roughly built and was probably a first-year shop project given lovingly to a parent who left it behind thinking he'd return some day. Exposure to moisture over the years caused the wood to swell and the lid would no longer shut.

Found box.

I put the box out with the intention of working on it and while I was away Eric sanded the lid down so it will now shut. We then gave the box two coats of polyurethane and tightened the hinges. It's not a beautiful show piece by any stretch of the imagination but it serves me well hidden away on my bookshelf storing note cards and envelopes. Lucile's letters rest on top.

Repaired box.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Terracotta Palace (1970)

From the book cover: Where is Vanessa Malimbrosa? Juliet Holdroyd wants to know ... and nothing the very strange, very rich Malimbrosa family can do will keep her from the twisted truth hidden in a fabulous villa in Rome.

My last few reads have been on iBooks and I have to say there's real pleasure in reading an old out-of-print paperback. This book (Anne Maybury's The Terracotta Palace) has a musty attic smell and I like the cover art.  Here's my evaluation based on a set of questions I have pulled together and will apply to all romantic-suspense novels I review on LiAM:


Does the story include the necessary romantic-suspense elements?
  • an old house with a long history and secret passageways? YES! The Terracotta Palace is an ancient mansion in Rome where the Malimbrosas live in beautiful suites with wonderful servants, manicured grounds, and dark cellars originally built to house prisoners.
  • a secretive husband whose trust is called into question? YES! Philip is Juliet's untrustworthy love interest. His potential deception is carried through to the very end quite effectively.
  • an alternative male who provides support and friendship? YES! Martin, who is frequently referred to as Juliet's "gay companion," is her confidant.
  • a sophisticated female who is in competition for the husband and has superior beauty and status? YES! Irena is described as being the most elegant woman in the room and it appears that she and Philip are involved.
  • a narrator who is ordinary and insignificant? YES! Juliet is strong, independent, and not easily swayed but she is "ordinary" in that she's not wealthy and "insignificant" because she's not immediately recognized as one of the clan.
  • a murder or an attempted murder? YES! Vanessa is missing and possibly dead; Pepi, the little boy, is being tortured by ghosts and Juliet is a target.
Is the conclusion of the novel satisfying?

Initially, YES, when I closed the book, The Terracotta Palace was an acceptable read. The characters were tolerable and sufficiently developed for light fiction, and the story wrapped up with the (obligatory) romance. BUT, when I started to think about my blog post, I realized that the story doesn't quite measure up and here's why:

The mystery is solved, but doesn't make sense.

Vanessa is alive and her family knows all about it. Allegra actually engineers her grand-daughter's "disappearance" as part of an excommunication from the family for having forged checks.

For having forged checks? Really? Money flows easily and generously in the Malimbrosa household. There's no reason (such as drugs or gambling) to explain why Vanessa would need more money than what she has. The conclusion that she can't be trusted and must be banished before she embarrasses the family just doesn't make sense to me.

Juliet is a Malimbrosa and that gives us a solid explanation (and an acceptable gothic motive) for why someone is trying to kill her. Vanessa wants her cousins Juliet and Pepi out of the way so she can find her way back into Allegra's heart.

There's no resolution. 

Vanessa is going to jail. Pepi is still weak and emotional. Juliet is going home. Even if Juliet and Philip marry, it's not likely they will both change their names to Malimbrosa. Irena isn't going to jeopardize her relationship with the sterile Leo by having a secret child outside of her marriage. Romola is too old to bear children and has no prospects. No one inherits? All of this drama for nothing?

And no one rescues the child.

I can't believe Anne Maybury just dropped this part of the story. Will Juliet go back to London and write the kid long letters as some means of support (as she plans) or will she actually do something to improve Pepi's life? It would have been a much more satisfying ending to the story (and a logical one) if Juliet and Philip had taken a ride out to the country with the intention of saving the child (and the heir).

Does the novel include artistic color?

No, not really. This is something I have come to expect from Anne Maybury novels. Juliet walks up and down the street looking for Vanessa and drinking coffee. She explores vacant buildings and burned out houses. Geraniums are always described as looking tired. Juliet is out of sorts. People stub out their cigarettes but never light them or smoke them. Two stars for the book in general. Three stars for the genre.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Repair: Black Bedside Table

I bought this table at a neighborhood yard sale for $2.50. Eric (lovingly) gave it five coats of high-gloss black alkyd paint and I added a blue anthropologie knob.

Thank you, Eric!

and here's the before pic:

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Recycle: Vintage Harkerware Dishes (Golden Dawn)

Many years ago, my grandmother sent me a care package that arrived on a snowy day and included "blue mist" Harkerware dishes. As time went on, and I found myself rummaging around antique markets, I would pick up additional pieces in a variety of colors. The dishes pictured to the left are of the same style in the "golden dawn" pattern.

I still have my grandmother's gift but have accumulated a lot of dishes and will let this version of Harkerware go via Craig's List this Friday. If you are interested, let me know.

Mid-Century Harkerware Dishes Vintage: Oven-safe stone china. Golden Dawn pattern (yellow and gray). Made in the USA. 4 cups and saucers; 3 cereal bowls; 3 desert bowls; 2 salad plates. Minor discoloration (if any) and all pieces in good condition except one chip/marking on one salad plate. Competitive pricing at $60 for all 16 pieces (not including postage).

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Feed Better (and Share)

Christmas biscuits, shaped like hearts. These are not the pop-open-the-can kind of biscuits nor are they the completely made-from-scratch biscuits, but they did require adding buttermilk, rolling the mixture on flour, and wearing an apron.

I don't cook in the true sense of the word, but in the last six months, I have moved away from convenience foods and time-saving restaurants in favor of culinary education and expansion.

These biscuits are such a small step toward a more interesting food future. I am dreaming of homemade strawberry jam, a riot of herbs on my balcony, and local farmer markets in the spring.