Saturday, February 21, 2015

The New Yorker "Northern Lights"





Some say that the American Dream is not what it once was: wages are low, retirement is not a parachute glide but a plunge, and those chosen to fix such problems labor at undoing one another’s laws. For these doubters, there are the Swedes. On any given day, a Swedish man—call him Viggo—might be reclining on a sofa underneath a Danish lamp shaped like an artichoke. He is an artist, and he has a pension. He is wearing boldly colored pants. His young wife, Ebba, is a neurosurgeon, though she has never paid a krona in tuition, and her schedule runs between the operating table and the laboratory. Things are busy. She and Viggo have small kids...For more read :http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/16/northern-lights-4?mbid=social_facebook
It’s hard to envision the Nordic model ever finding a home on these shores.  CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY SCRIPT & SEAL

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

Hopefully you are doing something nice with a loved one today.  We tend to make every holiday a big stressful moment in the States but this one is usually low-key in our house.  One thing I do like to do though is to make the kids school Valentine's Day cards instead of buying them.  I just think it's a great way to work some more arts and crafts into our busy lives, and the snow days we just had were the perfect opportunity for my youngest and I to create.
getting kitchen ready for crafts
pieces of crayon
they're slowly melting in the oven
For her cards we made crayons for classmates from leftover crayons that I had saved for many years (sometimes being a pack rack is a good thing). We melted them in some beautiful Swedish baking forms that my mother gave me which are usually used for whipped cream topped goodies called "mandelmusslor" (recipe). Make sure you spray your forms with baking spray!  (You could use jello molds too.) Bake at the lowest setting like 170 for 15 minutes.

After the multicolored new crayons hardened we popped them out, added hearts and put into plastic bags for each of the kids.  We could have written something like: "For crayon out loud be my Valentine", or "You color my world" but K. wisely decided against that. She's smart like that, unlike me. ;-)
Glad Alla Hjärtans Dag!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Melodifestival 2015

So the first round of singers vying for a chance to go as Sweden's Eurovision entry for 2015 just took place.  In my humble opinion Eric Saade, one of the semi-finalists (see above), will be the clear winner.  He looked so cute and rocked the pop style big time with his back up dancers.  His song "Sting" had a clear rythym and swinging refrain that will stick in your head like all the best "schlager songs".  Jessica Andersson was also a semi-final winner with the song "Can't hurt me now" - kind of sappy for my taste but perfect for one you've had one too many beer and need to sing some sort of anthem after your ex has left.  Not that I would know anything about that ;-)
Dolly Style (Molly, Polly, Dolly) sing "Hello, Hi" - lame!

I like watching the Melodifestival but miss the "hoopla" in Sweden that surronds it.  The finals will be held on March 14th in Stockholm, and by then everyone in Sweden will be brainwashed by the songs which will be played ad-nauseum on the radio.  Stockholm syndrome perhaps?  Ha, ha! Please follow this link for more information on the Melodifestival line-up and how they fared. 
p.s. love the old man distribe from Ulf Lundell who trashed the whole thing in Swedish, Nämen Uffe!  I love his writing but he has a dark side, more on his blog here.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Happy Sami Day!

The Sami are the indigenous group who live across the North Pole area in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia. Today we celebrate their unique achievements and wonderful contributions!  First of all, did you know that they herd reindeer?  How cool is that?  (Today they are semi-nomadic and only 10% work with reindeer, mostly for meat.  Sorry Santa.)  The Sami can trace their history back some 10,000 years to the Ice Age.   Their population today is about 80,000.  The kolt is their traditional dress, see below, with 12 regional styles.  Their crafts are just beautiful.  I cherish a bracelet that my
Lola Akinmade Åkerström/imagebank.sweden.se
mother gave me in Samisk style which is made from pewter strips woven together and sewn onto reindeer skin such as these from SwedArt on Etsy.  Hej SwedArt, giving you a Swedish shout out! Beautiful stuff!

I also wanted to touch upon the music which is gorgeous and reminiscent of Native American songs.  Here is some interesting information on the "yoik" from Sweden.se.
Yoik is traditional Sami singing, and was originally closely linked to Sami religion. It is one of the oldest forms of music in Europe. Seen as a pagan and uncultured activity, it was long banned by the Swedish Lutheran Church. Yoiks are deeply personal and often dedicated to a person, animal or part of a landscape as a way of not forgetting. A yoik is passed down through generations, its style determined by its origin.
Sami music today is often a blend of yoik, rock and contemporary music. Sofia Jannok, for example, performed the ABBA hit ‘Waterloo’ in Sami at the Swedish selection contest for the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. Other singers who mix traditional yoiks with pop music are Mari Boine and Wimme Saari. Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, better known as Áillohaš, saw the yoik as an art form early on and created many works of poetry.
Theatre is a newer Sami art form, often based on old legends or stories. The Sami have a rich storytelling culture which has gained new perspectives through the theatre. The Giron Sami Theatre in Kiruna (Giron is the Sami name for Kiruna) puts on several productions each year.
Check out this video from Sofia Jannok and another of music taken from "Frozen".  See any inspiration from the Sami culture?  ;-)  
Opening song from Disney's Frozen - the Earth's Yoik - by Frode Fjellheim.  Stunning. For more information on the Sami, please check out https://sweden.se/society/sami-in-sweden/

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Let it snow!

Here is a snölykta that people make in Scandinavia.  I will make one with my son today and post a picture later*. Hopefully it will be as pretty as this one, and provide a nice glow on these wintery nights.  We got socked by Juno and Linus (not sure where the K storm ended up but probably not on the east coast.) Take a look at this!
As you can see it is piling up and was extremely blustery around here.  Today it's snowy, sunny and calm, so look for some nice photos later after I literally drag my soon to be teenage son outside!

For those of you who just want to cuddle inside, here's some fashion pics from the recent Fashion Week in Stockholm for your viewing pleasure.  I have to say I am "underwhelmed".  Inez-NY is my favorite of these featured new Swedish designers because I like the asymetric cut and innovative use of sherling. What do you think?  The 70's, black and beige seemed to be trends throughout.

Check these Swedish designers out at http://www.thelocal.se/galleries/lifestyle/swedish-top-up-and-coming-fashion-talents-/20
Inez-NY 2015 Stockholm Fashion Week
Inez-NY-- love the boots!
p.s. here's our "snölykta"*

Monday, February 2, 2015

Teaching

Can I get an amen?
 I am working as an instructional assistant this year and learning a lot about education (my passion).  Mainly I am seeing how hard people try, yet just how stuck in the past we still are. There seems to be a bias still to having children sit and listen.  OK for older children perhaps, but I am working in a kindergarten class, and we are teaching them how to read, write and add at this age!

We know based on the research (Piaget for example) and the evidence that children this age need to move, to explore, to create and to assimilate information at their own speed and in their own way. So why don't we allow them to play more and incorporate the learning into their imaginative lives?  

I am at a loss as to where to go or what to do with this information.  I'd like to help children learn using creative methods, not make them sit still and be so academically focused.  So I am taking a class in new technology which is endorsed and used at the school, and we will see if this provides a way for children to get more engaged on their level(s).  

Teaching is the hardest job in the world and I have all respect for teachers.  It's a wonderful thing to see how children connect with their teachers and soak up learning like sponges.  But can I fit the mold of the teacher that public schools seem to want & will it be worth it?  FYI, in Sweden children aren't expected to learn to read until age 8.  There is a cultural bias in the States that we put on our children to achieve early academically.  That may be OK for some children who are ready for it but I see that there are many that are not ready.   

I ask myself how are we making them feel but not honoring them at this time of their lives and giving them the space to feel comfortable being themselves? Put yourselves in their little shoes for a minute... and let me know what you think please.
Reggio Emilia inspired Learning Space

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

New York, New York

It is a wonderful town.  Headed down for a couple of days, pre-Juno, and enjoyed the heck out of it.  I saw three shows ranging from wonderful to just so-so, ate lots of good food, went to a nice little museum called the Neue Galerie and hung out with my father.
First we saw "Disgraced" which is an intimate play set in an Upper East Side apartment where a dinner conversation quickly jumps off the rails and enters the place where it never should have gone. I just kept on thinking "hasn't anyone ever taught them not to talk about politics or religion?" because that's pretty much what the characters do for the whole play.  The acting was great and it made for a good discussion afterwards.

The next show we saw was the last performance of "The Last Ship" with Sting in one of the leads. He wrote the lyrics and the music, which was good, but I wish there was more of it.  Three songs does not a musical make.  Wild applause by breathless hanger-ons followed practically every song and there was great swells of it at the end.  The actors seemed genuinely moved by it.  A special night to be sure but I felt it was a let-down, especially since Sting never took off his shirt. ;-)  Kidding!  Here's what someone smarter than me said about it, review of The Last Ship.
The Last Ship's final night on Broadway
We saved the best for last in my opinion by seeing the delightful "Into The Woods" at the Roundabout the following day.  I loved it.  The Fiasco Theater Production of the play, which of course was written by Steven Sondheim, was witty, and very enjoyable.  The small cast did a wonderful job of jumping into different roles and clothes on stage, shedding one persona for another in a blink of an eye.  This was especially hysterical when the prince became Cinderella's ugly stepsister or vice verse.  Now that I've finally seen the play I feel like I'm well prepared to view the movie "Into the Woods" directed by Rob Marshall, and I look forward to comparing the two.

So much fun in New York, it was a shame that the blizzard had to come and ruin it.  I missed the dinner for which I had bought my extra special $16 dress (ha, ha) but I will hopefully be able to wear it another time soon.  I had to leave on the train home a day early, but I'm glad that I did as I was able to enjoy the snow-days at home with the kids instead of in a bus terminal somewhere!  Hope you had a great weekend too.