Thursday, October 25, 2012

Big Ol' Pile of Leaves

As I was biking home from work today, I came across this gigantic pile of leaves in Rålambshovsparken along the way. A child's autumn haven. I almost jumped in myself. And was surprised that no one else was already buried in the red-yellow-orange cloud of winter's coming. But the day was cold - probably the coldest since summer considering as I write this, it's started to snow! - and people hurried to get home in the fast-fading daylight.

Last weekend, I entertained my 2-year-old, soon-to-be niece for at least an hour by gathering a few leaves and tossing them in the air while exclaiming Weeeeeeeeee! Again. And again. And again. She loved it, and upon throwing the leaves upward, would mimic my Weeee! with a more Swedish version, Veeeee!, head tilted skywards and eyes scrunched closed. Sometimes it takes a 2-year-old to see the beauty - or at least the fun - in a few wet leaves on the ground. I can imagine this pile would be at least a week's worth of entertainment. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Night at Cliff Barnes

Cliff Barnes: a well-known character on the show Dallas and a not-so-well-known restaurant and bar in Stockholm. On Friday night, I organized some colleagues to check out the latter, namely the dancing on chairs that happens late in the evening.

Above was the view from my chair, that is, from standing on my chair. Standing on chairs - and sometimes even tables (although the list of rules/FAQs says this is a no-go) - is the norm at Cliff Barnes while singing to a variety of tunes between the hours of 11pm and 1am. The building, which resembles an old school, was actually a home for widows. What better place for a bar?

We started with drinks and moved on to dinner, selected from a particularly unusual menu with items such as grisotto (a combination of grits and risotto, I assume), American brisket, and porkchop with pig cracklings. I had red snapper with fried soft-shell crab, which was good, although a bit too fishy for my taste. Topped off with dessert: popcorn ice cream with brownie and fudge sauce. The ice cream tasted surprisingly like popcorn, although also like burnt vanilla. And the fudge sauce was far too little. 

At 11pm, the lights were dimmed, the long, red-velvet curtains were drawn, and the music was turned up - dance time! We chair-top danced to our hearts' content, and then some. 2 hours later, we stumbled out, feet aching and fun songs replaying in our heads. I think I fell asleep to Livin' on a Prayer. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Close of the Season: Hässelbyloppet

Today I "finished" my running season with the Hässelbyloppet, considered to be one of Stockholm's fastest 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) races. And a great close to the season it was, with a finish of 48:18 - my fastest ever!

We arrived in Hässelby, out west at the end of the green metro line, with half an hour to the start. I hadn't been feeling great, and combined with the cold, wet weather, was not expecting much from myself. 

Waited in the ever-long line to the port-o-potties (one of my favorite words - bajamaja - in Swedish)> handed in bag> dashed to the start line with a few minutes to spare. 

In the tävlingsklass, or"competing start group," I was surrounded by serious, albeit anxious, runners, clad in the latest dry-fit, breathable, vapor-shield-max, custom gear ... or something like that. And I in my 10-year-old North Face fleece with tiny holes from the sparks of a campfire; hand-me-down cotton stretch pants; and shoes covered in mud from my most recent races (both of which, as luck would have it, were during or just after rainstorms). Hmmm what am I doing here?

Today's Hässelbyloppet - it's 25th year! - wove mainly along leaf-mâchéd asphalt paths through neighborhoods and past the gorgeous Hässelby castle which we passed on the course's only long uphill, a gradual ascent in kilometer 7 in which I was feeling surprisingly great. Floating along, I passed several people at a good pace - but reality kicked in again by the next kilometer.

Despite it all, my fighting finish put me a minute ahead of my fastest 10-kilometer time, and deserving of 2 cinnamon buns, according to myself. I also skipped the line for these. Accidentally, of course. And just checked - finished 173/1,923! Until next year...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kanelbullar Bliss

I live in a country where baked goods are celebrated with their own day - how perfectly appropriate! Especially as I've earned the nickname Kakie in my office for my love of cake and other sweet treats. I am never one to pass on a dessert, any time, any place.

Today - October 4 - is Kanelbullens Dag, or Cinnamon Bun Day, in Sweden. Celebrated country-wide since 1999, this day gives everyone an excuse to indulge in a classic favorite at least once. NS and I started early, sharing Gunnarsons last one of the day yesterday evening. Or more like, me giving it to NS as a present before eating more than half of it myself. The tribute to this oh-so-delicious baked item continued into today when my office put out this gigantic bowl, chock-full of homemade buns. Well, for a couple minutes at least - they didn't last for long. 

Half an hour after they were announced, I couldn't stop myself from sneaking back to see if there were any extras ... and found just a couple sugar granules at the bottom of the bowl. Well, I've got plenty of places where I can buy kanelbullar in this country. And I doubt I'll ever get tired of eating them.