Semlor Party

Do you ever think that some things just happen randomly and turn out to be for a reason?  I had one of those moments a couple of weeks ago.  For Henning’s 30th birthday, his niece painted a watercolor of their family’s summer house in Mariestad, Sweden.   I was at Michaels getting it framed when a woman approached me and started commening on the painting.  It turns out that she is Swedish and recognized the style of house right away.  We got to chatting and she suggested that I join SWEA, which is an organization for women with the intent of promoting and protecting Swedish language and culture for Swedish women living abroad.

Denver has a local chapter, so I decided to be brave and join.  Although I can get by in Swedish (with simple questions/answers) I was not confident that I know enough Swedish to be comfortable among native speakers.  I had Henning help my with my application as it was all in Swedish and I had to answer all in Swedish.  Now that I look back on it, I think they used the application more as a “get to know you” opportunity than a test.

The first even that I’ve been able to attend was a meeting where they served semlor buns and had a life coach speaker.  A semla (semlor is the plural) is a cardamom bun that has it’s top cut off and then is filled with almond paste and whipped cream.  The top is then put back on.  Traditionally, these buns are eaten throughout Lent.  They are not overly sweet, at least not by American standards.  I wish we had something similar here as they are quite tasty, but are a fair bit of work to make.

Semlor

After we had a chance to eat our buns and the other members had a chance to catch up with one another, I had to introduce myself to the group.  In Swedish.  Needless to say, I was so very nervous!  I think it went well for the most part, although there were some gasps/giggles when I said that I learned Swedish because my husband learned English and it’s only fair that I learn Swedish.  Everyone was so kind to me and kept complementing my Swedish, but I think some of them were just being nice.

The second half of the meeting was really interesting to me as they got a speaker/life coach who focus on strength based coaching for women.  Prior to the talk, she instructed us to take a free strengths assessment.  If you’re interested, you can take it here.   Everyone who takes the test will get slightly different results.  We were instructed to write down our top 3-5 strengths according to the test.

Semlor_1

My strengths are Love, Fairness, Leadership, and Kindness.  The speaker then went through several of the strengths and helped us understand what that means in our lives. and how we can use those strengths, especially in a business setting.   One my my strengths is Love, which is defined here as:  You value close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated. The people to whom you feel most close are the same people who feel most close to you.  If I were in an interview, I wouldn’t necessarily say that one of my strengths was love, but rather would phrase it as ” I value respect and relationship building”

Semlor_2Overall the speaker was really interesting and I think the things I’ve learned will really help when I have to answer the worst interview question ever- “So tell me about yourself”.

 

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New York

Wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  I wish that I had some great reason for my absence, but I really don’t have one.  Well, I have been on a couple of big trips in the past couple of months.  Back in May, I went to New York with my friend Carrie.  I’ve been to New York a couple of times, but Carried had never been before and when I saw that the  MoMA has an exhibit of Frank Lloyd Wright drawings and models.  Carrie is studying architecture, so it was a good excuse for a trip to New York!

We stayed at the Bentley Hotel which is just North of the Queensborough Bridge on the Upper East Side.  We lucked out and had a corner room, so we had both a bridge view and a view of the city.  The hotel room was really nice and the bed was very comfortable with some of the softest hotel sheets I’ve slept on in a while.  The view at night was especially stunning as The Bentley has a roof-top restaurant/bar.

Queensborough Bridge at nightWhen we arrived on Friday afternoon, we just got settled in to our room and then planned on walking around our hotel a bit before finding some dinner.  We ended up walking to Central Park, which was only 4 blocks away  and wandered in there and watched the sun set.  Before it got too dark, we headed to Bella Blu for dinner.  By the time we found Bella Blu we were approaching the “hangry” point, so we pretty much just walked in without looking at the menu.  We really lucked out!  The food was so good.  I had ravioli in a truffle cream sauce and Carrie had veal and raisin ravioli.  We could not decide who had the better dish.  We were stuffed, but we managed to share a creme brûlée and a chocolate soufflé.   The desserts were just as tasty as the main course.

Saturday morning we got up and did what every city dwellers do on a Saturday- we went to brunch.  Ever since I went to New York to visit Candace last year and had brunch at Sara Beth’s, I haven’t been able to get the food out of my mind.  I had the same thing that I did last year- the almond crusted french toast.  This french toast is out of this world.  I wish I had the words to describe the flavor and texture of this french toast.  We also had the most amazing fruit juice.  I t was a mix of pineapple, orange, banana, and pomegranate juices and was so flavorful.

French ToastAfter brunch, we headed over to the MoMA to check out the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit.  Carrie really enjoyed seeing the sketches and drawings, while I really enjoyed the modern design  exhibits.  After we walked around the museum for a bit, we went to the MoMA Design Store which was really neat.  They had all sorts of cool products for the kitchen, home, and office, as well as other random (but cool) things that I wasn’t quite sure what one would do with.

We took things a little easy on Sunday and wandered through the West Village and Greenwich and stopped and had a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery, which is one of my favorite cupcake shops in the city.  Well, to be fair, it’s the only place I’ve had cupcakes, but they are so tasty!  Carrie and I actually found another Magnolia Bakery location by our hotel and we were tempted to stop in every time we walked by.  After the cupcake, we decided that we needed a bit more exercise so we checked out the High Line which is an elevated pedestrian park that used to be rail tracks.

High Line

On our last day, we headed to downtown to check out the Financial District and Battery Park and the new World Trade Center.  When Henning and I were in New York a couple of years ago, construction had just started on the new World Trade Center building and the memorial was still a hole in the ground.  It was cool to see the progress they’ve made and to see the finished memorial.  The memorial is almost eery because it’s an are of peacefulness and solitude surrounded by the busy city.

WTC

As our last hurrah, we went to Grand Central Station and walked through the market next door.  Walking through seeing all the flowers, meat, sea food, spice, and dessert stands made me wish that I commuted through Grand Central and could afford to buy my food here.  Everything was laid out so pretty and it just made me want to buy everything.

SpicesThree days in New York always seems like so little, but by the end of the of the weekend, I was almost ready to go home.  New York is a fun place to visit, but at the same time, it’s utterly exhausting, but in a good way.

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Arizona- The Wild, Wild West

A few months ago,  my “Aunt” Chris, a family friend of mine (well, really, my mom’s), was testing for her third degree black belt and my mom wanted to go down and see her test.  Henning had never been to Arizona so we decided to tag along.

One of Chris’ friends who also does Taekwondo also came out to watch Chris test.  On top of being a black belt, Amy used to be a big skate boarder and offered to teach Chris’ daughter (Chloe) and myself how to skate board

Skateboard

Chloe had a couple of small skateboards called Penny boards which were cute, small skate boards.  These boards are narrower than standard skateboards and made out of plastic.  Apparently, these boards are quite popular with kids right now.  Gosh, that last comment made me feel old!

I’m not sure what exactly made me try to skateboard, but it was probably a bit of peer pressure from Chloe.  Regardless, learning to skate was probably one of the coolest parts of the whole trip for me!  Amy was a great teacher and now I sort of want to get a board of my own.

Double_skateboardThe next day was Chris’ big test.  We had never been to a taekwondo test before and we weren’t quite sure what to expect.  The test ended up being really cool to watch.  There were kids and adults testing and it was amazing to see how much power and intensity these people had!

KickAs Chris’ support team, we made signs to cheer her on.  We made several signs, but the one below was by far our favorite.  Hana is the word for the number “1” in Korean .  After Chris’ test was over, we all gathered with the #Hana sign and took a picture with Chris.  Although her test didn’t go quite as planned (she was unable to break a cement slab), she still was all smiles once the test was over and she received her new belt.

HanaThe best part of the trip for Henning was probably the chance to see and photograph the Saguaro Cactus.  This particular cactus is only found in southern Arizona and parts of northwestern Mexico.  These cactus grow incredibly slow- about 1.5 inches per year.

Cactus _2Between the cactus and the wide open desert, Arizona has some spectacular sunsets and we were lucky enough to get a few pictures.

Sunset

On the second to last day that we were in Scottsdale, Henning and I went on a hike to an open space area near Chris’ house.  It was really cool to see all the different kinds of cactus and just the different environment in general.

H&LOne thing that struck both of us is just how different the landscape is here compared to anywhere else we’ve been.  We’ve seen deserts, but the Sonoran Desert is really spectacular.  It was also nice to have easy access to protected area, even in such a big city.  The one thing we weren’t quite prepared for was just how warm the desert gets even in early spring.Cactus_3

And now I’ll leave you with one last sunset picture.

Cactus_1

 

 

 

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Ice Skating: Week 1

First off, I apologize for the lack pictures for this pos…I was a little nervous being the “creepy adult taking pictures”.  I will take some next week to give some perspective for the craziness that is group ice skating lessons.  I found adult lessons through the University of Denver where I went to college.

Parking at DU is a nightmare and add in parents with small children and it’s even more crazy!  I actually asked a woman to re-park her car as she was taking up two (very premium) spots.  Luckily she was kind and willing to help me out.

Once I got in, I checked in and put on the lovely name badge that I have to wear for each lesson.  At first I thought that it was silly to wear it…but it was nice to have the reminder of my classmates’ names.

Once I got my skates and walked into the rink area, the panic set in.  There were people everywhere!  Not only were they outside the rink, but there were a ton of people on ice (mostly kids under 10). I put my skates on and headed over to the Adult learning section. When the instructors heard that I had never had lessons before, they put me in the very beginner area, however that didn’t last long once they realized I could “push” (aka skate).

The more advanced group was a much better fit me as they were starting on skating skills.  We worked on falling safely, skating forward, balancing on one foot and forward swizzles.  We started to work on backwards swizzles but we ran out of time.  I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed skating and I can’t wait to see what we learn next week.

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2014:

I think I may be in the minority, but 2014 is starting off a bit rocky around here.  After a nice half day of skiing last Sunday, I started to not feel so well.  Seven days latter, I have left the house once thanks to a particularly nasty bout with the the flu.  If you haven’t gotten your flu shot- get it.  The flu is no joke!

Anyway,  being off work  for a week has given me plenty of time to think about what I want my 2014 to look like. I guess the popular thing to do this year is to have a word for the year instead of a resolution.  I can see what this trend is more attractive as setting New Year resolutions can be a daunting task.  I usually make a resolution- but rarely can remember what they are by the end of the year.

I like the idea of having a word for the year, but I also wanted to make more specific goals for the year.  My word for the year will be “Experience” because I want to see and do as much as I can in 2014.  After I read Meg’s New Year’s post at Something Swedish really inspired me to create several goals for 2014.  While monthly goals would be a great experience, I wanted to spend a bit more time on my goals.

So- that being said, I am going to have 4 goals this year and focus on each one for a quarter of the year.  I haven’t figured out what all the goals will be…but I do have a game plan for my first goal.  For the first three months of this year, I am going to fulfill a childhood desire to learn to ice skate.  I would love to be super ambitious and say that I’ll learn to do a jump, but I know that realistically, that won’t happen in 3 months.  My realistic goal will be to be able to do a one foot glide like this and maybe a short spin (if I’m lucky).

Next week I have my first skate lesson through the University of Denver’s learn to skate program.  I have a 30 minute lesson once a week for the next 8 weeks.  I have to say that I am a bit nervous as I’m not a confident skater (hence the lessons) and my biggest fear is that I’ll fall and hurt myself.  I’m a bit reassured that I’m required to wear a helmet for protection.  Now the biggest question is- what do I wear?

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Cinnamon Rolls, Swedish Style

After I met Henning in 2009, I found Svenska Skolan Colorado which is an organization that provides language instruction to children ages 3-16 who have at least one Swedish parent.  In addition to the children’s program, they have adult classes for the spouses of the Swedes as well as other family members who wish to learn swedish.  I started taking Swedish lessons shortly after meeting Henning in hopes to surprise (and impress) him. Since then, I’ve stuck with learning Swedish and I somehow managed to convince my mom that she needs to start taking lessons with me.

As part of Swedish class, we take a “fika”.  A fika is a morning, or afternoon break with friends, family or coworkers that involves coffee or tea and some sort of baked good like a cinnamon roll, cookie or other sweet bun.  At Swedish School, each week one student from each class volunteers to bring a snack for the rest of the group.  This past week, my mom and I were in charge of bringing fika.  My mom made a batch of cookies, but sadly left them at home.  I chose to make one of my favorite Swedish baked goods, “kanelbullar” or cinnamon rolls.

Swedish cinnamon rolls are much different than American cinnamon rolls.  No gooey bottoms, no cream cheese frosting.  Instead, the dough for these rolls is flavored with cardamon which gives them an almost exotic flavor.  I used this recipe.  It requires a bit of planning as the dough needs at least two hours (or over night in the fridge) to rise, but it makes very moist rolls.  I think that I need to tweak the recipe a bit more to account for the high altitude, but they were still very tasty!  I am glad that I could share them with my classmates…if not I probably would have eaten all 3 dozen of them!

 

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Santa Fe Art Walk

Last Friday, I felt like doing something fun and different…well, different than just cooking dinner and hanging out at home.  Henning was still at work so we tried to find a place between his work and our house.  He found a local brewery/bar that he wanted to try called Renegade so we met up there along with a couple of his work mates.  We tried a couple of their beers, including the 5 o’clock Afternoon Ale, the Elevation Triple IPA, an Ryeteous a Rye IPA, but we were all a bit underwhelmed by all of them.

The best part about Renegade was the food truck outside, Quiero Arepas.  For those of you who don’t know, arepas are a traditional bread-like food from Venezuela.  They are made from cornmeal like corn tortillas, but are much thicker and are made from white corn.  Arepas are generally grilled or lightly fried and then stuffed with meat and cheese.  The arepas from Quiero Arepa are a modern twist on this traditional food.  I had the Queso Arepa which is stuffed with cheese and plantains.  Henning had the Pabellon which is stuffed with stewed shreaded beef, cheese and plantains.  Both arepas had guasacaca, an avocado based sauce, much like guacamole.

On top of the good food, it was First Friday on Santa Fe.  For the first Friday of every month, over 60 galleries in the art district open up their doors.  We did not expect the diversity of both the art and of the people watching.  While we were at Renegade, a man with a giant head walked in (see photo above).  Apparently he is the are walk’s mascot as we ran across him several times.

Some of the galleries were really interesting to look at, like one that had paintings that looked almost 3D and a great exhibit of John Fielder photos that made Henning and I want to travel across Colorado and photograph our way back.

There were definitely some art exhibits that were cool to look at…but that I did not completely understand, but that’s part of the point of the art walk, I think.  We were exposed to new ideas and experiences that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.  We got to the art walk a little late (it runs from 6-9) so I think next month we want to be there closer to 6 to really take in all the sights.

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Baby Oliver

I am so excited…one of my good friends just had a baby and she let me visit her on the day he was born.  I got to hold little Oliver when he was just 12 hours old.  I don’t know what it is about little babies, but I melted instantly!

I knew that I wanted to attempt to take some newborn photos of oliver when he still had that “newness” so she and I planned a day for me to come over and take some pictures.  Little Oliver was only 12 days old when I took these.

I really wanted to capture some of the “class” new born pictures (think naked, sleeping baby in cute poses) but unfortunately, Oliver just wasn’t having it.  He did not appreciate being undressed and pretty much refused to really sleep.  I hope that I can take more pictures of Oliver in the future because I found the challenge of taking pictures of an uncooperative baby quite fun, actually! I’m also looking forward to seeing how my photography will improve (hopefully) as he gets bigger and I get more comfortable with taking portraits.

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Oh, New York!

Over President’s Day weekend, I went to New York to visit my dearest friend and Maid of Honor, Candace and her girlfriend, Maggie.  It’s been over a year since I saw them last, so I was really looking forward to staying with them and seeing what their New York life was all about.  I landed at 4 in the afternoon and the plan was for me to take a shuttle in to the city and meet up with Candace when she got off work and then we’d head to her apartment.

I should have known that  a structured plan would not work out quite as well as we were hoping first.  I had to wait an hour for a spot on the shuttle in to the city (I landed at La Guarida).  The next step in the plan was for me to get on the subway at Grand Central Station and then make my way to Rockefeller Center where she works and arrive there as she was getting off work.  Unfortunately, because my shuttle was so late, we had to change the plan and we had to meet up in the subway.  I’m not sure exactly how we managed it during rush hour traffic, but we found each other AND we made our train.

One of my friends recommended that we have brunch at Sarabeths which was quite possibly the best brunch I have every had.  It was quite an adventure to get from the Bronx to Central Park, but it was so worth it!

There were way too many good options to choose from, so we decided to do a “family style” brunch and try all of our dishes.  I opted for the Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon instead of canadian bacon.

Candace opted for the Almond crusted French Toast with the strawberry sauce which was  amazing!  We literally could not stop talking about how great the French Toast was. Aside from the great main course options, we also had several mimosas and dessert which included a pecan tart and raspberry bread pudding.

The Verdict:  I don’t think there is anything “bad” on Sarabeth’s menu and I really hope that I am able to eat there again in the near future because it was so, so good.  I would recommend making reservations ahead of time as we made day-of reservations and the earliest we could get in was 3pm.  When we arrived at 3, there were still a bunch of people waiting for tables.  If you’re ever in New York, please make it a point to stop in.

 

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Paint Party

Before my good friend, Tamra, had her baby, a group of us girls went to one of those studios where you’re guided through a panting…kind of like a modern version of an episode of a Bob Ross show.  We painted at a place called Canvas and Cocktails and as the name implies, in addition to painting, you can also have a drink to unleash your inner artist.

I had done one of these painting parties before, and it did not go well at all…imagine tears and believing that my painting was ugly.  When I agreed to do this painting, I had to keep reminding myself that my painting does not need to look exactly like the instructor’s painting.

For this session, we painted a painting called “Irises”.  Most of the options through Canvass and Cocktails are either floral/landscapes or very simple still-life set ups.  I think that these are some of the more easy things to teach to novice painters.  It still does not prevent the process to be a bit nerve racking and intimidating.  The second most daunting part of the process was setting up the work area and then staring at the blank canvas.  The most daunting part of course was the first brush stroke.

Once we got started I really relaxed and started to have fun with it.  I didn’t take any “in progress” pictures as I was covered in paint and I was so focused on making my painting pretty that I totally spaced it.

I actually have to say that I’m rather impressed at how it came out!  I have it hanging on a wall at work and visitors always ask if I painted it myself and seem genuinely impressed.  I can’t wait to do another one of these painting because I really enjoyed spending a morning with friends and a mimosa!

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