Mar 31, 2016

What's Your Preferred Caffeine Delivery System?

                  Here are a few new favourites. These two I got as a gift to Hubby for Valentine's day.


            This is from the same shop. You can't have too many fun writing mugs, can you?

                                             But this next one is the best. Just look!

                                                             And this is the back. 


                        All of these are from Lenny Mud on Etsy. He also sells yarn bowls.
                                   (I wish I knitted just so I could get this dalek one.)

Mar 30, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: Spiritual Songs

I'll admit, while reading A Canticle for Leibowitz I had to look up quite a few words, especially those that had to do with Catholicism. Then came Easter with its passion plays and requiems, and I realised that while those words are familiar to me, I don't actually know what they mean. So here goes: words for spiritual songs.

Let's start with an easy one: hymn.  Meaning "religious song," it comes to us from French ymne, from Latin hymnus "song of praise", from Greek hymnos "song to praise the gods or heroes." It might be a variant of hymenaios ,"wedding song," from the greek god of marriage, Hymen.

What about canticle then? It comes from Latin canticulum "short hymn," diminutive of canticum "song," so "little song"?

Requiem is one of those beautiful words that make you shiver a bit, even if you don't know what it means. It comes from Latin requiem, from requies, "rest," from re- "again, once more" + quies "quiet. It's the first word of the Latin Mass for the Dead.

Passion, as in St. Matthew Passion for example, is easy to understand. It refers to Christ's suffering on the cross in this context, and comes from Old French passion, "Christ's passion, physical suffering," from Latin passionem "suffering, enduring." The usage of "strong emotion, desire" is only from the 14th century, from Late Latin rendering of the Greek pathos as passio. Strange how far the modern usage is from the root of the word. Or is passion always suffering?

That's all for this week. Go think deep, dark thoughts about the nature of the universe now.


Mar 28, 2016

Science Fiction Classics: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

A man in monk's garb surrounded by stone ruins
Image from

A Canticle for Leibowitz, first published in 1960, is a post-apocalyptic novel telling the story of an order of monks (the Order of Leibowitz) trying to save what's left of mankind's scientific knowledge and history after a nuclear holocaust referred to as the "flame deluge." The book spans thousands of years, and has many viewpoint characters, which isn't surprising as it started out as three short stories.
The one character that connects the stories is the Wandering Jew, cursed to walk the earth until the second coming.

Canticle won the Hugo award for best novel in 1961. It's the only novel Miller published in his lifetime. The sequel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, was left unfinished. Author Terry Bisson finished it after Miller's suicide in 1996. It received mixed reviews.    

Oh yeah, spoilers ahead, in case you haven't read the novel.

I liked this book a lot. The writing is clear (except for the Latin bits) and flows well, the world-building is detailed and believable, and the characters relatable. I loved the idea of "booklegging," monks smuggling books and burying them in the desert for better days while the angry masses lynched the leaders and the scientists and burned all the books so nuclear war could never happen again, launching the world into another dark age. Humanity's rise from the darkness is well described, and the parallel to the knowledge of antiquity being lost and how the monks in medieval times toiled to preserve it is clear. It makes you think: is this a cycle humanity is caught in? Is there hope of escape, or will we continue the cycle of destruction and rebuilding over and over again?

I'm a bit tired of the dystopia fad that's been going on for years now. I get where it comes from: the future is grim, we're destroying the planet, and we'll probably all die horribly of nuclear war/an unforeseen epidemic/global warming. War rages, refugees pour into Europe, and there's a new killer virus found every year. Some days it feels like we're just waiting for the inevitable.

Miller fought in World War II and then lived under the shadow of the Cold War, and that influenced the kind of book he wrote, just like the state of the world today influences modern writers. The difference to modern dystopias is that Canticle has moments of humour and hope, something to brighten the darkness (I especially liked the bit about the electric light in the library of the monastery). Even the ending, which is quite grim in its way, has a bit of hope mixed in there. The characters in Miller's world are seeking ways to make the world better, not only wallowing in despair or trying to survive.

There is one thing that stuck out to me: there are very few women in the book, and they're minor characters at best. Okay, the story takes place in a monastery, so that is a legitimate reason for having mostly male characters. And the book was written in 1960, so one can't judge it by modern standards. All the same, a few female characters would have been nice.

Miller was a religious man, and it shows in the book, but at no point does it become preachy. He handles moral dilemmas with a delicate hand, letting the characters act as they see fit. On the subject of euthanasia, for example, the monk and the doctor both believe they're doing the right thing, and the reader is left to make her own conclusions. The symbolism and themes are there, but they're never heavy-handed.

 Dystopia is a tool to point out the flaws in the world, but there are many ways of doing that. I feel Canticle ends with a message of hope, even if mankind is doomed to repeat its mistakes.

This book has aged well and feels very relevant in today's political climate. If you haven't read Canticle yet, I highly recommend it.

Science fiction classics read: 38/193.

Mar 27, 2016

Bunny Buns and Easter Fun


I hope you're all enjoying the Easter holidays. I certainly am. We had guests over so I managed to do some Easter baking, too. These macaroons are stuffed with white chocolate and I piped the little chick faces on with coloured icing. (And no, I didn't make the macaroon shells from scratch. Macaroons are impossible. Sometimes they turn out fine, but 90 % of the time I manage to screw them up: they bubble into huge flying saucers in the oven, fall flat, or break when I try to detach them from the baking sheet. Give yourself a break and buy the shells. Or even buy ready-made macaroons, pipe on the decorations, and accept all compliments graciously. No one has to know.)

I also saw the cutest bunny buns online, and wanted to try them. Apparently they're Japanese steamed buns with a sweet filling. After some googling I found a recipe for the dough, and as I have no idea where I could find azuki beans for the filling, I made a sweet coconut paste.

Here's a work-in-progress shot. You make the dumpling, flip it over, cut the ears with scissors, and use the chopstick to make the eyes. I also used the flat of the chopstick to press on the ear flap for a more three-dimensional look. 


                                      You can see the detail a bit better here. 

                     Unfortunately, the steaming part didn't go so well. Here's the result: 

I don't have a bamboo steamer, so I don't know if that was the problem. I decided to slather the rest with egg wash and stick them in the oven. 

I think these look a bit better. The dough was a bit tasteless, but it held its shape well. I might try make savoury ones next time. 


Here are my back-up bunny buns, made with a tried-and-true recipe. Not as cute, but tasted better. 


                                          Here they are at the coffee table.


                I also attended a board-game night with friends. Kingsburg was super fun!

The Wise Man's Fear UK cover.jpg
Image from

I was supposed to get some writing done, but I spent most of yesterday in my pyjamas reading The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. Very addictive. I can't remember when I last enjoyed a book this much. The first book of the series, The Name of the Wind, came out years ago, and I actually started reading it. I got about a hundred pages in and still didn't like it, so I stopped reading. Over the years so many people have recommended the book to me that I finally decided to give it another chance. For the first book, it took me to about 60% before I started enjoying it, but the second one is great from the get-go.

It's strange. Usually, if I don't like a book after a few hundred pages, I rarely change my mind. I'm glad I gave The Name of the Wind another chance. I love the story world and all the detail, the characters are (mostly) fun, and above all, I love Kvothe. I know a lot of people are complaining that he's a Mary Sue type character, and he does have many unlikely skills, but it didn't bother me. And I don't think anyone can say that Rothfuss goes easy on him. Nope, Kvothe gets a pretty raw deal. Especially in the second book, Rothfuss' writing is so easy to read and unpretentious that it's very easy to slip into Kvothe's head and live the story. I think it also helps that Kvothe always has a clear, tangible goal, so it doesn't feel like nothing is happening, even in the slower parts. Rothfuss makes everything seem interesting and exciting, and the exposition rarely feels exposition-y.

                            So, have a great weekend. I'm going to curl up with Kvothe now.


Mar 23, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: Words for Frustration

I can't even count how many times I wanted to throw Ulysses at the wall. Reading it, you will be frustrated in a thousand different ways. So, in honour of Joyce, here we go: words for frustration.

The word frustration is from the 1550s (I guess people back then had plenty to be frustrated about). It comes from Latin frustrationem "a deception, a disappointment."

Exasperation is from the same time, the 1540s, and the word comes from Late Latin exasperationem, from exasperare "roughen, irritate."

Vexation comes from Latin vexationem "annoyance, harassing, distress, trouble," from vexare "harass, trouble."

Aggravation has its roots in Late Latin aggravationem, from aggravare "to make heavier."

Irritation comes from Latin irritationem "irritation, wrath, stimulus, anger," from irritare "to excite, provoke."

All this leads to dissatisfaction, from dis "lack of" + Latin satisfactionem "a satisfying of a creditor."

And then comes depression, from Latin depressionem, from deprimere "to press down, depress."

But if you're lucky, you might end up in a place of calm acceptance, from ad "to" + capere "take." So acceptance is to take what's offered. That's all you can do, really.

Mar 21, 2016

Ulysses by James Joyce: Done!!!!



Finally, finally, finally finished Ulysses. Whew! Seriously, it's the most difficult book I've ever read. Did I enjoy it? Well, let's just say I can appreciate it and understand why it's a classic, but I didn't form an emotional attachment to the book. It's so hard to follow that I found it very difficult to care about any of the characters. Sure, there's a fair bit of humour in it, even of the low-brow variety (think graphic descriptions of bodily functions), but there's practically no plot, and while I enjoyed the literary Easter egg hunt part, I can see how others wouldn't. 

I used the Ulysses Annotated guide by Gifford and Seidman to get me through this behemoth, and I would have been completely lost without it. If you want to understand even a fraction of the allusions in the book, get a guide. (This one's fine, if you want the annotations, but it doesn't really explain the big picture. It also had too much info on the streets of Dublin and minor character names for my taste. It even tells you if the authors don't know to whom a particular name refers. Why? Isn't that clear from context?) I read the annotations first and then the episode in the book. I recommend trying to get through the whole episode in one go, because it gets even more confusing if you only read a page or two and try to continue it later. I also discovered Frank Delaney's podcast Re:Joyce when I had almost finished, but it helped me understand the way Joyce's mind works, and I felt I got more out of the novel than I would have otherwise. I think I'll keep listening to the podcast even though I've finished the book. 

Some things surprised me, like Molly Bloom's monologue. From what I had heard, that was supposed to be the toughest part of the book, but I actually found it much easier to follow than many of the other episodes. A lot of people praise it for being feminist. I'm not convinced. Molly thinks like a man would fantasise a woman thinking about sex, and otherwise thinks about empty-headed, frivolous things like her looks and clothes, and then puts down other women. After how she's portrayed in the rest of the book as unteachable and vain and promiscuous, I kind of hated this.Women do this about other things, you know. Okay, everybody else in the book is obsessed with sex, too, so . . . 

I started reading Ulysses last September, so it took me six months to finish. Was it worth it? 

Hmm... I'd say yes, as a learning experience. As something to read for pleasure, not so much. 

Ulysses is amazingly complex: every episode has its counterpart in Homer's Odyssey, though it's a loose, sometimes only thematic, connection, not an event-for-event, character-for-character one. The episodes also have a colour, symbol, organ, art, and technique associated with them. Some made sense to me, others didn't. Every sentence and paragraph is packed with allusions and literally references, and many words are doing double or triple duty in terms of meaning. That's an amazing amount of information, and Joyce trusts the reader to get it; he doesn't over-explain, just moves on. I like that.

But as amazing as all this is, it's also very confusing for the reader. Deliberate obscurity is something I'd like to avoid in my writing. I also think one should be able to read a novel without resorting to a guide to get through it. And I feel that the structure of the book should serve the story, not be the point of the novel. The shift from one literary style to another made the book even harder to read. I understand it's kind of the point of the book, but it hurt my immersion in the story. 

Another thing to study here is the stream-of-consciousness technique and Joyce's use of sentence fragments, both masterfully done and useful tools for any writer. 

There were also bits of stunning description, and every word felt thought through and carefully selected. That kind of attention to detail is worth striving for.

I did a whole post about the literary devices Joyce uses, so I won't repeat it here, but those were also a revelation. "Aeolus" was the toughest episode for me, and the one where I got the most out of my guide.

So, I did learn a lot. 

In conclusion, Ulysses is fascinating and infuriating in equal measure. It's not for everyone, but if you're a writer, definitely give it a shot. If nothing else, at least read Molly Bloom's monologue from the end of the book to see what all the fuss is about. Don't worry, it's quite short.

Now I'm left with a hankering to re-read the Odyssey. But I need to read the Iliad before that... In Molly Bloom's words: yes I said yes I will yes.

Mar 19, 2016

Craft Fair Finds


I visited the craft fair at Turun Messukeskus today. The entry fee in s bit steep, 15 euros, but my friend got us a deal on the tickets through her lace making class.  (The colourful fabrics above are Japanese imports. The seller has a webshop, too: )


It's not only craft stuff like fabric and yarn, though; you can also find awesome unique jewellery there. This is the Coruu Designs shop. They make their jewellery from silicon, so it's really lightweight as well as beautiful.  Here's the link to their webshop. Looks like shipping is free in Finland, and they also ship to Sweden, Germany, and Austria (postage is 2 e).


I bought two pairs of earrings, and they are gorgeous. These are the long, dangly kind, but they're so light I hardly feel I'm wearing them. They cost about 15 e a pair, which is very reasonable. 


                                                       I can't wait to wear these!


     There was all sort of weird stuff on sale, like this handy-dandy gadget for painting Easter eggs. 

The picture can't really capture how beautiful these butterflies were. I bought a kit to make my own. I might use them for Victorian-style wall art or maybe make a fascinator out of them.


Here's the kit. Looks simple enough: you just stick the silk paper between two butterfly stickers (silver wire optional) and cut out the finished product. 


Here's another cool jewellery shop: Mariel Designs. I went a little crazy at their booth, but look how cute! Some had a vintage vibe, others a steampunk one. They also have a webshop, and they deliver all over the world, yay!


                                          Here's a close-up of one of the rings. 


There was also a collectors' fair (and antiques, but we didn't have the energy to navigate that one). I loved this space patrol ufo thingy. Guess who's flying the ship? Drumroll, please . . .  Captain Shepard! I didn't dare ask how much it was, but this stuff cost up from 200 e, so...  Maybe one day.

If you live near Turku, the fair is still open tomorrow.

Mar 18, 2016

Reading Challenge!


As you might have noticed from the blog, I'm trying to catch up on the classics I've missed, both science fiction/fantasy and the literary kind. But how do you define a classic? Where should I start? I did some googling and decided to go with these two lists. I'll try to read everything on them, but I'm not setting myself any time limits; this is just me competing against myself. If you want to join me, here are the links to the lists:

Here's the list: classics of science fiction. The site also has lists for 100 fantasy classics and The Guardian's list of SF/F classics. There's a lot of overlap on these lists, but I decided to do the science fiction one, because I've read a lot more fantasy that science fiction over the years. I've read 36/193 on the list so far, and I've got about ten more waiting on my kindle. 

What about literary classics? Well, I decided to go for The Guardian's list of one hundred best novels of all time for those. I've read 26/100 over the years. This should prove interesting; there's a bunch of stuff I've never even heard of on the list. 

Feeling even more ambitious? Here's The Guardian's list of the 1000 novels everyone must read.

Ready, set, read!


Mar 17, 2016

Coffee and Kombucha in Tampere


I travelled to Tampere for work today, and decided to check out a few cafes I've been  hearing about.


             Yup, that's my dinner. The Waffle Cafe is tiny, but their waffles are amazing.


Kahvila Runo (The Poem Cafe) was almost next door, so I stopped there for some dessert.


Kahvila Runo is the perfect place to write, if you like writing in coffee shops, that is. Highly recommended.

Then I did some quick shopping.

I finally got the Naked palette from Urban Decay everyone's been making such a big fuss about. We'll see if it's worth the money.

Them I stopped at Ruohonjuuri, the local eco store, and decided it's finally time to try kombucha. (The coconut water is in case it's yucky.)


Now I'm going to try my new mud mask, relax for a bit, and then continue my short story for the Finnish writing group. Deadline's Monday, so I'd better get to work!

Update: kombucha is super weird. Not bad, but definitely weird. It tastes like beer and ginger ale mixed with vinegar. This one was lemon-ginger flavoured, so I don't know how much of the taste is from those ingredients, though.

Do you like kombucha? Should I try different flavours, or are they all like that?

Mar 16, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: The Muses

Musas dançando com Apolo Baldassarre Peruzzi
Image from wikimedia commons

Okay, let's start with the basics: there are nine Muses in Greek mythology, and each of them symbolises a different art. They are the goddesses of inspiration, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (the personification of memory). Appropriate, isn't it?

Calliope, literally "beautiful-voiced" from Greek kalli + opos,  is the protector of epic poetry, and her symbol is a writing tablet.

Clio is associated with history and carries a scroll. Her name comes from the Greek kleios "proclaimer," from kleiein "to tell, celebrate, make famous," from kleos "rumour, report, news, fame glory."

Euterpe, literally "well-pleasing," from Greek eu "well"+ terpein "to please, delight," is the patron of lyric poetry, and her symbol is the aulos, a Greek flute.

Thalia, "the blooming one," from thallein "to bloom," is associated with pastoral poetry and comedy, and her symbol is a comic mask.

Her counterpart is Melpomene, "songstress," from melpein "to sing," the Muse of tragic poetry, whose symbol is a tragic mask.

Terpsichore, from terpein "to delight" + khoros "dance, chorus," is the Muse of dance, and carries a lyre.

Erato, "the lovely," from erastos "beloved, charming, lovely," the Muse of love poetry, carries a Greek lyre called a kithara (yup, that's the origin of the word "guitar," in case you were wondering).

Polyhymnia, from poly "many" + hymnos "festive song in praise of gods or heroes," the Muse of sacred poetry, wears a veil.

Last but not least, Urania, the Muse of astronomy, carries a globe and compass. Her name comes from Greek ouranios "heavenly."

Which Muse are you hoping to romance?

What's that? What about me?

Well, I already have one. My Muse looks a bit like David Bowie in his Thin White Duke days, all jagged teeth and icy charm. He is quite fickle; sometimes he disappears for weeks and then comes back smelling of fast cars, old magic, and white-chocolate-and-liquorice cookies. He likes weird books and weirder bars. Sometimes he hangs out at art shows, invisible, and draws moustaches on the faces of people who take themselves too seriously. He chats with the magpies (because they have the best gossip), stalks dark alleys at midnight with a cheeky cat that speaks only in riddles, and smokes pink clove cigarettes with strangers over absinthe. He takes me down strange paths, but we always end up someplace wonderful.

What's yours like?  


Mar 14, 2016

Writer Crush: Minna Canth


Minna Canth (1844-1897) was a Finnish writer, journalist, and feminist. Born Ulrika Wilhelmina Johnsson, she was the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and attended a Swedish-language girls' school when growing up. From a young age, she rejected the stereotypical role thrust upon women at that time and wanted to become a schoolmistress, one of the few careers open to women in the 1800s. (It was pretty much that or a midwife. Or wife and mother, the traditional choice.)

While she was studying at the seminary school in Jyväskylä, she fell in love with her science teacher Johan Ferdinand Canth, dropped out, and got married. Okay, not a very feminist thing to do, but she did refuse his proposal twice before accepting, so it probably was a hard decision for her. She helped him edit his two journals, in which she published her first articles and short stories. But their happiness didn't last: in 1879 Johan died unexpectedly of "brain fever" (so probably encephalitis or meningitis) while Canth was pregnant with her seventh child. Alone with seven children and no income, a lot of women would have given up, but not Canth: she moved to Kuopio and took over her father's yarn store, which was near bankruptcy at the time. She turned the business around in a few years, and suddenly she had the means to support her family and the leisure to become a full-time writer.

Over the years Canth wrote a number of plays and stories, and also acted as editor of a journal called Vapaita Aatteita (Free Thought). She was a vocal proponent for women's rights and very active in the community. Her salon hosted many of the brightest minds of the time. Despite having modern sensibilities, Canth was also very religious, which led to some interesting conflicts.

I picked up a collection of Canth's work because I wanted to research 19th century speech patterns for a short story, but Canth surprised me. I fell in love with her sharp wit, memorable characters, and clear voice. Canth is a realist writer, and she was also influenced by the naturalist movement, so a lot of her stories have to do with the lives of the poor and women's rights. Her literary influences include Tolstoy, Dickens, Zola, and Strindberg. Unsurprisingly, Canth's protagonists are mainly women, and a lot of the male figures in the stories are weaklings or villains. The endings aren't happy, but they do pack a punch; in most of Canth's stories, the final paragraph makes the story.

This is probably something that gets lost in translation, but I also love the old-fashioned language Canth uses. The effect is probably similar to what modern readers experience reading Dickens or other 19th century English writers. There's quite a few lovely, forgotten words in the Finnish language, and I'm glad Canth reminded me of them.

Just to give you a taste, I decided to translate a few bits for you:

Here's a bit from an essay on women's rights:

"In addition to a sedentary life and flights of fancy come corsets, to which can be attributed at least half the internal maladies of which women nowadays suffer. This artificial concept of beauty is the worst enemy of nature. A woman must be slender, and because of this is her ribcage compressed, her internal organs squashed and pushed from their proper places until they press and harm the more fragile parts of the body. Just think how this impairs the body's normal functions. And constantly people speak of a woman's innate weakness as an impediment to giving her equal rights. Were we to raise a boy in as idiotic and closed-minded a fashion as a girl and stuff him in a corset, we'd see how far his stamina and health would take him."

Yep, this made me feel guilty about buying a corset.

And here's a description of Kauppa-Lopo, a disgusting but good-hearted and wily character prone to kleptomania and drinking:

"Lopo turned her turgid face to the room and went on grinning. Rita again marvelled at her hideousness. Snot with bits of snuff glistened under her nose and at the corners of her mouth, and matted hair hung in her eyes. And what about the cheeks? Dirty, grey, and distended, it looked like she was chewing two huge wads of tobacco, but it was only snuff.

Riitta thought her choice of clothing a bit peculiar, too. Lopo's skirt was as wide on top as at the hem and her coat, black and coarse as a potato sack, bulged out at the waist. The top button was missing, revealing a neck like cured leather."

A vivid bit of description, isn't it?

If you want to check out Canth's work, here's a link to a translation of The Parson's Family, and Amazon has this translation of The Burglary and The House of Roinila. Her most famous works are probably Anna Liisa, the story of a fifteen-year-old who got pregnant out of wedlock and killed her newborn child, and The Worker's Wife, about a woman stuck in a marriage to an alcoholic who wastes all her money. More of Canth's work needs to be translated. The world needs to know about Kauppa-Lopo!

In Finland, we celebrate Minna Canth on her birthday the 19th of March (this Saturday) by flying flags in her honour. The day also commemorates equal rights. Canth is the first Finnish woman to get her own flag day.

So that's Minna Canth for you. I bet she was one tough broad.


Kodin suuret klassikot: Minna Canth, toimittanut Ilpo Tiitinen


Mar 13, 2016

Terribleminds Challenge: A Story in Five Sentences

I haven't been doing too many of the Terribleminds challenges this year, because I swore I'd finish the short story I've been working on before doing anything else, but this week's was too fun and short to resist, just five sentences. And I've been very productive this weekend: I wrote a new short story, which seemed to just write itself (don't you love those?), and even wrote two pages of the unfinished story (the one that feels like pulling teeth from a tyrannosaur, sigh). 

But here's the little drabble I came up with:

                                                        The Charred Heart

On his way back from work on a grey Wednesday, Mr. Johansson discovered he had misplaced his heart.

Feeling hollow, he slumped in his bland Ikea chair at his bland Ikea table and thought about when he had last used it, but couldn’t remember.

Determined, he searched and finally found one piece tucked inside his favorite book, another in the jar of gingersnaps, some shards at his father’s grave, and a few charred pieces stuck to his work jacket.

He glued them together and stuck the singed little heart into his chest.

It wasn’t much, but he’d make it grow.

Mar 11, 2016

Book Recommendation: Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck

Image from

Want to try something a bit different? Like magical realism and weird fiction? I've got just the book for you, Karin Tidbeck's Jagannath. It's a collection of short stories with a distinct nordic flavour. (Tidbeck is Swedish.) Some of the translations aren't as smooth as they could be, but it doesn't matter: the stories are so fascinating and weird and fresh that you enjoy them anyway.

Intrigued? Here's a link to amazon. Looks like the kindle edition's only 3.71 dollars now, so quite a bargain.

Mar 9, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: Swedish Words

I just got back from Stockholm, so I thought we'd explore some Swedish words this week.

Here's a few that are like candy for your ears and make you smile:

Kackerlacka means "cockroach," but isn't it a fun word? We get the English word "cockroach" from Spanish cucaracha "beetle," and this sounds similar enough that the roots might be similar. The Swedish word apparently comes from Dutch, but that's as far back as I got with the etymology.  

Sliddersladder means "gossip." Sounds like it, right?

Lillgammal means precocious, but literally little-old. We have this same one in Finnish, borrowed from our Swedish neighbours, no doubt.

And here are a few beautifully weird ones:

Trollslända means dragonfly, but the literal translation is "troll's spindle."

Smultronställe, metaphor for an idyllic spot, literally "wild strawberry place."

Fattiga riddare "poor knights" are actually French toast.

Formgivare means designer, but literally it's somewhat poetic "giver of form."

Fun, huh?

If you have a favourite I missed, feel free to post it in the comments.

Mar 7, 2016

A Strange and Curious Guide to Stockholm

Have you ever visited Stockholm? I went last weekend. Hubby and I go about once a year, because Stockholm is awesome and it's one of the few places you can fly to straight from Turku airport. A lot of people take the ferry over, but that takes forever and I don't enjoy the drinking and shopping parts of the cruise that much. I never get a good night's sleep on the boat, so then I'm tired and groggy the next day, which kind of ruins the trip for me. The flight is about forty-five minutes and Arlanda Express will get you straight to the heart of the city from the airport in only twenty minutes. There's a number of nice hotels within a few minutes' walk from the station. (I like Radisson Blue Waterfront. It's a bit on the pricy side, but it's practically on top of Centralen: you go up an escalator and there you are. Gamla Stan (Old Town) is only a ten minute walk away, as is Sergels Torg.) There are lots of cool designer hotels in Stockholm, too, if you like that kind of thing.


After we dropped off our bags on Thursday night, we headed over to the Ardbeg Embassy whiskey bar in Old Town. Hubby is a whiskey aficionado, and they have a great selection. They also serve lots of local microbrews. "Cellar Troll" has to be one of the coolest beer names ever.



Stockholm Old Town is one of my favourite places in the whole world. Going there is like stepping back in time, and the fog on Thursday night made it even more atmospheric. They also do ghost walks in Old Town a few times a week. Here's a link to the itinerary for the ones in English. 


                                       Check out the Monty Pythonesque fish-hand sign!


          If you like antiques and steampunk, Old Town is the place to be. I loved these cool lamps.


                                  This antique shop was straight out of Harry Potter. 


                                              An old phone booth. Remember those?

On Saturday we visited Pharmarium, an old pharmacy turned cocktail bar. The decor was steampunk meets 1800s opium den with a dash of the gothic, and the drinks were amazing. They also serve light bites to go with the drinks. Booking a table is a good idea; the place was packed. 


                                                      The drinks menu.


This one was my favourite. It's called dark matter, and it tasted sweet and fresh and mysterious. 


                                        The Swedish Parliament, wreathed in fog.


For you all you steampunk lovers out there, the Vasa is worth checking out. The warship was built in the 1600s, but sank on her maiden voyage. The Swedes raised her from the ocean floor in 1961 and you can visit her at the Vasa Museum. It's about a forty-five minute walk from the town centre, but the same island houses many different museums. The gift shop is also worth a look: you can buy ship's biscuits, steampunk shot glasses, or even a real cannonball there.  


On Friday we attended a lunch concert at the Royal Opera. The building itself is well worth seeing (you can take a tour in English if you like), but the lunch concert made the experience even more special. I highly recommend it. Here's the schedule for spring


Next we visited the Army museum. A fascinating place, and entrance is free. The info is in Swedish and English, so you can get the full experience even if you don't speak Swedish. 


The history of Swedish warfare pretty much ends in the 1800s, but there's a section on modern warfare, too. 

               This field kitchen felt very steampunk. (Yeah, I like steampunk, if you haven't noticed.)

                                    What about eating? Okay, I have a few tips for you. 


                 Afternoon tea, Swedish style, at the Wienercafeet. I think the picture says it all.


We had lunch at Nytorget 6, which is about half an hour's walk from the city centre, but pretty close to Fotografiska (a museum that features photography exhibitions and video art. Right now they're showing  Eric Johansson's weird and wonderful photographs that bend reality in strange and magical ways.). 

Nytorget 6 has delicious food, great service, and wonderfully dramatic decor. Definitely go if you're in the neighbourhood.


Stockholm is a great city for shopping. You have an abundance of vintage stores and flea markets for the thrifty magpies, quirky and cool new design for the trendsetters, and gourmet shops for the foodies, but this store is geek heaven: the Science Fiction Bokhandeln. It's located in Old Town and has a huge selection of manga, comics, boardgames, memorabilia, and books, of course, in English and in Swedish. 

                                                   See the alien hanging from the roof?


Here's the obligatory loot photo. Most of this is from the SF Bookhandeln, but the dinosaur puppets and the book of Eric Johansson's photographs are from Fotografiska and the steampunk confectionary is from a gourmet shop. The fun belt with the hands is a flea market find.

On Sunday we took a tour of the city hall, where they hold the Nobel banquets. Very cool.


An amazing weekend. Hope you had a good one, too. If you have any strange and curious travel tips to contribute, comment away!