Dinner With a Nurse

img_0348My boyfriend is an engineer which means he knows about as much about the medical profession as I do convolutional codes.  Over dinner the conversation often starts with, “how was your day?”  Most of you can probably relate here.  The non-medical partner talks about the meeting that never ended or the inundation with emails.  When the conversation is then turned to the nurse, an unfiltered play by play is given of the previous shift or memory.  It is a raw recollection that is sometimes neither welcomed nor stomached entirely.  Sometimes it borders on too much information, but it is all in a day’s work for a nurse…..

Dinner With a Nurse

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A Crayfish Party in Sweden

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Happy Monday friends!  Today’s post comes from one of my favorite parts of Sweden, Skåne.  Last week I shared with you the splendors of Northern Sweden.  This past weekend we headed to Skåne, a region in the most southern part of Sweden, a short drive from Denmark.  It’s a three hour drive from where we live in Gothenburg.  Our good friends live there and this weekend invited us to a traditional Swedish crayfish party-kräftskiva in Swedish.

History

Although crayfish have been eaten since the 16th century in Sweden, then a delicacy savored by aristocrats, the crayfish celebration came later.  The history of crayfish parties in Sweden date back to the mid nineteenth century. Originally, parties were planned around the time of year fishermen were legally allowed to harvest crayfish from the sea, which was often the first week in August.  They were considered the last party of the summer.

Atmosphere

No kräftskiva party is complete without party hats, decorations, and bibs.  The hats are usually adorned with pictures of the guest of honor, the crayfish.  At the center of the brightly hung streamers and paper lanterns usually hangs a large and happy  paper lantern of the Man in the Moon.

Food

Crayfish is the highlight here-served cold with a delicious hint of dill.  The little crustaceans can be eaten alone, with a little aoli, or on fresh baked bread with aoli.  It is considered completely polite and actually a treat to suck the juice from the shell.  In addition, salad, delicious cheeses, and quiche of different varieties are served.

Drink

Traditional drink for a kräftskiva party is Schnaps of multi flavors, beer, and/or wine.  While I am not usually a fan of taking shots, I was all in for this party.  I tasted two different flavors-elderberry and cinnamon.  I loved the elderberry and according to our host, you have to let the Schnaps roll around in your mouth a bit to truly enjoy the flavor.

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Song

Swedes are known for their love of song, which usually preclude the drinking of Schnapps (snapsvisor).  There is a song for every occasion and a crayfish party is no exception.  While our party was a little reluctant, once the Schnapps started flowing and inhibitions dampened, we managed one song  to the melody of Popeye the Sailor Man.

A great time was had by all. Already looking forward to next year’s party.  Thanks to our friends Per and Malin for the invite!!  Thanks for taking the time to read!  Have a great week 😊

Observations of a Swedish Midsummer

IMG_5320Glad Midsommar!  Happy Midsummer!  It has been almost six years since I moved to Sweden!  Six years??!!  In that time I have experienced more tastes, sights, and sounds than I ever dreamed possible.

Today is one of the most celebrated holidays in Sweden, Midsummer.  It is a celebration of light, food, song, dance, family, and friends.  It also marks for many (especially those with children) the start of summer vacation.  Midsummer is the best way to start vacation.  While I normally spend Midsummer in Sweden, the past two years I have been home following my niece’s birth.  The following is Swedish Midsummer in a nutshell as seen through the eyes of this expat….

A Brief History

According to Sweden’s official site, Midsummer dates back as far as the 1500’s.   It is the Friday after the summer solstice, somewhere between June 20-26th.  It is most often celebrated outside in nature.  Every city including Stockholm and Gothenburg (Sweden’s two largest cities) becomes desolate as all inhabitants flood the countryside.

Eternal Sunshine & Nature

In some parts of Sweden, especially the far north, the sun barely sets allowing for hours of outdoor celebration and games.  We usually celebrate far north in Luleå, the city where my boyfriend is from. Tonight, the sun sets at 12:05 am and rises at 1:03 am allowing for only about 58 minutes of “darkness”.  The flowers are in full bloom and this is what makes Sweden truly one of the most beautiful countries on the planet.

 

Food

No celebration is complete without food.  Midsummer is no exception.  There are  many varieties of pickled herring to choose from.  In addition, cured or smoked salmon with boiled potatoes, dill, and sour cream are featured favorites.  Barbecuing is a must this time of year and if you are lucky and know someone who hunts moose, you may have a taste of moose filet-the greatest piece of meat on the planet.  Strawberry cake or strawberry dessert of any sort is common and my favorite part of the day!!

 

Maypole

All across Sweden, towns erect a Maypole for Midsummer festivities.  It is typically adorned with greenery and flowers and stands approximately 10 feet tall.  The origins of the Swedish maypole are thought to come from Germany.  It is said to symbolize fertility,though this is debateable among historians.

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Dance

Dancing around the Maypole is part of the day’s festivities.  The most famous dance, Små Grådarna (The Little Frogs) has participants both young and old singing and hopping like frogs in a circle around the Maypole.

Midsummer Wreath

Girls make a wreath of flowers using seven varieties of flowers.  Legend has it that after placing the flowers under your pillow at night, you will dream of the one you are meant to marry.

 

Family & Friends

Day is for family, evening for friends-at least that’s how we roll.  We usually spend the day with my boyfriend’s family on Brändön, a small island in northern Sweden.  Following a day of sunshine, song, dance, a packed picnic, and games, we make our way to our annual Midsummer party hosted by our friends, Marcus and Maria ❤  The party continues with wine, beer, barbecue, and games.

It’s funny.  Since moving overseas, I always felt like I was missing out on the birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases.  Now that I call Sweden home as well, I am really missing  being “home” for Midsummer!  Wishing everyone in Sweden a happy, safe Midsummer!!

Here is a great summary of the day in just a few short minutes…..

Swedish Midsummer for Dummies

Easter in Norrland

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Each Easter, we fly up to Northern Sweden, Norrland, where only approximately 12 percent of Sweden’s nearly 10  million inhabitants reside.  My sambo (live in boyfriend) grew up in a small village here a stone’s throw from the Baltic Sea.  Year round, it is the most breathtaking, picturesque part of the world I have ever seen.  Even the quality of the air feels different.

We arrived on Thursday and have since tasted some of the best local fish (bleak) grilled right over an open fire, walked and snowmobiled on the sea, and had the best homemade cookies (recipe to come) for our fika, the cherished coffee break in Sweden.  We have also spotted a herd of reindeer (owned by the indigenous Sami in Sweden) that roam freely through Northern Sweden.

Luleå is a city with a population of nearly 47,000.  It is known for Luleå University of Technology, Luleå Hockey Club, and it’s steel production.  It is part of Norrland, one of the three land regions in Sweden.

They have a saying in Sweden, “det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder,” which literally translates to “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”  In other words, there is no excuse to stay in when it is super cold or overcast.  I still struggle with this from time to time, but I am a Florida girl.  Swedes have evolved to make the best of any weather conditions.

I was reluctant to head outside yesterday as it was a bit overcast and super cold.  Today was another day.  The sun was shining in every direction, the sky was blue.  We decided to spend it the way most Swedes in the area spent the day, walking and snowmobiling on the frozen sea!!!

We celebrated Easter together with Fredrik’s family in his sister’s family’s cabin.  We ate grilled moose and reindeer from a bbq made in the snow.  Many Swedes own a “summer house” which often consists of a large open room complete with a primitive kitchen, dining, and sleeping areas.  Spring and Easter usually mark the time when Swedes open up their cabins for use.

Easter in Sweden is mostly secular.  The Easter bunny  is not as celebrated a tradition as back home.  Instead, children (boys and girls alike) dress up as Easter witches and go from house to house wishing their neighbours a Happy Easter.  In return, they are given candy (similar to trick or treating on Halloween).  In addition, parents give their children Easter “eggs” that are filled with candy.

FullSizeRender-56Food traditionally served around Easter can vary, but generally consists of boiled eggs, cured and/or smoked salmon, cold cuts (ham, moose, and/or lamb), cheese, bread, potatoes, and pickled herring.

 

Though I long for home every day (especially on holidays), Norrland and Sweden have been my second home for nearly six years.  My boyfriend’s family have always been so kind and welcoming to me.  They have made my holidays here very special.  While I recommend visiting Stockholm and Gothenburg, no trip to Sweden is complete without visiting the many wonders of Norrland.  Hoping everyone back home was spoiled by the Easter Bunny and enjoyed each other’s company ❤

 

Observations of a Homesick Expat or Things I Wish I’d Known Before Moving to Another Country

FullSizeRender-21I moved overseas for love.  My boyfriend was born in the far northern reaches of Sweden, as far as nearly The Arctic Circle and frequent host to the Aurora Borealis.  When I approached the idea of moving there, it felt like such an adventure-the adventure of a lifetime.  I was moving to one of the world’s most progressive, innovative, and environmentally aware countries on the planet.

I’ve always embraced new endeavors with intense determination and childlike excitement.  It’s just who I am.  Moving to another country has tested the limits of these qualities and while I’m still standing, still determined, it has been no walk in the park.  It tests who you are at the very core.  I’ve read endless articles on life as an expat, have bonded for life with expats and natives alike, and found there is a common path one winds down in the process of integration.

There Truly is a Honeymoon Period

Every possible thing about your new country is perfect.  It’s like a scene from Travel Channel and you’re the host.
You’re enthusiastic about learning the language, trying the foods, embracing the customs.

You Wonder Why They Can’t Just Do Things Like They Do Back Home??

As weeks turn into months and you try to settle in to your new life, frustration ensues.  You have to take a number and get in line for everything, even at the doctor’s office.  The only number you take at home is in line at the deli at Publix.  You don’t understand why any decision in Sweden requires a group meeting of intense discussion and counter discussion even if it’s something as simple as what to eat.

Longing for Familiar Makes You Eat and Do the Strangest Things

You find yourself standing in line and paying the equivalent of $20 for a measly pancake breakfast at one of the only breakfast places in town.  Said pancakes are delicious and worth every penny as they temporarily fill the void in longing for home. The ethnic section in the grocery store now applies to you.  You consider buying that jar of marshmallow creme (that you haven’t eaten since you were seven) in the American section.

You Become an Ambassador for Your Country

You now (reluctantly) represent your country everywhere you go.  You are known as “the American” and with it comes all the clichés and assumptions.  You hope to leave a positive image of Americans and disprove the cliché that we are all loud, lazy, know it alls.

No One Else Cares That it’s Thanksgiving

That special, warm feeling you get when you wake up on Thanksgiving in anticipation of your mom’s delicious stuffing and the annual Macy’s Day Parade?  You’re the only one that feels it.  It’s just another Thursday in Sweden.

You Become a Smuggler

You start filling your suitcase with your favorite shampoo, skin care line, even canned pumpkin and turkey bags while home because it either costs twice as much in Sweden or you think you won’t find it there at all.  Your closet starts to look like a mini super market.

You eventually Find the Replacements

Your first year you talk your mother into shipping two cans of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce bearing in mind that it has now cost her at least ten times the amount in shipping.  Must have the cranberry sauce!  Your second year you opt for lingonberry jam and are pleasantly surprised that it is actually as good if not better.

You Begin to Feel at Home

You start understanding and speaking the language more and more.  You find your tribe of people and they become your parallel family.  You begin to add Swedish traditions and customs into your own life.

You Wonder Why Can’t They Do Things That Way Back Home???

After about a year you start criticizing your own country.  You find chaos when waiting in line and wonder why they don’t have a number system.  You notice everyone is in a hurry, stressed and all you want to do is fika.  You are the one who now initiates intense group discussions before making any decision.

You Smuggle the Other Way

You start bringing home coffee, bread, cookies, and other Swedish staples.  Family and friends  demand said items on every future return.

You Learn to Embrace the Best of Both Worlds

You grow with leaps and bounds, often unknowingly and reluctantly.  You learn that people are the same wherever you go.  You learn to embrace new traditions, foods, ways of thinking and add them to who you are.  You crave cured salmon, sandwich cake, and long Sunday drives in the beautiful Swedish country side.  Your expat friends anticipate your annual Thanksgiving dinners.

You still long for home every day in your heart

You go home to remember who you are, where you come from.  You long for a taco salad at Taco Shack, Trader Joe’s peanut butter pretzels, and Sunday night Walking Dead marathons with your sisters.  While you love your adopted country and all that living there has taught you, you know deep down in your heart there’s no place like home.

 

Tools for Surviving Night Shift

Most nurses are creatures of habit. We develop routines before going to work, have routines while at work, and have routines when we get home. How many can relate to this?? This week was my first week back on the job. I’m a night shift nurse by heart.  I like the pace, people, and pay.

I reluctantly started night shift on my first travel assignment in 2006. It was not by choice, but after a week of nausea and confusion, I was hooked! There isn’t the constant buzz and whir that one experiences on day shift in a hospital. Nights are great for those of us who become easily distracted, as long as you can stay awake.

Working nights is no joke when it comes to the effects it has on the body.  More and more research is finding a connection between shift work and increased likelihood of cardiovascular disease, depression, obesity, and insomnia.  That’s why it’s so important to try to make sleeping well, eating well, and exercising a part of life.  Don’t get me wrong, I eat chips and drink soda sometimes, but it’s all about balance.  I try (keyword try) to limit the junk to one day a week.

I thought I’d share some of my routines for surviving night shift. It’s a process that is years in the making, thus time tested.

Stay hydrated

I usually have one or two cups of tea before work.  It gives a little pick me up and has the added advantage of antioxidants.  I might have a cup of tea on my first break at work too as well, but I have a rule of no caffeine too late for fear of interfering with my sleep.  I also pre hydrate with water before work in case it’s so crazy busy I don’t have time initially to drink.   Every chance I get, I drink a glass of water.

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Sleep

It’s so essential to sleep and sleep well. Whatever it takes. I know that my bedroom has to be as dark as possible and cool. If the temperature is off even by a degree or two I can sense it. I use an eye pillow filled with flax seed and lavender (highly recommend). Eye pillows block all light, can relieve headaches and eye tension, and allow for a deep state of relaxation. The weight of the flax seed in the eye pillow is said to add needed acupressure points around the eyes. The added benefit of lavender has a further calming effect.

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My homemade lavender eye pillow with flax seed. Highly recommend!!

Eat

I eat healthiest actually on the nights I work. I know my body needs the best fuel possible to stay alert. I eat dinner at home before going in. Baked salmon with a garlic yogurt sauce is my favorite. Both are high in protein and hold me almost the entire night. I bring fruit, nuts, and sometimes yogurt as well to snack on all night. The nuts and yogurt give the energy I need and hold me for a while, plus it is easy to eat quickly if needed.

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My favorite dish!!! Organic Norwegian Salmon with Couscous and a garlic yogurt sauce. Yum!!!

Exercise

I practice yoga nearly every day, sometimes it is only fifteen minutes with my legs up the wall with my eye pillow and deep breaths, sometimes it is a full invigorating practice that challenges my strength and endurance. It depends on how I am feeling that particular day.

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Viparita Karani, my favorite yoga pose. Perfect for stress relief, headache relief, and to ease into sleep. Should be a daily routine in the life of a nurse. Contraindicated for those with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or severe neck/back injury. Use your own discretion. Try for 5-15 minutes and let me know what you think!!

Stay busy

As we all know, this is usually not a problem. We are often faced with an admission or a decline in our patient’s status when we are most tired (right around 5 am). I usually have a routine of cleaning everything around my patient early in the shift. As I get more tired, if I have nothing patient related to do, I clean and stock.

What are your routines???  Would love to hear!!