It's no secret that Stephen and I are big-time fans of all things Scandinavian. We've been saving up for a while to take a trip to Sweden, the land of (some of) my ancestors. And we're rabid consumers of anything Danish, Finnish, Swedish or Norwegian that can be found stateside: IKEA, Marimekko, H&M, and the little Scandinavian import store we visited in Portland. Stephen even carved me a Dala horse last Christmas.

It's a particularly work-heavy time of the semester right now; I'm spending a lot of weekend hours in the computer lab at school. By mid-afternoon, I'm pretty burnt out, so we've recently adopted fika, the traditional Swedish ritual of sitting down for coffee and pastries with colleagues and friends. Around 4:30, Stephen and I head to the picturesque Danish Pastry House in Medford for mocha and cookies.

Chocolate-dipped macaroons may not be the most nutritious afternoon snack, but it's nice to sit in a warm and cozy cafe when the sun is setting at a depressingly early hour. If anyone knows how to brighten these short winter days, it must be the northern Europeans, right?



What would it take for me to really like Halloween?  Kids, I think. I need to have some kids (my own or someone else's) to take trick-or-treating, or a house (or someone else's) where I can give out candy to kids.  It just seems like a great holiday for children.  It was so fun to dress up when I was little and walk around town with a million other kids, collecting candy from people.  Our town had a big Halloween parade on the evening of the 31st, and everyone (families, college students, dogs, whatever) would get dressed up and march down Main Street in the dark to the firehouse, then disburse into the surrounding streets. It was always cold that night, and our parents made us wear winter coats over our costumes even though cats/angels/princesses obviously don't wear puffy jackets.  The best part (besides the candy and the dressing-up) was that my mom let my sister and I wear makeup to go with our costumes.  (This is a big reason that I was a fortune-teller for so many years: they have to wear lots of makeup.) The smell of certain lipsticks still makes me think of Halloween.

I've never enjoyed the holiday as an adult, though.  I like the idea of a Day of the Dead, but the grown-up, American version of the holiday seems to center around (1) violence (blood and gore, dismemberment, brain-gobbling zombies) and (2) skimpy outfits for women (sexy nurse, sexy pirate, etc).  Ugh.  Where is the creativity?  The way I feel about Halloween is the way many people feel about Valentine's Day: it's too commercialized.  I mean, entire stores go up for Halloween.  Even V-day isn't that bad.

So how did I, the Halloween Grinch (or Halloweenie, as a friend dubbed me), celebrate this year? I went back to the holiday's historical roots.  If Wikipedia is to be believed, the Jack-o'-Lantern of legend was a wandering soul who carried a carved turnip lit by an ember.  So we carved dracula turnips and hung them in the window.  Between that and our real live black cat, I think we did the holiday justice.

Maybe next year I'll find a candy-dispensing house to borrow.