Buongiorno! I’m writing my next (and far overdue) entry from a bed and breakfast Pisa, Italy. I feel like I haven’t had a second to sit down and think for the past month and a bit; which I guess is a good thing because it means I’ve been busy and enjoying my time. Since late November, I’ve had a constant steam of guests, travel, and get-togethers in addition to daily hockey practice and games.
Being one of the two Americans on my team, I wanted to share the tradition of Thanksgiving and stuffing yourself with turkey and gravy at 3 in the afternoon with my teammates, of which only a few who have lived in the US have experienced. Conveniently, my mum arrived at the end of November to visit and was more than happy to help me prepare the meal. We had a game on a Sunday afternoon, and I had a few of the girls over afterwards to the hockey villa. My mom, roommate and I threw together a 6-dish typical thanksgiving dinner in about an hour and a half. Pretty impressive given the time frame, limited ingredients and metric measuring devices which we still have not completely figured out. We did manage to find some typical Thanksgiving staples in our local grocery store’s "American" section — StoveTop stuffing, cranberry sauce and canned pumpkin pie filling. These went a long way as far as convenience and authenticity.
We served the meal buffet style and then had everyone go around the table and say what they were thankful for — the best answer was my brother’s (who came to visit with my mum) – who said he was thankful for me which has allowed him to travel more 🙂 Overall, I think the Swedish girls were pretty impressed with the meal, and intrigued most by the pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole, both of which they’d never had. I’m pretty sure I succeeded in giving them a real American experience; one of the girls said after her second helping, "I’m not eating for a week".
Our last game before the holiday break was December 19. Segeltorps usually has a team Christmas party before everyone leaves for the break, so one of the girls and I organized a get-together at the hockey villa after practice on a Saturday. Each of the players brought a dish to share, so we ended up with a huge smorg of typical Scandinavian Christmas foods. My favorite were this baked potato dish made with cream and smoked/pickled fish (made by of the the girls’ grandmother); julbröd, which is a type of dark bread available only during the holidays and has a cinnamon undertone; and of course Swedish meatballs, which everyone buys prepared from the store but are still amazing. Swedes don’t usually have the overload of Christmas desserts like cookies and pies that we’re used to in North America, but rather make Christmas candies. The sister of one of the girls on our team is in pastry school, so she made Swedish Christmas candies — a caramel and nut one and then a chocolate/rocky road type one. After the meal we did a gift exchange between players. One of the really unique things I liked from the gift exchange was the tradition to write a small rhyme or poem on the card of the gift you give. Usually done for more meaningful gifts, the person giving the gift makes up a poem about the gift they are giving – sometimes a hint at what it is or just something clever about the recipient of the gift. Only a few of the girls wrote poems, but those who received one read them aloud before opening their gift. It definitely gave the gift a more personal meaning and also made it more interactive for the whole group, not just the one receiving the gift. Many of the girls were going away for a few weeks over the holidays, so it was fun to have everyone together once before the break.
I was one of those going away as well; my dad arrived in Stockholm on December 17, got to see one game, and then he and I left for Italy on the 19th. I’ve been very lucky to have the time and resources to travel while I am in Europe and I enjoy so much seeing the culture and people of different parts of the world. Thus far in our trip, we have been to Florence and Pisa, Italy. We’ll be in Rome for Christmas, southern Italy, and then Greece for a few days.
I’m trying to keep up a fairly intense off-ice training schedule while I’m away, trying to not eat too many dishes of pasta, and more than anything enjoy the experience. I’m already missing the girls and looking forward to getting back to Sweden.
Ciao for now,