Norway – Kitten Cuddler

Raid and Pillage

The Vikings have a badass reputation and frankly, it’s well deserved. Many of these figures, hailing from Scandinavia and particularly Norway, have rap sheets that would make a writer for Game of Thrones light up, as it opens new doors to wrath and associated violence. Let’s take a look at the exploits of some of the greatest Vikings:

Erik the Red

Erik the Red’s early life was built around repeatedly being exiled after committing murder. Therefore, he created his own Viking colony on what is now Greenland, which he also discovered. There, Erik the Red was free to do whatever he wanted. Although bloodshed is largely associated with Erik, his nickname ‘The Red’ more likely referred to his hair and beard. He was father to other Viking notables, explorer Leif Eriksson and warrior princess (not Xena) Freydis Eriksdottir.

Vikings-Give Up

Ragnar Lodbrok

In order to prove he was a badass to a princess, Lodbrok demolished a horde of invading poisonous snakes. Karma caught up to him eventually, though, as he was executed by being thrown into a pit of serpents. Although Lodbrok’s actual existence has been questioned, he was said to be father to other legendary Vikings, including Björn Ironside, Halfdan Ragnarsson, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Ivar Ragnarsson.

Ivar Ragnarsson

Speaking of the devil, Ivar was a ruthless warrior who used captured kings as playthings, expending them for target practice and other horrific executions. Ivar’s nickname, ‘The Boneless,’ was thought to refer to anything from an ailment causing his bones to break easily, to being impotent, to being incredibly flexible. Regardless, Ivar ruled parts of what is now Denmark and Sweden, as well as Dublin.

Leif Eriksson

Eriksson is most notable for discovering North America (500 years before Christopher Columbus), although the finding was likely accidental. He had meant to return to Norway, but his ship was blown off course towards modern day Canada. Eriksson was more of an explorer and not a Viking in the classic raid and pillage sense. He was said to be quite intelligent, while also possessing the strong frame of a typical Viking. The U.S. even celebrates Leif Eriksson Day every October 9th!

Vikings Pillaged

Eric Haraldsson

Eric had a thirst for blood and power, even killing his own brothers to become King of Norway. This earned him the moniker, Eric Bloodaxe. His reign over the Norwegian kingdom was short-lived, however, as one remaining broski returned and overthrew Eric, who had angered many of the nobility with his ruling tactics. Eric turned his attention to Northumbria and became king there, before dying in battle.

Sweyn Forkbeard

Forkbeard first came to prominence by going to war with his own father and emerging as the King of Denmark, upon being victorious. Following that, it seemed he held a major grudge against England, attacking them repeatedly over the rest of his life and even ruling the realm for a time. His anger towards England was thought to be based on his sister dying during the kingdom’s massacre of Danish citizens. Forkbeard also invaded Norway and divided up the country with his allies.

Vikings Fight

Harald Hardrada

While exiled from Norway, Hardrada became leader of the Byzantine emperor’s Varangian Guard. When he returned to Norway, he fought to become king. Hardrada means “Hard Ruler,” a name he received for his constant wars and harsh reign. Hardrada believed he had a claim to the throne of England, upon the death of that king, and died in battle, after being shot in the throat with an arrow, trying to make good on his perceived right.

Egil Skallagrimsson

Skallagrimsson was both a warrior and a poet, covering every aspect that makes a lady swoon (not to mention the namesake of an Icelandic brewery!). He is said to have written his first works at the young age of three, but also killed for the first time at seven years old. When the Norwegian king grew tired of Skallagrimsson’s exploits, he was exiled and began his years of terror, amassing a fortune and high kill count. He even murdered the slave who helped him bury his treasure.

Norway: Kitten Cuddler

Kitten Cuddler Cocktail

  • 1 oz Vodka
  • 1 oz Crème de Bananes
  • 0.5 oz Cloudberry Liqueur
  • Top with Lemon-Lime Soda
  • Splash of Apple Juice
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Grenadine
  • Garnish with a Lemon Wedge

I wonder what my Viking nickname would have been. I’m thinking Word Whisperer sounds alright, but I’d hope my contemporaries would incorporate my legendary boozing into the moniker and call me something like Liquor Leviathan!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (5 Sips out of 5):
Cloudberry Liqueur is made from berries found in Norway. This is quite the complex recipe, but it is totally worth the intricate construction. I think the cocktail name is quite funny in contrast to the article it’s combined with… kitten cuddlers and raiding and pillaging Vikings don’t really go hand-in-hand. I topped this cocktail with my Bols Banana Liqueur foam and it was a perfect touch to the drink.

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Sweden – Unforgettable Night

Prize Fights

Nobel Prizes are awarded in six fields: Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, Economic Sciences, none of which the Sip Advisor excels in, but I’ve made peace with my shortcomings, even if all you little sippers have not. The host country for the ceremony is Sweden (home to prize creator Alfred Nobel), except for the Peace Prize which is presented in Norway. Nobel, also the inventor of dynamite, is said to have created the awards to leave a better legacy after his condemnable obituary was accidentally printed in France (nothing good ever comes out of there!) following the death of his brother. Let’s take a look at the awards and see if Nobel’s image has indeed been altered:

Alfred Nobel

The first awards ceremony took place in 1901, five years after Nobel passed away… for reals this time. Since then, the event is held annually on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death. Prizes don’t have to be handed out each year for every category, but each award must be tendered at a minimum of every five years. Throughout World War II (1939-43), no Nobel Prize events were held.

Nobel wrote the final draft of his will, including the Nobel Prize request on a torn piece of paper. The process was witnessed by four associates, as Nobel didn’t trust lawyers… I can’t really blame him given Mrs. Sip is one and I sleep with one eye open every night! Also, Nobel never bothered to ask any of the bodies he expected to govern the awards, whether this was something they were cool with. Nobel’s family contested the will after finding out they were shit out of luck and the cash would go towards awards for strangers. Clearly, the appeals did not work out.

There are anywhere between 100-250 nominees for each category. A person who has died can’t be nominated and will also be removed from contention if they pass away during the consideration process. If a person was selected as a winner before expiring, they are still eligible to win posthumously that year. A maximum of three people can win any one award.

Scarecrow Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize consists of a medal, a personal diploma and money. The financial award comes from interest from Nobel’s estate (and varies each year), which is looked after by the Nobel Foundation. Prize winners are called laureates… another title you will never see beside the Sip Advisor’s name… although I’m still working on that Chemistry award with Mrs. Sip! Apparently, the cash awarded in 2013 was $1.2 million US per prize. Damn, Mrs. Sip and I really need to get that chemistry diorama finished!

While most of the prizes are well-deserved, some have been followed by protest, particularly over the Peace Prize. Some of the most controversial prize recipients include Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, who were awarded the Peace Prize in 1973 for negotiating a ceasefire between North Vietnam and the U.S., although both nations were still hostile towards one another. Similarly, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin were handed the 1994 Peace Prize following their efforts towards harmony between Israel and Palestine, but many issues remained unsettled between the two nations. Lastly, Barack Obama’s 2009 Peace Price was controversial in that he had only been in office for 11 days when nominations closed. Obama went on to say that he was undeserving of the award.

Not every Nobel Prize winner has accepted the honour. Jean-Paul Sartre refused the Literature Award in 1964, sticking with his credo to not accept any official honours (but unofficial ones were okay) and the previously mentioned Le Duc Tho declined that controversial 1973 Peace Prize, given the ongoing strife in Vietnam.

Nobel Peace Prize

As of the 2013 ceremonies, there have been 561 Nobel Prizes awarded to 876 recipients. Only 45 of those winners have been women. The youngest recipient ever was Lawrence Bragg (1915) for physics, at the age of 25, although he did win with his father (there’s nothing like riding someone else’s coattails). The oldest was Leonid Hurwicz (2007) for economic sciences, at the ripe age of 90. The Red Cross has won three separate times (1917, 1944 and 1963). Linus Pauling and Marie Curie each won two Nobel Prizes in different categories, while John Bardeen and Frederick Sanger received two prizes in the same discipline.

Inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla never won Nobel Prizes. They were offered a joint prize, but the committee quickly rescinded the offer upon realizing that the two competitors despised one another and refused to be anywhere near each other. The same goes for Mrs. Sip and I, but I’m pretty sure the prize money would be enough of a draw for us to put aside our differences for one night.

Antonio Moniz was awarded the Medicine Prize in 1949 for his work involving prefrontal lobotomies as a treatment for schizophrenia. The practice was abolished in the 1960’s and is now looked upon with much criticism. A similar Medicine Prize debacle (retrospectively) occurred in 1926 when Johannes Fibiger received the award for “finding a cure for cancer.” It’s truly too bad that didn’t work out as well as hoped or expected.

Women Nobel Prize

When Robert E. Lucas won the Economics Prize in 1997 for his theory of rational expectations, his ex-wife was perhaps happier than he was. Her lawyer had actually written a clause into their divorce settlement for such an occasion and Lucas was forced to share his $1 million award with her. He may have been a prize-winning economist, but he clearly wasn’t good with contracts.

We’ll end things off with this little factoid, before retiring to the post-awards gala for nibbles and drinks: Oddly enough, eight different Nobel Prize recipients were born on February 28th. I think the fix is in!

Sweden: Unforgettable Night

Unforgettable Night Martini

  • 2 oz Absolut Vodka
  • 0.5 oz Chocolate Liqueur
  • Top with Coconut Milk
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Dash of Hot Sauce
  • Garnish with a Lime Wedge and Coconut

Mrs. Sip and I, along with members of the Sip Syndicate visited the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden and had a great time learning about the history of the awards and many of the recipients. I’ll be back one day to accept my long-awaited prize… or, at the very least, to steal one!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
When searching for a drink to combine with this post, I stumbled upon this incredibly interesting recipe (Coconut Milk, Lime Juice and Hot Sauce!) that had the perfect name to suit the article. I was very curious going in about how this would taste and it was pretty decent with a bit of flame at the end. The Lime Juice caused some slight curdling, but not enough to disgust the drinker.

Sweden – Hunky Dory

Home Furnishings

Recent ads for IKEA used the slogan “Home is the most important place in the world.” Mrs. Sip and I, however, maintain that the company’s motto should really be “Ruining relationships since… like, forever!” Yes, if you’ve ever survived building any IKEA item with your loved one, then you are, in fact, a special couple, with the strength to overcome any and all adversity. Around the world, IKEA is one of the most recognized Swedish imports, but what do we really know about this furniture and accessory outlet? Let’s dig a little deeper:

Ikea Slogan

IKEA was founded by Ingvar Kamprad, with the name coming from his initials (I.K.), along with the farm in which he grew up on (Elmtaryd) and its nearby village (Agunnaryd). The company was incorporated in 1943 and marketed its first piece of build-it-yourself furniture in 1956, with the LOVET, a leaf-shaped side table. There are now 349 stores located throughout 43 countries.

More copies of the IKEA catalogue are printed each year than the Bible. In fact, 212 million copies of the catalogue, more than double the 100 million Bibles, are manufactured. The register comes in 29 different languages and has gained a cult following of sorts, with people able to pick out interesting hidden items within its pages. Some concealed images include odd books making up the shelving units on display, references to Mickey Mouse, and pictures of cats.

IKEA’s 2013 revenue was disclosed as being $37.9 billion (US) and since the company is actually owned by charities established by Kamprad, much of that money isn’t lost to the greedy government via taxes. The INGKA Foundation, which oversees the IKEA brand, is thought to be the world’s largest charitable organization, promoting “innovations in architecture and interior design”. While some decry that this is all a tax evasion strategy, it should be pointed out that the INGKA Foundation gives away millions of dollars each year to various causes and efforts. Granted, that pales in comparison to other efforts, particularly the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which donations measure into the billions.

returning-ikea

The company employs 150,000 people worldwide. While Disney has its ‘Cast Members,’ IKEA has ‘Co-Workers,’ which really doesn’t sound all that special. It would be much more awesome if employees were collectively known as ‘Swedish Meatballs!’

IKEA’s most popular product today is the Billy Bookcase, which it sells hundreds of thousands of each year. It’s estimated that one of these bookcases is sold every 10 seconds.

Products are named under specific guidelines including Swedish places for upholstered furniture; Swedish men’s names for chairs; Swedish women’s names for fabrics and curtains; Swedish islands for garden furniture; Finnish places for dining tables and chairs; Norwegian places for beds, wardrobes and hall furniture; and mammals and birds for children’s items. Approximately 85% of the items you find in your own IKEA could be located at any IKEA around the world, while the IKEA website contains 12,000 products and is the most comprehensive source for available pieces.

stool_samples

The way IKEA names products has resulted in some unintentional humour when the product arrives in other countries and is translated into the native language. There was the ‘Jerker’ computer desk, which went hand in hand (literally!) with the internet’s primary use; the ‘Fukta’ plant spray; the ‘Fartfull’ workbench (frankfully you should be able to do whatever you want in your own workshop!); and the Askholmen outdoor suite.

IKEA is nearly as famous for its cheap concession food as it is for furniture. Kamprad opened his first restaurant inside a store in 1960, after realizing people left the store without buying anything because they were hungry. Since then, IKEA has sold an untold number of hotdogs, meatballs, and breakfast meals.

While IKEA seems to be a decent company, they’ve also experienced their fair share of controversies. A teenage Kamprad was once involved with a pro-Nazi movement in Sweden, although the IKEA founder calls it the “greatest mistake of my life”. Three people were trampled to death at a store opening in Saudi Arabia over $150 vouchers being handed out (and I thought the Saudi’s were all wealthy princes). In Atlanta, Georgia, historic building were demolished to make way for a IKEA store and in similar fashion, ancient tombs in Nanjing, China were destroyed for another store opening.

ikea fight

It’s estimated that 10% of all Europeans were conceived on an IKEA bed. I know I’ve slept in one, sans conception (not for my lack of trying, of course), and given their popularity among college and university students, you can bet that number will drastically rise over the years.

IKEA was the first company to feature a homosexual couple in one of their ads (targeting the community much more frequently since) and has also compiled commercial material depicting a transgendered person.

If you’re a fan of The Sims video game series, you can actually purchase IKEA furnishings for your virtual family. Lucky for them, they don’t have to put the furniture together, although it would be hilarious to watch your simulated humans get as frustrated as you’ve been. It’s always better when it’s someone else’s misery!

Sweden: Hunky Dory

Hunky Dory Cocktail

  • 1 oz Absolut Vodka
  • 1 oz Galliano
  • Top with Sprite
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Garnish with a Lime Wheel

While IKEA served a purpose for Mrs. Sip and myself as we went through our schooling and settled into our first home together, I’m happy to say that the cursed furniture won’t be making any more appearances around the Sip Advisor offices for the foreseeable future. Perhaps when we have to furnish the place for our own little sippers, then we may go that route, but for now, we’re both happy to not be dealing with the make-your-own products.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
This drink wasn’t bad, but Mrs. Sip had a better version of it at a nearby restaurant, Subeez Cafe, and their recipe didn’t outline exactly all the ingredients needed to make the full cocktail. I did my best, but admittedly, the eatery had me beat.

December 20 – Kiss Me Santa

Customary Christmas

There are some very interesting Christmas rituals performed around the world. Some are truly baffling to me, but if I lived in the part of the planet where they occur, they might seem completely normal. I’m not here to judge… but I will anyway! Here are some of the most unique holidays customs:

Pickled Tree – North America

This is a tradition that Ma Sip picked up from when we were on holiday years ago in Leavenworth, Washington. How it works is that you bury a pickle ornament somewhere in your tree and the person who first finds it Christmas morning is rewarded with good luck (and sometimes gets to crack open the first present of the day!) for the following year. The custom has been attributed to Germany, but is actually unheard of to many Germans. In actuality, it’s said to have developed in the United States.

christmas pickle

Roller Derby – Caracas, Venzuela

I love skating and it doesn’t matter if it’s on ice or pavement, so this tradition is right up my alley. On the morning of Christmas Eve, the streets on Venezuela’s capital city are closed off, allowing citizens to skate to morning mass. There is, however, one snag in this ritual… you have to go to church, which I view as one of the most uncomfortable settings in the entire world. I suppose I could just join the mob for a little skate and then ditch them when it’s religion time!

Burning Goat – Gavle, Sweden

It’s tradition in this Swedish town to construct a massive straw goat at the start of the Christmas season… but it’s even more of a tradition for the townspeople to do everything they can to destroy the goat before Christmas Day. Since 1966, the goat hasn’t survived many times, despite it being protected by fences and guarded by security and even military. The goat has been destroyed through various acts (fire, sabotage, hit by car) and once only lasted six hours before two drunk teenagers torched it.

Spider Chronicles – Ukraine

So, apparently the Ukraine got Christmas and Halloween mixed up, because it is tradition for them to include a fake spider and webbing in their Christmas trees. Spiders are good luck, you see… shame on all of you out there that didn’t already know that. Think of all the arachnids you’ve killed over your lifetime. That’s like smashing a mirror to a Ukrainian folk. Mrs. Sip has some Ukrainian in her, but given her fear of spiders – even itty, bitty ones – I don’t think she’s going to adopt this custom.

Spiderman Ornament

Not that Spider…

Night of the Living Radishes – Oaxaca, Mexico

Well, this certainly wouldn’t qualify as organic. In Oaxaca, residents grow massive radishes by any means necessary, for the purpose of carving them up into sculptures depicting the nativity scene, parties, famous figures, building models, and saints. Not being a fan of radishes, I’m all for an event that doesn’t require their consumption. The Dec. 23 ‘Night of the Radishes‘ is attended by thousands of people. The winner of the competition gets their photo in the newspaper and a lifetime supply of radishes (okay, only the newspaper photo is true!).

Love, Japanese Style – Japan (obviously!)

While us westerners are opening presents and spending quality time with family, in Japan, the holiday is treated similar to our Valentine’s Day. A Christmas dessert of strawberry sponge cake is quite popular, except single women of 25 years or older are referred to as “unsold Christmas cake”. It should also be noted that red Christmas cards are a definite no-no in the Land of the Rising Sun, as funeral notices are printed in that hue and can be cause for bad luck and shows poor etiquette.

Letters to Santa – Worldwide

I’ve already touched on Santa’s Canadian address (postal code H0 H0 H0) in my look at Christmas urban legends, and apparently we’re not alone with giving St. Nick free housing. In New Zealand he can be found at ‘Santa’s Workshop, The North Pole 0001’, while Australian children can reach him at ‘North Pole 9999’. Lastly, the United kingdom has provided the jolly fat man with the post code ‘SAN TA1’. This brings much awesomeness to the commonwealth!

Drink #254: Kiss Me Santa

Kiss Me Santa Drink Recipe

  • 1 oz Raspberry Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz Vodka
  • Top with Rose Champagne
  • Garnish with a Candy Cane

In closing, here’s one last interest custom that varies throughout the world and that involves Santa’s mode of transportation. Us normal folk claim that he rides a sleigh from house to house on Christmas Eve, but that story is quite different in other locales, where he is believe to travel via kangaroo (Australia), canoe (Hawaii), horse (Netherlands), and finally and most awesomely, by zipline from heaven (Czech Republic)!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
For this recipe, you have your choice of using Strawberry or Raspberry Liqueur. The champagne cocktail came across much stronger than I expected. The flavour was decent, but I’m still not a huge bubbly fan and as a result, there just wasn’t enough to bump this drink’s score up higher.