The Return of Finnish Christmas Cookies!

Yes, this video has become an annual holiday tradition. Here’s your step by step guide to making the delicious Joulutortut (I know, I know. But that’s how my mom spells them on the recipe she gave me, so I’m sticking with it.)

Enjoy and hyvää joulua!


Your Body, Their Opinions


This may seem a bit self-centered (don’t look at me like that–you’re reading my blog–what did you expect?) But it’s impossible to read the news today, rife with lurid allegations of harassment, molestation, rape and unfair balance of power, without thinking about my own body, and the men who have tried to lay claim to it.

But not quite in the way you think.

I’m not talking about the men who have harassed me, catcalled me or rammed their hard dick up against my ass on a crowded subway. Because honestly, when it comes to #MeToo, I consider myself pretty fortunate. I’ve taken risks. I’ve walked home later at night than I should have, more intoxicated than I should have been. I’ve invited guys back to my apartment…just to talk and have a glass of wine. Yeah. Can you imagine? (Well, those of you who know me don’t find this hard to believe. You know damn well that cocktail conversation is my favorite sport.)

Sure, these guys leaned in for a kiss. But when I firmly said no (and okay, it may have been on the 2nd or 3rd attempt) they just poured another glass of wine and we kept talking. (Actually, it’s more likely that I did the talking.)

Point is: was it pure luck that I chose men who respected my decisions? Am I just a good judge of character? Would it have gone down differently on another night, if he were in a different mood? I honestly don’t know.

So what I’m talking about now is men thinking they have the right to weigh in on women’s decisions…for our own good. There’s a GOP lawmaker in Wisconsin who thinks women have a patriotic obligation to give birth, to keep the tax revenue flowing. (This puts a whole new spin on the old “Uncle Sam Wants You!” poster.) There are men who want to deny us birth control, and a judge in Michigan who believes rapists have parental rights.

I’ve had men tell me what not to wear: “No long flowy skirts! Those are for fat chicks. I don’t want people to think I’m dating a fat chick.” Or “Why do you wear those stupid shoes? Guys don’t like those.” Or “For fuck’s sake don’t even think about wearing that dress. You look like a whore!”

I’ve had a guy tell me that I could not write anything “too provocative” when we got married (p.s. we never did and I write whatever the hell I want) and a guy who coerced me into the kitchen to teach me how to cook. Not because he thought I’d be good at it, but because he thought it was embarrassing to my mother that I didn’t know how. “What kind of a mother doesn’t teach her daughter how to cook?”

I never said, “One who works 8-hours a day and likes the relaxation of being in the kitchen by herself, no one bugging her for an hour, putting on some music and collecting her thoughts as she makes dinner for her family.” But I wish I had.

The next time the opportunity arose, I took it. When I went to university at Richmond College in England, my dorm was in an old monastery. It was actually pretty cool, but boys were not allowed after a certain point in the evening. This was for our protection. The same restrictions were not put on boy’s dorms. (What a surprise!) So, I routinely went over to one particular dorm by the Thames, and wouldn’t return to mine until around two or three in the morning.

There was an old man who was a security guard at the front. The first few times I came rolling in, he’d just give me a nasty look. Then one morning he finally he said, “Your mum would be very ashamed of you, coming in all hours of the night, doing who knows what.”

I looked him straight in the eye and said, “You don’t know my mother.”

And this was true. The next time I spoke to her on the phone, it must have been clear that I was enjoying my college freedom. She said to me in her Finnish accent, “Saara, kulta, tell me something. Have you taken a lover?”


Prom Night Detention: THE VIDEO!

For those of you who didn’t show up for Prom Night Detention (and I’ve got my eye on you!) here’s a taste of what you missed. This vignette was pretty much our only choice once we realized the batteries in the camera ran out half-way through the show. Yeah yeah. Making lemonade out of lemons. That’s too much work. Here’s to slicing them up and putting them in your gin and tonic…

Prom Night Detention: A John Hughes Revamp

prom night detention

Calling all righteous dudes, dweebs and oily bohunks! Prom Night Detention is the show for anyone who thought Andie should have kissed Duckie, wished Ferris Bueller had been caught by the principal and wondered what happened to Long Duk Dong after his hangover cleared up. Four writers (Michael Maiello, Peter Olson, Christina Fitzpatrick and Saara Dutton) are rewriting and performing the last 5 minutes of four John Hughes ’80s teen movies. Plus: get your Prom photo taken and enter the Molly Ringwald dance off, where you can win “All the Stuff We Found In the Glove Compartment Of Cameron’s Dad’s Ferrari”. It will be sorta social. Demented and sad, but social.

VENUE: Parkside Lounge
DATE: Friday, September 8th
TIME: 8pm
PRICE: 5 dollars
ADDRESS: 317 E Houston St at Attorney St.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t look around…you might miss this show. See you there!


Listening To A Familiar Language


It was a snowy December, and I found myself sitting at my Aunt AnnaLiisa’s table in Finland, enjoying delicious pulla ja kahvia while the Finns spoke. I knew enough Finnish to order food at a café or take public transport, but not enough to converse with my family. (Or anyone, for that matter.) Still, I managed to understand by listening: to the intonation, the sighs, the unspoken cues, the different ways one word, joo, can be delivered. It can be delivered with surprise, “JOO!” With concern, “Joo….” With humor “Jooooooo!” With disgust, “joo.” I love the wonderful staccato sound of the language. Some people appreciate the pretty, lilting sound of French or the rich, joyous sound of Italian. That’s fine. But give me the soothing, practical, rat-a-tat-tat of Finnish any day.

Tämä lintu istuu vanha puu.

(That means, “This bird is sitting in that old tree.”)

After a burst of laughter, my Aunt turned to me and said in broken English, “Saara, we talk of who is best in our family. Best in different things. Your mother has best memory. Antti is best to make us laugh. How are you best?” I took a sip of kahvia and said, “I’m the best listener.”

There was more laughter as AnnaLiisa said, “You don’t have a choice!”

And I guess I never did. Finnish is the language I listened to in the womb as my mother told me to come out early because she wanted a Pisces, not an Aries. (I was obedient—but just barely. March 19th, yo!) The hymns she sang in the shower were Finnish. The swear words she snarled when she and my father divorced were most definitely Finnish.


But she did not speak Finnish to me when I was growing up. Sure, she taught me how to say The Lord’s Prayer (God’s nationality was up for grabs, so why not speak to Him in his native tongue?) the names of the suits in a deck of cards, and how to count to 10. (I assume that’s because gambling, much like God’s nationality, also involves chance.)

Point is, Finnish wasn’t spoken in the house. I only heard it on the rare occasions she made a long-distance call to my grandmother or my aunt, or when she visited Finnish friends. The way she saw it, she’d moved to America at age 24 with 264 dollars in her back pocket, speaking three words of English. So it was very important that I did well at school. She did not want to disappoint this country after they’d taken a chance on her. She didn’t realize that kids can learn many languages. Kids listen without judgement. Maybe when we lose that quality is when we become adults. As for my mother, even though her English skills weren’t stellar, she’d only agreed to go on a date with my dad after demanding he send her a letter. She needed to know his English was proper.

Since my mother didn’t teach me Finnish, my grandmother, my Mummi, at age 72, would get on her push sled and glide through the streets of her little village of Lapua to take English lessons, just for me, her only English speaking grandchild. It wasn’t easy. But each time I saw her, she would point to the kitchen table, pour me some kahvia and I knew it was time for her to practice. We talked about the weather, mostly. And how nice it was to see each other. I loved the pretty sound of her voice as she carefully chose the English words she had learned for me.

The last time I ever saw my Mummi was during that snowy December. With our heavy coats, we went outside to wait for my mother and aunt. We were going to visit another relative. More pulla. More kahvia. More Finnish conversations. It was very quiet as we waited. Then Mummi pulled me close. Very slowly she said, “Saara, I. LOVE. YOU.” And so we smiled and hugged each other as we listened to the snow falling all around us.

The Graffiti Gallery of St. Pete: Part 2


A couple years back I was in sublime downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, enjoying the incredibly cool graffiti under the balmy sun. I took some photos which you can find here: The Graffiti Gallery of St. Petersburg, FL. Well, I just returned from another trip and this kick ass street art has spread further throughout the city. It’s fantastic! The colors are more vibrant, the themes are more bold. You should check it out for yourself. But until then, check out my new photos!


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Notes on David Brooks’ Gourmet Sandwich Class Struggle

The Earl of Sandwich

If you haven’t read this insane, absurd, pretentious, highly embarrassing paragraph “sandwiched” inside David Brooks’ New York Times critique on American class stratification, enjoy:


Okay. My thoughts…

  1. First off…why does this paragraph read like some third rate Tom Clancy-style airport novel? Who knew ordering a sandwich could be charged with such frisson, fraught with such peril? I’m surprised they didn’t “flee through the chaotic streets, hearts pounding, eyes crazed with fear, to the safety of the Taco Bell.” I’m surprised fruit carts weren’t overturned and panes of glass weren’t shattered.
  2. Writing techniques aside, it seems to me that in order to avoid this type of mealtime panic, steps must be taken. When we meet up with our friends now, it will require a much more academic line of questioning. No more asking “Do you like sushi?” or “Are you a Vegan?” Forget about gluten issues. The main issue is: “Did you go to an Ivy League or a Seven Sisters school?” We cannot risk someone freaking out like a dog in a thunderstorm upon catching a glimpse of a menu riddled with foreign words. No need to endure that uncomfortable moment when a friend can’t pronounce their appetizer. Indeed, today’s polite mindfulness requires that we size our friends up thusly: “No, I will not meet you at the cute Vietnamese restaurant in my neighborhood. You, with your middling education, would be so much more comfortable screaming your order into a clown’s mouth at the drive-thru.”
  3. Of course, if we have to be “sensitive” to our friends who did not pursue a college education, what about people like me? What kind of a culinary landmine am I, a person who spent the first half of my higher education at a private University in London, and the second half at a lowly state school in New Orleans? Imagine the conundrum David Brooks would have. The hours of agony, pondering if I could be trusted not to “freeze up” when “confronted” with Italian deli meats.

Well, be careful out there, diners. Mind your manners, elbows off the table and above all: don’t subject unassuming friends to the horror of a gourmet sandwich if they have not been sufficiently educated first.