30 January, 2010

Goodies are good

Or, in Swedish, Godis är gott!

Its Saturday, and I thought ahead and bought a giant bag of candy yesterday, before all the little kids with their grubby little hands got a crack at the giant bins of loose candy. My favorites are these little black licorice tubes filled with pastel-colored sugar paste. I am fairly sure all my teeth are going to fall out before all the hairs on my head turn gray (which is happening faster than I would like to admit!)

Anyway, I am posting because its Saturday, and I was eating giant gummi coke bottles while listening to a weird and lovely Swedish song called Godis är gott, streamed from the very clever people at Sveriges Radio. A while back, they did an ABCs of some of the most important words/concepts in the Swedish language. Of those words, 'ABBA' made the cut, as did 'hockey' and 'lagom'! Its in English, and each is quite short...I highly recommend streaming a few. My favorite is 'K is for Kanske.' Seriously, listen to it to the end. The song is awesome, and gets stuck in my head every time. And you learn some pronunciation and some surprisingly interesting facts about Swedes, and Sweden. Did you know the Brits call turnips 'Swedes'? Hmmm...

But because its lördag, you should check this one out: G is for Godis

28 January, 2010

Guido van der Werve opening

Stu & I go to quite a few openings at galleries here in Stockholm. Like I mentioned, almost any Thursday, you can bet there is something going on arts-related, whether film, photography, contemporary art or music. And there is nearly always free wine, which is no small part of how I get Stu to accompany me.

I thought maybe once in a while it might be interesting to note what we've seen here. Maybe not a full-scale review, but it'd serve me to remember what artists we have checked out and what they were showing, and might be a change of scene for those less connected to Stockholm art happenings. And maybe a note of some upcoming, so that if you do live in Stockholm, you too can take advantage of free wine and culture. In the last week or two, we have been to several interesting shows, but last night is the one I remember most clearly, so thats the one you get here, today.

The spring season at Bonniers Konsthall opened last night. Its a relatively big konsthall, privately owned and funded by the mega-giant Bonniers publishing house. It is actually attached to the Bonniers building in Vasastan, so it is incredibly convenient for us. Their last show, Livsformer, was super, and I am sorry if you missed it.

Bonniers is doing a series of artists' films this spring, while a traditional exhibition will be hung in February. Last night's film was by Guido van der Werve, a Dutch film artist, called Nummer zes: Steinway grand piano, wake me up to go to sleep and all the colors of the rainbow. The artist was on hand last night to give an introductory talk, but we made it too late to get a decent seat or view or even really hear the guy. Next time.

But the film was really quite cool, if maybe confusing (especially since they just loop the film, and we popped into the theater right in the middle.) van der Werve shows a series of haunting, lonely shots of himself in various places, obviously deep in thought, recalling that he has lived his life surrounded in black & white. An inserted voice-over (in English) recounts the history of the Steinway & Sons piano business. I learned quite a bit about the music world's most respected piano company. For example, did you know that the company is responsible for over 100 hundred piano-related patents, some of which revolutionized the piano-making industry? After an interview on camera with a Steinway salesman (yes, it costs over 17.000 euros) the artist leaves with a different kind of resolution, like he has a mission.
You then watch in horror as a crane attempts to lift a giant, expensive-looking grand piano into an impossibly tiny Dutch window. The artist proceeds to cram an entire symphony orchestra, all with instruments, and an audience into the smallest apartment ever. Where they play Chopin. You then watch, again in agony, as a crane lifts the same giant, heavy, not cheap piano back out of the window and on the the street below. All that remains in his apartment is a rainbow through the window, and you see he got a little color in his life. Happy endings. Unless, of course, that piano was repossessed.

That film we be showing for the next 2 weeks, and another will take its place.

27 January, 2010

Learning Swedish

Its late January, and Stu & I have now lived in Sweden for almost 6 months. There are so many aspects we love that the stuff we don't is still somehow not that bad. I think we both feel we have found a good fit here, and though we miss a lot of things, we definitely think of Stockholm as "home." Looking ahead, we will both have shiny new master's degrees in spring 2011, and the plan so far is to apply for jobs at various locations in the US, in London (because I *loved* it) and, of course, in Stockholm. One of the biggest hurdles to our eventual job search here is the language.

We have had a lot of people ask how our Swedish is coming. Well, its, kind of, not. At the moment, anyway. When we decided in April 2009 that we would move to Sweden from DC, we bought the Rosetta Stone language program. I recommend it...pretty pictures, easy to understand, total immersion in the language. It helped with the basics and with pronunciation, putting us roughly on the level of a 3 or 4 year old (which sounds demeaning, but kids ain't no dummies!) If we see an uncommon word we learned on Rosetta Stone, the exact phrases we learned it in still comes back to us. Its a bit weird, actually.

So in getting here, I signed up for SFI, Swedish for Immigrants, which is offered for free to nearly anyone. The government used to pay immigrants to take Swedish classes, and though they stopped that a while ago, I read that they tweaked the system and are piloting a version of the pay-for-learning plan in a few places, including Stockholm. I am not sure I'd qualify, but I'm sure I'd do it if I they threw a little money at me! I didn't start until late October, and only lasted until December. It wasn't terrible; they were educated, smart people taking the class with me, and it was nice to have nothing but Swedish spoken at me for a solid 3 hours. But it wasn't great, and after two months, I didn't feel like I learned all that much. Not to mention, all the art galleries in Stockholm hold their opening parties on Thursday nights, and I was either missing the openings or the class once per week. So it just didn't work out for me. And I have taken a month or so off from active Swedish learning.

But next week is when it all starts up again! Stu and I are paying to take a course at a local school together, once per week. It promises to have only a few students, and we took a placement test that will put us with other people on our level. Thankfully, we placed higher than total beginners! I would have been a little embarrassed otherwise. At once per week, we aren't going to become fluent anytime soon, but I might feel a little more comfortable talking to the grocery cashiers, and maybe later step up to the next course. I'm taking a beginner class at Stockholm University, mostly just to get more class time with professional professors (as opposed to the not-so-professional SFI professors.) And because it is for school credit, there is a bit more incentive to go to class and to do well. I think I'd also like a "language buddy" or something, too. A Swede that could get together for an hour or so a week to just practice the everyday phrases, etc. I could pay in cookies. Once I learn how to bake them here, that is. Or maybe Swedish pancakes. They are at least supposed to be super thin.

I was chatting today with Patti, a friend who just moved with her bf (and Stu's best friend) to Utrecht a week or so ago, and they are facing some of the same issues we did when we first got here...starting a new life, settling in, finding things, communicating with the locals, learning Dutch. I guess that is why I started writing this post. To acknowledge that its been 6 months! It feels like so long ago, but we definitely feel settled in Sweden. Even if we aren't fluent in Swedish (yet).

Oh, shameless plug, Patti just started a blog to keep up with everyone: http://goedgouda.blogspot.com/

25 January, 2010

Maybe we need some color

It occurred to me that we haven't been taking many pictures lately. We took so many while traveling...maybe Stockholm got boring in comparison? Its certainly more monochromatic. Nah, I know I have *seen* things that are picture-worthy, I just haven't had the camera with me. And come on, I am not really that interesting...the blog is just better when there are pictures. So I am using what we did this weekend as an excuse to steal a bunch from the web. With a little more color.

We went over to our friends' place for dinner Friday, and while they impressed us with filet mignon, and fancy salad and two different kinds of risotto, I brought chocolate glop. It was supposed to be brownie pudding, but it didn't set, and it turned out to be mostly pudding goo. It tasted like heaven, but turned out looking nothing like this:

Aaaaaaand I still suck at baking in Stockholm.

We stayed out too late Friday and slept in too late Saturday, and missed the few hours of sun in the day. Story of my life. But in the afternoon, we went out to an opening at Magasin 3, a contemporary art space in Stockholm. The curators there are huge supporters of my grad school program, so it feels a little like kissing up by going to the openings, but then again, they show some really great art! The current exhibition is "Always in a Spiral" by Maria Nepomuceno:

She creates these Dr. Seuss-like woven constructions, using rope and pearls and whatever else. They feel very organic and some look almost phallic or yonic, but since they are so super colorful and fun, you just wanted to lie on them like a hammock. We got the chance to meet the artist on Saturday (which is a privilege you get surprisingly often in Stockholm...galleries really support the artist meeting the audience!) and she was very nice. There is an interesting little video showing the installation and more pieces on the M3 website here.

Art sometimes makes me sleepy and hungry, and I think my body is now set to Swedish fika time. So when out for coffee, we also got our first semlor of the season. I feel like maybe the semla bun should have its own dedicated blog post, they are so good. Or maybe its own dedicated blog.

Because Lent is a time of self-denial, these only seem to come out in the weeks before Fat Tuesday. You can see why. Basically, its a sweet cardamom bun filled with almond paste and topped with whipped cream, and when you've finished the entire thing in 12 seconds flat, you want to order another. And then another.

Okay, so more pictures, of the non-hunger-inducing variety. We finally saw Avatar this weekend. It was pretty. It made you think. However, I liked the Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus far more. Go see them both.

And Sunday, there was sun, and we actually got out to enjoy it! We walked to the Medeltidsmuseum, the medieval Stockholm museum, on the day it re-opened after a lengthy re-furb. Its built into a bridge in front of the castle, the oldest bridge in the city, in fact. The Norrbro:

I realize this is NOT in color, but what a cool image of the North Bridge from the 1840s!

They had the bridge closed while they reinforced it, so we hadn't even gotten the chance to stand on it until this past weekend. Saturday, the Crown Princess Victoria laid the final stone:

More photos of that here.

The medieval museum was packed with people, even people so hardcore they got dressed up in renaissance clothing for the opening. And I was struck that it had so much more information in English than most Stockholm museums. So we learned, too. We learned that we would never want to live in medieval Stockholm.

And I actually took this last one, a shot from the Norrbro over the river...in our most familiar color palette.

First wipe-out of the season

I managed to make it *almost* to February before falling on my ass in the snow.

But my awesome-balance-and-coordination streak came to an end while going up to migrationsverket this morning, in Solna, a suburb of Stockholm. Just across the street from the office, at about 9:30am. And after wiping out on the ice sideways, I had an hour and 45 minutes of avoiding sitting on my right butt cheek while a bruise was inevitably blossoming, while I waited for my number to be called. But I now have an up-to-date student visa.

And I still got a terrible picture in my passport!

22 January, 2010

Student unions and frostbite

While I was waiting for the Barefoot Contessa brownie pudding recipe to bake (it turned out delicious, though a little underdone in our stupid oven) I was catching up on a few things that have escaped me this week while writing my exam. Like my email, my to-do list, the news (though don't get me started on US news. Really, Massachusetts? The "This is my truck" guy?)

And bills. I just got a new one for my mandatory student union fees for this semester. In Sweden, everyone must join (and pay for) their respective student union (I know, you probably didn't need me to spell out what 'mandatory' means. It was for emphasis.) The first time around, it was about 450:-something, so just over $60. This semester, its slightly cheaper at 330:-. I go to a state school, so its a little higher than Stu's mandatory fees because SSE gets an insane amount of private support from all the savvy businessmen/women it churns out.

They recently decided that starting next year, student unions would not be mandatory. But you still need to join to get that card to get the student rate for the tunnelbana/subway card. They say the fees go to support student interests and to give us discounts on things like travel, campus eating and shopping. At my school, they hold weekly pubs with super cheap beer, but really, Stu & I feel a little too old to hang out with 19-year-olds chugging 20:- Carlsbergs and playing loud crappy dance music until 2am.

While I was contemplating paying my own student fees, I read about this girl, who is apparently really into her student union. So much so that she was doing cartwheels in the snow to celebrate it. In her underwear. And got frostbite. I don't think I have to spell this part out, but here goes anyway: Sweden is cold in January, and if you don't wear clothes when outside, bad things happen. Ok, so maybe you'd cartwheel in the snow if you won the lottery, or just found a bucketful of kittens (Stu suggested that last one.) But never in your underwear on a -13c day, and especially not over your student union. And come on, if its compulsory, its automatically not cool! It is interesting to note that Swedish teenagers do stupid things, too.

Anyway, I will pay my student union dues. And I'll probably pay it next year. While having full function and color in all fingers and toes. But I won't be doing cartwheels over joining anytime soon. I don't even know how to do a cartwheel...

Coming soon: complaining about taxes!

I just got official, finally! I just got my paperwork for a visa change...and can now legally work in this country. I had been on a residence visa as Stu's spouse (or, as I much prefer it in Swedish, Stu's fru.) You can't work on that thing, you can only "reside." I didn't bother to change my visa status to student back in August because it cost 1.000:-, we had just paid for it a few months prior, and I am insanely cheap. But we always planned to get at least part-time jobs while here, and that's probably going to have to happen sooner, rather than later. And then, I can officially start complaining about high Swedish tax rates (okay, I do that already...we pay 25% VAT!) Speaking of...our US W2's should be coming soon. That should be depressing.

So I just got the notice in the mail that I am all set to get a real job, aside from what promises to be a painful trip to the Immigration office to get the stamp in my passport! Good thing, too, because it was all in-process when we traveled to London, and we held up the lines leaving and coming while they scrutinized my passport. They are EU, but have different regulations, so the passport check IN Sweden was much more rigorous than when we visited Italy. Strange? Yes. And no, they didn't give two flips about Stu's passport.

Anyway, happy day! And I turned in an exam and did a presentation this morning (both went well) and now am finally done with the first semester of this graduate program. We are going to friends' house for dinner tonight, and I am in charge of wine and dessert. I am thinking something chocolate to celebrate!

21 January, 2010

An ending to museum education and the boots

I am doing a bit of procrastinating. Again. I have a final exam and presentation due tomorrow, and I feel like I have done nothing but write about engaging museum audiences for the last 4 days straight. This was a great class though. Very practical, and we met a ton of interesting people with interesting points of view on museum education in Sweden. It feels a little strange for me since the US has such a well-developed educational model, and many of our discussions surround the newness of the discipline in Swedish museums. But since my last job required being familiar with best practices for museum educators, I feel like I have a lot to say and compare to. Of course it means my exam has somehow bloated to about 11 pages so far, and I'm not quite done.

So procrastinating led to a long internet search for those Camper boots. Which became a little ridiculous, because they are just simple gray boots with buckles...I can probably find something similar in a different brand in Stockholm. And I have no job (aside from the one day a week nannying I have taken up again, but thats chump change) so I really shouldn't have my eye on expensive boots anyway.

But the obsessing paid off. And for $50 cheaper! Well, cheaper before you add in whatever it will cost to ship them to Sweden. I found them on Amazon.com, and they didn't do international. But I was so happy to see them in a size that will fit my feet, and I had to get them. Thank you, people of the US who offered to check your local Camper stores.

But victory aside, the procrastination continues. I am finding it very hard to concentrate with the 2 oafish Swedes yelling to each other and jumping up & down on my roof, knocking snow & ice from the eaves. When Jinni was here in December visiting, we spent a good half hour entranced by the guys knocking the snow & icicles off of the neighbors' roof (there might even be a video of the drama!) But when they are actually overhead, its not as exciting, and its insanely LOUD! Seriously, like a herd of elephants. The thermometer has not crawled above freezing in over a month, so that ice and snow is packed in. I might have to go watch some TV or something...

19 January, 2010

Casa Camper

Addendum: There is a Camper-designed hotel in Berlin...this bodes well for my search.

The boots.

We just got back from London late Sunday. Technically, early Monday, because no surprise, RyanAir was delayed again, and the Stockholm subway closes by 1am, so we walked home. We are only 15 minutes from the city terminal, but after walking for 2 days straight in London, we were exhausted and transitioning to Stockholm's icy streets was hard.

But what a great city! We got so many fantastic recommendations, and we couldn't fit them all in to the long weekend. So we have to go back soon. As in really soon, because I loved being there. Aside from the obvious fact that we understood the language, and London is both charming and hip and jam-packed with stuff to see & do, it was cheap to eat out. Yes, that is correct, London is CHEAPER than Stockholm when it comes to food & drink. Not grocery stores (I wouldn't know about London, but food at Stockholm grocery stores is super cheap) but definitely going out to a restaurant! Oh, and the beer! Except that it was served lukewarm. Stu can handle that, I prefer my ale cold.

So we saw the British Museum. Wow! I want to work there! And we did the Piccadilly Circus, Thames south bank and Westminster walks. And the Sunday markets in Greenwich! And walked past the Tate Modern, and the Tower, and the Globe theater, and, and...

And thanks to a wad of birthday cash from my wonderful mother in law, we did some shopping! In particular, at my favorite store Anthropologie, as the Regent Street store is the only one in Europe, and I needed a major cuteness fix. I spent too much money, but spent a really happy hour or so in that store!

But we didn't find the boots.

To back up, when we were in capital-of-fashion Milan just a week or so ago, I fell in love with a particular pair of tall gray boots at a Camper store. They were about $180, and we had our bags packed to the point of bursting, so I didn't buy them. But I thought about them a lot. Especially when I got home. They were on sale on the Camper website, so they only had sizes for teeny, tiny feet left to order online. So when we went to London, I looked up the Camper store addresses. There are SIX Camper stores in London! We couldn't go to all of them, but we managed to get to two of them. A little more expensive in GBP, but I had thought about them so much that I was definitely going to buy them when I saw them. But they didn't have my size!

In fact, the Swedish girl running the register (London was crawling with Swedes...we heard Swedish everywhere) was certain that there was not a single pair of those particular gray boots in my size anywhere in the UK. She did ask if we were going to Copenhagen anytime soon, because there were 2 pairs in my size not far in Aarhus, Denmark (coincidentally, where my grandfather was born.) I won't lie, we thought about making a quick train trip down this coming weekend. Stu is an enabler, and really good about cheering on my irrational desires, especially when it comes to shopping or eating cake. But come on, we can't shell out the travel dollars to go on a ridiculous quest for these (elusive) boots!

We are already planning on going to Berlin in February, and that fine German city has at least 2 official Camper stores downtown. So the quest continues.

14 January, 2010

Catching up, and a quick Italy wrap-up

Back to schooooooool.

Yes, it is quite boring. Its been a dull week...too many classes, too many assignments. I have gotten used to sleeping until past 11 and not getting dressed. At all.

But to make this week easier, tomorrow we are off to London! MJ and PBB and others gave us a ton of suggestions, so it promises to be a good trip if it doesn't snow anymore. And yeah, its my birthday, so it had better be a good trip. Hint, hint (Stu.)

But Italy turned out to be a fantastic trip. Stu had never been to northern Italy, and I hadn't been since 2003, so Venice felt new. We stayed in a lovely palazzo just behind San Marco, and enjoyed about 4 days of museuming and architecture-touring. Really, four days, because the weather in Venice threw us some curve balls. Aqua alta (wow) and rain and snow and even long days of full sun, but still, ridiculously cold. Its just our luck that all of Europe, parts of Asia and even the US (those poor, poor Florida orange growers!) got hit by a record-breaking cold snap the one week we were out of snowy Stockholm.

But yes, tons of early Renaissance art, making my Och and Intro to Art History classes in college flood back. And Stu loved it! He has such a strong knowledge of religions, he could profess in the rules & stories of christianity if he wanted to, and got a kick out of talking shop in art terms about the various St. Marks, St. Sebastians and the Pieta representations that Venice had to offer. Since my family wasn't particularly religious, my only knowledge of biblical stories comes from studying art, especially early Italian art. Stu literally broke out the multi-lingual hotel bible in Milan to get technical on "Last Supper" details. Which was great, until I fell asleep. Food makes me drowsy.

Anyway, lots of lovely things to see, eat, and drink in Venice. We put away an entire bottle of lemoncello in less than 2 days...no easy feat, that stuff is SWEET. You know, when in Italy... The Tetrarchs & their anchor San Marco's were pretty fantastic, the awe of the Frari Church, the over-the-top gilt of the Doge's Palace (which held the only real chastity belt I have ever seen, whoa. That poor woman, whoever she was) and the Peggy Guggenheim museum, among others, were not to be missed. Oh, and the espresso. That is only to be missed when you leave :(

We took a train from the teeny, tiny easy-to-navigate Sta Lucia (yeah, Italy is where the Swedes get her from!) station to the holy crap, I-had-no-idea-Milan-was-that-huge bohemoth that is Milan's central train station. We spent 3 confused days in that city.

Here is the strange thing about living in Europe: you kind of forget traveling through Europe is a big deal. Planning a trip to somewhere abroad when you live in the States requires a lot of money, and with that, the idea that you had better get your time/money/long plane ride's worth of culture and exotic European city experiences. We traveled to Venice with Judith Martin (aka Miss Manners) and Erik Denker's book "No Vulgar Hotel," and got some lovely, non-touristy Venetophile recommendations in a very funny novel-like format. But I didn't so much as wikipedia "Milan" before arriving, so we really had no idea what the city offered aside from Gucci.

Turns out its the 5th biggest city in Europe. They have a GIGANTIC, beautiful duomo in the center of the city. Cheapest public transportation I have ever experienced outside of "The Fred" bus in Fredericksburg. Not a ton of English-speakers. And streets upon streets of high-end fashion mecca stores...seriously. I do not speak Italian, but I totally understood the slick guy in the suit when he asked "Dovè Armani?" Like I look like I should know? We traveled RyanAir, so I packed only 2 pairs of pants for 7 days of travel. But yeah, its on every other street corner. Like H&M in Stockholm or Starbucks in Anytown, USA. They even have a planned Armani hotel. We probably won't be staying there.

But the highlight of the Milan visit was definitely Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper. I didn't remember that this ridiculously famous fresco is stuck to a wall in Milan (bad art history major!) Thankfully, the Milan tourist brochures given out in hotels remind you many, many times over. But the fresco is in such bad shape (it managed to survive Leonardo's stupid experiments, having Jesus' feet sawed off, WWII bombings that knocked down every other wall in the refectory, AND the crazy polluted air of Milano) that they only allow a handful of people in at a time to see the masterpiece, and they decontaminate your clothes before you get in there. Oh, and they sell tickets WEEKS in advance. So they were sold out for the following 2 weeks when we got to the Santa Maria delle Grazie on day 1.

But we decided to head back the next day, and luckily, some poor schmuck who probably got stuck in the-snowstorm-that-ate-the-UK had to cancel, and we got to see it. We don't plan to go back to Milan anytime soon, but when we do, it might not be there. So we were both psyched for the opportunity.

And our last day in Milan a cold, gross rainy mess, with us killing several hours before our delayed flight home, which made us enormously happy to be back in -17c Stockholm. And made me wish I hadn't turned down our heat for the week we were gone...it took a day and a half to get the apartment back up to liveable temperatures.
So next year, we are thinking Thailand or Cambodia or Sri Lanka (no more civil war!) WARM and sunny. Culture was great, but we will be selfish beach-goers next winter.

09 January, 2010

Back to the land of ja's and toilet seats

Happy to be home in Stockholm, though I think we are both missing Italian pastries just a little. Okay, more than a little. We ate nothing but sugar and dough or cheese and dough for an entire week, and it was heaven. The paticceria San Gregorio in Milan was a favorite. We went to the grocery store today to fill our fridge back up, and both managed to screw up and say "Si, grazie" instead of "Ja, tack" to the check-out ladies.

But more than wanting pastries, I am happy to be in a country with a toilet in every bathroom, and a seat atop each toilet (where did they all go in Italy?!? There was evidence that these toilets once HAD seats!)

The art and architecture was amazing, the food and {cheap} wine was wonderful, the sun was AWESOME. Here are a few pictures from the trip (minus pictures of porcelain holes in the ground.) You can click the slideshow to make them bigger.

01 January, 2010

I take it back, or The quest left me blowing out the flames

Happy 2010!

I take back what I said about having to up the degree of skankitude for New Years partying in Stockholm. We had a blast at the dinner and party with total strangers, and all of the ladies there (*Swedish* ladies) were cute and quirky and not a skanky outfit in the bunch! I just wore something tight n black (helllllo, its Sweden. Why didn't I think of that sooner?) We rang in the 2010 with champagne, sparklers, a blue moon and lovely new friends.

But of course, as you may have noted in the previous post, getting ready for NYE was a little more stressful for me than usual. Especially after attempting to curl my hair. I don't have a hair dryer at all here, but I did pack my US curling iron. I have had the thing for years, its a little threadbare and missing its little foot that keeps the heated part propped up, but its always been my favorite hair curling device. I haven't had to use it here yet, because, like I said, I only ever wear jeans and I don't even own a hair dryer. But in my desire to pull off Stockholm NYE style, I thought I'd break out the curler. Old trusty. But we don't have outlets in the bathroom. In fact, we don't have outlets anywhere near a mirror, period! So I finagled my US curler in a small appliance transformer in a European plug converter in an extension cord, and left it to warm up. Brilliant, right?! I could see myself in the mirror, which helps when you are holding super hot things centimeters from your scalp.

Except that the burning smell a few minutes later was my beloved US curling iron, on fire, on my school notebook (yes, I suppose the notebook was a bad idea in hindsight, but thank god I didn't leave it to warm up on the rented dining room table!) On fire! Smoke and flames! Stu smartly unplugged the thing as I was yelling at it to stop, and we were both blowing out the fire shooting out of it. It is now in 3 piec.es, with a melted core and scorched handle. How sad. I didn't even get to use it. Instead, I wore a headband on New Years.

We missed our friends and family back in the US, but it was still a damn good New Years celebration. And now off to Italy for a week. Until then....