24 February, 2010

My eyeballs are cold

I got new mittens!

My eyeballs are cold. Think about that for a second.

I had to walk home from my nanny job yesterday. Its not far, Östermalm to Vasastan, maybe 20 minutes? But it was 7pm, I was hungry and had to pee, and I wasn't intending to walk home. I was just going to take the bus. But the bus never showed up. The digital ticker thing that tells you how long until the next bus kept changing: 4 minutes, 7 minutes, 12 minutes. So I just walked...I figured it would keep me warmer to keep moving.
But that meant walking directly into the wind, which was f.r.i.g.i.d. And I couldn't *close* my eyes while walking, so I had ice-cold air blasting my eyeballs and freezing my tears before they fell. I'm lucky not to have lost any eyelashes! I was a walking popsicle before I got home. Stu had to pick me up and wrap me in blankets when I walked in the door.

So, its cold in Stockholm. No regional train service, half-functioning subway, who knows what the buses were doing: they had a public transportation melt-down this weekend after a big ol' snowstorm (that we missed while in Berlin!) It was -22c on Monday. But the sun is out now! No, there won't be any melting, it is still only -10c.

I'm going to bake some cookies for a seminar at school this afternoon (jealous?) and finish up a paper on art and emotion as explained by Wollheim and Collingwood (now you're really jealous, I know!) Some pictures of snowy Stockholm on the way to school Monday:





22 February, 2010

Pressure Drop

So, we really feel like we pulled off a miracle getting in and out of Berlin so easily. Mostly, actually, from the Stockholm side. There was a lot of pressure on me to get back early Sunday night, 'cause well, I had a big exam this morning. Thank goodness, it's over, and on to the next deadline but I feel like again I've earned some momentary breathing room.

For those of you who don't know, it's a minor family joke that when I travel there's severe weather. Thankfully the Weather Gods were kind to me. Or were mad at some other guy, anyway, it's always tough to tell.

Basically, anytime I seem to be going anywhere there seem to be snow storms, hurricanes, assorted blizzards. You get the idea. We actually planned our October honeymoon to avoid the Caribbean hurricane season and almost ran into a rare one on the West Coast. But never mind that. Actually, mind that: maybe Anne throws off the mojo.

Anyway, usually it's a safer bet to plan to travel when I'm not. So, sorry to the rest of the continent, it was horrendous to get around this weekend. Stockholm really got dumped on and shut down. We were worried we'd not get out or back in. But as Anne mentioned, that wasn't the case, lucky break.

So, being in Berlin again was incredible. I really did have a tough time realizing how different it was. But then the Wall makes an impression on a kid. I used to have nightmares about it. And it's just so cool to see the changes in the new, growing city and to learn all it's neighborhoods. Walking around Friedhof has a feeling like London's Notting Hill, there was even anti-yuppie graffti so you'd fit right in.

Getting back last night was easy, I've already forgotten what I was studying for. and now we get to enjoy -21 C, with 20cm of snow. Alright.

I am a jelly donut!

Our insanely short Berlin trip was fantastic! A few of my impressions:

The Weather:
Ironically, we had to go to GERMANY to get more than just slivers of sun, but it delivered! We had 2 full days of it, and it even got up to 4c. Thats a big deal.

The Travel:
I'm sorry I doubted the Swedes and their incredible efficiency in the face of impending snow-doom. Not a single delay the entire trip: bus was on time, plane was on time, it even landed early on the way home. And we took RyanAir, so that IS a big deal. (Too bad they can't get it together here today!)
But in Berlin, one thing that strikes me as odd: why the honor system subways? Like Venice's vaporettos and Milan's buses, there seems to be no visible mechanism to ensure people have paid to ride the Berlin subway. But it was a super easy system, and the airport was a quick, cheap train ride to/from the center of town. Hauptbahnhof and the surrounding area was a really beautiful first introduction to the city.

The Food:
Wow, I cannot see myself ever living in Berlin without seeing myself about 40 pounds heavier. I forgot how much I missed bagels (not seen too often here in Stockholm), and the cakes were phenomenal! I had requisite schnitzel-riffic breaded pork filet and enough potatoes fried various ways to cause a heart attack. It was lovely. Stu was in heaven. And the beer was good and cheap.

The Coffee:
Huge disappointment! In 2 days, I had 5 cups of coffee, and the only slightly drinkable cup was a cappuccino from an Italian restaurant with so much milk, you couldn't taste whether the coffee was as weak or burnt as every other cup I'd had. Seriously, Berliners, what's up with the crap coffee?

The Language:
Wow, did I feel out of the loop?!? The other places we've traveled, I've at least felt somewhat comfortable with the basics, but not German. Close to Swedish, but not close enough. It was like white noise. However, I was *immensely* impressed with Stu's fantastic ability to get us around, order and communicate, and explain things to me. I know he hasn't needed to use German for over 10 years, but he fell right back into it. Now watch, his Swedish is totally going to suffer!

The History, the Architecture, & Cultural Activities:
You cannot escape WWII in Berlin. The city has more than 750 years of history, but the most visible historical fact comes in the form of scars from the decade after 1935 and the Cold War era. But juxtaposed with the graffiti'd chunks of former wall there are a ton of shiny new buildings and tons to do.
We spent a lot of time outside (soaking up sun) so we didn't get in to many museums, though Berlin has so many. Next time, definitely the Neues! We saw the outdoor Topography of Terror exhibit, wandered through "Museum Island," saw the Reichstag and Brandenburger Tor. Stu was in utter awe at the ability to walk THROUGH the gate...you couldn't DO that when he lived in Germany. We saw a closed KaDeWe shopping mall (on Sunday, everything is closed) and the fascinating remains of the Kaiser Wilhelm kirche, and much more. But there seems so much more to see!

The show:
We got to see Spoon on the last night of their tour while in Berlin, and it was fantastic! They sold it out in advance, so it was packed, but the club was small enough for us to be right up on top of the band (so yeah, my ears were ringing for a few hours after.) The last time we saw them, the White Rabbits also opened, and they have gotten very, very good. I'm going to buy their album this week.


So with Berlin, my only major disappointment (besides the rotten coffee situation) was that I didn't get to try any spetzle. Guess we have to go back! We are going to the Netherlands and Latvia in April, and thinking Paris for May. But we don't have March travel plans, so maybe sooner rather than later?

Here's a few pictures of Berlin:

19 February, 2010

Spooning in Berlin, I hope

We're headed to Berlin for the weekend tomorrow EARLY. We are planning on getting up at 4am for a 6:30 flight out of Stockholm. Well, we'll see if that happens, since they are forecasting a Category 2 snow storm, out of 4. The weather gods are dumping what is predicted to between 10-30cm of snow throughout the south in the next 48 hours. The bus might not get through unplowed streets that early, the flight might not take off anywhere near on time or even get cancelled after we get to the airport, we might not be able to get back in time for Stu's final exam in Finance on Monday...

Hold your thumbs (in Sweden, you don't cross your fingers, you hålla tummarna) that its a relatively easy trip! Or that its a trip at all.

18 February, 2010

15 February, 2010

All's fair in hide-and-seek

I had an uncommonly easy time picking up the Swedish kids from dagis (daycare) and school today. No fighting while yanking on snowsuits, no bribes needed to get them to wear their gloves, scarves and hats, no pleading with them to ride in the stroller. The 2-year-old can say "No!" in more than one language.

They ate dinner relatively calmly (pasta & ketchup featured on the menu, so I guess that's a given.) The TV cable box was disconnected, so we actually read books and played games, which doesn't happen so easily anymore.

We read The Little Engine that Could, we played keep-the-balloon-off-the-floor, and we played Hide-and-Seek. Actually, we played Naked Hide-and-Seek. The littlest kids thought it was the greatest thing in the world to take all their clothes off and chase each other in a circle for 4 or 5 minutes straight, hollering the entire time. And then Hide-and-Seek. I let them, because I got a kick out of it, and thought it might tire them out a bit for their parents, so why not?

The 2-year-old is still learning the art of Hide-and-Seek, and often pops up with "Här är jag!" (Here I am!) before anyone has even started seeking. And the 4-year-old girl is still learning to count numbers in a straight line (as in, "ett, två, fyra, åtta, sju, elva, jag kommer!") so the game is entertaining. I sat on the couch, helping point out good places to hide and helping count. The first 3 or 4 times, the 2-year-old popped up after about 30 seconds to show where he was hiding, and there was immense giggling and excitement on the part of both kids. But the next time he hid, he stayed down and he stayed quite. I knew he was crouched behind the couch, and the little girl & I "looked" all over the living room for him. I thought, "Wow, he is really getting the hang of this game!" as he hadn't uttered a peep.

But we found him, and soon found out why he hadn't jumped up immediately. He was squatting in a puddle of pee behind the couch. He looked up at us with a big smile and said in his incredibly adorable baby-talk Swedish "Jag har kissat!" (I peed!)

Thank god it didn't get on their expensive-looking Oriental rug. But I learned my lesson, no more naked hide-and-seek. In his adorable baby-talk Swedish, he dutifully told his pappa when he got home that he had peed on the floor, after which I had to explain that I allowed this guy's children to run amok naked in his living room and urinate freely. Thankfully, he still paid me.

They lulled me into a false sense of I'm-actually-in-control with how easy they were to get home. I am still a rookie. They suckered me by making me think the afternoon had gone so smoothly, only to pee on the floor, showing me that kids are never easy. Such clever little things.

14 February, 2010

Alla Hjärtans Dag

Happy All Hearts Day!
aka Valentine's Day.
Mine started off with fluffy American pancakes for breakfast made by my sweetie.
Its not a Swedish 'holiday' by any means, but Valentine's Day has definitely popped up as a commercial excuse for candy and flowers here. The restaurants in our neighborhood looked busy tonight, and we had planned to go see Where the Wild Things are at the movies, but there were a whopping 8 tickets left to the 5:30 showing, and none were sitting together. Those Swedes plan ahead for their romance!
I particularly liked someone's drive-by-hearting on all the cars parked along our street:



Last night, we celebrated Stu's birthday with a few dozen friends (see photos below), stupid party hats (also below) and a completely from-scratch birthday cake made by yours-truly.

I pat myself on the back for making my first layer cake, with only one spring-form pan. Those things leak. And it was edible!




And Stu wore the pony hat.

11 February, 2010

party hats and our sort-of Darth Vader chair

It was so cold today. Like a biting, freezing, killer cold. The sun eventually came out, but it was really struggling. I took a few pictures (and burned out countless retinal cones, no doubt) of the sun behind the clouds...they are all kind of surreal and creepy.



They look it, but they weren't shot in black & white. It was just so gray out, and the Stockholm sun just looked like an odd floating white golfball.

It probably felt especially cold because I didn't properly bundle when I went out to buy balloons and stupid party hats for Stu's birthday.
Just a note on Swedish birthday hats, they are very much like the cheap dollar store party hats you buy in the States, but they are not cheap! They sell them separately, so I bought exactly 9. (Maybe I'll make a few more out of paper.) We are having a birthday party at our place on Saturday, expecting a large number of people, and we can't afford to put them all in silly party hats.

I am hoping Stu wears the one with the pony on it. It just screams "Birthday Boy," doesn't it?

And the party hats are being modeled by our new chair:

Another inexpensive Blocket purchase. Of course, because it was Blocket (the Swedish Craigslist) it should be no surprise that the guy told us his place was just a short walk, and it turned out to be about 700 meters from Skanstull T-Bana. Which maybe isn't so far, unless you are the one hauling a 55 lb. chair down the icy street. Well, actually, I carried the cushions and kept an eye out for cars at the cross-walks, Stu hoisted the thing over his head and shoulders and managed to get the thing all the way back to our place in perfect shape.

Upside-down and from behind, this chair looks a bit like a white Lego Darth Vader head.
And Stu, in his giant billowing winter coat, looked very much like a bobble-headed Lego Darth Vader from behind. I wish I had gotten a picture. Better yet, I wish the party store had had Star Wars party hats. Dern Sweden.


08 February, 2010

Random rant about mitt universitet

So I made it until about 1:30am, nearly half-time in the Super Bowl (correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm thinking I didn't miss much in missing The Who?) Stu came to bed about 3:30am or so. I'm neither a Saints nor a Colts fan, but I have actually been to New Orleans, and I think mighty highly of that city, so good on them.

I didn't have much to do today, which is nice for a Monday. In fact, I had to stick around the house because Stu lost his keys last week. We are too embarrassed to ask our building Board for our extra set back (looooong story, with even a little "Would-they-evict-us?" drama mixed in, more later) so we are sharing one set and I had to be home to let Stu in.

But I had a language class at 4pm at Stockholm University, and somehow I was running late. Which led to another Why-I-Hate-This-Campus moment.

Fun fact unrelated to hating the campus: my mom went to Stockholm University. In fact, while attending, she lived literally a few streets away from where Stu & I live now. I'm totally giving away my mother's age on this, but SU outgrew Vasastan just after she left and they built a new campus (Frescati) just slightly outside of the city in the 1970s, complete with terrible 1970s architecture. And its confusing! I have class in Södra Huset, the most poorly planned layout I have ever encountered. In fact, I would go as far as to say Stockholm University is the ugliest college campus I have ever encountered. It is that bad.

I know I said I was tired of the snow, but it does offer a *huge* improvement on campus. It looks lovely out there. Much less ugly. The sidewalks are deathtraps (I almost had my second wipe-out of the season on Friday, it was so icy) but its worth walking like Bambi to see SU look so much prettier. There is nothing that helps that subway station though.

I have to digress again, sorry. Its to explain why I don't take the bus to campus anymore, and am thus stuck with the Universitetet T-bana stop. I used to take the bus all the time...it picks up by the library, and 8 minutes later, drops off just a few hundred meters from the backside of Södra Huset. One lovely day in October, however, Stockholm experienced a freak rain storm (seems to have a lot of freak storms.) I hadn't brought an umbrella, and as I left campus, the sky just opened up. I ran, clutching a newspaper over my head, and hoped the bus stop wasn't too crowded to duck under the bus shelter.
But there was no bus stop or bus shelter. In fact, as I was getting thoroughly drenched, a giant crane was lifting the bus shelter out of the ground right in front of me and placing it in the back of a flat-bed. They were moving the bus stop as I was standing there waiting, in the middle of this rain storm to about 500 meters down the road, no longer convenient to my side of campus. As I realized this, and before I could get to where they moved it TO, a 70 bus passed me by, and I was stuck waiting another 15 minutes for the next one, in the rain. It was the longest 15 minutes, then 8 minutes of my life. And I don't ride the bus to campus anymore.

Okay, so back to the subway stop at SU. Are you really still even reading? Obviously, Stu has already gone to bed after getting 4 hours of sleep last night, and I am being left to my own blogging devices. So the subway stop is not extremely convenient; I have to switch lines, its a long walk, and its always packed with throngs of students pushing each other onto one of the 4 giant escalators. Think Rosslyn or Woodley Park in the DC metro. Its like a really, really, really deep cave in there. And also ugly, with weird tile murals (see below.) And, much like the DC metro, at least one of the escalators always seems to be out of order. Today was no exception. In fact, they had lost power in the station and it was creepy dark save for a few emergency lights, making it feel even more cave-like. And there were no escalators running. And no elevator, either.

Still running late for class, while being practically lifted from train to platform by the throngs, I realized that I will have to trudge up the most ridiculously long stairway without aide of electricity. I haven't been getting a ton of exercise lately, so I thought at least it was good for me. But I am so out of shape, I nearly had an asthma attack half-way up, and I don't even have asthma! But the throngs were moving, so there was no slowing down. I had. to. keep. going. And catching my breath at the top meant catching a lung-full of -3c air. Ugg. I was about 10 minutes late for class, and slunk in as the professor was talking about Swedish word order, which already confuses the crap out of me.

I like SU. I think its a great school, and I like my program, etc, etc, etc. But the Campus is not my cup of tea. In fact, I believe I am justified in blaming my lack of knowledge of where the verb goes in relation to the subject completely on the Universitetet T-bana stop and the Frescati campus.

A photo of the bizarre tile wall decor at Universitetet Tunnelbana station. Its not graffiti, trust me, it is on purpose.



07 February, 2010

First Sunday in February

Makin' Superbowl chili and Superbowl cornbread. Drinkin' Superbowl beer. Watchin' Superbowl pre-game commentary (I know, right? Did I hit my head?) Its an American tradition.

But the game starts after midnight, because our timezone is GMT -1. I know now I am not going to make it through...Stu is far more dedicated. And he even has a presentation tomorrow.

Even though I only really care about the commercials and the awesome food on Superbowl Sunday, it still feels a little sad to miss out on the parties back home. Especially the boys' 3 hours of football shit-talking, Blonde Justice's ridiculously awesome Velveeta cheese dip. Patrick's ridiculously ridiculous Bacon Explosion (woven bacon strips rolled up with sausage and cheddar...a heart attack in log-form.) And inexpensive beer.

I'm having a little homesick moment, oddly related to tonight's Colts/Saints game. Though I'm hoping the Saints win (I like the black & gold color combination.)

05 February, 2010

Does Punxsatawney translate to Sweden?

Phil saw his shadow, which means 6 more weeks of winter, technically. But for where?
Stockholm is getting melty! The snow heaps seem smaller, chunks of frozen stuff slide off the roof onto the streets below (you gotta be quick not to get a face-full of it!) and the puddles on the crosswalks between Sveavägen and Odengatan are like lagoons of murky, melted snow and who-knows-what-else. I love it! We haven't broken the freezing mark for more than a few hours, and they forecast more highs of -1c to -7c over the next week. And it still snows a little every day (sorry DC, I know you are getting hit this weekend, but our grocery stores are fully stocked...people don't ransack them for the forecast of a few inches here!) There is still plenty of snow on the ground. But with it staying light out until after 4 (uh huh, that's right, I said 4pm!) it feels a little more like spring every day. Thank god.

03 February, 2010

An opening or two



Tonight (6-8pm) at the Moderna Museet, there is a launch party for American artist Lee Lozano. In a nutshell, she is kind of minimalist, conceptual, feminist, and the show officially opens Saturday, February 13th. Check out the MM website for other tours with the curators, etc. They might ask if you are on the guest list, but if you get there early, it should be okay.

There are two events this week to kick off another show at Magasin 3, if you can drag yourself all the way out to Frihamnen twice (bleeeech.) Tomorrow (Thursday night, 5-8pm) is the official opening for another American artist, Tom Friedman and his show "Up in the Air." He makes wacky assembleges out of colorful, random objects. I have only seen a few of his pieces, but they are fun. And bonus, he's not dead (unlike Lee Lozano) so he will be participating in an artist-curator talk at the konsthall on Friday at 4pm.

I'm not sure I can actually make myself get out to the port twice, but I think both opportunities are worthwhile!

Oh, and another few:
an opening at Konstfack on Friday with oddly long opening hours: 4-10pm
Vita havet, Konstfack
LM Ericssons väg 14, Telefonplan

And on Monday, a book-release and talk at IASPIS on Södermalm (more info here)

That should keep you busy.

01 February, 2010

musophobia

As terrible as it is, this story from the Local (top-notch source for fluffy Swedish non-news in English) made my afternoon! That isn't hard, its Monday, it sucks by definition. And I have to read an excruciating article by Arthur Schopenhauer for class tomorrow.

So apparently, a 59-year-old man just north of Stockholm, wanting to torment his ex-wife, shoved not less than 19 tiny little mice through the mail slot of her front door. 19+ tiny little mice. He knew her pretty well, it seems, because she had to be treated at the hospital for shock. Understandably, having 19+ tiny little mice pour through one's door is shock-inducing! And the ex-husband was taken in for questioning. I love this for inexplicable reasons. I just can't imagine what was going through this guy's head. My favorite quote from this "article" was that the man has demanded the return of his mice. Like anyone is going to give him his mice back. And why 19? Why not a nice, even 20? Unless, they didn't catch them all...

I don't have much else to say on that. Back to reading about Schopenhauer's "pure subject of will-less knowing." It kind of makes me wish I had 19+ Platonic mice to play with instead. Happy Monday!