30 May, 2011

Thesis complete!

I turned in my thesis today! Not too shabby, if you ask me. I am officially done writing about the complicated yet fascinating history of artists' books.

With the exhibition preview out of the way, and the paper complete, the last hurdle is a thesis defense on June 9, the day I officially graduate. And that promises to be pretty lame...out of 9 people in my program this year, I am likely the ONLY one who finished the paper on time and will be doing a June defense. I don't even know if they'll make me do it? I am one of two who will defend next week. Surprising, since I finished it and I have been PREGNANT since February...it couldn't have been that tough for my young and not-with-child classmates. To be fair, though, some have decided to go for double-length theses: ours only needed to be a piddly 30 pages as it is but one-half of the final project, though we had the option to do a 60-pager, which sets you up for PhD programs later. Of course, I went for the normal requirement...PhD? No, thank you.

So, I've got the small Moderna exhibition opening on June 11. Stu is done with his internship/consultant work tomorrow and is done with school a week after me. And then we travel for a few weeks, first to France, then to Italy. We'll be visiting the US in late July.

We have a meeting set with our landlady on Wednesday, which is when we have to officially decide whether we are staying put in Stockholm or moving back to the States (and leaving our excellent apartment in Vasastan!) She needs to A) know we want to stay to send our info for the building's Board approval before the July holidays, or B) know we are leaving to find new renters! We are leaning one way heavily, but haven't completely made the final decision. So Wednesday, I guess we'll have to know! What a strange feeling.

At the moment, I don't quite know what to do with myself. Very little schoolwork left, but I'm not on vacation just yet...

26 May, 2011

Hair woes

There are some pretty strange and/or terrible symptoms of being pregnant: being constantly dead-tired, having your gums bleed, bloating so bad you look like you swallowed a Thanksgiving turkey even in the first month or two, wanting to throw up when you look at things like onions.

Another I've had is my hair has gotten really CURLY! I've always had a little wave, but my hair has gotten this weird kinky curl thing going on, and I just don't know how to deal with it! I hate blow-dryers. I don't like products. I have no artistic vision. Some women can and do it well...I suck at hair.

I have had bad experiences getting my hair cut in Stockholm. It's expensive for nearly all salons. I've tried those on the cheaper end since I don't think it is worth $60+ for my 1 cm trim, but I have never liked what I walked out with. Once, my hair was a half inch longer on one side of my head. Another time, she didn't even wash it...she just sprayed it with water, which she got all over my face, and then it didn't even look like I got it cut.

Part of that, I think, has to do with the fact that the stylists in a lot of these lower-end places are not actually Swedish, and as immigrants, many speak pretty terrible English. I realize how that sounds...I live in Sweden, I don't expect everyone to cater to my English. But when you are getting your hair cut and they don't understand my mime act to describe 'layers' (much less the word itself!), communication is pretty darn important! And then you spend the next 30 minutes in complete silence as they spritz & clip.

The last place I went to a few months ago was much nicer & pricier, and the guy gave me a a scalp massage and spent a lot of time and care to cut my hair. I walked out with a flat-ironed blunt cut...it looked really good. For 2 or 3 days. Until I washed it. You can't blunt-cut wavy hair! I've been cone-shaped for weeks now.

So now it is *curly*. I have desperately needed a trim or something, but I decided to go with the opposite end. There is a hair school 2 blocks from our place, and it is always packed! They only charge 120kr for a wash & cut ($18) and the stylists are young, hip, and Swedish. I actually had a great experience. When she wasn't quite sure when I was describing the shape of the layers I wanted, she got a book of images! When in doubt, look at pictures. But her English was perfect, so we ended up chatting the entire time...it was almost like I was in a different country. And granted, it took longer than it needed to, so by the end of the hour and a half, I was *starving,* but totally worth it to not have a weird-shaped head for the foreseeable future.

But man, I hope these curls go away after this baby is born.  

24 May, 2011


I have a real appetite again, not one that is based solely on white foods like pasta, potatoes, and bread (aka, things that don't smell when you cook them.) And I am over most of my food aversions that plagued the first trimester. 
I do still have a problem with dried apricots and onions. We had pyttipanna the other day, and I spent a good chunk of dinner time picking out all the tiny little diced onion remnants--pyttipanna is basically just hash, so the dish is half onions! And the suggestion of 'vidalia' could get you punched in the mouth. 
A few weeks ago, I had to hide from myself the onions we had leftover in the cabinet...just looking at them made me feel sick. 

Yesterday, I found them again. Several had sprouted long green tendrils, like little alien life forms that were trying to bust through the bag of rice I had smooshed them behind. Whoops!
Think they are still edible? Not that *I* plan on eating them (and if Stu eats them, he might get punched in the mouth...onion breath is just as bad.) But technically edible? 

21 May, 2011

Picture post: Millesgården

A gorgeous Saturday meant we could take the afternoon off from school work (not really, but we did it anyway). We went out to Lidingö to Millesgården, the lovely house museum and gardens of the Swedish sculptor Carl Milles, and had a picnic.

20 May, 2011

Preview week at school

My week of presentation at Stockholm University is over!  Though I have organized my "real" exhibition at Moderna Museet (now opening June 11! Until August 21! Come see it!) we had to present something in our space on campus. So I put up a "preview" of the show--basically some images of the works that will be in the "real" thing, and I showed the films I made of several of the works. Nothing fancy.

The big stress factor was that yesterday was my final examination presentation, so even though the show hasn't opened at the museum, I theoretically have already been graded on it.  Stu has become a *master* at presentations (I'm not kidding...he is good!) and he made me a fancy powerpoint, and I managed through an hour long presentation of what has consumed approximately one-third of my life for the last 4-5 months (the other thirds being thesis and baby.) 
And they liked it!  They gave me some comments and a little critique, and some very good ideas for other things, and a lot of encouragement. So all-in-all, very successful. I was truly scared of one of my examiners and thought he might just tear the whole thing down, but it was all for nothing. Woot! I celebrated by drinking half a light beer and going to see Thor in 3D, where I ate an entire tub of popcorn myself. Seriously, Stu ate like 6 kernels.

So now, I have exactly 10 days to finish my thesis (my thesis advisor thinks I can do it---hopefully she is right!) Graduation is June 9, the opening is June 11, Stu graduates June 17. We find out whether we will we have a boy or a girl on June 20. We head to Paris and points south on June 21, then on to Italy, and back to Stockholm July 6. 

But then what?

18 May, 2011

subway rant

Warning, this post is rife with generalizations.

I have heard countless times how closed-off Swedes can be in public--in the store (don't expect to be helped by the salesperson!), in the street (don't expect a smile, much less even eye contact), on public transportation (watch out for giant swinging bags that will hit you in the head while the person passes you, and don't expect an "excuse me"). I'll admit that if Stu & I stay in Sweden through this pregnancy, I am dreading that 9th month on the tunnelbana. And I am already super sure I will never be offered a seat on a crowded bus.  But what has been bugging me lately is the inability of people in Stockholm to get ON to the subway car like considerate human beings!  Swedes are generally awesome at standing in an orderly line, or taking a number form a little box to preserve their sense of order. You see it everywhere: the pharmacy, the bank, the alcohol store, the computer parts place.  Well, almost everywhere. They don't queue for the free bus to Ikea...that is a free-for-all.

But on the subway, people stand like giant, squat buffalo directly in front of the doors before they open, totally oblivious to the fact that there are a dozen people who need to get *off* the train before they can on. They could stand a little to the right, or maybe a little to the left. Stockholm train doors stay open for a decent amount of time...they aren't going to miss it! And several of them will stand like buffalo together, making you have to elbow your way through them to get off the train. Ah, it irks the crap out of me! I don't remember the general population of subway riders in Washington DC being that difficult. Or New York, or Chicago, or San Francisco (granted, they all have their "charms", but at least there is some general common sense.)

Okay, I think I'm done now. It feels better to get that off my chest.

15 May, 2011


First thing's first: Azerbaijan?  There were far better bands in last night's Eurovision Song Contest finals than who won. Seriously, Iceland? Ireland? Denmark? Bosnia-Herzegovina? Moldova!? Way more fun. To be honest, I was amazed that Sweden did as well as they did (a really, really close third place) considering our contestant was ManBoy.

Second thing, I have been terrible, just *terrible* at posting on our blog! I have blog guilt. It started as a way to share with family/friends in the States our funny experiences and culture shock moving to the land of ABBA sill and tubed meats, but almost 2 years in, we have gotten over those initial "WTF" moments. Not to mention with the last several months, our lives have felt rather boring, what with thesis-writing, project-planning and generally finishing up our degrees. Oh, school. Less than a month left. And I am *never* going back.

And I have an excuse. Along with suffering grad school, I have been suffering from morning sickness! I promise this blog won't turn into a forum for me to whine about pregnancy (though there is *plenty* to complain about.) But it IS nice to be able to talk about it now that the little squirt is the size of a peach. And we've decided, for simplicity's sake, that she is a SHE until we are told differently. You can't call it 'It.'

We are friggin' pregnant! 
More later (I promise) Right now, Stu & I are heading to SU to install my crappy little on-campus 'preview' show for my exhibition. I have a video of a lovely Swedish artist "reading" a book of punctuation, as in "comma, comma, period, question mark, period, parenthesis." But in Swedish. It is ever so charming, the first time or two.  I think after listening to it for 10 hours in the mini-exhibition, I will be certifiably crazy. Just so you know.

09 May, 2011

May update

It is so GORGEOUS in Stockholm right now. It's like summer outside and the sun is shining.

Which makes it such a drag that it is the end of the semester and I have a ton of school work to finish up on. Next week is my big presentation week at Stockholm University (we are required to present some visual example of our exhibition at SU, even if we chose to complete our master's exhibition project elsewhere.) Thankfully, we pushed the opening date of my little show at Moderna Museet back a few weeks to accommodate the heavy conservation required in the Siri Derkert show. So it is now June 11, my friends. And a tentative Family Day workshop (where kids & parents get to make their own artists' books!) on Sunday June 12!

Still got the thesis to contend with, and I am actually seriously contemplating extending my school time a bit to finish it!  I am supposed to complete the thing May 24 to defend and graduate by June 9, but it is just not going to happen. So, along with 80% of my class, I may not defend until August. It is not a huge impact otherwise, 'cause I still plan to finish that sucker as soon as possible (I want to *enjoy* my summer!) But it does leave some uncertainty. Uggg. Stu will finish mid-June as planned.

We have had some pretty exciting things come up recently (sorry, can't spill just yet) but the bottom line is we still don't know for sure whether we will stay in Sweden or move back to the States. Talk about uncertainty, our self-imposed deadline of mid-May to choose WHAT COUNTRY we'll live in is fast approaching!  And Stu & I actually can't agree! We are usually on the same page with these 'big life decisions.'  I guess we'll see...anybody want to hire a librarian/curator/collections manager or perhaps a management/strategy/operations consultant? You won't be sorry you did!

02 May, 2011



I procrastinated 'til the last possible day to file, but as of 15 minutes ago, it's done!  I actually didn't even really file...I 'own' a business (which just means I work freelance, but in Sweden, you basically have to incorporate a company to get paid piece meal.) But since I didn't get it going until last September, I opted for an extended first tax year and only had to fill a bunch of boxes in the online form with zeros. Still, I dreaded it. And since Tax-Swedish doesn't easily translate with Google, I had to have some natives walk me through the basics.
Next year, I'll be on the hook for paying a small fortune. 54%+ of my earnings? Fun!

01 May, 2011


Last year, I said we'd definitely spend Valborg 2011 in Uppsala, drenched in champagne and racing rafts.

I lied. We didn't. Our friends Mandy & Reid came for a long weekend from NYC, and it just seemed crazy to take the train to Uppsala for the event when they had such short time to see Stockholm. We got about 3 whole days with them, lovely weather, spent a ton of time in Gamla Stan and Djurgården, they saw the Vasa Museum, we ate A LOT, finally trying out Pubologie (good place! Just don't go if you're starving and want big portions) and introducing them to some of the good and the strange Swedish traditions and foods. We had a fantastic time with them here.

And we did celebrate Valborg! We were going to picnic with some friends and do the big central celebration and bonfire at Riddarholmen, but it threatened rain and we decided on a living room picnic instead (complete with cold fried chicken.) And someone decided there should be silly hats...kind of an ode to the silly hats for the British wedding and the silly sailor hats that new graduates in Sweden wear on Valborg, but since we had neither, we went with silly birthday cone hats. We missed most of the singing and poems on the island, but made it to see the bonfire just before dark...so beautiful. So many people. We stuck around long enough to listen to a troubadour singing Evert Taube ballads, and left just as they opened the mike to anyone. Specifically, we left the moment a young Swede popped up on stage and started singing Justin Bieber.

Now Mandy and Reid are heading to London for the week. Planned it smart---just missing the chaos of the royal wedding. Which I totally watched live (or tried to...BBC's live feed got overwhelmed and I found myself "watching" stills, but whatever.)

Outside lunch at cafe Flickorna Helin & Voltaire

Enjoying giant kanelbullar at Saturnus

The pretty princess urinal got the thumbs-down

M&R in Stortorget

Art/art history majors from MWC...like a mini college reunion!

The non-traditional way to don a silly hat

Pensively non-trad

Riddarholmen bonfire, overlooking the water and Stadshuset