30 July, 2011

Farewell, Stockholm

I cried on the way to the airport leaving Stockholm.

I hadn't gotten too upset about moving away those last few days. I recognized this before we left...don't pregnant women have crazy hormones, so shouldn't I be a total mess by default? I guess there were too many details to deal with to get too nostalgic.

But while Stu brought our insane number of bags down to the super shuttle on Wednesday morning, I did a quick sweep of our empty apartment and turned off the lights, locked up, pulled our little name tag off the front door, and slid the keys through the mail slot. And it just felt so sad. So *final.* And I started to get upset in the elevator on the way down. It felt like a big moment to close up all by myself. It didn't feel so final moving to Stockholm two years ago. Our shuttle driver probably thought I was nuts.

It is nice to be back in Virginia. It is hot (103f yesterday!!) but we're getting used to it and the time zone shift. Slowly seeing friends. And yesterday, we ran into a Walmart for some soap, and walked out with a cart overflowing, we were so blindsided by the ocean of shiny choices and cheap prices. Just a little culture shock, oh, America.

We'll be back to Stockholm for sure...we fell in love with the city and made too many friends not to visit. And maybe by some strange twist, we might live there again one day.

26 July, 2011

Swedish cheese slicers

We packed up our apartment for moving, the boxes have been shipped, our luggage is overflowing, and we fly back to the States tomorrow. Could this be the last blog post on Swedish soil? And I titled it "Swedish cheese slicers"?!?

Yesterday consisted of hauling the remains of remains to the second-hand shop...those random purchases we made while here, stuff that was useful but we had no space for in the luggage, stuff that wasn't very useful (yup, this guy was brought back to his original home!) And after we lugged our stuff to the donation room, out of habit, I poked around the kitchen section of the second-hand shop, on the look out for a cheese slicer.

I don't know if these are typical in the States or not, since we had one at our house growing up (but my mom is Swedish). But they are the best tool! The family I nannyed for had a dozen in their kitchen drawers alone. I wanted to bring a few back, just in case they are tough to find, so for the last several weeks, I have been looking for a few cheap ones to slide into the checked baggage.

No luck. I can NEVER find these at second-hand shops, which must mean Swedes never donate cheese slicers. Often, you will find whole, beautiful sets of Rörstrand dishes, entire sets of silverware, or lovely Kosta Boda glassware in the city mission store, but I have never seen a simple plastic-handled cheese slicer, much less the nice wood-handled ones! Relatives pass on, and their heirs go through the household, deciding what to keep and what to donate: 'The Höganäs pottery goes to Myrorna, but let's hang on to Mormor's cheese slicers.' ?!?

Stu has coveted the Viking cheese slicer since we saw them in the tourist shops in Gamla Stan, but we never managed to buy one. Not to mention they cost more like $30. His little horns would probably bend trying to get through a hunk of Vermont White Cheddar anyway.

So you have to buy them new. No biggie. I picked up a generic one up for a few dollars at a Öob. Nothing special. But it is the strangest phenomenon that with all the other kitchen crap you can find there, I have never spotted the elusive Swedish cheese slicer in a second-hand shop. Let's hope US Ikea has a source!


Oslo - Author: Mats Ottdal / Jeksel

24 July, 2011

Ack! 3 days left!

Wow, how the time flies. How do we really only have 3 whole days left as Swedish residents?!?  I would like to note that on July 19th or thereabouts, we received notification from the immigration office that we could legally stay in the country until August 31st. Thanks, Migrationsverke, a whole week and a half before we ship off for good. Couldn't have told us in June, when our other visas expired and we HAD to make exit plans?!?

Not that we could have really afforded to stay much longer than we are. We haven't secured jobs in the States (not for lack of trying...Stu is throwing CVs out there like candy on a parade float!)  And we've been in "Goodbye" mode here, which means lots of lunches, fikas, dinners and drinks out to spend a last few hours with the lovely friends we've met here.

Our apartment is pretty bare. We had to pre-pack this weekend to figure out the last of it...we had roughly 6 suitcases worth of stuff and only 4 worth of capacity. Thankfully my giant, pregnant belly is a weeding device of it's own: can't pull it up or down over the bump? In the pile to Myrorna!

We have a few other things to donate, but we just got news in the last few days that our landlady wants to rent our awesome apartment out for at least 6 months (she had told us she would sell, and we should get rid of everything extra we have purchased.) Her renting is good news for us IF she can get someone in on August 1st, so that we don't have to pay rent on an empty apartment. And at 10.000kr (~$1,600) a month, we would very much appreciate someone having that kind of flexibility. So much so, we would leave them those extra plates and cups and lamps and all that useful stuff we accumulated while living here the last 2 years. Trust me, it is worth it!

The weather is sunny and 70-something, and we are enjoying the last of our time here. But we are also pretty excited to leave. Three days!?!?!

19 July, 2011

Girl with the Dragon tattoo trailer & Harvard

The Hollywood version of the first Millenium series book looks shiny and racy:

I liked the Swedish version just fine, but I will definitely go see this one in theaters. (Which happens in December, and we will be living back in the States!)

And apparently, Harvard will have a class dedicated to Swedish crime fiction that will have several lectures dedicated to Stieg Larsson's work next school year!

17 July, 2011


Oh my god, we have 10 days left living in Stockholm. TEN DAYS!!!!

We spent this past weekend out of Stockholm, bittersweetly trying to squeeze in friends and a little Swedish summer before we leave for good. Our excellent friends AnnaSara & Andy invited us and Melissa & Kevin to their family "estate" near Furudal, in the middle of Sweden in the region of Dalarna. I say "estate" because there are a gazillion houses and buildings on their property, and the family seem to be related in some way to all of the neighbors.
What's great is that these houses are the cute little 'Faluröd' red & white cottages that you see in all pictures of idyllic Sweden, and they were all in view of a big lake.
And it is Dalarna, which means the furniture in their house and in every other establishment we went into is *awesome*...I have always, always loved the traditional folk designs of the region, and just learned this weekend that it is called Kurbits.

The weather didn't exactly cooperate, but despite the rain, we still managed to pick blueberries in the forest and eat smultrön (teeny, tiny, super sweet Swedish wild strawberries), make flower wreaths, we fika'd (and fika'd and fika'd) swam in the lake (well, not me. I'm a wuss.) we climbed through the pastures and forest, visited Dala horse factories, AND, to boot, I drove a Volvo through Swedish wilderness. Seriously, it doesn't really get much more Swedish than that...we just needed snaps/aquavit and more singing. It was such a great weekend.

Our camera is in and out of commission so I don't have pictures of the cute little fäbod we visited or the lakes or blueberries, but I got some great pictures at the Dala Häst factories at Färnus and Näsnus, where we watched them turn chunks of Swedish wood into cute little orange horses. I bought a green one:


14 July, 2011

25 boxes, gone!

25 boxes, gone!

The guy came 2 hours earlier than we were told he would, and two of our wardrobe boxes wouldn't fit in the elevator down from our 5th floor apartment (whoops!) but they all fit on two pallets, and hopefully make it to Gothenburg today. They'll be put on a boat sometime in the next week, and we hope will make it to the DC area in early August. We hope.

Now our apartment feels empty. Well, not totally...we rented it furnished, so we still have our bed, desk, dresser, dinner table, dishes, etc. We have someone coming to look at our couch this afternoon (Finally! cross your fingers! That couch was a bitch to carry in, and we don't want to be the ones to carry it out!)

And tomorrow, we head out for a weekend in the country with friends. Two weeks left in Sweden!!! Wow, I don't even know how to spend the last 14 days. What do you do with two weeks of vacation in Stockholm?

11 July, 2011

Unisex babies/baby clothes

Did you hear about the family in Toronto that decided they wanted to raise their kids gender-neutral? I like the idea. We have a friend who has a ton of extra baby clothes that her little boy grew out of before she could even take the tags off, and she offered them all to us only "if we have a little boy." Both Stu & I thought the parameters strange, since we have no qualms with dressing a little girl up in onesies patterned with trains! Because really, at a few months old, our kid wouldn't know the difference...

Though we knew we wanted to find out the sex of our little nugget before he was born, Stu & I actually thought about not telling anyone, to avoid the inevitable gendered gifts in blues-for-boys or pinks-for-girls (I like both colors, personally.) Of course our next thought was "Then we'll get all yellow and green stuff" and I don't think I could handle a wardrobe and playroom of all yellow and green. And we are excited to share our news, so we couldn't keep it to ourselves anyway.

I know gender and sex are two different things, one being socially constructed and one being biological fact, and I don't have anything deep or earth-shattering to add to the debate on kids and gender. But despite the good intentions of what the Toronto couple is working toward, I think our society makes it hard on kids not to 'fit in' to some kind of box...it is human nature to try to figure something/someone out by associating them with what is already known. Still, I like the idea of letting a kid's personality grow more naturally, and without the shaping of gender-specific toys or outfits. Like Angelina & Brad's daughter, who somehow has gotten labeled as a lesbian at age 4 for liking "boy" things.

If I had unlimited money, I would dress our kids in all Polarn O. Pyret.

I'm a convert, having spent a year as a nanny for three squirmy Swedish kids with their own very distinct personalities and a penchant for getting dirty. ALL Swedish kids wear this brand (okay, SO much for my big "let kids be individuals" thing...Swedes are notoriously conformist.) But I still like their good quality and the relaxed approach to patterns and styles. They do make pink dresses in flower prints, but there are far more uni-sex kid clothes in their line-up than most brands can offer.


Their stuff isn't budget-priced. I bought my first pair of mamma jeans from PO.P last month and felt like I should be eating cheap falukorv for the next week to make up for the cost. But the jeans look good, and will last me the entire pregnancy (Well, I hope. Because if they don't, it means I gained too much weight and I can't pull them over my butt!) But I'd still buy them for my kids. Come to think of it, maybe I should be scoping out Swedish second-hand shops for used PO.P stuff before we leave! Of course, I haven't bought a thing for this kid yet, aside from the father's day gift for Stu (that I purchased before we knew we were having a boy, thinking a little girl would be just as subjected to her pappa's Eagles fever as a little boy would.)

Oh, we do think we decided on a name! We reserve the right to change it up until the day he is born (and maybe even after!) so we probably won't be sharing it anytime soon. Don't want anyone to get too attached. It is pretty darn Scandinavian, though. Poor kid...let's hope he likes his heritage later in life!

10 July, 2011

Moving progress - part 1

We fly one way from Stockholm to the DC area on July 27, so still nearly 3 weeks until the big move. 

BUT our stuff leaves us on Wednesday. The cheapest option for overseas moving is to pack-it-yourself and send it on a boat, which we did on the way over here in 2009. We could have forked over nearly $4K to have a company pack us up and handle all the details, but I guess like pain. To be honest, in paying that labor, we would  have been paying for someone else's time, and Stu and I have lots of time right now. And, bottom line, it costs almost FOUR GRAND! Our DIY option will be closer to $1500. Not quite the $700 it cost to come over, but what can you do? Thanks, crappy US dollar exchange rate!

Regardless who packs, the boat option generally takes a month for your stuff to find its way to your door on the other side, so we're sending it off a little earlier than we are sending ourselves off. We managed to get a ton of it done in the week after graduation and before our big trip to France & Italy. But these last few days have been our final take-it-or-leave-it decisions on what gets put on the boat, what gets crammed in our 4 checked bags & 2 carry-ons, and what just gets tossed/donated.

Hooray, moving! So far, we have 26 large boxes filled. We came to Stockholm with 15. And granted, Stu doesn't let me *do* any heavy lifting, but I still acutely feel the stress of moving and heaving boxes, what with the fact that they are TAKING OVER our apartment. 

But after Wednesday, they'll be gone. I've sold a large chunk of our other stuff on Blocket (ahem, we still need someone to buy our lovely red pull-out couch...it sleeps real comfy! Promise!) 

Stu, taking apart our 3 large wardrobes for a Blocket buyer. Now our bedroom is so empty. 
So Thursday, we'll have a pretty empty apartment to enjoy for a last 2 weeks. So sad. 

09 July, 2011

France, briefly

We spent just over one week in France, starting in Paris with Stu's competition to "green" a major international manufacturing industry. His team didn't win, but man, they really did a great job! They were competing against teams from India, China, and Malaysia among others, and blew the presentation to the panel of judges out of the water. And it was a great idea, one that needs to be implemented eventually and his team plans to protect, so hopefully, there will be life-after-competition!
The Q&A session in front of the judges

My very corporate-looking husband. Somebody give this guy a job!
We even spent a day at the Paris Air Show, the grand daddy of international air fairs. It was fun (sort of).
The SSE Team, which I was made an honorary member of.

Our hotel was just blocks from the Eiffel Tower, and though he had a jam-packed schedule, I got a little sight-seeing free time in and hung out with friends.
Notre Dame, check!

Stu got ONE day of actual non-competition Paris time, and said his trip would be complete with A) seeing Notre Dame  B) Going to the Louvre and  C) eat a crepe. We got two out of the three, since we generally kept ourselves stuffed to the gills with heavy French food, we didn't have any late-nite crepe callings. BUT my friend Alex is a tour guide at the Louvre, and she gave us our own awesome tour of the museum on Friday evening, so I think B) outweighed the crepe thing altogether.
Anabelle and I

The heaven that was Ble Sucré, which I had heard of the *last* time I was in town. Seriously, when in Paris, go to there. 

The only picture I got with Alexandra

The Louvre pyramid, from the inside
After Paris, we took the train with Anabelle down to Saintes (outside of Bordeaux) where our friends Pierre & My got married. We stayed in a nun's cell in an abbey built in 1046. 

It started off so proper and Catholic, but after many bottles of lovely French wines and champagnes and all the gazillions of toasts that Swedes seem to do at weddings, by the end of the night (or should I say early, early morning?) it was basically utter debauchery.
The groom, the best man, some unidentified Frenchy, and Stu. Dancing?
It was 3am. I was asleep.
Then we rented a car and road-tripped our way from the Languedoc through Provence to the French Riviera--from Bordeaux to Nice--over the next several days.

French chocolate milk. It really makes you feel healthy, drinking something called "Candy 'Up"
We stopped the first night in Carcassonne, the fortress city with walls built up by Celts, Romans, Goths, Franks, Visigoths, and Ostragoths over time. They call the towers 'witches hats,' done in an 1800s renovation. It is a COOL little city, and we stayed in a super charming B&B.

The view of the cathedral from our bedroom window

Then we drove through Provence, stopping in Nimes, where they have some of the most intact Roman ruins in the world. We *would* have gone into their amphitheater (a smaller, better version of Rome's Colloseum) but Bobby McFerrin was playing later that evening, so we skipped it. But how cool to see a concert in a 1st century Roman ruin!? Portishead and Ben Harper are making stops later this summer...

 Then we drove through the Cote D'Azure, staying one night in Antibes, in a lovely little hotel with a pool and a short walk from one of the few sandy beaches. It was super relaxing. That is, *after* we finally found the place (thanks to the wrong Google maps directions in a roadwork zone and rush-hour traffic in the blinding sun!) Starving, we ate at the closest restaurant, which also happened to display every snooty French restaurant stereotype you can think of, and our 2 small plates of pasta and one glass of wine for Stu cost a whopping $74. Antibes is beautiful, but also not cheap.

Antibes, at sunset

Our tiny stretch of sandy beach

The rocks of most of Antibes coast line, and a little friend
 We spent our last night in Nice, which is really, really nice! The old town is adorable, there are some lovely museums (like the awesome contemporary MAMAC, below) and we used our guide book reference for dinner at a vegetarian restaurant right on the water. They didn't speak a word of English, so after a few "Oui, oui, oui"s and not getting a menu, we proceeded to receive FIVE courses of divine all-veggie food. If you go to Nice, go to La Zucca Magica.

 And then super early, we took the train from Nice to Florence, which started the Italy leg of our final European tour...