Wednesday, February 29
I arrived at the gym and made my way to one of the locker rooms to put my stuff away and then head to a treadmill. While I was standing there pulling out my iPhone and my water bottle I noticed a horrible smell. It smelled like someone with really stinky feet, which nearly made me gag. It was then that it dawned on me that I forgot my flip-flops for showering. At that point I seriously considered heading back home for a sponge bath instead. I am not OCD but I would say that the line is thin. The thought of putting my bare feet on that floor made me feel, well, let's just say icky.
I pushed the thought out of my mind and hurried out to the gym instead. Once I got into my half-running, half-walking rhythm on the treadmill, I decided that maybe it was a blessing in disguise that we did not have hot water this morning. I mean, this little adventure allowed me to discover that getting to the gym for a morning workout before work was completely doable. Before this moment I would never have considered it. I am not really a morning person. All I need to do is pack my gym bag the night before. I could easily roll out of bed, drink some coffee and sprint out the door to the gym. I found the positive hidden within the negative.
After my workout I headed to the shower only to discover that I also forgot my hairbrush and my shower soap. Well, nothing's perfect. In the end I just used my face soap to shower and decided to put my hair in a pony tail. My forced morning workout turned out to be a great start to the day. Now I just need to get my gym bag better organized.
Tuesday, February 28
Instead I washed my hair in the bathroom sink. Well, let me tell you that it doesn’t work all that well unless the sink is higher than hip level. It felt like I was doing an advanced yoga pose, bending over so far, not to mention how it was helping my sore neck and shoulder. For some reason our hot water was turned off sometime between when my husband showered and when I decided to get in the shower. Sorry, but I don’t do cold showers in the mornings. Not in Sweden and not in the winter. So I boiled some water in our tea kettle and mixed it in the sink with some cold tap water. Washed the hair and had a sponge bath.
It wasn’t perfect but it worked and I even got to work on time. So what was positive about my morning? Not a thing. Okay, maybe that we had electricity? Later in the day however, I found this photo that a friend posted on Facebook. It completely cracked me up and it pretty much illustrated how I felt this morning. I love, too, the fact that this little guy is orange. I love Orange. Orange is the new black, you know.
I actually have a yellow one. He used to help me write essays and term papers when I was in high school, and even at the university. We go back a long way. (He's going for a ride).
Monday, February 27
The sun was shining as I left my office so I decided to take the sunny route to the bus stop, which meant heading toward the stop that is a little off the beaten path. When I was a block away I saw the bus coming and I took off running to make it. The buses come quite often but since I have a limited amount of time during my lunch I didn’t want to waste any time waiting for the next bus. I stepped onto the bus out of breath and took my seat. Suddenly the bus turned on the wrong street. Wait a minute. Did I take the wrong bus? I did indeed. Well, at least I could get off at the next stop and race around the corner over to the other bus stop to catch the correct bus. As luck would (or would not) have it, the right bus was approaching the stop. However I was stuck in the middle of the cross walk waiting for the traffic to clear so I could make a run for it, or wait for the light to change so I could finish crossing legally. I watched my bus go past me and pull up to the stop across the street. I wasn’t going to make it. As soon as the last car whizzed past I took off at a sprint to the bus stop. There was a long line of people getting on the bus so I probably would have been okay waiting for the cross walk sign. But why chance it? I was on the right bus now.
I arrived at Steam and at first I thought it was closed, however it was just that the window was fogged up (with steam!), thank goodness. I step in and was surprised to see the small space, that is usually empty, completely filled with people. They were standing everywhere and I couldn’t really see if there was an actual line. It was noodle and dumpling chaos. I guess everyone else thought noodle soup and dumplings sounded good for lunch today. I finally got my lunch and headed back to the office. Here comes run number three, the bus was crossing the bridge and I was around the corner from the stop with mere seconds to get there. I ran. Catching this last bus was the closest call today but I managed to make it and in the end I can say that it was definitely worth the effort. I think I will call my lunch commute today “the steam workout.”
Sunday, February 26
Summer tricked me today. Came into my mid-winter blues and said, “surprise, I am here!” Forget about going through spring, I went straight from winter to summer overnight. It sounds good except for the fact that I have a crush on the spring and it would be very difficult to move past it without even a hello and go straight to summer, before callously heading back into the Swedish fall and winter. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love fall in Stockholm. Even winter has its moments, but I live for the Swedish summer and spring is the segue that softens the blows from winter.
Perhaps it was a dream that I couldn’t quite recall but it really felt like summer this morning when I woke up. I gave myself a manicure and pedicure, with pale pink polish, and wishfully put on a t-shirt, wondering if I dared to go out in it today. The sun didn’t help either, blasting in through the windows as if it had a megaphone, illuminating all of the dust and dirt that tends to hind around the apartment in the winter (guess it’s time for a clean up, ahem). I relented and opted for a spring/summer top. It was cheerful enough that I was able to dress somewhat sensible while maintaining my feeling of summer.
That is, until we left the apartment. I think Jack Frost must have had his hand in the trick because it was blustering cold out despite the lovely, soft warmth that eluded us through our apartment windows. I still had my winter coat on, just in case, so I did not freeze to death. I mean, it may have been wishful thinking but I am not so crazy to think that it was summer in February. February in Stockholm, just to be clear.
I still felt summers presence as I made my way through the day and it was a wonderful feeling, false or not. Maybe if I just act as if summer is already here, it will get warmer more quickly. What do you think?
Saturday, February 25
There was a cat standing on my chest in the wee hours of the morning. I always hate to look at the clock when it’s the middle of the night but for some reason I do it anyway. It was 2:00am. I wonder if she stands on me every night and I usually just sleep through it. Luckily I was able to go right back to sleep, though we went through this ritual a few more times through the night/morning until I finally took her hint and got up at 8:00am. After her breakfast was served and morning coffee was made and delivered to the husband, I got down to the business of the morning: baked oatmeal. I found the recipe on Pinterest. The photo of the finished dish was what grabbed me. It looked incredible and after I tasted the finished product myself I can say that it was definitely fabulous and I will be making it again. One thing I loved about the recipe was that it was not heavily laden with sugar. There was enough sweetness from the bananas and blueberries that I used to give it a powerful boost instead of making me sluggish for my gym workout. Yes, gym workout.
After months of whining about the commute to my gym I made the decision to bite the bullet and head down there. I left home at 10:30am and didn’t arrive until 11:15am. 45 minutes and I didn’t even have to leave the island. Ugh. Okay, it was partly due to poor planning on my part, as I had to wait 15 minutes for the bus. If I had known the bus schedule ahead of time I could have shaved off 15 minutes of the commute time. Regardless, I arrived and was amazed that it was not overcrowded with lines waiting for the treadmills and other cardio machines. I picked my poison and put in my earphones. After 10 minutes on the treadmill I thought I should mix it up a bit so I switched to the stationary bike for 25 minutes. I actually had a really, great workout that I finished with stretching and floor exercises. And as I walked through the gym and saw my reflection in the mirrors I decided it was time to stop kidding myself about working out and make this visit the first of a long series, in the very near future. Despite the commute time.
Once I was home and showered and we had a quick egg sandwich lunch, my husband and I left to check out Hornstulls Hund och Kattcenter, a store that sells stuff for dogs and cats. We wanted to get a harness for our cat so we could get her used to walking around with it on now before we take her with us to the summer cottage. As we left I suggested that we walk around the corner to a gourmet, specialty shop that I had seen on one of our bike rides in the fall. I had seen in their window that they carried salmbärs sylt (dewberry jam in English) from Gotland. We ran out of it last summer and I had been craving it. We were first introduced to it by my husbands sister and when we visited Gotland ourselves last year we bought some. Unfortunately the berries are only harvested in Gotland. Unfortunately Gotland is a three-hour ferry ride away from the port an hour south of us. So you can’t really run out to get some. The gourmet store’s interior was a pleasant surprise. We discovered a number of things that peaked our interest. Among them were salsa, bbq sauce and other spicy sauces. Needless-to-say we left with a heavy bag and smiles on our faces. There will definitely be return visits to that store.
Friday, February 24
At lunch time I decided to walk down to a little, secluded café by the water. The walk there is off the beaten path and a bit more relaxing. They serve the most delicious hand-made dumplings and the atmosphere is bright and cheery. When I was almost there I saw a few groups of people walking in my direction and I thought, "They must have gone to Jin & Peeters too." Ooooh, I could almost taste the dumplings and the spicy, salty dipping sauce. I walked right past it. It was closed. Not closed, as in, “we are on vacation” closed, but closed, as in CLOSED FOR GOOD. I was seriously disappointed. I sighed and made a u-turn to head back up to another café that is a tucked-away, hidden gem. It too was CLOSED FOR GOOD. I know this because it is now a pizza place. At this point I had about five minutes left of my lunch break. I went to another café and picked up a salad to go and headed back to my office. On the bright side, at least I got to have a nice, long walk.
I was really looking forward to 4:30pm and Fredagsmys by that point.
Thursday, February 23
The other day I came across a recipe for a vegan chocolate cake on this new social media site called “Pinterest.” Pinterest is one of those things, like Facebook, once you try it you are hooked and there is no going back. One has to request to become a member and then later you received an email invite to sign up. Once you become a member and set up your wall, if you will, you can then set up different "boards," where you "pin" things of interest. You can also just “like” something and there is a separate place to view those posts. You can create many boards with a variety of topics. Anything from "Artsy Stuff" to "Things That Make Me Smile" to "Cool Interiors" etc. You get the picture.
So back to the cake. Basically it is just a typical chocolate cake made without any eggs or dairy (And it was and still is delicious!). Someone I follow on Pinterest “pinned” it and after I saw the recipe and photos of the step-by-step process, I was forced to make it. It was Fat Tuesday after all. Both my husband and I were burned out on the traditional semla (to be featured later), the pastry normally eaten on Fat Tuesday in Sweden, so I made chocolate cake instead. Not only was the cake delicious but beautiful as well. It is always a crapshoot with a new recipe. Especially if it is one that no one you know has recommended and it is not yet on the list of the tried and true. Sometimes the recipe turns out to be “crap” and sometimes a “shoot” - straight to the top of your favorites list. This one definitely shot to the top of my list. I plan to keep it tucked in my back pocket to make for my next dinner party.
The photo is my own. I definitely recommend the recipe.
Here you can click to see the original website and recipe: www.joythebaker.com
Wednesday, February 22
What if we just kept it on all the time? Kept smiling, even when that man (possibly accidentally?) hits you with his backpack, or when that woman purposefully steps right in front of you, bumps you even, and keeps going as if you weren't even there. Cultural differences or not, it's important to smile in the face of challenges. And let me tell you, this is definitely a challenge.
So, today I plan to smile and be happy, even if (I think) no one is paying attention. It's not a matter of keeping my guard up but rather pushing and championing for happiness. Happiness is a choice we make each day. Choose to be happy even if you feel grumpy. Choose to be happy even if your pants are a tad too snug.
"Act the part and you become the part" – William James (1842-1910)
Tuesday, February 21
The alarm went off but I didn’t notice. Kitty was back however and she was, again, ready to start the day. She purred and pushed her head against my hand. I got up and stumbled to the bathroom, came back to bed and promptly went back to sleep. The second alarm clock went off and I reached out in my sleep and turned it off. I must have. I vaguely remember doing it but I vaguely do not remember doing it. My husband cuddled up to me and we both sank back into dreamland.
An hour later I awoke and looked at the alarm clock. Seven thirty. “It’s seven thirty!” I shrieked as I attempted to jump up. I was lead. I could barely move I was so drunk with sleep. I had a physical therapy appointment at eight. I showered and left the apartment and on my way there I called to let them know I was on my way. I was only ten minutes late, miraculously.
So lying there with the acupuncture needles in my back, I tried to find the positive in my rather hectic start to the day. I did get to sleep thirty minutes later than normal. If you are the kind of morning person that I am, an extra ten minutes is pretty good. An entire thirty minutes was heavenly. So what if I am dressed a bit like a gangster today. I am a well-rested gangster.
Monday, February 20
I closed the closet door this morning and thought maybe I should make sure my cat was not in there. She is coal black and difficult to see if she is in a dark area and is not looking directly at you. I didn’t see her hidden anywhere but I looked around the apartment just to make sure. I walked down the hall to our office. We usually keep the door closed but it was open so I went in to check for her. As soon as i stepped in I was blinded by the bright sunshine coming in through the windows. Our jalapeno plants were happily sitting on the windowsill soaking up the sun’s rays. No kitty in here. As I turned to walk out of the room I spotted her coming up the stairs. Good kitty.
As I was gathering my stuff together for work I had thought. I should ride my bike to work. The sun was out and it looked to be beautiful all day. The sun was setting later now and the weather forecast predicted a high of 32 F in the afternoon.
I got on my bike after I rolled through our apartment gate. Once I turned the corner I started to feel the cold air through my pants. Darn, I forgot long-johns and my winter pants. Sometimes it just feels too late to go back. I was waiting for the light to change just outside my apartment building but going back meant that I would have to lock up my bike, go up to my apartment, take off my boots, scarf, coat etc. and start over. It didn’t seem worth the effort and I figured I could stand suffering a little in the cold. HA.
Once I got really going my eyes started watering (and they didn’t stop until I got to work). I had decided to take a different route that I thought would be more pleasant. I would ride down to the left of old town and then turn near city hall and continue along the water to work. What I failed to consider was the fact that it had been rather warm over the weekend, which translates to lots of melted-snow-turned-ice on the bike paths. It was nerve-racking to say the least. And cold. Before I had gone more than a couple of kilometers I considered going back home and taking the subway instead. I figured I would get there faster by bike so I persevered.
I was not necessarily enjoying the ride to work, given the level of stress from not being used to riding on ice but my studded tires really held up their end of the bargain. On my way home I started to relax a little and actually enjoyed myself. It was still cold but bearable and I at the end of the day I felt a sense of achievement I could be proud of. If I ever have children I can tell them, "I used to ride my bike in 25 F temperatures, up and down hills and over ice to get to work, quit your complaining."
“steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”
Sunday, February 19
However today happened to be an extra, special day for someone very close to us. My father-in-law turned ninety years old. Looking at him you wouldn’t guess that he is ninety years old. He actually looks more like he is in his seventies. For birthdays in Sweden there is this lovely tradition of waking the birthday person up early in the morning. Yes, I said lovely tradition. Of course no one really likes to be awakened extra early but on birthdays it is actually a nice way to start the day. A tray is set up with juice (and coffee at our house), a birthday treat, a vase of flowers and candles. The birthday greeter then takes the tray into the birthday person’s bedroom while at the same time singing a special, birthday song. Most times the birthday person expects it but on occasion it is truly a surprise. This morning my father-in-law was surprised with three birthday greeters. After the singing, hugs and congratulations we all sat around visiting with him while he opened cards that had come in the mail from friends and family. We’d had a special party the evening before at one of my husband’s sister’s homes and he received most of his presents and cards then.
Later over breakfast I asked him how it felt to live ninety years. It is a difficult question to answer. Life just happens and suddenly you find yourself turning forty, or sixty, or ninety. Ninety years. What an amazing thing to experience. So many changes occur in a society in a ninety-year span. I think of how wonderful it must feel for him to have experienced such a great life thus far. He has three beautiful children, four wonderful grandchildren and he and his wife have had the opportunity to travel and see the world. Longevity runs in my family as well. My own father turned eighty this past December and both of my grandmothers lived into their nineties. I hope I am as fortunate to live a long, healthy and happy life.
Saturday, February 18
A few weeks ago I received a message from Carl's friend that my sweater was completed and I could pick it up the next time I was in Gothenburg. How awesome! We would be traveling to Gothenburg for my father-in-law's birthday in just a few weeks and so we made arrangements to pick it up then. I did a happy dance.
We arrived at her mother's house and waiting for us was a pot of warm cloudberry glögg, homemade ginger tea with lime, mint and honey and delicious little sandwiches made with breads from a bakery owned by one of her other daughter's. There was softly playing classical music in the background and lying on a stool nearby was my beautiful, cream-colored sweater. I felt like a child at a fancy tea party. I drank my glögg. Absolutely delicious. We moved on to the ginger, lime, mint tea. Equally divine. The sandwiches magically disappeared. There was a warm and cozy feeling in the air. We laughed, chatted and exchanged stories. And when it came time, I tried on my sweater. A perfect fit. It couldn't have been more perfect if she had measured me before making it. The pattern is beautiful and I love the meaning behind each cable. One is for good luck for the fisherman, one is for many children and one is for prosperity. I've already caught my "fish" and we live a fairly comfortable life so here's hoping the third cable works some magic.
Friday, February 17
Our train to Gothenburg leaves this afternoon at 17:36. Sweden uses military time here. It took me a while to get used to it but I kind of like it now. Usually I am in charge of organizing whatever food we will have for dinner on the train, since the food car has limited selections for vegetarians. For many trips I’ve picked up tacos from La Neta, which is an absurdly placed but well-loved taco bar here in Stockholm. Other times I have picked up sushi or Lebanese food. It always makes the train trip feel extra special to have something really yummy to eat. Today we are having salads from our favorite neighborhood haunt, For Friends Café, which is owned and run by this cute, little, older couple and their 20’s-something son.
Train trips are the absolute best because I can just sit and relax, disappear into a book, listen to music or even watch a movie. And three hours later or so, I am magically at my destination. No hassle, no stress and I don’t have to find parking or stop for gas. I especially love the anticipation of a trip when I have a good book that I am looking forward to reading. I can’t wait to settle into my seat and read my book this afternoon. For now, I will just say “happy trails” and catch you again tomorrow.
Thursday, February 16
Today I had my physical therapy appointment. After my session I noticed that my therapist was wearing her shirt inside out. I sat there and contemplated telling her and wondered if it was perhaps one of those inside out shirts. Nope, there was the tag was sticking out on the side. If I had been back in the States I would have mentioned something tactfully to her about it but since I was not sure how she would take it, I kept quiet and just smiled to myself.
It reminded me of a time when I was in high school. I was not a morning person. Oh, so little has changed. My mother would come to wake me up in the mornings and I would bark at her to NOT TURN ON THE LIGHT. Every morning was like coming out of hibernation. I was grumpy and not completely with it until I'd had some coffee and a shower. After one particularly difficult morning I found myself sitting in seventh period, which was nearly the end of the school day. I needed to go to the restroom. Amazingly it would be my first time that day. I excused myself to my teacher and sauntered down the hall to the closest one. After closing the stall I proceeded to do my business. I nearly passed out laughing when I realized that I had on my underwear AND my pajama bottoms (bloomers of all things) under my jeans. Luckily I was the only one in the restroom. No wonder my jeans felt tighter. I thought maybe I had gained a couple of pounds so I was relieved to discover the bloomers. I took them off and wadded them into the smallest ball possible and when I got back to the classroom I quickly stuffed them into my backpack, hoping no one would notice or ask any questions. It appeared that I was safe but privately I was (humorously) mortified. I giggled to myself the rest of the day. Some days you just feel a bit off kilter.
Wednesday, February 15
If you are not familiar with a type case drawer, it is a skinny, shallow drawer that is divided into small compartments to hold the movable letters used for letterpress printing. Usually a type case includes many drawers, like a chest of drawers. They are not used as often nowadays and people have started to use single drawers as a sort of shadow box, or shelf for tiny figurines and keepsakes. I would like to use mine for the later. During my exploration today I came across several refurbished type case drawers that were really cool. They had been artfully decorated in a collage style with an assortment of colorful papers, photos, memorabilia, buttons, and other fun trinkets.
My type case drawer will be delivered tomorrow and I cannot wait to get started on refinishing it. For me, being creative is part of living and breathing and there has definitely been a part of that missing from my life. I feel that this is just a starter project, like a starter fire that becomes a bright, burning bonfire. I woke up this morning with a migraine and felt like the day was going to be tainted as a result. I had no idea that I would be led on an art inspiration journey which would give me just the pep and fire I needed to hop right over my headache experience and forge through the day, happily. Look for a later post with the finished product. Maybe I’ll even put hearts in it!
Tuesday, February 14
After traveling to Sweden with him the first time I was pleasantly surprised by all of the hearts I saw everywhere, tucked into little nooks and crannies. Hearts on paper napkins, hearts on signs and in restaurants, heart Christmas ornaments, and hearts incorporated into a great deal of the art and handcrafts I would see around. It is almost like the heart-shape is a national symbol of Sweden. It isn’t really but there seem to be hearts everywhere. I was in heaven. And I thought that he must obviously love them as much as me. I mean he came from this amazing, heart wonderland.
Even though I am on a heart limitation I still manage to sneak hearts into the house here and there. Last year I found this really, fun, heart garland with hearts made of varying sizes of birch bark, linked on a twine string. Of course I bought it and I hung it on the end of one of our curtain rods. So far it has managed to stay put. I have to admit however that even I do not want a home with hearts decorating every surface possible and I see the value in being more selective with the ones we do acquire. It makes them more special and it also plays into my desire to find things that are unique and original. Anyone can make a symmetrical heart and paint it red. It’s the ones that are a little bit funky, a little bit off-center that really draw my attention. So in the meantime I will look for Valentine’s Day to roll around each year and celebrate it with gusto as I wait for the perfectly imperfect hearts to find their way to me.
Monday, February 13
Jump forward to present day. Tonight is my book club meeting with the Stockholm American Women’s Club group. Yes, I joined up after we moved here. It has been a good way to keep in touch with English speaking women who seem to understand without explanation my experience and reality living here in Sweden. It is not a good or bad thing. It is just simpler. Perhaps it is because we all have a similar cultural background that links us together. I don’t know for sure but it is a nice break from my broken Swedish conversations and feelings of inadequacy and not belonging in a foreign land. And I love to read so there is that.
I never know with the books selected if it will be a good read or a not so good read. With one book in particular I found myself re-reading the previous chapter every time I decided to pick it up and try to get into it. It could not hold my interest and I found my mind wandering through my things-to-do lists or simply day-dreaming. There were simply too many facts to remember and not enough plot to draw me in so I gave up. I put it aside and forgot about it.
This most recent book however turned out to be an excellent read. In the beginning I was not immediately drawn in but I forged on and was glad that I did. Some books don’t grab you right away. They are like a cat stalking you in the dark. You since something but you don’t really know that there is a soft, purring warmness waiting to cuddle up with you or brush against your legs. This book finally found me and curled right up in my lap. It stayed there purring until I completed it.
There is something magical about a good book. It transports you to another place and time. Your mind takes a vacation and when you return you really do feel refreshed.
Sunday, February 12
But back to dinner. I saw a photo online of a pasta dish that looked delicious. It was spaghetti with cauliflower and basil topped with grated parmesan cheese. There was my inspiration. I didn’t bother reading or even looking at the recipe because I knew we had some broccoli in the fridge and I would build the dish from there. I decided to combine the broccoli with some sauteed shallots, pan-fried fakon (fake bacon), a cup of vegetable broth and toss it with the spaghetti and then top it off with parmesan cheese and some arugula leaves. Fresh, green, delicious food. When I think of vegetables, green ones always come to mind. I never feel like I am eating a vegetable if it isn’t green. Maybe my body craves the chlorophyll in the leafy greens. I am not sure but the meal was excellent and fast. We had everything prepared, eaten and cleaned up within forty-five minutes. That’s what I call a Happy Meal.
Saturday, February 11
It was a bit unusual for me because I am definitely a sunny day kind of girl. I would be perfectly happy with never having a cloudy or rainy day. To me rain is for night time, a white noise to help with sleeping. It should be beautiful and clear when morning comes so that we can enjoy a blue sky and some golden rays. This cloudy day however was welcomed and embraced. Now if tomorrow is sunny the weekend will be perfect.
Friday, February 10
Instead I picked myself up by the bootstraps and dragged myself back to the office. I took a different route thinking it might change my mood to see different scenery. I was really trying to find the happy in today. I got to the bottom of the hill and a little, old man passed in front of me. He was wobbly but here he was out taking a walk in the -10 C cold (16 F). I wondered where he was off to and I secretly admired him as I trudged up the hill to my office. One of my colleagues came back from lunch while I was still getting out of my coat and winter gear and he had a client with him. I was not in the mood to make small talk so I introduced myself quickly, shook hands and disappeared upstairs to the safety of my desk.
Turns out the client was actually one of our Germany colleagues. He was here in Stockholm for the weekend to visit some friends and came by our office to see our showroom and give us some pointers with our light calculation software that we’ve had some issues with recently. Then it struck me. I suddenly felt the desire to hostess and I offered to run down to the local bakery to pick up some pastries so we could have “fika” with our guest. Everyone liked the idea and so off I went, back down the hill to pick up some semlor, a traditional Swedish pastry that is eaten between Fat Tuesday, or Fettisdagen, and Easter.
I realized that having my focus outside of me and on entertaining another person, I was able to finally shake loose that grouchiness that had taken over my day. I actually enjoyed our coffee break with our guest and I was able to finish my day at the office with the corners of my mouth turned up instead of down. Now I’m going to continue the entertaining streak and go entertain our kitty and cook dinner with my husband. It’s taco night, after all.
Thursday, February 9
A cup of tea can be just the thing needed to transform my day when there is a black cloud hovering over me. Nothing else is needed, although a good book, a soft, wool blanket and a warm, black kitty wouldn’t be turned down. The silence combined with the soothing, warm liquid invigorates me, perks up my senses and leaves me refreshed. Think I’ll put the hot water kettle on…
Wednesday, February 8
As I was coming down the stairs into what I refer to as the dungeon (the tunnel for the blue subway line which is the furthest underground of all of the lines) an older gentleman whizzed past me, sticking out in a red, down jacket, blue jeans and red, leather, tennis shoes. The red tennis shoes really topped it off for me. I don't know exactly why but seeing this older man with grey hair dressed that way made me smile all over. I wouldn’t think twice seeing a younger person here dressed in this manner but when I see older men here in the city they are generally dressed in slacks and a fancy (black, or grey) overcoat. It really brightened my day to see this young-at -heart gentleman in his “färgglad” coat and tennis shoes.
I will admit that it is much more often that I see men wearing brightly, colored clothing in Sweden than in the U.S. Many men here even wear red, skinny jeans. I keep asking Carl when he is going to get a pair of skinny jeans but the farthest he’ll go is really, long shorts (or capris pants) and red crocks.
Tuesday, February 7
I met a friend last night for dinner, which turned into having cake at a cafe instead. I'm not complaining. Dessert first is something I firmly believe in. Anyway, she is about to begin a job search in Stockholm and was asking me about the process I went through in my own job search. The story behind the search leading to my job is actually rather amazing.
I began to look for a job as soon as we moved here, but with no Swedish language skills it did not go so well. It was disheartening to receive rejection after rejection, if I even received a reply at all. I started to feel like I would never get any positive response. I continued my Swedish studies and tried to become proficient in the language. One day I discovered that I could request a job coach through my contact at the Arbetsförmedlingen (unemployment office), free of charge. The job coach was designed to assist you with motivation and tools in your search but not really help you look for a job. Ok. I was paired with a job coach and after a few mishaps we began my serious job search process. My coach assisted me with search techniques and with translating my CV to Swedish. Once my CV translation was completed, things moved quickly.
Carl and I had just come home from vacation at our summer house and I was on a field trip with my Swedish class to visit Stockholm's City Hall. My group was outside waiting for our scheduled time when my mobile phone rang. For the record, it was probably the first time it ever rang since we moved to Sweden and I nearly didn’t get to it in time, as I did not recognize the ring tone. I answered and it was someone from one of my job applications calling to offer me an interview. My first interview in Sweden and as it turns out, after two additional interviews for this position, my first interview became my first job. It was some kind of sheer, dumb luck and when I really think about it, it’s kind of cool that I am working in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language. So what if I don’t love my job. Today as I sit here I choose to feel thankful that I have a job. This very job.
Monday, February 6
However I am not the only one who has had fun with these false friends. When my husband first moved to the United States he drove past a billboard for a Pitt Barbeque restaurant. Imagine his shock, the word “pitt” in Swedish means penis, only the slang, vulgar version, which I will not write here. I am sure he drove with any Swedish visitors he had past that billboard. Some of the best things in life are free.
We had some friends from Texas visit us in Stockholm last summer and I guess I have lived here long enough now that I don’t take particular notice of these false friends anymore. One of them saw a sign for a “slut rea,” which means literally “end sale.” It is basically an end of season sale, or final sale. Slut is not even pronounced the same here. It is pronounced like “boot.” But that doesn’t change the sheer joy one feels when one discovers these anomalies.
The word for child in Swedish is barn. Grandchild is barnbarn. I don’t even know if it is acceptable in written form such as this to use “LOL,” which means laugh out loud, but I thought this was one of the funniest things I’d ever heard. How many barn do you have? That’s another funny thing. Whether you have one barn or two barn, it is the same word. No plural form.
There are several words for “good” in Swedish and they are “false friends” to their English twins. Two that are particularly peculiar are “god” and “bra.” “God” is used to describe something that tastes good or when wishing someone Merry Christmas one says, “God Jul.” “Bra” is more of a description, like when something is good or someone has done something good. The kind of bra you wear in Sweden is called a BH, short for bröst hållare, or in English breast holder. Lol.
Another one that was difficult for me to accept was the word for vacation. “Semester” is what the Swedes take when they go on vacation. When I started studying Swedish I would ask my classmates what they planned to take next “semester,” me meaning next term in school. They just looked at me confused. They had no clue what I meant. I have to say however that one of the funniest for me is “kiss,” which is the word for urine here. But again, it is pronounced more like fleas but with a short s at the end.
What I find unusual and confusing about these “false friends” is that many of them are not even the same type of word. Some are nouns and some are verbs, which further confuses a person new to the language. Just for laughs I am including a list below with a few more of these crazy, “false friends” for you to mull around in your heads:
English/Swedish word - Swedish meaning
Offer - victim
Sex - six
Men - but
Runt - around
Ask - box
Be - beg/pray
Gift - poison/married
Spy - vomit
Tall - pine
Sunday, February 5
Food is one of my passions. I love to eat, as you all know from one of my previous posts called The Art of Eating (Day 4). So it was merely coincidental that I decided to make a bowl meal today. We will be having burrito bowls made with brown rice, black beans, diced tomatoes, cilantro, avocado, sour cream, salsa and maybe a handful of tortilla chips. Can you say Ole? So, while most of America will be watching the Super Bowl on TV today, we will be feasting on our own Super Bowl. Salud!
Saturday, February 4
Well, today was the day. He announced after breakfast that he was going to go change the tires on both of our bikes so we could go out for a ride. I couldn’t really back down now, since I had specifically asked him to order these special, winter tires. I started getting dressed. I put on wool long johns, a wool sweater and socks and then the wind blocking pants that I bought plus another jacket and a down vest. I went outside to see how the pants stood up to the cold air. It felt chilly but not unbearable. I tried out his pants. Wow, what a huge difference. I decided then that I definitely needed to exchange mine for warmer ones.
Not too long after he was done with our bikes we headed out with plans to stop by a store to see if they had a different, insulated pair of pants for me. We ended up going by three different stores with no luck but it actually didn’t feel too cold so we decided to ride out to Djurgården (one of the islands of Stockholm made up of mostly city park land with a few museums, cafes and a handful of elite summer homes) to enjoy the sunshine and have some lunch. It was a gorgeous day and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that even in minus degree temperatures, with the sun shining I could enjoy a bike ride in freezing, cold temperatures in the snow.
We had a great ride despite the fact that our lunch plans were thwarted. The cafe we planned to go to was closed for some unknown reason and another one we tried was so packed that there was a line of people waiting just for tables. So we bought a couple of cinnamon buns and wolfed them down quickly outside to stave off the hunger for our ride home. The snow-covered park looked magical with the sun shining through the bare trees. Though by the time we were heading home it had become quite a bit colder. It was actually so cold that my toes and fingers were getting numb. I think with the right clothing next time will be fine. Tomorrow I am heading out to look for insulated pants. I am just happy to know that the winter temperatures do not have to stop us from enjoying outings on our bicycles.
Friday, February 3
The first year we lived here I had my arctic duffel coat, which was very warm but maybe a little overkill even for Sweden. The second year I decided it was time to get a good coat. One that was well insulated but also not so warm that I would roast the minute I walked into a store from the outside. I found one that I thought would be at least a start in the right direction. It was a US brand so I ordered it online in the US to save money and when we went to Texas for Christmas I brought it back with me.
We are now going into our third year here. This winter started out so mild that it really seemed more like an extended fall or early spring. However, the past week has changed all of that and the memory of how cold it was during our first two years has quickly come back to slap me in the face. Cold becomes defined by a string of four-letter words. I look at the first “winter” coat I bought for my first winter trip to Sweden, pre-artic duffel, and I laugh. It is definitely stylish and feminine but not at all practical and not very warm either. My new coat from last year is awesome. It is the perfect blend of style and warmth, though it could use a few small improvements. And although I am already starting to pick out my next coat, narrowing it down to the smallest details of perfection, this coat, right now, makes me happy. Living in Sweden one needs at least one good winter coat, possible two, so I am keeping my eyes and my options open.
Thursday, February 2
Or not. Once I had been lying there a few minutes, the heat from my face activated the perfume left by the last person on the face pad. Fabulous. It just so happens that I am highly sensitive to smells and the smallest unpleasant odor can trigger a migraine. I tried to move my face around to see if that would help but I only managed to get my hair in my face. I moved my hair and tried to relax and concentrate on the scent of peppermint. Then the door opened and my therapist came back in the room. She asked how I was doing and I explained the leftover perfume etc. and she removed the face pad and the smell was magically gone. She could only smell the scent of the plastic material the face pad was made of. Lucky for her.
After that I was able to really relax, which brings me to today’s title. A school teacher gave her first grade students a list of proverbs that were incomplete and asked them to complete them in their own words. One student wrote the proverb above. I think it is absolutely fantastic. It suggests that a person do the exact opposite of what the original proverb suggests, which is that an idle mind causes a person to do/think bad things. I read this child’s proverb after my PT session during my commute to work and I chuckled to myself. Before the perfumy face pad was taken away all I could think about was the smell and how I would probably get a headache soon. Once it was taken away, my mind became idle and I did in deed relax. The wisdom of children should definitely not be underestimated. Unfortunately I did end up with a headache but that is what Tylenol is for.
Wednesday, February 1
By the time we made our way to the street where I lived we were dragging a bit, each of us walking in our own world. The street's gutter was filled with brittle, autumn leaves and I was crunching the leaves in a marching fashion as I made my way up the street to my house. I happened to look over at just the right moment and my mom was about to fall down laughing at me. “What in the world are you doing?” she asked through tears. “I’m crunching the leaves,” I remarked with a giggle. And now drawn out of my private world and back into reality, I had to laugh with her. I must have looked completely ridiculous. What can I say? I loved the sound of crunching leaves under my feet. At that time of year there was no shortage of them in Berkeley. Leaves were pretty much everywhere.
Just like there is this wonderfully, crunchy, icy snow today. I know it is a simple thing but I really love the way it sounds and feels as my feet tramp over its brittle crunch. After it snows the streets become eerily quiet. There is a buffering effect that the snow has on the environment and sounds are softer. Then a few days later, after it warms up enough for the snow and ice to melt a bit, it freezes again and we get the crunchy snow. And it is almost as good as the crunch of dry, autumn leaves.