Friday, August 31, 2012

Sweden purchases so far, and other things

Aside from food and beverage, these are the items I (we) have purchased in Sweden so far:
- rain coat
- umbrella
- pack cover
- bicycles
- helmets
- bike lights
- bike locks
- bike basket
- alarm clock
- a cell... ahem mobile phone

Other observations:

Greg spotted a wild hedgehog! It was awesome and adorable.

Here they call cilantro koriander. Which I suppose makes sense, although I didn't know for a long time that coriander is the seed that makes a cilantro plant.

I also made progress with getting a bank account, which is good, since I need one to be paid.

Despite the fact that people might be advertising hallways for rent, we are also making some progress on the apartment-finding-front. We updated our ad to say that we are 'scientists' looking for an apartment to rent instead of just a 'couple', and we also changed the photo to one of our engagement photos. Updating your ad also bumps you back to the top of the list. So some combination of these factors is contributing to more housing options than we had previously.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Welcome to a life of helmet hair!

One of the things I was most looking forward to when it was decided I'd be moving to Sweden was not  having a car. Luckily, Uppsala is a city with a very good bus system. But even more luckily, Uppsala is a city with a very good system of bicycle routes! (Seriously, check out the bicycle routes on the google map.)

Greg and I have gotten pretty good at taking the buses. So far we haven't had any issues with not knowing which direction is North and which is South (which happened in Barcelona after getting out of the underground train). We have also gotten pretty good at showing up at the bus stop just when our bus is driving away. The timetables are all online, but sometimes I just need a break from Swedish webpages, so I rarely check them before we head anywhere. The wait is never too terrible, only 10 minutes during busier times and 20 minutes during less busy times. But lately we were getting more and more aware of how we could have walked halfway to town in the amount of time we spent waiting.

And so we bought bicycles! My bicycle is the Viking - Elegance 3. I don't know what Greg's is called, but it is neat. We also bought matching helmets (I asked the poor worker who was helping us for about an hour what the cheapest helmet that would fit my head was.) which are not required by law. And we bought lights and reflectors, which are required by law. Our bicycles also came with bells, which is apparently also required by law. Today Greg got me a basket for my bicycle, so now I am fully decked out. Oh and we got these rear wheel locking devices, as well as a rope lock thing.

Interesting fact about the bicycles here: the front brake is controlled with a hand lever, but the rear brake is controlled by pedalling backwards. I am still getting used to this. I had a bit of trouble today, due to that as well as the fact that my turning radius is large, and I sort of fell over, but I didn't scrape a knee or anything, so all is well.

Interesting fact about the helmets here: they have this mechanism to easily adjust the size, for the purpose of being able to wear a hat under your helmet whenever you want.

For the bicycles we pay up front, but I figure that if I ride my bicycle for 100 days, it will have paid for itself in the money I save from not taking the bus. Also, I highly recommend Cykelringen; it was a superb shop with really helpful workers who can mimic the sound of a zip-tie when they can't think of the English word for it.

Also, I enjoyed looking back to see the last time I wrote about riding my bike, which was possibly the last time I even rode a bike. I also found it really funny to read about former bike-riding ambitions which failed miserably. Luckily this time I don't have a car to make it easy to back out of my plan.

Above and below are photos of bicycles outside of the lab. This is taken just as we were leaving for the day. During peak hours there are more than twice this many bicycles.

Bicycle parking near the river. Also, the road pictured has one-way traffic on half of it, and a luxurious bike lane for the other half of it, as demonstrated by the person on the bike.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Snapshots of my evening

Princess Cake! Greg spotted these two slices of princess cake at the ICA (sounds like eeka). I am probably going to spend some time rating the quality of any princess cake I can get my hands on. I am still not sure why it is green, but I don't mind.

A telephone! No, I was not hanging out with some child and taking a photo of their toy cell phone. This is a real phone, and it is mine, and it works with a Swedish number. 

And I took this bonus picture of Greg as he was looking away.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Somewhat of a real update

We are arrived in Sweden. I've been going to work for about a week. We still don't have an apartment. There is a severe shortage of rentals available. However, if you feel inclined to buy, it only takes about a week. I have had good luck at the migration board and the tax office. At the migration board, I needed to have my photo and fingerprints taken. And they mailed me a card (like an ID card, but it is actually not the same as a Swedish ID card, which is something you can get at the tax office). They said it would take about a week to get the card, but it arrived in just two days. And once I had my card I could get my personal number, which is like a social security number. It consists of your birthday (yymmdd) and a dash and four other digits. When you get to be 100 years old it changes to your birthday and a plus sign and then your four digits.

After just one week of being here I gave a seminar. It was really only space physicists who were there. Maybe about a dozen of them. For me, I need a really large amount of time to prepare my presentation. I spent a really long time putting it together. It took particularly long because I had hastily transferred files from my old dying Mac to my new laptop the day before we had left. So the organization was lacking, which added to the time. Overall I think it ended up being fine, and it was not too short, which was one of my main concerns.

Greg is giving a seminar in the astronomy department in a week or two. I'm going to go so I can find out what he is working on.

I want to buy a bike soon so that I can get used to riding before the snow comes. There are so many bike paths everywhere, and I've been told they are plowed in the winter, so they should be good for riding year-round.

The only non-food purchases I've made so far have been for rain gear. I have a really sweet Swedish rain coat now. And an umbrella. And a waterproof pack cover which was too small for my backpack, but fits Greg's perfectly.

Oh and on Saturday is the 100 year celebration of Eric Sahlström, and there will be a lesson in Swedish folk dancing on Saturday. We are going, for sure.

I haven't really learned any Swedish yet. I was going to start my Rosetta Stone lessons, but it turns out that super fancy brand new amazing macs that you get for your work don't come with a CD drive. But one of the guys in the lab is going to get one that I can use. So hopefully I can get that going soon! Greg and I also might take some classes in town which start in September.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Daily log - Sweden

Here there are no screens on the windows. This means that there are not enough bugs for it to be a problem, which is really quite nice.

Apparently Swedes eat tacos on Friday. If you eat something else on a Friday, you are not a true Swede.

Here, there is not a very extensive cheese selection. Growing up in Wisconsin and also living in Vermont really contributed to my love of cheese. And even though I never took full advantage of the wide variety of cheeses, I still appreciated having the option. Luckily we did manage to find a (huge) brick of cheddar (which probably cost us $15-$25?).

Also, there is a thing called Princess Cake. I couldn't find it at the grocery store (so I ended up with a chocolately thing that was weird after the first bite, somewhat good after the second bite, and really super delicious right up to the end), but when I was flipping through an Ikea catalogue, I noticed that Princess Cake is on sale during Oktober! 10 SEK for princess cake and a coffee!

Swedish sayings (so I've been told):

There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Swedes are happy in the minor key.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sweden, as it becomes less of an oddity

I can already tell that things I am not used to are no longer seeming as strange or out of the ordinary as they first did. But for now many of these things are still memorable, and here I will recall what I can.

The doors continue to perplex me. First I can never tell if they are push or pull. Then I try both and sometimes neither works. Oh because there is a little lever that needs turning first. So I turn the lever and push, and it turns out that you need to turn the lever and pull. Or sometimes there is a button off to the side of the door. Yesterday I started to try the doors in whatever way was opposite to my intuition. So far, I've only gotten one door right on the first try.

Speaking of going through doors. The thresholds are also raised slightly higher than I am used to. So you are not allowed to shuffle through any door. You must step over the threshold or stub your toe. This is particularly important for bathrooms, which have an even higher threshold.

Yesterday we ate pizza like a Swede! With salad! But this does not mean what you think. Luckily we had a Swede demonstrate the technique, so we knew we were doing it right. The 'salad' is really like a spicy, oil/vinegar-based coleslaw. And you just put it on top of your pizza. It is pretty delicious.

I learned my raincoat is no longer waterproof. So today I will try to figure out how or where to buy something that is waterproof.

There is actually an actual Swedish craigslist! I had been calling the equivalent of a Swedish craigslist, which is the website I've been searching for apartments on.

And apparently if you buy an apartment in Sweden it takes about a week.

When riding on the bus, you need to hold up your card and push a button. I have realized that the locals actually push the button with the card, so I tried that out. There are a LOT of buses and also a LOT of bicycles.

Oh and I met a Swedish vegetarian, which I didn't really think was possible. He has lived his whole life as a vegetarian, and apparently it is not entirely uncommon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

First Sweden Observations

Travels to Sweden were successful. We have arrived, without any issues. Our layover at Heathrow was awesome and totally painless, which was surprising considering it was the day after the olympics ended. We had a long layover and spotted a lot of athletes.

On the plane from London to Stockholm we got sandwiches called "coronation chicken." And they were very delicious.

The Stockholm airport is very nice. Customs was a breeze, which was nice. The train is also very nice, although it is not easy to get large amounts of luggage onto the train without being in people's way. Yeah, we are Americans, and we have a lot of luggage. This is why there are stereotypes. In my defense, I think two suitcases (one jumbo, one regular) plus a backpack and a briefcase are rather reasonable when going to a place for a year.

Our travels (from doorstep to hotelstep) took just about 24 hours. The following are observations from the next 24 hours.

People say 'hej hej' as a greeting. Hej sounds like Hey. I've heard them say goodbye as something sounding like hey-lo.

There are a LOT of pregnant ladies here. Or people with small children. Or ladies who are pregnant who also have small children. Often if there is a couple with a small child, the dad will be carrying the child in a fancy baby-wearing device.

Some crosswalk signs show images of a big cat and two small cats crossing.

A fire extinguisher has a sign by it that says Skum.

Yesterday for dinner we had kabob med bröd. That means kabob with bread. Except that it wasn't a kabob, it was thinly sliced meat. And there was lettuce and tomato and sauce and it was delicious. Greg and I like kabob.

For a traffic light that is red, an additional yellow light will come on for about a second, and then both go off and the green light goes on.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cake Balls!

I recently learned the joy of cake pops. The ones I made were delicious, but they left me wanting. The inspiration came from eating a cake pop at a popular coffee establishment. And that cake pop was more delicious than the ones I made, somehow. So I went searching for a new recipe to try, and I came across this gem.

If you clicked on that link, you'll see that the author has a particular love of cake batter flavored things. If you didn't already know, cake batter ice cream is the only kind I ever get when I encounter a Cold Stone Creamery. Actually, while I'm on the topic, it is the Cake Batter Remix that is my choice, except that I don't get the fudge, but instead get caramel sauce. So it is cake batter ice cream, with brownie chunks, and caramel sauce, and sprinkles. And it is so delicious.

I just checked and it is 57.62 miles to the nearest Cold Stone...

Anyhow, so I made the recipe above, except that I wouldn't really justify it by calling them truffles (because in my mind a truffle is a fancy complicated thing). These babies are just cake balls (like a cake pop, but no stick).

Also, I didn't have white chocolate in the house, so we went to the little store in town, which is nothing more than an advanced gas station. The only white chocolate was in the form of Cookies and Cream candy bars. Hence the cookie bits in my cake balls.

And oh were these delicious. Normally it is hard for a dessert to be sweet enough for me. With these, I could eat two and feel quite sated with the sweetness. Normally, I can't keep dessert in my house without eating it all in two days, but these were sweet enough to be self-regulating.

I should mention that these didn't really have the cake batter taste I was hoping for, even though they were incredibly delicious. 

Also, I'll never make cake pops again. The stick is just too much of a hassle, both in preparation and in storage.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


If I have the option of having avocado on a BLT, the choice is always YES.

I guess I've been making a lot of meat lately?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Greg's favorite meal

I had known Greg for a long time before his mother enlightened me on his favorite meal. Now that I have that information, I can get major bonus points by cooking a chicken. The best part is that he takes care of the chicken carving for me, since I really don't want anything to do with that process.

On this day, I once again made kale salad, as well as rice and gravy to have with the chicken, and green beans using the Not Your Mother's Green Beans recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook. And of course, we had to have a glass of milk with this meal.

Also, I had never made a chicken before, but it is not at all difficult. I always follow this recipe for roasted chicken, except that the herb I stuff in it changes. We have never used thyme, because anything flavored with thyme makes me think of thanksgiving stuffing. We usually use rosemary, but since the rosemary plant is not doing as well as the basil plant, we used the latter instead.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

food invention

It is a hot dog. With a pick spear and avocado. Delicious.

Friday, August 3, 2012

And she just keeps blogging about food

Lately my life consists of: scouring the internet for a place to live in Uppsala, cleaning and unpacking our house, reading, and cooking. The first obviously does not lend itself to interesting blog writing. The second could have been really interesting if I had taken a photo a day of the same spot in order to have concrete evidence of the progress I am making. But I didn't, so no such luck. I could possibly write about the third. About how I got obsessed with Jane Eyre, and everything else was put on hold. Except that is about all I have to say about that, and I don't have any romantic pictures of me holding a book because I am reading free classics on my kindle.

Therefore, I will just keep writing about food. I think taking pictures of food and documenting some cooking adventures also inspires me to make more good food more often.

No more boring sandwiches for lunch for me! Instead, we get grilled cheese with a tomato!

And it was very delicious.