Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: My trifecta year

Probably one of the best remarks I heard this year was a congratulations on my trifecta year. In 2012 I finished my PhD, got married, and moved to Sweden to start a new job (in order of occurrence, not importance).

Finishing graduate school was an amazing and magical thing. Just look how happy I was.

Graduate Commencement

Mainly I am smiling because I love my giant hat. Too bad it was just a rental.
(Sometimes I feel bad that photographers are just trying to do a good job of photographing people, but that is really hard when everyone is turning away from the camera. Usually I end up making a goofy face at the camera, but somehow this person got a genuine smile. The result was me appearing on the Dartmouth Graduate Studies homepage for a bit of time.)

And one quick week after the graduation ceremony was our wedding. As much as I love the phrase "trifecta year" I am guessing that it won't take long before I only remember 2012 as the year that Greg became my husband. 

The actual day of the wedding was a bit of a blur. I remember being awake in the middle of the night and painting my fingernails or toenails. I remember hearing Greg talking with someone before he walked in, when I was still in the basement being unseen. I remember not knowing some of the songs because we kind of got the music program together at the last minute and managed to pick some versions that I didn't know. I remember being bolstered by the lovely loud singing of The Gilbert family. I remember Father Justin giving an amazing homily (and also remember seeing his thumb shaking, even though his demeanor was completely relaxed). I remember being told that there were no plates, but that Bette & Andy just happened to have a ginormous amount of them, so that had been taken care of. I remember dancing, with everyone, but particularly waltzing with Greg. And I remember that he and I were the absolute last two left at the reception hall, and his car was so packed that I was sitting in the front seat balancing leftover cake on my lap.

Here are some of the photos captured by our amazing photographer

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Oh those Dominicans!

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Reception007
Why bother feeding each other cake when there is a pig roast?

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Lamby!

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Did Garren get a picture of that face I made just at the end of this little video clip, you ask? Why yes. Yes he did.

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I have to cut myself off with wedding stuff, or this post could become outrageously long.

Finally, in mid-August, was my move to Sweden to start my new job. I am incredibly pleased with the work, and with making Sweden home. 

All in all, I'd say the year was quite good!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Keeping Busy

For the past two days I have been partly moping around, but partly keeping busy so that I don't start to feel too sorry for myself and so that no one else starts to feel sorry for me. Greg has had to go back to the states. I am not really looking forward to this Skype-phase of our marriage. I want to be cautious about wishing time away, but I am pretty much wishing this time will go quickly.

The night before Greg left he decided we should make some pepparkakor. This is the standard Swedish Christmas cookie, basically a ginger snap. Normally I have a decent instinct with baking. For example, if I am looking at a recipe that requires 6 cups of flour, I know that the yield is probably a bit high for a household of two, soon to be one. But when a recipe requires 15 dl of flour, then it is just like, 'Okay where is the measuring cup?'. So after we had about half of the cookies made (using our new cookie cutters shaped like a polar bear, giraffe, lion, alligator, and camel), Greg saw that the yield for the recipe was 300. Luckily I don't roll dough very thin, so we only made about 150?

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And I cleaned the windows. Riveting! Just look at how filthy they were.

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And of course the first day Greg was gone I finished the rest of the Reese's trees that my mother had lovingly sent to me when I panicked about not being able to buy any here. So today I made the peanut butter balls that we had planned to make before Christmas. I guess when you buy a most-delicious cake, any pre-Christmas baking plans get delayed.

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Unfortunately (fortunately), though the peanut butter balls look so spectacular in that photo (it is salt sprinkled on top! so amazing!), the removal of peanut butter balls from plate was not a smooth operation. The chocolate majorly stuck to the plate. Unless I let them warm up a bit, in which it stuck all over my fingers. Needless to say, these are not presentable and will not be shared with anyone else. Sad day for me? I put half of them in the freezer so that I wouldn't eat them all in two days. Although a frozen peanut butter ball is probably delicious...

In other news I just like reading blogs and I am now obsessed with Ana's blog. I feel so lucky to have learned about 'super bust-out mode'. Basically, set a timer, pick a task, and get as much done with it as you can in the allotted time. Aim for quantity over quality. I just busted-out on the kitchen and basically got everything done in under the 30 minutes I gave myself. But before, I was looking at all of the mess and thinking about how it would take hours to clean, a task which was too daunting to even start.

I think it helps that I've created a super bust-out mode playlist on spotify. (Spell checker wants that to say spottily.) So far it has two songs, Party Rock Anthem and Kerncraft 400. It took a little searching for that second one, because I only know it as the Hockey Goal Song.

Friday, December 28, 2012

7QT: my favorite photos of 2012

I didn't pay much attention to my photo blog this past year, so narrowing it down to my favorite seven shouldn't be too difficult. In reverse order then (because this week reverse order takes are the thing to do):

- 7 -

A type case at the Dartmouth letterpress studio.

- 6 -

Tiny flowers in my office.

- 5 -

Dartmouth observatory.

- 4 -

The Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, WI (which is in a bit of a rough spot, and could be lost forever. To read more or help support the museum, click here.)

- 3 -

 Field of hay bales in Wisconsin.

 - 2 -

Taken in my backyard in New Hampshire.

- 1 -

The "skogen" in Sweden.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas!

A few photos from our quiet Christmas in Sweden. Perhaps some 'outtakes' from this little adventure will make their way to the blog in the future.

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And because I can't resist the opportunity for a good animated gif, here we are, enjoying our glögg.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Santa and our Christmas Eve dinner

Yesterday Santa stopped by.

santa

It happened that I had been talking with my landlord who has five small children and also had a couple nephews visiting, and he asked if Greg and I would be busy in the afternoon. "I don't think so?" "Oh does Greg want to play Santa and distribute the gifts?" Greg agreed, so they met up in the laundry room to go over their plans. The trickiest part was probably the fact that GregSanta had to speak Swedish to the children.

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And that lasted all of ten minutes, and then Greg and I cooked our dinner.

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Yes that tall candle is one that I made. I know you were wondering. And after dinner we went to midnight Mass, which was actually quite nice. I really liked that it was not overly crowded like a Christmas Mass usually is. Also we sang the Swedish version of Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming. Bonus!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Up to 50% of Sweden is doing this right now

Kalle Anka
I love how the article is titled "Sweden's bizarre tradition of watching Donald Duck cartoons on Christmas Eve".

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Spoiled with good snow!

I can't remember the last time that I experienced the first snow of the season being a good snow. The kind of snow that actually sticks around. Has some abundance to it. I am remembering the last few Christmases as either having no snow or just a very little sprinkling (that probably melted away afterward).

Here are a few photos I took out of the windows of our apartment.

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Since I took these it has actually snowed quite a bit more too. So, needless to say, it looks like we'll be having a Very white Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Cake!!

Before Greg left I wanted to make sure he had tried the most delicious cake there is to find in Sweden. I had been tasting many different princess cakes since I've arrived here, and there was one from a specific bakery that was exponentially more delicious than the others. So this morning, our first task was to go to that bakery and get a princess cake!

Unfortunately they didn't have any original princess cakes, but they did have this beautiful Christmas cake, which is essentially the same type of cake (just red marzipan instead of green).

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And of course it is delicious and probably will not last until Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2012

7QT

Once again linking up with the quick takers, despite the fact that I really don't have anything of substance to write about.

- 1 -

In Sweden, there is a law saying the royal family must be protestants.

- 2 -

At lunch, one of my co-workers started getting crafty with a doritos bag, which turned into lunchtime-Christmas-crafting-time. I made this.


It is very Swedish. And it is like an ornament that you can hang on your Christmas tree. It is like a woven heart basket thing, but you just glue a handle to the top and you are good to go.

- 3 -

There will be cake for fika this afternoon, homemade by a different co-worker who is starting her maternity leave.

- 4 -

And that reminded me of how Greg is leaving soon and has yet to have the best princess cake that I've had in Sweden so far. Princess cake is this amazing thing, which is 90% cream and 10% cake. It also has green marzipan on the top. Looks like this:


Usually they taste quite good, but there was one day when I had one that was completely exceptional. So I wrote down the name of the bakery, and tomorrow we will go there with the hopes of being able to buy a Christmas princess cake.

- 5 -

Tacos for dinner tonight! It's the Swedish way!

- 6 -


I invented this outfit today. Some days just require tomato pants. I blame my lack of focus (on work, I'm not trying to comment on the clarity of the photo) on it being the last day of work before Christmas vacation. Also, it seems that storing a lot of things in my pocket takes away from the fashionability of my clothing.

- 7 -

Every time I wash my hands I think of this guy. I keep waiting for the day when someone sends an email to the entire office saying something like, "Will the person who keeps shaking water all over the bathroom please stop doing that!?" And then I'll have to respond and apologize and say, "but it is this guy's fault!" And then once they watch the video they will all do the shake too!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Shopping Duty Free!

On my way home from Prague I had my first experience with shopping duty free, and it made me feel awesome! I never really understood the 'why' of it all. Then I moved to Sweden, where the alcohol prices are unfathomably high, and now I get it.

I had planned to do some shopping at Wenceslas square to spend the last of my Czech monies before I left. Except that it was packed with people, and I had to get out of there. So on my way back to the hotel I formulated this brilliant plan to use the leftover money to buy duty-free alcohol.

Also, lucky for me, Becherovka is made in the Czech Republic, which I did not know before going there.






And even though I could not compare to the Swedish prices while I was making my purchases, I just knew the Czech prices were so good.

For example, a bottle of Becherovka was 300 Czech crowns. Oddly enough, in Sweden it would also be about 300 Swedish crowns. Except that 1 Swedish crown = 3 Czech crowns. In US dollars, I paid about $15 for the bottle, which would have been $45 in Sweden.

Not related, but kind of related:
Since I was travelling in the Schengen Area, I did not get a Czech stamp in my passport, and I did not get to show any nice customs person my fancy Swedish residency card that has my biometrics attached to it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Prague in photos

I did manage to take a few photos last weekend while I was in Prague. Enjoy.


Above is the outside of the National Theatre, where I saw The Nutcracker. A really lovely building with really lovely scaffolding. And below is the inside of the theatre. In Prague, you can just take any pictures you want (although I guess no one was taking photos during the actual performance) and you can just bring all sorts of food in with you. I think the people next to me were feeding their small child salami? That is what it smelled like anyhow.


Here we have the night-time view of Wenceslas Square (which is really a long street). On a Saturday night it is total chaos, with lots of hot wine and people who are not walking straight (I think due to oblivion to their surroundings, but I'm sure the hot wine doesn't help). This street is quite central, so I spent a good portion of my time in Prague with the song Good King Wenceslas in my head, except that I don't know any words not given in the title. And that made me think of the scene in Love Actually when the prime minister is carolling and the three little girls dance up a storm.


Here is the famous Charles Bridge, presented to you in patchy panorama style, because I like it that way. The day was quite dreary with a lot of fog and freezing rain (and dangerously slippery sidewalks). If you look carefully the Prague castle is visible in the left frame.


And the last photo is this really cool memorial. I looked it up after I got home, and it is to honor Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc. Although I must admit that laziness won, and I couldn't get myself to be interested in reading their wikipedia pages.



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ballet obsession

Before my trip to Prague, I was trying to find things to do or see on my extra day as a tourist. It is tricky for me to find things that I will enjoy doing/seeing alone. So then I got to thinking about things that are better to do alone, a.k.a. things that Greg would not enjoy doing and would appreciate me doing on my own.

So I think that is how I got onto this little ballet obsession of mine.

The only problem was that The Nutcracker was being performed while I would be in Prague, but it was sold out! Then once I got to Prague I saw on another site that the tickets were not, in fact, sold out. But it was a little hard to tell and all. I think the second webpage was some group that buys a bunch of tickets and resells them and adds an extra fee to "deliver" your tickets to you outside of the theatre.

I decided that the best option was to go straight to the box office and find out what I could find out. Luckily there were two seats left for one of the shows! So I chose the one on the main level, and life was good! I really enjoyed the performance on so many levels. I also thought it was interesting that the parts of The Nutcracker that I enjoy now are basically the opposite of what I enjoyed when I was a kid. I used to always like the entertaining parts, when the story was being acted out. And I would feel dreadfully bored during the long solo or duet parts. I guess when you are a kid you just don't realize the insane things these people are able to do with their bodies?

In anticipation of potentially seeing The Nutcracker I watched the documentary First Position (which I loved). Here is the official movie trailer, which will probably make you want to see it.




Friday, December 14, 2012

7 quick takes from Prague

Hi Everyone! I am in Prague! I mean...

- 1 -

I am in Prague! I have come here for work, but now it is Friday night and work is over and I will stay for an extra day to spend as a tourist.

- 2 -

My hotel room is very very nice.


I look tiny, but I promise that it is an optical illusion.

- 3 -

I am trying to have a working knowledge of different units, so that I don't embarrass myself in everyday conversation. For example, when shoe shopping, a person of my age should probably know their shoe size. So I figured out that Sweden shoe sizes are Euro sizes, and now I know that. Also, if you get into a conversation about ceiling heights with a European, they will tell you numbers in centimeters (I think?). Also, 150 cm is a person who is quite short (which I learned when I was renting my Swedish folk costume when I was told, "Oh you are much too tall for that one, that is more like for someone who is 150 or less."). 

So I would guess the ceilings in this room are 400 cm? Quite high!

- 4 -

Prague is incredibly cheap. I think this hotel is about 100 USD per night, and it is nice and right in the center of town and I get breakfast. I almost forgot to mention, I also have a bidet (I don't actually know how those work, but I'm okay with that lack of knowledge, because that is not something I want to google). 

1 USD is about 7 SEK is about 20 Czech monies

A pint of (tasty) beer in Uppsala is maybe 60-80 SEK (yes $10) and a pint of beer here is 50 crowns ($2.50!).

- 5 -

My plan for my day of tourism tomorrow is not well-defined. I left my nice camera at home, because I always get all nervous about having valuables with me when I am traveling alone. Plus I wanted to travel light, so I only brought my backpack and a shoulder bag. I do have my small camera, but I never found my battery charger when it was time to move to Sweden. I've made the current battery power last quite awhile, but I am guessing that I am on the last leg. So maybe I will post some photos of Prague at a later time, but maybe not. kanske. kanske inte.

- 6 -

I missed my very last Swedish class! ): There was some sort of quiz/game thing with teams? Luckily Greg went to class, and he picked up my (signed) Certificate!

- 7 -

Tomorrow I will maybe go see The Nutcracker!! Before I had left, I saw that it was being performed while I was here, but the website I was on definitely said tickets for Friday and Saturday were sold out. Just now I found a different website that said there are still tickets available! The website is a bit weird though, so I will not try to buy through them, but maybe I will walk by tomorrow to see if there is a box office where I can find out what is up. The Prague Ballet! Wouldn't that be sophisticated!

--

And that is all. Here are many more quick takes by others!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Quiet

I just recently realized that Susan Cain (who did the Ted talk called Power of Introverts, which I wrote about a bit ago) had a book out earlier this year titled Quiet. I am guessing it is like a longer version of her talk? Maybe? If that is true, I definitely want to read it.


Yesterday in Swedish class we were having fake conversations about making plans to do things among the class. And at least twice, our teacher said, "okay make just one more plan and then we'll stop" or something of the sort. I have a pretty good feeling that he was trying to get me and one other girl in the class to try to say a bit more. But the thing is, I just don't like to be the one talking 'in front of' a group of people. Even if it was in a language I actually knew. I guess it is unfortunate since the whole point of a language course is to acquire the skills to talk, but still.

And that got me thinking to grades in classes. As far as I remember it (correct me if I'm wrong, Mom), I think I only rarely got A's in elementary school, and only sometimes got A's in middle school, always because my participation grade was horrid. By the time I got to high school, I was motivated enough to force myself to 'participate' more, or at least to argue with my teachers that active listening is participating. Then college was glorious, because there is just no participation grade! How nice!

Maybe I'm thinking about this a bit too much, but that kind of makes me feel like your grade is partially based on how extroverted you are. And only if you can force yourself to act extroverted, even if you are quite introverted, will you get the best grades? That just doesn't seem healthy. Is this too big of a jump in the logic?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Found!


Interesting.
The last time I pulled photos off my camera, this little treasure was among the mix. This is not a photo I took. But I have a good idea of where it came from based off of the incriminating evidence in the reflection of the tea kettle.

Friday, December 7, 2012

7QT

More quick takes with Jen and friends.

- 1 -

There is such a thing as a Swedish mile. It is 10 kilometers.

- 2 -

I was reminded about Reese's Christmas trees (and other specialties, like pumpkins, hearts, and (most importantly) eggs, for that matter) after reading this post by the latest random blog by a stranger that I'm enjoying reading. We'll go ahead and add those to the top of the list of Foods That I Miss Being Able To Have Since Moving To Sweden.

- 3 -

On Wednesday it snowed something like 30 cm? After the storm was over I realized that it was actually quite a big storm. I was just kind of operating under normal mode all day. It wasn't until I tried to take a bus and a bus never came that I realized it was a fairly big deal. I guess it is not typical for the buses to stop operations more than once or twice each winter.

- 4 -

And even though the buses weren't running, no amount of blowing and drifting snow can stop people from riding their bicycles. Seriously.

- 5 -

I've been in a bit of a shoe crisis lately. I sort of ran out of shoe options and found myself with only my hiking boots as wearable. I finally managed to order some shoes online, and then I spotted a (possibly nearly identical) pair in a shop yesterday. So I bought those too. I don't remember ever being so frivolous with shoes, but the shoe crisis has been keeping me in panic-mode for too long now.

- 6 -

I forgot to water my plant, which I normally water on tuesdays. I keep remembering at times when I can't water the plant, so really I am just typing this with the hope of being able to remember to water the plant at the next possible opportunity.

- 7 -

I had a really cute plant with tiny orange balls on it. Unfortunately it is so dry here and I am really only good at watering plants once per week (or less). So that poor guy died.


Before & After...


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Craft Night!

 When I lived in VT/NH some of my friends and I spent most Wednesdays for probably over a year having Craft Night. We would switch around to different houses. Sometimes the host would cook a full meal. Or if there were a lot of us, we would go at it potluck-style. And everyone brought their own craft to work on, and we defined 'craft' very loosely, so it was quite an inclusive activity.

That being said, you better believe I was excited to hear about the craft night hosted by the folk dance group. Partly I was excited because of my love of Craft Night, but partly I was excited because I really want to make friends with the folk-y people.

The main activity at the craft night was making candles. The cabin that the group owns doesn't have electricity, so they hand-dip all of the candles that they use for the year during this one craft night. I got Really into the hand-dipping of the candles. That is an activity I'd like to incorporate into my future life. I really think it would make me a better old world woman.

There were also many other Swedish holiday crafts. The oddest by far was this:
Take an orange, stick cloves in it, wrap a red ribbon around it. And now you have a thing you hang in the window and it smells good.

There was also a wool station which was really quite cool, but I spent so much time dipping candles that I didn't have any time leftover to get into the woolen goods.

Here are photos I took after I got home of my loot!

 
A tiny flower pot with a Swedish flag!

 
I'm sorry to say, but this was painted by me and not by a five-year-old. It is like a jar that is painted and you can put a tealight in it and hang it like a lantern. Pretty special painting there.


And some hand-dipped candles! I got to take three home with me. I gave the best-looking one to Greg, so these are the two less-than-perfect ones. Pretty awesome right?