I don’t even HAVE an excuse

9 Nov

…for not blogging in so long.

Currently, it’s the beginning of November (2013) and I’m in a wine bar in Newark, NJ passing the time with cheap white wine and snooping on other peoples’ conversations.

I would be lying if I said that nothing worth blogging about has been happening with me and Ben. Most lately, we’ve had a bomb Halloween party that had more people at it than we thought we knew in Stockholm. I, personally, have made a decent amount of friends that I’m really going to miss when it comes time to leave Sweden (no matter how much I tend to complain about how Sweden is.)

Anyhow. This is my outdated vow to try and keep up with this blog from here on in. I could give you all the reasons (excuses) that I stopped updating the blog in the first place, but no one even cares.

Anyhow. I appreciate and love you all that have been reading the blog (even if it’s, you know, never.)

xx-

FINALLY a christmas post!

23 Jan a little cabin by a lake in the mountains where people can warm up when they're ice fishing

It finally happened – I went through and fixed up the good pictures from Christmas, and deleted the rest. I really should have done it before it was gramma time here at my apartment (my mom, my gramma marie and my gramma kathy all decided they were rich enough to come and spend a little over a week with me and Ben!) It was a really fun visit, but more on that later bc I finally am trying to post about mine and Ben’s first Christmas together in the North Pole!

Some of you have already heard this story, and if that’s the case then feel free to click on any of these pictures and it’ll link you directly to the slideshow I put up of all of our christmas pictures.

SO. First I have to point out one thing: I don’t have the best of luck when traveling. I mean, I always get wherever I’m going safely, so I can’t complain or anything. It’s just that I never get where I’m going when I plan on getting there. Something always happens that I end up having some weird delay (flashback to the time me and the boyfriend at the time decided to take a vacation to Maine, and I got so dehydrated that everyone thought I had OD’ed or the bird flu or something that they had to pull the plane off the runway after it had taxied off and call and ambulance and OH that was embarrassing.) This time the culprit was French-made trains.

You see, the long distance trains here in Sweden were getting a bit run down so they took a bunch of bids on companies that could build new trains, and this company in France were the lucky ones to build the new trains. The only problem is that while planning and building the trains the French didn’t take into account the extremely cold temperatures that the arctic experiences. As a result of this poor planning by some company whose bid clearly didn’t include fully functioning trains, trainloads of people get sort of abandoned by the SJ trains every year. This year it just so happened to us. On our first trip since moving here. In -30°C weather. OUCH. So here we are standing on a platform with 80 other people excitedly waiting for our transfer train in a little city in the middle of Sweden (Boden), 10 hours away from Stockholm on Christmas Eve, with no clear way of how we’re getting home. So instead of seeing HOORAY WINTER WONDERLAND and enjoying our Julbord (Swedish traditional Christmas buffet) we are looking at this:DSC02055Hey, what’s happening everyone that’s supposed to be transferring trains with us!?!) I don’t have a picture of it, but there were a bunch of kids (aka people younger than me) taking pictures of their frozen nose hair. Eventually some woman managed to find out on her cell phone that our train had been cancelled. We all thought she was joking until two guys that appeared to work for the train company told us that they didn’t know where the train was, “it should be here, you all better go inside while we figure out what’s going on.” We did that. And in the meantime those two men disappeared and no one else was working since it was Christmas Eve and that left about 80 of us standing around in this lobby area trying to figure out what’s happening. Within about 10 minutes or so some guy popped in the lobby and spouted a bunch of stuff in Swedish and half the people picked up their crap and started booking it outside, leaving the rest of us (Ben and I, a couple Germans, and a whole bunch of Asians that were heading up north for a skiing trip) standing around trying to figure out what’s happening. DSC02057Long story short, a bus came – it filled up and even though our crap was loaded on we got kicked off the bus – cabs were called and paid for by the train company and we made friends with the Germans. We shared some chocolate and they gave us some dense bread they made in case we didn’t get to leave the lobby in time to make it to our hotel 7 hours away for our Christmas dinner. Ben was convinced it was a big fat social experiment.
Eventually our cab came, the last one duhhhh, and we continued our trip with these two nice men (the cab driver, and this other guy from the train that was trying to go to Narvik – who was incidentally from Cali!) After almost 8 hours in the cab we made it to the hotel with a half hour left on the buffet, and the hotel made sure they left it all up until we were done.
Before we left the night before (since our train was an overnight train), Ben had a really great idea that we fast until Christmas dinner, because it was supposed to be a really fancy and delicious ordeal, and we were supposed to be there at like 5pm so it wasn’t going to be a big deal, but by the time we got there it was almost 10pm and BOY were we famished. Anyhow, I feel like we regretted deciding to fast at the time, but looking back on it dinner was so delicious that it was worth it.

On our way out of dinner the receptionist of the hotel told us that our cab driver and the man going to Narvik were on their way back because the border to Norway was closed. That’s right, America! Norway CLOSES for Christmas! So the DSC02089hotel saved two plates for the guys so they could have some Christmas dinner too, which was really nice of them. We saw them the next morning after breakfast and hung out with them for awhile before they took off for Norway, round 2!  I tried really hard to get the amazing mountains in the background, but it was too bright outside for the camera to pick it up. (That’s right, I said bright. I was under the impression that since we were so far up north we wouldn’t have ANY sunlight. That’s what the weather channel says. That’s what everything on the internet says. That’s what the sunrise/sunset charts that don’t chart any data bc they say there isn’t any to chart for that far up north during that time of year say.) It gets PRETTY BRIGHT though. The sun never ACTUALLY comes over the horizon. I’m not sure if it’s because there’s so many mountains or what, but we got really amazing sunrises and sunsets while we were there. At least, some really amazing colors in the sky during those times. And we got to see the moonrise every evening we were there while we were hiking.

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Anyhow, if you want to see all the pictures you can go to THIS LINK and it’ll take you to a slideshow of all our pictures. I can’t use flickr anymore because I ran out of free space and I don’t feel like paying for it, so I’m using shutterfly and I can’t figure out how to caption the pictures yet, and I’m also not sure if it’s linked correctly so if anyone’s having problems with the pictures just let me know and I’ll try and fix it!

xoxo-
Val & Ben ♥

oh also we didn’t see any northern lights maybe next time!

OH HAI!

16 Jan

WELL it’s officially happened. I have become too busy living here instead of being bored to the point of actually keeping up with this blog (sorry for the false hope, ppl.)

SRYABOUTTHAT.

Anyhow. My mom and gramma Marie and gramma Kathy are here! They got here Friday and they leave this Saturday morning coming up. We haven’t been here for that long (three months. I know it seems like a long time, but with the combination of a billion kg of snow and limited daylight my ability to discover Stockholm effectively was limited.) WHATEVER, it’s been fun to take them around to the few things that we like to do.

Ben and I have been cooking something different for them every day (yesterday we made dough from scratch and everyone made their own pizza, Monday Ben made chili and cornbread, Sunday we made a buttload of bruschetta toppings and toasted baguette, Saturday we made a big pork roast with roasted veggies, and Friday when they got here we made them spaghetti since it was quick and we kept them out all day shopping and sight seeing.

We also made a little scavenger hunt for them when they got here so they could find some little treats and OHYEAH tickets for a two day cruise to Helsinki, Finland (we leave today!)

All in all, it’s been fun. I know I keep saying it but I’ll get pictures up I promise. Probably not this weekend, and probably not during the week next week (Monday I start gym/class/work all back to back to back from 6am to anywhere from 5-7pm.) 

Potential good things about being so busy:
-gym will automatically be in my routine and will be finished first thing so I don’t have to have it hanging over my head
-I have to learn how to make my own granola bars so I have something to eat on the train between class and work so I don’t pass out while singing childrens’ songs to three year old mini-Swedes (I’m actually really excited about doing this. My mom even brought me a bag of flax seed from the states that I had left there when I moved.)

so i’ll get pictures up next friday or saturday AND BREAK!

xoxo-
Val & Ben <3

Curling and Christmas Markets!

31 Dec

As much as I always plan to write in this thing, we always find things that take up just enough time that I don’t have a bunch of time to devote to going through pictures and then the pictures all pile up and all of the sudden it’s a huge task to try and go through them all. One of my problems is that I always want to remember EVERY SINGLE SECOND of things that Ben and I do while we’re here, but in reality I don’t have pictures of every single second, so it’d be dumb to save every single picture that we took. So. Going through them always seems to be more difficult for me than it should for a normal person.

Anyhow, I really wanted to have a post up about our Christmas in Björkliden, but I didn’t get to it. Between needing to go through all the pictures and skyping all our families for Christmas there was just no time! (Anyhow, we keep this blog mainly to let family/friends know what we’re up to, so if we can spend the time skyping them then they can just read this whenever I get to it HAH.) So. I’ll post about Christmas and New Years tomorrow, but for now you just get to hear about our Christmas market experiences!

So every Thursday Ben’s coworkers go to the happy hour that’s on campus (the bar is right next to their building. We have only gone once, so it’s not really a ‘thing’ for us, but they really like it) but a few Thursdays ago there was no happy hour for whatever reason, so they reserved a lane at the local curling rink. With the lane we got a little curling lesson and also a couple hours to play some games against each other. So we got there and suited up! The curling shoes, which I didn’t get a picture of, were really strange. One shoe (the left for us, but the right for all the right handeders) was rubber on the bottom so you could have traction on the ice, and the other was just smooth plastic so you could slide all over the place. It was funny because I thought I was really good at sliding on one foot and using the other to push myself, but towards the end my feet just wanted to work normally so I ended up WIPING OUT. It was kind of funny. Before we took our little curling lessons I used to just think “Like, How hard could this actually be?” but it’s actually quite difficult! The ice is covered with tiny water drops so the stone slides a lot faster than you think. And as the person that’s doing the “sweeping,” if the person sliding the stone does it too hard, then it’s really hard to even keep up with the stone, and it just paaaaasses you up. It’s really strange. Anyhow, here’s some pictures that we took.

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We also went to a few Christmas markets. They’re a really big thing around here, they have all kinds of little stands that sell trinkets and handmade items and candy and cheese and sausages and

DSC02028

glögg and a whole bunch of other things. We went to two right here in Stockholm and then we went to one further out (about 2 hours away by train and bus) in a little town called Märsta. My favorite one was in Kungsträdgården, only because there was a booth there that wasselling authentic Spanish seafood paella. It was the most delicious thing (besides the julbord at the hotel in Björkliden) that I’ve had here in Stockholm. We went back there twice to eat it because it was so good. At the market in Märsta Ben got a sausage and we also got some cashew/dark chocolate bark that was in the shape of Sweden. At least I thought it was shaped like Sweden. I’m not really sure if they did that on purpose.

Moral of the story is that if you want to plan a trip to see us here, even if you don’t like cold and snow that much, maybe next year right before Christmas is the best time to do it. There’s a ton to do since all the Christmas markets and happening, and if you’re feeling ambitious you can come for New Years! I’ll post more about this tomorrow, but buying and lighting fireworks are totally legal here. Not only legal, but it’s the norm. We’ve been seeing and hearing people’s fireworks going off since about 3pm today. We’re about to head out for our New Years celebration to see the main fireworks on Skeppsholmen. I read that the main fireworks are shot off of the east side of Gamla Stan, so we’re going to try to get to this little island with our bottle of champagne to see the REAL THING.

Love you all! To those we didn’t get to talk to over the holidays we hope you had a really amazing Christmas and we hope to talk to you in the New Year!! <3

xoxo-
Val & Ben

Pre-vacation blurb!

23 Dec

So I was planning on blogging before we left for our little Arctic Christmas vacation. However, as life has it I didn’t do it. We’re pretty sure we’ll be equipped with wireless on our train ride (18 hours, 1400 km…the equivalent of driving from Pittsburgh to Kansas City, MO) Whether or not the wireless pulls through, I’ll have plenty of time to go through the pictures I’m still waiting to post. (curling, homemade gnocchi for the first try, snowmen, etc etc)

ANYHOW. As part of Christmas presents to our families we’ll be posting AT LEAST one blog while we’re gone to catch every one up with what’s been happening.

God Jul från Sverige!
Val & Ben

p.s. we’ll be closer to the North Pole than any other person we know on this whole earth this Christmas, so keep your fingers crossed we get to see some Northern Lights! We’ll be experiencing 24 hours of darkness every day (Santa gets no sun in the winter) so we’re not sure what kind of pictures we’ll be able to get, but we’re really hoping for these auroras! <3

First day back to work!

11 Dec

Hey all!

Just thought I’d put up a little update about how my first day back to work went! It’s been quite some time since I’ve been at a “job” that “pays me money.” It’s been nice. It’s kind of amazing how well this time off has done me mentally.

Moving here was hard at first (for all the reasons you think), and sometimes Ben and I still get a little lonely. But we’re used to doing our own thing here, and now that Ben’s grant got accepted and I have a job, things are starting to feel a lot easier (even though there’s about two feet of snow on the ground!)

I babysat two little Swedes today, 5 and 9, and they were really cute and easy to get along with. I was a little nervous about it at first because the younger of the two doesn’t speak any English, and the older one only speaks and understands a little. It was enough though, to get us through the evening. We made some Advent calendars out of origami squares (thanks for the idea, Jenn) and then we played some games upstairs. The older one beat me at chess. He has a trophy and some medals from chess competitions he’s won! I’m going to try to teach him checkers.

I received another email from Upgrades yesterday that asked if I’d like to take on an assignment tutoring a high schooler once a week in English. I told them that it sounds grand! It’ll be nice doing a variety of different things here with English because I think it will make me more marketable as an English teacher in other countries when Ben and I are done here in Stockholm.

<3 That’s really all the updates we have for now!

xoxo-
Val & Ben

Thanksgiving, Christmas cookie party, etc!

5 Dec DSC01944

It happened, I finally forgot to post in the blog for an extended period of time. I can promise I’ll try to not let it happen again, but sometimes I just don’t have much to say. And like I said before, I don’t like to post without pictures. It’s not an excuse, I know I know.

So many things have been happening lately! (Well, it feels like a lot of things but I don’t really remember what I wrote about last time so there might be some repeating. Sue me.)

Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was good. I was a bit worried and kind of not TOO excited about it because I’m so used DSC01936to having big family Thanksgiving with a million people, and Ben is used to having the same thing down in Kentucky. We were trying to get a few people together that we met through the film festival but nobody seemed that interested in getting together, plus we didn’t want to have the get-together here because of all the white furniture. And I wasn’t trying to put rules on how people drink their red holiday wine. As a result, no get-together happened. DSC01934Ben still took off work, though, and we got bunch of ingredients together and made ourselves our own little Thanksgiving feast – 100% from scratch! We had green bean casserole, mashed potatoes with carrots, stuffing, mushroom gravy, purple cauliflower and broccoli casserole, and we got a Swedish farm raised 1.3 kilo chicken for Ben. (They did sell turkeys here, but they were all 15+ pounds and we didn’t think that’d be one of our best investments.) So we cooked all day, watched a bunch of Christmas movies, and then after we ate we spent the night skyping with our families! It was a really great holiday. Ben also decided to work from home the day after so we had a nice long weekend together.

Christmas Cookie Party. One of Ben’s coworkers has a Christmas cookie party every year, DSC01964where him and his girlfriend (wife? I’m not sure) invite a bunch of people over and everyone makes 2 or so batches of cookies each and have tea and feuerzangenbowle. (I set a link up for wikipedia if you want to read all about it.) Basically feuerzanenbowle is when you make hot spiced red wine and then burn a solid cone of sugar doused in 160 proof booze over it and the caramelized sugar drips DSC01987into the wine. It was pretty tasty, but between the cookies and that it was SUGAROVERLOAD time in my belly. After cookie baking but before the fire wine, Mattius went outside and cooked up a bunch of German sausages on the grill (even though it was freeeeeezing out.) It was nice to meet some more people that Ben works with, and I think sometime soon we’re going to be going out with one of them, an Irishman, for his birthday. (Irish coffee, plzthnx.)

Last volunteer party for SFF. The film festival is officially over (and has been for a while, OH.) We went to the last party and had a couple drinks and danced with some Swedes. It was at the KGB bar again. And it was pretty rad.

In other news, Ben got word that he got the grant that he was wrote the proposal for back in August! And I officially have a job babysitting two cute mini-Swedes a couple days a week! This plus living in a cheaper apartment come March is all together going to make our lives exponentially easier, with an added bonus of hopefully having our student loans paid off by the time we leave Sweden!!

Other than that nothing much is happening besides a small blizzard outside (it’s really just snowing a lot, but it’s accumulating a lot faster than it does it Pittsburgh because the temperatures don’t fluctuate here the way they do there, so once it’s freezing outside and it snows, the snow doesn’t ever really melt. Upsides to this: snowmen that don’t melt, no gross mud puddles, good picture taking all the time, and Ben and I don’t have to drive anywhere bc we just ride the train.)

I’ll try to keep up with everyone a lot more!!
xoxo -
Val & Ben ♥

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