Pittsburgh Road Rage

14 Nov

I know that I’ve moved away from the states, and I’ve taken this as a given indication that I don’t have to be reading/hearing the Pittsburgh news every day, or keeping up with what’s happening in yinzer town. However, when I see an armload of friends on Facebook talking about a local getting the living shit kicked out of him by yet another road rager, it gets to me.

Too many people have been the victims in stupid incidents by drunk (or not so drunk, just assholey) people that don’t know how to be responsible when they’re behind the wheel of a 2 ton vehicle. There was a really horrible week in Pittsburgh this past July where almost every single day of the week that someone was hit by a car, and usually the person driving didn’t bother stopping.

And before that in May a man hit someone so hard that his bike was stuck in the grill of the car, and he drove off anyway, leaving the poor guy for dead on the side of the road like a piece of roadkill.

And then in September right before I left Pittsburgh:
Biker’s throat slashed in SouthSide

Now I have to hear about Dave Whaley, the owner of Dave’s Music Mine in South Side, getting assaulted by some moron that felt it appropriate to almost run someone over, and then stop the car and proceed to beat him unconscious before getting back into his car and driving away. See the news story here.

A couple of friends of his have set up a Facebook group attempting to do some fundraising for his medical bills since he doesn’t have health insurance (that’s how we roll in America, folks!) They’ve raised about $6000 so far, but I can tell you first hand that that is not going to be NEARLY enough to cover all the treatments Dave will be needing. I got hit by a truck while riding my bike about a year and a half ago. I was lucky, nothing broken, I didn’t need surgery, my brains weren’t scrambled – but I had some really fun medical bills following me around ($54000 – that’s right fifty-four thousand dollars.)

Moral of the story, unless this guy is caught, Dave’s going to be haunted by the bills that are racking up every day. Any help he can get will be greatly appreciated.
The link to his Facebook group is HERE
and the link to the fundraiser that his friends have set up for him is HERE


Skyping, Shockholm and KGB

11 Nov

So it’s been quite a while since I’ve made a blog for everyone. I have been busy, but not too busy. Truth is, I just didn’t feel like editing the photos and I didn’t want to post a blog with no pictures because I think blogs with no pictures are not as interesting as blogs with pictures. (At least mine. There’s not so much in the way of writing integrity extraordinaire, so I’d like to give yr eyeballs some pleasure at least.) It’s been like what, two weeks since I wrote about what we’re doing. So here’s a big fat update, and I also linked the pictures up to some slideshows of more pictures, so if you click on them you can catch up with all the pictures that we’ve taken the past few weeks.

1.) We got the first snow of the season. At the beginning of October. And aside from the rain that I watched turn to snow literally right before my eyes, it’s the only snow that we’ve had so far. (And the snow I saw the other day doesn’t count. It only lasted for like, a few minutes and it didn’t accumulate at all on the ground. Doesn’t count.)

2.) Shockholm 2012 – Stockholm doesn’t really have Halloween, but they have been trying! There’s not monumentally large bags of candy everywhere, and the only places that really have costumes are the toy stores, but do we really need all those calories, America? This year was year number two of Stockholm’s Halloween parade: Shockholm. It wasn’t as extensive as we’re used to in the States, but it was still really fun! And let’s be honest. All anyone does anymore is bitch and moan about how holidays aren’t what they used to be blah blah blah commercialization blah blah. So it’s kind of nice, even now in November. Some Christmas stuff is out in the stores, but there is also no Thanksgiving here, so it’s not like all the holiday decorations from Halloween to New Years are just all being displayed at once. I’ve heard people here say that decorations are going up earlier than usual over the last few years, but it’s nice to us that there’s not that huuuuuge layover of holidays that we’re trying to celebrate one at a time.

3.) Lots of Skype has been happening! And Ben also figured out how to take screen shots of it! We like to skype our family. We like our parents, and siblings, and I like my niece. And we miss our cats. And we get to see all of these things when we Skype. KTHNX Skype!

4.) Stockholm International Film Festival! About a month ago I saw a post online that the SIFF needed some volunteers. I initially tried to be a photographer, but I don’t own the fancy equipment necessary for that, and now that I’ve seen them in action, I don’t know if I’d have been the best at it anyhow. (In addition to the lack of fancy equipment, I’m a LOT shorter than a lot of the people being photographed, and short photographer + pictures of tall people = nostril shots!) BUT we’ve been volunteering with the decorating department (which just means we go and set up/tear down the state, red carpet, face2face set ups, etc.) and I’ve been doing interviews with directors (look out for those, once they’re posted I’ll try to link them up here!) So! We got to go to a party a couple Sundays ago for all the volunteers at KGB bar (decorated exactly how you think it is) and there will be another party in another couple of weeks at the end of the festival after all the volunteers know each other. I’m excited for that one since everyone will be comfortable around each other.

Other than this, just the usual has been happening. Ben’s working, I’ve been cooking a lot more. We picked up the suitcases that we left here in August and unpacking them was like an early Christmas for us. Ben had lots of warm clothes (I had a few, my clothes are smaller than his so his clothes took up a lot of space), but we also had all the canvases that everyone painted for my birthday in there. I’ve since tried to hang them up, but they keep falling off the wall so I’m still trying to come up with a plan B. There were also two grocery bags of toiletries that I had packed up (thanks, past Val!) so we probably won’t have to buy any of those things for a good six months or more.

I promise to try and keep up with this, in a couple weeks I probably won’t have much to do anymore so you can expect more posts after this festival is over. (I would appreciate some crossed fingers and good thoughts being thrown my way on landing some kind of job though. That would be great.)

Val & Ben ❤

Torchlight procession for opening night of the Stockholm International Film Festival


Smurf holding an assault rifle at KGB bar!

Auden likes to draw for us on Skype! ❤

we loved how this guy had an Atilla face on his shirt ❤

NaNoWriMo go!

1 Nov

It’s that time of year again, where buttloads of people all over the world try to write novels of fifty thousand words or more in just a month’s time. When you break it down, it’s 1667 words per day, which doesn’t seem very difficult. But try making sure you are writing EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Miss and a day or two and the words really start to stack up, making it hard to catch up, and even harder to keep so many ideas streaming consistently.

I was going to get up and start writing writing writing, but instead I’ve decided to take it slow. I’ve got some things I need to do today so I’ll probably work on those first, and then a little later I’ll sit down and start with the writing. It’s only the first day, so I (like everyone else) have allll the creative ideas, and I’ll probably write way more words than necessary.

fun Val and Ben update time!:
Aside from me doing NaNo and looking for freelance writing jobs (and fixing my resume for teaching and writing out cover letters to hopefully get some kind of job before January or May – whenever there are teaching jobs available), Ben and I have gotten ourselves involved with the Stockholm International Film Festival. Both of us have signed up for helping with the opening night torchlight procession as well as doing all the sets and decor and such, and the volunteer coordinator decided that I’d be good for doing filmed interviews with the directors on the interview bus! As a result of volunteering our time to make this huge festival happen, we get free memberships to see screening of independent movies throughout the year as well as volunteer passes (and parties!!) So suddenly I went from not really having much to do, to having a whole bunch to do! November is going to fly.

I would like to apologize for the lack of photos that have not been happening. I’ll make sure to bring my camera along on my journeys (especially Christmas in the Arctic Circle, hopefully featuring some northern lights action!) We have a couple other things happening this month: I’m trying to convince Ben we should do a Thanksgiving potluck and invite some people over (we probably won’t – Thanksgiving is not a day that the Swedes have off work. Ben’s the best though bc he’s calling off so we can cook a Thanksgiving-like meal and also so I won’t be home alone reading everyone’s facebook updates about how they’re having SOMUCHFUN with their friends and families.) We have our first volunteer party this Sunday at a bar called KGB (it’s decorated how you think it is), we’re going to dinner at one of Ben’s coworkers’ apartment tomorrow, and we have a Christmas cookie making party to go to at the end of the month. So many things!

Val & Ben

p.s. so glad halloween is over with so I don’t have to hear about everyone enjoying their pumpkin spiced this and that.

It’s official – I’m feeling the 4pm blackness of Stockholm.

29 Oct

Today I was going to grace everyone in the virtual world with an entry on Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits vs. System Bolaget. I started looking up facts about legal drinking age and taxes and it just started getting on my nerves. (I figured out why we can’t afford liquor here: there is a 200 SEK tax alone on spirits above 40% alcohol, which is about $30 if you function in American dollars.) SO after I started reading all this nonsense, I decided that everything would just be better for me if I could buy whatever kind of booze I wanted whenever I felt like at my local grocer, and that’s the end of that. Now in lieu of what I was going to provide, you guys get to read about things that Ben and I have been missing (besides family and friends duuuuuuuuuh.)♥

1.) PUMPKIN BEER. This is no secret. Anyone that has had any kind of contact with me throughout the last month has heard over and over and over about how much I miss pumpkin beer. I love pumpkin beer. I LOVE IT. October is my favorite beer month of all the months. Spicy, delicious, sweet, hoppy, PUMPKINY BEER delicousness dancing along my taste buds one by one. If anyone out there really loves me, you’ll harvest a six pack of pumpkin beer from yr fancy, magical American pumpkin beer patches and allow me to drink the whole thing in sunny silence outside upon my return to the states.

2.) CHEAP BEER. This is also not another secret. Beer here is expensive. And most of it is gross. (I’ve compared it to diluted foot water, though I seem to be the only person that thinks that’s a comparison worth giggling about.) We have found one happy hour that takes place at a vegan restaurant close to Ben’s building that sells Hoegaarden or Sierra Nevada for 25 SEK (about $3.75). NOT BAD except that I can count the number of both of those that I’ve ever had in the states on one hand. Because they’re not good. Other than this magical happy hour, we have yet to find a bar where you can get a pint for under 55-60 SEK ($8.25 – $9). And that’s of any kind of beer. We’ve been told to get used to Guinness bc it’s pretty much the only tolerable beer here that almost every bar has. (Thank you I will, I love me some Guinness. And I’ve found it’s secretly a really fun thing to order a pint of it in an Irish pub.)

3.) BIG, FAT, FRESH BERRIES. Don’t get me wrong. Sweden has berries, okay. I understand now, that growing up in America has spoiled me rotten when it comes to having fresh berries on hand for a pretty reasonable price pretty much any time I wanted. HOWEVER. I also see now the effect of not growing yr shit organically. (Get it?) We bought berries here twice, once we got raspberries and the second time we got strawberries. The raspberries we didn’t get to eat because they got moldy the day after we bought them. The strawberries were SO GOOD. They were teeeeny tiny (I have a picture on my flickr, you can go see if you want) but you got about 5 times as many per carton, so you weren’t missing out since the berries were smaller. I’ll probably reconsider buying organic vs. inorganic berries once I get back to the states, but I am going to stay it was good while it lasted. (Also, Stockholm has in almost every once of it’s grocers a container that has fresh frozen berries, which I haven’t bought any yet, but they look super appropriate and delish if I were going to bake or cook with them.)

4.) FOREVER 21. I’m not saying I don’t like the fashion sense of the Swedes. I love it. I love all the neon colors and textures and jackets and hats and combat boots. It’s just that the prices make my credit card frown. I miss cheap clothes that I didn’t have to worry about getting dirty or holey or ruined in the wash (keep in mind I still can’t read the options on our washer or dryer.) I miss the cheap racks and racks of jewelry that all inevitably gets lost after a couple months. I miss the cheap shoes that I’m going to have to throw away when it’s time to move back to the states ANYHOW. However! I have popped myself into one of the hundreds of H&Ms that are in Stockholm, and they have pretty inexpensive clothing compared to everything else I’ve seen here. (I kid you not, I don’t know how many are here, but there are literally H&Ms across the street from H&Ms, which are a block away from more H&Ms.)

5.) BRUNCH. I miss the endless amount of brunches I could choose from. Zenith. Doublewide. Harris Grill. Coca. Square Cafe. Quiet Storm. I miss that I could get half off bloody mary’s basically all day Saturday and Sunday, just because that’s how Harris rolls. I miss the option of having a cheap and delicious craft beer (or five) with my Sunday morning salad at Doublewide. I miss the wonderful $10 all vegetarian brunch spread of Zenith. (I’ve read about one brunch spot here, that just happens to be vegetarian. It’s called Herman’s and you can get brunch for the equivalent of $25. Includes coffee, not bloody mary.) We have just figured so far for the $50 we can make everything at home and enjoy with movies.

6.) TACO TUESDAYS. We sure can get tacos here on Tuesdays, but they sure aren’t a dollar (er, 6.5 SEK?) They’re a mouth-watering 25 SEK each (about $4, not so bad), and only are they this cheap at a place called La Neta. And they’re super good, we’ve only been there once but we’ll be back to get a good authentic Mexican kick in the throat again. Aside from the cheap tacos, I really liked the environment, knowing people there, and making the trek from our house on foot. While I miss it, I’m sure I’ll just be looking back at it as just a fond Pittsburgh memory, soon to be replaced by a new favorite thing we like to do here.

7.) MY JOB. I said it! I miss working. So far I’ve been sending out emails for volunteering, and so far every single last one of them has been a bust. I miss being around people that I can understand, people that like me. WORK FRIENDS. JOKES. MONEY. FREE FOOD AND BOOZE. SOMETHING TO DO. That’s right, I’m feeling the hurt on all of the above.




I know it just really seems like Ben and I miss drunkenness and consumerism, but that’s not true. I don’t think either of us have ever really been into having ALL THE THINGS, but we do both like to have a good time with good people, and it’s hard to have that here when we’re getting used to switching our lives from USD to SEK. It’s especially hard since everything has been going on a card where we get invoiced in American dollars. Give us another month or so here, and I’ll be able to make a post of our favorite things about Stockholm and all the friends were making (hopefully, I’m going batshit insane here without a social life.)

Val & Ben


25 Oct

I know it’s going to sound crazy, but I’ve been hitting a slight wall with motivation to get out of the apartment. I’m not necessarily bored, between editing pictures, trying to find meetups and fun things for us to do around town, and now NaNoWriMo will be here in about a week – I’ve got plenty to do. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m trying to stick to seeing things that are free. (If i’m going to spend money to see an awesome museum or something, I’d like for Ben to be able to come with me, especially since attractions like that are always more fun with someone else there to talk to about the things you’re seeing.) So I’ve been getting up in the morning and trying to search the internet for all kinds of things to do or places to see while Ben is working, and I’ve seen a lot of the free things. There are a lot of gardens and greenspaces here, I’ve seen a lot of them, and frankly when it’s cold I don’t feel like trekking around a garden by myself. Again.

ANYHOW. I dove a bit deeper into a bit of Stockholm history and found this island here where the Swedes used to send all their prisoners – Långholmen! Well now the prison is a hotel. So I decided to go look at it. I thought it was pretty charming. The hotel didn’t really look like a jail to me, but who am I to say what a Swedish prison from the 1800s should be looking like now (especially since it was renovated in 2008!)

I’m hoping to go see Långholmen again when spring comes. Apparently when all the prisoners were there, it was a barren, rocky island. It didn’t really have any plants or anything, just a jail. One of the punishments the prisoners at the time faced was dredging up all the much from the waterways, and as a result the island is now covered with a plethora of flora. I was excited when I read that because we all know how I’ve been on a quest for more autumn colors than yellow (although now the yellows are turning into a deeper shade that’s starting to appear more orange than anything.) WELL there was a lot of yellow, but there was also a BEACH. It was really, very small. I’ve read the place gets crowded in the summer, and I’m not surprised. That tiny beach could fill up with just my mom’s side of the family. I’m thinking there are more smaller beaches around the island. I didn’t go looking for them though, even though it was beautiful outside it was COLD. Especially by the water, gusts of wind seem to collect themselves there. There’s also a school located right behind the hotel, it’s called the Långholmen Folkhögskola. From what I can gather of the terrible translations I’ve been getting online is that it offers college classes (I saw a Swedish as a second language course I’m going to go fantasize about taking), but when I was there I saw a class of small children as well.

On a more personal note, we’ve been doing well trying to be as Swedish as possible. I’ve been getting better at cooking more things besides quinoa and steamed veggies (my go-to in Pittsburgh), but I still fail miserably at making lentils in a pot without them becoming lentil mush. On Saturday there is a SHOCKHOLM 2012 parade happening, so we’re really looking forward to going to that, and on Sunday we’re going to a NaNoWriMo meeting with some Swedes! Ben may or may not come, he’s definitely not doing NaNo, but I’m trying my hardest to get myself out there while meeting like minded people.

Until later! xoxo –
Val & Ben♥

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just a quickie – oh, and did I mention NaNoWriMo??

24 Oct

OKAY – I’m going to confess I still haven’t fully made up my mind if I’m going to commit to NaNoWriMo this year. (For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s a challenge to write fifty thousand words (about 200 pages) in the month of November. Turns out to be about 1667 words a day, which is hard work to keep the creative brain juice flowing that consistently.)

ANYHOW. I have started another blog, a forum some might say, and I’m really looking forward to everyone’s input about how they’re preparing for NaNoWriMo, and as the month gets going, their experience with it. I’m excited to hear from some NaNoWriMo virgins, as well as some seasoned veterans. It knocks me back to where I should be viewing myself as a writer (eeeeeeven if I just write for myself. let me have my hobbies, kthnx.)

SO if you are so inclined click this link:
and let’s write together.


p.s. I added the link to the blogroll on the side. I haven’t really had much time to add anything else on there so far, but get on it! xoxo

Food. Cooking. Booze. ALLL the good things.

22 Oct

WELL a mediocre amount of things have been going on at our new Stockholm home. The Stockholm tax office has put me to shame (halfway!) by sending Ben a letter in the post basically saying “turn in yr resident id card by Oct. 29 or good luck going through the whole process of getting a personnummer.”

I didn’t get one though. So my theory of try, try again is still valid. Plus, we already got our id cards in the mail from Migrationsverket so we’re just going to march our American butts over to the Skatteverket on Wednesday and show them our id cards. Yes, I’m taking mine over too, just by some weird coincidence my letter got lost in the mail. (Although I am having this grand vision of my personnummer making a trip to our mailbox before we can get over to the Skatteverket to show them Ben’s id card.)

In other news, I’ve been cooking a lot of really delicious things as of late.

huevos rancheros










banana/orange mimosas with strawberries










pizza with spinach, fresh mozz; with crust and sauce made from scratch









I’ve also made some chocolate chip cookies, which I didn’t like the pictures so they don’t get to be public (I have to work on my ratios, metric system + Val guesswork = I need to try another batch of cookies.) Ben took them to work today though and he said they were gone when he left this evening. I’ll have to trust that no one dumped the whole lot in the trash.


We’ve also made a quest to the beer section at one of our most recent grocery trips. That’s right, we broke down and bought some overpriced, low-alcohol beer. And even if it was low-alcohol, it was the most delicious beer that either of us has had since we got here. My favorite was the porter, Ben liked the Trashy Blonde (hoppy, but not hoppy enough.) And surprisingly, the Bishops Finger wasn’t all that bad. (I was afraid of it. It was this weird, almost pinkish color, but not fruity. Terrifying.)



We’re also working on a little project that involves taking pictures of some of the art in the subways. We rode up and down one of the lines almost completely, but it didn’t seem to have much art. We’re thinking a lot of it is along the blue line, which has been closed since August (but reopens tomorrow!!) So keep an eye out for that. We got some decent pictures of some of the stations, but if I’m going to commit to doing something like this, I don’t want to half-ass it.

Oh and I mentioned we got our resident cards in the mail! Well I basically look like a criminal in mine. Don’t think it’strue? Check it out. I didn’t smile bc no one else smiled in their pictures, and basically I didn’t know if I was allowed. (Also don’t tell me that’s ridiculous, because in your passport photos you are not permitted to smile, and I didn’t feel like getting reprimanded in Swedish, OKAY.)


No more news for now really, it’s been slow moving here. Basically, I’ve been lacking a lot of motivation to go out neighborhood-exploring because it’s been so boringly and consistently gray outside. And I still don’t have a functioning iphone to help me get around. I tend to have lots of luck with getting mega turned around getting off the trains here. (There’s two exits to almost every train station, and if you get off the wrong one…screwed.) It’s especially difficult because I don’t recognize the street names enough yet to remember where they all are in relation to each other. I’ll get used to it. Consider it a day off.

Val & Ben ♥


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