Tag Archives: stockholm


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.)


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!

Val & Ben ❤

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.

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

Val & Ben

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 ❤

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


19 Oct

One thing that I was super relieved to find out was a similar experience in Stockholm as it is in Pittsburgh is a little time of year you might know as autumn. The time when all the bright green leaves change to much more intense oranges and deep reds and leave the green grass in some visual dust – it’s pretty much my favorite. And since fall is in the air (accompanied by this gray, gray sky we’ve been experiencing here in Stockholm), I wanted to take a day and get to a park full of trees. So naturally, I google mapped parks in Stockholm and looked for one that had a buttload of trees, and also wasn’t too difficult to get to from the tube. Win! Humlegården would be my fall photo destination for the day. I had this great image in my mind that’s I’d hop off the train and walk my fifteen minutes down the street and my eyes would be greeted with a full spectrum of fall colors, and I’d have a plethora of really great, colorful pictures that would put any Pittsburgh autumn to shame.

Well that didn’t happen, Humlegården has a lot of one kind of tree planted, so they all turned yellow! Not that I was amazingly disappointed, the park there is beautiful. And I still think I got some really great shots. You can just judge fr yourself.

And now for a little history lesson on Humlegården (you didn’t think you’d get away without one, did you?)

Humlegården used to be the royal fruit garden, and the public wasn’t really allowed in it until later in the 18oos. And (Harris Grill people, you’ll love this) humle means hops! So this used to be a garden full of hops! Don’t know what happened to them but they’re not there anymore. Now it’s just a public green space with a bunch of trees and some playgrounds and a skate park and a soccer (ahem, futball) field. Anyhow, that’s it!


Val & Ben♥

becoming legal in Sweden

16 Oct

Before Ben and I moved here this month, I did an extensive search on the internet about the process of becoming a legal immigrant in Stockholm. I needed to find things out like “uh, how do you even start the process of living somewhere other than the US?” and “what is a skatteverket?” and “how do you find a place to live again?” and “how long is it going to take for me to get a bank account so I’m not stuck paying for everything in usd?” Either I wan’t typing the right info into Google for all the answers, or some of the information on the Migrationsverket and Skatteverket’s websites was not so specific or conflicting, but needless to say I didn’t find out much.

Well. Luckily for you (or maybe luckily for no one except myself), I am able to answer some of these questions accurately! After getting yr visa approved through the Swedish embassy of whatever country you come from, these are the things you have to do before you can get anything legit in Sweden (bank account, phone plan, renters’ insurance, supermarket discount card, etc etc etc.)

1.) get an appointment with the Migrationsverket ASAP. you have to e-mail the Migrationsverket at biometribokning-solna@migrationsverket.se – include all the names, designation numbers (beteckning), and contact info. You find the beteckning off of your visa acceptance letter. They should text you an appointment within three days. Yes, a text message. (In our case, we had to send two e-mails because our first was ignored or not gotten around to. When we got our appointment it was for almost a week and a half after the first time we tried to get an appointment, so make sure you leave yourself some time for this to happen.)
You can try to just go to the Migrationsverket and take a number, and they will get to you if an appointment doesn’t show up. This is not a good way to do things, we tried. When we got there, they were on number 200, we had number 205. Not so bad, right? After about an hour of people going up to the windows and numbers not being called we started talking to some of the people waiting with us, and it turned out they had only done one number (200) since 9 that morning; it was noon. Not surprisingly, once someone gets an appointment they do not pass it up.

2.) go straight to the Skatteverket. The main Skatteverket (tax office) is located somewhere close to T-Centralen. Don’t go to that one, you can get to the one in Sundbyberg by walking or train (it seems that it takes about 40 minutes either way, you have to back-track a little on the train. However, the train might be worth it, Ben and I got turned around walking because of construction and ended up going almost an hour out in the opposite direction.) The Skatteverket in Sundbyberg is not nearly as busy as the one by T-Centralen. Don’t tell them that you don’t have your resident ID card yet (that’s what you get photographed and fingerprinted for at the Migrationsverket), just tell them “yes, I’ve been to the Migrationsverket.” You get a short form to fill out, take a number while you fill out the form, and you should be called up shortly after you’re done with the form. Take all of your papers that you’ve received so far. The more papers you have, the more prepared you look, and the more they’re willing to just process your things. We had our visa acceptance letters, lease, passports, reciepts from the Migrationsverket (they’ll give you one if you ask) and Ben had his offer of employment papers and some other paper from his employer. When we came in August we stopped at the tax office and we were told we couldn’t start the personnummer process until we had our resident ID cards, but when we went yesterday we didn’t need any further paperwork than what we had back in August, and they didn’t ask for us to present our ID cards, just our passports. And make sure you have some kind of Swedish address to give them. They do everything by post so they’ll need somewhere to send your personnummer.

We were told by a random woman that we met in a store that overheard our American English that if one person tells you no then just keep trying. We haven’t had success on the bank account thing with that, but as far as the Migrationsverket and the Skatteverket go, it is totally true. If you go to the Skatteverket in Sundbyberg and they don’t let you process your form, even if you have a Swedish address, your passport and acceptance letter for your visa from the Migrationsverket, just go to the Skatteverket close to T-Centralen or just come back the next day or so. It can be done without the resident ID card in hand.

It was a huge relief to just have those two big things out of the way, and now our resident cards should be here in a week and our personnummers should be here within the month, and we should be free to open bank accounts and credit cards and get discounts on grocery shopping, hooray!

And if you’re in the position we were in back in August, we’re told you can start with your closest Swedish embassy with getting your fingerprints and photograph taken and getting a resident ID card BEFORE you move to Sweden. I highly recommend doing that, as it’ll save you about two weeks or so in getting a personnummer. If you don’t care about having a bank account, then I guess you don’t have to care about doing these things in a timely manner, but try paying rent without a Swedish bank account and no fees. It’s a bitch.

xoxo –
Val & Ben♥

p.s. helpful links!

walking, walking, walking…finding!!

15 Oct

So we’ve been here almost two whole weeks! Today we accomplished a lot (including me waking up before 8am for the first time since getting here, OH.) I’ll post more about that tomorrow.

In the meantime, I just wanted to give everyone a nice little picture update on what we’ve been doing. I think I can finally say we’ve officially mastered the grocer. And we should be official residents within the month! As well as more details about what we’ve been doing are going to come a buttload of things that we’ve already learned about being here. Hopefully it’ll be able to help future residents of Sweden figure shit out before they cross the ocean (or countries or ice sheet or whatever) to get here. There are a lot of things that I wish we would have known that might have made things a little easier. Those things deserve an afternoon of brain power devoted specifically to accurately blogging about.



AND as always, you can click on these pictures and it’ll lead you to the albums that contain a WHOLE BUNCH MORE fr yr eyeball pleasure!

Val & Ben ♥

We’re here…figuring things out a little bit at a time!

8 Oct

Hej everyone!

I’m finally starting the blog I promised everyone I’d go to before we left! Our trip here as been interesting so far (starting with our 30 hour travel time just to get here.) My mom was right to warn Ben that when you travel with Val you are 95% guaranteed to have delayed flights. Which we did. BTW airport beer is expensive in every airport and they will kick you out with yr beer in a plastic cup as soon as the clock strikes 10pm, don’t let them trick you into thinking they’re as friendly as yr cuddly neighborhood bartender. Anyhow, here’s a buttload of pictures fr you all, and then a buttload of talking about what we’re doing will follow. ♥

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Sweden is great! It’s all been a really great adventure, but everything always seems a bit overwhelming at first, not being able to understand a damn thing happening around you. I.e. yesterday a crazypants woman came up to me in the train station while Ben was trying to figure out where our transfer was and I let her talk at me trying to figure out what she needed until I noticed that her eyes were glazed over and everyone else was just ignoring her. OH.

Another fun thing to do is try to go grocery shopping. True, a lot of things we can figure out what they are simply by looking at them, however when it comes to food being in a tube, we have to guess by the cartoon on the front. Also when it’s cartoons of different fish, is it paste or is it eggs? I’m not buying it to find out. At least not yet. And then there’s the cost of products. Ben and I are still thinking in USD and not SEK yet, hopefully this will change as soon as we start getting some kind of regular income in Swedish monies. Moral of the story, it’s annoying to try and divide things by 6.5 while the rest of the Swedes rush and push around you because they know which flour to buy. Dear iphone, please get here fast, we are in need of yr mobile translating powers.

On the plus side, we’ve been in our apartment three nights now, and I’ve managed to cook tasty dinner two nights while Ben shuffles the end of his Pittsburgh job and the beginning of his Swedish job. So far, salad wraps with salmon, pizza with tomato and pepper rings and fish soup (fisksoppa!)

We are still waiting for an appointment time from the Migrationsverket. We were told when we visited in August that all we needed to start applications on our personnummers (kind of like the Swedish version of a SSN) was a Swedish address and the letters showing we’ve been accepted for visas. This time we were told we needed to have our resident ID cards first. Wish we would have known that prior to moving, because we could have saved ourselves about a month by visiting our local Swedish embassy in the US!  OWELL. Now we have to make an appointment with these guys, which you can only do by sending an e-mail and they will text you an appointment time. Which you can’t get a phone plan here before you have a personnummber and 6 months of a Swedish bank account. Anyhow. We’re still waiting for them to get back to us about an appointment, we’ll have to re-email them tomorrow if we don’t hear anything. Then who knows when our appointment will be. After we get fingerprinted and photographed we’ll have to wait up to 6 weeks (I think) for our resident ID cards to get to us. Then we can start the applications for a personnummer at the Skatteverket (tax office for immigrants), then once those are in we have to wait about 4 weeks for our personnummer to get to us. THEN we can finally try to get things like a bank account, renters insurance, a Swedish credit card, and a job (for me). We’ve been getting frustrated with feeling so brushed aside by everyone. We just have to keep in mind that all these things take time and a LOT of running around.

Other things have been really fun. We found the for real Swedish IKEA, and we took a neighborhood Stockholm bus for the first time. (Which Pittsburgh could really learn a lot from the Swedes’ public transit system. Every bus stop is outfitted with a digital readout of then the next bus is coming, same as the train stations, and when that sign says yr bus is coming in a minute, it means that yr bus is coming in a minute.) Right by the IKEA we saw a “gigantic megastore” that we thought was hilarious but it just turned out to be exactly like a BestBuy. We also went exploring on a path behind our apartment yesterday and found this garden that looks like you can rent out a plot for the season, and also a little horse stable with some cute horses that have haircuts to match exactly where their saddles go.

We’ve been in touch with a lot of you guys, and we miss everyone a LOT. We miss seeing signs in English, although it’s fun to not have that as an option. Keep on keeping up with us, and I’ll do my best to keep up with with blog.
Val & Ben ♥

p.s. word on the street is that if you’re going to send us anything larger than an envelope, do it via USPS. Everyone else charges a VAT (value added tax) because Sweden rules.

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