Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Adventurous Friend or Relative Wanted


The right traveler will possess the following characteristics:

                               1) Excellent navigational skills
                               2) Enjoys people (in mass)
                               3) Light eater (rules you out Marin)
                               4) Follows directions quickly and decisively
                               5) First Aid certificate, a plus
                               6) Strong throwing arm (especially with rocks)
                               7) Genuine love of nature & the outdoors (likes tenting, rafting, & crocodiles)
                               8) Doesn't sunburn easily
                               9) Fleet of foot
                              10) Strong chanting voice

 Should you have these outstanding qualifications and are free to travel February 18-26, 2011, please call   (+46-72-734-9247). A free trip of a lifetime awaits you! When will you ever again have a chance to join a Revolution? Tour guides are in short supply, but come on, how tough can it be to find a couple of  pyramids in a desert? The Nile Cruises are not filling up like they use to, but rafting can be so much more exciting and it gets you closer to the wildlife! One man's loss (IBM is not allowing any of their employees to travel to Egypt), can be your gain.

Please bring with you a GPS, lots of cash (I hear they are having trouble keeping the banks open), poster board & markers, bullhorn, tent-making materials, and clean water!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I'm Back!

So what is the toughest part of living in Sweden?
     The month of January! Gunnar and I were not quite as bright as Tom. A nice 12 day trip to the states is the best way to get through January in Sweden. Many of my friends, and those in my social network, also figured this out, and spent a large part of the month in their home country. So it was pretty much, Gunnar and me, and a million other strangers here in  beautiful snow covered Stockholm.
     The second, most asked question from my blog; what bothers you the most in January, the lack of light or the extreme cold? Neither, as I mentioned before, a few fun lights which get turned on as you enter, has held off any ill effects of short days. (However, when we traveled and left no lights on, several of my plants died. This is the first time I have ever encountered that. Good thing we left Gunnar with his very own sunlamp!) And the cold, is just a matter of dressing correctly. So far, I have never found it too cold to walk. However, the difficult part of the weather here, is the ice that forms on all the Stockholm sidewalks. No one shovels, I believe that is because  there is just too much snow and it falls so frequently. Anyway, in January, three inches of ice covers all sidewalks, and as you might guess, it is just a matter of time, if you walk everywhere, until you slip. And ,of course, I did.
     The toughest part of living in Stockholm is the month of January, and the toughest part of January is the disappearance of your social network, friends, and spouse. And the inability to get out and be mobile. This is why I brought a cat! Gunnar, books, and bridge, got me through January.
     When you are isolated, you get to know yourself  better. There are three things I need to be happy. 1) Something to love. You have no idea how close the little fellow and I are now! 2) Something to do. I read two books a week, and have learned how to play bridge. 3) Something to look forward to. I mapped out our trip to Egypt. So this is how I spent my January, and perhaps why you haven't heard much from Stockholm. January was a struggle for me, but Gunnar and I were happy!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Santa Comes To Stockholm

Santa Arrives- no chimney, enters thru electrical outlet

The Christmas Feast-yes that's turkey( OK,what would you cook it on? The range is 50-250. Betty Crocker says 325)

For You Chad, a real tree all handmade Swedish ornaments

The girls debating over kitchen clean up. Dad is downstairs doing it!

Dad greeted us at the airport on Dec. 22nd. It had been a wonderful trip, but both of us were looking forward to Christmas with Dad in Stockholm. It was extremely cold -15, and blanketed in snow. We knew Santa would have no problems getting through. We were a little concerned about his team;  reindeer blankets, mittens, hats, and even pate' covers the shelves of many of Stockholm's best retailers. But we knew at least Rudolph would make it. Nobody would be so cruel as to take down that buck with the red nose. And with Santa starting his journey in Finland around the Artic Circle, even with just one reindeer, we figured he could make it this far.

In Sweden, the big day of celebration is Dec. 24th. Everything closes early, and people go home to churches, feasts, and present opening. There is a special drink called glogg, which is served during the holidays. It is a blend of two bottles of red wine, two cups of vodka, and wonderful spices and cinnamon. It takes away the Swedish chill. For Tom, Marin, and  I, the 24th brought a banquet of turkey, stuffing, homemade pickles, olives, potatoes, cauliflower, and artichokes. The feast was followed by the IPAD Game of Life (Mom won), Wizzard (Mom won), Careers (Mom won), do we see a pattern here? Frustrated, a few want to bed early. But, on the 25th, Marin came back strong to mash Mom and Dad in the game of hearts. Chad, I was really missing you buddy, the level of competition dropped sorely this year!

We all slept in on the 25th. Fresh cinnamon buns, coffee, and Santa's surprises awaited us. Marin was a little worried heading off to bed , Christmas Eve. She didn't know how Santa would get in. Few apartments in Stockholm have chimneys. Tom assured her "he always finds a way". (Pictured above). She was pleasantly surprised Christmas morning. She was kind enough to organize a Christmas outing. But when we arrived, we found the movie had started an hour earlier and was in Swedish. Later that day, we were lucky enough to catch, Megamind-3D. It was even in English, with Swedish subtitles, of course. On our return home, we caught up by phone with family members and friends.

It was a very special Christmas in Stockholm, and as this year comes to a close,  I would like to wish all eight of my readers, a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

So We Go A Travelin

Marin's arrival on December 12th quickly moved the household into seasonal celebration. In Sweden we celebrate St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13th), children dress in white frocks and headdresses and deliver sweet treats (cinnamon buns),early in the morning. It is to congratulate and celebrate getting through the shortest day of the year. (Slight discrepancy there, haven't figured that out yet).With her jet lag, we delivered her buns and strong coffee to her bed, and our first St. Lucia day began. Our next door neighbors were kind enough to invite us to a St Lucia concert their son was singing in. The concert was held in a beautiful church downtown and the costumes and music were lovely! Later we all came back to our apartment for wine and hor'douvers.

December 14th was our day for travel. Around noon we headed for our bus to the airport, and then on to Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona is a magnificent city! It rivals New York in size and has no shortage of things to do. Marin and I always start our city explorations with Chad's favorite, the "On and Off" bus. After getting a feel for what there is to explore, we hone in on our interests. This trip we agreed should be centered on architecture and with that we discovered  Gaudi! We hit most of  his works in Barcelona, but we made a deal. We are planning to return to the city in twenty five years when the Sagrada Familia is complete, and see the rest of his works outside the city. Any joiners?

We sat on pins and needles as one flight after another was canceled to Lisbon, Portugal. The blizzard had hit London, and planes were getting caught in Northern Europe. Just as we were about to give up for the night, and find a place to nap. One plane made it through, and the second leg of our trip was on- Lisbon, Portugal.

Lisbon does not rival Barcelona except for it's aquarium.(Certainly we could never miss checking them out in the cities we explore). The economy in Portugal is really struggling. What better place to Christmas shop? Marin quickly learned that by trying to convince me not to buy something, the prices immediately fell by 30%. It was like magic! We returned home with four leather purses, three knit sweaters, two silver earrings and a parrot in a magnolia tree.. All made in Portugal! We had done our part to help out.

Portugal is a beautiful country once you are out of Lisbon. It has a hilly countryside, totally green as we toured it. We were lucky and hit it during the rainy season, which made the landscape colors vibrant and rich. At 65 degrees, you don't care if a few raindrops fall. It was a stark contrast to our white Stockholm at -8. But as Marin reminded me, it just didn't feel like Christmas. So with Christmas gifts in hand, we happily headed back to the best Christmas land of all, Stockholm Sweden! 

Lisbon, Portugal A peak at the downtown area

       My travel buddy at her best

Gaudi's Park Guell Barcelona, Spain

The Washer Women, an arcade column

Santa Maria Del Mar, attended Messiah

Obidos, Portugal,our final adventure

Friday, December 3, 2010

Winter Comes

While the timing of Chad's arrival was perfect for Tom's  and my outlook, our weather changed dramatically with his visit. Poor guy! The temperatures dropped by 10 degrees, and everyday he was here at least a little snow fell. By the time he left, I shoveled off 6-8 inches of snow from our balconies. Since then, our ground has been white and our temperatures consistently below freezing. I have learned it is never too cold to go outside. It is just a matter of dressing properly. Today was an example, temperatures were well below freezing, and snow fell heavily at times. But my jog around the park was wonderful, because I have mastered how many layers to put on. I love running in the snow, as it pads your step. My knees never hurt afterwards. As it is coming down, it is beautiful and you even get a better workout, as your shoes slip in the snow, traction is difficult.

So winter has arrived. You can feel it coming. First the winter coats come out. And you know they are here until spring. Then you make a note to self, "Don't leave the house without gloves on". Next, unlike Connecticut, you need a hat! The final step to winter, is the scarf. To avoid pain, you have to cover your face. I believed our temperatures here would be like Ridgefield. Not so, more snow, much colder temperatures!

The snow is wonderful  because it brightens everything up. All my plants are lined up against a window, competing for as much sunshine as they can get, each day brings less. Yesterday, I left a Christmas lunch at 3:30pm, and it was dark. Both Tom and I get up in the dark, about 8:30am, it starts to get light. So we are still getting about seven hours of light. It doesn't seem to bad to me, I enjoy the Christmas lights more in the dark. And as soon as I get home, I turn on our lights. As I decorated, I picked out some fun lighting. They have the most unique lights here. Nothing like them in the states. I have one light that looks like a bird cage, even has little tweeties in it. (Thought it would keep Gunnar amused). Another looks like a big blossom opening to bloom. The others defy description. You will have to come see.

Maybe not right now, but in the spring. Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and the Christmas season brings special joys.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Our First Visitor

     Just as the novelty of living in a new country wore off. And the realization of how far away from friends and family we now are, set in. Our first visitor, Chad, arrived. His timing could not have been better. Tom and I both needed something to look forward to. A pal to hang with, and just feel comfortable around. I found myself just reading outside his bedroom door while he slept. To just be close to someone you love that much, is the most wonderful feeling in the world. What was so different about it, is that you don't take it for granted. You adore your mate, but you assume he will be with you forever. With a child who has become an adult, you know how precious each hour is. They will be leaving again, to rejoin their life.
     We had a lovely week! Hockey games, movies from the Stockholm Film Festival, a little Christmas shopping, and some very fine dinners.(OK,why am I thinking you are all responding to that last comment, "Oh, I guess they ate out.". Anyway, I must say, he was a very easy guest. He slept in, so we had time to do those routine things that need to be done. He enjoyed shopping for groceries and ,at times, insisted on cooking. We even shared a bathroom, our schedules differed, so that even worked nicely. It was our best week yet, here in Stockholm!
     Thanks Bud for coming, we know how precious a week of vacation is!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Nothing But Blue Skies

   Did I say I would check in later in the week? I meant month, cause we have had nothing but blue skies since I left you!
      I just came in from a run around the park and it was another beautiful day. As I went over my first hill a small flock of  pigeons took off all around me and it was wonderful! The sun was bright, the leaves coming down, and the grass deep green with a covering of yellow and orange. A moment in life, when you just smile to yourself, and say thank God I am alive!
     My past month has been like this, lovely days one after the other. OK, a few might have been completely frustrating, like the day I took Grunnar to the vet for his pet passport.(They couldn't find his microchip, or documentation at the airport so they thought I had brought him in  illegally). After 3.5hrs at the vet's office, I was escorted to the airport where Gunnar was going to be taken from me, unless his chip could be detected. Luckily, it was just that the vet's equipment was faulty, and the microchip was immediately scanned by customs. Everyone apologized for the inconvenience. (The escapade took the whole day, and cost $130.00 in taxi fares, running Gunnar and I back and forth to the airport.) But, stuff like that happens here. The good news was that the vet did not charge me for the time I was detained at their offices.
     Anyway, there are a few of those days, anywhere you live, right? For the most part, the month has been blue skies. Now that our sea cargo has arrived and we are settled, our developement has been social. I am a member of the International Women's Club, the American Women's Club, a book group, and two walking groups ( I rotate every other Friday). Yes,I probably over did it, but I was worried about isolation during those short cold winter months. I had no idea of the social networks available to expats. If I chose to, I could be busy with one group or the other, five days a week. Next week for example, book club meets Monday. Tuesday I have been invited to the British Women's club for lunch to hear a speaker who grew up in India as a missionary"s child. Wednesday, I am having my friends over for lunch so they can check out the pad. Thursday is a tour of the House of Nobility with the IWC. And Friday, of course, is a long walk somewhere in Stockholm, and lunch with friends. Saturday, Tom and I are attending the IWC 50th year gala. Sunday, we have invited neighbors for wine.
     Tom and I have never been so social. People are calling frequently to have dinner, go to a movie, or attend a gospel concert. I have been overwhelmed by their kindness! In turn, we have tried to have many back. We feel well established and very lucky to be here in Stockholm. I am not expecting these beautiful skies to remain long, where are those harsh Swedish winters? But we are now unpacked, connected, and ready to face them. Gunnar has been praying for snow, then Mom might stay in for a change. Be well, I miss you all and hope you will come for a visit!