Monday, July 28, 2014

Apparently I jinxed myself

Once upon a time R said I chose well by voting Stockholm over Sicily when we were debating where in Europe to move. One of my biggest pros for Stockholm was that summers here were sunny and warm, yet breezy and fresh, nothing like the cauldron of Taormina (or Virginia or New York)—meaning I could survive one.

It seems I spoke too soon.

A heatwave has descended upon Stockholm, so it's entirely too hot to ride my bike the 30 minutes each way between school and home at 12:30PM and 4:30PM...which consequently means I have to take public transit there and back.

And Stockholm's public transit isn't air conditioned (and the windows on the bus do not open in a way that provides any circulation). This was never a problem before, naturally, and I always marveled at how pleasant the rides were, compared to NYC's frigid trains (and hellishly hot subway platforms).

But this last week (and the one to come)? Well, they've been a bit...sticky. 32C / 90F at 10AM will do that to you. It's become the norm to take 2 or more showers a day and actively seek out the seats on buses and subways that are completely sun-less.

If I only I feared being warily looked at by other adults a little less—I'd spend every afternoon running around under the fountains' jet spray right alongside those thoroughly-refreshed looking children.

One year ago: I think it's time to stop knitting napkins

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Three levels of madness

The strangest thing has been happening to me lately—I'll be talking, and suddenly the word that I want to say next is nowhere to be found. English is my mother language, but I also speak passable Italian. And now I'm learning Swedish, so there was bound to be a pile-up at some point. Especially since I don't speak Italian like it's my native tongue.

My mind works like this: English is your default way of speaking. Everything else is "foreign". That's why even though Italian and Swedish sound nothing alike, when I open my mouth to ask my Swedish teacher a question, somehow it comes out Italian. My brain knows I can't ask a question in English, so it just reverts to the "other" language, which until now has only ever been Italian.

Then, especially when I'm speaking with R, who shares my three languages (and then some), everything gets more pronounced. On the bus home last week we were discussing (in Italian) the U.S.'s response to the Malaysian Airlines plane being shot down compared to its response to the Israel-Gaza situation when I started sputtering because I couldn't think of the word "guerra". Worse, I couldn't even think of what it was in English ("war")! But, somehow the word "krig" ("war" in Swedish) floated to the forefront of my mind and spilled out. At which point R looked at me like I was crazy and I imagined I actually was!

I don't know what would be the case now if I hadn't dropped Spanish when I met R. I had studied it all through middle school, high school and the first year of university, but since Spanish and Italian are so close, and neither are my mother tongues, I couldn't retain both and Spanish fell away.

Imagine the gibberish I'd be spouting if I were trying to maintain four languages...

One year ago: Stirred, not shaken

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn

Nybroken Stockholm  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |
When we realized that R had an upcoming "weekend" during the actual weekend, we began plotting a trip: Copenhagen? Skåne? Tallinn? Turku? I voted for a boat trip vs. a plane or train trip, but we couldn't get the schedules to work quite right for an overnight cruise so we fell back on a trip type that worked well for us before: a day boat to Stockholm's archipelago.

Two months ago we went to Grinda, an island that's an hour away and extremely...quiet. Almost desolate, actually. I'm not sure if that's just the way it is (since it is a nature preserve, after all), but maybe it's because we went in the off season that the only company we had were a group of friends and a family of (somewhat) friendly cows?

Whatever the case, we decided to head to a livelier island and we found a nice day trip via Stromma for a canal tour to Sandhamn, one of the furthest-away archipelago islands. I believe a regular boat can get there in 90 minutes or so, but we opted for the company's "Canal Tour" which takes a southerly route through super narrow canals making it much different from the normal speedy boats that zoom across the open water of the archipelago, or skärsgård.

On Sunday we headed off to the main port in the city for a 9:45AM departure, which would have us in Sandhamn by 12:45PM, where we'd have two hours to explore before heading back for the 3-hour return trip.

Once we were away from the edges of Stockholm and Nacka, we started passing adorable summer houses (or maybe year-round ones!), plus lots of people out on their motor or sail boats. And then we started winding through the seagrass-edged canals.

Nybroken, Stockholm  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |
Stockholm archipelago skärsgård  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |
Stockholm archipelago skärsgård  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |
Stockholm archipelago skärsgård  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |
Sandhamn port  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |
Sandhamn  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |
Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |
Time passed pretty quickly and soon we were steering our way into Sandhamn's (packed!) port. We disembarked and found ourselves in a very charming area. But since we had picked a picnic, we quickly skedaddled through the bustling waterfront area and headed for the hills where we passed lane upon lane of typical red wooden Swedish houses with heaps of climbing roses, an incredible number of waving Swedish flags and people toting blankets and hampers on their backs or on their bikes as they wound their way to their own private summer afternoon spots.

Sandhamn  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.blogspot.comSandhamn  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.blogspot.comSandhamn  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |
Typical Swedish houses in Sandhamn  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |
Sandhamn  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |
Sandhamn port from above  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.blogspot.comSandhamn  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.blogspot.comWhen we found a rock face overlooking both a beach and a smaller port, we spread our blankets out to enjoy our lunch and the view. We snuck in a little nap, too—with the warm stone behind our backs and waves of salty sea air washing over us we really had no choice. As our watches ticked towards 2:45PM we sighed, gathered our things, and headed back to the port for the trip back to Stockholm.

I'd had more than enough sun by then, so for the return journey I opted to spend most of it in the cabin below deck where big windows that were opened wide made it seem just like I was up on the sun deck (where R stayed), but without the intense Swedish sun (seems ironic, but it really was strong!) beating down on me.

While Stockholm is certainly the most greenest city (and a capital one at that!) that I've ever been in, sometimes you just need to be completely removed from all things urban, even if it is for just a day, and Sandhman was the perfect destination for that.

Stockholm archipelago skärgård  |  Stromma canal tour to Sandhamn on afeathery*nest  |
One year ago: Almost an American

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Canalside life in Hammarby Sjöstad: a pier picnic

So here's the thing about dining out along the waterfront in Hammarby Sjöstad (a.k.a., my happy place in Stockholm)...who says you have to dine out?

The night after our sushi feast we rode ourselves right back to the port, but headed to one of the bigger decks to spread out our picnic blankets and towels along with our neighbors, instead of parking our bicycles in front of a restaurant.

Some people brought stacks of piping-hot boxed pizzas from down the street, others brought portable grills with korv (I was a little jealous once that smoky scent filled the air), but we brought a bottle of ice-cold mineral-y white wine and a huge bowl of mozzarella salad for dinner. And for some light entertainment? A specially-sent issue of Kinfolk magazine from someone in San Francisco that knows me very, very well, and one of my new Swedish library books. I read a few pages of the latter aloud to R so he could correct my pronunciation (and explain the many things I didn't understand), but then turned my attention to the former. We set a good summery playlist on a phone (quietly) and then leaned back to soak up one of Stockholm's most perfect July eves.

One year ago: Almond detritus

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer's morning light

Summer's morning light on afeathery*nest  |

My favorite time of day this summer is 7AM. That's when the apartment is flooded with warm morning sunshine and I open the balcony door and take a glass of water, a cup of coffee and my phone toggled to my favorite news app outside with me.

(Sometimes I read the news...sometimes I slyly spy on my neighbors' morning routines.)

I perch myself in the wicker armchair facing the sun and sit with my eyes closed for a few minutes. This is the only meditation I need. A few deep breaths, a whiff of salty sea air, and the distant giggle of a child being slowly woken up.

Even when the sun is strong and beating down on my upturned face, the air is miraculously fresh and cool. I've never experienced a summer like this: there's no humidity! Virginia was full of it, NYC too, and of course Sicily is heaped in it (plus just hotter anyway).

But this natural marvel of crisp, fresh, weightless air is something I'm still getting used to. I don't have to pull my old tricks of washing my hair in the morning and leaving it wet and wound atop my head to act as my portable air conditioner and blood-pressure-lowerer as I braved the NYC subway commute (truly one of Dante's circles). And what a relief to no longer plan my day around ensuring I'm inside and safe from the waves of suffocating air between 9:30AM and 4 PM.

It's liberating.

The same way I never imagined I'd fly over three bridges on my bicycle as part of my daily routine, I never imagined I'd ever say these words:

I'm actually enjoying summer (formerly my absolute least favorite season).

How's your summer going?

One year ago:  Feasting at Eleven Madison Park

Friday, July 11, 2014

Canalside life in Hammarby Sjöstad: sidewalk sushi

Sushi with a view at PONG Henriksdal  |  Canalside life in Hammarby Sjöstad: sidewalk sushi on afeathery*nest  |
While living in NYC we were a bit of an anomaly, as we tended to dine home more often than not. We certainly still took advantage of the incredible variety of cuisines to be had there, but the thought of pajamas and easy access to seconds at home were generally more tempting than heading out, no matter how tired we felt to cook.

Here, though, it seems we never go out for dinner. We're much more likely to see friends at our home or theirs for a meal and given our schedules these days, it's not really difficult at all for me to stop by the market (and Systembolaget) on the way home and make dinner after school before R arrives.

So, that's what we do.


But this week the gorgeous weather and R's newly-fixed bike and the call of the sailboat bells in our little port neighborhood were too tempting to make staying at home and eating on the terrace seem like a good option (even though it really is a good option). So, we hopped on our bikes and rather than just taking a spin down a forest path or along the riverfront, we rode to our waterfront and plopped ourselves down at one of the outside tables on the sidewalk at PONG Henriksdal for some very good sushi.

View from PONG Henriksdal  |  Canalside life in Hammarby Sjöstad: sidewalk sushi on afeathery*nest  |
Sushi from PONG Henriksdal  |  Canalside life in Hammarby Sjöstad: sidewalk sushi on afeathery*nest  |
And then we sat and sat. And sat some more, taking in the view and basking in the sunlight (although I began to feel a bit overheated first and silently hoped R would join me in my blisteringness so we could go). Before that though, we said, "wait, why don't we do this more often?".

(And then the bill came, reminding us why).

But still, it was such a nice evening out and the best part? The ride home on the wooden walkways between the seagrass and canal with seagulls swooping lazily by.

Sunset on the canal in Hammarby Sjöstad  |  Canalside life in Hammarby Sjöstad: sidewalk sushi on afeathery*nest  |
One year ago:
Popping by the Swedish Consulate (<-- My seemingly-easy visa interview to move here!)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Finding a more permanent nest to feather in Stockholm

We were so incredibly lucky when our "landing pad" here in Stockholm fell into our lap. Finding a place to rent in Stockholm is extremely hard—it's not the price, like it is in NYC, but rather the lack of inventory. Most leases here are andrahand (second hand), meaning, a sublet from the person who "owns" the förstahand (first hand) contract. Unlike in the US, where you mostly rent from a company, here, once you're lucky enough to get that first right to an apartment (from the building owner), you hold on to it for life and pass the rental rights down to your children. Meaning, unless your parents bequeathed you a first-hand contract, you've got some finagling to do.

For those people, and those that move here from elsewhere, there are three options:

1. Get a first-hand contract, which is next to impossible. Native residents wait on the list—yes there's a list! And, people put their children on it at birth!—for 15+ years to be given one by the city. Or, you can buy one, but it can be as expensive as a downpayment!

2. Get a second-hand contract, which is problematic because the rent can be illegally inflated and they are rarely for "normal" terms, like 1 year or 18 months. They're often for 3 months or 6 weeks, which leads to lots of bouncing around.

3. Buy an apartment, which of course, costs more than the other two.

So our luck came in when we found out we could move right into a gorgeous, furnished apartment in a snazzy part of town (which I liken to Battery Park City in New York: Hammarby Sjöstad is newly built, right on the waterfront, and a dazzling mix of glass and steel so it's shiny and light-filled). Because of a family connection and the owner's personal circumstances, we moved in as soon as we returned from Italy and didn't have to pay any security deposit or show bank account statements and paychecks. Plus: we were given the place for 6 months, with an option to extend for another 6 months.

Here's where our good luck ended: the owner may need the apartment back, meaning we can't extend, meaning we may be sans home this fall.

After casually browsing a few listings online we went to see some apartments and a house (pictured above). It was incredibly adorable and on a very sweet little lane, but a bit too isolated to make sense for us right now. As for the apartments, none were quite right and we're not 100% sure what the situation actually is yet, so moseying on over to the bank to see about a loan seems premature.

We've had a bit of experience with this in the past, so, maybe it's time to buy something to avoid the musical chairs nonsense? Although I suppose it's fair to say home ownership comes with its own stack of nonsense, too.

One year ago: Coffee mornings at Gasoline Alley

Monday, July 7, 2014

Our first July 4th in Stockholm

Hammarby Sjöstad sailboats from Skansbron  | Our first July 4th abroad on afeathery*nest  |
Being abroad for your home country's holidays is a little peculiar. Thanksgiving will probably be infinitely more so for me than July 4th, but still. Even though it was just a normal Friday here, it still felt odd that no one had the day off and planned to barbecue and go to a pool party or listen to patriotic serenades and see the fireworks that night. To claim a little bit of Americana for myself, I ironed out the flounces on a red summer dress and wore it around the city all day.

Riding my Stålhästen in red  |  Our first July 4th abroad on afeathery*nest  |
Stockholm stadsbibliotek kort (City of Stockholm Library Card)  |  Our first July 4th abroad on afeathery*nest  |
R went off to work (on his first Independence Day since becoming an American citizen!) and I went off to school, where I got a little extra red when our class took a field trip to the main branch of the Stockholm Library to get library cards. You know how I feel about libraries and in particular how in love I was with the NYPL, so leaving that afternoon with my shiny new red card red felt like a nice rite of passage. (I also came home with three books from the special SFI/"easy-to-read" section, but I may have been a little overexcited/confident/zealous with that checkout.)

Saturday we were both free so we headed across the bridge from Hammarby Sjöstad to Södermalm with my basket loaded up with a disposable grill, some korv (Swedish sausages/hot dogs), a blanket, fizzy water and some books (not the Swedish ones, though). We spread ourselves out in a park and got down to enjoying the summer weather that finally came back to town.

After a few hours at Tantolunden, we cycled back to our part of town but weren't quite ready to go home yet (and we still had two hours before the next round of the World Cup's semifinals) so we decided to finally check out Restaurang Götheburg, a little canal-side restaurant that we always said was so perfectly situated and kitted out and certainly seemed charming, but we hadn't actually had a drink there (just poked our heads in once when on a walk).

We parked our bikes on the cobblestone sidewalk and marched right over to perch ourselves in the sun with some refreshments. It was perfect: good drinks, excellent lazy summer Saturday music, and who doesn't love a place with comfy cushions on their wooden spectator-style benches where boats literally pull up at your feet and their riders disembark to join you for a cocktail?

Restaurang Göteborg in Hammarby Sjöstad  | Our first July 4th abroad on afeathery*nest  |
Restaurang Göteborg in Hammarby Sjöstad  | Our first July 4th abroad on afeathery*nest  |
Not too bad for our first 4th abroad, though if we can swing it next year, I've got my mind set on throwing a proper American-style backyard BBQ. Just need to get a backyard...

One year ago: A Dixie 4th

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Moving on up at SFI

In a highly-surprising turn-of-events, my teacher at SFI (Svenska för Invandrare, or, Swedish for Immigrants) pulled me aside earlier this week and said she thinks I should be the first to move out of the introductory level of classes (called 3CT, where those with college educations and the ability to speak 2+ languages start) to the first official level of Swedish language instruction (3C).

While it's true that I am able to read and understand our texts and worksheets faster than the others in my class, there's still the little problem that I can't actually speak Swedish (apart from being able to mostly successfully order a cappuccino).

But she said that rather than wait impatiently in my current class for the rest to catch up, it's better that I struggle for a few weeks in the next level. As most of those students have been here for 3+ months (and almost all live with 100% Swedish partners), they can already carry on simple conversations and don't freeze and panic when someone addresses them in Swedish.

After a few days I can't say that I've magically begun to speak the language, but, I'm just the teensiest bit less petrified to attempt it, so that's something.

P.S While lovely Cleo played no part in the bump (apart from taking me to and from school), I had to show off the dapper woven basket R found and mounted for me and my latest knitted doodad: a cotton market bag to make my frequent stops at the grocery store a wee bit more stylish.

One year ago:
A smorgasbord of Smorgasburg &
Tacos & tortillas & tequilla, oh my! &
Knitty in the city