1. Cultural ephemera and windows of time

    Thrift stores are a gauge of sorts for the values of a society. In second hand shops and Goodwills we sift through bins and shelves of stuff. Much of it is just the residue, the ephemera of a way of living, buying, consuming, and discarding. But setting aside the plastic toys and cheap vases, it is possible to pick up on the passing of one generation to the next.

    Here in Tranås, the history of place is very intense, very concentrated. Browsing through Erikshjälpen, the (in my opinion) best second hand shop in town, there are three things you can be sure of. (1) The clothes will almost certainly be boring, pilly, or boring and pilly from H&M. (2) IKEA will be strongly represented in the vase and lamp department. (3) A very special generation of women is dying.

    Number three was one of the first things that struck me when I first came to Sweden. I didn’t think of it in terms of the death of a generation at the time, but my first trip to Erikshjälpen with my sister Allie was strange. Why were beautifully worked embroideries being sold for $3? The baskets full of doilies and hand-made lace, bed linens with in-set bands of crochet and embroidered initials could be bought for a song. Wooden spools of silk thread, wool yarn, buckets of knitting needles, boxes of mother of pearl buttons, hundred year old weaving shuttles and cards of Parisian hooks and eyes sat there on shelves, bleakly. These were the kinds of things you never really saw in the states. Acrylic yarn, maybe. A discarded cross-stitching kit, perhaps. But these were not the cast-offs of crafters. These were items that pointed to real skill, to a strong cultural identity, and pride in a home. And I wanted it ALL.


    When I ended up moving to Sweden, I found myself going to Erikshjälpen quite often. I was scared to go in by myself, afraid someone might talk to me and of the awkwardness that might ensue. But I always went in, and I always felt relief looking at the linens and sewing supplies. Here was something I understood and could appreciate. While I felt irrational dread at shopping for groceries by myself, the odd familiarity and comfort of the beautiful things some woman had made for her bed or table made my hands itch for something to do.


    I really wanted to learn how to weave. Fast forward 6 months, and a loom now sits in our house. J, tipped off by a good friend, located a woman who was giving her loom away, one of the many women “of a certain age” who are downsizing or passing away. There is not much demand for looms these days. Their size is prohibitive, the time required is not a point in favor, and for most women now, it is just something their mothers or grandmothers did. This lack of interest in carrying on skill in needlework and weaving is pervasive among the younger generation, or so I understand from older Swedish women. Tastes in home décor have also changed from the cozy warmth of Carl Larsson to the clean, white, and spartan, and the table coverings and curtains and other household linens so lovingly crafted and embellished are consigned to charity. Hence the glut of old fashioned textiles and tools at Erikshjälpen.


    My loom is beautiful. All the joints are wood, all the pieces are beautifully shaped oak, and it’s at least 130 years old. The first owner wrote “den första mars, 1883” (The first of March, 1883) on one of the pieces. All over the loom notches and tick marks can be seen, where a woman was counting her threads or passes of the shuttle and marking them off so she wouldn’t lose track.

    For myself I find that I often lose track of that first excitement I felt the first time I sifted through the stacks of linens and bobbins and buttons. They are things that have always been here, things that are integral to the shape and form and color of the Swedish culture. As an outsider it was a beautiful and moving thing, that the handiwork women were doing was still so close to the particular flavor of Sweden before ABBA, H&M and IKEA. Still an outsider, but more accustomed, more casual in taking note, I don’t want to be dulled to the beauty of these things.

    It’s rather unusual now for a woman of my age to take an interest in weaving, embroidery, and sewing. We’ve been given many beautiful examples of these things, with the explanation that, “you seem to be interested in handverk, and I thought you might like to have this”. And yes, I would!

    I remember one of my first design classes in college began with a question from a then unknown, now beloved professor: “How many of you have parents that are makers?” It struck me as an odd question then, but I have always remembered it. I would like to be a maker. It strikes me now that it is very easy to be merely a consumer rather than a maker.  Old needs and traditions are passing away, and their physical artifacts are now populating second hand shelves.

    The time may come when there is a resurgence of interest in needlework and weaving, but in the meantime I hope to make good use of this “window” to acquire what I can of the tools and knowledge that belong to the older generation, and learn to be a maker.

    P.S. This doesn’t relate to making, but I thought it was sweet. I was flipping through an old botany book at Erikshjälpen the other day and found this pressed between the pages:

     


  2. before the thaw

    As we are now cozily ensconced in a new home, it seemed about time to put winter behind. A few snapshots of winter, which is still not too far behind us. Here’s to spring.

     


  3. Tightening the belt

    Winter saunters on in these northern lands. Life continues as well, a little sleepily, a little grumpily, finding solace in creamy coffee, wintery fikabröd, and potatoes as well, in various fried, roasted and mashed incarnations.

    In sync with the difficulty and darkness of the winter landscape, J and I have challenged ourselves to limit our grocery spending to 500 kr (as of this moment equivalent to $79.11) every two weeks, which has been HARD! Happily, potatoes are a buck per kilo, the good old college standby ramen is about 30 cents, and vegetables and eggs aren’t too expensive. Meat, though is a little tricky! Beef is quite expensive, and even chicken is usually over $10 per pound. Canned goods, like tomato sauce, can be pricey as well. But I’m hopeful that the higher cost of meat in particular points to a higher standard of treatment of livestock and their feed. But then of course, there is also the 25% sales tax baked into the cost.

    Swedes, when possible, like to buy Swedish produce and goods, and this preference can be noted in the packaging of things like meat, which proudly proclaims, “Svenskt kött”. The labels on shelves will almost always identify the land of origin, which is interesting when examining the 8 or 10 different varieties of apples which are for sale at my usual grocery store. A popular chain of stores here called Lidl was heavily criticized a few years back for stocking primarily German-sourced goods. Due to pressure from consumers, they have begun upping the percentage of Swedish-produced foods found in their store. It’s interesting to ponder the consequences if Americans were ever to feel so strongly about what they eat. Here, people try to eat locally and seasonally, and though many things are imported, the valuing of seasonal cuisine and traditional Swedish foods has gone a long way in keeping Swedes close to home.

    On a recent trip to Willy:s, the closest you’ll get to Costco here, I was struck by something. I have been annoyed, like most people living in Sweden, at the cumbersome distribution of alcohol and spirits. Systembologet, (like the ABC store for my VA folks) is the state-run alcohol establishment. It is excellent in many ways - the staff is knowledgable, information is readily available, and the cost, while higher than in the US, isn’t completely prohibitive. The locations are impeccably run, clean, well-labelled, and they have a fantastic website. They will supply custom requests for wine from all over the world, and even deliver to your home in some places. But. They close by 6pm during the week, 2 pm on Saturday, and very limited hours during holidays. And very high taxes. It makes me miss being able to pick up a bottle of wine to go with dinner while I’m at the grocery store. Alcohol is a very carefully controlled substance here (historically for good reason), and the state keeps a tight leash on it. You can read about a rather absurd example here of the extent to which Sweden thinks for its citizens on the responsibility of alcohol. Apparently a French wine label (Flying Solo) depicting a pilot flying a plane was deemed dangerous enough to hamper to the judgement of Swedish adults, warranting its ban within Sweden. Ha.

    Anyhoo, I was struck by how permissive Sweden is when it comes to some substances, like candy, tobacco, and caffeine. Admittedly, the repercussions of alcohol abuse are exponentially greater than over-indulgence in sugar, but it is honestly kind of hilarious when you contrast the heavily guarded, gated, video-monitored Systembologet with this:

    image


    I’m no sugar Nazi, but this is just silly. And in light of the recent reaction to “Flying Solo” I’m wondering if the brain-shaped candy I bought the other week is going to convince me that I should be a cannibal or a mad scientist? The government really should protect me from myself.

     


  4. God Jul & God Forsättning!

    This year was my first Christmas away from home. All told, I wasn’t as stoic as I would have liked to be, but there were many, many moments of delight throughout the season which drew me in and distracted me from dwelling too much on what I miss from the States.

    1. This Guy. My husband has been a pure delight during the darkest months of the year.  J has taught me the Swedish art of self-medicating with candles, coffee, and music. He is always coming home with new movies for us to watch to drive off the gloom. In fact the other day he brought home the 5-hour BBC Pride and Prejudice (Oh Keira, you could never compare to Jennifer Ehle…)

    image

    2. The Snow. So. Much. Snow. I think I can count on one hand the number of white Christmases I’ve had in the States, but here it’s not unusual for it to snow a little bit every day. I like it this way because just as the roads are getting dirty a little dusting of snow comes and covers up the mess. 

    image

    3Julbordet. The Christmas Table. During Jul, cuisine takes a reminiscent spin through the years. Hearkening back to the days when dried fish and cured meats were staples throughout the year, the Julbord gives a little glimpse into the peculiarities of Scandinavian food. On this plate (just the first of many) you can see smoked eel, three different liver patés, elk, wild boar sausage, pickled vegetables, shrimp, ham, and special sauces to accompany all the above. Other specialties include a tankard of pork drippings in which you dunk a piece of dark bread, which then eaten with mustard, butter, and ham, as well the remarkable Janssons Temptation, a potato dish involving heavy cream, anchovies, and spices.

    4. Décor. Swedes do Christmas decorations really well. No blinking lights or inflatable snow globes on the front lawn. No, in their place are glowing candles in the window, big beautiful stars of perforated paper, hyacinth bulbs giving off that dark, perfume-y aroma, embroidered tablecloths and weavings from Mom or Grandma, old fashioned straw ornaments, little Christmas trees on the front step, and oil-fed lights burning in the snow outside.

    5. Baking. Oh these Swedes can bake! I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but even I fall susceptible to Lussekatter and pepparkakor!

    6. Lucia. This Italian saint has gotten a hold on Sweden! Decked out in a white gown with red sash and a crown of candles, Lucia is a big deal. Every school and town elects a Lucia and her “court” or train of maidens and companions. SFI treated all the students to a Lucia concert this year. It was beautiful - the room was very dark but for the candles in Lucia’s hair and in the hands of the singers. They sang several traditional songs but closed with several jazzy Christmas songs in English….? Thanks, SFI!

    7. On The Town. The first Sunday of Advent is when everyone is “allowed” to bust out the Christmas decorations, including the shops. This year, everyone went out and walked around just to look in the shop windows. What I saw this year was truly delightful and whimsical!

    Our own traditions, J’s and mine, are still developing. This year has felt a little strange in that I have been a little bit of a spectator. I think I didn’t realize how moving to a new culture would leave me a little suspended in air, moving, thinking, taking things in in slow motion. Much of my day to day life feels a bit like being in the audience of a drama unfolding on stage as life goes on for the actors.  There are times, though, when the fourth wall has a hole poked in it, and I feel drawn into the rhythms and long-standing dynamics of an established family and way of life. This Christmas was one of those times, where something deeply familiar is there under the surface, but the modes of expression were different somehow.

    Language has been both a challenge and a comfort. I often swing between two extremes: translation mode or over-saturated stupor mode. These days it’s been more the latter than the former. I do make an effort to listen and understand, but it often feels like being dragged by a runaway horse. Often, without being conscious of it, I slip away into my own thoughts and come back to real life with a start when someone asks me “did you understand that?” As time goes on I have become more and more enamored of the sound and lyricism of the Swedish language, and even more so during Advent. The liturgy, music, and stories surrounding Christ’s birth provide a familiar frame of reference from which to decipher new words and ideas and sounds. I hope that Jul will be one of those milestones of understanding where I can pause and look back to last year and the one before that, and find that I can understand more and more and participate more and more on my own merits and standing. For now I’ll just borrow J’s (:

    Merry Christmas, everyone!

     


  5. Svenska för invandrare [Swedish for immigrants]

    For the last 2 and a half months I have been going to SFI nearly every day. My classmates and I start the day at 8:30, some of us walking from home, some having driven in from the countryside, and some taking the train from Boxholm (a town known primarily for its cheese…and the huge water tank painted to look like a wheel of cheese which you can see from the window of whatever train you happen to be taking in that direction). All of us have come from every conceivable country for a myriad of reasons: political asylum, love, arranged marriages, study, economic opportunities, retirement. We’re an odd group from very different backgrounds and cultures, yet the experience of learning how to live in Sweden has become a rather unexpected rite of bonding.

    A Slovakian hussar/mounted police officer, a German grandmother, a Hungarian carpenter, a lovely aloof Bosnian girl, two Somali mothers, a quiet, beautiful Turkish girl, a Thai class clown, 4 perpetually cheery, chattering Thai girls, a wistful Iraqi girl and myself meet every day to learn, speak, read, and listen to Swedish.

    The school is in an old building, and one which seems to have been intended for some other purpose, judging by the odd little nooks and crannies, narrow passages, and classrooms which have been wedged into spaces like so many tetris blocks. The 16 or 20 of us gather in a classroom, exchanging tired smiles and “go’morron”s, and attempting to piece together little scraps of conversation from our pre-drilled prompts and answers:

    "Hur mor du idag?" How are you today?

    "Bra, tack!" Good, thanks!

    "Det regner!" It’s raining!

    "Ja! Jag tycker inte om regn." Yeah! I don’t like rain.

    "Var det okej åker från Torpön?" Was it ok driving from Torpön?

    "Ja, det okej. Jag pratade med mina barn i Tyskland i går kväll." Yeah, it’s ok. I spoke with my kids in Germany last night.”

    "Ah, det är jättefin! Skall du se de i Jul?"Oh, that’s so nice! Will you see them at Christmas?

    "Ja, vi ska resa till Stuttgart i Tyskland i Jul. Ska du resa till USA?" Yes, we’ll go to Stuttgart in Germany for Christmas. Will you travel to the USA?

    "Nej, vi ska stänna i Tranås i Jul. Men min syster ska komma till mig i Februari!" No, we will stay in Tranås for Christmas. But my sister is coming to see me in February!

    …and on and on.

    We have anywhere from 4 to 6 hours of class everyday on topics ranging from basic grammatik to geografi, society and matematik. Some of it is fascinating, a bit of it feels indoctrinating, but most of the time it’s just a slow, steady diet of words and ideas, much like what I imagine a child experiences. You keep hearing this word, and you don’t know what it means, but over time you gradually work out a context for it. Then you tentatively test it out, and if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, you put it back on the mental back burner for a little while. Often we ask each other for help in understanding a word. Translation usually takes the form of infant Swedish, with a smattering of English, cartoons, sound-effects and sign language. It’s truly hilarious.

    One of the biggest challenges of learning Swedish at SFI is that you truly are imbedded in the Swedish educational system. Lagom, lagom. Under this model, teachers can be slow to give you material that challenges you, preferring to keep the class in uniformity. They tend to move people up in groups rather than individually, as singling someone out as “special” is a bit counter-cultural. 

    Something else I have encountered is not being understood on the same level on which I believe I am communicating. Is it that I am not understandable, or it is that the expectations of me are so low that I simply will not be understood as I would wish? For example, in one class we were discussing a Chinese author who has recently won the Nobel Prize in literature. The conversation went something like this:

    (I will try to replicate my lisping Swedish)

    Emily: But how can peoples from West read book from China and give him prize? How they -[how do you say “qualified” in Swedish? Thanks]- qualified to read his book when they maybe do not understand east idea and east tradition in literature? East and west are so different in idea and tradition. How they know it good for Nobel Prize?

    Teacher: Well, they get a TRANSLATOR, Emily. So a man from Germany can read it, a man from France can read it, and a man from America can read it.

    Emily thinking: “I don’t think that was an answer to the question I asked. I think that I must be stupid. Stuuuuupid!!”

    But after more experience in the SFI classroom, I tend to think that we are all understood by our teachers on a more basic level than we are actually operating on.

    Between classes, my classmates go out into the snow and smoke a cigarette or two, and then come in and drink coffee. A line forms in one of the narrow hallways in the building where a coffee machine is perched on a ledge. 1-crown coins jingle in pockets as we all wait for our turn. This particular machine is a little finicky, and requires that the coins be deposited multiple times before they are actually accepted. Then each of us pushes the “extra socker” button and the “cappuccino” button before placing a little grey plastic cup under the spout. The cup is filled with steamy, sweet, milky coffee, which is carefully withdrawn and tenderly cradled until it cools down a little. Upstairs in the building is a lounge filled with omnipresent IKEA furniture. Students gather, coffee in hand, according to their ethnic groups for the most part. Somalis with Somalis, Thais with Thais, Eastern Europeans with Eastern Europeans and Westerners with Westerners. Today was a little different.

    I went upstairs with my coffee and established myself on a sofa to read while I was waiting for my next class. A few minutes later there wasn’t much space in the room to segregate, and I found myself joined by a woman from Syria and a woman from Turkey. I had seen these two before, usually part of an intense, larger group of women. The women in the group are all large-boned, substantial ladies, loud and jolly, their heads covered in kerchiefs and limbs swathed in long, full skirts. As they laugh and talk, their large, capable hands decked in tight silver rings and bracelets pull from each ones’ purse a little paper napkin full of chocolate or orange segments or cookies. They always insist on sharing what they had brought with them, to the point of embarrassing a new member of the circle. “Var så god! Var så god! Have it good! You are welcome! (subtext - eat, eat!).

    Today, this circle formed around me as I was quietly eating pepparkakor and drinking coffee and trying to decipher The Diary of Anne Frank in Swedish. When the first two ladies sat down opposite me, I smiled and made room on the sofa and the table in front of me. They were talking quietly, but at a furious pace as they pulled out their little paper sacks of food. The Turkish lady peeled a huge orange, talking all the while, then ripped off a shred of napkin which she placed in front of me with two orange wedges perched on top. “Var så god!” she said, and smiled, and I opened my bag of pepparkakor and replied, “Var så god!” We exchanged pleasantries, they told me about their children, and they said I should start having kids soon, since I’m already 27. They said I looked Swedish and I had a pretty face. We chatted about this and that, and I thought, as I have thought many times before, that this is such a strange and wonderful world where I get to meet and talk with so many people who I would never be able to communicate with had I come across their path or they across mine in our respective countries.

    But here we are in Sweden, all of us humbled, all of us childlike, and most of us willing to put ourselves out there a little bit because we know we won’t be put to shame by people who share their cookies and oranges.

     


  6. After long silence

    We have been in Sweden for almost 2 months now, and while the excitement of the new is mellowing, something I have been more and more intrigued by is what I perceive to be the mentality surrounding the Swedish window. I was trying to explain this to J a few weeks ago, but it seems like there is a fundamental difference in how Swedes treat windows and how Americans view them. In the states, windows are often decorated one-dimensionally. They’re meant to be used from the inside, framing an outside view for the dweller. In many Swedish homes, though, the windows frame a picture of the home and people inside, almost for the benefit of those outside. I think it’s a lovely idea, and I don’t know why we don’t do this more in the States - maybe it’s our lack of windowsills, generally speaking? Most houses I’ve lived in or been in are not older than the 50’s, and it seems like there are often no sills to speak of. And people generally seem reluctant to arrange things on them if they have them. Am I way off here?

    Something I noticed immediately when I first visited Sweden was that Swedish living spaces (perhaps this is true in Europe in general?) almost without exception have a stone (faux or genuine) slab shelf running along the bottom edge of each window in the house. This provides ample opportunities for a beautiful display.

    thisiscamilla.blogg.se/

    I don’t think I’ve been in a Swedish home that has not had beautifully tended plants arranged artfully on the sill, along with a specially chosen lamp or hanging window light.

    As it gets darker and darker in the late fall here, I have noticed, walking past the houses and apartments, how deliberately the windows are decorated to be lovely from inside and outside. J has often remarked on how important it is for home to be bright and welcoming during the dark months, and the windows act as a sort of beacon. You want to go to there, Liz Lemon.

    There are definite trends in windows from season to season. My friend S and I were talking about this. Right now, white is in, as are orchids, lanterns, and little white houses lit from inside. Walking through town you can see what is in vogue. 

    http://www.dt.se/pralin/hemma/inspiration

    S and I were talking about how you can tell a lot about someone by their windows. And that there’s a subtle judgement that takes shape if you notice something tacky in the window or if the curtains are crooked. If there’s a cereal box or a stereo in the window, it’s a good indicator that the inside is not a place you want to go.

    Now this is just ridiculous, but rather inspiring:

    ikea inspiration

    This is rather exposed with no curtains or blinds, but if I was outside looking in, I’d want to come in and stay awhile:

    http://pinterest.com/pin/238972323947463551/

    White…

    http://www.riksbyggen.se/Inspiration/Balkong--tradgard/Pimpa-fonsterbradan/

    I love the branch hanging from the ceiling here - oh, and the white:

    https://www.ikeafamilylive.com/en/room/conservatory-space-1017

    There’s a fairly visible generational divide when you’re looking at window décor. An elderly lady’s home will often have geraniums in the window, and perhaps a philosophy of “more is more”. 

    http://www.aftonbladet.se/fixahemma/article12903742.ab

    The most pervasive “motif” that I have seen among the hip and happenin’ is two tall, narrow pots (White! They must be white!) on one side of the window balanced by a clean, slender lamp on the other side:

    http://www.styleroom.se/inspiration/f%C3%B6nster?page=5

    My own attempts at window dressing have extended only so far as the one that faces the street. J’s study is a cosy room, and we just got a sofabed for when we have visitors (*cough*sisterscomevisitme*cough*).

    Also, our kitchen window is rather sweet - not very polished, as I have herbs growing in coffeecups - and I like looking at it when I’m on the street walking home:

    So, all in all, lots to absorb as I figure out THE LANGUAGE OF WINDOWS. And hopefully a fun little glimpse into the vibes I think I’m picking up.

    [NEXT TIME - another trend which is personally very freaky for me is the American flag trend. You can’t walk into a home design shop without seeing a model bedroom or living room swathed in stars and stripes, with a sort of hybrid of classic New England furniture, and graphic throwbacks to the American industrial age. Or, in an even less dignified mental image, “patriotic” boxer briefs. Only 99SEK at KappAhl. Somehow I doubt Swedes would be into wearing their OWN flag as support and protection for the family jewels. Indignant post to come on THAT.]

     


  7. In which we are welcomed to Sverige

    On Saturday J and I were feted at Furuvik, a lakehouse outside of town, perched beside Lake Sommen. There were about 70 children and adults who gathered throughout the afternoon and early evening to eat and sing and talk. My dear mother-in-law and sister-in-law were lovely hostesses, and the whole party was warm, gracious, and relaxed. There was a beautiful spread of food and a steady stream of conversation, laughter, and gifts, punctuated by the ringing of a bell to announce moments of singing. A special song book, full of hearty, lusty summer songs and summer hymns, had been printed for the party, and copies were laying scattered on tables where guests could leaf through to jog their memory for the lyrics, most of which could be sung largely from memory. My favorite song that was sung was called En Vänlig Grönskas Rika Dräkt (The Earth Adorned in Verdant Robe). You can listen to a few of the verses here.

    Another highlight was the delicious Princess Cake that was made by a family member and served alongside Kanelbullar and coffee. This is a singularly Swedish dessert, consisting of layers of spongecake, raspberries, and whipped cream, and then topped with a thin layer of marzipan. This was the first thing I ate on Swedish soil, actually! When I flew into Stockholm to visit my sister Allie in 2009, we stopped to have some coffee and cake in the airport, and the taste and texture was highly memorable!

    The evening drew to a close when the party had dwindled down to a core of family and folks in the church community. We all pulled up chairs to form an irregular oval, savoring a second slice of cake and just a little more coffee, and Uncle Pelle stood and led us in a devotional, which was a little bit difficult as the crowd was in a jolly mood, and there was a lot of good-natured ribbing of the speaker. The mood quieted as an informal sort of benediction fell in a robust and bittersweet singing of Stor är Din Trofasthet (Great is Thy Faithfulness). This is a hymn which the family has sung both in grief and also in rejoicing. It was sung at our wedding, and now again as we have come home to Sweden. It was sweet to sing such a familiar hymn, though the words were challenging, knowing that my family in the States and in Sweden share such a remarkable heritage and common faith. Though my parents, siblings, aunts and grandmother were not there, it was sweet to realize once again that I am loved where I am, that I am not alone, and that, as my sister-in-law Jenny wrote to me once, “because of what Christ has done, there is no need to say goodbye”.

     


  8. In which I luxuriate in light and dream of bagels

    Something I guess I didn’t anticipate when moving here was just how striking the light is. I’d always heard people talk about the beauty of “northern light”, especially when the conversation is revolving around Dutch art. But it really is amazing. It pours and floods into spaces, and it’s just finicky enough to keep you wanting more. Today is one of those days when the clouds are hasty and varied, a lot like El Greco’s A View of Toledo:

    Image via www.wga.hu

    Besides waxing lyrical about the light, today I have been nursing a cold and bustling around the house getting ready for a big weekend here in Tranås. J’s family is throwing a sort of second wedding reception for us, and many relatives and friends are coming to celebrate. I’m so excited! But I have yet to decide what to wear.

    Our house is looking a bit rough at the moment - we’re collecting bits of furniture here and there, but it is still looking a bit like a stark second-hand shop. I’ve been shuffling furniture here and there and hanging pictures and artwork to try and create some kind of harmony in our spaces (whoa - it’s hailing outside!) but at the moment, opposing color palettes are working against me! 

    My main project over the past week or so has been re-covering some family “heirlooms”. J’s grandmother had some lovely furniture we were fortunate enough to inherit, and one of those pieces is this very traditional Swedish sofa.

    The paint color was perfect, kind of a pale, eggshell blue-gray, and I had been searching for a gray linen to cover the seat in. Shopping in town is lovely, but a bit limited, so I was happy to find the exact color at a fair outside town, Adelöve Marknad. The price was ridiculously reasonable, about half of what I had seen elsewhere, so I brought home about 3 meters to recover the sofa and 4 matching chairs, 2 of which I have yet to complete.

    The second-hand shops here in town, despite my disparaging remarks above, are lovely. So much Scandinavian design! Go figure, right? One of the first things we purchased was this desk I fell for the day after we arrived in Sweden.

    (As I am currently camera-less, I’m using photobooth with varying results. Apologies.)

    It has a roll top and tons of little lovely compartments. There is even a key to lock the top and one of the drawers. I am keeping my secret file [Mission: Plotting escape back to USA] in there, away from prying eyes. Obviously, I jest. Sweden and I are getting along just fine.

    In other news, today I will attempt to make bagels, which you cannot get here. J and I are hosting a breakfast on Saturday, and I would love to add an American item to the Swedish open-face sandwiches, muesli and fil. Wish me luck!

     


  9. In the beginning:

    I met Jonatan in 2009. I had come to Scandinavia to visit my little sister in the middle of her internship at Immanuelskyrken in Tranås, Sweden. Through many delightful twists and turns, and even despite some tragic circumstances, Jonatan and I ended up together. If you had told me when I was 12, 16, 22 years old, that I would marry a Swede and move away from my home, I would have rebelled against the thought. But this particular Swede made all the difference.

    Our nearly 2 years of marriage have been primarily on American soil, but now Jonatan has brought me home with him. I have been gearing up for this for 3 years now, and now that we’re here, I’m surprised at how it does feel like home. His home, more than mine, admittedly, but I suppose feeling at home anywhere is the product of time, failures, successes, words, experiences, smells, and images. I guess it’s ok to feel like a two year old for a while when you’re in a new place. Intellectually, I believe this is so, but feelings and embarrassments loom so large sometimes. To fight off this self-sabotage which I am often so guilty of, I want to make a habit of “pausing” and marking the time that passes, and to measure it by what I have learned and observed, not by how much I am ignorant of.

    So here goes.