Sunday, January 25, 2015

Stockholm's snow angels

Winterviken  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Swedish has twenty-five (if not more) ways to describe snow: there's wet, slushy snow (blötsnö), Christmas snow (julesnö), the snow that's perfect for making snowballs (kramsnö) and then there's powder snow (pudersnö)—a word we have in English, too, to describe that dreamy snow that collects in supple waves across the landscape, soft as a bed of feathers and perfect for falling face-forwards (or backwards) into.

Which is exactly the kind of snow that fell across the city this past weekend—and exactly what we did in it.

When Johanna, Selina and I made a play date for for yesterday I started scrolling across Google Maps for a place to visit that looked interesting. (Funny: in New York I'd Google different phrases or check starred posts in my blog reader for new places I'd read about when looking for something to do. Here I try to spot attractive terrain and see what's nearby). That's how I came across Winterviken, a combination restaurant/cafè + garden + event space just west of Gröndal and Liljeholmen, and no more than a 15-minute drive from the heart of Stockholm.

Once I saw pictures of the grounds itself (including its tasty sweets) and realized that on the weekends there's a story hour run by people that work for a group specializing in organizing activities for children, we decided we had to go—it seemed perfect for us.

Which it was.

Winterviken  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Winterviken  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Winterviken  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Winterviken  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
The drive off of the main road to the property was dreamy: freshly-fallen snow outlined the trees, shrubs, what few houses there were, and fences. Then the building itself—beautiful brick and dark iron fixtures with exposed beams and farm tables inside, which is basically exactly how I'd want my own home to look.

Winterviken  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Winterviken  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Winterviken story hour sagohörna  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

The high-ceilinged, open space was lit by the light streaming in from the large circular windows along the walls and votives lining the tables. There was a café with loads of tasty things to try (and not just sweets, savory dishes, too!) and cozy communal tables to sit at. Beyond it was another room where story books, wooden toys and miniature furniture stood at the ready for play. A woman was settled into an easy chair with children gathered around her sprawled out on pillows, listening while she read.

Like I said: perfect.

Johanna and I picked up a sandwich, a semla (a doughy bun spread through with almond paste and an extremely thick layer of cream, a chokladboll, some other nutty treat, an apple juice, a coffee, and a cappuccino and tucked ourselves into a small table right next to the children's area where Selina was listening intently to a story. Meanwhile we caught up, as we haven't had a chance to spend time together in person since before the New Year.

When the storyteller took a break, though, I decided to play storyteller myself, as Selina was momentarily the only child by the armchair, and everyone says the best way to learn a language is by reading children's books. She handed me Den Fula Ankungen, which I attempted to read, but you know what people forget when they say that about children's books? Fairytales and sagas and whatnot are rife with adjective-filled descriptions. Which is fine and necessary to get a child's imagination roaring, except that all of those adjectives were words I didn't know how to pronounce, much less understand. So while I paged through and pointed to the Swedish illustrations, I told Selina what I remembered of the English version of The Ugly Duckling. She sort of bought it...but barely.

Luckily before I started to get really kerflummoxed, Johanna had the brilliant idea to go out while there was still light to make more use of the sled we'd brought with us.

Winterviken  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Winterviken  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Winterviken  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
And that's when things got really fun: you know how sometimes the fact that you can't control your own movements results in rolling bouts of laughter (or is that just me?)—like when you can't deal with exam prep anymore and head out behind your university's library where there's a mini valley and just roll right down the hillside to give yourself a laugh (again...just me?)?

Or when you and a friend can't manage to stand up when you're calf-deep in the ocean because a not-really-that-strong set of waves keep coming in back-to-back and you're laughing too hard from the first awkward flail to get it together enough to stand up?

Winterviken  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Winterviken  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

That's what playing in the snow at Winterviken was like this weekend. For some reason, perhaps the combination of the snow being deeper than we thought it was or maybe because there was a slim layer of ice on top of the grass below it (or even just the existence of the long grass itself), we could not manage to walk properly, even less so when we tried to get Selina and the sled up a tiny incline so she could sled down. I fell down face first once, and then again as soon as I managed to stand up. And when I tried to show Selina how to fall back gently and make snow angels? I couldn't get back up right away.

Our laughter peeled across the meadow and those moments, ever single one of them, melded together into wintry perfection—the kind of day I won't forget in a long time, if ever. Even if I can't see these girls often enough, it's enough that when we do spend time together, it's so beautiful and fun and laughter-filled.

Winterviken  |  Stockholm's snow angels on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com


P.S. Coincidence or not, the orchid Johanna gifted me when we first moved to Stockholm, which was in hibernation all winter after flowering for 6 months, budded and re-bloomed with three fuchsia-striped flowers this weekend.

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One year ago: Week 4
Two years ago: Literary and libationary libraries & All Good Things market in Tribeca
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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Snowy contentment

Karlbergs Slottspark, Stockholm, Sweden  |  Snowy contentment on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Yesterday the snow floated down again and I took advantage of a warm, post-lunch belly to head out to crunch through it. I was in the mood for something new and a quick glance at Google Maps showed me a castle (yep!) in a park nearby. I knew there was a military academy there, as I pass its front facade often when I walk around the canal, but I didn't realize it had been a castle previously.

So off to Karlbergs Slott I went and I still can't quite comprehend that stupefyingly-beautiful wintry woodland cathedrals like this are everywhere in Stockholm—a capital city! How is access to this just a few minutes' walk away from a handful of bus stops and subway stops (and from my in-laws' apartment)?

Karlbergs Slottspark, Stockholm, Sweden  |  Snowy contentment on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Karlbergs Slottspark, Stockholm, Sweden  |  Snowy contentment on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Karlbergs Slottspark, Stockholm, Sweden  |  Snowy contentment on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
I'm not one to take a walk (especially in a city) with my headphones on, but I have to say, a walk through the woods in this park, completely alone, with a little Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban harmonizing in my ear was quite enchanting.

Karlbergs Slottspark, Stockholm, Sweden  |  Snowy contentment on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Karlbergs Slottspark, Stockholm, Sweden  |  Snowy contentment on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
And here's the thing that crossed my mind as I made tracks through the snow (perhaps spurred on by the crooners accompanying me): anytime you have a huge change in your life (or even a little one, I suppose), it's normal and understandable to second guess yourself or have misgivings, but I can count the number of times I've felt that way on one hand (less than one hand!) since moving here.

But the times I've felt overwhelmingly and completely filled with happiness that we actually did it? I'm not sure I can count that high!

(And it's only been 10 months).

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One year ago: Winter, post-twinkly lights
Two years ago: A sheaf of the past

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A collection of memories

Vasastan Park, Stockholm Sweden  |  A collection of memories on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

When I began to travel beyond the confines of my home state (New York) and where I grew up (Virginia), the childhood need to collect things surfaced. The need to acquire something that perhaps makes no sense to anyone else but the collector, because the sheer quantity of their cumulative mass is pleasing—and perhaps secondly because they tie to something specific in the collector's (short) memory.

My need for "things" emerged in the form of slightly tacky and overwhelmingly useless snow globes. Every place I traveled that was new: whether a state, a large city, or a foreign country, demanded the acquisition of a ridiculously unaesthetic (as I see it now) plastic snow globe featuring something the place was famous for.

Of course at that age I thought they were incredibly sophisticated, in all their dust-collecting glory.

A shelf above my bureau and mirror housed this growing assembly and while they were impressive in their sheer number, as I got older I began to see them for what they were: an additional 30 minutes tacked on to my room-cleaning chore.

Somewhere around age 20 I had the idea to begin collecting something a bit more pretty, infinitely more useful, and hopefully a bit more representative of my travels: jewelry.

All those snow globes went into a box for the Salvation Army and on my next trip, during Spring Break of my third year at university when my mom and I took a vacation together to Turks & Caicos, I picked up a silver bangle that wrapped around the wrist and secured itself by one end bending around a small gold hook at the other end so that its fastener was actually part of the design. Perched next to the point of connection was a gold plumeria (also known as frangipani), an beautiful and fragrant indigenous tropical flower.

I wore that bracelet every day for many years—not only did I love the significance in its simplicity, but it made me feel a dash more exotic and reminded me of that week with my mom. So much more meaningful than a snow globe.

As my travels became more frequent and I began to acquire more pieces (and also rifle through my mom's jewelry whenever I was home), my collection grew and it was time to find a better way of storing my travel souvenirs, the pieces I inherited (swiped) from the women in my family, and the few things I bought for myself just because. So I found one of those standing armoires that opens to reveal a place for storing every type of jewelry, and as a bonus, the front door that you open is a mirror—highly functional and tidy.

When I moved to my first apartment after graduating it had a place of honor at the entrance to my walk-in-closet. When I went to Italy for the summer after meeting R and before moving back to New York it summered in my parents' sun room. When the movers broke it somewhere between Virginia and New York I used their reimbursement money to buy a new, better one (better because not only did the door open to reveal storage space, but the door itself had storage space!).

Karlbergssjön, Kungsholmen, Stockholm Sweden  |  A collection of memories on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Seven years later it was time to leave New York, and the US, and the somewhat heartbreaking decision to sell all my heirloom furniture pieces had to be made. While we knew it was the right choice then, we know so even more after having left New York 10 months ago and we still don't have a more permanent place to live—I don't even want to think about how much it would have cost to move all that furniture here, store it for this long (and who knows how much longer) and then move it again. But still, I miss the familiarity of the pieces I grew up with and bought as a young adult (and the comfort of that beautiful bed!).

R, in all his infinite knowing-of-me abilities, knew all of that (perhaps not the story of my first non-snow globe souvenir though, in which case: ecco amore, ora lo sai!), this past Christmas he did one of the most thoughtful things he's ever done for me.

When it came time for me to open up my gift from him he pulled a red ribbon from behind the couch cushion he was leaning against. Completely confused (and mildly hoping it led to a puppy waiting in the bathroom—apparently I'm still ten years old!), I followed its trail out of the living room, across the hall, and into my in-laws' walk-in-closet where the end of the ribbon was wrapped around a cumbersome box as tall as me.

I heaved it into the living room near the tree and was, for once, completely in the dark. I had no idea what could possibly be in the box as I ripped off its paper and and tore at the staples securing its flaps closed.

Inside: a brand new jewelry armoire—something I hadn't even remotely suspected!

And, again showing how well he knows me, he didn't get it in the same oak tone as I used to have, but in an espresso stain, as he knows I'd (we'd) like to go for darker bedroom furniture when the time comes.

Since leaving New York I'd had all my jewelry stored in multiple small boxes collected inside one large fabric-covered one (that I'd made when I was 14) that was brought over on the plane with us and has been sitting smushed in with clothes all these months as we've moved around Stockholm. Meanwhile I'd been wearing the same few pieces since leaving New York.

Not since Christmas Day, though, as that morning R helped me assemble the armoire and I placed each piece of my jewelry collection behind its door—all of my souvenirs lined up together again.

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One year ago: The beginning of a yearning & Week 3
Two years ago: The Liebster Award & Pure Synergy & Monday meanders: 5