Monday, March 2, 2015

An unwelcome lull

The last few weeks of my life have been defined by one word: waiting.

While I already knew that despite all the (well-founded) claims of efficiency and minimalism in Sweden things actually tend to move quite a bit slower here, I'm finding out firsthand (once again) just how slow that can be.

By last fall I was good and ready to get off the assimilation bandwagon, meaning, school and bicycling romps and exploring around town, and back to normal life, meaning a job and a routine that was a little more fulfilling. But given vacations and trips home and the holidays, it didn't make sense to start interviewing before 2015 rolled around. So we enjoyed ourselves and I tried to fill my days with meaningful, enjoyable, and pretty things while I waited. (It wasn't actually all contentment and snowflakes around here.)

Come the first week of January I was already setting up meetings and interviews, and while prospects look very, very good, nothing is inked at the moment so I can't share anything yet. Nor am I 100% positive that I will have something to share in the near future, as I still can't quite read the Swedish system. Insert hearty sigh here.

The job situation is just one hindrance to us feeling (and actually being) settled, though. The other is, of course, where the heck will we live?


The Swedish housing market has really thrown us—we had intended to sublease for a few months with the idea that as soon as we had figured out where we wanted to live more permanently, we'd buy an apartment. But the way the banking system works here, you can't use assets as proof of ability to pay for a mortgage, it's based solely (not jointly) on monthly salary. And as I don't yet have a job, we can't purchase the type of apartment we want with just one income.

(With immediate family in two separate countries, there's just no way we can buy a 1-bedroom apartment, and for a 2-bedroom in Stockholm you need 2 normal-sized salaries.)

Once we found out about the bank situation, which served as another (although completely unnecessary) reason for me to get back to work, we realized we'd need a temporary solution between our current temporary solution and a hopefully more permanent solution sometime in the future.

Which is why we'd been stalking all the apartment listings we could get our hands on for months, but they were either too expensive, too short-term, too bleak, or just didn't work for some other reason.

But, but!

A little progress on the housing front came this weekend when we finally, FINALLY, signed the contract on an incredible apartment. We'll be moving in in just a few weeks (more waiting) and can finally port those boxes out of storage, buy some furniture and start nesting!

More details to come because there are just enough that another whole post is needed!

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One year ago: When it rains & A bright, sunshiny day
Two years ago: Comings and goings & Signing on a new dotted line
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Blue skies along Norr Mälarstrand

View of Gamla Stan from Norr Mälarstrand in Stockholm  |  Blue skies along Norr Mälarstrand on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

A few days ago, confronted with the most ridiculously-blue skies (something we don't often see here during winter), and sunshine so bright you could actually feel its warmth gliding across your face (despite the temperature hovering at the freezing point), we read the signs and took all as an excuse, rather a demand, to get ourselves outside.

We wheeled our bicycles out from where they've been mostly hibernating this winter (as we don't have winter wheels installed to battle the Swedish winter elements) and pedaled out along the snow- and ice-free streets, across St. Erik's bridge and over to Kungsholmen, all the way to Norr Mälarstrand, the waterfront along the western side off the island.

View of Gamla Stan from Norr Mälarstrand in Stockholm  |  Blue skies along Norr Mälarstrand on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
We parked our bikes and popped into Orangeriet for brunch, rather, "brunch lite", which was coffee for both of us, a smoked salmon bagel for R (being in a serious NYC brunch mood he chose the most New York-y thing, but sadly, it was missing everything but the lox), an open-faced shrimp sandwich on the nuttiest, blackest bread ever for me, and a kannelbulle for R and my usual chokladboll for me to top us off.

We settled back into the kitchsy, antique-store'ish vibe with loads of families around us, tchotchkes covering most services, an excellent (to me) Beatles playlist playing, and sunshine streaming through the floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows.

After an hour of lingering over the last dregs of our coffee and chatting about where else we'd like to travel this year (all just pipe dreams at the moment as we wait to get a few things in order), we were ready to go.

View of Gamla Stan from Norr Mälarstrand + Trygg-Hansa in Stockholm  |  Blue skies along Norr Mälarstrand on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com


The wind had picked up and began whipping all the sailing accoutrements of the boats docked along the waterfront and chapping our faces (sun or no sun), so before bracing ourselves for the ride uphill (which we ended up walking anyway), we took a walk along the waterfront to admire Stockholm's skyline and soak in a rare blue-skied, sun-filled Swedish winter Sunday.

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One year ago: Week 7 & Week 8
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Monday, February 16, 2015

An afternoon in Uppsala

Uppsala  |  An afternoon in Uppsala on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
This weekend we took advantage of an opening in R's work schedule to hop on a northbound train to visit Uppsala, a new-to-both-of-us charming university town less than an hour from Stockholm. It's the 4th largest in Sweden, after Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö (which we never would have guessed by its supreme low-key'ness).

Rather than heading downtown to the central train station, we were able to take advantage of living in Vasastan where one of the commuter/regional train stations is, meaning all it took was a 5-minute stroll from the apartment and we were on a little train chugging through fields of snow dotted by the lone red house and paddocks filled with horses.

Train to Uppsala  |  An afternoon in Uppsala on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
(It's very easy to believe that 97% of Sweden is uninhabited!)

We didn't have much planned, which is our M.O. when it comes to travel—we read a little about what the place is all about and known for, and then just...wander around.

By 12:30PM we were stepping off the train and heading into the town's center with one thought in mind: lunch. As we walked around looking down side streets for tempting possibilities, we also kept an eye on all the lovely decor stores we passed: beautiful lanterns and candelabras and kitchen goods were tempting, but we kept our wallets closed. No more purchases until we know where we'll be living!

Uppsala  |  An afternoon in Uppsala on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Uppsala buildings  |  An afternoon in Uppsala on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Uppsala business school  |  An afternoon in Uppsala on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Uppsala buildings  |  An afternoon in Uppsala on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
As we came upon the canal running through the city we spotted the 2nd floor terrace of a restaurant, appropriately named Terrassen, so we headed up to take a look. While the view was lovely, I didn't find the restaurant itself particularly charming once we entered. But as we were so hungry, and I wasn't up for scoping out another option, we sat down and ended up having a tasty lunch anyway (grilled salmon for R and venison with morel sauce and lingonberries for me—which R kept sneaking glances at until I gave him a taste).

Uppsala Old Town  |  An afternoon in Uppsala on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Uppsala Slott Castle  |  An afternoon in Uppsala on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Uppsala Domkyrka Cathedral  |  An afternoon in Uppsala on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Uppsala Domkyrka Cathedral  |  An afternoon in Uppsala on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Once we were back outside, we started exploring the part of town around the university, the castle, and the domkyrka (cathedral)—the former two solely from the outside, but we went inside the cathedral, which was quite beautiful and impressive. As we walked around I kept having a sense of déjà vu until I realized that there was something about the colors and layout of Uppsala that reminded me of Parma.

Before heading back to the train station we stopped next door at Stationen, a somewhat well-known restaurant-lounge-cafè, for a fika, where I topped R with my ordering skills again—he had a super sweet mousse pie that he was not at all thrilled about (although the whisky he had alongside it made it go down easier), while I had a perfectly bittersweet hazelnut chocolate mousse (sans the pie crust) with salty, roasted nuts that was so good that even if I hadn't enjoyed Uppsala, it would have made the train tickets worth it.

(And the train tickets were surprisingly pricey).

Uppsala streets  |  An afternoon in Uppsala on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Uppsala balcony  |  An afternoon in Uppsala on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

By 4:30PM we were on our way back to Stockholm.

Even though the sun hid itself behind clouds and the day ended up being quite gray and blustery, it was so very nice to "escape" Stockholm (if that's even the right word to use for a place you adore) for a few hours to wander somewhere new.

(Especially when said place's name is temptingly close to "oops-a-daisy" in pronunciation—at least for foreigners. No such danger of R saying that.)

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One year ago: Week 6 & Some news
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