Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Conflicting pregnancy rules: U.S. vs. Italy vs. Sweden

Gamla Stan in Stockholm  |  Conflicting pregnancy rules: U.S. vs. Italy vs. Sweden on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Soon after we realized that I was pregnant, I began to notice a rather frequent occurrence: R and I began disagreeing about what I can and cannot do and eat while pregnant. After a few of these "disagreements" happened one after the other, it finally dawned on me why.

I grew up in the United States.

He, in Italy (with a Swedish mom).

Turns out that despite science allegedly being the basis of pregnancy guidelines, three different countries interpreted that science in three (mostly) different ways.

Sweden is the most liberal by far, while Italy is the most conservative, and the United States fits somewhere in between. To illustrate, here are a few questions I've either Googled and asked friends and family about, or just come across by chance, with each country's response:

Gamla Stan in Stockholm  |  Conflicting pregnancy rules: U.S. vs. Italy vs. Sweden on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Can I exercise?
  • America: It's better for you and the baby if you do. Do whatever you did before, but modified.
  • Sweden: Of course. You're pregnant, not handicapped. 
  • Italy: Yes, but take it very, very easy.

Can I eat spicy food?
  • America: Sure, but of course refrain if you get heartburn.
  • Sweden: Sure, but of course refrain if you get heartburn.
  • Italy: It's better if you avoid it completely, as it can cause heartburn.

Can I eat soft cheeses?
  • America: Nope—unless they're fully cooked.
  • Sweden: Nope—unless they're fully cooked.
  • Italy: Nope.

Can I eat sushi?
  • America: Very, very carefully and only the low-mercury kind.
  • Sweden: Sure, but only low-mercury fish. 
  • Italy: ABSOLUTELY NOT. ARE YOU CRAZY?

Can I eat shellfish?
  • America: Sure, as long as it's cooked.
  • Sweden: Sure, as long as it's cooked. 
  • Italy: Absolutely not, even when cooked.

Can I eat deli meats (or, any type of smoked or cured meat or fish)?

  • America: It's best to avoid completely, unless cooked (like on a pizza or in a baked dish), but don't touch salami.
  • Sweden: Yes, if frozen for 72 hours or cooked (but never salami).
  • Italy: No way.

Can I eat red meat (i.e., steak)?
  • America: If cooked completely. Though if eating high quality, local, organic meat, cooking until all the meat is hot (not necessarily well done or medium well) is completely fine. 
  • Sweden: If cooked until all of the meat is hot (not necessarily well done or medium well). 
  • Italy: Well done, only.

Can I eat fresh vegetables?*
  • America: Absolutely, as much as possible.
  • Sweden: Absolutely, as much as possible. 
  • Italy: Only if thoroughly cooked—as in, steamed, braised, baked, boiled, etc..

Can I touch the earth (i.e., garden or put my bare feet onto soil)?*
  • America: Why is this a question?
  • Sweden: No, seriously, who's asking this?
  • Italy: No—parasites and bacteria on the ground could leach into your skin.

Can I go into a sauna?
  • America: If you're very, very careful.
  • Sweden: Yes, if you're used to it and don't stay longer than 10 minutes at a time. (Did you know our pregnant neighbors in Finland do it every day and used to give birth there?)
  • Italy: Are you insane?! ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Can I drink wine or beer?
  • America: A glass or two a week are okay.
  • Sweden: ABSOLUTELY NOT.
  • Italy: ABSOLUTELY. You'd be crazy to try to get through 40 weeks of pregnancy without a glass of wine a day.

*Note, these may be Sicilian peculiarities, and not true of the rest of Italy.


Stockholm's subway, Statshuset, Riddarholmen  |  Conflicting pregnancy rules: U.S. vs. Italy vs. Sweden on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

While I was ready to insist on having things my way (meaning: following Swedish rules for everything, except drinking, in which case I'd be pro-Italian—which wouldn't actually be a big deal since I have had zero desire for wine so far and despite never really drinking beer until moving to Sweden, turns out Sweden sells some exceptionally tasty alcohol-free beer that we've been buying for me), I didn't—at least not for long.

Given how long our journey was to get to this point and because I knew deep down (deep deep down, beyond my feminist indignation) that this was a decision we both have a stake in and thus a right to make together, I've mostly followed the American rules, as even R found some of the Italian ones a bit insane.

Meaning:
  • Not eating sushi (except for that one time immediately after we left our first midwife appointment and were told that I could eat it without worry).
  • Exercising after I survived my incapacitating first trimester, but not as frequently nor with as much effort as I used to, but only because of my low energy levels.
  • Eating all the spicy food I want.
  • Only eating soft cheeses that have been cooked (like, a grilled brie sandwich).
  • Not eating any deli meats.
  • Not eating any dishes made with shellfish.
  • Essentially avoiding steaks and the like as medium-cooked meat is just not worth it to me, but when we have had it at home there's only the faintest trace of pinkness on mine (so, somewhere between medium-rare and medium, something I did have to fight for and won...a little).
  • Eating all the fresh vegetables I want.
  • Putting my bare feet on the ground every chance I get.
  • Not going into a sauna (I fought hard for this one, but clearly to no avail).
  • Not actually drinking anything alcoholic yet except for a heavily diluted glass of Aperol and a few sips of wine and beer

Given the above, there may or may not have been a (however ineffective) threat made in R's general direction that the next time I'm pregnant he will have to follow the same guidelines as I am. In the name of solidarity and support, of course...not punishment.

Leave a note in the comments
Subscribe via e-mail
Follow along on Instagram and via Bloglovin', RSS or Feedly

One year ago: Urban natured in Stockholm & The much-celebrated arrival of fall
Two years ago: Shut eye & The Delilah & Egg custard & Arancini Taorminesi
Blogger Tricks

Monday, August 24, 2015

Summering in the city

Strandvägen from Skeppsholmsbron, Stockholm  |  Summering in the city on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
The last few weeks in Stockholm have been, in a word, stunning.

Perfect cloudless blue skies, hot sunshine all day long, zero humidity (as usual), not a drop of rain or sign of gray, and the slightest breeze rustling through all the lush greenery (one definite plus to the rainiest May in decades).

Hornbergs Strand in Kungsholmen, Stockholm  |  Summering in the city on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Rålambshovsparken, Stockholm  |  Summering in the city on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Gröna Lund from Per Anders Fögelstroms Terrassen, Stockholm  |  Summering in the city on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

With zero excuse to stay inside I've taken to heading into the city after finishing work loaded up with a blanket, a tablet filled with books, a bag-o-knitting, and some fizzy water. Heading to one of the parks (my current favorite is Vasapark in Vasastan) or to Hammarby Sjöstad, I spread my blue blanket out in the sunhine, slowly lower myself down with my growing tummy facing directly into the sun, and read, knit or doze listening to kids playing nearby until my phone rings.

Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm  |  Summering in the city on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Vasaparken in Stockholm  |  Summering in the city on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

R calls as he's leaving work and if he's up for it, he'll meet me in the park (sometimes stopping for a pizza on the way in for a picnic), or I'll start packing up and go out to hop a ride home with him.

Fingers crossed that we'll get a few more weeks (or at least days) of this before it's time to trade linen and sandals for wool and boots.

Leave a note (comments)
Subscribe via e-mail
Follow along on Instagram and via Bloglovin', RSS or Feedly

One year ago: Into the woods & More lessons to learn
Two years ago: Summer woolens & The day to day & Cold-brewed coffee

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Up to my neck in nectarines

Djurgårdsbron in the summer  |  Up to my neck in nectarines on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
When we first moved to Europe, grocery shopping seemed so foreign and quaint to me, having grown accustomed to my beloved FreshDirect in NYC. Years ago I didn't think I'd be the type of person to order my groceries online (and R was completely shocked by the idea—at first), but when I moved to the Financial District there were no grocery stores. There were a few gourmet ones in Tribeca and a few bodega-style places closer by, but a proper one didn't actually arrive until my last year there.

So online shopping it was—as the idea of carting bags of groceries on the subway seemed foul to me. When I came across FreshDirect, which wasn't attached to a grocery store and had just started up operations the year I arrived, I decided to try them out.

And I loved everything about them—the online and offline user experience, the wonderful customer service, the huge selection of local products (flowers, honey, eggs, milk, meat, produce, etc.) and the fact that somehow the price was the same or better than a bricks-and-mortar shop.

I was a loyal follower up until our last week in Manhattan (and R, after having moved there and tried the goods, became a complete convert after one order despite his initial reluctance-slash-horror at the fact that I didn't "see" my groceries before purchasing them).

Stockholm in the summer + Swedish flag  |  Up to my neck in nectarines on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

But then we moved to Stockholm, and our first apartment was right across the street from two grocery stores and a few blocks away from another (my preferred one), so my new routine included stopping in every few days to pick up a few things on the way home from school on my bicycle. When we moved to Vasastan we were surrounded by grocery stores once again, so my Euro habits continued.

But now we're in Minneberg—where the closest grocery store is a 15 to 20-minute walk away. There is a smaller "corner store" down the street from us, but the selection is super limited and expensive. At first I rode my bicycle or walked the 20 minutes to the real grocery store earlier this spring, but that soon became cumbersome. First because I often purchased more than I could comfortably carry for an extended period of time, and then because my first trimester woes meant managing the many hills on my bicycle or on foot was not so comfortable.

R was always happy to stop off at the grocery store on his way home from work, as the storage options on the motorcycle made carrying bags home quite a bit easier, but as I loathe stopping off at the store after work myself, I hated to ask him.

(Plus I also like choosing our groceries.)

But now that winter isn't too far away, and along with it, a newborn baby, we finally looked into MatHem, Stockholm's answer to FreshDirect, and you know what? It's so good. The same idea as FreshDirect, although with a not as-pretty/user-friendly website.

Which I fell victim to with our first order.

Strandvägen & Nybrokäjen in Stockholm  |  Up to my neck in nectarines on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

I had meant to select 4 nectarines for our basket. Somehow the quantity came out to 4 kilograms instead. At first I thought the culprit was a Swedish mistranslation on my part, but it was definitely the site, as our second order resulted in something similar happening (though less overwhelming, as selecting 2 bok choy resulted in two packages of 3 each, versus two actual bok choy).

When our first order came I was home working, so R unpacked the bags. A few minutes later he asked me to come to the kitchen where he pointed to a paper bag full of nectarines and asked, "what happened here?".

I freaked out, of course. He said he'd put everything away, but leave those for me to handle. So back to my work I went and a few hours later I walked into the kitchen, tied back my hair and began my attack—one kilo of nectarines remained in tact on the kitchen counter, the second kilo went into the fridge, while the third and fourth kilos were washed, sliced, and stored in separate Pyrex containers in the freezer.

For the next few days I had nectarines at every meal (oh, did I mention that I'm the only one who eats nectarines in our house?), pulling from the fruit bowl. Meanwhile I turned the rest of the first kilo into a pie. Unfortunately in my attempt to get them cooked as soon as possible I pulled a package of frozen, gluten-free phyllo dough out of the freezer to use. It was the first time I had baked with it and didn't realize that the dough was quite...savory.

Berzelii Park, Stockholm in the summer  |  Up to my neck in nectarines on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com


R ate half a slice, but it was up to me to finish the rest. I alleviated the oddness of the taste by eating it cold, topped with yogurt and cinnamon which helped, a bit.

The second kilo became an upside-down nectarine cake to much better reception than the pie, in fact it was finished in 2 days.

Phyllo pie disaster aside, I usually have bad luck in enticing R with my baked goods (apart from his birthday cake, which he insists on and which I know to never alter), as I usually get irritated with recipes and amend them, i.e., when I see a cup of sugar in a fruit cake (really?!) I usually bring that way down. Or I try to substitute things I don't prefer for things I do, which sometimes works out well, other times, less so.

(I really should know better than to mess with the science of baking, which is less forgiving than the art of cooking savory food, but I can't help myself).

But bolstered by his enjoyment of the cake, I made another one last night following the same basic recipe, with my own (sigh) adjustments, such as making a cashew/walnut topping, adjusting the sweetness, and other finicky things.

When I pulled it out of the oven I was worried that my newest rendition wouldn't pass muster but we had two slices each (whew!) and R was extremely emphatic in his approval.

Nectarine Pie + Upside-Down Cake   |  Up to my neck in nectarines on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Now I just hope I can remember what I did this time when it comes to baking the other 1.5 kilos of nectarines I still have in the freezer...

P.S. A food photographer, amateur or otherwise, I most definitely am NOT.
P.P.S. This isn't my first run-in with an excess of groceries.

Leave a note (comments)
Subscribe via e-mail
Follow along on Instagram and via Bloglovin', RSS or Feedly

One year ago: Swedish differences, Vol. 3 & Into the woods & More lessons to learn
Two years ago: Rituals & Growing up Goan & Somewhere else this week

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The first trimester

The day I knew tulips  |  My Swedish pregnancy: the first trimester on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Early this spring, not being able to find a good bouquet of solid-colored tulips, I went with a mixed bouquet for the first time. Later that day, continuing the theme of trying new things, I realized that I was pregnant.

And so began one of the most happiest periods of my life, which also happened to be one of the oddest. The day that I felt nauseous for the first time I was ecstatic. When I said to R that I felt like throwing up it was accompanied by a smile and a little dance.

The next day I was no longer dancing—my nausea turned into nausea plus dizziness, searing headaches, and a level of exhaustion I didn't realize was possible. The last two and a half weeks of my first trimester were the worst. I spent days at a time not moving from my prostrate position on the couch (and being very thankful for the entire series of Friends being on Netflix).

During that fuzzy-headed period I slept on and off all day long and didn't dare to sit upright (the other reason for my lack of posting this spring). Gloomy days seemed gloomier. Visiting friends in seafood-heavy towns was challenging. And much as I enjoyed riding on the motorcycle with R, I knew it wouldn't last for very long (though as of today, I still am!).

But the morning my pregnancy app ticked over into the first day of my second trimester and revealed that I should soon be feeling much better, my body happily obliged. I'm always one for sticking to a schedule, but even I was surprised at how precisely my symptoms shifted in line with the baby's development.

Gamla Stan  |  My Swedish pregnancy: the first trimester on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Other than my new hobby of pressing buttons on the TV remote control when I wasn't sleeping, I was suddenly preoccupied with eating. My usual habit of a milky coffee or tea in the morning followed by a proper lunch in the afternoon and dinner in the evening no longer worked. I woke up hungry and the only appealing breakfast to be had was toast.

Now I'm not normally a toast person, but nothing was more delicious to me than two slices of toast, either with cream cheese (something else I never ate) and a passion fruit split on top of it, or with peanut butter and jelly (more things that I never used to eat).

I actually never had any odd combination cravings, I just craved foods that I wasn't accustomed to eating, like the aforementioned toast with assorted toppings and loads of "exotic" fruit (mangoes and papayas, especially). I usually find that kind of fruit too sweet, but I had to have some every day. Also, and here's the really weird thing—although probably not so weird given all the hormonal turmoil going on—my intolerance of flour just disappeared.

I noticed it when one horribly stormy "spring" day we got caught in the rain on the way home from work and feeling achy and blue and blah, R went straight to the kitchen to make a pot of pasta for himself (I said I wasn't hungry) while I took a hot shower. Once dried and dressed in winter pajamas, I walked into the steamy, pasta-water scented kitchen and the only thing I could think of was delving into a bowl of his (non gluten-free) masterpiece.

So I did. And then I waited for the pangs in my tummy to begin—but they never came.

As soon as I realized that for whatever reason I don't seem to have the same unpleasant reaction to flour when pregnant as I do when I'm not, I've taken it upon myself to indulge in this phenomenon for as long as possible.

No longer does R have to boil two pots of water for his pasta and for mine, no longer do I always have to choose a chokladboll or nöttopp when I go out for a fika. 

Instead, I've been frequently visiting the bakery for kardemummalängd and bullar, excitedly ordering carrot cake whenever I see it at a café (for whatever reason Swedes like this very American-style cake and they make it really well!), and joyfully pampering myself with all manner of sandwiches, pasta dishes and the like every opportunity I get.

Stadshuset, Riddarholmen & Gamla Stan  |  My Swedish pregnancy: the first trimester on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Besides my newly-expanded food world, the other big news during my first trimester was our first visit to a doctor, or rather, a midwife, as all pre- and post-natal care falls into the hands of midwives in Sweden. And for healthy, non high-risk pregnancies, those hands are very hands off (something a paper in NYC wrote about not too long ago).

Sweden ranks at or near the top of all fetal / baby / mother health rankings, but when we first decided to move here a few years ago (and when we knew we'd wait to have children until then) I started researching and was immediately comforted by the idea of midwife-led care, but also  a little worried to see that despite so many positive outcomes, Americans generally feel abandoned during their pregnancy here.

The thinking in Sweden is that pregnancy is a natural process and women don't need to be treated like they're handicapped. Which is nice, but a little frustrating for those of us who grew up in other cultures and are aware of the much more frequent check-ups that occur elsewhere.

When I called to make our first appointment with the midwife I was scheduled for a "registration" meeting nearly 5 weeks later, during my 8th week of pregnancy. I knew from everything I had read that it would happen that way, but I still pulled the American card and asked if it would be possible to come in earlier (it's not).

We had decided to not say anything to anyone until after we met with the midwife—making for a very, very long two months. When we finally did see her she spent more than an hour with us (which from what I've heard, isn't quite the way it goes in the U.S.) and suddenly I didn't mind so much having had to wait so long for our first meeting.

(Although it could also have been such a lengthy chat since she welcomed my desire to do the entire appointment in Swedish.)

The registration appointment consisted of our her going through my medical history, our "road" to getting pregnant, the process of giving birth in Sweden, the timeline of check-ups and whatnot from then until I deliver, and asking about my lifestyle.

Before we left she asked if we had any other questions, to which I sheepishly said, "From the blood and urine samples you took to check my blood sugar and iron levels...could you 'see' that I'm pregnant?".

Södermalm  |  My Swedish pregnancy: the first trimester on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com


She looked at me curiously and said, "don't you know?".

I told her, "Well I think so, based on my one positive pregnancy test and how I feel, but I'd really like a professional to confirm for me".

She laughed and said, "Do you feel pregnant?". I nodded. "Well then you are!"

That's the mentality here. That women know what they're going through.

Even so, I couldn't believe that we'd have to wait another 10 weeks for the one and only sonogram, done between Weeks 18-20, which would confirm without a doubt that I was pregnant. Since there was no possible way that R and I could manage for that long, we asked to do the the optional genetic testing scan at Week 12 (a more palatable month away) so we could see our little one and get proof that there was a more legitimate reason for why my pants stopped buttoning (which happened really early, by Week 6!).

When the day finally came I said to R that I hoped it would be like the movies, where the technician kindly says to you: "this is going to be cold", as they squirt goo onto your belly.

And of course it was exactly like that (in Swedish).

Up until that moment when the screen went from fuzzy static to BABY! we hadn't let ourselves fully believe that I was actually pregnant—we had waited so long and didn't want to be heartbroken if it was all a fluke. But as the sonogram image came into focus and we saw our little one for the first time, with his or her hand raised in a greeting (I swear!), we finally realized it was true—we were now a family of three.

Leave a note (comments)
Subscribe via e-mail
Follow along on Instagram and via Bloglovin', RSS or Feedly

One year ago: Apparently I jinxed myself & Hello, August & Weekend play-by-play
Two years ago: Rituals & Growing up Goan & Somewhere else this week

Monday, July 27, 2015

Some little, soon-to-be-big, news

Aqua baby wrap  |  Some little-soon-to-be-big news on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Earlier this summer R and I celebrated the 10-year anniversary of when we first met. I was at the end of my figure-eight loop around Italy—a trip I set out on solo in the month between graduating from university and beginning the first job of my professional career.

After landing in Rome nearly 4 weeks prior, and traveling from there to Cortona, San Gimignano, Siena, Assisi, the Cinque Terre, Milan, Venice, Florence, Naples, Sorrento, Capri, and Positano, I finally landed in Sicily, having taken an overnight train from Salerno where I was stuck sitting on my suitcase near the bathrooms until a Sicilian mama invited me to share her berth with her and her 4 children.

We didn't understand each other at all, but she made her children scooch over so I could lay down and sleep for a few hours and when I awoke she handed me the most potent Sicilian blood orange I had ever had (it might have been my first). After thanking her and cleaning myself up, I went up on board to witness the crossing of the train over the Strait of Messina. Not too long after that, we chugged into Giardini-Naxos, the station at the base of the hill upon which Taormina perches.

Aqua baby wrap  |  Some little-soon-to-be-big news on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Aqua baby booties   |  Some little-soon-to-be-big news on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Turns out the inn I had found in my guidebook (this was back when we still used them) and had booked from Sorrento in my absurd attempt at speaking Italian was right across the street from a boutique run by two brothers who had inherited it from their father. Being filled as it was with Italian leather goods, accessories and the most beautiful shoes I had ever seen, of course I had noticed it while taking walks around the town.

I had also noticed a man standing in the window one day—our eyes caught and it was the oddest sensation, almost dejà vu. That eerie sense of familiarity that puts you at ease while at the same time heightening all of your senses.

The next day I walked into the store under the ruse of shoe shopping (a ruse because my poor, American-width feet battered from touring around Italy in flip flops—such a bad idea—would have never fit into elegant Italian shoes) and managed to ask for my size in broken Italian. He, the older of the brothers, the one who had seen me the day before, excitedly responded in rapid Italian.

Cream hooded baby poncho  |  Some little-soon-to-be-big news on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Having studied Spanish for 7 years in school—though being American public school and university language courses, I wasn't anywhere close to being fluent—I could make out a bit of what he was saying, but not enough that I didn't immediately begin spluttering and begged him to switch to English.

As he had grown up in a trendy and touristy beach resort town with parents that spoke English (in addition to all of their other languages), he could (luckily and mercifully) manage a decent amount of my native language, so we were able to chat. I left the store without shoes, but with a recommendation for where to eat dinner that night.

On the walk back to the inn after dinner I passed his store again, but this time he was standing outside checking on his motorcycle. Something happened in that moment that spurred my exceedingly shy, introverted self to pose a question to him about said motorcycle—and thus began our relationship across the Atlantic.

One innocuous question and after 4 years of "dating" with an ocean between us he moved from Sicily to New York and we were married (for the first time) at the base of the mountains in Virginia, and the second time, just down the street from where we met in Sicily (where his brother, an elected official of the town, officiated our civil ceremony).

After a few years of newlywed life in New York we moved to Stockholm, where we recently passed the one-year mark of life abroad together.

And now, ready for another adventure with each other, our family of two will become a family of three by the end of this year—just in time for our sixth wedding anniversary.

Charcoal baby popover  |  Some little-soon-to-be-big news on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
All because I mustered up the courage to ask him a question.

And because he began his answer with a smile.

P.S. This is why I've been a little quiet here lately—it was hard to post without revealing our little secret (plus I had a rough first trimester), but my hands haven't been idle—the baby's layette is off to a good start!

P.P.S. Don't be swayed by the colors—we chose not to find out whether we're having a winter baby boy or a winter baby girl (and we think that all of these work for either).

P.P.P.S. I actually have a pretty good idea of what we can do with these.

Leave a note (comments)
Subscribe via e-mail
Follow along on Instagram and via Bloglovin', RSS or Feedly

One year ago: Three levels of madness
Two years ago: Stirred, not shaken & Time to stop knitting napkins

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Not just for kids

Adult coloring books: Millie Marotta's Animal Kingdom  |  Not just for kids on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Every year as we slip into summer (even a Swedish summer), I'm less and less likely to pull my knitting out of its basket after dinner. There's just something about bright nights and warmer weather that aren't conducive to a lap full of yarn.

But this year the urge to do something artistic with my hands besides knitting wouldn't simmer down. And while over the last few months I've had an insane desire to sew proper things (motivated in part by this adorable website I came across), the investment and learning curve required aren't something I'm quite ready to take on just yet (though rest assured I'm bookmarking away for when I am).

Plus, even though we now have the space to set up a little sewing corner, I still wanted something more lightweight and portable to keep me busy.

Adult coloring books: Millie Marotta's Animal Kingdom  |  Not just for kids on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
So when I walked into a local bookstore while running errands and came across a few shelves filled with books of beautiful sketches collected within the "adult coloring books" section I knew I had to have one.

I jumped on the bandwagon and selected Millie Marotta's Animal Kingdom, because while the more famous Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest by Joanna Basford were lovely, I was much more into the standalone animals in Millie's book versus the more pattern-heavy designs in Joanna's books.

I picked up a pack of Faber-Castell coloring pencils to go with my new book and hightailed it home to try it out. Turns out I'm not the only adult into coloring—it's apparently the new thing, as a Google search reveals that they're topping bestseller lists as people turn to them for an analog and meditative activity in the face of numerous screens. All things that knitting does for me (in cooler weather, of course), although I'm not sure what I'll do with these results aside from collect them on our bookshelf.

A few pages in and I think I'm hooked—I've even seen R eyeing my pencils, so perhaps I'll have a masterpiece of his to share soon.

Leave a note (comments)
Subscribe via e-mail
Follow along on Instagram and via Bloglovin', RSS or Feedly

One year ago: Summer's morning light & A pier picnic & Canal tour to Sandhamn
Two years ago: Eleven Madison Park & Almond detritus & Almost an American

Monday, July 20, 2015

Showing off Stockholm

Stromma M/S Gustavsberg cruise to Artipelag  |  Showing off Stockholm on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

A few days after I returned from Skåne, my mom arrived in Stockholm for her first visit to Scandinavia. Her trip coincided with a brief (read: two day) heat wave, so for her first weekend in town she really got to see the city at dressed in its summery finest.

My in-laws picked me up and we headed to Arlanda to meet my mom's flight and since she bounced out of customs full of energy, despite her overnight flight after a full day of work, we took her on a car tour of the main parts of the city so she could see it in all its late afternoon, waterfront beauty.

Once we were home, and after a little cocktail hour on the balcony, we settled ourselves around the table when R arrived home from work bearing the quintessential Swedish summer meal: a smörgåstårta (a sandwich cake).

It sounds a little weird in English, but just ignore the oddly-phrased translation and you can enjoy this fresh, light, savory, herbaceous and lemony treat, which is essentially a huge sandwich with lots of fillings that resemble frosting.

It's concocted with several layers of white or light rye bread interspersed with layers of egg, mayonnaise, and (in my favorite rendition) shrimp, cucumber, caviar and smoked salmon, topped off with lemon and dill. I hadn't had it in so long, so I happily dug in as soon as we were seated and for her first tango with Swedish food, my mom did, too.

We didn't stay up too late that first night since the next morning we had a date with our favorite Stromma boat line for a cruise out to Artipelag, a museum built in a forest out in the archipelago. My mom and I hopped on the subway and headed into the city to Nybrokajen where the boat was docked (while R hopped on his motorcycle and left much after us, naturally).

Stromma M/S Gustavsberg cruise to Artipelag  |  Showing off Stockholm on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Stromma M/S Gustavsberg cruise to Artipelag  |  Showing off Stockholm on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Stromma M/S Gustavsberg cruise to Artipelag  |  Showing off Stockholm on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Once we docked we realized there was no way we could spend our two hours on land in a museum when it was such a gorgeous day outside, so we followed the charming wooden path through the licorice-scented woods up to the museum perched on a little hill, where it enjoys a pretty view over the water.

Rather than go inside (apart from marveling at the seriously amazing granite and bamboo wood (I'm assuming) bathrooms) and a loop through the gift shop, we stayed in the typically Nordic-style building (white walls, lots of natural materials and soft lights) just long enough to order lunch before carrying it outside and seating ourselves in the outdoor dining area for a long leisurely lunch.

Stromma M/S Gustavsberg cruise to Artipelag  |  Showing off Stockholm on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Stromma M/S Gustavsberg cruise to Artipelag  |  Showing off Stockholm on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com


After more Swedish deliciousness we waddled back down to the pier, taking a little stroll through the woods along the way, and then sailed back to Stockholm.

My in-laws met us at the port and we scooted over to Drottningholm for an afternoon fika in the late afternoon sunlight. Once our yawns got the best of us (sea air will do that to you) we headed home, having had a lovely second Fourth of July in Stockholm.

The next day we took the tvärbana (light rail) to Hammarby Sjöstad where we introduced mom to the deliciousness of Bröd och Salt (Bread and Salt), which is in our opinion, the city's best bakery.

Their mandelbullar (almond buns), kardemummalängd (cardamom pastries in long form), and traditional kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) are seriously, unbelievably good. Their secret is a layer of almond paste in EVERYTHING, which makes their baked goods more delectable than anyone else's in the city.

So, we hopped off the train, stocked up at Bröd och Salt, and then took mom for a walk around our first stomping grounds in Stockholm, showing her our apartment, grocery store, the paths we cycled and walked on, the nature reserve, and then down to the water to bask in the gorgeous summer day and indulge in our spiced pastries.

Like Swedish food, she immediately fell in love with Hammarby Sjöstad and encouraged us to move back there. If only we could—the real estate is super pricey given the newness, eco-ness, and general amazingness of the neighborhood, but we'd love it if we could live there again.

(Sigh.)

Hammarby Sjöstad  |  Showing off Stockholm on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Hammarby Sjöstad  |  Showing off Stockholm on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com


After our walk and fika we headed to my in-laws' for a proper Swedish Midsummer feast that they had kindly prepared to introduce my mom to the abundance and deliciousness of Swedish holiday food. She especially enjoyed the sill, the västerbottenpaj (a quiche made with Västerbotten cheese, which comes from the same-named region) and the tradition of snaps, singing, and toasting throughout the meal.

For the rest of the week we showed her around the city itself: NK, Östermalms Saluhall, Rosendals Trädgård on Djurgården, Svenskt Tenn, walks along Strandvägen, Gamla Stan, dinner with a view at Gondolen, and dinner at Orangeriet.

Then for her last night, we had my in-laws over for a Goan feast prepared by my mom, who had done a bit of cooking before boarding her flight from NYC to Stockholm, and had arrived with frozen gallon-size bags of some of our favorite dishes—the rest were made in our kitchen.

We started off with a homemade medley of her samosas with mint chutney, crisped pita-style bread, basmati rice, a vinegary mango-chili-red onion salad, sorpatel and feijoada. And while Goan cuisine has some delectable desserts, the only proper way to end that meal was with mango sorbet.

A Goan meal  |  Showing off Stockholm on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

The dinner was the perfect way to end her trip, where we introduced her to the wonder of Sweden and she reminded us of one of the things we miss most about having left New York (and I don't just mean her cooking).

Leave a note (comments)
Subscribe via e-mail
Follow along on Instagram and via Bloglovin', RSS or Feedly

One year ago: Our 1st July 4th in Stockholm & Canalsidelife in Hammarby Sjöstad: sushi
Two years ago: A Dixie 4th & Popping by the Swedish Consulate

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Postcard from Båstad in Skåne

AirBnB in Båstad, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
When a friend from NYC was transferred to Sweden for work a few months ago, two of our other friends in NYC decided it was time for them to fly over and visit. We came up with the idea of doing a roadtrip to the southern part of the country for a beach vacation at the end of June.

Our final destination was determined by AirBnB when we found the most charming of cottages in Båstad, a small (but well-renowned) town on the southwestern coast of Sweden in Skåne County, that was available for the days we had free. Look at the beautiful view from its deck and windows and how cozy its minimalism is:

AirBnB in Båstad, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

AirBnB in Båstad, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

AirBnB in Båstad, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

AirBnB in Båstad, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com


AirBnB in Båstad, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Swedish breakfast at our AirBnB in Båstad, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
The other girls flew into Göteborg, so I took the 3'ish hour train ride down and they met me at the station in our rental car and we set out for Skåne. It was an easy (and pretty) two-hour drive, but we stopped about 30 minutes out in Halmstad for dinner before driving up the hill to the cottage.

We spent our first night catching up and playing games by candlelight (how had I never played Cards Against Humanity and Heads Up before?!) before collapsing into bed many, many hours past my bedtime. That, combined with me catching the most absurd of colds the day before I left, meant I was red-eyed, sleepy, congested, and cough-y when I woke up just a few hours after going to bed, feeling ravenous. Luckily (well less lucky for her given my breathing issues) I was sharing a room with the driver (we rented a manual transmission) and she was up, too, so we headed into town for breakfast supplies and put out a Swedish spread for the others.

Once we were all up and had coffee and breakfast in our systems the girls began to understand exactly what a "Swedish Summer" entails, mainly: rain. So we spent our first full day in Båstad lounging around, reading, chatting, and futzing about online before the sun decided to grace us with its presence in the late afternoon. We jumped up to take advantage of the break in the clouds and raced out for a little sightseeing.

We drove up into the hills behind Båstad for a late lunch at Cafe Utsikten, where the rain started pouring down again so we huddled over our meals to wait it out before we drove down into town and a bit past the main drag to Solbackens Wåffelbruk, a Swedish waffle house (and we're not talking the IHOP here), for dessert.

By then the sun was out and shining strong so drove into town and parked by the beach for a walk along the shore and down to the marina.

Cafe Utsiktet in Båstad, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Cafe Utsiktet in Båstad, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Solbackens Café & Wåffelbruk in Båstad, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Båstad beach in Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Båstad marina in Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Båstad marina in Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Båstad marina in Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

On our walk we noticed a lovely little building built out at the end of a pier across from Hotel Skansen. The structure is the hotel's kallbadhuset (cold bath house), meaning, the type of spa structure where you indulge in the hot sauna and tepid outdoor jacuzzi before...plunging into the ocean.

(Viking blood and all.)

We made reservations for the next day, but given my weakened immune system and fever that was coming and going while I tried to breathe solely through my mouth given my nasal situation, I decided it perhaps wasn't the best idea for me to put my body through those extremes. Being a spa though, the "relaxation room" had a gorgeous view and a fireplace so I settled in with tea and my knitting there while the girls did their rounds.

Hotel Skansken Kallbadhuset sauna in Båstad, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Hotel Skansken Kallbadhuset sauna in Båstad, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
The day after that we decided to brave the rain and the decidedly non-summer weather (low 50's, windy, and the aforementioned rain) and ignore our lack of gloves, hats, and boots to set out on a drive to see more of Skåne's coastline.

Heading further south we toured around the two little peninsulas directly south of Båstad (and edging right up to Denmark), winding along sweet Swedish lanes and passing fields and fields filled with wheat (?).

Skåne is known as the "breast basket" of Sweden, so while the countryside around Stockholm is filled with horse farms and cow pastures, that around Skåne is filled with grain (and cows and sheep). There was something wildly mesmerizing about the green stalks blowing in the breeze as we looped along the wide roads and around farms towards the beaches in Hovs Hallar and Mölle.

Fields in Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Beach in Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
We had mapped out a meandering route that would take us to the Kullaberg Nature Reserve where a lighthouse stands—as well as Kullens fyr, a cafè that boasted a famous carrot cake. While we had hoped for a sunny day, the wind-whipped waves and gray light actually made the landscape even more beautiful and stunning. We walked along the cliffs for as long as we could stand it before seeking refuge and hot coffee (and cake) in the cafè.

Cliffs in Kullabergs naturreservat in Mölle, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Cliffs in Kullabergs naturreservat in Mölle, Skåne, Sweden  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com


On our last morning in Båstad we packed up, cleared out our AirBnb and drove into town, parking and walking around a bit to enjoy the last bit of southern Sweden's adorable architecture. There's something about the buildings and the endearing and lovely houses that are so fairytale'ish and sweet. It's more dear than the stoic and stately architecture in and around Stockholm.

Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Båstad village and Swedish cottages  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Båstad village  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Båstad village  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Båstad village and Swedish cottages  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Båstad village and Swedish cottages  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
After leaving town we headed north to Stockholm. The drive is just over 5 hours so we planned to stop in Jönköping, a sizeable town on the southern-most point of Lake Vättern, for lunch. The drive there was about 2.5 hours so it made for a perfect mid-way point.

Plus, the sun had popped out and we plopped ourselves on a canal to soak it in over a tasty lunch before taking a walk along the lakefront and stuffing ourselves in the car again.

Jönköping port  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Lake Vättern in Jönköping  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Båstad village and Swedish cottages and roses  |  Postcard from Båstad in Skåne on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

By 5PM we had reached Stockholm and what did we find?

Summer. Pure, hot, sunny summer.

Leave a note (comments)
Subscribe via e-mail
Follow along on Instagram and via Bloglovin', RSS or Feedly

One year ago: Moving on up at SFI & A more permanent nest to feather in Stockholm
Two years ago: Tacos, tortillas and tequila & Knitty in the city & Gasoline Alley