an ode to Swedish summer

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Uncategorized

Summer in Sweden is such a gamble. Normally, the season is a roller coaster of a few beautiful days sandwiched between weeks (sometimes months) of clouds, rain, and thunderstorms. High temps usually max out at 25-27°C (about 75-80°F), and it always, always, ALWAYS rains on Midsummer’s eve.

While we did get rain on Midsummer (tradition!), the rest of this summer has been completely out of the ordinary. Days and days of 30°C heat, sunshine, and a light breeze sent all of Sweden into a fan-purchasing frenzy – seriously, they’re sold out everywhere. While the sudden change in weather is a bit frightening, not to mention the fact that forest fires are at an all-time high and a grill-ban has been declared nation-wide, we’re content finding ways to beat the heat and enjoy the perks of a warm, dry summer.

This is Conrad’s and my first ‘official’ summer in Sweden since moving last year (he was in Kenya for most of last summer), and we have been enjoying every last drop it.  I’m really mostly sharing this so that when it’s November and dark at 2pm,  I can pull up this post and remember why the winters are worth it! You’ll get a better idea from the photos, but basically we have been living in a kind of utopian Swedish fairytale, complete with wild strawberries and raspberries outside our home, daily hikes in the forest followed by daily jumps in the lake, picnics, mosquito bites, delicious food, dog friends, city sightseeing, magical lake views, and so much more.

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Fjällnorra, a public beach across the lake from us

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Crossing the floating bridge on the trail to Fjällnorra, with my oldest best friend Nora!

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Our little cabin ❤

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Secret private spot on the lake – perfect for playing catch.

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FYI, this photo was taken before the grill/fire ban 🙂

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Happiest dog in the world

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Exploring Stockholm’s south west side

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Daily swim with pups

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Dancing around the midsummer pole, or midsommarstång during the short break from rain!

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Midsummer feast, complete with local craft beer and a snaps sampler

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Rhubard (from the garden) topped vanilla poundcake

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Smultron!

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If this hasn’t convinced you to visit Sweden (in the summer, obvs), I don’t know what will. Thank you Sweden for your wonderful summers, this is definitely one that will go down in the books!

xxLena

T minus five months to 30

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adult / adulting / life / lifestyle / random / real life / thirty / thoughts / Uncategorized

I know, logically, that turning 30 is not a big deal. Emotionally, however, it is a big deal, to me anyway. While I’d love to be able to say that I’m completely immune to the hegemonic, old-fashioned, patriarchal bullsh*t that surrounds our society, I’m of course not. I do feel panicked about turning 30. I am not sure why, but I do. If you’re older than 30, you may be thinking, ‘lol, JUST WAIT ‘TILL 40’, or ‘ehh, 30 is no biggie’, and I’m sure you’re right, but for some stupid reason I have been feeling panicky all year at the thought of no longer being in my 20s.

66583_10151055023410957_1924486931_nIs it because I’m not where I thought I’d be at 30? Not really, to be honest. As someone who wasn’t sure she’d ever get married, I’m surprised and pleased almost daily at the fact that I managed to find a life partner. Career-wise, I definitely have days where I think, ‘What am I doing, where am I going, is this what I want to do, WILL PEOPLE FIGURE OUT THAT I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING??’, but, for the most part, I feel pretty secure in the path I’m on. Baby/family-wise, I know I’m not ready so am not even thinking about that yet. With the move to Sweden last year, things have definitely not been settled or ‘normal’ by any means, but, as I’ve shared, everything so far has worked out.

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Maybe it has to do more with saying goodbye to my twenties than it does embracing my thirties…My twenties were such a roller coaster of self-discovery, and I suppose in many ways turning 30 is like being in 8th grade and finally, FINALLY getting the hang of middle school before being thrust into high school as a freshmen, starting over once more, scared and, well, fresh.

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After ten (seemingly) long years, I’m just starting to feel comfortable with myself as an adult…does turning 30 mean everything I’ve come to learn and accept will be thrown into orbit? Is this the beginning of the end of my ‘youth’ (as I know it)? Do I feel ready to give up being a stupid, flighty twenty-something, and all the excuses that come with being that age? Does turning 30 mean that I have to suddenly know all the things I still don’t know, like how to invest money, or buy a home, or choose the right life insurance plan? Aren’t I supposed to know these things by the time I’m 30? I have five more months…WHEN AM I GOING TO LEARN THESE THINGS???

395696_10152537412855532_1367318884_n297725_10150365924658859_1471888950_n13680467_10153605756805957_5289777892517197459_o1174894_10151546462895957_1754228885_nI apologize for the rambling nature of this post, but this has been something I’ve been meaning to write about for some time, if only to get my thoughts out of my head and onto my screen. I’m almost certain that, if I’m still blogging in ten years, I’ll look back at this post and either laugh or feel pity towards my young, naive self…but I also hope that, should I still be blogging in ten years, I’ll read this post and feel empathy and love for this confused, anxious girl. It’s likely that in ten years I still WON’T have figured anything out, but that’s ok! Because isn’t that what life is? A constant, moving target that none of us can make sense of?

Instead, I hope that I look back and think happily about the journey, about the ups and downs that brought me wherever I’ll be then.

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314330_10150273011600957_5817489_nHere’s to the last few months of being an anxious, goofy, all-over-the-place twenty-something, to honouring this path (triumphs, mistakes and all), the place I’m in today, and to figuring things out with courage, kindness, and a modicum of grace.

36926095_10160415635960532_3126129480112799744_o.jpgCheers!

xxLena

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

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adventure / beach / europe / family / mallorca / spain / summer / travel / Uncategorized

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetWell hello, little old but-not-forgotten blog! How are you doing? Last week I spent four days visiting my little sister, Margot, in Mallorca before she began another course for her Master’s program in Education, which offers courses abroad during the summer. With almost an entire office on holiday, it seemed the perfect chance to escape Sweden for a more tropical climate (although I’m laughing as I am typing this, because it is currently a scorching 30°C in Uppsala!).

Little did I know that Mallorca is crawling with other Swedes and other Scandinavians. Seriously, I think I heard more Swedish being spoken than Spanish! But it was still the perfect mini-getaway, complete with lots of trashy novel reading, city exploring, never-ending tapas, daily sangria/cava breaks, sun-drenched beach days, and muchas one-on-one sister catch-up time.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetMallorca is the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, and a tourist hot spot during the summer months. After epically failing at my last attempt to visit Spain in 2010 (a total and utter fiasco, including the Icelandic volcano eruption, a friend stranded in Switzerland with a burst appendix, and a urinary tract infection on my part), I still had never been to the country and was absolutely DYING to go. After a bit of back and forth with my sister, who is currently living in Beijing, I found some decently priced tickets on a cheap airline and voila! A trip was born*.

*Reason no. 2,536,479 that I love living in Sweden – cheap and easy travel to other countries.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetWe left from Stockholm on the 4th of July and, despite a few delays, made it to Mallorca safe and sound by nightfall. Having just a few days to rest and explore before Margot’s course began, we spent the entire time sunning, eating, drinking, exploring, and speaking terrible Spanish to anyone who’d listen.

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Finally, on Sunday (my last day) we dragged our tired feet to the jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches in Illetes for a lazy day in the sun, with extra sunscreen this time.

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Mallorca, thank you for a wonderful trip and I can’t wait to come back!

xxLena

How I’m not shopping for an entire year, and why.

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daily life / goals / life / lifestyle / new year / resolutions / shopping / Uncategorized

pexels-photo-374894One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to do absolutely no shopping for one year. My decision to make this resolution is partly due to the realisation that I had way, WAY more clothes than I was actually wearing (thank you, moving) and partly thanks to this article by Ann Patchett.  I decided that, for one entire year, I would not buy anything that was not consumable or something that I absolutely needed.

Things I could buy included:

  • Groceries/cleaning supplies
  • Items of clothing that I can’t live without (e.g., if something breaks, or weather is extreme)
  • Gifts for others (I don’t buy a lot of gifts, but since I am not keeping the items and I rarely ever go overboard, I thought this was ok)
  • Experiences (trips, going to restaurants, going to cinema, etc.)

Things I could not buy included:

  • Clothes (sob)
  • Shoes (sob)
  • Bags (sob)
  • Makeup and beauty products (only replacing essentials if empty) (sob)
  • House decor/tchotchkes, household items that are not essential

Price tags mockupNow, I know it is only March but I am very proud to say that I have been sticking to my resolution quite well! The only item of clothing I’ve bought is a winter parka that I found at a second hand shop for 40 dollars, and I really, really needed one (I swear!). But that’s it! And I bought a few items for our new place, but really nothing other than the essentials (which, by the way, was bloody TORTURE. Word to the wise: don’t go to IKEA when trying not to shop for a year).

I was thinking about this the other day, and I think if I boil it all down I can attribute my success to a few key factors:

1. Set yourself up for success. For me, this meant blocking certain retail websites (I use Block Site) and unsubscribing from store/brand newsletters, because online shopping is my weakness. I also unfollow certain accounts on Instagram, such as those of my favorite clothing brands, for example.

2. Avoid shopping ‘triggers’. In addition to blocking certain sites, I also try to avoid going to shops in general. Or, if I do, I take a friend or my husband and have them interrogate me if I consider purchasing something.

3. Try stuff on and save receipts. Part of shopping less is making sure that you buy quality items that will stand the test of time. I’d say that about 80% of the time, something I see that is cute and cheap on a rack usually looks just ‘ok’ when I try it on in the changing room.  That’s not to say that I have low self-esteem (debatable), but just that by doing this I avoid buying stuff that I don’t absolutely LOVE. I also save all my receipts and return anything that I buy that doesn’t work, doesn’t fit, or that I don’t need.

4. Plan purchases carefully. Because I’m buying much less, and much less impulsively, I now take the time to really think about my next purchase, whether it’s groceries, or a coat, or an appliance I need. I also do extensive research online about the item (esp. if it is a more expensive purchase) to find the best deal, look at reviews, compare features, etc. Knowing that you really thought about a purchase makes handing over the money (or, more likely, clicking ‘Buy now’) much less scary and out of control.

5. Find other ways to cope with stress or anxiety. I noticed that a lot of my shopping was usually done because I was either a) feeling bored, b) anxious about something, c) both, or d) when I was procrastinating doing something important. Shopping made me zone out for a little while and clicking ‘buy’ or handing over my credit card felt like I had accomplished something. Since I knew this was probably not a very healthy or financially sound coping mechanism, I decided I need some other ways to soothe myself in times of duress. I’m still working on this, but some things I have found worked include:

  • Painting my nails or something else indulgent, like applying a face mask
  • Taking a shower
  • Going for a walk with Winston
  • Cooking or baking something
  • Getting coffee with a friend or colleague
  • Calling my mom (lol)

6. Remind yourself why you are doing this. The other week, C and I popped into an H&M downtown, and as I looked at the racks and racks of clothes, all I could think about was how mass-produced everything was, and how most of these items would probably end up sitting in landfills. The other shoppers looked like hungry animals, searching desperately for bargains, to buy more, more, more stuff, and I didn’t want to count myself as one of them. I’m not saying that stuff is inherently bad, or that buying things is bad, but for that moment I could see the absurdity of it all really clearly, and it threw me back on track with my goal. So, we turned around and walked out empty-handed.

If you’ve ever done a no-shopping year (or month, or week), please let me know if you found anything else that helps you stick with it. My biggest weakness right now is shopping when I travel, since I can always rationalise that I ‘…might not visit again so I better buy that scarf/necklace/bag/pair of shoes now, while I can’.  So far, I’ve combatted this by only buying consumables while I travel, like a local liquor or delicacy, to enjoy when I’m back home. It’s been working pretty well!

Also, if anyone wants to try some Polish bison grass vodka (aka Żubrówka), hit me up. I have a few bottles to try out 🙂

Speak soon!

xxLena

hello, i live here now

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daily life / life / lifestyle / musings / spring / summer / sweden / thoughts / Uncategorized

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetIf you had told me, one year ago, that at this time next year I’d be waking up in the Swedish countryside to this view, I’d have laughed in your face. Yet, here I am.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetAs with almost everything in my life, this situation is only temporary (we are going to try to eventually buy an apartment in Uppsala), but I can’t tell you how excited I am to spend spring and summer here. Swimming in the lake (or, rather, watching Conrad and Win swim since I am a cold water wimp-extraordinaire), hiking along forest trails, growing herbs and flowers outside my window, grilling with our neighbors, stargazing from our hammock, and so much more.

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This is not to say our living situation is perfect (ha!). Our shower has the floor space of an upright coffin, juuuust perfect for a claustrophobe like me. We are about 20 mins (by car) to central Uppsala, a vast improvement from the 1.5+ hour commute I was doing twice a day, but still not exactly ‘central’. We are very limited on space, and we have a slightly tricky, rickety staircase that I am just waiting to tumble down. But it’s home for now, and it is perfect for us. Not to mention that Winston has literally NEVER been happier in his entire life; he has miles and miles of forest to explore, numerous other dog friends/neighbors, kids who love him next door, and a lake less than 5 mins walk away.

So, for now, I am practicing daily gratitude for this wonderful life. It’s messy and imperfect and all-over-the-place, but beneath all that it is wonderful and I am very lucky.

Have a great weekend everyone!

xxLena

 

 

 

Smått & gott

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lately / latelylena / life / moving / real life / sweden / thoughts / Uncategorized

B5CA4BF2-9102-492C-8EC2-EFB3D53696C3.jpgIt’s March! Why did January seem to last for a year while Feb and March are flying by?  Time is so strange.

Maybe time is flying by because we’ve been doing a lot after a relatively quiet start to the year. First off, we moved! Our new place is on the outskirts of Uppsala, and we are in the forest/countryside but still only a twenty minute drive to Uppsala and my office. It is SO NICE to be wake up in the country to the birds singing! Our place is super tiny but perfectly cozy and absolutely picturesque. It’s been so fun to decorate and set up.

Work is going well, too. I was offered a permanent position with my company, which, coming from a state with ‘at-will’ employment laws, is essentially a small miracle. March is also significant because Conrad has his migration interview this week! We are so anxious for Conrad to become a permanent resident in Sweden, and the process has been so slow and tedious, with lots of hair-yanking and head-bashing. But now C is on route to Colorado for two weeks, where he’ll do the interview and make the final touches on his thesis.

Which means I’ll be here in our new home (with Winston, of course). I can’t wait to get my camera out one morning and take some photos to share. It really is so cute. The landlords have a black lab (Britta) and she and W just play, and play, and play, and play! It’s exhausting to watch, honestly, but he is sooo happy 🙂

Speak soon!

xxLena

Go, go, go

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adulting / blogging / lately / latelylena / stockholm / sweden / thoughts / Uncategorized / updates / uppsala

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Don’t let this serene winter landscape fool you – things have been hectic and crazy AS PER USUAL*. So, what is new? Glad you asked:

1. My 1-year work contract has miraculously been extended to a permanent position, so THAT’S HAPPENING.

2. We’re moving! Again! To Uppsala, but for real this time. GOODBYE gruelling 1.5 hours commute from southern Stockholm and HELLO adorable little Swedish farmhouse (with a forest for Winnie to roam freely) that is near work!

3. Conrad (husband) has his residence interview next month! This could be a subject for a whole other post (and I may just do that, actually), but the immigration process to Sweden has been really frustrating, long, and tedious. Still, things are moving forward, so trying to stay positive.

4. It’s only February, but I have been travelling quite a bit. First to Myanmar and China for xmas and NY with the family, then to Krakow for a week followed by another week in Bangalore (both work trips). I absolutely love travelling, and I always have so much fun when I go somewhere new, but it is really exhausting. I miss C and Winston so much while I am away, and I truly believe that people are at their absolute worst when in airports (So.Many.Idiots.Out.There).

5. My parents have moved back to Stockholm! It hasn’t been super easy to fit all of us in their apartment (which is huge for Stockholm but miniscule by any other standards), especially since my brother, his lovely girlfriend Nicole, and their friend Mark have also been staying with us for a furniture exposition they have this week in Stockholm. Yes, it has been a bit of a sh*tshow, but it’s also kind of like a gigantic, crazy sleepover, so it has also been quite fun. Winston is getting LOTS of attention, so he’s happy 🙂

I think that is it for now. I am still thinking about how I want to use this space…I am leaning away from a ‘lifestyle blog’ type of format, as I have literally no ‘lifestyle’ to speak of these days, let alone write about on a blog. I do have a lot of things I want to write about, though, and I think that could be kind of interesting. I eventually want to get back into photography but I know that I can’t do that right now. Not only is it too dark in Sweden for good photographs, but I have so little brain space for creative things that I know it will be too difficult a goal to pursue.

Any suggestions or ideas? I have a very small readership, but I do appreciate each and every one of you.

Have a wonderful week!

xxLena

*(but seriously, when are things going to finally, FINALLY calm down? I know I’m a broken record, but my life has truly been a non-stop roller coaster since moving last year! Is peace and quiet something you inevitably give up on when you have multiple nationalities and international work? Seriously, I need to know)