April 16th, 2013
Well, that was a week that flew by. I can hardly even remember where those days went. Maybe I was just too busy enjoying the sunshine and spring weather that finally made its way north to us. I did make time for a much-needed haircut and watched a lot of baseball (my Braves are on FIRE), but otherwise I’m drawing a blank.
On Sunday afternoon I came down to Uppsala and will be here until late tomorrow evening. This is only the second time since school started that I’ve been away from home for so long, and I think the kids and Olof are getting a little antsy to have me back. I miss them, too, but it is actually easier for me in a some ways when I have a chance to settle in and get some work done down here. When I come to town for only one night it feels like half of my time is spent in airports and train stations, and I don’t get as much chance as I’d like to get a good amount of work done.
I have tomorrow completely free, and I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do with it. First, of course, will be a bit of a lie-in. I’ve had a lot of reading to catch up on and have been going to bed late and getting up early, and I could use a little extra sleep. Once I’m rested up, though, I’d like to spend time time at either the Uppsala city library or to the local branch of the national archives to try to scare up some new material for my thesis. The official proposal is due on May 17, which is fast approaching. I also need to make sure that I’ve got everything done down here that I need to do for a little while, as it will be nearly two weeks before I’m back again. Most things I seem to be able to find online, thank goodness, but sometimes I need to get my hands dirty, so to speak.
April 8th, 2013
Yesterday the Braves played their first day game of the season — that is, the first game I’d have the opportunity to see live. Instead of watching it, though, I was tucked away in my basement hideaway in Uppsala as I had a class scheduled for this morning. When I arrived at the university for said class, however, there was a big note on the classroom door saying nothing more than “CANCELLED”.
A classmate and I spent some time trying to get to the bottom of the mystery, even enlisting the help of the director of my master’s program, but in the end we had to content ourselves with a long chat over coffee and the hope that nothing serious had kept the professor from attending. (Much later in the day I learned that she had a bad case of the flu. So, while not fun, it’s not a disaster, and that’s a relief.)
After the coffee catch-up, we parted ways — she to her job, and I to my research (read “semi-aimless floundering”). To my surprise, I managed to get a reasonable amount of work done and while I’ve not made any significant progress, really, I am on somewhat firmer footing than I was a day or two ago.
What I need most of all now to make measurable strides ahead is the ability to read early modern Swedish handwriting. Nearly all of my research will involve hundreds-of-years-old documents written in a spidery scrawl in my second language. Not a task for the faint of heart. I have ordered a book that should help some, and I’m planning to take a course in the fall dedicated to just this thing, so I’m hoping not to be floundering for very much longer. In the meantime, I’m going to put the bulk of my energy toward reading previous research and orienting myself as best I can in the ways of the early modern Swedish countryside.
Just now, however, I’m going to close up my laptop and make my way to airport security. My flight home leaves in an hour, and I am so ready to sleep in my own bed.
Oh yeah, and in case you were wondering, the Braves did win yesterday. I managed to follow the pitch-by-pitch report on my phone — not nearly so much fun as watching a live broadcast, but you take what you can get.
April 3rd, 2013
A few weeks ago Olof’s mom made some toy snakes for the kids out of (I think) felted wool. We all think they’re pretty cool, but I don’t think any one of us likes them more than Prins Bertil does:
April 1st, 2013
As befits the end of March, the past several days have given us nothing but blue skies and sunshine. Between the gorgeous weather and us having turned our clocks forward to summer time yesterday, it’s finally starting to look as though winter will come to an end within the foreseeable future.
Last Thursday was the traditional Swedish “trick-or-treating” day (don’t believe me?), when the kids dress up as Easter witches and go door-to-door exchanging greetings for little goodies. After school let out, Petra and Brynja got their witch on and set out, with Tage as chaperone, to make the rounds of the neighborhood.
Friday afternoon, Petra, Brynja, and I colored nearly four dozen eggs and on Saturday we all headed over to Olof’s parents’ place for the annual Easter lunch and egg hunt. Even the kids’ baby cousin, Knut, got in on the action. He wasn’t quite sure what was happening, but if Yrsa’s progression is any indication, he’ll be a pro next year.
March 24th, 2013
Olof’s mom sent him home yesterday with a photograph taken of him and his parents on the day of his christening in 1968. When she noticed us looking at it, Petra said that she’d seen it the day before. The only one she had recognized, though, was her farfar, Olof’s dad. I agreed that it was a little hard to see that it was Farmor, because it’s not a clear picture of her face.
“And Dad,” Petra exclaimed. “I couldn’t see it was him either. He wasn’t wearing his glasses!”
March 19th, 2013
Sunday evening I was in the midst of preparing our after-dinner coffee when I discovered to my dismay that the coffee packet was all but empty. I started running through the options in my head — Instant? Ew, no … tea? But I want coffee … I wonder if someone would run to the store? — when Olof reminded me that we still had some packages of unroasted beans from years ago, when we made a brief foray into the world of home-roasting.
At first I balked at the idea, but then I couldn’t resist showing off a little, so I set Olof to digging in the depths of a seldom-accessed cabinet for the popcorn popper while I hunted up the beans. It’s really no big deal roasting beans, but it does take a little time, and it’s smokier and smellier than I’d remembered. All told, it took about a half-hour to roast enough beans for a pot. I had to do two rounds of beans, and each round took three or four five-minute-ish intervals (I just run it until the popper overheats and stops running, then stir the beans around and wait a few minutes until it cools enough to start again.
Once the beans are roasted, I spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and let them cool almost entirely. Then all that’s left is to grind, brew, and enjoy. It’s easy enough that I could do it every day, if it weren’t for the smell. I remembered halfway into the first round the reason I had tired of the do-it-yourself roast all those years ago. The smell is pervasive. And it lingers. Once the snow is gone I might move the enterprise out to the balcony, but until then, we’re back to drinking store-bought.
March 13th, 2013
Monday morning I gave Lucy the last of her medicine and danced a little jig because the vet had pronounced her cured at last! I think the vet was actually as happy as we were — she smiled broadly and rubbed my shoulder and said, “I can’t believe it!” with a hint of real jubilation in her voice. And this is not a woman who — as much as I like and respect her — could ever be accused of being overly demonstrative. After nearly six months of dealing with that, it’s such a relief to have that poor dog feeling better and not looking so miserable and pitiful.
March 10th, 2013
Tomorrow the kids go back to school and Olof has the first day of his first full week of work in I can’t remember how long. I’ll be home the entire week, but I’ve got plenty of work to do if I can manage to find a way to get it done. I expected when I started my program that working around all of the kids would be challenging, but I’ve been completely caught off-guard by Yrsa. “Demanding” doesn’t begin to describe her. She wants what she wants, when she wants it, and she won’t take no for an answer. If I don’t move quickly enough to suit her, she just grabs my hand and takes me where she wants me to be. We’ve got her signed up to start pre-school/daycare in the fall, and it’s a good thing. I can barely read a page when she’s on the move, let alone write a master’s thesis.
Speaking of the thesis, I’m in the process of changing my topic again, which makes the proposal outline I’m to submit this Wednesday a bit tricky. At the moment I don’t know much more than the general area I’ll be writing in and I doubt I’ll have made much headway in the next few days. It’s just a draft that’s due, and there’s still time for discussion before the actual proposal is due in May, but it’s making me a little antsy not to have anything prepared. I keep reminding myself that I wouldn’t be changing without the support and encouragement of two of my professors, so it’s not an entirely hare-brained scheme, even if it does have me feeling somewhat unmoored just now.
March 4th, 2013
There’s not much spring in the winter these past few days. We’ve got a bunch more snow, and recent temperatures have been as low as -20°C (-4°F). On the upside, we did see some pretty active Northern lights the other night.
Not a whole lot going on right now, really. Olof took Lucy to the vet last Thursday and got the stitches taken out of her eye. She’s still not a hundred-percent healed, but she looks better than she has in months. She’s still wearing the cone of shame for another few days at least, and she’s got some pills and eyedrops, but I think this ordeal might finally be winding down.
Tomorrow morning I’m heading to Uppsala again, this time with Lydia in tow. The kids are on a mid-term break this week, and since I have just one meeting tomorrow afternoon this is a perfect opportunity to take her along. We’ll spend the night and have all day Wednesday to see what there is to see (mostly inside the shops, I’ve no doubt) before coming home late in the evening.
The next couple of months are going to be pretty busy for me with school — I hear that May will be hellish — and I need to figure out how to manage my time more efficiently. I’ve never been what you could call a diligent student, exactly, and I’m really starting to feel that working against me. Much to my dismay, I find that I started this program uncomfortably far behind my peers when it comes to research experience, so between the catch-up I’m trying to do and the actual work of the program I’ve got a pretty full plate.
February 27th, 2013
One of my very favorite Swedish words is vårvinter. Directly translated, it means “spring-winter,” and it’s pretty much what it sounds like. It’s that time in between, when the seasons are starting to change. When there’s still plenty of snow, but there’s plenty of sun as well, and each day is lighter than the last. It’s more than a word or a season; it’s a feeling, and it’s here, and it’s glorious.
The past few days have given us temperatures well above freezing and mostly blue skies. Today is a little greyer yesterday and the day before, but it’s still several degrees on the plus side, and the snow is melting fast. I’m not kidding myself — I know that it’s way too early to be counting winter out, but it’s absolutely on the wane.
I’m off to Uppsala in the morning, where it’s apparently rather colder than it’s been up here. Tomorrow’s supposed to be sunny down south, however, in contrast to the clouds and rain that are forecast for here. I suppose I’ll trade a couple of degrees gladly enough for more sunshine. I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed that I don’t come home to an icy mess on Friday night, when it’s supposed to get cold again.