Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quenching our thirst on a summer night

Stockholm is shining brightly in all it's glory right now. If you're here, you know what I mean. Everything is glittering, sparkling, glowing. Everyone is smiling. Strangers are whistling on park benches. The sun is out and it's not been this hot in a year at least. That's a long wait for a day when it's warm even in the shade. Of course in Sweden, this means that an extreme heat warning is in full effect. I'm certainly not complaining.


And so I made summer smoothie. The ice cream place, Frystnext-door to our apartment (which I know you'll be shocked to find out I haven't been to yet even though we've lived here for 3 months now!), was just closing it's doors for the day by the time we cycled up last night after an evening swim. And so, I decided to use all the fruit I could find in our kitchen and make my own creation thanks to our lovely landlord's juicer.

It consisted of exactly what you see here:

Plus some crushed flax seed and chia seeds. And a spoonful of vanilla kvarg (translates to quark in English - it's yogurt-esque with low fat and high protein).

It was quite tasty - refreshing, cool, and full of nutrients. Which our ice cream would not have been. Still, I'll admit I'd take the ice cream over smoothie any day. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shoes - 1, Me - 0

On Sunday morning, I took a lovely, rainy, 8-kilometer walk with my mother-in-law around Maren lake in Västervik. On Monday evening, I did an Interval Body Pump class at my gym. Same shoes. No problem, right? Big problem in Sweden.

Maren lake on a rainy day

Since the start of my gym-going days in Sweden, I've scoffed at the idea of having a separate pair of indoor training shoes. That's ridiculous, I always insisted. Such an expensive, unnecessary luxury. 

Instead of abiding by this nation-wide rule, I would sneak into the gym with my outdoor shoes only. It's all in one's self-assurance, right? No hesitation, no questions.

But today's gym experience was worse than questions. About 10 minutes into my 75-minute class, I looked down to see my entire area covered in pieces of dirt. Big and small, some with clumps of grass - it was not a pretty sight. And only got worse over the next 65 minutes. 

I was ashamed. The other 29 pairs of shoes in the room were flawless - not a spot of dirt to be found across the grey rubber floor (although plenty of drops of sweat). And so I hopped, I squatted, I lifted for the remaining 65 minutes surrounded by the stigma of my carelessness. 

At the end of the class, I tried to discreetly sweep all the dirt up with a wet paper towel. And another. And then another. So much for discretion. 

Will I change my habits? Probably not. I'm not exactly in the position to spend 2,000 sek on another pair of training shoes for the gym. But I will never forget to scrape off my shoes after a muddy walk. And neither will anyone in the class who stood behind me. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sunny dips in Hornsberg

Finally summer has come to Stockholm. It took awhile - a long, chilly June - but July has brought the heat so let's forget about whatever cold summer once was and focus on the now  because it's here and it won't be for long.

NS and I rode our bikes the 3 minutes from our apartment to Hornsberg after dinner tonight where there was a slow hustle in the air. People passing, boats passing, ducks passing by our perch on a grassy knoll - no one in a hurry, just enjoying the evening light and warmth. 

After awhile, we worked up the nerve to take a quick swim, sans wetsuit and sauna close by this time. It felt amazing. Exhilarating. And wasn't even that bad biking home either. 

Please, summer, stick around for awhile now if you don't mind. I think I speak for this city as a whole when I say that we'd be ever so thankful.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What happens in Bråvalla stays in Bråvalla

Not to say that anything bad would be happening there, of course. It's a festival, what do you expect? It was my first, though, so I wasn't really sure. But what a first festival it was.

Living in a tent in a massive field in the middle of nowhere with over 50,000 other music-lovers really brings some perspective to life. There were moments when I wondered why I was paying to be here at all, and others when I wanted to stay for another week instead of our Wednesday-to-Sunday stretch. 

And then there was the music, which made every discomfort worth it.

Imagine Dragons on our one sunny day

I saw a total of 22 bands over the course of 3 days - many more than the number of live shows I've seen in recent years. There truly is something incredible about seeing live music, whether the sun is shining brightly as it did on our first day, or torrential rainstorms are matched with hurricane-level gusts of wind, like they were on Friday. 

our post-storm, pre-dismantle party tent

Despite heroic efforts (and lightening shocks!), our party tent didn't really survive the storm. But we just piled on more layers (somewhat damp by then) and tramped through the debris-filled mud pits in our wellies.

I won't tell you all the bands I saw, but I will list my top three:

- Imagine Dragons - a surprise, as I thought I was sick of them
- The Kooks - what's not to love?
- and Veronica Maggio - featuring a surprise duet with the legendary Håkan Hellström (like Sweden's Bob Dylan (right, Swedes? or?)) - can't get enough of her (Veronica, that is), whether or not I understand all of her lyrics

Despite such an amazing festival, it was also wonderful coming home. And taking a shower. My first in 5 days. I went down to Bråvalla expecting to at least wash my face every day, but soon realized brushing my teeth was all I was likely to do in terms of hygiene. And that was okay. Everyone's in the same boat of uncleanliness at a festival, especially after making it through a storm like the one we experienced. There was a feeling of camaraderie afterwards; that we'd made it together.

Sometimes we all need to live a little - grab some beers, pitch a tent with good friends, and listen to some incredible tunes.