Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas time in Umea

It's about a week until Christmas time and it is SUPER DARK but school is out for winter break so the darkness isn't as bad. And after Christmas it'll start getting lighter! I thought I would post a few pictures from around town and Christmas activities!

We made lussebullar yesterday, saffron buns. They came out really light and fluffy and nice (and very yellow!). I'm not used to the taste of saffron though so it's a little weird to me still, but they were fun to make :)

 There is a big real Christmas tree in town! :)

They've made the center of town look very cheery with lots of lights and people and little tents set up. When we were there last they were setting up what looked like a little Christmas market, but I haven't been back yet to check. But I go back tomorrow and I hope they are still there!

Alex and I celebrated my last day of class (well not really last day, but last day before Christmas!) at Lotta's Krog in town. It was lots of fun. We hadn't been there since my parents visited!

The snowy walk to the grocery store! Sadly the snow melted today again and now it is a mess of icy sidewalks and slush. I'm hoping it'll snow again before Christmas! 

Well that was just a little glimpse of Christmas time here, I'll miss seeing all my family members on Christmas but I know it'll be very special here too and I hope everyone has a wonderful day. I will try to post more pictures after Christmas :) 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Swedish Thanksgiving

Last week was Thanksgiving! Of course they don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Sweden so it was a bit weird to have no Thanksgiving break or big dinner with family. But we still had a wonderful Thanksgiving day! Just by coincidence I had the day off of school so we had plenty of time to cook a yummy meal.

Getting the potatoes ready to boil for mashed potatoes! One of my favorite foods. There is no shortage of potatoes in Sweden so this ingredient was easy to find.

One ingredient Sweden did not have (or that I couldn't find) was evaporated milk for the sweet potato casserole. So I evaporated some of my own milk! 

Taking the sweet potato casserole out of the oven to put marshmellows on top. I didn't realize that this was a weird dish until Alex gave me a disgusted look when I added sugar to the mashed sweet potatoes. I think it was a bit too sweet for him, he called it a dessert, but I loved it! It was my favorite food at our dinner.

Our Thanksgiving dinner! Meatballs for me and quorn for my vegetarian substituted for a turkey, but I did buy a packet of presliced turkey to keep some of the tradition. I thought it would be a bit silly to cook a turkey for myself. But it was an amazing dinner and we watched the Macy's Day parade on the computer while we ate which was fun.

One sad part of Thansgiving in Sweden was no pumpkin pie. There is no canned pumpkin sold here and the real pumpkins disappeared weeks ago. We even took the bus to the big supermarket in town, ICA Maxi, but had no luck. We did get some maple syrup though which our supermarket doesnt have. Yumm.

Without Thanksgiving it means that basically after Halloween it is Christmas time which was nice especially in the dark winter. Lights are up in town and everyone has stars and lights in their windows, including us! This is a snowman we made and hung by our door.

Our Christmas tree haha. It's very cute. We bought it on the way home from school yesterday. It fits in a coffee cup and fits perfectly on the window sill. Hopefully Santa doesn't bring us anything too big! ;)

The tree with lights on it! It makes me laugh.

Well that is it for now! My last week of school before Christmas break is in a week and a half, which is crazy! Lots to do but with so little daylight it definitely takes away some of your energy. The sun rises after we get to school and sets before we get home. The good news is that soon it'll be getting lighter each day instead of darker. Woohoo!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hello again!

It's been a while seen I've written. My first class in Sweden just ended last week so I have been busy finishing and revising lots of papers as well as starting a new class so it has been a little stressful. But now my first class is officially over! Woohoo! And it really was a great class and I learned so much, even if it was pretty time consuming and challenging at times. Also my parents visited from Florida about a week ago and we had a wonderful time showing them around the city and spending time with them. I wish they could have stayed longer! We got to plan a little bit of the wedding stuff while they were here too which was nice. We're getting very excited for the summer! The time changed about two weeks ago so it has been getting dark very early which isn't really my cup of tea. But we have lots of candles and lights to prepare for the dark winter. I think when the snow comes it will make it better, but the snow here comes one day and then melts by the next day. But I'm looking forward to experiencing my first real winter. Right now it stays at about 0 degrees celsius (yeah I'm using celsius, woohoo!) and it has actually started feeling warm (well, not warm, but not super cold) to me which is great! Here are a few pictures since the last time I've written!

This is from our walk home from the bus stop today (yes, we take the bus sometimes now, it's just so convenient! but we still bike to school, just enjoy taking the weekends off :) ) Notice the sunset, at 3 pm.

This is a picture from when I was in the field last Thursday. We went up about an hour north of Umea and there was lots of snow! It was beautiful! But cold...

A picture from the airport before my parents left for Stockholm

My parents left us their really cool rain gear. We love them! haha.

We saw the Northern Lights from our balcony while my parents were here! When we saw them it was after midnight but I called and woke them up to come see them! They were amazinggggg. 

At a cute pub called Lotta's Krog in town. We went here with my parents before I went to my night Swedish class. Nothing helps you learn Swedish like a pint of English cider. Yummy.

Well that's it for now! 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Life update!

Hello! It's been a little while since I've written so I thought I would quickly update on how things are here in Sweden! The weather is gorgeous right now, this week is especially warm and the leaves are all different colors and its lovely. 

This was walking around town before my Swedish class started Tuesday night. Now I can officially introduce myself in Swedish and know a couple words but learning a language is definitely not my strength so hopefully it keeps going ok. But my teacher and class are really great.

There are POMEGRANATES on sale in Sweden right now. They are about half the size of the ones in the U.S. but they taste wonderful and are my favorite food so this week has been great!

A view from our balcony earlier in the summer and then now. Everything is getting yellower and it's wonderful! 

Ingredients from taco night this week! I would always look for cilantro at the store and couldn't find it, but apparently coriander and cilantro are almost the same thing so we used that and it was perfect!

It's almost the weekend! This weekend we might try to go to the movies and maybe stay out and look for the northern lights. Some people in my class have seen them recently so that's exciting. We also have an apartment building group cleanup day this Saturday when we all just clean up around the building and then have fika and a barbeque. Fika is very popular in Sweden and means to have a coffee break and have a snack with people. Even when we go in the field I've learned I have to bring coffee because we always stop for a Fika break!

Well I better get ready to bike to school! Hopefully everyone has a nice weekend :)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Snowing in September

Well as you can probably tell from the title, it SNOWED yesterday. It snowed a lot for about three hours, but it melted when it hit the ground. I was biking to my class in the field when it started, and it took me a while to figure out what was happening. I was thinking hmm this rain is harder and colder than normal, but I still didn't want to get too excited. As a girl from Florida I was more convinced it was hail than snow. So I asked a classmate to confirm that it was indeed snowing haha. And then it started snowing even harder so that there was no denying it! I tried to take a picture but you can't really see anything. Today it rained though sadly, no snow. Cold rain is no fun, especially on a bike!

A pretty gross picture but this is me soaked from the bike ride home today! But I didn't mind it because its Friday!!

This is a popular brand of chocolate bar here and it is sooo good! One of the late night walks to the store nearby when we we (ok me) were craving chocolate!

This week has been busy with school and mostly just trying to stay warm! The weather drastically changed this past week from warm enough to only need a light jacket to me needing to wear my Florida winter jacket everyday now. So everything colder than it is now will definitely be a new experience for me!

Biking to school everyday in the cold and being busy with school work can make it easy to forget about all the wonderful things here but I actually really do enjoy my bike rides. They are relaxing and biking so much allows me to eat more candy and chocolate than I could normally, which I think makes biking very worth it! :)

My sweet fiancé even though he has been sick all week and had two tests and a presentation woke up early one day this week to make me breakfast before we left. He made me bacon even though he's a vegetarian, it was very sweet and made my day.

Tonight I'm trying to think of a dessert recipe to make, but all the U.S. recipes I find use vanilla extract and Sweden uses vanilla sugar. I usually just use it the same as vanilla extract and hope it comes out the same! 

My week alone last week went ok by the way! I went to the grocery store almost everyday and enjoyed some relaxing time alone, but I'm glad it's over! :) To treat myself at the end of the week I bought and cooked some reindeer meat! It is popular in Sweden and it was really different but really good.  I felt very Swedish buying reindeer at the grocery store. The fiancé told me Santa won't bring me any presents anymore though haha, oh well! I'm sorry Rudolf! 
Yummy yum yum.

I'll try to post more often now! It's just been too cold and rainy to take out my phone and take pictures!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rain rain go away

Er, Tuesdays. Everyone complains about Mondays but on Mondays you still have some leftover weekend feeling. Tuesdays are just the worst. Especially rainy, cold, and dreary Tuesdays. Today was my first day biking to school in the rain! It actually wasn't too bad, it definitely made me bike a lot faster!

Put a plastic bag over my backpack and I'm ready to go! Extra fact: In Sweden if you want to put your grocery in plastic bags, you have to buy them when you buy your groceries! And you bag everything yourself. When I grocery shopped today I just put my food in my backpack.

Even though it was a grey and cold day on campus, these pretty trees brightened everything up a little bit. I think they are called mountain ash? But it feels like just yesterday these trees were green.

My pants when I got back from fieldwork yesterday! Unfortunately these are my only rain pants so I had to wear them again all dirty today (too much information maybe?). I signed up for a laundry time today don't worry. (In Sweden you have to sign up on a list to reserve a time to use the laundry room, at first I was a little unsure about this idea but now I like it. I always know that no one will be using the washer and dryer when I go to do laundry.)

The pretty view while doing fieldwork, in a farming area near town.

Last night was my first night alone in Sweden without the fiance. He is away on a school trip all week so it is quite a change. I usually get home before him so I'm used to being on my own a bit and biking on my own and finding my own way now. But I really miss him just to look over at while I'm reading and see him smile at me. I don't really mind being alone too much, sometimes it's really nice. But he just brightens my days, and I really need it on a dark and rainy day like today. But on the plus side, I made zucchini bread! Or at least I thought I did. It turns out I'm not too great at identifying cucumbers versus zucchini, and I made cucumber bread. It tastes almost the same, except slightly more pickle like...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Relaxing Weekends

Another weekend is almost over here! This weekend was very relaxing and nice. Fall is officially here! It's cold and the leaves have started to fall. Right now I'm really enjoying it though. I'm not even worried about the snow coming, I'm looking forward to it! But I wouldn't mind if it waited a while... :)

My sweetie on a bike ride today across the river. It was a little rainy today.

 The pretty view from our bike ride. I didn't notice the graffiti until now, but apparently it says poo...haha. So I learned a new Swedish word!

 We also tried to make bread this weekend, this was our attempt at baguettes. We looked up a recipe using Swedish ingredients, and it was so much simpler than all the english recipes I found. And it was another opportunity to improve my vocabulary! These were soooo yummy. Maybe not the prettiest things in the world, but a good first try! Also, yeast is really cheap here. I never used it in the U.S. really so I can't compare, but it was a nice surprise. Baguette recipe

Dessert in bed while doing homework! I'm a lucky girl. (I didn't actually eat all this at once...or did I...).

 The cake was leftover from the fiance's birthday that I made! It was pretty good, especially the next day! It was also my first time grocery shopping alone for the ingredients and some birthday goodies and candles. Grocery shopping is definitely something I took for granted in the U.S. Knowing where everything was and knowing my card would work and knowing the checkout person spoke english. Oh Publix how I miss you. U.S. credit cards work here, but they require a few extra steps and showing your id, and my Florida ID seems to always confuse people. But I've learned how to help them make it easier and my fear of grocery shopping is officially over! 

The bulle (similar but also very different to cinnamon rolls in the U.S.) our neighbor brought over for us which was very sweet. On my way home from school the other day on my bike I passed two of our neighbors who waved and said hej and it just made me happy that I actually know people! It's the small things.

Just a short post today but wanted to do an update! Tomorrow I go back out into the field with my class (my tiny class of 6 people). Then we have a big paper due a week later so I will be busy working on that. Thank you to anyone who actually reads my blog, it means a lot and I enjoy writing it! :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Four ways I'm becoming Swedish

Living in Sweden means adapting some of the Swedish ways of life. So I thought I would share a few things that I have started doing consciously and unconsciously.

1. In Sweden you address professors by their first name, even in an email. And yes I found this out the hard way. And I was quickly corrected. Luckily my teacher used to live in the U.S. so he understood. Apparently in Sweden he explained you rarely (if ever) use Dr. as someones title. Even medical doctors you call by their first name. He said doctor is a job, not a title. And professor is a job, not a title. Everything is much more casual which I really love. Work isn't who you are, it's just what you do. Lovely.

2. I have a new found love of cooking shows. Now this may not be true and may just be a false stereotype, but I remember reading someones blog about living in Sweden before I moved here and they mentioned that people in Sweden love cooking shows and that they are always on tv. Well I forgot about that until today I heard myself talking to the tv, criticizing one of the contestants cooking ability. Hmm. Maybe there is something in the water here. Watching the cooking shows has even gotten me to love cooking, and I've been experimenting with recipes.

A picture from my zucchini bread making phase. 

Baking sugar cookies! These ones actually weren't my best. But if you need a great oatmeal cookie recipe without butter let me know because those are my favorite!

3. I LOVE candy. There is something special about candy in Sweden. They have a big selection in all the grocery and little stores and it is amazing. I was never really a big candy person back in the U.S. Mainly ice cream was my sweetness weakness. (Icecream is still a favorite, I don't think I could ever give that one up).

 This picture doesn't do Swedish candy justice, but you can see the variety. I obviously prefer the sour fruity ones but also threw some chocolate and other random pieces in. These creepy looking black and red skulls are actually one of my favorite.
4. Kind of related to number 3 but also totally different. I love licorice. LICORICE! I remember when I first got to Sweden I wouldn't even buy a bag of candy if it had licorice in it because I didn't want to eat the contaminated candy. But now I purposely pick licorice to fill up my candy bag on Saturdays. It is salty and sweet and amazing. Licorice is very popular in Sweden, and now I know why. They know how to do it right. Or, as I said, there is something in the water.

So three of my four Swedish things are food related. Hmm. It's probably good I bike to school an hour each way...

Pretty sunset from earlier in the summer. Its starting to get dark earlier each day. Oh no.

Its Thursday here and my sweetie has a friend over and were watching a hockey game. Go Umea! I'm really enjoying my life here in Sweden. Some days are harder than others and I still miss family and friends everyday. But each day here I feel more like it is becoming my home. And I honestly couldn't be any happier than I am right now. School is good, and life is good. Ok, I'll stop the corniness.

Two posts in a row, wow. Hope I can keep it up!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

School in Sweden and Swedish school

I can't believe I'm in my second week of graduate school, let alone my second week of graduate school in Sweden! It's definitely very different from the U.S. in good and bad ways. The biggest difference to me is the number of classes you take. This applies to graduate and undergraduate students. You take one class at a time in Sweden. One class! In the U.S. I usually took four or five at once. Except somehow this one class takes up all my time. In the U.S. with five classes I would be at school for three or four hours a day, but in Sweden with one class I'm here around 7 hours. I think I like the one class better though, it allows you to put all your effort into one class. Another difference is how I get to school. I bike. In the U.S. I would either take the bus, drive, or walk. Biking never seemed like a good option. But here it is almost the only option. Buses are pretty expensive and walking would take forever. But since everyone bikes it's not a problem. Except for I start my bike ride off with ten layers of clothing and by the time I get to school I'm down to just one.
A picture of all the bikes, and this is when we got to school early! 

One downside of school is Sweden or any other country is not knowing anyone or anything. For example opening a door. You think that would be fairly simple, but some doors have these buttons you press first and then have to wait a certain amount of time before you open it. And I usually stand there trying it for a minute or so looking silly. Overall though I'm enjoying my class. It's only been a week and I've gotten to go out into the field three days in a row digging in the dirt, which I love. 

One of the many holes we dug for soil sampling.

I love that there is a mixture of nationalities in my class. I am now a minority, and it's really a crazy feeling. It's hard to explain. Some days it feels exciting and adventurous and some days I feel out of place. But the next thing I'm going to talk about I think will help...Swedish school!

I have been applying to many different Swedish language programs and finally got into one starting October 1 called Swedish Crash Course. Woohoo! So updates on how that goes later.

In other news, we made blueberry jam! I know, I think I'm a bit obsessed with berries. Hopefully it's yummy! Also a random thought but if anyone goes to Allstars pub, they have an amazing raspberry milkshake. It's a very American type sportsbar and restaurant. And very expensive (as are all restaurants here really). This milkshake was called the "five dollar milkshake" and it cost the equivalent of ten dollars. It just made me laugh. Worth very penny though to celebrate starting school!


Well that's it for now, hej då (bye)! 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Orientation at Umea University

Well, the orientation for international students is over! I learned a few things about the university and Sweden. However I think since I've been to Sweden before and my sweetie is Swedish I knew more about Sweden than the average international student, but it was still very interesting! Mostly we listened to speakers in a big auditorium who discussed information such as how to use the library, how to register at the tax office, information about the Sami people, etc. Some talks such as the one about the Sami people I found very interesting. They are a group of people who used to live (and some still do) in Northern Scandinavia and are similar to Native Americans to the U.S. I liked the last post I did with pictures so I am going to do a similar post now with orientation and non orientation related things :).

In the auditorium at Umea University. There were lots of students there but it is hard to tell in this photo. We learned that most are from Germany and France with about 11 new Americans.

Yesterday was Friday and the last day of orientation. Real classes start Monday. Oh dear! To celebrate we went to the Systembolaget (Swedish alcohol shop). This store has a monopoly on alcohol in Sweden and gives you these bags to carry around, so you always know who just bought alcohol. And since it was Friday there were lots of blue bags out today.

These are the beers we bought. All Swedish types. I'll make a post a little later reviewing them. We tried three so far and will probably try the fourth one tonight. :)

Today we went to the grocery store to turn in our cans and plastic bottles. Most are worth at least 1 kr, sometimes 2. That's not very much, but they add up!

Our receipt from the bottle machine! 20 kr woohoo! That is about 3 dollars ish, but 20 kr sounds much better. We bought some cheese (on sale woohoo!) and coffee. And got a 20 kr discount. Oh yeahhh.

This was our lovely walk home from the store. Usually we bike, but it is such a beautiful day we wanted more time to enjoy it. (And to pick berries!)

 We saw this tree today near our apartment. The leaves are turning yellow! I am very excited about Fall and actually seeing seasons, but it needs to wait! I'm not ready for it to get cold yet. I need a little more summer. This video below I think represents how I feel about this.

That is all!