OVER AND OUT
I just finished a really good book, The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry. It was excellent and had a (sad) twist that I did not see coming, which I always appreciate in a book (even if it is sad). I've been reading a lot lately, after what felt like a very long streak of not reading much at all, or at least reading so slowly as to be the same thing. I read a new Bill Bryson book, which was both interesting and ho-hum at the same time. I've downloaded 2 more books to my Kindle so I'll have more to read while traveling...tomorrow!
We leave tomorrow and I am pretty calm about it actually. I can't wait to get there and see everyone and start our summer vacation adventure, but I'm not stressed out and everything is under control. I have a short list of things to do in the morning before we go. The suitcases are all packed and waiting for the last items. Our housesitter is on her way, our summer-yard staff (the next door neighbor kids) are booked, I left work with everything done that needed to be done and our excellent summer intern up to speed.
I am a little sad to be leaving my beautiful rose bushes, I have to say. They have been bringing so much quiet joy every day, just looking upon their gorgeousness. Apart from that, we're raring to go!
In short, our exit plan is in place. Should that be EKSit? haha!
I suspect that posting will be slim to none, due to my mom's terrible Internet connection unless my cousin comes through with the hotspot we might be able to borrow, but the break will not be too long, and absence makes the heart grown fonder, I hope.
A happy summer to you all!
We had a whiz-bang thunderstorm yesterday evening that went on for HOURS. It lasted pretty much all night, rolling and booming and crashing with lightning strikes. The kids and I sat out on the porch for a long time watching, and going Ooooo! every time lightning split the sky and the big cracks of noise hit. Then it poured rain for hours, too. One of our neighbors measured it at 40 mm (1.6 inches-ish) but it sure seemed like more than that. The dog was anxious all night as well, so when we weren't being woken up by crash-bangs, we were being woken up by a cold dog nose needing reassurance or the tickety-tack of her nails pacing around the house.
This morning there were rose petals scattered everywhere in the back yard, but we have so many roses it doesn't seem to have made much of a difference. It's really hot today...the warmest it's been so far this summer. 30C, which is 86F. Humid, too, which I was hoping the thunderstorms would help with. I hate humidity. Barky is misbehaving: bad dog! Bad hair!
Anyway, it's officially Swedish midsummer today and we have the day off along with the rest of the country. Even though the solstice was earlier this week it's the Friday closest that matters to the Swedes. As I mentioned in my last post, we don't have any plans. Karin is home for the day, but Martin is picnicking with friends. So, we'll be having the traditional midsummer smörgåsbörd for dinner: herring (2 kinds), hard-boiled eggs, cucumber & tomatoes, smoked salmon (cold & warm) with caviar sauce, new potatoes with sour cream and chives, hard cheese, meatballs, mini sausages and then strawberries and cream for dessert.
I don't think we'll walk over to the village celebrations...we've been to plenty of midsummer poles with dancing and picnics in the past, when the kids were small. Karin is going to a party tonight and sleeping over at a friend's house, so the late part of the evening will be spent picking up Martin, and Karin's friend, then driving the girls to the party before coming home to stay up late reading or watching movies.
Elsewhere, my mind is a trifle occupied with what is happening in Great Britain, and what it, along with the horrid trends in my own country, and in others, will mean for us in the coming years. And closer to home, with trip planning, teenager motivating, dog walking, party planning, and list-making. A typical day, in other words. Happy midsummer!
ALL THE THINGS
Had a meeting with my boss yesterday and was informed about my raise: higher than the average and lots of praise to accompany it, which was nice. Wish it was hitting with tomorrow's paycheck instead of next month's. Would have been nice to have that extra money in the States.
Got my FBARs done, finally.
Figuring out our plans for the US trip: what to see in NYC and Boston on the day each we have allotted for them. Planning a couple of days at a relative's in Traverse City and my college roommates lake cottage. And a real American 4th of July!
We are dog-sitting for friends, for 2 weeks. Coco is lovely and fairly well-behaved but has to be on the leash when out or she chases anything that moves.
I can't wait for vacation.
I also can't believe we have already passed the solstice. I am mourning the passing of the light. Here we go, the long slide into the Swedish darkness. *sigh*
Am tired of pushing my son to get anything done or make any headway without a huge fight. Is this normal?
We have no plans whatsoever for midsummer, which is Sweden is tantamount to being outcasts. All of our friends are either away or have other plans. Even Anders' mom is busy. And both the kids are going to friends. It will be just Anders and me. Staring at each other over the salmon and strawberries.
I am not looking forward to political discussions in the US. I hope people will respect my wish to leave such things at the door.
The family bash is getting huge. My mom said more and more cousins are replying that they are coming. She is having it catered and considering hiring a Port-a-Potty! The last official family reunion was in 1995 so it's not surprising people are excited about getting together.
Only 3 of the AWC board members are considering staying on. All the activities officers (3 of them) are apparently stepping down. There is no 4th of July party planned and yet the current board is considering raising dues. I'm considering stepping up again but have very mixed feelings about it. Is it a general malaise or a real decline? Was my leaving the board one of the causes for the lack of enthusiasm and commitment I have been sensing or is just the downward bend of a usual wave? IS IT ALL MY FAULT? Or is my ego completely out of control? HAHAHAA ...Will things get better if I rejoin the board or will it be a sinking ship? Maybe it's time to inquire if people still find it valid or useful or fun. I do, but maybe I'm alone in that opinion. Really, I just want to keep our book group alive.
The roses in the back under the trellis have exploded. It's a bright orange-pink-coral jungle out there. The honeysuckle, too, are still blooming like crazy, even the useless one that never puts out any flowers and when it does only provides pathetic undersized imitations of real flowers. The little rosebush in the front is ready to blow any day...it has over a dozen buds on it. Yay! Roses before we leave!
We didn't put net on the cherry tree this year, and the other night when I was out watering I took a look to see if there were any at all. All the ones I could find were stones on stems, all the fruit pecked/gnawed off them. No cherries for us this year, bummer.
I am on a fresh pineapple kick right now. SO good.
Is anyone even reading this anymore? Hello?
GETTING THINGS DONE
I'm procrastinating right now. I need to be doing my FBARs but I hate doing my FBARs and so I'm doing just about anything else instead. I can't put it off forever, though.
Yesterday, I talked to our neighbor and found out that the vet diagnosed Morris with acute kidney failure...nothing to be done but end her suffering. Jessika and I were both crying during the entire conversation. The vet said the problem with such things is that the symptoms are so diffuse and gradual, in cats at least, that you often don't realize there is anything wrong until it's already too late. :(
It's been a mostly lovely weekend, with a little rain, a little wind, a little sun, a little clouds. We are dog-sitting: Coco. She's a big, lovely brown lab. Her only fault is that she chases things: cats, birds, fluttering leaves, other dogs. So she has to be leashed all the time, as she won't obey if she's gotten away running after something. The first couple of nights she woke us up all night long, pacing the house, with her toenails ticking across the hardwood floors, but she settled down by the third day, thankfully. We haven't done any dogsitting in a really long time, so it's been nice, actually.
I just looked at my hands and they seem so veiny and old-looking. My hands and my feet are where I see my age. I don't see it so much in my face or even my neck...yet. Maybe wrinkles will show up more pronounced if I can manage to drop some more weight. I seem to have hit a plateau (or am eating more than I should) lately. Trying to be motivated but failing often in the face of multiple parties, dinners, lunches, temptations. UGH. At least the dog keeps me walking.
We are in the midst of finalizing plans for our upcoming trip and I'm excited. We have a housesitter confirmed and the kids next door have been asked about mowing the lawn and watering the outdoor pots. I've been confirming dates for visits to friends and family and my mom is buried deep in party planning. I can't WAIT!!!
We saw the season 4 finale for Orphan Black on Friday and I'm really sad it's over until next year, especially since it left us hanging in the middle of several cliffhangers and storylines. GAH. Why is their season so short?? 10 episodes is NOT enough.
I had a busy week: bookworms on Thursday (for a book I started THAT day), lunch with my friend Geena on Friday and a goodbye party for another friend on Friday evening, and dinner out with Debbie & Camilla yesterday, which was much needed. Today has been pretty lazy although I've gotten several things done that needed doing.
It's a short work week coming up, thanks to midsummer, but we actually don't have any plans for next weekend. Karin wants to have her family birthday party then, though, and we definitely need to see Anders' mom as we leave the following Friday. Only 2 more weeks, woot!
Okay, I need to go nag Martin into working on his CV/resume and his thank you cards, and I need to get started on the stupid FBARs.
We had the perfect cat. She belonged to the neighbors and they found her as a stray, took her in, fed her and cleaned her litter box, and took her to the vet when necessary, and kept her in at night, so she'd be safe. For us, she was a sometimes cat, a loaner cat, a daily visitor who brightened our days.
She was curious and friendly and social. She followed behind her owner Jessika, trotting down the street, when she was taking their two dogs for a walk. She came over nearly every single day (that wasn't snowing or raining) to see us, to be petted and cuddled and to get her hair all over our sofa and Martin's bed. She'd climb the ladder to his loft bed and spend hours up there sleeping.
She'd sit at the back at the porch door and wait for one of us to let her in. Which we always did, because how could you not? When you picked her up and tucked her into your shoulder, she'd dig her claws into your arm, kneading her paws into you, and butting her head into yours most insistently, for more head rubs and pets. She'd drape herself over the arm of the sofa and lean her spine into the back of your neck. She purred REALLY loudly, and for a long time.
Jessika said the vet didn't know how old she was. She guessed she was probably a couple of years old at the least when they found her, but she was missing a few teeth and had probably had it pretty rough before. She was a part of our lives for not quite 4 years. We'd see her outside and open the door and she'd come running. We'd pull up into the driveway after work and she'd hear the car door and come trotting down the street, her tail raising to flag her affection when we turned to croon "Hey Morris" at her.
Her name was actually Morrhippan, a terrible pun combining the Swedish word for growl (morr
) with the word for bachelorette party (möhippan
means maid, hippa
is one of the many Swedish words for party). We called her Morris, which translates to "little growler" but Jessika's family called her Moppan, an affectionate contraction of her name.
About a week and a half ago, we noticed that she wasn't herself...behaving a little oddly, sleeping a little more than usual at our house, hissing when we tried to pick her up. She wasn't cleaning herself as well, and Jessika reported that she wasn't eating. Yesterday, Jessika sent me a message that they were headed to the vet and it didn't look good. I was at work, but Karin reported later that they had come home with an empty cat carrier. :( We still don't know exactly what was wrong, as I haven't managed to catch Jessika yet, and it might be that we'll never know. It wouldn't make us feel any better anyway, especially since there probably wasn't anything we could have done to help.
She reminded me so much of my little Pooka kitty, gone so long ago. Little, black and white, sweetheart, purr machine. She made all of us feel loved. We all loved her and now she's gone. She might have been only a sometimes cat, a loaner cat, a temporary cat, but she captured everyone's heart and became part of our family. Now we're cat-less, again.
Rest in peace, Morris. Photo credits: Karin Ek, Liz Slaughter-Ek
Whew! We made it through the week! What a crazy few days it has been. Last Monday was a holiday, and Anders and I took Tuesday and Wednesday off work in order to get the final preparations done for Martin's graduation and party on Wednesday evening. Tuesday was a graduation party for the daughter of a friend and Friday it was Anders' nephew Henrik's turn. Today has been, obviously, a day of rest. Much needed and much appreciated!
Apart from the fact that the weather could have been a bit better, the big day on Wednesday went off without a hitch! Martin left early in the morning for a champagne breakfast and photos at the school and then spent the day hanging out with friends. The "utsläpp" (release from school) was scheduled for 2:30 and we got there a little early, knowing it would be crowded. It was a MADHOUSE. Katedralskolan is one of the big high schools in Lund and the courtyard was packed with people. Good thing they all had signs with their kids' names on them so friends and families could locate them. I got there first and then was joined by Anders' sister and family, and then Karin. Anders came last as he drove separately.
The setup for the actual utsläpp was completely ridiculous: a low, tiny hidden stage in a back corner by the building where NO one could see the kids coming out at all. To make things worse, the people in charge of the signs up above, showing which class was on its way out screwed up and had the wrong class name when Martin's class actually came out, so we weren't prepared at all...not that we could have seen anything anyway, since it was so crowded and hard to see the stage. There is a video here
, since one of the local papers filmed the whole thing. You can see Martin's class come out around 32:45.
After the release and meeting up, he and his classmates got on one of the huge trucks that drive the students around town for an hour, playing loud music, while they dance and scream and wave at everyone. :) You do NOT want to be driving during this time period in Lund or Malmö these 2 weeks in June! After that, he met up with Anders again, and they drove around Lund some more, this time with Martin in the sidecar of the motorcycle that Anders had borrowed from a colleague. :)
Meanwhile, Karin and I raced home and finished the last things that had to be done. Karin's friends Nivin and Alice, our hired help for the evening, arrived at 5 and I put them to work immediately. They were fantastic, SO much help throughout the entire evening. Our guests started arrived right around 6 p.m. and Anders called Karin to ask if they could come yet. "No!" she said, "Not enough people are here yet!" So, he and Martin had to wait for another half hour before they could finally make their grand entrance.
We had a game for our guests to play while they waited: putting Martin's school pictures in order. It was really hard, apparently! :D After the snacks and welcome drinks, and after Martin had arrived, we put out the buffet: smoked salmon, and chicken/roast beef platters with tossed salad and potato salad and bread with condiments. We had about 46 hungry guests and the food went fast. The only thing left after the party was over was a TON of potato salad! We will be eating it for days.
We gave out prizes for the winners of the "Set Martin Straight" game and I gave a short speech to Martin, congratulating him and telling him how proud we were. Then we put out dessert: meringue and whipped cream cakes covered with berries, and 2 chocolate sacher tortes with LILAC blossoms on them! (I didn't know you could eat lilac! You learn something new every day.)
Martin opened his presents after that, and was very happy with them: lots of money toward his Peru trip, and a camera bag from Karin to go with his new Nikon camera from us. Just what he wanted! A great day for everyone and we were all quite pleased with the evening. I know Martin can do anything he puts his mind to, and this is only the first step of his adult adventure.
Ridiculously, I didn't get any photos of the decorations in the tent or the buffets or most of the guests...was too busy having fun and talking and running around! But, here come the photos!( SO MANY PHOTOSCollapse )
ALL AT ONCE
I am the lamest blogger that ever lived. Okay, not really. There are lamer bloggers out there (naming no names). I guess when you are a blogger who is no longer really blogging, you are an epilogue.
There have been lots of things to write about, but they are all happening at once which makes sitting down and finding words harder than you would think. This past weekend was Swedish Mother's Day. I was given flowers (peonies!), a Pandora bead for my bracelets of a lion with a crown and a little bag of my favorite dark-chocolate-covered cherries. In the afternoon, my choir sang our season's end concert in the park in Eslöv, in the sunshine, and in the evening we went to Anders' mom's for dinner.
We took a bunch of selfies on Märta's balcony, but you can tell I'm a novice. Karin says I was looking at MYSELF instead of at the camera. It was a phone! I don't even know where the camera IS.
Yesterday, as another example of too many things in one day, was Martin's prom, Karin's film premiere, one of my best friend's birthday, and our 20th wedding anniversary. Everything has to happen all at once. Isn't that what time is for?? So everything doesn't happen all at once? (Madeleine L'Engle reference for you literary YA nerds)
This photo is actually 21 years old, even though I posted it now for our 20th wedding anniversary. It was our engagement photo. We used a photographer in Chicago who was recommended to us, to test him out, and ended up hiring him for our wedding as well. He was fantastic. We didn't do anything specific yesterday but are going to dinner at the swanky new restaurant in Flyingeby this Saturday. :)
Karin's film premiere was interesting, and it was so fun to see her being so grown-up and beautiful as she mingled and glad-handed well-wishers. There were supposed to be 5 short films from the end-of-year film student projects at Malmö Högskola, but one of them ended up not being shown due to technical difficulties. They were all really well done, to varying degrees from stunning, to amusing, to well-crafted. Karin's film was only 6 minutes long and unfortunately, the bulk of her scenes and dialogue had been cut at the last minute. Bummer! Still, it was an excellent experience for her, and she made some friends and contacts in the process.
Martin had great fun at the high school senior prom with his best friend Claudia and their gang. They had beautiful weather for the event, as well, and he said the food was really good. They even waltzed! I didn't know it was a big deal for parents to go take photos or I might have tried to plan differently, since they had to be there at 5:30 and we probably could have made it to take photos if we had known before heading to Malmö for the film showing.
The weather has been phenomenal here, though almost too warm. Thank goodness it's been very breezy, or I'd be dying. Temps in the high 20s (low 80s), sunny, and full of birdsong and buzzing bees. Karin's been sunbathing every chance she gets. I've been walking nearly every day, and we have high hopes of it continuing through next week for Martin's graduation party! The tent has been delivered and will be put up Monday and after tomorrow, I have a very long weekend in front of me with plenty of time to both get things finalized and relax leading up to the big day on Wednesday.
Every year it's the same and yet I still boggle at how the time goes. It's nearly the end of May. The lilacs are in full bloom but soon they'll be over...the lupines are on the way now, and the roses. We have tiny, hard, green cherries on the tree but I can't decide whether it's worth it to put net on, since we'll be gone all of July and that's when they'll be ripe. Might as well feast the birds one year, eh?
The honeysuckles are just starting as well and my clematis is vining its way up the trellis. The pansies are still hanging in there, but since it was warm today and will be again tomorrow, though the weather this week is supposed to be a bit up and down. It's a crazy busy week, ramping up into party time. We're counting down at 2.5 weeks to graduation. Tomorrow is the RSVP date, and we have 4 families unaccounted for. So far, we're at 41 people.
This week I have 2 choir concerts (last singing for the term, boo!) and a work summer party. Next week, the last AWC meeting of the season, a friend's 50th birthday party that I'm helping to organize at work, and the final prep for the graduation party. Anders and his sister are going to Germany on the 31st to buy the booze, and I have to let the caterers and restaurant know the final headcount. Then we have our 20th wedding anniversary! Though we haven't planned anything for the actual day, since Martin has his prom that evening. We have reservations at a new swanky restaurant in Flyinge for the 4th.
I'm sad about choir ending, even though we won't be here in July anyway, but they told us today we have a concert scheduled right away at the beginning of next term so they will set up some practices in late August to get us back into sync.
I sent out the invitation for our family bash while we are in Michigan, to the entire extended family clan. We have a memorial planned for my Uncle Sam on Friday, July 22, the big party on the 23 and a birthday lunch for my grandma on the 24. And my Aunt Joanne (my Uncle Sam's sambo) has done the NICEST thing and offered us the use of his car while we are in the States! SO KIND!! That means we don't have to spend more money on plane tickets or car rentals and since we needed the car for the month (we're too many people for only 2 cars), it's absolutely PERFECT. I am thrilled and really happy about it. It's a weight off my mind that we don't have the added expense of the plane tickets right now, when we have so many other big expenses. YAY!!
Martin just told me the Game of Thrones episode that we would normally have to watch tomorrow (the one that is airing tonight in the US) was accidentally released early so I'm outta here!
FULL OF FLOWERS
It's been so beautiful here, sunny, warm and blue skies, a bit of a breeze (it is Skåne, after all), birdsong and bee buzz, and still chilly in the evenings so you know you will sleep well. It's spring in all the best senses of the word. I was going to go take photos of the dandelion hill earlier this week but I was too late and they've all blown to seed now. The rapeseed fields are glowing neon yellow and the lilacs...the lilacs are here!
Unfortunately, these are not OUR lilacs. These are the lilacs I WANTED. When we bought 6 lilac bushes from the plant nursery last year to plant behind the garage, we were assured by both the tags and the staff that they would bloom the lavender color version. But they are all the dark purple ones instead. Which I like, just not as much as the lighter purple variation. *sigh*
The columbine under the kitchen window is going gangbusters this year. It's a stray that seeded itself and I love it so I haven't bothered to pull it up even though it's getting too large to comfortably share the bed with the hostas. We'll have to move it after it's done blooming, though I'm not sure at the moment where to put it.
Martin and I went for a walk this afternoon and I admired all the flowers and blossoms that were everywhere. All the trees and bushes are decked out in flowery beauty; yellow forsythias, white spirea, purple lilacs, pink cherry trees, white hawthorn, and the big white balls of guelder roses (viburnum). Most of the tulips are still standing tall, though they are starting to be past their best-by date.
My potted pansies are still doing well, since the temperatures haven't gotten too warm yet...won't be too long though. I wonder if I'll have to repot everything before Martin's graduation party! I love their pretty little flowers faces and the rainbow of colors.
During our walk we passed a garden that had lily of the valley growing in a shady spot under a tree. I've always wanted to have lily of the valley in my garden/yard but we don't have any really good protected place for them. Maybe once the hedges get a bit higher. I love them, they're one of my favorite flowers.
Yesterday was Friday the 13th and it was the end of a very long and stressful week at work. I think it was extra tough since it followed a short week and a long weekend, but there was also a lot of stuff going on that was a bit hard to deal with: I wish people would get their shit together and check their stuff before they submit their requests. I felt like I was having to re-do things over and over and fix mistakes that were not caught before sending to me...things like being given incorrect links for newsletter articles and incorrect measurements for print ads. Basic stuff.
I woke Friday morning at 5 a.m. with another horrible headache (it's happening a bit too often these days) and after getting up and taking meds and trying to go back to sleep without success, I headed into the office where I was faced with yet another issue that should have been caught before coming to me, and I nearly lost it. I was so frustrated and angry that I nearly burst into tears and I think I horrified one of my office/teammates. I backed out of our team breakfast because I didn't want to be around anyone just then. Later, another colleague brought me a bouquet of flowers to cheer me up since she'd heard at the breakfast that I was having a bad day and I nearly burst into tears again. We went out and sat in the sunshine for lunch and I felt much better by the time the day, and the week, was over.
So, now I am full of flowers both inside and outside, and I've been super-productive all day today, in between breaks for reading and playing games. Anders is making pasta with crayfish tails and garlic sauce for dinner. We're all set to watch the Eurovision song contest final tonight; we're rooting for Belgium, which is a perfect replication of sweet-faced Seventies-style disco pop (though I like Bulgaria's song, too). None of the other Scandinavian countries made it to the final and we can't vote for Sweden, so...
And tomorrow, no plans again! Yay! I might get started on my FBARs and I need to hang the shower curtain liners I bought last week, but maybe I'll just go out again and enjoy the flowers since the weather is supposed to take a turn for the not-so-springy.
I have rubbed my eyes so much and so hard in the last week that I'm seriously starting to wonder if I could damage my eyes (yes) or have permanent bloodshottiness (probably). I just googled the dangers of rubbing your eyes and scared myself silly. Stupid allergies. I am taking medicine and liberally dousing my eyes with Visine and yet: OH GOD THE ITCHING. IT ITCHES. AAAAAAAA!!!!
It's so bad that there is literally only about an hour or so that I have mascara or make-up on before I arrive at work. By lunch it's all gone even though I refrain from rubbing my eyes at work, because AAAAAAAAA!!! It's torture. Then I spend the rest of the work day looking swollen and teary and haggard. Nice!
Martin has taken 11 of his 15 exams. He's finished 4 subjects. Martin says he wants to die a little bit less for every test he takes.
Pfft. What a baby.
It's been a gorgeous week but I've been so busy at work that I haven't been enjoying much of it (what I can see of it through my red, irritated eyeballs). Haven't made it out for a walk at lunch except once. Haven't made it out for a walk after work except once...once I came home and promptly fell asleep for 2 hours and once I worked until 5:30 and then came home and did stuff around the house until I sat down to write this post. What am I complaining about? It's only Wednesday! But geez freaking louise this week feels long.
We watched the first Eurovision semi-final last night and I actually had to mute one of the songs, it was so screechy and awful. And what if Russia wins, as they are tipped to do this year (though they're tipped to win pretty much every year)...what will the gay Eurovision fanboys do?? They can't go to Russia! They're not welcome there! Actually, I think Sweden should just host it every year. We do a great job. Apparently the competition is being shown live in the US for the first time ever and I bet after the first three songs, someone was regretting that decision. Sheesh, what a trainwreck. However, we will of course, watch the second semi-final on Thursday and the final on Saturday because YOU CAN'T NOT WATCH IT.
Especially if you have popped your eyeballs from rubbing them too hard.
I can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn
bushes have roses.Abraham Lincoln
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Findus the cat as used in my user icon and header is the creation of