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Sweden: Day 3

Today I walked around Gothenburg, shopping and people-watching – it entertains me to no end. I even went to the bead store. Steve’s company invited the wives to join them for dinner after work (finding the restaurant named “?” is a story for another time), so I finally got to meet The Swedes. They are a jovial, funny bunch and I had a great time. Of course my camera batteries were charging during dinner, so I didn’t get pictures of them to share with you. Dinner was not the traditional Thursday night pea soup & pancakes, rather a three-course mix of nationalities and all very delicious. In general I think they eat quite well here.  Sorry for the blue picture; my camera was on a goofy setting.

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Sweden: Day 2

Trying to fight The Lag, we stayed up as late as we could last night but still managed to wake up completely rested at 3am. Another sleeping pill (I’m not addicted – I’m not!) let me sleep until the breakfast buffet was almost closed this morning – glorious. Just so you know what you’re missing in Sweden, at any given meal there will be some sort of pickled herring. Fortunately there are also items on the breakfast smörgåsbord like soft-boiled eggs, muesli, a selection of cheeses, crispbread, and marmalades.

Steve went to the office after breakfast and I sat in the park and read the rest of Marian Keyes’ Watermelon. I mean Moby Dick. Gothenburg has a series of green spaces which makes it feel friendly and beautiful. It was designed by Dutch architects, so it also has a series of canals that liken it to Copenhagen and Amsterdam. While watching people walk by I noticed the wonderful absence of Crocs, or even sneakers. Women tend to wear ballerina flats and the guys wear leather shoes (often the gorgeous, handstitched variety I thought was only characteristic of Italian shoes).

Another thing I have noticed is the borad use of high-contrast graphics of stylized vines (!), birds (!), and butterflies in advertising and fabrics. Here’s a sample from the Copenhagen airport. Another was the cobalt & white bird/flower print that Lagerhaus is applying to everything from bedsheets to paper napkins. I’ve seen this in the US (esp. Marshalls) and on Etsy so I imagine that a year from now I’m going to hate it.

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Sweden: Day 1

Steve works for a Swedish company and they’re having a mid-year meeting in Gothenburg this week. As a tremendous procrastination tactic, I decided to come along. Don’t ask me how my house & jewelry projects are coming along, because I have been very busy lately getting in touch with my inner redneck and traveling the world!

Our flight was at night, so I figured I’d take a couple sleeping pills before boarding at Dulles. Except I took them too early and it was all I could do to stay awake by the time we got settled in the LAST ROW of seats. Note: on an Airbus 300-whatever the galley is directly behind the last row of seats, which translates to endless clanking and chatter for those in Row 46. So after being woken an hour into the flight, I ate dinner and spent the remainder of the nght trying to doze off again, switching from side to side, and actually wishing I had a treadmill to get my wiggles out. After a while I gave up and watched an Oscar-nominated Danish film and Miss Potter on the personal video screen. (As a side note, my high school friend Jason couldn’t make our reunion this spring because his boss “Renee” was in town. I didn’t know what he did for work but figured she was just a demanding boss in NYC, expecting him to work on the weekends and all. Come to find out Jason is one of Renee Zellweger’s personal assistants, so he’s working whenever she’s in New York).

We got to Copenhagen this morning and received stamps in our passports (Steve is winning by 3). The thing that stuck out the most of our stop in Denmark is they allow smoking in public. And a lot of people smoke. While Virginia may have an uphill battle with a smoking ban (read: tobacco is the number one cash crop and Philip Morris employs more than 6,000 people), it’s not like everyone is smoking wherever you go. Like in Copenhagen.

Our flight to Gothenberg (Göteborg) was short and sweet, our taxi was a new Volvo, and the hotel is much the same as the one we stayed in last time: Pergo floors, minimalist design, neutral with a punch of color, rooms the size & efficiency of those on cruise ships. We crashed for a couple hours as soon as we got in, then walked around downtown and ate ice cream. The 2007 graduating class was parading around (woo-HOO!) in various vehicles and it was a warm day as people were walking home from work, so people-watching was plenty of entertainment. Dinner was at the hotel and I am always impressed with the attentiveness of the waitstaff here. Waiters earn a formidable salary even before tips here, so I’m sure that contributes to their pride and work ethic. Yes, that’s Steve’s first taste of caviar with his shrimp.

Since this blog is my way of scrapbooking, I apologize if I bore you with little details but it’s my way of documenting the memorable and funny things in my life as well as letting people know what’s new with me so I don’t actually have to send personal emails (kidding!). I try to leave out the stuff my mother doesn’t think should be shared publicly, like the chick lit addiction I am currently indulging instead of reading Faulkner or Joyce.
Back to the hotel room… A notable difference with Swedish hotels is their bedding. Each side of the bed gets a personal-sized comforter which is folded in place under the blanket when the room is made up. There is no stealing of the covers in Sweden. (Actually I asked some of Steve’s coworkers if they have the same setup at home; some do and some don’t). The Scandic hotel chain uses very little plastic; wood veneer room keys (swipe cards), wooden pen barrels, and they don’t give out little shampoo bottles, rather they have a shampoo/body wash dispenser in the shower so there is no waste. The room trash is divided into organic, paper, and other waste. You have to insert a key into a slot by the door to turn on any lights, which is a great energy saver when the guests are not in the rooms because the lights turn off when the key is removed.
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Dining Room

Here is the dining room the way it was when we first saw the house. It’s not that big of a room and all the strong color was a lot to take, so we kept the faux finish on the upper wall and the gilded ceiling (for now) and neutralized the rest. I think the new chandelier (found on CraigsList) is an improvement but too small, so I have my eye on this one. More branches! (Steve, be glad it doesn’t have birds on it like this one). Or, I may revisit my original plan of spray-painting the brass one for an iron look. Other items in the room are the dining table I bought unfinished, the vintage white cabinet I trimmed out to match our kitchen cabinets in Delaware, china cabinet from an antique store in Tipton, PA, and rug from HomeGoods. I’m trying to figure out which pictures to put where and right now I’m leaning toward framing a set of Anne Hussey originals (paintings or B&W photos) to flank the china cabinet. I was trying to figure out if PB’s Megan slipcovers will fit on my Ikea Hendriksdal chairs when I come across the IkeaHacker blog – a nifty resource for how to modify Ikea products for other uses (repurposing). After looking through their projects, I may try dyeing the current slipcovers.

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Living Room

Our house is coming together so I thought I’d show you some before & after pictures. The first is of our living room before we bought the house, then the way it currently looks. The walls are now cafe au lait instead of Band-Aid, the club chairs & coffee table are from CraigsList, wooden chair from an Englishwoman’s yard sale, rug is from HomeGoods, and our Ektorp sofa from Ikea will be replaced soon. (The 2-ton sectional sleeper sofa in the basement that conveyed with our house has been recently extracted, so we’ll be moving our current sofa & loveseat downstairs for TV watching). I recently came across Bemz, which offers Ikea slipcovers in alternative fabrics, but I don’t think new slipcovers would make this set look any less slouchy. I have sagey-olive silk to make valances. Notice the birch “tree” in the back left corner, courtesy of Cheryl’s neighbors who had put the broken-off branch out for the trash. (Have I mentioned my bird-tree-leaf-berry-acorn fetish?) You may also notice the lovely ceiling fan which we have used exactly never and sorely need on the adjacent screen porch where it will be moved. Dad recently helped us replace our dining room chandelier, so now that we know how to change them out, the rest of the brass light fixtures’ days are numbered. Fortunately, there’s a Habitat For Humanity store locally that can use stuff like that.

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I like Mike’s

I had picked out a table and chairs for our breakfast room and planned a trip with my mom to Ikea (it’s all about the lingonberries). But, in browsing on Craigslist over the weekend I found the exact set I wanted for half off. The only catch was they were located in Arlington, about 90 minutes away barring any traffic situations.

I was reading Kerry Bogert’s blog earlier about her trip to visit jewelry buddies in Northern Virginia (Hey, Cindy!) and their awesome meal at Mike’s. So, Steve and I (and Phoebe) took a road trip to pick up the table & chairs, and I sweetened the deal by taking him to Mike’s afterward. Incredible lump crabcakes and fall-off-the-bone ribs, definitely in our top 10 favorite restaurants.

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Special orders

Part of the challenge of what I do is making custom pieces. I try to fill the customer’s wishes while keeping it my own style. This one was somewhat of a departure for me, working all in copper and trying to match a particular pair of earrings. Surprises are tough because then I don’t get to ask the recipient what she would like. This one was tough to get excited about, but now that it’s finished I love it, especially the (gently domed) Swedish pennies.

Other special orders are right down my alley. For this piece my customer saw my wire link and lampwork bracelets and asked if I could do a necklace in the same style, but all in silver so she could wear it with anything. Why hadn’t I ever thought of that?! I couldn’t make this one fast enough; couldn’t wait to see the finished product.

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They’re back

Something I noticed in Sweden was that lots of gals were wearing tapered pants and leggings like those that were popular in the ’80s. “Ha! That will never make it in the States again,” I thought. Then I saw this page in a fall fashion preview. I am not excited about this at all because it’s just not flattering. Another section talked about the return of the vest. Pretty soon we’ll be wearing baggy sweaters over them. Or maybe they just won’t catch on, kinda like Old Navy’s Bermuda shorts last spring (despite the catchy song).

I’m not the only one who feels this way. From Heather’s (Dooce‘s) review of the VMAs:
There is only one significant thing that I took away from the show, and that is how profoundly scared I am of the dramatic and tragic turn fashion has suddenly taken. From Kanye West’s white tapered pants to Paris Hilton’s black Grandpa ankle boots, fashion is trying to pull the 80’s out of its very deep grave. I’d recently been to a local clothing store and noticed the skinny pants and leggings and cropped fishnet sweaters, and I had chosen not to believe that it was happening. But you can’t ignore it when it is trotted out on a New York stage and flaunted as if it were perfectly okay (it isn’t! it isn’t okay!). What’s so sad is that MTV couldn’t instead bring back the spark and relevance that it had during that decade, that period of my life when I couldn’t change the channel because I always wanted to see the next video. Now I’d much rather watch re-runs of Quincy while massaging my bunions.

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You probably remember the scene in Rocky where he runs up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art while training for the big fight. When I went to there last year it was hard not to hum the theme and pump my fists in the air as I reached the top of the steps. This movie has changed the museum forever. My Swedish seatmate on the train on Tuesday was unmoved with the sight of Boathouse Row or One Liberty Place, but excitedly pointed out the museum and sheepishly said “Rocky.” Being a landmark of pop culture, it’s no wonder there was such public debate when the museum turned down Stallone’s gift of the comemorative bronze statue from Rocky III. The commission said it was more of a movie prop than art, and it went against the commission’s desire to “raise the standards of the city.” So the statue was placed in front of the Spectrum sports arena.

The art commission recently voted 6-2 in favor of returning what is now a cultural icon that has stood the test of time, so with all the pomp of moving Ramses or the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, the statue is being returned to the museum (but on street level). The Italian Stallion himself is expected to make an appearance at the dedication ceremony. Rocky fans, rejoice.

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Home again

I’m back from Sweden and my body doesn’t have a clue what time or day it is. Plus, I developed a cold while I was away so if you don’t hear from me for a while, I’m in bed.

One cool part of my trip home was having a personal video screen on the SAS flight from Stockholm. Plus the seat next to me was empty, so on one screen I put the closed-circuit camera view out the bottom of the plane, and on the other was the view out the front. It is SO neat to watch the plane take off and land from that perspective. The pilots got a round of applause, so I’m thinking the other passengers thought so, too.