Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Struggles

Summer used to be my favorite season and it is still a very close second.   When I was growing up I loved going to the pool and watching movies with friends.  I liked being able to hang out with friends and go on vacations.  A few years ago I realized that my favorite season now is probably fall.  I love the colors and the cooler temps.  I love watching football and going to games and the excitement of a new school year.

I was wondering how I would feel about each of the seasons we would experience in Stockholm so here is a brief rundown since we've officially been here for all four seasons.

I really enjoyed fall.  It was exciting since we had just moved and we were experiencing so many new things.  I didn't have time to be sad about missing friends and family because we had so much to do.  The weather was great.  It was cool but apparently a pretty mild fall for Stockholm which was great.

Winter in Stockholm this year was one of the mildest ones in the last 50 years.  It snowed just a few times but it wasn't anything like I thought it would be.  Olathe seemed to get more snow than Stockholm and they had the whole "Polar Vortex" thing this year as well so our winter here was mild even compared to back home.  The hardest part about winter was the darkness.  When the sun rises at 8:45 am and sets at 2:30 pm it makes for a long, dark day.  It is dark when you get to work and dark on your way home.  It was nice to come home and light some candles and snuggle up on the couch without feeling like you were missing something because everyone stays inside in the winter.

Spring meant SUNSHINE!  I remember when it was still light out at 4:00 pm and how that was such a big deal.  Spring was great because it meant we could start traveling again since the weather was nicer.  The trees around our apartment greened up and are full of life again.  I love looking out our windows and feeling like we live in a tree house.
Spring also meant lots of walks down by the water.

Summer was much anticipated.  We were in Stockholm for 10 days last June but by the time we moved here at the end of August summer was pretty much over.  We were excited to finally enjoy the warm weather and long days full of sunshine.  School didn't get out for me until June 13th so summer started about 3 weeks later than it would have in Olathe but since everyone was still going to school it didn't seem that strange.  Summer also meant visitors.  Jake's parents were here for about two and a half week which was a lot of fun.

Summer has also brought some unexpected struggles.  I miss 95 degree days lying on a raft in the pool talking for hours with a friend.  I miss my daily summer routine of sleeping in, working out, having lunch with Jake at home (since he biked home for lunch every day), and then usually hanging out at the pool in the afternoon with a friend or working in my classroom.  I miss my classroom.  I miss going up there in the summer to do all the things I wanted to do during the school year that I didn't have time to work on.  I miss collaborating with colleagues and coming up with new things for the next school year.

I have a feeling this fall might be tough since I'm not going back into the classroom.  I'm still hoping to sub this year as much as I can but I won't be in a full time teaching position.  I did interview for a few full-time positions in math and English for this next school year but I decided to turn down the jobs.  I know, or at least think I know, that we will just be here for a short time and I don't want to be tied down to a full-time job when we want to continue to travel.

One of the things that sticks out the most for me this summer is that I miss teaching.  I miss the kids and my colleagues.  When you work so closely with people day in and day out and they see you on top of your game and at rock bottom it is hard to not see them still every day.  I miss showing up everyday doing something that I loved.  Teaching was my hobby and I just happened to get paid to do it :).  It wasn't just a job or just work for me.  I loved having tough kids and low kids and figuring out how to get them to succeed.  Every year I had tough kids and every year I told Jake I wasn't sure I was going to be able to connect with them and make a difference with that kid.  They were different than all the others and it was going to be too hard.  And yet at the end of that year that tough kid was the one who gave me the biggest lump in my throat when I said goodbye.  I miss plan time laughing about funny things kids say and I miss having friends come to my room at the end of the day telling me they were "done with this day" as they plopped themselves on my couch just waiting for 4:00 so they could leave.  But by the time 4:00 showed up more people joined in and we were all laughing and lost track of time and pretty soon it was 5:00 and then we'd all head home.  One of the only things I really don't miss about teaching are the staff meetings :).  Maybe I was spoiled by my first principal but his philosophy was "why would I have a staff meeting if I could put it in an email?"  Amen. I know I'll be back in the classroom again and it will feel like I never left but I miss it so much.

We have been looking forward to the summer weather and so far it has been pretty good.  June was pretty rainy and cold, mid 50s for a couple of weeks, which made it not feel like summer.  July has warmed up to 65-75 degrees and mostly sunny.  We still have lots of sunlight but it is hard being here in the summer.  I don't have a friend to go to the pool with or a classroom to go work in or work friends to hang out with while we plan the next school year.  I miss my friends and family back home.

Being here in the summer just reminds me how alone I am.  I don't have subbing or volunteering to fill my days and Jake is at work.  I'm not very good at going out and doing things by myself so I feel pretty trapped in the apartment.  Skyping and phone calls with friends and family are definitely highlights but it is still hard.  I am not a very outgoing person but I also can only handle hanging out by myself for so long before I start getting stuck in a rut.

I realize that we are in the middle of a once in a lifetime opportunity living here and traveling all around but it is hard not wanting to trade it in to be at home sometimes.  If anything I've learned this year that life is the most fun when you can share it with people.  Jake and I have definitely grown closer this year and we will always look back on this time with great memories but I hope that when we move back home I remember how much I longed to hang out with friends and family.  I don't want to be so used to being alone that I "forget" to hang out with friends and family.

If anyone wants to Skype or catch up with a phone call I would love to hang out with you!  Hope everyone is having a great summer and I hope all my teacher friends are having fun setting up their classrooms and getting some sleep in between the back to school nightmares :).  (I had a back to school dream and it was awesome to "be back" until I woke up and remembered it was just a dream.)

I should hopefully finish the last post from when Jake's parents were here and then I can finally get around to posting about our trip to Germany and France but I wanted to make sure I remembered how I felt about each season even if it isn't always easy.  Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Uppsala and Carl Larsson's Home with Janet and Ken

Jake's parents got back from Hamburg, Germany in the evening of Thursday, June 5th.  We had dinner at a restaurant by our apartment we've wanted to try.  It was really good.

By this point I was trying my best to get Ken to smile in as many pictures as possible :).  You could say I like a challenge.  I can't remember what I said but it worked :).

Janet and Ken stayed at the guest apartment in our apartment building their first few days but it was booked Thursday and Friday night so they stayed at the Scandic Alvik.  Scandic is a hotel chain that is pretty nice and the hotel is close to our apartment which is great.

Friday, June 6th was National Day in Sweden which meant Jake had the day off as well as everyone else.  We headed downtown to walk around Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen which are two little islands off of the downtown area.
We headed to Gamla Stan to grab some lunch at a cafe and we saw a marching band during lunch and by the palace.

We walked through a large park on Kungsholmen that was full of people and tents with people selling things.  We stopped and had some fika while watching people celebrate National Day.
The beach that Janet is standing on is one that we've been to several times when the weather is nice and we walked by it a few times when there was snow on the ground.  It was really crowded on this day!

For dinner we headed to Kungsträdgården to try Taste of Stockholm which is a food festival they have showcasing local restaurants.  It reminded me of Riverfest except with better dressed people :).

The next day we took a train to Uppsala which was a little stressful because there was a train strike going on but we made it which was the most important thing.  Uppsala is about an hour and 20 minutes north of Stockholm.  We've wanted to visit Uppsala for a while because we heard it was a fun university city to visit but we hadn't made it there yet but Jake's parents were also interested in going there so it worked out to go there together.

The Uppsala Cathedral was a short walk from our hotel and it was beautiful.  We couldn't stop taking pictures of it whenever we walked by it.
We walked around Uppsala on Saturday just exploring the city.  We found a restaurant for lunch right on the water and the food was really good.

After lunch we walked to the Uppsala Castle and walked around the castle and gardens.  We saw several brides and wedding parties taking pictures on the grounds.

After walking around the castle grounds we headed to The Linnaeus Garden.

After visiting the garden we walked around looking for a place for dinner.  A few of the restaurants were closed since it was National Day the day before and they consider it a holiday weekend but we found an Italian restaurant with a great patio that we enjoyed.

On Sunday we went to church at the Cathedral which was interesting since it was in Swedish :).  The Cathedral was beautiful on the inside.  There was an area to the side of the main aisle where the kids played during church.  It was interesting to me because even though it was sectioned off for kids it was still very much in the middle of everything.  Kids were jumping on cushions and playing with toys.  There were parents there watching kids but it seemed for the most part kids were able to do whatever they wanted.  I thought it was pretty distracting but I also didn't understand any of the service so that probably didn't help.  It was neat to experience and I was glad we were able to go.

We had lunch and then headed to Gamla Uppsala.
We went back to the same restaurant we had for lunch on Saturday for dinner on Sunday.  It had the best view on the river and the food was really good.  They also had a hamburger that looked really good that I wanted to try.  Janet took my picture of me eating the hamburger since I was using my fork and knife. In Sweden you are supposed to eat everything with a fork and a knife except for bread that goes along with dinner.  Pizza, hamburgers, french fries and any other typical finger food is handled with a knife and a fork.  It has taken some getting used to but we are starting to get the hang of it.
Uppsala Cathedral at night

We tried to get a good group picture but the outtakes were really funny so I included those too :).

On Monday we drove to the Dalarna area to see Carl Larsson's house in Sundborn.  Our first stop was to see a bright red horse.

Then we headed to Carl Larsson's house.  Jake's mom has several of his paintings in her house and it was neat to see what inspired them.  We weren't able to take pictures inside the house but the land that the house was on was beautiful!  The tour was in Swedish but our tour guide told us a few things in English and there was a booklet we could read about each room on the tour.

After staying in Uppsala Saturday and Sunday night Jake and I headed back to Stockholm on Monday while Jake's parents stayed one more night in Uppsala before heading to Småland to visit some churches and farmsteads of Janet's great grandparents.  They were there for about four days before coming back to Stockholm.

If you missed our first few days in Stockholm with Jake's parents click here to read about that.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stockholm with Jake's Parents

Our first official visitors, Jake's parents, were here for about two and a half weeks from the end of May to the middle of June.  They were with us for a few days and then they were off on their own for a few days before coming back to hang out with us again.  We had a great time showing them around Stockholm and going to a few new places in Sweden together.

Jake's parents flew in on Friday, May 30th.  We hung out that morning for a little while in our apartment and had some lunch before Jake headed to the Vasa Museum with his parents.  The Vasa Museum was the first museum we went to last year when we were here for 10 days in June.  The Vasa Museum is about the warship Vasa which sank on her maiden voyage and then sat on the bottom of the Stockholm harbor for 333 years before it was recovered.  It is neat to see how big the ship is and how intact it was after all that time in the water.

I met up with Jake and his parents after the museum for some dinner in Gamla Stan.
Janet and I had Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and lingonberries which is a very traditional meal here.  The boys tried a few types of pickled herring for an appetizer.  We also walked by St. Jacobs kyrka (St Jacob's Church) so we stopped to take a picture.

The next morning we visited City Hall which is on the edge of Kungsholmen.  First we did a tour of the main part of City Hall and then we finished by going up in the tower of City Hall.  Janet's parents visited Stockholm two or three times and there is a picture of her parents at the top of the City Hall tower so we wanted to try to take a similar picture but unfortunately they've added bars to the top so the view isn't a pretty as it was 20 years ago.
Found a picture of Ken smiling!
We grabbed lunch and then headed to Drottningholm Palace which is where the royal family lives.
We took a bus to the palace and then a ferry back to City Hall.  The lilacs were in bloom and so pretty around Stockholm and the palace so we made sure to get a few pictures of them.

After seeing the palace we headed to Södermalm for dinner at Hermans.  We tried to book a table but they weren't taking any more reservations but they had a drop in room we could try to see if a table was available.  We ended up finding a table inside which was great.  Hermans was a restaurant Janet found in a travel book.  It is a vegetarian restaurant and it was really good plus the view was awesome.

After dinner we went on a walk around our apartment by the water.  We've been trying to go on walks after dinner each night and we wanted to show Jake's parents where we usually go.

Janet and Ken enjoyed trying out the fun places to relax by the water.  On the way home we stopped by a park and played a little.  If anyone with kids wants to visit us there are lots of fun parks by our apartment!

The next morning we went to Gamla Stan and toured the Storkyrka (Big Church) in Gamla Stan.

Our next stop was Skansen which is an open air museum, similar to a bigger version of Cow Town for you Wichita readers, that has different farmsteads and other building from different parts of Sweden.
We had some fika bread and then we walked around.  We watched a glass blower and looked at some old farmsteads.  We had lunch on a blanket in the grass and took a quick nap before some ducks woke us up :).

Squirrel Park. My favorite part of Skansen :).

Jake's parents headed to Hamburg, Germany the next day for four days before coming back to Stockholm.  We had a great first three days showing them around Stockholm.

Our next few days with Jake's parents included National Day and a trip to Uppsala and Carl Larsson's house in Sundborn.  Click here to read about that trip.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ireland: Questions and Answers

Where did we go?
Dublin, Glendalough, Kilkenny, Killarney, and Dingle, Ireland

How long were we there?
4 Days. Friday, May 9th through Monday, May 12th 2014

What language do they speak?
English with an awesome accent.

What currency do they use?

Were things expensive?
Food was about average I would say if not a little less expensive and lodging was reasonable.  We spent about $120 a night on lodging.  We did have to pay for gas which we haven't done in a while so that was different but it was a pretty reasonable place to visit as far as spending money goes.

Would we be able to live there for a year?
Jake would say yes in a heartbeat.  The driving on the wrong side of the road stressed me out and since we didn't use public transportation I would be a little hesitant saying yes until I figured out how we would get around.  But if I could get past the transportation I think the answer would be yes.  The country is beautiful and the food was good.  Everyone speaks English and the are SO friendly!  Plus then we would be closer to central Europe which would be great for traveling.

What was most memorable thing about the trip?
The people.  They were so friendly and helpful even without us asking.  They just recognized that we might need help and offered it.  I would also say driving was very memorable.  Jake and I had to come up with a system of giving each other directions because we were so out of whack driving the car we couldn't just say "turn left at the next street."  We would say things like "the street is going to curve left and then you are going to turn right but remember to stay on the left."  We were constantly reminding each other to stay in the left lane.  Things like roundabouts, ramps and merging are so stressful when you are on the wrong side of the road.  Jake made a rule as soon as we got in the car, "no yelling."  The driver will be stressed driving and the passenger will be stressed trying to navigate.  We are both going to mess up so there is a no yelling rule and we are going to be helpful.  It mostly worked :).  I think it was broken once and it was probably me :).

What was the food like?
The food was good.  I really liked it but I think Jake thought it was a little bland.

Least favorite food?
I don't think I had anything I didn't like.  There were lots of potatoes served and I think that would get old but other than that the food was good.

Favorite food?
Irish Cottage Pie. Oh. My. Goodness.  It is comfort in a bowl.  I need to learn how to make it.  It is basically beef stew with mashed potatoes baked on top.

Would we want to go back?
Before we left Jake already wanted to go back.  We didn't make it to Northern Ireland at all and I know Jake would like to do that so I have a feeling we will be back.

What w
as I most surprised by?
I was most surprised by the friendly people.  I'm not sure that would surprise me as much if we weren't living in Stockholm where people just don't talk to others.  I don't want people to get the wrong impression people in Stockholm can be friendly they just don't talk to strangers but if you ask them for help they will help you.  We just both really appreciated the fact that without asking for help we got friendly help by several people in Ireland.  Oh, and walking into a private residence thinking that was our Bed and Breakfast, that surprised us a lot :).

Did we do anything we thought we wouldn't do?
Not really.  We pretty much followed the plan of the trip.  We did do more driving/traveling during the day than we ever have and we weren't sure how that would go.  It was mostly fine.  The only day I regret was the scenic drive when we had bad weather.  It turned into a lot of time in the car and not much to look at.  I thought we would hear more Irish music in pubs but we heard lots of top 40 songs and some instrumental music.

What did I learn about myself on this trip?
I learned how to change the way I communicate with Jake to make a situation less stressful.  I also learned that sometimes you don't need to follow the itinerary if it doesn't make sense based on that day or the weather.

Click on the links if you want to read about our first two days in Ireland and our last two days.  Hope you enjoyed learning a little about Ireland!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ireland: Days 3 & 4 - Ring of Kerry, Dingle, Cahir Castle, Rock of Cashel, and Dublin

We woke up on Saturday morning and had breakfast at the Woodlawn House before heading out for the day.  It was our first breakfast at a Bed and Breakfast and it was great.  They had cereal, fruit, yogurt and really good homemade bread that was STILL warm!  Oh my goodness it was good.  During breakfast we were able to order hot breakfast if we wanted but we chose to just have cold breakfast.

Our main goal for the day was to see the Ring of Kerry.  The Ring of Kerry is a 110 mile tourist loop around southwestern Ireland.  It has several sightseeing spots and other things you can stop and look at along the way.  Several tour buses take groups around the loop but the roads are so narrow all of the buses have to go in the same direction because two buses wouldn't be able to pass each other if they were going opposite directions.  The owner of our bed and breakfast recommended that we go the opposite direction of the tour buses so we don't get stuck behind one.  Jake had already read that we should go clockwise so it was good to know we made the right decision.  The only problem was that then we had to pass buses.  The "speed limit" on the road was 100 km/hr which is about 62 mph but we averaged about 30 mph because the roads were so narrow and very curvy.  There wasn't a shoulder on the road and sometimes the line marking the edge of the road disappeared under trees and rocks that were along the side of the road.  The blind curves were an interesting addition to the drive along with several parts of the road that were so narrow that only one car could pass at a time.  Like I said in the first Ireland post I was thankful we paid for the extra insurance on rental car.
Once the video starts around 6 seconds in you'll see two road signs on the left showing you a curvy road and that the road narrows.  About 2 seconds later you'll see a small round sign on the left giving you the speed limit . . . 100 km/hr or about 60 mph.  And Jake might have hit a small branch towards the end of the video :).

Our first stop of the day was the Ross Castle.  We just walked around the outside instead of doing a whole tour.  The castle was on a lake which would have been really pretty but it was SO windy and it was raining so we didn't stay around the castle for long.
It was so windy and rainy when we stopped to see the Ross Castle.  I tried to take a picture of the umbrellas breaking in the wind and Jake's awesome hairdo thanks to the weather.  I was very thankful I brought my long black raincoat for this trip.

The second stop was the Torc Waterfall.  We hiked up a small mountain for about 15 or 20 minutes and saw some great views which would have been better had it been a clear day but even on a cloudy day the waterfall was really pretty.

The Ladies View was our next stop which gave us a great view of Ireland.

We drove the first half of the ring before stopping for lunch in Waterville.  We took a few pictures but it was SO windy and cold that I didn't want to be out in it much which made the scenic drive not as fun as it could have been.  We heard on the radio that storms were coming and that there were gale force winds.  We didn't see much on the second half of the scenic drive around the Ring of Kerry.  We stopped at Inch Strand (beach) and saw a wind surfer but we didn't stay long.  We had such great weather the first two days in Ireland and we were really bummed that the day we could have had great views the weather was so bad but we learned a valuable traveling lesson.  Travel tip #127 if you have a scenic drive schedule on a day with a horrible weather forecast change your plans.  The trip isn't worth it if you can't see much and the weather is bad enough that you don't want to get out of the car.
Here are a few pictures from our scenic drive.  The tree trimmer was a little bulky and I was thankful we passed it on a straight part of the road but the trees and bushes are so close to the road it is definitely necessary to make sure they are trimmed.  Jake also took a picture of me in the car since I didn't want to get out at every scenic pull off that he did :).

After we finished the cold and windy scenic drive we made it to Dingle and found the Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast.  It even had a sign so we knew it was the right place :).  We hung out for a little while before walking into town for dinner.  We had dinner at The Chart House.  It was pretty good but a little fancier than we were expecting.  We rushed through dinner a little bit because I wanted to get some ice cream at Murphy's which we saw in Killarney but we weren't able to try it there because it was already closed.  We made it to Murphy's before they closed and grabbed some ice cream.  While we were there Jake recognized a couple that also happened to be on the Trinity College campus tour our first day in Dublin 3 days ago.  I asked them if they were on the tour and we started chatting.  They seemed really nice but it was strange being so far away from Dublin and running into them again.

Our next stop was to find some good Irish music at a pub.  Most of the music didn't start until 9:30 pm and it was only 8:00 pm so we walked around and looked at the closed stores on the street to kill time.  We did walk through a grocery store just because I find that interesting now that we live in a different country.  The grocery store in Dingle, Ireland looked more like what I'm used to in the US than the ones in Sweden, although they are pretty similar as well.

While we were walking around Dingle we realized that for most of this trip we weren't getting to the city we were spending the night in until around dinner time which meant most of the shops were already closed.  Then we would leave the next morning before some of them would open which didn't really allow us much time to explore that city.  So we made a mental note that next time we go on a trip we should try to plan to get to our destination city for that day in the mid afternoon so we can walk around the shops, grab ice cream and take in the city before it starts to close down for the night.

We asked a few people where they recommended we go for music and they gave us a few ideas but they mostly said that we could just walk by some pubs and we should be able to hear the music and to go into the one that sounded good to us.  And that is what we did.  We went to two different pubs.  The first one had two guys playing guitar and accordion while they sang.  The second pub was pretty crowded but there someone played a guitar and someone else played what looked like a bagpipe but he used both of his arms to pump up the bag and press out the air.  

On our last full day in Ireland we drove from Dingle to Dublin which should take about four hours but we had a few places we wanted to stop and see on our way.  Before we headed to Dublin we backtracked a few kilometers to see Inch Strand (beach) again since the weather was so bad yesterday when we drove by it.  There were several pull offs along the side of the road which we stopped at just to take in the view.  It was pretty and it reminded me of our trip to California last summer when we drove along the coast on Highway 1.  

I drove from Dingle to Cahir so that Jake could take in the scenery since he drove all day the day before.  We had lunch in Cahir before touring the castle.  One thing we did on this trip that was really helpful was we added the top 2 or 3 restaurants for each city we were driving through that day so if we stopped there to eat we would have a few suggestions.  It turns out I get really indecisive when I'm hungry which isn't a good combination.  We had the Lazy Bean Cafe written down for a lunch idea and it was really good.  We both had sandwiches and I had a mocha to go which was perfect on a cool afternoon walk around the castle. 

We arrived at the Cahir Castle right at the beginning of a tour so we went along on that for about 45 minutes.  Then we were able to explore the castle on our own.  It was a neat castle.

After the castle we headed to the Rock of Cashel which was only about 20 minutes away.  My uncle recommended we see this and it was really neat.  The weather was getting quite windy and a little bit cold but it was sunny so we didn't really have much to complain about.  We were able to join another tour group to hear about the Rock of Cashel and then we walked around on our own.  We also visited Hore Abbey which was at the bottom of the hill.  To get to the Abbey we walked through the grass on the hill of the Rock of Cashel and we walked by some sheep.

We walked around the remains of the Abbey before heading back to our car.
We finished driving to Dublin after stopping in Cashel.  We stayed at the George Fredric Handel Hotel in Dublin on our last night.  The hotel was really close to lots of pubs but they didn't have parking at the hotel.  We had to park at a church which was about a 5 minute walk up a hill but thankfully once we parked our car we didn't need it again until the next morning.

We had dinner at the Old Storehouse which got great reviews.  There were two guys playing guitar and singing right in front of us which was fun.

I wanted dessert and they didn't have anything that looked good so we left around 9:45 to find something sweet to eat.  On our way out we noticed we weren't actually at the Old Storehouse, we were at O'Flaherty's which was connected to the Old Storehouse but wasn't the exact same place :).  We asked a guy who was closing up at Starbucks if he knew of a place with good desserts.  He suggested we try the VCC which was an unmarked building up the street with VCC written on the door.  We were supposed to knock and they would let us in.  You could say I was hesitant but we did it and we lived to tell about it :).  I had a brownie with ice cream and Jake had a drink.  VCC stands for Vintage Cocktail Club.

We headed to the airport the next morning and arrived in Stockholm around 4:30 in the afternoon.  One thing we tried on this trip that we hadn't done before was that we used packing cubes.  You just divide your stuff into different cubes and then put those in your luggage.  They worked really well since we moved each day to a new place.  We didn't have to think much about packing our bags we just loaded up the cubes and put them in the bags and we were ready to go.

 We had a great time in Ireland and Jake is already talking about going back.  If you want to read about our first two days in Ireland they are here and to read about Ireland questions and answer click here.