Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Grinda - An Archipelago Trip With Jake's Parents

Jake's parents got back from Småland on Friday, June 13th and we hung out in Stockholm for the evening.

Janet and I went shopping and to Gamla Stan while the boys went to look at tools and work pants.  We met up for dinner at an Italian restaurant in Gamla Stan that we went to last summer when we were here visiting.

On Saturday morning we headed to downtown Stockholm to catch a ferry to Grinda.  The ferry was very full and it was a pretty cold day which meant most people stood on the sunny side of the ferry and we stayed on the side in the shade.  We had some sandwiches on the ferry before getting off at Grinda.  There are 30,000 islands in the archipelago.  Some of the bigger ones have hotels, hostels and places to camp.  Other islands are privately owned and some are uninhabited.  In the summer Swedes flock to the archipelago for weeks during the summer.  We went camping in the archipelago last year and you can read about that here if you'd like.  This time we are staying on a different island and in a hotel instead of a tent.

The Royal Palace on Gamla Stan as seen from our ferry as we were leaving the city.

Gröna Lund - an amusement park

Windy and cold on this side of the boat.

We stopped to have some fruit before heading to our rooms.

We finally found a warm spot in the sun with minimal wind.
While we were on this dock soaking up the sun we saw a guy in a dingy, a small boat, pull up to the dock.  The closer he got the more it looked like he was naked.  Once he stood up we noticed that he wasn't naked but he wasn't wearing much.  He was wearing a lime green mankini, feel free to google that but maybe not if you are at work :).  If you don't want to google it just picture a thong that goes around your neck instead of your waist.  As he ran past he said "Förlåt" which is sorry in Swedish and we were all in shock.  I've definitely seen shorter swim trunks on guys but this brought it to a whole new level.

We had fika and walked around the island on a trail after checking into our rooms.

This helicopter landed while we were having fika.  I guess that is one way to get to the island.

Soaking up some sun or catching up on sleep?

Hanging out at dinner

We had a great view at dinner and our table had the most sun which was great because it was a little bit chilly.
Here are some of the names we have on Coke bottles over here.
We woke up the next morning and had breakfast at the same table as dinner the night before.  A typical Swedish breakfast includes bread, butter, sliced meat and cheese, cucumbers and sometimes other veggies.  They usually also have yogurt, nuts, granola, muesli, cereal and fruit.
We went on another hike on the other side of the island.

Hanging out on the beach waiting for the ferry.

Some of the houses in the archipelago

We stopped for fika before heading back to our apartment.
We had popcorn, cheese and raisins that night for dinner like we do every Sunday night.  Jake did that while growing up and his parents still do it so it was fun to have a typical Sunday dinner with them before they flew back home.  They flew home on Monday, June 16th.  We had a great time with them and were so thankful to spend so much time with them while they were here.

Read about our first weekend in Stockholm with Jake's parents here and our trip to Uppsala and Carl Larsson's house here.

*When I started blogging I just put up single pictures then I found a way to make collages.  Just wondering what you guys prefer while reading the blog.  Bigger single pictures that make the blog post longer or collages? If you wouldn't mind leaving a comment to let me know if you have a preference that would be great.  Just kind of curious.

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.
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