Yes, 2017 has been a year of big birthdays for us with my Dad turning 60 and Ben turning 30 earlier this year and now, here I was this weekend, celebrating the big 3-0.
Ben and I decided that we would celebrate our birthdays here in Sweden this year, doing things that we otherwise wouldn’t do. For his birthday back in July, we spent a night in a Silver Mine – in the world’s deepest suite in fact. And until a few weeks ago we were unsure of what we would do to mark the occasion of my 3oth when, on a recent trip to the open-air museum Skansen, when my brother and sister-in-law visited, we learned that they offered glass-blowing workshops.
I have a big crafty creative side and glass blowing is something I have wanted to do for a long time – so I booked the day off work, and was excited to try this new technique…
We planned to make an ornament and a glass each. First of all, we made the ornaments…
Then came the glass making time…
Needless to say, I now have an even bigger respect for skilled glassblowers – the blowing part was was a lot harder than it looked… the pros made it look effortless (we did not!)…
…but we were pleased with our makes…
and I continue to be in awe at the beauty that glass can create in the right hands…
The weekend was full of celebration including a wonderful afternoon tea with my in-laws at Ulriksdal Garden Centre (we were enjoying it so much that we forgot to take pictures). And I am so thankful for the well wishes that arrived from around the world in the form of greetings, cards and presents. I may live far away from many of you, but you are dear in my heart.
Oh… and of course we celebrated with a winter-inspired release from Narrow Skies…
I can’t believe we’re in August already. The long Nordic days are beginning to fade and today’s wind and rain even had a little Autumnal feel (as an Autumn lover I don’t mind saying this). Summer in Stockholm has been warm but we haven’t seen as many hot days as the last few years. But sadly, in this global-warming world, anything can happen…
Since my last post, we celebrated Ben’s 30th 155 metres underground! Due to other commitments, we couldn’t fit in a longer break so, determined to celebrate in style, we headed to the world’s deepest suite in Sala Silver Mine (about 1.5 hours North-West of Stockholm).
After a guided tour of the vast caves and dinner in nearby Sala, we headed underground for the night. While our surroundings were a little creepy, it really was a remarkable place to be – amongst the historic and vast network of tunnels and caves, with only a walkie-talkie to communicate with our guide above ground (in case of emergency).
We survived the night (although admittedly it neither of our best night’s sleep ever) and decided to head to a Moose Park (Älgpark) which happened to be only about half an hour from the Silver Mine. Since moving here, I have been really entranced by the Scandinavian wildlife. That said, so far I have only seen a moose in the wild at quite a distance. (They can be pretty dangerous so maybe that’s a good thing…!) Anyway, this moose park turned out to be great and really was a fun way to spend the morning…
We’ve also been using the summer to continue writing new music (as usual) and have released one new track from our new project as Narrow Skies – which has been getting some great traction which is exciting! The complete 3 track EP is released on 25th August.
Well, almost. While I had certainly hoped for a white Christmas at the end of 2016 (as always), it was not to be…
In the following early months of 2017 we have faced many icy cold days – complete with a snow-covered landscape (on and off) and frozen lakes (complete with many ice-skaters of course!).
But having spoken to many locals who have been around a lot longer than I, it seems that the Swedish weather may be a little more confused than ever…
This isn’t the first time that weird weather has affected Sweden in recent years. Our first summer here (2014) was hot and humid interspersed with freak thunderstorms that flooded underground stations and caught everyone by surprise. The following winter was surprisingly mild with very little snow, and then in early November last year (2016) Stockholm experienced its snowiest day for 111 years which brought the city to a standstill and halted public transport (not an easy feat in a country whose infrastructure is designed with sub-zero temperatures in mind).
One of the things I most love about Sweden is being able to truly experience winter alongside the contrast of each season – the colours of autumn, the freeze of winter, the awakening of spring and the midnight sun of summer. And the seasons do come – but now with a very unpredictable rhythm it seems. We could be in for another scorcher of a summer, but right now it’s -2°C outside and I can’t see it! The buds and early flowers of spring are fighting to hold their ground against the frost and we are all wondering when spring will truly arrive.
Many might argue that it is not unusual to see snow in April here in Sweden – and no, it’s not. But it is the erratic nature of the weather that causes concern… Today, we woke up to a covering of snow on the ground – when two weeks ago we were enjoying the sun, thinking about picnics and Ben was wearing shorts!?
I see a change.
People who have known this place for much longer than me talk about this change.
The media reports on record heatwaves and snowfalls based on years of scientific data.
Still many people don’t want to talk about this change… this climate change.
But if it is affecting the seasons so visibly like this… it makes you wonder… what else is it doing to the things we can’t see?
It’s no secret that many people were happy to see the back of 2016… and yes… I agree it was not the best year on record. Many things happened which made us all think about the state of the world in which we liveMany would also consider the word ‘meh’ as an appropriate adjective when it comes to describing 2016… I hear you too!
But when I was challenged to find what was good or even (dare I say it) awesome about 2016, I was able to reflect on some pretty wonderful things.
It was another in which to experience, learn and grow – and while I hope that these are aspects of life which I will always embrace – here are some more concrete examples of what made the last year great:
Life adventures happened – and for the most part, it was because we made them happen.
We planned. We decided. We booked.
We wrote. We composed. We recorded.
We put ourselves out there.
We may only be able to play our teeny, tiny part when it comes to political referendums and elections and it may not go down as we feel it should have done. We have no control over the losses and tragedies that passed us by in 2016. And don’t get me wrong, these are not small things – especially where grief is involved.
2016 is done.
…but we are not.
I will continue to put myself out there and push all the opportunity doors that 2017 brings my way.
2017 is before us my friends and I, for one, intend to embrace the whirlwind that it will no doubt end up being.
Happy New Year friends – here’s to an adventurous 2017!
We officially got the keys to our new apartment in Stockholm, back in May – two days after we returned from our big Asia trip. The apartment needed a lot of work (including a complete new kitchen) but, as ever, I didn’t think much about taking ‘before’ pictures so the dramatic change may be a little lost here. Either way… a lot of hard work and love has gone into making this home of ours so here is the big reveal with a few ‘after’ shots…
The living room
This room needed cosmetic attention and so we re-painted, creating a feature wall with a natural theme – we used wall stickers for the tree outlines and they turned out really well:
(The curtain pole was created using a broom-handle and branches from my in-laws’ garden which we cut and painted to blend in with the tree theme.)
And in a moment of madness ‘environmentally-friendly thinking’… we decided to take on the task of completely re-upholstering our old sofa in a bid to reuse and recycle (rather than buy more ‘stuff’ when really what we had was more than sufficient). And for this… we do have a before and after photo:
Before (in the old apartment)
After (in our new apartment)
It probably took three days in total to finish the sofa – with some parts, such as the re-upholstery of the main frame, definitely being a two-person job. I have to say… I’m super happy with the colour and overall finish so this is a definite win!
Inspired by our travels, we have gone for a clean room, inspired (in part) by Japanese culture. The window covering on the smaller window is actually a wall-hanging we brought back from Japan (and fitted perfectly in this new space) and our scratch map helps us to plan our future adventures! As this room is a cozy kind of size, the lack of wardrobes meant that we had to think more creatively about hanging space, so when we bought our new bed from IKEA (where else!), we decided to turn it round and use the taller end of the bed frame as a clothes rail.
The Studio Room
Part of the reason for the smaller bedroom size is that the room was originally one large room which was made into two smaller rooms… perfect for us as we now have our home studio set-up in the other room. This is where the Salt Of The Sound magic happens (complete with homemade soundproofing)…
The Guest Room… aka Anita’s work space / yoga / sewing / project room
Yes… this room gets called many things… and has many uses. Now complete with futon… it is a fully functioning guest room and is also my space where I like to blog, sew, write and just be creative…
Ahh yes… the kitchen! While we did most of the renovations ourselves, we drew the line at fitting a new kitchen and used Kvik to get a good kitchen for a reasonable price. It did mean that we had to move out over the summer for a couple of weeks but we are so pleased with the finished result:
We have enjoyed adding our own finishing touches to this room too – including reupholstering these mismatched chairs that we bought second-hand from friends who were leaving Sweden. The fabric we bought from Japan – the concept behind the fabric patterns is a fusion of both modern Japanese and Scandinavian design.
While we had a balcony in our last place, our new balcony is much bigger (more than two people can sit out there at once!) and has glass windows which can be moved across in the summer but also provide shelter in the winter, making this a real indoor-outdoor space. We relished having this space over the summer months and now, thanks to the invention of the outdoor heater, we can continue to enjoy our balcony throughout the winter months too. Oh.. and we may have even started to dabble in a spot of gardening too…
Looking out onto the balcony from the living room
Winter plants in out overhanging baskets
So there you have it… friends and family… we look forward to welcoming you into our new home in the near future. Our guest room is ready for you – all you need to do is to book your tickets to Sweden!