My Upper West Side Man

A few weeks ago, we were in New York City, and a friend let us stay at her apartment in the Upper West Side. We took the briefest of naps before heading out for a very long night, and when we hesitantly stepped out from under the awning, we discovered that the miserable and humid drizzle of an hour before had turned into a clear, cool, sunny early evening. I immediately fell in love with New York City for the hundredth time.

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is, as always, the greatest.


Emily is a dainty elote eater while Josefin and I are ravenous. Or maybe that’s just me. The elote at El Chucho is really incredible. Described as a “street corn on the cob,” it’s roasted with spices and cheese and served as a salty, gooey delight. MMMM.


Emily had already befriended all the bartenders and the waitstaff, so it was time for her to unleash some opinions.

Moving on from the El Chucho margarita on tap for one to the lover’s choice – the el codo for two. Because Cinco!


In addition to t-shirts and shot glasses on necklaces, we were gifted maracas, which we exercised vigorously. And then our El Jimador tequila tasting was somehow sponsored by the brand. WOOHOO!

Opinionated in DC

You want opinions? This garbage truck has plenty.


According to Wikipedia, Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תיקון עולם or תקון עולם[1]‎) is a Hebrew phrase that means “repairing the world” (or “healing the world”) which suggests humanity’s shared responsibility to heal, repair and transform the world. In Judaism, the concept of tikkun olam originated in the early rabbinic period. The concept was given new meanings in the kabbalah of the medieval period and has come to possess further connotations in modern Judaism.

And then there’s this, from the New York Times:

So we’ve got Judaism, Bob Dylan, James Otis, and a quote from Shakespeare that probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. (It didn’t mean what I thought it meant!). On a garbage truck.


Rainy day in DC

When I lived in Sweden that first, hard winter, people tried to excuse the bone-chilling cold with reassurances that it was the worst winter in decades. As the dark and the wet continued, I grew increasingly convinced that the Swedes (otherwise referred to as “my friends” in happier times) were nothing more than a very cheerful, very loving pack of liars.

This year, I understand how they felt. I have a friend from Sweden doing an internship here and all I can tell her is that by this time last year, I had packed up my wool socks for the season. This year, we have the winter that just won’t quit! Come on, now.

I want sundresses and hot summer nights and rooftop margaritas. Instead, we have rain-smudged spectacles and late season flus and a deluge of weather disappointments.


Best part of the weather today? Getting my mind blown by the New York Times, which wrote that 3.75 inches of rain (the amount expected in the Big Apple by Thursday) is equivalent to more than three feet in snow. That’s crazy!


In the meantime, I’m making it through the day with two songs:

South River Falls in Shenandoah Park

A week after visiting Lara, I was back in Shenandoah, this time with Simon instead of on my own. We went for a hike along the South River Falls trail because the park ranger promised waterfalls. We weren’t disappointed.

Afterwards, we picnicked on leftover Afghani food from the day before and ate pie before heading north and back to real life.


Drive through Shenandoah

I went to Roanoke and Blacksburg last weekend via the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, and despite the torrential rain and low visibility that persisted for the first half of my seven hour drive, I still saw beautiful nature. For example…

I also felt pretty lucky to be driving through Shenandoah in the clouds because almost no one else was on the Skyline. 35 mph?! I’ve got a better idea.

Round Two

That happened…

Blue skies in DC

I had a headache all morning yesterday, so I took a break from work around 1 pm to walk around a little and get some fresh air. I went through the canal areas and down to the Georgetown harbor.


Gazing at Rosslyn from the Georgetown harbor area.

It was all bright sun, blue skies, and business lunches, with the occasional yacht floating by. How amazing is it to have this green space (or blue, I guess) so central in DC? I love this city.

What non-Swedes should know about Sweden – according to ABBA

Agnetha Faltskog of ABBA

Since I work at the Embassy of Sweden as a tour guide, I get a lot of questions about what I thought of the country and my experiences living there. I tell them the truth — that I had a great 2.5 years there, had a satisfying job, really amazing friends, and a very comfortable, good life.

Most people leave it there, but there are always a few who press me for further information: yeah, but what about the winters? Isn’t it really cold and dark there? 

I struggled to find a diplomatic answer for awhile because honestly, yes, it is really cold and dark during the winters, but the summer — once it arrives — is like paradise. I don’t want to sound too negative and scare people off, but I also don’t want to lie. My stock response now is that if I were to make a list of the positives and negatives of living in Sweden, the list of positives would be very long and encompass nearly all aspects of my life there, while the list of negatives would have just one big item on it (weather).

With all my efforts to put the impact of Swedish weather in perspective, it made me really laugh to read “A Dancing Queen Extends Her Reign” in the New York Times today. It’s an interview with Agnetha Faltskog of the legendary ABBA, talking about her new album, A. This is the first exchange in the interview:

David Itzkoff: Everything I know about Sweden, I learned from your songs and from Stieg Larsson novels. What else should I be aware of?

Agnetha Faltskog: To start with, the climate. It’s awful. We’ve still got snow here, and winter, and we’re waiting for spring. It’s getting on our nerves right now, really.

HA! So there you have it… even ABBA gets tired of Swedish weather! Although I probably won’t be incorporating this comment into my tours.

Lenten sugar cravings

I gave up sugar for Lent again, which is easier than it was last year but STILL NOT FUN in any way. (Just to impress upon you the hardcore nature of this promise, I’m not eating anything with honey or artificial sweeteners in it either, which means no flavored yogurt, no lattes, and no processed bread.) I’m still drinking wine, though, because a girl’s got to have her limits. Right? Right.

In the last two weeks, I had more or less gotten past the point of feeling intense cravings, which was great. Until this past Saturday, that is, when I made an exception to my Lenten promise so that I could taste wedding cake with Simon and my parents.

Four tiny, delicious sample wedding cakes… and so pristine in their as-yet unravaged state.

So much sugar… so much deliciousness. There is nothing like tiny cakes in the middle of Lent to make me feel like a crack addict on a mission. And once I got a bite, I was totally off the wall for the next hour.

Post-apocalyptic wedding cake.

And as you can see, devastation was swift and merciless. We all had tiny pieces so that we could taste each flavor combination, so there’s more left in the refrigerator, taunting and beguiling me with its sweet song: mmm, delicious sugars, must eat the cake!! 

I really need Simon to come home from work so that we can finish it off for good. Not because of my own selfish purposes, of course, but so that we can make final decisions about wedding cake. Obviously.


I am writing a guest blog for the the Swedish Institute! It's called The Expat Blog. Check it out for articles and updates on life as an expat in Sweden... one fika at a time.
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