How do I say this in a way that doesn’t reveal my inner super geek…

A combination adult spelling bee and happy hour is undeniably — and shamefully — really tempting to me.

Look at the excitement… the tension… the drama! [screenshot from living social]

And it’s only $5… a small price for a night out in the city, a large cost to my effort to not be a total nerd all the time.

Nonstop excitement at the Embassy of Sweden

For the last two weeks, it has been nonstop excitement for me at the Embassy of Sweden. Right now, the Kennedy Center is hosting a gigantic festival called Nordic Cool focused on Scandinavian culture: theater, dance, music, visual arts, literature, design, and film from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden as well as the territories of Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Åland Islands.

At the same time, the Embassy of Sweden has planned a jam-packed schedule of events in conjunction with Nordic Cool to support the Swedish cultural offerings and to tie into this year’s theme for public diplomacy, which is Globalization and Migration. So awesome. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten to work with the Embassy’s cultural department on public outreach to connect with people who would be interested in our events.

Monday was the grand opening for the Embassy of Sweden’s public diplomacy theme, so the day was spent finalizing the installation of the exhibits and preparing for the gala party later that evening.

This is one section of the Dressing Swedish exhibit, which was being installed and finalized on Monday. So exciting!

Dressing Swedish is an amazing exhibit about folk costumes in Sweden: how they create and express different visions of Swedish identity, how the folk traditions are being incorporated into modern fashion, and how they are re-imagined by descendants of Swedish immigrants in the United States. I had seen sketches of the exhibition layout earlier, but seeing it set up was a totally different thing.

One of my favorite parts of the Dressing Swedish exhibit: an example of the Swedish national dress, and an image of an updated version with hijab on the display. So cool!

There are four exhibits in total: Dressing Swedish, The Enduring Designs of Josef Frank (a furniture and textiles showcase), Memories of Stone (a drop-dead gorgeous photography exhibit), and The Third Room: a Sound Walk (an interactive radio theater program for children).  Last fall, we had only two exhibits, so as a tour guide, it’s exciting to have so much more to present from Sweden, especially since the exhibits cover such different areas of culture.

Just a little taste of the items on display in The Enduring Designs of Josef Frank.

The Josef Frank exhibit was probably my favorite to research ahead of time since there are so many amazing images on the internet of different rooms decorated with Josef Frank’s furniture and textiles. I am sadly now filled with lust for very expensive interior design.

Finally it was time for the opening party. After one last job — escorting a journalist through the Josef Frank exhibit — I got to slow down, relax, and enjoy the party. Our welcome drinks were oh-so-Swedish (elderflower and Absolut vodka) and very Nordic Cool with the glowing ice cubes.

Glowing ice cubes made our welcome drinks so beautiful – and maybe even more delicious.

I didn’t think to take pictures of the food, but I should have. The Ambassador’s personal chef was responsible for the buffet, and it was delicious. I think my favorites were the wild game meatballs, the pâté with pear chutney toasts, and the lobster soup. There was also an ice cream bar outside, but I didn’t get to try it, thanks to my Lenten resolution to give up sugar.

If you’re in DC, you should come on by!

You can find details and sign up for all of our events on Eventbrite at embassyofsweden.eventbrite.com. We also have open hours on Thursday evenings, 5:30-9 pm, and on weekends, 11-4 on Saturdays and 12-5 on Sundays. I’ll be your lovely tour guide and do my best to answer all your questions!

 

My life as an entrepreneur

Something I don’t talk a lot about on this blog is what I’m trying to do as an entrepreneur. I think part of why I’m having such a hard time sitting down and writing for this blog is that I haven’t been sure how much of my entrepreneurial journey to share here when I have an online business taking place in another corner of the internet (www.katereutersward.com). I haven’t wanted my goofy, ridiculous personal side to undermine my calm, cool, and collected professional side.

I think I’m over it now.

As I blogged about my experiences in Sweden, I found that I created a two-way street between readers and myself. People had great advice and tips for me, and I was able to share the lessons I had learned with other expats new to Sweden. So why not do the same thing with my ups and downs as a small business owner?

Here’s where I am today: my business is doing ok, but not great. I feel like I’m constantly struggling to get new clients. Once I have clients, I know exactly what to do: both my Business English and translation customers have given me outstanding testimonials. But how do I get new people in through the door? I still don’t know.

My other challenge is maintaining my energy and drive throughout the day when I work by myself. I start out the day great. I have my to-do list full of actionable items, I have a good breakfast, and I get started. By about 2, 3, 4 pm, I’m totally worn out. I’ve lost focus. I try to get back to my to-do list but everything seems too hard, so I do things halfway. Then I move straight to the death knell of my day, which is despising myself for not being more productive.

I’m sick of this pattern. My first experiment is going to be to reconfigure my day. For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to try to schedule the hard stuff for the morning so that I have the energy and motivation to tackle it. I’ll leave the easy wins for the afternoon so that I can keep up my momentum even when my energy dips. Maybe I’ll even do some chores or run errands around 3 pm as a break from all the mental work.

This is day one of the new plan, and I started off the day by doing things that I always want to fit in at the end of my day, “if I have time.” I’m reading a book that I took out of the library called The Startup Playbook and blogging.

The Startup Playbook is full of succinct advice and tips from successful entrepreneurs. It’s been really interesting so far – a great mix of technical advice like keeping track of metrics and holistic advice on what kind of mindset you should have as an entrepreneur. One quotation that really jumped out at me today was from Matt Blumberg, Founder of Return Path.

“One of the challenges of being a CEO is that you have to be the most optimistic person in the company and the most pessimistic person in the company at the same time. You celebrate when things go well, but you also worry that things are never going to be so good again.”

The reason why this resonated with me is that I feel like I’ve got the optimist and pessimist thing down – but I haven’t mastered being both at the same time. At the beginning of the day, I’ve got so much positive energy. Even the slightest hint of a new client can send me over the moon. By the end of the day, I’m tired, and small setbacks are blown totally out of proportion and interpreted as signs that I’m never going to make it or I’m not cut out to be a business owner.

Alright, blogging and learning about being a better business owner have gotten their fair share of the day. Onto the next thing!

The month of January: gone!

And bang! In the blink of an eye, January was gone.

The highlight of my month was definitely my trip to Colorado to see Maura, a long-lost soul sister, who I hadn’t seen in approximately one million years (otherwise known as since New Year’s Day 2011). Maura lives in Denver now, a city that is much farther away from DC than Simon had ever imagined. So much so that he spent about 15 minutes measuring the length between the two cities with his thumb and forefinger and comparing it to the distances between different cities in Europe to put it in perspective.

“It’s like going from Stockholm to Crete! It’s like going from Lisbon to Krakow!” 

You get the idea.

I left early in the morning on Saturday with the blinding sun at my back and returned early in the morning on Tuesday with the blinding sun in my eyes. With a new appreciation for just how much distance I was covering (thanks, Simon), it was really wonderful to watch the scenery change beneath me from city to mountains to farmland to serious mountains once again.

The best part about my trip to Denver was having so much quality time with Maura so that we could really catch up on the last two years. Two years! In that time, she met a special guy and gotten engaged and I never even got to meet him until now. Crazy.

We spent one day in the mountains, one day in Denver, and one day going to Maura’s favorite places in the areas around Denver. I went snowshoeing for the first time. The sun was shining, and Maura brought German chocolate cake in her backpack to eat at the top of the trail.

I also love that Maura, who is not super interested in food in general, took me to one million delicious places to eat and drink. We had Vietnamese pho, Nepalese dumplings, Cuban coffee and toast, and classic Colorado microbrews at the Wynkoop Brewing Company. Who knew that Denver is so multicultural? (Not me.)

Hanging out with Maura also got me started on the activity that has consumed the second half of January: WEDDING PLANNING. All this time, I’ve been like, ”Yeah, the wedding’s going to be awesome, but the last time we planned everything within six weeks, so… you know… it’s going to be fine.”

Now I am totally psyched for wedding planning. Like: what are we going to eat?! What color dress do I choose for my bridesmaids?! Who will take the photos?? You know, really life-altering stuff.

We even went to a wedding expo – my mom, Simon, and me – to get inspiration. Simon was one of two men in attendance. (More on that later…) Suffice to say that while stuff like the photos below are totally cute, we will be putting our money on the food and the booze rather than the decorations. Because that’s the way we are.

And then the last thing that I have been totally obsessed with (related to wedding planning, not that we can ever get off of that subject again, sorry!) is the wedding dress. I have two amazing options: wear the one I had for my wedding in Sweden, or update my mom’s and wear that? I took them both to the tailor this morning to see what she thought (I’d need some minor alterations on the one I wore in Sweden, too) and just got so excited by them both. Decisions, decisions!!

February’s going to be huge for me: lots of work coming up on the horizon for the Swedish Embassy, more wedding planning, and hopefully a lot more writing than what I’ve been doing in the past weeks.

Here we go, February. Ready, set, action.

Deer at dusk

After 22 years of living in the suburbs, I was pretty darn convinced that I was a city girl for life. My parents’ new house, way out in rural Maryland, has at least opened me up to the beauty of living in the country. I think I’d still take the people-watching over the bird-watching, but I love turning the corner at the very end of the drive to their house and occasionally encountering the herd of deer that stand still and stare at us rather than run away. They’re not domesticated, but they’re not that scared of us anymore, giving me enough time to take a quick snapshot before they hear something undetectable by my ears and bolt away.

The Expat Blog Strikes Again… Interview on Sweden.se

And just when the Expat Blog at Sweden.se thought it was finally free of me… foiled again! 

 

 

I had the opportunity to talk a little about my experiences as a “re-pat” in the United States with Kristin Lund, who took over the reins of the Expat Blog this past fall. You can check it out below:

A Christmas Treat: Interview with “Repat” Kate

Topics covered include:

  • What surprised you most when you moved back?
  • What do you miss most about Sweden?
  • What do you do at the House of Sweden?
  • How often do you use your Swedish in DC?
  • What was it like trying to find work in the United States again?
  • and MORE (actually not that much more… that’s about it.)

Happy first Friday in 2013! Woot woot!

January 1, 2013

 

The last month or two have flown by, and as I ate breakfast with Simon yesterday morning, I felt almost panicked that 2013 was less than 24 hours away. Simon laughed at me, of course, and tried to convince me not to be so silly.

I don’t think that a year can get more jam-packed than the one that just concluded. (I’m probably tempting the fates by saying that, but oh well.) We moved four times in 2012, from our little nest in Kobjer to the rental in Nöbbelöv to Simon’s parents’ apartment in Klostergården for our last two weeks in Sweden. Then we took the leap across the pond, first to my parents on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and finally to D.C.

We packed and unpacked. Made new friends and said our goodbyes. Left our home in Sweden to be welcomed home again in the United States. Reconnected with long lost friends and places. Went from working full time to starting a company to taking our first big vacation of the last few years to trying to transition my company from its new home in DC.

As I look forward to 2013, it’s pretty unlikely that this period of major transitions will continue. Instead, the story of 2013 may just be the story of trying out new habits and patterns of life here in D.C. and gradually settling into those that suit us best.

What I’ve found over the past year is that moving entails more than just transferring your furniture from one place to another – it erases the momentum you’ve built up in your daily habits and presents you with a clean slate to reinvent the way you spend your hours, even if the move is within the same city. Where will we spend our free time? What routes will find ourselves walking and re-walking? What little niches will we carve for ourselves in this city?

Happy, happy, happy new year to you wherever you are and in whatever state of motion you find yourself. Much love from me in D.C. Bring it on, 2013!

DC Love

I was on my way home from a very lukewarm “hot yoga” when I spotted this car parked in a driveway on 13th St. Feeling the DC love.

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Julmarknad at the House of Sweden

I had my first day off from my weekend job at the House of Sweden, so of course Simon and I made the most of every minute of it… at the House of Sweden.

Thanks to the julmarknad (Christmas bazaar) being hosted in the normal exhibition space, I was off the hook for working, but let’s be serious. The Swede in my life could not resist the call of a whole day of Swedish-themed Christmas festivities (and neither could I, really).

I narrowly avoided impulse buying an entire range of small jultomtar to decorate our apartment.

Small booths lined the inside of the building, displacing the “Education and Innovation” exhibit on the ground floor and the tables and chairs from a conference room on the floor below. Giant tables laden with bread, pastries, herring, and cheese were lined up along the main hall leading into the Alfred Nobel Hall like a gauntlet in dieting hell, and photos from the “Image of Strindberg” exhibit glowered at families and couples digging into princesstårta (princess cake) and mackor (open-faced sandwiches).

This cake was such a big deal today.

I don’t know how long we intended to stay at the House of Sweden’s Christmas Bazaar, but we ended up being there all day long. The weather was balmy for the last day in November, and after the sugar rush from our princesstårta subsided, we sat outside on the steps with a Dixie cup of glögg each, basking in the sun and watching children roughhousing on the steps.

An assortment of Lucias singing (mostly) Swedish Christmas carols outside the House of Sweden.

At 5 pm, the sun was headed down behind the Rosslyn skyscrapers on the other side of the Potomac and it was finally starting to get chilly. Having just been herded out of the House of Sweden, the remaining visitors were waiting — not quietly — for something to happen. Then the Lucia girls came marching out in single file, singing the traditional entrance processional for Lucia Day.

They sang for about half an hour, mostly in Swedish but with a few English-language songs as well. At times it was hard to hear over the crying of exhausted children or the chatter of adults running into friends, and the star boys were noticeably absent. All the same, for a moment there, it felt like we were back in Sweden again.

Mo’bama, Mo’ Sass

This is just a public service update to everyone watching the infomercials the debates. I saw the dude on the right just a few days ago live, in person, no joke.

It all started with a trip to the White House gardens, where we were so close to the actual White House that the smell of Secret Service sweat permeated the air. (Or it was the presidential linden trees, no idea what those are supposed to smell like.)

Here are some facts we learned on our tour of the White House gardens:

1. The White House Grounds are the oldest continually maintained landscape in the United States.

2. The first resident of the White House was John Adams, and he lived there from 1800 to 1801, when he was voted out of office and replaced by Thomas Jefferson. He requested that a garden be planted on the grounds, and it was done!, but not before he left office.

3. Although located in the heart of the city, standing in the gardens one feels removed from the fast-paced life of the nation’s capital.

Facts, one and all.

The gardens are totally beautiful, and there were really nice posters of different presidents planting their trees. Did you know that (almost) every president (since 1870ish) plants a tree of his own? Unless he’s George H.W. Bush, in which case he plants three a year for the entire 14 years of his presidency. Seriously, if the White House-organized posters are to be believed, that man loved planting trees.

Here’s the thing about visiting a place that has become legendary through its treatment in popular culture and the distance you had to stand away from it to take the photo that proved you were a tourist in D.C. It’s not as big as you imagine. For example, I thought the Rose Garden would be like the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, complete with the Beast lurking in the shadows.  And it’s great… it’s just not as big as I thought it would be. No Belle, no Beast.

The vegetable garden was also smaller than expected but impressive. There were squash varieties I haven’t even seen as challenge ingredients on Food Network shows. That’s when you know it’s exotic.

Anyway, back to POTUS, who we saw, in the flesh, real-life, this is not a joke.

This is Simon, standing outside the Oval Office, convinced that he has caught a glimpse of Obama. I will admit, I thought he had to be mistaken. No way is Obama in there, says I, fool that I am.

Let us also take this moment to remember that Simon spotted Queen Silvia on the balcony of the Swedish Embassy, so… I should probably stop doubting him. He was so insistent, though, that I took a photo of the people inside the office.

And as you can see, there was a fairly distinctive ear silhouette. And then this happened…

And then this happened…

The crowd screamed as he walked by. SCREAMED. Just like you would imagine teenyboppers shrieking and losing it at a Beatles concert. We were all hovering, snapping photos, held in place by the imaginary barrier represented by the transition from walkway to lawn (and by the armed Secret Service agents lurking nearby).

So that was our encounter with my close friend and old buddy, good old POTUS Mo’bama.

The end. 

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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