The Coffee Machine

When I moved into my new home in Sweden, I pretty quickly went out to the shops (including the biggest shop I’ve ever been into, Ullared – but that’s another post on its own) to buy all the things I really need, like kitchen utensils, basics for my pantry, snowpants and…uh…a coffee machine. What? It’s a necessity, okay?

The totally-worth-it-coffee-machine.

So anyway, it’s a Nescafé Dolce Gusto, a machine that works with those little pods that you put into it and it does everything else for you. Well, I mean, you have to put water in the back, and change the size of the drink to suit your needs and wants and the rough guidelines of each type of coffee you can make, but otherwise you don’t do much. It can make all your standard coffee drinks, plus different flavours of some (there’s more than one caramel flavoured drink), hot chocolates – it even makes tea (though I find myself reluctant to try that). Not only that, but the thing is fast – it’s warmed up and ready to go within about 30 seconds, so basically you can have a decent coffee in under a minute, all with the press of a couple of buttons. See, totally worth it and necessary, right?**

Here’s my favourite three drinks I like to make with it at the moment:

  1. CappuccinoThe Cappuccino – a classic coffee, I have already gone through nearly two boxes of pods for this one (and frankly I need to slow down). It’s tasty and warming on these cold winter days, and my only real complaint about it is that it’s a bit weak – this is easily fixed up by adding an espresso shot to it, but then you’re using a third pod and those pods aren’t super cheap.
  2. ChococinoThe Chococino – I’m 99% sure this has no coffee or caffeine in it – it’s just a really intense, well made hot chocolate. It feels like you’ve been punched in the face, only with a chocolate fist, and not so much punched as gently caressed and…is this getting weird? I think this is getting weird. Anyway, chocoholics will love this. Non-chocoholics will probably also enjoy this. Chocolate haters will be sad and jealous of this.
  3. Caramel Espresso and NesquikHot Nesquik mixed with a Caramel Espresso shot – the Nesquik hot chocolate flavour isn’t as good as the Chococino, but it does only use one pod to make each drink, instead of two, so it is cheaper. But I find sometimes, especially in the afternoon, I feel like hot chocolate and coffee at the same time and I’ve found this particular combination is great. It’s tasty but also perks you up very quickly. Yes, I was drinking one while writing this. Yes, I am considering a second one.

I still have instant coffee because I just can’t afford to drink this stuff all the time (at least not until I’ve landed stable work), but it is nice and I don’t regret buying it at all. It’s great for guests, or for when I just want something a little bit nicer, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to sitting down at my laptop and writing for a while.

Do you have any kind of coffee machine at home? If so, what kind of machine? What are your thoughts on these pod-based machines?

**I think I should be paid for such generous marketing of this product.

Life in Sweden (in words), Part 1

I thought I’d mention that this will be a bit of a wordier post in the title as I have promised to do more than just post pictures of my new life. Also, let’s face it, I’m much better with words than I am with a camera (half of those photos last time had a mark on the picture near the top – yep, I’m special). There will be a few pics to break up the writing but not much. Hope you enjoy my story so far…

In plane view of a new life

The trip over here was actually a little more dramatic than I had hoped for. I don’t mean the plane crashed into the sea and I had to swim to shore kind of dramatic, just more incidents of a frustrating variety. The trip was 4 flights in total – from Sydney, Australia to Melbourne, Australia, then on to Dubai, then to London, and lastly to Gothenburg in Sweden where I would then be picked up and driven a couple of hours south to Halmstad, my new home. Each stopover at each airport was approximately 2 hours long, so it felt like it should have been a smooth process and relatively short with a total flying time (including stopovers) of about 32 hours if my memory serves me correct.

Of course, this didn’t go to plan.

Sydney to Melbourne was fine, but Melbourne decided it was feeling pretty hot that day, and so we all melted while it reached the low to mid 40s in temperature (Celsius – in Fahrenheit we’re talking the realms of about 105-115). As my departure time came and went and there was no sign of us getting on the plane, they finally informed us that the plane was too hot to board (I’d later find out it was 38 degrees Celsius inside the plane), and they were trying to cool it down – they would only be half an hour late. I didn’t panic. Half an hour was fine.

2 hours later we boarded the plane, but were told to hurry because they had brought the temperature down to 28 but had to turn off the air conditioning while we boarded so it would rise again. Then once on board, they informed us they had serious problems with the electrics of the plane. Another hour or so went by, and they very nearly cancelled the flight before bringing back power at the last moment (they literally turned it off and on again and it worked…I chuckled to myself about this later, not so much at the time). Then two people decided to leave, even though the pilot assured us we wouldn’t have left unless the plane was 100% safe. There was much booing aimed at the people who left (even though I think they were snuck out before the announcement).

Reunited at last!

Reunited at last!

4 hours late, we finally left. I missed my connection in London to Sweden and I knew it, and the next one was going to be 8 hours later, but the wonderful staff at Heathrow airport helped me reschedule to a Copenhagen flight (as Halmstad is a similar distance from Copenhagen in Denmark – about 2 hours at the most). Eventually, not too much later than I should have been originally, I was reunited with Linnéa, the very person who I have moved over to Sweden for in the first place!

Snow, wonderful snow!

As I landed in Copenhagen I was excited to see snow – I hadn’t seen falling snow with my own eyes for over 16 years. Linnéa laughed at me, telling me that wasn’t real snow, but for an Australian it was amazing all the same (we do have some snow in Australia, in a place cleverly called the Snowy Mountains). By the time we reached Halmstad though, I could see what it really looked like to have decent snow. I slept a good sleep that night, and amazingly was over my jet lag almost instantly upon awaking (which is kind of strange but I could hardly complain). I ventured out into the forest that next day to have a barbeque in the snow with Linnéa and her family, which I showed you guys photos of here in this post, so I won’t mention too much more on that.

The next day was fairly relaxed, although I did learn quite how slippery the ice could be when I fell whilst out walking the dogs – I fell backwards onto my right elbow and smacked my head hard against a rock. I spent the next few hours with an enormous headache, feeling slightly dizzy and disoriented but I knew I was okay. My elbow, however, still hurts over 2 weeks later, which is a lesson in itself for me. I am slowly becoming more confident walking on the snow and the ice, but it’s a skill which Swedish people are born with and which Australians simply do not possess most of the time, I suspect.

It didn’t snow much for that first week I was here, but the second week it snowed every couple of days. The first couple of times it was just a few centimetres, but then last Friday I finally saw what I think I can call proper snow – about 10cm, maybe more, fell in the space of a couple of hours. I sat in my apartment watching the roads slowly turn white again, watching the ground rise higher and higher with the snow. I sort of just sat here stunned as I watched it for a lot of that afternoon, not really doing much else. It made me wonder what it must feel like for those kids who grow up in remote and dry parts of the world when they see rain for the first time at the age of, say, 10.

Yep, that's the river.

Yep, that’s the river. Actually this is the day before the big snow so it was whiter the next day.

Anyway, by the end of this, everything was white. The frozen river had become so white it looked more like an extension of the park next to it. So it was a bit sad when on the weekend it began to rain, and then warm up to 2 or 3 degrees each day for several days in a row. Looking out now it looks like spring – bright blue skies again. Beautiful, but the snow is mostly gone and each night what’s left refreezes and leaves sheets of ice in places I don’t see so I nearly go flying every time I walk at night. But even if this were all the snow we got this winter I’d be happy with what I’d seen!

Getting on with life

The past 2 and a half weeks haven’t just been sitting around watching snow fall, I promise. The obvious thing that has been taking up a lot of my hours is spending time with Linnéa, and she has been amazing in helping me settle in. We’ve spent a lot of time with her family and also meeting her friends – I have never entertained so many people in such a short space of time, but it is nice to be cooking so much again. We’ve also spent a lot of time exploring town, eating out at places I can’t really afford – we even went to the movies last weekend (to watch The Hobbit – I was stunned they were still showing the second movie). It’s just nice to be with Linnéa after spending 2 years doing the long distance relationship thing (and 16000 kms is serious long distance).

Aside from all this leisurely stuff, I have had some issues with more bureaucratic matters. In Sweden everything, and I mean everything, uses your personnummer – basically your personal identity number. Swedes are born with this, of course. For me though, I have to go through a long process to get this key to society. I have obtained a sort of temporary version of this number which gives me access to some, but only a few, things. Now I need to get a job, so that I can get a bank account and process my Right of Residence (thank goodness I am a British citizen as well as Aussie, and therefore an EU citizen, or else this would have been a lot harder), and then once I’ve done all of that they’ll give me a personnummer and I will be a proper resident of Sweden, with access to everything. Of course, without knowing the language getting a job isn’t super easy either, so while I apply for the few jobs I can try my hand at, I now need to learn the language and quickly so as to broaden my work possibilities. I’m not overly worried (yet), and money isn’t too much of an issue (yet), but it would be nice to have a lot of this stuff done and taken care of so I can relax more.

I am second hand renting (where you rent from another renter – it’s a thing in Sweden) from someone who has moved to Stockholm for work for a while, so I have a nice little apartment that’s all furnished and is only a few minutes walk from the centre of town, across the road from the train and bus stations, and close to two different supermarkets. So my living arrangements almost seem too good to be true, which is nice, and the person I’m renting from is friendly and relaxed which is a nice bonus.

This was really quite tasty, although eating the berries with the meat seemed a bit wrong. Photo taken from because I forgot to take a photo of the meal at the time I ate it.

This was really quite tasty, although eating the berries with the meat seemed a bit wrong. Photo taken from because I forgot to take a photo of the meal at the time I ate it.

Lastly, there’s the food. People are asking me if I’ve eaten much Swedish food. I have eaten lots of nice breads and chocolates and so on and so forth, but the only “traditional” Swedish meal I’ve eaten is called wallenbergare, and is a sort of veal patty (like a burger patty I guess) with peas, mashed potato and…berries? There’s a side of lingonberries, a type of berry that is very common across Scandinavia and very sweet and tasty, and the idea is that you eat the berries with the meat, in the same mouthful. I tried it and it was surprisingly nice, but my tastebuds were wondering what on earth was going on. But aside from this, I am yet to try a lot of traditional cuisine from the area. No doubt in the future I’ll devote a whole post to the topic.

Anyway, that’s it for now. This post is more than long enough, but hopefully it gives you some ideas as to what I have actually been doing these past couple of weeks. I will do more of these posts in the future, but I will also start to write posts focusing on specific aspects of life over here, like the culture, the food, the history, and my mishaps with the language as I start to learn it. Feel free to ask any questions or comment as always! 

Two Year Blogaversary – What next and New Year resolutions

It’s hard to believe this, but tomorrow my blog turns two years old! It was on the 2nd of January, 2012 I started this blog, and little did I know where my blog would lead me (for those who missed the posts earlier last year, I revealed that the girl who I’m moving from Australia to Sweden for is someone I met within those first few weeks of blogging).

2013 was a crazy year for me, and I think it showed on my blog as my output generally slowed down across the year. 2014 looks even crazier – it’s two weeks tomorrow until I fly out of Australia and begin my new life in Sweden. So for the next two weeks I’ll run around in a mad panic and then when I get there I have to, well, start everything basically. Get a job, learn the language, continue to be awesome – it’s going to be a challenge, to be honest.

But I will work on keeping my blog more regularly updated, with the focus being on regularly – I will aim to keep a steady 2 or 3 posts a week, rather than writing 5 some weeks and none other weeks. I also have a whole bunch of other goals, but they’ll be easy to achieve and many of them are necessary to achieve. Here goes:

  1. Move to Sweden. (This is kind of a given, really).
  2. Get a job in Sweden. (Also fairly necessary).
  3. Learn Swedish. (I am particularly excited about this one).
  4. Enjoy the snow, and other big changes to my lifestyle.
  5. Get healthy. No, I mean it this time. I’m not upping and moving my whole life and then letting my health slip further down the drain – this time I’m taking back control. Just have to resist the pick and mix sections of the Swedish supermarkets (apparently they’re the biggest importer of those lollies in the world).
  6. Reach 400 blog posts on this blog. This is my 293rd I think, so that comes out at exactly 9 posts a month, or a little over 2 posts a week. I can handle that.
  7. Try and write creatively more often, and write what I am in the mood to write, rather than something I was in the mood to write several months prior. This issue has made writing challenging these last couple of years.
  8. Read more books. I barely read any last year, which was so disappointing. I’m thinking of aiming for 25 – just one a fortnight. I can do that, surely.
  9. The most important one is last: spend time with my girl! It’s been 2 long years of barely seeing each other, there’s a lot of time to make up for now!

I think for once I will achieve all my resolutions, perhaps because I’m being reasonable for a change.

My blog topics will shift a little this year – I will still post about books and music and other random things, but I’m going to post a lot more about Sweden and everywhere else I travel to as well. I want to document some of my experiences moving to a new country, and I am sure I will never run out of fascinating things to tell you all about, so I’m looking forward to that quite a lot. I’ll also update my about me page again after I’ve settled down in Sweden.

In the mean time, I hope you all enjoyed the end of 2013 and have a great 2014 ahead of you! Let’s make the most of it!

The Rise and Fall of my NaNoWriMo efforts (the third-of-the-way update)

2013-Participant-Facebook-CoverI started off this month so strong. Last time I posted, I was averaging close to 3000 words a day. I kept up this intensity of writing for the first 6 or 7 days, despite everything else life threw at me. I thought I was invincible. After slowing down a bit on Friday night to catch my breath (I only managed 1200 that night), I wrote 5800 words on Saturday.

But then the trouble started.

I went out with a friend I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Not for a crazy wild night or anything – I’m far too old for that (don’t laugh) – but just for dinner and a couple of drinks. Dinner ended up being the local Indian place, where I ate approximately twice as much as I needed to, and drinks ended up being at Reviver, my local classy cocktail bar (about 4 minutes stumbling distance from home). I only had a couple of cocktails, mind you, as alcohol doesn’t mix too well with my headaches these days.

I thought I was fine until I got home, where I found myself very feverish and nauseous. I was almost certain I had food poisoning or something like that – whatever it was, it kept me waking up all night, and I spent all of Sunday feeling like death warmed up. I woke up that day with my throat swollen and burning, my head thumping, my temperature fluctuating wildly, my balance completely off and when I tried napping I was rewarded upon waking up with sinus pains and a runny nose. I was pretty cranky, to say the least.

It’s now mid-afternoon on Monday and things aren’t exactly much better. I’ve already called in sick for tomorrow, and after forcing out about 1000 words yesterday, I haven’t written a thing today, nor will I most likely.

Have I burnt out? Maybe. Although I suspect it might just be a case of the man-flu. Whatever it is, it’s knocked me about a lot and after such a strong start I’m going to have 2-3 days of very little writing indeed.

I’m not overly worried, though. I’m sitting on 27 000, thanks to my efforts last week. I think I’m mostly bummed out because I wanted to aim for 100 000 words instead of the usual 50 000, but this setback might just be enough to make that bigger goal an impossibility. Still, 70-80 000 is more than possible, so I guess I’ll just see what I can do. I’ve definitely won NaNoWriMo, unless my arms spontaneously combust, so it’s more about reaching my own goals now.

How are all of you doing for NaNoWriMo? I hope none of you are getting sick or burning out – if so, make sure you take a couple of days to recover, because your health is more important! You can always catch up later!

One Way Ticket To Sweden

australia to swedenSo it’s official! Or rather, it’s more official than it already was. I mean, I was already planning to move from Australia to Sweden as many of you know (I explained it back in this post), but tonight I finally bought my plane ticket.

I bought a one way freaking plane ticket to the other side of the world! Ahhhh!

So Australia will be rid of me on Thursday, January 16, 2014, at around about lunchtime. And on Friday morning Swedish time, I will land in my new home country.

I am incredibly excited. The prospect of moving anywhere is always exciting (over my life so far I have already lived in 10 different houses across about 7 different areas in 2 different countries (remembering I am British born) – I am a bit nomadic I suppose), but moving to another country all on my own is both exhilarating and terrifying. Most importantly, I will be reunited with my partner of nearly 2 years – it’s our 2 year anniversary the day I land there (so her present is me, ta-daah) – but this time we won’t have to separate again. This time I’m staying with her. And that thought makes me ridiculously happy.

I am of course very sad to be leaving my life in Australia. I have a lot of beautiful and amazing friends here, not to mention my parents and my sisters. And the country itself, despite all my moaning about the heat and various other things, is a beautiful place to have lived. But I will return to visit, when possible, the place and the people who have had the biggest influence on who I am today. 

It’s funny doing something like this. I actually gasped out loud when I clicked the button which processed my payment for the plane ticket and finalised the whole moment. I feel almost reckless in some ways, yet it feels like the most grown up thing I have ever done – much more so than moving out of home, paying off my car, starting a career in teaching, watching cartoons still because I can and you can’t stop me. I guess it feels grown up because it is such a massive change to my life, and one that I have chosen to make. One that not that long ago I would have never imagined making, due to fear if nothing else. But here I am, counting down the remaining 95 days.

So this is where I’m at right now. My head is spinning, but I am so immensely happy and excited. I hope you’re ready for me, Sweden!

It’s been 10 years since… (a short memoir about epilepsy)

Epilepsy brainIt is 10 years ago today that I remember standing in my bathroom, brushing my teeth, a 17 year old on his way out somewhere on a weekend morning. One moment I felt fine, and then suddenly one of those dizzy spells started again, the same ones that I had been suffering from 20 to 30 times a day for the past 2 and a half years, which no doctor had really given any useful advice on. But this dizzy spell was different. I felt the numbness creep underneath my skull over my head, seep into my eyes, my nose and mouth, down through my body into my hands and feet. I felt myself freeze over, my senses fail me one by one as I desperately scrambled to make sense of what was happening in my head, only to find my own lines of thought were turning to mush and I couldn’t even think in sentences or words. For a split second my vision snapped back as the ground was bizarrely hurtling towards me…

Two hours later. I was completely unaware of the bathroom tiles I had kicked clean off the wall, or the bloodied state my (at the time) 10 year old sister had found me in, unconscious. I was also unaware of the thousands of tiny red dots all over my face – burst blood vessels from landing with so much force – which would cause me to laugh hysterically at the end of the day when I finally saw my own reflection again.

Oxygen maskInstead, I woke up on my couch in the back room of my parents’ house, with Dad and two strangers standing over me, staring at me with concerned looks on their faces. The only thing I was concerned about was getting the oxygen mask off my face so I could ask them what the hell an oxygen mask was doing on my face, because I felt fine apart from wondering why I had gone for a little sleep on the couch, and how I had even found myself there. I attempted numerous times to remove this oxygen mask to ask my question, but they insisted it stay on my face, and I felt suffocated by my lack of ability to communicate. It was only when I found myself being picked up, put onto a stretcher, and carried down my driveway and into the back of an ambulance, with Dad following along, that I realised not only that something serious had happened, but that it had happened to me. More than ever, I wanted to get that stupid mask off my face.

I was soon told that I had some kind of accident and had been found unconscious in my bathroom by my little sister (who remained amazingly brave and did all the right things at the time – it was only her and Dad home as my other sister was out somewhere and my Mum was in England as her father had just passed away). Nobody knew what the accident was, and I had absolutely no memory of what it had been, or that morning at all really.

EEG-CapWe got to the hospital, where a number of different tests were conducted on me, from MRIs to EEGs, many of them focusing on my brain. I was still quite out of it, and so wasn’t bothered by the Frankenstein feel of having wires attached to my brain during an EEG, or feeling claustrophobic in that tube during the MRI (something I did feel much more when I had an MRI a few months ago). It was more like a day at a theme park, only all the rides were weird machines that made lots of noise and made my head feel funnier than it already did. At one point I was asked if I had consumed any alcohol in the last month, which I awkwardly answered with an “I don’t know” due to the presence of my Dad – and thus my parents found out that I had been drinking under-age (I then argued that if I had kept it from them so well all that time, surely I must be a sensible drinker – I look back now and shake my head at myself).

We went home at the end of the day and were told that they’d let us know as soon as they had some definite results, but that I was not to return to school until we had a diagnosis (which was awkward as it was only weeks out from my final High School Certificate exams). My Mum was going to be in England for a couple more weeks, and we decided as a family not to tell her about what had happened to me as she had enough to deal with on her own, not only with her own mourning for her father but also her family as well. Still, she knew us all too well and could sense we were hiding something from her, which caused her to become quite angry with us at points as we swore we weren’t hiding anything.

Epilepsy word cloudA week after my hospitalisation I found out I had epilepsy. I also found out that the dizzy spells I had been having 20 to 30 times a day were in fact seizures, just minor seizures that weren’t knocking me unconscious like the big one a week earlier. So I had in fact had perhaps a thousand seizures over the past few years without realising it was epilepsy the whole time, and something had triggered the big one finally – a mixture of stress, lack of sleep and possibly alcohol, the neurologist told me, though we both suspected it was more the first two. I later realised that my Grandpa’s death, despite him living on the other side of the world, had upset me deeply, and that this was probably the final trigger for my epilepsy. In a lot of ways though I am glad something triggered it when it did, when I was just at home and not in a car when it would have been a lot scarier and more dangerous. Speaking of cars, I wasn’t allowed to drive for a couple of years after this, until my brain had been stable for some time.

I know both my parents have dealt with it in different ways over the years. Mum broke down in tears when she finally came back home, angrily demanded what on earth was going on and I blurted out the story to her and told her I was epileptic. Dad later admitted that he had been so worried about me he had been in tears at some points, and it dawned on me just how much my parents cared for me that they were more worried about me than I was myself. For the last decade they have always been very concerned about my health, and while at times it drives me nuts mostly I adore them for it and am very glad to have them around being so thoughtful and caring.

I quite enjoyed the novelty of telling people I officially had a brain disorder, and after a few months of constantly readjusting my medication, I’ve had mostly 10 peaceful years of not having to worry too much about my epilepsy. I have no particular reason or desire to come off my medication, and although I did have a sort of pre-seizure a few weeks ago which scared the living daylights out of me, I think this is a new medication I’m on for migraines that is causing a conflict in that brain of mine, and I intend on coming off the new medication – I’d rather put up with migraines than seizures any day!

I still have much to learn about epilepsy, and much to learn about my own epilepsy and my own brain, but when I look back to 10 years ago I realise I probably learned more about myself and my parents during that time than I did the inner workings of my head. The brain is a funny old thing, don’t you think?

Phase one of Operation: Move to Sweden complete

332px-British_Passport.svgAnd in record time!

Phase one consisted entirely of me getting my British passport. Luckily, being born in England, I have had for most of my life dual citizenship in both England and Australia. But my citizenship in England, and thus the European Union, is most important as it’s the key for me to move to Sweden without having to worry about Visas or any of that kind of stuff.

I had been told by many people that to get your British Passport in Australia took 2-3 months. When I went for the interview for the passport, they said it would take about 6 weeks. Anyway, 12 days later, my passport arrived, which seems somewhat impossible. During those 12 days were 2 weekends, so in 6 days my documents and application arrived there, they must have processed it and mailed it back to Australia that very day (the dates on my passport indicate as much) and it arrived 6 days later. I’m sure my Australian passport wasn’t much faster than that!

So with that part of the process down, I now don’t have to think about renewing either of my two passports until I’m in my mid-to-late 30s (a scary thought indeed), as they last 10 years each, so now it’s time to apply for the Right of Residence to live in Sweden, which I have the right to do as a member of the European Union! Once that is processed, I apply for a Swedish ID number, and then…well, then I get a job, a place to live, and I move over there. Kind of crazy, really.

So there’s still lots to do (such as learn the language, ahhh), but the passport coming 2 months quicker than I planned has definitely helped tremendously. And it’s definitely feeling a lot more real now – I love that I could just go live in Britain now, no questions asked, for as long as I want. Now to just add Sweden to that list, and it’ll really feel real.

And yes, the girlfriend and I are counting down the months to being reunited at long last!

Have any of you ever immigrated? If so, for what reasons? How was your experience of it?