Monday, August 29, 2011

Just in Time for Back-to-School: A Little Geography Lesson

Somehow as we muddled through jet lag and brain fog, unpacked boxes, and made countless trips to IKEA the McCutchen family managed to squeeze in a few outings and enjoy the new city we live in.  We explored some of downtown Jönköping, a convenient walk from the Scandic Portalen where we stayed before we moved into our house, but since moving into our monochromatic mansion (a more alliterative name than The White House, which is already taken anyway) we have thoroughly enjoyed Jönköpings Stadspark. 

The city park was planned in 1897 and is (literally) a one minute walk from our house. In addition to the stunning natural beauty the park is home to several historical artifacts, a bird museum, farm animals, a restaurant, and a large playground and pavilion. 

The park, like our house, is located at the top of a hill, and through the trees you get a great panoramic view of the city.  To the far left of this picture you can see Lake Vättern, the second largest lake in Sweden and the sixth largest lake in Europe.  It is such a large lake that Gracie called it the ocean! We've been to the lake a few times (there are some fantastic restaurants on the pier and plenty of ducks for Gracie to feed) and we are hoping to find time to take a boat tour around the lake before the weather gets too cold.  Wikipedia tells me there's rumor of a lake monster living in Vättern, but I'm not scared!

Gracie has enjoyed playing at this playground. It is the city's largest playground (less than half of it is pictured here) and I'm thrilled to have it so close to the house!

Matt and I are history geeks, so I'm including a shot of Ryggåsstugan, a "high-loft" cottage built in the 17th century and moved to the park in 1904.  It contains a linen room with a loom for weaving, a guest chamber, main hall, and workshop.  The cottage is open for viewing during the summer and is decorated with furniture dating from the 18th and 19th centuries which we were able to see during our walk through. 

We were also fascinated with a nearby runestone. This Viking artifact was discovered in Slättåkra and brought to the park in 1907.  From what I understand of the translation, it is a memorial from a father to his son.  For some reason, Gracie thought it was a great place to finish eating her ice cream.

Of course, even with all of this history, Matthew's favorite thing to do is still climbing.  Trees, rocks, dangerous ledges... I guess it's good exercise, and it certainly encourages me to pray.

The hills, trees, rocks, flowers, and wildlife are different than what I've grown accustomed to in Florida, but I love seeing the different artistic styles God used when creating this wonderful world we live in!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Why is it always so late when I finally get around to writing? I live in fear of becoming known as the former teacher who blogged with glaring grammatical errors; becoming the poster child of America's failing school system, mocked and ridiculed for a comma out of place or a word misspelled.  I'm probably exaggerating, but I do implore you to forgive any errors you may find here.  Inaccuracy and imperfection are merely the byproducts of exhaustion.

I was laying Gracie down for bed this evening and I realized that we've been in Sweden for one week.  In one week God created the entire universe from scratch and found time to evaluate his work and take a day off to enjoy it.  The evidence continues to mount that I, in fact, am not God.  In one week, all I've managed to do is fly to a new country, move into a furnished house, decorate said house (after three trips to IKEA... more on that later), unpack our clothing and shipment of supplies, and purchase groceries.  And I am WIPED. OUT.

However, I do want to show off some of the results of my efforts here.  Our home in Sweden is beautiful. We are blessed to be renting the house of another SAAB employee who has moved his family to The States for the next year.  The house is on a hill in a lovely area of Jönköping, right across from a city park with a phenomenal view of the lake.  We've enjoyed the sights and animals in the park on several occasions (when we weren't at IKEA or unpacking boxes) and I'll share pictures on my next post. 

Enjoy the tour!

This is our house.  Note the open windows.  It was 73 degrees with no humidity yesterday and today.  We're enjoying the weather while we can!

Close up of the front door.  We may be bringing this door back to Florida with us.  Isn't it pretty?


Hall Table

Formal Dining Room

Our library/office.  The window seats in the corner are my favorite.  Today, Gracie and I snuggled there and read three Dora books together. (And I am currently typing this blog from the corner.)

The piano was a lovely surprise!  I set up a play area for Gracie downstairs.  The doll is Pippi Longstocking, a gift from the family we're renting from.

Our living room (featuring my Pottery Barn pillows)

My favorite spot in the house!


Another view of the kitchen.  I'm still getting used to baking in Celsius.

Top of the stairs...

Guest Room Number 1 (Hotel McCutchen is open for business!)

Guest Room Number 2 (seriously, we're taking reservations...)

Master Bedroom (with my bedding from the states and my favorite stuffed animal)

Our windows and closets

My Closet

*Tiny* Bathroom (and just one shower in the whole house!)

Sharing a sink with Matt for the first time in five years...

Gracie's Room

"Kitchen" play area in Gracie's room

She knows where to find her toys!

Our backyard (this is actually just one side, but the other side isn't as interesting)

Gracie on the deck

Monday, August 22, 2011

Vi har kommit till Jönköping!

Well, we have officially arrived in Sweden, though I can’t tell you with 100% certainty what day we arrived. I’m pretty sure today is Monday. My laptop tells me that it’s 3:45 am, though I know from the glow of the digital alarm clock and happy feeling in my stomach, that it’s nearly ten and I’ve just finished breakfast.  I would love to write all the delicious details of our nearly 20 hour journey, but my brain is lagging (at least) 6 hours behind and I haven’t had time to process everything yet.  For now, some of the highlights:
My daughter is a blessing. I would write this anyway, but I am tremendously proud of her and thankful for the sweet spirit God has given her.  She travels like it’s her job.
If you’re going to fly to Europe, fly Lufthansa.  They take especially good care of families.  (Now show some appreciation, dear readers, and book a flight at to come see me!)
I am too tall to sit comfortably in economy class.
When it’s lunchtime in Frankfurt, it is 5am in my stomach.  Wurst is the worst (sorry, I had to) at 5am.
Driving through Sweden is like traveling through a postcard.  This may be the most beautiful country I've ever seen.  (Sorry Germany...)
Matt and I have separate beds at our hotel in Jönköping.  Maybe we don’t look married…?
I got to SKYPE with my parents from the hotel! If you've got jetlag and you're awake at 2:30am, don't waste it!
Oh, and Swedish food? Our hotel has a breakfast buffet with your typical European fare… fresh, organic cheeses, meats and rolls, fruit s and vegetables, cereals and yogurts, boiled and scrambled eggs, bacon, meatballs (nothing says “Welcome to Sweden!” like meatballs on the breakfast buffet) and… caviar in a tube.
Thank you so much for your prayers, I know they went straight from your hearts to God’s ears!  I will keep you posted on our progress as we transition from hotel to house.  Please pray, especially for Gracie, that it will go smoothly.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

MY bags are packed...

At the end of every school year we would receive a dreadfully formatted End of the Year Checklist reminding each teacher to do their part to help prepare our school for a summer shutdown.  After reformatting the checklist the way Microsoft Word intended, I would roll my eyes chuckle at some of the reminders: remove and throw away food in refrigerators, turn off lights, shut down computer.  Seriously?  Shouldn't college graduates be able to figure this out without a list to remind them?

You know where this is going.  This college graduate just finished writing a last minute to do list that, yes, includes such subtleties as throwing out food, packing passports and locking doors. I'm hoping that including these menial tasks in my list will help save my sanity as I wait for my plane to depart and wonder if I remembered to lock the front door and pack pajamas and empty the ice from the freezer.

In addition to crafting yet another list, I have also been busy packing our suitcases and organizing carry-on bags. Gracie's bag was packed first, the easiest one to pack since she has all new clothes for the trip.  Next, my ever-faithful Jansport. (Twice repaired and once fully replaced, I fully believe that Jansport stands behind their lifetime warranty.) Now packed with toys, books, games, dolls, snacks, and no less than three kinds of sanitizing wipes, I estimate I'll be lugging at least 15 pounds of distractions through the airport on my back. 

More difficult to arrange were my carry-on suitcase and our checked bag. I had hoped to fit most of my clothes in my carry-on, but the large stuffed beagle I'm taking took up a lot of room.  That, combined with the irritating bulk of warm clothes means most of it ended up in our checked bag. Also in our cumbersome green suitcase: 2 boxes of macaroni and cheese, arts and crafts supplies, a car seat protector bag (for the car seat that has already shipped), and a tiny cornucopia courtesy of my mom.  Not yet packed: Anything for Matthew.  Traditionally, he shouldn't need much, he is a man after all, but he seems to be under the impression that he'll need to bring FOUR pairs of shoes.  Perhaps I can craft some kind of extra suitcase out of his footwear...

We're just about ready to go, and this is probably my last update before we arrive in Sweden.  The most important thing you can do for us is PRAY.  Please add some (or all!) of these requests to your conversations with the Lord:
  • For good health before our flight, during the trip, and when we arrive
  • For our flight, that we would be safe and that Gracie would be well behaved
  • That we would complete all the preparations for the house without feeling overly stressed
  • For peace during this transition, that I (we) won't be too homesick or lonely and that we will stay well rested and adjust well to our new home.
Thank you for your prayers!  My next update will come from Sweden!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Satisfying Little Check Mark

A day without a list is a day wasted.  At least, that's how I approach much of my life.  Like the smartphone that has replaced my pen and paper planner, I love a good checklist, but even more, I love that feeling of accomplishment I get when I can check the box (yes, sometimes I draw tiny little boxes next to each item), scratch off, or squiggle through the listed tasks for the day. Surprisingly, it took me a long time to actually draft a to do list for our move to Sweden.  While aware of most of the details, I have approached this move with a "big picture" mentality separating my tasks into the categories of Shipment, House, and Airplane. 

Since SAAB so generously offered to ship 660 pounds of household items to Sweden ahead of our departure, organizing our shipment was my first priority.  This meant finding, buying, and packing as many winter clothes, toys, and linens as possible into a 32 cubic foot crate.  It took about a month, but by the end of July I had inventoried our items and sent them to work with Matthew to make their long voyage to our new home.  (Nevermind that I found out this evening, that said voyage is not yet underway.  I'm not worried... oh no, not I!)

Somewhere between getting our shipment organized and tackling the household preparations, seeing and spending time with family became a huge priority for me.  Coming from a military background, I know that six months really isn't a very long time to be apart, and with SKYPE and cell phones and texting and emails and all the other technological wonders I didn't have as a kid living in Korea, I know it will be much easier to stay in touch now than it was years ago. But none of that technology can replace being able to hug and laugh with cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. I was very fortunate to spend a weekend with my extended family in Georgia and to spend the following weekend taking family pictures with my extremely talented brother.

For the past week or so, I've been steadily chipping away at our housing preparations.  With the power of the internet I was able to cancel the newspaper, forward our mail, cancel Netflix (probably would have done that anyway), suspend my cell phone contract and internet connection and check off another half dozen or so items from my list all before naptime was finished.  I am on a roll! In fact, there are only a few items left on my list that don't fall into the dreaded cleaning category.  (To clarify: I enjoy cleaning. I do not enjoy cleaning out cabinets, the garage, and under the refrigerator.)  Among them, calling the car insurance company, having my will notarized, printing my travel itinerary, and using up as much of our remaining food as possible.  Piece of cake!

Still to do: Get suitcase out of attic and Febreeze it. Figure out what to pack (and in which bags) for the airplane. Gather toys, snacks, and distractions for Gracie on the plane. Purchase remaining TSA approved tiny travel sized bottles of toiletries.

How I love the feeling of that satisfying little check mark, and I've been enjoying it an awful lot lately. It's funny how a simple check mark and a lot of prayer can help all my anxiety go away...