Sunday, November 01, 2015

Fall in Lund

According to the international student newsletter I get, today is considered the first day of winter and the traditional start of ski season up north. (I would say I agree, given the temperatures. Brr.) Before fall is officially over here in the southern part of Sweden, I thought I'd share with you what the season looks like here.

This is only my second time living in a deciduous forest, and when I worked in Vermont my job ended just before leaf-peeping season, so this is my first fall among leaves changing colors. I have to admit, I do like it - since traditional seasons have always been something characters experience in books but not what (my) real life was like, I feel like I'm living in my favorite novels from growing up. :) (I might even have my first white Christmas!)

Best part? You know all those nice, old buildings with the ivy crawling up them? Those change color too! :) 

I don't seem to be the best at taking fall color pictures, since I think everything looked prettier in person, but this will give you an idea. Enjoy!

(Yes, that building on the left looks like a castle. Just another day in Sweden, ho hum.)

This is the entrance to the Ecology building, where my classes are.

I don't know why, I just really liked this gate and the little tree.

This one was the most disappointing picture. The leaves were golden yellow and there 
were these bright red, contrasting berries that made it look really cool. Oh well. :)

These were my favorite, and I walked by them every day to get to class. The picture is a little better this time, 
but they're these amazing different shades of red that almost seemed to glow. Not sure what this plant is, 
but I want it in my yard when I finally get a house just so I get to see it in the fall.

The main school library, which is awesome enough in the summer.

But look at how pretty it gets in the fall!

Different angle, summer shot

Two weeks after the other fall shot. The ones that turned red first have fallen off (near the top), but now there's oranges in the mix too.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Tour of My Dorm obviously I'm still not good at this blogging on a regular basis thing. On the plus side I've been doing all my homework and getting good grades in school? :)

I've gotten your (not so) subtle hints that you want to hear/see more, so I'm going to try to make a concentrated effort to post at least once every two weeks. I don't know if I'll have enough interesting things to keep up that schedule; there was a massive amount of blog-worthy moments the first week or two, but now it's just becoming normal life. (That's right, the cobblestone streets and century old buildings barely earn my notice now. Such a terrible life I live.) I'll slowly go through and post pictures and details of some of the early stuff though, so I should have blog fodder for a while at least.

Anyway, enough apologizing - onto talking about my living quarters ala Sweden. :)

I chose to live in a dorm, or corridor as they call it here. Unlike the US, you don't have a roommate, which is a vast improvement on the dorm situation, and the rent is pretty cheap - I pay ~$350 a month total, and that includes internet and free laundry. I thought about a studio apartment, but decided against it because then I would just be in my fully contained room and never meet my neighbors, whereas a corridor I could mingle and get some culture and all. (Plus, it was cheaper.)

I opted for corridors that were a mix of Swedes and international students (why come to Sweden if you're not going to mix with the locals?), and had at least their own toilet, since I've decided that having to be decently dressed and walk down a long hallway to pee at 3am is not really something I wanted to do for two years.

I got placed in Parentesen, so named because our two buildings form a parentheses around a courtyard. It's got a really great central location, and I do really like the 19 other people that live on my floor. Most of them are Swedish, so I'm getting some of that culture I wanted, regular language immersion, and have people nice enough to explain what I can and can't recycle or translate the instructions on food packages. (Googling msk will not tell you it's the Swedish abbreviation of the metric equivalent of tbsp.)

That being said, there are definitely some things I really don't like about living here. First and foremost, I ended up in the party dorm...again. Which being the only non-drinker in the party dorm at 18 was fun enough; now I'm 33 and even less into the party scene. Lucky for me I have probably the quietest room location and sleep like the dead anyway, so it's really the fact that most Friday and Saturday nights I can barely access the kitchen that bugs me the most.

Which would be the thing I hate the most about living here, and probably something I should have thought about more - I miss having my own kitchen. A lot. The one here was downright disgusting when I moved in, but that's at least getting better and no longer induces rage every time I cook. (Which, if you've ever witnessed the constant dish-monster in my sink at home, is hilarious and somewhat hypocritical, but there's a big difference between my mess in my own space and other people's mess in a shared space. I'll have you know the longest one of my dishes have sat here was an hour.) :p Anyway, I think it bugs me a lot because I love to do big cooking on the weekend (I made pot stickers from scratch yesterday!) and the kitchen is at its worst weekend mornings after late-night shenanigans.

It's really not that bad though and I'm getting used to it. I'd say I'm happy living here 83% of the time, which is pretty good. I have been a bit of a hermit (my easy default), but I'm trying to spend more time in the common room. I think it'll be better once I start learning Swedish and can maybe understand some of the conversations. :)

So, what does this place actually look like? Well, let me take you on a tour!

Here's what my view looks like without the sun glare:

That about covers it, I think. Let me know if you have any questions, and I'll post again soon(ish). :)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Just a Taste: Walking to and around Campus

Hi everyone!

So I have a lot I want to share with you - the two days in Iceland, different things I've done in Sweden so far, a tour of my dorm room, etc. Hell, I even wanted to post a few recipes that worked really well during my LID thing and the tiny house I stayed in in Colorado.

Problem is I'm still in the crazy busy phase, so I'm going to slowly roll out the posts over the next few weeks as I get more time...which is probably better anyway, since there's a ton of really interesting things to share right now and it's going to taper pretty quickly. (Homework assignments are probably not that fascinating for you.)

So for this first post, I'm going with a quick batch of some pictures from around campus and my walk to it, to give you a little something. (It's also the quickest thing I can put together, and I know it's been a couple of days already.)

I like to call these, "Look, I'm in Europe." :)

The building where we did all the stuff on Arrival Day.
That's right, it looks like a frickin' castle.
The building we had our General Information Meeting in.
The LUCSUS building, where my classes will be.
Fountain in front of the above building. In case covered in ivy
wasn't enough pizzazz and old-world charm for you.

That's just a few of them; you can look at the entire album here if you're so inclined. :)

Thursday, July 02, 2015

LID Day 1: Anica starves to death

Yesterday was my self-inflicted Day 1, but I was too weak at the end of the day to tell you of it.

Why self-inflicted? I'm waiting on insurance and assistance to go through, and usually they schedule stuff out after that's situated. However, since I'm only in Vegas another five weeks, and the process from starting this diet to getting treatment results from the doctor are about a month, I am running out of time. So, I started yesterday, so that when they do get everything squared away, I'll be ready to go without delay.

So, Day 1 was...painful.

Day 1 Plan:
  • Breakfast: Egg white and veggie omelet
  • Lunch: Salad with homemade Italian dressing
  • Dinner: Chicken stir-fry
  • Snacks: Fruits and nuts

Day 1 Actual:
  • Breakfast: Egg white, bell pepper, onion, and potato scramble
  • Snack: Apple
  • Lunch: More egg white, bell pepper, onion, and potato scramble
  • Snack: Pecans
  • Dinner: Chicken "fajitas"
  • Snack: Bite of a biscuit

What happened:

Well, I was definitely not quite prepared, and the snafus in the system certainly didn't help.

Lunch plans got derailed because the last time I bought some key spices I bought the ones in little tin cans (they were on sale). I'm not supposed to eat anything canned, since the linings contain iodine, and wasn't sure if the tin cans did or not, so using them was out. Since this would have turned my salad dressing into just olive oil and white vinegar, I had to nix the lunch salad.

Would you want this to be 2/3 of your meals
for the day? Yeah, I didn't either. 
Breakfast wasn't bad, though it would have been better if I crisped the potatoes up a bit more. It wasn't, however, good enough to eat for two meals of the day, so I only ate half of what I should have for lunch.

By the afternoon, while I was chomping on my pecans, I felt pretty crappy. It's hard to judge how much is from not being on my thyroid meds for a week, and how much was from being under 1,000 calories for the day at 5pm, but neither are exactly conducive to dancing a happy jig.

I was out of food at that point, unfortunately, until I got home to make dinner. Downside to this diet is I have no outside the home options, with the exception of a piece of produce from the grocery store. Any other kind of diet attempt and I would have broken down and eaten a myriad of things after work and just restarted the next day, especially since I was running on empty and that's not healthy. However, turns out wanting to do everything to kill all your residual cancer cells is much more motivating than trying to look better for swimsuit season. Willpower prevailed.

Made it home and cooked dinner, which was pretty good. The "fajitas" were boneless, skinless chicken thighs, bell peppers, and onions, eaten out of a bowl. I had forgotten to buy a lemon and it turned out my chili powder had salt in it, so the marinade was missing a couple ingredients, but overall it was good. I mashed avocado into it as a lazy guacamole and for some added calories, but it just made me think how much better it would be with sour cream. I made double, so I have something for lunch tomorrow, though it'll mean a meatless dinner since I put all of my meat allotment for a day in each serving. (6 ounces is not that much.)

I wanted to make bread, for more food options for the next day, but it takes too long for a weeknight, so I tried biscuits. Took a sample bite when they came out of the oven, and they are surprisingly good for not having any butter or milk in the recipe. Add some honey and it should be great as a snack tomorrow.

Plans for tomorrow:

  • Go to Whole Foods and get fresh ground peanut butter (forgot when I was buying the chicken)
  • Find and make some kind of granola bar as an emergency ration for the afternoon
  • Find more recipes/options for meals

Problems on the horizon:

Getting enough calories in a day. Contrary to people's assumptions due to my size, on days when I don't eat out, I most likely am not eating enough calories. Last time I sat down and calculated I was only getting ~1600 day, which for my size is rather low. Now that we've more or less cut out meat and all dairy products, most of what I'm eating is pretty low on the calorie scale. I'm going to have to get creative to probably hit that 1600, let alone an amount I should be eating.

I made it though - Day 1 down! :)

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Low-iodine Diet: The Basics

As part of my cancer treatment, I'm getting radioactive iodine. Basically they take out all they can when they do surgery, and while my surgeon got it all out, since it had spread to two lymph nodes and my tumor was "stuck to my trachea," I need the radioactive iodine to kill off any pesky cancer cells left behind.

It's not bad, from what I've read; take a pill, be in quarantine for three days while you're radioactive, body scan 7-10 days after, and you're good. Possible side effects most people seem to complain of is nausea and things not tasting right for up to six months. (One man said everything tasted soapy. Let's not do that one.)

In order for it to be as effective as possible, you must be on a low-iodine diet for two weeks ahead of time. Since your thyroid cells absorb iodine, if you starve them of it for two weeks, they will suck up that delicious radioactive version like a cult's death kool-aid and cease to exist.

So, you ask, what has iodine in it? The short answer: EVERYTHING.

It's actually shorter to write what I can eat, versus what I can't. 

I can eat:
  • Fresh vegetables, frozen ones if there's no added salt...Minus spinach, cruciferous vegetables, celery, potato skins, soybeans (and everything made from them), and most regular beans that I luckily hate anyway
  • Fresh fruit...Minus cranberries, strawberries, rhubarb, and dried fruit
  • Fresh meat from the butcher case with no processing (outside of grinding) and no additives (Hello Whole Foods)...Minus all seafood and organ meats and only 6 oz a day :(
  • Egg whites
  • Unsalted nuts and nut butters
  • Grains and cereals that are unsalted, unprocessed, and additive and preservative free
  • Bread, if I make it myself with no bad ingredients (like milk, eggs, etc)
  • Oil
  • White vinegar
  • Natural sweeteners, like honey and maple syrup, up to 2 servings a day...Minus molasses
  • Spices...Minus any with salt in them or in their title
  • Herbs!
  • Small amounts of non-iodized, non-sea salt
  • An assortment of beverages I don't drink anyway. (That's right, I can't eat 2 of 3 ingredients for ants on a log, but I can drink Sprite and coffee. Not right I tell you.)
It actually looks like a lot of variety when you put it that way. A lesson on trying to see that glass as half-full, perhaps?

Today was my self-inflicted Day 1, which I will delve into tomorrow! :)