everything old is new again {still + life}

You know that old saying "The more things change, the more they stay the same?"

Well, that's true for blogs as much as anything else. A new and improved Still + Life is back up and running, and we'll be putting this space to bed in the coming days. I'm working on a redirect that will take you from here to there as seamlessly as possible, but life gets in the way and there are headaches and English exams and meetings and such. In the meantime, please come visit me at (You'll likely need to update browsers and bookmarks and readers and all that pesky stuff and possibly clear your cache...the internet and I haven't been getting along this week; sorry about that.) The redirect seems to be taking ages, so if you're still having trouble, try THIS until we get things worked out. I hope you like it and all the collaboration it took to make it possible. Love you, my peeps!


40 hours in sweden {still + life}

1. busy Heathrow (see you soon!) | 2. the mothership (mothershop?) | 3. bikes everywhere | 4. view from the hotel window | 5. first dinner | 6. 10PM, still light | 7. - 9. Fyris River | 10. -11. More Fyris. | 12. tallest church spire in scandanavia | 13. swedish tiger | 14. good beagles | 15. Neel and Mehdi, feeling celebratory


Iron Man Neel had a super-fast turnaround to Europe and back this past week for a super-fun reason. About a year ago he'd had a student in his lab who came from a veterinary school in Sweden. Mehdi studied with Neel for a year, and went back to Sweden to finish his PhD. After a year of writing, it was time to defend the thesis, and because Neel had mentored Mehdi for that year here in the US, he went to Sweden to be part of Mehdi's committee. We were hoping against hope that we could tag along, but Mehdi couldn't put off the defense long enough for Callum to get out of school for the summer (he'd have to wait another six months, if he waited for us), and Callum was in the middle of exam prep when it was time for Neel to go.

On Wednesday, I put my sick and slightly feverish husband on his flight here in Norfolk and headed back to work. Of course his flight was delayed and of course he missed pretty much the only direct connection to Stockholm there is from the east coast. Instead he was rerouted through London with a late day connection to Stockholm, so rather than of arriving at 7AM, he'd arrive at 2PM. Normally not much of a problem, but Neel was scheduled to give a seminar at the vet school a few hours after his arrival...

We honsetly thought he wouldn't make it. I wondered if they'd move the seminar back or even cancel it. Mehdi kindly messaged me to let us know that Neel had landed, and when I asked about the seminar, he responded cryptically, "He'll manage the seminar!"

What does that even mean?

When Neel finally got back to his hotel and was able to text me, he let on that it was really down to the wire. The cabbie got lost and went to the wrong building, and with (literally) minutes to spare, Neel arrived, handed over his USB and started his talk.

"You didn't have time to change clothes from your flight?" I texted.
"I didn't have time to brush my teeth."


The seminar went off without a hitch, Neel managed a little rest afterwards before meeting up with everyone for dinner. The restaurant was in a long, low building that was a converted train station in the middle of town. On Fridays, out front along a big round drive, the area becomes a farmer's market. The building was filled with fairy lights and a lot of old wood. Neel said he was reminded of a French bistro, minus the tile. Their party sat in a large booth off to the side of a huge bar, filled with bottles of wine. One thing that made travel here very easy is the preponderance of English. He was told by someone from the University that all students in Sweden start speaking English in 4th grade, and although he was greeted in Swedish, everyone immediately switched to English upon speaking further. The menu at the restaurant was in English and Swedish, which made for easy ordering. Neel went for a local beer and wanted a traditional Swedish meal, so he was steered toward fish, of course! His whitefish was rolled and topped with breadcrumbs and a light cream sauce (the best part). It sat on a sliced cucumber, and when you sliced into it, the big surpise was a fried egg. Asparagus, in season and a sign of spring, was everywhere.

The next day was Mehdi's defense. Things are handled differently for this process than in the US. In Sweden, you present your talk in a lecture hall in front of a audience. An opponent is flown in from another university, and after the talk the opponent goes through your thesis and asks questions. Grills you. In front of the audience. After the opponent is done, the audience is allowed to ask questions. 

Only then does the thesis committee (along with the opponent) meet behind closed doors to discuss the PhD candidate and his defense. Can you imagine that wait? Poor Mehdi. Neel said that the first thing one of the main members of the committee said, was "Let's make this quick, they're waiting on us."

Mehdi did great. Of course he passed.

Mehdi and other vet students were gathered in the cafeteria at a luncheon waiting. The room was lit with candles and the tables covered with tablecloths, all ready for a celebration. Glasses of champagne were passed around. Mehdi's advisor said (we're all paraphrasing here), "We have to do a toast. You passed. You did well on your defense. It was an impressive body of work and will contribute to our field." As they all held the champagne, one of the professors said something in Swedish, Neel's guessing something like "Let's all do a cheer for Medhi passing..." because the next thing he heard was a loud, "Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!"

Lunch was a traditional Swedish dish of fishcake. !!

After lunch, Mehdi drove Neel to one of the major lakes in the area (no photos, thanks for nothing, Neel) along a beautiful scenic drive. They stopped off to see the beagles at the vet school who climbed on to their roofs to say hello! After coming back into Uppsala, Mehdi parked near the hotel so he and Neel could walk around. They explored the shopping districts and the center of town. Bikes everywhere! Summer and winter, they seem to be the main mode of transport. And while the Fyris river was flowing freely this spring day, in the winter, when everything is frozen all the people gather on cross-country skis at the lake Mehdi took him to and ski to Stockholm.

That night, they went to a celebratory dinner at an Iranian restaurant (Mehdi's Iranian) in Uppsala. Another toast of champagne started the evening. Lots of flatbread and dips for mezzé, and Mehdi's family (his brother and wife) joined them. Dinner was kabobs, rice, chicken and beef and Persian desserts. Mehdi's advisor gave a toast, and Neel presented Mehdi with a Jefferson Cup. (Thomas Jefferson always wanted a medical school in Norfolk [because our city is so given to pestilence, I guess], and this is a traditional gift given on special occasions at the medical school where Neel works. Mehdi immediately put his champagne into it, which is as it should be!) At the end of the night, the Vice Chancellor of the vet school stood up to give a toast, and then he lead the group in a loud Swedish rendition of the vet school song. He later told Neel that the song was over 100 years old and that it translated to something along the lines of "We take care of the animals. We benefit from them and they benefit from us." It's never been written down, so lines change over the years.

After that, he came home! Neel said it was hard to leave; he'd had such a short time there, so clearly we need to go back. Yes? We're so proud of Mehdi too. He's worked so hard, and this couldn't happen to a nicer guy.


weekend recap, memorial day 2013

1. Morning walk | 2. What I'm doing right now? Cleaning the house for Neel to come home. | 3. The start of Life Skills Summer | 4. - 6. Airport time | 7. Welcome home supper | 8. My favorite kind of Saturday night | 9. Lucy loves Papa | 10. Morning walk with Neel | 11. Double trouble | 12. Neel's favorite dessert...for breakfast | 13. Summer office | 14. Exam prep | 15. Office mate | 16. Salad days | 17. My river, low tide | 18. Supper salad | 19. Block party | 20. Bulls eye | 21.  Bounced out of the party.

Neel's home! We're so glad to have Papa back! I did some heavy lifting on the house cleaning on Friday (read: great pantry & fridge cleanout) so all Cal and I had to do on Saturday was actually clean the house. Callum was a trooper. When he got up, I showed him my list, and he took several things off of it for me. And the ironing! I showed him once, and right then and there he ironed all of his own clothes. Can't. Even. Tell. You. what a difference that makes for me. We made Neel his favorite pie for a welcome home dinner, showered and hightailed it to the airport to walk in right as he texted me that they had landed.

I love it when that happens.

I'm not sure if it was the brief duration of his trip, the fact that it stays light so late in Sweden or the fact that Neel's an Iron Man, but he came home feeling not terribly jet lagged (and as I write this he seems fully back on US time and fully recovered.). We had a punchy dinner (including this wonderful salad from Miss Farmhouse Home!) with lots of laughing (apparently Neel gets pretty giggly when he's tired!) and watched the Phillies with a neighborhood friend of Cal's. The dogs especially are glad to have him home.

Long walk Sunday morning, just the way I like to start the day, and I worked outside on the computer while Neel worked in his garden. It had taken quite a beating from the endless rains we'd had all week, but things are already ship shape. Exams are looming, so in between peeks at another Phillies game (it's too hard to watch it in one sitting) Cal is studying. I'm ready for summer and school to be over. How about you?

An over the fence chat with our neighbors prompted a potluck cookout that grew somewhat organically. It was a gorgeous night. By the time all was said and done, we had a ton of food and a crowd of kids running around (including one bad dog who wouldn't listen, kept begging for fish and had to be sent home), and it felt like we really were on the cusp of summer.

It's Memorial Day. In this town which has a heavy military presence, that means a lot. It means a lot everywhere. If Callum hits the books hard, he and Neel will watch WWII movies all afternoon. I think I need to find a cookout.

I'm sure nobody is around reading this today, and that's fine! I hope you're out having fun today. I'll be back tomorrow with photos from Neel's trip to Stockholm!


five things, may 24 edition

1. I think, as you've seen, it's been a pretty okay week for the folks around here at least. Miss Violet has perked up a bit. Although we can tell that she's starting to diminish, she's doing better than she was over the weekend, which makes us all feel easier since Neel's out of town. Callum had a banner week, yes? It's funny how we all remember the moment of getting our braces off so well. His social studies teacher made him smile for everyone, and he said that even though it made him feel self conscious, he quite liked it! We went to his favorite restaurant with a friend of his on Wednesday night for Wing Night. My boy was in heaven. His friend's mom, who is a new friend to me (isn't that always nice?) and I kept joking that we were going to get the salad. As if a wing and beer joint has salads. Cole slaw is as close as it comes and nobody orders that!

2. I think we're lucky that neither of us travels so much that it's a burden on our family. When Neel is out of town, Cal and I treat ourselves to the food he doesn't like, like artichokes. It's a treat my boy and I love, and we rarely get to indulge in. Super bonus on a weeknight. Papa's not gone too long this time, but we're already ready to have him home. Plus, he does the dishes.

3. I think I really could use suggestions for cute walking shoes. Any thoughts? It's much easier for me to do this in the winter, but I need walkable, not totally flat, and of course super cute.

4. I think Annie had an interesting observation on yesterday's post. Americans (I'm paraphrasing) have a lot of flags. She's right. She joked that we needed reminded of where we lived, and I always figured it was a bit of chest-thumpery. Whomp, whomp. We're Americans. See the flag? We had our own flag for ages, a 1776 flag with 13 stars in a circle, because Virginia is one of the 13 original colonies, and I always thought that was cool. Still, we're not real flag wavers here. Besides, it's too tattered to hang now. I get Annie's point. And then, as I was headed to school to pick up Callum yesterday, I listened to President Obama on the radio give a speech about terrorism. He got heckled big time during the speech by a woman who wants him to close Guantanamo. Well, duh. (And, side note, he was way more patient with her than I would have been. I felt like I learned some about parenting in the moments that he let that impassioned woman just have her say. But that's a story for another day.) As he spoke to her and continued the speech, he referred to this man, the Shoe Bomber. Remember him? President Obama recounted on Thursday, "In sentencing Reid, Judge William Young told him, 'the way we treat you…is the measure of our own liberties.' He went on to point to the American flag that flew in the courtroom – “That flag,” he said, “will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom.”

His overall speech seemed particularly poignant in the wake of London's most recent and especially brutal terrorist attack this past week. My heart ached to hear this story, and I felt for my friends to have this horrific attack happen in their city. Freedom shows itself in all sorts of ways, some flag waving and some not so. Freedom means taking our kids to ballgames and wandering busy streets and Boston Marathoners coming back en masse in 2014 to run again. I guess for some people it means putting a flag at the end of their dock and for others it means draping a flag over the remains of their tornado-ravaged home.

5. I think it's Memorial Day weekend! In my house that will mean some exam prep, some jet lag recovery, and if Neel and Callum get lucky, lots of World War II movies. Hello, Normandy. Cal and I are working tomorrow to clean the house and get some homework done and get ready for Neel's return, and after that it's all play. Summer's just around the corner. Are you guys feeling it? What fun are you up to? In my book, summer can't come soon enough.


night river {life}

Yes, I'm still doing a 365, and yes, I'm still taking pictures of our river every weekend. It's such a small stretch, at this one spot near our house, that we can get to. I'm having a bit of a time finding ways to mix it up. So I look for different angles, different light, different times of day. I may need to move my spot eventually, but for right now, it has changed enough that we're still good. This night, last Friday, was the latest we'd been. Not a great sunset, but a deep blue glow had fallen along the water and the lights were coming on along the docks and the shipyards.

And while we've had company on our river jaunts before, kids and dogs scrambling along the rocks, this was a first. A young man, camped out quite deliberately. He had his beach chair, a cigar, a beer and some quiet music playing. That second photo with the flag may have been my best picture of the night, but it was this shot of a solitary evening's enjoyment that I chose to represent that day's 365. How could I not?