Sunday, April 6

Surprise Presents

Almost any of my close friends and family can attest to how much I love presents. Surprise presents especially and handmade gifts like the photo of the above painting, made for us by our lovely twelve-year old god-daughter, are even higher on my favorites list. If if you didn't already guess, our god-daughter is amazing. Not only is she sweet, beautiful, fun, and adventurous but she is also brilliant and artistic. 

She and her parents visited us in Stockholm last weekend and they came bearing gifts: A fun and elegant candleholder that glows orange when lit, a photo frame made from a bicycle chain, the above painted portrait of “our family,” and a baking cookbook that looks absolutely divine. I can’t wait to sink my measuring cups into it, or perhaps more aptly, my kitchen scale, as our friend informed us that in England baking requires a scale. All ingredients are measured in weight. 

The wrapping paper used for the presents was lovely as well. Natural brown paper covered with bicycles in black ink. Someone knows that we love bicycles. Of course I saved some of the paper for a yet unknown future craft project. Rest assured that you will be witness to both a future craft project featuring this adorable bicycle paper, as well as something tasty created from this beautiful cookbook. 

Maybe elderflower poppy seed cake? 

Or perhaps a batch of homemade crumpets? (Oh my goodness! I LOVE crumpets!)

Stay tuned to see what it will be….

*Photo of orange candleholder above by Johanna Winter.

Saturday, March 22


Vårkänslor, or the feeling of spring, is definitely in the air in Stockholm this weekend. After our two, faux-winter days this week, filled with storms resulting in a complete covering of a LOT of cold, white stuff, normally known as snow, the warmth and brightness of spring is back once again. And not a moment too soon. I have lived in Sweden now for just over four years. If you count up how many months of winter that is (approximately six months per year) it adds up to two years of winter. Two. Years. Of winter. 

So half of the time I have lived in Sweden, it has been winter. That seems fair to say. It has been a cool experience (ha!) living in a region that is basically the exact opposite to the temperature extremes where I grew up in Texas. I mostly like winters in Sweden. It is only around this time of year, when it isn't quite "warm" enough to go without a coat but not cold enough anymore to go skiing or ice skating, that I start to get the feeling of being imprisoned in an igloo. 

But soon enough spring (and then summer) will be here (I can't wait!), and in all honesty, there is nothing more glorious. Spring in Sweden is like no other experience of spring. The flowers are more vibrant, the sky more blue, the air more crisp and clean... Yes, vårkänslor, the feeling of spring, is something greatly coveted in the land of perpetual winter ;-). 

Sunday, March 16


The above photo was taken in March 2010. Almost exactly four years ago today and just a few months after we had moved to Stockholm. We were standing in the middle of the water way that, in warmer times, flows between Djurgården and Gärdet. It is called Djurgårdsbrunnskanalen, or “The Canal of Djurgården Spring.” The water was frozen over and covered in snow. I clearly remember this day. We had ventured out to Djurgården for a nature walk and a visit to Rosendals Trädgården for an afternoon fika. 

We were making our way home, sauntering leisurely down to the path along the shore when my husband suddenly made a b-line towards the water, er ice and said, “let’s go out on the ice.” I was hesitant but he stepped out bravely, even though it was actually somewhat slushy around the shore and you could feel the ice move as it floated above the freezing cold water below. Not wanting to be left behind, I took a step out. Then another step… and another until I was eventually standing next to my husband looking back at the safety of the shore. Yikes. 

That day was my first time walking on water. Well, frozen water :-). I remember feeling pretty terrified the whole time but I forged on, embracing my fear. There were many other people out walking on the ice so I figured if I just followed their well-worn trail across the middle of the canal I’d be okay. Walking out on the ice with so many other people around made me feel a bit more comfortable but I was still apprehensive and I am pretty sure my heart was pounding the entire time. Even so, I can honestly say that it was a rush to stand out in the middle of the frozen-over canal, looking back at the city. 

The building in the back ground of the photo above is the Nordic Museum. It was pretty impressive standing there mingled among the tree tops. Today I would have to be in a boat out on the water to get the same perspective. The ice has been melted for many weeks now and we are heading full-force into spring. Not that I am complaining or anything. The thought of more warm days ahead, I welcomed with open arms.

Wednesday, March 12

Practice Kindness

What does kindness entail? Is it simply being polite and considerate to others? Or does it require an actual act? Are we kind if we are only kind to certain people? How can we be more kind? Kindness, like happiness, is a choice we get to make every day of our lives. While on the train back to Stockholm from Gothenburg this past weekend, I had a little time to contemplate what it means to be kind and also assess how kind I’ve been lately. Which, unfortunately, hasn’t been so much. 

I find that when a part of my life is unhappy, I start to lose my ability to express happiness, kindness, tolerance, etc. Everything feels like a chore and I walk around in what feels like a little, black rain cloud of grumpiness. But what I realized is that, if I allow this small part of my current situation to rule how I present myself to the world, I have let it win. I have allowed it to beat me. 

It doesn’t have to win. We ultimately have control over what we allow ourselves to experience. And while sitting day after day in a situation that feels overwhelming, diminishing, and just well, not good, it does not have to have the power, the upper hand. We can take back control at any time. We can put up an invisible “force shield” around us to protect us from the black rain clouds. Just like having a happy talisman to trigger feelings of happiness, we can train our minds and hearts to practice kindness. 

"Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" - Anne Herbert

Here are five ways we can try to be more kind to ourselves and those around us:

1. Decide each day before you leave home, that you will be more patient with people you encounter, especially strangers and even if they are rude. Perhaps they are having the worst day of their lives and your kindness could make their day. 

2. Smile and make eye contact with five people, strangers or otherwise (cats and dogs count, though it can be pretty difficult to make eye contact with a cat). 

3. Give yourself a mental hug by acknowledging five things you love about yourself each morning before you get out of bed. Even one or two make a difference.

4. Go for a walk, or spend some time outdoors, and appreciate the miracle of nature. 

5. Give up at least one thing that irritates you. Just let it go and watch it fly away from you.

Saturday, March 1

Apricot Dreamy

On my birthday this past year I was taken out to lunch by a lovely friend of mine to one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Stockholm, Primos Ciao Ciao. Oh heck, I might as well just say it was a pizza place because, though they do serve other dishes, I've never eaten anything other than pizza there. Aside from a ordering a salad once which was in addition to sharing a pizza with my husband. The salad was supposed to make us feel better that we were eating pizza. 

Well, my friend and I both ordered pizza, of course. And they were delicious. We had finished eating and were just hanging out, chatting and contemplating dessert when I saw the most divine looking drink/cocktail being served to a man sitting at a neighboring table. It was served in a champagne flute and was layered with what looked like an apricot colored juice on the bottom and cream or milk on top and it looked simply amazing. I had to know what it was. So I asked one of the servers. 

She in turn sent over the manager who revealed to us that it was a special drink from Italy that is served to children, similar to our idea of a Shirley Temple. This Italian Shirley is made with ice, apricot nectar, and milk. And, of course, all layered in a fancy champagne flute with a straw. Not too long after our conversation with the manager,  the server emerged with two more of those tasty looking cocktails and brought them to my friend and me, compliments of the house. How fun is that?! And let me just say, the drink tasted just as good as it looked. It was like an apricot dreamsicle. So delicious and fresh and decadent. I can see why Italian kids love it. 

The only catch is finding apricot nectar in Stockholm. Well, as luck would have it, I happened to come across some just recently in an Italian cafe I sometimes stop by for lunch. Of course I picked up a couple of bottles to take home. Now I can make this fancy Italian Shirley in the comfort of my home. And what a fun brunch cocktail it would make!

Today's simple brunch: Apricot Dreamy, hardboiled egg, toast two ways: honey & cinnamon and smoked turkey and cheese. Divine!

To make your own Apricot Dreamy:
  • Champagne flutes
  • Ice
  • Apricot nectar
  • Milk, I used regular low fat milk but I am sure it would be delicious with soy milk or another alternative milk
  • Fancy straws
Fill champagne flutes half full with ice.
Pour apricot nectar to the half way point, or slightly more.
Top with milk and finish with a straw.

Enjoy... and Happy Spring! I've pretty much decided that winter is over :-)


Friday, February 21

Words for the Day

Courage. Strength. Discipline. Words to focus on as I embark upon the last stage of the Tjejklassik, and what I feel, will be the hardest stage thus far. The weather and minimal amount of snow in Stockholm has not been exceptionally kind for preparations and training for a cross-country skiing event. I've done the best I could to prepare, even making a couple of road trips north in search of snow. Now it's just to relax and try to enjoy the day tomorrow. 

Many people have told me with confidence that I will "klara det," or in English, complete it. Meaning the race. I have to trust them and hope for the best. And I do think that I will, in fact, finish the race. I just know it is going to be challenging, especially given what little experience I have with cross-country skiing. 

But when I think of the sense of accomplishment I already feel from the previous stages I've completed: the Tjejvättern, 100km bike race, the Vansbro Swim, 1km in ice cold open water, and the Lidingö Tjejloppet, 10km run, I already feel like I've achieved the greatest goal. That goal being to go above and beyond what I thought I could do. To push myself to limits I thought were impossible. This past year has shown me how much strength, and guts, I truly have. 

So whatever happens tomorrow, here's to a great experience and a day of true fun and adventure!

Skåll!!! (Och välkommen till Sverige!)

(Cheers! And welcome to Sweden! 

Wednesday, February 19

Trumped by a Possum

(The road to Mora. We travelled this road a couple of weeks ago and will be embarking once again on a journey there tomorrow! The Tjejvasa takes place on Saturday. Gulp.)

You may or may not remember how or when this whole song and dance got started. And by song and dance I mean this blog and my sometimes crazy stories. This particular story that I am about to tell has roots in my very first post when my husband and I had embarked on a friendly game of competition. 

Fast forward (or rewind) to this past Friday morning, which was February 14th. The alarm went off earlier than usual. Or so it seemed. My husband was covered in pillows and blankets and a soft snore could be heard as I quietly made my way out of bed to go make coffee, feed the cat, & prepare a special Valentine breakfast in bed.  Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I was planning to use a cookie cutter to cut heart shapes into a couple of cardamom bullar (buns) I'd picked up. I had hoped to find something already heart-shaped but this would have to do. I can't help it. I just love hearts. 

Cat fed, coffee brewed, and heart bullar ready, I headed up to surprise my Valentine. I tip-toed quietly into the dark bedroom, careful not to jolt him awake, and whispered "Happy Valentines's Day" to the pillow and blanket covered bed lump. He had been out with some work colleagues the night before so I knew he was extra tired. Ha. Suddenly he jumped up and spun around to face me and with the most joyous expression you can imagine, he exclaimed, “Fipin!" He was playing possum. 

What??! I was completely and utterly stunned. I just stood there with the tray in my hands staring at him. Was it true? Yes, I had a vague recollection of our game way back around the Christmas holidays when we set the date for Valentine’s day at 7:00 a.m. (But didn't you mean the year 2015??!!) If you don’t remember, Filipin is a game played when you eat hazelnuts, whole in the shell hazelnuts that you must crack open to eat. The game occurs when you open a shell and discover two hazelnuts inside of one shell. A rare find, but completely possible. You then choose a player and the two of you set a date and time in the future, could be near, could be far, and the first person to say “filipin” after that date and time wins. 

Being so focused on this upcoming cross-country ski event and all of the training and stresses it entails, I was obviously off of my game. I have won most of our past games but perhaps this will begin a new trend. I can honestly say however, that seeing his face so bright and cheery and happy made it worth losing. (No, I’m not a sore loser. What makes you think that? :-p) 

Ps. God-willing, I will complete the Tjejklassik this Saturday when I (hopefully) reach the Tjejvasa finish. More on that later ;-).