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 :-)