Sunday, July 31, 2011

Highlands: Day 1


We greeted our first morning in Scotland as the Scots do, with a big traditional breakfast. We all even tried the haggis. Although Dale's the only one that liked it. 
Then we were off to drive to Inverness - with a few stops along the way of course. It was a bit strange driving on the 'wrong' side of the rode and having the drivers seat be on the right and the stick shift being on the left. But Dale was a trooper and did good job driving, even if he did make Alan a bit nervous. :) 
As we headed north we had fun stopping all the random castles that all all over the place in this wonderful land.
We drove through Cairngorms National Park and I took the picture below from the top of Druimuachdar pass in the park. Growing up in Colorado it was a bit small by our standards to be called a pass but it was beautiful and mountainous nonetheless.
Soon we found ourselves on the Whisky Trail and for Dale's birthday we made our first Whisky stop at The Glenlivet. For free you can take a tour of the distillery and at the end you get to taste some whisky. The brothers got a special treat because I don't like whisky and I was driving so they got extra tasters.
I was surprised to learn how similar distilling is to brewing beer. The difference only comes when the wort is combined with more water and heated up very hot. The vapors that escape are then caught and reheated, to double distill, so only the finest vapors remain. Once it cools down again the top and bottom portion are removed and the middle is the whisky that remains and is aged. It was actually pretty interesting which is good because this was not my only distillery tour of the trip! Another bonus of The Glenlivet though is that they have Scottish Highland cows living at the distillery! So cute! 
Just a couple miles away is the Cardhu distillery and we stopped and did a tour here too. It was nine pounds for all three of us and we each got a Cardhu glass! Pretty good deal. On this tour we couldn't take pictures, just like at Glenlivet. They say it's because the alcohol could ignite, they even make you turn off all electronics to go on the tour. What I liked about Cardhu is that it's the only distillery started by a woman!
After leaving Cardhu we went to our final destination for the day at Inverness. I was expecting a tiny town but it was actually a decent size and quite charming. Just like all the other towns we drove through that day, Inverness has a castle overlooking the city.

We ended Dale's birthday in a Scottish pub drinking traditionally casked ales and I made friends with an old local who taught me all about the casked ales and the history of Scotland. I think it's safe to say Dale had a good birthday and both the boys were pretty satisfied with their Whisky day.

Happy 29th Birthday Dale!

Love Always,

Friday, July 29, 2011

Edinburgh Endeavors


We recently went to Scotland where Dale's brother Alan met up with us. When we first arrived we got to spend an all too short afternoon with Krystle in Edinburgh. We started the whirlwind tour by walking down the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is a nice little area of downtown Edinburgh with lots of shops, bars, and restaurants.
We all were hungry from our flights so we stopped to grab a pint and some pizza at Brew Dog. Brew Dog is pretty popular in Sweden so Dale and I had tried most of the beers before but we still found some news ones. 
Once we were full and refreshed we continued walking around town. We saw the statue for Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who spent 14 years at his owners grave after his owner died. Now that's a loyal dog!  
We briefly looked inside Greyfriars graveyard, which is right next to Bobby's statue. The cemetery is supposedly haunted but we didn't experience anything unusual. However, J.K. Rowling apparently got some of the names for the Harry Potter series from walking around the cemetery. In particular, we spotted a McGonagall and Tom Riddle.  
To continue the Harry Potter moment we went around the corner and popped our heads into The Elephant House which is the coffeeshop J.K. Rowling frequented while writing the first Harry Potter book. 
The coffee shop overlooks George Heriot's School, a private school which was supposedly an inspiration for Hogwarts. The school overlooks the city and really does have quite the resemblance to Hogwarts. You can see the school in the top of the picture below.
It also wouldn't be Scotland without the obligatory bagpipe players. I didn't find it so endearing to find bagpipe buskers all over the place but I do enjoy listening to a good bagpipe now and again.
Next we stopped for dinner at The Tailend for fish and chips with mushy peas. It was delicious!
We ended the day watching the US vs Japan Woman's World Cup soccer match. Even though the US lost we had a great time. We said goodbye to Krystle for now but we know it wont be long before we see her beautiful face again!
I walked back to the hotel with Dale and Alan through Calton Hill and got this great picture of Edinburgh Castle and the city at night. It was a great day in the land of Harry Potter!
Love Always,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In awe


I am in total awe of this man's work and it's too breathtaking not to share. Hats off to you Mr. TSO, I wish I had this skill! Le sigh, maybe some day!

The Mountain from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

Love Always,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Smitten Kitchen does it again!


Smitten Kitchen is hands down my favorite cooking website and Deb, the woman behind it all, can do no wrong in my book. She recently posted a recipe called Bloody Mary steak and salad and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to try it. Here's what the finished product looked like.

Dale was pretty excited about it too and after a couple bites he proclaimed it would be okay if I repeated this recipe whenever I felt like it. 
Are you convinced yet you need to make this?
Go try it out, your taste buds will thank you!
Love Always,

Friday, July 22, 2011

Scuba duba de do!


Our friends back home in Colorado have been pressuring us to get Scuba Certified for quite some time and the other weekend we finally put aside some time and got 'er done. We did a PADI Open Water Diver Certification Course at Fantasea in Stockholm. 
We just did the referral program which means we did the book work and the pool work and to finish the certification we will have to do a 2 day dive course in open water, but we wanted to do that somewhere more tropical than the chilly Baltic.
They held the course in English for us and it was just Dale, me, and a very sweet Scottish girl. I had been weary to try scuba diving because relying on the tank seemed scary to me but after enough pressure I decided to give it a try and decide. Growing up, I spent weeks every summer snorkeling around the lake my family had a cottage on so I am very comfortable in the water, with the mask, and breathing through the snorkel. Once I got the gear on and realized how similar scuba diving is to snorkeling the course was a breeze. 
We had to do our pool work in a local community outdoor pool which was really cold, even with the wet suit. And seeing just how dirty the water is through the mask I was pretty grossed out about community pools.
At the end of the course as we were packing up, our instructor pointed out a hedgehog in the grass nearby. I was so excited about it he excused me from cleanup to let me look at the little guy. I didn't even know hedgehogs lived in the wild in Europe and now I want one as a pet. How cute are hedgehogs?! 

I can't wait to scuba again and I'm already dreaming of scuba vacations and of what to name my pet hedgehog! I hope Dale isn't allergic to hedgehogs.
Love Always,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer in the city


It's summer time in the city! Since it's July the Swedes have made an exodus to their countryside cottages - it seems like almost everyone and everything is closed for July vacations. So the city is currently a tourist playground, at least what's open is anyway. I've been enjoying hearing so much English around and I get stopped for directions enough that I almost feel like a local. Long days mean Dale and I have time in the evenings to go on picnics after work. We did a dinner picnic in Haga Park the other day which we walked to from our apartment and saw this sunset and maybe a dozen hot air balloons drifting by. That was pretty neat to watch!

I also got Dale to succumb to Stockholm prices and take me out for a cocktail. We went to a rooftop bar overlooking Stockholm which was too packed with hipsters to get a good picture of the view, we'll have to return to get that picture because it was gorgeous. I got a Moscow Mule and it made me miss Autumn since she loves those!
From there we went to our favorite blues and jazz joint in Gamla Stan, Stampen, and enjoyed relaxing to some good tunes.
Once the band was done we called it a night and walked home through the beautiful streets of Stockholm. I haven't got sick of this city yet!
Love Always,

Monday, July 18, 2011



The first weekend in July, Dale and I were finally able to get out in the Archipelago. We took the bus to Vaxholm and from Stockholm it took us maybe 45 minutes to get there. Vaxholm is one of the larger and more touristy of the 24,000 islands in the archipelago and once we got there it was pretty covered with people. We walked along the coast until we found a less busy area to picnic on the water and as we were walking we spotted this fortress on a neighboring island. 
The fortress is called Vaxholm Castle and luckily their was a sign in English so we learned this was the main sea route to Stockholm and the fortress was pivotal in protecting Stockholm, and thus all of Sweden, from the Danes in the 17th century and the Russians in the 18th century for those respective wars, and today it is a Museum on Coastal Defense, but we didn't go in.
We had a nice picnic on the coast and ended the trip with a swim in the chilly Baltic sea!
Hope wherever you are has warmer water!
Love Always,

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Good times and great oldies!


After Dale's parents left we got another weekend with Laura and Logan! The weather was great and we spent our time just wandering the city and checking places out. My favorite part though was relaxing at Mälar Paviljongen. I just love that restaurant and I think it's about perfect on a nice summer day to relax on the water and watch the sun slowly go down.

Nothing compairs to a great day relaxing with great friends! I also can't get over the midnight sun. There's something so mesmerizing about it.

Love Always,

Thursday, July 14, 2011



One of the biggest holidays of the year in Sweden is Midsommar. Midsommar is celebrated on June 24th in Sweden which was the longest day of the year in Roman times. Midsommar is a pre-Christian celebration (although it has come to be the celebration of the nativity of John the Baptist in Christianity) and it is a pagan holiday celebrating the longest day of the year and the fertility of earth in the summer. In Sweden it is celebrated by decorating a maypole with greenery and then raising the pole. Next you dance around the pole and sing songs.
Young girls pick flowers to make into crowns to wear during the celebration and I thought those were pretty cute. Legend has it if you pick seven different kinds of flowers and put them under your pillow you will dream of your future husband. I didn't try this so I don't know if it works. :)
We all attempted to dance along but the singers didn't do such a good job of explaining what you were supposed to do, so after a couple attempts we ended up standing by the side watching the festivities.
After the traditional songs were sung it was time to eat and we headed off to a picnic spot with our Swedish friends. Our friends are really great and go above and beyond to make sure we experience all things Swedish. Like, for instance, aquavit and 3 different types of herring for midsommer. Ok, they probably would've had all that even if we weren't there because that's what you do on midsommar but our friends are still great! 

The aquavit was better then the kind I had tried before and so was the herring so it was a pleasant surprise. While I was photographing the picnic spread Little Miss Jane got right in front of the camera lens. That cute girl is a ham!
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the park before we came home and crashed. It was a great day in Sweden! Unfortunately, Dale's parent's left early the next morning and we were sad to see them go! Good thing so many people love us enough to visit!
Love Always,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tourists in Stockholm Day 3


For our third and final day of being tourists in Stockholm with Dale's parents, it was a rainy day. So we went to the Natural History Museum to watch an imax show called Deep Sea at the Cosmonova theater. The theater was huge and we all enjoyed the show. It's always interesting to learn about underwater life! From there Dale gave us a tour of his lab before we went to the Ice Bar
It's a bar made entirely out of ice, the glasses, the walls, the tables, the chairs, it's all ice. The ice is harvested from a river in the north of Sweden, the same ice used to make the ice hotel. It was pretty touristy but it was a lot of fun, and the drinks were good too!
Once our allotted time was up in the Ice Bar we walked to Rolf's Kök to get some dinner. I later learned they are famous for their Ox Cheek but none of us tried that. I had the fish and it was delicious!
After dinner we walked home and stopped for some godis (candies) from 7-eleven. Despite the rain, it turned out to be a great day!
This was our last day all to ourselves with Dale's parents and it was great to get to spend some time with them. We are so lucky they were able to visit!
Love Always,