Saturday, January 21, 2012

Thailand Twenty Twelve Teaser


Ok folks. As you've gathered if you're following along. Dale and I are in Thailand ending our time away from the states with a three week 'grand finale' or, depending on your viewpoint, starting twenty twelve out right! While you read this we are almost done with our trip but to get the blog rolling I've created the map below to give you all a rough idea of where we are/have been and what we are up to.

View Thailand Twenty Twelve in a larger map

I'll be back soon with all the Thailand stories!
Love Always,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hej då Stockholm


I can't believe my year in Europe is coming to an end already. We had the opportunity to stay longer but for many reasons we decided not to stay. Later when I have more time I'll write a post reflecting on my year in Stockholm. For now, I can't believe it's time to say hej då (goodbye). Our last week in Stockholm was full of getting things ready to ship home and getting Dale and I ready for our 'big finale' in Thailand.
Luckily we didn't buy too much during our year in Europe so packing wasn't too intimidating. And after moving in April via the bus and shipping around the world a year ago we know a thing or two about space management. Lets just say space bags are my best friend. Seriously, that's one amazing product!
When it was all said and done we had 6 boxes and 3 pieces of luggage being shipped back. Coming over to Stockholm we shipped 3 giant boxes (which roughly equal the 6 boxes going back) and checked the luggage. So I call that a success! Of course, Dale did take back a full big luggage in September when he happened to be stateside so maybe we did shop a little bit.

And so it is. Time to say goodbye already. :(
Love Always,

Monday, January 16, 2012



Here's one more post of something I've wanted to share for a while but just haven't gotten around to yet. Grocery Stores in Sweden! Here's a look into the shelves of the store I shop at, PrisXtra. PrisXtra is one of the bigger shops in Stockholm and I like the variety of food I can get there and I also think they are cheaper than some of the other stores in town.
Mostly I wanted to show you all some of the things that are different at grocery stores here. For example, the picture above is cheese in a tube. This seemed pretty strange to me at first but it works! At least, for some cheeses it does. Cheddar in a tube is not so strange but shrimp cheese? Hmmm.
Also, the dairy aisle just kills me. It is long and filled with dairy of every level of fat content and flavor. You can buy saffron creme fraiche or olive cottage cheese. It overwhelms me. If I am shopping for milk or basic yogurt I am good to go. But if I need something a little bit more advanced then that I always resort to asking the nearest Swede for help.
And here's the final interesting thing about grocery shopping in Sweden. The herring aisle. It's almost as big as the dairy aisle. I don't know what all the different types are but I think it's pretty interesting that there are so many ways to prepare herring. I can't say I needed to figure out this aisle. I guess I didn't integrate into society so well on that account but eating herring at the special events was more then enough herring for me. Extra herring as home was not necessary for this American.
Love Always,

Saturday, January 14, 2012



I didn't talk about this yet because I wanted to share all the happy holiday feel good posts first but this is something Dale and I experienced I want to share. On December 10th when we visited the Christmas Market and watched the Nobel Ceremony we were walking around Gamla Stan when we were suddenly in the middle of a right wing extremist protest and counter protest. Here's pretty much the only news coverage I was able to find on the event (probably because I'm still using my English crutch):

Right wing extremist groups are clashing with counter protesters at Mynttorget in Gamla Stan, as the annual demonstrations were moved from Salem to Stockholm.

Chants and slogans could be heard as the right wing protesters were escorted outside the riot fence at Mynttorget. Police scattered one of the counter protest droves where groups such as Brittans damgympa and Aktion mot deportation participated.

Eggs, bottles and firecrackers come flying through the air as hundreds of counter protesters have come to interrupt the right wing protests.

"Right now it's quite chaotic. Several people have tried to get past the riot fence," said police spokesperson Diana Sundin, adding that several people have been arrested.

The atmosphere is very tense, news agency TT reported, and aside from the yelling and chanting, at least one boom has gone off.

According to police the boom came from Riksbron, but was caused by some form of firework, and nobody was harmed.

Police are doing their best to avoid direct confrontation between the two forces, but have allowed the counter protesters to stay temporarily at the Mynttorget before dismissing them.

"We might need to move them if they don't go voluntarily, but that's usually not necessary," police spokesperson Anders Gillander told TT.

Hundreds of counter protesters are gathered outside the Riksdag next to Mynttorget, and police have formed a human wall to control the crowd.

The first dozen right wing extremists marched right through the masses of counter protesters and were faced with chantings and pushes, which they responded to by yelling their own chants. About thirty police officers rushed to the site to avert fights.

The anti nazi network "Vi är 94 pro cent" (Literally: We are 94 percent) gathered hundreds of followers in Kungsträdgården in central Stockholm. The arrangers have held speeches and musicians have performed from a trailer.

Later the crowd of 500-1000 people started moving towards the Raoul Wallenbergs torg plaza, carrying placards saying for example "Stop right wing extremism".

Some are masked, but a majority are not. The crowd is under control, and a large number of police officers are following the march. From:
It was intense. One minute we were checking out the cute Christmas Market booths and the next we were stuck in a yelling crowd. We did not get hurt and the crowd wasn't violent but the feeling in the air was that things could turn violent at any moment. It was mostly scary for Dale and I not knowing what the protesters were chanting or what was happening. The vocabulary were words we had not encountered before and the lack of understanding was very confusing. Also, you almost never see police in Stockholm (well, in most of Europe) so to see a wall of policeman with swat cars everywhere and helicopters in the air we knew something big must be going on.

The far right extremists, from what I've learned, want to stop immigration and keep the culture intact. While the counter protesters believe everyone is equal. I had no idea about this division in Europe and this has been one of the more interesting things to experience in my year here. I always knew there were racists in the world and especially in the States so it's not surprising they are in Europe as well. But it has been surprising how big of a movement and how big the momentum is for the far right extremists in Europe. I'll definitely be following along to see how all this continues to develop!
Love Always,

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christmas 2011


For Christmas we had the great pleasure of Dr. Fede visiting us! He arrived on Christmas Eve and we decided to celebrate the Swedish way by eating a big meal on Christmas Eve. We started out with the mulled wine and then cooked up a ham and some other sides and served them along with all the food work gave me. It was a feast! 
And we didn't even make a dent.
On Christmas day we walked around the city to show Fede the town and get out of the Christmas ham coma. The weather was beautiful but the town was empty. This did not feel like the busy Stockholm I've come to know but it still was nice to get out for a while.
It was good times with a good friend and good food! Who could possibly ask for more?!
A God Helg (Happy Holiday) it was!
Love Always,

Monday, January 9, 2012

gifts and julbords


This year was a strange one Christmas wise. Nothing was 'normal' about it. I didn't have a single present wrapped or a Christmas tree up. No family near by. I wasn't running around spending far too much money in crowded malls. It was nice. It was also lonely. So is the expat life. One thing that was unexpectedly pleasant was all the gifts my bosses spoiled me with. I mean, look at all this loot:
I made out like a bandit! Shirts, sweaters, salmon, sausage, different cheeses, etc.. Oh boy! They take care of their people in Sweden.

On top of all that we also had a big Christmas Dinner for coworkers. This is traditional and they call the event Julbord, literally Christmas Table or Buffet. Mine was at Tyrols the restaurant at Grona Lund, the amusement park here, and it featured wild animals. So, along with herring prepared something like 30 different ways, I got to try bear meat balls, wolf paw pate, and all sorts of other meats I never thought I would eat and over 200 different dishes to try! To eat a Julbord properly involves seven trips to the table. Dale's work had their Julbord at Ulla Winbladh where they handed out instructions for the seven rounds. So, here are the seven rounds a la Ulla Winbladh:
  1. A selection of herring and cheeses to be accompanied by beer or aquavit.
  2. Buckling, egg and an assortment of salmon to be accompanied by lemon aquavit.
  3. A selection of cold meats and mustard as well as Christmas sausage to be accompanied by a bitter aquavit.
  4. Lutefisk to be accompanied by a glass of red burgundy.
  5. Prince sausage, meatballs and red cabbage to be accompanied by a decent ale.
  6. Poached pear and assorted Swedish desserts to be accompanied by a glass of port.
  7. Cake and chocolate to be accompanied by coffee and cognac.
I didn't make it through all seven rounds of food and I didn't even attempt the accompanying drinks. Although my coworkers did serenade me with the traditional aquavit drinking songs while they were in the aquavit buffet rounds. I did try the Lutefisk which is cod preserved by soaking it in lye and to get it ready to cook it must be soaked in water for 6 days to remove all the lye. This process leaves the cod somewhat jelly like and removes a lot of the taste. I was surprised that for all that work it doesn't really taste like much. The lutefisk is served covered in a cream sauce with peas and bacon bits and the toppings were pretty much all I could taste and I'm told that's a good thing. I can't say I love the herring but this year in Sweden has made me realize which way I prefer the herring prepared so that's something I guess. The Swedish cheeses are amazing and I loved the smoked salmon. And unfortunately bear meat balls and wolf paw pate are not so interesting. And dessert, well, who doesn't love dessert no matter where they are?! And that folks was my Swedish Julboard experience.
Love Always,

Saturday, January 7, 2012



Starting this holiday season of 2011, Stockholm is dreaming of being THE holiday destination and to do so they have really beefed up their holiday lights and decorations. The name of the project is called 'StockholmsJul' meaning Stockholm's Christmas. I've had a lot of fun walking around town checking out the lights and every inch of the city their is a surprise holiday decoration to be found. These classic Christmas trees and boughs are at the Opera house.
Sergels Torg has never looked finer than it does with the Christmas trees and reindeer. Usually I'm not so impressed with Sergels Torg but this time of the year I think it's worth it to stop by and see the lights. And as a bonus, their is a small Christmas Market set up in the shopping area below the trees and reindeer. Although, the market in Gamla Stan is much better in my opinion.
The streets around Sergels Torg are covered with many different lights, some are ornaments.
Others are stars with lit trails.
The department stores in town all put on Christmas displays every year and my coworkers were a buzz discussing what the displays would be this year. But even before they had visited them for the year, they all knew NK, Nordiska Kompaniet, would have the best display. Many a Stockholmer makes a tradition of going to see the displays. So of course I dragged Dale down to check it out and here's a picture from the display I found the most interesting.
Santa-tv-face was a little disturbing but less so than fairy godmother Santa. I guess after so many years of the displays they have to get pretty creative to come up with new displays every year. Mostly I was amazed at how packed the sidewalk was just to walk past the display. Swedes take the NK Christmas display pretty seriously!
But from what I can tell the most beloved Christmas decoration in the city is the beloved and giant Christmas Tree on Gamla Stan. The plaque below the tree says it is even bigger and more beautiful than the one in Rockefeller Center and this one is so beautiful it is not allowed to compete in Christmas tree beauty contests. Ha! Not so lagom Swedes. :)
Love Always,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Advent lights and glöggmingels


Advent in Sweden is celebrated the four weeks before Christmas. Here is the story of Advent:
Advent means arrival, or coming, and since the 5th century AD has heralded the Christmas season and the birth of Christ. Since the 1890s, the custom in Sweden has been to light a candle every Sunday during Advent. The candles used to be placed in tiny Christmas trees, but from the 1930s onwards these were superseded by candlesticks of iron or wood. The Moravian custom of hanging a star made from paper, straw or chipwood in windows also found its way to Sweden in the 1930s, recalling the star that guided the Three Wise Men. The advent calendar dates from around this time as well. Children open a window in the calendar for each passing day until Christmas Eve.

In agrarian times, Advent was a hectic period when all farmwork was to be completed so that people could take Christmas leave. By 9 December,‘Anna Day’, the Christmas brew was to be ready, the lutfisk was to be soaked in lye and the baking was to begin. On Lucia Day, 13 December, candles were to be made and animals slaughtered for the Christmas table, and after Tomas Day, 21 December, all milling and spinning was to cease. Christmas fairs were then held in town. Since the Middle Ages, Swedes have drunk hot mulled wine (glögg), during Advent.
by Agneta Lilja, Södertörn University College
Dale and I celebrated Advent by putting up an Advent light in our window (which is now packed up and shipping home, I couldn't part with it!). 
Here's a glimpse at the other Advent lights on our street. I think it's really beautiful to see all the light and it really does help brighten things up, especially with less than 6 hours of daylight and cloudy weather.
The four sundays of Advent the Swedes get together with friends or family for an Adventsfika or glöggmingel. My coworker had us over for a glöggmingel and we had the pleasure of drinking the glögg with her and some of her friends and family as well as eating ham, saffron buns, and gingerbread cookies (pepparkakor). It was cozy and comforting to just relax with friends during all the holiday craziness. 

Candles and mingles?! I just might have to adopt these traditions!
Love Always,

Monday, January 2, 2012

Saint Lucia


I was a bit of a slacker and didn't partake in the Saint Lucia celebrations but I none the less wanted to share with you what Sweden does for Saint Lucia Day, December 13th. Here's the Wiki explination:
In traditional celebrations, Saint Lucia comes as a young woman with lights and sweets. It is one of the few saint days observed in Scandinavia. In some forms, a procession is headed by one girl wearing a crown of candles (or lights), while others in the procession hold only a single candle each.

In Sweden, Estonia, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, Lucia is venerated on December 13 in a ceremony where a girl is elected to portray Lucia. Wearing a white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles on her head, she walks at the head of a procession of women, each holding a candle. The candles symbolize the fire that refused to take St. Lucia's life when she was sentenced to be burned. The women sing a Lucia song while entering the room, to the melody of the traditional Neapolitan song Santa Lucia; the Italian lyrics describe the view from Santa Lucia in Naples, the various Scandinavian lyrics are fashioned for the occasion, describing the light with which Lucia overcomes the darkness. Each Scandinavian country has lyrics in their native tongues. After finishing this song, the procession sings Christmas carols or more songs about Lucia.

Some trace the "re-birth" of the Lucia celebrations in Sweden to the tradition in German Protestant families of having girls dressed as angelic Christ children, handing out Christmas presents. The Swedish variant of this white-dressed Kindchen Jesus, or Christkind, was called Kinken Jes, and started to appear in upper-class families in the 18th century on Christmas Eve with a candle-wreath in her hair, handing out candy and cakes to the children. Another theory claims that the Lucia celebration evolved from old Swedish traditions of “star boys” and white-dressed angels singing Christmas carols at different events during Advent and Christmas. In either case, the current tradition of having a white-dressed woman with candles in her hair appearing on the morning of the Lucia day started in the area around Lake Vänern in the late 18th century and spread slowly to other parts of the country during the 19th century.

In the Lucia procession in the home depicted by Carl Larsson in 1908, the oldest daughter brings coffee and St. Lucia buns to her parents while wearing a candle-wreath and singing a Lucia song. Other daughters may help, dressed in the same kind of white robe and carrying a candle in one hand, but only the oldest daughter wears the candle-wreath.

The modern tradition of having public processions in the Swedish cities started in 1927 when a newspaper in Stockholm elected an official Lucia for Stockholm that year. The initiative was then followed around the country through the local press. Today most cities in Sweden appoint a Lucia every year. Schools elect a Lucia and her maids among the students and a national Lucia is elected on national television from regional winners. The regional Lucias will visit shopping malls, old people's homes and churches, singing and handing out pepparkakor (gingerbread). Guinness World Records has noted the Lucia procession in Ericsson Globe in Stockholm as the largest in the world, with 1200 participants from Adolf Fredriks Musikklasser, Stockholms Musikgymnasium and Stockholmläns Blåsarsymfoniker.

Nowadays boys take part in the procession as well, playing different roles associated with Christmas. Some may be dressed in the same kind of white robe, but with a cone-shaped hat decorated with golden stars, called stjärngossar (star boys); some may be dressed up as "tomtenissar" Santas, carrying lanterns; and some may be dressed up as gingerbread men. They participate in the singing and also have a song or two of their own, usually Staffan Stalledräng, which tells the story about Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, caring for his five horses.

A traditional kind of bun, Lussekatt ("St. Lucia Bun"), made with saffron, is normally eaten on this day.'s_Day

So, there you have the history of Saint Lucia Day in Sweden. I did partake in the St. Lucia bun eating and I think they are very tasty. The saffron is very subtle and I don't think the bun tastes so much different then normal buns. At my office some engineering students came around dressed up as crazy non-traditional outfits and sang the traditional songs. So, I did get a feel for Lucia but not too accurately I don't think. Here's a video of the 'traditional' events as they were this year in Stockholm.

Love Always,