The Long Swedish Summer

Summer in Sweden
My son, always in motion

As long as there’s no ice outside, we’re calling it summer. That’s what we’ve decided at my day job. And it fits, too, in a strange logical way. Although September is coming up fast, in Sweden the summer feels wonderfully long because of the amount of time everyone gets to enjoy it. Many who live here take advantage of that time. Expats return home to various countries, or perhaps visit a popular vacation spot. Swedes almost always travel to a warm sunny place. After a while, Stockholm begins to feel deserted. It’s not uncommon to walk past darkened storefronts and see the ‘summer notice’ posted on the door, and, for once, you’re able to find parking spaces.    Read more

We’ve Moved!

20170319_132230_resizedAs some of you may have seen on my Instagram or Facebook posts, we’ve moved! I’m so excited. And a little tired. Okay, maybe more than a little tired. But I’m still mostly excited!

We had, in my eyes anyway, a tiny apartment. Our son was basically sleeping in what was labeled as a closet on the floor plan, which worked well when he was a baby. But that was six years ago. In short, we needed a bigger place. My husband, who is amazing at finding things, found us one. Read more

God Fortsättning

Swedes say ‘God Jul’ for Christmas.

For New Year’s, they say ‘Gott Nytt År’.

For the days in between, they say ‘God fortsättning,’ which literally translated means ‘good continuation,’ and as you’ve probably figured out by now there isn’t really an equivalent in English. I love this phrase, though. It’s a way to say, ‘I hope you continue to enjoy these moments, the holiday season, and the time with your family.’

We’ve had a wonderful Christmas. Nice and mostly calm (I’m focusing on the positive here), with only a few germs hanging around making us sniffle and our heads all stuffy. The elf packed up. Santa came, dropped off some presents, ate some milk and cookies and even left a note. We watched Frosty and read some Christmas stories. The kids played, and played, and fought just a little, only to turn around and play some more. Somewhere in all this craziness we celebrated my son’s birthday, complete with ice cream oreos and giant red lightsabers.

We’re almost ready for the new year. We’re still thinking about this year, though, in addition to the one right around the corner. The decorations are still up, the kids LOVE the snow that arrived two days ago and I’m enjoying this time in between. I hope your holidays have been nice and whether you’re jumping ahead to the new year, or don’t want to let this one go, I want to wish you a god fortsättning. I’ll see you next year =).

The Elf Wants to Retire

20151214_093129Our elf’s name is Wackack and he’s been with our family for about five years now. As I’ve mentioned before, the elf is a special tradition our family enjoys every year. He means a lot to us. Christmas is still magical for the children and that elf is one of the main reasons, not to mention it was given to us by a very special person. I honestly thought he’d be with us forever.

But this is the year our oldest daughter starts hearing from her friends about the sham. On the playground they’ll roll their eyes and share all the secrets they’ve uncovered about Christmas. The Santa mask they found in the back of their dad’s sock drawer. The presents they discovered already wrapped under the bed. I’m not sure what we’ll say when she comes asking questions (other than, ‘Why are you digging around in your father’s sock drawer?‘). I haven’t thought this far in advance and I should have. Read more

My First Passive-Aggressive Note

PA noteOne of the first things my husband told me drove him crazy about Americans was our fascination with small talk. To him, small talk is fake. And pointless. I disagree. I miss small talk. I miss walking into a store and knowing you could speak to the guy next to you if you wanted to. Small talk allows you to connect with a real person and I rate it higher than Facebook, which is more like a mask for our lives than anything else. But I can understand how some people would think it’s fake. Who hasn’t taken part in a conversation that just drips with insincere phrases like, ‘Let’s do lunch!’, ‘You’re right! We should set up the largest snow-cone machine Colorado has ever seen!’, or, my favorite, ‘Call me anytime.’ (Although most of my friends actually do mean that last one. I have heard first-time acquaintances utter those words and wondered why. Do they have a shed full of axes? Are they trying to unload all their Kikkoman sauce on me? Oh God, they’re trying to sell me blocks for the Great Pyramids, aren’t they? Maybe I have a sinister mind, though). Read more

Autumn Colors

20151022_115222Autumn! This used to be my favorite time of the year. The world exploding in color, the crisp air, the smell of southern pines in the wind. Harvest festivals and masquerade parties. Apple pie. The smell of chimney smoke when people light up their fireplaces. Piles of leaves to dive into. Not to mention my birthday, which falls in late September. Why wouldn’t you love this season?

Then I moved to Sweden where it rains almost every single day until the snow shows up. I no longer wanted to walk through the leaves anymore because I came out all muddy and wet. An umbrella was required when you left home and, yes, it’s cold, but most years Sweden skips over ‘crisp’ and goes straight to ‘bundle up it’s freezing outside.’

This year, it’s different. I guess the rain came early, or it’s waiting to surprise us–either way, I’m thankful. It’s gorgeous outside! To celebrate, I thought I’d share a few photos.  Read more

A Day at the Vasa

Model of the Vasa, copyright Cas Blomberg
Model of the Vasa, copyright Cas Blomberg

On August 10, 1628, the Vasa, the crown jewel of the Swedish Navy, made her maiden voyage. She got a grand total of about 1300 meters before she keeled over. For those of you who like comparisons, that’s about the same distance as four and a half Eiffel Towers or five New York City blocks. In other words, not very far. The problem? Not enough ballast. Which would ultimately be a construction issue in my book, though some say the disaster was the captain’s fault because he sailed anyway. I guess that’s true, but I still think the designer should be held accountable, you know?

Despite her tragic end, Sweden is quite proud of this ship. They rose her from the depths of the sea and turned her into a museum. My husband and I spent Saturday walking around and learning all about her.  Read more

Margaret Atwood comes to Sweden

oryx & Crake It all started with a short story I wrote at the end of last year. I wrote it for fun. I had no plan in mind when I began, only a first line–one of ten I came up with for a writing exercise. A voice came next. One that had something to say, but she wasn’t sure what. I didn’t focus too much on plot or theme. I wrote what came out of me and it turns out I had something to say, or rather, Bug did. Within a couple of days, I had a rough draft of Bug Out. I submitted it to my writing group (under a placeholder title called After the Experiment) and for the most part, they loved it. One member said it reminded him of Oryx & Crake from Margaret Atwood. I hadn’t read that book, so I have no idea why it reminded him of Atwood’s novel. Was it the voice? The characters? The setting? Unfortunately, I still don’t know. When we workshop each other’s work, the author (in this case me) usually sits in a virtual ‘Green Room’ and can’t respond to the comments until the critique is over. By the time I stepped out of said Green Room, I had forgotten to ask about it. Read more

Fika for Non-Swedes

DSC_1598Visit Sweden and within a day you’ll hear, or see, the word ‘fika’ (pronounced feeka). You might be tempted to think fika is a food; a sandwich perhaps, advertised as a daily special on chalkboard signs standing guard outside one of the city’s numerous cafes.

You’d be wrong.

The truth is the word ‘fika’ doesn’t have a direct translation in English. The closest one can get to a direct translation is ‘coffee break’ usually with something to eat, but that doesn’t quite do the word, or the concept, justice. Today, I’m going to try and explain this social institution for all the non-Swedes out there, and guess what? I’ve drawn pictures! With stick figures! You are going to love them :). Trust me, by the end of the post you’ll want to commission me. Read more