Ohio River The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge as seen from Cincinnati.

 

Cincinnati The Purple People Bridge as seen from Kentucky.

 

As long as I lived in Cincinnati, I never walked across one of the Ohio River bridges. Until now. With my nieces and nephews on a fun day to the Newport Aquarium recently, we decided we would take a bridge walk. From the aquarium, we walked across the Purple People Bridge back to Cincinnati.

After a stop to run through the fountains at Yeatman’s Cove and the Serpentine Wall, we then walked across the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge.  This bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was completed in 1866 and later served as a blueprint for the Brooklyn Bridge. To get back to the car, we took the trolley back to Cincinnati and then to Newport again. Then I drove us all home again across yet another bridge. It was a very “bridgey” day.

Ohio River My nieces and nephews strike a pose on the Purple People Bridge.

 

Ohio River John Roebling designed this bridge and then later created the even longer Brooklyn Bridge.

 

Ohio River The Cincinnati skyline.

 

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Lake Erie summer The view from the hammock.

 

Lake Erie summer My “office” view from the deck.

 

Over the last month, I’ve been spending a lot of time getting caught up with family and friends in Ohio. It’s been fun, but I realized I had been doing quite a bit of running around while also trying to sandwich in as much work as possible. I was getting tired.

So earlier in  the week, we slowed down and went to visit my aunt and uncle at their house on Lake Erie. Their home and boat are made for relaxing. Perch fishing, watching the sunset and spending time in the hammock were just what I needed. I even managed to squeeze in some work. As I did it from the deck with a water view, it was not a bad deal at all.

 

Lake Erie Robert and one of the over 150 perch we caught and later ate.

 

Lake Erie Uncle Doug shows off his sunset fishing skills.

 

summer Lake Erie sunset.

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Cincinnati Reds The Great American Ball Park with the Ohio River in the background.

 

Cincinnati Reds Selling cotton candy.

 

Now it feels like summer. I went to a baseball game. Specifically, I saw the Cincinnati Reds play the Washington Nationals. My team lost.

But really, that’s not what it was all about anyway. It was also about the traditions. Doing the wave and the 7th inning stretch while singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Plus, it was a beautiful summer night. I was with a friend that I’ve known since I was 4.5 years old. We ate all sorts of ballpark food: pizza, nachos, a soft pretzel. And we jazzed it up with some frozen margaritas. Yum. After the game, the Cincinnati Pops played a mini concert and there were fireworks. Good stuff.

 

Cincinnati Reds The score board.

 

Cincinnati Reds John Morris Russell conducted the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra after the game.

 

Cincinnati Reds And for the finale of the evening: fireworks.

 

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southern cooking Fried green tomatoes.

 

Kentucky The Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg. I remember coming here when I was about 10.

 

Growing up as the daughter and granddaughter of southerners, I was served a lot of
country cooking: cornbread, fruit pies and biscuits, green beans with ham, fried chicken, homemade bread and butter pickles and jams. These things I could tolerate. But fried green tomatoes, country ham, gravy and grits did not make the cut for this “northerner” and I spent a lot of time wishing that my family would eat more “normal” food like tacos, pizza and pasta.

These days, I can appreciate my southern heritage a lot more and while fried green tomatoes, for instance, are not in my own cooking repertoire, I am happy to have them when I visit my parents. While in Kentucky last week, I had to sample some of the local fare. And to that end, that meant I was compelled to have fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, okra, cornbread, biscuits. I even sampled  my Dad’s country ham and grits (still not a fan, though). It felt like I had stepped back into some of the food of my childhood.

 

Liberty, Kentucky The barn that my Grandfather helped to build in the 1930s.

 

Liberty, Kentucky Liberty is the town where my Mother was born.

 

Then taking the journey back in time one step further, we stopped at a soda fountain in Harrodsburg. The Kentucky Fudge Company is an old-fashioned soda shop that dates back to 1865 in what used to be Dedman’s Drug Store. We sat at the counter and while my Dad had an ice cream sundae, Mom and I each had an ice cream soda. This quaint old store still had many of the old cabinets that were used in the pharmacy and it was fun to look around and see what was there.

And of course, it was good to reminisce. I remember being about 5 years-old and going to the Center Drug Store soda shop that my grandmother used to work at in Cincinnati. (What’s a soda fountain, you ask? It was a small ice cream shop/eating place that was often in a pharmacy). I would sit at the counter on one of the stools that I “had” to spin around on while having an ice cream soda.

Living so far from my “roots,” it felt good to reconnect, to see so many places from my childhood, including the barn that my grandfather helped to build in the 1930s and the small town where my mother was born. It was a good couple of days.

On an extra note, here’s my Mom’s basic fried green tomato recipe, in her words: “Slice the tomato. Beat an egg in a bowl, then add milk or water.  Dredge the tomatoes in flour, dip them in the egg mixture and then in cornmeal (or panko). Fry the tomatoes in either canola or olive oil until golden brown. If the tomatoes are hard, I put a lid on the pan to soften them as they cook. Sometimes I will serve them with a remoulade sauce, but more often just on their own.”

 

soda fountain An ice cream sundae at the Kentucky Fudge Company in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

 

soda fountain At the soda counter.

 

Harrodsburg Pharmacy antiques.

 

Harrodsburg In front of the Kentucky Fudge Company.

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Kentucky bourbon trail Heaven Hill distillery barrel.

 

Kentucky bourbon trail Barrels of bourbon aging in the rickhouse.

 

Kentucky bourbon trail Bourbon ready for the tasting.

 

Kentucky bourbon trail Our tour guide Billy Joe explains the finer points of tasting bourbon.

 

In the midst of the rolling fields, horse farms and limestone of Lexington, Kentucky, lies the Bourbon Trail. While I grew up taking trips to this part of the US,  it’s been a long time since I’ve been there. I wanted to go and reconnect with my “roots” as my mother is from just south of there and also to see the landscape and sample the local food and drink.

While some of the distilleries have been around for a long time, the concept of a “bourbon trail” is a more recent phenomenon and there are many new additions.  So I was curious to check out that Kentucky product too. (As a kid, I was more interested in the horses and the legend of Daniel Boone than the bourbon.)

With my parents, I went to the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown where Evan Williams, Elijah Craig and Larceny bourbon are produced. According to our tour guide Billy Joe, this area has all the ingredients necessary for making bourbon: corn, pure limestone springs, white oak for the barrels and a combination of hot summers and cool winters to age the sour mash.

I did not know much about making bourbon beyond the fact that it was made with corn, so I felt like I learned a lot from the tour. We got to see a working rickhouse where we were surrounded by 20,000 barrels of aging bourbon. In an open rick warehouse, the windows open and close to help age the bourbon. And the best  bourbon is above the fifth floor as it gets hotter and thus apparently ages better there.

At the end of the tour, we got to sample three of the bourbons. As Billy Joe said:  ”Now you can taste a bit of heaven.”  Spending time in “heaven” was not at all a bad way to spend an afternoon.

 

Kentucky bourbon trail Elijah Craig bourbon.

 

bourbon trail And two more Kentucky bourbons from Heaven Hill.

 

Kentucky bourbon trail No bull, just bourbon.

 

Kentucky bourbon trail The rickhouses used to age the barrels of bourbon.

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Cincinnati market Buckets of zinnias.

 

Cincinnati market Bushel basket of corn.

 

Cincinnati Black seedless watermelon.

 

“I just picked these two hours ago,” said the woman at the produce stand about the bushel baskets of corn in front of her. As I could see the cornfield just behind her, I believed her. And then later that evening when I had an ear for dinner, I knew she was telling the truth–that corn was amazingly fresh and good.

The roadside stands are everywhere right now with signs advertising corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and peppers. And there are also watermelons, peaches, cantaloupe, blackberries and plums. I am so happy to be back in the Midwest to have all this freshly picked summer perfection.

 

farmer's market Pickles and peppers.

 

farmer's market Black and blue berries.

 

farmer's market The tomato table.

 

farmer's market Local green beans.

 

farmer's market Jalapenos.

 

farmer's market Eggplant basket.

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stockholm The Djurgården ferry.

 

Stockholm Summer cruising.

 

Stockholm Stromma steam ship and Grona Lund.

 

Boats,  summer light, the Baltic Sea. What’s not to love? The evening and late-night light of Stockholm fascinates me this time of year.  Maybe it’s just the contrast between the long light now and the lack of light in the winter, but I don’t think it’s just that. It’s also the golden glow of the light.

And as much as I love being back in the US and seeing family and friends, I do have to say that I miss those long hours of Stockholm summer light.

That said, I have been having lots of fun with family and friends. And it FEELS like summer here. Which is not something that could be said about Swedish summer for the most part this year!

 

stockholm The view from Nici and Roger’s new jetty.

 

stockholm Old town sunset.

 

stockholm archipelago The light at 3 am in the archipelago.

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Hotel Skeppsholmen A classic Swedish shrimp salad.

 

Swedish meatballs and salmon are not the only meal staples in Sweden. The shrimp salad is also a meal classic that I’ve grown fond of in my time in Stockholm.  Called Skagenröra, the  basic recipe combines tiny shrimp with a mayonnaise, dill and lemon dressing. Skagenröra can be served up as a salad with hard-boiled egg and salad greens as you see in the photo above.  Another option is to have it on toast as an open-faced sandwich. And I’ve also had it on top of a baked potato. It’s all good. But, funnily enough, it’s one of those meals I often order when I am out, but I’ve never made for myself. And I definitely never even heard of it before I moved to Sweden.

For my friend Zanne’s birthday a while back, we went to Hotel Skeppsholmen’s restauarant Långa Raden. It was a lovely spring evening and we ate outside. (This was before all this ridiculous gray and cold sweather set in.) I had the salad version and Zanne had the sandwich version. To start, we had some lightly salted crisps with parmesan on top and a horseradish dip. Together with some white wine,  it was a simple and tasty evening.

 

Chips with parmesan and a horseradish dip. Chips with parmesan and a horseradish dip.

 

Hotel Skeppsholmen Nothing left but the empties.

 

Hotel Skeppsholmen On the restaurant terrace.

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Stockholm Just a handful of the sailboats in town for the race.

 

stockholm A classic wooden boat.

 

Stockholm Dressed to sail?

 

Stockholm is a city made for being in and on the water. Located on the Baltic Sea and Lake Mälaren, the center is made up of 14 islands. And just outside of town on the archipelago, there are some 40,000 islands.

With all this water, it’s a perfect city for staging a boat race. Every year at this time, I love seeing all the sailboats come into the city to take part in the The Round Gotland Race. Last night, I walked to Skeppsholmen, the island where the Royal Swedish Yacht Club, founded in Stockholm in 1830, assembles all the boats, booths, bands and beer for the race.

This offshore sailing race starts and finishes on the island of Sandhamn in the Stockholm archipelago and the boats sail to the island of Gotland. There were somewhere around 300 boats docked around Skeppsholmen yesterday. And while I did not see any royalty last night, I read that  the Kings of Sweden and Norway often participate.

There are a wide range of sailboats, from old wooden classics to the most modern and high tech options. The boats all have signs listing their category and skipper (there were some women). If you’re in town, it’s worth going to check out the scene.

 

stockholm The vagabonde.

 

stockholm Boat reflections.

 

Stockholm Race planning.

 

Stockholm The So Long race crew.

 

stockholm Leave your shoes at the door.

 

stockholm The way to the Sailors Bar and other options.

 

stockholm The AF Chapman, a hostel docked on Skeppsholmen.

 

 

 

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Gamla Stan The Under Kastanjen (under the chestnut) cafe is located on one of my favorite small squares in Gamla Stan. And yes, it is under a chestnut tree.

 

Gamla Stan Bicycle parking.

 

When I dreamed of moving to Europe, I always pictured living in a place with cobblestone  streets, old buildings, narrow alleyways–you know, that sort of typical “European” look. I wanted to walk to the bakery and cheese shop, ride my bicycle, live the more laid-back life.

As part of a work event last week, I was taken on a special guided tour of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. This part of the city is THE picture of old town Europe that I’ve had in my mind’s eye forever. I have spent a lot of time wondering around these streets over the years, so it was fun to hear some details about the area from an expert. Gamla Stan is where Stockholm was founded in 1252 and with the buildings from the 17th century  and earlier and the small, narrow streets that don’t fit cars, it’s easy to feel like you have stepped back in time.

We met up with our tour guide next to the Royal Palace and then walked into Bollhustäppana courtyard behind the Finnish church. There, we learned about Pojke som tittar på månen or “boy looking at the moon,” a tiny statue there. Also called iron boy, the statue often has hats and scarves knitted for it in the winter. And apparently, it’s considered good luck to rub the boy’s head, as you can see by his shiny head.

 

Gamla Stan Building support: beauty and function.

 

Gamla Stan Fire protection.

 

gamla stan Culutral historic marker.

 

From there, we checked out the specific details that make up old buildings, the building supports between the floors, the fake windows that were painted on to give a tax break and more. We learned about an early form of life insurance where a plaque over your doorway meant that you had paid extra to be saved in case of a fire, and much more.

It was such a wonderful way to spend an evening and such a good reminder of why I wanted to move here. By the way, I do walk, ride my bike or take the train everywhere.

 

Gamla Stan This tiny “iron boy” statue is behind the Finnish church and is purported to give you good luck.

 

Gamla Stan My fellow tour takers/coworkers. (I am the only one in sunglasses for some reason!) Photo by Rafael Braz.

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