Brussels By the time we left Brasseries Georges, it had gotten dark.


Brasseries Georges Inside the brasserie.


Visiting some friends in Brussels recently, they took us to one of their long-time favorite restaurants: Brasseries Georges. It’s a French brasserie in Brussels specializing in fresh oysters, shellfish and seafood. We spent hours there on a Sunday afternoon enjoying the spectacle, the wine and the food.

And it was definitely a spectacle. When we arrived, cars were parked on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant and double parked on the street. Inside it was absolutely packed, loud and raucous. Diners at the next table chatted with us. The lights were turned out to present a sparkling cake to a staff member and everyone clapped. It was chaotic in a good way.

Gradually, it started to quiet down in the late afternoon and we took our time with eating the gigantic seafood platter. I don’t think I fully realized just how loud it was until things slowed down. And then it was nice to be able to relax over a cup of tea and a decadently delicious Moelleux met chocolate, a molten chocolate cake that made for a perfect end to the meal.


Brussels One of the chefs preparing the seafood outside on the front patio of the restaurant.


Brussels Oysters as a starter.


Brussels The seafood platter.


Brussels Wine, anyone?


amsterdam Autumn canal in Amsterdam.


Rijksmuseum The crowd in front of Rembrandt’s Nightwatch at the Rijksmuseum.


Amsterdam A sunny day at Amsterdam’s Central Station.


Last weekend, I flew to Amsterdam to meet up with Robert as he had been there all week for work. So we spent time hanging out there and in Brussels. We’ve been to both cities several times before, so we did not feel the need to do any sightseeing except go to the Rijksmuseum again. (Seeing all the Rembrandts and Vermeers never gets old for me. ) Instead, we walked the canals of Amsterdam, stayed with friends in Brussels and wandered the markets and ate good food in both cities.

It was perfect.

We came back to Stockholm on Tuesday, but it felt like we were gone much longer.  After the move and working to get unpacked and settled, it was good to be forced to take it easy with no bigger worry than deciding where to go for dinner. Plus, it was sunny, the days were much longer and it was warmer than Stockholm.

See what I mean about it being just the right thing to do?


Amsterdam Shoes that look good enough to eat. And you can. These pumps from Jordino in Amsterdam are chocolate. How good is that?


Amsterdam Somehow, this herring stand made me feel right at home–herring is so Stockholm!


Amsterdam For years now, we’ve talked about how good it would be to live in Amsterdam. I love the canals, the art, the culture, and food.


Stockholm Alla helgans dag on the Baltic Sea in Saltsjöbaden.


Stockholm Candles in the cemetery.


Stockholm Inside the chapel.


It’s been a busy weekend. Friday night we got dressed up in costumes and went to a Halloween party at a pub in Gamla Stan  with friends. I went as Cleopatra, Robert was a cowboy. Dressed as Amy Winehouse, my friend Leticia won the costume contest at the Liffey. She had some stiff competition at the pub, including a group of four women dressed in Kill Bill attire, complete with samurai-sword fighting.

Saturday afternoon, I had my day made by two 8-year-old boys. I answered the doorbell to find them dressed like Jason in Friday the 13th with hockey masks and plastic axes. Each held out small bowls and yelled godis! I laughed and ran to get them some candies. They thanked me and stood for a moment, a bit unsure of what to do next. As we are on the top floor of our apartment building, I think the boys started with us and were making their way down. So I yelled Happy Halloween and laughed again.

Never mind that it was actually the day after Halloween, I loved seeing this little bit of the US. Trick or treat is becoming much more popular as part of Halloween since I’ve lived in Stockholm, but I’ve never had trick or treaters here before.

Then last night, we went to our friends Judy and Olle’s house in honor of alla hellons dag or all saints day. Six of us hiked through the dark, misty woods to a cemetery in Saltsjöbaden to light candles and pay our respects. I always find this tradition to be a lovely one and have enjoyed it. Here are some photos from last year from a church in Södermalm, as well as a bit more about how the holiday is celebrated.

Looking at the weekend, celebrating both Halloween and all saint’s day, I got to observe my old traditions from the US while incorporating the new to me ones from Sweden. For me, it felt like a perfect blend.


Stockholm On Friday night, we went out to a Halloween party in Gamla Stan, the old town. I was Cleopatra, and my friend Leticia was Amy Winehouse while Virginia was a witch.


Stockholm Amy Winehouse wins the costume competition.


Halloween The close up.


Stockholm Blooms over the Baltic Sea.


Stockholm Sunflowers on a side street.


Stockholm Grapes in Nici and Roger’s garden.


While autumn is about loss of leaves, warmth and daylight, it is also about new beginnings, including brilliant tree colors, cozy meals and time inside. For Robert and I, it’s the start of life in our new home. There are still packing boxes around, but they are getting emptied bit by bit.

I’ve spent the last few days working at home so I could better nurse a sore throat by taking time to relax on the couch in between writing several articles and interviewing a GM in Taiwan. It’s been good to look out on the rain, a little bit of sun and the waves on the water. Today, there was actually more sun than we’ve had all week, which felt good. Unfortunately, I was not feeling so well, so I stayed inside for the most part. The photos you see here are from around Stockholm over the last few weeks.


Stockholm Apple orchard leftovers.


Stockholm An almost empty marina.


Stockholm Autumn still life.


Stockholm Purple chili peppers.


Stockholm Red and yellow trees.


Stockholm Along Strandvägen, on the Baltic Sea.


In the midst of looking for a place to live, buying and then moving in, I passed the anniversary without even noticing it. In September, I reached the  10-year-mark. Ten years, that is, of living abroad. It’s hard to believe I’ve lived here in Stockholm so long.

On the the day we signed the final papers for our apartment, we met with the woman whose place we were buying. Funnily enough, she and her partner were moving to the states. She was leaving in three days, her man was already there and she had just finished clearing out the last of her things from the apartment. She was done in every way. Just talking about it to me, a stranger, made her cry. I gave her a tissue and a hug.

Because just like that, I was transported back to my leave taking from the US 10 years ago. I knew EXACTLY how she felt. I worked at my job right up until the end while managing itemizing everything in my home for the movers, attending going-away-parties, saying goodbye to  family and friends, leaving a company I’d worked at for 16 years, finding out that our dog would not be on the same flight as us as the vet had made a mistake, having a yard sale, donating furniture and clothes to charity, painting the house, cleaning, organizing, and trying to figure out how to pack all the things I would need for the next eight weeks into two big suitcases before the rest of our stuff that was being packed into a shipping container finally arrived via cargo ship.

I was exhausted both mentally and physically, overwhelmed at what still had to be done and not sure how I was going to be able to leave.

Three nights before leaving, I broke down. I sat on the cool blue tile floor of my bathroom and sobbed, big fat gulping for air sobs, inconsolable, not sure how we could get everything done before we boarded the plane.  Somehow, of course, we did manage, got to the airport, got on the plane.  And then when we got to Chicago for our connecting flight to Stockholm, we were not listed on the flight. There was a screw up. At the airport counter, I broke down and sobbed. Again. Probably to get rid of me, the crew got us on the flight and finally, we arrived in Stockholm at last.

Besides my husband, I knew no one. I had only been to the city once for a long weekend. I had no job, no friends, no relatives. I did not know the language or the culture or what I was going to do. Three days after we arrived, Robert had a business trip. I was alone, in our new home. And I wondered what the hell I had done to myself, to my life.

Of course, since I am writing about 10 years of living abroad, you know that I have survived the highs and the lows of moving to a new land. The journey has often been a difficult one. I’ve been the loneliest I’ve ever been. And I’ve also been the happiest. And while it’s never easy to live so far from both of our families, I am still so very glad that I decided to make the leap to living abroad.


Stockholm Looking toward Djurgården.


Stockholm More boats on the Baltic.


Stockholm The night view from the living room.


Stockholm The balcony view of the park.


It’s been a crazy busy couple of weeks.  On October 3, we got the keys to our new apartment–the first place we have owned in Stockholm. Then on Tuesday, the movers brought in our stuff from the three different storage units that have been housing our worldly goods for the last few months. (Confession: We have actually have had one of the storage units for two years because all of our stuff did not fit into the last place.)

So now we are unpacking boxes, finding things we have not seen in years and figuring out where everything will fit into our new space. We have too much stuff, so we are trying to weed things out as we unpack. That feels good. And it also felt good to see things that I have not seen in a long time:  Dessert bowls and napkins from my grandmother Clara, paintings Robert and I created en plein air (on location outside) in California, photos of family and friends, the didgeridoo from outback Australia, quilts made by my Grandma Aleze. When I unfolded one of her quilts and saw the “handmade with love for Sandy and Robert from Grandma” label, I felt like I had really moved in.

After all, it’s these things–the objects, the memories, the history–that are making the new place feel like home, packing boxes and all, even though it’s more than 4,000 miles from my other home. And that feels good too. Plus, the new views aren’t so bad either.

Stockholm Boat traffic: The dining room view.


Stockholm Fog rolling in.




Humlegarden There are still a lot of green leaves on the trees, but more and more are on the ground.


Stockholm The royal motorboat club.


Stockholm At Rosendals while it was still summer in mid September.


The change to autumn happened quickly. It always does in Stockholm.

Almost three weeks ago, it was sunny and warm. Then the next day it rained all day long and we landed squarely into autumn. And that is exactly where the weather has stayed. While I do love the change of season, I’ve never gotten used to how rapidly it switches when you live this far north.

That said, we have had some amazingly beautiful autumn weather. Hope you enjoy the photos!


Stockholm Rosendals garden. This year’s theme: colorful diversity.


Stockholm Flower garden at Rosendals.


Stockholm Rosehips.



A taste of Stockholm

September 28, 2014

in Stockholm

Stockholm Silvia’s food truck was serving fresh pasta and porchetta sandwiches.


Stockholm Robert checks out the Love Truck. And yes, they were serving up food…


Stockholm Homemade burgers from Frick & Hagberg.


As we rapidly slide from summer into autumn here in Stockholm, I have been in the mood for cooking and baking.  Or maybe I’ve just been hungry and needing some kitchen inspiration?

Yesterday we went to Taste of Stockholm, a three-day culinary festival.  There were cooking classes and demonstrations, as well as food trucks and local restaurants serving up food. The evening was windy, so there weren’t so many people in the outside part of the festival where the food trucks were. That meant it was easy for us to walk right up and sample all sorts of things.

There were  trucks serving up foods of all types from all around the world, from hamburgers and pulled pork to samosas and coffee. (I’ve written before about the food trucks around Stockholm–now there’s a little fleet of them around town.) .

Robert and I sampled Hungarian and Italian wines, lax with mango salsa, a sichuan pork sous vide sandwich and an Indian kathi roll. For dessert, we had mini cupcakes. Good thing we walked home…


Stockholm Fresh ingredients.


Stockholm A cooking class in progress.


Stockholm I had a super tasty kathi roll with grilled chicken tikka, veggies and coriander yogurt from Indian Street Food.



Rosendals A wheelbarrow full of apples at Rosendals.


Rosendals This ribston apple tree dates back to 1867.


Rosendals Sorting apples.


On Saturday, we walked to Rosendals Trädgård, a garden on the island of Djurgården. The garden dates back to 1817 and has fields of flowers and vegetables, greenhouses, an orchard, beehives, a vineyard, a bakery, a shop and a cafe. Specializing in biodynamic cultivation, Rodendals is a charming spot to go and wander the gardens or sit inside or out and have lunch or a pastry, a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.

The apple trees were laden with fruit and after we wandered around the orchard to check out the 40 varieties of trees–many dating back more than 100 years–we could not resist stopping into the store to buy some apples. And so then Sunday, I made an apple pie. While my mother is an extraordinary pie maker, I’ve never been so skilled in that department. But my friend Bryn’s recipe for a bourbon peach crumb-top pie was super easy to do and perfect for making with apples too. Oh my, that pie smelled amazing. And oh yes, it was good.


Rosendals Apple leftovers.


Rosendals Let us mature in peace, we will become pie and other treats in the cafe.


apple crumble The complete apple pie, fresh from the oven! (In our temporary apartment, I don’t have a pie pan.)


apple crumble Robert and I decided we had to sample the apples while they were still warm–yum!







Rastaholms Vardhus A hamburger with a view.


Rastaholms vardus Nici and Roger admiring the view.


Lake Mälaren And the view.


Last weekend, I spent some time with my friends Nici and Roger. They live on a island called Ekerö which is located outside of Stockholm. When I go to their place, it always feels like a bit of a getaway adventure as it takes a while to get there and also because they live right on the water. It’s also one of my favorite places to go outside of the city. (You may remember that we always go to their home for midsummer parties.)

After being thoroughly lazy and hanging out on their jetty for hours, we smelled a neighbor’s charcoal grill. Simultaneously, we said: a hamburger would be about perfect right now. And that hamburger inclination was what finally got us to move off of the lounge chairs. We went to Rastaholms Värdshus, a lovely inn also situated right on Lake Mälaren in Ekerö.

The weather was sunny and warm and we were so happy to just enjoy the perfect view out over the water. But we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the burger was good– really good actually. And there were fun little touches like the ketchup and mustard in paper bags with handles and after we ordered, we were given a bag of popcorn.

And then the hamburgers. Well, mine was one of the best I’ve had in Sweden. The “hamburger plate” included the hamburger with onion rings on top, barbecue sauce and a bacon mayonnaise,  cheese, chili aioli, and potato chips that were so good that we decided they must be homemade.

Sometimes it is the simple things that can make you happy.


Rastaholms vardhus The view from the marina.


Ekero Rastaholms marina.