“I see you’ve gone Swedish,” said a fellow American who I had just met.

As I looked at her quizzically, she explained further: “You’re dressed all in black, just like the Swedes.”

While I was dressed in a black dress, black tights and black boots, I was surprised by her comment.  I’ve always worn a lot of black, probably too much, to be honest. (Here lately, I’ve made an effort to not wear so much black.)

But that said, when you move to a new country, you do spend a lot of your time figuring out how to fit in. When I first arrived in Sweden, I had to learn about so many new things, from the basic take your shoes off  as soon as you walk in the door of someone’s  home, to the more behavioral not making small talk with strangers  and even about the quirky traditions like the fact that kids dress up like witches for Easter.

I’ve learned to like most of the food and eat salmonknäckebröd and kanelbullar, as well as fika with the best of them. And I’ve even survived the communal laundry. OK, perhaps these are some cheeky examples, but they have all been part of my transition process in some way or another.

But perhaps the key to being at home in my adopted homeland has been figuring out my balance. Discovering what new things to take on and enjoy both behaviorally and culturally, while still holding on to the things that make me, me. It’s about adapting to the culture, but not going too far. It’s about wearing the black because I like to, not just because it’s what everyone else does.

Living here an an expat, there is a set of questions that you are always asked: why are you here, do you speak Swedish, do you like it here and are you Swedish yet? It’s that last question that still gets me after all these years. I just don’t know what the answer is supposed to be. So I typically take the middle ground and say something like: I love where I come from and I love where I live now. And I suppose that’s my balance.


Stockholm A little summer yoga on kayaks moment. Click on the photo to see the image in full. (Photo copyright Sandra Carpenter 2015.)



Swedish cooking King crab, ready to sample. Click on the photo to see the full image.


Scandinavian cooking Chef Fredrik Juhlin, ready to bake the pizza. All photos copyright 2015 Sandra Carpenter.


About a month ago, I had the chance to spend an evening in the kitchen with a Swedish chef. It was a “team bonding” type session with coworkers in one of the Electrolux kitchens with award-winning chef Fredrik Juhlin. We got to watch and chat with Fredrik as he prepared and served us a variety of Scandinavian-style appetizers.

First up was king crab with browned butter, fried bread, ginger and carrot cream.  Interestingly, only the two Americans in the group had tried king crab before–none of the Swedes, Brazilians or Uruguayuans had. But everyone loved the crab as it was amazingly fresh and tasty. Next up was a baked celeriac (also known as celery root) that was topped with pickled celeriac and a truffle cream. This one was surprisingly good.

Fredrik then fried rice paper, added a dollop of a mayonnaise spiced with miso, ginger, lime juice, oil and vinegar on top of it and finished off this appetizer with a portobello mushroom that had been pickled with soy and rice vinegar. At this point, I was happy and pretty much full.

But then Fredrik created a chanterelle pizza. The mushrooms were sautéed in oil and salt, then placed on a puff pastry with creme fraiche and västerbotten cheese. It was too good-looking to resist. So I tried it too. And even had part of another piece.

Whew, that was excellent, I thought to myself. I figured we were done. But no, then we got to sit down at a table and were served a main dish of char with vegetables and a dessert. I ended up as overstuffed as if it was thanksgiving. That said, it was a great way to spend an evening.


Swedish cooking Cooking chanterelles.


Swedish cooking The impossible to resist pizza.


Swedish cooking Portobello mushrooms on rice paper.





Stockholm My burger at Vigårda was really tasty and the fries weren’t bad either. Click on the photo to see the whole image.


In the name of research, I have subjected myself to eating many of the city’s gourmet hamburgers of late. You see, I was interviewed by Maddy Savage, editor of Sweden’s The Local, about the burger trend. And I wanted to be able to talk with some degree of knowledge. Hence all the hamburgers.

In Stockholm, it used to be that the option for fast food was the hot dog stand and of course, McDonalds and Burger King. At the stands, the hot dog was OK, but the burgers were really rather disgusting frozen patties of questionable meat origin. So the market was wide open for improvement and in the last few years, it really has gotten so much better.

One of the first restaurants to open was Flippin Burgers but then that was quickly followed by Phils Burger, Lily’s Burger, Prime Burger, Barrels, Burgers and Beer and more. Of course, the burgers don’t come cheaply in this town—they average about 20-plus USD. But all this is where McD’s comes in. There is a new online booking system being tried out by McDonalds in Sweden to coincide with the release of a new gourmet burger. Because of this, there’s been some speculation that they are trying to compete with the gourmet burgers.

So where did I do my most recent burger tests? At Vigårda, I had the original grilled hamburger and it came with  chili, cheddar, tomato, pickled red onion, pickle and mayo. The restaurant chefs say that they: cook fast food with quality and have raw materials coming from farms, fields and the vegetable garden. By the way, it was really good, even by American standards.

At Gnarly Burger–which describes itself as the “simple art of Californian food,” we could not resist having the “Bob’s Hot.” It came with Gnarly dressing, pickled onion, crispy lettuce, oven baked tomato, fried onions, jalapenos and Pepper Jack cheese.  My verdict: Excellent. And at Käk, I had the basic cheeseburger with black angus beef. Here, they  claim to “take the best from the world of fast food.” They also do a good burger. I’ve also written before about other Stockholm burgers.

To find out some more about the burger options, you can listen to the full Monocle Radio interview in the link here.


Stockholm The Gnarly burger was big, fat and juicy. Robert and I split it. All photos copyright Sandra Carpenter 2015.


Stockholm The Gnarly Burger food truck.





Slussen Kolingsborg has been decorated over the summer with street art. Click on the photo to view the scene without obstruction.


Over the summer, a group of top artists from the Stockholm graffiti art scene were asked to be part of a project to paint a building as part of a farewell to an area that will soon be torn down. Bit by bit, the design emerged on the sides and top of the round building known as Kolingsborg. It was an art installation that I–and the rest of the city– watched in progress.

The renovation of the area known as Slussen has been discussed for years and hotly protested. But plans have finally been approved.  The demolition and renovation process is expected to be complete in 2022.

Today, we took the time to go up close to the building to check out the graffiti. From a distance, the art looks colorful and chaotic. But up close, the building has a collection of faces. It’s fun, whimsical and some very creative executed street art. And like most street art, it is temporary.

To see a short video of the art in progress, check out this link.


Slussen A wreath of roses. All photos copyright Sandra Carpenter 2015.


Slussen Pink and green eyes.


Slussen Green eyes.


Slussen Two tone glasses.


Slussen Angel wings.


Slussen The smoker.


Slussen Blue lips.

signature wall




Stockholm gardens Apples at Rosendals. All photos copyright 2015 Sandra Carpenter.


It was a perfectly gorgeous autumn day, so we decided to get out and make the most of it. My requirements were to be on the water and in a garden, so we went to Rosendals trädgård. This beautiful garden is a great spot to wander around, whether it’s through the pick-your-own flower garden, the apple orchard or greenhouses.

The sunflowers and zinnias were huge and the apple trees were loaded with fruit. We hung out in the garden cafe and then I had to get some of the apples. As soon as I got home, I made the pie using my friend Bryn’s recipe as I really like the crumbly texture of the flour and oats crust and topping. (And I also like the depth of flavor you get by adding a bit of bourbon to the fruit!) I substituted apples for the peaches called for in the recipe and was pretty happy with the results. (As was Robert.)

As for the “water” part of the day, we walked along Strandvägen by the Baltic and then took the Djurgården ferry home.


Rosendals Sunshine picnics.


rosendals The inspiration dessert at Rosendals was made with creme frache  and apples from their gardens.


home baking And the completed apple pie at home was also made with freshly picked apples from the gardens.


Stockholm Clouds and shadow view of Waxholm. Click on this photo to see it in full. All photos copyright Sandra Carpenter.


I am most often happiest when I am on the water. While I did not get to spend as much time as I would have liked to in Stockholm’s archipelago this summer, I did manage to squeeze in a few trips. And when my friend James was in town for a visit this summer, we took an afternoon cruise into the close-to-Stockholm archipelago.

The day was sunny and warm, so I could not resist leaving work just a tad early to join James and Anthony, a friend of his. I had done this boat tour before, and the guys had spent the morning touring, so we were all happy to just sit back and relax. We had a traditional Swedish style lunch of herring and shrimp, together with a bottle of white wine. It was a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon.


Waxholm Boat’s-eye-view: Heading into the archipelago.


Stockholm Lunch on board with Anthony and James.


Stockholm Skagenröra–shrimp salad.


Stockholm And a sample of herring, too.



archipelago Boat passersby.


Copenhagen My friend Zanne at the start of our amazing evening at Radio. All photos copyright 2015 Sandra Carpenter.


It’s been raining for about 24 hours and suddenly, it feels like autumn in every way here in Stockholm. As I’ve had a brilliant summer filled with travel and adventure, I am not feeling too down about the change in season.  And the rainy weather means I can get caught up on some writing, at least.

At the end of June, I had one of the best meals that I’ve ever had in Scandinavia. My friend Zanne and I went to Radio, the Claus Meyer restaurant in Copenhagen, and I can’t even begin to say how fantastic our meal and service was.

The menu is simple: you order either three or five courses, let the chef know if you have any allergies, and then are treated to a selection of locally grown and sourced food that blew my mind with its creativity and taste. We decided to splurge and got the five-course meal with the accompanying wine menu.

Rather than just throw a bunch of adjectives at you about how amazing each course was, I will just tell you what we had and share a few pictures. And I do mean just a few pictures–everything was so good that I actually forgot to take any shots after the midway point in the meal. I can’t tell you about what we drank either other than to say it was all perfectly paired with each course.

To kick things off, we were given sourdough bread with Nordic cow butter. It was so good that we both kept having more, even though we knew that we had quite a meal ahead of us. And then there was an amuse-bouche with root vegetables. We were happy at this point, but then the first course came was seared scallops with seawood, crispy chicken skin and asparagus. And then we were hooked.

The second course was plaice with pointy cabbage, dill and cold cream. Next came the potato course. Of course they weren’t ordinary potatoes, but Danish potatoes with sprouts and juniper on top, potato foam and potato chips. The crunchy bits of texture in this dish and actually throughout the meal were just so dang good.

For the fourth course, it was flank steak with grilled onions, cucumber and BBQ sauce on the side. Dessert was licorice and apple cider sorbet, pickled lettuce and meringue with licorice powder. Different, yes. But so good. Everything was.

Radio is cozy, stylish and the decor is simple: Scandinavian cool with black tables and chairs and gray wood paneling on the walls. And if you are in Copenhagen, try to get a reservation.


Radio restaurant Sourdough bread with Nordic cow butter.


Radio restaurant Seared scallops with sea wood, crispy chicken skin and asparagus.


Copenhagen Danish potatoes, potato foam and potato chips with sprouts and juniper on top.


Copenhagen The dining room at Radio.





Aarhus, Denmark There’s a rainbow on top of the art museum in Aarhus.



SAS The Good Issue from Scandinavian Traveler is available on SAS planes now.


Aarhus Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue.


Recently,  I was given one of the most fun writing assignments I’ve had in quite a while. My mission: to find happiness.  The premise behind all this was that Denmark is supposedly one of the happiest places on earth. So Scandinavian Traveler, the in-flight magazine for Scandinavian Airlines, sent me there to find out whether it lived up to the hype.

I had a fantastic time.

But of course you want to know if I found happiness. Well, read the article on the plane during the month of September. Or  check out the on-line version by clicking on this link.




Santorini The strong colors of these fishing boats in Ammoudi were perfect set against the volcanic rock and blue sea. (Click on the photo to view it in full.)


Santorini Fuchsia pink + Mediterranean blue. These are some of the colors I’m talking about.


Santorini was one of those places that made me want to be more creative. I wanted to stay much longer and write, paint, take photos. The sea air, sunny skies, volcanic rock, swimming in warm water and those Mediterranean blue colors juxtaposed against the stark white houses all came together into a perfect mixture of  inspiration.

More than anything, I think it was the bright intensity of the colors that worked for me. (That said, the sunlight was so bright that during the afternoon, my eyes were often teary unless I had a wide-brimmed hat on!) The colors were so strong, so vivid. I really just wished that I had my watercolor kit. Oh well, next time. Because yes, I have already decided that I need to go back.


Santorini: Ammoudi I loved how the bright orange of the chairs looked against the sea in the fishing village of Ammoudi.


Greece More blue/orange inspiration  in Santorini.


Santorini In addition to begin huge, the basil plants were very green. Here, morning prep is getting done at Mama Thira’s restaurant.


Santorini Riding around on an ATV– I dubbed it the green machine–was the perfect way to get around the island. And look at the the color of the sunlight.


Santorini Donkeys were the other preferred method of transport on the island. Even they were typically brightened up with color and had beaded bands on their heads.



Santorini dining Tomatokeftedes or tomato croquettes–often just called tomato balls– quickly became a favorite starter.


We ate well in Santorini. As the island is known for its wine, fava beans and cherry tomatoes, we did our best to sample all the local produce, along with fresh seafood, olives, cheeses and of course, Greek breads and pastries, and a few Greek salads thrown in for good measure, too.

All in all, we really liked the Santorini wine–a very mineral tasting white. And the fava was generally served mash as a kind of dip that was good with bread. As for the tomatoes, we often found them made into tomato croquettes and called tomatokeftedes or simply tomato balls. Made with cherry tomatoes, onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and flour and then deep fried, I am sure that these tasty appetizers weren’t all that good for us, but they were really good. As for the seafood, it was amazingly fresh. For the most part, we ate right on the water and the fish had been caught that day. Actually, now that I think about it, we ate every meal outside and for the most part, with a water view. You can’t live much better than that!

Enjoy the pics…  (All are copyright © Sandra Carpenter 2015.)


Santorini The seafood in Ammoudi was super fresh. Click on the photo to see it unobstructed.


Sunset Ammoudi Our lunch at Sunset Ammoudi was literally right on the water. I got to choose which snapper I wanted to have grilled.


Sunset Ammoudi And with such a nice lunch view, how could we not have some wine to celebrate?


Mastelo The mastelo, a white goat cheese, was also good. At Fish Tavern, it was served warm with honey and sesame.


Santorini One of the many stops on my birthday was to do a “wine flight” at Santo Wines.


Santo Wines At Santo Wines, we tried Santorini Assyrtiko, Santorini Nykteri, Santorini Nykteri Reserve (one of our favorites), Kameni, Santo and Santorini Vinsanto. The wine flight came with cheese, fava beans, tomato spread and bread sticks. Yum.


Manos Small World Breakfast would be served at Manos after we stepped out the door onto our terrace. There was always fresh-squeezed orange juice, freshly baked bread and pastries, fruit and Greek yogurt.


Santorini birthday I was surprised with a chocolate birthday cake, complete with sparkler, twice. This one is from Onar Cafe Restaurant.


Santorini My birthday sunset view at Panorama Restaurant.


Santorini The ouzo was always served up with ice and olives–here it’s from Onar Cafe.