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.


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.


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.


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.


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.





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.


stockholm The sky around midnight on midsummar afton: moving into the longest day of the year.


Stockholm Posing by the water.


midsommar Hanging out after dinner.


stockholm The long slow sunset of Swedish summer.



The kick-off weekend to summer here in Stockholm has been much more like March than June in my mind. Rain showers, gray skies and temperatures around  13-14 degrees C or 55-57 F. But in spite of the weather, we carried on with our usual midsommar celebrations on Friday. Even though the day was not nearly so warm and sunny as last year, it was still wonderful.

As per tradition, we were again at Nici and Roger’s house on the water just outside of town. Following the pattern we’ve set over the years, we started with a champagne toast and then a traditional Swedish lunch of sill or herring, Västerbotten cheese, hard bread, and new potatoes with dill and cream. This was accompanied by German beer, as well as Swedish and Norwegian snaps (vodka). And of course there were drinking songs.

Unlike previous years, we spent most of our time inside Nici and Roger’s little dining house by the water. But with good friends and conversation, the weather did not matter so much. And we did some dancing on the jetty to keep warm. Later on for dinner, we had a big BBQ with German sausages, American-style pasta salad, Australian rissoles and pavlova for dessert.


stockholm Midsommar lunch.


midsommar Nici and Roger’s homemade snaps.


midsommar Roger showing off his variety of beverage options. (This photo and next by Aron Krishna.)


midsommar Skål!


As we took the bus back into town at 3am, the sun was fully up. Even though the weather did not feel like summer, the light was cooperating at least.


midsommar Tone shows off her Axel Rose moves.


midsommar Taking a selfie with Caroline.


Stockholm summer Waiting for the bus back into town just after 2am–check out how light the sky is.




Stockholm Blondie performing at Cirkus.


Stockholm Debbie Harry is still cool.


It’s been silent on the blog lately–there’s been lots going on and we have not had free time. (More on that is to come.) But Tuesday night, we actually got to kick back and have some fun. We went to see Blondie perform at Cirkus and had such a good time. The arena is small–it holds just 1,650–and cozy and was actually built to hold a circus in 1892. I’ve wanted to see a concert there for a long time and I am glad that I finally got inside this beautiful old space.

We bought our tickets on a whim and Robert surprised me by also booking dinner at the restaurant connected to the theater. And another surprise was that the concert was a lot better than I expected it to be. Even at 69,  Debbie Harry is still rocking, still cool, still stylish and full of attitude. It was the band’s 40th anniversary tour and they played One Way or Another, Rapture, Heart of Glass, Call Me, Hanging on the Telephone–all the classic tunes, plus some new ones. But the highlight of the evening for me had to be when she covered the Beastie Boys’ You Gotta Fight For Your Right to Party. It was somehow such a perfect song for this queen of new wave and punk rock.

My fellow concert goers were a mix of people who looked like they had seen the band back in the late ’70s, as well as the young and stylish that were not born then. Concert T-shirts included Joy Division, Simple Minds, the Cult. It felt like I had stepped back into the 80s. Just for one night.


Stockholm Some of our fellow concert goers.


Stockholm Cirkus is such a unique venue-–it actually was used as a circus in the 1890s.


Stockholm Blondie 4 ever.


dumpling class Chef Chen, our dumpling guide, shows how thin you need to roll out the dough.


dumpling class Working the dough.


I am a new dumpling master. Or, at least that’s what my certificate from EAT, European Asian Taste restaurant, says. But while I spent several hours at dumpling school learning the techniques, I think I will need a lot more practice before I am any kind of dumpling master.  That said, the evening at the restaurant was a lot of fun and I did learn a lot about dumpling making.

Our international group of 10 was shown the finer points of dumpling making by chef Chen. The very, very patient Chen spent several hours showing us how to make five kinds of dumplings from different regions in China. We started out with a basic dumpling shape and then worked our way up in difficulty from there. The class was very hands on and we each got to roll out the dough, add filling and then try to shape it into the appropriate form. The shaping was the hard part and it required a good bit of manual dexterity. As for me, I was more successful in folding my earlier shapes than the later ones.

dumpling class Ready to begin.


dumpling class And the rest of the group.


There were different techniques to learn about how to roll out the different kinds of dough and how to fold the shapes. We made a dim sum with several kinds of mushrooms in it, a seafood dim sum with crab, shrimp and scallops, a pork dim sum with chili, a kale and shrimp wonton, and also a duck and pumpkin dim sum.

But best of all, after we finished making the dumplings the restaurant cooked them up for us and we got to sample our creations. My favorite was the simple steamed mushroom dim sum, but the others were all pretty tasty as well. And at the end of the evening, we were each presented with a framed “dumpling master” certificate and the recipes. It was such a fun twist on going out for dinner at  a restaurant, and it was also a great way to spend an evening. (Read more about EAT and the dumpling school here..)


dumpling class Folding wontons.


dumpling class Adding the seafood filling.


dumpling class A collection of our ready-to-cook dumplings.


dumpling class Some of our shapes turned out better than others.


dumpling school Another batch ready for steaming.


dumpling school At the table, we each had a trio of dipping sauces for the dumplings.


dumpling school The fried dumplings.


dumpling school Wonton soup.



Stockholm Sunset across the Baltic Sea, as seen from Marilyn’s apartment.


Walking home tonight at 10.30, there was still a beautiful pink light in the sky. As the night sky turned to an increasingly deeper shade of blue, the pinks became even more intense.

These days, I just can’t get enough of the light. I feel so lucky to be a part of it. It’s that crazy, magical time of year when everything seems possible thanks to the long hours of daylight. Stockholm is at its most buzzy and it always feels like every single social engagement is packed into the next few weeks. (I almost forgot about a book talk by Donna Tartt that I had tickets for on Sunday. Luckily, I remembered about one hour before it began.)

There are so many cool, fun things going on around town that I could be double or triple-booked on any given night. And then bam! Come July, things go quiet. Funny how that works.