Heron Island Hamming it up at low tide on the reef rock.


One of my favorite places in the world is Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef. I’m lucky that I’ve been there several times and am happy to say that I just got back from another visit.

There aren’t so many places in the world where can unplug completely. Heron is one of them. There are no TVs in the rooms, no cell phone reception. Although you can purchase wifi time, it never works. Instead, you just relax, spend time on the beach, snorkel, swim.

It was just what I needed. Maybe you’ve noticed that it’s been a quiet month on the blog. I was ill just before we left for Australia, down with a high fever that left me exhausted for the long flight to the other side of the world. I spent the first week trying to recover while we were busy visiting Robert’s family and some friends, then working and finally in the last week, really relaxing with time on the island.

Heron is only about 800 metres (2,600 feet) long and 300 metres (980 feet) at its widest.  You can walk around it  in about 20 minutes. But it never feels small. There were many mornings where I walked completely around the island without seeing anyone. And only once did I run into someone else while walking through the forest. Perfect, huh?


Heron Island Relaxing by the pool with a view of the Coral Sea.


Barrels, Burgers & Beer The original burger is served on toast with fries and a dip sauce in a box. And surprise, you can get a carryout burger!


For many, many years, it was hard to find a good hamburger in this town. With very little exception, they were tasteless frozen patties with thousand island dressing on top. Bleh. But then Flippin’ Burgers came along a few years ago and Stockholmers would wait in long lines to get what everyone claimed was the best burger in town, “just like the ones in the US.” I tried one. It was only OK in my book. And the service was downright grumpy.

But being that Stockholm is a trendy town, the burger craze has caught on with a vengeance and now there is Prime Burger Company, Phil’s Burger, Lily’s Burger and KÄK Burger, among others, and more are opening all the time. And they are all pretty good, serving up a classic burger, fries and even milkshakes at a lot of the restaurants.

So I guess it’s fair to say you can get a good burger now in Stockholm. The latest to open on March 6 is Barrels, Burgers & Beer in Gamla Stan. My friend Zanne and I stumbled upon it last Sunday afternoon. We agree that it also serves up a tasty burger and fries. We both tried the original burger which is a plain cheeseburger on toast. Yum. Beers and other drinks come in frosty mugs and the service was superb. It’s definitely worth checking out.


Barrels, Burgers & Beer The bar.


Barrels, Burgers & Beer You have to love a frosty mug.


Bring on the light

March 17, 2015

in Stockholm


Loopen Toasting the sun.


Stockholm Beach-side.


Stockholm is moving rapidly from all dark to all light. During March and April, the amount of light in a day changes at a dizzily fast pace and we have roughly 12 hours of daylight right now. Spring is in the air. Crocus are popping up, people are out, a handful of boats are starting to appear in the marina and the city is waking up from its winter slumber.

The brightly shining sun keeps fooling me into thinking that it’s warmer than what it is when I go out. So I wear a lighter jacket and leave my hat and scarf behind. But I quickly regret my decision as the temperatures remain more wintery with highs around 7 degrees C and I end up chilled.

But it’s OK. Because I’ve survived another winter way too close for comfort to the Arctic Circle.


Stockholm Crocus popping through.


Stockholm Goodbye winter. Hello Spring.



seaplane Our seaplane arrival on Orpheus Island. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.


Last week, Robert and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. We went out for dinner and spent a little time reminiscing about our wedding, which was held in the Australian National Botanic Gardens in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). I’ve written before about the exotic-to-me kangaroos, wallabies and lizards that hung around during the ceremony.

But last night I was thinking about our honeymoon. We stayed on Orpheus, an island on the Great Barrier Reef, and had one of those idyllic holidays filled with sunshine, snorkeling and amazing food. Orpheus is known for being a bit of a foodie destination and it did not disappoint in that regard. Every day, we would pick up our prepared-to-order picnic lunch basket after breakfast and head out to explore the island. The basket would be filled with Moreton Bay bugs and king prawns, fresh bread and cheese, as well as fresh tropical lychee, mango and dragon fruit. We were spoiled. In honor of our honeymoon, the staff also set up a special table for two on the beach and served us a private dinner there.

On those hot tropical mornings, the breakfast bar with a stunning variety of tropical fruit was also amazing. And I always had to have at least a little of the Bircher Muesli. From my first discovery of bircher muesli on my very first trip to Australia, I’ve always loved it. And when I asked the chef one day what the recipe was for it, I found it under my door that evening. Now I make it and am transported back to warm weather, even in gray, wintery Stockholm.


Great Barrier Reef The Orpheus Island chef’s recipe for Bircher Muesli.


The Bircher Muesli recipe from the Orpheus Island resort is as follows:

Swiss muesli and dry fruit with the following:

Half a cup of orange juice

Half a cup of yoghurt

2 teaspoons of honey

2 tablespoons of milk

Make sure that the muesli is covered. Soak overnight.


Note from me: You can make up a batch and leave it in the refrigerator for several days of easy breakfasts. I have also added in walnuts and dried fruits to the recipe for extra deliciousness.



Moderna Maman by Louise Bourgeois is on display at Stockholm’s Moderna Museum.


Louise Bourgeois The spider eggs were pretty cool, too.


On Sunday, we joined the masses at the Moderna Museet (Modern Museum) to see the Louise Bourgeeois I have been to hell and back show. The lines were long to get into the exhibit, so we were definitely happy that membership has its privileges and that we bypassed them.

This was one of the better exhibits that I’ve seen in a while at the museum. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the spider sculpture Maman by Bourgeois outside the front entrance is enormous and irresistible. It was fun to just watch people interacting with the giant arachnid, especially since it was a beautifully sunny blue sky day.

Inside, the exhibit space is divided into a spider web of nine interconnecting rooms, with breaks in the walls allowing you to peak into the next space. The setup itself is interesting.

Here are two quotes from Bourgeois that I liked:

“What modern art means is that you have to keep finding new ways to express yourself, to express the problems, that there are no settled ways, no fixed approach. This is a painful situation, and modern art is about this painful situation of having no absolutely definite way of expressing yourself.”

“I came from a family of repairers. The spider is a repairer. If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it.”

The show is at the Moderna Museet until May 17. Check it out if you have the chance and let me know what you think.

Moderna Museet The exhibit space was divided up in a spiral of rooms.


Moderna Museet Admiring the art.



Stockholm food hall A seafood lasagna at Melanders Fisk.


Stockholm market halls The menu from Fiskeläget, where we enjoyed a glass of wine.


Late Saturday afternoon, we went to Hötorgshallen, a food hall in the center of Stockholm. We had a gift certificate from one of the fish vendors at the market and decided that we wanted crab legs for dinner. But first, we had a glass of wine at one of the counters.


Stockholm markets From our counter perch, it was easy to see what everyone was buying to take home for dinner.


Stockholm This tiny dining spot is tucked under the elevators at the market hall.


One of the things that I really enjoy about Stockholm’s food halls, including Hötorgshallen, Östermalms Saluhall and Söderhallarna, is how easy it is to not only shop, but also eat while you are there. Counters with bar stools are woven around many of the stalls so you can literally sit right with the vendors and enjoy a glass and a toast skagen while you place your order, for fish, for instance.  There are also a variety of mini cafes around the halls as well where you can sit at a table and eat.

I love the counter seating, in particular though. Almost always, the vendors will chat with you, give tips on what is the best thing to buy from them, how to cook it and even offer up samples of things to taste. It’s very friendly. Or, as Robert is fond of saying: it’s all very civilized.

Another good thing about Hötorgshallen is that it has all the good Swedish food you would expect, but it also has food stalls featuring Mexican, Italian, Finnish and English  goodies too. While it’s not nearly as old world and charming looking as the Östermalm hall, it does have a good vibe.


Stockholm breakfast A little caviar for breakfast. Thanks to a gift certificate, we splurged on the tiny tin of ARS Italica Calvisius.


semla A semla from Tossebagariet.


I just ate my obligatory semla in honor of Fettisdagen, also called semlans dag, or is it as known in other parts of the world, Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday. I’ve written before about what a semla is and why this is a celebratory day.

But the big news this year in Stockholm has been the launch of the semla wrap at one of the city’s more classic and prestigious bakeries, Tössebageriet. Designed to be eaten on the go, there’s been a lot of criticism about modernizing a tradition. That said, lines have been out the door and down the street to get the semla wrap. I know several friends that have tried to get one, but gave up after the long wait.  So I am sure that this new take on the tradition is going to be around next year.

And I just heard that the baker at Tösse said they sold 25 000 semlor today. That’s just one bakery in town. Who knows how many were actually made and consumed around town….


selmor The wrap semla.


Swedish recipes According to my friends Zanne and Suzanne, my chocolate balls turned out well!


For valentine’s day, I got my Swedish on and made chokladbollar or chocolate balls. These chocolate goodies have been one of my favorite sweets to eat at a cafe with a cup of tea since I first moved to Sweden. In a country where I was not familiar with most of the deserts and what was in them, the chokladbollar were a safe bet to try for someone who loves chocolate.

But I’d never made them before. I was inspired to try them thanks to my niece. Kate chose Sweden as the country she would talk about in terms of food and culture for a Girl Scouts project. She needed a recipe to make and share, so I suggested chocolate balls. Before I could full-on recommend that she make them though, I felt I had to try them.

And they were super easy. The ingredients are simple:  just sugar, butter, cocoa, vanilla, oats, coconut. No baking required. I made this chokladbollar recipe from a Swedish web site. But I found plenty of other ones on line in English as well.

If you want to make an easy chocolate gift for valentine’s day, chocolate balls are the way to go. (And thanks to Kate for inspiring me to try them!)



Stockholm A garden house in Tantolunden.


Stockholm Winter pathway.


On Friday at 5, I got a text from my friend Nici. “Any spontaneous after work plans?”

And so began what turned out to be an entire weekend of just rolling along with things, something we seem to have been doing a lot of this winter. We had a great evening of catching up and laughing. Then Saturday we got a text from Adam asking if we could spontaneously join them for dinner at Miss Voon. So we did. And that was another fun evening with good food and friends.

It’s been that way a lot lately. So yesterday, that meant we went to Liljevalchs for vårsalong or the spring salon for the annual juried art show.  Last weekend, we went to a flamenco performance and saw some incredible dancing, guitar playing and singing.


Stockholm Last weekend, we spontaneously went to a flamenco concert. Spanish was the dominant language being spoken all around us. Fun!


And in between it all, there’s been all this fabulous snow. It was gloriously sunny yesterday and it looks like more of that is happening today. And since we’ve had all this snow, that made the day spectacularly bright. Robert has “generously” passed on the cold that he has had for the last week to me, so now I am the sniffly and tired one. That’s a drag, but life is good overall.



Stockholm More snow out my window!


Stockholm Winter canal.





Meatballs for the people The meatball sampler plate.


I’d been meaning to go to Meatballs for the People–described as Sweden’s first and only meatball butik– for months. I love the idea of a meatball restaurant where you can also pick up meatballs to go. And not just any meatballs, but THE BEST meatballs. Meatballs made of elk, salmon, reindeer, turkey. Even vegetarian meatballs. What a good idea!

But I think I must have ordered wrong. To sample several different types of meatballs, I got the tasting platter which had four different meatballs from the daily assortment along with a few scattered pickled cucumbers, lingonberries and cauliflower.  And I also tried the meatball slider–a veal meatball on a bun. It was all OK. I was super hungry, so my starters didn’t really satisfy me.

The dinners were all the classic Swedish plates: meatballs served with mashed potatoes, lingonberries and pickled cucumbers. And I think I had it in my head that a restaurant with such a fun name in the trendy neighborhood of Sofo would do something different with the meatball, not the standard. So I was a little disappointed.

In retrospect, I should have gotten the dinner and gone for the standard. The service was slow, but super friendly. The crowd was lively on a Wednesday night.  And the look of the place is Stockholm cool. So I’ve decided to give Meatballs for the People a second chance and go for the big meatball dinner next time.

What about it Stockholmers? Are you a fan of the meatballs?


Meatballs for the people The meatball slider.