the end of the holiday
Christmas was a whirlwind of family and delicious meals and frozen walks in the snow. On the 24th, we had traditional Swedish julbord, with ham, meatballs, potatoes, salads, sausages, pickles, breads and an incredible selection of home baked fika by the Viking's aunt Vuokko. Family came in from all over, and I cooked dinner on the 25th. No one was poisoned: success! I'm most proud of my cinnamon brioche bread, which I've made before, but it's so tricky with metric conversions and fancy Swedish yeast.
In between cooking and having meals, we made some trips to the local store, which meant getting bundled in all the layers and trudging out into the snow. It was bitter cold the whole visit, as low as -25C, which is about -13F. Cold! But with air that cold and a little snow, everything looked magically frosted. I found this gorgeous tree on a walk to the grocery at dusk, about 2 pm.
Spotted in the parking lot. In Sweden, people ride their bicycles in all weather, even in the deep of winter.
Every year I try to come up with a fun photo project. This year I had an elaborate idea involving cups of colored water we froze and fancy gingerbread and small trolls...but I could not execute. It happens! It was bitterly cold and I just couldn't make it work. But we did have sparklers and an extra person, Robert's niece Petra, to help out. At least I got some fun long exposures. Running with sparklers is good for keeping warm. That's what I said to Petra, and I hope she's forgiven me for keeping her out so long!
After thawing out, we took a walk across town to a family member's house for yet another incredible meal. Uncle Lasse and Aunt Vuokkko put on a spread--we had three kinds of moose! Plus nice cocktails and exotic dessert with Swedish cheese and cloudberries. I had my first cloudberry. It was all so special.
On the walk back home, I took a few shots of the town. It wasn't as cold after wine and a sip of Lasse's good whiskey.
We packed our things last night and got up early to head to the airport. As always, it was so hard to say goodbye to the family. As always, everyone was so welcoming and warm and we can't wait to come back. Once a year is not often enough! I keep promising to visit in the summertime, but I hear that the mosquito infestation in the northern summer is biblical. It's a tossup, mosquito vs. weather, as this was the sky today when I first woke up. Snow and dense fog: not such a great prospect for a 90 minute drive.
We piled in the car and headed south to the airport. I had Robert take a pic and some video of the road. Grateful for studded tires and plow trucks. We made it with no problems.
We arrived in Stockholm this afternoon for our final night here. The viking booked us at a boutique hotel in old town, in a building from the 1760s. We took a short walk, had a nice meal to close down the trip and took a few last photos of Gamla Stan.
Thank you so much for coming along with me again. It's been another spectacular visit. I hope you've had a fabulous holiday wherever you are!
Frost and fika
We spent today running errands and preparing for tomorrow. Here in Sweden Christmas is celebrated on the 24th, right after a special Donald Duck/Disney cartoon is aired in the afternoon. We needed to get the last minute supplies for both Swedish Christmas and for when I cook for the family on American Christmas on the 25th. Plus special stuff for a fun photo project we're hoping to do in the woods this year: stay tuned for that.
As I had no time to take any photos or eat anything adorable or photoworthy, here are some greatest hits of frosty snowscapes and delicious fika from all my Sweden Christmases!
Airport fika. When you're desperate!
Never enough Taavolagården fika:
These were from a cafe on the way to the Arctic circle:
Nya Konditoriet Haparanda:
Uncle Lasse & Aunt Wuokko's home fika:
Oh look, it's Taavolagården fika AGAIN!
And the snow. Magical, beautiful blankets of the stuff, crispy crystalline chunks frosting up on everything. *sings let it goooo*
Frosty fingers growing from the porch railing at my sister-in-law Jessica's house:
Early afternoon sunset, Haparanda:
Frozen road to the IceHotel, Arctic Circle, noon, winter solstice:
Heading home from the Arctic Circle:
Beautifully blanketed sauna and kitchen houses at Uncle Lasse's cabin:
Haparanda woods after a big Christmas storm:
The gingerbread house we made with my niece Sydney, nestled in the woods; a fairytale come to life:
The rail bridge to Finland over the Tornio river:
Haparanda giants in their heavy winter coats:
Trees at Kukkolaforsen, frosted perfectly:
Kukkolaforsen trees showing off their snow furs in the sunrise:
Sun setting over the Swedish side of the rail bridge:
Looking forward to Christmas dinners with the family. Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday, wherever you are!
After a quick visit by some relatives, the only thing I wanted to do today was get out to Taavolagården and have fika for breakfast. I've been waiting two whole years to get back to my favorite cafe in the world!
The Vikings had a coconut slice and a gingerbread slice and I had this chocolate beauty. With the frosty windows and hot coffee, Christmas lights and the snow outside, it was all as cozy and magical as I remembered.
We had a quick tour of the Loppis, or flea market. Those windows are always perfectly etched with ice as if Elsa herself just came through.
In case you're wondering, yes. Yes we are very, very cold.
We had to run a few errands, including a trip to Finland for the Christmas ham. It's only a two minute drive across the border to the big mall with the right kind of hams, so, not as tall an order as it sounds. The Swedish grocery was good too: the Viking made a friend in the bread section.
We drove into bustling downtown Haparanda to check out this antique shop, H.M. Hermanson. It's never been open when we've visited before and we were so excited to see inside. It was a traditional general store, and it's been frozen in time. Else Maj explains that three bachelor brothers ran it together their entire lives. It was purchased some years ago and the new owners restored the building. The interior has been preserved and is as it was in 1905.
By the time we got to the city center it was already going dark, at about 2 pm. But the lights everywhere keep it bright and welcoming. I always take a photo of the giant town Christmas tree and the Stadshotellet each visit; it's so lovely. We may try to go inside the hotel tomorrow and see what it's like.
A quick stop by Gudruns Blommor & Blad to pick up some flowers for Viking mamma. I wanted to get all of them!
Just outside the shop: even though the sun goes down early, the streets are all decorated and the electric blue dusk goes on for hours.
I have to add this adorable Santa the nextdoor neighbor has on their porch. He's the cutest!
I'm not even ashamed to share this parking lot photo of the absolutely insane moon we had out there tonight. It was breathtaking and ginormous when it came up, and stayed huge for a very long time.
That's what she said.
As we came in and shed our boots and coats, Robert pointed out this hanger. It's basically an antique, from a time when the business's phone number was only two digits. Can you imagine? Call me later! My number is 61. Viking mamma tells me her phone number used to be 27.
Last but not least, I'd like to politely suggest that we adopt a Swedish tradition: the box of chocolates. Here in Sweden the family always has a nice box of chocolates out for everyone to share. Maybe people do this in the states, but not in my family or any of my friends' families. This year we got a couple and this new one to try. It's very pretty, but not too pretty to eat.
As always, thanks for coming along with me! We're watching aurora and weather forecasts closely and have some really fun ideas for this year's sparklers in the forest. Stay tuned!
We said goodbye to the posh Hotel Diplomat early this morning, and I just want to share that the Swedish word for elevator is hiss. This is the most elaborate, sexy hiss, and I am here for it.
The rest of today was a blur of travel. Roland met up with us at the airport and we all flew north, then trudged through the dark early afternoon snow to our rental car. I am grateful to my brain for remembering how to drive stick shift. Arriving at Viking mamma Else-Maj's cozy home, she made us her now-famous waffles, which is another way to say "I love you" in any language.
We waffled, had a little late snack and some of that fancy Christmas soda, Julmust, and roasted ourselves in the sauna. Just outside the sauna, a crafty neighbor has created a snowball candle holder sculpture. Yes, it's dark, but there is warm, welcoming light everywhere you look. This is Sweden.
More tomorrow from some of my favorite places with some of my favorite people!
Slept like a baby last night and was treated to a gorgeous cinnamon pastry first thing this morning!
...well, not first thing. First, I had one of those post-travel post-sleep life changing showers. Was drying my hair using my very fancy converter. Then this.
Apparently I'm working my way through Sweden, busting fuses with my extreme American hair dryer, one by one. This was embarrassing, but hey, the Viking had to be the one to call the front desk while I just nibbled my cinnamon roll.
We headed to the mall to pick up a Swedish hair dryer. The windows at the big department store, NK, are adorable this year, with elves making gingerbread and shipping presents! It was like it was made for me.
We stopped for lunch, and while I was eating this beautiful pasta at a French restaurant in Sweden, Feliz Navidad was playing on the stereo. I'm so international, bro. It's still stuck in my head.
By the time we had lunch and finished shopping, it was dark out already. But the city is absolutely sparkling. Here is the outside of the NK department store.
And around the corner is this extremely tall red spire. I dunno what it is, but it's neato. A few years ago, there was a gigantic moose here.
We freshened up and met the family at a little pub for dinner. I'm starting to feel like there are no bad restaurants in Stockholm. It was wonderful to see Roland, Jessica and Jimmy.
We had a great dinner, then ended up at another bar that suddenly filled with people in costumes. We finally asked what the deal was--so many people were in their pajamas, there were penguins, Peter Pan, the Pink Panther...but it was a "P" themed party. Our favorite was the popcorn.
Sad to leave Jessica, but tomorrow we head up to Haparanda to visit my mother-in-law. Jimmy and Roland will be there and we have some interesting plans brewing for our gingerbread project this year. Stay tuned!
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