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an exciting weekend getaway on a floating city: cruising on the baltic sea

when you think of sweden, i’ll bet you don’t really think of cruises. i didn’t, until i lived here. i did understand that swedes are sea people, forest people, nature-loving people. most people live in the big cities of sweden, but the majority of sweden is untouched, natural, wild, and beautiful, including a long, wonderful coastline. and swedes find anyway that they can to get out and enjoy nature.

stockholm, the capital of sweden, actually lies on a bunch of little islands…it is an archipelago. and it’s just a short boat ride through + around the archipelago to the open sea. the baltic sea, which separates sweden and finland/estonia.

swedes love the water. they love seafood, love the sun + the waves. love the special life that is archipelago life. in fact, if you are a lucky swede, you live in the city and have a little “stuga” (cabin) in the archipelago by the sea, or out in the woods beside a lake. this is where swedes spend their summers and weekends. of course this is a dream of mine too. i want to have a place in a small little community on an archipelago island. a place where i can write and be and relax. where i can walk everywhere + have to use my little boat to get back to the mainland.

archipelago

however, in the meantime, since i don’t have one of these places, i have the opportunity to take  a 22 hour cruise across the baltic to get a little taste of the sea life. this is a very, very popular way to spend a weekend here in sweden. a chance to getaway, dance, drink, party, shop (tax free!), and feel the sea breeze. (not really the simple archipelago life, but is does get you out to sea. hehe).

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photo from here.

and that is exactly what i did this past weekend with 7 other family members + friends. we left uppsala, took the train down to the harbor in stockholm and boarded a huge cruise ship (pictured above!) for an overnight cruise to åland… a group of islands close to finland. we had a super, amazing blast. and i have a TON of photos to share with you!

running in uppsala… don’t want to miss our train!

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made it to stockholm in 40 minutes! now: taxi ride from the train station to the harbor.stockholm-taxi

unloading + getting our 1st view of our ship!!cruise-ship

beautiful STOCKHOLM in the backgroundsotckholm-cruise-ship

checked in + waiting to board. what to do? why, a group cheers to our trip, of course!cruise-cheers beer-lina-me

onboard + on the back deck to check out the view before leaving dockstockholm-harbor

best usie/groupie ever, i think. love these people!the-gang-ship-cruise

alone on the back deck for a moment… soaking in this beautiful shipback-deck

we set sail + ran as high as we could so we could get a good view and wave goodbye to stockholm
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back downstairs into the big lounge area for our first drinks! cheers (again!)!drinks-cruise-ship

when our rooms were ready, we headed to our cabins to change for dinnercruise-ship-cabins-hall

our cabin: 4 beds + a huge porthole window! perfect.cruise-ship-cabin

dinner buffee (with all the drinks you can manage also included)dinner-ship dinner-cruise-ship

the blue hour on decktwilight-archipelago

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darkness came + the party began!dance-cruise-ship dance-gang-ship

a few quiet (and super windy + cold) moments on the deck in the dark. eerie and peaceful all at the same time.
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i slept for 2 hours. hehe. so to wake myself up i headed out on deck in the cold and wind. it was an invigorating, inspiring, soul-filling moment. just me + the sea.baltic-sea morning-open-sea-baltic

then i was joined by my love and our friend. morning-ship-sea

after breakfast + some tax free shopping, i literally sat here in this panorama bar on the top floor of the deck for the entire rest of the trip. our group gathered here, recovering, resting, and just enjoying the view.panorama-bar-ship top-deck-archipelago archipelago-sweden

my brother-in-law invited me to have an appletini with him. a little end of the cruise celebration about an hour before we docked.me-and-jonas island-sweden birka-cruises

i’ve never done anything like this before, and it was so fun. intense, exhausting, and fuuuuun! of course, i couldn’t wait to get home and just throw myself on the couch. which is exactly what my love + i did. we ordered pizza, netflixed as long as we could stay awake, and then headed to bed to sleep for 11 hours.

i think i’m all cruise-shipped out for a while, but i’d definitely do it again! it’s great fun to spend a weekend with friends + family, just letting it all go. relaxing, dancing, eating. i loved it.

but about that archipelago cabin…. one day!

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stockholm is for lovers

for valentine’s day, my love and i took the 30 minute train ride from uppsala to stockholm. how amazing is it that we live so close to stockholm! it blows my mind, and i even had a chance to visit the capital city two times this past week.

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well, my lovely wife is a huge fan of musicals, as i am – but i think she may be a little bit crazier than me. so, last fall, after we decided/found out we’d be moving back to sweden from asheville, she suggested that we go and see a musical that starred her most favorite singer ever, helene sjöholm. co-starring with her would be peter jöback… a singer/broadway star that i am just in love with. like, i really want to be his best friend. truly. for some reason, i think we’d get along just splendidly. he and his husband live outside of stockholm, and i can just imagine lina + i hanging out with them. hehe. but, seriously.

so, we bought tickets last november for their valentine’s day matinee, feeling like it was forever until we’d get to see the play. but, time passes quickly + life changes + yesterday we spent the day in stockholm, with the highlight being seeing the musical “livet är en schlager” – no idea how to translate that phrase into english. it’s the story of a housewife who lives in a regular old neighborhood, where no one famous comes from or nothing worthy of talking about ever happens. well, she sends in a song that her friend/client wrote to a swedish/european musical competition, and suddenly finds herself a star. however, it is just assumed that she has written the song and she doesn’t really say anything against that. peter jöback plays her brother, a transgender drag queen, simply doing the best he/she can to be true to him/herself. the stories all intertwine, making it a beautiful story of dreams, acceptance, and being true to who you are.

however, the play was just part of our day in stockholm. we decided to hop the train in the morning and were in stockholm by 11 am. our first stop was a cozy, newly remodeled coffeehouse that we love. it was very important to begin our day with a fika, to warm us up + give us energy. of course.

3-coffee-fika then, we headed out onto the streets of the city, shopping, wandering, soaking up the sunshine. it was a beautiful day. chilly, but i wasn’t cold at all.

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we ducked into a popular restaurant at just the right time. it was packed, and we had to wait quite a while for our lunch. but, it was so worth it… and it was perfect timing as we were done just in time to take a long, refreshing walk to the theatre. i mean, it was a loooong walk, but it was beautiful – and i was stuffed after all of the pizza i ate and the beer i drank. hehe. 7-vapiano 8-pizza-vapiano

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we finally reached the theatre, called cirkus, and found our seats. they were amazing. first row in the second level up – hard to explain. just know that this short girl had no problem seeing. the musical began, and we were both in joyous tears as the cast sang the first number.

now, for the not-so-great news. lina’s favorite singer, the star of the play, was sick. that’s right. her understudy filled in for her. it was such a disappointment to my love (and to me). my heart was breaking, though, for lina – who had waited so long to see her role model perform again. however, the chick who was the understudy had clearly literally studied helene sjöholm because her mannerisms and even the way that she sang seemed to mimic the certain traits that make helene sjöholm, helene sjöholm. so, that was super good.

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the musical as a whole took our breath away. we laughed. we cried. we clapped. we sang. i loved it. and i saw peter jöback perform! geez he’s so talented.

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afterwards, we walked forever back towards the train station a bit, stopping to have dinner at an american restaurant – which is not so famous in america anymore, but really popular here. we ate + drank + discussed the day’s events, but mostly the musical.

then, it was time to make our way to the train station and head home.

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it was a beautiful, fun day. only the first half of this wonderful valentine’s day weekend. an perfect balance between a day of being active and touristy and doing something special together, and a day spent at home cleaning, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and sipping on coffee. no matter where we are or what we do, i am filled with love + gratitude that i get to share this life with my love.

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hope you all had a wonderful valentine’s day – no matter if you were with someone, or spending the day loving yourself. in the end… it’s all really about beginning with loving ourselves + then spreading that love with any + everyone we meet.

 

onwards + upwards!

friends

the people of 2014

people-2014i shared so many beautiful moments with so many beautiful people in 2014. i couldn’t just let the turning of the new year slip by without recognizing the fact that it is the people in my life that make my life what it is. i would be nothing if i were all alone. and i am so very thankful for the people that surround me and make me giggle, and think, and teach me what life is all about.

however, by no means is this an exhaustive collection of people. there are many that i know of that i have not included in this collage. but, at some point, for the sake on moving on in life instead of sitting by the computer for a week straight, i had to stop sorting through every single photo of 2014 and complete this post. hehe.

many of you, who are not pictured here, are people who i may have never met face to face. many of you blog readers + instagram followers. many of you are people i care deeply about, but i haven’t spent much time with you in 2014 (different countries and all that).  please know that you all have a special place in my heart as well.

this post, as a whole, sums up just how blessed i am to have so many wonderful people in my life. positive people. challenging people. people who inspire and push and irritate and constantly are there for me. i cherish each and every moment, the good + the bad, and i am completely + fully aware of the joy that you each bring to my life in your own special way.

so, thank you, for an incredible year! from the bottom of my heart, i wish you all peace, light, empowerment + love.

love, liz

 

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together for christmas: an american xmas day

when you have two countries represented in your marriage, then you have the joy of living with two cultures. lina + i absolutely love having the opportunity to celebrate holidays by combining our two traditions: american + swedish. this year, as many of your know, we are celebrating the christmas holidays with a little extra excitement because we have all four of our parents gathered in the same place, and actually even under the same roof for christmas eve + christmas day!

yesterday i shared with you our swedish celebrations of christmas eve (you can read that post –> here). today, we continue our christmas day celebration, complete with the american tradition of waking to presents + a cozy, lazy christmas morning + more yummy food.

our american christmas day

good morning from the mountains!

christmas-sunrisesanta came!!

christmas-morning-giftslet the fun unwrapping + gift-giving begin!!
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and now… time to explore the gifts, play with the gifts, and make some breakfast (thanks, mom!)christmas-linachristmas-guys

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dressed + ready to prepare lunch: my mom, brother, and me worked together to get everything ready!christmas-me

christmas-turkey

christmas-table-setchristmas-meal

christmas-dinner

the american christmas day meal is set (it’s a lot like thanksgiving food in my family – because we love it so much. hehe. | sweet potatoes with marshmallows, corn pudding, green bean casserole, two kinds of stuffing, turkey, ham, rolls, two kinds of cranberry sauce. | a super souther meal, i’d say. christmas-dinner-2

after stuffing ourselves full, we pulled out computers (yep. we are that family) and looked at houses for sale in ohio (where my brother is moving to in february) and uppsala, sweden (where we are moving to in january). we are weird, but we had fun!christmas-familychristmas-my-love-and-meas the sun began to set we said goodbye to my brother (who left just before us) and my parents, thanking them for such a cozy and wonderful christmas day celebration. christmas-evening

christmas-night

 after a 30 minute drive back home, we were nestled in our apartment. lina and her parents in the living room, chatting and relaxing. me, snuggled under the covers in the bedroom. then it hit me. christmas is over and it’s now time to look forward. a great sadness fell over me, knowing that i am moving from these mountains and my family. the close of the day found me focusing on the goodbyes that loom in my near future. and yet, at the same time, snuggled in my bed, i also felt such great, wonderful gratitude for this holiday season. and it is only because of this great gratitude and love that i feel such pain in my heart as well.

it has truly been an incredible, amazing, time. my heart is full. my cup is overflowing with abundance + love. the beauty of this season has shone bright. and i am counting my blessings over + over again… as i fall asleep feeling loved and grateful. i could not have wished for anything more.

my wish is that your holiday time has been exactly what you have wanted + needed, that you have felt moments of peace + joy in the midst of this season.

gone too soon, now it’s over
the season’s down to a smolder
i hold to the warmth of december
till next year’s flame
till christmas, christmas,
christmas day.
- johnnyswim

light + love to you all. xoxo

christmas-eve-lunch

together for christmas: a swedish christmas eve

you probably already know that my in-laws from sweden are in town to celebrate christmas with lina + me, which i think is super cool. and you may or may not know that my parents live about 30 minutes away. and my brother lives 5 minutes from me. with all of that said, this christmas was something extra special to me. having these most important people in the same place, at the same time, and over the christmas holiday, meant that, for me, this would be a christmas of being together.

it would have been completely completely if lina’s siblings + their families, and my brother’s girlfriend could have been here. but, gathering our parents in the same place, considering we are spread out over two countries, was a huge feat, making me feel totally overwhelmed with gratitude.

seeing as we are two families from two countries, we have different traditions for celebrating christmas. no matter where lina and i are during the holidays, we always try to combine traditions and celebrate the swedish + american way, as much as possible, given whichever country we are in. but, this year, we were able to celebrate both ways with just a little more pizzazz.

here’s how we did it: luckily swedes celebrate chrismas on christmas eve. it’s the big day with the family gatherings, large amounts of food, and santa’s visit. americans celebrate a tiny bit on christmas eve,but the big highlight is christmas morning + christmas day. so, we just planned to have about 48 hours of a holly jolly time! and we did it the swedish way on christmas eve, and the american way of christmas day. perfect for our double celebration!

now, that i’ve written to you a bit about our plans, i’m ready to share a ton of photos with you. today’s post will be all about christmas eve – celebrating the holiday with a swedish touch (and ending the night by transitioning into classic american traditions). of course, there are a few things missing from the swedish celebration – like watching donald duck on national swedish tv at 3pm and eating lots of fish. still, i think we did a pretty good job!

our swedish christmas eve in the states

i spent a few quiet moments, as usual, in the morning, before everyone else awoke. just letting the season soak into me + preparing myself for the day.christmas-eve-morning-presents

we had stockings to open (lina and i both filled each others’ stocking with earrings that we loved, without knowing  that the other one was giving earrings. how cool!) + then we decided to each open one package on christmas eve (saving the rest for christmas morning). zola got a little ball (as you can see) in her stocking. so cute.christmas-eve-morning-family

christmas-silly-me the table is set! and, it is featuring the swedish christmas soda called “julmust”, a very special drink. but, i love it! christmas-eve-table

our parents watched over us as we prepared the meal… i think they were a bit hungry (and perhaps excited too). my mom, lina’s mom, my dad. l to r.christmas-eve-waiting-family

cheers! sipping on some egg nog to fill our bellies a bit as we wait.christmas-eve-egg-nog-toast

more waiting… almost done!christmas-eve-hungry
let’s eat! the swedish way: lots of meat + some potatoes. hehe. we had ribs, little hotdogs, sweidhs meatballs, mushroom omelette, and potatoes casserole. and it was all super yummy.christmas-eve-swedish-food
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cheers again! with a little moscato!christmas-eve-lina-and-me christmas-eve-lunch

after the meal, what else was there to do but just lounge around?! look at our parents there… chatting, resting, relaxing. i love this capture.christmas-eve-parents

menawhile, lina and i were preparing fika: coffee, lussekatter buns, cookies, candy. mmmm!christmas-eve-fika

then… we rested. ahhhh. i think i even fell asleep. but, it was so cozy as i snuggled down under my covers. hehe. more christmas eve fun to come!my-love-and-me-christmas-eve

after all of the day’s activities, including our hour and a half rest period (ha!), we then switched gears a bit and began to bring in the classic american activities on  christmas eve: a candlelight service at the church where i used to work + a late night family viewing of national lampoon’s christmas vacation – a reynolds tradition every christmas eve. here we are at church. soooo cozy.

christmas-eve-church

i worked at this church, with these amazing people, for 8 years. it was absolutely overwhelmingly wonderful to see so many faces that i haven’t seen in a while. i don’t know how many necks i hugged + how many people greeted me/us. i saw some of my deepest, dearest, old friends. i talked with pole who’s hands i’d held in the hospital after major surgeries. i celebrated new life that some of my old youth are now carrying in them.  i sang and spoke and laughed with people that i had the privilege of sharing so many sacred + special moments in their lives. i remembered what a joy and an honor it is to minister to people. i felt as if i’d returned home. this place, is, in one way, will always be my home. and that people haven’t forgotten me… i was so touched. oh, my heart was so full of wonder + light. so. very. full.christmas-eve-light

then, we headed to my parents’ house. that’s right, we had all packed a bag, grabbed all of the christmas day food i had already baked, and gathered up all of the presents under our tree to take to my parents’ place. we were going to sleep there!! christmas eve slumber party. hehe. when we arrived, we are quite hungry, so my mom offered us tons of snacks she prepared + then we sat down for the annual national lampoon’s christmas vacation showing. cozy + hilarious fun!christmas-eve-snacks christmas-eve-goodies

after snacks + the movie, it was coming on 1 am. time to hit the sack… so santa can come!! we all retired to our bedrooms, lina + i curled up together on a tiny twin bed, which turned out to be just perfectly comfy. i laid my head down, took in a deep breath in all of the quiet + the stillness, and gave thanks for the abundance of joy that had been this christmas eve. good night!

check back tomorrow to see a glimpse of our cozy christmas day!

 

light + love xoxo