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the top moments from last week: a photo journal

i miss doing a weekly photo update. sharing the random little snippets of my life that i capture on my phone. so, i think i’m going to begin that again. then, the rest of the week i can focus on other kinds of posts: beer, travel, tips, spirituality… those things that are the passions of my life.

but, one of the things that i am most passionate about is learning to live in the present moment, or living a mindful life. all of my other passions, come from my desire for peace, to live an authentic life, in the moment, grateful for all that i have and all that i am.

but some of my passions lend themselves to sounds like amazing, crazy adventures. and, sure,  i love amazing, crazy adventures as much as the next person, but the heart of life is found in our every day moments.

so i don’t want to highlight only all of the unusual, special, amazing moments and adventures that i have on this blog. no, i want to share my love for the everyday as well.

when we learn to live every single ordinary day as something extraordinary, knowing that the adventures are found in those mundane, ordinary moments, then we begin to live a life full of gratitude. and we find that we want for nothing, that we already have so much. that life is beautiful, even in the midst of the struggles and chaos and stress. when we tune into those moments that make us smile, if even for a second, then our whole attitude changes. and life becomes one big adventure. every single second of it. a sense of peace falls over us and we stand grounded, like a tree, rooted to the earth, letting the winds and storms and rain blow by. soaking up the sun when it shines.

so, this weekly photo journal is my way of sharing with you those regular moments that have passed by in my life. hopefully you will get a little peek into my expat life in sweden, or find inspiration, or simply enjoy the photos. but, more than a photo journal for you, this is for me. to remind me that my life is amazing. to give thanks for every little thing. not to ignore the not so great things, but to claim the beauty that is life, even in the midst of all of the suffering and confusion and stress and uncertainty.

besides, i/we have but this one life to live. so, why not live it to the absolute fullest, enjoying it?!

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my love’s birthday was this past week
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i cycled outside of uppsala + discovered some beautiful placesbiking-sweden- biking-sweden-country

we spent the weekend in stockholm: shopping for my brother-in-law’s wedding, drinking local beer, celebrating europe’s eurovision song contest victory (sweden won!) with some friends, and enjoying the super spring weatherstarbucks-stockholm-shopping shopping-street-stockholm omnipollo-soder-stockholm-microbrewery microbrewery-taps-beer-omnipollo omnipollo-beer me-beer-sodermalm-stockholm omnipollo-taps-sodermalm tacos-friends sweden-eurovision lina-me-melodifestivalen-eurovision late-night-stockholm-sky sodermalm-stockholm- stockholm-spring old-town-stockholm-alley lina-me-ice-cream-stockholm stockholm train-home-uppsala-sweden

happy monday, dear friends + family! wishing you a week filled with exactly what you need.

onwards + upwards! xoxo

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spend a saturday in söder: the greenwich village of stockholm

i am not sure that anyone anywhere calls the southern neighborhood/area in the beautiful capital of sweden, known as simply söder (meaning south in english), the “greenwich village of stockholm”. but, i am dubbing it just that. personally, i think it is the perfect description. not that it is exactly like the nyc neighborhood famous for its arts, bohemian vibe, but it comes close. and if you want a short, easy understanding of söder, then greenwich village/east village is it.

i’ve been intrigued by the area for a while now, and my love has always loved it. but, we never seem to spend any significant amount of time there. so, we decided to make a day of it this past saturday. a train to stockholm. straight on the subway to söder (officially called södermalm). and then a whole day to explore and experience.

train-stockholm

a little background info on södermalm

stockholm, the capital city of sweden, is spread across many islands. söder is the big island, or borough, that lies just south of the city center. it was once a working class district, but has felt the effects of gentrification, making it a popular, eclectic hub for artists, hipsters, designers, musicians… you get the drift. it is a funky place. a place filled with diversity, art, independence, progressives, creatives, and lovers of all things vintage, cool, and hip. it could be intimidating, but then again, self-expression is what it’s all about. so, everything + everyone is in. as long as it’s authentic + real. people create, philosophize, eat + drink, and enjoy life in söder – at least that’s how i see it.

everywhere you look, you feel the bohemian quirkiness of the neighborhood. there are funky cafés, edgy independent shops and boutiques, yummy local restaurants and pubs, relaxing parks, and views to die for.

the architecture is beautiful. colorful, old, unique. apartment buildings with shops on the bottom floor lining little backstreets and amazing, cozy houses with incredible perched on cliffs that rise above the water and the rest of stockholm.

but, enough info about it. let me share a few tips with you about what we did, where we went, and what we experienced during our day in söder!

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first things first: coffee, of course

after our short ride to stockholm, and a quick subway ride from the central train/subway station to mariatorget, we were in söder. first up on our agenda… coffee! after a short walk, we rounded the corner and saw our destination: kaffe, a simple café in the heart of a typical södermalm neighborhood.

we walked into the airy, spacious one-room café and up to the bar to order 2 cappuccinos for 25 kr a piece. (cheap!). however, the barista told us that they only take cash, so she pointed us in the direction of an atm (things that are not on every corner in sweden for some reason) about 4 blocks away. we left the café, took a little walk, got our money, and walked back. no biggie.

tip: just a heads up if you plan to visit. take cash!

i snagged two stools at the bar by the window for us and waited for lina to pay. there are no tables in the café, it’s just stools lined up at a counter bar that runs down the windows. a cozy way to sit and chat, or just read. personally, i loved it. there is nothing like sipping on some delicious coffee (which it was), chatting, and looking out at the street as people pass by.

kaffe is definitely a popular place, but it wasn’t crowded or loud, even for a saturday morning. it was absolutely the perfect start to our day.

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independent, quirky, unique shops + boutiques

loaded up with caffeine, we hit the streets of söder to see what funky places + things we could see. we walked back toward the atm we visited earlier and headed up the shopping street. though neither of us wanted to do much shopping. this day trip was all about discovering the vibe of söder for ourselves. but, some of the vintage, hipster, independent (and even one or two not-so-independent, if i am honest) places just called us in. one of my fave’s was a little bookshop we found, called simply söderbokhandeln (south bookstore), filled with all kinds of books. i was totally in love.

tip: wander all around the bookstore. look carefully. browse and search. take your time, it looks oevrwhelming. there are so many unique titles, and even a little english section.

we need way more time to return and explore more of the vintage shops. oh, it’s heaven!

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funky-street-south bookstore

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eat like the locals

ok. we researched a bit, and apparently there is a little dim sum/dumpling restaurant in söder that locals love. so, we planned our wandering to take us from the café, through some of the shopping areas to this tiny little, hole-in-the-wall restaurant called 58 dim sum. i just love getting tips and then searching them out for myself. i was so excited about lunch!

we found the place and walked in. space for only about 4-5 different groups to sit. it was teeny tiny. paper lanterns hanging around. a delicious smell. i knew right off that we were in an authentic place.

we had no idea what to do, so we went to the counter and the lady working there, who was not really good in swedish or english, gave us a menu, two slips of paper and 2 pens. we grabbed a seat, and began perusing. well, we were there for the dumpings, so that was an easy decision. but there were so many to choose from. we decided that i’d get the broccoli/cauliflower ones and lina would get the mushroom. then we’d share.

you get 10 pieces for 58 kr. amazing price! it includes a noodle salad and soup, both of which i had. but not a drink, which is not that big of a deal. the dumplings were delicious and served quickly. i fumbled over chopsticks as usual – i totally suck, but managed to eat 8 out of 10 (with the sticks. woo hoo.). then, i was totally full.

tip: 58 dim sum. a small, local place serving authentic food for really cheap. ummm… i loved it. highly recommend!

58-dimsum dimsum-order-stockholm 58-dimsum-restaurant dumplings-dimsum

around the corners + down the alleys

as i walk through the main streets of any city, i am always intrigued by the little ones. so, after a bit more peeking into some unique stores in the little mall called skrapan, such as etc. and habitat, where i could have snatched up tons of little dresses and home decor, we decided to just wander off the beaten path.

all throughout söder you can find parks. open green spaces, little fenced-in basketball/soccer areas , and squares with benches and trees. and, of course, where there is a park, there are plenty of swedes enjoying the outdoors. we passed park after park, filled with couples, families, friends, kids, even live music. and, wouldn’t you know it? a random food truck too.

one of the most beautiful places we walked through, though, was the cemetery at katarina kyrka (the church of catherine). i have never seen a cemetery so filled with flowers. green grass, yes. and flowers on graves or beside headstones, yes. but, here, flowers grew naturally. it was just breathtaking. so, we had to pause for a moment to reflect on life and death.

on any spring or summer day when the weather is nice (and by nice i mean 50 degrees or higher, americans!), it’s totally worth a walk through a park (or a cemetery). and a few moments of getting back to the simplicity of the outdoors.

tip: the swedish sun is warm and intense, so even if it’s only 50 degrees f, if it’s sunny, you will be warm. i promise.

park-söder- cemetary-stockholm

of course, surrounding all of these parks are the amazing, colorful, european buildings. most house apartments in them, and are totally full – as this is a very popular place to live, which i am sure that you can now understand a bit why. but, the closer you get to the edges of this island, the more little houses you find. oh, they are not houses with yards, per se, because it’s still urban. and on a cliff. but, they are row houses, built right next to each other, and surrounded by apartment/office buildings. these houses + buildings near the edges of the island, are perched up high, and they offer incredible views of the city and the other islands.

lina and i roamed through the cobblestone streets and alleys, found different little lookouts between buildings, and imagined what life would have been like years ago, when people lived here. of course, we also imagined what it would be like to live here today…. one can dream, you know.

tip: get lost. put down the map and just follow the streets where they lead. you never know what you might stumble upon. and you can always find your way back to the main streets in söder. it is an island, remember? in the meantime, see what you see.

old-building-stockholm söder--buildings buildings-south-stockholm red-house-sodermalm buildings-south-stockhom

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an unexpected bird’s eye view

we just had one more thing to do before we ended our afternoon in söder – a visit to a pub. but, on our way there, we came across this bridge that seemed to go straight out over the streets + water, giving what i assumed would be an amazing view of stockholm. the “bridge” is called katarinahissen. now, i’m a bit freaked out when i walk out on something with nothing underneath me, so i need to walk in the middle and preferably have someone hold on to me, so i don’t irrationally think that i am going to fall off (through a fence or through a glass, which of course, would be impossible, which is why i said, irrational).

but, i needed to see the view. so, we walked out and i could look back at söder, and look across to gamla stan (old town) and other more northern/eastern parts of the city. it was so beautiful to see!

tip: do it!

katrinehissen-life-view-stockholm stockholmwe did finally make it to that pub, but i wouldn’t say it was quite what we were looking for. we didn’t research anything, but just wandered and then, since we were running out of time, ducked into a pub called balthazar. totally ok. but typically swedish. not anything funky or unique. still, the beer was only 29 kr. super cheap! so, that was a win. clearly, we need to come back to explore the more hidden pubs of söder.

we had plans to meet up with some friends in a whole other part of stockholm for a beer tasting event (perhaps another post coming soon!), so we bid farewell to södermalm for the day. however, after the microbrewery beer tasting, we took a ferry back to the area and walked up to söder for one last drink together. we ducked into the cozy, relaxed, fair-trade bar/restaurant called muggen, located on the main shopping street in söder and across the street from a subway entrance – necessary for our ride back home later on. we had so much fun catching up and enjoying each others’ company, that i didn’t take any photos!

so, friends, if you find yourself in stockholm, make your way over to söder. i totally recommend exploring this hipster, funky, international, artsy part of the capital. i personally loved it.

to be fair, there are some not-so-great things about it too. while there is so much hip stuff happening, there is a sense of lots of people are trying a bit too hard. in the fight to be an quirky independent, many people seem to be doing it the same way. like the hipster fad. and yet, there are plenty of people who are just living their life. being funky, weird, and artsy, just as they are.(read some more local views on söder here).

nevertheless, in my opinion, söder is a haven for those people who love to live life on the edge or outside of the mainstream. a place for intellectuals, artists, free thinkers, and  eclectic spirits to gather. and that, to me, is the definition of a place that make my soul sing.

i can’t wait to go back. how lucky am i that it only takes me about 50 minutes to get there?!

onwards + upwards!

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sweden in the spring

hello lovelies! happy tuesday to you, wherever you are. unfortunately, as the beautiful swedish sun is shining, i find myself laying under a blanket on the sofa at home this afternoon feeling puny + yucky. it’s cozy, but not at all the day of writing and working at a café in the sunshine that i had planned.

oh well. a lot has been on my mind lately. about the present moment, and the direction i wish to go in, and what “my thing” is. looking for jobs, and searching any-and everywhere has been making me feel a little all over the place. and completely clogged up. however,  i feel as if i have had some amazing moments + times of reflection lately that seem to be tying a lot of things together. however, i am not rushing into anything. i feel like it’s time to be very grounded, very deliberate, and very focused in how i create the life that i feel called to.

so, perhaps my not feeling tip top is just nature’s way of giving me a day to let a bunch of stuff sink in.

in the meantime, spring is arriving in sweden. colors are beginning to creep back into our nordic world, the air is warming, and life is returning. lina and i have done our best to soak up the sunshine and the beauty over the past couple of days. we even made a quick trip to stockholm just to see the cherry trees in blossom. of course i’ve taken lots of photos and it’s time for me to share them with you!

so, here’s a little burst of spring for you… swedish style! enjoy!

kungstradgarden-stockholm-cherry-trees cherry-blossom pink-tree sky-cherry-tree home-window-spring uppsala-spring-river green-buds-tree
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hope you are enjoying the changing of the seasons in your little corner of the world!

onwards + upwards! xoxo

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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!

uppsala, stockholm, & a heatwave

when the wedding was over last week, we went back into tourist-mode. and, boy did we do it full-speed ahead! after a couple of days of visiting friends in different places all over norrköping, we took a little road trip to uppsala and stockholm from wednesday to friday – and it was perfect timing to do a bunch of walking and touring of two cities in the middle of a crazy, record-breaking heat wave in sweden! the heat outside wouldn’t be so bad, cause i’m so used to it in north carolina; but here, in sweden, there is no air conditioning inside anywhere. so, there is no escaping the heat – and it is stifling. buuuuut, we didn’t let any of it stop us at all! nope.

we were in uppsala, staying at lina’s brother & fiancee’s place for until friday morning, and it was so unbelievably cozy. i’m pretty sure the highlight for me was the picnic and bbq we had in the city park one night – soaking in the long, late-evening sunshine, spending time with family, roasting marshmallows, and eating s’mores. everything was magical, beautiful, and perfect.

friday, we jumped on the train and rode the 35 minutes to sotckholm – in a super stuffy train – and began a long and super gorgeous day in the capital city made up of islands. of course, we didn’t see everything (paige has got to come back to see some other great parts of stockholm), but we saw a lot – old town (gamla stan) is always one of my favorites. the buildings and alleys just take my breath away. imagining all of the people who have walked the cobblestone street for hundreds and hundreds of year… ahhh. be still my heart. so amazing.

we stayed in stockholm until after dinner, so we caught a late train home – completely satisfied, exhausted, and inspired. what a great little road trip – with my amazing girls, paige and my love.

IMG_5319 stadsparken uppsala canal uppsala domkyrka uppsala DSC_0179 king gustav uppsala DSC_0186 roses and bikes books in window palaca gardens uppsala castle uppsala view DSC_0220 stortorget my love and me picnic uppsala bike beer grill picnic uppsala picnic uppsala canal uppsala the gay ring central station stockholm stockholm strandvägan stockholm stockholm östermalm stockholm djurgården stockholm gamla stan stockholm ferry stockholm ferry old town stockholm stockholm gamla stan gamla stan stockholm gamla stan stockholm gamla stan stockholm gamla stan stockholm gamla stan stockholm gamla stan stockholm balcony stortorget gamla stan stockholm gamla stan stockholm stockholm kungsträgården stockholm stockholm stockholm stockholm

i just have to say, as i have before, that i am, once again, so very grateful for this life that i live. but, let me also say, that just because everything “seems” so great (though it is right now), it does not mean that i do not have times that are tough – we all do, and i have. but, all of the beauty and goodness and amazingness that surrounds me in my life, only reminds me every day to simply live in the moment – to be thankful for each day and to give thanks for all that is around me.

beauty, love, and even tough times – they all teach me the joy of being alive. and i work very hard to not take any day for granted. so this post, these photos, and these words that i have written – they are all in honor of living life – of grabbing on, letting go, and learning how we can live for today, giving thanks for every single second.

may your day be beautiful and filled with love & peace. xx