My Review of Steninge Slott’s Christmas Market

My Review of Steninge Slott’s Christmas Market

Steninge Slott's Julmarknad is always a fun trip out to Sigtuna, Sweden.The Christmas market is housed in the stone barn behind the 17th Century palace and the interior is stunning.The vaulted ceilings of the barn give it an airy atmosphere and illuminated advent stars hang from the ceiling begging to go home with you.Our favorite purchases usually involve buying a paper sack of candied almonds and some warm glögg while we walk around the property among the tree-lined pathways.However, Steninge Slott's rustic charm is undergoing a bit of a renovation and the grounds are currently under construction with new housing development on the property.No longer do you feel like you are on a large estate property but now you feel a bit like you're intruding on people's backyard.Another change from years past is that Steninge Slott now sells furniture and home decorations year round. The inventory for this new business has pushed the crafts and local vendors who participate in...
Read More
Celebrating Holidays When Living Abroad

Celebrating Holidays When Living Abroad

Holidays have a special place in our hearts. We grow up with certain traditions—some wacky, some practical, and some that sound crazy when we try to explain them to outsiders. Regardless of how we choose to celebrate our special holidays, celebrating a special occasion outside of the country of origin may make things a bit more complicated. For one, there are no seasonal reminders that the holiday is approaching. As Sundae mentions in our podcast discussion, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, there are no changing colors of the leaves to indicate the traditional autumn season is upon us. It can create some last minute scrambling if you have to source food or decorations or have to make things from scratch, as one often has to. We have dropped many US traditions except for a few—Thanksgiving being the one that we've held onto the tightest. Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in Sweden like it is in the US—or at all, really. Technically Tacksgiving is a day...
Read More
Lådbilslandet—Heaven on earth for kids

Lådbilslandet—Heaven on earth for kids

Imagine an amusement park where only kids are allowed to ride and they receive endless rides on the tea cups, carousel, and trains. Where kids drive cars, motorcycles, and tractors. All. By. Themselves. The 1980s are alive and well at Lådbilslandet—or Soap Box Car Land—an amusement park in Sweden with soap box cars, "motorcycles" (they have three wheels so they are more like tricycles with engines), tractors, and river rafts. Lådbilslandet is a place where your kids can feel like grown ups. Kids Only It's a "kids only" type of place and adults aren't allowed on any of the rides. Not one. If your kid doesn't want to ride alone then you'll need to find a willing child (or sibling) to ride along with them. Honestly, that shouldn't be hard at all to find since every kid I saw was dying for extra rides. The kids are really in charge at this amusement park and parents have no choice but to relinquish all pretenses of being...
Read More
Life in the 1800s, I mean, in a Swedish stuga

Life in the 1800s, I mean, in a Swedish stuga

"Where's the chamber pot?" I asked my husband at 2 am. "You're kidding me," he mumbled. Wish I was, my dear, wish that I was. If you ever wanted to know what life was like before modern conveniences, then look no further than your nearest Swedish stuga. Stuga is Swedish for "cabin or cottage, " and they are generally pretty rustic—mostly because they were constructed sometime in the 1800s and electricity and running water were later additions.   Your classic Swedish stuga has low ceilings—people were shorter 100+ years ago—a wood burning stove in one or all of the corners, and if you have a fancy stuga, you'll have more than one room with big heavy wooden doors. For whatever reason, my daughter thinks opening and closing stuga doors is the funnest thing ever and it keeps her busy for at least an hour. Many of our Swedish friends have mentioned spending their Easter holidays and summer vacations "at the stuga," and we always thought...
Read More
Celebrating A Lagom Swedish National Day

Celebrating A Lagom Swedish National Day

Blue skies, swings hanging beneath leafy trees, blooming flowers, and a bright sun with a slight breeze—the setting was perfect for a typical Swedish holiday. The temperature was lagom—not too hot, not too cold—and the sun felt just right against our sunscreened, sunglassed faces. All of the doors to the house were open allowing all seven children and the breeze to freely circulate. Adults chatted in the white sunlit spacious kitchen as they prepared the food. A Swedish pop music Spotify playlist played in the background. Outside, the grill was fired up with cheeseburgers and hot dogs sizzling.     This year, Swedish National Day had extra special meaning for us as newly minted Swedish citizens. In comparison to US citizenship, Swedish citizenship had been very easy to acquire. I'd say, given our limited time (five years isn't that long), we deserve a B-B+ in integration. There's still room for improvement, but we're doing a good job. But we know that some things we can only learn with...
Read More
Here Come the Easter Witches

Here Come the Easter Witches

  When you think about Easter, you immediately think "witch." No? Me neither. Probably the funniest Scandinavian tradition is the Easter witch. In Sweden and Finland—young children hit the streets the Thursday before Easter dressed as peasants (or in their finest witchy costumes) that their parents bought during the post-Halloween sales the year before.   Is this like Halloween in the spring? Yes. Kids make handmade Glad Påsk cards (Happy Easter) and hand them out door to door in exchange for candy. This trick-or-treating type activity was new to me and caught me off guard when we first moved to Sweden. I heard tiny, gentle knocks on my door and not surprisingly, didn't happen to have any loose candy in the house to hand out. Having to improvise, I gave a few kronor as payment to each disappointed child. Don't be like Lisa. Be prepared and always have loose candy around your house at all times.     Last year, I swore I was going to get it right. After years of...
Read More
Why a Simple Vacation Beats a Luxurious One

Why a Simple Vacation Beats a Luxurious One

  Maybe I'm just a simple gal who enjoys the simpler things in life but in all of our travels, my favorite vacations have been the ones in which I can let go of all of my stress. I'm a casual jeans and T-shirt, comfort over style, laid back type of person and my most favorite vacations are the simple ones. Don't get me wrong. I've been incredibly fortunate and privileged to have seen the gilded ceilings of the Vatican museum, ridden in a private boat on the sparkling blue waters of Lake Como pretending I was Amal Clooney, and relaxed beachside at an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta. Those were all amazing experiences and I am so grateful to have experienced them. However, my favorite, most special moments occurred after everything went "wrong" and all of our planning didn't match reality. I think back on our trip to Tuscany and my heart aches to be "stranded" again in the middle of a tiny Italian...
Read More
Another Thanksgiving Holiday Abroad

Another Thanksgiving Holiday Abroad

As I hugged our friends goodbye at our front door, I heard, "Thank you so much," and, "This was wonderful," from every person as they bundled up into their jackets and slid their winter boots back onto their socked feet. Ending the night with these firm, warm, cheek-to-cheek embraces with friends new and old couldn't be a more fitting way to end the night. During each Thanksgiving we have celebrated abroad, there has been a brief respite in the chaotic day. A moment when I am quiet and I look around the room at the group of people who willingly cram into our tiny space because we asked them to share our tradition. I pause and listen. Conversations blend and weave with one another and the language shifts between English and Swedish depending on who is joining or leaving the conversation. In that brief pause of time, I am so happy and proud to continue the Thanksgiving tradition in our adopted...
Read More
Parenting Abroad: Freedom To Discard Unwanted Holidays

Parenting Abroad: Freedom To Discard Unwanted Holidays

Most days, I feel all alone. Geographically isolated from all that is familiar and linguistically isolated from what I know. The foreign language around me is easily tuned out and processed as white noise. It's soothing and I am alone with my thoughts. Parenting in cultural isolation can provide a new type of freedom in many ways. I have gladly discarded holidays and traditions that I never enjoyed. Without the cultural pressure to honor them, they quickly disappear. Anything that I am not willing to import myself will not get passed down to my children. It requires a lot of work to celebrate a holiday that isn't observed locally. Sorry kids, but Valentine's Day isn't going to be that important for our family. You'll survive. Some traditions, only the ones I hold near and dear to my heart, are kept. Celebrating holidays abroad is a bit like moving abroad—you discover that not so many things are important and you only take the...
Read More
How 9 Expat Moms Celebrate (or Avoid) Halloween Abroad

How 9 Expat Moms Celebrate (or Avoid) Halloween Abroad

BY JENNIFER MALIA Though widely known as an American tradition, Halloween has been adopted by other countries around the world. In many countries, trick-or-treating, costume parties, and spooky decorations have become popular ways of celebrating Halloween. I talked to expat moms around the globe and asked them what Halloween traditions they do (or don’t do) when living abroad. Their stories take place in countries as diverse as England, Sweden, the Netherlands, South Africa, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates. Whether you are an expat family that celebrates Halloween abroad, a family that travels for the holiday, or a family that celebrates Halloween in the US, their stories are sure to entertain you, and might even frighten you in a G-rated sort of way. Kristy Smith, The Midwestern Repatriate “I’m American, and my husband is British. We spent many years in the UK celebrating Halloween, which seems more like an addition to the local village harvest festivals than a separately adopted tradition. Some kids...
Read More
12