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
Why You Should Give Some Cities a Second Chance

Why You Should Give Some Cities a Second Chance

Have you ever met someone who raved about visiting a particular city and you wrinkled your nose and shook your head, "Gah, no. That was not our experience at all!" How can people have such different impressions of the same place? Maybe the weather was bad, your kids were whiny, or you were tired from traveling. Maybe you picked the wrong restaurants, got lost too many times, or felt overwhelmed by the crowds. There are tons of reasons why your first visit to a new city or town may not be favorable. Some places deserve a second glance before you write them off for good. We have a list of places we want to visit and see, so we are often too quick to write a city off once we've been there. Been there, done that, let's move on. There are too many places to see and too little time, money, and energy to see them all so why go back to a place where you...
Read More
Family Travel Guide to Öland, Sweden

Family Travel Guide to Öland, Sweden

Ice cream, go-karts, beaches, and alpacas? Explore this tiny island to find some hidden gems off the east coast of Sweden in this family travel guide.   In European countries, it is common for the entire country to shut down in August as people head off to various resorts and tourist destinations. In Sweden, that "shut down" month is July—typically the warmest weather month of the year with maximum hours of sunlight. With four weeks of vacation, what is a family to do? Fortunately, for Swedes, there are plenty of stugor (rustic cabins) to rent, and plenty of islands to visit. One island, in particular, Öland, is located off the southeast coast of Sweden in the Kalmar region. Öland translates to "island land," which is fairly nonsensical but essentially, it's a long, narrow island.   Getting to Öland There is a bus that runs between Stockholm and Öland if you want to put someone else in charge of the driving. You can enter the island either by...
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
Nudity in preschool? Why not?

Nudity in preschool? Why not?

The notification from my children's preschool app lit up the front screen of my phone. "You have an important message," the text said in Swedish. I logged in with my email and password and opened up the "important message" that contained photos of my five-year-old son's preschool field trip. From the photos, it looked like the kids were in someone's yard enjoying the beautiful sunny day, eating grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, and running through the sprinkler. Most notable was that the kids were running through the sprinkler completely nude or with only underwear on. I didn't even know he was heading on a field trip that day but none of that shocked me. The fact that I didn't know that my son was going on a field trip that day? Pfft, whatever. The fact that there were nude photos of my child on this preschool app shared with the other parents in his class? Not an issue. The fact that they went to a...
Read More
Parenting: Leave it to the trolls

Parenting: Leave it to the trolls

  The first image that may come to mind when someone mentions trolls is probably a small plastic figurine with a shock of bright hair, large eyes, and a bejeweled belly button. These Danish troll dolls were the US' biggest toy fad in the 1960s and then again in the 1990s (you may remember them fondly from your childhood). Trolls are now in our movie theaters—DreamWorks recently released a colorful Trolls movie—or perhaps you are more familiar with trolls as mystical healers from the movie, Frozen. When my children see any moss-covered rock, they point and yell, "Trolls!" because trolls turn into rocks when the sun comes out. (You can add that to your list of random troll facts and impress your kids.) Whatever your familiarity with trolls may be, you probably haven't given them much thought to these cute but often inconsequential characters. However, with a bit of strategy, imagination, and storytelling, trolls can do so much more for you as a parent than...
Read More
When The Exciting Life Feels Normal

When The Exciting Life Feels Normal

  When we first moved to Sweden (five years ago, ahh!), the newness of everything was overwhelming. Every day we jumped into the unknown with glee. It was thrilling to have a clean slate. We could be whoever we wanted to be in this new place. I spent the first few weeks converting everything into measurements that I could understand and then again into USD to get a sense of the cost. Everything felt expensive (it was). But it was okay because this was all new and exciting. Snow on April 1? Not depressing. Let's play! Get incredibly lost while trying to find a particular restaurant only to discover that they are closed on Sundays? It's alright. We'll get pizza from around the corner. Spend hours in line to get a national ID card, fill out forms, and hope that you've done everything correctly in a language you don't understand? Kind of scary, yes, but we're hanging in there. Everything we did felt like a strange but wonderful adventure....
Read More
Raising a Viking Child

Raising a Viking Child

  A while back, I wrote an article for ParentCo called, "5 Steps to Raising a Viking Child" and it was by far my most popular article to date. The folks at ParentCo contacted me and asked me if they could transform the tips in the article into a shareable video and I absolutely love the end result. I think the video turned out great and even our dog makes a brief cameo. The kids laughed when they saw Bessie's rumpa walking away. It's nice to have a few snippets of their childhood turned into a cohesive video. I hope it inspires more parents to take their kids outside for some adventure and fun.   Here are five steps to help you raise your own little Viking through outdoor play: 1. Be creative and the world becomes magical Even the most familiar and mundane playground can become an entryway to another world if you encourage your child’s creativity. That’s not a slide, it’s an elephant’s trunk. That swing is...
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
If You Are Going To Be Me Tomorrow

If You Are Going To Be Me Tomorrow

If you're going to be me tomorrow, you'll need to know the following: You will be woken up by the sound of your door opening, and you'll be able to tell, without opening your eyes, which child is coming through the door to crawl into bed with you. The boy will have sure, confident steps and will run and leap onto the bed—landing on your right side. The girl will stumble in an uneven stride, still wiping the sleep from her eyes, come to your left side and pull on the sheets because she still needs help getting up onto your bed. She'll demand cuddles but won't tolerate kisses this early in the morning. They'll all be wiped off, and she'll yell, "Stoppy!" at you if you persist. For her, everything has a -y attached at the moment so the translation of her toddler-speak will take a minute. Dogg-y, stopp-y, hund-y—except for "Mama." That one is the same. (more…)...
Read More
12