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Category: Sweden

Bengtsfors

My final post about Sweden (for now at least!).

The day after Maja’s wedding, we retreated to her parents’ home nearby in the Swedish countryside with her nuclear family. I had stayed at this home my freshmen year of college when I flew to Sweden to visit Maja during my spring break. I will admit that the beautiful summer weather made this trip even better than my visit in March of 2002. Maja’s mother is an avid gardener so I was completely drooling over her amazing gardens and fruit bushes. Her kitchen is filled with jams and pickled produce and everything fresh and homemade pulled directly from the backyard. Incredible!

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^^Lingonberries abound! In every possible color, in pure abundance!^^

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^^Find Kimmy’s body prostrate in the lawn, still recovering from our 7am “bed” time.^^

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^^We consumed leftover hotdogs from the bar the night before as our afternoon pick-me-up.^^

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^^Maja’s sister’s flatcoat Sigue joined the fun! Oh my favorite dogs in the world – he was so happy at the lake.^^

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^^We all went swimming in the lake in her parents’ backyard. The whole scene felt like a Wes Anderson film.^^

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^^The only photo of me and Maja “solo” is this ridiculous image. My rear end and Maja’s face after submerging in the chilly water. Pretty priceless actually.^^

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^^Maja and Lars opened wedding gifts while we sipped champagne. They were deliriously happy it would seem.^^

That evening, we enjoyed another outrageous culinary experience prepared by Maja’s mom and brother. Traditional Swedish crayfish covered in buttery, garlicky goodness, fresh vegetables, deer, moose, and more cake and wine than we could possibly handle. We all visited and enjoyed our final hours all together, basking in all the fun and happiness of the past 48 hours. The next day we bid our farewells and boarded a train back to Stockholm.

Oh what a trip! I feel so lucky to have had such a grand adventure with my baby sister and to have such an incredible friendship to inspire such a journey. Until next time!

Maja & Lars

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This wedding was celebrated nearly two months ago, and I am finally recapping the experience. While the summer was a whirlwind, part of my delay in sharing is likely because I’ve been marinating in its splendor for weeks, hesitant to share with the world for fear that I couldn’t possibly do it justice. And I surely won’t, but this is a small something I can help remember it by for decades to come.

It was truly one in a million – the kind of experience I couldn’t even fathom because it was beyond any expectation or dream.

I knew that Kimmy and I were going to have the time of our lives, and it exceeded even that.

Thank you my darlings, Maja and Lars, for letting us share in the magic. We love you to the ends of the Swedish countryside and back and back again. Puss.

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^^You just don’t find churches like this is the U.S. The painted wood carvings and plethora of lit candles particularly stole my heart. (Side note: Growing up, I longed for a ceiling painted blue with clouds and for my 16th birthday, my parents surprised me with just that. I was away on a school trip, and when I returned home, I had the bedroom ceiling of my dreams. This church sure sent me skipping down that memory lane!)^^

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^^The church rang the bells both as Maja entered the building at the start of the ceremony, and as Maja and Lars existed the church at its finale. They arrived on the steps of the church and everyone joyously threw rice and photographed and cheered for the happy couple. They stood there for quite some time as we all soaked in their newlywed status.^^

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^^The Polka Dot Ladies. Kimmy and Maja’s mum, Monica.^^

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^^We returned to Baldersnäs, where we sipped champagne and enjoyed caviar under the outdoor pergola. Maja made her own dress (of course). She found a vintage jacket from the early 1920s, that she inverted (the back became the front, the front, the back) and then added the skirt. Her mother is a hair stylist and expert gardener, so Maja’s hair and bouquet and wreath were all thanks to Monica. Maja truly looked like a whimsical woodland fairy – which is more fitting than you may realize. (The photo directly above is of Maja and her host parents from her year in the U.S. They raised children in the town in which I grew up, so Maja and I were thus in the same high school class. It was extremely special to have us all together for this occasion.)^^

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^^After cocktail hour, we ventured inside one of the barns of the estate, where the inside had been transformed by these airy sheet of fabric strung with flowers. Fresh flowers adorned an array of metal sculptures, including Maja and Lars’ initials and a series of hearts. ^^

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^^It’s tradition to sit at tables with no one you know. Couples, families and friends are divided, so you really have the opportunity to spend meaningful time getting to know new people over the course of the dinner.^^

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^^Each place setting included a menu created by Maja that outlined the extravagant courses that were to follow, and a master chart of all of the guests and how they were connected to one another. I am sorry to not have taken a photo of that chart.^^

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^^Dinner began around 7pm and we didn’t finish eating until after midnight. Family friends who own a local restaurant cooked the entire meal. We began with Dalsland tapas, that included smoked duck, moose, elk and even beaver. (Yes, I ate beaver. And yes, it was delicious). This course was paired with a red wine. We then moved to the main course of Moose and potatoes and seasonal veggies and a white wine. And next the cheese course, which always steals my heart, and showcased six locally made cheeses and a series of jams and fruits with a dessert wine. And lastly, a cake made by Maja’s friend (one of the daughters of the restaurant owners) that was layered with strawberries and cream and nuts and awesome. A selection of digestifs were served, of which a maple syrup bourbon was my personal favorite.^^

Over the course of this five hour extravagance, people rose to toast the new couple, and I loved the way that everyone was involved in the sharing of stories and celebration.

One of my favorite traditions transpired when Lars left the room to use the WC. As he departed, men began clanging their glasses, and rose to their feet and rushed the bride. All the men, and some women (How I love gender-nonconformity!) waited in line to give Maja a kiss. Had Maja excused herself during dinner, the reaction would have been similar from the female guests (and a few progressive males). Such fun. I would very much like to bring this tradition to the States.

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At midnight, the DJ fired up the music, the bar opened (as though we hadn’t sufficiently fueled ourselves with liquor during the dinner), and dance we did. At 2am, the bar started serving hot dogs with every drink. Apparently this is a Swedish tradition to keep guests energized on the dance floor. Kimmy and I were more than mildly enthralled and thrilled with this brilliant concept.

Oh, hot dog. Swedish classic.

I grabbed the photo above at the “darkest” moment of the night (as while the sun set, it never was fully dark). It was such a trip to dance from midnight until 5 o’clock in the morning, with the sun never truly gone. The day bled into the next and so we danced and danced as though it were all one in the same…

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At 5:30am, the DJ stopped the music, and those of us brave soldiers left on the dance floor headed for the lake where we swam and sauna-ed  and watched the sun continue to rise on the first day of the rest of their lives…

It’s a day I shall carry with me always.

Baldersnäs

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And now, the Swedish countryside! As I’ve poured over these images, editing and processing, I’ve been reliving all the joy and splendor of this place, these people, the experience. It was, truly, once in a lifetime.

We journeyed west via train to the provence of Dalsland, the ridiculously picturesque, bucolic Swedish countryside. The wedding festivities for the weekend were hosted at the Baldersnäs, a historic estate with guest rooms and guest houses and lakes and farms and traditional craft markets. It was as though Swedish folklore had exploded before our very eyes.

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^^The interior of the mansion was the stuff of a Brontë novel. I tried to capture the details so Momar could properly envision its majesty.^^

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^^The grounds and shops and cafés and farm buildings were similarly charming and captivating. We were able to find traditional Swedish gifts from straw ornaments to rod iron candle sticks to embroidered linens for our family.^^

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^^We were particularly obsessed with the wood stove heated hot tub right outside our lodgings for the weekend. I insist that one of these be constructed on Cartwheel Farm, alongside a sauna and outdoor shower. (Hey, one day! Maybe!)^^

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^^We were welcomed with Swedish lollipops and a note from Maja & Lars informing us that Friday’s supper would be hosted on a boat, complete with a tour of the local lakes.^^

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^^Before boarding the boat, we headed down to the main lake on the property, where we would later find ourselves sauna lounging and swimming at seven o’clock in the morning following the all night wedding festivities that took place Saturday to Sunday. It was the stuff of a fairytale.^^

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^^The happy bride and groom welcomed us aboard the Dalslandia, our vessel for the evening.^^

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^^We traveled through a series of locks, and moved from one lake to the next, which was quite the experience.^^

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^^We snapped pictures in the gorgeous golden light of the late evening sun. And feasted on a freshly prepared meal primarily sourced from Maja’s mother’s garden. Monica prepared all the food, including smoked salmons and abundant salads and quiches. We were completely floored that the mother-of-the-bride would go to such a great effort for her guests the day before her daughter’s wedding. The food was beyond… and it was just the first taste of all the culinary extravagance that was to come.^^

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^^When the boat returned to land, we headed down to the sauna where Kimmy and I sat giggling like silly Americans among 25 Swedes drinking vodka and sweating it out in the sauna. They lived up to our wildest stereotypes, and it was even more awesome than we ever could have imagined. We retreated to bed “early” (i.e. 2am) to rest for the next day’s celebrations.^^

Stockholm // Day 4

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Our fourth and final day in Stockholm came at the very end of our trip. We took a train west to Dalsland for the wedding, which I’ll recap separately, and then returned to Stockholm for one final evening before an early morning flight back to the States. We returned to the city mid-day after a morning train ride, and were graced with more stunning weather. We were so fortunate to have the most beautiful, sunny, humid-free environment for our travels. We decided to spend our last evening down by the water front in the Gamla Stan neighborhood (the old town).

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^^We first popped into a bakery and finally sampled Princess Cake – something Kimmy has been eager to try ever since she sailed with a Swedish scientist through the Panama Canal and had this pastry described to her in great detail five years prior. Princess Cake is a traditional Swedish pastry consisting of alternating layers of airy sponge cake, strawberry jam, pastry cream, and whipped cream, topped by green marzipan and a pink marzipan rose. It was a lovely, light summer dessert. Hopped up on sugar, we were ready to hit the streets for some final sightseeing.^^

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^^Finally a photo of the two of us together in Stockholm!^^

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^^Check out the Vasamuseet in the background (the red building with the tall ship masts).^^

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^^Sweet lord this city is attractive and nautical. Swoon! We ate our final Swedish meal on the outdoor terrace of the Grand Palace Hotel. We were channeling Momar, big time. This was the view during dinner.^^

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^^We walked all over the city prior to dinner on a hunt for the perfect Rodebjer kaftan. One of Maja’s wedding guests rocked one during the festivities, and we were obsessed. Alas, none of the flagship stores in Stockholm had any in stock, so I am patiently waiting to make the investment once our bank account has recovered from this trip. Such an easy, breezy, classy look. This was the one we saw firsthand. ^^

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^^We also had fun exploring the T-bana (subway) stations and all of their wild art and decor.^^

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^^Officially wiped from the week’s adventures, we watched our final Swedish sunset from Lassemaja’s stunning apartment view. Farewell, Stockholm. Hejdå Sverige!  We most definitely will be seeing you again.^^

Stockholm // Day 2

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We began our first full day in Stockholm with a trip to a local bakery for Kanelbulle (i.e. Swedish Cinnamon Buns). We readied ourselves for the day thanks to the jolt of caffeine and sugar. Kimmy opted for kardemummabulle (cardamom buns) which proved to be a very wise choice. We found that cardamom was often an ingredient in the treats we sampled while in Sweden. While I typically think of it as a spice reserved for Indian food, I loved its use in our various Swedish sweets.

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We leisurely made our way to the Gamla Stan (or Old Town), shopping along the way. (I invested in this pair of Arche sandals and swear that I will never own another shoe brand. I trekked everywhere in these for the next week, and was so very comfortable. I LOVE them. Hard.)

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^^Upon arrival in Gamla Stan/Slussen area, we hopped aboard a local ferry headed for Djurgården island. I had never been to this island in Stockholm and was so eager to explore its many museums and gardens and entertainments.^^

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^^If the kids had been with us, we definitely would have visited Gröna Lund (a seasonal amusement park) on the island. ^^

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^^Our first stop was Rosendals Trädgård, a farm slash bakery slash green house slash mystical fairy wonderland.^^

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^^How Momar would have loved every inch of this place. Flowers a plenty!^^

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^^We enjoyed lunch thanks to the bakery.^^

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^^And admired all of the various offerings of the boutique and green house.^^

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^^We happily strolled the grounds and gardens before venturing out to explore more of the island.^^

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^^On our walk we found many more beautiful boats and many more Swedish flags.^^

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^^We then went to the Vasamuseet to see the only preserved 17th century ship in the world. It was very very VERY cool. If you find yourself in Stockholm, do take the time to visit and go on the guided tour to learn more about the ship and her story.^^

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^^We returned to Södermalm where we took in a majestic view of the city from Restaurang Gondolen. I highly recommend that you grab a drink and take in the scene if you find yourself visiting.^^

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^^We ended the day with an extravagant meal on the terrace of  Moosebacketerrassen, overlooking the water. Ironically, a concert by DJ Diplo was happening on the terrace adjacent to the restaurant, so we had some epic people watching. I’ve never consumed so much caviar, chanterelles, fresh fish, and frilly drinks in my life. That meal really set the tone for the rest of the week.^^

Stockholm // Day 1

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I’ve finally processed all the images from our glorious trip to Sweden. I’ll start by unpacking our time in Stockholm, and then move to our adventures in Dalsland, the Swedish countryside, complete with consumption of beaver and moose. Oh yes, we committed to the spirit of the countryside. I realize that these posts may only be of interest to my fellow-traveling buddy and our parents, but I don’t want to forget one bit of this amazing experience.

Kimmy and I took a red-eye flight from Boston, via Amsterdam, to Stockholm. Travel was smooth, but sleep was limited. Kimmy, in fact, rocked some serious red eyes in the wake of our travels, giving literal meaning to our journey.

After collecting the key to Maja’s apartment from her sister (who lives with her family nearby on Södermalm island), Kimmy and I freshened up and ventured out to explore the Hornstall Strand area of Södermalm. It was lucky that I had visited just over a year prior as I had a good sense of where we were and how to navigate the island. I knew Kimmy would enjoy this water front area, complete with the allotment gardens or Tantolundens and timber (or wood) boats.

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^^The allotment gardens are too precious for words.  Tantolundens are essentially hundreds of small wooden sheds with people’s personal flower and vegetable gardens. It’s such a charming, magical part of the city – such a juxtaposition of a bustling metropolis with quaint, natural sensibilities. I love what that says about the community’s priorities and investments – the culture of the people of Stockholm who are clearly invested in preserving and offering opportunity for engagement with the natural world even within an urban environment.^^

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^^We grabbed a bite on the patio of this outdoor restaurant right along the walking path of the waterfront.^^

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^^The water is clean enough, even in this large city, for public swimming right along the water front. There were small beaches and public docks where children and families enjoyed themselves and this aquatic wonderland.^^

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^^So many beautiful boats right along the water (Kimmy was in heaven). We enjoyed the adorable food trucks and opportunities to lounge and take in the scene.^^

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After thoroughly enjoying our stroll and site-seeing escapade, we met up with Lars for a quick dinner around the corner from his apartment (Maja was already out west, prepping for the wedding). Pane-Vino is a delicious Italian restaurant with an adorable outdoor patio set up during the summer months. It’s located just outside the Zinkensdamm T-bana stop.

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Given the jet-lag and the red-eye flight, after dinner we turned in early to Maja and Lars’ gorgeous Stockholm apartment, and caught up on some much needed sleep so that we would be properly rested for the next day’s adventures.

Sweden // 2013

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It’s been five months since my 30th birthday trip to Stockholm, and I am finally recapping the adventure. Shortly after my return, Ursa’s tumor resurfaced, and life, well, happened. Given that Maja, my dear dear friend whom I was visiting in April is arriving to Cartwheel Farm this afternoon with her beau, Lars (a fellow Swed whom she met while in New York City en route to my wedding five years ago – crazy right?), I thought it was high time to revisit the trip and share some recommendations for those planning a trip to Stockholm (a trip I HIGHLY recommend).

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^^This is the view from Maja and Lars’ apartment in Stockholm. (I KNOW! Swoon!) They live in the Lundagatan neighbor in Stockholm (which is where Lisbeth Salandar’s apartment was in the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series. Very on trend, LasseMaja). What I love most about Stockholm is that it is a watery, walkable city. It’s a series of interconnected islands, and very very pedestrian friendly. I loved exploring (and training for my half marathon) by running around the water front of the city. Their apartment was on Södermalm island. For a look at the amazing, totally Scandinavian design of their flat, see this post.^^

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^^The night I arrived Maja spoiled me with a festively decorated American/Swedish pride dessert.^^

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^^Our first day we visited the Moderna Museet (Stockholm’s modern art museum). We walked (of course) and spent as much time enjoying lunch and lattes in the sunshine at the museum’s cafe and the wonders of the museum store as we did absorbing the artwork within. I highly recommend a visit.^^

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^^A lot of my time was consumed just oogling the beautiful cityscapes and leisurely exploring all the incredible shops and absorbing as much of the fashion and design as my brain could handle.^^

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^^While H&M and Ikea are the obvious Swedish shops to visit in their motherland, I highly recommend a stop at Granit. So much incredible, minimalist design for home and office.^^

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^^We did lots and lots of cafe lounging. In my opinion, there’s no better way to take in the spirit and vibe of a city. I loved the people watching and observing firsthand how truly family-friendly and remarkable a community there is in Stockholm. I am so envious of the Swedish approach to parenting.^^

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^^We visited Fotografiska, a photography museum perched right on the water front. I found it inspiring. On so very many levels. Anna Claren’s work spoke to me in particular. Do visit this gem of a museum if you’re ever in Stockholm.^^

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^^We spent time with Maja’s family. Her sister and her British husband, two children, a FLAT COAT! (I, obviously, was obsessed with him), and a hamster lived in an insanely amazing apartment in another part of the city. We spent a morning celebrating her nephew Max’s birthday.^^

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^^Later that evening, Swedish meatballs were consumed. Of course.^^

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^^Maja and Lars hosted a housewarming slash joint 30th Birthday bash with all their friends and family one night. It was such a special evening where I was able to have thoughtful and meaningful conversation with such a different and fascinating cultural perspective. I so appreciated the opportunity to really talk with Maja’s friends about everything from politics to parenting, pop culture to childbirth. And I fell even more in love with the Swedish approach to life. As though that were possible.^^

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^^Whenever possible, order yourself a kanelbulle (Swedish cinnamon bun) – you won’t regret it.^^

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^^My favorite trip was to the Artipelag (where I did this shoot for LasseMaja). Such a unique and gorgeous place. If you have a car, do take the 30 minute trip outside Stockholm to visit.^^

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^^And, there was plenty of time just spent goofing around Maja’s apartment, catching up and being together. A rare event that I can’t believe we’re duplicating twice in one year! I cannot wait to see these beauties this afternoon, and to dance our faces off this Sunday when James and I are throwing a Barnyard Dance in honor of our anniversary. Despite all the heartache of this past year, there has been so much joy as well.^^

MUST DO: Stockholm, SWEDEN

Artipelag: A modern art museum and architectural wonder housed out in the Swedish archipelago. INCREDIBLE!

Moderna Museet: Modern art museum in the heart of Stockholm.

Fotografiska: Photography museum with a gorgeous waterfront cafe.

– Eat a kanelbulle. Eat Swedish meatballs. Eat bilar (chewy candy cars) and proper Swedish fish.

– We had one fancy dinner out at B.A.R. Amazing seafood. Great atmosphere. Near the Moderna Museet. Relatively affordable (for Sweden). Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

– Shop Granit, Design House Stockholm, & Other Stories, H&M (duh!), Byredo, The Malmsten Store & 10 Swedish Designers

– For kid’s awesomeness, shop Mini Rodini, Polarn O. Pyret & Geggamoja

And most of all, wander, stroll, window shop, and get lost along the waterfront parks throughout the city. I particularly recommend the Tantolunden park on Södermalm with its quaint “allotment gardens,” which are a series of mini-cottage/shack structures along the hillside that families own and use in the summer for gardening. Truly, it is adorable to behold.

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I introduce the Brangelina of Sweden, friends, LasseMaja.

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I just adore these Scandinavian beauties. Maja and Lars. So very Swedish with their blonde hair, pale complexion, obsession with the sun, and black attire.

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It was such a pleasure staying with them in their beautiful apartment for one whole week. I had never met Lars prior to this trip, though Maja had met him over my wedding weekend nearly five years ago. She had flown into New York City from Sweden, and James and I flew in from Los Angeles and picked her up to drive out to Williamstown for the festivities. She was in New York for a few days before James and I arrived, and at a bar one evening was introduced to Lars, a fellow Swed on a work trip in the city. The rest, as they say, is history. Pretty cool, eh?

They’re celebrating their five year “meeting” anniversary with a trip to the U.S. as James and I celebrate our 5 year wedding slash 10 year meeting anniversary this September. We have a barn dance party planned to properly mark the milestones.

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While visiting this April, we took a lazy Sunday trip out to the Artipelag – an insanely cool modern museum built into the landscape of the Swedish archipelago just 30 minutes outside the city. We gazed at the water, soaked in the sun, and snapped many a photo.

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We explored the interior as well, which was quite striking and outfitted in very stereotypical Scandinavian design.

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It was a pleasure being able to capture such an incredible pair. What a gift to call them friends.

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Lundagatan

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Stepping into Maja and Lars’ gorgeous Stockholm flat was like living in the pages of a Scandinavian design magazine. Minimalist. Clean. Modern. Monochromatic. They painted the floors white upon purchasing the apartment to maximize light. In a country that essentially lives in dark during the winter months, it’s no surprise that their wall of windows (and that insane view of the city and one of its many waterways) is the envy of all of their friends.

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I call this Swedish Sunbathing.

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Even their Swedish horse is black and white. Also, I fell in love with Byredo (the perfume company that makes the candle pictured). While it’s insanely expensive, I splurged and bought myself (and my mama) this perfume and omg, I love smelling myself all day, everyday. Signature scent, what what?! And I was a lucky girl and received this candle from Maja as a birthday gift. It’s burning next to be as as I type. Much like Maja’s apartment, all the packaging is a sleek, simple black and white design. Complete with black wax for the candles. SWOON!

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While my home couldn’t be decorated in a more contradictory fashion (Think so much color. So much pattern. So much stuff), I absolutely loved the tranquil calm that this space created. It was such a delight to stay in a place so emblematic of the city and country in which I was visiting. I can’t wait to bring my entire family back to experience it together.

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Maja

With everything that’s been going on since my return from Sweden, I haven’t had the chance to properly sit down and process the trip. Last night I needed a smile to break up the fog in my head and loved rediscovering these images of two old friends reconnecting after years and oceans apart.

When I stepped off the train in Stockholm and was greeted by Maja’s enthusiastic embrace, it was as though we’d seen each other just the other day over coffee. I am so grateful for such a deep and lasting friendship that no amount of distance, or time, or life experience can sever the ease with which we connect and laugh in one another’s presence.

I am grateful for friends like her. For all our friends and loved ones that have gone out of their way to send words and thoughts of love, strength, and encouragement. Everyone asks what they can do to help, and all we need is their love. That, truly, is what will see us through this time.

And, thanks Maja, for once again giving me a laugh when I needed it most.

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