Exploring Stockholm

We spent today exploring Stockholm, its history, its food and its drink.  Our day started with a wonderful and real authentic continental breakfast.  It wasn’t the paltry continental breakfast every hotel at a hockey tournament tries to sell you.  This breakfast was legit.  There were no watery eggs or overcooked bacon to be had.  The only similarity is that this breakfast also had a waffle maker, which we definitely enjoyed.

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Our time here in Stockholm is short, so we wanted to maximize our time and see as much of the city as possible.  The best way to do this, especially in the winter, is the hop on and hop off buses.  They run continuously throughout the day with several stops and a narrated tour to boot.  If the weather were a bit warmer and my ankle/foot completely healed, this would be a perfect walking city.  Truly, if my foot was better, we’d probably have walked most of the city.

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We grabbed the bus at Stockholm’s Central nation, which is super nice.  We somehow managed to missed it twice.  Once it was our fault, the second time it just drove by.  When the third bus came by, we were sure to be first in line.  We sat atop the bus and rode for about half the tour before realizing we should have grabbed the headphones downstairs.   The bus takes you through all the major neighborhoods in Sweden and provides a lot of great information about the sites.

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We rode the thing throughout the complete loop before deciding to hop off at Gamle Stan near the Royal Palace.  As soon as I exited the bus, I was cold.  We were dropped off right across from the palace and not far from the water.  The wind was whipping off the water with no buildings to slow it.  I was getting cold fast!  We made our way up the palace stairs to check it out.   Our timing was sublime as we entered the courtyard right before they started the changing of the guard.   I filmed it in its entirety, but I almost froze my fingers off!

As soon as the ceremony ended, we made our way into the Palace to check out the Royal Apartments, the museum and find a bathroom.  The Palace is stunning and a beautiful example of the baroque design style.  Throughout the palace, the artwork was sublime.  At every turn, every room there were a myriad of paintings, sculptures and tapestries.   There was one drawing room in particular that was full of portraits of the royal family.  It reminded me of Harry Potter and a couple of other movies where the eyes in the portraits follow you as you move through the room.

After exploring the palace grounds, we headed to find food.  We explored the palace while past the lunch hour, so we decided to go for dinner.   At the recommendation of our bartender last night, we headed to Aifur.  It was an adventure through Gamle Stan to find it with two pit stops at Stortoget, the oldest square in Stockholm, to get coffee and mittens.  Finally, we headed down the hill to Västerlånggatan, the main thoroughfare, to find Aifur.   I tried to behave, but couldn’t help perusing a few of the stores along the way.  Humorously, when we finally found the restaurant it wasn’t opened yet.  Naturally, we killed the half hour at Corner Bar enjoyed  a few drinks.

Dinner at Aifur was quite the experience.  The restaurant is an homage to Scandinavia’s Viking heritage in its decor, its food, and its staff.  Consequently, the dining room was set up with several long tables with benches on both sides.   On the tables, there were candelabra, silverware and glassware in keeping with the theme.  Each of the dishes on the menu were inspired by the Vikings.

We started our meal with a charcuterie board inspired by Ragnor himself.  Largely, it was compiled of different types of sausages, including reindeer heart.  Surprisingly, the reindeer heart sausage was tasty.  I enjoyed the reindeer sausage with some cheddar chess on a cracker.  While I had the elk sausage on bread with cheddar and boiled apples. It was a nice exploration of the different types of sausages from the region.

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Our main courses were just as yummy.  Jon and I enjoyed venison with hash browns on root vegetables served on a creamy mushroom sauce.  Jake had the porcini risotto, which he thought was okay.  I really enjoyed it!  Brandi had the dwarf chicken also served with the risotto, which was also quite tasty.  We accompanied our dinner with Mead from Poland.

The best part of dinner, aside from the company and the food, was the atmosphere.  Every time new guests would arrive, the host/hostess would announce them to the dining room sharing both their party name and where they’re from. It was fun to guess where our other dinners guests hailed from.  I’d be lying if I said we were good at that game.  Nonetheless, it made for a fun night.  Lastly, as we ate, we enjoyed live traditional Scandinavian music keeping with the restaurant’s theme.

Post dinner we walked back to the hotel and then headed up to The Capitol Bar at the Scandic for the first of two night caps.  I ended my night out at the bar downstairs with a great apple beer from Belgium.  While I got ready for bed, the rest of the party closed down the bar and went on a fast food run.  Sadly, there were no Doritos burgers tonight only zombie burgers from Burger King.

Tomorrow we’re off to Helsinki for several days.  Stockholm has been a blast and we’ll definitely be back!

If you go:

Sightseeing bus: Hop On Hop Off Bus

The Palace: Royal Palace Complex: 

The Dinner: Aifur

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We Made It

After nearly nine hours aboard a Boeing 787-900, we made it safely to Stockholm. The 789 was quite comfortable and I actually managed to get some sleep!  Yay!  If I had to guess, our bartender Laura’s heavy pour at the airport helped this mission.  Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough, so I’m totally exhausted now and its only 10:00 PM in Stockholm and 5:00 pm back home.  Once we got through customs and got our luggage, which was quite quick, we grabbed a snack and drink (coffee please) at 7-11 before hopping on the express train into the sitting.

Much like my initial impressions of Norway, Sweden reminds me a lot of Minnesota.  Speaking of Norway, we flew over Fjord Norway on our approach into Stockholm’s Arlanda airport.  The region looked absolutely beautiful from 40,000 ft with the mountains covered in snow.  As for the train, we arrived at central station in a brisk 20 minutes.  Fortunately, our hotel is mere half of block from the station.

Our hotel is adorable.  We have four bed and a beautiful patio overlooking Stockholm.  It’s the perfect place to store our beverages and stinky shoes.  The view is pretty fabulous as well.  Once we got situated in the hotel room, we got ready to head out and about to find dinner.

We started our exodus looking for a meatball place, but found the maps and google searches aren’t too successful here unless we’re on wi-fi.  We walked for several blocks in the brisk evening air until we happened upon a place called Polpette – combination of Italian and Swedish cuisine.  The restaurant was beautiful inside with friendly waitresses and hostesses.

Our dinner started with drinks, my bro and I enjoyed a lingonberry margarita, while B enjoyed a glass of wine and Jake stuck with water.  We started our dinner with an appetizer order of sourdough cheese bread and fresh caprese.  They were amazing.  Unfortunately, we ate them so fast we didn’t even stop to take a picture.

For the main course, I enjoyed a flank steak on a bed of gratinized mashed potatoes.  Jake had Swedish meatballs, Brandi has pasta Bolognese and Jon had fettucine with steak.  Our main courses were beautiful and delicious. My meal came with the bonus of an asparagus spear wrapped in bacon- yum.  Honestly, the food absolutely hit the spot.  We enjoyed our meal and the hospitality of the staff at Polpette.  If you’re ever in downtown Stockholm, I recommend you pay them a visit.

Post dinner we headed back towards the hotel in hopes of finding pastries, but alas all the cafes were already closed for the night.  Since we couldn’t find pastries, we headed to the Ice Bar in Stockholm.  I’ve been to the Ice Hotel in Quebec City, but this was my first time at a year round ice bar.

We suited up and headed into the ice.  Much like the Ice Hotel in Quebec, the Ice Bar had several elaborate ice carvings.  This bar is done in a Viking theme, which makes for an impressive experience.  It should come as no surprise that we spent tons of time hanging out on the Viking ship and throne while enjoying our drinks.  Our bartender was fantastic and gave us a list of places to try before leaving Stockholm After several rounds of drinks, we headed back to the hotel for a night-cap and to get ready for tomorrow.

If you go:

Our restaurant tonight: PolPette

The Ice Bar: Ice Bar by IceHotel Stockholm

Hotel:  https://www.freyshotels.com/

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TMinus Seven

It’s tminus seven until Jake, and my brother and his wife head to Scandinavia for an epic adventure.  Jake and I spent our morning picking up a few last-minute items from Kohl’s. It’s going to be in the 40s-50s, so a light jacket should suffice.  Since we live in Florida our fall wardrobe for Scandinavian weather isn’t quite up to par.

After Kohl’s we headed to Barnes and Noble.  I’ve been reading book after book as I work my way through the top 500 fiction and non-fiction books.  I’m currently reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, but should finish it in the coming days.  It’s delightful this far, quite the departures from Tolstoy’s Resurrection.  I’d highly recommend both novels.  For the trip, I bought Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Since paperbacks were 3 for $30, I was seriously tempted to by several books.  I behaved and walked out with only two.

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In addition to Larsson’s novel, I picked up a book on Swedish grammar.  I love DuoLingo, but I needed to read through the grammatical rules.  Every night I try to spend at least 30 minutes practicing Swedish before reading for the last hour before bed.  I don’t expect to be fluent, but I hope to at least be able to communicate in Swedish while in Stockholm.  As an aside, there isn’t DuoLingo for Finnish or Finnish grammar books at our Barnes and Noble.    Please see video below for what I imagine I’ll sound like.

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I am super excited, not just for the trip, but for November’s Purple Stride.  This year I’m unable to run due to my left ankle, so I’m taking on a different role.  For this year’s event, I’m happy to announce that I am the Team Chair.  I’ll be in charge to driving team results and recruitment.  Those of you on the fence of joining team Deb Force Five – now it the time to join.   If you’re not in Florida that’s okay!  You can join us as a virtual strider.   Join by clicking here.  I’ll leave you with one of Freddy Mercury’s iconic live performances.  I, for one, cannot wait to see the Queen movie coming out next week.

 

Exploring The World

There’s nothing I enjoy more than exploring the world with my family and friends.  Last month, we were in the Bahamas for a fun and relaxing trip with family.  This weekend the Hubby is headed West for an adult hockey tournament with Goalielocks, while the Mayor will head to Epcot with school.  Jake will be working, which means I’ll have an entire Saturday to myself!  (Say what!?!?!)  If I didn’t have all these blisters on my feet from starting to run again, I’d probably go get a long over due pedicure.  I’m just a little concerned about picking up an infection with the blisters, so I’ll probably go shoe shopping instead.

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Before I get to my super Saturday, I have a 5K on Thursday night.  It’s all about the preparation with these races, which means I’m facing an uphill battle.   I’ve trained pretty steadily for the past two weeks, but it isn’t going to be sufficient to yield favorable results.  My goal is to get back under 30 minutes, but I don’t think this will be that race.  Nevertheless, it feels great to be running again.  To be clear, it feels good after I’m done running not while I’m running.

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Next weekend I’m headed to the islands for a well deserved momcation.  I can’t wait to be on a beautiful island with incredible women and incredible beaches.  Its been a hell of a first quarter and this is the perfect way to recharge my battery for the second quarter.   Honestly, I cannot wait to disconnect for a few days while in the company of great people.   Plus, you cannot beat the beaches in Turks and Caicos!

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One of my goals has always been to travel more and see different places.  The trips don’t have to be long, but just enough to get away for a bit and explore a new city.  Consequently, I’ve been thinking that for the boys’ birthdays, it would be better to take them on a weekend getaway than buy them something.   I love the idea of shared experiences over material goods.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  Lastly, Goalielocks hit the ice for the first time in earnest since his injury almost two months ago!

The Pain

Oh the pain of a great vacation ending. Naturally, I felt this pain wholeheartedly when I returned from the Bahamas last week. It was hardest to leave the world paradise that is Atlantis. I’ve always thought the first day back at work post vacation was the hardest. After all, there’s nobody to deliver delicious strawberry daiquiris to your desk.

Today left me questioning my preconceived notion. See this vacation was a little bit different than most of our vacation. Usually we all go back to work or school at the same time or there is a protracted period before the boys return to school. This time Hubby and I went back to work last Thursday while the boys chilled at home until today.

Based on the mood of my youngest children today, I’m thinking that the first day back to school may be the hardest. They’re clearly overtired or overstimulated. I’m sure they’re equally upset that nobody’s delivering virgin daiquiris to their desks. All in all, it’s made for an interesting night and an early bed time for both of them.

Lesson learned my friends. Next time to our collective return to reality aligns like this, I’m planning a happy hour. That’s right I’ll be commiserating with my girls over work as the boys drive themselves crazy over their return to normalcy. Seems like a solid plan and I bet most happy hour places even serve delicious daiquiris.

Take Me Back

Yep, take me back to the Bahamas. I don’t think I got enough r&r, strawberry daiquiris or sun while I was there, so I should probably go back. Returning to work after vacation is tough especially after such a sublime and peaceful trip. I really should have bought a talisman while on the island to bring me luck and get me through the day.

Nevertheless, with no talisman in hand and only sun kissed complexion to show for the trip, I returned to work and nearly 700 emails. (Hence the take me back!) I finally got through all of the emails, but didn’t feel super productive today. Thankfully, there’s always tomorrow.

We did get fabulous news today at work, which is so very exciting. As of this afternoon, we know service Purdue University Global. I couldn’t be more excited about our collective future!

I’m Back

I’m back after taking a much needed and unintentional break. Frankly, vacation got in the way of blogging. I had every intention of blogging the entire trip, however, we had so much fun I was far too tired to write coherently. Admittedly, the vodka sodas from the casino probably didn’t help either.

As I lay in my yoga silk, I’m reflecting fondly on our trip while lamenting the fact we never took a family pic. Whoops! Nevertheless, the trip was absolutely perfect! We had way too much fun in the sun while playing in Atlantis’ Aquaventure Park.

My Mayor had so much fun and stretched himself by trying things he was afraid of. He, Goalielocks, A and J has a great time swimming in the lagoon and seeing the wildlife up close. The lagoon was quite deep when the tide was in and had several barracudas swimming around, but none of that deterred him. He also worked up the courage to ride the slide through the shark tank. I, however, did not.

I did, however, work up the courage to go down what Goalielocks described as a “trash slide.” Atlantis refers to this slide as the Jungle Slide, while I refer to it an instrument of mental and physical trauma. In describing it as trash, he neglected to tell me it would go completely dark (I’m claustrophobia) or that it would fling me awkwardly into a pool where I’d nearly drowned. Yes, it was only 3 feet deep and I’m totally be dramatic.

Yesterday, the boys and TK had the opportunity to swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Cay. Thank you Auntie J! The Mayor, who is a nervous nelly like me, did amazing. I was so proud of him! The boys had a rookie dolphin that disappeared at times, but they still loved it. It was an awesome opportunity for them to get up close and personal with an animal indigenous to the Bahamas and Florida.

Last night we got in some shopping and more time in the casino. While we shopped and hit the casino the older boys watched all the boys. As we walked back to the Reef, we were taking bets as to which kids would still be awake. We entered the room and seeing only the younger boys and the Mayor awake, we lost it laughing. Both Goalielocks and TK had passed out. Fortunately, the Mayor’s a good babysitter and had the scene under control.

We had so much fun and so many amazing moments this trip, I could write forever. It was just the thing we needed after the last month. Moreover, after the last year we’ve had collectively, it was the pitch perfect trip. We came home sun burnt, but with full hearts (and stomachs) and many wonderful memories.

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Another Day In Paradise

Another day in paradise, here in the Bahamas. I started my day with a grueling run along the beach. To be clear, it was grueling since it was my first run since November. The scenery, however, more than made up for the difficulty of the run. Truly, it felt great to be able to run against. Although I have serious work to do before running in the Corporate Run.

After an awesome breakfast, we headed over to the cabana to setup shop. It’s a lot easier navigating this place when you have a singular meeting point for the entire day. Not too mention ample seating and areas out of the sun.

After getting setup at the cabana, A, the Mayor and myself headed to the lagoon to snorkel. I don’t know what the current water temperature is only that it is far too cold to be swimming it. It took me a long time to get acclimated to the water. Once I did, however, the snorkeling was fun and we saw a lot of fish.

After awhile we tired of the lagoon and headed for the beach. The beach is absolutely stunning, but there are street vendors on the beach that are a bit obnoxious. I have no patience for them. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a ton of fish in close to the beach and the jet skis were already all over the place. While there is reef off of the beach it’s a little too far from shore and too close to where the novice jet skiers are riding.

The rest of our day was filled with sun, sand and water. I enjoyed the rapids ride with H. We had a blast in our double tube. Meanwhile, the boys were all over the the place having a great time. We finally headed back to the room around 5:00, so I could get ready for an adults only dinner. Don’t worry the kids got fed! Moreover, I’m pretty sure they enjoyed their Dominoes as much as we enjoyed Nobu.

Nobu was fantastic albeit the last fish was slow to come out. I had left early since Goalielocks was needing to go lay down in our room due to a headache. J ordered the food for all of us and I’m so glad she did. I tried dishes tonight that I never would have tried if she hadn’t ordered them. All of the dishes were absolutely fantastic. I left full and satisfied, but not stuffed.

After a brief and very unsuccessful run in the casino tonight, I’m ready for bed. We have another action packed day on tap, so I’ll definitely need my beauty sleep! Good night all!

Paradise

We made it of Paradise, literally and figuratively, as we arrived at Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. It’s a quick 35 minute flight from Fort Lauderdale, so it’s great way to escape into the island life without traveling too far. Moreover, the beaches, the water and the snorkeling are ridiculous here.

It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve been here last. Needless to say it looks way different. There’s been a lot of development here in the last twenty years. All of us were on the same flight, which was great. JK shared his limo with us, so we were able to easily make it from the airport to the hotel.

Paradise Island is incredibly gorgeous. The water is beyond beautiful and the grounds of Atlantis are impeccably kept. My boys were dying to hit Aquaventure and the beach. We spent four hours in the sun, sand and pools before heading up to get ready for dinner.

All around Atlantis there are amazing aquariums teaming with wildlife. We can see the ray tank, the shark tank, sea turtle tank and the sawfish tank from our room. While we waited for a table at dinner tonight, we ventured outside to look at the baby sea turtles. These precious babies are beyond adorable.

Dinner was amazing. We ate a family style restaurant that serves barbecue. If you ever find yourself at Atlantis, do yourself a favor and try Virgil’s Mac and Cheese. It’s amazeballs. Of course good food and good drinks help (would also recommend the watermelon margarita,) but a good dinner is made by the company in which you eat.

Tonight it was fun reconnecting in person with all of the Kennedy clan. We had a blast tonight at dinner and hanging out in the suite afterward. Now it’s time for be because we’ve simply exhausted ourselves.

Skol Vikings!!!

Skol Vikings!!! Holy cannoli Batman that was a nail biter of a game between my Vikes and the Saints today. Jen and I were biting our nails as we followed the live updates on the Score. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a time delay on the app. So we were a bit behind.

Fortunately, text messages from my hubby, the family group text and Chuckles and Roman kept us updated timely. Honestly, when C&R texted holy cow, what a catch, touchdown, I thought they were messing with me. (It’s not hard to do.) I was in disbelief until my hubby and the family group text confirmed the good news.

Truly it was a game that entertained the masses while giving Minnesota fans a heart attack. I was commiserating the Vikings impending doom with my hubby via text and Jen as watched Goalielocks’ game. When she said, “maybe there’ll be a miracle.” I replied as any hardened Vikings fan would, “miracles don’t happen to us.” Only this time it did thanks to our Keenum led offense and Diggs’ amazing catch.

Aside from the Vike’s amazing win tonight, my boys had four games at two rinks across town. Consequently, I’m utterly exhausted and not looking forward to a 5:00 am wake up and an early morning drive through the snow. Goalielocks’ Team was 2-0 on the day, but I’ll write more about that in a forthcoming post on instant karma.

Meanwhile, the Mayor’s team went 1-1 on the day. The Mayor notched two goals today scoring one in each of the games. In fact, he scored the only goal for his team in the morning game. Both boys’ teams have moved onto the semis bright and early tomorrow. I’ll likely miss the start of Goalielocks’ game.

Lastly, the boys are really loving the Chicago area. Unfortunately, it looks like we won’t be able to make it downtown tomorrow due to games. However, today I introduced Goalielocks to deep dish pizza. After their morning game, we went with friends to Giordano’s. Goalielocks and I shared a pepperoni deep dish pizza that was to die for. In his words, “it was the best pizza he had ever eaten!” Moreover, he wants to go back for more tomorrow.

Of course, the plus side is the pizza really fills you up. You really don’t need to eat too much the rest of the day after having that. Even after we got back to the hotel after Goalielocks’s game, I was still full.

I should also mention that it has started to snow here in Chicago, which makes awesome driving – said nobody ever!!! My boys though are loving the weather. In contrast, I’m praying for an early end to the snow and for the roads to be clear tomorrow morning when we leave. I’m off to bed as we have a very early wake up call tomorrow morning.