A Travellerspoint blog

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Go. Away. Rudolph.

View Iceland / Norway / Sweden on akgearhard's travel map.

Stupid reindeer fur.

When we were younger, my parents would buy one coveted package of foil icicles to put a dramatic finish on our Christmas tree and also give us kids the opportunity to practice our self-control skills. The icicles were so silky and shiny that they were just begging to be held in fistfuls, like a really good pony tail that you can't help but touch. Unfortunately, that was the catch - we were only allowed to hang them (1), one, uno - yup - count 'em - that's a single gorgeous strand - one - annnnnd STOP - icicle at a time! That was the really fun self-control portion. Thankfully, my obsessive-compulsive tendencies blossomed early (like about 10 seconds after my blue eyes opened). If not, I wouldn't have graduated to 'independent icicle hanging' until I was about 35.

As we started our own traditions, Luke and I never wrapped this one in. It wasn't a part of his family's tradition and I didn't miss the ridiculous aftermath that came with cleaning up these lovely pieces of static decoration. Fortunately, because my darling brother cares so much about about the well-being of his niece and nephew, he thought he'd better run buy a packet when we were decorating a couple years ago - despite me begging him not to. He hid his evil laugh behind his eggnog & rum as he watched my desperate efforts to mask my OCD tendencies while the kids inappropriately hung their icicles in pairs, trios (anything other than a single is a CLUMP by my training!). He sat back with Luke and watched our childhood replay in like an old movie as I hustled to the tree frantically to get a system in place before a massive meltdown! Fortunately, J inherited a significant portion of my obsessive tendencies and caught onto the rules rather quickly, so I was able to smack my brother in the head and go back to my eggnog & rum in a relatively timely manner with with he and Luke.

The cleanup was as much of a mess as I'd remembered, with random strands of icicle popping up in the strangest places, long after cleaning, and far after Christmas. It was June when a shiny reflection from the shrubs in our front yard caught my eye. Of course, it was an icicle - a small reminder for me of how much my brother loves me. I quickly gave him a small reminder in a 'clump' format of text messages (anything but one!) to let him know just how much I love him too. I do so each time I find one thoughtfully left behind for me (after I swear and throw it away!)

The reindeer fur has taken a very similar course for all of us. Just when you think the entire backpack has been emptied and it's gone... Just when you think you might never see another strand... One proud piece of reindeer fur stands waving on the shoulder of a sweatshirt - like the flag on top of a 14er! Guess who made it to another stop?! Rrrrrrrrrr. Get out! Get out! Get off! Got it. It's in the trash. Whew!

Oh, and by the way, you've got one on your foot too.

Posted by akgearhard 02:15 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Simple Pleasures


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Our stay in the fishing village has highlighted so many of the things that we have truly come to love and appreciate about living in Norway. It's amazing that, despite our location, or the type of house / apartment / mountain lodge / hotel / tent (and now fishing cottage!) that we have stayed in - some things are pretty darn consistent in the Norwegian lifestyle.

The most obvious to the eye would be the house paint. I'm convinced the paint color options are based on a hot dog condiment theme within the hardware stores. They eat a lot of hot dogs here, so this makes sense. The hillsides are splashed with ketchup, mustard, a pickle here and there, and a dash of salt and pepper. Folks must have some freedom when shopping for red, as Ketchup comes in three shades (Norge 1, Norge 2, and Norge 3). None of these are likely recognizable to the human eye or someone that isn't certified in Crayola, which simply means they can accurately name 12 colors by label, outside of ROYGBIV, at the drop of a hat. In case you’re wondering, a visit to the Crayola Factory in Easton, Pennsylvania IS on my Bucket List. It may only be plane tickets for Justice and me, but she is my partner in Crayola crime and color organization. Besides, we’ll each come home with our own box of personalized crayons. I’m actually beaming as I type. Yes, friends, I will have my own box of 64 INDIGO crayons. Don’t worry, it’s open to the public! You too can make a box of your own favorite colors (or just one color if you are as fortunate as J & me to rank on the obsessive side of the scale)!

I digress. The standardization of color truly keeps the country looking sharp. Their pre-planning of house paint squelched the clashing of colors that we run into with some of our neighborhood homes. I figure the King is probably thinking - 'Hey, we're paying for your health insurance and education. I want healthy people and pretty houses. Heeeeeeere's your paint samples.' Fair enough, King Harald.

In all seriousness, the basics are covered here and covered very well. Luke pointed out that, unlike many of the countries we've travelled to, water here is plentiful and easily accessible. Restaurants have pitchers and glasses ready, free of charge. Simple pleasure - but you don't realize it until it's gone. Italy made water nearly impossible. It was cheaper to buy the kids their own bottle of wine every meal than it was to buy a glass of water - or even a soda. Showers here are plenty hot and water pressure is fantastic! Simple pleasures - but in many places we’ve travelled, it’s common to get a drizzle of lukewarm water that fades to slow, cold drips after about 30 seconds. 

Beds are what commercials are made of! We gave our bed a European makeover after our 2011 trip because we loved the separate duvets so much! Well, that - and I could have my own and steal Luke’s too! We're already wondering how we might bring back the Norge gift of sleep that is found in the puffy, thick white duvets and the pillows that feel like clouds. Simple pleasures - but it makes all the difference in the world to know you can consistently rely on soft, warm, quality bedding - especially when traveling! 

Up to this point, we've not yet stayed anywhere longer than two nights at a time, so it felt wonderful to unpack, get (really) comfortable and settle in for almost a week. Besides, we were looking forward to finding and releasing the large reindeer that seemed to be hiding in someone’s backpack. He was continuing to shed profusely on everyone’s clothes, so scheduled use of the washer and dryer in the village was like a day at an amusement park! We started with a trip to the market and filled our fridge with goods - plus an extra box of cereal for Jaden's spare meals 14 times per day. The days have gone by quickly and all blended together with a cozy, familiar feeling to them. It felt good to wake up after having slept as long as possible, tangled in over-sized covers. Breakfast often ended up being lunch and lunch turned into dinner (or 'linner'). Time has been kept by cappuccinos and cocoa which occurred thrice daily: (1) Motivators for leaving warm beds, (2) Tea time (which followed my daily nap), and (3) Gin Rummy in the evenings. We've also played relentless rounds of Gin Rummy throughout the day and late into the night. Luke is currently in the lead, but the trip is not over and I refuse to lose at this game, so please hold.

The weather followed us in and we have had storms with every form of snow imaginable! The wind was unbelievable coming off the sea and at times, I thought our little cottage was going to leave its stilts and blow over! As we've seen thus far, the weather is quite moody and shifts quickly - with extremes. We were hopeful that we would be able to see the northern lights and have checked faithfully each night, but have had no such luck. Our days have been a bit brighter. One afternoon brought an opening with sunshine and I watched the fishermen digging in large plastic bins and pulling heavy ropes lined with pairs of dripping cod heads and flinging them over the drying rack. It was quite intriguing to see them in action! Even in its state of numbness, my nose couldn't ignore the smell of the fresh (?) dead fish. The locals say it smells like "money"; I might say it smells like something else, but what do I know, I'm a Norwegian Mountain Girl, not Fisherwoman!

We took off one afternoon for a drive, as Luke wanted to find the "end of the road" (literally) in the Lofoten Islands. Our village was near the tip of the island, but not quite there. I tried to tell him that the road wasn't going to just come to a dead end once we got to the very last island, but he wasn't having it. We had already driven 8 hours into these islands and he wanted to see them to the end! We came to a little town called Å which was the last on the map, but the road went further, so on we drove. Always curious. Never quite satisfied. That's Luke. This is an aspect about him that I love - and also sometimes want to strangle. He's always wondering what might be around the next bend. "No, really, what if we just went a little further?" The Blue Lagoon is a great example. I would have been very content with my half-melted facial, drink, and burning-hot water spot up against the rocks, but Luke couldn't contain his curiosity and we had to swim the Lagoon to make sure we'd seen it all - and that there wasn't a better spot waiting for us! In his defense, this is something we have all come to know and appreciate as he always keeps us looking forward - and out for more. Just as I started to tell him that I thought the road looped around and returned inland - we came to a parking lot. That was it. It was a dead end. We did it! We found the very end of the road! It was like a pot of gold! Hooray! Four cheers for the Gearhards! Wait, how come Luke just got quiet and what is he looking at? It was like a cat plotting to pounce on a fuzzy mouse toy... His eyes were honed in on something and his tail was wiggling back and forth as he was preparing to deploy quickly... Our cheering came to a dead halt when we saw it. He had found a trail that left the parking lot and went on over the hill down the island. (Insert large sigh). I could see that he'd already shoved the pot of gold over the edge and was ready to go chase it as he looked over at me excitedly. No way! I put on my 'serious' set of Ms. Potato Head eyebrows and shook my head at him. What on earth!? Nope! What am I going to do with him?! SNICKERS!! That's my only solution. The commercials say that Snickers REALLY satisfies. If the end of the island isn't far enough, we are headed to the market to buy this boy a candy bar.

We dumped our backpacks into heaps as we prepared for our day at the amusement park (i.e. Bathhouse with washer and dryer!). Luke ran across to make sure the washer was not in use before we followed him over with armfuls of reindeer fur and clothes. Who would have thought that Amusement Parks aren’t open during the winter?! We stared with horror at our mess of fish stench and reindeer fur that sat waiting in anticipation for its cleaning. Luke took the bathroom shower for the boys’ clothes and J and I took the kitchen sink. I gagged my way through the smell and fur like a Whirlpool washer set to ‘delicate’ until the boys brought their first clean load into the living room and I realized we had to dry everything. I kicked it into ‘heavy duty’ mode - with an extra rinse for my newfound nemesis, the rare reindeer fur, and we finished up the washing. We travel with a string for laundry - which we quickly filled - along with every square inch of our living room, including cupboard doors, backs of the chairs, curtain racks, and tables. Each time the room would hit its maximum with heat and moisture and we were sure everything was becoming more wet than it was dry, we’d open all windows to air it out and start the process again. Keep in mind, it was snowing outside, so this was cold as the flakes blew through the cottage, but we managed. At one point, I wondered if the washer and dryer weren’t actually working, but Luke just wanted to remind the kids of how fortunate they are to “be able” to do laundry at home. "We get to do laundry this weekend?! Hooray! Thanks, Mom & Dad! You're the best! Gee, can we do yours too?" Oh, you lucky little dogs, you! Thankfully, they didn’t ever make a peep - they washed and dried like champs and were happy to have clean clothes!

We had an incredible meal out in the village restaurant on our last night where we enjoyed the company of the chef, his wife, and their darling daughter, as we were the only guests around. I ignored the cod heads and their perfume that have encompassed us for days and joined Luke in ordering the "rare cod" that is available for about a month and a half each year. We paired it with a sample from one of the four Aquavit bottles that the chef brought us from the bar. It was an unbelievable meal! Jaden's reindeer, on the other hand, might have been more manageable had Luke gone a bit easier on the Rudolph jokes. 

Norway, you are a tough one to leave. Beautiful country to get lost in, kind people, and great food and drinks - all simple pleasures - but what more do you need than this?

PS: We have a heavy snow forecast which will make our night at the Ice Hotel extra delightful; however, it's our last shot at seeing the northern lights! No more snow, please! See you soon Sweden!

Posted by akgearhard 23:57 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

The Ice Hotel

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I don't like ice. I don't like cold. And of course, when paired together, I triple don't like them (throw in one extra because I can't figure out how to make bold print on this thing!). I figured my fascination with the bright blue ice scattered across the black lava beaches in Iceland came from its uniqueness - and the security of our warm car that sat close by. I'd told myself that our night at the Ice Hotel would be tough, but I'd manage by wearing every item in my backpack. I couldn't have been further off. I need to rewind one step before I jump in...

We had a bit of a rough patch on our travel here. We had spent the night in a small town called Narvik, Norway. We stayed in a teeny guesthouse with a great window that allowed us to watch the snow fall on the lighted ski mountain through the night. We got up early for our journey to Sweden, walked to the train station, and were welcomed by an Irish gentleman named Rob. Following suit with a number of other Irish characters who have joined our storylines in years past, Rob soon became a friend on our journey. This friendship began by him kindly pointing out the pieces of paper posted around the train station indicating that an avalanche had shut down the trains that were to be going into Sweden. Hmmmm. There was nothing posted about what we would be doing (instead!) - the papers simply told us what we would no longer be doing.

It's good for us to have a moment or two like this every trip. It seems that they always arrange themselves in a timely fashion around very important areas of concern - like how we can enter or exit a country - not what's for lunch. This gives Luke and I the opportunity to gracefully and respectfully communicate in open, public places, in front of our children - and Rob - like the very calm, articulate, and well-put together adults that we are. It allows us to show off how well we understand one another after 20 years together and demonstrate what an amazing job we do managing our emotions. It allows us to shine up our Jesus skills and show how much we trust in His ability to pull a train through an avalanche (or you know, something miraculous of the sort). As history (and Jesus) would have it, I love a good challenge.

Adapt. Adjust. Overcome. Hopefully, these are the 3 life skills that the kids have picked up from several of our 'uh-oh' situations that have left us stuck in countries or even in separate hotel rooms. Thankfully, I got a hold of someone via phone around the same time a sweet little Norwegian man came into the station and we were told by both that a bus would be here for us. Thank you, Sweet Jesus and little Norwegian Angel (we didn't see him again, so we are pretty sure he was sent for reinforcement). One other couple hopped on the private bus that had been rented out to fetch us, so we had plenty of space! Unfortunately, Rob's intent was to purchase his ticket at the train, so the bus driver kicked him off, as he didn't have one. The other couple must have done some serious norsk-convincing ('vær så snill' usually does the trick!) because they said something to the bus driver, the doors opened back up, and Rob joined us for the ride! The snow banks were above our eye level (in the bus!) and passing other trucks and semis was not exactly pleasant, but we made it safely!

I don't know if it was the first ice carving, the smell of the wood-burning stove, or maybe the combination of both - but the avalanche and the hectic ride were already fading from my memory as we stepped onto the beautiful grounds of the Ice Hotel. It wasn't until we were checking in that we saw them. They had a whole room and checkout counter for these precious black goods. Avalanche? What avalanche?! I don't remember a thing about it. I was looking at something amazing...

Remember the babies in buggies and the kids on field trips that we saw tromping all over Norway? They all wore these brilliant winter snowsuit onesies that Luke said he thought we ought to get for the kids. I concurred and then put myself on the onesie wish list as well. The Ice Hotel had already taken stock in these life-saving-contraptions-with-zippers and added a warm pair of boots and a massive pair of mittens to the menu as side options. We ordered up the full-size meal deal and J and I couldn't get ours on fast enough. We also both shed a tear when leaving them behind at the desk today. Being fully suited was amazing! It must be what Iron Man FEELS like! It could also be what Luke’s warm wife would SOUND like (e.g. quiet, not complaining about the cold). Regardless, it was amazing. Oddly enough, the snow wasn't falling as forecasted. In fact, the sun was out! Nonetheless, it was chilly, but it didn't phase me a bit. In fact, I marched around taking pictures, as happy as could be!

We toured the Hotel and saw each of the rooms, all individually carved from ice harvested down at the Torne River, which the Hotel sits on. The artists and their designs are selected each year and given a brief period of time to bring their sculptures and the rooms to life. This year's Ice Hotel was done in 4 weeks! Reindeer furs cover the double doors (don't get too close - just grab the antlers instead!) and the main hall / entry is lined with thick, square pillars that look like blue glass and exquisite ice chandeliers. At the far end of the hall is the gorgeous Ice Chapel, which the sun shines into and lights with a beautiful white. Forty to fifty ceremonies are held there each year. The main hall / entry offers access to an additional 6 hallways, each lined on both sides with Art Suites, which is where we stayed. Don't worry, I took a picture of every single one of these, since they will no longer be in existence as the sun continues to shine. Yep, that's right. The entirety of the Hotel is wiped out with the summer sun! Artists will start with new visions as the fresh snow falls in the winter and new blocks are harvested from the Torne. Absolute insanity.

After dinner, we headed to the Ice Bar to grab drinks. Reindeer furs kept the seats dry, beverages were served in square cups and hand-carved champagne glasses, and even the kids were able to order up delightful versions of our cocktails! Justice happily sipped a 'Once Upon a Time' drink, while Jaden worked more diligently on licking his ice cup down than he did at polishing off the beverage that was inside. 

A young British couple hustled by us toward the door and the gentleman stopped briefly and said that the aurora borealis was to be out any minute and he simply didn't feel right knowing such wonderful news and not sharing it - particularly with someone holding a camera (ahem, me). I thanked him and told him if he could just get my camera ready for that wonderful moment, we'd be in business! You see, this is a skill I hadn't quite mastered yet and I figured I'd wing it on the spot if and when the time came for some serious northern light watching. My real theory was that I’ve got a ton of memory cards and a really fast pointer finger! How's that, Kodak?!

Fortunately, we had met the right couple! Jazz was a professional photographer for a period of time and his girlfriend, Jenn, is a nurse in the ER. Both live in Nottingham. Jenn said there was nothing much to see in Nottingham and with the same breath used the words ‘Robin Hood’ and ‘Sherwood Forest’. GASP! I told her I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to remain friends - especially if Jaden heard such slander. We took our drinks outside and started gazing at the stars and chatting happily. It was beautiful night, but a very silent sky. Two additional ladies joined us and decided they'd had enough of the grumbling they were hearing from some of the others in the distance about "no Aurora" and "weak lights". It was Zoe that decided that no one (including the Aurora Borealis) should be spoken to in such a negative way and so she started the cheering... "Let's go, Aurora, let's go!" (Clap / clap!). Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Our frozen bodies needed an excuse to move, so this was perfect. We cheered! We waited. It was nothing but silence in the black star-filled sky.

We decided to work in shifts. Some of us would stay outside with the cameras on tripods, while others would take a shift in to the Ice Bar, which was actually slightly warmer than it was outside because there was no wind! Strange. The kids made a couple runs back to the warm lobby to heat themselves to the core. We cheered and high-fived in between. Just when we thought someone was going to lose a finger, or tonight might not be the night... Guess who showed up?!

They call her Aurora and oh my, can she dance! I've never seen anything like it! Jazz had me set up for pictures and I couldn't take them fast enough. I knew I was was bound to lose a finger, but God gave me 10, so I was prepared to sacrifice. The greens spread across the sky over the Hotel like a rainbow, with a splash of magenta brushing the tips on some of her appearances. She'd disappear for a few minutes - just long enough to remind us that she liked to hear us call for her - and then she'd join us again, colors blazing! God has done some surreal work in His days, but I sure hope He hung this one on the refrigerator! It was hard to believe what we’d just seen could be for real.

After Aurora headed to bed, we all cozied up in the warm lodge with hot mugs of coffee and cocoas so we could chat, look excitedly through our photos, thaw, and prepare for bed. We heard others talk about how they've lived in this region a lifetime and not seen lights like tonight - if at all. How very fortunate we are!

The Ice Hotel has a sleek system in place for bedtime routines. Rooms are closed off from public viewing at 6 p.m., which then opens them up to guests for bed. The wake-up call is between 7:30 and 8 a.m. (Warning! If you somehow missed it, 12+ hours on reindeer fur and ice is far too long! After chasing Aurora and thawing, it was nearly 1 a.m., which we believed to be a semi-appropriate bedtime!) All luggage is kept in the warm lobby, which is also where you can find the big living room, fireplace, bathrooms, showers, and saunas. I had hoped to wear my super-onesie to bed, run like hell across the courtyard to our Art Suite, dive bomb into my sleeping bag, and not come up again for air until morning. Apparently, you're supposed to strip down to only your wool base layer, walk calmly across the ice, and fall asleep peacefully in your warm sleeping bag. Our situation worked kiiiiiiind of like that. I needed two layers of clothing. I still ran. And the warm and peaceful sleep did finally come in the early morning hours. Everybody else slept great! We were awakened by a cheerful young Swedish girl (think Disneyland-style character, but this girl was for real!) as she skipped into our cave with a Ghostbuster pack on her back filled with warm lingonberry tea that she served up through a tube with a smile. I shook my head in awe as I started to wake up. It was just the kids' noses that were pink from having been touched by the cold night air, but I could see their breath as they were talking quietly to Luke. He reached over the edge of our huge bed for four (or 6?) and flipped on the lights in our room to accent our sculptures. We all sat quietly and snuggled in for a few to let the lingonberries warm our souls and take the moment in before we brushed off the reindeer fur and headed to the saunas. 

Nordic Nirvana? Absolutely YES.

Posted by akgearhard 00:11 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Seeing Stockholm

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With just two days left to explore Stockholm, we weren't sure what speed to set our pace at. Our bodies were still happily operating at ‘slow and easy’, which is what has worked well for us for nearly a month now, but our minds were beginning to feel the pressure of limited time and a new destination called ‘home’ sitting next up on our agenda. We had found ourselves a room on the second floor of a small hotel nestled in Normmalm, which is in the heart of the Stockholm mainland. In this story, the term ‘mainland’ holds a purpose. I knew it meant we were scheduling our room close to a lot of really fabulous things (i.e. MAIN); however, I didn’t consider the true meaning of the term ‘LAND’ and figured it was likely just the caboose on a pretty name. For those of you that, like me, didn’t already do your Stockholm homework - let me give you a quick hint. Stockholm is spread out over 14 islands and connected by 53 bridges. When we arrived, we sat in the four lovely window seats in our hotel room (on the mainland!) and watched the people down below - before jumping in and joining them on a stroll through the infinite maze of streets and bridges that make this city so unique.

Both days were very good to us and fortunately, the weather was on our side. It was chilly our first day, but the sun was on our shoulders the second. Me and the outside of my left upper thigh are convinced we walked a marathon, but Luke does not concur. Dang. Now that I'm typing, I probably could have managed to call it a half marathon, which he might have given me the credit for. Then I could have gotten one of those 13.1 stickers for the Jeep. No, no, not really. I'd hate for people to think that I might like running. I don't. In fact, I don't like it to the point that the only sticker that I'd purchase is the rare beauty that you see fly by on occasion that reads '0.0'. It always makes me giggle to myself. I want to drive up to the window of that car and give the driver a huge thumbs up (or a regular-sized thumbs up with a smile?) since we have a nice non-hobby in common! It probably makes people that run really angry at us 0.0ers because you think we're lazy - but that's definitely not it. I'm not lazy at all. I just don't like moving my legs quickly and making myself tired. Thanks, but no thanks.

So, J and I were very excited about the artwork that could be found in the underground subway system. It is said to be the world’s longest art exhibit (110 km!). We purchased passes and hopped from station to station one evening, giving us all the opportunity to explore and photograph! Our walks through the city took us from Södermalm’s colorful, savvy streets lined with sassy shops over to Gamla Stan (Old Town) where the cobblestone alleyways are lined with hanging plants, coffee shops, and clever boutiques. We walked the waterfront and took in the detail of the boats as we headed to the Vasa Museum. The boys were as happy as Jack Sparrow (sans the sinking part!). The size and detail in the Vasa is truly mind-boggling. I don't looooooove museums (I know; I'm sorry, Dad) - but this was one of the best I’ve ever seen.

You know how I said that I’m a believer in that which shouldn’t be? (No, no, don’t worry. I’m not backing out on you now. I AM that believer! Stay with me.) Unfortunately, I’ve run into a small problem with the country of Sweden which likely clarifies why our Norwegian friends stomped their Viking toes on May 17th, 1814 and demanded they be declared an independent nation. Our calendar at home is printed annually to reflect this holiday, which we refer to as ‘Freed From the Swedes!’ (Congratulations on your big win and freedom, King Harald! Hey, by the way, would you mind if I used indigo for my house paint if we live in your country? Just thought I'd check while I had your attention for a moment. PS: Thanks for the healthcare!).

Okay, back to the breakdown with Sweden. I don’t want to call names, so I’ll be kind. In the movie ‘Elf’, Buddy tells Fake Santa that he “lives on a throne of lies” (and “smells like beef and cheese”). Sweden... I don’t know how to say this. Yes, I do. You don't smell like the bags of Red Swedish Fish that I’ve believed you to be my whole life! How’s that? It wasn’t until we were preparing to step out of the last airport shop that I realized you might not be for real. Gasp! We’ve looked (and looked) and not seen a single bag anywhere! What if the Swedish Fish are made in China?! Double gasp!! I had already decided I would grimace at the site of an assorted-colors bag, but happily purchase them (you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!) and then just carefully pick through and distribute... “One Yucky Orange for you” (share with family)... “One Kitchen Floor Flavor Yellow for You” (trash, no one deserves to eat that nastiness)... “The Only Type of Green Candy That Can Ever Be Eaten” (mine, but only after red when times get desperate)... “and Red” (MINE, only!). Swedish Fish is a favorite candy of mine and the Distribution Rules look similar to those for Sour Patch Kids, which is why I believed my plan would suffice. (Note: Sour Patch now makes blue kids, which trump all established rules for packages that include gummy blue children). I was actually convinced I wouldn’t even have to implement my plan, because I had set my standards so stinking low that I’d be skipping off into the sunset - or holding hands on the beach - with my 5 lb. bag of Red Fish! This is where I am also a believer in that which SHOULD BE. That is, if your candy is called ‘Swedish Fish’ you can purchase it in Sweden. If you can buy them from most grocery stores in Colorado, it doesn’t seem there should be much of an issue strolling into a market in SWEDEN and picking up a package, eh?

Thankfully, I figured it out as we were boarding! How very fortunate we are to be flying on a plane that must be carrying countless crates full of Swedish Fish out of the country and into the States. How wonderful it is to know that they are just underneath my seat, probably rubbing elbows with my very own backpack at this moment, as they prepare for their trip to Aisle 3 at King Soopers in Westy and await my purchase! Lucky me! Goodness, what a trip they’ve had and how fortunate I will be to have those gummy delicacies that have made such a journey. See you at home, Swedish Fish (you know, as usual).

Posted by akgearhard 00:28 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)


On our last night in Stockholm, which was also our last night of travel, I didn’t sleep much - or well, for that matter. I woke up to the sound of shouting and laughing somewhere off in the distance on the street below us. The bars had been closed for a couple of hours, so this was a rather unique crowd, out on their own in the quiet night. I listened carefully to see if I might be able to discern their words and as they came closer to us, I rolled onto my back with a smile. There were 4-5 of them and they were singing with everything they had (or from the top of their lungs!). I heard a slight giggle here and there as someone would gasp for a breath between words, but nothing beyond that, as they were so focused on belting out their lyrics with accuracy. Their melody was of no concern to anyone - including me - it was the song and moment that was of interest. It was all something like a dream. In fact, no one but me happened to hear it.

“Just a small town girl...
Living in a lonely world,
She took the midnight train going anywhere...”

They continued to sing as they walked on past our hotel windows and I faded back to sleep with this vision of traveling on a midnight train in my dreams.

It is so good to go. So hard to leave. And so good to come home refreshed and reminded of who we are and what is most important to us. It felt as though we could have stayed forever this trip. It seems as though we should be conquering and seeing more as we travel, yet every time we go, I feel as though there is so much more out there. We are smaller than we’ve ever been in a world that is larger than I could have ever imagined.
I want to continue to see, explore, and learn.

Luke and I watched the kids retrace our trip on the world map mural that covers our dining room wall before bed tonight. They added pushpins to mark the last month of our travels, alongside other places that we’ve journeyed to over the years. So many memories in those tiny little pins. So much distance has been covered. And we have been able to share so much - many experiences that have been beyond our wildest expectations - and even belief.

THAT, is what we are always working to create. A story based on dreams. A story for she, he, they - anyone - who believes in that which shouldn’t be. Hop a midnight train going anywhere... You know the chorus. You know what Journey says...

We'll look forward to seeing you on the next one!

Personal Thanks:
Nordic Nirvana: You’ve more than done your part. Thank you for the surreal experience!
Beautiful World - We can hardly wait to see more of you again! You are amazing!
Reindeer Fur: Get out of line. There is no thank you for you. I still don’t like you. (And get your friend off my pant leg).


Posted by akgearhard 00:48 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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