A friend reached out, asking if everything was OK, since it had been 10 days since I’ve put up a blog post. I told him I’m great, which is true, and I hadn’t been able to post because I’ve been… in Sweden!
I’m lucky, because one of my best friends, Katherine, lives in Sweden with her husband Peter and their two children, in a beautiful house in the country a little ways outside Stockholm. This is my third time visiting them, and I always have a great time. We eat great food, find fun things to do, and enjoy the long days.
I’m not kidding when I mean the days are long. At this time of year, the sun sets after 10pm, and rises by 3:30am, and it never gets fully dark, because the lingering afterglow of the sunset blends right into the pre-dawn light. I took this blue sky photo at 11:30pm:
Katherine and Peter’s sons, Stellan (almost 6) and Kai (4), are two of the cutest little boys you will ever see, and they are high-energy, smart, funny, and great to be around. They’re both bilingual, which is incredible, and Stellan is also my god-son! He’s the one on the right:
I tagged along, as a spectator, to one of Stellan’s soccer practices, jumped on the trampoline with them, and played games with them. I become hooked on the blocks that Stellan and Kai play with, and most evenings continued to play with them after they went to bed. I’m good at blocks!
One day we all went for a walk at a nearby nature preserve. We spend over three hours walking around a gorgeous island, where I got to try geocaching for the first time. It’s a game where you use GPS to find boxes hidden by other people, and sign the guestbook inside. I found a box under a big rock near the water’s edge.
For some reason, there’s a huge private farm in the middle of the preserve, and we got up close and personal with the largest cows I’ve ever seen. Hej, ko! (That’s Swedish for ‘Hello, Cow!’)
The cows were cute, but not as cute as Pepper, Katherine and Peter’s yellow lab.
The nature walk was great exercise, and I filled the other days with exercise as well. I was worried that my recently-injured toe might bother or limit me, but that wasn’t the case at all. Katherine is a runner (she just ran the Stockholm Marathon a couple weeks ago), and we went on a couple 5k-ish runs together. I did a third run by myself, and there’s one more workout I’ll going to share in an upcoming post. All in all, I had one rest day while I was there.
Because we were out in the country, most of our meals were at home, which is pretty standard for Katherine and Peter. They have a huge vegetable garden and a little orchard, and Katherine has become quite good at growing their food. It was too early in the season for me to enjoy anything, but Katherine grows about two dozen different things, and her plan is to have enough potatoes and broccoli, among other things, to last through the winter.
In addition to growing food, they know how to cook it. They have family dinners every night, and their focus on healthy and fresh cuisine is very impressive. Katherine knows her way around a kitchen, and while I tried to help out, she often didn’t let me (so I stepped in during clean-up instead).
One delicious dinner was seared ahi tuna steaks, with broccoli rabe and turmeric rice.
We had gone into Stockholm earlier that day, and picked up the tuna at Östermalms Saluhall, a gorgeous indoor market filled with booths selling all sorts of produce, meat, seafood, and cheese (and anything else you can think of).
Another meal was pork roast, with a double dose of mint: mint jelly (from a jar), and minted yogurt (homemade, with mint from the garden). Also, a salad.
Katherine totally turned me on to one of her current favorite things in cooking: eating citrus peels. I wouldn’t recommend biting into an orange like you would an apple, but roasted or baked citrus fruit, with the peel, is delicious. She incorporated it into three meals while I was here. This plate has roasted eggplant, red pepper, onion and mandolin-sliced lemon, alongside a piece of pork roast and wheatberries cooked in coconut milk:
The middle piece of pizza has sliced lemon and proscuitto. (The top piece has sweet potato, onion, and sage; while the bottom slice is bacon, fennel, onion and mint.) Katherine, by the way, makes pizza from scratch every Friday night, with homemade dough and sauce, for a weekly movie night with her family, and it is excellent.
Finally, a chicken leg and thigh with roasted clementine sections, olives, and spinach, alongside roasted potatoes. (I’m gonna show you how to make a version of this in an upcoming post, so stay tuned for that.)
Breakfasts and lunches were much more casual, and my favorite breakfast was a simple open-faced sandwich on a roll that Katherine baked, with ham, cheese, and currant jam (made from currants Katherine grew in her garden):
We met some of Katherine and Peter’s friends for lunch one day at a nearby farm-to-table restaurant and cafe called Äppelfabriken, and we ate it in a big greenhouse that had a fig tree in the middle.
I’ve never seen a fig tree before, so that was fun, especially since it was in an Arctic country that’s worlds away from the hot, dry climate that figs usually grow in (like California and the middle east).
There’s one big, impressive meal that I haven’t discussed yet (it’ll be the topic of my next post), but for now, let’s just say it was fit for royalty.
Parts Two and Three of my Sweden adventures coming soon!
One last quick story: I had this conversation with the customs agent at the Stockholm airport on my way out of town. I had handed her my passport, and she was comparing me to my photo (which is 8 years old):
AGENT: You have lost a lot of weight!
ME: Yep, about 72 kilos! (Remember, this is a metric country)
AGENT: That’s a whole person! How did you do it?
ME: Diet and exercise.
AGENT: Ah, yes. That’s the boring way.
ME: It’s the way that works!
AGENT: I can see that! Keep it up!
So, to quote the Swedish customs agent…
…KEEP IT UP, DAVID!