The Fun advantage of Sweden

Anyone reading this blog knows I have touted many of the advantages of being in the Swedish system as compared to other countries: free healthcare, education, blah, blah, blah. Pretty boring stuff except when you need a triple bypass.

There is one big advantage of living in Sweden, though, that comes once a year that is literally a blast. I am talking fireworks, honest-to-goodness-shoot-way-up-in-the-sky-and-KABOOM!-fireworks. Once a year, at New Years, Swedes load up on alcohol and fireworks and around midnight let it rip. These are not the Red Devil sparklers or pinwheels we had as kids. This is the real stuff.

As proof, here is just one of four (count ’em 4) circulars we got in the mail today selling fireworks.

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What I am feeling must be the excitement many Americans feel about their assault rifles. I am torn between Golden Explosion and Crackling Mine but will probably settle this year for  Mega and something else.

Each year something goes wrong for some knucklehead and the sound of an ambulance blends in with the explosions. For the most part, though, booze and fireworks make a wonderful way to ring in the new year.

This kid is going to the candy store tomorrow.


Pink snow?

The “golden hour” comes early here these days and gives things a golden glow or, in the case a couple days ago on an afternoon walk, an incredible pink hue to the snow. These shots were taken at 3:00 pm.

IMAG4426 IMAG4428 IMAG4429 IMAG4430It was crisp, sunny and cold, but really pleasant. Today was the other side of the coin: it warmed up about 15 degrees C. and began raining, which is turning everything to ugly gray slush. My white Christmas started disappearing rapidly but it is going to cool down again and hopefully we will get more snow.

A little Christmas Table

The Swedish word for Christmas is Jul (pronounced Yule. Get it?) And “table” is “bord.” So a Julbord is a feast around Christmas time. All the restaurants serve Julbords at this time of year and they run anywhere from $50 to $100, maybe more. We decided to have one of our own this year, just us and Mariette’s parents.

But first we had to get out of bed. This is what greeted us:



Mariette grabbed her camera took the shot and switched on a star in the window.



A couple minutes later it was showtime!





No fudging the color. That is the way it looked. Then, at noon, the next show started:



A Julbord at a big restaurant offers a huge variety of items, including the items Mariette served up today: bread, crackers, cheese, cold cuts, meatballs, sausages, salmon, shrimp, eggs, ham, pate, red cabbage, potato salad, fresh veggies, Jansson’s temptation (baked layers of potatoes with anchovies and cheese) and a Christmas soda called julmust. For desert there was chocolate mousse truffle. Mariette’s father said a tradition was born today. No argument here.

Then it was time for some photos to commemorate the day.

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After a wonderful fika with pepparkaka, saffron-raisin rolls and coffee, I was feeling pretty Swedish so the best way I could think of to top off a great day, was to go from the sublime to the ridiculous.



First work up a good sweat in the sauna.



And finish it off with roll in the snow, Finnish style.

Tomorrow we are slated to get not only more snow but a storm to go with it. Glad I did this tonight when it was only -14 C. (about 5 F.)

The Weather

I have figured out that there are three factors that make up the weather around here. These are 1) the temperature, 2) the precipitation and 3) the wind. We have had a few days when we hit the trifecta: cold, rainy and windy, and those days are truly miserable weatherwise. If it is only two out of three, things are bearable and if it is just one, it is a great day. Take today. It was nice and cold, in the 20s but no wind and only a little snow. It was a fantastic day weatherwise. Here is proof:

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Last night in town was also great with all the lights and again, crisp and cold. AND NO DAMN WIND. Since it got cold and it snowed we have had no wind. The winds come in Spring and Fall around here but they die down in Winter, which is wonderful. This first one is a painting I did a couple years ago of a winter scene, which is appropriate for the season.

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The beautiful library that juts out over the river.

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And that’s all I have to say about that.

White Christmas coming up

I’ve never had a white Christmas and Mariette insists that the snow that fell yesterday, about 5-6 inches total, will be gone by the 25th. I contend that unless it warms up, it’s not going anyplace. And we are expecting more. So, it is looking good. Today was mostly sunny and a sunny day after a snowfall is a beautiful experience. (I can hear people who grew up in Minnesota or Vermont or Kiruna laughing right now at my naivet√©.)

Regardless, it was great.




The golf course fairways make cross country skiing tracks and winter romping grounds for the dogs. The snow seems to make them even more excited.





New painting of a reclining figure. Sorry it’s not a better photo.



The sunset this afternoon was a really nice one. These lousy photos only give an approximation. I need a better cell phone camera!IMAG4365IMAG4367IMAG4368



My summer tan sure looks like history in this shot, but it may be all the reflected light from the snow, I hope.



The bicycle paths had not been plowed this morning at 6:00 am when Mariette went to work, so she had to walk, pushing her bike 4 kilometers to work. She at least got to bike home this afternoon. Our first day of life in the snow.

Big difference last year to this

Last year on the first of Advent the weather could not have been more different than this year. To refresh any memories, or for those recently following the blog, last year we had a tremendous windstorm with winds over 30 meters a second, which is blowing pretty hard. Trees came down all over the place, boats were smashed and the waves washed stuff all over the path along the coast. It was a mess. Yet, the next day was sunny and mild, which sort of presaged what the winter was going to be like.





This year the weather could not be more different. No wind to speak of but it started snowing early this morning and has kept up all day and is still coming down at 9:00 p.m. as I write this. We have had more snow today than we did all last winter in total. Should be an interesting next few months.



These shots are from this morning when things were just getting going.



This is more like what I thought I was getting myself into when we moved here.



This photo was taken yesterday but the only change from then until today was that the snow seemed to make them happier. They were hopping around in it like two maniacs. Let’s see how things are after Christmas.

First Day of Advent 2012

Advent comes to Sweden four Sundays before Christmas and that day was today. Last year it was a completely different scene because the weather was ungodly stormy. I posted about that on Days 138 and its aftermath on Day 139. You can search those days if you like. Last year the temperatures were still above zero. Today, we had our first flakes of snow and it was in the high teens, low 20s. Definitely cool. Surprisingly, if the wind is not blowing, it is not uncomfortable and that has been the case for the most part. Here’s our first snow, at least a month earlier than last year.


It’s a start. I am hoping for a little more snow than we got last year and it looks like I will get my wish. Two years ago they got snow starting in November and by March/April people were pretty much done with snow around here.

It was a beautiful sunny morning for a walk with the mutts so Mariette grabbed her camera and off we went.





Prada is growing by the day it seems but Bianca is undeniably the boss.


A couple of shots of the coast on our walk.



Been doing some painting recently. This one is called “After the Egg.”







This one is Fall on the Nissan (the river that runs through Halmstad).



This one kind of reminds me of cave paintings.








A complete mess, but my kind of painting.


In the afternoon we went to town to see what the action was on the first day of Advent. Last year because of the storm there was nothing in the central square but the Christmas tree which then blew over in the wind. Today, the place was hopping, pretty much.


Mostly everything is homemade or homebaked. Did not see anything imported from China. We bought some organic homemade mustard and jam for our wonderful neighbors.

The sun set just after 4:00 p.m. and the town filled up even more, in anticipation of the crowning of this year’s Lucia and a concert in the big church on the square. But first, a late lunch and fika at a very nice cafe down by the river. This is not all Mariette’s food, she insisted I say.


Then it was back to the square. The number of people seemed to have doubled by then.


Back home we are getting into the spirit of the season bit by bit with stars in the window and warming candles throughout the house. These little things actually raise the house temperature by a few degrees F. Amazing.


Next week: our homegrown Julbord (Christmas table) with Mariette’s parents. Bring your appetites.