new favorite


she's a photographer. lives in the country. married to a cowboy. and she's so, so funny.

go check out her site - her photos are amazing, and her blog highly entertaining.


quite the weekend

As mentioned before, I kept the barn (swedish for 'children') for the weekend while the parents were having a weekend vacation in London. It definitely wasn't a bad weekend, although it did get a little long after having them nearly every day the past week. Since they had stayed home sick so often I thought it would be best for us to all take it easy, so we spent most of the time watching movies, playing video games, doing puzzles...basically things that require low physical activity. On Saturday, though, Annelie recommended that I take the kids to a small cafe just through the woods for lunch, which I thought was a great idea. We got all bundled up and braved the cold Swedish morning to walk a mile to this small cafe nestled in the forest. It was a beautiful morning - the kind that makes me kick myself for not bringing my camera along - and when we got to the restaurant, I had to smile, cause, see - the Lord knows. I firmly believe that, yes, I serve a great big God who did and does hugely miraculous things, created the universe, and put me here on Earth. But I also believe that the Lord knows even the smallest things about our hearts.

Case in point - I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE shabby chic decor style. I could search through antique shops for old quilts, milk bottles, chipped and whitewashed furniture pieces, wrought iron accents spray painted pastel colors, faded floral fabrics in muted, soft shades...I get excited and happy just thinking about it. Well, here I come, off to Sweden, where I've never been and really don't know much about. So how funny is it that there's pretty much two decor styles in Sweden, one being really modern and streamlined and the other being...shabby chic. They definitely have their own version of it and I wouldn't say that it's extremely similar to say, the Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic line, but it's definitely, definitely my style. I had to smile in this little cafe because all the walls were whitewashed a grayish color, the tables were old farmhouse styles that had been painted white, the chairs were all mismatched, straight-back chairs with floral seat cushions tied on, there was an old white fireplace in the corner with little antique knickknacks on the mantel, and all of the furniture pieces, such as the buffet and dessert tables, were mismatched and chipped. It was adorable, and not to mention the food was amazing. See? I think stuff like this just further confirms that there was a Hand in my coming to this country :)

Anyway, on Saturday night I had a few of my friends over for an American Thanksgiving, and it was a lot of fun! There were 3 Americans, 1 Swede and 1 Dutch. We had all the typical Thanksgiving foods - turkey (which is ridiculously expensive in this country and has to be bought at a turkey butcher), potatoes, mac and cheese, stuffing, broccoli cheese casserole, biscuits, and threw in some salmon stuffed with goat cheese. For dessert we had a Swedish "princess cake," which apparently is The Cake of Sweden. Every bakery sells them. It's good, not sure where they get the "princess cake" name, but I suppose it doesn't matter. After we stuffed ourselves with food, wine and cake we watched what I believe to be the new American classic Christmas movie, "Elf." Me, Nikki and Philly were DYING during it, Robert and Alfie (the Swede and the Dutch), not so much :)

That about sums up my weekend. It was pretty un-eventful, but definitely a good one. Here's some pictures -

these beautiful swedish children with their bright blue eyes...

he's a thinker, a dreamer, an imaginer...

i love how sixten is resting his hand on klara's head. these two are my troublemakers :)

i think children have become my favorite subjects to photograph.

see? they love me. most of the time.

nikki was *stoked* for the stuffing

philly loved it that her and klara have "the same haircut"

this is all of us at our thanksgiving dinner. and i'm confused as to why everyone except for me looks bored.

here's robert holding the infamous princess cake. the outside is all sugary fondant, but the inside is heavenly...layers of cake and whipped cream.

that's all i've got for you. this week is looking pretty un-eventful, except for the big haircut on Thursday! nope, not getting it all cut off, just getting it trimmed and maybe some new bangs? i am more than ready for it.

28 days til Christmas! and....
1 month til Thailand!


documentaries, sick kids and...labor laws?

Lest you all think my job is one full of easy days spent gallivanting around Stockholm, free trips to exotic destinations and complimentary Pilates classes at an exclusive studio in town...please. Think again.

I'm now spending the FIFTH day (almost in a row) home with the kids. I've had them every weekday, save for Thursday, since this past Friday. And at least once a week before that, for the past three weeks. Between the past five days, I've worked 40 hours, where I normally don't work more than 25. And, on top of it all, I have the kids all weekend while the parents are vacationing in London. Don't get me wrong, I love these kids and they're pretty well entertained on their own, so it's not like staying home is some horrible part of the job where I spend the day screaming at the kids to quit climbing on the walls.

But still. I haven't seen my friends all week and am beginning to feel strangely like what a mother probably feels like...and I'm not sure it's a feeling I love. I guess "they" (meaning, moms) say it's different when it's your own kids, but I don't know, maybe I'm re-thinking that whole plan of being a stay-at-home-mom? (okay, maybe not. but still. no wonder so many moms join scrapbooking groups, something I vow to never do. never.)

Speaking of being a mom, I have learned over the past couple months that it's craziness to have three kids and two adults in one home! The food that they go through is ridiculous, and there's constant noise coming from every corner of the house. I think of some of my friends who are one member of a family of 10, and I suddenly feel very, very tired. And it makes me want to go on a jcrew.com spending frenzy, since I won't be able to afford anything from there once I have all the multiple children I've always dreamed of. I suppose I had better find that rich man everyone kept telling me I was going to meet while I was in Stockholm :)

To get a little bit somber on you, I wanted to share about a movie that I saw this past week - I was given the opportunity to go see the Stockholm screening of the movie "The Devil Came on Horseback," a film about the the Darfur genocide crisis. There's so many things that I want to write about...but I'm still taking it all in, to be honest. All I can say is, there's a horrible, awful thing going on in Sudan right now, and it deserves an immediate response...one that it's not getting. This film showed pictures of the genocide, which are actually pretty rare as journalists aren't allowed in the region, and they are heartbreaking. These mass killings are indiscriminate; children and women are being killed just as brutally as men. I could write down all the things that we could do as Americans (or just as compassionate humans) to make a difference in the situation, but I'm pretty certain you all wouldn't sit down and write a letter to your senator just at my advice. Instead, go check out www.savedarfur.org and at least learn what's causing the crisis and what's been done in the region to assist those who have been affected by the genocide. Here's some pictures from the movie (disclaimer: some are graphic) -

I ask this not rhetorically, but honestly: how is it that we can see these things and not be moved to action?


it's been a while

Yes, it has been a while since I've blogged, as I was reminded not once, but twice, by my Dad, who felt the need to inform me in his email that he sent me yesterday and then when he called me today. So, here you go, Jeff, here's your blog :)

Life has been pretty busy lately. It's funny, I had a conversation with a good friend from back home and he was saying that it seems like I'm busier here in Stockholm than I was in Minneapolis. That is so, so true. It's a good thing, though - it would be really difficult to be living in a foreign country away from your family and friends and not have much of a social life. I often find myself craving my "nights in" where I can surf the 'Net, read books, call people, and do a facial mask. So, what has been keeping me so busy lately??

I had a fun night with Nikki and Philly, the two other American au pairs that I do lots of stuff with, last weekend. We all went to Nikki's house for the weekend since her family was out of town and had a birthday dinner with the three of us. We had stuffed salmon (laxfile in Swedish) that was SO good, and mashed potatoes, and a sweet potato (or was it a squash? cause that's a lot of potatoes that we ate, which I just now realized). Philly baked me a confetti cake, and we drank some really great wine...all in all, a fun night.

me and nikki...trying to make a '26'

The past few weeks the three of us have developed a week night jaunt in the city with us girls where we'll meet up for a drink at a low-key pub. I really look forward to them, we'll usually randomly pick a night to get together and then meet up in Philly's neighborhood and walk until we find a random, cozy pub. I usually always order a pear cider, which is my favorite. Very sweet, almost like drinking a soda. But we'll spend a couple hours talking and catching up on each others lives, and a lot of times have these deep, meaningful conversations while sitting at the bar :) On a side note, Stockholm is extremely 'warm' and cozy in the winter! Much more than I thought it would be. It's usually pretty cold at night, but lots of places will light candles outside of their establishments, and the window fronts always look so inviting with their low lighting and candles everywhere. There's one pub that we like to go to that's really small and has lots of woodwork inside, and I swear, just going there gives me warm fuzzies cause it's so inviting and intimate and warm.

This last weekend I went to a conference at my church on the arts, it was called Synergy. I helped out on Saturday morning with random things so I missed the opening service, but I was able to attend some workshops on the arts and being a Christian artist. It was really good - I'm not an artistic person, per se, but I do love photography, so that's what I applied everything to. The main speaker was a man named Ellis Potter, who, in my opinion, was an absolute genius. I'm pretty sure he could be classified as an apologist - I attended a workshop where he just talked for an hour about how he converted from Buddhism - he was a Buddhist priest - to Christianity because he said that for him, following Jesus Christ required less faith than Buddhism. Now, to hear him explain it, it's brilliant and I feel like anybody would suddenly decide to follow Jesus just based on his explanations, but that's why he's an apologist and I'm not :) So I won't attempt to explain why he believed what he did, but I was struck by two things while listening to him speak - 1.) he said something so profound that I've never realized. He said, "Relationship precedes identity". He went on to explain that Adam only realized who he really was as a man once Eve was created, and that in the New Testament, Jesus teaches us to pray "OUR Father," rather than "MY Father." I love the idea that we're completed only in our relationships with others - specifically with knowing Jesus - but beyond that, we were created to be in relationship with one another. What a controversial idea in our society of individualists. And, 2.) I was amazed when I was listening to him speak so intellectually and on a level so far above my own, and it made me realize that the beauty of the Kingdom of God - of the good news of Jesus - is that He really is able to meet the needs of such a wide scope of people. This man was so smart and brilliant and such a thinker, and obviously found fulfillment in searching the Scriptures, and thinking about the deep, intellectual concepts of Christianity. But to compare him to a child, or a person that is mentally handicapped and yet has such a simple, basic faith and understanding of God's love, and for both of them - they're satisfied and have exactly what they need. Does that make sense? I doubt that the same could be true in other religions, but that just goes to show the personal nature of the God we serve.

So, that was my weekend. Sunday was a lazy day - I didn't make it to church. I've been on such a WEIRD sleeping schedule lately. On Saturday morning I woke up at 3:30am and couldn't fall back asleep. I came home from the conference on Saturday night around 9pm, crashed in bed and then woke up around 2am, and couldn't fall back asleep until early, early morning. So, Sunday morning I slept right through my alarm. Spent most of Sunday hanging out with Nikki and our friend, Robert.

This week is pretty busy - tomorrow night I'm going to a showing of a documentary about the Darfur crisis that Philly's au pair mom produced. Wednesday night is my first session of Pilates at the Stockholm Pilates Center and then all this weekend I have the kids while the parents are in London. Should be eventful and crazy, as usual :) However, me and the American girls are celebrating Thanksgiving here on Saturday night, so I'm really looking forward to that. We're saving the box of Stove Top Stuffing that my best friend Steph sent me, just for the occasion! I'm also going to attempt to find a turkey, but I'm not sure that whole turkeys would be purchased by these minimalist, eat-like-the-European-Swedes that they are. So, if worst comes to worst, we decided to do fish. Definitely not the same, but hey - you do what you gotta do, right?


two months - are you ready for this?

Cause I have LOTS to write about today. I should probably break this all down into three separate posts, but I think I'm going to try and break out the "outline" format. I haven't done an outline since college...we'll see how it goes. Before I do so, let me keep you posted on the daily happenings of my life - this past weekend was pretty good. Laid back, mainly. I had dinner with the family on Friday night for Joakim's birthday, and that was fun - me and Annelie decorated for Halloween, and they ordered in deer meat (I asked if it was venison, and she said, "Nooo...it's baby deer." So, like...Bambi? I think it was venison, they just don't have a name for that) and these really good mashed potatoes and mushroom soup, and we had the Swedish version of cheesecake for dessert. Saturday I lazed around until the evening when I met up with Philly, my au pair friend from New York, and we met up with a Dutch girl from her church and went to an international film festival...that was Finnish. We thought it was Swedish, and it's not like it'd make a big difference to us, language-wise, but we were still surprised when we found out at the end of the night it was brought in from Finland. It was interesting. We saw a Finnish band play. Then we went to a bar in Stockholm that's out on the water front. Also interesting, had an eclectic group of people. I didn't stay so long...this Sunday morning was church, and then lunch with Philly. Tonight I'm going out for pizza with Anna, the au pair across the street. It's our Sunday-evening ritual.
So - now that that's out of the way...on to the outline.

PART ONE - my current faves

Since I've been in Sweden, I've been discovering products that I didn't know about in the US, and I LOVE them! So I'm going to share them with you.

A.) Dr. Stuart's Tea - Skin Purify

I purchased this tea at Le Grande Epicerie in Paris, and it's just amazing. See, I'm not really a tea drinker; I would much rather drink 4 cups of coffee rather than one cup of tea. But lately I've discovered honey and I can't get enough of either thing - tea OR honey. So I bought this tea cause I thought the packaging was pretty, and I'm a sucker for anything that promises to purify my skin. It needs it, I think. Most teas I've drank have had a bitter taste to them that even the milk and honey can't neutralize, but this tea is incredibly good with just a little bit of honey. And on top of it tasting good, I think it actually works, cause my skin has been pretty glowing and soft lately. But I could also attribute that to my next favorite thing...

B.) LUSH Angels On Bare Skin facial cleanser

No, this is not some kind of weird sushi...this is my new favorite cleanser. I discovered the store this past week, and let me say, it's the perfect place for me to blow my my measly salary. The store sells bath and beauty products that are all-natural, and their stuff seems to live up to their name. They have a huge selection of soaps that smell so sweet - I bought Honey I Shrunk the Kids, a honey and coconut scented soap - and facial products, and hair products, and bath bombs, massage bars...the list is endless. Anyway, I've been looking for a new facial wash, but wasn't sure what to buy, so stumbling onto this product was perfect. The cleanser is for normal skin, and it has rose essence, ground almonds and lavender oil in it. Here's the thing about it that I love - it's a cleanser and an exfoliator, which usually leaves your skin feeling dry and sensitive after using it a couple of times. But this stuff has a thick, almost oily, texture to it that rinses really clean and, after using it for a week, my skin definitely, definitely looks brighter and feels a lot smoother.

C.) Swedish honey, AKA honung

I LOVE THIS STUFF. I never used to like honey in the US, for some reason, but the honey here is so good, I could eat it right out of the jar...just like Winnie the Pooh? I put it in my tea and on my toast, and I think it's responsible for converting me from having my morning coffee to having my morning tea. I asked someone why it's in a jar, and has a different texture than the honey in the US, and they said it's cause it's so fresh. This stuff you literally spoon out of the jar, and it's thick and tastes just like it came off the honeycomb.

So, there you have it...my current 3 Favorite Things. I think you can purchase the tea at GNC in the States, and there are Lush's in the US, but probably only in the big cities. The honey...can't help you with that one.

PART TWO - Pictures, Pictures, Pictures

I spent this past Friday with the kids, since they had just returned from the States and didn't have school this past week. I got a few pictures of our day - not many, just a couple of Sixten and Kasper rough-housing, which is a universal display of love between brothers, I think. We also got a couple shots out on the lake that I took using the timer...some turned out, some didn't.

Kasper's got him in a headlock...

Sixten's going for the stomach...

This kid has COOL written all over him. I mean, what 3-year-old wears jeans that have guitars on them?

Klara and I out on the dock, trying for the 13th time to take a picture.

Our one (and only) attempt at a timed group shot...Klara is obviously sick of them at this point

I also realized I hadn't posted any pictures of my cottage...at least, I don't think I have. I've done some decorating of my own since moving in. It's a small, little place, but it's really cozy and warm, especially when I light the candles and dim the lights...so nice and romantic for me, myself and I.

This is the view from the window in my kitchen, taken just the other day around 2:3o. The sun has been setting here around 4pm, and will just get earlier and earlier...

This is my kitchen...

This is my little bedroom, which is parallel to the kitchen, just up a step.

Last room of the house, the bathroom. Those glass doors resting on each other? That's my shower...they open up to form a box.

So, that's where I've been living for the last two months. Which leads me to...


I've been here 61 days now...hard to believe, although it doesn't necessarily feel like it's gone by quickly. In many ways it feels like I just arrived, and yet it seems as though a lot has happened since I've been here. I've celebrated my 26th birthday, been to northern Sweden and France, ate moose meat and caviar for the first time, celebrated 3 birthdays with the family already, went to a Finnish film festival, drank Swedish beer and British cider, and so much more...made more friends than I can count on two hands (pretty good for only two months in a completely foreign country), found a great church to attend where I'm already part of a Bible study and helping out at events, regularly going to Swedish spinning classes at my gym(I'm the dork in the class straining "up the hill" with my head up cause I don't want to miss the next instructions). The best part about all of this is that I love working for this family - the kids move into my heart a little more every day, and the parents are so thoughtful, kind and generous that I can't help but be overwhelmed at how BLESSED I am. Some would say lucky...I say blessed. Only God could give me such good things.
There's so much that I've been learning about myself since I've been here. The things that I used to pride myself on are being brought down...I am constantly being humbled by the Lord. And it's so good for me. I'm developing this new excitement for my future; a new excitement to the idea that life is WIDE OPEN to me, and that my dreams don't require the prerequisites I once thought I needed to see them fulfilled, like a certain education, or a husband, or being in the ideal location. There's a lot of things that still scare me, and lots of rough spots that I know God is preparing me to make smooth, which is often a hard process. But I'm ready for it, I think.
I will say, every young person should try their hardest to live abroad...it is a life changing experience.

I'm a sleepy head tonight, so I think I'm going to get my pajamas on and hit the sack...read for a while, maybe? I recently discovered the library and there's TWO whole shelves of English books. I was so happy when I left there with my pile of books...that I'm sure I'll return late and have a fee to pay along with my parking ticket :)
Have a great week!