LC Forstén Fotograf

Capturing life's moments, big and small, through portraiture and documentary story telling.

Photography in Stockholm, Sweden. Documentary photography focusing on families and weddings. Portraits of maternity, infants, children, families, professionals.

Advent Calendar 2017: 5 - What we miss

Dec 5th – What we miss in Sweden

What we miss the most is you (and BJ).  Life has been on hold for us in so many ways that it still just feels like extended vacation, until we look at social media and see your lives moving forward and us not being there to be a part of it.  That is the hardest part.  Please accept our apology for leaving suddenly and then failing to communicate much.  It’s just been a massive transition.  We still love you!  We hope you love us too. 

Aside from you, there are comforts from Portland we miss too. 

Whole Child Montessori Center.  An extension of the people but also the place, the garden, the sense of calm being there.  Knowing my son was learning and growing in the best way possible.  Watching him run into the gate with joy.  Enjoying every other human I interacted with there, and being in awe of the staff.  This was the hardest things to leave aside from friends.  Still miss it more than anything listed below. 

Alternative health care at our fingertips.  Mary Grabowska, Golden Cabinet Herbs, bone broth in a food cart, a culture that doesn’t eat quite so much candy.  Knowing a Doctor’s Note is only a phone call away at any time of day or night.  I’m just glad I brought my ND/Lac with me!

New Seasons, the friendliest market where you can even have your groceries bagged for you!  They don’t do that here.  People abide by the “queue” but hate that you are in front of them and even worse when you buy more than 5 items at the store.  WHAT IS THE POINT of going to the store to buy 5 things?!!?  Plan better and stop looking at me like that.  You just have to wait.  I have a weeks worth of groceries and you have to wait.  Bagging is such an easy job that anyone can do, certainly this would be a good position in a socialist democracy?!  I hate grocery shopping here.  There are organic options, but not as many as we’re used to.  I think the regular stuff is better regulated, but they haven’t caught on to nitrite free or many other “frees” we’d like to see.  Unexpected.  Which leads me to…

A proper butcher and deli counter.  We have yet to find one, and know they will be outlandishly expensive.  Affordable bacon.  Nitrite free ham. 

Sweetheart Ham.  From Olympic Provisions.  Oh my.

Honey Mamas.  Thank you Maegan for introducing us.  Looking forward to trying Eleanor’s hack.  This stuff is awesome. 

Proper Tacos.  As noted on Dec 1st, every Friday is Taco Friday here, but no one has any idea what a decent taco is, or at least, there aren’t ingredients available in the store for a decent taco.  Glad we brought masa with us.  We’ll do fine on our own.  But it is nice every now and then to get a good, affordable, quick meal out.

Eb and Bean – that fro-yo is outta this world!

Granola.  New Cascadia and other small batch granola.  We’ll get on making ourselves at some point.

Sunsets.  There are amazing sunsets here, absolutely stunning, but because we’re on the first floor of an apartment in a forest, we don’t see them.  Fortunately, we stocked up over the summer on the islands.  We do miss the view we had on 42nd though.  Hope you’re enjoying it, April! 

Our garden, chickens, chest freezer and plenty of space.  We miss our Portland lifestyle and long for a little more breathing room again.  But it’s also nice to have less to care for and live more densely.  But the chest freezer would make getting ahold of that good meat a lot easier…

Parking.  Parking is a huge pain in the ass and I’ll write more about that later.

Independent bookstores.  There are great libraries here but the bookstores are, as far as we can tell, dominated by a couple of powerhouses.  Their selection is so-so.

English.  Miss that somedays.  Not everyday.  Also, there are lots of English speakers here.

Generally knowing where things are and how to find things we need.  This is evenly weighed with the excitement of getting to know a new place. 

Amazon Prime.  Horrible and unethical though they may be, damn they made our lives easier.  Delivery of anything that isn’t a letter is a bit of a nightmare here.  I’ll post on that later. 


The rest of what we miss is from Finland.  Finland, we’ve come to realize, is a bit like a second home.  We spent the summer soaking it up and were lucky to be out in the countryside most of the time.  We miss that.  It's a beautiful country we are proud to call ours.  Well, me vicariously, Cora and the kids are Finns for real.  I'm just an aficionado and regular visitor.

Bread.  Finland has the best options for wheat-free rye bread and just fresh bread in general.  There is loads of variety and the taste is amazing.  Sweden could learn a thing or two.  Sweden has more bakeries but the all offer exactly the same thing.  

Black and Red currants in the freezer section.  Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries aren’t the only berries in the forest and the others are super delicious.  Swedish stores have them in the summer until their stock runs out, Finland has them year round…?!

Karelska piroger  – Rye and rice porridge pirogues.  They are so so yum!  What don’t you love, Swedes?

Cheese.  Finland has the best options for aged, lactose free cheese and just more choices in general.  There is a wide variety and the taste is amazing.  Sweden… what gives?!

Sausage.  I’m not going to type it again.  This record is getting old!

Prisma and CityMarket.  They have everything, like Walmart or a Target with a large grocery, but WAY better quality everything.  The ones in the county have good sales.  We miss them.  They gave us that sense of knowing where to get what we needed most of the time.

Lactose Free Ice Cream, Cakes, and everything else.  They make EVERYTHING lactose free in Finland.  For better or worse, I have fewer options now. 

Order and sensibility.  Finland runs like a finely tuned clock.  Sweden is a machine that somehow works despite the cogs not fitting to the wheels and no one thinking about what the other pieces are doing.  It’s maddening.  Everything takes longer to accomplish, and you have to do your own problem solving.  Creative solutions are not their forte.   

Access to Island Homes and the country stores and markets on the way.  They are all closed for the winter anyhow, but it sure is nice to escape the city for a cozy cabin on an Island! 

Helsinki.  It’s size is closer to that of Portland and it’s sleepier and cozier than Stockholm, in a very put-together proper way.  In a strange way, when we come back now, it feels like home in a way.  We really do love the buzz of Stockholm and so much seems possible there, but something about Helsinki is welcoming in a calm and ordered way.  Like the first hour after a snow fall when sounds are dampened and the light is brightened by the snow.  That’s how Helsinki felt when we drove in this morning. 


What don’t we miss?  If you are annoyed by it, we don’t miss it.  Traffic is not worse here, coffee is equally well-made, beer is not as good (or at least the good stuff is super expensive) but we don’t drink that much of it (it's coming though, micro breweries are on the rise), we can get all the same bourbon we’re used to, the bike lanes are better, the public transit system is better.  Chocolate is great here.  Cultural life is mind-blowing, there is SO MUCH HAPPENING.  I would miss nature but we have more of it and with fewer people to share it with.  I miss having our fancy VW and all its bells and whistles, but I hit my head so many times on that damn car that I’m fine letting it go. (We are driving a 1987 VW Golf, no power-steering, no radio, five seats, heat, maybe a leak in the windshield seal… it’s how we roll.) I don’t miss Finnish when we’re in Sweden.  It’s such a challenge. 

Mostly, I don’t miss the anxiety around politics and stability.  I know you know what I’m talking about.  I’m happy to have the distance, it’s been good for me. 

Advent Calendar 2017: Hem

Dec 4th – Välkommen to our home! 

hem (51 of 1).jpg

We would love to have each and everyone of you visit.  In lieu of the long journey, let us welcome you in for a virtual fika instead.  If you followed along on facebook over the summer, you saw the exciting journey and conclusion of finding the right place for us.  In the end it came down to a lovely, fairly large house a bit outside of town and the apartment we chose closer in.  We let the house go because it was more expensive, was a lot more space than we needed, had an undefined but short rental period, and was not in a community where we were likely to make as many friends, our kids or us.  We chose this apartment because it is easy to get to the city center, is in a family-saturated neighborhood with a higher-than-average queer family percentage, and in general was a cute area. 

We live on the first floor of a three story “trapphus”, literally Stair House or Many-floored House.  There are two apartments on each floor, good for knowing at least WHO your neighbors are.  There are 6 of these connected in a horseshoe around a small play area with a grill and a lot of bike parking.  The last is crucial as it’s completely full, as are the two bike storage rooms in the connected basement under the houses.   One of the bike storage rooms is a long bomb shelter with a crazy door with a big wheel on it.  There is also little storage places in the basement, ours is filled tetris-style to the brim. 

At any rate, when you see the play area, you might be in the right place.  Every small group of apartments in the area has one, so look for the 6 above the door.  You’ll need the door code to get into the front door.  Once in the heavy wood and glass door, come up a half flight of stairs and our door is on the left, our name is on the door.  And check out the security on this thing!!  Two different locks and the deadbolt involves 4 posts that go from the door into the wall.  The brick wall.  Not a lock we put on when we’re home, imagine opening that in a fire.  No. I’ll just not. 

Come in!  Take off your shoes, everyone does here to protect the floors and just keep from tracking in all the grit and sand from the streets.  This time of year is gnarly with the rain and snow.  Please excuse the entry, we haven’t been able to paint it yet.  The décor is not permanent but we are happy with our choice of lamp.  We had to buy lights for every room in the house except the bathroom.  People take their lights WITH them when they move here.  Most of them are just plugged into a ceiling socket. 

Let me show you around!  We’ll come back to the living room.  Down the hallway of storage cabinets with cute 50’s handles is the bathroom and kids’ bedroom.  It is a corner apartment, which makes for the oddest shaped rooms I’ve ever decorated.  The kids room includes two right angles, one by the door frame and another by Freja’s bed.  We brought the cabinet we bought from Jan Alexander, always a fun reminder, Freja’s crib and mattress and Felix’s mattress.  We bought the exact same bed we had in Portland for Felix but the mattress standards are different here, so the bedframe is a little longer and a little narrower than Felix’s mattress.  One of the many things I didn’t expect to be subtly different!  Before we knew that we built Felix a Lego-building and small-toy play area for him to escape his sister in the lofted part of his bed. Thank goodness because the mattress never would have fit up there!  He’s into Batman and space, so we decorated with our Halloween bats, a birthday card from Elizabeth from last year and to remind him of Whole Child, a counting work he and Oliver did last year. 

Freja is in a toddler bed, she loves to climb in and out.  She sleeps half the night there and usually comes into our bed when we have to change her diaper in the middle of the night.  We’re looking forward to one day being done with interrupted nights!  She loves animals, books, balls, and is getting into babies.  She likes the cars and trucks but doesn’t reach for them first. 

Their room has the only closet in the house which is the oddest polygon in the house.  On the door is our growth chart so beautifully made by Jessica Koenig of Fika Craft.  The big windows give good light in the whole room, the blackout curtain makes it possible to sleep in the summer and with so many streetlights outside.

If you need the bathroom it’s here at the end of the hall.  The window in here is the coolest because based on how you turn the handle, you can open it by hinges on the bottom OR by hinges on the side.  We’ve put down wooden tiles because here the bathrooms are sunk in a bit and are just tile or linoleum wall to wall with a drain in the middle.  With no tub that means your feet are always getting wet when someone has showered.  We have two little IKEA tubs for the kids and so far, until Felix gets too big for his, it works. 

Come into the kitchen!  It’s long with a couple of odd corners (of course) but warm and we’d love to have you join us at our table.  A lot of our pictures are from here, not shockingly we spend a lot of time in the kitchen!  The light is good and so is the storage.  It’s newly renovated.  Our only complaint is the induction cooktop.  We miss our gas stove.  None of our pots and pans work with it, so we had to buy new.  Even second-hand purchases failed to work.  Ugh.  Apparently, many of the apartments had gas originally but they have shifted most of them to some form of electric as they have renovated.  Induction is popular.  You can boil food quickly.  I like food that is NOT boiled.

Our room is off the kitchen and the living room.  It’s actually square!  We painted and put up a stencil on the wall.  Everyone here puts up wallpaper in at least a few rooms, but it’s expensive (though so is paint!) and we aren’t familiar with it.  So instead of wallpaper we thought a stencil would be a good option.  It’s a huge pain, so do not enter into stenciling lightly!!  But our king-sized bed and the headboard I made fit as well as our dresser and two new wardrobes.  A relief!  It’s cozy and a good place to rest. 

There are large windows in every room with views of the inner courtyard and the street going past the houses.  They just renovated the apartment houses to add new insulation and fancy windows that have the blinds build into the middle of the two panes.  They almost all open at least a little and have vents so you can always get fresh air.

Come, sit in the living room and I’ll tell you about how we got settled in.  Cora will bring coffee and treats, a must in Sweden.  We’ll have Fika.  The kids will probably interrupt us and if we’re lucky we can send Felix out to play with a neighbor-friend in the play area outside.  We’ve got some time before sunset at 2pm.

We have managed to fit more than we expected in the house.  Due to the odd corners the living room is still a challenge.  This week we took our last box down and got the Christmas decorations up, all except the tree, which we’ll get after we get back from Finland’s 100th Independence Day celebration on Dec 6th.  I’ve hung some of the ornaments around the house and on our “tree” of holiday cards… who is going to be on our wall of fame!?  So far Anabel and Louise are the winners!  We’ve also received amazing mail from Whole Child, our Portland preschool that we miss so so dearly, and a letter from Gus, Felix’s friend and now pen pal!  In the kitchen there is a small stack of creations from the students and letters from Felix’s teacher.  The absolute best. 


We left with 5 enormous suitcases, 4 carry-ons, one enormous stroller bad and two car-seat bags.  Of course the stroller bag and carseat bags were stuffed with whatever else could fit in there.  That’s A LOT of stuff to get through 5 airports, with a 3 day stop in Maine.  It took Cora’s dad driving his boat from Stenskär to Stockholm for us to get that and the 3 foam mattresses we borrowed to sleep on for 3 months and various other small items we picked up over the summer.  And then we put it into our empty apartment and it echoed for weeks.  We slowly filled it with something from every other bin at IKEA and this awesome second-hand shop where I found a beautiful writing desk and some lovely things for the kitchen, some of which I needed. 

When we moved we sent 11 feet of a giant truck that was packed so blessedly by Jerry, Tamara, April, Jaime, Harris, and Megan.  It was a marvel to watch them work.  They saved us and will always be Angels in our book!!  Then it went to Texas and waited and waited and then waited out several hurricanes and with good foresight by Mike, survived undamaged.  Cora’s brother’s and their crew unloaded the truck, loaded a 20ft container, and then reloaded it into a 40ft container that was put on a ship bound for Finland.  Once it arrived there, one company had to move the container to a moving company’s warehouse where another crew unloaded the container and loaded it onto a moving truck bound for Sweden. 

And then it all arrived on November 4th and we hardly knew how to get everything settled. It’s been a slow organizing and reorganizing to fit everything!  Now, on December 4th, we’ve taken down our last box and are almost finished finding creative homes for everything.  And we pared down by at least half before we left!  The most eagerly anticipated things were our real mattresses, our winter coats, and Felix’s Legos.  Least excited about – the huge box of clothes that Freja grew into AND out of in the 6 months that our things were in transit!  That’s ok, we can sell them for quite a bit here; I do not understand the market for used stuff in Stockholm!  We were pleasantly surprised that nothing broke, we only lost two yoga mats and a photo light bouncer, and a box of cast iron cleaning/handling supplies that would have been useless with the induction cooktop anyway.  Next place – must have gas.

So this is how it settled out!  We have a few more things to put on the walls, but overall we are happy with it.  Can I get you more coffee?  Bröd med smör?  Thanks so much for coming over, really, it’s been too long!   Stay as long as you can.  We’ve missed you.

Advent Calendar 2017: Tvättstugga + December 3

Dec 3 – Tvattstugga – laundry, literally: Wash Cabin

Laundry day is not affected by Advent.  Today is Sunday, Sunday is laundry day. 

Panorama of the Tvättstugga.  From L to R, the drying cabinets, the mangel, the dryers and washers, the grovtvätt and the library of discarded books for people waiting on laundry.

Panorama of the Tvättstugga.  From L to R, the drying cabinets, the mangel, the dryers and washers, the grovtvätt and the library of discarded books for people waiting on laundry.

To do your laundry in the vast majority of apartment-based Sweden, you go to the Tvättstugga.  Ours is part of our rent and for the people who own here, part of the fee they pay for keeping up the grounds, long-term planning and in our case we also have access to a nice guest apartment and a party room.  (Ahem.  Did you see I said, guest apartment???!?)  So you don’t have to go hunting for kronor or set up a Swish account, which is great.  But you do have to book a time in advance and this little stugga serves a LOT of people.  It’s open from 7am to 10pm.  No night owl laundry allowed.

We got a tour of the tvattstugga when we signed the lease for our apartment.  There are awesome things about a tvattstugga.  In ours 1) There are many machines 2) when it breaks, you call someone and THEY fix it.  3) There is a Grovtvatt.  This is a larger than usual machine that you can wash large items like rugs, comforters, bathrobes, sheets.  I ran all of my winter sweaters, usually so dusty Cora can’t touch them, on the handwash setting, and it worked and didn’t shrink any of them!  4) A drying cabinet – this is a rack in a cabinet that blows hot air.  It’s great because the dryers are so hot that almost anything synthetic is destroyed in a few weeks.  Wouldn’t know what that is like… I just assume… no I don’t need several new pairs of jeans because I was impatient…. And a 5) Mangel – this is a giant ironing machine that Swedes use to iron sheets and other large textiles.  I am getting a “C” in mangel skills, but I’ve used it!

There are many frustrating things about a tvattstuga that you can easily imagine.  1) Weekends must be booked many days in advance 2) you can’t just put your laundry in and go do other stuff, come back when you want.  You have 3 hours to get everything washed, dried, and OUT.  Hope you only have one -two loads or know how to game the system on a random weekday when no one else is around.  3) They are renovating the place, so there are fewer machines and angrier people and 4) you have to haul everything there and back.  Sometimes it’s snowing. 


Like almost everything I’ve been introduced to, I ask for really clear instructions when I’m learning.  Our landlords (who speak English) showed us the room, briefly went over the computer at the door.  I asked if there was any particular etiquette to using the space, so as not to get off on the wrong foot in a communal space.  The common response when I ask if there is anything common about the way people do things here is almost always “No, really anything goes!”

Swedes (and expats who’ve been here a long time, too!) do not mean to lead me astray.  They know the rules so well they don’t think about them.  There is almost NO situation where anything goes.  This is a socialist society, people.  It’s just getting folks to recognize that there are rules and then tell you what they are that is the challenge.

I couldn’t wait to do my first bazillion loads of laundry after a summer on the island with occasional washing machine access.  Remember how your laundry smelled from summer camp?  You don’t want to.  Two kids, outdoor time, no running water, plenty of messy meals and the primary toilet is an outhouse or just “that spot you favor to pop-a-squat, usually with kid company and an amazing view”… rank. 

So I loaded up my machines, but I was a little late on the last load.  I had done this before on a weekday with no impact, but as people began to FLOOD in the door, I realized that Sunday is a whole different ball game for laundry.  My loads would eat away 15 minutes of the next person’s wash.  I sat in the “library” area of the room waiting for the people to come to the machines I was using and tried my darndest in Swedish to explain that I was new and screwed up the system.  One woman was kind-ish… one was super mad and stormed off.  And then… she came back. 

I’ve never been spoken to like an idiot immigrant before.  Either people have patience for my trying or I do ok, or I holler “Coooooora!  Hjalp mig!”  And all is well.  I was by myself.  And I had gotten in the way of a middle-aged woman doing wash on Sunday.  She tried to explain EXACTLY how the system works, slowly and loudly, and kept asking (in Swedish) “DO YOU UNDER-STAND?!? Because this is how it works here!!  DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!?!”  I was mortified, I did not understand most of it, and she would not just let it go.  She is an immigrant too (though here for many many years), and I appreciate the education since it was clearer than the one I’d previously gotten, AND, it was miserable and I had just arrived.  What I did understand is that you can stop any machine at any point in the wash cycle and toss whomever’s clothes out who screwed up.  Sopping wet. 

I vowed to never use the tvattstugga on a weekend again and tried to avoid that woman as much as possible.  I have managed to not do laundry on weekends.  I found out this woman is my next door neighbor.  Like, the second of two doors on our landing, our is the first. 

Since then I’ve been evil-eyed for having rambunctious children in here, had my laundry has been tossed out even when it was my time, and washed EVERYTHING we own.  When the container finally arrived in November (we sent it May 31st for anyone keeping track….) everything STUNK.  Washing everything was a feat of both strength and strategy!  I’ve had people kindly point me to the more effective dryers.  I’ve heard at least 5 languages spoken.  I’ve seen men of all ages doing the wash and the older ones mangel-ing it all after wards.  I’ve seen dads with kids on weekdays doing the wash, meaning on parental leave and running the house.  I’ve watched older teen have screaming crying meltdowns about not having clothes for school.  Oh that poor mom.  I’ve caught up on random Swedish home magazines and I’m starting to learn what all those damn symbols mean in your clothes because they actually matter here!! 

My neighbor and I have since become friendly because I’m American and I small-talk when Swedes don’t.  And last week, I asked her for a lesson on the mangel.  She spoke kindly, and I understood every word. 

Advent Calendar 2017: December 2nd

Dec 2nd – Julmarknad at Skansen

Julmarkad, or Christmas Markets, are happening in so many places I can’t keep them all straight.  Even a “10 best” list is too many because they only happen on weekends and with kids you can only choose so many in a season, so at best I can make it to 3 or 4 before Christmas.  And I already missed one weekend, oh the horror! (But I do appreciate the narrowing down, thank you 10 best list!)

We’ve only been to Skansen now, which is billed as a handicraft market with a more traditional focus.  Skansen is an open-air museum and Zoo in Stockholm on Djurgården.  It has buildings from a wide range  of Swedish history and we’re excited to check it all out.  But it’s HUGE.  It is an overwhelming experience without the Christmas market, but wow the crowds.  Just wow. 

I was expecting an outdoor, more homey and authentic version of Portland’s ScanFair, or maybe something like the Portland Saturday Market but more adorably Swedish.  In many ways it was much as I imagined though far more mass-produced items and far less handicraft than I hoped for.  But there was some handicraft.  We found a birch box maker, a few needlework art stalls (embroidery on pillows mostly), candle makers, some wooden items.  And it’s possible that maybe, just maybe we missed a few things behind the throngs of people in the way. 

There were bakeries selling all the goodies that are sold in every bakery in Sweden right now.  (Did I mention people seem to do things like everyone else here?)  The treats typically include bulla, or buns, in a few flavors.  Cinnamon, cardamom, and during Christmas, saffron.  Christmas also brings gingerbread, warm apple cider and glögg, thank God for the glögg.  There were cheese makers and sausage makers and fish smokers.  Horses with bells pulling carriages to give people tours of the large campus. 

In the middle of the market was a stage with a large Christmas tree and periodically the band would strike up and in good pagan fashion, everyone danced around it!  And since the sun has long since set by the time they close at 4pm, it feels very middle-of-the-long-winter-night at 3pm or so. 


And it was cold, so cold.  We sent our Norwegian friend Tine home early to warm up because even her lips were turning purple!  To help, they had lit fires every so many meters; large ones people could sit and enjoy drink around, small ones to just warm up your hands along the way.  There were little houses to duck into showing life in different locations and ages, often with a warm fireplace inside.  There was a ceramic shop, a shoemaker, a silversmith, a furniture maker, a printing press, and so much more that we would have seen had our kids not been complaining most of the time. 


Felix’s favorite parts were the playground and the section designed for small children that had an indoor small-mammal exhibit.  His favorite displays were the rats and the hissing cockroaches.  Doesn’t that just warm your Christmas heart?  Can’t wait to see what he puts on his list for Santa now that we no longer have pets here…* Oh who am I kidding, all that kid wants is Legos.  It’s Freja who is going to be bringing home stray creatures and begging for a pet. 

*(BJ is in Wimberely with Cora’s mom for those who didn’t know.  He’s doing really, really well.  Retirement suits him as does vet-acupuncture ranch-house calls that he’s being treated to!)

We sat down for a dinner of meatballs for the kids and goulash for the mamas.  Apparently, goulash is Swedish for “Chili with a few random spices that shouldn’t be there thrown in”.  Or it was at Skansen.  I think they read the recipe for Chili somewhere and put in both Kumin and Spiskumin to be safe.  An easy mistake.  Kumin is Carraway (what the what?!) and Spiskumin is Cumin.  One is essential to chili, the other, not so much. 

Give me back my darn meatball!!!

Give me back my darn meatball!!!

We checked out the incredible views and hit the gift shop one last time as we made our way home.  We walked via the shopping district, the outskirts of it anyway.  Included are some pictures of the city lit up.  I’m sure there will be more.  On our way, we tried to make it to the lost and found of the bus system to look for Freja’s “longhorn.” It’s a beloved monkey that she tossed out of the stroller, we think on a bus, a week ago.  It takes a week to collect lost and found, so this was the first day it would have been there.  They were closed so we jumped on the T at T-Centralen and rode home to Bagarmossen.  We’ll send someone over tomorrow.  We were so exhausted from the crowds that we had the traditional Swedish dinner of pancakes.  No, really, they serve that as a kids meal here, for dinner.  Yesterday we had tacos.  Everyone in Sweden eats Tacos on Friday.  KAJ even made a music video about it.  Since we are game to eat tacos just about everyday, we had tacos.  I can’t say the traditional Swedish taco is something to write home about, though.  We need to import some Por Que No? or Austin breakfast taco makers STAT.  They could teach everyone a thing or two about tacos!!  And now I’m going to watch the TV advent calendar episode for today and get Felix off to bed.  Happy second day of Advent! 

Advent Calendar 2017: December 1

Our Swedish Life: Advent in Sweden

Glad Advent!  You can probably translate that without my help.  In places where there is no Thanksgiving, ie, everywhere but the US and also here in Sweden, the beginning of Advent  (Dec 1st or the first of the four Sundays away from Christmas) is when you “can” start getting ready for Christmas by putting up decorations, playing music, making Christmas Spice everything.  The shops start a couple of weeks before that, but in true Swedish fashion, almost no one else bucks the trend.  Last night, the eve of Advent, was the first night I saw many stars in windows.  And the rule is, every window needs a light.  I believe it is supposed to help the wise men find Jesus.  Super helpful up here, won’t throw them off one bit…

AND, now it begins!  AND everyone has been champing at the bit!!  (Except for probably the large Muslim population of the city and my Russian-Jewish neighbor.  Probably not them so much.  I will have to find out if they do their own lighting of their homes, living in such a dark place.)

The shops have been filled with bright stars, window lights, gnomes, woodland creatures, fake snow and more for a few weeks and as the days get darker and darker, everyone is eager to add more light.  The street decorations are stunning.  Huge and everywhere and so very festive!  The shop windows are like a sunny day with so many window stars.  They are so much more than Ikea’s cheap version.  They all cost between $30 and $100 and have beautiful designs, glitter, patterns.  Fortunately there are so many amazing ones that I can’t decide this year and bought a cheap one for about $7.  Fewer choices in that price range!

Everyone grumbles about November and calls it the darkest month because the fall leaves are all gone, it’s cold and wet but not yet snowy, and the sun has started to really disappear, but you aren’t yet “allowed” to decorate your whole house with lights for Christmas.  I found November to be really lovely.  We had our first snow, the leaves hung on in the first part of the month, and had our children been older and in better sorts we could have gone for the candle-lit celebration at the cemetery for remembrance on All Saints Day.  The sun-light here, when it was out, was just amazing.  The whole time the sun was up it was the “Golden Hour” because of the angle of the earth.  You just had to be sure to make it outside to see it, and hope for a cloudless day.  It is getting colder but with the right clothes, so far, no problem.  Also, our container arrived in early November, so perhaps I was too busy trying to dig out of a pile of boxes to notice the onset of deep darkness.  And I’m not stuck in an office every day, so I see the sun when it’s out.  I digress. 

Jul, or Christmas, is filled with a million small traditions as it is everywhere.  One common one here is to have an Advent Calendar for EVERYTHING.  You have the paper ones, the candy ones, the toy ones, the DIY ones.  There is also a radio advent calendar and a TV advent calendar that tell stories, one snippet per day.  There are many more on YouTube of varying levels of funding; the Swedish Wild West Town does one, oh my.  Many shops have Advent Calendar specials on different products each day.  Instagram is buzzing with just about every blogger/Instagram-user in town posting little tidbits.  I would say that they’re already posting constantly so it’s not special.  In my case, I’ve left you all in the dark about our life here for 6 months, so me writing is totally different, right? 

So now our planning and decorating begins in earnest.  I’m struggling to find CommandHooks to hang everything or we would have been finished decorating a week ago. (We're American and we can decorate after TurkeyDay!)  We have lights to hang, stockings to hang (sadly no fireplace), a place for Christmas Cards to hang, and to figure out where, when, and how to get a Christmas Tree.  The biggest hang-up on that so far is that I can’t find a Christmas Tree stand that holds water.  Why didn’t I just keep that??!?!?!?!  More later on “Things I’d wish I knew before we packed/planned”.  The Swedish ones just hold up the tree so it dies super fast.  Most people don’t get them till two weeks before Christmas, some on Christmas day… I can’t have Advent without our tree decorations!!

Tomorrow we’re going to the Jul Marknad at Skansen.  The Christmas Market is another thing that is ubiquitous here.  There are craft ones that run a wide gamut from traditional Scandinavian to feminist-themed, some commercial tourist ones, every local farm has one, the Queen’s palace has one.  I can hardly remember who’s is when because there are so many and I want to go to ALL of them and I’m pretty sure our kids will make it incredibly painful.  Tomorrow, we’re trying Skansen’s and I’ll let you know how it goes!  I will also get more pictures of the Christmas scene here.  For now, try to imagine it.  Happy Advent everyone!

We are Stockholmers!

Well folks, my family and I moved to Sweden over the summer.  There will be a lot more information to come, but the big gap in communication was: new baby, new full-time job plus concussion = no time for photography nor screen time permitted, planning to move, and an enormous move.  Really glad to be getting back to it... still sorting boxes and setting up the new home.  For example, I need European cords to my computer and monitor before I can really get rockin'.  But... Advent Calendar to come!  <3 LCF

Nearly 2 years later

Oct 2016

Nearly two years later I find the time and energy to pick this back up.  I'll try to include some photographic highlights of two years worth of life with littles.  My wife and I had our second baby, a girl, in April, and so were pregnant and experiencing that crazy whirlwind.  Our daughter was born at home in a beautiful but intense and normal-crazy birth, all healthy and all perfect outcomes.  Our midwives are amazing and heroes every day. 

I suffered a concussion in February of this year and that derailed our whole life, especially my photography, since I wasn't allowed to look at any screens for several months.  Talk about a change in lifestyle!!  Good in many ways.  We've celebrated holidays, watched the seasons change, watched our children grow.  We've visited family in Finland and in Texas a few times and contemplate moving everyone overseas in the next year. 

I started back to full-time, reliable work to help support my family, and in that have put photography in the backseat, but still very much in the car.  Stability and regularity are good for me, as is biking to work every day!  Exercise does me a world of good.  In all, it's been a rich two years!  Where will our adventures lead to next?  Time will tell, for now the adventure is the day to day with two kids, two jobs, a serious side job and dreams to chase.  Onward!

Recent Work: The Rudin's Family Portrait!

I love this family and love that they couldn't wait to take advantage of the rare sunny fall day in Portland.  It couldn't have been prettier for playing outside, but it was coooooold!  They were troopers.  I've watched these kids grow up and it was such a pleasure to get to capture this moment in their family and childhood. 

If you'd like to schedule your family's holiday card shoot or capture the spirit of the holidays at your house, drop me a line! or 503-853-2528.  Looking forward to working with you and yours!

Weekly Journal: Nov 16 - 22

Today was a day that I reveled in the reality that instead of sitting in an office, and my son in a corporate day care, we were at the awesome nature park laughing at the ducks as they popped their bums up to get food on the bottom of the little spring that runs through it.  We've been sick all week (still), and the day before I survived by sticking my son in front of screens ALL.DAY.LONG.  It was all either of us wanted to do, and by the next morning he was a MESS.  He would have been diagnosed ADHD in a heartbeat; he was emotionally fragile, he was being super defiant, and it was an incredible challenge to get us out the door with the rain gear we needed before he destroyed the house.   But we made it, and once the fresh air hit our faces, rain and all, everything began to melt in both of us.  He dug in the sand, felt the rain on our faces, ran and played hide and seek.  By the time we were watching the ducks together on our way out, he was very nearly back to normal, despite his sickness.  Now, everyone knows that screen-time is bad for children, and some days I win the fight agains them, and some days I lose.  It has become "life". 

However, all of this observing has made me wonder what all this screen time does to OUR adult brains as well.  I'm glad I got a good long break today, with fresh (if wet) air and hilarious ducks.  So ponder that, and go watch some ducks, because I didn't take any pics of them.    Sorry, we were living in the moment!

Weekly Journal: Nov 9 - 15

This was a week of hangin' at home.  We were waiting out a poo-strike, got frozen in during a "big weather event," which in Portland means they cancelled school for a day over some freezing rain.  It was nothing much; we were just plain cold, so we mostly stayed in.  Wimpy, stupid, put-some-more-clothes-on cold.  But I haven't found my stash of winter layers yet, so we stayed in.  Then we went out on Friday for the first time in days, landed at Cafe Au Play where we picked up a gnarly virus and got to share it with friends before we knew about it.  Oy.  But good friends, the kind who you walk in on baking and your toddlers share a who-can-make-the-loudest-sounds contest out of excitement to play together.  And then we were sick, and stayed in all day ... again.  On the bright side, it's been a productive week for working!

Weekly Journal: Nov 1 - 8

And then he was two.  

Bubba turned two this week and it's been a week of reflecting on so many wonderful things in my life.  I've been home with him full time for almost a year and watched this adorable baby grow into an amazing boy.  He speaks and understands two languages, he is adept on his feet, he loves all things that go.  He's an introvert and saves his best self for home.  My heart becomes richer with love every day.

I've also been out of the rat race for almost a year and have been growing back into myself.  I'm so happy to see my photography grow and improve, my photography AND law practice take shape, and find so much happiness and joy in life again.  And I get to be outside A LOT.  I'm lucky to have the support of my amazing wife who makes all this possible for me.  To be happy and loved, is there much more to life? xoL