Travel Adventures

Liseberg Halloween

After the morning I’ve had, I really need a pick me up. Many of you are probably feeling the same way right about now. In the absence of silly cat videos (though thankfully, someone did text me kitten pictures), I decided to write about our first Halloween in Sweden. Yes, Sweden—a gorgeous, snow-filled country populated with amazingly tall people and overflowing with delicious pastries. What Sweden does not have is a very clear understanding of Halloween. On Halloween night, we had no trick or treaters.   The next night we had two. On the 4th of November quite a few children were going around the neighbourhood in costume…intriguing. Despite this seeming confusion about when Halloween is celebrated, our city did have one really amazing Halloween celebration that lasted for two full weeks. That celebration took place at Liseberg; a grand amusement park located within the city of Göteborg that decks itself in full regalia for Halloween and Christmas. Today’s post will focus on Halloween.  Hopefully reading brings you to this fair city for a visit…or a relocation.

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Before I go into the details about Halloween, let me tell you a little bit about Liseberg. This park is actually owned by the city of Göteborg and has been operating since 1923! Perhaps because of it’s unique ownership, the park is not open year round and seems to be a bit less commercialized than other amusement parks. Open season lasts from April through October.  Limited hours are available in November and during the Christmas season, after which it closes again until April. Full details of open hours/days are available on the site I linked to this blog. Make sure to check before you book your tickets to visit 😉

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There are a numerous reasons why this is now my favorite amusement park ever. Keep in mind, I have been to three Disney parks, two Universal Studios, Enchanted Village, and Silverwood. While this does not make me an amusement park aficionado, it does mean I am not a complete newbie. Liseberg rises above all these parks for several reasons. The first is easy access. Liseberg is truly in the city. There are multiple tram and bus routes that stop directly outside the park. Anyone, local and tourist alike, can easily get to this park. Another awesome perk is that you are able to buy a yearly gate pass for about $30. Admittedly, it does not cover rides; but they have discount tickets for that and there is a lot to do without going on rides. There is a huge children’s play area as well as quite a few games you can play using coins when you get into the park. Those of you who will only be in town for a short time, don’t worry. They have single admission tickets that are even cheaper. As a plus for those of us with young (short) children, there is no entry fee for anyone under 110 cm and many rides are free for them as well. Oh, and those games I mentioned? Quite a few of them result in you bringing home 2kg of quality chocolate. Nothing wrong with that…

Upon approaching Liseberg at Halloween, you will immediately notice the giant Halloween display covering the front entrance. Huge replica jack o’lanterns and tree roots seem to swallow the walls. After buying your ticket, you will hear creepy music and see spookily lit waterfalls and scarecrows. These decorations are not for the faint of heart! Thankfully, it’s not all scary. There are also numerous displays of overflowing pumpkins, gourds, and other winter vegetables. Even the rides are lit up with mood enhancing lights. Halloween is truly alive at Liseberg.

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I recommend initially bringing young children during the daytime, because they do a very good job of setting the Halloween mood at night. Our first visit started during daylight hours and we were able to explain to our almost 4 year old that the displays were all plastic and the sounds were piped in over the speakers. This ensured that after night fell, he was confident and comfortable, even with the most realistic decorations. Thrill seekers will find terrifying haunted houses, but people who aren’t quite ready to risk a heart attack have plenty of options as well. Our little family stuck to the child friendly zones on both our visits. One highlight was an impromptu dance party started by a parade of people in costume that included a massive speaker blaring “In the Navy” and “Mambo #5”. It was HILARIOUS. Being an awesome Halloween crowd, adults were dancing along just as much as children.

Unsurprisingly, people who come earlier in the day will find extremely short lines that tend to swell after nightfall. Our first visit for Halloween started at 3pm. Entry took about one minute and the line for the big wheel was only 6 people long. Our second visit started after dark and it took us 10 minutes just to get into the park. We didn’t even attempt any rides that appealed to the masses. Thankfully, the child friendly rides didn’t have huge lines as night fell. I recommend arriving early and leaving after dark to get the full benefit of easy ride access and proper Halloween ambience.

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I know they aren’t silly cat videos, but I hope you enjoy the pictures from our visits. Hopefully they convey the full awesomeness that is Liseberg at Halloween. If you decide to visit or are relocating here, I hope you make the time to spend at least a day at this awesome local amusement park.

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

My First Swedish Fall

Fall has come to Sweden and following my last post, I thought some of you may want to know more about this country that provides free lunch to all school children…

I love fall.  Not for the pumpkin spice latte’s…I don’t drink coffee 😉

Fall is my favorite season because temperatures start to cool, but you still get to enjoy the beautiful sunny days. Cold, but sunny. There is also a certain stark beauty in trees that have shed their leaves. After months of green bounty, seeing them stripped to their base refreshes my senses.

Göteborg in the fall reminds me a lot of the Pacific Northwest (PNW), where I grew up. In the morning, it is crisp and cold. My breath billows out in front of me and I bundle up in a shirt, sweater, coat, and hat. By afternoon, the sun is high in the sky and a shirt and and coat suffice. It’s still crisp and cold, but not numbingly cold. Back home, there tends to be a bit more rain, a little less wind, and the temperatures aren’t quite as chilling this early in the season. Checking the 5 day forecast this week in Seattle, I saw lows in the 50’s (Fahrenheit) and highs in the 60’s. There were also several days with rain showers. Göteborg’s lows were in the mid 30’s with high’s in the mid 50’s.

Needless to say, morning and afternoon require different wardrobes. The sun rose high in the sky each day this week, fooling some new arrivals into thinking it was much warmer. My husband included…apparently he thought 30 degrees was good sandal weather. His frozen feet proved him wrong.

I’m not the only one who loves this weather. My little guy is also quite content. Usually he fights to not wear a jacket or sweater, but he is happily layering up and heading out each day. His time outside is a bit more comfortable without all the sweat. Clothing here for children is also a different from that of PNW children in October. Rather than a pair of pants, long sleeved shirt, and a warm jacket; he wears multiple layers. Generally, on top he wears a long sleeved shirt, fleece jacket, and warm puffy jacket. On bottom, he has on one layer of wool and one layer of cotton. He also has on wool socks. As the weather chills further, I will add a second layer of wool, and a fully insulated snowsuit. On the playground at his school, they ensure all the children are wearing rugged waterproof overalls to maximize heat retention. Remember, children in Sweden don’t just spend a half hour here and there outside. They spend at least half of the day outside during their younger years.

His only complaint is that he misses all the water features in Göteborg (splash pads and kiddie play features) that have been shut off. We had actually wondered about this, but now that the weather hits near freezing temperatures each night, it makes perfect sense.
Rather than splash about town, we are finding pine cones, crunching up brown leaves, and climbing trees. A pine cone collection is even amassing in the house, in preparation for an at home cinnamon pine cone project (like the ones you find Stateside in the grocery stores).

My goal is to recreate a few of the experiences I savor each year, here in Sweden. Hot apple cider is a must, as are pumpkin donuts and all things sweet potato. Since the customs here are not quite the same (Swedes love coffee and rather than donuts love cinnamon rolls), creativity is necessary.

Living in Göteborg in the fall is not quite the same as living in the PNW. Despite needing to improvise to enjoy longstanding traditions, I’m happy. Living in a society where having a healthy, happy family is the focus means this is one fall I will always remember.

Gothenburg, Sweden (by Petri Olderhvit) via 500px

Gothenburg, Sweden (by Petri Olderhvit)

Until next time…

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Uncategorized

Let’s Talk Ta Ta’s

Breasts have been on my mind for as long as I can remember. When I was small, I wanted them. Then, when I got my first AAA training bras, I was a bit proud — and nervous. At 12 years old, when I was one of the only girls in my class with visible breasts, I was embarrassed. In high school, I was resigned, thinking they made me look boxy. Finally, in my 20’s I discovered the power of a properly fitting bra and began to make peace with these two floatation devices strapped to my chest.

You see, for years I thought I was a 36 C, because that was the size my mom was at the time (or so she thought) and I just let her buy me bras. As I got older, I stuck to the same size, regardless of weight fluctuations, thinking it was still right. Eventually, I grudgingly went up a cup size, but between the back aches and sometimes embarrassing bulges, I grew more and more resentful of my breasts.

After college, when I finally had a decent paying job, I discovered the glory that is the Nordstrom’s bra department. This place truly is a well endowed girls best friend. It turns out not only was my cup size wrong, my rib size was also wrong. One was too small, the other too big. Leaving the store after that first excursion, my head was held high and my back no longer ached. As the years passed, I became complacent, dependent upon my bra department of choice. Then, I got pregnant…and suddenly Nordstrom wasn’t the best choice.

With pregnancy comes a whole litany of physical complaints, but one that really cannot be emphasized enough is the soreness that accompanies the beginning stages of milk production. Breast tissue swells, becomes inflamed, and just in general becomes a big ol’ pain in the … Well, you get the picture. At the time I was pregnant with the little guys, my local Nordstrom didn’t have maternity or nursing bras (though they will adjust a traditional bra into a nursing bra for a reasonable fee). Thankfully, there was a specialty boutique near by that introduced me to the Anita brand of maternity and nursing bras. These are truly spectacular bras. I credit them with helping me avoid mastitis during the early days of nursing our little guy. Then, once specialty bras weren’t needed anymore, I was able to go back to my old standby. Or was I?

Well ladies and gentlemen, apparently moving countries may put a kink in your plans to frequent your usual haunts. When it comes to bras that is a particular problem. Thankfully, in England I eventually found a shop called Bravissimo that does a pretty good job. They didn’t sell maternity bras, but that was a non-issue at the time, so all in all, it was a win.

Now let’s fast forward many months to the time when I found myself living in Sweden, desperate for a new bra because my current ones were approaching the end of their life span. Apparently, along with being generally tall, blond, and gorgeous, Swedes must also have breasts that defy gravity because try as I might, every bra I found had the most ridiculously thin straps imaginable! One hour in one of these bras was too much for my poor back. The bras are such an issue that a physical therapist actually recommended that a particularly busty friend of mine wear two bras for support. Two bras?!? Talk about torture…

Fast forward a few more months and now I find myself knocked up, with a litany of complaints, one of which is very unhappy breasts. After many, many desperate internet searches, I found myself on a pregnancy forum that recommended Anita bras (no surprise there). After perusing the website, I found a link that helped me track down local suppliers and lo and behold, there was 1! Yes, that’s right, 1. Still, in a country the size of Sweden, in a city that isn’t even the largest city, that is pretty impressive.

That very night, I emailed the owner of the shop, asking if she carried the line (it’s always good to confirm) and asking if she could accommodate my size (one never knows). She responded the very next day, assuring me that my bra woes would shortly be coming to an end. She even emailed me to let me know she was sick one day and the shop would be closed, so that I wouldn’t make an unnecessary trip. Impressive. Very impressive.

Upon tracking down the shop, approximately two streets from a major shopping mall, in a building, up an elevator, and through a door, I immediately discovered that the owner (Lisa) was very serious about women’s support garments. Her tiny shop is packed chock full of bras, underpants, swimsuits…it’s impressive and a little overwhelming. Thankfully, Lisa herself is so knowledgable about her stock and women’s shapes in general that my visit was painless. She guessed my size after a quick perusal and was right on the mark. Her selection of Anita bras was extensive and thankfully, she carries many, many non maternity bras as well. This shop is now my go to place for bras. I even took extra business cards, which I’ve shamelessly passed out to friends, my brow girl, and even my midwife. Don’t worry, I did control myself the time I almost stopped a passing woman to ask if she had heard of the shop…tact doesn’t come naturally to me, but occasionally I find it.

Now, enough prattling. It’s time to get to the good stuff. The bras I brought home from Lisa’s shop are amazing. I actually don’t even notice my chest for large parts of the day. What a revelation! So, if you are in Göteborg and in need of a proper bra (maternity or otherwise), please stop in to Chia-Agenteur at Östra Hamngatan 50A near Brunnsparken. Lisa has limited hours, so make sure to double check her website or Facebook page, but she will make exceptions if you contact her and will schedule private fittings outside of business hours.

 

Image from dailymail.co.uk

Image from dailymail.co.uk

Until next time…

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Parenting, Travel Adventures

Glorious Summer Break

The Hubby here, and I want to share my reflection of my first 3 week Swedish Summer Break.

When I started working in Sweden 6 months ago, I was warned by my new coworkers about the ritual that the whole country seems to enjoy: taking 3-4 weeks during Summer out of work.
As July approaches, the build up of excitement shows. Some might argue, around here, Summer break is a bigger deal than Christmas break.

All schools are closed.  All daycares are seemingly closed. Most people (except those in retail) take July off from work and flee the city.  Everyone working in Sweden is entitled to 25 days of paid vacation per year (that is 5 work weeks), so I can see why they make the most of it.  As a cherry on top, in Sweden, if you take vacation days, as part of collective bargaining, you might actually get paid a bit more than your regular salary.  They really want you to take those vacation days.

Taking long vacations from work is not something that we, as Americans, consider commonplace. So for this Summer break, I set two personal goals for myself: disconnect from work and bond with my son.

The first goal turned out to be surprisingly easy. I mean, it does make things a bit easier when most of the people in your office are also on vacation. Synchronised vacation has both pros and cons, but as far as helping me reach my personal goal: it’s a plus. I didn’t feel the urge to compulsively check my email on my phone like I always do when I was on vacation back in the States.

As for the other goal…

My relationship with my son has always been pretty good. But I always knew that I am no substitute for mommy – and there are areas where our son would not budge. Getting him to bed is one. He would get royally pissed off if mom is not in the room when he wakes up in the middle of the night, for instance. “I want mommy!” was a common plea.

One day I asked him:

“Do you love me?”
“Yes. But just a little bit”
“How about mommy?”
“A lot”

I don’t blame him. I was like that when I was his age, always looking for my mom. Not very many people know this, but one of the main reasons we left the States is because I worked too much – to the point of not spending enough time to bond with our newborn. Things were much better in England, but I feel that I hit a stride after moving to Gothenburg.
I’ve always been envious of all the dads out there on Facebook who manage to take a toddler for few nights on their own while the moms are having weekend trips. This was not my reality.

This summer, here are some of the awesome things the boy and I did together:

– Took a bus to Borås Zoo and Science Centre. The boy got some more dinosaur names to augment his dictionary, such as Apatosaurus
– Caught, hatched, and evolved lots and lots of Pokémon
– Slowly catching up with Pokémon Season One on YouTube (2 episodes per day only, I still remember the seizure concerns back in the days)
– Invented and acted out various made up Pokémon roles.
“Today I am Doggy, a high level Pokemon!” he yelled. “Hit Evolve button, Dad!” “How do you spell Evolve?” “E-V-O-L-V-E” I hit an imaginary button. Random dramatic noises. “I am Ultra! I have my Stomp and Stinky Balls! (don’t ask)”
– Recycled lots and lots of cans and bottles to save up for his coveted toy
– Using Pokémon Go evolution to teach him why saving up his hard earned money for a higher level, I mean, more expensive toy is better
– Took a speed boat to the Archipelago around Goteborg. “How fast?” “SO FAST!”
– Had him nap on me while we were on ferries and trams
– Saw him do his first forward roll, and the nine hundred rolls afterward (his patented Flip Fall, where he would pretend to fall then forward flip)
– Rode the back of a Triceratops
– Told him stories on trams. So many made up stories, involving our imaginary friends The Kraken, The Monster with One Thousand Eyes, Grabby the Toy Grabber, Terry the Pterodactyl, and hundreds more.
– Visited Copenhagen, took a nice tour boat ride on the canals
– Heard him say “Okay, here’s the game plan..”

Summer

I feel that finally, I bonded with my son. Like really bonded. He’s actually looking for me, and letting Wifey focus on being healthy for <Number Two>.
I feel confident now laying down with him for naps and at night. Instead of yelling for mommy, he actually gives me a grin when he wakes up.

I am very much looking forward to another awesome Summer Break next year, where we will get to do a lot more of these awesome things together.

And so, the time for the Litmus test..
“Do you love me?”
He nodded.
“A lot?”
“Yes!”

 

 

“But I love mommy more, though”

Until next time…

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Rants

A Parent’s Fear…

I didn’t want to post any ornery blogs, but the news coming out of Flint, Michigan needs to be spread far and wide.

Reading online about the lead poisoning of young children in an attempt to save money makes me angry. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about how amazing the water is coming straight out of the tap here in Sweden and I was going to do a funny blog about all the funky tap water I’ve had over the years (quite a lot all over the world). Then I looked at the news and saw that children in Flint were suffering brain damage caused by tap water. Tap water…

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The politician who decided it was wise to switch from a water system that was well documented to be safe for consumption to a cheaper alternative that ended up eating away at old pipes, leeching lead into the water supply; may or may not have known early on that this was happening. Even so, how do you enact a change of this magnitude without sufficient research into the possible ramifications of the change? Shouldn’t ensuring the health of the public be the highest priority?

This man is still in office and is requesting federal relief. His financial savings has now caused irreparable damage to the public and now will require massive amounts of Federal funds for damage control. Some savings that was…

As far as I can tell, he’s not yet faced any consequences for making this decision. Furthermore, how about the Department of Health and Human Services? It appears they obstructed outside researchers from verifying the problem, thusly delaying public notification and increasing the damage to the public.

How can people willfully, knowingly poison entire neighborhoods? Have we as a society become so desensitized to the needs of our fellow countrymen that this is considered normal to some? Is saving face more important than having an informed public?

How is this any different from when Chinese manufacturers supplemented baby formula with melanine and poisoned babies to save money? We loudly condemned that, but where is the nation wide call to arms over this? Who will be held accountable and how will they fix this?

I obviously don’t have the whole story on this and I’m sure there are extenuating circumstances — there always are. Nonetheless, as I fill my water cup in the tap; it saddens me that parents in my own country have to second guess whether that same action will harm their children.

If you want a more thorough review of the news on this (I am no investigative journalist) there are many articles available. I found this one to be particularly disheartening:

www.flintwaterstudy.org

Until next time…

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