Category Archives: Holidays and High Times

January 1, 2013


The last month or two have flown by, and as I ate breakfast with Simon yesterday morning, I felt almost panicked that 2013 was less than 24 hours away. Simon laughed at me, of course, and tried to convince me not to be so silly.

I don’t think that a year can get more jam-packed than the one that just concluded. (I’m probably tempting the fates by saying that, but oh well.) We moved four times in 2012, from our little nest in Kobjer to the rental in Nöbbelöv to Simon’s parents’ apartment in Klostergården for our last two weeks in Sweden. Then we took the leap across the pond, first to my parents on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and finally to D.C.

We packed and unpacked. Made new friends and said our goodbyes. Left our home in Sweden to be welcomed home again in the United States. Reconnected with long lost friends and places. Went from working full time to starting a company to taking our first big vacation of the last few years to trying to transition my company from its new home in DC.

As I look forward to 2013, it’s pretty unlikely that this period of major transitions will continue. Instead, the story of 2013 may just be the story of trying out new habits and patterns of life here in D.C. and gradually settling into those that suit us best.

What I’ve found over the past year is that moving entails more than just transferring your furniture from one place to another – it erases the momentum you’ve built up in your daily habits and presents you with a clean slate to reinvent the way you spend your hours, even if the move is within the same city. Where will we spend our free time? What routes will find ourselves walking and re-walking? What little niches will we carve for ourselves in this city?

Happy, happy, happy new year to you wherever you are and in whatever state of motion you find yourself. Much love from me in D.C. Bring it on, 2013!

Julmarknad at the House of Sweden

I had my first day off from my weekend job at the House of Sweden, so of course Simon and I made the most of every minute of it… at the House of Sweden.

Thanks to the julmarknad (Christmas bazaar) being hosted in the normal exhibition space, I was off the hook for working, but let’s be serious. The Swede in my life could not resist the call of a whole day of Swedish-themed Christmas festivities (and neither could I, really).

I narrowly avoided impulse buying an entire range of small jultomtar to decorate our apartment.

Small booths lined the inside of the building, displacing the “Education and Innovation” exhibit on the ground floor and the tables and chairs from a conference room on the floor below. Giant tables laden with bread, pastries, herring, and cheese were lined up along the main hall leading into the Alfred Nobel Hall like a gauntlet in dieting hell, and photos from the “Image of Strindberg” exhibit glowered at families and couples digging into princesstårta (princess cake) and mackor (open-faced sandwiches).

This cake was such a big deal today.

I don’t know how long we intended to stay at the House of Sweden’s Christmas Bazaar, but we ended up being there all day long. The weather was balmy for the last day in November, and after the sugar rush from our princesstårta subsided, we sat outside on the steps with a Dixie cup of glögg each, basking in the sun and watching children roughhousing on the steps.

An assortment of Lucias singing (mostly) Swedish Christmas carols outside the House of Sweden.

At 5 pm, the sun was headed down behind the Rosslyn skyscrapers on the other side of the Potomac and it was finally starting to get chilly. Having just been herded out of the House of Sweden, the remaining visitors were waiting — not quietly — for something to happen. Then the Lucia girls came marching out in single file, singing the traditional entrance processional for Lucia Day.

They sang for about half an hour, mostly in Swedish but with a few English-language songs as well. At times it was hard to hear over the crying of exhausted children or the chatter of adults running into friends, and the star boys were noticeably absent. All the same, for a moment there, it felt like we were back in Sweden again.

Celebrating the 4th of July with the American Women’s Club

This is an excerpt from the Expat Blog at Follow the link to read “Celebrating the 4th of July with the American Women’s Club.”

4th of July can be a strange holiday to celebrate abroad. Without the fireworks and the nationwide patriotic euphoria, there’s not much that distinguishes a 4th of July party from any other summer evening spent drinking and barbecuing with friends.

All the same, in past few years as an expat, I’ve given it an honest try. This year, I decided to give up the evangelization efforts and take it easy. Thank goodness for the American Women’s Club in Malmö. I joined their celebration for the first time and it was exactly what I was hoping for.

Picnic blankets covered the host and hostess’s yard in a blanket of red, white, and blue, and our white cardboard plates were overloaded with hamburgers, hotdogs, multiple varieties of potato salad of both American and Scandinavian persuasion. Later, the owner of a new cupcakery in town arrived with several dozen much-awaited cupcakes.

This is an excerpt from the Expat Blog at Follow the link to read “Celebrating the 4th of July with the American Women’s Club.”

Drinking, carousing, and making merry: The Insider’s Guide to Midsummer in Sweden | the Expat Blog

It’s the day before the day before the day before Midsummer and all through the house, not a creature is stirring, not even a little frog that wants to hop around a very large fertility symbol.

This year, Midsummer has totally snuck up on me. What?! Midsummer?! Since when?!?!

If nothing else, the sun has been a gentle reminder that the summer solstice is on its way. I wake up every morning now to birds chirping and sunlight streaming in through the slats of of our bedroom curtains, feeling totally alert and ready to take on the day.

Then I look at the clock and realize that it’s 4:15 am. And then I curse my ineffective blinds.

For the full post, check out Drinking, carousing, and making merry: The Insider’s Guide to Midsummer in Sweden on the Expat Blog at

My friend Malin and her fantastic strawberry layer cake.

Making akvavit and blackcurrant liquor.

Pick seven kinds of flowers in total silence, dream of your future husband.

Making flower head wreaths for the celebration.

Wheelbarrow races - part of the "friendly competition" part of the day.

To read more about Midsummer (and for recipes and instructions for pickled herring, aquavit, bål, and flower head wreaths), check out these posts on!

And that’s how I ended up skinning a kilo of herring. [Expat blog]

Oh, snap(s)… it’s Midsummer. [Expat blog]

How to Make Your Own Midsummer’s Head Wreath in 5 Easy Steps [Expat blog]


Happy Midsummer! [Expat blog]

Very Superstitious [Expat blog]

Poached cold salmon with dill mayonnaise [Food blog]

Classic Swedish Midsummer Cake [Food blog]

Celebrating Midsummer at Farsta Gård  [Photo blog]

And that’s how I ended up skinning a kilo of herring

This is an excerpt from “And that’s how I ended up skinning a kilo of herring“ on the Expat Blog at Follow the link to read the whole story! 

The finished product: senapssill, Brantevikssill, and Leif's original sill recipe. Photos: Kate Reuterswärd

For National Day last week, my friend Steve decided we should do something really Swedish. Namely: pickling our own herring.

And that’s how I ended up skinning a kilo of herring.

Like most people in Sweden, Steve considers the Midsummer celebrations one of the highlights of the year.

Perhaps that’s why Steve decided that this year, store-bought herring would not be making the cut. Perhaps that’s why he decided that, in order to increase the authenticity factor, we (notice how I suddenly became involved) would be pickling our own herring for Midsummer.

Operation Midnight Pickle was a GO!

For the whole story, check out “And that’s how I ended up skinning a kilo of herring.”

Fiskehoddorna in Malmö. Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

Leif Mannerström, the pickled herring guru for Operation Midnight Pickle. Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

Offerings at the Saluhallen fish market in Lund: fresh fish and roe. Photos: Kate Reuterswärd

Freshly made sill at the Saluhallen in Lund. Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

This is an excerpt from “And that’s how I ended up skinning a kilo of herring“ on the Expat Blog at Follow the link to read the whole story! 

Related blog posts:

HOLY HERRING! Sweden’s secret lifeblood

Adventures in Skåne: A Trip to the Viking Reserve

Nostalgia, Hybridity, and the Zen of an American Brunch in Sweden

Expat Holidays: How to Create Holiday Spirit on the Cheap

Oh, snap(s)… it’s Midsummer. 

5 Steps to Making Your Own Midsummer’s Head Wreath

15 Ways To Say I Love You In Swedish | The Expat Blog

Click here to read 15 Ways to Say I Love You in Swedish on the Expat Blog at


We Americans are known for throwing around the word “love” to mean everything from “This is an amazing sandwich” (I LOVE JIMMY JOHN’S!) to “I want to spend the rest of my life with you” (I love you).  We think this is normal, but the rest of the world tends to express their feelings more subtly.

If you’re coming to Sweden, a straight up “Jag älskar dig” might be hard to come by, but listen closely enough, and you’ll hear it being expressed in other ways.

Click here to read 15 Ways to Say I Love You in Swedish on the Expat Blog at

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas…

Yesterday, I was featured on the Displaced Nation’s series on expat writers around the world. What an honor!

You can check out my interview here: 12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: Kate Reuterswärd, American expat in Sweden (12/12)

The Displaced Nation is an online blog/magazine dedicated to writing by “expats, global nomads, armchair travelers and the like.” The whole series has been really awesome and I have discovered a lot of great expat bloggers and writers! You can check out the whole series here.

Thanks again to the Displaced Nation for including me in their 12 Nomads of Christmas series!

Awesome-o! Read the full article here: 12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: Kate Reuterswärd, American expat in Sweden (12/12)

You’re Celebrating on the Wrong Day!—and other things you didn’t know about Christmas in Sweden

It’s the night before Christmas, and all through the mouse, not a beach chair is stirring, not even a louse.

Wait, what!?!

Celebrating Christmas abroad can make you feel like things are, well, a little topsy-turvy.

You may have read about the way people celebrate in the country you’re living in, or you might be going into the day free of any knowledge or misconceptions. Regardless of which category you fall under, there will come a point in the day when you look around you and think to yourself:

Now what exactly is going on here?

Last week, I was invited to be on a radio show with two Swedish comedians to talk about the differences between American and Swedish Christmas traditions as I perceived them. I had some thoughts at that time, but now that I’ve actually experienced my first Christmas in Sweden, I’m ready to tell it like it is.

Click here to read the full post on the Expat Blog at

“You’re Celebrating on the Wrong Day!—and other things you didn’t know about Christmas in Sweden.”

Below, I present to you, the ring dance. Very serious business.

Click here to read the full post on the Expat Blog at

My Swedish Christmas!

First Christmas in Sweden! I survived… and even better, although I missed my family and the traditions I grew up with, I had a really amazing time with my husband, his (our) family, and friends.

It felt a little odd to celebrate in the afternoon, and if I could compare it to anything, I would say that the way Simon’s family celebrated was pretty similar to an American Thanksgiving. Lots of food, lots of family, and—of course—the scheduled TV events. Only this time, instead of NFL and It’s a Wonderful Life, it was Kalle Anka and Karl-Bertil Johansson, two time-honored Swedish cartoons.

I’m glad I finally got the chance to experience Christmas in Sweden firsthand since I’ve been hearing and reading about it for so long, and this morning I got to debrief with Simon later about the highlights of the day. The thing I like talking about the most, though, is how we’ll be blending our traditions together and making our own new ones in the Christmasses to come… no matter where we are.

There will be lots more to come soon, but for now, here are a few photos from Julafton (Christmas Eve) and the days leading up to the holiday.

Hope you all are with loved ones, whether you’re at home or not, and are enjoying a little rest in the last few days left in 2011!

Catch me on the radio!

If you were ever wondering what broken immigrant Swedish sounds like, here’s your big chance to find out!

I’m going to be on a radio show today at about 1:30 pm Swedish time (7:30 am EST), talking about American and Swedish Christmas traditions with two comedians, Anders Jansson and Johan Wester. And it’ll be in Swedish. I thought it was a great idea at the time, but now I’m terrified. I purposely avoided wearing my favorite sweater this morning because it’s dry clean only and I fully anticipate experiencing periodic full body cold sweats every time I think about it throughout the day.

So! If you want to stream it or at least check out what it is, you can do that here:

You should see something like this on the top of the page, and then all you have to do is click on the part with a dot and the little sound waves coming out with a JUST NU next to it.

If you miss it, I think you can listen to it later by clicking on the little box that says “senaste sändingen,” although it might take a little time for it to be posted online.

Basically, though, if you’re at all interested in hearing the show, you should catch it on time, because if I make a fool out of myself, you can bet your last dollar that this little how-to guide here will disappear faster than you can say Sweden.

Anyway, wish me luck. Woop woop!

rain and cold
are not conducive to fun.