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European Vacation – Sweden

Sweden was the last country on my vacation, and I was only there for a single night. It was weird knowing that it was ending!

Everything seemed designed so beautifully in Stockholm. Check out this gorgeous bench!

We took a train from the airport to our hotel, but our first actual stop was to get McDonald’s. Anela might not have been with us, but we kept her tradition alive!

We stayed in the Långholmen Hotell, a former prison that’s now a hotel.

Out front, you can see what was once a guard tower!

Looks welcoming, doesn’t it?

Despite once being a prison, the rooms were cute and quite comfortable.

After checking in, we decided to walk to the downtown area. It was a fairly long walk, and it was freezing – a big change from Roma. It started raining too. You can see us on our walk at the top of this post. There were lots of cool boats to see as we walked, like Thor here.

There were nice views of the city as well. Stockholm was a beautiful city.

Despite the weather, gem looked very happy to be exploring Sweden!

I’m pretty sure this was a church, but I guess I can’t remember for sure. This was one of the first interesting sights once we reached the busier area.

I know your mother told you dessert would spoil your appetite, but we went ahead and got ice cream at Stikki Nikki before dinner. The owners were there and were super nice too.

We had dinner at a tapas restaurant called Café Tabac after we searched for traditional Swedish food and failed. Luckily everything was delicious here. We had a few drinks in honor of Yeffe, a super drunk Swedish man gem and I met back in 2007 in Vegas. (I might be misspelling his name.) We used to joke about how Yeffe loves to drink. “What do you think Yeffe’s doing right now? I bet he’s partying and having a drink.” Was he downing shots while we had dinner? It was ten years later. Maybe he was sipping a cocktail – an older, more respectable Yeffe.

These places are crazy. Does it even get dark in Stockholm?

We took some photos in front of Riksdagshuset, the Swedish parliament house, as we walked back to our hotel.

What a terrific view! Again, I’d like to point out that it’s midnight in this photo.

Here’s another shot of gem like the one from the previous evening. It was such a nice window 🙂

I tried to leave in the morning, but Antonio tried to keep me in prison!

All three of us sat separately on the plane back to LAX, which was disappointing. I watched Pan and Anastasia, both entertaining movies, and got some sleep too.

Getting back into the States was much more of a hassle than getting into Europe. Security took forever. Here’s gem with her security photo. The security photographs don’t seem too flattering!

gem’s dad picked us up from the airport with my car that I left with him. At his house, he shared with us a delicious lunch! He’s a great chef!

After three of the best weeks of my life and eight countries (10 if you include the Vatican or count UK member countries individually), we were back in the United States. I missed traveling immediately, but it was nice to relax.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know me well enough to know I like tracking data and keeping spreadsheets. I walked 447 thousand steps while in Europe – close to 184 miles. That’s an average of 20k steps and 8.4 miles per day. Dang!

It’s a good we did that much walking too, because I’ll leave off with this photo. These are all the pizza we ate in Europe. Now of course I didn’t eat it all alone, but we certainly did a lot of eating! That walking balanced things nicely, because I had actually lost weight on the trip.

I enjoyed all the countries I visited. I know I didn’t stay a long time in any one country, but it gave me the chance to get a feel for many different places. More than any particular sight, I just enjoyed learning what each country was like. I can’t wait for the next time I get to travel internationally!

Thank you to gem for deciding to go to Europe and getting the ball rolling, my other wonderful travel companions, Anela and Antonio, and my European friends, Jessica and Andrew. You all made the trip what it was. Jessica, Andrew, gem, Anela, Antonio – you’re wonderful people. The trip would have been nothing without you. I’m so glad I got to spend that time with you.

Thanksgiving weekend

TommyThis might not have been a Thanksgiving spent in Hawaii, but it was still nice and fairly packed full of action. I spent most of Wednesday evening attempting to create pumpkin pie blondies. While I’ll still eat them, I’d say they didn’t work out. Oh well! Thanksgiving morning I woke up at 4 to get an early start and to drive Anela to LAX. On the way home, I stopped by my dad’s to say hello and then headed home for a nap. In the afternoon, I went to my aunt’s in Redondo Beach for Thanksgiving. That’s her dog, Tommy, at the top. Tommy

He was pretty freakin’ adorable. I spent the evening with my aunt, uncle, and two cousins. It’s been great getting to know my cousins as young adults. Usually my mom, stepdad, and sometimes brother come too, but this year they didn’t come. I found out that Mom and Pete were painting the house this weekend instead. Oh well. We had a delicious meal, watching Jurassic World and Shark Tank, and played Bananagrams, Rummikub, and Triominos. My cousin Haley left fairly late in the evening to do Black Friday shopping. I didn’t even realize that stores were open at midnight. It seemed crazy to me. More on this very soon…

Ferris WheelI left a little after 11 for Irvine. After getting home, I met with gem. For Black Friday from midnight to 8 AM, Spectrum was going to have free carousel and Ferris wheel rides. Now that I knew stores were open at midnight, it made much more sense. Carousel

We started with the carousel ride, which was right next to a live DJ. Fun!

Ferris WheelNext up was the Ferris wheel. It was freezing, but it was fun! There was free ice skating as well, but we decided it was too cold for that. We went to Macy’s to look for a bathroom, and next thing I knew, we were shopping. I had to send a Snapchat to Haley. Just a few hours earlier, I thought Black Friday shopping at night was silly, yet here I was, 3 in the morning, sucked into stores. I didn’t buy anything though. Selah Laughing

After a short night of sleep, I went with gem to her parents’ for a large Thanksgiving meal. Here’s gem’s niece, Selah, laughing. She’s beautiful! I’d seen photos of her, but this was my first time meeting her. How lucky I was!

Selah Eats Ice CreamSelah liked gem’s homemade ice cream. Was that the Earl Grey or the apple pie? No idea. Selah Eats Ice Cream

She got a little on her face! 🙂

Selah SelfieShe likes playing with phones and seemed to like the camera. We took this selfie! I was careful to ensure she didn’t call 911. She did that recently at their house. Selah

Here’s Selah playing with gem’s ukulele. She hit it like a drum, but when she held it up to smash it down, gem took it away. She’s so adorable!

Musical FamilyI played two games of chess with gem’s nephew, Caleb. He kicked my butt. gem and her brothers had a family jam session too! I thought that was really cool. South Coast Plaza

After that? Black Friday shopping again somehow. There’s nothing I really want in particular, and nothing jumped out at me, but it was still fun.

Vegan ChiliOn Saturday, I visited my mom, Pete, and James. I had offered to help paint the house, but they actually had finished. We played Scrabble and ate chili. Yum! Mrs. Cronk We also came across some old school photos. Can you find me? This is from kindergarten. Mrs. Thorness And this one is from first grade. Later Saturday night I read some of Aeneid, finished Iphigenia at Aulis, and watched Big Hero 6. Exciting evening! Original Pancake House

Sunday morning I awoke early to pick up Anela from LAX. I actually drove over 350 miles this weekend, which is impressive considering I didn’t actually go out of town. On the way home, we stopped at Original Pancake House for breakfast! We had blueberry pancakes and Swedish pancakes. Tasty tasty.

Pumpkin pie blondies (with dark chocolate)

In the evening, I finished the weekend by eating leftovers and watching Frozen with gem. We also had these treats! I baked pumpkin pie blondies recently. They tasted decent though they were too strong and too soft and mushy. I considered them failures. gem thought to cover them in dark chocolate. It was a nice improvement; they were much tastier!