Christmas in sweden
Our daughter! Our son-in-law! Snow! Food!
Several months ago we booked a ten-day trip to Stockholm for the holidays. What a treat to finally spend Christmas with our daughter and her husband, whom we think of as one of our own. That, incidentally, can be a bit embarrassing when I introduce them as “our kids” to someone who is then puzzled by their hand-holding and snuggling!
We arrived in Stockholm just before midnight on December 16, where we were greeted by -10 degrees Centigrade and SNOW! We spent the next day with Amelia and Nic, strolling, shopping, and of course eating. For dinner at their house we were treated to delicious soups and Nic’s homemade bread, which has been perfected over many months. He is even the proud owner of a t-shirt that says “BREAD MAN.”
Nic’s sourdough loaf, fresh out of the oven
The next day we finished up some stocking-stuffer shopping, strolled the city, and enjoyed each other’s company. Following that was Amelia’s last Christmas market day, so we all bundled up for a very cold day. It was lovely, despite the cold, to watch all the holiday shoppers. Some of us may have commented on one guy in shorts and sandals in 0 degree weather. Amelia’s business, Mellie Earrings, has taken off and the markets have played a big role in her success.
Amelia and Phil at the market
Because our kids have a one-bedroom apartment (and also because we’re spoiled and require a king sized bed), we stay in a hotel when we visit, but for this trip I had booked an Airbnb outside of Stockholm where the four of us could stay together for a few days. We arrived to almost-melted snow and slick sidewalks, but we were charmed by the gorgeous view from the top floor of the house.
Our view upon arrival at the Airbnb
Nic and I headed out to buy food for the next three days, and we all proceeded to have a wonderful time cooking together, working a puzzle, watching old Star Trek episodes, and simply enjoying our precious time together.
A lot of resting was accomplished in the spacious living room.
On our last full day in the Airbnb, we were treated to some SUNSHINE! It was still too cold and slick to enjoy walking outside, so we stayed snugly inside and enjoyed the view. We had only five hours of daylight each day, so this was truly a treat.
A brief sunny view
The next day we all headed back to the kids’ apartment. There, over another yummy dinner, we made plans for our special Christmas Eve event: a “Chopped Challenge” type meal. Chopped, for anyone who has the misfortune not to know this, is a quirky food competition reality show where contestants are given a mystery basket from which they must make a delicious dish. Three of us love to cook, and Phil is a non-cooking bartender, so we assigned him to make cocktails. Amelia would make the appetizer, I’d make the main course, and Nic would create the dessert. We agreed that Nic would provide Phil’s basket, Phil would do Amelia’s, she would do mine, and I’d provide Nic’s. The next day we were off to fight hordes of people at the liquor store and supermarket.
This idea came, of course, from our kids, who’ve done this a couple of times before. We had great fun creating mystery baskets for each other. Nic made an interesting basket for Phil’s cocktail creations, featuring whiskey, champagne, lemon balm, basil, ginger beer, sake, and blood orange cider.
Phil’s cocktail basket, created by Nic
The appetizer basket Phil created for Amelia hinted toward stuffed mushrooms, but of course she was far more creative than that. It included mushrooms, Tex-Mex cheese (because we all came to Europe from Texas!), canned artichoke hearts, green onions, jalepenos (Texas again), and herbed cheese.
Phil’s appetizer basket for Amelia
My main course basket from Amelia included one quite challenging item: green plantains. It also contained entrecote, thai basil, king oyster mushrooms, yellow bell pepper, green onions, fresh pasta, almond butter, mustard, calamata olives, and an orange. Wow!
The main course basket Amelia gave me
And finally, I made a basket for Nic’s dessert creation including fresh cranberries (because Christmas), shortbread cookies, individual tiramisus, sauternes, whipped cream, chocolate cookies, and an orange.
My dessert basket for Nic
Because we were not on TV and could make our own rules, we did some planning that evening. Our daughter Amelia has always been the most organized and creative person ever, and of course she did not disappoint with her sketch and planning.
Amelia’s appetizer plan
Nic also made some elaborate plans. Phil researched cocktails using his ingredients, while I researched what the heck I could do with plantains. I entered the cooking portion of the event with a skeleton of an idea, but it would require significant improvisation.
On Christmas eve, we decided that a rather long meal with breaks after each course for the next chef’s kitchen time would work just fine. Interspersed with breaks for video chats with U.S. family, as well as a few episodes of Ted Lasso, we got to work. And our meal was spectacular!
Phil created two memorable cocktails. Well, I think they were memorable. Not liking whiskey, I took a couple of polite sips before passing mine on to Phil and Nic. Everyone loved both cocktails, and I happily sipped Champagne. So happily, in fact, that I forgot to take a picture of Phil’s work.
Next up was Amelia’s appetizer. She made an “everything bagel” cracker, topped with a mousse made from herbed goat cheese, green onions, artichokes, jalepenos, and mushrooms, garnished with green onion, roasted jalepeno, and mushrom, and topped off with a cheddar tuille. It was fabulous, and we ate every morsel!
Amelia presents the appetizer
I was up next, with two very hard acts to follow. With my basket I made pasta with a sauce of steak, yellow peppers, olives, and green onions, with a side of butter-sauteed mushrooms. I made a second “side”–almost more like a second appetizer–of plantain tostones with a dipping sauce of almond butter, garlic, ginger, orange juice, wine vinegar, and sesame oil. It wasn’t a pretty plate, too much brown, but as my daddy used to say, “it ate good.”
My main course
Finally it was Nic’s turn, and he outdid us all. With his basket he made an incredible cheesecake. The crust was made with the two kinds of cookies, a bit of sauternes, and plenty of butter. The cheesecake had a wonderful tiramisu flavor, enhanced by the addition of some coffee powder. And using the fresh cranberries he topped the cheesecake with a delicious compote. The whole beautiful dish was topped off with whipped cream and cookie crumb sprinkles, with a bit of orange peel. I may or may not have had three servings over two days.
Fabulous cheesecake from Chopped Winner Nic!
Stuffed, happy, and proud, we proceeded to enjoy the rest of the evening, playing Dominion (a first for Phil and me), watching more Ted Lasso episodes (the best tv show ever produced, in my opinion), giggling, and feeling grateful for our time together.
On Christmas morning we headed to the kids’ apartment for a delightful day. We had a video call with our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, exchanged fun stocking stuffers, played with their cat Dakeeti, ate leftovers, watched more Ted Lasso, and enjoyed a relaxed, joyful day.
My stocking held this beautiful amazonite stone from Amelia
We ended the evening with another round of Dominion (Phil and I still came in last) and the beginnings of a puzzle that looked impossible. We gave up and returned to the hotel shortly after it was framed up, but Amelia finished it before bedtime. She is the best puzzler ever!
Final Dominion game
And the next morning it was time to go home. The kids joined us at our hotel for breakfast and sent us off in the taxi. It’s always sad to say goodbye, but we love knowing we’re not so far away. In the words of A.A. Milne, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Phil and Amelia cherishing those last minutes
I hope everyone who reads this has had a wonderful holiday. Here’s to a promising new year for us all, filled with family, friends, and fun. Cheers!