Category Archives: Holidays

Full coverage!

Why does renting a car have to be such a procedure? If we already booked the car and filled in all of our information on the computer, why do we still have to fill it out AGAIN on paper once we get to the rental counter? Isn’t that what the computer was for? Check my license and give me my keys!

That’s just a general rant about every time we rent a car. In Italy, you can imagine how slow the paperwork is, mostly because they are marking all the damages that are ALREADY on the vehicle.

After being talked into a good deal for full coverage insurance on our rental car (and taking 15 minutes to fill out paperwork that was already in the computer), we made our way to the garage to pick up the car. Knowing that they don’t always mark every dent and scratch, we checked the car and found two scratches to report so that we would not be responsible once we were done with the car.

My husband went to report the scratches to the attendant, who was very reluctant to move from his chair. He took a look at the paperwork, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Is no problem. Who cares? You have full coverage. Run the car into a wall if you like.”

Our motto for the rest of the trip, while driving down narrow streets full of potholes was “Oh well – FULL COVERAGE!”

Indifferent Young Man

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The little plane that could

As I mentioned before, my husband and I took a 4-day long anniversary trip to Italy this past weekend. With only 4 days, we wanted every minute to count, which turned out to be a problem when the Italians decided to strike at the Rome airport. Our plane was delayed 3 hours until they could confirm landing clearance, so we were given vouchers for food (that worked in every restaurant except the specific one we went to, of course), and boarded our plane later in the afternoon.

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Once the plane finished boarding and the doors were closed, it needed to be de-iced. The de-icing truck began to do its job and then ran out of de-icing liquid. We had to wait 20 minutes for another de-icing truck.

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Finally, the de-icing was complete and it was time for the plane to be pushed back from the gate. We slowly moved backwards and then stopped after just a few feet. The truck pushing the plane broke down and we had to wait 20 minutes for a replacement truck.

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The flight went smoothly after all the delays and we landed at Rome’s Fiumicino airport … only to wait on the tarmac an additional 20 minutes because of a plane in front of us.

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Isabella de’ Medici was not a nice person

My husband and I celebrated our 18th anniversary in the town of Bracciano, Italy over the weekend. While there, we visited the 15th century castle that towers over the town. It’s one of the most impressive castles in Italy and luckily it’s open to the public. Each room has a plaque with information, so one can learn about the furniture, portraits, or the people who stayed in the rooms.

One of the most “interesting” rooms was that of Isabella de-Medici. Isabella was rumored to push her lovers through a wooden door to the side of her bed when she was done with them, where they fell into a pit of blades and lye.

There were couples in the tour group in front of us that stopped to pose for smiling pictures with their arms around each other in front of the bed with the door in the background. My husband and I skipped that particular photo opportunity.

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Boxing day

It is only this year that I learned what “Boxing day” means. Most Americans have heard this term and I guarantee that the majority of us just picture a boxing match or taking out frustration on relatives after being cooped up in a house with them over the holidays.

So for those who, like me, have never understood why the UK has a day to beat the crap out of people after Christmas, I will give you the information I learned this month from Reader’s Digest:

“… it’s actually a celebration of charitable giving…… The name comes from the ritual of opening ‘the box’ – the alms box – in the local parish church and distributing the contents to the poor.”

That’s nice, but there are still a few people out there who could use a good knock-out.

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Last-minute gift ideas?

For the person who has everything… Well, I bet they don’t have THIS!

 

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Lucia madness

December 13th in Sweden is Lucia day. It’s basically a celebration of light in the darkness, based on an Italian saint who had her eyes gouged out (really gets kids in the Christmas spirit).

All over Sweden, choirs of children dress in white robes while one girl (the Lucia) has a crown of lit candles on her head. The other children carry their candles.

I volunteered to be the helping parent for one of my son’s classes on this celebration. All I knew was that I was required to stand on the side with a bucket of water in case someone caught on fire. Sounded kind of exciting.

It turns out that kids catching fire was the LEAST of my worries.

First of all, I had to help the teacher accompany the kids from the school to the church. This was like trying to herd goats that are constantly stopping to make and throw snowballs at each other. (Yes, goats totally do that.) I almost had 2 kids get run over because they didn’t stop at the crossing light and were way too cool to acknowledge my screaming “STOP!”, causing them to be stuck in the middle of the road with cars speeding past.

During rehearsal, no one caught on fire (good thing, since they didn’t give us our buckets for rehearsal), but 2 kids almost fainted and a few burned their hands on dripping wax.

I think that all parents should have to assist with a class activity or outing to understand what these teachers have to deal with every day. Not just observing the class, but actually having to herd them, instruct them and keep them alive.

To sum up:

  • Teachers should be paid more.
  • Kids are like goats.
  • I am never volunteering to help out with a school class again.

 

P.S. The actual Lucia concert went just fine. I think these kids behave a lot better when parents and cameras are watching. haha!

My kind of jewelry

I like to wear jewelry, but I also like to be practical. Fortunately, I found the perfect necklace!

 

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Bless this blow torch

My husband was singing in a beautiful Advent concert that I attended this past weekend.  Everything was very tasteful, old-fashioned, Christmassy, etc., until the beautiful chandeliers were lowered and the altar boys lit the candles with….. a blow torch attached to a stick.

Hey, this may be a reverent celebration, but this concert is only an hour long and we’ve got to get these candles lit quick! Get the blow torch!

Side note: This church was originally built in the 1600s but has burned down twice. Um… maybe less blow torches duct-taped to sticks in the main chapel? Just an idea.

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Svart fredag?

For several years now, here in Sweden, I’ve been seeing stores advertise for “Black Friday.” It’s not the chaos of the U.S., but more regular type sales. As far as I know, nothing opens early.

The reason that I and other Americans find Swedish “Black Friday” sales ridiculous is that there is no point behind them. In the U.S., the entire country has the day off on Thursday, which leads many to also have Friday off as well.

In Sweden, we obviously don’t have Thanksgiving, so this is a normal Monday – Friday work week. They might put up lights in the city this weekend, since it’s so dark, and most things naturally kick off around the first of Advent, which makes sense.

On Thanksgiving Thursday in the U.S., almost every business is closed. There are basically no stores open either, so everyone is crowded in a house with no options but to visit with their family. When Friday comes, people are thrilled to have an excuse to leave the house.

No one here in Sweden has a day off to shop this Friday. Not to mention that Swedish “sales” aren’t all that great. Currently at the grocery store, you can get two bags of shredded cheese for 30 SEK. What’s the price for one bag? 14.50 SEK.

Can we adopt other cultural traditions from the U.S. instead? Barbecues and snow-cone stands maybe? Real nachos with actual melted cheese?

 

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Hot Dr. Pepper

Never really caught on. 

Tourist activities

Another trip to Italy coming up this fall. What do you think of my itinerary?

We can start at the Egizio Museum, have a coffee at the Piazza, swing by the GATES OF HELL and maybe round up the day at the cinema?

 

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Easter spider rabbit

My 10-yr old wishes you all a happy Easter from the Easter spider rabbit.

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Ah, the comforting sound of the… peacock?

On our upcoming trip to Portugal, our hotel shows photos of peacocks that roam the walls and streets of the area. This was charming and exotic when we booked, but lately, I’ve been reminded of the sound a peacock makes. This may not be the relaxing trip we were hoping for.

Your guide to Venice (or, yes, I’m still bored)

I’ve made a family fun guide to Venice in case anyone’s looking to convince their family that this is the place to go!

Christmas tree plundering

 

Today is Knut’s Day, January 13, where many Swedes celebrate julgransplundring (‘Christmas tree plundering’), stripping the tree of its ornaments and throwing it out of the window. As that’s not very nice to the environment, most people take it to a recycling center these days.

We have gone to a few Christmas plundering events. Lots of food and songs and dancing around the tree.

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Also, I have to admit that when we lived by a forest, I threw the Christmas tree off the balcony ever year from the second story window. These days, we have a silver plastic tree, so no mess to clean and we just keep it in the storage room.

From all of us, to all of you …

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Christmas in Sweden – Santa

In Sweden, Santa delivers gifts personally.

Santa visits Swedish homes (after Donald Duck) to hand out gifts personally to the kids. Unfortunately, this usually happens after dad or another male member of the family has just stepped out to check for the newspaper and he misses Santa every year.

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When my husband (often the only adult male at our Christmas celebrations) found out that the American Santa Claus visits children while they sleep, he happily accepted that tradition instead and that’s how our family celebrates.

 

Christmas in Sweden – Rhyming

The Christmas gift poem is not as widely done these days, but some people still practice the tradition. The gift-giver writes a couple of rhyming couplets on their presents, hinting at what’s hidden inside, which is then read out before opening it.

Example (Perfume):

A lovely scent of mystery
in a bottle you’ll admire
a few drops at time
may set hearts on fire.

My husband used to do this on my gifts until we had kids and now we are too exhausted to come up with that many rhymes.

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Christmas in Sweden – Donald Duck

This Disney Donald Duck Christmas special has been shown at 3pm every year on Christmas Eve since 1959 and almost all Swedes organize their celebrations around the show. Most families, like ours, open gifts when the show is over. It’s an hour long show with the same set of cartoons since 1959.  Everyone has the cartoons memorized.

Honestly, most of the country tunes in to watch this. If you were going to rob a store or vandalize a car in Sweden, 3pm on Christmas Eve would be a good time to get away with it.

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Christmas goat

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A straw Christmas goat guards the presents under the tree. The tradition is very old and is thought to date back to Viking times during the harvest when the last grain was thought to be magical, or it’s something to do with Thor. Who knows?

Through the years, it has evolved from a prankster, to a scary creature demanding gifts, to bringing the Christmas gifts, to making sure the presents and decorations are correctly done, or for good luck. There are even more old traditions than those.

In the Swedish city of Gävle, the biggest straw goat is erected in the town square every year since 1966, with the idea of bringing in tourists. Well, the tourists certainly come now, but not to see the goat standing. It’s because the goat is famous for being illegally set on fire almost every year. They have tried fire-proofing it, hiring guards, setting up cameras, etc., but it rarely survives until Christmas. This year, it only survived one day before being set on fire.

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Some of the interesting destructions include:

1976 – Goat run over by a car

1988 – During a severe blizzard, volunteers guarding the goat retreat into a nearby café for a break and some coffee, assuming that no one could possibly start a fire in the raging storm. They were wrong, and the goat burned.

2001 – Swedes tricked an American tourist into burning it down by telling him it was an annual tradition.

2005 – Burnt by unknown vandals reportedly dressed as Santa and the gingerbread man, by shooting a flaming arrow at the goat.

2010 – (failed attempt) – Two men tried to bribe a guard to leave his post in an attempt to kidnap the goat by helicopter and fly it to Stockholm.

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