Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This Year's Travel Bucket List

One of my favorite types of blog posts to read are travel bucket lists. I love to get ideas from other people on wonderful places to travel, things to do, and areas to explore. The unfortunate side of this, is that it is nearly impossible to come up with a traditional "travel bucket list" because I would end up including nearly every country in the world--just as a start!-- not to mention various cities within those countries. Last year, I was lucky enough to move to Sweden, and spend nine months traveling throughout Sweden (Kalmar, Stockholm, Stockholm X2Bubbetorp, Jönköping, Karlskrona, and more). In addition to Sweden, I got to spend time in Munich at Oktoberfest, exploring Prague, in Copenhagen for Christmas markets and for New Years Eve, Paris, even some time back in the US in Arizona, and of course our honeymoon in Thailand! What a busy year it was.

And of course, that was just my first year abroad! This year, in Västerås, I have some big travel ambitions! Here is my travel bucket list for the upcoming season:

  1. Västerås, Sweden! I want to see and explore everything that the city has to offer. Just a few more days until I am settled in, and the boys are back on ice!
  2. Stockholm, Sweden: I know, I know, I've been here before. However, Stockholm is such a beautiful city and I have really enjoyed exploring all it has to offer, especially the Gamla Stan. 
  3. London: I have never been to London, and I can't wait to make my first trip! I am hoping to be able to go while the weather is still nice enough that I can really enjoy my time there.
  4. Normandy, France: I just so happened to marry a huge history nerd (which is totally fine by me, I'm a nerd all over the place!) and can't wait to take him to Normandy for his birthday. I'm excited to see all of the history that Normandy has to offer!
  5. Berlin, Germany: Nick's (probably) favorite thing in the world are the German Christmas markets. This year, we are really hoping to be able to head to Berlin so he can not only show me the Christmas markets that he has enjoyed, but also the history of the city and all of his favorite spots from when he played there a few years ago!
  6. Munich, Germany: It looks like I am headed back to Oktoberfest this year! Can't wait for it, I'm sure it will be a wonderful time! 
  7. Poland: I've been checking out flights from Stockholm, and it looks like there are usually relatively cheap flights to Poland! I would love to check out a new country that is not a typical tourist destination.
  8. Greece/Jamaica/Mexico/Bahamas/Caribbean: Here is to hoping that after a great season, Nick and I are able to spend some time relaxing. (This may and or may not be a subtle hint to my amazing hubby)
Of course, this list is not comprehensive of everywhere I would like to go in the world- like I said, then I would simply write every country down and call it good! These are just the likely places and locations I will be able to visit this year. Do you think I am missing any good destinations? What are specific places I should add to my overall travel bucket list?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat

I love having nice looking nails. Usually, I give myself at-home manicures, hoping that my polish will last more than one full day before it begins chipping. Between my job this summer-waitressing- and playing hockey several days a week, I am lucky if I can make it 24 hours without a chip in my nails. Which is why last week, while out shopping, when I saw Sally Hansen's Miracle Gel Top Coat (that you don't have to use a UV light to cure!) promising 14 days of wear, I was slightly skeptical yet optimistic. At home in the US here I have my own gel polish kit, complete with UV light, but don't bring this over to Sweden. Without further ado, here is my review of the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat!
miracle gel review
french manicure with the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Polish
At first, I was pretty skeptical about the claims made by Sally Hansen. 14 days of wear? I've had professional gel manicures that didn't last that long- again, due to the significant stress I put on my nails. Thus, with my skepticism I only purchased the top coat and put it over my regular nail polish, figuring that assuming I had good results I would invest in the polish colors (10 USD each).

How it works: You are supposed to have the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel polish color, and apply two coats of that. Afterwards, apply one coat of the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel top coat, and head out into the sunlight for 5 minutes or so to cure the polish (optimal results). After this, it is supposed to last for 14 days!

What I did: Painted my nails with regular polish, then topped it off with the Miracle Gel top coat. Because I did my nails after the sun had gone down, I simply relaxed for a few minutes (hoping the polish would dry/cure in the light of my condo). Then, I was off to my usual activities! Right now, I will say I am highly impressed with this polish. It has lasted five days, including one shift at work and three times playing hockey. I have two tiny chips- one on each thumb- and that is it! The results I have received so far have impressed me enough where I will be buying more of the top coat and the gel polish colors. I would recommend this product to anyone!

Have you tried Sally Hansen Miracle Gel yet? How long do your manicures usually last?

Update: August 10, 2014

After several weeks of using the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel polish and top coat, I feel like it is high time I post on update on my thoughts of the product! And I have to say, absolutely two thumbs up. Can you use the Miracle Gel top coat with regular polish? Yes, and this works just fine- six days, during which I played hockey, worked out, and did the dishes by hand every day. Does the Miracle Gel polish really last as long as it says? I have to say this is to be determined- I got mine to last as long as ten days before I was impatient with the color and wanted a new one. Still, only minor chips that were hardly noticeable- so I'm fairly sure it could have lasted the entire time. My personal opinion is that you can use Sally Hansen Miracle Gel top coat, with regular polish or Miracle polish, and have great results! I'm so happy I bought a Miracle polish color and two of the top coats before I came to Sweden (where it is not currently sold)!

**I was not compensated for this review, nor did I receive free product. Simply trying to pass along my honest review and recommendation to readers!**

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Great Gift for a Hockey Lover

gift ideas for hockey players

hockey lover present ideas

DIY chair made of hockey sticks

A few years ago, I was stumbling around on the internet when I happened to come across a chair made out of hockey sticks. I was trying to find the perfect present for Nick, who is clearly a hockey lover. This chair looked pretty cool, and I decided it would be a great gift for Nick- until I came across the price tag. It was just a hair under $600- for a chair that I knew for a fact either my Dad or my Grandpa could make! (interested in getting a chair like this as a gift for your hockey-lover? If so, contact me!)

Instantly, I took a picture of it and sent it on to my Dad and Grandpa, and was given an affirmative "yes, I can make that no problem!" Thus began the process of collecting broken hockey sticks- mine, Nick's, random friends and teammates that happened to break a stick. Within a few months, we had two chairs built!

I'll be honest- I have no idea how the chairs were made, besides time and effort. A very cool gift for a hockey-lover! (thanks for building these for Nick, you two!)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hej, Västerås!

Hej, Västerås!

Nick and I are getting excited for the upcoming season- just a few weeks now until we leave Minnesota and will be there for the year! We are getting excited to explore a new city together, and curious to hear about our new hometown. So, to the people of Västerås and VIK fans- what are the best parts about your city? Best restaurants, cozy cafes? Who has the best pizza, and who has the best kebabs- (jag älskar kycklingtallrikar!) Where should Nick and I check out when we are going on date nights? When headed out for fika, or to study for a couple of hours, who's got the best coffeehouse? Are there any great running paths for me? Upcoming 5 or 10K races I can participate in? When we have visitors in town, what are the must-do items and sights to see around the city? What makes you love the city you live in?

I am so excited to hear your answers and start checking out the great city! Some of my favorite memories from Karlskrona last year are exploring the city, learning about the history of it, finding new restaurants and cafes, and just getting to know my new town. I enjoyed a walk around the city on my first day in Karlskrona, finding the story of the Statue of Rosenbom, and hanging out in the city center with King Karl XI, all in our first few weeks! So tell me, what do I have to look forward to this year?!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Your Younger Self

Today, I'm following along with a journal prompt from Sometimes Sweet. As I'm gearing up for another season in Sweden, this post really spoke to me and I'm excited to write about it!

Without further ado, here is the prompt: Think about the plans you had for your adult self when you were younger- would you say they match up to your reality today? What did you wish for your future when you were a child? Did you have a plan? And would you say you've followed that plan in any way? This week, look at the life you hoped to have (even if you consider your childhood "dreams" silly now) and see how your current life compares.

This prompt carries so much weight with me! Of course, it depends what age I was when I thought about my future. I'm somewhat fortunate, in that I always knew I wanted to work in customer service- specifically the restaurant industry- especially due to this little thing called Grump's Cafe. My entire life, except for one year (when Legally Blonde came out, I was determined to be a lawyer and be the next Elle Woods!) Of course, before obtaining a full-time job, I wanted to go to college and get my degree. I knew that I wanted to work in restaurants and eventually manage/own them. Besides a job, I figured that I would get married, live close to my family, and have a couple of pets. I never wanted kids- they were just going to get in the way of my career and life. I wanted to be able to travel the world, and still live comfortably. The most important things in my life would be my husband, family, and friends; along with the experiences I was able to share with each of them.

Wow, has my "life" changed from what I thought it would be. There are certainly aspects that have remained exactly the same, only with a few minor tweaks. I went to college; only instead of going for four years I went for three (thanks PSEO for a year of free college!). I worked in restaurants from almost the day I was able to until now- of course, off and on. I've worked nearly every position there is to in them, from hostessing to serving to managing, and overall loved every second of it. Of course, there are days where I could go without dealing with some of the people in the industry, but I love the human interaction. I got married to a terrific guy. We have pet(s) between our English bulldog, Lily, and our crazy kitty. I would say wholeheartedly right now that the most important aspects in my life are my husband, family, friends, and the experiences with them.

And that is almost where the similarities end. See, I never planned on living in Europe. I never planned on marrying the (wonderful!!!) man that I did, and focusing on his career versus mine. I never planned on moving across an ocean from my family and friends, and only living on the same continent as them for a few months a year. I never thought I would want to have kids, and a family of my own.

But then it all changed, when I met my (now) husband. I learned how to be a part of a couple, and something bigger than yourself- because now, I was no longer thinking "me, me, me, what do I want" I was thinking "us, us, us, what do we want from life?". It was a shift of perspective. And we realized that there were things and experiences we wanted out of life. And you know what? It has turned out wonderfully. We live in Sweden for 9 months of the year, and have been offered wonderful opportunities. I am furthering my education with an MBA, he is thinking about law school, we have travelled the world, and together we have broadened our horizons. We have realized how important family and friends are, and know that we want a family of our own one day. We treasure the time we have at home as well as the time where we get to explore the world.

So, if you asked me, is your life how you imagined it? I would tell you, no, it is not. My life is nowhere near where I imagined it would be- but that is OK, and I love every second of it! What about you- is your life where you saw it heading as a child?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thai Cooking Class

Thai Cooking Class Chaweng Regent Beach Resort
Nick and I after our Thai cooking class!
While on our honeymoon, Nick and I decided it would be fun to take a Thai cooking class and get a couple of new recipes for our repertoire! We looked at several different options throughout Koh Samui, and finally decided to just do the cooking class at our resort, Chaweng Regent Beach Resort. The class lasted about 3 hours, from the time we started until we finished eating the meal we cooked.

Thai cooking class review koh samui
everything all lined up!
Thai Cooking Class Koh Samui Review
the various sauces & mixes needed
thai cooking class koh samui review
one of the sets of ingredients
When we first got to the cooking area, it was all set up with each of the various sauces and mixes you would need while cooking. While cooking, the chef would demonstrate with a plate of ingredients and instruct you how to cut and prepare the various fruits, vegetables, and seafood. As you added and mixed ingredients together, you were instructed the proper amounts of the various sauces to add to your dishes.

Thai cooking class chaweng regent review
adding veggies to my stir fry!
stirring the green curry dish
Thai Cooking class chaweng regent
Nick stirring his ingredients
During the class, we made five different dishes. Each dish represented a course that Thais typically eat while having a family meal. We had a soup, salad, curry dish, rice dish, and finally a dessert course.

Koh Samui cooking class review
Red Pepper Cashew Chicken
Thai Cooking Class Koh Samui
All of our delicious food prepared & ready to eat!

In Thailand, it is traditional to prepare all of the dishes and then eat them all at once. Typically, the dishes will be served family style with a large serving of rice. Thais will take small portions from the dishes and bring it towards their plate to eat with the rice.

The cooking class was a lot of fun, and we got some great recipes out of it! The class was informative and a good way to spend a few hours. However, for two people we made WAY too much food- Nick and I didn't eat half of what we prepared! If we were to do the class again, we would only do it for one person and then just have the other come to eat the food. However, we both wanted to be involved. I am sure something could have been worked out with the hotel. All in all, a great experience that enabled us to take home some tasty recipes!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Weekend Wrap-Up

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend! Nick and I had a great weekend relaxing and spending time with friends and family. For today, I'm just going to do a little recap of our weekend!

mojito recipe
easy mojitos with my mother-in-law!
On Thursday, Nick's parents came down for the weekend. I figured it was a great time to make my mojitos- you can check out the recipe here! We relaxed on the patio in the gorgeous weather. A perfect afternoon for a delicious summer cocktail!

Fourth of July Big Island 2014
the crew for the Fourth!
Fourth of July Big Island
celebrating our country!
On Friday, we celebrated the Fourth by heading out onto the lake! We went to Big Island with a good group of people, and enjoyed the sun and warm weather. After the lake, we headed home for some dinner and more relaxation. After a long day on the sun we were both tired, so ended up going to bed nice and early.

weekend shopping Michael Kors

weekend shopping Swedish dream

Saturday afternoon we spent the day shopping with Nick's parents. Nick and I both found some good deals, as well as some stuff for one of the guys on the team. Based off how expensive shopping in Sweden is, I have been hitting the mall frequently to get it out of my system before heading back in a few weeks! Just for an example- we bought one of the guys three pairs of Converse shoes (you Swedes love them!), as well as a couple of sweaters- for probably 1/3 of the price you can get stuff in Sweden. Thus, the reason for my almost weekly trips to the mall!

After shopping, we enjoyed dinner and relaxed before a busy Sunday. Nick had several workouts to do, and I had a big project for my MBA to complete. Sunday night, Nick and I finally got to skate again, and I was able to (start) breaking in my new skates! Let me tell you, I thought my feet have hurt after wearing a pair of high heels… absolutely nothing compared to an hour and a half in a brand new pair of skates! This might take some getting used to… the good thing is, eventually my feet just went numb so I was able to forget about it!

new bauer skates
my new Bauers!
How was your weekend? Did you get a chance to spend time with family or friends for the holidays?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Homemade Mojito Recipe

Happy (belated) Fourth of July & Independence Day to everyone! I hope you all have a terrific long weekend and stay happy & safe with your family and friends.

To kick this holiday weekend off, on Thursday my Mother-in-law and I made some wonderful homemade mojitos! In the spirit of things, I think today is a perfect day to share that recipe.

homemade Mojito Recipe
you can't really see, but here is us squeezing the limes!
This really is one of the easiest (and most delicious!) homemade mojito recipes you can find. Here is what you will need:

Light rum
Fresh limes
Mint leaves
Simple Syrup
Club Soda

To start with, get squeezing those limes! I used 10 average-sized limes, and ended up with enough lime juice for about 6 pint-sized mojitos. Once you've got all the limes squeezed, you'll want to make simple syrup- just warm up about a cup of water on the stove, and add as much syrup as can be absorbed. Then your ready to make mojitos! Here are the official ingredients:

2 parts light rum
1 part lime juice
Mint leaves
Simple syrup to taste

Muddle the mint leaves in a shaker, then add the rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Pour it all over ice, stir it up, and then add club soda to taste and you are good to go!

easy homemade mojito recipe
Enjoying our first homemade mojito!
homemade mojito recipe
Enjoying our second homemade mojito!
Mojitos are one of my favorite summer time drinks, especially because you can adjust the ingredients to your personal taste. What is your favorite summertime drink?

easy mojito recipe

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

15 Great Summer Date Ideas

Hello! I hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far, and getting ready for what's sure to be a great Fourth of July in just a few days! I can't believe how fast summer has flown by, and that we are already starting July. Seeing as Nick and I have one month left in Minnesota to enjoy summer before we take off for another great year in Sweden, I figured today is the perfect day to hop on the bandwagon and join the 100 Days of Happy train. I will mostly be posting on my instagram (make sure to follow me there to stay caught up!), but occasionally throwing out happy thoughts here! To start the 1st day and the 1st of July, I'm going to say what makes me happy today is having date nights with my husband! With that in mind, today,  I'm going to go ahead and share some great date night ideas for the summer, so we can all enjoy our time!

1. Take a trip to the Zoo. This is great for just a couple, bringing friends, or taking the whole family! I recently visited the Minnesota Zoo and wrote about that!

2. Pack a picnic and head to a local park. Here in Minneapolis, I'd recommend checking out the Sculpture Gardens to have some great scenery for your picnic!

3. Head to a drive-in movie. There are several great drive-in movie theaters around Minneapolis, and they usually show several movies a night. Perfect for a relaxing night with your significant other, or a family event.
summer date night ideas

4. Visit a neighborhood bar/restaurant. My favorite lately has been Toast Wine Bar!

5. Go to the beach- whether during the day or at night. Just lounge around, toss a frisbee, and enjoy the company you are in.

6. Take a bike ride. I've been going on lots of bike rides this summer, especially after buying a new bike in May!

summer date night ideas

7. Visit a local brewery and try some new beers, or go on a tour. If your in Minneapolis, check out Sociable Cider Werks!

8. Stop by a local Farmer's market. You'll be amazed by the great finds, from fresh fruit and veggies to locally made products.

9. Go to a state/county fair. The people-watching is always great, and there are always delicious new foods to try!

summer date night ideas

10. Take in a  ball game. Here in Minneapolis, we have the Twins, the Gophers, and are right next door to the St. Paul Saints!

11. Check out a local vineyard and go wine tasting. Of course, this may be better in some areas than others- but a great experience nonetheless!

12. Research and find a block party to attend.

13. Play frisbee golf. There are tons of courses in Minneapolis, and most of them are free!

14. Rent a canoe, kayak, or paddle board and get out on the water for the day.

15. Build a fire, and cook some smores under the stars!

Of course, these are just a few quick ideas I thought of. There are so many wonderful ways to get out and enjoy our time in the summer. What are some of your favorites?
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