Category Archives: Holiday Season

Christmas. And Stockholm in My Heart.

Darkness fell early. Around 3 p.m. But it wasn’t really dark. Stockholm, my former home town, was lit up for the holiday season. Chandeliers and Christmas stars lit up almost every window of the respectably old buildings in the city. And the streets were decorated with Christmas lights.

drottingatan X17 UD146The day before Christmas Eve, I decided to take a pre-dinner walk down the memory lane in the historic Old Town. Coming up from the metro station I was happy it wasn’t raining. My puffer jacket proved its worth in the near freezing temperatures and I felt ready for a long urban hike.  A man selling Christmas flowers greeted me from inside his tent.

flower stall X17 UD146I walked the narrow cobble stone alleys admiring the old buildings, a few built as early as the 13th/14th century, most in the 15th to 19th century. All of them modernized for comfortable city living.

Walking on one of the main streets, I made a nostalgic discovery. Our favorite Italian restaurant from the late 70s and 80s, Michel Angelo, was still there.

restaurant Michel Angelo UD146.jpgI walked closer and snapped a picture of a very special table. Husband and I sat there one cold night in February over 30 years ago. And got the fastest service ever. You see, I was expecting our son. And it was obvious he would arrive soon. The waiter politely asked me when the baby was due. I responded truthfully that he was due two days ago. I will never forget the expression on his young face. Needless to say our pizzas arrived in record time. Quattro Stagioni with different toppings for each quarter, like the four seasons.

rest michel angelo table ud146Here I was, so many years later, a reflection in the window of my memories.

I continued my walk trying to find my way to Stortorget, the main town square in Old Town, where the traditional Christmas Market has been held every year since the 1920s.

street in old town 2 X17 UD146My sense of direction has always been poor so I ended up enjoying many an old building on my way. I came to a smaller square, Järntorget, where a big tree lit up the surrounding buildings. And tomtar, reindeers, dala horses and viking helmets filled the shop windows.

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shop window in Old Town UD146I crisscrossed a few more alleys and finally heard the music and saw the familiar sights of the Christmas Market.

xmas market X17 UD146I lingered there between the stalls for quite a while. I was looking for a Yule Goat, just like the one husband had bought over 30 years ago. And found the last remaining one! It is now continuing the tradition in our son’s family glogg UD146_edited-1home. I also found warm glögg and enjoyed a small cup with a ginger bread cookie in the company of visitors from Japan and Poland.

It was all so familiar. Heartwarming. I felt at home right there standing in the crowd sipping my glögg.

Now all warmed up, I continued my journey through the Old Town finding many interesting buildings and churches built starting in the latter part of the middle ages.

And finally arrived at the Royal Palace. It has over 600 rooms, but looking up from the darkened court-yard only a few windows were lit here and there. A soldier stood guard at one of the entrances.

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Royal palace court yard UD146_edited-4From there I walked down the castle hill and continued towards another island, Riddarholmen, the Island of the Knight. You see, while the earliest findings of human activity in the Stockholm area date back to the stone age, about 6000 B.C., the city of Stockholm was built starting in 1180 and was officially established in 1252 on Stadsholmen, or the Town Island now broadly referred to as the Old Town. The city then gradually expanded onto several other islands connected by bridges.

slottsbacken X17 castle hill UD146From there I could spot Kungsholmen, the King’s Island, were we used to live in our early years in Stockholm. And where we got married at the City Hall seen in the distance.

mot kungsholmen X17 UD146From the bridge to Riddarholmen I also spotted the Royal Opera House lit in changing colors for the festive season.

the royal opera house UD146I then walked over the bridge to the beautifully lit city center…

bridge to old town X17 UD146

sergels torg 2 X17 UD146…and took the metro a couple of stops back to my sister’s home, also located in a century old building in central Stockholm.

gathorna X17 UD146 Once inside, I was wrapped in the warmth of the Christmas spirit…

xmas cheer X17 UD146

xmas star in te window X17 UD146

amaryllis X17 ud146…served delicious traditional meals, loved and hugged by family.

julbord X17 UD146 And I was kissed by a sweet boy. He did a great job in comforting me when I missed Dylan. my sweet boy UD146While being the first without my dad and husband, this Christmas truly nurtured my heart and soul.

Thank you for being here, and for all your encouragement throughout 2017. I wish you all good health, renewed joy, love and peace. May your light burn bright in 2018.

fire X17 UD146_edited-1

Yule Goat.

Snow boots. A hooded winter coat. Gloves. Leggings and jeans. Wool sweaters. Layering tops. Christmas gifts. My trusted carry-on refuses to collaborate. It will not close. And don’t dare to sit on it. I give up and go to fetch my large suitcase. The Florida girl is going to Sweden.

I feel emotional. Browsing my photo libraries for pictures of Christmases past. I travel back in time. All the way to our son’s very first Christmas. He’s crawling under the lower branches of our live Christmas tree. Mesmerized by the lights and the sparkling tinsel garland. It’s Christmas in Stockholm.

MJ first ChristmasOur home is filled with seasonal aromas. Ham and rutabagas, potato, carrot and macaroni casseroles. Meatballs and spicy sausages. Jansson’s Temptation and herring salad. I’m in the kitchen cooking traditional Christmas dishes for my little family. Husband and son play in the living room. The camera clicks.

Christmas foodsSnow. I taste the word. Cold. Fluffy. Beautiful. And again I’m back in Stockholm. Playing in the snow with my son. Husband taking pictures. Those precious moments frozen in time.

Mom and son StockholmAnd soon I will be there again. Same city, different time. Christmas. Hopefully white. Long walks with my sister’s family and their poodle. Beautifully decorated streets and shop windows. Delicious traditional dishes. Christmas market in the historic Old Town.

I look at the old yule goat on my dining table. Its yellow straws and red ribbons are still fairly intact, after faithfully standing on whatever table it decided to jump onto for over 30 years. Every Christmas, on three different continents. It asks me if I remember. I nod.

yule oat 2It is a crisp, snowy December evening. The Old Town is wrapped in Christmas spirit. Seasonal music streams from the market stalls. Warm glögg and lussekatter. Husband stops at a stall and the yule goat becomes part of the family. Life is good.

Now silently conversing with the yule goat Love wraps me in a warm blanket. So much to be grateful for. I wish you all a wonderful, soul-warming Christmas and a happy holiday season. Feel the spirit.

A Marriage Proposal. And Happy New Year from the Salt Marsh.

Hello everyone! I hope the Holiday Season has treated you well. I’m back home from my Christmas adventures with family on the Atlantic seaboard in North Florida and Georgia. It was a precious time with our son and his family.

st-simons-island-pier-georgis-fb-ud98Lots of little adventures and places to see. Here a few pictures from our trip to St. Simons Island in Georgia: the lighthouse from 1807, rebuilt in 1872, the Christ Church from 1808 and the beautiful Avenue of Oaks planted sometime before 1850.

lighthouse-on-st-simons-island-georgia-2-ud98

 

lighthouse-at-st-simons-georgia-ud98

christ-church-2-st-simons-island-georgia-ud98

the-avenue-of-oaks-st-simons-georgia-ud98I did do some bird watching as well with my 6-year old granddaughter. Here’s our catch from Georgia, Double-crested Cormorants and gulls.

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cormorant-and-gull-georgia-ud98

cormorant-and-gulls-georgia-ud98I am happy to say she is also into nature and photography, shooting away with her Nikon Coolpix. Here she discovered some ‘interesting plant’ that needed to be captured close up.

little-photographer-ud98We also did a birding walk in her neighborhood with Dylan in tow. And to my delight I captured my first shots of a Hooded Merganser.

hooded-merganser-2-jax-ud98The rest of the neighborhood birds included a family of Canada Geese, a serious-looking Little Blue Heron and a Snowy Egret.

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snowy-egret-jax-ud98That was so much fun!

Yesterday morning I checked on my friends at the salt marsh. A New Year’s celebration was clearly in the making. So many birds! A large family of Wood Storks, many Great Egrets, and the Mayor, of course, were all enjoying the cool sunshine – and plenty of food offerings.

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great-egret-and-great-blue-heron-ud97As usual, the Reddish Egret was entertaining the crowds and shaking his booty. And for the first time I captured him in full flight.

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reddish-egret-flying-ud97Miss Rosa was there too, delighting everyone with her colorful presence. She always notices me and nods her greeting. I thought she said Happy New Year. How sweet of her.

roseate spoonbill and snowy egret ud97.jpg

roseate-spoonbill-ud97Mama Sandy was sitting on her new perch. Papa Stanley flew by and they had a brief exchange. At the time I was not aware of the importance of the moment.

mama-osprey-at-her-perch-ud97Below the Osprey nest, I spotted a Tri-colored Heron. When I came home and looked at my pictures, I realized she was not alone. A Green Heron was lurking in the shadows right behind her, and another bird further in behind him.

tricolored-heron-and-green-heron-in-shadows-ud97And I witnessed some rivalry between two of the Great Egrets. There was a loud exchange followed by a flight competition.

two great egrets flying 2 ud97.jpgEven the big Wood Stork wanted to get away from such a disturbance to the otherwise peaceful New Year Eve party. He hurried his steps, then ran and flexed his huge wings.

wood-stork-fishing-ud97But the Little Blue Heron was brave. He was a bit startled, but stayed put on the water installation and stared curiously at the big boys’ silly competition.

little-blue-heron-ud97The juvenile Night Heron also observed the hullabaloo from the relative safety of his tree below the Osprey nest.

juvenile-night-heron-ud97I was happy to find everyone in good spirits on the last day of the year and walked home. On my way, I spotted an industrious couple, Mr. and Mrs. Red-bellied Woodpecker. But I was yet to get my biggest year-end surprise.

male-and-female-red-bellied-woodpecker-ud97An hour or so later, when I happened to look out from my office window towards the salt marsh, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I ran out to the terrace and could confirm that Papa Stanley was in the new nest for the first time!

papa-osprey-in-the-nest-ud99And Mama Sandy was happily enjoying her proposal gift on the perch. Wow! The proposal gift was not a fish, but a small mammal, perhaps a squirrel.

mama-osprey-with-her-proposal-gift-ud99If Osprey eats something other than fish, it will probably be at the time when the male makes his annual marriage proposal. I have seen Sandy receiving a mouse in 2015, and that’s the only time before yesterday I’ve seen her eat other than fish. Now this gift was very special, and it was given 11 days earlier than last year.

This morning on my early morning walk with Dylan, but without my camera, I saw that both Sandy and Stanley were sitting in the nest together. And I noticed that some soft nest materials had already been brought in. Sandy and Stanley have renewed their marriage vows once again, and this New Year’s Eve marked the official start of their 2017 nesting season. What a resilient couple they are!

fireworks-2017-ud100I want to thank all blogging friends for a wonderful year. You have inspired me with your thought-worthy posts and generous advice, amazing stories, wonderful poems and beautiful photos and other art! And you have given me laughs when I most needed them 🙂 You have also encouraged me by visiting here and commenting on what I have shared,  which I have immensely enjoyed. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. My furry sidekick also sends his regards, and we both wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Christmas Photo Shoot. I Don’t Think So.

It’s not even Christmas yet, but I’ve had it. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m looking forward to my first Christmas with mom and dad. Anticipating great celebrations with my new extended family. Including Amelia, the white Chihuahua, whom I’m excited to meet for the first time. But I’m done with all the pre-holiday hubbub.

amelia-ud96You see, yesterday mom told me we’re going to the grooming place. I tried to hide behind dad’s legs under the table. But she found me. Then I tried to show my disappointment in what was going on by not jumping into her car. She lifted me up. Once in the passenger seat, I turned my back to mom and didn’t even look at her. Not once. She should have gotten the hint. I don’t like grooming and baths. The people there are all wonderful, but I just don’t like the ‘pampering’. But mom carried me in there and I patiently went through all the motions. I was happy when I was done and she came to pick me up. We went to Petco together before driving home. That was a small reward.

dylan-xmas-2-2016-ud96I had a great time there and thought all this pre-holiday stuff was finally behind me. But no. This afternoon mom told me we were going to do a holiday photo shoot. I had no idea what that meant. But when I saw the camera and the Santa hats, I knew it was nothing I’d enjoy. In addition to the possibly blinding effects of the camera, it was obvious that one of the hats I was supposed to wear was huge and the other far too small. Sigh.

dylan-closeup-xmas-2016-ud96But I tried to comply with mom’s wishes after my best ability. While showing my displeasure with the whole procedure. We go though worse trials for love. So she took a few pictures. But just when I thought it was over, she told me there were no pictures. No pictures? Something was wrong with a card she had put in her camera. We would need to do it all over again! Let me be straight. That. Was. Too. Much.

I have to confess that when dad got involved as the christmas-tree-2016-ud96wingman in the second photo shoot, I decided not to collaborate in any way or manner. He whistled for me to jump on the sofa in mom’s office, but I saw right through it. He had no treats. So I remained all alone with the Christmas tree in the living room. Why can’t they just take pictures of each other?

Finally mom came out and went to the kitchen. More precisely, to the pantry I know houses my treats. On the uppermost shelf. That was progress. She emerged with two pieces of my favorite pumpkin cookies. Deceptively she held a cookie piece above the sofa in her office, and I went for it. So there I was, my resolve not to be photographed again in small crumbles. And what did I do? I let her have her shot. But only one. We needed to get over this hump.

dylan-xmas-2016-best-ud96I hope you see what I mean. It should be obvious. This was not what I wanted. And those ridiculous ‘singing’ dogs and reindeers around me. Excuse me. Lets forget about this next year, shall we mom? Now I’m just hoping for one simple thing, a peaceful Christmas. No stress. No more hubbub. Kind and joyful spirit. As it should be.

Oh, it’s time for my evening walk. I think I’ll make mom run. She should get used to regular running just in case she’ll put on weight over the holidays. See, I love her even after all she put me through.

xmas-lights-ud96Mom and I wish you all wonderful Holidays, whether alone or with family and friends. Bring a smile on someone’s face with your kindness. Now that all the ‘stuff’ is behind me, I hope, I intend to do just that. With love, Dylan

A Weekend Holiday Party. Hosted by the Mayor.

This past weekend was a bit winter-like. Cool winds from the north, bright sunshine and then yesterday a bit warmer and cloudier with a few sprinkles. I was invited to a lively holiday party at the salt marsh. Two days of guests mingling happily in anticipation of the holidays. Residents hosting visitors who seemed happy to have escaped the real cold up north.

dozen-wood-storks-ud94And there were early signs of romance brewing in the bird community. Many couples, breeding plumages growing…and a few loud comments exchanged between suitors in some quarters.

The Reddish Egret was entertaining. Perhaps he was also trying to impress on his girlfriend, who had taken possession of the Mayor’s office. She was well put together and watched the Clown’s performance intently.

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reddish-egret-shaking-off-water-ud94And Miss Rosa was, of course, the object of everyone’s admiration. Including mine. I first spotted her hanging out with the big boys.

roseate-spoonbill-with-wood-storks-ud94Then she flew to a pond where she could fish undisturbed. Photogenic. And I think she knows it.

roseate-spoonbill-2-ud94While Rosa didn’t seem to have a boyfriend, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron did have company. She was sitting shyly in the bushes below the osprey nest, while her admirer was openly staring at her from a tree across a small ‘strait’.

yellow-crowned night heron ud94.jpg

yellow-crowned-night-heron-2-ud94Mama Sandy was there too. She looked regal on her new perch. And she was in deep thought. Perhaps mulling over ideas for home decoration, which is about to start in 3-4 weeks now.

mama-osprey-on-her-perch-ud94Suddenly I heard osprey speak. I looked up and saw Papa Stanley right above the nest looking down. They talked.

papa-osprey-flies-over-talking-to-mama-ud94I would have loved to know what was said in that brief exchange! You see, he has not yet been allowed to land in the new nest. I know it will happen early January, but only after he has performed his proposal dance and brought a gift to Sandy. Then they will start decorating their new home together. That shall be interesting. I will make only one New Year resolution this year, and that is to follow their nesting season as much as I can. And then share this couple’s joys and challenges here with you.

After Stanley flew away towards the ocean, Sandy greeted me from her ‘high chair’. She is a beauty. No wonder Stanley is so besotted by her.

mama-osprey-closeup-ud94I walked around the marsh and spotted two of our permanent residents, the Tri-colored Heron and the Little Blue Heron. They are such gracious little waders and by now not a bit shy when I approach them.

tricolored-heron-2-ud94In fact, the Little Blue Heron kept me company. She walked with me quite a while along the southern border of the marsh.

little-blue-heron-ud94Soon I saw the big birds chilling out in the ‘west wing’ of the marsh. Mainly Wood Storks and Great Egrets, in clans, couples or solo enjoyed the holiday smorgasbord.

wood-stork-ud94I learned something new, namely how the Wood Storks ‘sit’ on the ground when only their heads are visible above the high grass.

wood-stork-2-ud94This is how. They actually sit on their knees – bent the other way round compared to ours.

wood-stork-sitting-ud94The older Great Blue Heron, the Mayor of the Marsh, was hosting the party. He patrolled the waters and talked to the guests.

great-egrets-blue-heron-reddish-egret-ud94At one point he said something to a Great Egret. I thought I heard “let’s compete who’s first at the osprey nest”.  I can’t be sure, but off they went.

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great-blue-heron-and-great-egret-ud94

great-blue-heron-and-great-egret-in-flight-ud94

great-blue-heron-and-great-egret-flying-ud94I have no way of knowing who won. Or even if that matters. But when I arrived back to the nest, I found each of them in trees close to the nest…in the company of the Night Heron couple.

great-blue-heron-and-night-heron-2-ud94

great-egret-and-night-heron-ud94But were there no small birds at the party?  Of course there were. But these birds make me work too hard to get even one acceptable picture 🙂 I managed to make two of them to pose just for half a second, a Northern Mockingbird and a tiny Least Flycatcher who moved all the time. And I mean all of the time, which is obvious from my soft picture.

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alder-flycatcher-2-ud94After being hosted by the Mayor, entertained by the Reddish Egret and greeted by Mama Sandy and Miss Rosa, I left the party and walked home by the bay side. There I spotted only one bird, a Brown Pelican at the Sailing Center pier. The pelicans prefer the bay or the ocean for their smorgasbord.

brown-pelican-ud94I hope you enjoyed this holiday party as much as I did. We all wish you a wonderful, stress-free week.

 

 

Holiday Cheer. An Ad Sponsored by the Salt Marsh Birds.

It took lots of convincing by friends for me to put out this post. It is about my Nature Bound Art shop. I promise I will do this ‘ad’ only once a year. And I want you to know that every little penny I have earned from my images there has gone, and will go in the future, to bird conservation efforts by Audubon Society (this year mostly for the Osprey nest project), Cornell Ornithology Lab and Osprey Watch.

I’d like all friends to know that my Holiday greeting card collection from the salt marsh is now available. In case you still send real cards, please check them out! They are 5″ x 7″ in size and you can design your own message inside the card. They come with white envelopes as a single card, a pack of 10 or a pack of 25 cards.

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Holiday greeting card, an example

And now that I have gathered the courage to tell you about my shop, I want to mention that you can find unique, high quality gifts for family and friends there too. I have prepared a small slideshow of products just as an example of what is in my shop – hundreds of different items for adults and kids. And you can customize all of them for size, background color and image position as applicable.

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The feedback I have received from buyers has been excellent, and the products I have seen myself have been of high quality. But just in case you are not happy, there is a money-back guarantee 🙂  It would be lovely if you just visited to see what’s there! The birds will thank you.

And just as a reminder, Bumble’s book (see sidebar) is a great gift for dog lovers of any age as well as kids from 10 and up. It is still available on Amazon both as a Kindle version and a soft cover – and all proceeds go to two reputable pet rescue organizations, the Humane Society and Florida Poodle Rescue.

Thank you for visiting. Have a wonderful day.

Confessions. And Precarious Pursuits.

When do you know you have become a crazy photo enthusiast?  I got my answer this week. You see, I have never considered myself as a photographer. But I have to admit photography has occupied my mind – and my time – quite a bit lately. I’ve had nightmares about not having one single photo to post on my blog. And I’ve dreamed about another photo safari in Africa. All true.

giraffe walks the trail ud48Early this week I found myself far from Africa, on a whirl-wind visit to Washington D.C. for work. My incoming flight was delayed due to bad weather in D.C. and I arrived at my hotel late, around 8 p.m. It was raining. As soon as I had put down my small carry-on, I checked the view out of my window. Through the drizzle and darkness, I could see the Washington Monument, the “needle”, blinking in the distance. Without a second thought, I took out my umbrella and my camera bag, and put on a trench coat. Being in the nation’s capital this time of year  I had to see the National Christmas Tree. And take some pictures. Even when I knew I would be two days early to see its full glory.

washington-dc-ud92I must confess I knew that walking solo at night in downtown D.C. was not a completely safe undertaking, particularly outside the lively restaurant quarters. I found myself walking on deserted streets among all the sleepy government buildings. 12 blocks. It was not raining anymore, but the mist was hanging heavy and the visibility was poor. I felt in my bones that my pursuit of pictures might be an exercise in futility. But I kept going.

exacutive-building-dc-ud92Finally I passed the Executive Building and arrived at the White House. Some people were lining up at the east gate, perhaps to attend a holiday function. I passed them and walked south into the dimly lit park toward the “needle”. No soul in sight.

the-washington-monument-2-ud92And after a few minutes I spotted the National Christmas Tree. It was not lit as yet, but I thought it still looked beautiful. It would be lit on Thursday, December 1st when I would already be back home. (You can find the White House tweet on the side bar to see the true glory of the tree and to hear the President’s beautiful message).

national-xmas-tree-3-ud92The little Christmas trees representing the states were illuminated by light beams of various colors coming from the tents at the outskirts of the fenced area.

white-house-xmas-trees-small-ud92I stayed there in solitude for a while snapping more pictures in the misty night…

…before I walked back towards the White House. It was beautifully decorated for the holidays. The famous columns were lit, and many Christmas trees were visible through the windows. Despite the dreary weather, I could feel the spirit of the season.

white-house-3-ud92I was tired, but happy with my nightly photo outing. The rain held off and I walked back to my hotel for a late dinner. Maryland blue crab cakes with a glass of good wine. And a few usable photos. You can’t get a better reward for being a crazy photo enthusiast.

I wish you all a great weekend.