Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Getting to know Haga Trätoffel

When I first visited Haga, an adorable neighbourhood in Gothenburg that is lined with charming cobblestoned streets, boutiques and quaint coffee shops, I stumbled right into a small shop that specialises in handmade wooden clogs. I wanted to buy a pair immediately, but seeing as how I just done way too much shopping, I decided not to, but had this shop bookmarked in my brain and I knew someday soon I would be back to buy my very own pair. And now here I am, no longer a tourist in Sweden but an actual resident, and it's finally time to buy myself a pair!

HagaTrätoffel has been a staple for Swedish locals tourists alike since 1933, and you can feel the history as soon as you step inside. Since 2015, it has been operated by an American named Erik Davis, who recently let me come in to explore the shop, try on all of the amazing handcrafted clogs, and take some photos. We instantly connected not just because we're both from the US, but because we both grew up spending our summers on Martha's Vineyard. It's truly a small world out there.

Erik has done a fabulous job of maintaining the authenticity of the brand while also bringing in modern touches such as more feminine styles of clogs, cozy knit hats, leather bags, and the coolest wool coats by the Swedish brand Sirri.

I fell in love with their vegetable tanned leather clogs, also known as Veg Tan. Vegetable tanning comes from tanning the leather with natural materials. The leather eventually darkens with age and becomes a really soft buttery leather and no pair of clogs will ever look the same as they age which makes them even cooler in my book. What's so cool about this shop is that they also carry clogs that were very popular in the 1960s, made out of a more synthetic material and which come in a rainbow of colours. I saw a pair of pink slip-ons that I really wanted but ended up going back to the veg tan collection. I'm sure I'll be scooping up the pink ones this summer!

I ended up going with those cuties above! Love that the natural colour can go with anything in my wardrobe including plain black tights and the little strap adds an extra touch of sweetness.

Outfit Details
All-in-one Hunter Green dress by Smak Parlour
Hagatoffeln Clog in Sandra by Haga Tratoffel
Green & Black Tartan Round Hat Box Purse (no longer available but I found it in Red & Navy) by Voodoo Vixen on Unique Vintage

This is a newer style that has a really cool cutout on the side. They were super comfortable, too!

Max and I had a great time getting to know Erik and the team behind Hagaträtoffel! And guess what? I've partnered up with them to offer my readers free shipping on any pair of clogs! Yay! Just go to their website HERE and enter the proper discount code when you check out!

If you are ordering from within Sweden, use code Haga18.
If you are ordering from outside of Sweden, use code Haga1819.
*The shipping cost will be deducted once you checkout.
*Code is only valid on shoes.

If you buy a pair, tag me so I can see which ones you purchased! And if you ever find yourself in Gothenburg, stop in!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Adjusting to Sweden

Most would probably agree that moving to another country is a pretty bold move. It's scary, and definitely not easy. I happened to move to a country where most people speak English, so I'm lucky in that regard, but it's still challenging for many reasons.

I've noticed that whenever a Swedish person recognises that I'm American, they immediately start speaking to me in English. Max claims that people here LOVE to exercise their English and that they find it fun to challenge themselves, and that makes sense. And also that just talking in english is easier for both of us, but I find it to be frustrating. I took two months of private Swedish lessons so that I would have a basic understanding of the language before settling in, and I definitely succeeded at that. But it makes things hard when I'm constantly being spoken to in English. So, I've been making more of an effort to let people know (such as cashiers at the grocery store and baristas at the cafes) that I would like to carry on a full conversation in Swedish since that is pretty much the only way I can ever learn, and it's been working. I'm proud of myself for at least being able to order coffee and a pastry and even pay for it without speaking a word of English! Ha. I am actually thinking of taking Rosetta Stone though - the more learning the better, I think. Has anyone reading this taken it? If so, what did you think?

Understanding food labels is something I'm having to get used to. There are many grocery items here that are not pre-made the way they are in the US, such as a chicken stock/broth. I recently made dinner for me and Max, buying two containers of chicken stock concentrate thinking it was the same as regular stock/broth, and boy was I wrong. It was totally inedible. So salty I thought I was going to pass out. It was definitely a good lesson to learn and one I know I won't screw up again because of how disappointed I was when I failed at it, but still. Things like that are harder to adapt to.

Being on a different time zone as everyone I know. Sweden is nine hours ahead of Los Angeles which means that by the time I wake up, my friends and family are all fast asleep. That can make things pretty lonely. Max works every day, and I'm still waiting to receive some important paperwork making it possible for me to be able to get paid, so I'm kind of on my own during the day, finding things to do. By the time everyone wakes up in LA, that's when Max gets home from work and it's time for us to spend our quality time together, which makes it harder for me to catch up with people back in LA. I don't like being on the phone when we're watching tv or eating dinner, but that's pretty much when people are trying to talk to me. I've been trying to find a balance for this but I'm not quite sure what it is yet.

Sticking out/finding my place. When I walk into a room, everyone stares at me. I know that it's because I wear bright colours which no one else really does here. I'm also pretty sure that since this is such a small town, most people probably wonder who I am since I am the new kid in town. It's been fun painting Strömstad pink (and every other colour of the rainbow) with my crazy colour palette, but I want more than that. I want to actually make a change here somehow, and I'm not sure how yet. This town is very traditional in regards to the colours of the houses and the culture, but I am going to do whatever I can to bring more tourism here because this is an amazing little place that deserves more credit besides from Norwegians who pour in every summer to take a spin in their boats. My ultimate dream (besides traveling and starting a family) is to work for the tourism board.  I want to bring in food trucks in the summertime, a boutique hip hotel (or maybe just re-construction of one in town that could use a good, modern face lift), colourful murals, pop up shops, and so much more. I'm not sure how that will all turn out, but I'm positive that something will happen. Only time will tell.

Social media. Ever since moving here, I've been feeling extremely inspired by everything around me. But there are also challenges that come with it. If you look at my Instagram, you will see a feed exploding with colour. I believe I was one of the first people to really showcase a world of colour before many other accounts came along, and somewhere along the way, my Instagram took a backseat and I was no longer moving at the speed as I once was. I was, instead, busy dealing with a deteriorating relationship, I was unhappy with my job choices, and during that time, the Instagram world blossomed with new accounts sharing similar aesthetics and I felt like I no longer stood out. I think it's amazing that I'm part of a community that really embraces being different and unique and I feel lucky to be a part of it, but I feel like it has become totally oversaturated (how many rainbow hued outfits in front of bright walls in LA do we really need?), so in that sense, I am very happy to have taken myself out of the equation. At the same time, it's been really hard bringing my aesthetic to this new place. There are no bright walls here, no pop up ice cream shops with artisanal ingredients, or trips to Disneyland with my dreamygirlgang to get that perfect shot with Minnie Mouse. The craft stores here don't offer many options for crafting supplies, and it's very expensive to ship things here. In fact, Amazon doesn't ship that much to Sweden at all. However, I'm making do, and I am feeling that, for once, I am truly proud of the work I'm producing. My go-to props and locations are no longer an option for me, so I'm sort of being forced to step backwards and just.. blog.. like I used to back in the old days. And I like the way it feels.


If you've moved overseas, what have been some of your experiences? How did you feel the first month? If you've been thinking of moving to another country, what's been stopping you from it? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day! (Alla Hjärtans Dag)

Wearing my new favourite dress from Unique Vintage
Heart bag from Monki

Life is so unpredictable. I never thought I'd be sitting at a cafe in Sweden writing a blog post about how I conquered getting through a year of being long distance from my boyfriend and that we are living together here now. We've gone through a lot to get to where we are. Going through the process of obtaining a residence permit to even be allowed to live here legally was a triumph in itself. I was told when starting the process that it could take up to a year and a half before I'd find out whether or not I could move here, and that was really, really hard. I hated not knowing when I'd get answers, and the uncertainty of it all made me feel uneasy all the time. I'm a natural worry wart, so that didn't help but Max stayed extremely positive which was a great balance for me. 

Every time I saw an e-mail from the Migration Agency (e-mail was how they kept in touch with us usually), my heart would beat a thousand miles an hour. Any little piece of news we would get, or not get, would almost drive our whole day. I had a feeling very early on that we would get our decision very quickly, though. I wasn't sure why but it was just a gut feeling. I think part of it had to do with luck; we were placed with a very efficient case officer who handled our case in a timely manner. I had heard horror stories of couples who were placed with handlers who were never even in their offices. But I also have a gift for being really good at being persistent, so I often checked in to see how things were going, and since our case was pretty easy and straight forward, they pushed us forward and we managed to get the permit exactly 5 months from the day that we applied for it. I cried very hard that day (happy tears of course!)

It really does take a special person to be able to handle long distance the way we did. I thought I'd take a moment to share what we did to strengthen and keep our relationship alive during those rough times. I do actually feel lucky that we never had to go TOO long apart (3 months at the most) but it was still rough.

This is basically how often we saw each other since meeting:

Even though we matched on Tinder in January, we didn't meet until...
Max: Visited me from March 29-April 9
Me: I visited Max between May 22-June 7
We applied for my residence permit on June 9th
Max: Visited me between August 30-September 13
Me: Visited Max between October 4-October 18
Went on my interview at the Swedish Consulate on October 25th
The decision was made on November 9!
Me: Visited Max between December 23-January 9
MOVED to Sweden on January 25th!

And this was what we did to combat the distance:

This should be an obvious one, but thank god for technology. We tried to FaceTime at least once a day. Sometimes I'd show him what I got in the mail, or he would show me the weather outside his office if it was still daytime for him. Not all of our Facetime conversations were that exciting and most of the time he would get too sleepy to keep talking because it would be so late his time, but it really did help to keep us connected.


Max once suggested that we sync movies and tv shows at the same time so that it could be almost like we were in person watching the same thing together, and it was a great idea. I think we watched the entire Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series on Netflix while being 5,000 miles apart! Haha. I do believe there'a a program to sync them so that you can also chat at the same time, but we did it the old fashioned way. One of us would count down and then we'd press Start at the same time, and it worked!

These are pretty obvious, but we said good morning and good night every single day. I would always wake up to a bunch of snaps from him that he sent throughout his day so that I could see what he had been up to while I was asleep. Then we'd talk throughout the day until it was time for him to go to bed. I would send him snaps while he was asleep, and he would get to wake up to those the next morning. Trust me, sometimes I just did not feel like snapping. I actually don't really use snapchat. But I found that this was very effective for us because it didn't take very long and it was easy to keep up with. I always loved sending him weird snapchats with funny filters and then waiting until he would wake up to laugh at them.

We always made sure to check in with each other about how we were feeling. We had days here and there where we would feel sad, and we would talk about it. We had days where we would just spend the whole conversation talking about our future plans and planning a future trip that we would take. I wouldn't say it's bad to have a Countdown Calendar. Some might say that it's a bad idea to have one because it will make time feel slower, but Max had one on his computer and it was cute. I always loved whenever we'd just be a few weeks out from seeing each other. Every day after that just felt slowwww and annoying, but every day that passed, we were just one day closer to being together again.

Since this will be our first Valentine's Day together in person, we have planned a fun night which includes champagne, tacos (our favourite meal), eating princess cake, and watching movies. If you're celebrating, what are your plans? I'd love to know! And if you're going through a long distance, what do you do to help with the distance?


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Standing Out

Wearing my favourite bag by SkinnyDip London. You can find it HERE

Many people have been asking me lately what it's been like to wear such bright colours in a country that's known for minimalistic style and where everyone is wearing all black (or just more neutral colours). The truth is, I stand out here. And I felt kind of weird about it at first. After all, back in LA, it's very different. But the truth is, wearing colour is who I am, and I'm in no way going to change that or cover it up, for the sake of other people being uncomfortable who are simply not used to it. So when `I get those looks, I just smile. It's fun to be different!

Moving here has been a bit challenging in regards to being able to capture colour the way I was able to back in Los Angeles. I've been having a semi hard time finding a great wall or area to shoot an outfit in because everything here screams primary (red or yellow, mostly). But every now and then I'll walk into a random mall (like the one pictured here) and find pink and purple chairs, and I feel inspired instantly. Sometimes you just have to open your eyes to see colour in places you might not expect to. I am excited about all of the spots I've been finding around town, and some have even said that I've opened them up to seeing this town in a brand new way, and that makes me very happy!

I've been adapting to the culture here more and more every day, and with that I've been starting to notice pieces that are more neutral to tie my crazy outfits together. For example, I LOVE brightly coloured sweaters and just bought one recently (seen in a recent post, from H&M). Normally in LA, I would have paired that with sequin shoes or something equally colourful as an accessory, but here I've been taking to a trusty pair of black chelsea boots and mid wash jeans to round it out, and I'm loving the combination. Adding a pop of colour as an accessory instead of it being your whole wardrobe is a great and easy way to transition. Below are some really fun accessories that will add some cheerfulness to your travel outfits! Links to each product can be found underneath. Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Introducing the Rainbow Semla!

Just as I was getting to know Max early last year, I saw that one of my favourite bloggers, Bri Emery of Designlovefest, had recently gone to Stockholm and documented her journey on her blog and on her Instagram account. I fell in love with the architecture and colourful captures of her hotel stay and stops at all of the iconic artsy subway stations on her feed, but what caught my eye the most was a photo she took of a pastry shop window. In the photo was a table filled with Semlor (plural for Semla), a traditional Swedish pastry made up of a cardamom flavoured wheat bun filled with almond paste and cream. As soon as I saw that photo, I thought to myself, "I NEED TO TRY THESE!!" not even quite knowing what they were, and of course, did my best to find them when I finally got to visit Sweden in May of last year. But sadly I quickly learned that these delicious treats were only sold between February and March for a holiday known as "Fat Tuesday" (which just so happens to fall on February 13th, a day before Valentine's Day this year). I'm a pretty hopeful person, so every time I visited throughout the rest of the year, I continued to search for them. And then finally, when I came over for Christmas, I got to see them in person! They were being sold even earlier than I had thought they would be at the local most traditional bakery in town, and I got to taste one when I came back to move here in January. And yes, they were as delicious as I had hoped they would be.

I've always been one for testing the limits on traditional recipes, and I knew I would HAVE to put a spin on these guys considering they basically have little to no colouring on them. So, I decided to make rainbow coloured Semla, because, why not? I'm not going to lie, I know NOTHING about the metric system, and I'm also kind of afraid of baking bread (I once tried to make cinnamon rolls and had to re-make the recipe four times because I kept screwing up the dry yeast portion of the recipe), so I asked Max's sister to help make these happen, and they turned out great (albeit a little small as I'm not sure I had the dry yeast portions totally correct; I eyeballed it).

I first found THIS recipe which seemed fool-proof, but quickly realised that we would need to go with a Swedish recipe since we didn't have any US measuring cups to use, so we found THIS and used elements from both recipes. For the whipped cream, we just took a container of heavy cream and mixed it with a little sugar, whipping until it formed a nice semi soft peak, and added in different food colourings to create all the fun colours. I piped them into a piping bag and voila! The first step once they were ready to be filled was cutting the top off to create a little "hat", then added in the almond paste (we just took a couple pats of it and mixed it with a little milk so that it would be softer and less strong), and then piped on the cream. The finishing touch after putting the "hat" back on was a generous dusting of powdered sugar and they were good to go.

This would be a super fun project to do for Valentine's Day as well! You can make them the more traditional way by omitting food colouring and just throwing in some pink & red sprinkles into the cream.

If you decide to try your hand at these (which, duh, you totally should!), I would definitely stick with the US recipe if you are unfamiliar with the Metric system. It's so confusing to me that it makes me want to cry. But I know at some point I will understand it and that will be a great feeling!

Also, the recipe says to bake for up to 10 minutes. In retrospect, I wish I had taken them out after 8 minutes, but they were still really good - just a little extra crunchy (they're traditionally softer).

Getting ready to let these guys rise before putting them into the oven

If you make these, please tag me! I'd love to see your creations and I'll be posting some of my favourites on my instagram stories! Tag: #circusofcakestreats

Thursday, February 1, 2018

I Moved!

Striped Knit Sweater (Can't find on website but I've linked similar one here)
Bag: old Kate Spade
Boots: Dasia

Well, as you can tell from the title of this blog post, I did it, I moved. It's funny to think that only two weeks ago I was just getting back from my visit here for Christmas and New Years, and that I was able to sell off all of my furniture (except for my couch!), re-home my kitty, and say goodbye to all of my friends and family by myself and super quickly. I'm quite proud of myself, really. It was not easy and I am so glad that it's over, and now I'm here and starting a brand new life and it's pretty cool. It definitely has not been all sunshine and roses, though.

When I first returned back to LA, I figured out pretty quickly that I would not be able to bring Ringo back with me to Sweden. So I spent the first two days back sobbing and having terribly swollen eyes, which was was not fun. I begrudgingly put him up on Next Door (an app that you can use to connect with the people in your neighbourhood). I HATED doing it. I felt awful, sick to my stomach. I had never imagined not being with my cat. I'd had him since 2010 and he had become a major source of comfort for me in the last few years and just always been.. my best friend, my pal, my partner in crime. But after thinking about it long and hard, I knew giving him a new home was what I had to do, even though it tore me apart inside. After only a day or two, a woman wrote to me who happened to live in my neighbourhood. She worked from home, had a really cool job, a beautiful and big house, and... 4 dogs. Ringo had never been around other animals before, so this idea of him now being around a bunch of animals really freaked me out. But at that point I had no other choice, and I had a very good feeling about her, so I brought him over. Right when I met her, I had a good feeling, but Ringo was not so sure. First he hid under a bed for a while, and later on, sat in a corner hissing and growling, but the dogs got used to him very fast and eventually they all sat in the room quietly. After two hours of gabbing with the owner and seeing Ringo in the house, I knew this was where he needed to be. Leaving him in LA has probably been the hardest part of this whole process, but I received the cutest update last night: a photo of him sitting in his new bed, leaning over to the smallest dog of the bunch, Ruby. He's made a friend!

In other news, my mom joined me when I flew here last week, and we had SO much fun. Our flights to Sweden and Norway were very empty so we had the rows to ourselves, and SAS fed us and gave us free wine, so that was cool. We landed fairly early in the day, and somehow I ended up not having any jet lag which is rare. Anyway, Max and I spent the following 5 days driving her around the neighbourhood, took her to our favourite restaurants, and she met Max's family as well. I'm so proud of my new town and the company I'm in here with Max and his friends and family, so it was exciting getting to show that off.

It's weird to think that now that she's gone, I won't be seeing anyone from my own circle until we come back to LA again in May. I've always been very independent and easily adaptable to new situations, so I've been ok with being on my own, but it does feel lonely at times. Max works every day, and I'm still unemployed as I wait for all of my official documents to be in order, so I've been spending my time watching a LOT of tv (including the full season of Big Little Lies, a season of Girls, and Swedish tv), napping, and planning blog posts. I'm excited about all of the ideas I have, though and I can't wait to share my new life here.

If there are any topics you'd like to see me cover here such as living in Europe, packing tips, outfit posts, etc, feel free to post them down below!