Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Do You Stay Or Do You Go?

Jogging up the main street of Diablo in the cool of the morning, I looked at the people in the cars driving towards me.  For a change.  Most of the time I'm gasping for breath, or looking at my shoes trying not to trip on the uneven pavement.  But today I looked up, and with the shade from the trees I could actually see into the cars.

Most of the people behind the windshields were dressed for work.  Dress shirts and blouses, full make-up and neat hair, the occasional jacket.   Grown-up clothes, my family calls them. When the summer is over there will also be carpools, one harassed parent with a car full of bouncing children.  Sometimes the grown-up is smiling.  Most of the time, not.

Later in the mornings there will be mommies in yoga gear - a stereotype, I know.  Deal with it. You can tell when the women are wearing yoga gear - not so much the guys - one schlumpy tee shirt pretty much looks like another.  Plus how many guys do you see in your late morning yoga class?  I know a fair number of these mommies, and their kids, and they deserve some yoga.  And possibly a long tropical vacation, but that's another story.

And I thought:  there are two lives here.  There are two lives in many neighborhoods, urban and suburban.  Those who stay for the day; those who go away.

After the commuters leave, there is a change in the rhythm.  Rushing is over, cars are fewer, not so focused.  It's like the whole place takes a deep breath.

The calm is broken by the arrival of mowers, blowers, remodelers, window washers and painters, and the odd jackhammer.  (It's been an annoyingly noisy evening in our neighborhood, so I may be a little testy.  Who thought a jackhammer at dinnertime was a good idea?  Not me.)   So maybe there are three lives here: those who stay, those who go, and those who come to work.

I wonder now what it is like to leave at daybreak, come home at sunset.  I vaguely remember the days when I would leave before sunrise, come home after dark.  I slept there, I didn't really live there.  When I quit commuting and began gardening, I found I didn't really know my home at all, for weekends when so many are home have a different rhythm, and the seasonal changes are small and fleeting.

You have to be paying attention to notice that first day in winter when you can smell spring coming, although it is still a long way off.  And that day in August when the air cools, and just for a moment it feels like fall.  The changes in the light - from the flat bleak mid-day of August to the long shadows and frozen fingers of February happen so gradually.  You have to be home - and outside -  to feel the changes.

I remember when I was too young for school.  My sister was not - she would leave for school, my dad for the office, and mommy and I would smile - we had a secret: this glorious long day stretching ahead of us.  We could do what ever we wanted.  Sometimes we actually did.

I would watch her iron, we would eat whole wheat bread hot from the oven, and lick the butter dripping down our arms.  She would garden and we would talk.  I would ask a million questions and she would answer them all patiently.  We would eat yoghurt and orange juice popsicles for lunch, or cake with chocolate frosting.  One morning I was in my high chair and mommy asked me if I wanted pancakes? french toast? yoghurt? cereal?  eggs?

I said "I want them all!" and she made them.  All.  I still remember them, lined up in front of me on the table.  I don't think I ate more than one bite of each, but that feeling of being important, of an adult who took me seriously and let me be silly I have never forgotten.  I've also never forgotten that the fun was in the asking, not the eating.

Mornings are a gift.   I have lived that other life, and I am thankful I stay.  And for the memories of those long perfect days, just mommy and me.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Dwight's First Batch of Pickles

"Stephen, I want to make pickles.  I've never made them before, but I really want to."


"And I want to make the really little ones.  I found some cucumbers on line, this farm has little tiny ones called doll house pickles.  So I ordered a bushel - they were really cheap."

"Um, how big is a bushel?"

"No idea.  But they're being delivered overnight to the salon.  Since we get so much shampoo and stuff, a bushel of pickles should be no big deal."

"I guess we'll drive in tomorrow then, not take Bart.  I don't know how we'd manage a bushel of cucumbers on the train."  Good thinking.

The next day a big stack of boxes arrived mid-morning at the salon.  Stephen asked: "Dwight, did your pickles come?"

"Uh huh."

"Well, what do they look like?  Can I see them?"

Dwight reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out this:

Stephen cracked up.  Then Dwight started laughing.  "But the web site showed a farm!  With dirt and everything!"

Doll house pickles.  For a doll house.  They are tiny...

But that was last year, and this year Dwight made the most wonderful dills - just barely sweet, crunchy and crisp, very dill.  With normal sized cucumbers.  I'd show you the jar but I ate them all.  On hamburgers, out of the jar, diced and stirred into shrimp salad.  And you'll have to get the recipe from Dwight - when pickling season is over.  Right now he's busy.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Jon Carroll in the Chronicle today said "The crowd rose as one and raised their cameras in the air."  And he goes on to talk about how we spend so much time documenting and sharing and posting on Facebook and tweeting we forget to experience the moment.  Word.

He also talks about a friend who died recently, too young.  I'm at the age where I think a bit more about this not going on forever, and what I want to do with what's left.  Be clear, be calm.  Stay on center, know the truth.

But when Mr Carroll got to not being able to attend your own wake, I stopped.  And I thought "If I knew my time was almost up, I'd throw myself a going away party!"  Remember that great scene in Waking Ned Devine?   Why do we wait until our friends are dead to say how much they mean to us?

I have a Jill Jar on my counter, given to me by the Gossip Girls and family.  On each beautiful and beautifully curled strip of paper is something kind, something meaningful, some way I have touched their lives.  I take strips out and read them when i'm having a wormy day.  Sometimes it's a one-strip day.  On a really bad day I emptied the jar.  I always feel better.

But back to Jon Carroll:  His columns are funny in unexpected ways.  Read about driving in Indonesia - a classic.  And thought provoking in a gentle nudge-in-the-ribs sort of way.  We all need that occasionally.

His Christmas Quiz is legendary.  If you have snobby intellectual acquaintances who play "I know more than you do" bring one of these out the next time you're having dinner with them.  Stump the Chump.  Gotta love it.

I miss Herb Caen.  I learned to read on my father's lap at breakfast, sopping up his egg yolk with his toast, following along as he read the funny bits of Herb Caen aloud.  If he were alive today, and if I still fit on his lap, we would be reading Jon Carroll.  He's a good reason to subscribe to the SF Chronicle.  

The Rain Room

It's at MOMA in NYC.  An art installation that you can walk thru, or just watch other people walk thru.  The line to watch was 15 minutes...the line to get rained on (or not) was four to five hours.  Hours.  We watched.
It looks like they're all getting drenched, but from another angle you can see...
...they're dry.  The Rain Room senses your presence, and doesn't rain on you.  Mostly.  That seems to be the difference between art and weather.  

Kids were chasing raindrops, twirling, posing...this girl wins for flexibility.  And exhibitionism.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It's Back!!!!

I used to write a monthly column for a garden newsletter.  And an advice column - Sage Advice by Mary A. Gardener.  Excellent advice, if I do say so myself.  Then I stopped.  And lots of people said they missed it - so I began to count, and I promised myself if it got to 100 asks, I would start again.  Just the column, unless you start asking questions.

So here it is - complete with a monthly to-do in the garden, courtesy of Sloat Garden Center (I go to the one in Danville, and if you haven't been there lately, you are missing out.  Cool stuff, kind caring smart staff, plants that will make you drool.)

Postcard From The Hedge - July 2013

We were away for more than four weeks, and I barely recognize my garden.  Hollyhocks that were ruffled leaves all in a clump when we left, sort of like a horticultural mop, have bloomed on tall spires and are now bent over, with a few shiny hot pink ballet dresses at the ends of the branches, and black seeds bursting out of wheel-shaped papery casings.  I bet they were spectacular - I'm sorry I missed it.  I'm spreading seed and hoping I'm home for the show next year.  Call me if you want some seeds.

The quince has grown three feet taller, and has flung out arms to block the path.  As I tried to breeze by a big fuzzy fruit knocked me on the the arm.  Ouch.   It was hidden by leaves - not any more.  It's now in a vase on the hall table.

The Boston ivy is trying to become curtains, sending feelers over the kitchen and family room windows, and thru the bedroom screens.  It's gonna be a bear to get out of the screens.  The wisteria had blocked my garage door, and I couldn't get my car out.  If I were my aunt, I'd move.  She used to say "Johnny, the ash tray is full.  It's time to get a new car!"

The Philadelphus has blocked the window by the tub, the one that goes all the way down so I can sit in the tub and see out.  Not any more - not until I prune.  But I could bathe at mid-day and have total privacy.  Of course I'd be even more wrinkly...maybe I'll grab the loppers and head out.

I remember the first time we swam in the pool - the gunite guys had just left, it wasn't balanced or chlorinated - but we couldn't wait a week, so we slipped off our clothes and went skinny dipping.  After dark.  Then we could rest our chins on the downhill edge of the pool and see the street, and the car lights illuminated us slithering out without clothes - or towels.  Oops.

Now you can't see the pool from the path just a few feet below the downhill edge, and you can't see into the garden from the street, for the English laurel is tall and dense.  When did that happen?

I remember that first December, our garden was new, and Najat was giving a wreath workshop.  Bring your own greens.  I tiptoed around the garden, snipping a leaf here and a leaf there, dismayed at the vastly reduced and sometimes lopsided plants that were left.  That year I brought one produce bag full.  Not nearly enough.  Thank goodness for generous friends.  This year I had Norberto haul away truckloads of greens and branches, and there will still be enough to cut for wreaths for all my friends and family.  And probably the whole town of Danville.  Greens, anyone?

Rose campion, the unfortunately named Lychnis coronaria, has bloomed and seeded in the front, forget-me-nots that I cut back in spring are sheets of blue.  I used to have an organized garden, plants carefully placed for color and texture, but I am enchanted by the self-seeders and I think I'm moving toward a cottage garden.  Complete with herbs and vegetables among the flowers.  Including some truly dreadful tomatoes.  If you're going to home-grow tomatoes, the least they can do is be tasty!  They were labeled Sweet 100.  They are not.  Mealy and thick-skinned and boring.  Oh well, there's always next year...

To Do this month in the garden - from Sloat Garden Center: 
July 2013

• Summer flowers abound! Fill your garden with color that will carry you through until fall such as cosmos, snapdragons, salvias, lisianthus, vinca rosea and zinnias.

• Feed vegetables, perennials, containers, hanging baskets with a water-soluble fertilizer such as E.B. Stone Fish Emulsion or Maxsea All Purpose Fertilizer. Avoid feeding during the heat of day.
• Fertilize camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons with E.B. Stone Organics AzaleaCamellia andGardenia Food.

• Cut or pinch off spent flowers to promote more blooms. Finish pruning all spring-flowering shrubs.
• Spray evergreens & shrubs with CloudCover to reduce drought stress.
• Mulch all garden beds with Sloat’s Forest Mulch Plus to protect from summer heat and keep garden maintenance down

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pickle Me!

While we were away the NY Times had a recipe for pickles that reminded me of my grandmother.  Not that I ever saw her cook, but I'd heard about Nonie on the ranch, making pickles and putting up beans and tomatoes, and Auntie Day setting kraut for the neighbors - apparently, if your kraut isn't set right it will spoil not ferment into deliciousness.  Who knew?  She also raised chickens and they were in great demand - and I have a dynamite recipe for fried chicken.  But that, as Des says, is a whole 'nother Oprah.  

So I thought I'd try to make pickles - it looked so simple, the hardest ingredient is patience.
I have made them now with both pickling cucumbers and Persian cucumbers.  With garlic and without.  With dill flowers and coriander.  And a pinch of hot pepper flakes.  They are all delicious.  
So here is the recipe.  To each quart jar I add half a clove of thinly sliced garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes, sometimes a quarter teaspoon of whole coriander seeds.  You can do what ever you want.  

Do use the filtered water - our water has an extra-long-lasting form of chlorine (chloramine, if memory serves...) and it doesn't dissipate as normal chlorine does.  

They get cloudy, they get a little bubbly.  Taste them, refrigerate when they're sour enough for you.  I like them still a bit crisp, so I'm a three day pickle person.  You're on your own.

These are yummy with potato salad, with hot dogs, all the summer foods.  Except home-made ice cream.  Not so good there.

Sour Pickles
(from the NY Times I think...)
20 minutes, plus 3 to 5 days brining
  1. 2 pounds freshly picked firm, unwaxed, bumpy pickling cucumbers, often called Kirby
  2. 2 cloves spring garlic, sliced thin (optional)
  3. 1 dill flower, or 5 sprigs fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dill seed (optional)
  4. 1/2 teaspoon coriander seed (optional)
  5. 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and slivered (optional)
  6. 2 tablespoons salt
Soak cucumbers for 30 minutes in a bowl filled with ice water to loosen any dirt. Slice the blossom end off each cucumber, which is opposite the stem end. If you aren’t sure which end is which, slice a little off each. Cut cucumbers into spears or chunks, if desired.
Pack cucumbers into one or two clean quart jars. Tuck in garlic, dill, coriander and jalapeño, if using.
Add salt to two cups boiling water. Stir until dissolved. Add two cups of ice (made with filtered water if yours is chlorinated). Stir well until the ice has melted and the brine is cool. Pour brine into jars, covering cucumbers.
Loosely cap jars and place in a bowl or pan because the jars may leak during fermentation.
Leave pickles on the counter to ferment. The brine will bubble lazily and become cloudy. Taste after 3 days, leaving on the counter another day or two if you want your pickles more sour, or refrigerating if they’re ready. They keep a month in the refrigerator.
1 to 2 quarts

Friday, July 5, 2013

There's More of Me Than There Used To Be

Oh yes there is.  One of the disadvantages of a cruise.  The food - and booze - well, let's just say I know how they get those foie gras geese to gorge themselves.  Waddle waddle.

So here's the Cruise scorecard so far:

Plus:  You don't have to pack and unpack, and especially in the Baltic where flying between countries is practically required (I don't have a yacht and if I did trust me it would be someplace warmer) and you save a lot of boring waiting-in-airport waiting-in-security-line time.

Minus:  No walking aimlessly thru the town after dinner.  Or before breakfast.  No discovering the cute gelato shop, the bad but enthusiastic singer in the piazza.  Little contact with the natives.

Plus:  Little contact with the natives.  I'm thinking of that oh-so charming Russian immigration officer.  Would not want to run into her in a dark alley after dinner.  Or hear her sing.

Minus:  You can't just zip into the cute restaurant for a bite, or have a lazy drink and watch the cow parade.  You're always watching the clock, on a deadline.  I missed the spontaneity.  And the on-shore down time.

Plus:  No gelato on the ship.  So that more-of-me thing could be a lot worse...altho if you've seen Wally's photo of us waddling out to our bikes, you may indeed be wondering: how much worse could it get?

Plus:  No bar bill.

Minus:  No bar bill.  You (and by that I mean I) pay more attention when you pay for it.  Of course, for the people we saw stumbling around half ripped at all hours, no bar bill would be in the plus column...but we're not ready for the meetings.  yet.

Plus:  Being rocked to sleep.  Going to sleep in one place, waking up in another.  Watching the islands slide by.

Minus:  When a ship hits a town, it changes the character of that town.  Especially a tiny town like Tallin.  We overwhelmed the bathrooms, swamped the gift shops.  And people, there is more to a town than its gift shops!

Our ship held 900 and something; some of the ships held 4,000.  And those numbers don't include crew.  There were 10,000 cruise ship crazies in St Petersburg when we were there.  We have been in Mykonos when the ships arrive - and when they depart.  Big difference.  So we know we saw things differently than we would have on our own.

Plus:  You're coddled, shepherded.

Minus:  You're coddled, shepherded.

We had a great time, but we're not sure we'd do it again.  We think we're not quite ready for Assisted Living.
Not yet, anyway.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Berlin. Best. Guide. Ever.

We often hire a guide for a walking tour when we visit an unfamiliar city- this guy was head and shoulders the best ever.  Gabriel Fawcett  Zippy.  Brilliant.  Irreverent. Slightly cynical.  An incredible sense of humor (Brit, of course), an incredible depth of knowledge.  We had spent two days in Berlin and we had not seen it. 

Across from our hotel are a pair of protestant churches, modeled on the pair in the Piazza Del Popolo in Rome.  One French, one German.  We had noticed them in passing...Gabriel explains how the Protestants who were kicked out of Catholic countries and moved to Germany could read, could think.  Services were in their native language, so was the Bible.  They were literate.  They read the Bible and took personal responsibility for their lives.  My fault, not God's.  No confession, get it right yourself.  Capitalism begins.  But the French and the Germans still didn't get along, so they built matching churches.  Separate but equal.

And, he says, the countries that kicked out their entrepreneurs, their literate and their thinkers are still paying the price.  More on that later.

When the war ended in 1945, one third of the industry around Berlin had been bombed to bits.  The Soviets took another third (including ripping up the still intact railroad tracks) and shipped it back to Russia.  East Germany has yet to recover.  The traffic today is like the 1950s because there is no functioning economy.  

And they have a massive Soviet hangover.  “The East German Proletariat were trained to work in big factories.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union the factories are gone.  The former workers can’t even smile.  So you can’t put them in retail.  They’re unemployable.”  Yeah, we've met a few on the street.  And noticed that most of the people working in hotels and restaurants here are from Turkey, New Zealand, the Philppines...

West Germany had the Marshall Plan, and it was rebuilt in 15 years.  East Germany had the Russian Plan - rip it up and send it to Moscow - and in 1989 when the wall came down, they were still cleaning up.  From the bombs and the war that ended in 1945.  Rebuilding is still going on:
now on a massive scale.

Gabriel shows us how the East Germans cleared away the damaged bits of a house and just built in a modern style right on top of the ruins.  Strange hybrid of historicist and modern architecture.  And now that we know what to look for, we can see that everywhere.  History in the walls and balconies.

We see badly repaired bullet holes - “Couldn’t they get matching plaster, for God's sake?” No, it was probably all shipped to Russia.  As we walk we notice lots more badly patched bullet holes.  They were there, we just didn't see them before.  The story is in the architecture, if you know what to look for.  

A few blocks further on we come across a prime example of Nazi architecture.  Massive, strong, with classical allusions.  And false perspective - the windows on the upper stories are smaller, it makes the buildings look bigger.  Built to impress, to intimidate.
“This used to be the Ministry of Propaganda and Popular Enlightenment.   Run by Joseph Goebbels.  It’s still a government building.  Now that you know their building style, you’ll see these former Nazi buildings everywhere.”  And we do.

Next door used to be this:
The New Reichstag.  Complete with that famous balcony.  

After the war most of this area was bombed out or torn down - the Russians had been fighting the Germans too, and there was no love lost.  And nobody wanted this to become a pilgrimage site.  So this is what’s now where Hitler’s balcony used to be:
I wonder if I will ever look at Peking Duck the same way again.  

The open plaza where the crowds used to roar has been filled in with what Gabriel calls“Soviet 'luxury' pre-fab apartments that make you want to kill yourself.”

Jane asks about the pink pipes.  I assumed they were a bad Soviet art installation.  Not.   The water table here is so high you have to pump out the building sites to put in foundations.  You can’t pour concrete into a wet hole. These pipes carry the water away.  To the river, where it makes its way back to the building sites to be pumped away again...sounds vaguely like a Soviet make-work program.  Aided and abetted by nature.
We ask about the current state of the EU, the financial problems of some member countries, and we get an informed earful.  “Anyone who saves like me is having his money stolen to pay for the mistakes of the feckless Catholic countries.”   Okay.  Let's go shopping!!

Context:  “Until 1918 the military land-owning aristocracy ran the country.  In 1918, when he was kicked out of power, Kaiser Wilhelm II filled 57 train carriages with stuff and moved to Holland, one of the only countries he had not invaded recently.  He died in 1940, surrounded by furniture.”  You can take it with you - at least as far as Holland.

We walk to a park, with a well-worn slide and swing, surrounded by more of those charming Soviet apartments, thin paths scuffed into the grass.  This is where Hitler’s bunker used to be.  

"In May of 1945, with 1.5 million very pissed off Russians just 60 miles away, Hitler marries his mistress.  "Do you, delusional psychotic, take this murdering psychopath to be your wedded husband, until death do you part...which should be any minute now?"

Saying he does not want to end up in a Russian museum, he kills her, takes cyanide and shoots himself in the head.  Taking no chances with that Soviet museum.

“Not easy to do, take cyanide and shoot yourself.  Cyanide is very fast acting.  But he was a genius...”  I think he’s joking.  

Bits of the Berlin Wall are for sale everywhere, even in our fancy hotel room.  Gabriel says “If you put all the bits of the Berlin wall that have been sold together, you’d have the Great Wall of China.”  

The Peter Eisenman designed Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe   At first it looks like granite blocks made to look like coffins:
But as you walk into the memorial the ground dips and rolls under your feet, and drops away:
And before you know what's happening you are swallowed up.  Along with the 500 other people who just arrived by tour bus.
An open maze, it is easy to lose someone.  You hear people calling to each other, people appear and disappear among the columns, some startlingly close, some far distant.  

Walking on, the ground rises, and once again you are surrounded by coffin-like granite.  But you can see the world again.  Just differently now.
It is lonely, disorienting, haunting.  It works.  It is open 24-7.  

We walk through the Tiergarten, the former royal hunting preserve, now a huge park with a beautiful meadow spangled with wildflowers: pinks and lungwort, wild sweet peas and daisies.  

We walk thru linked courtyards and past beautifully tiled Art Nouveau buildings that used to hold factories and workers' housing.  Late 19th century.  Knew you'd ask.
It's now the young hip part of town.  We feel ancient.  

Set into the streets and sidewalks in seemingly random spots are square brass plaques.  Singly and in clusters.  Name, date of birth, maiden name, date of death, name of the camps where they were murdered.  These are mother and baby.  The plaques mark the spot where that person was taken.  We see some people walking over without a thought, some people bending down to read the inscriptions.   Never forget.  Never again.
Awash in history we need a break.  Lunch at a Turkish restaurant - huge puffy bread.  Hummus, spicy tomato things.  And beer - this is Germany.
Just as we begin lunch, we have to change tables.  Our table is over the elevator and the beer and water delivery just arrived.  
Glad we moved.  Don't scoot your chair back!

We took the train to Sachenhausen in the afternoon - gray and drizzly and cruel.  But there have been light moments today too, and I don't want you to think Berlin is all depressing - it's not.  It's buzzing with young energy, fresh and trim, looking forward more than back.  If you haven't been, go.  If you haven't been for a while, go again for it has changed.  And go with Gabriel.  

More Berlin later.  Off for a beer.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Not So Grand Hotel, Stockholm

The complaint department is open.

It was a ginormous room:
And it was clean and neat before out suitcases exploded all over the room.  Sorry about that, but we have some friends who can trash a hotel room in 5 minutes - hello Pam and John! - so this didn't look too bad to us.  Just drying our raincoats.

There was a huge bathroom, but it was so dimly lit you could not use the make-up mirror - heck, you could barely see the make-up mirror!  I had to seriously enhance this photo just so you could tell it's a bathroom, not a crypt.
Shaving was a challenge.  And getting in and out of the tub-shower was strictly by braille.  The shower had a half-wall of glass.  Unfortunately it didn't cover the half of the shower where the water landed.  Hence the drain in the floor.  And the towels covering it.  It was like a Slip-and-Slide - remember those?

A great hairdryer (love that 220!) but no plug in the bathroom.  Really.  And no mirror anywhere else in the room.  Oops.  Blow drying using your reflection in the glass covering a framed print is a challenge I do not want to repeat.  Putting on make-up by braille is something my companions don't want to see again.  

It's a fantastic location, the staff are lovely, but this was a seriously clueless and difficult hotel room. And at their prices?  I'd stay somewhere other than the Grand.  Or as we call it, the Not So Grand.  

Delvi Sexum and Stockholm

That's the traditional Estonian toast, and it means pretty much what you think.  "Health. Sex."  For such a reserved people that's a pretty direct toast.

Weddings start with a shot of vodka.  So do funerals.  And yet there's that reserve thing.  Külli says when she became a tour guide they told her "You'll have to ask about once an hour if anyone needs a bathroom."  And she said "I will not!  If they have a problem, they will tell me!"  And "I would never bother anyone with my small talk.  Do you know, if an Estonian gets on a bus and there is only one person on the bus, in the front left seat, where the Estonian will sit?"  Yes.  "In the last seat on the right."  Saw that one coming.

If you ask an Estonian "Did you have a good weekend?"  they will say "Yes."  But if you ask "How was your weekend?"  they will say "Regular.'  We could use some Estonians in Washington.  

Did you know Estonia is the home of Skype?

Stockholm, the Venice of the north.  There seem to be Venices everywhere. There's probably a Venice of Nebraska, even.  But Stockholm is stunning.

I thought it was a bit odd when the pilot came on board 5 hours before we were to dock.  But seeing the maze of islands:

and remembering what happened to the Costa Concordia when they got close to shore, I'm glad he did.

Lots of water, lots of spires.
An unusual food cart:
Summer in Stockholm.  Everyone was out - kayaking:
rock climbing:
Sun bathing and swimming:
Even the birds were sunning themselves.