thoughts on everyday sexism (oy vey)

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I usually don’t get too political on my blog (though those who know me know that I am VERY outspoken about my political beliefs IRL …probably too much so!), but given the current global political climate, and, in particular, the US’s current political events, I just have not been able to stop thinking about the intersection of feminism, patriarchy, and the way the world treats women and men daily.

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Let me preface this post by saying that, as a feminist and human rights advocate, I believe wholeheartedly in the establishment and promotion/protection of political, economic, personal, and social equality of all humans. I do not believe that the mistreatment of men by women is justified by the historical mistreatment of women by men, just as I don’t believe that POC should have the right to mistreat white people because white people have historically mistreated POC. I also think the patriarchal system we live in causes many humans to perpetuate this toxic behaviour; women have in many cases been just as detrimental to women’s equality as men have (whether intentionally or not), and many men, despite resenting the patriarchal system, are truly at a loss for how to change things.

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That being said, lately I have just felt SO F*CKING FED UP. (Pardon my French.) If you have access to the internet, which I am guessing you do since you are reading this blog, you’ll know that in the last week, a few women, most notably Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, have come forward accusing a potential Supreme Court judge of sexual assault during their high school years. If you’re older than 30, you’ll also likely remember a very similar situation that occured in 1991 when Dr. Anita Hill came forward with her own sexual harassment claims against then-Supreme Court candidate Clarence Thomas (who, by the way, was eventually sworn in to a LIFELONG appointment on the SC).

If you have not watched these hearings, I urge you to do so NOW. They are, in my opinion, pretty sickening to watch. Harassment accusations aside, the symbolism of a professional, highly-educated black woman being interrogated by a panel of old, white men is pretty striking. What’s worse is the condescending, belittling, and honestly just plain ignorant treatment of Dr. Hill by these men. They make her go over, again and again, the details of the harassment, nitpicking over semantics, cracking jokes, and claiming that the phrase ‘a woman’s large breasts’ is something that is said in the workplace ‘all the time’ (oh, really???).

The most striking part of her testimony, to me, is the following exchange between Dr. Hill and Senator Patrick Leahy:

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont): Do you have anything to gain by coming here? Has anybody promised you anything for coming forth with this story now?

Hill: I have nothing to gain. No one has promised me anything. I have nothing to gain here. This has been disruptive of my life and I have taken a number of personal risks. I have been threatened and I have not gained anything except knowing that I came forward and did what I felt that I had an obligation to do and that was to tell the truth.

Yeah, so…CAN WE PLEASE STOP THE MYTH THAT WOMEN OR MEN WHO COME FORWARD WITH ASSAULT CLAIMS ARE LYING TO PUSH SOME KIND OF AGENDA??? Let’s take a look at the facts for a sec…

According to Snopes,

‘a large 2014 study analyzed LAPD police data and estimated that “the rate of false [rape] reports among cases reported to the LAPD [in 2008] was 4.5 percent.” A 2017 study used FBI data from 2006 to 2010 to conclude that “approximately 5% of the allegations of rape were deemed false or baseless” during that time period. A 2016 meta-analysis of seven studies addressing the same question estimated that 5.2% of rape allegations were false.’

5%…That’s miniscule. And I don’t take false accusations lightly. My dad is a primary school teacher, and was once falsely accused by one of my sister’s middle school classmates of drinking alcohol and getting drunk during a sleepover my sister had hosted at our house. This was not only completely false (I can count on one hand the number of times my dad has been drunk in front of us, mostly because they were really funny), it was a rude wake-up call to the fact that bullies exist, and they can be young or old, female or male, justified or not, and very, very dangerous. Thankfully, she quickly admitted she was lying and order was restored, but had she continued with her false claim, my dad could have faced some very real consequences for something he did not do. But still, the occurrence of false accusations is low, and not the norm.

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What’s more is that sexual assaults are among the most underreported form of crime. The majority of rapes, attempted rapes, and other sexual assaults go unreported. In a 2016 survey, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that, out of 100 sexual assault incidents, 77 went unreported, while only 23 did report the incident. SEVENTY-SEVEN. And these victims are not only women. The rate of reported sexual assault incidents by men is far lower than women (according to a 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped), but experts say that the actual number is likely much higher, because incidents of sexual violence in men are severely underreported in the United States (Source).

Now for the next argument that I have actually heard come out of the mouths of real, live people: ‘Yeah, but it was in high school, more than 30 years ago! If it was so bad, she should have done something about it then. She’s obviously just trying to smear his good name…’

WELL, WELL, WELL. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the likelihood that a person suffers suicidal or depressive thoughts increases (surprise, surprise) after sexual violence. In fact,

94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks following the rape.
30% of women report symptoms of PTSD 9 months after the rape.
33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide.
13% of women who are raped attempt suicide.
Approximately 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime.
People who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to use drugs than the general public. (Source)

As for the rest of their lives? Things for victims don’t get much better…According to the same survey, victims of sexual assault are…

3.4 times more likely to use marijuana
6 times more likely to use cocaine
10 times more likely to use other major drugs (Source)

Sexual violence also affects victims’ relationships with their family, friends, and co-workers. In fact,

38% of victims of sexual violence experience work or school problems, which can include significant problems with a boss, coworker, or peer.
37% experience family/friend problems, including getting into arguments more frequently than before, not feeling able to trust their family/friends, or not feeling as close to them as before the crime.
84% of survivors who were victimized by an intimate partner experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate to severe distress, or increased problems at work or school.
79% of survivors who were victimized by a family member, close friend or acquaintance experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate to severe distress, or increased problems at work or school.
67% of survivors who were victimized by a stranger experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate to severe distress, or increased problems at work or school. (Source)

Is that enough to convince you that sexual assault victims have literally NOTHING to gain and EVERYTHING to lose when reporting incidents?

The horrors of sexual assault aside, this entire conversation about the credibility of victims, as well as the treatment of victims, is a sad reflection of the fact that our society still doesn’t value women as human people. When a man says he would never assault a woman because he has a mother, or sisters, or daughters, we’re supposed to smile at him in gratitude…but what about not raping women because raping ANYONE is just a really, really awful thing to do?? I don’t have children, but somehow, magically, I can restrain myself from beating up little kids that I see in a playground! Furthermore, every single one of us was created in and came out of a woman’s body, through a vagina or via C-section, so the idea that you need to have daughters or sisters in order to respect women as a whole is pure bullshit.

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When I hear men (and women) saying that they are now afraid of women, afraid to be in a room with women, for fear of being ‘witchunted’, I just want to say, ‘WELCOME TO THE CLUB, ASSHATS’. Women have been scared of men since the beginning of time, so if it take a bit of fear to get men to start treating women like people, then so be it! How sad is it, not to mention telling, that it takes women practically ‘hunting’ (how ironic) men down to finally be taken seriously?

It is time to stop accepting our societal norms as ok. THEY ARE NOT OK. When I was bullied by boys in school, I was often told, dismissively, that it meant they liked me. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL F*CK? How is that an excuse to be a trauma-inducing bully? In high school, I was told by classmates and society that essentially my duty as a woman was to either provide or deny sex to men…no mention of sex being a pleasurable, essential, natural human desire that I can partake in either alone or with any consenting partner of my choosing. Conversely, I also heard that men ‘need’ sex, and have zero autonomy over their bodily functions. Here’s the kind of messages I received, some subliminally and some said outright:

‘If a girl leads a guy on, the girl ‘owes’ him sex or else it is very physically painful for the guy.’
‘Boys will be boys’
‘They’re wired that way, they can’t help it’
‘You can get anything you want from guys if you use your body/sexuality right’
‘Ugly girls WISH they’d be raped’ (Yes, REALLY.)
‘The burden of a pretty girl is to accept roving eyes and catcalls. Consider yourself ‘lucky”
‘What did she expect, wearing that outfit?’
‘He’s from a different culture’
‘Boys need to masturbate, girls don’t, and it’s embarrassing/shameful if girls do it but normal for guys to do it.’
‘She’s such a slut. She only does it for the attention’
‘I didn’t really want to do it, but I didn’t feel like telling him to stop’
‘Girls can use their looks to get things, if they’re pretty’

Hopefully by now you get the idea. And let me remind you, I was in high school from 2004-2007, NOT 1954-1957! All I know for certain is that it’s time to change things. Enough is enough. People don’t ruin their lives, families, friendships, careers, etc. with false accusations. Men DO have control of their bodies, as do women. Victims are never to be blamed or shamed, EVER. Sexual assault, harassment, and abuse of any kind is LIFE RUINING. Being young is not an excuse, being drunk is not an excuse, THERE IS NO ACCEPTABLE EXCUSE.

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We’re all inundated by conflicting messages from our environments, and we’re bound to make mistakes now and again, but if your mistake resulted in someone getting hurt, it is your job, RIGHT NOW, to take responsibility for your actions and apologize to whomever you may have hurt.

Let’s stop tickling kids after they say, ‘STOP’. Let’s stop telling girls that boys who are mean to them like them. Let’s stop telling women that they owe men sex, and let’s stop telling men that women exist to please them sexually.

Let’s. Just. Stop.

Whew. Sorry for the rant, but I needed to get that off my chest.

Love to all,
xxlena

fall to do list

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fall / list / to do / Uncategorized

Hello and welcome to September! If you’re like me, you’re probably sitting there wondering how the hell it is already September(??!!)… but here we are. And that means it is officially time for my seasonal bucket list, which is, essentially, a list of things that either get me excited for the season to come or help keep me on track to accomplish larger goals.

However, this year’s fall To Do list is going to be a bit different. The last time I wrote one of these lists, I was still living in Colorado. For almost eight years, my life was based in Fort Collins and revolved around the charming traditions and annual events of the city (Tour de Fat, New West Fest, going to the Pumpkin Patch, to name a few). Now that we live in Uppsala, Sweden, it’s time to make some new traditions and what better way to come up with ideas than to make a fall To Do list? Keep reading for the full list!

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1. Bake an apple pie. The apple tree in the photo above is in our backyard and, as you can see, is overflowing with these tart, sweet little red apples that are just begging to baked in a pie crust with brown sugar and cinnamon 🙂

2. Start knitting again! I have the needles, so I just need to get my act together and buy some wool…

3. Continue running. I started running off and on again this summer, and I’ve been so looking forward to the cooler temps (although I will miss the option to jump in the lake after every run).

4. Plan and book our trip to Morrocco later this year for both C’s and my birthdays (I’m turning 30!)

5. Have a scary movie night (I really want to see Hereditary!) complete with candy and popcorn.

6. Make our home smell like the season with some new scented candles

7. Go mushroom-hunting in the forest

8. Meditate daily with an extra focus on gratitude. I started meditating this summer, every day for 5 minutes, and would love to keep this habit up throughout the fall and winter. With its short days, long nights, and freezing temperatures, winter in Sweden can be tough, and I want to try to pre-empt any SAD symptoms with lots of time outside, frequent exercise, a healthy diet, and a daily gratitude practice.

I think that’s probably good for now. What do you think? What’s on your fall To Do list? I’d love to hear what’s making you excited about this season 🙂

xxLena

eight things i’d tell my younger self

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advice / lately / Uncategorized / youth

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Being the eldest of three children, I was, by default, the ‘guinea pig’ of the family; the first of my siblings to do or go through almost everything – puberty, school, friends, relationships, you name it – with no older sibling to advise or buffer against my (inevitable) future mistakes and mishaps. I remember so badly wanting an older sister or brother to show me the ropes, so that I wouldn’t have to be the one to do it. Luckily, I did have my parents to fall back on, but it’s not quite the same as having someone nearer to your age, who grew up in a similar environment and culture, to help you navigate the way through.

Sometimes I wonder about what I’d tell myself or what I’d do different if I could go back and chat with my 19-year-old self. I wonder if 19-year-old-Lena would even listen to 29-year-old-Lena! Knowing me, probably not. But if I could go back, here are a few of the things I’d try to drill into my young self.

36926095_10160415635960532_3126129480112799744_oSay, ‘YES’
You’ve declined so many things out of fear, and that makes you so sad! The things that you’ll be most proud of when you look back are the things that you did even though they scared the living shit out of you. Things like moving to a new city for college, getting your Swedish driver’s license (dear Lord), moving to a new country for an internship, applying to grad school, getting your first ‘real’ job, and more. Some of these were not necessarily positive experiences (like calling out your ex bf for his shitty behaviour or quitting a job that wasn’t making you happy), but every time you do something that pushes you out of your comfort zone, you always feel better afterwards. Even if you fail! Because you know that at least you tried, and did not allow fear to make decisions for you.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetBut also learn to say, ‘No’.
Obviously, it’s important to say yes to things that you want to do but decline out of fear or uncertainty. On the flip side, this is also the time to start the ever-important, lifelong task of learning to say, ‘No’ to others. I think, when we’re young (and especially if you’re a woman), we’re afraid of saying no because we don’t feel like we have true autonomy over ourselves yet. But feeling empowered to say no to things is just as, if not more, important as feeling empowered to say yes. This is a tough balancing act to figure out, but what it really teaches you is to tune in to your authentic self and identify what you truly want and desire, regardless of what others want or expect. You don’t owe anyone anything, so innately knowing what you want and need is essential in making decisions that will feel right both long- and short-term.

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Love, love, love, love, LOVE your body
WEAR THE SWIMSUIT. GO SKINNY DIPPING. EAT THE PIZZA. You only get one body, one life, and they’re both too important to waste ANY time feeling bad about how you look. Seriously, tell the voices in your head, the ones telling you you’re not good enough, skinny enough, pretty enough, smart enough, etc., to FUCK RIGHT OFF, pardon my French. No one is looking at you or judging you, and even if they are, it’s because THEY are insecure. When you don’t care about what anyone thinks, you stop judging others either, because who really even cares what anyone looks like? You’ll want to look back on that beautiful summer day and remember the important things, like the heat of the sun on your skin, how icy cold the lake was when you first jumped in, that first, delicious bite of a perfectly juicy nectarine, the sound of people laughing and chatting around you, or the feel of your dog’s soft head laying against your knee as he snores…NOT how miserable you were because you hated your thighs. Love your body, and thank it every day for being there.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetGet help when you need it
Not that you can’t get help when you’re older, but now is THE TIME to get the help you need (and we both know you’re going to need it). Those things that are bugging you will not go away magically, and dealing with them now is much, MUCH easier than stuffing them away and having them follow you, lurking behind every corner. As a student, there are countless resources that are easy to access and free or affordable. Go to those ‘lame’ interpersonal support groups at your school’s counselling centre. These groups will by no means be fun, but they will help you so much to get out of your head and hear other people’s issues. They’ll also make you feel like you’re not a total weirdo for experiencing things or feeling the way you do. The hardest part is making the decision to get help, but just do it. Pick up the phone, make the appointment, be totally honest, and keep going back.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetTravel more/sleep less
This is one that I commend you on, past-self. While I in NO WAY think that getting older or having children or any of that means that you can’t travel as freely as you want (my parents are proof), I do think that there is something about being young that makes you much more resilient to ‘rough traveling’, as I call it. By this, I mean the kind of travel where you get a super cheap flight but it’s at 3am at the crappy local airport with only two gates, or book one hotel room to share with five other girlfriends and take shifts sleeping in the bed, or arrive somewhere with no idea where to go or what to do and barely any money. As you get older, your budget, and therefore your standards for traveling will inevitably go up, but for now just focus on creating memories during those kind-of-crappy-but-also-totally-awesome trips. Soon you’ll be able to shell a little more money for a direct flight or a nearby hotel, but having experienced the budget airlines and out-of-town hostels will only make you appreciate the little upgrades more.

mom jeans x 4: weekendNever worry about being ‘cool’
There are so many situations where, instead of showing your real feelings (curiosity, excitement, nervousness, whatever), you act blasé and stuck up to keep up the appearance of being ‘cool’. You think that being cool is about acting unimpressed, bored, in a been-there-done-that kind of way. Well, guess what? That attitude doesn’t make you cool, it makes you look like an un-approachable jackass. It zaps the energy and enthusiasm out of others, and it makes you cynical and lame to be around. You get only ONE life, little Lena, and most of the people you meet that are good and that you want to keep in your life don’t give a shit about you or anyone else being cool. They like you because you’re over-the-top, silly, enthusiastic, awkward, real, and experience the same human emotions as everyone else. Being ‘cool’ is overrated, and the only truly cool people are those who don’t care what anyone thinks of them, regardless of how ‘uncool’ that is.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetBe realistic about adult relationships
This will be one of the toughest things for you to learn, I think. Relationships are hard, especially as an adult, and for you, being realistic about them will mean realising that no relationship will ever be ‘perfect’. Some will be long-term, some less long. Some will be smooth and steady, others rocky and short-lived. Some will teach you a lot about yourself, and some will teach you about other people. While this might make you sad or overwhelmed at times, be sure to always appreciate everyone who comes into your life for the person that they are and the unique things they bring with them. Let go when you need to, fight for things when you need to, and, above all else, be kind.

f6f09-san-diego-day-three-four-83Stop comparing
Just stop. You are you. ONLY YOU. Not anyone else. Your experiences, your life, your choices, your advantages, your skills, your brain, your heart, cannot, I repeat, CANNOT possibly be compared to those of any other person out there. Envy is a useless and toxic emotion, because not only does it put you down and make you feel like crap, it minimizes the fact that other people also go through tough things and have less-than-desirable circumstances. If you find yourself feeling jealous of someone, go talk to them about their life and ask how they’re really doing. I guarantee you’ll uncover something that you couldn’t have known from stalking their Instagram profile or LinkedIn page (anyone else do this, too?? Lol). The world is abundant in it’s possibilities, and there is more than enough to go around. Stop comparing yourself to others and learn to accept your journey for what it is.


So, what do you guys think? Have anything to add? Something odd about being young is that being young is all you know, so you really can’t imagine not being young and having all the time in the world to do things. Which is kind of true, but also not. The truth is that no one knows how much time they have, or how many chances they’ll get. Whatever age you are, RIGHT NOW is the perfect chance to do the things you are afraid of. Not tomorrow, or next year, or in five years. As always, that’s much easier said than done but I’m continuously working on it 🙂

xxLena

wedding anniversary in säby

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anniversary / beautiful / celebration / lately / life / stockholm / summer / Uncategorized

Two weeks ago, Conrad and I celebrated our three-year wedding anniversary with a little staycation at a charming hotel in the Stockholm archipelago. Though we are usually quite low-key about our anniversary, this year we felt like doing something a bit more special.

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Thankfully, I remembered that I had a gift card from my office from Christmas last year that was expiring this (!!) month, so I got online and looked at what gift options were offered, and saw that one option was to book an overnight stay at a boutique inn with a 3-course dinner. Sold!

We chose Säby Säteri, an old Swedish mansion-turned-hotel & conference center, surrounded by forest, meadows, and the rocky coast of the Baltic Sea.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetAfter checking in, we took a brief pause to start the weekend right, toasting to our wedding, and the whirlwind years we’ve had since that very fun weekend.

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After exploring the gorgeous hotel grounds, we changed into some comfy clothes and took a short walk to the seaside before dinner.

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Processed with VSCO with c1 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetMy handsome date ❤

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetSeeing as this was a holiday, I did not bring my DSLR camera so I only have these iPhone pics to share, but I’m not that sad because not having my camera allowed me to truly relax and enjoy some quiet time with my love. I wish I had taken more photos of the food though, because it was DI-VINE. Truly delicious, fresh, and made from only local ingredients, not to mention the impeccable wine pairings offered.

IMG_6776576After an amazing night’s sleep, we woke up feeling happy, relaxed, and hungry for breakfast! Again, no photos taken as my phone battery had died, but the breakfast spread did not disappoint, with fresh fruit, smoothies, eggs, bacon, toast, pastries, you name it.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetIMG_6808Not going to lie…it was pretty hard to leave this stunning place!

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Processed with VSCO with f2 presetAnd now, having really enjoyed the summer as much as possible, we both feel completely ready for a change of season. Bring it on, A/W18! And thank you to Säby Säteri for a wonderful anniversary celebration; we will definitely be back.

Have a great week,

xxLena

Hotel Information:
Säby Säteri
Tel: 08-570 267 00
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an ode to Swedish summer

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Summer in Sweden is such a gamble. Normally, the season is a roller coaster of a few beautiful days sandwiched between weeks (sometimes months) of clouds, rain, and thunderstorms. High temps usually max out at 25-27°C (about 75-80°F), and it always, always, ALWAYS rains on Midsummer’s eve.

While we did get rain on Midsummer (tradition!), the rest of this summer has been completely out of the ordinary. Days and days of 30°C heat, sunshine, and a light breeze sent all of Sweden into a fan-purchasing frenzy – seriously, they’re sold out everywhere. While the sudden change in weather is a bit frightening, not to mention the fact that forest fires are at an all-time high and a grill-ban has been declared nation-wide, we’re content finding ways to beat the heat and enjoy the perks of a warm, dry summer.

This is Conrad’s and my first ‘official’ summer in Sweden since moving last year (he was in Kenya for most of last summer), and we have been enjoying every last drop it.  I’m really mostly sharing this so that when it’s November and dark at 2pm,  I can pull up this post and remember why the winters are worth it! You’ll get a better idea from the photos, but basically we have been living in a kind of utopian Swedish fairytale, complete with wild strawberries and raspberries outside our home, daily hikes in the forest followed by daily jumps in the lake, picnics, mosquito bites, delicious food, dog friends, city sightseeing, magical lake views, and so much more.

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Fjällnorra, a public beach across the lake from us

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Crossing the floating bridge on the trail to Fjällnorra, with my oldest best friend Nora!

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Our little cabin ❤

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Secret private spot on the lake – perfect for playing catch.

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FYI, this photo was taken before the grill/fire ban 🙂

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Happiest dog in the world

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Exploring Stockholm’s south west side

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Daily swim with pups

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Dancing around the midsummer pole, or midsommarstång during the short break from rain!

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Midsummer feast, complete with local craft beer and a snaps sampler

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Rhubard (from the garden) topped vanilla poundcake

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Smultron!

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If this hasn’t convinced you to visit Sweden (in the summer, obvs), I don’t know what will. Thank you Sweden for your wonderful summers, this is definitely one that will go down in the books!

xxLena