Saturday, March 31

Day 91: City Adventure

If you had an afternoon to spend however you chose, what would you do? I am not suggesting that the day would have some sort of magic about it and that you could go anywhere in the world. I am merely asking what you would do, in your city, with an afternoon to kill. I went shopping. Well, actually exploring might be a better description. I love to explore. You could say that I am an adventurous spirit. Delving into every nook and cranny of a city is a passion of mine. I love to find the old, hidden treasures but I also like to check out the new kid on the block.

MOOD Stockholm is the new kid on the block. Mood Stockholm is a shopping center that just opened a week ago. Calling it a shopping center however is a bit of an understatement. "Trends, lifestyle, excitement" are three words that are used to describe one's experience. Before I even walked through the entrance a new restaurant (Vigårda Barbeque) on the corner of the center caught my eye. The style of the restaurant's decor and the name are what drew me. Gård means farm in Swedish and when restaurants refer to a gård it usually means that the ingredients used at the restaurant come directly from a local farmer. The menu, located on the wall above the counter and kitchen, looked like a giant black board and everything was written in white to resemble chalk. Everything looked delicious and I can't wait to go back and try it out.

So fast forward to entering the mall. I had no idea what to expect really but I pictured just another mall like ones that I have been in around Sweden. Was I in for a surprise. It tended toward the upscale with regard to the clothing stores and there were several funky furniture stores, cafes and restaurants inside. At first I thought it was just a circular-shaped, three-level, mall but once you arrive on the top floor you can see that the stores stretch back on one side as far as the eye can see. Wow. It was quite impressive. And very crowded both inside and out. Cars where lined up in traffic on all of the surrounding streets and people were lined up as well.

I had to leave but I will be back again once the newness wears off. Afterward I headed to one of my absolute favorite stores in Stockholm, called Svensk Hemslöjd. Hemslöjd is Swedish for handmade and the store is filled with lots of lovely items all made by Swedish artists and artisans. Before you ask, yes, I bought two, adorable, little, carved, wooden chicks. Easter decor, of course. We have a little, black bird made by the same artist so these will be a nice addition to the home and holiday decor collection.

Adventures such as these really invigorate me. It's funny because this type of day has the exact opposite affect on my husband. Just walking up to the mall, not even going in, would have worn him out. He stayed home working on his projects and I snuck away for a little city adventure. I forgot to mention that it was snowing when we woke up this morning but by the afternoon the sun was coming out and the only remnants of the snow were little piles here and there and a car or two driving by with snow on top. Otherwise it was a lovely late winter/early spring day.

Friday, March 30

Day 90: I'll Just "Be On My Bicycle"

Living in an international community it is easy to discover things to be different. The cuisine is different, expressions are different, dress styles are different and in general life is just different. But once you live in a new country or place for a couple of years, the things that previously were different to you become the familiar. My husband suggested when we first moved here that I write down my impressions and thoughts about all of the things that are different in Sweden because in a year, he said, I would no longer see them as different. It is absolutely true and I did not take his advice.

One of the biggest differences I have found is the lack of accessible, free, public toilets. When we first moved here it was a bit of a problem because I did not yet know where the best public toilets were, let alone any public toilets for that matter, other than McDonald's. I remember running around frantically trying to find a toilet and not having much luck. Now however, I could tell you where to use the toilet in nearly every area of town, and how much it will cost. Most of them cost five Swedish kronors (crowns) but some of them cost ten kronors. That is between one to one and a half U.S. dollars. It seems steep but when you gotta go, you gotta go. Just make sure you have a few five or ten kronor coins on you at all times.

I really do wish I had written down all of the things that I noticed as being particularly different about life here back then. Two years later I am straining my brain trying to come up with something and I am sadly at a loss with the exception of a fabulous new one that I learned this evening. Living in Sweden I tend to forget how much of an international community it really is here. There are people living here from all over the world. I have friends that come from Croatia, Brazil, Spain, Germany and China among some of the places.

I met a woman tonight who moved to Stockholm from Cape Town, South Africa. Besides her accent that I just love she left me with one of the funniest expressions I have heard in a while. I was chatting with another woman and did not hear the exchange between my Cape Town friend and the woman she was talking with but that woman suddenly turned and asked us all: "If I said I was going to be on my bike, what would you think?" We all said that we would assume she was traveling by bicycle. Unfortunately not. It is a South African expression meaning, "I will be going now". Seriously funny and seriously cute. Especially having a husband who loves bicycles and has a tendency to collect them. I had to steal it.

Apparently "pull up your socks" means "get yourself together". So now every time I pull up my cheap knee socks, that are constantly sliding down when I walk, I will think that I need to get myself together. It's not a bad thought really. Maybe I do need to "get myself together"...

Happy Friday everyone.

Thursday, March 29

Day 89: Spring Showers

I can honestly say that I don't especially love rain. I love what it does for our planet - for the plants, animals, air quality etc. But I could easily live in a place where it rains very, very seldom. Like Los Angeles. I actually lived there for eights years and I never missed a thunderstorm. Granted, it could be that I grew up in southeast Texas, which is in close relation to a swamp, where the raindrops are almost the size of bullfrogs. Seriously, I am not kidding. Hurricanes there are a normal, yearly occurrence and I think that after living there for twenty-one years I was ready to dry out in the desert.

I guess I should clarify a bit and say that it isn't so much the rain itself but being out in the rain. However, there are those few occasions when I do enjoy the rain. Take a sudden spring shower, for instance. The clouds swell up, seemingly unexpected, and then the wind comes, whirls whatever stray leaves happen to be lying around up into the air, the sky darkens and then a flash storm occurs. And it leaves almost as suddenly as it comes. The miracle however is in the aftermath. The air smells fresh, the sky is a deeper shade of blue, the birds fly faster. It's like the world gets a bath. Like God took us through the quick, five-minute, lunch-time, car wash. I love those moments after the rain. The sweet, earthy smell that permeates the air and the crisp brightness that seems to define everything around me. It's like the calm after the storm.

They say that spring showers bring May flowers but here we are and it is almost April. I am hoping the flowers come sooner than May and I am also hoping for more spring showers. Next time I will be armed with my umbrella.

Wednesday, March 28

Day 88: A Cookie A Day

Is eating one cookie a day a bad thing? I sincerely hope not. I am not saying that I eat a cookie a day. I easily could, though I'm not sure how long it would be before one cookie became two, or three, or five. Cookies are not even my favorite vice (that would be brownies) but I am not sure I would turn one down. Ever. I mean, cookies are like small disks of crunchy, sweet happiness. And who wants to turn down happiness?

I have to admit that there is a dangerous time of the day for me. I call it my bewitching hour. It usually falls around two or three in the afternoon. I don't know why but I get an overwhelming urge to eat something sweet around that time. Just a little, tiny treat. It could be boredom but I have had this craving for years and I was definitely not bored at my last job. I try to eat a piece of fruit during my bewitching hour. Or drink a special cup of tea, a decaf cappuccino, etc. Some days however, this healthy substitute doesn't cut it and I really NEED a cookie. Come on...  just hand over the cookie and no one gets hurt.

I'm kidding of course but it wouldn't be a stretch for me to utter those words. It doesn't help either that a colleague at work stocks a drawer with cookies for us all to eat. Usually there are ginger cookies and I don't feel so bad if I eat one, or two, on occasion. This week however the drawer revealed some fabulous, little, thin crisps, dipped in dark chocolate. It is really really hard to eat just one. Today I ate one chocolate crisp and one ginger cookie. I figure they cancelled each other out. Kind of like eating celery. It takes more calories to eat them than the calories they are worth. Okay, that may be a stretch but I am sticking to it. Now let me see if I can go find some happiness in my pantry...

Tuesday, March 27

Day 87: Flower Power

I don't know anyone who doesn't smile or light up when they receive flowers. Their fresh fragrance always makes me feel more cheery. I love to walk past the flower stands and see the colorful petals curling open to smile a hello to the world. Whispering sweet nothings to passersby. Sometimes I stop to say hello and maybe touch one or two gently. A few days ago I decided that we needed some fresh flowers in the house so I bought some tulips. They are coming into season here and are amazingly gorgeous and there seems to be every color available under the sun. I bought an orange bunch and a yellow and orangish-red bunch. Together they are like an orange dreamsicle.

I always love to see their race as the tulips grow taller and taller each passing day. It's a funny thing with tulips. I never notice other types of flowers growing like them. Even after half a day I can see their progress. They always start out roughly the same height and after several days there are usually two or three sticking up, heads above the rest. Yesterday I noticed that one was leaning a bit low, as if reaching for the table. Today the poor thing went to tulip heaven. I think it may have been trying to escape. That or perhaps Pina (the kitty) was coaxing it out of the vase. I did not find any nibble marks but gentle batting could have been the culprit as well. She loves to explore things by way of chewing, eating or patting. So far our Easter branches with the fluffy, orange feathers have survived but everyday there is a small offering of twig chards and feather debris on the floor below the vase.

If you do not have someone to bring you flowers, I highly recommend going out and buying your own. Get a huge, bunch of whatever bloom you love and stuff them into small vases all around your home. I sometimes like to put a single bud in a tiny vase and set it on my bedside table to greet me each morning when I wake up. Having fresh flowers around is a lovely way to brighten up the surroundings and put a happy face on everyone in the vicinity. Brighten up your vicinity and put on your happy face. Go get some flower power now!

Monday, March 26

Day 86: I Love NPR

Now I just want to say from the start that I was not paid to say that I love NPR. Nor was I sent any gifts, freebies or coupons. I just love public radio and the programs on NPR. Their programs are stimulating, informative, entertaining and inspiring. I have to also add that I love the Internet because without that, I would not be loving NPR right now. So, again, I want to thank the nerds of the world for inventing Internet. I love you all too.

Maybe you remember my occasional comments (read: complaints) about my morning commute to and from work. Okay, mostly to work but anyway. I also mentioned that I solved the problem using my earphones to drown out the commute noise with music, which I might add is still working fabulously. It is worth noting as well that listening to music even serves to distract from the bad smells, which is really awesome. Well, hold on to your hats....I have now solved things even further. I have started listening to NPR podcasts. My husband has been doing this for a long time but my gripe with doing that was always that my commute is too short to get through a whole podcast. Another possibility is that I was not yet used to using my earphones and I decided it was too much trouble. He suggested that I try it again. I could always pick it back up where I left off on my way home. It also helped that I started listening right when I leave the apartment.

Today I listened to "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me." It was hilarious. HILARIOUS. I think I smiled and/or laughed the entire way home. I am sure that my fellow commuters thought I was crazy. You know how when you have headphones or earphones on and someone asks you something and you speak really loud? Well, I am sure I probably laughed really loud as well, though it's just a guess. I did get a few looks. No one was smiling but they were not dirty looks either so I consider that a success.

I don't remember being in such a good mood upon arriving home in a while. I am always happy to come home but without the commute aftershocks to accompany me I actually felt refreshed and energized.  Even with springing forward yesterday and having to get up early for work this morning. After springing forward it usually takes me a couple of weeks to get used to getting up an hour earlier during the week. I know that is pathetic but it is true. I am just not a morning person. Just ask my mom. It goes way back. All the way to kindergarten but that story is for another time.

Sunday, March 25

Day 85: Spring Forward

We finally sprang forward today. As soon as the Christmas holidays are over and we make it through January I start to long for this day. The daylight hours have already started to grow longer but with the added hour that we get with springing forward, the days are just that much more pleasant. There is the smell of spring in the air. What is the smell of spring? It is hard to explain exactly but simply put it smells fresh. Everyone is starting to clean away the winter grim from their windows, giving a more clear view out into the world, and those with yards or gardens are starting to clear out last year's dead, dried plants and replace them with bright, cheery flowers and green, fruit and vegetable bearing plants.

Today my husband and I decided to go out for a run. It was our first run together in over a year. I wouldn't really call us runners. We run as a form of exercise occasionally. Normally you'd find us, especially my husband, on a bicycle. However, today we laced up our running shoes and headed out our apartment door. Our plan was to walk to the south shore of Södermalm and then run along the water. On our way there we came across a community of allotments and there was a path leading between two rows of them so we decided to head up the path and do a bit of exploring while we ran.

The allotment houses are really adorable. They are intended to be storage sheds to hold gardening tools for working in the gardens. Yet many people have converted them into tiny hideaways. A sort of summer house if you will. One even had an outhouse on the small lot. The cottages do not have running water or electricity but seem to serve as the perfect getaway within the city, where one can garden and relax and just generally get away from the hustle and bustle.

We ran among the cottages and then into the park adjacent to them, running up and down hills and then finally making our way down to the water front. By the time we reached the water however we were both pretty beat so we ran just a short distance along the water and decided to head home. The weather was nearly perfect. Days like this are tiny blessings that we get to experience and then stuff into our back pockets as reminders. Reminders for the rainy days, the cold, dark, snowy days and all the other days in between that are just a little bit darker. I love the spring!

Saturday, March 24

Day 84: Happy Field Goat Mammas (Cud Milk Baby)

Today we had the most wonderful excursion out to an island called Utö. If I had known before how easy it was to get to we would have gone sooner. Our trip began with a stop by Fabrique bakery to pick up some sandwiches for the trip. Then we headed to Söder Station to catch the pendeltåg (commuter train) to Västrahanninge, where we switched to a bus that shuttled us over to Årsta Brygga (the harbor), where we then boarded a ferry that took us out to Utö. The entire trip once we boarded the pendeltåg took just under two hours and we didn't have to worry about parking or directions or anything. Just mindlessly walk to the train station and start the journey. It was fabulous.

Once we arrived to the island we walked over to the Värdshus (the local hotel) to rent a couple of bicycles. The island is in the off-season period, which runs from May-September. Luckily the hotel rents bikes to the few, poor souls like us who venture out in the off-season.

We road our bikes from Utö to another Island to the south called Ålö. The two Islands are connected by a small bridge and the road between them goes from one end of Utö through wooded, country where you pass horses, a military, training base, sheep, a few houses here and there and a couple of mamma goats with their new offspring (so cute!) all the way to the dock at Ålö. When we passed the two mamma goats with their babies we stopped briefly to say hello and look at them. I figured I would take a photo on our way back since we were getting close to the bridge where we planned eat our lunch. And my sandwich was calling my name.

We pedaled away from the farm and I said, "Happy mammas!" Then I said, "happy goat mammas," which then became, "happy field goat mammas." I was having fun with making additions to my phrase and asked my husband to add to it. His contributions were "cud milk baby." At first cud was "chewing-their-cud" but it was shortened to just "cud." Milk came next and then baby. Then he added "happy" making it a repetitive loop. Happy field goat mammas cud milk baby happy field goat mammas cud milk baby happy.... and on and on. It was fun!

The goat mammas were happy. Their babies were happy. We were happy. Everyone was happy.

Unfortunately on the way back they had left the field so we did not get a photo. But later we had a bite to eat at the Värdhus and finished with tea, coffee and scones. Delicious. We will definitely make a return visit to Utö.

Friday, March 23

Day 83: Bunny Love

People seem to be less grumpy these days. And by people I mean me. When the sun shines it is difficult not  to smile and feel joyful. The birds are singing, bunnies are running around chasing each other and more and more green stuff is starting to wake up and come out to play. You can almost hear the trees groaning and yawning when the rustling breeze blows through, shaking their branches saying, "Wake up! It's time to start afresh!"

And I feel that way too. Like it is time to start fresh. Clean out the cobwebs, pull out my lighter, more colorful clothing and maybe think about booking a pedicure. Yes, a pedicure sounds like the perfect spring-time activity. Maybe next week.... Today I left work and as I made my way down the hill next to my office I saw not one, not two but three, happy, little bunnies springing around chasing one another. They were so cute I stopped to watch them for a bit and then decided to video them. They looked so joyful and happy. That is until they realized I was stalking them. But seriously, seeing these three little guys (or gals) made me feel like celebrating spring even more and I walked a bit lighter the rest of my commute home.

Here they are, Mopsie, Topsie and Hides-around-the-corner-by-the-tree:

Thursday, March 22

Day 82: Daisy Feet

"Don't say that spring has come until you can put your foot on nine daisies"

I found this quote when I was looking online for information about the vernal equinox. It was in a section labeled "spring folklore". I think It brings up such a lovely image of children playing in a field of daisies, running and laughing and exuding their happy innocence.

Spring is about to truly spring here in Stockholm. When I am out on my lunch time walks I can see that green stuff is starting to come up from the ground and buds are forming on the bushes and trees. Slowly but surely they are nearing the stage of explosion. I seriously cannot wait! I feel that I have been in winter prison for too long and I personally am ready to break out. I want to feel so hot that I need an ice cream cone to cool me off.

As I mentioned in some posts back, I have summer fever. Is there such a thing? If not, there should be. I don't know if there will be a field with nine (or more) daisies around here to go set my foot upon but there will definitely be blossoms on the cherry trees (Which I completely love!) and fields ablaze with the vibrant, almost fluorescent, yellow blooms of the rapsolja, or canola, plants.

And there will be hundreds of tiny and not so tiny islands to take the ferry to and explore. I will be off on island adventures as often as possible. Kayaking, hiking riding my bike and swimming.  And if possible I'll find some daisies to squash with my bare feet.

Wednesday, March 21

Day 81: Sock Bunnies and New Perspectives

I think I have mentioned Pinterest before? It is basically an online, bulletin board where you can create various, bulletin boards that you then post photos, recipes, and articles, etc, to. You can also follow other people's boards and posts. Examples of my bulletin boards include "Food Stuffs", "Cool Photos & Such", "Places I need to travel to", "Good Things", "Holiday Fun", "Flowers & Such", "Interior", "Exterior", and "Artsy Stuff". I post photos, recipes and cool ideas that I come across from other pinners as well as things I come across just on the internet, if they are pin-able.

The other day I came across a Sock Bunny Tutorial, posted by a woman who writes an adorable little blog called Lil Blue Boo. Click here: Sock Bunny to see the tutorial. I fell madly in love with these bunnies and HAD to make one. I am still in the process but I think it is going to be super cute:

Anyway, while I was looking at Lil Blue Boo's blog today to link it to my post, I noticed a "Choose Joy" link to click on so I clicked. I like to click. Clicking around is often how I come across the cool things that I find. This click however led me to information that I had somehow missed on previous visits to her blog. Ashley, the owner of Lil Blue Boo, was diagnosed with cancer not too long ago and had to undergo an emergency hysterectomy as a result of complications related to her pregnancy. Coming across this information served as a reminder to me that nothing ever is as it seems. That person you think has a perfect life most likely has anything but a perfect life. And besides, there really is no perfect life. We all have the lives God gave us, perfect in their imperfections. 

I have been very sad recently over the fact that I have not been able to become pregnant and have a baby. I had a miscarriage two years ago at eight weeks and after undergoing two IVF attempts since that were unsuccessful in producing a pregnancy, it has been very difficult coming to terms with the fact that I may not be able to have a baby. Then I read about Ashley's experience and I was reminded of all of the other blessings that I have in my life. I was reminded that some people are not able to walk, some have no home, and others do not have a loving, wonderful partner to comfort them and share their life with. I am fortunate to have all of these things. 

We all have different sorrows to bear and different joys to celebrate in our lives. Some people make sock bunnies and choose joy. I choose joy today in honor of Ashley and all of the other people out there who's stories and sorrows go unheard or comforted. After I complete my sock bunny it will serve as a reminder to me to choose joy when I start to feel a pity party coming on. I hope that you, too, will Choose Joy today in honor of yourself or someone you know who is suffering or undergoing a challenge. Be Happy!

Tuesday, March 20

Day 80: Thanks to the Nerds

How cool is it that I can use Skype to have a video conversation with my parents or friends who live across the big pond while I sit in the comfort of my apartment? I'll tell you. Way cool. When I first met my husband, then boyfriend, I still used dial-up internet (Shhhh don't tell anyone!). I think he might have hesitated slightly and even considered not dating me anymore when I told him. He didn't really laugh but he didn't say that I was super cool either. On our first date I even showed him my flip mobile phone (or as he calls it, "that horrid thing") that was connected only on one side by a couple of pretty, blue wires. In all fairness it had just broken that week and I had not yet replaced it. I don't normally go around with broken electronics. Really, I don't.

Bottom line is that my husband is a nerd. He is of the nerd family of guys (and gals I am sure) who love gadgets and could sit all day and night in front of a computer, an iPad, or even an iPhone, and stare lovingly into its screen without blinking or coming up for air. He is always up-to-date on the latest software, hardware, whatever-ware that has anything to do with the electronic world. How did we end up together? I am not really sure. Some stroke of luck or fate I suppose. That, or God has a serious sense of humor, as I am not electronically inclined particularly.

We were trying out a new restaurant over the weekend. An Indian place called Ris, which means rice in Swedish. It was actually a fabulous dinner and the atmosphere was perfect. Not too crowded or too loud and the food was delicious. But anyway, there we were and he asked me, "Have you updated your iPhone yet?" I am actually impressed that he thought to ask me such a question. Had I updated my phone? Right. So he coached me through checking my settings to see if it was updated. He asked, "Does it say 5.1?" I read, 5.0.1 and said, "Yes, it is updated." That little zero didn't mean anything, did it? He looked at my phone and said, "It is not updated." Oh.

So what does this all mean? Basically it means that I am greatly indebted to my husband and all of the other nerds for all of the work they have put into creating and fine-tuning these marvelous electronic devices that allow us to video call or instant message friends and family that live a days travel by plane away, possibly further. Even my parents use a computer, which allows me to send them emails and photos and video Skype call with them, making our physical distance less of an issue. It makes the world a smaller place for all of us and it allows me to stay connected to so many people I love. So, thank you my little nerd husband. You are the best!

Monday, March 19

Day 79: Snow and Other Monday Oddities

As I walked to the subway station with my husband this morning it was lightly snowing. Yes, snowing. Yesterday it was nearly fifty degrees Fahrenheit and today it snows. That's spring for you in Stockholm. While we were walking I mentioned a friend of mine who made a bet with one of her colleagues that it would snow six more times before winter was done in Stockholm. Today was day number one. I hope she wins but I am afraid she may have been a bit over enthusiastic, especially given the rather warm winter we have had this year.

My husband thinks that today is the last snow for winter. So we made a bet. I personally think it will snow again, possibly even more than once, before winter is done. We only bet one hundred Swedish crowns. That is about fifteen US dollars. I should have bet more because I saw a really cute pair of orange sandals in the store window across the street from our apartment over the weekend and I think I'm going to have to have them. I could so easily have paid for them with this bet.

Especially if it can be gauged by today's snow. It snowed the entire morning. Starting early with light flurries which soon became heavy. I looked out the window every so often, hoping to see instead a sunny, clear, blue sky, but the snow did not let up until after lunch time. But by the time I was leaving work there was no more snow, the sun had come out and you would never have known it snowed unless you'd seen it with your very eyes. Like it had been a dream.

But the best thing about today. The most awesome, laugh-out-loud inducing thing that I came across today, really needs no explaining. Nor introduction. I will let it speak for itself. It was actually quite lovely that I happened to come across it, as I was beginning my commute to work and we all know about my morning commutes. Today however, I forced a sea change and listened to music all the way to work. It was actually difficult to sit still and not dance. A very excellent way to start Monday if you ask me. Except that then I came across this:

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, March 18

Day 78: Easter Tree

Sadly the weekend has come to an end. We never really had a gorgeous day of sunshine like the past few weekends but that's okay. We needed to focus on things around the apartment so it was better that way. We did get out and about a bit running errands and despite the lack of sunny skies, it was quite warm out, hitting between forty-five and fifty degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, last night we decided to try out a new Indian restaurant (which was fabulous by the way) and in a rushed decision I chose to wear my comfy, fake, fur-lined winter boots, since we'd be walking to the restaurant and the boots have great foot support. Um... am I crazy? I could have worn tennis shoes, which also have great foot support. I literally roasted in the restaurant. During dinner I asked my husband if he thought it would be weird if I took my boots off. I said it jokingly but I really wanted to do it. The couple at the table behind us had on t-shirts and I was envious in my turtleneck t-shirt, pullover sweater and boots. I seriously forgot it was spring.

Until today anyway. While we were out running some errands we stopped by the flower shop across the street from our apartment to see if they had any potting soil. Luckily they had some and they also had these lovely, curly branches with tiny, green leaves blooming on them. "Those would make a great Easter tree," I said to my husband. We ended up leaving with two bunches of pussy willow branches as well. Wait... did I say "Easter tree?" Yes, I am afraid so.

In Sweden they celebrate Easter with bouquets of bare branches, fashioned into "trees" with colorful feathers attached to the tops of the branches. Some even decorate the trees with Easter ornaments like painted eggs, chickens and Easter witches. I know it sounds strange but it will all be explained in more detail as we draw nearer to Easter. The bottom line is that I set up our Easter tree today and I love it! Sometimes I have an idea to create or decorate something a certain way and it doesn't turn out the way I hoped. This time it turned out better than I had hoped. I love it when that happens. So the weekend comes to close on a happy, positive note. We may leave it like this minus the Easter ornaments. What do you think?

Saturday, March 17

Day 77: The Gym

I don't know what most people bring with them when they go to the gym but it seems that every time I go my gym bag is super heavy. It is like I am going on a mini backpacking trip. Let me analyze this. The things I absolutely have to bring with me include my bus card, my gym card, a lock for the locker, a water bottle and my gym shoes. In Sweden you are not allowed to work out in shoes you walk in from the street wearing. You actually have to have "gym shoes". I can understand it. With the long winter here and the muddy, slushy, gravel-y sidewalks one walks through, the gym floors would become disgusting pretty quickly if everyone wore the shoes they came in wearing. So anyway, you would think that these items would not make a bag so heavy, right?

Well, then if you add in flip-flops for the shower, two towels (one for showering and one for using in the sauna), toiletries, lip balm, your id and bank card (just in case) and a change of clothing, there is another five to ten pounds added to the overall weight. I put my backpack on to leave and it feels like I am wearing a sack of weights. Normally I only shower at the gym if I go to swim and today I just walkjogged (yes, one word) on the treadmill. However, in planning my gym visit this morning I thought that taking in a hot sauna would be a nice thing to do on an overcast morning. By the time I finished my workout however, I was too hot, even with my cool-down, to even think about a sauna so I merely grabbed my backpack from my locker and lugged it back home.

The best part of today's adventure is that I went to the gym. My workout is getting a little easier each time, which is always a good feeling. Getting in a good workout always makes he rest of my day just ease on by like a smooth, sailing ship on calm water. And given that my commute to and from the gym takes thirty to forty minutes round trip I consider the hauling of my gym bag and extra workout. So it's a win-win.

Friday, March 16

Day 76: Summer Fever

I have a severe case of summer fever today. It had nothing to do with a gorgeous, sun-filled day, since it, in fact, was not a particularly nice day. In fact, today started off with an overcast sky and tear-inducing, wind, not to mention that it just felt plain cold. I usually take the subway or the bus to work, depending on my mood and partly the weather. On really beautiful days I sometimes cannot bear to go undergr0und to ride the subway. The force of the sun's rays are like a gravitational pull that move my feet toward the bus stop. It feels good to take the bus on sunny days. I can look out the windows and see the gorgeous, blue sky and, as we go over västerbron (the bridge that connects the islands of Södermalm and Kungsholmen), I can look out at the skyline of the old town area, city hall and the row of colorful buildings along the waterfront of Kungsholmen. It is a quite spectacular view actually. I took the bus earlier this week and as I looked down into the water from the bridge I noticed that there is only a scattering of floating, ice planks left in the water. The ice is nearly all melted. A sure sign of spring.

Speaking of spring, let me get back to my summer fever. It was fairly quiet at the office today so I took the opportunity to look at an online map of Stockholm and the surrounding area. With the weather starting to warm up more and more I am finding the itch to widen our circle of exploration in the Stockholm area. The archipelago is so vast and there are literally thousands of islands to explore and become acquainted with. We have some friends coming to visit soon and they are fairly outdoorsy so I am thinking ahead and looking for activities to do with them while they are here.

One area on the map in the outer archipelago reminded me of a photo I came across last year. It was a photo of a tiny, rock island and the only thing on the island was a kayak. It's owner had apparently gone for a swim. The island itself was probably twenty feet in diameter, if that, and surrounded by ocean and other small islands like it. It was stunning. I tried very hard to figure out where this island was but to no avail. Summer came and went. We took excursions to other places and I promptly forgot about my lovely, secluded, rock island.

Today I found it. I found many islands that looked nearly identical and at the same time I discovered a company that does day-trip, kayaking excursions out to places just like this. It was like magic. The itching and fever to go there grew stronger and stronger with each new discovery of how I could get there. The funny thing however, is that this summer fever is not like the spring fever you feel when you are completely burned out and feel the need to play (hooky) and have fun. It is more like a burst of excitement filled with a renewed energy and zest for adventure. I am inspired by my discoveries and I can't wait to plan my next excursion. For now, I'm going to go do a little happy dance and celebrate my summer fever.

Thursday, March 15

Day 75: T-shirt, Flip-flop, Ice Cream Days

Nothing makes me happier after the long, Swedish winter than being able to slide my feet into a pair of lace-up shoes instead of my heavy, clunky winter boots. Funny because I equally love pulling all of my boots out in the fall. There is usually a weekend day when I take them all out and line them up to be polished and prepped for wearing. After six months of it however I tend to get tired of all of the clothing that I have to put on to go outside. Layers of sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves, boots.... then suddenly the days comes when you can begin to shed the hat and gloves and maybe even put on a lighter coat.

It is very refreshing, though I must add that soon will be the days when I find myself most often improperly clad. In the days when the weather is "between seasons", as I like to call it, I find that I am either too hot or too cold. It seems that I can never quite get the right combination. Right now, however, I am perfectly happy to be able to wear my tennis shoes or lace-up, granny shoes and suffer through it if I am a tad too cold. I'll just warm myself by dreaming of the t-shirt, flip-flop and ice cream days to come.

Wednesday, March 14

Day 74: Super Hero Pose

I've discovered an instant fix for bad moods, bad days, just bad anything really. It only takes a minute or so to feel the effects. It costs nothing (except maybe a little embarrassment if you are the shy type) and it can be done pretty much anywhere. I suppose even in your imagination, where you wouldn't even need to be embarrassed since only you would be able to "see" yourself. Are you ready for it?

Stand like a super hero. I know it's completely silly but you have to try it. It really works. If you are feeling down and out or just need a quick pick-me-up, simply employ the super hero pose - feet shoulder width apart, hands in fists and on your hips with your elbows pushed forward so that they are just in front of your body - and just try not to smile. It is unavoidable. I suppose a cape might help with the overall image but that would only add to the potential embarrassment. Seriously though, just do it. Channel Superman or Wonder Woman or whoever your favorite super hero is. If nothing else, it will at least make you smile.

Super powers.... activate!

Tuesday, March 13

Day 73: Lemon

Besides sunshine there is nothing so cheery and refreshing as the taste of fresh lemon. Lemon cake, lemon muffins, lemon squares or even fresh, squeezed lemonade. I love the flavor of lemon. It is like a burst of sunshine in your mouth. Even the color of a lemon is happy. Bright and sunny, like a summery day.

My office receives a weekly fruit basket filled with bananas, pears, oranges, and apples and then, because the fruit itself is not enough, there is a scattering of fruit, flavored, candy chews. For the past year I have avoided them. I thought it was strange that there would even be candy in a fruit basket. Seems to defeat the purpose really. Then one day last week I noticed a sunny, yellow wrapper. It was lemon. Hmmm. It couldn't hurt to just try one. Right?

Unfortunately it was quite tasty. Not too sweet and no sugary aftertaste. Today I discovered two sunny, yellow wrappers in the fruit basket. They do not take the place of a deliciously, moist, lemon muffin or cake but they satisfied my afternoon craving and the lemony goodness sparked a smile in my dreary afternoon. Sometimes when life gives you lemon candy, you have to just eat it.

Monday, March 12

Day 72: Ignore-ance is Bliss

I vaguely remember waking up once early this morning and our cat was sitting next to my shoulder looking at me. Purring. I ignored her and went back to sleep, easily and effortlessly. And she let me. Next time I woke up the alarm was going off. It was pure bliss sleeping nearly through the entire night. Makes for a much, more happy and pleasant Monday morning. Thank you kitty.

Perhaps ignoring her is the key. I usually wake up to the sound of her purring and I reach up to pet her in an effort to get her to lie down and go to sleep. It seldom works but at four a.m. I don't think so logically and so every morning I start petting her, or my husband starts petting her, and it merely serves to rile her up. She then wants to play with my hair, which would be nice if it was just a soft sort of petting but she gets more and more excited once she gets started and then suddenly she starts attacking to kill (the hair). Unfortunately I am attached to the hair.

I think this ignore-ance may be a solution. I will continue to ignore her during her early, morning visits and hopefully we will continue to be allowed to sleep through the night. For now, I will relish last night's sleep and hope for bliss. (Please kitty).

Sunday, March 11

Day 71: Quiet and Peaceful

Today's adventure included taking the commuter train out to an area of the archipelago called Saltsjöbaden. I had read about a place there called Vår Gård - a hotel and conference center that looked like a cool place to check out on a sunny day. And it was a lovely, sunny day today. It started out a little cloudy but it eventually cleared up and was absolutely gorgeous.

There is still a fairly, large clump of islands between Saltsjöbaden and the open ocean (Baltic Sea) but it felt fairly secluded there, like being in the country. It was quiet and peaceful with a forest of pine trees pressed up against the ocean. Hard to believe it was only a thirty-minute ride from the hustle and bustle of the city.

I needed just that. Quiet and peaceful. I needed to be outdoors, away from too many people and too many noises. Basically I needed to be away from the city. It was a perfect afternoon. I would love to go back in the summer. I am sure it will be a completely different atmosphere then, filled up with boats and people and sunny laughter. Picnic anyone?

Saturday, March 10

Day 70: Music Memory

You know the term muscle memory? When your muscles respond more quickly when you start exercising after a long break because they remember doing it before? Well, my body has music memory. I was listening to music with my earphones while on my way to the gym this morning and the music made me want to dance. My body responds to music like that. It just wants to move to the beat. I love music and I love to dance and it was all I could do to stand still at the bus stop while I waited for my bus. I think I probably bounced a little and made some hand gestures. I couldn't help it.

There are so many songs that bring up happy memories. Music memory is like a camera memory card except there is no limit to how many gigabytes it can hold in terms of songs. There are a lifetime of songs recorded on my internal, music, memory drive. Everything from Shirley Temple to Prince to Single Gun Theory.

One time my husband and I were cabin camping in Oklahoma and the weather was really crappy. It rained and rained and then rained some more. We were determined to grill our dinner so we ran back and forth in the rain checking it every so often. That night we decided to turn on the TV and amazingly the movie, Grease, was on. "Oh, let's watch it," I said. I sang along to every song. I think it scared my husband but it was awesome. I couldn't even believe I still remembered all those songs. I'll admit, I was a bit rusty on some of the words but I knew most of them pretty well.

Music really affects my moods. I remember in early college years listening to 1999 before going out dancing to get in a dancing mood. Nowadays I like to listen to classical music to relax and feel calm. If I'm working out at the gym I love to listen to Earth, Wind & Fire, Maroon 5, Prince or a number of others. The list goes on and on. Regardless I can always change my mood by listening to music. It's a happy enhancer.

Friday, March 9

Day 69: Spontaneity

The worst thing about today was waking up at five a.m. with a migraine and knowing I had to get up and get ready for work soon. But thanks to Advil and a coke my headache started to melt away and I was able to get on with my Friday and get to my weekend. We didn't have any specific plans for the evening, or for the weekend for that matter, but none-the-less I always look forward to relaxing at home with my husband and my cat and maybe going for a long walk somewhere or visiting a museum.

This afternoon however I had an idea. Why didn't we go out for a drink after work and then go home and make dinner? For my husband's birthday we'd had dinner at a great, little, quirky restaurant called Nyagatan. That evening we had some of the best mojitos we've ever had, and I have had some really, good ones. I sent a message to my husband asking if he wanted to go have a mojito at Nyagatan tonight after work. "Sure," he replied. That was easy. It was a date!

Sometimes when you experience a restaurant for a special occasion the memory of that experience can live on for months, sometimes years, and then you go back to the same place with the expectations of your previous visit and you are disappointed. Well, I can honestly say that we were definitely not disappointed on our second visit to Nyagatan. The mojitos were as great as I remembered and the atmosphere was still cozy and romantic. The restaurant was decorated with paper lanterns which reminded me of the paper lanterns we used to decorate our wedding reception. Such a happy memory.

I loved being spontaneous tonight. There is something freeing and happy provoking about being in the moment and doing something completely unplanned and exciting. We were both tired from our week but we decided to go anyway and it was absolutely worth it. It was a great kick off to our weekend.

Thursday, March 8

Day 68: The Kindness of Strangers

It always makes me happy when I see people being kind to children. Yesterday I was on the subway on my way home from work when a mother and her young daughter came aboard at the stop just before mine and sat across from me. An other woman came and sat to my right. The daughter was tired and cranky. Her mother wanted to put lip balm on her daughter's dry, cracked lips and she wanted none of that. She started to cry that "I've played too hard today and I'm too tired to be tired" cry. She leaned her head back and whined softly. Her mother was patient and probably tired herself. She let it go.

Shortly afterward the little girl noticed that the woman across from me was reading a book and had just moved her bookmark to the back of the book while she picked up reading where she had left off. The little girl asked her what the bookmark was. The woman immediately stopped reading, took the bookmark out and turned it so the little girl could see the picture on it. It's an Indian," she said. The little girl's entire face brightened up, obviously delighted with the Indian on the bookmark, but she had never seen a bookmark and inquired further. The woman started to explain that the bookmark would mark her place when she stopped reading so that when she began again she wouldn't have to start all over. The little girl was beyond fascinated and her eyes smiled with joy.

Before I was able to hear the rest of the conversation the train had come to my stop and I had to exit. It was probably a quick, two-minute exchange that I witnessed between the stranger and the little girl but it warmed my heart. The woman who had sat next to me was kind to the little girl, genuinely kind. Children deserve all the love and kindness in the world. Give them that and a pinch of discipline and they will be ready to take on anything. I smiled to myself as I walked home, remembering the expression of sheer joy on the little girl's face.

Wednesday, March 7

Day 67: Girl Time

I didn't even realized how much I needed some good 'ol girl time until after my unexpected lunch date today. I got a text message from one of my close friends this morning asking if I wanted to meet for lunch today and if so, where and what time. I love spontaneity. I quickly replied with a couple of suggestions and next thing I knew we had a date. At twelve o'clock on the dot I left my office and sprint-walked down to Govinda's.

Govinda's is a completely vegetarian restaurant, run by a Hare Krishna center, and it is virtually spitting distance from my office. Everyday they serve three different dishes - a vegetarian lasagna, a large veggie platter and then a small veggie platter. The large plate includes almost everything - the soup of the day, the vegetable stew of the day with rice, salad, some type of baked fritter, homemade bread, pappadom (crispy, Indian bread) and this amazing tomato, cinnamon chutney. I know that last item sounds weird but it is actually incredibly delicious and just the slightest bit spicy, which always makes me happy. I had the lasagna and I gobbled it down like it was my first meal in days.

Because of my short lunch break we were not able to have the most leisure of lunches but it was a perfect break from the office and the perfect pick-me-up. She walked with me back to my office building and when we said goodbye I thanked her for inviting me to lunch. I returned to work refreshed and energized. Sometimes just a little bit of girl time is all we need to give us a boost. Happy found me today and I didn't even have to go looking for it.

Tuesday, March 6

Day 66: Light at the End of the Tunnel

Yesterday I decided I’d had enough of this shoulder issue and decided, since I broke up with my physical therapist last week, to give my new private health insurance a test spin. I called the “sjukvårdsrådgivning” number on the back of my card (health care advice) and spoke to a very nice nurse who was able to schedule me for an appointment first thing this morning. Impressive so far. The doctor was pleasant enough and after a quick exam he said that he was sending me to a naprapat (naprapathic therapist), wrote me a referral and sent me on my way. By noon I had found a naprapat near my office and scheduled a lunchtime appointment. I was a bit apprehensive of my selection, given my recent choice of physical therapist, but I headed down the hill with a spring in my step, hoping for the best. It was a gorgeous day full of sunshine, blue skies and mild breezes.

I stepped into the Naprapat clinic. “Please remove your shoes,” the sign on the desk read. I heard laughter coming from a back room. A good sign. I took off my shoes and started to remove my coat to hang on the rack when a bubbly, blond woman walked in and greeted me. She was Sophie, my therapist. After filling out a bit of paperwork and answering some questions we got right to work, or rather, she did. She had me lie on a massage table that was fairly low to the ground. She pressed her fingers into my back, magically in the exact spot where I have been having the issue. “There it is,” she stated and then continued, “We’re going to take care of this.” Finally. It was like an angel had been sent from heaven. And I felt that I was in good hands. She had a strong, southern Sweden accent and strong hands. Both made me feel immediately comfortable. Normally I have a difficult time understand Swedes who speak with a strong, southern accent but I could understand her. Fairly well, anyway. She went to work on me and I could feel my muscles reluctantly start to give in. I think that is all they really wanted. Someone to really push the crap out of them.

I left with another appointment for next week and no tingling in my shoulder blade. If that’s not happiness I don’t know what is. I finally feel that there is a light at the end of the tunnel (of shoulder tingling recovery) and I am pretty sure it is not headlights of an oncoming train.

Monday, March 5

Day 65: City Hiking

”It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily. “So it is.” “And freezing.” “Is it?” “Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”
– A.A.Milne

The ability to see the bright side of things has always been one of those catch 22 things for me. Being a Libra I like to weigh all sides of an argument or topic and sometimes the not-so-positive side is pretty convincing. The quote above, taken from Winnie the Poo, brings to life how important it is to seek out the positive, even if the negative is pulling on your pant leg. In the same way that Eeyore, in the midst of freezing and being unhappy about the cold, can see the positive, I have decided that being grumpy can coexist with being happy. I have given myself permission to be grumpy if I feel like it and not feel bad about it. Sometimes I can feel grumpy and still see the positive in life. Grumpy sometimes just goes with the territory. Like being gloomy for Eeyore (except that I am not always grumpy).

It is not snowing in Stockholm anymore. Really snowing, anyway. I am sure we will get several more bouts of snow before the cherry blossoms break open in a fury but the good news is that Stockholm doesn’t have earthquakes. One thing that Stockholm does have however is an abundance of parks and nature areas smack dab in the middle of the city. Today I went for a lunch time walk with one of my colleagues. I led her on the first half of the walk, down streets that I had discovered were the best for taking in maximum sunshine on a nice, sunny day, like today. When we were ready to turn back she asked how we should go and I said that I normally just turn around and head back. That was not happening. She said that she can never do the same thing twice so we headed off into uncharted territories, on an adventure back to our office.

Before we would return to the office we would find ourselves hiking up the side of a hill on an icy path, ducking under low lying branches of trees as we maneuvered tricky parts of the path, and hopping over boulders. All in the middle of the city. We made it back alive with no incidents and it was a whole new sort of refreshing feel to have gone “hiking” on my lunch break just steps away from my office.

Sunday, March 4

Day 64: Sunshine, Bicycles and Mini Pretzel Dogs

My day started out with house cleaning. Fun, right? But then the sun insisted on flooding in through the windows. It grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “You don’t know how long I am going to be around today. It’s time to head outside and play.” Okay. I’m not one to argue with the sun so my husband changed out of our cleaning clothes and into our adventure clothes and headed out on our bikes. At first I thought that maybe the sun telling me to go outside was a secret and that we would have the entire outdoors to ourselves. Ha. It became apparent rather quickly that the sun was two-timing me and had made this demand of every other inhabitant of Stockholm. It was a gorgeous spring-like day and everyone was out and about. Everyone and their [mini pretzel] dog.

I am happy to say that the days of curling up on the couch with a good book are over. That is, as long as the sun continues to show its face like today. The long, dark passage of winter is rapidly being overtaken with longer, brighter and happier, sunshiny days. It was still a bit cold out but soon the temperatures will start to stay above freezing and before I know it we will be walking to Mariatorget in broad daylight, at nine p.m., for an ice cream. Something to look forward to…

But speaking of mini pretzel dogs, I came across this recipe for these pretzel dogs and they were so cute and looked so tasty that we decided that we had to try it this weekend. We made them this afternoon and they turned out pretty great if you ask me.

See for yourselves:

As far as recipes go, it was a fairly, simple one, aside from having to convert dry active yeast to fresh, cake yeast. But with Google nearly all things are possible and conversions such as this are a piece of cake [or pretzel]. They always say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I think that saying also applies to me. My stomach seems to be the gateway to happiness. And even though I blew my diet today and ate four mini pretzel dogs (okay three mini and one medium) as a snack, I feel happy knowing that I will start my work week after a Sunday filled with sunshine, bicycles and mini pretzel dogs.

For the recipe click here: Mini Pretzel Dogs

Saturday, March 3

Day 63: Walking Distance

Day 63: Walking Distance

What do a paint store, a light store, a shoe repair shop, a grocery store, a frame shop, a vitamin shop, and an appliance store all have in common? They are all within a mile’s walking distance from our apartment. And it only took two hours to make the rounds to all of them, with a pit stop at our apartment in the middle. Sometimes it’s just simple things like this that make me happy. If I were living in Dallas all of these errands would have most likely taken half a day and I would have had to drive to all of them.

Did I buy the paint for my Green Room project? No, unfortunately the paint samples I brought home yesterday did not go well with the color of the other walls. So we brought more samples home, now in varying earthy shades of clay and cappuccino, and we are even considering new wallpaper as an option as well. We are not back to square one but it may take a bit more time to decide on my simple, little, tiny wall. I’ll get back to you with an update soon…

Friday, March 2

Day 62: The Green Room

Redecorating is always a fun way to spruce up one’s mood. Sometimes you don't even realize that you need to redecorate but then the idea comes up and after contemplating it for a while, the day arrives when something must be done. We have lived in our apartment now for just over two years and I have wanted to paint over the wallpaper in the guest bedroom since shortly after we moved in. I decided that this weekend is it. We have narrowed the color down to a shade of mossy green. The room is bathed in sun light and natural light most of the day so a nice, warm color will accentuate the soothing effect. I tend to shy away from cooler colors. They just feel, well cold. Give me warm, inviting, even bold color any day.

It is crazy how excited I am to paint this tiny wall. The wallpaper itself isn't horrible but I just feel that it isn't us. I actually wouldn't mind a different wallpaper but a clean, painted wall provides much more decorating flexibility. Just decorating in general will be good. So far there are two beds in there, and one stays rolled under the other one unless we have two guests, which is usually the case. Oh, there are two chairs in there now as well, from when we replaced our dining table and chairs in December. You see, storage.

Several of our friends and family members have stayed with us during the past two years but for the most part the guest room has served as an additional storage area, occasional, exercise room, or temporary holding for things on their way to Stockholm Stadsmission (Goodwill). Even so, every time I pass the room I cringe when I see the wall paper. Not anymore. Now it will be transformed into my art room/sanctuary. We plan to install a built-in desk under the window next and then add some shelves to the wall above the bed. It is a work in progress but I hope to have it complete within a couple of months. For now I will focus on the paint.

Thursday, March 1

Day 61: Kungsholmsstrand - A Walk Along the Water

I love to explore. Today during my lunch break I decided to go on an adventure. I had figured out by map the other day that I could walk down a side street from my office to get to the water and walk along Kungsholmsstrand. When the path starts to curve around the island I could just circle back around up through the neighborhood and get back to my office. All within thirty or forty minutes. Squeeze in a light workout and commune with nature at the same time.

The sun was in hiding but it was warm (a sweltering 45 F) and nearly all of the snow and ice were melted. Once we spring forward and the sun is out well past six in the evening I will be riding my bike to work on a regular basis. Then I'll be able to take lunchtime excursions a little further away from the office and do some real exploring. Walking is great and I love exploring a city by foot but getting around by bicycle is even better in a city like Stockholm. You can cover twice as much ground, maybe more. Ah.... just the anticipation of those days puts a smile on my face.

Down where the walking path wound around the edge of the island I saw that the area was under development. I made a detour to go check things out. There were several new restaurants and cafes, as well as other shops and services. A sign in one of the vacant store fronts said “kayak events” and along the water there was a beautiful, boarded, walking path being built. What a lovely summer hangout it would be. It will be fun to watch the development as everything comes together. I definitely will come back there on my lunch break when it is sunny and warm. Maybe even go kayaking and have an ice cream.