Tuesday, July 31

Day 213: Happy On My Bike

I love riding my bike fast through the streets of Stockholm. Feeling the wind blowing against my face and being able to get from point A to point B so quickly is one of my happiest feelings. At lunch today I took my bike and rode into the city center to pick up something yummy to eat. There are many restaurants by my office but I needed to see and taste something new. I was amazed to see how many people were out and about. A large portion of them are probably here on vacation, playing tourist and seeing the sights, and many are just locals who happen to be on stay-cation, or stay-at-home vacation, but the number of people out was still surprising.

My stomach was set on a tuna sandwich at my favorite Italian cafe but by the time I reached Hötorget I was super hungry and my stomach decided to stop there instead. I ended up trying something new at a place called Hav, which means sea or ocean in Swedish. Guess what they were selling... Give up? Okay... it was seafood. I found a salad made with salt water crawfish, salad greens, cooked barley, black beans, cucumber and a slice of Västerbotten cheese. I thought the cheese slice was a bit odd but funny enough it was really delicious with the small rolls that came with it. And it was a nice accent to the crawfish so apparently the chef knew what she was doing.

So, back on my bike I rode like a fiend back to the office, swishing around corners and enjoying the sun shining down on my face. Off in the not so far distance was a big, black, rain cloud but I made it back without a single drop falling. Thirty minutes later, it started raining like it meant business. When I went to the window to take a look the rain was coming down in sheets and I could see that it was also hailing with some pieces as big as marbles. Yikes. That would definitely not have been pleasant while on my bike. And how lucky that by the time I was on my way home after work the sun was back out and shining.

Monday, July 30

Day 212: Jar of Happiness

Home is not always sweet after a vacation when neither you, your husband nor your cat are ready to come home, but there are definitely things I am thankful for in being home after our vacation last week. Here's a list of some of them:

1. The ability to take a long shower without running out of hot water.

2. Getting to be back on my BICYCLE!

3. 18 Smakar (ice cream parlor) around the corner. Just knowing it is there comforts me.

4. Grocery stores in walking distance and only five minutes away at that.

5. Did I already mention getting to ride my bicycle?

6. It is still, or rather, finally summer here in Stockholm. Good for swimming, bad for sleeping, but overall it's awesome so I'll take the hot nights and stop complaining.

I got a haircut today, which is one of my favorite ways of being pampered. I love going to get my hair cut. It is so relaxing to have someone else wash my hair, and one of the added benefits of my salon is that I get a wonderful head massage at the end of the wash. I may have started blowing spit bubbles, I'm not completely sure, but my eyes were closed and I may have even jerked slightly at one point. Did I fall asleep? It wouldn't surprise me after having to get up so early today. It is always difficult getting up early on Monday, after sleeping in all weekend, and it was especially difficult today after a lovely week of sleeping in until I woke up, with no alarm going off or cat pouncing to wake me up.

The weather was also really nice today so I was able to ride my bike to work and to my haircut appointment. The salon is located in one of the more hip and trendy neighborhoods around S:t Eriksplan (Saint Erik's Square). I left the office fifteen minutes before my scheduled appointment. I hate to be late but I didn't want to be too early either. However, It only took me five minutes to get to the vicinity of the salon so I decided to browse the neighborhood just a bit as I made my way there. I spotted out of the corner of my eye a tiny bakery called Bröd och Salt (Bread and Salt). I was so excited because I have bought their bread before at their location in the new MOOD Stockholm shopping center, located in the city center, and it was amazing. So I parked my bike to go in and pick up a loaf of their specialty, appropriately named, bröd och salt. It is a dark bread made with dark syrup, giving it a rich, slightly, sweet flavor, and then it is sprinkled with flakes of sea salt over the top. Quite heavenly, I assure you.

The icing on the cake however was another thing that caught my eye while I was in the bakery. Are you ready for it? You might want to be sitting down. I spotted a jar of rhubarb jam. I had seen this particular jam before in the grocery store and apparently I misread the price (thankfully) and thought it was 350 Swedish kronor, which is around eighty U.S. dollars. I thought it was completely ridiculous so when I asked about the price today and the sweet girl said fifty kronor I said, "I'll take one." Yes, I know, fifty kronor is still around ten dollars but it is rhubarb and having tasted it before I can say that it is definitely worth the price. Plus, I think ten dollars is a fair price for a jar of happiness, don't you?

Just for fun, here are a few of my favorite vacation photos, not in any particular order:

Beautiful pink and white stock roses along the side of the summer house...

This guy, and about a hundred others, was crossing the street one evening after a heavy rain... some of them unfortunately had gotten splatted.

My husband's dad fried us up some mackerel, caught by a local fisherman) one evening. Served with lingon jam and boiled potatoes. Delicious!

Some pretty wild flowers growing in the yard...

Their house!

On display at an art gallery. I actually found a really old one once but my husband wouldn't let me take it home. The paint was all chipping off but I still thought it was cool. Next time...

I should have put something next to it so you could see the size. It was probably three inches across.

Someone getting bold...

The blue lagoon.

Bird watching.

On their way home. Funny, we were too but their car looked cuter.

Sunday, July 29

Day 211: Key to Life

I found the key to life. Okay maybe it isn't THE key to life, but it looks like it should be some mysterious, magical key to life, doesn't it? It is actually the key to open the garage at the summer cottage. I love old things like this old-fashioned, skeleton key and I especially love that things such as this still exist and are in use in Sweden.

One of the keys to our apartment is also an old fashioned skeleton key but not quite as big as this one. When we moved to Stockholm and closed on our apartment, the previous owners handed us the keys I was delighted when I saw this old key. "That's for our apartment?!" I asked with glee. It was like living in part of a fairy tale where you get to unlock the magic castle with the magical key, every day.

Our apartment is by no means a magic castle in the fairy tale sense but we really like it and I love opening, and locking, our front door with this key. The fascination and awe still exist. I have never used an old key like this before so it could take a while for the novelty to wear off.

But on a serious note, we just returned to the big city (Stockholm) from the country (Tjörn) and I can honestly say that the key to life lies in finding the balance. The balance between work and play, or simply put, seriousness and fun. Swedes call this balance "lagom," which literally translate to mean "just right." I think it is a very good word to describe balance.

Balance for me was spending a glorious week out at Tjörn at the summer cottage. Sitting lazily in the corner chair and reading my detective novel, working in the yard and hauling cut branches up the hill, watching our kitty get to explore the great outdoors for the first time in her young kitty life, cooking good food and going on boat trip picnics and swimming in the ocean. It was definitely and perfectly lagom.

Saturday, July 28

Day 210: Fresh Summer Berries

From the bush... to the bucket... to the table... 

Nearly everyone has experienced going to pick wild, fresh berries as a kid or adult. When I was a kid we used to go pick wild, blackberries. They grew along the railroad tracks and I can recall, with fond memories, the summer evenings my parents would take us and our empty buckets to pick berries. We usually returned home with buckets brimming full. The berries were washed and eaten in bowls with milk poured over and sugar sprinkled on top. I loved to drink the sweet, purple milk that was left at the bottom of the bowl. 

Here at the summer cottage there is an area up on the rocky hill behind the house where wild blackberries grow and then down by the house are a few planted bushes that grow krusbär, or gooseberries, and svart vinbär, or black currants. Just yesterday we finished the homemade krusbär jam that my husband's mother made earlier in the week and today I baked a yummy pie with the svart vinbär. Mums (Super yummy in Swedish)!

The first time I came here to visit Sweden with my husband, who was at that time my boyfriend, I remember picking and eating these berries right from the bush. He told me about when he was a kid and would spend the whole day playing outside. He would eat carrots and other vegetables from the garden after rinsing them off with the hose and he snacked on the berries throughout the day. 

It reminded me of when I was eight or nine years old and we would visit one of my great aunts. She had the most wonderful cherry tomato plants growing in her back yard. I had never seen them before. They were the perfect size for my little hands and mouth and were amazingly sweet. I loved to feel them burst in my mouth when I sunk my teeth in them. There were always significantly less tomatoes on her plants after our visits. Of course, a little "thief" was eating them.

I don't know what it is about them but fresh summer berries and vegetables from the garden always taste better when brushed off or rinsed with the hose and eaten outside. Apparently wild blueberries grow in the forests around Stockholm and I plan to go on a berry picking adventure soon. 

Krusbär, or gooseberries on the bush...

Rinsed off and pretty, sitting in a blue bowl...

Svart vinbär, or black currants, ready to be picked and eaten...

Homemade pie with svart vinbär and wild raspberries and blackberries from Tjörn with a few added store bought blueberries for good measure.

Friday, July 27

Day 209: Skaboholmen

Make a picnic, pack towels, a book and an extra swimsuit, load up the car, drive down to the dock and load up the boat. Take the boat over to Skaboholmen for a swim, picnic, hike and refreshing pear cider. Repeat for three days and call me in the morning.

Seriously, if I was a doctor I would prescribe this. I can think of nothing better for the body, mind and soul than salt water, sunshine and a bit of exercise. The area of Skaboholmen that we usually go to is off limits right now due to a horrific oil spill that happened and washed ashore there last autumn. It was such sad news to hear and there are still signs up on the rocks of Skaboholmen warning of the risk of contamination, but to the eye, amazingly, it looks great. I had expected to see a black rim of tar encasing the rocks and there was some black coloring on some of the rocks but I am pretty sure it was natural wear and tear from the elements. Lucky for the wildlife and for us.

Since we were not able to access our normal spot at Skaboholmen, we found a new one. Which actually turned out to be awesome so we returned to it for three days straight. Also good for me because of my fear of the water. It usually works well for me to go back to the same spot that I've already gotten used to. Even better that my kind husband goes on maneter (jellyfish) patrol before I get in so that I can feel a bit more relaxed in the water. I am not going to kid you, the water is C O L D here. I am not even sure how or why I get in it but I can say that once you are over the initial shock, it is quite nice and actually very refreshing.

Tomorrow the weather forecast calls for rain all day and we are heading back to Stockholm first thing Sunday morning so today was our last boat trip out to Skaboholmen this summer. It is always bittersweet. We know we will return again next year but it is such a magical and special place to us, it's always difficult to leave. I am just so thankful that we had good luck with the weather and had a few glorious days to enjoy taking the boat out to Skaboholmen for swimming, picnics and hiking. I think Pina will miss Tjörn also.

See you again next year!

Way out beyond the horizon is England... :-)

Panorama that my husband took... ah... we love this place!

View from the top of the rocky cliff looking down at our boat and picnic area...

Peanut butter and banana "s'more" for lunch...

Thursday, July 26

Day 208: Livsnjutare

I learned yet another new Swedish word today. I love learning new words. Especially when the new word is more of an expression than just a word. It makes it much easier to remember for one thing and for another thing, it makes me feel like I am becoming part of the "club." Earlier this afternoon my husband walked into the bedroom of our summer cottage, saw the kitty cozied up in the bed like she owned it and said, "You aren't a livsnjutare at all, are you?" "What does that mean?" I asked. He said that it means "someone who enjoys life." I can honestly say that we have all been enjoying life this week at Tjörn. It is definitely a magical place, full of a certain, special energy that just causes you to spontaneously relax when you are here. Especially kitty.

She seems to have discovered a new definition of relaxation out here in the country. And for a cat that's pretty good since cats are basically professionals at relaxation. Normally she is an indoor kitty but being out here in the country we figured it would be good for her to get a taste of the wild outdoor air. So we started preparing her for our week at Tjörn months ago and bought her a harness and leash so that we could begin taking her out on the balcony at home. It isn't quite the same thing however. Back in Stockholm we had to nearly force her to let us put the harness on and then she would sit two feet away from the doorway to the balcony, barely seeming interested in going out. Understandably as, after all, there is no grass to walk in or eat, no trees to stalk birds in or rustling leaves to excite the senses.

At Tjörn however, and after a couple of days of precariously stepping over the threshold of the doorway to the outside, walking around on korta ben, or short legs, sniffing and sampling nearly everything she passed, I now merely have to hold up the harness and said, "Go outside?" and she comes running and meowing and sits patiently while I put it on. We then head out for exciting, but semi-stressful, promenades through the grass and up the rocky hillside. After these walks we have found her sleeping in various positions that appear as though she is melting into the floor, bed, sofa or wherever she happens to decide is a good place for a nap. She is completely tuckered out, our little livsnjutare. We love that kitty cat.

Yes, her belly is as soft and cuddly as it looks... notice her curled back paw and tail. Livsnjutare.

Wednesday, July 25

Day 207: Smiling With My Whole Body

Five days ago, on Day 201, I wrote about making and sending someone a postcard with a hole in it so that they could look at the sky through the hole. This postcard traveled across the world from Sweden to Texas in four days. That in itself is miraculous. My friend received the postcard yesterday and sent me photos that she'd taken, looking through the hole. Receiving these photos made me equally happy, maybe even more so, than sending the postcard to begin with.

The first thing she said in her message to me was, "I did it!" With a photo included. Shortly afterward I received another message that said, "I did it more than once actually." I was smiling with my whole body. How fun! I love when people are willing to play along and do something silly and fun. I think this was Yoko Ono's original intention as well. I think that she hoped that people would let go of their inhibitions and just embrace something as silly as cutting a hole out of a homemade postcard and mailing that postcard to a friend with instructions to look at the sky through that hole.

I like too that she asked her "pupils" to look at the sky through the hole and not the ground or somewhere else. There is something happy and positive about looking up and the sky always cheers me up. Even on a cloudy day. So a big thank you to my friend, K, for participating in my fun. I am really happy that the gesture was appreciated. Now it is my hope that all of you will also participate and make your own postcard with a hole in it and send it to a friend with instructions to look at the sky through the hole.

"I did it" photo

...And the photos that followed...

This one is quirky and fun with the silhouetted roof-top (?) items... 

They are all wonderful but I especially love the first one with the view of a neighboring house in the background.

Tuesday, July 24

Day 206: This is MY House

When I was a kid I loved to climb trees. Any time I found a tree that was "climbable" you could find me in it. I loved to claim which section of the tree was MY house and then name which branches were the kitchen, living room and bedroom. Funny enough, there was never a bathroom. I guess we never needed a bathroom back then. What kid does right? Well, anyway this "MY house" game has followed me into "adulthood" to the rocks and cliffs at Tjörn. When I find a cool rock, or area on the cliffs, I say, "This is MY house, but you can come over if you want to."

Back in the day I would offer imaginary tea and cake but these days I sometimes actually have a thermos of coffee and some kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon rolls) or cake to offer. Those are ideal days. There are still many days of imaginary offerings. Yesterday was one of them. We went on a walk that turned into a hike over the rocky cliffs down to the water where my husband used to go with his friends to build rafts each summer. There is a photo somewhere of one of these rafts with him and his friends standing on it, Huckleberry Finn-styled, all of them barefoot and fancy free, without a care in the world. After we found this spot and reminisced a bit we forged on over the next rise and down to the water, where I found MY house.

It was an incredibly windy day but still peaceful and quiet, with only the occasional sound of water crashing against the rocks or a bird calling out. I love "living" out in nature with my house in the open air, even if it is only temporary. The imagination is a lovely thing to take with you when you spend an afternoon out on the craggy rocks of Tjörn.

"This is MY house..." said my husband.

Monday, July 23

Day 205: On a [Cake] Pedestal

You never know what kind of weather you are going to get in Sweden and it doesn't matter how many times you alternate which week in July or August you choose to be at the summer house, there is no guarantee that the sun will be shining or that it will be warm. Sometimes you get lucky and the weather is heavenly and other times it is similar to a quote that has been attributed to Mark Twain: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." I am not sure he actually said this but the quote itself holds some truth. I once lived in Berkeley, California across the bay from San Francisco and I remember one summer going to San Francisco to meet a friend for a movie. She told me to bring a coat. So I brought a light jacket. Well, she actually meant a "coat" and I nearly froze to death. So here at Tjörn, which is often like "summer in San Francisco," I always plan for something warm to wear as well as other activities to do and plenty of books to read on days when it isn't swimming and picnic weather.

Art galleries, art exhibits and museum visits are often part of our summer time at Tjörn. Södra Hamnen 31Galleri is one of the lovely art galleries in the town of Skärhamn that we like to visit when we are here. The gallery features the works of local artisans and artists and much of their work is both functional and beautiful. It is one of those galleries where I sometimes find many things I'd like to purchase and other times I don't see anything that catches my eye. On our most recent visit I discovered this adorable, mini cake pedestal and couldn't bear to leave (or live) without it. It is the perfect size for an individual birthday cake, or other small celebration treat for one or two people. Maybe I'll have to break it in this week with a small treat for the two of us.

Side view with a lovely vase of summer house flowers in the back ground.

Top view with a digestive biscuit. It is sort of a cross between a graham cracker and a butter cookie.

Sunday, July 22

Day 204: "Country House" Cat

After a long car ride yesterday, stuck inside of her cat carrier, Pina officially became a "country house" cat. Everything was very exciting upon our arrival to Tjörn. There were lots of new smells and nooks and crannies to explore, with two additional "guest rooms" than we have at our apartment in the big city and all filled with strange and wonderful furniture. But best of all were the floor to ceiling windows that look out into the back yard. It didn't take her long to discover those. She walked around on "korta ben," or short legs, for just a short period of time before she realized that this was her house too. After that she wandered around tall, like she owned the joint.

She didn't even wake us up once last night. I'm not sure where she was during the night but when I woke up at a quarter to five a.m. and made my way to the bathroom, I found her lying on the floor in front of the long windows, completely enthralled in the rustling leaves and flowers outdoors. It melted my heart to see her enjoying her vacation surroundings so much.

I knew she would love it here but I was still a bit nervous beforehand in anticipation of how it would go. This morning I put her harness and leash on her and opened the back door so she could go outside an explore. At first she merely laid in the doorway and sniffed the air, with her head sticking out into the yard. Finally she took a step out with one front paw, then the other until eventually she was standing on all four paws outside. She started sniffing her way slowly, and on "korta ben," around to the back corner of the house before something spooked her and she went running back into the safety of the house. She did this several times before she finally decided it was nap time and went back into the house for good. It was a very exciting morning and she is now melted into the sofa, sleeping soundly and plum tuckered out.

It looks interesting out there but I'm not sure yet...

What was that?!

My tail is not a leash farfar (grandpa in Swedish)...

I'm really exploring now... this is good!

Saturday, July 21

Day 203: Car Trip Down Memory Lane

"If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change."- Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror

Car trips are always good for deep thinking and conversations and singing along to the radio. Of course being in Sweden, I don't know all of the words to the songs on the radio but every so often an old, American tune comes on and the lyrics just flow out of my mouth.

Earlier it was George Michael's, "Careless Whisper," from 1984, but the most recent one was Michael Jackson's, "Man in the Mirror," from 1988. How do I remember all of the words to these songs that I haven't hear for years? I'm not one hundred percent sure as to why but I have a good idea. When I used to buy a new album, or CD, I would listen to it over and over and over, until I knew all of the words, and was so sick of it and couldn't listen to it one more time. By then however each song was burned into my brain. Apparently to remain there forever.

I love all of these old songs from the 80's. Hearing this one today by Michael Jackson, especially the line that I've quoted above, made me stop and think. Almost any changes I've ever wanted in my own life, regardless of who else was involved, have always started with me. Michael Jackson's words made me think about the change I am making in my life currently with my Finding Happy in 365 Days blog. In desiring a more positive, happy world and starting with myself, I'm finding that positivity and happiness have started to flow in my direction. I am attracting more and more positive, happy people into my life and my own outlook is becoming more positive and happy.

It also reminded me of how much I love music and how happy it makes me to sing and dance to old, favorite songs. So this week's goal is to listen to more music and dance [with my husband and kitty while we are at the summer house]. We've already made up our "summer house" dance. More on that later but it's called the "korta ben" dance, which means short legs. Last year it was the robot chicken. Have a Happy Day!

Friday, July 20

Day 202: It's Gonna Be Fun

"Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

A friend of mine posted this quote on Pinterest and I thought I'd borrow it. It is the perfect expression of summer I think, especially when one is near the coast and gets to truly experience the sunshine, sea and "wild air". We leave tomorrow for Tjörn, which is an island off of the west coast of Sweden. One week in Swedish paradise with wild, ocean air, cool, salty breezes, purple, stained tongues from eating fat black currants straight from the bushes and bouquets of freshly picked flowers from the garden. I can't wait to go on our Tjörney (See post from Day 171 for an explanation).

This year we have a third party joining us. Our kitty, Pina, is getting to go on a road trip and one week vacation at the summer house. There has been all kinds of wonder and excitement around the apartment the last couple of days. The suitcases have been brought out and piles of clothing to bring have been placed on the guest bedroom bed. Last night my husband said, as he was passing by the room, "She's in the suitcase!" I walked into the guest bedroom to see and sure enough, there she sat. Only she was not alone. She had brought her toy mouse with her. It was the cutest thing ever. I told my husband and he laughed and said, "She's packed." Indeed, she was packed and ready to go.

I think that she too is excited about a week at the summer house. She won't get to swim in the sea but she will definitely get to play in the sunshine, drink the wild air and explore the outside world, for the first time in her young kitty life. It's gonna be fun!

Thursday, July 19

Day 201: Smile Out Loud

Send a hole to see the sky through - 64" - Yoko Ono

Trying to come up with my topic today, I decided to open a book to a random page and then write about whatever my finger landed on. The book happened to be Yoko Ono's book, "Grapefruit," and the page I opened to had the above quoted line written on it, with a drawing of a postcard illustrating how to send a postcard with a hole cut out so the person could look at the sky through the hole. I love random, quirky things like this and Yoko Ono's book is filled with hundreds of whimsical ideas and art projects just like this one. A great gift for any artists or budding artists that you might know.

Her work is inspirational and at the same time makes me laugh at the silliness of it. She obviously gets a kick out of life and explores the world through the happy, whimsical eyes of childlike innocence as well as those of a person full of worldly insight. Some of her ideas cause me to laugh out loud, nearly loud enough for all the world to hear, while others make me smile and chuckle to myself. This one however made me smile out loud with a mischievous, gleeful eye.

So I am doing it. I have made a post card, cut a hole out and I am mailing it to a random friend. I know that this person will also see the whimsy and fun in looking at the sky through a hole in a postcard. I love this idea so much that I may even start putting holes in all of the postcards I mail from now on.

Yoko's whimsical eye...

Green grape...

My birds eye perspective...

Wednesday, July 18

Day 200: Happy Banners

Have you heard of bunting, prayer flags or even nautical signal bunting? First of all, let me just say that I never knew that these cheerful and colorful, triangular-shaped, party banners were called "bunting" and second of all, aside from the different shapes of the flags and the prayers that are actually written on the prayer flags, they are nearly the same thing. All of them are colorful and inspire happiness. In fact, nautical signal bunting has also been used on ships and sailboats as a festival way to dress up the ship.

I'm not sure what causes a phenomenon such as bunting to become hugely popular all of a sudden in the mainstream, but I'd say in the last few months I've started to see banners of bunting displayed and/or for sale all over Stockholm. I wonder if they have achieved the same popularity in the US. All I know is that I am completely in love with them and can't wait to get some whimsical and colorful fabric scraps and a sewing machine so I can make some of my own. I may even decide to just get some of that iron on fusing tape that can be used to hem curtains etc. and make them that way. If I find that I just cannot wait for a sewing machine.

They just look so happy to me. It really makes me feel like I need a party banner. The other day I was riding my bike through one of the parks and I saw a homemade, party banner strung up between two trees. It was obviously leftover from a picnic but the fact that it had been left there in the park made me feel happy. I rode by again today and it was still up so I stopped for a quick photo. Because it is made with paper flags, there are now several missing but the charm is still there I think.

A charming, party banner, or bunting, that I found in a park near my apartment...

Nautical signal bunting on a ship that is now a converted hostel in Gothenburg, Sweden.

I just love the whimsical mix of fabrics here as well as the red string they are attached to.

These colorful Tibetan prayer flags are pretty amazing too...

Tuesday, July 17

Day 199: A Little Rain Shower

I felt extremely sad last night. I found out that a friend of mine is pregnant with her second child and it just threw me over the edge. Don't get me wrong, I am very happy for her. I just felt sad because, as I near my 44th birthday, the reality not being able to have a child becomes more and more real.

It is heartbreaking for me. I sometimes don't know if I really can be happy without getting the chance to be a mother. I don't understand why it is this way. It feels so unfair and yet I know that life is often times unfair. When I think about all of the people who suffer from and die of cancer, or other horrific diseases, not getting to be a mother doesn't seem so important. But that still does not make the longing and heartbreak go away completely.

My husband is amazingly supportive and loving in the face of my sadness. He continually reminds me of how lucky and blessed we are to have one another, even if we did meet later in life than we would have liked. Children are wonderful and the experience of having a family is one that I am sure is something that cannot be replaced. I am very blessed to have six handsome nephews, a beautiful niece, a lovely God daughter by default as well as a slew of friend's children that I get to hug and love on occasion. Plus my husband often reminds me that he is really just a big kid AND we have a wonderful kitty.... and I am very happy about the two of them.

The good news is that my wave of sadness passed over pretty quickly, much like the rain shower we had this afternoon. I am actually quite proud of myself and happy that I chanced it and rode my bike to work. The weather forecast was for a fifty percent chance of rain in the late afternoon and right at the time I would be leaving work, but I was hoping for an opening in the clouds. This morning the sky was a bright, cobalt blue with a few clouds interspersed here and there. I remember as I was riding down the hill from Slussen to Gamla Stan that I could feel the cool crisp air in my face and the warmth of the sun on my back.

It was even nicer at lunch time with soft breezes and more blue sky and sunshine. Shortly afterward however, the sky turned from happy blue to dark grey and started thundering and pouring. Luckily however, an hour or so later it miraculously cleared up and the sun shone again, just like the return of my happy spirit. I guess sometimes we need a little rain shower to clean out the cobwebs and sadness. The sun stayed out and I was able to enjoy my ride to meet a friend after work before heading home once again riding my bike under the gorgeous blue sky.

Monday, July 16

Day 198: Antique Jars and Blue Skies

I suppose if you have to work on a Monday, it is much better for it to be a gorgeous, sunny day rather than a depressing, rainy day. I mean, in all honesty, it would have been better to have that sunny day on the weekend, in place of the cold, rainy day, but such is life. C'est la vie, right?

The good news is that my boss let me leave a little early today and I was able to get out and enjoy the gorgeous blue sky and sunshine a little bit more. I took a longer route home on my bike since it was so beautiful out and still by the time I reached my apartment building I was not yet ready to enter the garage and park my bike. I decided to head over to this comic book/antique store to see if they still had this table cloth I saw there several months ago. I knew it was a long shot but I figured it couldn't hurt to try. Unfortunately I discovered that it was indeed gone. Oh well, c'est la vie.

I started to head home but then thought maybe I should ride down to one of the clothing stores that I passed over the weekend that was advertising a huge fifty percent off sale in their window. Earlier in the season I bought two super cute summer dresses there and was hoping for maybe another great bargain, like the other day. I went straight in and to the basement where the sale was being held. The first room I came to was a mini loppis, or flea market. My feet automatically took me in that room first. 

I stopped to pick up an antique, glass, canning jar. It was a bit on the large size and I couldn't really think of a use for it so I put it back down, figuring I needed to be a little bit more choosy with what I bring home. Then I turned around and spotted them on a shelf across the room. Two antique glass jars with glass lids like the one my husband's mother gave to him. I have been scouring the country looking for some, or even one, like it for a few years now. The last time I saw one was in Gothenburg at an antique store in the old town area called Haga. We were in a bit of a hurry so I didn't buy it and the next day when we returned it was gone. It was a let down but today's find completely blows it away. 

I set the two jars on the counter and said that I planned to buy them but wanted to take a quick look around first. When it came time to pay, I mentioned to the woman that I have been looking for these exact jars for a long time and was thrilled to have finally found some. She then told me that the woman selling them recently came across an estate sale with a cellar full of them and some of the jars still even had preserved fruit in them. She also mentioned that they are from the turn of the century, or early 1900's, and that they have a couple of boxes full of them down in their stockroom. 

I ended up going down to their stockroom with another employee and left with two more small ones saying that I would be back for more. I then left humming the song, Blue Skies, as I rode home. 

Our current glass jar with lid, filled with rhubarb, strawberry and cherry compote (made by my husband).

The gorgeous blue sky today with Stockholm's City Hall in the background....

  ....And for Ella Fitzgerald's version of Blue Skies.... [click here]

Sunday, July 15

Day 197: Rain Barter System

Well, it wasn't what I would call a lovely summer day today but it wasn't terrible either. The weather forecast was for rain the entire weekend and yet we managed a bike ride yesterday, even with a little sunshine, and a nice long walk today with our friends before it started raining. We even saw the sun peek out a few times today. And though it was bit more chilly than I would have liked, the cool afternoon breeze was actually perfect for a long walk. 

Some people really love when it rains. They like to cozy up into their bed, the couch or an armchair to read or watch tv. I am not one of those people. There are occasional days when I enjoy lying around reading a book, and it is definitely easier to do this on rainy days, but I would still prefer it be a sunny day outside. At least then I have the option to go out and enjoy the sun. Perhaps it is because I grew up in southeast Texas where rain and thunderstorms are a norm, I am not really sure, but I could easily live in a place where it seldom rains. 

However, since I live in a place where it rains fairly often, I will say that it is very nice that the rain lets up on some days, giving me a chance to a) ride my bike to work without getting rained on or b) raining between my stops so that I can go out and about and do my shopping or errands without getting wet. It's like an unspoken rain barter system. And that's how I've become friends with the rain. It works out pretty well and everyone gets to be happy. Now if it could just get warmer so we can go swimming a few more times before "summer" is officially over.

Saturday, July 14

Day 196: A Great Bargain

We rode our bicycles out to an area called Sickla today. It is approximately twenty minutes by bicycle from our apartment, as we found out. My husband wanted to go to this hardware super store and he suggested that, if I wanted to follow along, there was a shopping center in the vicinity that I could go explore. Are you following along here? He was suggesting that I could go shopping. It was a bit shocking that he would suggest this but I was feeling a bit down yesterday and he knows how much I love to shop so I suppose it was his way of cheering me up. And let me tell you, it worked. I rode with him to the hardware store first to make sure it was open and then I was unleashed to go find the shopping center, which took me all of five minutes to find.

I really do love to shop but what I love even more is a good bargain. I spent a good bit of time in a woman's clothing store that had some very nice things, which in Sweden means very expensive. Even with their sale prices it was still somewhat expensive. I found a couple of tops that I liked and a cute cardigan sweater but in the end I decided that I probably didn't need them and so they stayed at the store. For now. The next store I went into, Himla, sells one of my favorite Swedish brands for interior home textiles. They too were having a huge sale and I ended up finding a great bargain on a linen table runner and matching napkins, in charcoal grey and natural linen stripes. Lovely, don't you think?

Finding a great bargain makes me very happy but what also makes me happy is having pretty things around my home. This runner and napkins will bring me happiness every time I use them for years to come. Speaking of things that make one happy, my Happy Package winner, Michael, received his package a few days ago and shared his and his family's reaction and a few photos. See below...

From Michael:

"Happy Package arrived! Thank you so much Grace Ann for the wonderful package of gifts and treats...so beautifully wrapped too! If anyone should need another reason to be happy, here it is. Being happy is absolutely contagious! This morning the kids were a bit sad...not normal as they are happy most all of the time. A couple of weeks ago we left my parents up north after vacation. Soon after, they headed down to our house in Texas to visit over the 4th of July holiday... and they’ve been here since. They left this morning and the kids seemed a bit down. ...Arriving a few hours after visiting family had to leave town, the happy package provided a huge happy boost at a perfect time...thank you so much again!"

Ella with wind-up cat. Isn't she just too adorable for words? This cat was so cool... I really wanted one for myself. It goes super fast after you wind it up and set it down. Some "kids" never grow up, they just get bigger. :-)

Eric with the mini green colander. This cutie pie, according to his dad, loves all types of gadgets and kitchen gadgets not excluded apparently! I thought this colander was so fun! I actually have an orange one that I bought a couple of years ago and I love it. It's great for washing summer berries or any berries for that matter.

Ah... the package with presents and Swedish candy! 

Thanks again Michael for participating in the Random Giveaway in honor of my reaching the half-year mark in my blogging goal! I am so glad that your whole family benefited from the Happy Package! It makes me happy as well to know that. 

Friday, July 13

Day 195: A Happy Memory

Do you remember the first time you ate a tuna fish sandwich? My mom told me about her first tuna fish sandwich experience this afternoon. She said that she must have been nine or ten years old and her school class was going to the park for spring picnic celebration and they were told to bring sack lunches. She remembers her mother packing her a scrambled egg sandwich. I've never had one but it sounds like a good idea for breakfast tomorrow morning. But back to my story, when it was time for lunch and everyone took out their lunches, one of her classmates mothers also brought out a large bowl of tuna fish salad and a loaf of bread to share with everyone.

My mom said that she took a single slice of bread and made herself a fold-over with the tuna salad. She couldn't believe how delicious it was and said she must have eaten five or six more. She was slightly embarrassed when she realized how many she'd eaten. Can't you just picture the sheer joy on her face as she enjoyed her first (second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth) tuna sandwich(es)? I asked her what it was that made her recall this memory and she couldn't say. It just popped into her head. She even remembered that it was a beautiful, warm, sunny day.

I don't remember my own first time eating a tuna fish sandwich but I do remember my mom making tuna salad sandwiches for me and my friends to take with us when we would go to the beach for the afternoon. I wonder now if her making them was inspired by her first experience with a tuna fish sandwich. I remember that I loved eating tuna sandwiches while lying on the sand and listening to the waves softly roll onto the sand. Even now as I think back to those days, remembering the taste of the tuna sandwiches, the sounds of the waves, and the smell of the coconut-scented, Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion I used brings a smile to my face. It too is a happy memory.

Thursday, July 12

Day 194: A New Colleague at the Office

"A borrowed squishable is better than none" 
- Gaekstrom

Today was "Take Your Squishy to Work Day 2012." I do not have a squishy myself but one of my book club friends does and she asked a while back if someone would take her squishy to work on this day. So, of course, I volunteered. The fantastic thing is that my friend is actually related to the couple who began the business of making these wonderful creatures. And they really are quite wonderful. My friend was not able to take her own squishy to work today because she just so happens to be semi-retired. So her lovely squishy, Maizie, got to go to work with me.

Maizie was delivered to our doorstep last night and we were very happy to welcome her into our home. Pina, our kitty cat, was especially intrigued and curious about her. She even gave Maizie a "cat scan" to make sure she was okay. She and Pina must have stayed up partying all night because it was very difficult trying to get her up for work this morning. Okay, not really. Maizie practically jumped into the bag, that you see on my bicycle in the photo below, and was ready to go to work before I was.

We had a nice, easy ride to the office and by the time we arrived she was ready to start working immediately. Our sixteen year old intern thought she was quite adorable but my boss reacted the most surprising. We decided to put Maize in his chair and wait to see his reaction. He was pretty surprised. I am not sure I have ever seen him smile so big. It was awesome.

After a few hours at the computer, Maizie decided she wanted to have a fika (Swedish coffee break) downstairs on the sofa and she stayed there for the rest of the day. It was a pretty slow day and she was tired after all that excitement so the boss approved her sitting out the rest of the day.

All in all it was a successful day at work with Maizie. She seemed to brighten everyone's day a little bit and the photos I took of her will be sent to the company that makes them, as they will be making a donation to the charity, Dress for Success, for every photo they receive. Pretty great I think.

By the way, my husband thinks I'm crazy. But you don't think I'm crazy, right?

Morning bicycle commute. Weather report said rain so Maizie is in a special bag to protect her from possible rain.  

At the office and ready to start!

Having a conversation about LED versus metal hallide lamps.

Working in Stockholm is so much fun!

If you are interested in knowing more about these squishy creatures, click the word "Squishables" below to be taken to the website:

I personally like the Squishable Rooster and the Squishable Android. What's your favorite?