Friday, August 31

Day 244: Celebrating

Despite the ninety nine percent chance for rain all day, I am celebrating. Despite today being the last Friday of my get-out-of-work-early days, I am celebrating. I am celebrating because even though it is dark and dreary and rainy outside, it feels nice and cozy inside. It is finally dark enough in the evening to light candles and turn a few lamps on low for a romantic, warm ambience. I am celebrating too because I got to leave work early today and get a few errands done and still managed to get home earlier than I normally would have. And along the way while searching for my elusive orange scarf, I found a cute pair of black jeans and a fun orange spaghetti-strapped top to use for layering in the fall and winter. By the way, I wore orange again today so now I am five for five this week.

Best of all however was my husband coming home today from his overnight work retreat. Yes, I know, get over it, it was only one night but Pina and I missed him anyway and it is nice to have the whole family home together again. Plus it's Friday and the start of the weekend and believe it or not tomorrow is the first day of September. Officially we have twenty two days of summer left before fall hits us with a bang on September twenty second but it is certainly starting to feel like autumn in the air around here and it makes my heart expand a little bit just thinking about pulling out my boots and sweaters again. My favorite time of year.

All of these things are wonderful cause for celebration. So how are we celebrating? Soft tacos and a movie of course. How will you celebrate the start of your weekend?

This is how Marimekko celebrates fall... look at all that ORANGE! I was in heaven! 
I just love the blue bag with the purple and orange flowers! So fun!

Thursday, August 30

Day 243: A Surprise Package

I received a surprise package in the mail today. Okay, technically it wasn't truly a surprise package but it did surprise me. I saw a pair of embroidery scissors on a blog and became obsessed with buying a pair for myself and searched all the way to Australia to find them. The website where I found them is a crafting site, which is really perfect for me since I love crafting myself and grew up with a crafting mother. I emailed the owner because the website showed a photo of the scissors but didn't appear to have any in stock. I also asked if she shipped to Sweden. She replied that she'd just received a shipment  and had not yet updated her website and of course she would ship them to Sweden. Sweet. We even dreamily chatted about the possibility of a house swap at some point in our futures. How fun would that be?

Well, after a few back and forth conversations via email she sent me an invoice, I paid it and the scissors were shipped. I hadn't forgotten about them but knowing that sometimes shipping things overseas can take a while I wasn't expecting them to arrive so soon. So imagine my surprise when I opened my front door and saw the package lying there with today's mail. I became instantly excited. At first I wasn't sure who it was from but then saw the return label and was even more excited. The scissors are the cutest things I have ever seen and getting this package today brightened my day. 

And look, there is an orange sticker on the package, along with her adorable return label with two little hooting owls. Then to top it off, the scissors were not just wrapped in bubble wrap inside but she had lovingly gift wrapped them in a cute purple paper and affixed a label with her store information. It made it feel like I really did get a present. 

Check out her website: Sew Crafty Goodness. It is a darling site with all sorts of wonderful crafting supplies and ideas. I am also very impressed that the package arrived a mere week after it was shipped. Makes the world truly feel like a global village when I can place an order for something in Australia and it arrives a week later by mail in Sweden. 

Don't you love to get packages in the mail? Even if it is something that I ordered for myself ;-).

Kitty was very intrigued as well...

She thought it was a new toy just for her.....                
That black lump to the right of the photo above is her fat paw trying to drag them away.

Watch out kitty! Or I'll give you a whisker trim! (Just kidding)

Wednesday, August 29

Day 242: The Things We Love

The things we love... those are the things that make us happy...

I love...

My husband.
My cat.
My family & friends.
A cup of hot tea.
Soy chocolate frozen banana peanut butter yogurt smoothies.
Clothing that expresses the soul.
Taking a walk on the first real day of the winter thaw.
The sound and smell of the ocean.
A captivating story or book.
The creativity of other people.
Taking a walk on the first day of snow.
Orange (I wore orange again today).
Having picnics.
Upside down superman kitty.
Freshly baked right out of the oven brownies.
C is for Carl frames.
Taking trips.
A cozy day spent with my parents.
Wrapping presents.
Giving presents.
Riding my bicycle.
Love notes.
Handwritten letters.
The quiet of the morning.
Ice cream cones and warm summer days.
Sharing homemade meals.
Walks in the forest.

My list and loves could go on and on into eternity...

What's on your list?

Tuesday, August 28

Day 241: Orange Revisited

I just have to revisit the fact that I love orange. I adore it even. It just may be that orange is my favorite color. At least for now. I think if I could I would wear something orange everyday. Wouldn't you? So far I am two for two. I wore an orange cardigan sweater yesterday and today I am wearing an orange button-down shirt. I am not sure if I will wear orange tomorrow as well but the odds are certainly good. It's fun to wear orange and besides a sunny yellow I think orange is the happiest color I know. Don't knock it until you try it.

As I was riding my bike to work this morning it dawned on me that what I really and truly *need* is an orange scarf. There was a woman riding in front of me wearing an orange scarf and I nearly snatched it from her. I rode up next to her and grabbed the end of it and was just about to unwind it from her neck... Well, in my mind anyway. I could picture myself riding my bike on an autumn day with my own orange scarf waving in the wind as I stream past. It would be lovely and fall-ish and since there is definitely the scent of fall in the air I think it is clear what I have to do.

I actually have two orange scarves already but those are for cold and really cold weather and are too warm to wear just now, unfortunately. One is a thick fleece and the other is a gorgeous hand-knit wool scarf made by one of my sisters-in-law. So I need one for now. For just cool-ish weather. But my special orange scarf has to be perfect. It can't be too bright or too dark and the texture needs to be just right. Maybe something in linen would be nice. The only problem with knowing exactly what I want however is actually succeeding in finding something to match my image. I thought I'd look up a photo of an orange scarf on the Internet to add to my post today and came across instead this funny blog with just orange scarves. The very first item on the blog is something called "Kelly's orange scarf dance." It is adorable and I imagine I would have done something similar as a kid.

So wish me look as I venture out in the next few days to look for the perfect orange scarf. If all goes well, I can start September off with an orange bang.

Take a peek here to see: Kelly's orange scarf dance. 

Monday, August 27

Day 240: Fava Beans

The weekend before last we rode our bikes out to Djurgården to see that wonder Hemslöjd exhibit celebrating 100 years of crafting in Sweden. After viewing the many beautiful crafts and making one of my own I suggested that we head over to Rosendal's Trädgården to have lunch at their outdoor garden cafe. The weather was glorious and the food there is always delicious and fresh and satisfying. After our relaxing lunch in the garden we debated whether or not to ride our bikes home or take the ferry. But the weather was so nice we decided we couldn't pass up the ride. Before we headed home I went to the restroom and on my way there I saw a small farmer's market corner where the gardening association was selling some of their homegrown products. My eyes expanded as I looked over the fresh goods being wheeled in at that very moment and I practically ran back to get my husband. They had fresh fava beans, called bondböner in Swedish, and I had to have some! Among the other other selections from their beautiful array of produce we also bought beets, lettuce and carrots, all grown organically on their farm just a hop skip and a jump from the cafe. I was also pretty excited about the beets but top on my list to try were the fava beans.

In all fairness I've never actually cooked fava beans so my strange over excitement surprised even me. I guess it was partly due to their intriguing size and texture. They are like giant sugar snap peas only fuzzy on the outside and I didn't know this previously but there is a lot of cushiony stuff on the inside protecting these tiny little beans. After you slice them open and take the beans out they are still covered in a thick white shell. You then have to drop them into a pot of salted boiling water for a few minutes and then drain and dunk them in a cold water bath. Once they are cooled to the touch you gently squeeze them and out pops a tiny bright green bean. I barely had a handful of beans when all was said and done so I decided to use them to garnish my warm goat cheese and beet salad, drizzled with a homemade orange balsamic vinaigrette.

It was absolutely delicious with the pan seared goat cheese medallions and though difficult to taste my beloved fava beans, I was proud of myself and happy that I tried something new. Will I buy them again and go through all of that work for just the smallest of rewards? I am not sure but I will recommend that if you want to try them I would plan to buy a couple of grocery bags full of them. They yield a minuscule amount compared to their original state and you burn more calories getting to the beans than actually eating them.

Sunday, August 26

Day 239: Miniature Party Bunting

Rainy day activities are welcomed today after a rough morning with one of the worst migraines I've had in a long time. My first thought this morning was that my post yesterday was quite timely because it would have been very easy to let what I felt was a wasted morning put me in a crummy mood. Maybe it would have been more difficult if we hadn't had such a gorgeous day yesterday. But I just shrugged and took a deep breath and thought about what I could do around the house that would be soothing and uplifting.

Turned out it was a project making miniature party bunting. Miniature in that they could easily be attached to wooden skewers and set atop a birthday cake or special dessert. They could also be tied to a couple of empty green soda bottles or wine bottles or really whatever you choose. The sky's the limit. All I know is that they are colorful, festive, joy-inducing and my cat would not leave me alone. Apparently they cheered her up as well. She followed me from room to room as I attempted to string the flags onto the twine. Even after I gave her her own piece of twine to play with. That was not good enough. She wanted my twine. Of course.

It's funny, she could be sound asleep anywhere in the house and as soon as I start a craft project, especially one that involves thread, string or twine, she suddenly appears out of nowhere and wants to sit in the middle of it. But it is hard to complain when she looks so cute so I stopped in between making my banners to play with her, and attempt to distract her from what I was doing. It worked temporarily and then she would be back raring to go.

I guess I would be too. Look how cute they turned out...

These are definitely going on the next birthday cake I make!

Of course, they'd be pretty fancy like this too with a few flowers in each bottle and some tea light candles scattered around the bottom. Nice dinner party decor...

Saturday, August 25

Day 238: Be Mad Crazy Stupid Happy

Voltaire said, "The most courageous decision you can make each day is the decision to be in a good mood." I'd like to add that you should choose to be mad, crazy, stupid happy... just because you can. I mean, why not? I allow so many things in my life to affect me and sometimes my moods are even dictated by these things that happen throughout the day. It is cliche to say it but waking up on the wrong side of the bed can affect my mood for the entire day. But what if I just decided each day to be in a good mood regardless of what happens that day? Regardless of whether or not I wake up with a headache or acquire one during the day, regardless of whether or not I get to sit down as I ride the subway to work or just miss the bus as I am running to the bus stop, or regardless of whether or not the sun is shining.

I am going to try an experiment for the next week and just choose to be in a good mood each day, regardless of what happens. If I catch myself starting to feel grumpy I will just remind myself to take courage as Voltaire said and decide to be in a good mood instead. It seems that being in a good mood or choosing to be in a good mood must take a load off ones shoulders. I am always much more energetic when I am in a good mood. But sometimes being in a good mood doesn't feel like a choice. Sometimes it feels like being grumpy would be easier yet we all know that being grumpy requires much more energy and it sucks energy out of other people as well. Being in a good mood however is infectious and can affect more than just one person. I know when I am around someone who is infectiously happy or in a good mood it always affects me. I hope all of you will try this experiment with me. Just do it! Choose to be in a good mood regardless of what is happening in your day and choose to be mad crazy stupid happy.

Pina's new food bowl that I found today. This slick cat knows what it means to be mad crazy stupid happy. Just look at that smile! :-)

Friday, August 24

Day 237: C is for Carl

Sometimes you find the perfect little "sumthin sumthin" when you are not even looking for it. I was out gathering together the components for my Day 235 Surprise Giveaway and I came across the cutest little photo frame. It was one of those items that you don't even hesitate to grab. It's like an instinct that comes from deep within. Your arm reaches out without your mind even realizing it and your fingers gently wrap around it while at the same time you are bumping three people out of your way and nearly knocking over the display in front of you before anyone else realizes its value and snatches it up before you. You just see it and that voice inside you takes over and says, "that's mine." Okay, so it wasn't actually that dramatic but the feeling was definitely there. I merely told the sales clerk that I would like that cute little frame with the C on it that was hanging on the wall behind her. Because C is for Carl. And Carl is my husband.

I love things that look old but are funky and fun. This little C is for Carl frame is the perfect combination of texture, color and style and I literally had to have it. It's little things like this, like I've mentioned so many times before, that put a smile on my face and brighten my day. Little things like seeing a father carrying all three kids like a circus acrobat... little things like hearing that a friend's three year old son asked her if her unborn baby was wearing shoes inside her belly... little things like watching my cat sleep upside-down with her back arched sideways and all four legs and paws stretched out like she is a circus acrobat... little things like this C is for Carl frame...

Pina wants to be a part of it too... she says, "Where's the P is for Pina frame?"

.... And now.... what you've been waiting for... 

.... the Surprise Giveaway winner is....  

Out of just two participants... 

 ... Congratulations Greta!!! 

I will be in contact to send your special gift!!!! 

Happy Friday Everyone and thanks for participating!!!

Next Giveaway will be in September when I've reached 3/4 of the way to my year's goal. :-D

Thursday, August 23

Day 236: Taking on Three Passengers

Today I saw a funny sight as I was heading to work. I passed by a man, or rather, a father who was standing at a corner with his three children waiting to cross the street. It wasn't funny that he was standing there with his three children or that his children were doing something funny but it was the manner in which he stood with his THREE children. One child was on his back, riding piggyback and with her own backpack as well, one was sitting on his shoulders and he was holding the third one was in front of him riding in a BabyBjörn pouch. In my book he gets the father of the year award. He also gets the award for making me chuckle the most today. And he wasn't even a particularly large man. In fact he was probably around five feet, ten inches tall and thin. I only wish I'd been able to capture a photo to share. There was a split second when I considered walking back and asking if I could take a photo but I figured the best picture was already in my head.

I figure all of them wanted a ride and he was just too nice to say no so he improvised a way to carry all three of them. Pretty clever if you ask me. It reminded me of a photo I took of my brother almost ten years ago when his three oldest boys were young. He was on his hands and knees on the floor and all three boys were riding on his back, like a horse. I even have a similar photo of one of my uncle's taking me and two of his other nieces for a ride on his back. I'm sure my own dad must have given me rides too but there is something special about taking on three passengers.

Even two is impressive! I took this photo when we were in Gotland in the spring of 2011. Imagine a third one riding on her shoulders!

Wednesday, August 22

Day 235: A Herkie... and A Surprise Giveaway!

What makes you want to do jump for joy and do a Herkie? For me it is usually things that get me excited. Sometimes it is something big like a new job or news that a friend or family member is coming to visit and sometimes it is something small like getting to have a buffer evening and going out to eat dinner instead of cooking. But it is always something that whirls around and boils up inside me until it cannot be contained and I have to jump in the air with glee. Here is a list of some of the bigger things that have made me want to do a Herkie:

1. Winning a scholarship to one of the top professional dance schools in Los Angeles, California - September 1990

2. Receiving my acceptance letter to the University of California at Berkeley - April 2000.

3. Graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in art history AND with honors - May 2002

4. Getting engaged! March 2008

5. Getting married! November 2008.

6. Finishing the last day of work before going on vacation. Any vacation. Encompasses all years.

7. Jumping on a trampoline. Pretty much encompasses all years. At least up to now.

I was also a cheerleader in the eighth and ninth grades, during which time I performed many Herkies. But I'm not sure that counts. So here's the deal, I felt like we all needed some excitement today so I am doing a spontaneous surprise giveaway to shake things up. Nearly everyone is now back from vacation, back to the work grindstone and maybe even feeling a little down. So leave me a comment below and tell me what makes you want to do a Herkie, any time between now and midnight tomorrow, Thursday, August 23rd to be entered to win a pick-me-up prize. Since everyone seems to be moving a bit slower these days I am giving you an extra whole day to participate. And if you might possibly want to send a photo of yourself doing a Herkie you can send those to graceann(dot)ekstrom(at)gmail(dot)com. I really hope you do. That would make me do a Herkie for sure.

Okay, to be fair this isn't a true Herkie but the height of this jumper, his expression of sheer joy and his yellow shorts just make me smile.

Tuesday, August 21

Day 234: Breakfast For Dinner

There's nothing really wrong with a regular old day. You know, those days that sort of drift by. Nothing particularly magical happens but nothing disastrous either. Those days are just fine with me. I mean, every day can't be a star, filled with inexhaustible energy and party flags. And the bad days? They can just stay away as far as I'm concerned. But the days in between? Those days are what I like to call grey. Not grey as in gloomy and depressing but grey as in neutral, even keeled and in fact quite okay. Kind of like an old worn grey t-shirt that is super soft and comfy. The kind you can't wait to change into when you come home from work. It's like your relaxation uniform. Everyone has one. Maybe yours is not actually grey in color but never-the-less it is your relaxation uniform.

If I could figure out a way to just stay home on these grey days, in my relaxation uniform, that would be even better. I could cozy up on the couch or in my bed and read the day away. It doesn't hurt that I have just discovered a new murder detective book series to emerse myself into either. Ah... I can almost feel how delicious it would be, all snuggled up with a cat lump in the bed next to me. But since I can't really justify calling in sick until Christmas I'll just have to use my grey days wisely.

We sort of had a grey evening last night. My husband and I were both lazy and not in the mood to cook so we had cereal and toast for dinner. Breakfast for dinner is awesome. We don't do it very often but once in a blue moon we've been known to make pumpkin pancakes for dinner. Maybe we should start a new tradition of breakfast for dinner on grey days? What do you think?

What are your favorite things to do on your grey days?

Monday, August 20

Day 233: Simple Math

One of the things I really love about shadows is the simple fact that if you are outdoors and you see a shadow, it is an indication of a sky full of sunshine. And if there is a sky full of sunshine, then you can most definitely find me on my bike. Okay... maybe not year round in Sweden. Check back with me in the winter when it is -15 Celsius and there are shadows and a sky full of sunshine around but no GA on her bike. Or if there is a GA on her bike you may not recognize her as she will be covered from head to toe in insulation. We can chat again then but for now shadows = sunshine + bicycles. It's simple math folks and simple math that I like.

Today as I was riding along the water and rounding the bend near Gamla Stan I noticed that my shadow was riding happily along side me. My morning traveling companion. We were in sync as we pedaled along, enjoying the soft breeze blowing against our faces. Other cyclists whizzed past us and I wondered why they were in such a hurry. I mean, my morning ride to work is one of the best parts of my day. I don't want to rush it. Work will be there when I get there and besides who wants to be in a hurry to get to work? Maybe I have the wrong idea but it feels right to "stop and smell the roses" so to speak, to be able to take my time and enjoy the beauty of the city that I live in. As me and my shadow ride "our" bikes to work.

The nice part too about seeing my shadow in front of me is that this means the sun is shining behind me and not into my eyes. It's so nice to enjoy the feeling of warmth on my back like a soft cape draped around my shoulders. Once winter arrives, the nights will be long and the days short and the moments of seeing my shadow as I ride to work will be blanketed in darkness. So for now, I will enjoy every moment of riding along to work, with my shadow in tow.

Here are a few photos of shadows minus their bicycles: Floating

Pretty cool, I think.

Sunday, August 19

Day 232: Weekend of Fun

Officially the fall equinox will occur on September twenty second this year. That leaves just over a month more of summer, officially. Though I know and sense in the air that our summer days are now numbered. The days have been lovely and warm but the evenings and even the mornings now have a brisk freshness in the air that alludes to the coming autumn. Being that autumn is my favorite season of the year, I am not terribly disappointed by this. And if we continue to have such lovely weekends as this one has been, I would venture to say that I'd be quite happy in fact.

The weather was nice this weekend. Warm with just the right amount of sunny and cloudy to keep me from melting into a puddle. We decided to try a new place for veggie burgers on Friday night and it turned out to be a great for sitting outdoors and people watching. The burgers weren't bad either. Saturday we went to a street fair to eat taco truck tacos. A few weeks ago we saw a taco truck sitting parked on the side of the road when we were on our way home from swimming at Långholmen. Later my husband looked them up online and found out that the taco truck would be parked on Saturday at a street fair not too far from us. Of course we headed down there. The tacos were actually not too bad and the people watching was even better.

Veggie burger at Garlic & Shots, with garlic dusted french fries...

El Taco Truck.

TACOS! Two bean, two chicken. Yum.

On Saturday evening the Midnatt Loppet, or Midnight Run, would be taking place on our street and festivities as well as fun runs for kids were already under way early on in the evening. We headed out at one point to see what was happening and while we were walking around and debating dinner we decided it would be fun to pack a picnic, hotdogs specifically, and go sit in the park to watch the runners. We packed up our dogs and some sliced fresh watermelon and headed back out with our picnic blanket. But there was a fall nip was in the air which forced us to pack up and head home shortly after we finished eating. Once the real race started we went back out with our folding chairs to sit and watch the runners go by. It is actually a lot of fun to watch. After the serious runners have passed the show starts. Runners dressed up as Batman, Aladin, Wonder Woman, hula dancers and we've even seen a guy dressed up with a boat as part of his costume. In a moment of excitement I said that I was going to run it next year. Gulp. Well, the good news is that it's actually not that far to run and I do have a year to train until the next one...

Super Woman, Batman, Cat Woman, Runners.

So anyway, Sunday comes along and the fun just continues. We headed out this afternoon to see an exhibit called Hemslöjden på Liljevalchs, which means Handicrafts at Liljevalchs. Liljevalchs is an art hall which hosts several wonderful art exhibits throughout the year and right now they are celebrating one hundred years of hemslöjd, or handicrafts. There is everything from carved wooden bowls and cabinets to embroidery to ceramics to metal working. The art on display was simply amazing and the inspiration was overwhelming. Can you actually be overwhelmed with inspiration? There were so many beautiful things to look at and ideas for future projects that caught my attention, I had to take photographs so that I would remember them all. It was a glorious weekend of fun and I almost feel ready to start the rat race tomorrow. Almost.

"Leaves" created by hundreds of Swedish artists and craftsmen.

Beautiful hand wrought iron candelabra.

And my personal favorite... three giant larger than live Tomte (Santas).

How did you find happy this weekend?

Saturday, August 18

Day 231: Helicopter Kitty

A few years ago one of my nephews gave me the most wonderful assortment of Christmas presents. All selected by him I might add. One was a rubber ducky, that has since been sitting on the edge of the bathtub, another one was a miniature lego cowboy complete with a holster and guns, and then there were the helicopters with their own mini launching pad. One day when I was looking for something I came across the helicopters and thought it might be fun to play helicopter with kitty. Well, let's just say that it has become one of kitty's favorite games to play.

On the weekends that I remember I pull it out of it's hiding place and say, "Wanna play helicopter kitty?" Wherever she is she comes running and meowing and then sits patiently at the top of the stairs waiting for the first launch, watching me intently with her wide open yellow eyes. I launch the first one and watch it fly down the stairs. She takes off like a maniac after it and once she looks up at me and meows, I launch the second one. It is so much fun to watch and hear. If I wait too long to launch the next one she "yells" at me. She will even sometimes pick up one of the helicopters up in her mouth and run off with it, taking it to her secret shelter. She loves to chase them down the stairs, under the couch and pretty much anywhere they happen to land.

One of the helicopters actually has stickers on the sides with the face of it's passenger. The passenger just so happens to be a kitty cat, which I find rather amusing. I have no idea how she knows but it seems that my kitty is aware of this and I figure that is why she goes into a frenzy to capture the helicopter. She wants to save the kitty passenger on board. Naturally.

Waiting for the first launch...

Under the couch...

I'm coming to save you kitty passenger!

Friday, August 17

Day 230: Angel of Luck

Today I found myself wishing that this positivity blog was more of a rant blog instead. I have so many things I would like to yell and scream about, it would be completely easy to find something to discuss. But it's not. So... moving on! I honestly really do love Fridays. It doesn't matter what time of the year it is, what kind of weather it is, Friday always means freedom and fun. Fridays in the months of May though August are especially great because my freedom and fun gets to start two and a half hours earlier than normal. I get to leave jail, er... work at two p.m.

I feel like I must have been followed by an angel of luck today. I left work noticing that the sky was dark and getting darker, even though there was no rain in the forecast, and I was on my bike. I didn't have a rain jacket either but I refused to go directly home. I had things to do. I first rode over to La Neta, our favorite taqueria in Stockholm. And apparently the only taqueria in Stockholm aside from the new taco truck that we discovered exists here now. Don't tell anyone but we are going to get taco truck tacos tomorrow night. Yum! But anyway, I stopped by La Neta to pick up some corn tortillas. They make and sell their own homemade authentic one hundred percent corn tortillas. 

It crossed my mind that the guy at the register might say that they were fresh out, like he did last time we were there, but so far no rain so I was feeling lucky. I walked right up to the counter and said that I wanted a kilo of corn tortillas. I decided not to ask if they had any, as that would have shown weakness. I merely asked for them like I owned it and the guy at the counter walked away to go get them. I paid and ran out before he changed his mind.

Shortly afterward I found myself walking around one of my favorite clothing stores in Sweden, Gudrun Sjöden. There was an extra twenty percent off of all sale prices, so you know I headed straight for the sales racks because I love a good deal. As I walked out with my purchases I noticed that the black sky was starting to sweat. You could feel the heaviness in the air. Okay. I decided in that moment that I didn't care if I got wet on the way home. I got on my bike and headed for the hill. Literally. No matter which way I go to get home there is a hill to climb. It's okay, it's  good for the round muscles at the top of the back side of my legs. 

Well, my angel of luck must have been with me on my ride home as well. As I got to my street and I was about a block from my apartment I felt one fat rain drop on my nose. Oooooh, almost there... Just before I rolled into the garage I felt two more drops. Whew, made it in the nick of time. I parked and locked my bike and took the elevator up to my apartment. When I got off at my floor I heard a strange noise. It sounded like someone was pouring a huge back of ice into a barrel. Weird. I opened the door to my apartment and the noise was amplified. I looked outside and it was pouring cats and dogs. Thanks to my angel of luck, as I stood there watching the downpour I was dry as a bone.

Thursday, August 16

Day 229: Spice Things Up

"Spice is a verb." 
- from the cookbook: Mourad: New Moroccan 

I love the above quote. Saying that "spice is a verb" in the confines of a cookbook is such a brilliant concept. It implies that one truly does something with the spices. That one takes action. "I'm going to spice this up," I can hear myself saying and, in fact, I probably have said something like that many times. And then done it. Spice can be used in other word forms as well. It can be an adjective: "Holy cow that salsa is spicy!" It can be used as a noun: "I love to use various spices when I cook Mexican food." But I especially like it used as a verb: "I'm gonna spice up this guacamole with a little jalapeño, cumin, and cilantro."

In case you couldn't tell, I like spice and I like Mexican food. And being from Texas, anything spicy and I go hand in hand. My family roots come from a line of cajun French folk and the gumbo, étouffée and boudin I was raised eating, definitely fall into the category of spicy. But spicing things up doesn't necessarily have only to do with food. Some times I like to spice things up by trying a new activity or class. Just do something completely different from my norm.

I guess what I really like about using spice as a verb is that it inherently implies something more colorful or more flavorful. Life deserves to be spiced up, mixed up and just generally enhanced. It can be as simple as wearing red shoes with an otherwise tame outfit or it can be as drastic as taking a circus performance class. Hmmmm. Maybe? In any case, go out and spice things up today.

Wednesday, August 15

Day 228: Something to Buffer

With only one hundred thirty-seven days left, today is the first day that I've felt like quitting. Quitting this project, that is. For no other reason than it is hard work to write a daily blog and work full time. It's hard work to write a daily blog while I am on vacation as well but somehow slightly easier. Three days and two late nights into the week after a lovely long weekend away and I woke up with a headache and my period today. So as you all know what that means, I didn't get that bicycle I wanted for Christmas. Again. I was also very tired and wishing I was somewhere, anywhere, other than my j.o.b.

I came home from work not at all inspired to come up with anything for dinner and I was preparing to throw a mini pity party for myself when my husband came home and suggested that we ride our bikes out somewhere for dinner, adding that we needed something to buffer our lovely vacation and being back at work. He gets the husband of the year award. Now, after a perfectly pleasant bike ride, sharing a fantastic pizza and then finishing off with an ice cream cone from our favorite place next door (18 Smaker), and on quite possibly the warmest evening we've had all summer, I can say that I am back to my normal, happy self.

Sometimes finding happy includes a little nudge from others. I am thankful today for my husband's gentle nudge as well as the not-so-gentle nudge from my cat, who came to kneed dough on my tummy while I was lying on my bed reading earlier. So take that, one hundred and thirty-seven days left. There are no quitters at this house!

Tuesday, August 14

Day 227: Funny Stuff

Humor truly is all it's cracked up to be, no pun intended. I love to laugh. I love to be entertained with funny stuff and what I am about to share with you is indeed funny stuff. One of the lovely things about the world wide web is the endless sources of things that inform and entertain. I really love the Internet for that. Of course there are endless other wonderful reasons to love the Internet as well but right here, right now, my focus is on funny.

The other day while surfing around I came across one of the most hilariously written blogs. It is told from the perspective of a young toddler and even though I am not a parent myself I feel sure it is one hundred percent accurate. In one of the recent posts, the toddler discusses animals and as I read through it I was nearly on the floor peeing myself. In the section about cats the toddler says, "If you have a brush or comb, groom your cat. If you don't, just use a lego or slice of bread."Reading these two simple lines made me beyond happy. I could completely picture a small child brushing the cat with a lego or slice of bread, even with peanut butter on it, and especially with peanut butter on it. Poor kitty.

This is seriously funny stuff and there's way more where that came from. Here's one more quote about dogs according to the toddler: "Dogs love to share their water and food. Help yourself." When I read this I thought about the time I ate dog food when I was a kid. Believe it or not, it tasted like rice. My friend, the true culprit and instigator, agreed. We were pretending to be my dog, Heidi. We were running back and forth along the fence like she did, drinking water out of our bowls and "sharing" her food. Why we thought to get our own water bowls I have no idea, though it could likely be that I refused drink after the dog. I was pretty particular about not getting dirty and the dog's water bowl definitely qualified as dirty.

Sigh. Anyway, I hope you will check out this blog. It's called Honest Toddler. I promise you it will not disappoint in its entertainment value. And I guarantee that it will make you laugh and smile. After all, it's funny stuff.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, August 13

Day 226: Having Something To Look Forward To

After I come back from a vacation I like to try to hold on to that vacation feeling as long as possible. It's just so nice to go on a trip that it turns out to be everything I expected and then some. I didn't actually have a great deal of expectations about what we would find in Copenhagen, beyond looking forward to seeing how such a bicycle-friendly place functions and maybe having some new culinary experiences.  And yet, the city exceeded any expectations I could have had, aside from the fact that all of the good stores were closed on Sunday.

Copenhagen was an amazingly easy city to get around by bicycle and the plethora of cafes and restaurants all around was astounding. It certainly rivals Stockholm in that sense. So how can I maintain that relaxed and yet thrilling feeling of being on vacation in a new place, with no set times to follow beyond hunger pangs? Having something to look forward to always seems to help. We have another trip planned in the fall which I am really looking forward to, even though it seems a long way off right now.

In a couple of weeks we will be attending a friend's traditional Swedish crawfish party on one of the islands out in the archipelago. I am excited about having our first invite to an authentic Swedish crawfish party, but I am almost more excited to get out on one of the islands. I have been to a few of them and each one is lovely and unique in it's own way. At the beginning of the summer I had hoped to do some island hopping and kayaking this summer around Stockholm's archipelago. Well, summer isn't over yet so there may be some of that coming up before the leaves start to change color. And if it doesn't happen this summer I will have it to look forward to for next summer.

Sunday, August 12

Day 225: Hidden Treasures

I love when I find hidden treasures in a new city. Before we headed to Copenhagen for our long weekend I did some research to find the top things to do, see and eat while in the "City of Cyclists." It turned out that many of my finds were more than spot on. The indoor market, Torvehallerne, as well as two of the cafes we visited, Kalaset and Granola, were simply fabulous. A few of them left a lot to be desired but I've found that it is always hit or miss when trying new restaurants, or even following travel advice of those who've gone before you, whether it be information from travel blogs, friends or acquaintances.

Kalaset, which we visited for lunch on our first day, warranted a return visit the next morning for brunch. It did not disappoint either visit but today's brunch experience at Granola was by far my favorite during our trip. And Torvehallerne, the indoor market, was frequented so many times by us that I almost feared that the people working there would start to recognize us. Maybe they did but that's okay. It was such a cool market filled with so many different culinary experiences. We will definitely return there, and probably multiple times again, on our next visit.

The bottom line is that there are always hidden treasures to be found when traveling. I prefer to avoid the areas most heavily frequented by other tourists and explore instead the places where the locals hang.  Those off the beaten path places that you have to sniff out like a blood hound. We discovered many of these while in Copenhagen I am happy to report. I have hidden treasure favorites in every city I have lived in or visited. It's another thing I collect I suppose.

A rich and intoxicatingly delicious cappuccino at Granola.

The Sweet Breakfast Plate... a pancake with real maple syrup, drained yogurt with homemade muesli and fruit, cinnamon toast with a side of their homemade "nutella"... and I ate it all.

My husbands hat taking a rest in the lovely iron-grated window sill...

A cappuccino while waiting for Kalaset to open for brunch.

 Cute wooden spoon to identify your order for the food expeditors.

Agnes' Cupcakes at Torvehallerne. Hazelnut on the left and dark chocolate with passionfruit frosting on the right. Guess which one was the best?

One of the many beautiful booth displays in the market.

Danish Smorbrod... the famous open-face sandwich. We had lunch here on our second day. Delicious!

Saturday, August 11

Day 224: Down Time

Most times when I'm traveling there is no down time. It's go, go, go all day long. I don't really mind it but when I find a bit of quiet down time that somehow gets nestled into the day I always look back on those moments as some of my favorites of the trip.

Today was another whirlwind of riding our bicycles here and eating there, and with lovely weather I might add. After we had a very pleasant morning of blueberry pancakes and a trip to the botanical garden, we began the the afternoon at Rosenberg castle with a quick lunch back at the amazing indoor market we discovered yesterday, which did not disappoint. We then decided to head down to a place called The Black Diamond. It is a beautifully designed modern building, made of black marble and glass, that houses the Royal library. It it situated on one of the many canals that run through the city and there is a really nice outdoor area with low, slung deck chairs where you can sit and have a coffee or just relax.

After seeing two incredible but very different photography exhibits in the Black Diamond's exhibit space we did just that. We sat our tired bones in a couple of those chairs and allowed ourselves to just melt into them. No coffee, no glass of wine or beer, just us, the chairs, the soft rustling sounds of the wind blowing by and the occasional roar of a motor boat down in the water. It was like drinking a tall glass of cold water for the soul. Afterward we were refreshed and ready to head into our next next adventure. Down time is not to be taken for granted from here forward.

Friday, August 10

Day 223: Eating Our Way Through Copenhagen

A beautiful day exploring the nooks and crannies of a new city is always high on my list of the more fun things to do in life. It seriously is one of my very favorite activities. I'd even call it my favorite hobby. Some people collect stamps as a hobby, I collect cities. I only wish I could collect them faster but money and time do not grow on trees.

This weekend we will be exploring the lovely Copenhagen, Denmark and, in fact, we've been here already most of today. We started out almost too early to call it morning yet, getting up at four thirty a.m. But the day has gone surprisingly smoothly considering the train car we ended up in with the one woman perfume factory and our loud neighbors.

We arrived just before lunch time and made our way easily and effortlessly to our hotel where, as luck would have it, a room was available for early check in and there where two bicycles left that we could rent. We were set to explore.

First on our list was a visit to the bike shop from which my husband ordered his cargo bike: Larry Vs. Harry. Yes, his bike was made here in Copenhagen and shipped to Stockholm. Their shop we discovered is unfortunately little more than a staging place for shipping bikes or bike pick up and there weren't any cool t-shirts or memorabilia to purchase but it was still cool none-the-less. Then it was off and running, or well... cycling.

We ended up pretty much eating our way through the day with a bit of walking, bicycling and tower climbing thrown in. Lunch was a tasty surprise at a restaurant called Kalaset. The guy at Larry Vs. Harry recommended it and it was on my list of places to try from the pre-travel research I conducted. Afterward we hit the indoor food market called Torvehallerne. We were beside ourselves with glee in this fantastical place. Food galore everywhere you looked. Gorgeous, delicious looking food calling and beckoning to us. I stuffed my face with a fish cake and then later we "shared" a rhubarb (there, I said it again!) pastry. I wrote "shared" in quotes because I nearly didn't get any of it. My husband becomes overtaken with food sometimes and it just goes straight into the pie hole and before you know it, the "shared" item is digesting in someone's stomach but not mine. That's okay, we're going back there tomorrow.

Dinner was at another cool place in the old meat packing district. It was a sort of an unlikely spot to find truly authentic Italian pizza and other specialties. Most of the staff spoke fluent Italian and we were quite impressed with their pizza, made with a sour dough crust.

So now I am taking myself and my stomach to bed. Tomorrow there will need to be more riding and walking if we intend to eat our way through the day again, which I'm sure we will.

Mother's pizza. Mmmmmm.

Thursday, August 9

Day 222: Bunting, Yellow Knee Socks and a Guest Blogger

Today I happened upon several things that made me feel happy and want to smile out loud. A local book store in our neighborhood put up homemade bunting across the front of their store. The flags themselves are not particularly fancy but they add a certain brightness that lifts your spirits as you walk by. And they made me smile and stop to take a photo.

Then at lunch time I was lucky enough to witness a man dressed in "true style." He was in long shorts, a short-sleeved button down shirt with a brown vest and then bright, canary yellow knee socks. He also had a hat sitting atop his rather long and curly gray hair. As he sauntered past me I noticed he was pulling at his Santa beard. There is a homeless center nearby but I am not sure if he was homeless or just a bit eccentric and fun. He didn't seem to be homeless and he sure seemed to "own" his style. I only wish I had been able to get his photo.

But one of the biggest things that made me smile today was receiving a message from one of my most recent dear friends with the following guest post written especially for all of you, describing one of the things that makes her happy.

Please help me welcome guest blogger, Katie Dodd...

The Joy of Raspberries

Raspberries are, by far, my favorite fruit. I love their shape, color, consistency – and of course, the taste. The explosion of raspberry juice in my mouth is a taste like none other – what bliss!

Before moving to Sweden almost 2 years ago, I thought that my appreciation of raspberries was complete – and then, I tasted Sweden’s wild raspberries and realized I was wrong. In the US, my experience of raspberries was limited to what I found in plastic boxes on the shelves of the grocery
store. In Sweden, however, wild raspberries grow in gorgeous abundance, at least in Småland, the area of Sweden we visit each summer.

Raspberries cover low, scraggly bushes right in the backyard. How wonderful it is to pick raspberries for dessert straight from the garden. They are tiny compared to the ones in the US, and picking them is a bit more time consuming than picking up a box at the store – but it is well worth the effort! These tiny pods of joy are the perfect complement to ice cream, cereal, yogurt, or just on their own, straight off the bush if you like.

My only word of advice while picking – beware of the tiny worms that can be found inside wild raspberries. Although as my Dad might say, "extra protein!"

Looks delicious Katie!

Reading your post made me want to run right out with a bucket and go searching for wild raspberries - Yum!

More from Katie can be found at her blog, Delicious Ambiguity.

Wednesday, August 8

Day 221: A Bouquet of GIANT Colorful Balloons

Find these lovelies [here] at Brilliant Bash!

Gorgeous. Oversized. Balloons. Or really any balloons. Is there anything happier than a giant bouquet of colorful balloons? Or even better, a bouquet of GIANT colorful balloons? On a dreary rainy day like today even one single giant balloon would be a floating orb of happiness. I have just started to notice these around on the world wide web at places such as Pinterest, party and event planner blogs or just blogs of really cool smart people, like Joanna Goddard of one of my very favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo. 

Balloons have always been associated with happy in my world. I remember as a kid blowing up balloons for all of our birthday parties. We would sit around blowing up what felt like hundreds of balloons and hand tying ribbons onto the knotted ends to string from the ceiling or dangle along a fence. We would do this until our cheeks blew out. I don't really know any other way to describe it but I feel sure that you know what I mean. How did we survive before renting helium tanks became the new norm?

Speaking of helium, just a few years ago before we moved to Stockholm some friends of ours threw us a going away party and they brought helium filled balloons to the party. My husband and I ended up taking them home and we inhaled the helium and had some really funny nonsensical conversations. We laughed and laughed until we cried, laying on the floor, and at least three drops of pee came out. I think we even called our friends to say thank you with our lovely helium induced voices. I was hesitant to do it at first because well, suffice it to say I am a big chicken. Then when I finally jumped on the bandwagon there was not much helium left. Tyvärr, as they say in Sweden, which means unfortunately or too bad.

It may be time to find some giant balloons and a helium tank in Stockholm. I know some birthdays that are just around the corner and you can never be too prepared for a good birthday party. Balloons will definitely be on the party planning list and hopefully I can find some of these giant balloons here. Some with polka dots would be even more fun!

Tuesday, August 7

Day 220: A Lifetime Supply

On a scale of 1 - 10 how much do you smile throughout the day? Most days I'd say I smile around a 10 but there are definitely days when my smile resembles more of a scowl. Sometimes when I am grumpy or my husband is grumpy we try to get each other to smile. Our attempts to smile under the grumpy spell usually turn into more of a baring of teeth as opposed to actually smiling. However, this usually makes us laugh, sometimes hysterically, and a real smile transpires. Smiles are wonderful. They can change a mood or even a person's day literally in the blink of an eye.

Any number of things can make me smile each day. Sometimes it is overhearing something a person says when I am out in public. Like the time I was on the subway. I was sitting there minding my own business when a mother and her five or six year-old son came aboard. It was not particularly crowded but they chose to stand anyway, the child with both hands wrapped around a pole for support. Shortly after his mother said to him, "Do not lick the pole." He didn't even have his mouth open but it was one of those moments that I recognized as pure mother's intuition. I knew in that moment that if she had not said that, he would have started licking the pole. I could not stop giggling. I laughed the rest of the way home that day and I still smile when I think of it.

One thing that made me smile today was an item I found written on our grocery list. We have this iPhone app (application) that my husband and I share between our mobile phones called Grocery Gadget. It allows us to create and share grocery lists as well as other lists and we can both add items to it at any time. We can even write in our own custom items if they are not in the app's existing list. Then once we have gone shopping we simply delete the items from the list. While I was shopping today I noticed a special item on the list that I had not seen before. It said, "Your husband loves you." Awe... I smiled from ear to ear. But where was I going to find that? I don't think they carry it at our local grocery store. I looked while I was there but couldn't find it. Luckily I was able to find it at home. Turns out we have a lifetime supply of it.

Monday, August 6

Day 219: In the Name of Women

"Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you will choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women." - Nora Ephron

For those of you not familiar with her, Nora Ephron is the brilliant mind behind the films When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and, her most recent favorite of mine, Julie and Julia. These are just a few of her many works, which also include several book titles. For our September book club I am really excited that we are reading her book, "I Feel Bad About my Neck," which is about the trials and tribulations of being a woman and the pains of growing into womanhood. One thing she mentions in this book is that the neck starts to go around age forty-three. Such a pity too since that is my current age. I guess I can kiss my neck goodbye now and welcome living in a colder region where I get to wear scarves and turtlenecks most of the year.

But back to the true topic for today, I wanted to share the above quote with you because a) I think it is fabulous and b) I think it still applies and will continue to apply throughout time. How great it is to be a woman and yet NOT be a lady. She hopes that us fellow women break rules and cause some trouble out in the world, and especially in the name of women. I am all for that. In fact, it is quite possible that I have participated in this already without even knowing it was something Nora Ephron supported. I am sure I didn't even know who she was at the time. But here we are now and I am a willing and able participant.

Along the same line of thinking as Ms. Ephron's quote above I'd also like to mention something I witnessed today that made me chuckle and smile. I had just begun my bike ride home from work and was trying to ride quickly to beat the rain, which didn't actually happen. I arrived home drenched and yet still happy that I rode my bike today and ignored the weather forecast. But anyway, there I was riding along when I noticed two guys jogging down by the water out of the corner of my eye. Right about the same time, a woman was riding her bike in my direction and passed me on the road right as she full out whistled at those two shirtless jogging guys. 

I turned to look but didn't see any acknowledgment between her and the joggers. I suppose it is possible that she new them and I missed their wave but I prefer to think that it was merely reverse sexual harassment. I remember plenty of times when I have been the subject, or victim, of this wolf-whistling, which I despise, and to see the tables turned... well, I think my liver was even smiling.

Sunday, August 5

Day 218: Heart Shaped Happiness

Sometimes millions of creative ideas multiple in my mind. Some are sent my way by way of something I see that inspires me, some come to me via various websites and blogs that I read or follow and others, often many others, arrive via Pinterest. While other times it feels like my head is a vacant space for rent and creative ideas are as far away as the Mohave desert. Luckily however there has been a wellspring of creative ideas and inspiration abounds. That is always good in my book, as I am a creative soul and I am at my best when creating. 

Earlier this week I came across something that caught my attention on Pinterest so I clicked on it to view its source. This then led to clicking through to one thing after another until I had seen so many different websites and blogs I don't even remember the original something that caught my interest. But the journey was fun and the destination led to today's project: Heart-patched elbows on a cute sweater. The original was cloth patches sew onto a t-shirt. Equally cute but I had another idea in mind.

I had actually seen heart elbow patches before on a Do It Yourself (DIY) site but that project was a much more difficult version where you actually make the felted hearts via needle felting and the hearts become fastened onto the sweater as you felt. So I took ideas from both of these, made up my own version and went shopping for a long-sleeved t-shirt. 

My shopping trip was very successful and yielded a long-sleeved striped t-shirt as well as a long-sleeved striped sweater. I already had a piece of felted wool at home that I bought last year with hopes for inspiration to make something fun. Little did I know that it would become these cute little heart-shaped elbow patches. The felted wool was a bit heavy for the t-shirt so I went with the sweater. 

It was a really fun Sunday afternoon project for both myself and my cat. She loves to "sew" and at one point was standing in my lap trying to get the thread and needle. When I was finished she laid down on it and started licking it so it also has the cat's seal of approval. Now I have a one of a kind sweater to make me smile in the coming fall and winter days.  

The beginning... Making hearts, measuring and placement...

Pinned on and ready to go!

But mom? What about this project? (Kitty, we'll finish that one on the next rainy day).

Ironing on with stitch witchery while watching some Olympics.

A tasty lunch and cappuccino after a swimming break at Långholmen beach.

Kitty had her own break... notice her back left foot propped up against the arm of the chair. Not spoiled at all.

I want to help!

No mom, the thread goes in my mouth!

All finished... Isn't it cute???

 It's much cuter with me sitting on it. Love, Kitty.