Sunday, September 30

Day 274: Changing of the Leaves & Happy Giveaway Drawing

Today we went on a bicycling adventure to Djurgården, one of the beautiful parks in the middle of Stockholm, to see the changing of the leaves. Yes, it has begun here already, believe it or not, and I wanted to capture the beginning stage when all of the trees appear as if they have caught on fire on top. The rest of the tree's leaves are still green but there is a bright patch at the top that is burning and aflame. It is absolutely gorgeous and it is probably my favorite time of year. The leaves I especially love are the maples with their deep, rich, red, orange and yellow-tones. They are so festive and beautiful and the fact that the leaves turn these vibrant colors right before the trees go to sleep for the winter makes me especially happy. Reds and oranges are my favorite colors so it's no wonder that I love this time of year so much. 

Earlier in the day it was gray and cloudy but then just around lunch time big patches of sunshine started shining through. We started talking about heading out right about then but by the time we were on our bikes it was becoming cloudy again. We were not deterred however and continued on our way, enjoying the lovely fall day. When we arrived fifteen minutes later we found that we were not the only ones with the idea to head to Djurgården. There were families, couples, individuals and even people with wheel chairs or walking canes out and about, deep into the park. That is something I really love about this city. Firstly, the fact that there is access to such beautiful parks in the middle of the city and secondly, the fact that everyone utilizes them. It really is wonderful to see so many people out enjoying nature. 

We started taking photos right away, even though it was grey and cloudy and the photos were not showing how vibrant the leaves really were. We figured we could edit them once we'd loaded them onto the computer at home. Then something magical happened. The sun decided to come out! Oh happy day! It was amazing to see the transformation and how much more beautiful everything looked with the sun shining and a blue sky backdrop. Suddenly everything had come to life. We even had more bounce in our ride, if there is such a thing. 

What is your favorite time of year? Leave me a comment below and tell me if you have a special ritual for celebrate your favorite season. A Random Commenter will be entered into a drawing for a Happy Giveaway in celebration of today being my three-quarters-of-the-way marker to my one year goal of Finding Happy in 365 days. I can't believe it has already been three-quarters of a year. I guess time flies when you are having fun and finding happy. Thank you again for all of your support along my journey thus far. I hope to see you all on day 365 as well (though it may be day 366 since it is leap year this year!). There will be a special Happy Giveaway to celebrate my completion then. 

The cut off for entering today will be tonight at midnight. Central Standard Time in the US and seven a.m. in Sweden (tomorrow). Good luck and happy commenting!

Here are some photos from our lovely day....


At Djurgården... making our way to the leaves...

Under every tree that was aflame you could find hundreds of these beauties... 
some came home with us ;-).


A pretty yellow tree.

Here comes the sun!

Look at those vibrant colors... gorgeous! 

 Back at the yellow tree... you can really see the difference here with the sun shining and the blue sky...

 A fun harvest wreath near the cafe and boutique at Rosenlund's Trädgården on Djurgården.


Behind the cafe we came across Rosenlund's beautiful gardens. Just look at that savoy cabbage!

 And then there's this cutie... I couldn't resist snapping this shot!

Thank you again for stopping by! And don't forget to leave a comment below to be entered into the drawing for the Happy Giveaway.

Saturday, September 29

Day 273: A Little Love Note

Several years ago my husband (boyfriend at the time) was traveling quite a bit for work. He was flying internationally once a month for nearly a year straight. Not only does that kind of traveling get tiresome, but it can be lonesome too. I used to sneak little love notes into his travel bags to brighten his days on the road. Sometimes I would put the note in a pocket of one of his shirts or the back pocket of a pair of his pants or sometimes I would put it in his passport case with his passport and other travel documents. Most of the time he would find them and send me a smiley message to let me know they had been found, but on occasion he wouldn't find his love note during the trip and would come across it later. Either way, I hope they brightened his day just a little bit.

I think it's nice to know that someone is thinking about you and sending a little love with you on your way. I have read articles about moms who sneak little notes into their kid's lunch boxes, which I think is a very sweet idea as well. But something that really caught my attention was a story of a woman who upon hearing some great news while sitting alone at a cafe, decided to write a little "love note" to leave behind for someone to find after she left. I love this idea. It is like the love notes that I leave for my husband, only extending the love a little further out into the world.

My husband hasn't traveled as much for work lately but I was feeling the urge to give him a love note the other day so I wrote him a card telling him twenty random things that I love about him and hid it under his pillow. He found it after we had already turned the lights out so he turned his bedside lamp on to see what it was. It was fun to lie next to him as he read all of the little messages of love I had written to him.

Love notes are special. They make people smile deep on the inside as well as the outside. If you haven't written a love note lately, I highly recommend it. It doesn't even have to be to a significant other. It could be an email to a friend you haven't spoken to in a long time or a handwritten letter to one of your parents, grandparents or another family member. Everyone loves a little love note. Go send one today! The fun part is that they make the giver just as happy as the receiver.

A little love note sometimes goes a long way.

Ps. Tomorrow is the big day! A Random Happy Giveaway prize will be awarded to a random person who comments on my blog post tomorrow! Stick around... it's going to be fun!

Friday, September 28

Day 272: Frukost Tacos

So what do we like to do on a drizzly Friday morning? Sleep a little later than usual? Cozy up with our kitty? No. Believe it or not, we like to get up extra early and go eat "frukost tacos" (breakfast tacos) at El Taco Truck. It just so happened that they were participating in a sample sale event taking place just around the corner from our apartment. Convenient for us. And yes, you heard correctly, I got up and got ready for work extra early so that we could go eat tacos at seven thirty a.m.

We spotted the pink truck when we were still two blocks away. It looked as though there was already a long line of people waiting for tacos and my husband sighed and said, "I'm going to miss my train." As we got closer we realized that the truck had not yet opened and all the people were standing in line to go into the sample sale. Yay for us. This fact is important to note because we were actually the first people in line at the truck.

That is what you call devotion people. That's right. Hard core taco devotion. So were the tacos good? Nnja... as they say singsongy in Swedish. Which means yes... but maybe no... but actually yes. It was mostly a yes but a slightly hesitant yes due to the addition of a few unusual, non-Mexican or Tex-Mex, and otherwise unidentifiable ingredients, and the fact that there was an issue with electricity and they were not as warm as they could have been. But hey, they were breakfast tacos at a taco truck in Stockholm and we ate them and it was an awesome treat to have on an early Friday morning. And a fantastic way to start the weekend, I might add. Would I get up early again to go eat frukost tacos at El Taco Truck? Heck yeah!

Our taco truck morning in photos...

Genuine Mexican Food since 2012.

Are you hungry? Stand here.

A little iPhone fun while we wait...

The taco dude!

Tacos go in there.

Scrambled eggs with sun dried tomatoes, salsa and bacon. 
Or beans with coleslaw and feta cream. We had feta cream instead of bacon on the first one.

Drizzly rain and tacos = FUN.

This one has nothing to do with tacos... I took it outside of my office when I got to work this morning... just sending you all some love as you begin your weekend!

Oh! And don't forget... just two days before for my next Random Giveaway in celebration of making it three quarters of the way to my year's goal!

Thursday, September 27

Day 271: Pop Tarts

Pop tarts. I really don't need to say anything else.... but I'm going to anyway. I have to really. The other day I was at our local ICA grocery store, picking up a few things that we needed and just generally minding my own business, when all of a sudden I spotted Kellogg's pop tarts out of the corner of my eye. It felt so normal I just walked on by. I was like, "Oh... yeah... there's the pop tarts." Then it hit me and I froze. Did I really just see Kellogg's pop tarts in my local ICA grocery store? Here in Sweden? I swiveled around and started calmly, yet somewhat frantically looking for the box that said blueberry. Much to my disappointment there were only two flavors on the shelf. Apple cinnamon and brown sugar cinnamon. Both frosted. Well, beggars can't be choosers! So I grabbed a box of the brown sugar cinnamon ones and off I went on my way.

This isn't the first time I have seen pop tarts in Sweden but they are an off-brand name that I've never heard of and I just can't buy pop tarts made by a company called ShopRite. They might as well be generic. In addition they have a long list of ingredients of which many are not even food names. It goes against my food religion to start with. (Notice however that I actually picked up the box and read the ingredients). In all fairness, I normally would not even buy Kellogg's brand pop tarts. I have become a full fledged food snob (though obviously not snooty enough to pass up these) and I normally buy the all natural brand that Whole Foods sells. Without frosting. Somehow I have convinced myself that they are healthy without frosting. Whatever works, right?

I usually buy a box or two of these all natural pop tarts when we are visiting Texas and stuff them into our suitcases, along with as many jars and cans of salsa, enchilada sauce and green chilis as we can get away with. But that is beside the point. We are talking pop tarts here. And I guess it is worth mentioning a little side story here. Several years ago I went on a road trip with my husband and one of his mountain biking friends. They were planning to do a race out in west Texas and I got to tag along.

What a great adventure that was. We all three shared a cabin tucked into the side of a desert hillside in this little town called Terlingua, Texas. It was just outside of Lajitas and a hop skip and a jump from Big Bend National Park and Mexico. It was actually really cool. We brought our own food but made communal dinners together and ate other meals together as well.. One morning I pulled out a box of my all natural pop tarts and our friend laughed and said, "I have pop tarts too." But his were like the kind in the photo below. Not all natural. We sort of bantered back and forth about that fact for a while and he pointed out that the Kellogg's brand actually had less sugar and less fat. Sadly it was true but ours were made with all natural ingredients, including unrefined flour and sugar and every ingredient was something that I recognized. In other words, much better. So take that mountain bike friend!

And then here I sit in Sweden eating my words and some Kellogg's pop tarts. Not even a flavor I would normally ever buy but I am willing to admit that they were tasty and they made me happy today. I may even manage to mow through the whole box of them. And there is a slight chance that I would buy them again. But don't tell anyone. Then when I am done my next project can be to make homemade pumpkin pop tarts. Who's coming over?

8 Vitamins & Minerals.

Just in case you are wondering, all of the pieces that broke off... are also in my belly.

Wednesday, September 26

Day 270: Food is Often Vehicle That Takes Me on the Journey to Happiness

Some nights I just cannot get in the groove of making dinner. Nothing sounds good, I don't want to go to the store, I'm basically sick of the kitchen and I simply refuse to budge. Those are the nights that I ask my husband what he is cooking for dinner. It usually works and it isn't always nachos, hot dogs or his famous "macaroni box." This past Monday night was one of those nights but unfortunately he was feeling the same. When I asked him what he was making for dinner he said, "Cereal and milk?" So it was cereal and milk for dinner. Okay, to be fair, it wasn't just cereal and milk, there were a few blueberries and sliced figs on top and we each had toast as well. It was easy and yummy and it completely took a load off of our Monday shoulders.

So come Tuesday I was actually feeling refreshed and inspired when it came to thinking about what we would have for dinner. I decided to surprise my husband with one of his favorites, macaroni and cheese. I'd come across a new recipe where you actually cook the noodles in the milk and no flour is added. The starches from the noodles help thicken it up. It was pretty tasty but the second dish I made, an amazing roasted tomato salad, to accompany the macaroni and cheese was incredible and that is what I'd like to talk to you about.

Food is often the vehicle that takes me on the journey to happiness. I love food and I love to eat. But I usually prefer the healthier side of gourmet. This means olive oil instead of butter, though I love butter and often use it, and whole grains as opposed to regular wheat flour or rice. Last year I came across a cookbook that caught my eye due to its focus on healthy and natural vegetarian cooking. The woman who wrote it, Heidi Swanson, is devoted to using natural foods and making delicious, gourmet vegetarian food. I have not yet purchased her cookbook even though it is on my wish list. So I was really excited when I came across her food blog, or recipe journal, where she posts and discusses many of her recipes, including this one for her Heirloom Tomato Salad.

The components in the salad were delicate yet rich and subtle yet bursting with flavor. Add her secret ingredient of maple syrup and I was really excited, as I love maple syrup. Sort of like Buddy from the movie Elf, which if you haven't seen, I highly recommend doing so as soon as possible. Or at least in December just before Christmas. But anyway, getting back to the salad, I did deviate from the recipe a bit, due in part to my failure to get everything I needed and due in part to a certain someone in my house not liking capers (hint: it was not me or Pina), but it turned out terrific anyway. I used pan toasted sunflower seeds and pine nuts instead of the recommended almonds, I used arugula instead of lettuce leaves and I used lemon juice instead of lemon oil. It was heavenly and the roasted tomatoes really stole the show. This recipe is definitely a keeper and now I am even more interested in her cookbook that before.

Roasting half of the tomatoes really give this salad an extra zing, which definitely puts it on my list of recipes to make again and again. 

Tuesday, September 25

Day 269: Fertilization

"The same dream returned each night until I dared not to go to sleep and grew quite ill. I dreamed I had a child, and even in the dream I saw it was my life, and it was an idiot, and I ran away. But it always crept onto my lap again, clutched at my clothes. Until I thought, if I could kiss it, whatever in it was my own, perhaps I could sleep. And I bent to its broken face, and it was horrible... but I kissed it. I think one must finally take one's life in one's arms."                                                                                                                                                            
                                         - Arthur Miller, After the Fall

It is strange how certain things touch us or move us in ways we don't expect. This quote from one of Arthur Miller's plays is taken out of context, and seems a bit harsh in the description of the dream child, but the final line really moved me. "I think one must finally take one's life in one's arms" is a beautiful analogy of how we often want to discard the things about us that are unattractive or not nice, "horrible" even, and pretend they don't even exist. But really we must also take those unattractive things into our arms, as Miller says, and embrace all of the parts of us. Because each of these parts together makes us who we are. They are our strengths as well as our weaknesses. They are the thorns as well as the beautiful fragrant blossoms. 

This isn't a new concept. We have always been taught that we have to take the good with the bad and that the challenges and difficulties build character. And it is true, but the fact of the matter is that the good and bad within each of us are not separate parts of us but smaller parts of the same whole. In the same way that we would comfort a friend who is having a difficult time, we must also comfort ourselves. Take those aspects that we may not like, or even shun, into our arms and comfort and love them as well. 

Today I challenge you to look at one aspect of yourself that you don't like and embrace it in a way that you never have before. Love that part of you that you think is unloveable. Bend down and kiss it and take it in your arms. And I will do the same. I have my suspicions that new blossoms will burst forth from the "fertilization."

Photo by Wayne Simms

Monday, September 24

Day 268: Banana Bread Monday

Mondays are hard. I never want to get out of bed on Monday morning and face the start of the week. And sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday is just not the same as sleeping in on Monday. This morning I was sleeping like a rock. The cat had crawled under the sheets and was lying all warm and nice next to me, purring and in general being cuddly and nice. How could I possibly get out of bed? But then the alarm went off and kitty being a good and obedient girl, hopped right up and was ready to go downstairs for "coffee" (wet cat food).

I on the other hand was not ready to go down for coffee. I wanted to sleep and it felt like I could sleep forever. Our bed felt the most comfortable it has ever felt and my eyelids just would not open. Monday shmunday. So to make it right, Mondays deserve something happy and joyful and even delicious. Right? Right. That is precisely why I baked banana bread last night. Of course we got to enjoy some of it freshly baked and warm right out of the oven but the best part of banana bread on Sunday is that you get to eat banana bread for breakfast on Monday too.

In my recent months of trying to salvage the bananas that didn't make it into the gullet before they got too many brown (read: black) spots, I have learned something very important about my husband. He loves banana bread. And I don't just mean loves it, he LOVES it. Every single time I have announced that banana bread will be made, he suddenly gets a twinkle in his eye and says "Yay!" I love banana bread too. And it always feels good to recycle them into something yummy.

Well, last night I learned yet another bit of information about my husband. He said that when he lived in Dallas he used to buy a half loaf of banana bread from one of our favorite grocery stores there, and quite often. In all of the seven years we have known one another this love of banana bread has never once been uttered. I don't even remember him ever buying it or eating it after we met. Now he could "just bathe in it." His own words last night as we gobbled down a shared second piece.

It makes me immensely happy that homemade banana bread makes him so happy. It is super easy to make and it really brightens up Monday mornings. Heck, it brightens up Tuesday and Wednesday mornings too. It doesn't last longer than that so I don't know if it would brighten up Thursday mornings but I suspect it would. I don't think I will be making it for every Monday but a couple of times a month is completely doable. And there is always pumpkin bread to round out the month. Oh, did I say pumpkin?

Ps. I didn't get a photo of the banana bread this time but it was beautifully studded with walnut halves. You'll just have to take my word for it. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Sunday, September 23

Day 267: A Bit of Sun Shining on Our Faces

This past Friday I found myself happy for the weekend and raring to go but slightly bummed that the weather man predicted rain for the entire weekend. I am someone who needs sunshine and blue skies for at the very least part of the weekend, preferably the entire weekend, if I am going to recharge and be ready to face Monday. I know some of you out there love the rain and relish a cozy day indoors or an adventurous day outside, stepping brazenly through the pouring rain with your galoshes, raincoat and umbrella. Not me. It isn't that I don't go out when it is raining, I just don't relish it. Now I can appreciate a cozy day indoors but I like having the option of a sunny blue sky on the other side of the front door should I want to be out there bathing in it.

Yesterday I awoke fully expecting it to rain cats and dogs the entire day but I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped out to run errands, on more than one occasion, to find teeny tiny patches of blue sky intermingled with the dark ominous drizzly clouds. So that was plus number one. When I got out of bed today and looked out the window I saw a grey and somewhat damp day ahead of me and by the time I made it down stairs to the kitchen to make coffee, the dampness outside had become full-fledged rain. Hmmm. I just ignored it and went about my business, hoping for a lucky break in the afternoon so that we could go out for a bike ride.

A couple of hours later there were large patches of blue sky and intermittent streams of sunshine breaking through. My lucky day! We rushed to get cleaned up and dressed so that we could head out on our bikes but somehow a couple of hours ticked by. I remember on one of my last trips up the stairs thinking that if we kept putzing around we were going to miss out on what might possibly be the only chance of sunshine today. My shoulders slumped a bit at the thought. Somehow however, we managed to make it out on our bikes with not even a drop of rain falling. Plus number two. Twice we went out on our bicycles, and we even managed to get a bit of sun shining on our faces. So the weekend wasn't completely lost to the rain gods.

I personally think it was all of the dancing I did last night to the song and music video, "Gangnam Style". Apparently I am behind the times but this song by Korean pop artist, Psy, went viral around the world a couple of months ago. I have listened to the song and watched the video so many times that I now know the entire dance section. Maybe I shouldn't be sharing this but I can't help it. I love this song! Click on the words "Gangnam Style" in orange above to watch the YouTube video. You just might find yourself doing the horse riding dance too!


Saturday, September 22

Day 266: A Handmade Party Hat

Party hats are so festive I think. I decided to try making one today and I am pretty pleased with how it turned out. It isn't perfect but that makes it more charming. Right? I began making it with the intention of sending it to one of our nephews for his birthday but then my husband reminded me that he is in police school and it might be a bit odd for him to get a party hat. I didn't think so myself but I decided to revamp it anyway for the next persons birthday on the list. As you can see, it is more feminine and obviously for a woman. But who it is for will have to remain a secret for now. 

I made it with the thick paper that made up the inside of a roll of wrapping paper. It wasn't a tube like you usually find inside wrapping paper in the US, it was just a card stock type of thicker brown paper rolled up. It was the perfect weight for my hat project. I used some pre-cut circle stickers in fun colors to decorate it and fastened a pretty yellow paper flower, also pre-made, to the front. Finally I tacked a piece of white ribbon around the bottom for trim and topped it with a clump of the same ribbon, curled with scissors and then shredded with this nifty tool I picked up here in Sweden. All of the stores use them for wrapping gifts. It basically cuts the curled ribbon into several microstrips. I love how it makes the curled ribbons look. Don't you? 

I think I have mentioned how much I enjoy creative projects. Well, one of my book club friends also loves to craft and she suggested that we start a crafting group not too long ago. So we did it, or well, she did it. It is called, "We can craft that." I love the name. For now our plan is to get together maybe once a month one evening and bring our individual projects to work on together while we chat and drink wine. I have a list in my head of projects I want to work on. One of them I have mentioned before, that is an unfinished monkey on my back, is the scrapbook I am making of my first trip to Europe. I am determined to finish it before Christmas. Or at the very least, before the New Year. Wish me luck. 

My other projects will also have to remain secrets until they are completed and given away, as they will be gifts. But I have to say I am pretty excited about them and I really want to tell you what they are. I'll give a few hints, one is something to wear and one is something to use when traveling. 

 

 Oh, and by the way, I am now officially one week away from my next Giveaway! This one is to celebrate that I am three quarters of the way to my year's goal of Finding Happy in 365 Days. One of my friends pointed out just yesterday, on day 265, that I am 100 days away from my goal! That acknowledgment alone made me feel tremendously happy. 100 days left really seems like I am on the downhill slide now. This friend also asked what I plan to do next. A very exciting question that I have already begun to ponder. Stay tuned for an update! And don't forget to check back in a week to participate in my most exciting Giveaway yet!

Friday, September 21

Day 265: One-Legged Stance

Do you remember my mentioning the manhole cover game on day 150 that my husband played as a kid? And how the brunnslock, or manhole covers, with an "A" were bad and should be avoided but the ones with a "K" were good luck? AND that there happens to be one with a "K" on it right outside my office building? I pass it nearly every day and I always make it a point to step on it with both feet. Some days I even pause for several seconds with both feet firmly planted on either side of the "K", hoping to absorb some of the good luck and some days I find that I need to jump up and down on it and practically lay across it in order to get out of a funk. But some days I only need half of a boost and a one legged stance works great.

On this particular day I also had on my happy pinkish orange pants, so it is hard to imagine why I felt that I needed a half boost, but there I was with my foot on the brunnslock, waiting patiently for the positive energy to channel up my leg. It must have worked because I skipped away with a bounce in my step and a smile on my insides. Smiling from the inside out is such a nice feeling, don't you think? It changes the way I walk, the way I think and the way I perceive the world around me. Everything is fresh and bright and happy. Sometimes I think that having that feeling all the time would be sheer bliss but in reality we need the not so smiley days to balance us out.

So next time you are feeling not so smiley, pick up a leg and do the one-legged stance and I dare you not to smile on the inside... or the outside. Happy Friday!

The Brunnslock one-legged stance.

Thursday, September 20

Day 264: Dinner Amigo

The other day my husband and I were talking over dinner and suddenly an old memory popped into my mind. I suddenly recalled all of the many trips I made to a Mexican restaurant called Casa Ole when I was in high school. Maybe it was the enchiladas we were eating for dinner that sparked the memory, or perhaps it was all of my thinking and anticipation about our upcoming trip back to Texas this fall. I'm not sure but suddenly I could not stop talking about the Dinner Amigo that I used to order. One cheese enchilada with refried beans, Spanish rice and a chalupa on the side.

I am sure there were times when I was counting quarters, nickels and dimes in order to go have my $1.99 plate, if I remember the price correctly. Eventually my Dinner Amigo was replaced by a new favorite, the Fajita Flameado, which was basically chili con queso with more melted cheese and chicken or beef fajitas mixed in, served with tortillas of course. But the Amigo and I go way back and I think fondly about it now as I imagine sinking my teeth into a steaming melty bite of cheese enchilada.

I have probably eaten at least one hundred baskets of chips and easily several gallons of salsa at Casa Ole and more Dinner Amigos than I can recall. So this fond memory that was sparked in me, and all of my raving about how much fun it was to go with a bunch of friends, in turn sparked an interest in my husband and now we are planning a visit to Casa Ole next time the opportunity arrises. My husband said, "I want the Dinner Amigo!" So he's going to get the Dinner Amigo, which by the way, is now just called Amigo. I may get it too but I have to say, the Ambassador is looking pretty interesting with two cheese enchiladas, a chalupa, a chili con queso tostada and guacamole. I might be willing to share. But then again, maybe not.


Wednesday, September 19

Day 263: Engulfed in the Story

Sometimes when I begin reading a book and it takes several chapters before I nestle into it and start really enjoying it. Some books even take longer and then there are those lonely few that grab me right from the first sentence. For me, the point when I become completely engulfed in the story, that point when I am no longer living in my own reality but walking among the characters in the book, is like falling in love. You know that feeling. It can be described as happiness but it is actually a little bit more than just happiness. It really is like being in another world and I find it very hard to put the book down at that point. And though it is a bit odd that I want to live in my book more than I want to live in my reality, I would think that for the writer, for the author, that is true success. To hook your readers and have them holding on for dear life during the roller coaster ride. I really love that aspect of reading books.

Today I hit that point in the book I am currently reading. It isn't a particularly special or intellectual book, but it is an excellent detective story. I absolutely love detective stories and I am on the sixth book in this series. I have also become rather attached to the main character, which is both good and bad. Good because there are eleven more books left to read in the series and bad because there are only eleven books left to read in the series. I read fast which means that I could easily be reading the last book before Christmas if I don't pace myself better. But anyway, I am sitting here writing this and all I can think about is getting back to my book. So I will leave you on that note. Happy hump day!

And if you are also into detective books, check out this author. 


Tuesday, September 18

Day 262: The Perfect Gift Idea

Something that really makes me happy is discovering great ideas for presents to give my family and friends. I love coming across that perfect something or an idea that inspires me and fills me with creative energy, whether it is something to make by hand or a fun store bought item, fabulous gift ideas are some of the things I love to collect. And I really do collect them. It is almost a hobby of mine. I am always on the look out for the perfect gift idea and I absolutely love the giddy feeling I get when I give these gifts away.

I get so excited that sometimes I nearly spill the beans and tell the person what it is. I did that when I was a little girl but it wasn't because I was excited about the gift being THE perfect gift, at that time in my young life it was more just the sheer excitement that bubbled up and out of me. Out of my mouth, specifically. One time I went shopping with my dad and my brother to buy birthday presents for my mom. After a very successful shopping trip we returned home and she asked me what we bought. I proceeded to tell her every single thing, all the way down to her Channel no. 5 and her orange-handled scissors, before I even knew what I had done. Suffice it to say that I was no longer trusted to keep birthday gift secrets after that. My mom got no surprises that year. Well, on her actual birthday anyway.

What can I say?? I was overflowing with joy and excitement and I wanted to share it. I still get that same feeling even though I am all grown up, but now I know how to control the urge to splurge and I hold my tongue. It can still be difficult however and especially if I feel that the gift is the absolute most perfect gift ever and that they will love it beyond life itself. Okay, maybe not beyond life itself but you get the picture. When I just know the person is going to love the present I cannot wait to see their face when they open it.

A birthday present decorated with photos. 
Each one is of either a very silly occurrence or is associated with a fond memory. 

Monday, September 17

Day 261: Kitty Slumber Party

I don't know why it makes us so happy when our kitty sleeps with us but it does. She doesn't sleep with us the whole night however, she "sneaks" into bed during the wee hours of the morning, usually kneading dough as she creeps over us. I'm not even sure when she starts her early morning dance ritual but at some point she wakes me up with violent head butts and purring that sounds like the engine of an eighteen-wheeler. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration but at that early hour and being woken up out of a sound sleep it seems that loud. But I don't mind it. Honestly. She is so cute and cuddly at that time of the morning and then lately she kneads dough for a shorter period of time before settling in to sleep between us.

My husband woke up this morning and said he wasn't sure if it was my knee or the cat that was stabbing him in the back but since he thought it was the cat he let it slide. Ah... the things we allow our pets to get away with. Just a few hours earlier and you might hear my husband grunting irritated at my slightest movement but kitty can come walk all over us, meowing, purring and kneading dough and he just lets it go. We both just let it go and enjoy the fact that she wants to be close to us.

When kitty first came to live with us we had to discipline her a little bit to let her know what was and was not acceptable. Things like drinking out of our water glasses, jumping onto the dining table or climbing the shelves in the living room. She did not like to be disciplined and would go lie under our red metal cabinet in the living room and sulk. She would stay there the entire evening. A grudge holder. So coming from her grudge-holding days to "sneaking" into bed in the early morning hours to knead dough on us as we "sleep" and then settling in to sleep a couple of hours with us is perfectly acceptable. It's like having a kitty slumber party and we like it.


Sunday, September 16

Day 260: Planned Happiness

What do bananas, peanut butter and chocolate chips have in common? They are all ingredients in the delicious muffins I baked for breakfast today. Well, chocolate chips were in half of them anyway. I'd like to just sum these up in one word: YUM. I could probably use a few more words and probably a few moans as well but we'll leave it at YUM. My husband and I have become addicted to banana bread during the past few months after one day I just decided to make a loaf to use up our overripe bananas. Normally we just freeze them to use later for smoothies but we already had an overabundance of frozen smoothie bananas and I was craving something sweet yet semi-healthy. 

I have made this particular banana bread recipe plain, I've added roasted hazelnuts, roasted walnuts and even a dash of ground cardamom. Now with the addition of peanut butter and chocolate chips I can honestly say that this was not only an excellent idea but maybe the best banana bread I've had. I love making peanut butter and honey sandwiches for breakfast and these peanut butter banana muffins really take the cake, no pun intended. The chocolate chips definitely make them a bit more decadent, maybe even verging on the category of dessert, but the peanut butter is a nice protein boost and besides, I reduced the amount of sugar and oil in the recipe with my addition of peanut butter. So they are actually healthy. Right. 

Okay, so maybe not exactly healthy but not terribly bad for you either. And on mornings when I need something a little yummier than cereal, oatmeal or toast, pulling one of these beauties out of the freezer to take to work will be an added pleasure for that day. Heck, it might even just be the thing that makes my day one day. Having these muffins in the freezer are like insurance for happiness. And in my book there is absolutely nothing wrong with planned happiness. 

And I love these muffin cups... The way they are pleated, all you have to do is pull it open a bit on the sides and the muffin comes out perfectly without sticking to the paper. :-)

Saturday, September 15

Day 259: Sunbeams

"If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely" - Roald Dahl

For some reason the quote above sounds like something said by a child who was asked for his or her thoughts on how to look lovely. And yet it was not written by a child at all but written by none other than the man who created Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr. Fox, among his varied and prolific works. I came across this quote on Pinterest of course. My new favorite adult babysitter (the previous one being Facebook). However, with Pinterest I really feel that I am being productive. I find so many things that inspire me in so many ways from new awesome recipes to try to quotes about happiness and positivity to easy DYI crafts to gorgeous photographs from places all over the world and on and on. The list is really endless. I have discovered some of my favorite blogs via Pinterest, which in turn inspire more creativity in myself. And I really feel that the inspiration I find there gives me a powerful energy boost. A boost that has sparked a vast new source of creativity inside me. It is amazing and wonderful and so very addictive. 

In many ways I feel that the gateways I've accessed via Pinterest have helped me to find a new passion. Since I stopped dancing it has been very difficult to fill the void that not dancing has left in my soul. I am a very visual person. I prefer learning things visually and I am greatly inspired by things that I see and experience with my eyes. Being able to look around and browse through the various "bulletin boards" on Pinterest is like being in a giant toy and candy store for adults and at the same time having access to the recipes and instructions to recreate everything I see. Nearly anyway, and that invigorates me and renews my zest for life. It is like riding on sunbeams through a clear blue sky. And that is lovely. Just like the quote above regarding good thoughts and sunbeams and always looking lovely. 


Friday, September 14

Day 258: My Umbrella

Our cat was full of it this morning. She was running all over the apartment like she was on fire. She does this quite often in fact and it always makes us laugh and laugh. So it isn't a horrible way to start a wet and rainy Friday. Normally I would be saddened by a rainy day, as that means no bicycle ride, but with today being Friday that helped push the rainy day sadness behind me. I merely put on my orange button-down shirt and pinned a pretty red crocheted flower to my cardigan (more girlie stuff) and headed to the bus stop with my cheery red and white Marimekko umbrella.

Several years ago I found this lovely umbrella at Crate and Barrel. It was after my very first trip to Sweden, with my at the time boyfriend and now husband, and after my very first introduction to the wonderful world of Marimekko. Marimekko is a design corporation specializing in bright, cheery and all around happy textile patterns. I instantly fell in love. I wanted all things Marimekko and we actually have quite a few Marimekko things gracing our home. Our shower curtain is the famous Unniko flower pattern and I also have a metal canister and apron in the same pattern in red. We also have one of the featured fall 2009 floral patterned oiled fabrics as our balcony tablecloth and my husband and I each have several items of Marimekko clothing. The designs and fabric patterns are timeless and classic and I just love them.

But one of my favorite and best purchases to date has been my Kivet red and white umbrella. I stumbled across it in Crate and Barrel some years ago and because of my previous Marimekko knowledge I knew it's worth and snatched it up right away. I think I would have liked it anyway but knowing what a find it was I was completely thrilled and even a bit sneaky as I walked sort of hiding it to the register, paid and ran out of the store before anyone realized what was before them. There are a handful of people in the US who now know about Marimekko and stores selling Marimekko are popping up everywhere so my secret is out.

One of the things I love about my umbrella is the fact that this particular design, by Maija and Kristina Isola, is from 1956 and made to appear like circles cut out of paper freehand with scissors. It's sort of whimsical and childlike and I love that about it. Using my umbrella when it rains makes me happy and lifts my spirits, even if I'd rather be on my bike with my orange scarf sailing behind me.




Thursday, September 13

Day 257: A Golden Splash of Flower

There are many days when my getting dressed for work involves the bare minimum of effort and I just throw on what's clean, or even semi-clean, and hope that it matches well enough and looks presentable. When I'm going to be riding my bike I feel that I shouldn't wear my "nice" clothes because they might get messed up. So instead all of my "nice" clothes sit in the closet while the clothes that have been "bike riding" approved go to work with me every day. Well, today I decided that I was going to wear a nice dress despite the possibility that it may get messed up. And I have to tell you, riding my bicycle to work in a dress with a golden splash of flower made me feel pretty and feminine and even slightly chic.

Every day I see women riding their bikes in dresses and suits and the highest heeled shoes I've ever seen. Shoes that I wouldn't even wear if it was valet parking only. But there they are looking stylish and girlie and I think, "I could do that." Then I look down at my cargo pants and long-sleeve black shirt and tennis shoes and I tell myself that at least I am comfortable and warm. I've always been sort of a tomboy. In grade school and junior high I never brushed my hair during the day while I was at school. I would leave for school in the morning and by the time I got in the car when my mom picked me up after school my hair was nearly a rat's nest. And If I am being honest, I probably didn't brush my hair after I left the house in the morning while I was in high school either. But by then I had a huge perm so it didn't matter so much. (Thank you spiral 80's perm!)

Maybe I should make more of an effort to be more girlie. Before it gets to the point where I no longer have any high heels and I am looking more like the person coming to clean the office instead of the person who works there. Today I gave it a good go. It was more of a girlie day than most of my days. I had the dress and the pretty flower belt and even a pretty feminine scarf, but I still had on my lace up granny shoes, my sporty jacket and my bike gloves. I guess I have to start somewhere, right? But baby steps to being a girlie girl are probably all that I can manage. According to my husband however that is perfectly okay. He likes his occasionally girlie tomboy and I guess I do too.

Soft, feathery flower belt...

It gives my black dress the perfect feminine touch...

Wednesday, September 12

Day 256: Enchiladas

Fake beef and cheese enchiladas, smothered in tomatillo sauce, with spicy black beans and Spanish rice on the side. I was looking through the pantry the other day... But first I have to ask, do you ever accidentally find something in your pantry that you forgot was in there and coming across it puts a happy dance in your feet? For me it usually happens with a brownie mix or Williams Sonoma pumpkin pancake mix but this time it was a simple box of Spanish rice mix. I must have brought it back with me from Texas last year and somehow hid it from myself, in plain sight. I'll just blame it on my being short since it was on a top shelf that I rarely access, because I'm short.

I had been planning to make enchiladas this week so finding the Spanish rice as an accompaniment was a surprise bonus. I mean, enchiladas are always great, don't get me wrong. A la carte with a side salad and avocado is perfectly fine, or even with just a side of doctored up black beans. But enchiladas with beans AND Spanish rice? It is simply a Mexican feast heaven, especially on a Wednesday night. I miss getting my Tex Mex fix but this is the closest thing to it here in Sweden. So at this point it might be appropriate to send out a big thank you to all of our friends and family who have helped make Tex Mex in Stockholm a possibility. You know who you are... those cans of Hatch green chili enchilada sauce, diced green chilis and jars of the best salsa in the world have helped us survive this cold, Mexican food-less place. Here's sending you a huge thank you from the bottom of our enchilada loving hearts!

Insert: Yum.
In case you couldn't tell, enchiladas are my happy today. 

By the way, here's a great tip for preserving the freshness of your avocados. 
Click on the orange text below: 

Tuesday, September 11

Day 255: Orange Scarf

Well I finally found one. After looking high and low and near and far, it finally materialized before my eyes. In a women's clothing store called Lindex. A couple of weeks ago when I began the hunt I was looking everywhere. When you have something specific and especially that specific in mind it usually doesn't even exist. I had started to contemplate going to a fabric store and finding some material to sew one up myself. After I get a sewing machine that is. Do you remember me saying that it couldn't be just any orange scarf? That the color had to be just right? Not too dark but not too bright either. Well I'm pretty sure this is as close to perfect as I'm going to get. That's not to say that if I happen across THE perfect one, that I will not buy it also. In fact I'm pretty sure I would.

As I looked around the last couple of weeks, it seemed that a more rusty orange is the trend for fall here. That and a bright, almost neon orange, which just isn't going to happen. I remember back when I was in high school and neon colors were popular. I had a neon purple and green hand-painted t-shirt that I picked out the paint colors for and painted myself. Not anything I would make in this day and age, I can guarantee that. For some reason yesterday this hideous shirt popped into my mind and as I thought about it I couldn't imagine what must have been going through my head back then to paint a neon purple and green t-shirt.

Obviously neon colors were the style at the time (It was the 80's) but still. Does this mean I'm getting old? Probably. The fashions back then were not my favorite and they are well beyond being my I favorite now as they make their sad comeback. My husband and I were watching a music performance the other day on TV. The female singers fashion was "interesting" and upon seeing it my husband said, "I'm a hundred years old." I know what he means. I also feel old when I see some of these so called new fashions that are popular now. Sometimes they make me cringe.

It's not just fashion styles that show me how old I am however, I started feeling old many years ago when the realization hit that I just could not wear high-heeled shoes anymore. I mean, that's silly to say. I can wear them, of course. I just can't walk in them for more than thirty minutes. If that. Wearing high-heels isn't terribly practical here in Stockholm because most of the sidewalks are uneven cement tiles or cobblestones and I've nearly broken my ankle in just a pair of clogs. It completely baffles me when I see women walking around here in spike-heeled pumps. It makes me feel old but at the same time just a little bit grateful to have the good sense to go out and buy a pair of old lady shoes.

I don't really feel old but I definitely know I am no longer in that age group, if you know what I mean. I know my place and I actually like it. But this is really about my fabulous new orange scarf and how great it feels to wrap this happy color around my neck. The scarf itself is very versatile and can be worn as a shawl wrapped around my shoulders, or scrunched up, twirled around my neck and tied in a variety of fun ways. I love my new fall scarf and now it truly feels like I can enter autumn properly. So if you are out and about in Stockholm and you see a woman on a bicycle with an orange scarf waving behind her, it might just be me so please say hello or give a shout!


Monday, September 10

Day 254: Reflections on LIfe

I just finished a book for my next book club by Nora Ephron called I Feel Bad About my Neck. In it Ms. Ephron talks about her own life and what it's like to grow older and we are taken on a sort of journey with her all the way to the final chapter when she discusses death and dying. So many people write about death when they start to approach the time in their lives when it seems more possible, even inevitable. And I assume it is natural to think about ones own immortality at that time. I have even started thinking about my own immortality in recent years, with all of the news of young, forty-somethings who were healthy and fit and exercised regularly but then they drop dead of a heart attack with no warning. Death is always something I have feared. I don't want to die and I don't really want to get older. And yet it's inevitable.

While I read her words about the fears surrounding dying, letting loved ones go and accepting death as part of life's cycle I was struck when I considered how differently growing older, death and dying seem to be viewed here in Sweden. The stigma of becoming old isn't as stark here as it is in the US. I don't really know exactly why that is but there is definitely a different view of life, which in turn signifies a different view of death as well. What if as we grew older, we focused instead upon all of the simple pleasures and joys, even the sad moments that give us perspective, through each stage as we make our way up the stairway of life? Every stage of our lives is beautiful, every moment special. Cherish each one.

Starting on my next birthday I am going to begin a journal in which I write a short essay on all that happened during the previous year that touched me, inspired me or even angered me. Everything that I feel enriched the meaning of my life during that year. Each birthday I will begin my next year with a reflection over the previous year, focusing on the living part of my life. Yes, before my next birthday I will go out and purchase a special journal to record all of my years into, from this year forward.

Who wants to join me?


Sunday, September 9

Day 253: When the City Sleeps

The alarm went off at five twenty-five a.m. this morning and I'm not sure why or how but I popped right up and turned my bedside lamp on. I am not really a morning person. Just ask my husband or my Mom. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I wasn't sound asleep. Because just maybe I was still partially awake from our four a.m. wake up call from our late partying neighbors and our cat who was making a ruckus all over the house with her fake mouse. She gives the term nocturnal creature a new meaning. I am sure that all of the cats I have had were also nocturnal but she is a regular night owl and puts them to shame with her late night, or early morning, shenanigans. But anyway, there I was sitting up in bed wondering why on earth we signed ourselves up for a bike rally that started at six thirty a.m. on a Sunday. My husband had the beginnings of a cold yesterday and so I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do this. "Yes!" was his short reply and we both jumped up and started the getting ready process.

Just a short thirty minutes later we were on our bikes and turning out of the garage onto the street outside. As soon as we started heading down Hornsgatan, our street, I saw the beautiful clear blue sky in the distance and felt the quiet calm that had settled over the city during the night. That moment right there confirmed our decision to get up at the crack of dawn and get into our bike gear. The water around the city was smooth as glass and all of the beautiful historic buildings stood stoic watching over us as we rode by. What a gorgeous morning!

It was also fun to see a handful of other cyclists speeding their way from different areas of the city to reach the starting line. Shortly after our arrival and a quick toilet stop we were on our way. We rode through the lush parks that whispered hints of fall, through still sleeping city streets, up and down hilly wooded trails along the water, across bridges right next to train tracks as well as through quaint neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city. It was peaceful and exhilarating and exhausting but we finished strong in just over two hours, including one potty break. This will definitely be a yearly event we participate in each year. Maybe you'll come out and join us next time?

At the finnish.... enjoying some orange mango juice while waiting in line for a latte. Yes, they served lattes or cappuccinos to all of us who rode. Sweet!

Saturday, September 8

Day 252: Pumpkin Muffins (with a Secret Special Ingredient)

Today began my season long love affair with pumpkin. I asked my husband this morning if he wanted a) pumpkin muffins, b) pumpkin pancakes or c) a chanterelle mushroom omelett for breakfast. His reply: "They all sound good," said through a look of fear of picking the wrong one. Smart guy. "A" was obviously the right choice. At least today. So this explains why, several hours later, my hair has the lovely, rich fragrance of pumpkin and spice. I'll never wash my hair again! Um... that was a joke. Obviously the pumpkin scent will fade and we all know what is left after that. Not pumpkin, of course.

There is almost nothing better than a weekend morning that starts out with pumpkin muffins. Unless those pumpkin muffins include dark chocolate chips. The first year I lived in Berkeley I woke up on the morning of my birthday and decided that I would treat myself to something from the bakery around the corner that I'd been wanting to try. Being born in the fall is a special kind of birthday treat on its own and especially when said bakery had the most wonderful pumpkin chocolate chunk madeleines. I had never had pumpkin with chocolate and at first I was a bit leery. I mean, I didn't want anything to ruin my birthday pumpkin treat. Well, there was no need for such worry. It was love at first bite. The madeleine was a sort of a cross between a muffin and a moist cookie and possibly one of the most delectable birthday treats I've ever had.

So back to today and with that memory in mind I made a full batch, which according to the recipe makes three loaves. I ended up with twelve muffins, four with dark chocolate chips in them, and one loaf, also with dark chocolate chips. Well, today is not my birthday but it felt like a treat to have these delicious pumpkin muffins for breakfast. It is Saturday after all. And just in case you are wondering I had one of each, a plain one and a chocolate one. Divine!

For any of you who are feeling inspired, you can find the recipe at Allrecipes.com, or click on the name below in orange.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

Changes that I made to the recipe:

Reduced the sugar by one cup and used half white and half dark brown
Added a half teaspoon of vanilla extract to the wet ingredients
And I probably used rounded rather than level spoons of the spices ;-)
Then if you are feeling extra adventurous, add a cup of dark chocolate chips. You will not be disappointed.

 
A simple perfect pumpkin muffin... 

Here is the loaf with dark chocolate chips... mighty fine looking if I may say so myself...

And just because I felt like sharing, here are a few photos from my day...


Purple carrots that I saw and had to buy. I have had purple potatoes but not purple carrots. Fun! 

This pretty leaf made its way into my husband's cargo bicycle during our ride today. I decided to take it home with us. :-)

 Fika at Skåningen kaffe... just a few carbs before our 42 km bike ride tomorrow!


Friday, September 7

Day 251: Movie Night and Watch Repair

It's movie night tonight! But not just any old movie night, it's "going out to the movies" night. Plus dinner. Now it may be that dinner isn't awesome due to the theater location but it's dinner and a movie regardless. Sometimes those questionable dinners can be surprisingly good. And anyway the joy and thrill of walking into the dark theater and sitting in anticipation of the big screen entertainment cancels out any negative food experience, right? Depending on whether dinner turns out to be good or not, my movie experience may even include popcorn and/or candy.

It's crazy how excited I get about going to the movies. I have hardly been able to sit still at work and the  hours are dragging by as if they. Though as a side note I have to share my lunch time happy with you. Yesterday I sadly discovered that my favorite watch had stopped. So I picked up my second favorite only to discover that it too was out of juice. Time to find a watch repair shop in Sweden. When we lived in Texas, nearly every time I announced that I was going to the mall my husband asked me to bring one or two of his watches that needed a battery change. It got to where I hated even mentioning the mall because I really did not like going to the watch shop.

Fast Forward, it was called, always took an hour or more to change the battery and one time one of his watches required three batteries. It was this special outdoorsy watch for sports and it cost nearly fifty dollars to get it up and running again. In addition the shop was also located in an odd spot and if I wasn't planning to go to Macy's, which I seldom was, I had to make a special trip there. Twice. Once to drop them off and once to pick them up. So today when I walked in to this small mom and pop watch shop, the guy immediately took my watch, opened it up and changed the battery right there on the spot. He even gave me a free replacement stem because the stem broke when he opened the band to get inside the watch and everything cost the equivalent of twelve US dollars.

I mentioned to him that it usually took longer in the US and he said that it is his policy to provide excellent and quick service to his customers. He is a keeper. I informed him that I would be back next week with another watch. I was completely impressed. I walked out of there and made it back to the office with half of my forty-five minute lunch break left to enjoy. Now I have a pleasant experience with having watch batteries changed. Anyone need a new watch battery? Just don't tell my husband, I am pretty sure that nearly all of his watches are out of battery.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Thursday, September 6

Day 250: Chanterelle Toast

I guess the closest I'm going to get to picking mushrooms this year is picking them out of the bin at the grocery store and putting them in a paper bag. But that's perfectly okay with me. Our last venture into the forest turned my husbands hiking shoes into flip flops, if you recall. Okay the forest didn't do it but it happened there and that is a strong memory to overcome. There was also snow still on the ground in patches and it might be that I'm afraid that it will still be there, which would explain why our "summer" has not really been a summer.

But let me ask you something. Have you ever eaten fresh chanterelle mushrooms that were delivered to the grocery store in baskets, fresh from the forest? That you then purchased and carried home? Cooked them down with a little butter and cream and then mixed in some Västerbotten cheese that you then slathered between two pieces of hearty bread? And finally grilled the bread on both sides and then shoved it into your face? Me neither but we are about to do just that. Tonight, in the here and now we are going to make our very own chanterelle toast.

It is possible that I may spontaneously combust from the deliciousness of this masterful concoction, though I cannot in all honesty claim as my own. You've probably heard my talk about the magical chanterelle toast at one of our local favorite coffee bars, Kaffe. I'm pretty sure I've posted photos of their loveliness and described their melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Well, the time has come to try perfecting our own version. Stay tuned. I'll be back shortly with a report...

Here I am, back with a report. For our first try it was actually quite excellent. With just a few tweaks I think it will be sheer perfection. It's a good thing that mushroom season will be around for a while now. Maybe I'll even get to take a basket out into the forest and pick my own.


Just look at that buttery, melty goodness... Yum O!

Wednesday, September 5

Day 249: Pain is Good

If I had a gizzard I am sure it would be burned to a crisp right now. The reason being some kick a-- salsa I just ate that is so spicy it would probably ignite dry twigs if you were trying to start a campfire. After all the times I've complained about not being able to find spicy salsa in Stockholm, the day has finally come for me to eat those words. And I owe it to a store called Extreme Foods. What it should be called however is Extremely HOT Burn Your Gizzard Out Foods. We ventured over there not too long ago to see what they had and we found a salsa called "Pain is Good." Of course we had to try it. Well, let me just say that the last time I had anything that spicy I was in Texas and I was eating a fried stuffed jalapeño, dipped in ranch dressing. The ranch dressing isn't so much a Tex Mex ingredient but if you tasted how spicy they were you'd be drinking the ranch, I promise. After eating this Pain is Good stuff, I was wishing I had some ranch dressing. That or a gallon of ice cream to help with the after burn, if you know what I mean. This salsa is definitely "come on ice cream" hot.

I don't know if that much pain is actually good. But I don't want this to sound like I am complaining. It's quite the opposite. Gizzard burning salsa is definitely good and something that I would recommend to anyone searching for some true Mexican burn. But it must be taken in small, minute amounts so as to spread the joy, and avoid burning your gizzard out. The label on the jar shows a guy with his eyes squeezed shut and his mouth gaping wide open as he yells in pain. And this is exactly what you want to do after tasting it.

Unfortunately it still does not replace our beloved Arriba salsa, or a new favorite Native Texan but it gives us a buffer until we get our next fix. If you live in the US, especially Texas, I strongly suggest that you run, not walk, to your nearest grocery store or Central Market to pick up a jar of each or one of these and eat it in my honor immediately. If you send me photos of you eating it you might even get a prize.

And if you happen to pick up an extra jar and you want my address... I'm just sayin'... Seriously though, eat something spicy today and spread the love. Pain IS good and especially if it is the gizzard burning love pain of salsa.


Tuesday, September 4

Day 248: Meow? Hello, I'm Pina

Meow? Hello, I'm Pina. I'm the kitty so often referred to in my mama's posts. Speaking of my mama, she isn't feeling so hot today so I thought I would guest blog for her so she could take a break. I really like her blog and I think the idea behind it is effective most of the time. Most days I help her write and assist with the photo shoots. I think maybe you've seen images of my svelte figure and silky fur on occasion? So as her guest blogger I thought I would explore how I find happiness or positivity. For me sleeping all day is definitely high on the list. I can snooze any time anywhere and I really like to stretch out on my back and expose my belly. Sometimes if I make myself look really cute I get scratched and rubbed on my belly while they make endearing sounds. It's pretty cute. 

I also like to chase the occasional bug that makes its way into my apartment and I LOVE to sit in the various windows looking down into the inner garden or out on the street. Windows are my favorite. The inner garden is especially nice now that they have finished making all of those annoying loud noises that shake the building. I thought that would never end and then one day it was like heaven. No sounds at all. Before they left they also put in some of those cool green things that blow in the breezes. I think they are called plants or trees but I am not sure. I really like those, even though they tend to drive me mad with desire to attack them. The window looking out into the street is pretty cool too and lately I have made friends with this fat bird that likes hanging out right outside the window on the ledge. I would really like to taste, er, hang out with her more but I haven't been able to figure out how to get through the glass and she flies away too quickly anyway. Which is weird because she doesn't look like she could move that fast. Oh well.

But one of my absolute favorite things is when my mom and dad are both at home and we all hang out together in the living room. I lie in my own personal beanbag chair and they share the couch. Sometimes they sneak down onto the floor to kiss me and pet me in the middle of their shows on TV and they always make these silly goo goo eyes at me. I think it's sweet but they really need to chill out. I mean, I'm just sleeping but they seem to think I have created an artistic masterpiece. Just lying there. It's okay though. I get it. And as long as we are all happy, and I am pretty sure that we are, then I am happy too.

Me and my new friend.

Me at the summer house. I loved that place. I can't wait to go back!


 My grandpa made this chair and I really love it. I am sleeping pretty hard here. But don't be deceived, that is not a frown. I am actually very happy in the photo.

Monday, September 3

Day 247: Fresh Figs

If you've ever wondered if sliced fresh figs would be good on your morning cereal, I'm here to tell you that, yes, it is a brilliant idea and it is absolutely delicious. Especially if you toss together some bran flakes, a handful of muesli with dried apples, dates and hazelnuts and a sprinkling of honey-scented quinoa puffs to serve as their bed. I sliced the figs in thick chunks, laid them like jewels atop the cereal blend, poured milk carefully over them and then sunk my spoon into the bowl, making sure to get a bite of fig with each mouthful.

It felt like such a decadent breakfast for a slow, sleepy Monday morning and one that I felt I earned and deserved. I have always been a fan of fresh figs as far back as I can remember. My grandmother had fig trees in her yard and when they were in season we always reaped some of the benefits too. And though I prefer them fresh, even fig jam is a delicacy that I find perfectly acceptable. Just spoon a heaping mound onto your cheese plate with salted almonds and a glass of bubbly champagne on the side. It doesn't get much better than that.

I remember some years back when I was working in a southern French, Northern Italian inspired tapas restaurant that we served a flatbread with fresh figs and pancetta that could put me in a coma. It was so amazing that my mouth waters now just thinking about it. I don't eat ham anymore but if given the option to sink my teeth into one of those flatbread again I may have to just close my eyes and go for it. Pretend it is fakon (fake bacon). It could work. I'll just focus on the figs.

These beauties will be on my cereal tomorrow morning too. I can hardly wait!

Check out these figs on Pinterest: Figs

Sunday, September 2

Day 246: Ikea Bike Tour

Yesterday I suggested that we get up and get going early today and ride our bikes out to Ikea. It is about twelve kilometers there so I figured it would be a good work out round trip and we could leave early to arrive when they open and beat the crowds. Ha. Beat the crowds at Ikea? Impossible. There seems to be some unspoken rule everywhere I have lived where an Ikea exists that states that a minimum of fifty nine thousand three hundred and seventy three people must go to Ikea every single day. Not necessarily to shop but just to hang out and stand three wide in all the aisles. And all of them should bring their tired screaming kids along too. Ah... Ikea. The place I love to hate.

I am partly kidding about loving to hate Ikea. Ikea definitely holds a special place in my heart and our bike ride there and back was awesome. Riding there we stopped several times to make sure we were on track with directions and heading the right way. We only over shot once and luckily we did not have to backtrack uphill. The ride home was a cinch. And the in between part wasn't so bad either.

I never know how I am going to make out on a trip to Ikea. It could turn out that I practically buy everything in the store or I could leave empty handed. Or maybe I find a few things but the things I go looking for don't turn out to be what I expected and those sadly get crossed off the wishlist. But no matter what I end up with there always seems to be one or two surprises that somehow make their way into the shopping basket. One of today's surprises included a double duty springform baking pan.


This ultra cool baking pan doubles as a regular round cake pan or a bundt cake pan, with little heart shapes pressed into the top part of the bundt pan so that the finished cake comes out with heart on top. It is really cute and I felt that it needed to come home with me. And we don't actually have a spring form pan so we actually needed it. It is also red on the outside, which happens to be my second favorite color these days. So you know what this means, right? I will be baking sometime in the near future to test it out. Stay tuned!

Isn't it cute? Who wouldn't want to eat a piece of cake made in that?