Wednesday, October 31

Day 305: The Great Trick or Treat Hunt

This morning I woke up to a big surprise. I walked into the kitchen thinking I was the only one up and found three plastic jack-o-lanterns sitting on the dining table, one each in my place, my husband's place and my dad's place. Each one had a note taped to the handle that said, "Welcome to the great trick or treat hunt." The notes were signed, "The Great Pumpkin." Apparently The Great Pumpkin had hidden candy all throughout the house for us to find. One hundred and five pieces to be exact, according to my mother, who apparently has connections to The Great Pumpkin. Well, we were all off to a slow start this morning so the actual hunt did not begin until after breakfast a little later in the morning when we had a little nourishment and energy to get in the competitive race mode.

Once it did begin, the race was on. I felt bad for my dad because he can't move so fast anymore so I "overlooked" several pieces and left them for him to find. Unfortunately I did not communicate this to my husband who came behind me like a tornado, slurping up every piece in sight. He was a blur of motion the entire time. The only sounds that could be heard were the sounds each piece made as he dropped them in his jack-o-lantern. Plop, plop... plop. At one point we decided that maybe we should count what we all had to see how many pieces were still hidden. Between the three of us we had a total of ninety. Dang, that's a lot of mini Reese's peanut butter cups... and a few other things. But only fifteen left to find. 

Ten or fifteen minutes and eleven pieces found later we decided to call it quits. I mean, it wasn't like a rotten egg would sit waiting for a year like a ticking bomb. One day someone would come across a missing piece and say, "Oh look! A mini Reese's from the Great trick or treat hunt!" We spread our finds out in various places around the living room to inspect our stash. And when we didn't think anything could get better, it was announced that there was a grand prize winner for the person who found the most candy. What? In overlooking pieces earlier in the game to allow my dad to find more I apparently forfeited my chance to win the grand prize. Because, let's face it, I am the trick or treat [and egg hunting] master and no one can beat me. That is, until today. The grand prize was a crisp, shiny ten dollar bill. Sniff sniff. But it's okay, I also have to share the grand prize wealth, right?

Waiting patiently to be filled...

"I found a Hershey's!"

"I am finding EVERYTHING... see how fast I move?"

Tuesday, October 30

Day 304: Dinner Amigo, Margarita Shakers and a Tortilla Warmer

Do any of you have old favorites when it comes to restaurants that you frequented when you were younger? There were a few that I loved at varying times when I was young. Several weeks ago my husband and I were eating enchiladas at home when I suddenly had a flashback of Case Ole, one of the restaurants I loved as a teenager and young adult. I started telling about all of the fun times I had there and of the times I had to scrape up all the change I had so I could go and have a Dinner Amigo with my friends. I must have painted an attractive picture because he decided then and there that we were going to Casa Ole on our next trip back to my home town. Well, today was that day. We arrived on Saturday and found my dad working on a jigsaw puzzle and a fairly complicated one at that. We started working on it with him and told him that we would help him finish it before we leave on Thursday. At that time my mom proposed a bet that if we (my husband) could finish it by Tuesday at noon, she would treat us to a Dinner Amigo at Casa Ole. The bet was on. In the end it was tight and, despite what you might have guessed, he lost by two minutes. Two whole minutes and no Dinner Amigo. The final piece was set into place by my dad at 12:02 p.m.

Normally that would have meant that we paid for dinner but in the end my parents would not let us pay. And besides walking out with our bellies stuffed to the gills, we left with a goodie bag as well. To make a long story short, my husband decided that we need a tortilla warmer and we thought it might be fun to have one from a restaurant that meant something to us. We asked our server if the tortilla warmers say Casa Ole on them and she said that they did not but we were still interested in one. After the manager came out to offer us, free of charge, four Casa Ole margarita shakers, we realized that we had worked together at Casa Ole's sister restaurant, Crazy Jose's, many years ago. It was really fun to reminisce and talk about the great times we had at Crazy Jose's and in the end we left with a tortilla warmer as well. All compliments of the house!

We had a fantastic day with my parents visiting the Art Museum of Southeast Texas and driving around downtown Beaumont before dinner. Below are a few shots from our little adventure.

Heading into downtown Beaumont with the historic Hotel Beaumont in the background. 

The historic Edson Hotel in downtown Beaumont. 

A few Totems by Felix "Fox" Harris.

One of the many nice works of art at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. 
This particular artist teaches an art class one of our friends in Dallas takes.

Casa Ole!
So nice to be able to wear a dress with bare legs before heading into hibernation back home...

Monday, October 29

Day 303: Pumpkin Adventure

One of my favorite things about the fall is the abundance of pumpkins and pumpkin flavors everywhere. Yesterday we visited the beautiful Shangri La Gardens in Orange, Texas, where we saw a very cool and creative scarecrow exhibit. The park itself had an incredibly serene and peaceful vibe and the beautiful moss draped trees standing stoically in the middle of the pond and the expansive clear blue sky only added the park's beauty. The walkways were lined with fat melting pumpkins and plantings of rich orange marigolds, which in my opinion are the perfect fall accent. My husband and I got married in the fall nearly four years ago and the botanical garden where we held our ceremony was similarly decorated. It brought back many wonderful memories of that day. There will be more about that later but for now let me get back to the pumpkins.

We began the day with one of my all time breakfast favorites: homemade pumpkin muffins. I baked some plain and some with chocolate chips. If you have not had pumpkin with chocolate chips, you seriously have been missing out and I highly recommend that you put it on your short list of things to try. Pumpkin and chocolate chips in muffins, breads or pretty much anything that can be eaten is one of the best flavors in the world. My pumpkin adventure expanded this afternoon to include my first pumpkin spiced latte of the season from Starbucks and I am seriously considering ending today's pumpkin adventure with a slice of chocolate chip pumpkin bread, also baked this morning. 

There is only thing I can think of right now that may be better than the thought of gobbling up a slice of chocolate chip pumpkin bread and that is the anticipation of the Mexican tortilla casserole that my mom is making and the guacamole, salsa and chips waiting to be eaten with it. But notice that I say "may" be. I will have to get back to you on that one. For now, I will succumb to the smells of baking cumin-scented tortilla casserole with salsa and black beans luring me to the kitchen. 

 One of my favorite "scarecrow" exhibits...

Some of the pumpkins were even hanging in the trees! 

These two were the scariest scarecrows we saw.

Sunday, October 28

Day 302: Milestones and Play

In all of the excitement the past few days with visiting family and Trader Joe's, I completely missed the fact that I made it passed the Day 300 mark. I am now on Day 302. It feels fantastic to have succeeded in making it this far, Finding Happy every day. I know I mentioned before how great it felt to finally make it to first one milestone and then another, but this particular milestone really feels like an accomplishment. It was so difficult in the beginning to imagine how Finding Happy every day for 300 days would look and now that day is here. It hasn't always been easy, though even on the most difficult days it has been possible to pull myself sufficiently out of a funk to find something happy or positive in my day. Having gone through some of the darker days, I feel that I really can relate to others who have even more difficult things to get through. I know in my heart and in my soul that it IS possible to Find Happy each day, regardless of what I am going through. Whether it is in acknowledging the simple fact that I have been blessed with another day of life, whether it be that I saw a gorgeous sunset, a pretty flower or a majestic tree shimmering with autumn leaves or whether it be that I got to hug each one of my brother's kids, happiness has been sought and found.

But one thing that particularly makes me happy today is the concept of serious play. I have a nearly seven year old nephew who really loves to play. I got to spend just under twenty-four hours playing with him recently and it was so much fun. We played hind-and-go-seek, we played tag, we played steam roller, we played outside on the swing-set, we collected seashells and we played with building blocks and dinosaur eggs. It was serious play and serious fun. My husband and I are pretty playful together ourselves and especially for our age but playing with a youngster really shows me how important it is to keep my own imagination alive and well. It is amazing how imaginative and resourceful a child can be and it is a good reminder to not take life so seriously. If you haven't played really hard in a while, I strongly encourage you to go to the nearest park, get on a swing and swing as high as you can. Bring a friend along and play on the see-saw too. Draw pictures together with magic markers or crayons and really allow your inner child to come out. See if it opens your imagination in other areas of your life as well. I dare you.

Nothing better than a swing and a friend to swing with...

Saturday, October 27

Day 301: Trader Joe's

When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1990, I clearly recall seeing the signs for a specialty grocery store called Trader Joe's. One of the girls in my dance scholarship program always talked about how much she loved Trader Joe's. She would always say, "Trader Joe's has the best this" or "Trader Joe's has the best that." Two years passed before I finally made my maiden voyage to Trader Joe's. And from the minute I walked in I regretted waiting so long.

I don't know how to explain it but there is something truly magical about Trader Joe's. It is definite one of those stores that energized me the moment I walk in. I soon had a growing addiction for their products. It was love at first sight and over time I developed a strong and deep bond with Trader Joe's that has continued for many years. However, when I moved back to Texas from California, my love affair with Trader Joe's sadly ended. There were simply no Trader Joe's stores in Texas. I continued to love Trader Joe's from afar and anytime I traveled to a city that had Trader Joe's I made it a point of adding it to my list of "must see" places during my visit. And my trip home was usually made with a slightly overstuffed suitcase due to all of the wonderful Trader Joe's purchases.

Somehow I have a feeling that today will be no different, as today is a special day. I will be visiting my first Texas Trader Joe's. You see, just about three years ago my husband and I moved to Sweden from Texas. Approximately one year ago I received the bittersweet news that Trader Joe's would be opening stores in Texas. (Finally!) Were they serious?! I nearly had a heart attack when I heard this news. (Trader Joe's why have you forsaken me?) Before I moved to Texas from California I made a point of asking at every Trader Joe's I frequented if they would be opening stores in Texas. I mean, they were opening stores in various places all over the country so why not Texas? At the time I was told that, yes, Trader Joe's would be opening nationwide and within five years. This included Texas I was told so I was pretty happy. Yipee, right? Ummm. Let's see... I lived in Texas for about six and a half years before moving to Sweden and I've lived in Sweden almost three years now. Trader Joe's just recently opened in Texas. That's nearly a ten year wait, Trader Joe's. Does that sound fair? What's up with that?

Well, I can honestly say that If I wasn't so happy to have you within my occasional grasp again, I might complain about the wait that has taken almost twice as long as promised. Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly a promise but I took it that way. I loved you and needed you in my life. But hey, that's okay. I'm fine, I can deal with it. So the minute I knew we were traveling to Texas, a visit to Trader Joe's became a priority. You may be wondering what it is that is so special about Trader Joe's. As I said before, it is really somewhat difficult to explain but here are a few items that could be found in my shopping basket from today's visit: a couple of bags of peanut butter filled pretzels, oatmeal and tea tree oil soaps, a giant one pound plus chocolate bar, chocolate covered orange jellies for my mom, spiced cider, cracked wheat sourdough bread, vegetarian Italian sausage, wine, a wide assortment of other treats and a brand new re-useable Trader Joe's shopping bag. Sigh. Trader Joe's, I love you and I have missed you so much. When do you suppose you'll be opening in Stockholm?

Trader Joe's in the old Alabama theater in Houston, Texas.
It was a chilly day today in Texas but look at that gorgeous clear blue sky.

Friday, October 26

Day 300: Gringo's

Real Tex Mex cuisine is something I crave constantly living in Sweden. We try making our own Tex Mex sometimes but it isn't quite the same as the authentic flavors of freshly made enchiladas with refried beans and Spanish rice, perfected over time through years of tradition. I seriously could eat Mexican food every day. When we started planning our trip to Texas my mouth started salivating just thinking about sinking my teeth into some true Tex Mex enchiladas and tacos, not to mention the truly amazing spicy salsa that I could drink by the gallons. All of this deliciousness best finished by washing it all down with a frosty margarita with salt.

So when my aunt suggested that we have lunch today at a Tex Mex place called Gringo's, there was not even a hint of hesitation when I replied, "That sounds great!" Even later when she hinted that maybe we wouldn't have time for lunch with everything we wanted to do today, I assured her that we would make time for her and my uncle, and some much awaited and yearned for Tex Mex.

Gringo's may not have been the absolute best Tex Mex I've ever had but it really hit the spot and satisfied my craving. And compared to what's available in Stockholm it could easily be said to have been the best I've had in a really long time. I look forward to eating more Tex Mex during the next week. Maybe even every day.

Thursday, October 25

Day 299: Sunrise

When I looked out of the airplane window early this morning it was pitch black as far as the eye could see. It was six thirty a.m. Swedish time and we had just taken off. After being up since three-thirty a.m. I was hoping to catch even a slight hint of sunrise on the horizon. Much to my dismay, not a hint was to be found.There aren't many things worth being up for at that hour but being able to witness the beauty of the sunrise coming up over the horizon is one of those things.

Just five minutes later I looked out again and magically there it was, almost as if it appeared out of no where. Way off in the distance to my left, a thin blood-orange line slowly began to blaze across the horizon. It was spectacular. The sky and land all around it was black still, which further added to its beauty. Unfortunately we were still in our initial ascent and i couldn't sneak a photo. When we were finally high enough up that I could get a shot, the orange morning light had morphed into a soft white.

In general I'd say that I am primarily a sunset person, though that can mostly be attributed to the fact that I am not "morgon pigg," as they say in Sweden about someone who is not a morning person. So I usually miss out on seeing the sunrise. Sunsets are one of the natural phenomenons that I've always felt a strong connection to. I love to be out in nature sitting on a beach or cliff watching as the sun makes it's daily dip over the horizon. So when I consider the fact that I'm not "morgon pigg" and am seldom up early enough to see this spectacular sight, catching the quiet beauty of a sunrise on a clear, cloudless morning like today, when most of the world is still fast asleep, is pretty much a miracle. I can probably count two, possibly three times a year that I get to witness the beauty of a sunrise so this morning felt pretty special.

Wednesday, October 24

Day 298: If It's Free, It's For Me

Today I went on a work adventure. The company I work for is participating in a lighting convention that is taking place in an area of Stockholm called Kista (pronounced: Sheesta). My husband just so happens to work in the area, so lucky for me I got to "go to work" with him today. We took the pendeltåg (commuter train) together to and from work AND we even met for lunch. It was really exciting because we haven't had lunch together during a work day since I started my job almost two years ago and even before then it was a rare treat.

The work adventure itself was quite interesting. I always enjoy people watching at these types of events and today proved especially entertaining. There were the stereo-typical electricians with their dusty workman's cargo pants, the light designers with their hip horn-rimmed glasses and the consultants, who were mostly generic, and then everything else in between, and even beyond. Most entertaining however was watching how people reacted to the "give aways." Our small giveaway was individually wrapped miniature Swedish candies, more specifically daim (like heath bar) and kex choklad (similar to a kit kat). The kex choklad were most popular though both bowls of godis (candy) were disappearing at a fast pace.

Back in Texas, I once worked with a guy who's motto was, "If it's free, it's for me!" He loved to "visit" the noon conferences where he would help himself to the lunch buffet nearly every day. I tried to tell him that it wasn't actually free, that each plate used was counted and the department was charged for every single one of them. He still continued to come. Well, let's just say that it was like this guy multiplied today. Some of our booth visitors were polite and took one candy, maybe two with a sly smile. Then there were those who stood there talking to you, casually sneaking one after the other into their mouths every few minutes. One woman ate five all together. But my personal favorite was college student who, after standing there for ten minutes while her friend asked one of my colleagues a million questions, merely scooped up an entire handful and casually dropped it in her bag, pretending all the while like she did nothing. Then five minutes later she made the exact same move. Two handfuls right into the bag. If it's free, it's for me.

The most popular of the give-away candies by far.

On our way to the pendaltåg station this morning. No bicycle today but it was worth it.

Tuesday, October 23

Day 297: Checking Off My To-Do Lists

Checking things off to-do lists is one of my greatest pleasures. Especially when it has to do with buying presents for friends and family. I know I've already mentioned before the thrill I get when I discover an awesome gift that I think the receiver will love but it's worth mentioning again. It makes me bubble over with excitement and joy. I wonder if there's a way to bottle and sell this joy? There is no doubt that I could make a million dollars.

So why does it give me such joy to give presents? I don't really know what the tipping point was that caused me like giving gifts more than receiving them. Don't get me wrong, I still love presents but I find myself slightly more excited these days to give a present than the other way around. I love to see a smile light up my loved one's face when they are equally, if not more, excited by their present.

Today I ran out during my lunchbreak to get a few more things checked off of my list. It was a successful mission, thanks to the blue subway line being up and running again. It takes a fraction of the time to take the blue line two stops than it does to take the bus or the green line. So I was a happy camper when the blue line started running again between my work stop and central station yesterday. We are taking a trip on Thursday and I can happily say that as of today I have purchased everything that I need in order to feel good about the presents that will accompany us.

It feels great to now be able to concentrate on other aspects of packing and trip preparing. After work I picked up some almond butter for sandwiches and a few snacks to have for an airplane picnic. You never know what the airplane food is going to be like and it's just always good to be prepared with a few comforts from home. Plus, who doesn't love a picnic? And on the airplane while watching movies? It practically ensures awesomeness for the fourteen plus hours of traveling and layovers. Just one more day until departure!

Monday, October 22

Day 296: Strange and Wonderful

I was having this crazy dream about my cat early this morning. She was outside on our seventh floor balcony and somehow she managed to sneak through the space at the bottom of the balcony bars and jump down to the neighbor's balcony right below us. But you know how in dreams things can be slightly off from reality? Our neighbor's balcony, which is directly below our balcony in real life, was instead attached to their kitchen windows over to the left. I ran back into the apartment frantically to call my husband and when I returned to the balcony she was sitting right there. She had jumped back up to our balcony. I could see that she was still full of piss and vinegar and was about to try leaping off the front of the balcony so I grabbed her tail and started pulling as hard as I could to keep her from jumping. Right about that time I was suddenly awakened by a tiny wet nose sniffing my face, then there was a rough tongue licking my chin. She was sitting next to my shoulder, purring loudly and kneading dough on my arm.

Did she know I was dreaming about her? Was I making noises in my sleep while dreaming? Really pulling her tail? I guess I will never know for sure but she woke me up and pulled me back to reality, just as I was pulling her tail to keep her from jumping. Kitties are strange and wonderful creatures. I sometimes wonder if they are little angels sent to watch over us. It seems that way sometimes when I look into her eyes. It's as if her eyes are telling me that she understands what I am feeling and she knows what I am thinking. The other day my husband and I were talking over breakfast and I said that when Pina goes to kitty heaven it may be a long time before I want to get another kitty. His response surprised me. He said that he would actually go out and get another kitty right away. He said that having Pina has shown him how important having a kitty in his life is and he wouldn't want to be without one again for very long. Hearing that made my heart melt for him just a little bit more. Nothing sweeter than a boy and his cat.

Looks like dinner time... where's my fresh fish?

Sunday, October 21

Day 295: Embrace Every Stage

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters...
compared to what lies within us." 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do you ever feel like there is a bigger person lying dormant within you? A person preparing for the world or preparing for a debut? Emerson's quote above makes me think of this notion. The hurdles we face each day, the difficulties that we feel sometimes are unbearable... those are "tiny matters" compared to our true selves, or "what lies within us," as Emerson says. Look at nature. Nature never stresses about the fact that winter came earlier this year or that it rained every day for a month. It just keeps going and being and the next day comes and brings spring buds and sunshine. 

Why don't we embrace life in the same way that nature exists? To nature, it doesn't matter if winter came earlier or later, the trees will still bud again and the leaves will shake with joy once again. The trees, in their winter dormancy, only plan and prepare for the next moment. They doesn't fret or fuss or cry. Why then do we as humans tilt our heads downward and take off our party hats, like the wooden man below? Why do we concern ourselves with things behind us or before us? Why not, instead, concern ourselves with what is [dormant] within us? Allow nature to take its course and prepare us in the same way for our debut. 

We all have something special to offer the world. Most of us know what that is whether it is our kindness or our leadership skills or our artistic nature. Why not today take a look at what nature has given us and allow those qualities to bloom... or perhaps even sleep through winter and awaken again in the spring. What is within you? Embrace it because that is where you will truly find happy.

Every stage of nature is beautiful.

Every stage of life is beautiful.
(Art by Mikael Nilsson, seen at 125 Kvadrat Konsthantverk Galleri in Stockholm)

Embrace every stage, whether it is a cold autumn day or a sunny spring day. 
They each have gifts to offer us.

Saturday, October 20

Day 294: Crazy Socks

This morning as I was getting dressed for the day it dawned on me that another thing I have a huge affinity for is socks. But not just any socks. I love socks that are fun and whimsical and maybe even a little bit crazy. I think, especially living in a place where you take your shoes off when you enter someone's home, it is so much fun to wear an outfit that is otherwise simple and plain and then take my shoes off and surprise the world with wild colors, polkadots or stripes. The best is to even have your socks be sort of completely wrong for the outfit. Like wear rusty orange and purple striped socks with blues and reds or even greens. I have to admit however that sometimes "completely wrong for the outfit socks" rub my sense of color combining the wrong way. But I still think it is fun.

My affinity for crazy socks is shared by many people. I know this because there happens to be a company here in Sweden that makes wild and crazy socks called Happy Socks. Their socks are fun and wild and whimsical in their color and pattern schemes and I completely love them. Unfortunately I do not yet own a pair. Not because I don't want them but simple because my sock drawer, believe it or not, is overflowing. We have a nephew who also shares my love of crazy socks. He has many pairs of these Happy Socks and wears them with the intention of causing a "splash" as well. It's so much fun!

I don't remember the circumstances but one time crazy socks came up in conversation with one of my aunts and she mentioned that her daughter in law actually buys socks from a company that sells them mismatched. Wild, fun, crazy colors and then completely mismatched from their pair. How fun is that? I tried to look them up online and it appears that they were not the only ones with that idea and there are actually many stores that sell mismatched socks. Who knew?!

My husband is a special kind of sock person too. He wears cycling socks nearly exclusively and regardless of how cold it is outside. He even wore them with his tux at our wedding! I only wish I'd gotten a photo of it. I have a certain time of year when I switch from ankle socks to mid-length socks and then another time of year when I switch from mid-length socks to knee socks, and then vice versa as the seasons change again. What kind of sock person are you?

 These are my favorite Marimekko socks. They always have the coolest designs!

 These were a present from my mom... I love them too!

Another pair of Marimekko socks... these are actually knee highs and I am wearing them today. 
Yesterday I had on mid-length socks... it's nearly time to switch exclusively to knee socks but I am trying to hold out as long as possible... and as long as I don't freeze to death!

Friday, October 19

Day 293: Weekend Anticipation

My anticipation for the weekend had me sitting on the edge of my seat all day. And if I'm being completely honest, I was probably been sitting on the edge of my seat this entire week. Today seemed to drag by with lead weights anchoring it down and the wait for quitting time was nearly unbearable. Every time I looked at the clock it seems just minutes had passed by. Then finally after what seemed like eternity, it was time. I tried my best not to run out of the office skipping but there was a definite bounce to my steps as I said my goodbyes and sprang down the stairs to leave. Maybe my boss didn't notice the difference between my happy exit and my earlier shuffling around?

The weather this week hasn't helped any either. With sporadic rain nearly every day, I was only able to ride my bike to work one day and that only added to the damper already on my spirits. But rain or shine, come four thirty p.m. on Friday afternoons you'll find me skipping out the door and singing like a giddy kid. Today was no exception. The anticipation of Friday afternoon is even more exciting and appreciated when I have been longing for it all week. Those weekends are often the best. Every moment is cherished and enjoyed to the fullest.

I was so excited to leave the office today that I even left the fresh pizza dough I bought to make pizza tonight in the fridge at work. Luckily my husband is so clever. He suggested that we swing by one of the local pizza restaurants in our neighborhood and see if we could buy pizza dough from them. As luck would have it they said yes! So pizza was still on. And I have to say it was really good. I can't think of a better way to start the weekend. Except maybe the daim (heath bar-like) chocolate cookies that are waiting for me downstairs.

Have a Happy Weekend!

Thursday, October 18

Day 292: Eating Like a Caveman

Sometimes I've discovered that when I'm eating alone I have a tendency to eat like a caveman. I know that sounds strange, or even funny, but it's absolutely true. There is little if any regard for table manners or etiquette, I merely shovel the food in like I'm a machine and the only goal being to get food into the pie hole as fast as possible. Sorry mom. You did teach me manners but apparently I only take them out for other people. It's not so terrible, is it? I never really took notice of this until the other day when I was eating lunch alone at work and I suddenly realized that food was dribbling out of my mouth and some lettuce was even hanging there on the edge of my lip as I animalistically gobbled up my salad, eventually pulling the remaining parts into my mouth. In a similar fashion to how your "house pet" eats. I am putting it nicely.

So the other day I asked my husband, "When I'm not at home and you are eating alone, do you eat like a caveman?" He said yes with a sort of nervous-you caught-me laugh. It's kind of funny actually and really a relief to know that I'm not the only person who eats this way when alone. Sometimes when we are both tired and just want to veg out after work we'll make our dinner plates, take them to the living room and eat while sitting on the couch watching TV. We did this a few days ago and in the midst of it, I started laughing and said, "I'm totally eating like a caveman." "Me too," he said. We laughed and just continued eating (like cavemen). Is it bad that we eat like cavemen together? It sort of makes me a weird kind of happy. I like it.

Do you eat like a caveman when you eat alone?

Wednesday, October 17

Day 291: Forty-Four

Somehow I seem to notice more details about today, specifically that it is Day 291 of my blog project. Two hundred ninety-one days. That seems like a lot of days. Much more than when I reached my ten day or even fifty day marks. I guess the number of days stood out more to me today because it is a special kind of day today. My birthday. I have never been one to be bothered by the years creeping by or the "height" of the number that happens to be associated with my birthday but this year I was dreading the big "44". For some reason 44 sounded much older to me than 43. Felt older and I guess too with not having been able to have a child at this point, 44 seemed to be the drop-off point. My hopefulness of having a child has greatly diminished and it is a sad time for me.

The point of my blog was to hopefully find ways to be happy every day despite things like this. Despite the occasional sadness that creeps in to my being. And it has worked for the most part. Most days I feel happy regardless of our childlessness. I was telling my husband last night through teary eyes that I truly AM happy, I just FEEL sad sometimes. And I think that is the big distinction. We can BE happy and still feel sad. I am a happy person. I am happy to be alive at age 44 and I am happy to have all of the wonderful blessings and amazing people that are in my life.

And then there's my husband who makes me laugh like a wild hyena. He woke me up this morning at five thirty a.m., in the traditional Swedish way of birthdays, with a tray of breakfast treats with candles, mugs of coffee, birthday cards that I've been saving from friends and family and then the presents that he decorated with the worst photos he could find of me. That last part has become a sort of tradition with us. As I enjoyed looking at all of the crazy photos he selected, we laughed together until tears came out as we relived the location and circumstance of each one. What a wonderful way to start my forty-fourth birthday. My wish for this birthday is that my next year be filled with as much laughter and fun as this year.

Here are a few photos of my day:

Kitty wants to be a part of it... as usual! :-)

 This one was taken while we were on an adventure with his sister and her husband on their boat one summer before we moved to sweden.

One of the crazy photos he used to decorate my packages. You can see another one on the side! 

Okay... so they aren't ALL bad. :-)

This one is from my work birthday fika...

As a small side note, I mentioned a couple of months ago that I wanted to start a yearly birthday journal. Well, here it is:

I bought this repurposed library book turned journal many years ago and have been saving it for the perfect moment. I plan to write my first entry this weekend and as I do I will reflect on this past year and maybe even a little on my plans and hopes for the next year. I think this will be a fun and insightful tool to look back on after many years have accumulated. I only wish I had thought of this idea sooner but as they say, better late than never, right?

Tuesday, October 16

Day 290: Shopping for Sanity

What is one thing that keeps you sane when everything turns upside-down, gets super crazy around holiday time, or seems to be sliding just out of your control? I used to have a small list of things, which included going for a long walk by myself, getting a pedicure, meeting a girlfriend for lunch, spending time with my husband and even shopping. Believe it or not, shopping relaxes me. I can let my mind wander as I browse and my imagination get to take a mini vacation. I look items over in the stores with an analytical eye, "Will that go with more than one thing in my closet? Does my love for it justify the price? Maybe I could make it myself?" The thought processes that go into mentally selecting my new fall (or whatever season it happens to be) wardrobe allow my mind to relax in other areas and, for those brief moments, and even sometimes well into the afternoon or evening, I have forgotten about the petty thing that was bothering me.

One thing that I truly love about buying gifts for family and friends is that the shopping is completely justified. And when I am not buying "one for them and one for me," buying gifts satisfies my desire to shop without ending up taking things home that I probably don't need. "Need" being a slippery word here because when I truly fall in love with something, there is usually a strong sense of "need" associated with it. And I usually can find all sorts of ways to justify that need. But anyway, my focus here is on the relaxing quality of shopping, which believe it or not has the exact opposite effect on my husband. Unless of course the shopping involves Home Depot, REI or the Container Store. Then there is the slight possibility that shopping has the same effect on him but in all seriousness, it is definitely not the same sort of effect it has on me.

I can literally spend hours shopping and exploring and coming across gift ideas, be they for myself or for my family and friends. Sometimes I'll even duck into a shop with no intention of actually buying anything but just to distract my thoughts. And it usually works. It is merely the act of distracting my mind that has a positive and happy-inducing effect. If I happen to find a great bargain in the process, well... I take no blame for that. I simply purchase it and move on. Next!

Monday, October 15

Day 289: Happy Faces and Surprise Flowers

I had a particularly bad day at work today. So bad that I was very near walking out and going home. I called my husband during lunch and he listened and tried to comfort and encourage me while I cried. I am not sure if I have mentioned this before but it is worth mentioning again. He truly is the best husband I could ever have. After fifteen or twenty minutes the emotions had mellowed out and I decided to go back to work and try to work through what I was feeling. Unfortunately the weather didn't help the day any either. It was windy, chilly and rainy out, forcing me to take the subway instead of my bike to work. Riding my bike is always the better option but since I do not yet have rain pants, off to the subway I went. It isn't so bad if you manage to get a seat, which I did, so that was something positive.

I wish I could say that my work day improved but it just didn't. It happens sometimes... and that's okay. Everyday can't be awesome, right? But there can be bits and pieces of awesome scattered throughout. Like take for instance our kitty snuggling with us this morning in bed, getting a warm hug from my husband before leaving for work and having leftover baked oatmeal for breakfast. The best part, however, was coming home to find my husband already home, opening the door for me before I could get my key in the lock and welcoming me home with more warm hugs and smiles. Nothing cheers me up like seeing a happy face that I love.

In the midst of all the warm hugs and then sweet kitty greetings, I happened to notice something red out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head and saw the most beautiful bouquet of red gerber daisies sitting on the dining table. They are one of my most favorite flowers and they were simply gorgeous. Getting flowers when you least expect it definitely ranks up there with one of the best surprises I know and they surely brightened my day.

So lovely and cheery. :-)

A single beauty...

Sunday, October 14

Day 288: Rainy Day Fika

I love weekend days when my only real plans are to have fika (coffee) with one of my girlfriends. The only thing missing besides the sunshine was my umbrella. When I was getting dressed to leave my apartment I decided to wear my down jacket instead of my waterproof rain jacket, thinking I would just take my umbrella with me. And then I promptly left home without it. The good news is that rainy days in Stockholm can generally be handled by ducking into a store or hiding out under an awning for a few minutes and the rain usually passes over, or at least slows up to a light sprinkle and you can dash for it.

When I left my apartment I half thought that maybe it wouldn't even rain anymore. The sun was shining and there were sparse clouds that, though dark, seemed to be skirting the sky's horizon. We decided to head to one of my favorite cafes in the city, Skåningen kaffebar, located in SoFo, or South of Folkungagatan, on Skånegatan. And even though it is on "the island" (meaning the island of Södermalm where I live), it is a bit of a hike to get there since the subway doesn't stop terribly close by. Buses get you nearer but it wasn't raining yet so we decided to head over on foot.

Well, it did start to drizzle a bit when we were about half way there but we arrived mostly undamaged. And as luck would have it, we walked in just as a group of ladies was leaving and we snagged two of their vacated seats at the bar in front of the window. We both ordered a piece of carrot cake each and a couple of coffee drinks. As we settled in to eat them I thought that I probably wouldn't (and definitely shouldn't) finish it all, especially the the mile high layer of frosting. But guess what? I completely finished the whole piece of cake, crumbs, frosting and all. We had a great chat and as we sat there we watched it rain, then stop, then rain, then stop. And that was pretty much the rest of the afternoon, even as we dashed in and out of a few boutiques as we slowly made our way back to the subway station. A lovely afternoon. Having a rainy day fika is the best sort of thing to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Don't you think? How did you spend your Sunday afternoon?

Saturday, October 13

Day 287: A Long Bike Ride

Today was a day full of farewell fikas, Happy Package deliveries (finally!), awesome but freezing fall bike riding and probably the last outdoor lunch until next spring. It has been a fabulous day! And I am not even kidding about freezing on the bike ride. My bum is still cold to the touch and feels as though it may be thawing out. The other day I saw a skirt made out of the same down and fabric that you see winter jackets made from. I read through the reviews and more than one person mentioned the fact that it keeps the bum warm on winter bike rides and short commutes between yoga and home. I am thinking I may have to invest in one of these. That or insulated underpants. Do they even make those? 

But yes, today was a lovely day. It started out with pumpkin pancakes, which is always a good start if you ask me. Then I rode my bike over to deliver the Happy Package winner's prize and attend a farewell fika for a woman I met through my book club. She and her husband are moving from Sweden and my winner was hosting the fika. Photos of the winning prize and delivery are below. Next on the agenda was something my husband wanted to do this weekend: a looonnnngggg bike ride. So we did just that. We rode out to the Royal National City Park, trying our hardest to find the sun shiny areas, because out of the sun's rays you might as well have been sitting inside your freezer. 

Then we had lunch outside at a cute little cafe that was tucked away in the park. It had a view of open fields, lined with trees in shades of fall and little children were running as fast as they could through the fields with their parents trailing behind. Why did we decide to sit outside for lunch? Because other people were doing it and it was sunny. So it should have felt warm, right? Not so much. Even with a blanket folded up underneath my bum I was freezing. So as soon as we were done shoveling the food in, I said, "Well, I don't want to start mildewing, let's go!" And we left. 

The ride back warmed us right up and by the time we were heading in the direction of home the wind had also died down to a nice calm and it actually felt warmer out. As long as we kept riding anyway. All in all it was a day fit for royalty as we rode through the Royal National Park. I am still thawing out but my cup of hot tea is doing the trick. 

Lovely fall colors, crisp blue sky and a boy (I know) on his bike.

Riding through the Royal National City Park.

The afternoon sun casts long shadows... too bad it doesn't warm us up!

I kayaked out there on May 31st this year. It was warmer than today but only by about ten degrees!

Now for a few photos of the winner's stash....

The contents of the Happy Package Giveaway from Day 274.
Aside from the dishtowel the orange parts were all hand painted by me. Just a little something to brighten up the every day....

"Are you really taking this away mamma? I really wanted to play with it." >^.^< 

All packaged up and ready for delivery... and with Pina's approval.

Almost there! 

And the winner! Congratulations again Odella and thanks for participating in my giveaway!

Friday, October 12

Day 286: Balance

After a recent rash of headaches and migraines, I woke up today feeling good finally. I had not even a hint of headache and I didn't feel wiped out either like I normally do on Fridays. There is nothing like having days of feeling bad physically to make you really appreciate those "dull and boring" days when you just feel good. I don't mean to put down those types of days. In fact I think they are quite the opposite. Ask any other migraine sufferer and they will tell you that any day without a headache is pretty much straight up glorious.

It can be so easy to get tangled up in my petty miseries that I forget to appreciate these "dull and boring" average days. Days when nothing really goes wrong, I feel pretty good and things just move forward. Nothing amazing happens but nothing horrible either. According to Lao Tsu, these middle average days are the days we should strive for. A balance between good (days) and bad (days), or simply put a balance between extremes. Being a Libra, this aspect of balance appeals greatly to me. Dis-ease is often the result of the body, mind or soul being out of balance. If I can find a way to find "ease" in my daily life, then maybe the dis-ease will melt away. I'm not saying that serious illnesses should be ignored. Of course one should always seek medical help in that case. I am talking about the dis-ease we often feel when we are out of balance, and we all really know when we personally are out of balance, right?

So I'm thinking a good weekend project might be to take some time today, or during the weekend, to do one small thing to put myself a bit more in balance. Want to join me? I'm thinking of finishing a few projects and a bit of clutter cleaning around the house. Oh, and of course to get out in nature. I may even make a big pot of soup this weekend. What will you do?

At Millesgården in Stockholm... searching for balance... :-)

Thursday, October 11

Day 285: Kitty Muffler

Early this morning when it was still pitch black outside I awoke to something very peculiar. At first I wasn't sure what was wrong but then I realized. Across my face lay a blanket of warm, purring, black fur. Our kitty was lying between us in bed and she had stretched her neck out and was lying across the whole side of my face. My face. My teeth were nearly rattling with the diesel vibration of her purr. I'm not sure looking back now if she was cold and trying to keep warm, if she thought I was cold and was attempting to keep me warm or if I was merely her "prey" and she was trying to keep me from getting away.

I'd like to think she was just being sweet and was trying to warm us both up. I attempted to go right back to sleep but then a repetitive movement rocked me back awake again and realized that my husband was also up. The rocking motion was him petting kitty. As I started to pull my hand out from under the covers to also pet her, I came across my husbands other hand and we held hands for a bit. The entire thing, kitty mufflering, petting and holding hands, all happened within a few minutes, just like a dream, and we never once uttered a word. I may have even gone back to sleep while we were still holding hands and with my kitty muffler was in place. An all around a sweet early morning awakening. A kitty muffler and hand holding in the wee morning hours is something I highly recommend!

Wednesday, October 10

Day 284: To Battle the Winter [Blues]

So far these last couple of weeks of fall there have been just the right amount of beautiful days to offset the possible bad weather-induced depression. There have even been some split days where the weather has been pretty near perfect in the morning, but then turns cloudy, cold and windy in the afternoon. I am okay with those days but two or three days in a row of purely rainy, dull weather and someone turns into a grouchy bear. I'm not saying who but she writes a positivity blog and she told me just recently that it is harder to find happy on those days. But she still tries.

With daylight hours already beginning their slow, death march to longer hours of darkness, and the weather becoming quickly colder, I've decided that I need to arm myself with some weapons to battle the fast approaching winter [blues]. I have found that planning trips and having projects and activities to look forward to always helps tremendously. Just space them out so that there aren't any long periods of inactivity, especially during January and February. Right now I am looking forward to a trip home to visit family and friends and, while there, getting to do a little shopping and eating at some of our favorite places.

In the middle of our travel we will also be celebrating some birthdays and anniversaries, which will be really fun. Then the holidays are just around the corner and I absolutely love all of the festivities that they bring. The Christmas markets in Sweden are filled with so much tradition and I love all of the handmade arts and crafts. I am hoping to start making some of my very own this year and, in fact, I am enrolled in a ceramics class that starts the week we come home from our trip.

I also love this time of year for baking some traditional favorites, such pumpkin bread, apple pie and homemade soups. These are especially great for chasing the winter blues away. This year I also have several craft projects in the works. I have always loved to make things and be creative, a special bonus being that most of these things are indoor activities so I can pretend that I just decided to stay in, even if the weather stinks.

What are your favorite "chase the winter blues away" activities?

Just wanted to share these pretty leaves that were in my path today...

Tuesday, October 9

Day 283: Crane Pose

The first time I took a yoga class in Sweden was quite memorable. I just walked right in to the place like I knew exactly what I was doing. I arrived early, picked my spot, unrolled my mat and started pre-stretching, as I knew from experience that being over a certain age requires a bit of pre-stretching. It wasn't until the class was just about to begin that it suddenly dawned on me that the class would be taught in Swedish. Of course it would, I live in Sweden. Great. A look of deer caught in the headlights overtook me.

In my boldness to pick a spot near the front of the room, it would have been uncomfortable to pick up my mat and leave at that point. So I braced myself and decided I would stick it out. I mean, it was just a yoga class after all. I could survive that, right? I would just have to crane my neck around as the class progressed to make sure I knew when to change positions. I guess you could say that I learned a new yoga pose during that class. A pose I like to call  "the crane pose." And since I spent most of the class craning my neck around, I feel that I became quite proficient at it.

I came away with a few survival tricks that first class as well (yes, I did in fact go back). Being at the front of the room turned out to have its advantages. I found that while bent over in certain poses, I could peek between my legs or under my arm without having to do the crane pose and I could see when to switch to something else. I could pretend that I actually understood the Swedish.

In the end I feel it was quite brave to have stuck it out. Why I thought, or rather, did not consider the fact that the class would be taught in Swedish is beyond me. I still found it relaxing and enjoyable, despite the additional "crane poses" that were thrown in. But then again, my crane pose would not have become so perfected otherwise.

Monday, October 8

Day 282: In the Proximity of Beautiful Things

Every year around this time, which happens to be around the time of my birthday, my husband begins asking me what I want for a birthday present. And every year as soon as I am asked that question, my first reply is usually "nothing, surprise me." And then it's as if a magic birthday-present-idea-portal opens up and I suddenly want everything in sight. Does that ever happen to you? I think part of it has to do with the time of year. I absolutely love the fall, in case you didn't already know, and pretty much everything about the fall. I love fall colors, fall clothing, fall food and I always have loved shopping so of course I love everything out in the shops right about now. This is also about the time of year I start doing my Christmas shopping. I buy one for them, one for me, one for them, one for me. I'm sort of kidding. But just sort of. I start to find cool ideas for gifts and I think, "I'd love one of those too."

Tell me I'm not the only person who does this. If I don't actually buy two of a certain thing, I've even been known to keep the one thing for myself because I fall so madly in love with it and cannot bear to part with it. Silly and pathetic and materialistic, I know. It's as if I am a kid in a candy or toy store. For the most part however, I am happy with just wanting them and I don't feed the need to actually have them. Okay, maybe some of them but certainly not all if them. Sometimes I have a rule for myself when I come across something I think I can't live without. I make myself wait several days, maybe even a week, and then I go back and look at it, try it on, feel it, love it, stare at it etc. If I still cannot live without it I put it on my wish list. If it happens to be something I'm afraid may sell out, I bite the bullet and buy it right then.

But really, the craving of all of these wonderful things is half of the fun. I love to walk into my favorite stores where everything I see is eye candy. I love to pick something up and imagine where it could fit into our home, or how I could use it. I become energized when I see all of the beautiful things and it truly gives me a certain joy and happiness just to be in their proximity.

Sunday, October 7

Day 281: Bokslukare

There is nothing better than having a good book to disappear into when you are traveling by train or airplane. Today we were traveling back to Stockholm from Gothenburg by train and I don't think I can recall this three and a half hour trip ever going by so quickly. I attribute it to my book. I started out reading a short story from the book I am reading for my book club. But then as soon as I finished it I quickly, and without hesitation, dove directly into my new detective novel, number six in the series. Reading detective book series' is an addiction of mine. When I find a new one that grabs me I practically inhale them each, one by one. There is a term for this in Swedish, though it is usually given to young children when they reach the age when they have just begun to read and they cannot devour books fast enough. They read and read and read. It is called "bokslukaråldern" and it literally means the age when you start devouring or gobbling up books. There is even a cute little children's book store around the corner from us called "Bokslukaren," or the book gobbler.

I guess you could say that I am still a "bokslukare." When I find a new series of books that I like, I literally devour them one after the other. Until that sad day when I read the last book in the series and I have to wait for the author to write a new one. This usually happens every one or two years. I have several authors now that I have come to this point with and the wait for the next book is sometimes painful, which is why I am so thrilled to have discovered this new series. Now instead of gobbling them all up one after the other however, I am trying to spread them out and read other books in between, to sort of stretch the joy out so to speak.

But for today, I will relish getting to devour my new detective book on our train trip home. The good news is that I have still barely broken the surface of the story and there is still more than half of the book left to gobble up. Something to look forward to this week!

Saturday, October 6

Day 280: The Colors, Sounds and Smells of Nature

I've never understood why joggers and walkers listen to music when they are exercising outdoors. Don't get me wrong, I too love music but one of the things I love about being outside is listening to the quiet sounds of nature. A gentle rustling of leaves, the happy chattering of birds, and in the fall, the delicious crunching of leaves under my feet. Even if I am on my bicycle, I prefer the sounds around me outdoors. Whether it's the sounds of nature or the sounds of the city, those sounds provide the melodies and songs that keep me company as I ponder life's big questions or try to remember the errands I need to do or the groceries I need to pick up.

We are in Gothenburg this weekend visiting my husbands family and celebrating birthdays. This morning I went out for a walk and a quick trip to the ICA Maxi grocery store. On my way there I took in all of the subtle sounds around me. The sun was shining and the air was quiet and crisp. It was a lovely fall morning. I've already mentioned that this is my favorite time of year but it's worth mentioning again how much I really love fall. Of course it is always better with a sunny day but the colors, sounds and smells of fall make me happy from inside out. Taking a walk this morning was like receiving a warm embrace from mother nature. If you have a beautiful, sunny, fall day in your town, I highly recommend getting outside for a walk so that you can also enjoy the colors, sounds and smells of nature. And feel mother nature give you a big hug.

Happy Fall Saturday!

Friday, October 5

Day 279: Right-Brained

Ingenuity is something I don't usually possess when it comes to electronic or mechanical things. I am definitely more right-brain oriented. If you look at key words to describe left-brained people you find logical, rational, analytical, objective. Key words for right-brained people include random, intuitive, subjective, creativity. In fact, I'd even say that when it comes to assembling IKEA furniture I prefer the intuitive approach rather than doing the logical thing and reading the instructions. One time I had to completely take apart a coffee table and start over because of my "intuitive assembly method." You would think I would learn something from that and yet even today you could find me pressing every button possible or clicking around on a computer trying to fix a problem. Okay, maybe I don't click around randomly so much anymore since my husband has "trained me" (read: forbidden me to click or press buttons) but let's just say, my intuition is better used elsewhere.

So imagine my surprise when this morning I was able to fix a problem on my bicycle all by myself, nearly. On Wednesday when I was riding my bike home from my burger adventure, I first noticed that it felt like I was riding with the break on. I meant to ask my husband about it but forgot. So when I was getting my bike out to ride this morning I remembered and thought I'd take a quick look to see if there was anything obviously wrong. I checked out the back wheel. I picked it up and spun it and it seemed fine. I merely looked at the front wheel and it looked okay too so I decided to chance it and ride anyway. I mean, it was a gorgeous morning with sunshine and blue sky. It is sort of a given that I have to ride my bike if the weather is that nice.

I made it all the way to Kungsholmen, which is the island where I work and finally gave up and pulled over to try to figure out what the problem was. Looking down at the front wheel from my bike seat I could see that the break doohickey was slanted to the left. Weird. I cautiously pressed the left side part to the right (my "intuitive" tendency). Nothing happened. I pressed the right side part toward the right. Same thing. At this point I figured I better call the expert. I called my husband. He was very nice and even patient as he tried to walk me through checking certain things. He told me to check the front wheel to see if it was spinning free. I picked up the front wheel and tried to spin it. No dice. The break was definitely the problem.

He then told me to look for and find the "spring arm" on the right that is connected to the break joint. Right. I don't know about you but I didn't see any spring arm. But there WAS this wire looking thing hanging off to the side (the spring arm)... I looked at the other side and suddenly I had "intuitively" figured it out. that skinny, lever-arm looking thing (the spring arm) had come unhooked from that knobby thing sticking out. I pressed it back into place and voila! It worked! I did a quick happy dance. Then I jumped back on my bike and road the rest of the way to work. A Happy Day.

The spring arm is that very skinny thing sticking up that curves slightly to the left at the top and is tucked behind that knob. Cool, huh? Time for some bike repair lessons... :-)

Thursday, October 4

Day 278: [Three] Kanelbulle Day

Today is Kanelbullens Dag in Sweden, or Cinnamon Roll Day. This means that bakeries all over Sweden will be baking kanelbullar like crazy. I read online that one of the bakeries in a smaller towns outside of Stockholm will be baking around three thousand today. That means that the bakeries in the big cities, like Stockholm, will probably be baking easily triple that volume. Ah... If only I could eat that many! I would probably throw up if I ate more than, say five or six, but I would be willing to give it my all. Except that then my pants wouldn't fit and I would be in a bad mood. All things considered, one kanelbulle tonight will have to do. We'll just pretend I didn't eat that one yesterday,  okay? And then we can stay friends.

It's always nice to have an excuse to eat kanelbulle but I try to abstain on most days. Riding my bike to work these days helps too, as I am not enticed by the magic kanelbulle fumes that are piped out from the convenience stores onto unsuspecting saps like me, if you will recall my post from Day 133. Some days are two kanelbulle days. Some are probably even three kanelbulle days but we don't talk about those nor do we admit to them. Today will be a one kanelbulle day and I am happy with that. Really, I am. At lunch time today I headed out to buy some kanelbulle to enjoy tonight at home with my husband. I was on my way to a bakery called Vetekatten, which seriously has the best kanelbullar in the city. Last year I went after work and can you believe they were sold out of all kanelbullar? How is that even possible on Kanelbullens Dag?

Well, I was determined to have the best for tonight and so going after work and chancing that they would be sold out was not an option. Then I walked outside. It was raining and cold but I pressed on, armed with my umbrella. I got a couple of blocks away and suddenly it dawned on me that the fight to get to Vetekatten during my short lunch break was not worth it so I turned the corner and went to Rosendals Bageriet instead. It is a small bakery that is associated with Rosendals Trädgård, located on Djurgården where we like to go sometimes on weekends. They use all organic ingredients in their baked goods so I felt pretty good about forgoing Vetekatten today. We can always go there on another day. It's an excellent excuse to eat [more] kanelbulle. What can I say?

Wednesday, October 3

Day 277: Unconventional Ways to Find Happy

Unconventional ways to Find Happy:

1. Eat a spoonful of honey (peanut butter or almond butter works too).
2. Tell your bad hair/mood/attitude to "go sit on it".
3. Get up from wherever you are sulking and go for a walk. Physically leave the building where you are for at least five minutes.
4. Have a cup of tea (and a biscotti if you are feeling extra grumpy).
5. Paint your nails (dark purple).
6. Eat chocolate (it's okay, it's medicinal).
7. Just be.
8. Failing these, just choose to be in a good mood.

Eating a burger helps too. I just came home from meeting a friend at a new burger joint after work. I ride by this place on my bicycle several times a week when I am on my way home from work and there is always a long line of people outside waiting for the doors to open. Flipin Burgers it's called and they definitely flip some burgers, that's for sure. It was completely packed when we arrived and it was completely packed when we left. I asked the cashier if they were this busy all the time and she said with big eyes, "ALL THE TIME." I can see why after scarfing down my smokey black bean walnut burger and mountain of fries. The icing on the cake for me however was drinking an ice cold Boylan's root beer. I drank it straight from the bottle as I crammed burger and fries into my face. It is sort of a ritual of mine to drink a root beer when I have a burger and I would expect burger places in Texas to serve root beer, but in Stockholm, Sweden? Very impressive I must say.

My friend really wanted to try one of their shakes, and I guess secretly I did too, but they were so busy we felt bad holding a table for a shake when people were standing outside getting rained on, and drooling. The smells in the air were definitely drool-worthy. I probably would have just bitten the bullet and gotten a shake if we hadn't celebrated Kanelbulle Dag (Cinnamon Bun Day) at work this afternoon. One of my colleagues picked some up thinking it was Kanelbulle Day today, though it is actually tomorrow, and so we of course ate them. So the shake would have to wait until next time. And there will definitely be a next time. I have heard that shakes are a good way to Finding Happy as well. So just add that to my list above. And go have yourself a Happy Day.

Ps. Just because I had a kanelbulle today doesn't mean that I am not going to eat one tomorrow as well.

Tuesday, October 2

Day 276: Shake Things Up

Most people follow a certain pattern when it comes to commuting back and forth to work, the grocery store, school or wherever it is they may wander to. Most of us take the shortest route or perhaps the most scenic route. But how many times do we decide to take a completely different route altogether? Regardless of the time it takes or how we think it will look? When we first moved to Stockholm I enrolled in a class and started studying Swedish. It was the middle of winter and quite a cold and snowy one at that. Every day was an adventure when I left the warmth and comfort of our apartment. And it was dark. I took the subway to and from class in the mornings and tried my best to avoid taking the train in the wrong direction or getting off at the wrong stops. It happened more than once that I did both. But anyway, one day I decided that if it was sunny out when my class was over, I was going to walk at least part if not all of the way home. Guess what? It was sunny of course. But even with the sun shining it was blisteringly cold out. I nearly froze to death despite the fact that I was wearing a scarf, hat and my new winter coat. An arctic down duffle especially bought for the move, which was more like a sleeping bag really. It attracted lots of strange looks and even a few laughs on occasion but mostly it kept me warm and I ignored the laughs and stares. And if I found myself getting too cold while I was outside I would just step into the next interesting store I saw to warm up a bit. 

It became my new thing, to walk home from class if the weather was "nice." Each day I would choose a different route to walk and each day I would discover some new unknown treasure. It was a wonderful way to get to know Stockholm and I still find myself taking walks off the beaten path. But even before I moved to Stockholm I picked up the habit of taking different routes on occasion to shake things up. When I lived in Los Angeles, California many moons ago I remember reading a book in which the author suggested changing things up by driving a different route to or from a familiar destination. The first time I did it was a bit scary. I mean, I lived in LA and it could be scary to find yourself in unknown territory. But I quickly got over that and learned that a simple change in my scenery often helped me to change my perspective as well. It is always invigorating to visit a new city or place when you are seeing it with new eyes for the first time. 

There is no reason to not do that in the cities where we live as well. Surely there is still something new to explore or experience, right? Since I have been riding my bike to and from work I have figured out several different routes that I can take depending on my mood or the time at hand. One is the longer, scenic route when I have all the time in the world, one is the scenic but I'm in a hurry route when I have some time but probably should focus and get to work and one is the dude I'm in a hurry and need to get to work in fifteen minutes route, when I just didn't get up early enough or get ready fast enough. I think it's time for a change so tomorrow I am going to take a different route and see where it takes me. What about you? Will you join me in taking a new route to or from your normal destinations? Maybe explore a new little pocket of town and discover a hidden treasure? I invite you to join me and shake things up a bit. Even if it is as simple as going out your back door instead of your front door when you leave the house, or parking on the other side of the parking lot from where you normally park. Do one thing completely different from what you normally do or go all out and completely turn your world upside down.

Like my photo below... 

Someone turned my Texas cut-out upside down. Kind of an interesting perspective, don't you think? 
It sort of looks like a bird this way.

Monday, October 1

Day 275: Rocky Monday, Awesome News and a Winner!

Today got off to a rocky start. I tripped going up the stairs with my coffee cup (completely full of coffee) in my hand. Somehow I managed to not drop the cup itself but half of the contents did a sort of Jackson Polluck impersonation against the wall, on the stairs, through the stairs to the cat box and even into the cat box below, as well as all over the surrounding wall. Super fun for a Monday morning. And then to top it off my eye twitch came back while I was showering. With a vengeance I might add. Where does ones day go from that? I'll tell you one thing however, the stairs and wall have never been so clean. See? There's always a silver lining...

After that fiasco I luckily made it to work in one piece and the day continued to improve from there. Just after lunch time I received a phone call with awesome news. A ceramics class I was hoping to sign up for, which was full when I inquired, suddenly had an unexpected opening. And did I want to register? Why yes, thank you, I don't mind if I do. The day was definitely getting brighter despite the gray clouds and dreary dampness in the air.

Then there's all of you. What made me especially happy today was reading all of your comments on yesterday's post. I loved every single one of them. I suppose I don't have any special rituals to celebrate my favorite season either, aside from picking a weekend day early in the fall to replace my shorts, t-shirts and sundresses with turtlenecks, boots and coats. It is always feels slightly bittersweet when I put the summer stuff away. That is until the first day I pull on my favorite turtleneck. And of course the first time I decide a cup of tea sounds better than an ice cream cone. Then it sets in and I am able to accept the change and move forward happily enjoying the new seasons gifts.

Speaking of gifts...

Six of you lovely ladies... I thought it appropriate to make hearts (with pages from an old Shakespeare book that is beyond repair) and then set them atop my stash of fall jewels from yesterday.

They even look pretty folded and jumbled together... I wonder who the winner will be...

... a gentle stir by hand...

... and we have a winner! 

Congratulations Odella! I will be in touch with you soon to arrange a delivery. 
Your Happy Package is in the final stages of completion and will soon be on its way to you!

A HUGE thank you to all of you who participated! It is always so much fun for me to hold a drawing. You are all winners in my book! I hope you will visit again and drop me a line to say hello when you do!

Have a wonderfully Happy week!

xoxo/Grace Ann