Thursday, January 30

Oatcake Recipe Testing 1... 2...

Have you ever come across a recipe that sounded so yummy you had to go straight home and make it right away? Only you were missing a couple of the ingredients so you put it off for a day or so. Which turned into a couple of weeks. (sigh) Then finally the day arrived when you just said, "Screw it, I'm making this dang recipe and I'll make substitutions if I have to." Though you were pretty sure you had everything. Except enough maple syrup!!! Ugh. Among other things! Well it turns out that "ljussirap" (light syrup) works fabulously and then using brown sugar (the light variety) instead of white sugar provided just the right amount of caramel-y flavor that you decide this will now be your adaptation of the original recipe.

And by the way? The author of the recipe said it would make twelve muffins but it produced slightly more. I sort of thought 3 cups of oats + 2 cups of flour + at least a cup of wet ingredients sounded like way more than 12 muffins, but I went along with it. In fact I only prepared a twelve muffin tin and when I figured out I had enough batter for several more, I was scrambling with my lame glove-covered left hand (index finger coated in sticky oat batter) trying to pull more muffin liners out of the baking drawer without getting batter everywhere. Because who would think to remove said glove first?! 

One thing I discovered is that a) you don't actually need a muffin tin, the paper muffin liners hold their shape enough that you can just stick then directly into the oven, right onto your wire rack even, and they bake up just fine, and b) the muffin tin ACTUALLY helps the muffins cook evenly and they brown more in the tin. Go figure, my observations cancelled each other out! 

All things considered, these oatcakes turned out pretty darn tasty. Below is my adaptation of the original recipe. 

(Swedish ingredients in parentheses)

3 cups / 10.5 oz / 300 g rolled oats (havregryn)
2 cups / 8 oz / 225 g spelt flour (dinkelmjöl)
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder (bakpulver)
2 teaspoons salt 
1/4 cup / 1.5 oz / 45 g crushed flax seeds (krossade linfrön)
3/4 cup / 3 oz / 85 g walnuts, lightly toasted & chopped (Valnötter)
1/3 cup / 2.5 oz / 70 g extra-virgin coconut oil 
1/3 cup / 3 oz / 85 g unsalted butter (Or salted butter and reduce amount of salt by 1/2 tsp)
3/4 cup / 180 ml light syrup (ljussirap)
1/2 cup / 2.5 oz / 70 g light brown sugar (muscovado socker)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten 

Preheat the oven to 325°F / 160°C with a rack in the top third of the oven. Line a 
standard 12-cup muffin pan (and possibly have some additional muffin liner cups handy for extra batter)

Combine the oats, flour, baking powder, salt, flax seeds, and walnuts in a large mixing 
In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the coconut oil, butter, light syrup,
brown sugar and slowly melt together. Stir just until the butter melts and sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for approximately five minutes. 
Pour the melted sugar and oil mixture over the oat mixture. Stir a bit with a fork, add the eggs, and 
stir again until everything comes together into a wet dough (mine was very thick!). Spoon dough into muffin cups, nearly filling them. 

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges of each oatcake are deeply golden. Remove the 
pan from the oven and let cool for a couple minutes. Remove muffins from tin and place onto a cooling rack to cool further. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Makes 12 17 [caramelized buttery] oatcakes :-) 

But who's complaining?! Deliciousness multiplied! It's a win win. 

Ps. Can you believe it is already Thursday??! Sorry this is my first post this week... it's been particularly dark, cold, and wintry these past few days... these muffins definitely helped cheer me up! :-)

Thursday, January 23


Okay. I did not BUY a gym membership but I did go to a gym and work out this week. AND I went for a run last night (in the cold and snow I might add!). I have one more gym to test out before I make my decision but I hope to do that this weekend. So things are looking up for my New Year's resolutions. :-)

On another note, going to the gym means that I like to listen to my own music when I work out. It really pumps me up and pushes me to work out harder when I listen to an upbeat, fast tempo song. What I realized during my evening on the treadmill and cross fit trainer was how much I truly love music. It is something I seem to connect to deep in my body and soul. It used to be that I would get my music fix while driving my car and listening to the radio or a CD, but I don't have a car here, which makes that difficult.

After my visit to the gym I decided I should start listening to music on my way to and from work. So now my "headphones," which are really earbuds but I can't stop calling them headphones, accompany me on my subway ride and walk to work. It is truly awesome. I have rediscovered the healing and energizing power of music. When I was a teenager I used to listen to "1999" while I was getting ready to go out. (Remember that Prince song?!) It can really put me in a good mood to listen to one of my favorite songs.

And I have discovered something else too. I don't know if it is because I was a professional dancer in my former life (or if I was a dance BECAUSE of this) but I simply cannot stand still and listen to a great song. My body HAS to move. My foot taps, my shoulders bop, and my hips want to join in the party. Would it be weird if I just launched into my own private music dance video on the blue line? or in central station? Probably. Therefore I compromise and sit [mostly] still.

Anyway, as you all know, it is that wonderful day of the week again - FRIDAY!!!

I came across THIS SONG, by Pharrell Williams, last night and even though I've heard it before, for some reason hearing it and watching the video last night just brightened up the whole universe.

The name of the song is Happy and, well, it is just HAPPY.



Ps. The photos are from our engagement photo session five years ago. We celebrated our five year anniversary a couple of months ago and so it felt appropriate to post a few of these... from one of my happiest moments :-).

Wednesday, January 22

Sunshiny Days

Sunshiny days make me happy. They just do. When I was in my early twenties, I moved to Los Angeles, California to dance professionally. One of the things about that time in my life that I remember most were the beautiful clear blue skies that seemed to haunt the days year round. I say "haunt" but a better term might be "grace," as these sunny days were a thing of beauty, a wonderful gift, that I appreciated every moment. 

My soul has a direct connection with the sun. I seriously never once missed the rain or wished for rain during my Cali days. Perhaps it was a result of my upbringing in southeast Texas, where a thunder storm could appear out of nowhere in a matter of minutes and humidity often hovered around 100%. The air in that part of Texas can be likened to soup. I kid you not. Just like the desert of the 1930's was called the dust bowl, southeast Texas could easily be called a soup bowl. So imagine the daily delight I experienced living in what felt like paradise by comparison. Sunshine, blue skies, and warmth. 

That last bit about warmth is an important detail to note just now because yesterday in Stockholm, the sky reminded me of those lovely, year-round warm LA days. Only I was wearing an insulated coat, a wool hat, and my touchscreen gloves, so I could take this lovely photo on my iPhone without taking them off, of course. Yes, there was sunshine and a gorgeous blue sky but the warmth part was missing, sadly.

My memory of those sunny, southern California days coupled with the sunny blue sky in Stockholm yesterday, gave me just the boost of warm glow and vitamin D that I needed. Especially after several days of overcast, cold gray days. Just the other day at work one of my (Swedish) colleagues said, "Spring is just around the corner."  At the time I thought she was crazy. I mean, here we are, finally getting snow and moving full force into the two coldest months of Swedish winter and she's already talking about spring. I get it however. Because having that glimmer of warm, sunny times on the [far] horizon helps get us through these bitterly cold days. 

Ps. Dear spring,

If you want to come early this year, that would be okay with me. As long as it's after February 22nd. That's the day I have to ski 30 kilometers on my spaghetti skis. Gulp. 

Yours truly,
Grace Ann

(Lover of warmth & sunshine)  

Tuesday, January 21

Morning Routine

Every morning I get up and go downstairs to make coffee for the cat and feed my husband some wet food. Oh wait, I mean the other way around - I make coffee for my HUSBAND and feed the CAT some wet food! Her long-awaited and very much loved wet food breakfast. We all love morning routine around here. 

Kissekatten (Pina, aka cat) has been with us now for just over three years and during this time she has gone from hopping all over us in the mornings, pushing things off our night stands, and in general being a holy terror until I get up and go downstairs, to sleeping in right along side us, waking up slowly and slithering down the stairs to the kitchen. Most days however she practices the art of subtle manipulation. She hops up onto the bed and comes over to one of us, purring loudly, butting us with her head, and being as cute as possible. This can happen several times before she tires of that and moves on to a new tactic. The final straw, for us both, is when she jumps up onto my night stand. At this point I know she is saying, “Either get up now, or someone gets hurt.” That someone being whatever she decides to push off of the night stand. 

Never-the-less, after I have finally “woken up” both she and I make our way down to the kitchen where I prepare her wet food with a little warm water (to make the gravy of course). We love the gravy. And by we, I mean Pina. Some days she sits patiently at her placemat waiting for me to bring over her food but most days, she is standing impatiently beside me, on her back legs while reaching her outstretched front paws up toward the counter, yelling the whole time until I turn to make my move toward her placemat. She then runs to her bowl with vigor (yelling and trying to trip me along the way) where she immediately slurps down the gravy. 

Sometimes I want to tell her, “Take it easy kitty, the next bowl won't arrive for another 24 hours.” But she doesn’t care. There will be treats and dry food (and an occasional people food treat) to tide her over until then. 

But the absolute best part of morning routine is when I get to sit down and enjoy my morning cup of joe. Some days I cannot wait for morning to arrive for this moment. The anticipation is nearly as good as the reality, but not quite. Some years back I stopped drinking coffee. I know, why? Right? But I had my reasons. Now I cannot imagine being without my strongly brewed, dark roast with just the right amount of cream. No sugar, just cream. And it has to be real cream, milk does not do it for me. A good dark cup of coffee can only be complimented with a rich shot of cream. To drink coffee with milk is like adding water to a smoothie. It merely dilutes the beauty of the bitter roast. In my opinion. That being said however, I would never turn down my morning joe simply because my beloved coffee cream is lacking. It would only reinforce my anticipation for the next time I get to enjoy it my way. That in itself is worthwhile.  

What routines and rituals do you have that make your days a little brighter? 

Thursday, January 16

Happy Talisman

Everyone has one whether they realize it or not. It could be a small trinket that you’ve had since you were a kid, a favorite handbag that expresses your personality (or has the perfect number of pockets and zipper pouches, you know what I mean ladies), a shirt that brings you good luck and perks up those drab Mondays, or maybe your talisman is a special memory that you carry around close to your heart. This morning it dawned on me that having a talisman, a symbol of happiness, that can trigger us to feel happy or alter our state of mind could be a great way to keep happy alive and well in our every day. 

I started thinking about hypnosis and how the hypnotist tells the person (I have not actually experienced this personally) that they will awaken in 5 seconds, refreshed and not remember anything that was discussed. And they will go on to have a fabulous day. I made that last bit up but wouldn’t it be cool if you could whip out your talisman and just a peek at it could trigger a forgetting of the thing that was raining on your parade and you could just move on to having a happy day? 

Well, perhaps it could be just that simple. I am willing to try it. Want to do it with me? Pick out a talisman for yourself and give it special powers and permission to take away your bad mood, sadness, and un-happiness and replace those feelings with a sense of peacefulness and calm. Choose a happy memory to bestow upon your talisman so that every time you see it, you will be reminded of that special moment. Allow your talisman to inspire you to keep that feeling alive for the rest of your day. 

What would your Happy Talisman be? You are free to choose anything but how nice would it be if it was something small enough to carry around with you and whip out from time to time for a bit of happy inspiration? Perhaps mine will be a lucky Texas quarter… to remind me of warm, sunny Texas days and being surrounded by my friends and family back home…

Sunday, January 12

Fresh Flowers

After packing away all of the cheery Christmas ornaments and dragging our poor, dried out Christmas tree to the Christmas tree graveyard, the apartment seemed a little dreary and sad. So when I was picking up a few things at our local ICA grocery store and tulips were on sale, I decided to brighten up our spirits with some fresh flowers. 

I don’t know if you have experienced this with fresh tulips before but they have a tendency to grow over night. And when I say grow, I mean GROW. I trimmed the bottoms a couple of inches before placing them in the vase with water and the next morning a few rambunctious wranglers to the right had grown at least three inches above the rest of the tulips. I know this about tulips and yet every time I am utterly astounded at how fast they grow. By the next day, it was as if the rest of them had caught up and then proposed a race to see who could grow the tallest. 

Now look at them! I have since trimmed about four additional inches off of the stems and they continue to grow. It is truly amazing. I know that white tulips are not so exciting when there are gorgeous orange, purple, and pink shades to choose from but these white beauties sure have brightened up our kitchen. 

Fresh flowers = HAPPY :-D

Hope you have a Happy Sunday!

Friday, January 10

When Old is New

I have always loved antiques and old things. I love the charm of their imperfections, the hidden stories they seem to contain. My favorite items have been passed down to me from my family: My cast iron bed that my father slept in as a child, costume jewelry that belonged to my maternal grandmother and her sister, my great aunt, my mother’s engagement ring that was also worn by my paternal grandmother, numerous beaded and embroidered sweaters belonging to my mother’s mother, quilts made by both of my grandmothers, the list goes on and on. 

Since meeting my husband however, my antique collecting habits have changed somewhat. Influenced by my upbringing in Texas, living in California on and off for eleven years, and a Scandinavian husband, my tastes have undergone a transformation leaving behind a style composed of clean and modern, with bursts and fits of color, quirkiness, and the old thing or two mixed in here and there. 

(Kitty likes my wooden spoon too!)

There are still certain things that, no matter how much my taste in design and decorating is transformed, I will always be drawn to. The antique, wooden spoon above is a perfect example. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to have it. Once I clean it up and oil it, I think it will make a perfect scoop for my flour jar. I bake quite often so this means I will get to enjoy it on a regular basis. :-)

This photo is of the little antique shop where I found my lovely wooden spoon. The shop had MANY tempting items. I may have to go back and stumble across some other [hidden] treasures....

This photo was taken before Christmas but I just love their window display. 

What do you think? Do antiques and old things pull at your heart strings too?

Oh, and by the way, Happy Friday!

I hope you get to do something especially fun today!

Monday, January 6

A New Year

What do you aim to achieve this year? Sounds like an interview question, doesn't it? Only they usually want to know what your plans are for the next FIVE years. Who knows what they want to do in five years?! Your entire life can change in that amount of time. So, when you consider that, coming up with a plan for one year seems like it should be a piece of cake, right? (Now I want cake! I am easily swayed when it comes to food). 

But anyway, back to my goals for the next year. Before I get that far however, I would like to just talk about those recurring goals that seem to follow me around like a lost puppy. The list below could easily have been the same every year, for many years:

1. Get in shape (like, for real).
2. Eat healthier (more green stuff).
3. Be a better person (nicer, less grumpy).
4. Save [more] money.
5. Travel [more]. 

The fact that they usually show up on the next year’s resolutions list obviously implies that I didn’t quite reach the level I’d aimed for in the previous year. However, I think these are a prime example of what we should keep as daily goals, not just New Year’s resolutions. I mean, who doesn’t want all of these things? All the time? 

The question is, how can we get from A (before goals are achieved) to B (goals achieved and living like a rock star)? That is the million dollar question isn’t it? For the record however, I would just like to say that chocolate is healthy. And avocados count as green stuff. 

So how do we go about achieving out goals and resolutions? Baby steps is the way to go. If you are having a hard time getting started or motivated, start small. For number 1, take the stairs at work instead of the elevator, park your car further away so you are forced to walk farther. Number 2, add an extra piece of fruit and one additional vegetable to your daily diet, or if you don’t eat fruit or veggies, start with one each per day. Smoothies are a great way to sneak in spinach, by the way. 

How to be a better person, just smile. Force it if you don’t feel it, if anything it will make you laugh and that is a good start. Money? Instead of going to lunch or coffee with a friend, meet for a walk. Then you kill two birds with one stone. Want to travel more? Plan a trip. Book the trip. Take the trip. Maybe it isn’t your dream vacation, but go away for a weekend to a neighboring city. Just taking that action will ignite your wander lust and soon you will just figure out how to save money for that bigger trip you want to take. Can’t go for a weekend? Take a day excursion. Explore a new area in your city. 

Bottom line is, it just takes a little creativity and action. 

And it IS a New Year! So start now!

What are your goals and aspirations for 2014?

A few of mine include:

1. Prepare more home cooked meals to take to work for lunch.
2. Clean out my closets and get rid of at least one item each month.
3. Get a gym membership (for REAL). Sigh. This one is killing me.

Update: Our Christmas tree and decorations are taken down and packed away now. Sad face. But the good news is that now I can really focus on my New Year’s goals. 

Have a Happy Day!

Christmas Past

It's always so much fun at the beginning of December to pull out the ornament box and start decorating for Christmas. I love the excitement of that first moment, removing the lid and taking it all in before pulling out each ornament and decoration one by one

My husband's job is to place the tree in its stand and hang the lights. That's where I come in. My job is to decorate it and I truly relish this task. I treasure each moment as I unwrap our ornaments, tomtar (Swedish Santas), and all of our other ornaments that we have collected separately and together. This year's tree was probably my favorite yet. 

As I sat in the living room this afternoon, admiring a few of my favorite ornaments on the tree, I was brought back to a Christmas from my childhood. My mother had purchased a collection of terracotta gingerbread houses, boys, and girls, and she, my brother and I sat around the dining table painting them by hand. Today these ornaments are still among my favorites. I have a few of them and I believe my brother has the rest. 

I love the imperfections, the splotches of blue or red paint "outside the lines" and the obvious ones mostly likely painted by me, the youngest. 

This gingerbread house is probably my favorite. I love the steep, slanted roof, covered with snow, the red door, the flower box under the window, and especially the heart at the top, signifying a house filled with love.

(An ornament I made Christmas 2006)

It is not the same amount of fun taking down the ornaments and packing them away for another year so it was especially nice to sit in the quiet peacefulness of the living room, enjoying our tree and all of our beautiful decorations, before packing them up for another year of slumber. 

And while the ornaments slumber, we get to move on to the New Year... 

I know the first of January was last week but it doesn't truly feel like the New Year until Christmas has past and been packed away until next December. Now I can truly focus on what's in store for 2014.... 

What do you have up your sleeve for the New Year? Do you still make resolutions? Goals? 

My first resolution was to start blogging again here at Finding Happy. Stay tuned for my other resolutions and goals....

Happy New Year, belatedly! ;-)

Saturday, January 4

After Christmas Sales

I used to love after Christmas sales. I couldn't wait to rush to the stores first thing the morning after Christmas. Stocking up on wrapping paper and cards for the next year at half price was always my first priority. Then I would head systematically to a few of my favorite clothing boutiques, hoping score a sweater I'd had my eye on for weeks. And hopefully at half the price, or less if I was lucky. 

Lately however, the after Christmas sales have not been as enticing and I've been perfectly happy ignoring the ads and window signs offering 50% or more off. That is, until Marimekko posted their after Christmas sale, with 40% off (Omg! Omg!)! For anyone who is familiar with Marimekko, 40% off still leaves quite a chunk of change left to pay. But at the same time, 40% OFF at MARIMEKKO is still rather AMAZING!!!! So off I went on this dreary, rainy day. I made a b-line for Marimekko. Just to "look around" and see if I spotted anything I couldn't live without. Secretly hoping a particular shirt I'd had on my Christmas wish list was still available, and on their sale rack. 

As luck would have it, the shirt was available. In my size AND discounted. I was in heaven. There were plenty of other things my eyes (and soul) coveted but I very rationally took my top to the counter, paid the nice girl, and left. Whew! 

Happiness meter growing steadily. 

Friday, January 3

Thank God It's Friday

I think even after I retire I will always love Fridays. Even though my Mom consistently confirms that after retirement, the days blend together, and 5pm on Friday starts to lose it's romantic, star-gazed hold. Still, it is a magical moment for me. I feel drunk with power when I think of all the things I can do and want to do now that the weekend is here.

It's not so much that I live for the weekends, though sometimes it seems so. I just really enjoy doing what I want to do with my time, as opposed to what someone else wants me to do with my time. And while getting paid is a good trade off, I have to be honest and say that the weekend has a much larger glow surrounding it when your job is just that, a job. However, I must say that there is a certain aura already glimmering around 2014, an excitement in the undercurrent (do you feel it too?). I think it's going to be an excellent year. 

So, Happy Friday to you!

Happy Weekend! 


once again...

Happy New Year! 

(Skål!!! och Välkomen till Sverige!) 

Thursday, January 2

The [True] Source

"Find the true source of happiness." 

The true source of happiness. What would that be? I'm sure the answer is different for different people. And each person probably has a different answer at different times, depending on the situation or season of the year. For example, in the summer time, an ice cream cone is sheer joy. In the spring, the cherry blossoms finally in bloom. In the fall, well anything pumpkin works for me. And in the winter, it could be a number of things from getting some sunshine, to the cozy, candle-lit evenings, to holiday cheer, to the first snow. 

Ultimately, these are just things. If they were all take away, what would that leave us with? The simple choice to just be happy. For no apparent reason. Well, tell that to my grumpy side! The simplest thing is not always the easiest. Therefore I think having a list of the things that make us happy is a good idea. We can look at it any time of day for a mood lift. Or maybe it is a photograph or a trinket that reminds you of a happy memory. 

Regardless, I think it is good to be prepared. So here is my list of happy today:

1. A hug from my husband. 
2. Head butts from my cat. 
3. Dark chocolate covered almonds with turbinado sugar and sea salt (soooooo good!!!). 
4. Internet telephone so I can call my family & friends back home for free! (Minus the yearly fee, which is minimal)
5. Pinterest

I know that last one might seem lame and some of you may not be familiar with Pinterest but let me tell you, it is a pack rat's dream come true. You can collect as many things as you want, recipes, craft ideas, wish lists, recipes, clothing ideas, etc. and it is all electronic and takes up about as much space as, well, your computer (or smart phone, or pad). Pretty awesome, right?

Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts. What is your [true] source of happiness?

Wednesday, January 1

New [Happy] Frontiers

For those of you new to Finding Happy, I'd like to give you a big welcome. For those of you who followed "Finding Happy in 365 Days" during my one year project in 2012, well, I am back. Why, you may ask, am I back over here, when I have a new blog (On My Bike with Scissors and a Cast Iron Skillet) now? Well, the honest truth is that I need it. I am just not feeling the same amount of happy these days. It's not that I am focusing on negative things but they keep rearing their ugly heads, forcing me to look smack dab at them. It's gross, I know. And a bit pathetic, when I consider how happy I should be and feel. I have a really nice life. I am married to a wonderful man who is the most understanding and supportive person I could have possibly been matched with in my life, I have a lovely home, no real problems to speak of. So why the dreariness?

I could reply in a deep, meaningful way and say something profound but I really feel that it would only be a half-truth. After my one year of Finding Happy, and having Happy be my focus every single day for that entire year, I really do honestly feel that the key to happiness is basically choosing happiness. But not all of us are that strong mentally. After being away from "Finding Happy" for nearly a year, I have discovered that I was happier when I was consciously focusing on Finding Happy. Having this project and being fully committed to it, to finding and writing about something Happy every day, even when the last thing I wanted to do was to think a positive thought, gave me something. A purpose. And whether or not that purpose was fulfilling my own personal need to finding a happy or positive focus, it gave me what I needed, and hopefully you benefited as well.

We all face things in life that we feel are not fair. Not everyone gets to have a healthy body. Not everyone gets to live to be 45 years old. Not everyone gets to experience living in a foreign country, not everyone gets to be a mom or dad, not everyone gets to find their soulmate, not everyone gets to ride a bicycle, go for a jog, see a rainbow, hear music... You get my point. And all of those people out there with seemingly perfect lives, well, they too have something they must deal with. Something that is their cross to bear. No one gets to have the perfect life. Though it seems so when you are on the outside looking in.

But there IS something that we all have the opportunity to have and that is our own thoughts and our own free will to choose happiness. Sometimes finding happiness is a piece of cake (literally!) and sometimes you have to scrape the bottoms of your shoes, just for one little, teeny, tiny glimmer of happy... but it IS there. Waiting to be found.

So now I am about to embark upon yet another journey of Finding Happy. This time it may not be every single day but do I commit to posting about something positive or happy at least 3 days a week, possibly, hopefully more. I hope you will join me on this journey and actively seek happiness along side me. Because the only thing better than finding happiness yourself... is getting to share that happiness.

Happy New Year....

Be Happy!