Friday, February 21

Words for the Day

Courage. Strength. Discipline. Words to focus on as I embark upon the last stage of the Tjejklassik, and what I feel, will be the hardest stage thus far. The weather and minimal amount of snow in Stockholm has not been exceptionally kind for preparations and training for a cross-country skiing event. I've done the best I could to prepare, even making a couple of road trips north in search of snow. Now it's just to relax and try to enjoy the day tomorrow. 

Many people have told me with confidence that I will "klara det," or in English, complete it. Meaning the race. I have to trust them and hope for the best. And I do think that I will, in fact, finish the race. I just know it is going to be challenging, especially given what little experience I have with cross-country skiing. 

But when I think of the sense of accomplishment I already feel from the previous stages I've completed: the Tjejvättern, 100km bike race, the Vansbro Swim, 1km in ice cold open water, and the Lidingö Tjejloppet, 10km run, I already feel like I've achieved the greatest goal. That goal being to go above and beyond what I thought I could do. To push myself to limits I thought were impossible. This past year has shown me how much strength, and guts, I truly have. 

So whatever happens tomorrow, here's to a great experience and a day of true fun and adventure!

Skåll!!! (Och välkommen till Sverige!)

(Cheers! And welcome to Sweden! 

Wednesday, February 19

Trumped by a Possum

(The road to Mora. We travelled this road a couple of weeks ago and will be embarking once again on a journey there tomorrow! The Tjejvasa takes place on Saturday. Gulp.)

You may or may not remember how or when this whole song and dance got started. And by song and dance I mean this blog and my sometimes crazy stories. This particular story that I am about to tell has roots in my very first post when my husband and I had embarked on a friendly game of competition. 

Fast forward (or rewind) to this past Friday morning, which was February 14th. The alarm went off earlier than usual. Or so it seemed. My husband was covered in pillows and blankets and a soft snore could be heard as I quietly made my way out of bed to go make coffee, feed the cat, & prepare a special Valentine breakfast in bed.  Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I was planning to use a cookie cutter to cut heart shapes into a couple of cardamom bullar (buns) I'd picked up. I had hoped to find something already heart-shaped but this would have to do. I can't help it. I just love hearts. 

Cat fed, coffee brewed, and heart bullar ready, I headed up to surprise my Valentine. I tip-toed quietly into the dark bedroom, careful not to jolt him awake, and whispered "Happy Valentines's Day" to the pillow and blanket covered bed lump. He had been out with some work colleagues the night before so I knew he was extra tired. Ha. Suddenly he jumped up and spun around to face me and with the most joyous expression you can imagine, he exclaimed, “Fipin!" He was playing possum. 

What??! I was completely and utterly stunned. I just stood there with the tray in my hands staring at him. Was it true? Yes, I had a vague recollection of our game way back around the Christmas holidays when we set the date for Valentine’s day at 7:00 a.m. (But didn't you mean the year 2015??!!) If you don’t remember, Filipin is a game played when you eat hazelnuts, whole in the shell hazelnuts that you must crack open to eat. The game occurs when you open a shell and discover two hazelnuts inside of one shell. A rare find, but completely possible. You then choose a player and the two of you set a date and time in the future, could be near, could be far, and the first person to say “filipin” after that date and time wins. 

Being so focused on this upcoming cross-country ski event and all of the training and stresses it entails, I was obviously off of my game. I have won most of our past games but perhaps this will begin a new trend. I can honestly say however, that seeing his face so bright and cheery and happy made it worth losing. (No, I’m not a sore loser. What makes you think that? :-p) 

Ps. God-willing, I will complete the Tjejklassik this Saturday when I (hopefully) reach the Tjejvasa finish. More on that later ;-). 

Sunday, February 16

Valentine, I'd Follow You to the Ends of the Earth... On My Bike

Valentine's Day was a few days ago but for various reasons I was unable to make myself sit down and complete this post. So here it is now. Better late than never, right? 

These photos are of the valentine that I made my husband. I bought these tiny, tiny figures a couple of weeks ago from a hobby shop, knowing I wanted to use them in the making of my valentine but coming up with zero ideas. I sat for hours thinking about how I could cleverly incorporate them and the only image popping up in my head was to attach them to the top of a little wooden box (which does not actually exist in real life) that could be used to hold special keepsakes etc. 

This idea came from me assuming that the small figures were painted iron, or some similar hard substance. However, when the day finally arrived and I removed them from their packaging I realized that they were semi-soft plastic and most likely would not hold up to being glued to a box that one might use repetitively. That idea was out the window. 

So as I sat wrapping the tube that held my husband's valentine's present (three small artworks made by the very talented Ashley Percival), my cat helping the entire time, this idea sprang to life. I am not sure I would have come up with the idea if it hadn't been for my cat causing the tube to fall onto its side. My original thought was to glue them to the top of the tube, even though it looked ridiculous and the tube kept falling over. Lying there on its side I suddenly envisioned a single road down the middle and everything fell into place from there. 

Valentine's Day saved, I could then relax. Normally I love to make my own valentines, and this year was no different, though I was not expecting to feel empty of creative ideas. Sometimes that happens unfortunately and you just have to go with the flow. Most times I find that if I just take action and start making something, the creativity will eventually release and come out to play. Lucky for me my creativity kicked into gear just in the nick of time. :-)

Hope you have a Happy Day!

And don't forget... you can celebrate love any day, with or without a a Valentine.

"may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living" 

Excerpt from an e.e. cummings poem

Wednesday, February 5


(Lillstugan in Mora, Sweden)

Well, this lovely little cabin, aptly named Lillstugan, will be our home away from home on Saturday. We are renting a car and driving up to Mora, which is in the Dalarna region of Sweden, to cross-country ski. The snow situation has been less than ideal in Stockholm and since I have not had much experience with cross-country skiing previously, we decided that getting away to a place with snow and well-maintained ski tracks would be good (or actually, awesome) for my pre-race training. Now, calling it a race is a bit of a leap, since the only "race" that will be happening in my world is the race against time to get to the finish before they close the finish. 

Mora is home of the Tjejvasaloppet finish line and I think it is only appropriate that we are heading directly to the finish this weekend, even if the race isn't until February 22nd. This way my animal instincts will get to know the "smell of the barn" so to speak, and I will know where "home" is during the race and perhaps be able to detect it as I am getting closer. My husband raced mountain bikes a few years back and one of his friends liked to joke that he "smelled the barn" as they were getting closer to the finish because he would speed up. Just like cows start to walk faster when they are coming in from grazing. They smell the barn and speed up. 

Well, hopefully that will be me in a couple of weeks. Hopefully I will smell the barn and there will still be enough umpfhin me to speed up. Heck, if I just make it in time before the finish closes I'll be happy :-). But this weekend? It will be all about honing the new mad skills I acquired last Sunday in my ski lesson. And having some fun with my favorite person in the world. 

Hope you all get to spend time with your favorite person and have a Happy Weekend too!

Tuesday, February 4

Tacos Equal Happiness

(The finished product... Mmmmmm!!!! So delicious!)

On Sunday my husband said, "I'm gonna make tortillas." Homemade corn tortillas, that is. My whole being started to hum with happiness. Corn tortillas, especially homemade ones, are one of my favorite foods. You can make so many tasty meals: huevos rancheros, breakfast tacos, regular tacos, tostadas (just bake in the oven to crisp up to your liking), and enchiladas. I even have a favorite tortilla soup recipe that calls for corn tortillas as the thickening agent. 

(Pressing the tortilla)

Don't get me wrong, I pretty much love any kind of tortilla but the corn tortilla has a special place in my heart (and stomach). When my husband announced that he would make tortillas I immediately had the idea to make roasted veggie tacos. I was thinking zucchini, carrots, green onions, maybe some sweet potatoes... but then he suggested black bean and roasted sweet potatoes and since black beans and sweet potatoes are my new favorite combination ever (just add a little crumbled feta and a spoon or two of salsa and I am good to go), I said, "sure!"

(A perfectly pressed tortilla ready to grill)

We have always been a good team in the kitchen, easily splitting up prepping tasks and mostly avoiding too many bumps. And I don't know why but we seem to always find ourselves making up new dance moves in the kitchen as we cook (and groove to some music). We have created dances called The Robot Chicken and Korta Ben (Short Legs), to name a couple. Normally the dance creations come along when we are out at our summer house on Tjörn, but recently dance production has made its way into the kitchen on Södermalm. If nothing else, we have some good laughs. And by "good laughs" I mean, rolling on the floor, tears streaming down our faces, peeing our pants laughs. You should try it. Kitchen dancing. Makes the food taste better too.

(My mouth is watering just looking at these beauties again)

Once we started prepping for the sweet potatoes and black beans, my husband started on a secret project (that involved red onions, small red chilies, limes, & oranges - oh my yum!) and I sliced up an onion to roast and eat later as a taco topping. It is so easy to do. The roasted onion not only makes your kitchen smell edible and wonderful but the flavor and crunch it adds to the tacos is just... well, sheer perfection! Set your oven to 200 C (400 F) and roast in a thin layer of olive oil, turning as needed and removing the ones that reach desired doneness as you go. I like to let mine caramelize. It takes about 30 minutes total, give or take a few minutes depending on your oven.

(Ready for the oven!)

We layered our taco fillings in this order: a drizzle of sour cream, black beans, sweet potatoes, roasted onions, the secret pickled onion/chili combo my husband created (that was amazing!), crumbled feta cheese, and a spoonful of salsa. We would have finished them with a sprinkling of cilantro but the store was fresh out. The resulting tacos however were astoundingly great, even minus the cilantro. When we finished eating my husband said, "I could eat three more of those!" And even though my belly was full and I was in taco heaven, I felt the same way. So yummy! 

(Sheer perfection on a plate)

Ps. We did stop at three tacos each. Mostly because we had already put the remaining tortillas in the freezer and all of the taco ingredients that were left over, along with some leftover brown rice in the fridge, became my burrito bowl lunch for the next day. ;-)

Tacos = Happiness

If you are in need of a happy moment, eat a taco. It may not solve any problems but it will make you feel better. :-) That and a square or two of chocolate. 

Happy Hump Day! Hang in there, we are half way to Friday!

Saturday, February 1

Heart Happy

Forget about wearing your heart on your sleeve. Why not wear your heart... on your heart? For all the world to see! Be bold. Be direct. Let everyone know that you mean [love] business. I went through a crafting phase a year or two ago of appliquéing hearts on sweaters. Inspired by DIY projects I'd discovered on Pinterest, as well as a sweater I’d seen in one of my favorite clothing stores, I went to work on making my own. I ended up completing one striped sweater with heart-shaped elbow patches and then this solid black one with the large, bigger-than-life red heart right smack dab on the front. 

I don’t know why but they make me feel a little jolt of happy when I wear them. Perhaps it is because of my love of love and heart shapes, or possibly it is just knowing that there is a little bit of love “hanging around” me. Or just maybe it is the simple fact that I made it myself (and saved some dough). Either way, it is a fun project that you can do by yourself, with your cat, or with a group of friends. :-) And who doesn't want to wear hearts on their clothing?!

Items you will need for this project:

An iron & ironing board
A sweater you don’t mind renovating, or an inexpensive new one from Target or H & M
Iron-on backing, fusible webbing, or even those strips you can purchase to “iron hem” curtains
Felt or other material for your heart
Needle & thread
Old newspaper to make your template, plus a few pins to hold your template in place

Here is a tutorial to show how to make and iron on appliqués and anchor the edges down with a blanket stitch. In addition, this video, also found in the tutorial, gives a great example as well. 

If you start on it now,  you could be finished just in time for Valentine’s Day!