Walking my way into spring

Walking my way into spring

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

It may not look or feel like it, but it’s spring in Sweden. The sun is rising a little earlier and setting a little later every day. The sky doesn’t always look like that pale and frigid shade of blue that signifies winter. Whenever I go for a walk, I try to remember to take my headphones with me so that I can listen to a little music along the way.

I hardly ever listen to the radio anymore so I never know what are the latest or hottest tunes these days. So what am I listening to? Some oldies but goodies.

I am not a big Natasha Bedingfield fan, but “Pocketful of Sunshine” does get me walking at a great pace and it sure does put me in a good mood.

 

I still LOVE INXS and “Dancing on the Jetty” has been stuck in my head for days.

 

And a little Jill Scott never hurts, especially when it’s “Golden”.

What about you? What are you listening to?

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Bacon-wrapped dates will be my downfall

Bacon-wrapped dates will be my downfall

I am a foodie.

I think you know that by now. Pretty much every conversation I have ends up, at some point, being about food. It’s not that I am hungry all of the time. It’s more that I like talking about the marriage of interesting flavour combinations or how velvety a piece of cheese can feel in your mouth and the memories or reactions it can evoke.

I’m also a foodie who had weight loss surgery.

Which means I can only eat very small portions now and my tastebuds are developing new likes. It also means I haven’t gone out to dinner in a while. I was on a nasty pre-operation liquid diet (which was HELL) for a month prior to the surgery. Then I had to continue the liquid diet for ten days post-surgery. Well, at least I am able to eat solid food again, but my stomach can’t tolerate everything at the moment. It’s not easy, but the health benefits outweigh the cons.

Anyway, a few days ago, I had one of those memories evoked by food. It wasn’t because of something I ate. It was because of something I smelled–namely, bacon. Just the aroma of one of my neighbours making bacon took me back to Palma de Mallorca, Spain and sharing a plate of bacon-wrapped dates with my husband. If you’ve never had bacon-wrapped dates, it’s to die for. It’s probably not at all healthy, but it’s good for the soul.

The deliciousness that is bacon-wrapped dates.

We had this bit of deliciousness at a tapas bar called La Taperia, which if you’re ever in Palma you’ll find it on Carrer de Montenegro.  In Spanish, the dish is called Dátiles con bacon–at least, that’s what it’s called on their menu. Tord and I have been to Palma several times. Whenever we’re there, we end up having dinner at La Taperia at least three times during our stay and we always order the bacon-wrapped dates. And we can’t get enough of them. We vie for the last one, which we inevitably split and then we long to have it again.

We’ll probably go to Palma again to celebrate my husband’s birthday. He’s one of those lucky people whose birthday is celebrated during the summer. I am pretty sure we’ll end up sharing a bottle of wine and a plate of dátiles con bacon at La Taperia. And, considering the surgery I’ve recently had, tapas is great: small dishes that you can linger over and share. It’s a feast for the eyes that isn’t too heavy on the belly (as long as you don’t choose anything too rich).

The staff at La Taperia also make it a restaurant worth visiting. They are also foodies and when they describe the various tapas dishes on the menu, you can tell they are passionate about the food they create. You will never hear them say, “I don’t know. I haven’t tasted it.” They’ve tried everything and can tempt you with the most tantalising descriptions of the flavours and textures.

I’m pretty sure that bacon-wrapped dates will be my downfall. On my deathbed, I’ll be hoping that a plate of them will be waiting for me beyond the pearly gates, preferably with a glass of red wine. I should probably write sonnets about these dates, paint pictures of them and have them make an appearance in every book I write. But for now, I will content myself with knowing that the next time I am on the island of Mallorca, I can walk to Calle Montenegro and order a plate. I’ll even be nice and share it with Tord.

Am I a Puffin or a Walrus?

Am I a Puffin or a Walrus?

Back in December, BuzzFeed Quiz posted a quiz on Facebook that felt so right: Which  Animal Are You – Arctic Animal Edition. As soon as I saw the picture I could relate. I felt like all of the animals, depending on the day of the week.

Some days I feel like a polar bear, especially when I am in Philly during the summer. I’ve been living in Sweden so long that my body is no longer used to Philly summer temperatures–so years, I feel like I am sweaty all the time when I am there.

Or, I could easily be a musk ox. I sometimes have good hair days. I can be very grumpy and anti-social. And I try really hard.

Of course, when I am at work, I tend to feel like a puffin. Especially when people who are not writers or native speakers of English try to tell me that I am using the wrong word or decide they’re going to define a word for me (and they are wrong).

Lately, I feel like a walrus–but that’s because I am on a pre-operation diet (have lost 12 pounds, yay me!) and am always hungry (nay me!) since I am surviving on basically boiled eggs, diet shakes and soup, and lots of coffee. I’m also feeling very clumsy due to low energy levels since I am only allowed to consume 900 calories/day until the operation. Thank God it’s on Tuesday.

Now, I love penguins, and I have to say we are pretty similar: I have big dreams (I want to write full-time and sell lots of books), I fall in love too fast (luckily this time with the right guy, whom I have been married to since 1999) and I have my moments when I am a good dancer. The rest of the time I am tripping over my own feet and dancing to music only I can hear. 😉

And then there’s the arctic fox–yeah, I am a fast learner (except for when it comes to the database system we use at work) and I can get anxious as hell in some situations. And I overthink things when I feel insecure.

Oh hell, I think I am all of these animals. Or maybe I am not an arctic animal at all? I mean, sure I live in Sweden and it’s pretty cold here right now, but often I feel like a tree sloth and they don’t live anywhere near the arctic.

And before you ask me (because people ask me this fairly often): no, there are no polar bears walking the streets of Stockholm, Sweden. There are no polar bears in Sweden. Plenty of moose, reindeer, badgers and hare in this country. But polar bears? Nope. That postcard you saw was a lie. 🙂

Now what about you?

Which arctic animal are you?

 

 

 

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A little something from Near Enough to Hold

A little something from Near Enough to Hold

Happy 2018! Last year I published a four-part serial love story called Near Enough to Hold, available exclusively for Kindle. Here’s a taste of it. Hope you like it! 

An excerpt from part four of Near Enough to Hold.

Something changed between us on Election Night. That night, we could have easily made love. We lay there in his bed, but we settled for holding one another.  “I’m almost scared to kiss you,” he’d admitted to me as we lay facing one another. His eyes were closed. I willed him to open them, to see me laying there topless and touch me. He’d tucked one hand under his pillow, the other lay still on my hip. His fingers pressed into my flesh, lightly at first.

“Look at me, Nick…”

He did as I asked. I knew he worried about what would happen to our friendship. In a way, I worried too. I didn’t want anything to disturb the balance…and yet, what I wanted most was to share my days and nights with him. I sometimes imagined what my life would have been like if I’d known him when I lived in New York, when my every waking hour focused on dance—on sewing elastic bands and thick ribbons to my pointe shoes, maintaining my flexibility and pushing myself to the limits to impress creative directors on the lookout for their next batch of principal dancers.

If I’d known him then…or if we’d met in London, would we have liked one another?

Would he want me in his life still?

Maybe all that mattered was the here and now. I didn’t need to know if he’d been a jerk in his past if he’d learned from his mistakes. Maybe he didn’t care that I’d been one of those dancers who didn’t care about anyone else as long as I got the roles I wanted. Maybe we’d both fucked up and learned from every single mistake we’d ever made.

But now, when he looked at me with those eyes that sometimes revealed so much of the sadness and the joy and the fear inside him…all I wanted was to crush my lips against his and lose myself in his touch.

 

 

 

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Ghosts of Christmas Past — or Why I Love and Hate Christmas

Ghosts of Christmas Past — or Why I Love and Hate Christmas

A typical “Peanuts” Countdown to Christmas image

When I was a kid, I both loved and hated the arrival of Christmas. My dad and I had a lot of Christmas traditions: Christmas movie bonanzas, listening to Christmas carols nonstop from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve, counting down Christmas together with the special holiday-edition Snoopy countdown they used to feature in the now-defunct Philadelphia Bulletin and then later in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  I loved when my dad and I would go out for drives and check out the brightly coloured Christmas lights and decorations in different neighbourhoods. Often we’d stop at a diner for hot chocolate and some cake along the way. In the car, my dad would sing along with Christmas carols on the radio. It didn’t matter which song the DJs played, he knew all of the lyrics (or he was good enough at faking them that I believed they really were the right words to the songs). I still have fond memories of those car rides.

Yup, I know the feeling…

What I don’t have fond memories is the black hole my dad would fall into either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. My dad also suffered from depression, which he thought he was hiding from us. I suspect that he was bipolar though I do not know if he was ever formally diagnosed. His Christmas high was so all-encompassing that you would forget what always followed–the inevitable fall. He wouldn’t get out of bed to eat the special Christmas breakfast my mother prepared or he would disappear for hours and reappear without explaining the long absence. Most times, his mood was even worse than when he left the house. My mother would try to make up for it with forced joviality but the tension was always there. We’d all pretend it wasn’t going on. Friends and family members would come by and we’d keep the facade going. And then by the 26th or the 27th, my dad would be back to normal, though still somewhat subdued. We still walked on eggshells because we didn’t know if anything we said or did would send him back into that black hole.

 

Yum! Stollen–a yummy Christmas treat

Maybe this is why I find myself feeling a little sad sometimes around Christmas. I love the lights and the spirit of generosity. I hate the frenzy to buy the biggest, best Christmas presents and how people forget that Christmas should be about more than just spending money. I remember what that frenzy did to my dad and how it affected us.

I am glad my husband and I have started our own Christmas traditions. We usually go off on our own to have a quiet Christmas together. Most years, we go to Austria to visit the Christmas markets and eat lots of stollen, drink far too much glühwein and jägertee and then eat far too much goose (for me) and carp (for Tord) before retiring to our hotel room where we read our books we’ve given one another as Christmas presents and laugh at the annual Helene Fischer Christmas show (which is apparently a German/Austrian tradition not to be missed because it’s on every Christmas Day).

This year, we’re staying in Sweden for Christmas. I don’t know how Tord and I will survive this year without Helene Fischer and her celebrity guests making us giggle as they dance and sing their way through old standards. But one thing is certain: Christmas will be relaxing. We will enjoy one another’s company (and probably eat too much and then have to walk it off). And when we spend Christmas our way–instead of with the frenzy that for most people starts on Black Friday and ends on Christmas Day with a present coma–I don’t feel the sadness that Christmas brings for me when I spend it in the US or when I get caught up in the same mania that used to affect my dad.

What about you? Do you get the holiday blues?

Getting all holly and jolly

Getting all holly and jolly

Sorry I am a day late posting–I was so busy writing the end of Near Enough to Hold, I lost track of days. 🙂

When I was in college, I worked at the Gallery II in Center City. To be more precise, I worked in B. Dalton’s in the Gallery II in Center City. I loved working in a bookstore, I hated the crappy pay. The benefit? My employee discount on all the books I could ever want. I also worked one year as an elf at a local department store at Christmas to earn a little extra money. Being an elf wasn’t always fun. Small children can be very naughty and their parents can make you wish you’d learned the Vulcan Death Grip when their self-centredness knew no bounds. The upside? The pay was good. The downside? Dealing with screaming kids, an itchy uniform and the constant rotation of Christmas carols. It was nonstop Christmas carols from November 1 until December 31. I was convinced I’d go postal if I heard Wham’s “Last Christmas” one more time. Now add to this the hysteria of stressed beyond belief people buying gifts they don’t really want or need and you can imagine how decidedly unfestive I was that year.

 

It took a while to get over my anti-Christmas carol sentiment. Nowadays, I can’t wait until I can begin listening to Christmas carols. I even have a favourite Christmas carol. Well, I actually have two. 🙂  One is “Carol of the Bells”; the other is “Up On the House Top”.  Both remind me of growing up in Philadelphia.

 

All I have to do is hear these two songs and I am transported back to being a kid out Christmas shopping with my dad, sitting on the floor by the eagle in John Wanamaker’s and watching the Christmas Light Show, and dreaming of what presents would be waiting under the tree for me. It’s been years since I spent Christmas in my hometown of Philadelphia, but hearing those two songs gets me all holly and jolly and brings the wonder of Christmas in Philly back to me in an instant. Hmm…now I am hungry for an open-faced turkey sandwich from the Amish deli counter in Reading Terminal…

What about you? Which Christmas carols are your faves?

This Is Us is my addiction

This Is Us is my addiction

I don’t usually consider myself a big TV watcher. Maybe it’s because, when I first moved to Sweden, I had to wait so long to see all of the new shows that my friends in the US had been watching for ages.

Nowadays, I don’t have to wait so long–either the shows I want to see I can stream via HBO Nordic or Netflix, or the licensing for Sweden has made it easier for them to begin airing most shows pretty much the same week as in the US.

Lately, I find myself addicted to one particular show: This Is Us. I stumbled upon a trailer for it and loved the premise of viewing a family’s life through different time periods. My husband can never keep up. He doesn’t always follow that we’re looking at Kate, Kevin and Randall when they’re kids, then as teenagers and then fast-forwarding to adulthood.

Now, if you’ve never seen This Is Us, it starts with Jack and Rebecca, who are expecting triplets. During the delivery, one of their babies dies. Rebecca is devastated. Jack finds out about an abandoned baby boy who was brought in by the fire department. Jack convinces Rebecca that they should adopt the baby and raise him with their surviving babies, Kevin and Kate. We follow the couple and the lives of their children, sometimes skipping forward in time, sometimes jumping backwards.

From left to right: Sterling K. Brown, Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley.

For me, watching This Is Us gives me the same sort of emotional rollercoaster feeling of reading the best kind of novel–the kind that makes you feel like you aren’t simply a spectator, you’re present in the story, experiencing those emotional moments with the same intensity as the characters on the screen. I am also hooked to how they’re handling the race issues that are touched upon due to Randall, their adopted son, being black. His story arc is especially interesting because of his longing to find his birth parents, a desire that follows him into adulthood.

I know a lot of people hate This Is Us. They say it’s too over-the-top, that they’re taking too long to tell us what happened to Jack or how Rebecca ended up together with Miguel or will Kevin ever get his shit together. But I love the storytelling on this show. I don’t want nice, tidy endings to every episode. I want them to tease me with more so I keep coming back.

I love the cast: Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson, Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson, Sterling K. Brown as Randall, Chrissy Metz as Kate and Justin Hartley as Kevin.

What about you? Are you as addicted to This Is Us?

 

 

What do you wear to Thanksgiving dinner?

What do you wear to Thanksgiving dinner?

When I was a kid, I both loved and hated holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I loved getting to see all of my relatives and enjoying all the delicious food they prepared–I come from a family of great cooks, so it’s no wonder I am such a foodie. My aunts and cousins would spend what seemed like weeks preparing for the holidays, baking the most amazing pies and cakes. And then there was all the rest of the food–perfectly roasted turkey, cornbread stuffing, candied yams….oh I could go on. The food was heaven.

Getting dressed to go to dinner was not.

My mom would always pick out the itchiest tights for me to wear with a dress that might look cute but in reality was super uncomfortable. I hated it. I wanted to wear my favourite jeans or a nice sweater, but my mom would make me wear a dress and try to tame my hair into submission.

Even now, when I have to go to office Christmas parties or Thanksgiving dinners at friends’ houses, I have moments of panic. What will I wear? Is it going to itch? Will it pinch where it shouldn’t? Will I have to wear horrible tights that chafe? And then I remind myself that I am an adult and I can wear whatever I want these days to parties and dinners.

 

Yes, I really do have this t-shirt. And I love it. 🙂

So what will I wear to Thanksgiving this year? Well, I live in Sweden and have to work on Thanksgiving since Swedes don’t celebrate the holiday. However, I will celebrate on 2 December with some friends. Luckily, it’s a casual affair for us so I don’t have to get dressed up. I will wear some jeans and a sweater, which will be comfy.

Now for the Christmas party…well, I haven’t decided yet. But I WILL NOT wear a dress. I could wear my favourite ELF t-shirt paired with my fluffy sweater, black velvet leggings and cute flats. My colleagues usually get dressed to the nines. I did the first year, but I was so uncomfortable that I decided that next time I’d wear something fun, festive AND comfortable. I have another ELF t-shirt that has sparkly sleeves. It could make a comeback. 😉

Usually there’s a specific dress code for our office Christmas parties (and I usually ignore it for the sake of comfort). I just don’t see the point of being uncomfortable when I know I will dance and want to have fun.

What about you? Will you wear to your Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas party?

 

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Ode to the Oversized Sweater

Ode to the Oversized Sweater

Not me in the picture, but doesn’t that sweater look divine? (Source: Pinterest)

Ever since I was in grade school, one item of clothing has always been my favorite: the sweater, especially if it was too large and simply felt cozy. Were the sleeves a little too long? Ooh, you’re giving me goosebumps! Did the collar gape a little? Now, we’re talkin’! Was it a men’s sweater instead of a girly sweater? My heart is practically singing!

My mother did all that she could to break my love of too-large sweaters. She’d buy me nice, proper cardigans that fit just so, but I was not interested. They were usually in pastel shades of pink or blue or yellow that made me gag. I wanted black sweaters, or maybe bright red…or white cable-knit or fishermen sweaters. If it smelled like my dad’s cologne, perfect.

When I was in high school, my dad bought a fisherman’s sweater and promptly forgot about it. He wore it once and then, for months, it hung in his closet, abandoned, unloved. I coveted that sweater. I knew it would look perfect with my Under a Blood Red Sky t-shirt, leggings and my favorite pair of scuffed loafers. So I bided my time, waited until my dad bought more new clothes and then liberated that sweater from his closet.

I didn’t want to wear it too soon. That might spur him to remember that the sweater actually belonged to him.

Instead, I waited until the autumn was almost over and we were closing in on Thanksgiving, and then I began wearing that wonderful fisherman’s sweater. It took my dad a few months to realize that I had in fact commandeered his sweater. By that time, he’d bought a cotton crewneck sweater that was more his style and he let me keep the fisherman’s sweater (which I hadn’t planned on returning anyway).

Even now, over thirty years later, I still adore oversized sweaters. I have an old roll-neck sweater from J. Crew that came into my possession via an ex-boyfriend way back in 1990…yeah, I still have it and it still looks good. It’s not as oversized as it used to be as I am fluffier than I used to be, but it still fits. There are one or two holes in it, but I love wearing it at the weekend. It’s soft, it’s cozy and it’s been with me for over twenty years. That’s a quality sweater, I’d say. Now if only J. Crew still sold roll-neck sweaters… but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. 🙂 Every autumn, I take it out of its storage bag, freshen it up and wear it with my favorite gray t-shirt and jeans or leggings and my sneakers.

I will probably still be wearing oversized sweaters even when I am a pensioner. I just wrapping myself in them. Autumn and winter aren’t the same without them.

What about you? What’s your autumn/winter staple item of clothing?

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That song…you know the one I mean

That song…you know the one I mean

I keep getting songs stuck in my head. When it happens, I can become a bit obsessive with said song and need to hear it multiple times per day. It happens to all of us, right? I am reminded of an episode of Married with Children when Al Bundy is trying to remember a song but he can’t recall any of the lyrics or the song title…just the melody, which he tunelessly shares with anyone he thinks will listen. No one knows what he’s talking about, not even the guy at the record store who knows everything. At times, that’s how it is for me. I tell the hubster about a song, he doesn’t recognise it, I insist he must surely recognise it, hum it for him, he smiles and shrugs.

Yesterday, there were a couple of songs stuck in my head. It took me all day to remember the title of one of them, but I didn’t bore anyone with the usual game of “What’s That Song Called?” So what’s stuck in my head this week…?

 

 

 

 

So what about you? Which songs are stuck in your head?

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