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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I Love Linen

I Love Linen

I’ve just returned to Stockholm after 10 beautiful days in Palermo, Sicily and I feel like I left summer behind. It’s not that the weather isn’t beautiful in Stockholm–it’s only 6:15 AM as I write this and it’s a sunny, cloud-free day and already closing in 20C (68F for you Americans). 🙂 But when you’ve been spoiled with Sicilian heat and waking up to 26C (79F) in the morning and 30C (86F) by 10AM, a mild Swedish summer morning feels winter has come back.

Before I left for Sicily, I treated myself to a few things to help spiff up my vacation wardrobe…and then I decided to pack light and left most of it at home. I hate heavy suitcases. I limited myself to 5 shirts, 3 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of linen pants, and then the usual amount of undies. My plan was to wash clothes every few days. This is what I usually do when we have an Airbnb rental.

(Photo credit: hm.com)

I ended up picking up two of these linen-blend t-shirts: one in white and another in blue-grey. They were my staples while I was in Palermo. They worked with everything from dressy linen pants to jeans to my favourite faded (and old) olive-green twill shorts from Lands End. Since we were travelling light and the apartment we rented didn’t have a washing machine, it meant a lot of washing things in the kitchen or bathroom sink and hanging on coat hangers out on the balcony to dry.

Both shirts held up well.

I only wish I’d ordered more–now the blue one is sold out. I think I’ll order 2 or 3 more of the white one before it too sells out. These could come in handy when I head to Philly in August–and we know East Coast summers are hot, humid and sticky. I need shirts that can keep me from feeling blech and this one definitely fit the bill while I was in Palermo. 🙂

(Photo credit: hm.com)

I spent most of my time in shorts–the hubster and I are not fashion plates, nor do we really care if everyone else makes themselves look spiffy for la passeggiata–we wanted to be comfortable and relax without having to stress over what to wear. I found these cute linen shorts just a few days before we left for Palermo. At first, I was worried they’d be too short. I will admit that my thighs are nowhere near as firm as they used to be. I don’t count myself as a gym bunny or a fitness girl so thigh gap is not something I give a hoot about. But even back in the day when I still went to the gym 5 days a week, I never had thigh gap and, despite having super-firm legs back then, I hated really short shorts. Well, these were just the right length and–since they’re linen–super comfy on even the hottest days while we were in Sicily.

(Photo credit: hm.com)

The last thing I packed, but never actually wore, was a linen shirtdress.

I’m not someone who wears dresses often–I usually hate wearing them because they either look…wrong on me…or just feel so damned uncomfortable. This one is a joy to wear. I am so glad that H&M (unlike a lot of other brands) realised that we curvy girls like cute shirtdresses too.

True confessions: I ended up not wearing it at all. No, it was not because it didn’t look good on me (it looks great on me! Yay!). I honestly thought I would wear it in the evenings. I had these grand ideas we’d go to a fancy restaurant or three, but we ended up going to more casual restaurants while we were in Palermo, so it was easy to stay in shorts and a t-shirt.

But this dress will NOT go to waste. 🙂

I’ve got a book signing in New York in August, so I think I will wear this dress, another H&M find, while I am there. I have the feeling I will wear it a lot to work now in June and July. It’s so cute. 🙂 It will look great with Chuck Taylors or cute sandals.

I would love to say that my linen obsession has abated…but that would be a lie. I’ve ordered a linen tunic + some linen pants and they’ll be waiting for me in Philly. Someone take my credit card away. 😉

Are you a fan of linen? What’s your favourite go-to outfit for summer vacations?

 

 

 

My closet is chock full of clothes…and I have nothing to wear

My closet is chock full of clothes…and I have nothing to wear

Honestly, this is ridiculous. I am going to a wedding on Saturday morning and I cannot figure out what to wear.

 

I’ve been trying to figure this conundrum out for the last two weeks, but so far I am coming up with nada. Part of the problem is the weather. This year, Swedish spring has been mostly rain-snow-more rain-more snow. The cute little dresses in my closet? Yeah, they won’t do if the wind is a-blowing and there’s snow and hail pelting me. So today during my lunch break, I went to H&M–where I usually find fun things. Did it help? No. All they had for a curvy girl like me was jeans and t-shirts. I thought perhaps I’d find a cute sweater. I’d seen a really nice outfit online, but apparently it’s not available in the shops. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Swedish stores have a tendency to pretend that if you are larger than a size 10 or 12, you don’t exist. Or you don’t buy clothes.


But this is my usual conundrum. I have a lot of clothing. I don’t have a lot of things that work for dressy occasions, because most of my friends are already married or living in sin and not interested in getting married and Swedish people don’t generally have these mega-weddings like Americans do. They usually have nice, sensible weddings at the county courthouse or something small and informal. Unless, of course, they are addicted to Bridezilla and then they decided to have a big wedding that becomes insane. But that doesn’t happen very often. They’d much rather splurge on a nice honeymoon or their first house or apartment together.

So after not finding anything interesting there, I went to Lindex. I found a great white dress there–but I can’t wear white to a wedding. I think I may buy that dress anyway. It’s too cute not to be in my closet. I have no clue when I will wear it, but I really, really like it. Maybe I can find a cute pair of Converses to wear with it. Maybe I can convince Tord that we should go to Paris or Rome just so I can wear that dress. I’ll probably spill red wine or gelato on it. I am good at spilling wine. 🙂

But I think a woman who writes about sexy Scandinavian men should have a cute dress or three in her closet, don’t you?

Now if only I would walk in heels. But alas…those days are over since my left knee is still not back to normal.

Ah well, cute sneakers will have to do.

Lindex at least provided me with a pair of lace pants. I am not sure what I will pair them with, but they were cute. There is a top that matches the pants, but I thought it was too short. I like tops that come at least to my mid-hip. I might pair it with a cashmere sweater. That way I will be warm if it’s chilly outside. Or maybe a chiffon tunic with a mohair cardie? I could also pair them with some ballerina flats….or my pink suede trainers. Hmm.

Decisions, decisions.

It would have been awesome to find a top that worked with the pants, but the Clothing Fairy didn’t seem to have enough fairy dust to sprinkle on me today. I shouldn’t complain–at least I found some pants.

I don’t usually wear pink. It’s one of those colors I’ve avoided most of my life. I blame my mom for this–when I was a kid, she used to try to force me to wear pink all the time. She made me wear pink to my senior prom. I still grimace when I remember all that horrible powder pink on that dress….ick. No, that dress was not for me, but my mom loved it and refused to pay for the black dress I wanted. She told everyone I picked out the dress. I didn’t pick it out. I gave up. Every dress I liked, she hated. We’d spent two weeks in prom dress-shopping hell. When the sales assistant showed it to me, I shrugged. I tried it on and had already decided I wasn’t trying anything else on. We bought it. And my mom was over the moon. I was…meh.

But now at the age of 47, my aversion to pink is not as strong. There are still shades of it that give me the heebie-jeebies, but I’ve managed to buy and like two pinkish sweaters recently…and my pink suede trainers.

I think I need to figure out a wedding wardrobe. I should just buy a few pieces that are my “base wardrobe” for wedding season. They can come in handy for those other events that inevitably take place during the summer (engagement parties, baby christenings, etc). I guess that will be my new project for the next few weeks. Making this a reality…or I can always put if off until next summer. 😉

 

 

 

My Inner Deborah Harry

My Inner Deborah Harry

Every now and then, a song will get stuck in my head and I just can’t shake it. Sometimes, it’s a song I hate–or perhaps that’s too strong. Let’s say it’s a song I don’t really connect with.More often than not, it will be music that ends up on my writing soundtracks. Yes, I make Spotify playlists that I refer to as the soundtracks of my novels.

Lately two songs keep popping up in my mind: “Heart of Glass”  and “Dreaming” by Blondie. Both songs keep popping up on my writing playlists and I find myself singing them in the shower at least 3-4 times a week. I’m sure my neighbours are sick of hearing me caterwauling these tunes. 🙂

When I was younger, I loved Deborah Harry. She was everything I knew I was not: cool, sexy, quirky and thoroughly her own person. Though I looked nothing like her, I tried to channel some of her “I don’t care” vibe whenever I was feeling particularly nerdy in a bad way.  I guess it was only natural–I had pretty strict parents who were always trying to make me look “presentable”. We were like the Cosby kids in my neighborhood in Philly. We always had to put on our best faces and pretend we were perfect. And we did a good job of it because everyone thought we were the perfect kids: always so polite, always so well-spoken and well-dressed (meaning boringly dressed). It’s why I always took an extra set of clothes with me to school to change in so I could be the real me, or at least the me I wanted to be. And that was when I channeled my inner Deborah Harry. I may not have been as cool as she was, but I could tell myself I was.

I think a lot of us who grew up in the late 70s and 1980s wanted to be her or at least have a little of her aloofness, coolness. Even when she was at her worst, she was still iconic. And when she made a comeback a few years ago, it just made me love her even more.

I am forty-something and I still love Deborah Harry Blondie. I think a bit of her ends up in all the characters I write.

In the novella I am working on, “Heart of Glass” is pretty much the theme for at least part of the story. I think Håkan and Jessica both have hearts of glass, though he’s probably a little more vulnerable than she is. He’s the one wearing his heart on his sleeve. And yeah, “Dreaming” is a pretty big part of the story too. So, even if the story is set in Stockholm and Sardinia, there’s a little nostalgia creeping in and Deborah Harry is there somewhere. 🙂

What about you? What song’s stuck in your head now?

 

I am living in a world of…dust

I am living in a world of…dust

A few years ago, I was diagnosed as having a dust allergy, which I thought was kind of funny since I nearly always forget to dust off furniture, etc until I actually see the dust before me. I also thought it was amusing that I live in a country where people freak out about a speck of dust anywhere and keep their homes so spotless you feel like you’re in a furniture showroom or a design museum and yet nearly everyone here has some weird allergy.

Most of the time, I can keep my little allergy under control by simply remembering to dust and vacuum (though I suffer for hours afterwards with a stuffy nose and sneezing). I try to be tidier, but I leave books and papers everywhere. It’s what writers do. I should add that I really hate cleaning and I wish I could hire a cleaning person to come twice a month, but my Swedish hubby objects to this, even though he does not like vacuuming or dusting. So…I suffer through the dusting and the vacuuming and dreaming I could have someone take care of this so that I too could come home from work to a spotless apartment.

At least my desk at work was free of dust and was tidy…until now.

Now the dust has followed to the office.

No, I didn’t bring it with me.

They’re renovating our office, so there is construction dust everywhere. It’s also pretty noisy, which is to be expected when they are tearing down walls and putting up new ones, resurfacing hardwood floors, etc. I put my headphones on and try to drown out the noise with anything from Hole to Led Zeppelin to Parliament Funkadelic, but it doesn’t always help.

And the dust…

It gets in your hair, in your eyes, in your nose, in your mouth…. Even though they’ve tried to seal off the areas being renovated, the dust still gets everywhere.  I keep telling myself this will all be over in a month, but having to wipe down my desk 3-4 times a day to get rid of the dust so that I don’t have a sneezing fit does get a bit annoying.

Maybe I need a vacation. If only I could take my laptop and work from Italy…. or the south of France…or Bali. 😉

A girl can dream, right?

For now, I just have to keep wiping down my desk, vacuuming and dusting at home, and dreaming of the day when I can arrange a cleaning service to miraculously take care of all dusting. I’ll blow my nose a zillion times a day, rinse my face off to get rid of the grit I feel on it…wash my hands to keep said grit out of my eyes….

One day my dust hell will be over. 😉

 

 

Oh how I love pyjamas

Oh how I love pyjamas

I had this grand idea that I was going to write about the most perfect pair of jeans, but then something happened. I caught the flu. I have chills, I have fever rushes, I cough a lot, I sneeze a lot, my head hurts, I have zero energy. Needless to say, I’ve spent the last four days in my pyjamas.

Today I am wearing my Space Pyjamas from Asos Curve. I had to have them after watching Peter Dinklage do his “Space Pants” skit with Gwen Stefani on SNL. Even now, just thinking about that skit, I am giggling.

“Look at my pants with the eyes in your face/my legs are covered in outer space/SPACE PANTS!”

 

I adore my Space Pyjamas. They are soft and cozy, which is exactly what I need when I am feeling pretty icky. My skin feels pretty sensitive due to the fever rushes, so it’s nice to have pyjamas that feel cool and soft. And right now, these pyjamas are making me feel like all is right in the world, even when there is so much that is just….WRONG.

Space GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

But, seriously, my favourite part of the day, even when I am feeling well, is when I come home from work and put on my loungewear (which is simply my pyjamas).  As soon as my pyjamas are on, I know I can relax, read a book, take it easy. And it usually means I am not planning on leaving the apartment for the rest of the evening. Ahhh.

So right now, when I have barely been outside the house, it’s imperative that I have the coziest of pyjamas. And right now, my Space Pyjamas are fitting the bill.

Do you have a favourite pair of PJs?