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?

 

Oh Radio

Oh Radio

It suddenly occurred to me that I hardly ever listen to the radio anymore. I used to love listening to the radio. When I first moved to Sweden back in the mid-90s, there weren’t so many commercials on TV or radio stations. It was bliss. You could listen to close to an hour of music without interruption. There’d be one long commercial break so you had time to go to the bathroom, take a ciggy break if you smoked, or make more coffee and fix a sandwich. And in the early days when I couldn’t speak or understand Swedish, Sveriges Radio (their version of NPR) broadcast news from the US in English twice a day and even rebroadcast some programs from NPR.

Then something happened a few years later. Many Swedish radio stations started doing that annoying thing of squeezing in commercials between every 3-4 songs. Often the difference in volume was so high it felt like, during the commercial breaks, your radio was jumping up and down on your shelf or tabletop.

It also began to feel like every single station was playing the same music–and I didn’t like any of it. I eventually stopped listening to the radio. Instead, I listened to my collection of CDs and stopped worrying about new music. Sometimes I’d watch ZTV or MTV Europe to see if there was anything worth checking out. Occasionally something would jump out at me like Mando Diao, Saybia and Mew. But mostly I ended up listening to the same music I’d liked when I still lived in the US.

 

It went on like this for a while.  I found some online radio stations I could listen to, which was great. I found more new music to listen to–and not so many damned commercials. Can you tell I don’t like commercials very much?  Nowadays, I subscribe to different bands’ YouTube channels (like Mew, Lianne La Havas, Robyn, etc). But even with signing in, I can’t always escape the commercials. Some you can skip after a few seconds, others refuse to be skipped.

Lately, I’ve been listening to Chance the Rapper. I don’t know how it happened. Maybe it was seeing him on SNL that did it. I liked his performance of “Same Drugs” and now I’ve been listening to it a lot on Spotify. I have the feeling I’ll be listening to a lot more music and watching TV less. There’s a certain orange man I hate seeing on my TV screen, so Spotify and YouTube will be my saviours the next 4 years.

So now I wonder…everything changes so quickly these days, how will I discover new music in the future? And when will I ever listen to the radio again?

I Need Some Feel-Good Movies to Get Over This Feel-Bad Autumn

I Need Some Feel-Good Movies to Get Over This Feel-Bad Autumn

I am still trying to digest that Wednesday morning’s news. I almost don’t want to digest it, because just the thought of…He Who Shall Not Be Named sitting in the Oval Office makes me retch. So I feel that I need some dollops of happiness to dispel the grumpy clouds hanging over me.

In fact, I think I need to lose myself in some movies that make me happy.

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-20-14-18I think one of the first ones I’ll watch is The Untouchables, a French buddy comedy starring Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy. Don’t be put off by the subtitles–this film is definitely worth the extra effort. It’s all about the unexpected friendship between an affluent Parisian man who is left quadriplegic following a paragliding accident and his caretaker, a vibrant young man from the suburbs who has just been released from prison. At first, Philippe and Driss are both suspicious and dismissive of one another. Driss doesn’t really want the job, but the money is good. Philippe, initially not very impressed with Driss, offers him the job because he is the only person who’s applied for it that does not either pretend he isn’t paralysed or talk to him like his mental faculties are kaput. And it’s Driss’s irreverence that helps Philippe learn to love life again. And for Driss, Philippe helps him see his own talent and that there is more to life than what society tells him he is limited to. Well, I won’t tell you more–look for it on Amazon Prime or Netflix. I think you’ll like it too.

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-20-52-51Another movie that always puts me in a good mood is also French and also a comedy. It’s The Fabulous Life of Amélie Poulain–also known simply as Amélie. You’ve probably already seen this whimsical romantic comedy. I know I’ve watched it…probably way too many times…but it always makes me happy. Quirky Amélie, who has always thought there was something wrong with her heart and who’s never been in love, suddenly finds herself falling in love. And along the way she causes a little mischief and plays Cupid. Just thinking about it makes me long to watch Amélie again! 🙂

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-21-05-44

And the last film that could make me smile? Well, actually the list could go on, but I decided to limit it to three. 🙂 The Sound of Music never fails to raise my spirits when I am in a funk. It’s schmaltzy, but I love it and I watch it every year at Christmas or whenever I need a little frothiness. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a crush on Christopher Plummer (because of this movie) since I was six years old. Maybe it’s because the songs are so much fun to sing. Maybe it’s because I love going to Austria–and my love of going to Austria is partly because of The Sound of Music.

Wow! Just writing about these movies has put a smile on my face–well, except for the fact that He Who Shall Not Be Named is all over Swedish TV….wait…wait… think about Christopher Plummer singing “Edelweiss” again….ahhh! So much better.

So tell me: which films top your feel-good list?

 

Winter is coming…and I need shoes!

Winter is coming…and I need shoes!

It’s that time.

Yes, the dark days of autumn have arrived in Sweden, and now I have to wear socks and waterproof shoes again. See? I love autumn when it’s sunny and the leaves are changing colors. I hate autumn when it’s been cloudy and rainy for days and I can’t remember when was the last time I saw any proper sunlight. Right now, I feel like a zombie.

And my feet are cold.

So, yes, socks it is again.

And waterproof shoes.

Chelsea boots from Wera.

Chelsea boots from Wera.

I have a mission now to find some cute shoes that will be my go-to shoes for the season. Shoes that can take rain…snow….whatever curveballs Sweden decides to throw at me. Whatever I buy needs to be comfortable, stylish enough to wear to work, but laid-back enough that I don’t feel like I’m wearing someone else’s shoes. I’m a big fan of Chelsea boots because they’re pretty versatile. My old pair finally bit the dust, so maybe it’s time to replace them with a brand, spanking new pair?

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Tripoli boots from Läeder by Nature

Or maybe I need a pair of sturdy boots that can handle snow and slush, since it won’t be long until Kung Bore (the Swedish equivalent of Jack Frost) makes his first appearance. I used to have a pair of leather boots similar to these Tripoli boots from Läeder by Nature. I practically wore them to death, I loved them so much, and I’ve been trying to find the perfect replacement pair for ages. These could do the trick. Of course, I would need to buy some rag socks or boot socks to wear with them. The awesome thing with boots like these is that they just need to be oiled from time to time to keep the leather in good condition. Also, oiling them improves how well they stand up to moisture. Hmm. What do you think? Should these be my new boots for the autumn and winter?

Cool winter sneakers from Canada Snow.

Cool winter sneakers from Canada Snow.

If this winter is anything like last winter, I may not need proper boots. We hardly had any snow in Stockholm last winter. I spent most of the winter in leather sneakers with a sturdy outer sole. Maybe I could get through an entire winter with a pair of boots like these from Canada Snow that are more like sneakers? They sure look comfortable. And I could imagine wearing them with jeans, leggings, skirts…not that I wear skirts very often, but still. 🙂  And that sole looks like it could handle Stockholm slush and snow and all that jazz.

Of course, there is the possibility that I buy all three…we’ll just have to wait and see… 😉

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