Friday, April 26, 2013

Seasonal Decoration Fun

In the month of December in Sweden you can find Christmas tree lots all throughout the city. Less than five minutes away from our apartment there were at least four of them this year. Outdoorsy Swedish men man the lots and are ready and at your disposal to trim the base of your tree and bag it up in a giant net tube for easier transport. Trimming the base of the tree has the same affect as trimming flower stems. It allows more water to be absorbed by the tree once you get it home and upright in its stand. Hopefully it will live happily, retaining all of its needles until at least a week after Christmas day. 

Two years ago our poor little tree died very early in the season and while we sat on the couch watching TV we could hear the sound of pine needles raining down onto the gifts under the tree. By the time we took the ornaments off there were very little needles left and my husband took out the vacuum cleaner and vacuumed the rest of them off. We carried the tree skeleton down to the Christmas tree grave yard and when we returned I scooped up a few handfuls of the needles and put them in this mason jar:

But not to get too far into a story about Christmas, another result of trimming the bases of the trees is that hundreds of small tree trunk disks are left over, scattered about the frozen ground. As we walked by one of the lots one day I grabbed a few and carried them home. After Christmas when the lots had moved out there were still hundreds of these disks lying around. I wasn't sure what I planned to do with them but I knew I *needed* another good handful or two for a future project. 

A month or so later I found myself gluing paper hearts to toothpicks for cupcake decorations for my February book club meeting. It was just a couple of days before Valentine’s Day so several of the heart toothpicks were left over after the cupcakes were eaten. My creative husband surprised me by painting one of the hearts red and then gluing the toothpick base into a tiny hole he carved into one of my Christmas tree trunk disks. It was so adorable! I completely loved it and it gave me an idea to make little sets of toothpick-tree-trunk-disk decorations for each season and/or holiday. I'd just skip the glue so that they could be switched out according to the month or holiday at hand. 

I think the results are pretty darn cute. What do you think?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Big Things Come in Small Packages

Written and illustrated by Joseph Low

A few weeks ago I got a package in the mail from my parents. Enclosed were a few yummy Easter treats, which included two Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs (my absolute favorite), a small bundle of our US mail, and at the bottom, wrapped in tissue paper, was the cutest little surprise: a paperback book that I’d had as a child called, There Was a Wise Crow. I flipped through it with a smile, reminiscing about the fat cat and the man in a pan. Back when I was in grade school I loved ordering Scholastic books. I remember practically running to the car after school with my order form completely filled up with the book titles I wanted to order. 

Aside from our beloved trips to the public library, getting these books, at such a young and impressionable age, was one of the reasons I developed such a love of books and reading. Books are so very important to our growth and development in so many ways. They give a child, or any of us at any age really, new worlds to explore, they offer distant horizons to reach for, and they open wide doors into our own imaginations.

This little book, though quite simple and short, still provides me with warm fuzzies and a smile. It is not so much a story but an illustrated poem that reveals in a sweet way the joys and adventures of childhood and the imagination. 

In addition to my love for books, this tiny treasure fits right into my affinity for old things, especially ones that are connected to sentiment. 

Copyright 1969... "words and pictures" for only 75 cents :-)

Do you have any small treasures that transport you back to your childhood?

P.s. Thanks mom!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Sweet Substitute

While I prefer steaming hot biscuits, freshly baked in my cast iron skillet, I have been trying to cut back on the breakfast goodies lately. (A.K.A. Scones, muffins, biscuits, pancakes, etc.). I've been trying to avoid other goodies as well and my efforts have resulted in my recent discovery of a new favorite snack/treat that is delicious, and amazingly satisfying to my stubborn sweet tooth. 

The first step that led to this discovery was my trying to find a healthier alternative to cinnamon and sugar toast. One morning I was really craving something sweet but wanted to avoid pulling out my flour, sugar and maple syrup. Then I had the brilliant idea to make cinnamon sugar toast and substitute honey for the sugar. It was completely yummy and satisfying. The next time I was making my weekday breakfast to take to work (an almond butter and honey sandwich) I decided that a “little sprinkle” of cinnamon on top of the almond butter and honey would merely increase the deliciousness, right? The answer is Yes, with a capital "Y!" 

My grandmother on my mom's side had a big sweet tooth, my dad has a big sweet tooth and I am sure I got my own sweet tooth down one of those heredity lines, if not both. There are some people who just don’t have that craving for sweets. I can’t really say if I envy them or not but I can say that rarely a day goes by that I do not think that a small, sweet treat would be good “right about now.” 
I just love dessert and I'd really love to eat a nice warm, gooey brownie, or a few squares of good quality dark chocolate each night after dinner. 

Instead of giving in to this whim however, I've discovered that a couple of whole grain digestives (biscuits) hit the spot if I simply cannot abstain from something sweet. There are some days however that even the subtle sweetness of these lovelies does not satisfy and chocolate or a scoop of ice cream must be had. But most days it satisfies my sweet tooth [monster]. (I’ve even been known to smear a layer of Nutella atop a digestive but even I can admit that this is definitely NOT a substitute for sweets, but the full-blown thing). 

I know that some people can eat a piece of fruit and that satisfies their sweet tooth but I personally need something with more texture and crunch. Maybe one day I will be able to join this fruit-eating-instead-of-dessert bunch but for now my two digestives, or my cinnamon, honey, almond butter toast are a good segue for me. 

What about you? Do you have a secret to satisfying your sweet cravings when you are trying to be good and avoid refined, sugary treats? I’d love to hear about them!

Friday, April 12, 2013

What Is Your Color?

What do you think of when you hear the word color? Are there specific colors that resonate with you? Certain ones that you dislike? Ever since I had to wear that navy blue and white uniform when I was a kid in private school, I have [strongly] disliked the color blue. I never wanted to wear something blue if I did not absolutely have to. Aside from blue jeans, that is. I didn't even like blue colors decorating my living space. Weird, I know. I don't really know exactly what I have had against the color blue, aside from being forced to wear it for eight years in grade school, but slowly during the past several years, and specifically recently, blue has started to grow on me. When I revealed photos of my most recently completed ceramic pieces, which contained many light blue colors, my mom commented that they were not colors that she usually associated with me. I was surprised myself when I selected these glazes but something about their freshness drew me. Perhaps it is something in these softer shades of blue that is now calling to me, like a longing for a crisp summer day.

A couple of nights ago I asked my husband if there were any colors he disliked and he said that he used to not care for brown. "I didn't think brown was a color," he said, "it was just something that happened." He now likes brown. On the flip side , my mother [strongly] dislikes the color brown now but back in the day brown clothing graced her closet, or rather, trousseau. In their black and white wedding photos there is an image of my parents about to leave for their honeymoon and my mom is decked out in a stylish, wool suit. One day while looking at the photos together she said, "I just had to have that brown wool suit and it was so hot that I nearly melted." I nearly fell over. A brown suit, huh mom? Wink, wink. I love brown personally.

It is interesting to observe how our affinities for colors change through the years. If you asked me what my favorite color was when I was a kid I probably would have said pink or red. They probably alternated depending on my mood. In my later high school years I loved anything peach. Thanks to Prince? Maybe. Some years later my favorite became green. It is such a nice, soothing color. My very first brand new car was green (and his name was Jasper) and I owned a green couch before I met my husband. I still love green but in more recent years I  find myself drawn more to shades of orange and red. And just this last month, powder or robin's egg blue, which is most surprising to me. Blue. After all these years of ridding my life of blue I am now bringing it back.

Why my sudden affinity for blue? According to color therapists, we are attracted to colors that make us feel better, whether it be on an emotion, spiritual, or physical level. Sometimes we may not even realize the positive effects that colors have on us, we just feel drawn to them. They say that you can even balance your Chakras through the use of color, or sound vibrations associated with certain colors. I personally think that colors can definitely affect our moods. Would you venture so far as to say that colors can affect our health? Perhaps those color therapists are on to something. What do you think? Do your colors say something about you?

The top photo is of my parents, and my mom in her brown wool suit, about to leave for their honeymoon in New Orleans. 

The bottom photo was taken of a refrigerator magnet a friend gave to me many years ago. I think it is hilarious. And according to it, I must be cool since my color is blue now. :-)

Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 5, 2013

I'm Going With Bold

It has been a busy week this week between work, acupuncture, getting my hair cut, ceramics class, and then running back and forth to Bågar & Glas (means "Frames & Glass") trying desperately to decide on a pair of new eyeglass frames. I have an unusually narrow noggin, which means that kids glasses generally fit me perfectly. And adult glasses leave me looking like I have the bulging eyes of an insect, or like I'm wearing old-fashioned, airplane goggles. Unfortunately the adult styles and sizes do not "fit" me perfectly. Lucky for me however, designers have started making nicer frames for quirky adults (like me) with narrow faces. 

I wanted to find frames that look artistic and make a bit of a statement. The staff at Bågar & Glas were very helpful and allowed me to bring home several pairs to try out at home. I took home the fun, funky ones that I liked and a couple that were "snälla," or "nice." Everyone else preferred the ones that were "snälla" and, while I too liked the snälla ones that suited my face and coloring perfectly, I still could not be swayed from the ones that said, "Hey! Look at me! I'm fun and artsy, with a side of quirky tucked in for good measure." 

Every time I tried them on and looked in the mirror I felt a surge of happiness. And every time I put the others on I would think, "They ARE nice.... But just a bit too boring." I decided that I'm going with bold - and a bang! Here's a preview:

The real ones will be ready sometime late next week... and I can't wait!

As a side note and follow up to my last post, my bad boy (the bike on the trainer) has been awfully lonely this week. However, my lady bike, complete with a basket and comfy seat, has gotten lots of action, despite the chilly, winter-ish spring air. The top photo was taken on my way home from work yesterday. This is my favorite part of my ride. The bike lane twists through and around Stadshust, or city hall, the "Riksdag," or government buildings, the Royal Castle, and Gamla Stan, or the old town area. It is especially nice on a clear, sunny day, even with a freezing wind chill!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Well, Hello There April!

My friend for the next few months.

I love the first day of the month. It always feels like a fresh start, or clean slate. Any goals that I haven't yet reached, or better yet started, can be reignited and begun again with gusto. Today's restart began with a morning run. My second of the year. And by year I mean since last spring and not January 1st. My first run of the year was just last weekend so I feel I'm off to a good start. Baby steps, right?

The real restart however was bringing my urban bike (sort of a race bike but with flat bars instead of those curly-q bars) up from the basement along with our trainer. The trainer allows me to set up my bike indoors so that I can essentially ride "in place," and thus, start my training for the 100 kilometer bike race I signed up for: the Tjejvättern. I signs up for this craziness along with four of my girlfriends, one of whom planted the idea in our heads a couple of months ago.

Am I completely crazy? Or can I, in my right mind, call it adventurous? I'm hoping for the later and especially since the farthest I've ever ridden my bike at one time was around 60 kilometers. The good part about it, as a couple of friends have wisely pointed out, is having a fitness goal to inspire and motivate me. And participating in it with friends ensures instant training partners, and lots of fun, right?

I'll get back to you on my progress. And no, unfortunately, this is not an April Fool's prank. Somehow I completely missed being an April fool, and making someone else an April fool this year. It's sort of refreshing actually.

But I have to ask, were you an April fool?