Thursday, May 30, 2013

Be Comforted

Some days you just need comfort food. Food that warms your soul, feeds your spirit, and invigorates your tastebuds. For me the kinds of food that have this effect on me are mostly related to the southern and Mexican varieties. Today I decided that good, old, southern cornbread was going to be my comforter. Only with a special twist. I decided to try using filmjölk (buttermilk in English) instead of regular milk and I threw in some leftover diced, green chilies, a big handful of grated, cheddar cheese, and a heavy turn of the pepper mill to give it a flavor kick.

When you experiment with recipes, you never know how it will turn out but I was in one of those moods. I used a muffin tin instead of my trusty, cast, iron skillet because I really like the idea of being able to freeze the leftover muffins for quick, easy to thaw snacks later on, when that hankering for comfort food starts in on me again. The batter turned out very thick and sticky, almost like drop biscuits, but once I placed the pan in the oven the muffins began to rise beautifully, filling in the muffin forms, and eventually turning a lovely, golden brown on top. I did turn the pan once about half way through baking to keep the color even. 

I took them out of the oven at just over fifteen minutes and they were perfect. Crispy on the outside and moist and delicious on the inside. Of course I broke one open immediately and slathered it with butter. But being the nice person that I am I took half of it upstairs to my husband who was piddling at his computer. And being the mischievous person that I am, I proceed back downstairs where I ate another whole one, all by myself. Yes, piggy, mom. 

I dare you to try this recipe and not act exactly as I did. Especially if it has been one of those comfort-food-needing days. ;-)

Buttermilk Corn Muffins with Green Chilies and Cheddar

1 C Cornmeal (I like Bob’s Redmill)
1/2 C Regular flour
1/2 C Whole wheat flour (or you can skip the regular flour and use 1 C whole wheat flour)
1 Tbsp Sugar (optional)
1/2 Tsp Salt
4 Tsp Baking powder
1 Egg, beaten
1/4 C Melted and cooled butter
1 C Buttermilk 

1/2 Can diced green chillies (or more!)
1/2 C Shredded cheddar cheese
10 Heavy turns of your black pepper mill

Preheat oven to 425F (or 220C).

Mix all dry ingredients with a whisk to incorporate the baking powder and salt. 
Add the beaten egg and buttermilk at the same time. 
Slowly add the melted butter, being careful to not over mix the batter. 
Gently fold in the chillies, cheese and pepper. 

Pour into a prepared muffin tin* (buttered or lined with paper liners).
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

*Alternatively, you can bake the cornbread in an 8x8 inch baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.



Be comforted!!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Share a (______) With a Friend

Last weekend we had family visiting from Gothenberg and we managed to do a wide variety of activities during our short time. On Saturday we took the train to Millesgården, an outdoor sculpture garden featuring the work of Carl Mille, then we rode bicycles out to Djurgården, and finished the evening with a dinner outing at Nyagatan. Sunday we made our way down to Fotografiska, the photography musuem, which happens to be a quick, fifteen minute walk from our apartment. 

All the while during our outings I kept seeing these advertisements: “Dela en Coke med...” and then a [Swedish] person’s name. It means “share a Coke with...” It is a new campaign by Coca Cola that encourages you to share a coke with a friend, specifically. If you happen to be Swedish chances are good that you will find your very own name on a Coca Cola bottle. I found one with “Karl” on it and, even though it is the wrong spelling of my husband’s name (Carl), I had to get it. 

I doubt I will ever find one with “Grace Ann” or even “Grace” but I have seen “Anna” and chances are good that there is one with just “Ann.” And since my ceramics teacher here insisted that my name was Ann for the entire fall and winter sessions, I feel I can easily get away with getting one that says just “Ann.” 

But the best part of this campaign, I think, is the promotion of “sharing.” I was not the best at sharing when I was a kid and it hasn’t gotten a whole a lot better (though I always want a bite of what you are having). My mom tells me that she would buy me candy when I was a little girl and then ask if she could have some and I would say, “no.” No??? To my own mother?! Not very nice, I know. These days I don’t say no but I may say “yes” reluctantly. Mean, I know.

So this week’s focus is on sharing, which I think is a good lesson for all of us (especially me). Pick a day, pick a friend, pick a place, a cake or a treat and share it with someone you love. You could even forego something to eat and just share your time. Pick up the phone and call someone during your personal, down time one evening. For me, I think sharing something to eat will be the biggest lesson. When I share things with my husband I always say, “Don’t drink it all!” or “That’s too much! Grace Ann sip! Grace Ann sip!” 

A “Grace Ann sip” basically means just a taste. See? I totally need this lesson.  

Have a Happy Monday! 

Ps. Cool campaign, Coca Cola!

Friday, May 24, 2013


"There are no ordinary moments." - Dan Millman

On Being Present:

I found this week that it was much more difficult than I expected to "look present" to the day instead of "looking forward" to the weekend, or a trip, etc. I realized just how much of my time, and life if we are being honest, is spent "living" in the future (and sometimes the past too, unfortunately). Focusing on the present I found to be a bit difficult. But I think it is very important to work toward having our focus on the present instead of a date in the future, whether it be the weekend, a dinner out with friends, or even a long awaited vacation. 

I don't mean that we shouldn't prepare for future happenings, or feel the wonderful excitement and exhilaration of an upcoming event. I merely mean that we should not allow our "excitement" to take away from our experience of today: the present moment in our lives.

Relish each moment of your life, even the mundane. One day you might wish you'd paid more attention.

Every moment of your life is extraordinary. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Joy of Springtime

We get so caught up in our lives. In the traumatic turns and events that happen around us, and to us. For those who are in the midst of these tragic events (Oklahoma) it feels like there is no looking outside of this immediate loss and pain. But we must try. We must hold on to hope and remain grateful for the many blessings that still surround us. 

Our health and safety are things that we sometimes take for granted but for some these are things that are the main focal point today. 

As I try to focus on the beauty of the world and contemplate what I am thankful for today, here are a few simple things that cross my mind....

The joys of springtime:

  1. The scent of fresh, blooming, magnolia blossoms (the big, fat, white ones in Texas).
  2. A vibrant, cobalt, blue sky, without a cloud around for days.
  3. Birds chirping happily, as they flit from tree to tree (after the long, Swedish winter).
  4. New, bright, green buds forming on trees and bushes.
  5. Soft, feathery breezes.
  6. Lying on a picnic blanket while gazing up at the sky.
  7. A refreshing glass of bubbly champagne.
  8. Berries and whipped cream.
  9. Rhubarb anything.
  10. Daylight that stretches into the nighttime.

My list could go on and on....

What are some of the things that give you joy in the springtime? 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Looking Forward... and Looking Present

I love having something to look forward to. Whether it be a vacation or trip, a holiday to be celebrated with family, a friends visit, a birthday party or other festivity, going to a dance performance, or trying a new restaurant, among hundreds of other fun things. But what I've been thinking about more and more lately is the fact that in looking forward to these events I often cheat myself out of just enjoying the everyday passage of time. I often find that in the anticipation leading up to an event, that precious hours, minutes seconds, even days of my life merely fly by as I "can't wait" for the next big thing to happen.

My anticipation and longing for the weekends is included in this “looking forward to” madness. Sometimes I feel like I live merely for the weekends (& other events that I look forward to). Every other day is just some nuisance that I have to endure before work ends on Friday and I am free to do whatever I want for two days. But lately I have been thinking more and more about the time in between weekends, holidays, vacations, and other “looked forward to” festivities, and I’ve realized that the time in between is just as precious. 

Every moment of our lives is time that we get to enjoy our families, friends, and the beautiful planet we live on. What if instead of constantly “looking forward” to the next big thing we “look present” instead? I realize this can be difficult when some big event or happening we’ve yearned for is fast approaching, but humor me and just try “looking present” every day this week and see if anything changes. See if you experience Monday differently, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, etc. 

Maybe a new perspective will present itself. Perhaps you’ll see that you have time for smaller things during the days of the week, such as taking the time to handwrite a letter to someone you love, or telephoning a friend you haven’t spoken to it months. Look and see what opens up for you! And then report back to me what you’ve discovered. I will do the same later in the week!

Happy Monday!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A New Bicycle for Spring

(Out at Rosendal's Trädgård, Djurgården)

This is probably my favorite time of year. Spring. Everything is fresh and bright and green and awake with life. The trees are stretching and yawning green, flowers are bursting with green leaves and flames of color and fragrance, and everyone is out on their bicycles enjoying the sun beaming down on their faces. 

A couple of months ago my husband began searching for a new city bike for me. Last year he found the absolutely, perfect one but we waited too long to purchase it and they sold out. We figured we'd just wait until this year and buy it at the beginning of the season, when all of the new models were released. Well, guess what? This particular bicycle was not being released this year. I was bummed at first but then my clever husband surprised me by locating and ordering one of last season's models from the UK. How awesome is that?

(Fresh out of the box!)

I was extremely excited, though a little nervous with the thought of getting a new bike. For three years now I've had my trusty, used Monarch, which has served me quite well. It may not be the best looking bike but I was used to it. Then there was the million dollar question, "What if it got stolen?" I didn't even have the bike yet and I was already worried about it getting stolen. Sigh. Well, I'd just have to make sure it didn't get stolen. 

So now I have three locks for it. A bit excessive, you think? To be fair, one of the locks isn't used on a regular basis, so that brings the count down to just two locks. Which, if you ask me, isn't bad for such a beloved bicycle. (And I do love this bicycle!).

(Maiden voyage... in the garage of our apartment building)

Let me back up a bit. Shortly after my new bike arrived, my husband assembled it and got to take it for a spin around the garage. I was still nervous that I would a) mess it up, b) get it stolen, or the worst thought, c) not like riding it. This bike actually fit me, whereas my good 'ol trusty Monarch was actually a bit too big for me. But you get used to things and I was used to my Monarch. Sitting on the seat of my new bike for the first time felt strange. I didn't have to stretch out so far to reach the handles and I could nearly put a foot down on the ground while still sitting on the seat. 

I was sure I'd get used to my new, very handsome, shiny, black bicycle. And I did indeed get used to it. Rather quickly. Now I fly around the city on it to and from work like I own the bike lane and weekend rides with my husband are transformed. His clockwork, orange BULLITT no longer gets all the attention. ;-)

(In the forests of Djurgården)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Walk Down Memory Lane

When I was a kid my mom and my friends mom made us Pippi Longstocking dolls. I adored my Pippi and wanted to be just like her. We must have had a book about her and it is possible that I knew she was from Sweden but I conveniently forgot as I grew up and left her behind in my childhood home. Some years ago, after I met my husband (then boyfriend), we traveled to Sweden and while we were walking around in the old town area of Stockholm (Gamla Stan) I saw a Pippi Longstocking doll in a window and exclaimed, "Oh! You have Pippi Longstocking too?!" Must to my surprise I was then informed (or possibly reminded!) that Pippi was Swedish and it was "us" who also "had Pippi" and not the other way around. Sigh.

So anyway, my parents are moving from the last childhood home I lived in to a new home and new city approximately ninety miles away. I am here in my hometown helping them pack and going through boxes of some of my things that I left at home when I moved out. It has been fun and surprising to uncover some of the items that I "treasured" enough to save. Below is an example of a "book" that I made and further down are photos of my bluebird patch banner, a letter I wrote to my daddy when he was serving in the national guard, and a photo of my softball teammates and me when I was in eighth grade, respectively. It has been both stressful and entertaining to sort through all of these old memories  and whittle everything down to a more managable quantity. Old dance costumes from fifteen plus years of dance recitals and performances, letters to and from friends and family through the many years of living in Texas, California, Arizona, back to Texas, back to California, and then back to Texas again, as well as other well-loved keepsakes, dolls and various hard-to-part-with items. It has been a fun walk down memory lane... and hard work packing up a home filled with approximately fifty years of life and memories.

John Travolta "picture book"

Need I write more?!

Hard-earned bluebird patches.

A sweet letter to my daddy. But I don't remember any of my friends thinking I "cheeted" in everything. :-p

I am in the back row on the far right. :-) Complete with braces.