Thursday, October 16, 2014

It's Been A While...

It's been a while since my last post and I have to apologize for being away so long. It was not my intention and I've had several fun ideas for posts during that time... So much can happen in two months and I wish I had some amazing news about some fabulous thing that happened to keep me away, but mostly I have just been stuck under the thumb of a big, bad migraine. :-(

I am just now crawling out of that black hole. For those of you lucky enough to avoid headaches and migraines, it might be difficult to understand the sheer joy and happiness of that day when you finally do not have a headache. But let me just tell you, it feels, literally, amazing. Like you can conquer the world, or at least that you can conquer the daily commuters on the subway. I've been trying to commute to work by bike as much as possible so I can avoid all of the smells and sounds of the city that have a tendency to drill holes into my already sensitive head. Unfortunately it doesn't always work out for me to ride my bike and I just have to endure.

So what else have I been up to in two month's time? I started a graphic design class (grafisk design in Swedish) and I am absolutely loving it. Not only is it fun and invigorating but it has been a wonderful distraction from the headache suffering, and it is opening wonderful new creative paths to explore along my journey. It has only been a few weeks so far but I can already tell that the skills I am learning now will help open doors into a future full of creativity and joy. I can't wait!

Here are a couple of photos:

Well, tomorrow is my birthday and I hope to take some time to reflect on the past year, on my trials and tribulations, my joys, my sorrows, and just in general how the last year has been and who I've become as a result. I will also be flying to London with a friend for the weekend so I should have some interesting reviews (on our botanical afternoon tea at Intercontinental & dinner at NOPI) to report. :-D

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Embracing Autumn

I don't know what it was but as soon as August 1st arrived, so did a tingle of fall in the air. Suddenly the days seemed to shorten at a quicker pace, and though it has still been quite warm, especially for Sweden this time of year, I’ve noticed a crispness to the breeze and I hear a crackly sound when the leaves rustle on the trees. Autumn is definitely in the air. 

Usually I am sad to see the summer go. Okay, maybe sad is the wrong word, it's more like a reluctance I feel to step full force into the next season. Perhaps it has been my fear of the long, dark winters ahead that weigh on my soul, or perhaps my body didn’t feel that it had “downloaded” enough warmth from the summer sun to take me into a long, tough Swedish winter, I don't really know. But what I am feeling and experiencing now, with regard to the "höst känslor" in the air, is that my body and soul are fully embracing it, welcoming it even. I am surrendering to nature. 

What else is there to do? When I look at nature around me, the flowers, plants, and trees, they do not seem to fight the changing seasons. Nature continues to evolve according to divine plan. Summer becomes fall, fall becomes winter and so forth. Why then would I not follow suit? The argument that living at a different longitude and latitude having a strong influence on my reluctance to embrace the season’s change can easily be made, given that I was not accustomed to white nights in the summer and black days in the winter when I first moved here. 

Perhaps time is the great equalizer. It has now been nearly five years that I have lived in Sweden. It is a very different place from where I am from, where I grew up, different in almost every way. There are vast differences in the way people interact, the cuisine is different, being influenced by the cold as well as the great abundance of fresh seafood, and the weather, of course, is quite different. Life here is lived differently. 

Perhaps by embracing autumn I am also finally embracing this new and different life in another world... With pumpkin bread, of course. Something comforting and sweet always softens the blow of autumn breezes. 

Autumn Pumpkin Bread:


1 15 oz can pumpkin
4 eggs
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c unsweetened apple sauce (or just use another 1/2 c vegetable oil)
2/3 c water
2 c sugar
3 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter 2 loaf pans, or one loaf pan and prepare a  twelve muffin pan with muffin baking liners. 

In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, sugar, & vanilla extract. Set aside. 

In a clean bowl, measure out the remaining dry ingredients and whisk to blend well. Add dry ingredients to the large bowl with your well-blended wet ingredients.   

Divide between the two loaf pans, or between one loaf pan & twelve muffin tins. 

Bake loaves for 50 minutes to an hour. Bake muffins for 20-25 minutes. Use a cake tester or toothpick to test if done. It should come out clean. 


Add a big handful of chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate to the batter before distributing in your baking vessels.

Top the batter in the loaf pans or muffin tin with pecan halves before baking.    

Friday, August 8, 2014

On Being Grateful

"On Being Grateful: Someone somewhere is fighting for their life. Don't focus on what's missing, focus on what you have that others would love to have."

It's so easy when we are faced with disappointments in our lives to hyper focus on them, become inconsolably sad, or even depressed. It isn't a good feeling but somehow we justify it and feel satisfied in our negative emotions. It comforts us and protects us in a way. However, it isn't long before those feelings begin to fester and cause further damage. We become negative in other areas of our life and start to build walls around ourselves. But these walls do more than protect us, they keep others out as well. And thus begins a vicious cycle of sadness, anger, and loneliness.  

What if instead of giving in to those sad feelings, we fought back with happiness? Okay, maybe not happiness per se, but a gratefulness for other, positive things in our lives, lives of our loved ones, or even the simple beauty of nature that surrounds us. Choosing one small thing each day to be thankful or grateful for and staying focused on that can be a positive change. It sounds so simple but just that one small focus can start to break the vicious cycle.

Today I am grateful for my creativity. It allows me to see the world in a different and brighter way. I see beauty and potential in things most people pass by without a second thought. My creativity shows up not just in art projects or creations but also in my every day life, in the way that I solve problems or prepare a meal. Sometimes I forget to be grateful for this gift. 

Today I am grateful for my creativity.

What are you grateful for in your life today?

*Photo taken on the docks of Viks Ödegärde, Tjörn.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Breakfast Popsicles

Yes, you read that correctly. Breakfast popsicles! How can you justify that? Easy. It is merely frozen juice. Healthy, frozen, fruit juice. How can you not justify it? Created out of necessity (it was HOT), and the fact that there was nothing else in the apartment to experiment with, juice popsicles happened. We discovered that our favorite juice flavor makes the most delicious, thirst-quenching popsicles and an award-winning, summer breakfast. 

The juice flavor, if you are wondering, is Brämhults "Blåbär och svarta vinbär,” which translates as "blueberries and black currants." So tasty! If you live in Sweden, you are in luck as it is readily available. My only wish if you do not live in Sweden is that you can find something similar. However, I would think any juice would be delicious (pomegranate blueberry, orange strawberry, apple, etc.). If you already have a favorite flavor in mind even better.

You don’t have to limit yourself to juice however. The other day I made a batch with Turkish yogurt, honey, and roasted rhubarb. I just stirred all of the ingredients together, spooned the mixture into the popsicle molds, and send those babies to the freezer. You could even blend a combination of juice and fruit in your blender first to puree it a bit, or a lot depending on how chunky you want the end result. And since you are enjoying these for breakfast on hot, summer days, I would think the more imaginative the better. I personally would not recommend bacon but if that's your thing, go for it. 


Your favorite juice/yogurt honey fruit combo + Popsicle mold + Freezer = Breakfast popsicles. 

You are welcome.

Ps. You can eat these any time of day, but doesn't the thought of having popsicles for breakfast feel a bit luxurious? Plus, your kids will think you are the coolest ever.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mind Garbage

Ah summer! That time of year when I'm more often riding my bike to work than not. When I am more often reflecting on the beauty of Stockholm, enjoying the fresh, clean air, and in general taking in the sights, smells, and sounds around me. Which means I'm often contemplating my life and day dreaming, two of my favorite things to do. The other day as I was making my way up one of the many mördarbackar (literal translation: a murderously steep hill) that I ride up on my route to and from work, the notion of "spring cleaning" popped into my head. 

Yes, I know it is summer but I skipped over spring cleaning in the spring and I was thinking of my closet and how I needed to get rid of "a few things." Then the notion of "spring cleaning" the cobwebs and garbage in my mind popped up. I got to thinking about how much energy I waste in thinking about things that are unproductive, or even counter-productive, and how cleaning out my "mind garbage" could be a great way to jump start productivity in other areas. 

It would be like cleaning out your email inbox (the thought terrifies me), or more applicable and personal to me, cleaning out the photo storage on my mobil phone (physically painful). On a regular basis I receive a message on my phone that my storage is nearly full and if I do not delete photos (that are already saved to our home storage), my phone camera will stop allowing me to take more photos. How rude.

If my mind also fill up with unproductive thoughts and/or negativity (garbage!), then perhaps it too stops allowing me to take in positive, productive thoughts and ideas. So the idea of taking out the "mind garbage" came up and I realized that I don't even have to wait for my mind to fill up, I can simply throw the negative, garbage-y thoughts away as soon as they enter my mind. We all have mind garbage, or negative, unproductive thoughts. Right?

Just think about how much space would be available for positive, productive ideas if your mind was a clean, fresh, wide-open meadow just waiting to be planted with wild flowers, or any other type of garden you want to grow. We can begin today. Weed out the negative/unproductive thoughts, take out the "mind garbage," and make room for fresh, new thoughts and ideas. Who's with me?

(Saw this when I was in England... Just add "& Mind Garbage")

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mölle Krukmakeri and a Simple, Lazy-Day, 30-Minute Pasta

A mere 500 meters from the town of Mölle. Beautiful scenery all around!

Approximately three hours drive south of our summer house on Tjörn, lies a quaint peninsula in the Höganäs region of Skåne. Tucked into the southwestern coast of Sweden, the beautiful, lush nature reserve of Kullaberg rises above the charming, seaside town of Mölle. I'd heard talk of how beautiful Kullaberg’s nature reserve is. What I didn't hear however, is how breath-taking the views are, even in and around the lazy, country roads that curve around the peninsula, taking you by farms with free-roving pigs, chickens, cows, and horses, along with rows and rows of ready-to-harvest "rödbetor" (beets) and "potatis" (potatoes). It is no wonder that the ceramic studio, which inspired our trip down, was filled with such beautiful bowls, platters, mugs, plates and other assorted vessels for purchase. The beautiful nature is certainly inspirational!

Just one angle of Mölle Krukmakeri's shop & beautiful wares.

Mölle Krukmakeri is a small slice of heaven for clay-influenced folk like myself. Part ceramics studio, part cafe, Mölle Krukmakeri is my dream come true. I could easily see myself running a similar establishment at some point in my life. That is, once I've mastered being able to reproduce a bowl, cup, or other shape more than once, or by chance ;-). In other words, when I've managed to master the clay. (Wink, wink). So far I am a great master of the "unique" bowl/cup/plate. I’m getting there slowly but surely. 

("Hey, my name is Viktor, I bite sometimes") :-D

I’m not entirely sure if it was out of a desire to hold on to the inspiration or merely a love for her work, but we left with two large “pasta” bowls, a beautiful planter, and thoughts of replacing our dishes at home with her gorgeous plates and bowls. Every time we have used these amazing bowls I think of those dishes we left behind and my mind starts rearranging our cupboards to fit them into our lives. One day they will be ours. 

Just the other day we decided to make our “simple, lazy-day, 30-minute pasta” for dinner and my husband claimed that it was the best one yet. I proposed that maybe it was because of the bowls that our simple pasta dish tasted so much better. He concurred. ;-) I think pretty much anything would taste better in one of these bowls. Ice cream? yes. Salad? definitely. Pasta? of course, silly.

Infinity circle love.

Simple, Lazy-Day, 30-minute Pasta:


- Spaghetti for two, cooked al dente & drained, reserving approximately 1/4 C of cooking liquid
- A larger than probably desired lump of butter
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
- 1/8 - 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of salt
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Chiffonade of fresh basil leaves
- Two beautiful, oversized, handmade ceramic bowls & a healthy appetite

After you have cooked & drained your pasta and set aside some of the cooking liquid, quickly rinse your pot and place it back on the burner on low to medium heat. Melt your butter and once it has started to bubble up, add your garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add half of your crushed red pepper flakes and continue to stir for just under a minute. Quickly add your pasta and toss, adding more crushed red pepper, ground black pepper, the reserved cooking liquid, and finally a pinch of salt. 

Place a small amount of pasta in the bottom of each bowl, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, layer with more pasta and cheese until you run out of each, making sure to finish with a light dusting of cheese. Sprinkle your fresh basil on top and complete with a turn of the pepper mill. Enjoy! 

Don't you agree that just about anything would taste delicious in one of these?!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hand-Painted Decorative Pillow

"Live in the sunshine, Swim the sea, Drink the wild air" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes I come across an art/craft project idea and I make it immediately. I don’t know why that is really. Inspiration, possibly? Confidence that I can create a similar result? Then there are those projects that I start preparing for but then they sit dormant for months, sometimes even years, like my tie-died shirt project, or my type-setters draw project… Sigh… I have all of the materials to get going but something stops me. Perhaps it is a fear that it won’t turn out “Pinteresting” enough, or perhaps it’s just plain old procrastination. Most likely a combination of the two. 

So anyway, I don’t remember exactly where I came across the idea of “writing a quote on a pillow” but I've had the idea and the materials for several weeks now and I finally decided that it was time. I’d already pre-washed the pillow cover and selected my quote. Now it was just to set up my work space and complete a test on paper. 

The test actually turned out better than I expected. Especially given that I am not the type to pre-write the quote out in pencil, erasing and rewriting until it fits perfectly. I like to just jump in and start painting, eye-balling the distance and space as I go. It was surprisingly symmetrical. However, once I started painting on the fabric, I learned something valuable for the next time. 

Yes, it may be that linen cloth looks nicer than plain cotton, but it is definitely not as easy to paint on, especially compared to brown wrapping paper. Which makes keeping your spacing a bit difficult. Ugh. Needless-to-say, the project turned out okay but not as nice as I had hoped or envisioned. In retrospect I would say that I should have conducted my test run on a similar material and not paper, even though I now have a nice piece of hand-painted wrapping paper to show for it. 

I am just proud of myself for not allowing yet another project to sit dormant for a year out of fear of it not turning out well. And I now know how to improve this project if I were to attempt it again. It isn’t completely horrible. Once the pillow is inserted, the spacing isn't quite as obvious. I mean, no one is going to sit there and analyze the spacing (hopefully!). Plus, the artist may have meant for it to be that way. ;-)

Materials Needed:

 - Pillow cover of choice - 100% cotton or linen is best. Other fabrics or blends may not absorb the paint as well.

- Acrylic paint & thin paint brush

- Wax paper to put inside the pillow cover to keep paint from bleeding to the back side.

- A fun quote or saying. Even just one simple word could be fun. 

Helpful hints: 

It was much more difficult to paint in cursive on my chosen fabric (100% linen). I found that blending the paint with a bit of water to thin it out helped. 

I also discovered that using a smaller brush than I planned to use worked best.

If possible, paint on a scrap piece of fabric first to get an idea of how the paint absorbs and applies to the fabric. 

Wait 24 hours to heat set the paint. Using an iron on a low to medium setting, cover the painted area with a thin cloth (such as an old t-shirt), and iron for 3-4 minutes, concentrating on small sections at a time. 

Insert a pillow form and enjoy your finished product!

Monday, June 16, 2014

It's Pimm's O'Clock!

Summer to me is sunshine, fresh berries, picnics and a swim in the sea, soft breezes blowing as I ride my bike, and cool refreshing beverages to break up the heat. Okay, an ice cream cone now and again can’t hurt either. But a recent re-discovery (in London, of course) of a classy English cocktail has reminded me of another lovely association with summer: The Pimm’s Cup Cocktail. 

Many years ago while traveling back to the US from Sweden we had a 24-hour layover in England. Deciding that one day wasn’t really enough to see much of London, we opted to go down to Brighton for the day instead, to visit my husband’s goddaughter and her parents. They took us to dinner at a lovely little restaurant called Bill’s (I wrote about the London location in my Breakfast in London post), where I discovered, or rather was introduced to, the Pimm’s Cup Cocktail. It was so delicious, fruity, and refreshing that as soon as we arrived back home to Texas and settled in, I headed to the liquor store to purchase a bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 so that we could re-create this lovely summer drink.

On our recent London excursion, I was reminded of this tasty beverage and, even though we did not sample a Pimm's Cup Cocktail while there, I was inspired yet again to make one myself. 

Here it is...

Pimm's Cup Cocktail:


8-10 fresh mint leaves
8-10 slices of English cucumber
10 cubes diced watermelon
10 cubes diced nectarine
8 frozen (or fresh) strawberries
Fresh squeezed lemon juice (approximately 1 lemon)
Agave syrup
Pimm's No. 1
2 mint sprigs
Makes 2 cocktails

In the bottom of two glasses, place a small handful of mint leaves, crushed gently with your fingers, several slices of cucumber, 4-5 cubes of diced watermelon, 4-5 cubes of diced nectarine, 4 frozen strawberries, then fill with ice. 

In your cocktail shaker:

2 parts freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 part agave syrup
2 parts Pimm’s No. 1

Shake and pour evenly into the two glasses. Add seven-up, ginger ale, or sparkling lemonade. Top with a sprig of fresh mint and enjoy!

You can also serve your Pimm’s Cup Cocktails with a small spoon, for enjoying the fruit at the bottom once your drink is finished. Refreshing, light, summery. What else could you ask for? Aside from a warm sunny day to enjoy it with?

*Use other fruits of your liking as well. I'd like to try making one with rhubarb syrup and sparkling water in place of the seven-up, ginger ale, or sparkling lemonade. ;-)

Happy Summer!

Ps. A couple of other suggestions for enjoying Pimm's No. 1:

Pimm's Royal Cup: 

Equal parts Pimm's No. 1 and champagne. Drop a strawberry or two into the bottom of the glass and garnish with a mint leaf.

Pimm's Midsommar Cup:

Same ingredients as the Pimm's Cup Cocktail above only use all strawberries for your fruit and sparkling lemonade instead of seven-up or ginger ale.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Breakfast in London

(One of hundreds of the red double-decker buses zipping around the city)

Let me just say, London is amazing. It is highly diverse, has tons to offer and, in general, is a huge city spread across, what feels like, a very large portion of great Britain. Even if you tried you couldn’t see all of it in a week, let alone a few days. But even so, we spent three gorgeous days trying our hardest. And succeeded somewhat. However, given the vastness of London and all of the wonder it encompasses, I will be blogging about our trip in digestible bits and I've decided to begin with what feels logical, and so happens to be my favorite: Breakfast!

I have always loved breakfast but I guess my love affair with dining out for breakfast began when I lived in Los Angeles. Back then, my favorite haunts included The Backdoor Bakery in Silverlake (Best scones and oven pancake with berries, and which I've learned has since closed and re-opened later in a new location), Figtree's Cafe at Venice Beach (Cool, healthy vibe with a clear view of the Pacific Ocean), and Millie’s Cafe on Sunset Blvd in Silverlake (Amazing pancakes and seriously the best biscuits around!).

So when I started planning our trip and asked some friends for advice on what to see, do, and eat, I was happy to hear the suggestion to skip the hotel breakfast and eat out. (Yes!) As luck would have it, our hotel was a stone's throw away from a wonderful open-air market called Borough Market, which had tons of stalls peddling fruit, vegetables, exotic imported goods, cafes, juice bars, bakeries, restaurants tucked into nooks and crannies, pubs with eclectic beers, and the list goes on and on. Needless-to-say, we had a blast exploring and our taste buds are still savoring the delectable morsels we consumed. Here is a breakdown of our London mornings:

("Dropped scones")

Bordering on fine dining, though lacking just slightly in service for such status, we sat down to a nicely set table overlooking the market below. We both ordered regular coffee, which arrived in individual French presses. My husband opted for "The Veggie Borough," while I selected the "Dropped scones with stewed Yorkshire rhubarb and yogurt cream". Envisioning a basket filled with mini scones, I asked our server how many scones were served. He replied, "About nine." I figured the scones must be pretty small, so I ordered the dish. Well, in case you are wondering, "dropped scones" are the English equivalent of American pancakes. They weren't exactly silver dollar-sized but they were not regular sized either. And there were in fact 9 total pancakes/scones served. The Yorkshire rhubarb was superb and the yogurt cream added that just "over-the-top" decadence. I ate everything. We would be walking everywhere that day, so... I needed my energy, right?

Day 2: Bill's

After a long first day of walking nearly twenty kilometers (!!!) we headed back down to Borough Market with breakfast at "Bill's" in mind. I'd been to their Brighton location some years back when we had a 24 hour layover in England, on our way home to Texas from Sweden. The Brighton location was open across the entire front of the restaurant/cafe and had the feel of an open air market, as we were surrounded by shelves of specialty products and food goods. A slightly different to the feel of their London bank side location, though there were specialty products on shelves here and there around us. 

We were moving somewhat slowly that morning but my cappuccino and scrambled eggs with toast hit the right spot. And aside from the portion being much bigger, it was almost like eating breakfast at home. The food was fresh and tasty, the service pleasant and prompt and we were fed and out of there in just about thirty minutes exactly. It worked out perfectly for meeting our friend at the train station nearby. And getting on with our second day of walking nearly 20 kilometers!

Day 3: Elliot's Cafe, Borough Market

Hands down this was our favorite breakfast in London. Everything was homemade and fresh and incredibly tasty. Feeling at this point like we'd eaten plenty, we thought we'd try for a "lighter" start. We ordered a side of brioche toast (with honey butter!) to share and we each got a yogurt with homemade granola and stewed rhubarb. Hello?!!! The rhubarb was To Die For. It had been "stewed" in a syrup scented wtih star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, and orange peel. Holy moly it was good! I'm going to try to replicate it for sure.

(I love the red steer peeking in from the roof across the way)

Then to top it off we each had a fresh pressed juice of apple, carrot, & ginger, which was a lovely refreshing boost to our "light breakfast." The host was a bit annoyed that we came in with our own coffee, understandably, but he allowed us to bring it in anyway. What can I say, we simply had to try the coffee at Monmouth Coffee Company, which was just next door and had been recommended by a friend. Overall the service at Elliot's cafe was superb. They were friendly and helpful and they even gave us a complimentary slice of their chocolate chunk brioche bread, that I saw sitting out in the bar and had inquired about out of curiosity. Which, by the way, was also to die for.

Needless to say, breakfast in London was excellent and I am very happy with our decision to forgo hotel dining in favor of exploring neighborhood haunts and favorites.

We would definitely return to all of these places, especially Elliot's Cafe. 

Ps: Borough Market, located in the London Bridges/South Bank area, is simply amazing. I highly recommend a stop, or two, here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

That's Smashing!

Kitchen tools are some of my favorite toys. When I first discovered the lemon-colored lemon press for pressing the juice out of lemons I thought I’d discovered the best tool ever invented. Aside of course from the stand mixer, the blender, the food processor, and the toaster. You could say that I love kitchen gadgets. I especially love the ones that make food prep easier. Duh. Call me lazy but I would much prefer to whip cream with an electric hand mixer than stand there with a bowl and whisk for 10 minutes. 

Discovering new ways to save time and energy in the kitchen makes me happy. So when we were on our recent trip to the US, and a friend of ours introduced me to my new favorite time saver, I was ecstatic. But let me first ask, how do you smash your avocados for guacamole, or your bananas for banana bread? Chances are most of you will answer "with a fork” or, like I used to do, “with a potato masher.” 

Little did I know the sheer joy I would get out of using a simple metal kitchen whisk to complete these tasks. There I was, in our friend's kitchen, I was about to begin mashing the avocados with a fork (since my beloved potato masher was far away in Stockholm) when our friend recommended that I use a whisk instead. A whisk?! She handed it to me and, strange as it seemed, I went to work. 

Let me just say... Amazing! It worked beautifully and it half the time it used to take me with my potato masher, which honestly wasn't that long but still. I was mostly amazed at how beautifully and evenly it smashed the avocado. So I put the whisk to the test the next time I made banana bread. Same thing. Amazing results! Net time you make banana bread or guacamole, try it. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. 

Ps. Thanks for the tip, K!!! 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cucumber Refreshed

It never fails. Every time I make a trip home to Texas, the bathroom scale tips upward by around five pounds upon my return. Well, I guess it was no secret that I was eating as if my life depended on it. As if eating and tasting everything, especially Tex-Mex cuisine, was my job. What a cool job that would be! If only someone could figure out how to avoid gaining those pesky extra lbs. However we all know the reality. And that is too many enchiladas and stuffed jalapeños is just that. Too much. They start to gravitate toward the hips, thighs, and stomach. Ugh. 

But it couldn’t be helped! When you crave and miss a certain food and you only get an opportunity once a year to enjoy it, you have to take that opportunity. In full force. Which we did. 

So since our return I've gotten rather friendly with our juicer in an attempt to reverse the "eating too much delicious food" damage. Our old favorite stand-by combo, christened "sharknado" by my husband, has been getting some competition. A new, or rather old, favorite is apple, ginger, and lemon and a brand new combination has emerged in the experimenting - Cucumber Refreshed - a simple blend of cucumber, lime, & mint. And I'm so much in need of a cleanse that after my first sip, I felt the cucumber blend needed a bit of sugar. Is that insane or what!? 

To answer your question, no, I did not add any sugar. Though an addition of even one apple, pear, or kiwi, might make the "medicine" go down a bit better. ;-) Therefore I propose the following combination:

1 whole English cucumber
1 green apple (keeping in the green family, but any apple can be used), cored.
1/2 fresh lime, peeled (substitute lemon if you do not have lime)
A great big handful of fresh mint leaves (stems can be included)

Juice these ingredients in your juicer, stir, and enjoy. If you do not have a juicer you could try blending the ingredients in a blender but I would recommend peeling and dicing the cucumber and apple, and adding some water to help it blend. I’d start with a fourth to a half cup of water and increase as needed. 

The cucumber and mint combo are refreshing and cooling and the lime adds a soothing alkaline element as well. The apple is a special bonus added solely for flavor purposes. You can leave it out if you prefer a more cleansing drink. 

Do you have favorite juice combinations? I’d love to hear about them!

(* Here is the recipe for our Favorite...)


1 English cucumber
1/2 fennel bulb
3-4 romaine lettuce leaves
3-4 leaves of kale
2-3 stalks of celery
3 apples
1 pear
1 big hunk of fresh ginger (about the size of your thumb)
1/2 lemon, peeled

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Card Stock! Paper Cutter! Stamps! Oh My!

Having a large amount of leftover card stock lends to numerous craft ideas and projects using said card stock. Inspired by the two nearly full reams of card stock sitting unused in my craft drawers [yes craft drawers!] and my new stamps from Yellow Owl Workshop & Paper Source, I decided to spend this past rainy Saturday morning making note cards. 

Some years back my Mom "loaned" me her paper cutter to use for making our wedding invitations, which she later gifted to me (thanks Mom!). Luckily it ended up moving with us to Stockholm because I still use it quite often and my rainy day card project wouldn't have been possible without it. With my first sheet of card stock, I figured out that I could cut two 4 x 6 cards and one 5 x 7 card out of each sheet, with only a small scrap piece leftover. The perfect size scrap piece for test stamping, or making book marks. Once I had my cards cut out and stacked I was ready to start stamping. 

After a couple of trial stamps I figured out what I wanted to do. It was so much fun and I was actually amazed at how nice they turned out. Pretty adorable, don't you agree? Now I just need more stamps, additional stamp pad colors, and envelopes to complete the sets. I came across a fun tutorial recently for making your own envelopes. Maybe a near future craft project? They look like they would be fun to do and not terribly difficult, if I could find some nice inexpensive decorative paper. Otherwise I'm not quite sure if they would be worth the time and money. Especially if I can find a good price on envelopes in bulk. 

When I was in the US recently I helped my aunt find and order some simple yesterday elegant envelopes in bulk and they turned out to work pretty well with the cards that she made, providing yet another inspiration to my own card project. I just have to see if I can figure out who sells envelopes in bulk here in Sweden and for a good price. My husband is good at finding things online so maybe I'll put him to the task. 

My next card making afternoon may include some hand-carved stamps. I bought two carve-your-own-stamp pads when I purchase my stamp set and now I just have to get up the nerve to take a carving knife to them. I may have to practice on a potato first! 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dream Butter

In the summer of 2001 I participated in a study abroad program in Paris, France. The program included studies in French and art history, the later being my major. But what the program did not include was my education in the ways of French eating. Which, if you were not aware, includes lots of cheese, lots of bread, and apparently lots of Nutella. Which isn’t actually French but somehow I came to associate my summer abroad in France with copious amounts of Nutella spread generously on French baguette, or artistically swirled and folded into a street vendor crepe. I loved Nutella. Madly.

I still love Nutella and I have been known to take the entire jar, a knife, and a package of digestive biscuits to the couch. We all know what happens there. Eventually you have to put the lid back on and walk it back into the kitchen where you hide the jar deep in the pantry so that next time you open the door, Nutella is not to be seen or even thought of, for months. Sigh. 

Who doesn’t love a good Nutella fix? So when I started seeing recipes for homemade Nutella popping up here and there I filed it away in the back of my mind for a future weekend project. Then a friend of mine mentioned that she too wanted to try making Nutella from scratch so we planned a weekend to meet up and make it together. Unfortunately, my husband came down with a cold and we had to postpone our Nutella-making date for another time, since she would be bringing over her newborn bundle of love to hang out during the process. 

What can I say? I couldn’t resist. I was dying to try making it (read: EAT IT). I threw the pre-roasted and skinned hazelnuts into my food processor and pressed the on button. The recipe said to blend them until they became fine and powdery like a flour and then slowly add coconut oil. It was not specified as to how much oil to use so I started with two tablespoons. Magically the powdery mixture became hazelnut butter. It was amazing. I mean, it really looked like professionally made nut butter. The recipe then said to add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy. 

Um... It. Was. Divine. I admit that I did not actually blend until it was smooth and creamy. Not like the store-bought Nutella anyway. I sort of liked it with a bit of texture and the coconut sugar kept it from tasting too terribly sweet. You could do some serious damage with a knife or spoon (or finger!) and a package of digestive biscuits. I'm thinking maybe even a baguette... I brought a spoonful to my husband to sample. Shortly afterward he was in the kitchen asking for more. Always a good sign. It was so simple to make, aside from the time-consuming task of removing the skins from the nuts, that I think I may try making my own homemade almond butter next. Perhaps it will be chocolate almond butter. I can’t see what harm adding a bit of chocolate could do. What do you think?

Meanwhile, I highly recommend testing this recipe. Not only do you get to control all of the ingredients that go into your Dream Butter, but if you find some cute little jars like the one I found, it makes an adorable little gift for that foodie friend. Heck, it makes a fun gift for any friend! I mean, just look how cute!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Witch Craft(ing)

While our goddaughter was here with her parents visiting us recently, I took them (of course) to one of my favorite stores in Stockholm, Svensk Hemslöjd. It is a small boutique shop that specializes in true artisan wares, handmade and designed arts, crafts and specialty items by Swedish artists. Nearly everyone on my shopping list has received a gift from this shop, including myself ;-). 

Well there we were, browsing around and admiring the Easter decorations, when our goddaughter spotted a small Easter witch, Påskkärring in Swedish, that she fell in love with. I mentioned that I had made my own Easter witch and that I thought I still had all of the supplies to make a couple more, and did she want to make her very own Påskkärring? Her eyes lit up and she said yes straight away (trying my hand at British expression). 

Later that evening she asked if we could take out the supplies to make our Easter witches (a girl after my own heart!) so once I had located everything we set up the dining room table as a craft room and got to work. I really loved watching her creative mind at work. She is only twelve years old but her heart and soul are much older. I showed her a secret way to knot the thread on her needle, a secret shared with me by my own mother, and after only one try, she not only could do it herself but she remembered each time she had to knot the thread again and excitedly showed her Mom and Dad her new trick. Thanks mom! 

I will see if I can create a short video to show this thread-knotting trick and post at a later date. It is a bit difficult to describe if you can’t see it being done. But anyway, below are a few photos from our Witch Craft session. Crafting is one of my favorite things and doing it together with a kindred spirit makes it all the more fun! I look forward to more crafting projects with this lovely and precious girl. She also brought us a piece of her own handmade art, which we will always treasure.

(My Påskkärring is on the left and our goddaughter's Påskkärring is on the right :-))

*All photos except the top photo and the one of my Påskkärring courtesy of Jo Winter.
** Top photo is of my mothers-in-law's Påskkärring, which was the inspiration for making our own.