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.