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zird is the word [userpic]
TRAVELS, PART THE FIRST
I've been clubbed by the hard hand of jetlag. I've been meaning to write a post since Saturday, when we arrived but due to countless factors, this is the first time I've actually gotten started. Reasons for not posting, besides jetlag: too many other things to do, sleeping, working, constant computer crashes, reading, catching up on other more important stuff, procrastination, and also, feeling as if the amount of things I have to write about is overwhelming. Despite all my good intentions, my road to posting is paved with excuses.

It's crazy how fast a 3-week vacation can go, but completely understandable considering how much we packed into it. We left Sweden on December 16. We were supposed to fly from Copenhagen to Amsterdam and thence to Detroit. But we sat in Kastrup airport and watched our flight get delayed once, then twice, then again, to the point that we knew we'd (along with many others) miss our connecting flight in Amsterdam. There was thick fog there, so it wasn't that we couldn't leave Copenhagen; it was that no one could GET to Amsterdam. We were flying with KLM though, and they're great. After another short wait in line, we were speedily rebooked onto an SAS flight to Chicago, leaving 3 hours later, then routed from there to Detroit. The only drawbacks being that we had to get our luggage in Chicago, go through security and then recheck in our bags. We arrived 6 hours later than scheduled, but otherwise, it went smoothly.

I couldn't settle on a movie to watch. I started several and stopped them after a short time, giving up in rapid succession until finally landing on Crazy Rich Asians, which was cute but predictable in the extreme. Martin and my mom met us at the airport and we drove the hour home to Port Huron and crashed into bed upon arrival.

The very first day after we got to Michigan we drove to Flint for the funeral of my Uncle Dino, who was not really my uncle, but my mom's cousin's husband. He was a really great, fun guy and it was a sad way to start the holidays. The silver lining was getting to see several relatives we wouldn't have seen otherwise. I would have preferred some other reason, for sure, though. Funerals in the US are held so quickly that I honestly don't understand how people have time to get there. Dino's wasn't even a week after he passed and that was the case for the last few relatives we lost in the past couple of years. Even if I had been able to come, I wouldn't have been able to get there in time. Funerals in Sweden are often 2-3 weeks after. If I remember correctly, they have to be held within a month, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

The rest of the week passed in a blur of shopping for Christmas presents, visiting my grandmother (still going well, if not strong, at least, still going at 102.5!), getting a massage with my mom's fantastic massage therapist, and catching up with Martin and my mom. She had already put up a Christmas tree but the second night there, the kids and I ditched her and Anders to go to the movies with one of Martin's roommates (The Favourite: excellent over-the-top acting, bountiful insanity) and while we were gone, they put the lights on and decorated it. :D

We went to Martin's school and toured it so Anders, who didn't go with us 2 summers ago, could see the place. We couldn't get into the dorm but we got to go into the photo labs and all around the other buildings. We also met with his financial aid and student advisors and figured out how to keep him in school through the rest of the school year. He's dropping to 9 credits, which reduces his tuition drastically (it also reduces his grant & scholarship, but not by too much). If we calculated correctly, he should come out on the plus side. As Martin says, it seems ridiculous to pay so much money for the basic college classes, so he is going to try to just take the photography and design classes he needs for his major and then can make a decision about what to do for next year.

We met Martin's boyfriend Malachi, who seems very nice and who brought cookies he had baked himself. Anyone who brings me cookies gets a gold star, hahaha! NOM! We also spent some time baking Christmas cookies: a batch of snickerdoodles and sugar cookies, almond paste cookies and a huge batch of my great-aunt Florence's Lacy Crisps. My mom ate all the almond cookies and I ate all the lacy crisps. Yummy!

We also spent an inordinate amount of time being as Swedish as possible during our American Christmas holidays. The first week we went all the way across Detroit to go to IKEA, where we bought meatballs, herring, dill sauce, and smoked salmon for julbord, as well as Kalles kaviar, fläderdryck and polarbröd for Martin, who is a deprived and penniless college-student Swede. We had all that and more, including a delicious vegetarian Janssons Temptation that Anders made, for Christmas Eve. The week after Christmas, while out and about, we also stopped at a Swedish café that Anders had read about, and had fika there. That wasn't even the extent of our being Swedish but I have had to rewrite most of this post three times already thanks to my stupid computer crashing for no reason and with no warning, and I give up for now. More later!
 tired
mood: tired
music: Rhythm Corps—Entertainment


zird is the word [userpic]
RETROSPECTIVE
There is something crazy about how fast time goes...it flies, it swoops, it zooms and I am left gasping again by the fact that it is once again the end of a year that sped by. It’s been a good year for all of us, and we only see good things for the year to come.


Family & Personal Highlights of 2018
  • Keeping myself diabetes-free and my weight down
  • Singing with Karin in a huge 1000 participant Gospelfest concert
  • Anders participating in the year-long X-Cup mountain biking tournaments and Cykel Wasa
  • My oldest best friend visiting for a week
  • Martin home for 6 weeks in the spring
  • A 3-week visit with my mom
  • A weeklong visit with my brother and his family
  • Karin’s senior prom and high school graduation
  • Visits from our good friends Kathey and Russell, twice!
  • Martin working the summer program and getting a job at his school
  • Karin writing, managing, performing and singing in her school play
  • Karin getting a summer job at Axis and then extended for 6 months
  • Karin getting her driver’s license!
  • Martin starting his sophomore year at college
  • Getting Anders’ mom moved to assisted living
  • A 3-week trip to Michigan for the holidays
I read 103 books this year, If I counted correctly, which isn’t certain because I trying to figure all this out on the app. So many of them were excellent books, it will be hard to pick the very best!

Best Books of 2018 (in no particular order and not including re-reads)
  • Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper
  • Last Will by Bryn Greenwood
  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean
  • Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Factfulness by Hans Rosling
  • La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
  • The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
  • The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
  • Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge
  • The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett
  • Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
  • The Mermaid by Christina Henry
  • Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranti
  • Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday by Christine Reilly
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novak
Once again, I spent far more time on Instagram this year, enjoying beautiful art from all different kinds of artists, than I did finding new music on Spotify. I love my Spotify playlist and listen to it every day but this year I mainly managed to clean up the list instead of adding many new artists, but I did find a few:

Best New Artists of 2018
  • H.E.R.
  • Christine and The Queens
  • LÉON
  • Izzy Bizu
  • Charlie Puth
  • Frou Frou
  • Portugal The Man
I actually kept track of the movies I watched this year for the very first time using the Letterboxed app. I watched 52 films! I wonder if that is more or less than usual...guess I will know after a few more years of keeping lists. Lists! The films that struck a chord were: Struck by Lightning, The Greatest Showman, The Prestige, Black Panther, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Coco, Tag, The Florida Project, I Tonya, About Time, Lady Bird, The Favourite, Mary Poppins Returns, and Bohemian Rhapsody.

The TV shows I've watched and enjoyed this year were: The Handmaid's Tale, Westworld, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Outlander, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. I feel like I’m forgetting something.

Some manageable goals for 2019
  • Walk walk walk (and get a new treadmill)
  • Continue with WW, keep weight down
  • Replace the sofabed/couch in the playroom
  • Do some major decluttering
  • Get Martin's Klimt project prints framed
  • Be more regular about posting here!
I expect 2019 to be a calmer year in every way, now that we are done with Karin’s graduation and all the visits. I am looking forward to a trip in the spring with my two best friends to Lisbon and possibly some traveling with work. We are awaiting the arrival of Kathey and Russell just in time to wrap up the end of the year, and spending some more quality time with my mom before we head back to Sweden. Happy New Year!
location: Michigan
 busy
mood: busy
music: Mom sharpening knives


zird is the word [userpic]
EK FAMILY CHRISTMAS LETTER 2018
The beginning of 2018 was pretty calm and we hosted a New Year’s Eve dinner with friends here in Flyinge. Liz was recovering from gall bladder removal surgery, so she was taking it pretty easy. Anders went skiing again with colleagues, now an annual tradition. Martin returned to college in Detroit for the second half of his freahman year, even though his flight was cancelled and rerouted, and he ended up getting to spend a couple of nights with Liz’s sister in Connecticut. Karin and Liz participated in a gospel fest choir festival together, Karin’s first big choir event.

In February, Anders had a 2-week trip to South Africa. Liz continues to be very active with the AWC Malmö and is still on the board. In March, her oldest best friend Becky came for a visit with her friend Jennifer and Liz took them touring around Lund and Copenhagen, and over to Helsingør to visit Kronborg castle. We also had a family visit from Liz’s cousin-in-law Heidi and her daughter Ryane, who was studying during the spring in Copenhagen.

Karin had a super busy spring, playing in her school’s floor rugby Superbowl tournament, playing soccer with the Lund’s Women’s team and performing, writing and organizing the school’s annual musical about the French Revolution, playing Marie Antoinette’s daughter Marie-Therese. She has done a ton of traveling throughout the year as well, with weeks in Prague, Budapest, Kos and Florence, and work trips to Stockholm and Paris, as well as a family weekend trip to Kalmar.

Ar the end of May we started a family and friends visit extravaganza with Martin coming home from school, Liz’s mom arriving for a 3-week visit, and Liz’s brother and family for a week. Full house! In mid-June, Karin attended her Senior Prom and then graduated from high school and we threw a huge Swedish studenten party in the backyard. End of an era!

At the beginning of July, our good friends Kathey and Russell arrived in Europe, as Kathey was running in an international race in Odense, Denmark. We went over to watch the race and cheer her on with Russell and then brought them back to Sweden for a 3-day visit and party with old friends. We’ll see them again at Christmastime, bonus!

Martin returned to Detroit to work for the summer at his college, mentoring students in the same pre-college program he participated in last summer. He also got a job at the school’s AV Center, and has been working steadily throughout his sophomore year. Liz is still working at Axis and enjoying it, despite the unbelievable amount of stuff to do. Anders is still at Tetra Pak, working in the Technical Training Center...thankfully he didn’t travel quite as much this year, but still managed a few trips to Italy. Karin worked all year as well: she works at a café in Malmö and at the end of June, she got a summer job at Liz’s company, which got extended through January 2019.

Anders is still mountain biking as well, and participated again this year in Cyckel Vasa. He had started building a kayak in March, based on the kayak blueprints that Liz gave him for Christmas the year before, and took a kayak course in Malmö. And at the end of August, he made his water debut with his hand-built wooden kayak! It’s a real thing of beauty. And Karin finally got her driver’s license, which was a big thrill for her and for us!

Now we are home for the holidays in Michigan for 3 weeks with Liz’s mom and Martin. We hope you and yours are having a wonderful holiday season as well and we wish you a happy new year!
location: Michigan
 cheerful
mood: cheerful


zird is the word [userpic]
SOON THE BELLS WILL START*
I don't feel very Christmassy. Even though my cards were all signed, sealed and mailed over a week ago, and I've been to a Christmas market and bought and shipped several presents, I am just not in the Christmas spirit. I suspect part of the reason is that we are not decorating for the holidays. Normally by now, we'd have a tree (even if it wasn't yet all the way decorated) and the smell of fresh pine would have filled the house. There are no cheerful Santas or tomtes or reindeer or angels peering at me from various nooks and bookshelves. The nativity creché is not quietly glowing from the corner of the living room. The stockings aren't hung from the bookshelves with care (they're in a pile to be packed). Even the advent lights and the stars in the windows aren't enough; they don't have enough power by themselves to pull the season down over our house and make it stick.

Maybe it's because I haven't been listening to Christmas music, or because I haven't been out in the stores shopping. Even at the julmarknad we visited last weekend, where there WAS Christmas music playing, it was easy to ignore and we were in and out of buildings so we didn't hear it all the time either. Maybe it's because there's no snow on the ground, or in the air, or in the forecast. It's been pretty much a solid week of grey cloud cover and rain. Not very conducive to that holiday feeling.

At work, our common area table is covered in Christmas goodies, just like every year: huge boxes of candy from vendors, cookies and gingerbread tins from some of the regional marketing people we work with. We have decorations up and occasionally someone is blasting Christmas music, but I feel rather removed from it.

Maybe it's just because we won't be home for the holidays.

Except I WILL be home for the holidays. So, maybe it's just not yet. Maybe it's not Christmas until my family is gathered, jet-lagged and quarrelsome, laughing and hogging the couch, baking cookies together and grocery shopping together and yelling at the kids to get up already and taking turns in the bathroom and playing old board games and doing all the things families do together. It won't be perfect, because my sister and my brother and their families won't be there. It won't be perfect because my dad and my uncles and my aunts and my granddad won't be there. But it will be be close, because my mom and my husband, and my son (!) and my daughter will. And we'll visit cousins and see my grandma, and visit with really good friends, both long-time and longer and I bet by the end of the holidays, I will be so far into the holiday mood that I'll never want to come back again.

***

This week is full again, as we are trying to get all the last things done on the list of stuff that one has to think of before traveling. Plus we are helping to move Anders' mom on Friday, as she has finally gotten a place in an assisted living facility after a very long wait. They gave her a week to decide and then a WEEK to move. Insane. So we are going Thursday to start packing (and choosing, and getting emotional over the whole thing) and Anders is taking the day off Friday with his sister to move as much as possible and then we'll be REALLY trying to get all the last things done before we actually jump straight into the holidays with both feet.

Last weekend, I had a lovely dinner with my two friends and since we still haven't heard anything about reimbursements for our Marrakesh trip, we decided to try to find something else, since the longer we wait, the worse chance we'll find any good prices. We discussed whether or not to still try for Marrakesh, but the shine seems to have worn off that, and after several other destinations were suggested and discarded, we landed on the idea of Lisbon. None of us have been there, it's warm that time of year, and seems exotic enough to fulfill our requirements. We'll see!

Then, on Sunday, I talked Anders into going into Malmö to a traditional Swedish Christmas market, at an old estate where they had several buildings and barns and gardens and tents full of handicrafts and food and even antiques. I bought some little stocking stuffers and we enjoyed the atmosphere, and on the way home, I talked him into going to see a movie on the spur of the moment and it worked! So we drove straight to Lund and went to see Bohemian Rhapsody, which was great, because we both like Queen and despite a pile of historical inaccuracies, the film was fun and moving and funny and Rami Malek's transformation into Freddie Mercury was nothing short of mindboggling. At one point, during the Live Aid concert scene, I honestly couldn't tell WHO I was watching and it didn't even matter, he was that good.

Tomorrow is a lunch with friends, and Thursday is a team lunch with all my excellent colleagues, and then I'm getting Barky whipped into shape for the holidays. If that doesn't put me in the Christmas mood, nothing will! Except maybe the company Christmas party on Friday night (which Karin is also attending, how weird!)! Maybe it's all the incremental events that will ramp up the feeling, despite not having a tree of our own. I am a little unsure whether I will get anything written before Sunday and access from the hinterlands of Michigan will be spotty, to say the least. Happy holidays to you!

*And the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing, right within your heart.
 dorky
mood: dorky
music: NOT CHRISTMAS CAROLS


zird is the word [userpic]
TRADITION, REPETITION OR RUT?
I wrote my first Christmas letter in 2002. We had just built and moved into this house, Martin turned 5 and Karin was 3.5. Anders had turned 40 earlier in the year, I was working at Ericsson, and he had just returned to Tetra Pak after a 2-year stint at ABB. I wrote in MUCH more detail about the things that we did each month than I do now...where did I find the time and energy to gather all that information? My Christmas card now seems to have settled into a rut.

I wrote this year's Christmas letter this weekend, detailing all the things that have happened this year, the highlights for our family...what we're doing, where we've been, who's been visiting. I looked back through the calendar and through my blog (which, sadly, takes about as long to do) and listed all the important things that I thought would be of interest...

And then I thought, but are they? Does anyone care about Christmas letters anymore? Are they still a thing? If you are reading THIS, then you probably already know all the details: Martin's in his second year of college, Karin graduated high school and got her driver's license. I'm still active in the AWC, Anders built a kayak, blah blah blah.

For ME, at least, it was a good summary and look back through the major events of the year, and a way to collect and contain it all for posterity. And it's a way to personalize, sort of, the physical cards I do send out, at least the photos I put on the back are, I suppose. But it's not really personal in the sense that it's not a handwritten PERSONAL letter to each of the admittedly fewer and fewer people that I send cards in the mail to each year for Christmas. It's just a rundown of what we've been up to. I even post it on this blog, and on FB, so it's even LESS personal, in that sense.

Now I find myself second-guessing the whole thing. I like having the year-end summary to look back on, but maybe it's time to rethink, and maybe, retire? Sending and receiving cards itself as a tradition, is so far on the way out, that it seems kind of silly to worry about whether I should write a letter to stick in some of them or not. I'm guessing that most people, like us, send only few cards, and maybe only to the people that send to them, if that. It feels like most people have given up writing or sending letters at ALL, ever, not just for the holidays.

The cards we received were always such a big part of the Christmas traditions when I was growing up. We always found ways to display them, and they added a nice touch of visual Christmas cheer to the house. We saved the fronts of the cards and recycled them as gift tags the next year...I STILL do that, actually. There were always a few that stayed in the box year after year because they were just too pretty to use. I suppose it's one of those things that is slowly dying out as more and more people move to digital greetings and stop sending paper cards. I already realize that everyone on my list of people to send cards to is around my age or older. I'm willing to bet that my children and their children won't send holiday cards at all.

Part of it is the high cost of mailing anything, part is just time and resources. And I suppose, it's one of those things that is good for the environment: using less paper means cutting down fewer trees, which is a good thing. But it makes me kind of sad to think that I haven't written a real letter to anyone in over a year, probably longer, and haven't received anything other than a couple dozen Christmas cards each year, apart from my mom who is awesome at sending cards for birthdays and other holidays to all of us...she puts me to shame.

So, I don't know. Should I keep doing this or not? Part of what is great about getting letters and cards is that you know the person writing and sending it is taking TIME and energy to think of YOU. It gives you a real sense that you are important enough to someone for them to spend the time to write you a letter or card. Traditions change and fade and that's what this one seems to be doing. I just hope there are other traditions growing and coming that will take on the job of communication and news and keep us connected with our distant friends and family.

This week: AWC julbord on Wednesday, hosting book group here on Thursday, dinner with Debbie & Camilla on Saturday. Good things to look forward to!
 pensive
mood: pensive
music: Poema—Wool Coats
Tags:


zird is the word [userpic]
WAKE UP WITH DETERMINATION, GO TO BED WITH SATISFACTION
No slug day for me today, though I did manage to sleep in a bit. I wake up early nearly every day with a headache starting or raging, and have to decide whether I can fall back asleep or must take some medicine after getting to the bathroom. It feels like it's almost always either dehydration or tension causing the problem and despite drinking plenty of water, it happens again the next night. UGH.

I read for awhile, checked emails, and then got up around 10 to shower and dress. I had a full mental list of things to do today and I got almost all of them done, so I'm feeling very accomplished now at 9 pm. Holiday preparations that have to be done before our trip are in full swing: Christmas letter written, half my cards written and addressed, some presents ordered, others decided upon, and even a few wrapped! I don't have lists this year, and we are keeping things very simple and inexpensive, but still some stuff has to be done.

I also did 2 loads of laundry, dishes, cleaned out the fridge, AWC web work, and ironing. I hate ironing. I know people who love it and think it's soothing, but I've always found it to be boring and fruitless. Things around me like to wrinkle, I swear. It was only 2 not-terribly-big tablecloths from Thanksgiving, at least, so it didn't take me that long. I sent a bunch of emails that needed to be dealt with, and wrote some lists so I don't forget anything important that has to be done before the holidays commence.

My life is rather boring these days, isn't it? I don't seem to find much to write about, and what I do find is trivial in the extreme. The only times I was even outdoors today were to fill the bird feeder and take out the trash: not exactly the stuff of scintillating blog posts. Anders went to his mom's place in Malmö to set up her little tree and advent lights, and Karin was working at the cafe and has another party or something tonight. We hope she'll make an appearance early enough tomorrow for there to be daylight so Anders can change the tires on her car to winter ones.

I need these down days, though, so even if my life is boring, I'm okay with that. Work is still a little slow, and I'm definitely not complaining, since the whole year up until just a few weeks ago has been a bucking bronco ride of too much work. It's so dark and dreary outside that I'm really glad to see all the advent lights and Christmas decorations that have sprung up around the neighborhood. We had ours up a week early because of our Thanksgiving party. Only 21 days until the solstice, thank goodness. I can't wait for the light to start returning!

Since I was so productive today, I think I can reward myself tomorrow with a slug day. We'll see! Maybe I'll find a Julmarknad to go to, instead.
 accomplished
mood: accomplished
music: Louise Hoffsten—Lou Lou


zird is the word [userpic]
IT'S BEGINNING TO NOM NOM NOM
Our Thanksgiving dinner guests arrive at 5 pm and we're sitting down to eat around 5:30...and by 9 pm some of them are already getting ready to leave: a dog at home that needs to be let out, kids that have activities early Sunday morning, two that were fighting colds and needed to head to bed. By 9:30 it was just my two best friends and two husbands (mine included) that moved our bloated turkey bellies to the living room and sprawled on the sofas. It was nice to have an extra hour with just a couple of people to chat with...the dinner itself is so hectic and then there's clean up and dessert-making and just like most big parties, I feel like I don't get a chance to really talk or catch up with everyone.

Yesterday I spent the bulk of the afternoon baking cookies. I really only bake cookies around the holidays. It's because I LOVE cookies and if I make them and they're in the house, I WILL eat them all. I have zero cookie willpower. The big cookie bake was for the AWC cookie exchange which is tomorrow. We had 21 people signed up but one dropped out when she realized how many cookies that meant she had to bake (and I forgave her because she has a brand-new baby AND a 4-year-old even though there are at least 3 other women signed up who are in the same boat). We bake 6 cookies for each of the participants, not including ourselves, so that meant baking 114 cookies. That's a LOT of cookies!

I didn't want to make anything that was too labor-intensive, so that ruled out any sandwich-type cookies (which would have meant 228 cookies, at which the mind boggles and refuses to move on) or cut-out cookies or well, anything that required more than rolling dough in balls and plopping them on cookie sheets. I decided to make my grandmother's gingersnaps, which were a favorite of every single relative I have on my mother's side and a particular childhood favorite of mine.

My grandmother made endless batches of gingersnaps and chocolate chip cookies and whenever we were visiting, her cookie jar was always full, and I don't remember ever being told I couldn't have a cookie, though I'm sure my mom would remember differently. I can still see her tall glass cookie jar with the pointy lid, crammed full of sparkling sugar-coated gingersnaps. When I moved to Sweden, my grandmother filled tins and mailed them to me for Christmas for a few years, two cookies each carefully packed in plastic wrap and then tucked two by two into bubble wrap. Even the ones that arrived in pieces, despite the painstaking packaging, were hoovered up by Anders and myself. Not a crumb went to waste!

I haven't made them in a really long time, but I was sure I still had a bottle of blackstrap molasses somewhere in the pantry. I pulled out the ingredients and piled them on the kitchen counter...sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, flour...where the heck is that bottle of blackstrap? I checked the pullout with the baking stuff on it...nope. Checked the back of the pullout with the bottles of oil and vinegar and such...nope. Checked the top shelf where more baking stuff is...nope. DARN IT.

So, I used the "dark syrup" that you can find here in Sweden (they also have "light syrup", don't ask me what the difference is...the dark variant is only a few slight shades darker. It's NOTHING like "real" molasses, especially blackstrap!). I made 3 batches of gingersnap cookie dough, and then, to clear some space, I started putting back things and suddenly realized that jams and syrups were on a BOTTOM pullout shelf, which I promptly pulled out and there at the back was my bottle of blackstrap. DOH.

Molasses doesn't go bad, does it? I just googled that and apparently no one knows. As long as it's stored correctly in a cool, dark place, it can last for years. Anyway, it was too late and I wasn't about to pitch three batches and start over so I just drizzled a little bit on top of the dough and mixed it in. It smelled and tasted fine, so maybe I can get away with several more years? haha!

The entire cookie baking process took about 3 hours or so. Rolling balls of dough, then rolling them in sugar and placing them on the cookie sheet and baking them for 9 minutes. I made 11 dozen cookies. The whole house smelled heavenly. It was like being transported back to 1970s Michigan, running in from my grandparent's back yard to grab a cookie. While I was baking, I finished reading the book group book, too, so I feel very on top of things right now. Tonight, after work, I packaged them all in to cups with a red ribbon and a label on top.

Tomorrow is the last AWC meeting of the year, and I'll come home with 114 OTHER kinds of cookies to enjoy until we leave for the holidays (at which point I'll freeze any that are left...HAHAHAHA). Since I'm the web editor, I've already been receiving recipes from the other participants and I'm already looking forward to snickerdoodles, chocolate crinkles, cinnamon cookies and something called Red Velvet Cake Mix Cookies.









My grandma's gingersnaps
from Bernice Pangborn

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda

Cream butter and sugar, add molasses. Add egg and beat well. Sift dry ingredients together and add to mix. Roll into round balls about 1-inch in size and then roll in sugar. Bake at 375F for 9-10 minutes. Makes approx. 3.5 dozen
 accomplished
mood: accomplished
music: Sara Hickman—Learn You Like a Book


zird is the word [userpic]
GATHERING, GIVING AND THANKING
The whole house smells delicious. Anders is taking turkey 1 out of the oven right now. Tomorrow he'll cook turkeys 2 & 3 in the final preparation for our annual Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving as everyone refers to it nowadays) potluck dinner. It's our 20th anniversary of having Friendsgiving with our best friends. 20 years!

Some of them are the same friends that came to the first one. Some of them have joined along the way, and some are fairly new to the celebration. As we have done every year, Anders and I provide the turkey(s), mashed potatoes, stuffing (in the turkeys) and gravy. This year I've also made spaghetti squash. Everyone else chips in and brings the rest: green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, salad, dressing, black olives, drinks, pumpkin pies, and various other dishes. We'll have profiteroles and berry cobblers on the dessert table this year, too. Yum yum!

It's funny to think that after I came to Sweden nearly 21 years ago, I would meet people that I would celebrate the most American of holidays with for twenty years. At that first Friendsgiving, Martin was not quite a year old. We were the only couple with a kid at that point. Since then, most of our friends have had kids and each year we've watched them grow up. First it was Friendsgiving with friends, then with friends and their babies, then their toddlers, then their pre-teens, and then their teenagers...now we're winding around the other side of that cycle: the kids are starting to drop out, stay home, go out and do their own thing. Martin is missing our dinner for the third year in a row. Karin is staying through dessert, but then heading out to an evening with friends. In another year or so, I can bet that we'll be back to just friends.

We had a head count of 22 people when I sent out the menu list several weeks ago, but since then one teenager changed her mind and decided she would rather spend the weekend in Denmark with her boyfriend, and one friend gave me a heads up this evening that both she and her daughter are sick...they weren't canceling yet, but she'll has to see how they are tomorrow before they can decide if they will make or not (if not, they are sending their dish with someone else)...so we might be down to 19. Ah well, more leftovers for us! Maybe in a few years, when the kids have all bailed, we'll be back to 8 or 10 adults and only have to make TWO turkeys!

I called on the way home from our annual AWC wreathmaking workshop and talked to Martin and my mom and my grandma (!) on Thursday. My grandma, who is 102, was thrilled to hear that I was on the phone when my mom told her who was calling, but couldn't really hear anything I said, so my mom had to repeat it all. I was afraid that I wouldn't see her again after the summer she turned 101, but now I'm pretty hopeful that I'll get to see her again at Christmas. :)

A few things I'm thankful for right now:
Much-needed good news coming down the line for my sister and her family
Apps that allow me to keep in touch with my family cheaply and easily
Gainful, fulfilling employment
My health, and that of my loved ones

I didn't send out holiday greetings this past week online, but I had them in my head and in my heart. That's the other thing I'm thankful for: you.
 thankful
mood: thankful


zird is the word [userpic]
LIVING ON IN LIBRARIES
I'm reading a fantastic book. A book about books, what could be better? It's fascinating. It's technically about the worst library fire in American history, when the Los Angeles Public Library burned in April 1986, but it is also about the idea of libraries, the history of them, the purpose and updated use of them and how they've changed from a modern-day viewpoint, and the love of books in general.

The first chapter, which details the spread of the fire and what it consumed, and how much it destroyed actually almost brought me to tears. The thought of all those things gone. Gone forever. Not just books, but manuscripts, magazines, photographs, films, ephemera and so much more. All the library fires and book burnings that have taken place over the history of mankind, encapsulated in an inferno that is brought vividly to life in the pages of another book. When the author talked about the reactions of the librarians who were watching the fire from outside, I almost cried again. It says a lot about me, I think, and a lot about a lot of people, that such an event could be so devastating. In one chapter, the author decides to burn a book to get a feel for what actually happens when a book is set alight. She found the thought of it and the action of it indescribably difficult. She talked about how even throwing away a book was nearly impossible, just like the idea of throwing away a living plant. It resonated so much with me. I remember my visceral reaction the first time I found out about altered books...technically art, but O! the desecration. And I laughed to think of all the poinsettias I've hung onto for MONTHS after the holidays because I couldn't just throw them away. Now I rarely buy them, just so I won't have to be faced with discarding them just because the holiday they represent is over.

The author, Susan Orlean, described her own childhood visits to the library with her mother, and I was instantly transported to visits to our libraries (and there were many, since we moved so much). Coming home with a big pile of books was such a delight. Checking out favorites (D'aulaires' Book of Greek Myths especially) over and over. The special crinkle of the mylar/plastic covers. The little pockets in the back with the crookedly stamped dates of check out and return. I don't remember any specific library building; I suspect they were the rather generic base libraries that were available to us military brats. I also remember very fondly a bookmobile that was dark and cozy and full of wonderful finds, but I cannot for the life of me remember WHERE we lived when it was a thing in my life.

I took the kids to the little library here in Flyinge when they were small, but not that much...it was fine for the kids, but there was only one shelf of books in English and unfortunately, they were invariably the types of best sellers and classics that I had either already read or had no desire to read. I could order books from the library system, but it was often easier to just buy my own, since my tastes are pretty specific, and eclectic. It kind of makes me sad now to think that my children, despite being surrounded by books in our house and all the reading we did together, probably didn't have the kind of childhood library experience that I remember.

And in keeping with my frequent thoughts about dying, she makes reference to an expression from Senegal which is used to politely say that someone has died: "his or her library has burned." Yes! That is exactly what happens. Your whole life, and all you have writ upon it, your own hearth-fire, gone out, burnt up, disappeared.

This blog is an attempt to put the fire of my life in a place where it won't go up in smoke when I do. Having it printed into book form each year is another attempt. No one wants to disappear and even if my life is, ultimately, insignificant, it's still full of things that were important or funny or topical or interesting...hopefully, to someone. I worry not just about my own books but the books I own. I want someone to love them after I've gone. I suspect I can't trust my family...none of them read that much. But I hope that they will make their way into the homes of people who will also read and reread and treasure them.

I bought the book on Kindle, looking for something to fill the gap between the excellent book I finished last night (Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver) and the what I've heard is another excellent book that is for book group on December 6 (Educated by Tara Westover), thinking that because it was non-fiction, it might take me a little longer to read. I typically don't start the book group book until about a week and a half before our discussion; too far in advance and it won't be fresh in my mind to talk about.

I'm only 30% of the way through this book, but I can already tell that I'll devour it quickly...it's that good, and that interesting. I'll have to fill the gap with more than one book at this rate. Good thing she's written more books for me to read!
 cheerful
mood: cheerful
music: Nespresso machine


zird is the word [userpic]
STUFFED
I think a lot about dying these days. I'm not sure why. Maybe because I'm over halfway to a hundred? Maybe because I wonder what my family would do without me? Maybe because I see signs of decay in so many places. It's in the news. It's in the illnesses and diseases and diagnoses that drop like bombs around you. It's a worm in the brain that whispers what if. What if?

What would I do if I lived forever anyway? Even if inevitable, it's a squirmy uncomfortable contemplation. All the accumulated flotsam of my life, both soothing and cluttering to have and to hold. Even with my fairly frequent purge rampages, this house, this life, is full of stuff to deal with later. Stuff everywhere! Long live stuff!

GOOD STUFF
Reading: Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Watching: The Marvelous Mrs Maisel
Eating: Turkey and spinach sandwiches
Going: Open house last night at the Museum of Sketches in Lund with a bunch of fun colleagues and my husband
Planning: Friendsgiving dinner this coming weekend
Anticipating: being home for the holidays!
Working: almost two weeks of manageable workload; a much-needed breathing space
Family: Karin got her driver's license! We think we have figured out paying the rest of this year for Martin!

BAD STUFF
Our Marrakesh trip got abruptly canceled...the travel agency we booked with went bankrupt and sent us an email to say so sorry but your trip is off and here's the name of the insurance company handling your claims, but don't bother trying to contact them (I did) because they are not answering individual's inquiries and more info will be forthcoming at some unspecified time. I called the hotel in Marrakesh and the man I spoke with informed me that the bookings had all been canceled and the travel agency hadn't paid their bills for 5 months. I contacted the airline and our bookings were nowhere to be found, despite the fact that we paid for everything and received all the booking information. So sad, too bad, maybe we'll get our money back, after the banks and the vendors and the creditors, maybe not. My friend offered to rebook the trip with a different agency but I can't afford to spend the same amount (or more) again since even if it was a great deal, it was still a lot of money, so have to wait until/if we get the money back. UGH.

OTHER STUFF
Martin finished a metal box for his 3D design class that has a hinged, sectioned lid that makes this great creaking sound as it drops into place. His teacher liked it so much he gave him top marks even though apparently it didn't actually fulfill the assignment requirements. Last night, or rather, early this morning, I had a nightmare that Martin and I got into a huge fight because he had taken up smoking and I was so horrified. I yelled at him and cried and lamented what a sweet child he had been. None of it worked, and then I woke up. I'm glad he's doing well in school and that he's thriving there and all, but I miss him. Even though there are things, of course, that I don't miss, I miss HIM. Because we are going to the US for Christmas, he won't be home until next summer, if then, at the earliest. And even though I get to see him now for the holidays, I won't see him HERE for a very long time. Of course, when he gets here and realizes his sister stole his bed and switched it for hers (which was ours), he'll probably turn around and head back.

My to-do list is growing by leaps and bounds. I need to go grocery shopping and get the turkeys. I need to clean the house. I need to set up the bills for payment. I need to call my mom. I need to get out from under piles of laundry (in the works). I need to get Martin's prints framed. I need to purge some more stuff. Stuff, I'm coming for you!
 busy
mood: busy
music: none just me and my busy brain


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I can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.

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