Update

A few things have been going on lately, and things seem to be brightening up (besides the weather.)

I went to BIkram a few more times, and twice didn’t feel like I was about to die, but I’ve decided to stick with my home-yoga practice.  It was lots of fun going with my sister-in-law and my neighbor, though, and I’ll miss that.  I’m also happy with how much improvement I saw in just four sessions.  I can now touch the floor with both flat palms without bending my knees, which is something I’m pretty sure I haven’t done since I was twelve.  What played a big part in my decision is just that it’s pretty expensive, and in the end, I decided that I’d be better off investing in a pair of running shoes, seeing as they’ll (hopefully) last a lot longer.  I’m excited to start a C25K program.  I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to enjoy running, and I’m hoping I’ll find out!  I’ll definitely document my misadventures in fitness here, so stay tuned!

I also got a letter from the migration office, asking for a couple more things for the application, and it looks like we’ll get them in time, so I’m optimistic about that, too (at the moment).  It’s comforting just to know that they looked at it, and it’s in progress instead of just knowing that they have it.  Cautiously optimistic would describe me well at this point.

In other news, I’m hosting my knitting group tonight!  I’m definitely looking forward to it, and have spent the better part of today and yesterday getting treats ready!  I won’t say more than that yet, but I’ll definitely do a post on all of the goodies I’ve been working on.

I’ve also gotten back into knitting which feels wonderful!  I do baking, knitting, writing, reading, etc. in phases, so it’s no big deal when I don’t pick up my needles for a few weeks, but I’m definitely ready to dive back in!  I started on a pair of winter socks for my mom, and have a couple more projects rolling around in my head that I’ll start soon.

I’ve definitely been missing home a bit the past few weeks, seeing as the summer weather has really set in back in Wisconsin, while Sweden stillllllllll hasn’t caught up.  However, I’m trying not to think too much about it, and trying to focus on how wonderful it is to be with Andreas every day, even if it is just a few hours after work until he has to sleep again.  I know I probably won’t visit the states again until next summer, and I’m okay with that for the most part, but I occasionally realize that this has already been the longest stretch of time I’ve gone without seeing my parents, and I get a little bit gloomy.

My main focus in the past few weeks has been to look forward to the future, but try to balance that by finding good, small things in the present to focus on as well.  So far I’m surprising myself with how well it’s going.

Also, today I was able to pull my hair back into a half-ponytail (with the help of bobby pins) for the first time since I chopped it all off in January.  I forgot how good it feels not to have hair flopping into my face all day long.  I think I’m definitely done cutting it short for at least a while.  I’m excited to play around with it again, experiment with haircuts and hairdos (without cutting it all off into a pixie) and seeing my curls again!

In short, everything’s going well at the moment, and I’m feeling good again.  I’m excited to share all of my baking adventures in the next post, with pictures!  I’m also thinking about doing photo-a-day again in July, after taking a much-needed June reprieve.

 

 

A New Favorite

My husband and I have lots of favorite things (each other capturing the number one spot), but we have a new favorite thing.

Pita bread.

Not just any pita bread, though.  Homemade pita bread.  It started a couple weeks ago, when I was determined to find a few new, healthy dinners to add to our rotation, especially dinners that don’t contain allergies for Andreas (dairy and sugar).  I decided to do pita bread, hummus, and cucumber/tomato salad, and while it was really good the first time, with store-bought pita, I knew I wanted to try homemade, and my sister sent me the recipe that she uses.  I’m not sure where she got it from, but I am sure that I have to share it here.  Even the first time I made them, they puffed up beautifully, were perfectly soft, fluffy, and chewy, and we’ve been excited about them ever since.

Pita Bread (makes 8)

1/2 tsp dry yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 C whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 Tbs salt
1 Tbs olive oil

In a large bowl, mix yeast with warm water until dissolved.  Add wheat flour, then 1/2 cup unbleached flour.  Stir for about a minute in one direction (this activates the gluten in the flour).  Let the sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, and up to two hours.  Add the salt and the olive oil.  Mix well.  Add the remaining unbleached flour, about a half a cup at a time, then turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8-10 minutes, until smooth (dough should be tacky, but not sticky).  Return the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled (about an hour to an hour and a half).  Punch down and divide into 8, shaping each piece into a ball before rolling out into an 8-inch circle.

Cover the rolled-out pitas, but don’t stack them.  Place in a hot, dry frying pan for 30 seconds, flip, cook for one minute, flip, and cook one minute more (pitas should be all puffed up when you take them out of the pan).  Cool on a rack for a few minutes, then wrap pitas in a kitchen towel to keep them soft.

Even though this pita is amazing with hummus and cucumber-tomato salad, we had a lot of bell peppers to use the other day, so I decided to make fajitas using those and our Quorn filets (another one of our favorite things).  We now have another easy, super delicious dinner, and though the picture isn’t great, the meal was.

An attempt at positivity

Today I feel like there’s a lot, and also nothing, going on in my life.  Things are a bit confusing here, with visa application issues, a blooming identity crisis, hot, sweaty yoga, and three failed brownie attempts.  That’s right.  I tried again and they’re still not good.  I’m officially blaming Europe.

But instead of going into all of that (don’t worry, I’ll probably “go into” all that in future posts).  For now, I will tell a few good things that I’m grateful for and leave out alllllllll the other stuff.

1) We bought strawberries today, and I’m going to make strawberry shortcake.
2) I got two books from the library that I’m excited to read.
3) My hair is ALMOST long enough for a half-ponytail.  Progress.
4) I’m getting better at meal-planning and food-shopping
5) I’m getting to know my neighbors better, and feeling less nervous around them.
6) My apartment building now has “food waste” and other various recycling bins, which I’m super excited about.
7) I’ve made successful (and exciting!) pita bread twice.  Also, when we made fajitas yesterday for dinner with Quorn filet strips, Andreas said it was one of the best foods he has ever eaten!
8) I did not forget to call my dad on Fathers’ Day
9) I rode a bike in traffic for the first time in my life.
10) My husband is never-endingly understanding and supportive through my meltdowns, sobbing jags, baby fever, and homesickness.

So, although it often feels like it, not everything in my life is stagnant, or complicated, or going awry, and it feels good to focus sometimes on the small good things when complications interrupt.  I’ll end this before I start whinging about the brownies.

Bikram Yoga: or, that time I almost died.

My sister-in-law is a big fan of Bikram yoga.  I don’t know everything about it, but I do know that you do yoga for an hour and a half in 40 C heat.  (That’s 104 Fahrenheit!  I’m sort of glad I didn’t Google that until after I went.)  I’ve been doing my own very light, easy yoga at home every morning for the past month and a half, and I finally felt courageous and confident enough to go.  My neighbor is starting at the same time, so we both bought unlimited 10-day trial passes, to see how it feels.

So far, it feels like I’m dying.  The whole process was actually much .less nerve-wracking than I expected it to be, we got a nice introduction, a little tour, and then after changing, went to lay down on our mats to relax before class started,  I knew it was going to be warm, so I just wore short running shorts, a sports bra and a tank top.  Thirty seconds after I stepped into the room, I decided to lose the tank top.

The beginning portion of the class consists of standing and balance exercises.  This is when I died.  I’ve always had low blood pressure and low iron, so couple that with losing a pint or two of water through sweat, and I couldn’t stand upright without black spots swimming and multiplying before my eyes.  I had to take it easy through a lot of the first part of the class because of that, but I got through.  The second part was more sitting or lying down, and while still difficult, at least the fear of passing out and crumpling to the floor was gone.

Afterwards, we all sat in the hallway drinking delicious, hot orange tea and letting our sweat catch up.  I was still sweating bullets literally a half an hour after I’d left the “hot room.”

You know how they say that after natural childbirth, the endorphins flow so freely that it sort of causes pain-amnesia in women so they don’t quite remember how awful it was?   I have a feeling the same concept sort of applies here, and is sort of the reason I’m going back again tomorrow (and the day after that…etc.  I bought a ten-day pass, and I’m sure as heck going to use it!).

I feel okay now, three hours after class ended, and have made it a goal to drink a glass of water every hour.  I think I’ll thank myself for it tomorrow.

One thing I really liked about the experience is that it is, if nothing else, intense.  It sort of reminded me of my martial arts days where we’d often be heard saying things like “Oh my gosh, I’m going to throw up,” and we’d do it all over again the next day.  I’ve missed pushing my body, and while I didn’t necessarily “perform” very well today, I was definitely pushed to my limits.

I’m not sure if I’m a yogi at heart, or a Bikram yogi at least, and I can’t say that my experience today was….enjoyable, per se.  However, it felt good to get out and really do something, to push myself and be pushed, and to forget about everything that’s been making me feel so confused and depressed.  Heck, I’d go again just for that reason.

It’s not as good as I expected…

One day in the summer when I was still a kid, and my whole family still lived under one roof, my family was, for some reason or another, having ice cream sundaes as a treat!  It never took a lot to get at least the younger kids excited, and my sister, who was probably about five at the time was the most excited of all.  I’m sure as soon as she heard the words “ice cream sundaes” her imagination went into overdrive forming pictures of enormous bowls of seven flavors of ice cream, chocolate, caramel, and strawberry sauces, brownies, bananas, whipped cream, and at least a half a dozen cherries, and when her respectably-sized bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce, sprinkles, and maybe strawberries was set in front of her, her face fell, and when asked what was wrong, she answered ever-so-honestly “It’s not as good as I expected.”  Even now, whenever something doesn’t live up to expectations, we’ll mimic that child-like sigh and say “it’s not as good as I expected.”

Anyway, that seemed to be the theme of yesterday.  Like I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been wanting to make brownies for a while, and I decided to be adventurous and make black bean brownies, seeing as I had black beans, and I wanted brownies.  They smelled lovely baking in the oven, looked nice and moist and chocolatey when sitting on your plate, but then you ate them and…well, they didn’t taste like much, and they still had a strange bean-y texture, in my opinion.  I was pretty disappointed, and held onto them until Andreas got home, but when he proclaimed he didn’t like them either, into the food-garbage, they went.

Then, to make up for lack of excitement, I decided to make homemade gnocchi for dinner!  I tried to follow the recipe, but ended up having to use about four times more flour than the recipe called for.  This may or may not have had to do with the fact that I was lacking a scale, and so, to weigh out half a kilo of potatoes, I put a 500g jar of honey in one hand, and piled the potatoes in the other until they felt about the same.  Anyway, I’ve never had gnocchi before, so I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I got wasn’t quite as good.  They were definitely more edible than the brownies, and even enjoyable after I got used to them, but…I wouldn’t proclaim them a complete success.

So.

After dinner, I decided I was going to make real honest-to-goodness plain-old fudgy, chewy, delicious brownies.  I mixed them up, and put them in the oven with high hopes.  I made sure to check them at least five minutes before the earliest they were supposed to be done, but when I pulled them out, they were blackened around the edge with dark brown spots along the top, and no shiny crackly brownie-top to be seen.

I know they were only brownies.  But after a few failures, I was the personification of crestfallen.  My shoulders drooped, I frowned until I thought my face-skin was about to droop right off my face-bones, and I breathed in a succession of heavy sighs.  Andreas came into the kitchen to see how the brownies turned out, and I told him my series of woes, ending in a crescendo of “and the top isn’t even shiny!” and a sob.  He exercised extreme control in that he didn’t even laugh at pathetic me, crying over a pan of brownies, and just hugged me, the corners of his mouth quivering.

They were edible, but today they’re so hard it’s difficult to cut them, and though I softened one in the microwave and ate it with ice cream and it was fine, I’m still not satisfied.  I wanted brownies.  I wanted GOOD brownies.  I wanted brownies that I wanted to eat another of.  So I am not yet done with brownies for the week, and I’m off to foodgawker to find yet another recipe.

And hopefully, they will be as good as I expect.

Photo-a-…yeah.

So it’s June 10th and I have not posted my last week of photo-a-days from May.  That’s because I didn’t take a photo a day during the last week.  And I kept thinking to myself “oh, that’s okay, I’ll just take them now and post them later” but I already felt like such a cheater that I ended up putting it off more and more until we’re a third of the way through June, so I’ll give you the ones I took, and some extras to cover for the days where I lazed out.  And that will be good enough.  So there.

25. Unusual (I have weirdly shaped feet that poke holes through the toes of my shoes.  I’ve worn these shoes for maybe 2 months now…I even poked a hole through a pair of chucks once.)
27. Something Sweet
28. The weather today
29. A Number
Now for the extra credit:

These are Herbert (left) and Muriel (right) and they had built a nest directly above our balcony.

Apparently, they do this every year, and every year the chicklets blow out of the next and drama ensues.  This year was no different,  but it was fun to follow the drama for the weekend with my husband.  For a few precious moments, one of the chicks had fallen onto our balcony.  Did you know that seagull chicks are all spotted?!  Anyway, Andreas wanted to film it, but it got scared when it saw the camera, scampered away, and promptly fell through the crack in the floor onto the balcony below ours.  Nuts.  It eventually fell twice more off of the remaining balconies before joining its sibling down on the ground where we could see the parents alternately sitting on top of them and feeding them.  However, we’re pretty sure that a cat has eaten them, since they’re nowhere to be found anymore.

Next:
This is my and Andreas’s new favorite dinner.  We’ve been looking for new things to put into our weekly “rotation” of meals, and this one is now topping the list.  Homemade hummus is super easy in a food processor, and the whole meal has no allergies for Andreas!  Also, as soon as I learn to make my own whole wheat pita, it’ll be even more healthy.  We’re pretty excited about hummus, pita, and tomato/cucumber salad.

We’re also pretty excited about ratatouille…(with homemade crusty bread!)
You can also have this picture of me that Andreas took, because it’s the only picture we managed to (accidentally) take of the bread!  Look, it’s in the lower left!
It’s also sufficiently embarrassing to serve as my punishment for not getting pictures up sooner!

My goal for this week is to finish my Danish learning book/CDs and make a trip to the library!  Also, I’d like to (successfully) cast on a few new projects, but we’ll see how that goes.  Don’t want to be too ambitious, you know.

Oh, and I’m making brownies.

Gratitude

I left the states almost five months ago today, and moved to Sweden about three months ago.  As anyone who’s read a scattering of these posts will know, I have my ups and my downs, and while lately I had a pretty long “down” period, I feel like I really snapped out of it this past Wednesday.

I’d been feeling rather useless, and like the only thing I can do is wait.  Wait for my visa to come through, wait until I’ll be able to go to school again, get a job again, and honestly, wait for starting our family.  This hasn’t changed, it’s still true, but I’ve been feeling much better.  On Wednesday, I was busy.  I probably haven’t been that “busy” since I was preparing for my big move.  I spent the day with my nephew, since it was a holiday here in Sweden (so daycare was closed) but his mom still had to go to school since she studies in Denmark.  We started off going to the park nearby, armed with a skateboard, a bicycle and a lot of energy.  The park was a blast.  We made a castle for some ants, studied a spider, and got to play on some pretty sweet playground equipment.  I even had a discussion in some sort of Swedish/Danish hybrid language withe one of the parents there, and plucked up the courage to say hi to someone I had met once before, and recognized after I heard him speaking English to his (very cute) son.

After a few hours, we headed home, had a successful lunch, then had a neighbor boy over to play for a while, too.  I talked to some of the neighbors, and met some I hadn’t really spoken to before, went on a walk, had coffee with my sister-in-law, got to play with a baby, and then after dinner went to my knitting group.  I’m really glad that even though the first few times I went were really difficult for me, just because it was meeting new people, and I didn’t really have connections with them yet, like they all had with each other.  However, it’s only gotten better every time, and even though this has been the biggest group yet, I felt comfortable talking to the people around me, and stayed after many of them left, which is my favorite part of any sort of party–when there are not as many people, and we can talk more easily.  I felt really included, and was even able to open up about how difficult it can be to work up the courage to come.  I even walked home with a few of the people, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more like I’m starting to have a life here.  I was on a high that night, and couldn’t believe how wonderful the day had felt.  Sure, it has taken the next day and a half to “recover” from everything, but those are the days that I need every once in a while, to remind me that my efforts are paying off–not only my efforts to make sure I make friends and meet people, but also my efforts in learning to speak Danish, and to understand Swedish.

As I type this, I realize that even though I’m just waiting, and waiting for a chance to really begin the next phase of my life, I’m going to miss living in Malmö.  I’m going to miss the people, our apartment(s), knitting group, living so close to family, and the long, quiet, peaceful days. So as hard as it is sometimes, I’m grateful to have this time to take a step back and wait.

Our next step in life is going to be a really big one, and it’s going to be hard and exciting and I’m looking forward to it so much.  But I’m also glad I’ve had this time to sort of “prepare” myself for it.  I’m really grateful that I have the chance to really examine myself, figure out how I work best, and also to have a chance to focus on my relationship with my husband before we become a bigger family.

Now, if I could just get the sun to shine, I’d be thankful for that, too…

For Goodness’ Sake

This post is not about knitting, or baking, or language barriers, or anxiety.

This post is about how sometimes, you have these moments where you realize that although everything in your life has changed, you still haven’t.  How if you’re a total dummy in one culture and country, that doesn’t change when you move.

Today, I ate my cereal only to find out when I glanced at the bottom of the bowl that the milk was…bad.  I flashed back instantly to a dark, cold morning before work in college when I accidentally ate a whole bowl of cereal onto which I’d poured inadvertently-fermented apple juice.  I had thought to myself “this tastes funny, but I have to hurry up and eat and go!” I have also eaten donut holes in the early hours of the morning, only to notice later in the day that they are covered in cobwebby white mold (which the powdered sugar, unfortunately, disguised very well.)

Turns out, I’m a bit of an idiot in the morning before I’ve eaten, and although this is easily remedied by breakfast, the danger lies in those breakfast-laden minutes.  Fortunately, I don’t think a bit of spoiled milk will kill me, so I’m off to brush my teeth, and try to forget about the whole thing…

For goodness’ sake.

Catching Up!

It turns out, that I’m the kind of person who has to “play catch-up.”  This is why I haven’t yet posted my last week of May’s photo-a-day challenge (that coupled with the fact that I’m pretty sure that it’s not June yet because 1) how on earth could it already be June? and 2) it’s grey, cloudy, rainy, and cold.)  It’s also why I haven’t posted any of my recent knitting projects, but I am here today to fix that!

I’ve actually been knitting a lot since we’ve moved to Sweden, although before I joined the knitting group it was a bit of an off-and-on activity.  However, I’ve been on quite the kick recently and have managed to actually finish quite a few projects, so I thought I’d give a run-down.

First:

These were a few things I knitted for my nieces (one who is five and one who is…about negative four months old).  The hairband and giraffe were birthday gifts for the five-year-old, who enjoyed them even though her aunty Zeta sent them over a month too late for her birthday.  Oops.  The…other thing…is a sort of lovey for the new baby.  When I started making it, the sex of the baby wasn’t known, and it began life as a lion.  However, after realizing that a baby would probably eat most of the lion’s mane within its first few weeks of life, I decided to nix the mane and let the animal be whatever it felt like being, which is sort of a mix between Winnie-the-Pooh and a mouse.  While it definitely didn’t turn out how I envisioned it in the beginning, at least it was give-able, and I’ve learned valuable lessons for future lovies made for future nieces and nephews.

Next, I started on a pair of socks I found while browsing Ravelry, my first attempt at a color pattern:

I’m pretty happy with how they turned out (although one is noticeably more loosely knitted than the other) but they’re a bit small for me, so they’re going to make the trans-Atlantic flight and become a gift for my little sister, who is the only person I know whose feet are smaller than mine.

After that, I received a huge amount of yarn from my neighbor, and a request for a sweater for her (absolutely adorable) baby girl.  This one knit up rather quickly, as I just did a few changes to a sweater I had already made a couple of times for a couple of different babies in the past.  I added the heart design, the scalloped neck-line, and the buttons on the shoulder.

Luckily, I had just finished this before I managed to chop my yarn-holding finger and had to put my knitting on hold for a bit.  However, my mother-in-law, about whom I can never, ever say enough good things, knitted me a “dimsidut” (the Danish equivalent of “thingamajig”) to protect my finger so I can knit.  Check it out!
(photo courtesy of my chin)

Now I’ve just started a pair of socks for my mom, but I’ve run into a snag.  For some reason, every time I have to knit ribbing, it ends up looking great on the inside and pretty awful on the outside.  I’ll play around a bit more with it before I start the actual pair of socks, and continue looking around on forums for any tips, although I haven’t found anything applicable yet.  Any advice?

Next up: catching up on May photo-a–day…don’t worry, it’s coming!

 

A Change of Heart

When I was a kid, I always figured that when I grew up, my intense love of candy and sweet things would just sort of die down.  Candy is for children, not adults.  As I grew up, I realized that that was simply not true, and throughout college, I bought those five-pound bags of M&Ms and Skittles (and Sour Patch Kids).  In my defense, I also shared (having a five pound sack of candy is a pretty good ice breaker, after all) but all-in-all, I ate a LOT of candy.

I have spoken a few times about the candy “buffets” here in Sweden, and one thing I love about them is that they’re not just for children.  Sure, it seems that brightly colored sweets with brightly colored scoops and brightly colored bags scream “THIS IS FOR CHILDREN” but here, everyone seems to ignore that and I’m more often waiting for a mild-looking middle-aged man to be finished scooping his sour watermelon gummies than I am tripping over children eager to fill their sacks to bursting.  As an adult here in Sweden, I am given free license to love candy, and love candy I do.

However.

Something is happening to me, and has only begun happening to me since I’ve come to Europe this January.  Slowly (but ever-so-surely) I find myself less attracted to heavy-duty sweet things.  This is not to say that I don’t still eat cake and candy and cookies.  But I find myself eating just a few pieces of candy here and there and the attraction to cakes and cookies is shifting.  I used to want to eat everything I saw.  If I saw a triple layer peanut butter fudge layer cake, I’d want it.  If I saw turtle cheesecake, I would want it.  If I saw Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies, I’d want them.

Now, I sort of go “meh.”  When I was a kid, sometimes my parents would buy one of those big boxes of leftover donuts that they had for cheap at the end of the day in the grocery-store bakery, and the next day, we would each get to choose a donut (or a half a donut) to eat for breakfast.  I can vividly remember my mother saying one morning that the donut’s frosting was too sweet, and it made her mouth tickle.  Too sweet?  It was frosting, for goodness’ sake!  My mouth didn’t tickle!  Those silly grown-ups.  Now, I can totally see where she was coming from.

I think it comes from the fact that cakes here aren’t the same as cakes in the states.  Now, I can’t really generalize about “European cakes” because I don’t know that there is such a thing, but from what I’ve experienced, the cakes are always lighter, with thinner layers, and more airy cream-like fillings, not nearly as much frosting, and much less sweet.  I’m definitely not giving up on my good ol’ American treats, but I definitely want to learn more about how to make cakes that are not so heavy, dense, and sweet.  And when I do want to make one of my standby favorites, I’ve recently discovered the best way to indulge…

…miniaturely!  I tried to get a good photo of the finished mini-slices of cake, but it wasn’t working out for me.  I figured since it wasn’t happening this time (we were mostly eating the cake after dark) that it didn’t matter much because this is how I plan on making all my layer cakes in the near future.  A side-benefit is that I can make a half or a quarter recipe, and we don’t have quite as much cake that we don’t know what to do with!  Also, they’re really cute.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with my change in taste, and I think it goes hand-in-hand with trying to eat better.  However, my tastes have not changed so much that I want to eat licorice, so don’t worry, I’m still the same old me!