Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Mercies and Muffins

If I were to say the word mercy to you, what would you think I was talking about? A little while ago I posted Eliza Gilkyson's song ' Tender Mercies' at the end of one of my posts, and again today, after listening to that song I found myself contemplating the concept while sipping a lunchtime cup of coffee in my so-in-need-of-a-thorough-cleanup kitchen. And by the way, I am hoping that the oncoming polar night, when the sun doesn't rise at all all only barely peeks above the horizon, will take care of that. Well, that and candlelight. But back to mercy. I actually took a peek at my dictionary, and it said the word means compassion, benevolence, kindness and yes, forgiveness. Wow. A pretty big word that one.

Obviously, in a religious context, the word is used a lot. God is merciful. At least to some. To others, he is judgmental and terrifying. Well, I hope that whomever or whatever your god is, that s/he is a merciful one. Because we humans are weak and fragile creatures, and mercy is what we most need, every single day. 

But not just mercy as seen from a religious viewpoint, but as shown towards each others every single day. Compassion. Kindness. Benevolence. Forgiveness. I'm thinking I might embroider those words on a piece of fabric and hang them on a wall in a place where I could be certain of seeing them often. Because that is how I would like to live my life. Let the others keep the tough. I'll take the inner strength. Let them keep the selfishness, the my-right-to-gain, the insensitivity, the distrust. I'll take the trusting, crying-over-cruelty-in-headlines sensitivity over that any day. Call me stupid if you want. For I know it has nothing to do with my IQ. Tell me that the world is cruel, that for sure one day I will loose my silly compassionate heart and learn to live by the ''true standards'' of our world, and I will tell you that I have seen the kind of cruelty most people never will. I know exactly what lies in wait when people stop showing mercy. And no, I will not go there again. Ever. Call me silly all you want.

Right on.

And it's not half bad an idea to show some, no, make that a lot, mercy towards ourselves as well. Don't know about you but I certainly beat myself up the head all the time about things I should do, things I forgot, things I didn't do fast enough, well enough. About things in myself that I would like to be different. Damn this is a hard road! Why don't I just curl up on the sofa and watch Big Brother 24/7 or something?? Why do I torment myself, like my darling Harley Hairy Person says, by thinking way too much and way too complicated?

Because that's how I am. I am a fruit loop. There. I admit it. And mercy is what I shall try to show towards myself for being, indeed, this strangely wired, probably maddeningly loopy creature. And because mercy is also those little mercies of life, here is a couple I decided to give myself the other day...

Just click on the header
for the recipe.
They're very, very easy to make
and perfect for brightening
up a dreary
November day.
And you can use those
about-to-go-black bananas
lurking at the bottom
of the fruit bowl...

And as the day is now turning towards the afternoon and I can already see the sun setting, I shall light those candles and tuck the vacuum cleaner even further away in the cleaning cupboard. Got some lovely ribbons and fabrics from a charity shop, some of which I used to decorate a brown velvet skirt also bought at the shop...

...and some of which I am planning on using on an angel doll I am making for the Daughter for Christmas and which I shall continue on now. The dust is not going anywhere. 

So have a lovely evening and show yourself some little tender mercies, won't you.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Project Happiness or Happiness Project

Happiness. Isn't that the most elusive concept on the planet. What is it exactly? How do you go about getting it? Can you do anything about it or is it something that either comes out of nowhere or just simply keeps its distance  no matter what we do? Well, drop me a note if you know. Me, I tend to think that even though I can not exactly say that I am fundamentally, exultingly happy all the time, there are days, moments during the day when I find myself being quietly, peacefully happy. Satisfied. Though granted, this autumn has been an extremely difficult one on that respect as peace has been seriously lacking in my soul. I am still looking for it. Maybe it will come with the first snow. Cover me like the snow covers the wet, muddy ground. Here's to hoping.

Meanwhile, I read this post by one of my favorite bloggers, Love Out Loud, and it got me thinking about how there really are things in life that can not be changed, no matter how much you might want to. In my case, for example, the place I am living in now is not my 'dream town' but I have ( had ) to come to realise that this is where I am planted and shall have to continue growing in. My entire adult life I have been a drifter. Even if I did stay in one place a couple of years, I was always ready to up and leave, pack my bags and boxes and go where the wind took me. I did not belong anywhere. It was a mental state of rootlessness which I savored and was happy with. No ties, or if there were, I wouldn't think twice about breaking them. People came and went. Places too. In some, I would be invited to become a part of a community, but because of my inability to allow myself to just be still, I would always say thanks-but-no-thanks and leave, sooner or later.

Now here I am. In an ugly little town at the arctic circle. Sure, the nature is fantastic, but so it is in many other places on this big planet of ours, so why here? Because of people. Because of my family. And if I think about what is balanced in the scales of life for me here, I can honestly say that it is no great sacrifice, really. I think that in the world of no borders we live in today, it is all too easy to think that indeed, you can plant yourself anywhere, and while theoretically, you can, I have experienced that it comes with a price. The price of being on my own. And while for a long time that was a concept I cherished, I no longer do. We live in a society where generations are cut off from each other and where independence is a trait so cherished that some people actually talk about teaching their children to be independent when they are practically still babies. Well, no thank you.

So, I now live in a town where you are guaranteed to be speaking to somebody who knows someone from your family, your dad, your cousin, your sister. Or someone who went to school with someone you know. A thought that would only some years ago driven me up the wall. And, gasp, I have actually begun to think that yeah, this is the place I could very likely live the rest of my life in and be buried somewhere next to my grandparents in the same graveyard I used to work in the summer as a kid tending the flowerbeds. Boring? Maybe. But somehow, there is something strangely reassuring about that thought as well. Oh wow. 

My Daughter 
with her
at a creek this autumn.

My Mother
my adorable little Niece.

You see what I am talking about?

Does it mean that I will never leave this place again? No. I love traveling, and will continue doing so. Most of my traveling I have done alone, and loved the total freedom of that, but even if in the future certain things might put a curb on that, like, well, health, then I shall simply travel with other people. And learn to look at these other people as something other than hindrances on my 'freedom'. 

A little while ago I read a book in which a character asks another if they consider themselves happy. And gets the answer that sure, they do. Afterwards the person having been asked thinks to herself how ''white people always wonder if they are happy enough''. White or black or blue, I believe this is where we go wrong. We keep wasting our time asking ourselves if we are happy enough instead of just, well, learning to derive happiness from all those things in our lives that are well and good. And if you are reading this then you are among those people on our planet that does have things to be happy about. Believe me. If I can say that I have things to be happy about, so can you. And I am not exaggerating here. 

But as to sheer unhappiness. Are we then supposed to just accept everything as it is given to us and live our lives with all those things that make us unhappy? No, at least I don't think so. If there is something in your life that is making you seriously unhappy, and that is in your power to change, do so. But if it is something that you have no power over, remember, knowing how to pick your battles is one heck of a life lesson I too am still all to painfully learning about. 
So, now I am going to go and have a cup of tea with a friend of mine who is working in a lovely little cafe downtown that also sells all sorts of local handicrafts, have a chat, ponder a little about life, go pick up my little one from the kindergarten, cook some dinner, bake a cookie or two, and end the day with a book, a kiss and a hug. Happy? I don't know. But if in the evening I can say that it was another day spent without having to take a ridiculous amount of painkillers, without having to resort to my walking stick, without having to cry because of emotional and physical stress, if it has been a day without fear, then at least I am going to say that if not happy, it was, after all, a day I can be satisfied with.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Braided Bread And Just Being

Yesterday I wrote that the winter is around the corner. And it is. Though it seems to be running a little late this year as by this time during the past years we've already had at least some snow on the ground. Now, its just the frost on the puddles and car windows in the mornings. The picture on the left was taken three weeks ago and already the colors are all gone from the trees. I do have winter tyres on the car though by now, and the engine heater cable is curling on the back seat like a rubber snake announcing the cold moths ahead. The Daughter is kitted against every possible weather in gore-tex boots and a winter overall that cost more than any single piece of clothing I've ever bought for myself. Sometimes one has to wonder what on earth they make those kids winter outfits from. Gold?? Oh well, at least she will be warm and dry come blizzards or deep freeze.

And me? Well. I've transferred from thin stockings to granny style woollen ones. Dug out the wool coats from the attic. Am wearing thicker skirts. Oh. By the way, just realised the other day that I have not worn  jeans, trousers, call them whatever you want, for more than six months now. Did wear exercise pants once, though. Not for exercising, however, but for wild raspberry picking. Those bushes are murder for the legs. 

So. What on earth have I been wearing then, would be a valid question as naturism is hardly an option I would see myself embracing any time soon. And what I have been wearing is skirts and dresses. How this happened I am not entirely sure, though I must say that after trying in vain for years to find a pair of jeans that would fit and generally just not liking trousers, I have finally given up. Dresses and skirts are just so darn comfortable. And naturally, dressing more and more thoroughly vintage also has something to do with it. Or maybe I'm just strange.

Not quite there yet, but
I can see me and Nora Batty
having a lot in common in the years to come...

Anyhow. As the winter approaches I've also noticed myself turning more and more inwards. Towards the home. Whereas the spring all but calls you out to spend as much of your time as you can outside, autumn seems to invite you to light candles, make a cup of tea and sit comfortably inside while the rain beats the windows and the leaves fly. And to make the scenario perfect, add the scent of freshly baked bread.

I might have said this before, but my Mom is a professional baker and the scent of freshly baked goodies has always been a part of home for me. Now, as I am for various reasons choosing and having to choose life on the slow lane, I happily bake bread myself at least a couple of times a week myself and recently purchased this crafty little piece of equipment...

It's a baguette tray.
those nifty little 
holes in the bottom 
make for
nicely crisp crust.

Already I've been making ordinary baguettes on it, as well as little breakfast buns. And one rainy afternoon I started fiddling around with the dough and came up with these...

Golden Baguette Braids.

To make just prepare your basic white bread dough, 
which I do like so:

Take about 5 dl/2 cups of warm water. Dissolve
two packets of dry yeast in it, or alternatively one
cube of live yest. Dribble in some ( half a teaspoon)
sugar and let stand for about ten minutes.
Add 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix.
Start mixing in the flour in small parts using a 
wooden spoon. And listen now, m'dear, I am not being
some sort of kitchen snob with the wooden-spoon-business,
it just seems to work best for me. 
So, mix in around 12 dl/5 cups of flour, and in the
end, scrap the spoon and pour the dough on 
a floured table and start kneading. Do not
make it too solid, but rather very
moist but still so that you can handle it.
At this point I tend to add a generous
helping of olive oil into the dough
and work it into it, but you can add the oil, or butter
earlier when you're still working with your spoon.

either let the dough rise for about half an hour
or do like I do, make it into buns, baguettes, braids
or whatever and lift on baking tray, cover with
tea towel and let rise in a warm place.
Mix one egg with a splosh of milk and
brush the surface with the mixture.
Stick in the oven at around
200C until golden. And if you want even
crispier crust, place a little bowl or plate filled
with water in the bottom of the oven.

And should you want some variety, try adding some honey
into the dough while you are mixing it
with the spoon.

Now it's time to head outside. I've been sick again for the past couple of days, no news there, I'm afraid, but I promised myself a trip to the bookstore today. The Daughter gets to pick some books for herself and me, weeeellll, I don't think explanations are needed here.

Take care, light some candles, hug your loved ones and read a book or two. I will.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Words of...err...wisdom??

That there on the left is our new kittycat. All of three months old now. And as you can see he is wanting to paint with the Daughter. No. Not really. What he wants to do is eat the paintbrushes. But he's cute anyway and we love him to bits.

And I think I have started this post about four times by now. And deleted it. For no other reason than that I did not think it was what I wanted it to be. Yes. Those three extremely crucial sentences were not up to my dubious standards. World peace would never be if I did not get them right. Mountains would fall. Volcanoes would erupt and we would all be covered in ash. 



Time for a reality check, Mama.

Time to cut yourself some slack. Heck, make that a lot of slack.

Time to stop. To look at yourself in the mirror, at peace. At ease.

To let yourself be loved. To be taken care of. To for once give in.

You do not have to take care of it all.

If you stop, your world will not fall apart.

Trust those who love you.

Let them be there for you.

Have faith.

Because right now you need that far more than

perfect words on your computer. 

Or anywhere.

I believe I have mentioned earlier that my Daughter is at a Waldorf-Steiner kindergarten. Last week was a fall holiday at schools and kindergartens here, and during the Fall Fair at the Steiner School the week before I took some pictures of the kindergarten simply because I want to share with you too the difference there is to any major, one-hundred-kids-in-a-concrete-building sorta childcare center. Mind you, I am not saying that it is not possible to get first class care in a bigger and differently oriented kindergarten than the one my Daughter is in now, but every time I go in to pick her up I just love seeing how the kids thrive in there. I am also aware that maybe this is not everyone's cup of tea, but I like it. She loves it. We're staying.

doubles as
place for
lunch and snack.

For play
are cleared away
and out 
come the baskets
of fabric and other


Daughter at
the fair,
riding the
''tournament horse''.

And because the winter is knocking on the door here, I am going to spend a moment saying goodbye to summer and autumn by this picture of my little one with her friend, playing at being fairies on one long, hot summer day. Bring on the snow. Bring on the frost. We'll live. 

Bye bye summer.
Bye to you too,
Hello again,
May you bring
warm hearths
and hearts.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Treasure The Ordinary

Treasure the ordinary. My Daughter is back from her trip down south and though its only been a couple of days, life already seems to be settling into something resembling, well, ordinary life. This morning I took the Daughter to the kindergarten for the first time in almost three months, and what a joy it was to watch her being greeted by her friends calling out how much they'd missed her, to see them encircling her in the yard, asking for her to tell where she'd been, to tell everything. And as I left her there, full of stories of summer, and headed to the university myself, I couldn't have cared less about the grey, drizzly weather, about the exam I am not prepared for or the deadlines I've missed, about the car making strange noises or the fact that as I hurried to dress this morning I put on a pare of holey stockings. Sure, my life could be so much more organised, so much more, well, efficient. So much more of so many things. But it isn't. And it's all life.

Last night I dreamed of running. Not running away from something. Not escaping. But running, purely for the joy of movement. I was running through fields and forest, feeling the wind on my skin and smiling for the joy of being able to move so effortlessly. For the joy of my legs not being in pain, my heart pumping blood to my veins easily, oh so easily. I watched the ground as it sped underneath my feet, the sky. Even now, I can easily get a hold of that feeling. I remember that feeling. And I hope against hope that one day I can again feel that feeling since right now that, if anything, is what I lack. Not health, as such, because that I will never have, but to be healthy enough. Treasure the ordinary. I say that again. Because to everyone who has health, it is ordinary. You do not think of it. It is a part of your ordinary existence. Until it ceases to be. And at that point, at least in my case, no amount of money in the world can buy it back. There are things that you can do, but when it's gone it's gone.

Which brings me to food. I've again had to revise my eating regime to make sure I am getting all the necessary vitamins and stuff so that at least what I eat is not working against me in stabilising this pesky little lupus thingy. And don't get me wrong, this is no diet I am talking about here, but rather making sure that I get what my body needs to get nutritionally. I mean, I like food. I like cooking it. Baking it. And eating it. Which is not a problem for me because I do not cater to the idea of there being one-size-fits-all. In anything, really, let alone lookswise. I am tall. I am curvy.  I am a big handsome gal. As I was leafing through some images online, my Daughter saw this one and immediately shouted out loud: '' Mommy, that's YOU!'' Oh. Ok. That's cool.

She does look
kinda familiar...

For a long time in my life I listened to some people very close to me telling me to wear a certain style of a shoe because it made my feet look delicate and look now, I do not have delicate feet. Not by a long shot. They are short, wide and pretty much mangled up from pointe ballet shoes. And I remember all those comments about not wearing a certain length in a skirt or dress because it was not becoming due to my strong, muscular calves. Yes. I have calves that refuse to fit into any regular sized boot. Always did. Even when I was very, very much smaller than I am today my calves had a life of their own. So, did I only wear that certain style of shoe or skirt length? Of course I did not. I wore what I wanted, but little sneaky comments like this still tend to lodge themselves inside the deep recesses of your brain matter and pop up when you least want them to. Today, though, I tell these little comments to take a hike. I think one of the best compliments I've ever gotten was very recently in a rockabilly sorta evening happening. It was already very late, I was feeling less than fresh as a daisy and me and my Harley Hairy Person were getting ready to leave when a friend of his looked me up and down, then did the same to him and said: '' You both just look so completely like yourselves.'' Love that. Just love that. 

And you know what, not a long time ago I was asked if I wanted to become a model. As in a plus size model. Now. Plus what? Does that mean I am over some mystery line in size after which a woman becomes out of line? Naturally, I got a bit curious and did some internet searching on the topic of 'plus size' and whoopsadaisy... A so-called regular woman is apparently around 164cm tall and wears a size 42-44 (UK14-16/US12-14). The average so-called regular model is about 180cm tall and wears a size 32-34 (UK4-6/US2-4). And what they call a plus size model is generally a woman who is almost as tall as a regular model but most often wears a size 40-42 (UK12-14/US10-12). Confusing, eh....

They call her
a plus size model.

And this is obviously
the ever so lovely
Christina Hendricks.
Widely touted in the media
as being
plus size...

So this is what we
as women
should model 
ourselves to?


And just to give you an idea
of how things have
been changing, here is
what models
used to look like...

They would
probably call her
fat today.

I don't mean that there aren't some people who are naturally very, very thin, because of course there are. Just like there are people who are very short, very tall, very redheaded, very blonde, very anything. But when you hear the alarming reports of eating disorders starting to show up in girls as young as 5 or 7 years old, you really, and I mean really, should get a  bit concerned. The plain truth here is that media is obviously not showing us a representation of women as we are, and if you compare the image of women in media to the one of men you don't really have to delve all that deeply to see that the variety of roles and images given to men are much more varied and permissible, more real. Even when it comes to what they call celebrities. The men, it seems, don't really look all that strange, but just take a look at the women. What in the name of lord is going on in here? 

She says she is
does not watch 
her weight
loves to eat...

This is something I feel quite strongly about. Both because I grew up in the world of ballet and gymnastics that was nothing if not productive to all sorts of eating disorders, but also because I am a mother. And my Daughter is built just like me. Already taller than her peers, with a muscular, strong build. And it chills me to the core to hear of children only about six months older than her having eating disorders because they have been told that they have to be thin. Delicate. Skinny. I don't want my Daughter to ever question her body, no matter what shape or size it is. She will, I know, but I wish she didn't have to. And that's why I tell her that she is beautiful. That she is smart and strong and brave. Just as she is.

Card from

And I never did take up on that modeling offer. Not the one for lingerie modeling either... Though I have to say that after the initial open mouthed shock subsided I laughed and told the woman running the lingerie boutique that while I was very happy that they would like to be represented by someone like me, practically forty with all these happy little lumps and bumps and stripes and scars, it was really not for me. I probably went home and did a little baking. A little reading. And sat down in the evening in the faded pink velvet armchair in the corner of my Daughters room and watched her sleep. Curled my short, stubby feet and chunky calves underneath my thighs with the circumference of a supermodels waist, and again thought how lucky I am that I get to live an ordinary life. Ok. Maybe not so ordinary, but what passes for ordinary in my quirky, un-super-modelly, so-not-celebrity life. 

This here is pretty much the only song I've ever sung to my Daughter, a lot, when she was a baby. And Puff The Magic Dragon, of course. And sometimes, she still asks me to sing this one. And I do. Completely and utterly out of tune and creakily and squeakily I massacre the little song and yet she hums and sways to it, and that my dears, that is acceptance. That is her, loving me, just as I am.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Lupus and Apple Pie

I have been resting, basically in what is bedrest, for the past day or so. My face is flaming red with the lupus mask, all the ittybitty joints in my hands seem to be shouting out loud and the exhaustion, well, fatique is what they call it but call it whatever you wish, it is not a terribly lovely feeling when you simply can not stay awake and your whole body feels like there's lead in your veins instead of blood. And if I hear one more person tell me that I need to not stress I will scream. If I have the energy, that is. I mean, I know. Controlling stress helps in trying to control the actual physiological manifestations of lupus. If you have SLE, even so called normal daily stress can exacerbate the disease, the musculoskeletal and skin symptoms, the continuous fever and pain. But what can one do, live in a bubble?

No. One can not live in a bubble. Moving to live as a hermit in some Arctic Sea island is hardly an option. Sooooo, what actually is an option? Since much of the stress in our life is also caused by things beyond our own control, the behavior of others as well as unforeseen changes in our professional, financial or social life, the only thing left really is to turn the gaze inwards and try to find a way of not letting it get to you. Which I am crap at. But damn if I don't try. 

I've been called a bleeding heart liberal, an eternal idealist, a soft-hearted fool who carries all the troubles of the world on her shoulders. When I was a lot younger, about a half of a life-time ago, I used to keep up a shell of iron. Helped a lot I might say when you are hell bent on banging your head and fists against every single real or imagined fence of ignorance or injustice. But, as I got older and the shell started to, instead of growing thicker, to crack,  as the skin on my hands started to show through the fissures, to bleed and to grow scars, I was faced with a choice. Either you stop caring and let it all just wash over you or you still bang your head and your fists and you hurt and bleed and grow scars and cry and care, but this time, without the protection of the iron cover of the youth. 

Well, it's pretty obvious what I 'chose'. Which makes it a bit tricky now that I am also dealing with this little misbehaving disease of mine. Catch 22, one might say. But what's a life without challenges, huh?

Yesterday I enrolled the Daughter in swimming school, and am myself contemplating starting figure skating classes for adults. And for sure, it's off to the gym via a trip to a physical therapist very soon, even if I can only do five reps instead of the 75 I used to be able to. I've been told to try things like yoga or tai-chi, so maybe I will. I would love to be able to take dance classes again, though I know I will never again get to the point where I myself would be able to teach them. But what I will be able to do is take long walks outside in the evenings with my Daughter, bike rides too. To see the season once again turning.

And as it is indeed autumn here, I have, when I have the energy, been up to all sorts of bakings and preserving-of-thingies. Recently I made this apple pie, I mean, what could possibly be more autumny than an apple pie?

The recipe can be found 
and a similar one in English

I have also gotten bitten by the home improvement bug. Again. And my bank balance is right now thanking the fact that I am drawn towards the old and rickety instead of the brand-new and designery...

In the bedroom.

And whoever says books don't breed hasn't been to my house. When we moved in here last October, I covered half of the walls in the living room with bookshelves. And now, that is no longer enough... There are books stacked on practically every flat surface, on top of the rows on the shelves, on floors and chairs. Soooo, what else is there to do but dedicate one more wall from the living room to the books...surely I did not hear anyone whispering that I should contemplate selling some of them....Nooo, come to me little ones! Do you know what I did just the other day? I checked some facts I needed to know in an actual encyclopedia instead of Googling them and how lovely was that I tell you. I mean, I know I know, technology is everything, but real life books for me, yes, I am one of those people who sometimes just smells books...

And as poetry
is one of
the loves of my life,
below is just one of the many
new additions 
my flock.

Poetry by
Margaret Atwood.
If you've only 
ever read
her prose, do check this out.

And on a different note...
another ittybitty addition,
but then again
maybe not 
so different after all.
Identity in Difference. 
Good Ol Hegel...

It is now afternoon and I am in bed. I wonder if I can make it outside today, there's a breeze out there throwing the leaves around. I can see it from my bedroom window. I think I am going to try, maybe a trip to the library, even. And because I have come to realise that even though lupus is much more common than is generally thought, people tend to know very little or nothing about it and that has a straight effect on the time and money given out to research and, of course, to finding a cure. So, please watch the video below and spread the word. 

Thank you.