About Nell

Goodbye December

New Year’s Day
sunlight on every field
is beloved

Matsuo Basho

That was 2022, folks. There have been better years, don’t you agree? But the focus of this blog post is December, and overall, it wasn’t too bad. Some parts were even excellent. Shall we have a look?

The first weekend of December, we went to visit my daughter to set up the Christmas tree. This year we had help: my very bossy and enthusiastic grandbaby did most of the work…as you probably can see on this detail image from the tree. Usually, we try to space out the decorations a bit more, but little W had other ideas. It was so much fun to decorate the tree with her. 😍

One early morning on my way to the office. I loved the color palette. I didn’t love the icy winds as much.

We were hit by a cold spell. For a few days, the temperatures plunged to -15C (5F) and I almost froze my behind off, but we lit both fires to keep warm. It was very cozy, but I was happy when it got warmer.

We had tickets to a concert one Friday evening. It was a Swedish synth-pop band playing, Adolphson & Falk, who were on tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of one of their most popular albums. It was a fantastic concert and we were energized and happy when it was over.

Only a couple days before we were meant to set off on our Christmas travels, we had car troubles and we had to leave it in the shop. The problem was more advanced than they’d first anticipated and it took longer than expected, so we had to wander around MalmΓΆ for hours and hours, waiting for the damned thing to be finished. In the end, they couldn’t fix it the same day, and since we were leaving early in the morning the next day, we got a rental. It was a foggy and dreary day and we had lots of stuff we were going to do that day in preparation for Christmas that we never got around to because of this hassle.

Let’s go to a bookstore, I said to my husband as we waited for the shop to get in touch with us about the car. I have new bookshelves to fill, after all. But Swedish bookstores are kind of boring if you don’t want to read Swedish or translated books, so I didn’t find a single thing I wanted to buy. Instead, I sat on a bench outside the store, muttering about how boring it was while reading a Christmassy story on my phone.

But in the end we left home as planned and arrived at my daughter’s house on schedule, where we kicked off the Grand Christmas Tour. On the morning of Christmas Eve (Swedes celebrate on Eve), my granddaughter discovered gifts underneath the tree that hadn’t been there when she went into the shower earlier, but that suddenly appeared at the same time as Gramma and Grampa 😍

After we’d opened presents and had breakfast, we left to have Christmas lunch with Little W’s other grandparents. Then we spent Christmas Day with my in-laws, and Boxing Day with my parents and brother.

On the 27th, the tour continued to a friend’s house where we were treated to lots of lovely food and conversations. Our friends have a huge great Dane who loved me (of course, he did; I’m allergic and can’t cuddle, so all dogs work hard to seek my attention) and guarded me and wanted to sit on my lap. He’s a beauty.

After that, we could finally go back home to some peace and quiet and a calm morning with tea and a book. I say “some” peace and quiet, because my daughter and her family went with us, and the house is never quiet with a toddler, right? 😍

New Year’s Eve was a lovely family affair, with an outdoors hot dog lunch, a beautiful New Year’s cake, a wonderful dinner, a New Year’s quiz (that I won!!), and cuddling with Little W by the kitchen fire. This moment right here in this picture, was the best moment of all of 2022.

Tell me something you did in December!

And here’s to a happy new year. May 2023 be better than the previous few years, amirite?

About Nell

Goodbye November

I survived November, my least favorite month of the year. Not only did I survive it, I kind of enjoyed it. Mostly because I decided a stupid month wasn’t going to break me, and it worked pretty well. There was a blip toward the end of the month a totally understandable blip, but we’ll get to that later.

But let’s get to the pictures, shall we?

On the first day of November, I considered going south with this flock of birds that made a stop by the train station on their journey south. I dreamed myself back to Malaysia, to 12-hour daylight days (give or take half an hour) and lovely warm weather. But. My grandbaby isn’t in Malaysia, or even in the south of Europe where I’m assuming the birds were headed, so I stayed put.

And my reward for being so brave was a long-weekend-visit by my favorite people, my darling daughter, her fiancΓ©, and Little W. They arrived on Thursday, so when I had to work (only half-day, but still) on Friday, Little W wanted to work, too. So she borrowed her dad’s iPad, and worked next to me on the floor by my desk.

If I could concentrate on working? Heck no 😍

There was a purpose with the visit, other than just having quality family time. My daughter gave me the most fabulous gift for my birthday back in September: a pottery class, where we learned how to do turning specifically, and it was SO MUCH FUN. The sad thing to the left is my first — less than successful — attempt, but as the hours passed, I sort of got the hang of it. I’ll show you the finished (glazed) result when I get it.

After the class, we had lunch, did some shopping, and stopped at a lovely cafΓ© for fika (we are Swedish after all) before we drove back home.

One evening, my husband asked, “Wanna go upstairs and read?” Unsurprisingly, I said yes (call an ambulance if I ever say no to a reading date with my husband, because if that should happen, there’s something seriously wrong with me), and we sat in the lounge area in our bedroom, found a mellow playlist, and then hung out for hours reading, listening to music, drinking tea. It was a lovely, lovely evening.

And speaking of books: another great thing happened in November. We finally bought and built bookshelves for my office. I’ve always dreamed of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and these classic Ikea ones almost fulfill that dream (after we bought the tallest ones and added an extra top shelf). The ultimate dream is to eventually build shelves that are designed for this space, but this will be perfect until that happens.

I still have lots of empty shelf space, because I’ve moved so much and have donated lots of my books, but that means I have the perfect reason to buy more books. Right? (It doesn’t matter if you don’t agree, I’m gonna tell my hubby you said yes πŸ™‚ )

But the best thing that happened in November was that I got to see one of my absolute favorite artists, ThΓ₯strΓΆm, live. And if you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you’re probably thinking, But Nell, didn’t you see him live back in May? Yes, yes, you’re right, I did. But this was different. The earlier concert I attended was held at a big venue, with thousands of people attending. This time, he played in a tiny club that only admits 600 people. So we were standing really close to the stage, I think three people stood in front of me, and I could almost reach out and touch him. I danced and sang and jumped and screamed for two hours (my poor feet!) And I cried when he played my absolute favorite song (which he didn’t play the last time). It was magical. Magical!

And then, one Sunday as I was driving to pick up my husband at the train station, November decided to show me it can be beautiful, too. It was a glorious autumn day with crisp, chilly air, and golden sunlight. They hubby’s train was thirty minutes late, but I didn’t care. I bought a cup of tea and soaked up some sun and rejoiced!

It was the last day of autumn, because the morning after, I woke up to this:

Snow! Ugh. But, to be fair, it didn’t stick around more than a couple of days before the rain came and washed it away. But the air is different now than before the snowfall. And I haven’t seen anymore golden sunlight like that day.

And then came the blip that almost hurled me into unhappiness. My husband tested positive for covid. And the day after his test, I woke up feeling sick, too.

But my test was negative. Huh. What are the odds that he tests positive, and I get sick at the exact same time as him, but test negative? Seems unlikely, so forgive me if I don’t trust the test.

We locked ourselves into the house and did our best to get better. My husband recovered quickly, after only a few days with very mild symptoms (I guess those four shots we’ve had helped?), but I still have (mild) sniffles so I’ve worked from home this entire week to be on the safe side.

So I’ve spent the last days of November recuperating by the fire. A lovely sparkling fire is good both for body and soul, and reading by the fire while drinking a cup of tea is probably my favorite thing to do in the whole wide world.

Tell me, how was your November? Was it gray and boring or did you have a (mostly) good month like I did? Did you do something fabulous? Tell me! πŸ™‚

About Nell

Goodbye October

Didn’t I just say goodbye to September? What happened to the month of October? No really, I’m serious. This month has whizzed by and I feel like I blinked and now it’s over. That means it’s November as you read this, and if you’ve followed me for a while, you know that November is my least favorite month of the year. I have a couple of fun things planned for the month, so keep your fingers crossed that it’ll be less miserable than usual.

But before we worry about that, let’s take a look back at my October.

October started magnificently. On the first morning, the sky was on fire; October was showing off like it was a peacock, saying Look at how pretty I am. This picture doesn’t do it justice; the sky was glowing, and it took my breath away.

I did a lot of traveling in October, which I guess is one of the reasons that it went by so quickly. The first trip was purely pleasure; the hubby and I went to visit the grandbaby and her parents. We hadn’t been there for so long (they’ve been hanging out at our place a lot), so a visit was long overdue. The weather was fabulous and all of us went for a walk. We bought a cup of tea (or coffee) and strolled by the water and it was lovely.

Here they are, the loves of my life. Little W and my darling daughter, owners of my heart, the lights of my life.

I’ve spent a lot of time on trains last month. We took the train to visit Little W, and the week after I went on a work trip Monday through Wednesday, going from the south of Sweden where I live to Stockholm, where we (me and my colleagues) had a customer event. Then we took the train from Stockholm to Gothenburg where we had another customer event, and then we took yet another train from Gothenburg back home.

Me and my colleague arrived in Stockholm on Monday evening, and we had a lovely dinner and stayed at a nice hotel. It was fun to hang out with my coworkers outside of the office, and getting to know them a little better. On Tuesday morning we did the first work event, which was very successful.

Tuesday evening in Gothenburg, and this is the view from the rooftop bar on the fourteenth floor at our hotel. We started with a glass of wine while enjoying the view, and then, for the second evening in a row, me and my colleagues had dinner together. Wednesday morning was a repetition of the day before and after a bowl of pho for lunch, we finally headed home.

I spent the weekend following that ordeal reading by the fire, swearing to my husband that I was never in a million years leaving home again. That was unfortunately a lie, because…

…the following Tuesday, we repeated the customer event thing for the third time, this time in MalmΓΆ which is much closer to both home and the office, so I left my ordinary time in the morning and was back home after lunch. This was the best event by far, and everyone participating was very satisfied.

But no one was happier than I when the whole thing was over and I could go back home, elated about the fact that there are no more work trips on my schedule for the foreseeable future!

Then on the Friday after the last work trip, my long-time BFFs came for a visit and stayed the entire weekend. It was their first visit since I moved back to Sweden; the intention was that it would happen long before it did, but the pandemic got in the way. But finally, we all had a free weekend at the same time, and OMG, it was so much fun! On Friday, I made dinner and we ate and drank wine and talked and talked and talked. On Saturday, we had lunch at the local restaurant, and then we went back home and spent the rest of the day by the fire and talking some more.

On Sunday, I was sad to see them go, but I have high hopes they’ll be back soon-ish. πŸ™‚

I decided that this is a great final picture for this post, because despite all the traveling and the visitors and the writing and the regular day job, I managed to find time to have a glass of wine and read a good book. I’ve been reading lots of physical books this month as opposed to ebooks, and books that aren’t romance! This, for example, is the Swedish translation of Circe, that I really liked even if it didn’t manage to meet my expectations. I’m a sucker for old Greek/Roman myths, and this book was very well written, even lyrical in places, but I somehow felt a little distanced from the story and the main character. It moved me, but not in the intense way I expected it to.

But it’s definitely worth a read, if you like mythology and beautifully written books.

That’s it, that’s the ten pictures from October 2022. How was your month? Tell me something you did! πŸ™‚

About Nell

Goodbye September

The time has come to say goodbye to September 2022. I’m a little sad to see it go; September is maybe my favorite month of the year (I can’t decide between May and September) because here, in my part of the world, it’s like the best of both worlds. One foot is still in summer, but the other is firmly planted in fall, and you all know by now that fall is my favorite season. So we’ve had lots of warm, sunny days but also crisp, clear air and tea-and-fireplace weather.

But! Let’s not dwell too long on the past; let’s instead decide to make October a great month, too. I’ve prepared well; I’ve bought a stack of books to keep me occupied, we’ve got firewood to last us through the winter, and I’ve got plans to make chai syrup so I can drink all the chai latte I want. Sounds like a plan?

But first, lets take a look at what I did in September, shall we?

On September 1st, I officially declared soup season opened. I apologize for the non-social-media-worthy picture (I should’ve wiped the bowl before snapping it! 😁) but focus instead of the contents. It’s taco soup with potatoes and corn and bell peppers and onions, and a big dollop of sour cream on top. It was glorious. And my husband, who forgets how much he likes soup every year, moaned and said “Soup! I love soup!”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. 😁

One morning, on my way to work, I was treated to this beautiful sky. Another great thing about September is that you’re actually awake to catch the sunrises. In summer, the sun rises in the middle of the night here where I live and who has the energy to get up at four to watch a sunrise? Not me 😁

Another food pic! I was in the mood for a good old Sunday roast with potatoes and gravy so I chucked a chunk of meat into my beloved cast iron pot, threw in lots of shallots, and was on the verge of adding a good splash of red wine when I changed my mind. I was in the mood for beer flavor, so I found a couple bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale in the basement and made Newcastle Brown Roast. It was extremely tasty, and felt very autumnal. I’ll definitely make it again.

September is also my birthday month, and on September 11, I turned fifty. Back when I was younger, I would’ve wanted to celebrate a big birthday with a huge party (I used to describe myself as a party princess), but those days are long gone. I told my family that all I wanted for my birthday was to spend time with them. No party. No guests. I just wanted to hang out with the people I love the most. (I also wanted birthday scones and a cup of tea for breakfast, and my daughter fulfilled my wish).

So I got to hang out with this fabulous little person on my birthday, who also had a big birthday in September. My darling little W turned 2 on September 17, and one of the gifts we’d bought for her was this easel from Ikea. Other than this blackboard, it has a whiteboard on the opposite side, where you also can attach a roll of regular paper, so it’s really versatile. And fun (for all ages!). It was a huge success and she drew many art pieces on the blackboard (it was her favorite).

My parents were also here for a visit and we shared a lovely lunch and enjoyed hanging out together. It was the perfect birthday.

I also got a bunch of lovely gifts. For example this iPad from my husband, who got tired of listening to me grouch about the other reading device I had (it was TERRIBLY WORTHLESS and I couldn’t stand using it, so I read on my phone and I’m old and the phone screen is too small…and well. You understand, I’m sure) 😁 I also got good quality kitchenware that I’d wanted for a long time, a $150 gift card in a bookstore (hence the stack of books I wrote about in the opening paragraphs of this post), and a pottery-for-beginners class that I’ll attend with my daughter in November (you can expect pics in my goodbye November post).

I had a few days off work after my birthday, but when I came back to the office, my colleagues had decorated my desk and bought me presents. They know I’m a bookworm and that I have a huge garden, so I got a beautiful gardening book and a gardening calendar. Their thoughtfulness made me very touched and happy 😍

But enough of with the birthday pics already; here’s a picture of a huge and bright full moon I snapped. It was even bigger in real life, and my phone camera can’t quite capture its magnificence, but you’ve all seen a fabulous full moon. You know what I’m trying to convey with this picture 😁

It got a bit chilly toward the end of the month, and we’re trying to hold off on switching on the heat for as long as possible. Instead, we’re keeping warm the old-fashioned way: with a fire! So from now until April (at least), you can expect at least one Nell is reading and having a beverage by the fire every month in these blog posts. If I could, I’d quit my day job and spend all my days reading by the fire, at least during the fall and winter months. But alas, that doesn’t pay well, so I guess I’ll just have to endure the day job…

…especially since my day job still allows us to work from home (at least a couple days per week), so on the last day of September I did just that, and I spent my lunch break reading Poirot on the couch. By the fire.

How was your September? Tell me something you did.

About Nell

Goodbye August

Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days
Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways,
With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember,
Some crimson poppy of a late delight
Atoning in its splendor for the flight
Of summer blooms and joysΒ­
This is September.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

September is here and i’m so ready for it. Not because it’s my birthday month (because apparently we have those nowadays), but because I’m so ready for fall. I’ve been longing for sweater weather for ages. I want steaming tea and crackling fires and beautiful gold-orange-red leaves. I want the crisp air and the beautiful light. I’m done with summer, I’m done with August, especially August, because we barely got a single drop of rain and the leaves are falling off the trees prematurely because it’s so dry. August has also meant working too much at the Stupid Day Job ℒ️ and not having time to see my beloved grandbaby. That last thing bugs me the most.

So unfortunately there will be no pics of Little W this time. But hopefully you’ll stick around anyway.

We started re-arranging my office in August. First we turned the desk in the other direction which I like much better and which makes the room feel bigger. We’ve also bought new storage units for the desk, and we’re looking for bookshelves to buy so I finally can take my books out of storage and display them. Ideally, I’d like a classic manor library vibe with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a ladder so I can reach the top shelf…but since I don’t live in Jane Austen’s England, I guess I’ll have to settle for Ikea stuff 😁

The best part (so far) with the office upgrades, is the coffee/tea station (on the shelf against the wall). My darling daughter gifted us their coffee pod machine thingy that they never used and so we set it up upstairs in my office. It also provides me with warm water for my tea, so instead of having to trek downstairs to get my morning fix, I now have something like five paces to reach the machine. Shorter, if I feel like crawling under desk (spoiler alert: I don’t!) 😁

“Let’s have wine and cold cuts and cheese when you get off work today,” said the hubby on a lovely Friday. I said “LET’S!!” and this was the result. Everything was really yummy and it was a lovely evening, spent with my favorite person, listening to vinyl records, and sharing a bottle of superb red wine. All Fridays should be like this one.

Also, if someone told me I had to pick one thing to eat for the rest of my life and nothing else, I’d probably pick parma ham. Or ramen. It’s a toss-up between the two.

One sunny afternoon when I was in a hurry to get home, there was a fire situation at the train station. Alarms were blaring and we weren’t allowed to go inside and the trains didn’t depart and I kept staring at my watch, desperate to go home. Luckily it was a false alarm and we were soon allowed inside…in time so I didn’t miss my train home. Yay!

One day when I worked from home, the hubby whisked me away and took me out to lunch. Granted, the reason was that we didn’t have any leftovers from the day before to eat, but it was really great nonetheless. There’s a nice restaurant only a few minutes away from my home, in a converted station building, who are only using local, in-season produce. It was a warm, lovely day so we sat outside, enjoyed each other’s company and the lovely food, and I even had a glass of wine to go with the pasta. Don’t you just love these little moments in life, the small breaks from mundanity? It’s the perfect way to recharge the batteries.

Speaking of restaurants, we tried another local “restaurant” or should I say stationary food truck. This is a Thai food place in the middle of nowhere (yes, that’s a barn behind it) and we were met with lovely smells and and a lady from Thailand when we arrived so we had high hopes for the food quality. Unfortunately, it wasn’t great, so we won’t be returning. Too bad, I like supporting the local businesses. And also, how great would it’ve been if this little food truck in the middle of nowhere had served excellent Thai food? πŸ™‚

Speaking of supporting the local businesses; we went to a tiny hole-in-the-wall pottery shop in the nearest village where the hubby decided I needed a pretty tea mug for the upstairs coffee/tea station, and this beauty is what I picked. We also bought a few other things, and I intend to go back because I love that little shop. And the artist (who has a Stupid Day Job of her own at the local grocery store) is so friendly and nice so I definitely want to support her.

The story behind this picture is really boring (trying a new train route to work, blah-blah-blah) but this old station building from the late 1800s is so beautiful so I had to include it. I have thing for old brick buildings (or old buildings in general).

And speaking of old buildings (lots of “and speaking of” in today’s post 😁) we went to an even older building to have coffee. This is Alunbruket, the oldest coffee shop in my province. The coffee shop itself dates back to 1930, but the building is from the early 1700s. This was a five-star experience; the house, the garden, the fika (you know we Swedes are fika crazy!), the company (my brother and his partner were visiting), the fresh mint tea with mint from the garden…everything was perfect 😍 I’m definitely going back there; I want to bring my darling daughter and her family because I know they’d appreciate it.

Seriously. If you’re ever in the south of Sweden and want to have a fabulous cup of coffee in an amazing location, you need to visit this place!

The month ended with me voting in our upcoming election. Election day is on my 50th birthday (9/11), and I don’t feel like spending it by voting, so I voted early. One morning when I was on my way to work, I noticed that they’d set up a polling place at the train station, so the next day I brought my voting card (Swedes don’t have to register to vote; as soon as we’re eligible, we get a voting card sent to us and we need that card and our ID to be able to vote) and did my democratic duty.

It was a difficult decision this year; all parties (we have a multi party system in Sweden) are more or less terrible, and in the end, I went with the least awful party that still aligns with my values. Ugh, is that really how democracy is supposed to work?

Yes, I know that this is the eleventh picture, but I felt that the last pic ended on a negative note, so I thought a timeline cleanser was in order. Echinaceas are currently my second favorite flowers (second only to wood anemones), and I’m planning on planting lots of them in my garden next year. Aren’t they pretty?

Tell me something you did in August πŸ™‚