Thursday, December 31, 2015

Daily Jamie

Two Thousand and Fifteen

Somehow we're at the end of another year. Inconceivable! I love putting together these end-of-year posts because it's such a good reminder of so many moments that I've somehow forgotten about. And, of course, it's so bittersweet to see how much Jamie has changed over the course of one year. So here it is, the highlights of 2015, sandwiched between lots of work, school, laughter, routine, and, most of all, love. 
In January, to The Swede's delight, winter came and the lakes froze over, welcoming ice-fishing season. He was out every Sunday, during which time Jambo and I usually went to the movies.
February wasn't particularly exciting, apparently, because the most interesting thing I blogged about was how awesome sledding was. I mean, it was pretty amazing.
In March, Jamie got to go to his first live Melodifestivalen show. I promise he was just as enthused about it as his parents, just not the part where we were taking selfies.
My life's dream - which I didn't even know was a dream until it came true - was fulfilled in April when my choir performed a concert consisting entirely of Simon & Garfunkel songs. It was magic.
In May, these cool cats and I went to the Big Apple and tore up the town. Or the soles of our shoes, at least.
In June, we kicked off the summer with a long weekend in the medieval city of Visby.

I also got the chance to cook-a-long with a famous chef during Taste of Stockholm with my best gals.
July began with The Swede's and my work trip to Hamburg.
Then, a few days later, I flew up into the clouds with Gurra in his glider. Unforgettable!
Later, during our annual summer visit to Dalarna, we met up with Erin, Svante and the kids for a day of fun at Leksands Sommarland.
And, of course, what would July in Sweden be without a weekend at the beach?
We were back up in Dalarna with Mama and Papa Swede and the Segerstens in August because none of us were quite ready to get back to work.
Turns our we weren't back to work long, though. In September, we took a last-minute trip to Gran Canaria with our neighbors.
In October, Jamie and I had a blast going all out on our Halloween decorations and passing out candy to what seemed like the whole neighborhood. A tradition was born!
The Swede and I went on a date in the city to celebrate my birthday in November. We stayed overnight at a cozy hotel and saw a truly wonderful musical.
Annemor and Matt visited in December so we got to enjoy a couple of days with them and celebrate Christmas twice!

So, you see, 2015 was a good one. And not just for me. I'm so, so grateful about the fact that, at the close of this year, the people I love are safe and healthy and happy, a blessing I hope continues into 2016. Now, if you'll please excuse me, we're going to light some candles, pour some bubbly, set off some fireworks, and fight to stay awake until midnight.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Daily Jamie

December 24th
December 26th
December 27th

Christmas 2015

Another lovely Christmas in Söderköping with this beloved family has come and gone. This one was a little bit extra special because of the addition of a new Segersten:
May I present Charlie, sweet, silent puppy extraordinaire, who has inspired an intense love in his human family. He's super tiny and we had to be careful with him, but he's a very, very good puppy, as far as puppies go, and I must admit that I enjoyed his presence.  
Also new this year was my contribution to the julbord. I wanted to try to take a little pressure off of Mama Swede, who typically prepares, literally, a couple dozen dishes, but ultimately I did the opposite. I was to make the Janssons frestelse, a pretty simple traditional potato, onion, and anchovy casserole and found a recipe on the 'net. First, I needed to be reminded on Christmas Eve to actually make it. Strike one. Next, I followed the recipe. Unnecessary, I now know. I should have timed it, but the rough estimate of time that Mama Swede watched me follow the recipe, skin certainly crawling, was about four minutes, at which point she jumped in and saved me/the Janssons/Christmas.
Magnus's whole family, plus his sister's boyfriend, also joined us for Kalle Anka, dinner, and presents so there were a ton of people. Magnus's dad and little sister were particularly fun and laughed at all of our lame jokes. We didn't get any snow, which was a bummer, but I think we created a pretty cozy atmosphere indoors.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Daily Jamie

Cookie Party

Yesterday, for the third year in a row, Linda brought her girls over for a little pre-Christmas project. While the construction of the gingerbread houses was a bit tricky last year, the decorating part was super fun, so this year I baked up a batch of sugar cookies, whipped up some icing, and put out sprinkles, and let them go to town. The memories are hazy, but I've seen home videos of my mom hosting parties like this for the neighborhood kids when I was a child. I mean, is there anything more Christmassy than decorating sugar cookies? Exactly. And you wouldn't believe the fine motor skills on these small people! I was totally impressed by the patterns they created and the concentration with which they worked. Alicia must have decorated a dozen just on her own and I was glad that she was so prolific so that most of the cookies left along with the guests. We listened to the Frozen soundtrack and drank a ton of julmust and tried to get into the spirit despite the lack of snow. With some success, I'd say.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Daily Jamie

December 15th
December 17th
December 18th
December 19th
December 20th

December 21st 

These People I Work With

On Friday we had our company Christmas party. It was supposed to take place after work, but we're wild around here so we decided to do a little activity every hour during the day. It started at nine in the morning with a carol sing-a-long, then a couple of short contests, including musical chairs, which, lemme just tell you, is still a lot of fun a quarter of a decade or so later. In the afternoon we went full-on Mad Men and drank glögg and took jello shots to get us in the mood for an evening of bowling and an Italian julbord. I have awesome colleagues who I like even more when we're singing Christmas carols or running around the office carrying clementine-laden spoons in our mouths together. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Daily Jamie

December 12th

December 13th

Christmas, Take One

Annemor and Matt usually spend Christmas at home in England, so this year they decided to come and celebrate a little early. The Ladies Segersten drove up from Söderköping (Magnus stayed home with his man cold) and Mama Swede planned everything so that Saturday would be just like Christmas Eve. First, a late breakfast featuring a thick-sliced ham, then shopping, a full Julbord, then presents! I got to be Santa and pass them out because, apparently, "Mara likes to be the center of attention." Okay, I didn't hate it.  
After some very nice, and one pretty ridiculous, gifts were opened I had to sneak away to the church to rehearse before our Christmas concert. The show was at 11:00 pm but The Swede, Annemor, and Matt managed to drag themselves to the church to watch.

It was a lovely, long day; one of my favorites of 2015.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Daily Jamie

December 6th
December 7th

December 9th


I over-purchased pecans for my Thanksgiving sweet potato recipe last month and have had my eyes peeled for a Christmas cookie recipe featuring nuts ever since. Yesterday, after clicking around a bit on Pinterest, I discovered this recipe, which won my heart because I had all of the ingredients at home, and who minds swapping walnuts for pecans? They were supa dupa easy to make and all the ball-rolling was very relaxing so I can definitely recommend them. Okay, well, one thing: they're a little dry, but I think that might be because I chopped my pecans in a food processor, creating a lot of pecan dust. Maybe if you do a rougher chop with a knife there will be a better balance of powdery ingredients and butter. The Swede and Jamie don't like to try new foods, which, fine, I wasn't going to let them eat them anyway. I don't want them getting crumbs all over my house. So, yeah, that whole plate is for me.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Daily Jamie

A Message From Julkalendern 2015's Spokeswoman & Defender To The Death

Something truly divisive happens in Sweden every December: the annual Julkalendern or "Christmas Calendar". It's a 15-minute-long children's program with one episode every day from December 1st to 24th. It's different every year and it's typically a story arc, often with some sort of mystery that needs to be solved. Most seem to think that the story needs to be classically Christmassy with lots of snow and coziness, so ones like last year's, which was a pirate treasure hunt-themed story that took place in some warm vacation spot, aren't popular. But as I said, it's divisive so whatever the premise is, viewers either love it or hate it. Oh, and then there's always drama about which age group the program is appropriate for, since you can't pander to the toddlers, but it can't be too scary either because they're probably watching anyway. So that brings us to this year's Julkalender: A Thousand Years to Christmas Eve. Honestly, just thinking about it right now is making my heart pound. I'd be hard pressed to name a bit of entertainment that I've ever been more excited or enthusiastic about. Here's the premise: a real-life couple who are both entertainers and authors, travel a thoursand years through history, from 1015 to Christmas 2015, to illustrate Swedish history. It's set during a whole year, spring, summer, autumn and winter, and various children act as sidekicks in each epsisode. It takes on Swedish history from a child's perspective, with topics such as clothing, housing, livelihood, food shortages, and fear of famine and war. It's role-playing, not acting, and the kids comment on what they're experiencing throughout. They film in actual locations left standing from the particular time period the episode is set in and everything is based on research from historians and other experts. Also, it's HILARIOUS. I wish everyone I know spoke Swedish so they could understand the quick, astute, and often political dialog. For example, in the first clip above, after the dancing, the kids ask what in the world their parents are doing and the mom answers that they're illustrating with their outfits that men and women are equal. She then says that all the dancing has made her hungry so she's going to go to the kitchen and make some food for the family and they can just relax and stay where they are. One of the kids, then, comments into the camera how strange it is that they were making a big deal about how men and women are equal but then it's still the mom who is always taking care of everything in the kitchen. "I think that's a little strange," she says. Guys, I could go on and on. And I don't care if little kids don't like it or if it's not cozy enough for everybody or if everybody else hates it because it's this girl's dream show. I think it's pure magic and it's totally making my month.