Growing family

No, I don’t mean that there are more of them, but the grandkids are getting bigger!

During my recent visit, we took the family picture the same way we had done before, and the evidence is clear: all the babies are growing up. To be even more adorable, of course! And it makes being Grandma more and more enjoyable!




These days we can have very deep and challenging conversations about dinosaurs, bunnies, excavators and all the other things that are miraculous part of the world. And they get increasingly cuddly too! Yes, I’m aware that they one day will deny all of this, but we’re trying to live in the moment now. And I’m saving all the funny and embarrasing moments for a good story to tell when they are a lot older.


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We need to talk

“We need to talk”

I’ve learned that these words might make up one of the most uncomfortable sentences a person could ever hear.

These four little words  do  not ever mean: “I want to have a nice conversation with you, possibly over dinner”.   No, it means there is going to be bad news. It means the other person has something to tell you, that you don’t want to hear. And you might need to brace yourself. There is  a slight chill of fear down your spine. How hard will it be? How much will it cost?

It could be different types of bad news, regarding on whom they’re coming from. Here’s a list:

  • Boss – You will be fired. Second best: we need to reduce your salary
  • Boyfriend: He wants to break up. Prepare by getting champagne or Kleenex, depending on what kind of boyfriend he has been.
  • Landlord: Your building is going to be demolished and you need to move out. Next week. (Call your Mom, you’ll be moving back home. Again)
  • Bank: There is a serious overdraft on your credit card.
  • 18 yo son: He demolished your car and didn’t have insurance
  • Doctor: This one is potentially very bad and will scare you half to death. Nine times out of ten, it just means they misplaced your blood test and you need to go back for another one.
  • Bestie: Her other friends have decided they don’t want to party with you anymore. Like a partial break-up. You need to reconsider your drinking habits if you want to join  back in.
  • Laundry service: They managed to completely ruin your favourite coat, that you paid a small fortune for. Back in 1987. Which means they consider it worthless.
  • Car mechanic: Your car has a problem that will cost more to fix than the car is worth.
  • Teacher: You are about to fail this course. You might need to reconsider your choice of education, or start putting some serious effort in.

When people really do want to talk to you, as in having a nice conversation, or even just plain gossip, they wont ask for a “talk”.  The invitation could be for practically anything else, like drinks, lunch or a walk along the beach.

“Let’s meet up for a drink” is exactly the opposite. This will bring good news, or if nothing else,  good conversation. Either way, no reason to bring the big handkerchief along.

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Online dating


Welcome to the fastest growing deception tool of our time. Millions of people no longer have to leave their house, dress up or even be nice, in order to connect.

Not like back in the 20th century when people had to make an effort  to get a date. It might involve some serious consideration of where to go, what to wear, and engage in actual conversation. And maybe some alcohol in order to muster enough courage to go through with it. Because conversation is a long forgotten skill. You can’t just tilt your head and wink. 😉

These days it’s so easy. You can chat online without worrying about sweaty palms, blushing cheeks, nervous stutter or whether you’re over- or underdressed for the occasion. You don’t have to pay for a meal or explain how being lactose intolerant affects you.
This is how to connect with really interesting people. Or, wait, you’ll be connecting with people who like the image of the person you have chosen to show. This is the deception part. Because people lie. First to themselves, and then to everyone looking at their profile. This is where it gets really interesting. Because now both parties have introduced themselves as better, funnier, smarter and more interesting than they actually are. (Some people are actually a bit delusional regarding their traits.) This could eventually lead to a date between two liars, and the conversation that follows might take the entire house of cards down. Or not. Take a chance and find out.

Common practice is often to upload an ancient photograph of themselves. Possibly more flattering than the more recent selfies. Some will choose to use a photo of their car, motorcycle or cat instead. Then they might subtract a couple of years from their age, a few kilos of their weight and compensate by adding to their height. Thinking it won’t be noticed was there ever a real life date.

In attached profile, many will choose to leave it all blank as if that would somehow encourage the viewer, and entice curiosity.  Others will now commence presenting the person they want to be seen as. Making an effort to write down the things that hopefully appear attractive.  Because naturally “enjoy long walks” sounds so much better than “enjoy watching Netflix on the sofa with a bag of crisps.”

There is a (not very) sophisticated code language here, and I’ve put an effort in trying to decipher some of the more common expressions:

  • I like to travel” = “I commute 2 hours daily by train but I haven’t been out of the country since 1998″.
  • “My family is really important to me” = “I’m divorced with four kids. I don’t have time for proper dating”
  • “I like to party” = Alcoholic
  • “Healthy lifestyle” = first dinner date will consist of corn-on-the-cob and a smoothie made of kale and beetroot. Don’t even consider suggesting a cocktail.
  • “Enjoy sports” = “I have all the sports channels, and rarely miss a single game”
  • “Cat lover”= “I have 16 indoor fluffy critters that control my life”
  • “Outdoor activities” can mean either “I dream of having sex on the beach” or “You don’t want to see the inside of my house”
  • My career is important” = “I’m overworked and constantly exhausted”
  • “Retired” = Health issues
  • “I’m good looking” = this person might overrate themselves so don’t bother to reply unless you are a model or at least look like a moviestar
  • “Independant” = “I have no plans to ever adapt to another person”
  • “Financially secure” = “I don’t spend money on anything without serious consideration”. Could be a cheapskate that would never pay for a date, or it simply means “my car is paid for”.
  • “Looking for a serious relationship” = “Marry me. Now. I’m desperate.”
  • “I spend the weekends out on my motorcycle” =  Serious middle age crisis…
  • “I love spending time at art galleries” = “I’m too lazy to go to the gym”
  • “Separated, single and ready to mingle”  = “I had a huge argument with my wife at the breakfast table this morning”.

For those of you who already had some experience in this department, feel free to add to the list in the comments below. I’m sure we’ll be doing the dating world a great service.

And of course: Good Luck!!




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First day of 2018

Someone told me that the first day of the year will set the mark for the rest of the year. If that’s the case, this year might be very chilled…

The new year started with a Bang. Literally. Because the hotel next door was hosting a huge New Years party and the fireworks at midnight exploded more or less right above my house. A fantastic show. But the dog was absolutely terrified. She isn’t intimidated by much, but this left her shivering and panting. The good thing about living here is that the fireworks are only at midnight. In Sweden it’s a huge problem for people with animals, because anyone can buy fireworks and set them off anytime during the newyear-weekend. Which means that animal-owners can’t prepare or avoid it and animals have died and suffered.

Woke up bright and early, to see the sunrise and wondering how many people were just leaving their parties at that moment. In various states of intoxication. I made coffee, had a long breakfast and decided the nice weather was right for a long walk. Bright blue skies, no wind and 16 degrees. Walked around the golf course and saw a woman playing in just shorts and T-shirt. It really wasn’t all that warm. I was wearing jeans, a warm sweater, scarf and vest. She must have just arrived from the cold, dark north, and be a helluva energetic golf player…

At lunchtime I decided to go into town to have recovery-lunch with complimentary Mimosa at my local Irish Pub. This place always makes me feel welcome, and the food was perfect. As I left the pub, full and content,  I walked past a guy selling Ginja in chocolate cups, and decided that was the best dessert on a day like this. I was right. The man was very friendly and chatty, so I got my daily Portuguese lesson included.

Driving home, along the coast gave me the best ocean view. Big waves that crash onto the cliffs in great cascades. Such a lovely day, and lots of people were out biking, jogging, walking and generally trying to live up to their resolutions for a healthier life (I assume). 

Now, had I been in Sweden, there would have been other traditions to consider. There would be hangover pizza while watching Ivanhoe on TV. Years before,  it would have been watching the skijumping from Garmisch-Partenkirchen while finishing off the last of the chocolates from Christmas. Traditions change, but the couch remains. Honestly, no one has ever actually seen neither Ivanhoe nor the skijumping. It’s just an excuse to stay put for the rest of the afternoon. We all know it.

Traditions are meant to be upheld, so Akleja and I took to the couch and watched an Italian movie together. Well, I was kinda watching and she was sleeping on my legs. And if I moved ever so slightly, she would lift her head and give me The Look.

There was some Christmas candy left, so I finished off my “Gröna Kulor”, some liquorice and plan to have the last of my cinnamon rolls later. 

I have recieved tons of New Year greetings, and only replied to a few. Don’t expect me to forward these images of lights, fireworks, hearts and hugs. I just never do.  I have broken every chain-mail ever sent to me (and still alive to tell the story). But I wish you all the very best 2018. 

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Looking back at 2017

As I was looking back at this year, trying to sum it all up here on the last day of 2017, I realized I’ve been all wrong. I had already labeled this year as another shitty year following in the footsteps of a difficult 2016. But as I went through photos and calendar I found so many wonderful things, so it would be completely unfair to say it was all bad. Full of changes  and challenges, but also good times well worth remembering.

It was loosing my mother in September that cast a dark shadow over this year. It had a huge impact on how I see things in retrospect. It opened old wounds and this autumn has brought about much sadness. I miss her every day. It’s been tough coming to terms with the loss of both my parents and my husband in such a short timespan.


We said Farewell to our parents.

There were devastating forest fires all over Portugal during spring and summer. Many people died, others left homeless. Horrific images on the news every day.  The rain was all in north Europe leaving Sweden with the coldest, rainiest summer in 50 years. On a smaller perspective, I had problems with my health, my car and with getting the horses moved. All of this, and other smaller issues, made me think of this year in a very negative way.

Instead, I would like for 2017 to be remembered for all the wonderful things that actually happened. There were many cheerful occasions. The one that stands out the most was the wedding of my youngest daughter. That was a time of pure joy! All a mother can wish for, is to see her girls happy. And this was certainly a most happy occasion! The young bride was fairytale beautiful and the Swedish summer even held back the rain for the newlyweds.

fridas bröllop

Frida & Olof on their wedding day, August 5 2017, surrounded by family and close friends.

What else happened during 2017?
There was a lot of traveling (which I really enjoy). In the spring there was a road trip to north Spain, Basque country, Galicia and north Portugal. Then I went to USA to visit Mom, twice, both during spring and for midsummer. Spent August in Sweden. For the wedding of course, but also to spend some time in my holiday home, visit the European Championships in Gothenburg with Frida. Then again to the USA , (for the wrong reasons) and for the first time going south to South Carolina and Georgia. And finally, a short trip to Stockholm and Scotland. And even went to Algarve.  I don’t even know how to express my gratitude to the people who made this possible, by looking after dogs, cat and horses.

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I got to spend time with friends at parties! (How I enjoy this)

There were visitors from near and far. (Quality time with friends)

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Some changes regarding work and horses. Now there is only my white prince Viking left as the others all have been sold or leased out, and I have moved to another yard. Ended up being a good solution, although difficult to come to terms with. I have great people to rely on when it comes to helping me out with all of this.

I could add a hundred more photos of friends that I’ve spent time with over the year.  So many good memories.

To sum it all up; this has been a year unlike no other. Precious friends mean a lot. Last, but not at all least my wonderful family. I love you all and hope 2018 will allow us to spend even more time together.

helatjejklanen vallentuna 17

Daughters and grandchildren in Vallentuna

Happy New Year!

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How to deal with chaos: Throw a party!

Your friends are not going to fix the chaos for you, but will definitely lift your spirits!

When things get chaotic; in my mind, the answer is usually “Add more!” Which is how I end up having to make the decision between All or Nothing. And this time I choose to go all in.

After having just barely recovered from having a home cluttered with cardboard boxes, littered with Christmas decorations in all the wrong places, paintings waiting to be hung, discarded clothing in piles and a few other projects, I somehow decided that this would be the ideal time to invite friends over for a small pre-Christmas get-together. Why not add to the total madness and go All-in here?

I can see you rolling your eyes at me here, but hear me out, this serves a purpose. Two actually. Firstly, since I’m the Master Procrastinator, it gives me a deadline for tidying this war-zone up. And secondly, I desperately needed to see my friends. Said and done, I called on my friends and made an extensive To-do list. (Another list!?!)

Christmas can be different

This list also included some shopping, cooking and baking. Yes, baking…. Because, having an international circle of friends means I want to offer some of the specialties of Swedish Christmas. It was after all the eve of December 13th. (This only means something to Swedes, so no, I did not wear a white gown nor attempt to sing the Lucia-song to them). But I felt the need to put homemade gingerbread cookies, Lussekatter, meatballs and Jansson’s Temptation on the table. Along with the Glögg.

Why did I think this was such a great idea? Of course I couldn’t fit 12 hours of preparations into just five. There had to be some shortcuts taken. Which I did and it worked out…

It could have been worse

Now, the Glögg that I was so happy to have found at Ikea (full story here) was apparently the non-alcoholic, children-friendly version. Not really what I had in mind. So that had to be fixed somehow. I won’t ever tell just how I accomplished that. Only that I found the right ingredients to add. And the flavor came out just like I hoped. And that in combination with my just-out-of-the-oven Lussekatter is the perfect combination!!

And the baking?  Again, Ikea was the rescue. They have pre-made cookie dough!! All I had to do was to cut out the shapes, using my new cookie-cutters that I brought as a souvenir from the Kelpies in Scotland. Ran out of time and patience when it came to the decorating, so they all came out looking like chubby ponies from a rave.  (Still tasty, though)

Finally, friends started dropping in and I was still frantically trying to finish up the  last of the preparations. Light the candles, make the egg-halves, fix my hair, put the cheese and wine out…. (This is where friends step in and help out)

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The result? A great evening! That’s how it turned out. Chaos turned into smiles & good conversations.We all had a great time and that was exactly what I was going for. Not so complicated after all. A few bottles of wine, some nibbles and just add friends. Best recipe ever! Fool-proof way to deal with chaos, and just come to a conclusion about what things really matter. There are few things better than having your house full of friends.

Fun observation: nobody will take that last meatball or egg left on the plate. 

Except me…

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Lussekatter – version 2.0

Or how to reduce pre-Christmas-related stress….

I have previously written about the endeavors and efforts of baking in a foreign country. And about my ambition to bake the perfect Lussekatt (traditional Swedish sweet saffron bun in hounor of St. Lucia, the only celebrated saint in this protestant country).

If you are curious about the results of my earlier baking experiences, here are the links: Baking year 2013 and Baking 2012 (in Swedish)

I think, that now after several attempts of learning by doing (trial and error), I have improved the method and named it Lussekatt 2.0, and right here and now I will share with you the ultimate way to perfection. The final recipe, if you will.

  1. Find the recipe from last year, with all the alterations noted in the margin.
  2. Make a shopping list of items needed. Pay close attention to detail here. (Huge differences in manufacture and quality of milk, sugar, flour etc)
  3. Go shopping, list in hand. (Good luck with finding parking with the Christmas shopping madness going on.)
  4. Realize that they are completely out of saffron (the main ingredient), and for the bakers’s yeast, you need to go to different store, where parking is absolutely impossible.
  5. Wrap up the shopping with the other non-baking necessities (wine, detergent and what else?) and head on to Ikea.
  6. Buy two bags of their pre-made, frozen saffron buns (Lussekatter!!)
  7. Go home. Pour yourself a huge glass of wine while you watch those buns turn golden in the oven.

8. You’re all set.  Add more raisins to the buns and to the Glögg, and put your tired feet up, sit back and think about how many Christmas cards you forgot to send out. Have another mug of Glögg while you consider the wonders of social media and therefore the ability to post just one big Christmas card for everyone (Yes! Family, friends and aqcuintances) in just one swift motion on Facebook.

Relax,  Christmas is coming whether you actually baked anything or not. Watch “Love Actually” one more time, in your bed, while munching on a still warm Lussekatt. Santa will not come down your chimney this year either, since you didn’t make his final list. So no need to worry about putting any homemade cookies out for him either.


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A Swede needs to have Glögg at this time of year. Whether you actually like this heated, spiced up wine or not, it just has to be there. For the smell, the comfort and memories of Christmases past. Traditions are important, after all.

Glögg 2013

Since I’m both too lazy and way behind schedule, making it myself is not an option. So, off to Ikea we went, Anne and I, to find these precious items that  we just need have at home during this holiday season. We both had a list of our holiday necessities. Apparently, the entire Scandinavian cummunity here must have had that very same idea, because they were almost out of all of these delicacies. Now what??

OK, a few things I can do without, or make myself. But what about the Glögg? After searching the entire food section minutely, we spotted a few bottles on a shelf really high up, for decoration. Asked the salesman, if he would bring them down for us. No, he said, we don’t sell the display items. We both looked at him with what we thought was our best Cocker spaniel eyes, and yay, two minutes later he had checked with his supervisor and went to reach up and bring us down these precious bottles. Strike of luck!!

Added those to some pickled herring, gingerbread cookies, chocolate, crispbread and cheese and checked out.

Traditional Swedish Christmas food

What other things were on the list, you may ask? A small cured ham, cinnamon rolls, anchovies, Skumtomtar (candy) and Julmust (soft drink). Things we’ve already proven that we can live without, but as an expat, you just presume that Ikea will provide for us. Every little thing a Scandinavian needs to feel at home anywhere in the world….

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The Disappearing Cat Mystery

Vantage is quite the character. Has always been. There are a number of stories about him.

Taken the dog’s new bed

Any cat owner can relate to those. He might not be all that special after all, because most of all he’s a typical cat. He thinks the entire world was created for his pleasure and is the happiest when he can annoy someone, and leave white hairs on their dark clothes.

He came to Portugal to retire (like everyone else from north Europe). Quickly changed his daily pattern from killing 2 or 3 little animals a day (squirrels, moles, mice, birds) to one or two a year. Quite a change. He now wants to be served soft food from a can. Never the same two days in a row, and not the cheap stuff. He’s got classy taste. He will let me know, in a very loud voice, if I get it wrong. He only sleeps in places where he can leave a heap of white hairs or preferably in someone elses favourite spot. So, absolutely never in a designated basket or something equally ridiculous.

Vantage is a pure bred Bengal. He and his brother Vanquish (who died a few years back) were once on the cover of the Aston Martin magazine, since they were named after these luxury cars, and had the attitude. Don’t all cats just love to relax on the hood of a clean, expensive car?

Since a few months back, he would honour us less with his presence. I haven’t worried to much about it, because I know that he is familiar with the kitchen entrance of the hotel next door. And I figured that he might also have convinced any of the holiday rentals in the area that he is homeless and starving (for food and cuddles). And he drops by often enough for me to know that he’s still alive and in good health. But he started skipping meals, and at one point I even dreaded that he went off to die. He is after all of advanced age, and has shown some small signs of early dementia onset. Then he’d show up, like nothing ever happened, complaining that I serve salmon instead of turkey, or whatever he had in mind, and just walk back out again.

So, like I said, I haven’t worried too much. Cats are indenpendant creatures. And he was Peter’s cat after all, and since Peter passed away, he knows that the dog is my favourite pet, and that doesn’t really work for him. No piedestal – no show.

Today, the bell at my gate rang (yes, the new bell is installed!) and outside was a young man, who told me he recently moved in next door. And was wondering if this specific cat was mine. This young man had the answers to so many of my questions. And I probably had the answer to some of his.  Vantage had made his way into his home and found his new favourite place in the world. This guy was happy to have him and even took him to the vet to check for microchip in search of the owner. We never registered the chip with the authorities, so he didn’t get any leads on that. But the cat trained him well, and even had him install a cat-flap,  serve dinner and give cuddles.

Vantage sure knows how to get around. I was so relieved to know where he spends all his time when he’s not at home. It seems my new neighbor and I  have a shared custody situation of a cat with a mind of his own.

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Christmas is around the corner

I was considering to cancel Christmas entirely this year. But before I knew it, I had brought out the decorations, the little tree and more candles. Which was not my best decision that day, since my entire house looked like a war zone already.

It’s said that women have a special ability to multitask. Not sure if the word “multi” means just more than one or fifteen. I had clearly overestimated my capacity here, since I already had several different projects going on.  Let me explain:

A) A couple of weeks earlier, I had bought a new guest bed from Ikea, and only had time to partially assemble it before I went traveling. The four large drawers that were going to fit underneath were still in 75 little pieces, together with various tools and the instructions, on the guest room floor.  (assemble and tidy up!)

Mission accomplished.

B) At the same time, I had started to clear out closets and had taken out lots of things to sell/donate/throw away. Obviously, that was a struggle and ended up in racks, piles and boxes all over the place. Decisions, decisions… (organize and Just do it!)

C) Was in the process of rearranging the furniture in my bedroom, because it looks more like a storage unit, than a place where someone actually lives.  Some things need to be moved around and others taken out. Mostly books. Again stacks, piles and boxes. (Oh, just grab another big, black bin-bag, will you?!)

D) Eleven (11 !!) boxes arrived one morning, containing all the things I inherited from my mother. That should mean, to be practical and rational (apparently not my strong suit), that the same amount of stuff should leave my house. Starting with replacing my old chinaware. So now, not only is the hallway completely blocked by boxes, but also the kitchen is in a state of total chaos. (Again: get rid of stuff. There is a limit as to how many beer glasses, cheese cutters, nutcrackers and gravy boats a person needs. )

And this is exactly the moment when I decided that I should bring out Christmas decorations. Yes, I hear you. And I don’t need anyone to tell me about the lack of logic here… I’m perfectly capable of telling myself what an idiot I am.

Total disaster… Panic!

So, after spending all of one afternoon staring at the unfathomable mess I created, and not knowing where to begin (practically in tears of desperation now), I decided I could just do just one thing. Maybe two. But at least one. Just to be able to tick something off that very long to-do list. So I got the dining area done. Check. And then put the tree up. Check. The cat got involved, so we’ll see just how long that tree stays up.

The following day, I had help emptying the last of the boxes. Now I have a thousand photographs covering my coffee table. More books. Christmas decorations in piles. And then a basket of laundry magically appeared to contribute to the mess. But at least I can see the floor now, and move about without bumping into stuff. This is progress. Really, I’m on a roll here. So, if I can just keep my hands busy with other things than my computer keyboard, I might be able to complete some of these things before Christmas…….

Oh, wait, I just got into the spirit of the season now and realized I want to bake some gingerbread cookies. Just another project.

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