Sparkling Allison

American expat in Denmark, mom, lover of sparkles and staplers, avid book club member.

[Currently] September 2016

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Watching: Modern Family. It's a little bit of a guilty pleasure, but it makes me laugh out loud at least once an episode. 

Anticipating: The holidays. We had such an epic time last year, with so many visitors over the holidays, that I'm a little worried this year will disappoint. So, I might be starting my planning a little early! We're having friends over for Halloween (which is on a week night, so nothing too crazy). Thanksgiving... is up in the air in terms of which American Expat will be hosting. Not us. Christmas, we'll be in town because Copenhagen is lovely during Christmas time. We're thinking that this year we'll have a bigger Solstice Dinner, like we used to do in Seattle.

Listening/Reading: Torch by Cheryl Strayed. Re-reading Delivering Happiness, the book by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh for our book club at work.

Eating/Drinking: My work is moving offices in November, and the number one thing people are excited about is lunch at a new cantina. (Note: Danes call their shared eating areas "kantine"... pronounced like the Spanish "cantina". It's confusing... but what would you call this in the US? The lunchroom?) I don't have a huge problem with our current lunch situation because I eat the same thing every day: 2 hard boiled eggs, a big dollop of hummus, rugbrod and butter, and piles of veggies. 

Working On: Scott and I took two car loads of junk to the recycling center this weekend, and it was awesome. 

Loving: H&M Home Black Fig scented candle. YUM... while daytime temps in September have been outrageously warm, it gets nippy at night, which means hygge, candles and snuggling. Scented candles make this routine all the better.

Playing: Our neighborhood got a trampoline! Cal and I tried it this morning... it took him a long while to warm up to it, but by the end I could not get him to leave. We walked out with him screaming... will definitely be back there soon!

Happy: I've been crocheting a lot lately, which is a happy thing. It's meditative and productive... my latest project is a yellow and white color blocked blanket made out of a lovely cotton. It's really simple... just single crocheting back and forth, but the colors and texture are turning out really nice.

[Currently] August 2016

Sparkling Allison

Watching: Nothing. We finished Person of Interest! We succeeded at not binge watching the show through its 5 total seasons by limiting ourselves to 2 episodes per sitting. Interestingly, the last season of it aired just a month ago, so we kept pace really nicely to end it as it was ending "in real life". I did NOT successfully NOT binge watch House of Cards, and am caught up with all of that series as well. I also did NOT successfully NOT binge watch Orange Is the New Black, and am caught up with that series as well. What now?!

Anticipating: I'm going to Cologne, Germany for a conference for work and am excited, both for the conference and for the opportunity to sleep in a little!

Listening/Reading: I have a lot of books that I'm part way through right now. I'm listening to Hillbilly Elegy on my commutes, a book that Scott bought on our shared Audible account that I thought looked interesting. I'm also reading It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens for our book club at work. My happiness related books right now are How to Have a Good Day and This is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live. So, yeah.

Eating/Drinking: I just want to gloat here that I have our meals planned through October. The plan is a rough sketch, of course, and will likely change a lot as our schedule is always changing. Nonetheless, I have a baseline of meals to work from and it feels good! As a reminder, I'm not much of a chef and I don't love cooking, but there's something fundamental about feeding my family that I really enjoy. The planning is a big part of why I like it (I just like planning), as is the feeling at the beginning of the week, knowing that as things get hectic, at least the food is under control. Now if I could only feel the same about laundry. Hm!

Working On: I'm writing up workouts to take with me to the gym. I wanted to start lifting weights, something I really enjoyed doing in high school when I played competitive sports, so I joined a gym that is on my way home from work. I think it'd be a good addition to my regular biking... which is also my commute and I often take it quite leisurely, so I'm not sure if it should count as a workout or not! 

Loving: Min hombre. He's great.

Playing: Calvin got a couple of new sets of Lego Duplo for his birthday, and it totally renewed his interest in them. So, we're down on the floor playing with Lego most mornings and evenings. Calvin surprised me and Scott by starting to build things according to the constructions he saw on the box of his new Spiderman set. So, we're starting to seed him with pictures of other constructions for him to copy and get inspiration from... it's like his imagination exploded (again), it's so awesome.

Happy: The days are getting cooler, and I'm remembering how much I really love this time of year. Kids are starting back to school. I'm making plans, as reassessing routines. I'm stealing Scott's socks more often. It's happy times.

[Currently] May 2016

Sparkling Allison

Watching: This is hilarious. Thanks, Heather.

Anticipating: A play date! The mom of one of Calvin's buddies at bornehave asked if they could take Calvin home for a play date one evening next week. Um... yes! YAY! Cal recently transitioned from vuggestue (1 to 3 years old) to bornehave (3 to 6 years old), and is doing really, really well in it. More than ever he looks forward to going in the morning, his friends are excited to see him when he arrives and then he doesn't want to come home in the evening. It's so great.

Listening/Reading: How Proust Can Change Your Life, as recommended by Gretchen Rubin, my happiness guru. I've been trying to stick to books on the theme of happiness, without getting too self-helpy, and this one fit the bill exactly. I'm also most of the way through How to Have a Good Day, which is focused on happiness at work. The book club that I started at work is reading Enchantment this month, which is ironically about similar themes, but I'm less enchanted with it. 

Eating/Drinking: Scott and I went to our favorite cocktail bar last night called Curfew. It is such a gem! The atmosphere is art deco, 1920's, fancy, speakeasy and the cocktails are classic with creative twists. I had "The Brooklyn" which is a take on a Manhattan, but with raisin bitters and something else that made it more woody tasting. Delicious.

Working On:  A big, huge project at work has me occupied and I'm really, really happy with it. The three months of building the case for it, prepping for it and thinking about it is finally coming to fruition and it is so far, so good.

Loving: My Spring/Summer capsule wardrobe. I threw a fit and took 3/4th of my closet downstairs in an attempt to dress more effortlessly. Here's what remained at the end of it (or at least a representation of it... I don't have all of these exact items). I've been using the Polyvore app on my phone to make up outfits, and am snapping a picture of myself every day. It is seriously fun.

I've learned that there are a lot of opinions on how to build a capsule wardrobes... including hard and fast rules for the number of items. I set out trying to keep my total under 35, and really easily ended up with 30 pieces. I'm not including accessories or shoes, when others include them in this count. My accessories and shoes are very limited anyway, so it didn't make sense for me to exclude some of them to stay at a particular number of items. My goal is to use this set of clothes through September, when I'll revisit for Fall/Winter.

Playing: Bejeweled Stars. Aaaah, PopCap made a Bejeweled version that really beautifully combines popular game mechanics like collections and sagas. It's wonderful. *swoon*

Happy: (Note: This is a new category to go along with my One Little Word project for the year.)

I'd say I'm feeling pretty happy these days... I think about "happy" being my word and intention a lot. It's just a nice thing to have in the back of your head. My reading helps to keep it fresh in my mind, and to also give me some ideas for habits or lifestyle changes to incorporate. I've only partly been keeping up with Ali Edwards' class prompts, but recently made this collage to include in my album. Doing it made me feel like I was 13 years old, which was a happiness boost in and of itself.

[Currently] February 2016

Sparkling Allison

Watching: We're still working our way through Person of Interest. We're on Season 3 and a significant character was just killed off only halfway through the season! OH MY! It's good stuff.

Anticipating: Our US trip in March. It feels very significant. One week with just me and Calvin at home while Scott goes to Montreal. Then Calvin and I fly solo to SLC for a week, while Scott is in San Francisco for GDC. Then the whole fam-damily is meeting up in San Diego for a week (including my siblings and parents). Then a week in Seattle to see old friends and add fuel to any lingering homesickness. 

Listening/Reading: I did indeed move to audiobooks from podcasts for my daily commute this month, starting with The Bees by Laline Paull. I really liked how the story extended across multiple days. I'd arrive at work and have to turn the book off just as something was happening, making my 20 minute commute home something I was excited to get to!

Eating/Drinking: Direct quote from Scott about my recent cooking ventures: "You're on a roll, girlfriend." :) Recent hits have been: vegetable quiche, browned butter risotto with brussel sprouts, and coconut curry soup. Delicious.

Working On: Ironing clothes that have been hanging in my closet, unironed over the Winter. They're all lighter, flowy tops that I would not have worn in the Winter anyway. Seems I may be unconsciously preparing for Spring and better weather by preparing my wardrobe.

Loving: Hama or perl beads! I bought a set of them to make coasters. They are a huge throwback to my teens and tons of fun. Gretchin Ruben recently recommended thinking of things you liked to do when you were 10 to help come up with hobbies to do as an adult. These definitely fit that bill!

Playing: MovieStarPlanet. I made my first movie using its Movie Studio and was very impressed... it also won a challenge we had at work to make a movie based on a fairytale! You can see it here.

(Note: This is a new category to go along with my One Little Word project for the year.) 

Happy: I've committed to flossing my teeth every day this month. I know... adult stuff. This was motivated by Ali Edwwards' One Little Word prompt for the month for building habits, but also harped on in both The Happiness Advantage (a book I read this month, which had been deep in my Audible archives and never listened to) and Gretchin Ruben's podcast Happier. Gretchin calls herself a "happiness bully", and that's how I felt after getting Ali's prompt but initially ignoring it, only to have two other sources drive the point home. So I'm going to do something very achievable, very easy. 

January Books

Sparkling Allison

I got a huge jump on my 2016 reading goal this month, in part by wrapping up some books that I actually started in December. Here's the selection and my picks.

Favorite Book: A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

I read this after devouring his other novel My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, which was just magnificent. A Man Called Ove was similar in tone and themes, but the story was quite different. Beautifully done.

Least Favorite: Mama Tried by Emily Flake

This is supposed to be a humorous book about parenthood, but it missed the mark with me, mostly because it seemed geared towards very new parents as opposed to someone with a toddler. I may have felt differently about the book if I'd read it while breastfeeding, but reading it today it felt ham-fisted.

Honorable Mention: Superhuman Social Skills by Tynan

I took exactly one thing away from this book, and it's the idea that you should "bring something to the party". That thing isn't an actual thing, like wine or flowers, which you should also bring... That thing is something that brings value to your social circle. The idea is to be an active participant by bringing interesting conversation topics, or hosting fun events or whatever suits you, which increases your social value and helps to expand your circle. It's a little thing, but as an introvert it is something I need to keep in the back of my head.

[Currently] January 2016

Sparkling Allison

Watching: Scott and I watched Postman Pat: The Movie with Calvin tonight. We try to do a movie night each weekend, but got off schedule for the holidays. It was fun to get back to it tonight, with popcorn and all. To find age appropriate movies, I scour Common Sense Media and have found them to good. I look at movies for ages 2 through 4, as I think they err a little conservative. Postman Pat kept Calvin's attention, and had enough adult quips to keep Scott and I from wandering too much.

Anticipating: Spring! It's way too early to have Spring on my mind, but I was given some free tulips from a flower vendor on Friday (he was closing) and they've been on my kitchen table beaconing warmer weather all weekend. Copenhagen's winter frigidity will not be deterred by a precocious bunch of tulips, however. This week's highs will be hovering around freezing.

Listening/Reading: I added a new podcast to my playlist this week: Surprisingly Awesome. Heather recommended it, I believe, and with my new 25-minute bike commute I've finally had time to listen to a few episodes. I'm not quite sure if it's going to become a regular. It's good, but not great, and even though I have a lot of time to be listening to podcasts on my commute, I'm considering moving to audio books instead (supporting my goal of reading 36 books this year).

Eating/Drinking: I've successfully made two big meals on each of the last two weekends so that we can have leftovers during the work week. Yesterday I made black bean and butternut squash enchiladas. (I even made the enchilada sauce from scratch.) Today I made a big pot of cauliflower, sweet potato and chickpea curry with coconut rice. Delicious.

Working On: Work, I suppose! The first two weeks at my new job have been great. There's a lot of work to be done. And everyone is extremely nice.

Loving: Weekends. We had a particularly nice one this week.

Playing: Scott brought along one of our favorite card games, Lost Cities, on our last Friday date night. We had reservations for sushi at 7:45, giving us about an hour to kill beforehand, so we plunked ourselves down at a coffeeshop and played a couple of rounds. I won both. :) 

(Note: This is a new category to go along with my One Little Word project for the year.) 
Happy: I discovered a new babysitter option. A 13yo girl posted to our neighborhood Facebook group, saying that she was interested in picking up some babysitting hours. I think 13 is a little young to just throw her in the deep end with Calvin, so I invited her over to play with him while Scott and I did other things around the house. She was a huge hit. Calvin took to her immediately, and she had his full attention for a good 1.5 hours. The time was so productive that I finished everything I needed to do and then snuck upstairs to read. I'm looking forward to hiring her regularly!

2015 Year in Review

Sparkling Allison

I came across Caiti's post at Roots, Wings & Wanderings and loved the format of her year end review, so... copy/paste!

1. What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?
I went on a trip with both of my sisters. We'd all traveled together separately in pairs, but never as the three of us. We did the wine route in South Africa, and it was super fun. I hope we can find an opportunity to do it again soon!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
The only resolution I made last year was to read 27 books, and I did that. For 2016, I want to wear earrings every day. And I upped the number of books I want to read to 36, which is 3 a month.

Scott and I have also vowed to go to IKEA exactly 0 times this year. We need to get better at shopping in Copenhagen, as odd as that may sound.

3. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
I'm doing Ali Edward's "One Little Word" class this year, and chose the word HAPPY, because who doesn't want to be more happy in their life? I'm not saying that I didn't have happiness in 2015, I just want more of it in 2016. :)

4. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
February 20th: Sister trip in South Africa.
March 3rd: My trip to the GDC conference in March was the last time I was in the mother country.
May 22nd: Parents arrive! They were our first visitors of many throughout the year. Oh, this was also the same day that I gave a presentation without my slides.
August 3rd: Our Danish road trip begins, with little sister Lou in tow.
September 9th: I turned 35, tipping over into the upper 30's, and am now part of the 35-44 bracket on surveys.
October 1st: The day my 3 months of severance began after being laid off from work.
November 27th: The day I accepted the offer for my new job. 
December 25th: Our first Christmas where Calvin understood the concept of opening gifts.

5. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Securing a new job was a significant achievement, and I'm proud of the way I handled being #funemployed. 

6. What was your biggest failure?
I don't really think of it as a failure, but I'm not proud of all of the work travel I did throughout the year. It felt very disconnected, and after being laid off, it felt like a huge waste of time. One moment when it really hit me how distracted I'd been was when Calvin's vuggestue closed. It was unexpected for us, although the vuggestue said they'd been telling everyone of their financial troubles for some time. There were many other parents who also didn't get the memo and who were also very upset, but regardless it made me realize that I'd been out of the loop when I could have been more engaged.

7. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Lots and lots of viruses were passed on to me by Calvin throughout the year. He's a germ infested little thing, and there were definitely periods of 2015 where I felt like the runny noses were never going to end. Nothing significant though, and I'm grateful for that.

8. What was the best thing you bought?
I bought a new bike this year and it's awesome! I'd been commuting on my rusty, pink, tank of a bike, which had started to feel unsafe, especially when carrying my special cargo in the kid seat on back. My new bike is... aaaah, luxury. I can keep up with Scott now without any complaint (although I'm pretty sure he still rides slowly for me) and I'm confident cruising along through mud and muck if needed. I have a 20 minute bike commute to my new job, and I'm so happy to have my new bike to do it with!

9. Where did most of your money go?
Investments/savings. We own our condo back in Seattle, and I classify our spending on it as an investment. So, if you include that with what we put away for Calvin's college, our retirement and short term savings... that's probably the majority of our money right there.

We bought a couch and we moved, which were big expenses. And we traveled. We also paid taxes.

10. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
My parents sent a message to our family over WhatsApp, suggesting that we all meet in San Diego sometime. Much to my surprise, everyone got on board with the idea, and we've scheduled a trip for this coming March. It'll be a full year since I've been in the states, and I. AM. EXCITED.

11. What songs will always remind you of 2015?
The entire Parenthood soundtrack will remind me of 2015. The show ended in January 2015, and while in mourning for it, I listened to the soundtrack on repeat for months and months.

15. Did you make any new friendships?
Yes, many. I've already noted that my #funemployment was a really social time for me, and I finally feel like I have some friends here in Copenhagen. I still need to work at it, as I'm not a naturally friendly person, but I have some good momentum right now.

16. Did you go on vacation?
Yes! We started the year by wrapping up a trip to Utah, I went to South Africa with my sisters, we took a road trip around Denmark in the summer, and then we had a surprise 2 week vacation to Singapore. 

17. What do you wish you had done (more and less) of?
More: Celebrations, physical activity, photo taking.
Less: Visits to IKEA, Facebook, Nutella.

18. How did you spend the holidays?
We had the most glorious period of holidays and visitors over the last three months, so I'm going to include Halloween in "the holidays".
October: Halloween and Scott's dad, his partner and his brother. We spent the evening opening our door to over 130 trick or treaters.
November: Thanksgiving and Adrienne/Ajay. We hosted Thanksgiving for all of the American expats we know, plus some Danes and other hooligans. In all there were over 25 people in our little house, and the last guests left after the last American football game ended at 2am local time.
December: Christmas and Heather. We had a whirlwind 2 weeks of everything Christmas while Heather was here, including pre and post shopping, visiting the Christmas markets, drinking glogg, making sugar cookies, opening presents, singing Christmas songs, celebrating the Solstice. It was lovely.

19.  What new food did you discover?
Roasted potatoes are a new specialty of mine. Toss them with dried ranch dressing mix and some olive oil, and delicious. I cooked a lot this year, and have really enjoyed it. I like to say that I enjoy cooking when it's not an obligation, and I'm finding ways to enjoy it even when it is.

20. What was your favorite TV program?
Scott and I have been watching Person of Interest, and I think it's been my favorite over the year. I am also re-watching 90210, which is just... cringe-worthly, but awesome.

21.  What was one of your favorite experiences of the year?
#funemployment. Maybe I'm feeling nostalgic for it because I'm starting my new job tomorrow, but it was a really, really nice time.

22. What did you want and get?
My new bike was something I'd been wanting for some time.

23. What did you want and not get?
A particular apartment in Copenhagen K. We made a verbal agreement with the landlord, who backed out on us the next day. It led to us getting the house we're currently renting though, so it turned out to be a major win for the year (and actually, for the next 3 years of our lease).

22. What was the best book you read? 
The Golem and the Jinni is my favorite after a year of reading really great fiction.

23. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I discovered Leon Bridges this year... I don't remember how. We also got to see him play live here in Copenhagen at the beautiful Vega music venue. Otherwise, Spotify's Discover playlist keeps the new music rolling in for me these days.

24. What was your favorite film of this year?
Mad Max. I didn't see many movies this year, but made a point to see Mad Max in the theaters. It's perfect for the big screen and big sound experience! I could have gone back to see it again.

25. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 35 in September while I was at a conference for work. While I was at that particular conference is exactly when my work situation started to disintegrate big time, so it wasn't the best week for me! I don't remember how/if I celebrated!

26. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Skinnies, flowy/oversized top, flats or boots. I used to be all about the cardigans, but I seem to be making a shift to single piece tops. I've also started wearing more dresses.

27. What kept you sane?
100% Scott, who keeps everything chill and copacetic.

28. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? 
I've been a little bit obsessed with Adele after she came back into the music world in a major way. I mean, good for her to disappear for a while to care for herself and her family and then come back with a crazy mega hit. She seems healthy and happy.

29. What political issue stirred you the most? 
I've been appalled at the gun control issues in the states, including everything from shootings of blacks by cops to mass shootings. It's just disgusting that we can't get a handle on guns in the United States, and one reason why I'm happily living abroad.

30. Who did you miss?
I miss SEATTLE PEOPLE. I am lucky to see at least one member of my family 2x a year or more, but Seattle people are farther in between.

32. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
The Konmari method! I read the book and then konmari'd the @!#$ out of our apartment before we moved in September. I love her entire philosophy, and think of it when I'm shopping, when I'm getting home and putting my scarf away, and when I'm doing laundry. It's a new part of my life and I really like it.

33. Share a quote or song lyric that sums up your year. 
When you're up you're up, and when you're down you're down, and when you're only halfway up you're neither up nor down.

 

Reviewing my 10 Commandments of Unemployment

Sparkling Allison

In the new year, I'll be starting a new job! It's exciting and I'm happy about it. In all, being unemployed was not terrible and thankfully it did not last very long. Before moving on to just regular old #employment, I thought I should review my 10 Commandments of Unemployment to see how I did.

1. Thou shalt get 13,000 steps per day on your FitBit. Yeah, no. I did not do this, but the idea of it did get me out walking on a number of occasions. So... win?

2. Thou shalt get a library card. It turns out that I already had a library card, as it's tied to the Danish CPR system. I love that. Check and check. The real intention of this goal was to actually go to a library though, and I did not do that. 

3. Thou shalt make social arrangements at least 2x per week. I pretty much did this, between coffee dates, guests staying with us, hosting dinners/Thanksgiving, going to parties, etc. It was nice, and overall a really social time for me. 

4. Thou shalt spend Monday mornings, and only Monday mornings, cleaning the house. I definitely didn't clean more often than 1x per week, which was the intention of this commandment. I was concerned that I would feel obligated to be cleaning all of the time, and (surprise!) I did not end up feeling obligated to clean all the time. I'm looking forward to hiring a cleaning person again. For real.

5. Thou shalt start a photo-a-day project called #funemployment. I pretty much did this... and it was fun getting back into Instagram.

6. Thou shalt wash your face and brush your teeth every morning and night. Did it, and started a new face regimen that includes exfoliating. Details you might not care about.

7. Thou shalt read a book a week. Definitely did this, and it's been great. I reached my reading goal of 27 books for the year (which is one every 2 weeks), and am thinking that next year I'll bump it up to 36 (or 3 a month). I got a Kindle for Christmas, so now I have a dedicated reading device, which I think will be really nice. I'm also considering getting an Audible subscription, as my new bike commute is going to be 20 minutes each way, giving me lots of time to listen/read.

8. Thou shalt share an interesting article on Twitter and LinkedIn 1x per day. I did this in the beginning of #funemployment, because I wanted to make sure I was popping up in people's feeds and top of mind. As I started to narrow in on a few opportunities that I was interested in, I didn't feel like I needed to do this as religiously. Nonetheless, a good habit to try to maintain even as I'm employed going forward. Maybe knocking it down to 1x per week.

9. Thou shalt actively show gratitude for the support of your family and friends. I hope I did this! In particular I hope I showed gratitude to Scott, who was an awesome sounding board as I weighed options and went through negotiations.

10. Thou shalt go to a museum on free admission day. Didn't do it! I did go to a few museums, I just did it on days where I had to pay admission. Had my #funemployment been longer, and pressure on finances been greater, this may have kicked in in the long term.

My sister (who is visiting for Christmas) is entering #funemployment at the moment, and is writing her own list of 10 Commandments for Unemployment. We've been talking a lot about what she might include. It's an interesting thought process, as you're setting goals for an indefinite period of time. Although I'm not the biggest goal setter, I really enjoyed having them and felt like they put a little structure to my time.

[Currently] December 2015

Sparkling Allison

Watching: Christmas movies! Or at least I'm planning to watch Christmas movies over the next week or so. I tried to introduce Calvin to The Polar Express, but the train was a little scary and the other parts couldn't keep his attention. I watched Arthur last night, but fell asleep. Others on my list are: The Snowman, A Christmas Story and Love Actually.

Anticipating: Christmas. Of course. Scott got into the Christmas spirit on Sunday, and said he needed to "run some errands". He came back with a bunch of packages and set to work wrapping them all. Some of the tags on them read: "To the fam. From Papa." Scott is also giving Calvin separate gifts from the ones that I'm giving him, and we each don't know what the other person is giving. I think it adds some extra fun for the gift opening, and I cannot wait for Christmas morning!

Listening/Reading: The "Best Books of 2015" lists have been coming out at various outlets like the New York Times and Goodreads. I have to say that in general I haven't been as inspired by the lists as I was last year, but there are a few gems on there that I've added to my reading list for the next few months. I started with, and completely loved, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman. I loved it so much that now I'm devouring his other book, A Man Called Ove. His writing reminds me of Jonathan Safran Foer, one of my absolute favorite authors, who wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Highly recommended.

Eating/Drinking: I made a vegetarian lasagna yesterday for our Solstice dinner (YAY FOR DAYS GETTING LONGER AGAIN!). We celebrated with two Heathers: my sister and a friend of mine from the MBA program who was passing through town. The lasagna turned out great, and I was reminded again how fulfilling it is to cook for people.

Working On: Buffing up my Tableau skills in preparation for my new job, which starts in January! I'm sad to be ending #funemployment, but also, you know, grateful for getting back to work.

Loving: Christmas in Copenhagen. We left town for Christmas last year, and I think that was a huge mistake! It's just so lovely here in Copenhagen this time of year. The markets, the lights, the hygge. This town really is built for December, and I'm happy to be here.

Playing: The card game that made Kickstarter history as the most backed campaign of all time, Exploding Kittens. Heather gave us a copy and it's silly fun, as I would expect from the guys behind The Oatmeal.

Portal Nesting Baskets

Sparkling Allison

A friend of ours had a Portal birthday party, and in a moment of inspiration I thought to make her some nesting baskets using colors coordinating with the theme.

Oh, and oh yeah, I bought a used sewing machine back in August. It'd been sitting on a shelf gathering dust until I forced myself to attend a meetup that I found on Facebook. There's a group of ladies that get together to sew every month or so, and for this meetup our project was these baskets. I actually didn't make anything at the event... performance anxiety, and so I let someone else use my machine who didn't have one. I learned a lot just by watching, and now I can't stop myself.

There's so much attention to detail needed when sewing... you really cannot zone out, or you will sew the lining in the wrong way. Yes, I did that 2x on this project. And an ironing machine is definitely required as well.

I'm not sure how far I'll pursue the craft, but it is really satisfying to be able to whip up something like this.

 

[Currently] November

Sparkling Allison

Watching: 90210. Yes, I'm re-watching it from the start, and as I'm doing it I'm having a ton of flashbacks to middle school. Episode 2 of the first season is when I discovered my true love, for example... aaaah, DYLAN.

Anticipating: Our trip to Singapore is fast approaching. We're going for the first two weeks of December, and while I'm sad to be missing some of the holiday festivities in Copenhagen, I'm also really excited for the nicer weather.

Listening/Reading: I fell off the reading wagon after trying to get through a book club pick that wasn't clicking with me. Instead I've been keeping up on my RSS feeds and the NY Times, both of which are less fulfilling but... yeah.

Eating/Drinking: Tonight I made a batch of apple cider bourbon drinks (1 part bourbon, 2 parts cider, 2 parts ginger ale over ice) that I wanted to test run for our Thanksgiving festivities. Definitely a winner, and planning on it as our signature cocktail.

Working On: Thanksgiving decorations. I made 40 leaves using my Silhouette, and plan to make a garland out of them for our dining room. I also really like just scattering them all over the place and adoring their colors. So gorgeous.

Loving: Sick Calvin. I got a call from the vuggestue yesterday to come and pick him up because he had a fever. This was totally expected after transferring to the new vuggestue with new germs. Calvin was 100% pathetic (we use the word pathetic very lovingly in our family, and we pronounce is "pah-te-tic") and it was really nice to be able to care for him with all of my attention.

Playing: Lego Duplo with Calvin. We discovered that we could make "aaaaair-paaaaanes" with them, and that is pretty much all we've done for the last 48 hours straight in this household.

Wood Bead Keychain DIY

CraftSparkling Allison

Calvin's vuggestue (daycare) closed fairly unexpectedly a few weeks ago. Everyone was very sad about it. We had to rush to find him a new placement as soon as possible. It was stressful but probably worked out for the better for us, as now Calvin is at a new vuggestue literally located behind our house.

Calvin was close to two pedagogues (what Danes call their daycare providers, as they are all trained and certified educators) in particular, so I made these wood bead key chains as thank you gifts for them.

This project was super easy. There are lots of versions of them on Pinterest that I used for inspiration, so I'm not going to go into the how-to. (My favorite was this version at Be Crafty.)  

I think what I'm most proud of about these are (1) reusing the hardware from cheap key chains I found at Tiger and (2) using a zip tie to attach the key chains to the paper packaging so that they didn't slip around.

 

I get a little nervous when I give someone a handmade gift, but these felt very pulled together and looked like something I would both want to receive and would use myself. In fact, I made an extra key chain for myself with some left over supplies! And then I followed that up with two more key chains that I gave away as well. Just a heads up that if I ever need to give you a thank you gift, it might be one of these!

So easy, so fun! I love getting my craft on.


[Currently] October

Sparkling Allison

Anticipating: The holidays and visitors. Three holidays and three sets of visitors over the next three months is making me very happy. Tivoli just reopened with their Halloween decor, which totally transforms the place. We'll be going next weekend. We're hosting American Thanksgiving, and I'm already planning the decor, menu and signature cocktail. And... Christmas is just magical here. I'm excited about it all. We also have guests for Thanksgiving (Adrienne and Ajay) and Christmas (Heather), and Scott's dad and partner are coming in early October. 

Listening: The new NPR podcast Hidden Brain is pretty good. I'm amazed at what podcasting has become, with networks and dedicated shows. I heard about Hidden Brain on two other podcasts that I listen to, and immediately know it'd be for me. They have some kinks to work out in terms of the production, but overall the content is really good/interesting.

Reading: Just finished "The Story of God: A Biblical Comedy about Love (and Hate)" by Chris Matheson. Scott gave me this book for my birthday, and I have to say that it isn't something that I would have picked up myself, but I love it. Doesn't that make for the perfect gift? It's completely hilarious, and a nice respite from the melancholy and dark books that I've been reading lately.

Eating: I made two quiches and pesto ranch roasted potatoes for a dinner party last week. The potatoes were so savory, so wonderful, so delicious that I lost track of our conversation with every bite. Distractingly delicious.

Thematic meal planning

Sparkling Allison

Sunday: Casserole

Things like baked ziti, mac and cheese, lasagna, frittata, quiche. This is on Sunday because Sundays typically allow for enough time for cooking this type of a meal.

Monday: Left overs

Who wants to cook on Mondays? And there are likely pizza or casserole left overs from the days before.

Tuesday: Meat substitute

Dishes with tofu and other meat substitutes, like fake burgers, chikn, etc.

Wednesday: Pasta

Boil pasta, throw some sauce on it, call it good. This is right at the peak of the week, when we're busiest and most tired.

Thursday: Ethnic

For us this will typically mean tacos or quesadillas, but could also be curry or stir fry dishes. These are also quick dishes to pull together for the middle of the week.

Friday: Pizza / Noche Juntos

We rock the homemade pizza. I put pizza on Friday deliberately because every other week, Scott and I go out on a date together (we call it Noche Juntos). So we'll only actually be having pizza every other week, and that's a good thing because we eat a lot of pizza. It's also a celebratory kind of meal, which is perfect for Fridays. 

Saturday: Order out / Try something new

Sometimes weekends are really busy, and we're going to want to order out. Other times, they offer a luxurious amount of time to cook something new and different.

Lose a job, gain a friend

Much LoveSparkling AllisonComment

It has hit me more than once over the last couple of weeks how loss leads to gains. I'm thinking in particular of how becoming unemployed has opened doors to some new relationships, and to the strengthening of some existing relationships. It is such a nice thing. I've really struggled with friendships since coming to Denmark, and it feels like suddenly my social life is booming. So thanks, unemployment, for that. 

We also found out this week that Calvin's vuggestue is closing. Unexpected, and everyone is really sad about it. My initial reaction was to do whatever it took to keep Calvin together with his classmates, who have become close friends. But reality struck, and we decided that it is actually best to get Calvin into a vuggestue closer to home.

But again, loss leads to gains. A handful of the parents are in touch now and coordinating weekend play dates. These are parents whose children I've known, but I've never met or talked to at length just because... Daily life at the vuggestue didn't require it. I'm kind of kicking myself for not being more proactive about meeting these parents before this happened. But I'm delighted that the parents I've been in contact with are so open to continuing the relationships our little ones have forged. 

It's not just relationships that I've gained. 

Time. Oh, the free time is glorious. I get to spend it reading over a prolonged cup of coffee, strolling through Torvehallerne, picking up Calvin a little early and biking around the neighborhood with him, making Halloween decorations, cooking for my family. Touring new vuggestues, and doing the necessary paperwork to file for an exemption that would let me get to the top of a waiting list. It's good times.  

Perspective. My head was down and a little bit in the sand about my career before. I've spent the last few weeks narrowing in on what I enjoy most about working, and setting some priorities for the type of work and people I want to be challenged by and surrounded with in the future. I'm feeling very fortunate about the connections and skills that I have. Very fortunate.  

Health. I thrive when I have a lot of sleep, and I am getting exactly that right now. I'm also walking and biking a ton, and eating well. Mm mm. Feels good. 

So loss, gain. This is just a reminder to myself to appreciate it as such. 

 

 

[Book] Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

BookSparkling Allison

My first time reading Wallace Stegner, and likely not my last. I read this book because it was recommended to me in Goodreads and forwarded by one of my favorite authors, Terry Tempest Williams. Both authors are from and write about the American West, although this book is mostly set on the upper East Coast. 

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. It has great depth of character and weaves the shared histories of two married couples together with a powerfully understated tone. The author addresses this tone directly saying:

"Human lives seldom conform to the conventions of fiction.

Drama demands the reversal of expectation, but in such a way that the first surprise is followed by an immediate recognition of inevitability. And inevitability takes careful pin-setting. Since this story is about a friendship, drama expects friendship to be overturned...

Well, too bad for drama. Nothing of the sort is going to happen. Something less orthodoxly dramatic is. Nevertheless there is this snake, no bigger than a twig or a flame of movement in the grass. It is not an intruder in Eden, it was born here. It is one of Hawthorne’s bosom serpents, rarely noticed because in the bosom it inhabits it can so easily camouflage itself among a crowd of the warmest and most generous sentiments."

I could not put the book down, and it's left me thinking about my own relationships, with Scott, with my family and with my friends. Definitely recommended.

[Book] We Are Water by Wally Lamb

BookSparkling Allison

I recently suggested this book to my virtual book club, and was surprised when everyone agreed to it and then actually read it because it is long. Not to mention it is also dark. There were large swaths of the book, chapters with one character's perspective in particular, that I flat out skimmed/skipped because my heart could not take it.

The last time I read Wally Lamb was back in college, so it's been over 10 years. I remember I Know This Much is True and She's Come Undone as amazingly deep stories. And just as this latest book We Are Water had its first twist, I also remembered why Wally Lamb is such a powerful writer. He introduces topics gently, and then hits you over the head with them emotionally later on. 

I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads. If you're a Wally Lamb fan, then I would recommend reading it to get a sense of his latest work. I would also recommend it for its powerful storyline and deep character development. It's not a book to read on a beach, or lightly in passing.

 

 

My 10 Commandments of Unemployment

Much LoveSparkling Allison1 Comment

According to research reported by Gretchen Ruben of the Happiness Project, habits form best in transition periods in your life. I've recently become unemployed, and want to take the opportunity to kick off some habits in addition to keeping myself busy and productive. So I've written 10 commandments for this period in my life, as follows:

  1. Thou shalt get 13,000 steps per day on your FitBit
  2. Thou shalt get a library card
  3. Thou shalt make social arrangements at least 2x per week
  4. Thou shalt spend Monday mornings, and only Monday mornings, cleaning the house
  5. Thou shalt start a photo-a-day project called #funemployment
  6. Thou shalt wash your face and brush your teeth every morning and night
  7. Thou shalt read a book a week
  8. Thou shalt share an interesting article on Twitter and LinkedIn 1x per day
  9. Thou shalt actively show gratitude for the support of your family and friends
  10. Thou shalt go to a museum on free admission day

IKEA start to finish

Sparkling Allison

Scott was out of town the last two Fridays when we'd normally have our Noche Juntos. Instead of canceling the regular babysitter, I took the opportunity to go to IKEA. Twice. I know I'm crazy.

The first visit was a surveying mission of sorts. I had a vague list of things we needed for the house, and some time to wander in and out. I came home with some photo frames, a couple of pillow cases, candles (of course), and a picture in my head of some items that caught my interest.

I spent almost every waking moment the following week thinking about what I'd seen, looking at items on their website, scouring Pinterest. I arranged and rearranged furniture, to make sure that it was just so, and that anything new would compliment and not clash. I measured. And I made a plan.

The following Friday, I executed. I found everything I wanted, loaded it up into two carts, and bought everything. I managed to get it into a taxi truck, and back home and unloaded before the babysitter had to leave. And then I built as much as I could on my own without Scott. I potted the houseplants. I arranged and adjusted.

I just feels damn good to make plan and see it through, right?

Our house is definitely turning in to an eclectic home that is much more worthy of love than our previous rental. And that also feels damn good.

[Currently] September

CurrentlySparkling Allison

Watching: Orange is the New Black, Season 1. Love it. And also it's not a show that Scott would ever want to watch, so I don't feel guilty binging on it without him.

Listening: My Spotify Discovery playlist. Spotify creates a fresh playlist automatically for you each week, with music that is tailored to your preferences. I love it. Takes out the guess work when I want to quickly start listening to music... I'd previously just turn on my starred music, but this is better as it introduces me to new songs and artists.

Reading: I just finished "We Are Water", for the virtual book club that I'm part of... I'd recommended the book because it's by one of my favorite author's Wally Lamb. To my surprised, the group was okay reading it, even though it's super long. I also didn't realize, but should have, that some of its themes would be so dark. Tis Wally Lamb, after all, digging deep into the darkest parts of the human psyche.

Eating: Vegetarian little smokies. Love 'em.

Playing: Alphabear.