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Oh man is it ever dark here.
We are way up north (Stockholm is a little farther north than Juneau, Alaska) and in December our sun is setting at 2pm. Like, don't come at me complaining about a 4pm sunset, mmmkay?
But this year, it has been spectacularly dark. Normally in December we get some snow, but so far this year has just been grey and drizzly.
Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for the mild weather since we're commuting exclusively by bike these days. But the snow usually brightens things up considerably, and this year has been particularly dismal. We've had zero hours of sunlight so far in December (our last sunlight was on November 28th) and right now we get about four hours of dimness to punctuate the darkness.
I was at work the other day and asked a colleague how long he'd been sitting in a room for. He turned to me and said "I don't know, is it morning or afternoon?"
It really is impossible to tell right now.
On Tuesday morning a news update flashed across my phone with a photo of the first little old lady getting a covid vaccine in the UK, and as soon as I saw it I broke down and cried and cried.
This has been such a tough year, and so many of us have developed a tough shell and soldiered through it. We've been adapting to new ways of working, dealing with economic uncertainty, high levels of anxiety, missing our families, and a million other things.
My shell is weary. It has been cracked and patched and cracked again, and it just needs some freaking rest. So when I saw the picture of Margaret Keenan in her adorable penguin t-shirt getting a historic vaccination, I just fell apart.
This vaccine brings with it a glimmer of hope for so many of us, and although my age and good health status will mean I'm a long way down the list when Sweden starts vaccinating people (reportedly in early January), it's allowing me for the first time in a long while to consider the possibility that sometime in 2021 I might get to see my parents.
I, luckily, nipped out to Vancouver in January to meet my newborn niece. My kids were last in Canada in the summer of 2019, and Odin was around nine months old at the time. Consider that he'll be nearly three when he next meets his grandparents. A couple of lifetimes have gone by.
I know that our story is far from unique, and we have been fortunate in many ways. But this year has been bloody hard, and if Bill Gates wants to implant a microchip in my arm, then so be it. Sign me up, Bill! Give me alllllll the microchips. My data is yours! Control the shit out of me!
As it happened, while Margaret Keenan was getting jacked up with antibodies (and microchips!) my own immune system was waving a white flag and and I went down hard on Thursday this week. I woke up with a sore throat that I was hoping was just due to yelling in my sleep (a thing I do sometimes) but alas, it kept developing.
Our protocol here is that anyone with any symptoms must stay home and order a covid test. You can either do a drive-in test, or, since so many Stockholmers don't own cars, have one delivered right to your home.
I opted for the latter (no car here), and am still waiting for it to arrive as there is a serious backlog right now.
I was fairly certain that it was just a cold that Odes brought home from daycare, but as the cold settled into my chest became increasingly concerned that I may have exposed some colleagues to covid; I was in the office on Wednesday, and woke up with a sore throat on Thursday.
One of my colleagues has a brother who sells covid tests, and he convinced the head of our company to buy a batch of them for the office. After a quick chat with this guy, less than an hour later his brother (who, by the way, was extremely easy on the eyes) showed up outside my apartment with a batch of rapid tests.
I took one, waited 15 minutes, and got the results: negative.
(By the way, it was the same colleague who mom-shamed me for not having Christmas decorations who then organized a home delivery of the rapid tests by his hot brother. I think he's officially been forgiven.)
I'm not sure of the reliability of these rapid tests, and the box specifically says not for at home use (which is exactly what I did) and for professional use only (I am not a medical professional, for the record), so I will still be hunkering down for the time being.
Like I said, really looking forward to that microchip.
I think that I have officially finished my Christmas shopping, including Santa (lazy bastard!), my parents (who at least funded their own gifts, unlike Santa), and myself.
I'm still waiting for several items to arrive, and then need to strategically time post office pickups as our outlets are just as insane as the stores right now, if not worse.
In Sweden there is no official post office, rather they have post ombuds, which are set up in stores. Many of these are little corner stores, and I've walked past those with piles and piles of boxes stacked up outside on the street since there are so many packages and they have so little space. It seems like a flawed system at best, especially since one of the things I ordered is a rather expensive electronics item that I'm sure any unscrupulous character would love to get their hands on.
I have also taken the liberty of buying myself a few gifts this year. In addition to probably more new clothes than I've ever bought before (which is ironic considering the lack of places to wear them - but when things open up again I am PREPARED!) I bought myself a perfume that I've been obsessed with for a couple of years, Tacit by Aesop.
This is totally insane, because I don't like scented products and perfume generally gives me a headache. But ever since I first bought a hand soap from Aesop and the sales person spritzed the bag with Tacit, I have been obsessed.
So I finally bought it and have been trying to find ways to use it that don't give me a headache. I've found that if I spritz a sweater or something well before I'm going to wear it and let it air out a bit, the scent has generally faded enough to be tolerable and pleasant. Any other folks out there who like scents but can't generally wear them? Have you found a workaround?
I also ordered a copy of Vegetable Kingdom, by Bryant Terry, which is a cookbook I've been looking forward to for a while. And, a copy of the 100-Day Financial Goal Journal by Alyssa Davies, a Canadian money blogger who writes over at Mixed Up Money.
Between ad revenue from the blog and a big promotion at work, my income has increased considerably over the past six months, and one of my 2021 goals is to get a good budget and savings plan worked out. I know there are a ton of apps and budget programs online, but I'm really a pen and paper girl when it comes down to it, and the reviews for this journal are great so I'm going to give it a try.
Have you started your Christmas baking yet? I have not, but have ambition to get started this weekend.
I'm planning to make these White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies, which are a riff on my favourite salted chocolate chip cookies from Not Without Salt. And by the way, my homemade Vanilla Salt is perfection with these.
Then, of course, a batch of my Brown Sugar Shortbread. I tragically didn't get around to making them last year, and plan to not make that mistake again.
I'll also be making my late Grandpa Trant's Gingersnap Cookies, which you'll find a terrible old post for deep in the HNL archives. The photos and post are not in good shape, but the recipe is solid.
And I'm also planning to make a batch of Cooked Eggnog (another old recipe in rough shape) since we don't get eggnog in the stores here and the thought of drinking raw egg grosses me out beyond belief.
My friend Alison and I have our annual Nicky Ball rolling / Love Actually watching date coming up this week, provided that my symptoms have cleared up and my official test is negative. We're in a holiday bubble together, so chill.
Nicky Balls, for those that are new here, are my absolute favourite Christmas treat. It's a riff on a chocolate rum ball that my mom must have gotten out of a magazine or something back in the 80's, and it just isn't Christmas without them. I'll never post the recipe on this site because it just isn't "on brand" for HNL, but am more than happy to email it out to anyone who is interested.
ON HEY NUTRITION LADY THIS WEEK
It's the battle of the schmears this week! First up, this delightful Vanilla Almond Butter recipe. I first posted this back in 2012 or so, and it was long overdue for a glow-up. It's easy, it's delicious, and yes, it makes a great homemade gift.
Next, another much needed makeover for this incredible Vegan Nutella Recipe. It's sweetened only with dates, is totally plant-based, and is so good I can't stop eating it straight from the jar with a spoon.
WHAT’S TRENDING ON HNL
Yeah, yeah, we all know that Mung Bean and Coconut Curry is in number one. So let’s look at what else is trending.
1. How to Cook Mung Beans. Mung beans still holding strong at the top.
2. Turmeric Latte Mix. Was so glad to have a jar of this on hand this week.
3. 10-Minute Vegetable Ramen Noodles. So easy and so good.
4. Chia Fresca. Gotta stay hydrated, yo!
5. Homemade Pumpkin Purée. Still kicking!
COMMENT OF THE WEEK
Pamela left the following comment and 5-star review on my Coconut Banana Granola recipe:
This is my favourite granola recipe. It’s so easy, and so adaptable with different nuts and dried fruit. I remember a moment when a friend was over (remember pre-covid when we could have friends over!?) and they ate part of a banana and threw the rest in the compost because it had a bruise. I just about had a heart attack. Sadly there was some gross stuff in the compost bin, so I left that half banana….but it was half a perfectly useful banana!! But anyways. Love the granola.
This is my favourite granola recipe, too! It's so easy and so delicious.
THIS WEEK’S MENU
I am finding that I've reached that point in the year where I'm just trying to get to the finish line, I'm tired, and really don't have much energy for cooking. As such I've planned some super simple meals for this last week of work.
I also wanted to share an easy dinner I made for myself this week. What I really wanted was to order takeout, but I feel like my relationship with the delivery service has been a bit unbalanced lately, so decided to quickly scrounge together a meal based on what I had in the freezer.
I threw a big handful of frozen sweet potato fries on a sheet pan together with some veggie nuggets (I don't eat a lot of fake meat, but I do really like a good veggie nugget now and then - these ones are soy based) and a whole head of broccoli I tossed with garlic, olive oil, and parmesan.
15 minutes in the oven and I had a tasty, satisfying, and nutritionally balanced meal.
I also cooked up a HUGE batch of vegetarian chili yesterday (which the kids unequivocally rejected) as I was testing this recipe in the Instant Pot. So I'll be eating a lot of leftover chili in the coming weeks.
Here's what's on the menu this week:
Sunday: Homemade pizza with my Spelt Pizza Dough.
Monday: Leftover pizza and beans (instead of beans and buns)
Tuesday: Tortellini, halloumi, and broccoli. Another dead easy dinner that the kids actually eat.
Wednesday: Leftover chili and baked potato.
Thursday: Savory Dutch baby and kale salad.
Friday: Snack dinner with a Vegetarian Cheese Board.
Saturday: I dunno. Family dinner - what should I make?!
WHAT’S GOOD AROUND THE WEB