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When I first arrived in Sweden a little more than 11 years ago, I had no job, no friends, no phone, and nothing to do except sit at my kitchen table in the darkness of Swedish winter and plug away at my Nutrition degree.
One day I was scrolling through the classified ads on The Local - an English news website in Sweden, and saw an ad that someone had posted looking for a dog walker in my neighbourhood. I emailed the lady, and it turned out that we lived only a few blocks apart, so I accepted what would be my first job in Stockholm - walking an affable Portuguese water dog named Jack.
Jack's parents were an American couple who had moved to Stockholm almost exactly at the same time as I had, and Alison and I became fast friends. She is, in fact, to this day my best Stockhomie, and whenever people ask us how we met we tell the story of connecting through Jack and that innocent little ad in the local newspaper.
It is not an exaggeration to say that everything that is good about my life here is a direct result of me responding to that ad. My circle of close friends who are my family here, we're all connected through Alison and Jack. My first proper job in Stockholm (one that finally didn't involve walking dogs or picking up poop) was thanks to Alison helping open doors for me and some significant coaching from her.
Jack has been part of every family dinner, every celebration, and so many memories for us here. One Christmas when I was heavily pregnant with Niko, Jack and I spent 10 days together when everyone else was travelling. We slept in until 11 most days, ate a lot of brownies, and watched an entire season of Jane the Virgin in one day.
Another time we had friends over for dinner to watch a late night 10K race that finished in front of our apartment. We had the windows wide open and we're all clapping and cheering at the windows, and Jack was right there with us, paws up and barking encouragement at the runners.
And then, when he knew that the humans were thoroughly distracted, he quietly backed out of the room to go finish the roast we'd left on the kitchen counter. It was like a murder scene in there, blood splattered all over the kitchen walls as he'd gleefully shook the roast around.
He was simultaneously one of the laziest dogs I've ever met, and full of energy. He was happy, easygoing, and loved by everyone who met him. He had a great life, and brought so much joy to so many people.
On Friday we said goodbye to Jack. I left work in the middle of a meeting when I got a tearful phone call from Alison asking if I could come and pick up her daughter so she could take him to the vet. He had a peaceful end, and then we had wine and takeout Vietnamese food and chocolate cake and toasted his wonderful life.
I honestly can't imagine what my life here would have been like had I not responded to that ad all those years ago. Thanks for everything, Jack. You'll be missed, buddy. And now, sleep well.
I've been listening to Caitlin Moran's book More Than a Woman and I must say I am thoroughly enjoying it. I decided to skip over the previous book, How to Be a Woman, which she wrote in her 30's, and go straight for this one which she wrote in her 40's.
I feel like this book should be required reading (or listening - she narrates the audiobook herself) for anyone who is juggling a career with small kids and trying to do all. the. things. There's a great chapter on women's bodies in which she talks about our obsession with fake body parts (like muffin tops, which, as she points out, don't exist. That's just your waist! Or back fat - that's just your back!) but the chapter on the push and pull of parenting really resonated with me.
She talks about how, in her opinion, any woman with a child under three isn't in her right mind, and gets a pass on any insane or absurd behaviour for at least 36 months. It occurred to me that my youngest child is about to turn three, and, having had a child under three for a full five and a half years straight, how I finally am starting to feel like I can catch my breath.
My youngest finally sleeps through the night most of the time - something that took more than two and a half years for his little brain to sort out. I can have conversations with both of my kids, and find out what's bothering them. Although they may not be rational beasts most of the time, it's still getting easier and easier. And they have funny and interesting things to say!
I have time and space for myself in a way that I haven't had in, well, five and a half years. I have time to exercise and my body feels strong and healthy again. I have time to read books. I can spend time with friends.
I love my children, but man is it nice to get back to my self again. Anyways. Highly recommend the book if you haven't read it already, and the audio book is great.
ON HEY NUTRITION LADY THIS WEEK
First up, Instant Pot Pumpkin! I've been making my own pumpkin purée for years, but now I've figured out the perfect technique for cooking either a whole pumpkin or pumpkin pieces in your Instant Pot.
I also updated my recipe for Amazing Vegan Gravy, complete with a video showing you how it's made. This stuff is next level delicious, and it can be made in advance and even frozen if you're prepping for Thanksgiving.
WHAT’S TRENDING ON HNL
1. 10-Minute Vegetable Ramen Noodles. Mmmhmm. Again.
2. Cinnamon Roasted Apples. Love these!
3. Black Bean and Quinoa Freezer Burritos. Always and forever.
4. Pumpkin Seed Butter. Love this allergy-friendly alternative to peanut butter.
5. Homemade Pumpkin Purée. This is the oven roasted stuff!
COMMENT OF THE WEEK
Pamela left the following comment and 5-star review on my Pumpkin Mac and Cheese recipe:
This recipe arrives in my inbox at the right moment. I had about 1 cup of pumpkin leftover in the fridge with no plans. Made this tonight and it was a winner!
THIS WEEK’S MENU
I think (I hope?) this is going to be a fairly normal-ish week after a few chaotic weeks. This is the last week of football for Niko, and I'm glad it's finally come to an end!
HERE’S WHAT’S ON THE MENU THIS WEEK:
Monday: Big salad
Tuesday: Going to test an Instant Pot recipe that I didn't get to last week.
Wednesday: Niko has football (soccer) so it'll be hotdogs from the kiosk or leftovers when we get home.
Thursday: I made Deb's Pasta Alla Vodka last week and it was so good I'm going to make it again.
Friday: I have a work event we'll surely get fed at.
Saturday: Odie's birthday dinner! I think were going out for burgers.
Sunday: Pizza night + soup.