Winter Walks & Musings With My Daughter

I didn’t think it was possible to love winter more, but this year it’s different. This year I’m carrying a child, and winter, almost as if it knows, keeps giving and giving and giving. I can’t stop smiling. I’ve actually started to say ‘thank you’ to the sky whenever it drops its crystals. I’m exactly the same as I was when I was a kid – running to the window in the morning to peer outside and see if  it’s still there.

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Sure, the snow and the ice makes walking to the store a risky, polar-like voyage where I have to be extra extra extra careful, and I can’t ride my bike because I don’t have the same ‘don’t give a shit if there’s three foot of snow on this footpath lying atop a thick layer of black ice, I’m riding my bike’ Swedish attitude. But it’s so worth it.

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This winter, I started to obsessively check the weather. I’ve never really done that before and think that I’m getting to that age now where knowing what’s happening weather wise is really bloody important. But maybe I won’t give a damn when winter is over.

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I check the weather all the time nowadays because I want to know for how long this cold fairytale is going to last. I want it as much for my daughter as for me. Sharing this season with a baby in the womb is magic. Feeling her settle as we move through the snow not yet trodden, then feeling her wake up and turn when we arrive and stop by a furiously gushing determined-not-to-be-frozen stream is so peculiar and beautiful and unexpected I just want to cry, because I don’t know what else to do with my emotions.

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If sharing winter with an unborn is magic,  I don’t think my heart will be able to take sharing winter with an actual breathing, seeing, listening, babbling baby. I think about it. I think about what it will be like all the time, and when I go out for these walks, I wonder to myself ‘I hope I’m already installing in her a love for this season that will rival mine.’

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I hope that, through the winters we’re going to share, she will want to touch the snow and smell it and eat it and take it home with us. I hope that she will want to hug the trees, and know how old they are. I hope that she will want to stroke both long and tiny icicles, and sit for hours watching as they glimmer in the sunshine and catch the drops of melt water as they thaw.

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Mamma To A Little Girl

It was on Fettisdag – the sweetest day in the Swedish calendar – that we found out the gender of our baby. On Fettisdag, everyone in Sweden eats semla, a soft wheat flour bun, flavoured with cardamon, and filled with almond paste and whipped cream. It’s a day when everyone is smiling with a sweet taste on their tongue.

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Sebastian had told me, when we first became pregnant, that in Sweden it’s common not to be told the baby’s gender until the birth. And, if I’m being perfectly honest with you, I felt a real hesitation to tell us from all three doctors who performed our three separate ultrasounds. As in, none of them asked ‘would you like to know the gender?’ Growing up in England, I’d always thought that it was a natural part of the proceedings.

When I asked to know, I needed to repeat myself several times until they actually actively looked. I don’t know if it has something to do with Sweden’s fixation on gender equality or something, but it doesn’t make for a comfortable situation when you have to ask and then ask again and then ask again. I felt like I was being a pest and I worried that they would think it was the only thing that mattered to me.

But all that aside, when we were told there was a girl dancing in my belly, my body was overcome with this soft, warm wave of bliss. (Very much like how you feel after taking that first bite of a semla.) A daughter. I was going to be the mamma to a daughter!

It felt like the greatest privilege and a blessing. A very real blessing. When I was a starving teenager living on bedrest in hospital, I was told having children wasn’t going to be in my future if I didn’t eat.

I suppose that makes finding out about my daughter (still haven’t got used to saying that…) on a day when a whole country indulges in something sweet and decadent without bad feelings, makes this valued, delicious celebration in February even more cherished and loved than it already was.

*If you want to read more about Fettisdag, check out my blog post here.

Thrifting For Life & A Haul For Baby

Money wasn’t something my family had much of when I was growing up. But what we lacked in coins and notes, we made up for with mountains of unfaltering love, adventure after adventure and an unshakable appreciation for everything good that came our way.

Carefully picking through the racks and shelves in second hand stores, and pacing fields full of open car boots was normal, just as normal as receiving hand-me-downs from friends and family. We could always find magic in places other people couldn’t. Whenever mum would come home with a black bin bag or two of clothes, our excited kid voices would bounce off the walls of our little cottage.

Being frugal runs in the family. My late Granddad Keith, a large, loud, lovely Yorkshire man with a heart too big for this world, was all about being thrifty. He would save cereal boxes and cut them up so we could use the cardboard inners to draw on.

He bought my first typewriter at a carboot sale, my first copy of Dracula from a carboot sale, my first collection of precious stones from a carboot sale. We would visit him empty handed and leave with bags and bags of treasure.

Since coming to Sweden, thrifting has become ever more an integral part of my life. It’s expensive to live here. Buying things new – especially clothes – isn’t something I can do without making a detailed plan first.

But even if I could afford to buy new, without having to spend hours planning my budget, it would be rare that I actually would, unless it was from a small company hand-making their threads.

I don’t get the same feeling when I walk into, say, H&M as I do walking into a thrift store. All I see in H&M is waste. Thanks to how I was brought up, thrifting isn’t a thing I do to pass the time, it’s a lifestyle, and it will still be a lifestyle when Pinecone is born. By thrifting, I’m not only being careful with our money, I’m also doing my part to be more gentle to the environment and my family.

Baby Moccasins

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I go thrifting 2-3 times a week. (Though I’m trying to make it more regular now that Pinecone is soon here and we still need much…)

The other day I was close to giving up for the day and going home with nothing, when I found these never worn baby moccasins for 25kr (just over £2). The insides feel as soft as a dream, and I already know I’ll hold onto them as a precious memento when Pinecone outgrows them.

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Crochet Baby Shoes

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It was the autumnal colours of these handmade baby shoes that had me pick them up. The price tag of 10kr (just under £1) also factored in.

Sometimes, when I buy things that have been handmade, I think how much I’d love to meet the person who crafted them and ask them all the questions why/where/when/for who did they get made?

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Handmade Baby Lusekofte

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Mamma has one. Pappa has one (though he’s yet to wear it for apparently it makes him look like a ‘fat Norwegian’) and now Pinecone has one. I wish you could have seen my face when I found this on the rails for just 29kr (just under £3.)

The Lusekofte sweater, for me – like the Icelandic Lopapeysa – epitomizes the far north and it feels right we all have one. I’m already finding myself faraway in midwinter 2019 (I imagine it will fit Pinecone then…) when I’ll be tugging a little polo neck (we lived in them when I was a kid) over his/her head, then slipping on the Lusekofte before heading out into the snow.

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Elsa Beskow Block Jigsaw

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It was a few days before my 7th birthday when I started at Botton Village Steiner School, after being taken out of a state primary. Apparently, wearing a Naf Naf jacket and having a Yorkshire accent when you’re six is enough to ensure you’re bullied relentlessly.

It was there, in a small classroom, in a small school, in a small village deep in the North Yorkshire Moors, that I became familiar with the art of Swedish author and illustrator Elsa Beskow.

I’ll always remember her books being of such fine quality (the size and spines are so distinctive) that I held them as carefully as I could. I would study the art so intently I’d make my small eyes ache. I’d wish myself into those enchanted Swedish forests, where owls are teachers, children fly on  the back of bats and trolls appear from stones.

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It’s a rare occasion to find a Beskow book when thrifting, let alone a jigsaw. When I first came to Sweden, I naively expected to go thrifting and be spoiled with moose skulls, Beskow books and trolls in all shapes and sizes.

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I remember someone was looking at this block jigsaw before me, and I hoped so hard they’d put it back down. For one reason or another they did, and in I swooped.

It cost 25kr (just under £2.50) and while it’s been loved plenty, there’s still to much love for it to receive and still so many good times for it to provide until the pictures finally wear away.

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I Am At Peace With Being A Homemaker

I used to have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and mess, of any kind, would send me into a terrifying rage. The fights I would get into with my brothers and sister were apocalyptic, and they could be over the smallest thing, like leaving their shoes on when they came inside the house after I’d vacuumed.

It went beyond that though. I literally couldn’t handle it when something was even the slightest bit off, say, a bottle of shampoo in the bathroom cupboard wasn’t facing the right way, or the bag in a box of cereal was left wide open instead of being folded down, or if one of the posters on my bedroom wall wasn’t exactly aligned with the poster next to it. I couldn’t do anything else unless I made what was wrong right.

While most teenagers did teenagery things after school, I could be found at home, vacuuming and smoothing creases out of my bed covers. At the time, untidiness felt like a matter of life and death. I wasn’t a homemaker back then, however. I was a girl trapped with an illness that robbed her of any kind of normality.

In the past few years, I’ve became more ‘comfortable’ around untidiness. I’ve been able to leave dirty clothes in corners, walk past piles of breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes, look into a mirror smeared with the residue of hell only knows what…and walk away without feeling like a terrible person.

Why could I do this? Well, there’s few reasons. Much of the time, it was because I was too depressed and weighted down with fatigue that I didn’t have the strength, or the care in me to clean effectively. Other times it was because I prioritized my writing over making our home shine. I never envisaged myself as someone who would call herself a homemaker, and actually be HAPPY about it.

This lasted until the 31st of December 2017 when I went into ‘nesting mode’ and spent a week de-cluttering the apartment. Then I did make our home shine.

When I realised how content it made me feel to have glasses nicely stacked in the cupboard, to have the floor clean of dust balls, to have a sink free of dishes and debris from taco night, I knew I was a homemaker and I knew I was happy about it.

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When I had OCD, tidying never left me feeling content for more than a few minutes. But now, today, living the role of a homemaker makes me feel fulfilled. I’m brighter in myself and and fizzing with energy. Ironically, I also write better – and more – now too.

I’ve developed little tidying routines throughout the day, to make sure I don’t fall behind. Cleaning the kitchen and the living room early in the morning, before I start my work, gives me clarity and focus.

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Making use of my time by, say, unloading the dishwasher while the kettle is boiling helps me feel effective and satisfied.

Doing a sweep of the rest of the house before Sebastian and Little Tyra come home, means we’re happier as a family too, because Tyra has space to run around (though I have surrendered to the fact that keeping a four year old’s bedroom tidy isn’t always realistic) and Sebastian doesn’t have to come home from his job to another job.

For the first time in my life, I actually get excited at the prospect of buying new shelves for our overflow of books, or getting rid of the depressing mustard colour on the walls in the hall, or having a shower in a bathtub that isn’t cluttered with empty shampoo bottles.

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Nowadays I don’t just throw stuff on top of old stuff in the pantry because I need to do something more important. I’m practical and vigilant and know what needs to stay and what needs to go. I rarely used the words ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ anymore.

I find peacefulness in putting away and storing our food. Pouring a packet of pasta into a clip top jar, and lining it up next to the rice and lentils in the pantry is soothing in ways I never could have imagined.

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And there’s something so gratifying about popping open a jar to take out a spoonful of sugar for my tea, or pouring cranberry juice from a beautiful glass bottle instead of a carton. These little changes make me slow down and think about what I’m doing and what I’m putting into my body. It makes me feel grounded. It makes me feel like I finally have my shit together.

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I’ve been paying attention to what my star sign (Virgo) has to say about cleaning and decoration of the home. Since living in Sweden, I’ve developed a love obsession with the colour white – especially in the kitchen – and wasn’t surprised to read that Virgos favour using white, black and grey in their homes.

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Most of what we have left now in the kitchen after my de-cluttering, is white and grey with wooden additions. Having my collection of clear quartz on the windowsill, and white candles in an iron candle holder (thrifted!) are essential to helping me feel peaceful. The pale walls and wooden table make it feel like we have the outdoors inside, which is also essential to feeling peaceful and positive.

I love organisation (another Virgo trait) and being able to function in this way without the weight of OCD is so refreshing and freeing. I feel like I’ve found balance in my life, the balance I’ve never had before, the balance I’ve been searching for.

 

 

 

 

Will I Be A Good Mamma?

When I need to reflect, I leave home and my internet connection, and head out into the forest. It’s the most freeing feeling – walking away from civilization with the knowledge there’s nothing out there among the trees that will judge me, and knowing that, by the time I’m ready to head home, I’ll more than likely have solutions to my problems, or a greater sense of self-esteem that I couldn’t have otherwise arrived at.

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Being at home with the internet at hands reach, it’s so easy, too easy to spurt out  what your mind is reflecting on before you’ve properly had time to work through it yourself.

Walking into the trees gives my mind the space it needs so it can do its thing better. It’s when I’m out there, where my boots shuffling through the snow is the only sound I hear, that I can untangle my thoughts and work through them methodically.

Just outside our home, there’s a wall of stone with a kingdom of icicles clinging to it. When the sun hits them, they dazzle like nothing else I’ve ever seen. It’s mesmerizing enough that, if I’m not watching my footing, I’m down on my arse. It happens often.

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I’m infatuated with icicles, from the baby tooth sized wands that tinkle when broken, to the great walrus tusk sized giants that roar when they finally fall. It was today, while I was navigating a slope to get a better look at the water crystals, that I started to think about showing Pinecone the icicles next winter. I’ll explain how they form, and what happens to them when spring arrives.

And from there, I started to think of the ways my mum would always involve us in the seasons, and how she made us all so curious about the changes that happen in nature, and I started to think if I would be able to do it, do the whole ‘being a mum’ role as well as my own did and still does. (I’m still getting my head around the idea that I will be called mamma instead of mum.)

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My mum told me she’d fucked up at times when we were growing up, but all I can remember is how good she was at raising four cubs. I don’t know if she’d agree with me, but my mum was a natural nurturer,  impulsively handling the most important job in the world like she’d done it a thousand times before in a thousand previous lives.

I want to be enough, enough like my mum, a woman who always manages no matter what life hurls in her direction. Lots of women worry about ‘turning into their mother’ when they have a child, but if I could be even part of what my own mother was then and is today, I’d be so grateful.

 

I’ve Been Here Before, But It Was Different

I’ve been here before, but it was different. There was a different story to tell.

For nearly fifteen years I’ve been cultivating blogs, offering a window into my personal reality, as much for myself, as for my closest, as for strangers thousands of miles across oceans. Blogs that have helped me (in part) to understand the complicated workings of my head, understand other people and understand life.

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I don’t know if you’ll remember Live Journal, but it was there I started, in 2004, when I was on a break in between lessons at college. I wrote something appalling – though vaguely funny – about my chakra bracelet and the healing capabilities of its crystals. (That’s the beautiful thing about blogging – the absolute freedom to write about anything.) Although it was a sprawling mess of a post – I was ridiculously over-excited, blogging was a new notion for me – writing it and posting it and seeing it there on the actual live internet was the most glorious thing. The rest of my day was illuminated, my head spinning ideas for my next post and the one after that and the one after that.

Before Live Journal, before the coming and almighty reign of the internet, I was writing in diaries – the teeny, tiny lock and key kind – with whatever pen I could locate that worked. (Usually in the murky yet intriguing depths of my mother’s handbag.) It was the ritual at the end of every day. Then it became the ritual whenever I needed the ritual. Which turned out to be very bloody often.

I ended up leaving my diary on my desk, open on the page I was writing on, so I could add whatever, whenever. My diary was my sanctuary. I could come and go whenever I wanted. I preferred to come and stay though, and could find leaving excruciatingly difficult at times. When I started blogging, I quickly found my sanctuary in the creation and publishing of posts. And, like with my diary, it was important for me to visit every day and could be hard to leave.

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Over the years it’s happened that I’ve stayed on with a blog for too long. I’ve been afraid to let go, afraid that, while my head was saying, ‘you know you’re not the same as the woman back then…’ my heart was mumbling, ‘but what if…?’

Recently I’ve let go of a blog I’ve been devoted to since 2013. It took several months to finally quit. I missed it when I would leave it for a while, I missed it so fucking much. I kept saying to myself, ‘it’s just a hiatus, I’ll be back soon.’ And although my stats were booming – even though I wasn’t posting – my passion for creating content that was meaningful enough to publish was flagging and I knew, deep down where it hurts, I was going to have to step away.

I made the decision that, instead of zoning in on the lives of others – which was what my blog had been about most of the time – I’d concentrate my energy more on my own.

Of course I thought ‘but what about the risk?’ ‘what if it’s only writer’s block?’ ‘what about the hard work that goes into setting up something new?’ It wasn’t enough to take my blog in a new direction though…I needed a fresh pasture, especially since 2018 is a transformative year for me, in more ways that I can count on two hands.

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It was a risk. Starting something new always is. It took days to find the design I wanted to use for Untamed Homemaker. Days to scan through hundreds of fonts for the blog title. Weeks to come up with a name. But the sense of achievement when it finally came together was so profound. I found  myself  re-invigorated with a natural momentum that I hadn’t felt in ages.

Naturally I think of all the thousands of hours and years of energy that have gone into the blogs I’ve created, but rather than feel majorly pissed, I feel majorly accomplished. Over the years I’ve been continually refining my blogs in every sense; the writing, photography, design, accessibility…I see Untamed Homemaker as the most beautiful and inspiring blogging spaces I’ve ever had.

A year or so ago, it never dawned on me that I would stop creating content for my previous blog. I thought Wyrd Words & Effigies and I were in it together for life. I never thought that I’d stop producing there, and instead launch a blog where I would talk about being a mamma in Sweden, an untamed homemaker, a woman diagnosed with bi-polar and a writer trying to make ends meet in a foreign country.

But now I can’t think of anything more thrilling. I want my blog to be a place of exploration, of first times, of a life lived differently.