Life Currently + Autumn Cake

Oops.  Well I have completely fallen off the blog everyday wagon--I warned you this might happen.  Honestly, I haven't been making the posts for two reasons...one, life has actually gotten REALLY hectic and crazy and insane and maybe I will talk more about it when I can collect my thoughts....and two, the lack of Halloween buildup in Sweden has actually depressed me.

First, the good: the cake.  Henri's mom turned 60 this past weekend and she threw a completely lovely party.  Wanting to try out my new baking skills, I made my go-to vanilla cake, but tried a new filling: homemade raspberry sauce.  The cake was topped with homemade buttercream icing and a thin layer of fondant.  Then I marbled yellow, red, and brown fondant and used some chocolate frosting to make an autumn tree.  It tasted great and was a huge hit.  I was proud.

Onto the bad.

There's no ten thousand spiders in every shop.  No "Halloween Stores" like the ones we had dotted all over Salt Lake.  No Starbucks with pumpkin spice lattes.  No prominent pumpkin displays in the store at all--I noticed a few pumpkins hidden in our grocery store yesterday and seeing them tucked away like an afterthought made me really sad.  No horror movie marathons, no community affairs, no friends planning Halloween parties.  Honestly, seeing how Sweden handles October has been my biggest challenge with living here.  Not owning guns irked me, the high taxes scared me, the prices on things like clothes and food were hard getting used to.  But I just don't know if I can call a place home that basically ignores my absolute favorite time of every year.  So yeah, I've been a little depressed.

But, I've been coping.  A few things happened.  Alicia sent me some pumpkin spice coffee creamer!! It has been ten months since I've used any kind of coffee creamer, and so this was an amazing treat.  I actually broke down and cried when I opened the package and saw that familiar Nestle packaging.  Thank you so much, Alicia!  Then today, I got a package from Derik.  He'd included a card, an adorable Trick or Treat gift bag with lots of Reese's and Skittles (two candies Sweden doesn't have) and a pumpkin necklace and bat ring.  Yes, again I broke down and cried.  A lot.  Sometimes you don't realize how homesick you are until you see the things that used to be commonplace to you, and you see how strange they look now.   What a feeling.

I know I'm being a big gloomy loser but of course I want to take the time and thank my friends for being so considerate and looking out for me, and knowing just what I need.  There's more fun stuff planned; a big gang of us are going to a bar/restaurant this weekend with a costume contest--and yes I plan on winning it--and my boss's older kids will be here on Halloween night, and I get to take everyone (four kids total) trick-or-treating.  

I hope by the time all that rolls around I will feel more at home and at peace with the incredibly creepy side of myself that needs ghosts and goblins and all of those things to feel at home. 


Christians, Don't Be An Oprah.

Sometimes I like to use my blog as my personal atheist-ranting soapbox.  This is one of those times.

I hate Oprah Winfrey.  I do, I always have.  I have a Top Three list of people I loathe, and she's only surpassed by Bam Margera.  I forget who number three was, but the point is, I despise Oprah.  I think she's disgusting with her AND YOU GET A CAR AND YOU GET A CAR AND YOU GET A CAR! and spending money in all the wrong places and wearing diamond earrings to an opening of a girl's school in Africa--oh the irony!!! So when I heard the news that she's done up and pissed off the atheist community I was not surprised.

Atheists Want An Apology from Oprah. 

Winfrey asked Nyad: “You told our producers you’re not a God person, but you’re deeply in awe?”
Nyad replied: “Yeah, I’m not a God person. I’m an atheist", prompting Winfrey to question: “But you’re in awe?”
Nyad said: “I don’t understand why anyone would find a contradiction in that.  I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist and weep at the beauty of this universe, and be moved by all of humanity.  So to me, my definition of God is humanity, and is the love of humanity.”

“Well I don’t call you an atheist then. I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder, and the mystery, then that is what God is. That is what God is. It’s not the bearded guy in the sky,” she said. 



"I have a blanket"
"But I think that only trucks can have blankets"
"Well but I have a blanket and that's that"
"Well then you're obviously a truck because my definition of truck is right"

DO YOU REALIZE HOW DEMEANING SUCH A STATEMENT IS.  It's not only demeaning as in "you're not allowed to experience the deep wonderful feelings Christians get" but it's also demeaning as in "it's okay, shhhh there there you're really not the bad icky word atheist."  This shit is exactly why atheists go on the media all timid and shy and get backed into a corner and then later have to apologize for their 'hurtful statements'.  Get over it, Oprah and people who agree with Oprah on this.  Atheism is here, it's loud and it's proud and it's beautiful, and just because BOO HOO I DON'T LIKE IT IT HURTS MY HEAD doesn't mean that we're leaving.  In fact, atheists are growing in numbers and more and more come out of the woodwork all the time.  Our children are born atheists until they are indoctrinated by the religion of their parents' choosing.

Being an atheist is, to me, the most beautiful thing a person can be or admit to being because an atheist really truly knows the ephemeral nature of this world and has no hope, no inkling and no false expectations of an incredible second chance.  How strong, how badass is that? And how completely perfect for such strange specks of carbon and dust, to have awareness of themselves and their mortality.  And to go through life NOT depending on a Skydaddy to fix all their problems and listen to all their first world problems while they whisper to him at night. 

When someone tells me they're an atheist, I don't bristle and I don't respond with a sober pause.  That's what every. single. Christian. does.  Whether you know it or not I promise you, that's what you do.  It's kind of like when we say, "Oh, I'm a pedophile."  Same reaction, just more subdued.  Anyway the point here is, I don't react that way.  I know what it feels like to be shunned when that "a" word rolls off the tongue.  I don't ask Christians to dig our awesome way of existing, because I don't care.  I'm just so fucking apathetic I do not care.  What I do ask is for some common fucking decency. 

In other words, acknowledge that atheists exist and aren't mad at God (it'd be like a Christian being mad at ...I don't know, Buddha? Just nonsensical) and aren't just being rebels or murderers or whatever.  Acknowledge that we are here and that we are awesome and that we can experience the same shitty emotions every other motherfucker on this planet does, and I won't be pissed.



Self Love: Things Younger Me Would Like About Older Me.


 "hey alex why don't you make a blog every day challenge!"
 "okay but let's take a lot of time choosing topics so that I don't miss any!"  
"sure, we'll take like weeks to put the list together!"

misses two Fridays in a row

Yeah well that's how it goes with me.  Fridays end up being days I have zero time to blog; I do my daily routine of taking care of the kids, then I have to pack and plan to go to Stockholm.  A two hour train ride without internet is no way to blog, and by the time I get to Stockholm I just want to crash and do nothing.  So here you have it, I suck.  

Today I had a bit of a conundrum too.  I'd originally hoped to make today's October challenge an entry in the SimplyPainted portrait challenge, but their linky list is closed/isn't working/something's wrong/I missed it.  Whatever.  I saw this topic, 'things younger me would like about older me' floating around the blogosphere and thought, hey, that's a pretty good prompt for a self love post!  I like the angle on it because I was a pretty shy, traumatized kid.  Thinking back to those days and imagining running across an older version of myself reminded me that I have a lot to be proud of

  •  Younger me would be happy that I got out of my bad family situation
  • and that I'm not so permanently scarred that I can't function (most of the time)
  • Younger me would be glad that I still love animals so much
  • and that I have a dream of being a writer; I always adored writing
  • Younger me would be thrilled that I have been able to travel overseas
  • Young Alex would enjoy my artwork and stories and the fact that I do paint
  • That I stood up to my family and don't let them boss me around or run my life
  • That I got to spend some time with Doris before she died, even if it was a short time
  • That I really found true love and a great man who makes me happy and takes care of me
  • That I have special friends who I like to take care of 

I think the thing I would be most happy/pleased about as a kid is realizing that I didn't give up.  I saw so many adults in my life giving up; teachers who didn't care about teaching, parents who could have given a shit less about their children, children who had zero aspirations and are now repeating the cycle of abuse and drugs and all that stuff.  I was in a black hole of a community where nobody ever escapes and I saw that as a child...but I certainly never thought I would be the one to get out the farthest, to live the fullest, to really appreciate life without giving up, even if I felt like I have given up many many times.  


And I thought MY jokes were bad.

Today's prompt: Paint yer face. 

So, this was supposed to be something less cliche-y.  However.  I have ALWAYS wanted to dress up as Joker for Halloween, but my attempts have been thwarted by one thing or the other.  This year my bright idea was "ooh I'll be Joker and Henri can be Two-Face!" CAN YOU BELIEVE HE SAID NO?

I basically live with an evil dictator.

Anyway, this was the perfect excuse to try out the makeup and Henri encouraged it.  My second choice was going to be pop-art, but I am happy I went with Heath!! Sorry that the photos are a little unoriginal.  I didn't have any Jokery clothes or hair accessories, so it was just the face. 


Wreta and Stjärnorp Ruins Part 2.

Check out part one here.  

I went this weekend with my Swedish au pair family and Henri to tourist around the rural areas near our home.  We got an overdose of magnificent autumn color, complete with a rainy day backdrop and cuddly scarves.  Though I adored Vreta and its beauty, the ravine down by the castle ruins is so more my style.  No thoughtful Christian monastery walls; a crazy wilderness with a twisting stream and threats of wild boar.

We were rained out for a few minutes, but everyone stood together under a large tree until the rain stopped and then we continued on our way, eating Lördagsgodis (a 2 kilo freaking bag) until we got sick.  I love going down into the ravine and feeling so far away from civilization, and then reaching the top of the cliffs and seeing a ruined burned castle across the field.

I know, I'm morbid.  Anyway, here are the photos from Stjärnorp!!


My Scary Movie List.

Today's October prompt is your personal list of scary/paranormal/horror movies.  I put paranormal specifically because as a rule I don't like slasher movies.  I am not impressed with gore and find ghosts to be infinitely more fascinating.  However, even paranormal movies are letdowns and I always have ideas that would have made the movies better.  I know, how immodest of me.  What can I say, I know how to tell a good ghost story!

Anyway this is my list and I know I have slightly out-of-the-norm tastes but that's kind of regular for me so I'm not sweating it.  Also, I suck and abandoned my first round of Freaky Friday Stories, but that's okay because I made up for it with a beautiful blog entry yesterday and plus Madi wrote a super creepy story that happened to her roommate.  Go read it and enjoy!

My Top Scary Films

the village
forget me not
the grudge
the grudge 2
silent hill
silent hill 2
the awakening
the messengers
paranormal activity 1,2,3
donnie darko
darkness falls
dead silence
rose red
evil dead


Wreta and the Ruins Part 1.

This weekend has been fantastic.  Henri came to visit and we piled in the car and all went to Vreta Kloster (Sweden's oldest church) and Stjärnorp Castle where my boss and I visited back in the spring.  This time though, everything was even more beautiful.  It was perfect.  The sky was foggy and grey, the colors were vivid, and I was with some of my favorite people.

Since there's so many pics I decided to split this post into two parts; I'll post the castle ruins later this week!


Day 1: Dark Matter - A Ghost Story

First day of my October theme!!

Day One: Review the Scariest Book You've Ever Read

I'm not going to lie, I chose this as the first day prompt because I read an amazingly great scary book recently and I've been literally dying to blog about it.  It's a ghost story book, so I felt it totally qualified.  (As a side note, second runner up was definitely Something Wicked This Way Comes--one of my top books of all time.  Third would be One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.) But number one is

Dark Matter - A Ghost Story by Michelle Paver

This book was loaned to me by my darling Georg.  Georg is a wealth of information and passion on the north of Scandinavia, which is the setting of this book, and I trusted his taste when he told me Dark Matter was a great and scary read.  I kind of devoured it in two days.   The writing was superb because it wasn't overly complicated--simple and to the point, the way a good ghost story should always be.  It was a pretty short book as well, but still managed to be suspenseful.  Some parts literally had me gripping the edges of the pages in anticipation.

Plotwise; a young poor London telegraph operator who is slightly jaded by his poorness and loneliness, is approached by some young rich lads with dreams of spending a year in Norway's dark region of the north.  They want him to be the radio operator while they do research (set in 1937, when England was keeping a wary eye on Germany.) Jack, the telegraph operator, accepts the job and the first part of the book takes place as they're preparing to leave England.

At first it's exciting; going up north, a new life experience, getting to know each other, all that fun stuff.  Then the big burly Norwegian ship captain warns them extensively about the place they've chosen to set up camp.  He almost doesn't take them to begin with.  Scary.  He doesn't explain anything and opts to leave the Englishmen there hurriedly and get himself, his ship and crew out.  I won't spoil too much of the book from there, but it works heavily on themes of darkness (the sun sets for good around September and they're left with only moonlight) and cabin fever as well as a supernatural being who resides in the area.  It's a terrifying combination: dark, aloneness, a vengeful ghost.

And yet the book was touching in a way too, which I think is the reason I liked it so much. The main character starts out so gloomy and poor and hardened and then as he spends time in the north he becomes more broken and in need of human contact.  He is a typical lonely child who had to grow up too fast and watching him work through his emotions (while being terrified) is really heart-wrenching.  Then of course the end of the book had me bawling like a freaking baby for a few hours and I had to take a recovery day just to readjust to the present.

One of the best books I have ever read and definitely the scariest book I've ever read.  Georg strikes again!