I didn’t always love Christmas. For many years I didn’t. I associated it with feeling abandoned and lonely, even when I was surrounded by people. But then, about eight years or so ago, I started devouring Christmas in my own little ways. I bought my first Christmas tree while I was in my first year at university. I started watching the Swedish Julkalender on SVT Play, made lots of Christmas sweets, and listened to an insane amount of Christmas music. And somewhere along the way, I started to really love Christmas. These days I do whatever I can to make the month of December feel as long as possible.
I am not a super crafty person, but I like developing and executing concepts that I think will make an impact on the target audience (after all, I’m a marketer). That’s why I was so happy to see a cute DIY advents calendar on Dnilva’s blog that inspired some great thinking. She listed 24 activities, one for each day, in the run-up to Christmas. I wish I had the energy for 24 activities in the run-up to Christmas he he but I totally don’t, so instead I copied her idea and replaced the activities with little love letters. To the man who has everything and wants nothing, i.e. H.
I bought the pegs at Panduro, but otherwise I just used stuff that I had lying around at home. A piece of string, colourful pens and sheets of paper. Easy peasy.
And little letters filled with memories and things I love about the man I love.
I hung them on the mirror in our bedroom and, as you can see, I only made it halfway through December before I had to prep a dinner I was hosting. So fingers crossed I’ll get to the next half before December 13!
Anyway, it was a roaring success. And a wonderful complement to the tea advents calendar we have. I now visualise us reading little love letters over cups of tea every night until Christmas (lol that’s obviously a joke).
And that’s it! Thank you, Dnilva, for the inspiration.
What a weekend! It’s as though the weather gods decided to play nice all of a sudden, after having given us nothing but grey and clouds for the past month. Some of you might have read that Skåne had 12 (!) hours of sunshine throughout the first three weeks of November. It certainly felt like it, and explains why most of my Instagram feed has been littered with pictures of the light over the past few days.
I’ve been looking forward to December for what feels like forever. There are so many wonderful things happening this month and many things to look forward to, other than Christmas. And the first thing happened today! I had some of my girl mates over for this year’s first Christmas fika.
I’ve been exhausted for most of November (and I bet it’s got to do with the lack of sun), so it was lovely to have enough energy to actually put some nice food together and see some friends. We’ve also just shuffled things around a bit in the house and it’s always nice to have some friends pver to discuss the progress of the house. The house is a never-ending project, which is amazing but can also feel quite taxing.
We also got the stove going for the first time (!) since I moved in over a year ago. H has kept saying that ”it’s broken, it doesn’t actually transmit any heat” and we found out today that although it doesn’t transmit as much heat as it should, it definitely transmits enough. Which means that there’ll be a lot of evenings in front of the fire from now on.
The girls headed off after lots of bubbles and gingerbread cookies and I made H and me some salmon pasta, which I then inevitably and predictably cried into. I always seem to get emotional with gratitude on Sundays. It’s as though the weekends give me time to think about what life is actually like. And every time I take a step back and think about this little life I get overwhelmed with love and gratitude.
So yes. What a glorious start to December. I can’t wait for the rest!
The greatest sign that Christmas is around the corner is not all the Christmas party invitations, nor is it the festive lighting that starts to appear. It’s Slush, the biggest tech conference in Europe that happens at the end of November every year. Roughly 25,000 people attend annually, and for the past couple of years, I’ve been one of them. I work in communications, so every year I undertake a number of activities in relation to Slush. It’s my job to secure speaking slots, media train spokespeople, coach them before and after speaking slots and interviews with the press, and — of course — set up interviews with members of the press about whatever piece of news we’re pushing at that particular point.
This year there were five of us going for three days packed of talks, interviews, and meetings. Someone asked me if it was my first time at Slush and it made me think of my all the international tech conferences I’ve gone to and how I can backtrack personal and professional growth by using tech conferences as milestones. Here are some snippets:
2015 —Web Summit, Dublin: The first conference I travelled abroad for, and also the first time I singlehandedly did a press briefing with a C-level spokesperson. I think it was with The Times, and I remember that I was very nervous.
2016 — Slush, Helsinki: The first time I travelled to a tech conference without a spokesperson or any particular news to talk about, but still managed to set up meetings with several journalists that led to great things later.
2017 — SXSW, Austin: I tried a similar approach at SXSW a few months later, but the American journalists were much harder to charm. After five days or so I eventually threw caution to the wind and went on a date with a real-life cowboy instead, which, to be fair, I’ll remember forever. I also got hold of a top tier business journalist who I met in New York several months later, at which point she took me to a very fancy press launch of a new oven(!). It felt uncanny, and it turned uncannier when she eventually said that she would cover my client for money. Unethical beyond words, but in her own words: ”This is America, we’re capitalists”. I didn’t take her up on the offer.
2017 — Slush, Helsinki: I didn’t go to Slush that year as we’d just done a big press shebang with His Majesty the King of Sweden (yes). Nevertheless, I was included on Slush’s list of the 100 most impactful tech profiles in the Nordics. It had been just a year since I moved back from London, and I felt strangely proud and amazed that my work was recognised in such grand terms.
2018 — Slush, Helsinki: I was invited to a fancy dinner by one of the world’s largest VC funds. My social anxiety was still well and alive and I dreaded going. I still went, initially spent half an hour hiding out in the loo before finding some friendly faces. I had a great time in the end, and haven’t experienced social anxiety since.
Slush is amazing and I’m very lucky to get to go, but there’s little time to enjoy all the glitz and glam. Overall, my attitude and approach toward tech conferences have changed considerably over the past few years. I was big on the parties when I first started going, but it’s now been a few years since I had more than a glass of wine at a tech conference as I need to save my energy for Real Work™. I go in to do what I’m there to do, and then I leave. I try to go to bed at a reasonable hour and get some exercise in if I can. I do enjoy tech conferences, but only because I enjoy my work and the field that I’m in. To me, it no longer feels like an exciting leisure trip the way it used to. That’s probably because I now have very clear goals and KPIs every time I go to a conference and there is little to no time to faff about. I usually watch the talks at the airport on my way back home hehe as there hasn’t been any time to watch them during the actual conference.
Anyway! It was another wild year at Slush. Here’s my colleague, our VP of Data Acquisition, talking about how Mapillary helps some of the world’s largest mapping companies keep their maps updated, why mapping matters, and how it affects our lives on a daily basis. In other words, MAPS MAPS MAPS. Love my job.
Time is the biggest paradox at the moment. The days seem to move slowly, but the weeks go by like 123. July feels like a month ago, it’s somehow already been a year since I lived in New York, and Slush — the tech festival that is the annual reminder that Christmas is around the corner — is coming up this week. Yet, as I said, every day seems to last forever. Is November always like this? I can’t remember. Last November I was in New York and travelled to Colorado and Texas when I didn’t have visitors. The year before I’d just bought my first flat and I think I was still so in love with it that everything else felt irrelevant, and the year before that I’d just moved to Malmö and was amazed by everything in my new life.
Anyway. Lots of fun stuff have happened over the past few weeks. Here’s what it’s looked like through my phone.
I went to Copenhagen to hang out with my favourite Copenhagen resident. Caroline moved there in 2009 and she just had a baby so it’s safe to say that she’s not coming back to Sweden anytime soon! We went to Geist for brunch, which was less brunch-y than it was fine dining.
She took me shopping which never ends well. Copenhagen has a myriad of fun little independent boutiques with great stuff that appears cheap, but don’t be fooled! If you earn your money in SEK it is much more expensive than what meets the eye. Anyway, that didn’t stop me from buying five dresses. I don’t consider myself the kind of person who has fashion crises but nevertheless, at least once a year here I am.
I’ve spent a wild amount of time cuddling my cat Katten.
I bought a tea calendar for the man who has everything and wants nothing and I am personally very excited about this calendar. I gave up coffee a few weeks (months?) ago and since then I’ve become a great fan of different teas.
I’ve gone for fika with Caroline, her adorable baby Nora, Thomas, Robin, and Jacob. A year ago there were no babies in my life and now they’re *everywhere*. Several friends and acquaintances have given birth over the past few weeks and I have several friends and acquaintances who are expecting. From 0 to 100 in no time!
I started reading Resten av allt är vårt, which is the latest book in JWHF’s book club. It’s surprisingly good! I also finally found a lamp for the far end of our dining hall. This room is emerging slowly but surely. I haven’t had much energy to deal with everything that needs doing around the house, but I’m starting to bounce back a bit.
A cup of tea, the hot water bottle that kept me warm during many cold London winters, and a zillion candles to keep my cosy during tonight’s work session. I am heading to Helsinki for Slush on Wednesday and like every year, the run-up is wild.
That’s it. Some tidbits from my glorious November. Looking back it feels more wonderful than it does hazy. And I think that’s exactly why I wanted to take up blogging again. To look back and remember the good times. I am fortunate to have many of them.
It is *dark*. Very dark. I’ve gone through the past month like a zombie. I described it to a friend and said that it’s as though I’m swimming through syrup trying to get things done. We’re in a particularly hectic period at work at the moment, with lots of big events and announcements coming up before the holidays. This is always really exciting, and sometimes I feel like there are so many announcements and things to get done that it’s easy to lose track of how much actually, indeed, gets done.
But in either case, I’ve been extremely tired. I said I’d stop flying for leisure because #thegretaeffect but I’m starting to think that maybe, just maybe, I need some sun before April. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have to go to Sri Lanka in February… Maybe. And on the topic of tired, it reminds me of a friend’s colleague who said to her ”you know what, we’re all tired — going around telling people how tired you are doesn’t help and it doesn’t make you any special”. The colleague isn’t wrong! And so without further ado… Adios.
Feeling tired. Doing my best to hide it.
I didn’t grow up with my father. We didn’t find out about each other’s existence until I was 13, and it would be another year before we actually met, and then another before we fully got to know each other. We have a marvellous relationship today, we speak several times a week and I often ask him for advice. There’s little censorship in our relationship and I tell him way more than most tell their parents. In short, having a dad is much better than I ever thought it would be.
But apart from a two-month stint, we never lived together. The only father I’ve lived with is my partner, H. Most things I’ve learnt about parenting (even though I’m not a parent myself) I’ve learnt from him. It is wild to me how he makes parenting seem easy when actually, it’s really, bloody hard. Although he is the busiest person I know, he somehow always finds the time to manage a household with three equally busy and ambitious kids. Through his parenting, he’s teaching me about patience, unconditional love, kindness and sincerity. I never thought I would date, let alone live with someone with three (!! THREE!) children, but it is a blessing in so many unpredictable ways.
Which is why I loved celebrating Father’s Day this past Sunday. I started out with no father in my life, and somehow ended up with two phenomenal ones. Wow.
I turned 30 in September and there was no 30-year crisis in sight. Not just because I happen to share my life with someone who is 12 years older, or because I live in an actual, detached house with three children and a cat. I didn’t exactly think that that’s what my life would look like when I turned 30 (or ever), but it’s making me feel both very young and very old in a weird and simultaneous way. I think the reason why I didn’t have a crisis is that I lived my 20s to the fullest. I lived in seven different countries, studied at four universities, pursued three different career tracks, and I have enough wild stories to write many, many novels. I really don’t think there’s anything I could’ve done to max out my twenties more than I did. I entered my 30s feeling just a bit exhausted, and very happy that I’ve finally settled and found my place. It’s been a long time coming.
But, although I didn’t have a 30-year crisis, I did have a birthday party crisis. I wasn’t even sure whether I would have one. I’ve never hosted a sit-down dinner before and I had a lot of questions that made it feel quite overwhelming. Would anyone come? (Yes) Should I have a toastmaster? (Yes) What do people expect? (Booze and food) Do I propose a dress code? (No) How much booze should we get? (More than you need) Should we have a seating plan? (Yes) Will X get offended if they get seated next to Y? (No) And so on.
In the end, I invited 30 of my closest friends and it is some of the most fun I’ve ever had. We had a chef come in and do a tailored menu which was a roaring success. I didn’t want to see the menu before the party, and the only instructions I gave him was that it had to be vegetarian and the guiding principles for the menu were ”unexpected” and ”fun”. He served us five courses which included plums from our garden, veggies from his allotment, and cheeses and spices from his travels to places like Iran and Hörby. I enjoy good food, but I’m rarely floored by it. This was an exception.
We started the evening with a little toast before doing tipsrunda, the Sandy Edition™. There were many people attending who didn’t know each other so I’d put together a quiz about me and experiences I’ve shared with people at the party. To get a clue or three, I’d also put together a little pamphlet with bios of everyone attending, and — of course — hints to the answers. This was a nice little ice breaker, a great way to do a house tour, and, more than anything, I really enjoyed writing both the quiz and the bios.
Once the dinner kicked off people started finding the five disposable cameras that were scattered across the dining table. I thought this would be a fun and cheap way to document the evening. It turns out that it wasn’t particularly cheap and many of the photos are sort of rubbish, BUT there are some real gems in there regardless. And it’s interesting to see what the Instagram generation looks like in analogue. The only thing I regret is not handing out cameras for the quiz, and keeping one for when we opened the presents at 5am in the morning… There were many tears. Anyway, let’s take a look!
The big sit-down dinner! H’s 14-year-old daughter and two of her best friends waitressed the whole evening and did a remarkably good job. They were so impressive that they actually got an unexpected pay raise at the end of the evening he he.
As I mentioned, I was a bit nervous about the seating plan but it worked out wonderfully in the end. It was so much fun to see friends from different parts of my life come together over shared interests, even though they’ve never seen each other before. Here’s Robin, one of my best friends from sixth form (gymnasiet) and Claire, one of my best friends from university. They’re both civil servants, Robin in Malmö and Claire in London, they’ve both studied Swahili to varying degrees, and they’re my two favourite discussion buddies. It was a given to put them next to each other.
I tried to sit next to as many people as possible and a great way of doing that is stealing somebody else’s seat when they go to the loo. That way you can chat to and catch up with as many guests as possible. here I am next to Jacob and Ivy.
I chose to have my party in English. All the writing was in English, the welcome toast was in English, and the chef presented the food in English. There were only two people attending who didn’t understand Swedish, but it was important to me that everyone felt equally included and understood as much as possible. That’s also part of the reason why we didn’t have the traditional snapsvisor — other than the fact that I hate snaps — but instead I’d printed the chorus of some of my favourite songs, including Toxic, Jenny from the Block, and Larger than Life. It was great.
Isabelle and Ebba. Isabelle is my first internet buddy — I found her blog when I was 15 and that is how we got to know each other. I eventually invited her to London to come and visit, and a few years later we shared a house in Uganda. Ebba and I got to know each other through my sixth form buddy Jacob, her boyfriend, and today she’s one of my best friends. Ebba and Isabelle, by the way, WON the Sandy Quiz. They titled their team ”Internet Stalker” hehe.
My dad was there. He set up his first restaurant back in the 1950s and he loves nothing more than a good piece of meat, so I was extremely pleased when he went out to the kitchen to tell the chef that he was very impressed with the food ”even though it’s vegetarian”. My dad just turned 80 and I only got to know him when I was 14. Our circumstances mean that our relationship is far from given, so having him there meant a lot to me.
I gave a little impromptu speech and realised that I didn’t know most of the people there when I moved to Malmö just three years ago. H, for instance! It made me a wee bit emotional. As did the other speeches.
And after many speeches, some tears, and even a song that H had written and performed in my honour (I know!), it was time to get the dance floor out!
And the hotshots! I also did my first of two outfit changes ha ha because yes, apparently that’s who I am.
Vicky and Micke kept looking like they’d only just met — which, by the way, is the best look — as opposed to having been together for four years.
The same goes for Jasmin and Per, only they’ve been together for twelve (!) and they have two toddlers.
Ebba and Robin played table tennis…
…and kept the dance floor warm.
Every time someone left I kept saying ”ALREADY???” and then I looked at the time: ”oh it’s 2.00/3.00/3.30” lol. That’s how you know you’re having a great time.
On top of the two desserts that the chef served, we had also ordered a glorious cake which no one had room for after the five-course meal. We tried a tiny slice and eventually I brought it to the office on Monday, more or less untouched.
Perhaps my favourite photo from the evening. Look at those faces!
Eventually it was 4.30am and there were just three of my best friends left when one of them said: ”shouldn’t we open the gifts?”. And so we did. I cried, as I do, and I went to bed feeling quite overwhelmed.
I was both hungover and tired the next day. But I was also very, very happy. And I still feel the love and gratitude that I felt at my birthday party. It was worth all of it.
Louise and Harry, two of many expat friends I’ve made since moving to Malmö, threw a Brexit Halloween party last week with the words ”Brexit: all tricks, no treats — come help us crash out of the EU”. Rarely have I come across such an apt summary of the shambles that is Brexit. Louise and Harry, like myself, moved to Malmö in 2016, which is also the year of the Brexit referendum. I was quite nervous about the referendum, and, as we now know, for good reason. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time. The party invitations went out when the Brexit deadline was October 31 (having already been postponed twice). As we all know, the deadline has once again been postponed and is now January 31. Quite the shambles — but at least the Brexit party wasn’t!
Perhaps the scariest pumpkin yet.
Louise went as the ghost of Europe (I mean this is almost too sad to be funny, but it’s nevertheless a pretty suitable costume) and Vicky went as Jacob Rees-Mogg, a particularly scary ultra-conservative member of the Tory party. Among other things, he has voted to repeal the UK Human Rights Act not once but twice, he voted against legalising abortion in Northern Ireland, he voted against legalising same-sex marriage, AND he was casually lying down (!) in parliament during a recent debate of Brexit (as portrayed by Vicky in above shot). Not a person I’d want at a dinner party, or any party.
Representatives from the immigration services of New Zeeland were there and made everyone go through a particularly difficult immigration test. Again, almost too sad to be funny…
Which is why it was great that some people had actually funny costumes. H went as the flag of the EU (hooray!) and Jasmin and Per went as Posh Spice and Becks.
And me? I went as Larry the Cat, the cat and Chief Mouser that lives at 10 Downing Street, the residence of the Prime Minister. Larry has lived at Number 10 since 2011 and has served under three different Prime Ministers. I love the story of Larry. He is a rescue cat (much like my own cat, Katten), his upkeep is funded by Number 10 staff, and some numbers indicate that Larry’s popularity has resulted in a surge of 15% more people adopting cats. He has his own Twitter account and whoever runs it is bloody hilarious. I think if there’s anything the people of Britain deserve right now, it’s Larry the Cat. With some love sprinkled on top.
I went to Beyond Us’ opening dinner in central Malmö last Thursday and it was pretty insane. I get to attend a lot of *stuff* through work, whether they’re nice dinners, parties, conferences etc, but this was something else. It’s probably because I work in tech as opposed to lifestyle, but I’ve rarely felt so pampered going to an event before.
Beyond Us is a new concept store in Malmö. It’s located right by the canal and is a ”mini shopping centre” (but way, way better than a shopping centre). It hosts several brands, and it also has a café, a coworking space, Sweden’s trendiest post office, and a gym area. AND a ball pond for the kids and the fun adults.
Spoonery, one of my favourite Malmö eats, did the food and DJ A Sisters did the music. Christin, Sanna and JWHF organised the whole event and did a stellar job of pulling it together (they even had a tattoo artist on site!).
Kajsa, one of the bloggers here at JWHF, launched her Style for Rent concept which is also part of Beyond Us, meaning that we can all look as fabulous as Kajsa from now on. I’ve bought quite a few ridiculously expensive dresses recently and the funny thing is that after they’ve been worn twice or three times, they feel sort of… Done? So I am very excited to see if I can rent some of Kajsa’s couture instead of buying my own from now on.
Never not Instagramming (sorry not sorry)
It was such a great night and I’m so glad to have been invited. There have been quite a few new places opening in Malmö since I moved here and I think Saluhallen and Beyond Us are two of the biggest and most significant ones. Beyond Us felt pretty New York-y, but in a Malmö way — which in my opinion is the best kind of way.
Thank you Beyond Us for having me, and thank you Jenny for all the amazing photos (she has taken every single one in this blog post)! And speaking of which, Beyond Us is actually almost like a little mini JWHF but irl? Christin, Sanna and JWHF did the opening event, Jasmin is working at Beyond Us doing marketing/operations/much-of-everything, Jenny’s prints are exhibited (and for sale!), and Kajsa has her couture rental there. And I try to go as much as possible for fika, so there you go.
When I first announced that I was joining JWHF I asked on Instagram if anyone wanted to request any topics. I received so many lovely notes, suggested topics, and questions that I’ve decided to run a little series where I go through them, bit by bit. Here’s a question from the wonderful Ellina:
How did your attitude towards relationships change over the past years? Eg if you compare yourself in a relationship with someone 5-7 years ago, and now with your current partner. Just curious if your behaviour has changed in any way, or the way you think about ”love relationships” in general. And also, what would you say to yourself 5-7 years ago, and what would you do differently in a relationship?
There are so many things to say about this. I am fortunate to have been in numerous wonderful romantic relationships throughout my life (and don’t worry, I’ve had some awful ones as well). But even though many of them were lovely and wonderful in many ways, it never seemed to work out. This can be put down to a number of reasonable factors — a mismatch in goals and aspirations, growing in different directions, or simply falling out of love are all viable and probably quite common reasons for why people break up and relationships end. I’ve experienced some of that. I’ve also experienced rivalry and envy, and this is something different. It was so counterintuitive and almost unbelievable that it took me quite some time to identify what felt wrong (even though it happened in more than one relationship). A healthy relationship comes from many things, like mutual love, patience, admiration, respect, gratitude, and a willingness to learn and grow together, even when it’s hard. Rivalry and envy do not fit in that space. Quite the opposite, since it undermines all of it. So when I first encountered rivalry and/or envy, I thought that maybe I was mistaken. And that maybe I was too sensitive.
This was wrong and wrong again. What really happened was that I didn’t have the emotional maturity and the skills to recognise when someone was trying to undermine me and make me feel insecure. As a result, I tried to give more of myself to compensate and to prove myself smart, capable, and worthy. This, in turn, resulted in a lack of clear boundaries, a lack of self-respect and self-worth. Simply put, it was a shitshow. It would be easy to point blame here, but the truth is that the shitshow would never have happened if I had known how to manage my mind and if I had clear boundaries. I was expecting my partner to make me happy and I could only be happy if my partner thought I was smart, capable, and worthy.
There are two things here. First, your partner can never make you happy. Yes, they can write little love letters and they can buy you flowers and that might make you think thoughts that make you feel happy. But it’s the thoughts you have that make you feel happy, not the gesture itself. That doesn’t mean that your partner can treat you like shit and that we can manage our mind to not let it impact us. That’s where boundaries come into play. Secondly, do not date people who do not think you are smart, capable, worthy. Because again, boundaries.
Looking at the relationships I had before pursuing emotional adulthood I mainly see two confused people trying to be happy, and expecting the other person to make them happy. It doesn’t work. I’m also not surprised that this is how many people pursue romantic relationships. It’s what we see in films and popular culture, and it’s how I saw adults pursue love when I grew up. That also never ended well though, so I’m not sure why I let that guide me when I was younger.
My behaviour in terms of relationships has changed massively over the past few years. I recognise that only I can make myself happy, and I try to never shift that responsibility over to my partner. I also know that I can’t bear the responsibility of my partner’s happiness. I know my boundaries better than ever before and I speak up if they’re ever crossed. If I bring up a problem or if my partner brings up a problem, I try with every inch of my body to not let that spin into a bigger discussion, to shift focus, or to place blame, but to really listen and understand.
All the thought work I’ve done over the past few years is yielding phenomenal results. It’s really bloody hard, and a teeny weeny part of me wishes I could have all the phenomenal results without the hard work, but I tried that for several years and I know that it doesn’t work. There’s no alternative. But I also think that being in an emotionally mature relationship requires both parties to have a lot of patience and perseverance. There are no limits for how grateful I am to be with someone who wants to grow with me, on good days and bad. To be quite honest, I think it’s like a little miracle.
Here are some things that have helped shape how I think about love and romantic relationships:
The subtle art of not giving a fuck, by Mark Manson
The Manual, by The Life Coach School
The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran