Aby-a-Day – 3 December: A little holiday cheer (Hipstamatic Monday)

Usually by this time, I have all the Christmas decorations up. But because we have to get some new wiring installed in the wall where the Christmas tree is meant to go, we have only put our Swedish Jul candles in our windows so far.

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Tonight, Jacoby was sitting in the window next to the candles washing his face, and it looked so festive, I thought I’d take some Hipstamatic snaps just for fun.

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Since I always take the Hipstamatic photos on the randomizer (you shake your phone and the app randomly selects the film and lens), there’s always a chance of getting black and white film…which is kind of a downer when you’re trying to get a festive holiday shot.

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But sometimes, it really works.

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Then there are the miraculous happy accidents betwixt film and lens. This one looks like the Northern Lights are shimmering in the night sky outside the window.

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And in this shot, Jake looks like he’s in a snowglobe. Now that’s festive!

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I love this one…not sure why, but I find it entrancing.

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It’s rather magical, some of the things that you capture with Hipstamatic.

Aby-a-Day – 30 November: Jacoby’s Don Draper suit (Friday Fashion Flashback)

Can you believe it’s been FIVE years since Jacoby got his United Bamboo retro suit that he, famously, wore as JFK to my Marilyn?

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But it’s true…it was five years ago this year that I got Jake his “Don Draper” suit.

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My, how time has flown, right?

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Can you believe it’s been that long since Jake got his cool suit?

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Because I can’t.

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It seems like he’s always had it…and yet, at the same time, it feels like he just got it. Time is funny that way, isn’t it?

Aby-a-Day – 10 November: “I haven’t taken my Christmas lights down. They look so nice on the pumpkin” (Silly Saturday)

In Sweden, Winter time starts a week before Daylight Savings ends in the States. Additionally, not having a late November holiday like Thanksgiving to mark the beginning of the “Holiday season,” Swedes tend to start thinking about Jul lights as soon as it starts getting dark early.

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To that end, Björn found some pretty coloured ball lights on sale last month.

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Izaak was born on 26 January, and so has never seen Christmas lights before…

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…And he was fascinated by them.

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Just mesmerised.

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It was so cute the way he played with them.

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Alfred, of course, has celebrated one Christmas already, but he was curious about the lights, too.

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Somehow, he managed to get sort of entangled in them.

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Only Freddy…

Aby-a-Day – 5 October: Jacoby and Bodil (Friday Flashback)

These are the words of Björn, Koshka’s husband.

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Today we held the funeral service for my mother. She was an artist and one who had cats as a kid and then later in life, when a couple of strays moved in, a few years between them.

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Otto was a tomcat who was an opportunist, but Oskar won her and my dad’s hearts. A mean neighbor across the road had him caught and euthanized, something that grieved her for years afterwards. Mom got along really well with my old cat, Pyret, and when Koshka moved to Sweden, she got the opportunity to meet Jacoby and Angel.

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She met them while visiting our home, and Jake being a social kitty liked the attention (and the chance of getting a snack or two). This was at a joint birthday party for my son Kalle and me, last March (2017).

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We brought Jake for Christmas at my mother’s house in 2016 and 2017.

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He enjoyed the change of scenery, and the opportunity to sample some Swedish Christmas food. Jake seemed to enjoy Swedish kaviar (creamy salty fish egg paste).

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Mom slipped him a few tidbits, which made her a great two-legged being in his eyes. That last Christmas the first symptoms of Mom’s illness appeared, but we didn’t know that she would be gone less than nine months later. She was too sick to come visit us and see Lorelai and Izaak. We are sure she would’ve loved the young kitties, too. Our cats have lost a friend.

Aby-a-Day – 2 February: Who wore it better? Mistletoe edition (Friday Fashion Flashback)

I know Christmas (or Jul, as it’s called in Sweden) has been done and gone for over a month, but I couldn’t resist this comparison. Remember the first time Jacoby wore his mistletoe hat? He wore it like a pro. And later on?

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Yeah, he was still wearing it like a pro.

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Even as late as our first Christmas in Sweden…

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…Jake was still rocking that mistletoe hat like a boss.

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But the first time Logan donned the famed mistletoe hat?

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Yeah…not so much with the rocking and the bossing.

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Although, to be fair…Jake had his moments with the hat, too.

Aby-a-Day – 2 January: Holidays in Sweden (Cartoon Tuesday)

In my Swedish language classes (SFI, Svenska för Invandrare or Swedish for Immigrants – it works in both languages), I have reverted to a habit that sustained me through junior high, high school and university: Sketching in class alongside my notetaking.

I usually doodle things that go along with whatever we’re learning about, starring Jacoby, Angel and the kittens (collectively called “The LunaTicks”). Last holiday season, I did these three little cartoons. The first is Thanksgiving, or as they call it here in Sweden: “torsdag.” It’s not celebrated here, but turkeys are fairly easy to find. They are TINY (I can barely find one that’s 5kg (11 lbs), let alone the 20+ pounders I used to get back in the States. And instead of cooking on Thursday, I do the turkey on Saturday, but other than that it’s the same feast I always make.

Including the grabby Aby hands. Jake is saying, “My turkey…all for me…” and Angel is saying, “And me!”

After Thanksgiving, of course, comes Christmas, or Jul. It actually starts after Halloween here, with lights in every window to ward off the increasingly dark days. Sweden is an incredibly secular country, but they celebrate Jul to the hilt, combining a variety of Norse and Germanic traditions with a smattering of saints and advent and, of course, Donald Duck. Jul is a big deal here.

One big day in the lead-up to Julafton (Christmas Eve, the day when Tomten (Santa) brings the presents and the big meal is eaten) is 13 December, Luciadagen, a celebration of Santa Lucia, a 3rd-century martyr, who according to legend brought “food and aid to people hiding in the catacombs” using a candle-lit wreath to “light her way and leave her hands free to carry as much food as possible.” Her feast once coincided with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year before calendar reforms, so her feast day has become a festival of light. 13 December also happens to be the first day of Christmas, 12 days before Christmas.

Santa Lucia’s Day is celebrated most commonly in Scandinavia, because of her name (Lucia = light) and she is represented as a young woman in a white dress with a red sash, wearing a crown or wreath of candles on her head. She is attended by other girls dressed the same (except for the crown) and boys portray stars and Tomtens. It is said that to vividly celebrate Santa Lucia’s Day will help one live through the long winter days with enough light. It seems to be a perfect blend of pagan and Christian traditions.

So of course I had to draw Angel as Lucia.

Another Lucia tradition are saffron buns called “Lussekatter,” Light Cats or Lucia’s Cats, so called because they look like curled-up cats.

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Of course, Jake was all over that part of the tradition!

Another Jul tradition is the Julbock – the Christmas Goat. Commonly, it takes the form of a straw goat, but there is also a depiction of a man dressed in a sheepskin and a straw goat mask who carries a sack over his shoulder filled with toys for all the children…it’s complicated.

But of course if Angel was Lucia, Jake had to be the Julbock.

Aby-a-Day – 8 January: The Jólakötturinn (Fashion Friday)

I know this isn’t, technically, an Abyssinian, but I had to share the awesomeness that is the Jólakötturinn. I first learned about the Icelandic Jul Cat from Scandinavia and the World, but it was really amazing to see it in person.

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I flew IcelandAir when I went to Sweden, and changed planes in Reykjavik. And while changing planes, of course, I had to check out the shops. It was hilarious. There were these charming, festive holiday displays full of little red and white tomten (Santa-like creatures), snowflakes, snowmen, angels…

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…and then this big angry black cat. A CHRISTMASSY big angry black cat.

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The legend says that the Jólakötturinn will eat anyone who does not get new clothes for Christmas. Suddenly, Santa stalking you and watching you while you’re sleeping and knowing about you being naughty or nice doesn’t seem so creepy, does it?

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And despite being a ravenous, child-devouring feline, he seems pretty popular. This is a wine bottle coozy in the shape of a Jul Cat.

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There’s also a set of Yule Lads figures that includes the Jólakötturinn. The Yule Lads are sort of elves who leave rewards and punishments (depending on whether you’ve been naughty or nice) in your shoes in the days leading up to Christmas.

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And then, if you didn’t get new clothes, you’re cat chow.

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I suspect the Jólakötturinn tradition was started by a parent who was tired of hearing his kids whine when they got socks and underwear on Christmas morning.

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Don’t get any ideas, Jacoby!