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!

Aby-a-Day – December 28: Christmas in Jönköping (Miniature Monday)

Björn and I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at his parent’s house in Jönköping.

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Of course, Mini Jacoby came along.

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The Christmas tree was absolutely lovely.

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Björn’s mother made the paper heart decorations in the 1960’s. They’re wonderful.

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She also had a little display of Dalahastar (Dala Horses) around a bowl.

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Mini-Jake had to join them, of course.

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He had to also ride the largest one, a tech geek one with glasses from IKEA. That kind of got him kicked out of the Dala Horse party.

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So he went to play with the Jultomten instead.

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One thing we did while we were there, Björn and I, was build a puzzle map of Sweden that his mom had in the living room.

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It was fun and quite educational.

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Mini-Jake is studying the location of Jönköping on the puzzle map.

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But then (just like the real Jake) he got hungry.

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So he went into the kitchen to look for a snack.

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He finally found the Julost, the Christmas cheese ball. And no, he didn’t eat it all!

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Björn’s mother has a lot of awesome little cat sculptures scattered around her house. These lovely glass cats are typical Swedish glasswork.

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She also has this adorable little pottery cat from Kalmar, a city in southeastern Sweden known since the Middle Ages. Kalmar Castle was one of the most important in Sweden. Kvarnholmen (“Mill Island”) is the location for the city center. The eastern part of Kvarnholmen is called “Kattrumpan” (“Cat’s Butt”) for unknown reasons.

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So, this little cat from Kattrumpan has a little heart on her butt. How cute is that? Evidently, Mini-Jake thinks it’s pretty adorable, too.

Aby-a-Day – December 25: First Christmases with Gun-Hee and Jacoby

I just never get tired of remembering Gun-Hee’s first Christmas.

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We had only had him with us for ten days at that point. He was so different from any other kitten I’ve ever had!

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For one thing, he is the only cat I’ve ever had who tried to climb the Christmas tree…much less succeed at it!

Gun-Hee was a lot more agile and graceful than Jacoby is. Luckily, Jake’s never tried to climb the tree. No, he prefers to eat it.

Or play underneath it.

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Or simply chill and look at all the lights. In some ways, they’re so alike…but in other ways, they couldn’t be more different.

And then, there’s this…well…Merry Christmas, everyone!

Aby-a-Day – December 24: “Does Björn like cats?”

One thing people always ask me when I’m talking about Björn is, “Does he like cats?” Now, when I get this question, part of me wants to say, “Are you kidding me, as if I’d be with a guy who didn’t like cats!”

But let me answer this in a better way. In 1999, Björn and his then-girlfriend fostered a litter of barn kittens.

There were five of them, but only four went on to other homes. Pyret, which is Swedish for “little mite,” stayed with them.

She was so tiny, Björn had to bottle-feed her.

He had to take her along to SCA events, too, so she’d be fed. (I personally think this is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen).

When she was younger, Björn would take her places with him. This is her on the top of a door at Björn’s parents’ house in Jönköping.

She and Björn have been together for almost her whole life.

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This photo is from when I visited Björn in 2000. As you can see, she grew into a lovely young lady!

Here we are, cuddling on the sofa together watching The Fast Show.

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Björn and Titti also had a tortie named Olivia. Sadly, Olivia died in 2010 from kidney failure.

This is Björn and Olivia waiting for a train in Skövde. Oh, look, a cat guy with his cat!

It’s hard to believe that Pyret is 16 years old now! Having been a bottle-fed kitten, she and Björn share a special bond. She frequently checks in during our FaceTime conversations.

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I don’t know if she remembered me when she saw me again on Sunday, but she didn’t treat me like a complete stranger when we got reacquainted.

She may have wished she had, though…because unfortunately for Pyret, though, I happened to see Lorenzo the Cat’s Facebook post about what happens when humans have no snow at Christmastime. Well, we don’t have any more snow in Sweden right now than anyplace else, and Pyret made the mistake of lying on her back…

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…so, I may or may not have found some black cardboard in the recycle bin…

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…and I may or may not have borrowed Kalle’s Santa hat, and this may or may not have happened…Lucky for me she’s a patient old lady!