Vicarious Living Through Anders Timell

I’ve followed Anders Timell on Instagram for years now, since sometime in 2017. He and his partner’s first baby was born just a few weeks before my first child, and some algorithmic vagary led me to his account. I was enthralled, as a prospective and then as a first-time mother, by the differences in our babies’ daily lives. While my son slept in a barren crib with a thin, tightly fitted sheet, Timell’s daughter slept amongst bow-tied bumpers, frilly pillows, plush blankets, and stuffed animals. While my son was neurotically monitored every moment of his waking life and during much of his sleep, baby Timell was sometimes left to nap in her stroller outdoors. While my house was baby-proofed and toddler-safe, Timell’s fashionable city apartment stayed chic as hell and included enviable touches like a loaded bar cart, a roaring wood-burning fireplace, and huge vases of flowers pouring over the edges of coffee tables and window sills. Timell also has a twenty-something son from a previous marriage or relationship, frequently pictured drinking and smoking openly in company with his father.

These aren’t parenting failures–Timell’s adorable daughter is fine and will soon be joined by another sibling–but cultural differences. You see, Anders Timell is Swedish. I don’t speak the language, so you’ll have to forgive me for misconstruing any of his biographical details. He’s not a celebrity with any cachet in America despite his apparent ubiquity in Stockholm, particularly at the gorgeous and popular restaurant Taverna Brillo where he works in some indeterminate professional capacity (owner? co-owner? promoter?). The vast majority of information available about him has to be passed through the sausage machine that is Google Translate, rendering it unreliable at best, but from this I’ve gathered that Timell is a “presenter and restauranteur”; that he appeared on the Swedish television show Let’s Dance; that he is involved in some way with professional golf; that his brother Martin used to host a popular home improvement television show; that Martin was acquitted of sexual assault allegations in 2018; and that the brothers sometimes appear in Swedish tabloids including the fabulously named Stoppa Pressarna! (A recent article’s title translates, “Martin and Anders Timell’s New Giant Bang.”) The Timells’ social standing is difficult for an English-only speaker to determine, but they certainly appear to be living well.

As our children grew, I kept watching Anders’ account because we share a keen interest in food. He regularly uses his Instagram Stories to depict the time he spends in restaurants, most notably the aforementioned Taverna Brillo, where he puts in a daily or twice-daily appearance to show off chilled bottles of wine, pizzas topped with caviar, and the consistently beautiful diners. He also eats in or picks up sushi at a particular spot more than once each week, and is a near-daily regular at a high-street coffee shop apparently staffed by a rotating collection of Europe’s most attractive young people. His Instagram posts often depict him sitting down to a lovely solo meal, captioned either “Kämpa Anders!” (Fight Anders–whether this is a provocation to the reader or an encouragement for himself is unclear) or “Ensamlunch nu!” (Alone lunch now!). This isn’t even to mention the meals Timell prepares for his family and guests: a steady stream of tomahawk steaks, all manner of fresh seafoods, salads doused in homemade dressings, and potatoes cooked in all styles, always with appropriate drinks.

Anders’ lifestyle, like his country, is foreign to me. He works, but his work doesn’t seem to exert much control over his schedule or interfere with his clearly deep enjoyment of food, friends, and family. He has children, but neither he nor his partner ever seem stressed about what they’re eating, when they’re going to bed, or whether they’re learning enough. He exudes a combination of relaxation and high energy that is addictive to watch. I love following the laid-back yet stimulating rhythm of his world: stops by the restaurants he must hold some stake in; parties alongside his beautiful now-wife; games of golf and squash with male friends so well dressed that they would put Ina Garten’s luncheon guests to shame; regular trips to a beachside cottage in Flaxenvik and sometimes farther afield to Dubai or Portugal; long midday jaunts through parks with his young daughter; visits to salons and spas for cuts, shaves, and facial treatments; sunsets viewed from the beautiful bay windows of his downtown Stockholm abode.

I feel no jealousy when it comes to Timell’s apparent wealth, but I often feel envious of his carefree attitude. I would love to enjoy the sunset on a dock with my toddler and not feel an undercurrent of anxiety over the child falling into the dark water and drowning. I would love to indulge in a lavish weeknight dinner party with no thought of the incipient hangover. I would love to ride a bike through trafficked streets, helmetless and laughing into the camera, not fearing death by speeding bus at any second. Timell seems to expect the best at every turn, and what’s more, he seems to get it.

Being a relatively optimistic person myself, the contrast between Timell’s life and my own didn’t strike me as too painfully stark until the coronavirus pandemic kicked off this past March and April. I watched on Instagram as I always did, checking my Stories in the intervals between conference calls for work or while stirring risotto for dinner in the evening. Every day I expected to see some mark of These Unprecedented Times on Anders’ life–after all, a significant portion of his leisure time and presumably his work is to do with restaurants, and they were having to shift their operations to accommodate the pandemic. But as the weeks went on, Timell seemed immune not only to COVID-19 but also to its bummer side-effects.

You may have seen Sweden in the news recently. Coronavirus reached them, but they never shut down, and now there’s some debate over whether this strategy was brilliant or disastrous. At the very least, they’ve suffered much less economically than America and the rest of Europe. And from the view of Sweden that Anders provides, everything seems… fine. Even at the height of the virus panic in April, the only sign of a change in Timell’s Stockholm was a few outdoor dining areas taped off to create more social distance; but those may have been for some unrelated purpose, because diners still poured into Taverna Brillo for their glasses of rosé and plates of shellfish pasta at tables that didn’t seem to have been rearranged at all. So far, the only visible change in Anders’ life is the location of his summer vacation. Since I began following him, he has typically gone abroad for a while each summer, while this year he’s spent his time on Sweden’s beaches instead. Still, that hasn’t stopped him from hosting and attending some of the most beautiful summertime dinner parties you’ve ever seen, living it up at Midsommar, golfing constantly, and careening around adorable seaside villages on bikes with his son.

Since coronavirus hit, Anders’ Instagram account hasn’t just been a series of beautiful images of a laid-back life. It has become a glimpse into another world, an alternate reality where no one is worried about school, work, illness, or the economy, where no one is lonely or isolated, where life has gone on without either heightened anxiety or downtrodden resignation. I have to acknowledge of course that this glimpse is narrow, but I’m not sure I’ve ever felt the combination of refreshment and disorientation that I feel when I look down at my phone and see Anders panning live over a table full of laughing, drinking people in a lovely setting without a mask in sight. Friends hold each others’ babies, clink their champagne glasses together, and gather in restaurants, living rooms, back gardens, and on boats. Women walk down the streets together in elbow-to-elbow groups, dropping their children off at creche, buying groceries, meeting for coffees. Men hit the gym to lift weights, wander around golf courses carousing while playing, and drink beers at clubhouses.

And far from feeling outraged by their carefree days and nights, I feel hopeful and uplifted. I don’t know if Anders’, and his country’s, approach to COVID-19 is right or wrong. I have no idea how problematic, or not, the Timells might be in Sweden. Anders’ life might be one of unmitigated privilege. But I can’t help loving him and the alternate universe he shows me through his phone.

Kämpa, Anders! You do my mental health a power of good.

Home 24/7, April 2020

I vacillate between wanting to keep this blog purely professional, and thinking that, especially right now, attempting to separate the personal from the professional is both harmful and impossible. I don’t know if I’ll continue with more personal posts here forever, but I’m plowing ahead with this one.

My first day at my new job with CrowdANALYTIX was Wednesday March 25th. On Sunday March 15th, my father-in-law left our house for California after a 5-day visit, and that night my mother arrived from Florida for what was planned as a 2-week visit. It felt like the next couple of days, March 16th and 17th, were when the coronavirus reality really hit us in Texas. First, spring break was extended. Then restaurants and bars closed. Then schools officially closed, along with our daycare/preschool. It became clear that not only would it not be a good idea for my mother to leave yet, we also needed her to stay, at least long enough for me to start my new job and for us to establish some sort of work-from-home-while-caring-for-two-kids routine.

For now, my mom takes care of the boys most of the day because my husband and I are both working full-time from home. We’re hoping that she will stay until mid-May, when my husband’s semester of teaching ends and he can become a stay-at-home dad for a few months.

But even with someone here full-time helping out… this is hard. I hate to even say that, because most parents are having to cope with a lot less help than we have. Lots of people no longer have two incomes, or even one. Many families don’t have a house with a fenced back yard to play in, or a nice neighborhood to take walks in. They don’t have a playhouse and a few new toys and DoorDash delivery and a piano. Part of my feels like this should be easy for us. But on the other hand, nothing is easy about your whole life changing for a frightening reason.

I’ve been working from home for months now, but it’s very different with my husband and both kids here too. I haven’t had more than a few minutes alone or in total quiet since the first week of March. It’s much harder to concentrate with everyone in the house, and it’s also confusing for the kids, because they don’t quite understand why we can’t come play with them just like we do on the weekends. Our three-year-old especially misses his friends and his daycare/preschool routine. He loves his teachers and is now old enough to have specific friends he plays with; he mentions someone he misses almost every day. He’s a very social kid, and for his sake I hope that this doesn’t last too long.

For my part, here are the things I’m missing:

  • The ability to run out to the store for a missing ingredient, a snack, or a special lunch I’ve been craving.
  • Bars and pubs. Even though we don’t go out often, decompressing for an hour in the company of strangers, even ones I don’t speak to, is important to me. There’s something soothing about just existing in a shared space like that, where everyone is relaxing over a beer, together but separate.
  • The library. I’m still using an app to check out my own books, but kids’ books are really not the same on a Kindle. I used to take my older child to the library on the weekend every couple of weeks.
  • The pool and/or rec center. Around this time of year, we’d normally start taking the kids swimming on the weekends, and signing them up for swim lessons at the rec center. None of that is happening right now.
  • Restaurants. We were in a routine of taking the whole family out for lunch on one weekend day, and the boys were getting better and better at behaving properly in restaurants. We’re still getting takeout once a week, but there are no social skills involved in that.

I think the hardest part of all of this, for me, is the “never being alone” aspect. I don’t even have a brief drive in my car by myself, much less a whole workday spent alone without the sounds of four other people nearby. There is something uniquely difficult about that.

Beginning A New Decade

Like everyone else I’ve spoken to recently, I can’t believe that the year 2020 is beginning. I clearly remember ringing in the year 2000 with my parents (I had just turned thirteen years old): tasting champagne, eating caviar, and watching the news because my mom was convinced that the world would descend into chaos in the new millennium. Nothing happened, of course, and we ended up working our way through her supply of dry beans, rice, camp stove fuel, and distilled water for the next several years. At least it all came in handy when Florida was struck by hurricanes.

The turn of this decade might feel a little less momentous to me than the last one did. In 2009 I had studied abroad in England, definitively ended my relationship with my boyfriend from Tallahassee and applied to graduate schools. I thought that I would be leaving New College in 2010 to start a graduate English program somewhere. I was dating the person I would end up living with until the end of 2011. We spent New Year’s Eve in Knoxville, Tennessee with one of my best friends, and then returned to Sarasota for a month-long independent study period.

I had no idea what 2010 would hold, and it held a lot. I didn’t get into a single graduate school. I had no plans after college. I moved to Austin with my boyfriend and got a job in a bike shop. I applied to 16 more schools in 2010 and spent most of my time working and exploring the city. I had moved to Austin knowing absolutely nothing about it, sight unseen, and ended up with a cool job in a cool place. Even at the end of 2010, I had no idea I’d be in Austin for another five years.

The next decade of my life feels like it should hold fewer changes, fewer unknowns, fewer adventures, but that might be an illusion. I’m married and have kids now, so things are “supposed to” be settled and sedate. But that isn’t how life works. The next ten years could be just as exciting as the past ten—at the very least, the next ten years will be the most formative for my two children. I’ll play a huge part in two new people’s childhoods. That might be excitement enough.

Positive Changes in 2019

We moved to Texas. This is far and away the biggest and best change that occurred in my life this past year. As idyllic as I know our life in Utah often looked (and sometimes felt!), leaving was a good decision for our family. Even though we’re now in the process of finding an all-new set of in-person friends—we have lots of Texas friends, but none of them are in Dallas—I do think that it will be worth the effort to raise our family in a place without the pervasive religious issues we encountered in Utah. And we’re definitely enjoying living in a more modern, convenient house with a back yard and a park just a few yards away.

Issues to Work On in 2020

I want to work on friendships this year. Not just creating new ones in Dallas, but maintaining old ones from Florida and Austin. At this point in my life, age 32, I might not make new best friends, and I’m okay with that. I’d love to have friends in town I can ask over for dinner and have a great time with, but if we don’t end up being super close, that’s fine. I want to invest in my friendships that are already close, even if those friends are far away. More texts, more phone calls, hopefully some in-person visits.

I want to work on being calm and patient. Having two small kids is incredibly trying on anyone’s patience, but I could do a lot better. I find myself snapping at my kids more than I’d like, rolling my eyes, and just not being particularly warm after frustrating days. All of that is totally okay—kids do not need perfect parents!—but it’s been bothering me and I want to improve, for my own well-being as much as for theirs.

I want to work on my health. I’ve always been a regular exerciser, but my diet hasn’t been fantastic over the past few years. I often reward myself with food, which isn’t a good idea, and I definitely get too many extra calories from beer! My husband and I are not drinking at all in January to try to cut back on the carb-y beverages, and we’re also simplifying our diet by doing essentially a Mediterranean diet for the month: less red meat, no fried food, more vegetables and fruits.

I want to write more. My goal is to write 500 words every single day. They can be parts of various writing projects I have going, they can be journaling, or they can be blogging. I am hoping that this will give me an outlet for any frustrations I have, give me a good record of the year and my feelings during it, and hopefully produce some progress on projects that are important to me.

I want to develop my gardening hobby. I have a lot of plans for our yard this coming year, both when it comes to maintaining the landscaping that’s already there, and planting new things to make it more our own. There are some landscaping choices in the front yard that are too fussy for me, and a couple of plants that have actually croaked; I’d like to simplify the front and plant some things that are lower-maintenance. I also want to do basic maintenance like re-mulching the flower beds. It sounds easy, but it’s surprisingly difficult to find time for this stuff!

My 2020 Values

At the end of every year I do an exercise to identify the values I want to focus on in the coming year. I won’t elaborate on these because their specific meanings are very personal, but my core values in 2020 are:

Grace | Warmth | Faith | Balance | Teamwork

Back in Texas

I can hardly believe it, but we managed to move our family of four + dog from Provo, Utah to Plano, Texas. We’re settling into our new house, and absolutely loving being back in Texas.

Let me just say that buying and selling homes simultaneously is not for the faint of heart. I thought that buying a house was difficult, but it’s nothing compared to the complex timing processes involved when you have to sell one, too. We had three (three!) sales fall through before we finally landed a solid buyer for our place in Provo. Luckily, we ended up with an amazing, hardworking agent in Texas who managed to get us a rental contract on the house we wanted to buy, which gave us a cushion when our third sale fell through. We only ended up renting the house for two weeks before our purchase could go through, which felt great. We’re homeowners again!

The best things about our new place are that I have an office, we have a fenced yard, and we have few multi-use spaces in the house. By this I just mean that our house is divided up like most modern homes: there’s a garage, a shed, a laundry room, etc. Our old place, because of its age, had a ton of multi-use spaces. The driveway was also the shed and the garage. The master bedroom was also the office. The laundry nook was, well, a nook, so the living room was also the laundry room. For someone like me who loves to be carefully organized, the new house is a huge improvement. We all have plenty of space. Plus: closets! I had to be without them to truly appreciate them.

Right now, in September, I’m trying to take a deep dive back into digital minimalism. I’m re-reading the book (by Cal Newport) and attempting some changes. I’m realizing that our move will enable me to enact many, many more of the “high quality leisure activities” aspects of Newport’s digital declutter plan. I have more opportunities to socialize here, for one thing, but what really stands out to me is that I have space to pursue some hobbies that were recently crowded out of my life, partly by the new-baby phases and partly by the lack of space we experienced in Utah.

There’s already a hobby taking up increasing amounts of my free time: tending to plants. We have a large yard here, and the front is very nicely landscaped, which takes maintenance. The back I want to landscape better, which will be a fun project. And, most interestingly, the house has a fairly large atrium in the center, brightly lit by a skylight. Right now it just contains two boring ferns, but I have plans for two large hanging planters and a collection of herbs and succulents on plant stands on the floor.

An upcoming challenge that my husband and I will take together is to watch less streaming television, too. Our youngest child is now sleeping much better than he used to, which leaves us free to stay up a bit later after dinner. That time has usually been filled with TV, which we often talk over. But now that we’re less tired, I want to fill some of the evenings with board and card games. We have a big collection, some of the board games completely unopened, and it would be really fun to do something interactive together even when we can’t leave the house due to sleeping kids.

My personal biggest challenge at the moment is cutting back on podcasts. Don’t get me wrong: podcasts and wonderful, and I love listening to them while I drive the kids to preschool or fold laundry. But I’ve reached a point where I want to be listening to something all of the time, even when I’m working in the yard or taking a walk, and it’s super distracting. I’m not actually “multi-tasking,” I’m just filling silence. It’s encroaching on the small amount of solitude that I do get to experience.

Here’s to some positive progress in September!

Moving Into 2018

2017 was a huge year for me. I had a baby, bought a house, got a promotion, and finished my PhD. I’m definitely hoping for a less eventful 2018! This past year was wonderful in so many ways, but it was also pretty hectic, and I’d like a calmer one this time around.

Last year I did a “live your values” exercise for the year, but a lot of the habits I had hoped to establish in January got derailed when our baby arrived a few weeks early, so I’d like to do it again for 2018.

I worked through a long list of potential values, narrowed them down to around 20, then grouped them into 5 groups that made sense to me. I then chose the value from each group that I felt was most representative. I ended up with these:

  1. Peace
  2. Thankfulness
  3. Relationships
  4. Growth
  5. Simplicity

I have a January goal associated with each value, and hopefully I can keep up with subsequent goals for the other months of the year.


I think we’ll be spending our first New Year’s Eve alone together tonight! We have always gone to a party or had friends over, but this time we’re eating pizza and drinking champagne at our place. In Provo all of the fireworks were scheduled for Saturday and not Sunday, so I hope some neighbors will set a few off.

Here’s to a great year!