Friday, January 14, 2011

Basketball coach

Since I don't have (and the way it looks like right now, I will never have) kids in Sweden, I don't know what kids do for after school activities over there. And when I think about what I did as a kid, it isn't really helping since it's been awhile.. and things do change... But I do know what American kids can choose when it comes to after school activities - and a lot of it is sports. Sports is a big deal here. And one thing that I will never (or who knows, give me a couple of years) get used to is is these seasonal sports. If you want to play soccer you have to play in fall. If you want to play basketball, you play in winter. If you want to play softball you play in spring. Even though where I live there really are no real seasons to stop you from playing soccer in winter and softball in spring. I don't get it? Why do you have to jam in a whole season in a couple of months and then - nothing? Is it because you want the kids to play all sports (and be crazily busy all through the year)? I remember playing soccer and we did that all year around - and when it was too much snow you played indoors. And when I got older and taller I switched to basketball, which you also played all around the school year.

Oh, well - that's the way you do sports here, I just have to get used to it.

My Daughter finally likes to play basketball - so she is signed up for the basketball league - that will go on between January and March. I like basketball. It's a social sport - you can play it and hang out. You can play it on your own. Or with 3 friends or a whole team. You don't need a field, one backboard is fine. And with her Swedish decent, she will be tall - which comes in handy when you play basketball.

And I'm not sure how it happens - but I'm the assistant basketball coach.... So every Saturday for 2,5 hours, I'm now helping coaching 8 little 2nd Graders figure out how to play basketball. It's a lot of fun - they are so enthusiastic and way too small for their team outfits no one won't be dunking any scores. If judging by the jamboree games last weekend, I'm going to be a rarity - a female assistant coach... Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Interior design for hardcore Swedes

I haven't been an alien long enough to crave this Dalahäst carpet. But give me another 5-10 years, and I might spend some $2000 to get some real Scandinavian feeling in my house.

(Picture from ScandinavianDesignCenter, who also sell the carpet)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Good time to be an Alien

When I moved out, 10 years ago, it was before SVTPlay, e-book readers or Skype. At least it was in the time of the DVD so you could bring Swedish DVDs with you - if you hacked your DVDplayer. TV3's short newsprogram (what was it called? 3 minutes) actually put up an online version of it's news program online - and you might be able to stream it - but that was it.

Now we live in a time where you can be in France and watch the Swedish princess wedding in Stockholm live on your iPhone or follow the "Julkalendern" (Swedish children's program in December) as if you were in Swedish (and with nice grandparents who send the paper calendar - it's just like in Sweden).

And two months ago I gave myself an e-reader* and now I don't have to wait for the next visit to Sweden to use valuable weight in my suitcases with books to read (even though I ready perfectly fluently in English - it's nice (and important) to read in Swedish as often as I get the chance). With my e-reader I can buy (or borrow when I have my Swedish library card set up) Swedish books in minutes and start reading.

My kids thinks it's perfectly natural to turn on their computer and check if grandmom is online, put on the headset and the video and talk on Skype.

New technology makes life good for aliens.

(I got the new Nook Color by Barnes&Noble - I'm an Amazon fan and a huge user - but with the Kindle you can't read epub files - the standard used by libraries or Swedish booksellers - only the Amazon books can be read on a Kindle. If you want to use an e-reader to read Swedish books - make sure it can read epub files and install Adobe Digital Editions on your computer and hook the e-reader and ADE together - and hepp - you're good to go!)

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

We have decided to repeat last year's success and spend New Year's Eve downtown and watch the fireworks - one at 9 pm and one at midnight. I'm Swedish (or European) at heart - I need the year to go out with some major dynamite explosions. The small "puffs" people randomly throw around on New Year's Eve here doesn't count. It should be loud and big.

Usually New Year's is one of the few days of the year when I really feel home sick (Midsummer Eve is the other) - I miss the fantastic feeling of hitting the streets at midnight and everyone is out, cheering, seeing, hearing, smelling the fireworks. Watching the ball drop in New York on rerun from 3 hours earlier just doesn't do the trick...

But our newly invented tradition is as close as you get to a European New Year's Eve.

I wish all of you a Happy New Year and hope you get to see lots of fireworks!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Sometimes the lack of standards here makes me crazy... it sure would make life easier and less adventurous... In our house we have five closets with sliding doors. We have decided to exchange the doors on two closets to sliding doors to make them more accessible. When we started measuring it turns out that the five closet doors have tree different dimensions and when we came to Home Depot it turns out that neither of the dimensions we had can be fit with a sliding door - they have totally different dimensions... And that's just the width - if you add height things are even more complicated. Seems you have to decide what doors you want and then build the closet around them. For about 5 times the price of a "normal closet door" you can special order and it will take at least 6 weeks... that's IF the height is in the "range" of normal.

Oh, sometimes I miss 40, 60, 80 cm as standards...

Or maybe things are the same in Sweden when it comes to interior dimensions - after all I've only had a house in the US - never in the US....

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Piggybacking on social networking services

When I started up this blog in 2006, I had already been writing my personal family blog (but called it "diary") for over 3 years (and I still do - going on over 7 years now with daily updates), chronicling the life of our family far away from our close family and old friends. The blog was (is) my little outlet of thoughts that wasn't necessarily family related but topics that I wanted to write about still. 

In 2006 the main issue was how to defeat the standard themes of Blogger... there was no Twitter... Facebook... or Buzz. In the past 4 years life has become swamped with social networking. In essence I love it - it's a way to keep close to friends and family - and meet new friends (as a sidemark - all local Swedes I've connected with here are the result of social networking in different forms). But it can also be time consuming - especially when you use it for your professional life as well (as I do). There are only so many hours in a day.

My goal is to maximize effect with minimal effort and try to piggyback on all social networking services so updating and adding will be easy and smooth. It took me all fall to find out a smooth way to do it in my professional life - and now I'm trying to build the same process in my private, social life. Using services as Posterous, Twitterfeed, apps and extensions in Chrome etc. 

We'll see - bear with me the next couple of days (weeks?) when I try to optimize my flow of thoughts to this blog and get the feeds to work... 


Monday, December 27, 2010

New Year - new home :

Dear readers (if you're still out there), after a busy couple of months I had to take some time off my dear blog and focusing on other things. Now on Christmas break - I decided to take some time to make some long over due changes and upgrades. I spent some time today looking back at this fall and made a couple of reflections below.

I'm also moving my blog to it's own domain - a move I've been planning for over a year (or more come to think of it), but never really finding the time. 

From now on A Swedish Alien in California can be followed over at Links to here will still work - but if you want to update your blogroll lists - this is the new home. I hope to see you there (here) as I'm preparing for a new, great 2011!

I've connected a Twitter account to the blog too if you want to follow along there.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lucia for the first time in...a long time

Every year we have the kids dress up and sing Lucia songs at the local IKEA. This year we also got a chance to to it a little bit more for "real" - a local Lutheran church let us sing in their cute little church on the actual Lucia Day. And this year we had decided that the grown-ups should participate too - to make the singing a little bit stonger (which sure was needed at IKEA - as it happened to be the same day as the "julbord" and it was very noisy and busy).

This was the first time in... well... 25 years (?) that I walked and sang in a Lucia procession. I think the grown-ups were more excited than the kids - and we have decided to make it a tradition - we want to do this again! Poor kids...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving - with a real turkey

We got unexpected (Swedish) family guests over Thanksgiving and decided that we for once would cease the all American tradition and put together a real Thanksgiving. So we had them watch the Thanksgiving parade in the morning, play football outside (oh, well, soccer - we don't own a football) help out to prepare the meal, eat until they couldn't move and then watch some football on TV. Isn't this the essence of Thanksgiving so what? ;-)

We went online to find recepies for "traditional Thanksgiving food" and managed to make both the turkey (we opted for a small one) and green bean casseroll. We cheated on the pumpkin pie and got one from the store (don't tell anyone). Everyone ate everything and we had a lot of fun. We were pretty impressed with ourselves - maybe we'll do this as a tradition. ;-)

The small turkey.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fall in California - flying away

What have I been up to this fall? Looking back - I'm not sure - it feels it's still - or at least should be August - but obviously I'm stuck in the past. I have done some travels - a couple of trips to Stockholm, Sweden, one trip down to LA to watch the Midterm Elections and one trip down to San Diego to attend a conference. Add regular work and a family to the travel mix. The bad thing about getting all those miles when traveling is that you can use them - for travel - when all you want to once you get back from your miles-awarded-travels is not to travel...

When you fly "domestic" within California - Southwest is your best choice. Southwest is a special airline - voted high in customer satisfaction and - one of few that actually isn't on the verge of bankruptcy...  When you are to board a Southwest flight you are assigned a special number - and you have to line up in the exact order when it's time to board. No one has assigned seats - not even travelers in "business class" (there is not business class - only the privilege of getting on board first - and getting a free drink). It's a somewhat nice change from long term flights across the globe - and the best part is that "domestic" California rarely means flying more than an hour.

Random pictures from this fall:

The wall of Konserthuset in Stockholm
The fantastic ceiling of Ulvsunda Slott outside Stockholm
- you don't see ceilings like this too often over here...
Meg Whitman declares defeat in Universal City in LA where
I happened to end up on Midterm Election night. 
Spent a few rainy days in San Diego in October. Not much use of the rain. 

We did see the sun one - one evening. But I did have a great view from my hotel room...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Greta Garbo in Stockholm

Whenever I'm in Stockholm, I try to find the time to walk through Södra Skogskyrkogården (The Woodland Cemetery) and visit my grandmother's grave. I grew up next to the cemetery so this is my well known grounds to me. 

Since 1999, not far from my grandmother (who passed about a decade earlier), Greta Garbo is buried here. Greta Garbo grew up in Stockholm but lived most of her life in the US - and between 1941 and the time of her death in April 1990, no one hardly saw her. It took a 9-year legal battle to decide on where she should rest

She is now resting in a quiet glade in this beautiful cemetery and someone has always put fresh flowers by her grave.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stieg fever

The success of Stieg Larsson in the US is amazing - everywhere you go, every newspaper you read - you'll find the books displayed and can read stories about him and his books. The Americans are obsessed with these books. I always smile when I see people with the books (and you see them everywhere)  - thinking how they pronounce Fiskargatan and Bellmansgatan. And suddenly you have a new topic when you meet people - talk about the Millenium books and about Stockholm.

According to the Entertainment Weekly, the last book (named "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest" and released in May 2010 in the US) sold 500 000 copies within the first 14 days in the US - which is an average of 35,714 books a day or 1489 books per hour.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Tolouse for a princess wedding

To add to stress during my few weeks in Europe - I had managed to plan a trip to Toulouse where a old and very good, dear friend was tying the knot. She was getting married the same day as the Crown Princess was getting married in Sweden - so I left a crazy Stockholm for a quick visit to the old town Toulouse in the southern parts of France (or so I think - I flew and really didn't have time to check the map in more detail).

While keeping updated on the progress of the Crown Princess wedding in Stockholm I had a day to walk around in Toulouse - unfortunately in rain. I managed to buy an umbrella despite my total lack of French - and the clerks total lack of English. These are the times you wish the founders of Esperanto had been more successful.

The wedding was fantastic (or so I assume - I didn't understand any of it - but the bride and groom kissed at the end and looked fabulously happy - so I guess everything went according to plan) - and the couple was so fantastic - I'm pretty sure my friend was a princess in a former life - she sure looked like one. Made me want to get married again. Almost. Nah.

I got to visit a French castle outside in the country side - darn clouds that kept on blocking the view and the sun. And I kept a firm grip on the person I found (part from the bride) that could speak Swedish and secretly wished I had slept with a Rosetta stone course running in my ears the last couple of weeks before the wedding so I could have made it past "Bonjour, ca va?".

A few pictures from Toulouse: 

And the princess and her prince:

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Summer in Sweden - and in California

After a very busy spring I took off with the kids for a couple of very busy weeks in Sweden. Working and visiting isn't a good combination. You'll end up in a weird situation when friends and family assume you're "home" when in fact you're "away" - far from routines and practicalities,  The kids thinks they are "away" and me - I'm stuck in the middle. Four weeks run fast when you're trying to do everything - but we got it all done - Junibacken, Gröna Lund, Skansen, Old Town, eating ice cream in Kungsträdgården, fish herring, archipelago boat. And - we were lucky with the weather (only Swedes will get that part).

I came back to California a wreak - needing vacation from my vacation. ;-) The good thing about summer in California is that sun is guaranteed. No more packing a sweater and a rain coat "in case of" - you can pack away everything until October.

A few random pictures from Sweden this summer:

A real moose. Alive.

I'm I the only one who has this labyrinth at Skansen as a firm childhood memory?
The alien in me almost cried when I saw my kids run through it - 30 some years later.

Swedish strawberries and a Swedish Tant.