Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Mmmmm Marabou

Speaking about Halloween (which is kind of candy oriented... soon we will have kids ringing the door bell asking for treats or they'll threaten to trick us)(and you sure wonder what kinds of tricks you were up to if you opened the door and said, no, we don't have any treats...) - I just have to make a post on chocolate...

As a chocolate lover, it's hard living in California. They might have Hersey's Kisses and Ghirardelli here - but nothing compares to some Swedish Marabou... ;-) I make trips to the local IKEA only to pick up some chocolate...

I don't know if chocolate is on the permitted food list to bring to the US, but I got some of the latest versions when back in Sweden recently.... Like the Marabou Digestive (of course pronounced Marabou [digg-e-sti-ve]... ;-) They only carry the Mjölkchoklad and Schweizernöt at IKEA...

But I never got to try the newest one, couldn't find it in any of the stores I managed to rush through on my quick trip... Marabou Daim! Doesn't that sound like heaven!

Maybe I can order it through the ICA online store... will cost a fortune... but hey, you'll do anything for chocolate - and after all it IS Halloween and you've got to treat yourself!

Halloween vs All Saints Day

Today is Halloween and the last couple of weeks' rush to make your house look really scary comes to an end. The kids dress up and will go "trick or treat" from house to house, collecting candy (or in theory do tricks if they don't get any....). From what I can see reading newspapers online, this "holiday" has spread to northern Europe as well. But when I came here it was new to me. We still have some catching up to do, our house is completely "un-scary"...

The first Saturday of November is All Saints Day in Sweden (and in other parts of Europe). No "trick or treat", but a day to honor your passed friends and relatives, by lighting candles and remember. I've always wondered about the connection between Halloween (always October 31) and All Saints Day (November 1) and found this explanation:

The term Halloween, and its older spelling Hallowe'en, is shortened from All-hallow-even, as it is the evening before "All Hallows' Day" (also known as "All Saints' Day"). In Ireland, the name was All Hallows' Eve (often shortened to Hallow Eve), and though seldom used today, it is still a well-accepted label. The holiday was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions, until Pope Gregory III moved the old Christian feast of All Saints Day to November 1 to give Halloween a Christian interpretation. (Wikipedia)

Anyway. Since I grew up next to northern Europe's largest cemetery (247 acre or 0.38 sq mile), Skogskykogården, which is so unique it's part of the Unesco's World Heritage list, this "holiday" is significant for me. Every year 10000s of candles are lit on the graves and memorials, lighting up the ground. Taking a slow walk through this magic place on All Saints Day is very, very special. You have never seen anything like it. No Halloween costume in the world can make up for that... If you're in Stockholm this upcoming Saturday, make sure you make time for a walk at night!

Monday, October 30, 2006

California Dreamin´ 40 years ago

I really like the ladies that pop up from the bathtubs...

A little red bike

When my daughter turned 3 a couple of weeks ago we had decided to give her a bike. And in my mind I was all set for a little red bike. Just like the one Lotta på Bråkmakargatan gets on her birthday, after stealing Tant Berg's big bike.

Well... it turns out it's more or less impossible to get a simple, red bike in this country. Most bikes are either pink/purple (for girls) or blue/black (for boys). And they have stickers and decorations and so much stuff on them. I just wanted a small, red, simple bike... I'm not sure what my daughter would have said had we asked her before. She probably would want a pink, had she been given the choice...

I researched online, browsing through all the major stores, trying to find my red "Lotta"-bike. The closest I could find was a RadioFlyer bike, but my husband said it would be too small for our very tall daughter. It is so cool however... Too bad you can only shrink you kids in the movies...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Spring forward, fall back"

It took me over some 30 years to get this daylight saving thing (oh, well, maybe 15, maybe late teens is the "legal" age from when you're expected to get this...). And one move to the US. Because in English it's easy to remember what way you should turn your clock when it is time for "summer time" or "winter time". "Spring forward, fall back!". So easy! Thus we spent one hour changing all the clocks in the house this morning, pushing them back one hour (and wondering why we have this huge amount of clocks all over the house...).

Sweden also "fell back" over night. That is good, because even though you locally get how to change the clocks, if you don't do it at the same day here as in Sweden, you become confused again... Normally the time difference is 9 hours between PST and CET (pacific standard time and central European time if you didn't know that). But what if we wouldn't have changed... would the time difference have been 8 hours or 10 hours??

In the future things will be more complicated, because according to new federal law, starting in 2007, daylight savings will be observed from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November in the US, adding about a month to daylight saving time. But be still be the same in Europe. I.e adding one whole month of confusion. Oh, well. It's several months until then... lot's of time to figure it out.

Swedish cows are happy too...

But in Sweden the cows make margarine, not cheese... ;-) Click on the picture!

Happy Cows live in Californa

I kind of like the "Happy Cows" campaign. I have no idea if the cows are happier, but the ads are funny...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I'm grown-up - I want a minivan!

I never thought much about cars. Grew up in Stockholm, lived there all my life until I landed in Northern California. Lived for 10 years in downtown Stockholm which has excellent public transportation. No need to have a car. Actually only a lot of work to have a car.

Now I live in the land of the car, hardly no public transportation in sight around here and the Car is suddenly just as important as your house. With two kids, the latest added to the family just in the recent months, I've started, for the first time in my life, wish for a specific car... Suddenly I've joined that (predominantly male I presume) group that dream of a car, turning my head when I see one, and admiringly toughing one if I managed to get up close enough... My husband is terrified - because I want a minivan (and all men know that that is the end of the road - you're definitely grown-up then, no turning back). The Nissan Quest... With automatic power sliding doors... preferably an inbuilt DVD player... sunroofs... and why not throw in one of those gps-systems when I'm at it even though I am an excellent map reader (just don't ask me about left and right).

In what color? Oh, I don't know - do they come in purple??

Had I still lived in Sweden, we would probably own (if we were not still in downtown Stockholm...) a Volvo V70, the most sold car in Sweden.

I'm pretty sure this one doesn't come in purple. But it's safe.

A little red house....

It's not really fair to compare Californian houses and Swedish houses. Swedish houses are made of wood, heavily isolate to take its inhabitants through the cold winters. But sometimes I wonder what the main purpose of a Californian house is. Most of them look like huge garages with a little house on top or on the side... (if you generalize heavily) The most important inhabitant of the house seems to be the car (or should I say cars) . Considering the amount of snow and ice in the winter, you would think that Swedish houses should take a little more care of the poor cars...

Anyway, when we were going to buy our house here in in California a couple of years ago, I realized after awhile that I was turning down a lot of them mainly because they didn't look like... "houses" (we ended up getting a "garage-house" - I was heavily pregnant and we couldn't wait for a house-house to get on the market... and it has a great floor plan, even though you can't see that from the outside).

I've gotten used to Californian houses by now, actually thinking some of them look really nice (especially the really big one... the mulitmillion dollar houses... why is that!). But during my recent quick trip to Sweden I was once again reminded about "Houses" and how nice it is with different colors instead of the cafe latte color of most houses in this state. How about this?

Or this!

I wonder how much the air freight cost would be for a wooden Swedish house...?

Friday, October 27, 2006

I never thought I would miss this...

When asked about what I would miss when I left Sweden for the US a couple of years ago, I could think of numerous things - friends, family, walks in my beautiful Stockholm etc etc. I never thought I would miss this little thing so much... real bathroom door locks!

I've never thought much about bathroom doors. But during my recent trip to Sweden when I could finally lock the bathroom door for real, I realized how much I miss them! First of all the bathroom doors are real - no stalls in sight! And then there is no doubt that there is someone on the other side of the door. No need to try to use you hearing or try to see feet under the door to know if you should try to open the door (which by the way always turn inwards, making the stall even smaller). Just as simple as red lights:

= feel free to go inside.
= stay away and don't push the door handle (unless the person inside takes unusually long time).

Next to falukorv, smågodis and grevéost, I really miss these locks!

Piles of magazines...

I've always been a magazine addict. As a teen I read the Swedish teen magazines Frida, VeckoRevyn etc - oh, what a happy day when mom brought home a new magazine. As a 20something I graduated over to Damernas Värld, Elle (and I admit - I'm still a subscriber...). Then I was going to get married and I still have piles of those bridal magazines. And since I then lived in the US, I had the pleasure of reading both Swedish and American glossy wedding magazines.

Now that I'm a mom, I'm exploring all the parenting magazines, always picking up the latest issues of the Swedish ones when in Sweden and subscribing to a bunch of American ones. I don't want to miss anything! So now I'm sitting here surrounded by piles of magazines (because of course I still subscribe to the ones I had before I became a parent - I might miss something), hoping that one day, actually read some of them (just like I read Rick Kushman's columns in the SacBee to know what I should have been watching on TV)...

One of the problem is that subscribing to American magazines are ridiculously cheep compared to buy them at the store. If you think you might buy 2-3 issues of the same magazine over a 12 month period, you might as well get a subscription. So that's what I do...

The major American parenting magazines are Parents and Parenting.

I'm not really sure I can see a difference... I don't know which magazine was first, Parents or Parenting, but I sure wonder about the creativeness of the team trying to come up with a name for the competitor of the first... Right now I'm subscribing to Parents. Or is it Parenting...?

The major Swedish parenting magazines, or should I say, the ONLY ones, since Sweden with its 9 millions inhabitants is not really constitution a major market is Vi föräldrar and Föräldrar & Barn. And those of you understanding Swedish can see that creativity wasn't really much of an issue for the team naming these magazines either...

Since I became a mom 3 years ago, I'm part of the "mama-generation". The generation that get to read the Swedish mommy magazine mama ! But since subscribing to it from here is more expensnsive than getting 10 American magazines, I've been trying to find the eqvivalence... But there is none...

You can try Working Mothers. But just the title... "working"... hm... where is the glamour?? I like it (of course I subscribe...) but it's more like Parents and Parenting just a bit more focused on the balance between working and being a mom...

And there is Pink of course. But that is more about being a working woman, not
about the glamorous part of being a mother (because of course it is! isn't it? no??). I like this one too (but then I AM a magazine addict so it takes a lot for me NOT to like a magazine...).

Then last year, Cookie magazine showed up in the magazine stands and I got my hopes up! The magazine's tag line is "mom style, kid culture". But... hm... mabye a bit too much... I don't know... but none of the kids clothes shown in this magazine retails for less than $100 and then we're talking t-shirts... This is actually one I don't subscribe too. But who knows next season...

So I'm just going to nag anyone coming to visit from Sweden to bring me a mama magazine. And some Swedish "smågodis". And then I'm going to make myself a nice cup of tea and just sit back, relax and enjoy being a glamorous mom!

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Do you remember the TV drama "Thirtysomething"? It was one of my favorites and today I had a reason to check something about it. I realized the series premier on Swedish television was in 1989... I was still in high school! What was I thinking?! Why wasn't I enjoying my teens?? I wasn't even a 20something at the time... I can still hum the theme song (which was actually played as background music on my 30th birthday party a couple of years ago). What was it that I liked? Did I want to grow up fast - or was the other programs on Swedish public service TV too boring? When googling the show today I realized you can get it on dvd. I might put that on my wish list for Christmas... Now that I AM a 30something, will I like as much? Or will I rather watch 50something?

WHO designs smoke detectors??

Whoever it is did a poor job. I've just spent over an hour trying remove a smoke detector warning everyone in the house that it was out of batteries. After standing on the ladder, hand up in the air to the ceiling, trying to figure out how to disconnect it, I'm tried and mad. I finally got it down after taking a picture of it, e-mailing it to the husband and on our cell phones discussing possible ways to shut it up. What did you do before digital cameras, e-mail and cell phones?? Gaah!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Home sweet shower...

I've been on the road for six days, going back "home" to Sweden. And this morning, when home in my own bathroom, taking a shower, I realized that that is one thing that is sure nice to come back to - my own shower. If you're as near sighted as I am, and too tired to start the day by getting your contacts lenses, showering in a new shower is like taking a walk in the woods blindfolded... What way do you turn the knob to get warmer water (auch, wrong direction!), is this the shampoo (oups... it was shower oil...).

Suddenly everything was smooth and easy and I could just enjoy it, using my own shampoo and having the perfect temperature immediately! I'm home!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Stockholm, Stockholm, stan' i världen" *

Hopefully United/SAS will take me to Stockholm, Sweden tomorrow. My birth city, my home town... 14 islands, 40 bridges and surrounded by the beautiful archipelago of 25 000 islands.. Oh, boy is this one of the most beautiful places in the world... I will stay way too short, probably not have time at all to visit my favorite places or stores, or just sit and relax and "fika". And even though after 7 years as an alien, I still feel like I still live there... even though I at some point have to realize that I don't...

Want to visit? Check this out: Stockholm - the musical! It's all specially made for you!

Preben Kristensen - Stockholm Visitors Board

*This is the title of a Swedish song by Pugh Rogefeldt and it means "Stockholm, Stockholm, the city of the world", freely translated...

It's time to fly..

Tomorrow morning I have to hit the skies with my infant son, traveling across the world to Europe. I have a blurry memory that once it used to be fun to travel... when you actually looked forward to go to an airport, get on an airplane and get somewhere. Now I'm waiting anxiously for those beam machines they have in sci-fi movies to get me places...

With less than 24 hours until departure I'm already stressed out for how I'm going to get me and my son through security at the first airport (do I have to remove my shoes? my hooded sweater? will the stroller cooperate and fold nicely through the x-ray? will the diaper rash cream be determined non-explosives?) and all the way to Stockholm.

United's tag line used to be "Fly the friendly skies" or something like it. Now it seems they've changed it to "It's time to fly". And for me that sounds just like when I was a kid and mom told me "it's time to go o bed", something you had to do, but just wished it would be over soon...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Why does palm trees make me happy?

Is it because I'm Swedish, used to ugly pine trees (billions of them...), that I just love palm trees? Is it the long dark winters, dreaming of sunny days at the beach, that forever has planted a happy feeling in my mind when seeing a palm tree?

I'm sure the Swedish people in general would be more happy if their entrance to their local Konsum store looked like this. Having to go get milk and diapers sure is a nicer chore! (these are actually not really "natural", they were planted outside the store... want to buy a palmtree this size - no problems - have your $1000s in cash ready!)

Is this my team?

The World Series is going on. I think. And the... NFL.. has started? I was moderately interested in sports when in Sweden. Knew the basics, followed the major events (World Championships in Soccer, the Olympic Games...) and knew the major Swedish teams in ice hockey and soccer (Heja Hammarby!). Now when I live here I'm completely lost... I look at the sports section in the newspaper and it's more like reading Chinese... I worry for our kids, do we need to get them a support family so they'll pick up the basics of American sports and won't be left out at Monday Night Football?

I think this is the top I'm supposed to wear?

My favourite guy!

(Well next to my husband of course...)

Rick Kushman is the Sacramento Bee's TV Columist and he's the best! I used to watch TV a lot (pre-children...) in Sweden and here. When I came here and suddenly faced 100s of TVchannels I was lost. Until I discovered Kushman's columns in the Scene section of the "SacBee". Now I only watch what he says is worth watching. I.e. I only TiVo what he says is worth watching... one of these days I might actually have time to watch - but when I do I have a TiVo full of great shows! If you don't know what to watch this fall - check out Rick's advice!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A new corner in cyberspace...

I've written a private online blog for over three years, but recently I've felt the need to have a little corner where I can write about things less personal. A blog about what it's like to be an "alien" in California, what everyday life here is like, what I miss in Sweden, what is different from Sweden, my thoughts and contemplations about my experiences here in the Golden State!

You won't find personal photos or details about my family or political issues in this blog - my personal family blog covers most of that and others are better at writing about political issues than I!

I'm going to write it in English so my American friends will be able to read and maybe enjoy if they want to.


/JaCal i CA