Thursday, November 30, 2006

Being bilingual (multilingualism #4)

Eddie Izzard - one of my favorite comedians - on bilingualism... The first time I saw his "Dressed to kill" I was on the floor laughing.

My love and hate relationship with the local post office

I went by the post office yesterday. I was actually getting stamps to send out our Christmas cards. In November! How about that!? I don't think we've ever been this early. Last year most people got our Christmas cards after New Year's...

Anyway, for some reason it's really tricky to get hold of international stamps (the 84c ones) but at the actual post office (the regular 39c - no problem you can get them at a place like Safeway for example (like ICA)), so I had to go there to send my international Christmas cards.

I have a love and hate relationship with our local postal office...

The real dedicated postal officers that take their assignment with huge responsibility... I've been gravely reprimanded for writing the sender's address on the back of the envelope (had to write it again, on the upper left corner on the front side) - a no no, and been seriously apologized to when they had to give me a 24c+39c stamp instead of a 63c ("would that work for you?")...

The fact that they installed a queue ticket system (yeah!) and them removed it and let people go back to standing in line... (what?!).

Or that they asked me if I wanted to pay $18 for a package to be sent by express mail to a close zip code and have it delivered by tomorrow or $4.20 to have it sent by priority mail and have it delivered tomorrow (??).

But still it's a real post office. You feel safe giving them your Christmas cards, knowing that they will be handled with care.

Which is more to say with the feeling you get in Sweden these days when you hand your letters to that bakery girl at the local Konsum who is posing as a postal worker in between selling cinnamon rolls...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A bubbelgum day.... (multilingualism #3)

Some days speaking English suddenly isn't working.

It's like having a sticky bubblegum in my mouth (and cotton candy in my brain...) and nothing comes out right. No matter what I try to say, out comes just mumbojumbo and even the Swedish chef in the Muppet show is easier to understand than me.


Ctrl+Alt+Del! Do you want to restart? YES!

Will they have jump ropes at the ABBA museum?

The news about the upcoming ABBA museum in Stockholm, to be opened in 2008, has reached all the way here.

The museum will feature a studio where visitors can record their own ABBA songs. Yeah! Hm... I wonder which one I will choose to record when I visit... my favorites as a little girl was "Thank you for the music" and "Chiquitita"... (and OF COURSE even grown-ups can make recordings - don't tell me it's just for kids!?).

I wonder if they will sell jump ropes in the gift shop... like the ones from the 70ies that we used to pretend singing in a microphone like Frida or Agneta (I wanted to be Agneta!!).

Oh, childhood memories!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My coffee substitute

I took a walk up to Borders and after getting my books sat down at the café for a "fika". I love bookstores with cafés. Not that they beat a real "fik" in downtown Stockholm, but they are a good runner up.

Books and café in combination - it just can't be better!

Still have the tiny problem of not drinking coffee though....

I wasn't brave enough (or maybe just being cheep... not wanting to spend money on something I with pretty good probability wouldn't finish) to try out their version of Starbucks Christmas blends and wasn't really in the mood for tea.

So I had my summer time favorite - a (terribly sweet) Italian Raspberry Soda!

The rest of the people at the café were drinking warm coffee...

"Räven raskar" in English?

With less than a month until Christmas it was time to turn on the Christmas music to my daughter's delight. We stuffed around the living room having fun yesterday, despite no Christmas tree yet.

It made me wonder... what is the equivalence to great hits like "Räven raskar över isen" and "Upp på källarbacken"? Do the Americans actually dance around their Christmas trees or is that an old pagan tradition that requires at lot of "snaps"?

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" is kind of lame to dance around the Christmas tree to...

Is there a new trend?

Is it just me who wonder about these "child-women" in the ads? I found this ad in Target's Christmas catalog that arrived yesterday... it reminds me about the girl in the Linens 'N Things ad I saw the other day.

What is that mascara? White? Not even real grown-up women wear white mascara (or I'm I getting old...?). Or is it just to look fun? (maybe I lost my sense of humor?)

Is this Target's (or Canon's?) way to say that real cool girls not only need an iPod or (as it says in the ad text) a "hot video game", but a $299.99 Canon PowerShot camera to complete the right look?

And what does that rabbit has to do with it...? Is it the rabbit she is going to capture with the camera?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Alien happiness!

When getting the mail in the mailbox today (which means a little walk to the big mailbox for every house on the street - no little cute private mailboxes here on our street) it was more like a lottery win!

Normally the little box contains bills and junkmail. Today it contained three (!!) big envelopes with Christmas gifts, one big envelope with my Swedish magazines (Elle and Damernas Värld), one small envelope with Swedish saffron (yeah, now I can make "lussebullar"!) - and - the best of all - an envelope with the Swedish magazine Mama and the newest taste of Marabou chocolate! Marabou Daim (thank you so much, Cissi!)

If you want to know what can make a poor alien cry on a Monday - you just learned!

New template...

I tried a new template, wanting something more "stretchier" with more space. So here we go!

I miss weather from the east

We had a light winter storm passing by yesterday (causing massive traffic trouble on one of the most traveled days of the year). We got some rain, the mountains in the east got lots of snow.

The storm came from the west. As almost all weather here. Sometimes it might come from the northwest. But that's about it.

It's pretty easy. If you want to go outside and the weather report says "chances of rain", you check the Doppler radar. "OK, 42 minutes until the rain cloud will arrive, plenty of time to take a walk".

42 minutes later the rain arrives.

Very predictable.

And sometimes very boring... no Weather adventures here...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A TV program for Swedish aliens!!

Fredrik Lindström, one of my favorite Swedes, is making a new TV show, called "Världens modernaste land - men världens osäkraste folk" (freely translated "The world's most modern people, but the most insecure") premiering on Lucia, December 13. I really, really hope this can be seen online at This sure is interesting for a Swedish alien!

Since BabelFish still doesn't speak Swedish (and probably never will... hmpf...) the below text about the show is in Swedish (despite my ambition to write in English here - to lazy to translate - after all it is Sunday... ). Sorry English speakers!

From SVTs website:

Världens modernaste land - men världens osäkraste folk?

Ett program om svensk mentalitet. Några av frågorna som tas upp i säsongens första program är: Hur påverkas svenskarna av att bo i ett mörkt, kallt och glesbefolkat land? Och vad är egentligen en tradition? Dessutom handlar det om varför svenskarna inte firar nationaldag och är så lite nationalistiska av sig.

Vad skiljer svenskarna från andra folk, bortom myter om självmord, lagom och jantelagen? Svensk mentalitet visar sig ofta handla om två motsatser: självbelåtenhet och osäkerhet. En skyhög tilltro till det svenska samhället som ett av de bästa och modernaste i världen, kombineras med en stor självunderskattning om att vi svenskar är så "beiga", tråkiga och okunniga ur ett internationellt perspektiv. Hur hänger det här egentligen ihop?

I det första programmet handlar det om grunderna till svenskheten. Hur påverkas man av att bo i ett mörkt, kallt och glesbefolkat land? Blir man blygare och mindre social? Var kommer de svenska oskrivna reglerna från: att man inte ska prata med folk på bussen, men att man måste prata om man är hembjuden till någon? Och varför dricker vi hela vår alkoholranson på helgen, istället för lite varje kväll som i de flesta andra kulturer?

Och vad är egentligen en tradition? Är det sant att ungdomarnas blöta luciavakor är en äldre tradition än själva lussandet med vit särk och ljus i hår?

Det handlar också om varför vi svenskar inte firar vår nationaldag och i allmänhet är väldigt lite nationalistiska av oss, liksom om varför den svenska flaggan är idyllisk på en kaffebricka men lite otäck som emblem på en jacka.

Sometimes I wish I drank coffee...

I've tried hard. Made it through four years of university with making it through a single cup. Sat through numerous of "fika" being boring and drinking tea. My husband has tried giving me the bottled Frappuccini. And no, it doesn't matter if you do it with tons of milk (even if the milk comes by the gallon).

I just don't like coffee.

In today's morning paper (that takes an hour to read through since you're supposed to have lots of time on a Sunday - in a house with two kids, the time for breakfast is exactly the same no matter the weekday) there was a one page ad for Starbucks new holiday tastes...

For a Christmas freak like me, "gingerbread latte" really sounds good.

Maybe I should make one more try...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Drinking milk by the gallon

I like milk. My husband do to. And with kids, that is a lot of milk consumption in this house.

We love the fact that you buy milk by the gallon here. Actually right now we have 2 full and one half full gallons in our huge refrigerator. One gallon of milk equals almost 4 liters. That would mean that we right now would have approximately 10 liters in our refrigerator... Hm... maybe we have to think about or milk addiction...

It felt kind of weird buying milk in the beginning, like you were getting... gas or something. And you really need strong arms to pour. But then, that's what the milk is for, isn't it?

Reading billboards on the highway

When returning home from Thanksgiving yesterday, stuck in traffic (we and the 4 799 996 other Californians on the road), there was plenty of time to actually read the huge billboards along the highway (going 25 miles per hour...).

Along the highways where we were traveling, the majority of the billboards are about casinos. Happy faces to suggest you actually will leave a casino with more money than you got there with...

Cingular, one of the major cell phone operators, is also a big billboard advertiser. They have a campaign that I really think is strange, at least if you're from Sweden... Their campaign right now, as can be seen in newspapers, TV commercial, print etc is "fewest dropped calls".

I was sitting there in the car, slowly going back home, thinking that it's amazing that you can build a campaign based on being "the least bad"... If you're signed up with Cingular, your calls will be dropped, but at least this will happen fewer times than with another provider...

It's like saying, "buy our tomatoes, they are a bit rotten, but at least they're not as rotten as the other sellers'"...

Dropped cell phone calls are so common here that you can actually get new customers by claiming to drop less calls. Maybe my quality standard when it comes to cell phone services are a bit high, coming from Sweden, which is actually one of the most advanced cell phone nations. I didn't realize until we moved here 7 years ago and hardly anyone knew what a text message was or only one provider offered a GSM net. Or when we signed up to have fax services and no one really knew how to actually receive a the fax.

I know my brother has two way video cell phone calls with my nephew, using his 3G phone when he's far from home working.

At least I have Cingular.

I won't have as many dropped calls.

Friday, November 24, 2006

"Window shopping" on The Black Friday...

When other shoppers hit the store and made real bargains at 5 am this morning, I was tucked in under the nice and warm cover.

I did enjoy reading the 40lb worth of ads that came with the newspaper yesterday - always fun to "window shop" (hm... is that really an expression that works in English...) at the kitchen table, but I was way too lazy and tired to get out today to "earn" money. And besides, most of my Christmas gifts this year are already "hidden" in the guest room closet.

I have a Linens 'N Things within walking distance from our house (kind of unsual here otherwise to have anything within walking distance) (unless of course you happen to live on let's say Manhattan or so) so I took some time and check out the ads...

I'm curious about this ad for a kids kitchen set... I think it's a little girl in the ad... or is it... and WHO decided that she should have this weird hairdo and lipstick?!? Isn't it enough that the whole kitchen set is baby pink?? Is she supposed to look like a future desperate housewife?

I actually think this ad looks scary...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Julmust - a taste that brings back memories

I got a whole box of julmust (jul=christmas, must= hm... must) at IKEA the other day and last night I just had to have some!

This very Swedish beverage that taste like... hm.... ? You drink it at Christmas and Easter (then called "Easter must"), and hardly ever at any other occasions. Maybe that's what makes the taste so special and brings back so many memories. For me, a Christmas freak, it's like "drinking Christmas"... every sip takes me back in time. I'm not really sure I actually really like it, but it is such a part of Christmas that I don't even notice (but I doubt I would ever want it in say February...).

I got it at IKEA here for the first time two years ago (sometimes you really wonder WHO other than alien Swedes that buy some of the "weird" stuff at the Swede Food Store at IKEA), and I now realize that I have never had any of my American friends taste it. Hm. Note to self, have to invite them over for Swedish pepparkakor and julmust and hear their opinions.

Well, it can't be worse than root beer...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Busy travel weekend

During this weekend 4.7 million Californians (that's like half the Swedish population) will travel more than 50 miles to celebrate Thanksgiving.

We're four of them, we're going to travel 82 miles tomorrow. By car, like the majority of the travelers. It's the most busy travel weekend of the year, especially on Sunday when everyone is returning home.

We plan to return on Friday, with highways hopefully not too congested - everyone being at the malls shopping since early morning.

Holiday is in the air already - you can feel the anticipation, people getting ready to pack up to get to family and friends to celebrate!

"Skummigummibröd" for breakfast

Eating breakfast, maybe still a little grumpy over the lack of Marabou yesterday... Like most Swedes I like to eat bread for breakfast. And despite half mile long aisles of bread in the stores - almost all bread here is only slightly different versions of each other. It's square. It needs to be toasted. And it's white.

While I eat my square piece of "skummigummi" bread, I can't help myself from going online googeling "hönökaka", "rågbröd" and "rallarhalvor"...

I wonder how old the bread would be if you ordered something from (and how much of a fortune it would cost to ship it)....

Or maybe I just have to get that Kitchen Aid into some more action...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Please don't let it be true!!

When I was at IKEA today (buying 80% food and 20% stuff...) I couldn't find any Marabou chocolate! I got my skorpor, my hallonsaft, my julmust, my Singoalla kex, my glögg - but no chocolate!?

And when I asked where they have hidden it, they said that IKEA has discontinued selling Marabou chocolate!! What?? Why hasn't this been on the news? And where do I sign up to protest this decision. Where is that demonstration march?

What will poor Swedish aliens do now?

The whole world will be full of cranky, depressed Swedish aliens that didn't get their chocolate - have they really analyzed this decision and the effect of... the world economy?

For once I really hope that the sales clerks have no clue and that they mean that they are just temporarily out and order will be restored soon...

Two days until Thanksgiving!

This very American holiday in late November focused on food. And shopping. Let's talk about the food first.

The Thanksgiving table is just as complicated and predetermined and traditional as the Swedish "julbord". Same dishes every year. And same questions on "should we buy pre-made or do it ourselves". For an alien, some combinations really doesn't make sense. But then you think about the Swedish "julbord" and realize we're not much better. The combination of meatballs and herring really must have people wonder...

I don't know this for a fact, but I think that the American stoves are as sized as they are because of the Thanksgiving holiday and the traditional turkey. Because the turkeys are... HUGE. Our first year here we decided we should try to do this Thanksgiving-meal thing and headed out for a small turkey for two persons. Hahaha. Now we usually do Swedish waffles on Thanksgiving. Unless some nice American friend takes us in to help us through a real Thanksgiving meal.

I like the Thanksgiving holiday, family and friends gathering around the dinner table and eat and say thanks and share a (huge!) meal together. Not quite the more stressful Christmas when you have to make time for Santa, opening gifts, watching DonaldDuck (if your Swedish that is...). And when you're an alien it's a weekend with "no strings attached". No weird uncle Jim or crazy aunt Betty you have to invite or visit. We can just sail along and just enjoy for four days.

When everyone is filled up, they fall asleep and set the alarm clock and then head out to the stores early on the next day on what is called "The Black Friday" - the biggest sale of the year.

The days before The Black Friday the newspaper doubles in weight with all the ads and people start lining up before sunrise outside the stores. Almost like "mellandagsrean" in Sweden. Only more. And bigger. And - meaning you can buy all your Christmas gifts on sale BEFORE Christmas. That is if you want to shop with ten thousands of other people.

One thing I like to do is take a walk on Thanksgiving Day, passing by the nearby plaza on my way back home. Thanksgiving is the ONLY time a year when the stores are actually close. Walking along the closed stores and the completely empty huge parking lot is weird and very, very quiet... And that sure is special!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Oh, beautiful week numbers...

A Swedish co-worker called today and talked about a deadline in week 5.

In Sweden, organized life is based on week numbers. School semesters, vacations, spring break, work deadlines - everything is referred to as happening during or between a certain week number or numbers. This is very practical because everyone knows exactly what you're talking about.

No talk about the "third week of November". (Or is this week considered the "fourth week of November? Was that first week of November with five days considered a full week?).

Right now it's week 47. Period.

It took me awhile to realize that this doesn't exist in the US. No calenders comes with week numbers and if you say that you're going on vacation on week 24 and 26, people look at you as if you were... hm.. an alien...

Noise polution

Monday morning. The first day of the week (or the second, depending on what calender you use...). Monday mornings have to start smooth, or the whole week will be bad. Or so it seems.

Therefor I think there should be a total ban on grass blowers to be used before... hm... let's say Tuesday afternoons (or NEVER).

I had never seen (or heard!!) a grass blower before I moved here. Old fashioned rakes are obviously out... When we lived in an apartment complex, the gardeners came blowing every second day. These blowers make the most annoying noise that gives you an instant headache. I couldn't wait to get out of that place to get some peace and quiet in our own house (where grass blowers were to be forbidden).

Only to realize the first week that we hadn't thought about when we got the house... On the other side of the fence of our garden... an apartment complex.... and they have gardeners that come with... the darn GRASS BLOWERS every second day.

Starting Monday mornings.

They've been blowing for almost an hour.

Where are my earplugs??

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Remembering names 101

It's Sunday and time to fix the garden, cut the grass, the the kids loose on the front lawn for a change, opening the garage doors and say hi to the neighbors doing the same thing.

Is it an American phenomena or is it just me who is really bad - but why does everyone here always remember names so easily?! I've always been pretty bad at this, and here I fell really, really bad. People I've met briefly once, remembers my name and even if I got an eternity, I wouldn't be able to recall theirs. Gaah! Do they take a special class in school?? "How to easily remember names, 101". Where do I sign up??

My husband is just the same so when we moved into our house, we decided to have new strategy when meeting our new neighbors... Whoever of us who met a neighbor who introduced themselves, where to go straight back into the house and write down their names in our little black book. This strategy has worked pretty good.

We now know the names of our neighbors.

At least if we have a chance to run back to check the notes in the book...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I'm really becoming an alien...

It's more and more obvious that I'm becoming a "cultural Swedish alien"... Even though you get a pretty good idea about things, part from real news, that are going on by reading Expressen and Aftonbladet online (like that there is something called "Big Brother-Linda"...), I'm slowly and steady loosing touch with what's going on "over there".

Just spent part of my Saturday evening browsing through the October issue of Swedish Elle and felt completely lost... There is a notice about a group called Deportee (never heard or heard of...), the most Sexy Swedish Man 2006 is the comedian Magnus Betnér (who??) (and of the other 33 sexy men I recognize the names of 3-4...) and there is an pretty long feature on "one of Sweden's best artists", Anna Ternheim, who obviously is releasing her second album after her first that was a major success (even never heard her name...).

Now, the question is of course if I would know these things I was still in Sweden... maybe it's not just the 8506 km, I'm just getting older...?

Speaking about the weather...

Another alien, Annika, whose blog I check out every day to read about everyday life on the other side of this continent, has had some pretty bad weather passing by the last few days. That made me think about Swedish people almost always talking about the weather.

I spoke to a Swedish friend today and sure enough... :

Swedish alien: "Hi! Long time since I spoke to you, how are you, what's new?"
Swedish friend on the other end: "Well, let's see, it's been kind of cold but then the sun came out and we haven't seen the rain for a while, so it's been pretty nice"
Swedish alien: "Mhm, but how about YOU"
Swedish friend on the other end: "Me?? Well, I'm fine, but then when it rained bla bla bla...".

Ok, so I'm over exaggerating. A bit. But still.

I like to think I'm slowly breaking the habit, since most of the year we have "hot and sunny" in our weather forecasts and it really isn't much to talk about (but I'm not quite sure... friends and family probably get an updated weather report when calling here as well...).

But once the weather talk is done, the conversation can continue about the important stuff in life!

Different restaurant routines

I had a friend over from Sweden last week and we ended up going out for dinner a lot. I realized I've been here a while because I really appreciate two things that would never happen in a Swedish restaurant:
  1. the taking away of your plate when you're done (not matter the status of the rest of the people around the table) and
  2. the giving you the bill without asking for it.
My friend go annoyed and wondered what was up with Californian restaurants.

In Sweden (as I think, in many other European countries, correct me if I'm wrong) the plates are removed when everyone at the table has stopped eating, not a second before. The the check is brought to you only when you've decided you're done and actively ask for it. Any thing else is considered very rude!

This is what I was used to.

And it took many restaurant visits to not get offended by having your plate taken away in the middle of the meal and not get the feeling you were getting kicked out by getting the check without asking for it. Even before I had stopped chewing, the check was on the table....

But now I have a hard time when I go to Sweden. If I'm having dinner with a very slow, slow eater, I have to sit with my cold left overs on the plate in front of me. And when we're done, sometimes it takes for ever to get the attention of the waiter to get the check when we want to leave.

So now, if I have to choose - I want it the American way!

My friend? He still has a couple of 100s of restaurants visits to get used to this way!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Skyping an airplane...

I just had a 45 minute long conversation with my friend, aboard the SAS flight between New York and Stockholm.

Isn't that just so cool!?

We were using Skype, which is my alien tool to keep in instant touch with friends and family in Sweden. I just love that little software - so simple, so easy and so great!

Too bad he didn't have a camera in his hand luggage, then I would have been able to peak into an airplane in mid air! Not that there is too much going on up there (he was being served breakfast at the time), but just the thought that it can be done... He could see me in my office from up there.

Earlier today my daughter drew grandmom a picture and wanted to give to her. Not an easy thing considering the distance of 8506 km (according to Google Earth, another absolutely, fantastic thing). No problem, my 3-year old said, let's catch an airplane. I suggested she could skype grandmom instead. Slightly easier...

My 3-year old (whose knowledge of technical things both amazes and scares me... will she be a hacker when she grows up??) uses Skype with ease. She might not be able to write more than her name and other small simple words, but that doesn't stop her. She sends ecomotions, write long rows of letters she claims has a specific meaning and patiently waits for the other persons reply (she managed the "drag and drop" and "double-click" when she was 2,5 and now turns on the computer and opens Firefox and check out the latest games on SesameStreet on her own...).

She simply showed grandmom the drawing with the video camera. Problem solved!

Don't you just love living right now?!

How early is too early for a Christmas tree??

I'm a Christmas freak. I grew up with magic Christmas and long before I had kids I kept trying to keep the magic alive. When I was a singleton in Stockholm, I hated that my small apartment could not fit a real Christmas tree.

Now I live in the right place for Christmas! It's only November, but Christmas sure is on it's way here! Yeah!

And the Christmas trees you can get here... oaho... they all look like something out of a Disney movie (can they have be on steroids to look so perfect??). Nothing compared to the tiny, thin Swedish ones (unless you pay a fortune and get a "silvergran"). You Swedes know what I'm talking about...

Now I just have to wait until Thanksgiving is over, before I can get into full Christmas gear. Turn on the Christmas music, heat up the "glögg" and enjoy the cozy light form the "adventsstjärnorna" (more about those essential things later on)...

How early is too early to get a Christmas tree?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Every day is earthquake season in California"

That's CEA's, California Earthquake Authority, tag line. Hm. Might be true. Well, since they offer earthquake insurance coverage, I guess that is a correct tag line. But still...

There is a code that requires all insures to offer earthquake coverage with the residential property policy. This is one of the one billion papers you handle when you buy a house here. We got a letter from them in the mail today. Almost a bit "exotic" to a Swede, from a country without any kind of unstable ground, no hurricane seasons and a total lack of tornadoes.

CEA has link to the US Geological Survey. This is one website you don't want to visit of you're a resident of California...

I guess the CEA's tagline is correct. The last week there were 258 earthquakes in California.

A very Swedish lunch

I just had a very Swedish lunch I realize.

Korv Stroganoff and some knäckebröd (crisp bread). When I think about our food habits I realize that we really, after 7 years here, still eat very Swedish. A lot of "husmanskost" (no idea how that world should be correctly translated...).

(and yes, for those who know me, no, I didn't cook the Korv Stroganoff, my husband did... I only warmed it up in the microwave).

Crisp bread is actually pretty easy to find. The round Siljans Crips bread can be found in almost any regular supermarket, in California I've bought it at Bel Air, Raley's, Safeway and Albertson. Usually on the lowest shelf with other crackers (not by the bread). And World Market sells it of course.

Falukorv is harder to find, you have to improvise that one...

Swedish to Americans... (or multilingualism #2)

We're working hard to improve the image of the Swedish language...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Swedish for beginners.... (or multilingualism #1)

Multilingualism is currently a hot topic in our house, for us to keep our Swedish and constantly improve our English, and for the kids to master both Swedish and English.

We doubt that we can get any of our friends here to take on learning Swedish... but who knows...

Good news for us chocoholics!

Yes! It turns out Chocolate, like aspirin, affects the platelets that cause blood to clot!

I have no idea what that means, but CNN makes it sound good.

And in the choice of taking an aspirin or some chocolate to get effect... well... So I think I have to take a little trip to World Market (one of few places for a European Chocoholic to get some decent chocolate) to get some Dutch Droste!

Got to keep those blood clots away!

Where is that weekend??

It's only Wednesday, but I can't wait for the weekend... I always wondered why do American calenders start with Sunday?! And end with Saturday? I will never get used to this and keep asking my family in Sweden to send Swedish calenders because I get all confused and keep writing things on the wrong day since I'm used to weeks starting with Mondays. But this doesn't solve the confusion problem since I then forget the American holidays, which of course are not marked in the Swedish calender... And with the Sunday on one side and the Saturday on the other of the sheet, how do people mark what they are going to do for a weekend?? When the Saturday and Sunday is not together? Big mystery... because I know for a fact that my friends around here do things "over the weekend" and mean a Saturday followed by a Sunday. They just have to write it twice in their calender...?

On the other hand, it sure would be nicer with a week starting with a Sunday, a nice and free day, and the manic Mondays being just the second day of the week... Hm...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I HATE ants!

Gaah! Ants are only funny in the movies. NOT in your house... sigh... Right now they're invading our guest bathroom and we have an advanced war going on.

When we moved into our house a couple of years ago, in May, a little lady from the "city welcome committee" (or something like that) came and payed a visit, with coupons and gifts. She said something about winters being "ant season", but I wasn't paying much attention, because she had said that summers were "spider season" and I thought spiders was the worst insect to encounter so that was the only thing I was hearing (and reconsidering the buying of the house in this city).

Well, I didn't hardly see any spiders that summer and felt pretty good. The insects of California wasn't too bad, I was thinking. We were completely taken by surprise when the winter and the ANTS came. In thousands... We lost that year's ant war... Big time.

But ever since, we've put up a pretty good fight and right now I think the war is 3-1 to us (after four ant seasons). They still come in winter. But we're prepared and we fight.

And I've learned to appreciate spiders in the process. Spiders come one by one (and they eat ants). Ants come one by one ten thousand...

Got to go, have to check the status of the war!

A little color makes shopping easier

I'm slowly getting used to shop with one-colored bills (well, actually... I mostly use my credit card come to think of it...). But I really miss those colorful Swedish bills (and had Sweden voted yes in the referendum a couple of years ago, we would have used the Euro bills like most other Europeans...).

I'm sure one of my first "dollar bill mistakes" would have been avoided... paying the pizza delivery guy about $40 too much the first time we had ordered pizza and the husband was in the shower when the pizza arrived...

I'm still not allowed to pay the pizza guy.

7 years later.

Unless I use the online service to pay with my credit card.

I blame it on the lack of color. The darn bills look the same...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Time to travel to the US!

For some unknown reason for most of us, the exchange rate between the US dollar and the Swedish krona has changed lately (some unknown person or country or company out there suddenly doing something that increases the value of the extremely tiny, small currency Swedish krona).

Right now it's a good thing to have kronor and exchange them for dollars (whereas it used to be good to have dollars and want kronor). Or in another way - if you're American you don't want to go to Sweden right now, but if you're Swedish, come over and plan do do some shopping! Right now you get $13,8 for 100 SEK. Pretty good!

What Californians do on the weekends!

As a good alien I try to keep up with the local habits... The other day I discovered that California has a state dance! Oh no! I've completely missed this!!

Swing Dancing West Coast Swing Dancing: related to the Swing, Whip, or Jitterbug, came into being in the early 1930's in response to new musical forms then sweeping the land. It was created at the grassroots level and devotees of this art come from every conceivable ethnic, religious, racial, and economic background.

West Coast Swing Dancing is an intricate dance, requiring a great deal of coordination, good timing, and intelligent application. It is an American dance which is danced to American music. It originated in California and is danced in competition nationally and internationally.

What would you do without!?This is what I have to get the husband to learn!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Swedish addiction to tealights...

It's raining here today and it's actually feels a bit dark inside. My Swedish self goes on automatic to "cozy mode" - maybe I should lit some candles?! Lighting candles is something you do in Sweden in fall and winter time when the sun is low on the sky, often hidden by rainy or snowy clouds. I kind of miss that actually (well, not the clouds - the cozy candles!).

And every Swede that goes to IKEA always pick up a big pack of tealights by pure habit (called "warming candles") since you use them ALL the time.

So when IKEA opened in San Francisco, that's one of the things we bought. Without thinking much about about it. It was July. In California. +40C outside. And rainy days are rare. But some habits are really hard to break. We have a cabinet full of unopened big packs with tealights.

(100 tealights, only $2.99 at IKEA).

A red house!

Well if I can't get a red wooden house, at least the local humming-birds could get one!

Friday, November 10, 2006

"Taking a walk biking"

I miss biking. The kind of biking I (and most others) used to do in Stockholm. The kind that was like "taking a walk but on your bike"-biking. Preferably on an old fashioned Skepphult bike with a saddle with suspension. I would probably look something like this, biking around in downtown Stockholm.

You can bike around in what ever clothes, no special equipment needed (well, maybe a DietCoke in the basket). Or make a stop at a "fik".

Even though there are great bike trails around here where I live, it seems that biking is more of a sport. Rarely do you see people "taking a walk but on your bike"-biking. They usually wear slim, colorful clothes and have a bike with thin wheels and try to break speed limits. The more "I'm doing sports on my free time"-biking.

I guess you can't really compare - it's two different things. But still... I find myself wondering what the air freight cost for a Skeppshult bike would be... At least it would be cheaper than a wooden house...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The land of the Ice 2

Despite the lack of inbuilt ice machines in the refrigerators, there is no lack of ice in Sweden. At least in the winter time...

If you have the time to travel way way north- you can stay a night in a hotel made completely of ice - The Icehotel. (oh, they'll give you thermal sleeping bags, included in the price...). They have a church, a restaurant, a gallery... It looks cool. In the pictures (there is no accident I live in sunny California... I have never been to Jukkasjärvi...).

If you want to stick around in Stockholm, and not travel above the Arctic circle - you can take a drink in a bar made completely made of ice - The Absolute Icebar at the Nordic Sea Hotel in downtown Stockholm. And go home and sleep in a bed in a room with central heating...

The land of the Ice 1

Well, it's true you need a straw if you're drinking something with an ice (whiskey on the rocks might be the exception to that rule...). Bu the question is, what comes first, the ice or the straw....

When we were buying our house and was looking for a refrigerator, we actually tried to find one without the inbuilt ice machine... We thought it took so much space out of the freezer part, thinking it very unnecessary (we would rather keep an extra package of Swedish meatballs there...). Well. There are none. No refrigerators here comes without the ice machine.

Many of our Swedish guests are very impressed when they visit. "An ice machine!" (in Sweden an inbuilt ice machine is a luxury item).

Now we love our ice machine, we're veteran US aliens now. What were we thinking!? No ice machine?!

But we still think it's possible to drink a glass of soda without ice... and without a straw.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"So how long are you staying?"

Being an Alien means having an answer to this question because it is always asked by people around you. Especially by other Swedes. And when they learn we actually own our house here in California they seem to think that this "alien" thing must be for ever and ever. The eternity. Because buying a house with a 30 year mortgage is a life time commitment. "Isn't it? No?"

Because that seems more like the way you do it in Sweden, you buy your house and then you stay. Need more space - you add an extension. Rebuilding and renovating is an lifetime ongoing project. Whereas here you buy your house. Need more space - get a bigger house. Not much big of a deal to move. Maybe I'm wrong - but that's the way it seems here compared to Sweden.

And the real answer to the time frame of our stay, "who knows!", doesn't really satisfy. "What do you mean, you don't know, do you like it or not?". Well, we really, really like things the way they are right now, but then, who knows in five, ten or fifteen years.

Californians are more interested how we like it here and how we ended up in this part of the world, house or no house.

And maybe we'll have to move to Sweden again sooner than we thought - after all, that seems to be the place to be at least if you want to get to pre-taste the new Diet Coke...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day!

Today is Election Day in the US and here in California. My friends here get to vote on who's going to be the next governor, attorney general, lieutenant governor, insurance commissioner, secretary of state, treasure among other positions. The Californians have 13 propositions to vote yes or no to (regarding things like gasoline sales tax restrictions, public campaign financing, tobacco tax, parental notification of abortion, bonds on transportation, housing, education, flood protection, sex offenders, water). They have to vote for candidates running for the the US Congress as well as a number of city councils.

I've been trying to keep up, keeping myself informed, even though I, as an Alien, am of course not eligible to vote. I don't envy the Californians, they have a lot to vote for or against in these elections. And voting is important - it's part of living in a democracy and gives you the right to have opinions.

In Sweden you only vote every four years and then you choose which political party you think should be in charge of state (riksdag), county councils (landsting) and local authorities (kommuner). You might make a vote for a specific person within the political party, but don't have to. Three ballots to cast seems like a piece of cake in comparison!

Good luck Californians on your voting today!

The land of the straw

I wonder if there are any statistics on the use of drinking straws in the US... how many straws a day are used? When I was a kid (in Sweden...), getting a straw was something special, something extra (I wonder if that is the case still...??). I remember having those "curled" straw in hard plastic. I had one and my brother had one. And we got to take them out at special occasions.

Now I live in the Land of the Straw, and even though it was a long time ago since I was a kid, I still get a straw with my drink when I order a soft drink (as does everyone else). Is it because of all the ice (a straw sure makes it easier to drink without splashing your face)? Or is it just pure tradition - soft drinks should always be served with a straw?

At least you don't get a straw with your beer.

Monday, November 06, 2006

They don't taste the same!?

I admit it. I'm addicted. Not only to online shopping. If I don't get my diet coke, I get grumpy. To my defense - I don't drink coffee or any other caffeine drink during the day - so this is my caffeine kick of the day. And no, this is not due to me living in the US, I was addicted way before I knew I would end up here.

When I was back in Sweden recently, I realized that DietCoke (the US name) and CocaColaLight (the Swedish name and the name in some other countries as well) really don't taste the same. You wouldn't think there would be much difference - but it really is. Weird. Diet Coke is much nicer than Coca-Cola Light.

And when I did a little googeling it turns out they're going to put a new taste on the market in January 2007. They will test it on the Swedish market, because Swedes are so trendy. Hm. And here I am stuck in ordinary California.

From the Swedish Coca-Cola website:

I mitten av januari börjar Coca-Cola sälja en ny version av Coca-Cola light med förbättrad smak. Att världslanseringen sker i Sverige är ett medvetet och strategiskt val. Under 90-talet blev Sverige känt som landet där unga, stilmedvetna människor testade nya jeansmärken, märken som idag ses över hela världen. Innan dess hade de första modellerna av mobiltelefoner börjat spridas innan de snabbt spreds vidare över hela världen. Mjukvarujättarna släppte de första versionerna av nya program och friluftstrenderna fick snabbt fotfäste innan Alperna ens hunnit lärt sig att stava till brädåkning. Sverige var helt enkelt det land i världen där unga, kunniga och kräsna konsumenter fick makten över att styra vad som sedan skulle bli nästa fluga och framgång på världsmarknaden.

(sorry English speakers, you have to take my word for it when I say that the above text in Swedish says Sweden is the place to be if you want to taste the new Diet Coke, oups, Coca-Cola light)

Diet Coke has it's very own website I also realized when I was googeling. Maybe they have a support forum for addicted users??

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A crash course in IRL shopping

When I have guests over, guests that are not so used to speak English, they sometimes gets frustrated when shopping. "I feel like a fool, they keep asking me things and I don't understand, I thought my English was good enough". So now I usually go through the main phrases the cashiers will ask them when done shopping, these phrases they say hundreds of times a day and is a mere mumble since everyone knows what is being said anyway. No problem for a resident, but kind of tricky for those who are already nervous how to get the different, unfamiliar coins right.

Here they are, in the usual order they come:
  • Did you find everything all right?
  • Do you have an xx account/card?
  • Would you like to save ten percent today by opening an xx account?
  • May I have your zip code?
  • Is that ATM or credit?
  • The receipt in the bag or with you?
Once you know what they're asking you can shake or nod appropriately or mumble freely and everyone will be happy and you will feel like a power shopper despite being an alien!