Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A new word in English... #3

I never been a gymnastics person. I got too tall too fast. My limbs were not obeying me. Our PE teacher gave up on me. So maybe it's no surprise that I didn't know what it meant that a judge was cartwheeling when I read the news online.

Cart as in shopping cart? Wheeling it down an aisle? And why was this even a story?

Brought out my English-Swedish dictionary and learned a new word.

"Hjula" in Swedish.

(and he did tat since he had made that promise if the defendant did what he was told, he would do some cartwheeling down the hall in the court building).

Filling up the car

Before I moved here I had spent my life in downtown Stockholm. I didn't own a car, and hardly ever drove one. Public transportation took me anywhere I wanted and for the rest there was taxis.

When I got here I had to start driving (oh, I had my license since I was 18 so that wasn't a problem). After getting reprimands for driving too slow on my California driving test (mandatory for everyone moving in from out of the country) I was set to go.

Not too far - because you can't drive longer than the gas in your tank will take you, and then you have to get it filled up... Now this was something new... If I had driven a car in Sweden it had been a friend's or a rental, hardly ever need to visit a gas station. I kept avoiding it (letting the husband take the car). Until I realized that living here means driving a car ALL the time which means going to the gas station regularly...

But even after 7 years I still feel like I'm pretending to be grown-up when filling up the car... Everyone else seems so confident and I still do the steps slowly not to mess up. Not sure what I would mess up - but still... better be safe than sorry.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Watch out for the firetrucks!

I had to drive up to a nearby city today for a meeting. When I was waiting for a red light on a three lane road, a firetruck, sirens blasting, approached from behind. This means (of course) "get out of the way". But here it also means "stop".

Meaning, if you are passed by a firetruck (with lights flashing) you should pull over and - stop - while it passes. The first time I was passed by a firetruck here was on a three lane residential road, mid day, no other cars around. I thought I could drive on in the "slow lane" and the truck had a lot of nice space to pass in the "fast lane". There would even be a lane in between us.

That's how I learned that firetrucks have speakers. Loud speakers.

"PULL OVER AND STOP THE CAR IMMEDIATELY", someone from the firetruck yelled.


Since then I'm kind of nervous when I hear firetrucks (the rule is the same for other emergency vehicles I think). Maybe they'll remember me, the alien who didn't stop. So today when I was standing STILL already at the intersection, but had to MOVE in order to get out of the way, I got all sweaty.

I think I did the right thing. At least the speakers didn't yell at me... Phew.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Was there a life before ziplocs?

I can't remember ever buying ziploc bags when I lived in Sweden. Now of course I was single and my household activities were very limited, so maybe that could explain it... (but can you even get them there?).

This sure is the land of the ziploc. When we got here we actually had a hard time to find "non-zip-lock" bags (Our Safeway have one box with non-zip. One. But sometimes it feels good to make a knot and not zip).

Anyway. Now I use ziplocs All The Time (and I reuse them until they practically fall apart). And for so many things. I store everything from puzzle pieces to my home office supplies. My daughter thinks it's perfectly normal to have a toy closet full of ziplocs and already knows the different sizes and where they are stored in the house (so she can run and get one on her mom's order... you have to train them early!).

And my toliet bag contains of probably 10 zip locks (after some disaterous leakage during flights - but now I use them even though if I travel only 1o miles for one night sleep over) - great way to organize the extensive content of small things.

Gosh, I'm maybe even a little addictive when I think of it... "compulsory use of ziplocs" - is there such a diagnosis?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A late afternoon with Oscar

Today is the big movie event of the year here - the Oscars!

And for ONCE we who live on the west coast get to see someting live (besides the SuperBowl) - and not a recorded version! That means that the Oscars starts at 5 pm here this afternoon. And when the east coast goes to sleep when it's over at 8.30 pm tonight (11.30 ET) , we can continue to watch special Oscar programs. They go on all night.

This year is a record for me. I have managed not so see a single of the nominated movies. None. Zip. Zero.

So I have no favorites what so ever. I'll be happy for whoever wins.

Time to pop the popcorn!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Steakhouse Saturday

Today we celebrated our own little Valentine's Day (long story...) and for the first time since we can't remember we actually left the house together. At the same time. Without kids.

Very nice! And almost strange.

Since most restaurants around here don't take reservations, you have to go to a restaurant and "get in line". The wait during "peak hours" can be anything from 20 to 60 minutes, which is really annoying. (our preferred place had 1,5 hours tonight...). So if you have limited time (like the risk of a screaming baby making the baby sitter deaf), you really can't choose, you have to settle for the one with the shortest waiting list.


We ended up getting a table (10 minutes!) in a local steakhouse. Steakhouse are restaurants where they serve - steaks. And we're talking HUGE steaks. I decided to take the smallest one (which was probably three times larger than a normal size steak in a Swedish restaurant...). But it was good!

I was probably the only one in the whole restaurant drinking wine... And my water glass came with a straw.

After a dinner in an American steakhouse, you feel like you need to taking a walk. A long walk. A very long walk.

Friday, February 23, 2007

A little Swedish comedy to end this Friday??

I just found this clip (in English) by Robert Gustavsson (my husbands favorite Swedish comedian) doing his act as "The Swedish Ambassador". Seems that the first part (it's two performances mixed together) is from some formal Nordic meeting with the Swedish King and (former) Swedish Prime Minister as well as a bunch of other formal people present. I'm not sure the audience are appreciating Gustavsson's sometimes "basic" humor....

But he has his own kind of fun English translation of the Swedish national anthem in the end...

Just one more...

... then I'll leave the subject of shoes (I'm not even a shoe person - how did I end up writing three post in a row about shoes??).


The brown car came today as well. With my new rain boots! (I got the green ones). They're not as comfy as the Crocs, but then not as ugly. But still not very pretty... but very, very practical...

And since the weather prognosis is rain the next coming three days - this was great timing! Then in a couple of weeks, when the rain is done, I can put them away and bring them out next October again.

Now I can jump the water puddles too!

When I'm on the subject of shoes...

So I have inaugurated (I wonder if you can say that about shoes...) my new, ugly but comfy Crocs. Reading fellow alien Annika's blogpost on the subject made me laugh.

Ok - I PROMISE I will not wear them outside the house!

Actually - my main thing about the Californians' shoe habits is these flip-flops...

Everyone is wearing them. ALL the time. No matter the weather (45F or 105F). To everything!

And - my main concern - men are wearing them!! Big, tall, broad shouldered Californian men - with flip flops! The way they make you walk... with your toes on the ground first... and sort of letting the rest of the foot "lag" behind... Kids and teenagers - ok. Grown women... hm maybe on the beach... and men - NOOOOO!.

Maybe even Crocs are better... have to think about that...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

My new ugly shoes...

I think they're pretty ugly, actually very ugly. Hideous almost. But then a friend came over wearing hers and forced me to try them (and not just say they were ugly) and - gosh these Crocs are so comfortably!! Amazing!

So I ended up getting a pair. The brown car came today.

I've heard they're a fortune in Sweden, I paid $25 for mine - 175 SEK.

I have huge feet (comes from being a tall Swede perhaps...), size 10, and have a hard time find comfortably shoes. I wish I could wear elegant high heels with dresses, or nice, long boots. But my feet are weirdly constructed, most shoes just won't fit...

Anyway, the Crocs will be my new "around the house" shoes and "going to the lake or beach" shoes.

It's like walking barefeet.

But they're still ugly.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


.... so yummy!!

Clean up time!

Hm... this week is turning out somewhat boring... taxes on Monday, administration on Tuesday and today, Wednesday, it's been clean up day.

But for a nice reason - I have a dear, good friend coming over, spending the night, and I thought it would be nice if the house looked good for her (and we're going to eat Swedish princess cake - but shhhh don't tell her!!)

Usually we do cleaning on weekends, a real team work. I'm the boss of dusting and picking up and the husband is the boss of vacuuming and the bathrooms we do together. Hepp! Fast and efficient (and boring).

After we got our first Amercian vaccumer, I told the husband that this obviously was work for a strong man and refused to do it. Gosh, that thing was heavy!! Even the husband was tired after going through our house. I missed my little Swedish Electrolux vaccumer so much... But then I did had hardwood floors in Stockholm and not the ever present carpets you do have here. My little green friend would probably only last one cleaning.

Last year we decided we had enough.

There just had to be a better way to do this. The husband (being the Head of Vacuuming) did research and got a Kenmore Progressive Canister Vacuum with Telescopic Wand. Sounds like something from Harry Potter! Too bad it's not magic - you still have to push it around, but at least it's quiet, efficient and you don't have to push the canister around, it just follows your around.

The closest thing we will get to having a pet in this house.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Administrative Tuesday

I got tons of boring, administrative things done today. I visited the City Hall to get some paper work done. I was at the bank to change some account settings. I spoke to my CPA and now have an appointment next week (actually on Tuesday... seems boring, administrative things are set to be done on Tuesdays?) .

And everywhere I've been, they've asked me for my social security number. Why, why can't I never remember this darn number...

Why does it seem impossible to store it in my head?!?

When the question gets "thrown" at me, I always get stuck in the middle and stutter like a toddler... So maybe I should spend the night practicing my SSN...? Or watch House... ?

Oh, the choices you have to make...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Let them party at Mardi Gras... I want my semla!

No carnivals in Sweden on mardi gras. But lots of calories.

Mardi gras means fat Tuesday in French, in Swedish "Fettisdagen". But when they party in Rio de Janerio, Venice and New Orleans, Swedes sit down and eat "semlor".

A semla is a wheat bun, filled with almond past, topped with whipped cream, dusted with icing sugar. Some eat it with hot milk, others prefer it cold.

The start of the "semla season" is Fat Tuesday, but you can usually sneak eat them from right after Christmas. The "season" ends on Easter.

And for once I actually think that this pastry is better when "store bought" than when "home made". Especially when you try to make them here. It's something about the yeast and the flour that just makes them too "compact". And "store bought" is so much easier... lucky Swedes in Sweden... to get my "semla" tomorrow I have to make them from scratch...

The picture is my attempt to home made semlor last year. They were ok. We'll see how this year's attempt turns out.... One thing is for sure - they're not like fresh ones from Vetekatten in downtown Stockholm - they won one of the "semel competitions" this year and tomorrow they estimate they'll sell 10 000 semlor ... that's a lot of semlor...

Too bad they don't ship to California.

A boring post...

Since it's Monday and a pretty boring day, I might as well write a pretty boring post (feel free to stop read here...).

Even though it's only February I've started preparing the process of doing my taxes. If I thought it was complicated in Swedish, doing it in English is like being lost in China (not sure if that is a metaphor that makes sense, but anyway - it's hard!). Why is it that it's so frustrating! I'm sure both the Swedish and American tax authorities are doing their best to make it easy and understandable (or?), but it's just so complicated. All those specific terms and forms... I'm lost in the jungle of forms!

And unfortunately I have to do returns in both countries (as well as pay taxes) so it's a lot of work. The world is border less and global only when it comes to new technique (and American TV shows?) - not taxes...

Oh, well, I better get started. One Swedish pile of papers and one US pile of papers and off we go, I'm diving into the pile of forms!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A new skyline?

My home town, Stockholm, is an old city compared to any American. Founded in 1252... And like most European cities it lacks sky scrapers, most of the city consisting of old building (there are exceptions - like the ugly "Klara" blocks, a result of wrong decisions made in the 60s).

Today I read (online) that the city is now considering building "upwards", since space is limited in Stockholm (the town being built on 14 islands).

I both like this and dislike it.

I like it because I like the city feeling of sky scrapers. I like skylines with with tall buildings. The view from a sky scraper in Stockholm must be wonderful (look to the east and see the beginning of the archipelago with its 24,000 islands).

I don't like it because one of the things that is making Stockholm unique, compared to say most American cities the same size, is the lack of high rise buildings. And it really would change the image of the city and the mistakes made in the "Klara" area shouldn't be repeated under any circumstances.

On the other hand, a city needs to develop, and the future is already here. And with the right design, the right place, it might work out...

But don't change too much - I still want to feel that I'm coming "Home" when I return...

Photo: Olof Holdar - Stockholm Visitors Board

The phenomena of baby showers

I attended a baby shower last night. It was my fifth (not including my own two). Until I was about 8 months pregnant with my first child (here in the US), I was unaware of the phenomena of baby showers. Well, I had heard about it , but didn't really know. Then a nice pregnant friend took pity of this lost alien and threw me a surprise shower - to my very big surprise.

Baby Showers are a party for the unborn child, when friends and family give gifts to the baby. There is a whole science of baby showers and if you google it you get 6 080 000 hits.

In Sweden (I think... never having been pregnant there...) we're more superstitious. I have Swedish (pregnant) friends that refused to have anything baby like in the house until baby arrived back from the hospital... In that sense, a baby shower would be a huge bad luck thing, since the essence of it that you bring home loads of things for your baby.

Or maybe things are changing, just as I've read that kids now go "trick or treat" (ridiculously translated "godis eller bus") on Halloween. Maybe baby showers are being done for Swedish moms these days?

If nothing else, it sure is a way to put the mother to be in the center of attention - maybe for the last time in a looooong time.

The baby shower last night, for one of the moms (pregnant with her second baby girl) among my dear mom friends, was more of a girl's night out, getting away from the house... But we had the balloons, the gifts, the cake, the flowers and the favors. And we had tons of fun!!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Soccer time!

Right next to our park are several soccer fields (with artificial plastic grass to make it through the hot summers). Soccer is pretty big here - for girls! Maybe Beckham will change that - making it "cool" even for boys.

I like soccer (used to play myself when I was a little girl (ages ago), wasn't very good but it was fun being part of that team) - and since you see it so rarely here I like having those fields close by.

"Korpfotboll" - don't know the specific word for that in English - meaning "mixed teams with amateurs playing tournaments" sort of - is pretty big here too. So the fields are well used and the lights at night lights up the whole neighborhood.

But today when we walked to the park there was a tournament - teenage girls everywhere!

Saturday morning walk

After breakfast the whole family took a walk in the beautiful spring weather! I brought my camera and tried to take some pictures in between pushing swings.

A humming bird singing high up in a three (oh, how I wish I had a better zoom lens). Before I came to California I thought humming birds only existed in cartoons on Christmas Eve (something only Swedes would understand...). I still get excited when I see them.

Beautiful flowers! (don't ask me what they are - my answer would be... "they're pink").

During my years here I have never seen one, only heard them. But I keep my distance....

Friday, February 16, 2007


I love spring! I always have. It gives me a feeling of "spring i benen" and "pirr i kroppen"!

(I'm sure there is an equivalence in English to describe those feelings, I just can't think of them right now, feel free to suggest).

Spring is the best season of them all. And if you're Swedish you know your seasons - spring, summer, fall and winter being distinctively different.

Two pictures from my back yard this sunny afternoon.

On my wish list

A laptop with a screen that you can see in Californian sunshine.

In the meantime maybe this is what I need.

Ugly but practical.

The weather here is so great right now - before the heats come back and you have to hide inside the cool AC air.

Speaking about rain gear...

As I wrote below, I just ordered rain boots for me online. And I just realized that the daughter needs new ones (hers are falling apart, which is not a good thing when it comes to rain boots).

My daughter has a great rain gear set. Pants, jacket and hat. Great for playing outside in the rain, and after the rain (when everything is soaking wet).

Her set is from Sweden.

Because it's almost impossible to find here. You might find rain boots. And an occasional jacket. But I have never seen pants (ie galonbyxor) or a rain hat. I have never seen rain boots for grown-ups in any of the shoe stores around here, never. Now I do live in California, and most of the year we don't need rain gear, or socks or long pants - the less clothes (and more sunscreen) the better. But we do have a couple of months when it's raining on and off (called "winter" and the "rainy season"). And it makes me wonder, do Californian kids (or parents) never go outside when it's raining?

What about jumping the water puddles?

Waiting for the brown car

My daughter thinks you gets packages from the lady in the brown car (ie the UPS delivery truck who happens to have a female driver in our area).

The brown car hasn't been here for awhile.

But now I've spent some time on Amazon, and hopefully we'll see it again a couple of time in the next couple of days. So convenient. Rain boots, a pair of crocs and a special moisturizer - all three things would take me hours to locate in stores, now it took me a half an hour in front of the computer.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Late night book shopping

I have a Borders (major bookstore) within walking distance. I love this! Not only can I walk "somewhere" from my house (without having to take the car), but I can walk to a book store!

I just love to walk up there, browse around the store, drink a Italian raspberry soda, and just enjoy! Book stores are my favorite places.

Another great things now when I have kids (that is making the browsing around the store a little less "peaceful"...) is the great opening hours. My Borders is open until 10 pm Monday to Thursday and until 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays! Yes - 23.00! So when the kids are in bed, and you can finally have a little quiet time, I can sneak up to Borders and and hang out and stock up!

If the book store would have "Swedish opening hours" I would hardly ever get a new book...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

When was the last time you used this??

A paper phone book? I remember when I was a kid, long before internet . The yearly event of the arrival of the phone book. Always three pieces (A-M, N-Ö and the Yellow Pages). We always looked up everyone we knew and were so excited when we found them (...). Every year. And, remember, it was actually almost the only way to find people or business.

Now environment organizations are having issues with the yearly delivery of the three phone books to every house hold in Sweden. Not only are a lot of trees spent making them, they are clogging up the entrances of apartment buildings in cities since people are not picking them up in the same extent any longer. I know I wouldn't. Takes up way too much space.

Here we get phone books all year around. Published by different phone companies and others. Some are only "yellow pages". Others include private phone number as well. The first year we dutifully kept them. Now I just throw them away. I can't even remember the last time I used one.

And some keep old ones obviously. Because once a long long long time ago, our phone number somehow was connected to Petsmart (a huge store only for pets). So once a week or so, old ladies calls to ask pet questions. (but figure they got the wrong number when I dutifully answer the phone with "Jacal speaking").

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Invasion of hearts...

So tomorrow is Valentine's Day if anyone has missed it. Here it's almost impossible to forget (unless your blind, deaf or just completely lost), the promotions starts almost right after Christmas (and will be replaced by Easter bunnies on Thursday) and they are EVERYWHERE.

In Swedish tomorrow is called "Alla Hjärtans Dag" (All Heart's Day?).

And hearts are everywhere...

Today's newspaper was full of "last minute" commercials for stuff you should get your loved one.

Is it just me who thinks hearts is a... hm... kind of a (cute but) childish form? I'm not sure I would wear a diamond necklace in the shape of a heart, even though there were diamonds on it. Or maybe I'm just overloaded with the invasion of hearts?

I'm more of a square type of person I think. Or maybe a triangle?

(picture from Macy's Valentine special)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Stories for grown-ups

Another Swedish alien, Annika, wrote about books today which inspired me to write this post on one of my favorite authors - Isabelle Allende. I fell in love with her story telling when reading "The House of The Spirits" (and I love the movie, even though they do differ a lot).

I wish I could read in Spanish (the language she writes in)! Her books are like stories for grown-ups. I've read almost everything she's written (but the English translations) and last night I just finished the latest one, Zorro. I didn't think I would like it, I'm not really the "adventure guy" type of reader (even though I read a lot) - but just like her other books, it's a real story and I loved it.

And if you want to read books connected to the history of California "Zorro", as well as "Daughter of Fortune" and it's sequel "Portrait in Sepia" are good choices (even if part of them takes place in South America and Spain as well). The two later ones actually taking place in my "neck of the woods".

Now I have to get to Borders tomorrow... my nightstand is empty...

IKEA's new chocolate

Ok, so now I've tried it. The IKEA branded chocolate. The one we thought would taking over the Marabou stock at the Swedish Food store in the US IKEAs.

It's... hm... well... not too bad... better than Hersheys I would say. Now they didn't have the milk chocolate Marabou bars (only the rolls and the new Daim taste) so I couldn't really do a proper "chocolate tasting".

And I was in a chocolate mood so any chocolate would probably have done... hm... maybe have to go back for some more and try it again to be able to grade it properly...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tool time

When you buy a house as an alien in a new country, far away from family and friends, you are faced with a tool challenge.

Whereas if you live close to your parents you can can always sneak over to borrow a drill, tree cutter or skewer. Or you can share tools that you very seldon use. I think. (I actually don't know for real, never had a house in Sweden, so maybe this utopia thinking).

As an alien you end up getting all these things from scratch. Our garage is full of different tools we rarely use but had to get at one point for one project.

There should be a "tools budget" in our household budget (Hm, that is if we had a budget).

And next time I write things like "we found this great free standing closet for our remodeled guest room, we just have to re-paint it since it's the wrong color", please comment things like "STOP" or "Don't do it" or "It's fine as it is".

We are now owners of this "sander". Hopefully we'll get to use sometime again. And hopefully finishing the little "re-painting project" will be finished this month...

Gold Sunday

I might not be very interested in sports, but growing up in Sweden I've spent my share of Sundays watching sports on TV, cheering big Swedish stars like Ingemar Stenmark (downhill skiing) or Björn Borg (tennis).

I remember those weekends with joy, the noise from the TV, (one of few times they were actually broadcasting something on either of the only two TV channels we had at the time) (feels like stone age now...).

I'm sure I could find a sports channel here if I looked hard enough (but we've actually deleted them all from our daily line up) that showed today's down hill world championship race (what ever it's called in English). But then the time difference would have meant I had to get up in the middle of the night.

So I settled on reading the Swedish newspapers online to see that our current big downhill skiing star Anja Pärson took a gold medal today too! And I love the fact that it's a woman that is causing headlines and a huge buzz these days! Way to go Anja!

(the front page of today's online edition of Dagens Nyheter - "Guld!" means of course "Gold!")

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"Here comes the rain again"

After a great, dry, warm and nice January, the jetstream changed and here it comes, the yearly rain!

Actually kind of cozy to hear raindrops on the roof and turning on the lights inside. From May we won't see rain or hardly clouds until late October again.

Better go outside to jump those puddles right away!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Let's scrap time differences!

For weeks I've been trying to call my friend in Sweden. And every day the morning hours just goes by way too fast and before I know it, the time in Sweden is pass 9 pm, a decent hour to call. And then it's too late. I have to wait another day to make a new attempt.

(because when night comes and my house is quiet again around 7 pm, it's 4 am in Sweden and few people are interested in getting a call from me) (or?).

And I have a friend in Eastern Canada (3 hours difference) that I always miss out chatting with at night because by the time I can sit down at my computer at night, it's pass 11 pm and bedtime over there.

Isn't there a way to just have the same time everywhere? In Sweden it's so dark in winter anyway so you probably wouldn't know the difference if you turned the clock around 9 hours. The whole Western world could all have PST time!

Now that is a great idea!

I would be able to call my friend during the whole day and evening!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The land of the check...

When I moved here I had probably written... hm... three checks in my whole life and that was, what, 10 years earlier.

I started using online internet banking the second it was available (1995). So it took awhile to get used to this love of checks in this country. And at least I had done a university year here in the early 90s and knew the basics and didn't get as terrified as the husband the first time he got all the checks he had written in return (thinking they had all bounced and he'll get arrested for checking fraud or something, not knowing that this is standard procedure here and somewhere in this country someone is sorting checks non-stop).

After a year we here we finally could do online banking and pay most of our bills online. But still we have to write checks now and then. And I carry one loose check in my wallet in case a "checking moment" should occur.

I had reason to write a lot of checks recently. Maybe I'll order special checks to "spice" this administrative task up a bit??

How about this "Boutique checks" from Image Checks? According to their website these checks will help me, quote "Capture the wonderful feeling you get from taking in the sights and sounds at your favorite shopping spot." Hm.

I did it...

I admit. I did it.

When I went to the store yesterday I actually waited for a car, parked just two rows down from the entrance, to pull out so I could park there, as close to the store as possible.... despite that there was several empty parking spaces just down the lot.

OMG, I'm becoming Americanized...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Three pretty flags!

I took the car to IKEA today (no strange noises... hmfp). One of few places you get to see a Swedish flag. It was windy so the three flags (the one to the left is the Californian flag) were so pretty together!

(I only brought my small camera and the daughter had taken some pictures, hence the strange marks on the lens... sigh...)

Doughnuts for breakfast

A friend came over this morning, bringing a box of doughnuts.

American doughnuts almost looks the same in Sweden, they are called "munkar". The shape is the same, and the cooking in oil thing is the same. I really wasn't a big fan of "munkar" in Sweden. I wasn't really that impressed with American doughnuts either.

Until I made my first visit to a KrispyKreme....

Now THAT is something else. Until you've had hot donuts from KrispyKreme you can't really said you've had a doughnut. A traditional glazed... Mm mm yummy!

(and let's forget about the GI index of a doughnuts for a moment).

Before I moved to the US, I guess I had the same stereotyped view that all American cops eat doughnuts (I had seen my fair share of "Hill Street Blues" (Spanarna på Hill Street)). Hm... maybe I still have that... even though I have yet to see a cop with a donut in real life...

But despite what I thought, per capita, Canadians actually consume the most doughnuts in the world (not the American as I would have guessed). In Canada you can also find the most doughnuts stores per capita.

That must be a lot of donut stores, because I think there pretty common here too.

(Picture from KrispyKreme - their line up of doughnuts...)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A sad garden...

So I spent the afternoon outside in our own garden (since the car was... well, in the garage, resting...). We had a great day - sunny and +19C!

(but I've become lost when it comes to temperatures from living here... with long, dry, HOT summers, I put on hats on the kids when it's below +20C.... it is a bit chilly after all...)

Anyway. Last year's spring was extermely rainy. In January we got almost as much rain as we normally do in a whole year. This year, it's extremely dry. We had one rainy day in January (January 4), which is hasn't happened since 1849 (and at least that year they found gold in California). And it's been really, really cold (now, remember, we're talking California, where anything below 0C or 37F is considered "freezing temperatures"). This is causing all kinds of problems. Plants are freezing and dying.

Even our little garden is in a pretty bad state... we have to remove several plants that didn't make it through the cold...

We're not really a garden persons, we just try to get the garden to survive.

But it was still sad to see...

Hm.... I just realized that these were pretty depressing pictures... Oh, well. I promise to bring you pictures of more "happy" plants in a few weeks when spring has arrived.

The big palm tree is doing fine. I love this tree - it's amazing to see it grow. The "leaves" are huge and to remove one "leave" you have to get the saw. Whenever I feel a bit home sick, I take a little look at the palm tree. There is something about them that just makes a frozen Swede go warm...

Gaah! Why does this always happen...

So the husband came home, took out the car for a ride. And of course!! No weird sound!!

Why does these things always happen to me? When ever strange things happen in the house and I try to replicate it to the husband, it never, ever happens again. Computer behaves, washing machine washes, no strange noises from the attics...

And he just looks at me like... well you know...

I've been stuck in the house all day for nothing! But the sound was there.... I promise... it was weird...

I even took out the car myself. Just to make sure.

No weird sound.

Stuck in the house

When I drove into our street yesterday, coming back from picking up Chinese for dinner, I realized that there was a strange noise in the car... I wasn't sure how long I've heard it, only that I don't think it was suppoused to be there.

Now, me and cars is like... hm... I drive them, but that's about it.

So I told the husband about it (the solution for all car problems) and he was going to listen to it. And I just realized that he forgot, and here I am in the house, with plans to take off. And now I'm stuck.

Because I don't want to end up on an American highway, waiting for AAA to come help me and the kids. I rather stay in the house until the noise is taken care of.

I didn't have any major plans, but now that I'm stuck I suddenly can't stop about all the things I could have done... go to IKEA to refill the chocolate stock, drive down to the river for a long nice walk in the sun, and, and...

Oh, well.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Nooo! Why do they do this....

When we moved here, the first food store we happened to shop in was a Safeway. The food stores are here... how can I describe them.... HUGE! compared to a regular sized Swedish food store.

It took months before we had figured it out and actually could say we had a small idea on where things were in this store.

When we moved a year later to a new city, we were almost devastated to find out that there was no Safeway close by and we had to start all over again (with an Albertsons). But to our joy a new Safeway opened shortly after and even though it wasn't the closest store, we kept going there (we were driving anyway and by car it was just a couple or more minutes) so we could walk our little "shopping walk" around the store to pick up our regular items. Since these chain stores look the same inside it's really easy to find stuff, even though the stores are miles away from each other. Very practical.

Yesterday I took advantage of people watching SuperBowl to do some quick food shopping in an empty store.

And I discovered that they are rebuilding the store!!

It's six years old!

Everything has been moved around and I and the few other shoppers walked around completely lost. It took me 15 minutes to located the coffee (as I said, these stores are huge). The pharmacist who had no clients this SuperBowl Sunday, shouted out directions to by passers...

From what I could see in the rebuilding mess, it's going to turn out beautiful with hardwood floors, wider aisles etc.

But WHY did they have to move stuff around!? It's hard enough to figure out the English names for everything we need...

Oh, well. At least now I know where the coffee is.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

SuperBowl Sunday....

Today was a BIG day here. SuperBowl Sunday - the grand finale of the American football season. Almost a third of every American was watching the game today. In California you had to sit down at 3 pm for kick off since this year's game was played in Miami on the east coast.

We had not plans for watching the game. We're both Swedish and we're not really that interested in sports (actually I'm more slightly more interested than the husband). And a American football game is looooong, almost endless and slow. At least if you're used to watch soccer or ice hockey.

And the rules involves way too much match...

But we always turn on the TV since we enjoy the half time show and the commercials. Yes that's right, the commercials. The most expensive commercial slots of the whole year and therefore most of them are pretty creative (for being TV commercials). Most of them are for beer. Figures...

Anyway, the half time show was Prince, the husband's big idol. And Prince always throws a great show, even though it was only three songs.

So we're happy.

AND we got our big reorganization almost done!

(who won?? Indianapolis something...).

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Doing business in Sweden?

It's Saturday afternoon. We've continued our reorganization of the house, hoping to finish tomorrow.

But I'm taking a little break, drinking my diet coke and reading a magazine - I got the latest issue of Pink Magazine yesterday.

And find a little notice on doing business in Sweden... (page 26)

If you plan to do business in Sweden, you may want to consider toning down the voice and wardrobe. "The general prejudice about Americans is that you are quite loud and not too familiar with European customs and foreign languages", says Charlotte Blum, general manager of the Radisson SAS Strand Hotel in Stockholm. "we are consensus-oriented and work in team".

The Swedish dress code is classic. Black is a very common color because it fits most occaions. "I work in the hotel industry, where we always dress in suits", says Karin Staffes, a physical therapist in Sigtuna. "We don't like to be flashy". Don't be surprised if you find yourself doing business over the famous smorgasbord. Blum says this is typical Swedish fare, not just a tourist attraction. Smorgasbords usually consist of a fish serving, a meat, salads and dessert. Fill you plate with one selection at a time and let the server clear your plate between courses.
So there you go!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Chess and anthems

Speaking about Swedish voices... Another big Swedish voice is Tommy Körberg, one of few Swedish musical theater stars that have actually performed outside Sweden.

Before Björn Ulveaus and Benny Andersson wrote the Abba muscial MammaMia, they wrote the muscial Chess (and in between "Kristina från Duvemåla"). I have never seen Chess - but I love the music! I remember how a friend had the LP-records and we record them on a cassette tapes.

Last year I got the CDs - and I just love the music. The story of the musical is: a big chess game, US vs USSR and love of course and it all takes place in Bangkok.

A couple of years ago they put up Chess in Stockholm in Swedish. Never got to see that either.

Here is Tommy Körberg singing "Anthem" from Chess - one of my favorites.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Swedish national anthem

As some commentators noted the other day, the Swedish national anthem is actually played before sports events in Sweden as well.

By chance I stumbled over this clip with Carola, one of the most known Swedish singers (in Sweden... even though she did participate as Sweden's representative in the Eurovision Song Contest last year as well as a couple of years earlier, the first time when she was 16).

She is doing a pretty good job singing the anthem, even though I sometimes thinks her great voice sounds too.... naive?

This is from the beautiful arena Stadion in downtown Stockholm. It's considered big (it was the arena for the Olympic games 1912), but compared to a regular US arena it's... tiny. But - beautiful! And it's a summer day! Not sure about the event, seems to be some kind of a event rather than a regular game - you can see several of the former big Swedish soccer players on the field.

Anyway - this is what the Swedish national anthem sounds like.