Saturday, March 31, 2007

A new house...

Ok, last year we had some trouble with wasps in the backyard. So we got this yellow "wasp trap"-thing. It hung in the tree by the patio all season. We never saw one single wasp fly into it. It stayed empty.

Today we noticed that a wasp was building a house. Inside the "wasp trap". Flying happily in and out with building material.

We don't think that was the purpose of it...

(click on the picture for a larger picture)

(yes we know there are different kinds of wasps, such as the yellowjackets, or the hornets... and this is probably a hornet in trap for yellowjackets or the other way around...).

Friday, March 30, 2007

Swedes swimming naked

I spent a year in the middle of nowhere in Illinois as a university student a bunch of years ago. I don't know what caused the image of Sweden and Swedish girls in Illinois (and I think at that time I could still be considered a "girl") but several times I got the question "so you're Swedish, do you swim naked in the lakes?" (sometimes with a rather hopefully voice...).

The answer to the question is easy.


Several times.

When you live in a country the size of California but with a population of 9 millions, with 24,000 islands in the archipelago outside Stockholm, and thousands of lakes spread out over the country, in combination with the glorious rule "the right of public access", you can easily face a situation where you just have to take a little swim (well, in the summer that is...) .

This doesn't mean I would jump in the water bare naked on a public beach (and these days you don't want to scare the children). Even Swedes have some restraints. But with no one around but yourself and your company, sure enough! Why let the lack of a proper swim suit make you miss out?

There is nothing like taking a swim in the cool water, naked, on a warm summer night...

Photo: Christer Lundin - Stockholm Visitors Board

Thursday, March 29, 2007

On the miss list

Digestive biscuits may not be Swedish (they're originally British). Why are they so hard to find here (you might be lucky and find them in a WorldMarket)? They're just the best!

Not to speak about the chocolate ones... the HobNobs! Now we're talking!!

In a country where the "cookies and crackers" shelf is half an aisle at the supermarket - you can't find a single package of HobNobs...

Maybe I have to take a walk to WorldMarket tomorrow and see if they're in stock...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Las Vegas for the day

The Husband is going to Las Vegas for the day tomorrow, attending one of those trade fairs in some casino. It's not the first time, but I still think it sounds kind of nice. The flight is about an hour. If you fly for an hour from Stockholm you might end up in... Sundsvall for example. Nothing bad about Sundsvall, but Las Vegas sure is more... cool?

I've been twice to Las Vegas, which is a completely crazy place. My favorite thing to see in Las Vegas is the fountains at the Bellagio.

I wouldn't mind having a little fountain in the backyard, going off to some nice, classical music every 15 minutes. I just love the beauty of moving water.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The art of shopping groceries

When I go grocery shopping in Sweden during my visits these days, I'm always a complete embarrassment.

First of all you should not bother to disturb the cashier with small talk. Then you have to remember to take Prada plastic bags (and pay for them!) before paying. Especially when you don't have any Swedish money, only plastic and dollars in your wallet... To buy two plastic bags á 1,50 KR using your credit card (and showing your ID again) is not appreciated. And once you've payed you have to remember to pack your bags yourself. No matter how long you wait, no one will pack them for you.

After almost 8 years here I've almost forgotten the logistic "dance" on how to do this. Unpack the shopping cart in one end, pack in the other, pay in the middle (no wonder no one has time for some nice small talk). Phew!

In most stores around here, they pack your bags. You can quietly focus on small talk and paying. And in most stores they always ask you if you need help out. At Bel Air, the store closest to me (even though I do prefer Safeway) they also unload your cart and actually presume you want help out and you almost have to fight for your right to pack your groceries in the car yourself.

But in this sense I'm typically Swedish. I still haven't let anyone help me out with my shopping cart. Not once. Not sure why. It just feels.... easier...

Monday, March 26, 2007

Swedish pancakes

When a grandmom is in the house, you get Swedish pancakes for lunch! Served with raspberry jam - mmm yummy!

Hemma bra men hemma bäst

Mindre än två veckor tills avfärd mot Sverige. Hem. Eller iväg. Beror på lite hur man ser det. Under ett antal år var konceptet "hem" rätt förvirrat. Maken tyckte att "hem" det är väl här. Och jo. Det är det ju. Fast också i Stockholm. Fast vi inte bor där.

Nu har jag nog landat i att man kan ha flera hem. Hem är där man har sin barndom och sina första minnen och alltid en del av sitt hjärta. Hem är också där man är med sin familj, var den nu råkar befinna sig. Så jag åker hem till Sverige och sen hem till Californien.

Det kan till och med vara ganska lyxigt att ha två "hem".

Om de bara inte låg så förbenat långt ifrån varandra...

(I just felt like writing in Swedish today).

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Say cheese!

My mother-in-law is visiting and she brought Swedish hard cheese!! You almost forget you don't have any Bregott under the cheese on the sandwiches.

I always bring cheese from Sweden. Hard cheese, in vacuum packaging, is allowed to bring. I usually wrap mine in wet newspaper paper, wrapped in dry newspaper paper, in freeze bag.

Then you only have to make sure the suitcase with the hard cheese is not the one that gets lost in Chicago and then spend a day in a hot truck on a 100F day being delivered to your house the day after...

We have five cheese slicers in this house - I just have to slice my cheese myself. Old habits are hard to break...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Prada plastic bag...

Swedish plastic bags are like "Prada" bags compared to American plastic bags. They're thicker, larger and much, much more secure.

Today we happened to get some stuff in a Swedish plastic bag, and we just left it at the kitchen counter the whole day, not really knowing what to do with it. It just felt too nice to throw away.

In the beginning we dutifully folded the bags and saved them, just like in Sweden (where you would reuse them, usually as garbage bags). It only took a couple of trips to the grocerly store to realize that this really wasn't an option unless we would dediecate a full room for all the plastic bags you get (since they're so thin they can't really hold much, thus you end up with ridiculous amounts of plastic bags).

The Swedish bag says it can hold 11 kg! Oaho! I wonder if an American plastic bag can hold half of that...

I guess, at least in the bigger cities in Sweden, the plastic bags need to be bigger and more durable, since you usually carry your groceries home without a car, on public transportation. I wouldn't dare taking a walk with an American plastic bag. But then, I have to go shopping using my car, so the bag is actually mostly used to not have all the stuff all around the trunk of you car and to get them inside from the garage.

We have saved our Swedish plastic bag. For some special occasion.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The hunt for butter

Since we got here we've been hunting for a butter that could match our Swedish favorite, Bregott. It took awhile (the range of butter and margarine is, like everything else in a regular store here, huge). Trying container after container, until we found one we liked.

For some reason the Husband has started a new search. So now we are back to a new kind every week. And the one we have this week is... just... plain awful. I'm thinking of accidentally drop it in the garbage and claim it's already finished, let's go on to the next one...

I miss Bregott. Still haven't found anything that is like it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A chance to buy Sweden!

You only need to win some Super Mega Lotto first...

I just read about this - an artificial mini world, made up of 300 sand islands outside Dubai, the islands in the shape of countries, forming continents - called The World.

Sweden is still for sale, but you better hurry up, some have already shown interest!

Now, isn't this the perfect solution for both "eating the cake and still have it" (as we sort of say in Swedish). Sweden, but in complete sunshine!

(just check out the video tour on the web page... bizarre is the word...).

Paper walls

I haven't lived in a Swedish house in many, many years (lived in an apartment downtown Stockholm for 10 years before I ended up here) so I really don't have anything to compare with when it comes to walls.

I just know that American (or I should say Californian, since I really don't have experience with houses or walls in other states) walls are thin! Like paper! Actually I think drywalls are part paper?

I'm not sure you wouldn't actually walk right through one if you walked fast enough towards one and forgot to stop in time. Like in the movies. Only without the music or the laughter.

And try to hang a bookshelf or a heavy mirror on an Californian drywall... and in combination with a Husband that wants things so secure a level 4 tornado wouldn't move things, this is a major problem. None of my favorite things get approved by the Husband to be hanged on any of our walls.

As well as when you have two kids in two different rooms, but next to each other, separated only by a "wall". Would having you kids wear noise reduction headsets when going to bed be considered a bit over the top?

Maybe walls are just as thin in Sweden, or maybe the walls are just made thicker due to the colder seasons, thus being more soundproof? Or has my hearing started to improve by age?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


The day of spring! Yihaa! Even though we have had great "spring" weather for a while now, it still feels good to pass this day and be able to say it's Spring for real. The days will be getting longer and longer, the days now longer than the nights.

Let the prisoners loose - it is spring!

(hm... that really only works in Swedish...)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Am I getting old??

We had a brief change in weather today. The jet stream suddenly was lower, bringing in a low pressure and some clouds and rain.

And hepp! I get headache. Happens every time.

Soon they won't need meteorologists any longer. They just have to call me.

"Do you have a headache approaching, Ms Jacal, we need update the weather forecast?"

Monday, March 19, 2007

I want to shop online!!

Ok, so in only a few weeks I will be touching down in Stockholm for 8 days. Infant son in tow, who probably will not follow my jetlag advice. And since I'm working when I'm there, time not spent trying to get the son to sleep, will be spent in the office, I unfortunately really won't have much time to hit the stores.

To maximize shopping outcome it would be so perfect if I could do some online shopping before hand and ship it to where I'm staying. Hepp! No running around in the stores that close ridiculously early compared to here, trying to find all the typical Swedish stuff you just love when you're an alien.

That way I could get my Pippi swim suit for the daughter, a SpöketLaban hat for the son, without having to find time to search in the stores. But no, none of the major clothes stores in Sweden have any online shopping (except H&M). Their websites sucks really. At least compare to here where more or less every store has an online version.

You can get books online (but I find most Swedish book websites difficult to browse) and some toys (but I want mainly typical Swedish stuff - Pippi puzzles, Emil games, Bamse toys etc, limiting what I can find online). At least these are the heavy things that I wouldn't have to carry around the stores if I find them online (I just have to bribe the parents to go get the stuff at the "supermarket-postoffice-corner"... no door to door delivery in Sweden...).

Oh, well, the good thing about going to the stores in person is that you can shop tax free, saving some money if you have the time and energy to claim the tax at the airport before leaving.

It's just that 8 days are just... 8 days...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Facing the sun

When you're Swedish you're obsessed with the sun. As soon as it isn't freezing cold outside, we will head outdoors to eat our breakfast on small, windy balconies or have dinner, wrapped in fleece blankets in a back yard still with patches of snow here and there.

As long as the sun is out.

So when we moved to our second apartment here, signing up for a apartment in a complex not yet finished, us being the first tenants, thus giving us the opportunity to choose which one out of approximately 30 apartments to choose from, the choice was easy.

We wanted the corner apartment facing south. We had also chosen this apartment complex because the balconies were a bit bigger than in other complexes around, looking forward to spend a lot of time on our new, nice balcony.

Facing south.

In California.

The staff in the rental office looked at us strangely, but happily signed us up. We moved in a rainy week in November. Each day we saw how the rest of the complex got filled with new tenants. Filling up all the apartments facing.... north... "How weird", we said. "Why would the choose apartments with balconies facing north when all the apartments facing south are available?".

Then came spring.

And we realized we didn't have a balcony. We had a sauna. Without the cold lake to cool off in. The balcony got so hot you couldn't even step on the floor. We enjoyed it briefly in the early mornings before the sun hit, then we had to flee into the cool AC air, closing the curtains to try to keep the sun out.

Wishing we had signed up for an apartment facing north.

Some habits are hard to break.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The sock season is over

One thing I love about living in California is the short sock season. I'm a "cold" person, my feet are always like two pieces of ice, my hands way too much like cold fish. But with the warm (and hot!) weather here, I'm all warmed up and not even the Husband can complain about ice cold feet under the cover. And I just love to be barefoot around the house and not be cold.

It feels like if you're on vacation all the time!

The sock season in my part of California is between October and March, depending a bit on the temperatures. Once the socks are off, you don't open that sock drawer until fall again!

(unless you're going to Sweden, because you can not be sure that you won't need to pack socks, even in the middle of the summer).

Friday, March 16, 2007

The back yard geckos

I got a little time on my own on the patio this afternoon. I was in the nice shadow under the patio cover. +25C and a nice breeze. Good book. Quiet house.

And when one of the "house geckos" came running over the patio, I realized that I no longer lift my feet and scream. When did I stop that?

When we moved into the house, four years ago, and I realized, once all the boxes were unpacked, that we had geckos on the patio, I was almost ready to sell the house. Until the Husband said that they eat spiders. Aha. Geckos. Or spiders. Tough choice.

And after a while I also realized that to actually come in contact with a gecko is impossible. They're even more scared of me than I of them. Still lifted my feet however. You never know. Some might like toes. Who knows what mutant geckos live in my back yard.

But now I'm used to them. And I really do hope that they eat spiders (and if they don't please dot enlighten me in a comment to this post, just let me pretend my garden is spider free thanks to the geckos, or I might have to start lift my feet again).

Today two of them had a fight under the rose bushes. Or made love. Sometimes hard to tell the difference when it comes to the animal world...

(and not picture to this post... I don't like them that much).

21 days until take off

I did most of my traveling before kids, so when I got kids I was sort of prepared. But then things really change.

I had never noticed if there were changing tables or not in the ridiculously small bathrooms (try to squeeze yourself, a diaper bag and a pooped bay in there and you better not be lightly claustrophobic). I had never noticed how almost impossible it is to carry a baby and a diaper bag down the aisle without hitting someone's head (by which they will hate you even more than they did when they first spotted the baby).

Or how you juggle a baby, yourself, your shoes, your computer, your bag(s), your stroller, your jacket, and now your ziploc with fluids, through security without soaking in sweat. Or how to explain to 20 suit dressed men on board the plane men that your baby has been awake for the past 15 hours and is crying of exhaustion, and not because your lack of parenting skills and believe ME, I would love if my baby would shut up, after all I'm getting the close-up version straight into my ear.


The first time I traveled to Sweden on my own after having had done the same trip with kids, it was like a dream! Why did I ever complain about the seemingly endless flight between Stockholm and Chicago? It was 9 hours of reading, movie watching, quiet (at least no one was demanding mine attention). Pure vacation.

But back to the travel with kids aspects... Here are some things I had missed despite over 200 000 frequent flier miles...

- Some of United Airlines aircrafts (domestic), and the ones I always end up on, does not have changing tables in the lavatories. Changing a poopy diaper at the seat is not really appreciated among the other passengers so you and your baby better practice diaper changing on top of tiny toilet lids in confined spaces before going on a flight. It's a four hour flight from Chicago from California. Of course your baby poops then.

- SAS does not have child fares on Stockholm-Chicago. If you want your own seat for your baby - better be ready to bring out your wallet and pay full price. And they still have no Baby Einstein movies in the entertainment system.

- SAS staff at Arlanda Aiport cannot be expected to carry gate-checked items (like an umbrella stroller weighing in at 7 lb) up the little stairs from the tarmac up to the aircraft, they might get back problem (it's amazing they can handle luggage at all, actually we should be thankful we don't have to load our own suitcases). Thus you better be prepared to carry your baby, and the tons of others stuff you unfortunately need when traveling with kids, the three kilometers from terminal F to the baggage area.

- the TSA folks are there for security only. God forbid they would help (even out of pure humanity) you lift and quirk the stroller through the x-ray machine with a baby on your arm, shoes in your hand, trying to keep track of the boarding passes (that you always have to show twice). They stand and watch and wait. And sigh when the stroller gets stuck.

- But Americans (except TSA employed Americans) are GREAT at helping out when you're in need. They're friendly, talkative and makes things soo much easier (and I'm really the kind of "can do it myself thank you"-Swedish type). Sometimes you have to stop nice elderly American ladies, who hardly can reach the over head compartment, from helping to bring down your heavy diaper bag, risking to crush themselves.

I have 21 days until my next fight to Sweden... but only bringing one kid on a "quickie" visit to Stockholm. Anyway, I've lined up a grandmother to pick up the pieces at Arlanda on Easter Day.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The gas tank fill spout icon

(taking a break from all the airplane talk)

A friend of mine enlightened me about this tiny, but oh, so useful icon about a year ago. The little thing that makes you know what side your tank fill spout is on. Like when you're in your dad's car back home, or have a rental and just can't remember the side and get even more stressed out when you drive into the gas station.

I took this picture in my car today - see the little arrow next to the gas pump icon? Means I'm filling gas on my left hand side. Why don't they teach you this in school? Who cares about algebra when there are important knowledge out there you had no idea about (or was I the only one who had managed to pass 30, had my driving license for over 10 years without knowing this?)

Oh, and I just happened to stumble on this video on how to "fill your petrol car" for all of us with "tankfobi" (as previously discussed on this blog).... I didn't know it was these many steps... It takes 7 minutes to explain it... or that you should wear gloves... oh my..

(and no, you can't blow up a gas station with your cell phone, no matter how hard you try, despite what their saying in the video...)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My preferred route and jet lag rhythm

When I travel to the "old country", I always fly through Chicago. Why? Not because I like O'Hare (which is just huge, boring and noisy and humid no matter what time of the year you travel through).

But at Chicago O'Hare, terminal 5, gate 15 you can catch the 4.20 pm bus 946, oups sorry, I mean flight SK946 to Stockholm, arriving at approx. 7.30 am in the morning at Arlanda Airport and then just have a take a taxi to my final destination (or be lucky to have someone pick me up, which usually only happens when I bring the kids). Hepp!

No waiting, all groggy after an 11-something hours flight, in an European airport, from which you after a couple of hours, have yet another 2-something hours flight, arriving mid-day or afternoon, in Stockholm, with yet an even worse jet lag.

After traveling between Stockholm and California extensively for a couple of years, this is my best advice how to shorten the jet lag when going eastward:

  • Arrive straight in Stockholm from the US (even though it means SAS) in the early morning (meaning midnight PST time)
  • Don't bother trying to fall asleep on the plane, you probably wont' since it's afternoon PST time
  • Turn on the light over your seat right when you get on the plane (then no one will know how dark it can get in the cabin and won't hate you for turning it on later...) and read a book or watch the movies (or if you travel with kids, be just plain busy every second)
  • Go straight "home" after exiting customs (without getting caught for smuggling... hm... chocolate chip cookies?).
  • Go to bed (catching up with family and friend can WAIT, don't waste time with unpacking your bags!) in your pajamas and sleep for a couple of hours until approximately 3-4 pm (which is like early morning PST-time). You're probably not going to be hungry, after all it's in the middle of the night "your time". Make sure your family/friends know you're behavior before hand (so they don't think you're the most boring person in the world, going straight to bed).
  • Have some one wake you up (do not rely on an alarm clock - you will be dead and not hear it and sleep to long). And by waking up I mean literally, they might have to kick you out of bed if that's what it takes.
  • Get up, take a shower, get dressed as if you've slept a short night after a long day with a short day ahead of you
  • Eat, but no meat only light food (Hönökaka with grevéost would be a great choice!), stay up pass 11 pm, preferably midnight, then go to sleep (even if you're really not that tired) and hope you'll sleep as long as possible through then night, if you wake up, stay in bed, read a book, you might be able to go back to sleep
  • Eat breakfast as normal in the morning after (maybe Skogaholmslimpa with leverpastej?)
  • Continue with the day but keep away from the steaks and other "heavy" food (brain might know you're in Sweden, tummy might not).
  • Hepp, you're out of jet lag in a day - and can enjoy your stay!
  • (sorry - usually doesn't work for toddlers which can kind of mess up your jet lag recovery too, have a nice friend/parent stand by at 4 am when toddler wants to watch Pippi).
This is my "rhythm", what works for me, and believe me - I did it all - went straight from the airport to work, or gone home and slept way too long, tried stressful hours to fall asleep on the plane, gotten so sick I couldn't hear or speak, been so tired I never thought I could think another thought, and had jet lag days - been there, done that.

Try it - it might work for you and you've got nothing to loose (but probably having to fly SAS...).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The planning has started

Summer is getting closer and with that the arranging of the yearly summer trip to Sweden. Will the Swedish lovely summer start early (should I go in May already) or late (maybe focus on July?).

Or actually, it's pretty easy. Now, take out your calenders and arrange your Swedish summer vacation during the weeks when I'm NOT there. Because when I'm in Sweden in the summer, it's usually the worst period. +6C and cold rain in early June or something similar.

On the other hand, even though I long for, dream of, a beautiful, glorious Swedish summer when I'm there, at least I know that I will have sun here before and after my trip, no matter when I get the tickets. I just have to remember to find the rain gear when packing the bags.

The major stress is setting the dates, making the final decision... And getting the airlines to get the fact that we would like to have our really expensive seats next to each other, getting checked in the whole way (why can they manage to check suitcases but not people??), and get SAS to understand that yes, it's necessary to bring a stroller when you travel on your own with two kids and are connecting in Chicago, one of the world's largest airports (this is a whole post in itself - everyone of you who have tried to fly with a stroller with a SAS flight involved know what I'm talking about).

I remember the nice pre-911 days when you actually had a choice on airlines that flew direct flights Sweden - US and not only SAS... And unfortunately I like to arrive directly in Stockholm (than to spend a couple of hours in a European city before connecting to Stockholm) too much to switch route.

Ok. Deep breath. Calender in one hand, travel agency phonenumber in the other. Focus on leverpastej, smågodis, Dagens Nyheter, falukorv, Polarn&Pyret, Vetekatten, skärgårdsbåtar, hönökaka, mandelbiskvier...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Not taking a bath

I used to love taking baths. When I lived in Stockholm I had an old, small, but deep bathtub in which I soaked down in hot water whenever I had the chance (especially during winter). I could fall asleep in there. Spend hours, reading, thinking, relaxing.

Today I noticed that in our master bathroom, which has an pretty nice , but simple, oval bath tub, I have everything prepared for those soaking baths. Candle holders ready (yes, with tealights...), a magazine basket, soothing bath bubbles, special bath towels.

The only thing missing is - me!

I can't even remember the last time I took a bath here. Maybe I've done it 2-3 times since we moved into the house - that would count as once a year... I've lost my bath habits!

Probably because most of the year a hot bath is not really what you long for, however relaxing (a cold Swedish lake would come higher on the wish list) (or maybe it's the plain kid factor - at night all you long for is your nice, warm bed)...

Or maybe the fact that American standard bath tubs, for some unknown reason, are way to shallow (or is it once again the problem of huge Scandinavians??). It's so hard to soak when half of your body is still above water even when you've filled the tub so high that bathroom flooding is a serious threat. Maybe they're not made for taking a bath. Maybe they should be seen more like a standing foot bath?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Like taking the bus...

I remember a time when going to the airport to catch a plane somewhere was a huge adventure. I loved airports (and train stations for that matter), and always went extra early to spend time and feel the atmosphere. There was a special flutter in my tummy when entering the plane, full of anticipation of what might come.

Now, it's like taking the bus. On a very long bus ride. The first few years here I flew back and forth between California and Stockholm every six-seven weeks (getting a lot of frequent flier miles and a gold status).

I know how to transit at O'Hare in my sleep. Not kidding.

When I'm sitting at the F65 gate at Arlanda Airport to catch the 10.15 am, SAS 945 to Chicago, I envy those who excitedly are going somewhere, a vacation, an adventure.

I'm just going home.

And it's a long trip that I want to be over fast.

(And as a parenthesis ... this e-ticket thing has just complicated travel for me - since e-tickets became standard, I always have a hard time to check myself all the way through my destination, always having to get to the check- in counter again in Chicago (no matter if I'm going to or from the US), it's something with incompatible systems within the Star Alliance. You would have thought going digital would ease things. Apparently not. )

Wallet, keys, cell phone and...

sunglases! Check! Never leave home without them! Actually I rather forget my cellphone than my sunglasses. I'm almost panicking if I realize I don't have sunglasses in the extremely bright California sun.
And I'm so used to always have them with me that I now also use them in Sweden, no matter what season. And why not - a low Swedish winter sun is a real killer - perfect for sunglasses. But I can just sense that people think I look silly (or a "cool-girl-wannabe" sort of). In Sweden I would never wear sunglasses unless it was summer. That it's the same sun never crossed my mind.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Time to spring forward

Tomorrow the US goes in to summer mode. Or at least switches to "summer time". Time for daylight saving!

This year we're three weeks earlier - which is supposed to preserve energy somehow. But I think the best would be if Europe and the US could switch at the same day instead. For three weeks now the time difference with Europe is different (8 hours instead of 9 or is it 10 hours??) - messing up meeting times, regular phone calls to the family. It would be so much easier if the switch was made on the same day!

We started early. Some little people in our house woke up at 5.30 am this morning, so I decided I was going to pretend that it had been daylight saving over night and it was actually 6.30 am. Felt so much easier then to get up (but still way too early on a Saturday morning).

Friday, March 09, 2007

Need some more calcium?

Who would have thought pre-made waffles were an excellent source of calcium AND contain 10 vitamins and minerals.

Go walking

I love walking. When I lived in Stockholm, I used to walk to and from work, and be out walking on the weekends (I also have a talent to read and walk at the same time).

And when we bought our house here, one of the things on our checklist was "be able to walk somewhere", meaning you should be able to get out of the house and walk to a place (and being Stockholmers, a café would be nice to have "within a stroll" (we ended up living within walking distance from a Borders with a café and a Starbucks) (and unfortunately a Cold Stone Creamary...).

But usually, walking is not always that easy. Sidewalks are actually not always in place or they might suddenly end (and I'm not talking about trails - for biking, jogging etc, we have plenty of those, even though we have to take the car to access them... I'm talking about more neighborhood/city walking).

An Amercian magazine has listed the best US cities for taking a stroll (Madison, Wisconsin won). Now, I wonder what Swedish city would win - I mean would Swedish cities actually be able to compete - aren't they all pretty good? I would of course vote for Stockholm - the walk path around my "home island" Kungsholmen being the best stroll.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

International Women's Day

So today is International Women's Day (Internationella Kvinnodagen). I haven't seen much notice about it here - not like in Sweden where it is given a fair share of attention.

I remember when the owner of a small supermarket where I used to work weekends during my first years during university, proudly gave all the women flowers and a little gift on March 8. The gift was a little mini jewelery box (1/2 inch in diameter) where he said we should put our birth control pills... You could see that he thought this was a fantastic idea!

Someone gently told him that birth control pills usually comes in a pack, much wider than 1/2 inch, and putting them all in a little box wasn't really a good idea... and that perhaps the International Women's Day was not really a "gift giving" day like "Valentine's Day". Sort of a different kind of day...

But it was a nice thought.

Ok, strange things about me...

A fellow Swedish alien, Annika, challenged me in one of those blog "questionnaires" - six strange things about yourself (in connection to the essence of this blog... the even more strange, private things you have to e-mail me to know... haha).

So here we go...

* I have partied with the Norwegian crown prince Haakon's body guards in a night club on the 35 th floor in San Francisco (Haakon was busy with blonde Americans, haha)...

* I love(d) "catastrophe movies" (such as "Twister" or "Devil's Peak"), but since moving to this country, where the forces of nature are all too close they're beginning to get all too real for comfort...

* I have about 30 books on the Apollo program in my bookshelves (Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 being my favorites) and would love to go to the Nasa Space Center in Houston (I've already been twice to Kennedy Space Center)... and have a Saturn-V mini replica on my office desk...

* I wanted to be Goldie Hawn and take a ride down highway 1 in a convertible beetle, blasting Barry Manilov's "Ready to take a chance again" in the speakers, just like she did in Foul Play ("Tjejen som visste för mycket")...

* I've spent a night in the police station in the French Quarter in New Orleans, when on a road trip there from Chicago. Voluntarily.

* When I left my university exchange year and came back to Sweden and everyone asked me if I would want to go back and live in the US, I always answered "depends on where, but definitely not California". And here I am. 7 years now...

(I'm not passing it forward, seems all my blog friends have already done it or gotten the challenge - and I'm to shy to challenge perfect strangers!).

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Reading the local news

I'm a news junkie. Or was. In a house with a kids and an home office, news is something that is caught on the fly. Before kids when I worked at home, I always had the TV any of the non-stop news channels as my company. It made me feel I was part of the flow of the world, even though I stayed in one room almost the whole day. Heck, I almost knew the news before they happened.

Those were the times...

Now I almost never have the time to catch the TV news (and it's not lack of TVs - we have 5 in the house, which is absolutely crazy considering the minimum time we watch) but at least I try to read the front page of all the sections of the morning paper.

But something I ALWAYS do - and this is really the age of the computer - is read the news online. The Swedish news. Especially the Stockholm news.

Now here is a phenomena that I don't have a name for. The old mass communication theory that "geographical proximity" is important when communicating really must have lost some of it's value. Or what am I doing checking up what's up in Stockholm? I'm thousands of miles away (8506 km to be exact).

I love DN's (major Swedish newspaper) new Stockholm section where I can read important news such as the possible future color of the Royal Castle (I'm conservative, it should stay the same so I don't feel lost when I come back).

What did previous aliens do before the internet?? Isn't this just the best time?

Or is it even better to come? A day when you will find a copy of New York Times and Dagens Nyheter on your drive way in the morning?

Monday, March 05, 2007

I wouldn't mind living here...

My favorite place in Stockholm is Riddarholmen, a small island in the middle of the city, only old buildings and the most beautiful view over Lake Riddarholmsfjärden. I used to walk here all the time, all year around, sit down and just adore the view of the city. I'm so obsessed with this place I had my wedding pictures taken here.

The oldest building in Stockholm, built sometime in the early 1500s, can be found here - it's the white, round building in the picture below. Imagine that - a building from the 1500s. That's history!

In one of the major Swedish newspapers, SvD, they wrote that this building now has been restored (and they have some pictures from inside!). I wouldn't mind living here - imagine the view from the bedroom... Imagine the dreams you would dream at night!

Too bad a boring government agency is moving in... If I win the California State Lottery, I wonder if they would consider selling the building to me? Or at least rent it... ?

Photo: Stockholm Visitors Board - Richard Ryan

I need an invention

Ok, so baby monitors are absolutely worthless. Why? Because they just magnify the sounds of the children (who usually says "mommy"...). And no husbands will ever wake up to that. And mommies wakes up without a monitor anyway.

After last night it's obvious that I desperately need a monitor that convert baby sounds to "Hey, wake up, your computer is overheating!" or "Get up, a Trojan is attacking the server" or something similar.

That you should let the husbands sleep close to the door so he can wake up and protect you from loose black bears or other intruders is a myth (hm, or maybe what they mean is that the bear would get the husband first (fast asleep ...) and give you time to escape out the window?).

The only problem now is that the Husband would be perfect for inventing a monitor like this... but how can I get him to invent something that would give him less sleep... hm...

A couple of years ago we got a baby monitor in Sweden when we were going to spend a few weeks over there - it was SEK 600! We just wanted a simple one - but gosh they're expensive! Here you can get a simple one for $20... But no matter the price or where in the world they are used, still only mommies wake up...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

(Sorry, I just have to write about this...)

(Ok, I've been trying to avoid this post, but now I just have to write it...

What's up with American toilets?!

(and feel free to stop reading here!)

Or is it just us, Swedes, that are to big for them?? They always get clogged, heck, my 3,5 year old clogs them. Or is there a special technique that you're supposed to use that we've missed? I buy toilet brushes at IKEA by the dozen every time I visit (can you imagine the looks I get from the clerks... a bag of 100 tea lights and 15 toilet brushes...).

And why are they so small? Everything else is big here? In our house the toilets are also so small and low it's like sitting down on a stool (5' 9'' and 6' 2'' tall respectively) (I'm 5' 9''...) . But after seven years, we're gotten used to it, now it feels like standing up when going to the bathroom in Sweden...

We've promised ourselves that if we ever move to a new house (our build our own, but that would probably never happen since it would lead to divorce), we will skip the door handle and faucet upgrades and focus completely on upgrading the toilets. Big, Scandinavian toilets.

Imagine how much money we would save on toilet brushes.)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The bees are busy

Great day with sunshine and blossoming everywhere! The bees were busy in my part of California!

(the Husband took the picture, taking a bunch of pictures trying to catch a bee that was still enough to be caught on camera - click the picture for a larger picture - to see the details of the bee or don't if you don't like insects)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Mail from IKEA

Today we got direct mail from IKEA in the mailbox. Addressed to the husband!!

Ok, so, every year I order the IKEA catalog online. I've signed up for newsletters. Every time at IKEA and they have little boxes with "leave your address for more updates" I do that. Heck, I give all address information they want! My social security number - no problem (that is if I could remember it...)! Anything to get news and information on what's going on. IKEA obsessed? - you bet!

And still - the direct mail goes to the HUSBAND!?

He who hates IKEA, never would give out his address and if I want us to go there, I either have to prepare a long campaign, going on for weeks, or just trick him (like drive the car and just exit at the IKEA exit the last second like in an action movie and claim we're out of gas or something, early in the morning before he had coffee).

HE gets the direct mail. What a waste of paper.... What have they done with all my address information??

And - the most important question of them all - WHY isn't there a "Men's Corner" (could be named "Snickarboa"??) at IKEA. Just like you can leave your kid at "Småland" you could check in your husband, give his shoe size, and get a buzzer and take off for the store. In the "Men's Corner", there would be big screen HDTVs (for the sports fan) and fast internet connected computers (for the geeks), cold drinks and chips. Then when you are done and need to go through the Self Serve area and need some muscles, you check him out and he can load up the car.

Now THAT I want! AND all direct mail to me!

Swedish news in the paper!

You're always amazed when news from Sweden find it's way over here. Usually it might be a small notice if it's something really big (like when our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anna Lindh, was murdered a couple of years ago).

So to our big surprise we found a huge article in today's paper. Covering half a page!! An AP story, but still. Half a page! And the word "Sweden" mentioned all over!

What the story was about? Swedish culture? History? Current events? Nope. Liquor. The Swedish vodka brand Absolut Vodka might be sold. But still - half a page!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mother Nature says hello...

Blizzards in the Midwest. A 4.2 earthquake in Northern California. Horrible tornadoes in Central US. All in one day.

Today sure was a day when Mother Nature reminded us who really is in charge in this country.

When you come from Sweden, were an occasional bad storm might hit, or the regular heavy snow storms in winter time, but that's about it when it comes to "nature effects", moving here sure is to move into an ever ongoing action movie.

They didn't have a hard time to fill the news tonight.