Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy birthday!

Sweden is a monarchy. Meaning we have a king. Carl XVI Gustaf. The Kingdom of Sweden. Doesn't that sound like something!

Actually I think the formal term is "constitutional monarchy". The King has no real power any longer. But he (and his kids: Crown princess Victoria, Princess Madeleine and Prince Carl Philip and his wife, Queen Silvia) feeds the Swedish tabloids with content.

I think he is kind of cute and has become a pretty good king with age. Not easy being king these days - what kind of job is that really (part from the tabloid-content-feeding aspect). Not really a job I would like to have.

Anyway, today, on Valborgsmässoafton/Walpurgis Night, April 30, is his birthday (he turned 61). He always celebrate it in the castle in downtown Stockholm (where he doesn't live any longer), waving to the people, and so he did today.

Happy Birthday Kungen!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Walpurgis Night

Tomorrow, April 30, is Walpurgis Night in Sweden. Or as most Swedes know it, Valborgsmässoafton (I didn't even know there was a specific translation until I moved here).

It's a day (or actually an evening, because most action takes place at night) of celebrating the arrival of spring. And the Swedish King who happens to have his birthday tomorrow. And students will put on their white "student caps" and party like crazy for days in university cities like Uppsala and Lund.

The main event (for non-students) is the lightning of huge bonfires and the singing of spring songs. Since I love spring, I love Valborgsmässoafton. Tomorrow I will humming hits like "Vintern rasat" and "Sköna maj" all day. No bonfire however. They're not really appreciated in dry California.


(this picture was taken April 30, 2001 at Riddarholmen (Stadshus-tornet to the left, huge bonfire in the middle, lots of people in the foreground), with a small, 3-something megapixel camera...)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Minivans in the park

Lots of minivans in the park today... Around here, most families with younger kids have minivans. I guess the same picture from a Swedish park would show rows of Volvos (or no cars at all because you probably can walk to the park... hm).

We don't have a minivan. Yet. I've admitted it before. I want one too. I need a better car door solution for 3 year old who does not want to get back into the car (those of you who have ever had 3-year olds know what I'm taking about - when they turn into a heavy but quick and loud octopus). Even the husband has admitted that it might be a good solution (and has let go of the feeling that it's the end of the world as a man to drive a minivan).

Friday, April 27, 2007

How to become Swedish...

(at least according to Hipp Hipp) (and sorry... only in Swedish...)

A Swedish keyboard

Even though I write this blog in English, I work in Swedish, and of course communicate with family and friends back "home" in Swedish.

The Swedish alphabet has three bonus letters, å, ä and ö. They're vowels and pretty essential to write Swedish. So if you are not using pen and paper, you need to make special arrangements to produce these letters on the screen.

There are several ways to do it. I've heard.

But since the Husband is a (very cute) geek and we have more computers in this house than 10 normal families, we've adopted another strategy: Bring Swedish keyboard(s) from Sweden when your're home visiting. Quick and easy and hepp! Å, ä and ö comes right up!

Since we need three more "letter keys", the "sign keys" on a Swedish key board are in different places compared to an American (or any other for that matter). Making it very confusing when I encounter an American keyboard. The ? / < > ( ) " ; : among others are all in new, unfamiliar places. Not only are the åäö missing, the get replaced with signs, making my writing look like I'm using bad words...

So for the sake of others, I'll continue to confuse the customs controllers in Chicago by bringing key boards in my suitcases.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The sound of ice cream

When reading the comments on the ice cream post below it brought back memories of the "ice cream truck" (Hemglass-bilen) that came driving around your neighborhood selling icecream once a week, playing an annoying little tune. A tune that was part of your childhood (I think they have changed since then...?).

The ice cream sound you grew up with in Sweden - click here to listen!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ice cream evening

I usually work at night when the house is quiet. I like working from home most of the time, but sometimes it gets lonely. I miss company. No one to take a break with and chat.

Tonight I took a little break on my own and gave myself some Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream. Is this yummy or what!

I'm actually not really an ice cream person. Maybe it was too cold in Sweden (and I hate being cold...)? Or the traditional plain "Big Pack" wasn't tempting enough? One thing is for sure - here you can find some great ice cream...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A cute little amusement park

On Saturday, April 28, one of the major attractions in downtown Stockholm opens for the season. The little amusement park Gröna Lund! Oh, child hood memories! We usually got to go once a year - a BIG day! And we thought it was HUGE! You could get lost!

In reality it's a pretty small park, tiny actually if you compare it to the amusement parks you can find here. But - no park can beat the location of Gröna Lund! In the middle of the beautiful city of Stockholm, surrounded by water and islands! Now I wouldn't visit for the attractions (if you have taken a ride in The TopGun or The Medusa every Scandinavian roller coaster is too short and too low) (if you're a roller coaster fan like I am) but for the view, the history (it opened in 1883!) and the memories.

It sure is worth a visit! And even though you get a "fear of death" feeling in the "Free Fall Tower" (I really, really prefer roller coasters), the view sure is the greatest before you fall.

(Picture from Gröna Lund's website)

Monday, April 23, 2007

My favorite flower...

It's only a few weeks left until my next flight to Sweden. Phew. After my return last Sunday, I would need a couple of months before next flight...

BUT - today I realized something very important. I will be in Sweden in time for the lilacs!

Lilacs (syréner) are my favorite flowers! The scent makes me go weak and they are just beautiful! They are a big part of my childhood, we had two hedges in our garden, one with white and one with purple lilacs. I remember going outside in the early morning hours to pick lilacs for my mom on her birthday in early June. And I was always so jealous that I, being a January-girl, could never have lilacs for my birthday.

So instead of thinking about how long the flight will be with two kids in late May, I'm going to focus on the blossoming of lilacs....

I have never seen lilacs here. But a quick google search shows that you should be able to find them here (even they seem to be native European) and "Purple lilac" (Syringa vulgaris) is the state flower of New Hampshire.

(Picture from Wikipedia)

A recycled post...

I've written about this before... and today I have write about it again. And since it's Monday, I'm lazy. I'm just going to recycle this post from November 20, last year...

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??

(a little disclaimer...)

The picture below shows one of the most ugliest places in downtown Stockholm, a place I actually used to avoid when I did guided tours of Stockholm for visitors.

But they just happened to have a live camera there...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Monday morning in downtown Stockholm...

When I feel I'm too far away from home, I can always check out what's going on in downtown Stockholm by using one of the camera websites.

This is what was going on at Sergels Torg at 6.51 am Monday morning (9.51 pm Sunday evening in California). If you want to know what's going on right now, click here!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Measuring in Swedish...

I don't do much cooking (the Husband is the chef in this house), but I do bake and I am slightly in love with our Kitchen Aid (which are kind of expensive here but I understand are ridiculously expensive in Sweden).

When I bake I can improvise somewhat, but for somethings you need to be fairly on the spot to get a good end result. Since I mostly use Swedish receipies (hm, this really sounds like I'm spending a lot of time in the kitchen and I really don't, ask the Husband..) I need Swedish tools.

When in Sweden last week I got a couple of extra "tool sets" (a green and a blue). These measurement cups seem to always disappear. And they are always gone when you face a situation where you have to know put in a "tesked" of some essential ingredient.

I'm not going to go into the silliness of cups and ounces and the greatness of deciliters or milliliters here (then I had to spend all Saturday evening blogging and the Husband wants to catch up on 24), that is a whole post on its own.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Party in Sweden's pants

Henrik Schyffert, a Swedish comedian, is doing short, pretty funny sketches about Sweden... this is the latest one... about how Swedes like to party...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A nice bottle

Every time I open the refrigerator I see it. The Husband must have bought it. It looks so... cool and nice... and almost drinkable.

I'm teased to maybe, maybe try it.

I don't like coffee. But I like the look of the bottle and the color so much.

But I know I will be disappointed. So I'm letting the bottle stay sealed and cold. And keep enjoying the look of it.

One day I might become grown enough to drink coffee. But not today.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And I thought my dreams were unique...

I read a really interesting story about dreams in today's local paper. I dream at night. A lot. If there was a pill to take to stop dreaming, I would take it.

The story in the paper was about anxiety dreams, and about that these dreams seem to be universal. These dreams "cross cultures and languages, gender and age, and we've been dreaming them since we started studying dreams -- and maybe since the dawn of the dream itself".

So if you live here in California, or on the other side of the world, we can still have the same type of dreams (even though we never sleep at the same time due to the time difference - haha). No one knows why according to the article, but one researcher, Patricia Garfield, says in the article "that there is something instinctual in humans that plays out in our dreams, a universal set of problems we try to cope with through our universal dreams".

I have brought my dreams with me all the way to California from Sweden. I have a number of "themes" that reoccur at night, for several years, as long as I can remember. No matter in what part of the world I sleep.

And when the article listed the 12 most common anxiety dreams, I could check mark half of them as "my" dreams...


Dream 1: You're back in school, and you're about to take a big test, but you suddenly realize that you haven't been to class all semester and there's no way you will pass.

Dream 2: You're out in public, and you are surprised to find that you're not fully clothed. You try desperately to hide yourself, but oddly, no one else seems to notice.

Dream 3: You're at your past or present job and you're extremely busy, but no matter how hard you try, you never seem to be able to get everything done. Worse, the tasks keep piling up, and people are getting upset.

Dream 4: You're about to perform in public, and you discover you won't be able to pull it off. For example, you don't know the words to the song you're supposed to sing.

Dream 5: You really need to make a phone call, but the buttons don't work, the person can't hear you, you dial the wrong number, etc.

Dream 6: You're in your house and discover there are one or more new rooms that you've never seen before, and you wander around and get hopelessly lost.


It actually feels ok not to be unique. It feels pretty good to be more or less normal. I still would take that pill however...

I wonder which one it will be tonight?

A Mac N' Cheese childhood

We eat very Swedish food in our house (and here I have to put in a disclaimer that it is the Husband who does the cooking in this house) mainly due to habit. But there is one exception.

Macaroni & Cheese.

I don't eat it (I find it.. hm.. I don't eat it). But the Daughter and the Husband does. And it's the Daughter's favorite food. Which is one sure sign that her childhood, weather I want it or not, will be American. She won't say "köttbullar" as the answer to the question what she would love to eat.

Sometimes this feels a bit weird...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

When bad things happen

The last 24 hours have been focused on the terrible event at Virgina Tech, even so here in California, even though we are a continent away.

Horrible and devastating. There aren't words strong enough to even describe such a thing.

One thing I do appreciate here is that there are several 24 hours news channels I can tune into when something happens. I don't have to wait for the "news"at night, but can follow the events develop as they happen and when I have a chance to catch up.

But sometimes it can also get too much. Sometimes the husband has to to turn off the news and say "enough". When you've heard the horrible news over and over and over again, and things just doesn't get better, only worse.

My thoughts are with the families of the lost.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Ice cold water

The tapped water tastes better in Sweden than the tapped water here (which is has a distinct clorine taste). But something I realized that I missed in Sweden was the ice cold water from the water dispenser in the refrigerator. It's filtered so it taste better than the tapped water - and it's cold!

In Sweden I had to run the water forever to get it somehow cold. Didn't know I was such a cold water junkie...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Home sweet home...

I'm back home. And now I just have to forget all about this return trip do dare do another one (in five weeks...). Phew.

The flight from Stockholm to Chicago is long (about 9 hours). But at least the plane is a bit bigger. And they have an advanced entertainment system (not that I could use it much, being the entertainer of infant son who could not sleep).

But the shorter flight (about 4,5 hours) from Chicago to California feels longer than the first. Tiny plane. Always over booked. Smells bad. You're horrible tried. Only one movie (that I didn't see).

I sure wish California was closer to Sweden. Or maybe I just have to find friends in Chicago and have to start making a stop over... Or not fly until the kids are 15.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Final moments...

The bags are packed - one bag with all the sealed taxfree bags that I will show at Arlanda. I can hardly remember myself what's in those bags - I will have just as fun as the daughter once back home.

So tomorrow I will spend the first few hours fighting with SAS to bring my stroller to the gate and then get it back in Chicago, and to get good seats, preferably together. The rest of the day I will spend flying. And flying. And flying. And then fly some more.

Gaah - why isn't California closer to Sweden...

I'm almost out of my jetlag. One night before returning. Great. But going west has always been easier for me.

And maybe I have broken the spell. Even though it we woke up to snow on Monday, we did wake up to lovely weather today! Thank you weather gods, it sure felt like a great finale!

(and how does Blogger know I'm in Sweden?? Because suddenly all the text is in Swedish - very confusing...).

A picture of Torsbyfjärden this afternoon!

Friday, April 13, 2007

The best mineral water!

I'm not really a huge fan of mineral water. I drink it when served, but it's not as if I would get it at the store. But this time around I've become a mineral water junkie! I've been drinking tons! When we went to dinner tonight, I just kept ordering it - so good!

(and then I had to run to the restrooms five times during dinner...).

We had dinner at Grill! Very, very nice!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Don't forget!

If you want to get off the buss - you have to open the doors yourself...

WHY is this so hard to remember.... everyone looks at me as if I was an... hm... alien... when I just stand, waiting for the doors to open...

I've been using all kinds of transportation to get places - it's so convenient! Buses, the subway, taxis. Simple and easy! Love it!

(on the other hand, driving a car is more of a hazzle... they sure make it difficult - hard to find parking, weird one way streets).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pictures from Sweden #2

I finally felt better and could go to the office and took few pictures of "everyday" things. Interesting how you start to notice different things when you "visit". Like smells... and sounds...

Crossing sign and a buss station

Recycling bins...

Subway tracks and square pavement bricks.

Metro magazines in the subway.

Djurgårdsfärja on it's way back to Slussen

Pavement bricks

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Swedish shopping so far

When I come "home" I just love going shopping! Really Swedish things are on the shopping list, and you find yourself fighting with German tourists in the "Swedish Shops", focus on Bamse and Pippi stuff for the kids.

The sales clerks at Åhléns looked kind of weird at me when I bought seven Pippi-outfits today. And then sighed when I said I wanted it to be tax free...

I always do tax free shopping on my short stays in Sweden. When you are an alien and show your sealed bags and tax free receipts at Arlanda you can get almost all of the sales tax refunded (the sales tax in Sweden is 24%...). When you do lots of shopping this can really add up. But the boring part is that no one can see what I shopped - the bags have to be sealed. And sometimes I don't even remember myself... it's as much of a surprise when I unpack your bags once back "home" in the US.

So this is today's shopping... bags. They contain, besides the seven Pippi-outfits, cute Swedish clothes, lots of books in Swedish, toys. Too bad you can't see!

The Wettex, the cheese, the candy and the chocolate has already been bought (I'm leaving the Bregott, not sure I will be convincing enough when I claimed the son packed it himself). On Saturday I hope I'll do some shopping for myself - I was way to weak to try on clothes today. I just loved the Swedish spring colors!!

And - Lindex are about to open online shopping at!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Pictures from Sweden #1

Ok, so with the help of Tylenol FluColdExtraPlusPlus, I managed to get up from bed today (after having spent most of the night awake with totally jetlagged son who was playing happily until 3.30 am...). The plan was to do some shopping, but I could only manage a slow walk to the local Vivo.

But there I felt sooo much better... drooling worse than my teething son...

Swedish aliens all over the world - this is for you!! A little photo tour around a Vivo...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Observations from Sweden #1

When you're an Alien Returns, you notice things you never thought of before... today I noticed that...

... the doors to the individual toilets in Stockholm are heavier than our front door in California...
... the highway from the Stockholm airport to downtown Stockholm really is tiny...
... people actually know what's on a TV at night ...
... the food containers are so small!

Arrived in Stockholm, Sweden!

I can recommend traveling on Easter "Saturday". You will be almost alone. I also recommend you traveling when you don't have a cold. It will make it much nicer.

And if there would be a reward for "Greatest Mom who traveled ALONE with infant child", I would win it and in my thank you speech I would actually thank the friendly staff on SAS flight SK 946. Imagine that!!

(even though I sure wonder if there is anyone who actually eats the "Flavored broadbeans" they serve with your drinks?? Is that SAS way of saying "get thinner so we don't have to pay so much for gas"?)

(and no tornadoes have passed by yet, the sun was actually shining this morning even though the temperature was below freezing... now they say it will be +20C by the end of the week, but I'll believe it when I see it... )

Friday, April 06, 2007


Tomorrow morning at 5 am I will leave for the airport, starting the long trip to get to Sweden... Arriving in Stockholm at 7.30 am, Sunday morning...

The bags are packed, we're all set to go. But of course the son shows signs of not being really, really in the mood... and we are still not seated together...

It's going to be a looooooooooong day tomorrow.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

How fast is "quickly"??

Speaking about gas stations... When you pay for your gas (in most places using the ATM/credit card machine by the pump), the instructions on the display is "Insert your card and remove quickly".

This kind of stresses me. On top of the rest of the stress on being on a gas station.

How fast is "quickly"??

Is it half a second or "pretty quick" - and - what happens if you're slow? Will the card disappear? Be demagnetized? The card be debited several times? A loud alarm will sound ("Slow payer - Slow payer"!)?

I'm not taking any chances. So I stand firmly, both feet on the ground, card ready in my hand, focus my eyes on the card slot, take a deep breath - and - insert - remove! You should see me. I'm fast! Fast enough never to (so far...) have gotten any complaints by the machine.

A bad joke...

I had to fill up the car today (or as my daughter says, "give the care something to drink"). It was midday, and the gas station closest to our house, otherwise very busy, was almost empty. Only one car there when I pulled in at the same time as a woman in a white SUV type car.

When she started pumping gas, the man in the car already there when we arrived, yelled "hey, that's diesel!". The woman jumped and sort of screamed, pulling back the nozzle from the car. I can just imagine what she was going through (being a gas station phobic). A pure nightmare.... HOW are you going to explain that to anybody (especially the Husband) (and doesn't that completely destroy the car??).

"Just joking", he said then.

Ok. That was NOT funny!!

There should be a sign at gas stations saying "No cell phones, no cigarettes and no bad jokes".

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Jag har tappat bort Påsken...

Jag kan inte riktigt komma ihåg vad jag egentligen brukade göra på påsken när jag bodde i Sverige. Men jag brukade göra "nått".

I Sverige är ju påsken en långhelg. Och den ju inträffar alltid på våren (även om man kan ha otur och ha snöstorm på Påskafton) - så om inte annat åkte man iväg någonstans. Till något. "Vad ska du göra över påsk" är en helt relevant fråga i Sverige.

Här är påsken visserligen en stor religiös högtid, men det är ingen långhelg. I morgon är en vanlig torsdag, på fredag är en vanlig fredag och på måndag är påsken över och man börjar dekorera affärerna med Mors Dag saker istället för påskkorgar. En del affärer har stängt på söndag, Easter Sunday. Men annars märks inget egentligen.

I Sverige klär barnen ut sig till påskkärringar (åtminstone när jag var liten... gör man det längre??). Här kommer påskharen, The Easter Rabbit. Jag har ingen riktig relation till påskharen. Påskkycklingar ja. Påskharar nej. Barnen kan åka och träffa påskharen personligen, precis som man kan åka och ta ett snack med jultomten innan jul (på shopping mallarna - så troligtvis pratar man om önskningar med påskharen).

Innan vi hade barn var helgen bara en av flera under våren. Den passerade nästan obemärkt förbi. Inget speciellt ledigt, bara lite mer påskdekorationer i affärerna. Maken som är rätt ointresserad av högtider suckade mest över mina försök att få till någon slags "påsk". Det är svårt att hitta ris till påskriset (det har oftast varit lövsprickning sedan länge på de träd som ens tappar löven) (och det är liksom inte samma sak med påskfjädrar på någon stor, lövig kvist...).

Men nu när jag har barn försöker jag hitta något sätt att fira påsk på det sätt som vi gjorde när jag var liten (hur det nu var...). Åtminstone så det inte passerar obemärkt förbi. I morgon på vår lilla svenska skola här kommer barnen att få vara påskkärringar (fast vi håller dem i vår trädgård, vill inte chocka grannarna med häxor som kommer och ringer på dörren när det inte är sista oktober) (och dessutom jobbar ju alla, det är ju vanlig dag). De ska få måla ägg. Vi ska äta någon slags påskmat. Jag ska försöka få till något påskris. Jag har svenska påskägg som jag ömt sparar år från år som jag ska fylla med något.

Måste kanske blanda in en påsk hare på något sätt också. De är ju trots allt amerikanska medborgare och upplever ju just nu sin barndom här...

Om några år kommer de att tycka jag är helkonstig som yrar om att fara till blåkulla på kvast.

(I just felt like writing in Swedish today)

Updated Thursday:

My little attempt to "påskris"... found a tree with only few leaves...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A drive on the highway

Today I had to go downtown to the Secretary of State office again to do some business filing (yes, just as boring as it sounds).

They have a security guard at the checkpoint at the entrance and his English is so bad that you have to take wild guess on what he is saying (And hope there are further instructions in the elevator on what department is on what floor, because it's absolutely, impossible to understand what he says. But he has a very nice smile and is very courteous. And so far I've gotten to the right place eventually, so I guess it doesn't really matter).

To get downtown I have to take one of the highways. I don't mind American highways any longer (if you had asked seven years ago I would have told you they are c-r-a-z-y). But when you have to go downtown, you have to pass a part of the highway called the "split". This is were two highways merges at the same time as you have several exits - I think there are at one point 12 lanes which are becoming 6 lanes within 500 meters. Meaning cars are switching lanes like absolutely crazy at the same time as the lane you're in might suddenly be gone and you find yourself in between two.

This is where I turn of the radio, tell passengers in the car to shut up, and get into "focus mood", hands on the wheel like in driving school.

I have never seen an accident here, which must be pure luck...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Weather forecast for Sweden on Sunday

Around 7.30 am, the morning sun(is it light yet at 7.30 am??) will disappear behind clouds. Around 8.30 am, there will be several layers of grey, dark clouds. The temperature will fall to just above freezing. The wind will start blowing. From the north. Around 10 am, the snow will start falling. If you haven't seen a tornado over Stockholm, it will happen on Sunday afternoon. By the late afternoon it will be wet, slimey snow everywhere, which will freeze over night.

The rest of the week will be cold, grey and miserable. All spring flowers will hide and the birds will stay home.

JaCal is coming to town!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Swedish radio in the car

I'm downloading podcasts from the Swedish Radio to my iPod and now I'm driving and laughing, listening to "Spanarna", "Deluxe" and "Annika Lantz". Just like at "home". But with sunglasses on and the AC cooling the car. And at a time when I want to hear it.

Sometimes I just love to live right now!

I only wish copyright rules would be simpler and easier so you could hear the music as well. Oh, well, there got to be something for the future as well.

(There is nothing like the "comedy talk radio" at Swedish Radio like here, there is "talk radio", usually pretty political with a democratic or a republican edge - but not the pure fun, current radio talk and just non political talk with an underlying purpose. I didn't know I have missed that so much!)