Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Happy birthday, Arnold!

Our governor has turned 60. Must have been a low key event, it didn't make to many headlines and his own website didn't even mention it. Maybe he wanted it all to be a low key thing...

No reports of a wild party (actually he is said to have celebrated his birthday in the Bay Area with a political fundraiser...), but then we're in the middle of budget season (the budget process in this state is one, messy, long story...).

(Picture from Wikipedia).

Monday, July 30, 2007

A very Swedish dinner...

Ok, so I got the cans and we decided to try them out for dinner (the ones with "lobster sauce"). The Husband (the chef in this family) made home made mashed potatoes.

It actually wasn't too bad.

Even though it felt a bit strange to eat "fiskbullar" for dinner with +35C outside...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sometimes I wonder...

I went back to IKEA tonight to get some extra things for the closet. I go there just 30 minutes before closing, but the store was pretty busy. Even though it was only two days since last visit, I had to pass by the Swedish food store... and now I saw something I missed Friday.

Fiskbullar (fish balls).

I just had to get three cases. However I''m really curious WHO exactly, except Swedish aliens, who buy fiskbullar at IKEA??

I didn't really like it in Sweden (but of course these things change when you're an alien, now I might even like "messmör" just because it's Swedish) (no... maybe not that extreme).

Anyway. I think the kids should know about "fiskbullar". It's par of their cultural heritage. "Finish your plate, kids!".

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I'm going crazy!

Ok, so today we spent reorganizing and rebuilding three closets in the house. It is time for new storage solutions. We needed hang tracks, shelves, rods etc etc. Not too easy in the first place, to get all the pieces together (especially since we were doing three closets at once).

And we quickly started going nuts over these measurement units! Ok, there are three - 3 - countries in the world who has yet to officially use the metric system. Liberia. Myanmar. And the US...

We used ClosetMaid's own website to try to figure out what pieces in what sizes we needed, and a metric/US customary unit tape measure - and - a calculator - to our help . But not even ClosetMaid seems to have decided on weather to use inches or feet and kept blending these two freely, making poor metric-using-aliens go absolutely nuts.

The complete insaneness in this system...

Finally we got the material we needed (we think... we're not done... doing the measuring thing too way to long, only one closet is done...) and the Husband could take off for Home Depot, the mecca for home builders...

I have to figure out a way to make my kids be measurement bilingual...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Almost like home...

I spent the day at IKEA. Isn't it so weird how a plain store can make you feel so strangely at (your old) home, even though you're far away. Because everything at IKEA looks exactly like it does in Sweden.

Sometimes I almost jump when they speak English at the check out counter... and I always find it so funny when I have to pronounce the product names in "American" for people to understand me. Sometimes I get so gigglish at the whole situation. Proably making people think I'm even a more alien than I am...

Anyway, got the stuff I needed for tomorrow's big storage project. And of course a bag from the food shop filled with Swedish food essentials.

Good morning!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Seing different things...

I spent the evening Skype chatting with a dear (Swedish) friend in another part of California. She had just gotten an e-mail with attached photos from her cousin's wedding, a wedding she, as an alien, unfortunately could not attend. She forwarded the pictures to me, and we looked at them at the same time, on two different computers and she told me about her family in the pictures.

The interesting thing, part from new techniques making new kinds of dialogs possible, is that we, as aliens, probably saw things in these photos no one else saw...

I immediately noticed that there was a Swedish IKEA catalog in a basket next to the sofa chair in which my friends' sister was sitting...

... the fantastic Marimekko curtains behind my friend's niece in another picture....

... we both tried to figure out what food was on the niece's plate...

... what kind of "fika" the family was eating on photo from a patio...

There can be lots of things to see in photos... if you look with a different eye...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The lack of politeness

A great book to read if you're an alien in the US is Bill Bryson's "I'm a stanger here myself" about his experiences when returning to the US after several (20!) years in the UK. It's a funny book about American phenomena. Almost a "must" for aliens...

Today on of the foreign correspondents of one of the major news papers in Sweden, Dagens Nyheter, writes about his experiences coming back to Sweden after several (4) years in the US. George Cederskog writes a really interesting article of some of the Swedish phenomena you almost are not aware of if you haven't been away, getting other experiences, and then coming back.

The article is called "The total lack of politeness" (freely translated) and he writes among other things about getting doors in your face... I will always remember all the doors that hit me in Stockholm when I came back after a university year in the US, where I got used to always, alway hold the door for the next person (even if she is several meters away)... It took me a couple of months to remember to keep my hands up, ready to catch the door from the person in front of me...

I do like the ending of the article so much I just have to paste it here even though it's in Swedish.

"Att med så här bred pensel generalisera om tre hundra miljoner respektive nio miljoner människor är förstås omöjligt, djupt orättvist. Men jag har ännu inte mött någon svensk som har bott i USA utan att reagera på dessa skillnader. Det är så enormt mycket som vi underuppskattar i vårt land, så många enastående saker vi slött tar för givet. Trygghetssystemet. Allemansrätten. Barnomsorgen. Kollektivtrafiken. Den humanare straffskalan. De kostnadsfria skolorna. Allt det fantastiska i Sverige borde applåderas högre, tänker jag numera ofta. Vår beundran för USA borde samtidigt riktas mot helt andra områden än enbart den obscena stjärnkulten i Hollywood, den ekonomiska hungern och privatiseringsivern: den sociala välviljan och frimodigheten till exempel - allt det där som gör vardagen så många grader varmare där."

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Am I the only one?

This Friday the Simpsons movie premiers. I realized I have never even seen one episode from start to finish... I hardly know the names of the characters. I do know that it all takes place in a city called Springfield (and Springfields all over the US has been competing to be the "official" Springfield city, and Springfield in Vermont won). (**Update.... and the Swedish "Springfield" is Oskarshamn...).

I actually do have the first three seasons on DVD. A Swedish friend, totally addicted to the Simpsons, gave it to me as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago. I almost ashamed to say it's still in it's plastic cover...

I just realized this series is going on its 18th year... 18!! Maybe I should sit down and see an episode just to keep up with "common knowledge"... Since the DVD box was bought in Sweden it might even come with Swedish subtitles (or as they say here, closed captioning)...

And just that could be fun for a change...

Monday, July 23, 2007

7.39 pm and +39C

It's half past seven and it's still +39 degrees outside... Opening up the windows is unthinkable tonight. It's going to be way past our bedtime before it's cool enough...

What did people do before air condition?

Maybe they emigrated to Sweden?

Honest Swedes

According to research made by Reader's Digest, Swedes are the fourth most honest people (beaten only by Slovenia, Canada and South Korea).

At least honest in the sense that we would try to return found cell phones (placed by the magazine). Good to know that my chances are pretty high to get my cell phone back should I forget it in Stockholm.

However I'm still waiting for that phone that was stolen in 2002...

Picture from Nokia.com

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Shut the door!

When you have your house cooled by AC, you better keep your windows and doors close. Every grade of cool are has taken long to achieve (not to mention the cost) and you don't want to loose it by opening a window. This means that we hardly ever had our windows open during summer. And this feels so... weird... In Sweden that is a sign of summer that you can finally open up your windows (and let the mosquitoes in...).

Sometimes I wonder if the flies know that it's cooler inside... I have a distinct feeling they're waiting by the patio door considering the amount of flies that gets in during the few seconds this door is actually open (when someone is passing in our out).

Every night we constantly check the thermometer. As soon as the outdoor temperature is lower than the indoor temperature, we can open up!! In summer this is sometimes way past our bedtime...

Stockholm by Orup

I like the Swedish artist Orup a lot, especially in the summer...) and got a CD with his collected music when in Sweden earlier this summer. So now I can listen to funny songs like "Stanna hos mej" and "Hellre jagad av vargar"...

I just found this on YouTube... And you'll see some of Stockholm in it too...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ice cream indulgence

We went to Coldstone Cremary today for some ice cream. Now this is a place where you can get some pretty good ice cream... and especially a pretty nice combination of toppings and additions to your ice cream.

I ordered a Chocolate Devotion.

Chocolate ice cream, chocolate chips, brownie and fudge all mashed together...

Now I have my chocolate needs all satisfied for the next... hm... two weeks?

Talking about books

So I'm a book worm... I just have to read! I read "fluently" in English, but it's always special to read Swedish books. Not only because of the language, but the surroundings in which the stories take place. I especially like books that takes place in Stockholm (of course), and read paragraphs about how people move around in the city, where they live, what places they visit with extra interest...

Everytime I visit Sweden I stock up on paperbacks and always make sure I have enough room them in my suitcases. Unpacking the bags when coming back is a little like Christmas Eve. And even though I'm a fast reader, I try to read the Swedish books slow, slow...

These are a few of the books that I managed to jam into my suitcases during my summer visit a couple of weeks ago...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Now, where should I pick up the book?

Tonight it's Harry Potter night. As in the rest of the world. We're almost last out here in the pacific standard time zone... The Swedes will have had 9 hours to read the book once we'll get it. In New York, they have already started...

I'm a Harry Potter-fan. There is something about this magic thing that I really like. I wonder what I would have thought had I been a pre-teen (but as they say, "always young at heart"...).

Anyway, since I didn't order it through Amazon, to be delivered with Fed-Ex like book 5, my options tonight is to either go over to Borders (like book 6) to pick it up or drive over to Safeway, a grocery store open 24 hours that also will release it at midnight. Probably without the long line at Borders... But then, also without the magic... We''ll see.

Still a couple of more hours.

The interesting thing is that in Europe, they're releasing the book with two covers, one "adult" and one "children"... Maybe European adults are more picky on what they want to show off they're reading.

I actually like the American cover version more (the one at the top in the column to the right). I just love the illustrations by the artist Mary Grandpré (check out her website for some more of her work).


I headed to Borders just to see all the people - kind of fun to see this plaza, normally deserted at midnight full with people. Then I drove over to Safeway to pick up the book and got one of the three books that were left...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

How can she walk?

I watched the "documentary" on Victoria Beckham's arrival in California on NBC tonight... It wasn't well received by the critics (surprise!).

I'm amazed how this woman can walk without tripping over - she is not wearing anything less than 10 cm heals. All the time... Even when she is pitching for the Dodgers...

The funniest part is when she meets her "neighbors" who has invited her over. That part starts 5.30 minutes into this video...

Do people like that really exist...??

A phone from far away

I got my new cell phone by mail today. I ordered it from Sweden. I'm completely addicted to the Swedish T9 dictionary when sending text messages, and US phones don't have Swedish included for some unknown reason (who doesn't want to send messages in Swedish??).

I've gone through a lot of phones and pdas. For the second time I'm attempting a smart phone.

My account at AT&T (former Cingular, a name I liked far better...) will have to be upgraded so I get access to the (very limited) services available.

And finally I might be able to return some sort of a MMS message to my friends and family in Sweden who keep sending me these with their cool 3G phones (I, in this stone age cell phone country, get a text message with a link and have to get to a computer and log on to a website to be able to see).

That's next step in communicating with family on the other side of the world, to be able to send instant pictures of what's going on over here...

Time for an update

I've decided it's time to update the blog, changing the template, links and pictures. Since I get interrupted all the time, it might take me a while to get it all done. So if things looks really weird, I'm away tending to someone who needs attention. More attention than the blog...

Hopefully you'll like it when I'm done.

**Update** Not too bad, I made the transfer in less than an hour, phew - all done! The widgets seem to have some problems loading in Microsoft Explorer - another reason to switch to Firefox!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


We had clouds today! Lots of them. Actually all morning was kind of gray. That's when we head outdoors, to enjoy the cool air and to actually spend hours outside without getting toasted. It's so rare in July it actually makes the headlines...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A cat to avoid

I saw mountain lions at the local zoo today. "Oh, look at the cute big kitten", the daughter, whose favorite animal is cats, said.

Hm, I replied.

Now, this is a type of a cat that I would NOT like to meet when on and about. However much I do like cats too. They look... evil. I think I actually would prefer meeting a fuzzy male lion.

More than half of California is mountain lion habitat.

Mountain lions typically avoid people the sign at the zoo said. And if you happen to meet a mountain lion, the recommendation is not to run; instead, face the animal, make lots of noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms or your clothes. You're free to throw rocks or other objects.

Note to self.

Do not run. Look bigger.

(Picture from The Californian Department of Fish and Game)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Season shopping online

Ok, so in theory I understand the retail seasons. And that they follow some kind of a norm that works for the whole country, despite different climates.

But sometimes I go nuts. Where I live the summer lasts until October. Until then we walk around in sandals, go swimming and wear summer clothes. I don't care that the "back to school" season has started and that "fall" is here soon in some parts of this huge country.

It's summer! And I need a beach umbrella!! A simple, easy beach umbrella in any color. And I can't find it anywhere. The stores are filled with pencils and school backpacks. I've given up and are researching online stores.

I still have about three months worth of use for one.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Since I work from home and am married to a (dear) geek, we have lots of computers in this house. Lots.

My main computer, my "hub", who has been faithful to me for the longest time, was time to send to computer heaven today. And even though I consider myself being pretty ok with computers and having my own in house IT manager, this is tedious, boring work...

Just getting my iPod to sync with a new computer, without loosing all data on it has been taking way too long... I don't even want to think about all problems I will get when moving Outlook my .pst-file. Oh, well. Life these days. It still beats pen and paper and LP discs.

I'm now getting the fastest computer in the house (why does the Husband look a bit green... did he eat something bad?).

Not that it will help me write faster e-mails or talk faster on Skype when communicating with friends and family. But still.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A princess day

Today, on France's national day, Sweden's crown princess Victoria (meaning the one who will become queen in the future, if nothing unforeseen happens, such as Sweden turning into a republic), is turning 30 years old.

I remember when she was born. Amazed by a princess' arrival. A Swedish princess. I hope she a has a good day and will be able to catch a private moment or two amiss all the public celebration...

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's getting faster

According to the magazine Fast Company, Stockholm, Sweden, is a "fast city" to work, live and play in. It's kind of neat that Stockholm, with it's less than 1 million-something inhabitants, made the list. After all it's a list of the just 30 fastest cities - in the whole world.

The city where I live now almost made the list. It's a "On the verge" city. Seems I'm sticking to "fast" places. What ever that means.

A "fast city" according to Fast Company:

It starts with opportunity. Not just bald economic capacity, but a culture that nurtures creative action and game-changing enterprise. Fast Cities are places where entrepreneurs and employees alike can maximize their potential--where the number of patents filed is high, for instance, or where the high-tech sector is expanding.

The second component: innovation. Fast Cities invest in physical, cultural, and intellectual infrastructure that will sustain growth. //

Finally, Fast Cities have energy, that ethereal thing that happens when creative people collect in one place. The indicators can seem obscure: number of ethnic restaurants, or the ratio of live-music lovers to cable-TV subscribers. But they point to environments where fresh thinking stimulates action and, by the way, attracts new talent in a virtuous cycle of creativity.

(Andrew Park, Fast Company, July/August 2007, page 92)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

He is here!

Or should we say "they"... Beckham and Posh. They finally arrived in California after months of anticipation. It's going to be interesting how much he can do for soccer in this country. LA Times says "Beckham's arrival rings in new era for soccer in the US". Well, at least People, US and other American gossip magazines sure have gotten new material to write about.

But why does it feel a bit... hm... I don't know... interesting that Herbalife is the main sponsor on LA Galaxy's shirts... On the other hand, The LA Galaxy's mascot is "Cosmo" a frog-like extraterrestrial.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Meet the Swedes?

(Thanks Miranda for the tip, and yes, a lot of the things in the video is accurate...)

Californians in Sweden?

According to the news, Sweden is becoming more and more popular as a tourist destination. A growing number of Russians and Chinese are traveling to Sweden...

I wonder how many Californians decide to choose Sweden a the destination for their vacation?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A little zoo in the garden

John Cleese's California home, Stalloreggi in Montecito, is for sale. For the little sum of $28 million dollars you get a 16-acre ranch. Swimming pool is included. The ranch has been used to "keep a good supply of friendly animals", according to Cleese.

Considering the state of our back yard my next living should probably be a condo with a balcony with plastic flowers.

But then... if you get a $28 dollar house, you should be able to keep a couple of gardeners to help you out.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Fire season

Summer is the fire season in California. It takes almost nothing to start huge forest fires. They're quick, unpredictable and very, very dangerous. So far I haven't been close to one. A couple of years ago three huge fires were roaming around us, the fires in a safe distance, but the smoke pushing in over the city from all directions. We woke up thinking we lived on planet Mars, the sun only barely shining through the thick layers of smoke, transforming the world to a very orange place. The air was so bad we were recommended to stay indoors and turn off all ventilation. And so we did. Until the delta breeze came blowing, clearing up the air.

This is a picture of the sun at 4.20 pm, October 14, 2004.

The very non-online-banking

Today I got a check from myself in the mail. It was the result of my attempt to do an online transaction (see Saturday's post below). Now I have to go back to the bank to deposit the check into my account.

I just have to focus on all the job opportunities I'm helping to support.

Next time I'll just write a darn check to my self in the first place.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A hot recommendation

If you have forgotten to thaw the frozen blueberries and raspberries you're going to serve on top of the ice cream for dessert, and think a quick way to do this is to put the bags with berries outside, where it's still warm after yet another hot day, on top of the patio table - this is not a good idea.

Especially if the patio table is made of glass. And it's been outdoors in the heat all day.

Your berries will be thawed but you will have pieces of glass all over the patio when the glass surface on the table cracks from the major temperature difference.

Just a little recommendation...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"Online" banking

I've use online banking in Sweden since 1995. I can't even remember last time I visited a Swedish bank. I do everything online, check my accounts, pay bills, transfer money. I even communicate with the bank through online services. The Swedish bank that is.

When we came here we had to get used to get back to check writing. Eventually our Californian bank offered online banking and we could finally stop writing checks, most of the times.

A couple of days ago I transfered money online from my Californian company account to my private account. Same bank, actually same physical bank office. The money was promptly taken out of my buiness account, but seemed to never show up on my private account. So I went to the bank today (of course open on Saturdays) to figure out where the money had gone, if they were lost in cyberspace.

It was worse. The money was lost in paperspace. See, even though I did a transfer online, the only thing I did was to ask someone in the bank organization to print a check, send it to my bank office by mail, where they will open the envelope, manually type in the transaction and deposit the money into my account, a process that takes about a week.

I would say this is very much non-online-banking.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Time to barbecue

We barbecue a lot. Fridays or Tuesdays or any other day. All year around. Since the barbecue is never covered in snow or ice, it's never a problem to grill steaks on the fire on the patio outside the kitchen. You (the Husband) just open the patio doors and start cooking.

The hardest part is to find steaks small enough.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

107 F

It's hot.

It's like walking around in a sauna. With clothes. And no cold lake around.

Today we hit 107 F (+41C).

We actually went to the lake to try to cool off today. But "cold" is not what you can call the water. But for awhile we felt somewhat cooler. Somewhat. Then we quickly returned home to the cool AC air. We have +28C indoors.

Nice and cool.

Who would have thought I would consider +28C to be cool...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Swedish Midsummer vs American 4th of July

It's the Fourth!

Despite opinions about the US and Americans around the world, you can't say that Americans aren't great at celebrating. They sure know how to throw a big party. Sports events are fantastic and fun (have you ever heard of baseball hooligans??). There is always a good reason to run a parade through town.

Today is 4th of July, the celebration of independence and other from an American history viewpoint important facts.

Most people will put up American flags, throw hamburgers on the barbecue, light fire crackers (no fireworks except the official) and hang out together with friends and family. Just as Swedes in general aren't really that aware of what June 6 stands for - but the difference is that at least the Americans will celebrate and have fun today, compared to us lost Swedes who still have no idea what to do with our "national day".

Yes, we will barbecue, eat marshmallows and hang out today (no fire crackers however.. I prefer fireworks). You got to take every chance to have fun!

(We also celebrate important days such as "Kanelbullens Dag", eating cinnamon rolls and Våffeldagen, eating Swedish waffles...)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Unpacking is boring

Five weeks worth of packing is about to move back from three suitcases to drawers, washing machine, cabinets and boxes. Rain clothes are to be stowed away until October, new paperbacks to be organized into the bookshelf.

I've been unpacking for two days now and I'm still not done. It feels I'm just moving piles around to new places.

Maybe I can blame the heat?

Monday, July 02, 2007

It's hot

I've almost forgotten how hot it can be. Phew. Even though we had great Swedish summer weather during our 5 weeks in Sweden, it was never really hot.

This is our weather forecast the upcoming week. 100F = +37C...

Sunday, July 01, 2007

You may call me Supermom

I made it.

26 hours door-to-door.

On my own with one cute, but stubborn 3,5-year old and one cute, but loud and insomniac 11-month old. 2 flights and a 5-hour stop over in Chicago.

If you want to know how to build houses out of air sick bags or other traveling tricks, just ask (I didn't know I knew either...).

Flying alone with small kids is hard work. There are only few seconds you can let your guard down. You have to be mentally and physically ready, take a deep breath and just count down.

Now I need a vacation to recover.