Sunday, September 30, 2007

Easy salad for lunch

We had lunch at a restaurant today, celebrating the birthday. I ordered my "I-don't-know-what-to-order- and-the-choices-are-way too-many"- alternative.

Chicken Caesar salad.

There is always Caesar salad to order in an American restaurant. They may have slightly different names (Blackened Chicken Caesar salad, Grilled Italian Chicken Caesar salad) - but it's there. Somewhere in a corner of the plastic menu.

They usually come in different sizes. "Regular" usually means "huge-feeds-four-sort-of" and "petite/smal" means "you-actually-might-be-able-to-finish-this".

I found this fact when doing a little online research:

Caesar Salad [SEE-zer] - The salad consists of greens (classically romaine lettuce) with a garlic vinaigrette dressing. In the 1930s, Caesar Salad was voted by the master chefs of the International Society of Epicures in Paris as the "greatest recipe to originate from the Americas in fifty years." (

Anyway, the Caesar salad (the picture) I had today at Mimi's Café was ok. I actually finished it. Celebrating 4th birthdays makes you hungry.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Birth Day

Tomorrow is the Daughter's birthday. Our big little girl. When all the celebrations with balloons, cake and songs are over, and the birthday object is sound asleep, hopefully happy after a good day, I'm going to celebrate too. Myself. Because I did great that day four years ago! Every year I take some time to go back to that warm September day 2003 and my own experience and memories. Trying to recall and remember all those feelings.

I often get questions (from other moms in Sweden) on giving birth abroad, and in the US. "Wasn't it scary?". I guess it's fear of the unknown, depending on what you're used too, that causes these questions. To me, being pregnant and giving birth in Sweden sounds pretty scary... But then I have no idea what it really is like and now I never will. And in the end it's just a matter of slightly different processes.

The end result is pretty much the same.

Scones for breakfast

The Husband made scones for breakfast today. Mm...

Friday, September 28, 2007


I was just about to turn off the computer and grab my book, when I heard a unfamiliar but yet familiar noise... what was that... coming from outside... It took awhile before I realized it was... rain!!

Within a minute it was pretty heavy and very noisy. We haven't seen this much rain since spring (even though we did have a few rain drops late last week).

I browsed to one of the news channels with a live Doppler radar and saw this rain cloud, coming from the north, passing right over us. It was also very clear that it wouldn't last long and no more rain is in sight. And sure enough, after about 20 minutes, it disappeared as quickly as it had come, and the Doppler radar showed it was now south of us.

Sometimes I just love the "weather" here. So easy!

The next upcoming days look pretty uneventful...

TiVo night

Friday night! The best night of the week. A whole weekend ahead.

We spent the evening catching up on some of the season and series premiers that took place last week. We hardly every watch TV "live" these days. We just let SAGE on the computer or the TiVo record things we're interested in and then watch days or weeks later.

I hardly would be able to tell what day a specific show or a movie has been on. This means we're always fast forwarding through the commercials. So each 1-hour show is only 40-45 minutes. Saving a lot of time!

Or adding up a lot of shows I don't know when I will ever find the time to watch...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Makes me smile

This is my favorite song in my iPod right now. It just makes me smile. Colbie Caillat grew up in Malibu, here in California. She made a MySpace page, put up some of her songs, and by word-of-mouth more and more people found them. Soon this song had been played 10 million times. Before she even had a record company... cool!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Husband is home!

Not only is it nice to have some in the house one to scare off the burglars (if he would wake up...), but he brought a suitcase full of necessities.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Silver status

Today I got my upgraded Milage Plus card from United Airlines. I have now been flying so much this year that I've obviously had reached the Premier or Silver status level.

This really isn't anything to strive for. It just means you've spent way too much time on an airplane.

During the years when I flew a lot between Sweden and California I quickly reached the highest level (and quickly lost it during the years I didn't fly as much, being busy with kids). They do come in a bit handy though. I can skip the check-in lines, go quicker through security, have priority boarding, easier access to the good seats - all those small things that actually do make the boring, long "bus" trips to Sweden a bit easier.

I have tons of accumulated miles since the past few years. But I have never managed to find a single trip where I could actually use any of them. So in the meantime I'm just going to enjoy to be able to check in at the Business Class section when I fly to Sweden in three weeks.

Monday, September 24, 2007


In my ongoing look-out for Swedes in my neck of the wood, I've registered on a couple of websites over the years (and I have my very own Facebook group!) (with one member) (me...). Today I got a message through the meeting website

såg att du var intresserad av att joina en svensk expat grupp.
nån sån har jag inte, fast däremot en nystartad dodgeball
grupp, så om du känner för att joina den så går det ju iaf bra
att prata svenska där*.
Ok, I do like meeting Swedes, but I'm not sure I'm so desperate that I'm taking up dodgeball to get to speak some Swedish. Not even sure what dodgeball is. But it was a very nice message. Thanks!

* Translation: "Hi. Saw that you were interested in joining a Swedish expat group. Don't have one, but I do have a new dodgeball group, so if you feel like joining this one you can speak Swedish there"

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Are you going to San Francisco?

Want to come with me to San Francisco for the day? Come along! Get in the car! These are some of the pictures from our trip to the Swedish Consulate a couple of weeks ago.

(remember - you're on car trip - some of the pictures are taken from inside the car at 65 mph... not the best photo situation...).


I'm subscribing to the Swedish-American paper Vestkusten. It comes out with 20 issues every year and sort of look like mini-newspaper. It blends Swedish and English and "news" and information about the Swedish-American community in the western US. I kind of like it I think, it really keeps to it's old style and tradition. But at the same time it feels like a very "odd" channel of information these fast, internet days.

But it's kind of nice to turn real paper pages now and then...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Stockholm the greenest city of the world?

Well, at least according to Reader's Digest. They compared cities and countries to find the most greenest and most livable. Sweden came in fourth in the ranking of countries and Stockholm first in the ranking of cities (the US came on 23rd place on the country list and San Francisco on the 26th place in the city ranking).

But in a online poll* in one of the major Swedish newspaper, 66% of the voters disagree with the question "Is Stockholm the best city in the world?"....

I'm curious to know what city they think should be the winner? Another Swedish city or what other city do they think qualify for the title? I wonder if there is a poll like that - what city do Swedes think is the best in the world? Just out of curiosity.

*The result as of 5.40 am, Sept 23.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Home alone

The house is quiet. The kids are asleep. The Husband is on the other side of the world. There are times like this you really feel like you're home alone. Alone with the responsibility. The grown-up. There are two sleeping individuals who really depend on me working things out. Sometimes a scary feeling.

Yesterday when taking them upstairs for bedtime routines, I almost fell when walking up the stairs. For a brief second I realized that that would NOT be a good idea. Even though my soon 4-year old probably would manage to call dad on the phone (she has called him on her own for over a year now), it would take him something like a day and a half to come back home.

So I didn't fall. That just isn't an option. Alien grass widows don't fall.

Cheap dollars

The dollar exchange rate to the Swedish krona has never been so low since 1996. 6.52 kronor for 1 dollar. Not bad at all!

Well, that is, if you have Swedish kronor and want to by some dollars....

If you're a Swedish alien here, things are getting more and more expensive when visiting Sweden...

But - a great opportunity for friends and family to book trips to California to come visit us! Komsikomsi!

(Picture shows the USD/SEK exchange rate developement the passed 5 years. From

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Great Swedish online shopping

When I was going to Sweden for five weeks this last summer, I stocked up on "rainy day toys" beforehand. I made a big order from and sent it to the grandparent's summer house. It was quick, easy and I didn't have to bring toys from here, and didn't have to sent the grandparents downtown for toys. A couple of puzzles, some play doh, a train set, drawing books.

Five weeks in Sweden in summer can mean five weeks of pouring rain so we had to have a "rain plan"... Now it only rained two days so the kids spent most of the days outdoors, but the toys can be used next year and the upcoming years.

I've used Lekmer before, getting birthday presents for my nephew in Sweden. They even gift wrap! And you get a confirmation mail when things have been shipped etc - it's just been a breeze using them - just like the online sites I'm used to over here. Great when you have a birthday to celebrate in Sweden, but can't be there, and don't want to send things from here, risking it gets stuck in customs or get lost cross Atlantic.

I just got an newsletter from the store, saying the have added more Bamse things. Now, being a Swedish alien with kids, you kind of melt when you see wooden toys with Bamse, or fun things with Pippi...

Anyway - this place do ship internationally if you feel a sudden urge for a Bamse "bultbräda i trä"!

Better Swedish online TV coming up

Sveriges Television, will start sending online TV with better streaming technique this fall - meaning larger window and better quality! Yeah! This will make it even nicer for us Swedish aliens to watch TV online. Maybe the annoying "buffering" problem will disappear...

For us with a computer connected to the TV in the bedroom (well, as in the living room... after all we do have a super geek in the house) I'm looking forward to add Swedish programs to my watch list this fall!

I'm really starting to like SVT a lot!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

One reason to move back to Sweden

The yearly consumption of Champagne in Sweden is increasing! According to a Swedish news article, the Swedes now drink 738 000 liters of Champagne last year and this year the numbers will probably have increased with 25%.

The reason?

According to a trend specialist in the article, this Champagne trend comes from Swedes wanting to consume luxuries for its quality, not for the status the give. Swede feels Champagne is a you that they are worth, just like chocolate and good coffee...

I sure have to test this trend hypothesis when I'm in Sweden in October (and demand Champagne with all my meals!). I'm always up for a glass of Champagne!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Grass widow

I'm a grass widow. That's a wife with a Husband out of town. If you translate the Swedish word directly. Gräsänka.

The Husband is not only out of the house or out of the town. He is out of the country and is in Sweden actually. He has a wedding and a reunion to attend.

We're staying here. It has to be at least 6 months in between jetlags with kids to forget and do it all over again.

Swedish movies in California

In a couple of weeks, October 4-14, you can see Swedish movies in California! At the Mill Valley Festival (Mill Valley is just north of San Francisco), no less than five Swedish movies are being screened (three feature films). Too bad that's the weekend I'm off to Sweden... It would have been so much fun!

These are the movies you can see...

When Darkness Falls
Mind the Gap
Heartbreak Hotel
The Headman and I
The Blue Shoe

Swedish TV on YouTube

Sveriges Television (the state owned TV station in Sweden) has started a YouTube page. They already have a lot of material on their web,, but from now on you can also find material on YouTube, making it easier to embed when blogging...

I just found this clip from 1974, when Abba and other Swedish musicians and well-known people (a the time...) were interviewed on how they felt being "idols"...

Check out SVT's YouTube page here!

Monday, September 17, 2007

America at home

I got an e-mail from IKEA on the project "America at Home", a photo documenting project, documenting Americans' life this whole week (IKEA is the main sponsor). Anyone is free to participate (that is if you live in the US).

Ever day the next week there is a new photo assignment and you can upload your pictures to their website. It started today - but I didn't read the e-mail until tonight. We'll see if I manage to take any pictures tomorrow. Tomorrow's "assignment" or theme is "morning rush".

They're going to map the pictures so tomorrow you can check the map and see pictures from all over the US taken every day.

The project will result in a book, a website and an exhibition based on a selection of the pictures submitted. Cool idea!

Check out the project here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The last to watch the Emmy?

When you live in California you sometimes are the last to see and hear things... At least live. I've already seen the news on who the winners of this year Emmy Awards are. The news papers in Sweden, where it's already tomorrow have had stories about it...

Here I am, in California, the state where the Emmy is actually handed out, and the show isn't even over yet... (that is - the recorded version of it).

Now, how irritating is that... The draw back of time zones...

But on the other hand, I don't have to be nervous for my favorites. I already now that Jack (24) nor House (House) got an Emmy... The only two series I managed to follow last season.

What to watch...

28 new series are premiering on American TV the next couple of weeks. 28. That is four new shoes every day. Besides the already renewed.

I used to be a TV addict. Family life too care of that. Now I'm happy to follow one, or two, shows per season. The question is - what to choose?

I always turn to Rick Kushman - my favorite TV columnist. He and I seem to have the same humor, taste and every time I've followed his advice it's been a success.

Read his advice for this fall's new series here.

He is giving four stars out of four to Pushing Daisies, premiering at 8 pm, October 3 on ABC (the only show he gave four stars this season). So I guess I'll give that a try.

Check out the preview:

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A blogger meeting

Today I got to meet yet another person I've gotten to "know" through blogging. The blogger Anne-Marie, passed through Sacramento on a Greyhound bus on her way to San Francisco and then off to Sweden. I drove over to the station and we met and hung out for two hours. Maybe not the nicest place in Sacramento (actually, a pretty "un-nice" place...). but we had fun talking about all the stuff you can talk about when you're two Swedish aliens meeting for the first time. Lot's of topics to talk about despite we had actually never met before.

The air condition was pretty effective so after while we went outside to warm up a bit. But got reprimanded by a security guard not to stand on the sidewalk... So we went back inside...

I hope she has a great trip to Sweden and she has a great week there!

The Greyhound Station in downtown Sacramento

A Greyhound bus leaves the station.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Amercian stars in Swedish commercials

There seems to be a trend to bring American stars to Sweden to perform in Swedish commercials. I wonder what the hard core sales facts are - do American Hollywood stars sell more? The latest star is Richard Gere who will do commercials for KappAhl, one of the major apparel chains in Sweden.

He is not the first for KappAhl - Dustin Hoffman has done commercials for them earlier. Take a look!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oh, "glorious" childhood...

This is for all Swedish aliens brought up in the 70s.... remember Boktipset...?

(for non Swedish aliens brought up in the 70s - this is the weekly "book tip", one of few "child programs" in the not so glorious 70s in Sweden... if you were a child during the 70s, you know that intro song by heart...).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

EFTI in California

"One picture by hour" (Ett Foto i Timmen) is a Swedish photo project that I kind of like. A couple of times a year lots of people take one picture each hour every day and then share their day in photos. I've been thinking I should try it out - and today was an "EFTI" day.

So of course today was a pretty boring day, and many of the pictures turned out bad. But anyway - here is our EFTI day in California!

(I've done it as a slide show in Picasa that should play as soon as you hit play)
(No, that didn't really work out, unless you had quick eyes like Superman or something... now you need to click forward yourself - but then you might have time to read the captions...).
(No, it still speeds through the slide show pretty quick - too tired to solve this problem now, time to go to bed...)

IRL socializing

Ok - there might be Facebook poking, but nothing beats a cold Italian Raspberry Soda at Borders with a new friend. Add two Amelias* (Swedish magazines) to the mix and you have a perfect Tuesday night activity.

Yesterday I met up with a new Swedish friend - we have found each other through this blog. After commenting for awhile she figured that I must live somewhere not too far from her. We spent the evening talking about "alien stuff" - visas, flying with tons of suitcases, bilingualism. And the amazing fact that there might only be 9 millions of us Swedes, but you can find us in the most unusual places!

Now we can exchange Beck movies, books and magazines and will hopefully scare the Mountain Lions when pole walking (a technique known as Nordic Walking I just figured out when going online to see where you can get poles - I guess we have to find Viking hats to complete the look).

(*Holding an Amelia in her arm was Veronika's clever way on how we should find each other and then she let me have them! Joy!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Today six years ago

September 11. Six years ago today I woke up from a phone ringing really early in the morning. After awhile I realized it was my cell phone, ringing at 6 am something. I decided to ignore it, must be some confused Swede wanting to talk to me, unaware of time difference, but it kept ringing.

By the time I found the phone in the hall I had missed the calls. Then the Husband got an sms on his phone next to mine. I thought this was weird, and just got a bad feeling and did something I normally wouldn't do, I read his sms. "Scary things going on over there!" was the message from one of his friends in Sweden.

I decided to turn on the computer and check the news. Usually when we have pepole call and weird hours it has been an earthquake somewhere in California and the family worry.

But I couldn't get to any of the news sites. They were all overloaded. A feeling in my tummy made me turn on the TV instead to check the news. The local channel, normally showing the first hour of the morning show at this time, was now showing news feeds from CNN.

I wasn't sure I was really awake, but it looked like both of the World Trade Center towers were on fire.

I called out for the Husband, still sound asleep, to tell him something weird was going on. By the time he got up, the first tower fell before our eyes. It was 6.59 am in California. We still were not sure what we were seeing, just barely awake still.

Still in pajamas we spent the next couple of hours confused, trying to get in touch with the Husband's sister and husband then living on Manhattan, figuring out what was going on, trying to call family in Sweden to ensure them that we were ok, far from any real action (they were, the Brother-in-Law watched the tower fall from his office window). Phone systems were over loaded. We finally got through using an internet phone line and had family do phone chains to those we couldn't get hold of.

My Husband took off for work eventually. Only to come back a couple of hours later, work having been canceled. For several days the big channels didn't broadcast anything but news. No commercials. Only news.

My mom was supposed to arrive from Sweden two days later. She arrived 7 days later since there were no planes in the air for several days.

The other night we watched the movie United 93. It's about the plane that didn't hit a building that day, September 11, 2001, but crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. The movie is more of "documentary" sort of, and maybe not the best movie I've seen. But it did bring me back to that September day, and the feeling of total confusion those first few hours, those first few days six years ago.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Swedes get social on Facebook

Facebook has been exploding in Sweden the past few weeks. Swedes being early adopters of new it-technique and a high penetration of broadband are some of the facts that could explain the Facebook growth, according to an article in one of the main Swedish newspapers today.

But the most interesting analysis in the article is the ethnologist's - Swedes are normally socially shy (no one speaks on the bus or the street), but on the internet, we let loose and happily add our colleague's brother. Most friends win!

And one of her questions is really interesting - will facebooking and inspacing ultimately change the Swedish culture? Will we see Swedes talking to strangers on the subway, happily chatting awake, poking each other.

Now THAT I would like to see.

(Want to poke me on Facebook? I'm Ja Cal there too! I'm not addicted yet... )

Lost SUV

My car is the golden one in the middle. I thought I had lost it on the parking lot outside Home Depot until I found it between these two white cars that tried their best to hide it...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Meeting my stalker

Speaking about new ways to get to know people, let me tell you about my stalker. For years now I've been writing an online private diary for friends and family, updated daily with pictures and videos from our life here, to share with those far away (new way to keep in touch).

My stalker, found our website when searching online for something completely different and started coming back to read. Soon she was reading it daily. For years she has been writing nice comments in our guest book, wished the kids happy birthday and we've been exchanging e-mails.

I turns out we live 576 meters from each other, meaning we can actually walk between our houses (and how rare is that in this country).

Yesterday we met irl for the first time. A very fun and little weird meeting. I felt like a celebrity since she already knew exactly what I looked like and all about our life, what's been going on the passed few years. I was kind of disappointed she didn't take my picture, or there were no paparazzis in sight - haha!

Any way, so sometimes channel confusion is good - it means you get to know new, fun people!

(Oh, and my cute stalker is British and writes a pretty funny blog about being a British Alien in the US).

Friday, September 07, 2007

Channel confusion...

There are days when I think that maybe I should go back to writing old fashioned letters instead... so the communication attempts gets a bit more... tangible... Now I'm communicating with friends, family and new acquaintances through either of my four main e-mail addresses (using Outlook, Thunderbird and webmail interfaces or my smartphone), Facebook, the blog comments (this one and my family one), I'm daily active in two online communities, and I'm writing on a couple of mailing lists...

Gosh, it's channel overload some days! And I seem to mix in what channel I got what message...

Yesterday I was trying to find and reply to a message from a new Swedish speaking mom in my neck of the woods. We had found each other through, but the e-mail through their contact service bounced, I found her blog, but couldn't comment, couldn't find her e-mail address, but then she wrote me a message on Facebook where she had found me. I'm still not sure in what e-mail I have her phone number (since calling obviously would have been the easiest way), but at least she has mine now.

Phew... And I'm a pretty structured person...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Good news #2

The Swedish Tax Authority has finally given up on trying to tax me. The game between tax authority is over. California - Sweden 1-0.

The Swedish tax authority has claimed I should be fully taxed in Sweden (even though I don't live there anymore) and the Californian tax authority thinks I should be fully taxed in California (since I live here (a bit more logic to that argument)).

Result = I have had to pay taxes in two countries. Now, I don't mind paying (too much) taxes in general, but doing it twice is a bit too much. Especially since I'm not even a part of the Swedish social security system any longer (... since I don't live there any longer).

But finally, after sending forms, letters, documents, copies back and forth over the Atlantic, today I finally got the final decision on my 2005 taxation from Sweden. Taxes refunded, no taxes should be paid in Sweden.

Tack för det Skatteverket!

Good news #1

My bilingual daughter has done her first day in (an all English) preschool. I was a bit worried how she would make it, since her Swedish is still so much stronger than her English. Would she be able to ask to go to the restrooms? What if she got sad and couldn't talk about it? What if no one would understand her?

But she did great! She had talked and talked and totally forgotten about that she was worried about speaking English.

"Lätt som en plätt", as we say in Swedish.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Smoke is in the air

We were almost excited today - thinking we might have some cooling clouds! Until we realized it's smoke...

There is a huge forest fire up north and the smoke is spreading and the air is now really hazy.

This is one of the local news program's report from their lunch report at noon today:

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


All spring, we had discussed how we should solve the "time management" challenge to combine all the fun with having a family and having great jobs and enjoying both at the same time.

We hazily dreamed about maybe, hopefully, sometime in the future having a live-out (we're not yet ready to have a live-in with all the responsibility that comes with that) nanny that could speak Swedish and also perfect English and have experience with being bilingual, who would love to do crafts (as that is the Daughter's main interest) but still would like sports (especially playing with balls) and wanting to do part time and have had experience with preschoolers...

And guess what - this Nanny started today! We'll see if she can fly with an umbrella and has a bottomless bag....

Monday, September 03, 2007

Thinking about cold

This looks pretty nice to me... Even though it's only hale, and not snow... anything under +30C actually seems perfectly fine... (picture suburb of Stockholm today).

The Californian heatwave continues... Northern California will get a small relief in temperature tomorrow, but on Wednesday we're going to be back in the upper 90s (in F, meaning above +35C and higher).


Today is my grandmother's birthday. Or was I should say. Today one year ago, she celebrated her 80th birthday, surrounded by her children, remaining brother and other relatives. She was glowing with happniess. I couldn't be there. One of the downsides of being an alien. Two weeks later her heart beat its last beat.

It feels really weird not to pick up the phone and call her and wish her a happy birthday. Not having to convince her that no, it's not a fortune to call from America and even if it was was it wouldn't matter.

September 3 will always be her day.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Every Sunday the morning paper is heavy from all the commercials. Or heavier rather - it's pretty heavy from commercials all week - but Sunday is the "peak day".

But no matter what season - the sneaker sale is always going on. All major stores always have one spread focused on sneakers. Usually white.

I sure would like to see some statistics on the number of white sneakers sold in the US.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The war is on...

It's Labor day weekend. The end of summer and the beginning of fall (not weather wise... the sun has no idea it's supposed to be fall - we had yet another 100F day today). Even the ants know it's fall - they've started their attacks... they always come in fall.

We woke up this morning to find them in the living room. All over the living room.

And even though we're ready and we WILL win this fall's war - it's not how we want to start our Saturday morning... The war usually goes on until about Christmas, and the attacks usually comes when you least expect it.

I sure hate these little nasty things... they steal my time and energy...