Friday, February 29, 2008

Speaking about pants and pajamas in plural...

One phenomena that I've been wondering about is all these American pajamas pants. Most fashion stores has a corner for "lounge and sleepwear" and there you can find, besides panties and bras, great pajama pants. Just the way I like them! Long, wide, comfy. No "snug fit" for grown-ups!

The only thing missing is the.... pajama top! Because here you buy your pajamas pants first and then your top (or the other way around) - never together.

And there doesn't seem to be such a thing as a "pajamas top". If you check the "lounge and sleepwear" section you might find t-shirts and camis, but nothing that, to me, would resemble something like a "pajama top" (and never in the same color as the pants). And these "tops" are always short sleeved (camis are even less than that...). So - long, nice, warm pajamas pants usually in soft flannel on the lower parts- but then a thin cami on the upper parts ?

Maybe I'm a stock conservative Swede, used to cold nights, who wants the same amount of cloths both on top and below when sleeping. Especially on the upper parts since that's the part that usually is mostly not under the cover.

Or are these pajamas pants only considered "lounge" pants, only "for show", and you're supposed to take them off before hitting the sac? Or are you suppose to put on an extra layer on top of your little cami to get a more evenly dressed for bed?

Oh, well. Soon enough I will get too hot even thinking of matching pajamas top, when the 100F days will come our way, more concerned how to maximize the AC effect in the house.

Tapered jeans...

Ok, so Annika, a fellow Swedish-American blogger, wrote about American pants (being worn too short) in her blog today. It reminded me of my constant irritation on the phenomena "tapered pants". This seems to be something American men in particular really like - jeans (or chinos) that goes skinny down by the calf and ankle, but still are loose fit under "upper parts". Maybe this is fashion from the old "cowboy days" and wearing tapered jeans when riding on a horse prevented the jeans getting tangled in the... stirrups?

I don't know why, but I think this is extremely ugly. I don't know if men care as we women do, but I think few mens' "behind" looks better in this type of jeans. My Husband will never wear a pair of tapered jeans when I'm around. I definitely prefer "straight fit" or even "boot cut" for men.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Spring actually arrived here the week I was in Sweden, two weeks ago. And by "spring" I mean the period when "the blossoming trees that loose its leaves in fall gets new flowers".

I have absolutely no hard core statistics (have a total lack of "green thumbs"), but about half the greenery looses it's leaves in fall (at least that goes for our back yard) in our part of California. And you have to remember that California is a huge state - same size as Sweden (and Sweden might be small in population, but compared to other European countries in size it's actually very big). California has several different climate zones and it might be snowing in the northern parts while people are surfing in the southern parts.

I LOVE spring. It's the best time of the year. And I love that it comes in February! 3 months of "winter" is about all I can take these days - spoiled with Californian weather. Now I want to store my socks in a box on the upper shelves in the closet and not see them again until November* !

(*and of course during my summer weeks in Sweden...)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Snug fitting

Ok, here is a post no non-parents can relate too. It's about the "snug fitting cotton pajamas" phenomena in this country...

There seems to be a belief that if a pajamas for kids is not treated chemically with fire retardants, the pajamas is a major fire hazard. So since the 70s, when polyester was the big fashion when it comes to pajamas (and polyester seems a bit more scary to walk around with in a burning house than cotton), all pajamas (and what is the plural for pajamas? the Firefox spelling check keep telling me it isn't "pajamases"... is it pajamas, or should I write "suits of pajamas" or something??) have to be treated with fire retardants. Alas - if you want a cotton pajamas without fire retardant chemicals - you have to wear it snug fit according to the regulation, since this is supposed to lessen the fire hazard when wearing cotton (and of course keep the kid away from candles, fire stones and other open fires when wearing a pajamas).

And snug fit really means snug fit. Have you ever tried to fit a big, Scandinavian descent child into an American snug fit pajamas? Then you know what I'm talking about.

So, on my "purchase lists" when I go to Europe, where the regulations are much more less "snuggly", are new pajamas for the kids. Not necessarily "loose fitting", but at least "fitting"... Of course I want the kids to be safe, but I also want them to be able to move when sleeping...

(Picture of a snug fitting cotton pajamas from Gymboree).

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's tax time

We have spent the evening preparing our taxes. Tomorrow we have a meeting with our lovely CPA. She is like the messiahs to taxpreparing aliens. She is nice, smart, a great explainer and seems to like taxes. What else can you ask for!

Two years ago we had another CPA. They messed up so much the Husband decided to do it himself last year. Luckily I was in Sweden at the time, so I didn't have to keep him company those looooong nights when he was swearing in the home office.

Genrerally we feel that taxes is easier to file here than in Sweden. Historically, we have always done it electronically using TurboTax, one software provider to use for your taxes. Easy, simple, fast - you just answer all the questions the program ask you.

TurboTax doesn't know about people with foreign taxes however. And without TurboTax's help, we're lost. Alas - Angel CPA.

Now we have piles of papers and forms W2, 1040, 1099, and 1098 compiled and copied. We want our CPA to be happy with us. Tomorrow we will gladly hand over everything to her and then sign the complete paperwork in a few weeks.

Thank God for people who love taxes!

(the picture is a screen copy from IRS's webpage... they've tried to insert a picture of a happy family having a picnic (??) on their "tax information for individuals"-page... Nice try...).

Monday, February 25, 2008

American living... I presume...

JC Penny, one of the big department stores here in the US launched a new brand, American Living, showing several of the new commercials during the Oscars last night.

When I saw the first one, I wasn't sure what it was about - could really have been anything - until the last few seconds I was sure it was an insurance ad...

But - American Living is a new brand; "A new tradition in American style for your family and home". It is an exclusive partnership with Polo Ralph Lauren. It seems it will be Polo Ralph Lauren (or a subsidiary) that who will design, produce, market and advertise products in several housewares and apparel categories.

I can't see that that much of a difference from other department stores... lot's of polo T:s for the whole family. Maybe my "Scandinavian eyes" have the wrong glasses on. But if you're curious about "American living style" check out their website...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

An afternoon with the Oscars

The Academy Awards starts at 5 pm in California. I can't say that I was that much involved this year either (but had seen Juno!) - I just don't have not enough time to hit the movies. But it's always fun to watch the award show, especially when you're in a timezone where you can actually watch it live. I turned on the E! channel to watch the pre-Oscar show to see everyone arrive on the red carpet.

The greatest moment of the early evening was when Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for best actress. She was so genuinely happy and overwhelmed that you couldn't be touched. And it felt like this year's Oscar was much more an "international" event than ever before (and I might be totally wrong, I'm not that big of an Oscar viewer). It was really fun to hear all the different accents.

Here is Marion Cotillard's speech to the "Thank you" camera on ABC's website (ABC was the TV channel who broadcasts the Academy Awards here in the US).

(and apparently a Swede actually won a Oscar tonight... I'm so embarrassed to say I completely missed that.. *blushing*... must have been away from the TV... here is Per Hallberg's "Thank you" speech on the ABC website).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Preparing for the storm

We're preparing for a spring storm. The patio furniture have been bundled up, the basket hoop laid down, the sandbox cover duct taped (anyone else out there with a Husband who thinks duct tape is the answer to most problems??).

This storm is not going to be as bad as the one in January (which lasted for three days), but it's supposed to be pretty heavy.

Oh, well. The plum tree almost has flowers and grass is getting greener. Spring sure is here - despite this little annoying storm passing by. Soon we can hide away all the socks!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Nagging little pill

I'm a Graves Disease, post-RAI hypo patient. In thyroid lingo. In plain English it means I genetically had a predisposition to develop Graves Disease (which is an autoimmune disease where you thyroid goes crazy) which can be triggered by pregnancy. So after my first pregnancy my thyroid (a little organ in your throat area...) went completely waco, producing way too much thyroid hormones (which made me loose weight (great!) and have a resting heart rate of 125 (not good...)).

For a couple of months I tried to keep track of 14 pills of medicine five times a day until I had my thyroid removed by radioactive treatment (RAI) in August 2004 (which really is much more simple than it might sound, you basically eat a radioactive pill and wait for your thyroid to die).

Since I don't have a thyroid to produce thyroid hormones and longer, I need to add this by medication. Every day. For the rest of my life. But I'm down from 14 pills five times a day to two pills once a day. Major improvement. But still hard to remember. I should ideally take this medication on an empty stomach before breakfast for maximum effect. I.e the time when I'm the most tired and unfocused and prone to forget.

So now to my problem; I really need a smart, but simple gadget to help me remind me to take these very small, but oh, so important pills and not necessarily on a specific time (since I always hope for a a rare sleep-in and if this happens (against all odds) I do NOT want to be woken up by medicine alarm). And my own brain is obviously not enough.

During the months of 14 pills a day I used a multi alarm Baby-G/G-Shock watch to remind me. But that's a pretty big, ugly clock (at least the ones that had 5 daily alarms). And I only need to be reminded once.

So I find myself browsing websites for pill bottles for seniors, because no one seems to have made a cool "medical iPod-feeling reminder" yet... And the intersting thing is that I'm not all that unique. Thyroid problems for example is actually pretty common, and often means life long daily medication. Why is that "pill reminders" seems to be something targeted for old people. Or is the fact that I keep forgetting a sign that I'm getting old. No, that can't be it!! Have to keep browsing...

(The picture is of the "GlowCap", a medication tracker developed by Vitality to be released in April 2008. No "ipod" feeling, but maybe it will solve my problem).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Jetlag PMS

Ok - I think I've written about this before, but I'm even too tired to search for the post. The week after I get back from my trips to Sweden really is hard. I feel like a zombie and are really irritated.

It's like having a really bad "jetlag PMS". It lasts for days and not even chocolate can ease it (imagine that!?). Despite that I actually manage to sleep through the night, it seems to take forever to turn my body back to California time... Hopefully (my family really thinks so) I'm at the end of it all and will be my ordinary nice self by the time the weekend comes. 8 weeks until next trip...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar eclipse!

Today's lunar eclipse was to take place between 6 and 8 pm here in Northern California. Between 6 and 8 pm is the busiest time of the day in our house. Hungry grown-ups, tired small-ones. But with the promise to the Daughter that she could go outside in her pajamas in the dark to see a red moon, we got things going.

Only to see.... nothing. Despite the sky clearing up in the late afternoon, the clouds lay lingering over the foothills and no moon was visible. Big disappointment. Note to self: next time nature event is coming up, do NOT advertise it to minors before you know the clouds will be cooperating.

But then - at 7.20 pm, the clouds moved away and the moon was visible! We let the Daughter come up from bed and see it through the bathroom window.

We also tried to take pictures just for fun, we really lack good equipment for good moon pictures, but this turned out ok.

So here it is - the lunar eclipse over Northern California!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

9 182 927

That's the number of Swedes 2007 as reported today. If that includes the Swedish aliens is unclear. If not, I can add four from our family; 9 182 931.

9 millions. That is almost like the state of Georgia. Or the city of Chicago (the greater area). Or the population of Shanghai.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I forgot!

I forgot to eat a "semla" when I was in Sweden last week.

HOW can you forget such a thing!

What was I thinking!? Or rather not thinking! Oh, well... next year (I'm not going back next time until April, after Easter, which is the end of the "Semla-season".

Now I really have to make my own...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Home sweet home

I'm so happy to be home. Especially after these quick trips to Sweden, that sometimes confuse more than anything else. I love my hometown, but my home is where my family is. Even though every time I come back I feel at home and a bit lost at the same time. It feels like seconds ago since I walked the streets of Stockholm and just minutes ago since I left for the airport.

I really wonder what it is like to be a "Swedish alien" in Europe or on the US east coast for that matter. When you're only a few hours away from home and sometimes without a single hour of time difference? Is it easier or even more confusing?

I didn't have time for much more than work during my 6 days-stay in Sweden, but I managed to squeeze one quick afternoon for some shopping. Why is it that I think everything is so beautiful and nice? Is it because it's not available every day - the famous "grass is always greener" aspect? Because I have a clear memory of being in love with everything new I could find here when we arrived. And now I have to stop myself from spending a fortune in Stockholm (not only due to the exchange rate).

I only spent a few minutes going through the interior decorating department at Åhléns, and wanted to buy everything and bring back. Oh, how I love Scandinavian designs... good thing I only had two suitcases to pack...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The most boring airport?

I'm at O'Hare again. This must be the most boring airport in the world. Or is it just because I travel through here way too often?

No matter what time of year you pass by, the air inside this airport is hot and humid. Today it is -10C outside, but inside it feels like warm summer. For the first time in a couple of years I can spend my waiting time in the lounge. It's not much better, even though there are nice sofa chairs to sit in. They offer a full bar and snacks. The air is just as bad here as in the rest of the terminal, but at least it's a bit more quiet.

Maybe I hate this place so much because it's just a waiting point? A place I rather not spend anytime at all? When going back home to California I just want to get on that plane and get home as fast as possible and every minute I have to spend here feels like a minute of waste.

Oh, well. Maybe I'll just have another glass of water and another strawberry... soon I'm going to be home.

(before I could post this I ran out of batteries and had packed the adapter in my suitcase...).

Friday, February 15, 2008

A sunny and snowy day in Stockholm

Today was a clear and sunny day in Stockholm. And a snowy day. Within minutes the sun was gone for awhile and it snowed so heavy we couldn't see across the street. Only to clear up and be sunny a little later. Amazing! The sky was so beautiful!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pippi at the Opera!

I just had a fantastic evening in Stockholm with one of my best friends! We had dinner at Operakällaren (really Swedish food) and then saw Pippi Longstocking at the Opera! What an amazing experience! It was fantastic to see this story you've read sooo many time, translated to the opera scene (ballet - not singing). The choreography was so exciting and different and the music was beautiful and fun.

Oh, how I wished I could have brought the Daughter.... A dancing Pippi - what could be better?! Click here to see a little video from the performance.

And visiting the beautiful Opera house in Stockholm, finished in 1782, is an amazing experience just in it self. I have forgotten how much I miss these beautiful, really old buildings...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Old friends and a Danish movie

I had tea with one of my oldest friends tonight. It was great to see her. Amazing how you can pick up from zero despite not having seen each other for so long. She was in the middle of her "everyday" week - hanging out during her daughter's soccer practice whereas I am more on... "family vacation". Seeing good old friends reminds and confirms who you are and where you're from, no matter how many new social environments you might find yourself in. After all, those who have seen you with purple eyeliner and singing along to Ratata, are the ones who really know who you are...

After she went back to soccer practice, I turned on the TV. I like watching Swedish TV if I get the chance during my hectic visits to Stockholm. Tonight I got hooked on a Danish movie. Oh, how fun to hear another European language and seeing Scandinavian interiors and exteriors! It was a cute little movie about relationships - a movie the Husband would have fallen asleep to immediately.

Perfect with tea and hönökakor!

Swedish magazines

I really miss Swedish magazines. When I was standing in the airport shop on Saturday morning in California I couldn't find one American magazine I wanted to buy... Most of them are too much... make up and fashion to me. When I went to the store tonight here in Stockholm to pick up breakfast food for tomorrow morning I just lost myself in Swedish magazines. I love the features, the pictures, the feeling. I really don't know what the difference is - maybe it's just that I don't have them easy accessible.

Oh, well - lot's of nice reading - besides the "leverpastej" and "västerbottenost" and "hönökaka"...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

In Stockholm

Or almost. I'm in a conference place somewhere outside Sigtuna. I didn't have time to pay much attention when I came here this morning since I had a taxi driver that was absolutely scary. He didn't know where we were going (but fortunately I had printed driving instructions), he didn't know what the price should be, he had to stop for gas (!!!) and had obviously been driving all night and almost got us both killed when failing to yield. The other car had good breaks and an attentive driver... and angels were watching over us. The other driver got very upset (understandably so) and got out of his car and threw open the door to the taxi and he and my taxi driver (also in some kind of shock) almost got into a fight. I calmed them both down and since we were not far from the conference place and we were in the middle of nowhere, we continued driving. The second I got out of the car I called the taxi company's switchboard and asked to talk to the manager in charge to take my driver off duty.

I'm used using taxis in Stockholm, the big city girl that I am, and I have rarely had any problems. But this was without a doubt the worst incident... I always make sure I take one of the major companies, usually Taxi Stockholm, but today I decided to use Taxi020. For the first time. And the last.

The flight? It was perfectly ok (despite being long and boring as always) - we were 30 minute early to Chicago and 30 minutes early to Stockholm, I had a 2-seat section to myself on the second flight and lots of movies I haven't seen.

I'm staying here until Tuesday afternoon when I'm going into downtown Stockholm. Not by Taxi020.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Good news and bad news

Let's start with the good! I didn't get my new "Gold frequent flyer card" in time for my departure tomorrow, but I actually got a travel check for $300 from United in the mail today. Totally unexpected actually. I did write a complaint about all the problems I had in Frankfurt on my last trip - not really thinking it would come to anything. In my world, sending something to the United customer service is like sending something to a black hole. But - I was surprised and got a (standard) letter and a check. Only valid in the US so now I have to plan a domestic trip for a change! NOT to Chicago...

The bad news... well, in the post box was also a letter from the Swedish tax authorities with whom I've been fighting the last couple of years to be exempt from paying taxes in Sweden too (I pay them here already and I think paying once is good enough). I got good news last fall- they had finally made a decision that I really was an alien (which I really am, I just happened to work for a Swedish company, but not in Sweden). Or so I thought. The letter today said that they are considering changing their minds. And can I please send even more proof I'm actually paying taxes in the US and more proof that I really am a resident... Sigh. Will there never be an end to this? Having ever been a Swedish taxpayer, it really seems hard to get out of their system... So while packing, finishing up work, I've also spent the evening going through my tax papers...

Chicago, here I come?

My quickest way to Stockholm is through Chicago. Chicago = Midwest. Midwest = winter. Winter = canceled flights.

Last time I had to go to Stockholm through Chicago, I ended up in Frankfurt. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Weather Channel, the weather in Chicago looks ok tomorrow. The flight status looks ok. But who knows...

Just two days ago 1,000 flights were cancelled at O'Hare airport. 1000!! I wonder how many flights takes off daily at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm... And even yesterday 80 flights out of Chicago were canceled.

Oh, when will these beam machines become real and not something out of a sci-fi movie!?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Counting down

Saturday morning I'm off to Sweden again for a quick 7-day stay. These visits are so fast I hardly have time to realize I'm there and by the time my soul catches up, I'm on my way back. I'm really late getting things packed this time around, as usual before my trips, small company fires erupt and I'm busy with the fire distinguisher. Packing will be a last minute thing done tomorrow.

I got a new bag for the Husband for Christmas so this time I'll travel with his old Oigo laptop backpack. I have so much stuff that I need to keep in my handluggage when traveling (the camera, computer, extra battery, iPod etc) I need something big but something to carry on my back. I hate carrying heavy and at the same time I hate having everything squeezed in. A roller carry-on usually doesn't fit under the seat in front of you and I like my stuff close since I always choose window seat. We'll see how this works.

Sigh. Time to fly again.

(And I still haven't got my new Gold card. Bummer.)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Successful business women

Last night I attended an event for business women on entrepreneurship. The main reason I attended was not the content, but the event itself (for all kinds of reasons), but the nice content was a big surprise.

It was an afternoon and evening with only female participants and sharing of knowledge in a informal, formal way. The last session I attended was a panel discussion with three successful business women who owned their own business. They talked about how they had succeeded, their mistakes and advise, and how to find balance in life.

It was really inspiring! These women had had passion, determination - and it was such a pleasure to hear about their successes.

I sat there, thinking if there is something similar in Sweden, where you can talk about your success and be proud of it, and other people get joy and inspiration from your achievements. I sure hope so - because I was in a great mood leaving and so happy for these women.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday

Today was Super Tuesday here in the US. In Sweden it was only "Fettisdagen". In the US people in 24 states went voting today. In Sweden 100000s of people ate traditional "semlor".

It seems Hillary Clinton and John McCain won the state of California, the third largest state in the US, and an important state when it comes to primaries and presidential elections. The turnout of voters in California seems to have been huge. The Californians also had a bunch of propositions to vote on at the same time.

I'm not eligible to vote, but I am eligible to eat "semlor". I didn't however. You can't buy them here, you have to make them yourself, and I was too lazy today. And - you have to keep up on what's going on in the election.

Monday, February 04, 2008

SuperBowl ads

Being a communication nerd, watching the commercials during SuperBowl is always fun. These days it's easier since there are so many websites that collects them all and you can watch them separately, without having to watch the game... Like the NFL MySpace page or Advertising Age's page.

Can't say that very few really caught my mind - I'm probably not the target audience for any of them (lot's of beer ads as usual).

The only one I remember today is FedEx's ad. Who knows, maybe I'll choose FedEx before UPS next time I'm shipping something...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

SuperBowl for Dummies??

Today was a big day here. SuperBowl Sunday! It starts at 3 pm in California (6 pm on the east coast) - a great day to go shopping since the stores are open since it's not a holiday but no one is there because everyone is at home or friends, eating chili con carne, drinking beer, snacking on nachos and watching The Game.

I wish there was a channel who would send the SuperBowl game (the final game of the NFL (National Football Leauge) season) with commentators aimed at those of us who just don't get it... who thinks that this game just is a long, messy game with men pushing each other for hours.

If a nice commentator voice would explain that "now the other team's player is going to run to try over the line and then they will score xx points (or yards or whatever the unit is) and it just looks like they like to pile up here and there across the field, but it's really a lot of strategy and tactic behind this".

Or something.

As now, the commentators or course assume that you know exactly what is going on, who is who and the actual rules, which for us "lost souls" really is more confusing than anything.

I watch the game - or rather - I had the TV on and checked it now and then - mostly curious about the commercials. Oh, and we did have chips and guacamole.

(who won - we'll it was in the middle of bedtime routines - but according to the news it was the... Giants).

Friday, February 01, 2008

Friday thoughts

One of the Swedish families we know here has decided to move back to Sweden. It has been a long process but they (they are both Swedish, just like us) have finally made the decision. This is actually the first Swedes that I've known that decided to move back. I could see that my friend was happy about the decision, coming closer to family and friends and I was happy for her.

I was waiting for my own reaction... would I feel like... moving back too? Would I be... envious? Or how would I feel? And I was happy when I felt... content... I wasn't envious, I didn't feel confused. I'm so happy for them, now getting to live in the most beautiful city in the world, Stockholm. But I felt like this is my home (for now, who knows in 5 or 10 or 15 years, but then who knows anything about what's going on then) and this is my every day life.

Of course I'm going to miss them so much, and their adorable little daughter, but it was the right decision for them without doubt.

And besides... I'm going back and forth to Sweden all the time these days... Next Saturday I'm off for a 10 day trip again. So I'm getting my dose of Stockholm.

And flying.