Saturday, May 31, 2008

The perfect summer day

When you're Swedish, you patiently wait through darkness and cold during the winter for that perfect, glorious summer day that makes the wait all worth it.

Today was such a day.

Bringing my alien kids here (and going through jetlag hell...) seems all worth it when I can give them a day like this. The perfect Swedish summer day. We might live in California and be used to sun and blue skies - but this, this sure is special. I hope my kids will learn to appreciate it, because this is not their life, they don't know about waiting for months to take off your shoes and walk barefoot through the damp grass in the morning, for the sun to be up so late it never really gets dark.

We have spent the day smelling the lilacs, hunting down the best pine cones, checking for wild strawberries, counting all the boats go by on the water, listening to all the birds singing and feeding their baby birds in the wooden nesting-boxes, getting the evening bath in small tubs outside on the wooden patio in the warm evening sun.

The perfect Swedish summer day.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The weather

Things are slowly returning to normal and I'm almost considering I might bring the kids on a cross Atlantic travel again. Almost. In 10 years or so.

Anyway, you can't blog from Sweden and not write about the weather. My parents check the weather report several times a day - the weather report in the morning paper, on the radio and in all the news broad cast.

The big talk here right now is the weather - since it's unbelievable nice. You really couldn't ask for more in the end of May. All those dollars spent on tickets feels worth it (almost...).

I am without doubt the person in Stockholm most dressed. I still have to get used to that +24 means "shorts weather" and not necessarily "socks weather".

A familiar view for all Stockholmers out there.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pirates in Stockholm!

Today I saw pirates arriving in Stockholm! They were shooting cannonballs!

Actually they were fake and it wasn't pirates... phew... it was the Swedish East Indiaman Götheborg that arrived in Stockholm for a visit. But it sure looked cool.

(you can see more pictures from the ship here)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jetlag from hell

Well, this could probably be a post that I just repeat every year when I get to Sweden and bring the little ones with me for once. My kids doesn't seem to know that they are aliens and are supposed to like travel across the globe. They don't sleep on airplanes and they don't do jet lag.

By Wednesday night, three days after leaving California, I had logged something like 8 hours of sleep. The Son almost as much (or actually as little). It's just totally crazy. Traveling on your own, truly is a piece of cake.

I know it's going to be over. At one point. We probably have 4-5 crazy nights to go.

Oh, well. The Stockholm archipelago really has shown it's best May face. Clear skies, beautiful summer greenery, nice temperatures and just the fantastic, wonderful feeling of Swedish pre-summer.

This is the sight that we were greeted by on our last leg on our trip - the boat ride across the island to the summer house where we're staying (but not sleeping).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

To the other side of the world

The bags are packed. Tomorrow we're taking off for a couple of weeks in Stockholm, Sweden.

Weather forecast isn't looking too bad. At least there is some sun showing on the weather maps.

We have a long trip ahead of us... first stop Chicago, about 4,5 hours away by plane and then Stockholm, another 8-9 hours. Then we have to drive through downtown Stockholm and out in the archipelago and the last part is by boat to the island where we're staying.

On the other side of the world.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Oh, the places she'll go

Today I attended my first American graduation. My Daughter's preschool graduation. The first one in a (hopefully) long run of graduations. She was totally unmoved and was just plain happy. I was totally sentimental (my gosh, I'm going to become one of those embarrassing moms with a kleenex box... ).

I had gotten her a graduation gift, the book "Oh, the places you'll go" by Dr Seuss. Dr Seuss is a very loved children's author I knew nothing about before I moved here. When you read his books, you realize that they are totally untranslatable. A translation would make the magic in his words and rhymes completely lost. I'm so happy my Daughter is bilingual and will be able to enjoy Dr Seuss.

"Oh, the places you'll go" is a great book. All grown-ups should read it. Actually, it probably makes even more sense if you're a grown up.

This is how the book starts;

"You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go. "

Dr Seuss illustrations are fantastic. Just look at this illustration from the end of the book, illustrating the words;

"And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


Actually, I found the whole book being read online (don't you just love YouTube!?). Here is for those of you who have never read this book! Listen carefully when they get to the part about "The Waiting Place"...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How to memorize a number plate

Now and then you hear about a story when a criminal was caught when witnesses remember the license plate of the car criminal used. On my drive into San Francisco the other day I was thinking about this, studying Californian licenses while on driving on the dense highways, wondering if I, in situation of stress and adrenaline, would actually remember a license plate.

Seems I would have a greater chance with a Swedish number plate. They have the sequence "ABC 123" as the system, whereas the California system is "1ABC234" (at least the majority of plates) (and unless you have a "vanity plate" with a specific word). The spacing between the number series and the letter series also makes me think I would easier remember a Swedish plate than a California one. There just is no logic to "3PDQ296". Or maybe (if this ever becomes necessary of course) I'll focus on the "PDQ 296" and just forget about the "3". Then I would at least have gotten 86% of the plate right...

Or I just have to stay out of situations where my license plate memorizing skill is needed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And the winner is...

The TV show American Idol has reached it's grand finale - and the winner of this season was the one I like the most - David Cook. I haven't really been watching, but I've checked out his performances on YouTube the day after.

I actually knew one hour before the show ending here in California that he had won. I was reading the news (having forgotten all about that it was the finale today) on and they had a story on the winner (with a spoiler alert). The American Idol show is only "live" on the east coast. We on the west coast have to wait for three more hours (even though the show is actually done in LA).

Anyway - I turned on the TV and watched the remainder of the show, already knowing the name of the winner.

Here is David Cook performing "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" (one of my favorites!) by U2 from yesterday's show.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

GPS and high rise buildings

On my birthday in January I got a GPS navigator for the car from the Husband. I was only a slightly bit surprised, after all I am married to a geek, and even though I can not remember ever mention the wish for the GPS, I usually get gadgets from him (actually I would be more surpised if I got a diamond bracelet...) (and I sure was first among friends and family with the mp3 player I got for Christmas in 1999*).

Anyway, he installed it in my car and the next day I took off on my trip to Reno.

And I fell in love.

This little device sure is fantastic! Suddenly I can relax when driving in unknown territory - and really, most of California is still unknown - I don't know short cuts or the smartest way to get out of a 7 lane wide highway if I take the wrong exit. Now, I just let my GPS help me out - and she'll take me where I want to go. "You have reached your destination" are the sweetest words.

On today's trip to the Swedish consulate downtown San Francisco, I had programmed the GPS to the closest parking house (see post below). We wanted to be in and out pretty quickly, just picking up the son's passport and then heading back - this week is pretty busy before my departure on Sunday. The Swedish consulate is located in the middle of the financial district, ie where the tallest buildings are.

And today I learned that GPS can't see enough satellites when surrounded by high rises... it totally flipped and crazily screamed out instructions "turn left, then keep right and turn left, not left, right, ahead keep right". In the end we had to turn her off and rely on our selfs, checking street signs and signs for parking. We found a parking house, not the one I had researched in advance, but one we think was actually even closer.

Next time I know to take out the old fashioned map before enter American downtown areas...

(* and just for the record... the Husband has also given me gadgets such as an electrical nail file, a sewing machine and a tea brewer).

Monday, May 19, 2008

New-fashioned maps

Ok - so I have to rush into San Francisco tomorrow to pick up the son's Swedish passport at the Swedish consulate. It's been ready for months, but you need to bring the item himself (even though the picture we took of him last August is very different from what he looks like now), we've postponed it and postponed it. But I really want his Swedish passport with me when I'm flying to Sweden on Sunday. He has already been three times to Sweden on his US passport - but I don't know... just feels good to know I'm bringing a Swede with me too. Alas - SF, here we come!

I just checked the opening hours at the Swedish consulate, and their suggested parking (this is only the second time I had to visit there and I can hardly remember the surroundings). Then I used GoogleMaps and streetview to figure out the best way to actually get into the parking house. Isn't these "new fashioned maps" just fantastic!!

Tomorrow I'll let my GPS in the car know the exact address to this point, lean back and just relax, letting the GPS guide me there. I hope we're in and out of San Francisco in less than an hour and a half...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Miles and kilometers

Despite the race I did yesterday was a 5K race - as in 5 kilometers - the distance signs were in miles... (I just had to stop to take this picture with my cell phone...) (of course you bring your cellphone during the race... who knows who might be calling...). And since I don't do miles yet, I had no idea of the distance during the race - only that a 5K is 3 something miles. The clock was a better way to know approximately the distance to the finish...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I won!

I won my 5K Walk today. Well, I was the only one Nordic Walking - so that means that I must have won that category, right?

It was a lot of fun - but HOT. No shade, no wind, just gazing sun. No idea about the temperature, but it was already +24C when I left the house at 7.30 am. It took me about an hour to do the walk, in the company of iPod music.

I'll definitely do this again. I don't mind being the only one with poles even though I got a few weird stares...

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's HOT

We do get pretty hot here during summer season, so 100F days (days with +37C) are not unusual. But after a pretty cool spring, cold northern winds and low temperatures at night, my Scandinavian body hasn't been prepared for the sudden switch to HEAT.

Today we hit over +41C here and since it was a bit windy - I don't know if you calculate "wind factor" when it's hot... does it make it cooler... or hotter...? - it felt like walking around in font of a hairdryer.

And while eating ice cream in the cool AC air inside (it's on days like this when you think your inside temperature of +26C feels really cold and nice...), I'm packing fleece sweaters and rain boots for next weekend's departure for Sweden for 5 weeks. Though I hope we get nice Swedish summer weather during our stay in Stockholm, we'll be totally prepared for cold and rainy weather. And today I wouldn't mind a little rain and over cast. I know that when we come back in early July, we'll have a couple of months of blue skies and no clouds... so weather is actually what I think the least about.

I'm thinking more about 7 nights of crazy jet lag for the two under 4t persons... of how to get your poor dollars to be worth anything at all... and about this year actually finding time to do all the things we want and meet all the friends we've missed. 9 days to go.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A new (very cheap) travel partner

My belowed travel partner, a Lenovo X40, is reaching his retirement age. He's been with me the past few years, in sickness and in health, but is now ready for a calm life, with constant charging for his tired batteries, far from working with java heavy web pages and huge file organization. He is Swedish just like me, and my plan was to get his replacement from Sweden too, since I really, really, really do prefer to have a Swedish keyboard.

But today we did some research and it turns out you can pretty easily order a Swedish keyboard as a spare part from Lenovo (people do really pour there coffee over their keyboards) and if you order the computer here in the US instead of Sweden, it's a lot cheaper.

A lot.

How about the difference between approximately $940 and $4100*.

(*the approximate price difference on the T61 that I'm getting, always tricky to compare exactly since you have so many different options on RAM,G, GHz, and other abbreviations - but it gives you the rough idea about the difference)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Green salad and an empty hand

I had lunch with the Husband today and we both ordered a salad before our meal. Just like in Sweden you can get a salad before your main lunch meal (even though it's more common to actually go assemble your salad on your own by the salad buffé in most Swedish "lunch restaurants").

The difference here is that a salad, means a salad... a lot of green salad. An occasional tomato, maybe some crutons, but the essence is the green salad - and your choice of dressing. Very important question - "what kind of dressing would you like on your salad?" You usually have 5-6 options.

The Husband always wants blue cheese, I don't want dressing at all, I just don't like it.

Then you get your salad - and a fork. I'm still working on trying to eat my salad with only a fork and look relaxed... It is soo hard not have something in your left hand when eating. When you've used a fork and a knife all your life it's hard to break the habit (even though you might not really use the knife... but it's just... there).

Oh, well, that day will come. I've only been here for 9 years.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

5K Walk

In a spur of a moment, I decided to register to do a 5K race on Saturday. As an online friend said, "what a great way to start boot camp - start with the ending and have it over with". Exactly.

I won't be running. I'm no runner. But my plan is to walk (since you can do the 5K Walk) with my NW poles. How long can it take to walk 5 kilometers? An hour? I should manage that.

The race starts at 8.15 am, which is great considering will might have a 100F day on Saturday (+37C).

And at least I will (hopefully) look good in my new, nice outfit from my new favorite store, Life is Good. How can you fail with a "smile" on your head and a "walk" on your chest?

(And note the interesting phenomena that races are in the metric system (5K meaning five kilometers) and not yards or miles... I LOVE that! I sure can relate to 5 kilometers, whereas I would have no idea how long 3.107 miles is. Finally an area where I can use my metric trained brain!)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Childhood tunes

I was never one of those who clearly stated "my children will never watch TV before the age of 15". And thankfully so, since I, like I assume thousands of other parents, have realized that there are times when the TV is an excellent part of parenthood...

Like at 5.30 am when your the Son is sure it's time to get up.

And I'm really thankful for living in the age of hackable DVD players and easily available region 2 DVDs so you can actually choose what you have to listen too when you're half asleep, wanting to at least sleep until the alarm clock rings (even though we can hardly remember waking up by the electric alarm clock these days, having two irl ones).

I'm sure there is no harm for children's brain development to watch an episode of the Swedish TV-series "Kalles Klätterträd" at 5.45 am

And they really have to practicing their Swedish. At all times.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day in the US. Somehow the American Mother's Day seems much more... serious than the Swedish one? The Swedish Mother's Day feels more... voluntarily. Some celebrate it, and some don't (or has this changed in the past years?). I remember making drawings for my mom on "Mors Dag", and maybe we gave her breakfast in bed, but I don't remember it as being a Big Day (hm... maybe she thought it was and wanted it to be...?).

Whereas here, it feels you more or less have to celebrate it. I found some statistics saying that 94% of all consumers participate someway in the Mother's Day celebration here - and somehow I'm guessing this is way more than in Sweden? Americans are anticipated to spend an average of $139.63 today this year and the total spending is expected to be $15,8 billion (National Retail Federation).

15,8 billion.

That's a lot of money.

The restaurants will be full today with children taking their mothers (and men taking the mother of their children) out for brunch, lunch or dinner. Every magazine have been full of possible gifts and the flower departments in the stores will be empty by closing time.

My under 4ft offspring are too small yet to understand that they are Americans and should come up with a hundred bucks to spend on their mama (despite her being Swedish born, I should be counted in the statistics, shouldn't I??) and if I know my Husband right, he will have totally missed the blast of retail promotion of this special day and tomorrow till be just a regular day in my house.

Oh, well. There is always microwave popcorn - and - the weather is always great on Mother's Day in California.

(Picture of Mother's Day bouquet for $69.99 from

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What happened to quilt cover openings?

Ever since IKEA opened close by we've gotten our bed linens there. I was brought up with quilt covers and have never felt at home with the flat sheet and the quilt over it, the type of bedding more used here (it feels my bed linens are always falling apart when you move around in your sleep).

But I have a clear memory from my childhood (and youth for that matter) in Sweden that all quilt covers had small opening in the upper corners, making it pretty easy to stick in your hands and drag the quilt through the cover and shake it in place.

What happened to the openings? Did they go out of fashion?

Because none of the quilt covers I've gotten at IKEA have these practical openings?? And since IKEA is Swedish, it can't be an American version of quilt covers.

I have yet (despite years of trials now) to figure out the best technique to get the quilt in the cover the easiest and fastest way without being able to stick my hands in. And since we now have a full/queen quilt to cover - this has turned into a major workout ever time it's time to change of sheets (that's the only time I'm glad we didn't get that King size bed a couple of years ago).

I'm seriously considering making my own openings, using scissors and my sawing machine (and I will. The day when I'm sitting here having absolutely nothing else to do. Which will be awhile).

(Picture of quilt cover from IKEA).

Friday, May 09, 2008

New stamps

I headed over to the post office yesterday to ship of a couple of packages and pick up new stamps. Turns out postage rates are going up on Monday. I must have totally missed that information and happily sent my letters to Sweden using a 90c stamp. And since I've gotten square envelope letters in return due to insufficient postage (square letters are more expensive than rectangular ones...) - my letters with 4c to little postage would probably have been returned.
Now I have stocked up with 2c stamps (having to add to to each 90c stamp) and hope to remember to actually attach them too...

Now you know, all of you who are old fashioned and send real letters to Europe. 94c on each letter needed on Monday!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Garbage day

Thursdays are garbage days in our neighborhood. Each Wednesday night we put our big garbage bins on the curbside (currently I'm doing garbage duty since the Husband is still suffering from his bad back pain) - the garbage bin and every other week the recycle bin and the other week the green waste bin. Two trucks drives by every Thursday morning, lifting the bins up with an mechanical "arm" and emptying them.

This is a major event on our street. The drivers of the garbage trucks are greeted as stars.

At least by residents below 4ft.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A REAL roadtrip

Here I thought I was on a pretty nice road trip over the weekend, cruising around three coastal cities in Northern California. Then I read the story of the three guys who are currently doing a REAL road trip.

They're doing 48 states. In 5 days.

They started on Sunday and will, if things go as planned, be done on Friday... They're blogging from the road if you want to tag along. They're driving 24 hours a day and are only stopping to re-fuel and change drivers (and do bathroom breaks I hope). Oh, boy must they be tired of that car by the time this trip is over.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Start of the week?

The other day me and the Daughter were talking about the names of the days and we went through them in both English and Swedish. She kept starting with Sunday and I kept correcting her, starting with Monday. Until I realized that, hm, my little Americanized girl has been taught in preschool about the days of the week and here the week do start on Sunday. And me, being the European that I am, will always start my week on a Monday and end it with a weekend.

Oh, well.

One day she might be teaching her old mama the mysteries behind inches and ounces.

Monday, May 05, 2008


The night before I took off for my coastal weekend, I drove over to REI a few minutes away. REI is a outdoor quality gear/sports store. I'm not really an outdoor sports type of gal, but when I walk into a REI store, I almost wish I was... when you walk around you feel you have to take up mountain climbing or extreme kayaking... you almost feel... sporty...


Anyway, I wasn't there for a camping tent or a triathlon bike - but a pair of good shoes for walking - in warm weather. And I added a fun cap from Life is Good and a REI rain/wind jacket. I ended up using these things a lot during my weekend. And I didn't even come close to a kayak or a mountain.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


On our way back home from our coastal weekend, we made a stop in downtown Salinas for a little walk and a visit to the National Steinbeck Center. John Steinbeck, who got the Swedish Nobel Prize in 1962, was born in Salinas and a lot of his books takes place here an in the surrounding areas (I really like East of Eden). The weather wasn't really on our side this Sunday morning - it was foggy and chilly. But we had fun anyway! All in all - a great weekend - lots of laughs and thanks to the GPS we didn't get too lost...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Road trip in California

We're driving around the coast in my friend's PT Cruiser, using the GPS and Google maps on my Blackberry to find places to go and things to see. We haven't got lost once. But then we have no clear destination, just driving around, enjoying the days. We left Santa Cruz this morning and drove slowly along the coast down to Carmel and then back up to Monterey. I'm having a great weekend!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Santa Cruz

I have arrived in Santa Cruz after my train ride to San José and drive down here. Weather is perfect and we have spent the afternoon walking around, taking pictures and enjoying life! A great weekend! Tomorrow we're heading over to Monterey!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Train ride

Today I got train tickets online - tomorrow I'm leaving for San José and then heading out to Santa Cruz and Monterey with a friend - spending the weekend taking pictures and enjoying the coast. I'm well over due a couple of full nights' sleep after the last few, crazy weeks and I'm so excited.

I haven't been on a train in the US since the early 90s when I traveled a lot with trains with Chicago as my base (that's another story for another day), and since we haven't solved our car issues yet, I'm taking the "Capital corridor" train to my little girlfriends' getaway weekend.

I will be blogging from the road now and then - but depending on time and internet availability regular blogging will resume after the weekend.