Monday, June 30, 2008

Home sweet smokey home

We made it.

23 hours door to door.

Gosh, that is a long trip (when are these beam machines becoming reality??). Especially when you have kids with you. Traveling with children means being on constant duty, having to be one step ahead all the time,. you can never really let your guard down and relax. I was totally exhausted - even though I've done this on a regular basis by now. The Husband hasn't been flying with kids since 2005 - and then it was only one - so he was probably even more exhausted than I...

When we finally arrived home, the smoke from all the fires in Northern California wasn't too bad. A neighbor told us that at one point, she could hardly see the houses across the street. Actually the smell of smoke was worse inside the house than outside - nothing that a quick opening of all the windows could clear out.

Oh, how sweet to be back, in your own house...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Going home

Our last day in Stockholm. Tomorrow we're going to try to survive two long flights with the kids, hoping they will show their best behavior as long as possible (I have no hopes they'll sleep much...). We'll be leaving around 6 am Sunday, and will arrive home around 4 am Tuesday, Swedish time, in California.

We're sure curious about what it will be like. According to news reports, all of Northern California is smoke filled with 1000 active fires...

What a welcoming after 5 weeks abroad...

Part of me is sad of leaving. And part of me is very happy to come back home, to our house, to our real life. It sure is going to be nice to stop wondering about the what the weather is going to be like.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Family reunion

Today we gathered the family for a little get-together. When thinking about it, it was more like a family reunion. The last time we were all in the same place at the same time was... our wedding... that's how unusual it is that we are all gathered at the same place at the same time. With expat-parents and a sea captain in the family besides me and my alien family, the chances are slim.

I sure wonder when a day like this will come again...

Life of an alien.

Friday, June 27, 2008

An Old Town meeting

Last year I met fellow Swedish alien blogger Annika (who writes the blog "Life in the Suburb!") on one of the two rainy days we had in Stockholm during our stay. This year I met her on the day Stockholm was the warmest city in the country (according to some statistics I think I caught on one of the numerous news programs). We had a good time eating "smulpaj" at Kaffekoppen on Stortorget, talking about Swedish phenomena and feeling like the only Swedes on the sqaure - at least the only ones who were not there with guides...

And I wanted this picture from Prästgränd to illustrated
this post - but for some reason, Blogger has decided to
rotate the picture. I've redone it, renamned it, reloaded it
- done tons of things with the same result.
So now you have to tilt your head until I figure out while this
picture of all is being rotated.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A perfect Stockholm summer day

We have spent the day at Skansen - a huge outdoor museum/park/zoo in downtown Stockholm, walking around, eating pancakes and meatballs, enjoying the sun, the very Swedish animals, the cute, old houses. Even though you're not far from the city center, you're almost transferred to another time when walking around. Now and then you can catch glimpses of the bustling city around you.

And as the Swedes that we are - we just can't stop talk about how great the weather is - how unbelievable lucky we've been, doing Gröna Lund yesterday and Skansen today and it's been totally perfect...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A day at Gröna Lund

I'm exhausted. I've spent the whole day at Gröna Lund, the tivoli downtown Stockholm. Well, they don't open until noon, so "the whole day" might be exaggerating. I didn't even go on a single ride. I was rather making sure the ice cream with spinkles was being served at the right time. That entertainment was provided while waiting in long lines for the ride "Nyckelpigan". And cheering everytime the merry-go-around completed a circle.

Event organizer. Maybe that is a future career?

Anyway - I love Gröna Lund. The view from here is one of the best in Stockholm and I like the fact that this tivoli is more than 100 years old and that it's in the middle of everything. I'm kind of curious if my kids will cherish their memories from here like I have done. After all, part of their childhood is also "tivolis" 10 times in size - like Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo about an hour's drive from where we live in California. The future will tell. I did my best to make them have a great day today. I give myself 5 out of 5 stars, thank you very much.

(Oh, and I was lying. I did go on a ride. I took a tour on the "Veteranbilarna").

A rare picture of me, on Djurgårdsfärjan, with one
of the greatest city horizons in world in the background.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A very Swedish day

We had errands downtown today, so we loaded the kids in the rented (kombi...) car and headed north. Even though both me and my Husband are born and grew up in Stockholm, we haven't been driving around on a regular basis for years, so we are almost ashamed to say we hardly found our way around...

While the Husband had a quick meeting with a friend I took the kids up to Humlegården (a huge park downtown Stockholm - the closest you get to a Stockholm "Central park") where I had vague memories of seeing a park construction when passing by when I used to live here. It turned out there was a huge "Parklek" ("Play in the Park") with different section for different age groups and packed with strollers, parents, and kids. What a great and fun idea - I had totally forgotten all about Parklekar - and I have never had kids in Stockholm. We all had a blast for a couple of hours.

Once back home and the kids were happily asleep after a hectic day, we turned on the TV and as always these days, these "TV-hallåor" (TV program presenters) makes me so giggly - it's such a fun phenomena. They are always happy and all smiles and introduce you to the next program.

In this case it was "Allsång på Skansen" - a very important TV show during the summer seasons. It's celebrating it's 20th anniversary and tonight was the season premiere. I actually watch it sometimes online during the summers when in California. They do the show live from downtown Stockholm and have great views from my this fantastic city. I don't really care for the artists performing (I hardly know half of them) - but I do care for the views...

The Daughter playing in the typical swedish wooden
play construction at Humlegården in downtown Stockholm

A happy Swedish "TV-hallåa" (TV-program presenter?)
is announcing that next up is Allsång på Skansen.

The host Anders Lundin sings "Stockholm i mitt hjärta" in the season
premiere of Allsång på Skansen - a very important TV show. Behind the
scene is the fantastic view of downtown Stockholm.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Commuting in Stockholm

Commuting in Stockholm really is fantastic. For four weeks I lived on an island in the "middle archipelago", commuting to work every day, taking the bus to downtown Stockholm on the mainland across the island. And now we're on Dalarö, an island in the "southern archipelago" (but which you can reach by car) and from here I walk a couple of hundred meters and get on a bus, that will take me to the commuter train, that will put me in downtown Stockholm in about an hour. Without even using your own car a single time.

You tend to forget how easy transportation actually can be - if there really is a great public transportation system like here. Amazing.

Connecting from the bus from Dalarö to the commuter
train in Handen , going to downtown Stockholm.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Sunday of shopping

I left for downtown from Dalarö today to meet up with friends from Paris, who have been visiting in Stockholm over Midsummer and whom I was supposed to meet yesterday, before we got soaked by the little thunderstorm. We unfortunately never caught each other today for a bunch of reasons, so I got an unexpected shopping day all by myself in Stockholm with lunch at Wayne's Coffee.

I came back to the island with non-snug fitting Swedish pajamas for the kids, a couple of fun things from Designtorget, an electrical Brio train for the son and some great fitting Swedish clothes for me.

Sometimes these totally unexpected shopping tours are the most succesful....

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A little Swedish thunderstorm

When we were to leave the island today for Dalarö, another island in the south of the archipelago where we're staying the remainder of our visit to Sweden this summer, we got caught in a sudden, very local thunderstorm. The flashes were hitting around us, the thunder was roaring and the heavy rain and hale were pounding.

Too bad we were in a little boat with four suitcases and lots of other packing (some in paper bags...) and got two, totally hysterical kids that have never experienced a little summer thunderstorm in the archipelago before. You could see the edges of the dark cloud and the clear blue sky around it and the storm only lasted for about 30 minutes.

Enough to soak us completely, as well as all our luggage... and the wet and cold Daughter stated clearly that she wanted to go back to California...

Too bad we didn't think of taking pictures, because it sure was an adventure. You just have to imagine four totally soaked persons and a huge, wet pile of luggage...

Friday, June 20, 2008

One Midsummer pole and seven flowers

Our Midsummer Eve was a fantastic, wonderful day in the Stockholm archipelago. Weather was great (and I'm putting this first since this is a very important part of grading how great your midsummer were... and the first question fellow Swedes will ask you when talking about how you celebrated Midsummer) we danced the "little frog dance" around the Midsummer pole on the commons on the island, ate tons of Swedish princess cake, picked "smultron", fished in the pond, barbecued and collected seven flowers to put under our pillows to dream good dreams.

As a Swedish alien - this sure is how you would like your kids to experience Midsummer. I love Midsummer!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Boat highway

The island in the archipelago that I'm on is right by a "boat highway", ie a water pathway for boats to get to the outer parts of the archipelago. It's kind of fun, just sitting on the porch and watch the boats go by.

Today, the day before the "real national day" in Sweden, Midsummer Eve, the boat traffic was a bit more intense. Today is the day when everyone leaves the city for the country side, or also the archipelago if you're in Stockholm. Midsummer is a HUGE weekend in Sweden.

When we stopped at Ica Maxi at 10 am this morning, the store was packed. We had to walk a long way from the car to the store and the line for the strawberry stand outside was so long we decided we can do Midsummer without strawberries and a strawberry cake (and we actually eat strawberries all year around home in California).

We got a princess cake instead. Now THAT is a cake for Swedish aliens... Can't wait until tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Don't tell the Swedes, but I actually sort of miss darkness... Of course it's amazing with these bright summer nights (18 hours of daylight in Stockholm right now), but still... I wouldn't mind a night when it was dark.

I really prefer my bedroom to be pitch dark when I sleep. And since I right now sleep in a living room with 6 windows without blinds (fantastic view during daytime!), it gets kind of... sunny pretty early. And with a son who wakes up at least once a night, I can report that yes, the sun really do shine at 4 am in Stockholm.

Oh, well. Maybe I should just wish for blinds for the summer house. Or my own room without a window (and a son who would start sleeping through the night would also be convenient). Because it sure is magic and fantastic and wonderful with the night sun. If only I didn't have to get up at 4 am and convince my little 2 ft that yes, it actually is the middle of the night, and going back to sleep is the right thing to do. At least for his mom.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The land of the kombi

Every morning I take the bus downtown from the mainland across the water from the island. It's about at 30 minute ride and after 3 weeks here, I'm still acting like a tourist, being busy, looking around, enjoying the view, checking out things and people...

When we approach downtown Stockholm the traffic on the (very tiny) "highway" (compared to the US) gets a bit more intense.

It's amazing how many "kombi"-cars (station wagons) there are here. It must be 9 out of 10 cars, or at least 8 out of 10 (and according Wikipedia, Swedes buy the most station wagons compared to the other European countries) (there are hardly any station wagons in the US). It sure is the "standard car" to drive in Sweden and it looks kind of funny when they are all lined up in the traffic jams.

I almost have to giggle, but no, you can't do that on a bus in Stockholm. You keep to yourself, are quiet - and you definitely do not giggle.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Toys from the past

My mom is the oldest of four sisters so there is not much left from her childhood in terms of books, toys or any other memories (well, except the stories, and they are many...). When I was a kid this always made me sad for some reason and at really early age, I decided I would try to save my things for my (at that point very hypothetical) children. And so I did. I've gotten teased for my boxes in the attics many times, but for the past 20something years I've kept the them so my kids could play with my old things one day.

That day was yesterday.

I brought one of the boxes from my storage downtown with toys to the summer island and sat with almost teary eyes as the Daughter was playing with my (but now very) old doll, doll stroller and dress up clothes and other things.

It was a great and almost scary moment at the same time. So much time has passed, but it still felt like yesterday when I saw the toys, and then this new little person playing with them.

I'm so glad I've save the boxes, despite all the hassle being an alien these days with limited access to storage in Stockholm. But all the storage problems in the world was worth that single day yesterday. I think you earn lots of "grown-up points" when your kids are playing with your old toys...?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dolly at the Stadium

Last night Dolly Parton was in town and I got a chance to go see her. Not that I'm a country music fan - but I kind of like her - she sure has personality and with 40 years in the business I'm happy to have had a chance to see her live. We were lucky to sit on the "sunny" side at the Stadium in downtown Stockholm - it was a chilly night.

One of the newspapers in Stockholm claim some of the songs must have been playback, and I don't know... maybe... some sounded a little too perfect some times. But she can't fake her funny giggle.

It was a lot of fun and I even got a pink cowboy hat afterwards.

For my daughter's dress up box.

But a copule of chic 20something girls at Stureplan seriously asked me where I had found the cool hat (no, I wasn't wearing it, it was just hanging on my backpack). So maybe I should keep it for myself...

Friday, June 13, 2008

A fashion report

Ok, this isn't much of a fashion job (except when I write about hoodies and tapered jeans), but here is a little fashion report from Stockholm. I love shopping in Stockholm during my visits here - to me it's "special" as compare to shopping in the US which these days is more "everyday".

I haven't had much time to browse the stores during this visit, unfortunately I'm way too busy to do any more advanced shopping sprees, but the few times I've been in and out I've noticed that this summer's fashion in Stockholm, if you go by the supplies in the stores, is a lot about strong colors.

Green, yellow, blue, red.

These are not my colors at all... I'm more of a "earth tone type of gal".

Great! I will save soo much money this summer.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kylie in the Globe

Last night I saw Kylie Minogue's show in the Globen in Stockholm. I really had no expectations, I can't say that I now that many of her songs - except the "hits". The Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet gave the show 5 out of 5. But I'm not sure I agree... I don't know - it just felt it got a bit too much at times... or maybe because I'm kind of tired, archipelago-life vs hectic downtown life is taking it's toll. And her new material is more... I don't know... techno sort of? It all sounded like the same song.

It got better in the end and the extra songs were really good.

At least when she sang "I should be so lucky". That's when all of us born in the 70s got on our feet and sang along - and the younger crowd looked confused.

It's kind of fun though, come all the way from California to see a superstar all the way from Australia.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Soccer night

You can't be here in Sweden and miss that the European Championship in Soccer going on right now (or probably in any part of Europe).

So to feel really Swedish I spent the evening watching the game between Sweden and Greece (which Sweden won by 2-0!), the first game for Sweden in the tournament. Not that I watch American fotball too much (at all actually) when in California, but it was a actually a bit fun to watch some old fashioned soccer.

Rain and WIND!

After two weeks with wonderful weather during our two summer weeks here in Sweden, we today woke up to clouds and rain. We have almost forgotten all about that the weather can be less then perfect. I had to dress up in total rain gear when going to work.

And then I spent the day sweating downtown working. I'm still kind of stuck with "rain = must be cold = more clothes". You can't teach old dogs to sit as we would say in Swedish.

By the time I got back to the island we had a very, very strong wind. Operating the boat on the water was kind of tricky and I got sort of wet. It sure is an interesting commute to and from work...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Sandhamn weekend

I've spent the weekend in Sandhamn with my family, celebrating my mom's 60th birthday. It was a fantastic weekend - the weather was so perfect! We had a great time - I love this little sand island in the outer archipelago. I used to take day tours here in the summer all the time, spending a couple of hours at the beach at Trouville or eating chocolate cheese cake at the Inn.

Oh, those summer memories...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Sweden's National Day

After celebrating July 14 in France and and July 4 in California, celebrating June 6 in Sweden is kind of... "bleak"... as we would say in Swedish.

They've tried to do a lot for this day, Sweden's National Day and since a couple of years it's been a public holiday - but it seems we're still sort of "lost". At least me... I have no traditions or things I usually do on this day... No special food, no special event, no special place I "always do". And then I'm a huge fan of special days - and I love the.

Maybe it'll grow on us now when most people have the day off.

I can honestly say that perhaps I even celebrate it more when I'm in California than here.... But at least we put of the flag on the flag pole today.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Observation from Sweden #5

It really is convenient that things cost the exact amount that is on the price tag and not 7-something % more when you shop here. In Sweden the sales tax is always included in the price in the stores (in comparison to California where it's not).

Makes shopping a bit easier - but I wonder how long Swedes would accept a sales tax of 25% if they had to add it every time they purchase something...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Cool coincidence

Today I experienced something pretty cool. On my way to work, about 20 seconds before I disappeared through the entrance to the office building someone grabbed my arm.

It was my brother!!

How cool is that - to bump into your brother!

Hm. I just realized that this might not seem like an amazing story at all... unless you've lived far from family and friends and knowing that the chances of ever "bumping into" someone you know where you now live are... well... more or less zero.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

My happy cellphone

I have two cellphones. One American and one Swedish. Most of the year my Swedish cell phone is quiet. It's turned on, but rarely gets attention. When I'm in California most people use my VoiP office number to get in touch.

My Swedish cell phone is a Nokia which - I have realized when I look around at my colleagues' phones - is getting (very) outdated. But since I hardly use it is still in great shape, spending most of it's time resting on top of a shelf in my home office in California.

But when I'm in Sweden my Swedish cell phone comes to live. You can almost feel how happy it is to serve again. Jumps with joy with the phone rings, smiles with each sms.

Today I've spoken to my brother on my cell four or five times. Isn't it interesting that we call each other more now when we're actually closer in distance than we normally is... or maybe it is because you just can - no time differences to complicate things. Suddenly you can just make a phone call to your family without calculating hours. And my cell phone is happy, very happy.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Two different worlds

Every morning I wake up on an island in the archipelago and take the bus downtown. From early morning bird song to sounds of the city. I love the contrasts - and the weather is making the early morning boat ride to the mainland a pure joy.

From this...

... to this

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A conversation between cousins

Today the kids got to spend some valuable time with their cousin and my kids, starved from same-age company, living on a archipelago island before the summer holidays have really started here, were so happy.

At one point the cousin's neighbors came out.

Swedish cousin; "Look, those are my friends over there!"
Alien cousin, happy to see more kids: "Do they speak Swedish or English?"
Swedish cousin, with a confused, blank face: ".... Swedish..."
Alien cousin: "Yes, just like we do right now!"
Swedish cousin; "Can you really speak English?"
Alien cousin, with a confused, blank face: "...Yes".
Swedish cousin: "Prove that to me!"

Then something else happened to divert attention, so the Daughter never had to prove her English speaking skills... and they happily played in Swedish for the remainder of the afternoon.

It's always fun to get a reminder of the life of a bilingual kid, when what language potential playmates speak is a valid question as well as the names and ages and the color of the house where you live.