Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Slow days

I've had a couple of slow days between Christmas and New Year - taken time off work and staying out of the office and away from the computer. I spend way too much time in my office and if I should make a New Year's resolution it is to spend more time elsewhere.

I really like this "pause" between Christmas and New Year's. In Sweden it means that you are usually off or take time off (if you're working in an office) and none is really expected to be in touch during the time between Christmas and New Year's (and Swedes celebrate Christmas for three days). It's a nice way to catch you're breath for the next "work semester".

I've been busy cleaning out Christmas and reorganizing the living room - and having to drive to the Mothership (aka IKEA) twice since I didn't look too close to what items the nice IKEA guy was loading on my cart at the self-service area. I actually managed to screw up the second time too - but my nice guest coming for New Year's Eve sent their teenage son to the IKEA in Palo Alto and have loaded the missing door on their truck and will bring it here - so I didn't have to go back a third time. There actually is a limit to the number of times you can go to IKEA in a week- mothership or not...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas - God Jul!

Today is the big day if your Swedish. Julafton - aka Christmas Eve. Today is the day when everything happens - Christmas Day, the big day here in the US, is just "the day after". Today is the day you have the big Christmas meal and when Santa comes to visit (and subsequently all the Swedish dads are running unexpected errands and always miss out on meeting Santa). And when you watch the traditional "Disney show" on the main broadcasting channel at 3 pm and later - my favorite - Karl-Bertil Jonssons Julafton.

Today we will try to enact our traditional Swedish Christmas Eve - far away from Sweden, eating a Christmas meal put together with some fantasy, and the Husband will have to run an unexpected errand and thus miss Santa - and we will watch recordings of the Disney Show and Karl Bertil Jonssons Julafton.

God Jul och Gott Nytt År to all readers and visitors! I hope you have a great Julafton wherever you are!

A little sample of Karl-Bertil Jonssons Julafton:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My favorite Christmas movie

Speaking about Christmas movies, Love Actually is one of my favorite Christmas movies. I love the music and have the soundtrack, I love the different stories entwined - and sometimes you are just in need of happy endings - lot's of them. I've seen it several times - and can just watch bits and pieces now and then - but always watch it from beginning to end at least once during Christmas time. It always puts me in a good mood.

Here is a fan who have put together a personal little compilation of some of the scenes from the movie - and I just like the theme song a lot!

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's a Wonderful Life

A couple of years ago I was flying back from Sweden to California right before Christmas. On my second flight, from Chicago to California, I was surprised and a disappointed when they started showing an old black and white movie as the main feature movie. "Can't they afford new movies", I sighed to myself. I was tired and bored and decided to watch it, even though I wasn't in the mood for an old movie.

I kind of liked the movie - it's a cute little story about a man who loses everything and is on the verge of suicide on Christmas Eve, when his guardian angel shows up and show him how important he is to his family, friends and neighborhood.

It was only later that I realized that this is a very known "Christmas movie" and is shown around Christmas ever year (which made easier to understand that United Airlines would have it as their feature movie on a domestic flight right before Christmas). It actually wasn't originally made as being a "Christmas movie" and did pretty bad at the box office - but now is more of a cult movie that is seen around Christmas over here.

Here is the original trailer:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Counting down to Christmas

Despite it being a pretty bad fall in terms work load and travel - I'm pretty much ahead on Christmas to my big surprise. Someone said "if you want something done give it too a busy person" and maybe that's the way it is. Preparing for Christmas just gets part of the rest of the stuff to get done. Anyway, I'm happy. I like Christmas - I grew up with magical Christmas and I'm trying to recreate the same feeling for my kids. And now I'm just as excited as they are to meet Santa on Wednesday, haha!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas break

Today was the last day of Kindergarten for my Daughter - and for us as parents. We're slowly getting the grip on how this school thing works. We've had our first parent-teacher conference and gotten the Daughter's first "grades". Since she speaks a different language at home, she is part of the ESL program - English as a Second Language - and she seems to be doing great. Can't say I still have a clear view of exactly they're doing - if not just testing and seeing the progress, but we're slowly learning. We're happy she is doing so great - and even though she had actually "cracked the reading code" last spring - she is now really starting to warm up to reading in English (which is much harder compared to reading in Swedish).

And yesterday we were so proud when we got to attend a little awards ceremony in the classroom. The principal handed out awards to six of the students in her class for "kindness" and "responsibility" and the Daughter got to go up and get a "Responsibility Award".

So, so far, our Kindergartner experience has been really good - thanks a lot to the Daughter herself. Now it's Christmas break until January 5.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On repeat in my head...

I love listening to Christmas music all December (driving the Husband absolutely nuts). I have a lot of Christmas music and a couple of different play lists - but every year it's one song that gets stuck and keep playing in my head even after the music has been turned off. I have no power over which one it is - could be a choir song or a pop song. Last year it was Christina Aguilera's The Christmas Song - Holiday remix - which made me dance around the house and increase the tempo of all Christmas preparations.

This year the Christmas song that seems to be stuck in my head is.... Dolly Parton's Hard Candy Christmas...

It's just there... when I wake up, in the shower, when in the car... humming in the back of my head and the tip of my tongue. Oh well. Maybe I shouldn't put too much in to it.

Here is the original version from the movie "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"... maybe now it will be stuck in your heads too?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Yearly Ant War

Every fall the ant invasion of our house starts. I'm not sure what it is that makes the ants wants to come indoors - but it usually starts around September and goes on all fall. We call it The Yearly Ant War. The first year in the house we were totally surprised, had no idea how to fight them and "lost" big time. The second year we were prepared and on top of things and did a pretty good job of bringing them on and every year since then we've been pretty good.

This year has been a bad year.

We have had numerous of ant invasions around the house, in all bathrooms, the Daughter's bedroom, several times in the kitchen and despite our fights - they keep coming back, no matter how clean we keep things, never leaving anything out for them to be eating. I just met a couple of hundred in the guest bathroom. Sigh.

I hate ants now. Truly hate. We have a perfectly fine garden where they are more than welcome to live - why do they have to come inside?

I just can't wait for the "ant season" to be over and get a break. They are not invited for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where are the knives??

I was out to lunch with the Husband today and ordered a chicken entree, served with rice (very good!).

And was given only a fork to eat with.


I will never get used to eating just with a fork. How are you supposed to divide larger pieces of meat with only a fork? I'm always trying to spy on the American around us and they always seem to handle this without problem whereas I feel like the most clumsy person in the restaurant.

I need a fork in my left hand and a knife in my right. I divide my food with the knife in the right hand, holding the food in place with my fork in my left hand and then carefully put the food on the fork with the knife and then into my mouth. I had been eating the European way too many years when I came here to ever be able to unlearn and use only just a fork.

I'm thinking I should not only carry an extra package of kleenex and a emergency Matchbox car in my purse, but a knife for lunches and dinners to use in places where they only provide you with a fork. Hm... I wonder what would happen if I ever would get pulled over and my handbag searched for some reason.. are you allowed to walk around with a cutlery knife in your purse... or would that be considered a weapon?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Electronical editions of news papers

I grew up with getting a newspaper in the morning. And ever since I moved away from home I've always found the budget for a newspaper - and even during my university year in the US I had one of the major Swedish daily, Dagens Nyheter, as a "Sunday paper" only delivered to my Illinois campus (now this was before Internet time - can you believe how old I am! - not sure I would have taken on the expense had there been alternative ways during a stretched student budget). One of the first thing we did when coming here was to order the local morning paper and we've had it ever since. At first none of the local news made any sense - but now we read it pretty "fluently".

Unlike in Sweden the newspaper comes every day - always. There are no "no newspaper days" during holidays - it's always there - waiting in the garage drive for us to pick up in the morning.

I read Swedish newspaper online every day - even though some days I just quickly check the headlines (and for each year here - more and more news stories start to make less sense). When reading Dagens Nyheter online an offer to subsribe to the e-edition (pdf-format) of Dagens Nyheter - a special offer to people living abroad. You can try it for one month free - after that it's 1700 SEK a year.

It doesn't really make sense - if I'm going to read something online - it should be with links, videos, pictures - reading a whole paper in pdf-format just feels... I don't know... old fashioned? The newspaper is already "old news" by the time you read it in the morning (but I still like my paper) - reading it in a fixed pdf-format would just increase the "old news" feeling.

But then, reading the news today that a Detroit newspaper will, as the first, but probably not last, to end daily home delivery and only be available in newsstands on certain days - maybe this is the way things will go. Their refering to increased ink, paper and distrbution costs.

But it sure would take time for me to live without a morning paper if that day comes.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Today, on the real Lucia day, December 13, I did my yearly baking of lussebullar. These are for some weird reason one of my favorite thing during Christmas. They are a strange combination of wheat bread and saffron - and most Americans I know really don't like them at all.

I prefer to have them ready before Lucia - but there just wasn't time this year. But today I made 60 and they turned out perfect! I find it kind of tricky to get the American yeast and the flour to work according to the Swedish receipts but if I follow my secret notes that I add every year - and use Swedish saffron - they turn out pretty good.

The Husband is always happy to see me show up in the kitchen - since this is his normal domain - but sometime around December 26 I will retreat again and put the Kitchen Aid back in it's corner. I just need to make "vörtbröd" and "sandkaka" first.

"11 nights before Christmas", as they sing in one of the Lucia songs.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lucia at IKEA

For the second year the kids participated in the Swedish Lucia procession at our IKEA. It's weird how natural it feels to see these cute little kids, all dressed up, pass by the bookshelf Billy and the sofa chair Poäng. Right at home... ;-) A lot of surprised customers looked like they wondered what crazy thing was going on...

I'm not sure how many part from family and fiends to the participants that actually were there watching the show in the restaurants (or just happened to be eat- but I really don't care. I really love that I get this opportunity to see a Lucia procession at least once. That is really one thing I can miss from Sweden.

We enjoyed it a lot (even though there might be a few better choirs out there, singing the Lucia songs.. even though this of course were the cutest). IKEA invited everyone for lussebullar (!) and glögg afterwards - very nice!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Water vilolation

Today we got a water violation by the city. It was stuck on our door at 10 am. The "water inspection unit" of whatever they are called claimed that we were watering on the wrong day.

A little background: our city is under a "Water Alert Stage 2" due to this year being unusual dry. So far we haven't have any of the big winter storms blowing by and if you want to go skiing up in the mountains there hardly is any natural snow (we never get snow around here). Water Alert Stage 2 means that the citizens are to be extra careful with water, only water on certain days and during certain hours etc.

We are dutifully following the schedule. Since our house number is "odd" we are to water our lawns and plants only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. And so we do. And we (the automatic sprinkler system that is... ) also water in the middle of the night - well within the hours you are allowed to water (10 pm - 10 am).

However - since it is colder and hasn't been as sunny - by the time they inspected at 10 am - the sidewalk was still wet... several hours after watering the night before!! But still, the inspection unit claims we have watered on the wrong day... Not sure how we can prove they were wrong, our sidewalk wasn't "dry" until late afternoon... some 18 hours the actual watering.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I'm cold

After having pretty nice and warm fall weather it suddenly turned "winter". Suddenly wearing socks and double sweaters didn't seem crazy at all. I'm not sure what's normal, but it does seem a bit early. We've had pretty low overnight temperatures - waking up to +1-2C before the sun heats up the air - brr! Those are the mornings I wish I was in a Swedish, wooden, insulated houses with central heating and three-glass windows - and not in more whimsy Californian house with blowing warm air from the AC system is the only source of warmth.

Once the sun is up, it heats up pretty good. I'm on the same latitude as Gibraltar. And I shouldn't complain - soon enough it will be spring and warm and nice again. In the meantime, I'm sleeping in my long sleeved pajamas.

(No, I don't have a footed fleece pajamas like in the picture, but maybe I should? Picture is from Jumpin Jammerz who sells pretty funny footed pajamas for grown-ups if you like to feel like a warm and cozy kid again)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A mountain of cookies

In Sweden you make your own gingersnap cookies before Christmas - well, at least if you have kids - and the energy and time... I have lots of memories of making gingersnap cookies as a kid - and have wanted my kids to have the same experience.

What I didn't know before I started up this tradition when the Daughter was big enough to hold on to a roller - is all the work that comes with it... After all - a dough can produce some 250 gingersnap cookies and your kids usually are happy making... 5...? Meaning that my mom must have spent hours and hours baking after we happily left the table and ran off to new games. And a gingersnap cookie dough really never ends... it takes forever and ever and you heart shapes becomes more and more sloppy as you wondered what made you start this project in the first place.

My solution to that problem has been to invite other parents and kids to the Big Gingersnap Cookie bake out" - and after the kids are satisfied with eating raw dough and making a cookie or two - the grown-ups can continue the assembly line production of home made gingersnap cookies. In company of other grown-ups, drinking non-free-alcoholic glögg. After two hours or so you have 750 ginger snap cookies, are very happy and giggly and don't have to think about a roller in another 365 days. Great!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Christmas show

Today the Daughter had her Christmas "show" in school. The local PTA (now this is worth a whole other post...) had arranged for a "Jolly Holly Breakfast" and the whole school was performing (thus unfortunately making us miss the SWEA's Swedish Christmas market in San Francisco).

The kids must have felt like stars with all the paparazzis, oups, I mean parents with cameras and camcorders (wiping their eyes out of pride of their kids).

The Kindergartner sang two songs, very American Christmas songs, and they were really cute singing. We joined the other paparazzis and took tons of pictures and of course filmed the whole event. The Daughter mostly seemed paralyzed as many of her fellow friends - but luckily they had the music and some recorded song in the background...

Santa was there too and you could have your kid's picture taken for $1. The Daughter refused to go near him. She claimed it was not the real Santa since he spoke English...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Swedish and English

My son is way more exposed to English than my Daughter was at the same age. Every day he is out playing with the (English speaking) neighbor kids that didn't live here when she was a toddler and he is pretty fluent already despite us always speaking Swedish in the house.

And he is already mixing the langugages the fun way you can only do if you're bilingual.

"Låt mig gå", he'll scream when we pick him up to go inside from playing with his friends or we're stopping him from jumping up the kitchen table or some other height. "Låt mig gå" is his Swedish version of "Let me go". Now when he says "låt mig gå" - he sounds really cute, like a character from a black and white love drama from the 40s. What he means in Swedish is "släpp loss mig".

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A new word in English #5

I went food shopping today. I'm usually never food shopping, that most often falls on the Husband, the chef in the house. When I'm food shopping he thinks I come home with weird and the wrong stuff, so he usually brings the Daughter. The Daughter knows her way around the store better than I. But, the Husband has back spasm (again... can you hand Husbands to some repair place under warranty??) and can't smoothly get in or out of the car.

On the list was ketchup. I don't like ketchup and haven't really paid attention on where in a US store you can actually find it. After walking up and down the aisles I found it and realized that it was in the "condiment" aisle. I have always wondered about that word and when I got back home I looked it up.

It's a pretty good word! Covers a lot of things in on word. Condiments = krydda, smaktillsats, kryddad sås in Swedish (according to Nordsteds Stora Engelska Ordbok).


So know I know where I will find the ketchup next time.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A visit to the Mothership

Tonight I headed out to the Mothership - a nickname for IKEA invented by one of my online Swedish alien friends. It's a suitable name I think!

I wanted to stock up on some Christmas decorations and Swedish food treats from the Swede shop. Unfortunately our local IKEA is a "smaller" one (they come in different sizes, if you're lucky you live by a "large"one) and they didn't have the advent candelabras I wanted.

I love the advent decorations we put up in Sweden - the candelabras and the stars in the windows, the candles holders. We have two more traditional wooden candelabras - but one is breaking apart and I thought it might be time to upgrade. The one in the picture would be so nice! But no... they didn't carry that one.

I did however get a cart of the traditional "julmust" to drink and five (!) Paradis chocolate boxes. That will take us through Christmas. I hope.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Learning about Ronald Reagan

On my recent trip to Washington during the election we had tons of meetings with different people representing different views and standpoints on American politics and the election. However most of them all mentioned Ronald Reagan as a reference point in US politics from some aspect (either for or against). I have never realized how much of a defining point in US politics he was and I felt a bit lost in listening to these references.

I can honestly say politics have been one of my least interests in life and even though I keep myself updated - Ronald Reagan was before my time. I can discuss my way around the Presidents since the early 90s - but anything before that is more of a white spot on the map part from the names and basic politics.

I never took political science at university (I was a communications major) and my main association of Ronald Reagan was that Alex P Keaton, played by Michael J. Fox in the TV-series "Family Ties" (I think it was called "Fem i familjen" in Sweden), was a major fan of him which was upsetting to his liberal democratic parents causing a lot of fun tension...

So - now I have ordered a Ronald Reagan biography DVD to learn more about this obviously dynamic president and what it was that made Americans love - or hate him. Considering that I'm still not in phase with the only (!) show I follow, House, I might get to this DVD sometime in time for the next election.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I love you

I come from a family where we don't really run around saying "I love you" very often. It's not that we don't mean it - we just don't really say it that much. I have never really thought about it that much. I would say the Husband's family is about the same. Neither me or my Husband end phone calls with casually saying "I love you" - and I think we're both fine with that. It's not that we don't do - we just don't say it all the time.

It's therefor kind of surprising to hear our Daughter, full of emotional feelings, state "I love you, mom" or "I love you so much, dad" all the time.

Now - personally I think there is a bit of a difference between the Swedish "jag älskar dig" and the English "I love you" even though the translation is exact. Somehow it seems easier to say "I love you" than "Jag älskar dig". "Jag älskar dig" feels somehow... bigger?? Or is it just me, the cold, reserved Swede?

And maybe the Daughter, being the bilingual little girls that she is, has a much easier relationship to the words than her parents have. I don't mind it at all - but it's kind of surprising to learn how to express deep and inner feelings better and more verbally by a 5-year old.