Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Big Bean Bag hunt

I've been trying to get two bean bags for our living room. With two people under 4 feet roaming around, this will (hopefully) be the solution to the end of jumping off the sofa. I don't want ugly, plastic, vinyl bean bags, but something that would (sort of) melt in our Scandinavian style living room. More "sueded" material, earth colors, nice and comfy beans.

After googling and roaming through the internet it seems that if you want to get a bean bag, you must have lots of patience. Few are delivered with less than two weeks delivery time, usually more. Seems there are actually a few companies in this country that produce these things, and most of the websites selling them, are using the same sources - some sort of franchise solution. The same pictures and colors show up everywhere - and the same shipping time.

And since I sort of want them now - and not this fall - I've been really discouraged. I just canceled an order with who had delayed shipping for the second time (with the new suggested shipping it would have taken 8 weeks for delivery).

With 8 weeks delivery I could order something from the other side of the world and get it here faster. Do they have bean bags in Sweden??

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rattlesnake encounter

Today we had our first rattlesnake encounter. We've only heard them before (and yes, they really do "rattle"), but today we almost ran one over with the car (and I felt very good being inside a car and not on a bike - or Nordic walking). It was curled up and tail in the air in the middle of our little residential street, just by the Daughter's future Elementary school.

These are the times when you sort of think that maybe I shouldn't fret so much about small, Swedish mosquitoes this summer... after all... you can just wave them away.

I didn't have my camera with me unfortunately, would have been cool to take a picture. From inside the car.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I love my moleskin notebooks!

A couple of weeks ago I was complaining here about the lack of blank notebooks in the US. Several commentators suggested Moleskin notebooks and after trying to find them irl, I finally ordered some online. They arrived neatly packed, protected in the box by a brown paper bag.

I just love them!

Not only are they blank the way I want my notebooks (my notes are more "maps" than notes... not by an active choice - that's just how I end up writing notes and lines are restricting me) - they have a great "feel" too.

Suddenly my notes seems very important...

I got them before a quick tour to IKEA the other day - and I actually found, just like fellow blogger Fia had suggested, blank notebooks at IKEA too. So when I'm done with my $10 notebook, I might switch to IKEA's $1... not the same feeling - but still blank pages.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

One month to go

In one month today I will arrive in Stockholm with the entourage. It's almost time to start thinking about packing. Not as easy as when I go on my own and only spend time in the office and there are cabs if it's raining.

Just like last year we're going to be staying on an island in the archipelago outside Stockholm (takes about 30 minutes by car to downtown). And weather in May/June is very, very unpredictable in Sweden. It could be +11C and rainy or +24 and sunny.

So we need; rain boots, swim suit, warm sweater, t-shirts, jeans and shorts. And considering the small laundry machine on the island (or the fact that it can take days for the laundry to dry up if it's rainy) you need a couple of sets for everything. We might have to rent a pick-up truck at Arlanda to get all the suitcases to fit... Do they have Nissan Titans in Sweden??

Oh, well. I don't really care if it's raining. We had +36 here today and when we come back in July we will still have a couple of months with guaranteed sunshine (and heat...). A little rain is almost an adventure.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

$64 for a full tank

Speaking about cars, I had to fill up the car today. Gas prices have really gone up in the US lately and today I paid $64 for an almost full tank.

I remember filling up the car for $40 just a few years ago...

Still - compared to European prices - I guess I shouldn't be complaining too much. After all, 384 SEK (approx) for a full tank isn't too bad.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Test drive

Today we decided we were ready for a test drive in our process of getting a new car. Using some of the tips I got in the comments, we had done tons of research, and was ready to face the car dealers - not buying - but only testing out the different features we had read about.

We got a poor guy who had not yet turned 21 one and who was new on the job. We totally stressed him out with our detailed questions to which he mostly had no answers. But we got the feel and the idea about the car and took a test drive on the highway and on residential streets.

And we managed to get out of there without too much hassle. Now we're going to finish up our research and try to do as much online as possible. Hopefully we'll have two functional cars within a week or two... Phew.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Expensive laughs

I'm a huge Eddie Izzard fan. I have almost all his DVDs and force all guests to watch "Dress to kill" at one point or another during their stay in our house. When flipping through Newsweek today I happened to see a notice on him going on tour and immediately went to his website. And sure enough - he will be touring the US! Yihaa!

Only to find out that all his performances in California (San Francisco and San Diego) are sold out. The only "second hand" tickets I found was two through TicketExchange for $289 - or on eBay for $174 or more...


And even though I love Eddie Izzard and love to laugh, he better give me a great joke every minute of his stint - or the price per laugh is just.... "laughably"... if that is a word...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Stay friends?

I got an e-mail from, a website you can use to find old classmates (just like the American version Some of my old classmates had uploaded old school photos and I got stuck for awhile this morning looking at the "old" me.

Isn't it amazing when you look at those old class photos how small you all were... the guy you were a bit afraid of because he seemed dangerous - heck - he's just a little kid... the girl you though was so cool and chic, just looks silly in her permed hair... Oh, I'm sooo happy I'm grown-up!

Anyway - it's kind of fun to see and now and then I entertain myself with googeling my old classmates to see where they have ended up. Most of them seems to have lived very "quiet" lifes - at least in the internet - not hits at all.

Today's googling revealed that one girl in a parallel class was a CPA (something I would NEVER would have guessed) and one was the owner of one of the best bars in Stockholm.

I love who you can be an alien - on the other side of the world - but still sort of "keep in touch" (or rather "keep you informed") where your old school friends end up. Love the internet!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Swedish stuck in the past

I did a university year in Illinois as an exchange student from Uppsala University in Sweden in the early 90s. All international students were required to stay "on campus" at least the first semester, meaning we lived in dorms where you shared a tiny room with another student. This was a big change for us European students in our early 20s - used to live on our own (I got my own place when I was 18). But we had lots of fun anyway and after the first semester, we all decided to stay on campus.

I shared a room with an American student, but with Swedish heritage. Her mom was Swedish, having left Sweden in the early 60s. The mom had been very consistent in teaching her daughters Swedish, despite living in the middle of Illinois with no other Swedes around.

My roommate was very nice, and we got a long fine and had fun together. However image was very important to her. She wouldn't leave the room without tons of make up and clothes in order (and if I recall, Madonna was her her idol). She wanted to be very cool.

My roommate's mom had done a good job. She really had taught her daughter Swedish and MY roommate was actually fluid. It was only one little thing.... when she opened her mouth and spoke Swedish, this cool, chic girl sounded like.... a little girl from a movie from the 50s... It was hilarious and very cute. She had grown up pre mulitiregional DVDs, online TV on internet and cheep air tickets. The only Swedish she had heard was her mother's, whose Swedish had been preserved since she left Sweden in the early 60s...

I didn't think much about it at the time - having no idea that I would end up living in the US and having kids here myself. Now makes me wonder - what will my kids Swedish sound like in 15 years... or mine for that matter... has my Swedish been preserved in the 90s... and my friends in Sweden will laugh at me when I still use slang words that they stopped using in 1995...

(Picture of an actual room in my old dorm.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Car challenge

We need to upgrade our garage with a new car. The oldest one now needs to be jump started almost every time despite several changes of batteries and other car parts I have now idea what they are called - and the AC and heater isn't working. Heater we can live without - but you can't go through a crazily hot Northern California summer without air condition in your car, believe me. Unless you have a convertible - and this is not.

So now we're spending time reading boring reviews and fact sheets online, trying to figure out what we need and want, getting us ready.

I hate buying cars. The whole "game" at the car dealer, both parties pretending to need/have a certain amount of money and in the end - the feeling of always having gotten ripped off anyway.

I wish it could be as simple as shopping online. You just go online, make your choices and click "go to checkout" and two days later a the car will arrive with FedEx.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Crayons and lunch

I packed the kids and my immobile Husband in the car to get some stuff done - and have lunch outside the house. Not sure they needed to get out of the house as bad as I wanted to... After successful errands - we stopped at TGIF for lunch. Not particularly our choice - but my Americanized kids, at least the one who can express herself clearly, wanted MacNCheese for lunch and we were kind of sure TGIF would serve that (and they did...).

One thing I love about this country, and I didn't really think about pre-kids, is how totally easy it is to go out to eat with kids in tow. Almost all restaurants will provide the kids with crayons, paper and have a special kids' menu - and bring out high chairs - and some even bring out cheerios for starter... and that there actually are restaurants that serve MacNCheese...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mamma Mia on the movie screens

The musical Mamma Mia, based on ABBA songs, is hitting the movie theaters July 18. I'm very, very curious how Meryl Streep will do in one of the main characters. I saw the musical one of the very last performances in Stockholm a couple of years ago and I really, really liked it. It was fun and of course filled with music from my childhood... oh, yes... did I make that jump rope holder work, pretending to be Agneta (since was I the blond girl)...

They have released the preview trailer - check it out!

Thursday, April 17, 2008


No, that's not the cost of our new car.

It's the total price for taking the whole family to Sweden in May*. Now I know my European friends are complaining about the low fare airline Ryan Air, but right now, I wouldn't mind Ryan Air flying on California.

Oh, well.

I will take it very personally if the the weather in Stockholm between May 25 and June 30 is cold, gray and rainy. For that price we deserve perfect Swedish summer weather!

Stockholm on $251

Today had an article on how to get around in Stockholm, "one of Europe's most expensive cities" for a day, spending "only" $251. It's always fun to read what spots travel journalist will pick... I must say, I wouldn't mind being in the journalist shoes, especially making that stop at Designtorget (a cool place for design stuff - and they actually get directly linked from the article on - way to go!) or drinking that cup of hot chocolate at Kaffekoppen...

You can read the article here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Flowers from far away

Late afternoon the doorbell ran unexpectedly. It was the girl from one of the flower shops in our city. "Hi, I haven't been here in a long time!", she said. I seem to be one of their customers they really remember. They always do handwritten notes with their incoming flower orders and since most flowers I get sent are from Sweden, most of the greetings are - in Swedish... Which is a bit of a challenge for them... but I think they do a great job - and I always get a good laugh, part from being happy to receive flowers.

(The note says (misspelled) in Swedish; "Vi saknar dig haer och uenskar din man god baettring, Vaennerna fraan zzz", which means (not misspelled) "We miss you here and wish your husband a good recovery").

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Swedish pancakes for lunch

My mother-in-law is visiting and made a mountain of Swedish pancakes. Thin and absolutely perfect! Mm mm yummy!

Monday, April 14, 2008

... and then they lived happily ever after!

I've tried to postpone the "Princess-phase" in the house as long as possible. I know it will come - but I've tried to get my preschool Daughter to, while I still have some sort of influence (even though there are days I'm not sure you as a parent has any kind of influence... they seem to be born with a will of steal...), explore all kinds of games, not just dress-up and tea parties.

I'm running out of time - and that's fine. I think I got my point through and she is now equally amused by pretending to be a princess and by being a pirate. I don't mind princesses - I just think there are so many different games to play and explore and sometimes running around wearing pretend Cinderella princess shoes can... slow you down a bit. I don't know how widespread princess-stuff is in Sweden - but here I don't know any little girl that doesn't have at least one Disney princess outfit. Complete with tiara, wand and glass shoes.

This weekend the Daughter got a new, Swedish book by her grandmom who is visiting. A book about princesses. A great book about princesses.

This book is about the princess who wakes up, gets dressed in one of her hundreds of dresses, puts on her tiara, eats cake for breakfast - and then goes off to fight dragons, play ice-hockey - and saves handsome princes - that she might decided to marry.

Now that's what I call a great ending!

(Doesn't seem the book has been translated to English - so you need a crash course in Swedish to read it to your Princess-preschooler if you don't speak Swedish).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Busy days...

Immobile husband. Sick kids. A house in need of cleaning. A lawn that needs mowing. Plants that needs water. Dishwasher that needs to be emptied.

Life in California is very glamorous.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Eli Stone and George Michael

Things are really busy right now. With the Husband still more or less immobile I need to get the days going almost like a single working mom. The days are filled from early morning until late night.

Tonight I decided to take a break and just turn on the TV for once and when trying to figure out what to watch I ended up checking out old episodes of a new TV-series, premiering this January on ABC, called Eli Stone.

The TV-series has a strong connection to George Michael songs (each episode is named after one of his songs and the main character, Eli Stone, has visions where he sees and hears George Michael), which I thought interesting and funny (me being a fan) and I decided to check it out. You can watch older episodes online on ABC and since we have a computer hooked up to all our TVs, it's fairly easy to watch TV from different websites (even thought ABC has a mediocre media player).

I actually kind of liked it. It reminds me a bit about Ally McBeal sort of - but a more "male" version (even thought I think females like Eli Stone more than males).

They have actually managed to get George Michael to actually play a part (which I have totally missed) in the episode called "I want your sex".

This is an excerpt from the part when George Micheal takes the stand to talk about his song "I want your sex", defending a high school student who has been expelled after playing the song to protest against her school's federal sponsored "absentee program" (programs aimed at trying to get teenagers to not have sex... until later...). George might not be the best actor - but it was fun to see and an interesting point they're trying to make.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Marimkekko dress?

Growing up in Scandinavia in the 70s you were surrounded by fabrics from Marimekko, the famous Finish textile company, founded in 1951. There are pictures of me as a toddler with the huge Marimekko "flower" curtains in the background. And I guess, what you are see in your childhood sort of get stuck, and now I just love the Marimekko "style". I love graphic fabrics and are always on the lookout here - and are envious of you in Sweden who now can take a trip to Åhléns and get some Marimekko.

Today the Swedish fashion retailer H&M released its Marimekko collection. Some of the items in the collection looks kind of funny. Not sure I would wear it (I think I might prefer the fabric around windows and not around me...) but I sure like the idea.

There are rumors a H&M store will open not too far away from me, but right now, I have to go downtown San Francisco or to Walnut Creek to check out this collection.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Very wise words

Randy Pausch is a professor of computer science, diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer. September 18 2007 he held his last lecture at his university Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg called "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams", now known as "The Last Lecture". In these online times, this lecture spread fast on the internet, and the lecture was converted into a book on how to live each day with purpose and joy, released yesterday.

I haven't got the book yet, but I've seen the lecture online. It really is so inspiring.

If you have 1 hour and 44 minutes - get a cup of coffee or tea, lean back and watch and listen to his words. You can find it here.

This is the first 1o minutes to get you an idea about his speech...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My first MP3 album

A couple of months ago I read a notice on a new British singer in EntertainmentWeekly (no, not at my hair dresser). The review made me curious so I went online to YouTube to check her out and I really, really liked her voice. Her name is Leona Lewis and she was the winner of the XFactor in 2006, a British show "Idol" show where the famous Simon Cowell is involved somehow.

Since I like "big voices" I asked Santa for her album and he really tried to find it, and thought it was weird the Wife, oups the Wisher, had asked for something that didn't seem to exist. It was only the small detail that it was not available in the US yet. It was released in the UK in November 2007, but not here until - today.

So today I bought the album and downloaded it through Amazon's MP site using my little "system" previously described. This was actually my first MP3 album - so far I've only bought singles I like.

Since Leona Lewis is with Sony BMG it's impossible to find a video to embedd here - so I'm just giving you the links. This is the US-version of Bleeding Love and this is the UK-version. Was it the lack of yellow taxi cabs in the UK version that made them do two versions - or was the UK version too sexy for the American public?

Now I only have to find a way to get out of the house so I will get a chance to listen to it too...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Saloon day

I had an appointment with my hair dresser today. Her name is Tiffany. Her name always makes me smile. Tiffany. She is really nice and she is good - it took me years to find her when I got here (and she really looks like a "Tiffany"). You need to feel "safe" with your hairdresser (a feeling I think only female readers can relate to...). She seems to think that I'm starving for gossip, so she always immediately goes to get the latest editions of US, People, Star and all the other American gossip magazines and stack them up on my knee. Then she comments to the pictures and stories over my shoulder. Great - since I'm totally uninformed, I only recognize a fraction of the people on the pages. She is very meticulous - I swear she goes through each strand of hairs.

The only thing we disagree on is how to "finish off". She wants to blow dry my hair straight - and put a little "curve" on the ends. Which really isn't my kind of thing. But she loves doing it - so why not. It's only for a couple of hours. A night of sleep will take of it - and my hair will look great in the morning after a shower and some more amateurish blow drying.

(Picture is generated from the demo version from where you can upload your picture and try out 1000s of hairstyles. No, this isn't me - it's the "dummy" they give to you - but it gives you the idea on how Tiffany would like to blow dry my hair. And I have bangs.)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Lawn mowing

I've spent the morning mowing the lawn. And I probably will spend a few upcoming weekends doing this task, which is normally the Husband's. We don't have a huge garden, but we happen to live in a corner lot on a cul-de-sac ("vändplans-gata") so we have a pretty big lawn on our front yard, a place where you normally never spend any time, but is the part of the garden that visitor and by passers actually see (the rest is hidden behind tall wooden fences).

We get a respite from lawn mowing over "winter" - a few months when we can let the lawn mower rest in the garage. But when spring arrives, this is a duty that needs to be carried out every 6-7 days until November, or our grass we will quickly resemble a jungle.

There is no way this could be done with a manual reel mower, such as in the picture, the kind we had when I was a kid in Stockholm. That works ok when you have to mow the lawn three, four time during the summer - not once a week (unless you want to equal lawn moving with extended session at the gym of course).

We have an electrical lawn mover, much more quieter than the neighbors' gas driven mowers.

You only have to avoid cutting the cord...

(Picture of manual reel mower from Stiga - a Swedish company originally known for table tennis rackets and table hockey games but that also makes garden equipment) (and of course it's not really Swedish anymore, now owned by a British company).

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A sweet little song

A friend of mine skyped me about this son, The way I am, by Ingrid Michaelson - who, despite her name, is not Swedish or Scandinavian at all. It sort of grows on you and the lyrics is so sweet - makes me happy!

Friday, April 04, 2008

I need a gardener

Two weeks ago we got four huge plants at Costco for our backyard that really needs some upgrades. They are still not in the ground. And with a Husband with slipped discs and in pain, they're probably not going anywhere any time soon. So every day I give them emergency water from the hose and try to talk and comfort them, promising I will do anything to save them (you are supposed to talk to your plants, right?) (I have absolutely no idea, I'm really not a gardening person) (even though my mom keeps insisting that I will turn into one, everyone does with time) (I don't believer her).

I wonder if you can throw a party for friends with big, strong husbands and tell them they'll get a cold beer after they dig a hole?

Or if John Rowland is free...?

(the shovel is from Fiskars, the Finish company that makes stuff with orange handles)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Time to play

When I was a kid I remember being terrible envious of those kids who had Playmobil stuff to play with. Especially the pirate ship. Playmobil is pretend play big time - tiny small real looking pieces to play with, originally German and got big in the mid 70s. (in case you've missed out on this fun stuff).

Then I grew up. So for years I've had to put my Playmobil playing aside. Until now. With two kids in the house - and a steady income way beyond "veckopeng" (weekly allowance) - the world of Playmobil lies open!

I wonder if my kids would appreciate this office equipment kit...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wheat pillow

One thing I have brought to the US from Sweden is my bellowed "vetekudde". Not sure if there is an English word for it - directly translated it's "wheat pillow". It's exactly what it sounds like - a small pillow stuffed with wheat. You put it in your microwave for about 2 minutes and out comes the greatest warm friend to aching limbs or just very cold feet. In Sweden I used to have one for company at night all winter (b.h that is...), I heated it up while brushing my teeth and let the be heat up before getting in. Mmmm... nice and warm!

Here most of the year you usually want to go to bed with an icepack instead, so it hasn't been used as much. But last night I brought it out. The Husband has a really, really, really bad pain in his back thigh after a back spasm four weeks ago gone totally wrong. He has trouble standing, sitting, lying, and so far the anti inflammatory medications haven't kicked in. The pain is really bad and none of the pain medication seems to really help (even though it does help a bit better if you actually take it - what is it with med and medications??). Anyway, last night, tossing and turning in bed from the pain, I heated my "vetekudde" up, despite the Husbands insurance that he didn't need it, put it over his thigh - and five minutes later he was deep asleep, relaxed and content. However he would never admit the "vetekudde" did anything for him.

(Picture from Scandinavian Design Center that seems to be selling wheat pillows and ship to the US.)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Rain check

I took a quick trip to Target tonight (or as quick as you can do when you go to Target since you always end up with a full shopping cart even though you had one specific thing you were looking for...). Target is a huge store with almost everything.

One of the things I had not planned to buy but found were a couple of "organizing cubes" for our hallway and hallway closet. American hallways are not like Swedish - in Sweden you're hallway usually have shoe racks, coat hangers, drawers for "hallway stuff" that are always full, a mirror and other items you need for exit or entering your house. Here you usually enter straight into the living room and a "real" hallway is rare to find. But since we are Swedish we tend to want to leave things in our "hallway" anyway, old habits are hard to break - and thus have a disorganized, cluttered space in the area in our living room that could be defined as a hallway if you stretch it. And - to my point - at Target I found these organizer cubes that would solve some of the problems with "hallway stuff".

They were on sale (yes!) but unfortunately they only had four and I wanted six. So before I left the store, I went to customer service and asked for a "rain check"*. A great invention that will guarantee that I will get the sales price when the items get back in stock again, even though the sale is over. I now have two receipts I can use for next time I go to Target to fill a shopping cart.

*Seems the term "rain check" comes from late 1800s when baseball fans were issued a new ticket if the game was postponed due to rain.