Monday, September 29, 2008


What do Swedish kids bring to school on their birthday? I have no idea... Sockerkaka? Home made cake? Or maybe you don't bring anything? See... I would be an alien mom in Sweden...

In the US - you bring cupcakes. Which is really small muffins with frosting on top. Mostly the kids will lick off the frosting - giving them a total sugar high. Can be fun to watch. From a distance.

In our refrigerator we have 36 cupcakes, waiting to be delivered to the Daughter's Kindergarten tomorrow. It's her birthday - and her snack day - and she has ordered cupcakes to serve as snack. And you don't argue with a 5-year old about cupcakes... Luckily we won't be there, by the time it's pick up time, hopefully the sugar will have worn off.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A day in the apple hills

We spent a warm Sunday (we had a peak of +34C today), picking apples with a bunch of good friends in Apple Hills in the Sierras. You find an apple farm (and there are plenty), get an apple picker (a small basket thing on top of a long stick - sort of) and you head out and find a tree with apples in the color and size you prefer and start picking. Preferably you remember to bring something to put the apples in - or it will become pretty complicated very fast. We also passed by the blueberry trees (yes, trees - not bushes) - but blueberry season is over unfortunately.

We came home with a bag of apples of all colors and sizes (we will eat apples until the end of November - but try to stop a 5-year old with an apple picker stick) and a fresh baked apple pie which we had for snack with Swedish vanilla sauce once back home in the afternoon. A pretty good Sunday in Northern California. And we will now be extremely healthy his fall (since we will live by "three apples a day keeps the doctor away" rule...).

Friday, September 26, 2008

First effect of financial crisis

We have a pretty safe financial situation - but today we felt the first effects of the financial crisis in this country. When logging on to our bank online, it was no longer Washington Mutual, but JPMorganChase. Chase has bought the financially stretched WAMU bank.

The main effect of that for us is that we soon will have 9300 more ATMs we now can use for free. Here you have to pay a fee to use another bank's ATM - so I guess that is actually good news. Not that I'm a frequent ATM user - I'm pretty bad at not having cash in my wallet.

In general, we feel pretty good right now about being very conservative when buying our house five years ago, sticking to our budget, not over buying (despite all offers to do so...), locking the interest - and not cashing out any that equity we had at the high peak (at one point we had almost $150 000 in artificial equity, which was just totally crazy). Those who didn't stick to a budget, bought a house way over their limits, using the interest free mortgages, calculating with a continuous growth in the realty market, cashing out the equity - they sure do not have good times right now.

I'm glad that so far the only financial effect we've had is more available ATMs.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Late night shopping

When I was heading home from the airport last night, I decided to make the family happy and get milk (an essential part of breakfast in our family). After all, it was already way, way, way past bedtime, so an extra 15 minutes wouldn't do much difference and I'm passing by the store on my way to the house. Those are the times you appreciate Safeway's 24 opening hours.

I wasn't alone. We were two lonely souls in this huge store - besides the night staff - who are restocking the store. Two lonely cars in the huge and empty parking lot. You have to navigate your shopping cart in between boxes around the store, the lights are dimmed, and weird music is playing.

But - got my milk! Turned out the lights finally at 2.30 am....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The myths about Americans

The US correspondent from the the major Swedish newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, Karin Henriksson, has written a book about the US, after living here for 20 years, reporting about the US and the Americans to the Swedes on the other side of the world.

The book, called "US - how it works" (freely translated - it's written in Swedish and called "USA - så funkar det"), is about myths about the US and her views about these myths and why and how they are not true. I haven't read the book, but I'm sure picking up a copy next time I come to the US and have to write more about it. Just her article about the book was really, really interesting - she sure covers all the myths I encouter when I'm in Sweden.

Here are the 10 myths about the US:

1. The US is a cultural desert
2. American health care is bad
3. Americans are only intersted in money
4. The US is an imperalistic country who only wants to control the oil resources
5. Ameican TV and TV news are shallow
6. Americans sue each other all the time
7. American voters lack knowledge and stupid
8. Americans drive everywhere and do not like public transportaion
9. The US is threatened by the budget deficit, opposition to immigration , obesity, christian conservatives
10. Americans are prudish and moralist.

Recognize some of these?

Killing time at LAX

After yet another an intense day in San Diego, I'm trying to kill 4 hours at LAX to get back home (I had to take a two-stop flight on my way back). I got a internet day pass from T-Mobile so I can surf (I think airports by default should have free internet). I've had California Pizza Kitchen for dinner and now I'm trying to find friends who are online this Wednesday evening to keep me company. Next flight is yet another "commuter" flight (the flight from San Diego to Los Angeles was something like 40 minutes, next flight is 1,5 hours I think) - meaning a really small propeller airplane where you can't stand up straight. The music they play in this terminal is extremely annoying and it sort of smells... no glamour at LAX, that's for sure.

Old Town in San Diego where I spent 35 minutes today.

Los Angeles skyline from the small commuter plane at sunset.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A night at the beach

After an intense learning day when I only left the hotel for a quick visit to the nearby Fashion Mall, they bussed us off to the Mission Beach where we spent the evening with food, drinks and a live band playing Journey covers. It was just at sunset so I missed out on really good beach pictures (and it was hazy so I didn't even see the sunset).

My notebook is filled, my head is exploding - I've learned so much these two days. One more day tomorrow - then I'm off for Northern California again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Speed visiting...

I skipped a late afternoon event on the conference I'm attending and headed out to the trolley station and taking the green and blue line to downtown San Diego. The trolley platform was filled with people - heading the opposite direction - to the stadium. Big football game tonight. But the trolley heading downtown was quiet and nice.

I had quickly browsed through the guide book for a little walking tour during a morning session break. It said the walk would take 3 hours - but I didn't have that time. At least if I would be able to take pictures in the daylight. So I had to do a little speed visiting to the downtown area. I even considered taking one of the bike taxis...

When darkness fell, I was exhausted, but happy. I had seen at least a tiny bit of San Diego. I sneaked in to the Horton Plaza and found a sale at JJill... before taking the trolley back to the hotel again.

A few pictures from today:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Flying south

Today I took off for and arrived to San Diego. Kind of nice to leave the house and arrive somewhere the same day - and not have to change your clock - and no jetlag! I hardly know how to "only" fly domestic - I'm always on my way to Europe when flying...

I have never been here in San Diego, despite almost 10 years in California - and I hope I'll get a chance to see some of the city - and not just the hotel where I'm staying and attending a four day conference. It started today already - I had a total of six hours in a freezing conference room. Good thing I actually packed long pants and a sweater - because I'll need it big time... What is it with these Americans and their air condition...

I didn't take many pictures today - only a few of California from the air. But it was actually foggy and cloudy most of the way down south... but I got a flew glimpses of this beautiful state's coastline.

Friday, September 19, 2008

5 years, 6 moms and 12 kids

When my Daughter was two weeks old, I took her with me to a "support group" for new moms at the clinic that hosts my family doctor and ob/gyn. New moms could go here every week on Thursdays to meet and talk and hang out (I guess the same kind of groups or meetings exists in Sweden).

At this point, I really didn't have that many friends here, I had been working from home, traveling extensively between Sweden and the US and hadn't really had the time or opportunity to meet new friends. And despite being pretty shy, I realized that since I hardly knew anything about kids, I could be a good idea to go, if nothing else, to figure out the best way to change a onesies on a constantly moving baby.

At the support group, lead by a nurse who had a newborn herself (but her second, so she was in another league than the rest of us - she could changed diapers and have a conversation at the same time... we were very impressed), I met a bunch of moms, just as novice as I was.

I was so lucky - and we all hit it off right away. Funny enough - we were almost all the same age, 30 something, had all worked and been married for a couple of years before our tiny miracles arrived - and we all had baby girls...

For almost 5 years now, we've hung out (we graduated from the support group after about 6 months and broke free to do our own little get-togethers) - and seen our kids grow and prosper. We've been through loss, serious illnesses and lots of laughs. Through the friendship with these moms, I've come to understand that they might be just as confused as I am when it comes to how things work when having kids here - despite being very much non-alien. Just like me, they've had to figure out how to find a good pediatritian, how to sign up for preschool and what all those shots are actually for.

Today we all gathered to celebrate our girls' 5th birthdays (which are all in August and September) and now all 6 girls are big sisters - to 4 girls and 2 boys (boys sure are a clear minority in this gang), have developed from small, newborn babies to big, beautiful girls with great personalities and have started Kindergarten. And their moms have developed into pretty cool moms, if I may say so myself.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"It's winter now"

Today we woke up to cooler temperatures (this week we will only hit the 70s) and the inside temperature was "only" +20C and with the windows open, there was a cool breeze from the +17C outside, coming into the house. It's going to be a beautiful day - with perfect temperatures +23-24C.

My Daughter, sitting at the breakfast table in her shorts and t-shirt, was shivering. "Mom, it's winter now", my little Californian girl told me. "No, I said, you can't really say that actually, but it's starting to become fall", I replied while helping her with a long sleeved sweater. "But winter is when you're cold?", she said.

It's kind of tricky to teach your kid seasons "in theory"... and I still haven't gotten used to that my kids won't have the same meaning fall, winter and spring than I have, growing up in a place on earth where the seasons are clearly noticeable.

Oh, some leaves do turn yellow here and fall off, and come back in spring, and the temperatures drop during winter and we will (hopefully... we have a stage 2 alert) have rain and hit an occasional "freeze" night (meaning temperatures around 0F/36F), but it's just so subtle...

(Picture of "Winter insulated overall" from

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Easy to choose wine

Even though I'm about 1,5 hours from Napa Valley and even a little further from Sonoma - the major wine areas in California, there actually are wineries not too far from where I live too. I like that - it gives a little "Falcon Crest"-feeling to everyday life, haha.

Anyway, I just browsed through a magazine and I read about this new "easy to choose" wine - and the bottles looked kind of funny - so I just had to check them out.

This (Californian) company, Wine that Loves, from the philosophy that people should easier find wine that goes together with specific types of food. So they have a line of wines, all designed to pair with different kind of foods, with labels that easily guide you to which wine to choose.

Kind of a fun idea!

They have a "pizza wine" (of course!) - I really like the design of this bottle. And now I'm really curious to try it next time we happen to order pizza - even though pizza nights are usually nights when no one has the energy to cook and we just want to have dinner overwith... not really the kind of nights when you might want to slurp down a glass of wine with your food.

Oh, well, I just have to plan a "pizza and wine dinner" and invite some friends over. I might even bring out the plates and not serve the slices out of the box.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"But we speak Swedish"?

Speaking about my Daughter - the other day when I walked her to school (it was a cooler day, "only" 90F), she told me when we passed the school yard where the older kids had recess, "Mom, in school they all speak English. And everyone here speaks English. But when I'm at grandma's I [in Sweden], she speaks Swedish, and we speak Swedish...?".

It had suddenly come over her, that it's not totally common for everyone else to also speak this tiny, language called Swedish.

I reminded her that Dora, one of her favorite TV characters, speaks Spanish with her mom and family and some of her friends - and speaks English too.

The Daughter thought about this for awhile and said "Ok!", and happily continued skipping to school.

Oh, how I hope she will keep this attitude and she won't come to a stage where she doesn't want to speak Swedish "because nobody else does it".

Monday, September 15, 2008

School jam

My Daughter is on her second month of Kindergarten and we've sort of fallen into a routine. She likes it a lot, even though it's really tricky to have her tell us what's really goes on in the classroom. We get a little bit more information if we ask her about her day in English (and not in Swedish which is the language we speak in our house). Then she doesn't have to figure out what "I was the captain of the green team" is in Swedish (I'm not even sure we have ever talked about "lagkapten" or "gröna laget" in Swedish - she just doesn't know how to talk about that in Swedish.

Since she is a "late bird" (going to the class that starts at 11 am), getting her to school is a breeze - the school yard and parking lot is almost empty. But getting her from school - you have to enter into the "school jam". With all the classes in this K-5 school (classes from Kindergarten to Grade 5) is out at the same time , and since most of the kids are picked up by car - this is one crazy time at this little school in the middle of a residential area.

We're lucky - it's a 6 minute walk to school - so if the weather is nice (meaning cool...) we can just walk past the lines of cars. But the days when we've had over 100F (+37C) - even a 6 minute walk for a tired 5 year-old is too long and we've entered the traffic jam... or should I say, minivan parade.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Going to the circus

Today we went to the circus. My last memory of a visit to the circus is so old it's probably outlawed. I have a vague memory of a small circus tent and sawdust floor.

This was nothing like that.

The circus wasn't even in a tent - they had transformed a whole arena into a circus. And boy, do these Americans know how to put on a show. For over 2 hours, not including the "pre show" on the circus floor where you got to meet the clowns in person), we were royally entertained.

When asked what the Daughter enjoyed most, she answered "when the elephants pooped on the floor". (and schhh... I must admit... that was sort of funny, even though it was not really part of the show).

I found a commercial for the circus (actually not this particular show, but you get some idea of what it was like):

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Stormy weather

I followed the scary reports from the huge storm Ike, heading for Texas, on the news channels last night until it was time to sleep. This morning when I woke up, I turned on the CNN to see how the night had been.

Really, really bad.

Gosh, these hurricanes are so horribly awful. The pictures says it all. My heart goes out to those who have lost so much in the last 24 hours.

How small we are after all when Mother Nature shows us her strength...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday fun...

Well, if the campaigns could keep it at these levels for the remaining weeks until the election - I'm all for! Nothing like a little laugh on a Friday afternoon.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years ago

It's only been seven years, but it feels almost like yesterday. September 11. 11 september. 9-11. I can still recall the weary, stunned feelings and everything that happened that day.

This is my story of my September 11, 2001, a warm, fall day in Northern California.

"I woke up from a phone ringing really early in the morning. After awhile I realized it was my cell phone, ringing at 6 am something. I decided to ignore it, must be some confused Swede wanting to talk to me, unaware of time difference, but it kept ringing.

By the time I found the phone in the hall I had missed the calls. Then the Husband got an sms on his phone next to mine. I thought this was weird, and just got a bad feeling and did something I normally wouldn't do, I read his sms. "Scary things going on over there!" was the message from one of his friends in Sweden.

I decided to turn on the computer and check the news. Usually when we have people call and weird hours it has been an earthquake somewhere in California and the family worry.

But I couldn't get to any of the news sites. They were all overloaded. A feeling in my tummy made me turn on the TV instead to check the news. The local channel, normally showing the first hour of the morning show at this time, was now showing news feeds from CNN.

I wasn't sure I was really awake, but it looked like both of the World Trade Center towers were on fire.

I called out for the Husband, still sound asleep, to tell him something weird was going on. By the time he got up, the first tower fell before our eyes. It was 6.59 am in California. We still were not sure what we were seeing, just barely awake still.

Still in pajamas we spent the next couple of hours confused, trying to get in touch with the Husband's sister and husband then living on Manhattan, figuring out what was going on, trying to call family in Sweden to ensure them that we were ok, far from any real action (they were, the Brother-in-Law watched the tower fall from his office window). Phone systems were over loaded. We finally got through using an internet phone line and had family do phone chains to those we couldn't get hold of.

My Husband took off for work eventually. Only to come back a couple of hours later, work having been canceled. For several days the big channels didn't broadcast anything but news. No commercials. Only news.

My mom was supposed to arrive from Sweden two days later. She arrived 7 days later since there were no planes in the air for several days."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Westbound jetlag

When I started travel between California and Sweden 9 years ago, I had a really hard time with east bound jetlag (westbound felt like a breeze comparatively). I had to work hard to find the tricks that worked for me and now, I'm usually out of it in less than 24 hours (not if the kids are with me - then it takes more like 6 days or so...).

But the last couple of years, west bound jetlag has really started to hit me hard. I'm on my third day back in California and my head is pounding, my body feels weird, I've slept 10 hours through the night, I'm grumpy (really, I'm a real pain, just ask my husband) and I just can't shake it off.

I really have to start making a new plan for how to handle this - or my family might not want me back when I return from Sweden next time in October.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Coffeehouses in airports

Both in the terminal I always depart from on my way to Sweden and by the gate I always leave from at Stockholm-Arlanda, they have opened new coffeehouse. A Starbucks here and a Robert's Coffee at Arlanda.

I love the smell of coffee, but I don't drink it, and as a non coffee drinker these coffeehouses also drives me a bit nuts...

You can imagine the line to these places in an airport terminal, full of people stressed to get to their gates, and still ordering "one extra mocha latte grande extra hot no foam fat free milk extra cinnamon". For each order the line just grows longer and longer, and I, who just wants a bottled drink and maybe a pastry, usually just give up. But maybe for an addicted coffee drinker, it's almost worth missing your flight for your personal, very special coffee order.

Working as a barista in a coffee shop in an airport terminal must be the worst job ever - oh, the stress. Maybe I would be doing them a favor, being the customer that orders something simple such as "a bottle juice and a bagel, please".

Sunday, September 07, 2008

8 days later

8 days after leaving, I have returned to California. It's a loooong trip. It just takes for ever. I wonder how many times I've done this California - Chicago - Sweden trip. 30? 40? I think I could find my way around O'Hare blind folded by now.

Only two interesting things happened during the trip.

The first was watching the The Sex and the City movie on the in-flight entertainment system. I had seen the movie the day before in Stockholm - but the uncensored version. The version shown on the flight was... well, very censored... No naked bodies (and for those of you who have seen the SATC movie knows that that is sort of a big part of the movie...).

The second was sitting next to a Swedish person on my second flight, from Chicago to California, - and that has never, ever happened before. Turns out he and his (American) fiancee had been on the same SAS flight from Stockholm to Chicago. We talked almost the whole flight about our experiences when returning back to Sweden, vs living in California and all the topics that goes around in a Swedish alien's head. Made the flight go slightly faster.

The escalator rules at O'Hare airport.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

EFTI in Stockholm

Today was EFTI-day (one photo an hour) and I tried to take pictures from my last day in Stockholm, a day spent running errands, meeting friends, getting the last stuff before returning to California on Sunday.

A night at the Opera

My friend had invited me to the Opera to see La bohème during my quick visit to Stockholm and we walked there from Old Town. The weather this week sure has been nice - cool (at least if you just came from Northern California's +40C) but not cold. It was such a fantastic night - the Opera house is just beautiful!

The Opera house in Stockholm.

A little chandelier.

The beautiful walls that makes you wonder if they ever
thought "when is too much gold too much?".

The cast from La bohème gets greetings from the audience.

A "after the opera" Cosmo at the Grand Hotel.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The talk of the town

The Republican convent is over and now all the presidential candidates have held their speeches and the race has begun. Since I was in Sweden this week I didn't watch the Republicans (no, I wasn't up at 4 am to watch or listen, so I can't really compare). But I'm guessing the Republican convent was as much of a show as the Democrat one, if not a bit low key and less confetti due to Gustav.

All my Swedish colleges have strong views about the different candidates (some love Obama, other detest him, some love Palin, others thinks she is a maniac) and have discussed it for days - they all have opinions. I'm amazed - seems they're much more involved than most of my friends in the US - one world away.

Just like me they're not eligible to vote in the US election (but some of them really would like to) - but if they would - oh boy, are they informed.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Speed of the soul

My soul (or whatever) is usually 3-4 days behind when I travel cross Atlantic (how do these business people who travel all the time do it??). And since I usually only stay for 7-8 days before returning back to California (with my lagging soul behind) my stays here causes a somewhat weird feeling.

I'm walking the streets of Stockholm (even though I do spend most of my time in the office) almost like in a haze... am I really here... maybe I'm just dreaming... it feels unreal. And since this used to be my home, it's totally familiar. I could navigate blindfolded - but now I'm discovering new things all the time. "New" buildings, new views, new smells.

I'm not a tourist, I'm not home, I'm not staying - I just... am.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Toys in Old Town

One of my favorite stores in the Old Town in Stockholm is the toy store Kalikå. I always try to pass by on a quick lunch break when working in Stockholm. I like how they play with colors and forms and have all these "real stuff"-toys.

I bet my kids like that I try to pass by this store during my visits. On my last visit I found a really good doctor's kit, this time I found (schhhh) real carpenter jeans in kid's sizes. They're so cool!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

View from buss #4

8 am. Crossing the Västerbron-bridge in downtown Stockholm with buss #4.
Oh, how I love this view.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Talk, talk, talk

After a day at the office I headed out to two of my oldest friends. We've known each other since we were 13 - which is aaaages ago. Spending time with old friends that have known you for so long, seen through high school, graduation, study or work, boyfriends and broken hearts - it sure is amazing. We were set on doing a "fika" at one of my friend's (beautiful, wonderful, very Scandinavian) apartment - but I'm not sure fika is supposed to go beyond 1.30 am... My jet lag would probably been better off with an earlier night - but who cares. Feeling like 18 again sure beats a nice 8 hour night.