Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Swedish satellite TV?

This fall the major Swedish broadcaster, Sveriges Television (SVT) will start broadcasting via satellite over North America. If you have a satellite disk it will cost about SEK1200 /year to subscribe. SVT has a survey where you can show your interest. SEK 1200/year isn't too much - about SEK 100/month - and like what - 6 Swedish DVDs. 

My main concern would be that they will broadcast all the programs in real time (ie Swedish time) - alas when I'm asleep or on other weird hours. I have enough issues with time difference within this country (like watching the Oscars at 5 pm for example) - and do not want to have to catch Swedish programs during midday when I'm working. 

The Husband disagrees and think you can just record the programs you want to see - but then what would be the point? Isn't the whole point of having satellite TV to be able to sit down and just catch whatever is on? If I have to plan in advance and record TV programs - I could as well use the online service SVTPlay or eventually get the DVD for a specific TV series I want to see? 

If I lived in Europe I wouldn't hesitate - but with 9 hours time difference - I'm not so sure it would add value. When looking at the current schedule it seems as if the programs will show reruns on the evening local news during prime time hours here... 

Have to think about it...  

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"My flag"

Yesterday my Daughter was finishing a drawing for my step dad who just had his birthday. She decided she wanted to draw a flag post with a flag raised, just like the one we have at the summerhouse in the Stockholm archipelago. 

She started drawing it, and I didn't pay much attention. Then she asked "where do I put the stars?". For a moment I was confused, not knowing what she was talking about. No stars on the flag last time I checked. Then it hit me. "Oh, you're drawing the American flag?", I said. For a moment the Daughter was confused, not knowing what I was talking about. "I'm drawing my flag", she said. 

Of course. If you ask my Daughter, born and raised in California to draw the flag - she will of course draw a red and white striped flag with white stars on a blue rectangle in the corner. Why would she automatically draw a blue flag with a yellow cross as I was assuming? In the end we decided to draw two flags - after all - here in California you see flagpoles with two flags all the time - the American and the California flag (and in the end neither flag was in the "correct" colors - but then, who cares, the point is that there are two flags up for the birthday boy).

But it was yet a reminder that however much I want to answer "Swedish" to the question on what my kids think they "are" - it's not what they would answer. 

So from now on we have two official flags in the house, mixing red, blue, white and yellow. And that's pretty neat too. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

One of my kids' favorite (at least the Son's, the Daughter is a bit more cautious) books is Till Vildingarnas Land, or Where the Wild Things Are (as is the original title). Before we started the The Little Engine That Could-addiction, the Son had a major Where the Wild Things Are-addiction. 

I knew it was being made into a movie and today I saw the trailer. Seems they've kept pretty close to the American author and illustrator Maurice Sendak's illustrations. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Surprise sleepover

I spent the Saturday in downtown San Francisco attending a "barcamp" - an "un-conference" on a topic dear to me. It was really fun - but pretty intense. During the day I saw in my RSS reader on my BlackBerry  that a dear friend, nicknamed "Star", was stuck at home with severe backpain in PaloAlto while her family had taken off to Point Reyes for a family weekend. I decided to go down there after my "un-conference" and keep her company - it's just a 20-30 minute drive south from San Francisco. 

I ended up staying the night and having tons of fun, eating pizza and ice cream, watching Australia and silly documentaries on TLC. In the morning I took off for Sacramento after a great weekend (thanks Star!). 

I really do miss my TomTom GPS that was stolen out of the car right before Christmas. The new Mio we have sure has it's own ideas on the best way... When going to PaloAlto I was guide on small streets through Redwood City, Menlo Park until finally reaching the destination in PaloAlto. When leaving it took me on a tour through downtown PaloAlto before letting me hit the highway and the Dumbarton Bridge. I'm starting to wonder if it's more a "sightseeing" GPS than a "get you to your destination" GPS...  I would probably have gotten around quicker without it, and just checking the direction of the sun and using my common sense... 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Special K

I'm not really a cereal eater. But I actually do like the Kellogg's Special K cereal. Figures. One of the more pricey ones.  

Nowadays that's one of my regular breakfast choices, Special K with fruit (pieces of fresh bananas or blueberries or apples). My Daughter actually branded them "mamma flingor" (mom cereal). 

And now that's what the kids want to have for breakfast as well... We've tried to introduced regular CornFlakes and Cheerios (which you can buy in family sized boxes unlike the more pricey Special K) - but no. I guess we shouldn't be complaining. If you have ever walked down the long "cereal aisle" in an American supermarket, you know what I mean. Row after row with fun, colorful, tasty  - but pretty sugary cereal. 

So when I find my box Special K empty in the morning I should be happy that they're not eating "Choco pops frosty flakes" or something similar. And then make myself a sandwich. Again. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A short movie

Happened to find this from somewhere - pretty cool. Even though I wonder why he didn't do a forest with flowers in the first place since that was the main attraction... maybe creating nature is more complicated (you'll see what I mean when you watch it). 

Monday, March 16, 2009


My daughter has started adding the Swedish word "liksom" to her vocabulary when speaking Swedish (one of those words that really makes no difference to the sentence, is just an extra "add-on"). I really thought she, livng far from Sweden would miss this phase of using unnecessary words - but apparently not. 

I know I'm a sinner when it comes to "liksom" - I was a major "liksom" abuser when I was a kid and there is an occasional "liksom" slipping through when I'm talking, but not as many for the Daughter to pick it up. She is using "liksom" exactly as Swedish kids would use it. Interesting. 

I wonder what the English equivalence to "liksom" is? According to the dictionary it's "like" - but is it? Native English readers might clarify this to me?  

Saturday, March 14, 2009

American Pie

We  have a Mp3-player in the car that automatically turns on when you start the car (broadcasting on an FM channel to the radio but that's all technical stuff I leave to the Husband to configure). It has a peculiar setting - when you turn off the car and thus the Mp3-player - the next time you will turn on the car it will start the song it was playing from the start. 

See the interesting thing about this? Well, if you drive really short distances - you'll end up hearing the same song every time you drive... And the last couple of days it has happened to me... I have only been driving to the eye doctor when I was in a rush, to the store to buy loads of milk, to pick up the Daughter in school - all pretty short distance - not long enough for the current song to end. 

The song happened to be American Pie by Madonna. And the more I listened to it, I became a bit confused about the lyrics. Since I'm not native English speaking, I can tune out the words and just enjoy a song (and only later realize the strange lyrics - or very banal lyrics for that matter). 

So I decided to look it up and found the video on YouTube - and the person posting it must have had the same issues with the lyrics because it was actually published as more info on the YouTube website. 

I'm not sure I'm following it any more after reading along  - but since it is (I think) about the US and lots of American flags (but no pies) I decided to post it. 

Here it is: 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Good neighbors

On our little cul-de-sac several houses are renters, ie they were bought as speculation houses and have been rented out from the start. For years we had pretty bad luck with our renting neighbors - none stayed long, they have been strange and most of all - they haven't really cared about the street. 

Until about 1,5 years ago - when we had a family who moved in across from us, choosing to rent rather than buy. We hit it off from the start - they had kids the exact age as ours and they were just very nice to hang out with. The cul-de-sac looked like a amusement park some days, filled with bikes, balls and chalk drawings. We would take turn watch the kids - giving each set of parent some more free time around the house. And the kids really liked each other. 

Then came the economic downturn... and our neighbor lost his job a couple of weeks ago. That means among other things no health insurance through his job and considering they are expecting their third child - this isn't a very optimal situation. 

Two weeks ago they took a trip back to family in Salt Lake City, and the fact that they haven't yet returned probably indicates that they will try to resettle there - closer to the family and support. 

It that is the case our little cul-de-sac will be so very, very quiet again... Good neighbors are sure hard to find. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Little Engine That Could

Even though we speak Swedish at home with the kids, we try to read English books and introduce the kids to some of the more "common" American Childrens' books. Even though they know their Alfons and Viggo and Emil, their childhood isn't just "Swedish" and they need to have other references too. 

I like this - I'm a book lover and I like exploring American childrens' books. 

Right now the Son's favorite is "The Little Engine that Could" (which I think is translated to Swedish too). I got the book through the Scholastic bookstore through the Daughter's former preschool - a great way to support the school (the Kindergarten has the same program) and get books at resonable prices. 

The version we have is not the original one, but a newer edition, illustrated by Loren Long. I love her pictures just as much as the kids do. On her webiste you can see sketches for the book compared to the finalized drawings. 

And for days now we've walked around the house saying "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can"! 

(what the Little Engine says when she tries to pull the train over the mountain)

Friday, March 06, 2009

Tax times

It's time to file taxes and the e-mails are going back and forth to my Swedish CPA, preparing for my meeting with my American CPA. Even though I have most of my business in the US I still have some in Sweden and every year the tax agreements have to be studied and calculated so that the correct filing takes place in the right country. 

It gives me a headache and I'm so HAPPY that there are CPAs out there who really know and like solving puzzles like this. My American CPA is sent from heaven - she talks "normal" language and calms me down when I come with frizzled hair and panicking eyes with all the paper work and cryptic e-mails from my Swedish CPA on tax regulations and forms. 

I really hope that I never have to go through an audit. Not that I have anything to hide, not at all, but it just stresses me out totally. I hardly don't understand "tax languages" in Swedish - in English it's like speaking Chinese... 

Hopefully we're all done next week and can file (my three!!) tax returns and forget about the whole thing until next March... 

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Learning Swedish

The last couple of days I've had to have long, complicated discussion with my endocrinologist (thyroid-lingo), CPA (tax-lingo) and bookkeeper (business administration-lingo), making me slur on the words and giving me a slight headache when talking about very specific topics in another language. Sometimes it sure is tiring to be so dependent on another language. 

Today I read this very interesting article series, "I väntan Sverige"  in the major Swedish daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, about immigrants challenges when coming to Sweden. One of them being the language. This article, about learning Swedish, was very interesting (unfortunately you have to learn Swedish to be able to read it...), talking about the challenges you face when coming to Sweden and trying to learn this tiny, pretty complicated language called Swedish. A language where we write words together, putting 2-3 words together to one new word, making them really long and almost impossible to dissect. The journalist, Maciej Zaremba,  really brings up some interesting aspects of learning Swedish.

Being an alien, you sure know what a central part of life knowing the language of the country you reside in is. I'm glad I don't have to struggle to talk to my endocrinologist, my CPA and my bookkeeper in Swedish, should that have been my alien country...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


For weeks my Daughter's Kindergarten has had "Jog-a-Thon" as an event in the weekly newsletter, organized by the PTA. I haven't really care about the PTA activites so far - they do so many things - scrapbook nights (I'm not a scrapbooker), movie nights (our kids are too small) etc. I have supported the school in other ways. 

But this week I realized that this Jog-a-Thon really is something I have to, need to, pay attention to. The kids are suppoused to do something (jog??) and get money (a ton?) that people pledge for what they do - and it's on Friday! I'm frantically reading back in old newsletters trying to figure out what this thing is all about...  but it seems it's assumed you know exactly what a Jog-a-Thon is. Seems my Daughter should have been preparing (how?) for this all week and getting ready. 

Gaah! The stress of being an alien Kindergartner parent! 

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Health care

There is a lot to say about the health care system in this country - especially the insurance part - getting coverage, and the cost of it. As self employed we pay for our own health insurance and it sure takes a big chunk out of our pockets. But in return, we really feel like customers when using it - and so far - knock knock - we've only used it "regular". Yearly check-up for the kids with their pediatrician , physical therapy for back problems, eye clinic etc. And pretty regularly I get evaluation sureys after visits to the doctor, encouraging to give feedback.  

Since I have thyroid issues (I'm a post-RAI hypo patient for those that know the lingo) I also see my endocrinologist on a regular basis. I had my appointment on Monday so on Friday last week I went in to do the labs. I went in the morning and late Friday night I had a mail with my lab results. On Sunday night my endocrinologist sent me an e-mail commenting on the results. On Monday on my visit, my doctor decided she wanted to do a follow up since she felt something where I shouldn't have a thyroid, just to make sure. While in the exam room she booked me for a ultrasound at the clinic closest to me for Wednesday at a time that was convenient for me and sent in a prescription for my new dose of thyroid medication to my local pharmacy, that would be ready to pick up within the hour. The hospital where I see her have free valet parking for patients that have problem to walk from the car. And parking is of course free. 

The only problem with my endocrinologist is that she loooves Sweden and have been a couple of times and we always have to talk about Sweden for a long time before we can get down to business...  But, could be worse... She always asks about the kids and the family and encourage me to send her an e-mail if I have any concerns (and the few times I have - she has responded within the day). 

And when I look back at the years I've been here - this is pretty much how things have been (we've had the same HMO since we came). 

So far, the health care system works way better for me than the credit history system...  

Monday, March 02, 2009

A book from Africa

My Daughter got a package in the mail today. It had traveled all the way from South Africa, where my mom is living right now. I knew she had sent the book - my mom had written about how much she fell in love with it during a book reading by the South African author, Bettina Schouw, and how she just had to get it for her granddaughter (who is bilingual and thus can understand a book written in English). She even got it signed by the author for my Daughter (who was very impressed... realizing that "author" is actually something you can dream to be and they are real people...).

It's an amazing book. The book, Dreamwalking, is about the importance of dreams - having them, nuture and pursue them, finding your own special star and following it - "dreamwalking". It was inspired by Mark Shuttleworth, who aspired to be the first African to travel in space.

We're read it twice tonight and talked about dreams and what the people in the fantastically illustrated book dreamed about. "Are you a dreamer mom", my Daughter asked me and I really liked the dicussion we had after that. And I kept on thinking about my own dreams, dreams I've had and dreams I have...

Quotes from the book:

"Dreams are like birds and birds must fly, their wings were made to soar the sky.
And dreams ignored or shut away, soon wither and fade in the light of day".

"But dreamers are blessed with their own special star, that guides them to places, both near and far.
And suddenly magic from out of the blue, will show you the next thing that you need to do".

Unfortunately it's not (yet...) on Amazon.com (or Amazon.co.uk). Her website lists a couple of South African online stores that sells it, but weather they would ship outside SA is not clear. I really wouldn't mind getting a couple of copies to give as gifts to friends... and get their and their kids heads spinning about dreams...

Check out Bettina Schouw's website for more pictures from the book and the "10 useful tips for dreames".