Saturday, November 28, 2009


I like the American Thanksgiving holidays. A time to spend time with your family - no stress with gifts or special decorations (even though I love Christmas and I'm not really stressed out about it) - a nice break at the end of November, before the last few weeks of the year. And giving you a lot of time to put up your advent decorations.

My only problem with the weekend is that no one in Sweden hardly knows about it... and they are working as usual... and if you're in the consultancy business, it's high season. It's tricky to take off time in late November and despite efforts to do auto-answers on the e-mail etc, I still got calls on Thanksgiving, in the middle of the Macy's Parade watching, from surprise coworkers who wondered why I hadn't checked my e-mail...

When explaining that Thanskgiving is THE time of the year when almost everything is close - it's when explaining that even McDonalds is closed on Thanskgiving they understand.

Now, the fact that most things are closed on Thanksgiving Day, is matched with extremely open stores on Black Friday.. store opening at long before sunrise...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Home, sweet, sunny home

I'm back home in California after a 24 hours door-to-door trip. I was so tired I first couldn't find the car at the longterm-parking lot... even though I had written down the aisle and texted the husband the same info. I managed 36 hours without sleep when arriving in Paris and managed through my crazy week in Europe on pure will - but coming home, letting down your guard - the jetlag really hits me big time. For days I'm like a zoombie. Sleep 12 hours every night and the only thing I can think of when being up is when I'm going to get back to bed and sleep...

These short trips makes the jetlag harder - it's like your swinging the body in two opposite direction without time to bounce back.

Oh, well, it's going to be over soon and then I'm going to enjoy the fun things I picked up in Stockholm - like the bag of books from PocketShop at Arlanda...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Swedish phenomena I've missed

During my short visit to Stockholm this time around, I did have reason to attend a "award gala" at Berns in Stockholm - a very old and beautiful restaurant and hotel that you appreciate even more when you are an alien.

Host of the gala was the new Swedish comedian Petra Mede. It was the first time I heard her - I have only read about her. I didn't catch any of the "Melodifestivaler" where she was the host and I've never seen her stand-up. It's one of these things that really emphasis that you now are an alien - popular cultural phenomena that you've totally missed.

But then - I'm not sure I missed so much when it comes to Ms Mede. Maybe I was just jetlagged and tired -but I thought she was kind of plump and actually quite mean at people that came up on stage.But maybe that's the way she is and why she is considered funny. Oh, well - now I've seen her and can check that from my Swedish popular cultural list...

Friday, November 20, 2009


If you visit Stockholm in November, you should brace yourself for gray skies and rainy weather and my three days in Stockholm this November where just like that. I didn't see the sun at all during my time, even though my Brother called from the suburbs one afternoon, claiming he could see it. When I left Stockholm there had been 3 hours of sun since the beginning of the month. I'm not sure if that is record low, or just normal.

Even though I've never liked fall, I can't remember that it bothered me that much when I lived there. Fall kind of grew on you and slowly, slowly it got darker. But when you fly in from sunny California, your body is not only jetlagged, but sunlagged too.

But never mind the weather and the darkness (it gets dark at 3.30 pm now - and it's going to get worse before it gets better) - this is Stockholm - my hometown! Even though I spent most of my days in the office and hardly had time to leave during this record short stay - it's still Stockholm...

My brother was nice enough to lend me a suitcase so I could get Christmas gifts back home - and had let me used their mailbox for my advance online shopping. But oh, how I would have loved to have more time in Stockholm - meeting family and friends and gone walking and fika and just enjoying. In the rain and darkness - I wouldn't have mind!

View from my hotel window - picture taken at 8 am.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


After my quick visit to Paris  I headed off to Brussels, taking the train from Gare du Nord. Oh, the memories... I've passed through Gare du Nord a number of times, on my way to adventures in Europe or on my way back home with empty pockets. The train announce sign is still the same! The train ride is pretty quick - 1 hour and 20 minutes - from one European capital to the other.

Brussels is one of those cities I've have no real relationship too. I've passed through quickly with friends once, driving from Paris to Hauge in the Netherlands. And I think we did stop there in 1978 on our car trip to Paris with the family - but if so - I can't remember much.

Not that my stay in Brussels was very extensive this time around either - two days of intensive meetings and conferencing. But - one of the things I got to see was the European Parliament. We were greeted by one of the Swedish MPs and guided through the procedures and processes of the EU - really, really interesting. And - I have a much more visual idea about the EU now - when I've seen "it". Well, at least the building...

After picking up some TinTin items at the Brussels airport - I headed up to Stockholm.

The announcement sign at Gare du Nord in Paris.

The European Parliament.

The entrance to the European Parliament.

A blurry picture of the assembly hall at the European Parliament.

Parts of the Berlin Wall outside the EU in Brussels.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I have visited Paris many times but it's been a couple of years... well... come to think of it... something like 12 years. I used to come here to visit one of my best, dear friends and we had tons of fun (dancing salsa, hiding out from thunderstorms at Sacre-Coeur, eating seven course dinners and taking car trips to the coast).

I only had 26 hours to spend in Paris this time around (when I flew in from Dulles, DC...) - and I used them well, ignoring the fact that I hadn't slept since Friday morning Californian time. I had a chance to spend a fantastic morning with my dear friend to try out her bridal dress, meet my dear alien friends from around Europe, walking in the Tuileries, drinking tea at a brasserie close to Les Halles, shopping in Les Marais, and eating a fantastic dinner around République - before the fact that I had been up for 36 hours straight forced me back to the hotel at Saint-Germian-des-Prés...

View from my hotel window.

View from my hotel window.

Alternatives to cars on busy, narrow streets.

Montparnasse in the background.

The Parisian Metro.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A conversation at the check-in counter

When arriving at the check-in counter at the airport I told the attendant that "I was going to Paris through Dallas". "Ok", the woman said, "Paris through Dulles". "Yes", I said, "Dallas". She looked strangely at me and I was thinking how weird it was that she had so much trouble pronouncing "Dallas". Got my boarding card and went through security and passed by the gate to Washington DC, thinking it's convenient that there is a direct flight to the east coast at that time. But strangely enough I couldn't find the gate to Dallas... and then it hit me and I picked up my boarding card....

And sure enough...

It said... tada... Dulles Airport in Washington DC...

This is what happens when you fly too often - so often that you just toss your printed e-ticket papers in your travel bag, just glancing to check departure and arrival time... Dallas - Dulles... same same...

I quickly text the Husband, informing him that I wasn't going to Dallas after all and then settled for a cross-country flight rather than a half-way flight... But then - in the end - I did arrive in Pars - just as planned. Not just exactly the way I had thought...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Conversations at the Dentist

Last week I took the Daughter to the Dentist to seal her molars - an invention that wasn't invented when I was a kid and something that seems very smart to do. While waiting for things to get ready the Dentist asked my Daughter what her favorite food was. She answered "pizza", which kind of surprised me since we don't really eat it that often and I have never heard of it being a favorite and besides she usually only eat the bread... "Aha", said the Dentist, "you love your mom's home made pizza - isn't that the best when your mom makes you pizza?".


What did that come from? Did I miss a meeting - or is that something moms have to do - make home made pizza...  My Daughter looked puzzled since she has hardly seen me in the kitchen (in this house the Husband is the chef) and then looked at the Dentist and said (my faithful, loyal daughter), "Yes".

Then the Dentist was going to explain the procedures. Very child friendly - only my Daughter was busy watching Madagascar 2 on the screen in the ceiling and was thinking about the toy chest where she would pick up a toy on her way out. She didn't really care about dental procedures. "I'm going to use this infrared light to harden the sealants", the Dentist told my Daughter. "It's the same light your mom uses when she goes to the nailsaloon and gets her nails fixed".


By now I started to feel really inadequate as a mom. Not only have I never made my Daughter homemade pizza, I have actually never been to a nail saloon nor have I brought my 6-year old Daughter. The Daughter looked puzzled at the Dentist and then nodded and kept watching the movie.

To the next Dentist appointment I'm sending the Husband.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Going on the road - in Timbuk2 style

This upcoming weekend I'm hitting the road. I'm off to Europe - going to Stockholm through Paris and Brussels. Paris to meet friends during a 24 hour long stop and then on to Brussels for a conference and then Stockholm for work.

It's going to be a long trip - I'm going to Paris through Dallas. Then taking the train to Brussels from Paris and then flying up to Stockholm. I'm going to pack light - travelling only with a carry-on and my laptop bag. I don't dare check luggage - I don't have time to loose it anywhere.

So now I'm going to be one of those annoying people with a big bag to squeeze in the overhead compartment.

I have lots of bags since I travel a lot - but I really didn't have a good carry-on in the right maximum dimensions. Bags is a great deal to me - they have to function and do their job during all those hours and hours when on the plane and on airports.

And so since I'm a Timbuk2 fan I got their Checkpoint bag this fall. I tried it out on my recent trip to Atlanta and it was great! I can carry an extra pair of shoes in the shoe pocket, there is an internal compression flap keeping my clothes in place, a secret pocket - and it has handles on all sides- making it so easy to get in and out of the overhead compartment. And - it rolls on skateboard wheels - so a lost wheel should be easy to swap. Love it!

And since I'm going to travel with a carry-on I'm carrying my laptop, phone, books and magazines in my Commute Slim laptop bag, United allows you a carry-on and a "computer case". If I didn't travel with the carry - on I would travel with a larger laptop bag.

Now if only the flights were shorter, the security easier, the airport nicer - then it would be a breeze to head off to Europe...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


For the past years we've had Blackberrys in this house. Both our phones have after extensive use slowly been dying and the last couple of weeks my phone stopped doing basic stuff. It was time to put it to rest or I would just carry around a useless piece of metal.

Since I do a lot of social networking and is a curious person - I really wanted to switch to an Android phone. But our cell phone operator, the sad AT&T, do not have any Android phones yet, and no indication that anyone is upcoming. We can't switch to Verizon, which has way better 3G, since their phones don't work internationally and I have to leave the country a couple of times a year. And since I'm going to be travel next week I really need a reliable phone, right now, - it's my lifeline when on the road.

Alas - the only thing left to do was to get an iPhone...

So now I've had my iPhone 3Gs 32GB for a couple of days and is slowly getting used to it. One day I might even be able to type on it...

Oh, how I miss so many functions of the Blackberry and oh, how many cool features the iPhone has.

The notification and lack of real push is driving me nuts! I have to do so many clicks to check my four mailboxes... and then mess comes in another place... And I really really miss the customizable home screen - where I could quickly glance on my latest incoming e-mails, calendar posts - or just take a quick look at the phone to check the blinking light to show I even had to turn it on to check a new mess. And I loved how the Blackberry connected Facebook with address book so I only got notifications in my Facebook app (and not in my inbox too) and it picked up photos of friends in my address book.  The lack of a smart IM push function almost made me return it. For years me and the Husband has been talking on the Blackberry Chat, then lately on Google Talk on our smartphones, something that needs extra apps and settings to work on the iPhone.

Oh, well.

I love the screen and the access to some very nice apps on the iPhone and the general feel. And the browser is great and the TweetDeck great, the TED and CNN apps are fantastic, I love having access to my Google Reader Feeds in the Newsstand app. And my BlackBerry wasn't 3G and this is - what a difference. And - I don't have to bring my iPod Classic 5th Generation iPod when travelling. And maybe an O3 3.3 will solve some of the things that now seems basic in comparison to Android, Pre and Blackberry. We're going to become good friends.

And most of all - I now have a working phone again.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Online shopping in Sweden

Ok - after very nice comments on my post on finding good reading books below, I decided to focus a couple of hours and update our bookshelves with books in Swedish for the Daughter to read. So I sat down with my laptop, a cup of tea and lots of patience and started cross referencing different Swedish book websites and making a list of books. I decided to make a pretty big order - to last us through the year - and in the end I ordered 21 books. I choose Adlibris - not sure why - it was just one of the sites I had open and they had pretty long and detailed descriptions of the books that I liked.

As usual at checkout, there were a lot of issues with using two addresses - since most of the Swedish websites don't ship internationally (and if they would the shipping cost would be a joke) I have to use two different addresses. If you shop online in the US - you always have the choice of two addresses - the billing address and the shipping address. In Sweden - not so... When trying to get the check out to work - the order page lost my choice of using a credit card to pay and placed the order as "postförskott" - a Swedish way of paying when you pick up the package at the postoffice.

Since I'm sending these books to my brother - I don't want him to have to cash them or mess with money in any way - I want the books to be paid for (it's enough that I'm having him collecting them and carrying them home). But there was no way to go back - the order had been placed. And when I contacted to find a way to solve the problem - there was none... They woulnd't allow me to prepay the order as a bill and they couldn't accept card payments after the order had been placed. Their solution was for me to transfer money to the one who was picking up the order or cancel the order and redo it... So to spend my money on their business - I still had a lot more work to do....

No thank you.

So I cancelled the order and redid the order on Bokus instead.

Clothes for little Swedish Aliens

Ok - this is no fashion blog whatsoever - but I just have to blog about these adorable sweaters from Polarn O. Pyret. They've taken the traditional Swedish "dalahäst" and redesigned into an elephant, a crocodile and a piggie.  They are named "Swedish Folklore Top". So cool!

I love to get "Swedish" clothes for my kids to wear... Bamse, Pippi, Spöket Laban - not only to reinforce these Swedish book characters for my kids. But this is a whole new way to reinforce Swedish traditions. Not sure the kids would get the embedded message I see in these sweaters... but at least I would. And they are so cute!

Monday, November 02, 2009

"Dreams do come true"

I took the Daughter to Disney on Ice over the weekend. I have never been and was curious to see one of those shows and I've always liked ice skating. My Daughter likes princesses - but she has only seen a few of the Disney Princess movies (Ariel and Cinderella) - she is not totally hooked. It was a good ice skating show - nice to see a little dancing on the ice and the Daughter liked it.

But I really have issues with their "theme"... They kept announcing that "see, dreams really do true", after each of the princess story was played out on the ice.

What dreams?

Getting poisoned /spellbound and saved by a handsome prince you can marry off at the end? Really - what have these princesses actually done that makes them good role models for "making your dreams come true"? Can't they just leave them at being nice fairy tales? Or otherwise invent one that actually do some dream work and fulfill their dreams? It's 2009 after all...

I wish there was a Disney princess like Per Gustavsson's princess. She wakes up, gets dressed in one of her hundreds of dresses, puts on her tiara, looks fabulous and pretty, eats cake for breakfast - and then goes off to fight dragons, play ice-hockey - and SHE saves the handsome prince.  Now we're talking!

I love these books - the princess is still dressed in pretty pink dresses - but she is doing the action, not letting the action happen to her. I've written about these books before (and a new one is just out, the fourth one) but it seems they still only in Swedish... I actually sent off a question to the author - it would be so great if these books came in English too. Cross your fingers!

All the Disney princesses dancing on the ice in the big finale.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween is over, long live Christmas

Halloween is over, the big trick or treat crescendo is done, and I'm happy. Halloween is one of those American holidays I really have trouble relate to. I feel kind of lost. And I never liked fall, don't like orange and yellow leaves on the trees - prefer them green all year around. I just don't want orange stuff in my house.

Every year I say to myself- next year I really ought to get some more Halloween decorations - at least for the kids. And here we are again - with five small mini pumpkins the kids picked up at Pumpkin Patch field trips...

But next year..

I grew up next to the largest cemetery in Northern Europe and for me the "All Saints Day" weekend is one where you head out in the dark and walk through the silence through thousands and thousands of lights, lit to celebrate the lives of those lost. It doesn't mix well with dressed-up monsters and skeletons.

Don't misunderstand me - I think it's pretty amazing to walk down the street on the night of October 31, meet all these happy people and kids on the street. It's like a neighborhood party where all the neighbors meet (well, they might not recognize each other - but they meet...) and hang out outside, in the darkness. But I'm not too sad when it's over. And now I can start thinking about Christmas - a holiday I love! Bring it on!

The Spöket Labolina dress I made for the Daughter - she was very set
that this was what she wanted to be dressed up as.