Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Luxury of the Unemployed

Here I am in my favorite aisle of the grocery store.  Why am I so thrilled?  Because coffee is one of the great joys of my life.  I love it.  I appreciate it.  I can't wait until morning when I can drink some more.  And also because we splurged on the fluffy toilet paper.   

Where Kermit Lives

It was downright chilly today, folks, so I basically had to force myself to get outside.  I'm so glad I did because look at these lilly pads!  They're not some fantasy flora concocted by Jim Henson to titillate my youthful imagination.  They're no joke.  But the way the early autumn sun was shining on them today, they may as well have been the building blocks of some floating utopia where perhaps it's not easy being green, but where dreams come true.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm Working My Way Up With a Basil Plant

Listen, I'm not trying to jinx myself here, I'm just stating the facts.  Everyone in America made such a big deal about, oh, how are you going to survive the winter in Sweden?  Don't you know the latitude is dangerously close to Santa's Workshop?  And what about the polar bears just roaming the streets of Stockholm?  As legitimate as these concerns are, I must say that I've found Sweden to be rather a tropical paradise.  I have never seen so many fruit trees!  And I'm not talking about sad, sour, tiny apples.  I mean full-size apples, pears and plums.  Practically every home with a yard in our neighborhood has them.  Indeed, you're not cool if you don't have a fruit tree.  So if the threat of the glacial winter ahead is motivating Mother Nature thusly, I'll learn to tolerate the polar bears. 


We have waited for this night for so, so long.  It was a tedious summer of boating, zoos, road trips, amusement parks and parties, but now the fun is truly beginning.  Our favorite series' Dexter, Californication and How I Met Your Mother, among others, have premiered in the states and are now available to view at our leisure on the internet.  Dinner from the Thai wagon and all of our old friends; life is good. 

Monday, September 28, 2009

Candy Coated

For years my Grandma Joyce had a poster of a row of tall houses painted in pastels hanging in her kitchen.  I'm not certain, but I think it was a painting of Charlotte, North Carolina, and I always loved it because it looked too fresh and exotic to be in America, which stirred up my awareness of how much there is to see there.  I'm reminded of that painting every time I walk down this street.  And I'm grateful to be seeing this.

Crime in Sweden

On Saturday The Swede and I had a date that concluded with a romantic bubble bath.  That is, some hooligan added dish soap to one of the area's many naked-couple-embracing themed fountains.  Obviously, it was dark and I'm still rocking the Kodak Easy Share, but I hope you can appreciate the scandalousness behind us.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Fabulous Destiny of Damara

This little dam is in a park nearby our home.  Ducks and swans float on the still surface all day waiting for bread from their human neighbors, which must come often because those clowns can be pretty cheeky.  Whenever I stand on it (and don't worry, Mom, it's quite low and I'm fully aware that you can drown in a tablespoon of water) I feel like Amelie skipping stones in Paris.

Wake Up, It's the First of the Month

Everyone in Sweden gets paid on the same day, the 25th, which fell on a Friday this month, meaning that folks with fat pockets all over the country swarm to the nearest Ikea to do their part to stimulate the economy.  It can be overwhelming, even for those with nerves of Swagelok-grade stainless steel like The Swede.  Thankfully, the place is replete with refueling stations such as this stylish chaise.  Now all this man needs is a 5 kronor hot dog and we can move on to kitchenwares.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hot Mama

My friend Petra brought her son Dylan over for the afternoon.  He's at that age when the most entertaining thing in the world is to pull everything off of the bookshelves and poke the keys on Uncle Swede's Mac.  I'm at the age when the most entertaining thing in the world is to cuddle, dance with and sing to a baby, so we didn't really see eye-to-eye on how the visit should go.  Petra was a doll, though, and let me sing to her instead. 

Red Bat Gives You Sonar

They have Red Bull over here, so it's not like nobody was going to notice this obvious thievery.  You do have to give the marketing department props for their chutzpah, though.  Fingers crossed that these folks don't fold under a major lawsuit as this product happens to be 33% cheaper than the real deal.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

All the Way Over Here

I'm no botanist, but these at least look like buckeyes, right?  So here I am, all the way on the other side of the ocean, kicking it with the Arctic Circle, and in late September it's still just like home. 


Swedes north and south, east and west are walking around this country like it's okay that there isn't any authentic Mexican food.  Let me be direct:  it is not.  It is highly displeasing.  There is, however, Taco Bar, which is delightful fast food and can be found in at least two locations in greater Stockholm, one of which is in reasonable walking distance of my home.  But this is it.  I did extensive research on the matter and there is not even one authentic Mexican restaurant in the entire nation.  Even more unacceptable, I'm sure, is how much I talk about this subject.  Surely The Swede will poke out his eyes when he sees that I'm bringing it up again, and on the internet no less.  Alright, now that it's out there I'll lay this case to rest.  Now we can all concentrate on my other favorite topic:  my hair.     

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Oh, boy, one marvel that I did not fully anticipate before coming here was NEW MAKEUP!!!  I figured there might be a couple of brands that I'd never run across before, but not an entire cosmetics line by Nivea!  Not the magnificently compact displays that make even my sisters Maybelline and Cover Girl look exotic! Not testers for drugstore brands!  Granted they all cost approximately three times what they would at Target so I haven't succumbed to actually making a purchase yet, but browse around a bit?  Test that new matte nail polish?  Twist up a lipstick or two for closer inspection?  Don't mind if I do. 

Signs of Fall

Sundbybergs kyrka is perched atop a grassy hill on the next block.  The church bells ring loudy on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings and you can hear the choir rehearsing inside if you walk by on Monday night.  They don't need another soprano, incidentally.  The vines climbing up the wall get brighter red by the day;  this photo was taken early last week and today it looked like the building was bleeding. 

Monday, September 21, 2009


This home is a few blocks from our apartment and apparently houses some famous artist.  Not famous enough for The Swede to remember his name, but famous enough to be able to afford a pretty swank home and the Swedish-flag-colored paint to beautify it. 

Without a Song or Dance What Are We?

After a long day of garage-building we headed to the club, baby!  There are some choice photos from Saturday night, but this one of The Swede and Sarianne, master of the free drink, is one of the more grandparent-friendly selections.  Yes, some of us fell.  Yes, some of us bled.  Yes, some of us wanted to die the next day.  But, good heavens it was grand! 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Winner Will be Announced at Dinner

These guys.  No matter how diligently I painted or pounded nails or how many minor injuries I sustained, The Swede and his father remained ahead of me in Hardest Worker points.  Frankly, if I hadn't been so mindful about not emasculating anyone and displayed my circular saw skills things would have turned out differently.  No worries, though, as I'm pretty sure I still have a shot at the prize based on my foreignness.

Best Hamburger in Sweden

Now it's on the internet and that makes it true.  The Swede's sister Sarianne hosted their parents and us for dinner last night and served the best hamburger I've had in quite some time.  And I'm not just saying that as some lame attempt at a bid at the Best Worker of the Weekend Award.  Not entirely, anyway; there's a rumor that the prize is a pony.     

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Viking Bench

And Sweden is supposed to be so inclusive and accepting of others!  Proving otherwise, however, is this bench that is clearly designed for only most towering, hairy natives. 

At First Sight

Today The Swede had a big meeting with some important customers - so glamorous - and decided to snazz things up a bit.  The day I met him he was wearing this same ensemble.  Is it any wonder I was so instantly smitten?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Top-Notch Swedish Establishment

I was enlightened to the glory of H&M five years ago when my friend Becca brought me some of their earrings back from a trip to Boston.  Back then you had to go all the way to Boston to delight in the perfect balance of chic and cheap and even now they're not easy to come by in the states.  I remember driving 45 minutes to the west side when the first H&M came to Cleveland and then the elation when one opened in my neighborhood.  They are all over Sweden, of course, and one of my biggest motivators for finding a job here is my overwhelming hankering to go buck wild in that place. 


Oh, no.  I've been a cat mom for a little over a week and already I'm one of those people who takes a million pictures of their pets.  I'm ashamed, really.  And I swear this won't be a cat blog, but this sinister silhouette had to be shared.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Play for You

Our football team, AIK, is currently leading the division, which must be affecting me more than I realize because I woke up in the middle of the night yesterday, said "NUMBER ONE!" and gave The Swede a high five.  So when I saw this sticker on the stop sign near the stadium I had to capture it forever and all time on the internet.  Anyone who knows me is probably wondering when I started caring about sports.  Well, it was about the time I saw this

The text says, "Other clubs say their supporters are the 12th player.  For us, you are Number 1."


The electricity went out on our block for several hours this morning and it couldn't have happened on a nicer day.  I had to go out to get something to eat that didn't need to be prepared with one of our many electrical appliances anyway, but when I stepped outside into the sunniest, most perfectly temperate day I decided to go exploring.  This city is a labyrinth, though, and quite hilly so I soon lost sight of the tower that was going to help me find my way home.  When I came to this park, which I recognized, I sat down and enjoyed a sandwich whilst debating which of the six streets that intersected here to take.  Since you're reading this you can safely assume that I chose correctly.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Exxon Valdez Strömming

I've been hearing about surströmming since before I arrived in Sweden.  This fermented herring is legendary for its odor, though I hadn't been told much about the taste, and since I like to consider myself an adventurous eater I was more than willing to test the waters, as it were.  A couple of weeks ago our municipality had a street festival for the surströmmingspremiär.  As I understand it, the fish is canned in the spring and ferments until the third Thursday in August when it makes its smelly debut.  I am not exaggerating when I say that the stand where it was sold fragranced an entire city block and lingered on our skin and minds for days afterwards.  And it wasn't the kind of dead fish smell you might imagine; it was an industrial scent, like cutting oil from a manufacturing plant or a factory smokestack.  Furthermore, no matter how much I tried to disguise it with onions, potatoes and that Zingo, the flavor was exactly what I imagine fish might have tasted like from the Gulf of Alaska in the spring of '89.    

How Convenient!

Walking past the Tule Hund & Katt in the building next door for probably the 2000th time since I've lived on this block, The Swede turned to me and said, "Look, this is the pet shop where we're going to buy cat litter one of these days."  Thanks.  I never noticed it before.  And I've never said how nice it was to see the old Hund & Katt after we returned home from vacation, and I've definitely never made mention of the cute puppies and kitties in the window, and we've certainly never stopped to admire the occasional menagerie out front.  I'm pleased to have been made aware of its existance.  We will, after all, need to buy cat litter there one of these days. 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Things We Take for Granted

A couple of weeks ago I paid the equivalent of $1.40 for the priviledge of emptying my bladder.  In retrospect, I ought to have drunk a full Big Gulp beforehand to get my money's worth as I couldn't stop thinking later about all the things I could have purchased if I had just held it a little longer.  Any item from the Dollar Tree - with tax - for one thing.  Plus they would have let me use their toilet.  This beaut is half a block from home, though, so fingers crossed I don't ever need to use it.   


On Friday I went to an underground karaoke bar and the security guards were fascinated by the formatting of the birthdate on my ID.  No biggie that it was an American license, with a lovely color photo and exotic formatting all around, but goodness gracious the month and day were mixed up!  Thankfully they recognized that "82" stood for the year and I was allowed in.  But darned if I didn't insist on sporting one of their badges to make up for all the fuss.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fair Sundbyberg

Unfortunately, I don't pay too much attention to street names here as I figure I wouldn't know where I was going either way, so we'll call this Main Street.  It's a cute, bustling area of our town, lined with shops and crawling with pedestrians.  The blue sign means that those on foot always have the right of way and it's one of the hardest things for me to get used to here.  I just don't trust the cars to stop.  I'm pretty sure they wouldn't in America and even here they race to the crosswalk and then slam on the brakes at the last moment.  I guess if these broads trust the sanctity of Herr Går Man with the lives of their babies, I can too.

Justin Bobby 4 Life

This is the other new kitty, Justin Bobby, shown here misappropriating The Swede's love.  You can't see in the photo, but there is a tear of joy running down this man's cheek.  And they say the Swedes are an undemonstrative race.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

50% of Those Polled Would Let Zlatan Get to Second Base

Oh, boy, it was the big Sverige - Malta game today!  I'm still having trouble understanding how this World Cup qualification thing works, but based on the mood in the sofa area of our home on game nights, every game is the most important game.  It was tense for awhile there, but ultimately Sweden came through with a goal for the win.  The Swedish darling, Zlatan Ibrahimović, didn't score but as usual he was the star of the show, before, during and after.  I don't understand much of the language yet so I tune most of it out, but I recognized "Ibrahimović" in the commentary no fewer than 137 times. 

Best Seat in the House

This is Saba, one of two extra fluffy new additions to our family.  According to tradition, I have renamed this one Moses Cleveland, after the guy who invented Cleveland.  Yeah!  One of these days I'll catch a nice photo of Nelson, a.k.a Justin Bobby, who could only manage a mild look of disgust over today's photo shoot.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

We Went in for Slippers...

We came out with a lampshade, a wastebasket, pet bowls and hangers.  Clearly we used incredible restraint.

Can We Go Again Tomorrow?

We picked up some Pad Thai from the wagon for lunch - and dinner - today.  This is one of many Thai food carts here as Swedes loooooove all things Thai.  Typically I'm not a big fan of food prepared in structures on wheels, despite my trailer park upbringing, but this is a classy setup they have here and the food is amazing. 

Monday, September 7, 2009

Nothing Makes Me Hungry for Shrimp-Flavored Cheese Like Taxidermy

That's right.  That's a stuffed reindeer in the grocery store.  I'm not sure what the intent was since I didn't see any reindeer meat nearby - just an array of flavored cheeses in tubes and some bread - but it sure was majestic.  Okay, I'm not going to say this is typical of Swedish grocery stores or anything, but I grew up in Montana and never saw anything like this there so I feel pretty confident in saying that you darn sure wouldn't see this in the States.  Rudolf is just too near and dear to the American heart.

Something Up His Sleeve

Today we walked into the city to find the Mercedes Benz parts shop so The Swede could fix the headlamps on the ol' Smart Car, a chore that is becoming more and more relevant as the daylight hours are quickly getting shorter.  Despite the masterpiece of a map he drew on a piece of loose-leaf before we left the house and because of some shady directions en route, we found ourselves lost.  After a few phone calls for directions and some pacing around the city we sat down on a bench.  I thought this expression was frustration, but moments later Papa Swede rolled up in the Volvo to rescue us and The Swede had totally planned it without telling me.  Now I know: this look is self-satisfaction.