Sunday, January 31, 2010

Let's Talk Accessories

I have hated my purple pom-pommed hat since the moment I laid eyes on it.  I bought it anyway last winter with my trip to Sweden in mind because I knew I couldn't get away with not having a hat there as I had for, oh, my entire adult life in America.  But as much as I hated that hat, it was the only one I could find that looked remotely reasonable with my old short haircut.  So when I got some kronor in my pocket recently (Thanks Grandma and Grandpa!), a new hat was at the top of my shopping list.  The Swede and I went to the mall today and he picked this new one out while I was trying on jeans.  And, yes, in case you were wondering, it totally sparkles.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Since Thursday was Papa Swede's actual birthday, we headed over to The Swede's folk's place for dinner last night.  The evening began with a champagne toast and hors d'oeuvres and then moved on to gifts of luxury beers for the birthday boy and The King wine from Graceland Cellars for The Swede and family friend Gunilla for their namedays.
Next, we moved into the dining room and, as I have come to expect from Mama Swede, ate a dinner which was entirely new to me.  The cooking method was so cutting edge, in fact, that nobody could even name precicely what it was.  I'll try to explain:  it was an electrical apparatus which sat in the middle of the table with a griddle on top to heat meat and fish and a broiler underneath to warm individual pans of vegetables and cheese.  Everything was delicious and, as I have come to expect from myself, I ate much more than I should have, yet somehow made room for a thick slice of AIK birthday cake and a few glasses of wine. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

Looking Forward

Lest one get too excited that the days are getting longer, one of the coldest months is coming to a close and we are inching toward spring, Mother Nature has reminded us that we have a long way to go by dropping a heap'o'snow on Stockholm over the past few days.  This is a view from my walk to school through virtually untamed wilderness at 8:00 am and the flash on my camera actually paints a very accurate picture of the sunlight situation at that time of day.  It's quickly getting lighter and lighter each morning, though, as Sweden makes its rapid transition from six hours of day to six hours of night.  So despite the recent snowfall, I'm feeling hopeful.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Swedes Will Take Every Opportunity to Party and I'll Take Every Opportunity to Eat Cake

Holiday!  Celebrate!  Today is The Swede's nameday!  Each day on the Swedish calendar has a corresponding name and according to my SFI teacher one gets a cake on one's nameday.  I wish I could tell you more about this tradition, but I can't seem to find much information on the subject.  So anyway, I purchased the requisite princess cake, wrote a congratulatory message in gel icing and picked up a special dinner from our favorite Italian restaurant.  Plus I put on a dress.  And, yeah, it was overkill, but it's the dead of winter so you've got to mix it up.  Anyway, The Swede was super appreciative. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oh My Godis

Before I moved to Sweden I didn't give a hoot about candy.  Every now and then I would consider purchasing a chocolate bar while waiting in line at the supermarket, but never did because the size and chocolateness of one of those things just felt too overtly gluttonous.  And I certainly never bought any loose candy out of those overpriced bins.  Who does?  Really?  Here, though, the indulgence is unavoidable.  Heaven knows I want to assimilate and everyone here partakes in this colorful, chewy sweetness called godis.  Indeed, there is a page in my SFI textbook that states that in 1980 the average Swede ate 10 kilos (that's 22 pounds to us Americans) of godis annually.  Thirty years later that number has surely increased as new and exciting morsels are introduced.  But do you see how SFI is trying to integrate me into Swedish society?  So, despite feeling as if I will surely die after eating five or more pieces of solid sugar, I do it every now and again because it's the respectful, culturally sensitive thing to do. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Getting to Know Moses Cleveland

You know how, in America, when we want to make a name cutesy we just add an "ie" or "y" on the end?  Kate becomes Katie, Nicole becomes Nicky, Charles becomes Charlie.  Well here they add an "is" on the end.  One of my favorite moments with The Swede, a moment that made me feel more at home here than almost anything else, was when, without thinking, he called me "Maris" in front of his family.  Moses Cleveland, aka Saba, gets this treatment regularly and is referred to as "Sabis" much of the time.  Sabis is the most beautiful cat I've ever seen.  I'm glad I never saw her as a kitten because I'm pretty sure I would have died over the cuteness.  While she certainly looks sweeter than Nelson, she only likes to be cuddled under very specific terms.  For example, she's one of those cats that rubs her whole self against your leg, yet if you reach down to pet her she'll most likely walk away.  Also, she won't sit with you on the couch or in bed unless you have a blanket over you.  She doesn't want to touch your icky human body, so just think again.  This sweetie will be the first to come up and give you a personal thank you when you fill her food dish and never makes the slightest peep, but she also chews through electrical cords, acts like you're trying to murder her when you comb her and scratches in the catbox in the middle of the night for (I am not exaggerating) five minutes straight like she's building a damn sandcastle in there.  But who can think of that when she's laying on her back on the wood floor with her little white paws in the air?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Getting to Know Justin Bobby

I have a couple of confessions to make.  First, we never call the cats by their new names. Justin Bobby and Moses Cleveland don't roll off the tongue quite as easily as Nelson and Saba.  Second, yes, okay, it took me awhile to warm up to the kitties.  In our house growing up there were always several pets around and it was a lot of work.  There were dogs and cats and fish and, during an especially peculiar period in my sister's life when she seemed to have some sort of magnet for these things, injured wild birds.  But for the past eight years I haven't taken care of any living thing beyond myself, so having two new critters to care for took some getting used to, especially since I had the impression that cats were beings void of any personality whatsover.  Boy was I wrong, and I kinda can't picture my life without them now.  You might think, at first glance, that Nelson is a bit distant.  He has a rather indifferent aura about him, but he's actually the world's best cuddler.  He will come sit on your lap no matter what you're doing and slam his forehead against your own in some sort of interspecies communion.  He loves to be petted and combed and will let you hold him like a baby while you're doing so.  Nelson also sits in the most inconvenient places, jets out the front door whenever we open it, sheds fur like it's his day job, meows like a dying cow for no reason and knocks the toilet paper roll onto the floor to chew through it all the way to the core.  But who can think of any of that when he's curled up on your lap looking at you like you're the best mom of all time?  Okay, one more confession:  sometimes, when The Swede is at work, I practice my Swedish on them.  They never correct me. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Beside Ourselves

Today was a very big day for The Swede and me.  We got a new car!  It's a silver 2000 Audi A3, with two doors and a hatchback, plenty of room for all of our Ikea purchases and fully loaded with FREEDOM.  The Swede looks kinda serious in this photo, but there's a party going on inside, I promise you.  For our first trip, we drove out to the great Lake Mälaren where The Swede's folks were participating in an ice fishing competition.  We did a little showing off of the new ride, but not before I went out on a frozen body of water for the first time in my life.  I'm not going to lie; I was scared.  Scared, that is, until The Swede drilled a hole in the ice and then I tested the thickness and determined that a foot or so was enough to support the two of us.  And, indeed, all of the fishermen who had been out there all morning.

Friday With Family

Papa Swede's birthday is next week so Sarianne and company drove up to celebrate with us city dwellers.  Sarianne, too, has a birthday coming up - a BIG one - and received this sweet Canon as an early present from her husband Magnus.  She's pretty much in love with it, not quite so much that she wouldn't let me touch it, but you'd better believe that I wore the strap and used two hands at all times.  You can see her work here.  It's not just for blogging, though.  Sarianne is, like, the Number One Online Salesperson in Sweden and requires a fancy camera for snapping and posting photos of her merchandise. 

At dinner time, the whole family, plus a couple of family friends, but minus Papa Swede who, ironically, couldn't attend because he had a work party, headed out.  We went to a restaurant called Golden Cave and almost everyone ordered the plankstek, which consisted of a couple of cuts of beef surrounded by mashed potatoes with grilled vegetables and bacon-wrapped asparagus cooked and served on a cedar plank.  It's very Swedish, I'm told, and very delicious.  Thanks, Mama Swede!!!

We stayed at Golden Cave for a long time since they don't rush you out to increase their table turn here like they do in American restaurants, and afterwards headed back home for a couple of cocktails and a some heavy iPhone discussions.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Candy Conversation Has Only Just Begun

These little scoundrels will be the end of me.  Bilar, the Swedish word for cars, are like nothing else I've ever seen back home.  I don't even know how to describe them, except that they're sweet and chewy as the dickens, and most certainly contain some illicit drug because as I am chomping a mouthful I am already thinking about stuffing more in.  The problem with Bilar (and, yeah, me) is that I cannot stop and they come in a pretty major package so after I've consumed the whole thing in one sitting I pretty much feel like I have a car parked in my belly.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Just The Basics of Everyday Life

Yes, I feel like an ace creep taking clandestine photos during my language class, but actually asking my classmates for permission and explaining my intentions is inconceivable in this multilingual environment.  Please excuse my sketchy behavior.  Moving on.  A cool thing about Swedish For Immigrants is that the course aims to integrate us into our new community by instilling us with information about Swedish culture and society while teaching the language.  Here we are learning about estate laws via whiteboard illustrations and a story in our textbook about how a dying father planned to allot his property.  There were lots of new words, as I'm sure you can imagine.  Words I hope I won't have to use for many, many, many years.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Brothers From Another Mother

The Swede grew up with these real-life brothers, Thomas and Christer, literally from birth so they're practically family.  They've come over to our flat to have a couple of beers and talk about sports incredibly loudly before heading to the pub to watch an English football game.  I can follow a bit of Swedish when one person is talking at a reasonable decibel, but three shouting over music and each other is a bit challenging for me.  It's just as well since I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have anything to contribute in this case anyway. 

Mea Culpa

Did I seriously title my last post "A American Classic"?  C'mon!  I've just corrected it, but that ridiculously bad English just sat out there on the Internet for 24 hours and I'm so embarrassed.  My phone should be ringing off the hook with demands for a correction!  Mom?  Selah?  Maybe it wasn't so obvious?  Anyway, please forgive me. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

An American Classic

On Saturday we dragged the panini press out of storage and we've eaten cheesy, melty, crispy sammies at least once a day since.  We were on the last four slices in our latest loaf of bread today and I think we can all agree we should probably take a little break from the Toastmaster, so to give it a proper temporary send-off I decided to do it up real American-style for dinner.  Grilled cheese (or toasted cheese, as my Grandma Joyce calls it) and tomato soup.  And I made it with milk, because that's what you do when you really love the person you're making tomato soup for.  It was deliriously good. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tax Kronor Hard at Work

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the World's Worst Educational Computer Program.  I can't remember what it's called, but basically it presents a sentence with a word or phrase missing and then offers three choices for the student to fill in the blank.  The problem is that if you choose incorrectly the program just tells you that you were wrong, but doesn't give you the correct answer.  So if you already know the answer, great, but if you don't you will continue not knowing.  I spent an hour with this program in school today and all I learned is that I'm bad at Swedish.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Who Killed Bambi

Absolutely the only issue I have with being greeted by this query on the underside of a public toilet seat cover is that Bambi totally lived.  Okay, wait, I do have another issue:  the inquirer scribbled the date instead of her phone number so I can't call her and straighten her out on the matter.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pizza Predator

It was much warmer outside today than we've become accustomed to lately, so we took advantage of the balmy just-barely-freezing temperature by taking a long walk.  The snow on the sidewalks had been trampled so much that it was like walking through deep, soft sand and all this exhertion stirred up our appetites so on our way home we popped into our favorite pizzeria.  As we were walking home with our Sundbyberg Special in hand The Swede warned me, "I'm so hungry I'm probably going to make sounds while I eat."  What an animal. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

And It's PINK

In celebration of the weekend, I'm going to tell you about a phenomenon I've been meaning to mention for awhile now:  rosé .  Rosé is where it's at in Sweden right now.  I know people back home who would be genuinely offended by the fact that this most humble of wines is so popular.  Indeed, I have attended parties where I was told beforehand in no uncertain terms that rosé was expressly forbidden.  You know what, though?  Rosé is good and the Swedes know it.  There, I said it.  And you want to know something else?  Swedes don't mind wine in a box either, so stick that one in your pipe and smoke it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Meatballs: A Global Favorite

Today The Swede took me downtown to see Avatar in 3D.  The film was breathtaking, especially with our sweet 3D glasses on, and afterward we took a long walk around the city, which was pleasantly vacant on this weekday afternoon.  Before the movie, though, I had to take a photo of this poster for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs which is called Det Regnar Köttbullar (It's Raining Meatballs) in Sweden.  I really and truly hoped that this was a Swedish movie because, c'mon, meatballs?!  But it seems that it is an American film that just happens to feature Sweden's most celebrated protein source. 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hardly a Cloud in the Sky

I wanted to take a picture of this teeny tiny patch of water that all of the ducks and geese and swans in the 'hood have been exhiled to since the lakes froze, but the steam stack totally stole the poultry's thunder.  Since it's been about a thousand degrees below zero for the past few weeks, the steam has been billowing through the sky near our building and if I forget about it and see it from the wrong direction I panic for a moment thinking that perhaps our block is burning to the ground.  

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Don't Get Too Excited

You've just stumbled upon the results of a debate that I've been having with myself the the past few hours.  Is it worth it to post something that is neither especially visually interesting nor informational just to have posted something?  Since I failed to post a photo yesterday, I will share this mediocre one today lest you think I've given up trying to be Daily Damara altogether.  So here we have a shot of the historic glass windows in a nearby building, which, despite my shoddy photography skills, are actually quite beautiful.  You don't see this original, thick, rippled glass in many buildings in America, but it's all over the place here and I always get excited to see something so fragile stand up over that much time.  Sadly, my extensive online search for any information on these plates turned up jack, so though I'd love to, I cannot tell you how much time that is exactly.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Look Up for Your Life

I like to make this blog as informative as possible.  I will employ such skilled research methods as Googling, asking The Swede, and digging into the vast bank of knowledge and opinion between my own ears.  For this particular post I will utilize two out of three of these highly reliable approaches.  First, The Swede informed me when this sign turned up outside of our building that a few people die every year in Sweden from snow drifts and icicles falling off of roofs, so they like to give everyone a big "SE UPP!" with these signs.  Second, in my boundless wisdom I would like to submit that these signs don't exist in America.  They totally should, though, since Americans are significantly more apt to sue the property owner should a falling icicle harm their person without signage present.  With the absence of any sweet lawsuit payoff in mind, I like to be especially aware of what's going on above me when I see the ol' rasrisk placard.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Foreigner Fika

Today I spent the afternoon with a couple of girlfriends from my Swedish introduction class.  Katarina, on the left, is from Poland and Nataliya, on the right, is from Israel by way of Russia.  You would think we would take the opportunity to practice our Swedish with one another, but we all know exactly the same amount and, let me tell you, it does not a fascinating conversation make.  They both speak English, though, so I had the pleasure of hours of international girl talk.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Good Old Days

Last night the temperature dropped to the lowest it has been since 1987.  We stepped out to go to the store in the evening and the area between the bottom of my hat and the top of my scarf froze instantly, fell off of my body and shattered on the ground.  Consequently, we stayed inside today.  We slept in, played video games, chatted with Mom and ate only what we already had in the kitchen.  So there are no exciting photos of today to be posted.  Instead, I dug through my summer photos to find the sunniest ones and selected this shot of Solliden Palace, the royal family's summer home on Öland.  We'll get there again, folks.  Hang in there.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Retro Swede Spectacular

We've been meaning to dig the old photo albums out of the basement storage closet for... well forever.  I've seen a few photos of The Swede when he was about nineteen and on vacation with his buddies, the one of him and Sarianne in his folks' place, and a tiny baby picture we have in our flat.  I had no idea what the fella looked like between 1980 and 1996, so I was pumped when he emerged from a home-improvement-related trip to the basement with a huge stack of albums.  It was an explosion of rosey cheeks, hockey hair and acid wash jeans the likes of which I've never seen.  And the best part?  HIS BABY BOOK.  Swoon!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Full of Surprises

Last night, as bedtime was drawing near, I remarked how dismayed I was that The Swede had to go back to work and end these luxurious couple of weeks of highly sporadic work and nigh constant chillaxing.  He agreed.  We went to bed and several hours later I awoke in a panic as it was light outside and it darn sure isn't light yet when The Swede gets up to go to work.  I alerted him to the situation and he responded in a rather nonchalant manner, in my opinion, by rolling over and going back to sleep.  Rationalizing that he must have the situation under control I too went back to sleep.  Hours later - HOURS, people - when we had gotten up and were well into our day, he dazzled me with the information that he took three vacation days this week and doesn't have to return to the office until Thursday!  Hoopla!  Moses Cleveland, Justin Bobby and I all appreciate the extra family time.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Can I Have One in My Home?

See, I love babies!  Here I am with little Dylan in Swine Flu City, aka The Play Palace.  I have never seen such a place.  Little ones crawling all over inflatable bouncing rooms, giant building blocks, slides and tricycles aplenty as far as the eye could see.  Petra and I were too big for most of the attractions, but not the ball room and, wow, I had forgotten over the past twenty years how delightful those balls are, despite the fact that they will no doubt inspire some sort of infirmity in us all. 

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Stockefeller Ice Rink

Get it?  'Cause it's like the ice rink at Rockefeller Center in NYC only this one is in Stockholm?  Good one, right?  Sure, you just lost at least ten brain cells on that nonsense, but this blog just got at least ten times better, so... TOTALLY WORTH IT.  Anyway, today The Swede and I braved the icy cold and took the train into the city to check out the sights and sales.  We went home empty-handed in terms of material goods, but with a much greater appreciation of the warmth of our flat and the good company of our kitties. 

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ringing It In

We spent New Year's Eve with Thomas and Petra at their place, along with their buddy Marcus.  We ate an incredible dinner, played Twister, charades and other games, and had a few cocktails.  At midnight we went outside and set off fireworks.  The sky was sparkling with colors in every direction, snow fell on us and we toasted 2010 with champagne.  It was perfect.