Monday, August 31, 2009

Moving Day

Moving Day has finally come. We are no longer in the Flea Market and in a better setting. If not an emptier setting. Empty is OK with me though, I'll take it.

Sunday, we met the owner at noon and she was to give us the keys and tell us what information she had to give us. She had warned us that the cleaning people were going to be there all weekend and we would not be able to move in until after they were through. In Sweden they are very big on using "professional" cleaners and you can never move in until they are through. It seems to take a really long time from what I have noticed.

We get upstairs to the door and when she sees it is locked she is in disbelief that the cleaners have not been there. Great. All in all, it is a big fluster cluck and she finally gets the cleaners over at about 1:30. He shows up with a team of ladies and they are done by about 5:30. In the meantime we move all of our stuff, about 20 boxes and five or six suitcases, using a dolley cart because it is only about a block's distance. It is a first. Though we have moved numerous times, we have never moved via foot before.

We come in and out with our stuff and it completely has the cleaning ladies disorientated because we are not supposed to be there. We are not supposed to be there until after they leave. It is the way it is always done. Except, the guy who runs the show had to cut us some slack because they neglected to show up on time because of some sort of miscommunication. His name is Michel and he is from Turkey as so many of the entrepreneurs we meet are. The more we come across them the more I like them. They are always friendly, down to earth and extremely hard working. (generalizing again, Lex! LOL, I am always going to think that)

I am without internet for the next few days. Actually I have this broad band card that is only getting three bars. The owners accidentally packed the cable modem in with their stuff with them to the UK. They are supposed to ship it back. We can not figure out the TV. They have a magnet induction stove top that it took me about an hour to figure out. Apparently, it has to sense that there is a pan on the surface to switch on. And they have some sort of condensor dryer, that I have not a clue what to do with.

All in all, it's been a crazy three days. I sent my daughter off for a week long camping trip with her class to the archipelago and almost missed getting her to the bus. Forgot to get a cake for a fika and had to run out this morning at seven am to get one.

Good times.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I went to the PTA meeting for my son's class today. As a general rule, I try to avoid any place where large groups of women congregate unless shoes or purses for purchase are involved. However, I went in today armed with an open mind and low expectations.

Actually, this was the second PTA meeting I have gone to. The first was the "business" meeting, this was more of a get to know each other coffee. It was pleasant, as these things always are in the beginning. It isn't until later that you realize it is still very much like the social constructs you left behind in high school.

During the meeting the nurse came in to talk about the swine flu and immunizations. Then an American woman took the stage and went into a 20 minute lesson about head lice. It was a full demonstration. She had some special small comb and a homeopathic tincture she bought from the health food store. She was showing us how she combed her kids' hair each morning as a preventative measure. I nodded off about three minutes into the presentation, as I generally do so I really could not tell you what other tips of the trade she was sharing.

She was clearly spending a lot of time, effort, thought and resources into combatting these little head squatting creatures. As I looked around the questions were coming at her rapid fire and everyone had the same look of abject fear I must have.

Initially, before slipping under, I was horrified. Lice? "Is this a common thing?" I asked the two Swedish women I was sitting with. One woman who looked extremely irritated answered, "No, this is crazy".

Another American woman in the room, maybe her assistant in all this, was as animated and as concerned about the impending lice epidemic. And it hit me. Aaaaaaah, good old American neuroticism. So, I laughed and said to the Swedish woman, "Oh, it's an American thing". We kind of laughed a bit about the hand sanitizer and the antibacterial soaps. A little self deprecating humor is always a good thing and a little disarming. She then said "Yes, anytime there is anyone on the room asking 100 questions it's always the Americans"

Hey now... they may be neurotics but they are MY neurotics.

Anyhow, I figure the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. True--American's tend to over worry and try to control their environments to a huge extent. Also though, Swedes tend to gloss over negative attributes about their society, avoid unpleasantries or to even be in denial about many things.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Red Light, Green Light

When they say pedestrians have the right-of-way, they really mean it in Sweden.

There are two different types of crosswalks in Stockholm. The first is with a light system allowing you to cross when it shows a green little man walking. The second is a cross walk with no light. In these crosswalks, pedestrian trumps driver and here a pedestrian can cross at any time.

If a car sees a pedestrian it must stop on a dime to let them go. The crazy part is--they actually do. I have seen many cars come to screeching halts to let the cross walkers cross. It seems backwards to me because I think it's much easier to stop your legs than to stop a 3,000-4,000 pound car.

Even more mystifying is the unwavering faith that the crossers seem to have that the cars will always stop. They obliviously cross even as a car is speeding toward them. Half the time they do not even give a glance as though maybe they have some apprehension. That maybe this vehicle could be the one that was going to keep going.

It think maybe it has something to do with an almost child-like naivety many Swedes seem to have. A microcosmic sized example of self preservation taking a backseat to the belief in the system.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

European Grooming

I can not really say this is an expose on Swedish grooming because, over all the Swedes seem better than most Europeans. However, I do see a bit of it here also. By "it" I mean just an overall lack of grooming. What got me thinking about this was the "Back to School" meeting at my children's school last week. I had noticed that all the men looked to be about a good month out form a haircut. I found it strange that one wouldn't have themselves spruced up for the event. Lasting first impressions and all that.

It is a common sight. Eloquently dressed in a nice suit, nice tie, good shoes and a complete wreck from the shoulders up. Sometimes, I think it is purposeful. They are going for that Sven look. You know what I mean, the windswept blonde almost surfer look. And do not get me wrong, it can be a good look, if you are 22. At 42 and in a business suit, it's just plain puzzling. There is something about age that lends itself to good grooming anyway. Lack of grooming just doesn't work for you the way it used to.

Many times though, it is not intentional. The hair creeping onto the neck, the nose hairs, the hairy moles, over grown mustaches that cover the teeth...all of it not planned. All of it unpleasant for those around the offender.

It is true that most American's have a compulsion for overall cleanliness. It is to the point where some experts claim our environments are so sterile it could actually be harming our children's immune systems. Hand sanitizers, antibacterial everything..I have friends who would need biological warfare suits to get on the subways I ride everyday. I like trying to spot the Americans. They typically don't blend.

What is even more of a mystery to me is the fact that salons/frisors are every third storefront here in the city. So, clearly, there is a lot of haircutting and grooming going on. I've never seen so many beauty salons. I am not sure who is keeping these guys in business. Maybe it is all the Svens getting their highlight regrowth done.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Singing Sverigiachis

There is a commercial here for Bredbands bolaget that features a group of mariachis coming out of a suitcase singing in Swedish. Click here for link You can file that one under, things I would have never seen ten years ago. Happily, I can report that Mexicana has reached Scandinavia. Coming from an border state in the United States, Arizona, I have grown to appreciate our hybrid mix of all things American with a little salsa flair.

Every burger place in Stockholm seems to be running a special on the Tex Mex or Mexican version of their burger. Max Burger is even getting in on the game and offering up a Crunchy Nacho Burger. The Mexican food section of any grocery store is rather impressive. While you won't yet find refried beans or New Mexican style green chile, you can get some decent jarred salsas, flour tortillas and seasonings. Enough to cobble together a fix for any south of the border cravings.

Sometimes, though, they get it wrong. I ordered a chicken club sandwich last night with a "tex mex" sauce. Really, I should know better than this. I have had enough odd concoctions that have been labeled as Tex Mex or Mexican to know the outcome is less than certain. When the sandwich came out it had the undeniable yellow color only found in the one spice I have zero fondness for-- curry. No, no, no--you will never find curry in anything Mexican, except maybe outside of North America.

This penchant for Mexican food makes me wonder if thinking outside the bun™ or perhaps a run for the border™ is not in Scandinavia's future? I could really use a gordita right about now.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Using the ATM

I finally got my bank card a few weeks ago. There are a few things I really do not have the patience to stop and take the time to do. Stopping to buy gas, going to the bathroom and using the ATM are among the top three. Little annoying pieces of time banditry that take away from more productive past times like being on the internet.

Well, getting gas is no longer an issue. Using the ATM is, although, now it is using the ATM while everything on the screen is in Swedish. I have it down to a basic routine as long as the screens do not change. Well, yesterday they did. A little stress inducing to say the least.

Usually, I make my husband come with me. I am not really sure why as he knows less Swedish than I or the kids do. Yesterday I was feeling brave, so I went it alone. I put in my card, the usual screens came up. I typed in my pin, typed in my amount and, yikes, a completely foreign message popped on the screen. Ofcourse, at this point the line behind me was four deep.

I could not make out what the screen was saying. I just wanted my card back. It was the longest 30 seconds of my life and I was certain I was never going to see my card again as I bargained with God about being a better person and never using the ATM again if I could just see my card one more time. I tried my luck and pressed the button that said something about a receipt and presto, my card was back. My ATM card never looked so good.

I stepped back and let the queue file through and what do you think I did? I tried it again. Like some sick masochist, I went back for a second round. Only this time I knew to press the kvitto button. I was convinced that, maybe, I did something wrong. I think it was telling me it was out of 100 kronor notes and I had to take out a minimum of 500 kronor. I am pretty sure that was what it was reading.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Place is Falling Apart

Nine days and counting until I am outta the Flea Market. But I am here to tell you, this place is falling apart and it's nothing we are doing. Just because I can not stand the place doesn't mean I am deliberately treating things badly. It is just a case of bum luck, bad timing, whatever you call it.

Two weeks ago the washer stopped working. Last night the freezer stopped working. Thankfully, I have successfully cracked myself into the laundry room but it takes me three hours to do the laundry every four days! Thank God for Mark Levin podcasts.

I pulled down a shade, it refuses to go back up. The ironing board, which had some jimmy rig repair, fell apart. I am truly afraid of what else can self destruct in the next nine days. I keep having bad visuals of us on some Swedish version of Judge Judy.

No freezer means no ice...for nine long days. I feel like I am camping.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Raggare, as far as I understand, is a sub-culture in Sweden that is hooked on vintage American cars. It seems like one Saturday a month the Raggare spend the evening cruising Sveavagan, the largest street and basically the entering street into Stockholm from the north. Living close to Sveavagan we get to watch the Raggare Parade from the window to the delight of my kids who find hours of entertainment watching this.

Vintage car clubs are not unusual, we have them in the United States also. The Reggare take it to a whole other level. In addition to parading their cars they usually dress up as 50's greasers, red necks, punkers, etc. The cars are not limited to old style American vintage, though that is mostly what you will see. There are more vintage American cars in Sweden than in the entire US. You will also see just strange contraptions welded together. This weekend we saw a Smart car with a race car grill and bumber and all sorts of unusual pairings welded together.

With this traffic comes to a halt on Sveavagen and it is pretty much mayhem for several hours. Music blaring, people hanging out off car windows, riding on roofs, openly drinking while driving, horns beeping, singing in unison (a European tradition that I'll never understand) and sheer craziness rule the street. For some reason, American Confederate flags adorn the landscape. The way I understand it, Ragarre has it's roots in the rural towns and the followers were viewed upon as sort of rednecks. In fact, there is a Swedish saying - "if you don't like CCR, you are not a raggare

A celebration of red-neck-iness. In Europe. Yep, even Europe has rednecks.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

School's Back

Yesterday marks the beginning of the new school year which is bittersweet in many ways. Sweet because my kids are going to a wonderful school , in an excellent environment and learning so much about the world around them. Already, my daughter is in her element. I think I will have a hard time ever getting her back into a public school. My son, who is normally, apprehensive about any change is also doing remarkably well.

Bitter because I am losing my summer accomplices. My son has been largely my compass. At eight, he knows pretty much where all the buses go and how to get everywhere for the all too common instances when I am absolutely clueless. My daughter, as always, is the adult in the trio. She keeps us on task. They have both been my extra arms and legs with the, now bane of my existence, trips to the grocery store.

I have selfishly had them all to myself for the entire long summer with no intrusions and not having to share them with the outside world. It was a memorable summer, one I am sure we will always carry with us and I am thankful to give them this opportunity that so few children get to experience. They have put up with my complaining, my constant philosophizing, my soap box styled rants, this terrible apartment and a giant upheaval in their lives with hardly a complaint.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

That 70s Ortho Office

Friday I took my daughter to her first orthodontist appointment. She has braces so I need someone to continue her treatment while we are here. Overall, it was a non-eventful appointment, the dentist seemed to know what he was doing; he was professional and pleasant. All good things.

What struck me was the vast difference between our orthodontist offices in the states and this orthodontist office. This office reminded me of the doctors offices I remember from my childhood in the 1970s. Not that the equipment or furnishings were antiquated. They were not. Just the feel, the look and the general vibe of the place.

Our orthodontist office in the states...a whole other level. First off, it is called Aspen Orthodontics. The entire office is snow board themed. Snow boards and winter sports equipment hang from the ceilings. The waiting room is a plush, interior designed space with a big screen TV and kid's nook complete with a Play Station. Everything is state of the art and antiseptically modern. All this competes with the any one of the fifteen orthodontists in the five mile radius including the guy we didn't choose with the Slush Puppy machine.

Oh, and have I forgotten to add his display case where he displays the gifts for his token system? Tokens are given to his patients for "good" standing. Things like showing up for appointments, wearing your Aspen Orthodontics t-shirt to your appointments and not breaking brackets are rewarded with various incentive gifts. The more tokens you collect the bigger the prize; movie tickets, Ipods and even a Wi make up the selection.

These are the things, the comforts, the luxuries we live with, as Americans, everyday and we never think twice about them. They are small material things and it wouldn't kill you to not have them. But how lucky are we to have such options available to us?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Yasuragi Hasseludden

Today we spent the entire day at the Yasuragi Hasseludden Japanese spa which is located in Saltsjö-Boo, just outside of Nacka. Nacka is my favorite suburb in the Stockholm area and where we will live if we stay a second year. I love being there. It is clean, green and serene with very pretty Swedish style country houses and not a commiebloc in sight.

Water is the theme for Yasuragi. There are indoor and outdoor hot tubs, saunas, pools and steam rooms. The outdoor hot tubs while built into the surrounding forest and hillside also over look the inner Baltic archipelago. They also offer yoga, tai chi, karate and meditation classes. Yasuragi is one of the few spas that also allows entire families as a result they offer classes and activities for children as well. Laughing yoga, martial arts, origami are some of the activities offered today.

The entire spa is Japanese themed. Yasuragi means inner peace and harmony and the entire spa is designed to promote those principles. The minute you enter the building you are given a complimentary kimono and swimsuit. That is your attire for the entire day. You are given an introduction to the Japanese bathing ritual. The bath is an ancient ritual that requires quite a bit of patience and time. Before entering the tubs you are expected to perform the ritual scrubbing and rinsing in the scrub-section. This gives both body and mind the time to relax and wind down.

Lunch of sushi and miso soup, fresh fruits and herbal teas are available through out the day. I should add that Yasuragi is also a hotel and longer stays are available. Probably the recommended course for Americans as it takes us a good half a day to begin to even start to relax.

Unfortunately I did not get any pictures because my camera is giving me some strange error. But I am nabbing a few off the internet to give a visual.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tala svenska

I am slowly finding myself understanding words here and there when someone speaks to me in Swedish. This is a good thing. I know quite a few words and can, myself, put basic sentences together. When I see it written, I can generally make out enough of what has been written to get the gist. I do always have a hard time understanding what is being said. It probably has more to do with poor listening skills than much else. I probably should work on that.

Today while shopping the clerk told me the price and I could make out the numbers well enough to know she had given me the 25% discount that was advertised. I was quite pleased. Then for some reason, out of the deep recesses of my brain, when she handed me the receipt I responded with "Danke". She looked at me quite confused as she had already heard me speaking English with my children. Why I would be thanking her in German was a complete mystery. To her and to myself as well. More than once all the words have come to German.

I like the challenge of learning other languages. Swedish and German are very similar and many of the words are nearly identical. The sentence structure is pretty similar. I am slowly getting used to the strange U sounds that in the beginning really irritated me. A lot of ewwwws and ulllll sounds. In Swedish, there is a strong emphasis on stress of certain syllables which is not as common in English. There are a few more vowels, ä and ü and strange letter combinations such as sj or tj.

The Swedes are more than willing to speak English and most have an excellent command of the language. A few have even acted surprised that I would bother learning Swedish as so few in the world do. I can not see why you would not try to learn the language of your host country, just as a sign of respect for their culture and way of life.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Lagom is a Swedish word that has no real equivalent in English. Roughly translated it means not too much and not too little. The Swedish way.

To completely understand Sweden you must understand the concept of lagom. The ideal amount. A perfect compromise. As it carries over, not only in terms of material things but in terms of work/home life and show of emotions. It is a concept Swedes are very proud of.

It is a way of thinking completely at odds with the American psyche of excess and limitless bounty. Americans, in general, would see the concept of lagom as a limit put on them. It would be in direct conflict with our "the sky is the limit" mindset. Though, in reality, I think most Americans could probably use a little more lagom and most Swedes a little more reaching for the sky.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ten Magic Digits

We have finally received our personal numbers. Well, I shouldn't say finally because there is always a chance it couldn't have happened at all and when it did it was supposed to take 6-8 weeks--we have gotten ours in a record three.

So, we are now residents. Supposedly I can now operate with ease. I can now open bank accounts, get library cards, movie store memberships, go to the doctor and whatever else requiring the number. Actually, we've already done the above without too much hassle. Except getting the movie store membership. That was a little dicey.

The first movie rental store turned us down. We asked if they could keep our credit card on file. Nope, gotta have the personnumber. Maybe my thinking is a little off base but doesn't a personal number really just tell you I'd have a really large chance of really only being a liability and a credit card, at least, give you something to bill against if I never show back up to return the merchandise? But, hey, why let logic interfere with policy?

So, we shuffled off to the next video store where they gave us a membership, no problem. The bank wasn't too much of an issue either. Sweden is big on having people physically go places and give their assurances that you are who you claim to be and are an all around OK guy. Basically, that was what we had to do in that instance.

The library was a piece of cake. The librarian was extremely helpful. Again another instance of Swedish graciousness to annoying foreigners. The German's would never have given me a library card. Then again the German's would never have personnummers for reasons that are obvious.

I am very interested in actually using the medical system so I can give a first hand assessment. I have found out, though, that contrary to popular opinion doctor's visits are not free. What? All this time I have been told, it is free, free, free. Turns out there is a co-pay of anywhere from about $15-$25. Turns out too, a lot of stuff isn't covered and a lot of stuff is billed to the employer rather than the state. Gets more interesting, the more I find out.

I did use the German medical system and I was quite pleased with it but I was a private payer. My son was born there. What was nice was that my doctor had an ultrasound in his office and for the first four months he gave me an ultrasound included in my $50 co-pay. I think an ultrasound on the states would cost you at least $1500. I had about six of them.

In the hospital, when my son was born, because I was private pay, I had a huge double room all to myself. I almost felt bad that the German women were cramped 3 to a room while I had a this huge double room. Almost. But, that's what private paying will buy you and what the state will buy you. My Russian nurse kept telling me 'Erste klasse", meaning I had first class accommodations.

I got the distinct impression she didn't like me because of the room. Leftover baggage from the Soviet era was my guess. It didn't help our relationship along when she asked me if I liked Germany or the United States better and I promptly, without the slightest bit of hesitation, answered the United States. She cooled considerably after that.

Let's face it after six long days, we were working on a relationship of sorts. I do not know when, if ever, they planned to discharge me. I finally had to had to call in my husband and have him demand to have me be let out of there.

Back to my personnummer, if I only had a real, paying job, I could break a nail and collect some sort of worker's compensation for 12 weeks at 100% pay and another 27 weeks at 80% pay. Ok, those are not the real numbers but I'd bet they are close.

Actually, the excuse du jour is stress. Writing this blog does carry with it a fair amount of stress. The deadlines are tough.

There is some sort of starving artist state subsidy I could qualify for. (for a moment I ask you to dismiss the fact that the 80s are way over) Recently a heavy metal band member claimed that his heavy metal lifestyle was causing him to miss work to go to his gigs. He argued this was causing him to lose jobs and he HAD to rely on welfare handouts.

He won some sort of income supplement. I am thinking, writing this blog could possibly be construed a creating art. I am so entrenched in the internet/blog lifestyle it is causing me problems actually finding work? Yeah?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Yes, it is a Garbage Chute

And that's a picture of my kids stuffing our American sized garbage into the European sized garbage chute.

I think it's pretty strange looking. All the apartments that we looked at had the same sort of set up. To take the trash out, we have to go down two flights of stairs and back up another flight of stairs and with the use of an electronic scan key get out to what is, essentially, the roof of part of the second story. I think it may be the roof of a parking garage.

This roof is something of a courtyard. It's quite nice actually. It's where the laundry room resides in a separate little building. There are some other little shed type things for storage that actually have soil and spaces for gardens on their roofs. Grills, patio sets, bike racks, a sand box and play areas for is actually rather pleasant out there. You would be surprised.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Come to Jamaica, Mon

Tonight we set off to Stockholm's southern island of Sodermalm to try our hat at caribbean food Stockholm style. Who would think you would find excellent, authentic Jamaican food in Stockholm, Sweden? Who would also guess that Stockholm has a thriving and alive reggae scene? True on both accounts.

For anyone reading in the Stockholm area, Back A Yard, is located in Sodermalm at Folkungagatan 128. Once there you will be met with a uniquely Jamaican interior. The restaurant is small and fills up quickly so reservations are recommended.

The traditional favorites, for caribbean foodies, can be found. Jerk chicken, fish stews, saltfish fritters, steamed fish with mountains of vegetables and rice. Fried johnny cakes compliment each dish. To quench your thirst, a decent assortment of beer including Red Stripe and, a novelty for an Americans, Cuban beer. For dessert we opted for a sweet potato pudding with rum ice cream and fresh passion fruit. It was more of a cake than a pudding. The portions were huge and by this time I was in physical pain not wanting to waste a bite.

I don't think I'll make a habit of writing about food but this was a meal truly worth sharing. If you are reading this from or heading to Stockholm and would like a little island flare, Back A Yard is worth the train ride to SoFo.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Let It Rain

I've finally found a reason to just maybe, kinda sorta, like rainy days. Hunter Wellington mud boots. I have wanted a pair of these bad boys since I saw fashion queen Kate Moss stomping around the Glastonbury Festival mud. Alas, I have never have had a need for a pair living in the desert. Until now.

I've started my collection today. I am downright giddy at the prospect of owning many, many pairs.

It's the little things I tell ya. The little things.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What is this? Poll in sidebar

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Personal Space...What A Concept!

The whole idea of personal space seems lost on the average Swede. In queues that stand right up behind you, their hot breath on your neck and their conversations in your ear. Walking behind you they walk right on your heels never quite walking around you but right on top of you. Stopping to read a sign or a menu, they'll stealthy stand right behind you, closer than your shadow. You will never hear them come up but if you quickly turn around you will find yourself nose to nose and you'll wonder "why, why, why are you standing so close to me".

In check out lines, where you bag your own groceries, they'll hastily start throwing their groceries in with yours. You'll stand there side by side picking your groceries out of a big pile of yours and theirs. The other day I was filling a bag with potatoes. There were five large bins filled with potatoes. A man came over, ignored the four other empty bins, and stood right with me picking through the same bin. Weird. I wondered did he think I somehow had the better bin?

What makes it even more unusual is this is pretty much a society where there is no real sense of urgency. I'd expect it in the hustle and bustle of achievement driven and space deprived Tokyo or Hong Kong. Let's face it, this is a place where you may not get a reply back to an email for three weeks. Nothing can't wait and it often does.

I wonder if it is some latent side effect of collectivist type societies? Is personal space and the idea that we own the 12 inches of space surrounding us an American conception? The difference between an individualistic culture and a collectivist mindset? Hmmm, food for thought.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Flea Market

I haven't written about the place until now, well, because it was just too damn depressing. Now that it is August 4th and I have passed the halfway point I am feeling better about it. I am almost outta here...27 more days to be precise. Not that I am counting or anything.

I should preface this to say, we rented a flat just down the road from here in the picturesque district of Vasastan. However, it would not be available until September 1st. We had to find a temporary apartment for those two months. We used an online service and rented the Flea Market, sight unseen. I reasoned:

a. it was only two months
b. I had looked at several places and didn't see anything that wasn't decent
c. It was large, fairly expensive and in Vasastan

I should also preface this by telling you that I really don't like stuff. I have some material objects that I really like but they are few in number. Please note, I don't say this to point out some great moral positioning. Less stuff is just easier. The couple of things I do love -- my Dyson vacuum, my Mac, my Kitchen Aide fridge with (sob) icemaker and clothes and shoes. Other than that and as far as decorating goes, I am in the Georgia O'Keefe realm. Chair, table, lamp and I am good. We are talking real minimalist use of things like curtains, knick knacks, and pictures.

So, really, if the fates wanted to play a cruel joke on me and invent an interior that is so anti-everything I could ever want in a place this would be it. Antiques-check. Really, really bad paintings by the truckload with even worse ugly frames, check. Bad, bad, bad antique like tables and mirrors--oh, yeah, we've got 'em. Throw rugs everywhere, yes siree. We promptly rolled up all the rugs and hid them under beds about five seconds after the owner left. Ugly ornate lamps and clocks. Check and check.

Can I also mention that clutter makes me crazy? This place gives clutter a new name. And because they were only at their summer home for two months, they only packed up half of their clutter. Drawers and drawers full of crap. Bags full of old newspapers--for what purpose, I have no idea.Trick closets that would make Bugs Bunny proud. Book shelves over flowing with pretentious books that I am sure she's probably never read, old school notebooks and ledgers. She has old notebooks from college. On display in bookshelves. She's like 40, I've seen her pictures.

Yep, and to add insult to injury she's some sort of a, dare I say, liberal. All the obligatory titles are here. The Story of Bob Dylan, The Works Of Marx, Nietzsche, Is Hetrosexuality Normal. The full set of classic music. Brochures for the local theaters. The whole gamut of liberal merit badges on display for anyone who cares enough to be impressed by them.

Even weirder, is, though four people live here, every room is overrun with her stuff. As far as I can tell, the husband has one closet that he keeps very neat. The kids have their own wardrobes and a dresser. The rest is hers. Every drawer, every bookshelf, every nook, every cranny. Wow! And I thought I was self involved.

I am just thankful, in 27 days, she can have it all back. In the meantime, I need to remember where I put all those throw rugs and where they go.

The Rational Jingo

In an effort to keep my OAIS blog separate, or as separate as humanly possible, from my political views I have started a blog specifically for political and related topics. For anyone interested.

The Rational Jingo

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sweden's Secret Paradise

What would you call 30,000 islands, clear blue water, islets and skerries; spanning from the barren to the lush and leafy, seaside cottages; spanning from the quaint to the downright decadent and idyllic scenes of children tire swinging and cliff jumping into the water? Naturally you'd call such a place paradise. And rightly so.

It's Sweden's best kept secret, it's archipelago. A day at the archipelago and suddenly you get it. You understand the vacation homes at the expense of the first home, the two month holidays and why and how they stay and tolerate the long, cold and dark winters. You understand better how so many are able to maintain near oblivion that not only are the barbarians outside the gate but that they have a firm foothold inside the gate.

It's the kind of place, I'd check off the list for being too cold, too far north, too not tropical or desert enough for me to bother with. Which is probably how and why it maintains it appeal. Because even at the peak of summer time, though brisk with activity, the waters are still vast and roomy, the air still clear and the breathing room still plentiful.

It's a step back to a more innocent time. A simpler time. A slower time.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Red Skinny Jeans Are Never a Good Idea

There seems to be a widespread fashion phenomenon here in Stockholm. Colored jeans. Really, really hideously colored jeans. The kind of jeans we see on our clearance racks for about $4 a pair and we wonder where they came from and where they were before they were on the clearance rack. Well, now we know.

The most prevalent of these colored jeans would be of the fire engine red variety.

It takes a special kind of person to pull off red jeans. It takes an even more special kind of person to carry off red skinny jeans. It takes a really, really special kind of man to pull these off. I don't know that I have seen one yet.

I didn't know how bad the problem was until I was looking for jeans for my eight year old son in the boys section at Åhlen's. Åhlen's is a popular Swedish department store and what's interesting is that it still breaks clothes into men's and women's and boy's and girl's. Some of the newer more trendy stores do not. And, silly retrobate me, I am still living with a mindset that there are definite differences between the sexes. A concept not popular among the mainstream left in Sweden.

Back to red jeans. I can unequivocally state that my son will never own a pair of red jeans. As long as I am paying for them, at least.