Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas!!!

In Sweden, Christmas Eve is actually the bigger holiday and is filled with drinking, eating, gift giving and cartoons. Yes, you heard it correctly. If anyone wants to invade or take over this country, you only need to wait until December 24th at 3pm. You could literally walk through immigration without so much as a peep from the officers because most likely they are away watching these cartoons. I think what is so interesting (at least with my Swedish family) is that the cartoon clips they show are from the old Walt Disney classics such as Cinderella, Snow White, Lady and the Tramp and sprinkled with other Walt Disney classic cartoons such as the one where Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck lose their jetstream trailer on the mountain. Oddly enough, the clips of these classic movies are all that the Swedes see. Most of them have never seen any of the movies in their entirety.

Today has been spent relaxing by the fire and taking a nice walk through the neighborhood with Reagan, Gunilla and Jan. It was nice and warm yesterday, around 45F. Today, it is below freezing so burning the fireplace is very welcome. Normally, Anders and I fight about when it is OK to have a fire - in Dallas it had to dip below 50F. This rule was established after Anders built a fire and it was in the 60s. I had to turn the AC on just to survive it. HA!!!

Gunilla and Jan will stay the night and I plan on using my new Les Creuset dutch oven ti make dinner (thanks Mom & Dad)!!! I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday. It may be a few days before I can post some pictures. Since we are housesitting, I can't really upload anything onto their computer and our computer was infected with a few viruses, so I need to pretty much reload all the windows applications. OH JOY...oh well, I've got some time.

Much love to all my friends and family!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Santa Lucia Day

So yesterday was Santa Lucia Day. Huh? Swedes celebrating an Italian saint? Go figure. The way I look at it, it was just another day to drink.

Apparently, there is no clear understanding of why Sweden celebrates this day except that at one time December 13th was consired the shortest day of the year. In order to ward off the darkness, I guess the Swedes decided to bring in a little help. And of course, just like Mid-summer, the longest day of the year, you have to have some good food and drink.

I am definitely NOT opposed to any of this and decided to get in on the fun. Since we don't have children, we didn't get to participate in any of the children's lucia processions, but from what I understand it is really beautiful. I've provided a link HERE, so you can read about Lucia and all that goes with it. I did, however, end up making the saffron "cats" or lussekatter, Anders picked up the mulled wine or glogg (still no swedish keyboard - there are suppose to be two dots over the O) and we celebrated. Our friends, Helena & Calle, stopped by on their way home as well.

As some of you may know, Reagan loves bread. Any kind of bread - waffles, toast, biscuits, birthday cakes. I had caught her earlier licking the counter to remove the extra flour (what a big help she is, huh?) so I knew she was really wanting to try the end product. As our guests were leaving, I noticed that Reagan had decided to go back into the living room and in two quick bites, she polished off one of the buns. How do I know it was only two bites? Well, let's just say this morning's walk confirmed it. ;-)

Mom, can't I please just have ONE more?!?!

Love, Monica

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Weekend in Review

Whew - what a fun, exciting and busy weekend we had. Let's just get right to it, shall we?

On Saturday, we drove (yes, I said drove - more on that in a second) out to Ekero, which is west of Stockholm and about an hour by car, for game night with the American/Swedish couples I have met. To most people's horror, we did a lot of SingStar (a PS2 karoke game) and a music trivia and general trivia game called Buzz (again, played through PS2). We had a ton of fun and ate lots of good American junk food like hot artichoke dip, chili with cornbread, hello dollies, rotel, etc.. It was fun to get together and just act stupid. Here the girls are after batteling it out all night. Unfortunately, I am not as good of a singer as I thought - I lost everytime EXCEPT when Leslie's 9 year old son challenged me to the Run DMC song, Tricky. I won that (barely!).
Sunday, was big errand day. One of the guys that Anders' works with let us borrow his car over the weekend so we seized the opportunity to go to IKEA and pick up some things. After spending 1 1/2 hours in IKEA, we had a quick lunch at McDonalds (shocked, I am sure) and then headed over to El Giganten - a electronics store. We'd been talking about getting a new TV for a while, so we thought we'd check out the merchandise. Well, we walked out of there with a Christmas gift to eachother - a new flat screen TV. We really didn't want a flat screen originally, but they just don't make anything else anymore. There was a small corner filled with regular TVs, but they just looked so old compared to all the new flat screen ones. And there were so many choices, it made it even easier to find a good deal.

With our car fully loaded, we headed back home. The funny thing is that this outlet/shopping area is only about 20 minutes from our house, but when I originally went it took me almost 2 hours to get there! It felt so good to have a car - like we really live here. I even drove Saturday night and Sunday morning. At first glance, the traffic signs seem really confusing but once you are behind the wheel, they really make a lot more sense.

After unloading everything, Anders brought up the Christmas tree for me to decorate. It definitely feels more like Christmas now that I have that up especially since Kissel still thinks - after 13 years!!! - that he can eat it. Every morning I wake up to a new pile of Christmas tree puke because obviously you can't eat plastic!!!

Monday was spent indoors. It was really rainy, cold and windy - not a good combination - and I had two dogs again. Here they are both staring at Kissel who is in the box - don't you wonder what they are thinking?!
We were only able to go on one long walk and the girls were pretty much stir crazy the entire day. I can't say that I blame them - I was sick of being inside too. When Anders got home from work, I made him take me to dinner at the hotel nearby. I just had to get out!!! Plus I needed an excuse to wear my Dad's parka he gave me. Let me tell you - it's so thick and heavy (must weigh at least 8 lbs) you don't even feel the wind against you - it's like wearing concrete and I loved it!! I was so warm and comfortable that I am looking forward to the winter again knowing that I will be just fine in this thing.

Today I have the puppy again, but it is sunny so we have already been on a long walk! They wrestled a little this morning and are currently sleeping *sigh*. We'll go on lots of walks today because you just never know when it is going to turn nasty again.

Have a great day, everyone!
Love, Monica

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Two Are Better than One?!

I knew yesterday morning when I went for the morning dog walk it was going to be a beautiful day. You know how I knew? Well, for one thing I saw some people at the daycare all standing outside, sipping their hot coffee and looking towards the sunrise. I am not sure what they were saying but I am sure it was something like "damn, isn't that just the most amazing sunrise?". It was really beautiful and what seemed to me, unusually bright. It was more like a spring time sunrise (in my humble, never lived this far north opinion) than a fall/winter one. In any event, the sun shined all day long. This was the second day in a row with sunshine so I just had to go on another exploration walk - and yes, this time it was with TWO dogs.

After looking at the Taby map and consulting a more reliable one (the street map), I came to realize that there was a lake in what seemed to be much closer proximity to our apartment. I leashed up the dogs, loaded my bag w/ water, a scarf & the camera and away we went. The walk took us through a very nice green space area between two neighborhoods. Tons of little paths jutting here and there, but I kept on the major path until I saw this:

What's that, you say? Just a stupid stream? Oh contraire mo frare (or however you spell it). It's actually run off that has been manipulated "a bit" as on the other side of this picture is a big, concrete pipe. Not too photogenic, so I only captured it from this angle. BUT, what this drain off does tell me (and my Father would tell you too!) is that cities typically direct drain offs to bodies of water sooooooo I knew I was headed in the right direction!!!

OK, moving right along - the afternoon really wasn't that suspenseful but it was a peaceful and idyllic area nonetheless. Just a few minutes from the babbling brook (me or the stream?!) we came to the lake. It's actually a really nice lake that appears to have trails along it's perimeter. We didn't continue along the path because it was going to get dark soon and I wanted to get back so the girls (all 3 of us) could rest a little. Plus, I could see there was another dog on down the path that was playing with the ducks, leash free, and I wasn't really up for being dragged across the dirt by two excited goldens. Speaking of two excited goldens, here they are "posing" for me:

And here is Miss Mya watching the birds very closely. She loves birds like Reagan loves squirrels. She is really good on the leash, hardly pulls and has that cute golden retriever skip in her step. However she is a MAJOR "counter surfer" right now, bringing me all sorts of goodies from the kitchen.

Thursday was a total change from Wednesday - they pretty muched just chilled all day long, with a few wrestling matches here and there. This morning, they both slept in with me (I usually let Reagan out of her crate after Anders leaves for work) and were really good. Another thing about a puppy like her is you can tell how important the first few months are in shaping the way they behave. Now I am even more happy with Reagan's progress but realize that some of the things I wish she could do (go off leash at my mother-in-laws unfenced summer home) simply will never be because she is too old. When they are puppies, it seems they want to be with you every moment outside and are scared to go anywhere without you - I could probably let Mya off leash and she would be fine. Reagan is old enough not to be scared (but not trained enough to know CARS KILL!) so it will never work. Boo, hiss - we can always dream! I think the best part of having two dogs is when Reagan wants to play tug of war with her toys - Mya is all too quick and excited to be part of that game, even though it means she will be dragged around the apartment!!

This weekend we are laying low - we have a game night over at the American/Swedish couples house on Saturday but that is about it. Of course, that's how last weekend started out and we ended up having three things to go to!!! HA! Apparently, our landlord has a small, artificial Christmas tree in the basement, so Anders promised me we could put that up after Mya leaves. I think that will round out the decorations and I won't have to go buy more. OK, maybe a tablecloth, but I NEED that!!!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Love, Monica

Puppy Sitting

So yesterday we welcomed a (temporarily) new addition to our family. Another golden retriever named Mya. Mya is only 4 months old and probably 1/2 the size of Reagan. Interestingly enough, judging by the size of her head and paws, she probably won't get that much bigger. We have friends who own golden puppies and their heads and paws are HUGE. Of course, in true puppy form Mya, despite her small stature, has zero coordination and trips on just about everything.

As I mentioned, yesterday was the first day Mya was in our home. Despite peeing on the floor 3 times (2 I caught, 1 I didn't - ugh) and wrestling with Reagan until she snapped (quite literally, I might add) it was a good day. I can honestly say I never realized how good of a dog Reagan was until this comparison. Don't get me wrong - Mya is a sweetheart of a dog, she just has a lot of energy and will need lots of training in the future. To see me walk these two is a miracle in of itself. Thank goodness for Reagan's patience - I couldn't do it without her!

In other exciting news - well there is just nothing to report. Two dogs in a small apartment is a bit like daycare - you can never really take your eyes off of them. Thank goodness yesterday and today are both partly sunny days so we can go on LONG walks. Since I have been so boring, I will leave you with some other boring pictures - our living room (before Mya! ;-)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Clementine Cake

And now, for the long awaited Nigella Lawson's clementine cake post - ha! It is finally done and you can cast your eyes upon it's beauty...Doesn't it look yummy? Well it is. Especially considering how easy it is to make and how few ingredients you really need (I was even short one egg). I used 1-2 more clementines than the recipe calls for, but that was because I was trying to make up the difference for the lack of egg. The smell of the clementines boiling was unbelievable. It wasn't as orangy as I thought it would be and instead almost had a cinnamon, buttery smell. I would suggest covering the pot while you are boiling the clementines because mine boiled dry an hour into the process. It would taste really good with a dollip of whipped cream too.

What a perfect winter dessert - now you know what you can do with those crates of clementines they sell!!! Click HERE for the recipe.

Focus, woman, Focus

How does an unemployed woman manage to get so off track?!?! Just throw a beautiful day into the mix and everything is delayed.

I didn’t get the decorations up on Thursday because all of a sudden, at 1PM the sun came barreling out and lit up what was a very overcast and dreary day. Knowing that these types of days are going to become fewer and fewer, I decided it was time for Reagan and I to venture out on a long, exploring walk and see if we could find the ocean and castle (that are nearby). You know, map makers are a hilarious bunch of people (said sarcastically). Some maps you read make an area look like it is miles and miles apart, however, in actuality, you are within minutes of your destination (i.e. the Stockholm subway map & streets). While others, make a distance look quite close and it is actually further away (the Taby map of the area). Reagan and I took off on our adventure walk with a bounce in our step only to realize ONE HOUR IN that we were no where near the ocean and would not arrive anytime soon (or at least before the sun started setting at 3:30pm). We were both pretty disappointed (OK, me more than her) especially since I have a reputation for being really good with direction. However, I did manage to figure out there is an actual bus from outside our apartment that goes to the water so next time I am ditching the exercise and traveling in style (?).

This is a picture of some bush (duh, right?) but it looks like yogurt covered raisins are growing on it – I took this on our walk, but Reagan wouldn’t be still hence the blurriness

Since we explored the afternoon away, I didn’t get to the Christmas decorations until Friday. I had a fantastic time, however, putting them up (even though there were only two boxes of decorations). I popped in my KVIL 1998 Christmas CD and sang my way through the afternoon. I didn’t get to take Clementine cake either, but will be making it later this afternoon.

Funny enough, we started into the weekend with absolutely no plans and ended the weekend with two very eventful days. On Saturday, I had decided that we needed to check out Stockholm’s Christmas Markets. All the pictures and articles I read made them sound pretty good – specialty meats, cheese, toffee almonds and glogg. As we were getting ready for the day, one of Anders’ friends called to see what we were up to. We hadn’t actually even thought of torturing anyone else with my market venture, but decided to offer it to him and his girlfriend. Miraculously, they said yes and off we went to Stockholm. It was such a beautiful day – drizzly, cold and tons of people – but the company made it a lot better. We actually had a great time just hanging with Calle and Helena and I got my toffee almonds. We even got to see the NK (Sweden’s Neimans) Christmas windows which are decorated every year in a particular theme. After cruising through the markets, we ended up going back to their house in Vaxholm (which is close to Taby), eating dinner and watching Bad Santa. What a classic!! We had a ton of fun with both of them – they even let us bring Reagan over while we ate dinner and watched the movie (even though Reagan had eaten Helena’s gloves the last time they were here…).

Helena, Calle and Anders at the Market

One of the NK Christmas windows – they are hot air balloons taking gingerbread cookies to the people of the world…or at least Paris & New York!!! ;-)!

My toffee almonds – they were really good and the only thing I found to buy at the market

Sunday we went to meet Anders’ co-workers family whom we will be house-sitting/dog sitting for 3 weeks during Christmas/New Year. They have a very nice house overlooking the water so it will be the perfect setting (pray for snow) to celebrate our first Christmas together in Sweden. After that, we went to visit another one of Anders’ friends and his girlfriend for glogg. Apparently, being invited over for glogg during this time of year is very typical and happens almost on a daily/weekend basis. Glogg is similar to mulled wine – very sweet and flavored with cinnamon, cloves and served with raisins and almonds. It was good to see Per & Rosie and their sons Isaac and newborn Joel. We had a very relaxing time and I even was able to try saffron buns (they are not savory, like you would think).

Today, Reagan had to get a manicure/pedicure. It was quite an adventure to the vet b/c the bus we took there stopped running after our appointment and didn’t start up again until this afternoon. Luckily, Anders was available at work to help me figure out how to get home and we made it back. It’s was a pretty funny site – Reagan and I sitting at the bus stop for almost 30 minutes. About 5 minutes before the bus arrived, she started barking at me. She must have been as bored and ready to get home as I was.

This afternoon I WILL BE making that damn Clementine cake – in fact, the house is filled with the smell of Clementine’s as they are boiling right now…see….

I also will be dog sitting a golden retriever puppy starting tomorrow through the end of the week. HOLY DOG HAIR - I'll probably have to sweep the floors everyday. But according to one of my aunts, I apparently have a lot of time on my hands so this shouldn't interfere with anything. ;-)

Hope everyone has a great week!!! I’ll let you know how the cake goes – I am one egg short so I hope it doesn’t make a BIG difference…he, he, he!!!



Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas is Coming Around the Corner!

WOW - what an awesome birthday I had!!! Anders suprised me with dinner and a concert on Tuesday night and then continued to suprise me on Wednesday by taking the day off! We had an awesome day that ended with some Veuve Clicquot and my mom's brownie recipe - yummy! I also received a webcam and the NEW Barefoot Contessa Cookbook - YIPEE!!!! My parents stayed up past midnight (their time) to call me first thing in the morning and wish me a Happy Birthday! Thank you! I also received all sorts of calls, emails and text messages from all my friends and family wishing me a happy day. It really made turning 25 easier - he, he!! I am always so impressed by the number of people who are so thoughtful to me. I am the absolute WORSE at remembering people's birthdays (ask my mom - I've even forgotten hers!) and just wish I had an ounce of the thoughtfulness that some of my friends have. Then, their are the "other" ones - the ones like me. You could hit me over the head with a birthday book and I still wouldn't catch on. What makes this all the funnier is my best friend is the same! It drives her fiance and my husband crazy that we are so "thoughtless" when it comes to eachother, but the fact is that is so far from the truth! I guess we just don't get hung up on those silly "celebration" days and instead celebrate our life everyday...good grief, what the hell was that sentence about?!?! I think I have had too much sleep and coffee. Maybe I should start listening to rap music or something and get a little more grounded. HA!

Anywho, I didn't take too many pictures but there are a few I want to share with you:
First the boots I wore out on Tuesday night. Can you believe I walked on these things through the city and on public transporation? I mean, come on. These boots are great going from car to home or car to work or car to restaurant - but mastering the art of walking on your tip toes so your heel doesn't get caught in the subway grates is a entirely different thing. Now I know why the thick heeled boots are so popular here. I'll have to buy a pair but will wait until the end of the season since I already have TWO new pairs of boots.The bar at the restaurant/concert venue we went to on Tuesday night. No, we didn't see ABBA but we did see one of my favorite, current bands - Bo Kaspers Orkester. They sing some pretty amazing stuff, are incredible live and would you believe almost every member of the band plays at least two other instruments? At one point Anders and I couldn't remember who played what because they had changed so many times.AW, the virgin Reagan!! HA! Isn't she just the sweetest? We have so many pictures of her but this one (taken yesterday morning) is just hilarious. She's all wrapped up and snuggled in. She is such a momma's girl now since we hang out all the time.My breakfast this morning. I know, I know - it's a food shot (boring) - but I am really getting into this food styling/photography thing. Maybe I will create another blog just for this so I don't bore you all to death. Anyway, breakfast this morning consisted of corn museli and vanilla yogurt. One thing I have noticed that is a bit different in Sweden than the US (ok, there are LOTS of things, but this is more subtle) is the way they "protect" their food. In the US, there would not only be a plastic ring you would have to break or unwrap, there would also be a plastic piece on the spout you would have to remove (by the way - this particular yogurt comes in a cardboard container here - it's thinner so it pours out like milk). When I opened it this morning, I was a little scared. I even called Anders to see if he had some because it felt like someone had tampered with the yogurt. He assured me that yogurt is packaged this way and no one had put cyanide in it (Mom, are you rolling your eyes yet?).

Today will be spent putting out the Christmas decorations, putting away laundry (because I already did ALL of it this morning) and cleaning the house . I am also going to use up the leftover clementines (that I used as a centerpiece for Thanksgiving) and make a cake. I'll let you know how it tastes, tomorrow.

Thanks again to everyone for thinking of me yesterday - it meant A LOT!!!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Phood and Photography

So, many of you know that I enjoyed a long life in catering before I went to the "dark" side of HR. Well, while I was quite relieved not to have to answer to customers anymore (as they are ALWAYS right), I didn't loose my passion for food. Luckily, Anders enjoys cooking as much as I do but with recent changes in our work dynamics (i.e. I don't work and he does...) I have become the primary chef again. It's been really fun getting back into cooking and discovering new recipes. I also have discovered a love for photographing food. Now, I am sure there are food stylist around the world cringing at my latest attempts below, but hey - I am an amatuer and when it is a cloudy, foggy day in Sweden, the lighting in my house is crap too.

Anyway, I took the poached egg picture this morning and the crackers with cream cheese & lingonberry jam last Tuesday. I think it is fun to document some of what you eat (one of the food blogs I read documented ALL of the things she consumed for an entire week - that'd be tough) so I will try and do it a little more often if anything just to have pictures to post (especially since the weather in Sweden is just overcast and cool - BORING). Here's to photography and food!!! Have a Great Day!!!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Happy Monday!

I am such a loser - I didn't take ONE picture of the Thanksgiving meal but I can tell you it turned out really well. The Champagne cocktails were DELICIOUS - you must serve these at your next party. The cinnamon, sugar, orange mixture you put on the rim of the glasses is so good that I am using the leftovers in my coffee - ha! The rosemary cashews (from Barefoot Contessa) were so yummy too. I am always amazed and pleased that her recipes NEVER let me down. The turkey turned out perfect, the gravy just as delicious, the cranberry conserve - well, I think my Dad would like THIS recipe (another BC one). I also served green bean casserole (no fresh green beans here so this was an excellent substitute), mashed potatoes, deviled eggs (Mom, I swear you usually serve these), stuffed celery (you should have seen me making these - my family knows the pain these cause me every year) and individual stuffing. I made the stuffing and put it in ramekins for everyone. I didn't want to waste it and I also had heard from my American friends that Swedes really don't like stuffing. Well, not my Swedes. They loved it and everything else. Even the pumpkin pie turned out awesome. I had to bake my own crust (this time I used Martha Stewart) and learned that evaporated milk does exist here, just in the milk aisle. I was so pleased with everything and so happy it turned out good. Of course, we have leftovers and I have already made turkey tetrazzini last night and will be making turkey pot pies tonight.

The rest of the weekend was spent lounging around. Because Johan and Johanna spent the night, we made a typical American breakfast the next day (fried eggs, bacon, toast and hash browns - unfortunately they were not "scattered, smothered" or "covered"). I then spent the ENTIRE afternoon (it was a rainy day and maybe I was a touch hungover) watching seaon 2 of Project Runway. It's a show I didn't get into when I lived in the US but for some reason it was really interesting (maybe b/c it was the only english speaking program on?!? HA!).

Saturday night we went out to eat in Stockholm and had a very typical Swedish meal. I started out with pumpkin soup (not so typical, except they served it w/ salad greens as a garnish?!) and then had deer with a chanterelle sauce. I've had reindeer in the past but never deer. It was so delicious and nothing like I thought it would be. In fact, it is a lot milder than beef and really tender and lean. Anders' had this thing called gubbröra which is basically an egg salad with lots of anchovies - not too impressed and I think it was one of those moments for him where he thought he liked it and missed it, but once he got it he realized it wasn't as good as he remembered. For dinner he had elk meatballs. Now, I know what you are thinking - gross - but they were really, REALLY good. Again, a milder taste than beef and really tender and lean. I was so impressed.

Sunday was another lazy day and I finished watching Project Runway. Gunilla and Jan stopped by for a quick breakfast and to drop off some things. Again, another typical American breakfast but this time with scrambled eggs. I also got Gunilla and Jan to try salsa with their eggs instead of ketchup which they seemed to really enjoy.

This morning has been an active one already. I decided to go run on the trail again near our apartment and take the 5k route this time. It is even more beautiful but also more hilly. I started a little fast (of course, Reagan was with me and she pretty much drags my butt for the first 10 minutes or so) and got a little competitive with some of the other runners on the trail (i.e. I can't let THAT lady beat ME!) but I managed to finish it without hurting myself. What's want to know the time? Well, let's just say it was subpar and I need to get out there a little more than once a month! HA!

I hope everyone had as relaxing a weekend as I did. Tomorrow I am meeting the American girls for lunch and a walk around a new shopping center near Stockholm. Wednesday I will start looking for gray hairs since I will be 1/2 way to 70 and Thursday I will spend putting up Christmas decorations and trying to figure out where to buy an artificial tree.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Just wanted to wish all my friends and family a very, very Happy Thanksgiving! I know the holidays can be tough when we are away from each other, but I love you all very much and will be thinking about you enjoying your wonderful meal.

As I mentioned before, we are celebrating tomorrow night. Luckily we were able to get the company car last night so I spent 2 1/2 hours picking up all sorts of things. The Taby mall is so funny - just like the picture I posted of Anders pushing the grocery cart through the mall, I too had to do the same thing. It's was loaded down with groceries, wine, dry cleaning and pet supplies!! Classic moment only to be capped off with me almost sliding down the the "flat" escalator. I didn't expect the cart to start sliding back when I got on, but it did!! Thank goodness it finally caught on the ridges - the poor man behind me would have been in big trouble. Today, I will spend cleaning the apartment, finishing laundry, giving Reagan a bath (oh joy - you should see the size of this shower - one of those Home Depot corner types) and prepping a few items.

And now, the children have something to say:

Good grief, the way Reagan looks in that picture you would have thought I had just kicked her. She is the WORST picture taker in all of doggie land. Her hopes as a model have been dashed. Kissel, as usual, looks like he is about to tear my heart out. What love!!!

Have a great Thanksgiving - and Mom, tell Uncle Carl he isn't allowed to say anything that will make you cry!! I love you!!!

Love, Monica

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hello Again!

Hello Again! Can you tell I am happy to have internet at home?!?! Now I really have something to distract me from housework, etc. (he, he, he).

Well, today is a hugely successful day already and I am sure you are wondering why. Well, I present to you 3 reasons why I am happy:
First off, the pancakes. I tried making pancakes a few weeks ago before I found my American measuring spoons and they turned out HORRIBLY. They were so doughy and disgusting. Today, I tried again and with much better results. I even made them McGriddle/Dad style and cooked them in bacon fat - yummy!
Secondly, my food parcels from my family. My sister and mom sent me kosher salt & canned pumpkin. My granny sent me cornbread, stuffing & chili. Funny enough, I was so worried about vanilla extract, cheerios and Kraft mac & cheese I never realized that Sweden WOULD NOT HAVE kosher salt, American style cornbread OR Pepperidge Farm stuffing. Thank you soooooooo much for sending these things - it's going to make my Thanksgiving so much more authentic!
And finally some early birthday presents (that'd be the 29th for some of you who might not know - Lissa?!?! HA, HA, HA!!!). My sister sent me the pink looking (in person it's more peachy) Under Armour Hoodie. I guess all that oohing and awing at Sports Authority before I left did the trick - you got the hint!!! ;-) Now I have no excuse for not running (other than pure laziness). The other hoodie is from my Granny - LOVE IT and it will be worn often. And the styrofoam cups, you ask - well, those are special packing devices used by my father (among other things). Dad - don't you know I live in an environmentally conscience society where use of styrofoam is punishable by death?!?! HA!!!

OK, so it's actually more than three things and it is certainly not the answer to world peace BUT it is things that are currently making me happy right now! Thank you EVERYONE who put together both of these packages. When the FedEx lady delivered the second one this morning, I was in the middle of making the pancakes. She was so funny - she said she could smell them all through the apartment hallway and it smelled really good. I guess I could have shared...nah, that is SO not like me.

And now for a few other pictures that are just funny...
My sister and I at dinner before we left - I think this is such a funny picture and we almost look alike. Scary that we have to make such a weird face to see the resemblance?!?!
The forest behind our apartment when we first arrived
The same shot taken today. It's rainy and 45F this afternoon. What's nice about where we live is when I opened the window to take this shot, you could hear the rain hitting the leaves of the trees. A much better noise compared to the roar of LBJ/635. HA!
And finally, a sweet picture of Kissel. It's not often I can capture him in his sweet, loving moments but this was one of them. Usually he is rolling his eyes at the camera.

Well, I am off for today. Need to run up to the grocery store to pick up dinner and pick up our dry cleaning too. FYI - you can never complain about dry cleaning pricing again (not that any of you really do) because it is costing me US$22 to get TWO pairs of pants cleaned. Next care package, please send Dryel and Bounce Dryer Sheets (that's another story, another post).

Much Love,

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hell has frozen over...

and we have internet!!! As promised, the first "from home" post will be only pictures:
The playground directly outside our apartment - this is how it looked when we first arrived
This is the same playground after the first big snowfall on November 1st.

Anders pushing the grocery cart through the mall - it was Sweden's largest shopping mall until recently and has 3 grocery stores to choose from! HA!

The trail leading to our apartment from the train station and mall - this is what it looked like when we arrived.

Anders and I (and Reagan, of course) cooking in our kitchen for Viktor and Eilish (our first house guests)

Anders with our pallets of boxes - notice what great shape they are in!

Reagan posing in the first snow - unfortunately the first day of snow, we didn't have the camera so I didn't catch her rolling around in it like it was carpet. Oh well!

The same trail to our apartment from the train station/mall - we took this just yesterday.

Reagan and Kissel "spooning" on the couch with me - those two are unbelievable sometimes.

This week I am busy preparing for Thanksgiving which will be celebrated on Friday. Johan and his girlfriend, Johanna, are coming over for some traditional American cuisine. I am really looking forward to it and will spend all week finishing up the apartment and making parts of the dinner. Once the apartment looks decent enough, I will take some pictures of it too.

Thanks for your patience, everyone, as I get caught up. It's so nice to be able to sit AT HOME and post again without having to smell cheap asian fast food or worry about how long I have. YEAH!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

AACCKK, November 1st?!?!

Happy November 1st! Can you believe it is already November?!? We left Chicago four weeks ago today and boy has the weather changed a lot since then. Today we saw the first snowfall (I know - just the beginning!) and Reagan's first experience with the snow. She walked out onto it, did a little hop and then proceeded to roll around in it for about 5 minutes, like it was carpet. Too funny.
The last week has been a blur, but I will try and update you as best as I can. Last Thursday, Anders received a phone call from one of his friends, Mats, letting him know there was a position in his office that had just become vacant. He suggested that Anders give his boss a call to set up an interview. This was in the morning and by Thursday afternoon Anders had been offered the job (conditionally). He started work on Friday and has been busy putting in 11-12 hour days ever since. How lucky and blessed are we? And to top it off, it looks like he will be getting a company car and cell phone. They told him last night that the job was officialy his so we are thrilled.

Over the weekend, Anders went to the south of Sweden for a boys weekend. I'll let him post about his experience, but anyone who knows my husband will be rest assured he had his fair share of fun. I ventured out on my own, while he was away. Friday night, I went to my brother in law's girlfriend's apartment for dinner with a group of people. I had a blast and really enjoyed meeting more people. On Saturday, I went out to one of the American girl's homes for a Halloween party - I wore devil horns and Prada...ha! I had a blast and ended up singing karoke (VHope, are you proud?!?!). Sunday, I went to eat brunch with one of my Swedish friends and another one of her friends. After we ate, we cruised around Stockholm looking for things to buy. It was so liberating to get out on my own. I was starting to feel a little dependent on Anders to get me around but this proved to me that I can do it on my own. Man, should I throw my hat up like Mary Tyler Moore and sing "your going to make it on your own"...ha!!

This week I have just been trying to get things settled with my Swedish classes. I go on Monday for a registration and profiency test - that should go by quickly. And today I meet with a lady about English and Spanish tutoring. Our stuff has cleared customs and will be delivered on Friday. We'll spend most of the weekend trying to figure out what to unpack and what not to touch.

And yes, still no f-ing internet so still no f-ing pictures. I am so frustrated right now and am only a few seconds away from buying a new laptop with wireless connection. GGRRRR!!!!

Take care everyone and send warm thoughts!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Another Tuesday Post

Sorry it has taken so long to post again, but this 'going to the library or mall' thing gets old. As you may guess, there is still no internet at home. They now say it will be installed in a few more weeks...ugh. So here is a quick recap of the past week (for me, at least):

Wednesday - went to lunch with the Americans I met online. They are both really nice and were so helpful in answering all my dumb questions. We met at the subway and then walked over to TGI Fridays. Apparently it is one of the few places that serves a decent burger (other than McDonalds!). After that, we strolled around downtown Stockholm and into the Old Town (mom and dad should remember this area - it is were our hotel was located). It was really great just to hang out and get to know them better.

Thursday - went to the Migration Board and received my permanent resident stamp in my passport. It went so smoothly. We arrived shortly before 9am and immediately plopped ourselves in front of window #5. Anders understood the lady behind the glass (everything is like this here) that she was to sit there as she was told 2 people would be coming in to finish their appointment from Monday. Lucky us - we were the first ones! She took my mug shot (HORRIBLE) and within 10 minutes I was a legal resident of Sweden!!! YIPEE!!! Of course, that still doesn't mean I can apply for a job or start my Swedish classes. I have to have a Swedish SS# for that. And you know what that means, right???? Another freaking government building we have to go to. And of course they are no where near eachother. That evening Anders and I decided to have dinner out (a very un-Swedish thing to do...I might have to rethink my TexMex restaurant since no one eats out). We went to the local hotel in Taby (Taby Park Hotel) and had an excellent meal. It was so cozy and delicious. I was really happy to find such a nice restaurant so close (since we are car-less) that was pretty reasonable and really good. It will be an excellent place for visitors to stay too, if they so desire!

Friday - Today was take Reagan on the train day. We wanted to do a practice run together to see how she handled so many smells, people, etc.. We took the train from Taby to Stockholm Center and then from there we went into the southern part of Stockholm on subway. Reagan has an incredible desire to smell EVERYTHING and eat ANYTHING that is accesible to her and trains are filled with all sorts of goodies. We took her with us to the Tax Office so I could register in the country and receive my SS#. We also wanted to find the only dog park in the entire Stockholm area (funny, really. Dallas has a billion parks but most people live in homes with yards. Here, most people live in apartments and there is only one dog park to be found). It was a really drizzly, dreary day so the dog park was a bit too muddy to let her go in. Poor thing - she hasn't been off leash outside since Chicago. She did really good on the entire trip and even mastered the escalators (which run a light speed compared to Texas - maybe everything is slower in the south...ha!!). Once we got back, I made chili and cornbread. It was also laundry night. Anders and I felt pretty pathetic...doing laundry on a Friday night - how lame!

Saturday - today Anders worked all day. Nothing too exciting - he was a test moderator for the university - but it gave him something to do and a little pocket change. I got a haircut since the last two pictures I have taken have shown that my hair is just too long and ugly. Besides, all I kept doing was throwing in a ponytail or bun. Funny thing was, the girl spoke Swedish and Spanish perfectly, so we talked the entire time in Spanish...small world. That afternoon, Reagan and I met him in Stockholm and took the train to Nyköping (his home town). It's so nice to be able to travel ANYWHERE by train. We arrived to Reagan being showered with gifts. She received a brand new bed(s) (one for Tåby and one for Nyköping), pig ears, new food bowl and a raincoat!! She is too cute in her coat and it is even lined with's nicer than my new coat, ha!

Sunday - hung out at the house and then went to Morton and Eva's to see there new baby girl, Sofie.

Monday - Anders' dad took us to buy some things for our apartment (coffee maker, food processor, toaster, mixer) and then we went on to Anders' mom's summer home. It was a nasty, drizzly day again, so we didn't stay long. We did however get to pick up fresh eggs from the 'happy hens*. Can wait to start eating these - they are so fresh and taste way different than grocery store eggs. Took the train home, but realized we would be arriving exactly at rush hour. We had two extra bags with our stuff in it so we knew it would be almost impossible to deal with that, Reagan and all those people on the trains. OOOHH, TAXI!!!!

So that's it in a nut shell. Anders met with another friend today about some job possibilities and is applying for a few other jobs he saw in the paper. We found out yesterday our stuff arrives in Gothenburg on Wednesday and will be trucked up to Stockholm and delivered on Monday. Thank goodness!!! Thanks to everyone who posts comments - I really appreciate you checking in on us.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tuesday Already?!

Good news - I received my resident permit paperwork in the mail yesterday. We had friends up from Gothenberg, who offered to take me to the Migration building to get my person number (the Swedish version of the SS#). We were finally called after waiting over 2 hours, 10 minutes before they closed, and multiple times to the trash can looking for a call number that was better than #154 (we ended up with #108, the last number called for the day!). Once we got up there we were told the computer system and digital camera machine were not working and they would be unable to issue my number. My Irish friend Eilish nearly went through the glass. After a few firm words and some helpless looks, they gave me a pass for Thursday that will allow me to go straight to the window and get my number issued immediately. Once I have this, I can get my actual personbevis (like the actual SS card, but in letter form) which will allow me to apply for Swedish classes, bank accounts, etc.. YEAH!

Tomorrow I am having lunch with some Americans I met via various people, blogs and Amerikanska website. It should be fun and a challenge for me to get there. I told Anders last night that I understand how the train system works, it's just figuring out what the other signs say that is frustrating.

Our computer is working and we are have our internet and landline phone installed this week. I promise to post lots of pictures as soon as it is up.

Anders is having an informative job lunch today and should hear from the other job possibility this week. Keep your fingers crossed that something will move forward this week. We both will meet with the Unemployment office this week so he can start receiving benefits as well as use that office as a job resource too (although we hear it's pretty much crap!).

Till Next Time!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Legal Alien

Well, we are still getting settled and really trying to get our computer up and running. Right now I am sitting in the middle of Taby Centrum (a Galleria type mall), smelling asian fast food, and guarding the computer screen from shoppers. It's not a very private feeling so I'll keep this post short.

Good news - the Migration Board signed my resident permit paperwork today!! Once we get the letter in the mail, I will be able to sign up for Swedish classes and start looking for a job. Anders is going on another interview next week and also meets with the Government employment group (have no idea what their name is) to discuss unemployment wages while he looks.

Our container is scheduled to arrive around Oct. 24th, we will start working on plans to get our stuff and store it somewhere. Hopefully by then we will have some idea on where we want to live a little more permanently and start looking for a house.

Tomorrow we will be going to the Stockholm Open to watch tennis. Johan, my bro-n-law, was able to get tickets for us so we are really excited. I also did my first load of laundry the other day (don't laugh - it's in celsius so you don't have the usually cold/warm/hot choices) so I am starting to feel a little more like I live here and not on vacation.

Sorry for such a brief post - lots of love to everyone!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Finally, We've Arrived!

Quick Update - we are here! No kidding, right? The last 4 days have been one whirlwind. First, after all my worrying about the animals, we got through customs without even a hiss from Kissel. We arrived to our apartment and after a quick trip to the grocery store and a bite to eat we crashed. My cell phone died pretty much right after we arrived. It had given me trouble on the way from Dallas to Chicago, but the TMobile people were able to fix it. This time, not so lucky. Apparently my 6 year SIM card is DEAD. Poor little thing - I guess it was what couldn't take any more moves! HA!

We've been trying to set things up ever since. Thursday was a complete waste since we lost an entire night's sleep and Friday was mostly spent unpacking and Anders' having his interview. He still doesn't know anything as they will have another group/panel interview/lunch with the office if they like him. Sweden is a bit like Cayman - everything shuts down by mid-afternoon on Saturday. Today will be spent finding the government offices Anders needs to go to register as well as contacting the Migration Board to let them know I am in the country.

Kissel, the cat, is on a hunger strike (he is so damn picky with his food, so I am mixing it with a little tuna). Reagan is getting used to the apartment (which is actually quite roomy) and LOVES the fact we have to walk everytime she has to go to the bathroom. I try and take her on at least one 30 minute walk a day. Taby is absolutely gorgeous and the back of our apartment backs ups to forest and the front overlooks a common area field with trees. There are soooooo many walking paths, trails, etc. and all the leaves are turning. It's already a bit cold (for this Texas girl) and I use my suede Timberlands every day (thanks Mom & Dad). Once we get out computer set up, I'll be able to upload pictures. Right now we are in the library using the internet here.

Thanks for everyone checking in and now that we know the library hours, we will post more frequently.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Waiting to board the plane.

Sweden or Bust

The day has arrived! In just 7 short hours we will be taking off for Sweden and in less than 16 hours we will be landing in Stockholm. To say I am nervous, sad, sick and excited all rolled into one is a very accurate description. If it was only me, I don't think I would be 1/2 as anxious, but we have our "children" and I want them to be OK. In hindsight, it may not have been as ideal to have almost 2 weeks of "new" homes in addition to a 15 hour car ride. But I felt this was the right thing to do. Maybe it really isn't them that is having the hard time...maybe it is me - the worry bug (as our friend Jonas calls me now). I know, I know - shocker to my family that I am worrying about our impending trip! HA!

This morning will be spent repacking everything as we have to fit it all into a set number of suitcases. Luckily my bro-n-law and father both offered to fed/ex anything we couldn't fit to us in Sweden - thanks guys!!

So now, I sign off. My next post will be after we arrive in Sweden. Hopefully I will relax a little bit once we are on the plane. At least the car ride to Chicago put me at ease that Kissel and Reagan both are excellent travels - it must be their Momma who needs to be sedated!

Love you all!!!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Getting closer!

We didn't get to catch rolls but at least we got more mexican food.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Changing drivers, we are about halfway we hope.


Eating on the run. Thanks mandy for the sandwiches. They'll tide us over until the roll throwers!



Breakfast in sulphur springs

Monday, September 25, 2006

It's Getting Closer!!!

Well, it's been a few days since our last post but that is mostly because the last week has been a complete whirlwind! We closed on Wednesday and immediately after that there was a mad rush to pack the house. We had been packing a little here and a little there, but the kitchen had not been tackled at this point and it was time. So Mom and I did it - it took a lot of energy but we managed to finish it by that evening. Honestly, if it hadn't been for Mom and her total drive to get it done, Anders and I would have been still packing.

The next day, Thursday, was load the pallet day. That takes some time. First, you have to figure out which boxes are going to fit on each other and make somewhat of a nice rectangular shape. It's not as easy as it looks, but with Anders and his master packing/puzzle solving skills, we got it done. Mom and Dad showed up with the big truck so we could load them on. Dad had seen movers wrap pallets before, so he knew what need to be done to get the boxes to stay on the pallet. I have some great video of Dad and Anders' little "shrink wrap dance", but I am using my Sister's computer and don't think they have the program for me to upload it (don't think they really want a bunch of Oberg pictures, either - ha!). To see 2100 lbs of pallets on the big truck was amazing. We were able to load only three (thank goodness) and began our drive to the DFW Airport area to drop them off. Now remember - we live in East Dallas. There is only one way to DFW Airport and that is on that nasty interstate known as 635. Of course, everything took WAY longer than expected, so we didn't even begin to drive out there until 3pm. Perfect timing - right at the beginning of rush hour. We had two, what seemed to be insignificant, straps holding these pallets in and they were all over 6 feet tall. Add to that wind gusts of 25-30 MPH and you have yourself one concerned family. But they all arrived in one piece and to say I was relieved would be an understatement.

Once that was done, the only other major task was to clean the house before the new owner took possesion. After deliverying the pallets, our work was certainly not done. We had to put at tons of trash for the bulk trash pickup the next day, plus deliver our bed to Mom & Dad's house as well as take the TV to my cousins and the dresser to my Sisters. By the time we were through Thursday night, I was exhausted. I wanted to sleep the next day but it couldn't happen. Anders and I went to the house to clean it and sort through a few more things. It was really hard saying goodbye to the house and dropping the key through the mailbox. I have no idea how people do that to homes they have lived in for 20+ years - it must be terribly emotional.

Luckily I have my family to support me and Anders during this time. Without Mom, Dad, my Sister and her husband, this entire process would be even harder. Their help these last few days has been soooooo instrutmental in keeping me sane as well as my family. Reagan and Kissel have eased into their new temporary home and don't seem to be getting into too much trouble (speaking of Trouble - as I type Reagan is trying to figure out where my Sister's cat has disappeared to - "I swear she was just in this cat perch - oh there she is!!!!").

Well, no rest today either. I have to drop of the cable box, pick up dry cleaning and a prescription (did I even mention during all this I had a horrible cold/allergy fit?!?!), drop more Goodwill stuff off, eat lunch with my Cousin and turn my car into Carmax.

Hope everyone is doing well - I'll post pictures later once we get our computer up and running in Sweden - for now it's just the written word (I'll try and keep it entertaining).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Things I like about Being (semi)Retired...

I can wear whatever the hell I want! Observe my wardrobe for the last two days...
Don't I looked relaxed?

Another thing I like about being retired - I don't give a damn how my house looks (never mind the fact we are currently packing to move overseas -ha!). Observe...

Of course, to get a real sense of the mess, you have to remember what it looked like before...
We close tomorrow and the buyer will do a final walk through at 8am. What?! That means I have to get up early - dang it (evil witch laugh in the background)!! The last two days I have slept through the Anders' alarm clock (and it is LOUD) and am only waking up to the second alarm around 8am - apparently I need some sleep, people.

Cross your fingers our closing goes off without a hitch and we get this damn house packed by Thursday so we can get it to the shipping warehouse. Later (leaves office, skipping - can you tell am I enjoying this retirement thing?!)