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!!!