Friday, February 25, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I know, I know It's February. It's dreary. It's gray. It's not the beautiful and magical Swedish summer, or Swedish spring, or Swedish fall. It's not Christmas.

But it is BOKREA! My favorite week of the year where books across Sweden go on sale and special printings of books are made just for BOKREA!

(Bokrea = Book sale for the non-Swedish speakers, not quite as entertaining linguistically as Slut Rea)

This is where I blow all the money that I am saving on not buying strange Swedish fashion trends.

I made the mistake of taking a look online on Tuesday to find out more about when exactly Bokrea begins. I ended up on the Bokus website.

I thought to myself "I will just take a peak to see if they have any English books on sale". And they did. Oh they did. They had 300 English books on sale, for really good sale prices of 19 - 35 SEK each.

After making it through 3 pages of English novels, I was 200 SEK poorer, but 6 books richer.

I stopped clicking then, because I did also want to hit the brick-and-morter bookstores and stock up there.

So yesterday I made the rounds. And they were good. Not as great as some past years, but not bad either.

I bought a few Swedish books, a Lindquist book I've heard good things about, and the Swedish baking bible Sju Sorters Kakor.

And no, my poor sweet Swede, I'm not done yet! There are still a few bookstores I haven't hit yet. And well, there are still a few pages on Bokus I haven't checked out either.

ETA: My poor Swedish spelling - Thanks K for pointing out Bokrea is one word in Swedish

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Swedish Fashion Women's Edition: The Pleat Is ON!

As I preface practially every fashion post with – I am really the wrong person to write about fashion. I really don't care much for it at all. And this Spring season my love for fashion continues to wane, because the higher echelons of the fashion world have decided to punish the pleabs and inflict us with terrible terrible spring looks.

Walking down the streets in my neighborhood it is apparent, this spring, the pleat is back.

 (photo from Gina Tricot)
(Photo from Kapahl)

Now if you are like me, you didn't really miss the pleat. The pleat makes 99% of us look fat and does really strange things to the crotch. There has been no point in the last 15 years since I bought my last pair of pleated pants that I went 'Golly gee, I wish Pleated pants would comeback, how I miss them.

Although some of the tops this season look cute, and are hopefully designed to hide the dreaded pleats, it looks like I will not be filling my wardrobe with anything other than cheap (thanks low dollar) finds from the US this spring.

I think I will call my look 'sustainable fashion' or 'fashion recycling' as I dig out my rundown jeans and cords.

I am sadly struck by the thought that now 'Mom pants' with pleats and terrible waistlines have been replaced and are now my terrible old jeans and cords

Maybe summer will be better?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Melodifestivalen Part III: If it were all up to me

OK, I have had enough. Although I haven't actually watched an episode of Melodifestival yet, I have watched more of the entries than ever before. This weekend the stomach flu has come to our house and to be honest, I have no desire to even be snarky about this weeks entries. I need a little pick me up.

So I've decided to be super-narcissistic (because isn't that what blogging is all about anyway?) and come up with my dream Melodifestivalen, in which my favorite Swedish artists compete for a place on the Eurovision stage. I know this won't happen, because none of these artists would sign up for the contest, and that is part of why I love them, but this is all in my head anyways.

The truth is Sweden has some pretty awesome music, and here are some of my personal faves:

I can't Change - Sophie Zelmani – This is one of my all-time favorite videos and it helped me discover Zelmani.

 Timbuktu – I know, earlier I really dissed Swedish rap. In Swedes defense I will say I think Swedish rap is far superior to Icelandic rap (would you believe I have been to an Icelandic rap concert? Yes, it was that funny). Timbuktu is the exception. His lyrics are smart, funny, and he's got 2 American parents as well.

Ok, so both of the above are a bit dated so this one is a new and not quite famous Swedish band

The Bernadottes

These guys seem to be some kind of Indie-pop group (is this still a music genre?) – they get points from me because they manage to sing about Safran Foer in a truly amusing way!

I think any of the above might not rock Eurovision, but they sure make my world a happier place.


Thursday, February 17, 2011 - land of Swedish drama

When I was pregnant I discovered this fabulous website,, thanks to a great tip from The Swede.

Unlike the US where moms (and very rarely dads) flock to websites that stick to their ideology – crunchy moms hang out on, mainstream moms go to, Swedish moms, and a few brave dads, all seem to congregate on And my goodness does much great drama ensue.

Thanks to the wonderful world of technology, you don't need to understand Swedish to enjoy this site, you can use google.

There are a few common categories on of posters. And one of the things I appreciate most about the loyal participants is that they are willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. So many posts scream 'Troll seeking attention' to me, but they get tons of serious answers. So, if you have any really odd, out there, question – you can try to get feedback on familjeliv.

1) The passive-aggressive I'm not judging you judge

These participants want to criticize someone, but just can't seem to do so outright. Instead they usually post a poll and a question that goes like:

I am a little unsure about my strange new American neighbor. Maybe this is how they do things in the US, but she keeps dropping her child on its head off her balcony on the second floor. I know in the US they do strange things like feed their newborns coca-cola from a bottle and McDonald’s Big Macs in puree, but this practice looks particularly dangerous. Do you think this is weird or is it just me?

2) The confrontational:

They love to take the bull by the horns, and don't hop around the subject like PAJJ. They start subjects with names like: 

Old Mom – why do you insist on having babies? Or equally, Young Mom – Why do you insist on having babies? This usually inspires at least 234 responses.

3) The 5 full time housewives of Sweden:

Housewives in Sweden are notoriously rare. The Swedish system isn't built for it and very few women choose to self-identify as housewives. The five women who do, though, can all be found full time on This is where they can constantly remind all of the other Moms about how terrible it is that they let anyone ever watch their children. There posts look like:

Why did you even bother having children if you knew you would have to go to the bathroom? I would never, ever, never leave my children alone for even five seconds. I wear a catheter and a bag, since I would never ever allow my children to be with anyone other than me, ever.

Looks like fun doesn't it? I admit, I am often too embarrassed by my poor Swedish writing skills to post. And I'm not a huge fan of participating in drama. But I do enjoy watching it now and

Monday, February 14, 2011

Further proof that Swedish is Awesome!

Ok, so I was really just looking for an excuse to write about one of my favorite new time sucks - Damn You Autocorrect - I actually found it through the New York Times a few weeks ago and made the mistake of reading it on the train. Bad idea. I kept bursting out laughing.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Melodifestival Part II: The horror continues

I will admit, whatever enthusiasm I had for this competition waned a long time ago – so it didn't really matter if we had cable last night or not – I wasn't going to sit through an entire episode of Melodifestival. Not even if I was surfing the web and playing The Game of Life on my Iphone at the same time.

So, I tried my YouTube tactic, but I was too slow. The winning entries had been taken down. It seems there is some sort of rule as to how much the competing songs can be shown before the final vote or something. Because if you see these songs too many times, you will realize what crap they really are. That means the winning entries are a mystery to me. Oh the drama and excitement.

The losers, however, are fair game. And to be honest, I actually kind of liked one of them – and was almost sad they lost.

Babsan – Ge mig en spanjor – Babsan is a Swedish transvestite (think Dame Edna) singing about wanting a sophisticated Spaniard. And there is that weird Swedish music mogul hanging out in the background at a bar, who then dances with Babsan. There are also lots of Spanish stereotypes. It's great. I'm sure this entry would have won Great Britain's vote, and quite possibly even Spain.

This one – Like Suicide – is truly dreadful. The poor singer looks so uncomfortable I feel bad mocking him. I think he looks like he could use a hug. And the song – I mean what girl doesn't dream about being compared to suicide at some point in her life.  What do they mean by 'She's like suicide all night' ?

Also, enunciating lessons before a song contest are great - but sometimes sounding natural helps, too.

Then there was this one – this entry seems to target the middle- aged viewer. She must have stolen quite a few votes from Babsan.  I know my Swedish in-laws always bemoan how Babsan and After Dark make such a mockery of Melodifestivalen. I wonder if that generation will ever notice that Melodifestivalen has become a mockery of itself?  

Friday, February 11, 2011

Swedish food: The bagel drama continues

I admit – I am a total bagel snob. I grew up in the NYC suburbs (aka New Jersey) and bagels were a local delicacy. Oh how I miss curling up on a Sunday morning with the New York Times (I'm a Magazine, Book Review, Style kind of girl) and a plain bagel with a smear (that's a light swipe of cream cheese for you non-New York area natives).

When I moved out of the NYC area, I gave up bagels first. Because, lets face it, an Upstate New York bagel just doesn't cut it, and a California bagel? Why bother.

But man – I miss bagels. And so, yes, now and then, here in Sweden I try a bagel or two. I've even made my own. And they weren't half bad (mostly because it was my own blood, sweat and tears).

The Swedish idea of a bagel is generally a roll with a hole poked in the middle. Not bad if you like rolls, terrible if you like rolls, but crave a bagel.

Then I discovered the Espresso House bagels. Not half bad. They have a good solid consistency, they just lack the nice solid crustyness of a great NYC bagel. So occasionally I grab one with cream cheese for lunch. Yes, I lament that the smear is more than a smear but not quite a full serving of Cream Cheese. And that they insist on making them all whole-wheat and add a salad. But I can deal, because this ain't New York.

But then today happened – and I had a great laugh – because it was a fabulous addition to my ongoing bagel dramas.

I order a bagel at Espresso House.

“I have to warm it up for you, it will just take a minute”

(Previously at EH they have asked me if I wanted my bagel warmed and I always have declined. I cannot for the life of me imagine why you would want to warm a bagel already filled with CC and trimmings. I toast my bagels when they are getting a bit stale – but otherwise, nah- an always sans fillings)

“No thanks, I'll take it as is”

“But you cannot, it must be warmed, this bagel is only half done”

“I had the exact same thing last week and they said it was fine”

“Well, it should be warmed up.”

“OK, I guess I will try this bagel 'Swedish style'” (and I meant this, too – I do understand that things in Sweden are different, and not American – and despite my bitching on this blog – I do appreciate that the world is not the same all over)

“Oh no, this is how they do it in New York City”

“Excuse me?”

“Yes, this is how they serve bagels in NYC.”

“I see, have you ever been to NYC?”

“I have relatives in NYC”

“Good for you, but you see, I grew up there. And I have never had what you are describing to me.”

“Well, this is how they do it.”

I feel the bagel and it is cold. I comment on that. “I see, so are you willing to give in and let me heat it for you now?”

“Um, no – thanks.”

Then I came home and told the story to the 4 guests from Manhattan staying in my house. We all had a good laugh. No one had ever had a reheated warmed up cream cheese filled bagel.

The hunt for a good bagel is at least an amusing past time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Swedish Rules – Mood lighting – or Who turned out the lights?

One of my current guests asked me today about the dim lighting in our house, and I realized just how acclimated to Sweden I have become.

Here in Sweden, natural light is king. Which is great for me, because typically I love natural light. I love candles and big windows and sunshine. What can be wrong with that? Well, where we live, especially this time of year, the sun shines for maybe one day a week. That makes for an awful lot of really really gray days.

With big open windows and a lot of natural light, I sometimes feel the grayness is seeping through and chipping away at my soul. Some days, I shut the blinds, turn up my fake lights, and dance around the house to some Grateful Dead to create an image of summer and green and blue skies.

If I don't have to look at the gray skies, maybe they just aren't there.

Last year at around this time, I was working out of a new office with a new set of colleagues. I walked into the kitchen for my coffeebreak (or fika). Three colleagues sat around a tiny table with one tea light in the center. The windows were letting in light, but it was gray gray gray, and it was December.

Without thinking, I switched on the light and went to get myself a glass of water.

Loud coughing from the table.

And then “Can you turn off the light, these fluorescent bulbs are terrible.”

Thus, I sat in the dark for that entire winter. Or I sat in my office, with the light on.

Because they might be terrible, but if I sat in the gray for too long, I would just doze off.

I mean, as I said before, if I lived in California, say, I'd be all about natural light all the time. But living in Sweden, I'll take my fluorescent sun lamp imitator any February day.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Melodifestival 2011 – Part I – The Bad, The Terrible and the Truly Horrific

Last night it began. The long and arduous path to Eurovision 2011. I agonized for about five minutes about whether or not to watch this show for the sake of this blog. It was a momentous decision, considering I had outsourced all Eurovision watching responsibility to the Swedish Godmother of my children.

As I've said before in the blog, Melodifestival/Eurovision remains one of those true mysteries of Swedish culture for the non-European (by this I mean 'me')

But we had some guests and we all decided we would make a night of it. We had our box of wine at the ready. And then – el scandelo! Right at the moment the contest was to begin – our cable went out. (Or, I suspect, the Swede pulled the chord out of the wall and announced 'Sorry, no TV tonight).

Surprisingly, we managed to find other things to do with ourselves. And thanks to the wonderful world of the internets we were able to go in afterwards and watch the big winners and losers of the night online. And thankfully, we didn't need to watch the entire clips. I think this will be what I will do for future Melodifestival events.

So how did the Swedes vote? Oddly, I think. They changed the voting system yet again this year. But I won't get into the rules here yet.

The surprising part was that I usually imagine the Melodifestival demographic is the 8-16 set and the 55-80 set. But the winners this year don't necessarily reflect this.

First place went to this blast from the Backstreet Boys cutting room floor:
  - OK so they seem to have taken this one down from Youtube - I will post if I find it again - the good news is, you will have a chance to see it again at the finals!

Second place went to the always wonderful musical category Swedish rap:

Sadly, this song, which we felt was all about passing gas, did not make it further:

And we didn't make it past looking at this last placed entry for more than 20 seconds:

Will any of these fabulous songs make it to Eurovision? Will Sweden even qualify for Eurovision this year? Oh the drama and excitement - and we will have to wait until May to find out!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Signs you've been living in Sweden too long.....

So today I am planning a birthday party for LO. And I had to hold back a very large urge to call the guests we are expecting next week and tell them to pack several boxes of Betty Crocker cake mix and frosting. The reason? Probably that I've just been living in Sweden for too damn long.

When I was a kid baking was synonymous with rocket science. Both my parents worked full time and anytime there was any bake sale, or birthday, or anything – my Mom would whip out Betty Crocker. Why? Because 'BAKING IS REALLY REALLY DIFFICULT.' That and, well, Betty Crocker cakes and frosting are damn good.

Cut to my Swede's first birthday with me. I almost had a breakdown when I couldn't find any cake mix of any sort at the grocery store (this was a bunch of years ago, the times have changed and there are cake mixes now). I told my guy that I was sorry, but I couldn't bake him a birthday cake because I couldn't find a mix and it was just too difficult for me.

He looked at me like I was nuts, pulled out a few ingredients from the pantry and fridge, and boom we had a cake in under an hour. Yay Swedish home ec.

So these days I make my own cake. And it is good. Betty Crocker frosting kind of scares me because I suspect it has a longer half-life than Uranium. But damn it, it is also good. And when LO gets bigger maybe he will get to sample its delights. But for now, it's homemade goodness.

I've been in Sweden too long for Betty Crocker, but not long enough embrace the Swede's idea that we go out and buy Swedish pre-baked cakes. Yup. The idea being you frost and decorate three skinny little cake sections together. The said sections come in a little plastic bag and were baked I don't know where, I don't know when.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Get up, Stand up, Stand up for Other People's Rights!

One of the things that most defined being between the ages of 16-25, for me, (and I will admit to feeling the occasional urging since then) was the ability to jump at any excuse to to grab a great big sign and protest against the government, a university president, a big evil company doing experiments on monkeys, anything. 

And so when I moved to Sweden there were many times I felt – 'Man if I only had a placard, I would go to town.' I had fantasies of standing outside of Systembolaget (the state-owned liqour store) with a giant 'Stop the Madness' sign and suddenly finding myself surrounded by others who didn't want to order their foreign exotic beers 3 days in advance, chanting and eventually overturning the powers that be.

But pretty soon I learned that only very very rarely did Swedes actually protest against their own government, and only much much later did I figure out that most Swedes have a secret enduring fondness for Systembolaget.

Swedes are GREAT at protesting things that happen in other countries. Every Saturday you can usually find someone waving a sign in my local square protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the US occupation of Iraq/Afganistan, the current regime in Iran. When Bush came to visit there were actual shots fired in the streets. But not really anything that has a direct effect on the state in which we live.

The only issue that brings out the Swedish students with any degree of certainty is racism. This is one of the only real perks of the Swedish Democrats (the racist party – yes I said it, because I think they are) getting elected. On opening day of the new parliament, there were actually some protesters there. 

In our area there have been some pretty nice student-driven 'lack-of-housing' protests, with squatters, marching and lots of sign waving. But this has been against the local government, not against the folks up top.

I have always wondered - is this because everyone is just so thrilled to bits with the performance of the Swedish government? Or is it because they feel their voice will just never be heard? I have gotten both as answers when I've posited this question to Swedes.

So there ya go, now that Apotek has fallen (the pharmacy state-run monoply), Systembolaget has to be next. Who's up for picketing?