Tuesday, September 30, 2008


If a Scandinavian speaker says "it's not a dance on roses," he or she means "it's not a walk in the park."

If he or she says "it's not a cow on ice," he or she means "the situation is not totally hopeless."

So what happens if it's a cow in a bed of roses?


Monday, September 29, 2008

They're back!

The question: How do you know that the world is coming to an end?

The answer: The Reunion Tour of New Kids on the Block, described on their website as "five now fully-grown men who forever defined what the modern boy band would look and sound like".

If it wasn't good the first time, it's probably not going to be good the second time around. Besides, Boyz II Men were so much hotter.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Modern Man

Sweden is known as a bastion of equality; it's a country with one of the lowest gender pay gaps and one of the highest numbers of female parliamentarians in the world. "Maternity leave" is a thing of the past, replaced by "parental leave" and fathers face a use-it-or-lose-it policy when it comes to doing their share of the time. Swedish men cook, clean and change diapers. All of this is great, and many American men could learn a thing or two from their Scandinavian counterparts when it comes to division of household labor. That said, sometimes I miss American men, and here's why:

Chivalry doesn't exist in Sweden. Don't expect to have the door held open, or you'll get hit in the face, and don't expect help up stairs with heavy luggage, because god damn it, you packed it, you can carry it. And above all, don't expect him to pay on the first date. And this is not necessarily the fault of the Strong, Silent, Nordic Type. He's afraid of getting slapped just for offering to help in this country of feminism gone awry. (Note on the above mentioned generalizations -- yes, there have been reported instances of Swedish guys holding the door, helping with luggage and paying for the first date, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule).

One of the things about living in a foreign country is that your own prejudices come to light. I realized this afternoon on the subway that I resent being the one to offer my seat to an old lady when there are three young men sitting there. In my opinion, age trumps youth, and femininity trumps masculinity. I actually appreciate a little bit of good old fashioned chivalry, and as I was reminded today, I also expect it. I don't take such overtures as oppressive or an insult to my femininity; I regard it as being polite. It's not that I can't open the door for myself, but the gesture is nice.

Just don't expect me to cook.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Where does the time go?

When I stepped off the plane at Arlanda on August 18, 2002, I had no idea that I would still be living in Sweden five years later. I had just graduated from college and was ready to spend a year in Stockholm before I returned home to enter the 'real world.' What my 'real world' would entail was ill-defined, but it didn't involve herring (ok, it still doesn't really involve herring, but it's my fifth anniversary, so I can make all the gratuitous fish references I want) and it certainly didn't include filling out tax forms, choosing pension plans and acquiring a pair of Norwegian Forest Cats. I no longer flinch when asked for "legitimation" when making a purchase, I automatically look for the queue number when entering a pharmacy or bank and I expect five weeks of vacation. I take it as a given that an entire country can shut down for the month of July and think it's strange to put lingonberry sauce on pancakes rather than on meatballs. I'm convinced that the Stockholm archipelago is one of the most beautiful places on earth (except for the mosquitoes the size of Volvos) and the Arctic Circle doesn't seem so remote (especially as I'm blogging from Kiruna at the moment). I can now pronounce the number "sju," although I've still got a distinctive American accent and I still snicker when I read a sign with the word "utfart."

But despite getting used to many of the quirks of living in a foreign country, the five-year mark seems to be a tipping point of sorts. It's time to either hunker down and settle in for the long haul, or make some decisions about where it is that I really want to be. Still, I have no regrets about where I've been up until now. So here's to five years. May the next five be even better.

Swedish Menswear

Sunday, August 05, 2007


It's been two years to the day since I smashed my heel in a pretty dramatic car accident on my way to the airport to go back to Sweden after a two-week trip back home. That two week trip turned into three months pretty much glued to the couch and the TV remote, a trip through three airports -- including JFK -- by wheelchair, a rather sexy orthopedic boot and two additional months of recovery upon my return to Sweden. Although I must say that the accident has been one of the more traumatic events in my life up until this point (and I am quite aware it could have been a lot worse), I'm not sure I would undo it. The only regret is that my foot will never quite be the same. Eight titanium screws and a plate, which look like a bike chain on the x-ray, did a fairly good job of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, although it's still not quite as good as new. And I have a seven-inch L-shaped scar to prove it.

But two years later, I'm once again on my way to the airport (after some cupcakes for breakfast) and this time I'll be walking through JFK on two feet. And some good things came as a result of the accident. For one thing, I'll never again travel without travel insurance. If I hadn't have had it before I left Sweden, I would have been up a creek without a paddle, as we like to say back home. This blog was also born since I had so much extra time on my hands. And without this blog, I wouldn't have met many of the people currently in my life and I probably wouldn't have made the career change I did. So thanks for reading, and keep your fingers crossed (and thumbs held) that the ride to the airport this August 5 is entirely uneventful.


Overheard in New York City:

"Do you like stand-up comedy? No? Do you like me?" (Not surprisingly, the answer to the second question was the same as the first.)

"So this season it's wide-legged again. After all these skinny jeans, we're just picking up where we left off in 2006."

Overheard in Lakeside, Montana:

"Whose coyote is that?"

"Stop chewing on your shirt!"

Live from New York City

Modern transportation means that you can have breakfast in Stockholm, lunch in New York City and dinner in Seattle. By the time you're done, neither your body nor your brain will have much of a clue as to what time zone their in, but by that point, all they really care about is a bed and a pillow.

I'm currently blogging live from New York City after a two-week whirlwind tour that spanned the continental United States. I've driven a Mustang convertible with the top down across Lake Washington on the the I-90 freeway in Seattle; stopped to buy huckleberries from a roadside stand in Lakeside, Montana; bought the Pussycat Dolls album at a strip mall in Kalispell, Montana; attended a family reunion with 205 Americans who think they're Dutch; taken a tour of Pike Place Market (which turns 100 years on August 17th) in Seattle; interviewed the architects behind the design of Seattle's new Olympic Sculpture Park; waited in line for two hours to go up the Empire State Building; spent 30 minutes contemplating Monet's waterlilies and 5 minutes trying to figure out Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon (which I studied in art history class freshman year of college) at the MOMA; had espresso at a Swedish cafe in NYC; gotten a full body massage in a vibrating chair at Brookstone in Rockefeller Center; and most importantly, reconnected with old friends (and even relatives) from different stages of my life.

And tomorrow is another day, which brings promises of cupcakes, New York style.

Friday, May 25, 2007

How to find me

After months of inactivity, my blog still keeps popping up in the most unexpected of places.

This would make great mad libs material.

Whoever is looking for the Swedish Bikini Team will be disappointed to find out its a dream that only exists in the minds of beer-drinking American males, and the person looking for "swedes on dates" isn't going to have much luck either, unless he or she plans to bring a whole lot of alcohol. I'm more worried about the fellow looking for the scoop on Iceland shark urine . . . but at least it wasn't in the same string as "german beer outdrinking."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Newer doesn't necessarily mean better

Hemköp, a Swedish grocery chain, might just have an easier time herding cats or reversing the side of the road an entire country drives on than is currently the case with its implementation of a self-service checkout at its main Stockholm location. Wisely (and I choose that word carefully), they decided to test the new system at closing right about the time you hear the automated voice announce, "Dear shoppers, Hemköp City will be closing in fem minuter. Please take your items and proceed to the checkout." However, the dulcet tones of Hemköp's farewell message left out the rest of the message: "Please take your items and proceed the checkout, and be prepared to queue all the way down aisle 7 behind 20 other of your shopping compatriots whom we have selected as our guinea pigs during the implementation of our state-of-the-art self-service checkout extravaganza."

And so looks the introduction of four new "self-service" checkouts (that nonetheless require a staff member to show you how to scan your broccoli). The lines were moving about as quickly as molasses in January as shoppers tried to beat the living shit out of the touch screen after it failed to respond to their caresses. It took five minutes for the "smart" scanner to read the barcode, after which another three minutes were required for it to tell you to place the item in your bag – or to scold you if you try to put it back in your basket. Then you had to start all over again when it failed to recognize the validity of the barcode on your well-deserved can of Pripps Blå with its whopping 2.0% alcohol content.

But the only other option to the "smart" checkouts was a "not-so-smart" employee who was even slower than molasses in January. In fact, not only was she slower than molasses in January, she wasbslower than molasses in Antarctica, regardless of the month. She appeared to have difficulty with the concept of "market economy," let alone the revolutionary idea of "credit card." Twenty customers to one employee – and Ms. Speedy-is-my-middle-name at that – seems like a fantastic customer service plan. Back home, it would work for one very simple reason: you wouldn't have any customers left. Problem solved.

But the best part of all: the four guys in suits observing the implementation of the self-service kiosks. They sat there smugly, smiling and sniggering and appeared to be quite self-satisfied with what they seemed to consider to be an obvious success. But I know how their new system can be even better. How about taking the management mod squad out of the suits and putting them in red uniforms? I'd really like to hurry up and pay for my knäckebröd already.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Post-Christmas observations

1) Kalle's Caviar still makes an excellent Christmas tree ornament
2) Has anyone ever thought about nominating the Gävle goat as Lucia, thus requiring him to wear a halo of candles? Seems to me it would kill two birds with one stone
3) The shortest day of the year, December 21, has now passed, so it only gets lighter until Midsummer in June, when Swedes begin mourning the passing of summer
4) It's not a bad idea to wait until after Dec 25 to do Christmas shopping, in light of post-Christmas sales and the fact that I'm in the US right now, which means a very favorable exchange rate
5) Even though it's been one of the warmest winters in Stockholm ever, it's still so cold and dark in Sweden in December that 60 degrees fahrenheit (15 C) seems like Christmas in July. I needed sunglasses, however, to avoid sun stroke as I was unaccustumed to the blinding 3 pm light after inhabiting the subterannean caves of Scandinavia for the last four months

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gobble gobble

Happy Thanksgiving!
(I'm thankful I'm not a turkey today.)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Over the top

The best places to get a bird’s eye view of Stockholm.

1) City Hall Tower. Open daily from May-Sept, 10am – 4:15 pm. Also open Saturdays and Sundays in April. Adults 20 SEK, children under 12 free of charge. 360 degree view of Stockholm. (Bonus: You can also take a tour of the hall where the Nobel banquet is held every December.)
2) The Katarina Lift. Open daily. 10 SEK. View over the Old Town and water at Slussen. (Bonus: The restaurant at the top, Gondolen, is excellent though pricey. Worth checking out only if you’re traveling with your parents and they’re paying.)
3) Kaknäs Radio Tower. Mon-Weds 10-17; Thur-Sat 10-21; Sun 10-17. Adult SEK 30. Child 7-15 years SEK 15. Take Bus 69 to get there. Offers a panoramic view of the entire city from the second tallest structure in Scandinavia. Brunch on weekends during the winter. (Fun fact: At 155 meters, the Käknas Tower used to be the tallest building in Scandinavia until the inauguration of the Turning Torso at 190 meters in Malmö in August 2005.)
4) Café Panorama, Kulturhuset. Open Tues-Sun. Hours vary. Looks out over Sergelstorg, near the Central Station. Grab a bite to eat after you check out the various events and exhibitions at Kulturhuset. (Bonus: Check out Designtorget, located below Kulturhuset for a great selection of Swedish design and handicrafts.)
5) Södra Teatern. Open daily. Located at Mosebacke Torg. Often features international artists and has regular club nights at its watering hole, Södra Bar. The spectacular, southside view looks out over the Old Town and Djurgården. (Bonus: Check out the bar and restaurant Mosebacke, right next door.)


Livewire: Wireless and internet access in Stockholm

You’re never more than a few blocks away from the Internet in Stockholm.

Be on the lookout for Sidewalk Express, which can be found at the many 7-Elevens that populate the city. Sidewalk Express has almost 40 locations in Stockholm. You’ll also find Sidewalk Express at the Central Station and several McDonalds. If you want to sip a latte while you surf, check out Roberts Coffee at Drottninggatan 33 or Café Access in the basement of Kulturhuset (Sergels Torg). For 24-hour access, try 7-Eleven at Odengatan 32 or Götgatan 57 at Medborgareplatsen. You’ll pay 19 SEK for an hour, but save your access code since it’s valid for seven days at Sidewalk Express locations anywhere in the country.

Click here for a list of all Stockholm locations.

If you want a latte with wifi on the side, the following cafes offer complimentary wireless access:

Café String
Nytorgsgatan 38, 08-714 8514

Cafe Zebrano
Torkel Knutssonsgatan. 35, 08-428 9828

Café Puck
Hornsgatan 32, 08-611 030

Svart Caffe
Södermannagatan 23, 08-462 9500
(The signal isn't broadcast publicaly, so you may need to search for the network. Ask the staff for the name of the network and password.)

Gamla Stan
Cafe Edenborg
Stora Nygatan 35, 08-22 1019

Malmskillnadsgatan 45, 08-20 9155

Il Caffe
Bergsgatan 17, 08-652 3004

Café Coffee-House
Odengatan 45, 08-673 2343


Cheap Eats

It's not the time of year that you really want to spend your lunch break catching a few rays in one of the many parks in central Stockholm. So it was time for a change. This afternoon, I wandered down Kungsgatan to Hötorgshallen, an indoor market dating back to 1880 (with several subsequent rebuilds). It's a great place to wander around, and if you're discreet, you might even be able to fill up on all the samples offered. For 20 kronor, I purchased a couple of potato pirogis from Saluplats 30, the "Finnish boutique in the middle of town." There are several other affordable lunch options sure to whet your pallet, including Turkish fare, the ever-popular kebab, Greek dishes, and fresh sushi. There are cheese shops galore. Jackson's Ostaffär and Osthörnan are worth mentioning as they both had bite-sized chunks of cheesy delight to nibble on. In terms of samples, however, Piera's Livs takes the cake with a wide assortment of goodies ranging from chocolate covered almonds to dried fruit. Catch a taste of the wasabi rice cakes if you're looking for a kick! Hötorgshallen is open Monday-Thursday 10-18, Friday 10-18:30, and Saturday 10-16. Close Sundays and holidays.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I will follow thee to the ends of the earth

I turned the corner, and a hoodie-clad young man on the other side of the street darted towards me.

...mumbling something incomprehensible in Swedish...

"Sorry?" I asked, warily.

"Oh, English!" he exclaimed, as if he had just had a revelation.

"I think you're beautiful!" came revelation number two.

Now most girls appreciate being told they're beautiful, but not usually by hoodie-clad strangers on the street at 11 pm on a Sunday night.

"Ummm, thanks," I mumbled, trying to be equally incomprehensible.

"My name is Jonas. Do you think you could like me?"

"Ummm, I don't KNOW you."

If I talk to him, it'll only encourage him. If I don't talk to him, he might pull out a gun and shoot me.

"Do you have a boyfriend?"


And he's as large as a linebacker.

"Well, do you want to be just friends?"


"Do you have any friends?"

"Yes, I have lots of friends."

"Do you think they would like me?"

"I don't think you want to know what they would think."

"Well, do you want my phone number, just in case, you know, one of your friends might want it?"

"That's an interesting approach, but I think you are going to have better luck, somewhere ELSE."

Friday, October 06, 2006

Sometimes people surprise you

When I'm travelling, I generally pay extra attention to the meter when I hop into a taxi, especially late at night. I've been ripped off one two many times not to be a bit wary. Last night, when arriving at Amsterdam Centraal at midnight, my usual caution was compounded by a headache and a beast of a mood. It had been a very long week, and I was still trying to get through a full day without breaking down whenever I thought of Ullrick. I was tired from travelling and hadn't had time to grab dinner on my way to the airport. I know Amsterdam well enough to know if the driver is going in circles, so I was also trying to figure out if he was taking me in the right direction. He had a bit of trouble finding the address, and I prepared for a battle about the final fare. But, to my surprise, he turned off the meter and backtracked to the correct house. The fare was fine, and he didn't try to charge me for his detour around the neighborhood. I met the hostess, who let me in and gave me towels, and was in bed five minutes later. Shortly thereafter, there was a knock on the door. "WTF?" I thought. Turns out, I had left my mobile in the backseat and he was kind enough to drive all the way back to return it.

Hence the heading of this post.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Not Just a Cat

My childhood memories of Sunday School have become a blur of choruses of “Jesus Loves Me” (not the Whitney Houston rendition) and memorizing the Lord’s Prayer for prizes of candy bars and prayer cards. One particular lesson, however, still sticks with me.

The topic was heaven. We were not at an age where we had serious theological debates, but were nonetheless old enough to have some notion of death and the afterlife, at least as much as anyone understands such things. Some precocious child (it wasn’t me) asked if our pets would go to heaven when they died, and I remember distinctly what our Sunday School teacher said as she tried to answer the question. "Only people go to heaven," she said. "The Bible says that animals will return to dust.” She quickly changed the topic, content that we wouldn’t question the authority of statements that begin with ‘the Bible says…’.

I suspect she wasn’t expecting that question, and she was even less prepared for the discussion that should accompany it: the concept of soul. The notion of the human soul is problematic enough, but what about those of our four-legged friends? I remember that at the time, I couldn’t imagine my cat suddenly turning to dust and I also doubted that there could be a heaven that didn’t have puppies and kittens. I still have the same basic reaction as my eight-year-old self; I don’t want to go to any place, especially for eternity, where my pets aren't also welcome.

These days, I’m not religious enough to dwell much on thoughts about eternity, but concepts like love and loss, birth and death have been at the forefront of my mind this past week. I lost my cat Ullrick to cancer on Wednesday. He had been losing weight and eating poorly for the last week, so I took him into the vet. When I made the initial appointment on Tuesday, I had no idea he would turn out to be so sick.

The next morning, I said goodbye to Ullrick at the vet's office on Wednesday with the knowledge that he might not be coming home. I had a feeling that would be the last time that I would see him, and a phone call around 4 pm confirmed that feeling. He had a lump in his lymph node that was inoperable and untreatable. Rather than bring him home just so I could spend a few more days with him, I made the decision to let him stay asleep since he was already under general anesthetic.

Since Ullrick left me, I’ve been asking myself if I made the most of the short time that I had with him. There could have been more walks in the park and more snuggles in the bed, but I can’t go back and change that now. It doesn’t help me, and it won’t bring him back, to dwell on such thoughts, but it can remind me that I have another cat who needs all of the love I can give her right now – and I need all the love that she can give me.

I’ve experienced a whole gamut of emotions – sorrow, disbelief, denial, anger, shock. At times, maybe there have even been hints of reconciliation and acceptance, but I don’t think I’m there yet. It mostly doesn’t seem real…Monday night he was curled up in his ‘puddy basket’ (as in Sylvester the "puddy tat") with his (not-so) little sister, Tuesday was an excruciating day at the vet’s, and Wednesday he was gone. Now it’s Sunday night and I’m still struggling to come to terms with it all. I've spent a large chunk of the last few days curled up in bed with Vessa and looking at pictures of Ullrick.

I’ve been very lucky this week in that I’m surrounded by animal lovers, both in real life and online. I’ve been very touched by the outpouring of thoughts and well wishes I’ve received in my inbox. Mamma Mu was staying with me this week and was a lifesaver in that she went to the vet’s to pick up the empty carrier and pay the bill for me. I’m not sure I could have handled it myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the prevalence of “pet bloggers” and humans’ tendency to anthropomorphize their animals. (It’s nothing new; the ancient Egyptians even deified their felines in the form of the cat goddess Bast). Jokes about lack of opposable thumbs aside, there is a human behind every cat, and I think it’s our way of giving them a voice. It’s also a way to express our love for them, because it taps into a community of animal lovers who care for their pets as much as we do.

Although I miss him dearly, I don’t regret a single second of the last nine months I spent with Ullrick. He was still a baby when he came to live with me, and I watched him grow into a handsome cat. I saw his immediate affection for his little sister when we brought her home, and those big green alien eyes always seemed to see right into my soul, as if he could read my mind.

I’m glad I could tell when there was something wrong in his little body, and despite the sorrow, I know that the final decision was the right one. I would have figured out how to pay for it if there was a treatment that would have given him a fighting chance, but I have to trust that the veterinarian would have given me those options had such existed.

I know that sometimes people who have never loved or been loved by an animal might have a hard time understanding how you can be so shaken up over the death of a pet. “It’s just a cat,” they might say.

But Ullrick wasn’t just a cat. You see, he was my cat and I was his person. He didn’t belong to me; we belonged to each other. I’m counting on the fact that if there is a heaven, the souls that belong to each other will be together.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Tang Tonguelers

The thing about being "creative" is that your brain works in mysterious ways; you make associations that other people don't. Sometimes this can be a good thing, and the result is an innovation that nobody else would have thought of. Other times, it's just plain confusing.

For me, there seems to be an extra layer to the creativity cake. Not only do I make unusual associations that sometimes require conceptual stretching for others, the connection between my brain and my mouth sometimes goes haywire. It usually makes much more sense to me in my head than it does to the person listening to me.

It doesn't usually occur in a professional capacity, thankfully, nor is it usually offensive. (Usually, I'm offensive only on purpose.) But it has made my boyfriend occasionally wonder out loud how such a prolific blogger can say such nonsensical things.

I'm afraid that I must agree with him.

Yesterday, he asked me if we should take the bus or the subway. I replied that it would be half a dozen of one, and three-fourths of the other. He looked at me as if I had just suddenly started speaking in tongues.

"You mean six of one, half a dozen of the other?"

Yeah, something like that. "I never said I was any good at math!"

Another time, I ordered Beef Saskatchawan when we were at a Chinese restaurant. Good thing I was pointing at the menu at the time, or we would have been waiting quite a long time while they imported a cow from Canada. (Luckily, they had plenty of Beef Szechuan at hand.)

It's a good thing he likes for me other reasons than my amazing ability to articulate. Like my amazing organizational skills.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Happy 93rd Birthday, Grandma!

The third youngest

High School Graduation

Waxing political

The two most decisive issues in the Swedish elections tomorrow will be unemployment... and schlager.

In most countries, I would be willing to bet an öre or two that schlager wouldn't win you any votes. In Sweden, however, it might just be the difference between whether or not Göran Persson can hold onto the coveted seat of Prime Minister. The other parties are hot on his heels to snatch away the post after the Social Democrats have been in power for 65 of the last 74 years.

This afternoon, there was quite a hubub at the top of the escalator as I emerged from the subway at Åhlens, the big department store near Central Station. Personally, I think the racket I heard only vaguely resembled music, but to the Swedes gathered around a stage, it was the sound of sweet, sweet music. This is Schlagerland, after all.

The group "One more time" introduced Maud Olofsson of the Center Party with a rousing chorus of some schlager song that all Swedes can sing along with... and do. The group featured some guy in a white suit and a very pregnant woman in a very green, very short skirt. I didn't stay to hear Maud speak; however, if you're sad you missed her, I suggest checking out the Battle for Sweden, where the Good Fairy Maud and the evil King Göran duke it out for the future of the Kingdom.

If you want to figure out where you lie on the Swedish political spectrum, take a test to see which Swedish political party you most closely identify with (in Swedish only). Looks like I'll be rooting for evil King Göran.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sweater weather

I think my debut and demise as a fashion blogger has occurred in the span of a single day. I'm not nearly up-to-date enough with the current fashion trends, although I know ugly when I see it. I can appreciate fashion as artistic expression, but it's hard to take haute couture from the catwalk to the street. Besides, any piece of clothing that has to be taped to your body to stay on is best left to the professionals.

Yesterday's shopping spree was actually a much-belated reunion with Wild Child, who has been hiding out in Gävle for the last several months. She was scarf hunting, and I joined her after work (apparently they don't have any scarves in Gävle). I wasn't really intending on buying anything, but I indulged my craving for cosy as the weather is starting to get a bit of a chilly edge. (Speaking of which, I was horrified to learn today that one of my favorite coffee bars has stopped serving gelato; the barista informed me that ice cream season is officially over. I was not pleased.)

While I view the semi-monthly purchase of socks as par for the course (not to be confused with my other opinions about socks) as they often need replacing thanks to the damn sock elves, in the last year or two I've had to curtail what used to be a rather ferocious appetite for the acquisition for new clothes. Part of it has been growing up a bit and getting my priorities straight, and part of it has been due to sheer financial necessity. Minus excessive credit limits, it's rather difficult to buy things when you don't have any money.

But after six months full-time employment, I decided I could afford to add a few new pieces to spruce up my wardrobe. While I did not purchase a pea green polyester sack and call it a dress, I did get two new fall must-haves: sweaters.

The reason I rejoice in the purchase of two new sweaters is that it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy -- not just on the outside, but on the inside. I know it's sacrilegious to worship anything other than the Midsummer season, but the autumn is my absolute favorite time of year (operating on the assumption that the rainy season remains at bay for another few weeks). It's crisp and brisk, but it's not cold. During midday, you can still walk around in a short-sleeved shirt, but you need a bit extra to keep warm in the early morning and the evening. And sweaters are only happy to oblige in the pursuit of warmth.

Maybe it's like Linus and his blanket in Charlie Brown. We all need a little something to protect us against the cold (literally or metaphorically). Since it's socially unacceptable to carry around a blanket as an adult, a cosy sweater is a great substitute.

I think maybe my fondness to sweaters is similar to my appreciation of the cafes in Sweden that provide blankets so customers can sit outside and enjoy every last ounce of sunshine before it disappears for six months.

Because it's all about the cosy.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Avant garde ugly

Today can best be described as a plethora of pleather and avant garde ugly. It's going to take me years to get over the fashion horrors I saw today (and H&M is the perpetrator).

It's been awhile since I've been on a major shopping spree, but I thought I was at least somewhat up-to-date on the latest styles and trends. It turns out, however, that "up-to-date" means raiding the back of your mother's and grandmother's closets and taking out the things that even they would be embarassed to wear.

You know what I'm talking about. Imagine that pea green polyester sack trying to pass as a dress and that ostentatious pink and orange patterned shirt that you laughed at as a kid as you leafed through your mother's high school yearbook. Then wear the pink and orange patterned shirt with the pea green polyester mumu and you have a complete outfit.

This isn't even retro. Retro means the garment was actually manufactured decades ago and requires you to forage through racks of secondhand clothing. It may still be ugly, but it's earned ugly.

What I saw today was just a cheap imitation of a style that was an eyesore in the first place. But what worries me more is that if there is a supply, there must be demand. Who wears this stuff?

And another question: Who decided it would be a Good Idea™ to revive the worst of the worst fashion mishaps of the 70s and 80s?

That person deserves to be beaten with a fermented herring.

Here's a tip: If it looks like your grandmother's curtains, it may not be the best fashion choice.

And some of the construction of the various garments was just confusing. Maybe I'm wrong, but it really should be pretty obvious which hole is the neck and which is the sleeve. But in more than one instance today, that distinction was blurry. It may be that "up-to-date" fashion requires you to put your head through the sleeve and leave the other one dangling. Never mind that it leaves half of your chest exposed; it's all in the name of fashion.

I also noticed an inverse relationship between price and the amount of fabric used to make a garment. For just 199 SEK, you can purchase an entire sea of polyester. On the other hand, 1999 SEK will get you piece of string otherwise known as a thong with a Dolce and Gabbana label slapped onto it. (I think I would rather pay the 1999 SEK to have the polyester removed from sight).

Maybe I should stick with my Gap basics for the time being. Of course, next year I may have given in to foul fashion and I'll be forced to eat my words. Again.

In the meantime, I'm sticking to the thought that if it was a bad idea the first time, it's going to be even worse the second time around.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Just like Halloween, except it's not October

Two girls in their early twenties got on the bus tonight. Normally, this wouldn't be something worth blogging about, but the accouterments of these particular young ladies were astonishing.

They didn't look bad in the traditional sense of the word; in fact, they almost pulled the look off. Almost.

Imagine Darth Vader meets ABBA. Times two. They had the ABBA hair and a weird dark and evil thing going on. And they were wearing very short shorts. Except they weren't short shorts. A bit of google research reveals that the proper name for the item of clothing they were wearing (though barely) is "low rise booty shorts." And just for the record, they were low rise VINYL booty shorts. (Now you're all picturing Darth Vader wearing Daisy dukes, aren't you?)

And the strange thing was that one of them had a bottle of dish soap sticking out of her purse. The only thing I can imagine is that they were going to a bring-your-own-bubbles party with an ABBA theme.

I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one on the bus to be somewhat taken aback by their get-ups when an older woman told the Darth Vader twins that she hoped they had some pants somewhere.

"Oh yes," one of them replied, matter-of-factly. "We have them right here in our bag."

The question that I wanted to pose to her at that moment was: "Doesn't having them in your bag prevent the pants from fulfilling their intended purpose?"

Steve is going to be sorry he missed this one.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What comes around goes around

Even before I ever studied abroad, I had a knack for befriending international students. In church youth group in junior high, it was Suzanna from Brazil. In high school, it was Andrea from Switzerland and Tim from England. (I always felt a little sorry for the foreign students who decided to spend a year in the States and then lo and behold, they get plopped smack dab in the middle of Idaho). And there are too many names to mention from college.

But the friend I thought of tonight was Jean-Pierre. I met him at our campus writing center when he came in to get some help with a paper he was writing for one of his MBA courses. Jean-Pierre was (and still is) the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome, with startling blue eyes, and a French accent to boot. "Can you help me with zis paper?" he asked.

Sure, just as soon as I can speak proper English again, I thought as I scooped my chin off the table.

But despite my initial infatuation with his Frenchness, I quickly learned that his Frenchness came with a dark side, including a girlfriend. And while he might have been willing to forget about that pesky detail, I was not.

Nevertheless, we became good friends and spent a lot of time together, including dining in the student cafeteria. I remember thinking it very, very odd that the Frenchman sitting at the table with me insisted on eating his French fries with a fork.

"Jean-Pierre," I admonished. "Just because you're French, doesn't mean you know the right way to eat French fries. Anyway, French fries are Belgian. Furthermore, French fries are finger food. That means you eat them with your FINGERS."

"Well, in France we eat pommes frites with a fork," he retorted as he stabbed a fry and took a bite.

I never did convince that Frenchman of the proper way to eat French fries in America.

But tonight I ate humble pie.

Actually, I ate French fries. With a fork.

And to add insult to injury, I didn't order fries. I was at a British pub, so they served me some chips along with that humble pie.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


"So what do you want to do with the pad thai from last night? There's not very much left."

"We could have it as an appethaizer."

My boyfriend is oh-so-punny.