Friday, July 17, 2009


For Technorati

Stalking Will Ferrell

Sweden is cool. No doubt about it. Cool people (fashionable blondes bicycling around Stockholm), cool scenery (The Archipelegos), cool history (The Vikings!), cool social system (free healthcare and post-secondary education anyone?), cool holidays (Midsummer and the most public holidays probably in any country in the world), cool candy ("Bilar", translation: Cars; slogan: "the most purchased car in Sweden"). I could go on.

But I just found out one of the coolest, most hilarious dudes on the planet "summers" in Sweden, just outside of Stockholm. And no, it's not Tiger Woods, who married a beautiful Swede (he's on the golf course..duh). It's the star of Old School, the originator of the words, "More Cow Bell!", the founder of the website Funny or Die! and my favourite, The Anchorman (The Legend of Ron Burgundy).

Will Ferrell married a Swede, Viveca Paulin and aptly named his two sons the ultimate of Swedish names, Magnus and Mattias. He's quoted often saying his favourite place is his summer cottage in Gnesta, Sweden.

My mission this summer: Visit this town and find Will Ferrell.

Ok, that's "stalkerish" and although I'm a fan, I won't be found hunched over in the bushes with a pair of binoculars or casually strolling past, with my camera or have my car/bicycle/limb randomly break down in front of his cottage.

But I will be on the lookout for a random sighting next time I'm in Stockholm because he's one of the cool things in Sweden.
Image credit: Wikipedia

Thursday, July 16, 2009


God I love my family. We're all about SURPRISES. Anyone, surprising everyone, everywhere. Just this past March, I took my 2 and a half year old on a plane from Sweden to Halifax to surprise Dad for his surprise 60th birthday party.

Background Break: My little guy has more stamps in his passport than most people I know. He was eight days old when he flew from Halifax to Toronto. He was a month old travelling to Montenegro. 8 months old travelling to Canada. 1 year and some odd months travelling to Canada. Almost 2 years travelling to Canada. Add a few trips to Sweden in between and then to Sweden for good in January and then to Canada again for the SURPRISE. Phewf...This time, he and I went solo with no back-up. Despite the lovely Heathrow airport losing his bag for 3 months, it was a great trip. That child has air travel in his blood and the best part of any trip. Blessed or what?

So my parents went to visit my younger brother and his wife out West (from out East) for a couple of weeks. Bro sent me a pic last night of our cousin, his wife, my folks and the two of them. Only the pic also featured my aunt and uncle. SURPRISE, they showed up from Ontario to surprise my cousin AND my folks. Just one example in a long family history, on both parent's sides, of surprises.

Here's a few more:
  • Flew home for the 60th. Bro said he couldn't get vacation. I believe him. SURPRISE: He flew in for just 3 short days for the party.
  • Flew home for a visit from Montenegro after bro moved out West. He hadn't met his nephew/Godson, who was now 8 months old. Bro said he couldn't get vacation. I believe him. SURPRISE.
  • How many Christmases did hubby and I decide at the last minute to pack the car, and the big dog at the time, and drive the two days from Toronto to Nova Scotia...SURPRISE.
  • I show up quite unexpectedly in Ontario to surprise my parents and then we ALL surprise same Aunt and Uncle.
  • My Dad has 16 brothers and sisters.I can't count the number of surprise birthdays, anniversaries and out-of-town relatives showing up surprises.
  • My Aunt Jeannie always says she's not coming and always shows up...SURPRISE. The biggest surprise is when she doesn't.
  • Had a close family friend dress up as a drunken Santa to SURPRISE my parents on their doorstep..they almost called the cops.
And these are just the surprises I remember. But isn't it just great? Whether you're the surpriser or the surprisee...what great memories you're making together as a family. Whether's the surprise is YOU, a thoughtful gift, an impromptu date for you and your honey, fixing that leaky faucet or coming out of the closet, I urge you all to surprise someone in your family today.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A bicycle named Desire

Ok, so I felt bad that my first official blog post was a repost, especially after the flood of ideas suddenly came for posts. The most recent was me cursing the guy (or gal) who decided to switch the direction for activating the windshield wipers. Was there some kind of survey out where people actually said the action of turning off/on your windshield wipers should be reversed? When you turn on a light, which direction do you flick? You flick up, right? And "down" is for, you guessed it, OFF. Well who's the wise guy who decided the upward motion should now signal off? Damn him or her. It's become a stressful affair, activating those damn it up or down? I always get it wrong...

I digress...
The last time I rode a bicycle I was eight years old. Maybe ten. Twelve MAX. In my mind bicycles are for kids, athletes, outdoorsy people and the uber environmentally conscious, oh and bike messengers. I'd see a kid undergoing that all-important rite of passage: Dad pushing the back of the seat, kid about to keel over any second screaming, "Wait, don't let go". The peddling gets faster, Dad's running, kid still screaming but steady and Dad lets go. Kid almost freaks from panic but then the smile of pride and not a moment later, head first into the bushes...I remember my banana seat fondly.

We moved to Sweden in January. We've been here many times before (long history of working with Swedes). Bicycles proliferate the small university town we now call home. They are THE mode of transportation for everyone from small kiddies to senior citizens. They have special parking and lanes on the road for bicycles. And if there's no lane on the road, there's a dedicated side of the sidewalk. Bicycles also have the right of way. But don't picture mountain bikes or cool BMXs. Sit-up straight bicycles, a la Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, complete with the basket up front. Add a kid either in a seat on the back or being dragged in this cool little tent-like contraption with wheels. To say it's engrained in their culture is a fair assessment.

EVERYONE has a bike. Well except for us. And that didn't bother me, up until recently that is. "Oh, just take your bike X way". "You can park your bike there." "It's 10 minutes by bike". "What do you mean you don't own a bicycle?" When I have to go somewhere more than a 15-minute walk away, I hope in this motorized vehicle called a car (that emits carbone dioxide and kills the ozone, contributing to global warming). Then hubby had our only car one day and I had to pick up the little tyke from preschool. So I walked. I walked 30 minutes in the heat. I was fine. Sweaty, but fine. Good exercise, I said to myself. And then they started whipping past me: hot Swedish girls, old Swedish women, middle-aged Swedish men and it began, "Imagine how much quicker I could get to Joe's preschool with a B-I-C-Y-C-L-E?" Plus, I kinda felt odd when I arrived and the teacher sized my sweaty self up and exclaimed, "Oh, why didn't you take your bike?"

So that's it. I'm converting. Handlebars, a bell and a nifty little basket for me. Plus a seat in the back for the little guy. I hope that saying is accurate, "It's like riding a bicycle, you never forget".

My first post...a repost

Hi there folks! Welcome to my little cyberspace. Now that I've actually "done it", ie. gone and got myself a blog, I'm lost for words. uhmmmm...Gone are the days when I'd say to myself, "See, if you had a blog, you could ramble on about this or that or the other thing". And here I am, an official "blogger" with no ideas for a blog post. Cripes (slang for "Christ" where I come from and obviously a better choice of word, kinda like "frig" is to the dreaded F word).

Yup, still here and still devoid of inspiration. I guess I understimated the responsibility that comes with being a blogger. Like going to your hubby's office party for the first time. All you keep thinking about is making that ultimate first impression. You try on a zillion different outfits, practice your smile, handshake and opening line. Promise yourself you're only gonna have 1 glass of wine. You wonder what people think of you. Are you the prettiest wife there? You better be! Then you get there and feel completely unprepared or wonder what you were so worried about in the first place as you down your 5th glass of wine....

Nobody needs to know someone's entire life story on a first encounter, do they? So instead of giving you the 411 on who I am, what makes me tick, my religious beliefs and my favourite flavour of ice cream, why not start off somewhere in the middle. Here's a post I wrote for my Facebook "fans" awhile back. We'll start here and go back to the beginning some other day:

Swedish Berries...
No, I didn’t write this list in one shot. I’ve been updating it every day for the past little while and decided to post it now for fear it got even longer. More updates of an Expats Life in Sweden to come so stay tuned.

  • My favourite candy like EVER. And nope, there’s no such thing here.
  • And the “Swedish massage”? Sorry men. That was made up to conjure fantasies of gorgeous blondes rubbing you down. A myth. They laugh when you mention it.
  • But the Swedish meatball? Yup, it exists, they’re delicious but here, you eat them with lingonberry jam...ewww.
  • Ok, so I found furniture’s the cream variety. I miss Pledge. Update: Found Pledge!
  • I thought my dishwasher broke down. Hubby turned some water diverter valve thingy. I am so smart, I figured it out.
  • I thought my dryer was broke. Friend came over. She’s better than any man. Apparently, it fills up with water in this dispenser type thingy and you have to empty it. Everything is powered by hot water here. She also figured out that I do in fact have a lightbulb in my fridge...hidden of course.
  • Traffic lights? Nope. It’s all about the “roundabout”. For all you Haligonians, think about the dreaded “Armdale rotary” which screws everyone up. Times that by a million and you have smooth flowing traffic.
  • DO NOT SPEED. They will take away your license. Period.
  • All I have to do is come within 20 feet of a crosswalk and the cars slow down and stop. It’s a Christmas miracle.
  • Son is watching Swedish Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Little Einsteins, etc. No English channels . Talk about learning fast.
  • You know that sound you make when you’re surprised by some take in a quick breath? News like a friend won the lottery or your Great Aunt Harriet died? They make that noise constantly when they’re chatting away on their mobiles. I keep waiting to hear some exciting/dreadful news when they hang up. Apparently it means “ok” or the Swedish equivalent to the Canadian “eh”. I can let the air out of my lungs now.
  • "Claudia has BASKET today” means “Claudia has basketball today”. Basket is short for Basketball in Swedish. We use the “ball”.
  • You go for a cup of coffee around 2pm and realize it’s the same pot you brewed at 8am. That’s what their coffee always tastes like. Take the amount of grounds you put in your machine and times that by 3.
  • Caviar is the Swede’s peanut butter. Though it’s not classy. It’s bright orange and comes in a tube. You squeeze it out like toothpaste. I love it.
  • Some smarty pants invented a little plastic thing that acts as a quarter for the shopping carts. How many times have you gone to the store and realized you don’t have a quarter for the shopping cart? Take along this plastic thing and never worry about bumming change from strangers again (unless of course you forget the plastic thing).
  • Remember in high school we had “Days”? Like today is Day 4 which means I have History, French and Math? Well this entire country functions on a DAY system that has little to do with days of the week or dates. I still haven’t figured it out. When I asked the clerk at IKEA when they would have what I wanted in stock she said, “Day 27”. Uh..what?! We musn’t forget RED DAYS...those are national holidays..they have A LOT of them.
  • Unless you go to some fast food joint for lunch, ALL restaurants serve a lunch buffet. You can’t order off a menu and have to serve yourself cafeteria-style. It’s weird. Did I mention that everyone and I mean EVERYONE owns and drives a bicycle, everywhere?!
  • I made my first trip to the liquor store and boy was it a TRIP. I just came from a country where you could buy alcohol anywhere (from grocery stores to kiosks) to a Canada-like country where they have a liquor commission. Ok, so I’m used to that. The kicker is that I walk in and bottles of wine and spirits are displayed on the walls behind glass cases. I’m instantly confused. I stand back and observe. Ok, that guy just took a number from that machine. Take a number from the machine. The number on the big board has changed to 217 and the man walks up, talks to the lady behind the counter, she goes out back and produces a few bottles. He pays. He leaves. The number changes to 218. I walk up to the lady. Ah, so I must tell her what I want! I do. She comes back with it. We do the exchange. She asks me if I want a bag (which I must pay for). She HANDS me the bag and I must pack my own liquor. Inneresting. Hubby says it’s like the olden days in Canada. Caveat: Not ALL liquor stores in Sweden are like this. They are starting to transform into LCBO-like mega stores. Thank God. I felt such shame in there.
  • Turn up the heat people! Oh wait, you CAN’T. Is it too much to ask to be WARM in your own home? Everyone here has the same heating system. It’s hot water pumped into your house to power your radiators in every room. It’s cool, it’s energy efficient. The problem? It only goes up to 3! I’ll pay the bill. Just give me a knob that goes up to 10! My feet are always cold and I have to wear sweaters in my house. This is not cool.
  • The stores here close early. Friend said it’s their labour laws. Need Internet support? Better call before 9pm (even earlier on weekends). The local grocery store closes at 8pm and they advertise, “Open Late”!