Monday, March 22, 2010

Signs of Spring - An Awakening

Photo Credit:  André Karwath aka  Aka

On this mornings walk Neta and I saw "snowdrops" peeking up through the fertile ground.  A wonderful sight to behold.  The snow on the ground is almost all gone.  The temperature is +7 degrees Celsius (44.6 F).  Almost shorts weather.

Sports cars, American classic cars (very popular here in Sweden), and motorcycles are beginning to appear on the roads freed from their winter captivity.  They, like everything else is coming to life.

The garden shops are filling with anxious customers eager to get started bringing their gardens to life.  Working in your garden out in the sun is big here.  Being out in the sun is big here.  The sun is not to be squandered.  The summer is the time for much activity and festivities.  There is truly an electricity in the air during this time.  Summer is the time to do everything under the Sun.  Soon you won't be able to see the sand for the people on the beach.

Having lived here now for over a year I can truly understand this sun worship.  I have become a sun-worshiper.  I appreciate experiencing  the distinct four seasons.  Life is Good.

Photo Credit:  Frugan

During Spring and Easter a very special delight is available at the bakeries.  The "Fat Tuesday Bun" or Semlor as this delicacy is also called.  It is hands down a very favorite of mine.   A sweet bread hollowed out to make room for almond paste and whipped cream, topped with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.  When we were small you could only find them in stores and bakeries on Tuesdays, and only during lent. Today they will pop up after Christmas and are being sold every day until Easter, as true capitalism prescribes. Sort of like starting the Christmas season in October, right after Halloween!

Over the years I have baked these goodies for family, friends and staff in an effort of sharing my traditions "over there". I did the same with Lucia buns/ Lussekatter before and around Christmas. Always fun to spread the good around.

We have been careful to not indulge in too many Semlor, this season!  Like Charlotte said, one needs to run fast past the bakery windows!  Soon the irresistible yummies will disappear for this "go around", a good thing for us to have the temptation gone. Then we will look forward to next year!    Until then we will most likely find something else to tempt us.  Such as this coming Thursday when it is Marie Bebadelsedag / Annunciation Lady Day.  This occasion warrants melt in your mouth extra crispy waffles with, what else, whipped cream and fresh berries or jam!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Got Milk? Oh Rats!

Ralle finds a New Friend

Well, we didn't have any milk last Thursday morning, so off to ICA we went........   early! (The only stores here, that open before lunch, (oh, I'm kidding,) are the grocery stores.) Most grocery stores are open by 8 AM, other stores including our nearby Vala Shopping Center opens at 10 AM. In any event, we picked up our milk, then went for a long fabulous walk, along the ocean between Hoganas and Molle. It was kind of a misty morning, yet so beautiful! There were ships being unloaded, swans swimming, geese flying and just a lot of life everywhere. We feel so lucky to be able to revel in all this! On our walk we passed by this ahwsome four wheeler motor scooter, even Ralle wanted to check it out.
On our way back through town we stopped by, what we have realized to be a very popular lunch place. It is not a place where you go to eat, just a place where you pick up a "to go" lunch. Every time we drive by, there are lot's of people there, so, we figure, it must be a Fab place! Having a desire to scope out what the lunch places around here offer, we went in to see what that place was all about and picked up one of the popular offerings. Cooked cod, boiled potatoes and cream sauce. Three peeled white potatoes with a sliver of steamed white cod, covered with white béchamel sauce. Not saying that is bad, but for us a bit bland and oh, the cream! We can't afford all that cream. I am not talking pocket book, I am talking waste line!

For dinner we had Fajitas marinated in Mojo with  Guacamole, a side of Black Beans with melted cheese and  crushed red pepper.

Then there was Friday! Cold still, but with a bright sunshine that simply insisted we spend some time outside. No, we could wait no longer! Fired up the grill. Called the neighbors. Cooked chicken, with home made BBQ sauce, made Cole Slaw and French Fries on the grill! Talk about taunting SPRING!!

When Charlotte and Lars arrived, they saw through the window that Kitty Bosse was mesmerized by something out on the stone foot ( stone wall), there was a mouse, a very BIG mouse ( not big enough to be a rat, thank God) sitting under our bird feeder! We better stop feeding Kitty Bosse cooked chicken, fresh herring and ground beef.............

or, do I need to call The Exterminator !!

So, what did you have for dinner? 

Wall Street - Justice for All?

This is an interesting and informative read and puts to shame Chris Dodd's proposed financial reform.
It is just refreshing to hear this from a senator.

Check this out!

Maybe, just maybe, someday "Truth to Power" will result in "Power held Accountable"

Friday, March 12, 2010

More Frustrations and Pleasant Surprises

As Agneta has said earlier calling a business on the phone does not often result in talking to a real person.  But, if we need to get information from a government agency, we have found that going there in person we can often see and talk to someone in the know.  They are very helpful and you can go up to their offices to get help.  In America you couldn't get past the front desk.  But, it is impossible to contact them on the phone.

A few days ago we went to different pet shop stores to get some goodies for Ralle.  We came across a store where the owner acknowledged our presence, greeted us,  and when we asked some questions he was very helpful, and even in our conversations he said that if we needed something from the store and he was closed he would open for us.  What a pleasant surprise.  Now that is Customer Service.  He had a very nice store.  And his employees in the store were also very nice.

Today the chimney sweeps came and cleaned and inspected our chimney in the storage room.  We are thinking of using it in our business venture.  That to come later.  The two guys who came did a wonderful job and were very customer oriented.  There is hope yet.  We immigrants will change things around in Sweden with regards to entrepreneurship and customer service.  Now there is a loaded word, Immigrants.  That word is loaded with emotions,  and negative connotations.  It brings a different picture to the minds of each person.  There are so many loaded words thru-out history and it is always changing.  George Carlin made a career as a comic with the different meanings of words and how they are used, not used,  and how and why they came to be.  Words are an insight into our societies,  People have to explain themselves often regarding these words and phrases as I am doing now.  We all do it.  Hopefully, if one keeps an open mind, and not take things too seriously, and actually listen to other people, we can get along and not get angry.  Boy, am I dreaming?

Before someone starts saying things like "If you don't like it here go back to where you came from."  I would like to state my position on Patriotism or Love of Country.  I am of Mexican decent and have lived there for about 8 years, I have lived in the USA for the better part of my life, and I now live in Sweden.  I have also travelled throughout Europe.  I was lucky to have been born and live in a non-third world country where the opportunities to make a good life for one's self existed.  I am very grateful for that.

Do I love Mexico, the USA, Europe, Sweden as a country? No.  Somehow love is not the right word.  Do I have a special allegiance to any country? No.  If the country that I am living in is attacked by another country then I will defend it as if it were my home.  Because it is my home.  I do appreciate each country for what it has given me in all aspects.  And in the end I can take the logic even further.  Any country or person that is wronged should be defended.  Each country like people have its positives and its negatives, rights and wrongs.  We live on the planet earth we are all humans deserving of respect and we are all different and speak different languages.  The more languages we all learn to speak the better we can communicate.  But all these differences sometimes/often become the basis of prejudice.  That is were I stand.  Wow that was a mouthful.

We/I are on a roll.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tired and Kranky

How to start???????  It was a pretty uneventful week, no work for David this week nor last.  Had some nice  outings, took Ralle to Bruces Skog for one.  That is a nice forest with a large enclosed area where you can let your dog run around and have fun, without anyone hanging on to the other end of the leash. A very special "dog park" you might say. Ralle likes it a lot and we do too.

Yet another short trip was to Wallakra Stenkarlsfabrik / Stoneware factory.  We took a lovely walk in the surrounding nature reserve where birds were singing, and spring was almost evident.   We also had a lovely lunch there in an old water mill house.  In the stoneware factory we had a spirited conversation with Åsa the talented woman who has revived the very old factory.  We met some nice chatty people, as we often do when we are out with Ralle.  He is a definite magnet!  The shy, withdrawn, reserved Swedes seem suddenly unable to help themselves, they actually talk to us!  It is hard even for me, the Swedish person that I am, to understand this lack of interest, this desire to never acknowledge, to never have eye contact with  the people you meet, the people you stand in line with at the grocery check out, or rub elbows with on the walking street in Helsingborg for example, or at the shopping center?  No nodding, no Hello, no smiling. It seems so strange to me and I do wonder if I will ever get used to this.  It is far from the camaraderie at Raley's, where most people in line were talking to each other, or at least somehow recognizing the other customers that were standing there.  It is no longer my style to be so anonymous, so of course I  often start up some sort of conversation while I am standing there. The other people then must think  I am on drugs, or a bit weird, when I do that, I am told. So be it!  It seems to me, that these people kind of enjoy it, just as I do. What do I know?

Something else that I would like to talk about because I so wonder about it,  is the enormous lack of service here.  A subject to be covered another time.......

 Or, if you call on the telephone, another source of annoyance.  You either end up "on hold" and are informed of the fact that you are number fifty seven in the phone cue, or you have to press 1 or 2 or 3 etc. etc. depending on you  errand. There is hardly ever an answering machine where one can state ones question and have someone call you back with an answer.  The other day I called a business with a question about a spare part for example.  I was told the "spare parts person " was out to lunch!  I was directed to call back around such and such time.  Could Mr. Spare Part call me, I asked, upon his return? No, it is better that you call back.  Or you call to find out they have "telephone time" between nine thirty am to ten am!  Or, no one is answering the phone due to the fact that everyone is out to lunch!  Crazy as I am,  I wonder why everyone is out to lunch at the same time!  Or, why is there no answering machine where I can leave a message and they can call me back with an answer after lunch?

Today I have been trying to get a hold of a chimney sweep. We would like to have the tall chimney in our storage room checked out by a Pro, to see if it would be usable if we installed a fireplace or an iron stove there?  The first business I called did not answer at all and there was no answering machine. The second business asked me many questions, did I want an inspection, or did I want something else or this or that?  Questions I did not really know how to answer by pushing buttons one, two or six! Or, I was instructed, look at our Web page.

OK the third time was a charm!  I got to talk to a REAL PERSON!!  I tried to explain that we had a chimney that has not been used since time immemorial, we'd like to know it's condition etc. could we have it checked out.  Yes, I can come and have a look at it.  Do you have a ladder to get up on the roof he asked?  So, a person who is in the chimney sweep business does not have a ladder asked David, after I was off the phone?  Can that be so?  Is that the way it is??  Then of course I seem to remember, when I was  a little girl and I would see the chimney sweeps around Uppsala they would be riding their bikes with all those big round brushes and long rolled up wires. They did not have ladders on their bikes. They did have tall hats I recall and I would marvel over how sooty they were.  But today?  Would they not have their own ladder?  Guess we will find out?

I just ran out of steam!  Boy, do I feel tired and cranky!!!!!
Thank you for allowing me the soapbox.

It is 6:30PM and it is still light outside.  Joy.

David's turn next.