Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall / Höst

The leaves have started to turn colors and fall, making crunching noises under our tires as we ride to and from school and work. The first few weeks of fall gave us beautiful sunny weather, reminiscent of Northern California autumns, and inspired us to do some exploring.

We took a mini road trip across Southern Sweden to the east coast town of Kivik (pronounced Shee-vik), home of the annual apple festival in the fall, and to many beach-goers in the summer. The weather was beautiful as we snacked at the beach and then made our way to the giant apple mural.  The mural is only up for a few weeks, or as long as the apples last, so I was really glad to be able to see it.

Afterwards we visited the Kiviks Musteri where they make apple juice, cider, jams, etc. At the end of the self-guided tour we were able to taste apple juice in a garden of apple trees. It reminded me of going wine tasting in the wine country, but instead we were juice tasting in the apple country! The Swedish apples are just becoming ripe now, and they're delicious. Fall is officially here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Balloon Chasers

Recently Lucas had a friend's birthday party on a late Saturday afternoon. Mats left to get a pizza for dinner, which left Henrik and I home alone. We had a mission: to make a gluten-free, yeast-free pizza. But before we could get started, Mats called and told us to look outside- a hot air balloon was going by.

Henrik and I rushed out to our back yard in time to see a rainbow-colored balloon floating peacefully over the tree tops. We could hear the whoosh of the fire as the balloon was refilled. As it continued its journey past our house, Henrik had the idea to follow it to see where it lands. In a few seconds we were on our bikes - we were balloon chasing!

We went to the main bike path and followed it towards the balloon. To our right, a second balloon floated over an open field. It had an "M" on it.

We continued on the path, trying to keep up with the balloons. At times they looked like they were going to land, only to rise up again and continue on.

Finally, we had to bid farewell to the balloons.

We returned home to our pizza project, but Henrik and I had to fuel up on a bit of cereal first, after our big adventure.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sommarstängt (Closed for Summer)

Well, it appears this blog closed for the summer. Which is fitting since it felt that Sweden (at least Lund) did the same. When almost the entire country has 5-6 weeks of vacation, they need to take it sometime. And that "sometime" seems to be July.

We went to the U.S. during this time for a wonderful visit, and even though we thought we had lots of time, we still didn't get to see everyone we'd hoped to. But we had a great visit, and the boys learned to swim in Nana's pool which was an amazing thing to witness. Henrik went from a floatie ring to jumping independently into the pool and swimming to us.

When we returned it was mid-July, and I thought, where did everyone go? I'd heard that Lund, a University town, was "sleepy" in the summers, but I'd never experienced a town fall asleep before. It felt like the little fairies from Sleeping Beauty had flown through the streets with their magic wands and put everyone to sleep. In general, everything shuts down, even summer camps, soccer, and swim lessons! And since no one is here, no one plans anything, and I think because of that, no one is here. The boys asked for play dates with their school friends, but everyone was on vacation.

There were a few people here and there, mostly tourists who I quickly discern now as they wear back packs and walk in couples or groups. I missed my friends and family from home, and being in an empty town didn't help. I needed to get re-grounded here, so I walked around quiet Lund, and took in her beauty. I noticed doorways I hadn't seen before, as I usually was rushing from one place to another.

And I loved the "Closed for Vacation" signs in the shop windows:

The University building sat quietly, waiting for her students to return:

And now, the students are returning. The bike racks are becoming full and the average age of the town is skewing closer to 19-23 or so. With everyone back I appreciate the quiet summer, but am glad the town is waking again.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Biker Mama

One of the cool things about living in Lund is how bike-friendly the town is. It's often easier, and more fun of course, to ride your bike than to drive thanks to all the paths throughout town.

Here's a "parking lot" in downtown across from the Lund train station:

And another in Malmö:

My little legs are getting back in biking shape, just like they were 16 years ago or so, when I attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. Even so, everyone passes me here. A guy in flip-flops on a rusty bike with the chain half-on passes me. Ten year-old girls discussing the day's gossip pass me. Retired men and women with grandkids in the baby seat pass me. But I did have a moment of triumph the other day as I realized was about to pass someone. So what if she was about 80, and didn't seem to be in rush? (And it was down hill.)

Mats took a picture of me on the way back from dinner recently. My sister says I look like I'm in the Sound of Music, which made me laugh because that's what I think about everyone here.

Happy trails!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Can't Sleep

I know what you're wondering - what does our backyard look like at 5 a.m.?

Well, wonder no further:

The sun rose a while ago, the birds are singing, and with an open window in the bedroom, it's impossible to sleep. Welcome to (almost) summer time in Southern Sweden!

I wish I could record the sound of the birds, because it's an amazing sound. Kind of like a rainforest, but with smaller birds. (Disclaimer: I've never actually been in a rainforest, but I did visit Rainforest Cafe once if that helps.)

The birds are quite busy here in Sweden, and don't seem to get much rest with all that chirping, flying, and whatever else it is they do in the daylight hours. Today, according to Google, the sun rose at 4:24 but I can attest that it was light earlier than that. The sun plans to set tonight around 10 p.m.

It's one of the best times to be in Sweden - the strawberries are out, the flowers are in full bloom, and the ice cream truck plays its melody through the streets at 8 p.m.

Welcome summer!

Monday, May 2, 2011


Today marks my 14th anniversary of visiting Sweden for the first time. I remember as the plane descended towards Malmö, and I saw the southern coast of Sweden and the rectangular green fields that glowed under an intense sun, complemented by dark grey clouds in the background.

Right now I sit in my garden, and the journey from then until now feels unbelievable. Then, a 23-year-old graduate student searching and waiting for "real life" to begin. Now, a 37-year-old mother and wife, looking forward to cultivating her career, and asking for guidance to do her part in creating a happy, healthy, and peaceful family, community and world.

Although warm sunny days are wonderful and needed, my favorite weather is sunny with rain clouds approaching. Everything is so much more intense- the colors, smells, and light. And I love rain, especially when it comes in the evening and leaves by morning, just like it did last night.

Here Henrik practices his sprints while rain clouds approach.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Swedish Spring has Sprung

I was beginning to wonder if the leaves would ever appear - I'd never gone so long without greenery. But the last three weeks we've had beautiful sun-filled days here, California weather I call it, though it's really a Swedish spring.

And just like that, there were leaves. And blossoms. And birds. People are smiling, coming out of hibernation, and queuing for ice cream. Or maybe that's just us.

Three weeks ago, our backyard looked like this:

And today:

Beautiful Vitsippa flowers carpet the forest near my in-laws' home, only to disappear after a week:

And here are some pictures from my neighbors' yards:

Happy Spring everyone!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Witches

Easter (Påsk) is a big deal here in Sweden. Good Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays, with many people taking a half-day off on Thursday as well. During lent, my mother-in-law gave me branches with bright feathers attached to them. I asked her if this was traditional, as I'd never seen anything like them before. They are common here during Easter, and I've now seen them outside stores, restaurants, and in people's homes.

Here are some for sale at Lund's Farmers' Market:

When a friend called and asked if my boys wanted to be Easter witches with her son, I had no idea what she was talking about. Legend has it that on the Thursday before Easter, all the witches fly to Blåkulla, a magical mountain somewhere, and have a party with the devil. My Swedish teacher spoke about the witch-burning days in Europe, but assured us that no witches (also known as female healers) have been burned in Sweden for 300 years.

Anyway, it's now a tradition that during the Easter week, kids dress as nice witches (scarves, rosy cheeks, and freckles) and ring people's doors and give them little hand-made Easter crafts. The people, in return, give a coin, candy, or fruit. In other words, it's similar to Halloween, but not as specific a time, and everyone dresses as the same thing. (Halloween is celebrated here also, but it's more a new thing, not traditional.)

So, our boys dressed as witches on Thursday and went around the neighborhood, which gave me an opportunity to say hello to some neighbors we hadn't met yet. The kids got mostly candy, but when a woman gave them an apple, Henrik said, "I guess she didn't have any candy, so she gave us fruit."

Friday, April 22, 2011


I find myself so much more tuned into nature here. In the south of Sweden, there are many trees, but most are deciduous. For months, the landscape shows only dark, barren branches awaiting spring.

When the first bulbs start to bloom, it's a big deal. The schools talk to the kids about the spring flowers, people smile and remark on the new blooms, and the newspaper reports on which flowers are coming next.

In February or March, the little white snödroppar (Snowdrops), said to cheat winter, are the first to bloom.

On the second day of spring, Henrik's preschool opened. His class is named "Snödroppen," which seems fitting as the school opened just as the flowers were appearing. Here he is, riding his bike to school with Mats on his first day:

He really likes school, and his teachers say that he's understanding Swedish well, but still speaks to them mostly in English. With the kids, however, I hear him starting, just like Lucas did, to speak Swedish. "Look here," "Stop it," and "Come here" seem to be some of the first phrases kids learn. This past week it seemed that some magical language piece clicked in, and now I hear him switching between the languages like Lucas does.

Along with the flowers and trees, I look forward to watching Henrik's Swedish bloom this spring.

Monday, March 7, 2011


My boys' hair was getting shaggy - I'd put off finding a place to get haircuts long enough. One mom said her friend cut her kids' hair, but recommended a cheap place if I didn't mind it not being very fancy. I called, and Henrik's cut would have been $40 (280 crowns), and Lucas' $50 (340 crowns).

When I told people here, they all agreed: haircuts are expensive in Sweden. (Random side-note: college education, aside from books and lodging, is free.)

I asked another mom, and she said her mom cuts her son's hair. I was seeing why people had friends or family cut their kid's hair. But she said there was a cheap place ($20) by the train station. I Googled "hår tåg Lund" (hair, train, Lund), but couldn't find it - I'm not very good at searching the internet in Swedish yet. But I found a place that, when I called, said kids' haircuts were $30, so I made an appointment, same-day.

The place was nice, but seemed more oriented towards older women compared to the kid's haircut place back home with the plastic castle and toys everywhere. Neither boy wanted to go first, so I told them they'd have a treat at home.

Lucas finally went, but Henrik hid under the antique chair saying, "I don't want a haircut!" Eventually I persuaded him, and he sat on my lap. We shared the black cape that's supposed to catch the hair, so we looked like a two-headed blob.

The woman looked at me and said with an accent, "At last, we're done. That wasn't easy." I agreed. I realized I didn't know if I needed to tip. I asked, and she said it was included, no need to pay more. I appreciated her honesty, and then gave the boys five crowns (80 cents) each to give her, just in case.

I'd like to learn how to cut my boys' hair - it can't be that hard, right? But then again, I found out a woman's cut and highlight is cheaper here (by at least $50) than at home. So I guess it all equals out.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Swedish Tooth Fairy

Lucas' tooth was so loose. Drove me nuts, I wouldn't be able to handle a floppy tooth in my mouth; but he let it get looser, and looser. It was the bottom right one, his second loose tooth.

He lost his first about a month before we moved here. It "just popped out" one day at school. He literally lost it for a few minutes, and then one of his friends found it on the floor under his desk. His teacher, used to her pupils' teeth falling out, had a cute little tooth-shaped necklace thing to hold the tooth.

When he woke up the next morning, there was a dollar bill under his pillow from the tooth fairy. Seemed to be the going rate. But she'd left his tooth, and this confused Lucas since she's taken his friends' teeth when they lost them. He looked at me and said, "Did the tooth fairy really come, or did you just put this under my pillow?" I asked him what he thought, and something on the TV distracted him, and that was the end of that conversation.

Two weeks ago he finally lost his second tooth. He had been crying earlier that day because every time he bit down, it hurt. With my urging, he tried to pull it out, and a few minutes later, he ran to tell me he'd lost his second tooth.

"Lucas, you're going to get a dollar!" Henrik said, evident that he wished his teeth were falling out.

"No, Henrik, we're in Sweden now, so it will be in crowns," Lucas replied. "Maybe I'll get 500 crowns! That's the biggest bill!" Then he started dancing and singing, "Money, Money, Money, must be funny, in a rich man's world!" (ABBA)

I laughed. "Lucas, 500 crowns is like $75, I don't think the tooth fairy gives that much."

"We'll see!" he said, still optimistic.

The tooth fairy came, and this time took his tooth. Lucas got a gold-colored coin - ten crowns. Seems to be the going rate. She wrote a little note in Swedish that said, "Welcome to Sweden Lucas!" (She used the plural vs. the singular form of "welcome" but that's OK, her job is collecting teeth, not writing after all.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Da Stuff Arrives

Our stuff has arrived.

It felt like Christmas, but with two tall German Santas, maybe in their 40's, who came to the door 15 minutes earlier than the scheduled time to deliver the packages. One blond, the other dark, both wearing bright yellow reflective vests. I checked off the list of boxes as they came through the door, per their request. "26!" they'd say, and I'd check it off. "37!" and so forth.

After 68, or was it 70 boxes - there were more than I originally remembered - all were accounted for, and it had only taken 30 minutes. I asked them to open the wardrobe boxes, as I had to empty them before they left.

"I need to check if this is my husband's, or my clothes," I said, as the blond guy opened the top of one of the boxes. Out of the top of the box jumped a bright pink boa, a souvenir from my sister's bachelorette party. "I think this is mine," I laughed, "unless it's my husband's..." The guy laughed, and said with his German accent, "I hope not!"

I offered them coffee, but they had to go - they were next driving to Oslo, Norway.

The boys jumped up and down as we unpacked more, and more toys. I wondered what I'd been thinking, bringing that much stuff, but oh well.

Henrik got his Hobie and Shadow. Lucas got his LEGOs. I got my printer, label maker, Kitchen Aid, Trader Joe's crackers, and lots of other things. Mats got his big screen TV. I heard Lucas upstairs discovering his stuffed animal penguins, "Mrs. Schulz! Big Scratcher!" he yelled, as he greeted his old friends. (Mrs. Schulz is a penguin named after his kindergarten teacher.)

But, like Christmas, there is a come-down. We now need to unpack all these boxes and find places for everything. Henrik is looking for his small Curious George stuffed animal, which I have no idea if we packed. I try not to feel bad for him, he has a bed full of stuffed animals. With each box he asks me with sad eyes, "Did you find Curious George?"

With the unpacking of things from our previous home come memories of our friends and family who are still there. And I realize that they didn't come along with the physical things wrapped in brown paper.

But now I must go. Time to look for Curious George.