Monthly Archives: November 2011

Here and There

We’re back.  Back in the USA.  Specifically, we are back home.  And I have a few thoughts to share, in no particular order.

Things from Sweden that I will miss:

  • Salted licorice
  • Walking everywhere (instead of driving)
  • The absence of suv’s and large vehicles
  • The lyrical sound of the Swedish language
  • Traffic lights that turn yellow before turning green (allows you to shift your manual transmission automobile)
  • Our Swedish friends
  • Food in a tube
  • Lack of censorship on tv and radio
  • Being geographically close to Rachel
  • Fabulous cheese
  • The goodis section of the grocery store (gummies)
  • Delicious coffee and amazing teas
  • Pourable yogurt
  • A culture where everyone accepts personal responsibility (lack of a litigious society)
  • carrying my camera everywhere.  I need to change that because in the few days I have been home, I have reached for my camera many times (I have stumbled across many things I want to share with you!)

Things I appreciate/enjoy now that I am home:

  • Watching Parenthood and Modern Family (I seriously went through withdrawal)
  • My very own laundry room on the first floor of my home
  • Friends and family (missed you guys!)
  • Having a solid knowledge of public bathrooms (see earlier post)
  • My pillow (the pillows in the apartment were subpar at best)
  • Real washcloths
  • Being geographically close to Max
  • Brown sugar, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and my mixer
  • Decaf coffee and tea (trust me, a decaffeinated Karen is better for everyone)
  • Returning to the instructional kitchen (baking school)
  • College football games on tv (American football)
  • My electric toothbrush

One funny tale to share…

As you know, shopping in Europe was a bit challenging sometimes.  Well, before we left home, Chris and I tried to clean out our pantry and freezer and leave as little food as possible.  So, upon our return, we had serious shopping to do.  I went to Costco today to get some staple items.  I looked forward to shopping in a store where I knew the location of everything.  WRONG!!  Costco totally rearranged its contents while I was away.  They even renovated the store and added new freezers and new sections.  What the ?!?  It was comical – I couldn’t find anything.

As I walked the aisles (every aisle because I couldn’t find a thing), I came upon a number of items and thought, ‘hey, we need that/I’ve been searching for that/ etc’ only to realize that we needed that item IN SWEDEN, not here.  Oh, and I also found myself looking at the prices and converting them, as if the posted price was in SEK, not US dollars.  Silly me.  And  when I saw something interesting, reached in my pocket for my camera, and realized that I didn’t have it.  First time in a month I went out without my camera!  I also found myself quietly using hand gestures instead of talking – as if people in Tukwila wouldn’t understand me.

And one totally random story:

When I was in college, oh so many years ago, my parents went to Sweden.  It was actually a business trip for my dad, but my mom joined him on the trip.  I vividly remember some things they shared about the trip.  Being in Sweden the past month made me feel quite connected to my mom and dad because I knew I was experiencing (and enjoying) some of the same things they did.

I remember my mom totally loving the pourable yogurt.  Me too! I like to use it on my morning muesli instead of milk.  My mom has, for as long as I can remember, had a love for dishes and glasses.  In recent years, I realized that I, too, love dishes and glasses.  I mean, seriously love.  Hmmm, if I kept a kosher kitchen, I would need two sets of everyday dishes AND two sets of passover dishes AND maybe even two sets of china. Mmmmm – maybe.  Not.  Just a thought.  Anyway, my mom and dad really enjoyed touring the Orrefors factory when they were in Sweden.  I didn’t tour the factory, but I surely enjoyed seeing all the Orrefors and Kosta Boda pieces in the stores and galleries.

I had to stop and share this last story with the group Saturday as we passed the palace.  My dad was in Sweden to open a new work facility.  He had the privilege of escorting the king and queen through the facility and giving them a personal tour!

Even though we are back in The States, please check back periodically.  I will continue posting because life is amusing.  I will surely have some entertaining tales to share.  Chris sent the weekend in Pullman with Max for Dads’ weekend.  You know there will be stories!  And I head back to school Monday.  The alarm goes off at 4:45.  Ug.  And aaahhh, too, because I am looking forward to seeing my friends and learning more tricks of the trade.  But that 4:45 alarm will take a few days to get used to, I fear.

The Other Swedish Chef


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Random Pics

As our month in Sweden ends, I’d like to share a few random photos.

"Helloooo Stockholm!" Somehow, I believe this is a statue of Max. Was it all those moments on the start blocks (swim)? Or was it a pose in the hotel window in Boston? ...

Rachel and Lisa

What does this sign mean? Perhaps, Do Not Enter While Wearing Adidas?

I remembered this house from our last visit (2002). It was fun to find it again (and connect disjointed memories).

I love the Swedish tradition of placing a light in the window.

So, a Mercedes and a SmartCar had a baby.

The best section in the grocery store - gummies!

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Oh what fun!

As you know, Rachel and her three friends visited us for the weekend.  What a great time!  I mean, really.  I think it was our best weekend here in Sweden.  Here’s the breakdown:

Thursday evening, Chris picked up Rachel, Lisa, Emily, and Chelsea at Arlanda airport and brought them to our lovely abode.  Yay!  They arrived.  The girls had a few minutes to settle in before our Swedish friends arrived.  We had a full house and enjoyed a lively evening. Lots of food, laughter, and love.  It was great.  I am pleased to say that the focaccia turned out perfectly, as did the baklava.   Oh, and the dinner turned out well also.  Whew, my reputation was on the line!  Erik and his sons, Joel and Ivar, brought two games and we had a blast getting our American butts kicked.  Alas, evening turned to night and the Linders headed home; but first they had a message for Max.  Many years ago, the Linders spent a few years in West Seattle and became our good friends.  Erik and Max (then a little guy) had a little game of tag going.  I love that it continues to this day.

Max Baer - you're it!

Friday morning started with homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  (I have to include these baking feats because I am so pleased I could find the ingredients and successfully reproduce items I like to make in The States).  The girls and I explored Vasteras: I took them to my favorite bakery,we walked to Lake Malaren, stopped at the apt, walked downtown, came home for a late lunch and shared some bakery treats.  (This was actually my homework – we purchased 5 sweets, shared them, and critiqued them – life’s tough!).  We headed back out for a little shopping – stopped at the tea shop and some clothing stores.  We returned home for some relaxing – time to work on the puzzle, check email and Facebook, and enjoy another mom-cooked meal – you know, all the important stuff.

We stopped by Lake Malaren

Saturday dawned early and we boarded the bus to Stockholm.  Chris and I have been there twice before during this trip, so we were able to give our guests a pretty decent tour (in my opinion).  We started with a walk along the water.

Photo op as we walked along the water.

First stop: a traditional Swedish fika (coffee break).  We had a good spread of fresh bread, sliced cheese, veggies, and apples.  Actually, all that was missing was the coffee because we don’t have a thermos.  Anyway, we knew we were doing well when a passer-by pointed to us and commented (in Swedish) to his companions ‘blah, blah, fika, blah, blah.’  Yay, us!

The girls went on to The Vasa Museum, which Chris and I enjoyed just weeks earlier.  It truly is amazing – you should go when you are in Stockholm!  After the girls’ tour, we walked around Stockholm and took in the sights: the royal palace, the waterfront, GamlaStan,…  We stopped into Chokladkoppen for the best drinking chocolate in the world.  Mmmmm.   Especially good on a chilly day like Saturday.

Lisa, Rachel, Emily, Chelsea

We ended our day with a visit to The Ice Bar, an event we all eagerly anticipated for weeks.  Yes, it is a bar made out of ice.  The whole room is ice; the drink glasses are ice; the seats are ice; the art is ice.  It was so cool!  (har, har)  Seriously, check it out.

How cool are we?

Our visit to Stockholm ended and we all enjoyed napping on our bus ride back to Vasteras.  But wait – one last bit of touring.  We took the ladies to Sweden’s highest bar (the Skybar in Vasteras) so they could see the whole city lit up at night.  Then, our evening ended back at the apartment with a skype visit with Max.  Both Baer Cubs together – a treat for me!

I love skype!

Sunday morning started even earlier than Saturday, but that was so Chris could take R, E, L, and C back to the airport and send them on to Prague.  It was a truly wonderful weekend.  It was, as you would expect, fabulous to visit with our Rachel. But it was also a treat to get to know her three friends, who are now honorary Baer Cubs. I feel confident in predicting that these four are destined to enjoy much success in the future.  Chris and I consider ourselves lucky to have spent our final weekend in Sweden with them.

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They’re here!

Rachel and friends have arrived!


Chelsea, Rachel, Emily, Lisa

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And, we’re walking.

Today began and ended with a walk.

First up – I walked to my favorite Vasteras bakery, Kopparlundens Bageri, for a loaf of bread and ended up with a great loaf of bread, a palmier (just so I could compare it to the ones we make at school) and a little ghost cookie (because it was cute!).

today's purchases from the bakery

Took my goodies home and set off to the System Bolaget (the Swedish liquor store) to pick up some wine.  Note to self, five bottles of wine is the maximum you can carry while walking home.  Especially when also toting a new baking stone.  Why five bottles of wine, you ask?  Because we are having many guests for dinner tomorrow night.  More on that later.

I made it home without dropping any of the very breakable items and set to prepping for tomorrow’s dinner.  The baklava is all done; it just has to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.  I think it looks good, but you can judge for yourself:


I also started the focaccia.  The dough will hang out in the ‘fridge until tomorrow afternoon.  Making focaccia is so much fun because I spray water into the hot oven (to produce steam).  Okay, I am easily amused, I know.   Anyway, the new baking stone will make it’s debut tomorrow when I bake the focaccia.  Yum.

And this evening, Chris and I walked to the ABB Arena to watch our first VIK Hockey game.  Unfortunately, the local team lost 3-2.  But we had a great time, anyway.  It seemed like the rowdy group filled the seats behind one of the goals (just like the Sounders’ games).  They’re up on their feet the whole game, cheering and waving team flags.  Their cheers were, of course, in Swedish.  I didn’t know what they were saying, so I made it up.  In English.  One cheer, to my ear, was Vestibule, Vestibule!’  Catchy, don’t you think?

exterior sign at the hockey arena

Vik Hockey (black and yellow)

THE place to sit - the rowdy fans

Our outing ended with a pleasant walk home – no precipitation and not too cold.  Good walking weather.

And for the record, I think the goalies should wear red helmets (because I am used to seeing red caps on the water polo goalies).  Wonder to whom I speak about that.  Hmmm.  I bet you are thinking that I should just keep it to myself.  Perhaps that’s a good idea.  Okay.  Will do.

But speaking of water polo goalies… I have had some great messages from Max.  Lucky me!  It feels really strange that I have recently spent time with Rachel and not Max.  I know it will balance out once we return to the States, but for now it feels odd.   (so, here’s a shout out to Max!)

Max driving the jeep (note the lack of doors!)

Thank goodness for email, Facebook, and Skype.  I love being able to so easily keep in touch with Max and Rachel.  And all of you, too!

the photo that greets me when I turn on my computer

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Happy Halloween!

Booooooo to you!

Halloween, in our neighborhood in The States, is huge.  I mean HUGE!  We live in one of those trick-or-treat destination neighborhoods (parents drive to our neighborhood and drop off their kids).  Each year, we have between 200 and 300 trick-or-treaters.  Yes, we have counted.  I actually began tallying because the numbers astound me.

Our traditions have evolved over the years as the kids grew up, but Halloween remains a favorite holiday of mine.  This year, I missed a few things:  putting up the Halloween ghosties in the front yard, marveling over Chuck’s garage display, handing out candy while sitting at the fire pit (safely set up on the driveway), carving pumpkins, …

Halloween in Sweden is a bit different.  It seems the retailers are buying in to it and trying to convince the public that it is a real holiday.  Of course, I expect the kids to accept it without question (seriously – dress up and get candy!).  I have been told by a Swedish friend that trick-or-treat will be the first weekend in November.  We’ll see how it goes.  And given the snow on the US east coast,  some towns have postponed Halloween until next weekend, too.

Well, wherever you are and whenever you celebrate(d)… Happy Halloween!

Boo. Or maybe nanna-nanna-boo-boo?

Love this!

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