Climbing Clown

On our recent trip to Estonia, I left my family in a small shop filled mostly with Russian souvenirs and trinkets, which went along well with the very Russian man running the shop.

While I was off trying to find cash so my son could buy a Russian hat, the proprietor started trying to sell things to my husband. Though there were no Christmas decorations anywhere in the store, there was a small mechanical Santa Claus that would climb up and down a chain near the cash register.

The man asked in a thick Russian accent, “You want buy Climbing Clown?” referring to the climbing Santa Claus.  “This Climbing Clown. You like? You buy!”

I guess he calls it Climbing Clown until December, because it just wouldn’t make sense to sell a Christmas item in November. Pretty clever guy. Luckily, I showed up just in time to substitute the hat for the “Climbing Clown” purchase.

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Smoked beaver? Anyone?

The menu at a Russian restaurant in Tallinn.
Smoked beaver on the appetizers…
Bear meat stroganoff on the main courses…
Bear meat dumplings..

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Root Beer is NOT Disgusting – episode 2

Another episode of my podcast is up. I talk with a friend from California. We discuss the new “Museum of Disgusting Food” in Sweden, which apparently includes root beer. I am not in agreement with this assesment and I think all that pickled herring must have messed up the taste buds of a lot of Swedish people. But you be the judge:

Direct link: https://iceandsnow.se/

Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/episode/65Zch4fCU3U2eNVtNtZDEb

iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/se/podcast/2-root-beer-is-not-disgusting/id1440431070?i=1000423445755&l=en&mt=2

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Booze Cruise

We took a short trip to Tallinn, Estonia this week on what some people call a “Booze cruise.” In Stockholm, there are several short trips you can take by ship to Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga. It’s 2 nights on the ship and one day in the city. The best part is that it’s insanely cheap! How is it so cheap?

They make all their money off the Duty Free shop!

While my family and I take advantage of these great deals to visit another city, there are many people in Sweden who simply go on these cruises to stock up on cheap alcohol.

For those who don’t know, the only place to buy alcohol in Sweden is at the government run Systembolaget stores. I think this is a great system, but that’s for another post. The reason why this is significant for this post is because the prices are a bit expensive. So people go on these cruises and stock up on alcohol once they get far enough out to sea, bringing it back in little trolley carts.

I snapped a few photos when we were disembarking this morning in Stockholm:

Our family, on the other hand, does everything we can to avoid buying anything on the ship. We brought our own food to eat in the cabin both ways, because the other way this ship makes money is from the overpriced restaurants. And when you are a family of 4, that can get very expensive.  We were quite happy with our meats and cheeses (with a glass of wine in a plastic bathroom cup for the adults).

It was a successful and cheap vacation. The only things that cost for us were lunch in Tallinn and the furry Russian hat my son wanted to buy.  Not bad!

Another tale of Swedish trick-or-treat

My son’s friend went trick-or-treating with his sister last weekend (because in Sweden, Halloween is 2 weeks for some reason).

The Swedes are still learning how Halloween works, which leads to some strange things ending up in the treat bag. On this occasion, the boy and his sister knocked on a door belonging to an old woman. She dug in her purse and dropped an old piece of money that is no longer valid and an aspirin.

Maybe the aspirin came in handy later for the parent who had to deal with sugar-hyped kids.

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I’ve got a podcast!

Much like my books, it’s about the funny things that happen as an expat living in Sweden. I interview a different fellow expat friend each week and we talk about the mysterious ways of the Swedes and all the various ways we’ve made embarassing mistakes here. Our humiliation is your entertainment!

Each episode is between 20-30 minutes. I hope you will check it out and enjoy it! It’s currently available on Spotify and on iTunes.

The direct link to the podcast page is: https://iceandsnow.se/

Spotify link is: https://open.spotify.com/show/4vT7b4qxzJvq7fqX9AcmRC?si=SeLxB74lQYS0TSkAr6hrmQ

iTunes link is: https://itunes.apple.com/se/podcast/life-in-the-land-of-the-ice-and-snow/id1440431070?l=en&mt=2

There will be a new episode every 2 weeks because…. wow, editing takes a lot of time!

The first episode is called, “What’s Scarier, Halloween or Surströmming?”

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Where’s my balloon?

Lots of people like to ask, “Hey, where’s my hoverboard?” in reference to what we thought our current lives would look like by the 2000s.

I stumbled across an interesting article on Mashable with illustrations of what people living in 1900 thought the world would look like by the year 2000. Apparently, walking on water was of large interest to them. Kind of odd as we’ve had boats for thousands of years and that’s worked out fine.

If you check out the article here, you can see some of the other ideas they had – many of them involve balloons. I’m not sure what to make of that.

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Thanks for the image, son.

After eating a bit too much curry at lunch, my son had to spend a long time in the bathroom yesterday evening. When he finally came out, he said:

“I thought I had dysentery! But not like Oregon Trail, more like Oregon ROAD!”

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Cinnamon Bun Day

It’s Cinnamon Bun Day in Sweden. Why do we celebrate? I don’t know. It’s so depressing heading toward winter so this is about all we have to look forward to this week. Maybe we need to eat a bunch of cinnamon buns to build up our warm layer of fat to get through the next warm months.

Sweden has a lot of food holidays. I thought I’d look up a few more. Here’s what I found just for the month of October, though I have to admit, these don’t seem to be as celebrated as today’s Cinnamon Bun Day. I’ve never seen advertisements at the bus stops for Shrimp Sandwich Day, but maybe I just didn’t notice.

  • October 7 is Gräddtåtans dag (Cream cake day)
  • October 14 is Shrimp Sandwich day. No thanks.
  • October 15 is apparently Feta Cheese day
  • October 18 is Chocolate Muffin day (Why isn’t this a bigger thing?!)
  • October 25 is World Pasta Day. I can get on board with that.

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Another insulting job hoop to jump through

When looking for jobs, I appreciate companies that can get to the point about what they want, ask for my résumé and a sample of my work and then an interview if they feel we match.

What I do NOT appreciate are companies that make you jump through unnecessary hoops that have nothing to do with the position. Most of the time, these companies have hired a recruiting service that gives out the same basic tests for all positions, whether you are applying to be a flight attendant or a gardener. How much money are these recruiting companies making off large corporations that have no idea of their methods?

Last year, after applying for a job as a writer, I was told I would have a job interview via video chat over the computer. I went over my résumé, dressed nicely and clicked the button to connect for my interview. Instead of an actual person, it was a recorded video with text that asked, “How would you make the perfect sandwich?” I simply said, “No, I’m not doing this,” and shut down the link. If a company is asking for someone to write text for their billing program, as this one was, then ask me about that particular subject and my work. I don’t have time for psychological mind games to test quirky personality traits.

Now I’ve applied for another writing job for an internet company. They were interested in my résumé and asked me to take an online test. The instructions were, “block off an hour of your time and be well-rested so you can concentrate on the test.” I wrongly assumed it would be a writing test with different case studies.

Nope.

It was not a writing test at all, but what I’m guessing must be some sort of “are you a psychopath” test after going through it. I took screenshots of some of the questions. Please tell me what this has to do with applying for a copywriting job:

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From these questions, I gather this job would be looking for a megalomaniac who’s been through some weird experiences and some weird food and plans to take over the world.

But when I applied with another company for the “take over the world” job, I only had to send a résumé and a cover letter, so I find it odd that the IT company writing job requires answers to these questions.

 

Well, that’s a relief

While looking through CNN headlines, I often notice articles sandwiched in between news of war and sickness, such as this one.

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Was this really a thing? Or was the reporter just out of ideas and repeated something someone said at a party? It seems you could write a lot of articles this way:

Peanut Butter Hedgehogs not actually a Snack in Belgium

New Boss at New Jersey Target Rumored to be Alien from Neptune

Not only do I wonder how this made the front page of a well-established news agency, but also, is this how stupid the world is becoming?

Rumors of Increasing Number of Gullible Morons are Unfortunately True

Geography

We decided to book a trip for the winter. I asked the kids where they wanted to go. One of my suggestions was Barcelona and the other was Greece. One son said Greece and the other really wanted Barcelona. As he has never mentioned Barcelona, I wondered why he was so adamant about going. When the rest of us voted for Greece, he said, “But I’m tired of Europe. I’d like to see South America.”
Um, Barcelona is in Spain. Spain is in Europe.
“Oh, I thought you meant Brazil. Never mind. Greece then.”

Two things about this:
1. Oh, is a trip to Greece boring to you? Visiting one of the cradles of civilization, eating good food, getting to see sunshine in the middle of winter (remember we live in Sweden) not good enough for you?
2. Wait…. why Brazil?

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Italy observations

As we rode through yet another small Italian town, my oldest son asked, “How come all of these towns have groups of old men just sitting around together all day? What are they doing?”

“What do you think they’re doing?”

“Probably complaining about the modern world.”

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How to defeat your kids on YouTube

The kids and I have been having a contest on for who can create the most watched video on YouTube. I need to crush them with my amazing video that I spent a whole 10 minutes making, so why not give it a view? It’s so very informative!

Correspondence with my son

Otherwise entitled “My son does not appreciate my humor.”

My oldest son has been away at summer camp this week. We will be picking him up today so I sent him this:

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He now requests that I wait in the car.

 

 

I need some air, take out an organ

Always take a shower in the morning! You never know what the day will bring.

Example, a lazy day last week turned into an overnight stay at the hospital and one son without an appendix!

I have to say that everything went smoothly and everyone was very nice. My only complaint was that there was hardly any air-conditioning! I think they possibly have a very weak system running, but it’s awful. They put a small desk fan in my son’s room, which helped a lot.

The only cold room I experienced was the operating room. I was allowed to go in until they put my son under. I almost wanted to grab a scalpel, cut myself and yell, “I have to stay here!” just to get some air conditioning.

At the same time, my son had a friend traveling in the U.S. with major appendix problems who ended up in an American hospital. I was impressed that my son’s room actually had a t.v. (I’ve never had that experience yet in a Swedish hospital room) and that we had 6, yes 6 channels! His friend in America not only had a t.v. (and air conditioning, I assume), but also a Nintendo Wii, a therapy dog and a visit from the Boston Red Sox.

But when you consider how much that American hospital stay is going to cost compared to the Swedish hospital stay, I’d still rather be here. Guess what our total bill was?

0

There’s never any cost at all for anyone under 18 in Sweden. Not having to worry about getting sick or being able to afford long hospital stays is totally worth not having a Nintendo Wii in your room. My son may not agree, but when he complains, I just shove some ice cream in his mouth.

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It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

I planned to bring both of my sons to the beach yesterday. I packed two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, because they’re cheap to make and I already had everything. Plus, they like them, which always helps.

Just before leaving, my oldest son got an invitation to go somewhere else, so my youngest invited a friend to join us instead. “No problem,” I said. “I’ve already got two towels, two sandwiches and two water bottles.”
And then on the way there, it occurred to me… most Swedish children have never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I have this same problem with two other standard American kids’ foods. The first is macaroni and cheese. I can’t think of a kid in America who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese, but guess what? Swedish kids seem to hate it! I have no idea why, other than it’s unfamiliar. Or maybe their environmental, super-healthy senses can tell on some level that a typical box is probably full of chemicals and additives. Still though, it’s pasta and it’s cheese. What’s not to like?
The other problem we often have is frosting on birthday cake. Again, these Swedish kids who aren’t exposed to grotesque amounts of sugar just don’t seem to enjoy it. We have to have whipped cream or fruit to get them to eat it.
So you can see my concern that the peanut butter and jelly sandwich might be rejected by my son’s Swedish friend. That would mean I would actually have to stop and pay for another meal, which I was really trying to avoid.
Luckily, I remembered one of the most annoying songs ever that every kid seems to love, no matter what country they’re from. PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME!
If you’re unfamiliar with the lyrics, here are a few sections of the song. Please remember it is meant to be shouted over the music, and not sung:
It’s peanut butter jelly time!
Peanut butter jelly time!
Peanut butter jelly time!
….
Peanut butter jelly! Peanut butter jelly!
Peanut butter jelly! Peanut butter jelly!
Do the peanut butter jelly, peanut butter jelly
Peanut butter jelly with a baseball bat
Do the peanut butter jelly, peanut butter jelly
Peanut butter jelly with a baseball bat
Now, I may not have had a baseball bat, but the song did the trick. The sandwich was accepted and eaten by the friend. Money saved! Though I did have to pay in another way by having that horrible song stuck in my head all day.
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Please refrain from discussing my underwear

Strangers are generally much more talkative in the U.S. than in Sweden. At times it can be nice to chat with someone. I might learn something new or come away with a funny story. At other times strangers’ interactions with me can become a little too intrusive.

For example, I was in Texas buying underwear. The salesperson said, “Have you tried this underwear before?”
“Um, no.”
“I have. It’s great. You should go change your underwear to this now.”
How do you respond to a statement like that? Also, maybe I’m already wearing some amazing underwear. Telling me to change my underwear is implying something is wrong with the current pair I’m wearing. One can’t just assume one pair of underwear is superior to any others.
Or should I ask what makes this underwear so great? Does it play music when I walk? Does it always keep a cool temperature of 19c?
I didn’t take the salesperson’s advice that day, but I do have to admit, the underwear I bought did turn out to be pretty great.

Sweden – your new beach destination!

It’s HOT! Really hot! And you know it must be bad coming from someone who grew up in Texas and just got back from a vacation there.

We’ve had a bit of a heatwave here in Sweden over the past 2 weeks. Of course, I’m all for it so I can wear my sandals and jump in the lakes, but when you don’t have any air conditioning, it does become a bit of a problem.

All windows and doors are open, all of our 3 floor fans are on, (in fact I carry one with me wherever I go) but it’s still really unbearable indoors. But I know better than to complain. For 5 months out of the year I’m dressed in 3 layers and still freezing.

So I gladly welcome this new global warming, summer weather. Now if someone could make me a piña colada, I’ll be good to go the rest of the day.

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Apple pie burger

We were told to visit a popular burger place in East Texas that serves an Apple Pie Burger. I pictured a burger with an actual apple pie between the buns (honestly, it’s not that much of a stretch with some of the other crazy foods around there), but it was a burger with apple pie ingredients added – apple pieces, brown sugar and maple syrup bacon. It actually wasn’t that bad, though I prefer a regular burger.

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