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Monday, September 29, 2014

Autumn Splendor

Britt Sommar, Indian Summer, warm September days...whatever you call them, they are a glorious. We had a wonderful window to get out on the Finnmaster for a drive through town with some good friends who have never had the pleasure of seeing Stockholm from the water. So we packed up a picnic and headed out to enjoy the changing colors surrounding Stockholm.
I never tire of the view as we head into the Djurgården canal. The sun was shining brightly lighting up a near cloudless sapphire sky and creating a dazzling effect on the leaves. The temperature was a bit chilly in the wind but the sun was warm and we were all happy to be taking in the beauty.
After admiring what is for sure one of the most beautiful cities in the world, we headed back out the canal and stopped at Fjäderholmarna, the closest of the islands in the archipelago. On a hot summer day this island teems with tourists, but at the end of September, when the restaurants and shops are buttoned up for the winter, we had it all to ourselves. Tanner was the king of the island, and enjoyed running freely up, down, and all around! He

went swimming but the look on his face seemed to indicate that it's even getting a bit on the cold side for him!
After a enjoying a wonderful picnic lunch, we relaxed in the sunshine. Eventually we felt motivated to explore the deserted island on foot. These fish heads welcomed us!   One of the posh restaurants where a reservation is hard to come by in the summer, was, of course, closed, but their terrace was simply beckoning us to come and sit down. The ivy was turning its fiery red, the flower pots were still blooming with lovely arrangements and the sun was shining in the just the right way. Incredible that we could simply enjoy the terrace of this nice restaurant. Next time, if we get a next time within the next couple of weeks, we'll probably just take our picnic to these lovely tables!
Soon it was time to head in. The sun sets quite quickly these days even though we still have daylight until about 6.00 p.m. 
We all agreed that we were quite tired, but in a relaxed, soothing sort of way. Winter, spring, summer or fall, Stockholm is beautiful through it all. But for sure, I'm happy to soak up the sunshine while it is still warmish and rising high in the sky. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

On Being A Kid Again

This past summer, our good friends, Jim and Cathy along with their adorable daughter Kajsa came to Stockholm. We were very happy to get to spend lots of different kinds of time with them including a day on our boat and an evening in our home. The night they were with us in our home, Kajsa found my stash of children's books that I've kept with me since childhood. Even though we never had kids, these books are a part of me, a part of my life. I am so thankful that my parents instilled me a joy of reading that endures today. The books that I have with me are reminders of this time. Kajsa was drawn to a book that reminded me of a very special event in my own childhood.
That book was a riddle book that I've had as long as I can remember. I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me well that I loved telling jokes as a kid! In fact, it was a joke from this book that eventually led to my television debut in 1967. I was one of the kids who appeared on Art Linkletter's segment of his House Party called Kids Say the Darndest Things! 
It was standard practice for CBS to send scouts out to the greater Los Angeles schools looking for kids who might do well on the show. As luck would have it, they wanted second graders so I was sent to the principal's office with two of my best friends. I NEVER got sent to the principal's office so was utterly unsure what this could be about. We walked in to find a group of men in black suits just sitting in the office. They didn't say a word, just had us sit down among them. Well, the silence was killing me so I decided to start telling jokes! And the jokes that I knew best were out of this riddle book! So I started in: What kind of bird is like a car? A goose because they both honk! I suppose I showed enough precocious cuteness that the producers decided I would come up with silly enough answers to delight the audience. Too bad this was pre-VCR...only a reel to reel audio tape remains...and a few photographs that a friend took off the TV.
Incidentally, one of my prizes was set of children's books that I still have to this day.
Well, anyway...back to Kajsa. She was absolutely enthralled with this book and couldn't wait to read through every joke with us!
Note the presence of Pippi Longstockings and her horse by her side!
I actually did chime in with my goose joke but she had already read it and knew the answer! Anyway...her delight in this book was so special to me that I decided that she would enjoy that book in her possession much more than I would enjoy it on my shelf, so on their last day in Stockholm, I walked over to their hotel and gave her the book. Truth be told, giving her the book is what brought me the most joy...
I suppose somewhere in her silly demeanor and her joy in telling these jokes I saw a bit of myself at 7 years of age. It was really special to enjoy this resonance with a child. And her folks said that she carried the book with her on the rest of their trip, reading it to all who would listen.
I hope she memorizes the jokes and tells them for a good long while. And who knows, maybe she'll be in the right place at the right time and that honking goose joke will catapult her into a television career. At any rate...it's a special connection with a very special little girl. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Welcome to Sweden: Episode 8 and the Season Finale

So, when we sat down to watch this week's episodes I was utterly confused. NBC skipped an entire episode which moves the plot along so if you were confused about why Emma's dad was in the hospital and who the pony-tailed guy named Marcus was, be of good cheer. You never saw how this plot developed. If you live in the US, you can watch the full episode online. Not sure why NBC would do this but apparently they thought it would be fun to throw an online episode into the mix. It is available until Sept. 27 and you can see it here. ://community.ew.com/2014/08/28/welcome-to-sweden-recap-breakups/ A very brief written summary of the show is available there as well that will get you a bit caught up.
The last two episodes to air in the US had a lot of Swedish in them and not as much humor as they were used to really move the plot along. Even so, there were some things worth noting.
Episode 8 opens up with Bruce back in New York at a restaurant overwhelmed by how great it is to be back in the US! Of course, the waiter mistakes Bruce as a gay European which Bruce takes great offense to, defending himself by stating that he bought his clothes at H&M, the cheap but fashionable iconic Swedish clothing store that has grabbed the world's attention! And of course, the waiter recommends the meatballs! And of course, Bruce makes all kind of statements about food and eating to ensure that he comes across as American. I want four servings of apple pie and super weak coffee and I will eat more than I should because I'm an American! When the waiter tells Bruce that his English is excellent for a foreigner I had to chuckle. I can't tell you how many people in the US tell me that my English is excellent after I tell them that I live in Sweden. My mom even had someone tell her that I speak excellent English and my mom was like, uh, yeah, she was raised here! Funny assumptions people make.
Amy Pohler's commentary on Sweden was pretty funny when they are sitting in the bar. Talking about Swedish films moving at a snail's pace, Bruce trying to look people in the eye before they drink, and him asking the bartender to put on the soccer match! Such silly ways to portray the differences in culture, indeed.
The bar that Emma and Viveka are in is called O'Leary's and is a Boston themed type pub. They are all over Stockholm and offer cheap bar food and lots of sports, even American football! The one they were in is on Södermalm and was the only place we could watch NFL when we first moved here. Because of the time change, the games didn't start until 10.30pm so we'd venture over there to watch Viking games late at night. Good memories of our early years here. I love the snarky comment from Emma to her mother about being dressed like Lisbeth Salander! Anyone who has read the Millenium novels will understand that this is a good joke. Actually, that pub is very close to where Lisbeth Salander lived!
Meanwhile, Bruce and Aubrey are back in NY getting into all kinds of trouble and Marcus and Emma end up in a fancy, beautiful cellar restaurant likely in Gamla Stan. These are lovely and worth the splurge if you are ever in town. Our favorite is called Fem Små Hus meaning Five Small Houses. I thought the detail of Emma opening the menu and seeing the ring thinking it was from Marcus was pretty good. Turns out, it was just the waitress who had lost her ring earlier her shift! Perhaps that was a fateful turning moment for Emma and Bruce however as it caused Emma to kick Marcus out of her life for good.
While not as funny as the other episodes, this episode does explore the great question of Can Love Conquer All? Both Emma and Bruce and Birger and Viveka are exploring this reality from differing points of view.
On a side note, I have to laugh a little that the US market is airing commercials for Gevalia coffee. While seen as the top gourmet Swedish coffee brand in the US due to clever marketing, it's actually more like the Folgers of coffee here in Sweden! I don't know of many who buy it here. My coffee of choice is the fantastic Zoegas. 
Too bad you can't buy that in the US!
Finally, the season finale is upon us. Emma is trying to get her parents back together while Gustav is dreaming of how great a divorce would be: Two of everything. Two birthdays, two Christmases, etc. Sad but maybe real commentary on a kid's view of their parents splitting. Emma, disgusted, asks Gustav if he's 12 and has he considered that his mother will kick him out and he'll have to grow up, get a job and pay rent. Faced with this terrible reality, he works at getting his parents back together as well. The references to Sweden from the Americans include a mention of Volvo, Ikea and herring. Admittedly, these three things do figure broadly into Swedish life! The first two I like. The third, I would never, ever miss. Bruce and Emma both realize that being together is what they want so in true romantic comedy fashion, they make plans to go to one another at the same time. Bruce engages all manner of people at the airport who will listen to his lovelorn story. One goofy detail was when Bruce was supposed to be at the airport in New York, the signs behind him were clearly the signs at the Stockholm airport! Guess they didn't want to spend the money to film in New York but perhaps they could've been a bit more careful about the background details!
Not so very much to say about the finale. Birger and Viveka get back to together. The summer house goes up for sale (which probably would never, ever happen in real life. People hang onto their summer houses and pass them from generation to generation!) and Bruce and Emma have a serendipitous meeting at the Stockholm airport on the escalators thus setting up the next season.
Perhaps a bit anti-climatic, at least the story line is developing a bit as we close the season. I would imagine that the second season must include winter as that is such a big part of Swedish life and one of the more difficult aspects for foreigners to adjust to. It's not the cold, it's the dark!
So, the first season is a wrap. It's been fun to journey through my second home with all you. If the US decides to do a sitcom based in Palm Springs, CA, I'd be delighted to star in it or at the very least, write my reflections. Not sure when the second season is coming out but until then, I'll keep blogging about my real life in Sweden! For now, raise a glass with a friend, look them and everyone else around the table in the eye and shout skål.
The King and Queen of Sweden at a party we hosted!
Perhaps that's as close to Sweden as you'll get for now!