Day 113 — No wonder

For the last week or so I have been thinking “Hell, this Swedish weather isn’t so bad.” Temperatures have been in the 40s and low 50s. Not too much wind or rain. Pretty nice, actually with the leaves turned. I find out today that this is the mildest Fall they have had here in over 50 years. Tomorrow it is supposed to be in the high 50s (15 C.), no rain and no wind. Our friends in the middle of the country usually have snow by now. Nothing but some rain.

I think the trick is to buy clothing for the worst of emergencies and when you are prepared the emergency never happens. I bought rain boots. Haven’t had to wear them once. Bought winter gear. The weather warmed up.

It has been overcast and got foggy in the afternoon but we can live with that.

Discovered this while out on a walk this morning: graffiti on the wall of an abandoned granite quarry.

All this granite tends to make you feel secure. No earthquakes in Sweden.

Also discovered these wild Christmas trees. One of them must be perfect for our little house in a month or so.

These were taken about 5:00 this afternoon. Wonderfully foggy.


Day 112 — Still some leaves hanging on

It was overcast and foggy today which is perfect lighting for Mariette and her camera. She went out and took some really nice shots (with two exceptions at the end). The shots speak for themselves.

All those leaves have to wind up somewhere and our yard certainly is getting its share. Hence,

When I can carry on a conversation in Swedish, I will graduate to black socks, which is the European preference.


Day 111 — Grocery shopping

The ethnics of grocery shopping are interesting and somewhat different than in the U.S. Shoppers in Sweden turn the items they are buying with the bar code facing the scanner for the cashier. Then they put the divider bar after their last item for the next customer. The cashier rings up the item and pushes it down a sloping counter. When the customer finishes paying, he or she moves to the far end of the counter and begins bagging the goods him- or herself. The counter is divided with a movable wooden bar that the cashier slides one way or the other to form a section for the next shopper’s groceries. In this way, two shoppers can go through the bagging process simultaneously. When one finishes, the wooden divider is slid over and the next shopper’s groceries are slid down the counter.

To get a shopping cart you have to insert a 5 or 10 kronor coin into a slot in the cart and this pops out a small metal bar attached to a chain on the next cart in a line of carts that are all pushed together like you see in American supermarkets. When you are done shopping, you roll your cart into a line of empty carts, push the little metal bar into the device on the push bar of your cart and out pops your coin. It took us forever to figure this out the first time we used a cart. Mariette had never seen it when she lived her growing up.

Some foods are almost literally dirt cheap. I bought 11 pounds of potatoes today for $1.50 and a pint box of ¬†cherry tomatoes for 75 cents and a loaf of bread for 40 cents. Also, a pound of almonds for $3.75. Not even Trader Joe’s can match that. Most other produce is comparable to the U.S. Some stuff is more expensive, like yogurt. And cottage cheese is basically non-existent and the stuff you can find is inedibly chunky and dry. Yech. Meat is really high quality. And the fish, well, nothing can beat having a fish stand 400 meters from your house.

If you want to buy anything stronger than 3.5 beer you have to go to the state run alcohol store of which there is one in the entire city. (Alcohol used to be a big problem in Sweden and the legal limit is 0.02 or one quarter of what it is in the U.S. That basically amounts to one beer.)

On the other hand, I had a copy of a key made for our garage and it cost more than $12. For one key!

The water temperature is now a less than tepid 8 degrees centigrade which is about 45 F. Still we came upon an elderly couple going for a dip this afternoon. They are the two white dots in the photo.

Mariette has a 75 year old uncle who goes skinny dipping on New Year’s Day. These folks are either hardy or nuts.

Was hoping for a nice sunset but the overcast wiped it out for the most part.

I took these shots at 5:00 this afternoon, which means that with the end of daylight savings time tonight that is what we have to look forward to tomorrow at 4:00.


Days 109 and 110 — Security

This nifty little gizmo is called a dosa and it apparently makes it nearly impossible (well, harder, at least) to hack into a bank account. When you log in to your bank account you turn the thing on and enter your pin code. The dose then activates another longer series of numbers that you have to enter in order to access your account, pay bills, buy stuff online, etc. Each time you use it, it generates another series of numbers totally randomly which makes your account much more secure. Of course, my account is secure by virtue of the fact there is so little in it at the moment.

Just finished watching a replay of perhaps the wildest game in World Series history won by St. Louis in dramatic fashion in extra innings. One of the most poorly played games (five errors and a few other debatable calls that could have been scored as errors), yet one of the most memorable. Just unbelievable baseball. Fortunately, I am watching these on ESPN International and not Fox, which has the two worst announcers of all time.

This was our sky this afternoon around 4:30. Just think, Daylight Savings Time ends tomorrow night and this is what it will look like at 3:30 come Sunday. Well, I will be ready. I got my last needed article of clothing a couple days ago, winter boots.

Instead of Swedish class today, they took us to the regional museum here in town in an effort to expose us immigrants to some of the local culture. Mariette’s father had an exhibition here in 2010 which was very successful.

“Konst” means “Art.” The Louvre it’s not but the town is justifiably proud of it and the art scene here is more vibrant than one might suspect.

Meanwhile, good luck to St. Louis later tonight.



Day 106, 107 and 108 — Bits about Sweden

There seems to be actions ongoing to thin the vegetation around the neighborhood over the past couple weeks. The same two guys who cut up the tree that fell over in our yard have been busy with their industrial strength weed whackers that will take down saplings and their chainsaws with the result that the views to the sea have opened up enormously. Leaves everywhere on the ground helps too. The golf course still looks beautiful, though. Because of the rain, the course is a lush green at all times.

This water hazard reminded me on a recent stroll why I gave up golf (an seemingly incurable slice).

A golf course is surely the most beautiful sporting venue (I wouldn’t consider hunting a sport unless the ducks were given hand grenades). I can enjoy it now without the frustrations of trying to hit an unmoving ball in a straight line.

Away from the course, though, the woodsmen have been busy.

A recent freeze is probably what did this plant in, which I just noticed this morning. There is a definite feeling that Mother Nature is taking all her things inside. Something must be coming.

I think I better get down to the sale of winter boots tomorrow morning.

Having been here for over three months now here are some points about Sweden I read on a website that certainly seem to hold true:

— Most stores or businesses require you to take a number and wait until yours is called. You aren’t necessarily waiting in a line, but you are waiting.

— Learning Swedish is not a necessity at all. I could get by forever without learning the language except for the fact that Mariette’s parents don’t speak English.

— Stores are not open past 6:00 except for a few grocery stores and they close by 9:00. A 24 hour pharmacy is not even a dream here.

— Food packaging is a little — um, unconventional. Lots of things come in toothpaste tubes and yogurt comes in milk cartons, which makes it hard to get to the dregs. Very unlike the tubs in the U.S. where you can spoon it all out.

— People take their shoes off when entering a house. Every abode has a shoe rack and coat rack right inside the front door for shoes and, for much of the year, coats, gloves, etc. At our housewarming party in August there were literally 40 pairs of shoes on the floor inside our door. I should have taken a picture.

— Things start on time, with or without you. People are punctual which I find really good. Over the years Mariette trained me (forced, actually) to be early, so being right on time is just right for me. There is a Swedish word, lagom,¬† for which there is no precise English equivalent but which means roughly not too little, not to much, just exactly enough.

— Plastic bags cost about a quarter, so you keep the ones you buy and take them with you shopping. The cost covers the environmental impact of plastic bags.

— The water and air are really, really good. We are living in probably one of the most pollution free places anywhere. It helps that they closed down the nuclear power plant here some time back. It would stink to live in such a beautiful area and have an “incident.”

I will see if I can come up with some more later.


Days 104 and 105 — Incredible Fall Day

The days are getting cooler and shorter but an advantage of the sun being lower is more saturated colors everywhere. So far it seems like a fair trade off because it accentuates the beauty of this place. Mariette and I both took shots today and hers are the more professional ones by far. She has an eye and a real camera. I have an impulse and an Android phone.

Bianca agrees. She sat calmly for this portrait, as compared to yesterday when we went to Mariette’s folks for coffee and cakes. Mariette’s mother is spoiling Bianca mercilessly.

Bianca and her new BFF.

Okay, end of indulgence. Onto the nature shots. I’ll get mine out of the way first. The trail along the coast had as many people as I have ever seen on it, even during summer. Couples, a few joggers and cyclists and lots of families with young kids. That’s the kind of day it was today.

Here’s why birch trees fall over a lot here. Rain softens the ground. Wind comes up. Tiiiiiiimber! It’s a wonder these things stay up at all. Look how shallow that root system is.

The castle in town. It is still used by the regional governor.

The golf course was packed today as well.

Scuba diving class at the nearby beach. The water is pretty cold now so wetsuits are standard gear.

In the words of the immortal Porky Pig, “Th– th– th– th– th– th– that’s all, folks!”





Day 103 — Congratulations to Oz

The nature is still here and every day is different as you can see:

But the earth shaking news on TV this morning was the rugby world championship match between Austrailia and Wales for 3rd place in the tournament.

Austrailia (in green) won 21 – 18. I know, this blog is degenerating badly. Even these shots of my TV set are horrible. Life, however, remains enjoyable. Mariette continues to be amazed at how the town has changed since she last lived here many years ago. She and her friends used to curse the town because there was nothing for teenagers to do. Now there are young people all over the place. Also, old people too. The front page of today’s paper has a picture of an 89 year old guy who is going to the world ping pong championships in Stockholm.

In Swedish class we watch Swedish films on Fridays and have been watching the Millennium Trilogy films based on Stieg Larsson’s bestselling books. I watched them with Mariette a year or two ago with English subtitles but watching the second one again yesterday all in Swedish with Swedish subtitles I could barely follow the story. What I took away from class yesterday is that I have a long ways to go, though I was able to order dinner for us in Swedish and the waitress managed to bring us what I think we ordered. The candle on our table somehow caught Mariette’s napkin on fire and they had to open a door to air out the smoke but other than that it was a great meal in one of many nice little restaurants we are discovering. It makes us miss the great downtown in Palo Alto less.