What's New at the Pålssons'

 

What's New at the Pålssons'
Self-absorbed rambling, useless trivia and shameless bragging

Tuesday, June 22

I'm having a stressful week. Two project deadlines on the same day (Thursday). Yikes!

Had a really fun long weekend in Germany recently, for Bernhard's 50th birthday. Met many of his friends whom I've been hearing about for years! It was really fun, and I think we all shared a good celebration with Bernhard.

I spoke a lot of German, and it was a lot harder than just a few years ago. My German is obviously deteriorating. Even reading (a novel or the newspaper) required more concentration than before. Still, as usual, when I got back to Sweden I had a hard time transitioning back to Swedish. I think the two languages use the same area of my brain.

That same weekend I was gone, Max had an overnight trip with his soccer team. I talked to Bengt on the phone while Max was packing, and Bengt said Max had a list and was checking things off it as he packed! I guess we know who he gets that from. J

Bengt picked me up from the airport on Sunday night, which was really nice. On the way home, he told me that Max had fallen off his bike (while attempting a stunt) and scraped up his leg and elbow. Bengt said that the scrapes had been cleaned out and looked ok.

Before bed I asked Max to show me his injuries. OMG, they were larger and deeper than I imagined, and pink, hot to the touch, and obviously infected. It hurt just looking at them. However Max, too, tried to downplay how bad it was. Why do guys do that?? I smeared some antibiotic salve on those scrapes right away, and wrapped them up good. They cleared up a lot within 24 hours and continue to heal well. He could have had a heck of a scar if the infection had continued, I think.

Here you can see some of the flowers I planted a month ago. The ones in these flower boxes on our balcony are going nuts! I think it's the strain of petunia I got, though. The red ones, as you can see, aren't nearly as fast-growing. They're being drowned out by the white petunias.


Monday, June 7

Bengt has (rather reluctantly) given Max permission to buy a PC game that is rated 16 and up. Max is in heaven. We were discussing games this evening, and Max admitted that there are some gory games he has no desire to play. He said that even if his friends wanted him to play, he wouldn't. I asked, "What would you say if they called you a chicken for not playing?" I expected an answer like he'd try to explain why he doesn't want to play, etc. But no (stupid me)—he'd just say, "Morons." No doubt that is the correct response among 10-year-old boys. This is why Max is considered "cool" and I was/am not.

Max's last day of school is Thursday. I'll go to their little graduation ceremony and then leave for Germany for Bernhard's 50th birthday party. Got a free flight using SAS Eurobonus points – yes!

I've been shopping for a new kitchen table. It's more difficult than you might expect to find the right one. We just want a plain white rectangular table, but it has to have approximately the right dimensions, and I don't want to have to wait eight weeks for it! Doh. (And no, they didn't have one at Ikea.)

On Wednesday I'll be attending a Toastmasters International meeting. Before that, I'll be trying out for a little acting gig where they need an American woman at least 12 pounds overweight. That's me!


Sunday, May 23

Summer continues. Yesterday was sunny and hot, and I took four boys to the lake (Rösjöbadet). Besides playing on the beach, we had ice cream and played mini golf. When we got home, we grilled burgers in the back yard.

This morning I watched a squirrel climb into the grill's drip pan and lick it out. Then he (or she) grabbed the grill tongs, which were still hanging off the grill, and licked them clean! Those are going straight into the dishwasher, on the LONG, hot cycle....

Check out this beautiful Eurasian jay (nötskrika in Swedish) that we've seen behind our house! There's also and owl that hoots at night, as well as some dark bird with a very large wingspan that we haven't identified yet. Bengt suspects the large bird of swiping two large tallow & seed balls that were supposed to feed small birds in our backyard last winter. I'm thinking it was probably some small animal.

Speaking of birds, lately the birds have been waking us up every morning at sunrise (currently 3:55 a.m.). I'm so grateful for summer and open windows that I don't mind at all.

We've had some rain today, which is good for the $375 worth of bushes and flowers that I bought and planted after work on Friday.

Max's last day of school is June 10, and he's really looking forward to summer break.


May 15: First day of summer

What a gorgeous day! Very warm and sunny—perfect summer weather! I spent hours in the back yard reading a novel. The only useful things I got done today were cleaning the kitchen and contemplating what flowers to buy and plant tomorrow. Well, I also did some laundry, ironed, and backed up my hard drive. So I guess the day wasn't a total waste.

Here's the promised picture of the kitchen with the new tile:

I think it looks almost too perfect to be true, like vinyl wallpaper, and lighter than expected. But we are satisfied.

This evening I used the chocolate chips I bought in Texas to make chocolate chip cookies—cookies for cookie lovers! (A.k.a. cookies made by someone who lacks the patience to fool around with little balls of batter.)


May 14

Sorry it's been awhile. Since I last wrote, I attended the STC conference in Dallas and then visited my friend Mary in Corpus Christi, where I lived looooong ago. The conference was good, and Mary and I had a lot of fun. We shopped, chatted, ate out, and I don't know what all, but the time sure went fast. I'm so glad I went!

Getting home was a bit of a pain. The flight from Houston was delayed because the plane was late coming from Amsterdam. And then we had to fly a different route, far up over Greenland, to avoid the ash cloud. This added a couple of hours to our trip (which was why the plane was late arriving from Amsterdam in the first place). I missed my connection in Amsterdam by several hours and had to wait four hours for another. Total travel time from Corpus Christi: 26 hours. Ugh!

On the bright side, the seat next to me was empty, and I had a great view of Greenland from the airplane:

The first day back home, I sure felt cold, even indoors. We keep our house pretty cool – much cooler than the temperature the air conditioning at the Dallas hotel and at Mary's was set at. We had nice weather the whole time I was in Texas. I spent 60-90 minutes at the pool each day and got a healthy tan.

It has remained cool here, but tomorrow we're supposed to break 20 degrees C. for the first time this year. (That's what they're predicting, anyway. We shall see.)

Bengt and Max managed fine while I was gone. In addition, new tile finally went up in the kitchen. I was going to post a picture, but the kitchen has been too messy. J I'll take a picture tomorrow when we clean the kitchen.

I was getting tired of having all the living room furniture against the walls, so yesterday I rearranged it:

The room's actually a little bigger than it looks. The big chair is over to the left (in the picture you only see the ottoman), and the piano is to the left of where I was standing when I took the picture. Bengt pointed out that the plants are getting a little out of hand. I guess he's right. I do love plants, though.


April 20

Bengt and Max and I spent five days in Paris a couple of weeks ago. We had such a good time! Saw quite a few tourist attractions and were amazed by such things as French parallel parking. Drivers actually use their bumpers to push other cars over a little so they can squeeze in! I remember when my friend Håkan tried doing that in Germany, and a very angry German came and yelled at him. J

We found people very friendly, and we were able to communicate with almost everyone using English, rudimentary French, or hand signals. No problems!

We blew a wad of money. I don't know if it was Paris prices or the crown/euro exchange rate, but we sure didn't do any extra shopping. I can recommend this nice and relatively inexpensive little hotel in Montparnasse, if anyone is interested.

Anyway, there are some pictures here. Really glad we got home before all the airports over here closed due to the ash from the volcano in Iceland.

Boy, the food was terrific. I didn't remember that from last time I was there. Then last weekend I saw the movie Julie and Julia (in which Meryl Streep was great, as usual), and now, believe it or not, I'm inspired to try my hand at French cooking. I have my eye out for a second-hand copy of Julia Child's cookbook.....

Back in Sweden, we're still having cold weather. I finally switched back to my summer tires last week, but I had to scrape ice of my windshield this morning.

I quit the very annoying World Class Gym and joined Curves, instead. Yes, we have Curves right here in Sollentuna now! At Curves there's much less hype and a much more diverse crowd of women – all shapes, sizes, and ages. I'm tolerating it so far—let's face it, I'm never going to enjoy going for my workout, but it's a necessity. I need a good workout a few times a week just to prevent my middle-aged body from disintegrating into Jell-O.

I'm gearing up for a trip to Dallas & Corpus Christi. Leave in two weeks. Really looking forward to the STC conference (Society for Technical Communication) and visiting CC!


April 5

Yesterday we were out on the balcony in shorts and T-shirts, basking in the spring sun. This morning Bengt got up, peeked out the window and said, "It's snowing." I was sure he was kidding until I got up and saw for myself. Lots of it. "Sticking" on the ground. ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!


April 4, 2010: Happy Easter!

We're having a pretty relaxing holiday. We're even having sunny weather. The birds are singing and I can't tell you how nice it feels to have the sun on my face. The three of us played Monopoly the other evening—fun! Here are two pictures from our weekend.

  

No progress yet on the replacing the tile in the kitchen, and we still don't have the use of our dining room, but I'm not sweating it for the moment. At least we got the kitchen fan working again—a repairman came out free of charge.


March 21

Slight progress on the kitchen: The manufacturer of the fan sent someone to repair it at no charge. Other things are still on hold. But we're really happy with the kitchen otherwise.

Took Max for an orthodontic consult this week. She said he is almost certain to need braces, but not yet. They want to see him again in the fall of 2012.

Also this week Max got a booster shot for tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. His arm was quite sore for two days afterwards, but otherwise no ill effects.

We were having beautiful spring weather, right up until it started snowing today. Drat!

Deer are still hanging out behind our house. Here a buck found a nice dry spot under our pine trees.


March 14

Just when things were looking close to done in the kitchen, things started to go wrong:

  • It turned out that the tile wasn't mounted right, so it has to be ripped out and done over. The company agreed to redo it if we choose another kind of tile, so it's back to the drawing board in that respect. L
  • The fan over the stovetop started malfunctioning. The controls aren't working right – for example we can't turn the lamps off without flipping the fuse downstairs.
  • The crane truck that showed up to lift the fridge/freezer unit onto our balcony was Sweden's longest truck, and it couldn't turn sharply enough to get up our driveway! So four brave hulks from the moving company carried it around the back of the house (which is very uneven terrain, comparable to a narrow and steep path in the woods) and in through the back door. But the fridge door was damaged and has to be replaced.

It's nice not to have to argue with suppliers about these things, but it takes time and effort to sort out these details.

For about a week I was getting really stressed about these things, but above all with the thought of living with the house in chaos until further notice. Half the flooring in the house was covered with cardboard and duct tape, there was construction grime and dust all over the place, the living room was unusable as a living room, and we couldn't find any of our kitchen stuff when we needed it. I started having trouble sleeping and was getting bad stomach pains—until in a frenzy one night I ripped out all the paper and cleaned up the worst of the grime. The next day I cleaned some more and got a lot of the kitchen stuff organized. Now I'm feeling (and sleeping) much better. We have to remedy the points I mentioned (among other things), but things are tolerably clean and organized in the meantime.

(The backsplash tile is lighter than it looks in this picture. The pictures below give a better idea of the color. We have to replace it, but we'll choose approximately the same color.)

The view from our kitchen door this evening:


Thursday, March 4


Wednesday, March 3: Getting close!

Yesterday I ordered this tile, which Bengt and Max and I all agreed on (more or less):

I really like the texture and shades, even though it's shades of black. It's going up on the backsplash tomorrow, if it arrives by noon.

Also, tomorrow the fridge-freezer unit is going to be lifted by crane up to our balcony and then carried into the kitchen.

Here are today's kitchen pictures:

Meantime, I broke the stopper on the bathroom sink, so it's difficult to wash dishes in there. Fortunately the plumber is due to show up tomorrow or Friday anyway (to install the garbage disposer, connect the new dishwasher, etc.), and he said he could fix that and replace the faucet while he's at it.

Woo-hoo!

Marlin is home, relatively comfortable, and back to emailing. J


Sunday, February 28

We're having a thaw. Sollentuna is an ocean of slush. And there's more to come: It's above freezing, yet it's snowing heavily at the moment. How can that be?

Our kitchen builder, Anders, is making excellent progress on our kitchen, as you can see by the picture below, taken after just 6 hours of work. (How the heck did he manage to put up that hanging cabinet by himself?) He says that it should be ready for us to move into next weekend, and I'm thrilled about that! Later today I'm going over to the tile place to pick up some sample sheets of mosaic tile. By tomorrow evening some cupboards will have doors and part of the countertop will be in place, so we can hold up the tile and make our choice.

We had our little friends here this weekend, and they were utterly dismayed with the kitchen and the chaotic living room. "This looks horrible! You have to get the old kitchen back!" one of them exclaimed. I just laughed. I don't think they understood that it is a work in progress.

Check out the monster level that's sitting on the counter toward the right. I don't think I've ever seen one so big.

Marlin is uncomfortable but making progress after his surgery. We think about him every day.


February 25: Dad's surgery, and kitchen delivered today

My dad had his gall bladder removed today, after he became acutely ill. Due to complications, the surgeon was not able to do the procedure laparoscopically, but Marlin seems to be ok and is resting at Bronson Hospital. We're all thinking of him and hoping for a speedy recovery!

Today our much longed-for kitchen was delivered. Three guys worked like mules carrying all the stuff up the outside stairs and then up to the kitchen. But the gigantic Festivo fridge/freezer unit was beyond their capacity. The transport company will have to send some meaty weightlifters to haul it up another day. It's locked up in the garage for now.

Today I also picked up our fan, which we ordered separately. The garbage disposer came about a week ago. Things are coming together! Assembly starts tomorrow. The room is prepped, and our beautiful oak floor is protected by sheets of masonite. Here's what the wall between the kitchen and dining room looks like now:

It's only half a wall, as you can see. There will be cupboards on this side of it, and a granite countertop on top.

Last weekend I was in Orsa (Orsa Grönklitt, a ski resort during the winter) on a company kick-off when Sweden was thrown into chaos by extremely cold temperatures and mountains of snow. In Orsa was it was -20° C (-4° F) and windy as heck, so add wind chill to that. (A few days later it got substantially colder here in Stockholm.) For the walk to the building where we had our meals, I had to bundle up in the warmest clothes I've ever owned AND wear ski goggles (others did, too). Even so, my cheeks and lips got badly chapped.

We were meant to enjoy plenty of skiing and skating after a day of PowerPoint presentations, but the cold and driving snow were too much for even avid skiers. Our boss called the bus company and arranged for us to be picked up early, and I heard no complaints. We were happy we weren't booked on a train, because many trains weren't running at all – and many still aren't. The tracks are caked with snow and ice, and the switches are frozen up. The military has been deployed (!) to dig them out. Many of my colleagues had no way to get to work on Monday. I drove, and that went ok even though it took a lot longer than normal. I was lucky to get the car started.

Here's a view from atop a hill where we were staying:

Looks cold, doesn't it?!

Oddly, Orsa Grönklitt also has its own zoo. I fell in love with the tigers. What extraordinary animals! I was fascinated by how similar their movements are to those of ordinary house cats. Watching them, it was easy to forget that they can be fierce and dangerous predators. At the same time, they're much bigger than I realized.

  

I didn't know tigers were ok with cold weather. Fortunately they also had an indoor habitat:

   


February 17: Laying the floor

The floor is going in. I think we chose the most beautiful floor available – solid oak planks of the highest quality. It's really gratifying to see it in place.

I'm going out of town tomorrow (with work). Back Sunday night. Bengt and Max will be fending for themselves. It'll be good for 'em. J


February 15: Kitchen project day 2

Woo-hoo, progress has been made! (Compare with the second picture under day 1.)


Sunday, February 14: Kitchen project day 1!

Our kitchen project started today. Bengt and Max and I emptied the kitchen:

We set up a temporary commando in the living room:

As my aunt Mary pointed out, we're committed now! J

We set up a drying rack for the dishes in the bathroom (yuck – I'll spare you that picture). Tomorrow morning some workers will come and start ripping out the rest, including the cork floor from the 70s. Boy will I be happy to see that go. Our new oak floor was delivered on Tuesday. I'm really excited.

I put ads on a website last night, and today people came and picked up one of our old fridge/freezer units (tomorrow we'll move the other into the living room until we get our new one), as well as our old stove, dishwasher, fan, and the black table and chairs (the black chairs you see above on the right). Most of that stuff was free to whomever wanted to come and get it. That felt a lot better than hauling working appliances to the dump.

Oh, and yesterday we went with friends to see Avatar in 3D. Max and I loved it. Bengt seemed a little iffy, but he enjoyed it. The 3D was so realistic that when a woman got up to go to the bathroom and walked in front of Bengt, for a moment he thought it was part of the movie! I kept my 3D glasses. J

Ok, and I have a confession to make: I got the car stuck backing out of the driveway this afternoon – for the second time in two weeks! I just get in a bit too much of a hurry, and my main priority is keeping my eye on Bengt's car so I don't hit it in the turnaround, which is slightly tricky since our driveway is curved. And then if I get just a little too far to the left, my own car catches on and gets mired in one of the huge piles of snow that line the driveway. DOH!

Bengt came out and we tried three times to dig around the car and drive it out, but it just kept getting stuck even worse. (Last time we were able to get it out.) Eventually the car was quite far off the driveway, tilting precariously with one wheel was off the ground. At that point we called the tow truck. Crap. That little mishap cost me $140 (it being Sunday night). But believe me, that's the last time I'll be in a hurry backing down the driveway.


January 30

Hi! Hope you are all having a good weekend. We've had tons of snow and are having a very cold weekend. I went skating today and my cheeks and throat got chapped. Plus my eyeballs felt like they were frozen (despite glasses -- didn't think I needed my ski goggles, but I was wrong). That was a weird feeling!

I also fell for the first time in years. Bonked my head and wrenched my back, but no big deal. The ice isn't smooth anymore because we haven't had a thaw in weeks. (An occasional brief thaw does wonders for the surface.)

Besides skating every weekend, I've been working out at the gym three times per week (yay for me!) and have a lot more energy. By now I'm addicted, and missing a workout is out of the question.

Max has been skiing a lot. This week he and his buddies went three times after school. He comes home at 8:30 p.m., then showers and hits the sack.

He has started getting zits. Uh-oh..... He just turned ten! Please tell me I'm going to have my (relatively) little boy for a few more years!

Max's most recent weird question: "Mom, why can't we see bee poop?"

Our kitchen order has been finalized and the workers are going to start ripping out the old kitchen in two or three weeks. I bought the oak flooring (planks) this week. Here are computer-generated images of what our new kitchen will supposedly look like:

Cool, huh? Of course it will be much messier when we get our hands on it. :-)

For comparison, here's what our kitchen looks like today:

What a difference!

The new backsplash hasn't been chosen yet. We're going to choose it after that part of the kitchen is done. I know exactly what I want, namely this indostone mosaic, which reminds me of Lake Michigan stones. I just hope I can convince Bengt.

Our new kitchen will have a garbage disposer (an Insinkerator), which is a Big Deal here in Sweden. They cost six times as much (I'm not exaggerating), and you have to get permission from your county to install one. :-/

On a happier note, as of January 1 Sweden's public pharmacy no longer has a monopoly. Now you can buy your aspirin and cough drops at select grocery stores and gas stations. And our own little local drugstore was one of the first in the country to be taken over by a (gasp) for-profit company!

Trivia of the week: Nexxus recently stopped making Therappe, the shampoo I've been using for about 20 years. I was bummed—until I went out and bought a bottle of the new version, Theratin. It's absolutely fabulous! It smells just as good (a mild smell that reminds me of coconut and almonds) and is even more luxurious. What a pleasant surprise!

I've been building Lego for the past three weeks. Max has lost interest in Lego, and it was just taking up space, so I decided to sell the stuff. (You get a good price for used Lego here.) But I have to build most of the items in order to make sure we have all the parts. It's kind of fun, actually! The whole living room and dining room are full of Lego. Today I built a jet plane and a very complicated remote-control gizmo.


Saturday, January 9: Time to get the skates out

It's still really cold here. The county was finally able to plow the skating circuit around the local lake yesterday! You know what I'll be doing this weekend....

Meanwhile, Max has two floorball practices and two matches. Plus he'll be sledding this afternoon and probably skiing tomorrow.

Here's a picture of Max from New Year's Eve. I guess he's worked off that marshmallow fluff by now.... (I don't see how he could eat that stuff straight out of the jar. Yuck!)


Wednesday, January 6: C-c-c-cold!

It's really cold here today—at the moment -20° C (-4° F). When Bengt drove to Max's floorball tournament this morning it was -27° (almost -17°). Our heat pump is barely working (a rare occurrence), so we've got the electric heating elements on.

I'm enjoying a morning of solitude at home—another rare event.

Yesterday I went to the gym for the first time. I didn't like the atmosphere there, but the exercise felt good.

Eileen to Max recently (tongue in cheek): "Max, you are perfect."

Max's response: "I know. I get that a lot."


Saturday, January 2, 2010: Happy New Year!

We're having beautiful winter weather. Here's what part of our house and yard looks like today:

Max has been skiing with friends for the past two days. No doubt they'll be out there tomorrow, as well—at least until it's time for floorball practice, which is starting back up tomorrow. They have a three-day tournament coming up.

We need to get into some better eating habits after the holidays. It's not going to be easy.

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