Saturday, June 30, 2007

It is completed...

Our house that is... At least when it comes to furniture. We received the missing piece of the puzzle today: Dining room furniture. It is sooooooo nice! I feel like an adult now. I think I kind of feel like God did on the 6th day of creation when he saw that it was good (once again).

Here is the picture from the catalog (except we got a glass china cabinet on top of a credenza):

It's kind of squeezed into our little dining room, but still awesome! Now we just need to go get a tablecloth that will cover this thing. Should be fun.

So what's next on the home improvement front?

Oh, there's always closets to organize. That's the plan for 4th of July. We are such fun people.

Now it's time to rest, because it's about to be the 7th day.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Travel Day

Flight is 2 hours delayed. Reach Atlanta around 1 AM local time. Reach my hotel around 2 AM local time.

"Anna Green? She's booked for tomorrow night."

What the &$*%?

I storm out. It's not really the guy's fault, but he wasn't very sympathetic either... Try the hotel across the street. Nope, they are full too. But at least willing to help me find an alternative. Country Inn and Suites. OK. Sounds good.

285 North -> 75 North -> Exit 260.

Behind the McDonald's, they said. It looks really shady. At this point, I don't really care. The place is under construction. There is a big leak in the ceiling with a trashcan catching the water. The attendant is hunched over a makeshift desk with a credit card machine and a computer. Two rough-looking guys are in front of me. They're not happy. The credit card machine is not working.

Finally, it's my turn. "What hotel is this?" I ask. "Windy Hills Suites," is the response. Thank God! I'm at the wrong hotel. I get in my car and drive around the block until I find the entrance to the correct hotel. It is big and shiny. It has a security guard. It has wireless. It has available rooms!!!

It's 3:10 AM. I'm happy.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


More people have joined LinkedIn than live in Sweden.

Yep, at least according to the little blurb at the bottom of one of the LinkedIn invitations I received over the weekend.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

The wedding of the decade (thus far)

The big day started at 6:45 AM with a quick run in the woods. We figured we would be eating a lot of junk that day, so we needed to burn at least some calories. Once back at the house, I declared that I was available to perform required manual labor until 10:30 AM at which time I needed to jump in the shower in order to be ready for departure to the church at 12:30 PM. The offer was much appreciated by my frantic mother who had an appointment with her hair dresser at 9:30 AM.

First task: Pick up frozen bread, high chairs, and microphone stands at Södertälje Baptist Kyrka in the closest “big” city of Södertälje. I decided to drag my brother Tobias along for fun (and because he had escaped much of the wedding prep by conveniently leaving town). We managed to navigate to the church, unlock (very tricky), and find all the items. It felt like a very bizarre scavenger hunt.

Second task: Haul drinks and other food/cakes/stuff to the reception hall and also check on my sister Miriam who was already there decorating with wild flowers that some of the girls had picked the previous day. Miriam was still working on the flowers when we arrived, so we helped her by cleaning up the mess in the kitchen (flowers and water everywhere!).

Third task: Once we were done with the flowers, it was time to put all the roast beef (not sure how many kilos, but a lot!) on serving platters. We worked out a pretty good system where the guys (Todd and Tobias) were in charge of opening the vacuum-packed meat and wrapping completed platters in plastic foil while Miriam and I were in charge of artistically placing the meat on the platters. It was a bloody and time-consuming activity. At one point Todd mentioned that we had reached the 10:30 AM cutoff, but I was determined to complete the task. And we did!

I’m pretty sure I didn’t make it into the shower until after 11:30 AM. It was a very quick one, because I had to dry my hair and then walk over to the location where my sister was getting ready to use a flat iron (yes, I had left mine at home). I made it over there only to realize that it takes Swedish flat irons a LONG time to warm up and – well, it never did get warm enough to straighten my hair. Oh well. I did get some snaps of the bride makeup session, so it was worth the trip.

Getting ready...

At the same time, my mom had returned from her hair appointment and learned from her hair dresser that Red Bull will give you energy. Thus, she stopped by the local grocery store and picked up a four-pack. My mom has an amazing amount of energy without stimulants other than coffee, so the added dose sure made her a close runner-up to the Energizer Bunny. Whew!

I managed to gather all of our stuff (bouquets, wreathes, dresses, brush, extra shoes, party purse, etc, etc) and get off to the church only 10 minutes late. The old Lutheran church was beautifully situated by a lake in the small village of Hölö.

We met the other little members of the bridal party there and practiced walking down the aisle a couple of times (no formal rehearsal here!). Once the children were all settled, I slipped into my new silk dress, strapped on my new shoes, and put on my new jewelry. Aaaaaahhhhhhh – now we just had to wait for the bride and groom to show up.

Waiting for the bride and groom.

After a while, the host and hostess nervously asked me: “Have you heard from them?” “Nope,” I replied. “This wedding couple will definitely be late,” I added with a smile. I told the priest the same thing. Who cares? People are having fun chatting and waiting with anticipation.

Then finally: “Here they are!” OK, get the kids ready. “You are so amazingly beautiful!” my sis-in-law Emily squealed with delight when she saw the bride. And she was striking indeed. Probably taller than 6 feet in her golden high-heeled sandals, decked in a cream-colored tango-style dress, and with peacock feathers in her hair and bouquet, she gracefully strode into the church with her long-haired hippie husband-to-be by her side.

Singing a hymn.

The wedding service was very long and very musical in traditional Åhlén fashion. Some of the members of the wedding party were fairly fidgety (I won’t name any names), but Rebecka handled everything very well, especially guiding the little ones back out of the church when it was all over. A fun little detail is that the priest actually used my first name rather than my sister’s in the ceremony. Fortunately, we both go by our second names. Nobody knows where that came from or had the heart to tell the sweet priest that he royally messed up.

The organ is too loud!

After the service, the wedding party gathered in a small room at the back of the church to regroup and get ready to face the crowd outside the church. We hugged and took pictures and breathed big sighs of relief. Fredrik just stared at his new wife in awe:

After the wedding ceremony, we tried to take as many pictures as possible knowing that we would not all be dressed up like this in the same place at the same time for years to come.

Bride, bride's maids, and mothers.

This could've been our 2007 Christmas card if Sophie had been present.

The wedding reception was a blast! I was immediately placed in charged of serving punch. People came back for seconds and thirds until we simply ran out of juice concentrate. Then we moved to an ad hoc concoction of soda, ice cream, and frozen raspberries. Somehow it worked!

The friends and family concert was awesome. As one of my uncles exclaimed: "This is better entertainment than on TV!"

Punch, food, friends, family, laughter, concert, coffee, speech, cake, dancing, heat, fresh air, and many, many hours later we finally drove home around 1 AM in the morning. We had danced our hearts (and legs) out to the music from my cousin’s record collection. It sure is cool to have a DJ in the family. I’m feeling that he is very much underutilized.

When we came back the next morning to clean up the reception hall and kitchen (oh yes, it was not over yet), we met some of the guests that had spent the night there. They reinforced the feeling that we all had that this really was the wedding of the decade – or as one girl said: “This is the best wedding I’ve ever been to – ever”. Let’s see what Apple D and his bride-to-be can come up with this fall… ;)

The partying didn't end just because the wedding was over. In the afternoon, we all gathered in the backyard for more food and fun and pictures to watch the newly weds open their presents and also take a few more family pictures. In the chaos of the "after church" time, we had managed not to capture everybody in one picture. Thus, we managed to organize a not-so-well-dressed family picture time with a camera on a tripod. Here is one of them:

Bye for now friends. More Sweden to come, but now I have to go to Target and buy luggage tags.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

wedding prep II

Once the fun of the möhippa (see previous post) was over, it was time to get back to the extensive wedding preparations. Our family was in charge of the wedding party and preparing ALL the food for it. The wedding dinner was to be served buffet style with cold cuts (ham and roast beef) along with two types of potato salad, green salad, two types of salad dressing, home-made dinner rolls, and a variety of cheeses. This would be followed by coffee, chocolate chip cookies, and dinner mints. Later in the evening, we would serve the wedding cake (and backup cakes) along with my dad's famous cinnamon rolls ("bullar"), more cookies, and of course more coffee and drinks. My parents had been baking and cooking for weeks, but there were still many outstanding items as some foods could not be prepared in advance.

So, my dad printed out a large, blank calendar for the week and my mom filled in all the tasks that needed to be accomplished in order for us to meet our deadline (who needs Microsoft Project?). Owners were assigned to the tasks as appropriate.

Rebecka helped with cookie baking and "Fortune Flower" creation. Priscilla had decided that she wanted all of the guests to leave with a little personal something. Hence, the "Fortune Flower" idea was born. We would create flowers out of tissue paper and glue a little motivational message into each one. To make things even more interesting, we would let Rebecka come up with the messages. Here are some samples:

- May the Force be with you
- You're beautiful, that's for sure
- You are a truly good person
- You are wise as an owl
- Du är söt som en gris (You are cute as a pig - inside joke)
- You are the winner! You may kiss the bride (only one of these)

This is what the dining room table looked like for several days.

I was in charge of the following: Help with massive grocery shopping, make 80 servings of French potato salad (included boiling and peeling the potatoes), mix small apple pieces into store-bought potato salad, make salad dressing, bake and frost three cakes that we had brought with us from the US, pick-up frozen bread and high chairs from my parents' church (we had frozen food in four or five different locations), etc, etc, etc... I was on my feet so much those days that working out became almost obsolete. However, somehow we (Todd and I) managed to keep that up even on the day of the wedding, when we left the house while everybody was still sleeping so that we would not get assigned any tasks that would prevent us from our run in the woods.

One of my creations...

Todd got stuck with lots of "man tasks" like hauling stuff, cutting down "björkar" (birch trees) to decorate the church and reception hall, hauling more stuff, grocery runs, hauling even more stuff (you get the picture).

Cutting down trees is fun!

On the eve of the wedding, all the girls decided to take a time-out and create our own spa to beautify ourselves before the big day. We gave our very tired feet a good soaking and then proceeded to the feet filing step. Ahhhhh - it felt so good! We painted our nails and relaxed out on the patio. I made some punch to demonstrate the superiority of the US ice cream punch and get approval to serve it at the reception. Everybody approved (as did the wedding guests the following day - we actually ran out!).

Champagne was the color of choice for the members of the wedding party. I chose wine red and my sister Miriam ended up with turquoise after a slight misunderstanding involving a turquoise iPod.

Priscilla, Rebecka, and some of our guests also spent some time in the steamy sauna before turning in for the night. I don't do saunas because...

a) Breathing in makes my nose hurt.
b) I once burned by arm badly on a sauna heater.
c) It's too hot!

Anyway, after the spa experience, we all crashed fairly early to get ready for the wedding of the decade...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


A fun wedding tradition here in Sweden is the möhippa (bachelorette party). Typcially, all kinds of crazy things happen to the bride-to-be like having to play "The Star-Spangled Banner" on violin at a rock concert in front of hundreds of people or go into a club and dance with strange men and get their autographs in your forehead (yep - those are highlights from mine 12+ years ago).

Anyway, for my sister, Priscilla, we decided that since she is slightly stressed about the whole wedding thing and also quite exhausted from having worked 4 or 5 jobs all year we would just take her out for a nice dinner and throw in a couple of fun elements. My sister-in-law, Emily, organized everything and asked everybody to pick a color and dress accordingly and wear matching jewelry in the "Spirit of Scilla." I was put in charge of getting the unsuspecting Priscilla into Stockholm by train where the gang would greet us at the station. So, I decided that we would go for a "Sister/Niece Outing."

Rebecka with two of her favorite people.

When we walked out the station doors, we were greeted by a palette of friends who rushed over to adorn Scilla with a plethora of gold accessories:

Like Fredrick (husband-to-be) said when he saw her later in the evening: "You look like a Christmas Tree."

After initial greetings and hugs and wows, we walked as a group over to a fine Indian restaurant to have our dinner. It was a lovely evening with good food (and I didn't even pick the place!), laughter, wine, helpful hints and tips on a successful marriage, stories about Fredrick, and great catching up with friends and relatives. Rebecka captured some interesting images from the evening as follows:

It was a colorful evening to remember.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

wedding prep

I just finished wiping down all of my parents' outdoor furniture. They have a lot!!! Feels good to do some manual labor tho. Especially after a nice long workout. We ran in the woods. There is nothing like running in the Swedish woods... The smell, the scenery. It's like being in a fairytale. A running fairytale.

I had some bizarre dreams last night. One was about a colony where they had all sorts of weird food rations and restrictions. It may be based on the fact that certain food items in the house are not to be touched because they are for the wedding. Especially a lot of the baked goods. My mom is working so hard! Last night she and my dad left around 22:15 to put newly baked break in the freezer at the church. Crazy people.

Btw, the bathroom downstairs (the one that we use when we are here) has a heated floor. It is so cool!!! If I ever build a house, the bathroom will have heated floors. Except, how could I ever find the time to build a house!?!? It seems utterly time consuming. No thanks...

My mom has a day by day wedding calendar on the fridge with all the things that have to be accomplished each day in order for us to have a wedding on Saturday. Hmmm, I wonder where I get my great organizational skills? At least we can strike the furniture cleaning off today's list.

More later. Got to shower.