Sweden

For the Love of Ikea

I miss Sweden. I’ll be the first to admit it. The little things, the food, and I only lived in the country for 2 years!

Well, I know Ikea has some awesome Swedish things. But I am not a fan of Ikea. I don’t like the maze they make you walk through, and how you want to go shopping for 2 items but you end up spending 3 hours there. Not cool! Last time I was in Ikea (and I’ve never been to one in Sweden mind you), I even got lost in the parking lot!

Ikea Phoenix

Then came the need to buy some furniture, and Ikea definitely had the cheapest. So I decided to bite the bullet and go into the store. I started thinking to myself how awful this was going to be. Then I realized that did not have to be the case.

Ikea Buys

I decided right then and there to play a game. How quickly could I get in and out of Ikea and purchase the 3 items I needed: two side tables, and a lamp.

I got out of my car at 8pm. Time to play!

Luckily, there was a map, and the people at this Ikea in Arizona were super helpful, directing me where I needed to go to get my items. I was quickly able to pick up my items and check out.

While I have never been at an Ikea in Sweden, it still reminded me of Sweden. The furniture reminded me of all my friends’ homes, and the blue and yellow reminded me of the proud Swedish flags that were readily visible in Sweden. I wanted to say “Tack” so many times and start speaking Swedish!

Instead, I stuck to “Hej!” since it is pretty close to “Hey!” and Americans don’t know the difference :)

I was on a major roll with my timing, but I couldn’t skip the Swedish food section at the end. Oh my, the beautiful items! So many Swedish treats, from cakes to sylt to cheese! Vasterbotten ost to be exact!

I was in heaven. But I was also playing a game. So I got the essentials. Cheese and lingonberry sylt. And I left.

Time? 8:22pm. Yep, in and out in 22 minutes, plus I went food shopping.

I rule. So does Ikea.


My Swede Earth Last Call

swedeearth-logo-longEarth Day is next Monday! Wow, that went so quickly! I’m still looking for folks to help us inspire people to love the earth through Sweden.

The event is simple. Invite friends and family to a pot luck in your home, at a local community house, or in a park (I’m doing mine at a park), eat some Swedish food, talk about the awesomeness of Sweden, and what small changes people can make in their life to be a little more green.

Sweden inspired me deeply to take care more of the earth, to be more natural. To not waste water, food, or waste. We recycled almost everything. Including our organic waste. That made fuel for the garbage trucks! And got me completely hooked.

If Sweden can do it, then anybody can do it!

So I invite you to join me in a My Swede Earth party. Record some video with your smart phone and share what you and your Swedish Freaks are up to.

Will you be joining me?


The Swedish Climate

Between the Powers of East and West

The narrow timber road is covered with ice in Sweden

In the middle of April 2013 in Sweden, the narrow timber road is still covered with ice.

By the middle of April, spring has usually arrived in the southern half of Sweden, garnishing roadsides with yellow sun-like flowers of tussilago (coltsfoot, Tussilago Farfara), filling meadows and clearings with vitsippor (wood anemones, Anemone Nemorosa), and spotlike occurences of the increasingly rare blåsippor (blue anemones, Anemone Hepatica).

Not so this year. Despite my ardent searching along the roads, there’s no flowers in sight. The dirt roads and trails I use to walk with my dog are largely covered with ice, and makes walking quite unsafe. Nights have been cold and the ground is frozen, even if the sun has managed to melt the snow in most open places.

Sweden, and Scandinavia as a whole, is trapped between the climatical powers of east and west: high pressure anticyclones from Siberia and the Russian plains on one side, and an everlasting string of low pressure rainstorms from the North Atlantic Sea on the other side. This creates the typical Swedish weather, which simply can be characterized as “unpredictable”.

The western influence usually dominates and gives an “English” weather: the cyclones seem to be threaded on the west wind like a string of pearls, with a few sunny days in between. In the summertime, that’s quite nice: the rain keeps the greenery lush between the warm sunny days. And in spring, it melts the ice and brings out the flowers. But I could do without the winter’s arctic snowstorms from Greenland.

This year, the early spring has been dominated by a strong Siberian high pressure system, an anticyclone. The sky is clear and the nights are freezing cold. The days are bright and sunny, but the sun hasn’t been able to soften the icy ground, even if you can feel comfortable in shorts at noon if you are sitting near a wall or slope facing south! If a Russian high pressure should park over Scandinavia in summertime, as it sometimes does, it brings hot and dry air from the Russian steppe in a brutal heat wave. But if it comes in wintertime, it brings bitter Siberian cold, sometimes down to -30° C, even -40° C.

Occasionally, a weather system can approach from the Mediterranean Sea via Italy, France and Germany… and that can be just like anything.

Guess what is the most common topic of conversation in Sweden, Norway and Finland? Yes, you’re right. It’s the weather.


Being Unreasonable: No Dryer for a Week

drying clothesA dryer is something that I grew up with in California, and I didn’t ever imagine that one could go without it. How else would you dry your clothes?

Well in Europe, and in Sweden, drying clothes one doesn’t necessarily use a drier. Usually you hang them to dry outside when the weather is nice, or in your apartment when the weather is bad.

Our apartment complex in Sweden had drying rooms. We would hang our clothes to dry, and turn on these big machines to keep the air flowing in the room and causing the clothes to dry quicker in the winter months. In the summer we would put our clothes out to dry in the yard of the apartment complex, where there was a spot for drying clothes.

Now that I live in a desert (Phoenix), I find myself not using a dryer at all. I mean, I am living in a desert! And it is surprising how quickly the clothes do dry on their own!

Living in the US, I realize there are a lot of people who just never thought to try to dry their clothes outside! So this is my challenge to you. Save some electricity. Save some fossil fuels it takes to make that electricity. And dry your clothes naturally for a week.

If you have below freezing weather, dry them inside.

If you have wet weather, dry them inside.

If you want softer clothes, get liquid fabric softener and put it in when you wash your clothes.

Not only will you save energy, but your clothing will also last a lot longer not getting beat up in the dryer!

And if you haven’t seen it yet, watch Alessio play basketball with Swedish recycling!