Thursday, 28 February 2008

Kieran turned three on Tuesday!

It was minus 10 degrees and the snow fell all day long. The winds were high and it was verging on blizzard conditions. It is quite different to three years later where the grass is green, the crocus are almost in bloom and every second day is sunny, albeit windy.

Kieran has turned three!

He no longer smiles sweetly for the camera but instead either refuses to look or pulls a silly face. On his birthday he was so excited about his new cars and tractor that they had to be in front of his face. He spent the morning, well, most of the day lying on the floor playing with them.

He hardly had any of his requested pancakes for breakfast but he did abandon his nappy and start wearing his "big boy pants" as we had decided (has since decided to refuse the bbp and go back to the nappy!).

At 2.30 he and I went and picked up one of his friends from daycare and her big sister.

M & K love playing with Leia and Nora and all Kieran talked about was having Nora come to his place on his birthday.

Their parents came and joined us for dinner and cake after work. He loved it when we all sang Happy Birthday to him in Swedish and English and sang along merrily with us.

It was a lovely day and the birthday boy was thrilled!

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Kieran's car cake

for those who wanted photos - just drag them to your desktop.
Looking back I'm pretty proud of this little number. Saying that - it wasn't difficult and its well worth giving it a go.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Lunch in the forest

We had a great day again today in the Bromma forest - Judarskogen.

We lit a fire in the fire pit and grilled sausages & bread. We drank coffee (well Sandee, Rob and I did), cordial (kids) and ate shortbread & fruit.

It was lovely to be out in the fresh air, to walk through the forest and sit by the fire. And it was great to watch the kids play.

We didn't walk around the lake today, instead M & K had a great time playing in the water, on the rocks and in the trees with their friends Leo and Josh. I can't believe we walked away with 4 dry children.

I can see us being regulars at Judarskogen - how come it took me so long to discover it??

Ice Skating with our neighbours

Got the kids back on skates on Sunday. It has been a while, for all of us.
You would hardly know M has skated as much as she has.

Thankfully Noa was there to silently challenge her. As she watched Noa get around, despite it being just her third time on ice, she pushed herself to follow.

They were initially using the little net stands to hang on to but soon let go of them. By the end of it she was zipping around - and loving it!

K was able to stand on his own and take a few steps. But we had eaten dinner together the night before and had a late night so tiredness made it tough for him. I'm sure he will be zipping around in no time - he is so much closer to the ground.

It was fun. I love skating and I will be thrilled when my kids can comfortable skate around on their own. It was a nice couple of hours.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Starta-eget grant granted!!

Got home this afternoon to a nice thick envelope from the unemployment office. Could be my approval I thought? I doubt it. I didn't anticipate it until next week.
Sure enough I opened it and found my plan for the next 6 months. At first I thought it was just another one of the plans that they send me on a regular basis but as I looked more closely at the plan for the next 6 months it said - start of own business. And another piece of paper stated that my application had in fact been approved.

I'm excited, relieved, nervous. And it is kind of an anti-climax too.....

The grant is the paid out monthly for 6 months and it starts on Monday! They told me to be prepared to start right away.

Now the serious stuff begins!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Mentors, Mentees and Networking

I went to my first Mentor/Mentee meeting last night. My mentor couldn't make it but I went a long anyway and my contact person from Nyföretagarcentrum was there. I've already mentioned what a great organisation they are and I will say it again.

The program is run by a division of Nyföretagarcentrum called Mentor Your Business and the program goes for the duration of the mentorship - one year. We started with individual presentations of the mentees which showed the variety of businesses that are in start-up phase, and the variety of people starting companies. Following that was a little bit of a "lecture" about business ideas or concepts and then group work to discuss what we want out of this program.

The common theme was seminars and workshops on the fundamental elements of running a business - designing a website, telephone contact, sales meetings, contracts, presentation technique and a few other things - including the opportunity to mingle, mingle, mingle. It is interesting to hear who the others are, and the what, where, why and how they are doing. Ideas are exchanged, tips are given and concepts are discussed.

I am involved in another group in town called Våga Språnget. It is exclusively for women starting up companies. We meet every 2-3 weeks on a Wednesday afternoon for a specialist-led workshop followed by a chance to mingle. It is anticipated that this will become an informal network that will continue to meet and exchange ideas, experiences and support. Again after listening to 16 other business concepts it is so interesting to see the variety and it doesn't take long before members of the group are discussing opportunities to collaborate.

Our first meeting on the 13th was an introduction, a chance to get to know each other and discuss our concerns or the challenges we face in our chosen venture. Next week we will have a marketing seminar, followed by seminars which will include budgeting, selling, financing our projects and balancing our professional and private lives. This takes us through to our final meeting in May where we will meet three women who have been through this process and successfully come out the other end. They will share their experiences with us.

I was selected to go in to both of these programs and while there may be some overlap it does seem like they will be run differently. In any case the people involved are all different which will greatly affect the outcome and I am so glad to have regular contact with others and avoid being a lone wolf.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

A shock and a tragedy

Got some news today that really sent me in to a spin - Peter Hagström is dead!! Cancer has yet another victim.....
He died in mid-January, the funeral was not that long ago. I feel shocked to say the least, depressed, sick in the stomach. Sad....

I first met Peter when he interviewed me for the position on the Australian New Zealand Friendship Society board - that was 8 years ago. Up until last spring we were both board members, and have both been members of the World Association. We have had many weekend long meetings, telephone conversations and much email contact over the years.

We did not always see eye to eye but we always managed to have an open conversation and despite our differences I found he was always a kind and caring person. Culturally we clashed every now and again - he could be gruff, short and abrupt - quite typical of Swedish men of his generation. And because I would take offence he was always very fast to say he didn't mean to offend and kind of apologise for his manner. A generous man.

Peter has been on my mind constantly since we came back from Canada - with me being away for so long he was forced to step in as President and take over my role. Of course it happened to be during a very turbulent year for the Friendship Societies as they went on to "divorce" MyPlanet after many years together. I felt bad about leaving this on Peter's plate as I knew he was reluctant - but I had to put myself and my own family first. Even in retrospect I know I could not have taken the role back on.

The year went on and I had very little contact with Peter, none towards the end of the year.
I was so upset to learn the news today and my heart goes out to Rosemary and the boys - Peter always spoke about them with much pride. I'm so sad I missed the funeral.

Sandee said today that when someone is in your mind a lot then it is time to get in contact - so true these words are. I vow never to hesitate again

The Friendship Society goes on, now under the name of The Curious Explorer. I will be in contact. I wish them well.

Life will go on for Peter's family too - despite their loss. But it is close to home and I know all too well how hard it is. It is a shock, a tragedy, a huge loss. I can't get my head around it.

R.I.P. Peter

Valentine's Day

A day for celebrating love? Not for me.
It is my birthday and this year it was my 39th.

It started by taking Mischa to the vet and dropping two very tired kids off at daycare. Ty had spontaneously decided to come with us (?) to help me with Mischa.

After dropping the kids off he kidnapped me and took me to pick up my present. We went to the bus depot south of town and picked up a big box???
I had to wait until we got home to open it, it was a lovely black Kitchen Aid mixmaster thingy. Gorgeous - been drooling over them for years, can't believe he bit the bullet and paid all that money for it - I never would have!

He went off to work and I had a lovely lunch with Kristi and Yvonne on Alviks strand. Great food, lousy service, gorgeous sunny day!

The rest of the day was pretty ordinary - picked up the kids, played in the park, came home and cooked dinner, went to bed. Same, same, but different.

Silly as it is I am excited about turning 40 next year - and have been for a long time. I have this idea in my head that life falls in to place around the age of 40 and I look around at those I know and it is true for most of them.

So now I only have 1 more year left to get my life sorted out.......
I'm well on my way.

Hipp hooray! Another year is here and life is getting better and better!
Cheers and Happy Birthday to me - here is to my 40th year!

Happy Birthday Daddy!

Good morning daddy! Happy Birthday! Two little munchkins were excited about bringing their daddy breakfast in bed, even if didn't seem all that willing to wake up.
He was still recovering from a late night at school
on Friday - no, not working, partying, and had a hard time waking Sunday morning.
After breaky and a slow start we finally got out the door about midday to go for a "stroll". We headed off to Judarskogen just the other side of Brommaplan and about a 60min walk away.
There is a track in the forest that goes around the lake and we dragged Ty around it kicking and screaming. K slept and M enjoyed being out in the forest. Ty was cold and wanted to know why he couldn't do what he wanted - it was his birthday after all and he should be at home on the couch in front of the tv. The forest is beautiful and I was totally enchanted by it the first few times I walked around this track.
On this gloomy Sunday it was cold and damp and not quite as enchanting......
But the lake was frozen and ice is always a good source of entertainment.
By the end of our walk M decided to walk through a muddy puddle, getting so stuck that she fell right over and soaked herself. Silly of me not to have put her rain pants on her - kids will be kids, but I can only say she was NOT very popular.

Tyler was heading home when I had to disclose the plan - we were to meet Roberth and Anna, Robin, Johanna and Lin at Tulpanens hus at 2.30 for coffee and cake. So much for the surprise! Our timing was good and thankfully Anna was able to drive me home to get clothes for M and the car.

We got back in time to enjoy our coffee and cake. It was a nice surprise for Ty and I was glad to be able to do something to mark his birthday.
Now all I have to do is organise the promised couple of nights away that were his birthday present........

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Table for two

Well, I tried...... I arranged with the neighbours that the kids would go over there tonight so I could take Ty out for his birthday.
I talked to a friend who gave me a restaurant recommendation (her husband knows the chef and it is newly opened) and I rang and booked a table.

Our neighbour had been away all week so we hadn't confirmed about tonight. I tried to ring this afternoon to make sure but they weren't home and her phone wasn't on. I left messages on each.

By 5 we saw that they were home but by 5.30 we still hadn't heard anything - what do you do - ring and say "but you promised to look after the kids". I left it and I reluctantly cancelled the booking. I waited as long as I could but it started to get too late for the kids to be going over there. It was ohhhh so disappointing. It has been so long since we had a night on our own and I wanted to make an effort for Ty's birthday.

So we took the kids and walked down to the local Thai place - a table for 4 please. Sure, choose any one you want - none of them are taken, let alone booked. The kids were ratty, the ambience non-existent and the food average, the evening was a short one. We walked home again with K protesting and M too tired to walk - at least we had the stroller with us.

I was so in the mood to head in to town, to walk around, maybe stop for a drink before dinner and sit quietly without supervising the minors - oh well, another time. And when our poor neighbours eventually hear the messages on their answering machines they are going to feel dreadful - but it just didn't seem quite right to hound them.

Another time....

Mischa & Sascha

At the moe I have 2 cats, although it has been a while. Sascha is here with us for a month while her family is away. I wasn't looking forward to it but it is nice to have her back, I just wish she wasn't so damn shy. The kids love the cats and want to get their hands on her - especially M, but Sasch is scared of anything that moves - except me.
I had a teary day at the vet last Monday and I take Mischa back again on Thursday - my birthday. The vet will sedate him and xray him to see if he has a tumor in his intestines. God forbid my birthday present is being told my old boy's days are numbered.
He has been throwing up, licking his fur off on his stomach and his stomach has been grumbling. He also stopped eating. Since being at the vet last week and discovering he had an incisor broken off at the gum (and infected gums) he has started eating again. He has also been on soft food so he has not had a grumbling tummy. We did discover vomit tho, this morning and again this afternoon. But since we have been home Sascha has chucked twice and stopped eating so I am beginning to wonder what is going on. Could he have a virus that he has passed on to her? I am going to de-worm him this weekend so we'll see what happens. My biggest concern is his weight - he is so thin.
Saying good-bye to Mischa, and to Sascha is going to be a really hard thing for me. I decided just after I moved back to Sweden in 1995 to get a cat - ok, so I convinced TW that we should have one and the cat-home refused to separate these two, so two it was. I have had a cat all my life except for my 4 years at uni and the year I was here in '91.
A home with an animal in it is a much calmer home. So to say good-bye to these cats will be an end of an era for me - they are as old as my life in Sweden, and it marks the end of what brought me here in the beginning............
Not to mention that I will miss my babies dearly.......

But no point in having them dead and buried yet. I will take Misch to the vet on the 14th and if they xray and he is ok they they will take out the tooth that broke off. And we'll take it from there. But as T says, I have to face it, they are getting on in age......

Friday, 8 February 2008

Mr K's birthday

It is Mr K's birthday on Sunday - he is going to be 36 which seems so weird - he is almost in the category of late 30s and that is my age - not his!! I wanted to make it special this year as he spent last year in the hospital with Paul, his father. And the kids and I weren't with him, we were in Oz. And if I remember rightly we even argued on the phone that night so one of us hung up on the other, can't remember which. I know Miriam and Mark took him out for dinner but he spent most of the day at his dad's bedside.

I've arranged for us to go out on Saturday night - the kids are going over to the neighbours place for dinner and to stay there but not sleep over. We have been there about 3-4 times, they have been here about 3 times and they are in the next building. She is French-speaking Canadian and he is a Swede but she speaks English with my two. Their kids are the same ages and they love to play together, although it is my girl and their boy who are fondest of each other. Still, my two are not at all enthusiastic about being there on their own so I am not sure how things will go. But the mum is fantastic with kids so hopefully my two will warm to the idea.

We are going to a restaurant on Söder that friends recommended, a strange name, an Aussie vineyard and my friends know the chef there. It will be nice to get out on our own, go to the "Bohemian" part of town and wander around for a while.

I am organising for us to go to a cafe on Sunday but I am yet to fully execute the plan. I need to ring and book and see if it is possible to organise a cake. I've spoken to Robert but didn't hear back from Robin. Sandy will come and ahhhh I'll see what I can pull together in the morning. The plan is to go to Tulpanenshus but I'll have to ring in the morning.

So, what about a present? Yes well he is impossible to buy for at the best of times and for the longest time I have been planning to take him away for a few days while AW is here. That way she can have all 3 kids.

Originally I wanted to do something we normally cannot do - like fly out of the country for a long weekend, but money and time (my darling AW is only here for 3 weeks) put a limit on things. So I need to make a phone call and book a night away somewhere - just need to get off my butt and on the phone before Sunday - I have a place in mind.

And then there are the kids -shouldn't kids buy their father a birthday present? I walked around a couple of shops today and I couldn't think of a damn thing - and I hate to buy presents for the sake of it. So I was going to get them to do a drawing - but didn't manage that today either. I'm starting to feel like a failure - good intentions but nothing eventuating from it.

Yesterday was his dad's birthday - he would have been a mere 63. I would think it was a tough day for him and I wanted to note it in some way. The kids and I were going to bake a birthday cake but we ended up making waffles - one of Paul's favorites. I wanted to celebrate because I handed in my application and opened a bottle of sparkling red - but he was so caught up in his costume he was going to wear tonight and he ended up leaving after the kids went to bed. He went to a friend's place to swap costume parts, of course it was late when he got back.

Lots on my mind

I'm at home again on my own, second night in a row and there is so much going on in my head.

It is a strange decision to blog but on a night like tonight it feels just right. Can't imagine who might read it or how long I will do it, but tonight I am and I'll leave it at that for now. I have been reading a lot about blogs this week and reading other peoples' and as I said, on a lonely night like tonight it feels just right.

I went to a meeting today, or a seminar I should say - on marketing. Nothing I didn't already know seeing I have studied it at university but always good to have knowledge updated and to apply it from a different perspective - the perspective of my own business.

It was an interesting enough seminar, thought to myself more than once that I could be the one giving it but anyway I enjoyed listening and applying it. What was really interesting was the people I met there - a photographer, another Aussie starting an on-line music store, a German coach/consultant and a Polish consultant helping Polish people succeed in various ways.

As usual my mind reels and all sorts of thoughts come to me. I went to a meeting yesterday about the latest EU money and I am still buzzing from the potential. The worst thing is to have all this energy surging through my veins and wonder if it will ever go anywhere - yet today showed me that it is very possible that is will.

The focus for the EU grants in this first period is to help those new to Stockholm get out in the workforce. As I sat and listened yesterday the ideas popped up like corn in a hot pan. All I needed was to work out who I could work with to get a project up and running. Today I found some of these people - imagine seminars and workshops on Swedish companies, Swedish business culture, CV writing workshops, job interview workshops, personal coaching opportunities, start your own business workshops and seminars - all in a variety of languages. It is both so exciting and so scary that it almost paralyzes me - luckily I have learn to combat that reaction by involving other people so I have no choice - they do not allow me to stay in a paralyzed state - one foot in front of the other. I think that will become my motto from now on.

It is kind of overwhelming to - could it really be possible? It is something I have dreamed about for years - 10 years in fact - could it really be possible?? I can't wait to email the people I met today - harnessing other people's energy is my only hope of harnessing my own. The Polish woman was very positive!!!!

I love Nyföretagarecentrum - they are such a fantastic resource!! Today is one of the many examples. It is a country-wide organisation set up to help people start and get established in their own business.

I have another meeting on Monday morning with a company called Evertiq - they have the same kind of concept - providing information free of charge and using advertising to sponsor the website. My contact person at Nyföretagarecentrum gave me the owner's name and I emailed him and asked if he had time to meet with me -and he has obliged me! I felt embarrassed sending this email away to him but you can only ask huh? Everyone says it is all about contacts - especially in this city so I am going out on a limb and using them. They have obviously been very successful so it will be interesting to see if he has any tips or advice for me. I'll have to study the website before I go.

Wow!! I am almost a business person - just need to wait and see what they say about my application..........

Yesterday was a big day

I did it - I finally did it -I handed in an application yesterday for a grant to start my own business - a-kassa for 6 months.

It felt like such a big thing to do and such a anti-climax when I had done it. I wanted to do it this week (have been trying to get this far for months) and as I got to this week I decided I wanted to hand it in today - it would have been Paul, my FIL's 63rd birthday and I'm hoping for some good karma.

After I handed it it I rang my contact person who finally answered his phone and told him I had left it for him. He went and got it and said he would look through it straight away and let me know when he had passed it on to Arbetsförmedlingen Expo who get a consultant to assess it. I got off the phone and felt like bursting in to tears.

The idea first came to me two years ago and while a friend Hester and I started writing a book I have turned it in to a business concept. I believe in it more than anything I have ever believed in in all my life, although it is very, very scary to follow it through.

It is amazing how much goes in to it - a personal statement with the business idea, the reason I want to start a company, a 10 page business plan and 7 appendixes with a pricing structure, budgets, and examples of the need. 25 pages all in all. I even added something to the business plan this afternoon before taking it in - and the plan has been ready for the longest time. Translating it to Swedish was tricky - I can't believe I did that myself!! I never manage to translate to Swedish - but I have spoken so much about it in Swedish that it wasn't that hard and a couple of friends edited it for me.

Last night I felt grumpy, relieved and emotional. And tired. I have worked hard and have spent most days at the library in Odenplan these last few weeks - amazing how much more work I get done there. I am very pleased with myself and now I'm scared. Suddenly it is in someone else's hands. I need this grant to take the financial pressure off that has been there for such a long time.

It is all very exciting, but scary too - one foot in front of the other, that is what I keep telling myself.

Thanks for listening (ok reading).

Keep your fingers crossed for me and I'll tell you more in time to come.