Friday, 30 May 2008

Cafe with a view

Just got back from working at Rob & Sandee's cafe for the morning. They had an Italian buffet to prepare for a catering order so it was an early start for Robert & I - he was already there when I arrived at 7am.

We made pasta salad, lay out prosciutto, salami, and other Italian delights like artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, grilled peppers, olives etc on platters as well as tomato and mozzarella salad, oven-baked chicken and fresh bread.

It was fun to be in a big kitchen again, it brought back memories of mum working at The Windsor Reception Centre when we were kids, and Robert on the phone with suppliers reminded me of my dad in the days when we had our business. It also brought back much more recent memories of working in Akvavit in Melbourne - a mere 15 years ago..........

Standing chopping tomatoes and mozzarella while looking across the water at Stockholm on the other side of the bridge, or at the birds, the joggers and the dogs all enjoying this lush green oasis in the middle of one of Europe's most beautiful cities. is not a bad way to start the day.

I left them busy preparing for the daily cafe business- sandwiches, salads, quiche, pasta, coffee, tea, buns and cakes.

Now I'm off to Sollentuna, we'll see how long that takes with the Irak conference and Condoleeza Rice in town.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Half-time report

Back in February I received the much speculated on "starta-eget" grant, or business-start grant which is a monthly payment for 6 months. The initial application was assessed first by the unemployment office as they facilitate the grant, and then by an independant consultant. After three months a follow-up assessment in carried out.

I had my follow-up meeting on Tuesday with the consultant who writes a short report and gives a recommendation on whether or they should continue to pay my grant for the next three months.

The meeting went fine and the rapport with the consultant was very positive, to the extent that he again mentioned the possibility of co-operation in the future. His organisation, called Network Danderyd helps Swedes who have been abroad for a number of years get back in to the job market here. We discussed the difficulty of getting work without contacts and how hard it is for these people to break in. We also talked about the number of business networks around, and how much easier it is as a business owner to get out and get your name out there, but as a potential employee there are few opportunities.

So perhaps the trick is, if you are looking for work, to start a business as a consultant, get out and network, market yourself and see if any work comes out of it - employment or otherwise. You might actually decide you'd rather run your show anyway!

Champagne Breakfast on a Monday morning

It is not every Monday morning that someone hands you a glass of real champagne and a trendy little shrimp sandwich - but hey, who am I to complain - let alone refuse??

I went to a breakfast meeting with Vanessa, one of my Våga Språnget colleagues, held by Connect in their courtyard in Östermalm. Connect is yet another of the many business organisations whose goal is to encourage entrepreneurial development through information, networking, coaching, training, financing and lobbying. While they have a membership base they also have a number of meetings open to the public.

Monday morning's meeting was about employment in the future and the difference between "us" and the young ones of today, the ones we will employ in the future. It was an interesting meeting, where values and expectational differences were exposed and one which made me feel I am heading in the right direction. It was sponsored by Starnox, a company matching internships with students.

On Tuesday morning Vanessa and I headed back to another Connect breakfast, this time held at Stockholm's prestigious School of Economics and one that was a little more up our alley. While the breakfast of juice and a sandwich was not quite as attractive the subject material - Sell, Sell, Sell definitely was.

This time there were three very different speakers, each with a very different background and variation in their message to an audience of entrepreneurs, all keen to learn from their experience. The speakers were Robert Szabo from Matrisen, Peter Bruzelius from Säljkompetens, and finally Mats Mårtensson and Martin Sahlberg from Keyman. While there was great variation in their messages there was a lot to be gained from listening to them. They were interesting and thought provoking.

As with all these events there is a chance to mingle, find out who is around and what they are doing, and exchange business cards - because you just never know....
Connect is an interesting organisation and I shall keep my eye on what they have to offer.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Mother's Day in Sweden

Needless to say I was allowed to sleep in before being served breakfast in bed on a lovely tray with a vase of fresh flowers and the newspaper, followed by two delightful children and their father who come in to tell me how much they love me.

Yeah right!! Fat chance.
I won't bore you with the details of my reality....

But we did get up and get our bikes sorted out for our premiere bike ride. Ty had Kieran on the seat on the back of his bike and I had Makaila in the bike trailer, or the Chariot.

We headed up and over the killer Traneberg bridge to Robert & Sandee's cafe in the old house run by the kayaking association - also known as Kafe Kajak. The kids loved the bike ride and with legs like jelly and flushed cheeks (me at least) we met Yvonne and Yvette and enjoyed a Mother's Day lunch.

It was a little cool when the sun dipped behind the clouds but the view is magnificent and the food is pretty damn good too!

Sandee and Robert are really trying to make it a cafe with a difference, give it both a wholesome and an international feel and have succeeded in providing a completely organic menu.

Robert was working but Sandee was at home enjoying the weekend with the boys.
After lunch we wandered around the shoreline, fed some bread to the ducks and the kids stripped off their shoes, socks and pants and played on the little beach in the water.

As always we dragged them away kicking and screaming, not wanting to go home....

Saturday, 24 May 2008

A badger wandered on by

We have seen plenty of deer, owls and lots of squirrels.
Now we can add a badger to the list.
I went out on the balcony this evening and heard a rustling in the bushes, looked down and there it was, scurrying up the embankment, along our "backyard" and off to the next patch of forest

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Våga Språnget

Today was the grand finalé of our Våga Språnget program - a program where 17 women were selected to meet every two to three weeks to participate in a seminar and together form a network.
The seminars have included marketing, finance, internet marketing, daily book-keeping, sales and incorporating the running of a business into the rest of life and have been held by a series of guests with Monica B-W from Nyföretagarcentrum holdng the reins.

Our group f 17 women is incredibly varied with a webshop for fashion, a webshop for design, a couple of different body therapists, a guide, a coach, an inventor, an importer, an artist, a HR specialist, a musician and a new fruit concept - just to name a few. We haven't had much time during the program to really talk at any depth, it has just been a case of updating each other with snippets of information in the little time left over on a Wednesday afternoon.

Our grand finalé was indeed that, we had four guests come in and talk about their work. They inspired us, the gave us tips, information and advice, and in many ways were the most interesting speakers we had listened to.

Then with just one hour left in the program a magnum of sparkly stuff was opened and we drank to the success of our business ventures and to our very own network. To sum up our experiences from this program we each chose one of Monica's discussion cards that best described our feelings. These beautiful cards matched the emotion in the room and as we went around the group words like inspiration, energy, excitment, hope, optimism and togetherness all melted together to describe Våga Språnget and Monica B-W's involvement.

I took a lovely picture of an apple tree - because this group is rich in many ways and is the fruit born by the success of Våga Språnget. And because together, as a network and a support group we will bear much fruit in the future!

The best of luck to my fellow Våga Språnget colleagues and I look forward to our Wednesday lunches and hearing how things are progressing!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Networking, networking, networking

Today has been a big networking day - hours of it.....

I went to another BNI meeting today, the first time it was a breakfast, this time it was a members-drive luncheon. Same place, same concept, same procedure - this time there were a lot more people there, about 15 members and probably about 40 guests.

Again it was interesting and we all had 30 seconds to present ourselves and our business, plus there was a chance both before and afterwards to mingle. All of my business cards disappeared from the business card box that is passed around after the presentations....

Then I picked up the kids, came home and hung out with them for a short while before making dinner and heading out the door again.

This time it was off to a Handelskammaren mingle - also known as the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce. The purpose was to welcome in potential members by introducing the organisation and the benefits of being a member. We were welcomed by the CEO Peter Egardt, given good reasons for becoming a member by board member Yvonne Berglund and further convinced by the Information Manager and the Membership Manager. After the 45 minutes of presentations a superb buffet was served and it was mingle, mingle, mingle - how easy is that when you have a plate full of food with a glass of Aussie wine hanging off it??

From the moment I received the invitation I knew I knew Yvonne Berglund but I couldn't work out how. I knew the name, knew the company name and where she was located. It was all so familiar. Once I saw her I remembered, and she remembered me, even that fact that I am Australian - yet over 10 years has passed since we spoke.

When I started a business 11 years ago I was selected to be part of a program for migrants starting companies - it was a series of seminars and it was also to encourage networking. It was sponsored by the local Huddinge Municipality and run by a company that develops organisations - Bo Granqvist AB - an interesting company in their own right. Yvonne was one of the seminar leaders - an inspiring woman with her own story who runs an Accounting Firm and who has recently set up a gorgeous boutique hotel. It was great to see Yvonne again and I have no doubt our paths will cross again.

I spent the next hour and a half talking to people, exchanging information on what we are working with, who our customers are and how the Chamber works and assists its members. Once again there were a lot of interesting people there and the chance to get new input is excellent. The Swedish Chambers of Commerce around the world are exactly who I want to be in contact with in time to come, so it is a membership organisation that could be of great benefit to my business.

Funnily enough the most interesting conversation this evening was with the only other person I "knew" there - one of my colleagues from the Våga Språnget group - but I'll talk more about that tomorrow....

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Saturday at Hundstallet

I did have visions of us riding our bikes up to Åkeshov on Saturday but was way too exhausted to even think about it. So we drove up to Åkeshov 100 Year Anniversary of Hundstallet - The Stockholm Lost Dogs Home.

Makaila and Kieran love the story of Lady and the Tramp, so they know all about street dogs but I was relieved to be able to tell them that they just find new homes for them, rather than put an end to their lives.

The Home is beautifully located next to Åkeshov Slott and Judarskogen, where the kids are every Friday with the daycare group, so we know the area well. We often see the volunteers walking the dogs through the forest. It was great to go in behind the otherwise closed doors and see both the pens and the dogs housed there.

I was pleased to see that they didn't seem to be running at full capacity, many of the dogs were staff and volunteers' dogs which had all originally come from the Home. Some we got to pat, others we were warned not too. Some were very affectionate and just wanted us to take them home - but that wouldn't be too popular with Mischa!

Afterwards we went into the Kattstallet, housed in the same building. Our friend Kristi volunteers there once a week so it was nice too to go in and see what it is like. Mischa and Sascha came from a cat home south of town so I am more familiar with hour they operate.
We got to see some very lovely kitty's there too and the temptation is always there - would Mischa like a friend??
Afterwards we walked around in the park where there were numerous tents and stalls set up with lots to see and do. I signed some petitions, the kids patted some sheep and finished off with the weekly pony-ride (this is starting to get dangerous). I dragged them away from there kicking and screaming for more.......

It was a lovely couple of hours and I hope they do it again next year. It is great publicity for the Homes and I hope everyone out there seriously considers going there to buy their next cat or dog - they need a home too....

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Winter Parking Ban over!

From November 1st until May 15th we are not allowed to park on our street on a Thursday and it is a scramble each week during that time to find parking on another street.

They want the street clear so it can be properly cleared or cleaned at least once a week. It can be cleared from leaves in the autumn, snow in the winter, gravel when the snow has melted and filth when the weather clears us.

Every week we curse at having to find a car park someone else, especially when the nearest snow flake is 1000 kms away or a month away. And there is just no point in parking there ANYWAY, I hate to think how much money those parking inspectors rake in every week....

Thank goodness it is finally over! Hooray for the small miracles of life.....

Domestic duties - blah!!!!

My sick son slept until 8.30 so my truant playing (wagging for the Aussies) daughter and I baked a cake first thing this morning.
I cleaned up afterwards.

He woke up and we ate breakfast together.
I cleaned up afterwards.

They painted - the paper, the kitchen table and the floor (accidentally of course....)
I cleaned up afterwards.

The boy got in the bath to clean the paint off himself.
I cleaned up afterwards.

We ate lunch.
I cleaned up afterwards.

They watched a movie.
I cleaned up all their summer clothes and finally got them into the cupboards.

They played.
We all cleaned up afterwards (mostly T).

I made dinner.
I cleaned up afterwards.

T came home - thank goodness!!!

We ate, read stories and put the kids to bed. Another day bites the dust.

It is the 3rd day this week my boy has been at home sick and with T running national tests I have had no choice but to be at home.
Now I too feel the burning in the chest when I cough. Great!!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Happy 60th Birthday!

On the 12th of May a baby girl was born to proud parents Una and Cyril of Strathmore. She was to be one of five children, with two older sisters, a brother just 15 months ahead of her and another sister 5 years later.

As a baby she was seriously ill with Pink's Disease, an illness caused by the addition of mercury in teething gels up until the '50s. While she managed to avoid death, unlike 10-25% of cases, it went on to cause many, many health problems throughout her life.

Life did go on and this little girl grew into a young woman and at the tender young age of 19 this woman met a man. A man that her family were, from what I understand, never overly enthusiastic about, a man 12 years older than her, a man with a 5 year old daughter.

She was soon married and just three months before her 21st birthday she gave birth to a baby girl. She lived in a derelict house, in the middle of a paddock, with no-one but the debt collectors and the cows for company. She washed nappies in a tub and scraped and saved every penny. Eventually she got their financial situation under control and her thriftiness was a skill that would come in handy time and time again throughout her life.

At the age of 25 she was living in their brand new house in Keysborough with her husband, her two daughters and the latest addition to the family, a baby girl. While from the outside things seemed to have settled down they were in fact still facing many challenges and she suffered from loneliness. She lived for her girls and gave them all she could.

The years came and went, as did life events. They bought a business requiring a lot of time and energy, the family went through some tough times and as hard as she tried, she was unsuccessful in her attempts to keep her family intact.

In her early 30s she suffered some fairly serious medical problems and while she once again fought death, her husband did not. At the age of 32 she was widowed with three children, one 8, one 12 and one 19.

In the years that followed she continued to do everything in her power to support her girls, in every sense. The 80s were in full swing and life was finally starting to settle into some kind of normality. 1985 saw change, on several fronts. Her first grandchild was born and a very kind, generous man came in to her life.

In 1986 they married and went on to spend a wonderful decade together. It was pleasing and gratifying to see my mother enjoying life, she deserved every minute of it. But health issues continued to plague her and in 1984 two very unfortunate diagnosis were given, one to him, one to her. He had cancer, she had MS.

He died in 1986, leaving her a widow for the second time in her life. Just 48 years old.

That didn't stop her, yet again she bounced back. She fought her MS in every way she could, from alternative medicine and vitamins to regular exercise. It was a miracle the doctors said. She had heard that a few times in her life and it would not be the last time. She continued to play competitive tennis twice a week.

She contemplated her future for a while before re-educating herself and going on to become a community worker in crisis centre. Had she not already had enough crisis in her life? Many years were spent there until common sense got the better of her and eventually she left it for a more peaceful life.

In the meantime three more grandchildren had been born, she had moved to Berwick and had decided to make the most of her life, joining various clubs and organisations over the years. She was secretary here, president there. She was a good organiser, a strong outgoing woman with a lot of energy and a lot of drive. A popular woman.

And in the midst of enjoying life to its fullest she met a man, a man who would help her create happiness, a man to enjoy life with, a man who would encourage her to venture out in to the world and into life itself, far beyond her expectations.

Life became filled with social activities, walking, mountain climbing, dancing, the gym, golf, trips away, visits to the youngest 2 of her now 6 grandchildren, friends, family, family, friends, movies and more!!!!!!

And now she has reached the grand age of 60.

She is a fitter, healthier and happier woman than she has ever been in her life. And she no longer has to count her every penny. She is thrilled to have reached 60, she is thrilled to be living life to its fullest.

And I am so thrilled for her. It is a pleasure, and a relief to know my mum is doing ok.
She deserves it.

Happy Birthday Mum!!!
And may the next 30 years be equally blissful!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Happy Mother's Day Mum

A mum:
  • supports you, no matter what you've done, who you have upset or how stupid you have been
  • knows exactly what is wrong when you walk in the front door and burst into tears after having been on school camp for 4 days
  • apologises for things that weren't her fault and were beyond her control, except in the sense that she happened to bring you in to this life
  • is proud of you and every tiny achievement you make
  • supports you when you have difficult secrets that you can't tell anyone else
  • overflows with joy simply because you are happy and enjoying life
  • is self-sacrificing
  • is courageous in the face of adversity
  • doesn't allow herself to become too outdated
  • likes a good laugh, sometimes even at her self
  • is forgiving when you hurt her
  • supports and encourages you all the way
  • wants to give as much as she can to you, in any way she can
  • wants you to be close by
  • yet puts no pressure on you even when you move away from her
  • wants you to be happy
  • always listens
  • is calm, sensible and practical when everyone else is in a panic
  • gives advice, in a soothing, comforting way
  • loves you for everything you are, and everything you aren't

There is good reason for Mother's Day falling under the earthy Taurean's month.

Thank you mum, for being my mum.
Happy Mother's Day.

Spånga Gymnasium

Today we made it to their open day, despite a rough night with two over-tired kids. And it was well worth the couple of hours we spent there. We picked up Mel and Luca on our way and we all walked the few minutes from their place down to the school.

Spånga Gymnasium is a very unusual senior high school. While many of the high schools have a profile in order to attract students this one has a profile like no other. They have over 1000 animals and more than 90 different species, many of them endangered. The students learn about everything to do with animals and go on to work with animals, as zoo keepers, vets etc. The school also has a strong environmental focus.

Every year they are open to the public and the place just seems to get better and better. The kids were beside themselves when we went into the room with all the turtles, snakes, lizards and fish. Makaila and I think patting the snake was the best part, it slithered on to our hands and was really beautiful.

We went on to look at a variety of birds, including Aussie parrots, sheep, rabbits, dogs, pigs, guinnea pigs, chickens, crows, mice, rats, fowl of various kinds etc etc. Many of the animals were available to be patted and all in all the kids loved it. Well worth a visit if ever you get a chance - can you imagine learning in this environment?? You can see some of their photos on the school's blog.

Saturday with Mel and Luca

We went over in the afternoon to go to Spånga Gymnasium's open day but never got further than the garden. It was so lovely just hanging out under the apple blossom.

Kieran helped Mel with some digging, Makaila played with Luca and Tyler ended up heading off to a friends place to help him out - between games of football/soccer with the kids and checking out the garden.

Ande's dad called in and kicked a few balls in to the net (Makaila was an excellent goalie), his mum called in with a friend and had a glass of wine with us all the while poor Ande was at work, shopping in Beijing.

The evening was far too pleasant to be going home so we stayed and had a BBQ dinner. The kids ran around madly most of the day and we took them home and got them in to bed. Both of them way beyond exhausted, Kieran with a cough and a cold getting a stronger hold (lack of sleep doesn't help).

Saturday, 10 May 2008

A gorgeous Stockholm evening.

Mossebacke was VERY crowded on Friday night. We weren't the only ones having a drink or two on this particularly warm evening. It was the busiest I have seen it.

But I love the view of Stockholm from here and the beers went down nicely too.

Of course it was lovely as always to catch up with the girls - Lynessa, Yvonne and Kerryn.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Marking exam papers

A hard day at work.

White, all around us

White, everywhere I look, all around
In the trees, on the ground.

The wind blows and the petals fall gently, silently,
like snowflakes.

Their sweet scent fills the air,
It is our reward for having survived the winter.

From the lounge room, from the bedrooms, from the balcony. Everywhere we look.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Canadian Maple Syrup

This is our third and final bottle of Wally & Lois's Maple Syrup. It is almost empty......
However shall we manage?

With four of us now eating pancakes and waffles with maple syrup three litres just doesn't cut it. We will have to each have a litre in our suitcases when we come home this summer.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Remembering Paul

Today is the 1 year anniversary of the death of Paul, Ty's father.

February 7 1945 - May 5 2007

It has been a tough year for Ty and we will remember Paul tonight as we eat a couple of his favorites - Chinese fried rice, followed by waffles. We will also remember by looking at some of the photos from the months we spent there and some old photos of Paul.

4 white roses are being placed on the grave from us.

R.I.P. Paul

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Another glorious afternoon in the sunshine

This time at Hästa Gård, a hobby farm set up to expose city kids to farming and animals. They were having an open day, which we would never had known about if it wasn't for Yona and Christian.

After a lazy Sunday morning we dragged the kids out (who were busy playing) into the sunshine and into the car for a 10 minute drive out to Akalla.

The afternoon started with a compulsory pony ride for Kieran who seems to LOVE these animals. The bigger the better. He won't settle with a little pony - he wants a big horse! He was so tiny on this huge horse that one of the organisers came and took a photo to use in next year's promotions. He loves the walk around and sits ever so quietly looking at the horse and all around - absorbing every precious moment.
Hästa Gård is one of the many 4H gårds set up around the country to expose the young and old to farming and animals and on this open day there were a number of 4H gårds set up with a display, different activities and animals to connect with. The kids patted sheep and their lambs, rabbits, piglets that were smaller than the rabbits, guinnea pigs, and we saw chickens and goats with their kids as well as cows.

We all went on a horse and cart ride and then Christian, Tyler and I had a go on a climbing wall. It was fun but challenging and a little scary once you get up a few metres. But it was too challenging for any of us to get all the way to the top.

Afterwards we all sat in the garden and the adults drank coffee while Makaila, Kieran, Noa and Zak played, picked flowers and rolled around in the grass.
The sun shone brilliantly and all in all a lovely afternoon was had by all.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Kids on ponies

A glorious spring day at Skansen

We managed to drag Tyler away from home and get him to Skansen. The kids were very excited about the prospect of seeing animals and going out for the day. And Skansen was in full bloom.

There were threats of rain, luckily they didn't eventuate. It was a little overcast but all in all a glorious spring day.The colours were so vibrant, everything looked so beautiful, quaint, picturesque! The trees and the grass at this time of year are the most amazing light green colour - the colour of new growth. Glorious!!!
We went for the animals and we saw bears and her cubs, a lynx, seals, moose, reindeer, horses, sheep, goats, bison, rabbits, wolves, wolverines, otters, wild boar, ponies, bunnies, chickens, apes, peacocks and parrots.
We took our lunch and the only money we spent once we got in there was on the pony rides.

Ohhh Athena and Ellandi I only wish you could have been with us today instead of going to Skansen on that cool day in March.

Stockholm was buzzing with people thrilled to be out and about in the sunshine.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Spring in full bloom

The round-about in Bromma has a halo of golden daffodils around it!