Swedish Department Store Opens Pandora’s Box with “Normal Sized” Mannequins – We Think It’s Awesome

This past week you all have probably heard about the normal size models Åhléns department store put up. First, it is in Åhléns Malmö and not in H&M like many news channels are saying. Second, everyone in the world has made it a huge deal except Sweden. And third, this is real and not a hoax.

Glad we got that out of the way!

From reader, Sabina, who captured the photos below, said “I liked that the store itself didn’t make a big deal about it. These models were just like every other model.”

The lingerie “normal” sized mannequins were mixed in with the regular, skinny ones. If you were walking by, you might not have noticed at first glance. But obviously people did.

I think it is an awesome idea to have more realistic looking models that the skinny things that are usually on display. Seriously, how many of us have a little extra flub and are desperate to get rid of it? Why are we, women, so afraid of being proud of our curves?

Really, we are scared shitless of ourselves in underwear. But at least these models are not. And I think it’s because in a country like Sweden, where the Swedish women are proud, smart, and equal to man can their mannequins not give a shit about being skinny.

And what about the standard skinny models Åhléns has on display? Not that skinny when you compare it to a Victoria’s Secret window display, below.


photo via dailymail.co.uk.

Maybe we should follow the Swedish way by valuing women for being beautiful with and without their curves.

The only real complaint about the mannequins? The hair. Can they not look so grey and flat?

What do you all think? Progressive or weird to have “normal sized” mannequins?

7 Things I Don’t Really Hate About Sweden Anymore

Like anyone living in a foreign country, you eventually get used to things. Some things just remain a nuisance while others are accepted as cultural idiosyncrasies.

Now that I have been here for a few years, I have come to terms with a lot of things. Some aspects drive me crazy (more on that later) but overall, I am doing my best to take a laissez-faire approach to serious issues. If the people aren’t forcing and clamoring for change, why I should be the outspoken one to hate on things? And if people don’t hate it, should I really hate it?

On the positive side, Sweden is becoming more of a place with choices. More independent shops, more items at the grocery stores, and more ethnic restaurants. Nicer people with more international experiences. Sweden is becoming a real fondue pot of goodness.

So, in no particular order, my list of things I don’t hate… too much.

1. Fitted Bedsheets – There was once a time when you could only find poor quality cotton bedsheets at IKEA. In white. ONLY white. Now, a few more stores here and there are carrying them. There is not a huge selection but there is a selection nonetheless.

Finding Egyptian cotton color sheets at a reasonable price is still difficult. Maybe at Hästens or NK I can find overpriced sheets. Instead, I buy sheets in the US to bring back. I keep my sanity and comfy sheets!

2. Swedish drivers – Let’s replace all “Swedish” with “Stockholm.” Stockholm drivers are awful, Swedish drivers not really. So an apology to all Swedish drivers (not Stockholm ones) for thinking you drive like Stockholmers.

Seriously, when you see a car cut off a police vehicle, and the police does not do anything, you know it is a wild wild west.

3. Rude Swedish behavior – Again, let’s replace “Swedish” with “Stockholm.” Stockholmers can be incredibly rude. While we call say the same about New York City residents, the city has earned the popular/awesome cred to have rude citizens. Stockholm is no New York.

But, overall, Stockholmers have become nicer, especially store clerks and waiters. They are not as stuck up and aloof as they used to be. Yay!

4. Systembolaget – I still hate that place but I have to accept its purpose. And I have come to terms that many Swedes do not trust themselves, or others, when it comes to regulating alcohol intake. Systemet exists for the sake of Sweden and it is something I can live with.

Besides, road-tripping to Germany for beer is awesome.

5. America bashing – The US does so many “WTF” things these days (hello, Teabaggers!) that I can understand the America bashing. For example, take gun control. How do you support people who advocate *no* background checks or social security registration? That’s America for you.

But I do mind when Swedes compare themselves to the developing world with, “See you shouldn’t complain, we don’t have that kind of traffic in India. We have traffic but it’s not India, we do not need to worry about it.”

Comparing yourself to the developing world is like comparing Einstein to an Autistic child, of course Einstein will be superior on all levels. But that doesn’t give him the right to slack off or a be a douche bag. If Swedes want to compare, compare yourselves to the developed world or to the Nordic region. Not to Sudan or India or Zimbabwe. K, rant over.

6. The weather – It sounds whiney, and sometimes it is whiney but poor Sweden did get the short end of the stick when it comes to habitable places on Earth. The more I think of it, the more I believe complaining about the weather is some cathartic experience to make Swedes happier.

7. No one takes responsibility – Change is happening at a glacier pace to make people/companies responsible for their actions. I think it will happen one day that the government agencies that make decisions actually have the teeth to enforce them. And maybe some corrupt and dysfunctional practices can finally come to an end. Maybe, hopefully.

Overall, I love Sweden. I know I am harsh and rude to you at times. But I hold you to a higher standard than India or the US. I expect you to know better. And I expect you to be a role model to others.

But you’re proving your worth. Just don’t let lagom and jantelag pull you down to the status quo. Sweden, I hate you at times because I love you.

The Future Queen of Sweden Stuffs Her Face & Doesn’t Care

That’s because precious little HRH Princess Estelle turned one yesterday!

Doesn’t it feel like yesterday when she was born? Gosh time flies.

To celebrate her first birthday as the future queen of Sweden, the princess wore her mom’s one year birthday dress. And ate cake.

I think that is a pretty awesome way to celebrate a birthday.

with mom and dad: H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria, H.R.H. Prince Daniel

And a look back at her dop {baptism}! Her dress was first worn by Gustaf Adolf at his baptism in 1906. Pretty neat to wear a dress 106 years old.

Photographs copyright Kungahuset.se.

The Nordic Region – The Happiest Place on Earth

For all that Swedes complain about the winter, weather, and rain, Sweden is one of the happiest places on Earth.

And so is Finland, Norway, and Denmark. Our saddest little neighbor, Iceland, is only the 15th happiest place on Earth.

Overall, the Nordic region is one happy family and Scandinavia is Disneyland in real life.

The 2012 Legatum Prosperity Index, produced by a British non-partisan public policy organisation, identifies the world’s happiest and saddest countries. They used several sources of data (objective and subjective) from Gallup, World Development Indices, and self researched. The 2012 LPI is similar to the UN World Happiness Report though the latter relies more on surveys than objective data.

The LPI focused on eight areas: economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, health, safety, personal freedom and social capital.

Scandinavia and the greater group, the Nordic region, rank near the top in every category.

Here are the rankings of the Nordic countries. A few OECD and BRIC countries are included for comparison.

CountryEconomyHealthEntrepreneur-
ship &
Opportunity
Safety
&
Security
GovernancePersonal
Freedom
Education Social
Capital
OverallGDP
per
Capita*
Finland16123351985736472.6
Norway244213661157230.9
Sweden5142645129339024.2
Iceland611591201013131535642.2
Denmark19161837162240162.6
United Kingdom261862071130121335686.2
United States202122710145101247153
India571049911449671001381013425.5
Japan1262316224223202233732.9
Brazil3354787562579644411210.4
Use the arrows to zero out a category and reset the ranking list.
 
In some ways, the findings are not too surprising. India, while growing economically, severely lacks basic access to healthcare and sanitation. Women, suffering some of the greatest injustices in the world, sends the country spiraling downwards when backwards ideology like “marrying your rapist” is acceptable. Interestingly, governance is the country’s highest ranking factor; perhaps a sign that India has the potential to become a better and happier place.

The United States dropped two spots to 12 after three years of holding 10. A massive recession coupled with increased long term unemployment, decisive elections, and long wars have played its toll on the American psyché. The next several years will tell if the people can return to higher levels or continue on a broken path.

There was one very interesting finding. Nordic swept the Entrepreneurship and Opportunity category. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway took the top four positions. I would not have expected it because the venture climate is still lukewarm. Delving into the study questions, it became clear that the Nordic region would top the list. Some questions included, Mobile phones (per 100 people), Mobile phones per household, Secure internet servers (per 1 million people), Good place for entrepreneurs to start a business? (% yes), Business start-up costs (% of GNI per capita).

And most definitely the Nordic region is home to cheap cell phone plans and low start up costs from Skatteverket. If you think about it, how many people do you know owning a HB or AB in Sweden versus your home country?

Looking at the World Happiness Report, the Nordic region holds the top three slots (Denmark, Finland, Norway) followed by the Netherlands and Canada. The whining about the Swedish weather pushed Sweden out of the top.

Still, after all our complaining about Sweden, it really is not a bad place. We are happy, prosperous, and eat a lot of semlor. What more could one ask?

Now only if Disney opened a Disneyland here would we be truly the happiest people on Earth.

Research:
http://www.prosperity.com/2012Findings.aspx
http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2011/12/07/the-worlds-happiest-and-saddest-countries/
http://issuu.com/earthinstitute/docs/world-happiness-report

Close Encounters of a Semlor Dough

Yesterday, being fettisdagen, I decided to make my own semlor. They were quite successful last year and I was thinking this time I could perfect them.

I didn’t really perfect them as much as gave the dough {deg} CPR and life support. It was near total disaster.

I’m pretty scared of yeast based recipes and semlor are no different. Many Swedish recipes call for fresh yeast while in the US, many recipes call for active dry yeast. And many recipes don’t even specify if fresh yeast or dry yeast should be used.

The many options from Kronjäst

There is evidently a very very big different.

Very big.

Since I didn’t have any kronjäst at home, I figured I could use some of the packages of active dry yeast I picked up in the US.

I know fresh to active dry yeast is not a 1 to 1 conversion. In fact, this site does a great job of giving you idea of the conversion. The problem is that for 50 grams fresh yeast, you can use anywhere from 2.5 to 10 teaspoons of active dry yeast in a recipe depending on the amount of sugar.

That last part, “the amount of sugar” screwed me up.

Because, I added in seven teaspoons of yeast and turned my dough into a rock.

A rock deg!

NEJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJ!

I KILLED THE DOUGH AND THE SWEDE IS GOING TO HAVE A HEART ATTACK WITHOUT SEMLOR!

Breathe. breathe. breathe.

There is a way to ressuscitante a yeast filled dough: sugar. Lots of sugar. I feed the dough another 200ml of sugar and 100ml of milk.

Fifteen minutes later, with flour in my hair, and dough stuck to my arms, the dough softened up.

Relieved, I put him to rest to rise and sure enough an hour it was beautiful.

After the whole ordeal, the buns turned out really well and the almond paste was the best ever.

My finished product:

Oh, and did I mention I completely forgot the baking powder? I did. Facepalm.

Lessons to learn:
Five teaspoons of active dry yeast is plenty for semlordeg.
Forgetting baking powder is a dumb thing to do.
When in crisis with too much yeast, add sugar (yeast needs sugar to eat).

Happy semlor eating everyone!

Happy Semlordag, Fettisdag, and Mardi Gras

Oh yes, today is one of those marvelous days in Sweden when we celebrate a day dedicated to a dessert. What country in the world has a cinnamon roll day, a waffle day, and a semla day?

Sweden rocks when it comes to sweets and treats.

Last year, my girlfriends and I did the dirty deed of eating lots of semlor from bakeries around Stockholm so you didn’t have to. It was a real tragedy. Semlor, champagne, cheese, life is hard.

If you are in Stockholm make sure you check out our Best of Semlor list. Swedes buy enough semlor today to feed half the country. It is an awesome day so don’t miss it.

Not in Stockholm? Comment below with your favorite bakery for semlor and I will create a post for the best semlor in Sweden.

For the bakers and adventurous type, check out my semlor recipe. There is nothing more delicious than homemade semlor with your favorite filling.

Now it’s time for me to bake a batch and get The Swede his filling of semlor for the year.

Happy baking!

Why Lost in Stockholm Exists… And Why I Write

The most popular (or infamous) article on this site is the “10 Things I Hate About Sweden.” Somehow, people take it so personally that it mandates a comment filled with insults, hate, or name-calling directed to me. And they believe that this entire blog exists to hate on Sweden.

If that is the case, then I sure have some power!

Today, I find the hate comments amusing and pitiful. Before, I would feel bad when people would post a comment that *I* must be fat, ugly, stupid, ignorant, dumb and have no right to say such things because America is just as bad.

I don’t claim the US to be better on all fronts, on some issues, yes (shopping, customer service), but on many, no (health care costs, women’s rights). And yes, sometimes I have made comparisons that were perhaps unequal or not related to the topic at hand.

Many of you read these articles with such a fervour that you are drawn to a level of insanity that insulting others somehow rectifies the situation. Perhaps also you want to fuel the fire with name calling too. But we should all understand that pointing out others’ faults does not absolve your own faults.

I loved what one of the regular readers posted:

For all of those who take this post the wrong way.
Take a damn chill pill, this is meant mostly for laughs and fun while describing stereotypes. If you recognize yourself too much and feel a need to reply in a offensive nature then perhaps take a hint and change yourself instead of trying to defend something that does not really matter. For everyone else, that dont fit in, well be fun and interessting and fun and interessting people will find you. Swedish people are not hard to make friends with, its just that there is a certain procedure involved=D. Good luck.

//Björn

Thanks Björn!

I love this blog and I love *most* readers who come here. This is a place for you to feel at home, debate, drink a cup of coffee, learn something new, feel better, and go home. Some of you are in moments of angst and loneliness being in a foreign country; certainly I have felt burden of being a foreign housewife.

Some of you want some good laughs for a few rough weeks you had understanding Swedes in your office. The lack of selection of tissue paper and fitted sheets should make you laugh, not get angry.

And of course, for many of you, you are deciphering the secret code of Swedish men and women. It is a tundra out there, so keep your club tight to your chest.

There are unfortunately a few bad apples here. I have allowed a lot of comments, despite their aggressive, spiteful nature to be approved. I do not like censoring comments, but when someone believes insulting me betters this blog, he/she is not making this ecosystem a better place. Read the comment policy first, think before you type, and if you still want to be a douchebag and write something stupid, go ahead. I will not approve it, but I may keep it for the dumb comment hall of fame.

Same goes with sending me a hateful or stupid email. I will read it and possibly post it later for all to see your stupidity. Case in point, the blogger who said I copied her article about removing your shoes, who cc’ed her manager, and demanded I link to her piece. Who knew she owned the intellectual property to that idea!

Please don’t be an idiot and write me something snarky and conceited.

And if you really think I have copyrighted one of you ideas, then please do send me an email explaining the situation and I will do my best to rectify it, if it is reasonable.

All in all, I enjoy writing here and I hope to continue to blog. I have so many exciting pieces to write about, especially pretty travel articles in Sweden. Overall, read this blog with a pinch of salt and use it as your place for learning and growing.

Keep the love on for Sweden, despite her depressive winters and gloomy summers she is always a beauty.

Love to all you readers and supporters!
xoxo,
sapphire

The Sorta Quick Guide To American Football for Swedes

Today is the Super Bowl. That final game of the season where we football lovers drink bad beer, eat lots of nachos, and scream at a television.

It is epic, it is fun, and it is slow. Yes, slow. A 60 minute game takes three hours to complete. You can thank the advertisements and all the breaks between every drive.

But since most of us will be up at an ungodly hour to watch this masterpiece classic, it’s time to have a quick overview of how game is played. You Swedes are probably wondering why we are so obsessed with the game and really, there is no answer.

Here’s a sorta short guide to watching football for dummies. If you want more to read, check out the dummies series.

Rules of American football:

  • The goal is to score a touchdown, field goal, or safety. Touchdown (six points)
  • Touchdown – Six points – scored when a team crosses the opposition’s goal line with the ball, or catches or collects the ball in the end zone.
  • Field goal – three points – These are usually attempted on fourth down if the kicker is close enough to the end zone to kick the ball through the posts, or uprights.
  • Extra point – One or two points) – A point is earned by kicking the ball through the uprights after a touchdown (similar to a rugby conversion). Two points are earned by taking the ball into the end zone again.
  • Safety – Two points – Awarded to the defensive team when a member of the offensive team is tackled with the ball in his own end zone.
  • The length of the football field is 100 yards. Each end zone is 10 yards wide.
  • There are four quarters to the game. Each quarter is 15 minutes of game time. After the second quarter, there is halftime. This gives the teams a chance to reground and for the audience to watch a splendid half time show during the Super Bowl.
  • There are 30 NFL teams in the league. The league divides into two conferences: the AFC (American Football Conference) and NFC (National Football Conference). During the regular season the teams play each other within the league and outside.
  • The Super Bowl is the final game of the top team from the AFC and the top team from the NFC.
  • The regular season comprises of 16 games.
  • After regular season, the playoff breakdown into three rounds played in each league respectively: Wildcard, Division, and Conference Championship games.

This bracket summarizes the playoffs:

via wrapupp.com

Playing the game:

  • When the team is on the offense, it must move the ball 10 yards to get a ‘first down’ to continue holding the ball.
  • A team has four downs to move the ball the 10 yards. Most of the time, a team will use the first three downs to move the ball. Upon failing on the third down, the kicker will punt the ball to the opposing team and the receiving team will become the offensive.
  • If a team chooses to take a fourth down and does not earn the new first down, the defensive team will get the ball at that yard line.
  • Interception – when a defensive players catches or takes the ball from the offensive team. The defensive team will now be the offense.

There are many strategies to playing a football along with many types of penalties. I won’t bore you folks with the nitty gritty. Here’s a great video instead:

The Super Bowl:
Probably the most important aspect of watching the Super Bowl is the TV commercials and the halftime show. If the rules confuse or bore you, then watch the game for the commercials.

The five commercials you should look out for are: Blackberry, Volkswagon, Go Daddy, Mercedes Benz, and Lincoln. You will have plenty time to bet and argue over which ones are the most outrageous, offensive, and crazy.

Oh and if you haven’t figured out who is playing, it is the San Francisco 49ers versus the Baltimore Ravens. An epic game in pro sports history since the coaches of the teams are brothers. A real family feud!

For now, it’s time for bed and then to see the 49ers kick butt!

Lance Armstrong, You Broke My Heart

Last night Lance Armstrong, the once king of cycling, was on a special Oprah interview to discuss doping and his problems. Or something like that.

This has nothing to do with Sweden, but sports and doping affects everyone. And we, as fans and admirers, end up feeling betrayed and angry over years of denial by athletes.

Like Mark McGuire who denied to Congress for years he doped. I never respected him so him losing all credibility didn’t bother me at all. But thousands of people did, and many lost their faith in baseball because of him.

Sadly, I thought Lance Armstrong was different. I think many of us did. But he’s proven himself to be the douche king today.

Lance was this guy that came out of nowhere and took the Tour de France by storm. Surviving cancer, becoming an American winner in an European race, pushing hard in an long endurance sport, Lance was the apple pie for America.

I met him in person in 2001. He was charming and nice. I was the second to last person at the book signing. I still got a hug. And I don’t know why, but I had mad respect for him.

Those couple years, I spent July glued to the TV with my USAToday newspaper spreads of the teams, circuits, and gossip. I read how so many cyclists fell to the devils of doping. How Lance could never do this to us.

Then in 2005 I stopped watching the Tour. Drugs, cheating, scandals became the headlines. All of sudden, Armstrong was in this defensive attack mode when it came to using testosterone and EPO and other shit. He insulted reporters, insulted his friends, and even sued some of his friends.

The US Postal Service team was falling apart. I turned myself away from the Tour, realizing it was being driven by drug addicts.

And now here’s Lance sitting in a chair talking to Oprah in a weird second person stance. Saying how “he needed to win at all costs” and “he should apologize.” He admitted to being a bully.

Armstrong is the fall from grace. A man we all so admired for his perserverance and committement is today, nothing more than a fraud, a bully, a cheater, a liar, a fake. Even a douche for dumping Sheryl Crow because of her “biological clock.”

The second interview takes place tonight at 9PM EST, 3AM Swedish time, on the OWN channel. But you can go online to their site and watch it live.

I’ll be watching it because I hope he can look me in the eyes and tell me he’s a lying liar, cheater, and overall horrible person for destroying a sport, a nation’s admiration, and his teammates.

The War on Christmas: the 24th versus 25th

In the United States, extreme right wing pundits and “pastors” freak out every year over the war on Christmas. Say, “happy holidays” to a stranger? That’s ignoring Christmas at the cost of being politically correct! Write “Seasons Greetings” on your annual holiday card? That’s hating on Christianity!

Say “Happy Hanukah” to your Jewish friend? That’s being a jew-lover to a people who killed Jesus! (But wasn’t Jesus a Jew? Oh, I guess)

OMG THE WORLD IS ENDING IF WE DON’T SCREAM MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERY FUCKING MINUTE OF EVERY FUCKING DAY DURING THE HOLIDAYS*.

*Crap, I meant Christmas season!

AHHHHHH!!!!

After you have a great big laugh over the moronity of this situation (and yes, sadly many Christians do not know Jesus was Jewish), I have a bigger issue on the war on Christmas.


What day should we celebrate Christmas?

The Swedes as we know and love, celebrate Christmas on the 24th and spend the 25th going to church (midnight mass, maybe) and resting.

The Russian Ortodox celebrate Christmas on Epiphany, January 7th.

Americans celebrate on December 25th.

To me, this is a real problem. Because I want to open my presents, eat sill, and drink glögg. And no one really knows what date we should use!

Call Santa! No, Jultomte!

No… call Rudolph!

Damnit, we cannot even figure out who’s spearheading this holy day.

This year, I spent the holidays (note my political savvy correctness), in confusion. The serious arguments in the household revolved around:

  • What day do we put the Christmas tree up?
  • When can we put up Christmas decorations (like the julstjärnor)?
  • What day do we celebrate Christmas?
  • What do we eat?
  • When is the tree taken down?

Oh dear, we don’t even know what to eat! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! {That is how I felt for two weeks}

After debating for weeks, we finally came to some reasonable conclusions:

  • What day do we put the Christmas tree up? December 11th
  • When can we put up Christmas decorations (like julstjärnor)? December 8th
  • What day do we celebrate Christmas? December 24th
  • What do we eat? Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, champagne, glögg, lussebullar, and pepparkakor
  • When is the tree taken down? When *I* say so! :)

Even though I have been with the Swede for four years now, this is certainly not the first time we had this discussion. It just happened that this year we celebrated Christmas with my family: not Christian) and not in Sweden.

But it all worked out in the end. I have a massive noble fir tree that is 2.2 meters tall. I have my Christmas ornaments my family has owned since the 80s. I have julstjanor jimmied-up with light bulbs. I have an IKEA adventsljusstake that I found in the secondhand store free bin because a light was missing (that was a bitch to replace!). I have tomte, sheep, and julbock.


And I have my dad, the Swede, and the bunny.

So matter what day you celebrated Christmas, here’s to wishing all of you God Forsättning and Gott Nytt År! Let 2013 kick butt for everyone!

kram,
sapphire


{photo by unknown}