Your chance for an adventure of a lifetime

If it wasn’t for the fact that Mat and I will be on the other side of the world at the time of this fantastic event, I’d definitely apply for a space on what seems to me, the adventure of a life time! So if you’re around next spring, it’s not too late, get your application in before 10 Dec for Fjällräven Polar 2013. Apply here. And here’s a little video of what it’s all about! (if you apply let me know so that I can vote for you!)

 

 

Bitten

Summer and the Swede goes hand in hand, we come to life in the summer and we really cherish the lighter warmer months. Ask any Swede for their favourite memories and I bet you my top dollar that at least one of them involves summer and very likely their  childhood summers. This may be because Swedish kids get 10 weeks summer holidays, yep, that’s right folks 10 weeks of freedom. Ahhh the memories!

The downside of Swedish summers… The frickin mosquitos, knats and all other biting things with wings. Swedish mozzies are BAD! So make sure you pack some mosquito repellant!

So what can you use to repell the mozzies. Here’s what I know; they don’t like cigarettes, so you could just light a cigarett or 10 and wave them around (unless you’re already a smoker, then you’re ok). They don’t like garlic, my mum used to make up a concoction of fresh squeezed garlic boiled in water, mixed with tea tree oil and rosemary and god knows what else she put in there. We used to stroke it on to my horse to make flies and mosquitos stay away and it worked very well– but by god did it stink, my horse used to run as far as he could when he saw mum come with her bucket and sponge. So I think this alternative is out the window as well, unless you want to smell real bad. The other option, which you can’t really do anything about, it’s more about luck, is that you may have a blood type they don’t like as much as other, although it’s more an unlucky game of having a blood type they prefer. If you’re lucky to be hanging out with people who has the blood the mozzies love, you’re less likely to be bitten, my suggestion is to hang around my dad and my brother, the mozzies love them and when I’m around them I tend to get bitten less. However, this method isn’t very efficient and it won’t save you from being bitten. Here’s what I’ve read; Listerine is supposed to repell the little blood suckers, so perhaps trying to stroke a bit of listerine on your clothes might work – I haven’t tested this so don’t blame me if it doesn’t work. Worth a try though, the worst thing that can happen is that you smell minty fresh. I also read somewhere that the anti static paper you can put in your tumble dryer can be put in your pocket and that this will repell mosquitoes, I really don’t understand or know why or how it works, nor have I tested it. Maybe worth a try sometime. What works; Jungle Oil is by far the most effective mosquito repellent I have ever tried, unfortunately this was made illegal in Sweden quite some time ago now and no longer available to buy.  So all you can do is try your best, buy whatever is available. The best one to buy in Sweden is MyggA (available from Apoteket, there is one at Arlanda Airport, so might be worth to pick one up there).

I got my first mosquito bite last Saturday in my friend Pamela’s garden and I have already had a few since I got back home on Friday afternoon, didn’t take long before I was bitten, but it wouldn’t be summer without itchy mozzie bites, no matter how annoying they are. So I think we just have to embrace the fact that we’re gonna be bitten by the little mini vampires and that it’s all a part of summer and the reason for their existence is to feed the birds, like the Astrid Lindgren’s song tells us, and maybe also to keep us Swedes a bit grounded, so that we can’t boast too much about our amazing summers…

Glad Midsommar

Today is Sweden’s second biggest holiday and many’s favourite holiday, including mine, as it’s all about being together with friends and family, eating, drinking and having fun! Midsommarafton (Midsummers Eve) is part of an old pagan holiday and goes back some thousand years,  celebrating summer and light! It is always celebrated on the Friday closest to the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. In majority of Sweden it doesn’t go dark during this time of the year.

Most people celebrate Midsommarafton in the country side, if you go to Stockholm this weekend it will probably be a bit quiet, there might even be some tumbleweed blowing down the streets. My childhood midsummers eve would start with strawberries in my breakfast cereal, eaten on the veranda listening to the birds singing. Then I’d go out and pick two large midsummers bouquet’s with wild flowers, one for mum and one for our neighbour. When we were little kids, we would make and raise a maypole too and do the silly little dances and maybe play some games. At an older age, there would be the sillunch, with new potatoes in dill, with pickled herrings in different flavours and ‘nubbe’ aka snaps. Followed later on by a BBQ in the early evening, finished off with strawberry cake – yum!  And the evening is usually spent sitting outside on the veranda, eating and drinking, chatting and laughing the night away, rudely interrupted by the pesky mosquitos. And best of all is the bright summer night. I still marvel at the light blue sky that never goes dark, it’s the most wonderful, magical and empowering thing the northern Swedish summers night, it just fills me with warm gooey happiness inside and reminds me of why I love Sweden so much.

So today I will have to go to work with a heavy heart and a strong sense of homesickness and totally against my cultural heritage and tradition, I wonder if I can apply for it as a day off…. Although I will pop into Scandi Kitchen and try to get a jar of pickled herring and maybe even some snaps and teach Mat some snaps songs, it’s about time he learns some more Swedish culture, so I’ll start with the most important ones.  Wishing you all a Glad Midsommar!

Here is a little fun video about midsummers and some of my own photos of it.

A day trip in Stockholm

For those that have a little bit more time to spend in Stockholm, you might want to widen your horizons and see something else than just the city. If that’s the case I know just the place to go to. In fact I can suggest two, I’ll share them in the order of favouritism.

The first one is Fjäderholmarna, a little island in the Stockholm Archipelago, located only a 25 min boat ride from the city, it’s described as where the archipelago begins. The boats depart either from Slussen (the boats from Slussen are my favourite as they are the old fashioned ones) or from Nybroplan every hour and half hour from 10 am. And will cost you around £10 for an open return ticket. You can buy your ticket on board, but they only accept cash. Otherwise you can buy in advance as well.

There are a couple of places to choose from if you fancy having lunch out there, or if you want to you can even take the boat out there for an evening trip for dinner. Fjäderholmarnaskrog, have a few different venues out there to suit all budgets. Or if you fancy a more budget friendly option, why not go to the shop before you jump on the boat and buy some food to bring with you and have a little picnic on the cliffs by the water! There are a few handicraft shops out there and if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the glass blowers! A trip to Fjäderholmarna will not leave you disappointed and it’s also very nice to get to see Stockholm from the water front and you can not beat fresh sea air!

My second tip for a half day trip or evening walk is Tantolunden’s Allotment area.  If you fancy a little breather from the hustle and bustle of shopping and sightseeing, make your way to Skanstull tube station, from here it’s only a short walk to the wonderful area of Tantolunden, a large park and allotment area on the south west part of Södermalm.  If you’re anything like me when it comes to things in miniature, you’ll love this place! If you’re a keen gardner or maybe just like looking at beautiful greenery and gardens, this is the place for you! There are a ton of allotments here. And when I say allotment, you may think of the scrummie looking ones next to motorways outside of London, these couldn’t be further from it. They are more like a miniature of a Swedish summer house paradise, complete with little mini cottages and picked fences and gorgeous little miniature gardens!  You can continue your walk along the gravel path, lined with allotments and wild nature on one side and the water on the other, it’s hard to believe that you are in a European capital when you walk along here. It’s so serene and beautiful, like a little bit of countryside paradise in the city. You can even stop off for a fika at Cafe Rhodos. Check out this blog for lot’s of wonderful photos of what Tantolunden Allotments has to offer! 

View from inside one of the allotment cottages 

More photos here

Södermalm

After you’ve wandered around Old Town, make your way over to the south island, Södermalm, or more commonly known as Söder.  Södermalm used to be the working class area back in the days and you can still find some of the very old little wooden working class cottages, now a days very sought after properties! (more info & history here) Söder is by far mine and Mat’s favourite part of town, so it’s hard to just give you one thing to do here as it’s full of gems. My suggestion would be to walk up to Monteliusvägen, a small tree lined gravel path, which gives you a stunning view of Stockholm and the walk up there is quite interesting with the beautiful old houses and cobbled streets. Read more here.

Valborgsmässoafton

Today is the last day of April and in the UK it doesn’t mean much, perhaps we hope that it’s the end of April showers and we also know that the May bank holiday is around the corner. In Sweden however, the last day of April is Valborgsmässoafton, traditionally an old pagan holiday,  in more modern times the meaning of the holiday has changed and is celebrated as a way of welcoming spring and the light back into our lives. This is done my lighting big bonfires. So if you go to Sweden in April and look around the country side you will often see big piles of branches, leaves, old unwanted wooden furniture and other burnable items, Mat was a witness to these when we went home 2 weeks ago and he was curious as to why so many people had massive piles of rubbish everywhere. So I told him of our Valborg celebration, or just Sista April as we say where I’m from. There is usually one big bonfire for each village and it’s usually lit around 9pm, then everyone gather near the bonfire and sing the Swedish classic Längtan till landet, or more commonly known as ‘Vintern rasat’ to welcome spring in and then it’s all finished off with a fire work display and maybe a tipple or two to keep you warm in the cold, crisp spring evening.

So I’ll leave you with this. (I’m sure Mick will like it, seeing as he likes choirs)

Happy Weekend!

Just a short little post to wish you all a Happy Friday and a Happy Weekend or Trevlig Helg as we say in Sweden. I hope you won’t be too cold this weekend, I know the UK news are filled with talking about how freezing it is – but as the old Swedish saying goes: There’s no such thing as bad weather only the wrong clothing. Got to hear that a fair bit growing up. I also wanted to share a link with you for this lovely little extension build to a traditional Swedish house (not sure where abouts though). I just love the mullions creating all the little shelves, as well as a work place and a place to enjoy your morning coffee with a lovely view.

http://thegoldbrain.blogspot.com/2011_01_01_archive.html

Happy Lucia! Glad Lucia!

Today is Swedish Lucia, it has been celebrated since before Christian times. Legend has it that the night leading up to the 13th of December was a dangerous one, filled with super natural creatures lurking around causing all sorts of trouble. It was also thought that the animals could speak during the Lucia night. All the preparations for Christmas were due to be finished for the Lucia day and this would be celebrated by eating and drinking.  According to the old Julian calendar the Lucia day would fall on the winter solstice, which is why we traditionally celebrating the light coming back into our lives on Lucia day. Todays tradition of Lucia Choirs – led by one lady with lights in her crown dates back to around 1900 in Sweden.

Lucia for me, marks the real beginning of Christmas, its not until I’ve seen a Lucia concert that I get that real cosy, warm Christmas feeling sparking up inside me. I remember waking up as a kid, those cold and very dark December mornings and longing to go to school as I would get to see who was Lucia for this particular year, the concert was followed by the traditional Lusse Katt aka Lucia buns (saffron buns) and the rest of the school day was fun filled with us making decorations etc.

There are Lucia concerts in London too, and its getting increasingly popular and spreading to other parts of the UK too. The Swedish Church do one big concert yearly, usually at St Paul’s but you will have to be on guard and get your tickets early – they usually sell out as early as September. So in the meantime, the below video will have to do. It’s best enjoyed with some Glögg and pepparkakor with blue cheese.

Eeehhk – 3rd of Advent!

So today is the day when I usually do my yearly Christmas baking with my dear friend Anna – but I’m at home with a stinking cold. So instead of posting some real photos of our ‘baking crops’ these from last years work will have to do instead for now, until I regain my energy and bake my own Lucia buns and Swedish gingerbread cookies aka pepparkaka.

So this will have to do until I’ve made my new gingerbread house…

Happy 3rd of Advent!

Happy 2nd of Advent!

Christmas is creeping up on us very fast, it’s already the 2nd of Advent today, I have just lit the second candle in our Swedish ‘Adventsljusstake’.  The decorations have been put up and we got our christmas tree yesterday morning. It’s small but very cute! I have also been busy baking over the weekend.

This week we have finally decided on what we should do for our ‘save the date’. We have been scouring the Internet for inspiration and there is heaps to choose from and its been hard to make up our minds. But we feel we have found a great option now. So they will be sent out very soon!

To get you in the Christmas mood I’m sharing a classic & traditional Swedish Christmas print by the very much loved painter Carl Larsson.