Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Summer in Stockholm

Last weekend I decided to take my bike on an epic journey:   from our little municipality south of Stockholm, to a friend's municipality north of Stockholm (her daughter was turning 2 and we had some goodies for her that I wanted to drop off) - perhaps not 'epic', but with my one-gear bicycle, I figured the 16 km journey would take me approximately an hour there, and an hour back.  So, once the girls laid down for their mid-day nap, I packed up my stuff, said farewell to Mayu and headed out. 
For the first 45 minutes, it was a lovely ride.  The sun was shining and there is no better place ot be than Stockholm in the summer;  patios are full, frosted glasses are teeming with ice cold lager, bottles of rose are happily being downed and the hipsters - which, let's face it, is every Stockholmer - are out looking cooler than their dads. 
With only a few more kilometers to go, I lost control of my bike, veered off to the side of the road, only to look down and see my busted old tire, FLAT!  Since bikes aren't allowed to be taken on the subway here, and we don't drive, compiled with the fact that I don't have a mobile to contact anyone to help me, my options were few:  walk my busted old bike the 13km back home or lay down and die.  So I started back.  Since the walk back was slow going, I compiled a checklist of sorts, if one is ever to move to Stockholm:  The Stockholm Summer Survival Guide: 
1.  Straight hair.  If your hair is curly, you might not even bother visiting Stockholm.  The locals will view you as wild, unconforming, unwilling and, honestly, unsocialist.  You will also be unable to sport one of this season's dos:  long, short or male.     
2.  Ray-Bans.  Other sunglasses will not protect you from the Nordic sun, there is no other way, Ray-Bans or blindness, this is what I've been told.
3.  Children, preferably babies, a lot of them.  Safety in numbers.
4.  Chinos - beige or black (although I was recently informed that if you live in Ostermalm, you must own red ones), rolled messily, and exactly 2.5 times to hit the lower shin.  I'm guessing this has something to do with survival from lime disease - or mushroom picking, but I can't be sure. 
5.  Tattoos.  Preferably a sleeve, but something small and visible will do as well.  This is an important tribal marking to distinguish yourself as a Stockholmer, without a tattoo, in the case of a city riot, you never know what the wolves will do.
6.  Toms, white Converse (although in recent times black and navy are being seen as acceptable) or Hasbeens.  Without at least one pair of one of these, you will never out run a Swede and in a knife fight, is this what you want?  I should mention that, in winter, it is perfectly acceptable to wear Sorels or Hunter wellies.
7.  A bike.  Any one-gear retro bike will do, as long as it is equipped with a basket and gigantic saddle, but of course, the Stockholmers' favourites include Kronan, Monark and Cresent.  These last three are better equipped to fight off the Germans, if every under attack (this is only what I've been told).
8.  And lastly, rose wine.  To thaw the ice-cold Stockholm persona which one might encounter during the winter months - get a few glasses of rose into a Stockholmer and you have a friend for life, or at least until the next winter.  

If you follow this survival guide closely, you will not only be better off during any German attacks, or Swedish riots, but you might even be mistaken as a Stockholmer and if your Swedish won't pass, just purse your lips, breath in quickly, sort of through your teeth, making a loud sucking noise, and they'll think, at very least, you are from the South.  

I finally made it home on Saturday, after 2.5 hours of walking my busted rusty Kronan home.  My kids were, outside, playing, Mayu was hanging our chinos out on the line, and I poured myself a glass of rose and put my feet up.  I love summer in Stockholm. 

Until next time,

Grumpy Old Sarah. 

As the weather gets hotter, don't forget to take advantage and put a clothes line outside for fresh smelling, environmentally kind laundry!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dinnertime Redundancy

A couple friends of mine and I have an ongoing thread on facebook whingeing about all the things that are driving us mad about our's not to seek pity or to consol one another, but rather to top each other's kids' disgusting and miserable behavior to get each other laughing (now that I've spelt it out, it all seems very sinister!).  Well, for this one, I will share beyond our private thread:  dinner time. 

Since having kids, I've not shared in others' feelings of trepidation with new foods or understood how mealtime was difficult - in fact, we've been lucky with both our kids - they eat most things (sometimes need extra coaxing with veggies), and a lot, and we've never had to worry.  It's always been a quiet time of day - mouths full, chewing, swallowing, anywhere from 10-30 minutes of bliss...that is, until recently. 
Recently, Olive has to decided to quickly slip into her 'I'm an asshole outfit' right before dinner time (and it fits all too well I'm afraid!). 

First, it's up to the table, drink madly and wildly, milk seeping from the corners of her mouth (I let this go).  Then it's "Spoon mamma, inte fork!" (I always have both on the table in preparation, I give her a spoon).  "NEJ mamma, Olle's fork, inte spoon, hands!" (I don't let this go), "Fork or spoon Olive?".  Both utensils are now on the floor.  I pick them up, return them to her with no words (I'm usually too angry to calmly and patiently explain to her why this behavior is ridiculous, so I just hand them back to her).  One day she loves carrots, the next she hates them.  For, sometimes, 3 days in a row, she's crazy for rice and peas, then, on day four, rice and peas are a weapon to be thrown 'ping, ping' off her sister's head.  SERIOUSLY?!?!  And since the  weather's been nice and we spend most of our time outside, she NEVER wants to eat - it's a big drama every time I say the words, 'Dinner Time'.  "One more time slide?"  "Ok, Olive, 'one more time slide' and then dinner'".  As if.  She'll run in, jump up to the table, eat one bite, and then "Outside, play with kids?".  "Olive, you must eat more than one bite"...and these words just throw her over the edge! 

And what is worse?,  I have recently been told, that 3's are worse that 2' I'm determined to nip this behavior in the bud before we get to her 3rd birthday - but how??  I've read loads on discipline, behavior, positive reinforcement, forget it!  I have one determined kid.  I've thought of letting her starve...until she comes in begging to be fed, but I have to feed my youngest who, by 5pm, is getting ultra grumpy and hungry, so I can't keep an eye on Olive outside.  In with the masses I'm afraid.  And a few times, I've managed to feed Poppy outside while Olive plays, but then Olive claims that I'm starving her at precisely 7pm (coincidently, her bedtime might I add!)...and truthfully, I'm not interested in running a restaurant.    
In the end, I try telling myself, these shenanigans will be replaced by far worse shenanigans when the girls are in their teen years, which helps me not to kill the girls, but it doesn't make me any happier about the current situation. 

Until next time,

Grumpy Old Sarah.  

We're quickly approaching last frost in Stockholm (sort can't be sure until June), so get those seedlings started to enjoy your summer harvest!  Feel free to check out your climate zone above.  A funny blog entry I came across while searching for the last frost, read, "Dear Swedenyou suck. Your spring is awful, your wine is expensive."  I like it, especially the bit about the wine!               

Monday, May 2, 2011

Green Thumbing It

Since I last wrote, the weather has gone from winter to summer and then back to winter (not quite, but it is damn chilly today!), my eldest turned 2, Prince William (last name:  Mountbatten-Windsor, if you can even believe) of the UK married,  Bin Laden was killed (apparently) and Donald Trump has become the next president of the United States (ok, it hasn't been quite that long, but who knows between this entry and the next...)...and it's only been a month!  But perhaps the most remarkable development of all, since I last wrote, is the growing season has begun...

tomatoes, sunflowers and yellow beans


green beans and sunflowers

(insert appropriate 'ooooos' and 'awwwwws' here please)  Mayu hates me for this time, as all of my seedlings are kept in our bedroom - if you follow his blog nerdhusbandfather you may remember some venting last year!  

For those of you not interested in green-thumbing, this might not make your 'Top 10 Comebacks', yet, this blog entry promises to be magnificent.  No, I'm kidding, I can't make such will merely follow with 'fun facts' about parsley and fertilizer...oooooo, and, wait for it....GREEN BEANS!  Yes, this is my new project - flowers are always on the agenda, together with herbs and peas and splicing of my sedum, hosta and rhubarb, but this year, in addition to continuing the tomato tradition (albeit last year was a disaster) I will be planting the following edible plants:  green beans, yellow beans, peas, and sunflowers (mostly for the birds).  Moms & dads out there - these are all very easy and fun ways keep your kids outside.  Both my girls are CRAZY for our garden, which is a huge motivation to keeping it stocked (if you don't have a garden, much of what I plant and will further discuss over the season can be planted in boxes on your balcony, or even inside on a window sill).  Both girls help to plant and dig outside (Poppy just eats dirt mostly, but she has a blast doing so!) and Olive has learned, quickly, which paths to take in the garden to get to the herbs and rhubarb without trampling the flowers.   Every evening, following dinner, we head outside (if we've come in at all...usually we eat dinner outside and don't come in until bathtime/bedtime) to water everything.  Both girls love it; Olive has her own watering can which she dumps and fills as quickly as possible, and Poppy drags herself along trying to keep up.   It really is a magnificent time of year to have little ones around.  In fact over the Easter weekend, it wasn't just our kids helping, it was all the neighbourhood kids - all little people seem to easily get into the spirit of things. 

Easter gardening with the neighborhood kids

 And if you do take heed -  a great, organic fertilizer is nettles.  Take a bunch of the readily available weed, chop them up into a bucket (keeping your gloves on the entire time of course), fill the bucket with water and let rot (a couple weeks is usually good - but the stinkier the better, and MAN can this concoction get stinky!).  Mayu complains about my chosen method of fertilization, because of the putrid smell...but, truthfully, you only need to use about a cup diluted in a large watering can, once a week - I do it late in the evening, before bed, it smells for an hour or so but by morning there's no trace and all your plants remain KID FRIENDLY (not to mention earth-animal-etc friendly)!! 

Olive eating some garden goodies...
Poppy enjoying the sun, her snack and the daffodils (I'm only guessing)

Until next time (and be rest assured, as you lay your head down to sleep tonight, that you will not have to wait for another savvy read for as long as you waited this time),

Grumpy Old Sarah

As promised:  It is said that parsley goes 7 times to the Devil and back before it germinates (because of the long time it takes to grow).  Moreover, because of the difficulty in growing it, it is said that only witches or evil people can grow it...some food for thought if you're planting to keep anyone away...but also to keep in mind if you choose to grow from seed (I have quickly learned, that, this is as tough as they say).