Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Still swapping

We are still having a lot of fun getting our swap on over the summer!

I can't believe that it's been a year now since I started this blog and 6 months since starting the Worldwide Culture Swaps

You'd of thought we would be getting bored of it by now but we all get excited every time we receive a new package from a far off place.

I think we have sent around 25 packages now (and received the same amount) and I never cease to be amazed at the things that you can learn about the world when you see it through the eyes of the swapping families.

Putting the packages together has turned into quite the military operation since I can't have any of the bits hanging around anywhere waiting to be eaten by Henry or put in the dog's water bowl by Freddy.  So when lights go out I lay everything out on the floor and put together the items that have been steadily collected over the previous weeks. 

I have tried to involve Freddy in putting them together but he is more interested in the receiving part of the swap rather than the giving but with all the people we now know around the world he will have plenty of opportunities to send things to other families when he is a little older.
I originally wanted to do these swaps to collect bits and pieces to show the boys when we are learning about different countries and cultures but I've also found myself meeting some lovely people along the way.

If you are interested in taking part you can read more here.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Best lay-by ever?

When you stop at the side of the road for a quick 'comfort break' in Sweden you get much more than just a portaloo and a coffee kiosk.

For starters the traditional sign used to indicate toilet facilities is a lovely picture of a door with a heart on it so it must be special right?
Behold the wonder that is the E22 road rest place close to Västervik!
You get toilets with a view of a lake out the back to die for.
And a sandy beech and diving jetty in the water.
Picnic tables and BBQs in a beautiful wooded area.
 Can you believe this is just a lay-by?
Only in Sweden would you find this - a country with a lot of spare space and a lot of lakes equals heaven.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Back home with new skills

We made it back to France again after a mammoth 7 day journey home in our bus (more on that later), and although I didn't want to leave Sweden it was nice coming home and remembering all the fun things we get up to here.

One of the things I love about the fact that we travel regularly is that after every journey you return and it is immediately apparent that the children suddenly have different interests than before we left. 

Well this time was a big fat look-what-I-can-do-mummy moment when Freddy (32 months) demonstrated that he can now reach the peddles on his tricycle (which was my husband's when he was a child).
And Henry (10.5 months) is on two feet albeit balancing with a low centre of gravity.  He is showing a real interest in holes of any kind - if he can poke a finger in it then he likes it.

The boys are even learning to play with each other a little bit....

But those moments pass so quickly and are inevitably replaced with a tug of war (at best).

I know what you're thinking...what on earth are they both wearing???  Well they are matching pepparkaksgubben outfits (gingerbread men) which play a part in St Lucia celebrations and were kindly given to us by Janet in Sweden (Faster Mia's neighbour).

What to do now then?  Well, we are packing to go to England as we speak.............

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Trolls are everywhere

There are a lot of Swedish folklore tales about trolls and elves.  We were surprised ro find one today during a walk to collect berries.

Friday, 3 August 2012

The patience of grandparents

Haven't families changed so much in just a few generations?

It wasn't that long ago when multiple generations of a family would live together;  the children, the parents and the grandparents all under the same roof.   I grew up with my grandfather living with us and I have a lot of happy memories of it.

It just makes so much sense to me; it's symbiotic.  The grandparents get to do all the fun stuff with the children and watch them grow and develop, the parents get a bit of rest every now and then and recharge their batteries as well as saving money in potential childcare fees, and of course even better is the benefit to the children in so many ways. 
When I see Freddy and Henry with their grandparents I can see just how much they respond to the wonderful undivided attention that they receive.  Freddy (31 months) will happily talk 24 hours a day with Farmor and Farfar who are incredibly patient listeners.  They have such a brilliant way of encouraging his constant commentary of life which starts at around 6am and goes full speed until he goes to bed.
When we return to France we will find it really hard to replicate the wonderful environment that the children have been in here in Sweden - but we will try hard.

Hopefully we will all live together soon as we plan our permanent move to Sweden.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Surströmming

Turn off your smellovision and line your stomach with milk because this post is an acquired taste!

Surströmming (sour herring) is the name given to a fermented can of fish which once opened can clear a room in seconds.

Here's the technical bit about why it smells so bad:
Surströmming was created long ago, when brining food was quite expensive due to the cost of salt. When fermentation was used, just enough salt was required to keep the fish from rotting. The salt raises the osmotic pressure of the brine above the zone where bacteria responsible for rotting can thrive and prevents decomposition of fish proteins into oligopeptides and amino acids. [source]
Basically it ferments in the can like a forgotten yougourt left in a school locker over the summer holidays.   Then, just as the tin bulges and buckles under the built up pressure you open it and serve it as a meal.

Can you see how much the tin has expanded!?
Apparently a Japanese study has shown that the smell of a newly opened can of surströmming is the most putrid smell of food in the world.  So what was Farfar thinking when he made us close all the windows and doors and open the can inside the house???


Perhaps unsurprisingly this traditional food is served with strong vodka.  Here is Farfar enjoying his fragrant fish supper.  "Mycket gott!" he said as we all held our stomachs.
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