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Tag: living abroad (Page 1 of 13)

Ales Stones – A Megalithic Monument

The last stop on our day’s adventure to Skåne, was Ales Stones.  This is an acient monument that dates back to the Iron Age.  Ales Stones is made up of 59 huge stones, that are placed in a 67 metre long outline of a ship.  They are located in a beautiful setting, 32 metres above sea level, overlooking the Baltic Sea and Österlen’s hilly landscape.  The vista is amazing once you have completed the climb up to the monument.  It is Sweden’s best preserved ship tumulus and was built around 1400 years ago.

This was our last stop of a long and exciting day.  The children were tired, but it still did not stop them competing against each other to get to the top.  The weather was now starting to get very windy and more chilly, so I think they were spurred on by the need to keep warm!  The walk up was not too long, but very steep, and the views back down to the harbour as we climbed up were nothing short of stunning.  As is so often the case here in Sweden there was no charge for the privilege of seeing this wonderful piece of history, and no barriers either.  This meant that once we had reached the top, the children could touch, feel, and move in amongst the large boulders, really gaining a sense of perspective of how big it all was.  There are sheep and cattle grazing in amongst the monument too, adding a sense of calm and tranquillity to the area.  I realise perhaps these monuments in Sweden are not as busy as some back in the UK (I think we all know of a similar one I am referring to), but to not have to pay extortionate entry fees, and to be able to wander freely amongst the monument whilst respecting it, is a very lovely thing.

So what are Ales Stones?  Some think it is a burial monument, while others think they were an astronomical clock.  They are placed so that the sun sets on the northwestern stone in the summer, and the sunrises on the exact opposite stone in the winter.  They are erected in a ship formation (67m long and 19m wide at the widest point), and it is believed to originate from the early Iron Age (500-1000 AD).  The views from the top were also stunning, and very large!

It was such a lovely place to be, so it was a shame it felt like we were in a bit of a rush.  However, the wind was really picking up, and temperatures were starting to fall quite quickly, and the children were tired after a lovely, but long day in the outdoors and fresh air (not to mention a LOT of walking/running).  So we descended down with the eldest having to get a piggy back from Dadda, as a stumble made her shed tears of tiredness, and got back to the car.  We strapped everyone in, and started the 2.5 hour journey back home through the Swedish countryside.  It was very quiet from the trio, and Dadda and I were left to admire the Swedish landscape.  Another time, it would be nice to dawdle at the top, and then enjoy the fresh fish restaurants at the bottom, but I think that is more a summer experience!!

Ales Stones, Ales Stenar, Iron Age Sweden, Sweden Monument, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Stenshuvuds National Park – A Biodiversity Gem

Stenshuvuds National Park, Sweden National Parks, Sweden www.mammasschool.co.ukStenshuvuds National Park is an area in southern Sweden that brings together many different natural environments within quite a small area.  Stenshuvud is actually a hill located in a relatively flat area of Sweden, so the views from the top are magnificent. It faces the Baltic Sea.  The Stenshuvuds National Park contains forest, meadows, open heath land, swamps, and beaches…you can’t get many more forms of environment in one area!!  With the rich diverse environments, also comes a rich and diverse array of animal and plant life.  Close to the top are the remains of a 5th or 6th century fortress (which we didn’t visit this time round).

We arrived at Stenshuvuds National Park with the aim of taking a nice afternoon hike in a loop, taking in as many of the different environments as possible.  We started out in the forest, with a boardwalk over the more swampy areas.  The children loved trying to balance along the edges, and being the first real warmish day of spring, we were able to ditch the hats and over trousers, and enjoy the freedom of just being in thick jumpers and coats!

Once we had emerged from the wooded area, there was an open slope down to the wide and open stretch of beautiful white sandy beach.  This area of Sweden is known for amber washing up ashore, so we were on a treasure hunt immediately!  The rocks and stones were so beautiful.  Many different colours and patterns, and soon the children were collecting them and stowing half of Sweden away in their pockets.  They had a lot of favourite ones, and there were some tough decisions to be made about which few could come home with us, after they had lugged them a good way along the beach!  Unfortunately we didn’t manage to locate any amber, but we did enjoy the stunning beach, its views, and the windiest part of the walk.  The boys loved racing the waves in and out, standing on the verge of the water and then running backwards before the next wave could soak their feet:-)

After the beach it was up through the heath land and admiring the views on the way up, as well as the few hardy flowers that had been brave and already opened.  Then it was back into the forest again to head towards the car.  It was so nice to finally feel we were out in spring sunshine and the walk had amazing views.  A truly beautiful place, and as the park describes themselves “a biodiversity gem”.

 

Kiviksgraven – A Bronze Age Monument

Kiviksgraven, kungagraven, bronze age grave, Skane bronze age www.mammasschool.co.ukOn our recent trip to Kivik, we decided to visit Kiviksgraven.  This is a large Bronze Age grave monument, and one of the most remarkable bronze age monuments in Sweden.  There is a very large cairn on the top of the ground, marking the grave’s location, that is 75m across.  Underneath there is a burial chamber, with a passage leading into it.  In the centre of this burial chamber are 8 slabs.  It had always been thought that an important person or king was buried in there.  In the early 1930’s there was archaeological work done inside the grave, and although they thought they had found the king’s remains, it turned out they were probably several teenagers buried in there throughout a period of 600 years.

The Kiviksgraven is situated where people had lived 6,000 years ago, living off what the forest and sea gave them.  Then 3,500 years ago, the place took on some sort of spiritual significance and the Kiviksgraven was built.  The stone slabs inside the grave are adorned with bronze age drawings of ships, horses, and people.  There are now a lot of other burial mounds and standing stones too in the area.  The Kiviksgraven was discovered when back in the 18th century workers started using the stones for construction purposes.  Whilst doing this 2 men fell down into the chamber and the grave was discovered.

We paid our 25 sek (£2.50) for each adult to enter (children were free) and headed on in.  We thought this was a bargain considering the expense going anywhere with all 5 of us usually entails.  Plus you could get right up to the stones, and look at them properly.  This is a lot nicer for children who are not much good at looking at stones from a distance!  The drawings were in really good condition and the whole tomb was a little surreal to be inside.  After visiting inside the tomb, we walked round the whole of the outside. We had some difficulty trying to keep the trio off the cairn as it resembled one giant fun play area in their eyes, but eventually they understood.

These monuments don’t take that long to visit, and after a 2 hour drive to get to it, we needed a little refreshment before we continued on our tour, so we headed inside to the very Swedish and very lovely wooden hut cafe.  The children also had a little play in the garden area.

This was such an amazing piece of history to see, and really well preserved.  It was lovely to be able to get so close to it as well 🙂

Chokladbollens dag – Chocolate Ball Day

Thursday 11th May (torsdag elfte maj) was chokladbollens dag….yes, that’s right, they have a whole day dedicated to eating chocolate balls!  The longer I live here, the more I feel this country is the perfect place for my sweet tooth to have taken residence.  It seems there is always a yummy treat to spend a day officially celebrating!  So, in order to show we were integrating well into Swedish culture and life, we whizzed up a batch of these no-bake treats (like we really needed a reason!!).

So what do you need to make this gooey treat for chokladbollens dag?

250g soft butter

400g rolled oats

175g caster sugar

4 tbs cocoa powder

4 tbs strong cooled coffee

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

desiccated coconut.

This made around 30 balls, but I think it should easily reach 40-50 if you don’t have a 9 year old chocoholic deciding the size of them 🙂

Whizz all the ingredients together, apart from the coconut, and then pop into the fridge to allow it to go a little firmer.  Once firm, roll into small balls, and then roll each ball into the desiccated coconut to cover it.  They should keep in the fridge for around a week….ahem….if you haven’t got me living with you!!

These are very easy and quick to make, and perfect for little people who enjoy “helping” in the kitchen.  Although to be fair my little lady is actually a help now rather than a hindrance.  As for the twins……….!!!!

 

chokladbollens dag, chocolate balls day, sweden www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Sandhammeren Beach – The Carribean in Sweden!

Sandhammeren beach lies down in southern Sweden in Skåne, and is one of Sweden’s finest beaches.  The long stretches of white sand there can rival any Caribbean beach.  On our recent adventure into this part of Sweden, Sandhammeren beach was on our “to do” list, and we were not disappointed.  The beach stretches for miles and miles and miles, the sand is white and soft, the sea is blue and clear (and cold in late April!), and there are the most amazing sand dunes as the back drop to this fantastic landscape.

As As soon as we released the trio from the car they ran straight for the dunes, and were racing up and down them for ages, giving Dadda and I ample time to take in the gorgeous view and use a leisurely pace to head towards the beach.  The children were just running and running.  The huge expanse of dunes, meant total freedom for further than they could have stamina for (a perfect win for parents!).  Once we caught up with them, we headed onto the beach.  Here the sand was so white, soft, and beautiful.  We were there on a windy late April day, but in the summer the sea will be a lot calmer and warmer for swimming in.  Today the children were happy just to chase the waves, and again run, run, run enjoying the freedom.  We didn’t meet another soul along Sandhammeren beach, and could see either way along the beach for miles.  Our little lady seemed to favour playing down on the shore line, enjoying splashing, running in and out of the waves, and writing her name in footprints on the sand.  It wasn’t long before the wellies were discarded in favour of bare feet as the waves had gone in over the top anyway.  Where we used to live in the UK we had a shingle beach, and whilst she was always to be found barefoot (the best way to be), it was always with an uncomfortable hobble.  So, to say she enjoyed sinking her feet into the soft sand is an understatement.  After a long winter of being all wrapped up in hats, coats, gloves, and second pairs of trousers, I think we all felt a sense of freedom with the shedding of the layers!

Meanwhile the mini men seemed to favour the dunes immediately behind us, running up and down them, before finally persuading Dadda to leap off them (he doesn’t need much persuading!!).  They had so much fun going up and down, and in an out of the grasses.

An action shot of Dadda and our little lady jumping off the dunes

We spent a good couple of hours just exploring this gorgeous beach, and shoes and pockets were filled with sand by the end of all the fun.  We headed back towards the car through the heath and scrub on the footpath, meandering our way a bit more chilled out by now.  Once we were back in the car park, the children had a quick obligatory tree climb and play on the rope swing, before climbing back into the car, with a little less energy than they got out of it with!!  We will definitely be returning to Sandhammeren beach during the summer to have some fun in the Swedish summer sun here, as we have totally fallen in love with the place!

Sandhammeren Beach, Skåne, Skane beach, Sweden beaches, white sand, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Two Tiny Hands

Kivik – The Apple Capital Of Sweden

Since moving to Sweden, I have started compiling lists of where to visit and what to see.  Somewhere not too far from us is the county of Skåne.  This county is known for its huge expanse of sandy beaches, its proliferation of apple blossom in the spring, and lovely old villages.  So, with far too much on my list to achieve in one day, we chose 5 things to do on a bright but chilly and windy spring day.  First up was the village of Kivik, but we will no doubt be returning many times to this lovely county to do more exploring!!

Kivik has an old part of the town near the harbour and seafront.  It has lovely old buildings and cobbled streets, and is very beautiful.  It has lots of unique little shops, restaurants, and cafes.  It is very early in the spring here, but we got a taste of how it would come alive in the summer months, and how people would be jostling for space at the fresh fish restaurants, and enjoying the sandy harbour area.  It also has one of Sweden’s oldest cinemas there, but we did not locate that.

The area around Kivik is also very renowned for its apple growing.  The climate seems to favour this fruit here, and Kivik is the centre of Swedish apple cultivation; the apple capital of Sweden.  In fact, there is so much going on, that the blossom season is a sight to see in its own right, and we had set out on our adventure aiming to see this.  A month ago when we visited the UK the blossom season was in full swing, and I thought we may have been OK visiting it here in Sweden now, but I think we were a little early, but only by a week or so.  Some of the trees had started and others were ready to burst open with blossom, and it hinted at the spectacle of what was to come.  It was still very pretty, but we were a little too early in May for our visit.

Kivik - The Apple Capital of Sweden, Visit Skane, Osterlen, apple blossom, sweden www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

3 Little Buttons

Leaving Family and Friends Behind to Follow Your Dreams

Leaving family and friends behind to follow your dreams. Moving abroad. Moving away from family and friends. www.mammasschool.co.ukI have been umming and ahhhing about writing this post, as I don’t usually write about myself, and my blog is about the children and family life in general.  However, this is a big topic relevant to us moving abroad, and the only down side I have stumbled upon so far.  So, in the light of giving a balanced view on our move to Sweden and how it is working, this topic is something I feel needs to be written about.  When we moved, I always knew we were also making the decision to leave our family and friends behind in order to pursue a long term dream of mine and Dadda’s.  I don’t think I ever underestimated the enormity of this, but 6 months on, and after a recent trip to the UK, I am feeling it a little more than usual.  Definitely no regrets about returning back to Sweden though after the UK visit.

It is very common now not to have your family around you for immediate support when bringing up your children, and I realise this.  However, I did have a lovely group of friends from various eras and areas of my life.  People have been amazingly friendly here in Sweden since we moved, and hugely helpful, but it takes time to build up the sort of relationships with family and friends that we left behind in the UK.  As well as the relationships you leave behind, for a long while you are leaving behind the option of you and your partner heading out together for some quality time as there is no one to look after our mad trio just yet. Not only that, but when the going gets tough (which it has been with the trio recently), there is no back up, no one to give you a break, and no one to moan to that knows both you and your children properly just yet.  I think that is why I am feeling it a little more recently, as the trio have been a little hot to handle in various ways, and being a stay at home mum, I am with them 24/7.  If you are thinking of moving abroad, this is something to seriously consider…how you would cope leaving behind your family and friends.  I am not saying I won’t make new friends here, I really hope I can and do, but you need to consider if you really can go it alone as a family unit, certainly for a good chunk of time near the beginning (perhaps one of the most stressful times too as everyone settles down into their new life).  I will attempt to explain why I am missing these important people.

Back in the UK over Easter I met up with some of my closest friends for a catch up and a hug.  The first one we met at Gatwick for breakfast.  This lovely person has known me pre-children, pre-marriage, whilst I was working as a nurse, and we have shared drunken camping trips together.  Then my little lady met her 2 BFF’s whose mums happen to be 2 of my BFF’s.  We have been together since our girls were 4.  They have known me with baby twins, they have helped me chase toddler twins on days out, they have never once judged my chaos, and we have supported each other through the ups and cliff dropping downs of life, as have our girls.  Then there are my 2 close friends that are fellow twin mums.  One supported me hugely when mine were newborns (she was a few years down the line, and could remember the calamity with clarity!), and the other one has twins a few months younger than mine.  They know what it is to have young twins, and to try and carry on with the chaos that twins bring, and survive others’ judgements and often open comments and criticism!  These lovely ladies know me as a person in my own right rather than just a Mamma and relocation planner!  However, they also know our children too and my other half, and can easily offer help, advice, support, or even just a mummys’ night out.  Being new in Sweden, and being a stay at home mum, means that I am struggling a little to make a groove for myself outside of being a Mamma and a wife.  Whilst our little lady and mini men settle into their school/förskola friendships, and Dadda has headed out a few times now with his work colleagues, whose company he enjoys, I am floundering a little on the friendship front.  I know it will all come as I have met some really lovely people that have made us all feel so welcome, and I know it will take time to build up relationships, and until then I’ve just got to settle in for the long haul, but it doesn’t make missing these special people that are family and friends any easier…..you know who you are, and I am so lucky to have you as my friends, and I look forward to welcoming you here over the summer 🙂

Valborg – The Welcoming of Spring.

So it was time for our next Swedish experience, Walpurgis Eve (in English), or Valborg (in Swedish), is the official welcoming of spring.  It is traditional to light fires, enjoy each others company, and sing songs together, and happens on the last day of April.   Officially, spring has arrived when the daily average temperature tops zero degrees Celsius for seven days in a row here in Sweden….a tough one recently with snow falling not so long ago, but large parts of the country are now managing to confirm this has happened….at last!  The Swedish are celebrating the end of the harsh winter (less harsh down here in the south, but still dark, cold, and long!), and looking forward to the summer sunshine….especially on our island where its nickname is Little Hawaii 🙂  This event is named after St. Walpurga (which is Valborg in Swedish), an English missionary who celebrated Christianity in other parts of Europe.  These days, it is more to do with spring than Christianity.  The King also happens to have his birthday on this day, but that is just a lovely coincidence. The larger cities take on more of an all day party feel, with students kicking off their day with champagne breakfasts, and the celebrations go from there.  There are some huge bonfires too in the larger cities, with lots of other traditions going on as well.  You may even be passed a warming hot cup of liquid as well……some lovely nettle soup as soon as the snow melts here they are springing up.  A sure sign spring has arrived.

So what did we get up to on our lovely little island we call home?  In the harbour at the North West part of the island, there was a larger community bonfire.  We set off on our bikes to experience this celebration for the first time at this location.  On the way, we saw many relaxing with barbecues or their own fires, in the early spring sunshine (fully dressed in hats and gloves still!), with the boat houses open for the first time I have seen.  It was so lovely to see the island alive after the long winter.  There are always people out walking/running/cycling around the island, but there was just a more relaxed vibe about tonight, and whilst it was still cold, people were happy to sit outdoors and enjoy their food, rather then hunkering down back indoors.  A true feeling that spring is finally coming.  We decided this year to feed our tribe earlier, and just turn up and see what happens.  Next year I think we too will be grilling sausages along with everyone else.  As it was, our 5 year old twins were nearly collapsed with tiredness once we got home at the grand time of 8pm!!

The fire was lit and everyone had a little sing song, and after that was over people got back to just chilling with their drinks and food, or started their grilling and relaxing with their friends.  People who were not cooking were already drifting away back to their cosy homes and we followed soon after with our tired trio.  But we had thoroughly enjoyed out first Valborg in our new home.

With the sun setting, and the smoking embers of the bonfire in the distance, voices could be heard happily chattering away , enjoying each other’s company and cooking outdoors.  As we cycled away it was like the island was on fire, there was so much smoke rising from it, from all the fires that had been lit in celebration.  I am thinking I really like this celebration and its cosy feel, and whilst I don’t wish my little people to grow up too fast, I am looking forward to when the smaller 2 are a little older and we too can chill with them and some drink and food, instead of pedalling back home for bedtime 🙂

Valborg - The Welcoming Of Spring, spring, start of spring, springtime www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

Country Kids

Scouts Celebrate St.George’s Day at Sjöscouten.

Sunday was St. George’s Day.  Lord Baden-Powell chose St.George as the Patron Saint of Scouting as the story of St.George shows him overcoming adversity.

“All Scouts should know his story.  St.George was typical of what a Scout should be.  When he was faced by a difficulty or danger, however great it appeared, even in the shape of a dragon – he did not avoid it or fear it but went at it with all the power he could …That is exactly the way a Scout should face a difficulty or danger no matter how great or how terrifying it may appear. He should go at it boldly and confidently, using every power that he can to try and overcome it, and the probability is that he will succeed.” (Lord Baden-Powell).

So, with our little lady in the Sjöscouten (sea scouts), we headed off for a family afternoon doing something a little more English in its origin, and went to celebrate St.George’s day.

The first part of the afternoon saw us doing a little trail in the forest.  We were hunting down phrases that described what it meant to be a scout.  We then discussed them with our little scouts.  For us it was a little more intense as it was all in Swedish, but with the help of Google topping up our growing basic Swedish vocab, we made a good go of it for our little lady.  The trio thoroughly enjoyed trying to find the next tree trunk with a phrase stuck to it, and by the end I think our little lady had a good idea of what being a scout means.

As the rain started to fall harder, it was time to head inside and watch and listen to an indoor parade for the young scouts.  They held the Scouting flag, they raised the Swedish flag, and they all said their Scout promise one by one.  This was a real challenge for our little lady, as not only had she not been forewarned and so did not know the promise, but it was also in Swedish.  We could see her starting to well up and get flustered standing there waiting her fate, but her leader was so good with her.  She quietly broke it down into a few words at a time for her to repeat in Swedish.  Whilst my heart was in my mouth watching her a little unnerved prior to her go, I think it was the best thing for her.  She has been learning Swedish at school, will correct me when I am trying to speak it, but will not yet pluck up the courage to speak herself.  To be put in a situation with no warning and in an instant it be done with did her good, and she was pleased she did it after, but admitting to wanting to cry immediately prior to it.

With that part done, and huge sighs of relief all round, it was time for fika….the Swedish custom of being together and socialising, preferably in the presence of coffee and a sweet treat!!  Of course this went down very well with the trio.  Once consumed, the scouts had one more little parade, taking down the flag and saying goodbye, and it was time to head off.  It was so lovely to have the whole family invited as we got to see what goes on and to see a little more of how the Swedes do things.  It was a lovely afternoon.

 

Scouts Celebrate St.George's Day at Sjöscouten www.mammasschool.co.uk

Happy Swedish Cows – Watching the Cows Leave the Barn After a Winter Inside.

Have you ever experienced around 60 cows all running, dancing, and jumping out of the barn after 6 months indoors over the winter??  It is an amazing spectacle to watch.  We went along on Easter Day to Kosläpp 2017 at Björketorps Gård for our first experience of this phenomenon.  The happy Swedish cows did not disappoint either.  We were stood around the perimeter of a field with many hundreds of other people, awaiting what is a traditional marker for the end of winter, and the start of spring, with the release of the happy Swedish cows from their barn after being indoors for the harsh 6 months of winter.  However, yesterday the temperatures dropped here, and we had snow.  There was still a smattering on the ground, and we did wonder if the cows would turn around and go straight back indoors!!

The calm before the storm….ready, steady……..

I have never seen a herd of female cows so active and lively!!  They were indeed very happy Swedish cows.  With the barn doors opening they raced down the length of the field running, jumping, and dancing around…they have had all winter to practise their routines after all 😉  I have never seen a cow jump, and it is a little amusing.  Not only were they jumping, but they were so feisty there was quite a lot of fight action going on too.  They would stare each other out and lock heads, and push to and fro.  Then there were other cows pawing the ground with their hooves, digging, as well as cows rubbing their noses along the ground (not unlike dogs when they find a smell they like), and one even rolling around the ground on its back (again not unlike a dog!).  Watching all these guys racing towards you (even with a small wire fence between you and them) is a little unsettling!

After a lot of excitement and mooing, we headed off to explore the rest of the working farm, which was opened up for us to mooch around.  It was so lovely, and a very open look into the workings, life, and smells of a dairy farm here in Sweden.  First of all we headed into the cows’ barn, to see their home over the winter.  The cows were free to wander in and out after their release into the field, so we saw some come into their private stable area for some food, others were being milked, and we got to see and smell life in the barn.  After that we headed over to see a 2 day old calf with his mummy, and then some older calves as well.  There were also pony rides to experience, tractor rides in a hay cart, food, ice creams (made with their own milk), and tractors to clamber all over.

We had a lovely day watching the happy Swedish cows see grass again after the winter, and will definitely be making this an annual tradition 🙂

Happy Swedish cows, cows out after winter, cows released in spring, kosläpp, sweden, living abroad www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Country Kids

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