Discover Hasslö – The Perfect Swedish Island To Relax On

We are lucky enough to live in southern Sweden.  Blekinge, our part of Sweden, has an archipelago made up of 1650 islands, skerries, and islets.  With the great transport system of archipelago boats, and county buses (we moved from the UK where buses were a little hit and miss!!), exploring the archipelago is very easy.  We started exploring our archipelago a little last spring and summer, but this year, with a little more research, we are going to go on a journey of discovery.  We will explore the archipelago looking at the background, how to get there, what to see and do, where to eat, and where to stay for each place we visit.  We would like to take you with us on this adventure via the blog, and you never know you may well find yourself booking a trip to discover this small part of the world 🙂  Enjoy the adventure with us….second up is the island of Hasslö.

Background Information About Hasslö:

This beautiful island epitomises Swedish summer living, with its harbours full of boats, its beautiful sandy beach to relax on, and the shallow waters at the beach to splash and play in.  You definitely need to take life in the slow lane on this lovely island.  It is nicknamed “little Hawaii” due to seemingly having a lot of warm sunshine in the summer months, and it is connected to the mainland by a road bridge.  There is a small supermarket for supplies, and Sweden’s politician, journalist, and poet, Fabian Månsson originated from this island.

Our Adventures On Hasslö:

We have enjoyed seeing the island from the footpaths and hiking around it.  Good footpaths run right around most of this island, and you can either stay on ones where you are likely to bump into others, or use the more secluded ones through the woods.  We have also enjoyed a sunrise picnic in a quiet cove, in the wintertime, as I am not so keen on the very early Swedish summer sunrise times!  During the summer months we have enjoyed visiting and spending many hours on its sandy beach at Sandvik playing, swimming, cooking outdoors on the fire, and generally enjoying life.  This island is so beautiful, and despite having more residents than compared to some of the islands in the archipelago, nature is never far away to be able to lose yourself in.  It’s really handy to access too, due to it having a bridge, which the children have enjoyed watching open for boats to sail through.

How To Get To Hasslö:

If you do not have a car, you can come on a direct bus from Karlskrona.  In the summer months the archipelago boats visit the island, docking on the east side of the island at Horn.

What To See And Do On Hasslö:

  1. Fabian Månsson has both a statue and his grave on the island if you fancy visiting either of those.
  2. The beach at Sandvik provides lots of sand for play, as well as a volleyball court in the summer months.  The shallow water is excellent for children to play in as well as being able to swim in.
  3. Cycling around this island is one of the better ways to see it.
  4. There are lots of hiking trails around the island or through woods, and you can even geocache for a few treasure finds here as well.
  5. In July, Hasslö has its very own music festival which you can read about here.

Where To Eat On Hasslö:

  1. Hamn Café:  This is a beautiful café down at the main harbour on the southeast side.  You can get hot food, cold food, ice creams, coffees, beers, wines, delicious cakes and all sorts.  In good weather you can sit on the decking overlooking the sea. Check the website for more details and opening times.

    Photo: Eva Afferdal

  2. Hasslö Doppet:  This is a bakery/pizzeria/restaurant.  It serves the most delicious pizza buffet as well as other food choices.  Both alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages can be bought to quench your thirst, as well as pick and mix sweets.  They also freshly bake their cakes and breads there.
  3. Lilla Hawaii:  This is another pizza restaurant on the island where you can be tempted to buy some more pizzas.

Where To Stay On Hasslö:

  1. Hasslö Stugby rent out some cabins, as well as having space to park your motorhome or caravan.  See the website for more details
  2. Vandrarhemmet Skärgårdsvilan:  The island also has a youth hostel on it which you can book into.

We have discovered for ourselves that this is a most beautiful island, full of such lovely and friendly people, where you can truly kick back and relax in a very Swedish way.  I can thoroughly recommend spending some time exploring what this island has to offer and generally enjoying life here for a few days 🙂

Discover Hasslö, Hasslö, Visit Karlskrona, Visit Blekinge. Visit Sweden, Sweden, Travel in Sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Inspiration Wednesday – Let Children Explore

Inspiration Wednesday - Let Children Explore, Home education, nature, natural world, outdoors, outdoor play, nature play, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Discover Aspö – An Island Full Of History

We are lucky enough to live in southern Sweden.  Blekinge, our part of Sweden, has an archipelago made up of 1650 islands, skerries, and islets.  With the great transport system of archipelago boats, and county buses (we moved from the UK where buses were a little hit and miss!!), exploring the archipelago is very easy.  We started exploring our archipelago a little last spring and summer, but this year, with a little more research, we are going to go on a journey of discovery.  We will explore the archipelago looking at the background, how to get there, what to see and do, where to eat, and where to stay for each place we visit.  We would like to take you with us on this adventure via the blog, and you never know you may well find yourself booking a trip to discover this small part of the world 🙂  Enjoy the adventure with us….first up is the island of Aspö.

Aspö Background Information:

Aspö is the only major island in the area without it’s own bridge connecting it to the mainland.  It has around 500 permanent all year round inhabitants, and during the summer months the numbers swell as people come to stay in their stugor (summer homes).  The island has a supermarket, a school, and a church.

Our Adventure To Aspö

With a plan formed to try and visit as many of our archipelago islands as we can this summer, I knew we needed to get going although summer was still a long way off.  So on a sunny, blustery, early April day, with a hint of the promise of spring in the air, we set off on the car ferry to visit the first island of our adventures.  We chose to start with this island, as until the summer archipelago boats start running we are little limited with where we can explore….we either need islands that have all year round boats, or ones with bridges to them.  So, we boarded our ferry and off we headed.

Having taken the car over, it meant we could explore a lot more of the island a lot quicker, as it is quite a large island compared to many.  So, we started off with a gentle meander round the lanes, taking in the lovely wooden Swedish homes, and enjoying the scenery.  Then we headed to our first stop at the KA2 artillery museum.  Unfortunately this will be something we have to head back to, as despite checking the website before we left it was most definitely not open.  This is a common thing we have found here in Sweden that so much is seasonal. So unless you are visiting in peak summer time, July or August, you really need to check openings via phone with the tourist office, as you can find a lot closed up.  So we had a little potter around the outside seeing a few things, before heading off to Ellenabben fort.

Although you can only wonder around the outside of the fort, it is a lovely place for little imaginations to run wild, and look at some history.  You can also take a good close look at one of the guns, something my trio enjoyed the chance to do.

Look carefully…there are 2 little boys in that tree!!

After this it was time to head into one of the woods for a mini hike, some lunch, and a tree climb!  

Fully refreshed after our stop we headed over to the Kastell for our last stop of the day. Drottningskär Citadel was built in the 17th Century, and is very unique in that it remains undamaged and unchanged, since it has never been attacked.  Its main purpose was, together with Kungsholm Fortress on an island opposite, to defend Karlskrona’s sea approach.  Karlskrona being the new home (back then) of the Swedish navy.  It is a beautiful place.  You can wander around all of it (for free), and there is also a very formal dining restaurant in part of it.  The children loved running through the long upstairs living quarters, going up and down the dark and wonky tunnelled steps to discover the different parts of the castle, and going round the ramparts at the top (with no railings we had a firm grasp of our fast moving, always tripping over each other twins!!).  It was lovely and peaceful, calming, and the views were stunning.

There are so many hidden little gems of history to spot around this island, it is a little like a treasure hunt!  I would really recommend a visit to it.

 

How To Get To Aspö:

There is an all year round car ferry (bright yellow) that crosses from Karlskrona.  This is free of charge and runs every hour.  In the summer months the archipelago boats (which you need to pay on, and are foot passengers only), call at Drottningskär and Djupvik.  You need to check tickets and running times as these change depending on the weeks of the year throughout the summer season.

What To See And Do On Aspö:

  1. Drottningskär Citadel:  This is a 17th century naval citadel, with moats and thick stone walls.  There is lots to explore around the grounds and great for little people with big imaginations!  In the summer it hosts musical entertainment.  There is also a small exhibition about the bunkers and artillery remains situated around the archipelago.
  2. KA2 Museum of moving coastal artillery:  This is a place to explore and see big guns!
  3. Ride Icelandic Horses:  This needs prior booking so phone+46 708 703627
  4. Rent bicycles:  You can hire bicycles where the ferry docks, but this is very much seasonal. There are lots of marked cycle routes around the island, very well signposted.
  5. Ellenabbens Fort:  Take a walk around a huge underground fort that in its time was home to some very large guns.  Amongst other things it housed accommodation, kitchens, a hospital, power station, ammunition storage etc.  As much as it would be huge fun to investigate inside, unfortunately you can only walk round the fence, but it is still worth a visit.

Apart from the specified attractions, there is a lot that can be done on the island that is conducive to the Swedish way of summer living.  It is a great place to cycle around, there are plenty of bathing spots and coves, and there are hiking trails through forests and meadows

Where To Eat On Aspö:

If you don’t fancy utilising one of the fire pits to cook your food on a campfire, there are a couple of options.

  1. Drottningskär Citadel restaurant: The citadel does have its own restaurant, but you need to check opening times before you visit.
  2. Drottningskär Citadel Cafe:  Here you can grab a coffee and a snack, but again check opening times before visiting.
  3. Kiosk at the harbour where the car ferry arrives.

Where To Stay On Aspö:

  1. Aspö Lotstorn is an old harbour pilot house (tower) that has been converted.  It has five floors and is about 20m high, so some stunning views to go with it.  There are 5 hotel rooms, 1 per floor, and then there are 3 cottages as well which you can either book in their entirety, or you can rent a room, youth hostel style.
  2. Aspö Folkets Hus offers places for motorhomes and campervans.
  3. Drottningskärs Vandrarhem is a youth hostel with accommodation.

We had a lovely trip here, and I would thoroughly recommend a visit to explore this island as there is so much to see and do on it.  However, as with anywhere you visit in Sweden, please check opening times with the local tourist office before you turn up anywhere, as these can vary immensely between seasons, and would be very frustrating if you found them closed up for winter.

Discover Aspö, Aspo, Southern Sweden, Sweden, Blekinge, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Swedish School Vs English School

For those who have read the blog’s early posts, you will remember we  chose to home educate our little lady by taking her out of her school in England, and to not put our twins into the English schooling system.  However, when we moved here to Sweden, we realised that we had no option but to use the Swedish school system as you are not allowed to home educate in Sweden. But we were more than happy with that, as it was one of our big reasons for living in Sweden.  This post explains some of what we have found very different between Swedish school and English school.  Of course these are our opinions based on what we feel is right for our family, and I do realise that every school is different in both countries. So there will be some reading this that disagree with one or the other system (or both), and of course these observations are based on our children’s experience here.  What we feel is right for our children and family might not be right for yours, but I just wanted to highlight a few of the things that are working for us 🙂

So What Is So Different About Swedish School?

The Starting Age:

They go into förskoleklass (the year before the formal classes start) the year they turn 6 (so my twins were quite young, and most of the class were already 6).  This is in contrast to the class being 4 years of age starting in England.  You may think this would leave the Swedish children either struggling to catch up with their English counterparts, or that children in the Swedish system must be missing out.  However, there is research to show this is not the case.  For example, evidence has shown, that by the time children reach 11 years of age, generally reading skills have averaged out between early starters and later starters.  My daughter is ahead in maths, but only because she has had a 3 year head start on her school friends here, and it just gives her a little breathing space when she is coping with learning a new language.  They have many more years of just playing before their formal education starts here, and there is a lot that can be learnt through play!

The Length Of The School Day:

This is much shorter.  In England our daughter started school just before 9am and finished at around 3.15pm.  Here, in Swedish school, kick off is at 8am (OK that might seem rather early in comparison, but it gets rid of that ‘inbetweeny’ not enough time to really do anything space in the mornings!), and it does get the school day over and done with earlier leaving more time for….you guessed it, play!  The finishing times change, depending on what age you are and what day of the week you are on. So this took a lot of getting used to and has kept me on my toes….especially since I have 3 children in the school to get finishing times straight for. My twins finish at either midday or 1pm depending on the day of the week (12pm three times though and 1pm twice), and my little lady now has a longer school day, nearing the same sort of length as in the England. But this is the first year she has a few days like this and she is the equivalent of a year 5 in England, and then she finishes earlier on other days.  For example, on a Friday she is finished by 1245.  For us it also means we can carry on doing our own little things at home, similar to before they started back into a formal school system.

Outdoor Is Considered Important:

Those of you who knew us in England will know about my despair about children being cooped up indoors unnecessarily, the tipping point when one bright autumn day they couldn’t play outdoors because “the leaves were wet”.  Here they can be outdoors in almost any weather.  When it is raining for example there is a red flag up and the children are allowed to decide themselves whether they would like to head out or not (everyone invests properly here in their outdoor gear, and the children have proper footwear as appropriate too).  Those short Swedish school days also include a chunky morning play time, and an hour to play and eat your lunch.  So even though they are at school for less of the day, they still get outdoors just as much (if not more as they go off outdoors for some lesson time as well) than their English counterparts.

Homework:

Swedish schools believe heavily in the children’s time being their play time.  Forget homework coming home at 4 years of age.  Our daughter has started bringing some reading home now, at age 10 years, and even then it is one chapter a week and a few short questions (this I can imagine takes us a little longer than the average class mate due to our language issues), but it is still considerably less than what she was doing when we pulled her out of the English system in year 3 over there…..spellings every week for a test, some written English, and some maths on top of her reading.

Calling Staff By Their First Names:

There would be mass panic in England that this would reduce respect and cause discipline issues.  We have not seen anything of that over here.  In Swedish school there seems to be a mutual respect between staff and children and it seems to work just fine.

No School Uniforms:

Again this doesn’t seem to cause any issues.  In fact, it is a lot easier to dress them practically for the weather, whatever the season, when you are dressing them in their own clothing!  Her classmates have looked aghast at a photo that our little lady has taken into school to show what she was wearing, and that it was the same as everyone else, without hardly any deviation.

No Shoes Indoors:

This is a concept throughout Sweden, not just in Swedish school and it is so good for their little feet  and their development!!  But it also means there is a home for the large winter boots on the shoe rack, or the wellies they need for when it is pouring with rain all day.  Plus it makes for excellent sliding along the corridors 😉

I do realise that the Swedish school system might not for everyone, and some people may find it a little too laid back. However, we find it works so well for our three and we can see the benefits of how things are done here.  There is less work compared to their age group in England, especially in the younger classes. There are longer breaks in the school day. There seem to be more holidays when you take them over the course of a whole school year. But the children are happy, and the adults here are well educated.  I can see a lot of working parents might raise a hand to have a problem with the shorter days, but with heavily subsidised before and after school care, known as fritidshem (somewhere in the region of £80 per month, per child) even that beats the private costly alternatives in England…especially when that involves holiday club care as well.Swedish School Vs English School, Swedish school, school in Sweden, Sweden education, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Inspiration Wednesday – Life Balance

Inspiration Wednesday - Life Balance, quotes, quote, balance, do nothing, sit still, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Campfire Gratin-A Tasty & Hearty Warming Meal.

A gratin dish is one that technically has a browned topping of either cheese or bread….ours might have ended with a more browned base than top, but it was still yummy!!

So what do you need to make your tasty campfire gratin?  You can prepare it easily at the campfire, but due to us hiking and it absolutely bucketing down with rain that day, I did the preparation at home 🙂

Ingredients For Campfire Gratin:

Diced potatoes

Bacon, chopped

Sweetcorn (any veg will do if you want veg in it at all!!)

Creme fraiche

Grated cheese (2 large handfuls)

Blob of butter

Method To Make Campfire Gratin:

To assemble your Gratin do the following:

  1. Pop the bacon, potatoes, and veg into the pan to fry in a blob of butter.
  2. Once browned add in creme fraiche and a hand full of cheese to melt into the sauce.
  3. Heat that all through.
  4. Once cooked, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  Due to the lack of heat over the top of the pan, this ends up more melted than browned, but that’s why it’s a campfire gratin 😉 And when something tastes so yummy, warms you through in a rain storm, and fills your tummy, technical details don’t matter!!!  Enjoy xx

Campfire Gratin, gratin, outdoor food, outdoor cooking, outdoor meals, campfire meal, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

Get Your Vitamin N – June Outdoor Activity List

Back in February, I started uploading a monthly outdoor activity list which you can access under the freebies tab. You will need to subscribe to the blog and you will be sent an email with the password to access the freebies tab.  It is now time to think about the June outdoor activity list, which can be accessed under the freebies tab 🙂    If you don’t have the password, don’t worry, subscribe to the blog and you will be sent it in your confirmation email.  Signs of summer should be emerging now, and here in Sweden we have just 2 weeks left of school until we can enjoy the long, lazy, Swedish summer life 🙂

Any form of getting children into the outdoors is a good one.  Whether it is a gentle potter around the back garden or a good old hike for older ones across the countryside, if it is for 5 minutes or 5 hours, the benefits can still be reaped.  You don’t need to climb a mountain, a little dig in the garden is perfect too.  As the author Richard Louv famously suggests, we should be using vitamin N (N for nature) as treatment for nature deficit disorder.

That is why each month, at the start of the month, I am adding onto the freebies page, a list of 10 activities to help inspire you to head out there for your dose of vitamin N with your little, or not so little, people.  These are some of the things I do with my three to give me some direction and an aim for getting them out there, which often helps everyone’s frame of mind.  So head over now to the freebies tab and check out the June outdoor activity list.

The aim behind the ideas for the June outdoor activity list for getting vitamin N is that they are all very simple, so shouldn’t put you off.  And if you need a little more convincing about the ideas where mud is involved, head over and have a read as to why mud and dirt are worth all the extra effort 🙂  Vitamin N can be achieved without sitting in the middle of a forest, wild camping, and hunting for your supper!!  It can be achieved by just stepping outside your front door (or back door), into whatever awaits you out there.  Welcome in the long summer days using our June outdoor activity list to guide you for ideas.

 

I am hoping that through these activities you make a lot of happy memories, have fun together, and enjoy being outside.  If you need more information about an activity on the list, I have blogged about doing most of them, so if you type in a few keywords in the search box, you should then be able to get some more information, or see what we have done in the past.

Let me know how you get on with the June outdoor activity list in the comments below, I will love hearing about your experiences.  You can also share your experiences on social media too, it will give others ideas and I can keep up with what you are all doing.  Use the #fridayoutdoorfun on your Instagram  photos, and don’t forget to join in with our Friday outdoor fun thread on Facebook (every Friday). And if the children have got mucky, then join in with our Mucky Mondays thread (every Monday) over on Facebook .  Go and have fun in June 🙂June Outdoor Activity List, June activities, June outdoors, outdoor activities, summer activities, Vitamin N, outdoorplay, nature play, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

Inspiration Wednesday – Nature Therapy

Inspiration Wednesday - nature therapy, quotes, quote, soul, me time, self care, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Our Summer Bucket List – Long, Lazy, Days

It is the start of a new season, and time for us to reveal our Summer Bucket List.  We have enjoyed doing the activities on our spring, autumn and  winter ones, but we are looking forward to wearing less clothing out in the sunshine, and enjoying the VERY long, slow Swedish summer days and holiday.  School is out for the summer on the 15th June, so not long to go!  So let’s see what’s on our list for the season of summer.

Our Summer Bucket List:

  1. Celebrate midsummer 
  2. Make a strawberry cake 
  3. Lie on the grass and listen to the birds
  4. Go strawberry picking
  5. Go raspberry picking
  6. Go blueberry picking
  7. Make a daisy chain
  8. Paddle barefoot
  9. Go wild camping
  10. Swim outdoors
  11. Collect pebbles to paint at home
  12. Read stories outdoors
  13. Go crabbing
  14. Make some beach art
  15. Go on a hike
  16. Make some air dry clay figures
  17. Go and visit the älg/elks again
  18. Explore lots of the islands in our archipelago 
  19. Play in a stream
  20. Raise our own butterflies from caterpillars
  21. Play on beaches
  22. Paint with special paints that develop in the sunshine.

I hope we have given you some fun summer inspiration with our summer bucket list (just click on the links if you need further help or information about them) and let me know if you try any of them and how you get on.  Enjoy and have fun!

Our Summer bucket list, summer activities, summer, summer outdoors, www.mammasschool.co.uk

6 Campfire Problems & What To Do

You have packed up and headed off for an outdoor adventure that includes lots of fresh air and nature.  You have also decided the best and most cosy way to cook your food would be on a campfire…..a person after my own heart!!  Who doesn’t like a warming campfire and making memories around them?  However, you hit a problem with it.  Let’s face it, building, lighting, and keeping campfires going is an eternal learning curve, but a fun one.  This post is designed to take you through some of the more commonly occurring campfire problems, and what to do about them, so you can (armed with a bit of helpful knowledge) get on and enjoy a successful campfire 🙂

  1. Too smokey:  A smokey campfire is one of the more common campfire problems, and as you can tell from the photo, it can take even the most prepared bush crafter by surprise – the cause, wet wood (I was convinced mine was dry here…obviously not!!)  Wet wood will be hard to light, and will produce a lot of smoke.  I’m not talking about wood that has previously dried out and has now been exposed to a little rain…yes, that will smoke a bit, but on the inside it will still be dry.  Some types of wood also cause smoking.  Generally if you stick with harder woods you should be fine.  Light with smaller softer wood initially to get it going (they light easier), then swap to harder woods as they burn hotter and for longer.
  2. Lighting the campfire in the rain:  Look for naturally protected areas to light your fire.  For example under tree canopies, or cliff overhangs.  But don’t, whatever you do, light it in the protection of your tent!  Start with very small and very dry kindling and tinder (refer to my building a campfire blog post).  I usually carry some of this just to ensure we have a successful lighting, but if you need more, look for it under things where it has been protected from the elements.  Also, if you have a knife or axe you can split the wood, as the inside may be dry and then it will light better with that exposed rather than the damp exterior.  You could even shave some off with the knife as extra kindling, or feather a stick for even better chances of lighting the fire.
  3. Reigniting embers when the flames die down:  If your campfire dies down and you still need flames (if like me you got distracted with children and forgot to add new fuel to the fire), then you can direct a gentle blow into the base of the hot embers, and after a few attempts you should see the flames spring back into life (just make sure you aren’t blowing hot embers all over the countryside as you’ll start a fire!  You need to make sure they stay in your fire pit).  
  4. Keep the fire burning:  Before your flames die down, add another log to them, but make sure air can still get into the fire to fan the flames, don’t suffocate it.
  5. Wood burning too fast:  This usually means that it is too windy and your campfire needs some protection from the wind.  For example, above we have built a wall from rocks, preventing the wind from burning through our wood fuel so fast.  You could also dig a hole into the ground if the area/ground is suitable.  If you do use rocks, don’t forget to cool them down afterwards, and also replace them to where you found them.
  6. Food is not cooking or warming up:  This usually means, for some reason, the heat is not reaching your food.  For example, a very windy day will make your fuel burn rapidly and have huge flames, but the heat will be blown away before it has much impact on your cooking.  On those kind of days, the food needs to sit right on top of the heat source.  If you have foil wrapped food that isn’t so hard, but if in a billy can or balanced on a grill you need to get a little more inventive.  Usually things can be solved with some well positioned wood to balance a pot, or some foil to wrap things up in so they can go straight onto the fire….just remember to check them more often as they will now cook fast!

I hope these hints about campfire problems will give you a helping hand in having a successful campfire or two.  They are such fun to do and we love making one on our outdoor adventures.  Be sure to read my post on campfire basics and tips as well, which covers how to build one and safety amongst other things, and go and enjoy your campfire!!6 Campfire Problems & What To Do, Campfire problems, campfires, fire pits, bush craft, survival, www.mammasschool.co.uk

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