The schizophrenic weather is driving everyone crazy these days! Warm and sunny one minute, then cold and rainy the next. Fluctuating not even just day to day, but sometimes hour to hour – so supremely annoying as we are now entering June. But when the blue skies do appear, we are sooo happy and not a single sunny moment is taken for granted! Here are a few snapshots from last week – bicycling, ice cream, picnics, friends = happy times!

Summer style. Insisting on wearing her cap backwards these days...

Summer style. Insisting on wearing her cap backwards these days…

New helmet!

New helmet!

Playing with Viggo at the Bryggartäppan, and pausing to take a selfie...

Playing with Viggo at Bryggartäppan, and pausing to take a selfie.

The kick-bike debut as a commuter vehicle to school!

The kick-bike makes its debut as a commuter vehicle to school!

We had a perfect sunny Sunday, which meant a picnic on Långholmen and ice cream, of course.

Perfect sunny Sundays mean picnicking on Långholmen, and ice cream, of course.

 

Last weekend turned out to be so packed full of activities, that I’m still catching up with posts and pictures! As mentioned, we were blessed with only one sunny day during the entire holiday weekend, so we literally had to seize the day! Gripsholm Castle in the town of Mariefred was on the agenda, about 40 minutes outside of Stockholm.  So on Saturday morning, after some waffling back and forth over whether to take an earlier vs. later train, we decided at the last minute to try to catch the earlier one – which, by some miracle we managed, by the skin of our teeth! The train pulled out of the station just a minute or 2 after we jumped on, sweating and huffing and puffing. But in the end it was well worth it to have gotten out the door on the earlier side, since it was such a beautiful day and there was so much to see.

I’ll be honest – I knew very little about our chosen destination, except that we could get there without renting a car, and lots of people said it was pretty. Now after the visit, I actually don’t know that much more since one has limited capacity to read signposts and absorb details when taking in such places with a 3-year old. But I do know that it was built in the 1500s and is one of the oldest remaining castles in Sweden, and also the loveliest historical site that I’ve seen here so far. Actually, I was really blown away by so many things – the frescoed walls, the complex yet intimate maze of rooms, the shapes and patterns on the ceilings and windowpanes, the light, and perhaps most of all, the endless windowed alcoves where I could imagine spending all my days, looking out over Lake Mälaren – if I were a medieval lady of leisure. The upper floor also houses an incredible theatre, which was absolutely stunning, and perhaps even more so because it came as such a surprise due to my ignorance of what to expect. There was a lot to take in, not to mention an entire portrait gallery which I only glimpsed out of the corner of my eye while running after Ania, trying to keep her within eyesight and making sure she didn’t start swinging from one of the tapestries. Luckily it was not crowded at all, nor was it overly staffed, and the rooms were either quite sparsely furnished (or cordoned off) – so some degree of running and dancing around was actually possible without too much anxiety on our part! We did have to be creative to try to hold her interest – which was most successful when it involved imagining scenarios with various princesses and what they might have been doing in all the different rooms.. She loved seeing “where the princesses sleep” as well as some of the funny portraits of men in wigs – but it was perhaps the romance of the windowsills that also captured her fancy the most.

But it was hard to compete with the sunshine outside, and the fact that there was a very interesting, very climb-able set of cannons in the entrance courtyard, which TLP had been introduced to on the way in, and had clearly not gotten enough of. So we more or less raced through Gripsholm at lightning speed, but it was still really enjoyable and made a huge impression on me anyway. After a walk around the grounds and a brief stroll through the town of Mariefred (also very charming, reminded us a lot of Gränna!)  – it was time to head home. They operate an old steam train back and forth between Mariefred and the train station, so of course we had to try that. Again, an extremely charming experience – all the details from the original station have been preserved – from the station to the train staff’s outfits, to the way the tickets themselves are printed. When we arrived home that evening, we were completely flat-out exhausted, but it was so worth it. We agreed that this was perfect inspiration to get out of town more often to explore!

Greeted by green fields...

Greeted by green fields…

Dandelions!

Dandelions!

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Sunny days = ice cream

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Upside-down ice cream eating…

Love these huge, round brick towers

Love these huge, round brick towers

Crossing the drawbridge

Crossing the drawbridge

Cannons!

Cannons!

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We all appreciated the beautiful glass details

We all appreciated the beautiful glass details

Imagining life as a castle princess....

Imagining life as a castle princess….

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Our ride back to the station…

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Satisfied with the day

Satisfied with the day

This past long weekend was super grim weatherwise, but we managed to be resourceful and pack in some nice activities to distract us from the grey skies and pouring rain. The sun made a one-day-only appearance on Saturday, which we took full advantage of – but I’ll post on that separately when I’ve gotten a chance to sort through the photos. But for now, here are some pics from Friday’s outing – back to our perennial favourite, Kulturhuset. The activity-of-the-week in the art workshop was collage – instead of the usual painting easels and work tables, they had constructed big cardboard walls and structures in the centre of the room. Each little artist was equipped with a tray full of fabric scraps, a pot of glue and a brush – and were given free reign to decorate the walls as they wished. Ania enjoyed this immensely – choosing carefully between bits of glittery ribbon, velvet, lace, flannel, burlap, silk, and denim – and placing them in very considered constellations. I just love seeing a room full of little kids dressed in their red aprons, sticky-fingered and fully-focused – working away accompanied by Beethoven symphonies blasting from the loudspeakers. One can’t help but feel that this is the absolute best place in town to be hanging out on a cold, damp day!

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Testing out some disco moves

Testing out some disco moves

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Time for another public holiday here in Sweden! To kick off our 4-day weekend, last night we we had the pleasure of babysitting Sam while Niklas took Veronica out for her birthday dinner. While it’s by no means the first time that Sam has stayed overnight, and the kids meet very regularly to play – it is during these sleepovers when it’s especially evident how their friendship is evolving and deepening. And as it’s been awhile since the last time, Stefan and I were totally amazed at how easy it is to have them together nowadays. Definitely easier than having Ania home on her own! It feels like not that long ago that our presence or involvement was required at some level or other when the two of them played – but recently they have really become their own entity, completely self-sufficient and content with each other’s company. They can now disappear into Ania’s room for long periods of time, even closing the door for privacy and forbidding us to enter! Precursor to the pre-teen years, I know. But for now, all that can be heard from the other side is endless giggling and laughing, chatting, and discussions which sound quite serious indeed, no doubt as they plot their latest make-believe scenario.

And if one does get access behind that door, you are most certainly greeted with a huge explosion of toys all over the place, which at first glance looks like a total war zone. You can only wonder how they could have literally reconfigured the positioning of every single object in the room – all in less than the 10 minutes since you last peeked in. But upon closer inspection, one will find evidence of their hugely active imaginations: half-built wooden block or Lego structures, blankets, pillows and furniture arranged with very deliberate architectural intentions, stuffed animals in various states of medical treatment, piles of books that have been inspected and read aloud to one another, mysterious renovations underway in the dollhouse, the remnants of a recent tea party or picnic, and of course a complex train track in progress…. because if Sam’s in the house, there will be trains.

But aside from the wonder of their blossoming creativity, the best thing is witnessing their pure affection for one another. Sam is really the closest that Ania will ever get to having a big brother – and sure, like siblings, of course they sometimes annoy each other and bicker and sometimes just downright get into fights. But this is where they are one step ahead: they’re not siblings, they’re cousins. Blood-related, but not living under the same roof. Closer than friends, but distanced from day-to-day rivalries. Their seed of their friendship was planted since they were practically babies – and whether it’s the shared DNA or just the simple open-heartedness of children – they have always liked each other. But the beautiful thing is that now they are old enough to verbalize this affection. Yesterday, over dinner, out of the blue, Ania looked across her plate of tacos and said to Sam: “Det är jättefint att du är här. Du är så gulligt Sammy.” It’s super nice that you’re here. You’re so cute, Sammy. I thought my heart would burst.

 

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A very civilised breakfast for two.

 

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Morning lounging

 

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Sandbox time! Look at how they’re dressed. It’s May for God’s sake!!

 

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Storytime! Richard Scarry seems to be a favourite of them both.

 

 

I don’t generally let Ania sit or play on the windowsill, but when I came into her room today and saw her sitting there so peacefully, nose buried in a book – I couldn’t help but let the rules slide just this once. The backdrop of electric green leaves against a gloomy grey sky, the soft patter of rain, the muted afternoon light…. when such a slice of visual poetry presents itself, it just has to be captured and savoured, if even for a fleeting moment.

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It’s been such a sluggish spring here in Stockholm this year! While we’ve had some lovely warm days here and there over the last couple of months, we’re only just now starting to crack into temperatures consistently over 10 degrees C…. which is actually rather pathetic considering it’s May. But enough complaining! The days are long, the trees are blooming, and the gloriously intense green of the first spring leaves are bursting out everywhere. I’ve packed away Ania’s snowsuit, thrown out her outgrown and worn-out winter boots, and have started shopping for sandals, swimsuits, and dresses. So in other words, it’s official! No matter what the weather decides to do now (which in reality, could be anything – as we do live in Sweden after all)  – summer, here we come!

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The lovely cherry blossoms at Kungsträdgården.

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‘Tis the season….

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Enjoying her ice cream while sitting with those “W” legs

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Playing shopkeepers at Bryggartäppan

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Look, no hats or jackets!!

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Hanging out in the (pretend) outhouse…

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These two :)

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We have an identical photo from 1 or 2 years ago, which I must dig out!

 

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