Tuesday, July 19, 2011

And we're back...

The last 5 weeks have been jam packed - 3 trips to 4 different countries. Having just gotten back from Sweden on Sunday, it's hard to believe that I was in Cape Town only a month ago. And in between we squeezed in a trip to see friends in Austria.

Simon helping with the chores in Torsby.
All of the trips were fabulous - lots of time with family, friends, meeting new people. But it was also a lot of work! Traveling with a baby, especially on your own, is a lot of work (Martin was with only in Sweden). Simon is a great traveler and I can't really think of one time during all of this where he was fussy or difficult, but still, I had to take care of him. Even when other were there to help, his aunt and grandma couldn't get enough of him in South Africa, it's still a lot to keep track of.

That said, I highly recommend traveling with the kiddos. As much as Simon was a lot of work, he also wasn't at all. He's young enough that we were able to just bring him along on whatever we did, and not worry about if he was bored; kind of like a high maintenance accessory. The great part about Simon at this age is that he is really engaged in his world and absorbing all the time. So while he may not remember seeing lions and giraffes, I know these trips have had an impact on him. It has been so good for him to spend so much time with family, experience new environments, and meet new people.

As a new parent, I think being flexible has been one of the most important things to learn and remember. Life changes in all sorts of crazy ways - ways that no one can prepare you for until you become one. While your old life isn't over, you do have to navigate this new life of yours, that no longer seems to be yours alone. So you can still travel, you just have to be flexible and change your expectations of what it will be like. It's still pretty great! (Working on separate posts for each trip - coming soon!)

Ok. I did the posts and backdated them - so they are all previous to this post.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sweet, Sweet, Sweden

I am no longer the picky eater I was a child, but going to Sweden can sometimes make me feel like that kid again, begging for chicken fingers and fries. Gravad lax, herring, dill and cream – just not in tune with my palate. But the sweets? The treats? That’s another story. I have grown to love some delicious Swedish sweets that I overindulge in every time I visit.

Luckily, Swedes have built sweets into a formal part of their day. Fika, an afternoon tradition of coffee and cake, is a common practice for most Swedes. When I’m there, I tend to have fika morning noon and night, but I figure I’m making up for all those missed fikas when I’m not there. My favorites? Princess torta is my true obsession (you can get it at Wuollet’s in MN for those of you in the land of 10,000 lakes). A great morning treat – kanel bulle or kardumumma bulle (cinnamon or cardamom rolls). On a hot Swedish day (ok – oxymoron – more like just a great treat) - mjukglass. It’s just softserve ice cream, like Dairy Queen, but I have always had a soft spot for softserve (hehe), and there’s no DQ in Germany. I love it. For my official fika, I might take a choklad biskvi. I especially like the ones they sell at the COOP in Djursholm, but I can’t figure out why they are different. So delicious…Can’t wait to go back.

But enough about food. That’s not what this trip was about. In fact, we decided to go to Sweden this summer so that we could spend some time with Simon’s great grandfather (Nonno - Martin’s morfar) at their cabin in Torsby, Sweden. Nonno is 87 years old, and a truly amazing man, for many reasons. After turning 50, he competed in the Vasaloppet 12 times (90 km cross-country ski race). Every two weeks, he takes care of his wife (Nonna), who spends the other 2 weeks in a nursing home. He doesn’t like eating in restaurants because he doesn’t trust the food. But also, he’s 87, still drives himself 5+ hours to their cabin, and then works his butt off to keep the place up.

So Martin, Simon and I were there to help. Of course, with Simon there it was more like Martin was there to help. I laid in the grass with Simon and read a book in 2 days, which felt really good. It had been a LONG time since I had done that. 

I digress. Martin and Nonno spent the better part of 3 days mowing the lawn, raking, and mowing the lawn again, as it had been 2 months since anyone had been at the cabin. Nonno, who has a bum knee and walks with hand crutches, could also be seen climbing a ladder to the roof, crouching under the riding lawn mower, raking grass, or manning the trimmer (which he eventually forbade Martin to do). 

But it wasn’t all just work. Nonno got to play and bond with his great-grandson – and they both seemed to love every minute of it. They even shared a first experience – eating their first smore together.

We actually fit quite a lot into this trip, as Torsby was not the only part. We met up with an old Mac friend at his family’s summer house in the Swedish archipelago, hung out with some of Martin’s old childhood friends, and got to see Martin’s siblings (and Simon’s cousins) in Stockholm. Even though we usually don’t have a lot of time to spend with people when we visit Stockholm, it means a lot to reconnect face-to-face for even just a couple of hours. It makes it seem like we don’t live so far away, like our lives aren’t so disconnected.

In so many ways, this was a really, really sweet trip. We hope to do it again next year.

Pics here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ignorance is bliss

Normally, I am not so sure I adhere to the notion that ignorance is bliss – but in this case it really worked to my advantage. When my friend Eva told me she and he daughter Ella (Simon’s buddy) were going to be staying with her in-laws in Austria for a month, we agreed that we needed to come up with a plan to see each other during that time. So Simon and I bought our tickets to Klagenfurt, Austria knowing it would be great to see Eva and Ella.

Sand and swim at the Worthersee
We had gotten back from South Africa only a week before, so things had been pretty busy and hectic. And when you are going to visit a friend, you don’t really worry about what you are going to do and all that. I knew there was a  lake, but I didn’t really know too much else about where we were going. This made for a fantastic surprise on my flight as I looked out the window to see beautiful jagged peaks, some still with snow. Eventually a long and blue-green lake appeared – the Worthersee. Home for the next 4 days – woohoo!

Klagenfurt is an outdoors person’s paradise. A beautiful, clean lake for swimming in the summer, surrounded by mountains for hiking and biking in the summer, and skiing in the winter. No wonder Eva was going for a month. I wish I could have stayed for 2!
A little lower...to the right...

We spent our days watching the Ironman (always inspirational), swimming at the beach, taking a boat ride the length of the Worthersee (17 km), and hanging out in the beautiful garden of her in-laws. (They keep bees!! Respect!) We were there on the 4th of July, so I honored the occasion by making smores, although we had to get creative. We had no fire, no gas stove, and no microwave. So we put them in the oven until they were big and puffy and then scraped them onto some crackers to make the smores. It was a great effort.

Now I am trying to figure out how I can make a living in Klagenfurt. Or maybe I will just reitre there.

Pics here.