Travel Adventures

Salty Candy… Huh??

In previous blogs I have touched upon the Swedes love of candy. This in itself is not surprising. What may surprise some of you is that it’s not all sweet, delicious candy. Some of it is distinctly…salty. Weird, eh?

Growing up in the US in the 80’s, Red Vines were everywhere;  they were even sold in movie theaters.  Are they still?  Once upon a time, I remember seeing a combo pack of red vines and proper black licorice.  Needless to say, I didn’t partake.  Black licorice and I had a slightly contentious relationship.  My mother loved Good and Plenty, which to me was like false advertising.  Here is this sweet candy shell and inside it’s…black licorice?  Yuck.  I even remember hating the combo jelly bean packs because there were always licorice beans lurking inside.  I would grab a few without checking and BAM!  Licorice taste overwhelmed my taste buds.  Not cool.

Sweden in the 80’s was clearly a much different place. Instead of black licorice (henceforth referred to solely as “licorice”) being a much maligned treat, it must have been revered. If not, how else would it be EVERYWHERE now? I do mean EVERYWHERE.

Let’s talk about a few of the forms of licorice or “lakrits” as the Swedes call it.

  • Raspberry and licorice skulls
  • Raspberry and licorice ice cream
  • Salted licorice (much loved by Swedes)
  • Candy coated licorice
  • Chocolate coated licorice
  • Chocolate ice cream with licorice
  • Hot and spicy licorice

Do you see where I am going with this?  It appears the national taste buds have declared licorice to be the candy of choice.  In fact, while at the coop this week, I decided on a whim to count the licorice candies.  My final count, which may have been missing a few, came to 48 varieties of candy containing licorice!!  Remembering my early experiences with licorice, I have carefully steered clear of this taste bud destroyer.  Until recently when a lovely reader of this blog recommended I give it another try.  In particular, he recommended the raspberry and licorice skulls.  Since this dear reader is not from Sweden and because he said he liked my blog, I had no choice except to try the darn things (against my better judgment).  Plus, within 10 minutes a second friend recommended the same candy.  They were clearly on the same wavelength.

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In the interest of sampling with integrity, I picked up two skulls from a loose bin and placed them in my treat bag.  Candy wise, this is far below my norm, but I didn’t want to overdo it, more so because there was already quite a bit of chocolate in the bag 😉  This action proved to be my downfall.  As soon as I left the store, I braced myself and put an entire skull in my mouth.  EEEK!  My poor taste buds.  They were expecting something sweet and tangy, with perhaps just a hint of licorice.  This is not what happened.  The flavor could be described as salty licorice with a hint of sweet.  Plus, it was hard and a bit stale.  *Sigh*  At this point, I should have ditched the second licorice skull, but that didn’t occur to me right away.  No, it didn’t occur to me until an hour later after I pulled a gorgeous chocolate covered marshmallow out of the bag and it tasted exactly like licorice. *Sob*  There was no winning here people!!!  Every single piece of candy tasted vaguely of licorice.  The smell permeated everything within the bag; rendering them all contaminated.

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Last night in Svenska class, the topic of this next blog came up. When I divulged, my super fun Svenska teacher who has been known to peruse this blog expounded on the virtue of salty licorice. While listening to her and observing her exuberance over this undervalued treat, I really wanted to love it too. Sadly, even after three months here, I’m not yet won over to the dark side of licorice. If anyone out there has a craving, let me know, I have a feeling it is easy to ship 😉

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

Did you just say fart?

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a LOOONG time. It talks about one of my favorite museums in the city. Unfortunately, the name was rather difficult…so until I could pronounce it, I delayed writing. Today, I’ve finally accepted that I will never, ever be able to pronounce the name. Acceptance means I can finally write about it.

Now that you read that rather long introduction, let’s get to the content shall we? 😉

My favorite museum to date in Göteborg is the Sjöfartsmuseet.  Doesn’t look too difficult, does it?  Well, just so you know, that is not pronounced “Show Farts Museet”.  One of the many, many odd things about Svenska is that Sjo is pronounced like a guttural “qua”.  Try as I might, I cannot get the right sound to come out of my mouth.  Now that we got that out of the way, are you wondering if it is a museum of farts?  I certainly wondered that.  The hubs said just yesterday that he thinks the Swedes picked all the most awkward words in the English language and made them into really mundane words, just to mess with us.  Deep down, I wonder if he is right…
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So, what does sjöfarts mean? According to my Google Translate app, it means “maritime”; which makes sense, because this museum is dedicated to ships and the oceans. We just call it the fish museum. Interestingly enough, every person I’ve told about the fish museum knows just what I am talking about.

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Here’s some basic info for those of you traveling to Göteborg:

  • Name: Sjöfartsmuseet
  • Address: Charles Johansgatan 1-3 414 59
  • Tram Stop: Stigbergstorget
  • Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10am-5pm and Wednesday 10am-8pm.
  • Entrance Fee: Over 25 years old: SEK 40 (about $5). Free under 25 years of age!!

I have a couple of notes about that information. They are closed Mondays. I reiterate that because somehow I have ended up there twice on Mondays. Do not make my mistakes. The second bit of information is that your entrance fee of SEK 40 goes to a ticket that can be reused for an entire year!! At multiple museums within the city!! How cool is that? I won’t go into all the different museums, but for goodness sake, if you go, hold onto that ticket.

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This museum has many features that make it very kid friendly. The main floor has a small aquarium, gift shop, and a cafe (with delicious apple cake). There are also lockers for your stuff and small but tidy bathrooms. The second floor, which can be accessed via a large staircase or an elevator is also where the buggy parking is located. Here they do talks about the museum, have several interactive displays, including short movies, and a fun play areas for the kids. The top floor has a large area for enjoying your packed lunches and even more stuff to play with and on. There are giant sea creatures growing from the walls and floor, computerized programs for building fish and ships, and much more. There is even a boat you can get in that moves about! Altogether it is quite fun.

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One wonderful thing I’ve noticed is that this museum is usually hopping with kids of all ages and their families. People really enjoy this place. My son requests to go here at a minimum once each week. I did draw the line at 3 visits per week…that’s just too much video game ship building for me.

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I hope you enjoyed this mini tour of my current favorite museum.

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

The Funniest Thing…

One brilliant thing about shopping in foreign countries is that you just never know what you will find.

Tonight, I want to share with you the funniest product I have EVER seen in a grocery store. This is from an Aldi store in Guildford, UK and I think it speaks for itself.

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This product is a good reminder that often what offends people in one place has a totally different meaning in another.

Kind of like that time in Guildford I said Drake was “spunky”
(meaning full of personality) and nearly gave the poor gal cutting his hair a heart attack…but that’s a story for another day 😉

Until next time…

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Kitchen Creations, Travel Adventures

The Way to Someone’s Heart…

This blog is a little different from the others. It’s not about a specific place or event; instead, it’s about relationships and food.

Traveling to the UK in 2013 with an 11 month old baby was a daunting prospect. In my heart of hearts I knew it was the right thing for our family, but starting over, without a network is always a leap of faith. Starting over on an entirely new continent is doubly so.

After arriving in the UK, I found myself isolated and lonely. In Washington, I had an amazing network of friends who helped me keep sane after leaving my career and giving birth. I knew that at any hour of the day or night, someone would be awake to chat, visit, or help me keep sane. Initially when we moved to the UK, we lived in Greenwich; home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). In fact, we lived across the street from the park where the clock measuring GMT was situated. It was an awesome house and an awesome park. Unfortunately, it was not in our budget. Corporate housing was appreciated, but with my husband’s commute surpassing two hours each way, we knew it just wasn’t an option to stay in that area.

After about a month, we moved to Surrey; specifically, Horsell, Surrey. The house wasn’t exactly what we wanted and the location wasn’t great, but it was only a 45 minute commute and they accepted pets. You take what you can get. What I had not expected, but discovered, was that socializing in England is a lot different from Washington. People don’t just walk up and strike up a conversation. If they do, that conversation rarely develops into a second conversation or a lasting friendship. It took me one month in Horsell to make a friend. To this day, my closest friend since leaving my home country. We met at the local playground and thankfully lived just a block apart on High Street. That’s right, we lived on the High Street. This was not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Each town and village has a High Street; ours had a few small takeaways, one or two sit down restaurants, a couple charity shops, and a bakery. Oh, there were a couple more businesses, but this should give you the idea that it wasn’t overly grand.

Nancy is the amazing woman who befriended me. She has a son, Sameer, who is only one month younger than my son and full of life. All those wonderful gifts that friends share, she shared with me. Long chats, hot tea, tasty biscuits, good hugs; all of them. Another wonderful gift she gave me were some of the most delicious meals I had during my time in the UK. After discovering my allergies at a late age, I had to give up some of my favorite foods. One such category of food was Indian. Generally, Indian food is heavy on tomato and dairy; at least the Indian food I always ate. I still remember our first dinner at Nancy’s. The food was entirely vegetarian; fluffy rice, savory daal, delicious vegetable medley…I didn’t miss the meat at all. Even better? It was made with my food sensitivities in mind.

After we moved to Sweden, I had a big problem. No more of Nancy’s cooking!! My rice was gummy; I was miserable; my son was miserable… He flat out refused to eat most of my cooking; demanding that I bring Nancy to Sweden and have her make the last dish she had made him. Thanks to WhatsApp, Nancy was able to broadcast that recipe to me post haste. Sadly, apparently my cooking isn’t as good as Nancy’s 😛 My son actually refused to eat my first attempt and only nibbled on the second. Finally, on my third attempt, victory!!! He ate every bite.

You may be wondering by now if Nancy is a trained chef or worked in restaurants. She’s not and she didn’t. Actually, she trained in fashion design and when we met, had recently left her career to focus entirely on caring for her young son. Before moving to the UK, Nancy grew up in a small town called Fatehabad in India. Luckily for me, her mum and grandma ensured cooking was part of her early home life. Her lessons in the kitchen didn’t emphasize exact recipes. Instead, they emphasized that good tasting food could be ensured by preparing it with love. My initial attempts failed because I was missing this key point. I was so focused on proper proportions and ingredients that it became mechanical. My son could tell it wasn’t made with that love. The final time, I was focused on making something he would find nurturing and delicious. I channeled that love into the dish, and it was finally a success. This is my take on Nancy’s take of her mum’s dish. She didn’t give me a proper name or even exact proportions; so I’ve taken a few artistic liberties, including the name 😃 I strongly encourage you to add it to your rotating menu. It is delicious, nutritious, inexpensive, and all around wonderful.

Nancy’s Veg Yum (Serves 2-3)

As you can see, I am taking liberties with the title 😃

You don’t need a lot of ingredients for this. Feel free to be flexible with the ones you do use. My version is very mild. Nancy toned it down for me, but tends to make things even more flavorful for her own family. Feel free to tailor it to your own preferences.

Ingredients:

  • Basmati Rice — 1 cup
  • Vegetable Oil — 2-3 Tbsp
  • Mustard Seeds — 1/4 to 1/2 tsp
  • Potatoes — 3-4 smallish
  • Frozen Mixed Veg — 1 bag
  • Tumeric — 1/2 to 1 tsp
  • Curry Leaves (about 6, optional)
  • Full fat coconut milk or regular milk and/or evaporated milk… — 1 can or 12 oz (approximately)

Component 1: Rice

Anyone who has enjoyed Indian food in restaurants will remember the signature basmati rice. It is fluffy and light, not at all clumpy or sticky. Never in my life have I been successful with basmati…until now.

  • Rinse 1 cup basmati rice in cold water until it runs clear (at least mostly clear), then drain out the cold water.
  • Add very hot tap water to the rice and allow it to soak for 20 minutes. Drain.
  • Place the rice in a pan with 2 cups tap water and bring to a light boil. I use a sauté pan for this because it is how Nancy prepared it when I visited.
  • Reduce heat to low and cover the pan.
  • Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove rice from heat and leave covered for 10 additional minutes.

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Component 2: Veg topping

  • Heat 2-3 Tbsp oil in a pan.
  • Add mustard seeds according to preference. I use about 1/4 tsp because I like my food mildly spiced. You can definitely use more. They will start to pop. This is okay.
  • When the popping of the mustard seeds slows down, add diced potatoes to the pan. I use 3 to 4 yellow potatoes, the equivalent of about 1 large Idaho spud.
  • After sautéing to soften the potato a bit, add a bag of frozen mixed veg.
  • To that, add about 1/2 to 1 tsp tumeric, and about 2 tsp salt.
  • Add 1 can coconut milk and/or 1.5 cups regular milk to make a sauce.
  • Reduce for a few minutes to thicken sauce to your preference.

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Spoon over rice. Dinner is served.

Some notes:

This is a very versatile recipe. I find 4 small potatoes and one bag veg works well for a light dinner for our family of 3. You will want more for hearty appetites. My son’s favorite part are the potatoes, so it is always good to add extra. This recipe would also be a great way to use up old veggies in the fridge too, you will just need to cut them to bite size and sauté them with the potatoes to ensure they are fully cooked. My best version of this recipe incorporated 1 can of full fat coconut milk and a generous splash (1/8 cup) of evaporated milk that was leftover in the kitchen. It took away some of the sweetness from the coconut milk. I also made the choice to add curry leaves to my dish, as I frequently watched Nancy use them. I add them with the potatoes and use about 6-10 leaves. In the States, I never had occasion to use this ingredient, so I do not know where you can buy it. I do think it adds a lot of dimension to dishes and is worth having in the kitchen.

I hope you try out this recipe and that when you make it you get to experience a bit of the joy it brings me. My early time in the UK was very lonely, but once I found Nancy, my life became brighter. While she is not close, cooking her recipes makes the distance feel not so far.

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Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

Easter Eggs?  Yes Please!

Easter is here, our first official holiday in this new country. Wait, is that right? Weren’t we here for Valentine’s Day? Hmm…I think so… Ah, yes, we must have been! We moved here in January and that was in February. Huh…apparently the Swedes don’t really celebrate it overmuch because I didn’t see a single chocolate heart in the stores or even see any decorations. That’s right folks, Valentine’s Day just wasn’t a big deal here so I basically forgot it. My dear husband did not, so that was good 😃

As I was saying, Easter is here and it is our first official holiday in this new country. How do I know it is here? Wowza! How could I not? These people are very serious about Easter. The decorations are ALL OVER. Let’s talk about that a little. Easter decorations in Göteborg are so fun! There are trees and branches across town adorned with brightly colored feathers. When we went to check out Mölndal the other day, every small tree in the town center was covered. They are super cute.

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Most stores also have these feather decorations in the windows, and just about every florist in town has branches you can purchase, as well as the feathers. The stores also have huge candy displays filled with chocolate eggs, marshmallow ducks (almost a PEEP!) and other tasty treats.

The trees and windows aren’t the only things being decorated. Swedes even decorate the kids for Easter! How fun is that? I found out about this tradition about a month ago when my husband forwarded me a message about the company Easter party (in case you are wondering, yes we did go and it was a lot of fun—more about that later). In the message, they provided a link about Easter in Sweden as well as a picture of two children wearing the customary costumes. So, how do children dress up for Easter? As witches! That’s right, not bunnies or ducks, these kids dress up as Easter Witches. The cutest witches you’ve ever seen. They have aprons and head scarves and paint red cheeks and freckles on their faces. It is a fun sight to see. My son really enjoyed wearing his apron and scarf courtesy of a last minute shopping run at Hemköpp—pronounced Hemshop. Do you see how that goes? A “k” pronounced like “sh”? So odd… Anyway, Hemköpp is one of the local grocery stores and Easter is such a big deal that they carried everything you could possibly need to make your place and your person festive. That is how serious they are about Easter.

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Sugar overload

Hmm…does this mean Swedes are religious? No, from everything I have read, they are not particularly religious. Instead, they are very family oriented. Even though many Swedes have moved away from organized religion, they’ve held onto the holidays as a way to ensure additional time spent with family. Even the schools are closed from Friday through Monday for the Easter holiday.

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Loved this window decoration! 

Curious about the exact traditions Swedes are following?  Here is a link to The Local, an English language site that discusses all topics related to Sweden.  They even provide a picture of the cute Easter Witches 😃  When researching the topic myself, I felt this page was very helpful.  The last link here talks about the origins of Easter in Sweden and I like it because I think it’s important to know the history behind the celebrations.  Also, I find root words rather exciting—yes, I know that makes me sound like a weirdo, but to each his/her own.

One of the things I found quite funny is that I haven’t seen a lot of Easter baskets around. What I have seen again and again are Easter eggs; small, medium, large, and extra large, hollow cardboard eggs that you fill with goodies. I let the little guy pick out his own egg and he picked a big one out (thank you thrift shopping). Happily, the stores have plenty of non sugary options that can go in the eggs along with the sugar laden options. Swedes really do like their candy!

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So, how did we celebrate? I mentioned our first celebration in the beginning of this blog. The amazing employees at my husband’s office arranged a first rate Easter party. Everyone was invited to bring their families; children were running all about the office. A huge pancake luncheon was prepared and there were many fun activities including foam egg painting, branch decorating, coloring, and even a video game set up on a big screen. The wonderful administrative staff even set up an egg hunt and ran with the little ones as they scoured the office for treats. This was the most fun I’ve had at an office event and it’s not even my office. I think it is important to note that everyone was very inclusive. I’ve been told time and again that Swedes are standoffish and difficult to engage, but this stereotype is repeatedly debunked here in Göteborg. One sweet boy even let our little guy play ping pong with him, even though a 3 year old is definitely not an ideal partner.

Our second celebration was the birthday party of a new friend’s child; filled with laughter, good food, and camaraderie.

Finally, like others in Göteborg and the States, our actual Easter day will be spent together as a family, eating a meal, begging for chocolate from the toddler, and playing at the park. Don’t worry, I know how lucky I am 🙂

It’s getting late and Easter is fast approaching; time for me to sign off. As the Swedes would say, Glad Påsk! (Sounds like Glaad Posk—think post with a k). And of course, as we Americans say, Happy Easter!

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Easter Egg safely hidden for the toddler to find

Until next time…

 

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Rants, Travel Adventures

Life is for living

Yesterday, after almost a full day in Göteburg experiencing radio silence (I didn’t read the news, look at social media, or listen to the radio), my aunt back in the States told me about the attacks in Belgium. This isn’t the first terrorist attack in Europe since we moved here. The first attacks that truly got my attention were those in Paris last year. When I think of Paris and Belgium, I picture bustling cities with busy people rushing to work. I hear “Le Vie En Rose” in my ears and taste rich chocolate in my mouth. Ancient churches, cobblestone streets, and an eclectic mixture of people are all impressions I have of these places.

My first visit to Brussels and my first visit to Paris were on a trip with my aunt when I was 17. If I saved up my airfare and souvenir money, my aunt agreed to fly transport me from country to country and provide food and lodging. The trip was long planned and and anticipated with excitement, but came at a time of massive transition. Two nieces had been born and my grandpa had just passed. I was sad and angsty and overwhelmed. Thankfully, my aunt is very pragmatic and independent. She understood that I might need space to do my own thing, and trusted me to let her know when I wanted to be alone (I think she appreciated being free of the angsty teen as well). Brussels was overwhelming for me. So much traffic! Such crazy drivers! Do they speak French? Wait, is that German?? Eek! I was so lost… Then the glory of Neuhaus chocolate and finally, the grandeur of seeing the ruins of an old church amongst all that was modern. Those are my impressions of Brussels. An amazing multicultural city, filled with history and life.

Arriving in Paris was equally overwhelming. I remember a small hotel, was it Hotel des Artistes? I think so, but can’t be sure. It had an ancient dog and the tiniest elevator I had ever seen. The beds were singles and very springy (as in springs in your back…). Nonetheless, the fresh bread and apricot jam with hot chocolate in the morning were a revelation. In Paris I experienced some level of independence. I found a post office and mailed packages and wandered about until I found a chocolate shop. It took some time, but I finally remembered enough French to buy a chocolate egg wrapped in a box to bring back to my French teacher back home. The box part stumped me. To this day I do not know the word box in French… It was also in Paris that a slightly off man with very few teeth in a black trench coat chased me down the street shouting in French. The first of many slightly odd people that have since chased me down streets. It is where I had my first sip of red wine with a meal and where I first spoke with a waiter who earned a proper living and considered his job to be a career. He had worked in gradually better and better restaurants, constantly improving his skills and taking pride in his work. He wasn’t looked down on for his work, he was appreciated for his contribution to the atmosphere of the restaurant. I found this to be a key takeaway from that trip. The idea that all humans should be appreciated for their dedication to work and to do their best.

During that first visit to Europe, I never expected to one day live here. I also never expected to hear about terror attacks in restaurants and theaters or buses and airports. At home, we still talked about Columbine, because it was still fresh. I didn’t expect that school shootings would become so frequent that I wouldn’t remember each of the schools. The fact is that terrorists are terrorists. They come in all colors, all religions, all nationalities. They see the vibrancy of life in schools, restaurants, theaters, on the street, and want to damage that. Fear is their weapon; causing neighbors to look distrustfully at neighbors and strangers to avoid speaking on the street.

I had a moment recently where I almost gave into that. It was almost time for my Svenska class. I was hungry and needed a quick snack. Around me, there were many options, but they were all exposed seating in the middle of a shopping mall. There were no walls to sit against. I almost walked out without eating. The Paris attacks went through my mind and I questioned sitting to eat where there was no wall at my back, where I couldn’t see all the exits. Finally, I reminded myself that fear should not control my actions and I sat down and ate a sandwich surrounded by strangers of many colors, speaking many languages. No one bothered me. No one was harassed or hurt. Everyone was just enjoying their meals with friends, family, or solo like myself.

Don’t let fear stop you from welcoming people who are different. Don’t let it stop you from being where you want to be or doing what you want to do. When we give into that fear, the terrorists win. Life is for living.

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Life is too short to be scared of the dark

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

Alfons Åbergs Kulturhus, Fun for All

Today is a frigid, rainy day in Göteborg. After a week home sick, keeping my toddler in is simply not an option. What to do? Universeum? No… Universeum requires stamina. The building is huge and walking around keeps you busy for hours.

Next up in our tour of children’s activities in this exciting city is Alfons Åbergs Kulturhus!

Here are the nitty gritty details:

What: Alfons Åbergs Kulturhus
Where: Slussgatan 1, 411 08 Göteborg
Tram Stop: Centralstation
When: 10am to 4pm, 365 days of the year
How Much: Children under 1 are free. 1-16 cost 85 SEK per visit. Adults from 17 years old are 125 SEK per visit. Annual passes run 285 SEK for children and 375 SEK for adults. They also provide additional rates for multi visits, family groups, etc… You can find that information here.

Why Alfons Åbergs Kulturhus? Several reasons really…

– Easy access from the tram (it’s just next to Central Station)
– Relatively compact
– Lots of kids to distract mine
– Multitude activities
– Full cafe with drinks, lunch, and snacks
– Comfortable seating for weary parents
– Warm, cozy, and dry

This exciting play space is based on a series of Swedish children’s books written by Gunilla Bergstrom. As the Kulturhus website discusses, these books are available in many countries (in the US, look for Alfie Atkins) and is the first to highlight an affectionate dad. As you go from room to room, there are many opportunities for imagination play and exploring the environment around you.

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Let’s start our exploration from just outside.  When you approach the building, you will immediately notice the buggy parking just out front.  Locks are highly recommended.  If you do not have one, the staff inside will rent you a lock for 10 SEK.  As you enter the building, the entrance splits into two rooms. Each room has cubby holes for shoes, hooks for jackets, and locking cabinets in case you have valuables. Each locking cabinet costs 10 SEK for use (non-refundable). I strongly recommend shedding as many belongings as possible. Shoes are not allowed, nor is outside food. I always keep my wallet available to use inside and a bottle of water. Directly ahead you will find the entrance desk. The opposite side of this desk is a snack and lunch counter. After you pay your entry fee or show your season pass, a world of play is at your fingertips.

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The main floor has two toilet rooms, the cafe, a gift shop, a theater, a playroom with comfy living room furniture (the gold chair is my favorite), several pretend businesses, a functional wooden slat helicopter, a maze, and an overhead play area with slide. Whew…that was a mouthful. There is a ton of stuff in this place! Upstairs is also very exciting. In addition to another toilet, you will find crickets (yes, crickets—in a wall), a miniature area with magnifying glasses, lego play area, miniature village, seating, toys galore, a tool workshop, large floor puzzle, and a cozy reading nook complete with books in English and Svenska.  We’ve now visited five or six times, and I can confidently say that I’ve found new things to explore each visit.  The list above is by no means comprehensive.  This place is a treasure trove of fun.

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Ahh! I almost forgot a detail that the parent in me appreciates. Each of the bathrooms (toilets or WC for those in the UK) are fully stocked with changing tables, diapers, wipes, and diaper creams. How nice is that? Super convenient and reduces the amount of stuff you need to haul about.

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Now that you know some of the activities available at Alfons, here are some of the quirks. The Kulturhus is decorated to look like the actual house from the books. How fun is that? Remember that gold chair I mentioned? This place is 70’s chic. There are so many fun decorations! Take a look at the photos to get a feel for it. I felt right at home 😃

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In addition to the toys and decor, Kulturhus staff also perform plays daily for the children in attendance and have song time. We attended one play and I thought it was awesome (even though I don’t yet speak the language). My 3 year old did not agree. At one point, the staff member held up a cardboard mask and pretended to be a monster. It scared him and he wanted to leave. Unfortunately, parents were blocking the exit so we couldn’t leave easily. Keep this in mind when attending with younger children. Most of the children had a grand time, but they were also a bit older, maybe 4 or 5. The theater is just one small part of the play place, so there are plenty of other activities while the shows are in session.

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After hours of play, it’s logical that you are probably getting hungry. My toddler had to be pried away from the toys to eat, but did eventually submit. Outside food is not allowed unless it is for babies. Thankfully, they have a very well-stocked cafe with delicious food. I recommend the Swedish style pancakes with jam, and the chocolate tort cake (not the exact name, but you will recognize it when you see it. Everything I’ve eaten at this place has been great.

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Weekends are crazy here until around 2pm, but I find that during the week, it has a few lulls and can be pretty quiet. If you are in Göteborg or considering visiting with kids, definitely give this place a chance.

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

Sights around Göteborg mini blog! 

A frequent topic of discussion in our house is whether Sweden is more family focused than both the US and the UK (currently the consensus is yes). Whether or not that ultimately proves to be true, I stumbled across two statues that seem to support the point.

This first statue was in a green house at Trädgärdsförening.
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This second is in a park, in Majorna. My Swedish friend called this park Zenit, but I think that’s not right. When I know, you will know too 😉
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They both made me pause and smile.

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

Laundry Day!

That’s right, it’s laundry day! Laundry day dawned grey and dreary, with many a cloud in sight. Rather than let that get me down, I decided to look at this as an adventure. Now that I’ve spent some quality time with the laundry room, I would like to share the process with you.

Swedes don’t do laundry the same way we do in the United States. Most apartment buildings have shared facilities, but chaos does not reign. Rather than go about this haphazardly, I will describe the process from start to finish and include pictures 😃 Enjoy!

The first step in utilizing the laundry room in your apartment building is to reserve a time slot. In our particular building, there isn’t actually a laundry room… My first step involves going to the building next door (really, just 20 or 30 feet); then up some steps, then down some steps, then into the laundry area. I understand now how Swedes stay so fit…

Reserving time slot

Upon arrival at the laundry area, I found a large board that had little numbered locks. After wracking my brain, I finally remembered our lock number and selected a day and time when I would want to do laundry. Laundry slots last for 4 hours each. There is an extra hour padded in at the end where you may continue to use the drying facilities. So, technically if your slot is 10am to 2pm, you are able to use the facilities until 3pm.

Today, I headed down to the laundry room door, turned the key, and there it was…a tidy and efficient laundry room. There are two washing machines and one very large dryer. These are free for all residents to use, as is customary throughout the city (I can’t speak for other cities, but I’ve been assured this is true throughout Göteborg).

After loading the machines, I inevitably try to understand the guide for which setting to use (of course in Svenska…). Thankfully, the temperatures, times, and spin speeds are display so I just pick quick cycles at the right temperatures. One caveat I’ve discovered is that if a washing machine here says there is 6 minutes left, or even 1 minute left, that minute may just last a half hour. Kind of like American football 😉

Once the loads finish, it is time to dry! Those items that can be dried in the dryer should at this point be entering the industrial sized dryer…but that is not necessarily the case. I’ve noticed that dryers in both the UK and the Sweden, aside from those at laundromats, do not dry as quickly as I am accustomed. Why does it take 2.5 hours to dry a load of laundry??? This makes no sense. The time does decrease slightly with my wool dryer balls, but it is still in excess of 1.5 hours.

At this point, I find myself grasping for ways to minimize the amount of clothes entering the never ending dryer cycle. Also, you may be wondering about the clothes that cannot go in the dryer. Clearly I can’t leave the laundry hanging overnight in the laundry room. That would be a mess. Then again, our apartment is much too small to crowd it with a bunch of laundry. Swedes anticipated this! Let me introduce you to the torkrum.

Torkrum

This clever room is full of hanging rods with air vents that will literally blast warm air into the room to dry your things in record time. More gentle than the dryer and faster than having them hanging throughout the apartment. Genius! I’ve discovered that most laundry is dry within one to two hours of sitting in this room. That’s less time than the dryer in our old house required! By far, my favorite use of this room is drying our waterproof mattress cover. Anyone out there with a toddler or even just an expensive mattress knows the value of a waterproof cover for the bed. Unfortunately, most of them advise against drying in the dryer and they take FOREVER to air dry. This room makes drying that cover quick (quick is relative here people!) and easy. The only negative to the torkrum is that it is designed with Swedes in mind. I’m probably about 8 inches shorter than the average Swede, so jumping is required😛

There is one downfall to the torkrum that I feel compelled to share. You know how towels get super crunchy after drying outside in the sun? The torkrum creates this same phenomenon. I am not a fan. Thusly, I try to throw the towels into the dryer for about 10 minutes after they are dry, just to remove the crunch.

As an interesting aside, we were one of the few families I knew in the UK with a dryer. Most families seemed to have drying cupboards, drying racks, or drying lines in their homes. This may be part of the reason there is such a prevailing acceptance of damp (mold). Being a bit pampered, I was unable to get on board with this way of life. One of our first purchases was a condenser dryer from John Lewis. Best money I spent the entire time in the UK. I put a link here to one on Amazon.co.uk for you to check out. Condenser dryers don’t seem to be as common in the US, so the US site doesn’t show many styles. It’s a shame. As much as they are super slow on drying, there is something pretty cool about not needing a vent tube and just emptying out a tub of water every few loads. The freedom of sticking a dryer wherever you want is pretty awesome.

I hope you enjoyed this trip through our Swedish laundry room.

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

The Dairy Dilemma

Shortly after my wedding, the doctor gave me some bad news.  I was allergic…to basically everything I ate.  Thankfully, this happened after the wedding.  Had I known in advance that I was allergic to both the tomato sauce and the cheese in that lasagna, I might have enjoyed it just a bit less…

Long story short, I embarked on a life without tomato and without cheese (no one really cares about the rest of the list).  I couldn’t believe how good I felt!  My brain functioned so well!  My memory, always notoriously bad, was working like a champ.  Then, an experiment.  Pizza… This experiment did not go well.  Actually, I tried it several times (glutton for punishment…) and it never ended well.  Lots of Benadryl and asthma inhalers came into play.

Thankfully, in Redmond, finding dairy substitutes was no trouble.  In the United States we even have dairy free chocolate chips available at most stores now.  I happily chowed down on non dairy cheese and non dairy ice cream, content for the most part with my modifications.

Then came the UK… specifically Guildford, Surrey.  Suddenly, my shopping options were Sainsbury, Marks & Spenser, and Waitrose. Oddly, they all seemed to have the same exact products, with slight variations on the packaging.  My first several months were hard. No more coconut milk ice cream 😔 No more non dairy, non soy yogurt (yes, I’m allergic to soy too). 😔 No more Daiya cheese 😔 No more non dairy chocolate chips!  Actually, initially I couldn’t find chocolate chips at all.  That took me about 6 months.  Now I rock at chopping chocolate blocks though!  Score one for UK!

I can feel readers from all over the UK getting ready to revolt.  Yes, I know there are stores where I can find many of these things and I did… eventually.  Those foodstuffs I took for granted in the US just weren’t as readily accessible in our town.  Finally, one day in Clapham, I saw it… like a shiny beacon in a gray, smoggy world… WHOLE FOODS!!!  How did this bastion of yuppie comfort food end up across the pond?  I have no idea and frankly, I don’t care.  I was just so happy to finally have access to some of the treats I loved so much.  Needless to say, I stocked up a bit…not too much, it was still an hour commute back to our house. Just a bit 😉

Whole Foods became a special treat for me.  In the two years we lived in the UK, I only shopped there about 5 times.  Had they been located in Guildford, I would have probably camped out in the parking lot.  Unfortunately, commuting via train into London is rather expensive and time consuming.  Without a compelling reason (more compelling than a yen for crunchy baked snap peas), I couldn’t justify that kind of trip with a toddler.  Who wants to go through an hour on a train with a 2 year old?  Masochists, that’s who!

Thankfully, this forced me to re-acclimate my body to dairy (at least small amounts).  My memory immediately took a hit, and I kept eye drops with me at all times.  Allergy related dry eyes just aren’t fun.

Fast forward, two years.  Hello Göteborg, land of amazing cheese and sauces!  The first week was rough!  Who can turn down delicious cheese or Swedish meatballs??  Not this woman.  Then one day, only two weeks in, I discovered that Sweden is not just a dairy rich country.  They believe in non dairy too!  Non dairy yogurt, probiotic drinks, milks, cheeses, and ice cream are all readily available! Ice cream, people!!!  Do you know what I discovered last week?  Non dairy ice cream bars, made out of rice milk!  Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you that these are as good as those delicious sugar coned treats we bought as an occasional treat at school in 3rd grade.  They are too sweet for that.  Nonetheless, suddenly I have a cone filled with ice cream and covered in chocolate readily available.  Thank you Göteborg!

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Life is now much easier.  Unfortunately, it’s still hard to reject the tasty cheese.  On the topic of cheese, the pizza here?  Amazing.  Pesto, cheese, ham, and pineapple on a super thin crust is officially my idea of pizza heaven.  Needless to say, I still have a bit of brain fog and dry eyes.

Someday soon, once the novelty wears off, and once I find a vegan pizza parlor, that too will pass.

Until next time…

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