On childhood innocence

An English Mamma in Stockholm: on childhood innocence

Both boys seem to have taken after me and love to chat, chat, chat away. I love talking to them about the things that interest them and O especially is so curious about language, the differences between Swedish and English and what words mean.

On the bus, he repeats the names of the coming bus stop after they are announced. And this caused a bit of a problem this week.

We were sitting near to two slightly older boys (aged maybe 8) with the mother of one of them, sitting alongside looking on her phone.

Every time that O said anything, they copied it in loud baby voices and laughed.

I looked over at them.

They laughed.

O said something else.

They laughed again.

I looked over again and glared at them. They carried on mimicking him.

I tried to concentrate on what he was saying to me. I spotted his best friend from preschool out of the window and pointed him out to O. We tried to wave to him.

The boys carried on mimicking O and laughing.

The mother carried on looking at her phone.

I looked over again and glared again.

The mimicking continued.

The mother lent forward and said something to one of them.

They carried on mimicking O and laughing.

We pressed the button for our stop.

O said the name of it. He loves that the bus stop has the same name as our address.

They mimicked him again.

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11 tip-top editing and proofing tips

Despite what Mark Twain said (“In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made proof-readers.”),  becoming a better proofreader can have an enormous impact on your writing.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: editing and proofing tips

Two key editing and proofing tips

The two main tips for editing and proofing that I swear by are:

  • Print out your work and read it on paper. You can spot far more errors this way than you would just by reading it on screen.
  • Read your work out loud. This helps you hear the flow of the text and is a brilliant way to decide what goes where. (Often you’ll see my lips moving while I am sitting at my desk at work as I quietly read out the text that I’m working on.)

These are the ones I do if pushed for time and want to brush up my text. But if you want to weed out the errors and get your text into tip-top shape, then I have other tips to bring out the best in your writing. I hate nothing more than spotting a horrid, glaring typo right in the middle of my post and, being the terrible grammar snob that I am, it puts me off reading more of an article online or in print if I spot an error (I know, I know…).

More editing and proofing tips
  • Find a quiet spot to work in. And if you cannot, stick your headphones on to block out some of the background noise.
  • First read your text through with your editor hat on, looking at the flow and style of it and identifying ways to make the text more succinct and easier to understand. After that, it’s time to put on that proofreader hat and spot spelling and grammatical errors, typos, erroneous commas etc.
  • Keep on proofreading until you no longer spot an errors.
  • Most text programs have a spell checker. These are definitely not fullproof but they are a good place to start. So run your text through the spell checker but don’t rely on them alone. (I find the grammar checkers even less reliable than spell checkers and take most of what they say with more than a pinch of salt.)
  • If you have the time, edit and proof your work the following day, so that you are coming to it fresh. If you edit immediately after writing, you will overlook errors or areas that can be improved as the text will be too “familiar” to you.
  • Use your finger or a pen to follow along with the text as you read. This concentrates your mind and helps you not get distracted by text you are yet to read.
  • Have a thesaurus to hand, or a list of handy descriptive words that you can use to brighten your text.
  • Write a list of the mistakes that you find yourself repeating.
  • Keep on proofing, proof each article or post, even if you don’t love doing it and find it a chore. It will be easier over time and eventually you might even learn to love it. (Okay, maybe you need to be a special kind of crazy for that to happen, but you never know.)
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Weekly wishes – week 15

Another week with sickness, but another week where I got things done, strangely enough, and my weekly wishes list has a few ticks against it.

Weekly wishes last week
  • Send out the invitations to O’s birthday party. YEP – and we’ve started to get back some RSVPs too.
  • Buy dinosaur bits and pieces for the party. YEP – pinata ordered, printables bought, a few other bits and pieces left to source.
  • Collect the boys’ football strips. NOPE – we’ve not had the confirmation that E has a place at football, so I’m waiting until I receive that.
The week

Last week was a washout, with E sick for the whole of the working week. Luckily, though, he was on the mend by the weekend, so we were able to get out and enjoy the city a bit. And he was able to eat and eat and eat and get back that lovely chubby belly of his. He may have skinny arms and legs like his big brother but his beer belly is something he is very proud of.

O told us about a brilliant park that he had visited with preschool and brilliant Uggleparken (at the Kristineberg end of Kungsholmen) proved to be.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: weekly wishes uggleparken kungsholmen playground

Now I’m just hoping that we can be germ-, bacteria- or virus-free for a while. It’s not too much to ask, is it?

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Weekly wishes – week 14

Guess what? It’s been sickness, sickness, sickness again. And then, just when we thought it was over, the sickness reared its ugly head again. Speaking as the only member of the family not really struck by it (so far, she says, crossing fingers and toes), I have to say that I am well and truly sick of the rest of the family being sick.

Weekly wishes last week
  • Finalise invitation for O’s birthday party. YEP – all ready to be sent out shortly.
  • Buy dinosaur bits and pieces for the party. HALF DONE – most of the items sourced, but not yet bought.
  • Wear glasses all week. YEP, but then I had no choice really.
  • Investigate swimming/dance/football classes for the boys. YEP – O signed up for football class again, and then, just when I was wondering what to do for E, we got an invite from O’s football group for E to start too. He is so incredibly excited about it.

I don’t know whether it is just that I have made my goals more manageable or if I actually do get more done when I have less time, but it was another good weekly wises week.

The week

Last week was one of on and off sickness, topped off with both good and bad news at my eye appointment. The bad news is that I cannot have laser eye surgery to correct my horrendous eyesight. The good news is that I can have some type of surgery. Unfortunately, it is the really hardcore one that involves incisions and the insertion of an extra lens into each eye. Bleurgh. But I have decided that, as long as I get the all clear from the eye doc at the end of this week, I’m just going to go for it. I’m just not going to google it. Or talk about it too much. Or think about it.

Our weekend was the same: good and bad. We spent a lovely day in the city centre on Saturday, visiting Livrustkammaren (Royal Armoury) again and then having a traditional Swedish lunch at Den Gyldene Freden in Gamla Stan, followed by wandering around the old town. Each time I am there, I am reminded what an amazing city this is to live in.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: gamla stan old town stockholm ochre buildings medieval


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The Year in Books – April

Having been so enthusiastic about my book for March, I am actually quite surprised at myself that I am only halfway through. A week away skiing, going to bed before 9pm each night and sleeping for nine hours doesn’t make for much reading time. I am still loving 10% Happier though.

Reading about Dan Harris’ journey from a sceptic to a meditation fan is particular resonant for me at the moment since I am exploring ways that I can minimise stress (or, more accurately, my reaction to it) and find ways to carve out a little peaceful time each week.

The Year in Books – April’s read

Since I have not yet finished it though, I am going to give myself an easier read for April (also as the days have flown past and it is already 10 April. How? Just how?). I have chosen Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach for this month’s read for The Year in Books.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: the year in books  dinner a love story jenny rosenstrach

I read a hilarious excerpt from the book about trying to encourage their younger daughter to eat when she did not want to. And it struck a chord with me immediately, because it mirrored exactly the dinner time issues we’re having with E at the moment (he will only eat sausages). I knew I needed to read this book.

And if that was not enough, this is one of the reviews for it:

Dinner: A Love Story gives me hope that one day my family will also assemble around an actual table and eat an actual meal that was actually cooked by me;
a meal not solely comprised of animal shaped cheese crackers dipped in peanut butter. Although those are good too.”
SAMANTHA BEE, correspondent, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

What’s not to like about a book like that? I am hopeful for three in a row – three great reads in a row for The Year in Books would be a feat for me.

Linking up with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees

Circle of Pine Trees

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How to curb your spending

Recently, I’ve been feeling like I spend a little too much on clothes and accessories each month. After hearing a podcast with Caroline from Un-Fancy, I wondered if her approach might work for me.

But when I thought about it, I realised that only buying clothes at four times a year and then restricting myself to wearing only a set number of items each season just would not work for me. I love choosing different things to wear each day from a wide range in my wardrobe. Plus I love the likes of Zara as many of their clothes (especially trousers and skirts) seem to suit me.

I do want to keep more of an eye on my spending though. I have been using an app called Tink that you can associate with banks accounts and credit cards (expanding beyond Sweden soon, it seems). That gives me a good idea of how much I am spending each month.

How to curb your spending

My method to really make myself accountable is about as basic as you can get, but it works. I like to call it the power of the percentages. It’s just a good old-fashioned Excel spreadsheet – really simple but the percentages are what makes the difference.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: how to curb your spending excel spreadsheet

The formulae are quite simple:

  • To see the change each month, use this formula for cell C2 =(B2-B1)/B1 and this one for cell C3 =(B3-B2)/B2, and so on for each of the cells in column C.
  • To see the change from the first month, use this formula for cell D2 =(B2-B1)/B1 and this one for cell D3 =(B3-B1)/B1, and so on for each of the cells in column D.

My aim is to try and get at least a small year-to-date decrease in column D each month, but I know that some months will be heavier on the spending front than others. But every time that I am out shopping, I just think of my Excel spreadsheet and the percentages and it makes me rethink whether I really need to buy what I am eyeing up.

And then, when something unexpectedly pops up in the sale, like this jacket (reduced to Skr 299 from nearly Skr 800), I can snap it up.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: how to curb your spending river island jacket mango purse bag

What tricks do you use to curb your spending? Do you use spreadsheets and apps too? Or do you have another world-beating method?


Weekly wishes – week 13

It has been a week worthy of “Vabruary” – the notorious month of February when your children are constantly sick and you are at home with them “vabbing“. First, E was sick with a fever that didn’t want to go down. Otherwise, though, he was fine. But a fever is a fever and I was home with him for two days. Then Husband came down with it, just in time for Easter, followed by O two days ago.

You would think that I struggled with my weekly wishes, but actually I had quite a successful week. Maybe the limited time that I had to GSD made me focused on the tasks at hand.

Weekly wishes last week

  • Take Digital Marketing exam. YEP, and with an 84% score!
  • Get boiled eggs ready, so the boys can paint them for Easter. YEP – although this was a last-minute thing.
  • Finally, book a venue for O’s birthday party. YEP – and I think (well, hope) that I’ve found a great venue after a lot of searching and emailing and calling.
  • Buy dinosaur items for the party. YEP and NOPE – I’ve been sourcing items and have a lot in my Amazon basket, ready to buy.
  • Start work on the party invitations. YEP, with the great Paperless Post app.

As I said, despite how the week went, I actually managed to succeed with the majority of my weekly wishes.

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Weekly wishes – week 12

That first week back after a good holiday is always a strange one, isn’t it? You start the week a little confused at work but happy because you’ve been on holiday and then, by the end of the week, your holiday seems months back and you feel like you’ve never been away. Oh, well, the only thing to do in those circumstances is to get right on a plan the next trip. Which is what I did.

Weekly wishes last week

  • Take Online Marketing exam. NOPE – I just need to set aside an hour or so and just do this. Maybe tonight is the night.
  • Finish week 5 of the Bikini Body Guide. NOPE – the week was a disaster on the training front. I had managed to do something while skiing that made my weight-lifting all crazy at my training session on Monday and then I just couldn’t seem to find the time to train later in the week. Bad excuse.
  • Hand lettering practice. NOPE.
  • RAIN meditation at least once this week. NOPE – last week really was not good, was it?
  • Book a venue for O’s birthday party and start working on the theme he’s chosen. Some progress here, although not all positive as my top three venues have each been a No.
  • Investigate laser eye surgery. YEP! Appointment booked for the initial check-up the week after Easter.

The week

As you can see, not so great on the weekly wishes front, but I did do a lot of other things that I’ve not listed here. Really, I did. Including researching dinosaur-shaped pinata. Yes, seriously.

It was a week of dental appointments for us. On Tuesday I took the boys for their three-year and five-year check-ups. They both got the green light, and both now return in two years’ time. The following day I went back to there – same surgery, different dentist – but my appointment was not as positive. The usual lecture about flossing (which I don’t do – I know, I know…) and the joy of a 45-minute session with the hygienist to look forward to. “Luckily”, there was a cancellation for Friday afternoon, so I managed to get that slot (otherwise I would have had to wait until the end of June). I left there with the dentist’s words ringing in my ears: “It will hurt. A lot.”

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Skiing hairstyles

Skiing in Sweden involves helmets. Yes, it’s safety first each and every time in Sweden. But that means you need to think a little more about skiing hairstyles when you’re on the slopes.

And I overlooked that when we headed off to the mountains this past week. Since I had few hair accessories with me, I encountered a hair problem. During the past two years that we have skied, I’ve had short hair, so each morning it has just been a case of sticking on my helmet and away I go. (Everyone wears a helmet while skiing in Sweden. Seriously. Everyone.) This year, however, my almost shoulder-length hair caused a few more problems. If I left it down, then the ends flapped around underneath the helmet, irritating me and getting into my mouth. Putting it into a ponytail just meant that the helmet would not fit on.

I started to look around and see how others were solving it. And plaits or braids seemed to be the answer.

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Weekly wishes – week 11

I missed out on posting my weekly wishes last Monday. In fact, I missed out on posting at all last week. But I have a very good excuse. We were up in the mountains skiing for a week. And the wifi didn’t work.

My latest weekly wishes

  • Complete Online Marketing course. YEP – I’ve completed the course. Now I just need to take the exam.
  • As much of week 5 of the Bikini Body Guide as I can. I managed one training session this last week, but then we were skiing every day, so that counts for something, surely?
  • Hand lettering practice. NOPE – I took all my pens away with me this week, but I didn’t manage to get any practice done.
  • RAIN meditation at least once this week. NOPE, but for the first three nights in a row that we were away, I slept for at least 9 hours. 9 hours! Marvellous.
  • Book a venue for O’s birthday party. I emailed one venue but did not hear back. So this week, I’ll book the other place that I had in mind.

The week

Don’t ask me what I/we did the week before last as I truly cannot remember beyond “work”, but I can safely say that this past week was memorable and was all about skiing.

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