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July – monthly round-up

An English Mamma in Stockholm: brothers feeding each other ice cream

The main event for my July monthly round-up has to be our summer holiday, which was just brilliant – like last year’s Hungary and Slovakia trip.

The month started off well with O recovering from chicken pox and returning to preschool, which we were all pretty glad of. It’s hard to keep a very active child occupied, indoors, in reasonably good weather while you try to work from home. Both he and I were climbing the walls by the end.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: messy playroom scattered toys

No sooner had he returned to preschool though than we had to pull E out. Just three days they were both there before we saw the first chicken pox spots on E. And this came just when we had thought that he had not caught it.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: boy ice cream sundae

But at least O and I had some quality time together that weekend, and of course quality time means ice cream when you’re four.

Unfortunately, that was less than a week before we were due to go on holiday…[Read more]

An English Mamma in Stockholm: coconut cupcakes partly paleo after baking
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Partly paleo

I‘d really like to be able to say that I follow a paleo lifestyle but, unfortunately, that simply isn’t true. I do have bursts when I cook up a few paleo meals a week, but I cannot seem to commit myself (story of my life…) to cooking paleo each dinner time and sometimes it’s just easiest to throw together a meal including pasta or bread. You could call it partly paleo, I suppose.

I have found a few paleo favourites that I cook when I am feeling virtuous. This week I discovered a new one on googling “paleo pork cutlets”. This Mexican spiced paleo pork was great (don’t be put off by the title: the coffee mentioned is not in the pork recipe) and I followed the advice and ate it with a ripe avocado that I just happened to have. Delicious.[Read more]

An English Mamma in Stockholm: brown leather armchair
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Interiors – the slow and steady way

Slow and steady wins the interiors race, so they (probably don’t) so. I hope so, since, as of this week, we’ve have been living in our place (which I still think of as our “new place”) for two years. Two years on and we still have not finished the living room. We have, however, finally ordered a sofa. Two years of looking at sofas and fabrics and colours and we have finally reached an agreement.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: norell romeo sofa

This is where we are sofa-wise, but certainly not colour- and pattern-wise. The choosing of the fabric took another four weeks. At one stage we were borrowing six or seven fabric books from the store a night and returning them the next day, only to borrow another batch.

After a lot of to’ing and fro’ing, we decided on this fabric by Villa Nova. We opted for a plain fabric so that we (well, actually, I) can have lots of brightly coloured and patterned cushions all over it.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: interiors slow and steady villa nova malmo soft aspen fabric swatch

In this swatch it looks a little darker and duller than it actually is – really, it is a beautiful greeny shade with some darker flecks in it that make it look really interesting. At least, we’re hoping so when we see it covering our sofa.

We’ve also started to decorate the room a little more, buying a painting when we were on holiday in Budapest, and she arrived last week.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: interiors slow and steady budapest hungary nude painting globe

And that globe there? That was a gift to us from my mother-in-law when she downsized and moved from a house and into an apartment. The best, best, best thing about it is that it is our bar. So retro, so fab.

Slowly but surely we’re getting there. Who knows, by the time we’ve been here for five years, we might even have finished.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: iron curtain Anne applebaum faded
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A year in books – August

I‘ve chosen a new book for a Year in Books in August, but I am feeling a little guilty really. You see, I yet again have not finished last month’s book. I was doing really well with Ten Years in The Tub – mainly because it is brilliant and funny and broken down into bite-size pieces, since it is a compilation of Nick Hornby’s monthly books column for The Believer magazine. However, we went on holiday and I decided only to take a handful of magazines with me. No books, just lose downloaded to the Kindle app on the iPad. Excellent though this book is, it is something of a tome, and with two small children, we are always borderline on our luggage weight limit as it is.

The book remained unfinished at the end of the month.

It seems that I don’t learn though. Let me introduce you to this month’s tome:

An English Mamma in Stockholm: iron curtain anne applebaum a year in books august

I started this when we came back from our holiday and I am speeding through it (not in the way I used to speed through books pre-children, of course; but speeding through it with the few opportunities that I now have for reading). I heard Anne Applebaum interviewed on the BBC History podcast when the book was first released and I have been wanting to read it ever since. And it is not disappointing. I find it especially interesting as she has chosen to focus on Poland, East Germany and Hungary in 1944-1956. I have read a little of Hungary’s post-WWII history but this book takes a more in-depth look at just how the Soviet Union consolidated its power in the country. That, combined with the fact that the weather is taking a turn for the worse here, means that I hope to be able to get through a good deal of the book.

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An English Mamma in Stockholm: sporty stockholm map view
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Sporty Stockholm

I‘ve published a new guide on Jauntful – this time, a guide to Sporty Stockholm: where to get active in the city and a few spots to visit afterwards.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: sporty stockholm map view

I’ve already published two other guides on the site: one to fika spots in the city and another to children’s activities in Stockholm.

I think the site is a great resource for what to do in different cities and the guides print out perfectly onto A4, which means they are easy to carry around with you.

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An English Mamma in Stockholm: laura serra charles eames lounge chair
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40 before 40

Just over a month into being 38 and I am already starting to think about turning 40. I know, I know, it’s a little odd but for the past year I’ve already been telling people that I was 38 anyway. I seemed to have a mental block about being 37.

For the past eight or so years I have had the goal of owning a Charles Eames Lounge Chair (either new or second-hand) by the time I am 40. This gave me an idea to create a list of things that I want to do, experience or learn – 40 before 40.

Experiences
  1. Own a Charles Eames Lounge Chair
  2. Sell something on etsy
  3. Enjoy a champagne breakfast
  4. Bake my own bread
  5. Photograph a landscape from the same location, capturing all four seasons
  6. Read War & Peace
  7. Write a letter to my 20 year old and 30 year old selves
  8. Finish furnishing the apartment
  9. Start a new family tradition
  10. Reupholster the bedroom chair
  11. Wear red lipstick at least once a week
  12. Plan a 40th birthday party!

 

Travel
  1. Visit the fjords, preferably on a Hurtigruten cruise
  2. Visit Japan
  3. Visit Vietnam
  4. Visit Russia
  5. Visit Australia
  6. Visit Cuba
  7. Visit Patagonia
  8. Visit Kaliningrad
  9. See a Formula 1 race live
  10. Stay at Hotell Torekov again

 

Training
  1. Deadlift 90kg barbell weights
  2. Deadlift 100kg barbell weights
  3. Run a 10km race
  4. Do three chin-ups in a row
  5. Do five chin-ups in a row
  6. Train at least 3 times a week
  7. Learn to do wall balls properly
  8. Take part in an obstacle race

 

Learning
  1. Learn Swedish properly
  2. Learn calligraphy
  3. Learn CSS
  4. Learn how to play poker
  5. …and learn a poker face
  6. Learn manual photography on the dSLR properly
  7. Learn CPR
  8. Learn five really good paleo recipes
  9. Learn to accept compliments (without deflecting them each time: “Oh, this old thing…”)
  10. Learn not to care what people think

 

An English Mamma in Stockholm: laura serra charles eames lounge chair

Image by Laura Serra (lauraserra.org)

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An English Mamma in Stockholm: wedding outfits valerie gold stripe stripy dress carvela shoes heels
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Wedding outfits

Summer means that it is wedding season and that means wedding outfits need to be bought. In recent years we have been invited to a number of family weddings. The bonus of being the oldest cousin in the clan, I guess, is the we got to go first and now its the others’ turns. This year is no exception, with one of my cousins getting married in the UK in September.

September is a difficult month though. Last year, we visited the UK in September and we had 24 degrees for the first day and then rain and 14 degrees for the rest of the week. But I am being optimistic with my outfits for the wedding. Foolish, maybe, but optimistic.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: wedding outfit valerie dress vicia

Friday night wedding outfit

I ended up buying dresses for both the Friday and the Saturday in the same store: Valerie in MOOD.

For the Friday, I chose the Vicia dress as this was a little more casual than what I decided on for the actual wedding day. I think I can also get a lot of use out of this dress afterwards too.

My main dilemma here is shoes and bag. What colour should I go for? It will be next to impossible to match that tangerine orange (plus I’m not sure how much future use I’ll get from tangerine orange shoes…), and the beige will also be a challenge to match.

Perhaps a pair of nude-coloured shoes would work best? What do you think?

I could have fun with a tangerine-coloured clutch though, I think.

Saturday wedding outfit

For the wedding on the Saturday, I’ve chosen another Valerie dress, but this one a little more formal: a capped-sleeved gold stripy dress.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: wedding outfits valerie gold stripe stripy dress carvela shoes heels

I’ve already bought the shoes to go with this, a pair of Carvela heels that I got half price in the Kurt Geiger sale. (In the photo they don’t look like they match so well, but they do in real life.) I want to get a clutch as well, something in gold but not too large as I think there can be such a thing as too much gold.

And because it will be September in the UK and you never know – it could be an Indian summer; it could be chilly – I also need to find a shawl or wrap to go with the dress. More gold would definitely be overkill though. But what colour could I go for?

I had been hoping that my hair would grow a little quicker, but it looks as if it will still not have reached my shoulders by early September. So I think I will make use of the hair extension clip that I picked up in Glitter in the spring. Given what it cost, it actually looks good because you can wrap it and pin it easy into a chignon.

Then the last stage is to make myself some head gear. And that’s going to be the most exciting part of putting this outfit together. Watch this space.

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An English Mamma in Stockholm: easy blow drying tip hair
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Easy blow drying tip

It has taken me almost three decades to work out how to do my hair properly so it looks good but an easy blow drying tip has changed that. Yes, really. I’ve always opted for the undone, bed head look, just because that was easier to pull off than giving my hair a proper blow dry and fixing it neatly.

An English Mamma in Stockholm: what i wore wednesday wiww h&m jacket sara top

My last haircut, however, was a revelation. It was my first time at the salon – chosen for the simple reasons that I pass it often and that I once saw a lady in there drinking wine at 3.30pm on a Friday – and I had spent a while analysing the biographies of all the stylists before picking one and booking my appointment. And I think that I made the right choice.

At the start of the appointment we talked a lot about how I wanted my hair, which was a little unusual for me. Most of the time, I say what I would like and they say why I cannot have that with my hair. So this was a great start.

About halfway through the haircut, she started asking me how I normally style my hair and whether I blow dry it (answer: badly). And then when she was blow drying it, she gave me a really easy tip for my hair: part it normally, then blow dry sections in the opposite direction to my parting. And if I don’t want to blow dry my hair, I can add volume by allowing my hair to dry with it parted in different directions to my usual parting.

It all sounded so simple.

And actually it really is that simple.  It works. It takes only a few minutes of blow drying and a little bit of spray wax or hairspray and it looks like this:

An English Mamma in Stockholm: easy blow drying tip hair

It might not seem like much, but for me this has been a true hair revelation.

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