Exploring Locally in July

In July, we were all still searching for signs of summer to arrive in Sweden. They were few and far between. Meteorologists have offered their explanations (it’s linked to the record-breaking heat and drought the European continent has experienced) but sunny, warm-ish weather has been rare and most days have been cloudy, full of chilly breezes, rain showers and mutant mosquitoes with super powers. We had much more use for raincoats and rubber boots than shorts and sandals. Not exactly the summer we’ve all been longing for all those dark cold months when the sun shines on other parts of the globe.

Honestly, it’s been a struggle. It was hard to keep a positive attitude when the weather was bad so much of the time and I was living in a camper with two kids who’ve been longing for summer just as much as I have. But I have also gotten stressed when the sun does come out. It’s finally here! It might only be for an hour! We have to squeeze all our summer hopes and plans into the next hour! It’s hard to relax and enjoy it sometimes even when it is nicer weather.

But through it all we’ve maintained our commitment to exploring and learning in our own local area. It’s surprising how many summer activities you can still do without summer weather. We’ve gone swimming in the rain (wet is wet right?), played miniature golf in the rain, gone hiking in the rain… The summer we were longing for is at least in part a state of mind. Beautiful weather helps, but in its absence we just had to choose it.

In late July and early August we took a short vacation where we towed the camper and didn’t just limit ourselves to day trips. Even though we were still relatively local (never more than a 3-hour drive from home), I’ll share our vacation wanderings as a separate post.

So here are our local explorations in July!

Hednäs Mosquito Buffet

Staffan was leading an outdoor worship service at someone’s summer cottage the first weekend in July. They offered us to come as a family and bring our camper to stay the weekend.

The positives: Good company with great people. An adorable cottage (no electricity or running water) situated on the bend of a small river. The kids got to watch bigger kids fishing and then sample the freshly caught and boiled fish. They were enthralled.

The negatives: Mosquitoes. Ev-ery-where. All. The. Time. We are outdoorsy people. We’ve been in mosquito dense situations before. I’ve never seen anything like this. (For the record, Staffan has seen worse. Good advertising for northern Sweden, yes?) And somehow, though we never had problems before or since, they defied even the mosquito nets on our camper and they were everywhere inside too. The kids spent most of the night screaming about the buzzing in their ears and the itchy welts all over their bodies. None of us slept. We canceled the planned second night and left early.

hednäs stuga
It really was a beautiful place when we could stand to be outside.

outside church
The kids led the congregation in “Fishers of Men” since that’s what that Sunday’s text was about

manually towing
Parked in a tight spot. Just because you can get it in, doesn’t mean you can get it out.
Thankful for some helping hands to help us get back on the road.

Beach Toys

There’s a swimming beach just a short walk from where we’ve been staying all summer. So, in anticipation of spending nearly every afternoon on the beach this summer, we finally bought some decent beach toys, the highlight being the inflatable crocodile. Peter has been drawn to these crocodiles every summer since he could walk and has borrowed them from other kids and cried when they take them home again. This year, we bought him one of his own. Plus some other fun water and sand toys. And it just never got warm. And it rained every day. And these kids looked longingly at their unused beach toys and begged. Every. Day. Finally, one afternoon I gave in. It was 13ºC (55ºF) but the rain stopped after lunch and it just broke my heart to say no one more time. So in they went while Mamma sat at a picnic table wearing a sweater and a jacket and shivering. They didn’t get super wet, but they did manage to play in the water for about an hour before we all needed to go in and warm up.

rainy beach day

After that we decided that beach toys can be almost as much fun in any of the many puddles available all around the camper. Fun water play? Check. Kids dressed somewhat appropriately for the weather? Check. Mamma sitting inside drinking a hot cup of tea and supervising through the window? You better believe it.

puddle play

Bikes and Playgrounds

This is the summer of the bike in our family. Our attempt at a family walk after dinner (when it’s not pouring down rain) quickly became a “bike-walk” where the kids ride bikes and the adults walk with them. It worked great at first, but all that practice has developed their skills so that soon we were taking “bike-jogs” and by now Staffan and I get to walk as a couple while occasionally shouting reminders to look before crossing roads and wait for us to catch up every now and then. Emelie learned to ride without training wheels this summer, which feels like a milestone. She got a new 20” bike for her birthday and Peter got to inherit her old 16” – which is another reason for their increased speed.

no training wheels
I can do it! I’m riding by myself!

2015-07-15 11.36.30
His own little Batmobile

We’ve always used bikes for most of our transportation, until recently when the kids were too big to ride in the bike trailer together anymore, but not quite able to manage riding places by themselves. Now we see that Emelie will be able to ride on her own a lot more, so we’re excited to be able to use bikes for family transportation again!

We’ve also been visiting playgrounds around the area with new fun features like zip-lines and firemen’s poles in addition to the ever popular sliding boards and swings. With the right clothing choices, playgrounds can be enjoyed in a variety of different weather conditions. And everybody’s favorite is to ride bikes to the playground, of course!

firemans pole

net climbing

I Scream, You Scream…

Everyone knows you do not need warm weather to enjoy some ice cream. But all the same, sitting outside eating ice cream is one of our favorite ways to celebrate a little bit of sunshine. We’ve eaten plenty of ice cream this summer, both to cheer us up when the weather’s especially bad and to celebrate a really nice day.

One week, Staffan’s day off happened to coincide with some warm, sunny weather, so we took a little field trip to Bergsbyn. Bergsbyn is a small village about 12km (7.5 miles) from where we live, and it’s hardly a tourist destination except for one claim to fame. Ice cream. There is a store there that makes the biggest ice cream cones you’ve ever seen.

When we walked in, they were making one for another customer and it was enormous. Staffan joked, “That’s a small one, right?” and the man didn’t seem to get the joke. “Yes of course” he said, with a straight face. It was. We chose an extra small size for the kids. Since I can never decide between soft and scoop ice cream, I ordered a special – which is a combination of the two. (Why don’t more places offer this?!) And because of our overwhelming curiosity about just how large a large cone could be, Staffan took one for the team and ordered a large one.

cone kids
Ahem… extra small?

ice cream cone
Mmmm… scoop + soft serve + white chocolate syrup. Still can’t believe I ate all that!

largest ice cream ever
That spoon isn’t for eating but for balance. It can’t even hold it’s own weight. Leaning tower of soft serve.

Nothing says summer like sitting in the sun eating ice cream, and this year we are especially appreciative of everything that gives us that summer feeling.

chocolate face
I’m not sticky, Mom, right?

cone peekaboo
Look! I bit off the bottom of the cone and now it’s empty! Peekaboo! I see you!

Multicultural Cooking

We took our camper and spent a few days visiting our friends in the refugee community. Once again it was like a several day feast, as we were graciously invited into homes and served amazing food from different countries. Maybe they don’t understand that we can prepare food in the camper and they don’t have to feed us all our meals (including breakfast), but most likely it’s just such an important part of their cultures to practice hospitality and share what they have. So maybe the heading here should have been multicultural eating, because that’s what certainly what we did most.

At one home, the kids enjoyed Iraqi sambusas so much that Emelie begged our hostess to teach me how to make them. So when the meal was cleared away, the ingredients came out and we started cooking together. I took tons of pictures since there was no good way to write down a recipe. I really enjoyed learning to make something new, but more than that the camaraderie of two women getting our hands messy in the kitchen making food together. So simple. So basic. So profound. And in a context where otherwise everything is foreign and confusing for her, on this day she was the teacher and I the student. Beautiful.

2015-07-24 17.09.27
Face obscured to protect our friend’s identity.


One of our goals for this summer was to discover local treasures that we never knew existed. We definitely checked that box when we found Rismyrliden. About 40km (25 miles) from where we live is an old settlement and farm from the early 1800’s, preserved and in most ways still run according to the practices and technology of northern Sweden in 1825. There are animals, old buildings, toys from the period, crafts like carding wool and spinning and more. There’s a cafe (not original of course) that’s run without most modern conveniences. Dishes are washed by boiling them in pots over wood fires outside. Baking is done the old fashioned way. Ice cream… well, okay, that’s kept in a modern freezer. But you get the idea.

We only discovered it because they have church services there on Sundays in the summer and Staffan was asked to lead the service one week. I’m so glad the kids and I decided to go along! Sadly, we discovered it too late to take advantage of the programs they offer for children throughout the summer, with chances to dress in period costumes and learn to do some common farm chores. But we will definitely remember to go back for this next summer!

Swedish speakers can learn more at: http://rismyrliden.se/

spinning wheel
It’s a spinning wheel like in Sleeping Beauty!

look cows
Okay, maybe the electric fence is a modern addition too.

peter and the pigs
Sleepy Pigs

pete plus cat
So proud to get to hold a kitten. It’s Pete Plus Cat

old-time toys
That way, Driver!

So, despite bad weather, we managed to have a lot of fun in our local area in July! It’s so helpful to write this and remember that it wasn’t a total washout after all!

Has anyone else discovered fun local treasures this summer? How do you enjoy summer with your family when the weather isn’t cooperating?

Read about our decision to stay home and explore our local area this summer here, and about our local explorations in June here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.