The Swedish Midsummer celebration, with its crazy dances around the maypole, ushered in the easy, breezy season! After a long, darkish winter, I’m so excited about this bright and, hopefully, warm time of year. My family and I follow a ritual practiced by many Swedes in this sprawling country: we flee the city and escape to a cottage by the water. Our place is in the Stockholm archipelago, which is a cluster of 30,000 islands, skerries and rocks. We’re usually there from the beginning of July until mid-August, but this year calls for adjustments since we’ll be sending our daughter off to college in New York and our son has an intensive soccer schedule. We’d like to make the most of this summer together since it feels like we’re entering a new phase in our household. The long-held tradition, with the four us ensconced in our home for weeks on end, no longer applies. Kids grow up and have their own plans and, sadly, we parents have to adapt. I can’t think of a better place to process the changes in our family dynamic than on an island, surrounded by nature and a view of the Baltic Sea.
Let me start off by saying that I love the contrast of being at the seaside and creating a cozy, color-filled environment; preparing lots of food; and welcoming guests. However, my ambition level exceeds my capacity to deliver and I’ve often found myself exhausted and grumpy–disappointed that I didn’t take time out to enjoy the outdoors or read a book or play Scrabble or watch a movie. I’ve made a conscious decision to avoid wallowing in regret this year, pining for a summer that didn’t meet my personal expectations. So, I’ve given a lot of thought to what makes me feel fulfilled and how I’d like this summer to play out.
It’s been easy for me to get bogged down in domestic chores and claim that I don’t have time to do something active. With all the Rosé and ice cream that’s consumed, I end up feeling bloated and lazy. In order to combat that, I’ve vowed to do some kind of movement every day. A power-walk in the forest, a promenade on the beach, tennis, and kayaking top my list. I also have a backlog of podcasts I can listen to while I navigate the trails.
Reading for me is relaxation and, if the conditions are right, I can pore over two novels a week. Here are some recent and upcoming releases that will be clambering for a spot on my bedside table!
My daughter going off to college has made me very sentimental and nostalgic. I found the old photo album below when I was in New York last month. Transferring pictures from this tattered scrapbook into a new one is a priority this summer–along with talking to my kids about the people and places from my youth. I’ve been rushing through the present and preparing so much for the future, the past has gotten short-changed. I want to rectify this situation before it’s too late. My husband also has a bunch of photos to arrange and I think this could be a great family activity, especially on a rainy day.
This photo album was a precious item in my childhood home. Before digital cameras, every picture was taken with care and valued. I love the photograph of my parents from the Seventies!
I’d also like to start each morning by writing my thoughts, impressions, and feelings in a journal. Being in the archipelago really clears my head. I often feel my most creative and coherent. Unfortunately, my ideas and reflections disappear if I don’t record them. Keeping a journal will exercise my writing muscles and keep me in the right mindset to tackle my new book, either by going through research material or writing a few more chapters. However, I’ve learned that even the most prolific, successful authors have been known to take the summer off, so I shouldn’t feel too guilty if I don’t make significant headway ;).
Reduce my screen time! I won’t reveal how much I average per day, but I think I’ve reached the point of diminishing returns. A Digital Detox will open up dormant areas of my being–both mentally and physically. I want to focus on wellness and self-care and know that a tech timeout is a key to that. Although Instagram and Snapchat are filled with sumptuous holiday pics and adventures, I’ll have to put on the brakes and not fall too deep down the rabbit hole! All things in moderation…
Getting together with family and friends in the archipelago is my definition of summertime bliss. Setting a seasonal, thematic table and grilling is my favorite way to entertain. This year I want to move away from the ubiquitous Rosé and Aperol Spritz and try different cocktails. I’ve heard great things about the Hugo and Suze Tonic. I also want to add new salads and meatless dishes to my repertoire. Above all, I want to master the art of “effortless entertaining” and spend less time in the kitchen so I can enjoy my guests!
With my love of books, I’ve amassed quite a collection which I’d like to make available to others on the island. I love the idea of the Little Free Library and have plans to build my own with one of these kits from Etsy. I hope I can make it stable enough to stand upright! But if all else fails, I’ll donate books to the village hotel and local grocery store. I want to spread the read/share/exchange/enjoy concept!
I get very attached to our place and am reluctant to leave for excursions on neighboring islands. I shouldn’t get so complacent though; the Stockholm archipelago is filled with wonderful small bays, beaches, and restaurants. You can even go on a seal safari not too far from where we are! I want to be more “adventurous” and do some day trips when the weather is nice. I might even take a dip in the Baltic Sea. But don’t listen to the Swedes: The water is not warm at 15C/60F!
What’s on your summer bucket list?