A month of silence…for a reason!

The weather is changing

The weather is changing

Well, first an apology for writing so seldom…But the October month was truly a case of “UP”s and “DOWN”s here on the Yacht Ilona. We had a BAD, BAD  flu and then lots of birthdays at the same time!!! Plus a blocked toilet (Arian’s fault), a leak on the boat (fixed by Elias) , crazy, wonderful weather (Thank you God) and then… a visit from old friends (Fiona, Ned,Callum and Ruari) who came and stayed in an apartment in Dieppe a whole weekend. They also brought a card game for horrible people called “Cards against humanity”. We had many late dinners, many late nights and many great conversations…

Mats and I have decided that none of the children nor the teachers will have an autumn or half-term break on the boat, since we missed few of the schools days because of the October birthdays’ and the sooner we are done the quicker we can sail off. So we just keep going like most of you Monday to Friday-week in, week out. And that feels like a full time job.

Mats (The Captain) , Egle  (The Admiral), Elias  and Noah ( The Deckhands)  are born in October, so October is a really kind of hardcore party month and when I say that , I mainly speak to the Swedish side of the family and friends, since according to Swedish traditions everyone expects breakfast in bed on the very early  morning of their birthday… It is an old tradition and  after 5 years of living in Sweden I still havent got used to it… but since I love my children and Mats very, very much  I tried to do my best or at least try to perform the right procedures for those particular mornings…  (and that was sometimes hard when you get few birthdays a week with a person like me who really loves her sleep… )

So the good news is that all the birthday breakfasts have been served for this year 2014… Finally!

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The next blog will be mainly about home schooling because that is something that REALLY rules our lives right now. It is a  big commitment we have taken upon us and sometimes it can feel a bit too much, but we have not lost faith and  we still  dream of sailing off as soon as the pupils of Ilona boat schooling  have submitted the last of their assignments in the spring of  2015.

We started to dream of  warmer weather even though here it has been so far unusually warm . We  are still enjoying this adventure and the best part of it is that we have no idea where it will take us…

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While others work, some read (Arian) or watch people for hours!!! (Zappa)

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And lucky those who can choose to play football instead of unblocking toilets….

 

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The unlucky one that day was Mats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living the slow life in Normandy, France

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Yacht Ilona ready for winter

Well, the decision has been made. Our family will not reach La Rochelle, San Sebastian or La Coruna this year. We will be staying in Normandy until the spring comes and our school curriculum is covered. After all pros and cons we decided that we would like to take it slow and let the children fall in with their school routine.

Arian (just turned 16 ) who received his books from Katedral skolan in Linköping will be coming back to Sweden in spring to do a prövning and his Mathematics book is thicker than ever (pre IB diploma SL and HL) plus he has French to work  on since he wants to do that at a higher level while doing IB next year (In what country we have not decided yet)

Elias ( about to become 14) could not study at all while the boat was on the move and it is him who has to submit the school work to Sofiaskolan in Stockholm several times a week and without the internet while at sea that is actually impossible. We have gotten really good feedback from his teachers and we are very pleased with everything they offer us, it’s just for Elias it takes longer to complete the tasks he is assigned and we can not stop wondering why we ever sent him to Engelska skolan in Linköping, now it seems like we lost 2 years…

Noah  ( soon 11 years)  has the easiest time. We are concentrating  a lot on Maths (2 different books Matteborgen and Matematikboken) and even though  I prefer Matematikboken, his school has recommended Matteborgen so we are trying to cover both. The rest is mainly English comprehension and Swedish läsförståelse and both are quite a challenge, since Noah is a master in rushing through his work! (Especially when football is the only thing on his mind). He  started training with FC  Dieppe three times a week  (2 times outdoor and 1 time futsal) and it goes really well apart from the one small inconvenience  of him not speaking any French…..( but that mainly bothers me and not him…)

Mats and I are very happy. We love being closer to the centre of Europe. We are 150km from Paris (by car), 4 hours away from England (by boat) and then the whole cost of Normandy and Brittany  on our doorstep to explore  this autumn. It is just unbelievable how distances change as soon as you leave Scandinavia so far North and  arrive in Holland, Belgium or France. Everything seems to be near by, a day trip away.

The last for today is the talk on food and how good we eat here. It is very clear that French still grow a lot of food themselves and you could buy everything fresh in a weekly market. If not,  then you end up with supermarket produce , but that rarely happens. Two things we could not buy so far (neither in a supermarket or any shop) (and now I am not joking)…. are the dogs’ poo bags and simply lined school exercise books for writing. Both of those we will request to be sent from Sweden.

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That’s where boys play everyday!

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The street where our marina is located

 

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Veg&Fruit supermarket

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Fishmongers

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Sadly we had a visit to Ikea…

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The kite party

 

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Last night they watched Zoolander…

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School project in the making

 

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Ready for the first match for FC Dieppe

The poo bags are not “fashionable” and the lined exercise books are lined completely differently in France!

We love living  and eating slow, we have no idea how the winter will be , we want the kids to do really well this school year and we really want to learn some French , so wish us luck!

From now on we will update the blog few times a week since the internet has been connected on the s/y Ilona…and it is not slow. Fast internet and slow life. I guess we live in a world full of contradictions…

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Zizek is waiting for the French teacher

A change in the north of France

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I’m on the TGV from Gare du Nord in Paris to Boulogne sur Mer. It’s Friday September the 5:th.
Soon back in Boulonge sur Mer where we have been moored for the last few days. According to our pilot it’s France most active fishing port and we are moored right in the middle of town, just across from the fishing boats and the fish market. Lovely!

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It’s a commercial marina not a yacht club so less nice and friendly but perfectly fine.
The last two days have been an exercise in unitasking, the art of doing one thing at a time without being distracted. Today’s task, taking our crew member Ari to Paris-Orly for his flight back to Stockholm, started a few days ago when we decided that it was time for the permanent crew of Ilona to manage on our own without the help of an extra pair of hands. Why this decision came about I’ll leave out of this text.

Maiale la Latte

The unitask of yesterday was cooking an ancient Roman dish called Maiale al Latte, pork braised in milk! Doesn’t your mouth just water? Ours didn’t, half of us actually stated that they hate milk! Milk and meat? No way! But we where intrigued. Maybe by the fact that this combination is a tabu in most religions, mixing death and life, in addition to “not sounding to good” and maybe because we have read so much praise about the dish.

If you read Michael Pollans book “Cooked”, which I’m doing at the moment, you will learn about the three P’s essential to cooking a good one pot dish like a Beuf Bourginone, a Bolognaise or any stew for that matter, patience, presence and practice.

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It usually starts with the slow sweating of at least two aromatic vegetables maybe onions, garlic and celery, if you’re in Italy, and you would start with your onions. There is no limit to how slow you should cook your onions. 30 minutes probably being the minimum. Why don’t you cook up a little experiment? Chop three onions (practice), one at a time, let the first one sweat for 30 min on low heat, the next 45 min on lower heat and the last for an hour on even lower heat (patience). Don’t let any of them burn or brown much so keep stiring (presence) and then taste the difference. You will not believe it! The same onion but hey!
The Maiale al Latte is a different beast all together. No vegetables to watch and soften, no soft cushion for your meat to rest on while braising just any cut of pork in ruff chunk sizes. Well salted then browned in hot butter. Add milk to cover half of the chunks together with a few sage leaves, a bunch of garlic cloves the juice of a lemon or two together with the peel. The milk can never cook, not even simmer, just smile a little. Then it’s all patience and presence for the hours it will take for the pork to relax. If you wonder whether it’s done, it’s not. But once you lift the lid and prod the meat a little you will know. It offers to fall apart almost on its own.
We can all guarantee that you will taste something quite different and very satisfying. If the sight of baby vomit for any reason is alive in your mind don’t despair, it’s just how milk looks in an acid environment. The sight of your braise will improve until you have a beautiful ocre sauce and the scent is great from the very starts and just gets better. We have a new regular on our menu. Zizek and Zappa loved the leftover sauce by the way.
On the train to Paris-Orly, via Gare du Nord, there where no happy laughs or good stories told. Needless to say the mood was pretty gloomy. But the decision was made and even though my French leaves a lot to be desired its a lot better than that of our departing crew member so the unitask of traveling to and from one of Europes most remarkable cities without even sampling any of its pleasures had to be accomplished. On top of that today is Arians 16:th birthday, we will celebrate tomorrow instead, Moules Mariners will be on the menu for the party and if the weather permits, we move on south after the weekend. Normandy and more WW2 beaches ahead.

First day of school

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Tucked in to a calm corner of the Yacht harbour in Oostende, school starts…

This year it’s a bit different. The agreement is that the day starts at 09:00 and finishes at 13:00 plus an hour of reading. If it will work remains to be seen. If it does, school days will be less then half of what they were last term.

Lets talk to our three students and see what they have to say about School Ilona.

– Elias, how do you find your first day here at School Ilona?

– Ehh, I find School Ilona good. It’s like a normal school but very quiet except for mom who can get a bit loud when she discusses something. I like it!

– What about you Noah do you like your teacher?

–  Vad ska man säga, det är mamma som är lärare, det är bra, det är tillräckligt. Hon kan bli lite högljudd ibland…

– Finally, over to you Arian. You have a somewhat divided role here on the boat both teacher and student?

– Well, it’s going pretty smoothly. Some of the students are a bit slow but now they have less things to distract themselves with than in a normal classroom.  I’m personally looking forward to starting my own studies, but my books haven’t arrived yet (He gives a sly smile).

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We shouldn’t forget the impressions of our Head Misstress a.k.a. Head Teacher a.k.a. Center-of-the-Universe Egle.

– Can you please summarise your impressions of this morning?

She’s completely silent… but wait, here she goes.

– The children were a bit loud in the beginning and I almost poured coffee over all of the schoolbooks, but after a slow start arbetet är på gång (work is on the way). I have a feeling that we will go through the school curriculum faster than we think.

She ends with a stern frown.

Over and out from Oostende, Belgium

 

Finally sailing

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Finally we cast off our mooring lines from the Jachtclub in Spuihaven, Schiedam. The alarm went off at 5 AM, we wanted to leave two hours before high water to make the best use of the tide in the rivers we were planning to travel. Traffic in Rotterdam is very dense and it reminded me of the river Rhen outside of Duisburg i Germany. The difference in Rotterdam is that there are so many canals and rivers so the inferno just keeps on going. However we managed to stay out of the way of the commercial ships and were treated very kindly by the bridge and lock operators.

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While staying at Jachtclub Schiedam, where we now are proud members, we grew to love the town, its people and Holland. Elias and Noah found a “five man pitch” in our local park and made many friends. I don’t know how many hours they spent there every day?

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Even though it’s not very far from Sweden, it’s very different. I guess it’s mainly the people. My impression is that they are openminded and relaxed towards most things in life. Smoking and bicycle helmets are not a topic for discussion among the dutch. If you, like me, are Swedish you understand that this is indeed different and we love it!

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The goal of our first days sailing was Willemstad where we planned to fuel up and make our first stop. It turned out we didn’t. When we got there I didn’t dare to enter, to much traffic, to narrow channel and to much side wind. We ended up at a nearby lock planning to go through early the coming morning. It turned out to be a bit of a false start… When waiting for the lock to open our friend Ari said: – Whats’s that smell? -Probably that barge, I replied. Ari stuck his head out into the cockpit, -THE CABLE FROM THE WIND GENERATOR IS BURNING!

Chaos returned, but we are good with chaos. I few buckets of water took care of the flames, a quick disconnection of the batteries and a hasty retreat to the previous nights mooring.

It turned out that no major damage was done, just a meter of cable incinerated. How the wind generator itself is doing we haven’t investigated yet, fingers crossed.

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By the time we had sorted the fire, the gale warnings started coming. We got stuck four nights. But Willemstad turned out to be a nice little town which only me, Egle and Noah explored. A daily hike of 10 km in driving rain and gale force winds.

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Now we are in Middelburg. A medieval city where we have found the first real market, something we have been dreaming about. Fresh fish and meat, fruit and vegetables mixed with all the useful and useless stuff you should find at a market. Yesterday we had wonderful sea bass and today chicken. What the “Night Market” offers we will soon find out.

Tomorrow we depart south down the canal, through one last lock at Vlissingen into the North Sea. If the weather allows, we will be in Belgium tomorrow evening.

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We are having some cozy times aboard Ilona… and good food.

Still hoping for some summer though…

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Leave Behind, Leave to Find.

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An old mansion in the middle of nowhere.

A lake that reflects the sun like a pool of gold.

Forests covered in a cloak of green, yellow or brown leaves.

Bitter, cold winters and lukewarm summers.

The worn yet dignified industrial backdrop of Norrköping.

This is what we leave behind.

The temptations of the open sea.

The freedom of the ocean winds.

The scents of the farmer’s markets.

The heat of the Mediterranean sun.

The promises of shores unseen.

This is what we set off to find.

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Twelve days to go in Norsholm

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Today turned out to be less productive than both me and Egle had hoped. We had an appointment in Norrköping at one o’clock so naturally we planed to do a bunch of other errands while in town. We left in good time before our meeting and managed some things before our appointment. One thing we did was inspired by reading the wonderful blog written by Joop and Meta, the couple we are buying our boat from. It’s a great blog with a lot of pictures and, as far as we can judge by reading it machine translated by a well known internet company, in very good language. (joopenmeta.wordpress.com) In one of the post, there is one for every date, Joop and Meta are cooking on their (our) boat using a small portable grill named Cobb. We have one of those! Bought for a camping trip to Spain in 2009. After checking the grill out we realised that we needed some more parts for it and that’s what we bought in the morning. When it comes to eating and drinking that’s the kind of detail that can mess up our well laid plans and add to our chaos. -We should try it out, shouldn’t we? Come on, we haven’t used it in many years we simply have to! It’s a one sided argument, no one with a different opinion so the subject turns to what we should cook? Off to the food market and the wine shop..

Now we’re sitting on the terrace while our food is slowly simmering on the grill. It’s one of those rare Swedish summer evenings when you actually prefer to sit in the shade and watch the sunlight on the oh so green trees against the oh so blue sky.

Food and climate are actually central to our dream of living life to the fullest. Naturally grown food needs its climate and we need the climate of naturally grown food. It’s not that you can’t get good food in Sweden because you can but it’s the supermarkets. These horrible shopping barns that charge ridiculous prices for inferior food that tastes of nothing. In a country where farmers market happens during five Saturdays in the middle of summer and good organic meat costs three times more than the antibiotic infused meat from the meat factories that supply the food industry. We really don’t care for the food industry. Any food that arrives through your car window is not food at all. Neither is any ingredient your grandma didn’t use in her cooking. Full stop!

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