One more set of photos from Bologna, this time with pictures of its many and famous arcades.

For my birthday this year I got a tasting set of Valrhona Grands Crus chocolates. Today I had a private little chocolate tasting session.

I found Alpaco (which my brain keeps wanting to turn into Alpaca) the most interesting one, with a spicy, rich flavour. It is both “floral and oaky” according to the wrapper, and while I couldn’t have picked out those overtones on my own, they were definitely there when I went looking for them, and especially the oaky hints were very nice.

Guanaja had a higher cocoa content and a more bitter taste, which I really liked; Caraïbe had hints of coffee. Manjari stood out because I experienced it as the sweetest of the four, with fruity, lemony tones.

It was interesting to experience just how different four bitter chocolates can taste, even when all have roughly the same cocoa content (64–66%, except for Guanaja’s 70%).

Valrhona makes great chocolate but has a pretty but almost-unusable Flash-based web site that I won’t even bother to link to. Instead, go read this review at Chocablog.

We’ve been car owners for over a year, but it still feels like a fairly new thing to me, because I don’t drive very often at all. I have no reason to drive anywhere on weekdays, and not all weekends either. And when the whole family drives somewhere, Eric is in the driver’s seat. Adrian is not always fond of sitting in a car, and I find it really hard to concentrate when he is crying or screaming. I’d rather take the thankless job of trying to keep him entertained, than have to listen to his complaints.

My previous driving experience before buying the car came from our vacations in various parts of Great Britain. Until Ingrid was born, we used to set aside the long Easter weekend for driving and hiking. We went to Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, the Lake district…

With that in my baggage, the roads all feel very wide here. In Britain I got used to driving on narrow winding country lanes, because that’s the kind of routes we’d take during our vacations.

My impressions of current Swedish approach to traffic safety can be summarised by one word: micro-management. I don’t know if this actually differs from the reality in Britain, or if it’s even a country-wide thing here. But it is very conspicous.

The most glaring example that I regularly encounter is on Täbylundsvägen, on our way home from the parent-and-child judo class that Ingrid goes on Sundays. The speed limit there is generally 50 km/h, but at one particular zebra crossing it goes down to 30 km/h. For about 30 metres, the distance from one house to its neighbour.

I suppose that at some point an accident happened, or maybe the crossing is on a school route. Somebody wanted to do the right thing and reduce the risk of accidents.

The result? Instead of making me drive more carefully, it distracts me. Being a law-abiding citizen and driver, I pay attention to the signs. A significant chunk of my attention is directed away from the traffic situation, towards the obviously silly instruction to brake and then speed up again.

Luckily the road is always empty there on Sunday mornings and I have never seen a single pedestrian trying to cross the road there. If one day one turns up, I may well not notice them because I am thinking of that stupid hiccup of a speed limit.

Image from www.hitta.se.

This month we finished breastfeeding at night. I was gone for three nights, and this seemed like a good time to stop for good. The first night neither he nor Eric got much sleep at all, from what I understand. The next night was better, and the third a bit better still. When I got back home, he woke about as much as he used to (two to three times a night) but fell asleep again without nursing. There was some crying, but not an awful lot. Now, another week later, he goes back to sleep faster and with even less crying.

He sort of lost the habit of nursing during the day, too. Some days he no longer asks to nurse in the afternoon: I think he simply forgets. But when I offer the breast, he happily accepts. Now we usually nurse once in the morning, varying amounts during the afternoon, and then one last time in bed before he goes to sleep.

As he nurses less, I have the feeling that he’s become more fond of his dummy. Or perhaps he is just asking for it more clearly and verbally? In any case, he either asks for the dummy or (if we’re at home) gets it himself from the dummy bowl on top of his dresser, whenever he is upset or tired. He is especially fond of it, even dependent on it, while we’re walking home from nursery. I’m beginning to find all this dummy sucking annoying, especially since he often forgets to take it out when he talks, and I have to remind him. So I will now limit dummy use to sleeping times only.

When Adrian is upset or dissatisfied with something, he now whines. It can start as a cry, but then after a while it is clear that he is now in control of the crying and chooses to continue. He’s sort of just decided that he will continue to let us know that he is still not happy. This is not much fun to listen to, but it is better than last month’s screaming. And to be fair, he doesn’t do it very often.

He is fond of Ingrid and enjoys her company, and wants to do whatever she is doing. But he is noticeably calmer when she is not at home. With Ingrid present he is more likely to be clingy and whiny; without her he can go off to another room on his own and look at some books for example.

He likes going to nursery. He likes the teachers/carers and talks about them – or rather, at them – at home: Titta Marianne!, Kom Niklas!. He seems to dream about the other kids. Several times I’ve heard him talk about them in the middle of the night.

Ingrid was the oldest kid in her group at nursery; Adrian is almost the youngest, so he has many more kids to learn from. It’s funny to hear what different phrases he picks up from them and the teachers. From the kids, he has learned visa en grej (“show you something”), sluta nu (“stop it”), min tur (“my turn”). From the carers he has learned jag hjälper dig (“I’ll help you”), vill du ha (“do you want this one”).

This leads to some interestingly confusing grammar. From the kids he has learned “mine”. From the adults he has learned “I’ll help you”. So with “mine” he refers to himself, whereas with “I’ll help you” he reverses you/me: the “I” refers to the adult and the “you” refers to him.

He is figuring out plural and definite/indefinite forms of nouns: skon vs. skorna, bil vs. bilar. On a few occasions he’s tried some verb conjugations, too (jag springer) but mostly it’s just the infinitive.

He is fascinated by steam and smoke and clouds. One afternoon we walked past what I think is a dry cleaning facility, or perhaps some other light industrial activity, and there was a thick stream of steam coming out of a vent. Since then he points out that house and reminds me that there was steam there once, and he also points out every other source of steam and smoke. He calls clouds “smoke” as well, especially the white wispy ones.

He also mentions any kind of humming, whirring, droning noise – anything engine-like.

He is still in love with Pippi Longstocking. I bought a shirt with a Pippi print and it immediately became his favourite. He showed it off to everybody (Pippi tröja! Min Pippi!). His favourite book is a Pippi book, and his favourite song is the Pippi song. At night he goes to sleep hugging his Pippi doll with his left arm, and Pippi’s monkey with his right arm.

Now he has started calling Pippi by her full name, Pippi Långstrump. Except he cannot quite form the right sounds fast enough, and it becomes Jåmpstump. This almost sounds like rumpstump, “bum stump”, like in the song Jag är en vanlig kanin, so we now jokingly call her Pippi Bum Stump.

When we read picture books, about Pippi or anything else, he focuses on the small details. We look at a picture of Pippi’s house and garden, with Pippi and the horse and Tommy and Annika – and the thing he points out is a small frog. Or the picture might show Bu and Bä in the forest, with trees and berry bushes etc, and he focuses on a snail.

He hates nappy changes. At home we let him run around in knickers most of the time, but since that always ends with a puddle, that is not an option at nursery. I think it may be the cloth nappies he doesn’t like, so we are now trying disposable nappies for a while to see if he likes those better. On a very few occasions he has peed in the potty but mostly not.

He likes balancing on kerb stones, throwing gravel in ponds, and burying his feet in sand.
He likes climbing up into the stroller himself (the tall Stokke one) and then kneeling in it, backwards.
He likes building with Duplo and Lego blocks. Now instead of covering the board, he builds very tall single-block towers (spikes, really).
He likes playing with the marble run. I build it, and he puts the marbles in and watches them run. Just rattling the marbles in their box is fun, too.
He has discovered the wonders of jam.

Some more photos from the Bologna trip, this time focusing on the views and sights of the city.

I found it unexpectedly challenging to get any good pictures of the city. By now I feel reasonably competent at taking documentary photos of the kids and of our everyday life. I am a little bit less happy with my photos of the garden but my shortcomings there are mostly to do with composition. Here I found myself lacking technical skills. The light was simply so different from what I normally work with. I am used to dealing with normal to dim indoor lighting, not with brilliant high-contrast sunshine. I usually need to worry about camera shake and noise from high ISO settings, not about clipped highlights. So from this trip I have good portraits of my colleagues during dinners in dim restaurants, but unsatisfactory city views.

Self-portrait

This month, Ingrid started school. In Sweden currently kids normally start school the year they turn six. Ingrid turns six in a month; therefore she now goes to school.

Initially I think Ingrid was a bit disappointed with school. She had expected something radically new, and what she got was not that dissimilar from what she had just left behind.

The first year of school is sort of a preparatory year. It is called nollan, meaning year 0, or förskoleklass (“pre-school class”) or F-klass for short. (Pre-school class should not to be confused with preschool, which is a different thing.) It is part of the school system rather than the child care system, and it has a curriculum, etc.

Those confusingly similar names actually reflect reality quite well: F-class appears to be closer to preschool than to real school, as far as I can see. Especially during the first week or two they mostly spent time getting to know each other, “team building” and “trust building” and other such fluffy stuff. Also the school part only takes place in the morning, and after lunch there is after school care instead.

But now their weekly newsletter actually lists “maths play” once a week and “language play” on other days, and sports once a week. So perhaps their activities will gradually become more school-like.

During their last maths play they counted things and sorted them. Initially I found that a bit silly, but then I reminded myself that those are five- and six-year-olds after all, and of course not every five-year-old has Ingrid’s interests. (One evening this week she asked as to give her some maths tasks, like “how much is 12 plus 12”. She managed not only that but also 51 + 51, and then 52 + 52, and 51 + 11. She’s well past the counting fingers stage.)

When the school term began, her swim school also started up again. It turns out that she can actually swim already: she can do a passable back stroke from one end of the 10-metre pool to the other, without stopping. I don’t think she could do that at the end of the spring term, and she hasn’t been practising during the summer, so I don’t know where that came from. And I don’t think she realized it herself: she didn’t seem to think that swimming on her back counted for real.

She got weighed and measured at school and officially stands at 110.6 cm and 20.4 kg. Her feet were recently measured to be 16.5 and 17.0 cm respectively; that half-centimetre difference has been there for a long time.

Favourite reading material: still Bamse.
Favourite movie: Tom & Jerry. (She has discovered the wonders of YouTube.)
Favourite fruit: plums.
Favourite food: pancakes. Generally she is still a bit picky with her food, but we have now agreed that as long as she eats one vegetable with her dinner, she can otherwise choose freely what she will eat. It isn’t rare for her to eat just the pasta (skipping the sauce) and then one raw bell pepper, or three carrots, or a handful of cherry tomatoes.

Remember the exhibition with beautiful leaves that I visited in July? And that those two thousand leaves were going to be auctioned off?

The auctions ended last weekend. Altogether they brought in 499,551 kr for charity. Pretty impressive, isn’t it? 170 of those kronor came from me, and now I am looking forward to getting our beautifully crafted leaf.

This weekend our company went to Bologna for some teambuilding and off-site conferencing. And a very nice weekend it was. Warm weather, long leisurely lunches and dinners, staying at a nice hotel, spending our afternoons walking around in the city… No dishes to wash or meals to prepare, no rushing to get everybody to nursery/school/work…

The hotel lobby – with a real suit of armour sitting on the sofa.

The conference facilities