I’ve started to notice the wrinkles around my eyes recently. My mental image of myself has been stuck at about 25 years of age for a long time, but I’m beginning to realize I am not 25 any longer. More like 40, really…

An alternative self-portrait in a more documentary style: out in the garden, digging to make place for yet more bushes.

We had an awesome storm a month ago (on my birthday in fact) with rain sheeting down, thunder and lightning, winds strong enough to break trees etc. In our garden it didn’t do anything worse than knock over some of my tomato plants so a few branches broke off.

I saved one branch and put it in a vase: it had a bunch of small green tomatoes and looked rather pretty. It survived way better than I expected. Not only is it still alive, it has put out roots and the tomatoes on it are actually ripening.

I wonder if they’re only ripening or if the smaller ones might be growing, too. I didn’t think to take a “before” photo so now I have nothing to compare to.

I have finally discovered flake salt.

All these years I’ve believed that salt is salt, NaCl is NaCl, and flake salt is just a marketing ploy to make people pay more. And salt grinders seemed even more ridiculous.

Then I read a magazine article about a salt (and a salt connaisseur who collected salt and owned 40 different kinds). The journalist tested various different kinds of salt and described their tastes so eloquently that he made me want to try.

So I had a mini salt tasting: table salt, coarse sea salt, and Maldon salt. What a difference! Table salt was sharp, almost bitter, aggressive. Flake salt was smooth, pleasant, mild. I put a flake of salt in my mouth and wouldn’t have said no to another. Then dipped my fingertip in table salt and it made me want to spit it out.

There are a few foods with salt as an essential component, that I used to like (years ago) but no longer do. For example, I used to like boiled eggs (with the whites pretty solid but the yolk runny or at least soft) with salt sprinkled on top. I have strong, distinct memories of loving them as a child. For years already I’ve noticed that I don’t really enjoy them as much any more. With flake salt, the magic is back – the eggs and salt taste great again!

Tomato sandwiches are another. Brown bread with lots of texture, butter, thick slices of ripe tomato, and salt and pepper on top. Just like with the eggs, I used to like them but then lost the taste for them – the salt felt like too much – and now flake salt made them taste awesome again.

And it looks awesome, too.

A lot of growing up has been happening here.

About a month ago, Adrian moved out of our bedroom into what used to be Ingrid’s room and is now the kids’ room. We had been talking about a bunk bed for a while, and when we found out that Eric’s father had one just kind of lying around, we made it happen. Both kids were immediately in love with the bed and Adrian wanted to sleep there that very night.

And that was that. Since then he’s slept there every night, and fallen asleep there every night but one. He has not wandered into our bed even once.

From about five in the morning he often sleeps restlessly and noisily. That used to lead to him moving closer to me or Eric in our shared bed, but in his new bed the lack of other warm bodies doesn’t seem to bother him at all. I was a bit worried that he might wake Ingrid but that hasn’t happened. Occasionally the noise he makes has woken me instead, especially early on when we kept the doors open between our bedrooms. I’ve even thought that surely he must have fell out of the bed, and waited for the cries, but nothing… I think he might be hitting the wall with his feet or elbows or head or something.

When the room became the kids’ room instead of just Ingrid’s room, it wasn’t just the sleep habits that changed. Until now Ingrid’s room was really just Ingrid’s bedroom – during the day the kids were always downstairs. Now all of a sudden they’ve started playing there. (This might also have something to do with new, stricter limits on iPad use in the evenings…)

During summer both kids would sleep until about 7, then get up and play with their iPads while we slept on. Now our alarms go off a bit before 7 and there is no iPad time. And then there is the time pressure to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast… Adrian is grumpy almost every single morning now. Getting up earlier helps because then we don’t need to hurry as much, and I can take 15 minutes to cuddle and read for him and Ingrid.

When we read, he’s started looking at the text and asking me where it says that thing that I just read. He’s figured out that words in extra large type or in a different style are the important or loud ones.

We’ve started reading the Mitt första 123 books that Ingrid got around this age and Adrian is very fond of these. The first one, I think, we read every day for a week. We’re taking a new one every week because “you get a Numbert book on Saturdays” was so much easier to explain than any alternative. But this might be a bit too much; we’ll see.

Adrian likes to compares things. This is bigger than that, and this one is even bigger. Pappa is taller than emme.

He has been curious about dying, and wanted me to name lots of ways of dying, and then added some more himself.

And he has wondered what comes after the sky, when you fly higher than the sky. Space is kind of hard to explain.

Our two weeks of intensive Estonian practice made a huge difference. From hardly speaking any Estonian at all, he has now pretty much gone over to speaking Estonian to me all the time. Sometimes when he asks me something and I respond in Swedish (to include Eric as well) he actually asks me to say that again in Estonian. Sometimes I’ve even heard the kids speak Estonian to each other. I’m sure that long days at preschool will put an end to this soon but I’m very pleased in the meantime.

This month was the last month of real summer – the summer break is almost at its end and school starts on Wednesday.

Swimming is by far Ingrid’s favourite summer activity. We’ve been to numerous beaches: the Trepimäe and Saadjärve beaches in Estonia, the small bathing spots at the seaside near Ljusterö, several beaches near lake Mälaren relatively close to home.

A new addition to our repertoire this summer was Kyrksjön (“the church lake”) near Bromma church. It has no actual beach – the banks are muddy and the only way in is from a pier straight into deep water. But it’s small and thus warm, and it’s the one closest to our home so we can go for a quick swim even quite late in the evening.

The last week of summer Ingrid went to swim camp. Not “proper” camp really I guess, just during the day at the local swimming pool. They had two hour-long swimming sessions (morning and afternoon) and games and other activities during the rest of the day.

Ingrid was most proud that she learned to dive in head first from the starting blocks. She’d been trying to learn diving during the summer but not really succeeding. Eric and I demonstrated but couldn’t really teach her, and she sort of half jumped, half dived, landing chest first. And now during camp she got it – she says diving didn’t hurt her chest any more.

One of the non-swimming activities was dodgeball/scatterball. (They’ve played them in gym class at school as well.) Just like me, Ingrid doesn’t have very good ball sense. And just like me as a kid, she reacts to this not by practising catching and throwing but by playing an entirely defensive game – optimising her strategy to fit her skill level. She can be among the last few kids standing even though she can rarely catch a ball.

Speaking of optimising, one day she complained about having to carry her laundry up to her room and put it away. I pointed out to her that she gets a lot of laundry to put away because she goes through a lot of clothes, and that I get less because I wear most dresses several times before I wash them. She gave this some thought and then completely changed her habits. She used to throw all her clothes in the laundry hamper at the end of each day – now her clothes almost always last several days before they need washing.

Another kind of optimising she does is leaving the best until last, in all kinds of situation. Eating pizza with ham and pineapple: pick out all the pineapple, eat the rest, and then the pineapple pieces, from smallest to largest. She’s also realised that Adrian does NOT think this way and in fact almost does the opposite. So when they both want X (for any value of X) Ingrid lets Adrian go first and both are happy.

Summer is over and our ordinary activities are starting up again. First out was riding where the autumn term started this week already. The horses need their exercise I guess. Now that we know that Ingrid intends to continue riding we invested in some gear, instead of making do with any old trousers and borrowing a helmet at the stable. She now has a helmet, riding pants and gloves, and a fleecy jacket. Everything except the helmet follows a lilac and purple colour theme.

With summer and especially our Estonia trip behind us, Ingrid apparently needed something else to look forward to and plan for. The next thing coming up is Adrian’s birthday so Ingrid took that up as a project. She’s saving up money and they’ve been browsing old toy store catalogues together, because Ingrid wants to buy him a present.

She’s also sewing a little plush monster for him. That project is actually quite challenging because it needs to be kept secret from Adrian. She can only work on it late at night when she’s often quite tired. But with a month to go, I think she’ll get it done.

Despite our two weeks in Estonia, it’s a struggle for Ingrid to speak Estonian now that we’re back home. She can’t find the words she wants and can’t express herself as well as she does in Swedish. I’ve started pushing Estonian more and she is starting to push back because it’s too much work and she cannot see the point. “Why can’t I speak Estonian in Estonia only?” she asks, and she doesn’t believe me when I tell her that without practising she won’t be able to speak it at all soon.

Favourite book: Viktiga kartor för äventyrare och dagdrömmare, “Important maps for adventurers and daydreamers”. Each spread has a theme, such as “volcanoes and earthquakes”, “mysterious places”, “gold and jewels”, etc. We’ve been reading it at bedtime. She is totally absorbed and makes sure I read every little sidebar and fact box. The Bermuda triangle is her particular favourite.

We had pancakes for dinner. We do that occasionally.

Not for the first time, I wondered how people with large families or hungry teenagers (or, god forbid, both) manage to cook dinner. Today it was just me and Adrian, but when I make pancakes for the whole family, frying them can take me close to an hour. And that’s with three pans working in parallel.

Perhaps it’s like with baby-wearing. You begin early, when the baby is small, and your strength grows with the baby. Maybe my patience for making pancakes will grow in tandem with the family’s appetites.

Swedish and Estonian pancakes, by the way, are large and thin, akin to French crêpes. Savoury varieties exist and occasionally make an appearance in our home, but usually pancakes are an excuse for us to indulge in jam. We normally have a sizeable assortment of home made jams in the fridge to choose from. It is quite possible to eat your fill of pancakes and not use any jam twice. The ones in the photo are a damson and cherry jam that Eric made, and plum jam made by our friend P.

The kids often prefer even more sugary pancake toppings: honey, chocolate sauce or just plain table sugar.

Another reason to love pancakes is that they can be eaten with fingers without creating a huge mess. I like that. There is a special kind of immediacy and closeness in eating with my fingers, feeling only food and no metal in my mouth. It is a softer, more personal way to eat. Not many meals are finger-friendly; most require utensils. I also always eat sushi with my fingers, as well as tortellini and other types of filled pasta (without sauce).

Hmm. I often remind Adrian to use his fork, not his fingers – for food that I eat with a fork, like pasta and vegetables. I have a lower tolerance for sticky, greasy fingers than he does. Of course there are some societal norms here that he needs to learn, but still, perhaps I should reconsider in some cases and let him eat with his hands more often.

We have deer who visit the garden. We have had rats (and from the amount of interest shown by a neighbourhood cat, I suspect they are still here). Now we also have killer slugs.

Just a few years ago, killer slugs only existed in books and gardening magazines. I had never seen one in real life. I’d seen some small slugs as a kid, but nothing since then.

Last summer I saw one or two shockingly large slugs in our garden. “Oh look, a slug – I wonder if it’s one of those Spanish killer slugs?” and that was that.

And this year they have arrived en masse. I probably missed one last year, so it found itself a nice nest and laid some eggs, and now its babies hatched and started colonising our garden. I have picked several dozens already.

They crawl around on my flowers. One of the bastards ate most of a broccoli plant before I caught it. And they are pretty disgusting to step on with bare feet.

Now we’re at war. I go on daily slug-picking rounds, especially near our compost hole. And I have declared a bounty on them: the kids get 1 krona for spotting a slug and telling me, and another if they kill it as well.

The least unpleasant extermination method (for all parties involved) that I’ve come up with is freezing them. I have a slug jar (an empty can of coconut milk) in the freezer, covered with a plastic bag. Whenever I find one, it goes in the jar. When the jar starts filling up, I empty it in the compost hole.

Interesting slug fact of the day: the Gothenburg Museum of Natural History is so interested in slugs that they invite the public to send them slugs for identification. Apparently it is very hard to reliably distinguish them from the outside, you need to look at their anatomy for proper identification. I considered sending a few to them but really I don’t care what species they are. They are in my garden, they are too many, and they are eating my broccoli – I will kill them regardless of species.

Slug fact #2: they are tricky to photograph! They are not frightened by sound or movement. But as soon as anything touches them, even just a blade of grass that I want to move out of the way, they defensively pull themselves into a dense little lump, just a third of their stretched-out size, and then they stay that way. I haven’t yet had the patience to wait for them to re-emerge.

Same place, same scale, same two slugs. The smaller was about the size of my index finger in its relaxed state; the larger was longer than my middle finger.

A few highlights from our two weeks in Estonia.

Not surprisingly, Ingrid most enjoyed outings and activities of all kinds, and playing with her friend Katariina.

Adrian has no friends of his age in Estonia. He was not too interested in those who were of Ingrid’s age, either. Instead he adored Katariinas big brother Artur who is about 10 years older than him. They built legos together.

I’m making a new attempt with tomatoes this year.

Learning from previous failures, this time I didn’t try growing them from seed. I bought seedlings early. I planted them directly in fertilizer mix rather than normal planting soil.

This year they have escaped the attention of deer and are actually growing very nicely, way better than any of the previous years.

Almost too well, in fact. They are now not only taller than me, but almost taller than I can reach. I built supports for them of bamboo poles when I planted them, but underestimated how tall they could get. Now the whole thing is an unstable tangle of sticks and string and vines.

In a storm about 10 days ago two of them actually fell over but I got them back upright with barely any broken branches.

What I learn from this iteration is that pruning is a good thing. I know, I know, any “Tomato growing for dummies” will tell you that… But I’ve only grown bush tomatoes before and no tall ones, so I wasn’t prepared for their wild growth.

Sneakily they did most of their growing while I was away in Estonia – I really got a surprise when I got back, and it was kind of late to start pruning then. Now the one bush tomato has lots of tomatoes but the four tall ones are really mostly lush green foliage. Well, there are fruit here and there but not nearly as much as on the bush tomato.

So next year I will build taller supports for the tomatoes, and prune them. Or maybe just stick to bush tomatoes.

I’m still working my way through the photos from Estonia. Meanwhile, here are some pictures from our three-day stay in the Stockholm archipelago with Eric’s father and his wife.