Summer Vacation

Last night it began raining and there was thunder and lightning through a good part of the night. Then this morning the downpour was torrential. Really coming down. This makes it a perfect time to do a post about the highlights of our summer vacation. Mariette goes back to work tomorrow morning and I went back to my Swedish class today. Mariette had the entire month of July off, paid and next year after she has been working at her preschool for a full year she will get six weeks paid. People can bitch about various aspects of the Swedish system and socialism, but you won’t find any Swedes moaning about their vacation time. I don’t think too many people in most countries of the world get six weeks yearly paid vacation. That might make living in a socialist system pretty easy to take. In addition to the education, healthcare, blah, blah, blah.

Back in the U.S., Mariette worked as a nanny for a wonderful family in Palo Alto and helped raise two kids for 7 years. The family came over in 2010 and loved it and came back again this summer and we all filed away a lot of really great memories of their trip.



This is Sam. He will be 8 this year and reads everything.


This is Emily. She is 4 and don’t let that smile fool you. A second after Mariette snapped this photo, Emily pushed over that tree. Whereas Sam is tall and lanky, Emily is solid muscle, I’m not kidding. The Stanford volleyball or basketball team is going to get an cheerful enforcer around the year 2026.

And here are their parents, Derek and Gennie, who basically hit the lottery twice with their kids.  View of Halmstad in the background.


Off on a bike ride.


To the beach. We didn’t have as many nice beach days because the summer has been unsteady weatherwise, but that only meant we got to do a ton of other things.


One of which was visiting a dog breeder who lives about an hour south of Halmstad.


This little cutie is about five weeks old here and we will get her if the owner decides to part with her. We hope so, but will understand if she can’t bear to part with her.



Nothing in the world like a dog.


This foal was born the day before we came down.


Next stop was a beautiful nature preserve called Kullaberg.



After Kullaberg we went to the independent nation of Landonia a little ways away. The Swedish artist Lars Vilks (he of the notorious sacrilegious cartoons of the prophet Mohammed a few years ago) has built remarkable sculptures out of driftwood at the bottom of a long rocky path down at the sea and declared it a sovereign nation. Swedish authorities are not amused and you will not find Nimis (the name of the place) mentioned on any map or sightseeing brochure, yet it is the biggest attraction in the area. The above is an old farmhouse at the head of the trail down to the sea.

The day burned gorgeous (as many cloudy days did) and after an ice cream to fill up our tanks we started down the hill.

It is about a 30 minute hike down, very, very rocky all the way and was muddy in places due to rain earlier in the day. Bianca, who has mountain goat somewhere in her family tree, had the easiest time. This is the entrance to Landonia, a driftwood tunnel leading down to the towers.

Here are Sam and me at the top of the tallest tower.

There are some stone structures, too.

After Nimis and another stop in another town, we hit Laholm (the next town south of Halmstad) so Derek could check out the fishing. We left him there to try his luck and returned to Halmstad. That was one busy day.

Derek had a birthday while they were here, so that called for a cake.

Gennie is an absolutely superb cook and with out little local fish market supplying the salmon, fresh artichokes and a nice cake, this was shaping up to be one hell of a meal.


Mulkey family foto.




About a half a mile from where we live there are acres of blueberries and we all went out one morning for our share of the harvest.


Another fun time was hitting the go-kart track in town.


Sam had never driven a go-kart before and he did great.




And here is Emily getting the news that you have to be 7 to drive a go-kart. Sometime later Mariette was asking Sam what age he would like to be and, unusual for a kid who usually wants to be older, Sam said “Seven is a good age.” Emily also wanted to be 7 probably because of the day at the track.


Derek and I went on the big kids’ track.


Sam’s laughing about a mistake one of us has made, Mariette is concerned and Emily is thinking, “Just you all wait until I get out there . . .”


Halmstad has a really cool open air museum of buildings from 19the Century Sweden. Here is a windmill from around 1845.


This decorative piece dates from 1787.


Probably this potty as well.


This waffle dated from 2012 and was really yummy.


Derek and Geniveve took a break from all the fun and went to Oslo for a few days.


They arrived on the first sunny day anyone there had seen in five weeks.


This well preserved Viking ship dates from about 1000 AD.



Gennie at the wheel of Amundsen’s ship that sailed to the South Pole.


And this is one of Thor Heyerdahl’s rafts from one of his little jaunts around the world. Norwegians have a thing for sailing.


And Gennie has a thing for shrimp.


Near the Gustav Vigeland Sculpture Park, the world’s largest by a single artist, and one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions.



Homage to the world’s Terrible Twos.





After Oslo, they went to the middle of Sweden to find where Derek’s ancestors came from. The place is called Heartland.



Sure enough, in a church cemetery they found Derek’s relative who had emigrated to the U.S. at age 13 with his 3 year old sister, put on a ship by their parents. This was definitely before the age of helicopter parenting. Many emigres requested for their remains to be returned to Sweden. I mean, there is a line from the Swedish national anthem about wanting to die in Norrland, so those roots run pretty deep in Swedes.

Meanwhile, since the cats were away-ing, the mice were playing.

This is Halmstad’s Busfrabiken, or mischief factory. 2000 square meters of trampolines, climbing apparatuses, slides, sponge guns and junk food for kids. They can really work off the excess energy here. It would be great to have something similar for grownups as it is great exercise trying to follow these kids through tunnels, up walls and you-name-it.  Instead, adults get Las Vegas. And heart disease.



Time for, what else, an ice cream.


Emily loves to paint and since she was two, she and I have been doing collaborations. Picasso is reported to have said that he had spent his whole adult life learning to paint like a child. I am trying to be smarter and going straight to a child for lessons. We have actually sold a couple of our collaborations. Sam helped on one of our sales as well when he was five.


Another playground, another place for Sam to climb.


There was lots more stuff we did, like Adventureland, Halmstad’s amusement park. They opened those three monster water slides that I posted about earlier and we went down them. One has since been closed as a couple people were injured on it. Well, three, if you count my getting a sore neck after Derek and I went on it together, caught air coming over a bump and my head whiplashed into the slide at the bottom. One day’s worth of a sore neck was worth it, though.

Then there was the indoor water park at the Halmstad Arena, a massive sports complex with ice rink, handball and floor hockey courts, gymnasium, soccer fields and a really cool indoor water park with slides and all kinds of stuff.

Anyway, we had a blast the whole time and can’t wait for them to come back again. The week after they left, the weather held for several days, but we would probably just vegged out on the beach and what fun is that? The things we did together were a lot more kid-oriented and a lot more fun.

Tomorrow it is back to the real world. As real as it gets in Sweden anyway.


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