December 8, 2021

Book review: Lagom by Niki Brantmark

The right amount is best. (Swedish proverb)

I read and reviewed a lagom book some time ago and this winter I decided to return to this concept. Why? To get inspired by a simpler and more harmonious life. The word lagom loosely translated means ‘not too much and not too little – just right.’ It’s about having a more comfortable and balanced life. Sounds good, right?

In the introduction we read a wonderful story where the author writes about her summer holiday in Sweden. Her Swedish holiday was carefree, uncomplicated and enjoyable. Even though it sounds so simple and idyllic, in my personal experience, I find it difficult to completely switch off and slow down. And now, when the festive season is coming, I’m feeling even more encouraged to try not to put too much pressure on myself to have the ‘perfect’ Christmas and instead to balance my energy to have more relaxed celebrations and to enjoy this special time with my family and friends.

The book Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life is divided into three main categories: personal life, family & relationships and the wider world. The book first focuses on home and personal life and how to make them more lagom, for example through decluttering, buying second-hand, bringing nature indoors, preparing your bedroom for a good night’s sleep, taking good care of yourself (oh yes!), enjoying time in nature, and integrating some exercise into your daily life.

Niki Brantmark also writes about work-life balance: this aspect is important to me, as I sometimes struggle with it. What recently helped me to have some perspective into my work-life balance are my values: putting my family and home life first. As we read further, the Swedes also try to have a balanced work etiquette: they work very effectively and timely (staying late at work is not popular in Sweden!). We also read about the importance of having a break at work or from any other daily commitments (in Swedish it’s called fika aka taking time for a coffee, treats and conversation with friends) and disconnecting from emails and social media.

Another chapter that I found inspiring was on parenting. Being a parent myself, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of work involved in raising our little ones. If we apply the lagom approach, maybe we’ll feel less pressured and plan our family life in moderation. After all, it’s good for our children not to be constantly stimulated and to be actually bored.

The book also contains lagom guides to celebrations (including Christmas and Easter), community, nature and eco-life.

Personally, I found the publication an inspiring and useful reminder about the importance of having a more balanced life. I think I feel ready for the coming festive season and the coming year. Let’s make them more lagom 😉

Have you recently read any books on the Swedish lagom? Please let me know in the comments below.

November 10, 2021

Travelling Corner: North Wales with children

Last month I published here my summer memories and today I want to explore North Wales with my children. Yes, I want to take you on a trip with us, to visit the places my children enjoyed most.

Alice in Wonderland (Llandundo)

Since reading Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, we all wanted to visit Llandundo, as apparently, the ‘real’ Alice spent her holidays in this beautiful Welsh town. What’s more, when we arrived in Llandundo we learnt from the Information Centre that we can follow an Alice in Wonderland town trail and find many sculptures inspired by the book. We all had so much fun walking around and spotting different pieces of art.

Farm and zoo (Llandundo)

We went to the farm but we didn’t go to the zoo. It’s not that my children don’t like zoos as such, but the ticket prices were high and when we asked those who attended, they weren’t exceptionally impressed. However, we did enjoy our farm visit (free-of-charge). The farm is located in Llandundo, just by the promenade. It has llamas, pigs, goats, deer, hens and owls (!). There is a small playground and a café. Just perfect for a day trip 😉

Beaches and pools

Our children had a great time on different beaches in North Wales: in Penmaenmawr, Llandundo and Prestatyn. They enjoyed looking for shells and pebbles, having a splash in the sea and building sand castles. In Llandundo, there is also an open-air paddling pool, located just on the promenade, not far from the farm.

Local trips

What captured our interest in North Wales? We really enjoyed the The Great Orme. You can get there from Llandundo on foot, by car, by tram or by cable car. We all preferred to go by tram (even though the queuing time was around one hour!) and it was a very enjoyable ride with some beautiful scenic views of the town and the sea front. We also went to Dyserth Waterfall which turned out to be very impressive (about 70 feet / 20 meters). The nearby forest is a perfect spot when it’s very hot or windy. We also visited Conwy Castle and walked around its medieval fortress (slings recommended, as tower stairs are quite narrow and steep). What a great place for a short history lesson!

Have you been to North Wales with your children? What did you enjoy most? Please let me know in the comments below.

October 13, 2021

Travelling Corner: My summer memories (North Wales 2021)

I’d wanted to visit North Wales for some time and, finally, this year I fulfilled my dream. We actually visited this region twice last summer, so I’m even more excited to share with you my travel experiences to North Wales.

Castles, churches & chapels

From our very first trip to Wales (which was many years ago!), I remember passing / seeing many churches and back then it made me wonder if it is actually true that Wales has more sacral architecture than other parts of the UK?!

Having this memory, I was very tempted to see the ‘Welsh Lourdes’, as I’d read bout it in my travel guide. Yes, in Holywell, there is actually a holy well where you can taste and bathe in the holy water (sadly, bathing is temporarily suspended) and visit the chapels (one with the pool and one with beautiful stained glass windows). Our visit was beautiful both visually and spiritually.

We also visited the famous Conwy Castle and the ruins of Howarden Castle. In Conwy Castle, you can walk on the walls that originally formed the medieval town. The ruins in Howarden were visible only from some distance and there was only one tower, but the village was lovely. 

Wild swimming

North Wales is a good place for wild swimming and the water is rather warm (!). We visited the beaches in Penmaenmawr (quite empty, so you can almost have the beach to yourself), Llandundo (I found three: one on each side of the town and one hidden) and Prestatyn (an urban beach with very high tides that make the beach disappear).

Cafes

One of my little pleasures is a visit to a café. I used to go to cafes quite regularly, but now I try to treat it as something special and visit not too often. Let me give you some flavour of my favourite cafes in North Wales. One was in Llandundo: Providero. I enjoyed their leafy teas and the open-spaced interior. The other café was in Howarden, in their farm deli. The café was beautifully decorated with books and paintings, and just sitting there made me happy. But, trying their scrumptious plum bun was a very nice addition to our visit (!).

Camping

Last summer we decided to go camping: we camped near Llundando and Prestatyn. We enjoyed our experiences, we had some epic sunsets, were surrounded by beautiful nature and met many friendly families. What challenged us was the weather: very unpredictable; they were days of rain and wind. However, overall, I wouldn’t change our choice to more comfortable accommodation. Camping is a wonderful travel experience, natural, sustainable and slow.

How was your summer 2021? Please let me know in the comments below.

September 8, 2021

Travelling corner: Bristol by bike (part 4)

It’s not so easy to cycle when it’s windy, or it’s raining or snowing (of yes, we did cycle in the snow this year, what an experience!). But, even then, cycling is my favourite means of transport J In the last several months, we repeated many of our previous bike trips, but we also managed to (re-)discover a few new cycling paths. Today, I’m taking you on three bike trips in / around Bristol. Come and join me!

Ashton Court

We accidentally discovered this cycling path and we’re so glad we did, as it’s an excellent short-cut to Ashton Court. If cycling from Shirehampton, we first cycle along Portway Road and then we turn right onto the small bridge, which I think is called Plimsoll Bridge, to reach Bedminster. There, we go under the large bridge and then follow the number 33 cycle path.

Aust

First, we need to cycle to Severn Beach along the number 41 cycle route (or you can go by train) & then head along the main road towards Aust. We cycled there in winter and back then the cycling path from Severn Beach to Aust was closed. I think it’s open now, so we plan to re-cycle this route in summer. In Aust, there is a small beach with impressive cliffs above. Aust is famous for fossils and rock formations.

Blaise Castle

Blaise Castle can be approached from many different directions. We usually cycle from Shirehampton along the number 41 cycle route. However, Blaise Castle can be also approached from Combe Dingle. We can cycle there on the main road from Shirehampton then go via Sylvian Way and Dingle Road.

These are three great locations to visit by bike. Where do you enjoy cycling to in/around Bristol? Please let me know in the comments below. 

August 11, 2021

Book review: The Lido Guide by Emma Pusill and Janet Wilkinson (with my own recommendations!)

That’s such a useful publication: a well-researched guide to open-air swimming pools in the UK and Channel Islands. It contains a long list of lidos with some practical information about them, like addresses, website, contact details, short description of the pool and a couple of photos. In the introduction, we read that the majority of the open-air pools are community run by groups of volunteers who have often saved the pools from closure. We’re encouraged to visit the lidos on rainy and windy days, too (sounds adventurous!). There is even a short extract on the pronunciation of the word ‘lido’ (is it lee-doh or ly-doh?), as well as a mention of the historic pools of Britain. What personally surprised me was that Wales only has one open-air pool?!

As a swimming enthusiast myself, I also want to include here a short list of the lidos I have visited:

Clevedon Marine Lake

Portishead Open Air Pool

Bristol Lido

The Rock Pool (Westward Ho!)

Chagford Swimming Pool

Bude Sea Pool

Jubilee Pool (Penzance)

But, with this lovely catalogue of different lidos, I feel well-equipped to explore more open waters.

Lastly, I want to mention that the marine lake in Weston-super-Mare is being currently refurbished (June 2021), so I am hoping to go there for a splash in summer 2022!

Do you have any favourite lido(s)? Please let me know in the comments below.

April 28, 2021

Travelling corner: Wild swimming in Poland

I love wild swimming and had many opportunities to try it out last summer in Poland. In Poland, there are swimming pools and lidos which are popular in cities and towns, so if you have a stay-cation, you can still enjoy some cooling down on a hot day (oh yes, it is sometimes 30 degrees in Poland!). But if you’re in nature, there are some wonderful natural reservoirs to have a proper dip.

Lakes

I rarely go lake-swimming in the UK (any tips, do let me know in the comments below), so happily welcomed the opportunity to spend some time by a lake in Poland. We went to Pogoria which is a complex of lakes in the Silesian region. The lakes are surrounded by forests and have many cycling paths. We decided to spend a day on the beach. It was warm, sunny, windless and as expected, the water was super calm 😉 Our girls loved splashing in the lake’s waters and enjoyed the temperature of the water— you could easily spend the whole day there: splashing, swimming and playing. Very comfortable and highly recommended if you’re ever in Poland.

Sea

Oh the sea… More and more I dream about living by the sea, so I am using every opportunity to be able to wet my feet in the salty waters.. The Polish Baltic shore is a long stretch of sandy beaches, forests and lakes. It’s a perfect place to enjoy some time in nature and this is precisely what we did when we were in Poland. We went to a small village, just outside Ustka and explored the surroundings on foot or by bike – mostly by bike.. We even found a wild beach in Orzechowo with the most beautiful colour sea. The sea in Poland is cold, especially when it’s calm, however its temperature raises when there are waves.

River swimming is also popular in Poland. I didn’t try it out this summer, but it’s definitely on my travel to-do list!

Did you enjoy some wild-swimming last summer? Where did you go to? Please let me know in the comments below.

April 14, 2021

Language learning: What works when you organise your language learning

Today, I want to share with you some reflections on language learning. Through speaking with our school’s students and language tutors, I have some language learning tips which may help you organise your language study and achieve your desired outcomes quicker (and better!).

Whether you attend a language course, individual tuition or are a self-learner, you may think about following all / some of the tips mentioned below. Studying regularly is an important factor when learning / improving / maintaining language skills, so how to do it the way it works for you and your lifestyle.

End goal

Why do you study this language? What’s your end goal (be specific)? What exactly do you want to be able to do in this language? Write down your learning goal.

Weekly schedule

Look at your life and see how much time you can daily / weekly devote to your study. Are there any gaps you can fill with some language learning (e.g. commuting, house chores, free evenings). Mark all those gaps / slots and see how much time you want to put aside for language learning every day / week. Make a note of these. 

Interests

That’s really important. When planning your language learning, try to follow your interests even above all the grammar and all the recommended vocab. Why? Because, you’ll then find the whole idea of language study more fun, interesting and worth your (free) time. You can also swap the language of your regular free time habits to the language you currently learn.  

Flexibility

I think to have a more flexible attitude to the idea of self-study is crucial. Why? Because, if something doesn’t work, be prepared to drop or amend this activity, move on and to try out something else. It doesn’t mean to stop learning altogether, you just adjust your learning style so that it suits your life, personality and interests.

I think these are the points I wanted to share with you today. Below you’ll find my learning schedule, just for some inspiration or guidance.

I currently learn French and maintain my language skills in three other languages: Czech, English and Polish.

MY GOALS: To finish a French textbook from my secondary school (A1 level), to read Czech novels (C1 level), to have a better pronunciation in English (C1 level) and to be more familiar with education-related vocabulary (C2 level).

FRENCH: I follow my secondary-school textbook, it’s one chapter per week with some quick revision of the previous chapters. I’d like to listen to a good learning podcast in French, any recommendations?

CZECH: I like reading novels in Czech, watching stand-up comedy shows and I sometimes listen to a podcast on healthy lifestyle and food.

ENGLISH: I watch videos to improve my pronunciation in English. I also enjoy reading books on language, travelling and education.

POLISH:  I listen to a Polish podcast on education and read a magazine on home-schooling.

Now I’d like to know how you organise your language study. Please leave your comment down below. 

March 24, 2021

Travelling corner: Winter wonderland in Stourhead (Wiltshire, England)

In December 2020, we gave ourselves a beautiful treat; a visit to Stourhead. It was our first visit there and we didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be a magical experience. Especially since, in December, along the path way there were Christmassy decorations with some lights installed for the late-evening visits. The place is a true gem for garden and nature lovers. It seems that every detail was carefully designed with many different types of trees, shrubs, plants and water animals. As we read on the NT website, it’s a world-famous landscape garden and can be described as ‘a living work of art’.

As we visited the garden in winter, we’d love to visit it in spring, summer and autumn, as it’d be lovely to observe the seasonal changes. We’ll keep our blogging journal updated and will share more stories from our visits here.

Have you recently visited a magical place? Please let me know in the comments below.

March 3, 2021

Time for some changes: Starting a new blogging journey

Dear Readers,

After writing our school’s blog for 5 years (and occasionally sharing it with other contributors!), I’ve decided that it’s time to start a new blogging journey. What?!?! Yes, a new blogging platform has been created 🙂  Why? To inspire you even more to travel, read and learn more!

What content will be shared on the blogs:

School’s blog

I’ll continue writing our school’s blog: the posts will be more about languages, language learning, language teaching, language tutors and language research. They’ll be posted monthly or bi-monthly.

Kinga’s blog

I’ll write about travelling (also with kids!), fascinating books, my personal stories / research about languages, adult and kids’ bilingualism. And an occasional off-topic might be shared there, too! It’s a creative and inspirational platform to get motivated, to share one’s experiences and to show the learning journey. Posts will be published fortnightly.

So we’re divorcing, but not entirely, as the school’s blog will still be active and my new blog will continue the school’s blog mission, but with a more diverse and personal touch.

I hope you’ll continue popping by to read our school’s blog. You’re also very welcome to join me on my new blogging journey.

Stay safe and well.

Thank you for being my reader,

Kinga

January 16, 2021

Goodbye 2020. Hello 2021.

I think 2020 feels heavy, don’t you agree? It wasn’t my worst year, but it certainly was a challenging one.

Online teaching, financial challenges, home-schooling, less travelling abroad, less family & friends. And the restrictions. Would I want this global change not to happen? Yes and no. On one hand, I so dislike the limited freedom, but on the other hand, I’m so happy for the mental and spiritual work I did when in lockdown. I’m grateful how connected we now are with my family (oh, there were some good arguments, too!). I also became closer to some of my friends and every meet up is so celebrated and appreciated (like never before). I also became more connected with our amazing BLS teachers. This is my 2020 story, I bet everybody has their own personal experience which maybe also have changed the way they live or see the world.

What will 2021 bring? What do we plan?

For the immediate future, we know we’ll run our language courses online. Our winter term is coming soon 🙂 We’re so happy that we’ve created this space where you can learn and improve your language skills from the comfort of your home. Many of you say that your language course is something to look forward to every week. It is so nice to learn that we bring this positivity into your live. We’ll continue offering individual tuition, too. We also plan to blog more over here 🙂

What to wish you in 2021? To make the most out of it. Regardless of the situation, let’s create another great year! Let’s read more, travel more and learn more (languages at BLS)!!!

Happy New Year 2021!

I hope to see you soon.

Love,

Kinga

PS. Our winter language term starts on 18th January: Enrol now!