Musings on settling in, in Wrocław

It didn’t take long for us to settle in, I figured it would be about a week or so & I was pretty much right. This doesn’t mean that we don’t still stick out, but I am ok with sticking out, I am not one of those people that seems to blend in much, in life & not knowing very much Polish does mean that you can’t blend in long here.

Knowing how & where to get food is a big thing, especially as we like to cook a lot, rather than eat out all the time.

We still go to various different shops to get things that work for us, mostly me, as the rest of the family can eat anything, but I worked out pretty fast that I can buy my bread at any of the local Žabko corner shops & not at the local Biedronka. The Schar bread here is nicer than the Schar bread that we get in Canada too, something that I remember from when I was last in Germany in 2019 too. Don’t get me wrong the Schar bread in Canada is still better than any other option I have found so far, but North American bread is so plain

Fresh produce is easily procured at most shops, but there is way more variety at Biedronka or another decently sized shop or at the plethora of fruit & veggie markets that pop up almost as often as the Žabko’s. There are plastic bags that you can use to bag your produce, but you can also bring your own reusable bags (which they also sell at grocery stores) or just not bag your produce. I do highly recommend not forgetting to bring your bags if you wish to buy the unwashed potatoes on special though, they create such a mess & even if you avoid direct eye contact, body language says it’s not something that they generally like people to do (the cashier today, cleaned the counter at least 6 times as she did my groceries).😕

Fresh baked goods are everywhere bakeries, corner stores/ Žabko’s, and grocery stores. Some items are pre-bagged, most others you pick out yourself & pop into wax coated or 100% paper bags. The kids love it & say that it tastes much better than anything they have ever had (except for Upper Canada Village bread). It probably has to do with the fact that even though Canada has less additives in their food than the USA, Europe has even less.

Cereal isn’t generally in a plastic bag inside a box, they just bag it & call it done. Unlike cereal in North America which is made by Kelloggs predominantly, over here it’s made by Nestle. I know that Nestle is a bit of a nasty company, but their cereal certainly isn’t as nasty as the stuff they call cereal in North America. Corn flakes are actually nice, which is a shocking reality. The GF ones are available most places too, even corner stores.

I really like the fact that food is generally in smaller more manageable sizes. Here in the city, everyone walks everywhere (or bikes, there are bike lanes on the sidewalks), parking isn’t easy either if you do have a car, so you walk to the grocery store etc & clearly having large items doesn’t work for that reality.

There is a simplicity to this life that is quite enjoyable.

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Dwarfs of Wrocław

Since G had his trip to Wrocław last September, we have been looking forward to seeing the Dwarfs of Wrocław, which are also called Gnomes by some, so excuse me if I confuse you by calling them both Dwarfs & Gnomes, as they are called both by people here (more often gnomes to be fair).

Wrocław is pronounced vrohtz-wahv (or in my poor phonetic spelling, which captures the way that I pronounce it, which is probably wrong to be fair, rawtz-love).

The dwarfs are more than just cute, they are a symbol of the anti-Soviet resistance movement (Orange Alternative) that helped to topple the Soviet regime in the 80’s. At that time they painted dwarves on walls. The brass statues started popping up in the early 2000’s & are created by an artist called Tomasz Moczek who is on facebook & has a website too. Each dwarf captures a part of the history & life in Wrocław, as well as commemorating the Revolution of the Dwarves.

There are over 1000 of the little dwarfs around the city & whilst there are maps that you can pay for, they only capture a few. They have cute little maps for kids, where they can collect stamps too from a few places, which is pretty fun. However if you are a little hardcore like us, the best way to find them is via an app, called Wrocław Dwarfs that you can download. I was told that it was only in Polish & that I would need to translate, but when I started using it, it was all in English, so I assume it is in both Polish & English.

I have been using our time out in hunt of the gnomes/ dwarfs not only to improve the kids observation skills, but also navigation & they are a cute way of teaching them the history of the area as well.

You should note that not all the dwarfs can be seen by the public easily, with some located inside or even at the tops of some buildings. Some of those areas you need to pay to gain access to & others you would need special permission to see (so you have little to nil chance of seeing, except in pictures).

Solidariusz Walczący
Solidariusz Walczący – Fighting Solidarity

The picture above is one of the many dwarf’s we found yesterday. He wasoutside one of the many Zabka’s around Market Square & is simply titled Solidariusz Walczący, which is part of the Fighting Solidarity series of Dwarfs. This one is depicted secretly broadcasting radio messages, there’s also a plaque nearby that mentions that he is there to commemorate the opposition broadcasters.

I love these little guys & have quite the collection of images already, so if you want to see more, feel free to follow our IG for more pics of these little guys & keep track of the rest of our travel adventures.


Further reading about dwarves can be found in the following links;
BBC – The cheeky gnomes taking over Wrocław
Orange Alternative Museum
Travel Breathe Repeat – The gnomes of Wroclaw, Poland
Journey Wonders – The Dwarfs of Wroclaw: Gotta Catch Them All!

They are also mentioned on the official visit Wrocław page, along with other suggestions of things to do & see here.

Posted in Art, Europe, Homeschooling, Travel Adventures, Worldschooling | Leave a comment

Picking up keys

Here’s a funny story that I shared on IG. I am backdating this one to Sunday, because that’s when it happened & the blog posts I have to upload are already so many.

If you haven’t noticed, we as a family, like to embrace our faults & poke fun at ourselves. You can’t take life too seriously. I think it would be rather boring if you did.

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European Tour has begun

We didn’t tell many people that we were headed off to the Europe. So many still think it’s crazy to travel with Covid about & I get it to an extent, but covid isn’t going away & it’s time to move on. We are fully vaccinated, plus boosters & we appear to have dodged getting it thus far, even with us doing more & more this year, at some point I am sure that we will get it, but it’s really nice to be living.

We left Canada on Friday, flying from Ottawa to Toronto, then Toronto to Heathrow. Both flights were Canadian, so you had to wear a mask for the duration (except if you were eating). The Ottawa to Toronto flight was slightly delayed, but so was the leg from Toronto to Heathrow, nothing that caused a lot of stress, I think it’s likely more the norm.

We only brought carry on sized bags with us, I will explain more about that later, for those that are curious what we brought, but I have to say it’s really nice to have so little with us. I have been trimming down what we have at home, but there is still much to do. I think that by the time we get home & have had some time away from things for a while, it will be a little easier to let some more things go. Less is more!

The trip from Heathrow to Stansted was fairly long (only as we were so tired I think), but I am so happy that we got an Uber. The train would have been an ordeal & more expensive, I love that we managed to get an electric car for the trip. Dinner that night was a mish-mash of items from a M&S next to the Premier Inn that we stayed at, for simplicity, which we brought back to our room & ate whilst watching the BBC coverage of the Queen Elizabeth II’s passing. They were showing William, Kate, Harry & Meghan who had turned up rather unexpectedly & were meeting & greeting several in the crowd there. We had thought of schlepping it into Buckingham Palace (the gates at least) to pay our respects but I am glad that we just went to our hotel, had chicken legs, olives, potato chips (crisps in UK) and some juice for our dinner, with a side of Percy Pigs, to watch the telly. Grabbing something from M&S also meant less stress in terms of getting food at the hotel. We could make a booking for a few hours later, BUT there wasn’t any way to check to see if I could actually eat anything

We crashed around 7.30ish I think, with the kids sleeping all night & G & I waking up every few hours, before having to get up around 5am to get to the airport for our RyanAir flight to Wrocław at just after 8am (although it too ended up being delayed). We had attempted to do a check in online, which I thought had failed, when I received a message that we would be paying another $120 for boarding passes. Turns out we can’t get a digital ticket or even a print out because our passports have to be verified every flight we take as we do not hold UK or EU passports. I cannot express how relieved I felt knowing that even though it appeared to fail, it hadn’t, so next time I need to do the same, check in via the app, then show up & get them to verify us & all will be well with things.

The flight from Stansted was fairly unremarkable. I appreciated that the guy next to me mysteriously got up before we took off to sit closer to the front, allowing me to “man spread”, it was awesome. The universe made up for it though, when our Uber driver in Wrocław arrived, he was over 6 feet tall & I sat in the seat behind him, in the tiniest space for my legs.

Getting into Poland was a breeze, a couple of pictures for Geoff & I (none for the kids) & a scan of our passports & some stamps & that was it. No extra forms or anything else, unlike the links that RyanAir pointed towards & no questions even as to how long we were planning to be there for or how we intended to support ourselves (ie funds in accounts).

Our Airbnb is just outside the city centre area, but everything here is within walking distance, including the city centre. It’s a nice area, lots of churches/ cathedrals. The streets in this area are all cobblestone which adds to the charm.

After we got ourselves in & stuff somewhat set-up & unpacked, we went for a walk to explore the area/ for G to show us around, as he was here last year, such a shame that we can’t get to Ukraine though as well. There are so many little corner stores to get things at. Every block seems to have at least one, maybe more. The corner stores are either chains (Zabka is very popular) or independent. We found a larger Zabka near an atm eventually, so after cashing up (you can only get 1,000zl (złoty) at a time (in CAD that’s just shy of $279 CAD, currently) we headed in.

A couple of hours later with the help of google lens to translate labels & we had a few little bags of things (I brought reusable grocery bags with us), the cost of groceries in general is much cheaper than Canada. We bought bread that I could eat, some fruit & veg, breakfast cereals, milk & soy milk, jars of preserves, meat etc & it all came to 150zl which was about $42.00, which we were pretty happy with, especially for a corner store & for food that I can eat as well. The bread I can eat works out to a couple of dollars vs $8 in Canada.

Years ago when we travelled it was much harder. The first task was always to find someone who could translate my anaphylactic allergies for me. Then, armed with my allergies translated into the local language, a trip to the shops would take even longer, as I tried to decipher ingredients. Google Lens isn’t 100% failsafe, but so much less stress than our 6 months travel through Asia in 2010.

Google lens does have some awesome fails, like this one, which is now my favourite washing cycle (top left);

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Devilled Sausages

As we look to do more travel again, having a copy of favourite recipes online is much easier to refer back to, than carrying around my recipe book. All measurements are guides. As previously mentioned, I rarely measure anything when I cook.

This is a great recipe to use cooked sausages if you have left overs too

500g beef or pork sausages (I typically do about 6 for our family of 4)
1 large onion sliced
2 apples peeled, cored & cut up
A decent handful of raisins (1/4C?)
1/2C water
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 heaped Tbsp Mustard (Dijon)
1 heaped Tbsp Tomato paste
1 Tbsp Brown sugar
Cayene pepper to taste

Brown the sausages until mostly cooked through, set aside & chop up
Use the oil in the pan (if too much drain some) to cook the onion
Once Onion is cooked, pop the cooked & cut up sausages back into the pan (with the onion), add the apple, raisins & sauce.
Bring it all to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes or so

We serve ours with mashed potato & some veggies

Devilled Sausages
Devilled Sausages
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End of the season

What an amazing year we have had on the boat this season, with things opening up as they have, it allowed us the opportunity to really enjoy the boat & try a few things.

Last year, we installed solar panels, lithium batteries and a new inverter. It all comes off at the end of the season, but during the season we love that we can go off the grid with our set-up. This year, whilst we were in NYC, Starlink sent out an email letting people know that you could order an RV version, which we did & it was a game changer. Between the solar panel set-up & our Starlink dish, we took remote work to a whole new level. In fact, the connection we have on the boat is better than what we get at home with our local ISP. This just justifies the need to live & work remotely on a boat, which is supported by those that we work with (which is nice, not that we really need that stamp of approval, but it makes life easier). Once word was out that we had Starlink, a few people that we know then went out to get one too. The great thing about the RV one is that you can switch it on & off as needed (a little more expensive, but when you aren’t going to use it for several months it helps, plus it’s supposed to move around, which it clearly does).

The boat that we have at the moment is a little cozy for 4 as a live-aboard, being a Catalina 30 MkII, but it’s not bad & didn’t stop us from making memories & taking a few longer trips this year than last year on it.

This year we joined our club in going on a couple of cruises, one was to Alexandria Bay & the other one was to Henderson Harbour. Alex Bay was a lot of fun, we almost gave up in going when we had some issues with the CBP ROAM app, but it was user error in the end, as we had lodged our application to come over the border a little too early for it to be approved (you need to be fairly close to US waters to have them approve). For both trips they did a little zoom chat with us on the boat, making sure that we were indeed on a boat & that there were 4 of us.

Coming back from both trips, one had to wish that Canada would have the same option in terms of an app, as you have to call Customs 1 888 226 7277 (1888CANPASS) & wait in a queue, often for an hour for someone to talk to you. You still have to do the ArriveCan app, but that isn’t something used to declare “officially” that you are back in the country. You are required to contact CanPass & give them all the details of the boat that you are on (registration, make & model) as well as passenger details (passports & DOB’s) & give them the code for your ArriveCan declaration. As much as it takes a little bit of time to get through to someone here in Canada (shortest wait for us was 40 minutes), at least you can use that time to tidy & sort out the boat & run off to the toilet (although, I pass the phone over to G to look after, because the last thing I want is to be on the phone on the toilet, especially with customs & immigration).

Alex Bay was quite a lovely town to pull up into, the town is a little tired in places, but quite the happening place (at least it seemed that way to us). The mayor & deputy mayor come out to see us all at the marina & make sure we knew that we were welcome & to please come back. People from town also came down to see all the sailboats, with many remarking on how they hadn’t seen so many sailboats in one place before. It was quite a surreal experience. The kids loved the scavenger hunt that Kelly, who is social director for the club, organised, which also encouraged everyone to spend a little money & support the local economy. I loved the art shop & of course got something small to support a local artisan. The kids on the other hand loved the popcorn shop.

The Henderson Harbour trip was a little different. HH Yacht Club is similar to the current club that we members of, although HH isn’t quite so far away from the town as our current club is. We had a lovely welcome from members of the club & enjoyed chilling out in the clubhouse with everyone else who came from Trident. The Christmas in July celebrations (a happy coincidence), in the area were a particular favourite, with fireworks that went on 20-30 minutes (just as you thought they were done, you realised they were just ramping it up another level). On Sunday night a taco dinner was organised for everyone, which was lovely & they were so good at catering to all my food allergies.

Besides those cruises, there has been time out to the islands to anchor out on weekend’s with other friends from the club, and to take a few friends out on the boat for a day trip here & there, as well as staying at the club on the boat whilst the kids did a sailing class in Kingston for a couple of weeks & attending a few other social events at the club.

It’s been a really lovely summer. I’m sad to see the season ending a little earlier for us than originally planned. Given issues with water levels dropping as they have & our personal circumstances, I am also glad that we aren’t pushing the season as long as we normally do. Extremely grateful for all the memories and fun that we had this season on our boat, Can Knot Agree. Rest well little boat & we look forward to seeing you back in the water again very soon.

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Figured it was time that I wrote about homeschooling. There are a lot of sterotypes about homeschoolers, some of which certainly apply to some, but as with sterotypes, they do not apply to all.

We are the “Covid homeschoolers”, the ones who started our homeschooling journey in part, because of Covid. Homeschooling, quite frankly seemed like the best path to take as the shitshow unfolded & schools shut down in March 2020 & didn’t open until later in September. I decided over the summer of 2020, that I wanted to give homeschooling a go. It wasn’t a decision that I took lightly, but I am so glad I did, as we were able to maintain a fairly stable learning environment, unlike their peers.

The 2020/2021 school year was a rollercoaster, one day schools were open, the next they were closed, guidelines changed constantly. I don’t really fault the policy makers for the rollercoaster ride that it was, I mean no-one really had experience in dealing with a global pandemic before, but I was glad I could sit out the ride that I saw friends go through.

Those who find out that we homeschool & are still doing so in 2022, have mixed reactions, some think it’s really cool & others have a noticable change in demeanor, as they try to assess what level of crazy we are.

For the record, we believe in science (we vaccine including for Covid & mask), actually believe that Covid exists & are not religious fundamentalists. Homeschooling is something that we have stuck with because for the most part it works for us & the lifestyle that we like to live. Even before Covid we had a reputation at the school for being travellers, just because the kids were in school it didn’t mean that you couldn’t do anything. We joke that they probably have more stability now than they did at school (at least now, I actually make sure they do school work when we are travelling). It’s easier in some ways, whilst harder in others.

Easier, in that you don’t have to deal with other parents, or beaucratic school “stuff”. Towards the end of the kids stint in the public system there were issues with bullying & a “prank” by another student, resulted in months of recovery, which I admit had a role to play, but mostly it was Covid. I get it, the education system is massively underfunded & honestly I don’t have any issues with the educational instruction that the kids were getting, but sometimes change is good, especially when you realise that, that change is working for you.

Homeschooling is hard though. You are responsible for what your kids learn in the end, which can be a daunting reality. At first, I looked after all of it, but now we (G & I) share more of the responsibilites, which helps. Whilst the responsibility to teach the kids is sobering (it can be really stressful sometimes), it’s also incredibly rewarding to see growth & know that you were a part of that, more than you would have been if you had just sent them off to school like their peers. I feel way more involved in their education than I ever was when they were in school, because I am “in the classroom” every day. The classroom varies too, it can be done pretty much anywhere & we take excursions with more focus than we did before.

Society really needs to get past the idea that kids must be sent out of the house in order to receive an education with 20-30 other peers. That type of learning doesn’t work well for everyone, infact it works for less kids than people might realise. I get it though, it’s hard to take on that responsibility as a parent & it doesn’t work for a lot of families. Just don’t vilify those that chose to do it & equally so, homeschoolers need to back off with their judgement towards those that have their kids in the school system. We are all doing the best that we can.

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Worcestershire Sauce

This is a gluten free version of Worcestershire sauce that I have been making for years, before you could find some Gluten Free options on the market. I like it so much though, that I haven’t bothered to try the commercially made versions on the market. I usually make large batches of it, which I bottle & gift (usually around xmas).

Measurements are approximate, like all good recipes are. Sometimes I throw in more molasses, plum jam etc, it just depends on my mood (and lack of attention to any kind of measurements on the day I am making it).

3 C white vinegar
1/2 C treacle / molasses
1/2 C plum jam
1 small onion finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in saucepan. Stir over heat until mixture boils, simmer, uncovered, for an hour, stirring occasionally. Poor into hot sterilized jars (make sure to stir mixture to make sure you get the lovely chunky bits of onion etc evenly spread between your jars). You can strain it, but I don’t, I like the chunks in whatever I am cooking

This recipe as is, makes about 2 cups. I typically don’t do anything less than batches that are 4x this recipe at a time. It lasts a long time in the fridge once open (so long as you don’t cross contaiminate it)

Here’s a picture of some in the making from a while ago

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Don’t be afraid to ask

We live in a world that is full of plastic, some of it is incredibly hard to avoid, but a great deal of the plastic waste we encounter in day to day life is entirely unnecessary. Plastic is cheap & has become a such a convenient material to use, that many cannot see a way around using it.

Whilst it is lovely to see more organisations making changes to show more of an environmental awareness, I feel that as consumers we need to do more to encourage those changes to stick & increase further change.

Our family doesn’t eat out a lot, but when we do, I have started to ask more about packaging, because I have learnt that just because you see biodegradable packaging , doesn’t mean that what you order will come in it or that they won’t throw in plastic cutlery. I have asked not to have plastic cutlery & still had it thrown in with a meal or had my reusable cup used, but had the beverage measured out in a plastic one, that they threw out, before they put it in my cup. I very rarely return to places that don’t seem to get it, but on occasion, I have returned & taken the opportunity to practice being more clear with my requests, because it’s all about education too, if after that chance they still screw it up, that’s it. That “little bit” of plastic might seem fairly insignificant, for what is usually a few minutes of convenience, but it really isn’t.

Convenience should not pollute long term

I have found more often than not when you ask & state your reasons for asking, people are generally receptive & supportive. There are of course the eye rollers, too, but mostly I find it emboldens others to show their support.

A few weeks ago when we were at Upper Canada Village, I was really disappointed to find that the lemonade that used to be in jars pre-covid, was now being served in plastic cups. When I enquired, I was told that the plastic cups were made from corn, but after being given the details of the company, I did a search & discovered that they could only be composted where facilities exist. Do you know how many commercial composting facilities there are that can break down the cups appropriately? Me neither. So, I politely refused, stating why & in the end was able to get the lemonade in our own metal cups. The two women that I was speaking with actually commented on how much they appreciated that we are obviously trying to do our part & whilst they aren’t as hardcore as we are (all a matter of perception) they shared how they are also trying to reduce waste themselves & how nice to it was to see someone else doing so too.

In the end our “voice” is not only our literal voice, but where we spend our money. Support those that support the environment so that it encourages them to continue to do so & improve on what they are doing, whilst also encouraging others to do what they can too.

Posted in Environment, Plastic Waste, Sustainability, Travel Adventures | Leave a comment

e-readers & travel

A couple of years ago a friend gifted us an older kobo e-reader for kidlet1. It it was a perfect xmas gift. Kidlet1 is a voracious reader, so having one, gave us a way for him to read books, at a time when libraries were not an option (2020, COVID).

Now, both kids love both reading on an e-reader & physical books. G & I are still trying to get used to using one, but the connivence in being able to “carry”/ access so many books at once can’t be beat, especially when space is a consideration.

After much research we settled on Kobo Libra2’s. There are lots of reviews out there & of course I can’t find the actual article that cinched it for me, however here are few that might be of use, which compare the two types of e-readers; techrader, ny times wirecutter, engadget.

With us spending so much time on the water, being waterproof was more of a necessity than a want & having the flexibility to download books different formats easily, including EPUB format, was useful for us. We don’t subscribe to Kobo for books, but we do use OverDrive as well as downloading books & copying them across to read via Calibre.

Unlike the kids, I have only used the e-readers a handful of times, opting for the more traditional book format instead, but am switching over to doing more reading on the e-reader in an effort to not only save space (when travelling especially), but for my physical copies of books to retain a more pristine appearance (yes, I am one of those book owners). This is in stark contrast to any of the books that the kids have read, which have the “well loved” look to them, everywhere they go, even if it’s a quick trip to the shops, books (yes that is plural) follow.

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