The Attitude Of Gratitude

I am sitting in my office typing this post with one hand – the other is wrapped around my 10 day old baby boy – Zac.


It occurred to me this morning that I have a great many things to be grateful for at the moment.  There is something quite magical and miraculous about the birth of a new baby and I felt I wanted to express that somehow.  I love writing lists; so here is my top 10 “Things To Be Grateful For”.

1 – My baby boy!  He is healthy (albeit still a bit jaundiced), extremely beautiful (not that I am biased!) and is thoroughly adorable to cuddle.

2 – Vaxjo hospital and staff. Arriving at hospital shortly before 8am on Friday 19 February we were ushered into our own private room, offered breakfast and I was able to have a bath to ease contractions.  It was a very relaxing way to start the physical marathon that is giving birth.  The midwives were friendly and professional and the one who was present during the actual birth was a trombone player called Anna!  So she kept reminding me to do my trumpeter breathing.

We stayed in hospital for a total of 1 week due to Zac having treatment for jaundice.  At times it was hard not being at home with him, surrounded by relaxing and familiar sights and sounds.  However, it was really helpful to have the midwives on hand as I got used to the steep (and often painful) learning curve that is breast-feeding.  We also had all our meals provided for us with breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2 fika breaks.  The uplifting view from my room and the day room was of a large park and a lake.  I am grateful that I do not have to pay for the care that I received because it is one of the benefits of living in Sweden.

3 – Like most new mums, I am finding social media super handy for touching base with friends and other mums.  There is so much to get used to and learn at first that I think most of us simply want to be told, “yes, this is entirely normal…no, you don’t need to worry…yes, this is a just a phase that will pass.”  I have also received a great many cards, presents and messages of support from my friends and this really cheered me up whilst in hospital, waiting for Zac’s jaundice to get better.

4 – Another important source of support has been my family.  My husband “the rock” kept me going through the birth process with jokes and encouragement.  My in-laws managed the hotel while we were in hospital.  My brothers, sisters-in-law, uncles and aunts (including one who is a midwife) all sent me encouraging messages.  And my parents have been on hand to help look after Zac and the hotel since we arrived home.  What a team!

5 – I am grateful it is the low season at the hotel and that we only had 1 guest staying the night that Zac was born – a much easier scenario than if he was born in the summer when we can easily have 20+ guests staying the night!

6 – Zac’s timing was impeccable.  Not only was he born exactly on his due date, he also got to see his step-brother and step-sister before they went back to England.  If he had been born any earlier, he could have stolen my step-son’s thunder, whose birthday was just 4 days earlier on 15 February.

7 – I am grateful that my son gets to grow up in Urshult with its beautiful lake, forests, friendly residents and relaxed pace of life.

8 – My husband has been unerringly by my side both throughout my pregnancy, the birth and Zac’s first few days.  I can’t imagine managing without him!

9 – All the gifts we have received:  clothes, toys, baby blankets…I have been really touched by the generosity of my friends and family.

10 – My amazing body!  I have a new respect for my body now and all the changes it has been through over the last 10 months.  From the miracle of growing a new life inside me (an entire human being no less!) to pushing out a 9lb baby last Friday.  In the following days it felt as if every muscle and nerve in my body ached, as if I had used absolutely every cell in the effort of giving birth!  And yet, the body recovers.  10 days on, I am no longer in pain when I walk or sit – although I do still get very tired.  And I am now producing regular supplies of milk for my little one, which is pretty cool!

So, there you have it – 10 reasons for me to feel grateful as I embark on this new chapter in my life.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has leant support over the last 10 months or so…you have helped ease me into my new role as a mother and that is totally awesome!!!


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The A.F. Leafe Room

Urshult Hotell has a bar*.  In this bar hang many pictures.  These pictures tell a story.

When my Morfar**, Fred Leafe, passed away in 2014, I inherited some of his (and his sister’s) paintings.  My husband and I decided to hang them in the bar as a way of remembering him.  We have named it the “A.F. Leafe Room”. Grandpa played a big part in making it possible for us to buy this hotel, so it feels good to honour him in this way.  See my  Tribute to Grandpa post to find out more about him.

Here is a quick tour of his paintings.  Next time you visit, perhaps you will linger a bit longer in the A.F. Leafe Room and enjoy the unique contribution of this unknown artist!

Palms   Mountains

Ivy LeafePainted by Ivy – Grandpa’s sister

Mountain lake   Different fishermenFishermenChinaAnd finally a photo of the man himself!   Grandpa

*the bar is not yet licensed to sell alcohol but we are working on this!

** Swedish for maternal grandfather (my Mum’s dad)

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What is your favourite season?

Cold, grey, snowy and icy.  Temperatures as low as -18C, sunset by 3:30pm, frozen lakes and waterfalls…the Swedish winter is more hardcore than any of the winters I experienced in the UK.  There are days when it feels like the sun never rises, when just going outside to pick up one’s mail involves the long-winded routine of putting on a thick coat, gloves, hat and scarf.

So, what’s to like about this season?

Put simply, Urshult in the snow is BEAUTIFUL.  As this is my first year here, every season is new to me.  And every season I think, “this one is my favourite”.  In spring the trees in the forest exploded into life, exhibiting an indescribably magnificent green.  Locals wax lyrical about the exact hue of this spring green and it really is something to behold.  ‘Surely this is Urshult at its best?’  I thought.

Urshult spring

Forest on Sirkovagen spring 2015

In summer we had lake swimming, boat trips, barbecues and parties.  It is the season to meet up with friends and family, languish in gardens and pootle about in one’s boat.  Surely this was Urshult at its most fun?

summer Urshult

Launching our new boat onto Lake Asnen in late summer 2015

In autumn the same trees that were a beautiful shade of green became tinged with reds, golds and browns; a symphony of autumnal beauty.  Surely this is Urshult at its most magnificent?

autumn Urshult

Tree turning gold for autumn.  Bjurkarr Nature Reserve autumn 2015.

And in winter, Sweden looks…well…like Narnia – quite magical.  It’s the only way I can think to describe it.  Around Lake Asnen everything is still and quiet.  The lake freezes over, the tree branches are so laden with snow that they barely move.  Everything looks prettier and like a Hollywood film set for a Christmas movie.

winter Urshult

Lake Asnen November 2015

In the run-up to Christmas the streets and houses of Urshult are strung with Christmas lights and there is a feeling of happy expectancy.

So, I guess my favourite season in Urshult is…whichever season I am currently in.  There is something to enjoy about each of them.  What is your favourite season?

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Urshult Hotell – 7 months on

My husband Robert and I have now been managing Urshult Hotell for 7 months, 3 weeks and 5 days. We have seen the hotel in spring, summer and autumn. We have experienced the busy, often fully-booked high season and the quieter low season.

Here is a rundown of the last few months:

Firstly, what we have done:

  • The most significant thing in our family life has been expecting our first baby! He/she is due on 19 February next year and will be born in Växjö Hospital. I’d like to say a big thank you to my husband’s family for the extra help they offered in the hotel during my first trimester, which was rather ‘morning sickness heavy’.


  • In October I finished my Swedish For Immigrants course and am due to start the next level up – Grundskolan – next week. I am looking forward to further improving my conversational Swedish so that I can chat more freely with our guests.
  • We are continuing our monthly English Cafes and had a record 99 guests at our last cafe.
  • We continue to offer locally-produced breakfast food where possible, including bread from Urshult Bakery, honey and tea from Krulliga Hästens and apple juice from Ugglekull.
  • In terms of renovations, we have almost completed our new bathroom, started work on our kitchen, laid a new wooden floor in our bedroom and built new beds for my step-children.
  • We have improved the presentation of our guest rooms with hand-painted water glasses, new coffee trays, vintage-style dustbins and a ‘welcome bag’ of cakes from our kitchen.
  • I took and passed an Anti-cimex food hygiene course and learnt a lot of helpful information about how to keep our food and kitchen hygienic.
  • We have installed 3 radiators in the hotel bar so that it will be warm and cosy for the winter months (previously there was no heating.)
  • Our basement shop is now open and we have had many satisfied customers buying honey, herbs, beeswax candles and handicrafts. The shop opens when the hotel has special events.


Secondly, what we are doing today:

  • Keeping the hotel clean and tidy
  • Experimenting with new baking recipes for the next cafe
  • Experimenting with dinner recipes in the hope that we can provide guests with a simple supper by the time next summer comes. Ideas include the English classic, Cornish pasties.


  • Building our new kitchen to help keep family-life and hotel-life more separate.
  • Considering joining Swedish Welcome, a grading system similar to the English system of ‘starring’ hotels.

Thirdly, what we are going to do in the future:

  • We will create some ‘package tours’ to attract more guests to the hotel. Ideas include, cycling holidays (several national cycle routes converge at Urshult), canoeing trips, horse riding tours and foodie visits.
  • To obtain a license to offer alcohol to our dinner guests
  • To continue to cater to dinner parties and improve the menus we have on offer.
  • To encourage more guests to book ‘private cafes’. This is where we offer English Afternoon Tea to groups who want to have exclusive use of the dining rooms.


  • To open the hotel as part of the Urshult Christmas Market on Friday 27 November.
  • To install new showers in the guest annexe and continue updating the bedrooms.

Thank you for checking in with our blog😄

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5 months in Urshult Hotell

5 months ago today on 17 March we picked up the keys to our new home aka Urshult Hotell. It has been a busy and productive 5 months!

Here is a summary of what we have done since arriving here, what we are doing now and what we plan to do in the future.

Firstly, what we have done:

  • Tidied up the facade by cutting back the bushes, uprooting weeds and planting new flower pots
  • smartened up the reception area with new plants. Tidied up the presentation of local tourist information and begun to sell local produce and handicrafts
  • organised the hotel keys into a more accessible system
  • improved breakfast with freshly cut ham, local produce (honey, jam, organic teas and apple juice) and bread from Urshult bakery
  • re-started the entry
  • introduced professionally cleaned and pressed matching white bed linen and towels to the guest rooms
  • begun a popular monthly English cafe event

Secondly, what we are doing today:

  • renovating our bathroom, which was 3 small toilet stalls that we knocked into one. Left to do are installing a bath plus other minor fixtures and fittings.
  • renovating our bedroom: work on the floor is well under way; after that we shall install a large walk-in wardrobe.
  • The hotel occupancy rate has risen by over 10x in the last 5 months but we are still looking to improve these sales figures
  • continuing to explore the local area so that we can give well-informed advice to guests on what to see and do while they stay here
  • Keeping on top of cleaning schedules to ensure a positive guest experience
  • Keeping on top of waste management and recycling – it is amazing how much waste a busy hotel can produce!

Thirdly, what we are going to do in the future:

  • the facade is due to be painted in the spring and this will make a huge difference to guests’ first impressions of the hotel.
  • My Swedish class starts back on 24 August and I shall be eagerly studying to improve my language skills so that I can converse with guests more easily.
  • In autumn we shall be renovating the guest bedrooms and freshening them up, whilst keeping that vintage 1920s feel.
  • We will continue with our monthly cafe event and keep coming up with new baking recipes to delight our customers.
  • As part of a special arts event in the first weekend of September, we will experiment with a pop-up shop in the basement selling high quality local produce and handicrafts. If this is successful, the pop-up shop may become a regular feature of Urshult Hotell!

Thank you for checking in with our blog😄

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Hotel manager’s log: Day 93

It’s official!  We have been here exactly 3 months today!  We have served 251 guest breakfasts, 162 cafe guests, 32 birthday lunch guests and 7 evening meal guests. Wow!

Rather than write a post today, I thought I would upload some of the beautiful photos that our favourite local photographer – Mia – recently took during a trip to the orchard Ellenas.  This ancient orchard’s trees date back several centuries and is situated on the banks of Lake Asnen.   You may recognise my husband, sister-in-law and puppy in some of the pictures.  Enjoy!

023A7513-2  023A7518-2  023A7520-2  023A7525-2   023A7528-2  023A7538-2  023A7548-2  023A7556-2  023A7560-2  023A7565-2

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Hotel manager’s log: Day 88

I am tired today!  This morning husband and I woke up early in order to leave at 6:45am to get to his end-of-year school concert.  It was great to see his school and music room and to meet some of his colleagues and students.

The concert was outside in the school field and the weather was jätte värmt*  All the performers were in the shade of a large white marquee, which was decorated with Swedish flags and lupin flowers.  There is no uniform in Swedish schools and it was lovely to see the students express the joy of summer in their clothes:  bright colours, floral dresses and flower garlands.  By the way, I love the Swedish word for summer holidays – sommarlov.  


Lupin flowers

The concert programme included traditional Swedish songs such as ‘Blommerstid’ and the national anthem.  My husband lent me his beautiful flugal horn and it was a joy to hear its creamy tones add to the school choir’s singing.

Afterwards we had a traditional Swedish lunch of smörgåstårta and strawberry cakes.

smorgastorta  strawberry cakes

There were thank you speeches from the Headteacher (dressed in Smaland’s traditional costume) and presents were given to the staff who were leaving.  The staff who were staying another year all got given a book.  And I got given one too; a novel called “Croissants till frukost“**  As a self-confessed francophile, this sounds right up my street!  Reading a novel in Swedish will be a challenge, but I will definitely give it a go!


Smaland’s traditional costume

On the way back from school we visited one of Smaland’s many loppis.  These are fascinating second-hand shops and stalls, which sell anything from teapots to book ends, vinyl records to candlesticks.  Today’s loppis had an ancient wind organ, which my musical husband enjoyed playing very much!  During our loppis trip we realised it is our 11 month anniversary today.  Just one more month to go until we can celebrate an entire year of marriage.  And what a year it’s been!!

My in-laws have been manning the fort today and provided breakfast to our 7 guests this morning, so that I could play in the concert.  Once back at the hotel in the afternoon, we all had fika together then I went off for a walk in the forest.  I love doing this as it never fails to amaze me how wild and unkempt the forests around here are.  I am used to signposts and fences in England but here in Sweden there is a law called Allemansrätt, which means that I can freely roam.  Free-range Anna!

The weather has been so fantastic today (a balmy 24 degrees) that we decided to have a barbecue in the evening.  The 4 of us (5 if you include Borgust) sat in our garden munching korvar***, drinking beer and generally mellowing into the evening.

Tomorrow is the first day since 24th May that we have no guests booked to stay.  Discussions about when we should eat breakfast included the deliciously late suggestion of 11:00am.  Let’s see!  I do know that there will be important work going on in the new bathroom and LOTS of laundry to catch up on in the tvättrum****  The Urshult Hotell task force will be in full swing.  But, for now, from a tired and happy hotel manager, it’s lights out.

By the way, a note to my regular readers;  I haven’t forgotten “The Story Of Us” – just laying it to one side for a moment while I describe present events.  Have a good weekend y’all!

*very warm

**croissants for breakfast



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