Laundry the Swedish Way

We finally got hot water! The boys were so excited they all took steaming hot showers and set off the smoke alarm. We didn’t actually know it was the smoke alarm at first, but the high-pitched buzzer was a big clue—some things are universal.

We also got the yellow jacket’s nest fumigated in the attic today. Oh YES, that was fun. A small swarm had set up residence in the eves. I’d noticed a few hovering about, but things didn’t get crazy until two nights ago while I was cooking one flew in the window (there are no screens on the windows and no A/C) and it made it’s way inside my shirt!  Can you picture it…me cooking chicken with the spatula trying to find the yellow jacket only to discover it was inside my yellow t-shirt? I shrieked and flicked it out with my thumb, but not before it gave me a nasty sting. I grabbed my lavender oil and put some of that on while the boys killed two more. Needless to say, we sweated the rest of the night with the windows shut!

I’ve been to the grocery store everyday since we moved here and I’ll probably go again tomorrow. For one thing, it’s incredibly hard finding things, especially if you want something specific, for example chicken granules to put in some simple mushroom risotto. I ended up buying a seasoning packet of chicken mushroom soup instead and it worked beautifully. I might try some other dry soup mix flavors next time—cheddar broccoli could be good?

But the whole cooking thing is…well, a test of my agility and creativity. I have 3 Ikea stainless steel cooking pots, 2 with lids that came in the Welcome Kit, along with 1 fry pan, 3 flimsy plastic spoons, a peeler, 3 dull knives, 3 nesting mixing bowls and enough service plates, bowls and utensils for 6. That means when I cook a meal of let’s say chicken, rice and salad, if I’m using a plate to serve the chicken on then someone eats out of a bowl or if I’m storing leftovers in the mixing bowls in the fridge then I can’t make salad in a bowl…you get my drift. It feels like camping and will end as soon as my shipment of household goods arrives and I give back the Welcome kit, but in the meantime it’s some mental gymnastics planning breakfast, lunch and dinner. It doesn’t help either that I’m down one pot because I burnt the bottom. It’s soaking, for now, but the truth is it might never make it back into the rotation. I miss my non-stick!!!

When I’m not cooking I’m usually downstairs doing laundry. For one thing the basement is cooler and for another I can’t ignore the dryer because it beeps with an annoying alarm until you turn it off. I’m sure there’s a way to stop the noise but I can’t for the life of me figure it out. The washer and dryer are both front loaders, typical European models, with a bunch of buttons and dials and Swedish words and diagrams. Here the Swedes have a word for the laundry room that in English means, “Laundry Cottage.” I have a nice cottage, as large as a small bedroom, with a sink and two long counters for folding—one high enough to store a ironing board underneath. All I’d need to do to iron something is pull it out; the only thing is I don’t iron.

My “laundry cottage” also includes an appliance that looks like an American fridge with dials across the top. Inside it’s filled with white metal rods, small in diameter, their ends facing outward. It is designed to hang damp clothing, either from the washer or more commonly from clothing being outside in the wet. A dryer blows hot air, and you can adjust it to the temperature and time you want. Pure genius!

Opposite my fridge dryer, as I call it, is a Mangle appliance. It doesn’t sound like what it is; a mangle is an ironing device but way more awesome. There’s a large roller inside with tan cotton fabric surrounding it. When you start the machine the fabric rolls toward you in a long swath on a table you pull into place from the side and hook in front of the device. With the table in place, the fabric lays on top and the idea is that you can put your linen napkins (well…that’s what it’s for) or bed sheets (we all have those) and with a touch of a button the Mangle rolls everything inside and squeezes out the water and presses everything to perfection. Amazing!

I confess, so far my Mangle is more of a novelty than useful. I can’t promise I’ll be pressing all my sheets, but I did find it interesting to learn that Mangles date way back to centuries ago when they were constructed of wood planks and decorated with carvings. The women at that time would use their Mangles to roll their fine weaved cloth over a hot roller to get out the wrinkles. In fact it was tradition that upon becoming engaged, a man would give his betrothed a Mangle. Imagine that happening now…a guy giving his fiancé an iron along with her diamond ring??? I’m not so sure she’d stick around for the alter.

But even if women don’t get Mangles or iron for that matter, I can appreciate a culture that elevates the task of laundry to an almost art form. And I like that the Swedes devote an entire “cottage” to the tools that make everyone in the family feel warm and dry. It is a wonderful thing, clean clothes—the smell of a shirt out of the dryer. I might be camping for now, but I never had laundry this good.

One Comment on “Laundry the Swedish Way

  1. Loved your post! Still chuckling over the laundry cottage. We simply MUST have pictures of the mangle. Sounds similar to the old wringer washers but probably way cooler!

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