Saturday, 31 July 2010

Garden Pondering....

Get it? Pondering... Luckily we don't have a pond, being the world's most paranoid mother, I would be a nervous wreck each time my two went outside, but we do have a slightly bigger pond in the form of the huge lake up the road from our house, which has meant that being surrounded by water we have masses of dragonflies in our garden (what is the correct collective noun for a group of dragonflies anyway?), they are huge and beautiful. I love them. I will try to take some pictures of them if I can get one to stay still.

This morning we set to work in the garden to get stuff done while the sun shines. This last week we have had so much rain (a good thing, but which will no doubt thrill my little sister who is arriving on Wednesday, and has made plans that mostly involve the beach!), on Tuesday we had the first real rain storm of the season and it was quite impressive! The ground has been baked hard over several weeks of heat and sun, so the rain didn't soak in. Instead, it ran off the surface of the driveway, sweeping garden debris with it and culminating in a huge waterfall that gushed down the steps leading to the basement at the side of our house. The debris collected, blocked the storm drain and a flood ensued. It was lucky that I noticed this happening, I had opened the door to let a friend in when I heard a funny noise and noticed Victoria Falls behind me. I then had to take immediate action, so I put on my husbands flip flops, rolled up my jeans, and wielding a wooden spoon I waded in and started unblocking. It was revolting, at one point I had a stag beetle crawling up my leg. I am just grateful that my friend arrived in time so that she could keep an eye on the children so that they didn't feel the need to "help" me, but even more so for the fact that we were actually at home, had it been last week when we were away, we would have come home to a real mess.

So back to the garden. Five hours of grass-cutting and weeding later, it's beginning to look very tidy (not that it's usually a mess!). I have noticed how everything is so much bigger here though,it could have been the right conditions for them of course, but the weeds are mutant-like they are so big. Gardening if anything, does give you time to think and reflect, and it made me think of my paternal grandmother who died in July last year. As a strong Yorkshire woman she was a real character. In my early teenage years we used to clash enormously, something I obviously regret now. As we both got older, we understood each other a lot more, but I will always remember some of the classic moments such as the family holiday to Greece when I was a teenager. We went out for a meal all together one evening and the waiter asked what I would like to order so I enquired as to whether they had any vegetarian options. My grandmother piped up with "She's not vegetarian, she's just awkward" in her loudest voice. I was livid. It makes my sisters and I howl with laughter now when we remember that comment, along with thousands of others. She was very beautiful in her youth, my grandparents' wedding photograph is just amazing. Her dress was made out of parachute silk, one of the few materials available then just after the war. Shortly before she died she received a medal as official recognition for her services as a Land Girl during WWII. The photographs we have of her time in service will always be really special to me, she looked so happy and it's how I choose to remember her. She would have laughed at my efforts earlier today and told me to "put your back into it lass", I could hear her saying it! It's such a shame she isn't around to visit us here. I miss her.

Five hours is more than enough hard graft for me, I am going to make the most of the rest of the sunshine and watch my husband's attempts at building a swing for the children.

Sunday, 25 July 2010


We decided before we moved here that what little spare time we had we would use to explore Scandinavia, and last week we began to do just that! Our first proper trip away from Copenhagen was great, Skagen is just beautiful. Famous for its special light that has attracted artist's for hundreds of years, it is situated on the very northern tip of Jutland and is the most northerly point of Denmark. Its beaches stretch for miles and totally live up to a child's ideal of what a beach should be like, with shells galore and various interesting sea-creatures to investigate.
We booked the holiday in what seemed like the depths of winter, so had quite forgotten exactly what lay in store, so we were pleasantly surprised that the cottage that was waiting for us was actually really nice, and only 500 metres walk from the beach. We spent the week enjoying the sunshine and exploring what Skagen and Nord Jylland has to offer(which is quite a lot!). As well as the fabulous beaches, (which I know I keep going on about, but these are some of the best beaches I have ever seen, and best of all they were almost completely empty, have you ever seen a picture of some English beaches at the height of summer? You are totally spoilt for choice here and the dunes surrounding them are just as stunning) we visited the Tilsandede Kirke (the church buried in sand), and partook in the Danish tradition of visiting Grenen so that we could stand with feet in two different seas, quite a strange sight! It was probably the only time we encountered a big crowd of people during our entire trip! We took the lazy route and got the Sandormen,a tractor-pulled coach up to the tip and back again. With a tractor mad three year old we wouldn't have had an option even if we had wanted to walk...

Being married to a food enthusiast, we searched out local food where and when we could. There's obviously lots of seafood to be had, and we found one particularly good fishmonger in Hirtshalls, a place also famous for its North Sea Aquarium. My husband asked if they had any sea bass and they weren't quite sure what it was, so I helpfully directed them to the huge poster of fish species on the wall. My eyesight is obviously failing me, as I thought I had read sea bass as the English name for a fish underneath a picture, but I obviously hadn't looked at the picture properly, you can just imagine the hilarity(!) when it turned out to be a Klumpfiske, aka a Sun Fish. I couldn't have eaten a whole one anyway, and later we saw several in the Aquarium itself and they are just too cute to eat. If I had room for a big aquarium in our house, that would be my pet fish of choice. We had monk fish instead which I felt really guilty about afterwards as we shouldn't be eating those either. We also found plenty of good fresh local prawns and languoustines (which we cooked on the barbecue) and managed to eat out at a few restaurants too. My only complaint would be the lack of variety, the menus are almost identical in each one. I quite often thank my lucky stars that my children will eat most things, so we aren't limited to only choosing things from the children's section of a menu, but seriously the children's menu in every place was plaice fillet with potatoes or typical Danish fishcakes, hardly an inspiring selection! As well as an extension to their menu selection, I would also recommend that a couple of the restaurants in Skagen Harbour have a look at their customer relation skills. Just because you have a good location and have a reputation for being the best, does not mean you can ignore customers, keep them waiting and then be rude to them! I would however recommend the Pakhuset for simple good food, and good service (and a great display of figureheads from local boats). The best place we ate at was actually a tiny place called the Det Bette Olhus in Ålbæk near to where we stayed. The food was really lovely and fresh, and it boasted a massive selection of beers from all over the world (plus really kind and lovely service to boot). The other best meal we had was dinner on our last night, a bbq on the beach with meat from the local butcher. Shame it was blowing a gale that evening, but it was lovely all the same, until the end of the evening when my other half was disposing with the disposable bbq, and I stood on the sand where it had been cooking. Never do that, it hurts a lot! It was a great holiday, the best we have had as a family so far. It could have come directly from the pages of an Enid Blyton book, with plenty of sun, lots of ice creams and long days spent on the beach. The only thing missing was lashings of ginger beer!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Constant Sunshine (and Suffocating Heat)!

The weather decided for us that Breakfast at the beach was in order this morning! We made a hasty picnic (plus all important flask of tea), and left home just before 8.30. The light was beautiful, the temperature perfect and we had a lovely couple of hours before we left to go back home at 10.30, just as it was getting busy and too hot! The weather has been spectacular for the last two weeks, perfect for my in-laws who have actually returned to Florida with a tan! We managed to pack an awful lot in while they were here. The various trips of course included our favourite Frilands Museet,where the children learned how to spin wool and Tadci earned his picnic lugging them around in a wooden cart. Numerous picnics on the beach, followed by copious amounts of ice cream (and coke floats!), the obligatory Tivoli, and Sweden for a day where we searched out Swedish meatballs in Lund(and a giant in the vaults of the Cathedral - although we couldn't find him!), and stocked up on BBQ food at the supermarket! Then the grand castle tour, when we packed in three in a day,Krongborg slot (aka Elsinore - who also has another much more impressive giant in it's vaults, but we will visit him another day), Fredensborg, the Queen's summer residence where we explored the gardens (only open to the public in July - get off the grass!!), and Frederiksborg in Hillerod which is my favourite, it's stunningly beautiful and quite the wedding conveyor-belt at weekends. We also did a central Copenhagen canal boat trip which we haven't done before, it was lovely but the day was so stiflingly hot, I am looking forward to doing it again on a cooler day. My In-laws also very kindly babysat one evening, and as the weather was too warm to sit in a formal restaurant, we decided to be tourists for the evening and go to Tivoli, where we ate at Grøften, one of the oldest and most traditional restaurants in Tivoli, it's a bit of an institution. We dined on Danish asparagus and fjord rejer (tiny fresh water shrimp),

and shared a lovely bottle of La Motte Wine from Franschoek where we got married many moons ago, it was a great evening (later in the week we bought a tub of the tiny fjord rejer and made our guests work for their supper, although they are very fiddly to peel, the shrimps are really sweet,and only available for a couple of months over the summer so well worth trying if you can)! It's definitely a restaurant that's been added to our list of places to take guests, the food is good, and the atmosphere's great!

A quiet week at home awaits before we go to Skagen next weekend.
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