Thursday, 21 October 2010

Family Traditions and S-tog Scuffles

It's a relatively new family tradition in our house to make the christmas cake in the autumn half-term holidays because a) it's a good afternoons work with two helpers and b) because my mum always makes hers in October and as some of my readers (not yet followers!!) will testify, she makes the best Christmas cake ever. I am not expecting to match her beautiful fruit laden cakes, but this is another family tradition passed on from her. I had been hoping that my mum would pass on her "secret" recipe to me, but I have a feeling it's a Delia Smith recipe from the 70's anyway, so I found a Delia Christmas Cake recipe a few years ago and it turns out well (especially if you "feed" it with brandy every couple of weeks in the run up to Christmas before you ice it). I pre-prepared all the ingredients before calling the apron-clad helpers in to help (as it tends to minimise stress), I had even prepared the tin, tying the extra protective layer of paper around the outside before the chaos began. My five year old began by sifting the flour - it looked quite christmassy in the kitchen after this(!), while the three year old started to crack the eggs!!! All came together eventually though and as soon the mixture was ready to go in the tin, which I was quite grateful for as an electric whisk wielding boy was distrating me somewhat. So into the oven it went (for four hours) and we sat down to relax. Whereupon my five year old said "mummy, weren't we meant to put these in as well".... Luckily it was only the orange & lemon zest and Lys Syrup (substitute for black treacle) but annoying nontheless! I will just give it an extra drink of brandy before the marzipan and icing. Anyway, here are some before and after pics. I didn't take any of the kitchen, you can just imagine the state of that once we had finished

For the past couple of days I have put my three year old into nursery so I could spend some exclusive time with his sister on her half term break. Yesterday I took her to the Glyptotek as she had wanted to see the Little Dancer by Degas. My funny little girl is full of surprises, the amount of Danish she was speaking to the other children here was really interesting (if not a little worrying the more she learns, as I can't understand a word of it!). She also decided to take a sketch book and pencil with her to the museum and spent ages sitting on the floor and drawing various sculptures and pieces of art while I hovered about, looking at art (and trying not to look like some sort of obnoxious pushy parent - luckily it was quite quiet as I don't know how to say "it was her idea" in Danish...!), it was really nice to see her enjoying something I love and it even raised a smile from Mrs Grumpy in the Greek section! I especially loved R's interpretation of the Little Dancer!

The only downer of the day was on the trip home. A homeless guy was wandering up and down the train asking people for change, nothing unusual there you might think, until he entered the carriage next to ours and spotted another beggar obviously on his turf. He immediately jumped upon him and had him in a headlock and they started fighting. It was over in seconds and the surrounding passengers did the usual slow and silent retreat, as I saw on many occasions during my commuting years in London when something similar broke out. The poor guy seemed to be OK and his aggressor got off at the next stop. My little girl seemed rather oblivious to it all and thankfully wasn't really watching, but just in case I said "that wasn't very nice was it", and she replied "but they were only dancing mummy"...if only!

Guests arriving tonight, we will be investigating Halloween Tivoli tomorrow and then probably hibernating over the weekend if the weather forecast is anything to go by.

Will update when I can...


Monday, 18 October 2010

Computers, Cakes & Cold...

I have been without a computer for a few days as this one decided to have a give up the ghost quite typically while my husband was away. Thankfully he is back now and so is my computer thanks to him! He's not just a pretty face you know!

The past few days have been much colder, we had a hoarfrost this morning but it was starting to melt by the time I got down to the lake. I would have been there sooner had two small people not decided to come with me, as it takes at least half an hour to get the protesting things into their snowsuits (which believe me were quite necessary this morning). My Scandinavian winter coat came out too, a bit sooner than that month I guestimated not so long ago. It was quite beautiful nonetheless, and not surprisingly we didn't see anyone swimming in the lake this morning... The children were more enchanted with a graffiti dog they found on an underpass, but he will come in useful in tempting them out on a more regular basis now the cold is setting in.

Half term this week, more guests arriving on Thursday so I hope it stays as crisp and dry as this! In the meantime our tasks for the week include buying pumpkins, making the Christmas cake and getting out and about before they arrive. Watch this space...

Friday, 8 October 2010


As someone who has never had that much time for authority (and still cannot stand being told what to do!) I loved the idea of Christiania, so I was quite disappointed the first time I went. We only made it as far as Pusher Street before I had a row with someone about a camera that I was actually putting away in my bag, (incidentally the only street you can't take pictures on is Pusher Street, you can take pictures elsewhere as long as you have respect for your subjects!) the atmosphere wasn't great and the few stalls selling rubbish nearby just reminded me of Camden, so we gave up and went elsewhere. More fool us for not persevering beyond this particular street! I went back a couple of days ago with a guide fromRundvisergruppen, the official tour guides of Christiania(many of whom are long-term residents). Our guide met us in the lovely and warm Gallopperiet where we learned a bit about the history of the place and how it came to be. She has lived here since 1976, her husband was one of the original Christianites who helped establish Christiania by claiming the deserted military base as their own. Then we followed her on her Christiania bike (naturally) through the site (and the pouring rain - which didn't deter the hardy few), starting with Pusher Street which actually doesn't have that much to do with the real Christiania. The hash stalls are run by different gangs from outside, so although there are problems with occasional clashes and fights and "difficult" customers, the police presence is high here because of it, and that in turn ensures that Christiania is ironically probably one of the safest areas of the city!

Currently there are around 900 residents here, and around 1,850 mostly self-built buildings of all shapes and sizes. The oldest dates back to 1688 (an old powder magazine forming part of the bastion, the walls of which are 2 metres thick). I was so surprised at how big this place is and the complex infrastructure behind it. Most people think that Christianites don't pay taxes or rent, so don't deserve to be here, a fact that is actually not true. All residents pay a monthly "using fee" and the money earned collectively from the "white business" is used for tax and maintenance. Aside from what is referred to as grey business (the soft drug market)which doesn't bring any money in for the residents, the legal "white" businesses run by them are thriving. There is a great blacksmith's with beautiful gifts and sculptures, a greengrocers, several cafes and restaurants including the famous Spiseloppen. Other shops include one which restores beautiful iron furnaces for re-sale, the Christiania Bike shop, and the various music venues including Loppen. We spent over two hours with our guide - the history behind this place is incredible, and I really admire the residents who strive to make their community run like clockwork. It is ironic then that this laid back lifestyle is perhaps not as relaxed as it once was, with the stress that must be currently hanging over them. Christiania will be taken to the High Court for the second time at the beginning of next year. The Government wants to reclaim this land and "normalise" it as it wants to restore some of the 16th century site, and place cannons along the waterfront. The high rise modern apartment blocks it possibly also wants to build will look quite out of place then surely? As the second biggest tourist attraction in Copenhagen maybe it would be wiser to work alongside the Christianites, as it will be a huge loss to the city and its history should it cease to exist - there is only one Christiania after all! I am really looking forward to coming back here again, and would highly recommend a visit with Rundvisergruppen for visitors new and old.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The Lobster Market...

This morning I went to the last local loppe (or lobster market as my 3 year old insists it's called) market of 2010. The hardy stall owners didn't seem to mind the cold strong winds and neither did the crowd of prospective buyers (I spotted my first snowsuit wearers today it was that cold, I also wore my English winter coat, I guestimate that my Scandinavian one will be coming out in a month or so. The winter tyres also go back on the car tomorrow, a sobering thought!). I have really enjoyed my jaunts here first thing on a Sunday morning throughout the summer, foreign junk is always a lot more interesting than that of your own country, and English car boot sales these markets are not. Yes there are the usual household stalls with pre-loved toys and clothes and shoes (I still can't believe how people will buy tatty second-hand shoes), but amongst them are the more interesting antique stalls selling Scandinavian bits and pieces from years gone by. The cupboards of Danish Mormors hold plenty a Royal Copenhagen vase from the sixties and seventies, stuff not wanted by many Danes nowadays (their cupboards are full of them too), but some of it is wanted by us "tourists", who scavange amongst the piles of Fajance looking for good deals. It might be a coincidence that things seem to go in phases here too, last week was definitely a Barbie week, but that could have been because I had my five year old with me so I wasn't tuned into the finer antiques! The week before there was a glut of strange cross-stitched samples on various stalls. Do stall-holders look out of the window and think, well it definitely looks like the kind of day that people would buy a certain item? My finds this year have included a couple of paintings, several vases and bowls and beautiful scandinavian jugs. Today I bought a wooden balance bike for my son for a mere 50KR. I am going to miss this market over the winter, but luckily the big flea markets carry on in the halls and auction rooms of central Copenhagen so my shelves won't be getting a rest just yet.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Pictures From An Early Walk...

My mother is a photographer, she usually carries around a couple of cameras with her wherever she goes. I am trying to get into this habit (with only one camera though!) and would like to try and take at least a couple of pictures a day, not because I want to be a photographer (or claim to be any good at it), just because one day I will be glad I did! Earlier in the week I remembered to cram it into my bag before I went into town for a meeting. I went in much earlier than I needed to because it was a beautiful day, and because I don't go in as often as I should! Here are a few of what I took along the way, they were all taken mid-morning (and I must have been hungry as they are mostly of food)...
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