Friday 30 April 2010

Happy Store Bededag Day

Or Great Prayer Day! It was created by the King in 1686 who consolidated a collection of holy days into one day apparently, which also means it's a day off! I am quite pleased about that part to be honest, it has been a busy week...

Last weekend the weather was lovely and on the Sunday I met with friends for Dim Sum in the morning which was great. I am always getting lost so took the GPS which wouldn't switch to Pedestrian mode rather annoyingly, so it took me the road route through another "interesting" area (of which there aren't many in Copenhagen - do I look like I want to buy any cocaine?) to get there! The food was good though and it was nice to stuff ourselves with authentic Chinese dumplings, I wasn't brave enough for the chicken feet though! After this my friend took me to a great Middle Eastern supermarket as I was in search of Tahini to make some decent hummus. We live in a hummus loving house, and the stuff you can get here is not good, but the home made version was met with approval, and R even took a pot of it with her to school the next day for her morning snack. As it contained quite a few cloves of garlic, I am sure she was popular with her class mates! The supermarket was really interesting and reminded me of the shops we have in London, it was full to the brim with coloured jars of spices and pastes, maybe all that spice explains why rather stocked this - bottles and bottles of it that took pride of place behind the till - just in case? Then it was time to go back home for an afternoon in the garden, potting plants and enjoying the sun. We had some unexpected guests at one point, they stayed with us for at least an hour or two much to the delight of R & S! All this was followed by another barbecue, Greek style this time with chocolate bananas for pudding... something that the children demand each time they see the barbecue being lit, very simple to do: - cut a slit in a whole unpeeled banana, stuff it with chocolate, wrap it in foil and stick it on the cooling barbecue whilst you enjoy your main course - a la Blue Peter!

The week consisted of lots of meetings for me, but S and I still managed to find time for a trip to Ikea, playschool, his first proper trip to the Dentist (which he loved, no-doubt I will have to remind him of that one day) and then yesterday Danish story time for children at the library which I think he quite enjoyed. I think some of the mothers were quite bemused at us being there and not being able to join in the songs etc., but we knew the tunes to a lot of them as they were the same as at home. The words were different, but I found it really interesting that the origins must have been the same at one point. It was so nice to see S interacting with Danish children and reassuring that at that age, language just doesn't seem to matter.

The weather was just beautiful yesterday and really warm (for Denmark). We got back from school and went straight outside for the rest of the afternoon. The Magnolia tree is about to explode, I can't wait to see it when the whole tree is in bloom. Also interested to know what these buttercup type flowers are, they are so beautiful.

Last night was book club, this time we studied Edith Wharton's An Age of Innocence which prompted great discussion and lots of laughs, although that could have been the wine, it was a lovely evening! On the way there it was so obvious that it was a holiday today, there were crowds of people making the most of the sunshine and getting quite merry! As part of the tradition of Store Bededag, the citizens of Copenhagen would stroll through the city on the evening before. Another tradition was to buy and eat 'varme hveder', a traditional bread, as of course the bakers would have been closed the following day, I am sure it helped soak of some of the alcohol too!

Copenhagen feels like a different city right now, the pavements are full of chairs and tables and hibernation is definitely over. It felt almost Mediterranean last night as it was so warm (for Denmark!), but as is usually the way with bank holidays, today it's raining!

Wednesday 21 April 2010

History Repeating...

Have just been going through some pictures of our time back in the UK, I love these: This is my grandparent's house and garden. I used to spend hours rolling down this bank together with my sisters and cousins, it was great to watch my children doing the exact same thing in what continues to be one of my favourite places on the planet.

My Green & Pleasant Land...

A rather belated post as we had a somewhat extended last minute break in the UK, due to a certain Icelandic volcano shutting down the airspace for a good few days! We flew into London just before the shut down happened, so with much of my family living quite near Heathrow, it felt a bit "Flash Forward" with no planes flying over at all...I lived in that area for 12 years and don't think I can ever remember being able to hear the birds sing quite so loudly for so long!

My dad was at the airport to pick us all up this time, and the kids were thrilled to see him and also that they were going to be travelling in his "Mystery Machine" (camper van!), little did we know at the time that he might almost have brought us back to Denmark in the Mystery Machine!! That evening my sisters and brother in law came over and we had a great meal together, cooked by my lovely "step-mother". R & S finally got to meet their baby cousin, and covered him with lots of slobbery kisses and bear-hugs. I am not sure he really appreciated all the attention, but it was very sweet to watch! He has grown so much in three weeks (obviously!) I love the fact that he almost looks the same size as S in the photograph... Thursday was my dad's birthday, so the children woke him up very early by jumping on him and singing happy birthday repeatedly until he got up! After a day of a drastic haircut for S, and shoe shopping for the pair of them (both a fraction of the price than in DK!), we went out for dinner to celebrate at a Chinese restaurant (I know I have mentioned this before but how nice it was to have really spicy food!). S spent the entire meal asking "if the chocolate cake was coming now", which kind of spoilt the birthday cake surprise a bit, but never mind! Friday evening we got to spend some time with my brother and sister in law, before it was time to go to my Mum's house early on the Saturday afternoon. By this point, it was becoming clearer to us that we wouldn't be flying for a few days. We felt incredibly lucky compared to a lot of stranded people though, we were all together after all and staying with family. The fact that my mum lives in an especially beautiful area meant it really wasn't that much of a hardship. It's even more beautiful at this time of year, and it really brought it home to me how stunning England can be. When we are there we try and go for as many walks as we can and this time even got to see a barn owl that we inadvertently disturbed whilst we were investigating an ancient timber framed barn. It was amazing! Having had a slight obsession for Labyrinth as a child, I found myself secretly hoping it would turn into David Bowie... I had to take some photos of the bluebell woods, that aren't quite out yet, but very nearly.
The wood anemones were out though, shame my current camera doesn't do them any justice! It's so true that you really do take things for granted when they are on your doorstep! I am not saying that Denmark isn't pretty, it's just a different shade of green, and just a teeny weeny bit flatter... The weather was also warm and beautiful and at times we might have sniggered at our (ever eager to capture what might be the summer)fellow countrymen in their shorts and flip-flops...

We had another birthday celebration on the Sunday, this time a joint one for my mum and my grandmother. Spending time with my family whilst we were over was perfect. I just feel sad that we due to circumstances beyond our control we weren't able to see any friends on this visit. The whole reason for the visit was to see the baby and spend time with my sister, and celebrate the birthdays of course, and I always find it very difficult dividing time equally between family and friends when we are only home for a couple of days. This time any plans to see people were kind of hijacked by what was happening with our travel plans, one minute we were going to be around for longer than expected and the next minute we were frantically packing and going to the airport...At least we are back again in August so will hopefully make up for that...

Anyway, back to this epic blog entry... That Monday was my lovely Mum's birthday. We had quite a quiet day together,
apart from the wheelbarrow races with their Uncles... That evening we went to the local pub to celebrate, where we enjoyed some typical English pub grub ... why did all the pubs across England decide to serve Scampi anyway? This meal also prompted me to sadly reflect that I am now actually old. I only observed this whilst eating as I noticed that I now actually like tartare sauce. I will like Parma Violets next and carry them around in my handbag, I am sure of it.

Our last day was pretty much taken up with will we/won't we/will we won't we be able to get home and frantically cancelling meetings and appointments for the Wednesday. I have to give the Dane's their due, something that would be met with "sorry I can't help you" in a "computer says no" voice in the UK, was dealt with "yes, of course, we understand. Leave it with us and we will deal with it for you"...

So now we are back. Heathrow's terminal five was surreal. I expected it to be so over-crowded, it was half empty! I felt sorry for the people so obviously stranded who had been there for a while. I felt almost fraudulent going straight to baggage drop and then through security without a cancellation appearing on the screen for us. The flight was uneventful, but you could see the strange light brown smoggy fug below that had caused all the trouble in the first place. I have to say though, it was kind of nice to be reminded that we aren't ultimately in charge. An eventful trip...

Monday 12 April 2010

Being Put To Good Use

Back to school after the Easter Holidays and the weather is getting better. We have spent quite a lot of time outdoors over the last couple of weeks, and you can really notice the garden still gradually "waking up"... lots of bulbs coming up and blossom trees starting to show us what colour they are! I love the fact that the garden turns into an extra room in the warmer months, and the kids drastically spend more time outside. I think we also win the award for the most barbeque's so far in our neighbourhood this year, will just put it down to an over-excited husband wanting to break out the Webber because "it's not raining" but really wanting to try out his new gadget rotisserie thing... the neighbours also definitely know we are English now!!...

We are planning a last minute trip to the UK to see the baby, and to spend time with family members who are celebrating birthdays, April is a very busy birthday month for us!.. Will be back soon x

Friday 9 April 2010

Ethereal Food

Months ago, in order for us to properly celebrate my other half's birthday, I put us on the waiting list for a table at NOMA, a restaurant with two Michelin stars in the centre of Copenhagen. I had tentatively put down the date that my in-law's from France were staying with us due to a lack of local babysitters, and we planned to go out whether we got a table at NOMA or not!! However, that afternoon I got a call to tell us our luck was in, and a table was available at 7.30... My husband is nuts about good food and has wanted to go to NOMA for quite a while, so although it was an extravagance (we are calling it our compressed weekend away), it was a once in a Copenhagen-time experience, and we loved every minute of it! Had I not been trying so hard to look cool calm and collected while I tried to work out exactly how to eat some of the amazing creations in front of me, I might have taken some photographs, but I didn't I'm afraid. Noma is all about Nordic food sourced locally, so we got to try some food that I didn't even know you could eat!! It was all beautifully presented and tasted so fresh and clean! In place of water we had birch-sap to drink, apparently this is only available for one month of the year, usually March (slightly delayed this year due to our bad winter!) when the tree is preparing to bud after the winter. It's used as a health elixir in Scandinavia and other countries such as Russia. I had never heard of it before, but thank you tree, it was very nice! If I was recommending a restaurant to a major desert fan, I might not tell you to come here as it's really not your usual hot chocolate fondant type of place (one of our deserts was made out of celery and celeriac!), but if you think you would enjoy extremely good, fresh and creative Scandinavian food and impeccable service to go with it, I can highly recommend it! It was certainly one of the best meals we have ever had and a fabulous and memorable evening for us both...

Monday 5 April 2010

Typical English Picnic....

Today we went to the very beautiful long sandy beach at Hornbaek, which has plenty of shells for the children to pick up, and sand-dunes for them to play in (this is my son contemplating building a sandcastle and whether his parents are completely mad I suspect!). It was pretty damn cold though. We sat (very briefly) and had a cup of tea and a sandwich while the children made a sandcastle, while a few hardy Danes eyed us suspiciously, thinking to themselves "it's so obvious you are English, only English people would even attempt to have a picnic on a beach in 6degC...". We will return though (once it warms up a bit) for a longer day there most definitely! The town looked very sweet as well, not at all gaudy like British seaside resorts (I do love that about them though!), although of course Hornbaek is minute in comparison to resorts in the UK... good things come in small packages and all that! The beach itself however is by no means small. We have also visited the beaches at Niva and Rungsted and will try Amager at some point, but this has been our favourite so far and at less than 30 minutes from our house, it will be a frequent future destination of that I am certain!

Managed to actually get some books completed over Easter too.
My grandmother (Frieda Gumn) is a fabulous bookbinder, and still does the odd professional job, although at 87 she doesn't do quite as much as she used to. I always felt the urge to follow in her footsteps and learn this dying craft, so when to my amazement, I found a course locally, which I applied for and studied part time over three years. Would I ever consider myself a professional though, not yet, there's still so much more to learn! Last year my grandmother paid for me to go on a weeks course with her master tutor and good friend Maureen Duke at Urchfont Manor. This was a real honour, Maureen is an amazing lady and very highly respected in the bookbinding world. I loved every minute of this course at this beautiful college and learned an awful lot. I have yet to work out what to do with my books out here in Denmark(there are quite a few more than in the pic!)! I had an Etsy account in the UK, but it's kind of drawn to halt since we arrived here. I might attempt to sell a few to gift shops locally, and I still do commissions for friends from time to time, but it would be great to build this up as a small business. Although I am going to be heartbroken when my youngest starts at Nursery soon, I can console myself with the fact that I will have a lot more time to do this and get things started.

Sunday 4 April 2010

Happy Easter...

Easter lunch (note the all important mint sauce!!!), Easter eggs, Easter tree - what more do you need?

Thursday 1 April 2010

A Proper Loppe & A Good Friday!

After the not so successful trip to hunt down Danish antiques the other day, and after finding a huge list of Antique Loppermarked's on the Internet, yesterday we went to the Easter Loppemarked held at Forum (a big concert venue in Copenhagen). It did not disappoint! It was packed to the brim with hundreds of stalls, with an incredible array of antiques and other knick-knacks, and no new junk in sight! I could have quite happily spent the whole day there, but it obviously wasn't the most exciting place for children. We probably had an hour and a half if we were lucky before the meltdown stage began, but I think the promise of a hot-dog for lunch if they were good definitely bought us some time! I made a couple of Scandinavian purchases, which will serve as a reminder of our time here, a Norwegian Egersund 1950's jug , and a Royal Copenhagen 60's/early 70's vase . I need some spring branches to go in that, it's quite a strange shape, but I think it's lovely all the same!...Speaking of twigs, the Easter "tree" has been expertly decorated and I will post some pics of that on Easter Sunday, just to be topical!

Today we went to the Frilandsmuseet, I have no idea why we haven't been here before,it's not too far from us and we all thought it was great! It's an outdoor museum that consists of original historic buildings (mostly houses) from all over Denmark, that they have moved and rebuilt, covering about 85 acres of land. It was quite busy today as it's obviously good Friday, so we missed out on a cart to pull the children about in. A little bit of moaning ensued about all the walking, understandably - it's a big place, but it was well worth enduring it! It was really educational and I think our two learned a lot about life in times gone by. They were really interested in the interiors, especially the tiny beds for children. My little girl concluded that she preferred life today, with electricity, warmth and running water. I think my little boy thought he preferred modern life, as we have chocolate! He couldn't understand why there weren't any chocolate eggs available in the historic Easter activities! Both of them thought they saw the Tomten at various stages, which was really sweet, it's a favourite story of theirs (by Astrid Lingren), I can see why, although it's Swedish, the buildings look the same as in the book! If you are not familiar with the Tomten here he is: - the books are lovely!

Next time we will make a day of it and take a picnic...

I missed my family today, it looks like I always do on holidays. Lots of love to you all xxx
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