Tuesday 29 June 2010

Summer Starts Here...

School has finished for the summer, the mass exodus from Denmark begins shortly. Last week was a hectic one with plenty to finish before the end of term, and certain deadlines to be met for other things. I managed to fit in book club, which was by no means a hardship - it was my book choice, The Help by Kathryn Stockett (I loved this book, read it if you haven't already)which went well. That evening didn't go that well for others, namely Denmark who were playing in the World Cup. It made for great people watching once I got to Kongens Nytorv, the mass of red and white fans was great to watch as they made their way to watch the match on various screens around the city. Once they had lost, I decided to leave my evening earlier than usual, before having to contend with the disappointed (and probably very drunk) masses on the trains. I had a very surreal journey home. The 16 year olds that finish their exams here all wear Graduation hats , that look a bit like Captains hats but with the name of their school and sometimes their name on the back. They wear them everywhere and everyone congratulates them on finishing school for what seems like weeks. I couldn't help but think, could you imagine the 16 year olds in the UK wearing similar hats with pride nowadays? Then I witnessed a younger teenage boy (around 14) complimenting a beautiful, hat-wearing girl on finishing school. Instead of the reaction that might come from an English girl (who would not deign to speak to a younger boy in the first place I should imagine), she thanked him very much and beamed at him gratefully for his best wishes. Wise move young man I thought, bet he looks forward to graduation day every year! Then, from nowhere an elderly lady got on the bus, listening to saw grass awful country music SO loudly I wondered if I was hallucinating. There was just something wrong with the picture, lovely sweet lady aged around 85, listening to cotton-eyed Joe gone wrong at full volume, it was just all too bizarre. Then, when I thought I had seen it all, the man sat behind me tapped her on the knee (definitely would have had a handbag round the head for that one at home) and asked her if she would turn it down. "yes of course, sorry about that" was the polite response. The cultural differences between countries may sometimes be small but they can say very loud things! It amused me all the way home (yes, I am easily amused)! This may or may not have happened depending on whether my friends slipped something in my wine at book club earlier on in the evening...

So now to our guests arriving for the next 11 days. We are looking forward to showing them around and exploring new places with them. I will update this when I get the chance.

Emma xx

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Skt Hans

It was the big midsummer celebration of Sankt Hans here today. In Medieval times the day was considered so spiritual that most of the herbs used for medicinal purposes were gathered. Bonfires were also lit to ward away evil spirits. Nowadays, people celebrate by getting together, eating and drinking, and then watching the bonfire being lit! A straw witch is usually placed on top, as tradionally people believed that the witch would go to Bloksberg in Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held. Try explaining that to two happy but bewildered children, who were turfed out of bed by their over enthusiastic parents, eager for them to witness a Scandinavian tradition! We stayed for around 45 minutes to watch the bonfire being lit (and swat away the mosquitos) and then wheeled them back home to bed. I asked them the next day if they remembered getting up but neither of them seemed too sure!

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Inspirational People...

Last week I went to Jette Frolich's garden. Jette is famous here for her beautiful Christmas decorations that she has designed for over 30 years. The words 'Christmas Decorations' may not exactly be inspiring, but fear not, there are no Singing Santa's in Jette's range, it is all gorgeous Scandinavian designer stuff, some of it I wouldn't just use for Christmas either. Search out her stuff in Illums and Magasin etc. If you are coming over, it's well worth it! Anyway, her artistic skills don't just stretch to objects, her gardening skills are fantastic too. She opens her garden once a year to show her beautiful rose garden and actually does the tour herself. We spent a very pleasant morning there and also had a tour of her studio. For someone of Jette's age her energy, vigour and general cheerful nature were all inspirational.

Talking of inspirational people, last night we returned from a weekend in Maastrict, where we had a huge family reunion. My Grandmother is Dutch, and 48 people from that side of the family all gathered together to spend the weekend reminiscing, generally catching up and for many, meeting each other for the first time. It was amazing. Most of us arrived on the Saturday afternoon where we installed ourselves into the Limburg farmhouse.
A few of us later went for a walk to explore the surroundings, and also climb the 12th century tower. The following morning we had breakfast, had time to look around the small Mount St.Peter Museum, and then we all gathered at a local restaurant for lunch before we went to the Caves of Mount St. Peter. These caves are an important part of our family history, as My Great-Grandfather D.C Van Schaick was the first person to map out all of the galleries of the caves, quite a feat considering their vast size. Initially, he found his way around by gas-lamp, marking the cave walls with notches so he could find his way back out again, but he eventually came to know them like the back of his hand. Many people haven't been so lucky in getting back out again, so as much as I enjoyed the tour of the caves, and the great drawings etc. inside, I was secretly quite pleased to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

My grandparents also met here, so you could say a good few of us owe our lives to them too! My great-grandfather would sometimes show people around the caves, and on many occasions my grandmother would also help. On one occasion, her group consisted of British air-servicemen stationed nearby during the war (the caves also played their own valuable part in the war, keeping people safe and also keeping important works of art hidden from the Germans), one of these airmen was my grandfather. My grandfather's words in his diary that evening were "today I met the girl of my dreams". They married not all that long afterwards.

It was a lovely weekend, but also quite an emotional one. Visiting the house where my mother was born, visiting my great-grandfather's grave and witnessing my grandparents revisiting the places where their life together began. Also for the first time realising my grandmother's great love for a country she left over 60 years ago was very humbling, and put my own experiences of missing home in balance. She left the country and the people she loved forever, for the man she loves, and I am grateful for the sacrifices that she made. My grandparents are incredible people, and remain a huge inspiration for many of us. I also feel very lucky to have such an interesting, varied and HUGE family! The 11 hour drive in both directions (listening to Roald Dahl on a loop again and again!) was definitely worth it!

Wednesday 16 June 2010


I noticed that S had pen all over his arm this morning. I then looked closer and noticed that it was obviously an attempt at something rather than a scribble. Anyone care to guess what time it was?

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Goodbye's and Miniscule or Minuscule?

Saying goodbye to my sister yesterday was incredibly hard. It's quite difficult sometimes when people leave, especially when you are missing out on a certain little person growing up so quickly, (he is adorable and I hope he saves some of his new things for next time we see him in a couple of months). Saying goodbye and missing people is all part and parcel of ex-pat life, but it reminds you just how much you miss the people closest to you. Incidentally Lucie, as a person known for her emotions, who even cries at adverts, I thought you did really well saying goodbye to the children!

On a separate note, over a year ago I discovered a lump in my boob. I don't think I will ever forget that split second of sheer panic and the sleepless nights that followed whilst I waited for the appointment to come through. The Consultant I saw in the UK was fantastic. Reassuring, calming and able to confirm that what I have is nothing to worry about (very luckily for me). I need to have a check up once a year though, so in my faltering (OK non-existent) Danish I approached a private hospital here to be given an appointment with a great Consultant who spent at least 45 minutes doing the most thorough ultrasound scans (I now know what arteries and lymph nodes look like). He was trying to find the English word for very small, he probably meant microscopic (he wasn't referring to my boobs by the way!), I suggested miniscule. Miniscule was apparently a word he had never heard of before and appeared to like the sound of it, repeating it several times and even asking me to spell it for him (then I was stuck, I couldn't remember whether it was miniscule or minuscule so told him it was the first). It amused me to think that i had taught someone that intelligent a new word, (albeit an English one and possibly the wrong spelling of it)and what amused me even more was that this morning I received his summary letter - miniscule appears twice!

The rain is back. I am making an appointment for the summer tyres to go back in the garage...

Saturday 5 June 2010

New Arrivals...

1. My sister, her partner and baby. They arrived on Tuesday night and we have had a great few days catching up, visiting places and fussing over the baby... The last time they were here it was late Autumn and she was pregnant, so far I think the baby is enjoying his first trip abroad. His cousins are loving having him here, as are we.

2. The Sun, it's finally here and we have had a great few days being out and about, making the most of the glorious weather, hence the reason I have been a bit quiet here.

3. Mosquito's, lots of them (see there is a downside to the warm weather which no doubt helped them to hatch out). Our beautiful woodland stroll yesterday turned into a frantic run, with what seemed like a cloud of them chasing us until we got to the safety of the Lake where they finally left us alone (they don't appear to like moving water). Running whilst having a laughing fit is quite difficult, and I am not known for my running ability anyway. I thought we were safe until I looked down at my daughter who had a sizeable beast hanging from the middle of her forehead, fat with blood. I haven't seen them that size before, not even in Asia. Will be stocking up on citronella candles as soon as, this weather could end soon and I am not having a few insects spoiling the beautiful evening sunshine... Speaking of which, the light evenings are taking some getting used to. It doesn't get really really dark until way past 11pm. Strangely enough I quite miss the dark evenings, if only for the reason that my children go to sleep at a normal time when it's pitch black outside.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Butternut Squash...

Last weekend we had a trip to Sweden. We drove across the Oresund bridge and spent the day exploring Malmö, wandering around the old squares and then a quick stop for lunch - real Swedish Meatballs (and mashed potato and lingonberry jam - not from Ikea either!) Then we spent a very exciting afternoon in the supermarket. It was a real novelty to have a big choice of products to choose from again, with the additional plus that it's quite a lot cheaper than Denmark, so worth the occasional jaunt. One of the things I coveted was a Mas Pumpa (sounds like a description of my son in the morning!), aka a butternut squash. Strange the things you miss, but this is indeed one of them! You can get them here, I saw them once in Magasin once (owned by Selfridges, need I say more?) but they are few and far between. This particular Mas Pumpa has been roasted and is on it's way to becoming butternut squash soup for my sister and her partner who are due to arrive any second for a week's visit (Cut a medium/large butternut squash in half, de-seed it, dot with butter and salt and pepper and roast for an hour. Add 350g new potatoes to 2 pints of vegetable stock and simmer until tender. Allow squash to cool, add scooped out flesh to stock and potatoes. Puree, stir in 100ml single cream, heat through & serve!). I can't wait to see them, they haven't been for seven months and this time they are bringing their new addition (hence the reason it's been seven months)! My only hope is that the weather cheers up for them. I am going to get the winter tyres taken off (the car, not me unfortunately - how I wish life was that simple!) on Friday, but I am beginning to wonder if there is much point. Will post again when I get the chance...
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