Thursday 31 March 2011

A Surreal Flea

I think I have spoken about my obsession with "junk" from other countries before, and hallelujah, it's Loppemarked time again! I made the most of having a child and husband free afternoon to explore one of the biggest markets in Denmark, at the Bella Center (after Brunch the other day!). Believe me, going by myself is the stress free alternative to having to constantly listen to "I'm hungry", and "I need the toilet", when you are trying to look for treasure (and the children are just as bad!)... Luckily a couple of others decided to join me on the journey there, as I think I would have ended up in Sweden otherwise, but in retrospect it's actually very easy to get to. The Bella Center is quite a strange looking building, I know conference centres aren't known for their style and grace, but the inside reminded me of a giant Scout Hut (not that I have been in many you understand), and it's next door to an even stranger looking hotel! I have also come to the conclusion that I prefer the smaller private Loppemarkeds, as you get much more interesting stuff from private vendors at a much cheaper price, but it was interesting to have a rummage through the hundreds of stalls all the same.

I am not sure if it was just me (it probably was), but I actually found my afternoon at this particular market quite surreal, let the following pictures help illustrate this for you...

If you have a penchant for staring at stuffed birds in a melancholy fashion, then this market was the place for you.

If you are looking for a special gift for the couple that have everything, then you missed the opportunity this time I'm afraid, I think someone actually bought this.

If you specifically wanted to buy a stuffed owl "in flight" (perhaps for the Labyrinth fan amongst your friends) from two sisters having an attic clear out (and who must clearly live in a fascinating house), then I suppose they might be there next time if you are lucky....

These were not the only strange scenes I witnessed, just look at this poor man...

This is obviously a desperate cry for help (although the sceptic in me believes that this (along with placing himself under the giant knife and fork) was a deliberate ploy to being told to "just leave, and go to the pub". I didn't see him again (and he was quite hard to miss), perhaps it worked!)?

There were a couple of items I did see that I loved though, how cute are these?

I nearly bought them, but they were a) extortionate and b) I thought that the wooden floors in our rented house wouldn't thank me very much!

I did however buy this, from a very lovely man who explained that the artist's son is a now a famous stunt man. Each side depicts a season and I really like it (my children are not sure about it though, apparently because it has "nakeds" on it!)! If you fancy visiting a flea market should you be in the vicinity, have a look here, you should be able to find one to go to!

Monday 28 March 2011

Les Gourmands

Is what we have been this past weekend, and I currently feel like Augustus Gloop (or should that be Augusta?)... It started on Friday evening with a trip to the Argentinian Wine Bar Tango Y Vinos, just around the corner from Nyhavn. Here a big group of us partook in more than our fair share of excellent Argentinian wines and sumptuous tapas, served to us by the enthusiastic owner Daniel (who is ever so good at his job as purveyor of fine Argentinian wines, although I am not sure we needed that much encouragement to try a wide selection anyway...)! We didn't see any Tango-ing going on, (although I am reliably informed there usually is some) but that could have been because we left too early. We had to get home to relieve our lovely babysitter who was going to a party at 12 o'clock that same night - oh to be young again!...

Saturday meant for the first time in a couple of years I watched The Boat Race. Not at our usual location, The Ship in Mortlake (which is right by the finishing line), but at our friends house in Svanemøllen. As is normally the case, it was more of an excuse to get together than about The Boat Race itself, but it was nice to see London and that murky river in any event, even if it was just on screen! Another friend who takes this particular sporting event far more seriously than me (and as a Cambridge supporter was bitterly disappointed by the end result!!) made some delicious chocolate and orange cupcakes in the Oxford and Cambridge colours of dark and light blue. These cakes went on to cause much merriment later on when the Oxford colours stained everyone's teeth and lips dark blue (especially to those of us that had chosen Cambridge cakes instead! Now I come to think of it, maybe that was part of her plan just in case Cambridge lost - revenge is sweet!)! (photo of offending cake courtesy of Georgia Smith, thank you!)

Yesterday morning, I was very kindly given a pass out for the day, and went for brunch at the cavernous Vietnamese style restaurant LêLê nhà hàng on Vesterbrogade. We have been here for dinner before which was good (but Danish spicy, i.e. not spicy at all - easily remedied with half a bottle of this however), but the brunch was excellent. Freshly steamed dim-sum, Vietnamese spring rolls, a really nice congee with fresh chilis and coriander on the side, stir fried rice and noodles dishes, alongside all the usual eggs, bacon, sausage, and croissants etc. just in case you are not feeling very adventurous! The only disappointment was the lack of char siu bao (pork buns) - advertised on the board outside but nowhere to be seen. I managed to overcame my distress at this at the excellent dessert table (chocolate fountain for breakfast anyone?)! I would highly recommend it, especially as it's a very reasonable 155DK, and even more especially if you were to go home afterwards and sleep it off for the rest of the day. I didn't, more on that later...!

(PS. Hello to my new followers, it's really nice to have you here! Welcome, and I do appreciate you all - Do I sound like Dame Edna?!)

Thursday 24 March 2011

A Weather Report...

Yesterday, for the first time in just over 4 months, the temperature reached the heady heights of 10°C! We sat in the garden soaking up the sun (well I sat, the children ran about wrecking the place) for well over an hour when we got back from school, and it felt fantastic! I am also happy to report that our uninvited guests haven't eaten the bulbs, and they are actually growing even though most of them were planted upside down (not by me)! I will post photos of those at a later date as they are still just green sprouts, but for now I will leave you with a picture of these, they are absolutely everywhere right now....

International Relations

As a first time Expat, I think the thing I initially found most unexpected about our time living in Denmark, is how much I expected to meet and interact with people from our host country, and how much we actually haven't.... It only took a couple of months to work out why, the Danes are very private people, choosing to socialise with a close network of friends (and family) they have had for years, rather than new people. The few Danes we have become friendly with have lived abroad themselves at some point, so know we don't bite!

Another thing I am not sure I appreciated before we came here was the wide variety of expats we would come across instead, both work-expats and "lifers"! It's so interesting observing different views on things depending on which country people come from. I guess my amateur cultural anthropology observations are based mainly on parenting, as it's the subject I have most exposure to on a daily basis with two small children at school. There is a huge variation in attitudes towards a lot of things here including play, food, clothing and education! For instance, Danish parents with young children in my daughter's class have very relaxed views on education. To them play is considered far more important initially as a means to becoming "socialised" (and the various forms of outdoor play are far more relaxed too - the Head of UK Health and Safety would spontaneously combust should they ever spend time scraping beneath the surface of some Danish playgrounds)!! The attitude is (refreshingly so in some cases, but definitely not in others!)that the children should be trusted more, and will learn what is safe and what's not... The parents of the Mediterranean children in the class also have more relaxed views when it comes to learning, the view there is that they are still babies really, and should enjoy themselves as much as possible (unless you bring home nits, then in all likelihood your mother is going to scrub you within an inch of your life and freeze all your clothes and toys in an effort to kill all the "horrible little creatures" - I felt so sorry for the poor mother in question, she was traumatised! All the children in the class actually got it deep in the heart of hat-wearing season, but the parents from other countries were considerably less phased), but they should take care when playing, no rough and tumble for them! The American, British and Asian parents take education at a young age a lot more seriously, and play is not considered as important at all, learning social skills should come later! I am not saying that people who don't take a greater interest in education at this stage are wrong of course, I just find it fascinating how we all have such different conceptions!

All in all I am very happy to report that international relations are mostly excellent, and it's not just the children learning new things about different cultures! It's great being part of an international community where we are all from such different backgrounds. Most refreshingly there's none of the competitive parenting I experienced at home, I found that so depressing - unless you were to open one of the fantastic global lunch boxes then that would be a different story!...

(photo courtesy of Sakurako Kitsa, click here to see more of her work!)...

Sunday 20 March 2011

A Sunday Gathering...

Silent Sunday

The Liebster Award

The lovely and very funny Mañana Mama (it took me ages to find out how to type the tilde above the N!) nominated me for this award recently, thank you so much!! It's nice to think that people do sometimes enjoy my witterings, and I am not just talking to myself (which is quite often situation normal in this household) and it was equally nice to be nominated by someone whose blog is also one of my favourites! I have started writing this post so many times as I am so indecisive (sorry it's taken me so long MM!), and it's taken me forever to whittle down a few of my favourite blogs (because I actually have hundreds), but to pass on the good will here are a few off my list!:-

1. The Syders, A beautiful blog from a mother of four with a passion for family, gardening and all things vintage!

2. Copenhagen Follies One of the first blogs I started reading before we moved here! A great read from an environmentalist mother of two beautiful boys! Check out their recent adventure to Morocco, it will bring out the wanderlust in you!

3. Don't Step on the Cracks A fairly new blog, but written honestly and very well! I always look forward to reading any new posts!

4. Hello It's Gemma Quite brilliant and inspiring posts from a working mum of the lovely Noo, film enthusiast, and brave restaurant with small child visitor (and fellow Waitrose lover...)!

5. Belgian Waffle The funniest blog I have yet to come across, from this Expat mum of two boys (and caretaker of the lovely and droopy tailed Weepette)...

If you feel inclined to do so, here are some recommendations on how to accept and spread the award, please don't feel obliged!:

1. Create a blog post about the award. Include the Liebster image and a link back to me.
2. Choose and notify 3-5 of your favourite bloggers to pass the award on to, with an eye towards bringing new or lesser-known bloggers to light.


Thursday 17 March 2011

Mr Blue Sky

Today's sky was gloomy and grey (and as I am about to post this it's actually snowing again!!), but yesterday morning we had a perfect sky of the most brilliant blue without a single cloud in it! The lack of really tall buildings here makes the sky seem big, I am sure I never really noticed it as much in London. I spent the morning constantly crossing the road to walk in the sun, it was great to feel its warmth (and hard not to walk into anything when the temptation to walk with my face sky-ward took me)... At the time I was searching for a present for a friend when I came across a shop selling this beautiful hand-printed Japanese paper. As I was about to place an order from my usual supplier in London (I need it for end-papers for a job I am working on), it saved me waiting for it to turn up! It obviously also made me think of Japan and the hell it's going through right now. We have donated money, but it just seems like such a small gesture, and I spent the rest of the morning resisting the stupid urge to hug every Japanese tourist that I saw, and tell them how sorry I was at what their country is going through.

On a much happier note, one of our visitors came to see us unusually bright and early this morning, maybe he's on nightshifts at the moment! He had better not be eating any bulbs...!

Monday 14 March 2011

Warming Up...

Time to pack those skates away until next winter perhaps?! It's more obvious in the top picture, but to the left of the bottom picture you can just about see the sheets of broken ice collecting at the side of the boardwalk. This morning was the first time I noticed that the birds are back at the lake in abundance, back from their winter breaks in warmer's definitely warming up!

I would also like to wish my Grandfather a very happy 90th Birthday today, a very respectable age indeed! I know he will be reading this at some point as he is actually more technically advanced than me! We hope you have a lovely day and sorry we can't be with you. xxx

Sunday 13 March 2011

Saturday 12 March 2011

Swimming in Denmark

We have just returned from a two-night last minute break to a Danish holiday park, to celebrate S's birthday. We have been to Center Parcs in the UK before, which the children love (and is perhaps slightly more "polished" in comparison!!), but they enjoyed this place just as much. We arrived in the middle of a storm which initially gave the place an air of a seaside caravan park in the dead of winter. Once inside our "chalet" however (which was thankfully warm, dry and quite cosy), we soon regained enough stamina to venture outside and make it over to the "sub-tropical swimming dome"! For those of you that haven't yet done so, there is something that you should probably be aware of before you enter a leisure complex in Scandinavia. I know that this something is small and laughably insubstantial to Scandinavian folk, this is the norm for them after all (they have very relaxed views about their bodies), but it is the stuff of nightmares to modest English folk like me (but not it appears to my husband or children)... Yes dear readers, this is the fact that you are expected to shower naked in full view of everyone else (although it is segretated) beforehand. Really! To those (usually English people, myself included) who have tried to avoid revealing an inch of flesh while getting changed on a beach (hopping about on one leg whilst desperately trying to keep a towel wrapped tightly around you), it comes as something of a shock the first time you visit a swimming pool here! The large signs give explicit instructions on the areas you must pay special attention to. You must not only wash your hair(on your head!), but give your under-arms and private areas a pretty good scrub before you are allowed into the pool (can you imagine the Daily Mail headlines?). Some pools even have attendants that watch to make sure you abide by the rules, can you imagine that job? You might therefore understand that Thursday is the first time ever in the past 18 months that we have lived here, that I have been swimming in this country. My children are used to swimming here (more on that in a moment!) and my daughter skipped happily into the shower area, stripped off and start washing whereas I reverted to my teenage stubborn self and stood glaring at the naked scrubbers (glaring at me for not being naked - I just couldn't bring myself to take my swimsuit off completely...!)! It's my friend's fault - she put me off, I was just beginning to get my head around the idea when she told me that she had seen the lady from the post office completely naked and had never been again! Anyway, once I had been through that test of endurance, it was a pleasant surprise to see how far my 4 year old has progressed with his Danish swimming lessons. As family members will testify, he used to be completely petrified of water, so it was worth any amount of public nakedness to see him happily splashing about and confidently doggy-paddling away. We spent the next couple of days relaxing as much as we could with this as the main point of entry to the children's bedroom , but in all seriousness it was really nice to spend some quality time together, and there is plenty on offer here to keep you occupied for a day or two.

On our way back we stopped off in Køge for lunch. I can't understand why we haven't been here before, with its beautiful coloured buildings and red bricked church and quirky little street statues, it's really lovely.
. We had a quick and very pleasant bite to eat at Det Franske Bistro with plates packed to the rafters with excellent rillete, sauscisson and stinky cheese, accompanied by a glass of wine ! My husband asked someone if they had filmed much of Matador here (think televised Danish Archer's), "yes, and it's really like that here you know" came the reply, "what small and picturesque?" asked my husband, "No - everyone really does know each other's business"...which made me laugh! On our way back to the car, we made the most of an opportune moment to get S's hair cut (half the price of CPH!). You can tell how much he enjoyed it, look: -

Wednesday 9 March 2011

King of the Pancakes...

When I took S into school this morning, I found out that he had actually been crowned Kattekong (King of the Cats) as the first person to smash the wooden barrel containing the sweets for Fastelavn (why is this not a suprise to me?)! As the King he is now the proud owner of this rather fetching crown, and it's a shame he didn't have it to wear this morning to eat these for his birthday breakfast (we might have helped him!)! Yes, we also had pancakes yesterday for Shrove Tuesday, but in our house tradition dictates that you choose your favourite meals for your birthday, so pancakes it was! His teacher told me this afternoon that they have a saying in Denmark that if it's sunny on your birthday you must have been good, and if it's raining, well then it's the opposite! She did say this with a smile on her face, but nevertheless it was raining at the time! I can't believe it's a whole year since he celebrated being three by cutting up sheeps lungs at The Experimentarium (I would like to go back to visit the Body Worlds exhibit that's currently there, but I think I will be going alone as it may well traumatise me let alone two small children!)! We are going to do something to celebrate together properly over the next day or so, as today he was determined to go into school to have a little party with his friends. Definitely no longer a baby, definitely the funniest child I know, happy fourth birthday to my very own King of the Pancakes! xxx

Monday 7 March 2011

Sunnyside up...

I started writing this at five o.clock this afternoon, when I suddenly noticed it was still light and sunny - spring is definitely in the air, and there are snowdrops in the garden too!!

We got back from the UK earlier, which is in a far more advanced state of spring, albeit noticeably colder than usual! We started off our trip home at my Mum's house, where after a quick welly boot shop for R, she immediately set out to see the "girls" and collect the eggs - there's nothing like a fresh egg for tea!
Then on to investigate the slightly frozen frogspawn in the village pond. Friday meant a trip to my grandparent's house (complete with a real fish and chip lunch - manna from heaven!), a well-needed haircut in the afternoon (thank you Uncle Chris!), and then time to catch up with my sister. Saturday we went back up to London for an important shopping trip for the Big Wedding in June, then on to my Dad's where we caught up with my other sister and gave my uber cute nephew his early birthday presents. Whilst Denmark celebrated Fastelavn yesterday, we rounded up our trip home with a big English sunday roast - perfect!

Today has been quite a long day. We watched the the sun rise at 6am this morning driving to Gatwick, as R and I began to make our way back to Copenhagen - it was beautiful, and made me smile even though I felt a little sad. I hate goodbyes at the best of times, especially protracted ones, and luckily my Dad's not great at them either. It was a case of stop the car, open the door, cases out, a quick hug and before we knew it waving him off into the distance! My emotions always manage to get the better of me as the plane takes off though, and pathetically I usually shed a little tear! It's a strange mixture of feelings, happiness at the time spent with people (but slight guilt about the fact I wasn't able to spend that much time with them this time), and happiness at the thought of going "home" (and seeing the boys who were left behind on this occasion, you should see the state of the house!), but also sadness at what we no longer have close by (family, friends and those wonderful wonderful supermarkets!), and total guilt about the people I didn't have time to see at all this time - sorry, don't hate me! I don't think R noticed my "watery eyes", (or if she did she wasn't that bothered) but I heard her say "bye bye, I love you" to the fields and buildings as they gradually got smaller and smaller beneath us (which naturally resulted in a couple more secret tears from me!)...

I will leave you with a picture of something else I also class as perfect, another type of egg that I managed to smuggle back in my case intact! It is highly doubtful they will last until Easter!

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Simple Pleasures

For me this is a real simple pleasure, as it's something that immediately transports me back - a true taste of home! I can't wait for our upcoming trip, first stop Waitrose and M&S to stock up on plenty more tastes of home to bring back and hoard!

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