Friday, 27 June 2014

It's farewell and thank you.

Seven years ago almost to this day I was contemplating our imminent move to Copenhagen. Today I write my last post for iScandineighbour, for tomorrow we journey on to Germany and a new beginning. It’s a mixed emotion so forgive me if it’s raw, the heartbreak of leaving is wound up in the newness and excitement of a fresh start.

I didn’t really wish to move to Denmark, it seemed cold and wet and I’d heard that the Danes were a tricky bunch to get to know. The relocation lady constantly assuring me that nine out of ten things were so 'hygge' that I shouldn't worry. Those first six months were hard core, new country, a seemingly impenetrable language and a never ending bout of hospital worthy tonsillitis that lingered through the wet Spring and the eight kilometres a day I trekked to get my eldest to his Børnehave and back. Regret was writ large in my mind but the route ‘home’ was unclear and so I persevered. 

Come summer, the friends I had made in my little town were also at our International school and the small community I had found in Holte became this ever welcoming network of friends from around the world that continues growing to this day. We settled in and the challenges became opportunities that in turn meant the strange was less strange, the Danish customs becoming comforting in their regularity.

We moved house again, to a house that became so much more than bricks and mortar. It was where I recuperated having nearly lost our third son during pregnancy and where we bought that newborn once he had made it safely into the world. It was the home that said “I do” when we married amongst family and friends in 2012. It was the home that saw endless summer’s of football matches and barbecues. The home that closed in during the winter months with it’s warm fire and abundant cinnamon buns. We loved going home.

What I love most about living here is that life is as simple as you need it to be. The food is so seasonal. How we celebrate when we see pea pods by the roadside and æbleskiver in the late Autumn. Family is revered. Celebrated with long brunches and walks through the dyrehaven on a Sunday. I have grown to respect that not everyone wants to nod their head as we pass on a stroll, sometimes I don’t want to either but when we do it’s genuine. I love that I don’t have to smile cheerily at the checkout crew that do their best to squash my newly purchased goods but I also love meeting the ones that have become friendly and happily chat with them as I pass through. I love the city too, it’s so beautiful and has changed so much in the time we have been here. The days when I have chance to take a walk through the streets to visit my favourite art shops fill me with a pleasure that I hadn’t realised I was without.

I cannot say that the last seven years have been full of cherry blossom and sunshine, it has been seven years and life carries on regardless of where we might happen to be living. Last year was particularly torturous and I retreated from the world as I let myself recover from the attacks on my body from the food that was meant to nourish me and the medicine that was meant to heal. It was during these months that I really discovered what Denmark meant to me, when all that I had embraced previously came back ten fold to reassure and encourage my cautious return. There is something so restorative about taking a walk along the coast here and my dog and I took so much pleasure from walking through the sands gazing out at the horizon whatever the weather. Whilst so gratefully supported by the precious friendships that were like rocks in that sea, guiding me back to the shore, unfailingly solid in their care.

When I had a farewell lunch a couple of weeks back I was just completely overwhelmed by how many wonderful friends had come along to wish little old me goodbye. I was so touched in fact that when I wanted to say some words of thank’s I could only mumble a couple. 

What I wanted to say was this....

“Thank you to everyone I have met along the way, I feel humbled to have spent time with such a varied, globally inspiring group of people. The experiences I have shared, both with pleasure and sometimes with pain, have taught me so much more about who I am and how I can be myself within this global society that we have embraced. I do feel that I have grown up among you and that I can leave this precious chapter with the strength of so many good people behind me. The conversations, emails and messages that I have been so fortunate to have received recently will stay with me forever. Thank you” 

I will never feel anything but fortunate to have had the opportunity to live here. I hope one day I can return. Not because I worked out the true definition of the word ‘Hygge’ but because I can see and feel it as I bring up my children in Copenhagen and because much to my surprise I really did find my home here amongst the Danes.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

I 'Heart' Paper Lighting

In all the time we have been in our house the one thing that we haven't ever really tackled were our hardly bright enough, light fittings. We have lurched from one Ikea lamp to another, always complaining about the house being too dark, especially during the endless winters, yet never feeling decisive enough to invest in a stunning Danish design icon to hang in the window. Mostly because we still live with the "what if the children damage it with a Nerf/football/marble/elbow/conker" etc etc but also because it has taken me a while to feel confident enough to embrace my own style. Thanks to my Pinterest addiction and a general absorption of Danish design I am very happily trailing my way through the auction houses and second hand websites in my search for furniture that not only fits our lives but that tells a story too.

Yet the lights remain a problem. I haven't yet bought any second hand lighting, the thought of rewiring puts me off purchasing too good of a bargain. So this week feeling in need of a creative challenge to distract me from the school holiday's I set about recycling a very standard Ikea paper globe shade.

All it took was one old book, a left over from the Paper Flower Wreath. A fully loaded hot glue gun and a large heart punch that I had ordered to use for my wedding decorations. The rest was simple really and just took a little patience on my behalf and perhaps slightly more from the boys. They actually helped too, taking it in turns to punch out the pages from the book as and when we ran out.

The boys and I were so excited by the finished product, we all totally love it and had to take it in turns to switch it on and off. It looks ever so slightly reminiscent of the iconic Danish PH Artichoke but done completely in our own way with our own story. In fact we loved it so much that the very next day we turned the hearts upside down and covered our very dilapidated corner lamp too.

There is just one dimly lit problem to our new lighting art works, they are indeed more work of art than lighting. We still need new light fittings in order for us to be able to appreciate the now beautiful old ones.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Elderflower Cordial from Forest and Garden

The summer holiday's are now well under way and we have a new addition to our family. She is called Mathilde and she is an Old English Sheepdog who, at the time of writing, is just nine weeks old. All very sweet, cuddly and amazing with her besotted older brothers but not exactly the best addition to a houseful of boy energy at the start of the summer holidays. Only because she cannot come with us to the Zoo or because when we took her for a walk in the forest last week we literally had to carry her back. So we try to make adventures a little closer to home.

We planned to make Elderflower cordial and needed to gather flowers from the forest in order to do so. I find that any adventure involving a knife and a reason to climb tree's is a draw for the boys and we set off with great enthusiasm and a mission to collect forty flower heads. We quickly realised that actually a forest is not a great location to pick the flowers as they need sunlight to grow and in a dense canopy this meant they were mostly out of reach at the top of the trees despite our heroic efforts. Thankfully, we were making in tandem with a friend who happily realised that she had the perfect tree right there in her very own back garden, so we topped off our foraging treasures with some even better flowers from her garden.

We used a very straightforward  recipe from Trine Hahneman's Scandinavian Christmas. There are a few recipes in the book for Christmas that can only be made in advance using seasonal products at their very best earlier in the year and Elderflower Cordial is one of them. Having made a few of the recipes over the Christmas season very successfully I really recommend this book as a perfect introduction to the heart of Danish cooking.

The flower heads were checked for bugs and debris then added to a bowl with sliced lemon, citric acid and two litres of sugar syrup. I will gloss over exactly how much sugar but let's just say we brush our teeth very well afterwards. I am not a very patient cook and despite the recipe needing four days to steep I have to admit to giving up after two. I hope that we did not miss a vital stage of the process but we think the cordial tastes amazing just the way it is.

There is a bottle in the freezer waiting to be added to Champagne at Christmas as per the recipe book but I suspect that the rest will disappear pretty quickly. In fact the very next day we started on batch number two because it was so delicious. There are also four jars of strawberry and elderflower jam in the dresser curtesy of a trip up to the Pick Your Own fruit farm at Vejborggaard.

We will be making a lot more trips into the forest as the summer roll's on, there are raspberries to be collected, cherries and blackberries too. We just hope that puppy can manage the whole walk on her own soon!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Til Tops

One of the great things about the children growing up is that the scope for family friendly activity increases. We are nappy free, nap free and for the time being, puppy free and no longer are we confined to the local soft play centre when we need an opportunity to let off some organised steam. When my husband's birthday arrived a couple of weeks ago I took a leap of faith and booked an adventurous day out for the whole family to enjoy together.

Til Tops had been recommended to me by two dear friends who both thought it brilliant and we really could not have had a better time.  Built upon an unused golf course, Til Tops is home to four adventure trails that take visitors through the tree canopies on various activities. The yellow course is entirely suitable for little ones, our three year old couldn't wait to have a turn and would have happily been entertained all day had we not been the support party for the taller and more adventurous members of our group. They focused on the green and blue trails which are higher and higher still through the trees. Unfortunately my ten year old wasn't tall enough by just a couple of centimetres for the red trail so we didn't get to try the 150 metre zip line that lies across the vast lawn. He is now hoping for a growth spurt by the end of the summer.

Before starting, one of the instructors help's you climb into your harness and lead's you through the practise course so that you feel comfortable with the equipment. They are very friendly and English is absolutely not a problem. This is invaluable, especially for impatient boys and they will not let you on the high climbs without knowing you can work the harness correctly. Once comfortable we set off on the green trail which is set between two and four metres above the ground. No two activities are the same on the trail aside from the zip lines because a zip line is a zip line and they could never get boring!

It was high and before booking you should check that your child meets the age and height requirements. Things look very different when you're up high and the confidence that seems so great on the ground can feel very different six metres up.

Booking is done online and is a straight forward process. I booked the day before but I am sure that during the summer months they will be a lot busier so it's probably best to book ahead.

There is a cafe on site that serves tea, coffee and cold refreshments. It is great and very nicely run. Situated just outside Hornbeck it only took us half an hour to drive there from where we live just north of Copenhagen. 

We got incredibly lucky with the weather and spent four very content hours climbing and supporting each other in the beautiful sunshine. The boys loved their day out with Pappa and Pappa overcame his fear of heights, thankfully. We will return, I just hope dogs are welcome...