Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Winter Weather Wear

From what I can understand, we won't see as much snow here as we are used to back home. However, I noticed in the last couple of weeks that snow suits -the one piece ones used for snowmobiling- were showing up in the stores, so it seems that something like that will be necessary for the kids. I brought along the one pair of snow pants we had in the correct size from home; ones that weren't too puffy but were more like ski pants, and figured we'd find another pair somewhere if we needed it. I was a bit surprised by the snow suits in the stores, though, as I had thought it wouldn't be weather that necessitated these. I was thinking it would be cold and slushy, but not super cold here. Turns out, though, that we were able to find two of these one-piece snow suits that look almost brand new at the recycle shops here in town. We got one at each of the recycle shops this week; the only ones there, and they were the size we needed. What luck! They both say size 116-120, or 6yrs, but they are quite different in actual physical size. That worked out well, since Anders is still bigger than Torben is.
They had fun trying them on yesterday when they got home from school. I'm not sure why they decided to pick up the weights as well, but it made for a fun picture. I'm glad we were able to find these that will keep them warm when they are playing outside this winter. I wasn't quite sure how the rain suits were going to work over warmer clothes. It would be great if they will still fit next year -but I'm not holding my breath for that.

I don't remember if I brought along snow pants for Svea. We did buy her a pair of rain pants, which she wore once. She seems to prefer to have her blanket on in the stroller instead. I never thought, when I ordered the grey and purple carseat canopy, that we'd still be using it long after she had outgrown the bucket car seat! But she loves it as a lap blanket and it's a perfect size for her. I am pretty certain we are going to have to get bigger shoes for her while we're here. I brought along several pair of bigger sizes than she was wearing when we came, and she's already wearing all of them. We've had to put three pair away because they are two small. Probably, though, although she loves wearing my clogs, they are a bit too big still. She looks like such a big kid in this picture! I can't believe how fast she is growing up.
 These are her favourite shoes, and they go with everything. Usually she takes them off as soon as we come in the front door, but for some reason she decided to keep them on while giving her babies a ride in the stroller.

It's not winter weather here yet, but it's definitely fall -at least in the mornings. This morning when we took the kids to school, it was super foggy and the boys kept saying they couldn't see anything, and asking how we were going to manage walking to school if we couldn't see. My hair was damp from the fog and mist by the time I got back home. And I noticed on the bank sign that the temperature was 6. Low 40s is chilly for a morning walk, but it was quite nice. By the afternoon it will probably be close to 20 or so, and I will need to switch out my sweater for a cooler shirt.

We frequently all walk together to take the boys to school in the morning. Someone this morning mentioned how we make lots of people smile when they see all of us walking together. I guess it's not typical for the entire family to walk the kids to school. Generally, at the boys' school, the parents do bring the kids every day and pick them up, but it's usually just one parent, and not typically both parents and the baby. I enjoy it, though. I think it's nice for our whole family to walk together when we can. We'll see how that works out when it starts raining sleet and ice in a few months and it's dark all day...

Monday, September 28, 2015

Seventh Weekend

Already our seventh weekend here! How fast the time goes. It was again an absolutely beautiful weekend, and we decided to go on an adventure. On Saturday we all struggled into the car (it really is a feat to get us all buckled in! I often end up with small bruises on my hands, trying to get the seat belts buckled) and headed south -Jeff the only one who knew where we were going. It was about an hour drive and we ended up at Møgeltønder -a very old, very touristy Danish town that was, when we arrived, overtaken by a large bicycle race! Jeff hadn't known that bit about the adventure before we left, but it made for some interesting stops and starts in the car while we had to pull to the side to let a group of racers past, and then go for a short bit until the next group came along. Svea, it turns out, gets car sick, so that made the adventure even more fun...she was quite upset that her clothes were dirty, but we couldn't do anything to fix the problem until we parked the car. It should have been just a couple of kilometers, but it took a very long time to get to the parking lot. Thankfully, with three car seats across the back seat of the car, none of the mess actually gets on the seats! It's pretty tight in there, so only her clothes were messy. And, I had brought a couple pairs of extras for her, so she got changed into clean clothes in the parking lot, we wiped out her car seat, and we were ready to head onto the street to see what the town had to offer. When we first arrived, we noticed many people sitting in chairs along the sides of the road, with blankets and coffee. It looked like they were waiting for a parade.
 Turns out, in a manner of speaking, that they were waiting for a parade. These bicyclists were going incredibly fast, and the noise their wheels made on the cobbelstone street was very loud. At first, Svea was quite scared by it and by how fast they came up and passed us. By the end of our time here, though, she was clapping for each rider that came by.
At least one of the riders in this race was in the Tour de France recently, so it was a for-real race. They were going in circles somehow, because every few minutes they would come by again. It was really quite neat to watch.

During the lulls in the race, we walked along the street and just looked at all the cool old houses and buildings. The boys and I went into a little boutique full of soaps and jams and other odds and ends, and we stopped by a small cafe to take a look as well.
Inside this little cafe, it was like time had stopped many years ago. The tables -all empty- were covered with old linens that surely were handmade by someone's grandmother in years gone by. We saw the owner come out of the small back kitchen with a tray of cakes and coffees, and he went outside and around the side of the building. In the garden, were a half-dozen small tables. Ah! That is where the patrons were dining. Of course, it was a beautiful day outside and it was perfect for sitting outside sipping on a kaffe and watching the race, engaging in meaningful conversation with your family and friends at the same time.

We kept walking, passing all sorts of beautiful houses and buildings.

 This one would be difficult to get too many groceries into on a rainy day! I imagine I would only buy a few things at a time if this was how my front door was.

The kids and I were getting hungry about this time, so we started our walk back to the car on the opposite side of the road and stopped in another little antique shop with a cafe. The antique store was not really a place for children, but while Anders and Jeff looked around for a toilet, Torben and Svea and I smelled several of the fancy soaps that were out on display. There were also multitudes of ceramic and glass drawer pulls, fancy wrought iron wall hooks -things you might find in Anthropologie- alongside wool blankets and all sorts of old treasures. I would have loved to spend more time just wandering in there looking at all of the trinkets and baubles. But, the children would not have loved such an adventure. So, we found our way to the ice cream freezer, where the boys each picked out an ice cream sandwich, and Jeff ordered a cappuccino for me. The woman asked where we were sitting -I was thinking to take it with me as we walked- and finally settled on, out there by the road. We would find a place to sit, I guess! It is different from America; here you get a coffee for the experience of sitting and enjoying it, rather than drinking it as you walk to somewhere else. We finally found the toilets, which were out a side door of the antique store. When you walked through that door, you came to a beautiful little courtyard with small garden tables. I imagine when there is not something going on outside in the street, this is where people would sit to enjoy their coffee and conversation.

We wound our way back out to the street so the kids could eat their ice cream and I could wait for my cappuccino. We found three chairs on the edge of the road that were unoccupied, so that seemed a good place to stop for a few minutes and watch the race. I wish Jeff could have been in this picture with us -it's a fun one.
 This was a delightful cup of cappuccino! The presentation is almost as important as the coffee itself, and this did not disappoint. It invites you to sit down and savour, rather than gulp as you try to walk down the sidewalk pushing a stroller and keeping your kids from running into the street. I see why the woman asked where we were sitting. This cappuccino is meant to be enjoyed. And the best way to do that is to sit down and sip -sharing sips with the kids of course.

Svea quite enjoyed the coffee, and kept asking for more! Thankfully her drinks are small. The boys didn't like it quite as well, which turned out ok for me since I got to drink the majority of it myself.

When our coffee break was done, we continued walking down the street until we came to the castle, complete with a moat and a bridge! This is one of the reasons this town is so famous. The castle belonged to Queen Margrethe II, and the boys recognized the insignia on the gates right away.

Around 1995 or so, the Queen gifted this piece of land to her son, who wished to become a farmer. The outside of castle gate has the year 1995 etched into the stone, with a slightly different insignia.

It's interesting that if you widen the zoom of the camera, you get a picture of one of the interior buildings as well as this one, with about 300 years difference on the dates in the stone. The one on the left with the black roof has a date around 1695 or so. It was difficult to see much of that building, as there are very tall trees keeping the privacy of the castle.

 This is part of the moat surrounding the castle grounds, with very tall trees on the castle-side to keep things private. It was absolutely beautiful.
 Coming up to the castle, you see the full view of the newer building, along with the bridge and the moat. Through the arched doorway you get to the gates. This seems to be the main entrance -though it is closed to visitors.
 Here, again, is the main gate of the castle.

After we finished at Møgeltønder, we got back in the car and (twenty minutes later) made our way to Rudbøl. I figured out pretty quickly where we were, but the kids didn't know anything more than that we were crossing over a bridge over a river again. It was gorgeous, and the weather was perfect for an outing!

Anders was the first of us to stand on the cement marker designating the border between Deutschland and Danmark.

There weren't many cars, so Jeff had them step back and forth between Germany and Denmark a few different times, to see how cool it was that this was the border between the countries. Torben was next.

We didn't get Svea to stand in the road (it didn't seem like a good idea), but we ran into a group of people, one of whom was from Michigan, and they asked us to take a photo of all of them on the marker, so then they returned the favour and took one of us at the marker as well.
I like that the sign welcoming us to Denmark is right in the photo as well, over my left shoulder.

We continued our walk a bit further, and saw all of the flags of Scandinavia -once you enter one Scandinavian country, you are entering them all -in solidarity. The Danish flag is at the center, and flies slightly higher than the others. It was nice that there was a steady wind so the flags were very visible for my photo!
We went back into the national park and headed back to our car.

This was kind of a neat map painted into the parking lot here.
The spot in the lower left, right by Torben's knee, is where we were.

We then got in the car and headed back into Germany to go to one of the border shops. It was quite interesting -almost all of the cars in the parking lot were from Denmark. It was a very small store, but a fun experience. We bought a couple frozen pizzas because by this time it was too late to make it back for dinner at the folk school.

On Sunday after brunch (the kids still don't quite get the concept of "brunch" -they eat breakfast, then brunch, then want lunch, and then dinner -with a few snacks in between!) we went on a walk to look for chestnuts. We found quite a few beautiful ones!

Then, we picked some apples out in the garden. Anders sort of fell from the tree and got a large scratch on his stomach, but other than that they had a lot of fun. The apples we picked are best for cider, so we are going to try to figure out how to use the cider press in the garage.
This one is the smallest apples I have ever seen. Right next to it is a bottle cap...

While Svea slept, Jeff had some work to do for a talk he had to give this week, so the boys and I went for another walk to see what kinds of beautiful things we could find in nature. This one is such a vibrant shade of green where most of the rest were already turning brown.
 We found quite a few of these, some white, some greenish, and some various shades of brown. They look like acorns, but they don't have the tops of an acorn, and instead are enclosed in a type of leaf-skin with spikes around it.
 When we got home, we put all of our nature pieces on a baking sheet and put them in a pan to heat up and make sure we wouldn't get any bugs in the house. We are going to do some sort of art project with the pieces. The boys are very excited about it.

And with that, our weekend came to a close. I look forward to another exciting week ahead.

Felting Crafts

Thursday evening of last week, they had open studio night in both the yarn studio and the ceramics studio. Jeff put the kids to bed so I could go to the open night at the yarn studio -hoping that there was enough visual examples for me to understand what was going on in the instructions even when I couldn't understand the words of explanation. It was a really fun time.

Not sure what I will use this piece for...perhaps I will hang it up somewhere. The two pearls were fun to make also -I am hoping I can make some more while we are here so I can make a bracelet out of them. The instructor was impressed with how well I made them, and even showed one of the students as an example. It was quite an interesting processes. We started out with 10g of sheep's wool and then carefully pulled it apart and laid about half of it in a square about 30cm across.
Then we laid the other half a 90-degree turn across, making a cross-hatched layer. This would form the base of the project. I didn't do mine quite right, I don't think, so in some spots it was quite thin. I had to be careful later on to make sure I didn't get holes in it.

Next, we chose wool in other colours to create a pattern. I think we were maybe supposed to make a face, but I couldn't completely understand the directions so I made a design instead.

At this point, it is still about 30cm on each side, but will get smaller as the wool gets pulled together in the next process. We cover it with warm water with soap in it, and then put a piece of plastic over the top and rolled it over a piece of foam or large dowel, and just rolled it back and forth, pressing hard on it, for about 5 minutes. Every once in a while, we were to unwrap it and roll it again at a 90-degree turn. We made sure to have warm water and soap on it, to help the fibers bind together. Once we had it in a solid-enough form to pick it up in one piece, we placed it in a pot of hot soapy water and then picked it up and threw it on the table many times. This process of throwing it on the table and picking it up and wadding it together, adding more soap and warm water, and doing it all over again helps to bind the fibers together. It was really quite a cool process.

Then when it was fully formed, we rinsed out all the soap and then dipped it in vinegar to set the colours, and laid it out to dry. Pretty cool. For the pearls, I made a small ball of wool by wrapping it around itself, then dipped it in the pot of hot soapy water to saturate it, and then carefully rolled it in my hands to form a ball. When it was sort of solid, I moved it over to a rubber mat and rolled it again by pressing very hard to get the wool to form a solid ball. It started out almost the size of a golf ball, and ended up the size of a marble. So, the wool definitely condenses together during this process!

The kids had four birthday parties at school this past week -the middle of September is a busy time for birthdays! For two of them, they went to the house of the kids for lunch. This was fun for them, and they got to play with the kids' toys, and play outside in the yard for a while too. On Friday, the other set of twins turned 3 so they had a birthday party at the school for them.

It hasn't been raining as much as I expected -I suppose that's still coming since it's early fall still- but it has rained enough that there are lots of rainbows. Often, there is a double rainbow. It's sort of visible in this picture, though the lower one is much clearer. They are always very bright and you can easily see all of the colours.

It's amazing to me how fast Svea is growing up. Here she is eating choco-rice cereal with a big-kid spoon, and looks like a big kid, not a baby anymore.
 This sky here just fascinates me. In this photo, which is pretty typical of what we see often, there are black clouds, grey clouds, white clouds, and blue sky. About a minute and a half later it started pouring on us, on our walk to the school to get the boys. By the time we picked them up, it was back to sunny blue skies again, with no rain in sight.
 This is the church closest to where we are living. It's so pretty how the sun reflects off the white stone, almost making it glow.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Running Sushi

I went out to eat at a restaurant for the first time since being in Denmark. Six women went to a Running Sushi place about a half-hour from here. I'm not a huge fish person, though I do eat it, so I was a bit nervous about going for sushi. But, it seemed like an excellent idea to accept the invitation to go with some others my age and have a fun mom's night out. It really was! The advantage of "running sushi" is that you sit next to a conveyor belt that brings a train of small bowls around the restaurant -hot dishes on the top rail, cold dishes on the bottom- and you just open the little window and take what you want as it passes your table. So, you get to pick and choose, and if something isn't quite what you hoped for, it's a small serving and you can pick something else next. Also, another benefit is that they take away the empty bowls that you stack at the end of your table, so no one really knows how much you're eating. There were six of us, so there were many many bowls all over the table all the time. Most of it was very delicious! I ate until I was full, but not stuffed, and that seemed like a good option. There were typical sushi dishes with rice and fish wrapped with seaweed, small skewers of teriyaki vegetables, many sorts of fried egg-roll or won-ton type dishes, fruits, fried rice, spicy soups, skewers of cooked meats wrapped in bacon, edamame, crusted and fried shrimp and prawns, octopus, and several desserts -our favourites were the chocolate pudding, cheesecake, and tiramisu. We tried not to keep count of how many of these we ate...but there were more than 20 eaten by the table. So. It was a fantastic time of being together with new friends, laughing and telling stories. Approximately half of the conversation was in English, and I could follow some of what was in Danish as well. One of them is an English teacher, so she was doing her best trying to help me learn some Danish while we were there. They were all impressed when I laughed appropriately at an ironic statement made in Danish "see? you understood that even though it was all in Danish!" -yes, context is everything.

Before we left home, I bought the kids new colouring books to bring with us, and decided to buy myself a grownup one too. I finally -6 weeks in to our adventure- finished the first mandala in the book!

At this rate, I will get through about 1/3 of the book before we go home! It's fun, though. The boys each decided that they want to choose the colours for the next ones I do, and tell me which spaces in the picture to colour with which colours. They aren't allowed to colour in my book, but, they think it's fun to get to pick the colours. And they often say "Mommy, work on mine next!"

They also have started saying "Mommy, can I watch you knit my scarf?" I think that is kind of fun too. They are learning some of the fine arts -or at least they are learning to appreciate them. There are several sets of knitting needles at the recycle shop...I'm not sure if they are old enough yet to learn how to do it, but maybe I will see if they want to try it out. When we buy the materials at the recycle shop, it's a pretty inexpensive hobby!

After lunch, Svea's new friend Mira came over to play for a couple of hours. She is not quite 1 yet, and the two girls had a lot of fun playing together. For a while, they just sat and giggled back and forth, and then decided it would be fun to stand up holding on to the radiator (it wasn't on) and jump up and down while giggling. They had a great time! They pulled out all of the small-child toys, too, and made a complete disaster of the living room.
It is getting colder out, now, so Svea isn't quite so averse to wearing socks and shoes. Today she tried out her new boots to go with her outfit. It was pretty funny watching her walk and march around, getting the feel of walking in them.

When I arrived to pick the boys up from school, they were again dressed head-to-toe in their rain suits covered in mud. It just looks like they are having such a great time when they are that dirty! Like kids are supposed to be. Anders asked me to take a video of him going down the slide, and also to take some photos of him swinging on the swing in a circle.
Torben was having fun playing with some other children in the dirt and rocks with trucks. It was about ten minutes before he acknowledged that I was there -he was having such a fun time.

It's getting darker much earlier now, and getting light later in the morning. Already we are finding it hard to get out of bed to get ready for school. I know we've got a long way to go until Spring comes again, so we're going to need to figure out some ways to get up and moving! Even though I love the rain and the cool weather, it's hard sometimes to get up knowing that in not too many minutes we have a wet and chilly walk ahead of us!