Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Catching Up

It's funny how a change in routine makes it so everything is much more difficult to accomplish. Having all three kids home all day, when I didn't get a chance to write the blog in the morning, meant that it didn't happen at all, because I wasn't in the routine of writing it at night so when night came around I just didn't feel like it. Therefore, it's been three weeks now! Sigh. We have had a fun winter vacation, though, and I will try my best to recapture the highlights for our memory book.

Over our nineteenth weekend here, all of the fall students at the folk school finished their semester and went home. Within a couple of hours of them leaving, the place felt very empty. Even though it's winter and there weren't people milling about outside most of the time anyway, somehow the absence was palpable. Saturday afternoon, December 19, was the Julefrokost for all of the teachers and their spouses and no one but Mads knew where we were going. All we were told was to show up at 1:30pm and we'd be home between 9:30 and 10:00pm. There was a lot of curiosity about whether it was going to be a dinner at someplace far away, or if it was going to be close and we'd just have a lot of activities. It turned out that we went to a castle in Gram -about 7 miles away- and we had coffee and cake, then a tour of the old farm and castle, then a singing time where several of the teachers talked about favourite songs from the blue song book and we sang them, and then there was a wine tasting, and then the traditional Danish Christmas meal of duck, and many types of fish. We had such a nice time! It was a long afternoon, but it went by quickly and it was fun to get out and see something new. The kids stayed at home with the headmaster's daughter, and they had a fun time as well. The next day the boys asked if she could come back again sometime, so that's always good to hear. We so rarely hire babysitters, it was a bit of a shock to think of spending 1000Kr to have someone watch the kids for the day, but, it was well worth it. They had a lot more fun at home than they would have touring the farm (plus, they weren't invited) and we got to eat our dinner slowly and enjoy it.

I was asked to read part of Luke 2 for church on the last Sunday of Advent, so we went that day. It was the first time we'd attempted to go to church here. All three kids had a hard time sitting still, and Jeff ended up taking Svea outside because she was being quite loud. The reading went well. My voice sounded a bit like I was crying (I wasn't) and people thought it was very special that I was so moved reading the story of the shepherds. After church, we were invited to a coffee time at the pastor's residence. That was a fun time, and we danced around the Christmas tree in typical Danish tradition. Torben chose not to participate in that part, but the rest of us had fun!

We tried out the automatic timer on the camera to get a picture of all five of us. Svea wasn't very excited about it, until I started holding her while I set the timer, and then saying "quick! quick!" as we ran across the living room to get into the picture before the shutter went. Then she thought it was a great game, and wanted it to continue all evening! She still will say "quick! quick! picture!" when she decides we should get the camera out, and she'll get the wooden stool from the kitchen and pull it up in front of the pocket doors, and sit down, waiting for us to take her picture.

On Christmas Eve we also made an attempt to go to the church down the street. We first tried the 2:30pm service, but on Christmas and Easter the church is packed, and there wasn't enough room for us when we got there. So we went home, put Svea down for a nap, and went back to the 4:00 service. We were early to that one, and got a spot easily enough, and the kids sat very well waiting for it to start. Then Svea made it about ten minutes into the service before she started screaming, so she and I went home to work on supper and Jeff and the boys stayed for the rest of the half-hour service.

We set the table "fancy" for Christmas Eve, with cute little red napkins with Nisse rings around them. We also had an abundance of candles in glass jars, to try to make it festive. Anders asked several times why we were having a fancy dinner -especially when the ham took longer than we expected and we didn't eat until almost 7pm.
 We made green beans with almonds that were very good. They don't sell cream of mushroom soup here, so there was no option for green bean casserole (or, at least, not one I cared to look up a complicated recipe to make), but these looked very pretty and the kids all like them.
 We decided while we were cooking one ham, we may as well make two so we had some leftovers. They were delicious, and made for great scrambled eggs leftover as well!
 When we were at Bilka before Thanksgiving, we found sweet potatoes and American marshmallows, so I made sweet potatoes also. I think Svea and I ate most of them. Somehow, the marshmallows got crunchy instead of squishy, and they were really good!
 I'm not usually the mashed potato maker, and I managed to mess them up. I was trying to plan ahead, and I cooked them early in the day. Then I forgot to drain them, so they sat soaking up water for too long. (I cooked the sweet potatoes early in the day too, but remembered to drain them so they were perfectly fine). Then when I went to mash them, they were really gummy and the masher didn't seem to be helping, so I pulled out the beaters. Oops. That made them worse! We tried adding lots of butter and cream, but they just kept sinking farther and farther into the realm of paste. The taste was really good, but the texture was very off. Jeff did a quick internet search for "save my mashed potatoes" and found instructions for baking them with a bit of cheese on top. They turned out very well! They were delicious. And for Christmas morning, we fried the leftovers into little potato patties that were even more amazing. So it all worked out, but it was touch and go for a while in the middle.

 We have been reminding the kids for quite a while that they wouldn't get many presents here primarily because of space reasons. They seemed perfectly ok with that. We got a few packages in the mail from friends and family and they were very excited about the unexpected surprises. The boys each got to choose a present for each other, and they chose some things for Svea as well. It was really fun watching them look through the options to find something the other would like. Torben chose a robot drawer for Anders (we need to find a mini screwdriver to put it together) which Anders thought was absolutely fantastic!
 Anders found a small loom for weaving that he thought Torben would like, because Torben is always wanting me to teach him to knit or crochet. Torben loved it! We used some yellow yarn leftovers I had to create the mesh part, and they have been taking turns weaving a circle through it.
 Svea thought it was fun to help other people open their presents, as well as opening her own. This package was a few rubber animals the boys gave her.
 We bought each of the boys a new lunch box that is made to resemble a Lego brick. They are quite popular here in the original land of Lego, so the boys thought it was very fun to get a "mad pakke" like their friends have.
 They went back to school this week, and we discovered that it's difficult to fit white bread sandwiches in these. If we cut the crust off (which, let's be honest, they don't like anyway) then it is a tight fit. Most of the kids here eat very dense brown bread, and the loaves are smaller in size so they fit better in these boxes. But we were able to get their whole lunch of raisins, cucumber, carrots, a small salami, a sandwich, some granola, and Torben has a mini yogurt.
 It was fun watching the three of them together open their presents. Svea was slower than the boys thought she should be, so they did a lot of showing her how to do it (which looks to most people like doing it for her). She didn't seem to mind.
 At school, the boys coloured a mug for each of us. These are the two they made for Jeff. They were so excited about them!
 These are the two mugs I got. I use one or both of them every day. It's fun to have things they made specifically for us, that they are so proud of and so excited about.
 After we were done opening presents, the kids had a fun time throwing all the paper and ribbons in the air. They really had a great Christmas, even though it was smaller than we are used to and we missed being with family.
 Grandma Linda and Papa Randy sent new jammies to all of them, so they of course wore those to bed on Christmas Eve. I can't believe how big they are getting!
 They had fun stockings when they woke up on Christmas morning as well. Santa is very practical -they had tooth brushes, lotion, chapstick, a small game, and Pez -Svea got some chocolate as well, because, of course. She wakes up asking for chocolate!
 This was another fun game they got that Jeff and I enjoy playing as well. There are several plastic tiles, mostly L-shape and two rectangles, and they have pictures of polar bears and whales on them. There are 48 different boards with configurations of water and snow, and you have to fit the tiles in so that the bears are always on snow and the whales are always in water. It's very fun. There are four different difficulty levels. Torben pulled out one of the "master" level ones and did it in about 20 seconds. Jeff still hasn't figured that one out. It's interesting how different our minds work!

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