Friday, February 26, 2016

Vinegar and Lemons

This week I got to go to a fun workshop one evening, learning how to make preserved lemons and herb infused vinegar. Hopefully I will get to use them before we go home! The lemons are supposed to "preserve" for at least a month in the fridge before you eat them, and the vinegar just gets better with age, but it's recommended to wait about a month for that too. I'm pretty excited to try it again at home when I can allow for it to age fully.
The tables started out looking like this. Who wouldn't be excited about the possibilities! There were huge bowls of lemons, bowls of grey salts, bright red chili peppers, and bowls of various herbs, including garlic, tarragon, thyme, lemon thyme, and rosemary. At least I think that's what they all were. She said the names in Danish, but I was trying to follow along. Several people decided to put some of the chili or herbs in with their lemons as well, for a different taste. I left mine "plain", with just salt and lemon juice. It was so easy to do, but looks so pretty! The vinegar especially looks pretty in the jar on the counter.

My small jar of lemons -due to the time constraints of our trip here- has six lemons in it. While cutting the ends off of the second one in preparation for salting, I managed to slice my thumb also. So that was fun. Nothing like a good cut full of lemon juice and salt to jump start your evening! But, now I've got a fabulous Lion King bandaid on it -Svea is completely fascinated with the sticker on my thumb!- and a jar of lemons in the fridge, waiting to be ready. One of the girls had brought her own jar, and I think it was about 3/4 of a gallon or so. I'm not sure how many lemons she ended up using...for the process to work properly and be safe, they have to be packed tightly in the jar during the preservation part, so I bet she had at least twenty lemons in there. 

My vinegar is very pretty. I put in one of the bright red chilis -it seemed almost required, they were so beautiful and fit the jar well. I should have sliced it lengthwise first, though. The top was just a smidge too wide for the top of the bottle, and it got sort of mangled as I put it in there. Then I added about five cloves of garlic, several sprigs of rosemary, a lot of thyme, and several pieces of tarragon. I'm excited for a salad this spring with this and some olive oil as a dressing! 

Spring is definitely coming! These little flowers are poking up through the old leaves and sticks. They seem to be some relative of the crocus family, the white ones hang downward, but when I lifted up the flower, it looks very similar to the upright crocus we get in February at home. And the purple ones were the first I've seen of that. Mostly there are white and yellow popping up all over this week. And in several places you can see green popping through, just waiting for the colours of spring to burst out of it. This morning, I woke up a few minutes before the alarm, and the sky was already starting to lighten with the hints of dawn. So there is hope! I think maybe this weekend we will go on a walk to find signs of spring and take pictures of them.

 I finished another book this week, Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as her books about Tuscany, but it was a fun read also. I need to see if the libraries around here have any more of hers.

Yesterday there was a parents' coffee time at the boys' school. Anders and a few other kids got to help with making the buns for it earlier in the week. They were dyed pink and green. I'm not sure why. But they were delicious! It's fun how much the kids get to be involved with things at this school. They take charge of cutting up fruits for their snacks, they make food over the campfire. They seem so grown up sometimes; but at the same time they spend so much time playing like kids their age should be. Svea had a great time at the coffee time -I thought I might not be able to get her out of there once she discovered all the toys the preschool had to offer!

Jeff went to a lecture last night by one of the MPs here, who was born in Syria. He talked about the situation there, and the refugee situation as well. Jeff is really liking all of the cultural lectures and meetings he gets to be involved with here!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Twenty eighth weekend

Our twenty-eighth weekend (wow!) ended up being a long weekend, because week 7 of the year (roughly the third week of February) is sort of a holiday here. The schools are closed, and many people take a ski holiday. Since the boys school is actually more like a daycare, they were able to go if we signed them up beforehand. It's good for them to see their friends and speak Danish, so we signed them up. There were about 9 kids most of the days, but when I went to pick them up on Wednesday, the teacher told me that they were going to be the only two there on Friday. So! They stayed home with Svea and me that day. That was kind of fun. We pulled out the buckets of Brio wooden trains and blocks that we're borrowing from someone at the folkschool, and the three of them built very elaborate train lines all over the living room and dining room. Svea so much wants to play with them! And they are very good at letting her, most of the time.

When she naps, the boys and I hit the perler beads. Anders, especially, LOVES playing with the perler beads. We might need a whole suitcase just to take his creations home! They have been making them at school too, so each day he comes home with more. Torben enjoys playing with them also, but gets bored faster. So his are small and simple, and Anders makes complicated big ones that take him a couple of days to finish. It's fun to see how their personalities are different even in their approaches to the same activity they enjoy. We've been saving a lot of the recyclables recently for Torben; one of his favourite activities is building out of the boxes and jar lids and paper towel tubes. Why not have some fun with them before we throw them in the big green bin outside. Reminds me of all the things my brothers and I used to make with our "Make and Do" book -Childcraft Encyclopedia, volume 11, blue. I found a used one at a thrift store and bought it so the kids can have fun with it too.

In the folk school dining room, there is often a big bowl of fruit or carrots sitting on one of the tables. Svea runs to it immediately to grab and apple, pear, or orange. Recently, she picked up an apple that was approximately the size of her face. In this picture, it looks like I could have taken it from a funny angle to make it look big, but in reality, that's what size it was.
 Torben ate one too. I love how he's holding it here, the apple glowing (that was the camera flash) and his eyes closed, a look of pure contentment. I think this one might have to go on the wall at home.
 Anders thought it would be fun to be a three-toothed walrus. There's always containers of toothpicks on the tables here -often they are empty, I can't imagine why.
 Svea is loving being a big girl and walking to the school for meals. It takes us a little bit longer, but she's so excited about it. She knows she still has to ride in the stroller when we pick up the boys from school. That would be a bit too far -and she'd probably want to be carried, so it would definitely be too far for me.

Jeff was on duty this weekend, so we needed to stay in town. The students decided to have their party on Friday night instead of Saturday night, so dinner involved a lot of people dressed up in "track" gear, looking a lot like an 80s party. The music was fun. Svea loved dancing to it in her chair while she was supposed to be eating.

Why does a full moon make kids crazy? Torben has been doing an amazing job of going to bed well since his birthday, but as we made our way into this week from the weekend, he started acting totally crazy again. And, looking at the calendar (plus the flashlight-beam streaming through the windows-I can't believe how much closer the moon and sun are here!) it's a full moon. It's funny how that works. Hopefully it will be easier now for another several weeks. It's quite amazing how fast the days are getting longer now. With 4-5 minutes of daylight added each day, you can definitely tell. Now, the sky is getting light when we wake up in the morning, rather than after the kids are at school. And it's light when we go down the street to dinner instead of two hours before. Spring is definitely coming! There are little white and yellow flowers everywhere. I think they must be in the crocus family, though they are much smaller than crocus back home. Right time of year, though. And there are more sunny days, not quite so many clouds. The clouds that do come roll in, make it dark, bring snow or rain, and then depart again in a few minutes.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Twenty seventh weekend

The cold seems to have returned this week. No snow, and it's bright and sunny today, but the air is cold and makes you cough if you breathe too deeply outside. Spring is coming, though, you can tell. There are tiny white flowers and tiny yellow flowers in bloom -I'm not sure what they are, but they're pretty and they tell that spring is on its way.

The kids have gotten so excited about perler beads lately! We spent much of the weekend making and ironing various pieces of artwork. Even Svea gets in on it sometimes, though they are a bit small for her still. There is one patchwork-style circle that one of the boys' friends made at their birthday, and she gave it to Jeff, so Svea has decided that it's hers and she loves it. I decided to make a bunch of different colours of red and pink hearts, since it was valentine's day afterall. Forgot to get them hung on the strings in the windows yesterday, but they are ready for next year. Then I started on some green ones, which I discovered can be put together to make a shamrock. We told the boys about a book that gives you ideas for things to make with perler beads, and Anders hasn't stopped talking about when we will get the book for them. He's really very creative with things like this, and with drawing. Torben is creative as well, though his preferred medium is recyclables. He likes to build sculptures out of various pieces of cardboard and paper and then colour those, rather than just drawing a picture. It's fun to see the differences in their approach to creativity.

The students at the folk school were having a Night at the Oscars theme party on Saturday night, so we decided to stay home. Apparently the food was some of Henrik's specialty, but fancy dinners just don't work very well for us. Instead, we made gryro-seasoned chicken, roasted garlic and thyme mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and broccoli. We also prepared an apple pie, but waited too long to bake it so we had it on Sunday instead. Anders wanted to help me peel the apples, and I discovered that he can do it perfectly! They are growing up so fast. Last week he made scrambled eggs for himself and Svea without any help -though I was in the kitchen to make sure no one got burned.

It's fun to see how well the three kids play together. Several times this weekend they had an impromptu dance party in the livingroom, and all of them were doing variations on the same dance moves. They were laughing and jumping and having so much fun! Whenever songs come on whatever show they are watching, they all start dancing too.

Friday night, of course, we hurried home from dinner to get jammies on to get ready to watch Disney. It's fun how excited they are to watch Disney each week, even though we are more liberal with our tv watching than typical Danes I think, so it's not like they don't get to see anything between one Disney night and the next. They all three know that on Fridays, we come home from dinner, get jammies on, make popcorn, and sit down together to watch it. We didn't make the popcorn right away this weekend, and about 5 minutes in, Svea started asking where it was. It's fun to have that tradition, sitting together in a row on the couch, trying to all fit under one blanket -there are lots of blankets, but the one on the couch is the favourite of everyone, so we all try to fit.

It's getting so much lighter now. This morning, the sky was turning to dawn by 7:15, and in the evenings it's dusk at about 5:30. That's almost an hour earlier in the morning, and over an hour later in the evening than it was a month or so ago. I'm still tired of how long it's dark, but it's helpful that it's so obviously changing now. Soon the trees and flowers will start to bloom and the sun will be up before we are. And then hopefully our weekend adventures will start up once again. Jeff has three weekends where he is the staff on duty this spring, and the second is this coming weekend. Then he's mostly free for the rest of our time here, except once when they all return from Scotland, since the rest of the teachers will have been working that whole week, he is taking that weekend. We haven't decided yet whether to take any longer trips around Europe for a long weekend, or whether we'll just do some shorter day-trips like we did when we first arrived. It's hard to decide whether it would be fun, or whether it would be too stressful for everyone and we wouldn't have a lot of fun if we tried it. The kids are still young enough that they think short day-trips are a lot of fun, and they get to sleep in their own beds too. And, we will have season passes to Legoland, so maybe we will go there several times also. They are so excited to go there!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Starting month 7

Wow, how is it that we are starting our seventh month here already! Time really does go by so quickly. We have a fairly established routine now, which for me lately means more reading and leisure time and less writing about our not-quite-as-frequent adventures. I think when the weather gets better, and spring comes, the adventures will pick up again. Already the flowers are starting to poke through the wet ground; though we're supposed to get snow again sometime in the next few days. Mostly it is grey and sort of damp. It smells like spring, though, so that is a very good sign! And it's lighter out, both in the morning and in the evening. This morning on the way to school, the kids noticed that the streetlights turned off. It wasn't quite 8:00 and a few weeks ago, they were automatically turning off at 8:30, when it was bright enough to not need them anymore. So that is nice. Last night dinner was at 5:30 instead of 6:00, and it was actually still light when we went! So there is progress. The time changes in a couple of weeks, so that will change it a bit again, but, there is a definite progression toward more light now, which is helpful. Mostly I am excited about not waking up in the dark. It's been a long time of waking up in the dark, it seems.

Jeff has had several opportunities lately to participate in history discussions about the area, which has been fun for him. On February 10, 1920, the residents of northernmost Schleswig got to vote on whether to remain part of Germany, or to return to Denmark. In some places, the pro-Danish vote was over 90%, and the other places were a great majority as well. So after 56 years of German rule, this part of the world was again returned to Danish rule. It is still celebrated each year on this day as Plebiscite Day here in North Schleswig. There are large stones commemorating the vote as well; it is an important part of the local history.

Anders and Torben are really enjoying school still. And it still amazes me to hear them carry on conversations fully in Danish with whomever they need to talk to; sometimes each other. Svea knows a few words in Danish, (kartoffler (potato) and nej (no) are her favourites) but primarily speaks in English. Depending on the context, I can figure out what people are saying if they are talking slowly. But still have quite a hard time following a regular conversation when people are speaking quickly. I will catch words here and there, but miss the whole overarching themes a lot of the time. Even if I catch most of it, often I find I miss one little thing which turns out to be the linchpin of understanding. So. The language still eludes me except for on a very basic level. The numbers especially are very difficult for me, as they include math as well as memorization of words! Once you get past 40, everything is counted in the number of times you multiply 20 to get to the next one. So to say 53, you end up with 3 and half-three (naturally, this is 2.5) times twenty. My brain gets tired, but I usually figure them out eventually.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Twenty sixth weekend

I am having difficulty deciding what we will want to remember about this weekend. Despite it being Fastelavn and Superbowl weekend, we were not particularly adventurous. The kids had a Fastelavn party at school on Friday. Anders had a great time; Torben didn't like his costume and therefore didn't wear one for the party. He seemed fine with it. They participated in the breaking of the barrel to let the candy out, and from the pictures on the school's Facebook page, they seemed to have a good time.

We were thinking of going to one of the other Fastelavn parties on Sunday (the actual day of Fastelavn), but ended up not going. Instead, Jeff went to the bakery and bought us Fastelavn boller to enjoy at home. Essentially, they were croissants stuffed with whipped cream, and topped with chocolate. Delicious! The Danes sure do know how to do pastry.

On Saturday, we went to brunch at the folk school, and they were having a special event for many of the refugees living in town, so there were a lot of people there. I saw some of the people I'd had dinner with on Thursday night when we went to the ballet show, so that was fun too. They had activities going on all day long, and we returned around 3pm to have cake. There were so many cakes! Several of the refugees had made some, and several of the students had made others; there were tables and tables of cakes and cookies to sample. Then there was some Syrian line dancing! A few of the men started playing music, and then a line started. Svea and I joined in for a while -somehow we ended up at the front of the line! That was quite funny, as I hadn't figured out what the steps were yet. It was quite a workout, doing that while carrying a 27-pound toddler. It was a fun time though.

It's been a little bit warmer the last week or so, so the boys were able to play outside this weekend even though it was a bit wet. At school they play outside regardless of the weather, but at home they choose to be inside if it's cold. I guess I can't blame them.

Since it was superbowl Sunday, Jeff was in the mood to have chili. So we made some. The kids all liked it -I think it was the first time they've all eaten chili! We put in some smoked chipotle chili flakes rather than chili powder. It had a definite smokey taste, and was a bit spicy, but incredibly delicious. Good thing, too, because we've got quite a bit of leftovers! It's hard to make a small batch of chili. Even if you just use one can of each type of beans or tomatoes or whatever that you want in it, all the sudden the pot is full of bubbling deliciousness. There were some things we usually put in our chili that weren't available here, but we had three kinds of beans, three types of tomato, onion, ground beef, garlic, and chilis.

On the weekends, we get to sleep in a bit, so we often see the sunrise from our window (instead of from the living room window an hour and a half after we get up!). It was particularly gorgeous on Sunday morning, and Torben made a point to make sure we all saw it. The sky was all striped with brightness.
I've found lots of reading time lately, too. Mostly because I've found some books that don't require a lot of concentration to enjoy! I finished three more this weekend, two from the Shopaholic series and the third by the same author but not in the series. Same type of character, but a different series of unfortunate debacles that somehow turn out alright. I hope Kinsella has some more books coming out soon; I'm about all the way through hers now!

Then when the kids were sleeping and Jeff was at work, I also watched the movie. Ah. It's nice to have a life of leisure sometimes! I also watched "Eat, Pray, Love" which I read quite a while ago, and really enjoyed as well. Jeff and I also watched "The Reader", which was an interesting film. And we watched "The way, way back" last night. It was fun too. We don't see many movies at home, so we are taking advantage of the opportunity to do so here. Since I'm nearing the end of this book series, I'm going to have to find another author and scoop up some more books through interlibrary loan. I don't know why I don't use this more at home; it's fantastic!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Dinner and a Show

Several of the students from the folk school, as well as a number of refugees from town were going to see a show last evening, in cooperation with members of the Danish royal ballet company. At 5:00pm, Jeff got a call from one of the teachers saying she had an extra ticket and asking if I would like to join them. I'm not big on ballet. But, it seemed like a good opportunity to go out and see something different, and there was promise of a good dinner. I hesitate on that part, a little bit, because often a fancy dinner here means fish, which I'm also not so excited about. And we'd just had it for lunch. But I went anyway. It's always interesting riding in a car in a foreign country with people you have just met, and not really having any idea where you're going, completely at the mercy of these new friends! It reminded me of when our choir went to Seoul and the girl who was supposed to be my roommate got sick, so I went by myself with the woman from the church to stay at her house for the night. That was even scarier, because I knew no Korean, and she knew no English, and I had no clue where I was going or where I was supposed to come back to at some time the next day! This was much better! The people I rode with spoke English, and are very kind friends of friends of ours. And Gram Slot (Castle) is only about 10 minutes away. The dinner was fantastic! I took a picture of the menu, and was able to pick out many of the words, though not quite all of them. I tried a little bit of everything, and somehow that amounted to a lot of dinner! There were dishes from many different countries, made with help from a group of refugees in a nearby town.
The show itself was a bit, well, bizarre. The whole time I was trying to think of what to compare it to so I could explain it to Jeff. I know I have seen similar type dramatic presentations before, but still couldn't put my finger on where it was. The show was six refugees telling their stories of how they came to Denmark, and it was combined with several dancers from the ballet. A narrator was in the back, talking to them and encouraging various aspects of their stories through questions. It was in English, which I was surprised about, so I understood it all from a language point of view, but there was also a lot of symbolism that I just did not catch. It was an interesting way to tell the stories, though. You felt as though you were understanding the story more than if you were just hearing someone tell it to you. It was a fun evening, and it's always nice to do something a little bit different.

This picture here makes me smile. We had out the conditioner spray and brush to comb out the tangles in Svea's hair, but she was much more interested in fixing mine instead. So, many of her tangles remain. I'll have to figure out how to get her to sit still for it! She is very excited about the spray, though, and takes full possession of it, as well as her little white brush.
 Ever since I let her walk to the folk school for lunch a couple of weeks ago, she asks to "walkin" whenever she gets a chance. This day, she wasn't interested in holding anyone's hand because she had (had!) to carry her doll and her sippy cup, so Jeff kept hold of her hood instead. She wasn't too excited about that, but it did allow her to walk on her own. Most often, she walks in the rocks that are next to the sidewalk, I think she likes the sound it makes as they crunch beneath her feet. I can't believe how big she's getting! I was just looking through pictures from when we got here, and already she has grown so much!
 Earlier this week, Jeff and I and Svea went to the recycle shop, not really looking for anything in particular, but just going for something to do and to see what we could find. We took the car because it was very cold and windy, and then tried to put Svea into her stroller inside the store. HA. She was not having that. So she naturally started screaming and crying. Jeff walked around with her so I could browse, and he found this bear which he handed her to hold on to because it made her stop crying. She carried it all through the store. "My bear." And when it fell on the floor, she cried out, "Daddy! Bear!" We found nothing we wanted to buy, and were going to put the bear back and leave, but she wasn't going to allow that either. "Nej! My bear!" So we had to buy the bear. She hardly wanted to give it up long enough for the cashier to read the price tag! Trying to get her back into her car seat while holding the bear was also quite a feat. But we managed. Then we got home and it was time for her nap. I asked her if she wanted to take the bear up to her bed, and her response was "I don't ike it." I don't think she's touched the bear since. Each time we try to give it to her, she says she doesn't like it. So that is sort of funny. An interesting use of 15Kr though. She *had* to have the bear, until we got home and she wants nothing to do with it anymore.
The boys are having a Fastelavn party at school today, so I am excited to hear how that was when they get home. They both brought their costumes, but I'm curious whether Torben wore his, or whether he wore one from the school instead. He was not at all excited about being a ninja, and when I took it out of his backpack and handed it to him this morning, he told me to put it back. So we'll see.

I just realized my hand and thumb look really crazy in that picture of the bear! Yikes!

In any case, it is time to get ready for lunch now. They claim we only have fish once a week as a main dish, so my prospects are good that we will have something delicious.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Twenty Fifth weekend

We had a fun weekend, though we stayed close to home because we are all getting over colds. Svea's seems to be hanging on longest, now, and she looks pretty miserable. Everyone else is mostly on the mend. 

For his birthday, Torben got a kit to make this foamcore dumptruck. He and Jeff built it together, and he is so excited about it! 
 Svea is into glasses lately, so we spend a lot of time putting these sunglasses on and off, on our heads, on our faces, upside down, you name it. I liked her movie-star look here while she was chugging her milk -actually, Torben's milk that she took possession of. Her cup is purple, and she knows that very well, but, she wanted this one. Torben would just have to get more milk when he got home from school!
 I love how they all get into the Disney Sjov spirit on Friday evenings after supper. Even though it's not the only time they get to watch tv, they still get excited about Disney at 7pm on Fridays. They pull out the beanbags and popcorn, and cuddle up together to watch. Sometimes they want me and Jeff on the beanbag with them, and then they laugh when we try to get up again. This weekend they seemed content to be together with the three of them . We always have to get out the vacuum for bits of popcorn after Disney. But they love the tradition.
 Svea is loving all the ponies the girls have here at the house. She lines them up, and asks what colours they are, puts them ni-nite in either the pony stable or some other toy -like the castle for princesses-. Her counting system is funny.... 1, 2, 5! Her favourite number to say is 2-5. Not sure why she likes two-five so much, but she really does. And, despite knowing how to count to four properly, she thinks it's hilarious to skip 3 and 4 and just count 1...2...5! And laugh.
These "bug-eye" glasses were in the advent presents from Great Grandma Marge, and the kids all love them. They really make you look funny, for sure! Anders was wearing them this weekend, and sad "Mom, I was sitting on the toilet, going potty, wearing these glasses and I saw the wall was covered with trees!" Good imagination on that kid!
We are coming up to Fastelavn here, which seems something like Mardi Gras, or Halloween, or Carnivale in Rio...though maybe on a slightly smaller scale. This weekend they celebrated it at the folk school, so on Saturday night we went over to watch the students break open the Fastelavn barrels. They were full of all sorts of interesting things...some of which we didn't want to explain to the kids. Mostly, they are full of candy. And you take turns hitting the wooden barrels with bats or wooden sticks until they break open. Then there is some system for determining the King and Queen, based on different parts of the barrel being broken. These students had six barrels hung from the ceiling in the theater, and walked around in a line taking turns at each of them. They were all dressed in costumes, which was fun for the kids to watch. After they all headed off to dinner, the kids went and looked through the remnants and found several clementine oranges, lots of balloons, and some lollipops that had gone unnoticed. So they felt good about it too! Next weekend we are going to a Fastelavn party specifically for younger children, so they will get a bit more involved with that one. They are also having a party at their school this coming Friday, and get to wear their costumes for that also. Should be fun.

The weather this weekend was funny. Sunday there was rain, snow, hail, sleet, and sunshine. I sent the boys outside in the rain for a while, with their warm suits, because they were going a bit stir crazy in the house. They had a blast. They filled up some of the balloons they'd found after the barrel-breaking with water and took them outside too. Then it started snowing huge puffy flakes on them. They had so much fun! Their warm suits are such a genius invention! I am pretty sure that the one Anders has will fit Torben next year, and we're going to look into finding one for Anders for next year at the recycle shop before we go home. There's so much of the fall-spring season where they could wear them to play outside back at home. We already got one for Svea for next year. We were debating about it at the shop, and she saw it and talked about how pretty it was, and when we asked if she wanted it, she said she did. It was a good price.

I finished reading another book, "Confessions of a Shopaholic" by Sophie Kinsella. They are quite funny. It's the third or fourth I've read of hers. I really am liking all the reading time I have here! And I'm grateful for interlibrary loan, because these libraries all have small-ish English sections, but when I can order them from different places, there's quite a good selection!