Sunday, 23 October 2011

Sew far, sew good...

A couple of months ago I spent a Sunday morning at my favourite loppemarked in Charlottenlund station. I picked up some fabulous bargains: toys are always good value when they're cared for and still in good working condition and likewise one can save a lot on children's clothes. However, on this particular Sunday there was a lady selling leftover quilting fabric...

Didn't patchwork quilting itself begin as a way to use up leftover scraps of fabric? Wouldn't it therefore be the ultimate act of thrift to make a quilt from the leftover scraps of a quilter? I couldn't resist! Having been on the lookout for inspiration for a blanket for my daughter for some time, this seemed like an ideal project.
I chose some colourful fabric rolls with red-ish and blue-ish tones and paid pennies for them. I added a couple of other cream and brown fabric strips with owl motifs that I had been saving and then stockpiled them and waited for some freetime when I could set to.... With Danish language classes taking up two of my evenings every week and the course homework taking up two more, that freetime to indulge in patchwork creativity was strangely elusive.
But this week was half term (or efterårsferie) and so my precious evenings were free again. I found a very simple beginners' quilt pattern and, armed with my rotary cutter, I embarked upon the first and reportedly most difficult part of quilting - the cutting. I had been warned about the importance of cutting the fabric pieces the exact size and also the trickiness of using the rotary cutter and getting it right.
I'm not one for gadgets and I soon decided that I could just as easily use an iron to press the fabric and then cut straight lines with my fabric scissors. This seemed to work perfectly well and after a couple of hours I had a neat stack of patchwork pieces ready to be sewn together.
Deciding how to place the patchwork rectangles together was more of a challenge than I had anticipated. Should they be symmetric? Should they look random? How do I 'make' them look random?! I played around with a couple of arrangements and settled for a mixture of order and chaos - brown tones on one side and blues on the other with reds, pinks and cream in between.

As the holiday draws to a close, it is still a work in progress. I have sewn together the horizontal strips and it is incredibly satisfying to see the whole emerging from the individual pieces. I'm pleased with the way the fabrics sit together and, so far, the sizing is going to plan.
If I can find a few more free evenings before Christmas then the quilt might make it amongst my daughter's presents under the tree! Before then, though, I will have to decide what fabric to use for the backing: cotton or a soft snuggly fleece?

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Wheelie fun!!

When I was out for a walk with my neighbour last week she took me to the new skateboarding park in Fælledparken. Today when we were looking for a late afternoon destination for a quick excursion before dinner, I took my family (including my four year old and his scooter) to try it out! Despite the chilly autumn weather and the fact that this weekend is the start of efterårsferie (autumn half term) when many have left the city for a short break, the new skateboarding park was packed with skateboarders of all ages, rollerbladers, scooters, bikers. It was the place to be for wheeling fun...
It was a bit like walking upon a concrete canyon with sleek sloping pits and mounds. I could have stayed much longer to watch the pros in action with the luring hum of skateboard wheels in the still crisp autumn air and their daring jumps and tricks.
We struggled to hold my son back from trying out some of the steeper slopes and instead distracted him with the idea of building up speed on his scooter and attempting the smaller mounds in an area designed for the younger participants. Of course, I am now off to buy him some knee pads and gloves so that I don't have to hold my breath every time he darts towards the equivalent of a concrete mogul!
The adrenalin rush and thrill of the skateboard park is palpable. Older more experienced boarders are perfecting their moves, taking the occasional falls and scuffs in their stride but at the same time proud. The youngsters watch in awe but this isn't just a place for spectators and even the four year olds on their three wheel scooters are tolerated and given space to practise.
I don't doubt that we'll be back. However, I'm not so sure how long I'll be able to fight the urge to join in....

Sunday, 9 October 2011

At bage på dansk

I read somewhere that one of the best ways to practise a new language is to do something you love 'in' that language. For example, if you like football, watch the game with the appropriate foreign language commentary. For me, I decided that it was time to tackle some Danish baking and a BageLiv recipe booklet (it came free with BoligLiv) promising fantastiske kager seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Besides trying out my language skills, I hoped that it would prove easier to cook a recipe where the ingredients are those available locally. No self-raising flour or caster sugar required!! There were two occasions calling for some homemade treats this weekend: yesterday was my husband and my wedding anniversary - he bought me a beautiful bunch of cream long stem roses and so I felt the least I could do was acknowledge the day with something chocolatey and chose a fransk chokoladekage.

The second call for homebaking was today's coffee date with my Danish neighbour. Maybe its the Brit in me that heard 'hot beverage in the afternoon' and thought 'cake'!! For this and because it is autumn and a recent visit to a garden in Frederiksberg where the branches of the fruit trees hung heavy with ripe apples and pears, reminding me how much I like apple cake, I chose æblekage med vaniljesirup

I think it is safe to say that I can now understand 'kitchen Danish'. I managed the recipes and all transpired without a hitch although there was a nervous moment when I saw the word mel next to a measurement of 1½ dl. Thinking fluid and my brain being in foreign language mode, I very nearly added 150 ml of honey to the mixture. Just in time I realised it was flour that the cake needed...

Friday, 7 October 2011

The blip - when sublimity is lacking...

The recent (very) late summer-like weather inspired a couple of ritualistic purges.  There's nothing like sunlight streaming in through the windows to turn me into a spring cleaning, duster brandishing whirling dervish. I've cleared out some of the children's old clothes, some old boxes of papers and turned to my blog and to the folder of posts that I have written but never published. The italicised text below is one of them and on reflection I have decided that I do want to share it with you. It might ring true with others - I would wager that there aren't many expats out there who don't recognise 'the blip'. So here goes...this was written two weeks after we arrived in Copenhagen, in February 2011, with its cold days and long nights:
"Before we moved to Denmark, I wrote a letter to my pre-school son. I was very conscious that although we were talking about the move to Copenhagen and preparing for it in very practical ways (visiting the city to find accomodation etc), he probably didn't (and couldn't) fully understand what was happening. My fear was that the move would be too much for him. In writing the post, I also articulated some of my own fears and apprehensions.
Ending my letter, I sought to reassure him by saying that one day we would look back upon the time it would take us to settle into our new life as a mere 'blip'. In the bigger picture I know that this settling in phase has to happen and it will end. But here we are, in the 'blip'...
I have travelled and lived abroad before and being of a mixed cultural background, I am not naive to the challenges of being in a foreign land. Doing it with little children is a different story and this blip is proving to be a long haul - like childbirth and marathon running, it takes stamina.
It is at the same time both exhilarating and exhausting to be plunged into a new environment. These days, I find myself tired by the sheer hard work it takes to do the simplest things: Supermarket shopping requires a new level of concentration. Things are laid out differently, labelled in a foreign language and with two children and strange groceries vying for my attention, buying food has become a Herculean task. Trying to make meals that taste vaguely recognisable so that meal times do not descend into barely disguised rounds of bribery and negotiation - its enough to make me weep sometimes.
My son is being brave, I know he is. He misses his friends terribly - for a while the first thing he would ask when he woke up in the morning would be, 'am I going to make any friends?'. Of course, I reassure him and I am doing my best to get together with the other expat mums and to arrange trips to the playgrounds for him to look forward to. Deep down, I know that his fear is mine too. Whereas he used to be happy to walk everywhere, he now complains and whines as he has never done before. It is colder and I guess he, like me, is tired by the novelty of everything and he misses the familiarity that we all took for granted.
Only now am I learning what this 'blip' is all about; its a time of transition and it is unrelenting. There is no rest from the challenge. Now, I've started to talk about this time of 'change' with my son. We talk about food being 'different from England but its still yummy!'. I'm finding the patience not to expect too much too soon. And I remind myself that this too will pass."

And it did, it does.... Day by day and month by month things are falling into place. I no longer feel like we are living 'abroad' - this is our home now. Although things are different to before, I am learning to adjust my expectations to better suit my environment. Friendly faces and warm smiles abound and my son is settling into a new school and embracing the daily adventures inside and outside the classroom.
And looking back and reading that old post, I can't help but think it was only two weeks into the move - such early days! For anybody else out there and in the 'blip', have courage - it does get easier.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Painting with light

A couple of months ago I did a photo challenge and on day 16 the theme was 'long exposure'. I didn't really know what a long exposure picture was and read up a little on the internet but I struggled to capture anything worthwhile. I had wanted to use the photo challenge to explore and use my camera in new ways and I felt as though the long exposure day was an opportunity missed. The day passed and it niggled at me.
Then, last night our children were in the bath playing with some brightly coloured neon light sticks in the dark and apart from the fun and the giggles, I wondered what would happen if I tried to take long exposure pictures...
And it worked!! My little artists waved their light sticks around whilst I snapped away - experimenting with the shutter speed settings on my camera. I'm thrilled with the pictures and glad to have discovered a new photography technique.
I can't take any credit for the colours or the composition of these pictures; though they may look abstract to an outsider observer in them I see playtime and the interaction between my children at one of their favourite times of the day. I can see my baby girl bending a blue neon light stick around her wrist to make a bracelet, a light hearted squabble over the pink and yellow sticks and my son conducting an imaginary orchestra with a bright neon yellow baton. Bathtime memories painted in light.