Saturday, 24 December 2011

The day before Christmas

It was the day before Christmas
And all around the house
We were getting a bit restless
And needed to get out

So we ventured to Redcar
to the beach we were bound
It was windy and blustery
there was no one around

But windy and blustery
it was the perfect day
to clear out the head
and blow the cobwebs away

Fresh air aplenty
and space to run around
with energy to burn
we enjoyed the sounds

Of waves and of wind
of sea and of laughter
of spinning and throwing
and chasing after

And so we returned home
with our appetites renewed
for the days of festivity
the indulgence and food

And tonight we are ready
for Santa to call
the apple pie and the carrot
and stockings and all

And so the advent will soon
be over for another year
Its been fun to blog through it
and share it here

Merry Christmas to all
and the season's warmest greeting
thanks for stopping by and
thanks for reading

These wonderful photos were taken by my very talented sister-in-law and photographer Kate, just one of the perks of having a Christmas family gathering ; )

Friday, 23 December 2011

Out of action

Kitty B is out of action. After a few days of sniffling, today I admitted defeat in my battle with a sinus infection and am taking a day off...sniff...sniff....

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Going back

And so, here we are in Middlesbrough for Christmas with my family. The journey here was a long one and I was dreading doing it on my own with the two children but, as is so often the case, they rose to the challenge and were angels.

This is the first time I have brought both children to the home where I grew up. Last night they slept in the room that was my bedroom from the age of 10! My son slept in my bed and my daughter in a travel cot where my dressing table used to be. I never would have imagined it and the impact of seeing them lying in my bed ready for story time caught me unawares. These two young children have lived in more homes in their short lives than I did during the whole time I spent growing up and until I left home to go to university. And for them the world is much smaller than it ever was for me, I wonder if they will have a 'family home' to go back to with their own children.

Apart from having the children sleep in my old bedroom, I am also enjoying sharing with them many of the toys from my childhood. My parents appear to have kept (perhaps for times such as these) many of the relics that were at one time favourites but I would have been hard pressed to recollect now. Amongst them are Lego sets (originals from the 1970s) and books. Bedtime stories tonight included a second reading of an old Ladybird edition of The Elves and The Shoemaker - they loved it and so did I. What a lovely story, a beautiful lesson for them to learn and a Christmas tale to share. There is something very grounding about going back to a childhood home.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Telling it like it was

I've hummed and hawed about whether to write about this but in the end, well, here it is... A couple of weeks ago I had a morning to myself and ventured over to Frederiksberg to Creative Space to paint pottery. I was pretty excited as taking paintbrush to crockery is something I spent many a happy hour doing in London. The truth is, it didn't all go as planned.

It wasn't the space, that was beautiful, and everything was so tidily set out and there was lots of inspiration. There was a good range of pottery to paint, plenty of materials (brushes, sponges etc) - it could have been a pottery painting paradise.

Ah, but when I excitedly ventured into the studio (which was empty - it was a Thursday morning), my enthusiasm waned. Having chosen a plate that I wanted to paint and having shared with the owner my pottery painting tales from London, I asked if I could take some pictures so I could blog about her fabulous space. This is when things started to go down hill, 'They all say they're bloggers', she retorted and then told me that she had 'brought the idea of a pottery cafe to Denmark' and 'the copy cats were coming'. I could only assume that she thought I was one such 'copy cat', posing as a blogger. Well, I hope that if she is reading this, and perhaps this is why I feel compelled to write, she will see that I had no ulterior motive. I simply wanted to spread the joy, as it were...

With these comments lingering in the air, I took myself to the small table allocated to me and began to paint. After a couple of hours, I went to order a warm drink. I continued to paint and paint, chose a second piece to paint and painted it and the drink never came.

Given how quiet the shop was on that morning, I was surprised that as I went to pay for my pottery and the long forgotten drink order was remembered, the reason given was that another customer had distracted her.

I let it pass. Drink or no drink, I had painted a plate and a cute gingerbread man to hang on the Christmas tree. We all have bad days and so I thought I'd come back a week later to collect my fired pots and all would be well.

I was so disappointed when I went back this weekend and the gingerbread man, like the drink order, had been forgotten. He never made it to the kiln.

What can I say? I don't write this to suggest that you shouldn't give Creative Space a try - even poor customer service cannot detract from the joy of creativity - ultimately, that is the prerogative of the artist at work and not the third party who merely facilitates the process. Consider this 'customer feedback'. I think any business would be wrong to ignore it.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Run run as fast as you can

It's that time of year when there is the smell of gingerbread in the air. It's one of those warm and delicious smells that, layered with spices, is comforting and leads me to aspirations of home baking. Last year, when as a family we were wading through the preparations of a house move and relocation to Denmark, from somewhere I did indeed find time to make some gingerbread men, or at least their close relations, gingerbread angels.

The Danes take gingerbread to the next level and in many bakeries there are beautiful houses and hearts  made from gingerbread and honnigbrød setting the festive scene.

My favourite though, by a long stretch, is the army of gingerbread men that have invaded the bookshop.
 They fill the windows, peeking out from amongst the books and staring out at passers by...

They look cheeky and as food and books don't usually mix there is an audacity about their proximity to the beautiful Christmas books so carefully displayed. They truly look defiant in their occupation!!


The gingerbread men are the fruits of a very dedicated and creative labour from a fellow blogger over at Scandineighbour. She toiled long and hard to produce 50 of these beauties and an urban legend has it that, when night falls upon the streets of Hellerup, the gingerbread men get up to untold mischief (as if it isn't written on their faces in the icing!!).

Perhaps my daughter recognises them from their frolics as she spent quite some time admiring (and perhaps envying) their prized seats amongst the forbidden window displays. If only she could join them...

Monday, 19 December 2011

An ode to a life well spent


I'm not the first to say it
a woman's work is never done
it seems that after a day well spent
I'm back where I began

Picking up, wiping, putting away
everything in its place
its enough to drive one mad sometimes
trying to keep a tidy space

Its unfair to blame the children
I suspect I'd be just as bad on my own
For me a house is a place to be lived in
not a shrine or a museum, but a home

Yet how I love to see clean surfaces
all clutter tidied away
no piles of stuff or errant toys
lying around at the end of the day

But the truth is
when life is full,  its impossible
to live the minimalist dream
kids and hobbies, the comings and goings
all leave a messy trail

So now when I'm picking up
for the hundredth time, when all is done
I remember that the strewn debris
is just the proof of a day of fun

And in the words of another
a motto to keep in sight
'A perfectly kept house
is the sign of a misspent life' 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Popcorn wreath

I'm feeling a bit worse for wear today as I'm battling a coldy bug (yuck!). But as yesterday was the end of term and school finished early, we settled down for an afternoon indoors. Whilst my daughter slept and my son sat drawing, I threaded popcorn onto string and made a wreath for our door. Living in a flat means that hanging on our front door the wreath won't be exposed to the elements but adds a friendly greeting to seasonal visitors!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The end of term for all!

I'm just back from my end of term Danish test - det var svært men jeg håbe det var ok - and tomorrow is the last day of my little boy's first term of big school. And what a term it has been. My sister taught reception class children in England for a number of years and we used to talk about how important those first impressions of school are and what a big step it is for the children entering into the world of daily routine outside the home that will likely continue for the rest of their lives. Here in Denmark most children begin daycare at a much younger age (many are in the nurseries when parents return to work at the tender age of about 3 months) but formal education doesn't start til the age of 6.

And there is much to be said in the debate about whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for children to start learning and to be encouraged to develop their skills at 4, 5 or 6 or whether they should be left to play until natural inquisitiveness and the curiosity to learn takes over.

When I talk to my Danish neighbours about what my son has been learning in school this term, they are astounded. Not so much by his progress (although this has been a source of immense pride for me and I am thrilled that he loves his letters and numbers and is embracing the reading challenge) but their astonishment is more at the fact that he is having formal education at all. One neighbour has twin boys aged 2 and every day she takes them to the nursery, where a bus collects them and they are driven out to the forest for a day of play and natural exploration. Every day!! Every day the focus is on instinctive curiosity, learning through play and developing socialisation skills. There's no numeracy and literacy and there won't be until the age of 6. This, their mother tells me, is earlier than it used to be. She, like many Danes, is against putting pressure upon children too early and I do wonder why the English education system starts at 4. Its not as if Denmark is a country of illiteracy. In fact, not only do they read and write, I have only met a couple of Danes who aren't fully bilingual.

Interesting debate to one side, we had our own reasons for sending our son to the international school rather than through the Danish system but, I am pleased to say, I think he has thrived in the learning environment he has experienced over the last few months. He is, of course, exhausted, as the term draws to a close and after tomorrow we are all looking forward to a break from the school drill but I think we will look back on the first term with fondness.

And with the end of term comes the school play etc and the reception class equivalent was a coffee morning this week when the children all sang together a few familiar seasonal songs and shared with us some of the things that are special to them about this time of year. We were proud parents gathered in the classroom and watching our little ones singing together. They said their lines so well and they beaming, knowing that to stand up in front of everyone took so much courage. The wonderful teachers should be proud too - they've done an excellent job and its a happy bunch of tired children who are heading home for the holidays.

Merry Christmas Rygaards reception class and well done on your first term at big school!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Ikke nogen god tid at skrive

Jeg vil have en teste på dansk i morgen og vi har alt for meget danskhjemmearbejde. Jeg har desværre ikke nogen god tid at skrive om min blog. I sted af laver mange forskellige tinger som jeg elsker, skal jeg studere. Vente til mig...

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Sparkle and pop

Its blowing a storm out there today and the weather forecast says the winds are up to 50 mph (makes for fun bike riding!!). There's not a snowflake in sight and so some of the winter wonderland feel of Christmas is yet to arrive here in Denmark but our tree has a light covering of popcorn that gives it the desired look.

I've never been a fan of tinsel but a Christmas tree without garlands can sometimes look bare. When my husband and I set up home together and started what is likely to be a life long accumulation of decorations, before there were any small people around to bring home festive 'creations' from nursery, I relished the opportunity to pick and choose my favourite hanging ornaments and lights. We have a dark blue and silver theme which is now accented with red - I love it and the rich spruce we have this year sets them off beautifully.

All those years ago, when our first tree was like a blank canvas, I made garlands of popcorn and they survive to this day. They're the most simple things to make and they subtly add an extra layer of texture. Make a big batch of popcorn, wait till it cools down then thread the popped kernels onto sewing cotton - I didn't spray them with anything and they have stayed as good as new.

And as I write this, I wonder if making popcorn garlands might be a good indoor activity for this rainy afternoon when the small people are back from school. Mmmm, I can feel a popcorn wreath making session coming on.... I'll keep you posted!