Fastelavn

Yesterday (and today at school) was a special holiday in Denmark called Fastelavn. You may be able to guess from the name that it involves Lent. It is the Scandinavian carnival or Fat Tuesday like we have in the USA. There are a few special traditions that go into it.

The first is that the children (and adults) dress up in costume. We’ve been telling the girls that it is second Halloween. Claire went as Vampirina because she received fangs from the dentist and wanted to showcase them to her classmates. We found a creepy skirt with spiders and webs on it and matching wings at a thrift shop. We already had the “ears” on hand from a book we had received from grandma.

Avery went as a ballerina fairy. That is her to the T. She loves dressing up. Her entire outfit was also found at the thrift shop.

While dropping the girls off at school, I saw many costumes. There were clowns, Disney princesses, police officers, superheros and even an adult Elsa. It truly looked like Halloween.

Another tradition on Fastelavn is to eat fastelavnsboller. These are a sweet pastry type bun filled with creme, custard or jam and topped with icing. They can be overflowing with creme or just have a little bit. There are even some with faces on them or lots of sprinkles. Many different varieties to choose from.

The classroom was decorated with fastelavnsris which is basically sticks decorated with colorful paper, cats and treats. They are supposedly used to hit parents and wake them in the morning for Fastelavn (this did not happen in our house). Avery had some black cat crafts around her rooms as well.

From here I’ll write what Claire says happened throughout the rest of the day:
A barrel was hung up near my classroom. (History: This barrel is called a fastelavnstønde. Back in the day, the barrel had a black cat in it. The barrel and cat were beaten to ward off evil spirits. Dark…Today, it is just filled with candy and is easily breakable. Sort of like a piñata.) I was first because I was the new kid in the class. We started taking turns hitting the barrel. I hit the barrel a bunch of times until one of my classmates knocked it down. He was crowned the king (kattekonge) and since the barrel fell down and broke, the kid behind him was crowned the queen (kattedronning). The sweets were gummi bears, M&Ms and a type of taffy. It was a really fun time even though my hand hurt from hitting the barrel.

There are also a few songs learned around this time. This is the one Claire learned:

To learn more about Fastelavn and all the words/traditions that go with it, check out the Copenhagen Language Center.

Vinterferie

Winter holiday started last week. We were so blessed to have grandma take her first trip across the Atlantic to come see us (along with my aunt). The girls had been counting down the days until grandma (mormor in Danish) arrived. Avery asked me almost every day at school drop off and pickup if this was the day grandma was arriving. Needless to say, we were ready!

Grandma arrived on Monday and we walked into the airport right when they were walking out of baggage. There were tears and lots of hugs and kisses.

We drove home talking about the long plane trip, the late arrival of one plane, the lovely (dreary/windy) Danish weather and family gossip. We also discussed all the fun we had planned for the week.

We spent the first day of their stay sleeping in. Jetlag is no joke but they were handling it like champs. When everyone was up and moving, we made a short walk to our local bakery. Grandma and Aunt Jan picked up some Fastelavn boller (more details on that in an upcoming post) and the girls got a type of cinnamon roll (kanelsnegle) and pop-tart type dessert (hindbærsnitter: Avery’s favorite).

We then drove to Kolding to spend the afternoon there. We stopped first at the Legeparken (where we had gone during the fall break). It was a muddy mess. We had just had storm Ciara roll through dumping a lot of rain and creating some flooding. The zip line was closed and everything was muddy. It was also cloudy, breezy and dreary that day so even though the girls were having a blast, us adults were ready to leave soon after arrival.

We then made our way to Trapholt Museum which is an art museum. Since it was winter break for pretty much everyone in Denmark, there were some kid activities going on. There was also an exhibit about the senses that I figured the girls would like. It’s a little museum but the senses exhibit was so fun! We were able to stick our head in a cloud, dance in a mirror room, feel a fuzzy wall, and walk through a huge area with different colored streamers. It was a blast!

The rest of the museum had living room set ups throughout the years, a scratch and sniff card with an interesting video (it terrified the girls so we didn’t stay), optical illusion area that included tasting jellybeans and a craft spot for kids. Avery kept trying to sneak away to eat jellybeans so crafting went really quick.

After the museum, we made our way to downtown Kolding. Avery was hangry and the rest of us were getting that way. So we parked near the Koldinghus and made our way into the shopping district. I picked a restaurant using my gluten free app. I did not pick well. As soon as we walked in, I had a feeling this would not be the spot for us. I asked for a menu and looked over it. There were no kids options and the food was mainly seafood, duck and avocado. I knew this would NOT do for my kids. I apologized to the waiter and we made our way out of the restaurant. Leaving possible food did NOT sit well with my hangry child. After a tantrum and talking among ourselves, we decided to just eat at McDonalds. 1) I knew it had gluten free options and 2) the girls would eat it.

That night we had a disco dance party organized by Claire complete with frikadeller to snack on along with popcorn and dried fruit and nuts (no video proof of my dancing was taken).

Wednesday was our big travel day. We hopped on the train and made our way to Copenhagen. The train was FULL. We had someone in our reserved seats so we just found empty seats. We were then kicked out of those seats by someone who had reserved them so we had to move and kick our seat occupiers out. By the time we arrived in Copenhagen, we were tired (what is it about traveling that just exhausts you?).

After grabbing our Copenhagen card (highly suggest if traveling in Copenhagen), we made our way to our AirBNB. It had five flights of stairs and we were all out of breath by the time we reached the top. But the view! Stunning! We had a view of the canal, the parliament buildings and more. Oh…and toys and games for the girls to play.

We decided to take the night off from traveling. We watched a short kids movie, ordered food online to pick up right below us and walked to the grocery store for kids food and wine. We then retired for the night for our upcoming busy day in Copenhagen.

We rose late on Thursday. The first stop was to go to a gluten free bakery, Landbageriet. It is a tiny bakery located north of where we were staying. We had to walk through the shopping district to get there but I would say it was well worth the walk. Absolutely delicious! Claire also ordered for us in Danish and I was so proud of her.

Unfotuately, the bakery had no seating so we made our way towards an open market we had passed on the way to the bakery. It was a little tough to find dry seating but we found a table under a canopy that wasn’t too bad. We ordered coffee and drinks inside the market. There were also pigeons pecking around outside which Avery and Claire enjoyed feeding.

My aunt, Claire and I then walked over to the outdoor market area. There were so many gorgeous fruits, vegetables and flowers on display. There was exotic fruit, local vegetables and so many fresh options. The flower stand was full of colorful flowers and small citrus trees full of fruit. I had a hard time not buying something.

After breakfast, we made our way back to the AirBNB. On the way we stopped at the Round Tower. The girls and I had already been there before but since we liked it and it was included in the Copenhagen card, we decided to bring the visitors inside.
What was great is that they had turned the art gallery part into an area for children. There were videos, crafts and an area where a play was to be held (we didn’t get to see it). Both girls made birds out of different materials. There was also a scavenger hunt on the way going up the tower where the girls had to stamp their passports. They enjoyed finding each one.
We made it to the top of the tower. It was certainly windy and chilly so Avery and I didn’t stay long.

After the Round Tower, we headed towards the boat canal tour. The girls were not happy to have to do this again but I knew the relatives would enjoy it.
It was a bit different than the one we did in December. The commentary was all recorded so we didn’t get little tidbits like we had gotten with just the tour guide speaking. The harbor was also very FULL from the rain Denmark had been receiving. Therefore, we didn’t go as far into Nyhavn but we were able to get closer to the Little Mermaid statue.

After the canal tour, we had a hangry toddler again so we decided to eat in a shopping mall with resturants on the top floor. We were able to eat outside on a balcony and though it was a bit chilly, the sun was shining. What a blessing! Our waitress was even from Nebraska. It really shows what a small world it is!

After a delicious lunch, we walked to Nyhavn. We grabbed pictures of the famous canal:

and made our way to Amalienborg, where the royals live. On the way, we spotted a bunch of triangles near the Royal Theatre Playhouse. It was a part of the Copenhagen light show that was going on so we decided to check it out. It was a really neat illusion and also interactive. When we stepped on the metal part, it would make an instrumental noise or an opera singer would belt a note. The triangles also changed colors. Very neat!

Next stop was Amalienborg. The queen was in resident so we saw the guards posted in front of her palace. We made our way to the Marble Church and grandma, Jan and Claire went inside. Avery was not in the mood to be quiet so her and I raced around the outside of the church counting all the statues (I think we counted 14 or 15). We next hopped on the Metro to go to the Planetarium.

Claire has been studying space in school so she was excited to learn anything else she could about space. It was a small planetarium but included a cinema. We did not partake in the movie because it was in Danish and it was getting late. So we walked around the exhibit. It had a lot of great interactive exhibits like showing the different waves of light where we saw an x-ray version of ourselves, building a rocket to send to Mars, and moon rocks. But the favorite part, was the Big Bang Room. It was a dark room that had huge screens explaining the Big Bang, the life of a star and our sun. In the middle was a huge interactive type pad. An image of the universe was projected on it. The girls would then stand in an area and form stars. The stars would become regular stars or supernovas. They especially loved the supernovas as they would grow and explode. We spent at least a half hour just in that room creating stars.

After exploding stars, we made our way to Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen’s amusement park. This time there was an enormous, blown up igloo next to the skating rink. Inside the igloo was a castle equipped with two slides and a pretend snow hill. Sleds were even provided to the children. It was also free so we had very little begging from the girls to pay to go on any rides in the rest of the park.

After eating, we decided to look for some of the light show features throughout Copenhagen before calling it a night. We found two within Tivoli; one with scary music and a lighted up canopy and the second was a laser show.

Outside Tivoli, we made our way towards our AirBNB. We found a few more light pieces along the way and near it. Børsen was particularly beautiful with a green laser light shining over it and colorful windows.

We then spent 20-30 minutes trying to find an interactive trampoline for the girls and were unsuccessful. So after getting rained on and walking all day, we made it back to the AirBNB and fell fast asleep.

Friday was a half day in Copenhagen. We again got up late and cleaned up the apartment. We left our bags outside the apartment (on the 5th floor) so we didn’t have to lug it all around the city before our train ride back home. We stopped at the gluten free bakery again before making our way to Rosenborg Castle.

Before stepping into Rosenborg castle, we walked around in the King’s garden. I imagine it is beautiful with flowers blooming in the spring but the design of the hedges was still cool. It was also very green and sunny.

Inside the castle, I pretty much chased the girls around. We were given a scavenger hunt in which we had to answer multiple choice questions to help us in solving a riddle. It was all in Danish and thanks in part to Google translate, we were able to solve it. The girls were given a pin for solving it which they were both proud of.
So the following pictures I don’t know many details about. I know that the castle was built by Christian IV and has many levels. There were huge furniture with intricate design. A big ballroom with the coronation thrones and silver lions. Beautiful artwork was all over the castle. And the Danish crown jewels (which were stunning) were located in the basement.

It was quite a sight to see the royal crowns but with two children in tow, I really wasn’t able to read much of the history. So the girls and I waited outside a bit to soak in some sun and wait for grandma and Aunt Jan.

After the castle, we walked back to the AirBNB to pick up our luggage and head back to the main train station. After grabbing McDonalds (again) at the station, we hopped on the train back home.

Saturday we left the country of Denmark and headed into Germany.
Our first stop was to Glücksburg, Germany to see Glücksburg Castle.

We arrived on yet another dreary day and there appeared to be a wedding just ending when we arrived. We basically walked into a wedding party when we entered the castle. The employees at the entrance spoke little English so we had to muddle our way through the conversation but we got the jist of it. She pointed to rooms we could start at and that we could go upstairs. She also made sure we knew that slippers had to be worn in one of the levels of the castle. We were also handed these 90s phone type devices. Each room had a sign with a number on it. You typed in the number and the phone would tell you the story of that room in English (or another language if you had it programmed to it). The girls grabbed their dress up gear and away we went to tour the castle.

Unfortunately, once Avery realized I was using the device to listen to the history, she wanted to listen too. Claire also grabbed a hold of grandma’s device and they set off throughout the castle looking for the numbers with ducks next to it (which we guessed was the kid appropriate history). There was little signage throughout the castle so I didn’t quite get the full history lesson. However, I did learn that the castle is a part of Schleswig-Holstein which my grandma says my family history may originate. Do I have royal blood? Who knows…

The favorite part of the castle for the girls was the fairy tale room. Here there were fairy tale stories along the walls, apples hanging from a tree, a floating dress and a wishing well. Although everything was in German, they still enjoyed pretending and trying to decipher what each story was about.

The basement was also terrifying at the castle. It was the dungeon and torture chamber. Not fun explaining it to the 7 year old either…

The rain was falling at a good pace and we decided to make our way into Flensburg to do some shopping and grab a bite to eat.
Flensburg is a cute, little German town. It sits along a fjord and has a gorgeous harbor and shopping district. Any store you want is pretty much there. Everything is also cheaper than what you would pay in Denmark.

Unfortunately, the weather was less than ideal. The rain continued to fall steadily and the winds were picking up in speed. We called it a day just as the sun was starting to set.

Sunday was Lego day! We decided that grandma and Jan needed to experience the awesomeness of the Lego House. We even decided to grab lunch there since we typically pack our own lunch. We deserved a treat! Both grandma and Jan were impressed by the Lego builds in the Lego House. We go there so often I think I’ve gotten use to it. So here are the pictures my mom took (if you like Lego definitely take a look):

I think the girls’ favorite part was lunch. It is really neat how they have it set up at the MiniChef.

First, we grabbed a bag of Lego. The Lego bag had multiple different shapes and colors. There is even a special block for kids.

Next, we looked at the menu. Each block color/shape represents an item on the menu to order. It’s a four course meal and we could only choose one from each block color. I also liked how allergens were listed on the menu.

After “building” our order, we inserted it into a screen. This device read the build and showed it on the screen. A little video then played when the order was submitted. After submitting the order, we ordered drinks for a human waiter to bring to us.

After a while, the screen lit up with another video indicating our food was ready. The food was delivered by a conveyor belt from the kitchen to two friendly, chef-looking robots.

Oh and did I mention it came in a Lego box? Pretty neat!

Monday was catch up day. We caught up on sleep, laundry, playing and dishes. Grandma spent most of the day playing with the girls. We did sneak in a quick walk despite the constant rain/wind.

Tuesday the girls went back to school and the adults went to Ribe. We went to the, viking museum, the famous cathedral (my previous post on Ribe) and walked along the shopping district checking out different shops. The picturesque canal in Ribe was overfilled with water. Some of it from rainfall and some from the strong westerly winds pushing in the sea.

The wooden posts indicate where the canal should be. Everything to the right is flooded area.

Wednesday we said goodbye to our visitors. Tears flowed from grandkids and grandma as we said goodbye. I truly felt homesick after I dropped them off at the airport. It was like a piece of home I had was leaving again. But we had a good time with grandma and Aunt Jan while they were with us. We were so blessed to have them visit and have safe travels.

What we’ve been up to…

So it was a long January. A few reasons for that is that all the Christmas and New Year decorations we taken down. The days were still short and mainly cloudy and dreary. In fact (climate nerd facts upcoming), the whole country averaged only 36 hours of sunshine (normal for January is 50 hours) and around three inches of liquid precipitation (average is 2.6″ for January). I know that doesn’t seem like a lot of rain to those of us from the Midwest but when it’s mainly just a drizzle, it doesn’t add up to much. It rained 28 days out of the 31 in January. *ugh*

We also didn’t go on any long trips or even many local trips due to the weather. But a few fun things happened…

Avery celebrated her birthday! She started the day with the traditional birthday donut and candle. She brought rainbow cupcakes to school which she enjoyed sharing with her classmates. We also spent the afternoon at the library playing on their little playground. It was a great day.

Otherwise, the rest of the month included running my school taxi service for the girls and errands. We’ve continued to learn Danish and now I can read some of the baby board books at the library (baby steps). The pronunciation is what I struggle with the most and since I’m not immersed quite in the Danish culture due to our international community, I’m not 100% sure I’ll be able to get that. Time will tell.

And that pretty much sums up our January. Exciting, huh?

February 1st hit and we were ready to get out of the house. The husband went to a motorcycle/car show and the girls and I went thrift store shopping. We did found some good deals including this little number for Avery:

Queen Elsa! She LOVES it! And it was only like $2! Score!

We then decided to stop at Skovsnogen or Deep Forest Artland. Although it was dreary, I was hoping the rain would hold off.

It was definitely an adventure. Art was scattered all along this forest with many walking trails. There was even a map provided to us to keep us from getting lost. Some of the art work was awesome, some was confusing and some were outright scary.

The girls really enjoyed the first part of the trip. There were stands to climb up on to see a view of the fields beyond the forest, a fun megaphone or listening device and the best part, a wooden snake to climb on.

After spending quite a bit of time climbing on the snake, we made our way deeper into the forest. At this point, Avery was getting a bit scared but we kept encouraging her to find more art. They definitely enjoyed pointing it out and climbing on what they could.

Then we came upon these guys. I found them to be the scariest bit of the park. They were mannequins covered in different sorts of fabric and antlers. Yikes!

Some other fun (and not so scary) things we found was a wooden house that Avery played pretend in for a while and another house with a tree going through it. It reminded me of a real tree house and the inside had a wooden gun, wooden deer mounts and wooden spices. It was also good shelter from the rain that was starting to fall.

Next, we crossed the road to experience the other part of the park. It was very muddy and I was very happy the girls were dressed in decent raingear.

This part of the park was located near a stream and would have been gorgeous on a spring day. On the day we went, well, it was starting to rain and the winds were picking up. Luckily, we headed deeper into the forest again where the close proximity of the trees helped to keeps us a bit drier and less wind blown. It also took us to my favorite piece of art, HATE.

These were massive, brick letters. Here’s the girls by them:

I think I loved it so much because it made such a statement in the forest. I also saw it as the literally translation of the saying: “Hate is such a strong word”. My thought might not be what the artist intended but everyone interprets art differently, right?

This is also around the part where we got lost and Avery was done! We took a wrong turn at a piece of artwork and ended up in the middle of a field close to the stream. Avery then started crying that her feet hurt and she wanted to be carried. She was done and in full tantrum mode. So after one stop at a candle art work thing:

we made our way back to the car.
Although, it wasn’t the best day to go on a hike through the forest, it was great to get out and absorb some nature and fresh air. I would highly recommend visiting Skovnogen, just check the weather first and bring snacks if you have kids.

And to end this post, I’m going to do a parent brag.

Claire’s class led an all-school assembly recently and I was able to attend. It was adorable! I was told it was the youngest class to lead an all school assembly and Claire had come up with the idea. Her class did an excellent job. They covered Valentine’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. and favorite books. It included singing, a sketch, videos and contributors from other classes and teachers. Claire even yelled for everyone to “Be Quiet” when they were being a bit loud. It was quite funny.

I’m so proud of her and her classmates for putting it together and being so brave. It is never easy to speak in front of your peers. Way to go!

We’re about to start winter break here in Denmark which for us means GRANDMA. IS. COMING.

And the days are getting longer! Now let’s just hope for some more sunny days…