Elderflower Drink

What a hectic week! With my husband visiting Coppenhagen due to his work, and both of our kids falling victim to the nasty virus circulating in their daycare, I had my hands full.

Luckily the children didn’t get very sick. Sick enough to stay at home, but well enough to run around like poisoned mice… 🙂 So yesterday I took out the bike and attached the kid-carrier behind it: I took Cherry and Paddington down to the nearest town, Hammel, to feed the ducks at the lake. They loved it!

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About the ducks: they are like the tame animals in a petting zoo: they are so used to people coming and feeding them all the time, that they are not scared at all of humans. Moreover, I haven’t even parked the bike, they were already all running towards us, quacking wildly, demanding their lunch… It also means that I could easily take close-up photos of them 🙂

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Cherry found it amusing from the very first moment, but Paddington didn’t share her enthusiasm at first. Basically he was freaking out because of the pushy behaviour of the ducks 🙂 Luckily later on he also started to appreciate the situation, and the bread I took with me was gone  quite soon.

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After the bread was all eaten up, the kids engaged themselves in the classic game of chasing the ducks around – in the rain, of course, it is Denmark, after all 🙂 Cherry couldn’t stop laughing at the funny knock-kneed way of running of the ducks. Later the kids collected some feathers, and we went home.

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And it was time to make some lovely elderflower drink 🙂 

As far as I am concerned, I simply love the elderflower syrup drinks! So I was very happy to see, that we have some nice elderflower bushes in our garden, and right now it is high time to pluck them and turn them into some sweet, smooth, golden, summery syrup drinks…

bush

To make the drink, you are going to need the following:

  • An elderflower bush would be nice to have around, probably in the forest…
  • A big bowl or basket to collect the flowers
  • A pair of scissors
  • A bowl for cooking the syrup
  • Some clean bottles
  • A 4-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy (optional, or can be replaced with children of any number, gender and age)

While I was trying my best to collect the flowers from the bush, Cherry was standing by, holding the bowl, and a little bit complaning about the bowl being heavy… 🙂 Paddington was playing with the dog. Now that is what I call an ideal distribution of work tasks 🙂

When collecting the flowers and putting them into the bowl, Cherry suddenly cried out: “Look, Mummy, the flowers all full of animals!!!” – well, it’s true. When it comes to “bio” elderflowers – and by that I mean that they are from our own garden, without the use of any chemicals – insects will decide to live and prosper among the bushes.

picking elderflower

That is why you have to give the flowers a very proper wash before using them. I flooded the flowers with plenty of water, thereafter I removed the floating corpses of the “animals” from the water. Not my favourite part of the process, I can tell you that…

washing

To make the syrup, you will going to need:

  • 40-50 bunches of elderflower
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 3 lemons
  • 2 l water

ingredients mix

You start with adding the sugar and the honey to a bowl af water, and make them boil. When it is boiling, you add the flowers and the sliced lemons, and stir the syrup.

elderflower syrup

After that just put the bowl to a cool place to chill, and let it stand there for 3-4 days. I covered the bowl with an insect net, to keep additional ingredients (dead bugs) away from the syrup. And the net might also keep away curious children of the syrup, though I cannot guarantee that… But our house already smells heavenly!!!

cooling

You will have to stir the syrup a few times daily. After a few days the syrup will be ready to be drained and put into clean bottles. You serve the drink by adding water to it.

So far I haven’t reached the point of draining and serving the drinks, but obviously I will keep you updated 🙂

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Midsummer

Summer is officially at its peak. It is midsummer, 6 months after Christmas, 6 months before Christmas – alas the best time of the year to have birthday, according to my husband. As it happens, it is my birthday today 🙂 But that’s not what I was going to write about.

I love this time of the year, especially in Denmark. As all of the Scandinavian countries, Denmark also welcomes an extreme amount of light hours during these months. The sun is up (even if sometimes behind the clouds) about 19 hours per day. Fantastic 🙂 A nice change after the long winter months, when we can be happy, if we have 5 hours daily sunshine… All this light is beautiful, even if sometimes it causes its troubles, like when I am unable to get my kids to sleep, cause who is going to fall asleep in bright sunshine, even if it’s already 10.30 in the evening…. I remember my dormitory days, when I used to work as a dishwasher in a fancy restaurant to pay my bills, and every Saturday we had a wedding to attend to. It meant that I rarely got home before 4 o’clock in the morning, shut the blinds on the window of my dorm room, and wanted to fall into unconscious sleep, but I simply couldn’t, because of the light finding its way through the blinds, and all the birds making a terrible noise, singing happily outside my window… oh, those were the days of my youth 🙂

Summer by the way means a lot of beautiful things. Like our roses that have sprung…

Or the fresh strawberries that make the milk you pour on them just amazingly pink and sweet…

strawberries

And also, the yearly Midsummer celebrations 🙂 We had a little grilling and bonfire at our village’s sports field, where a lot of our neighbours, my husband’s football buddies and our children’s day care friends met up. It was a lovely evening, despite the occasional showers (but again, it is Denmark).

A man-sized bonfire was built earlier that day, and it was not easy to set it on fire, but finally the men managed to start it.

starting the fire

It was beautiful and scary at the same time, the flames reaching up to the sky, and I was so happy that I was not born a few centuries earlier, because I am sure that I would have been burnt as a witch, just because of my freckles… what a terrible death.

At the same time as the bonfire, a rainbow showed up above the village 🙂 If you look at the picture carefully, you can see that it was actually a double rainbow!

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We had a lovely time, and walked home around 9 p.m, when our kids started to get tired, and somewhat wet from the on-and-off rains.

 

The Local Flea Market

Yesterday was a big day in our little village of 300 inhabitants: The yearly flea market was held in the premises of the school.

Let me tell you a little bit about this school. There are two types of schools in Denmark, state-schools and private-schools. For a lot of years state-schools dominated, but at some point some cut-backs were necessary in the budget, and numerous state-schools were closed, mostly in small villages, like ours. So the state-school that operated here was shut down about 10 years ago, and you can guess the effect it had on the village: Families with small children moved away to be closer to the school, no new families moved in, the population started to grow old and rare. So, like in many other places, a foundation was set up to start a new, private school in the old building, 3 years ago. Our school has a young inspector (who happens to be our next-door neighbour), many dedicated teachers, classes from 0 to 9, maximum 17 students per class, a sports hall, a playground, and it puts a big emphasis on creativity, music, and motion. With the reopening of the school life, new, young families, children returned to the village. The school is about 200 metres from our doorsteps, and was a very highly weighted factor when we were contemplating buying the house. It is in our, and everyone’s interest, that the school is running nicely. But of course, being a private school, it doesn’t get financial help from the state. It is dependent on the foundation and all the help of the parents: donations, weekends spent by parents working on the playground, or cleaning the school.

The flea market is organised by the school’s support association, and parents do all the work on it. We don’t belong to this group of parents yet, as our children are too young for school, but in a few years we are going to be one of them, so we decided to help out with the market. We donated a few things we don’t need anymore (unused, outgrown toys, clothes, etc.), my husband helped unloading all the trailers that kept coming with all the stuff for 3 days, and I helped organising, pricing and selling them. It was great fun, a good way to meet new people, and had a good meaning to it: every penny earned by the flea market goes to the school. Last year they raised a huge amount of money, and I don’t have this year’s figures yet, but I think it was very successfull again.

flea market

Also, I am a sucker for flea markets. I love to go and look and find hidden treasures, plus save some money. Being part of the “crew” meant that we could all take a good look at the selection in forhand, choose our favourite items, and put them aside for ourselves.

Let me introduce you to my new baby: A beautiful, perfectly working Columbine II sewing machine 🙂

columbine

She was a very hard choice, because she had to fight for me with an older Singer and a Husqvarna model, but she won, and came home with me after I paid some ridiculous amount for it.

My other favourite find is this charming, old breadcutter, as you can see it on the logo, the manufacturer is an official supplier of the Danish Royal Court. My breadcutter could be exactly the same as the Queen’s 🙂 Anyway, I am not sure I’m going to use it for cutting bread or just for keeping my cooking books on it…

raadvad

Is It Spring Yet?

My poor body is longing for spring. Mentally I don’t feel it’s been a long winter, at least not yet, but my body says: “I want sunshine! I want vitamins!” and it also says: “Let’s sleep!”. And so we do. I sleep 10-11 hours per night (I know, it’s unheard of among mums with small kids, but luckily mine are marmots – they are very good at sleeping – so noone disturbs me), still, in the morning I can barely crawl out my bed, and by the afternoon I cannot keep my eyes open. I am constantly craving for apples and tomatoes (and I swear, I am not even pregnant!) and coffee… These are all signs of my body is getting discharged.

But there is hope! Today suddenly the temperature rised significantly, and the snow started to melt in patches, also in our garden. And guess what’s been hiding under the snow? Spring! Spring has been hiding under it 🙂

eranthis

snowdrop

Frijsenborg

We are lucky to have some wonderful forests around us where we can always go for a little walk whenever we feel like to do so.

One of them is the beautiful forest of Frijsenborg, which is a private forest, belonging to the palace in the middle of it, but of course the public can also enjoy the tours in it.

Like many other people, we decided to go for a walk there last Sunday. It was a beautiful, snowy day. We took the kids, a sleigh and the dog with us. Just like other families 🙂 After a few hundred meters in the woods, we quickly realised, we are not the only 2 parents-2 kids-dog-sleigh combo around 🙂

forest walk

But enough of talking, let the pictures tell their stories 🙂

field

road

woods

stream

palace

The most wonderful month of the year

December, that is. When all the magic is created in anticipation of the peek of the year, Christmas, that leads to boredom, emptiness and apathy in the months of January and February…

But lets not run ahead. December is here and we rejoice 🙂

The weather, here in Denmark, decided to make this December even more magical, and the snow arrived precisely on the 1st of the month. Also, the Christmas celebration has officially started all over the country last Friday, when Santa visited all the towns, and lit the holiday lights on the walking streets and on the huge Christmas trees towns have erected. He must have been very busy last Friday 😉 He arrived to Hammel, to “our big city” of few thousands people, only a few kilometers away from our tiny village, at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, in total darkness, and in a fire engine. He was raised high up, so everyone could see him, then turned on the lights of the 15-meters-high Christmas tree. After that a little procession started on the walking street, following a band, dressed up as elves (nisse in Danish), playing Christmas songs. My kids were flabbergasted by the events 🙂

jul i hammel

Naturally we also made our little preparations for advent. Saturday evening we all sat around our kitchen table full of all the supplies we could possibly need:

raw materials

With the help (or in spite of the help 🙂 ) of a 3 and a half-year old, and a 20-month-old, we created our advent wreath, some other christmasy decorations…

advent plates

and some wreaths to hang on the front door and on the staircase:

wreaths

And don’t forget the scented candles and Christmas lights, to complete the atmosphere.

So came the morning of the first Sunday of the Advent. My husband went out to shovel some snow, while I was making our usual Sunday-morning treat, heart shaped waffles, this time with a dash of cinnamon in the dough.

advent morning

This Sunday was not only special because of the advent, it was also special, because we went out to chop our Christmas tree! Yes, that is the Danish country-side way 🙂 Growing up in Budapest, the capital of Hungary, for me picking up the Christmas tree actually meant picking it up with my parents at the market place, trying to pick the most symmetric one (or the least crocked one) from the selection. For my husband, who grew up on a farm, in the middle of a forest, picking up the Christmas tree meant that my father-in-law took him and his sister by the hand, walked into their forest, chose a pine tree, chopped it, and dragged it home. I think we can all feel the difference in the degree of romance and magic of these two kind of traditions 🙂 We would like to give our kids the most magic possible this time of the year, so, just like last year, we decided to chop our own tree. Obviously, since we don’t own a forest, we cannot just walk in one of them and chop someone else’s tree. But luckily there are many pine tree plantations around, where you can just walk in, they provide you with a saw, show you which trees you can choose from, you pick your own, chop it, pay for it (some ridiculously cheap price) and leave.

So we found one of these plantations nearby, and drove in. The owner was not at home when we arrived, but there was a note on the door, and we followed its instructions, grabbed the saw, walked up to the plantation, found the area where you can pick your own tree, and walked around for long minutes in the freezing cold, because Cherry was not very satisfied with the trees. She kept saying that we need to find a girl tree to chop, we cannot choose a boy tree… Anyway, we managed to convince her that we have just found a looot of girl trees, aren’t they beautiful (and they were, haven’t seen so many beautiful, dense, symmetric trees in my life), then we picked one we thought we can fit in the car and our living room, then my husband chopped it and dragged it back to the car. We measured the tree ourselves, left the appropriate amount of money in the postbox, and proudly drove home with our prey 🙂

chopping the tree

There are a lot of differences between the Danish and Hungarian Christmas traditions. I might write about them later, but one of them is the time of setting up and decorating the Christmas trees. In Hungary we leave it to the very last moment, it is usually decorated on the 24th, some families, like mine, do it together for the fun, in other families the parents decorate it secretly, while the kids are asleep, saying that the tree itself is a magical gift.

In Denmark Christmas trees are usually set up somewhat earlier. And since we are not going to spend Christmas itself in our own home, we are going to visit both grandparents, we decided to put it up on the first Sunday of the Advent, so we can enjoy the sight of it long enough.

So we rearranged the furniture a little bit in our sitting room, put the tree in the corner, I brought out the decorations, and we all took part in the process. For me a real Christmas tree is  completely eclectic, it doesn’t follow any trends or colour schemes, my ideal Christmas tree has all kinds of colours and all kinds of textures on it. You can find crystal or golden designer pieces on it (usually hanging somewhere near to the top, far away from the reach of curious dog noses and sticky baby fingers), but also creasy, messy paper  decorations, made by our children. And everything in between 🙂 My husband’s ideal Christmas tree is just like the one Mickey Mouse has in a Disney movie 🙂 So we have about the same concept of it, luckily 🙂 And the kids are just amazed by it, no matter what 🙂 They were also a big help in decorating. Cherry mainly concentrated on the horse shaped decorations, and she made sure they all hang close to each other, since they are close family. Originally she wanted to hang them all on the very same branch, but the poor branch started to fold downwards, and I managed to persuade her to distribute the horses on different branches. However, two of them had to stay together, because they were mum and baby, apparently… 🙂 Paddington instantly found all the car and train shaped decorations, and was happy for the rest of the day, pushing them around the couch, the carpet, and the tree, enthusiastically wrumm-wrumming, while doing so.

decorating

So, here it is, our corner before and after the tree:

corner before and after

The tree is standing and is beautiful, we showed it off to all the grandparents (thanks to Skype), and our biggest challenge is to prevent the kids from hurting it or hurting themselves with it. Also, the first dog vs. tree meeting was very exciting too… let me just say this: No-one under the height of 1 meter is allowed to be in the same room as the tree, without adult supervision 🙂

There is nothing left for this post than to welcome you all to our advent, and wish you a very nice, stress-free preparation  for Christmas! ‘Cause remember: it is all about coziness now!

welcome to our advent

 

 

 

 

Early Winter Adventures

I don’t know why, but my brother and his girlfriend keep coming to Denmark in November, which is probably the most boring and unattractive month of the year. Ok, probably not, because you get a nice feeling from all the Christmas preparations, January and February are much more boring. But seriously, nature has not much to offer at this time of the year, and the weather is not too friendly either. I keep telling them, that they should visit us in the spring or summer, but in vain…

Anyway, we always try to get the maximum out of their visits, so we tried our best this time too. Apart from a lot of playing and feeling cozy inside, we went for quite a few adventures with them.

First things first, we had to go to Aarhus. Aarhus is the city where we used to live until July. My husband and I used to study here, we lived in the same dorm, then moved together, had two kids in Aarhus, so we really love this town. But being the second largest city in Denmark (with its 300 000 inhabitants!!!! 😀 ), and a university town, the house prices were just too high for us, so we decided to set root 30 minutes away from there. But we still keep going there, because of the nice shopping possibilities. Our visitors always ask for 1 or 2 trips to downtown Aarhus, to raid their favourite shops. Well, they are my favourite shops as well 🙂 One of them is Søstrene Grene, and the other one is Tiger. Both  chains are a heaven of cute, small and cheap little things, especially before Christmas. I am not going to reveal (to you, or to my husband) the amount of money I’ve spent in those two shops during the last few years, because one just cannot resist all the cuteness and all the ideas…  My brother and his girlfriend also had some problems at the end of their visit, when they were trying to fit all their new stuff in the suitcase… 🙂

While there were here, we also ceased the possibility, and visited the local Christmas market, that was held on Saturday. It was held in the assembly building of the village, it was crowded from all the people, most of them already familiar to us, and had a few stalls offering amazing products from the crafty people of the area. Who knows, probably next year I’m gonna be one of them… 😉 The first person we bumped into was Cherry’s little friend from preschool, Jonathan, and a few minutes later they disappeared together under a table…

If we were already out and going, we decided to give a little sightseeing tour to my brother and gf, around our village. Well, it is a nice place, but the tour didn’t take long 🙂 We took a look at the church, then the football pitch, and walked home, passing by some cows and horses, that are standard equipment in every second household in the village 🙂 I am sure that our visitors, who happened to see Copenhagen the day before, were impressed by what they saw 🙂

The day after I took them for a little tour in the forest. I had this nice idea of packing the kids up in a pair of strollers, getting some blankets, some food, and present a little picnic at our favourite lookout spot. The kids created a nice atmosphere for the walk, by screaming from the top of their lunges at the first part of the tour, but later Cherry cheered up when we covered her with a few blankets, and she played that she is the little mole, sitting in her little mole car, and ordered my brother to push the stroller faster and faster. Paddington simply fell asleep after a while. We had our picnic with biscuits, some fruit, and hot chai latte, but it was so freezing cold there, that we wrapped it up quite quickly 🙂

The week passed fast, and yesterday I drove them back to the airport in Billund. They wanted to go and see the town of Billund, so we did, in spite of my husband’s warning, that there is simply nothing in downtown Billund. He was right. Billund has an airport, has a holiday center, and most importantly, this is where Legoland is located, and it attracts a lot of visitors. But the town itself has nothing to offer. Empty, boring streets, not even a nice church, no old buildings, or cute little passages, nothing. Well, we all know it now 🙂

The only thing we found interesting, was the windows of the Lego Inspiration House, where they put to display the development of Lego through the decades. It was funny to see, how much it has changed since the beginning.

Thanks to our little trip to “downtown” Billund, we almost got to the airport too late, but my brother and gf made it, and were home in Budapest a few hours later. See you at Christmas, guys 🙂