Wednesday, 25 June 2014

You know you're in Denmark when... (Birthday cake, lady?)

You know you're in Denmark when...

It's my birthday today - hip, hip, hurra!  And - though I ain't no spring chicken - I do have a barnlig sjæl (am a child at heart).   Not to mention en sød tand (a sweet tooth). And a seriously serious addicition to wienerbrød.  So much so that I wrote a seven part series on them.

So every year I order myself a traditional Danish kiddies birthday cake.  En kagekone. A cake lady!  You can read about them in a previous post Let them eat (Danish) cake (man)!  Here's a very pretty one (that I managed to eat mostly by myself) from my birthday two years ago...


And here's my cake anno 2014.  Which kind of threw me a bit when I received it from the bakers this morning.  Umm, I did order a cake lady, right?  A friend of mine commented, "Hee hee, it looks more like a bear than a lady!" :P  DD12 (dear daughter, aged 12), ever the diplomat, proclaimed that, "Well, Mum, it's not how you look but what's inside that counts, right?"    And, six slices of delicious wienerbrød later, I can only agree.  Now where's that sofa - I need to lie down! ;) 


Yep, life is a beach at 47...



Diane :)

Monday, 23 June 2014

Flødeboller! What's not to love? Um, even more!

No sooner than I had wiped the last chocolate from the corners of my mouth and hit 'publish' on my flødeboller blogpost (Flødeboller! What's not to love?), than I remembered that there was even more to go round of those dainty Danish domes of delight!


What about a tongue twister?  Fem flade flødeboller på et fladt flødebollefad!  (Five flat flødeboller on a flat flødebolle tray.)  Yep, try saying that one five times fast.  With or without aforementioned flødebolle in your mouth ;)


And no self-respecting school fête or børnehavefest (nursery party) is complete without Flødebollemaskinen.  The "flødebolle catapult machine"!  Always a hit.  But sometimes a miss (boom, boom)!  You very carefully balance a flødebolle (make sure to use the cheap ones for this!) on the back of the machine...


 ...and throw a ball at the "clown".  If you hit him right on the nose - baboom - the flødebolle flies up and you try and catch it!


Sadly, many hundreds of yummy flødeboller are harmed each summer in the process. And end up as a big sticky mess on the playground... ;)

But - hey - onwards and upwards!  Summer is well and truly here in Denmark right now and my DD12 and DS14 are eating icecream round the clock.  If you're out and about and find a good icecream shop, then go the whole hog and ask for syltetøj (jam), flødeskum (whipped cream) and a flødebolle, for a real traditional Danish treat.   They'll stick the flødebolle (okay, more like kind of squash it...) upside down on the top of your icecream cone.  Difficult to eat and you may need to wash your face afterwards but, hey, it's a unique Danish summer experience!  :)


Okay, time to go - my cup of coffee and flødebolle await!  Really, what's not to love?

Diane :)

 

 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Counting down... Bonfire night on Monday!

I've always had mixed feelings about Sankt Hans Aften.  (I've written about it before Happy Sankt Hans!).  What is it?  A huge event on the Danish social calendar - the night where you go out and celebrate midsummer!  23 June - which this year is next Monday.

Bonfires are lit up and down the coast.  Or, like here - last year - in our local park. Normally around 9.30pm or 10pm, when it's still light.



Safety first!  It's also - selvfølgelig - a busy night for the Danish firefighters, who are always on hand! :)



But, hey, let's backtrack a little!  The evening usually starts with people gathering - perhaps with a picnic - down at the beach or in the forest.  The evening officially starts with a short Sankt Hans Tale or "Bål Tale" (bonfire speech) by a local dignitary or 'personality'.  And then the singing can start.  Sometimes with live music from an orchestra or band.  And, if you're very lucky, a songsheet, so you can join in the singalong! :)



You'll be singing Midsommervisen.  A.k.a. Vi elsker vort land.  "We love our country." Last year we also sang I Danmark er jeg født ("In Denmark I was born") and Der er et yndigt land ("There is a lovely land") which you might recognise as the Danish national anthem.


Want to practice? Here's the Sankt Hans song, Midsommervise.  In a classic version...


...and, here, a modern version by Shubidua.



So why the mixed feelings?  Well, as the fire slowly dies out (here we are in Svendborg in 2012), it's time to head home in the twilight. And try not to think that, from now on, the long, long, long days of summer will be getting short, short, shorter.  Øv! ;)



Diane :)

 

Monday, 16 June 2014

You know you're in Denmark when... (Postmen)

You know you're in Denmark when...

Have you met our Danish posties?  Always on a special cargo bike or moped.  Dressed in red like Dannebrog (the Danish flag).  And, more often than not, sporting shorts.


Whether they're stopped in a quiet suburban backstreet or, like here, right in the very centre of Copenhagen, it always surprises me that...



...they go off to make a delivery, leaving the bike and panniers unlocked.  And nothing gets pinched! ;)



Yep, Postman Pat - or should I say, Postmand Per - has reason to be a really happy man!


Diane :)


PS: In case you're wondering, Postmand Per's cat is called Emil.  Miav!  Miaow!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Necessity is the mother of invention. And of homemade koldskål.

As the Danes say, "Nød lærer nøgen kvinde at spinde".  Necessity teaches the naked woman to spin.  And that's exactly what I ended up doing on Wednesday.

Okay, so I wasn't exactly sitting in my birthday suit, in the front parlour, at the wheel spinning a yarn.  No, I was forced to make koldskål from scratch.  To give you some background:  Tuesday was one of the hottest days of the year.  So when I opened the door of the dairy refrigerator at our local IRMA supermarket, the proverbial cupboard was bare.  What, no koldskål?!  Not even one measly carton of the addictive white stuff?  "Sorry," said the friendly IRMA man, "just can't keep up with demand."  You will remember, dear readers, from my very first post about koldskål in 2011 that those crazy Danes are C.R.A.Z.Y. about the stuff.  Yep, there is a direct correlation between high temperatures and sales of koldskål.  Were we heading for koldskål shortages?  As we stood there chatting about the weather, guess what I spied behind him?  That dreaded (Danish) root of all evil -  lakrids (liquorice) - strikes again.  I mean, for heavens sake, liquorice salt?!  Blech and double blech! :P


But, as usual, I digress!  I remembered something about making it yourself and - lo and behold - when I started checking out the different cartons of kærnemælk (buttermilk), there was a recipe on the back.  Saved!


The recipe was: "Beat 2 pasteurised egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and the seeds from a vanilla pod (we used vanilla powder) until frothy.  Carefully stir in the buttermilk.  Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice if desired.  Serve with cornflakes, kammerjunker (little plain biscuits) or slices of fresh strawberry."


So that's what we did.  And - by jingo - it tastes just as good as the readymade stuff! And it's - selvfølgelig - dang cheaper than the readymade stuff... [said the canny Scot] So we ate half of it, there and then, and poured the remains back in the kærnemælk carton, to keep it cool in the fridge for another time.


Fast forward to today, Friday.  DD12 and her friend have just biked home from school and have polished off the remains.  Hmm, time to get naked and start spinning! ;)


Have a fabulous Friday and a wonderful weekend!

Diane :)

 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Pumped and ready to ride!

Are you ready?  Tyres pumped, lights checked, cycle helmet strapped firmly on? Tomorrow, Friday, is Cyklistdag (Cyclist Day) for my DD12 (dear daughter, aged 12) who's in the 5th grade.  It's a campaign, organised by the police and schools in our area, to improve road safety.  Many kids bike to school - either accompanied by their parents or alone, from the age of about 10.  Yep, it can be hard to find a bike parking space at school in the morning - come early if you want a good spot... ;)


So what does Cyklistdag involve?  Well, the class will be divided up into small groups of 5/6 kids and they'll cycle round the commune with volunteer parents.


There are a couple of stops with 'challenges' along the way.  This year I'm helping out with the Manøvrebane, where the kids will have to manoeuvre round cones, ride over a ramp and complete a slalom track.  Another 'challenge' is to name all the things that, by law, must be on a bike.  Which reminded me that, um, I badly needed to go check our bike lights and change some batteries.  Job done!


My favourite 'challenge' is Lastbilens blindevinkel (the truck's blind spot).  A huge lorry is parked outside our local library and the kids are given a traffic cone which represents their bike.  They're told to place the cone alongside the lorry, at a spot where they think it is 'safe' and where they think the lorry driver will be able to 'see' them, if he turns right.  (Even if most Danish lorries now have special cameras fitted, there are still - unfortunately - several fatal accidents each year involving cyclists and right-turning-trucks, so it's vital information for the kids.)



After they've placed their cones, the kids are then invited up, up, up into the drivers seat.  So they can see exactly what the driver can see.



And - ta da - suddenly realise just how important it is to keep their distance...  A real eye opener!



Next year, in 6th grade, the kids will take their cyklistprøve (cycling proficiency test) where they'll cycle the route on their own.

Will you be out in the traffic tomorrow?  Give us a wave!  Or, at least, give way!

Diane :)

 

 

 

Friday, 6 June 2014

Flødeboller! What's not to love?

Whenever my DSBB (Dear Scottish Big Brother) comes to visit, he [cough] very kindly provides us with a list of things he'll "need" when he's here.  Beer, beer and (more) beer - ha!  But, okay, aside from lots of Danish øl, number one on the list is always flødeboller.  Now, to be honest, I'm not sure what he enjoys most: eating the dang things or misprouncing them... ;) Closest in English would probably be 'flew-the-ball-r'.


But, as usual, I digress!  What are flødeboller?  Small or large, (normally) dark chocolate domes, filled with a marshmallowy cream and a wafer base.  If you're very, very lucky, they'll have a marcipan base.  Yummity yum!


You can buy cheap and cheerful flødeboller at the supermarket. They come in packs of 6 or 12.  Usually half are 'plain' and half are topped with dessicated coconut.  (A word of warning: the coconut ends up everywhere and makes a right mess...)


The cheap and cheerful packs are very handy.  Especially because it's a Danish tradition to hand them out at school when it's your fødselsdag (birthday). And, with perhaps 27 classmates, it can be pretty expensive [typed the Canny Scot].  My son's old Maths teacher was often late and - if he turned up late for class three times in a row - he gave flødeboller to the kids as compensation.  Another tradition at the school is - if the teacher calls a pupil by the wrong name three times in a row - he has to give the pupil a pack of flødeboller.  Nice one! :)



At the other end of the scale, you have the luxury (ergo, expensive) handmade flødeboller.  Using the finest dark chocolate and exotic flavourings.  Yep, flødeboller are very much in fashion.  A few years ago everybody was on a cupcake decorating course.  Now everyone is learning how to make their own flødeboller...  I bought some jordbær (strawberry) flavoured ones at the supermarked this morning and will be doing a taste test tonight with the family :)



But, for Pete's sake, did they have to start adding the dreaded lakrids (liquorice) - the (Danish) Root of All Evil - to our flødeboller?  Is nothing sacred? :P

Have a fantastic Friday and a wonderful long weekend.  Yep, Denmark is closed again on Monday because of Pinse (Whitsun Pentecost) - and the weather forecast is hot and sunny!  What's not to love?

Diane :)

 

 

Monday, 2 June 2014

You know you're in Denmark when... (Here comes the Summer!)

You know you're in Denmark when...

In the words of the iconic Undertones, "Here comes the summer!"  In fact, Danish summer officially kicked off yesterday, Sunday 1 June.  (Spring starts 1 March, summer 1 June, autumn 1 September and winter 1 December.)

How I love late spring/early summer!  My absolute favourite time of year, when Denmark shows itself from its very best side...  It looks, smells and sounds good!  So here's a - completely subjective - list of things that sum up summer in Denmark for me:

Have you tried koldskål topped with little kammerjunker biscuits yet?  The Danes (and my daughter...) plough their way through the stuff. Over 10 million litres a year!  One of my husband's colleagues loves this strangely addictive, sour, white stuff so much that she eats nothing else between the months of May and September...


Sankt Hans Aften (midsummer), 23 June, is truly a magical evening,  That is, if Danish weather gods don't stop play!  As the light begins to fade, bonfires are lit up and down the coast.  A local dignitary or personality makes a speech and then comes a singalong - which always starts with the midsummer hymn, Vi elsker vort land ("We love our country").  Not a dry eye in the house - remember your hankies!


There's no getting past it.   Homemade or shop-bought.  Still or sparkling.  Diluted with cold water or added to a glass of bubbly for a sparkling apéritif.  Hyldeblomst (elderflower) is the quintessential Danish summer drink.  Or how about going one step further - and making your own elderflower champagne?  Super easy - the recipe is here.


When you're out and about this summer, you might,  if you're lucky, see some beautiful Mums and Babies out for a swim.  Knopsvanen - the mute swan - was named the national bird of Denmark after a public vote in 1986.  Not really a big surprise there, as swans often feature in the fairy tales of  Hans Christian Andersen...


Do you hear the sound of car horns, blaring music, singing and cheering outside? Yep, it's graduation time! A truly spectacular sight when decorated trucks full of Danish high school kids pass by you on the street.  And they keep driving past.  All day and all night.  Don't forget to toot and wave at them :)


I heart smørrebrød!  And after a swim in the sea or a walk along the beach nothing beats sterneskud ("a shooting star"), a classic smørrebrod of fried plaice and fresh prawns.  Washed down - selvfølgelig - with a nice cold beer.  Skål!


Will you have visitors over the summer?  Then head downtown to Nyhavn, the "New Harbour".  It's central, picturesque and always, always buzzing with activity.  And the best part?  Simply jump on one of the canal boats for a spot of sightseeing.  Lean back, relax and enjoy the sounds of your friends "oohing" and "aaaahing" over how pretty Copenhagen looks from the water!


But, for me, the best part of early summer in Denmark is the smell of the air at 6am. The chirping of the birds - as annoying as that may be, on the mornings when I'm trying to have a lie in!  Whizzing along on a bike instead of sitting in a stuffy car with the aircondition going at full blast. Enjoying every single minute and hour of sunshine and warmth that comes our way.  Sitting out in the garden with a book after dinner.  The long, long, loooooooong nights.  Coming home from a party in the early hours of the morning and discovering that it's already light - eek!

Yep, get out there and enjoy it while it lasts!

God sommer!

Diane :)