My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 18 December (Counting stars)

Welcome back to My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar!  Join me every day in opening a new door.  Once again, I’ve got a host of goodies to share with you – traditional Danish Christmas recipes, traditions, songs, games, decorations, crafts and landscapes…  So sit back, relax and enjoy!

18 DECEMBER

Is there a Christmas decoration that hangs in every window in your corner of the world?  Around these parts it used to be this retro classic – we ‘inherited’ this one from the previous owners of our Swedish summer house and I love it – pure Christmas kitsch! 🙂

But now there’s a new Sheriff in town…complete with a star – Julestjernen!

Yep, those stars seem to be hanging in every Danish shop window and home right now…

And you know they’ve gone viral when supermarkets and discount stores start selling them.

Julestjernen (“Christmas star”) is, co-incidentally, also the Danish name for the poinsettia…

I also spotted these in the shop windows…paper stars – another obsession of those crazy (but lovable) Danes!

If you want to try your hand at making some yourself, buy the long, thin strips of paper ready cut at hobby stores and bookshops.  Precision is key!

But I’m warning you, they’re very tricky and mind-boggingly time-consuming to make – I don’t think I’ll ever master them.  Normally I give up and turn them into musetrapper (“mouse steps”) instead… ! 😛

IMAG1450

Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)


My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 10 December (Cards and post)

Welcome to My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar!  Join me every day in opening a new door.  Once again, I’ve got a host of goodies to share with you – traditional Danish Christmas recipes, traditions, songs, games, decorations, crafts and landscapes…  So sit back, relax and enjoy!

10 DECEMBER

I got an e-mail from my mentor, the Flylady, yesterday morning, reminding me tocheck my Christmas lists twice 😉 and finish off those jobs that I’ve been procrastinating over. So today I got the last of the Christmas cards written, stamps on and they’re ready to pop in the postbox.

I always send one of the PostDanmark (the Danish postal service) special Christmas cards to my family and friends in Scotland.  Not cheap (at around DKR 39.95, UK£4.25, USD 6.50 ) but always a talking point.  And, more often than not, a building exercise!

They come in a cellophane packet.  Exhibit A.

And when you open the packet, it all comes spilling out.  Exhibit B.

And they always require (some fiddly) assembly by the recipient.  This year’s one, as I hope you can see, contains an envelope, a 3-D Christmas tree, a ‘tree mat’ (this is the ‘card’ where you can write a seasonal greeting or perhaps a “good luck with building!”) and eight (count ’em) small boxes which will be the ‘gifts’ under the tree.  Cute or kitsch, you decide! 😛

xmastree

Just remember to post your cards in good time (last posting dates are here).  Especially if, like me, the price of Danish stamps makes you reach for the smelling salts and you therefore send everything B-post (second class).

Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)


My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 6 December (Hearts)

 

Welcome back to My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar!  Join me every day in opening a new door.  Once again, I’ve got a host of goodies to share with you – traditional Danish Christmas recipes, traditions, songs, games, decorations, crafts and landscapes…  So sit back, relax and enjoy!

6 DECEMBER

Yesterday I showed you how to make æbleskiver (Danish Christmas donuts) and today we’re getting our scissors and glue out!  I was at the library on Thursday, looking at all the Xmas books…

And came across some books on how to weave some very intricate hearts… 

The Danes say that “Jul er hjerternes fest“.  That “Christmas is the festival of hearts”.  Yep, look around and you’ll see hearts everywhere.  Gingerbread hearts, crocheted hearts, heart-shaped tree ornaments and Danish woven paper hearts – hanging in windows or on the branches of Christmas trees.

So are you ready to “jule” (yep, the Danes even use the word ‘Christmas’ as a verb!) and make some (easy peasy) Danish Christmas heart crafts?

WOVEN PAPER HEART

My dearly departed Danish father-in-law loved to make things out of paper and was a dab hand at those intricate woven designs. But be warned: in order to do paper weaving, you have to have nimble fingers, bucketloads of patience and Danish blood in your veins.  You’re still determined to try?  Hmm, then I’d suggest borrowing a book from your local Danish library.  Or try, for example, http://www.julidannevang.dk/klip/klip.shtml

But I’m going to show you the two-minute version – the cheat’s version – as taught to me by DD12 (dear daughter, aged 12).  She learned to make the hearts this way when she was at nursery…  You’ll need two pieces of paper or carton in different colours.  (Red and white, if you want to be really traditional.)  Mark out the shape (see below) and draw a line in the middle, up to the point where the edge starts to curve.  Cut out the shapes and then cut along the middle lines.

Turn the white carton at right angles and weave the first ‘finger’ through the red carton.

 

Weave the red ‘finger’ over the white and – hey presto – færdig (done)!  Just add a dab of glue or a piece of sticky tape, to stop the heart from falling apart.  Use blue tack (or, as Danish kids call it, ‘pædagog-snot‘ = ‘teacher snot’!) to fix them on your window pane.  Or add a paper loop, and hang them on the tree. 

 

FABRIC HEART

You could, of course, buy these in the shops.  But the cutest/kitschest/most precious ones are, without doubt, those handmade ones that your little darling brings home from kindergarten, nursery or school.

Super simple.  Cut two heart shapes out of fabric.  Tip: if you use zigzag scissors, you won’t have problems with edges fraying. (Felt fabric is perfect for this job.)  You can make them any size you like, but hearts about the size of your palm work well.

Sew round the edges, leaving an opening for stuffing.  You can use a sewing machine or do it ‘old school’ with a large needle and thick thread.  Stuff the heart, then sew shut. 

Add a loop at the top of the heart, so you can hang it up (on the tree, on a door handle, etc).  You can also add some beads, glitter glue, etc.  We went for the simple look and used this plain ribbon that says “God Jul”.  Which, as you will remember, has nothing to do with God! ;) 

Okay, we’re done!  Don’t forget to tidy up after yourself and check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)


One month from now…

Today’s date?  24 November.  One month from now – at this very moment (6pm) – we’ll be lighting candles and sitting down to Danish Christmas dinner.  Eeeeek!

Yep, countdown is progressing and you can no longer hide your heads in the sand.  On Saturday afternoon I was at a Christmas craft fair at an OAPs home and enjoyed my very first æbleskiver of the season (Danish Christmas donuts).  And managed to get the flormelis (icing sugar) on my black trousers.  Selvfølgelig!  Goes with the territory! 😛

Today, Monday, I’m just back home from an exhibition of Danish Christmas ornaments by Jette Frölich.  A Danish designer who’s been producing Christmas ornaments for nearly 50 (count ’em!) years…

I won’t be decorating our home just yet – we”ll probably start next Sunday (Adventsøndag).

And the Christmas gift shopping?  I started at the end of October (most things are wrapped and labelled) and hope to be finished by this weekend.  Go me’ *o/*

Have a marvelous Monday!

Diane 🙂


If you can't stand the heat in the Danish kitchen…

Y’all know that I ♥ Denmark and those crazy (but lovable) Danes.  But I can’t help feeling that they got the wrong end of the stick (or should that be hot poker?) when it comes to designing items for removing hot dishes from hot ovens.

I mean, really, why do the Danish public continue to put up with (totally impractical) grydelapper (‘pot holders’)?  And, by the way, our neighbours – those silly (but lovable) Swedes – are just as bad.  Yes, grydelapper come in all forms and materials…cotton, rubber, silicone. All equally useless and dang fiddly to use! 😛

And let’s not forget the ‘crocheted-classic-do-it-yourself-Christmas-gift’ version of the grydelappe.  Hiding at the back of the kitchen drawer or the bottom of the Christmas ornaments box…

The only other choice in Denmark is the single, (lonely) unattached grillhandske (oven glove/mitt).  A step up from the grydelappe, but just as awkward to handle.

So where, oh, where is my true love?  There can be only one!  The double oven glove! Please let me know if you find any in Denmark.  My Mum and Dad in Scotland have been bringing double oven gloves over in their suitcase for me, for the past 16 years… ♥

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Diane 🙂

 

 


Gæk, gæk, gæk? Guess your way to an Easter egg!

My kids will be on Easter break from Friday.  Woo hoo – no more pesky packed lunches for the next week!  (For them, school restarts Tuesday 22 April.)

And that – selvfølgelig – means it’s time for a traditional Danish Easter craft: making a gækkebrev – a secret snowdrop letter!  For which we’ll need a vintergæk (snowdrop).  Though – as we’re well into April – Danish snowdrops have basically gone into hiding again, so we may need to improvise.  Now, did you know that gækkebreve are a purely Danish tradition?  I thought it was a Scandinavian thing.  But no.  It’s a crazy Dane thing.  And right now, as I type, little kids all over Denmark are sitting at home (or nursery, school, the museum or local library) cutting holes in paper and drawing lots of dots.  All in the hope of getting a chocolate Easter egg!  More on the logistics of that later in the post…  First up, let’s get making one! :)

You’ll need:

  • white and coloured paper
  • glue or a gluestick
  • a pair of scissors
  • a snowdrop 

Choose a coloured piece of paper for your paper ‘doily’. Fold it in half, then in half again.  Draw a rough shape and cut out.  If you’ve never done this kind of thing before, keep it simple!  The Danes are world-famous for their intricate papercutting.  Hans Christian Andersen(you know, the one who wrote “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Little Match Girl”, “The Princess and the Pea”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “Thumbelina” etc, etc, etc…) was also an expert at papercutting.  I’ve only lived here for 16 years, so I’m still learning…

Open up up the paper and you should have something that looks like this.

Stick it on to a plain white piece of paper. I used a gluestick.  And it’s fine if it isn’t perfectly stuck down all over – it just gives it an even better 3d effect ;)

Then you’re ready to write a little poem on it.

Henne bag ved havens hæk, fandt jeg denne vintergæk.

Hej, min hvide lille ven, nu er turen din igen.

Du skal gå til min ven, hviske så kan kan forstå,

han må gætte prikke små, for et påskeæg at få!

 

But if your family and friends aren’t Danish, you’ll probably want one in English, right? Try this one for size:

 

Snowdrop, snowdrop, snowdrop fine,

Omen true of hope divine,

From the heart of winter bring

Thy delightful hope of spring.

Guess my name I humbly beg.

Your reward: An Easter-Egg.

Let these puzzling dots proclaim

Every letter in my name

 

Now listen carefully.  [I shall say this only once…]  At the bottom of the gækkebrev, DON’T sign your name.  You draw a large dot for every letter of your name.  So my name, Diane, would be  . . . . .    If the person who receives the letter guesses who it comes from, you have to give them an Easter egg.  But if they can’t guess, they have to give you an Easter egg.  So disguise your handwriting and be creative!  I usually put in three dots for M.U.M.!  ;)

The final touch is to pick a snowdrop from your garden – just draw one if need be – add it to the letter and send to a friend or loved one.   And keep your fingers crossed that they don’t guess who it’s from…

 

 

God Påske!  Happy ……!

Diane :)


Danish Milk. Grey or blue?

Do you drink milk?  We drink lots of it in our house.  And – what’s more – we’re living dangerously without a safety net and still choosing to drink (and enjoy) cow’s milk! [Gasps from the audience…]

My fridge

Now, I’ve mentioned before the hazards of not being able to decipher Danish food packaging : remember these little pots of pasteuriserede æggehvider – pasteurized egg whites?  The mother of a French friend of mine mistook them for Danone mini yoghurts. And put one in the grandchild’s packed lunchbox.  Ha! 😉

Been there, done that!  Well, not exactly the egg-whitey thing.  But do I remember leaving Scotland at the tender age of 21 to go and work in the small (but perfectly formed Duchy of) Luxembourg and being totally baffled by the dairy section at my local supermarché.  I knew to look for “lait” but had no idea if I was buying semi-skimmed, full-fat or long-life. Repeat the scenario holidaying in Spain, Greece, Italy, etc, etc, etc.

Things are a lot easier here in Denmark because those crazy but lovable Danes have a clever milk coding system.  The colour on milk cartons is standardized.  Thus, if you know what kind of milk you like, you can easily find it.  But you need to know the Danish name for it selvfølgelig!  So in order to make your trip to the supermarked a little less hazardous, here’s my run down on the various types of milk you’re likely to encounter in Denmark:

  • full-fat – sødmælk – dark blue carton
  • semi-skimmed – letmælk – pale blue carton
  • 0.5% fat “mini” milk – minimælk – light grey/blue carton
  • skimmed – skummetmælk – grey carton

.

But – hov – what about all those other dairy products lurking in the cooler section, just waiting to confuse you?

  • whipping cream – piskefløde – red carton 
  • non-whipping cream for coffee – kaffefløde – orange carton
  • buttermilk – kærnemælk – green carton  Unless – selvfølgelig – it has a picture of an apple on it.  Then it’s æblemost – applejuice… 😉

.

And the countless other types of yoghurts/soured milk products will just have to wait until another blogpost!

My friend V's fridge

My kids love skummetmælk and my favourite is sødmælk.  What’s your favourite tipple?

Happy drinking.  Oh, and “mooooooooooo”!

Diane 🙂

 


My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 17 December

Welcome to My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar!  Join me every day in opening a new door.  Just like last year, I’ve got a host of goodies to share with you – traditional Danish Christmas recipes, traditions, songs, games, decorations, crafts and landscapes… So sit back, relax and enjoy!

17 DECEMBER

Okay, this is going to be a loooooooong post.  So go grab a cup of tea, or gløgg, and get ready to relax for a few minutes with your feet up! 😛

If you saw yesterday’s post, you’ll know that I was in Copenhagen on Wednesday, soaking up the Christmas atmosphere.  All very hyggelig!  Just don’t take your kids into the nearest department store and expect to have a photo taken with Santa – because that doesn’t exist here.  For that, you’ll need to go to Tivoli.  Pay the entrance fee.  Then fork out again for the picture!  Then again, you can just go to Tivoli and take your own photos… 😉

 

But there are a couple of ‘outings’ that make up a Danish Christmas…

First of all, a visit to a julestue or Christmas bazaar.  Which come in all shapes and forms.  From weekend charity events at your school, to local Scout groups selling homemade decorations and Christmas trees, to fleamarket style markets with professional vendors.

And then there are full-blown exhibitions by designers like Jette Frölich.  She started in 1966 and has basically devoted her life to designing Christmas ornaments!  (I’ve been going to her exhibtions since I arrived here waaaay back in 1998.)  The Grand Old Lady is often around at the exhibition – here she is, with the white shirt on the right…

Entrance is free.  But have plenty of money ready if you actually want to buy ornaments because – although a lot of them are made of paper – they don’t come cheap!  Here are a few other pictures I took this year.  Starting with golden decorations from a previous collection.

And moving on through this year’s colours of white, silver and pale pink…

And if you’re in the centre of Copenhagen, then there are the famous Royal Tables at Royal Copenhagen (in their flagship store, right on Strøget, the pededstrian shopping street).  Every year Royal Copenhagen invites eight or so architects, chefs, designers or actors to decorate tables.  Using their choice of china, cutlery, glass etc.  It’s a real outing for all the old ladies and gents of Copenhagen.  Yep, at some points during the afternoon, you have to queue up to be able to get a look!  Though don’t expect anything very ‘Christmassy’…

If you’re a Dr Who fan, this one will probably creep you out…  Don’t blink! 😉

Complete with church windows?

Paintbrushes, anyone?!

And, last but not least, selvfølgelig, the ubiquitious Nordic-thing-going-on-complete-with-animal-skins-old-bits-of-wood-and-anything-we-can-find-lying-about-in-the-forest decorated table…

Hmmmm, time to drink up and go foraging in the woods?

Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane 🙂

 


My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 2 December

 

Welcome back to My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar!  Join me every day in opening a new door.  Just like last year, I’ve got a host of goodies to share with you – traditional Danish Christmas recipes, traditions, songs, games, decorations, crafts and landscapes…  So sit back, relax and enjoy!

2 DECEMBER

Time to get your scissors and glue out – today we’re at the craft table!  The Danes say that “Jul er hjerternes fest“.  That “Christmas is the festival of hearts”.  Yep, look around and you’ll see hearts everywhere.  Gingerbread hearts, crocheted hearts, heart-shaped tree ornaments and…the ubiquitous Danish woven paper hearts, which you’ll see hanging in windows or on the branches of the Christmas tree.

Danish woven hearts

So are you ready to “jule” (yep, the Danes even use the word ‘Christmas’ as a verb!) and make some easy peasy Danish Christmas heart crafts?

WOVEN PAPER HEART

My dearly departed Danish father-in-law loved to make things out of paper and was a dab hand at the very intricate woven designs. But be warned: in order to do paper weaving, you have to have nimble fingers, bucketloads of patience and Danish blood in your veins. You’re still determined to try?  Hmm, then I’d suggest borrowing a book from your local Danish library. Or try, for example, http://www.julidannevang.dk/klip/klip.shtml

Intricate Danish hearts

But I’m going to show you the two-minute version – the cheat’s version – as taught to me by my daughter, aged 11.  You’ll need two pieces of paper or carton in different colours.  (Red and white, if you want to be really traditional.)  Mark out the shape (see below) and draw a line in the middle, up to the point where the edge starts to curve.  Cut out the shapes and then cut along the middle lines.

Easier than it looks!

Turn the white carton at right angles and weave the first ‘finger’ through the red carton.

Nearly there!

Weave the red ‘finger’ over the white and – hey presto – færdig (done)!  Just add a dab of glue or a piece of sticky tape, to stop the heart from falling apart.  Use blue tack (or, as Danish kids call it, ‘pædagog-snot‘ = ‘teacher snot’!) to fix them on your window pane.  Or add a paper loop, and hang them on the tree.

All ready for putting in the windows…

FABRIC HEART

You could, of course, buy these in the shops.  But the cutest/kitschest/most precious ones are, without doubt, those handmade ones that your little darling brings home from kindergarten, nursery or school.

Super simple.  Cut two heart shapes out of fabric.  Tip: if you use zigzag scissors, you won’t have problems with edges fraying. (Felt fabric is perfect for this job.)  You can make them any size you like, but hearts about the size of your palm work well.

I ♥ red felt!

Sew round the edges, leaving an opening for stuffing.  You can use a sewing machine or do it ‘old school’ with a large needle and thick thread. Stuff the heart, then sew shut.

Nearly there!

Add a loop at the top of the heart, so you can hang it up (on the tree, on a door handle, etc).  You can also add some beads, glitter glue, etc.  We went for the simple look and used this plain ribbon that says “God Jul”.  Which, as you will remember, has nothing to do with God! ;)

Not a dry eye in the house…awww!

Okay, we’re done at the craft table for today.  Don’t forget to tidy up after yourself and check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)


It’s (Danish) fashion, daaaarling!

Copenhagen
Fashion Week
– the largest fashion event in the north – is well underway.
Though, to be honest, if it weren’t for the intensive media coverage, Herr and
Fru Danmark (and myself) would be completely unawares ;)

These are a few of my favourite things...

These are a few of my favourite things…

So, no, I’m not a dedicated follower of fashion. But, hey, I do like to
shop! And I ♥ all the Danish and Swedish brands. If you happen to be in
downtown Copenhagen, here’s a rundown of the stores that are worth a second
glance:

HIGH STREET – these brands are a treasure trove
of affordable, full-on-fashion items. And great basics. And just because
they’re cheap doesn’t necessarily mean poor quality… I’m still wearing items
from Vero Moda and H&M which have been in my wardrobe for over a decade!

.

MID-PRICE – here you’ll find great design at reasonable
prices. The most bang for your buck.

.

DESIGNER – quality garments, classic style, wardrobe
classics. We are, selvfølgelig, talking big bucks. But you can pick
up bargains when prices are slashed at sale time – usually by 50%, sometimes
more. Which is usually post-Christmas/January and end of June/July.

.

And if all of that sounds just too much like hard work, then I can thoroughly
recommend Denmark’s oldest department store Magasin. Where they have most of the above-mentioned
brands under one convenient roof. And a free Personal Shopper service to boot!

Happy shopping, fashionistas!

Diane :)


I ‘heart’ Danish street signs!

Here’s something I posted over at blogs.denmark.dk today (the site run by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Something I wrote last year but (even if I say it so myself!), it was a great post – so I decided to bring it out, dust it off and revamp it….hope you enjoy!

http://blogs.denmark.dk/diane/2011/01/12/i-heart-danish-street-signs/

Have a wonderful Wednesday! 🙂