Archive for December, 2010

>Happy New Year


Wishing you a very happy 2011!

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>-Or at least, it will be soon!

The solstice was celebrated by having a good friend over for dinner and yesterday was the shortest day of the year and flew buy with a busy day at work, so with these two out of the way it’s now really beginning to be Christmas.

In Denmark we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, and I grew up with the tradition that the Christmas tree was only brought inside on the morning of the 24th and should be out again before New Year; a fleeting visit but all the more special for its brevity.

Well, I wanted a tree this year, and since we won’t be spending Christmas in the summer house I decided to get one two weekends ago, carrying it on my back the three miles from the local timber store to our house while a gentle snow was falling. Très old school, if I might say so myself.

This is what it ended up looking like:

It’s a bit on the small side; my dad taught me that the top star should always reach the ceiling, and that meant my childhood trees were always 7-8ft high. This one is more like 5’10”, but then the summer house is a small house and the small tree looks just right.

In all of Scandinavia there is a tradition for home made tree ornaments, mainly made from glossy paper. Woven paper hearts and stars feature heavily on Christmas trees throughout the region, and I’m very much sticking to this tradition, with only a few purchased glass baubles and of course the candle holders.

Candle holders? Why, yes! A Christmas tree should be light by candles, and mine will always be. It’s not Christmas without that special glow of a candle-light tree. (Though I’m sure some might argue that it also adds to the thrill of the season to stick live candles on a dry tree decorated with paper… Firetrap, anyone?)

The heart above is the quintessential Christmas heart. Two strips of paper that are folded, cut and woven together in a simple checkerboard pattern. However, no two hearts on my tree are alike, and the heart below shows how one can easily vary the pattern just by playing around with the weaving.

Also in the picture above is a woven paper cone. My mother claims not to know anybody who makes these, though in fact it was her father who taught me to make them. I haven’t seen them anywhere else, but I find the harlequin pattern absolutely beautiful so ever since my first “own” Christmas tree in 2001 these have been a feature on my tree.

The crowning glory is the top star. An over-sized folded paper star, that is really a lot simpler to make than it looks. In Denmark you see 5-year olds making these…

Beside the glass baubles and the candle holders, the only two ornaments I haven’t made myself are a little paper silhouette of an angel (that looks a lot more like a fairy to me with its dragon fly wings) that used to belong to my great-grandmother and a small straw star that I think my mother or one of my uncles made as a kid. I forgot to take pictures of these, though, so this will be all from me this side of Christmas.

Here’s wishing you all a merry Yuletide and a happy New Year.

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>Winter Wonderland

>Here are some pictures from a walk from the house to the local super market yesterday:

And here are some lovely red cornel branches in a garden I passed:

And finally some flowers. I stumbled upon some sedums that had been knocked down by the snow and was lying horisontally on the ground.

Even dry and after spending several weeks lying down I think these flowers are pretty.

So that’s winter by the summer house…

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Since there’s nothing to do in the garden I’ve been doing some stuff for the house. My husband and I will be up here between Christmas and New Year, and obviously we will need an ample supply of firewood to keep us warm and cosy.

Now, we DO have plenty of firewood, but it’s stored outside behind the annex, and that’s less than convenient with snow around. If you’re feeling cold, do you really want to go outside to get firewood? Or do you want the wood to be right where you need it?

So I went for the pallets that the wood was delivered on. Yes, same pallets that have also supplied the materials for the frames for the raised vegetable beds; it seems I’m getting almost as much benefit from them as I do from the firewood they contained…

Anyway, I built a straight-forward frame of four planks that now contains a stack of firewood that is about three times larger than what our firewood boxes hold. I must say, I’m immensely satisfied with my (very basic) handywork.

Building stuff out of random bits of wood is, I guess, a bit like gardening; everybody can do it as long as they realise their skills and the limitations thereof. I, for one, won’t be building my own Welsh dresser any day soon…

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>My flight was cancelled, so no weekend of marital bliss for us. Instead I’m doing the next best thing and running off to the summer house…

The weather forecast has a high probability of snow, so it will just be a weekend of relaxation and contemplation. Books, a warm fire, candles, good food, a bottle of wine. It could be worse, I guess, though it is most definitely a plan B.

Oh, and is it wrong to talk to your beer? Or pet it? The brew is fermenting away, burping merrily as it goes, and I can’t seem to walk past it without giving it a slight pet or a comment. It should be ready to drink before my husband leaves after New Year, so I’m looking forward to sharing that with him, even though he probably finds me silly and slightly nerdy for doing this. Well, I guess he’s used to that.

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>There’s an odd sort of bubbling/gurgling sound from my kitchen every couple of minutes. It took me a while to get used to last night, as it kept waking me up just when I was about to slumber away to Dreamland.

It’s not my plumbing that’s the issue, though. Last night I started my first attempt at making home made beer. I think I’ve mentioned that we have a rather rampant amount of hop in the garden, and as it’s quite a pretty plant I figured we could keep it and try to make it into something useful as well as pretty.

Mind you, this first attempt is not with any home-grown ingredients as I wasn’t up there in late autumn when the hop flowers were ripe for picking, so it’s just a brew kit off the internet, but I figured it would be nice to try it and perhaps get a feel of how the process works and should look. So far it’s really intriguing to see the fermentation working it’s strange wonders and I look forward to finding out if the result will be drinkable.

As far as I’ve read, though, these ready-made kits should be quite fool proof, and the instructions are quite plain and simple. I’m hoping this will be an easy success, and then I can always take a more adventurous route if I decide to do this again.

So far, though, it’s a bit like being a child and watching a bowl of tadpoles that you’ve cought in a local pond, terribly fascinating and somehow a source of joy because it’s your little project. Not unlike a garden, really.

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>We look set for a continuation of the wintry weather that’s been besieging us this last while. I do like a nice spot of winter, but on the other hand I can’t wait for spring. Not necessarily the full-blown late spring glory of May, but just as much the subtle change that begins in late February or early March, when the first spring blossoms creep out of the ground and mark the beginning of the end of winter.

And I look forward to building cold frames and sowing seeds and watching some things grow and others doing absolutely nothing and generally just getting out and DOING stuff in the garden. Making things happen.

Anyway, with that said, here’s to the Advent of Christmas and my husband’s return to Denmark for 10 days that will include a family Christmas, days alone in the summer house and a viewing of the flat we just bought here in Copenhagen.

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>Weekend in Aberdeen

>I went to Aberdeen to visit my husband over the weekend, and as always a lovely time was had. The snow was thick on the ground, and a bit of a thaw Saturday evening made it icy enough for me to actually have a “slipping accident” on a pavement. While I was standing still, looking at a shop window…

Anyway, my flight back Sunday evening was canceled, so I ended up flying home Monday morning. Now, annoying as that was, it was actually quite nice to fly during the day for once. It was mainly cloudless, and while the landscape around Aberdeen was obviously beautiful with its coat of snow, the main joy was flying in over Denmark.

The flight route from Aberdeen to Copenhagen almost always passes over the summer house, though the plane is still too far up to actually see the house. And this picture below, courtesy of Nasa via the Danish Meterological Institute, is what Denmark looked like yesterday:

I arrived so late it hardly seemed worth going into the office (and also I was just too knackered to really do any work) so instead I went up to the house. I say “the house” and not “the garden”, since when I arrived shortly before 6pm it was already pitch-black night.

The stars were out, though, and the walk from the bus to the house was positively magic. The road was completely white, so it was impossible to see where it was, but you could feel when you strayed out of the wheel tracks, and the star light helped with a vague impression of where the trees were along the sides of the road.

I had a nice evening in front of the fire, only venturing outside to fetch some more firewood so it can be dry and ready for next weekend when I go up there again.

Then this morning I got up at 4:30am as I always do when I go up there during the week. Terribly early, but it does give me time to have an hour or so of just relaxing with a my morning coffee before heading off for the bus at 5:45am. By then it had clouded over, but the lack of stars was compensated for by the fact the down by the bus stop there is a solitary lamp post that can be seen on most of the walk from the summer house. Now, a snow-clad forest, a dark night, a solitary lamp post in the distance… I felt like I should have worn a dusty, old, oversized fur coat!

I used to love the Narnia books, so it was a nice trip down memory lane. In fact, Prince Caspian is probably one of my biggest childhood crushes… One of so many fictional crushes that were, inevitably, more handsome in the books than in the films.

Aaanyway… With all the snowing and freezing and thawing and freezing and snowing et cetera, the main plan for the weekend is to clear the snow and ice off the roof of the covered terrace/patio. The roof is hardly sloping at all, so the weight of the snow and ice is really getting to the point where I want it cleared, no matter how pretty it looks. Fortunately there is a short-lived thaw forecast for Saturday, so it should slide off fairly easily. Snow means no gardening, so taking care of the actual house seems like a good plan.

So does anybody have any great tips for removing snow and ice from a nearly-flat roof?

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>Wordless Wednesday


(Click to enlarge)

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