Denmark Adventures: The Last Days…

Wow. Nearly five months later, I’m finally wrapping this up.

Our last day in Copenhagen was unassuming. John and I took a quick detour back to the Glyptotek to settle some unfinished business – our first visit we’d arrived too early, and had dealt with some accessibility issues while toting a stroller. Armed with the Ergo, and a sense of determination, we arrived (on time) for a second free tour.

Honestly, we didn’t fare much better. Abby was beside herself in the backpack, and it’s pretty distracting to have a child (unhappily) drumming on your back while reading painting placards. We saw a few things, and called it a wrap.

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We biked around the city (I got us lost at one point) until lunch time, and had to snap of a pic of this electric car on the way home.

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After a nap and some packing, we took one last bike tour. This time we left the city and headed up the coast, ending up at the town where we’d hopped on a train after our adventure at the Deer Park. It was nice to say we’d biked the whole stretch, and it was a gorgeous, albeit cool, evening.

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Our wake-up call was early. So early, in fact, Abby hadn’t yet woken for her nightly serenade. 4:00 I think to be exact. I choked down some toast and poor Abby was completely disoriented (but quite content) with it all. We boarded a bus around 6 AM and Tim made sure we made our connection to the airport safely.

Then we were on our own. Before long we were off to Iceland. To save $200 (we are frugal you know), we had elected for a LONG layover in Iceland. Almost 10 hours to be exact. That $200 went right toward one last adventure. We’d vascillated between the Blue Lagoon (a tourist trap day-spa) and visiting Rejkavik. Honestly, we hadn’t quite made up our mind until we touched down.

We’re from Canada. We know cold. It was cold. About 4 degrees. Abby was in capri pants. Everyone else was wearing winter parkas and balaclava’s. The thought of walking around Reykjavik all day was less than appealing…

A 20-minute bus ride later and we arrived at the Blue Lagoon. The landscape is hard to describe. Like some foreign planet, the likes of which you’d expect to see on an episode of Star Wars. Large rocks and craters dotting the landscape. Desolate. Cold. Yet undeniably gorgeous.

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It was cold. Bitterly cold. And a bit embarrassing to admit we were from Canada and should have known better.

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After spending several tearful minutes trying to figure out the locker systems (seriously…so hard when trying to juggle a toddler), ripping absorbent liners out of a diaper (since in my Mommy oversight I packed neither a swim diaper OR a bathing suit for the little one), we made it into the water.

It was kinda miserable at first. The wind was cold, and poor Abby’s teeth were chattering nonstop.

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But then we found this delightful little nook, where the water was soooo warm. Isolated from the wind, it was a little oasis (although the lifeguards walking around in down jackets were an ever present reminder of the outside temperature).

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What a trooper dear Abby was – staying in the water for several hours, and loving it! Getting out was brutal, but a nice hot shower later, and we were good to go.

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Once we were dressed, the temperatures (and extreme winds) really came as a shock.

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The poor thing, who barely slept on the way to Iceland, dozed for a few minutes on the way back to the airport, but of course woke up once we arrived. We had three or four hours to kill, so she spent most of that time running around an abandoned part of the airport like she owned the place.

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Her energy was waning by departure time, though. So we snuggled a bit, and were oh-so-ready for the last leg.

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And yes, we were in the exact same outfits as our departure – not at all planned. Comfort beats fashion any day.

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The return flight was definitely the most challenging. We were all exhausted. Abby had been awake for nearly 15 hours…she tossed and turned and cried…and I almost cried. And then we arrived home…and were one of the last to get into the Custom’s line. And because it was so late at night, there were only a handful of customs agents. And Abby was squirming and crying and it was just miserable. But how wonderful it was to emerge and see friends there to greet us (and chauffeur us home). Abby slept most of the way, and when I slipped her into her bed, she look so incredibly happy to be home and immediately fell asleep.

I, on the other hand, gorged on delicious chocolate cupcakes and milk (the food left in our fridge by friends)..

What an adventure. Easy with a toddler in tow…no. But we made some incredible memories and would do it again in a heartbeat. Although I know she’ll never remember details from the trip in years to come, she still does ask, on occasion, to go fly “airpwane” and see Uncle Tim!

Day 1&2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day 11, Day 12, Day 13, Day 14, Day 15&16

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Denmark Adventures: Day 12

I’m aware I am woefully behind on my Denmark posts. My self-imposed goal of chronicling our vacation before Christmas – a complete and utter failure. Not that anyone is on the edge of their seats waiting for these updates…

I’ll also try to gloss over the fact that I still haven’t written a single word about our family Christmas activities or even hinted at our recent (and relatively successful) “drop the pacifier” exploits. Life has been busy, but I guess that’s what “life” does; work deadlines and toddler wrangling and pesky tasks like eating and sleeping end up taking center stage.

So for now I’ll stick with material that I’ve got in the bag – like recaps of family vacations that took place nearly half a year ago!

Another day with the full attention of our official tour guide, and we decided to tackle a day trip – Frederiksborg Palace.

Before we left, though, we captured Abby in her element. Playing on the day bed in Tim’s apartment, perusing the busy street below. She loved this nook, and felt quite proud when she was master of her little domain. Look at those gorgeous curls!

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What Kronberg Castle lacked in pomp and circumstance, Frederiksborg more than accommodated for; there were gold trimmings and ornate carvings and immense tapestries as far as the eye could see. It was actually a bit overwhelming at times to wander from room to room of ostentatious materials and displays of royal wealth.  And it even looked like a fairy-tale-type palace from the outside, complete with bridges and moats and elaborate gardens.

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We adopted the same tact as earlier castle/palace adventures: pawn off the wee one while we complete a whirlwind tour. Tim graciously (and patiently) walked with Abby around gardens and trails for several hours while we raced about the palace through a dizzying maze of rooms and displays. At one point we caught a glimpse of Abby’s bright blue jacket toddling around outside, tagging after Tim. Our hearts just swelled. There is something so adorable about watching your child from a distance while they interact with others. But I digress…

One of the first sights we encountered was the royal chapel. It was incredible and breathtaking. Pictures don’t do it justice. At all. John just piped up and told me to use the word opulence in this post. It would fit here nicely. Opulent.

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We, true to form, snapped lots of pictures along the way, but most just don’t translate unless you’ve been there to witness the same sights first-hand. So, short of sending everyone on an all-expenses paid vaca to Denmark (I’ll break it to you now – not happening), I’ll just give you the can-be-appreciated-by-all highlight reel.

This grand ball room was definitely one of the most impressive rooms we encountered while in Denmark. It was spectacular; apparently when my parents visited a year earlier, there were a series of mirrors set up throughout the room to make it easier to view the intricate works on the ceiling. Even sans mirrors, it was quite a sight. The one detractor (which we don’t have a picture of unfortunately): there are a series of royal paintings that line the walls, all very regal and formal. And then, tucked in an isolated corner was this modern monstrosity of a painting. Apparently, the official royal painting can’t be completed until that particular dignitary has died…but being alive is about the only good news for this particular royal, because his likeness was dreadful!

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I forget the specifics of this Bible now – it’s owner and the reason it was highlighted as a relic – but I do remember being wowed.

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A few of the interesting pieces of art we encountered. This piece was incredibly addicting and I kept moving back and forth to view the distinct figures.

The first picture is a bit muddled:

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From another angle:

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From the other angle:

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Another piece that required perspective (this time from a modern art collection in an upstairs annex) – a collage created from plastic bags.

No context:

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And context (this is Denmark’s “Kate Middleton”):

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After several hours, and likely several miles of walking, we headed back outside.

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We happened upon Tim a few minutes later with a sleeping Abby in her stroller. We wandered along the beautiful paths, and things were going just swimmingly until I managed to fumble a sandwich and in our attempt to rescue it from a pebbly demise, awoke Abby.

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Ah well, she enjoyed her time of discovery immensely and I think the resulting pictures are just precious:

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Look at those pigtails.

The hedge work was incredible, and I can’t imagine how many full-time staff are devoted solely to the upkeep of these walkways and ponds.

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Overall, just a stellar day! See more adventures here.

Christmas Traditions

The past few weeks have been…well, kinda crazy. At the risk of sounding cliche, I could say life happened – unexpected inconveniences, extra deadlines at work – you name it, it’s happened. So tonight, I’m officially deeming an “off” night. I’ll tackle a few nagging tasks along the way, but I can tell I just need a little wiggle room to breath. Some mindless activities to shake off this grumpy mood.

Writing calms me – gives me a focus and an outlet for any lingering tension or stress. And what better thing to ponder than Christmas traditions/memories when I’m in the mood for a pick-me-up?

I had idyllic Christmases growing up, and I hope that Abby and any other future little Frost’s will be able to look back at their own childhood and claim the same. I mentioned a few things that I cherish at each Christmas season, but that post didn’t encompass all our family traditions.

Christmas Present:

Food:

Following my family tradition of pizza on Christmas Eve, John and I now make homemade calzones each year for Christmas Eve, and have Cinnamon Coffee Cake for dessert (my family Christmas breakfast tradition). While quite a bit of work (I shouldn’t be talking…it’s actually John who does the calzones), they are worth every minute of flour-covered chaos.

Gifts:

We exchange a new Christmas ornament on Christmas Eve and hang it on the tree. It takes the guess work out of what gift to open on Christmas Eve, and we always pick up fun ornaments on clearance right after Christmas for the following year. It also makes decorating the tree extra special each year because we can reminisce about what Christmas such-and-such ornament joined our collection.

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One of my favourite ornaments from John

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My ornament to John last year – to commemorate our trip to New York City earlier in the year.

We also give clues on each gift tag that hint at the contents (sometimes it can be pretty obvious, but most times it’s just a frustrating teaser that only makes sense after the fact). They can be inside jokes, or other times we might pick a theme (last year I did song lyrics). For example, one said say “Charlie, Charlie give me your answer true” – these are lyrics from “A Bicycle Built for Two” and I put this tag on some bicycle photos I’d printed and framed for John.

We’ve super excited to take this one step further; our close friends the Abriels use Bible verses for the clues, so the kids spend ALL Christmas morning with their Bibles open. They even have the kids figure out whose gifts are whose by looking up verses (ie: a verse mentioning the first born would indicate that gift was for the eldest child etc.,). Some of the verses are hilarious (Luke 3:5 – “the rough ways shall become smooth” was the verse associated with a package of razors or Song of Solomon 4:2 about “your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn” might be used for a new toothbrush).
We’ll have to be wary of translations, though. One year we were included in this tradition, and although the intended version included the word “frost”…which happens to be our last name…the translation being read aloud said “ice”…everyone was left confused until we consulted another translation.

Christmas Past

Decorations:

We would always decorate the tree together; it was such a fun family event. Mom never seemed to care about misplaced ornaments or gaudy tinsel. Dad’s only demand – that “his” star be the crowning adornment. Every year we fought to get this star to work (it is ancient), and complained about how terrible it looked. And every year he said something along the lines: “One day when I’m gone, you’ll be fighting over who gets the star since you’ll treasure it so much.” And he was right – this star, in all it’s ugly glory, is such a fond memory for me now.

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The other main decoration item that stands out is the kissing mistletoe figure. This is an old, old, old Avon wax potpourri figurine gifted to my Mom years ago. Every Christmas when we went to get the box of decorations from it’s neglected corner of the basement I would just stand and soak in this scent – it is so distinctive, and it would permeate every last item in the box.

Mom passed this along to me the year we were married, and I’ve been proudly displaying and smelling this ornament ever since.

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Food:

Aside from Nuts & Bolts and Cinnamon Coffee Cake the other main family food tradition was Christmas Eve supper – every single year it was pizza. When my parents were pasting a small church, and struggling to make ends meet, one generous parishioner would provide gift certificates for a local pizza place. As the years passed, and we eventually moved to another location, the pizza tradition stuck. Most years we make our own, which adds to the fun. Along with pizza, we always dimmed the lights (much to my father’s horror who always announced he couldn’t “see his food enough to eat”) and had pop.

Gifts:

While we never received lavish gifts at Christmas, there were a few traditions

Big Stockings – we always had overflowing stockings, packed with every necessity: soap, socks, pens and paper…and almost every item would be wrapped in plastic bags. Yup – grocery bags from the store made it easy to wrap even the most awkward of stocking stuffers in seconds, all secured with masking tape! When I tediously wrap every last item in paper each year, I think longingly of the plastic bag tradition.

Tracking gifts – Mom would always sit in her chair armed with a clipboard. When we received a gift, she would note the contents, the giver, and the recipient to make sure everyone received a proper thank you note when it was all finished.

We had to wait until Mom and Dad were up, dressed, and Dad had taken the time to shave before we were allowed to open gifts. It was pure torture, since we usually didn’t get to start presents until 7:30 or 8:00. Good practice for self-control I suppose.

Other:

Every year we would contribute to these goody baskets our church delivered. They were packed with fruit and cakes and cookies and wrapped in bright cellophane. I loved tagging along as we visited the elderly and delivered this Christmas cheer.

Every year we would read the Christmas story (from Luke 2) right before we went to bed.

Every year, we finished Christmas Eve by singing Silver Bells by Christmas-tree light.

Every year we would sit around the Christmas tree and shake each gift on Christmas Eve. I got pretty good at guessing!

Every year we participated in wonderful Christmas programmes at church. We started practicing in September; I loved lighted candles all throughout the sanctuary. Another highlight – putting together the goody bags. I would cover our dining room table with small paper bags and fill them with chocolates and candies, to be handed out to each visitor at the end of the Christmas programme. The year I was deemed old enough to do this whole process by myself was incredibly special.

Christmas Future

I’m excited to start various Advent countdowns – I love this The Way of Light candle wreath that can be used at Christmas and Easter.

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I love the idea of a handmade advent calendar, with each day holding a Scripture verse, little candy, or maybe a fun activity (like go caroling at a nursing home, go ice skating, or make Christmas cookies).

I also love the idea of starting Christmas service traditions – like working at a soup kitchen each Christmas Eve, or every family member filling an Operation Christmas Child box for a less-fortunate child of the same age.

Any fun family traditions?