Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

This past year has been a very eventful crazy year!  Moving to a new country has been quite an adventure!  Over the past year we took over 6500 pictures!  We have each gone through all the pictures separately and picked out one image to represent each month.  There were a few months that we were so busy and did so many things, it was very difficult to pick out just one picture for the month, but here are the results

 Starting life completely over in a new place, not knowing anyone and not owning much stuff was a memorable experience to say the least. We had two small mattresses the 5 of us slept on for the first week, I am glad our kids get along so well. (Chad)
January started out with so many sad good-byes.  Sometimes I get so sad just thinking about it.  But, then suddenly we were thrown into this whole new world.  The line from The Wizard of Oz just keeps popping into my head, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."  Definitely no palaces in Logan Utah.  Christiansborg Palace is one of my favorites.  So beautiful!  (Shannon)

Public transportation has been one of the biggest challenges. It surprising how, after several failed outings, successively navigating from point A to B gave us such a since of accomplishment. (Chad)
 Denmark can be just so random at times.  Love it! (Shannon)


This isn't the greatest bike but I have certainly gotten my money worth. I spent less then $200 on the bike and another $100 on tires; and since I have put over 2000 miles going back and forth to work, sun, rain, wind or snow. I been surprised how quickly I got use to it and how little I mind. (Chad)
No trip to Denmark would be complete without the underwhelming trip to the Little Mermaid statue.  Our kids were so excited to go here, but I think were a little sad that it wasn't Ariel from the Disney movie.  (Shannon)


We love taking family outing and exploring the city or forest around us. There is a lot of art and statue everywhere we go, the kids have taken to mimicking the statues when we take pictures of them (Lexi is doing the "thinking man pose", we must have see that earlier that day). (Chad)
The Ducks.  They came to beg for food almost every day during the month.  Kind of miss them.  (Shannon)

This is a church near our house, even though Denmark is covered with similar churches they are always amazing to visit. I love this photo because Noah snuck into picture and we did not notice until we got home a looked at it on the computer - can you find him? (Chad)
In May we got a new camera, took a ton of pictures, saw castles, cathedrals, museums, Viking Ships, Carnival, Medieval Festivals and more.  One of the best things was that the sun finally came out, the weather warmed up and we got out of the house.  We were so happy to find the beautiful forest so close to our house, that we could ride through on our bikes.  (Shannon)

One of the best thing about were we live is that there are bike and walking paths everywhere. They create this giant maze around the town with tunnels under or bridges over all the roads so we don't hardly have to every even see cars. (Chad)

It's been so fun to visit all of the different museums in Denmark. Typically the kids enjoy the museums we've gone too, but I guess after a little while, they can only handle so much.  It looks like Lexi's done for the day. (Shannon)

July was punctuated by my parents visit, it was so fun to see family and show them around. European idea of a vacation is going somewhere, enjoying the culture and relaxing. But as true Americans we crammed everyday full of adventure and touring unique and amazing places, it was awesome. (Chad)
This was a hard month to choose a picture from.  We took so many pictures!  It was a busy month with Chad's parents visiting and with the kids out of school, we did a lot of sightseeing.  One of my favorite places was the Bohus Castle ruins in Sweden.  The kids were just sitting down, taking a break when I snapped this picture.  So sweet! (Shannon)

We had a lot of fun finding frogs this year, most of them where really small. I found this huge one at night on my way home from the store after the kids were already in bed, we got them up to play with it. This day was particularly frustrating; finding the frog and the subsequent smiles and small joy it brought, while not fixing any of our problems, was a much needed moment of relief. (Chad)

Chad ran in a 25k Relay Race with some other people from his work.  The race was run by over 25,000 people.  It was a huge event, but let's just say, running is not really Chad's "forte", so this was a lot of work for him, but he made it and did awesome.  We were so proud of him(Shannon)

The young women in our ward watched our kids while Shannon and I went on a date. We celebrated by sharing a can of A&W Root beer we found at a specialty store. (Chad)
Not the best picture, but one of my favorite things about the summer was how much fun our kids had playing outside of our apartment building with their friends.  On any given night, there was typically 20 or more kids playing with each other outside.  It made me so happy seeing the kids having fun with each other and their new friends.  (Shannon)

This was our second visit to the Royal Deer Park. Trying to show off to my kids (and wife) I walked out on this tree branch. I did not anticipate it being so wobbly,  it was all I could do to keep from falling (it is much higher than it looks) -  it took me a while to figure out how to get down. (Chad)
 Fall in Denmark was so beautiful!  This picture was also taken at DyreHave, the Royal Deer Park.  One of my favorite places here.  We had so much fun taking fall pictures.  (Shannon)

We did not take many picture of November, this is the kids with there friend Olivia. We had a traditionally Thanksgiving dinner with her family. It is really nice to have friends that live close enough that we can travel to church with them and have get-togethers. (Chad)
November was a cold, dark month, where we mostly stayed home.  I don't think I blogged at all during the month.  I should have, maybe I will later.  But, one thing that stood out is that Noah started school.  By Danish law, he has to attend "school" here once he was 3.  I've been very sad to have to send him to school already.  It's only twice a week, so not too bad, but he loves it, of course! (Shannon)

There is a saying in Denmark that roughly translates to "there is no such thing as bad weather, there is just inappropriate clothing choices". In an effort to be more Danish, despite the freezing cold temperatures and dark gloomy days, we still try to make an effort to get out and explore. (Chad)
Our first Christmas away from our Friends and Family.  We had a really nice Christmas and we are grateful for the new friends we have made here, but it was definitely a difficult Holiday season, not being with our Families.  We've heard a lot of the phrase, "I miss _____."  And we certainly have missed all of our loved ones. (Shannon)

Overall, it has been a great year! We have had a lot of fun, grown closer as a family and most importantly we are excited and optimistic about 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas in Denmark

Christmas 2012 was definitely different than anything we've ever experienced.  It was a wonderful experience but we really missed seeing and visiting with all of our friends and family.  And unfortunately, most of us were sick just about the entire month of December.  I think we are finally, mostly, better.  At least for now...  So, let me see, where to start.
I was really surprised to see the stores putting out Christmas items in October.  We have rarely seen any type of seasonal items out at the stores throughout the year.  The nice thing was though, that the Christmas items being put out were very minimal, just small displays and the Christmas decorations here are very earthy.  You won't find any Santa's wearing swimsuits singing Rockin Around the Christmas tree here in Denmark.  Santa is actually not widespread here.  But more on that later.  So, in November, we had a relief society activity where we ate traditional Christmas food, Flæskesteg (ham with a thick strip of crunch skin on), candied potatoes, boiled potoes, red cabbage and lots of gravy.

 But, the highlight of the night was learning how to make a traditional Juledekkoration.
 You start out with a lump of clay, add pine branches a candle and other little decorations.  Most of the women there came with boxes of stuff to make their decoration.  I thought it would be fun to make these with the kids, so the next weeks, we gathered some stuff together and let the kids go at it.  They loved it.

As December moved on, we were faced with the dilemma of what to do for a Christmas tree.  Chad blogged about that here.  In the end, we were quite delighted with our little Christmas tree.
 We also got to attend our Stake Christmas party.  It was pretty fun, with Flæskesteng sandwiches, which were surprisingly good, æbleskivers and pebernødders.  The kids all held hands, sang and danced around the Christmas tree.  Then Santa came out.  The kids were quick to tell us that he was definitely not the real santa. Actually, he was kind of a scary santa, yelling and singing loudly.
They also did a re-enactment of the Navity.  Lexi and Myra got to participate.

On December 13th, we got to celebrate St. Lucia's day with Myra's school.

It's a Scandinavian tradition, to celebrate the Winter Solstice.  They have the kids dress in white and walk in lines behind a girl with a wreath of candles on her head.
 The kids all hold candles and sing songs to celebrate what use to be thought of as the longest day of the year.  You can read more about it here.  We were actually very excited to celebrate the Winter Solstice on the 21st, because after that, every day would just get better!  Our shortest day of the year was comprised of a Sunrise at 8:37 and Sunset at 3:39.  For a total of just 7 hours and 2 minutes of daylight.  And to make it worse, the sky has been constantly cloudy and so gloomy, so it seems just dark and cold all day long.  I think the sun came out for a total of 3 days during the month of December.  Anyway...
Just before the kids got out of school for winter break, Lexi & Noah's class had a Christmas party with æbleskivers, singing and dancing around the Christmas tree, and the Mandler (almond) game.
  We were all really excited for when the kids got out of school for the winter break.  We finished up some Christmas shopping, the crowds were crazy.  And most stores were closed down from the 23rd to the 26th, we had to make sure we had everything ahead of time.
Christmas here is typically celebrated on the 24th.  They have their traditional Christmas dinner and then exchange Christmas presents after dinner.  In more recent years, as other influences make their way into Danish culture, Santa will sometimes bring the kids gifts while they are eating dinner.  Then they sing and dance around the Christmas tree.  It was fun hearing about the traditions here, but we decided to mostly go with our own Christmas traditions.  We made homemade pizza on Christmas Eve, made cookies, watched a movie, had a little message about the birth of Christ, read The Night Before Christmas and left out cookies and milk for Santa.
Christmas morning, the kids were all awake by 6am!  They were just so excited.  We made them stay in their room until around 7, then they all came out and we opened some gifts.  The kids were so excited about everything they got.  This was the first year that Noah really "got" Christmas, so it was just a delight to see his excitement.  It was a very relaxing Christmas day.  We just lounged around the house, ate food, watched a movie, the kids played with their new toys and we cooked a ham and potatoes for dinner.  After dinner, we had a traditional Danish Rice Pudding, Risalamande, which translates to Rice with Almonds.  This is served with a warm cherry sauce.  And in the pudding, we hid 1 almond.  Whoever found it, got a prize.  Lexi won.  We spent a bunch of time skyping and calling family members.  I'm so glad for that technology that brings us together.  All in all, it was a nice Christmas season.

 I know this is getting long, but I want to tell a little bit more about my observations of the typical Danish Christmas.  First of all, The Danes have certain traditions during the Holidays that EVERYONE follows.  Everyone eats the same dinner on Christmas Eve. (Flæskesteng, Red Cabbage, Boiled Potatoes, Candied Potatoes.)  I've even read that adding anything different to the table is frowned upon.  Everyone sings and dances around the Christmas tree.  The month of December is full of parties and get togethers.  If you go to one, you are just about 100% certain of finding warm æbleskivers served with powdered sugar and jam.

 They are actually really good.  You'll also find a bowl of pebernødders.

 Pepper Nuts are little cookies with a small peppery flavor to them.  They are quite addictive.  Also, the Rice Pudding, Risalamande, is found in every home on Christmas eve.
 Then on Christmas Day, most people just have a quiet day at home, with a traditional dinner of duck.  Denmark also has a traditional drink, called Gløgg.  It's typically an alcoholic beverage, although they do have non-alcoholic for the kids.  We didn't try any, maybe next year.  Most homes will also have little weaved heart decorations, sometimes hanging on the tree with pebernødders in it. (See the above picture with heart decoration and pebernødders.)  And although Santa isn't real widespread, the Nisse are.

 Nisse are elves or pixies that protect the home and land.  The tradition from many years ago was that if the Nisse wasn't treated well, they would do mischief on the land, usually pretty mean things, like killing livestock or poisoning a well. But, all they had to do to keep him in good spirits was to feed him Risengrød, a sort of rice porridge with butter in it.
Another fun thing we did this year was the Elf on the Shelf.  We actually had 2 elves come and visit us.  The kids named them Pippin and Holly.  They did a lot of mischief during the night.  The kids loved getting up every morning to see what they had done.

This was a fun new tradition that we look forward to continuing with in the future.  The great thing about the elves, is that they were there to report good deeds to Santa, not to tell Santa if the kids were bad, so the focus was on doing good things.  We are all hoping they come back again next year.
So, I guess that about sums up our first Christmas in Denmark.  We had a really fun month and enjoyed the closeness our family felt during the Holiday Season.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Oh Christmas tree!

The Christmas trees that I remember most are from the years that the acquiring of them was the most adventurous. Some of the most fun were when we would set out in early December all packed in our little green Subaru to southern Idaho. After getting a permit would head up the snow covered canyon as far as we could make it with the low clearance and all-year weather tires, confident that the further from civilization we made it the higher quality the tree would be. Once we found a place to pull off the road, we’d bundle up the best we could and get out of the car. After a quick discussion we’d agree that, since no good trees grew along the side of the road and since the snow was too deep to trek through with barely-learning-to-walk kids in tow, I would search for the perfect tree and Shannon would have to trust me to make a good decision. After hiking all over the mountain searching for that perfectly symmetrical tree with the proverbial pillar of light from above, I’d finally have to settle on an “almost perfect”, chop it down, drag it back and tie it to the top of the car.

Christmas 2008 - Idaho
This year the Christmas tree hunt was much less “wilderness” but no less adventurous. We were happy to see Christmas tree stands with real trees pop up all over Denmark near the end of November. However we were less excited to see the prices; it seem no matter how long we live here we can’t help but convert costs to dollars and reference that to what we would expect to pay in Utah (which probably is not the best reference for the rest of the world).  We were also concerned that while we saw lots of trees we saw no tree stands that would hold water to keep them alive for the month. Needless to say we were somewhat hesitant to buy one. As the month wore on our desire to make our Danish home feel a little Christmasy intensified; we thought that we could satisfy our holiday yearning with a small tree and a single strand of lights – however this was somewhat disappointing.

Finally, ten days before Christmas I broke down and decided to buy a really tree, on my way home from work I found a lot kind of near our house (1.5 miles) that seemed to have lower prices. Once I tracked down the proprietor I found out he spoke no English (unusual here), luckily I have gotten pretty good a charades. After some pointing, hand jesters and slow enunciating of foreign words with the vain hope that it would add understanding, I think we came to understanding. I found a tree, had it tied up and ready to go along with a wooden X to nail to the bottom for a stand (I was told that in cold humid Denmark trees dry out much slower).

The next challenge was getting it home. I tried first balancing it on my bike while I walked beside it, but it was difficult to steer and balance at the same time.  Once I got out of the city center, I decided to try to ride while holding the tree with one hand. After some trial and error I figured out that if I pressed the trunk to one side of my handlebars while holing it to my shoulder I could steer and take some of the weight off. After that it was a slow but uneventful ride home.

Note the toilet paper roll angel Myra made for the top 
Once we got it set up in the house, added lights that I think are meant for outside bushes since they are arranged in a "net" rather then a "strand" formation, and decorated with some very clever homemade Christmas ornaments that Shannon came up with, it really brightened up our home and brought the Christmas feeling we had been looking for. It might not be the most beautiful tree that we have ever had but I am sure it will be one of our favorites and most memorable for a long time.