Grandma Jeanne

Friday, September 21, 2012

  So this obviously isn't going to be the typical blog post about traveling, Denmark, or the kids. I wanted to take the time to write about my Grandma.


  This year, I lost one of the most beautiful, inspiring, loving women in my life. My Grandma Jeanne. It was one of the hardest things I've ever experienced. I still remember the day in March when I called Dad and he said he had to call back because he was on the phone with Grandma who was sick. I just knew it was something serious. It was a terrible feeling. Later we found out it was a tumor on her liver but we were hopeful it would just be removed and everything would be fine. But after some doctor's appointments we learned it was too big to remove so they'd have to do chemo.

After a couple treatments that didn't go very well, I think she decided she didn't want to continue. This whole time, it was a shock for everyone because she had previouly been so healthy... The healthiest of all our grandparents was now sick with cancer. No one was prepared for this.


  For so long, I had spoken of how much I feared losing a loved one and didn't know how I would ever handle it. So gratefully, I've had amazing friends and family with me along the way to help me through it all.


  The hardest thing, by far, was when I went to visit Grandma with Mom and Dad one weekend. For one, I wasn't even thinking about how she had lost her hair but luckily Dad mentioned that before we got there. Then when I saw her laying in bed, it was so hard to hold back the tears from coming down. It was the first time I'd ever seen anybody sick and it was my beloved Grandma. I guess nothing could really prepare you for that. It was also unexpected because talking on the phone with her, which luckily I did a lot more of after finding out the news, she always sounded close to her normal self. I think that shows what a strong woman she was.
  It's a shame it took her getting sick to realize how important and how nice it is to just call and catch up whenever you can. It was always a joy talking to her and I know it meant so much to her too. That's one thing I've been working on with everyone in my life since then. Just simply communicating more with family without needing bad news to prompt me. It has definitely made me appreciate and revel in the love and presence of my wonderful family and friends.


  But while we were visiting her, we shared laughs, stories (i.e. Stump and Aunt Linda getting married in a furniture store), looked at old pictures (cause for a lot of the laughs), and music. Anyone that knew my grandma would think of the piano when thinking of her. She was such an incredible pianist. The only person I know with perfect pitch. She graced us with beautiful music on so many occasions, taught us some, and passed on her talents to her son, my dad. So during our visit, while sitting in with Grandma, having Dad serenade us with his songs was so incredibly special. At a point when he stopped playing, Grandma wondered why, so our humble requests kept him playing, making for a really special moment. It was such a sweet gesture that warmed my heart; A mother just wanting to hear her son play piano. I could tell how peaceful it made her feel and can only imagine how much it meant to her.


  She blessed many people with her knowledge of music, teaching piano to probably hundreds of students. When my Aunt Cyndi asked what was one more thing she wishes she could do, she wanted to teach piano. She never did retire from teaching. She taught all the way up until she couldn't anymore.


  The morning in July that I got the news of Grandma's passing was, of course, a very tough one. Fortunately, Amy O'connell and Amanda were up visiting for the weekend so it was nice having them there. Somehow, God has timed our AAA visits to be during times when friends are needed, as Amanda and I had also been there for Amy Rubin a couple weeks earlier for the news of her Grandpa passing.


  To honor our amazing Grandma, we had a memorial service at her church in Alabama. It was just a couple weeks before I moved to Denmark and Chris and Liesl had already had a trip planned to see me so we were all already together for it. It was a lovely service where the pastor read memories we had with Grandma, a couple of her students played some wonderful pieces, and a couple friends spoke as well to honor Jeanne Stanley Focht. Some of the memories Chris had gave to the pastor to read were the same ones I thought of when Mom asked me about it... Our cruise that she took each grandkid on after their 8th grade and listening to these tapes she made of her reading us stories of Peter Rabbit and other stories. I can still hear her voice so calmly and beautifully reading these stories. I'm surprised Chris didn't mention our countless games of Chinese Checkers and Parchese, which we learned that she apparently hated Parchese! We had no idea. Haha

A trip to Vail, Colorado with her was also a favorite of mine, which is pictured below, along with us at Chris' USAFA graduation.


  For me, I feel that I had been somewhat holding things in and just having short cries here and there. So the moment I sat down to listen to this become even more real, it was impossible to hold back the tears, and it became increasingly difficult to stop, as it often does once you let the first tears fall. At the end of the service, feeling Matt put his arm around me walking out of the church meant so much.


  We walked out into the lobby where my tears were quickly relieved at the smiles and conversation of Tule, Grandma's best friend from high school. I had met her before the service began where she told me several stories of when they were young, and spoke such wonderful words of my grandma. The first thing she said to me when Mom called me over to introduce us was something like this: "Back in our day, the term 'free spirit' wasn't even around yet. But that's exactly what your grandma was. She was her own individual." She then talked of how I have the same beautiful eyes as her, something I heard from several this day, which were definitely words I didn't mind hearing. I think I felt it was nice to almost have something of or like hers with me everyday and in a way, continue sharing something so simple.


  So when Tule came over to us after, sharing stories of their first boyfriends (the senior boys while they were sophomores, and from what I understood, the bad boys), it reminded us to look at all the stories, memories, and love, and that it's a time to smile as well. We got to meet several other friends and people from Grandma's life that shared more great memories they had with her. I learned a lot about her during these times, especially what a selfless, caring, and free-spirited person she was.
  One of the main things I remember Grandma saying even before getting sick, was that at her funeral, she didn't want anyone wearing black... Just lots of color and beautiful music because it was a time to celebrate as she was going to be with her Father. As my mom so beautifully and perfectly put, she can only imagine the beautiful music she's adding up in Heaven. She will be unbelievably missed but has spread so much love, happiness, inspiration, faith, music, and beauty to so many people throughout her life that will always be cherished. Love and miss you always, Grandma Jeanne.
At Chris' USAFA graduation
Our wonderful trip to Vail. Grandma was my roomie on this trip!

Little Moments

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

  This is gonna be a collection of random cute things my baby Danes do. There's a good chance it might bore some of you, but it's also for me so I can remember all these little moments. But maybe they can bring you some positive thinking, a smile, or some entertainment.


  Starting with last night at dinner... Christopher started counting to 10 in English. As if I wasn't proud enough that he initiated it and did so well, he then told me it was my turn. As reward for getting them right, I was surprised with 10 kisses.


  Christopher is definitely the most lovey of the kids. I could tell that from the first day when he sat on my lap right away for tv time.


  This morning, it made me happy when Eva Kirstine layed back to cuddle with me too. Then tonight... Christopher came in from swimming lessons very excited to see me and just plopped right down on my stomach while I was watching tv. Kind of like Brantley style. For those of you that don't know Brantley, he's my old puppy who paued no mind to where he was running, where he sat, or how he slept.


  Now Clara Louise... It always warms my heart when she gets her excited, 2 year old smile, sometimes accompanied by clapping and her saying "min Abby." She's a huge fan of peek a boo(name of the Danish equivalent coming soon when I remember it) and feet tickling too. I think she would've done that the whole ride back from Jutland the other day if she didn't need to sleep.


  Also, this morning Clara Louise saw that I didn't set a bowl and spoon for myself at breakfast so she went and set it up for me. Haha


  Oh, the other week, we got to Skype with Pa and Grandma so they got to see the kids doing cartwheels, flips, and hangin off couches. Twas pretty cute and awesome that my grandparents in Alabama got to "meet" my family here.


  While introducing Eva Kirstine and Clara Louise to Fruit Ninja, having one on each side, I went to put my arm around Clara Louise and she gave a big smile then put her arm around my shoulder. SO cute.

  It's the 1st of November and the kids keep getting cuter. Of course, they have their crazy, screaming moments that make me wonder why people have kids, but then moments like these happen... 
  Tonight, when I went in to say goodnight to the kids before going to hang out with Rachel, Clara Louise gave me a big hug and then proceeded to hang onto me and didn't want to let go. After a minute of hugs, kisses, and flips, she brought me to her rug and wanted me to lay down. So I sat down and she brought over a pillow for me. Then she continued to bring me her blanket and tucked me in, making sure my feet were covered, brought me her stuffed animals, and gave me her pacifier, which she made sure I kept in. She then sang me some of the songs her mom sings to her and eventually laid down with me under the blanket. She was so cute, trading out the pacifiers, putting a stuffed animal in my arms, and just staring at me while I pretended to sleep. Reminded me of how Brantley did sometimes (The pup pup). The absolute cutest thing was when she took away the stuffed animal I was holding and put hers away too, to just hold onto me. Ah, the love of a child. 

 
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The Land of Legos

Monday, September 17, 2012

  This weekend, I went to Jutland, an area about 3 hours west of Copenhagen, to experience Legoland for Christopher's birthday. We stayed with Claus' parents' house, who are so nice. Their house is one of the most beautiful houses I've seen and is right by the ocean in the countryside.
  Legoland was quite an interesting place, with areas of Denmark, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and some of the US recreated into little Lego worlds. The Kennedy Space Center was also on display, making me feel "almost at home" as Claus said. There were a lot of rides but none too scary, as Legoland is pretty geared toward the youngins.
  Time spent with Claus' parents feels like scenes you'd read about in novels; Afternoon tea and cake on the patio overlooking the incredible ocean view, playing around on the beach with the little ones, delicious meals followed by more coffee and cake... YES, PLEASE. And all around the house are spectacular flowers from their garden, candles all around, and colorful paintings covering the walls.
  The whole time I was there, I kept thinking of how many paintings could be done to try to capture the beauty of this peaceful place. Hopefully next time I'll be prepared to try to put this place on canvas.
  Another "best yet" was earned by a playground near their house... There was a track with little cars to pedal around, a duck pond with the most colorful ducks ever, a lake with row boats you can rent, and the best actual playground area. Then it keeps going to an area for barbecuing, an aviary, horses, donkeys, and goats to feed, then an obstacle course where Eva Kirstine and I had a little race. I had already said "this is the best playground ever" just at the site of the row boats and car track. I had no idea what else was to come. I felt like a kid again from Legoland to playgrounds!
  One major thought from the last couple weeks: A child's affection, whether it be them holding your hand or even/especially just a finger, cuddling in your lap, claiming you as theirs, or clapping at the site of you are probably some of the most heartwarming things. Besides maybe this video...
 
                          Since I didn't have a camera, here are some pictures from Google...

those are legos!
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Wildfire, Sally Sue, and Konitchiwa

  Super unfortunately, my phone was stolen two weeks ago... No phone, internet, or camera for over a week... Did this week really happen without proof through Facebook statuses, check-ins, photos, or blog posts? I'll just have to do my best to recall the last week with my good old-fashioned memory.
  The weekend of the pick pocket was a really good one aside from this unfortunate event. Mischa, Maria and I joined forces for another great weekend. Wait, I don't think Maria has even been introduced to the blogging world. This girl is an incredibly funny, pink-haired English lass that we welcomed into our group. I'm so glad this chick has come around to continue the adventures once Mischa very unfortunately returns to South Africa in October.
                                                        These weekends consisted of:
Going out with Mischa and Maria to a comedy show that didn't seem to comedic
Ending up making cameo appearances at Strekkers, a bar with live music and starting the dance party here
Bar hopping around CPH
Chilling outside Billy Booze (captured in the picture below by a reserved Danish dude)
Another day of shopping
Getting this "fish hook" in my nose
    A relaxing afternoon at Christiania by the lake with the M's and watching a football game
Another night out, starting at Studenterhust, a popular bar for international students
Seeing an epic dance show here by ordinary people (not theater kids! a surprise to us)
and Maria joining this awesome dance performance. 
Catching a random dubstep party in the street
Seeing our favorite street singer sing about "not making love in front of the 711"
A poor, lost, cold, English guy trying to find his deserting friends... who decided jumping in the fountain was his solution (as did the 10 people to follow him)
The dreaded pickpocket on the train. I guess even in as safe a place as Denmark, people can still suck. 
To end night on a good note, a rather attractive Dane at my train station, convinced me to share my bike for a rather uncomfortable ride home. Shamefully, with no phone, there were no numbers exchanged. Maybe we'll meet again... And if so, this post will be edited.

  Even when I dread a late, cold bike ride home from the train station, I'm always glad in the end that I biked to the farther station for the extra exercise and the chance to admire the almost always beautiful, starry night sky. Plus it makes sweatpants and a cozy bed a thousand times more appreciated.
Stay tuned for more adventures of Sally Sue, Wildfire, and Konitchiwa.
The three muskateers outside Billy's on our first night out
"bangin bottles"
Christiania graffiti 

Entrance to Christiania
my new "fish hook"
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Danish Delights

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A lot of people have been asking about recipes here, so here are a few I've done. There'll be more to come!


  Now, Danes are the biggest meat consumers in the WORLD, so if you're a vegetarian, you might not find too many recipes to try here. These first two maybe but very few others.


Apple porridge
delicious for a snack, breakfast, in your oatmeal, etc. And super simple


Ingredients:
Apples (however many you want. Maybe start with like 15)
Water (~3-5 cups)
Vanilla (sticks of vanilla are good so it continues to give more and more flavor)
Sugar (~2 cups)


Soo...
Skin all the apples. 
Chop em all up into bite-sized pieces.
Make sure all the hard pieces are off the core.
Throw em in a big pot with the water, sugar and vanilla. 
Let those babies soak until they get soft enough to smoosh. 
Mush em all up and let cool, keep in the fridge and enjoy!


Fiske Frikadeller (definitely a favorite)
You can get the meat mixture pre-made here, but here is the recipe for the Americans.



Ingredients
:

2lbs mild white fish (cod, halibut or tilapia are good)

3 slices of bacon or 3 ounces salmon (optional)

1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs

3/4 cup milk

2 eggs lightly beaten

1/2 small onion

1/2 lemon, zested

Small handful of parsley and/or dill

1tsp salt (less if with bacon/salmon)

Pepper to taste 


Directions:


If you already have the mix, just throw it on the frying pan with butter in burger-sized blobs. Cook it up and serve with the following remoulade.

If you don't have the mix:

Put milk, eggs, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in bowl and let soak,

In a food processor, put onions, lemon zest and herbs and pulse til fine.

Add in fish and pulse til it has the consistency of coarse pudding.

Put onto frying pan with butter and cook it up!



Remoulade sauce
(they eat it with everything)

1/4 cup mayo

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1Tbs chopped, fresh parsley and/or dill

2Tbs finely chopped red onion

2Tbs finely chopped tart pickles

2tsp fresh lemon juice

1tsp mild curry

Pepper to taste

Mix it up and chill!




  Other good meals I've had that would be easy to copy are the kylling og sød chili (chicken and sweet chili) which was just a sandwich with chopped up chicken, romaine lettuce or spinach, cucumbers, bacon, and a sweet chili sauce.


  Putting cucumbers on burgers is also a new, delicious idea.


  Rugbrød, or rye bread, is probably one of the most popular things here and it's delicious! Smørrebrød, or open sandwiches, are the most popular lunches for them. They do quarters of this rye bread with a variety of toppings... Smoked salmon, mackerel (one of my favorites), sausage (they're crazy about sausage), butter with strips of chocolate, leverpostej (liver pate... Not a favorite) skinkesalat (ham salad... Also great) or other options.


  Herring is very popular among the Danes as well. They eat it marinated in vinegar, curry, or other marinades.


  I don't know if it's just my family's habits, but we don't eat salad dressing on our salads (except my craisin salad dressing I introduced), so that's one way they keep their beautiful figures.

They also don't eat a ton of cheese or deep fried foods.


  The pictures are some of the things I've had here... The smoked salmon sandwich with cucumbers and delicious sauce with a Carlsberg, one of the Danes' favorite beer, a Danish pastry, the best carrot cake muffin ever with a yummy cafe latte, the apple porridge I made, and an example of the smørrebrød they have for lunch.







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Transformers, Kroners, and Castles

Sunday, September 2, 2012

         In the last week, it seems the main occurrences were shopping, accents, transformers, jokes, and Skype. With the kids, it was a really good week where I felt like I got to get closer to them and had a lot of fun. I picked up Eva Kirstina from school a couple of times and walked with her one of the times to be able to "talk" more. It's fun trying to communicate and play. So we just hopped, raced, and skipped rocks all the way home then had races, cartwheeled, summersaulted, popcorned and all sorts of crazy games on the trampoline.
        Christopher was a wild man the other night too wanting me to throw him over my shoulder, jump over my back and do all these crazy stunts. Clara Louisa keeps being really sweet too and a couple nights when she was reading with Claus, she did the adorable pat beside her to get me to sit down by her. That's always heartwarming.
        On Friday night they have "Disney sjov" night with Disney candy. "Sjov" is pronounced like "show" and means fun. Their idea of candy is quite different... Rather than yummy chocolates or sweet candies, they go for hard, really strong, licorice flavored, or like spicy morsels. One looked like lo mein noodles. To each his own I suppose! But hanging out with them for their Disney night was a lot of fun.
        Saturday, I headed to the city to meet Mischa for some shopping. It turned into an all day event, as did my shopping the day before.We finally took a break and went back to her place to get warmer clothes, and had the most insane Skype conversation ever. We had Mom, Dad, Chris, Pa and Grandma on Pa's computer, Chris got Liesl on his phone, Mom got Matt on her phone, and we had Trudy on the line at some point too. So we were holding up phones to computers, phones to phones, and insane combos of conversations. So Mischa got an entertaining introduction to the "fam!" She was pretty entertained and loved Pa's accent. She also got to see Chris' love for his "American muscles." They apparently "don't have em like that in Denmark."
        But after this amazing spectacle ended, we headed back to the city to meet up with Charlotte and another girl for their goodbyes. This night, we smuggled some Sommersby Apple Cider (so good) and went to a bar called Francis Pony where I'd never been before. Extremely randomly, as we were sitting upstairs, I looked over and saw one of the rugby players I'd met last Saturday. Pretty crazy going to the same bar out of all of Copenhagen. The next morning I even ran into one of his teammates that I'd met last week too! Small town I guess. Mischa and the others got to experience the first of my disappearing Abby act that night, making the title of this blog still appropriate.
         Sunday morning I met Mischa back in the city again when of course, the shopping began... Again. When we finally spent our limit, we went to see the Rosenborg castle. The last two days were filled with so much laughter. Somehow a joke about everything being transformers arose; a little girl became a transformer that would turn into a little jaguar, the grass became a transformer that luckily wouldn't hurt us because Mischa's shoes fooled it into thinking they were clouds and mine that they were flowers so we were both one with the grass... But the Danes... They had to watch out. They weren't as favored. We also learned that Russia is the headquarters for the Transformers and my (good) transformer offspring is what will eventually save us. We chilled by this pond and garden for a while and even Skyped Chris and showed him the castle!
Ridiculous day to say the least. Haha
And that's all for today! :)
Chillin outside Rosenborg
 


pond outside Rosenborg where Mischa and I stayed for hours
The best carrot cake muffin I had three days in a row
Rubin and I practicing our "Danish buns"

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