Signs of spring

Spring has most certainly arrived. We’ve been blessed with some really warm days, some sun as well as the cold Danish days we’re so used to. I love spring. There is so much hope for longer, warmer more enjoyable days. There are everyday reminders of new life – and of course, Easter!

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Dyeing eggs with some of #1′s school friends on our back verandah, the wonderful afternoon sunlight that comes into the boys bedroom, a beautiful and relaxing venue for our church weekend away, a whirlwind weekend in Copenhagen with my parents & enjoying lovely walks in our beautiful city on sunny days. 

 

Top Five in Paris

Last week, during the winter break, we headed over to Paris for 8 nights. I lived there back in 2001 as a student and have visited since with my husband but this was the first time with kids so I was a little apprehensive as I had heard it is not the most family friendly city. But after our Rome trip last year, this was a breeze. There were definitely a few annoyances eg. no walking on grass, rude comments/looks towards the kids etc. – but when you live in the family utopia of Denmark you kind of forget that people don’t find your children as charming as you do.

For those of you travelling to Paris with your young children anytime soon, here’s my top five recommendations.

1. Spend many hours exploring the parks and gardens.

The green spaces in Paris are stunning. They’re not exactly kid friendly eg. don’t dare cross the teeny barriers to walk on the perfectly cut grass. Most have small play areas or a sandpit.

Favourites for us included the Palais Royal – our INCREDIBLE airbnb apartment was a minute walk from here

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Jardin des Tuileries is a huge park near the Louvre (also in our neighbourhood) which has many play areas. NB. some play areas in Parisian parks cost (?!) so be prepared to cough up or avoid. In this park we tried the avoidance technique and they happily had scooter races around the fountain and played with rocks and sticks on the ground :)

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The Places des Vosges is a stunning square in the Marais area. In the middle is a lovely park that has some nice play structures and plenty of benches for weary parents.

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My personal favourite has got to be the Jardin du Luxembourg situated in my old neighbourhood on the left bank. It is a huge and is a lovely place to sit on a sunny day. There is a beautiful palace and many play areas including one HUGE playground (where we did fork out the euros) which was a sure favourite for our boys.

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A small park that I didn’t photograph is the one situated behind the Notre Dame Cathredral – it is small but it has public toilets (that are free) and a turny-aroundy-play structure that my 6 year old adored.

2. Visit the Centre Pompidou

We were blessed with mostly sunny days. However there was one rainy day so we decided to visit the Pompidou centre. There is a galerie des enfants and on some days they have workshops (in French) for older children which is worth looking into. As a previous art history student, I have such a desire for my childen to appreciate art so I was really happy that they enjoyed their visit to the Pompidou Centre. It is huge so we spread it out over the whole day and night (it stays open really late). Unfortunately you cannot eat your own food within the museum (we could only find a couple of overpriced cafes with terrible food) – so we had to eat in the pouring rain alongside other penny-saving families :) However we broke the day up into art-viewing, Paris-viewing (the view from the top is incredible), eating and the gift shop. The gift shop is definitely worth a visit. They have a HUGE book collection and the children’s department is phenomenal. I was in heaven. Our kids just adore books so they hunkered down and read/flipped through books for up to two hours.

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3. Eat at local bistros 

Eating can tend to be difficult and expensive in Paris. We aimed to save costs by eating breakfast in our apartment, picnic lunches of baguette, salad, cheese and cold meats and dinners in local bistros. We found the ones in big touristy areas were expensive and the food was disappointing. The best ones were those recommended on local websites/blogs. A favourite was Bistot Victoires – most mains were around 10 euros and the food was very tasty and most customers were French (always a sure winner!) Look for bistros tucked away in alleyways and in non-tourist areas. Difficult when you have two hungry kids. NB. most small bistros wont have kid menus. Our children are as happy with salad, bread, pasta, fish as we are but if you are looking for a place with kids menus and all that comes along with that (balloons etc) I’d recommend the French version of Jensen’s Bøfhus is Hippopotamus - a chain of steak/burger places – the food is decent, the kids menu is good and it’s not so expensive.

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4. Get over the crowds and climb the Eiffel Tower

As a past resident of Paris I should not be saying this, but if you have kids, you have got to go to and up the Eiffel tower. Our children had been looking forward to it for months. NB. BOOK and PAY for your tickets online beforehand – best tip I have ever received. The lines were enormous. We just turned up at our designated time and went straight in.  Another tip that I didn’t take and am disappointed I didn’t was this: walk up the stairs to the first floor and then catch elevators to the 2nd and 3rd floors. The elevators don’t stop at the first floor so unless you do this you’ll miss it and apparently there’s some interesting things to see there. The story of the building of the Eiffel tower is fascinating and our children loved hearing about it (along with The Hunchback of Notre Dame – over and over and over again!) The playground surrounding the tower are lovely as well and it’s a great place to have a picnic. You will not be among locals for this part of your trip but it’s for the kids!

IMG_0542IMG_5140IMG_5155 And don’t forget to take a family selfie when you get to the very top! 

5. Straddle the river

Back in 2001 I don’t remember enjoying walking along the river Seine so much but now they’ve developed it a lot more particularly on the left bank. It is so much fun to cycle/scooter/walk along and there’s some playgrounds, running tracks, a floating garden that provide hours of entertainment. Our kids were so entranced by the river – the sheer size of it, the gorgeous views – we spent a lot of time there (despite my getting grey hairs thinking they’d fall in!)

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There are obviously many more things you can do with kids in Paris and if you want more advice I’m happy to help. It still remains my favourite city in the world – before and after children!

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January in Siberia

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Well, not quite – but it was pretty cold. Here’s how January 2014 was spent -

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many cosy, indoor activities, IMG_4898

brisk walks in the freezing cold whenever the sun popped its head out,

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Australia Day festivities (note the fairy bread) and much Ashes victory celebrating,

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Life in Europe right now: cold, but pleasant!

A mini break in Hamburg

Over the Christmas break we caught the train down to Hamburg to spend a few days there and to see my husband’s brother and his girlfriend. It was an easy 2 trains down there (I am convinced that train travel is the BEST mode of transport with families!) We stayed in a lovely airbnb apartment in the lively neighbourhood Eimsbüttel and spent our days exploring the city as well as the usual playground and cafe hopping.

Here’s some pictures from our trip

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the Cohens love train travel, Hamburg: as watery as Venice, you can’t have a Christmas trip without Glühwein, the old and the new, the beautiful Rathus, two sets of brothers, the boys loved the Planten un Blomen (free entry), the best way to get around Hamburg, the Rathus, Miniatur Wunderland is well worth visiting, family cuddles, sunset (at 3.30 pm), our wonderful airbnb apartment, more water, thanks to tripadvisor I found this great restaurant: affordable, kid-friendly, tasteful design AND no waiters – we ordered on tablets which was a hit with the kids! (last three pictures) – and no Hamburg trip is complete without eating a Hamburger! 

Favourites from the sales

Our poor bank account. It gets a big hit at Christmas time with all the gift expenses, julefrokost costs, Christmas foods and drinks, holiday expenses and then come the new year sales. January sales in Europe are just a dream. Things go from being out-of-reach expensive to being doable and in my opinion you cannot have enough warm clothes when you live in Northern Europe. Here’s some of my favourites Danish markdowns of January 2014.

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Benetton jersey dress 269DKK

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2nd Day slim fit jeans 519 DKK

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Second Female Cable Knit Sweater 250 DKK

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Besos snakeprint wool scarf 349DKK

New Years Resolutions

Dearest readers,

Happy New Year! I am so excited about the new year. It is always a chance to start afresh and make some plans and goals for the year ahead. What are your resolutions for 2014? Here are a few of mine…

1. Keep Healthy

In 2013, there was a lot of sickness in my family – colds, flu, stomach bugs you name it. I now swear by vitamins and have been doling them out daily to the kids. But it’s also important to look after myself!

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Custom dietary supplements: you can create your own vitamins!

4. Read with my kids

Too often when it gets to bedtime, my husband and I are exhausted and ready to swiftly put their pj’s on, clean their teeth and get them to bed so we can have time alone, but I really want us to make an effort to spend more time doing bedtime stories with the kids. Our kids LOVE to read (WE love to read) so it really has to be a priority to do it – despite our fatigue (and laziness).

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We purchased and received some lovely books for our kids this Christmas and I really look forward to starting to work through these books with them.

3. Get organised.

While people think of me as a relatively organised person, really only my husband can attest to the fact that my workspace and personal filing system is a huge mess. I’ve resolved to try to keep things more ordered and sorted this year and with the help of some cute notebooks and labels, I hope that this resolution will outlast the week!

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Useful and eye-catching stickers to label all our things! (they have a Danish site)

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Adorable notebook I picked up in Hamburg

My personal highlights of 2013

I thought I’d share something more personal than my usual rant on this blog. I thought I’d share the things that made my year special (and please friends and family, if I have forgotten something or someone, don’t judge me,  I am sure there are many more, but these are the ones I just happened to come up with late one evening).

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Spending time with my first born son and watching him learn, grow and develop into a wonderful little guy. I’m so proud of how he’s coped with moving countries, changing schools, learning a foreign language, different routines, making friends and adjusting to a new life here in Denmark.

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A highlight was my week away in England with #2 son taking him to spend time with his grandparents and meet the English side of his extended family.

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Another highlight was backpacking around Germany with the two boys. It was hard work but lots of fun and definitely an amazing bonding experience that we’ll never forget.

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I have loved watching the boys relationship grow this year. They probably spend more time together than other siblings due to the lack of family and many friends around. They are inseparable and I just love seeing how well (on the most part!) they play and discover the world together. My hope and prayer is that they will continue to grow up to be good friends caring, loving and looking out for each other.

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Spending quality time with this guy has been a highlight of 2013. He has just got so much character, wit and charm. He cracks us up and drives us crazy, is fiercely independent yet so in tune with how others are feeling. I love how he corrects my udtale, translates for us and patiently teaches us new words (he is without a doubt the best at Danish in our family!) I can’t wait to see how he continues to grow next year.

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This guy is always a highlight. A particular high point for me was our 36 hours together ALONE in Copenhagen. We had SUCH a good time. I am just so utterly thankful for him being in my life and love how our relationship continues to grow and get stronger each day.

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A highlight for me was this day at Louisiana – a stunning, unique art gallery outside Copenhagen. It was a day without my boys and a day with a new friend. It was such a relaxing, wonderful day and I’m am so thankful for that and for the friends I have made this year in Odense – they are few, but I hold them close to my heart!

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Hospitality in our apartment has been a highlight for me from the crazy family dinners with hundreds of noisy children running around to the quiet late evenings with just a couple of friends over, sharing a meal or a drink, spending time together.

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Our road trip over to Jutland and particularly our days in Aarhus were a highlight for me. Not only was the weather amazing but the city is such a fun place and it came at such a perfect time for us to have some good quality family time.

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The moment while in Heidelberg when the boys were fed up of my demanding we see another church during a sweltering hot day and we stepped outside, found some sprinklers and to the amusement of many tourist had the time of their life getting drenched.

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The hot day in Berlin when we’d had ALL had enough of being tourists in a big city and we searched for the nearest beach and grabbed the first train there. We were all in heaven. #2 lounged in the water for 6 hours, the other two built sandcastles and made friends and I lay back and read a book. After that day we promised each other: no more city holidays in summer.

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Finally, a funny one: but a highlight for me that after 11 1/2 years of being with M, I have finally convinced him that sushi is delicious and worth spending a date-night eating!

What are your personal highlights of 2013? What are you thankful for this year?

In love with Paris

Since my husband and I toyed with the idea of a trip to Paris in 2014, my three year old suddenly developed an obsession with this amazing city. He talks about it constantly. His lego plans he makes fly only to there. His imaginary games involve him travelling there and climbing the Eiffel Tower. He even dreams about it. Luckily, we booked a holiday there for February and so his dreams will become reality (I hope he won’t be disappointed). I came across this wonderful Paris based online store, Smallable where there are so many wonderful items for the Paris loving child. Here are some of my favourites.

Picture 3Colourable place mat - perfect for airplane rides or ‘quiet’ restaurant mealsPicture 4Water proof, child-resistant city map - perfect for the 3 year old to clutch in his hands

Picture 6Simple wooden blocks with city shapes, a small toy that can come out upon arrival

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Walking tours for kids – perfect for my 6 year old to practice his reading and gives him the initiative

2013 in review

2013. Wow, the year is almost over. It’s been a year of high and lows, growth and maturity (for all of us!) and a lot of fun!

It’s been a year of so much variety: from extremely hot, sunny days to freezing cold, dark days.

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There has of course been four lovely birthdays to celebrate

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Special experiences for each of the the boys (including falling in love, riding an elephant, starting preschool, learning to stride ride and celebrating Halloween)

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A lot of travelling for M,

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but thankfully lots of travel together as a family in Europe (winter in the north of England, spring in Rome, fall on Mallorca)

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as well as our wonderful summer backpacking around Germany

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and lovely trips within Denmark (Langeland, Louisiana, CopenhagenVoersåAarhusMøn, Egeskov slot and Assens)

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visits from grandparents

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and well, everyday life – whether it be grocery shopping at the farmers markets, endless hours playing with trains and lego, studying Danish, hygge time or working: 2013 has most certainly been a wonderful year!

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Top 5 play areas in Odense

In Denmark, playgrounds are not neccessarily conventional playgrounds we see elsewhere in the world – there are often no swings/slides. Children are encouraged to be creative and make use of the space they’re offered – especially if like us, you are without a car and live downtown! Here’s our favourite play areas from this year

1. Brandts Passage – a stones throw from our apartment this pedestrian area has some fun climbing structures, slopes to ride your bike down and in the summertime, a huge sandpit. There is often something going on there as well as lovely boutiques, coffee shops and cafes.

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2. Munke Mose – a  long, winding, large park in the centrum, Munke Mose has endless areas of entertainment for kids including ducks to feed, paths to bike ride or walk along, a gorgeous river, bridges to wander over and a few lovely playgrounds.

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3. Fruens Bøge - We were stoked when we first rode our bikes along the river for 20 or so minutes out of the centrum and came across this fantastic spot: a huge lake, an ice-cream stand and an amazing forest full of fantastic climbing trees and interesting structures. This has been a definite favourite area for my boys.

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4. Musikrummet – while this playground is further out of town, it is well worth the visit. It is a huge space with a variety of musical instruments mainly made up of recycled pieces. It is so unique and the children spend ages entertaining themselves and you!

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5. Stige  Ø - north of Odense is a windy and ‘hilly’ (for Denmark) area that has fantastic slides for the children as well as an ice-cream stand and some simple hikes you can do as a family.

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These have been our family favourites this year, I’m sure there are many more. We are just so thankful for these creative spaces for our children to play!