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Last Spring, the girls reached an age where money means something. Currency, on the other hand, is another issue all together. Trying to tell a child that 10 (KRONER) is equal to 2 (DOLLARS) is a stumper. One hundred sounds like a big number, until someone tries to tell you it’s 20 bucks. Not sure why we even bother…they only work in kroner, these girls of ours.

They get a small allowance on Sundays, when we feel that they have been good about helping out around the house (which is not every week, I might add). They also decided to try and have a couple of sidewalk sales over the summer – this is very common in Copenhagen – all summer you see kids outside with a blanket of goods for sale.

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In about 3 hours, they made 200kr (about $40) mostly on cold juice and homemade cookies (we have a fairly prime location for this kind of thing). The following weekend, they made about $25 more. I wasn’t sure how they were going to react to suddenly having this much money. Naturally, they did what most kids their age would do – ask if they could go somewhere and spend it. Right away.

They did get to spend some of it right away, but it was also a good time to have a chat about saving and of course…giving. They each hand-painted a coffee tin to use as their own piggy bank. (They have beautiful, “real” piggy banks, given to them by their aunt & uncle, but they are full of American coins!)

We also made a give jar. They put some of their earnings in there and each week, if they get allowance, they are encouraged to put a bit in the “give” jar. We decided that when there is a substantial sum, we would make a donation to a charity of their choice. …And yes, it would be okay if they decide to give to animals, rather than people. Giving is giving.

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To our surprise, we had a knock on the door last week and it was someone collecting money for the Red Cross. Matea answered the door and was handed a pamphlet and was spoken to in Danish. She ran to get the give jar and those girls emptied every single ore (penny) into that Red Cross tub. We didn’t have time to count it, but it was a rather hefty sum. They were so proud. Of course, so were their parents.

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 A (very overdue) glimpse of the little village we call home these days. 

And until you can make it here in person – consider this your first “WELCOME to Great Malvern!”

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And no “view” of Malvern would be complete without a mention of “the Hills.” 

But I’ll save that for next time.

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love-s-210[1]

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This past Easter we saw our candy stash triple in size. And because we aren’t huge candy eaters, these goodies are around for ages.  The girls love dumping their entire bags onto the floor and taking inventory.  I remember loving this too – the sight and sound of all that candy, spilling and tumbling out of the bag, surrounding me in a colorful and delicious halo of (Mine! All Mine!) sugar. 

Like me, the girls spend ages humming-n-hawing over “which one to try tonight.”  My eldest and most cerebral lass always asks for my opinion,

Should I choose this one…or this one mama?”

Lately, perhaps because we’re in a new country and absolutely everything around her seems new and mysterious, she’s even more intent on getting me to weigh in on the hits-n-misses of All Things British.  Sweets and treats are no exception.  Since Easter, it has been my job (piece by piece) to describe the flavors and features, pros & cons of each potentially-delicious candidate.

This past weekend, while walking over the Malvern Hills, I brought out a small bag of sweets and let the girls take their pick. As usual, Layn quickly chooses two things and runs off; thrilled to welcome sugar in any form, yelling a wind-swept “Thank You!” over her shoulder as she disappears around a turn.  Wynn, on the other hand, is pensive and methodical. She takes forever (foreeeeeeeever) making up her mind.  She’s narrowed it down – this one, or that one? …or maybe that one? She’s most curious about a small bag of malt balls and asks what they are.  And so I describe them as best I can…

Well, these are covered with a thin layer of chocolate, and the inside is airy and milky and sweet.  These can ‘pop’ open in your mouth or melt on your tongue – your choice. They’re good. I think you’ll like them.”

She’s intrigued, and she chooses the malt balls. 

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I smile at the fact that, at six years old, the world is still a place that has malt balls up its sleeve…still a place full (FULL!) of first time sights and tastes, textures and lessons. 

And quite suddenly, I realize that this malt-ball-moment just might be the perfect way to explain why I have loved living a life of constant movement.  A life that includes packing up, relocating, discovering, settling in — and then doing it all over again.

In my experience, once I have lived somewhere long enough to know how most of the candy tastes…what aisle the cereal is in…where the two best Indian restaurants are in town – it often feels as though it might be time to move on. {I have found that this takes between 2-3 years.}

Familiar things are wonderful and I am constantly thankful for the comforts – the scent/tastes/sights/friendships — found at home.  But there is also something equally wonderful about being in a place where life is constantly introducing you to malt balls. 

This way, as a girl in my late thirties, I get to be six again. I get to be curious, take a risk, and try something new. I might love it. I might not. But, it’s hard to beat the feeling of waking up and knowing there is (there truly is) a whole world outside my door waiting to be discovered.  And savored. 

For the very first time.

To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

 

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love-s-210[1]

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This space was quiet last week.  And while we sipped tea, side by side for the first time in nearly two years, we talked about throwing some photos on here; for the moms & dads, grandparents & friends who have been (almost) as excited as us about our sisters-n-cousins reunion.

Instead, we decided (wisely, I would say) to just be together. To leave all things cyber in the land of all things cyber. Instead, we did what we have always done – explore and sip, embracing the busy and the quiet moments, running (a bit), confiding (a lot), knitting here, window shopping there, talking endlessly and late into the night and trying to squeeze as much as possible into one short week.  

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It was everything I hoped our Copenhagen reunion would be – cupcakes and wine, museums and parks, street food and candlelight, sun and snow(!), birthdays and lazy(‘ish) days, the hustle&bustle of a cool European city, followed by the quiet calm of your center city apartment and a view that I still miss waking up to…

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There was also the bonus of more ice cream than I anticipated for a cold (cold) week in Denmark.  DSC05563

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And, of course, the (very) added bonus that this time I only have to wait five weeks until I see you again.

Somehow (!?) I managed to take 777 photographs in 7 days.  And, while I’ve already included several, I had to share this last string…because they capture the week perfectly to me – seven days of beautiful sights, little people in tow and lots of laughter (credit: to our 4-year-old photographer…who just didn’t think one shot was enough!). 

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Thank you again for having us, feeding us and touring us. I can’t wait for the City Mouse (that you’ve become) to visit the Country Mouse (that I’ve become). 

How happy (happy!happy!) I am that we are closer. ♥ ♥

 

love-s-210[1]

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This past weekend we took our girls and introduced them to Scotland.  To the unforgettable hills and streets, cottage and cobblestone Steve and I called “home” before they were born.  And much like we did upon first arriving, they reveled at the sight of each kilted fellow and Highland Cow (or “Coo” as we call them in mock Scottish accents), at the sound of bagpipes and the thought of haggis. 

I thought of all the times that mom and dad have “taken us back” to places where they were young and footloose – to the cafes where they waited tables or the pubs where they met for drinks, to the shops where she spent her first paychecks, or the rocky English bays where he learned to scuba dive.  Like watching the scenes of a great story unfold, I would soak it all in (I still soak it all in) –- wanting to remember every detail, to envision a younger mom and blond, tousle-haired dad, writing those first chapters. Their story…and my prelude.

And, as the great circle of life dictates, now it’s my turn…to take them on a tour of streets and shops, cafes and pubs…to add views and color, tastes and texture…to fill in blanks and set the stage…as my life becomes a prelude to theirs. 

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We weren’t great tourists this time around.  Mostly, we visited friends and favorite haunts, but we’ll be back — to introduce them lochs and thistles, to Nessy and Burns, to islands and highlands and of course, to Layn’s stunning castle namesake.  After all, now there’s nothing but a scenic stretch of the M6 separating us from one of our favorite places on the planet. 

Scotland, chi mi a-rithist thu (We’ll see you soon)!

love-s-210[1][10]

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We’ve woken to some chilly mornings since we arrived in the UK a month ago — the horizon, filled with a thick icy fog and the fields outside our door, dotted with frost-covered fleece.

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And while we have lots to accomplish, there are days when all we can do is wait (…for phone calls…for appointments…for answers…and so on). Yet, when the world outside is icy and all your earthly belongings are floating their way across the Atlantic Ocean – passing the time requires a bit of improvising. This feels especially true when little ones are (still) out of school and noisily underfoot. 

Here’s what we got up to yesterday…

Perhaps I’ve been hiding under a rock, but I never realized that rice pudding had it’s own special rice.  I’ve always used medium grain and been pretty happy with the result.  After finding proper “pudding rice” at the grocers, I decided to conduct a little rice pudding taste off (an idea everyone seemed in favor of).  Recipe number one came from here (a long-time family favorite).  The second was prepared “the French way” (as we call it).  I found Recipe number two here.  Hard to say which batch was the clear winner…as there was much back-n-forth gobbling going on. I think I still prefer the former…or was it the latter??  They’re both good (and frankly, rather similar). 

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Does every little girl (and boy?) go through a phase when they like styling/playing with hair? Wynn keeps asking for one of those plastic, long-haired doll-head-things, and I keep reminding her that now is not the time to acquire bulky new toys that require their own suitcases. Plus, who needs pretend hair when your mama (and sister and self!) has the real thing?  Yes – I’ll admit, I’m a ready volunteer, as I (not-so-secretly) love when she plays with and styles my hair.  I consider it a perk of having both long hair and daughters. 

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However, what she’s really in love with and could do for hours on end is braid.  At home she would braid ribbon and floss and twine and yarn.  Here, on the farm, far from the colorful strands that fill our currently-in-transit craft box – there is no such ribbon or floss, twine or yarn. 

So we decided to make some braiding materials with plastic bags.  Have you ever done this before?  We’ve made bracelets and key chains using this technique.  Simply cut the plastic bags into thin (or thick) ribbons.  I cut horizontal strips.  At the moment she just uses three…but I’m sure braids of 6 and more are in her future. 

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And finally, we’ve been digging deep into our recycling box these past few weeks – searching for both fun and functionality.  We have found at least twenty uses for all-things-Tetra-Pak — which is the brand name for those waxy, watertight boxes that carry juice ‘n soup ‘n stock ‘n such.

These are entirely up to the task of drying kitchen utensils, holding paintbrushes (and water), playing in the bath with and (most recently) they come in very hand for carrying snacks in the car. 

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And since the UK is a place of many (many) coins, we also needed another change purse.  So we decided to make one using this (easy) technique. 

* I struggled to find a glue that would hold to the waxy surface. Even powerful and “waterproof” Locktite couldn’t manage it.  In the end, I had to strip away some of the wax, to reveal the cardboard underneath – then gluing was no problem.

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Just another pajama day on the farm. I’m certainly trying to enjoy these slooooow days, since I know there’s craziness on the horizon.  But thankfully, that’s not today.

And usually, by the time we’re done crafting from within – the world outside has warmed up enough for us to venture out and begin another day.

 

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love-s-210[1]

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Weather can be a gamble around here.  Sunny, clear-skied and mild — then blustery, brittle and cold.  A lot like the northwest really – the kind of climate that makes you dress quickly and SEIZE a glorious moment before it passes.

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Thankfully, England has approximately 140,000 miles of public footpaths, so you are never far from a spur-of-the-moment stroll through the countryside. We found a footpath stile just outside our gate here on the farm and had just been waiting for a (clear) day and (dry) time to follow it. 

We set out yesterday, for a late afternoon walk – eager to explore and meander. The girls ran ahead much of the time – chasing after waymarks as though they were clues on a great treasure hunt.

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One of my earliest memories (and first loves) was chasing those same waymarks and public footpath signs…hopping over stiles & stalls across the English countryside…a little girl in Wellington boots, on a grand adventure with her sister.

As you can imagine, as I watched my girls do the same, the world felt balanced and familiar. The moment, both ironic, but inevitable.

Of course they would learn to love waymarks and stile-hopping. Of course they would grow up traipsing and touring the hills & vales of Britain in colorful rubber boots while the sun set behind them.

Because even though life is uncertain – memories and nostalgia are powerful things; forces, as they say, to be reckoned with.  Like waymarks, perhaps they have a way of guiding us back towards places & spaces where we’ve been wild & careless, loved & brave. Just a big happy heart in tiny boots.

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Moving house isn’t easy. Crossing an ocean has its hiccups. Saying goodbye stinks. Getting resettled is Hard (with a capital H).

But – as the sky turned a deep, royal, endless blue and the stars came out around us – I watched two tiny shadows hop and run towards the farm they now call “home.” And I couldn’t help but think about why we left and why we came here – and why it is that roads less travelled have their lure. 

Life, I guess, can be like fickle weather.  Can’t it?  If it gives you a moment to reach for your coat, put on good boots and find a path to explore – you should jump; because the weather may change at any moment.  And if you go, I’m fairly convinced you’ll be glad you did.  Even if you all lose your boots in the mud for a while…like we did. <smile>

love-s-210[1]

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