Friday, February 29, 2008

Danish Politics 201

Okay. Now you've had a week to digest all that party fun. Before I get started on coalitions I should probably explain that when we have our elections, we vote for the whole package. In the US, you elect the President and the Senate separately. But here, because the Prime Minister is the leader of one of the leading political parties, he or she is ushered into office after according to the general consensus of the election.

It works like this. The parties divide themselves into what we call The Red Block and The Blue Block. As many will recognize, The Red Block is the left wingers, The Blue right wingers.



This is The Red Block.






This is The Blue Block.






Now, what these blocks really are, are vehicles for the two major parties. In The Red Block, the biggest party is the Social Democrats (A), in The Blue Block it's The Left (V). Because it's clear that the leader of one of these parties is going to be the Prime Minister, it is now up to all the other parties to announce who they support as the Prime Minister. The coalitions shown above are fairly static, as they share a lot of common interests. There can be a joker though.



The Radical Party (B) has been known to swing both ways. They are swinging left these days though.



So, here's the gig: There are 179 seats in the Danish Parliament. This means that a coalition has to have a total of 90 mandates to ensure a victory. And even if one of the largest parties, say The Left, got the most number of votes of any party, it still wouldn't ensure them the post of Prime Minister, if it was The Red Block that had amassed the majority of the votes. So, it's all for one and one for all, across the coalition spectrum.

I'm quite pleased with this system. It's very satisfying to have so many political nuances represented in a Parliament, instead of it just being Democrat and Republican, or Tory and Labour.

There's also another aspect of it I find comforting. Remember way back when Ross Perot ran for President? He may well have cost George Bush Sr. a second term. And Ralph Nader? He's definitely bad news for the Democrats now as he was before. Naturally, people in a democracy should be allowed to vote exactly as they please, but there are just cases like these where parties and candidates that have similar agendas are just defeating their own purpose. That wouldn't quite happen here, since theoretically Perot would've been in the same coalition as Bush Sr., and Nader would've been in the same coalition as Gore, and then Kerry. So a vote for them hadn't been a vote lost, it would've just gone on to the guy getting more votes than themselves. And since Nader is planning on running again this year, you'd almost think he was purposely doing the Republicans a favor, huh?

I hope you're sticking with me here. Let me know if I'm leaving something out, or if I need to explain something more thoroughly!

In the next installment of my Danish politics series, I'll be discussing the how and the when of election time and the system of all those letters behind the parties. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I know many of you guys read my blog not to hear about me and whatever's occupying my thoughts, but rather, to hear about my children and maybe see them too. I realize I have disappointed you lately going on about politics and taking pictures of beets. If I had any shame, I promise, I would feel it. So today as I was, I am not kidding you, taking more pictures of beets (just wait til you see them, they're gorgeous!), I realized I'd better throw you guys a bone so you wouldn't give up on me entirely.

No pictures of Halfdan though; Dante managed to erase those from the camera in an off moment. But here are some quite sweet takes of Dante and his best friend ever, Lauge. When they get together, they need about half an hour to bicker over the toys, and push each other, and cry, but after that they really like a nice cuddle together...






As for me, I'm at the university every day, trying to seem really grown up, playing office, but you know, for real. I am learning stuff, so it seems to be working. Somehow, just looking like I'm a productive individual is eventually making me one. Along those same lines, I have seriously considered printing some "business" cards to give to people. But what to put on them? Infinitive student? Domestic entrepreneur? Oral podiatry specialist? Suggestions, anyone?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Danish Politics 101

I was talking politics with an old friend recently, via mail, and I mentioned that I've been meaning to write a post about Danish politics for a while. With all the pre-election excitement in the States, some might find it interesting to get a crash course of how it's done here.

We just had elections here last November, actually. It's a whole other ball game here, with different elements than there are in the US. I find politics in general to be really interesting, but I'm still an amateur, alas, so you'll have to put up with my simplified version of it. I may just get a little help from my political reporter hubby though. I tell you, when I moved here from the States, I was only accustomed to having Democrats and Republicans, so this was quite a shock. It took me a few days, and many diagrams before I finally got it.

First off, I'm going to give you a run down of the parties here. Right now, there are 8 different parties represented in the Parliament. I'm leaving one out though, because their situation is really shaky, and I can't quite place their politics compared to the others.



This party is called Enhedslisten, or the Solidarity Party. They call themselves the Red/Greens. Red is the color associated with Socialism, and Green is associated with Environmentalism, as is in other countries as well. The Ø logo they have is also the label put on organic foods in Denmark, since the Danish word for organic is "økologisk". Most of these people are not liberal in a rabid sense, but they do have strong opinions about issues pertaining to personal taxes and the taxes on cars and gas which automatically makes them unpopular with a lot of people. Members of Parliament from this party only keep an amount of their wages equal to an unskilled laborer, and the rest goes to the party. They are borderline communist, and although that word can bring a lot of very bad associations to mind, these commies behave quite nicely.



This is Socialistisk Folkeparti, or the Socialist People's Party. They're also very Red/Green, but are just a touch more mainstream. They've gained a lot of popularity in the past couple of years, not in the least because their leader is funny, down to earth and charismatic. He did at one point get a lot of flack for driving around in a non-environmentally sound Rover. He sold it.



This is the second most popular party in Denmark. The Social Democrats. This is historically a Worker's party. The Social Democrats in Scandinavia in general are the founders of the welfare society that we have here today. Minimum wages, national health coverage, a minimum of five weeks of vacation a year for everyone and other social benefits are attributed to them. Their leader is the very stylish daughter-in-law of a famous English Labour parlementarian, Neil Kinnock. She's called Gucci Helle, because of her taste in purses.



This party is called The Radical Left, but don't let that confuse you, they aren't that lefty compared to the other parties. This party has just suffered some severe set backs since the last election, but their future is looking a little brighter. They believe in the social security net, and they are popular with the academic/humanistic set. They also believe in good terms and conditions for enterprises, which can be hard and subject to many restrictions here. They were very concerned about the environment during the last elections.



Now, this party Venstre actually means The Left, BUT, they are on the right of the political spectrum. I know it's confusing. It's because a long time ago there was a party called The Right, but they split up, and The Left is one of the remnants. The Radical Left is just another remnant once removed. Still in there with me? Right, so The Left is historically the Farmer's party. And in Danish we call them Denmarks Liberal Party, BUT, liberal doesn't mean the same thing in Danish!!! Confused again? Deep breath. In the US, liberal pertains more to being socially liberally minded wheras in Denmark it means economically liberal, as in the government keeping itself out of the individual's business. So here, being liberal is kind of like being Republican. They believe the taxpayer's money is best served in the taxpayer's pocket, that the government should butt out of a lot of things including a lot of benefits, and that some things would be best served if they were privatized. They are the largest party at the moment, not in the least because they have been stealing a lot of the Social Democrats' retoric in the past few years! Their leader is our Prime Minister.



C is for The Conservative Party. This is the God, King and Country party of the bourgoisie. They are very traditional pertaining to their values. The leader is a policeman who in every debate up to the last election had this fantastically quizzical look on his face. The Family Minister famously told Danish women last year that they should each have three children, despite herself being a childless spinster.



And finally, this is The Danish People's Party. They are notorious all across Europe for being quite extreme in their views on immigration. They are officially anti-racist, but the history and statements of some of their members sometimes tell a different story. They are very concerned for the weak, the old, the mentally ill and animal rights.

Here are the parties, in their place from left to right, as I see it. As I see it being the operative phrase. Most parties subjectively find themselves solidly in the Middle of the spectrum, with a broad appeal.



So, now you're acquainted with the different parties and what they stand for. Now, obviously, if each and every party just worked on its own we would be getting nowhere, fast. So, they form coalitions. But I'll get to that later. I just want to let everything I've just explained to sink in, and while that's happening I promise to post some pics or vids of the kids for once!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

To Jacob

Out of the blue the other day, I suddenly remembered a recipe my mom used to make every so often on Sundays, after church. It was a big, fluffy, eggy pancake that got drowned in lemon juice with a sprinking of powdered sugar. As I've written before, I haven't missed all that much stuff from my years in the States. But lately more and more things keep popping up in mind, and then I can't let it go again until I get it out of my system.

So the other day, I called my mom for this recipe and I've already made it three times since! It's a German Pancake, and there are loads of recipes out there on the net for it. It's originally supposed to be just one big oven baked pancake, but I modified it so some brunch guests could have a couple of mini pancakes each, which was a hit.



This recipe is really easy. To use a poetic Danish term, it's like scratching your ...

Half a cup flour
Half a cup milk
2 eggs
pinch of salt
2 tbsp butter

Preheat your oven to 200 Celsius. Disperse the butter in the holes of a muffin tin, and preheat in oven until butter is melted. While that's happening, whisk the other ingredients together in a bowl until they are JUST incorporated. It's very important not to overwhisk the batter. Disperse on to the melted buttered muffin tin, and bake for roughly 10 minutes. My convection oven is extremely effective, so you may need more. Don't open the oven until it's done, or the pancakes will deflate before they're done.

Serve with lemon slices and powdered sugar, or whatever your heart desires.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Don't make me barf...

Happy V-day everyone.

I am not a romantic. In fact, anyone of you who know me fairly well knows that I barf in romantic situations. Luckily, Mikael knew this when he proposed to me. He almost proposed to me on the beach overlooking the Pacific, but he thought better of it. Good boy. I would have totally spewed. So, Gate 42 at LAX, waiting for our flight to Sydney was where I answered that fateful question. Then we went to the bookstore. It was perfect. Especially because the ring didn't even fit.

So, naturally, I do not inundate my home with romantic peraphernalia around this time of year. I did make a concession by buying these adorable silicone cupcake forms. Quite the 80s flash back, with all those candy colored hearts. I can almost hear the Alphaville.



So I did it. Heart shaped cupcakes with pink frosting. Obviously, this could not be allowed in an unadulterated state, so I added a scull and cross bones. They kind of compliment each other, oddly enough.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

E is for Excellent

I got an award!!!



Sparx has seen fit to give me this award. Martini's on me when she and the Spud come around sometime for a visit. It's not the first award I've collected from her, but it is the first award I have to pass on to ten other blogs that I think are worth reading.

Here goes:

Green Yogurt gets this award from me for being endearingly frank and honest. I also respect her discretion, enjoy her dry humor and love when she spills the beans.

Zarah Maria at Food and Thoughts gets the next one even though she is too busy playing a doctor in real life to actually update her blog these days. I love her blog for the stories that accompany her recipes, not to mention the beautiful photography. We live quite close to each other, so our paths criss cross each other daily, though we have yet to meet. Her blog is one of my favorite online recipe sources.

I can say the same thing for Kickpleat. We have similar taste in cuisine, and despite that, she constantly surprises me with new culinary inventions. She also has a vegan angle on a lot of stuff that I find very refreshing.

I have been reading Eddie's blog in earnest ever since he ate balut (duck fetus) and blogged about it. I love the fact that he will try anything, wiggling or not, as long as it's on a menu.

The next award goes to No Impact Man. This is a man living in Manhattan who dragged his wife and child into the abyss of a year of no impact living, and blogged about it. The year is up, but the life style has stayed, albeit reformed. He has discovered and shared the awards to be reaped by phasing out a lot of the unnecessary distractions of modern life. He's not a bleeding heart liberal, just an ordinary guy who has discovered that life can be much better for all of us, personally and environmentally.

I am also passing the award on to Kid Noonan. This is the cousin of my good friend Elijah, who is also getting an award while I'm at it. They were both in Copenhagen for a visit this past September. The Kid is quite handy with a camera, and I always enjoy his musings, be they about boats or pocketing sandwiches. Elijah keeps us updated (from time to time) about her travels as a wine rep, and keeps us inspired with her unwavering enhusiasm and optimism. Oh, and she's getting married to a Jewish doctor!!! Some gals have all the luck!

These last awards go to other family blogs. I've been reading Staci and Jethro's blog for longer than I care to admit without making myself known to them. The gig's up. They are a sweet family with two adorable girls, and are quite diligant about posting. Juliet has equally adorable boys, the youngest of which is Halfdan's age. I enjoy watching them both grow up side by side on my computer, though they are half a world apart.

And the last but not least is Sparx who gave me this award to start with. She is funny. Her kid is funny. Her blog is funny. And I'm pretty certain we have lots of...beverages in common!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Baublelicious

Yesterday, I was peeling some small red beets for a dish I was going to make today. Who doesn't love the naturally deep red hue of a beet?! Sitting on the plate, they looked positively gem-like.



Like big many-faceted tuberish rubies.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Virtual Copenhagen 1

One of my fellow bloggers gave me an idea a few weeks back. I was inspired to piece together a little montage here to illustrate what my world looks like, from my perspective. Might interest some of you who have never been to Copenhagen. Obviously, pictures alone can't illustrate how lovely this city can be. There will be other similar posts, but today I'm starting with a bicyle ride. I've shot some pictures from my bike along my route to the university.

So you've seen my red door, and here's a picture of the door of our building. Kind of art deco style.



This is the view up on my iron horse. No kids in it today.



The lakes not far from our place. Ideal for feeding ducks, and ducking swans. They can be brutal!



Some small quaint houses in a neighborhood called the "Potato Rows". Used to house workers' families, now they're the crème de la crème. Have to be a Hobbit if you want to stand upright though. My first apartment was just across the street from here.



Town Hall.



An entrance to Tivoli.



This is a private museum called Glyptoteket. It's on a square called Dante's Square. They have mummies!



The Harbour. Note the lack of boats!



I didn't want to belaber you with an actual picture of the school. It's not all that pretty. I take another route home just for kicks. On the immediate left is the old stock exchange. After that is Christiansborg, where the Government "lives".



More water!



This is the church where Mikael and I got married and our boys are christened. If the door's open you can see straight down the isle to the huge golden statue of Jesus. Sometimes I wave.



This is just around the corner. The heart of the city. Old streets, old houses, but lots of bustling.



I love being a cyclist becuse I'm more aware of my surroundings. Indeed I'm part of them. I can get from one end of the city to the other in 30 minutes. As fast as a car in traffic. The fresh air and exercise are great too. And this city is filled with beautiful things to behold while biking which makes it a pleasure.

By the way, I had my first day back in school yesterday. Cultural Communication is the course. Three hours, once a week thank goodness. I was totally knackered after getting home. Not so knackered that I couldn't go to the movies later though!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Shhh

I don't know whether to be spooked or not!

Yesterday, I was playing ball with Dante in the hallway. I was up by the red door and Dante was standing by the doorway to our room. Sometimes, I'd kick the ball into the bedroom and Dante had to go retrieve it. When he did, he'd come out with the ball saying, "the old lady is sleeping". I didn't think much of it until it happened three times, and every time he'd say the same thing. So I asked him where the old lady was. He pointed into our bedroom and then he covered his eyes and hid behind my legs! I assured him that she wouldn't do anything, and we resumed playing.

But I guess it must be annoying to have a couple of kids playing in the hall when you're trying to sleep!

Am wondering who this old lady could be...

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Comment On Comments

Like many, I am in nature a curious creature. And lately I've noticed on my blog counter and other such devices that I have quite a lot of readers. We're not talking thousands or anything, but still quite a few spread across the globe. Now when I tally up my friends, family and mutual blogging buddies I get up to about 30 folks that I know read my blog now and again. But a whopping 120 people read my blog every week according to my counter. So...

Who are you? No, really! An inquiring mind wants to know!

If you read my blog regularly, and I don't know you and you have never commented, please do! Even anonymously. Let me know if you are an old friend or maybe a total stranger and tell me how you found my blog. Just curious. For you others whom I know read my blog but never comment, you're off the hook!

Red Door Feng Shui

As I'm sure you recall, we had a handyman running around our place while we were cavorting en France. We had him remove all the stubborn leftover bits of wallpaper from our hallway, render it up, add a layer of protective sheet, then filler and finally paint. Also, all doors and borders got a few coats of white paint except the front door which is bright red, and the floor got slapped with a few coats of Tiffany's blue. All things that I'm sure we'd have time to do ourselves in about 10-12 years.

Wow, what a difference! The hallway looks so much bigger. It's bright, airy and for the first time ever we have lamps in the hallway so we can actually see what we're doing. And it's much much more welcoming to come home to.

The door is red because in amateur Feng Shui, it's supposed to be a good way to change the energy. And seeing this every morning when we leave the house is energizing in itself!



I've been quite the handywoman since we got home, drilling holes in the wall while grunting in a manly fashion, hanging stuff up, assembling cabinets. The energy in our home is slowly changing from one of insistent repressive darkness, to easy, light and cheerful. Yay us! I swear, if you had seen the state of this place when we moved in, you'd be pretty amazed by how it looks now. And we're only half done.

Our boys are happy. They are still reaping the rewards of Mikaels leave. We are all just as happy as clams. I'm starting school again this week, but I only have one class every Thursday that I have to attend. I do plan to be at school Mon-Fri for a few hours every day, to get that damn thesis done before Mikael starts back at work in March.

Until then, we are having lazy days with no itinerary. We can lounge around in our housecoats all day if we have to. Dante loves to rid himself of his meddlesome clothes and jaunt around in his birthday suit. We do what we can to keep him clothes since it can get drafty, but to no avail.

His latest party trick in the nude is to balance his privates on Halfdan's head. Believe me, I have no idea where he got the idea for that!!! At least Halfi doesn't seem to mind.

Picture deleted!

The red door seems to be working, because since it got painted we've had so many good friends come for a visit, bringing food too! Saturday, the boys' godmother and father came around bringing loads of bread, cheese, pesto, lentils, and Portuguese sausage. It took a few hours to prepare, and luckily it took as many hours to devour. I whipped up a Danish citronfromage for dessert and we otherwise just lounged about drinking beers (I am SO used to not breastfeeding anymore) and catching up.



The boys got their share of attention, which they loved of course. If the camera looks a little on the romantically foggy side, it's because Dante planted a smudgy kiddy finger right on the lens.



And yesterday, our coop had arranged the yearly Fastelavn party in the yard. On the one hand, it's nice that there are festivities in this otherwise dark and cold time of the year. On the other, it's dang irritating since the kids are supposed to dress up (it's Danish Halloween) and it's almost imposiible to do so on top of their winter coats. So Dante did without, and hardly noticed.

He did get to bang the cat out of the barrel, as it's called. In the old days there was a real live cat in the barrel, but nowadays we just settle for candy for the kiddies. It was cold, but fun. We had a treat and some juice afterwards and then retreated to our warm apartment where we're stayin' put til Spring!!!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

A Tale of Towel Stealing in Childress, TX: Part 3

The next morning, we didn't beat around the bush. We took quick showers, shoved our belongings back into our bags, packed the car and headed into the "lobby" for our Continental Breakfasts. A bit of bread and jam and a nice cup of coffee would hold us nicely until lunch, which we were having with my mom and some of her friends. Alas, in these parts a "Continental Breakfast" was not what I thought it was. Our Pakistani (I'm guessing here, might have been Bangladeshi) host welcomed us with open arms, beaming. "It's all there" he exclaimed, and pointed to the small formica table where there was a thermos of black coffee, a small box of dry donuts and a basket of Red Delicious apples. Yum. Our host left us and we sat down and to have our fill. Not quite satisfying, but enough to get us back to Denton.

In the middle of our tasty and nourishing meal, our host came in the door, towards us. "One towel missing", he said, his Asian accent thick. Huh? Mikael and I looked each other, and looked back at him. "Look", he said, and beckoned us. We left our food and followed him apprehensively back to our room. He went straight for the bathroom, still steamy from our showers. He pointed to the towel rack on the wall. "See?", he demonstrated for us how there were eight slots on the rack for towels, and there were only seven towels to be found. "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven", he said pointing. "One towel missing".

We were dumbfounded. We looked around us, looking for a corner of sterile white towel peaking out from beneath some crevice. Nope. Somewhere in the bedding perhaps? Nope. We looked and looked, although we really couldn't give a toss about some cheapo motel towel. But again, we needed to get going, and our host was not letting us off the hook. We expressed to him that we had our own towels at home and really had no reason to take his. We were getting surly, and in desperation we suggested that we show him our bags in the trunk of our car to clear us of any misdeeds. He thought that was a splendid idea! He followed us back to our car, I popped the trunk, and we both started to open our bags.

Mikael's bag was "clean", but to my absolute horror I saw a flash of white as soon as I opened my bag. The offending (or offended) towel had hidden among delicates when I had thrown them into my bag carelessly earlier that morning. I can't remember if we laughed right there and then, but our host was just ecstatic to have his towel back. I apologized and assured him it had been totally inadvertant, but he just brushed it off. "It's my life, you know" he said. We did. We forgot our breakfast snd we got the hell out of Dodge, or Childress as it were.

A Tale of Towel Stealing in Childress, TX: Part 2

Now, we could've done the easy thing and driven to the south of the city to pick up the highway there. But we chose the route that on the map looked scenic, Taos. It turned into a harrowing trip through the snowy mountains that were extremely winding and very slippery. It also took hours longer than we had imagined. When we finally got on the other side of the mountain pass, we felt great relief. But we were big time behind in our quest for Boulder. In front of us lay hours of driving yet so I was still a little tense. There were infinite fields of white snow on either side of us, and literally, the longest stretch of straight flat road I'd ever seen in front of us. A road, filled with birds.

Why birds would be sitting, by the hundreds, in the middle of a lonely stretch of road is beyond me. But there weren't any trees around, and neither electrical wires nor snowy fields were good enough for our feathered friends. And if we were in a rush before, it was not helpful driving a few miles at full speed only to break down to 15 m.p.h. 'cause some damn birds couldn't be bothered to get up. This happened a few times. I'm an animal lover. I didn't want to harm these creatures. But after an hour of stop and go driving, enough was enough. Once I got back up to full cruising speed, no bird was stopping me. They seemed to have sensed my decisiveness. Most of them got out of the way from then on. Except one. The bird in question did get up, but then couldn't decide which way to go from there. A little to the left, a little to the right, but sadly not up. It split cleanly in two on the hood of the car. I broke a bird. After the initial shock, we both started laughing which finally broke the tension.

But I digress. We had a few nice days with my sibs in Colorado and then we headed back for Texas, which brings us to the main point in this story which is centered in Childress, Texas. We overnighted there, since there was about five hours of driving to go, and I wasn't all that keen on driving through the night in such lonely country. We hit the Mighty Burger for a taco dinner before bedding down. Childress is a drive through kind of town, and they have lots of motels for weary travellers to choose from. We picked the Econo-Lodge since it had sold itself well on HBO and a Continental Breakfast.

To start with, our room was FREEZING. We turned the heat on as high as it could go and hopped into bed, fully clothed. Little did it help. So we turned our attention to the tube. There were many channels. Just not HBO. We made due with watching Bill O'Reilly beat his helpless guests into submission by not letting them get a word in edgewise. We decided that sleep was the best alternative to watching t.v. in the cold.

A Tale of Towel Stealing in Childress, TX: Part 1

It's not like I'm dying or anything, but lately I keep remembering funny epsiodes from my life. I'll share some of the more kosher ones with you, for your entertainment, but also so they won't be forgotten once old age sets in (in 8 months and counting).

So as most of you know, Mikael and I hooked up in August 2004. By October I was pregnant, and in January 2005 we embarked on our first big trip together. We were gone a month. First an evening in London, then two weeks in Texas with a quick jaunt to Boulder, Colorado, a week at my Godmother's place in California and then to Sydney, Australia for the wedding of an old friend of mine. Pretty long trip for a couple of kids who just met, to take together. It was make or break. We made, luckily, and the rest is history. Or at least fodder for my blog.

The car ride from my mom's place in Denton to Colorado is not exactly inspirational. We did what we could to break up the long stretches of road in the flat and dryness of North Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. Pancakes at IHOP did their bit, and then a stop at Cline's Corner where we bought a sandwich from the most humorless woman alive. Then we stayed the night in Santa Fe, where we ate at Café Pasqual's and slept at El Rey. The next day, we managed a quick trip to the Georgia O'Keefe Museum and The Awakening Museum before we headed on north. Highly recommendable.