Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Simple Pleasures

Here are some pics from last week that I'm just getting around to posting now!

Halfdan on one of our MANY walks around town. I could kiss those cheeks until my lips fell off.



Halfdan a little apprehensive of the ginormous poppy. Me too.



We walked by this fountain after a little Saturday ice cream, but Dante kept stalling, looking at the water and shuffling his feet. He was fully clothed, and really wanted to run through the water, but didn't want to take his pants and socks off like I suggested. His wasserlust won, and he spent the next 30 minutes solid running around the fountain in glee!



He quickly got soaked, and right after this picture was taken, I ended up stripping him totally down, letting him go whole hog nude. The patrons at the two sidewalk cafés were duly amused. He did start to freeze at one point, but let me chase him around for 5 minutes before I could blot him dry with my sweater and get him in his pants and anorak again. He took a nice, long nap when we got home.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Tarts and Vicars

I am safely back home in Copenhagen again! Being in the province isn't exactly inspiring, and something about being there is also a bit unsettling. I love being at my granny's though, she's lived in the house for ages and I have extremely fond memories from that place, and the woods right next to it. We had more meat, potatoes and sauce today, more cake, and more booze over a game of Scrabble. We played another game before I shoved off for home, and I (almost) managed to beat her this time (she is the champion), and it was also a little more fun since some if the words we played were a bit in the naughty side. Nothing too lewd, but enough for me to look up from my letters and look at that seemingly innocent great-grandmother in a whole different light. She didn't flinch.

This is what she looks like when she's lost in her crossword puzzles. Notice how brown everything is. This is of course, elementary for a genuine granny house.



I also took a really shoddy mobile phone pic from the ordaining ceremony yesterday. The one I know, Christina, is in the front, wearing her new robes with accompanying waffle around the neck (is that only in the Lutheran church they wear that?), and walking next to the Bishop. It was a very moving occasion. I had never been in this particular Cathedral before, but it was of course a gorgeous space, and a bonus was that it was once the site of a pretty bloody battle, the account of which I had the pleasure of translating from old Icelandic to modern Danish in one of my courses last year. (No, really. I think it's actually FUN to translate stuff from old Icelandic. Call me crazy).



All in all I had a great little getaway. Am remembering to enjoy her while she's still here, which means I've been asking non-stop questions to my gran about life before WW2, life during, life after, life with THREE kids (not quite sure I dare, yet) and all sorts of stuff she's almost forgotten. We've only just scratched the surface.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pathetic

Today I arrived in Odense on the island of Fyn for a little visit with my granny. I'm here without the fam, since I'm supposed to get some real studying in. I was doing pretty well, until I had to go to church, as one of my friends was coincidentally being ordained as a priest today in this very town. It was great to see such a unique event, and Christina looked beautiful and radiant in her new priestly robes. The priest who christened Halfdan was also there for the ceremony, so I got to say hi to her too.

Afterwards, I rushed home to a lovely granny meal of meat, potato and sauce, we played a game of Scrabble over a few glasses of wine, then topped it off with some Danish apple cake and a few glasses of port. I should do this more often!

The reason I am pathetic, is because I am now sitting on her rollator in a far corner of the house, close to a window overlooking the neighbour's house, mooching off his wifi connection because I had early symptoms of e-mail withdrawal. I am now satiated, have no more excuses, and will retreat to my room with my book on minority litterature. I may take a glass of port with me.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sweet 'n' Sour

So, like I wrote in the previous post, I've been getting up early so I can go to the gym before the kids wake up and tie me up for the rest of the day. Early means that the alarm rings at 6:15 am, and I keep hitting snooze until about 6:40 when I actually haul my a** out of bed and get going. (Mikael, I might add, has been getting up at the ungodly hour of 5:15 am to finish a novel he started years ago. He's almost done!)

There are many benefits to this.
1) Obviously, this is about the only time of day I have the time and energy to do this, at all. It wasn't fun the first couple of times, but I got used to it, and since then I'm addicted to having that time to myself.
2) Then there is the fact that I am still so sleepy while I'm at the gym, that I hardly even notice I'm there, hence I don't even register how much I supposedly hate running on a cross trainer for 35 minutes. And then later, I forget I was even there because I was so tired, so that the next time I go, it feels as though it's been ages since I was there last. Smart, huh?
3) Finally, my family doesn't have to deal with me when I'm grumpy in the morning. It's not that bad, but the other day I caught myself being quite a bitch for no other reason than me being tired, and honestly, that's just not fair. In Danish, we call it "morgensur", which means morning sour.

Now, our kids are 50/50. Halfdan is just as sweet as kan be from the very second he awakes. Sweet and energetic from the get go, just like Mikael.



He is also adorable when he sleeps. Look at him, with his tush right up in the air. Maybe I should try sleeping like too, you know, for my back.



Dante needs more convincing that getting out of bed is such a great idea. He can sleep forever in the mornings! And he can be quite contraire when we try various tactics to get him up. He got that from me. Gosh, I remember being downright mean to my mom in the mornings when I was a kid. Sorry 'bout that. Hubris and nemesis, I guess.



Aside from that, we're pretty much happy campers for the rest of the day. Although, much convincing is also needed to pry Dante away from his balls at daycare, which can end in tears (from me) and then having to carry him out of there.



But then I take the pedagogical approach to handle the situation, and we go to the local Paradis for a cone. That's sweet.

The Un-Medicine Chest

Inspired by this post I am going to share a link with those of you who subscribe to the notion that we don't always need prescription drugs and/or pharmaceuticals for all of our ills.

I am NOT saying that those are necessarily bad, or that they don't really help serious medical conditions, but rather that some like myself might prefer to find milder remedies for smaller ailments such as athlete's foot, acne, sore throats etc. Having kids, I am much more aware of what I apply to their bodies, how long that stuff might stay in there and what long term effects it may have.

So I am now officially addicted to Earth Clinic. I haven't actually tried any advice I've found there yet, but I am fascinated by what I've read there, not in the least because real people send in their feedback about the different remedies, be it good or bad. I'm particularly interested in active charcoal, and will be looking more into that.

I'm also going to hurry up and mention that in lot's of cases it is a good thing to be aware of what might be a probable cause of something, instead of just treating it, hoping it will go away. A good diet and exercise are alpha omega for a well functioning human being, and while our eating habits are quite good here at home, I myself have badly neglected the exercise since having my second baby. But for the past few weeks I have been getting up before the kids and working up a sweat at the local gym. I've lost weight, I feel more fabulous than I have in ages, and although I'll never stop being a climate change worrier, it's been a lot easier keeping the global warming blues at bay with endorphins racing around my body.

You may find it hokey, you may find it useful, but it is an interesting read regardless. I'm done now.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Morning Music

Here's a few videos of the music we hear to get us going in the morning.

Ja Confetti- Step Up



Les Ogres de Barback- Contes, Vents et Marées



Zebda- Tomber la Chemise



Les Petites Bourrettes-

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Just a little more about the gift giving...

I do realize that gift giving in our society is more than just an exchange of material in pretty paper between people. There is much more to it than that, and I also realize that banning people from giving us gifts can be considered quite a blow. Sorry about that.

But lately, I have been feeling really strongly about the hords of junk that we give to each other under the pretenses of love. That probably won't change any time soon, and since there are a few things that we would actually love to receive as gifts, and these things happen to be on the expensive side (although cheaper in the long run), I tend to "just say no" to gifts.

I do want to throw a bone out there though! And since I have been speaking a little more English to Dante lately, and he finds it endlessly funny, I thought it would be great with some more English stuff for him. And a little nostalgia for me! So, I was thinking that if folks on the other side of the pond catch any opportunities to buy old, used copies of classic childrens' books from the 80s, that would be really cool. More specifically, something like:



Or any other similar stuff, that would be fantastic! We also have a dvd player that plays both American and European dvds, so if there are older editions of Sesame Street or its kin, that would be fun too.

Are there any old shows or books like that, that you also have fond memories of?
With Mikael gone, I was lucky enough to get to go shopping with both kids in tow, something I normally outsource to him on his way home, or do myself while Dante's at the nursery and Halfdan's sleeping. I steeled myself with some patience and we set off.

First stop was the local eco-baby store, where all I needed to buy was a pack of diapers, but we ended up staying for a full 30 minutes, ripping the place apart and putting it back together again.



Then off to the supermarket where Dante inevitably wanted to play hide and seek in the aisles. I did the pedagogical thing and bought them chocolate rolls to keep them quiet and seated while I perused the goods. The end result was two chocolate covered young uns who got a lot of smiles on our way out.



Although it was nice to have the boys to myself for a couple of days, I am happy to have Mikael back. The 1:1 ratio of children to adults is, if not optimal (I'd say 1:3 would be good) then at least preferable for maintaining a healthy blood pressure and keeping a sunny disposition.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

An Exercise and a Birthday Request

I am so very, very tired of seeing plastic wherever I look. There are actually food products I have stopped buying because I can't find them in loose weight to stuff in a paper bag, but have to drag a plastic container full of peas home only to throw it away immediately. It literally makes me cringe.

Try this:

Next time you go shopping/to the market, take a good look around you and specifically the things you put in your basket/trolley. Consider the packaging alone. Apart from the stuff you will ingest, the rest will either go down the drain or into the trash can. That's almost half of what you buy (ok, that's an exaggeration, but still)! And just think of the thousand and thousands of stores and warehouses out there filled with stuff that's just going to be thrown away at some point. Yikes.

On that note, I guess you could say I'm pretty sick and tired of stuff and junk and the like. And we've got three birthdays coming up soon. Halfdan's July 13, Dante's August 4, and my big 3-0 August 8.

-PLEASE please please do not buy us things! (Unless you of course really want us to have something you consider special)
-We are SWIMMING in childrens' clothes. No more clothes!
-We are SWIMMING in toys. No more toys!
-We are SWIMMING in books. Books are always good, but we don't have shelf space for all of them, and it's driving me crazy!
-If you MUST buy us something, please buy something SECOND HAND or in an ENVIRONMENTally friendly or RECYCLABLE material. No more plastic!

Our boys love you no matter if you buy them material things or not, so you might as well save your money, or even better, donate it to some charity you think will help their future somehow. Be it Rainforest Preservation, Amnesty International, Heifer International, Green Peace, you decide. Those indeed would be GREATLY appreciated!

Friday, May 16, 2008

In the Meantime

Mik's been in London since yesterday morning, and he'll be back tomorrow evening, which has left me busier than normal with my domestic supervision. So I'll spare you the gory details, and enchant you with some photos from last weekend when Mik and the kids took to the woods while I was studying.

Halfdan fell asleep at the wheel, so to speak.



Mikael made a little nest for him in the bike, awww.



Dante enjoyed a pictoresque picnic in peace.



Then he hit the sack, and Halfdan woke up. Typical.



Halfdan enjoyed chewing on stuff in peace.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Housekeeping Tip #1

To make things easier on yourself, combine your chores with childcare.



Let your child have it's way with a banana on your antique teak table, and save yourself precious time.



It's quite possible your child may not get enough to eat, but your table will stay conditioned and beautiful.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tag, I'm It. Damn.

And thanks for the award!



This is actually my first tag, ever. Thank you, Sparx! I didn't know what to think, but things turned out to be quite fitting actually!

This is how it goes:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

At it were, our growing library of books is straight behind me. I first reached out and picked Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller. Alas, it is the Danish version so I think I'll spare you.

The second book I reached out and grabbed was, and I shit you not, Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour, by Kate Fox. This is fitting on several levels. The gal who tagged me happens to live in London, which makes her sort of English, although there are French and Canadian elements about her that affect the equation. Not having actually met her yet, I can't quite know for sure exactly how the outcome is!

Also, Elijah from San Francisco is actually on her way to London, right now! And Mikael is actually also on his way over there on Thursday so he can have a brief visit with her! So this is very fitting indeed, and I have no doubt that the passage from the book I am about to relay to you will come in handy. The book is a kind of anthropological look at the English, and I must admit I've only read snippets of it since it can be a quite dry read at times (although the English are absolutely FASCINATING).

Here goes:

"Some traces of this upper-class squeamishness about house-display have trickled down, at least to the middle classes: they may indulge in a bit of showing-off of conservatories and so on, but there are often hints of awkwardness or embarrassment. They will lead you to their new pride-and-joy kitchen, but will then attempt to appear dismissive or indifferent about it, making modest, self-effacing remarks such as: "Well, we had to do something- it had got into such a state", damning themselves with faint praise- "At least it's a bit brighter with the skylight"; or focusing on the inevitable difficulties ("nightmares") involved in the refurbishment: "It was supposed to take a week, but we've had plaster and dust and total chaos in here for over a month". Unlike the higher castes, however, these modest middles will not be offended by praise, although it is generally advisable to be vague rather than specific in your compliments."

So there you have it. Be subtle, and you guys will do just fine.

As for tagging others, I think I'll leave it up to those who have a book in reach at the very moment they're reading this. Go!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Good News, Bad News, and a Compromise

I'll take those in reverse order.

Compromise: not wanting to scare away one fifth of my known readers, I decided to go halfway. Although I thought the black was energy saving and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, I was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. How's camel for a change? Really, I was just sick of the dots!

Bad news: Compost worms are dead. Dead dead dead. I don't know where I went wrong. But all of a sudden, they were all belly up. I almost cried. Imagine my mixed feelings as a mother. How can my boys be doing so, well when I can't even keep some worms in a bucket of trash alive? At least they did their bit before passing. They turned lots of my kitchen scraps to lovely castings for the yard, hurra!

Good new: My co-op is letting me put a real compost bin in our courtyard. I will not try to repeat my worm fiasco, murderer that I am, but instead work on getting the rest of my co-op to really be green, hurra! I may save the world afterall...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Low Impact Blogging

Whoa. Who turned out the lights??

Times are a changin', and so is my blog template. A friend mentioned to me recently that the darker a website, the less energy a computer uses to view it. Ding dong! I had never thought of that before, but upon further consideration I realized what a no-brainer that is. And as I am trying to be as low impact as possible for a gal in the CO2 emitting western world, I decided to let my blog go green, or black as it were. And considering my hords of readers out there, this will really be something that power grids across the globe are going to feel. I am nothing, if not accommodating to the high price of energy.

I also want to recommend an excellent book I'm reading, called Green, Greener, Greenest. Thanks to Karen for recommending it, and thanks to Mikael for buying it for me. It can be read cover to cover, or merely kept as a reference whenever one needs guidance on a wide variety of subjects. Everything from recycling, dining, transportation, and home-owning to childcare and gardening, this book will inform you on the good, better and best ways to live environmentally sound lives, while just living our everyday lives, which is pretty much all we want to do anyway.

I'm also pretty hooked on Apartment Therapy's green blog, re-nest. There are always great new tips on how to replace chemicals in your home with natural substitutes. I've started adding baking powder and vinegar to my washing instead of fabric softener, and lemons can handle just about any spot, smell, lime deposit, etc. Get hooked now too!

Finally, if you think my blog is too drab and would like to pep it up a bit, albeit temporarily, then scroll down to the very bottom where I've just added the world's coolest widget. Don't ask, I just learned that word myself a month ago. Drag your curser across the white patch, clicking once in a while to change the color. If you've been hiding an aspiring artist but never had the guts, have at it!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

200

Today is my 200th post-day, hooray!!!! Imagine you lot have found me titillating enough to get this far, bravo! I am rewarding you today by sharing two things that give me great joy. Now I know you probably think it's my beautiful boys. They're a very close runner up, but the prize has to go to....chocolate and alcohol!!! ;-)

One of my food-blogging heroes shared a fantastic recipe just the other day, and I must say it took me by surprise. If you have ever tasted a Skor bar, or a Daim as its European counterpart is called, you have undoubtedly enjoyed the crunchedy goodness of this chocolatey, buttery treat. Now these qualities can be produced and savored in your very own home! And the recipe is dead easy! (Also suitable for Passover if you use matzoh crackers!)



This recipe is pilfered from Everybody Likes Sandwiches (link at left)

Chocolate-covered Caramel Crunch
enough crackers to line a baking sheet
1 c unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 c packed light brown sugar
big pinch of fleur du sel (optional)
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 c semisweet chocolate chips
1 c toasted coarsely chopped almonds
1. Line baking sheet with foil, making sure you have enough to create a tall rim around the pan. Line pan with crackers, breaking up pieces if you have to, to fill in any cracks. Preheat the oven to 375F.

2. In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together over medium heat. Stir frequently until the mixture begins to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add in vanilla. If you are using unsalted crackers, add in salt. Pour caramel over crackers and spread evenly with a silicone spatula.

3. Put the baking sheet in the oven, reducing heat to 350F. Bake for 15 minutes, watching carefully that the caramel does not burn.

4. Remove from heat and cover with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes until chocolate melts and then spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and fleur du sel or whatever toppings you desire. Let cool completely and then break into pieces, storing in an airtight container.

I happened to have some pecan-meal on hand which I used in lieu of the almonds, but the variations on this are endless!

Now for the booze. It all started the other day when I got my fruit and veg box. For about 5 months now, I've been getting produce exclusively from Denmark. This of course means that in the wintertime, there are a lot of roots to be had. And cabbage. You know, potatos, beets, white cabbage, kale, black salsify, turnips, onions, the occasional apples and more cabbage and potatos. I've been quite creative with these things if I do say so myself!

But thank goodness for last weeks box! Rhubarb! I think I actually leaped for joy. You people know how I love colorful food items. But rhubarb is a fave. I was so overjoyed and overwhelmed by all the culinary possibilites, I didn't know if I should stew them, bake them, jam them, or make ice cream of them. Then something caught my eye. That sapphire blue bottle in the kitchen, twinkling in the sunlight. I quickly googled rhubarb and gin and bingo!

So I ended up drowning my rhubarb with about 200 grams of homemade vanilla sugar and three quarters of a liter Bombay gin. Shake daily, and open six weeks later. That's about the time I'll have passed my last exam, and handed in my thesis. I'm looking forward to celebrating with a nice glass of this stuff on the rocks, perhaps with a bit of club soda.