Friday, July 31, 2009

stars in my eyes

here's what i got to see of kuala lumpur today. i spent the whole day in this building that's covered in these starlike thingies. so the entirety of what i saw of KL (other than the airport, which for reasons unfathomable to me, claims to be the world's favorite (just not sure what world)) was through this starry lens...

look, it's the petronas towers!

and some kind of tower thingie that's even taller (i'm really tuned into the sights of KL, eh?)

the architecture was all over the place
but it looked charming from the 17th floor.

entire building covered in this stuff.
and strangely, the main entrance was through the car park.
i think they may have blinded the architect BEFORE he built it.

more tomorrow....
wishing you an adventure-filled weekend.
wherever you are.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

sights and well, sights...

several things about the journey. long layover in amsterdam due to optimization of ticket prices. happily, we decided to take the train to amsterdam and walk around. it was a beautiful day and that was wonderful. and no doubt fortified us for the horrendously long flight ahead. because it is a horrendously long flight. and there is a world of difference between monkey and business class (which i will regale you with tales of another day, when i don't have to get up early and fly to kuala lumpur for the day). in the meantime, here are some snapshots of the journey thus far...

totally adore these retro-painted SAS planes. SAS has class. too bad we flew KLM.

love those silver converse all-stars

mmm, frozen hazelnut coffee in (you guessed it) amsterdam

and little pancakes with lovely, tart lemony sauce.
worth the 7-hour layover alone.

playing drawing games in the sunshine.

an interminably long time later, cut to a japanese restaurant at clark quay, singapore

a fountain to play in and keep the sleepies at bay.
crocs are good for something, they can be wet.

and a couple of martinis for the folks.
plus a shirley temple for the pooka.

yes, that's outdoor air conditioning. indefensible.

sneaked a self-portrait in the fitting room of miss whatever while sabin tried on a dress.
gee, i don't look tired at all, do i?

keeping the jetlag at bay with a grande latte.
sorry, i just gotta do starbucks when i see it.

i adore this system of wooden clothespins used by the waitresses
at bi feng tang in the wisma food court.
also adore the sambal kung kang, but failed to photograph it.
will have to go back.

seen in the window of some telecom provider.
loved it.
and it seems like a good note to leave on...
see you soon...

p.s. blogger cutting off the right edge of my photos strangely and i don't have the energy to figure out why, so just know that i'm aware they're kinda cut off, but the originals aren't...i promise to fix it later.

secret 30 - the local news

when i was a little girl, not a whole lot older than this, t.v. was a relatively new thing for everyone to have in their home. and we had a t.v. and i suppose it got a couple of channels. the local CBS affiliate for sure and probably a PBS station. i can even recall the rabbit ears perched on top of the t.v., lengthened with a bit of tinfoil because that must have helped the reception some.

someone must have discussed the local news and the national news within earshot of me. walter kronkite was the national news man and he seemed a bit stern and serious. i remember les and gina something (funny how only their first names come to me), a husband-wife team, were the local news people.

well, apparently, the whole concept of local and national got a little fuzzy for me because in my head, local meant that les and gina (who i was apparently on a first name basis with, undoubtedly due to them being local) could see me right there in our living room. so, if i had been upstairs taking a bath and all of my clothes were downstairs in the laundry basket by the washing machine, i had to sneak, wrapped up in a towel, behind my dad's gold chair if les and gina were on, because i wouldn't want them to see me all dripping wet and just wearing a towel.

lest you think i'm completely mad, i didn't think everyone on t.v. could see me, just the local news people. and maybe captain 11, who was also the weather man. and a bit creepy in retrospect.

* * *
and that's it, my last secret. it's been a long month, but i made it. and i hope you've enjoyed this little bit of insight into my madness. and if you want to do 30 secrets too, please let me know, i'd love to read yours. but again, pace yourself, even if you make a list beforehand, it's hard work and you'll find you don't always feel like writing about one of the secrets you've scribbled on your list. but it is actually worth it. i feel a sense of accomplishment. hmm, now which one was a lie...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

secret 29 - the giggle loop

we were watching the BBC series coupling the other night. i can see those episodes over and over again and never ever tire of them--it's just so witty, well-written and well-acted. and like seinfeld, they have a lot of phrases that enter our vocabulary around here.

the other day, the madman jeff introduced the concept of the giggle loop. be warned, to know of the giggle loop is to become part of the giggle loop. what it is is the notion that during a very somber moment, where the last thing you should do is giggle, you will strongly desire to giggle. the desire will grow and you will burst out laughing at a totally inappropriate moment.

but best to let jeff explain:

and it reminded me of my very first encounter with the giggle loop. i must have been five or six and i was with my mom at her aunt jessie's funeral. i have a very clear picture of the vestibule outside of the church, the brownish 70s carpeting on the floor, the casket there with aunt jessie in it, looking quite still and unreal. i was probably too little to entirely understand and although i knew aunt jessie, i was also too little to really know what being dead meant. so i spied a water fountain, just a few feet away from the body, down the hallway, and began telling mom i was thirsty.

i just wanted to go over to the warm hum of the water fountain, step up on the step stool and taste the cold water. so mom took me over there and held me up, because i couldn't reach, even with the stool. we turned on the water and i bent to drink. but like many of those water fountains in the 70s, the water came on weakly at first and then suddenly spurted out full force. it sprayed me in the face and i cried out in surprise.

mom tried to shush me and preserve some decorum, but she had entered the giggle loop. she said she began to think of how aunt jessie would have loved that comic scene. and later said she half-expected her to sit up in her coffin and clap her hands with delight. and she and grandma stifled their laughs there in that hallway before going on into the chapel. i think they managed to hold the giggle loop in check until in the car on the way home, when i recall them laughing about the moment 'til they cried.

have you ever had a giggle loop?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

flying away

we're off halfway across the world for the next couple of weeks, so if i'm a bit absent from your comment boxes, please forgive me, but work (and a little relaxation time with the family) calls. i've scheduled the last secrets, so there's no missing out on those while i spend the better part of two days getting to disneyland singapore. i'm so close to the end, i couldn't give up now.

i'll try to find time to sneak in the odd post (if only a few pictures, since i intend to take lots) while i'm away. otherwise, don't write too much while i'm gone. i'll miss you!!

secret 28 - my first and only visit to bulgaria

looking for adventure one weekend in the balkans, several of us decided to head to sofia, bulgaria on a bus. we went armed only with an overnight bag, ATM cards and a dog-eared copy of let's go eastern europe. we arrived at the bus station and found our way to the center of town.

it was the late 90s and it was quite evident that the fall of the berlin wall had not been kind to bulgaria. we secured a room at the misleadingly-named grand hotel (why are those hotels always far from grand--it's true in oslo too). the hotel, still being quite soviet in procedure, took our passports. i was used to that and wasn't alarmed (not until later). we stashed our backpacks and headed out to see the sights.

the streets were curiously quiet and there was a feeling of waiting or even more, of hiding in the shadows. there were few cars and buildings seemed dilapidated and uninhabited, tho' they weren't abandoned. we walked around an art museum and in every room were the ubiquitous little old ladies who sit on a chair in the corner of a museum room in any former socialist country, ready to catch you making a suspicious move towards any of the objects. we were a little shocked to see one of them openly reading a blatantly graphic porn magazine. that seemed to underline how different things were in that place.

there was an art exhibition in a corner of an enormous concrete performing arts center, clearly built in its day (which could have been 50 years before or 5, thanks to that fast-aging concrete unique to such places) according to leftover stalinist plans. the place was crumbling and there was no one around, so we actually wandered around the whole building, taking in the stage and even peeking backstage, being struck quite silent ourselves by the post-apocalyptic quality the place had. we felt all day that we were the last ones wandering a city that had been abandoned, any people we saw were at a distance and hurrying along furtively, ducking into doors and alleys, or so it felt.

near the main square, we at last stumbled upon a little street market and bought an old camera--in fact, it's the one that started our collection. (it's the folding camera in the center of the picture above.) there was also an old mausoleum which no longer showed any sign of who had once been in it and which was all draped with cheesy banners for a big one hundred and one dalmations event. i wish i'd taken pictures, but somehow i didn't. the old hammer and sickles which had adorned the sides were chipped away at and it, like everything else in the capital, had an air of abandonment about it. we photographed the little lobster we were carrying around with us everywhere on one of the chipped away soviet symbols.

after struggling to find a place to eat lunch because places seemed so hidden away and the streets were so empty, we armed ourselves with let's go and headed out in search of, of all things, a tex-mex place that was mentioned there. it said the food was pretty decent tex-mex for bulgaria and that they had live music most evenings. we thought that sounded good.

to find it, we had to go down a dark alley and into a little courtyard in between buildings. unsure of the way, but trusting implicitly those snooty harvard brats who wrote those guides, we kept going, tho' there were no signs. we entered a doorway and went down some steps and there at last was a little sign, the sounds of people clinking glasses and chatting away over the music, and the unmistakeable smells of mexican food. we had found it.

we got a table and enjoyed quite a lovely dinner. after dinner, we moved into the bar, actually passing through old west-style swinging saloon doors, where the music was playing and ordered a margarita. the owner was a friendly young mobster man who came over and chatted with us in surprisingly good english. we told him we'd found him thanks to let's go and he smiled.

finally, around midnight, in good humor, but not even close to drunk after two margaritas over the course of the evening, we headed back through the dark, empty streets to the hotel. we took a shortcut through a dark park, laughing and joking our way, to keep any spookiness at bay and we walked up the stairs at the back of the mausoleum we had seen earlier in the day. our hotel was just across the square beyond it.

as we walked up the steps, laughing about some joke or other, suddenly we were surrounded by four uniformed policemen, accusing us of disrespecting the great monument to the great leader (whose name had been rubbed off the front and replaced by the one hundred and one dalmatians banner). i don't think i immediately appreciated what was happening. they asked us in bulgarian, what we were doing there and demanded to see our ID. of course, our passports were at the nearby hotel. not speaking bulgarian and having but rudimentary macedonian (which some argue is a dialect of bulgarian), i tried to explain this and turned, indicating the hotel. they thought i was trying to get away (which i wasn't) and one of them grabbed at the small purse (coach, of course) that i had cross-ways across my body.

completely operating on instinct and not thinking at all, i pulled the purse back, and then they grabbed me and suddenly i was fighting with several bulgarian policemen while they held back my companions. on pure adrenalin, i fought back, even biting one them--i'm sure he has a perfect scar of my teeth on his hand to this day.  but then i saw a giant clump of my hair lying on the ground. seeing that made me stop.

things cooled down, one of the policemen took the angriest one aside and talked to him. the other two remained there beside me, still trying to communicate. my russian kicked in (why hadn't i tried that before?) and we managed to get through to each other. they claimed to be calling a patrol car to come and get us and take us to the station, but their radios never crackled and and it was only then that i saw their guns in their holsters and began to shake, realizing the enormity of what was happening and fearing what could happen.

my companions were with UN forces in neighboring macedonia and finally, the policemen realized that after we repeatedly pointed it out on their ID cards. but more importantly, they also realized that we had no cash on us (the angriest one seemed angriest about that). we'd used a local ATM and had only a little bit of local currency on us and about 10 deutsch marks. that wasn't enough (and i'd been way too slow to realize that was what they'd actually wanted from the beginning).

because i spoke russian, they didn't believe me that i was american, but they did finally realize the gravity of the UN identification they'd been presented. so the one i had bit (he actually turned out to be the nicest one, so i'm a little sad it was him), told me that they were going to call off the squad car they'd ordered and let us go because i could speak russian and therefore he and i could talk--giving me a conspiratorial wink and a nudge--and oh, also that UN could be "big problem."

and so we walked away back to the hotel. me shaking more and more as we got closer. i remember that i got up to the room, sank against the wall and uttered an inhuman wail that still makes me shiver, just thinking about it. we left on the first bus out the next morning.  it was all a dozen years ago, but i can tell you i can tell you that i won't be going back to bulgaria ever again anytime soon.

afterwards, i was far more haunted by what could have happened than by what actually did. four armed men. visions of a bulgarian prison. questions as to whether they even really were policemen. their radios had never crackled, so i doubted they had actually ever called any squad car. who were they? what did they really want? just money from some foreigners? the whole city was so muted and depressed and sort of holding its breath that it lent to all sorts ideas crossing my mind on sleepless nights afterwards.

my hair, of course, grew back in time and it even came in much curlier. it's still a lot curlier from that spot to this day. i also had a black eye, but when i looked at the picture of that, it still bothered me so much that i couldn't include it in this post. time does heal things, but there are some things that you never really completely get over.

Monday, July 27, 2009

what we've apparently forgotten along the way

i've been rereading laura ingalls wilder's little house books (thanks bee for the idea) and i realize that we don't know how to do anything anymore (except google stuff). i'm so struck by how much ma and pa could do. everything from process maple syrup from tree to a usable sugar supply for the winter, to tanning hides, to butchering a hog, to building a sod house to sowing and harvesting crops. we have become so distant from the food chain that the coming climate change is downright frightening.

all of this is on my mind thanks to the lifestyle change that husband and i are contemplating and blogging about here (after all, the blog is the medium of choice for thinking things through). regardless of what happens with the COP15 meeting here in copenhagen in december, we are all going to have to change the way we relate to the world. we're simply going to have to use less energy and what we consume will have to come from much closer to our local area. the life we know now is simply not sustainable. it's more and more indefensible that we treat the planet the way we do (she says as she's packing her bag to go to singapore next week, so she does realize she has a ways to go in transforming her thinking and her lifestyle).

so, in thinking about how to live in a more responsible way towards the earth, we're thinking about getting a large farm house that would be a property big enough to share with at least a couple of other families. farms houses here tend to be one big main house with often three barns/outbuildings forming a square courtyard. most of the places we're looking at have barns of solid construction that could be easily converted to living space (especially if you know an awesome polish guy who can help you with that). the idea isn't to go amish, but to have space to raise more of our own food and to share some of the things--like a kitchen and a car--that today we all think we need our own of--all while keeping your regular job. obviously that's the short version, but you can read more about how our ideas are evolving over on the livet på landet (life on the land) blog.

but i feel a little overwhelmed, reading the little house books. there's just so much i have to learn. so i guess i'm off to google a few things...

secret 27 - remember her?

...i think her name was monica something. and she went on to design purses. poor girl. and to be honest, who wouldn't have done what she did given the chance. cigars or no.

and if one were given the chance, say because one was at the same university where said most powerful man on earth happened to be giving the commencement address and one happened to be part of the backstage team. and well, backstage, there was a window. and because in person, he is seriously charismatic....

you be the judge....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

blog camp 2.0 - sept. 4-7

there are still a couple of spots at blog camp 2.0 september 4-7 here in denmark (that's labor day weekend in the US), so do let me know if you'd like to attend! it's a riot of laughing, blogging, taking pictures, hanging out and drinking quite a lot of wine.

secret 26 - me and lenin

ok, i admit it. the first time i went to russia, one of the things i wanted to see was lenin's tomb on red square in moscow. it's a masterpiece of constructivist-modernist architecture and i found the notion of actually seeing lenin (or whatever was left of him) deliciously creepy. and it lived up to every expectation i had and then some.

photo found here.

i queued outside with a bunch of ancient, bent little old russian ladies in dark coats, colorful scarves and fur hats. it was a cold day, with wisps of snow whirling around and a bitterly cold wind blowing across red square. it was 1994 and they weren't sure at that point if they were going to keep it open, but i lucked out and found it was open that particular day.

it was a somber thing to proceed through. you walk in on the left and get the chance to walk slowly all the way around him (or at least you did then). there were guards to keep you moving--a bit like with the british crown jewels, you're not allowed to stop and as i recall, no photos were allowed (if i took some, they are, like so many of my secrets, home in my parents' basement). there was a hush and it felt very solemn and reverent. many of the elderly ladies who shuffled through ahead of me (thank goodness for them, because they walked slowly and enabled me to walk slowly) became very emotional, dabbing tears and choking back sobs.

leaving politics aside completely, it felt like something special, although lenin himself is so preserved and maintained over the years that he looked quite waxy and unreal, and it did cross my mind that there wasn't much of the real him left. but i think that what made it a special experience was sharing it with these elderly women who may have been small children way back when, women who had seen the entirety of the soviet union (and survived). and the architecture of the tomb creates a special experience as well, it's dark and imposing and cavernous and somber. and well, totally fitting as a mausoleum. they really got the architecture right. and seeing it the dim, wintry daylight of a mid-winter day added to the atmosphere.

it made such an impact on me, that when i returned to russia in the summer of 1997, i went back. the line was shorter then and it was summer, so the mood was lighter, but there were still many ancient little ladies coming to pay their respect. i don't think it had the same impact the second time, but i do recall exiting and going right back in line again, to have a second look. i wasn't sure i'd ever get the chance again. and i haven't, so perhaps i was right.

but there is something really special about lenin's tomb.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

recipe for a perfect saturday

if you want to have a perfect saturday, here's what you need:

1 glorious, sunny day with temps in the lower 70s
1 husband, busily working in the garden, but not requiring anything from you
1 8-year-old daughter, calling out cheerfully and laughing frequently in the distance
1 friend for 8-year-old daughter (keeps her out of your hair)
1 peaceful, out-of-the-way spot in the garden (preferably with lots of comfy pillows)
1 stack of cookbooks to browse through, looking for inspiration
1 macbook pro
2 nikons (one w/60mm macro lens and one w/18-200mm zoom)
1 pot of mint tea
1 excellent wifi signal

add buzzing bees, flitting butterflies, singing birds and 6 meters of lavender for atmosphere.

these are my four favorite cookbooks. the ones i return to again and again. nigella lawson's forever summer, jamie oliver's happy days with the naked chef, sam & sam clark's first moro cookbook and nigel slater's real food. if i had to get rid of all of my other (100 or so) cookbooks and keep only four, it would be these four.

add in that when i went to the grocery store, they had a special on 6 bottles of a great spiers vintage selection sauvignon blanc (i saved 330 kroner or $60 off the regular price) if i hadn't been on my bike i'd have bought 12, but six is good too and i also discovered i could carry a box of six bottles of wine on the little carrier on my bike, which is good to know. and i love spiers (only delheim do i love more and i never see any here in denmark).

i stopped by our wonderful fish store in town. the owner is so friendly and pleasant, i definitely go out of my way to go there a couple of times a week. today, i bought a beautiful piece of halibut, which is marinating in golden locally-produced cold-pressed rapeseed oil, ginger, slices of lemon and white wine, plus a bit of cilantro from the herb garden. i also bought a handful of big crab claws that i'm going to dig all the good meat out of and make a crab crostini appetizer (inspired by nigella). with tarragon potato salad - tarragon and potatoes from our own garden, it will be a lovely summer dinner. and it will go brilliantly with the sauvignon blanc.

hoping your saturday is perfect too, wherever you are.

secret 25 - psst, over here

psst. over here. i've got a juicy rumor for you. did you hear that...

nope, i'll stop there. because the truth about me and rumors is that i have an uncanny ability to make rumors be true. i've even tried it with ones i made up all by myself. and every single time, they end up true. so it's pretty dangerous with me and rumors.

in my previous two jobs especially, all of the rumors i was involved in turned out to be true. people began to realize it and they had a kind of awe. if you're known to be the possessor of good information, it turns out that people often come and give you good information. which then nicely feeds your reputation and enables you to continue.

people would come to me with tales of problem colleagues and we'd discuss their transfer to outer mongolia. or west africa. and before you knew it, they'd be packing their bags. and it wasn't that i worked in HR and could actually arrange for these transfers. i think it was more of a sixth sense or an ability to see a situation and make an accurate mental assessment.

thankfully, i'm not actually using that ability much these days. and i have to tell you, it's really nice for a change. i try to use my magic wand only for good these days.

Friday, July 24, 2009

the games we play

yesterday, at the birthday party, i stalked followed the children around with the camera(s), trying to catch them in moments of play without them posing. it became a game in which sabin and her friend j decided to try to run away and avoid having their picture taken. however, in actuality, they wanted to be photographed, so although i've got a zillion pictures where they are but blurs, there were some real gems, where their energy and their very life force simply beamed out of them. it was a good and joyful game.

before the game really began, they were intently watching a dog training session
note: this pic taken with the D60 - note color difference to pictures below, which were all taken with D300
the D60 really rocks the color. no processing on any of them, they're straight out of the camera

and now, the game is on and they are blurs


even with a plastic toy gun, they were poetry in motion. 

a 7-year-old's b-day party in denmark

attended nephew's 7th birthday party this evening. ya gotta love a country where such a birthday party looks like this...

why yes, that is my wine. thank you very much for filling it with that lovely south african chenin blanc/chardonnay blend.

secret 24 - devaluation

it's no secret that a few years ago i had a fulbright scholarship to study in the balkans. i've written about that several times here on the blog, mostly because it's where i met husband and if i hadn't gotten it, i don't know how we would ever have met (shudders and blood runs cold thinking of that one).

but here's the kicker. getting a fulbright totally devalued the fulbright in my eyes. because i figured if even i could get one, it must be easy. the mystique was totally gone. it must be that they hand them out like candy. (frankly i feel a little bit that way about Blog of Note now that i got it too, tho' i'm not as ready to say that out loud, so please just whisper it to yourself.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

thursday thoughts and a bit of creativity

first, thank you to everyone for your sweet comments about husband. he really is that cool. and maybe it was a little bit bragging to write about him, but i don't write about him that often, so he is a bit of a well-kept secret. of course he has faults, but they are pretty minor...he can misplace keys like no one else i know (except maybe this girl), he puts away dishes as if he doesn't live here and then when he's not around i can't find anything, and he has an uncanny knack for losing (and getting back) his wallet. and yes, he is pretty cute.

oh, but there is one more fault, i really wish he'd do something about his teeth...

*graininess of picture due to not having changed very high ISO setting from nighttime photography the evening before...and thanks for the teeth, TFM. :-) they were a big hit.

* * *

just wanted to share a bit of the stitching that sabin and i have been working on. i love so much that if i'm doing something, she wants to do it too. while i've been stitching on my circles, she's been embroidering free-form flowers in rainbow colors on squares of linen (you can also see, thanks to new giant-sized pictures, that she got a bit of chocolate on this one):

she's also embroidering bits of fabric to white linen. we've decided we'll incorporate all of her embroidery into a little lap quilt for her to use this winter when she's watching t.v. like her mother, she's a sucker for a nice blankie:

it's relaxing to sit and stitch while watching our nightly episode of a touch of frost on TV2 Charlie, the old people channel. i'm still working on my liberty circles, watching them unfold and waiting to see what they become, a process which i feel uncharacteristically patient about...

i got my bits of liberty fabric in this etsy shop, all cut into little squares already for quilting, i just trimmed them into circles. i haven't seen liberty fabrics here in denmark. i was inspired to search for liberty fabrics by the fabulous and übercreative margie of resurrection fern. (aside: über seems to be my word of the week, eh?)

but last night, i began on another little pair of capris for sabin. she loved the embroidery that we did by necessity on the blue ones after she ripped them, so we're doing some embroidered patches on these as well:

i love the design of this heather ross mendocino fabric (we've got it in blues too--no surprise there, tho' i do wish her fabric company would use higher quality cotton, it's a bit thin for my taste, but the design makes it worth it anyway). i ordered it from this etsy shop--fabric worm. they ship super quickly and it's at my doorstep in no time. i have to order it online since i've not seen these fabrics here in denmark.

we're going to a birthday this evening and it's about an hour's drive away, so i've packed my stitching supplies into my sweet little tiny happy zip bag that the wonderful kristina gave to me at blog camp.

i haven't even had the heart to take the tiny happy tag and kristina's MOO card off of it. it seems so fitting to use melissa's bag for my stitching supplies, as she is an embroiderer extraordinaire. i hope a little of her embroidery karma rubs off on my work.

* * *

i have to share the cake (#60 in the evidence of creativity) i made yesterday for our neighbor's birthday. our neighbors are a lovely retired couple who are like grandparents to sabin. they love having sabin hang out there and sabin loves to be there, and it makes my life much easier, so as a thank you, i made a strawberry meringue layer cake from nigella's forever summer cookbook, for else's birthday.

don't look too closely at those slightly burney edges, the instructions said to leave the cake in the pan to cool, but i think it was just a little too long in the heat of the pan for the delicate meringue. dang, these big pictures really magnify faults, don't they? moving on quickly to the next picture...

sabin picked the rose and the lavender in our own garden. our strawberries were finished, so we did buy the strawberries for it, but got some of the last danish ones of the season down at the green market.

* * *

i'll leave you with this lovely, summery song, by Goldfrapp, which i found thru sucae sounds. i hope your day has the feel of the day in this video and frankly, i hope mine does too: