Friday, September 30, 2011

a totally civilized sunrise









i like that sunrise now happens at the decidedly civilized hour of around 7:30 a.m. happy friday, one and all...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ancient tech support

video

sorry, my english-speaking readers...this is in norwegian with danish subtitles. but very hilarious. today's IT support language, but regarding how to operate a book.


laughing and crying


this to make you laugh

because this will make you cry. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

a sparkling spider kind of a morning








you've got to love autumn. for the light. and the spiders. who are apparently out partying all night, come home late, possibly drunk. and then spin their webs. in a state of drunken confusion. i'd like to have caught them in the act, but it seemed they had all gone to bed to sleep off their hangovers.

Monday, September 26, 2011

shadows on the wall


we all have shadows on our souls that haunt us. sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, sometimes in the middle of the day, sometimes when we're under pressure, they cloud our judgement or make us behave in bewildering ways. i think my primary shadow is having grown up in a small town where everyone knew everyone. and while that was good in many ways, it makes me overly eager to be accepted and liked, because it meant too so much in that little society. but this isn't really about my shadows, more about how we are affected by the shadows around us.


spending time with a whole lot of people who are long-term unemployed and interviewing them for my book on the danish welfare state, i have seen and felt a lot of shadows in recent weeks. and i think that it can't help but cast a shadow over your own soul and your own existence, to be in contact with so many sad stories and depressed people. it drags you into a kind of darkness yourself, no matter how much anthropological distance you try to have. there is something to the notion that the people you hang out with have a big affect on you and how you view the world (and i knew this, but i didn't realize how hard it would be to keep it separate). and i think it's also difficult, when you're in the midst of a situation, to realize what's really going on, especially one like this, where at the same time i'm very grateful to these people for opening up to me and telling me their stories.

by the end of last week, i found myself feeling short-tempered and crabby. and i couldn't help but be hyper-critical of everyone and everything around me. it was like all those shadows ganged up on me and gave me a very bleak outlook, expecting the worst of the world.

so today, i stepped back from my project and worked on something else - a whole stack of new stitched-up photos that i actually started last week. i hope to get them backed and photographed tomorrow so i can show them to you. there are a couple of new themes...hedgehogs and mushrooms (unsurprisingly) and some travel dreams. it was just the the thing to push those shadows back where they belong...against the wall.


*  *  *

and don't forget, the last batch of stitched-up photos are 25% off - and i've made it easier...the price you see is the sale price, no code necessary. if there was one you were wanting, now is the time to pounce! and there aren't any aliens or fish in this second round, so it's the last chance at those (for now).


Sunday, September 25, 2011

first world worries


i do realize that i begin to seem a little obsessed about this, but seriously...

i.
cannot.
take.
a.
poetic.
shot.
of.
an.
almost-empty.
plate.

not to save my life.

this, it looks like a big fat mess that needs to be scraped into the chicken bucket (tho' i do love our plates and silverware).  and yet, flickr abounds with people who master this particular genre. i'm just clearly not one of them.

i'm not even sure why it bothers me as much as it seems to.

and it is a lame thing to worry about. i realize.

i'll try to stop now. i promise.

more magical mushrooms

purple velvet on a green carpet
salmon pink
blue velvet 
stones that look like a broken, old mushroom
more light blue velvet
stitched around the edges
perfect stitches around the edge
lipstick
frog and a slug
shell-like
teeny tiny world
once again, i'm not so great at identifying these, but i do love finding and photographing them on a walk in the woods. i'm amazed at the range of colors mushrooms and fungi come in.  next year, i'm going to be prepared to use them for dyeing, but with harvesting the garden bounty and honey and making cider and getting ready to build a new kitchen and such things, it feels like too much to try to tackle mushroom dyes as well.  so that will have to wait. and the pretty pictures will have to suffice in the meantime.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

viking imaginings

24/9.2011 - viking memories

there are times when you come upon a scene that transports you, just for a moment, back in time. i imagine that this scene wasn't all that different in viking times...cows grazing on the shore and a long viking warship at anchor in the lake. a crisp autumn day, birdsong in the air and a light breeze of the sort that the vikings undoubtedly enjoyed. i didn't see any actual vikings, but i suppose they were at the nearby kro, having lunch and a few beers...just like in the old days.

it kind of makes me want to pillage something...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

real life

21/9.2011 - the truth


flickr and the blogosphere are full of empty plates with achingly artistically-arranged crumbs photographed in caf├ęs flooded with perfect light. but real life is something else...it's a photo of the day left 'til well after dark in the artificial yellow light of a drab kitchen where a busy family dashed in and out, grabbing something to eat and leaving behind not-so-artfully-arranged crumbs. and milk cartons and open boxes of crackers. and a wadded up piece of cheesecloth stained crimson by elderberries. sometimes i miss reality in cyberspace.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

cut out and keep quilting



here it is, finished at last! the cut out & keep quilt that i made for kristina. i struggled a bit with this one. first, because it was for kristina and i wanted to get it "right," but also because i love the cut out & keep fabrics that heather moore did for cloud 9 so much that it felt like i had to do justice to them.  so suffice it to say that this one took me much longer than it should have, tho' if i'd thought about it, what i needed to do was there in the name all along - i just needed to cut it out and keep quilting! but, sometimes the muse is wily.

i was inspired to do some slightly random lines of quilting by the quilting done by filminthefridge on this quilt. the batting i used was natural cotton and rather thick, so this ended up quite heavy - it will be comfy-cozy for winter for sure. and i can tell you that after two days spent quilting it, my arms and shoulders were very tired.  quilting is more work than you would think.

next, i've moved on to a quilt in autumn-inspired solids. and i've got some bags along the lines of the one i made for sabin on the go. and a new stack of stitched-up photos. apparently once the muse was tamed, she got down to work in earnest.

to make room for the new stitched-up photos, the remaining ones in my shop are on sale - 25% off! - just typed in STITCHED at checkout.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

feeling a need to be grateful


the best part about having a lot of heart-shaped stones lying around is that they make you think about things you love. because you can't help but think happy, grateful thoughts when your windowsill is full of hearts (even if it is also full of spider poo and dead flies).

right now, on this rainy day, i'm grateful for:

~ that at least one of our chickens (i think it's the same one) has begun to lay eggs.

~ baby hedgehogs.

~ having a really good riding teacher.

~ hedgehog sneezes.

~ leaves that are changing color.

~ acorns on the ground.

~ and have i mentioned the baby hedgehog?

~ potato and bacon omelette for dinner.

~ the fact that people love to tell their stories.

~ that my life is my life and not that my job is my life.

~ eggplants and tomatoes in the greenhouse.

~ elderberries.

what are you grateful for today?

Monday, September 19, 2011

baby animal alert!






i found this adorable little hedgehog toddling around in the garden this evening. i'd been hoping to catch a glimpse of a baby one all summer, but hadn't seen one 'til today. she may very well be the cutest thing i've ever seen. and yes, i gave her a rather big pile of cat food. we've got to fatten her up and make sure she can make it through the winter.

culture clash or the ribbons are the wrong color

the ribbons are the wrong color -first and third in the jumping

whenever you enter into a new activity, you find yourself immersed in a new and sometimes bewildering culture. tho' i grew up showing horses, it's apparently very different to show horses in the US (admittedly 25 years ago) than it is in denmark.

the first thing i did was read the rulebook. i could see that all of the photos of dressage competition showed people with white saddle pads, white breeches, white gloves and white leg wraps on their horses. i found the white breeches in the rules and a paragraph that said you could wear gloves that were the same color as your coat (which had to be black) if you wished. i read that the saddle blanket should be a neutral color and could find nothing at all about the color of the boots/legwraps. but when we got to the show, it was obvious that only white would do. our black saddle pad with a hint of purple stitching and purple legwraps were not going to cut it. luckily, we could borrow a white pad and just forgo the legwraps.  it seemed to be some strange and unpredictable collusion of rules and what's in fashion.

the next thing that seemed strange was that the judge sat in a vehicle that was parked down at the end of the arena. not along the side, where she might have been able to see something, but at the far end. furthermore, the judge would honk the horn of the car when the person should begin their program. because a honking horn isn't at all going to scare a highly-strung warmblood. the weather was iffy and there were patches of showers all day long, but the judge judged on from the front seat of the car, windshield wipers flapping. i was incredulous, but everyone else seemed to consider it completely normal.

then, there were the ribbons. where i grew up, first place is blue, second is red and yellow is third. here, apparently red is first place, blue is second place and green is third. so you can see above that matilde won a first and a third in the jumping, rather than the second and sixth place that it looks like to the conditioning of my culture.

for the dressage competition, everyone is dressed and outfitted the same, so it seems very egalitarian (and thus very danish). apparently, there's more leeway and fashion at play in the jumping, as people had bright colored saddle pads and boots on their horses and one girl even wore pink britches (tho' i did hear some people expressing surprise over that). everyone has a bright, pretty fleece that they cover their horse with before and after they compete and there seems to be some fashion at work in those as well. because despite the uniform involved, people do want to express themselves.

but it's interesting, these clashes of culture. i do tend to like things that push me out of my rut, but the judge sitting inside of a car during the judging was where i drew the line. i just can't get my head around that. i can appreciate the need to stay warm and dry, but what about the need to actually be able to SEE the performance of the horse you're judging? still, i didn't hear any complaints about the scoring, so i suppose it must work (either that or people have just been culturally conditioned to accept it and not question it).

such an experience also engages many conflicting feelings...the need to belong and fit in and the need to resist. i can see that i have much more need to resist than my child has - she wants very much to belong and be like the others. so i guess i'll be buying her some white gloves, a white pad and white legwraps for the next time.

oh, and i can't resist showing you how brilliantly matilde jumped on sunday to earn those ribbons above. one of the older, more experienced girls from the riding school rode her very well. and she looked fetching in red. 

18/9.2011 - airborne


Sunday, September 18, 2011

the agony of defeat

17/9.2011 - first horse show


i grew up showing horses and ever since we got matilde, i've been hoping that sabin would want to show as well. she's having a private lesson on matilde once a week and is also part of a group lesson once a week, so she felt ready this weekend when her riding club hosted a show.

she normally rides in the indoor arena, so she got very nervous when she found out that she'd have to show outdoors. her nervousness grew when we saw that the arena was shortened down for the ponies using some of the jumps as a barrier. matilde LOVES to jump and when she sees jumps, she gets a bit hyper. top this off with the judge sitting in a black SUV down at the end of the arena, where there are normally no cars parked and the fact that she had no chance to take a walk around the arena to show matilde the perimeter and a severe case of the nerves set in. for both horse and rider. suffice it to say it wasn't an ideal first horse show experience and there were tears. pretty much all around.

and while i would have done just about anything to make sure her first experience was a good one, we do learn from everything that happens to us. and perhaps even more so from the bad experiences. and it could have been much worse - she didn't fall off, she just felt so nervous that she transmitted that to the horse (which is a learning experience as well) and went off pattern in her worry that she wasn't going to be able to prevent matilde from jumping the jumps they had used as the barrier (which thankfully matilde didn't do, tho' it looked for a minute like she was going to).

happily, late in the day, she wanted to saddle up and ride again with a friend (after declaring immediately after her class that she would never try to show again) and so we ended the day on a good note with her horse. today, one of the big girls from the riding school showed matilde in two jumping classes and got first in one and third place in the other - so sabin could feel proud of her horse and know that it was possible to show her successfully.

it's heart-breaking at times to be a parent. and i think that today we're especially protective of our children - trying to make everything easy for them and sheltering them from as much adversity as we can. i felt so terrible for sabin that it didn't go well on her first try in the show ring. i didn't necessarily expect her to win, but i thought she was ready. she had practiced her pattern dozens of times and knew it by heart. but we hadn't practiced outdoors - mostly since it's been raining pretty much steadily for at least the past two weeks. and when you're relying on an animal that has a mind of its own, you simply can't control everything. it was a hard lesson to learn, but i am sure she'll recover from it.  and maybe even be stronger for it. and perhaps i will be too.

Friday, September 16, 2011

sunset brings hope for change


after ten long years of a mediocre, xenophobic danish government utterly without vision, a new government was elected yesterday. fittingly, late afternoon, the sun broke through in all of its golden, autumn glory.  let's hope it's a sign of things to come.

happy weekend, one and all.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

believe it or not

an equally random photo for a random post
i am consistently amazed at people's need to tell their stories. seemingly especially if the stories are full of strife and sorrow and woe. they have a great desire for commiseration and in being confirmed in their sense of having been done wrong. it makes it easy to gather material for a book, but i have to say that it is making for a rather bleak story. but maybe there simply aren't any bright spots in the welfare state, even the lauded scandinavian kind.

* * *

believe it or not, there are still people (in this otherwise very prosperous ostensibly western society) who don't have any education beyond primary school.

* * *

it's election day in denmark today. the race is close, but it looks like after ten years of the blue guys, it will go over to the red. because denmark seems to have adopted those same colors as they use in the US elections. tho' the politicians are all well to the left of the american ones - blue or red. i don't get to vote, as i'm not a citizen, but i'm confident husband will vote correctly.

* * *

believe it or not, there are people who don't know how to type.

* * *

it's sometimes really, really hard to maintain anthropological distance. but absolutely essential for maintenance of sanity. (this is really a reminder to myself, so if you don't understand it, that's ok.)

* * *

believe it or not, there are people who still have nokia phones.

* * *

my drunk kitchen is totally cracking me up.
thank you bill.

* * *

i'm feeling much better now. sometimes you just have to clear your head of all the little stuff.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

thinking differently

 why be normal?

 and use a leash?

 a whole new way...

of walking the dog.

now that's innovative thinking.

Monday, September 12, 2011

putting things out there

potential title sighted in copenhagen
i have something that i want to say out loud. both because writing is the new praying and because sometimes it makes things more real to put them out there and share them (there's probably a whole 'nother blog post in why that is).

i'm writing a book. it's non-fiction and it's about the famous and much-lauded danish welfare state. it's in the style of barbara ehrenreich's kind of under-cover journalism, best exemplified in her nickel and dimed: under-cover in low wage usa.  in this vein, i'm trying on the danish welfare state first hand, experiencing what they put people through myself, as well as interviewing a wide variety of people and gathering their stories. it's shaping up to be a rather fascinating story - one of humiliation and hopelessness and busywork and earnest people who want to do the right thing, but whose hands are tied by bureaucracy and it's also a story of wasted, misplaced funds and consultancies becoming very wealthy on the backs of the poor sods who are out of work. but it's a story of good people too - people sincerely interested in helping and motivating.

i don't have a publisher or an agent and i honestly don't know the first thing about getting either one of those, but i know that it's a very interesting story and i feel compelled to write it. and i think that in light of a lot of political conversations going on around the world, there's a place and a market for it. and while initially, i thought it was a rather dry subject, it turns out that it's full of humanity and shaping up to be just a really good story.

if there's one thing i'm learning from this process, it's that your network is everything, so any and all advice is appreciated.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

a world worth living in


september 11. all over the world, people are marking the tenth anniversary. i say marking because celebrating, that word we normally associate with anniversaries, isn't the right word, is it? like many, watching all of these programs and listening to the radio (which is mostly what i did, because i was driving across the country today), gave me pause to remember where i was and what i was doing when i heard about what was happening to the world trade center on that day ten years ago.

i was, just as i did today, driving. that day, i was listening to de sorte spejder, an afternoon radio program that was normally very funny in a biting, ironic way. so when i heard anders and anders talking about a plane crashing into the world trade center in NYC, i initially thought they were playing an elaborate radio joke. then, there was a second plane, and i thought hmm, they're carrying this one on a little farther than usual. i think initially i imagined a small private plane, piloted by a near-sighted, lost midwesterner, but when there were two and then they began talking about the pentagon too, i thought ok guys, this is a radio joke taken too far. but then i arrived to pick up sabin from her daycare and found out it wasn't a joke at all. but far from it.

i don't think any of us could have imagined how that event would change the world. there has been a shift in mentality worldwide. we are more wary, less open to strangers, more insular and protecting of ourselves. we put up with the most absurd things at airport security - removing half our clothes just to enter the airport. we're simply much more afraid. our innocence is lost.

tho' they say it's the most analyzed event in history, i'm still uncertain that we learned the right lessons from it. i certainly don't feel that the lessons we learned have made the world a better or safer place. in fact, i'm a little concerned that the crumbling of those towers started a crumbling of the world as we know it and we haven't yet seen the end of that crumble, let alone started to rebuild it.

so when on the eve of september 11, i saw the sign above on the side of a building in copenhagen, advertising an exhibition about what makes a city worth living in, i started thinking about what constitutes a world worth living in. i think that many of us are in a process of rethinking that.

i'm still thinking about it and don't have any final answers, but i have some ideas. they have to do with performing meaningful work for which i can see the results (and which do not involve selling my soul). they have to do with being closer to and more in tune with nature. they have to do with consuming less. increasingly, i also think that the key is more openness and less expectations. i think achieving these things is a process and doesn't happen all at once. maybe the events of september 11 started us on this path, or maybe it would have happened anyway.