Sunday, May 31, 2009

what the plants learned at school

today, as you can see, i haven't spent much time here...

that's because the weather has been beyond glorious outside, so i was called out into the garden by birds singing and sabin's cheerful voice and husband asking me exactly where i wanted that new purple rhododendron planted. so i came in the house only to make a big pitcher of fresh lemonade and then to make dinner late in the day. but we ate it outside. and now although it's nearly dark out, we've lit candles all over the garden and will stay out until we can't stay out there anymore. but first, i had to sneak in and share a bit of the gorgeousness with all of you...

in danish, a nursery--as in the kind for plants--is called a planteskole. i love that name, because it makes me think that the plants go there to learn how to behave when they come home to your garden.

and here's a bit of what the plants learned at school...

and then, after dinner, we ate our fill of these...the first of the local strawberries. with sugar and cream.

it would have been a fitting end to a wonderful weekend, but tomorrow's a holiday, so it's not over yet!

note: these photos are just as they came out of the camera. no retouching, no turning up the colors. they've never been near photoshop or lightroom and i didn't even do the little snazzy iPhoto enhance magic wand. nikons are just that good at color.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

just another surreal evening with the brainiacs

husband's aunt is about to publish a dictionary. it's a swedish-danish dictionary. and thus far has 25,000+ entries. she's been working on it for ten years. and it's being released online. and she's in her late 70s. i think that's all pretty cool. she had a dinner party last evening to celebrate its impending release.

to say this aunt is eccentric is a major understatement, but it is in the most charming, wonderful way. the family stories of strange meals they've been served by her are the stuff of legend. odd sauces made with eggs, pasta fried in a pan (without boiling first), so i didn't really know what to expect.  what we got were landgangsbrød sandwiches.

it's a slice of bread cut the long way of the loaf. there were lots of different toppings to put on it...shrimp and avocado, swedish leverpostej (much more flavorful than danish--sorry danes), a mix involving salmon caviar and something creamy and i think onions, some kind of sardine mixture (you can tell i really went for that one) and cheese. you then are supposed to pick it up and eat it from one end to the other. apparently down at husband's end of the table, the creamy caviar dish was mixed with a black caviar, which colored off rather purple on the creamy bit. i didn't try, nor even see that one.

she lives in a strangely laid-out apartment in a really fabulous neighborhood in copenhagen--really in the center, right between nyhavn and the royal theatre. the location couldn't be better. it appeared, however, that she needed to cross the common hallway which leads to the other apartments in order to get to her bedroom, but i didn't explore THAT closely.

the woman i sat next to at dinner was quite amusing. she'd been a language teacher for years and we were speaking danish for the first hour or so of the party. then she turned to me and said, "like many foreign speakers of danish, you have trouble with the vowels." well, duh. we don't have ø æ å in english and we generally like our vowels not to sound like we have a hairball or major amounts of phlegm caught in our throats. tell me something i don't know.

soon after that, because the swedish guy on the other side of me joined our conversation, we switched to english. i'm sorry, i just can't understand swedish (or norwegian). i know it disappoints swedes and norwegians and probably danes, but i can't just understand because i know danish. that's how it is. at least for me.

the woman beside me was even more precise in her pronunciation and english vocabulary and rather haughtily told me at one point that the english taught in danish schools is british english, not american. i pointed out that that was all well and good, but the majority of english everyone in denmark is exposed to via t.v. and movies is american english. so there.

but it was actually a really nice evening. to sit around a table in a room lined from floor to ceiling with books on the two major walls is never a bad thing. the people were interesting and i had tons of interesting conversations on topics as diverse as:

  • hull coatings (there's been a lot of that this week)
  • the historical nature of fame vs. the nature of fame today
  • danish sculptor torvaldsen
  • elaborate funerals in the 19th century
  • how much enjoyment one can get from tattoos
  • cold ironing (it's not forgetting to turn on the iron, it's plugging a ship into shore-based power while it's in port in order to reduce emissions while moored in populated urban areas)
  • my late father-in-law (several of the older ladies there had apparently been quite smitten with him over the years)
  • the danish television series sommer
  • babies and the proper spelling of thomas
  • upcoming productions at various theatres
  • the gang from the old days in nivå (i wasn't there, but now i feel like i was)
  • norwegians who sail into the swedish archipelago and drink too much and make noise all summer long 
husband was down at the other end of the table and had a long conversation with a woman who was apparently associated with a mental hospital. it was only towards the end of the conversation that it began to dawn on him that she didn't work there, but was apparently a patient there, who had been released for the party. 

and we only went home after sabin had played so hard with this little boy that he fell asleep on the floor.

in all a lovely way to spend a friday evening. 

now if i could just find my rock. it seems to have gone missing. it's got to be here somewhere, i just don't quite know where.

Friday, May 29, 2009

friday confession

i haven't confessed since that first one earlier this month, so i thought it was, friday confession was polly's original idea with it, so the day is even right.  it is friday, right? i've kinda lost track this week.

forgive me odin, for i have sinned...

: :  i admit this is just another way of doing one of those random lists i love so much.

: : i've used up a rather shocking amount of my kenzo eau de fleur de thé perfume this week instead of showering regularly.

: : sabin and i ate carpaccio for dinner three days this week. plus a soft boiled egg with spears of aspargus dipped into it. we always eat weird raw stuff when husband is away. and yup, that's a super cool heather moore skinny laminx egg cup cradling that egg.

: : i am fighting an urge to go downtown and see if there is anything summery and wonderful in the form of a dress for me. but (aside from the kenzo) i've done so well on extending austerity april into may that it would be a shame to break it here right at the end.

: : and i really want my own pair of converse all-stars, which are apparently affectionately called chucks, but which i can't really bring myself to call that because i am lacking the cultural reference for that name. but that's my own fault for removing myself from that culture for over a decade. i have the same thing with something called "wife beaters" that people keep mentioning. i have no idea what those are. anyway, i want light yellow converse all-stars. i don't know why that color, as i have nothing else that's yellow, it just that the thought of those makes my heart sing. i hope they make them in that color.

: : very often my kitchen sink area looks like above because it's where i draw the line as to how i want to expend my energy allotment for the day. so much for that feature on apartment therapy.

: : i am so relieved that all of my articles are done now and just awaiting the final approvals. and that the feedback that's come in from the various interviewees is very positive. that's a big relief. because my inner perfectionist is one tough cookie to please. and she had her doubts.

: : this week i spent an awful lot of time wearing my old green gap sweatpants and husband's big red gap hoodie, clutching my talisman stone and rocking back and forth in front of my laptop.

: : i took my talisman stone to the bathtub with me. after clutching it in my sweaty little palm all week, i thought it might like a bath. is that weird?  i showed my stone to my mom yesterday on a video chat and she said, "julie, get a life." i thought that was a little bit harsh. and i hope the stone didn't hear her.

* * *
and now for something completely different

i'd like to do a post as cyndy suggested, where you ask sabin and me questions and we post the answers, so please leave your questions in the comments. that is right, isn't it, cyndy?  my questions--with a look on the past and sabin's view on the same questions, but what she imagines her answers will be in the future. as cyndy says, "First car? First date? First day of college? First house? The list is endless..." so think along those lines in coming up with the questions.

and happy friday to all of you. i for one am looking forward to the weekend.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

#700 and advice on getting there

photo adapted from an idea by marathoner81 
thank you for the inspiration!
i love the suggestions you guys came up with and i will be using some of them (yes, including a helleristning stone giveaway, HRH TFM that was a good idea) in the coming days, but what i thought i'd do today actually isn't really in the comments (i said i was going to be dictatorial about this). but i do thank you all very much for giving me some great ideas and you will see them coming to a blog post near you very soon.

since BoN hit me a little over a month ago, i've had a number of quite a few people email me to ask for blogging advice. how i got started, what i do to stay motivated (P&P asked some of this in her suggestion below), how to go about it, how often to post--a whole range of questions. just this morning, gypsyfeet, a blogging newbie who is a canadian living in korea (cool!) emailed me and asked for some advice. then it hit me that THAT was what i should write about for my 700th post.

i know you regulars don't really need any advice and i'm not sure i really have anything worth saying on this topic, since i've really no clue what i'm doing, i just keep doing it. however, i won't let those doubts stand in my way, it's just that i wanted to give you the chance to skip to other posts or another blog at this time because this may not apply to you.

* * *

i created this blog in 2004. i had just been wrongfully fired from microsoft (as my lawyer ended up proving, but which i knew from the moment it happened) by my total crap hack insecure middle-level fargo-based manager. my original intent was to expose the middle layer of management fat around microsoft's middle (i'm sure it's still there and likely still needs exposing) and it made me feel good to create the blog.

at first, the blog was closed to the world--i wasn't naming MS by name b/c my case was pending and i didn't want to jeopardize it. what i ended up writing about was how i felt about being fired and my subsequent search for a new job. then i got a new job and i was really busy and i didn't post at all during 2005 and 2006. towards the end of 2007, i was feeling really tired and burned out and wrote a few posts again. it was also at that point that i opened up the blog, thinking no one would find it anyway, so what did that hurt. then it hit me that my job was actually killing me and my relationships and my family life and so i left it at the end of 2007. i decided then that blogging would be a way to heal and find my way back to myself.

i've always written journals and used journaling as a way of thinking things through and helping me sort out the world around me. my need to do that after leaving the stressful job was great and this little blogger compose space just spoke to me, so i started channeling those musings through the keyboard rather than writing them out in journals. i found it was an easier way of being sure that i wrote every day--which had also been a longtime goal that i had never really been able to fulfill. i type fast and so i could get the thoughts down faster anyway. whatever it was, the blog as a medium clicked for me.

so i wrote happily along, trying to find my way back to myself and especially to my creativity and my family and well, my life. i also started reading a lot of blogs. i lurked, because i didn't really know how the whole commenting thing worked and it seemed like all those people commenting knew each other and i just felt like an outsider. i also was in a process of working out what i liked and what spoke to me, so i favorited a lot of blogs in different categories and visited them regularly, but quietly. i doubt any of them knew i was there. some of them i still occasionally check in on, but for the most part, i'm not really actively reading the same blogs today that i was then (that's mostly because i've moved on from the scrapbooking thing).

in mid-march 2008, around my birthday, i got my first comment. i was astounded that someone had found me as i seriously never imagined anyone finding me or reading what i was writing. i was writing instead of going to therapy and just enjoying it for the act of it and for myself. so i was totally surprised how cool it was that someone left a comment. that someone was the elementary. she writes lovely, thoughtful posts and can turn absolutely any tiny detail into a totally delightful story with a life lesson attached. she's wonderful.

getting a comment on my blog gave me the courage to comment on some of those blogs i was reading. and it turned out that then those people came to visit me and suddenly a few more were commenting and it started to feel like a community with friends. to this day, i still don't feel worthy of commenting on a blog like hula seventy, so it can be that you'll feel that way too. but maybe it's just me. and it can cut you off from wonderful people--for example, for the longest time i felt unworthy to comment on paris parfait, but tara is one of the most generous, wonderful bloggers i know. all it took was that i finally had the courage to leave her a comment.

* * *
the medium

i love the blog as a medium. i think it affords the opportunity to be all over the place and explore different genres. one of the early comments after BoN hit me was, "i love your blog, but i don't know what it's about." i felt like, "yes, success!" you see, that's precisely what's cool about the genre of blog (if it indeed is a genre, i'm on the fence about that--i think it's becoming one)--it's anything and everything you want it to be. but, from my point of view, it's above all personal. so my advice (and it is advice, not rules, i don't think there are really rules to blogging) will reflect this--i'm not advising you how to sell your etsy stuff (as if i know anything about that) or find customers for your interior design business or photography studio or create a blog where you post tutorials of crafty stuff. all of my advice is about blogging as a personal expressive tool--gypsyfeet called it my "thinking out loud" style this morning and i think that's an apt description. so this is my advice for thinking out loud. :-)

* * *
the advice
  1. be real, if you're bummed out, say so. if you're elated, share it. people will see through it in a minute if you're not real. that annoying blog that made me hate the word "rad" is so thoroughly and completely fake sappy sweet that it makes me want to throw up. and i'm certain it's all an act because that shines clearly through in all of the vapid self-portraits that are used in every post. and i refuse to link to it here so that you are spared and to avoid sending any visitors her way.  instead, i'll give you a link to a new blog i found recently of someone who i think is blogging in a very real way and i love that! go read marinik's blog, her husband has cancer and is dying and she's writing about it so beautifully and so authentically, i'm amazed.
  2. go out and read a lot of blogs, when you find one that speaks to you, click on their blog favorites because chances are it will lead you to more blogs that you'll like.
  3. don't be afraid of leaving a comment--but leave an honest comment--if they moved you or made you laugh or even pissed you off--say so (politely, articulately), but don't just say, "nice blog." and leave a link to yours. i never ever click those links, but if someone leaves me a sincere comment, i always click on their profile and have a look at their blog. it's really about being real again, just like in #1.
  4. by being real, i don't mean that you have to expose real names of your family members and such--i refer to husband as husband because that's what we all call him, but i know some people say spouse or hubby or kid #1 (please don't say kidlet, that's just wrong, but of course, it's a choice and you're welcome to make it) or whatever because they want to protect their privacy. that's totally cool and doesn't mean you're not being real.
  5. it's up to you to decide how often you want to post. i post every day because that's part of what i want with blogging--i want to write on a daily basis. but one of the very best blogs i've ever read and which i read religiously is truth cycles and hele posts only once in awhile, as the spirit moves her. i'm sure i'm not the only one who wishes she would post every day, but that's not her way of blogging and every one of her posts is worth the wait, so whenever a new one pops into my reader, i rush to read her first. what's interesting is that i don't always comment the first time, her posts merit careful thought and i often go back to post a comment later.
  6. use great photos. i have come to the point where i would almost call myself a photographer (don't worry bill, i won't actually do it ;-)) and i can tell you that if you look back at my early posts, that was not the case. i bought my nikon D60 in early may last year and my photos have steadily improved since then.
  7. carry a little notebook with you to scribble blog ideas in. whenever i'm out, i see half a dozen things i want to blog about later. for this reason, i don't go anywhere without my camera or my little blog notebook. and i mean nowhere. they come to the grocery store with me, just in case.
  8. if you see a blog post you love on someone else's blog--be it a list or writing in reaction to a particular question or quote--write your own version and link back to the person who inspired you. inspiration is viral in the blogosphere, but do give credit where credit is due. it's not nice to steal people's words and ideas.
  9. try out other voices. write in the 3rd person once in awhile. write a fairy tale. i never do poetry, but lots of people do to good effect. the medium allows you the freedom to try out all kinds of things.
  10. listen to what people say in the comments. i've been amazed, especially of late, at how reactions to various posts were very different than what i had imagined they would be. i thought i was being really funny with my snow white post and people found it to be a sad little tale. i hadn't seen it that way at all, but could totally see what they meant after i got that reaction. listening to the feedback you get in the comments can totally help you grow as a writer.
  11. i love to change my blog header regularly. it makes me happy.
  12. don't go too nuts with the gadgets in the sidebar. (i know, i don't follow this well enough myself. but i do try to avoid things that are flashing or have too much distracting motion.) the star of your blog is your blog posts. there are tons of awesome free blogger templates out there to help you be creative and display the things you want to display.
  13. this is a personal preference, but i really don't like those music players that trigger music automatically when i visit a blog. you don't really know where people are when they're reading your blog. maybe it's late at night and their baby has just gotten to sleep and they click to your page and music blares out and wakes the baby. or they're at work and don't want to broadcast to the world that they're reading blogs. put the player on, fine, but don't have it trigger the music automatically. or share your playlist in another way--i've seen blogs with changing "listening to now" lists. that's cool and i've discovered a lot of great music that way, so i love people sharing their favorite music, i just want to be able to play it on my own terms.
  14. answer your comments. i don't always have time these days, but i try to, especially on the "important" posts or on a post where i wanted a dialogue about the topic. if there's an email address on the comment, i often answer directly to the person. sometimes i indulge in these (perhaps annoying if one has subscribed to comments or if one feels left out) IM conversations, which are an occasional bit of fun. i love that whenever i comment on magpie's blog, she always answers directly to me. it makes me feel recognized and worthy and like a friend. mary and meri both do that too. and i think that's way cool.
  15. if you don't feel like posting, don't post. everyone goes through periods where you just feel a lack of motivation. there's nothing that says you MUST post something--it's really totally and completely up to you. that's the beauty of blogging, it's totally subject to your whims.
* * *
the conclusion

i write for a living in addition to all this blogging, as well as coming from a long line of journalists, so writing is in my blood. i might feel a lack of motivation some days, but i can't imagine having nothing to write about. i think about blogging all the time--everything i do, everyone i meet, everything i observe, every picture i take is all potential fodder for a blog posting. i scribble them down in my little notebook and if i'm having a blah day, i turn to that and find ten ideas that get my mojo back. in my view, the more you write, the more you will have to write about.

everyone always asks me how i have the time. it's because i prioritize it. it's important to me--more important than watching t.v. and getting enough sleep. i'm a night owl, so very often my posts are composed late at night and set to post at a particular time the next morning.

blogging has made me more present in my everyday world, despite the fact that i send it all out into cyberspace. i'm more grounded and more observant than i was. and it's what has brought me here, to my 700th post. and i think that's a good thing.

what to do?

this is post #699, which means the one after this is #700. i've written almost 700 posts (that's just on this blog, we're not even talkin' about all those others). i feel like #700 should be something special. a milestone of sorts (not to begin to seem obsessed with stones). but i feel a little paralyzed (that's been common this week) before the round number.

then it hit me, i have this fantastic resource right here, at my disposal. and that resource is all of you! so what should #700 be? i'm open to any and all suggestions (tho' i will pick my favorite in a most undemocratic perhaps even dictatorial fashion). and #700 will be the one that inspires me most.

so, put your thinking caps on and leave me a comment with your suggestions. perhaps a giveaway (and if so, what would you like me to give)? a dare? something you think i can wax philosophical on (not grammar, that's clear)? a list of questions you've always wanted to ask?

i wanna hear all your best and brightest ideas. because somehow these milestones matter, don't they?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

what i've learned so far this week

what a week! i've been busy late into the night every night this week. and i thought i'd share a few things that i've learned along the way....
  1. writing a whole 40+ page magazine more or less by yourself is not easy.
  2. it's best if you never, ever let yourself think of it all at once (because it turns out that's quite breathtakingly paralyzing), but instead keep thinking of it in individual articles/items in a checklist. small, digestible chunks, in other words.
  3. even if you think of it in individual pieces, it somehow does end up all fitting together, because it's all coming from your brain.
  4. when you do a series of interviews on similar topics over several days, you should really type out everything from your notes after each interview. this will help you immeasurably later. (note to self: follow this advice in the future. for. sure.) if you don't, they can become jumbled up in your head and in your notes and take a whole lot longer to write into a coherent story.
  5. a smooth stone, held in your hand occasionally for strength, helps your concentration.
  6. chill/lounge music in the background is also good for concentration.
  7. you will wake up in a cold sweat at 5:12 a.m., worried about whether you're ever going to get it all done.
  8. you will get it all done.
  9. you have to accept that some of it is good and some of it is dross. (dang, that is a seriously harsh word when i think about it.) but the fact is that there's only so much you can do to sex up propellers, hull coatings and propulsion systems. 
  10. thrusters, on the other hand, are by their very nature, sexy as hell.
  11. i thought briefly that i had lost my rock when i took sabin to the dentist, but after an only mildly panicked frantic search, i found it in the car. and felt very relieved. note to self: keep track of the damn rock.
  12. a woman in england apparently kept the body of her mother in her freezer for 20 years. and i thought i was bad about cleaning out the freezer. i wonder if she had a special freezer dedicated to just that or if she kept food in there too.
  13. jane fonda has been rendered unrecognizable by plastic surgery, but she's still sharp and funny (thanks david letterman (and TV2Zulu for broadcasting you when it's time to make lunch)).
  14. there are people who are my age and who have children the age of my child who do not spend any time at all in cyberspace and yet they still think they exist. imagine that. i could not, however, verify their actual existence since i was unable to find them online.
  15. those people who can't speak the language of blogging, facebook, twitter, flickr, linked-in, plaxo, tumblr, and social media in general are being sorely left behind and will undoubtedly soon divide off the human branch, like neanderthals. i mean, they can hardly even participate in a normal conversation.
  16. in a fit of madness desire to inhabit a physical presence within my local community, i volunteered our house for a parents' party for all of the parents in sabin's class. sadly, we have nothing in common with them other than the fact that we managed to produce offspring at around the same time. and since the party is at our house, we won't be able to slip away. however, i did manage to make sure that the party will have an ABBA theme, so if i'm dressed as Agnete, eating a shrimp cocktail, and sipping a cold martini, i will no doubt care less.
  17. i found my "U." it was in the basket with all of the DS games.
  18. my light, bright dining room is a good place to work.
  19. the pope has an iPhone. this means one of two things--either the iPhone is SO over or it's the only phone where you can get a direct line to god. if you were so inclined. which i suppose you are if you're the pope.
  20. some people strongly fear being different or standing out or putting their 7-year-old on a trans-atlantic flight all by herself. i thought i feared those people, but i'm actually grateful for their existence, because it makes my existence more unique. and it always comes back to me. now would you please hand me my tiara?
what have you learned so far this week?

a sobering experience

a recent post by melissa of tiny happy of an embroidery depicting some of the details of her recent trip to auschwitz got me pondering my own visits to concentration camps--first to buchenwald in 1994 and last year a visit to dachau near munich.

any visit to a camp is a sobering experience. when i visited buchenwald, in former east germany, the wall hadn't been down that long and it still had a very east german feel. the exhibition there at that time had been set up by the occupying soviets and thus had a very russian slant to it, emphasizing the russians who died there, with very little about the jews. i remember at the time that it struck me as inappropriately funny. and i almost had a fit of lispl talking about it to the friend who went with me.

buchenwald was one of the smaller camps and although it had ovens, it was never the death factory that the big camps in poland were. holocaust survivor and winner of the 1986 nobel peace prize elie wiesel spent time there. but one of the most striking things about buchenwald for me was an enormous tree outside the gates, where goethe was said to have sat while he was writing. the contrast of the loftiest literary thoughts and the purest, darkest evil was a strong one.

i was most moved walking on a path in the forest outside the fence of the camp. it was a cloudy day, threatening rain and although the woods were green and lush, they somehow seemed spooky and dark and haunted with the souls of those who had been hastily buried there. strangely i had more of an emotional experience outside the gates than inside. i think because even tho' you're seeing it, you somehow can't take it in--all those rows of bunks and long, low buildings and large grounds where the poor people were lined up. even while you're looking at it, it's impossible to believe people could be so evil. by which i do not mean to say that i don't believe it--what i mean is that your brain can't really comprehend it.

last year around this time, sabin and i met some of my cousins in munich for a weekend. i went with two of the cousins to dachau, which is a short train journey from munich. i felt it was too much for sabin, so she stayed and fed swans and hung out in a cafe with my other cousin. dachau was the very first concentration camp, set up already in the early 30s to take care of any opposition political prisoners the nazis felt needed to be put out of the way. it served as the model for the building of other camps and it was enormous. when the americans arrived there in 1945, there were 32,000 prisoners there, crammed 1600 to a barracks (which were designed to hold 250). it must have been a truly shocking site for those troops to encounter.

today, the barracks are gone and are just rectangular foundations on a vast grounds, which again gives you a surreal feeling about the place--it's hard to imagine all of those people. the grounds are enormous and it's amazing how close the town is to the fences. my main thought was of the people of that town of dachau--how did they let such a thing go on right next door to them? did they know what it was? and what did they think? when the ovens were going full blast, the stench must have been terrific. what do you suppose they thought was going on? how could they avert their eyes for so long? i think that's the part that's hardest for me to understand.

since it was a place for political prisoners from the early days, people of all religions were imprisoned there. and there are several memorials on site representing the various religions of those who died there--russian orthodox, protestant, catholic, and of course, jewish.

the jewish memorial is powerful in its design--dark and cavelike, but with an opening at the top, where light pours in like hope. it's quite moving.

near the crematorium there was a little wooden russian orthodox memorial and there were benches to sit on, but we felt it was pretty distasteful to sit there, chatting and eating lunch like these girls did. we couldn't help but be a bit shocked by that. yet it was somehow representative of how the town must have lived with the horror in their midst, going about their lives.

there is a large, striking and disturbing sculpture near the main buildings which also house exhibition space--a tasteful exhibition with many photos and words, but few of the objects melissa talks about in her post. but disturbing nonetheless.

but the holocaust is a disturbing part of history to say the least. it feels important to have visited these places, even tho' i didn't actually have the reactions i expected to have when i expected to have them. i didn't cry on either visit--i think because of that feeling of remove you get even tho' you're standing right there. it somehow just seems too unreal to comprehend. and that unreality leaves you a little bit numb.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

concentration stone

i've been holding this stone in my hand or in my lap for two days straight. i even fell asleep with it in my hand last night. it helps me concentrate. it's become a bit of a talisman for me. and i swear it has helped. i found it on that beach in norway two weeks ago. and i'm closing in on being done (with my work).

when i look at this picture, i see my mom's hand...

...tho' it is my own hand. but when i think of all her hands have done, i think i'm ok with that.

where are "u?"

my "u" is literally missing. the blocks blew over in the wind coming through the window the other night and i can't find it anywhere. it's a bit like me--i know you're all wondering where i am this week--"j, where are you?"--hence the missing "u." but work calls and as i said yesterday, my words are all being channeled elsewhere at the moment. i should be back to normal (whatever that is) by the end of the week...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

weekend accomplishments

when the possibility of blog camp transitioned from fantasy to reality, i took at look at this little slice of hallway hell and panicked a bit:

but, thanks to the tidying frenzy which preceded my sitting down and getting to work, and an entire day of effort on the part of husband during which he put in a new floor, it now looks like this:

and i can tell you that is a big relief! and we now have our very own room in which to iron. which makes us feel strangely posh. but probably isn't really that posh as long as we're doing the ironing ourselves.  which are are.

* * *
other than that, i invented a new recipe for rhubarb-strawberry cake. it was necessitated by discovering quite a ways into a rhubarb-strawberry crumble that i didn't really have enough brown sugar. i've never invented a cake recipe before, but it turned out pretty well. this is a shot before i discovered the thing with the brown sugar.

those two mangoes in the upper right of the picture (looking suspiciously breast-like) were diced together with some red onion and served over grilled halloumi as an appetizer last evening. they were the really good kind of southeast asian mangos and are almost buttery in texture. they kick those green ones from south america right out of the kitchen. no comparison. tho' there was a twinge of guilt involved in the carbon footprint of buying either one. however, that was eased by the taste of the velvety sweetness mingled with the salty halloumi all smoky from the grill. yum. and gone too fast to get a picture of it.

* * *

after getting down to work this afternoon (thank you rain), i finished three articles and got a good start on three others. now there are only three to go (because yes, it was nine, not seven). but the night is young and there is much caffeine in the house, so i will soldier on.

but first an after-dinner walk in the evening sunshine, since the rain of the day cleared up around 4 p.m. the world was fragrant and green and so alive.  even the dandelion seeds were luminous.

thanks to all of my procrastination, the house is tidy, the laundry is done and put away, ditto the dishes and nearly half my work is done. i have that sunday evening feeling--when you feel relaxed and ready to face whatever the week brings and even have optimistic thoughts that you'll start running tomorrow. the sunday evening feeling is that good.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

the devil's in the details

i'm a big arm movements kinda girl. very dramatic when telling stories and using my hands and arms as much in the telling as my words. i'm loud and i crave attention. totally impatient. everything has to be done with lots of speed. no dilly dallying here. HRH TFM would say, "you're so aries." and she's no doubt right. i am so aries. bossy. taking the lead. me, me, me. and have i mentioned me?

but i'm working on it. one of the many things i love about husband (he's aquarius) is his patience and ability to wait for people to notice things. like small details on which he worked for ages. he's actually ok if it takes a really long time for someone to notice. he's willing to wait. it's part of that patience thing with him that i mentioned last week. thousand year oaks and such.

and so i try to let some of that rub off on me. i do it in small ways. the above photo is an example. i found that perfect eyeball stone on my last trip down møn's klint. about a month ago, i noticed that it tucked nicely into the hole in that piece of driftwood. the driftwood forms a bench of sorts near our grill table (yes, we had a table made with a grill in the center of it--more about that another time).

and i waited for husband to notice it. and it took a few days. and even then, he wasn't sure if i had put it there intentionally or if it was actually already there in the driftwood. but, of course i had put it there. and once he asked, of course i said so.

i have an urge to paint around it or otherwise somehow call attention to it. to make it more obvious, less subtle. because subtle i'm not. but i'd like to be. sometimes anyway.

and if i don't paint around it,  i wonder if others will notice when they come over. and if they don't, will i be able to resist pointing it out and hinting for praise for my cleverness? i'm not sure i will, but i'm going to try. you have to start somewhere.

Friday, May 22, 2009

blog crush: the fragrant muse

a glass of white wine at sunset by a beautiful, still lake
this is for you HRH TFM 

the beauty of this bloggy world is making new friends. people who very quickly feel like long lost sisters, or at least a best friend you've been missing. people who finish your sentences in an IM convo, or perhaps, due to the nature of IM, say the same thing as you at the same time. the fragrant muse is one of those people. or should i call her--her royal highness the fragrant muse. ;-)

we actually met first on flickr, when she asked me about my camera (she might have been sorry, as i issued a book to her on flickr mail, waxing philosophical about how much i adored my nikons). happily, she's got one now too. :-) and i can't wait to see what she sees with it.

she's a new blogger...she's only been blogging for about a month. but what she's done so far is very promising. like me, she had years of piano lessons and can't really play. and just today, i learned something and tomorrow, you can bet i'm going to go see if my local health food/treehugger store has some clary sage oil.  i want to see what it does to my dreams. now if she would just give me advice on the exact right oil to combat my procrastination and make me write all that stuff i need to write tomorrow...

please, go check her out, you will definitely not be sorry.

giving space for the madness

tons of writing to do (no less than seven pieces to finish), so what did i do today? of course, i cleaned and tidied like a madwoman. no more boxes in the upstairs hall. all of the laundry is done, folded and yes, even put away! i even made a dent in the exploded bomb crater that is my laundry room. but did i finish any of those articles? no, i i did not. did i work on them. yes, but only a little bit. i couldn't sit still when there was so much tidying up to do. tidying up of the kind my cleaning lady doesn't do--she cleans, she doesn't tidy up. there's a difference.

i envy people who live somewhere where there are no ongoing projects. no sauna going up behind their studio, no beds to be planted in the garden, no hallway to be finished, no pizza/bread oven being built their garden which requires the occasional consultation with husband and our fabulous polish contractor who we would like to adopt, no cords hanging from the ceiling where husband is putting up some lamps. people whose houses are in order. they can come home, sit down, relax. they can breathe. they can have a glass of wine and spend an hour with their book.

you'd think with all of the time i spend at home, since i do work at home quite a lot, that i'd be one of those people. but i'm not. most days, my working at home really is a lot of work. most days, i'm really quite focused. today, it wasn't as much work and focus as it should have been, but that's because the deadline looms. later this evening, or tomorrow, the right amount of panic will kick in and i'll sit down and finish all of those pieces.

i'm trying to be patient with myself, to just let this thing that i always do unfold. and hope that it becomes something beautiful...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

how i spent kristihimmelfart

kristihimmelfart has something to do with easter. it's ascension (ascention?) day. or whatever. i don't really know what it means. i wasn't really paying attention that time i got sent to bible school for a week when i was 4. i think it's a funny name but that's because i'm kinda simple when it comes to it and it involves the word fart. i wasn't around anyone named kristi today, so i don't know about the farts, but i do know about frogs. because i spent quite a long time trying to photograph frogs. they were singing like crazy before i went down with the camera. do you think they would continue when i got there? of course they wouldn't, so i never did catch them with their little cheeks all puffed out. and i had a little staring contest with one (which i lost, undoubtedly because i don't think they can blink). but it was green and glorious and wonderful to be outside. i'll be able to sit down to work tomorrow, totally refreshed and renewed because i was able to spend most of this glorious day outside.

i also found out something about husband today. he actually has a blog. he created it, but has never written anything on it. and to think i thought he thought we were all completely mad. 5 ants are more than 4 elephants. he's super clever, don't you love that title?  husband is such a keeper. i'm not sure he's really going to blog, but i followed him, just in case. i think i've already been following him for rather a long time, but now it's official.

time for a quickie*

ha, gotcha there, eh? but it's not what you think, it's just a quick blog before i go back outside. it's kristihimmelfart here today and that's a holiday--ascention day or something like that, tho' i like to think of it as a day in honor of everyone named kristi who farts, because that's funnier.

i just wanted to drop a quick line about the brief wondrous life of oscar wao, which we're reading for our new book club blog--hermit book club. i saw it last month in a bookstore, picked it up, read that it was about a fat dominican kid who lived in jersey and put it back down. what a mistake that was! it's unbelievably good. fresh, different, very right now (in the best way). junot diaz recently won the pulitzer for it and it is SO deserved.

for me, who would have written a dissertation on eastern european postmodern literature (if i'd gone ahead and written that dissertation), i find that it carries postmodern literature to a whole new level. it represents a maturation of postmodernity which takes the novel as a genre towards its next incarnation. it uses some of the devices used by the now unfortunately dead david foster wallace in infinite jest, but either those footnotes as a novelistic device have grown up now or diaz just does it better. it's like an infinite jest for the noughties (thank you, guardian, for that wonderful word)

although spanning quite a lot of the 20th century (i'm only about 1/3 in--and yes, it's so good, i couldn't help but write about it already), it feels like it captures something of the zeitgeist right now. perhaps it's due to the language itself, i don't really know (as of yet).

but i just wanted to share this and say that it's not too late to join us on hermit book club when we talk about this book next week. run out, get it now. it's fantastic. and as you can see, it's possible to talk about it when you haven't even read the whole thing.

* ok, that didn't turn out to be that quick, but i'm leaving the title for fun, like jules did earlier this week.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

disco underworld voting!

if you haven't voted yet on discounderworld to determine which articles will be in the year-end print issue, please do go vote (preferably for me, of course, since it's me asking). i'm trailing by a nose--41% to 45% for the leader. stacey is doing a seriously cool magazine, so if you haven't seen it, do go have a look. the voting button is at the end of the article. and i really do want to be in that year-end issue!

she was born in a small town

since i feel a little bit like their fairyblogmother, i am going to take the liberty of doing a 5 things i love about growing up in a small town list ala VEG & extranjera over on Ocean (and to think i was calling it siamese. my bad.). plus, you know how i love lists. and need an assignment. i've written about growing up in a small town kind of a lot of times before, but i'm not sure i've ever really thought specifically about what was good about it.

1.  getting to try everything

in a small town school, you don't have to choose whether you're a band person or a cheerleader or a theatre person or smart girl or a sporty girl. you can be all of them. and in fact, the only way the school thrives is if everybody does everything. so you try it all and find out what you like and what you're good at. and you learn not to be afraid of trying new things. and that will get you a long way in life.

2.  getting a driver's license (learner's permit anyway-able to drive without an adult between sunup and sundown) at 14

there was nothing to run into. it was flat and the ditches were wide.

3.  having horses

i grew up with horses. we always had them. we showed them, and i've written about my horse trainer before. she was awesome. and having horses is just a wholesome thing to do. you learn responsibility. hard work. caring. getting up early to feed. mucking out stalls. and that standing in the barn at dusk on a summer night, listening to the snuffling and munching of a horse is just plain good for your soul. and your sanity.

4.  big old house with a front porch

the house "in town" that we lived in 'til i was 10 or so had a front porch with a porch swing, big columns and it was all covered in vines. i loved sitting in there in the cool shade, protected from prying eyes by the vines, watching people go by. that was great. there was a silver milk box there and i remember milk being delivered into that box (yup, i'm old). ice cream jim came up on that porch dressed as santa one christmas. lots of good memories and some not so good. it was on that front porch that our dog stella bit my friend tracey on the nose. tracey kinda deserved it, she had totally gotten in stella's face and stella was an old crotchety shetland sheep dog. and there that time i got a huge sliver in my foot and my dad had to sit on me to hold me down while mom got it out with a needle and a tweezers. ouch. but for the most part, it was awesome for dressing up and playing laura from little house and just swinging on the swing.

5. always feeling safe 

it was a totally safe place to grow up. i don't even think our house had locks on the doors and if it did, no one had seen the key in years. you knew everyone and they knew you. and you trusted each other. and looked out for each other. i think it has made me a person who, for the most part, feels at ease in the world and isn't afraid. it's grounding to grow up feeling safe like that. i'm glad i had that ground to grow up on.

so those are my five things. what are yours?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

tuesday means it's time for randomness

totally gratuitous picture of an airplane wing
because she did it and so did she 
and i hate to be albanienated (great word HRH TFM!)

yes, it's time for one of those random posts. is it usually on a tuesday? do i always feel random on tuesdays? does my brain always overload on tuesday? these are just a small selection of the random thoughts going through my head at the moment. here are the rest.

: : danes should not rap. they have not suffered enough. there is no 'hood. danish sounds like crap when rapped.

: : even more so norwegians. it's just not authentic when you're so white and so upper middle class. do not rap, please. got it?

: : thankfully, i have never heard swedish rap. swedes probably have too much taste and class. and too many volvos. people never rap about a volvo. or a saab.

: : i'm a night person, not a morning person. night feels deliciously long, it stretches out to be all the time i need it to be. morning feels impossibly fleeting and bound to be interrupted by day itself. gimme night any day.

: : "i made some new spaces inside myself." --jane campion, IHT, 17/5.09

: : still doing tara's double colons instead of bullets. i love them.

: : why oh why did they make more than one episode of that ridiculous stylista show? i'm only watching again in the eternal futile hope that they are all taken out back and shot at the end of THIS one.

: : "i followed your blog now. does that mean it will come when i call it?" --monique, via googletalk, 18/5.09

: : i want a tattoo of a helleristning.

: : do you think it's possible that otherwise cool cities have pockets of dorkiness? how do they become that way when they're surrounded by coolness?

: : do you ever have the feeling that everyone else has it all figured out and you're the only one who doesn't?

: : when will the last of the dinosaurs really die out?

it's just so good to get this out. thanks for listening. if you have answers to any of these questions, please do leave a comment! or just share your own randomness. it's all good.

the things you hold onto

there's no place like home

i've lived away from my country of birth during the whole monica lewinsky thing + the entire bush administration, that's now more than a decade. people always ask me what i miss. and aside from my family, which is a given, i usually say, just The Gap. and i do miss the gap. except when they forget that what they do is make great hooded sweatshirts, but i'm confident they'll remember soon.

but when i think about it, there are other things. like hot rollers. nobody does hot rollers where i live and i'd like to have the occasional curly hair day (that would make my mom happy as well, she always thinks that a look is never really complete if you have flat hair).

and there's the fact that clabber girl baking powder is the best kind. we, of course, have baking powder too, but it's just not the same. however, our yeast (blocks of the fresh kind) totally kicks those wussy dry packets. and mom sends me clabber girl when i need it.

and although ikea now has a form of zip-loc bag available, you can't get that really nice little snack size zip-locs that are ideal for sabin's lunches. so we still import those.

i would say that i let go of other things in stages. for the first couple of years, i imported mentadent toothpaste. i loved that stuff, but now i've gotten used to colgate (because it's available here too) and i no longer need to use up valuable luggage space on that. i'm not even sure they still make it. i think i liked that little push thingie it came in.

i also would lay in a large supply of dry idea deodorant whenever i was home, but now i can deal with whatever's available on the grocery store shelf--rexona or whatever. it really all works equally well. (except when you forget to pack it.)

i miss regular access to vanity fair and atlantic monthly and the new yorker, but perhaps enjoy them more because i only get them once in awhile when i pass through an airport or city that has them, so the pain is less than i would once have imagined.

same with movies. i used to have to see every movie in the theatre on the weekend it came out. now, pretty much the only time i see movies is on a long-haul flight. and i don't miss it, not even a little bit. perhaps my taste has improved or movies have not. but with something like a new james bond, we do still go on opening weekend. (perhaps i should take a lesson from this on the whole getting rid of the t.v. notion.)

some of these are surely products of growing older, but they're also about the adaptability of humans to their surroundings. i have my frustrations with what i at times perceive as the impoliteness of danes, but for the most part, i feel i'm home. it's here my best and favorite people are and our home is filled with memories of our life, even if we use different products than i was once used to.

i think it was B who said it not long ago, home is where your books are. your toothpaste and deodorant, those change. and as you can see, my books are most decidedly here...