Tuesday, December 31, 2013

it's all about the food

new year's eve.
it's all about the food.
purple potato with homemade aïoli,
garlic olive with cheddar crust
and cauliflower agnolotti on a bed of mojo.
there's even more, but i didn't photograph all of it.

happy new year, one and all!

* * *

i did it! i finished another 365 photo project.
it's a way of life now, so i'll be continuing in 2014.

* * *

war toys is a powerful photo project where photographer brian mccarty
duplicates children's drawings using toys and real-life settings in palestine.

* * *

a touching and wonderful mother-daughter photo series.

* * *

hundred-year-old negatives discovered in antarctica.
and developed.

* * *

fleet of ships made from currency
symbolize the flow of world commerce.

* * *

what if TED is just a pseudo-intellectual version of american idol?

detritus on the beach as a metaphor for life

we always try to take a walk on the beach at the end of the year.

something about the bracing winds coming off the north sea have a clearing effect on the mind and the senses.

recent storms made the beach different. covered in bits of detritus and debris, but no stones.

nature has a way of arranging these things, even bits of string and trash and shell and bone, more artfully than we humans ever could.

i took that heart-shaped bit of wood with me. in lieu of stones, it was the best i could do and i had to have some memento of the trip.

the wind was cold and strong and we didn't stay long, just long enough for it to blow any residual troubles and cares out of our heads.

the bits and pieces of the year, floating in, like so much flotsam and jetsam. quite literally.

the last, remaining carcasses of 2013, left strewn on the beach. undoubtedly to be washed away by the next tides.

leaving us a fresh, clean slate from which to start 2014.

and begin it all over again, gathering the bits and pieces that form our memories and our lives.

tangling it all up, mixing it together, and hopefully leaving something beautiful behind.

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: the year in 36 pictures

limiting myself to three photos from each month was difficult and much more happened than is visible here. but looking it over, it seems that cats figured rather heavily in 2013. molly, frankie, frieda, tobias, stella. it was also a fairly creative year (in fits and starts anyway).  i got much more involved in my community. i think that was good for me. we had a real summer, with weeks of sunny days and that was good for me as well. i began a new obsession: lego minifigures. we lost our chickens to chicken rustlers and we got new ones, who finally started to lay eggs as the year drew to a close. trees (and other things) were felled by storms. we made progress on the house and on the garden. it was, for the most part, what you would call a stille og roligt (quiet and calm) year.  but perhaps i've reached an age where that's a good thing. but now, i'm looking forward to whatever 2014 brings.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

remember to irrigate your joy

several summers ago, we had some wonderful couchsurfers from the canary islands, who came up to bike around a cold, rainy denmark for several weeks. they stayed with us at the beginning and the end of their trip and we fell a bit in love with them and their positive, happy way of looking at the world. they introduced me to the wonderful phrase, "irrigating your joy," as well as teaching us how to make the delicious pepper-based sauce mojo, which has been, in the summer at least, a twice-weekly affair around here ever since. we've stayed in touch sporadically and yesterday, this delightful little watercolor arrived in the mail. i was so touched that césar remembered us and so many of the details of our life...husband was working on the treehouse when they were here, and sabin was riding over at the neighbor's house and i immediately planted some of the beautiful, special little black potatoes that they brought in our own garden, to see if they would grow. i loved being reminded to irrigate our joy (sometimes it's hard to remember that as you slog through your everyday existence).

i've got to get to ikea and get a frame, but until then, i've hung it above my desk with a bit of washi tape, where it will make me smile and remind me to irrigate the joy every day. i think remembering to do that is as good a new year's resolution as any.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

overthinking christmas

i read a marvelous little piece in the new york times by gary shteyngart. shteyngart captures somehow the ennui i think many of us feel around christmas, wanting to embrace the traditions and have family around, but feeling underneath it all that acute sense of our inability to really know other people, perhaps especially our families. the facades we put up to get through it all, the way we hide what we really think and feel. the masks we wear.

i think it's part of why it's such a relief when the holiday is over, you can exhale and go back into your real self, putting aside the performance and the smiles and the false gaiety. there's so much pressure for christmas to be perfect - you have to give the right presents, eat the right food. you have to meet so many expectations that are unspoken and unwritten, but powerful just the same. and it's impossible. and exhausting.

sabin is off skiing in austria with her best friends, so husband and i sat out in the brewery room by our new fireplace (it's a wood-burning stove, actually) last evening, relaxing, sipping a cocktail in front of the crackle of the fire. husband philosophized as to whether we as humans are drawn to fire because we're the only animal which has conquered it, or because we recognize something of our basic natures in it...we're all burning out towards an end in a pile of dust. either one is quite profound,  even if the latter is less than optimistic. we sat for long stretches, just relaxing and not saying anything, letting our souls settle back in after the mad rush of christmas. the crackle and warmth of the fire helped with that.

we as humans seem to have some kind of need for ceremony, as susanne moore puts it in the guardian, "it is through ritual that we remake and strengthen our social bonds." our christian christmas traditions must have a basis in earlier pagan midwinter rituals. as the years go by, i grow more and more uneasy with the religious aspect (as well as the commercial one), but, there must be a way to celebrate the return towards the light in a non-religious way that "does not mean one has to forgo poetry, magic, the chaos of ritual, the remaking of shared bonds." i guess here in denmark, we do come rather close to that, as attending church isn't really part of the ritual, and there are plenty of old pagan elements in the stories of nisse (a kind of combination elf/gnome/pixie figure) and the plethora of candles and the use of evergreens and moss and pinecones in decorating. i just wish it didn't all seem so soul-draining. i want to feel renewed, refreshed, re-energized by the midwinter celebration - elated that we've turned back towards the light.

maybe i'd better go stare into that crackling fire for awhile again.

* * *

beautiful photographs of frozen bubbles
make me long for lower temps.

tho' haunting fairy tale photos
would make me settle for a nice fog.

* * *

seriously amazing maps made from ships' logs from the 18th-19th centuries.
also here.
endless hours of fascination in these.

* * *

i've just updated my about me, if you're interested.

Friday, December 27, 2013

and on another note, ikea hacks

and to sort of smooth over my earlier ranty post, i thought i'd share something bright and cheery. i had some fun embellishing some ikea pillow covers for the big girls for christmas and now i can share them, since they've been given. i added felt circles to these simple linen covers for k's couch at her new apartment. the pillows have colorful printed circles on them already, which i just covered with the felt, sewing a simple line down the middle, so they have a bit of dimension to them.

and i added thick black felt details - mustaches and an m for mathilde to these cute rainbow covers. i didn't get as much handmade done this year as i wanted (do i ever?), due to paralysis induced by waiting to hear about my new job (i got it, you know, so the paralysis is over), but i did manage a little bit and that makes me happy. there's always next year.

* * *

creative amazon reviewers strike again.
this time, hilariously reviewing a book called how to avoid huge ships.
the best one is from the point of view of a rock,
it's by jamie and is about the 5th one down.

a couple of little rants about the rubbish service culture in denmark

christmas is over and we're in the liminal space, waiting for the year to end and the new one to begin. i went to bed with wet hair and woke up with what my mother would call a fright wig. and somehow, it's all making me feel rather ranty.

rant #1: post danmark

in the week before christmas, i received a ransom letter from post danmark, saying they were holding a christmas package hostage until i (as receiver of a package i had not yet seen) sent more information about the contents. they assigned the package a number and said it contained, "støvler, tæj, mm" from the USA and that it weighed 4 kilos. they did not say who sent it, nor was i able, even after asking google translate for help, to figure out what "tæj" was. so, i guessed that it was the christmas parcel from my sister and that they boots were the doc martens she got sabin for her present. so, i asked her for the receipt and sent it dutifully (pun intended) to post danmark.

i heard nothing. and more nothing. for a week.

so today i called and asked how it was going. they claimed to have sent me a letter (probably via post danmark, so its chances of reaching me are slim) saying i hadn't provided documentation for the other items - the mystery "tæj" and the equally mysterious "mm," which is the danish equivalent of "etc." since i am the receiver of the package, i have not yet seen the items which are in it, therefore, it's hard for me to document them unless you specify what the hell they are. why isn't this just common sense for post danmark?

the nice lady on the phone today could see that this was a problem. so she took my number and they are supposed to get back to me today. meanwhile, their own limit of 14 days is quickly passing and even tho' i've been in touch (twice now, once in writing and once on the phone), they will likely send the package back to my sister before it's all finished. and then she can resend it and we can start all over again.

oh, the joys of customer service in denmark.

rant #2: bus #214, licence plate TD 92845, tide bus company, driving for sydtrafik in denmark

a few days before school was out, it was a dark and foggy morning. i was right behind the bus as i dropped sabin off at school. he was in quite a hurry and gunned it away down the little side street by the school. there were two small boys on their bicycles, wobbily making their way out to the big street, where they waited to cross. the bus was right beside them and wanted to turn right. there was quite a lot of traffic and, i may have mentioned, it was very foggy and still very dark. so the boys were cautiously waiting to be sure they could cross the road with their bicycles. well, mr. important bus driver decided to help them in their decision to cross the road by beginning to honk his big, giant bus horn at them. they were wobbly and unsure anyway and the honk nearly scared them off their bikes. it did, however, also scare them into action, and he saved the 30 extra seconds it would have taken to wait for them to cross on their initiative, but decided to try to make it up for it by gunning it and roaring off down the street.

i was so taken aback, that i noted the license number of the bus and came home and wrote to tide, the company running those buses, asking them to tell their driver to be a little kinder to children in traffic near a school. they wrote back telling me that since i wasn't involved, they were going to ignore my message.

yup. danish service culture at its best.

rant #3: the hunt for the christmas turkey

danes eat pork roast and duck for christmas. turkey is unusual, but not impossible to source. most grocery stores have a frozen bird in their freezer case. ten days before christmas, i checked my local store and found their frozen turkeys were the size of large chickens (4200 grams was the largest - that's about 8 pounds). so i went over to the butcher counter and asked if they could get me a larger bird. the guy dismissed me with a snort, rolling his eyes at me, saying if i wanted a turkey, i should have ordered it 3 months ago. very helpful and service-minded. (that was the sarcasm font, by the way.) and way to go, super brugsen in give (i've got more examples of your lack of service mindedness, but i'll save them for another post).

so i began checking all of the other grocery stores and butchers in my area, driving to several other towns in the process. all to no avail, there were no turkeys of reasonable size available, frozen or fresh. then a friend sent me a link to a butcher in vejle (why didn't i think of that), which claimed to have a turkey that would serve 10 people left. i called them and asked if it was true. they said they had one bird left and mentioned to me that it was already stuffed with a mixture of minced pork and cream, but it was a fresh turkey, not horrendously expensive (at 440 kroner/$80) and i was desperate, so i ordered it.

and on christmas, i took it out and put it in the pan, thinking it looked a little strange, but i chalked that up to the pork stuffing and put it in the oven. while it was cooking, it smelled much more like pork than turkey, but i could live with that. then, the weirdest thing happened. i asked my sister-in-law, who is a trained butcher, to do the honors and carve it. and she discovered that except for legs and wings, it had been completely deboned! a boneless turkey for christmas. i find it a little funny that the butcher didn't think to mention that little fact to me. and how can i make soup now with no turkey carcass?

that said, it was delicious and moist. i had been a little worried that since it was stuffed, i couldn't brine it and make it tender, but the pork did the trick as well. and that pork stuffing was also delicious. and without the bones, it was much easier to slice, but i still find it rather weird and won't be repeating it.

and now, i feel amazingly better, having gotten that out of my system. thank you for reading!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

perfect present

24/12.2013 - is this the perfect present or what?

husband gave this present with trepidation, afraid that is a bit too much truth in it.
i personally think it's perfect.
but so is he.
so we'll keep him and the cat(s).
for now.

* * *

we had our quiet little family christmas today.
in my view, it was perfect.
family descends upon us tomorrow.
that will be perfect too,
just in another way.

* * *

this taking time out to celebrate and be together in the midst of the cold, dark winter is good, don't you think?

Monday, December 23, 2013

all wrapped up

professional wrapping job by the sweet guy in the shop in germany.
he said he'd studied wrapping for 5 years.
it's so beautiful, we're thinking about not opening it at all.

i am not known for my wrapping skills.
but using my own little felted acorns and keeping it simple
with silver and gold-toned kraft paper, string and a few little aspen cones,
i think i've finally managed a wrapping job i don't have to be ashamed of.

this acorn cap, i experimented using purchased felted balls. 
they were a bit too big.
i'm so glad i gathered these little cones and acorn caps
out in the yard while they were there.
it's about time i grew up and learned to wrap.

i'm so proud of sabin.
she put together totally handmade presents for her friends.
she made the boxes, filled them with wood shavings from far's workshop.
and she made homemade body scrubs, body butter and lip balms.
a couple of my homemade honey soaps
and these are little pamper kits fit for teen divas.

we're even going handmade for the cats.
these felted toys have bells inside.
about time they had some felted things they're allowed to play with.
they've been hard on the bobbaloos.

tomorrow it's christmas in denmark.
it'll be just the three of us.
we're going to bake cookies, watch home alone, eat some good food.
and then open presents in the evening.
hopefully, husband will finish the chimney so we can use our new wood-burning stove.

on the 25th, otherwise known as real christmas,
husband's big girls will come, as well as his danish sister and her family.
we'll have turkey and all the fixings, according to my traditions.
modified for my location, of course.
in that our turkey came from the danish butcher stuffed with minced pork and cream.
it's a lovely bird and i can't wait to see how it will turn out.

merry christmas, one and all!
may your loved ones be close, the wine be plentiful and your stocking full of goodies.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

it's beginning to look a lot like christmas

it seems that we're nearly ready. tho' we still haven't baked christmas cookies. there's still time before family descends upon us on the 25th (which the silly danes think is the day after christmas). i pick up my turkey tomorrow at the butcher (i found one at last, tho' it wasn't easy and it's only 5 kilos, so kind of like a big chicken). we got the tree decorated today and even decided to get a second tree - a little one - for our monsters from manila. we set it up, but the light went before we got it decorated, so i'll have to show you tomorrow. i've been feeling a bit under the weather - fever, aches, chills - and i do feel a bit behind. i didn't finish all of the handmade gifts i wanted to make. but this christmas thing comes, relentlessly, whether you're ready or not. i suppose it will all come together somehow or other in the end. and the comfort of taking out beloved ornaments and hanging them on the tree helps. quite a lot.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

drinking too much limoncello

last night, i hosted a drink & draw session at my house, inviting some of my favorite creative women. there was quite some consumption of homemade limoncello (highly recommended, tho' perhaps not in the quantity we drank). there was much laughter and lots of good food (think fois gras topped with roasted grapes). we were also celebrating my new job. a good time was had by all, but i'll admit i was in low gear today. but it was totally worth it. i'd do it again in a heartbeat. the only bad thing was that it ended too soon.

* * *

husband's quote of the day:
"there are too few things on pinterest where they have taken the picture that's in my head and then built it."

he's a clever one, that boy.

* * *

sometimes i wish i'd been an archaeologist.
science is awesome.
they have sequenced a neanderthal genome.
turns out they were pretty inbred.

* * *

one to ponder: 
does our food still have a story?

* * *

so many beautiful discoveries to be made via humans of new york
like the quiet, deep work of m benjamin herndon.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

good news and good links

got some wonderful news today.
let's just say that you can expect a whole lot more LEGO
here on MPC in the new year.

i'm so excited.
and grateful to all of you who helped me with my co-creation question.
and sent good vibes and prayers my way.
they worked.

and after a run to germany for gin and other supplies,
i think i'm almost ready for christmas.

* * *

inside the life of a bookie.

* * *

an interesting blog.

* * *

deep thoughts from john.
worth reading.
worth pondering.

* * *

and for a laugh,
these hilarious answers to test questions.
really worth a look if you need a laugh.

* * *

a pretty accurate little personality test.
and it's short too, so it won't take too much time.

Monday, December 16, 2013

the christmas rush

does the christmas season leave you feeling like this?
every year, i vow it won't. and every year it does.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

the hunt for the perfect christmas tree

it was a beautiful day today, so we went out to get our christmas tree.
since we moved here, we've just cut down one on our own property.
but this year, a neighbor has bought a christmas tree farm, so we decided to support him.

do you think this one is about right?

we'll take it.

how about this short, chubby one? (our ceilings are low, after all.)

husband tried to get us to think outside the conventional beauty standards for christmas trees.

more than once.

in the end, we chose a tall slender one.
(gee, wonder whose idea that was?)

sabin did the honors of sawing it down.

it is a rather fetching little tree.

and husband carried it.
that's what he gets for always saying he's superman.