Friday, August 30, 2013

fast food friday

crostini brushed with olive oil and toasted.
topped with goat cheese, fresh figs and caramelized red onions with a dash of blackcurrant vinegar.

crostini brushed with olive oil and toasted.
topped with brie, slices of fresh nectarine and a drizzle of chili-lemon-thyme honey

crostini brushed with olive oil and toasted.
topped with gorgonzola dolce, a dollop of pear-ginger jam and slices of pear.

made these for the torso exhibition opening night last night, but will repeat them tonight, as they're easy and i need to finish up a whole lot of things for our local market tomorrow!

happy weekend, one and all!

* * *

i've never been to sturgis myself during the rally

Thursday, August 29, 2013

of handsome men and not so handsome politicians

as you know, i spend a rather inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what makes the danes tick. i have assorted bloggy (and real life) friends who do as well. here's an especially amusing new theory - the theory of the handsome danish men. yesterday, i observed a Handsome Danish Man in action (he was Handsome, just ask him, he'll tell you himself (flips hair fetchingly)). he sauntered around importantly. he flashed smiles at himself when he caught sight of his salt and pepper hair in mirror-like surfaces. he oddly kept calling attention to the fact that he is an embedsmand (non-political government official), which frankly, detracted significantly from his handsomeness, but must have been making him feel important. and it was more than obvious that he feels important as well as Handsome. however, i'm not yet ready to fully buy the theory as in my opinion, it's danish women who exhibit the most appallingly rude behavior in public space. perhaps they're just bitter about being treated badly all those years by the handsome men. i'll have to ponder this new theory a bit more.

* * *

apropos attempting to understand the danes, there was recent swirl in the billund newspapers surrounding a report on quality of life among expats in that municipality. (billund is where the second largest airport in denmark is located and is the home of lego.) apparently one local politician was so incensed that the report was in english that he publicly declared that it was over with addressing politicians in english in the municipality. 

the report is the result of interviews and a workshop with 22 expats living within the municipality (which is more like a county-sized entity in US terms). they had a lot of positive things to say about denmark (it's safe, it's not corrupt, it's a great place to raise children, there is a good work-life balance), but they also expressed a lot of negatives, largely surrounding how hard it is to break down the barriers and establish a social life with danes. people had tears in their eyes as they told tales of feeling rejected by their neighbors and even strangers in line at the grocery store. some were on the verge of clinical depression due to inability to connect or get meaningful work. two said they had actually taken antidepressants. so the overall story was of a pretty harsh reality of daily life as an expat in a place where people felt invisible and rejected. and the people of billund were outraged. how dare foreigners complain about this idyllic little land? they should just pack it up and go back to wherever they came from.

the reaction of the politician, to declare that this is denmark and all municipal business must take place in english simply underlines the results of the report. foreigners feel rejected by danish society. he apparently advocates taking away completely the voice of the minority population within the municipality when he declares in a news story that "it's over with addressing politicians in english." how a grown man who is an elected official in a little land with a minor language can stand up and say out loud that he doesn't speak english is beyond my comprehension. the largest business within the municipality is the very successful toy maker lego. foreign workers are essential to their continued growth and success, so to deny these people, who bring jobs and money into the community, a voice is absolutely absurd. the politician actually said, "i wasn't there on the day we had english in school," so he further negates the importance of english in a globalized world. happily, there is an election coming up this autumn and foreign residents of a municipality are allowed to vote in municipal elections (at least for now, tho' the xenophobic danish people's party would like to take that away), so perhaps this clown will be shown the door and replaced by someone with a more global view. 

another interesting side note - in three articles about the report, the reporter in question never once made an attempt to contact the authors of the report for more information on methodology or the results or to have a more nuanced view on the story. and this despite declaring in a sidebar that they will spend the next week looking in depth at the contents of the report. and that's journalism today, folks.

* * *

and speaking of danish politicians, i spent yesterday with several of them. i sat down next to one of them at lunch, a heavily pockmarked older man with a shaggy and decidedly non-hipster 70s mustache and a dried sweat stain on the back of his shirt. he didn't ask me my name or tell me his (perhaps assuming i knew he was An Important City Council Member). instead, apropos one of my uncles at a family reunion, basically asked me what i did with myself to deserve the air i was using up. when i explained that i do all kinds of writing and communications in english, he asked if i was english. on the principle of not offering more than you're asked, i said no. what i should have done next was ask him what he did with himself to deserve the air he was using up. instead, i just sort of gulped and fumed a little bit about being made to feel inadequate by this unfashionable-shoe wearing git. it then came out that i was american. and where i lived. and that was that.

sometime later, as we toured a library, he asked me how long i'd been in denmark. i said 15 years and he said, "oh, well, you're danish then." i replied that i most decidedly was NOT. (funny how we're most our nationality in defensive situations.) and he asked, incredulous, why. i pointed out that i have an american passport (i've heard those are quite sought after) and why on earth would i give that up? (he'd ticked me off by then.) he said, oh, but you can have both. and i said, no, i can't. the americans would allow it, but the danes won't. even the former prime minister's own son had to give up his danish passport when he became an american citizen a few years ago. this guy should have known that, since he is from that same party!

i'm sure he's pondering ways of trying to get me thrown off the local group which is involved in establishing a "culture house," on the grounds that i'm a bad foreign influence. he probably doesn't realize that i get to vote in municipal elections. and i know who i'm not going to be voting for.  he also speaks a bit against the handsome danish men theory, as he was most decidedly not handsome (i have a photo of him, but i don't dare to publish it). but again, i'm not done pondering that one.

* * *

monty python and the holy grail lego sets. awesome.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

no boring chairs, no boring lamps

i'm still nauseated from being driven around in a bus by the worst bus driver in denmark today, so i give you only a little taste of what i saw. featuring, because there are no boring chairs in denmark...chairs. these are colorful theatre chairs at nicolai in kolding.

these stools were allowed to get covered in paint in the wonderful children's workshop room at nicolai in kolding.

these chairs line the public pedestrian corridor prags boulevard on amager in copenhagen.

and there are also no boring lamps in denmark. these fabulous spidery lamps at the new library on rentemestervej in copenhagen's northwest quarter attest to that.

more tomorrow.

Monday, August 26, 2013

finishing my torso (for now)

we're going to show our torsos this thursday with a big opening splash! so i've been frantically working on finishing mine. it's been sitting there on the sideboard, covered in words, painted blue, but unfinished.  i know i want to somehow incorporate some feathers, but i don't know yet how - perhaps this little feather bouquet i found on the beach contains an answer to that.

otherwise, i've been sketching and painting some small drawings of places i love and places which have been influential in my life to decorate the torso. this is the church of sv. jovan kaneo (john the baptist, if i remember correctly) at lake ohrid. influential since i met husband in macedonia, tho' not in ohrid.

st. basil's to signify my russian soul. i sketched or printed old sketches onto some pages from an old encyclopedia - that way the pictures still incorporate words, as words are important to my conception of my torso (and thus myself).

i couldn't resist using the colorful houses of nyhavn in copenhagen to represent denmark, which has, you may imagine, become an enormous influence upon me, having lived here for 15 years now. i loved those colorful houses along the canal when i first visited and seeing them still makes me smile.

and chicago, a sort of composite of places and buildings and that chicago pizza. it's the place from which i jumped off to my life in europe, so it had to be there.

and i couldn't resist a few helleristninger (nordic petroglyphs). they just speak to my soul. i drew them with that fabulous payne's grey ink.

i love this circle of life helleristning. it's long been a favorite. and symbolizes a feeling of community that spans the world (and which centers on this blog in many ways). it is essential to include on my torso.

these were some new helleristning that i came across that i'd never seen before. i love how the one figure appears to be floating away on a balloon. that felt symbolic and important as well. and in general i love that circle with the cross inside - it's the nordic sun symbol. light is so important in this part of the world, that it had to be included.

it is once again evident to me that i am a person in need of a deadline. i'd been procrastinating working on this and tho' i've thought about it pretty much endlessly, nothing was happening on it. but now, when the exhibition looms, ideas are coming together. i came across a package of little bitty people that i found in an antique store in the US last summer and i thought that since i've not used any photos of husband and sabin, that i'd use some little bitty figures to signify them. i included sabin's lost twin as well, because she's also part of who i am.

funny how once you start working, you get in a state of flow and ideas come and things just begin to happen. a garland on which i've written a bucket list to decorate the hanger. in that flow, i hit upon a way to incorporate a few feathers, which i seem to collect wherever i go.

i don't think i will be able to declare my torso officially finished on thursday when it goes to the exhibition, but it will be finished enough to show. i suspect that i will continue adding to it and it will change and grow evolve. just like me.

sharing my eclectic book list


remember how i told you about my reading out in the corners? well, it's about to get a whole lot more public. i've made a reading out in the corners reading list and a cute poster for a display at my beloved local library. we're going to share my diverse reading list with the other library users. it will hopefully inspire and also inform about what a great service the library has for bringing pretty much any book you might want nearly home to your front door.


i generally read in english if i can - it's much faster for me that way and i'm more able to get things read in time to return the books. on the list we're making available at the library, the books that are available in danish are listed with their danish title, tho' part of the point of this is to show people how very much there is available in english! very nearly anything you want. they go to great lengths to get a book for you if it's possible - "my" copy of the humument actually was borrowed from a german library and sent "home" to my local library for me. i think that's awesome. it's a great service and one of the few things in this country (and probably even the world) that's still free.


i really enjoyed making the poster and finally used some of my hoarded pretty papers and ephemera. it feels like they were at last put to good use. i chose books that had recently been on my bedside table, as well as a few old favorites and the list is by no means exhaustive. here it is, including capital letters, no less:

The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community
by Ray Oldenburg

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
by Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (Translator)

The Passport
by Saul Steinberg

Joseph Anton: A Memoir
by Salman Rushdie

The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath

Wildwood: A Journey through Trees
by Roger Deakin

Hornet Flight
by Ken Follett

A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel
by Tom Phillips

The Republic of Wine
by Mo Yan, Howard Goldblatt (translator)

Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism
by Slavoj Žižek

Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with Art
by Yayoi Kusama

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
by Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (Translator)

The Corrections
by Jonathan Franzen

The Bean Trees; Animal Dreams ; Pigs In Heaven
by Barbara Kingsolver

The Master and Margarita
by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Kreutzer Sonata
by Leo Tolstoy

Notes from Underground
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Tartine Bread
by Chad Robertson, Eric Wolfinger (Photographer)

Ukrudt - en kogebog med nordiske urter
by Rasmus Leck Fischer, Katja Dahlberg

* * *

if you want to see what else i'm reading, hook up with me on goodreads, i keep track of it all there.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

an ephemeral history of the wild west

out at the west coast, there's a sand sculpture festival going on. we went on saturday, and as you can see, the weather was absolutely glorious for it.

the theme is the wild west. and a variety of sand artists from all over the world (tho' none actually from denmark), got together and made some seriously cool ephemeral art.

it's nothing more than compressed sand and water and it will erode naturally away after some months.

it both celebrates and encourages thoughtful reflection on the colonization of the north american continent.

only a few of the artists were from the US, quite a few were from finland, latvia and holland, but also spain and germany and new zealand and australia.

it's near the beach, but not on the beach itself. the sand came from a nearby quarry.

buffalo are a big part of the theme and there are some graphic depictions of the decimation of the vast herds of buffalo that once roamed the plains.

these two buffalo bulls are amazingly done. you can almost feel the ground shake as they butt one another.

on the back side of them, more of a statement of the symbiosis with native peoples and with the colonization of their territory.

an old west town encroaches inside the buffalo itself.

this skull was probably my favorite piece.

on the back side, you can see the gold bars on which the west was built.

and here was a train being hijacked by bandits as it came out of a tunnel.

that too was part of the story of the wild west.

this bit was a bit more facetious - poking fun at space cowboys. but also highlighting the importance of route 66 on the american psyche.

a gold prospector and his trusty donkey.

and an old west town. the detail on the tied back wagon cover was exquisite - it really looked like folded fabric.

so much going on in the old west town. and the perspective was phenomenal.

a shoot out in the desert between cowboys.

and an indian family with their teepee.

in all, very much worth the trip. the exhibition closes at the end of october and we want to go again to see the effects of erosion. so symbolic, as history itself is eroded by time.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

princeton or bust

thankfully, i had no odd dreams of dominatrix school principals, instead my nightmares were of an education system bent on making sure my daughter becomes a plumber or electrician (not that those are bad professions, it's just that i'm not sure that's the route she should take).

there was much talk last evening, by an overly tan man with long, white hair (can you say 70s leftover?), of how the kids would be counseled towards their ungdomsuddannelse. already in the 8th grade, they will make a plan for their future education (because you totally know what you want to do/be when you're 13). that rings a little soviet in my ears - having the state decide what you'll be at an early age and then seeing that you become it. i think russia groomed a lot of scientists that way. but denmark's ambitions are a bit lower, it seems they're more interested in grooming carpenters and plumbers (tho' there aren't enough apprentice spots for these professions, so many people taking those courses never become those things). but, we shouldn't forget that low ambition is what keeps the danes at the top of those happy lists, so there's that.

but it all raises my hackles. partly, i will admit, because i'm not entirely clear as to what is meant by ungdomsuddannelse (youth education, if i translate literally). here, mandatory school is through the 9th grade, with an optional 10th grade (many people take that at an efterskole (a boarding school that specializes in something or other - often sports, or riding or music or even media studies)). after that, if you eventually want to go to university, you tend to go to a 3-year gymnasium (somewhere between our high school and the first year of college). if you're not university bound, you can go to technical schools of various kinds. is it those technical schools and maybe even the efterskole that are ungdomsuddannelse, or is it all of it, including gymnasium and university? that's very unclear, even in the three pages of materials they gave to us last night.

basically, i want to know how they're going to help my child get into princeton. or if they're going to try to lead her down a path towards moped mechanic (that was actually mentioned). i'm being a bit facetious here. i'm not sure i really want her to go to princeton (berkeley or columbia would be ok too), but my point is that i want her to think that anything is possible and not that she has to follow a narrowly prescribed path determined by some aging hippie who didn't even know her when she was in middle school. and how will we ever know where she's going if she doesn't take the SAT?

that's the other thing that's not clear. since there's not much standardized testing in denmark, how do they determine what they call uddannelsesparathed (educational readiness). is it entirely subjective? is it determined by a bunch of teachers who frankly, have been questionably educated themselves in seminarium that are somewhere in the neighborhood of a suburban american junior college academically? are the kids out here in udkantsdanmark (the countryside/fringes) especially pushed in the direction of such professions by current political forces? (a story i heard on the radio yesterday suggested as much.) can your location determine what you can be when you grow up? the future of my child is hanging in the balance here and i can't see what it's balancing upon.

the only thing that's clear is that it's denmark's current goal to get these kids out there and through their education as quickly as possible so they can begin to be good little taxpayers. let's face it, those politicians aren't getting any younger, so they need to ensure that the next generation is paying for their pensions.

and now i'm off to google boarding schools in switzerland.

* * *

that's four more items off my "to blog" list from the parents' meeting last evening.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

the start of the school year is hard

we're two weeks into the new school year and that includes school for matilde as well. she had the summer off, out on grass, being a horse. she thinks it's pretty hard to get back to work and as you can see, was feeling pretty sorry for herself by the end of today's lesson.

the child seems to be faring better. she's excited about school, having moved over to the "big" school, where they have grades 7-8-9. there are nearly 80 kids in the 7th grade and they're divided into 3 classes. they only officially found out today who will be in their class - they've had activities for the past two weeks that were designed to help the teachers determine the makeup of the classes. i think that's pretty cool and way less random than just shuffling them and throwing them together. our child is pleased with the result. she's with her two best friends and tho' that will surely change over the next couple of years (the friends, not the class, they claim the classes are now set through the 9th grade), it's a good thing right now. apparently, not everyone was pleased and there were tears, or so i could make out through the rather thinly veiled lecture given to parents by the school principal, who was clad in a dress that was an odd combination of strangely militant yet summery and inappropriately bare. and just to add confusion, it was also denim. she was clearly one of those specimens of angry danish woman of the kind who probably runs marathons and pumps iron (odd, i know, but she was weirdly muscley for a woman pushing 50 and yet had the stringy look of a runner about her). i imagine that the parents who had called the school that day after hearing from their bawling daughters during recess felt pretty guilty about having done that by the end of her talk. i was happy not to have been one of them. let's just say that i wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley. tho' i'm pretty sure i could take her.

let's hope it doesn't come to that.

i have much more to say about the parents' meeting this evening (15 more things, to be exact, when i read the "to blog" notes i took), but i think i need to sleep on it a bit first.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

good things or have i mentioned our fox?

so much goodness going on right now...

~ as you can see, our fox continues to enchant. we were sitting in the garden, sipping wine with friends this evening when she came out to join us. one of the big barn kittens ran towards her, wanting to play (and nearly giving me a heart attack) and she ran away. she's not a normal fox.

~ preparing for my upcoming real life blogging course! it will run locally the month of october in two locations! and i'm not taking it, i'm the teacher if you can believe it! it's so much fun putting together the lesson plan, i'm really excited about it.

~ also preparing for the beginning russian course i was roped into teaching. i'm still hoping a little bit that they don't get enough people signing up for it to hold it, as i'm not sure i remember enough russian to teach it, let alone teach it through danish rather than through english! ack! at the same time, i'm enjoying talking to the interested people (read, cute-sounding older ladies) who are calling to inquire about it.

~ i think i can live with reading on an iPad if the book is in PDF form and i can open it in notability, where i can highlight and scribble in the margins, just like in a real book. maybe there is something to this whole eBook thing after all.

~ our summery days have returned and they are glorious.  as is that moon. i didn't bother to try to photograph it, i just took a picture with my eyes and am holding it in my memory.

~ trying out a new, more subdued blog banner. i'm not sure how long it will last, but for tonight, i like it.

~ we ordered some insanely cute and probably poisonous japanese candy from eBay this evening. you know about stuff like that if you have an almost-teenager in the house.

~ the almost-teenager is still the most sensible member of the family. i was going to buy some frozen shrimp to put in tonight's pasta dish and she said, "mom, wait 'til friday and buy fresh from the fish guy when he comes." why didn't i think of that?

~ the next iPhone is coming soon. we're ready.

~ it's been four days since i've bought lego minifigures.

Monday, August 19, 2013

truffles anyone?

hendrick's gin, fresh blueberries, fizzy water
i've been reading jean-anthelme brillat-savarin's physiology of taste (or transcendental gastronomy). just his name should give you a bit of a taste of what a stuck-up, pretentious prat he is. and tho' i am largely skimming (what else can one do via an eReader? i can't take reading seriously unless i can scribble in the margins), i went back and forth between eye-rolling and being provoked to ponderous deep thoughts to the occasional actual (and thus no kittens killed) laugh out loud. because tho' he's full of himself, he is witty in a kind of 18th century aristocratic, truffle-scoffing sort of way.

just his quasi-scientific method alone is worth the read...listing and categorizing and hierarchizing what is essentially an exploration of the pleasures of eating and drinking. and oddly, much of it still rings true today.

he opens with a self-congratulatory mini biography, extolling his own virtues as a truly excellent man of taste and cultivation. i somehow picture him as a cross between ben franklin and george washington in appearance, which is odd, since he's french, but there you have it. he says that he was satisfied with the simplest meal one could set before him, if it was just prepared artistically (emphasis mine). that's actually quite pretentious, but i like it. and i subscribe to the notion that care should be taken with the food we eat on a daily basis (tho' it may not always resemble art (see recent attempt to make homemade pita bread)). and frankly, often the simplest food is the most artistic (think japanese). tho' i imagine that he would think the simplest meal should contain truffles (he waxes lyrical about them for nearly 7 pages). and really, truffles are delicious.

but my favorite bit is the section about thirst. because inevitably, he gets around to talking about alcohol. and as you know, i am practically a daily inventor of new cocktails (what? you didn't know? you should really come around more often.). so, without reading the whole thing, i hereby declare my favorite passage to be:
alcohol is the monarch of liquids, and takes possession of the extreme tastes of the palate. its various preparations offer us countless new flavors, and to certain medicinal remedies, it gives an energy they could not do well without.
alcohol as royalty with medicinal properties? let's drink to that.

* * *

an explanatory note: as you know, a group of us are taking advantage of the free course materials available through MIT and are taking a course together. (not for credit, just for fun.) we were interested in two courses and have managed to shuffle the syllabi and combine them - so that we are writing a cool eZine on the topic of food and culture as our end goal. we're just getting started and it's not too late to join us if that sounds appealing. this post represents our first assignment. if you'd like to join us, check out facebook group here, or leave me a comment and i'll gladly invite you.

don't be an asshole when you drive and other amusing links

Fix The Toaster PSA "Don't Be An A$$hole When You Drive" by Shannon Noel from Expressing Motherhood on Vimeo.

i will, at times, admit to double assholeness, as i check my messages or mails or facebook on my iPhone while driving. but i'm going to try to stop. mostly because my 12-year-old says i should. i wish all of the assholes who drive past our house like maniacs would watch this and slow down a bit. someone's going to get hurt out there. i'm thinking of starting a facebook page wherein i photograph them and post the pictures - it will be called maniacs on møllebjergvej. i don't intend to conceal their license numbers if when i do it. people should take responsibility for their actions. there's too little of that out there today.

* * *

most americans hate their lives. read why.

* * *

ny nordisk mad is apparently a flop among everyday danes (in danish). also here.

* * *

this will make you long for berlin.
and possibly want to drop everything and move there.

* * *

we knew we loved marimekko, but seriously
finnish fashion is where it's at.

* * *

it scares the hell out of me that 86% of americans don't believe in evolution.
i hope that's a questionable statistic.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

the fox

The fox is a single red stroke that cuts across
the clearing. The colour seems to hang like smoke,
you can almost see where she has come from.

Her musk (though you can smell nothing)
is specific like a thumbprint on the air.
It isn’t raining but there’s a kind of wet
on your face, a stickiness of insect juices dropped.

The fox is rusty-dull, discreet, not radiant or hot
or pulsing. Not agitated. Not randy.

She is completely dream and intelligence
sliding through the wet grass, the stinging nettles,
the little brittle helmets of dry seed,
a flower or two, relics of the drizzly, petalled summer.

The lyric fox goes down to the creek
where dark and dankness will mask her scent
and the lovely rosette of her face.

She’ll be able to pause there, for a while, sip water
while the dogs swirl and bell in front of the Big House.

by Bernadette Hall
(a best new zealand poem 2009)

* * *

i don't normally post other people's words on my blog, but i liked this poem and mood it captures and i felt our beautiful, fine fox deserved fine words.  she is both elusive and canny, but curious and even a bit friendly as well. she's young and we think she lost her mother early and didn't learn natural fear of humans. or perhaps foxes are just adjusting to a more populated world and able to live among us and with us. whatever it is, we are enjoying her presence here while it lasts. our new chickens are locked securely away and the one feral chicken is canny herself and keeps herself safely up high in a tree. the cats and the fox seem to have declared some kind of detente. she was frolicking on the field this evening, quite near the horses, so they are also accustomed to her presence. she's just a beautiful, wild, wary presence here in our midst. and i think we're all a little bit in love with her.