Monday, March 31, 2014

unexpected lego-related goodness in the mail

look what my bloggy friend ariadne sent to me! we haven't really known one another that long in this bloggy world (we met through the ever-fabulous lisa), but she obviously totally gets me. and she lives in thessaloniki, which is one of my favorite places (and a place i've been many times, always under blissful circumstances). in general, greece is wonderful, and obviously, so is ariadne. thank you so much! it was absolutely the perfect surprise gift for me! and i absolutely adore the tiny houses postcard.

thoughts from sunday night

we had a lovely spring day today. it was still and tho' not that warm, warm enough to eat outdoors for the first time this season. our grill table needs revamping, so husband put together a new top for it, sans the beloved grill boxes (they're quite rusted through and were never the right depth anyway), so really now it's just a table. and we have another grill anyway, so it was all good.

it's the first day of daylight savings time. and here in these northern climes, and being more of a night person than a morning one, i have to say that i loved the extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day. of course, i'm now awake at nearly midnight, with no sleep in sight, so i will undoubtedly be cursing that leap forward tomorrow morning when the alarm rings.

typical for husband, he had no trouble going to bed around 10, tho' it was only 9 in his head. he's infuriatingly able to fall asleep almost instantly no matter what. he claims it's some residual military thing, where he never knew how much sleep he'd get when he was on an exercise, so he learned to go to sleep very quickly. if there is ever a murder in this house, it will be because of this uncanny, unnatural ability of his (either that or that no one ever puts the scissors back where they belong).

the nettles are at the tender, brilliant green, fresh stage, where they are absolutely perfect for a pesto. just a quick dunk in boiling water to take away the sting, then whizzing them up with a few nuts (today it was almonds, but i've been known to use walnuts or pistachios if i have them), a couple of garlic cloves, salt, pepper, parmesan and plenty of olive oil. spring bliss, i say. this time of year, i could (and pretty much do) eat it on everything. i got the smoked shrimp from the fish guy on friday. they were perfect with the pesto, tho' i usually make aïoli to go with them.  we also fired up the grill and did some kabobs that i bought yesterday at the big grocery store down in germany (we made a run to stock up on gin and proper groceries).

the kebabs didn't last long, nor did the batch of potatoes, leeks and butter i threw into a tinfoil packet onto the grill. the best bits are the ones that stick to the foil and are a little bit burned. bliss, i tell you. and it was still and beautiful outside, birds singing and no bugs out yet to speak of. it honestly couldn't have been better.

i took a couple of our outdoor cats to the vet on friday to be fixed. i used to call them the wild bunch because their mother hid them from the fox all summer and we never managed to tame them. but in recent months, i've become friends with two of them and since they're rather chubby cats, i dubbed them ben & jerry after the ice cream. well, the trauma of being a cage for the first time, taken on a 20 minute car ride for the first time and being indoors for the first time at the vet's office (oh the horror) was too much for poor benny and he bit my finger as i tried to hold him for the vet. she was immediately concerned and advised me to see my own doctor right away, saying a cat bite could easily get infected. so, i took her advice (i think i've always respected veterinary advice more than medical doctor's advice, as i have also been known to take doses of horse painkillers in the past (a little bute never hurt anyone)). i felt a little sheepish at the doctor, because it is just a tiny little puncture wound and didn't look like much at that time. but it did hurt like crazy, and she was concerned about my tendon (the wound is between my first and second knuckle on my middle finger), so she prescribed antibiotics and gave me a tetanus shot and sent me on my way.

and as the evening progressed, my finger and then my hand swelled more and more. combined with the tetanus shot on my upper arm, sleep was nearly impossible, as i kept waking myself up bumping my arm or my hand as i turned in my sleep. eventually, i had to get up and try to get some sleep in the big comfy armchair, rather than lying down. when i woke up in the morning, my hand was alarmingly swollen and very sore, but i just kept taking the antibiotics and some pain relievers and finally, late last evening, it started to show signs of improvement. it's better today, but still very sore and stiff and a bit swollen. i can type and hold a pen now, so that's good. at the moment, my left hand is suffering more fatigue from abnormal use than there is pain my right. but am i ever glad i went to the doctor. i'd have had to spend saturday at the emergency room instead of in germany stocking up on gin. and that would not have been fun. so, if a cat bites you, take it seriously. tho' some part of me is still secretly hoping that i'll turn into catwoman from this.

but now it's very late, especially in light of the time change, so i shall leave you with this photo of solskin's little sweetheart, all nestled down in my hand sleeping. is there anything more precious than a chubby little baby bunny?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

steampunk lego

i have a rather hard time staying out of the employee store at work. i'd been eyeing metalbeard's duel for awhile, because it's got that steampunk feel to it. it's probably the hardest thing i've built and i'll admit there's something wrong with that big foot, but finally i just turned one piece around (not how it was supposed to be) and gave up. it stands more or less stable now, so i'm good with that.

there's a lot going on - great small details, like the shark arm and the anchor on his pegleg foot, which incorporates a barrel (those barrels always lend a steampunk touch). he's not super stable and it feels to me like a display set, not a play set, but that's ok, as that's what i want to do anyway.

he came with this micromanager (he does after all need someone to duel against). it's the most complicated micromanager i've built, but not my favorite, despite being rather overly detailed on the inside, which lends some whimsy that i like. i guess i just like my micromanagers in micro size.

the top opens up and there's a little seat in there, where i think a guy could hide out. since i'm not actually playing with him, but just putting him on the shelf with my other lego movie sets, i don't have anyone inside.

we also recently acquired the creative ambush set, also acquired because of the steampunk feel. sabin built this plane, while i built the flying kebab wagon (see below). i love again the old west details - clever use of a barrel as the front of the plane and green shutters as flaps.

probably my favorite detail is little sudds backwash's flying organ. so cute. a much more creative lego builder than i has made a whole new creation out of this set. skills of that magnitude are, as yet, beyond my lego abilities.

but i do love the whimsy and details of the flying kebab wagon, complete with the rotisserie of meat, ketchup and mustard bottles and frying pans as headlights. the menu boards double as wings and the wheels fold up when it's in flight.

there's much more steampunk lego goodness in this group on flickr. and also this one.

in all, a very satisfying couple of sets. this lego building is addictive, i tell you. i wonder what i'll tackle next?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

progress on the kitchen project

it's been a long time since i showed you any progress on our kitchen-to-be. we've had a real bricklayer here for the past two days and now it seems like there's really been a lot of progress, so i had to share some snaps. this is one of those interminable projects because we do it as we have money for it and husband is doing much of it himself (all those beautiful wood beams you see are him). but it feels like things are finally moving in the right direction. there's heat in the floor, so husband has worked faithfully all winter and has done a beautiful job with the wood. tho' he bricked up a bit in our brewery, he's not really a bricklayer, so we hired one in. it only took him two days to brick the whole thing and man does it look great! it's looking less and less like a pig stall and more and more like a home. and husband is pleased because he says it's starting to match the picture of it he has in his head.

Monday, March 24, 2014

the kitsch of clichés

clichés go down better when painted on driftwood

i had an experience this evening which is increasingly bewildering to me, the more i ponder it. it was a supposedly inspirational talk by a self-styled "poetic clown, philosophical humorist or humorous philosopher, a spiritual pirate who juggles words like a verbal bubblebath." you might guess that these are direct translations from his own description of himself. well, this aging hippie (they're all aging now, aren't they?), spent nearly two hours rattling off the most astonishing array of aphorisms and clichés (is there a difference?) heard outside of a stephen covey seminar, all while sprinkling this oral diarrhea with sexist jokes and read-aloud newspaper clippings shown on an overhead projector. the overhead projector i could have dealt with as a kind of hipster retro thing, but it seemed quite unironically meant. i think it may have represented the extent of his technological capabilities.

here are a few of the gems i managed to scribble down before i was overcome by incredulousness at what i was hearing...and bear in mind that they were just spouted ad nauseum, without any real connection.

"how can you have a comeback if you've never been anywhere?"

"without cultural ballast, you can't navigate a life."

"they know the price of everything but the value of nothing."

"it's healthy to live for fun but no fun to live healthily."

"the direction is more important than the speed."

"we've got short-term politicians and long-term problems." (i'll grant that this one rings a little bit true.)

"get up in the morning with expectations and go to bed with experiences."

there were many, many more, a dizzying array more. each more clichéd than the last.

but most worrying of all was the audience's reaction. they. loved. it. they were rolling on the floor laughing. they ate it up, like it was porridge drenched in butter, cream and fresh maple syrup. and it was about as stickily sweet as that. even worse, several people i talked to said they found him so inspiring. i do wonder what they were inspired to do (other than slit their wrists or bite down on the cyanide capsule)? i weep for the world. are we really so unreflected as that? do we really want to be spoon-fed pap delivered rapid fire and supposedly disguised as sage advice?

they lined up during the break to plop down $30 (150kr) on his book, in which he had collected even more aphorisms. he also had planks of driftwood (see above) with aphorisms painted on them in 70s style hand-lettering (that, at least, i could appreciate, the hand-lettered type, not the clichés). i don't think he sold any of those, but i'm also not sure he was trying to, as they belonged to some old wooden boat he has, which he said "sails around with a load of thoughts." as if. a load of shite, more like.

why do people seem to need such easy clichés and what on earth about them makes people characterize them as inspiring? if they were really inspiring, we'd all go home and change our lives...begin painting our own thoughts on driftwood (oh wait, i already do that) and go dancing through the grocery store (one of his suggestions). but no one is really going to do that.

these things are a bit like horoscopes, we can reflect whatever cares are on our minds onto them, picking and choosing the ones that we feel really speak to us. but why do we want to be spoken to in such platitudes? and why do they seem to make people feel so good? the mood afterwards was buoyant and people really felt entertained and inspired. except for me. i was shocked at all of the degrading comments he made about women (they can be home secretary but never foreign secretary was just one) and far more horrified than inspired. in fact i wasn't inspired at all. really pretty much just disappointed in my fellow townspeople. how on earth could they buy into such kitsch?

am i just a total snob or is there really something wrong with the world?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

spring comes in time for my birthday

take two rows of shiny glasses, glistening in the sunshine. fill them with a refreshing st. germain cocktail (sauvignon blanc + sparkling water + st. germain), add five amazing, different, interesting, funny, creative women. and you get a wonderful evening of drink & draw. there was more than that - some good food, some building lego (naturally), a lot of laughter, some playing with stamps and drawing and sketching. and it was pretty much the perfect way to lead into my birthday.

unfortunately, my birthday decided to greet me with a fever and stomach virus and so i slept through most of it and didn't even have cake or a special dinner with my family because i was too sick. i was feeling somewhat better today and managed to bake a couple of cakes (one for work tomorrow and one to use up our old bananas) and even planted 102 strawberries in the garden (it was good to get some fresh air). but it will be an early night because i'm definitely not back up to full speed. i did have a bit of a wander around the garden, photographing signs of spring, so i will leave you with those...

Friday, March 21, 2014


skimming some or other feed, a headline about small household shrines caught my eye. i didn't click on the article and naturally, i have no idea where it may have been posted and i can't find it again. but that didn't stop me from pondering the growing pile of small, mostly natural, found treasures that has gathered on the window ledge in terms of whether they constitute a shrine. it does feel somehow like a shrine of sorts, gathered there over time. but a shrine to what? nature? walks? found objects? the passing of time? that little pear was perfect and green when i found it and now it's dry and wrinkled, but somehow more charming, even if it is now a mummy of a pear. i'm glad it dried up and that it didn't rot.

it's not all found objects, unless you count seeing something in your facebook feed and ordering it from etsy as finding, which i did with the heart by kim from numinosity beads. but even the little bottle is a found object, which i found one day out in the yard when i was emptying the litterbox. it does make me wonder what other treasures are lurking out there.

that little egg, which i found late last summer has also dried instead of rotted (thankfully) and is light and hollow now, as the inside has dried up. i'm pleased the cats have left it alone so it could do that. what is our human desire to gather things and keep them? why are we somehow driven (some of us more than others) on an almost unconscious level to gather and keep. stones, bits of moss, driftwood, shells, feathers. they constantly find their way into my pockets.

for me, there is pleasure in the arranging and rearranging and the photographing. it gives me a small moment of beauty and creativity in the midst of a busy everyday. and i guess that's shrine enough for me.

happy weekend, one and all.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

throwback thursday - macedonia, summer 1995

oh, to be so young and thin again. it was the summer of 1995. a month at lake ohrid, ostensibly studying macedonian. but also having an awful lot of fun in absolutely glorious weather.

these were some of my fellow students from arizona state. that guy on the left was from alaska, but i'll admit i can't remember his name. the other one, whose name also escapes me (bob?), was the one who taught me the phrase, "it always comes back to me." the one is the cap and sunglasses is my friend dmitry, him, i remember very well and he's still a friend.

those high-waisted shorts are almost going to be in again. i don't know if i was pretending to be spiked on that spikey thingy or what. it was the balkans, after all, and those probably usually had a head on them in ottoman times.

another beautiful summer day on gorgeous lake ohrid. it was this wonderful summer that lured me back there on a fulbright in 1997. i have no recollection of who those girls on the left were. memory is funny like that.

at the foot of the statue of cyril & methodius. cyril was the guy who came up with the cyrillic alphabet. and they were scholars right there in the beautiful old churches of ohrid.

this guy was the owner of a place we found for my friend from belgrade to stay when she came to visit. it was a private home and he actually took us around on the lake in his boat and we drank quite a lot of rakija with him and ate some small silvery fish whole, heads and all. they were grilled and salty and really quite delicious. it all resulted in a toast to milosevic at one point, but we were young and we had to be nice to him because dajana was staying there. and then there was the rakija.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

arbness: on lost planes, the fear of not knowing and which bond catwoman would prefer

i sit here at the computer, frieda on my lap, lying on the red curly sheep fleece pillow that is all of the cats' favorite bed, so it seemed appropriate to use a recent photo i took of another catwoman, this one perhaps much cooler than i am as i sit here, wearing my now beloved norwegian sweater which i found in a second hand store for 50kr, a comfy pair of pants and slouchy warm socks. (how was that for a very long sentence?) catwoman is very cool, canny and fearless. 

i am still voraciously reading every article i can find about the disappearance of that malaysian airlines flight and as i write this, there is still no news. what happened to the plane and all those people? how can a plane just disappear with scarcely a trace in today's connected world? and why is it so fascinating to us? why can't we stand the uncertainty of not knowing what happened and where it is? is it the people who are lost? oddly the articles i've been reading in places like the new york times and the guardian have had little mention of the passengers. is it our own fears of flying? i honestly don't have any, despite having some kind of feeling for years and years that i will die in a plane crash. is it just the 24 hour news cycle and endless access to information, no matter where we are, that has us obsessing over the lack of an answer? why are we riveted by this story? i flew malaysian airlines once, from KL to chennai. the worst part was a long layover in KL and no access to a lounge because none of the star(ve)alliance carriers cooperated on one there. alas, my plane carried me safely to chennai, where i didn't really want to be anyway (it being one of the most uncharming places on the planet). but really, where is james bond when you need him? i'm thinking pierce brosnan is the right bond for this case. it seems like it could somehow be a media-driven thing and that seems right up the alley of the brosnan bond. daniel craig is too deep and dark and mysterious (now that i think about it, maybe he is the right bond for this mystery). i suppose in the end there will be some shallow answer worthy more of roger moore as bond than either brosnan or craig. 

and while we're on the subject of bond, i think catwoman would probably like pierce brosnan as well. wonder woman, on the other hand, i'm not sure...

* * *

a couple of really cool articles on the cinematography of the LEGO movie...
here and here.

* * *

rené redzepi on copenhagen in the guardian.

Monday, March 17, 2014

guess where wonder woman and i went?

a fantastic weekend in london. a bit of shopping (mostly involving me sending photos to the child to see whether she wanted various items - what did we do before iMessage?), hitting some bookstores (the wonderful foyle's and an enormous waterstones near picadilly), walking with lizzi (you may know her from many steps sideways and do go check her blog, as she wrote about our day much more pithily than i will) until our feet were nearly bleeding, some legography at big ben and parliament square, lunch, starbucks and a last-minute inability to stop myself from going into the gap (like google, apple and the new york times, they just get me). all of this and glorious sunshine, cherry blossoms in full bloom and a surprisingly delightful stay in a little radisson blu edwardian just off oxford street, not to mention a workshop and meeting some really wonderful lego enthusiasts who were generous in sharing their ideas. in all, it really couldn't have been a better weekend (except that my feet are still a bit reluctant to speak to me after i subjected them to nearly 12 hours of tromping around london in doc martens (so much for those cushiony air soles).

i know i've been a bit absent here in the past week. i was fighting off a cold and that left me zapped for energy.  plus i've been reading a good book (popco by scarlett thomas) and watching a few too many episodes of fringe. but i can feel that i'm missing my daily writing! blogging is, after all, cheaper than therapy and nothing else quite does the trick for keeping me sane like sending all those thoughts which tumble around in my head out my fingers right here in this blogger compose space. so i hope to be back on form this week. for all of our sakes.

oh, and catwoman had to come along too and see the london eye. she nearly blew off into the thames, but i grabbed her in time. that would have been a tragedy.

* * *

and speaking of tragedy, 
i can't get enough of the story of the lost malaysian airlines plane.
what do you think happened?
will they be found safe and sound?
and where are they?
isn't it a job for james bond at this point?
or maybe for catwoman.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

i feel a cold coming on

i know it's supposed to be throwback thursday, but i can't really go back any further than the weekend for a photo. it seems like it would take too much effort to dig out old photos and scan them this evening. i fear my tiredness is an impending cold. we've had gorgeous weather, the kind that lures you outside without a jacket for hours when it's just a little too nippy in the wind. it's not good if i'm getting sick, as i have big plans in london town this weekend. mostly work, but also a bit of fun.  and let's face it, even work is pretty fun.

tho' speaking of that, i realized this week that despite working in what is arguably one of the most creative companies on the planet, i have been feeling cramped by the way things are still outlook-ruled and powerpoint-driven. and i definitely feel those frames snuffing out my creativity and inspiration. but as soon as i clear out the snot forming in my head, i'm going to come up with a plan for resisting both. i suspect powerpoint will be easier to resist than the tyranny of outlook. any tips on this front are most welcome.

another reason for my absence this week has been that i'm reading scarlett thomas' popco, about a hip girl who works for a toy company. just imagine that storyline.

* * *

what do you think of the cool little fisheye lens i got for my iPhone?
isn't it fun?

Sunday, March 09, 2014

the formative years - on wonder woman and barbie

i've always loved wonder woman. especially in the form of lynda carter's portrayal of her during my formative years. she was so brave and true and tough and beautiful, all at once. and man, those wonder woman jumps. i practiced those by getting the swing at the park going as high as i could and then leaping off. i'm sure i was very graceful and strong, just like wonder woman, tho' i'm glad that video mobile phones were not ubiquitous then, so that i don't have to sacrifice that memory. i too wanted bracelets that could deflect bullets, a lasso that could make people tell the truth and an invisible jet of my very own. wonder woman inspired me to greatness. i've probably let her down, but she was inspiring to me just the same.

charlie's angels were around in that same era and with their beauty and bravery, they inspired me as well. i know charlie ultimately took care of them, but they seemed so strong and capable by themselves. they were tough and beautiful and they had great hair and clothes and they always caught the bad guy in the end - what more could you ask?

speaking of great hair and wardrobe, i'll admit that i loved barbie as well. she also had great hair and clothes and those shoes, they were awesome. my cousin had a fabulous barbie collection that burned up in a fire and i missed those lost barbies for years afterwards. they'd never been promised to me and i'd only been allowed to look at them, not touch them (being much younger and probably much stickier), but i adored them anyway and lamented their passing. of course, i had barbies of my own, but her collection was something special.

i read this morning about a very thin study suggesting that playing with barbie limits girls' career opportunities. at least in their own minds. and i have to say i think that's crap. barbie always had way more going on than ken and we all knew it. she was the brains and she had her own car and house and he was a mere accessory, who she didn't even really need (my barbie personally liked johnny west way more and in fact, she taught him a swear word or two (goddamn son of a bitch, jesus christ almighty was her go-to swear phrase of choice). yes, her feet were forever stuck in high heeled position and her waist is abnormally tiny, but she was fabulous. like wonder woman and charlie's angels, she was strong and capable and the leader of her pack. i don't feel at all that my love for her has held me back or made me not pursue a career in science or math. what kept me from that was the fact that i spent most of my time reading dostoevsky during physics class in high school.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

beautiful things are sometimes enough

i got this gorgeously rustic, bumply, fabulous, unique heart bead from kim at numinosity (she's on a little vacation in mexico, so you'll have to wait to see her shop). kim feels like an old friend, since i met her towards the beginning of my blogging journey. we've never met in person, but at some point we will and i know we will laugh and drink cocktails.

an idea is forming in the back of my mind as to what to do with this bead, but in the meantime, having it and just photographing it on my usual windowsill scale is enough. i enjoy that almost as much as i would wearing it as a necklace. sometimes beautiful, unique things are enough, just in and of themselves. tho' maybe if i incorporated it into something crocheted, it might be even better...

Thursday, March 06, 2014

husband the builder (#tbt)

husband was already a master builder way back then. this is one of my favorite photos of him. ever. i do love these thursday strolls down memory lane. this is in the back garden of his childhood home in sweden. and doesn't it foreshadow the future?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

mixel mania!






zaptor (i think i like him best)

see, two pix of zaptor - i definitely like him best. 


my mixels crew.

they came out on saturday. and i had to have them all (there are two i haven't built yet, it seemed obscene to build them all in one day, so they're not in the photo). they come in a small, collectible bag, kinda like minifigs and in the same price range. only frankly a way, way better build. i feel like they're teaching me how to be a lego builder with their turnable heads and their ball joint legs and arms and adorable teeth. plus, who can resist those googly eyes? not i. series 2 will come in a couple of months and already i'm chomping at the bit. they'll be blue, brown and orange then. and series 3, before the end of the year in green, gold and purple. i'm thoroughly infatuated and becoming a real lego builder thanks to these guys. i think i can even bring myself to take them apart and try to build something of my very own. and that's a very, very big step in the right direction. plus, they're designed to be able to make a big mixel of the three little ones, so they even want you to mix and match. that's why they're called mixels, after all. there's a tie-in with cartoon network, but i have to say the cartoon doesn't speak to me (i am a little outside their demographic, after all), but i'm in love with the analog mixels. and with my device/internet addiction, that's undoubtedly good for me. i could stand to live a slightly more analog life.