Thursday, July 23, 2015

screen time limits

do you think your kids spend too much time glued to their screens? i've long had my doubts, so i was happy to read this fresh perspective on one of the nytimes blogs. i think my doubts were for different reasons, but in light of the alarming stories i've read recently about something called free-range parenting (which we just call parenting here in denmark), this one rings true on some level.  but to this swaddling in cotton (to directly translate a phrase from danish) that we as parents do to our kids today, i would add that giving them screen time prepares them for the workplaces of the future. the fact is, we are surrounded by technology today and if you aren't comfortable with it and it's not second nature to you, you will be left behind.

and that's why it's after 11 p.m. and i'm still sitting here with five screens glowing gently on my face (including the phone i used to take this photo). just trying to stay relevant.

kidding aside, i listened to a 2-part freakonomics podcast about sleep. they interviewed a researcher who was looking into sleep patterns. she recommended that you leave aside the glowy devices for a least a half an hour before bed if you wanted to have a good night's sleep. but she also admitted that she doesn't follow this advice herself. as she said, the iPad is very compelling. and i'll admit i'm horrible at this. i often read something (a book, the nytimes, facebook) on my iPad as a prelude to falling asleep. and i'm sure that it means that i don't sleep as well as i should. which, according to the podcast, probably means that i don't do anything else as well as i should.

maybe i need to put aside the glowy devices at bedtime...

* * *

squee! there really is an x-files revival coming!

memories of food

i read a sweet story by brett martin in GQ on his meeting with chef jacques pepin at a low moment in his life. it illustrates the powerful healing capacity of sharing a meal and it's worth the long read. i also watched the great netflix series chef's table, which tells the story of 6 world-famous chefs. very inspiring and i burned through the six episodes far too quickly. all of this got me thinking about memorable meals. many of them came before the age of instagram and the incessant documentation and sharing of every plate, so they linger in the echoes of laughter of remembered conversations, the clink of glassware, the memory of garlicky tenderness of the cubes of beef at that tapas place in manila, the way my eyes welled up with tears at the deliciousness of the walnut-encrusted shark filet at the linn street cafe in iowa city, those foie gras pops so good we ordered a second round for dessert at elan in nyc, the time my sister licked limoncello off the table at that italian place at serendra in manila (hmm, the food must be good in manila).

we are so bound to food and so often we eat it mindlessly rather than thoughtfully, simply fueling our bodies because we have to instead of fueling our souls because we should. i go in streaks here at home, at times more conscious (read: creative) about what we have for dinner and other times being stuck in a rut of the same omelettes and BLTs. but again and again i return to the feeling that most of my moments of conscious happiness and contentment are spent in the kitchen; i feel better about everything when i'm cooking.

it's easier to be creative in the kitchen in the summer, when produce is delicious and abundant. when i can step out into the garden and pick strawberries for a sorbet or shortcake or broad beans for a hummus, or asparagus for a risotto. it is deeply satisfying to make our dinner from our own garden. and while our summer meals can bit one-ingredient intensive during the short time when asparagus or those broad beans are in season, there's just something about eating those things only when they're here that makes my soul sing. we appreciate them so much more because they are fleeting and they become so intertwined with long summer evenings in the garden. they're the food that memories are made of.

what are you eating this summer?

* * *

speaking of food, did you know that personal gardens at russian dachas produce 40% of the food that's consumed in russia? and there are also people like rené redzepi of noma who are thinking about food and using local producers.
* * *

Friday, July 17, 2015

3D street art or brande beats give again

brande, the next little town over, and where sabin went to school for the past year, held a street art festival a few weeks ago. we were busy with vikings that weekend and didn't attend, but many of the works are still there and i had a quick stop to have a look the other day. they had done these 3D pieces. it's so funny how in person, the eye compensates and they don't pop out, but in photos, they do. i wish our little town could get together about something and stage similar events. but alas, there's too much infighting and too many factions. why are little towns their own worst enemy sometimes?

* * *

have you seen the photo of nixon's last meal before he resigned?
it's arranged, it's styled, it's prosaic.
it's positively instagrammable.
(thank you, bill.)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

uncommon gifts for an uncommon wedding

we're attending husband's cousin's wedding in a few weeks. it's a part of the family i've never met, so i don't know the happy couple at all. all i know is from the informal invitation we received. i guess when couples are older, they dispense with the usual formalities, so, in this photocopied missive, we've been asked to dress casually and bring our own meat for grilling. and although they said that bringing a gift is not a requirement, they did include a little wish list. well, thinking that it's only right to bring a gift when attending a wedding, but balking at the desired gift card to H&M or a microwave, i went in search of more creative options for the happy couple. it was then that i came across uncommon goods. it's a pretty cool site - they work with individual artists and craftspeople and small producers to source unique gift items, which they then send directly to your door, bypassing that whole getting dressed in proper clothing and leaving the house thing.

here are some ideas for the wedding gift...

should it be this beautiful blue bowl with a felt jacket made by ontario artist melissa schooley? 

or this whimsical little rowboat salad bowl

or this fabulous pitcher that keeps your white wine cold without watering it down 
(ok, that one might be more up my alley than theirs, i'll admit).

this set of rainbow bright wine glasses would be awesome with that pitcher. 

maybe this sweet little elephant necklace would remind the bride of her african home. ok, i realize that's not a great wedding present since it's only for the bride, but that gift card for H&M request threw me off a bit.

maybe this three pillow set would be more appropriate?

i can't really decide - which would you choose?
or would you choose something else entirely?
i know it sounds weird, me throwing this out there like this,
but honestly, you guys know them as well as i do.

and while i was there, i fell a little bit in love with the shower squid. i think i might just have to have one for our shower. sometimes you don't know that you really need something until you see it.

distracted is the new black

as i did my morning scan of what happened on the iPad while i was asleep, it was such a relief to read this piece on chucking mindfulness out the window. i thought it was going to be a humorous piss-take on all that mindfulness claptrap that's so pervasive out there these days. but instead it was a thoughtful and in-depth look at what's wrong with mindfulness (can you say narcissism?) and why it doesn't necessarily make you happy.

i've actually been suspicious of mindfulness for awhile. and while i relish my daily moment, camera in hand, where i wander the backyard, looking for my photo opportunity for the day, in reality that moment lasts only 5 minutes. the rest of my day is spent in a rather distracted state - juggling tasks, articles and emails on two computers (sometimes 3), tethered to my scribbled to-do list. in between, i make myself a cup of coffee, put on a load of laundry, occasionally vacuum and fight a never-ending battle against the spiderwebs and dust. i plan dinner, i pick strawberries, i run to the store for milk, i send some emails, i work on blog pieces and articles and my freelance tasks, sometimes i go to the office, but often i work on all of this from home. i feed the bunnies, throw the horses some hay, prepare for community board meetings, discover new podcasts, read voraciously, drive the child to a friend's house. and while i spend a lot of my day in front of screens, it sometimes feels like i never sit down. and to be honest, the more of these activities there are, the more content i feel. my moments of restlessness and discontent come when i'm not busy enough, when my mind doesn't have a million things to process.

i find my moments of downtime in the midst of all of that...when i'm working in the garden, i'm usually listening to a podcast. while i make dinner, i have a series going on netflix. when i'm waiting for the child at the train station, i'm checking facebook or instagram on my phone. while i eat a solitary lunch, i scan the new york times on my iPad or catch an episode of sex and the city and decouple for awhile. these moments send me back to my tasks ready to concentrate again. but are they mindful? i'm not sure. and i'm unconvinced that they have to be.

i think we naturally seek towards the things we need...when the writing isn't going anywhere, i get up and take a walk or just hang up some laundry and start a new load. sometimes i take a short 20 minute nap. then i come back and i'm able to work. and i instinctively do these things. sometimes, yes, i wait too long and try to force the words to come and that never works. but stepping away, doing something else, and then coming back always works. it seems that allowing myself to be distracted from the task at hand is a good thing for that task in the long run.

maybe mindfulness is just another word for listening to yourself and what you need in order to get things done. and maybe what you need is to juggle 20 tasks at once, shifting between them at lightning speed. maybe that makes you tick. and you know what? that's just fine. maybe distracted is the new black.

and seriously, do go read the piece on good. and while it's a little bit hard to take someone named taffy seriously, don't be put off by that. it's definitely worth reading.

* * *

is this the perfect american roadtrip?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

silent stories, waiting to be told

out of the blue by kirill golovchenko
when i read about the photography triennial that's on right now in hamburg, i remembered another photography exhibition i saw at hamburg's deichtorhallen back in april. it was an exhibition of young european photographers and while much of it looked like trying-too-hard thesis projects that got barely passing grades, there were two young photographers who were doing something that got my attention. one was ukrainian kirill golovchenko. his large piece, composed of smaller photos, out of the blue, photographed on a black sea beach through a bathing ring, was whimsical and touching and with its vintagey treatment, felt like it tapped into something of the instagram-y pulse of our times, while saying something deeper about the culture of leisure time.

out of the blue by kirill golovchenko

out of the blue by kirill golovchenko
it was the first piece you saw as you came into the amazing cathedral-like exhibition space and it warranted a longer look. the girls liked it and stood before it, pointing out various whimsies to one another, for quite some time. i liked it too - plenty of whimsy and a healthy dose of strange-making ostranenie on the typical beach scene, making us see it anew. and what was a panda doing on the beach?

collection by jan brykczynski

the other photographer's work that spoke to me was jan brykczynski from poland. he photographed everyday objects in what once were grand surroundings of a palatial home that had been in his family for years. the obvious grandeur was a bit worn and shabby and the photos evoked those tropes of memory and forgetting that so often speak to me. who knows why these particular objects were collected? the stories behind them are surely long forgotten, but there's something poetic about them photographed individually on the ledge. as an object photographer myself, they spoke to me.

collection by jan brykczynski

collection by jan brykczynski
a number of the works juxtaposed the grand setting to the mundane realities of everyday life in the 21st century. ironing would undoubtedly once have been done by servants and now one must do it oneself, albeit still in the grand surroundings. and while it's not necessarily a photograph i'd like to own, it made me think of the great, sweeping swaths of history blowing through europe (and the world, for that matter), leaving everything changed.

collection by jan brykczynski
i think his work spoke to my inner collector as well. there's just something comforting about the act of gathering like objects and displaying them. the documentation of it. the gathering. the collection of memories. the silent stories, waiting to be told.

books as yet unwritten

a couple of books on denmark by expats (i know, we're not supposed to use that word anymore, thanks to its colonial, possibly racist overtones) have come out recently -  a year of living danishly and the danish way of parenting . both are getting quite a lot of press. and it makes me regret that i've not written more than a string of blog posts in my feeble attempts to understand the danes. however, i think there are still other books to be written. in fact, right now, as we speak, i'm plotting one on the danes' uncanny and impressive ability to drink exactly the right amount to maintain the perfect buzz for 12 hours straight (it's how they get through christmas). i can surely do much better than you suck at drinking, tho' you have to admire a book that advises exactly how much to drink at a children's party...

a bit of tuesday random

i woke up feeling rested. i know that i had long, involved dreams (something about trying to drive a vehicle  up steep cliffs of very loose sand), but it feels like they worked out whatever it was that was going on in my head and i'm feeling calm, relaxed and, dare i say, hopeful. something shifted. a good night's sleep will do that for you.

i had some fun playing with my new little friends motorcycle with sidecar last evening. the sun peeked out for a few minutes at the very end of the day, but the air is disturbingly autumnal for july. we haven't had much of a summer at all and i fear that i will really miss it once autumn starts in earnest. it seems the climate really is changing. it grows harder and harder for meteorologists to predict, at least our danish ones, who have reached new levels (depths?) of sucking at their jobs. i swear they can't predict the weather more than about 5 minutes ahead and even then i have my doubts that they ever take a look out the window. seriously, if we all were that bad at our work, the whole world would grind to a halt.

in my zen, peaceful state of mind, i allowed myself a wander around on freunde von freunden, the marvelous berlin-based lifestyle website. and i find myself wanting to live a more artful, creative life. like these so-called urban nomads in hamburg. i wonder, can you be a rural nomad? don't forget to set one of their mixtapes playing in the background while you browse. it'll help keep that zen feeling...

* * *

modigliani's 1911 sketch of anna akhmatova

"And a lady who calls a great painter a suckling pig can hardly enlighten anyone." - from a marvelous 1975 piece (written originally in 1958 & 1964) on modigliani by the great russian poet anna akhmatova. oh, to have lived then, in those heady, artistic, experimental, avant-garde times of the 1910s.

* * *

some good came of all that wind last week - danish wind farms produced 140% of our electricity needs.

* * *

interesting thoughts on the adult coloring book phenomenon.

* * *

must go back to hamburg before the photography triennial ends.
i especially want to see this satellite exhibition.

* * *

reading this makes me want to go back to seattle. soon.

* * *

Friday, July 10, 2015

pondering the ways of teenagers

teenagers seem a bit like raptors at times
the child came home from italy more of a moody teenager than when she left. i guess two weeks of sunshine and eating real pizza and lying on a beach and staying up too late will do that. she was, in any case, tired and not really that happy to be landed back in this little town in the middle of nowhere. apparently, she's convinced that within her beats the heart of a city girl, or at the very least, the heart of a copenhagen girl (little does she know that copenhagen, with a population of only a little over half a million, isn't really a city in the strictest sense).

over dinner, she expressed dissatisfaction with plans to spend a year in the states (school year 16-17) in the little town where i grew up. apparently going from one middle of nowhere town to another isn't appealing when you're tired and have just been hanging out in italy. but i imagine she'll go willingly when it comes down to it. we may have scared her last week with talk of extreme religious nutcases and long distances to amenities like movies and proper shoe shops and apple stores. but then, i got out of there non-religious and there's always the internet for shopping, so she'll be fine.

initially, her negative reaction to studying for a year in my little hometown hurt. it felt like a rejection of me. i think it's important for her to know her roots - to get to know the extended family still living there and to have a taste of what it means to be a member of our family and to have a sense of groundedness in that place. but then i realized that rejection is a natural part of the rebellion of growing up. and i had to admit that i too cannot imagine ever living there again, so how can i expect her to imagine it, if only for a year?

but i'm also confident that she'll get over it and will undoubtedly want to go and look forward to going. she'll be able to get a driver's license (something she can't do until 18 in denmark, to my great dismay), make new friends, spend time with family, participate in competitive cheerleading (after a year at a gymnastics-focused boarding school, she'll be awesome) and try a whole host of other things that you can only do in a small high school, where the very life of the place is dependent on everyone participating in everything. and she will get in touch with a part of where she comes from. it will undoubtedly be uniquely her own perspective and grounding and that's ok too.

in a few weeks, she's off to boarding school. it's only 30 minutes away and she will come home some weekends. people keep asking us if we're freaking out and sad about it and i keep looking within for those feelings. and they aren't there. i love seeing her taking flight, setting goals, working towards them. it's the natural progression in her growing up into the person she will become. i think i've felt all along that as a parent i'm witness to something magical, but which i have only had the smallest modicum of control over. and i feel privileged to be there for each stage of a natural progression of this amazing child coming into her own. going to the gymnastics boarding school for her final year of primary school is exactly what should happen next. she's ready and so are we.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

crystal knows

i heard about crystal on the note to self podcast (formerly known as new tech city). crystal is an online tool that helps you write better emails, because it runs a profile analysis of the person you're emailing and gives you ideas of the best approach. and what with me being a bit of a geek for such things, i had to sign up to try it out. and in this me-centric era, naturally what i was most interested in was what it would say about me. they want you to sign in with your linked in profile and i believe they use that and possibly a whole lot of other stuff they find via your email address online to analyze you. i had been hoping to directly point it here to my blog, as it's the biggest collection of my writing and surely reveals a lot about me. but even just using linked in, i think it's pretty accurate.  here's what it advises about me.

for the most part, i can recognize myself in these statements, tho' i'm less keen on emails that are full of abbreviations than it indicates and if you spell "you" with the just the letter "u" forget about it! i don't think i'll extend my crystal profile beyond the 14 day trial (where i expect that you probably have to pay for the service), but i like the idea of it. maybe someday such tools will be built right into our gmail and we'll all start to communicate much more effectively (hint, hint, google, you should buy this start-up).

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

photo pessimism

my friend shelly recently wrote a piece on "the one" - one of her photographs that represented a breakthrough or a turning point in her photography. bill asked me, a few months ago, whether i thought my photos had a look to them that defined them as mine. i've actually been pondering that question ever since and i'm not sure i have an answer for it. i'm inspired by other people's photography and so i'm not sure that my own photos have a look that's uniquely mine. and i don't really think there's one that's The One. maybe all of these years of taking a daily photo have actually had no effect on me whatsoever. perhaps in this digital age, where we can take a dozen or 100 shots to get one we like, the endless duplication dilutes and leaves us with no photos that really matter. or perhaps i'm just pessimistic because the weather has turned cold, blustery and rainy once again and i have about a zillion strawberries to pick and the weather is too crap to do it.

Monday, July 06, 2015

mental tricks and mind games

i had to take a logic assessment this morning. it was timed and i knew i had to be in the right frame of mind for it. the results are important to a potential job i'd like to have. i'm good at this sort of test - the kind of questions where you're presented with a series of figures and asked to choose the next one in the sequence or where you're asked to display your knowledge of shades of meaning by choosing opposites from a list of abstract words. so, fortified with a cup of tea and sitting up straight in my chair, hair pulled back neatly, i donned a pair of pretty high heels and took the test. yes, you read that correctly. and yes, i believe it helped me. my inner feminist would like to say such measures aren't necessary, but i believe they are. dressing the part - smart, businesslike, put together - is important to setting the right frame of mind, getting in the zone. and if it takes a pair of heels? so be it.

* * *

speaking of mind games, what's going on in greece, with their resounding rejection of EU terms for restructuring their debt and this morning's resignation of finance minister yanis varoufakis is a fascinating game of cat and mouse. or perhaps it's more like the roadrunner and wile e. coyote - with the anvil crashing down on merkel's head as greece races free and looks back with a grin. maybe it's just that i tend to admire the underdog, but i can't help but think greece was right to push back. 

nearly two decades ago i spent a lot of time in greece as the euro prepared to launch. even then, on the streets of thessaloniki, it was an open secret that they had fudged their numbers to make the cut. everyone knew, including and especially the powers that be in the european union, but they let them join anyway. what's happening today is just the natural progression of those early decisions, for which germany and the greater EU bear as much responsibility as greece does. it will be interesting to see how the mind games unfold, tho' if the bullied resignation of the truth-telling varoufakis is any indication, it's going to get ugly before it's over. he was the only one of the whole lot of them who actually had an education in economics.  for more, go read krugman's analysis. i also liked this piece about him in the guardian.

* * *

have you seen my latest post on #stuckinplastic?
it seems like every time i write for them, i take a trip down memory lane.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

vikings and bunkers and dinos, oh my!

hmm, it seems they can help out if it's for their own end-of-the-school-year party. 

a dino spotting in the pathetically small corn across the way.
it's been so cold, the corn wasn't happy.
but a few days of sunshine and it's already double this size.

husband and my cousin try out a viking game.

i swear i don't remember that many bunkers at søndervig strand.
i wonder if some of them have risen up out of the sand.

and a raptor chomps a flower in the golden hour.

and we wished upon paper balloons instead of 4th of july fireworks.

gorgeous naturally-dyed yarn and fabrics at the viking market.
it was too hot for me to be tempted to buy any.

summer has come at last and around here it's been filled with an end-of-the-school year party, a visit from family that ended up rather viking-themed, a stroll on the west coast, lots of ice cream, playing cards, doing puzzles and drinking wine until the wee hours. oh, and a few dinosaurs, just for good measure.  and boy, have the strawberries started to come on! they were clearly happy to have some sunshine and warm temperatures as well. i've been juicing and freezing and quite literally spent hours today picking. luckily, i had a helper - molly the garden cat.

tho' things tend to slow down during the danish summer, the week ahead promises good things. and even more strawberries.