Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 :: it was the best of the times, it was the worst of times

january - i was recovering nicely from my december back surgery and getting back to work. it wasn't quite full time, but i still managed to spend a week at a shipyard in gdansk. and while frosty, dark january at the shipyard where the solidarity movement was born may not sound like heaven, it was pretty close for a ship geek like me. and since i'd never been to poland before, i also added a new country to the list. and a couple of new dresses from cos to my wardrobe.

february - the physiotherapist okayed me to begin going to yoga and i found a great studio, where i began to practice yin yoga and chandra hot yoga. it was great to feel in touch with my body for the first time in years. the drink & draw girls and i had a creative weekend getaway together on fyn. i ordered a big batch of seeds for the garden. sabs and her friend emma came along with me to copenhagen, where they hung out a bit with me at work and came to the conclusion that all we do all day is talk, laugh and eat cake. some days, that's true.

march - i was officially back at work full time and off to a running start. a film shoot involved a shiny new truck in the scottish highlands and the very beginning of what would be the biggest (literally) project of the year. i tried out my new zoom lens on the full moon and crossed storebæltsbro multiple times. a friend helped us create a little willow circle in the garden - the beginnings of a magical little living place to sit and contemplate the garden. husband's endless building projects continued.

april - husband chopped down our ailing cherry tree, but he has saved the wood and will make beautiful things from it. we said a proper goodbye to the tree which had housed sabin's swing when we moved here and which had patiently given climbing lessons to countless kittens. a photoshoot at the white cliffs of dover (another first visit), tea at the sanderson, and witnessing the ringing of bells in a london church tower were all memorable moments. i took a ceramics class and even managed to make a few things. my inner ship geek was indulged and i even went to brussels for the first time (tho' i didn't manage to include a photo of that in this mosaic).

may - husband made his first of may political debut. the first batches of kittens were born, we attended several confirmation parties, had a successful spring exhibition, and generally enjoyed the brilliant green of the beech trees and lilacs in bloom. there was stitching and plenty of coffee.

june - started off with a whirlwind photoshoot on board pearl and then a dash to gothenburg (another first visit) to film for a couple of days at the terminal there. we celebrated midsommer with wish lanterns, enjoyed the kittens, made art and watched sabin "graduate" from her efterskole. so bittersweet - as she loved her year there and grew so much both inside and out. our dark blue bricks arrived and they matched the ship!

july - found me at a shipyard in bremerhaven, where we lengthened a ship. yup - they cut it in half floated in a new bit, put the front back and welded it all together. the garden began to produce in earnest, giving us the first sweet carrots and broad beans for our favorite broad bean hummus. kittens and berries and poppies made it seem like summer. a quick day's getaway to fanø, where we rented bikes and ate bakskjuld (dried, smoked fish) in the sunshine.

august - we sent the child off to my hometown in the states for a year of high school in the early days of august. her friends and sisters came along to the airport to say goodbye. i flew off the same day to check on the progress of our big project. then there was a dash down to dover for a drone shoot in perfect weather. mid-august saw the reveal of our very big lego ship - so big it's a world record! then i came home to enough plums to make a tart and cows in the pasture. we had a team getaway to hamburg that made for some very nice days.

september - added two new countries to the list with a trip to the baltics. i'd been in lithuania a few years ago, but never vilnius, which is a gorgeous city that i definitely want to go back to. then i added latvia and estonia as well - driving a good 1200km in total over a week, chasing the world's biggest lego ship on her tour. when i got home, we sent our pigs to the butcher and filled the freezer and the freezers of all of our friends for the winter. and as always, i enjoyed the company of cats on my blissful weekends at home in the countryside.

october - lego loomed large in october with visits to lego world in utrecht and brick live in birmingham. i went to more lego events this year than when i worked for lego! and it was very healing. moments when i wasn't traveling were spent in the garden - our late raspberries were producing and we ate kale by the colander full. molly is my garden cat and helps me whenever i'm there. i made a small batch of ruby red jelly from the entire harvest from the crab apple tree. i really feel my life these days affords me the best of both worlds...spending the week in copenhagen or traveling and my weekends at homes with husband, cats and the garden. it's bliss, i tell you.

november - the november days were dark. i stayed home the day after the election, sick of heart, curled in the fetal position in tears of disbelief. i vowed to wear black the rest of the month, but had to admit that most of my wardrobe is dark blue. and november wasn't all sad, as our ship visited trafalgar square and i went on a filming mission to paris (my first time there). i ended the month with the best night's sleep i'd had in months on board ark dania, as we made another film there. there was also great comfort in charlie's sweetest batch of kittens yet. oh, and in the states, the child got her driver's license!

december - the comfort of kittens. christmas and anniversary parties, the culmination of a whole year's efforts. the highest highs and the lowest lows. seeing the child and spending christmas with her was wonderful. a last christmas with mom knowing our names, while i wanted it to be wonderful, in the end it wasn't. it was heart-breaking and painful and so very hard. 2016, you definitely had a cruel side. but it must mean that 2017 can only be better!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

ruin porn :: the beauty and the sadness

we explored this old house four years ago when we were here. i'm thinking a lot about decay these days - there is beauty in it, but also sadness and sorrow. think of the memories, lying dormant in these peeling walls - memories of children's laughter and running footsteps, of family meals, of fights and prayers and love and frustrations, triumphs and tragedies. this house was surely a witness to it all, a silent, stoic, untelling witness.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

sugar kittens

they say it's going to be a white christmas in the black hills, with snow beginning mid-afternoon on christmas eve and continuing on to christmas day. so, i leave you with visions of sugar plum snow white kittens, dancing in your heads. merry christmas, one and all.

Monday, December 19, 2016

it's all about the food

a note actually sent to my sister a few days ago...posting it here to give you insight into how my brain functions. and also to serve as grocery list/memory, since this blog is where i keep my memory.

and here is the mail in its entirety (with capital letters stripped for the blog and slight edits for the sake of humor):


anyway, I was pondering our menu for the cabin.

we should try one of those local dive burger joints the night we get there.

december 24:

breakfast: if we're going skiing, something quick - i saw a yummy-looking overnight french toast bake thing that someone posted on FB, making it the night before means we pop it in the oven, eat and run. At the speed of panicked turtles.

- oyster stew
- nice sandwiches with good bread (that asiago bread you mentioned sounds good, but we can also make bread - we will need posh cold cuts/nice (read: not iceberg) lettuce, tomato, aioli, fixins to go with them)
- risengrød (i have already bought rice, which i'll bring along) with cinnamon sugar and butter for the nisse and oyster-stew haters and to have something danish for the child and her far.
- snacks to graze upon: bacon-wrapped dates, veggies/dip, possibly some nice fruit sliced up.
- potato leek soup
- croutons/oyster crackers
- wine, port, cocktail fixins

- hot chocolate, hot toddies and christmas cookies/candy - we can set the kids to making candy/cookies, child labor is underrated today

december 25:

- you are the waffle queen, so I place you in charge of this, but we need bacon and syrup and possibly some kind of fruit compote and whipped cream to accompany our waffles.
- also, mimosas, because it's obvious that we need to start drinking early. i can be in charge of the compote.

- beef wellington
- green bean casserole
- hasselbagt potatoes or flødekartofler
- a christmasy salad (think citrus fruit, red cabbage, pomegranate and black currant vinegar)
- kale? spinach? you can never have too much of either of those
- sauce (husband is in charge, because it will help him over/provoke his PTSD over the first thanksgiving he came to the states and was placed in charge of the gravy)
- dessert? cranberry tart with white chocolate (see pinterest)
- risalamande (husband wants this traditional danish christmas dessert and I'm sure S will too)
- nigella's log-looking roulade (see above)

- wine, port, cocktail fixins

snacks: chex mix, more bacon-wrapped dates (you can never have too many), olives, cheese, veggies, dip (there will be whining if we don't have snacks)

december 26:

breakfast: ? (i'm on strike.)

packed lunch: big loaf of bread that we hollow out and stuff all of the leftovers into, then slice into slices to be eaten at lunchtime.

that's what i've got...


what will you eat at christmas?

christmas is coming

christmas is coming. and we'll spend it in the states for the first time in a decade. hard to believe it's been that long. our bags are nearly packed and the laundry is nearly done. dinners are made from what's left in the refrigerator. i'm looking very much forward to seeing the child and i think she can't wait to see us. we've found a beautiful place to spend christmas and i'm hoping we will make good memories there. loads of good food, wine, games, skiing and fun are on the agenda. i go with an open heart, together with the person who loves and supports me most in the whole world. and i am hoping for good times and laughter. and making memories that will sustain us in the years ahead. 

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an interesting take on helping ease the pain of alzheimer's
which is all-too-painfully of interest to me these days.

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need a new podcast?
you can also find one here. or here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

two grand old ladies meet

this grand lady is 27 years old. while it would be nice to be that young again from my perspective, it's pretty old for a ship, but she's in beautiful shape and carries 1800 pax daily between oslo and copenhagen. and i was standing quayside with camera in hand this beautiful winter morning in copenhagen - just a couple of grand old ladies, meeting at the docks.

Monday, December 12, 2016

swan lake

already last night, i could hear the cacophony down on the lake. tho' birds are normally quiet at night, when it's time for the migrating swans to make their yearly winter stop on our lake, they do not come quietly. i don't know if they don't fly together, so they have much to discuss when they see one another or if it's the swan equivalent of "are we there yet" from the younger, grey ones to the adults. the whole bevy of them lifted noisily off in groups as i approached with my camera and so i didn't manage to get a shot that i really liked.

there's only one first time

when i was in paris a few weeks ago, i was thinking about how you only get one first time experience of anything. it was quite remarkable, as i walked down a wide boulevard in montparnasse, to look up and see the eiffel tower glowing ahead of me (this photo above is when i got a bit closer). i had a little moment of thrill, thinking consciously, "this is my very first look at the eiffel tower." despite being late in november, it was a balmy, autumnal evening and i just kept walking towards the tower as it shone brightly above the city. finally, my feet were tired and i was hungry, so i popped into a restaurant for oysters and foie gras and a glass of sancerre. it felt suitably parisian and worthy of a first paris experience.

i had a similar moment of conscious thrill as i looked out over the cranes of what's now called remontova shipyard in gdansk, but which were surely once the cranes that the members of the solidarity movement operated as they helped bring down the iron curtain. the peaceful morning, the dusting of snow, and the cold, crisp air, filled with the musical clangs of a busy shipyard.

and at that same shipyard in poland, i stood underneath a ship for the first time. i'd been at yards before, but never down in the dock, underneath the ship itself. it happened again later in the summer in bremerhaven, but it didn't quite match the awe of that first time, standing underneath pearl in gdansk.

i'm not sure if i even know why or how the white cliffs of dover have the mystique they have, but they do. the town of dover isn't much, but the cliffs are spectacular. i saw them twice this year and they were a bit more glorious in august sunshine than they were in april, but there is still only one first time.

i went to brussels about a month after the bombing of brussels airport. the square was still filled with these tributes and i was quite overwhelming, standing there, looking at all that evidence of love and sorrow both. not a moment i will likely repeat.

so many first visits this year. gothenburg in sweden was new for me. i strolled around the port area on the gorgeous summer evening when i arrived, eventually going back to the hotel for dinner, which isn't something i normally like to do, but this was an exceptional meal. i think it was not only the delicate light flavor of perfectly cooked, lemony sole, but it was also the midsummer light. they combined to make it a memorable first experience.

i spent quite a lot of time at a shipyard in bremerhaven. we ate ate at every restaurant along the old riverfront, eventually concluding that they all shared the same kitchen. but balmy summer nights and the beauty of all those cranes, made for an experience that undoubtedly will not be duplicated.

i'd been in klaipeda before, but it felt very changed. and i'd never seen vilnius or kaunas. the weather was spectacular. i would love to go back, restore this old waterfront warehouse, opening something, b&b, creative workspace for artists. we'd just have to leave those braces in place, because i'm fairly certain they're holding it all together.

the lovely, winding streets of tallinn old town were a first. i want to paint something that color blue. i fear a bit that my first impression of tallinn was tainted by all that i'd heard of it before i went (funny how that hadn't happened with paris), and i somehow felt a little let down. i think it's because all of the shops felt like they were filled with the same things and i had thought it would be this magical place, full of unique artisanal items. but alas, the same linen and wrought iron and knitted woolens filled every shop. the food was great and the winding streets charming.

a sunset on board a ship in the north sea. that was a first. and the best night's sleep i had all year. that's an experience i'd very much like to try again. but alas, you can only have one first time.

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i forgot to tell you about totally lost
check out my albanian bunkers, but do stay and poke around a bit.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

they say we need to speak it out loud

i didn't realize it, but the signs were already there two years ago. my mother's obsession with the notion that someone would steal her purse was a sign. i remember how utterly bewildered i felt. here was my mother, who drove me and my horses on threadbare tires all over a 7-state region, by herself, walking a mile once in the dark beside a pitch black interstate to get help when something broke down, leaving her sleeping children in the back of the pickup and the horses stomping in the trailer, munching on hay as she set off into the starlit night, semi trailers lumbering past, shaking the whole vehicle. and she came back with help and we were on our merry way, none the wiser to the stop in the night. that fearless, fierce woman, suddenly afraid the aggressively perfect (and quite attractive) danish father, leaning on his volvo in his mads nørgaard clothes, waiting for his 12-year-old and her friends to leave the one direction concert, was going to reach in the window and steal her over-stuffed with snacks and kleenex bulging no-brand midwestern purse. um, what? i was confused. frustrated. and a little bit pissy.

the way she kept getting lost in our house. seriously. it's one story, it's the shape of an H and we're honestly only using the middle and the right half of it, it's not difficult. the way she wandered away in the middle of the party, missing all of the toasts and speeches. i thought she was just badly-indoctrinated into the social mores i had taken to me like water to a sponge. or perhaps that she had just been badly raised and i never noticed. (watching americans eat, all fork and no knife, can make you think that.)

i don't know why i didn't realize it then. her mother had alzheimer's as well. but it didn't really occur to me at the time. i chalked it up to the ridiculousness of the morning news in the headlines about the latest scams and calamities that make you tune in again after the commercial. that could make anyone fearful.

and i felt sad that the woman who i felt taught me my very fearlessness (which is one of my biggest sources of pride) had become some inexplicably fearful. how could this happen? and seriously, who thinks that someone will steal their purse on a plane? where would they go with it, honestly? but i know now that it was a sign. it was the big a, the scarlet letter, of a much more sinister sort. she will eventually be stripped of everything she once was...fearless, funny, active. she, who got her motorcycle driver's license at 60, and began pistol shooting lessons at 70, will lose everything of who she was.

and i don't know what to do or think or feel. the whole gamut of emotions courses through me...sadness, impatience, anger, and yes, fear...what if it happens to me? can i do anything to prevent it. i'm terrible at names, is that a sign? i occasionally struggle to find a that a sign? i switch subjects and can be moody...are they signs? is it all downhill from here for me as well? will i recognize it, if it is? she doesn't, which is both a source of frustration and a blessing. but how can you not? when you are a navel gazer like me, don't you know? is she really hiding from herself at that level?

i fear that maybe she is. i don't know where i got it, but my notion that an unexamined life is not worth living clearly did not come from my mother. i fear i may have actually gotten it from madonna. which is surely the stuff of a separate blog post.

does she know deep down? does she feel the fog descending? does she understand? or is she really blissfully unaware? is that one of the symptoms? so many questions. and we are only just beginning to look for answers.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

happy would-have-been-83rd birthday, dad

my dad would have been 83 today if he hadn't left us a little over two years ago. there's still a big ralph-sized hole in our lives. i would love to have talked to him about the recent election. i would love for him to be there for the child to get to know better as she spends what seems to be a rocky year in a poisoned trump-infested atmosphere in my little hometown. i would like to discuss the changing seasons in the garden with him. and i would like to consult him about the road we are facing ahead with mom. i feel a little bit abandoned by him, if i'm honest. and i kind of would like to yell at him about that.

he would be glad mom sold her horses and has gotten rid of all those cats. but he wouldn't be happy about the signs of her decline and they probably started even before he was gone. and i suppose there's nothing he could do about it, any more than than there's anything we can do about it, aside from watch it happen.

i'd like to think he would approve of the solution we've arrived at for christmas - renting a cabin (that's really more of a huge house) in the black hills, to gather together, no internet, and try to have a last, good christmas together. one with plenty of good food, games and laughter. hopefully also some sledding and snowboarding and skiing. and plenty of cocktails and wine. i suspect we're going to need the cocktails and wine.

and speaking of cocktails, here's to dad's birthday. we miss you, dad, more than we can say.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

peak cuteness

we've had a lot of cute kittens around here, but this batch is exceptional. charlie has really outdone herself. i'm doing my best to enjoy every second with them. especially that little miniature polar bear there guarding my iPad. he's a real corker.

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this gives me hope.
tho' i still find twitter pretty unbearable these days.

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and this less so.

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still thinking about memory.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

african violets

as the fog began to descend on my grandmother, she began to hoard kleenex and african violets. she bought boxes in every shape, color, pattern and size. and the african violets bloomed their little hearts out under special lamps in her basement apartment. and i don't think i really noticed that her mind was slipping, even though i should have been old enough to realize. she still made tea when i came over and 15 kinds of christmas cookies during december and a sunday roast that was so tender it fell apart and didn't need to be cut with a knife. she was still my grandma and i don't recall any of the adults around me ever talking about her plight in my presence. maybe it was just seen as a normal part of the aging process in those days. i do remember her in the nursing home towards the end. how childlike she seemed, how innocent somehow. but how hard it was to visit her and know she didn't recognize me. and what a relief it was in a sense when her time finally came, and she was released from the bondage of the fog. from a life that was no longer a life.

months later, i had a vivid dream of her. we had tea together, using her chinese tea set, that we had used so many times for tea parties in my childhood - dragons on the small cups and saucers, ombre grey to black color on the pot. we laughed and played tea party, just as we always had. and she told me, looking straight into my eyes, that she was ok. and i always felt it as the goodbye i didn't have the chance to have with her fogged-in self. it felt so vivid and real and vital and warm. it really was goodbye and i really think that she was there in my dream - the real, whole essence of her. 

i think i need an african violet.

* * *

a tragic ending to a unusual and artistic life.