Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The War Zone

What a dramatic title! I am not referencing the Gaza situation or the brutal ravaging the apartment in currently experiencing (at the hands of moving tenants and home improvement efforts) but what sounds like a luftwaffe raid outside my window.

It's New Year's Eve. I am used to the idea that you don't set off your fireworks until midnight. But I guess people want to play with them now.

Actually, they've been playing with them for days. I was awoken this morning to the BOOM of what is either a large loud firework going off nearby, or artillery fire.

As I sit here right now at 7:25 pm, my typing is punctuated by the pop pop pop of fireworks. Or possibly rifles.

No, this is Denmark. It must be fireworks.

Seriously though, it sounds like a History Channel special or an episode of Band of Brothers.

Pop pop poppety pop BAM poof bang BOOM!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Disaster in the Kitchen

Christmas dinner went so well! Yeah, I forgot to serve the cranberry sauce until the next day, but whatever. We also were too stuffed for several days before we managed to cut into the pecan pie.

At which point we discovered the disaster lurking in the kitchen.

The pie did not set.

At all.

I spooned the syrup out of the pan and we now have candied pecans sticking to a flaky crust. It's not bad, but it is most certainly NOT pecan pie.

My husband almost got himself wished into the cornfield after implying that I had somehow followed the recipe incorrectly. He then tried to redeem himself by suggesting that the recipe itself was wrong. However, it came from a site where comments are allowed, and no one in the comment section had said anything about their pie not setting. It's not the recipe and I followed that recipe to the letter.

There is the curious substitution I had to do, using a sugar-beet based syrup instead of corn syrup. But I have it on fairly good authority that this is the best substitution of corn syrup one can have: the internets and personal experience. I use the darker syrup to make gingersnaps and it works perfectly as a molasses substitute. I'm pretty sure this is not the culprit.

I think what happened is that the center of the pie never did get hot enough. The wretched oven failed me. I think the pecans formed a barrier that kept the heat from penetrating the pie. The pecans began to burn and I had to remove the pie from the oven at just over the time suggested by the recipe. I think I should have kept the pie in the oven for at least another hour, but with the heat off. The residual heat might have been able to get into the pie and do that voodoo that they call "chemistry" and turn the syrup mixture into the jelly-like substance that makes pecan pie "pie" and not candied pecans in a baked crust. Notably, the sugar in the liquidy mess were still granular, indicating that they had not melted and mixed into the rest of the filling.

Yes, I analyze my failures in the kitchen. I'd hate to repeat a disaster because I didn't bother to figure out what went wrong the first time.

It'll be a while before I get the chance to try pecan pie again, though. Pecans are not a common nut in Denmark and so you can only get small bags of organic pecans at ridiculous prices. This was a very expensive disaster I am afraid.

But at least it is still edible. The worst Archaeogoddess kitchen disaster ever was not only inedible, it was horrific in it's intensity of inedibleness. It was a cheap dish, but alas, one of the few things in the house that evening that could be eaten. Then there was the other disaster, but that one was actually edible, even if it took hours for some of the potatoes to cook. You can actually eat raw potatoes, they aren't that great, but they can be eaten if you are hungry enough. It took days of reheating the leftovers before finally most of the potatoes were cooked. Even the last bite was partially raw. Gah.

Speaking of kitchen disasters, I have to rustle something up for tonight's grub. I miss my Christmas left overs! Why is it that when you are little, the left overs go on and on and on and you can't wait for the day when you get something other than turkey for dinner? I made a mountain of food and it was gone in THREE DAYS!! I don't think I'm married to a human being, I think I am married to a black hole. We go through a huge amount of food and yet no one is getting that much fatter. Okay, I'm a bit padded around the middle at the moment, but we ate a 6 pound duck in THREE DAYS! Six pounds of duck, two celeriac roots (over a pound each I'm sure), three pounds of sweet potatoes with marshmallows, a pound of cranberry sauce, twelve biscuits, four cups of gravy, and 8 cups of ris a la monde! Not to mention my personal intake of three dozen gingersnaps.

The One Hundredth Post!

Good golly geez - I've actually managed to write 100 posts. Who would have thought? Especially since I was a lousy blogger in the beginning.

Samuel Pepys I am not.

My diary from my childhood include an entry on the day I received it as a present and once again about the Summer Olympics - spelled "olimpeks" I think. I got another diary years later, this one without dates (a very good plan since consistency is NOT my middle name). It records more of my life, in that it mentions things that happened in the world that I felt were of historical importance, such as the OJ Simpson car "chase," but not my feelings on the matter. It reads a bit like a history book. Why did I record world events? As if somehow if I didn't write them down the world would forget?

So obviously I am not a natural blogger.

Yet over the last few months I have become rather prodigious in my writings. Partially because I find it much easier to write the blog than the dissertation. I may spend all day working on one paragraph, checking footnotes, trying to think of a much jazzier word than "thing" and trying to write academically.

Something that also does not come easy to this archaeogoddess.

I find that it's rather nice to see the words flying out from my fingertips, even if it's just my ramblings on what I cooked in the kitchen the other night. There is a sense of accomplishment, from the cooking, but also the telling of the cooking, and the act of telling anything, anything at all!

It's rather funny because I can and do write ridiculously long emails. This has a downside, in that I will write lots and lots about my life to one person and then not realize that only ONE person received that email and therefore NO ONE else knows anything about what I'm doing. I then make a reference to what I'm up to and suddenly people are saying "you didn't tell me that!" I can't keep track of who've I've told what to. It's a good thing I'm not a lying sort of person, because I would never be able to keep my stories straight. As it is I keep telling the same people the same jokes and then not telling other people those jokes at all. I'm convinced that there are people out there who feel I'm a dreadful bore who keeps telling the same stories again and again and others that think I am an intensely private person because I never tell them anything.

Experts have wondered why blogging is so popular. Why do people feel the need to express and flaunt their inner selves to an anonymous public? Google "why do people blog" if you don't believe me. Hey, I know how to back up my statements! I am a foot-note fetishist!! I have not read all of the various reasons people blog, but I have my own theory.

Well, duh, of course I have my own theory. I blog, so I must think about why I do so.

I fall into the group of people who blog to "document their life." This includes the use of the blog to not only record one's existence, but to also inform family or friends of what's going on. In my life, I would probably not blog if I lived in the same home town with all of my family and friends. There would be no need, because I would be able to talk to these people frequently and easily. If I lived in say, a typical small town setting, everyone would know what I was up to anyway, so there would be no reason to write any of it down. But in this global age, when people travel and move far and wide and we lose that sense of community in the place where we live, we create new communities on the internet.

As a Romanist, I love that we call these places "forums" - it tickles my fancy.

I'm not big on joining the forums though. They require constant supervision if you want to maintain a conversation. I don't really have that kind of time and energy. It's like trying to maintain a large circle of friends. I really can't do it. The people I consider friends are the ones who can not hear from me in a while and who KNOW it's not because I'm pissed off with them or have dropped them for other people, but because I've gotten distracted by a new research problem or forgotten the date or something else silly, but not malicious.

Heck, I'm still trying to remember to blog about my successful attempt at Chinese food. I'll get to it one of these days. Really. I'm pretty sure.

Until then I'll try to keep up with the random events of my life. Not that there really are any, but the things that pass for events in my life. And any random thoughts I may have. And definitely more about food. I really really love to write about food and cooking. It's not so much about documenting my life as my stomach. But whatever. It's my blog.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Decline of Civilization

Honestly now, how many times have *you* wanted to shoot the a$$hole who keeps yakking in the movie theatre? I admit, I was kinda cheering, just a little, inside.

But then James lost my admiration when it was revealed he was carrying his fire arm "clipped inside his sweatpants."

Whip your concealed weapon out of your purse, boot, movie-style holster (although that wouldn't be that concealed) or something other than your sweatpants that you threw on because you were too lazy to dress before you left the house. I mean, really! Can you see the thought process there: "Geez, it's Christmas and I'm bored. I know! I'll go see a movie! Hmm, I don't want to have to put on real pants... oh, almost forgot my .380! Boy, would that have been embarrassing!!"

Was he planning on holding up a store on the way home or just worried that the roving bands of thugs that populate the streets ready to take Christmas toys away from youngsters might try to steal his sweatpants?

I suppose I could be really charitable and say that he was prepared to protect the youngsters from the thugs... Or maybe that's just my imagination working over-time.

Well, let that be a lesson to all you would be Sopranos out there (really, check out James's mug-shot), don't shoot the guy, just call the manager. And for those who would DARE talk during a movie, shut the f#ck up, because someone in the audience may be packin' heat.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We celebrated last night, as all Danes do. In fact, all of Denmark was at home between 6 and 10. I know, my husband, driving his taxi found the streets deserted at 6.

Dinner was planned for 8pm and sure enough, it was done at 8pm. Which was a little later than we should have had dinner, what with the streets being empty at 6, but oh well.

I made enough food for 6 people and completely forgot the cranberry sauce, which is still in the fridge. Eh, we'll have it tonight!

I out did myself, truly, with duck and everything. I made my own duck stock to go into the gravy and what with the drippings and the duck fat it was a marvelous gravy. I saved the stock and drippings to make more gravy for the next few nights. A good plan since we have mountains of mashed celeriac. I think I got a bit carried away there. There's still duck and biscuits that can handle the extra gravy that will grace our table for the next few nights and enough sweet potatoes for at least one more meal. Of all the things I have introduced to my husband, the sweet potatoes with marshmallows is by far his favorite.

We also have a huge pot of ris a la monde to get through and a pecan pie that hasn't yet been touched. Ooof, so much food!!

I was glad that my boy went back out for a few hours of taxi work after dinner so I could lay on the couch and digest. I'm wearing my most baggy trousers today, but as I reach for another cookie, I wonder, how much longer can I wear these pants?!?

The dishes are now all washed and the cook books have been put away and I can see my research again, artfully arranged under a tupperware of cookies. I suppose that means the holiday is over and I need to get back to work. I still need to get out my Christmas cards, though. Whoops! I'm becoming my mother in that regard. And I suppose at some point I'll take down the Christmas decorations, but I'd like to leave them up for a bit - I only just got them up two days ago! Christmas was so fast this year, it seems to have come out of nowhere, beat me senseless and left in a huff.

At least it left me plenty of food!

Best to everyone during this mad holiday, wherever you may be!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Eve Day!!

For the feasting tonight (Danes feast on Christmas Eve and then several times again on Christmas Day, but only in the morning and afternoon) - the Duck Is In The Oven.

I repeat: The Duck Is In The Oven.

Six hours of roasting. Two down, four to go. I'm going to have lunch and then start prepping the rest of the food.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Christmas marathon cooking event of the year!

Alright, it needs a snappier title, but it pretty much covers my life right now.

Christmas has been sort of un-cancelled in that I'm making enough food for ten and if my husband gets home soon we may be able to go buy a tree! Whoot!

Yesterday I baked approximately 11 dozen gingersnaps. It took hours. Only one dozen were crispified by the wonky oven, so I'm eating those first. I also removed the labels of 3 cases of wine and applied new labels to those bottles plus another case of wine that was already label-less. That doesn't have anything to do with cooking or Christmas, but it was something that needed to be done.

I live in a weird world where wine goes from point A to B to C, stopping sometimes to be relabeled and sometimes straight into my belly.

I also wrapped presents. And edited my Christmas letter. Which should have been mailed days ago, but wasn't and now won't get mailed until after Christmas. But hopefully before New Years.

Today I made homemade cranberry sauce, the pecan pie is in the oven, I did my chores (yesterday's cookie mayhem didn't allow for vacuuming), and will put up a Christmas tree and make ris en grøl (rice porridge). We'll eat SOME of the ris en grøl because....

Tomorrow I make ris a l'almonde (Danish Christmas dessert made with left over ris en grøl, so good), roast duck (currently defrosting in the fridge), biscuits, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, salad, celeriac mash, duck gravy, and oh, no, that's it.

Somehow this meal must all be done at about the same time - 9 ish - using a wonky oven.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Happy Holidays Everyone!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas shopping

Well, due to abject poverty and the news that we need to come up with 58,000 danish crowns for my residency, my husband and I cancelled Christmas.

However, no one else did. I was all for telling people we were really canceling Christmas and not buying anyone anything, but that's an apparent "no-can-do" around here, which means we still have to buy Christmas presents. My husband's brother, bless him, who we always split the cost of presents with 2/3 to his 1/3, told us to never mind buying him something and that we can do 50/50 and we should try to go on the low end of the budget.

So by "canceling Christmas" all we've really accomplished is that we are not traveling this year and my husband is going to work Christmas Eve in the taxi.

I'm pretty sure I can make a Christmas out of that. I can make a festive meal. I could probably even decorate a bit. I need to find myself a Christmas tree....

Anyway, every year my husband's grandmothers ask for the same thing: stationary. This is because they are convinced that this is a cheap and easy gift to get. The reason they keep asking for it each year - it is not easy to get. Stationary is no longer sold in Denmark.

Okay, I exaggerate, but only slightly. The only place I've ever found stationary was in the kiosk in Ebeltoft. Which means a late night drive out to Ebeltoft tonight or tomorrow night to buy it.

Meanwhile, I have wandered all over Arhus, into book stores, hobby stores (oh wondrous hobby stores!), and stationary stores. And by "stationary stores" I mean the stores that sell fancy pens, fancy paper, photo albums, scrap books, organizers, cards... but no actual stationary.

I mean, in America we have stores dedicated to the stuff! Of course, if I could think about these things enough in advance, I could have ordered on-line. This is what actually bothers me, every year when Christmas suddenly looms on the horizon - I *know* what the Grandmas want and I forget to do something about it! Every year!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Yes, I did pay attention to the History Channel

You paid attention during 100% of high school!
 

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Take More Quizzes



I rock. Heh heh heh.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some really good days!!

After the lethargy and depression that was Thursday afternoon, Thursday night turned out to be just right.  Once that pitiful excuse for the sun set (at 4:30, mind you) and then once my brain decided that it could in fact agree with the light to time ratio (dark before 8 pm is just WRONG), I found myself typing feverishly.  

And what I wrote was good.

This is important.  I can write a lot of words - I'm a fairly competent typist and can hammer the keys at an acceptable speed, but I cannot guarantee quality to go with the quantity.  More than once I have caught myself writing the same sentence again and again with slight variations in vocabulary to make a paragraph.  Then I read over it and proclaim "this sucks!" and I start again.  I have days where I have re-written the same paragraph again and again.  Thankfully, Thursday ended up not being one of those days.

My husband then returned from his "internship retreat" where all the journalist interns from his year were rounded up and babbled at for a day and a half.  He had the rest of Friday off and that meant that he was in the office doing his thing and keeping me from doing mine.  

Fortunately, I had planned for this.  I was determined to try to make pumpkin pie and Friday was a very good day for it.  No one else was around and I could make as big a mess as I wanted.  Which I did, because making a pumpkin pie from scratch is a messy affair.

How "from scratch" was it?

I started with a light blue pumpkin and a bag of flour.  That's how "from scratch" it was.  I had to boil and mash the pumpkin before I could even begin to make the pie filling.  I also had to make the pie crust.

The pumpkin I used is the one on the left.  That's a Queensland blue pumpkin.  Note the amazingly thick rind and flesh of that pumpkin.  Do you know how hard it is to cut through all that?  This is why you do not make jack-o-lanterns out of any old type of pumpkin nor do you use jack-o-lantern pumpkins to make pies.  This is important to know since you need to make a lot of pumpkin mash to make your pie filling from scratch.  You want to buy a pumpkin with this amount of orange fleshy bits.  My 4 pound pumpkin yielded 6 cups of pumpkin mash.  A regular old sugar pumpkin weighing 4 pounds will only give you 1.5 cups.  You need 2 cups of mash to make a pie.

Full disclosure: I had no idea if I bought the right kind of pumpkin when I picked this one up.  I just knew I didn't want to buy the jack-o-lantern or decorative pumpkin.  This one said "good for soups and baking" on the label.  

It took me a good half hour to hack this one into chunks to be boiled.  Then I had to remove the rind.  Then I had to mash it.

Meanwhile, I am always being told by cooking shows and cook books that there is no excuse for not making your own pie crust and that they are SO EASY.  They are wrong.  It is only easy to make pie crust if you have a Kitchen Aid Artisan Mixer with a pastry attachment (aka flat beater).  Blessed be, I do have one of these.  Honestly, this machine has changed my life.  Anyway, you can make pie crusts without this machine, but it is not easy.  It involves cutting butter into flour and then adding small bits of water at a time, mixing but not over mixing the dough etc etc etc.

So, I had made my pumpkin mash and my pie crust, it was then a walk in the park to assemble the rest of the pie.  I think I made my crust a bit thick (i.e. I didn't roll it out thin enough) because not all of the pie filling fit into my pie.  Oh well.  Into the oven it went.

Of the entire process, this was the bit that had me the most concerned.  The oven isn't exactly stable - in many respects.  I tried the old medieval approach.  This is where you fire up the oven as hot as you can get it, then turn it down after you put the food in.  The heat from the oven, originally too hot, will slowly dissipate, but cook your food while it does so.  This way you don't have one heat source burning your food on one end while the other side stays raw.

This actually worked!  And while I was testing the pie for done-ness, I pulled the tray too far out and the whole thing came crashing down.  The pie stayed intact.  So did the door to the oven, strangely enough.  This was proof to me that my baking was done.

The pie sat while we had dinner and then afterwards we whipped up some whipped cream (because whipped cream does not come ready made around here) and dug in.

It was fan-f#cking-tastic.  I haven't had pumpkin pie in donkey's years, so you might suggest that my palate was fooled.  But I'd have to disagree.  Perfect consistency.  Perfect amount of spices.  Naturally sweet (no sugar used in any part of this recipe).  Oh, lordy, it was perfect.

I sang and danced in my chair.  And overate.  Oh well.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A good day.

Maybe I'm nuts.

Yesterday was a beautiful day.  Cold, yes, but the sun was shining and everything glistened from the frost and with all the Christmas decorations up, it was a truly beautiful day.  A day that normal people find impossible not to be out in.  Unless you are me.

I find beautiful days the best for working.

I had the most productive writing day in a long time.  I did go out, I had to deposit a check.  I enjoyed being out.  It was lovely.  But I itched to get back to the keyboard, because I'd had a break through.  I've been stuck on the last section of this chapter and after days of rewriting, it still sucked in the way few things have sucked before.  And suddenly, with the appearance of the sun, all became clear.

And it's not like I'm working in the sun or getting any benefit from the good weather.  My desk is in a little corner of the room, far from the window.  Half the time I miss the weather completely because I can't see it from my desk.  Why is it that on gorgeous days I suddenly find myself in my cubby hole madly writing while other people are suddenly drawn to the outdoors?  It's really traumatic when the Danish Boy has a day off on nice weather days because then he drags me off somewhere and I get nothing done.

It's the cold rainy grey days that are perfect for me to take a day off.  Not that I like going out in the rain, but I find it almost impossible to work.  Today, for instance, is a very cold grey day.  It's so bloody cold that it looks like it snowed, the frost is really really thick and it's covering everything.  Including the underside of things, which snow doesn't normally do.

Kinda stupid for a person who works best in sunny conditions to perpetually live in cold and dark locations, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Is it just me?

When you are out in the cold and walk by a window displaying dummies wearing lingerie, do you feel even colder?

What if the window also was decorated with snow and christmas trees?  And the dummy was wearing a Santa hat.

I took one look at the window and felt my core temperature drop by at least half a degree.

Or is it just me?

A bad day.

Actually, it could have been a really bad day.  Yesterday was just a moderately annoying day.  The kind where you find yourself rather miffed that the whole thing happened and you'd like to do it over but not a go cry yourself to sleep kind of bad day.

It ended in one band-aid, one bruised tendon, a lightly scraped thumb, a lightly scraped heel, some stubbed toes, a couple of lumps on the head, sore body, and exhausted archaeogoddess.

What did I do that caused such injury?  I did the chores.

I fell over the vacuum cleaner several times and once it bit me on the heel, right after it pulled itself out of the wall instead of the cord unwinding from the machine as it normally does.  And this is the machine that likes me.  The old one used to fall to pieces when I approached.  I kept hitting my head on the sloped ceilings as I tried to get into the corners to vacuum and mop.  I cut myself and bruised myself on the washing machine, whose filter was clogged and so would not run properly.  Since I couldn't get the filter to unscrew (resulting in a bruised tendon), I had to manually drain the washing machine every time it was supposed to drain.  Through a little hose at the bottom of the machine.  I sat on the floor in the bathroom for an hour walking that stupid machine through a 20 minute wash.  I moved furniture that had been left all over the place during the roommate shuffle and over exerted myself.

On a normal day I can perform these chores without injury to myself.  I have done all of these tasks without bruising or scraping myself.  I have happily dragged the vacuum to the farther reaches of the room with the cord unrolling itself behind me without having it unplug itself and shoot itself into the back of my leg.

Yesterday was, therefore, not my kind of day.

On a normal day when things go wrong I will just give up and put myself in bed or in front of the TV and wait for the jinx to pass.  But you cannot let the shower curtain and the bath mat stay in the wash until your big strong husband comes home.  Especially if you know the other roommates take showers at night and like to do their laundry when they get home.  You also cannot just stomp off and leave the vacuum in the middle of the floor.

Once there are no more roommates, however, I will do precisely that.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Broadening the horizons with food

Danish food is pretty boring most of the time. Pork and potatoes make up the majority of the cuisine. And then there is the ubiquitous brown sauce. Brown sauce is basically milk with the addition of "brown sauce" which comes in a bottle. I think it's salt, beef stock, cornstarch, and brown food coloring. The exciting food comes out for special occasions. This includes pickled herring and spiced red cabbage.  Danish cuisine is also the only in the world where potato chips are served in a bowl as a side dish.  With a serving spoon!!

There are GREAT danish meals, you just don't see them all that often.

That's probably a good thing, I don't think my arteries would survive long if I kept eating pork with crackling.

So I learned to cook, for survival reasons if nothing else. A person cannot survive on broiled pork, boiled potatoes and brown sauce alone.

Foreign food in Denmark is also kind of a crap shoot. There are immigrants to Denmark and, as can be expected, most nationalities bring their cuisine with them. (This is why the best Indian food you can get outside of India is in England.) You can get pretty good shwarma in Denmark. However, and this is only my theory, you do not get really good foreign cuisine in Denmark because the emphasis on immigration in Denmark is assimilation. "New" Danes often out-Danish the Danish in order to be accepted. Which means the foreign food around these parts gets dumbed down to fit Danish palates. It's probably a good sales tactic, you need to be able to sell your food to the largest customer base, which are "real" Danes, but it means BLAND food.

One of the excuses for piss poor foreign cuisine in Arhus is that it's a small big city. But that's a stupid excuse. Arhus is one of the better cities to get a really good meal in, there are numerous restaurants. But almost all of them serve variations on Danish cuisine. There are also plenty of immigrants and other foreigners, so no shortage of alternative cultures. But when opening a restaurant, it seems that all the spices are thrown out the window. I've had amazingly bland Mexican, Indian, and Chinese food. "Italian" means tomato paste and béchamel sauce, but no Italian sausage or ricotta cheese. It's enough to make a person cry.

So I learned to cook foreign cuisine. Desperation will lead a person to do crazy things. Like walking a mile for ricotta cheese. Back before the supermarket in Ebeltoft started selling ricotta cheese (and when we still lived there), I once drove an hour in each direction for said food item. I really wanted to make lasagna. I also learned to mix my own italian sausage. Yup, I'm nuts.

My Danish boy is reaping the benefit of my endeavors.

Recently I've been craving some down home American food. American cuisine you ask, what's that, burgers and fries? Pshaw, people, ponder for a moment. Cornbread. Biscuits. Anything made in a skillet. Pie.

So there was the fried chicken dinner of a few nights ago. And last night I made biscuits to go with the leftovers.

I can understand that my husband had never eaten cornbread before he met me. But biscuits?!? I can't believe that in the five years we've been together he's never eaten biscuits.

For the record, my husband has now eaten biscuits and he likes them very very much.  Next on my list: stew with dumplings.

And then there were two...

Two roommates gone, two to go.

As people move out they take their stuff with them, which leaves one empty apartment. It's rather odd. Well, not that they take their stuff, that's not odd. What is odd is the stuff left behind. We're discovering what belonged to people and what was considered communal property and what was considered to be crap that no one wants.

The really lovely coffee table did belong to someone. Nuts.

The really crappy couches do not. Drat.

Still, there are two other people that will be moving out, so maybe the couches will go.

The apartment feels very weird at the moment. My office is so completely stuffed with our things and the living room is almost completely bare. It will make for some very easy cleaning.

Once everyone is out we have to fix up the place, while still trying to make mortgage payments, which will be made more difficult because, even though we were getting very little for rent from the tenants, we were at least getting rent. That's all over with now. Now we have to pay back deposits. Ugh, I think we'll be back to cabbage soup soon.

Still, I look forward to finally moving into the big room in the back. We have to remove a partition to make the room one single big space and sand the floor and repaint the trim, but that room will be loads quieter than the room we are currently in. It faces the street and the parking lot where deliveries for the mail and one of the supermarkets arrive at 5:30 in the freakin' morning Monday through Saturday. Hopefully it'll be warmer too. Our current bedroom is in the corner of the apartment and thus has two walls that face the weather. One is just a simple brick wall, no insulation, and so the room just does not keep the heat in. At all. Brrrr.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The other root vegetable

I made some fantastic food last night. We had enough money that I could buy chicken and with my discovery of rasp (bagged bread crumbs) I could make proper fried chicken and sage pan gravy. Yummmmmmm!

Normally you eat this with mashed potatoes. But I have eaten A LOT of potatoes lately and there are other root vegetables out there that can be mashed and eaten.

One of them I've had in very fancy restaurants and I really really like. Celeriac. Or celery root for those who are normal people and not obsessed with root vegetables. I don't recall seeing it in the US, although I'm sure you can get it there. It looks like the brain of a vegetable man. Not exactly a shape to inspire confidence. It also has a very special taste that is not quite completely unlike celery. It does but it doesn't. I really can't be more specific than that.

It is absolutely the best vegetable to have mashed as a side dish for fried chicken with sage pan gravy. Sage pan gravy is the normal gravy that you make after frying chicken in a pan, but with a 3/4 tsp of crushed dried sage added to the flour. If you never knew what to do with the sage you bought to go with your parsley, rosemary, and thyme, now you do.

I didn't make the perfect celeriac mash. It was lumpy and watery. And still tasted so good it brought tears to my eyes. And I told my partner in life that I was the best damn cook in 5 time zones. He didn't argue. Too busy eating.

So here's what I did to make a less than perfect celeriac mash. Hopefully some day I will figure out how to do it a bit better, for aesthetic reasons, if nothing else.

MASHED CELERIAC RECIPE
A pound of celeriac per person is probably correct, as long as you know you all like celeriac. A normal sized head will feed two.
1) Put a pot of water on to boil. You want the water boiling when you throw in the celeriac. Salt the water if you like.
2) Peel the celeriac. You cannot do this with a vegetable peeler. You are going to have to take unbecoming slices with a large knife to remove the very bumpy skin from the celeriac. This is why you need a pound per person, after you peel celeriac there is not a pound per person left. Dirt will probably be everywhere. So rinse the cutting board, the knife and the celeriac.
3) Cut into 1 inch sized pieces. Or whatever size you want. Smaller means it boils through faster, but too small means it will disintegrate when you strain the water out.
4) Boil for 10 minutes or so. Just like you do with potatoes.
5) Drain. Possibly even wait a while. I think I didn't give it enough time to drain - celeriac is less starchy and more watery than potatoes. Celeriac needs it's drain time.
6) Mash with some olive oil. If you are have made gravy, do not add salt to your mash. If you ask your husband to do the mashing, he may at this point complain that it's bland. Tell him to suck it.
7) Serve with a salty gravy. Oh lord have mercy on my taste buds!!

Not what I'm supposed to be doing.

I really ought to be working some more on my dissertation. In fact, every waking moment when I am not cooking or cleaning I am supposed to be working on my dissertation. But today is just not shaping up to be one of those good working days. It could be because I am exhausted. Half of Aarhus was up and about last night celebrating the first weekend of the month (ie, the first weekend after you get paid) and the beginning of the Christmas party season. The part of Denmark that was not already festooned with Christmas decorations in October is now truly tricked out - Advent is upon us and so if you aren't in a Christmas spirit now you will probably go to hell.

Anyway, this first weekend of the month plus the joy d'season means drunks on the streets. Singing. Two roommates were up until 4 am chillin' and drinkin' beer and watching a DVD of the Depeche Mode concert last year. The other remaining roommate came home soon after 4 and was very noisily sick. Several times. The husband got up at 4 to get ready for work (taxi driving).

Four am in the apartment was a very busy time. I was the only one where normal decent people are at that hour, in bed. But not sleeping. Chewing on my duvet would be a better description of my activities at that hour. I had already listened to the concert several times and the parade of drunks for several hours. Normally I would be wearing ear plugs, like my dear husband does on Saturday nights, but I have this stupid infection behind my ear so it hurts to go putting pressure (a la ear plugs) on my right ear. And you can't just wear one ear plug.

At 5:30 the delivery trucks start showing up and they deliver, engines running, continuously, until 7. Then I slept. Up at 11, day half gone. I have to shop before 5 when the stores close, interrupting the day even more.

I just hope everyone is hung over enough that they don't go out tonight. I can then go to bed at a respectable hour, like midnight, sleep soundly and get up and have a nice full day tomorrow. When no stores are open, so no deliveries are made, and I cannot be easily distracted by chores or tv or anything.

Tomorrow is another day!!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Random bits

I've been very busy getting the dissertation back in order. However, life, or what passes for life around here, continues on.

I've got a couple of things to talk about. Or mention. Or whatever.

The Importance of Rinsing Rags
One of my chores this week was washing the cleaning rags that we use during the week. These include towels used to dry dishes, kitchen sink rags, sponges, and floor rags. Since we use soap to wash the dishes as well as the floors it is VERY important to rinse these out thoroughly. So what is currently going on in the washing machine is actually my own dumb fault.

I can't see into the washing machine because of all the soap bubbles.

It really didn't help that I think I added too much detergent.

So I will have to run the program again without soap.

But they will be VERY CLEAN RAGS.

Ouch!
I burned myself on Monday while making quesadillas. And I didn't notice until Tuesday.

Well, I noticed the pain at the time. I put it under cold water, as one does, and then got back to cooking. I must have had a blister, but the joy of salsa, guacamole and quesadillas was just too much for anything so simple as pain and disfiguring marks on the hands.

Speaking of Throbbing...
My mac screen was, well, throbbing on Saturday. It would get brighter and then dimmer. Not to any particular rhythm, which had me completely concerned. Rhythmic throbbing I could handle. But unrhythmic?

I figured out what it was finally. My mac is SO clever that it changes the brightness of the screen automatically to fit the ambient light. If you happen to be back lit by a light, as I am, and you tend to move about in your chair, as I do, periodically changing the amount of light that gets past your body and is registered by the sensor... well, you get unrhythmic screen throbbing.

I turned that feature off.

I only found it by wandering around in system preferences. I had no idea how clever my Mac was. Honestly, what an annoying feature!! I thought I was going mad!

Rats!!
There is a VERY large rat lose in the bowels of the apartment building. There was a visual sighting. Um... that was redundant. But it was actually SEEN which is something new. So we know it is a rat, not a mouse, and it is VERY LARGE. Nice brown Norweigen rat. Not a pet, sorry to say for the rat enthusiasts out there, and so it must go.

This is where it gets interesting. Because my darling husband has a phobia of rats. Which he did not mention when visiting my best friend who has LOADS of pet rats. But apparently they give him the heeby geebies. He got all twitchy about the idea that there was one running around our building and especially since it was sighted on the stairs. He may never sit on the toilet again.

He compared his fear to my aversion to spiders. I don't necessarily agree, for a load of reasons that no one other than a fellow arachnophobe would agree with, but that's okay. He's scared and I can ride in on a white horse and save his cute little butt. Read: I will put out traps and bait them and check them and dispose of any and all corpses.

As soon as he goes into our spider infested basement and get the traps.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What I am thankful for...

Yesterday I was thankful for only three things.

A family that loves and supports me in all things.
Friends who love me and support me in all things.
A husband who loves me, supports me, and is fabulous for so many things.

Okay, that last line probably should have read "for so many reasons" but I was having a moment.

I didn't really have my health (infection in the lobe of my ear... which I'm not going to talk about, some of you may be eating), I had no money, I had no computer, I had no theory chapter, I had no red wine...

The list is endless.

But today life got so much better.

I am typing this from my new mac.

My shiny new Mac.

Shall I show you my new mac?

I haz nu Macs, let me showz yew.


Iz purdy, yes/yes?

Okay enough lolspeak. But I am REALLY HAPPY.

Also adding to the joy and the mayhem is a finger of scotch...

Which I needed before I checked to see....

Did it....

YES! I have my ENTIRE old harddrive. I can't find a single thing missing. Crap loads of iTunes, translations of German articles in progress (which I forgot I hadn't backed up) and MY DISSERTATION.

MY CURRENT DISSERTATION.

Up to the minute, not missing a darn thing. Even has the highlights I put in before turning off my computer on that fateful day (so that I would know what to focus on in the morning... the morning that never came).

There is no way to express the joy.

Especially after the finger of scotch I had in celebration. To keep the first one company you know. I'm now out of scotch and red wine. Sad until you realize that there are two bottles of port, 3 bottles of white wine, and one bottle of cognac in the other room. NO, I am NOT going to go drink them. All. Tonight. Nope. May fetch the cognac though....

I'm supposed to make stir fry tonight. How on earth will I manage the knife? Perhaps I will dance around drunkenly and give direction to my long suffering husband.

I am so happy. *Smile*

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grumble grumble

One of the horrible things that happens when you move is trying to change all of your mailing addresses. Some are pretty easy to change. The bank, for instance, and your credit card company are very quick to help you change your address. Magazines, not so much, especially if you've just paid for the next year's subscription it seems.

My Archaeology magazine is still being sent to the old address. I tried to change the address on-line but the on-line program couldn't find my subscription and suggested I send an email.

Email 1. Included my membership number as well as the only other number on my mailing sheet which I presumed was my account number.

Reply 1. They needed to know when I subscribed and how.

Email 2. I replied with the information.

Reply 2. They need my subscription account number which is printed on my mailing sheet.

Email 3. Okay, that's already been given in the first email, since all the emails are included in this quickly growing email chain, it is actually still there... but fine. I give the information again. This time I also scan and send my mailing sheet with the email.

Reply 3. Please call us with your subscription details at this not 1-800 number or fax your request to us or go on-line to change your subscription.

I am SO not happy about the customer service I've received. I now have to call America in order to change my stupid address. I wouldn't bother except I just paid for another years worth of magazines and I intend on getting them.

As fun as it is to get this magazine, I am not sure I wish to keep getting it. I hate poor customer service. The emails I've been exchanging with Archaeology all have the proviso *When contacting us please include all the previous emails.* Which I have. Therefore the people receiving these emails should take the time to read them all from the beginning. The first email reply was addressed to the name I had requested be used. The second reply did not. Nor did the woman notice that I'd already given the subscription number to customer service. The third reply was just beyond the pale.

For further assistance on your request, please call at 617-353-9361 Fax #: 617-353-6550 Or
mail you request to
Archaeological Institute Of America
656 Beacon St
Boston, MA 02215
OR visit us at www.archaeological.org

This is not an AIA problem, I've already changed my address with them. They were very nice about the whole thing. I was told by them that I needed to contact the magazine in order to change my address.

And how hard is it to say, "I'm sorry we still can't find your subscription. Would it be possible for you to call us at ###?" Instead I get the automatic response shove off. With the broken structure that appears in the email, I KNOW that was a cut and pasted reply.

Grumble grumble grumble.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Triumph and tragedy

My computer arrived today!! I didn't actually see it, just the box, when I went to pay for it, because I then sent it off to Copenhagen to have my rescued data uploaded to it. But within a week I will be back, hard at work, on my OWN computer at my OWN desk.

Which means I should probably clean up my desk. It is a mountain of research at the moment. The floor, at the moment surprisingly clear, will soon take on the topography of a small mountain range. Ah, scholarship! Who knew that most of the pit-falls and stumbling blocks of dissertating were actually physical rather than mental?

Tragedy struck this week in the death of the washing machine. I'm down to tank tops, mismatched socks and sexy underwear. Sexy underwear? Yes, I have a supply of sexy underwear, the kind that you don't normally wear unless you're going out on a date and are certainly hoping you'll take off later in the evening. Lace is all very well and good, but it chafes so!

Further tragedy ensued due to the poor tips my husband earned this last weekend. I've had to get very creative with the food we have in the house. This resulted in one very horrible meal. I followed the recipe exactly to make curried red cabbage. However, the recipe I chose involved a large amount of vinegar, which NONE of the other recipes required (they wanted me to use olive oil) and I should have followed the recipe pack, as it were. Alas, I ended up with a curried red cabbage that smelled and tasted of bile. It even felt rather like bile (slimy, burns the throat). Thankfully I did do a taste test before serving it to my poor companion in life.

There was retching in the kitchen.

Not only did it smell, taste, and feel like bile, it also resulted in bile.

I was still twitching when I served the curry rice. There wasn't quite enough of it to make a full filling meal, but the Danish Boy was very understanding and appreciative of my efforts.

We were both heartened to discover then that he'd accidentally over-paid his taxi-boss and we got $40 back. That will cover us until my boy gets paid later this week.

So in the end there was more triumph, because this means I can put together a nice meal tomorrow night for our visiting friend and no one will have to suffer curried red cabbage ever again!

Friday, November 14, 2008

I love a good literary quiz!

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Moderate
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

In my defense of the violent circle of hell - I'm very hungry (see post below) and low blood sugar makes me angry. Having read the Inferno, I already figured I was destined for the second circle. Not so surprising result therefore.

I think everyone should know what circle of hell they're headed for, don't you?

Disaster again!

A different kind of disaster - but still...

Ever wonder why there are no husband and wife cooking teams? (Okay, there may be husband and wife cooking teams, but I haven't seen them on TV and we all know that if I haven't seen it on TV it doesn't exist.) This is because the best way to invite strife into your life is to share a kitchen with your spouse. Why reality TV hasn't picked up on this one is beyond me. Probably because one spouse killed the other in the pilot.

I love my husband. He's a great cook. And if he sets foot in my kitchen again while I'm cooking, I may kill him.

Okay, it wasn't as bad as that, but it was highly stressful. For both parties.

Top it all off with a disastrous dish and you have a good idea of how last night went.

Admittedly it was the fault of neither party. We discovered that our oven is dying. It doesn't seem to get hot enough to cook potatoes. Which is a problem when you are trying to make scalloped potatoes. Which tasted great - two hours after I'd put them in the oven, even if they weren't done. If they'd actually cooked, in the hour the recipe said it took, we'd have eaten at a normal hour, two people wouldn't have been stroppy and we wouldn't have gone to bed with stomach aches.

However, the potatoes didn't cook, even after 2 hours in the oven. The cheese on top burned to a crisp. I cried. It was horrible.

As I type I'm trying to reheat (read: finish cooking) the dish. It's been in the oven at 200 C for two hours. I checked it an hour ago. The center wasn't even warm.

If I can just get the darned thing to cook I'll be ecstatic. I'm starving and that's my lunch! And I swear I am not going to bake anything again for a long time. It's now all about the Chinese food - blessed be the wok. As long as that stove top works, I can feed me and mine.

Spread the word

Copy this sentence into your blog if you're in a heterosexual marriage/relationship (or if you think you might be someday), and you don't want it "protected" by the bigots who think that gay marriage hurts it somehow.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Arti chokes two for a dollar at Safeway...

I am not going to write out the joke that goes with that punch line. If you haven't heard someone telling that joke, you don't have the right kind of friends.

But I would like to talk for a moment about the beautiful artichoke and how it is so much easier to cook and eat than I ever imagined.

Yeah, yeah, laugh, but how to cook and eat an artichoke is not knowledge you are born with and if your family is not the artichoke eating breed, you may never learn.

My ex actually taught me some useful things and how to EAT artichokes was one of them.

He wasn't so good with the making of the 'choke, but at least I learned how to eat the darned things.

So a few days ago I saw some artichokes in the store and had what can only be described as an acute craving. Visions of artichokes danced in my head and I found myself drooling. I bought two and brought them home. An offering to the strange little god that lives in my stomach. Demanding little god he is.

You wonder why the god that lives in my stomach is male? Um, this little god sits around all day and wants food. No cooking, no cleaning, just eating. And creating vast amounts of air that results in the prodigious burping ability of yours truly. Does that sound like a female god? I didn't think so.

ANYWAY, I brought home two artichokes and then had to figure out how to cook them. This begins with chopping off the top of the 'choke, which seems useless, except that it allows
1) the artichokes to fit into the pot
2) the steam to weasel its way into the heart of the artichoke

So cut off the top of the stupid thing. You aren't eating the top anyway. You eat the bottom of the leaves. So cut, CUT! About an inch off the top is enough. This is aided by a sharp knife. I had one once and it was lovely, but living in a communal space means my wonderful knifes are packed for safe keeping and I'm using the knives we all use. My next goal is to learn how to sharpen knives without hurting myself. I admit it... I'm terrified of accidentally slicing open my wrist.

The top is now off of the artichoke. There is in the instructions to remove any tough leaves that still have the pointy bit or thorn still attached. This instruction I think meant to remove the thorn, not so much the leaf and my attempt to remove a few leaves from the artichoke ended in... well, not so much failure, as a complete lack of artichoke improvement. So I'd say, ignore this step, other than to snip off any thorns that might poke you. There may be no thorns. Don't worry yourself if you don't see any. And for god's sake, do not waste your time cutting the tops off of all the individual leaves. This has NO practical application other than making things look tidy. You don't eat the pointy ends remember?

Now here is the important part - you *can* boil the artichoke, but this involves having a large pot filled with boiling water. If you want to make more than one artichoke at a time, unless you have a huge pot, this is a problem. And even if you do have a large pot, well, I HATE washing large pots, so I'll go to great lengths to avoid using them. So don't boil the things, steam 'em. Steaming veg is the best way to go. You lose far fewer vitamins this way. Also, you can pile the veg pretty high and the steam will get everywhere.

Steam them for 25-30 minutes.

Did you know you can flavor the steam? Maybe this is why people like to boil artichokes, they think this is the only way to spice them up a bit. But it's not true. Add lemon juice, garlic, a bay leaf, whatever tickles your fancy to the water. The steam will carry that flavor into the 'choke.

Various recipes will then ask you to pull off a leaf to see if it's done, because if it's done, the leaf will pull of easily. This is a good reason you shouldn't be pruning your artichoke too much, you'll end up pulling off leaves to check for doneness and you'll end up with no 'choke! Okay, probably not.

I love to dip in mayonnaise and since I had purchased some the other day for another recipe, I indulged in a bit of mayonnaise gluttony. Possibly too much, my stomach god was a bit put out by the cholesterol.

If you don't know how to eat an artichoke, I refer you to the following web-site with pictures: Simply Recipes.

When I'm not eating exotic (to me) vegetables, I am contemplating the meal I am going to prepare next week. No, not Thanksgiving, we don't have that in Denmark and even if we did, I can not particularly afford the amount of food I'd need to cook to put on a proper spread. A friend is coming over for dinner. I don't usually have to cook for friends or family and certainly not on the limited budget I currently have. It will be interesting to see what I can come up with.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Too busy to think!

Boy a lot of time has gone by since my last post! I've been so busy. I voted, made some major bank transfers (and if you don't think this takes a while, you've never tried to transfer cash internationally, have you), put in a down payment on a new computer, spent a lot of time talking to the data rescue folks, refinishing a floor (stripping, sanding, staining and waxing - three 12 hour days of work), going to a two day conference, going to a free concert, doing the chores of two people for the last two weeks, and spending one day raking up the leaves of two autumns.

I pulled some serious muscles doing that last one. Which is funny since I managed to do the floor with nothing more than some bruises to my knees.

I have also been continuing research, but it's been rather difficult the last two days, since my back has been killing me.

It's starting to mend, except I now have a crick in my neck from sleeping on my back on a heat pad. How typical!

Neck pain, however, is much better than back pain. I'm able to at least sit down now and I'm able to walk a bit faster. I was doing the old lady shuffle last night.

I made a lovely "lamb" roganjosh last night, with beef instead of lamb. I noticed in the store that 50% of the meat was pork, 15% beef, 15% fish, 15% bird (chicken, turkey, duck), 5% lamb. You certainly don't have to worry about getting your hands on "the other white meat" here.

Unfortunately I am not really that big on pork.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Time for a shockingly good recipe

I may be unable to purchase a new computer - for once it's not lack of funds, but a working credit card, sigh - but I can still make a really really good soup.

I nabbed a five star recipe for Acorn Squash Soup off one of my favorite cooking sites, and because it wanted food items I didn't have and it skipped a few steps I think are necessary to make the soup, I had to wing it at times. But since this is one of the best soups I've had in a while... which isn't really that long, I eat a lot of good soups... anyway, I thought I'd share my version.


Winter Squash Soup
Ingredients
1 butternut squash
1 small onion, chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
2 tbsp butter or margarine
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp chicken bouillon cube ground up
1/2 tsp dill
1/4 tsp curry powder
dash cayenne pepper (according to your taste)
2 cups chicken broth/prepared bouillon
1 1/2 cup of light cream (12 oz if you must)
salt and pepper to taste - easy on the salt
bacon bits for the top (best if you chop and fry some bacon yourself)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove stem from squash and chop in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. Place both halves cut side down in a baking dish that has about a cup of water in the bottom (to keep your squash from adhering to the pan). Bake the squash for 45 minutes or until soft. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Scoop the squash from the skin and set aside.
2. In a medium sized pot, saute the onion and celery in the butter. Add the flour, bouillon, dill, curry and cayenne. Stir until blended. Add the broth and cream. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for two minutes. Add the squash.
3. Blend by any means necessary. If you have an immersion blender, now is the time to use it. Be wary of the large chunks of squash that tend to shoot around the pot. You can also use a blender, processing in batches, if you must.
4. Heat the soup through. Now add salt and pepper to taste. Remember, there may be bacon in your future, so easy on the salt.
5. Serve, garnish with bacon.


If you aren't cool with curry... well, I'm sorry for your loss. You could probably have this without curry. I don't know why you'd want to, but you probably could.

The Danish Boy pointed out that this would have made a great sauce and I have to say, he's probably right. If I used half and half in order to make it thicker, skipped the bacon, but added some cooked chicken in step 4, I could probably serve this over rice for a nice hearty meal. I might see if I can swap out the squash for potatoes, which are cheaper and I can quickly boil up instead of bake, cutting down the prep time for this meal considerably.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The five stages of grief


I am slowly coming to terms with the loss of my mac. It was a lot more traumatic than I'd anticipated and I think my husband was a little shocked at my complete breakdown on day three of the Mac crisis.

The crisis is now reaching epic proportions. I cannot seem to be able to buy another Mac - my credit card seems to have become as unreadable as my hard drive. I now need to order another credit card. And somehow get that mailed to me since Bank of America doesn't like to mail credit cards overseas.

Also, did you know that in times of extreme stress, you sweat a lot more than normal? And that you can smell, like, twenty times as bad as you would on a normal day, even if you had forgotten deodorant? Talk about a week I would not like to relive. My clothes and the Danish Boy would very much like to avoid another week like that one as well.

I'm still a little shellshocked, but according to the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, I may be coming to acceptance and recovery.

Oh I went through all the other stages. Denied that my computer was dead, denied that it would bother me, denied that I was really upset about it. Denial was hand in hand with panic that first night. "This is NOT happening!" was a constant refrain. Then after being told that it was unlikely that they would be able to get my data and even if they did, there was no guarantee that the computer would last much longer, I just said, "Oh, well, then I guess I should get another computer then." I went home, figured out how I could buy another computer with my credit card and picked out my new computer as if I didn't have a care in the world. Then there was the anger. I was mad that I hadn't backed up my data (still in denial about how it wasn't really the data that bothered me) and that I had only turned off the computer on that fateful day in order to save two kroner on energy costs (still pretty mad about that actually). I moved right into bargaining after that. "If the Mac guys can just get the data off the computer, I'll be happy," I said. This wasn't in the least bit true, it turns out. I haven't had word on my data yet, but I doubt I'll be really happy, even if they do. By day three of the crisis, I had entered depression, which ended in hysterical sobbing, much to my husband's shock.

It's now day 5. I still wonder if there was any way that I could have fixed it. That I could somehow get my Mac back. On one level I know it was on it's last legs. The fan ran constantly, the heat coming from the computer made it too hot to touch sometimes and it was getting harder and harder to reboot the computer after installing the standard updates. It had a long life for a laptop. Especially one that had been dropped that many times (the power cord didn't quite fit right after I dropped it last year), gone to so many foreign countries, had coffee, beer, and indian food spilled on it, been broken in half in the airport (never did get any money back for that), and hadn't been properly cleaned in years... okay, ever.

But like a faithful pet that has to be put down after a sudden trauma, I wasn't ready to lose my Mac. It was one of the few things I walked away with in the divorce. It was my link to the outside world while I am stuck in a small office, trying to have brilliant thoughts. It was my means of contacting friends and family while I'm thousands of miles away. It wasn't just a computer, it was a piece of my soul.

Someday (hopefully soon, this PC is killing me) I will have a new Mac. It won't replace the Powerbook G4, and I don't expect it to. I miss you, my Mac. Thanks for everything.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Too much anxiety... need diversion!!

Your result for The Harry Potter Husband Test...

Mrs. Lupin

Your perfect HP man is Remus Lupin.

You like a nice, kind guy with a bit of a fierce streak and you don't mind if he comes damaged. Sure, he may take some convincing since his self-esteem's so low, but once you win him over, you know he's yours for life. Unless of course he has an attack of "I'm not good enough" and runs away, but luckily he's also good at making friends who will push him back into line if necessary.

(Art by Gold-Seven http://gold-seven.deviantart.com/ Used with permission.)

Take The Harry Potter Husband Test at HelloQuizzy

Things to do while waiting for my Mac

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are a Doris!

mm.doris_.jpg

You are a Doris -- "I must help others."

Dorises are warm, concerned, nurturing, and sensitive to other people's needs.

How to Get Along with Me
  • * Tell me that you appreciate me. Be specific.
  • * Share fun times with me.
  • * Take an interest in my problems, though I will probably try to focus on yours.
  • * Let me know that I am important and special to you.
  • * Be gentle if you decide to criticize me.

In Intimate Relationships
  • * Reassure me that I am interesting to you.
  • * Reassure me often that you love me.
  • * Tell me I'm attractive and that you're glad to be seen with me.

What I Like About Being a Doris
  • * being able to relate easily to people and to make friends
  • * knowing what people need and being able to make their lives better
  • * being generous, caring, and warm
  • * being sensitive to and perceptive about others' feelings
  • * being enthusiastic and fun-loving, and having a good sense of humor

What's Hard About Being a Doris
  • * not being able to say no
  • * having low self-esteem
  • * feeling drained from overdoing for others
  • * not doing things I really like to do for myself for fear of being selfish
  • * criticizing myself for not feeling as loving as I think I should
  • * being upset that others don't tune in to me as much as I tume in to them
  • * working so hard to be tactful and considerate that I suppress my real feelings

Dorises as Children Often
  • * are very sensitive to disapproval and criticism
  • * try hard to please their parents by being helpful and understanding
  • * are outwardly compliant
  • * are popular or try to be popular with other children
  • * act coy, precocious, or dramatic in order to get attention
  • * are clowns and jokers (the more extroverted Dorises), or quiet and shy (the more introverted Dorises)

Dorises as Parents
  • * are good listeners, love their children unconditionally, and are warm and encouraging (or suffer guilt if they aren't)
  • * are often playful with their children
  • * wonder: "Am I doing it right?" "Am I giving enough?" "Have I caused irreparable damage?"

  • * can become fiercely protective

Take Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz at HelloQuizzy

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Disaster

Last night my Mac, my beautiful, wonderful, trusty Mac, which has had horrible things done to it, survived and continued to march along side me, died.

Some sort of catastrophic failure of the hard drive. The guy at the Mac store could see the hard drive when he tried running my Mac through another Mac, but couldn't access the data. Or the drive, for that matter.

I've sent it off to try to recover the data, because that's about all that can be done with it. It would require too much work to repair and replace all the bits that might need to be replaced, since it's not particularly clear what all happened for this failure to occur.

I'd really like the data... my last two weeks of work on my dissertation wasn't backed up. Stupid, I know. Back in the days when I used floppies, I always kept my papers on disks, not the hard drive, but lap tops lack disk drives these days, you have to keep things on data sticks and I haven't become used to saving data to these devices. At least the rest of my dissertation is backed up, not only on my husband's PC (which I'm currently using, sigh), but on a data stick and a hard copy (print out).

So it's time for a new mac. I probably won't be able to get a MacBookPro, like I'd love, but I don't really need all that extra power and bells and whistles and... oh, I wish I could have one!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

If I'm neither tough, nor idealistic, can I at least be cynical?

I used to think Americans were tough and idealistic. We take a hit and then get right back up and proclaim the American dream. But then I travelled to Israel. Those people are tough. In Chicago, the mobster's creed was "if he sends one of your guys to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue." In Israel, it's "if he sends one of your guys to the hospital, you send him to the morgue, his family to the streets, and several completely unrelated bystanders to the hospital." So America - not so tough, not so hard. Maybe not cuddly, but certainly not so hard. But we still had the claim to idealism, right?

Nope, because now I'm living in Denmark, the most idealistic country on the planet. They voted themselves the happiest people in the world because they live in Denmark, obviously, and Denmark is perfect and wonderful. It's like they're living in a Danny Kaye movie.

Denmark is so idealistic and, shall we just say, a lot naive, that they're pretty sure they only have 1,000 to 5,000 illegal immigrants in the entire country of 5.2 million people. The Danish Boy has been working hard on various stories around immigrants, both legal and otherwise. A year ago he went to Morocco to talk to immigrants preparing to cross the sea and illegally enter Europe. There were a lot of them and they were not about to give up and go home even though death or deportation was likely. Now Denmark may be a long way from Spain, but several of the immigrants the DB spoke to were talking about going up to Germany. Denmark is pretty close by. If there are no North African illegal immigrants in Denmark, I'll take up missionary work in deepest Africa (where I can tell them all about this great little country that doesn't believe in illegal immigrants). Meanwhile, the DB has located a number of au pair girls from the Philippines, who are working extra illegal under-the-table hours and some that have over stayed their visas. When he spoke to various ministers of parliament, one said she'd like to ask Danes to not hire illegal labor, because it's wrong, and one said that they should increase the minimum wage, because if the girls were making more money, they wouldn't want to go out and make more money.

Just about everyone he's spoken to insists there's no problem, because Denmark doesn't have illegal workers. That one researcher has shown that there may be between 1000 and 5000 comes a shock. I laugh because those numbers are seriously low but the interviewed MPs seem to think that those numbers are too high. The friendly MP who wants to ask Danes to hire legal help also thinks that these people would be caught very quickly by the government when they went to get health care or something. But I can tell you, having been here for quite some time with only questionable legality, you are not going to catch them. If I started working under-the-table and made enough money to pay the doctor fees for non-residents, no one would turn me in; Danes love cheap labor, doctors like getting paid cash, no one is going to run a check on me unless I do something stupid like hold up a 7-11 with a hand gun.

I also laugh at the Danish identity card, which I am sure any computer geek could crack and reproduce for illegal immigrants. This is one step beyond what my DB is willing to accept. He's sure that the CPR system is unbreakable. But if computer hackers can get into the CIA, the FBI, the Dept. Homeland Security, then what (other than the fact that these hackers may have never heard of Denmark) makes Danes think it's so perfect?

It's really a mind boggling notion - the CPR system is perfect because as far as they know, it's never failed. But Danes aren't looking to see if it might have, because they truly believe that the system is perfect and therefore it can't have failed.

I really wish I was a computer hacker and had a criminal mind and some black-market connections. I could make a small fortune selling identity cards to all the illegal immigrants that I know are out there.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My life is a choose your own adventure...

Except in my case, it's not so much of a choice. But then, those "choose your own adventures" rarely were. Given the option of talking to the creepy old man or the ugly woman, I always wanted to "stay quiet, listen, and then pick the more rational of choices" which for reasons that escape me, was never actually an option. You had to pick a door to go through and were given no clues to help you choose. It was "You go through the left door - turn to page 60" and "You go through the right door - turn to page 72." On page 60 was a tiger that ate you (leaving me to wonder, what, was it the world's most quiet tiger? How come the previous page didn't say "There are two doors, the left one smells slightly of cat and you can hear heavy footsteps and some faint purring?") and meanwhile on page 72 you find a man holding a knife to your throat and your two options are to "Laugh and say you've entered the wrong room - turn to page 48 or Try out a judo move - turn to page 23" when I know very well what my decision would be, to HOLD FREAKIN' STILL!

Can you tell how much I didn't really like Choose Your Own Adventure novels? I used to just read them front to back or just look for the funny deaths. Sometimes I would work backwards from the ending I liked best (often a hilarious death) to see what moves had placed you there. I was certainly not fond of being forced to chose between two options without any hints as to the result or discussion on the matter.

And that is where my life seems to stand.

There is so much going on in my life, dissertation, economic, residency... that I cannot plan beyond the next event. And I don't even know what that event will be. With this many variables, I also can't make plans for all eventualities because there is just so little that I can know or control about the future of many of these things.

So the page in my life right now reads: Page 29: You've decided to continue working on this dissertation! It's hard work but it's going well. Suddenly everything changes!
Did you get residency? if yes, turn to page 7, if no, turn to 25.
Did you lose your home? if yes, turn to page 193, if no, turn to page 8.
Did you finish your dissertation? if yes, turn to page 49, if no, turn to page 9.

On page 7 I get the choice to continue working on my dissertation (page 75) or get a job (57), or do both (36). To work on my dissertation takes me back to page 29 to either enter a continual rut of flipping between 7 and back again until I can reach page 9, or perhaps I'll get lucky and lose my home so I can turn to page 8, if I get a job I may or may not still lose my home (pages 193 or 8) and I may or may not be able to finish my dissertation (page 49 and 92) so I may or may not be able to get a good job (100 and 121), if I do both, I die of exhaustion (on page 36). On page 25 I have to chose between Mälmo and California, on 193 I chose between California and Ebeltoft and on page 8 I am returned to waiting for residency and dissertation writing.

How can anyone plan for anything when your life is reduced to this?

The Danish Boy has to pick what job he wants for the last 6 months of his internship and we have no way of knowing which is the best option. Any of his choices could put us in the room with the tiger. Or they could lead us into a room with the treasure, the bad guy knocked unconscious on the floor by the bowling ball I accidently dropped on page 12 and we all live happily ever after.

Why is it that life is so often reduced to book metaphors?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Chores I deplores

I hate doing laundry. Absolutely hate it. There's the sorting and the piles and the going back multiple times to change loads out and put new loads in and then there is the folding of the dry laundry and the putting of the laundry away... I really hate it. Yes, in normal life I'd only have to wash my clothes once a week. And in the lovely life I used to have, my husband did the laundry for me. I would fold and put away, but then he helped me with the dishes... sort of.

Well, now things have changed. We live with roommates which means no using the timer to start the laundry an hour before the husband comes home. I've got to get the laundry done and I've got to get it done before people come home and want to do their laundry, or worse, take up the space on the drying rack.

Originally I had been banned from the machine for a certain pink incident but now I have to do the laundry if we ever want clean clothes. This is difficult for my husband to grasp. He says things like, well, just take the load out and I'll sort it before bed. Yes, I say, meaning that we'd get one load done in a day, and there would be no room on the line for our clothes now that everyone else has also done their laundry. Do you want clean underwear or not?

I finally got sick of the whole thing and started doing my own laundry. No one died and I think the DB is starting to relent. He's not nearly so upset about my accidently drying his black shirts as he was 5 years ago. I think he's starting to learn that if your black shirt gets accidently machine dried twice in 5 years, it is not worth your marriage to make a big deal out of it.

Of course my relationship to clothes is: if you can't take the heat, you don't belong in the closet. I don't read most of the tags in my clothes. Though often I will if I am debating buying something. Dry clean only gets returned to the shelf unless I really love it or I think it can handle the wash. I separate into darks (cold water wash), whites and underwear (hot water wash), and colors (everything else in a warm water wash). I sort by what the article looks like (color) and ignore it's pleas regarding fabric and wash-inside-out-ness. Yes, I have in fact put wool in the dryer. Once. So's my husband ("how was I supposed to know it was wool" because I call it my wool knit hat perhaps? Eh, it survived. I'll probably dry it myself someday), you wanna make something of it?

I am slowly learning the little signs they put on labels. The X over the box with the circle in it, that might represent a dryer to those who are into symbology, means don't dry. I think. Items that have this symbol are not going into the dryer.

There is a website for all this. http://www.textileaffairs.com/lguide.htm

But I can't remember all that and I am not taking my computer into the bathroom. Maybe I'll print it out for myself.

This does not solve the other problem. The washing machine is Danish. It doesn't use these symbols. It has words like "Kort" and "stortskraeling" or something. It also uses Celsius rather than Fahrenheit and has no such thing as Permanent Press. Not that I know what Permanent Press is, but I know it is very good to wash everything on this cycle and dry everything with this cycle. It is the best cycle.

But at least I'm getting clean clothes again. Clothes that are dried the civilized way, in a tumble dryer. Even if they shouldn't be tumble dried. The husband will also be getting his clothes cleaned. And if he's lucky, his black shirts will not accidently end up in the dryer, but on a line.

In return I've asked him to wash the dishes if I've cooked. Because he's getting out of all the chores these days and it's a bit unfair.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Change is good for the something something.

The time is once again to change the format of the blog. Why? I mean, I just changed it. What's with all this CHANGE anyway? Isn't anything sacred anymore? Why does everything have to change!!?!!

Because otherwise things would be boring.

Learning, for instance, is part of change. Everything we learn changes us in a way, either a small way or a great way. So even if we could freeze ourselves at this very moment, never to age, and freeze the seasons so that nothing would grow, nothing would die, and nothing would change... it still would change the very second someone learned something new.

It was a crazy thought I had. And unlike my dear husband, the philosophy nut, I have steered clear of the very people who have probably pondered this particular thought before me and thus have articulated it better. Screw them, the ponces.

(Here's something for you to learn that will change you in a little way: ponce is a man who lives off of the earnings of prostitutes. Like "pimp" only with a much more negative connotation, since rap has glorified the P-I-M-P.)

Meanwhile, the season changes from summer to winter. The Danish Boy says "This is the season we call 'fall.' It happens between summer and winter," in response to my declaration of seasonal changes.

But this is not fall. Fall is a lovely few weeks were the days get shorter and the weather gets crisp and cool. Frost may appear on the ground in the morning, but is burnt away by the sun in the afternoon. The leaves change color, slowly, and gently drop, one by one to the ground. Fall is not a horrible few weeks in which it suddenly begins to hail, the leaves change colors overnight and are summarily bashed to the ground by the ensuing downpour and hurricane force wind that comes out of nowhere to freeze your butt cheeks off if you lean against the wrong thing. Denmark has no fall. It goes straight to winter from summer, without a by-your-leave.

It's freezing cold. We tuck ourselves under our winter duvet (heavy, stuffed with down) and I still have to keep the heat on in our little room because my nose runs and my eyeballs feel like snowballs stuck in my skull. And in typical Danish fashion, my dear husband is so hot, he's on top of the covers while I shiver in my flannel pjs curled up into a ball. Thankfully we know that if I am cold, no one sleeps, whereas if he's just slightly too warm, but I am just fine, everyone sleeps a full 8 hours.

No one else in the apartment seems to agree with my temperature requirements, so I go from room to room turning up the heat when I am there and down again when I leave. I spend most of my time in my office since I am dissertating (at the moment, reading this horrible article that I am sure will be very important for me, I have taken lots of notes, but it is written in such horrific classical scholarshipness, with quotes in other languages and WAY too many words that I despair), so it is not so bad.

So with change in the air (along with the cold) and a horrible confrontation with my worst fears (no, not spiders... academic writing... it makes me feel so dumb) I needed to do something to take my mind off it all. Enter my new banner. I made it myself, you know. I discovered I had an old version of Photoshop hiding in my Mac OS 9, which is part of my partitioned hard drive. I was actually contemplating getting rid of OS 9 and the partition to make room on this side of the computer, which runs on OS 10.4 and is simply running out of room, when I read that this would reformat my drive. Since that sounds like it would erase my computer entirely, I decided ehhhh, no, I would not worry about OS 9, it could just sit there and rot.

Thank the computer gods I did, because that is where I had put Photoshop, way back when I first got the computer and all the programs were still running on 9 because 10 was still just too new. For the Mac people of the world, this was a dreadful time of change and adaptation. But I digress. The partition in my computer has been put up in such a way that I can actually run OS 9 programs in OS 10.4. It looks a little weird, but it works marvelously.

Have I mentioned how much I love my computer? I love it.

So it is due to the brilliance of my Mac (and associated Adobe programs) that I could create a brand new banner for my blog. And upload it.

Change is good. Learning computery stuff to make change - html, photoshop, partitioned hard drives... very cool.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Dissertating once again...

There's nothing like writing a dissertation to make you doubt your intelligence. My theory chapter is starting to look like it could be a chapter in the next Ian Hodder book, which means I'm either a genius or rambling insensible jargon in increasingly complicated clauses.

The Danish Boy says it makes sense to him and it reads well. This is the joy of being married to a former archaeologist who has read a lot of theory. I am, however, wondering if he is a bit biased. Or perhaps he's simply wise enough to know that he should be nice to the woman who makes his food. It's not supposed to read well anyway, it's supposed to be academic, which is latin for "impenetrable use of jargon in complex sentences containing multiple clauses." Or maybe that's the German definition of "academic," I can never remember.

Anyway, without counting catalogue and appendices (I am really not sure if I want to include all of them, it seems a bit over the top if you ask me) I had 80 pages single spaced.

Whoopee! I exclaimed. Until I discovered that when I made it double spaced, as I need to for final publication, I did NOT have 160 pages. I had 149. Grumble grumble.

So... so far I have used 149 pages to answer the question I posed in the beginning of my dissertation. I could probably answer that question in 3 pages, but brevity is the soul of wit, not dissertations, which are not in the least bit funny.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Iced coffee for archaeologists

Whoa, a sort-a archaeology post!

So, coffee is part of being an archaeologist. There are archaeologists who don't drink coffee. But they are weird. Coffee is something MOST archaeologists need. No, not "like" or even "desire," but NEED. In a kind of if-they-could-only-invent-an-IV-drip-that-could-put-the-coffee-directly-into-my-veins kind of way. Of the two digs that I'm on per year, one in Israel and one in Jordan, the one in Israel used to be the best-coffee dig. We had The Sacred Coffee Pot that brewed REAL coffee, because most of Israel believes that Nescafe instant coffee is the god-given drink of the chosen people. If so, God really hates the Jews. I wouldn't wish Nescafe on anyone. Well, maybe the Taliban. Those bastards are drinking delicious Arabic coffee in their hidey-holes and I'm stuck with Nes? Gah!

Anyway, this year the most horrible thing happened. The Sacred Coffee Pot, brought to Israel in the mid 80's, surviver of two intifadas, two confrontations with Iraq, two American presidents by the name of Bush, one fire (which it started), several blown fuses (which it caused) and god knows how many dig seasons... died. Now, normally at 4 in the morning, you aren't brewing coffee, you make Nes to get you going, but we had a carafe out on the site for coffee, proper coffee, with breakfast. And then there was pre-pottery washing coffee at 3:30. And I have to tell you, Nes, at 3:30 is horrible. You are awake to actually taste the horror that is the instant coffee.

So now the coffee on the Jordan dig is better. If you can get to the Bodum coffee press while there's still coffee in it. I used to get up earlier than the people in my cabin to get to the coffee, but when it became apparent that they were getting up WAY to early and I really didn't need to go very far (I worked in the house, meaning instant access to instant coffee all day), it seemed prudent to sleep in that extra half hour. So no French press for me. It was Nes and nothing but Nes, all the way.

The problem with coffee on an archaeological dig in the desert, however, is that it's damn hot (both coffee and environs) and really, you'd give just about anything for a nice cold lemonade. Provided that the lemonade had A LOT of caffein in it. What to do?

Well, this year was the first year we had REAL MILK for our coffee. Yeah, we really were living it up. I mean, the toilets still don't flush and you have to use the water from the shower to flush them (only when you have to) and you can't put toilet paper in them (use the little trash cans), but we had REAL MILK. This led to the creation of Iced Coffee.

God bless Dr. McP! This is why he has the degree, you know.

Archaeologists have a little bit of MacGyver in them. Everyone thinks that archaeologists run around with trowels and now-a-days GPS units (I've actually never seen one) and we dig holes and look at broken pottery. We do that. But we also have to work in substandard conditions with broken materials. Archaeology is a field where, if you are not at the top, you don't get the nice shinny toys. You have to make do with what you've got. And often what you've got is duct tape and styrofoam.

So how to make iced coffee in the desert.
You need: a working freezer that makes ice, water, fire (of some sort), Nescafe, milk, one pot to heat water in, one large mug to drink the coffee from, sugar if you like that sort of thing.



Iced Coffee for Archaeologists
Step 1:Make sure you have the above items. You cannot make iced coffee without ice. Really, you can try, but I doubt you'll succeed.
Step 2:Add the normal amount of Nescafe to your mug as you would for a normal large mug of hot coffee. Put some sugar in there. Normally I add my sugar to my hot coffee after I've melted the instant coffee with hot water, but in this case, it doesn't matter.
Step 3:Add just enough boiling water to melt coffee and sugar into a nice black, slightly thick, soup. Should only take up the bottom fourth of your mug. That had better be a big mug, by the way, because you'll wish you had more otherwise.
Step 4:Add ice, right up to the top of the mug. Since the ice is going to melt, make sure that you used potable water in making the ice cubes. If your water is icky bad and has to be boiled or iodined or whatever, make sure you do that before you make the ice cubes.
Step 5:Swirl it around a bit, maybe smash the ice with a knife, trowel, small hand axe, whatever, if you like your ice in smaller pieces. I'm lazy and I want the yummy coffee NOW so I skip this step.
Step 6:Add milk right up to the top. Some folks like to add a bit more hot water to help melt the ice cubes, but when it's over 100F (or worse, 50C), the ice is going to melt pretty damn fast anyway. I say, enjoy the icy coolness.
Step 7:Stir. You'd be amazed at how often I forget this step.
Step 8:Drink.


If you'd like to feel like a real archaeologist and try this at home, I suggest you try to stick to what we really have in the field. So ignore the microwave. Some digs have hot water heaters (like the one in Israel does), others have kettles. Try it out with the kettle. A great number of archaeologists can congregate around a boiling pot, it's like the water cooler in offices. For your coffee mug, do not even think that your normal coffee mug will suffice. It will not. Think thermos, flower vase, jug, some large vessel that can be filled with coffee.

If you are really nuts, you can even dig a bunch of holes in the back yard first - although if you are really that fired up about feeling like a real archaeologist, I'd suggest just going on a dig. Digging holes in the backyard is great... right up until you mow the lawn.