Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer finally makes an appearance

I have got to buy an outdoor thermometer, because this is silly.

*This* being the state of affairs where I am wearing shorts, but then I see on the interwebs that it's something like 27 C which is something like 80 F and that's all well and good except that at NO time in my life have I ever thought that 80 F was shorts weather.  Therefore, it must not be 80, it must be slightly warmer.

Notice I keep saying "warm"?  That's because I may be wearing shorts, but it sure as hell isn't hot.  Yesterday might have pushed "hot" but only because I was wearing too many clothes.  Once I changed into shorts then it was perfect.

If I have somehow accidently acclimated to Danish weather, someone kidnap me and mail me somewhere really hot.  And deserty.  And full of antiquities.  Or at least pool boys and Mai Tais.

But I do believe that I can now say with certainty that summer has finally arrived in Denmark.

It will probably only last a week.

Typically, the grill isn't here, it's in Århus.   We tried using a disposable grill we had lying around.  Did you know they go bad?  Two years in a box in a dank basement and you just can't get the charcoal to burn.

Okay, the dank bit probably didn't help either.

In other news, because it's summer, my Danish class will hold a summer party... only we can't call it a party because we have Jehovah's Witnesses and they don't party.  So it's a sommerhygge.

Totally off-topic spat of hilarity - the link above leads to a wikipedia entry where it describes Jehovah's Witnesses as being "millenarian restorationist Christian denomination" and I was, like, "wait, I don't remember there being anything about hats!" And then I caught my mistake.  But that led me to thinking, "wait that's a brilliant idea - hats!  If JW's start wearing hats, I can tell them apart from Mormons!" 

So a sommerhygge... we'll all be bringing some food from our homelands.  There will be dishes from the Philippines, Germany, Honduras, and Burma.  And of course, the US.  

This is where I had quite the pickle.  Because I wanted to make something that:  
  1. was American but did not conform to the fat-American stereotypes - i.e. nothing fried or meaty or full of fat or loaded with sugar
  2. was good to eat at 10 in the morning - i.e. nothing really heavy
  3. was something people would want to eat
  4. could use local produce (y'all might be shocked, but the cornerstone of Californian cuisine is that it is made of local, in-season produce so there *pbth*)
  5. all of the ingredients could be purchased at Netto (cheap chain of grocery stores), because that's what I've got (if you'd like me to cook with specialty cheeses or meats, you'll have to bring them with you)
  6. and something you probably will not get anywhere outside of the states
The first thing I pondered was apple pie.  Because the saying does go "as American as apple pie" and you can cut the sugar WAY back and go more savory - but apple pies are rather large and more of an autumnal dish than summer.  Then there was some free association...

apple pie - too sweet - maybe savory - or even tart - ooh good pun - tart - apple tart - fruit tart - berry tart - strawberry tart!! - strawberry shortcake...

Wait... strawberry shortcake.  

Now obviously Strawberry Shortcake may be heavy on the fat and sugar if you let it.  But it fulfills the other requirements (even though shortcake is basically the same as a scone and strawberries are found everywhere, the earliest Strawberry Shortcake recipe is found in an American cookbook and it tends to be more of an American dessert) and I can adjust the sugar levels very easily to make sure it doesn't get out of hand.  Best of all, it's now Strawberry season here in Denmark and you are required by law to eat your weight in strawberries and the only way Danes eat strawberries is with cream and sugar.  In a bowl.

It's alright, but dude, there are so many other things you can do with strawberries.

I hear they are good with balsamic vinegar.

Anyway, does not Strawberry Shortcake sound like The Summer Dessert or what?  The husband thought so and is now requesting I make a trial run tonight to see if it works.  Well, if you are going to force me to make and eat desserts...

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, June 28, 2010

It's midnight on a school night and I am still up...


This is the question I ask myself quite often on weekends.

Especially on Sundays, when I *know* I have to get up at some point on Monday.  In this case, I am due to get up in 7 hours so that I can have my coffee before staggering off to Danish class.

The rest of Denmark has vacation now and I am not for another two weeks.

Well, it seems like all of Denmark is on vacation, I'm sure plenty of you are reading this at work RIGHT NOW!  Haha!  You cheeky sods!

Germany is also having vacation as we speak.

This I know because I seem to have gone to sleep last weekend in Denmark and woke up in Germany.  It looks the same around here, but for the last week no one is speaking a language that I can communicate in other than order beer and ask for toilets.  Even my Danish teacher was getting confused and sometimes spoke to me in German.  Then my brain does this little jig in my head as it frantically looks for the proper vocabulary in the Danish file, then swaps to Languages-Currently-Not-In-Use and whips something out.  It is guaranteed to be wrong.

C'est la vie, non?

Staying up late on school nights is certainly not going to help my fragile language abilities.

But is nice about staying up late in Denmark during the summer, regardless of what language you may encounter the next afternoon morning, is that you can appreciate the sunrise at a respectable hour.  Like 3 AM.  And then go to bed and still get some fairly good hours of sleep.  Provided you are like me, part vampire, and sleep happily through the day.  And provided you don't have Danish at 8 AM.

It's the only time of the year I can pretend to be a morning person.

Just look at that sunrise!  How lovely.

Morning people love to talk about the sunrise.  About how it heralds a new day all fresh with no mistakes in it.  I'd like to point out that I always start my day without any mistakes in it... only I start later in the day to minimize the number of mistakes that can occur before the end of the day.  Forward thinking, that's me.  I also like my days like my wines and cheeses, slightly aged and mature.

But I do like sunrises.

Which would leave me with a problem if it wasn't for Danish summers.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

More Adventures in Gardening

Damn it, I hit post instead of preview a few hours ago, so you may be getting this again.  And again.  And again.  This is the one with all the pictures I could muster.  I'm just going to go bang my head on the table now.  Sorry Kelli, I deleted your comment when I deleted the old version of this post.  Thanks for liking the last photo!
***END EDIT***

The adventures continue in our garden.  Two things worth mentioning...

I am not a gardener.

Neither is my husband.

While most things we'll research to death before attempting (just ask my husband about his ongoing probe into trailers - we haven't the money to buy one, but when we do... oh my will we be prepared), for some reason "gardening" is not one of them.  We own at least seven books on wine, including grape varietals and regional production, numerous cook books and recipe collections, more books on the archaeology of the Middle Bronze Age in the Southern Levant than you could possibly want and not one single book on plants.  Neither care, nor maintenance, nor varieties (unless you count the grape book, but it notably states that growing grapes in Denmark for wine production is a foolish venture undertaken by nut-jobs with greenhouses - or words to that effect).

This has worked out fine because we ended up with some very lovely roses without doing a darned thing.

This is one of two large (taller than I am) rose bushes.  I think it's a little sick, there are black spots on the leaves.  But the roses are HUGE and AMAZING in their abundance.


Then there is this white rose bush.  There's a hammock in this picture that my husband temporarily strung up.

White rose on above mentioned bush.

We also have a red rose bush that looks pretty sad, apart from one beautiful rose and a few possible buds.

This is the last rose bush, it's got rather wild-looking roses, but absolutely no rose smell.

Look at THAT!  Pink and orange and the flower is about the size of my hand with fingers outstretched.  I LIKE this rose.  And since I have allergies, I shouldn't go around sticking my nose into roses to smell them anyway.

Then my husband got a large clipper for his graduation present.  And he got a little excited.

This was once on a bush.

This is what remains of that bush.

Since this was my favorite bush in the garden, I'm a little peeved.  Okay, I am REALLY peeved. [Deep calming breath.]  I know it will grow back.  At least I hope it will grow back. [Deep calming breath... again.]  But can you understand that I'm less than excited about his assertions that he can prune our rose bushes without killing them?

To be fair, I don't think that the bushes in our garden had been pruned in years and were a bit of a mess, but he's insisting that apart from one or two little slips, the branches had to go because they were "all tangly."

Would someone else like to explain to my husband that nature is often "all tangly"?

If only the garden had not been so over-grown!  Well, it's certainly not now.  Except for the rose bushes, who got a last minute reprieve by blooming so well.  I really don't want to cut them back as much as I know the Danish Boy would like (and now that he's got big manly clippers, he can).  *Sigh* I expect there to be a bit of a row over it in late summer after the blooms fall off.

I did insist that the lavender stayed as it was.  We compromised and he got to cut off one random branch, rather than the pruning he wanted to do.  Whoever planted the lavender planted another lovely plant RIGHT NEXT TO IT so now both are all up in each other's faces.

I'm rooting for the lavender.

I also absolutely love my foxglove plant.  I wish a had oodles more.  Did you know that the first year they don't bloom?  Means we probably pulled a bunch of them out thinking they were weeds.  Drat.

While my husband worked on de-vegetating the garden, I managed to get some good Alot photos...

Isn't he cute?

This one screams "lolcat" - I mean, WHERE IS HIS HEAD??

But this is my favorite.  I managed to catch him because I was sitting here at the table working on this G*D*MN*D F*CK*NG POST FROM H*LL when he decided to take a break on the chair.  He came in when I went out to get a few more garden pictures, he had been lurking in the (now much smaller) bushes, probably just waiting for the door to open.

Every time he comes in the house, he does the same thing: tours the house (including every window sill), scratches the carpet in front of the door, lounges somewhere for a few minutes, then wanders out a little while later.  I have a lot of Alot butt shots on my camera.  Sometimes I can get him coming at me, like the first shot.  Only if I can't get the camera to focus in time I end up with a close up blurred shot of his nose.

*** Post script to this post ***
I had a horrible time trying to get the images into this post.  Hours spent swearing and clawing at the air and pulling hair.  The reasons are two-fold.  One, there were so many photos, that it made the post ridiculously long and so I tried to do a flickr slideshow WHICH DIDN'T WORK - hours were wasted there, and secondly I had a very hard time getting the pictures to be placed where I wanted them to be and they kept wanting to turn into "links" and refused to let me write text next to them without dragging them down from the top of the post where they mysteriously moved after I de-linked them.  Leaving them as links did seem to work sometimes, but not others.  Not only that, but each picture took forever to upload.

I guess that's three-fold, not two-fold...

Either I need to post fewer photos or I need a different platform or I'm doing this all wrong.  Is there an idiots guide to blogger that I should know about?  Any suggestions on how to make this easier on myself?  I spent all day today on this post.  ALL DAMN DAY!  And now I'm hungry and have to cook myself something.  If you'll excuse me, I'll just go wallow in self-pity in the kitchen...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sometimes I even amaze myself!

It's really not that hard to impress me.  I find lots of things that normal people take for granted absolutely AMAZING!  

Then again, I find lots of things that people think amazing completely normal.

My life, for example.  Totally normal.

People who go to work, the same job, day after day, who go home at night and leave the job in the office?  People who save up money for vacations and go to concerts and know where they'll be in three days, three weeks, three years??



See this?  This is amazing!  This is me being wicked impressed at myself.  

I flipped that crepe.  That and about 10 others.  Not a single one ended up on the floor.  This is the second time that I've flipped crepes.  Second time in my life.  How did I learn?  I uh, saw it on TV.  Oh and a read a description in a book.  And once I saw someone do it... well, I kinda saw it.  I wasn't really paying attention at the time.

Anyway.  Then I just tried it, figuring "what was the worst that could happen?  Breakfast ends up on the floor and I scramble some eggs and I have a great blog post."  And then I was suddenly able to flip crepes!

Only if I try to show someone, like, say, my husband, it doesn't go so well.  Thankfully he's not home this weekend.  The kitchen floor remained as clean as it was before I started making breakfast.

By the way, don't eat off my floor.  Not this week.  "Clean" is sort of relative in this house.

I had a bit of trouble the last time with the melted butter you are supposed to use in the "dough" and when I tried it again today it is still a problem, so I think I'll swap it out for vegetable oil.

But baring the bit with the butter, it was fantastic.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pimp my Parlor!

Welcome to "Pimp my Parlor."  Today we visit a small island in Denmark to visit a large house with an interesting problem.

There are too many rooms and not enough furniture.  The fools who live here don't even know what to call the first front room.  It's obviously a parlor, also known as a salon, or even as a drawing room if you want to spend the rest of your life explaining that no, you do not draw in your drawing room, very funny, idiot.

What it is not is a storage room.

Look at this mess!!

The husband in this house was using the room as a temporary office while working on his final project, since the internet is only accessible through one plug in the corner of the room.  The wife, for reasons that we can only imagine, she IS an American after all and we all know what THEY are like, is running cables across the floor and into the next room where she's taken up semi-permanent residence on the couch.

Thankfully, due to some mold, a deep-seated dislike of older furniture, and a last minute display of generosity, the couple was able to score some large furniture from the in-laws for free.  "Pimp my Parlor" was there to see the result.

They acquired the entire contents of the rectory dinning room: a carpet, and a set of furniture that included a table, chairs, and what's known as a "silver cabinet."

There was a total of 7 chairs, one of which was just slightly different from the rest.  There were also three extra seat inserts and it is the opinion of the wife that there were three other chairs at some point.  She even remembers seeing them in the attic.  They were slightly broken.  She's willing to bet that they were tossed rather than repaired.  This makes her feel slightly ill, so we did not press her for more information.  Four chairs eventually went into the dinning room to replace the unsightly chairs previously in use, though at the time of these photos several of the chairs do seem to be standing around looking embarrassed.  The other three chairs, including the odd man out, remained in the parlor around the table.

Since the home owners do not have any silver... well, we're sure they'll find a use for the cabinet.  They do seem to have a ridiculous number of books in boxes around the house.  However, "Pimp my Parlor" doesn't do libraries.

Also in the set was a massive sideboard.  The small secretary on the far right was an earlier acquisition from the same house, but not part of the dinning room set.

We later discovered that the third door to the sideboard was present, just not re-attached in time for our visit.

Really, they have no excuse now for having things laying about.  Like that advertisement sitting on the table.  Sheesh, good thing we aren't trying to sell this house!  You can see the staircase through these doors.  The wife says this may help some of the long time readers of this blog to orient the position of the parlor.  We at "Pimp my Parlor" prefer blueprints, but that set the woman off on this fit of "oh my god, I have been busy!  Danish doesn't learn itself!!" And so we left her alone.

Oh, yes, almost forgot the bench.

Because of the odd number of chairs, the couple has cleverly used a large bench as the seat along one side of the table.

We see the advertisement has moved.  Thanks, overly excitable woman!

There was another smaller sideboard that came with this set, it went into the proper dinning room and resulted in furniture being rearranged in the office.  This didn't make much sense to us, but seeing how the wife was beginning to look a little frazzled, we decided to not make an issue of it, especially after her father-in-law had informed them, AFTER all the furniture was moved into the house, that the dinning room set did in fact come into smaller pieces, which might make it easier for them to move.

Apparently the couple was worried that they were breaking the furniture and so desisted from tugging on various bits and just carefully moved the furniture on rollers.  Across carpets.  Through doors.  (Doors in Denmark all have thresholds, even the interior doors.  The couple doesn't know why, but they are prepared to shoot the architect.)  Onto lifts.  Into moving vans.  Then they drove the furniture to the house on a narrow COBBLED street where, because there was very little room to maneuver the moving van, the couple constructed a BRIDGE out of a BROKEN BOOKSHELF so that they could roll the furniture out of the moving van, onto the lift, and then from the lift onto the bridge, over the front door step and then around the corner into the parlor.  In order to get this furniture, the couple had gotten up at 5 am and only completed all the moving at 2 am the NEXT MORNING.  Too bad there is no video of this event.

So when "Pimp my Parlor" showed up later that day, we quickly took the photos and ran away.  The poor woman was also in the middle of cleaning the kitchen because the chimney sweep had been to empty a chimney full of bird nests, leaving a thick layer of soot throughout.  Meanwhile, her husband had finished his project just before the Great Parlor Trick Move and ran off to do a taxi shift.

At the time this program aired, we were able to interview the woman, in a slightly more relaxed state.  Her husband passed his final project, he's now a Journalist For Real, and the kitchen is de-sooted and getting organized.  The garden is still a shambles and the internet is still only accessible in two rooms of the house, neither of which is an office.  But she is quick to point out, they are only one wardrobe, one bed and two mattresses away from having a completely furnished house.  If only life would slow down just enough to be able to organize it!

Friday, June 04, 2010

A bit of history

So looked up the house in the building registrar thingy.

It says, with some translation work...

"Big city house.  Built in 1875, attic extension 1921.  A pretty "street" house with a large, high facade and large "Danish flag" windows with profiled moulding.^  Beautiful cornice with dentils.^^  Recessed double door.^^^  Fine chimneys.  New windows in attic extension.
Should you with to change this house: The house must remain unchanged in every detail.  The replacement of building materials must be used for reconstruction purposes only."^^^^

So there you have it.  This date of 1875 makes me much happier, because there is NO WAY people were building in this style in 1915 like the owner said.  Also, the property appears in a city plan drawn in 1677.  There are 9 houses depicted on "my" street - and currently there are 20 real homes sitting here.  What I'm saying it that it's not so accurate, this 1677 map, but it *is* a freakin' old street.

^ I have no idea what they mean by "profiled." Is my moulding under suspicion?  Is my moulding *gasp* a mass murderer!!??
^^ Google translate gave me teeth-cut.  Google translate is not up on it's architectural terms.  Google translate doesn't know how to use Wikipedia.
^^^ Anyone know what a "fyldingsdør" is?  Apart from something about a door.   Is it something incredibly stupid, like "full-length" or "folding"?  It has a transom window above it - does that help?
^^^^ This last section sent Google translate into meltdown.  I've decided that this is what the authors mean when they started tossing "ved" around and leaving out words that would have made this all a lot clearer.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Moving through the bowels of the house...

I am going to plunge right in and point out that this post contains absolutely no bathroom humor, or puns, because jokes like that are a drain on my system.  So continue to shower on the praise, folks, because I am surely going round the U-bend...

I wish I could say that that got it out of my system... but I think I may have gone septic.

Oh, I'm flushed with shame.

Ack!  I must go on before this post becomes clogged with OH MY GOD I CAN'T STOP I'M OVERFLOWING WITH TOILET PUNS!!!

I can't even say "moving on" without sniggering.  So mature! But the reality is that we are about to embark on a tour of part of the house you normally don't see on home tours of the rich and famous (thank god no one rich or famous lives HERE) but where, undoubtably, the majority of us spend some quality time.  If it makes you feel better, maybe you should bring a newspaper to read.

Moving through the vestibule, around the stairs, hidden away, pretending to not even be there, is one of the happiest surprises of this house.

A second bathroom.

There were six of us sharing a bathroom in Århus, which is possible but maybe not advisable unless you have an industrial exhaust fan, great water pressure and an amazing water heater.  And patient people who abide by a schedule.  I had forgotten how wonderful it was to be able to go to the bathroom when you wanted and to have complete privacy for the duration because THERE IS ANOTHER FREAKING BATHROOM UPSTAIRS!!!

The door on the left leads to the kitchen.  We are going behind door number two.


It's not the world's largest bathroom, but it is larger than a lot of the bathrooms I've used in Copenhagen (I'm pretty sure the term "water closet" was coined for your bathrooms, my dears).

Sink to the right, toilet straight ahead (a head *snort*), the dark patch in the back is the shower, but we've not put in a shower curtain yet.  I see the benefits of two toilets in the house, but as yet we don't really have any shower issues to work around.  Anyway, the floor of the shower is heated.  That took us a while to work out.  You turn on the floor heat and then wonder why, god, why do your feet continue to freeze while you sit on the throne?  Meanwhile the dehumidifier is getting nice and toasty wheels.

A word about the dehumidifier.  My husband is a feared of the damp.  This is a perfectly rational fear because his father's house was recently declared uninhabitable due to mold and Denmark is nothing if not damp.  Years ago we lived in Ebeltoft, in a very small, newly renovated apartment that lacked air circulation.  Who the hell renovates a bathroom and forgets to put in a fan?  You can't really throw the windows open when the rain is falling (falling? it drops on you like a ninja in the dark!) at a 45 degree angle and just above freezing.  So we bought the dehumidifier to dry our clothes and to prevent mold from spreading.  It's once again at work, although I am not convinced that having it whirl away in a back room while I can push paperclips through the spaces in the window frames and stick post cards through the gap between the front doors means that our house is now safe from damp... but marriage is all about picking your battles and the dehumidifier's gentle hum when the humidity in the bathroom reaches 50% makes my husband very happy.

Same picture, with flash.  Ugh, it's very clinical, isn't it?

Anyway,you can see a bit more of the shower and this mysterious door just on the other side of the toilet.

This small door leads to...

The most difficult room to photograph EVER.

I have no idea what's going on here.  This is a room purposefully? accidently? made by the creation of the bathroom in what was possibly a hallway or pantry.  The water boiler is perched halfway up one wall like some sort of vulture-bat.  What you see in this picture are pipes that run from the water vat, over and around the room like a spaceship film set and then into the kitchen.  The kitchen being a more recent edition to the house.  You can also see a door.  There's a bolt and everything.  But the door to the back of the house, to the old laundry and coal house (yes, we have some really weird stuff going on in some of the back buildings), is in the kitchen.  Where does this door lead?

To the world's smallest courtyard!  The door is really solidly shut here.  If my husband gets his way, the dryer that we will some day purchase will magic itself into the courtyard by way of not one, but two, old and not very well plumbed doors and then fit through this door which will need to be removed by the hinges, to be placed in that little room that kinda freaks me out.

This is because I once removed part of the floor to see if I could find a water valve.  No valve.  Large deep hole.  No one likes to discover they are standing on a plank above a large deep hole.

Anyway, back to my amazingly small courtyard.  It's got a tree, some random pipes and...

Can anyone say AWESOME??

I have a water pump in a courtyard!  In my house!!

Most of the homes in this town have a water pump in the backyard.  There's also two in the main square, one of which works, and tourists love to stand around pumping cold water on themselves.  (Inevitably someone is standing looking up the spout to see if water is coming.)  Mine may work... after a bit of restoration.  The jolly paint job cemented various bits together that should move independently and some bits that should not move at all are now decidedly wobbly.  But Hey! I have a water pump in my backyard!!