Monday, July 30, 2012

Operation Floor: carpet removal

Because daycare was closed for vacation last week, the Danish Boy had his hands full of moving furniture while I ran around after the Spawn.

First he had to organize the garage.  I FINALLY got to label the boxes that I've spent the last few months sorting though and repacking.  Then they were stacked in an orderly fashion in the garage and I just hugged myself with glee.

Yeah, I'm a little sick.

We decided to get rid of a bedroom set.  (Pictured, hopefully, to the left.)  It was in the spare room in Ærøskøbing, but since we didn't have a spare room here, it was dismantled and placed in the garage.  Also with the set was a beautiful mirrored wardrobe (dismantled and in the garage) and a mirrored vanity that sat next to my bed.  Alas, the drawers were overly large and ungainly, so I didn't actually use if for anything other than a night stand.

Since none of it was really being used, we (I, because the DB was willing to hold on to it if I couldn't stand to be parted from my vanity... heh) decided to let it go.  Part of me is heartsick over it, but that's the hoarder side of me that keeps birthday cards from previous years stashed in drawers of my desk.  The rule of thumb here is: it must be useful and it must be pretty.  So some ugly night stands went away as well.  Night stands out of Miami Vice, they were, and so were banished to Red Cross.

All our extra furniture goes to Red Cross.  Anyone wanting to make a killing in antiques should check out Red Cross.  There's a fine collection of very old furniture there.

Slowly, but steadily he moved closets and bed into Spawn's room, dining room furniture into the garage and kitchen, and in one case, moved a closet into the mud-room where we now have to go around it to get to anything.

Well, no one is perfect.

Now the rooms looked like this:
"Master" Bedroom
Dining Room
Skanky carpet in the MB, very dirty carpet in the DR.

The carpet was peeled back and...
"Master" Bedroom
Oh, look!  Sisal.  What would posses a person to put sisal carpeting in a house?  And what would posses that person to GLUE IT TO THE FLOOR??

Dining Room
In the dining room, under the carpet, was evidence that there had been sisal glued down as well.  However, this carpet (unlike the skanky one in the MB) was laid professionally, so the sisal (and a good amount of the glue) had been removed.

Back in the MB, the sisal was attacked by a rabid Dane wielding a scraper removed.  Now, on one wall  under the bang-up wallpaper job, was evidence that there had been a wood stove in the room.  You could see the circular plug where the stove-pipe had gone into the chimney and there was a small rectangular bump where the chimney could be accessed by the chimney sweep.  So when we removed the sisal, we were only sort-of-surprised to see a zinc plate where the stove would have sat.
Can you sort of see the zinc square?
Here seen after it's removal

So now the floors are ready to be scraped... or probably just attacked by the Dane with his big sanding machine, rented from the local hardware store.  I'll be brought in for the fiddly bits, like edges and corners, that have to be done by hand.  Since the Spawn's daycare is open again and I'm toddler-free, I really don't have any excuse for not helping.

Um, I think I'm developing a pain in my... um... ugaritic bone.  Yeah, that's it.  Ugaritic bone.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Home Improvement: Operation Floor

So it's time to get to one of the major projects we have for this house.  Pull up the skanky carpet in the "master" bedroom (it's exactly the same size as the other bedroom, "master" is really a matter of opinion) and dining room.  We know that under the carpet in the bedroom is the nastiest sisal carpet EVER (which is staying something because the entryway to the apartment in Aarhus had one NASTYASS sisal carpet), but the dining room is a surprise, since the carpet is not only tacked, but glued to the floor.

I'll be taking pictures and hopefully uploading them over the coming days.

First major discovery: under the sisal carpet in the "master" bedroom, is the zinc (?) plate a stove used to sit on.  We can see the old hookup for the stove in the wall, under the wallpaper.  This must be from when our bedroom was originally a sitting room.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I had my fingerprints taken, what have you done this week?

So Tuesday I went to turn in my application for temporary residency extension and to get biometricked.*  As a result, I’ve got some advice to Denmark and to the foreigners who live here.


Your English pages for New to Denmark are a little, how shall we put it, vague and confusing?  Let’s, for example, take the page for residency-based-on-family-reunification-extension.  There’s a whole bit about fees.  It’s linked to another page, dedicated to fees.  So, I spent hours pouring over this and determined, there would be fees for my residency extension.  This is because, while it is specifically mentioned that there is no fee for applications for family reunification visas, it doesn’t mention extensions of said visas.  “Application for family reunification” is not the same as “application for extension of existent visa, based on family reunification.”  Just sayin’.  Thankfully, since it was unclear, I tried reading the Danish, realized it was way over my head and made my Danish husband read it.  Boy has to be useful for something.  Final discovery?  NO FEE!  WHOOT!**

Also, your list of places to go to be biometricked.  Could you be a bit more specific about where to go? I mean, yeah, you list the police stations, but most require you to go to a specific office, not the main office, and the opening hours are much shorter.  I had to go wander around on the police webpage for a while before I figured out where I needed to go.  I couldn’t remember the exact path I took, so the Danish Boy had to call and get the information again.  Would it be too much to ask you to write Fyns Politi in Odense: Borgerservice, Udlændingkontoret, [correct address]?  Or maybe make it a link to the correct website?  Because I bet a number of people wander into the main police station, and that sort of disturbs the cops, who are probably hella busy with all the crime we foreigners commit when we aren't waiting in immigration offices.

Udlændingkontorer?  (That’s plural for “immigration offices”.) Could you possibly be open for more hours?  I don’t know if there was something special about Tuesday, but there were waaaaaay too many people packed into that small room.  I felt we were just one crying baby away from a disaster-relief center.  You were feeling harried; we were feeling hot, crowded, and stressed.  If you were open for more hours, perhaps we wouldn’t all be there at the same time.  Perhaps we wouldn’t all be stressed that you’d turn us away the minute the clock struck noon. 

Foreigners: yes, you/us/whatever.  We have things we could to do to make it all go so much more smoothly.

BRING THE DAMN PAPERS, for a start.  ALL OF THE DAMN PAPERS!  If there are 9 pages in a form, bring all fucking 9 pages!  Don’t bring 8!  Don’t leave the one that says “for office use only” at home!  You need all those freaking pages!!  Hell, bring the first three pages that are only instructions BECAUSE IT’S EASIER TO THROW AWAY WHAT YOU DON’T NEED THAN MAGICK UP A PAGE THAT’S NOT THERE!!!

Also, what are you, 7?  Don’t fold the papers up and carry them around in your pocket.  This isn’t your homework (although I’ve had teachers that would be mighty pissed off if you had the audacity to turn in rumpled papers).  It’s not a shopping list!  These are forms that need to be legible and the office needs to be able to write on them.  Kinda hard when you have to spend five minutes flattening them out with your sweaty palms.

Have a photo ID ready.  It says very clearly that you need to be able to prove that you are the applicant and then gives you a list of all of the photo IDs that are acceptable.  Don’t be looking at the officer all fish-like.  It says RIGHT THERE.  Great, now we need to wait while you empty your purse.  By the way, they invented these great things called WALLETS that will hold all your cards for you in a tidy package.  Do you do this every time you go to the supermarket?  ‘Cause, DAMN GIRL!

Please do not take calls in the tiny office.  If you have to make a phone call, keep it short and quiet.  How the hell are we going to hear the Danish mangling of our names if you are yakking into your Nokia?  (As a personal aside: can all the Nokia phone users find a different ring tone than the default?  ‘Cause every time a Nokia phone rang, something like 12 people reached for their phones.  Funny, but also kind of annoying.)  I’m sure you are a very important man.  Talking loudly for a long time while waving your arms about is *totally* proof of that.  NOW HANG UP THE FUCKING PHONE!

Finally, if the office is only open from 9 to 12, don’t show up at 11:45.  Seriously, 90% of the people in that office arrived fifteen minutes before closing time.  Did y’all have to drop your kid off at daycare at 8:30, so you could make it on the only ferryboat connection that wasn’t fully booked, so you could drive like a crazy person to Odense too??  And I still made it to the office half and hour before you people.

Total time spent on my case, including biometric data taking?  15 minutes.  From start to finish.  Of course it took 15 minutes before they even got to me, but I was ready with my papers, my ID, and *I* didn’t need to primp before my photo was taken.  Not that I’m saying that’s what you did, lady who sent her husband back out for her purse… but I sure as hell am implying that that’s what you did.  The officer took my papers: 15 seconds.  Checked that I was who I said I was: 15 seconds.  I waited to be called: 10 minutes, while my data was entered and the officers dealt with other people.  I went and got biometricked: 5 minutes.  BAM!  Homeward bound!

Of course, going home meant trying and failing to catch a ferryboat (fully booked, but you gotta try), waiting for the ferry we did have a reservation for, and all that driving to and fro, so by the end of it all, we’d spent 7 hours on the trip. 

Yeah, SEVEN.  We left the island at 9 am and got back to the island at 4 pm.  For a half hour in the immigration office.  Fan-fucking-tabulous.

*They only took the fingerprints of my fingers, but not my thumbs.  So I’m gonna totally commit a bunch of crimes using only my thumbs.  HA, DENMARK!  I WIN!!

**Wait, was that your plan, Denmark?  To instill a sense of dismay and despair before being all "psych! Here have a cookie?"  'Cause, then, well played, Denmark.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Into the cornfield with you, Timmy!

Yesterday I threw some clothes on and looked at myself in the mirror.

"Gah!" I went, "Can I look more unattractive?"

I tried buttoning up the sweater, but that only made it worse.  So then I tried putting a belt on, "to create the illusion of a waist" as I'd seen successfully accomplished on a TV show.


I tried unbuttoning the sweater with a belt.


I took off the belt.  Unbuttoned the sweater.


As I was trying to get my child into her fleece, and the sweater kept slipping off my shoulders, I found myself thinking, "I'm so hideous and fat and I can't even keep this sweater on!"  Then it suddenly hit me.

Everything that was wrong involved this sweater.  IT WAS THE SWEATER!!

One handed I ripped the sweater off and threw it at the floor.

"It's YOU DAMNIT!" I yelled, and as the DB was about to say "*I* didn't do anything, why are you yelling at ME?!" I clarified, "THIS SWEATER IS THE SOURCE OF ALL THAT IS UGLY ABOUT ME!  I'M NOT UGLY!!  THIS SWEATER IS UGLY!!  AND I SHAN'T WEAR IT ANYMORE!!  LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO WEAR CLOTHES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL UGLY!!"

And with that I threw it into a box.

I feel thinner and prettier already.

Friday, July 13, 2012

It's like "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" only without the tomatoes. Or the killer part. Probably.

I got two tomato seedlings a while back.  I felt bad about taking them, even though the woman was giving them away for free.

"Please, take one," she said, pressing the little bundle into my hands.  "Take two!"

I want to raise my own food.  I mean it.  I really do.  But I can't keep herbs in my window alive for more than a week!  Animals?  TOTALLY!  Plants?  Eh, your days are numbered my green friends.  Giving me these tomato plants was condemning them to a short, miserable life.

But I took them home, because tomatoes, I was assured, are the easiest thing in the word to take care of.*

A quick aside: my paternal Grandfather grew GINORMOUS tomatoes in his garden in Los Angeles.  Heaps of the things the size of a child's head.  So I know a thing or two about growing tomatoes.

Thing 1: They need sun.
Thing 2: They like it warm.

And those would be the two things I know about growing tomatoes.  Everything else... um, they like water (totally guessing here) and uh, need soil to grow in?

My god, they're going to give me a PhD in tomatoes here, I'm a freaking genius!

The Danish Boy was totally skeptical.  "You're going to grow tomatoes?" he asked, in the tone normally reserved for "You're going to grow wings and fly to Aruba?"  But I was going to TRY, unlike his plans for growing potatoes, which seems to be:

Step 1: Buy huge bag of potatoes.
Step 2: Eat all the potatoes except the last dozen or so.
Step 3: Put the bag in the shed and tell the wife you're going to grow potatoes.

I mean, call me crazy, but aren't you supposed to plant them or something?  I don't think they make baby potatoes just because you left them alone in the dark.**

Anyway, so the little seedlings languished in my kitchen in the window for a while.  Until I remembered to tell the Danish Boy to get me some soil.  He brought it home with a "my god do you know how many types of soil there are?  And how much they cost?!  I went with the cheapest from the supermarket, I hope that's okay."

I was all "nope, nope, sure I guess" and went hunting for a big enough pot.  I had managed to keep some basil alive for a few weeks and figured, heck they should all go together.  Basil and tomatoes are like peas and carrots, surely if you eat them together, you can grow them together.***  And if you are a herb and survive my kitchen, you deserve a shot at life in a pot in my greenhouse.  Or maybe that's like damning the basil to Siberia.  Who am I to know these things?  I know nothing about basil.

I removed the desiccated remains of an olive tree from a pot.  The previous owner of the house had this languishing olive tree and I finished it off last winter.  It then sat as a mute testimony to my ability to not be able to cultivate Mediterranean plants in a northern European climate.****

I popped the basil and two tomato plants in with some soil, watered heavily, and placed the pot next to the wall in the greenhouse, figuring that the sun would heat up the greenhouse and the wall, which would radiate heat throughout the night, keeping the plant warm.  Also, because we've lost three panes of glass in the greenhouse, it doesn't get that hot, so radiant heat would be important.

But I neglected to remember the grapevine.  We have two, and the one in the greenhouse is a monster.  It bides it's time in the winter and then in the summer BANG!  Leaves and grapes!  GRAPES!!  GRAPES OF WRATH DOOM!!

So as I went out every day to water my tomato plants, I failed to notice that the grapes were taking over and very efficiently blocking out the sun.  Until I noticed that my tomato plants were growing at a weird angle and turning yellow.  Mold began to grow on the soil.

At this point a gardener would probably have cut back the grapevine.  But since I'm a "grow as you will and let others grow as they will too" type, I just moved the tomatoes to a sunnier location at the front of the greenhouse.  I patted myself on the back, because I placed them where condensation drips, so it was like they would be under an automatic drip system!  And surely the wind wouldn't be that bad...

Cue Danish summer.  Or more accurately, non-summer.

My tomatoes are suffering from weather extremes, but even with leaf-curl, they gamely struggle on.  The basil, having taken a beating, seems to be pulling back from the brink.  I finally had to go get some supports for the tomatoes, and now they are really taking off.  I even have some flowers, which suggests I may someday have tomatoes!

The grapevine finally reached epic proportions and had to be cut back.  I attacked it with clippers and we can at least get back out into the greenhouse.

I really should have done a before and after picture, because DAMN it was crazy.  But instead you'll just have to make do with a picture of the box I stuffed all the clipped bits into.

You'll just have to believe me when I say, there IS a box under all of that.  This year I am determined to do SOMETHING with the grapes.  The DB is pushing for wine.  I'm thinking grape jelly.

* The one plant that thrives under my care?  The orchid.  Aren't orchids supposed to be difficult?  Because this one is great, the less I do with it, the happier it is.  It's like the perfect plant.
** Another thing I learned about potatoes - if you have a big bag of them in the pantry, they make the pantry humid.  And that makes your onions and garlic go moldy.  And your lemons will grow mold on the skin, but you can wash that off.  But really, a nice basket for your onions and garlic to hang in your kitchen is not only decorative, but also a good way of not having to throw away onions before you can use them.  
*** Actually, I don't think you can grow peas and carrots together.  In which case, basil and tomatoes are NOTHING like peas and carrots.  Other than that you can eat them together.  
**** Although, come to think of it, the fig tree is doing okay.  Probably because I'm not trying to save it's life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The culmination of two weeks of work

There are some questions that get asked again and again and again and again and... oh you get the point.  One of these is: So what do you do?  This isn't Q: "What do you do?" A: "I'm an out-of-work archaeologist."  This is after we've covered my background, my schooling, my reason for being in this country, my reason for being on this island, and my reason for being in this village.*  It's a "good lord, woman, what the hell do you do all day??"  I think they imagine that I lounge about all day, eating bon bons.

HA!  Joke's on them!  I don't eat bon bons!

But for two weeks, I had an answer: I was painting the backdrops for the local theater production.

Some of you will be going "???" and some will be LOLing.  A little background: I did four years of drama in high-school, including more than my fair share of musicals.  This means I have a lot of experience with painting scenery.  And while I did a lot of acting during those years, I am not performing in this years production, "Treasure Island," because
A) it's in Danish and I have a hell of a time in Danish
B) there's a shit-ton of singing

Er, didn't I just say I did a lot of musical theater?

Yes.  And in all that time I managed to never have to sing a solo, especially after the choir director heard me sing that first year in try-outs.  Really, it was better for EVERYONE if I just blended into the choir or had a non-singing role.

So can we just agree that making me SING in DANISH would probably break several Geneva Conventions (I'm not sure who would suffer more, me or the audience) and leave it at that?

Anyway, last night was opening night and I snapped some pics before the audience filled the seats and the sun set behind the trees.

It's a big stage, so it's hard to get it all in a photo.  From the left, there's the Hispaniola, a typical English sea-side town circa 1750, the Admiral Benbow Inn, Treasure Island and the stockade, the jungle, and Skull Mountain aka Grotto where we hid the musicians (the musicians must have cover, this is Denmark, we can't guarantee good weather).  The town-scape actually opens up (you can see the seam) and becomes Trelawney's library.

Here's the library in all it's glory.  Can you see the flames in the fireplace?  I did that.  I'm terribly proud.

Now I'm no professional, but I was supervised by one.  Peter did all the fine details and together we painted the rest.  I'm very good at painting large blocks of solid colors.  I learned a lot too.  Like, if you mix yellow and black together, you do NOT get darker yellow, you get khaki green.  And black and white and ORANGE makes a very nice stone grey.

Dr. Livesey, John Hunter (manservant) and Trelawney
I spent most of the performance chasing my child all over the place and not really getting a chance to watch the play, but it sounded pretty good.  Some of those guys can really sing!  And there were some stand out performances too.  Doctor Livesey and Squire Trelawney were fabulous.  Trelawney managed to sound like an upper-class British twit IN DANISH.  Others made up for a lack of acting ability with enthusiasm, which is really what half of community theater is about.

Maybe next year I'll agree to be on stage.

*The answers are: California, A LOT, I married a Dane, he got a job, I like the countryside IS THAT SO WRONG??

Monday, July 09, 2012

Feeling a bit like *that* weatherman

So you know how there's always a weatherman standing in really horrible weather, screaming about how horrible the weather is, while the two newscasters sit in their warm, dry studio and say, "Gee Bob, that's some horrible weather they're having out there in Chattanooga" or wherever the poor weatherman happens to be standing?

Or in any disaster movie, there's always the idiots who are standing right where the disaster is about to happen, holding up their cameras and trying to get a picture?

And you think to yourself, "Morons!  I'd never be so stupid as to stand around watching a disaster or inclement weather unfold!  I'd be getting the heck out of there!"  

You'd certainly not be eating an ice cream cone, taking pictures one handed, while your child clutched at your leg (not 'cause she's scared, but because there's chocolate ice cream going on and she wants some of the action).

We were on our way back to home yesterday and had an hour wait until the ferry came.*  So we decided to take a stroll.  We made it back to the car before the storm broke.  Had we not stopped for ice cream, we'd have been farther away from the car, so really, my need for pistachio/chocolate/mint-chocolate-chip saved our butts.  For a while the rain was so bad you couldn't see anything out at sea.  By the time the ferry came in, the storm had mostly passed.  It was clearing by the time we got home.  Wild weather, man, wild weather.

*I use a date stamp because I've learned the hard way that after about a week I can't remember when I took any given picture. It's day first, month second.  I have not travelled into the future to record the weather of August 7th.  So if you have plans to be outside in Faaborg on August 7th, you don't need to bring an umbrella.  Or maybe you do.  This is Denmark, after all, and the weather this summer sucks.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

If wishes were horses... OMG IS THAT A PONY??

So no sooner to I rant about stupid residency laws, then they get changed!

I would add a link in English, but it's not updated yet.  Oh, here, let me Google Translate that for you!

The big news is, you can now use education as part of the employment requirement.  And it's three years of the last five, so you aren't completely screwed if you've had a child.  In fact, you might even be able to have TWO!  And maternity leave will be included as time served towards those three years.

You can take an education outside of Denmark, you can include work outside of Denmark (provided it all relates to Denmark in some way, lots of fiddly bits here), you can combine study and work.  All in all it's far more inclusive and flexible than before.

There is no "active citizenship" bullshit (apart from signing a piece of paper that says, I will learn Danish and I won't be a dick - kinda wish they'd make Danes sign this too).

The suddenness of it all makes me feel a bit like Jay in Dogma.

Maybe instead of ranting about immigration, I should have been ranting about how no one randomly gives me $10 million dollars.  HA!

Monday, July 02, 2012

We're talking Serious First World Issues here, man

I want to talk about something that is seriously wrong with the world today.  An important topic that I am sure is near and dear to your hearts.


What, that’s not on your list of crimes against humanity?  Oh.  Well, I guess you can just keep reading this post as a humorous rant.  The rest of us will just be over here, rending our clothes and gnashing our teeth THANKYOUVERYMUCH!

Baby clothes designers are obviously mentally incompetent asshats, who (and this is very important) have NEVER seen a baby in real life.

Kind of like how Karl Lagerfeld has never actually seen breasts and therefore designs clothes for women who don’t have them and Manolo Blahnik, who has apparently never seen a woman try to walk on anything other than a runway, keeps designing objects for foot-fetishists.

But baby clothes are so cute!  How can you say such a thing?!

I’m glad you asked, Voice of Unreason. 

Because those cute baby clothes are all “wash cold” or “delicate cycle” or “hand wash separately.”


Have you see the shit that gets on baby clothes?  I mean SHIT gets on baby clothes!  Cold water, delicate cycle, hand wash separately BULLSHIT!


Have you ever tried to button a wriggling child into clothing?  Let me ask you this, do straightjackets have buttons?

Warning to readers: be wery wery careful if you Google to find out the answer to this question.

So then tell us, oh wise one, do straightjackets have buttons?

I note a tad bit of sarcasm in that question.

Moi?  Never!  I am the Voice of Unreason and I would never use sarcasm… or irony!


The answer, since you crave enlightenment-minus-the-Power-of-the-Google, is NO.  No buttons on a straightjacket.  Because trying to button a person that needs restraining into any garment is the apex of ridiculousness.  Someone is going to lose an eye!  So why on god’s green earth would someone put buttons on baby clothes?  Babies are simply smaller mental patients whom you aren’t allowed to sedate!  Or sit on.  APARENTLY.

Then there’s the size issue.  As a woman, I’m used to clothes that say one size but mean another and never believing the size on the label anyway.  But whereas I can try on clothes before I buy, it’s kinda hard to try clothes on a baby.

Doubt me?  Go take a drunken frat boy shopping.  Try to get him to try on clothes.  Try to keep him in said clothes.  Try to keep him from peeing on someone.

I’m pretty damn lucky, though, I get huge boxes of hand-me-downs (in good condition) from a SIL.  I can chase my half naked child through the privacy of my own house.  Provided that all the doors to the outside are closed, I stand a pretty good chance of catching her too.

But there’s always that moment where I’ve picked out something to put on my child for the first time and even though the size should be appropriate, it just SO DOESN’T FIT!  Problems include:
  • My child is not a linebacker and doesn’t have the shoulders to fill out the onesie
  • My child is petite (takes after her mother, she does, not that you’d know if from looking at me these days, but trust me, we have gelfling ancestry) and so wears 6-9 month onsies with 1-1½ pants
  • So normally our problem is that clothes are too big, this then renders me completely unprepared for clothes that are too small

There is nothing like wrestling your child into clothes and then discovering that said clothes are too small.  Really, there isn’t. 

First you have a moment of incomprehension.  Did I put this on wrong? Followed by a tense face-off between you and your spawn.  You have less than ten seconds to magically remove the offending garment while your child inhales for that piercing shriek while simultaneously tensing his or her body for the coming fit.  Then there’s the struggle to get the item back off.  No matter how easy or difficult it was to get on, it has now shrunk another two sizes and WILL NOT COME OFF!  Somehow your child is now trapped in a garment that has no flexibility, one arm pinned across the chest, hand struggling out the neck opening with the elbow still caught in the sleeve… how did this happen? 

The moment you ask “how did this happen,” it’s all over.  The child is screaming.  You are wailing.  Your spouse will choose this moment to enter and ask, “What are you doing to our child?” and all you can think is “THIS IS ALL HIS/HER FAULT!”

But let’s be honest.  It’s the designer’s fault.

Fuck baby clothes designers.