Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Visit from our BFFFs

Our Best French Friends Forever (BFFFs) paid us a visit right in time for our big snow!

That is sissy Katie, lille bébé Iris, and proud papa Olivier! On that day we all went downtown to have shawerma, and see the Strøget and the holiday markets. Lille Iris was warm as a bed bug, and bravely dodged the snow missiles I hurled at her mother's head.

Carla and I bought a very Danish hat to prepare Iris for the cold. She loved it on her somewhat oversized head. What a cutie!

On the Strøget, which is the main shopping street downtown, we saw a shop that had a Christmastime display full of the dark Danish humor we love. At right we see Farfar (Grandfather), who apparently won an award for becoming a fine sausage.

Their visit was much too short, but in our time together we had an extreme amount of hygge (cozy familial feelings) with traditional Danish cooking, candles, games, laughing, and borderline-aggressive play fighting in the snow. And now they are convinced to someday be our neighbors in Denmark! Carla and I sure hope that comes to pass. :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cologne, Germany, or How We Ate Seven Different Animals in a 40 Hour Period

Bobby and I had a wonderful weekend in Cologne, Germany. Our weekend away included ancient Roman ruins, Gothic cathedrals, awesome German food, and, of course, German beer! Cologne is home to the beautiful Cologne Cathedral, or the Kölner Dom. Begun in 1248, the cathedral wasn't completed until 1880.

Bobby and I were both particularly fond of this stained glass window, which looked like color pixels.

The cathedral houses the Shrine of the Three Kings (the same ones from the Christmas song "We Three Kings"). Dating from the 13th century, it supposedly holds the remains of the Three Kings.

The cathedral has a very rich treasury. I especially liked the pieces with emeralds!

I think this is a neat photo.

Here is a photo of us with the Rhine River behind us. It was cold in Cologne, but no where near as cold as Copenhagen is now!

Here are some photos of a few of the other churches in the Old Town.

We went to the Roman-Germanic Museum on Sunday morning, which houses a huge collection of indigenous archeological finds. Here Bobby poses with a large gate, which he says proves evolution Ray Comfort style since the carved creatures are half ancient sea serpent, half goat. He's the scientist, so I trust his judgment!

We saw this bicycling bar on the street. The people bicycle while a guy in the middle pours everyone beers. This particular grouped looked like they had been bicycling/drink for a while... the moved very, very slowly.

Christmas is nearly upon us! Since Europeans can't use Thanksgiving as the marker for when you can put up Christmas decoration, they begin a bit early. Sadly, the Cologne Christmas Markets opened up the day after we left, but they were setup and decorated with lovely Christmas trees.

The other highlight of our trip was the food and drinks we consumed with gusto. Bobby drank beer with every meal except for breakfast. I made it a point to consume as much animal protein as I could.

I arrived in Cologne on Friday evening. After meeting Bobby at our hotel, we took the tram into the center of town. On the tram ride, Bobby noticed a small but nice looking restaurant. We decided to take out chances and hopped of the tram. Good thing we did! Ox und Klee was very small, with only 6 or 8 tables. The waitress translated the small menu for us. I picked the 'Chef's Surprise', a 3 course menu created by the chef. My first course, pictured here, was a rabbit terrine (animal number 1).

My second course was ox cheek (animal number 2) on mashed purple potatoes and haricots verts with a cranberry sauce.

Bobby ordered the evening's special, roasted goose (animal number 3) with red cabbage and potato dumplings.

The third course, which I kindly shared with Bobby, was a blueberry cheesecake, nouget 'air', and stewed quince.

On Saturday afternoon, we found a little cottage restaurant for a good, hearty lunch. I had the bratwurst (which I think is made of either beef or pork, either way, animal number 4) and roasted potatoes, which was delicious with spicy mustard.

Bobby had venison goulash (animal number 5) with maggots... just kidding, those are potato noodles, and apple and pear sauce.

With a lunch as hearty as the one we ate, you'd think Bobby and I were set for the rest of the afternoon, if not the rest of the day. But you should know us better... we like to eat a lot (especially when the food is so cheap compared to food in Denmark!), and we love sweets. While walking around in the late afternoon, we came across the Cologne Chocolate Museum. We looked inside the gift shop the saw the cafe. We just want 'a look', which turned into tea with a piece of chocolate-layered cake. Chocolate heaven...

We lucked out once again Saturday night with our restaurant selection. We saw a big crowd outside of a restaurant door in the Old Town area near the cathedral. We went in and discovered a giant traditional beer hall! The Brauhaus Sion has been a beer house in the same location since 1318! We sat down and ordered another fantastic meal. Bobby had the house bratwurst with potato salad.

I had pork knuckle (animal number 6) with stewed cabbage and potatoes. As we were eating, we noticed that the size of the restaurant was the only giant thing. Nearly every person who walked by our table was well over 6 feet tall, including the women! It turns out that the Germany 'Tall Person Club' was in town. I felt like a real munchkin around these people!

On Sunday, we ate our final meal in Cologne. While walking around the previous night, we saw this restaurant and wanted to have dinner there. However, the wait was too long so we moved on. We walked by again on Sunday and decided to try our luck one last time. Our good luck persisted and we had a wonderful lunch of mussels (animal number 7) from the specialty mussel restaurant.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fall is here, and so is conditional probability

Colors have definitely changed over the past month, and the trees at the university are barren. The grass is covered in all shades of yellow and red, which makes orange. Our front court is now nicely framed by a warm-colored shrub. Our two bicycles are at the lower right.

To celebrate the changing colors we made an Ethiopean dish called "doro wat," which is like a cinnamon chicken stew with a hard boiled egg added to spite the hen. Our injera (the bread used to eat the food) turned out more like a crepe than anything else! But it still was tasty! Next time we will have to prepare the injera batter days in advance so that it can have the proper fermentation.

Tonight I schooled Carla in conditional probability. We played a game called Monty Hall. Ten cards are face down, one of them is an ace. Carla picks a card at random and I uncover eight of the other cards that are not aces. She can then keep her choice or pick instead what is hidden under the unflipped card. Carla said that in that case it will be a 50-50 chance she wins, so she will always keep her choice. My eyes bugged out of course because the best strategy in this game is to always switch. With this strategy one will win 9 out of 10 times (in this particular scenario). So Carla played this game five times and won none of them. Then it was my turn. I could literally hear her begin to respect conditional probability.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Danske mad (Danish food)

I (Carla) tried my hand at cooking a traditional Danish dinner over the weekend. I made a Danish Christmas dinner, which seemed appropriate considering the outside temperatures (low 40s... brrr). The meal consisted of flæskesteg (pork roast with cracklings), brune kartofler (caramelized potatoes), brun sovs (brown sauce, or gravy), and rødkål (pickled red cabbage). It was a hearty meal and we look forward to eating it again in December.

No Danish Christmas is complete without æbleskiver. These pancake-like doughnuts are best eaten fresh, filled with jam (or, in our case, some of the Speculoos spread Bobby received as a birthday present) and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Funnily enough, the recipe I used came from my Grandma Townsend, via Aunt Carolyn. Grandma Townsend used to make these every Christmas morning. I didn't know æbleskivers were Danish until we moved here. I wonder how she came to making them...

To make æbleskivers, you need a special æbleskiver pan, which is on the top left burner (this photo also shows me caramelizing the potatoes). I found my cast-iron pan at a Lion's Club used goods store. The pan worked perfectly, though the first batch of æbleskivers tasted like fish... kind of gross. But the following batches lost all the fishy taste and were just lovely!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Birthday Fotos

My birthday was a great success not least of which because I successfully turned another year older without actually looking older. Carla made sure to give me an extra special 35th; and what's more, Carla's mom Sharon came all the way from LA to help us celebrate!

Sharon brought about 40 pounds of gifts, including an assortment of hot sauces, several packages of macaroni and cheese, Japanese curry cubes, teas, a hat, and some warm sweaters. She also brought two right boots for Carla.

In return we gave her a lovely and authentic troll, the last picture of whom is above. He is guarding Carla's first apple pie --- which turned out to be a big hit with non-trolls.

That is an accordion tie! And chapstick. And Europe's favorite biscuits: speculoos. Thank you Sharon and Carla!

From Carla's dad I got this awesome pull printed with the mascot of his local high school: the Grapepickers. Thanks Dale!

For one dinner we all went to the restaurant Klubben, which serves traditional Danish food including all you can eat fried pork, and wonderful all you can eat roast beef. Accompanying these dishes were gravy, potatoes, pickled pears, beets, and cucumbers, and some little berries. Between the three of us, we could hardly finish the first two platters, let alone ask for more. Next time I will fast before I go. And bring some backup arteries.

We had some lovely hygge at dinner time with a festive centerpiece crafted by Sharon from all local ingredients found on our hike earlier in the day. Carla made duck with citrus sauce, which was delicious, but not so friendly on the oven. A week later we are still finding grease in strange places.

Carla also made an awesome chocolate cake with frosting! This was such a wonderful way to turn 35 that I think I will turn 34 tomorrow.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tillykke til Bobby!

Happy Birthday, Bobby!

Today is Bobby's 35th birthday! My Mom has flown into help us celebrate Bobby's special day. We are going to Malmö, Sweden for a fun day day of touring. Tonight we dine at Restaurant Klubben, a great restaurant in the Vesterbro neighborhood of Copenhagen that serves traditional Danish food. Frikadeller, here we come!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tillykke til os!

This week has been very rewarding for both Bobby and me. I passed my big Danish test and will begin the next level on Tuesday. The test was split over two days. Wednesday was devoted to the writing, listening, and reading portion of the test. Today was the spoken portion. Bobby came home with this lovey winter plant to congratulate me. I am very happy I passed and look forward to learning more Danish.

Bobby finished a large revision of a submitted journal article and also wrote a third grant application. He's been working on the journal article for the entire month (and then some). I told him that this past month has been very similar to the last few months of his dissertation writing; in other words, Bobby has been a work zombie. This is a photo of our typical Saturday night during September. We'd eat dinner together, then Bobby would go right back to writing while I entertained myself with TV. The candles made it a romantic working evening!

We attended a Connecting Friends dinner on Tuesday. You may remember that Connecting Friends is a program hosted by the Copenhagen language school which brings foreigners together with some Danes. As luck would have it, the hosts of the dinner wanted to show the guests a traditional Danish birthday celebrating. Bobby was randomly chosen to be the birthday boy, which was perfectly timed since his birthday is coming up soon! He was sung to, toasted (repeatedly, and by complete strangers), and even got to blow out birthday candles on a cake. It was a really fun evening made all the more special by Bobby's 'birthday'.

Bobby is test-riding this bike, which was once ridden by Bjarne Riis, the Danish bicyclist who won the 1996 Tour de France (he admitted to using steroids so the winning title has been retracted, but we don't need to talk about that). The bike is very fast and light, but Bobby has to nearly bend all the way over when riding. He's yet to determine whether or not he'll purchase it.

Bobby came home one day with this giant squash in his bag. One of the houses on his bike ride home often has a table set up with squash for sale. For 5 kroner (about $1), we ate from this squash all week! I made zucchini bread, zucchini cookies, sauteed squash, and gnocchi and vegetable stir-fry (below photo). All this cooking talk bring me to the final accomplishment of the week...

Since moving to Denmark, Bobby and I have kept a pretty tight budget. At the end of each month, we total up all of our receipts for the entire month (every receipt, weather it's for food, a coffee, or train tickets) and monitor our spending. The month of August turned out to be a pricey month for groceries. We spent an average of $11.00 per person per day for food. Mind you, we eat all three meals at home, drink alcohol (no more than 2 bottle of wine a week), eat some meat (about 1 1/2 pounds of protein per week, total), and eat a lot of fresh produce. $11.00 isn't bad, but we were spending more than we needed to. So I set a goal for myself at the beginning of September. I wanted to spend no more that 2000 kroner ($365.00) total for the month for food. I did it! I spent 1941 kroner, which means we spent an average of $5.90 per person per day on food. We didn't go hungry, we still got to eat some meat, we ate plenty of fruit and vegetables, and we drank 1 bottle of wine per week. The quality and quantity of the wine decreased, but so did our bill.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tilbage til skole

September has brought new things for Bobby and me. We are both back in school! And we both have new haircuts! Well, Bobby got a proper haircut for a barber shop. I, on the other hand, am a cheapskate and can't imagine paying to have my bangs trimmed. So I either do it myself or I make Bobby do it. This time I had Bobby do it. He took a bit too much off but it's starting to grow back. Oh well, it's only hair.

My Danish classes are resumed, though I now at a different language school than the one I was attending when we lived in downtown Copenhagen. My new school is a 15 minute bike ride from our new apartment. The school has very nice facilities and is set in a beautiful location in Hellerup. I have class three days a week from 9am until noon. I am also expected to spend an additional 5 hour each week studying at school. I really like my new classes. The two teachers are fantastic and I am learning a lot. I can already talk and read in the past, present perfect, present, and future tenses! My big test for passing out of lever 2 is already scheduled for the end of this month. It is exciting to be learning so much Danish.

Bobby's university has also resumed. He is teaching a class in addition to supervising students. This photo shows him on his first day of class. Doesn't he look sophisticated and professorly?

Aside from school, we haven't done much that's worth writing about. I continue to cook and learn new recipes and techniques with all my fun kitchen gadgets. We had a nice American man over for dinner this past Saturday. He is a climate researcher and has just moved to Copenhagen. His grandparents are neighbors with Bobby's Aunt and Uncle back in the States, so our contacts were exchanged by said relations. He is a very nice guy and we look forward to sharing more meals together. For the dinner I prepared (fresh garlic bread, Provençal tomato spread, Wowatouille with pasta, salad with a spicy creamy cilantro dressing, and chocolate cake with whipped cream), I got to use every paddle attachment on Anchor Baby, my cherished stand mixer. Flat paddle for the cake, whisk for the whipped cream, and dough hook for the garlic bread. You know it's a good day when you use all of the attachments!