Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cooking Goddess!

Ok, I (Carla) might be exaggerating a bit, but this last week has been filled with lots of cooking! It's pretty cold in Copenhagen; since we've moved here, the temperature hasn't gone above 30 F/-1 C, and it snows fairly often. Today's snowfall was accompanied by a strong wind that made outside life look like a snow blender. I have no desire to explore the city by foot in such weather, so instead I stay indoors and cook.

Cooking is made even more fun for me because I finally have a proper kitchen to cook in! Aside from the beloved oven, I also have counter space, supplies, and storage facilities in which to create, make, and bake our meals. In this photo, you can see the window setting on our living room. My two Le Creuset pots are accompanied by my French cookbook "I Know How To Cook" (Je Sais Cuisiner in French) and the cookbook "Best-Ever Curry Cookbook". As list of some of the things I've made this week: mayonnaise (it only takes 45 minutes of hand whisking), the chocolate mint chip chocolate cookies I mentioned in the previous post, spiced zucchini bread, chicken noodle soup made with home-made stock, eggplant and zucchini sauce with pasta, and spiced salmon with Indian pulao rice.

Here I am preparing our dinner plates with the French recipe for Tarragon Chicken. From the chicken carcass I made stock in my crock-pot.

I made a marble cake loaf. The two flavors are vanilla and orange chocolate. Bobby gets upset that I don't give him larger portions when I pack his lunch.

When I made mayonnaise, I had egg whites leftover, so I made lavender-flavored meringues. I love lavender anything, so these are especially delicious for me. A word of advice, though: making meringues by hand, which requires a lot of whisking, is not recommended after making mayonnaise by hand, which also requires a lot of whisking. My right arm felt like it was going to fall off the next morning!

Another meal I made was Ratatouille. I'm starting to notice a French trend... Anyways, I chopped up all of these vegetables and stewed them (which some oil, water, and spices) for over 2 hours. The result was a flavor-full vegetable medley that was perfect over spaghetti.

Today I cooked my first loaf of bread. Since we've moved from Paris, we've had trouble finding a good loaf of bread as a reasonable price. I decided to take matters into my own hands. The loaf came out looking and tasting great! It had a nice, crisp crust but stayed moist inside. Finally, we have some decent bread!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stretching our Kroner

Bobby and I have discovered something you might have already guessed: Living in Copenhagen is expensive!! We moved here knowing that Scandinavian countries are pretty pricey (in fact, Copenhagen is often listed in the top 5 most expensive cities to live in); we expected rent and restaurants to be higher than even Paris. What we were not expecting, though, is for groceries to be so expensive! The price of many food items is about 30% more than similar items in Paris, and around 50% higher than in California! With this in mind, we have set up a tight monthly budget and I (Carla) am learning how to best stretch our food Kroners.

To begin with, we are cutting back on meat. That seems like it would help, expect when I went to buy frozen vegetables, I discovered that a bag of frozen peas costs 30 Kroner (4 euros, or $5.80)! So much for being well-fed vegetarians. But don't worry, this week a local grocery store is having a sale. Armed with the sale catalog, I walked to the store today to load up on discounted meat, vegetables, and pantry items. One way I plan on stretching our Kroner is by buying fresh vegetables in bulk then freezing them myself. With carrots and bell peppers on sale, I loaded up my shopping bag. I think it only fair to mention that my shopping bag (a large bag we bought in Nice, France, 2 1/2 years ago, that we use every time we shop... yeah for saving plastic bags!) weighed 29 pounds, the grocery store is 3/4 mile away, it was snowing, and we live on the 6th floor without an elevator... 75 very steep steps of hell.

Once I lugged the bag up to the apartment, I set up station in front of my laptop. While watching American television online, I peeled and chopped 2.2 pounds of carrots and 1 yellow bell pepper. Following these nifty health guidelines, published by Iowa State University, I parboiled the carrots, blanched them in an ice bath, then froze them. The peppers were a bit easier; I just washed, chopped, and froze.

Frustrating as the high prices might be, I am very excited to cook in our apartment because there is an oven! One recipe I've been wanting to make for a long time but haven't been able to (due to a lack of proper cooking facilities in our Parisian apartment) is lasagna. I've got a great recipe from Gloria, my dad's partner, and I was very excited to cook a big batch of it last night. Bobby and I will be in lasagna heaven for the next few days!

Another dinner we've had is a traditional Danish meal of Frikadeller (Danish meat balls), mashed potatoes, home-made gravy, and pickled cabbage! This dinner reminded us of the great meals we had in Solvang, a chintzy Danish town north of Santa Barbara. Bobby and I used to drive up to Solvang to buy salty licorice (a Scandinavian specialty that we have inflicted upon many of our friends and family members), and we would stay long enough to have lunch in Bit o' Denmark, stuffing ourselves silly with the smörgåsborg (think Danish buffet). We would then spend the 45 minute drive back to Santa Barbara enjoying our salty licorice.

Today was also Bobby's first real day at the university! Here he is in his new office. Notice his clothing... it seems that Denmark has a very casual work environment. Jeans are normal, though Bobby promises me he won't wear them the days he has to teach. I baked him a batch of Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies to celebrate his first day. We may be broke, but I'll be damned if we go without something sweet... and some vegetables, too!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Our boxes have arrived!

About a week ago we posted a little contest with our possessions going through the mail from Paris to Copenhagen. The eight questions we posed of the seven large boxes were:
  1. Which box is the heaviest, and how much does it weigh?
  2. Which box is the lightest, and who would have thought?
  3. What are two items in box #2b?
  4. What is the total cost for shipping all seven boxes, and do you take a credit card?
  5. Which box(es) will arrive empty?
  6. Which box(es) will be lost?
  7. Which box(es) will be shipped back to France and lost?
  8. How many pairs of women's shoes are not in all the boxes combined? (i.e., how many pairs of shoes did Carla part with?)
And we received TWO entries, each of which are a vinder (VAY-no) (winner). Congratulations Emily N. and Bernie K., you two will receive a special gift sent from Denmark! The correct answers are:
  1. Box 1 was the heaviest at 28 kg, just 2 kg under the maximum permitted weight for mailing international packages. It cost €74.25 to send.
  2. Box 4 was the lightest, which we didn't think since it contained a large Le Creuset bouillabaisse pot.
  3. Box #2b contained our duvet, the crêpe pan, a small frying pan, and an accordion.
  4. The total cost for shipping all seven boxes was €435.75, and thankfully they did take a credit card (which then charged us $28.95 for "foreign transaction fees").
  5. No boxes arrived empty, though some looked like they had seen a lot of action. What were once pretty solid boxes arrived with a pliability like 10-times crumpled newspaper.
  6. No boxes were lost, though the box I sent of my office stuff was delivered to the wrong address, redirected, and finally deposited at the correct place.
  7. Thankfully no boxes were shipped back to France and lost.
  8. Carla brought "oh, I don't know" (too many to count) number of shoes, and parted with 6 (SIX) pairs of shoes.
Thank you both for your entries. Your prizes will be mailed soon!

We were expecting to have to rent a taxi to transport our seven boxes to the apartment from the post office, and then climb the five flights of steep stairs with each box. But luckily, we not only received the packages at our door, the delivery man insisted on helping us bring the boxes up! What a champ, we thought, but do we tip him?

Friday, January 15, 2010


Early this morning Carla and I took a trip to our læge (LAI-eh), or our designated doctor. My sickness has not improved, and Carla is now suffering the same symptoms I had five days ago. We appeared with all the necessary papers, and made an appointment for a few hours later. When we were seen by the doctor I told him, "I think I have some bacterial infection (please give me mercy by way of antibiotics)." He checked my throat, my breathing, and my ears. "It is viral, not bacterial. So rest up and you should be better in a few days." Carla will be better in a week, which she is not too happy about. There was no charge for our appointment. For the "sleeme" (the doctor meant to say slime, or more accurately mucous), he suggested "I screw my nose" with a næsehorn:

That attractive Scandinavian woman is indeed using a næsehorn to circulate salt water through her sinuses, and perhaps water a house plant below. She even got her nails done! Of the two colors, I chose blå (blo). We may just have to post a video demonstration.

Leaving the apotek (ah-boa-TAYG) (apothecary) I took this picture of a familiar sight in Copenhagen: dozens of bicycles parked willy-nilly along the sidewalk without anything like a bike rack to help order them. Even though it is 20 ºF and windy, people will bike all over the place.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Official Work Papers and Free Coffee

We woke up extremely early to go to the immigration services, so early we didn't even shower and hardly did our hair. Today we decided not to walk the nearly 4 km we did yesterday, so we went to the main station to catch a train to Østerport, which is only four stops away -- "in the same zone as the central station." Shocked we were to find out that such a short ride would cost each of us 6 euros round trip! In Paris such a trip would cost 42 kroner = 3.24 euros! How can this be a society that encourages mass transit? Can I even afford to go to work four zones away?

Thankfully, we found a more economical solution by buying a 30 day pass for travel in 1 - 4 zones from central station (535 kroner = 72 euros), and a 10 day pass for travel in 2 zones (130 kroner = 17 euros). Plus these work on any train and bus in the city. We finally made it to the immigration center, and were pleasantly surprised to find no lines, and an automatic coffee machine that cost only 5 kroner (1 fourth of a metro ticket) for a coffee (kaffe) with sugar (sukker) and milk (mælk). It of course wasn't the best coffee, but it was our early morning oasis.

As we left the center, we noticed a gaggle of children being lined up for a walk, each one of them bundled up against the severe elements in one-piece snowsuits. Next winter Carla and I will be as prepared as they are with our own one-piece snowsuits. (Notice in the window at back the word "Åbent" which is pronounced OH-bern, and which I think sounds a little like "open". As we watch television more we find that while some words in the captions look unfamiliar, they can sound like the English word they signify.)

After the successful experience at the immigration services, we walked to the folkeregisteret in our neighborhood to obtain our CPR numbers --- which are like social security numbers in the US. With these, we can earn money in Denmark, see a doctor, check out library books, and pay taxes (that may or may not support the metro system). Again, we were pleasantly surprised by no lines, free coffee and tea, and an office worker who appeared so happy he was resplendent. He gave us our CPR numbers, the name and address of our general practitioner, and explained several things about Denmark that are foreign to us, like free health care. Before leaving we stopped for another coffee.

On the way to return the dress shoes I bought on Sunday (I was given shoes of different sizes, which I did not notice my first day at work until half way through when I thought my left pinky toe went missing), we stopped by a bank to open an account. This time we were pleasantly surprised by free coffee and tea, and a very nice and forward banker who said, "Who told you to bank with us? You don't want to bank with us: we only have one branch in this town. Go down the way about 400 meters to Danske Bank. We want your money, but they have more branches." After that it felt just wrong taking advantage of the free coffee. So we thanked him and left." Finally at Danske Bank, we were able to åben an account (at a cost of 300 kroner = 40 euros) with both our names, get two ATM cards at not cost, set up e-banking, and deposit a measly 40 kroner. And to top it all off, I got a free banana from their bowl of free fruit.

With such a long day of chores done, we headed back home before dark at 3PM and made a little treat of soft-boiled eggs and myseost; but this time we mixed it up by adding a thin slice of brød (bread, but pronounced brurth!) that is "30% seed."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Things needed in Copenhagen

The lack of cold care products here is astounding! Some nose spray and cough drops is all we have found. No nyquil, actifed, sudifed, not even Kfed. Nothing. It seems people here are tough and drink their honey-sweetened camomile tea with a stiff upper lip, and some brød (bread) that is "70% seed." This is annoying for me (Bobby) because I have research to do and papers to write and immigration services to visit.

Carla and I set out at about 11h00 from our apartment to find the immigration center where we must pick up our visas. We have not found any useful map of Copenhagen and so I tried to write the best directions I could for the 3 kilometer walk. We have been looking for any useful map of Copenhagen since we arrived, but have had a heck of time trying to find a newstand or even a bookstore in which to buy such a map. The tourist shop tried to sell us a laminated one that would make a good place mat. And the bicycling store offered us a free map of the bike routes in the city, but provided no systematic way to find a particular street. I asked the man, "Let's say I am a delivery man and I must get to 10 so-and-so-gade. What would I use? A neck worn GPS?" He said, "Well, there is no map like that. We don't use numbers; but they all start low from the center of the city." He hinted that there was a map that could be more helpful, but it is a book. We want a book. We aren't just staying a few days. "Any bookstore, gas station, or newstand would have one" he said. "That is the problem. We have yet to see any of those things!" Later in the day we found an entire store devoted to maps, and found the book he was referring to. Finally! We can find our way around the city. After that we found all the book stores, and bought a Danish/English dictionary. Now we can decode signs!

As we continued on to the immigration services we noticed people were just skating willy-nilly on The Lakes. There was no zamboni in sight; it was just skating in the wild. When we finally found the immigration services at 12h30, we learned that they close at noon. So tomorrow we are going to do this again at 8h30.

On our way home, we came across the 5th Mexican restaurant we have seen here. So we gave it a try, ...

and pleasantly surprised we were! I had a "chilli" con carne burrito served wet with refried beans, and Carla had the nachos. My burrito was extremely spicy, but I think that is mostly due to our time away from hot food.

By the way, here is one of our neighbors across the street, "pudder" (pronounced poodh-o). I see him looking out at night and I stare back until he sees me. Then I slowly raise my hands above my head while he keeps his focus. When I rapidly drop my arms he bursts out barking and I see his owner spring out of her seat. That is when I hit the deck and crawl to the other room. We repeat this exercise nearly every night.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Todays Danish Lesson

Here is something I have learned to read today, but not pronounce.

1 pust i hvert næsebor højst 3 gange daglig i højst 10 dage.

That says, "One push for each nostril not more than 3 times daily for a maximum of 10 days."

Though I have been stifled by a cold, I got myself out of bed today in time to meet several of my new colleagues, see my new office, and partake in some meetings to plan the coming semester. It is going to be a really exciting experience!

And with Carla's new warm headdress we are one styling couple.

Here are some other Danish phrases, which we have learned watching The Simpsons (but have no idea how to pronounce):

Farvel --- Goodbye
Det er løgn. --- You're kidding.
Tja! --- Sure!
Hva'ba' --- Whaaaat?
Kør! --- Run!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Copenhagen, day two

After a very late start to our day, we aimed high and successfully went to the grocery store. On our way there, we came across a monolith of ice standing in the middle of a square!

After our return home, we had a very nice snack of hard boiled eggs and slices of one of our favorite "cheeses," myseost (from Norway). This cheese is unlike most others because it uses the whey instead of the curds. (Another cheese that uses the whey is ricotta.) It also tastes like a combination of fudge and creamy caramel.

For dinner, Carla made a wonderful green minestrone soup that is just perfect for my cold-riddled bones. Now we must return to watching TV under a blanket with warm honey water and some more myseost.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Copenhagen, day one

We have arrived into Copenhagen safely. It really feels like a huge ski village here, since many people are either dressed in full furs, or in snow suits with moon boots. Click on the map above to see our voyage from Los Angeles in March 2009 to Paris, and then to Copenhagen this month. This map shows that the world is a very big place; someday we hope to see the enormous continent of Australia.

The first thing we noticed about our new apartment is that it was warm! This is good, since I (Bobby) have brought from Paris a cold or the flu (Thanks to Olivier and his netti pot; I am not blaming, just saying.) There are three rooms, including a full-size kitchen. When Carla stepped out of the shower today, she said, "Ah, I can't remember when I was this warm after a shower." We no longer need to scramble out of the shower and into long johns, trying to catch our breath like we emerged from an icy pond.

We went for a fast walk today to the Strøget, which is a popular shopping street. On Sunday, most things are closed, but we managed to find a really good shawerma place, and I bought some nice shoes for my first day of work (marked down from 1600 to 399 Kroner!). The temperatures here are about the same as in Paris, but the wind is fierce. We walked fast and took a few pictures. Behind us here is the city hall, which was having a free New Year's concert for the retired people of Copenhagen. We were denied entry; but the extremely nice guard told us to be sure to return. Maybe one day we will be retired here!

Here I am over a frozen canal. Don't know what that building is behind me; it was too cold to find out. After a few hours outside, we rushed back to the apartment and brewed a very large pot of our favorite Chai from Bonthés in Paris. That was about when my joints started to ache, and I took a nap. For dinner we went to an interesting restaurant right down the street where everything is all-natural. I got a delicious soup made from Jerusalem artichokes and a winter salad. Carla got some pasta putineshka. Hopefully tomorrow I will be well enough to run all the errands we need to do.

Tuesday is my first real day of work, which I am very excited about. I have lots of work to do, including preparing to teach and writing up research. One conference this year will be in Malaga, Spain in June; another will be in Aalborg, Denmark in August. Then in September there is a conference in Graz, Austria. Hopefully I will get to go to all of them, with a visit to the US in between.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Our last week in Paris

This week was our last in Paris before starting our lives anew in Copenhagen.

It started on Sunday with our visit to Katie and Olivier's to make a wonderfully large pot of bouillabaisse in Carla's new Le Creuset pot.

On Monday, I was visited by a friend I have known since Stanford about 10 years ago. I showed Hendrik around my lab, and then went to dinner at the lively brassiaire Au Dernier Metro. We would have had him over for dinner, but our apartment was in shambles due to packing and cleaning. Not to mention, ice in the toilet!

On Wednesday evening I organized a "pot" at the lab. On the menu was saucisson with pain (bread), kiwi, chocolate, pêche kir and pastise, fudge, caramels, peppermint bark, and no ones favorite except mine and Carla's, salty licorice. Many people came and before I knew it both bottles of wine were finished.

Here my supervisor Laurent and I stand in front of the world with Europe at head's height.

After the pot, Carla and I went to Guillame and Isabelle's house for an excellent dinner of Boeuf Bourguignon, and a baked apple and nut dessert. Above, it looks like Isabelle tells Guillaume to "parle à le main."
On Thursday we went to the cantine for the last time.

And after lunch we said goodbye to Françoise, the server at the café who remembers everyone's name, and always asks Carla and I how we are doing. When I gave her a box of chocolates for Noël, she came around the counter and kissed me several times on the cheek saying, "C'est très gentil! Merci Bob!"

After lunch, Carla played flute with my labmate François. I had to snap a candid picture because François does not like to be in pictures. (He is the one with his back turned above in front of the Tour Eiffel.) Then after that we went outside of Paris to our friends Claudia and Piéric's apartment for dinner. We got to see their French fixer-upper, which they are handling very bravely considering they both have full-time jobs!

On Friday evening we went one last time to Katie and Olivier's for a taco dinner! Olivier had a cold, but Katie was pregnant!

Here, Olivier poses with a portrait I drew. Of him.

Finally, on Saturday afternoon, after 10 wonderful months in Paris, it was time to return the keys to our apartment to Madame Casano, our landlady at 154 rue Legendre.

Our final lunch in Paris: saucisson and baguette, apples, kiwi, walnuts, and a citron tarte topped by meringue. All in a very cold room.

And finally, on the metro to the airport. Will we ever eat good bread again? Are we going to be even colder in Copenhagen? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Play our contest and win a Danish prize!

Carla stands in front of the 7 boxes that we are sending tomorrow to Denmark via la poste --- the postal service of France. Answer any of the following questions correctly (or near correctly), and you shall receive a prize from Denmark.
  1. Which box is the heaviest, and how much does it weigh?
  2. Which box is the lightest, and who would have thought?
  3. What are two items in box #2b?
  4. What is the total cost for shipping all seven boxes, and do you take a credit card?
  5. Which box(es) will arrive empty?
  6. Which box(es) will be lost?
  7. Which box(es) will be shipped back to France and lost?
  8. How many pairs of women's shoes are not in all the boxes combined? (i.e., how many pairs of shoes did Carla part with?)
To enter the contest just respond here (in the "post a comment" box below) with your answers to any of the questions above!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Bonne Année 2010!

We had an excellent time counting down the new year with our best French friends ever, which included a game of Monopoly that became progressively mean and finally nasty.

For dinner, we first had some wonderful smoked salmon with crushed hard boiled eggs, pickles, and little round pieces of bread.

Then we had 48 escargots with little baked potato balls!

And after this we had a wonderful champagne and a lovely (gluten-free) cake that Katie made. Would you believe that to make the icing for that, Katie substituted goat cheese for the cream cheese? It was extremely delicious.

And Carla and I both agree, Katie is a beautiful pregnant lady. Way to go Katie!

So I decided to draw a beautiful picture of Katie to thank her for everything she has done! Thank you Katie!

Happy new year to everyone!