Saturday, November 19, 2011

Jeg kan tale danske nu!

I am finally finished with my Danish courses and have passed the module 1 written and oral examination! Now I begin module 2, sometime next year. It has been fun, and I really feel like I made good progress, even though I missed half of the classes because of work. The times speaking Danish at lunch with my colleagues really helped! And of course, Carla has been there all along helping me mispronounce a variety of things. :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bob lærer danske nu.

I (Bob) have finally started my Danish courses, which take up about 12 hours a week, including nearly two full days. This really puts a dent into my time to do work, but in the short time I have been learning, I really feel like I have come a long ways. In my second week, we all got the books we are using. It is a new book, written by a Danish teacher in Copenhagen. And in fact, she was Carla's first teacher! And in fact in fact, when I opened the book and turned to page 11, I see Carla!

Word soon got around to the entire class, in part because I yelled, "Det er min kone!" (That is my wife!) The teacher couldn't believe it because, "I always thought these were fake people" he said. Now Carla is like a movie star in my class. People said, "Oh, she is so cute!" One woman from Chile said, "You better treat her nice!" Plus, word is getting around that Carla is a fantastic baker and chef. During class I always pull out 3 or 4 tupperwares of food to eat (my classmates exclaim that I am always eating). The other day I had one of Carla's cinnamon pumpkin rolls with frosting, and people were asking, "What is that? Your wife made that!?" Then a woman from Brooklyn asked, "Is your wife a baker or a cook?" I said, "Both! Det er min kone. :) Good with the savory and good with the sweet."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Danish Politics (be prepared to be confused)

This coming Thursday, 80-90% of Denmark will vote for a new parliament. Can you believe how high the voter turnout is?! The streets are covered with posters featuring a photo of the political hopefuls, their name, and the name of the party under which they are running. I've noticed a large number of political parties represented, so I asked a few of our Danish friends about the different parties and where they stand on the political landscape.

Here is a little cheat-sheet I created to help me remember where all the parties lie. This list doesn't cover every party, but only the major parties. As you can see, the most liberal of the parties is called Enhedslisten, which means the unity party. The most conservative of the parties is called the Dansk Folkeparti, or the Danish People's Party (think Danish tea party, yet not quite that conservative). However, unlike American politics, there are a lot of political parties that fall between these two extremes, and it's actually these 'middle of the road' parties that hold the majority of power. Let's start from the left (which, confusingly enough, is represented by the color red in Denmark, while the conservative parties are represented by the color blue). Next to the Enhedslisten is the Socialistisk Folkeparti, or the Socialist People's Party. Next comes the Socialdemokraterne, or the Social Democrats. Of the liberal parties, the Social Democrats have the most power, followed by the Socialists.
Now here is where things start to get funny... there is a party called Radikale, or the Radicals. When I first heard of this group, I assumed they were either very liberal or very conservative, hence 'radical'. However, this party isn't in a fixed location on the political map. Their allegiance is flexible. Strange, huh?
And yet most confusing fun: the least conservative of the conservative parties is called (wait for it...) Venstre, or the Left (they are also known as The Liberals... hahaha!)! Yep, a conservative party called Left. That's pretty funny if you ask me. This is the party that is currently in power; the current prime minister (who isn't voted for, but is rather chosen by the party with the most seats in Parliament) is in the Left party. One of my friends explained the name: the Left used to sit on the left side of Parliament, hence the name. Next comes the Konservative Folkeparti, or the Conservatives. As mentioned above, the most conservative of the political parties is the Dansk Folkeparti, or the Danish People's Party.
Bobby and I won't have the opportunity to vote for at least 7 more years (it takes a minimum of 9 years to gain Danish citizenship), but we've enjoyed learning about the political process in our new home country. We are pleasantly surprised by the relative liberalism of almost all of the parties; no one is trying to get rid of same-sex civil unions (which were legalized in 1989, making Denmark the first country to legalize same-sex civil unions) or abortion rights. Of course, there are the familiar arguments of lowering taxes, reducing unemployment benefits, tightening immigration, and other bs things... I guess no where is perfect. Happy voting!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Visit from Mom, Cooking, and Apartment Hunting

Since returning from our awesome trip to Hawai'i and Pennsylvania, Bobby and I have tried to get back into our daily routines, but it's been tough. The weather has been mostly crappy (cool, rainy, and windy... Denmark in a nutshell); in fact, this has been the wettest summer since the 1840s! It's been hard waking up early to get to work, though it has been nice biking around. It's especially hard not coming home to my Dad's good cooking and great wine! But last week we had a treat, which helped us feel like we were back on vacation mode: a visit from Mom!

And no visit from Mom is complete without a suitcase full of gifts! Mom brought us about 10 bottles of hot sauce (we just can't get Cholula here), 4 amazing bottles of red wine, a Bodum French press for coffee (because Mom was dreading the idea of our instant coffee), and many other goodies. Thanks, Mom! Our food is much spicier and tastier now :)

We tricked Mom into a 22 mile tandem bike ride! We took a tandem picnic to Dyrehaven (the beautiful park we visited in May) and we initially told Mom is was only a 6 mile ride. Well, it was 6 miles one way. Except it was actually 11 miles one way! But Mom was a trooper and survived the ride. I think she even enjoyed parts of the tandem ride!

In addition to sneaky tandem rides, we did a lot of fun things with Mom. We took a trip to Malmö, Sweden, where we walked about a city-wide international festival. During the week, Mom cooked dinner for us, which was a real treat. Once night, Mom and I went to Tivoli, where we heard a nice brass band. We took Mom to the University one day so she could see where we work and meet our colleagues. We had a really great time with Mom and already miss her. It sucks not having a personal chef at home anymore!

Part of the process of getting back into our daily routines includes, of course, cooking experiments for me. When Mom visited, I showed her how to make mayonnaise and macarons (not to be consumed together, though). On my own, I tried to make ricotta cheese. Yes, I made cheese. It was ok, though having proper cheese cloth would have made it better. It was a fun experiment. I'm currently making a nice large batch of chili to hold us over for the weekend (you can see my recipe here).

The thing that has taken up the majority of our time since returning from the States is the hunt for an apartment or row house. We are in the market to buy our very first place! The photo shows how we spend most of our nights now: wine and real estate listings. We've looked at hundreds of places online, have seen at least 10 places in person, and came pretty darn close to buying a place. Thank the gods we have a good lawyer who got us out of a bad deal! But that's another story. In the meantime, we continue looking at places and comparing bank loans. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Food pickler of the week!

Carla has just been announced the Food Pickler of the week for her helpful answers to many people searching the internet for advice on cooking and all things related!

Tilykke Carla!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

July in Pennsylvania and Hawaii

Our vacation began in the eastern US, where Dale lives half the year in North East, Pennsylvania. His beautiful home is a historical landmark in this small community, and was built in 1850 --- along with several others in the community --- by a wealthy family whose business was gas and electricity. Behind this house is the carriage house, which Dale has transformed into a nice wood workshop. He has made several lovely pieces for the home, including a 10 foot solid dining room table with a shiny finish. We took some time to visit the wine country there, with several wine tastings, and treks into the picturesque amish country. We even had an amish home-cooked meal, which may or may not have been completely cooked at home. But for sure, the salad dressing did use sugar, and lots of it!

Soon enough, we were all in Waikiki, enjoying some surfing in the warm Pacific waters. Carla and I went out every morning around 7 to find ourselves with the locals, one of whom looked a little like Iz. He was looking out for Carla on her boogie board among all the surfers. He would call out to the others that the next wave was hers, so no one on it!

We spent five lovely days at Waikiki, filled with good food, surfing, finishing a research article (for Bob), and fun all around. Here we all are wearing our commemorative t-shirts celebrating Dale in Hawaii. (He got one too.) It is because of Dale that we all went to Hawaii. Those are nephews, and sisters in laws and brothers, and dads and girlfriends, all under the banyan tree at the Royal Hawaiian.

After Waikiki, we all headed to Kona on the big island of Hawaii for four days. I (Bob) was shocked by the difference in the landscape with Oahu. It was my first time, and often I felt as if I was at some paradise on the moon. The lava rock is so thick and rugged and sharp. There are no beaches here like in Honolulu. At the same time, it was a beautiful contrast with the water. We looked in several tide pools in the mornings, and once I saw a Moray eel poking its head out. There were lots of black crabs too, and when they saw me move they scampered, some jumping down from rocks while spinning in the air, like crazy gymnasts with eight legs.

Here is Black Sands beach between Kona and Kilauea. The black sand is created when hot lava explodes in the ocean. Some boogie boarders are out there, but in general it is not a good surfing spot. This is also a place where big sea turtles come to lay eggs, and lay out. We saw two of them.

We made it to Kilauea, which is one of the most active and visited volcanoes in the world. It is said that using all the stuff ejected from it, we could pave road around the world three times. I have no idea how thick the road would be, but I am guessing it would be extremely hard on the tires. In 2008 the forestry service moved the observation point back from the rim of the caldera because the other one was swamped with toxic fumes and incinerated. We couldn't get much closer than this because of poisonous gases. Since April 2011, Kilauea has been moody. It is clear that this island is quite new, and that property prices should be very cheap, especially near the caldera.

As a group, when we all jumped into the water for some snorkeling, the ocean rose about 1 mm. Not more than five minutes after the photo was taken, I was swimming out when the lifeguard ordered everyone out because a 12 foot tiger shark had been spotted. All beaches were closed until the shark was found. So we all packed up and went to the pool, where I practiced my wounded seal dive.

The next day, we went back to the snorkeling spot and got into the water, sharks be damned. Actually, the beach was re-opened as the shark had not been seen for 24 hours. Here Carla (right) and I (left) take our nephew Brooks (center, and who is eight!) on his first snorkeling adventure. We saw so many fish and yellow corals that by the time we saw our 20th parrot fish, and humuhumunukunukuāpuaa, we were like, cool, keep breathing, keep breathing, no sharks.

On our last night in Hawaii we had a barbeque around the pool and watched the sun set. But this was not the end of our vacation.

Once back in Pennsylvania, Carla and I were brought to Niagara Falls by Dale and Gloria. This provided a spectacular show, from both the Canadian and American sides.

The best way to see the falls is from down below. We all took the "Maid of the Mist" boat ride to quite near the center of the horseshoe falls. Since it was so hot out, I did not put on my rain jacket until it was too late. Then with the wind and wetness, I could only pop my head out of a sleeve instead of the cap. Never the less, we were all soaked at the end of it; but were dry an hour later. We ate lunch on top of the falls, just to the right above Carla's head.

Back in Pennsylvania, we took a nice picnic and day trip to Presque Isle, which is an isthmus into Lake Erie. We rented this surry to ride about 5 miles round trip in very hot and humid weather. Though we are smiling above, at the beginning of the trip, by the end of it we were worn and happy to be rid of it! It is definitely not built like the two seat bikes of which Carla and I are used to riding!

Upon returning to Copenhagen, Carla and I feel completely recharged. A week later, our skin is turning back to milky white; but our great memories haven't faded one bit. Thank you so much Dale for making it all possible!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Weekend in Edinburgh

June was quite a month for both Bobby and me. A research trip took Bobby to Rennes, France, for two weeks. I passed the weekend without Bobby in Basel, Switzerland, where I visited my girlfriend Caitlin. At the end of Bobby's time in France, I flew out and we met with our best friends/European family Kate, Olivier, and Iris. We all spent a lovely weekend together in St. Malo. However, the post doesn't have anything to do with Bobby's time in Rennes, my time in Basel, or our time in St. Malo. Rather, this post deals with our most recent weekend trip to Edinburgh, Scotland! You can see the Edinburgh castle behind us in the photo.

Bobby attended the SPARS conference during the week, so I flew out on Thursday to meet him. We spent Thursday night out with Bobby's old advisor from his time in Paris, Laurent. After a nice meal at a French restaurant, we headed to a local pub where we tried three different whiskeys, plus some Guinness and cider. The next morning began our sight-seeing adventures. We walked around the old parliament building (aptly named New Parliament House) and happend across this cemetery, the Old Calton Cemetery. The round building marks the burial site of Scottish philosopher David Hume. Just to the right of the Hume building is a memorial to the Scottish-American soldiers who lost their lives in the American Civil War. The statue on top of the memorial is Abe Lincoln!

We stopped for lunch at the Tolbooth Tavern, which used to be the tax collection point, court, and jail for the burgh of Canongate. You can see me enjoying my throne-like chair. Did you know I have some Scottish heritage? Here's how I relate to the mighty Campbell clan of Scotland: Henry C. Campbell (1825-1909) gave birth to Louise L. Campbell (1859-1940), who gave birth to Nina Davis Townsend (1880-1968), who gave birth to Donald Townsend (my grandfather), who gave birth to Dale Townsend (my Dad), who had me!

Here is the meal Bobby ordered. It is called Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties. Perhaps the most famous dish of Scottish cuisine, it consists of boiled and mashed turnips (Neeps), boiled and mashed potatoes (Tatties), and the Haggis, which is sheep heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours. Appetizing, no?

With a little help from me and a pint of Guinness, Bobby managed to clean his plate.

After our lunch, we continued up the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile begins at the castle gates of the Holyrood Palace, winds up the Castlehill, and ends at the Edinburgh Castle. This photo shows the Edinburgh Castle from the bottom of Castlehill. It's an incredibly beautiful site and dominates the landscape of Edinburgh.

After a full day of sight-seeing, Bobby and I had what is by far the best and most incredible meal of our lives. We were fortunate to get a seat at the Michelin star restaurant Kitchin. We had an 8 course dinner with accompanying champagne and wine. Here you can see one of the many talented chefs hard at work. This is what we ate:

Amuse Bouche: Cilled pea soup served with crème fraiche and mint, accompanied by a glass of Philipponnat Royal Reserve Champagne

Pre-starter: carpaccio of line-caught mackerel from Newhave, Scotland, served with a ginger dressing and raw vegetable, accompanied by a glass of Piropo Pinot Blanc from Argentina

Starter: razor clams from Arisaig, Scotland, served with diced vegetables, chorizo, and lemon confit, accompanied by Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Washington, USA

Middle course: boned and rolled pig's head, served with seared hand-dived Orkney scallop and a crispy ear salad, accompanied by Hugel Gewurztraminer from France

Fish course: seared fillet of wild sea bass from Scrabster, Scotland, served with a ragoût of Swiss chard, lemon, and basil, accompanied by Planeta di Vittoria Cerasuola from Italy

Meat course: rump of Highland lamb served with red pepper piperade and sweet bread, accompanied by Garnacha de Bernabeleva Navaherreros from Spain

Dessert: buttermilk panna cotta served with Perthshire strawberries, gooseberry pureé, and an elderflower consommé, accompanied by Stellenbosch Kanu Kia-Ora from South Africa

Petit Four: a macaron, chocolate cake, and two other dishes we can't remember, accompanied by a lovely whiskey

It was culinary heaven, my friends.

After a dinner as spectacular as the one we had at The Kitchin, there was really only one breakfast we desired: Cream Tea. The meal consists of a cup of tea and a scone served with butter, jam, and clotted cream. As you can see from the photo, we had no problem scarfing down the delicious scones.

After so much delicious food and wine, we felt up for a bit of exercise. Behind the new parliament building (the actual new one, not the once called the New Parliament Building) is a Holyrood Park. We climbed half-way up the Salisbury Crag, which gave us a beautiful view of Edinburgh.

The second highlight of the trip (the first being dinner at The Kitchin) was seeing the Queen of England! The Queen and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh presented new colors to the Royal Regiment of Scotland. We sat on the slopes of the Salisburg Crag for several hours watching soliers in traditional Scottish military outfits marching in with bagpipes, brass marching band, and a whole lot of pomp and circumstance. The Queen arrived, inspected the new colors, gave a speach, and presided over the blessings of the new colors. It was a pretty incredible experience.

This is another video we took, which really shows how awesome (and loud) the bagpipes were!

Here is a video we took of one of the bands. Toward the end of the video, you can see the Queen leaving in her royal Land Rover.

After the ceremony ended, the Queen drove away in her royal Land Rover, waving to the crowd. Bobby and I headed back to the Holyrood Palace, where the regiment leaders were lining up for a photo. The Queen came out of the palace, posed for a few photos, then left in her royal Land Rover. I was a mere 5 feet away when she drove by! That was even closer than I got to the Danish Queen, Dronning Margrethe!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Today marks six years since June 25, 2005.
That is when we got married.
But about 3 years before then --- that is when we met!
So that is nearly 9 years that we have known each other,
which rounded up to the nearest power of two is 16 years!
Time really flies.

Here we are in St. Malo April 2009, only a month after our immigration to Europe:

And here we are more than two years later, only a few weeks ago in nearly the same spot in St. Malo:

A lot has changed in our appearance. For instance, we aren't wearing the same clothes. I am not wearing a casquette. And a sea gull now hovers over us. Still, some things are the same. The water is still very blue; and the little walled city is still wonderful, just like my wife. But without the walls.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tune of the Month: June

Check out Carla's new-found finger picking skills!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Something old, something new, something sweet, and something awesome

Iceland is exploding again! While not nearly as big as last year's volcanic explosion, last week's explosion caused Bobby's flight from Aalborg to Copenhagen to be cancelled on Tuesday night. Luckily, he and his colleagues were able to catch a train to Copenhagen, so Bobby returned home a bit late but safe and sound. He also returned home with some exciting news: he won a HUGE grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research!! Starting in January, he is fully funded for two years to focus on research and only research, which includes a lot of research and a lot of traveling to perform research. We are both excited about the upcoming changes, and I am especially proud of Bobby and all the hard work he has done. Congratulations, Bobby!

The weather gods, who have been smiling upon Copenhagen as of late, have finally turned their backs on us. We've had windy and damp weather, with a lot of loud thunder storms and tropical rain storms. The crappy weather has forced us back inside, but I've made the most of it with (you guessed it) baking. My friend and co-worker Kamilla came over on Friday to help me get over my fear of making macarons. Together we conquered the beast and made two different kinds of macarons: chocolate macarons with a violette buttercream, and vanilla macarons with a rose buttercream.

I cannot believe how well the macarons came out! I was sure this delicious dessert would take multiple attempts, many tears, and a lot more baking experience, but I was wrong! So don't be afraid, make macarons!

Saturday morning stayed dry long enough for us to check out a local flea market. I totally scored with these Sorel winter boots: they only cost 50 kr. (about $10), are my size, and are in great condition! Yipee for used things!

And I have taken up a new hobby. Our good friend Robin recently moved and decided to part ways with his banjo. I jumped at the chance to take it off his hands, and three months after shipment from Japan, and a brief entanglement with the Danish import authorities, the banjo has finally reached its new home! As you can see from the photo, I don't have a clue as to what I'm doing, but with a little help from YouTube, I'm plucking my way to twangy happiness. Bobby and I will start a Danish honky-tonk band. I'm sure we'll be loved by all. The banjo and accordion are two of most loved instruments, right? Bobby also stubbed his pinkie toe on the banjo, making a bloody mess of a sock. That has inspired us to write our first song: Bobby stubbed his toe on a banjo.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tune of the Month: May

Here is my arrangement of "The Ash Grove", accompanying a blurred movie of our ride through Dyrehaven the other day.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Store Bededag

Friday was Store Bededag in Denmark. Literally translated to 'Big Prayer Day' and celebrated on the 4th Friday after Easter, the holiday was created in 1686 by King Christian V. There used to be many Roman Catholic holidays in May and the king decided to consolidate them into one big holiday, hence the Big Prayer Day. Instead of praying, Bobby and I spent Friday riding our newest tandem bike! Yes, you heard me right, we have yet another tandem. Our newest addition, named The Incredible German Hulk, has 21 gears and rides like a dream. The previous owners bought him (yes, the bike is a he) in Berlin and rode him all the way back to Copenhagen! You can see The Incredible German Hulk pictured with Bobby, along with a pretty old traditional house.

We set out to ride to Humlebæk, home of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 28 km from home. As we meandered north, we happened upon the above old home, which was next to a gate leading to a park. You can see the beautiful stretch of green in front of Bobby. We were surprised to find such a large park and decided to explore.

As we biked along, we noticed hundreds of deer in the fields. We couldn't believe how many there were!
Some of them had pretty big racks.

We continued along the path and were yet again surprised by a large old palace in the distance.

Unbeknownst to us, we had happened upon the Eremitage Palace and the surrounding Dyrehaven. The Eremitage Palace was built in 1734 for King Christian VI as a hunting palace. The surrounding grounds were used for hunting by the royal family, and the palace hosted the hunting parties and royal banquets.

As seen from the back of the Eremitage Place, the grounds stretch all the way to the ocean. We parked our bike and had a picnic of vegetables, hummus, and bruschetta and enjoyed the view and warm sun.

We also got to see many horse-drawn carriages. We even had to bike around a few as we made our way out of the Dyrehaven!

As we made our way home, we happened upon yet another surprise: Bakken! The self-proclaimed oldest amusement park in the world (founded in 1583), Bakken is located in Dyrehaven. Unlike Tivoli, you can freely enter Bakken and wander around (you have to pay just to go inside Tivoli, yet the entrance fee does not include the rides). We were surprised at how large Bakken is; there are many roller coasters and ride, carnival games, and a lot of restaurants.

Bobby and I may not have prayed much on the Big Prayer Day, but we definitely came across many surprises on The Incredible German Hulk's maiden voyage. We look forward to discovering more hidden treasures in Denmark on our trusty tandem bike!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tillykke Carla!

Last weekend I gave Carla and a handful of our friends a birthday BBQ to celebrate her big 27. Carla is now in her 28th year! For this occasion, I fired up the grill in our courtyard to make American style juicy cheeseburgers; and Carla pulled out all the stops to make the rest of the meal, including her excellent black bean dip, hummus, coleslaw, and tasty oven roasted potatoes. She also made the cake of which she has been dreaming for almost 4 years: two layer lavender cake with coconut merenge frosting and violet sprinkles.

Though during the week it appeared Saturday would be fouled by weather, the day was gorgeous. Everyone caught a bit of sun and enjoyed the food and company for nearly six hours in our common courtyard. I serenaded everyone with the accordion, and after about 10 minutes one of the children asked his mom, "Do we have to listen to this music any more?" My next two songs I dedicated to him.

Popular with our guests was the opportunity to test ride Thunder and Blazes around our driveway. Most people approach the tandem with apprehension, but once they try it their fright dissolves.

At work on her actual birthday, Carla's mates decked out her office with several Danish flags. This is an appropriate way to signify and celebrate birthdays. A co-worked asked Carla if it was weird not being surrounded by US flags on her birthday!

Carla made a special two cake treat to take to the office and offer everyone. And it is a good thing she brought two because 17 people showed up. Carla has developed a name for herself around our workplace as a magic chef. Email travels fast; but people race faster to the kitchen when they find out Carla is offering a dessert she has made.

The Spring time is now making way for summer. We have seen within weeks barren trees bud with life and audibly blossom with color. Below you see Carla riding her bike underneath a giant roadside bouquet.

Happy Birthday once again Carlita!