Monday, December 31, 2012

Tivoli/Last Post of the Year

Happy New Year's Eve! Here in Copenhagen we are preparing for a nice feast, accompanied by lots of champagne. Yesterday, we headed downtown to see the last of the Christmas decorations.
After walking through downtown, we headed into Tivoli, the amusement park next to the central train station. Every Christmas, Tivoli opens with beautiful decorations and a cute Christmas market. This year's theme was Russian Christmas meets Nordic Christmas.
I think the Russian part really stands out.
It wasn't exactly a warm day yesterday. With temperatures around 2 C/35 F, plus a biting wind, we were all a bit chilly.
Around 3:30, Bobby noticed some very dark clouds rolling in, so we headed to a café to stop for a drink and miss the forthcoming rain. Lucky us, the skies dumped a ton of freezing rain within minutes of entering the café. We waited out the deluge, and warmed our insides, with some drinks.
The rain wasn't through after one drink, so we were 'forced' into buying a second round. Bobby gets a bit goofy with a second beer.
Once the rain cleared, we headed back into the now dark outside. As nice as Tivoli was during the day, it was even more beautiful at night.
Happy New Year's to our family and friends. Thanks for stopping by our blog, and we look forward to seeing you back here in 2013!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Gifts! (Mom version)

Christmas part 2 began when my Mom arrived from the States. After a long day of traveling, Mom arrived on the 26th armed with a lot of presents. We declared the 26th Christmas Eve and enjoyed a nice spread of appetizers before putting Mom to bed. After waking up on the 27th, our Christmas part 2 began!
Now that we've grown up but don't yet have kids of our own, we are able to take things a little easy on Christmas morning. After sleeping in, we enjoyed a breakfast of eggs benedict before heading into the music room to open our presents. In true Townsend fashion, we first popped open a bottle of champagne before digging into our stockings.
One of the gifts we got Mom was this huge box of chocolates! That's a full kilo/2.2 lb of chocolate! We have no idea how she's going to take it back home.
My maternal grandparents bought these golf club covers for Bobby. By grandfather is a big UCLA fan, so it was must have been very difficult for him to purchase these USC covers!
Mom gave me this beautiful bag. I was very excited to receive such a nice gift! I have promised Mom that I will never ever check this bag in for a flight; it's a carry-on only.
Bobby bought this candle for Mom. We'll let you guess what it is.
We bought this gift for Mom in Japan. It's a lucky raccoon. It's also an anatomically correct raccoon. We think this will be a nice compliment to Mom's garden gnome collection.
Though we have had the heat on just for Mom, she still manages to freeze in our apartment. Bundled up on the couch, she was claiming it was 10 C/50 F inside the apartment. Even though we showed her on this gauge that it was 22 C/72 F, she refused to believe it. At least we have photographic evidence!
On a sad note, Mom's new phone was stolen on the bus. On our way from the airport, she was pick-pocketed by a guy who looks like this. We contacted her phone company and bank right away, so the robbers can't access any of her personal information. We also notified the police and sent them Bobby's sketch. Thought we don't have much hope for getting her phone back, we hope the guys who took it get caught.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Gifts! (Dad and Gloria version)

Bobby and I had a quiet Christmas day. After sleeping in til nearly 10:30, we enjoyed a pot of coffee and a bagel with cream cheese before heading into the music room to open some presents. We are saving most of our presents for the 27th, when we'll celebrate Christmas part 2 with Mom (she arrives on the 26th).
We decided to open our gifts from Dad and Gloria. We received a lot of wonderful and thoughtful gifts from them, including this really cool ornament! It could only be cuter if it was a tandem bike with a surfboard.
Dad sent a nearly life-sized photo of the beautiful stained glass he made for us. Bobby and I have a weird empty area above our fridge, so when Dad and Gloria visited in September, Dad took some measurements and promised to make something special for us. As you can see in the photo, the work Dad made has some of our favorite things: wine, cheese, and fruit! Thanks so much, Dad!
In addition to opening our gifts from Dad and Gloria, Bobby and I also opened one gift from each other. Bobby bought me a really unique bottle of Swedish gløgg with licorice in it. I bought Bobby 12 packages of Super Fighters licorice, his favorite (and extremely difficult to find) licorice.
Since we plan on celebrating our big Christmas with Mom, we decided to hold off on the traditional Danish Christmas dinner (which we'll have on the 27th) and instead went to our local shawarma place for dinner. This just might become a tradition for us! (Yes, my bangs are considerably shorter than the above photos. Don't worry, they'll grow back)
On a final note, I finished my last batch of truffles for the year. There are five different kinds pictured here: violet infused dark chocolate with candied violet (ones with the purple bits), white chocolate with raspberry (red ones), licorice chocolate with licorice and coco (light brown ones), lavender infused dark chocolate with vanilla (white ones), and mandarin orange infused chocolate with coco and pop rocks (dark ones in the upper right corner). These make great gifts, and it's been a lot of fun making them.

Holiday baking

On Christmas Eve, Bobby and I made gingerbread men. Well, I made gingerbread men, while Bobby made some interesting figures. Maybe the gløgg we were drinking helped inspire Bobby on some of the more 'exotic' figures!
We had a nice set up. Armed with a rolling pin, lots of flour, gløgg, and some stylish aprons, we were ready to start the cookies! Below are some of the awesome cookies Bobby made.
Here is a gingerbread man riding a reindeer.
We will send you a little present if you can guess what this figure represents!
Not surprisingly, this is one of my favorites. A girl just can't say no to shoes!
I think Bobby misses California, where we often went surfing on Christmas Eve.
It's a giant squid!
What Christmas would be complete without an alien?
And finally, we have a self-portrait by Bobby, complete with a gap between the front teeth and a brain.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Preparations

As many of you already know, Bobby and I aren't that big into Christmas. In fact, at work, I (Carla) am referred to as either Grinch or the Nå-Såer (from a hilarious Danish Christmas tv program from 1991). I am not a very decoration-minded person in general (you can probably tell from my affinity for blank walls in the apartment), so the idea of having specific decorations for one holiday just doesn't suit me. However... my Mom is coming over for Christmas this year, and Mom LOVES Christmas. She came over last year too, and was so sad that we didn't have a tree or other decorations that she made a tree and ornaments from wrapping paper and taped them to the wall (you can see a bit of the wrapping paper tree in a photo from last year's post)! In fact, I completely forgot that she left several Christmas decorations with us last year until she reminded me on the phone yesterday that yes, I do indeed have stockings, and yes, I am expected to have them hanging when she arrives.
So up the few decorations have gone into the Christmas nook. Bobby surprised me with this little Christmas tree last week, and now it fits right in with the presents, stockings, and little knick-knacks.
Our most important holiday preparations, though, are chilling on the balcony!

Happy holidays to our family and friends around the world!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weekend in Stockholm

Bobby spent the first week of December working in Stockholm, so I hopped on a plan Friday afternoon to spend the weekend with him. It was our first time in Stockholm and we both really loved it.
Founded in 1250, Stockholm is home to the Swedish royal family. Fun random fact: the Swedish monarchy, which has been in power since pre-historic times, was an elective (i.e., not hereditary) monarchy until the 16th century! Sweden is a much larger country than Denmark, both in population and land mass, and Stockholm is similarly larger than Copenhagen. Comprised of 14 islands, Stockholm is home to 2.1 million people, approximately 22% of the country's total population.
When I arrived in the early evening on Friday, Bobby was excited to show me how much it had snowed during his week there. We went to a nearby park, which was covered in at least 2 feet of fresh snow. Bobby decided to try 'foot sledding'.
Needless to say, foot sledding is both difficult and dangerous.
When I told one of our Swedish colleagues that we would be in Stockholm, she advised us to look up a lot. At first I thought she was talking about the pretty sky or nice roof tops, but it turns out she was warning us about icicles! Sadly, a young boy died a few years back from a falling icicle, so the city now has many warnings and roped-off sidewalks. The icicles pictured here are pretty tame compared to some of the others we saw (some of which were as long at 6 feet!).
On Saturday morning, we headed into the cold, walking through a lot of snow, to see the official royal residence, Kungliga Slottet (the Royal Palace). Built on the runes of the original Tre Kronor royal fortress, the current palace was built in 1830 and has 1430 rooms.
We got to see the changing of the guard, which on that day was performed by a small unit from southern Sweden. There were flag carriers, the standard inspection, and a really neat musical demonstration.
video
The captain of the unit explained in both Swedish and English what the different calls were for; we heard, among others, the call for waking up, marching, ok to fire, and retreat. Considering how cold it was (-8 C/17 F), these guys played really well.
This is the bell tower of Storkyrkan (the Great Chuch), Stockholm's oldest parish church. Built in 1279, the cathedral became a Lutheran Protestant church in 1527. It is the home of royal weddings and coronations. The current King was married here in 1976, and his eldest daughter, the Crown Princess (the future Queen), was married here in 2010.
Just across the water is the Kungliga Operan (Royal Swedish Opera house). The current opera house, built in the end of the 19th century, replaced the original opera house, which was completed in 1782.
Just behind Kungliga Operan is Kungsträdgården (the King's Garden). Originally a kitchen garden for the palace, this park is now a public park that hosts open-air concerts in the summer and, as you can see here, ice skating in the winter. With the amount of snow on the ground, we didn't see any bicyclists in the city, but we did see a lot of people with skis, sleds, and ice skates. No wonder Scandinavia excels in the Winter Olympics!
We also explored the Gamla Stan (Old Town), which sits on the same island as the Royal Palace. Dating back to 1250, the Old Town has old buildings and narrow, winding alleys, as seen in this photo. I loved this part of town! In addition to Renaissance churches and baroque palaces, there are tons of tiny little stores selling all sorts of knick knacks. We stopped at one little place to have a cup of glögg (hot mulled wine), and then sat in a little café to enjoy a huge latte and a lovely apple pastry.
As mentioned above, Stockholm is a bigger city than Copenhagen, and it also has a larger foreign population. Big foreign populations = awesome foreign food. When living in both LA and Paris, we loved going out to Ethiopian restaurants. Sadly, Denmark doesn't have a single Ethiopian restaurant (in fact, we missed the food so much that we tried our hand at making it, which we blogged about here). So we jumped at the chance to go to the Ethiopian restaurant Abyssinia. Though the portion was a bit small, we were overall happy with our choice. It will have to hold us over until we visit either Paris or LA!
On Sunday, we visited the Grand Hotel. Opened in 1874, the Grand Hotel has housed Nobel Prize laureates since 1901. In fact, we saw one of the laureates on Saturday and both Bobby and I recognized him (well, at first we thought he was a famous historian, but it turns out he is the famous developmental biologist Sir John Gurdon, who is most well known for his pioneering work in cloning. One way or the other, the fact that we recognized him shows that Bobby and I watch way too much history and science shows on TV). Though the Nobel Peace Prize is presented in Oslo, Norway, all other Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm.
In addition to its Nobel fame, the Grand Hotel is also famous for its Christmas buffet. This traditional Swedish Christmas buffet is amazing. We started with a selection of seafood, including 6 different kinds of herring, 4 different kinds of smoked salmon, and lots of other tasty ocean-dwelling critters.
Next was the meat plate, my personal favorite. Accompanied by some schnapps (seen in the background), we ate Christmas ham, smoke venison hock, pork belly, pork shoulder, sausage, prime rib, Swedish meatballs, and various forced meats. Oh, I was in heaven!
Next was the cheese plate, which included a few different blues, a nice sharp cheddar, brie, and a few others.
We finally reached nirvana, and max stomach capacity, with dessert. In addition to the traditional rice pudding, there were many varieties of chocolate, several puddings, candied fruit, cakes, fresh fruit, pastries, candied nuts, home-made marshmallows, and cookies. I may have had two plates of desserts... I refuse to confirm anything.
After such a large lunch, we needed to walk off the food and try to stay awake, so we walked along the water towards the Modern Art Museum. Along the way we passed by this beautiful tall sails ship, which is docked next to Amiralitetshuset (the Admiralty House).
We spent the rest of the afternoon in the Moderna Museet (Modern Art Museum), which had a special exhibition on Duchamp and Picasso. The exhibition, entitled 'He Was Wrong', looks at some of the works of these two giants of the 20th century art world. There were several well-known Duchamp pieces, including the pictured readymade 'Bicycle Wheel' and 'Fountain' (the urinal signed R. Mutt). Unfortunately, they didn't have my favorite Duchamp piece, 'Nude Descending A Staircase, No. 2.'
Bobby and I have seen a lot of Picasso (especially in the Picasso Museum in Paris and the Picasso museum in Barcelona), so we weren't overly impressed by this museum's collection. However, I rarely turn down an opportunity to see Picasso's works. This piece was especially lovely. Aside from the special exhibition, we also toured the museum's permanent collection. I was thrilled to see a few Braque pieces (a contemporary of Picasso, he has some early Cubist works that I absolutely adore), some Kadinsky pieces that I've never seen before, and a huge Matisse painting.

Overall, we had a wonderful weekend in Stockholm. We hope to return during the summer months so that we can experience a different side of the city. It would be nice to visit when there is more that 6 hours of daylight!