Monday, December 31, 2007


Advent is an important part of lead up to Christmas here in Denmark. My churches back home would usually have advent candles that we would light during the four advent Sunday's but the notion of advent being a time of waiting and preparation was never impressed upon me very deeply. Here many of the Christmas traditions are built around advent such as Danes tend to not put up their Christmas trees until the 23rd or even 24th, and the unveiling of the tree is a central part of the Christmas celebration. And the advent wreaths are large and exquisitely beautiful.

Perhaps this season of advent meant a bit more to us this year in part because we're in the midst of a period of waiting for Providence in our own life. Michael left the day after Christmas to fly back to the States for the annual philosophy conference where he presented a paper and interviewed for jobs. And the waiting to find out what the future holds for us post-June continues.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Photo Friday

Feeding the Ducks at Dusk, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Photo by guest Photo Friday photographer Kristi.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

(I'm Dreaming of a) White Christmas Chili

Just in time for Christmas, one of my personal favorite recipes from my little mother's kitchen - White (Bean) Christmas Chili. I usually double the recipe to make it last an extra meal and serve it with cheddar and homemade biscuits. It isn't a very spicy chili but it has an appropriate kick. I usually double the amount of red pepper for Michael's sake, but even then it's not too hot for John to handle.

This is what we served Kristi tonight. :)

White Christmas Chili
Makes 6 to 8 servings

4 skinned and boned chicken breast halves [OR you can half the chicken and add an extra can of beans]
5 cups of water
1 large onion, chopped and divided
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 celery ribs, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
3 (16 ounce) cans great Northern beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
3 (4.5 ounce) cans chopped green chiles
1 cup canned chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

PLACE chicken, 5 cups water, and half of onion in a large dutch oven
over medium-high heat, and cook 15-18 minutes or until chicken is
tender. Remove chicken, reserving broth in Dutch oven. Cut chicken
into bite-size pieces; set aside.

MELT butter in a skillet; add celery and remaining onion, and saute
until tender. Stir chicken, celery mixture, 2 cans of beans and next 6
ingredients into broth in dutch oven, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat
to medium-low, and cook 1 hour, stirring frequently, until thickened.
Process remaining 1 can beans in a blender until smooth, stopping to
scrape down sides. Stir bean puree into chili.

REMOVE and discard bay leaf; stir in cilantro just before serving with
desired toppings.

And a special birthday shout-out to my little sister Rachel!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Photo Friday

Kristi's Here!, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


This has been a week of preparation (and thus my lack of posting). Lots of cookie and yeast roll baking, trying to finish up the last of those advent ornaments before Christmas, washing sheets for our friend Kristi who is coming in from Belarus to spend the holiday's with us and (for once in my life!) actually taking the time to relax over a cup of coffee with a friend less than a week before Christmas.

And, if you must know, making three of those ElfYourself flash do-dads. A little early Christmas gift for my family and my in-laws from the four of us.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The International Church of Copenhagen

A couple of comments and emails recently have reminded me that I haven't really spoken about the central aspect of what has made our transition to Copenhagen so smooth and relatively painless. When we were here for six weeks last year, Michael walked to the closest church that offered English language services and discovered the church we now attend - The International Church of Copenhagen. We were only here for a very short amount of time and we had no idea if we'd ever be coming back, but despite that we were invited over for coffee, out to lunch, for dinner, given warmer clothes for then two-month-old John and were invested in and, well, loved in a way that really surprised and overwhelmed us. In my limited experience, it usually took us at least six months in a new church to gain that level of connectivity.

It's an interesting dynamic being part of a church where the only two things everyone holds in common are the ability to speak English and the belief in the deity of Christ. Denominations are so divided in the States that, before we arrived here, I never really had a sense of the notion of the "church universal" that went much beyond a very small handful of specialized Protestant denominations. I've really appreciated the opportunity to worship and study beside people who come from such diverse spiritual backgrounds.

We've been incredibly blessed by the people in the church during our stay here. The pastor's wife who met us at the airport when we arrived with paper Danish flags of welcome. A sweet lady I'm in Bible study with who pulled me down to her basement shortly after we arrived to give me a huge Sam's Club box of Cheerios for John. There have been play dates, access to Tivoli season passes, detailed explanations of the differences between a carton of Danish half-and-half and whipping cream, game nights, caroling and so many other things that have added up to Denmark not feeling like such a foreign place after all.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Photo Friday

Tivoli Lights, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Share and Share Alike

Since we live in a one-bedroom apartment I may have mentioned that all three of us share a bedroom. Sometimes this can be rather challenging but it has its up moments. At various early morning hours both Michael and I have woken up to John talking in his sleep. He’ll start babbling incoherently (is there any other kind of babbling?) and then will usually pop out with: "Ahh-pull" or "Mama," before rolling over and going back to sleep.

Some nights he’ll wake up at an ungodly hour and start to fuss sleepily; and just about the time Michael and I have concluded the wordless parental battle of nudges, groans and pokes to determine who is going to get up and check on him, John will suddenly pass gas, sigh and go back to sleep.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

In honor of Christmas cookie season, I thought I should post one of my favorite recipes from last Christmas - Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies.

The thing that made me remember this recipe - apart from it's chocolaty chewy goodness - was that it calls for cutting up a chocolate bar rather than just pouring in a bag of chocolate chips. Here in Denmark it's really hard to find chocolate chips. They have them but they come in tiny little bags and cost about $4. But I knew from making this recipe last year that all you need is a chocolate bar and a knife. Though if you want to save yourself five minutes and just dump in the chocolate chips, I won't tell Martha.

I also won't tell Martha if you decide not to grate fresh ginger for the recipe. I did this the first time I made the recipe as part of a Ragamuffin Cooking Club cookie exchange - our unofficial motto is "You've Got to Bring Your A-Game to Cooking Club" - but I thought it made the ginger flavor almost overwhelmingly.

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
From good ol' Martha
7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
[or substitute with an additional 3/4 teaspoon of ground ginger added to dry mix]
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar (for dipping)

1. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.

3. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water
[Does anyone know why you'd do this?]. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats. Roll dough into 2-inch balls; place 2 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll dough balls in granulated sugar and return to baking sheets. Transfer to oven and bake until surfaces crack slightly, about 18 minutes [basically, as soon as the surface cracks - pull them out of the oven. Otherwise they won't be as chewy]. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield 2 dozen

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Julefrokost, or Christmas lunch, is a Danish workplace Christmas tradition. From what I gather it's an American office holiday party on steroids. The research center where Michael is working is holding their Julefrokost on Friday from 3:00p to midnight. That's right - midnight. As in nine glorious hours of holiday feasting and drinking.

I've heard some interesting rumors about these Julefrokost from other Copenhagen friends. Like they are "the night of affairs," the alcohol consumption is legendary, et cetera. I have to admit though there is a sizable part of me that is really disappointed I won't be experiencing this cultural phenomenon for myself.

From the little I've read, every worker in Denmark has a Julefrokost. Again, from good ol' Garrison Keillor:

A few years ago, walking along Store Kongensgade in Copenhagen before Christmas, I passed a building gutted for renovation and looked in the cellar window, and there, on a dirt floor, surrounded by piles of lumber, were three long tables covered with white cloths and set for a meal, a Christmas centerpiece on each table, with candles and little Danish flags, and at each place setting, silverware, a glass for aquavit, a glass for beer, a china plate, a napkin. The construction workers were about to enjoy their traditional holiday lunch, with proper china and silver, with the herring and aquavit, the requisite toasts and speeches, and by the time the apple fritters were served, they'd be in a mood to sing Christmas songs, and you knew exactly which ones they'd sing.

- Garrison Keillor, "Civilized Denmark," National Geographic, July 1998

I'm sure Julefrokost is the kind of Christmas comfort that is a little lost on American's like me. I'm more into my white Christmas lights, hot chocolate, popcorn and the annual viewings of It's a Wonderful Life, Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But it's not to much of a stretch to imagine the appeal of nine hours of eating and drinking at the office during the darkest time of the year.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christiania Christmas Market

John and I took a trip down to the Christiania Christmas Market this afternoon with a few friends from church. As 4-year-old Paul Michael put it, we were a group of "three ladies, two babies and one big boy." John and I accidentally visited Christiania one time before and this time I felt much less uncomfortable.

The market was great. There were a lot of beautiful crafts, handmade jewelry, hats and socks, and these gorgeous boiled wool dresses that I looked at longingly for a while. I ended up carrying John because strollers weren't allowed and I didn't have a sling with me, so I may go back at some point to get a closer look at a few things.

At the market I was stopped by a man who wanted to share with me how I did not have the proper posture for a pregnant woman, and proceeded to describe how I should bend my knees and position my hips to provide the most effective blood flow to my "womb." Sometimes there is nothing to do besides smile, say thank you and keep your knees bent.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Photo Friday Saturday

At the Bus Stop, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

I know, I know. I fell down on my photo Friday job. I kept forgetting to bring my camera with me as I traveled around the city yesterday.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mental Mud

There are about eleven ideas for a blog post floating around in my head but I am finding that I lack the mental energy to make much of those ideas. We have had a full, fun week of Christmas shopping, dinner with friends and other special projects in addition to the normal every day. And now it's 7:25p and I can barely find it within myself to form a grammatical sentence let alone try to describe the lovely scene of Copenhagen in winter twilight that I was able to experience recently.

I can tell you that John said his first non-consecutive two syllable word on Tuesday. "Apple."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cranberry Orange Scones

There is something about oranges that spells Christmas to me. It probably has something to do with the fact that my Mom used to compensate for the tragic error of making huge Christmas stockings for us by putting at least one or two large oranges it them to help fill them up. And then over Thanksgiving my sister Anna very thoughtfully ate a delicious looking homemade scone right in front of my face via video Skype. Which led me to start thinking about scones. Put it all together and this morning found me trying out a recipe for cranberry orange scones. Usually I'll test a new recipe a time or two before posting it here, but these are so good they deserve an early posting.

Cranberry Orange Scones
via Coffee Works Blog
3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp grated orange peel [the key is to chop the peel after zesting so you don't end up flossing your teeth with the orange peel]
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup buttermilk [I used whole milk]
1/2 cup orange juice - high pulp [I just squeezed the juice out of the oranges I zested]
3 tsp orange cream yogurt [I omitted and compensated with more whole milk]

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Mix in orange peel. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces, and mix into the flour using your fingers. [Or cut in butter using a pastry blender]. Add the dried cranberries.

Combine the wet ingredients in a small bowl - orange juice, buttermilk, and yogurt. Slowly add the liquid to the flour/butter, mixing with a fork until you get moist clumpy dough.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Form the dough into a large log, about an inch and a half thick and cut into a triangular scone shape. Lay the cut scones, about 2 inches apart, on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 400° or until the tops are golden brown.

The blog has recommendations for a glaze and special orange marmalade butter, but I found these to be delicious by themselves.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Snapshots of John

A post for those of you who are all about John's latest tricks:


The munchkin's latest obsession is turning lights on and off. Over the last three weeks we've spent hours holding John up to light switches or sitting next to him on our bed while he turns our hot pink flower Ikea wall sconces on and off, all the while repeating the words "on" and "off." A couple of days ago, he turned a light on and suddenly bursts forth with the word "ON." He only speaks a handful of words that are crystal clear (as in other people besides his parents can understand what he's saying) so it was a pretty cool thing. YouTube worthy in fact.


"On" joins other words in John's crystal clear vocabulary including "Mama," "night-night," "down" (as in down-set-hut) "ball," and "duck." There are a score of other words that are a little more tricky for the untrained ear such as the word "teeth" - referring to a tooth brush - which can sounds very much like "this" or "piss."


John isn't exactly thrilled about getting his diaper changed these days. He'll generally run the other way as soon as I say the word "diaper." We've taken to distracting him with songs and conversation. For a while I would ask him where various parts of his anatomy were located - always sticking with the three parts I knew he could identify - head, ear and belly. A few days ago I was stalling for time and started asking him to point to other parts we hadn't spent any time trying to learn. Hair, nose, tongue, fingers, toes, feet, hands - all waved in front of my surprised face.


I pulled out the Holy Family portion of our nativity set this afternoon for John to play with and quickly contemplated how to explain the Christmas story to a 16-month old. It went something like this:

Me: "This is Mary - she's the Mama.
John: "Mama"
Me: "This is Joseph - he's the Daddy.
John: "Da."
Me: "This is baby Jesus and this is his bed where he goes night-night."
John: "Nigh-night"
Me: "Baby Jesus was born on Christmas Day."
John: [Picks up Mary and Joseph a few times saying "Mama" and "Da" before putting Jesus in the manager and driving him around the table saying "vroooommmmm."]

Friday, November 30, 2007

Photo Friday

30 Weeks, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Potato Lasagna

When I'm not finding a new way to cook beans, I'm usually finding a new way to cook potatoes. This is another tasty recipe I picked up from Real Simple - Potato Lasagna. The bacon adds a nice flavor and it's also nice because it works spinach into our diet. You do need to buy whole canned tomatoes and drain them or the lasagna will end up soupy (like ours did last night).

After six weeks of experimenting with biscuits and cookies in our Glorified Toaster Oven, this was the first real baking I attempted and I was thrilled when it turned out well. The general rule of thumb seems to be lower the normal cooking temperature by about 50 degrees and shorten the cooking time. And be sure to turn the broiler on 2-5 minutes before the end of the baking depending on what you're baking. And hover over the oven constantly. See? Simple. Now next time you are faced with cooking in a Glorified Toaster Oven, you'll know what to do.

Potato Lasagna
Real Simple
1/4 pound bacon (about 5 slices), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cups milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 pounds Idaho potatoes (about 4 large potatoes), peeled and cut into 1/8-inch slices [I scrub but do not peel the potatoes and slice them using the cheese slicer on a standard cheese grater]
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
4 ounces Swiss, Cheddar, or mozzarella, shredded

Heat oven to 450° F.

In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the bacon and onion. Cook until the onion is caramelized and golden brown, 9 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat, mix in the spinach, and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, salt, and oregano. Set aside.

Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with vegetable spray. Arrange one layer of potatoes, overlapping slightly. Spread the tomatoes evenly on top of the potatoes. Pour 1/3 of the milk mixture over the tomatoes. Add another layer of potatoes and then the bacon-spinach mixture, spreading evenly. Top with another third of the milk mixture. Finish with the last layer of potatoes and sprinkle on the shredded cheese. Drizzle the remaining milk mixture over the dish.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Back in Business!

At various times I've mourned the fact that I put my precious milk frother in storage when we moved here to Copenhagen. It was bothersome enough that I've mentioned it multiple times. Since arriving in Copenhagen I've had various moments where I've thought "And why didn't I bring [X] with us??" but I can usually chalk it up to (a) it weighed too much/was too large to fit in one of our five pieces of luggage, (b) I could do without it for 10 months and/or (c) I didn't need it in two different colors.

That milk frother though... I've thought about it longingly every other morning since we arrived and kicked myself for not bringing it. I mean what was I thinking? The one tool that can add so much to any hot drink and I didn't bring it with me to the land of the "varm drikke"?? No, I stuck it callously in a box with other random kitchen items.

My birthday was last weekend and that (combined with the fact that Michael recently discovered how much he loved chai lattes) added up to a very special birthday gift. Some girls want their diamonds. Other's want their milk frothers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Civilized Denmark

Sober-faced Danes queue at the bus stop in the rain, which they do not flinch at, and it dawns on you that a daylong rain is not unusual, this is a North Atlantic winter. The sun won't shine tomorrow, maybe not the next day. You have arrived in a land where Christmas means more than in, say, Barbados; it is the last outpost on the long grim trek toward spring. Dark gray sky at noon, dull brown brick all around, dead trees, broken glass in the gutter, and you, sorry you, your head like a sponge full of mud. At first you think it's jet lag, and then you realize that everyone else feels this way too. Welcome to the birthplace of existentialism.

Garrison Keillor, "Civilized Denmark," National Geographic, July 1998

Monday, November 26, 2007

une fois babe um yeah

I love clothes. One of the things I miss about working was the excuse to buy nice clothes. Especially now that Ann Taylor LOFT finally came out with a maternity line. And while this is the land of H&M and all great European fashion, I'm in the shape shifting phase of my reproductive existence which really makes it hard to justify spending an incredible amount of money for something I most likely won't be able to wear very long.

But somehow that logic doesn't apply to kids clothing. This weekend I had a few extra minutes following a midwife visit to stop by our local children's consignment store. I went in to price a used winter "snow bunny suit" and a carrycot for the Danish prince and walked out with this little ducky number. What is it about French words on kids clothes that makes it such that I just can't walk away? The previous weekend I bought a one-piece pajama suit for John that also had French wording elegantly gracing the front.

I wonder what this actually says... Who knew someone so sweet... could smell so bad.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Photo Friday

Night Out in the Center City, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Just Thanksgiving

Even though today is not a holiday here in Denmark I somehow ended up waiting about 20 minutes in line at the grocery store buying something we needed for our dinner tonight. Ah... just like home.

An American friend from our church here in Copenhagen is coming over for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm serving homemade guacamole with chips and vegetarian chili with cornmeal dumplings. Just like the Pilgrims.

Michael told me last week that the saddest thing about being here in Copenhagen for Thanksgiving was he would miss the annual Thanksgiving Dallas Cowboy football game for the first time since he was like four years old. But we have friends with cable television [score!] who emailed yesterday to let us know the Cowboy game was showing in Denmark [SCORE!] and invited us to watch it with them [SCORE!]. Just another thing to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Forecast: Darkness

John is napping and I think I just spent about an hour tooling mindlessly around the Internet. We're heading out to the American Embassy for Thanksgiving dinner in a little less than two hours, and I did everything within my power to make sure the munchkin would get the nap he needs so all three of us will have a good time tonight. The long walk where we saw many "tucks" [trucks] and "woof-woof"s [dogs], a hot starchy lunch, a warm bath that became necessary after John demonstrated his talent for balancing food on his head, lotion rub, clean clothes, brushed hair, milk and a mild sedative [kidding]. And we've almost reached the critical two hours mark.

Which gives me time to say a word about the weather. As long as it's not raining and the wind isn't blowing, it really isn't that cold. Copenhagen being coastal and all seems to keep the temperature hovering around the upper 30s and lower 40s both night and day. We do experience more winter as we're out in the elements getting from Point A to Point B on a bike or waiting at the bus stop. But it's hardly Antarctica.

The thing that I know will probably get to me come February is the darkness. Currently the sun rises around 8:00AM and sets around 3:50PM. When John bounces awake at 5:56AM or 6:21AM or [gift from heaven!] 6:48AM it always feels like 3:07AM, no matter what. This seems like the perfect place to hibernate for the winter. Wake up around 9:00AM, eat a danish, drink some coffee, watch a couple of old movies, eat some popcorn, drink a hot toddy and hit the sack at 4:00PM. Life is starting to feel very much like a Garrison Keillor "News from Lake Wobegon" radio episode. Slow and dry and sleepy and dark.

Ok, I think I just lost the will to type.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Oh, She's Crafty

One of things I've had more time to do now that I'm not working is finish our advent calendar. Two years ago for Christmas, just after we announced that we were expecting John, my Mom gave our family an advent calendar kit she had picked up a few years before. It's a bit unique from any other advent calendar I've ever seen because each ornament represents some Biblical story that prophecies or points to the birth of Christ at Christmas.

I am moderately competent with crafty things like sewing, embroidery, cross stitching, needle point and at one point I knew how to crochet things like potholders. I don't really pick up these projects just to do them. It's the end and not the medium I enjoy. I have to be inspired by a particular project in order to start and, hopefully, finish it, which I am with this advent calendar.

It has surprised me how much I suddenly wanted to work on this project. Part of it is I want to finish it before Christmas. Part of it is I want to finish it before our little Danish prince arrives and life gets a little more complicated. But the biggest thing is working on this is one of the precious few things I can point to at the end of the day and say, "I made this" and know that I won't have to do it again tomorrow or next week.

The makeup of my daily life has changed quite dramatically in the last four months; from one where I could measure the effectiveness of my day in things like completed photo shoots, publications and press releases to one filled with stories and songs, basic household chores, and finding tasty and inexpensive new ways to eat beans. It's refreshing to accomplish something that is a bit more tangible than saving $9 at the grocery or getting John to eat salmon.

This is really the prequel to a long overdue post on how I am handling the transition from working mom to stay-at-home mom. But for now, I need to get back to my embroidery needle and hot glue gun. Just nine more ornaments to go before December 1.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Photo Friday

Friday Afternoon Grocery Trip, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo

In an effort to combine Michael's love of fettuccine alfredo and our need for more green vegetables, I found this recipe for broccoli fettuccine alfredo on the Real Simple website. It is delicious and is a great 30-minute meal. I changed the recipe slightly by adding a little pesto to make the sauce a bit creamier and more flavorful, and doubled the red pepper to make it spicier. The three of us can polish off the whole thing in one sitting so you may want to double the recipe if you are cooking for a larger group.

And a John moment connected to this dish: John is old enough now that we pretty much offer him whatever we are eating for dinner as long as it doesn't have tomato sauce on it (a diaper rash trigger). Unfortunately last night when I made this I forgot to set aside some unseasoned pasta for him before coating it with the pepper. During our meal the pepper would irritate him and he would make it worse by rubbing it all over his face and fussing, but then would get upset if I tried to take the pasta away from him. Apparently he really liked it despite his discomfort. He spent about 10 minutes after dinner walking around with this tongue stuck out like a puppy and asking for his milk.

Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo
Real Simple
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 1-pound box dry whole wheat fettuccine
4 cups (8 ounces) broccoli florets
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons basil pesto
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Place the salt in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Add the fettuccine and cook according to the package directions for al dente. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the broccoli. Drain in a colander, reserving 1 cup of the water; set aside. Place the butter in the pot, reduce heat to medium-low, and stir until melted. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water, then stir in pesto and 1/3 cup of the Parmesan. Add the fettuccine and broccoli and the cayenne and nutmeg; toss. Remove from heat and sprinkle with another 1/3 cup of the Parmesan and the pepper. Toss again, adding more pasta water if the fettuccine is too sticky. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You know! Santa Claus, and ho-ho-ho, and mistletoe... and presents for pretty girls...

Here in Denmark they don't have Thanksgiving or some type of harvest holiday that acts as a buffer between Halloween and Christmas so the holiday season legitimately starts November 1st. We've already had the release of the holiday beers and Tivoli opens for Christmas this weekend.

So I am unabashedly getting my Christmas on. And by that I mean Christmas music. I love Christmas music and it's nice to not have to be only secretly glad when I hear it before Thanksgiving - let alone play it on my computer. A little Tony Bennett, the score our church choir sang at our Christmas Cantata last December, and the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Goodness knows it's cold enough and dark enough for it to be Christmas. The earlier the Christmas celebrating starts, the better.

Monday, November 12, 2007

First Snow

We woke up to Copenhagen's first snow of the season. It was merely a thin, icy layer of white but it dressed up the city for the few hours it remained. John and I took an early morning walk through our local kierkgård (church yard) and snapped a few pictures. It really was lovely. Something about snow makes things seem quieter and more at peace.

Mondays always include a lot of housework and cooking though I tried a different approach today on the cooking end of things. John is always very curious about what I'm doing when I spend hours standing at the kitchen counter messing around with various gooey, infinitely interesting instruments so today I tried letting him stand in a chair next to me while I made tuna salad, curried tomato soup, cream of potato soup, cheddar garlic biscuits and pumpkin oatmeal cookies (with many thanks to my Stateside friend Nikki for the canned pumpkin!) He helped stir things, put the jangling measuring spoons into the measuring cup, and got to experience the best part of cooking - licking the beaters.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

How Did I of all People Bring A Morning Person into this World?

One thing we were looking forward to when we moved to Copenhagen was the chance to "reset" John's internal clock to wake up sometime after 7:00AM. When I was working, I needed him to wake up around 6:00AM so I could nurse him before I left for the day but now that I'm home with him, that was no longer necessary.

We experimented with a number of different things: putting him to bed later, putting him to bed earlier. But this child apparently does not want to sleep past 6:00AM in any time zone.

It's Sunday morning and we don't have to be anywhere until 11:30AM:

John: Da? Da? Mama. Mama. Da? Da? Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama.
Michael: [groan]
Rebekah: [vainly wills herself to go back to sleep]
John: Da. Da. Da!
Michael: [stumbles out of bed in the early morning Copenhagen darkness to bring John a cup of milk]

John: Eegh. EEGH. Ba? Dab dab dab... mummummum... GAH. GAH. Da? DA. DA. DA. DA. DA. .... MAMA MAMA MAMA...
Rebekah: Sweet baby, it's still night time. If you aren't tired, why don't you look at this book while Mama and Daddy sleep a little more?
John: gah... bla bla bla... da da Da ... Mama... Mama... Da? DA. DA. DA. DA. DA. .... MAMA MAMA MAMA...

The three of us are sharing the bedroom in our apartment and John's crib is about two feet from the foot of our bed. At 6:04AM though it feels like he is three inches away from our heads.

I like how many things I can get done when I'm up early in the morning, but I'm still an unwilling participant in these crack of dawn risings 15.5 months after my little morning person entered the world. At 6:30AM I actually think it's reasonable and farsighted to teach John how to make my morning coffee.

"And you pour the water up to the 4-mark. This is a filter. Can you say "filter"? Now we smell the coffee. Ahh... doesn't that smell good?...."

Surely by Christmas he'll be making my coffee for me.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Photo Friday

Gingerbread Latte! :(, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

No, they don't have Starbucks here in Denmark except at the CPH airport. My sister's and I had something of a ritual of buying one of the holiday lattes the first weekend they came out for the season. Oh my, I love me some gingerbread latte. So I felt a little sad this morning when I opened this email.

Copenhagen has a number of sweet little coffee houses here but generally their prices make Starbucks look like Coffee Big Lots. A small latte - nothing fancy added - costs the American equivalent of $5.

I am really kicking myself for not bringing my milk frotherwith me to Denmark. I can make a mean homemade latte.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mushroom Soup

I learned from an ex-pat friend that since the Danes don’t fortify their milk with vitamin D, you are supposed to give your kids vitamin D drops to make sure they are receiving enough of this nutrient (and don't end up with some awful disease like rickets). So each morning, John has a cup of milk laced with five drops of vitamin D.

Since they say it’s better to actually eat foods that contain vitamins rather than merely relying on supplements, I started browsing around looking for natural sources of vitamin D. My good friend Wikipedia, via the National Institutes of Health, tells me that I can find vitamin D in things like salmon, tuna, mushrooms and eggs. John loves mushrooms so I went hunting for a good soup with mushrooms and other chunky bits of vegetables that he can eat for lunch.

Surprisingly, I found the recipe below on the website of one my old town’s great local restaurants when I googled "mushroom soup." It is delicious, easy to make and is perfect for a cold November day. And it’s great for both John and I who have been suffering from the sniffles for the past few days.

Mushroom Soup
Natasha's Café
2 quarts water
5 cups mushrooms divided (about one pound)
¼ stick of butter
2 large carrots
2 stalks celery
1 onion
4 large potatoes
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch green onions
1 teaspoon basil
dash thyme
dash oregano
salt & pepper to taste

Bring two quarts of water to a boil and cook 3 cups mushrooms with 1/4 stick of butter until tender. Clean and slice mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes and cook in mushroom stock until tender. Add parsley, green onions, basil, thyme and oregano. Cook a few more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Also makes good noodle soup. Just add 1 cup of egg noodles with parsley and green onions.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose

I remember being in Denmark last September mourning the fact that John had already stopped looking like a newborn and listening to the song "Sweet Baby James" and, rather than thinking of the sweet baby I was holding, I was thinking about my second sweet baby. We'd decided long ago to name our second son James.

We found out this morning that we’re expecting a boy. :)

I’ve seen my fair share of baby ultrasound pictures and have to say – without bias of course - that he is one of the cutest ultrasound babies I’ve ever seen. This doesn’t really do him justice.

Michael and John were both there with me for the ultrasound. It turned out to be a very good thing because our ultrasound technician was Belarusian and barely spoke any English. So she spoke to Michael in Danish and he translated for me.

Baby James is healthy as can be though his head is still measuring a little larger than normal. To me that just underscores the fact that I’m gestating the product of both Michael’s and my genetic material. Both the ultrasound tech and her supervisor were satisfied everything looked good so that should be our last ultrasound of this pregnancy.

I must say I’ve been very pleased so far with the Danish medical system. The attitude is "if you need it, we give it to you" and not "Well, your insurance will only pay for one ultrasound." Especially in my case I thought there was plenty of room for them to decide that the first ultrasound measurements were close enough within range that a follow up ultrasound was unnecessary. The biggest complaint I usually hear about socialized medical systems is they don’t provide adequate care in favor of saving the state money, but so far that hasn’t been my experience here.

Seriously. He’s so cute.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Hello, Internets. I am tired.

It's 5:00PM here in Copenhagen and already pitch dark. It feels more like 8:30PM. Michael asked if I wanted him to turn on the Glorified Toaster Oven to bake our dinner biscuits and it sounded like a reasonable idea until I realized it was 4:45PM. It seems like we should celebrate the big 3-0 before we take up the eating habits of Florida's senior citizen population.

Tomorrow I have a doctor's appointment so I packed in a bunch of housekeeping into one day. Two loads of laundry, one mushroom stew, one golden cream of potato soup, one vacuumed apartment, two separate shopping trips, one teething toddler and the washing of approximately 72 dirty dishes later and I'm ready to call it a night.

I have been trying a number of new recipes lately. One of my very favorites is this great recipe for vegetarian chili that my graduate school/church friend Elizabeth posted recently on her blog. I didn't have any chili powder so I substituted with various things including two red hot chili peppers and a teaspoon of ground red pepper. Needless to say it had enough heat to keep us warm despite temperatures being in the windy mid-40s.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

I am Jack's IKEA Nesting Instinct

I lost my IKEA virginity today. It was probably inevitable given that IKEA seems a lot like the Danish version of Target. I met a friend this afternoon to check out a Christmas bazaar put on by a local American women's group only to discover we had the weekends mixed up. She mentioned that we were only a train stop and a short bus ride from IKEA so off we went.

Ever since I saw Fight Club with the great scene where they pan across the room as it becomes the living IKEA catalog I've always felt a little weird about IKEA. Of course I've never lived closer than five hours from an IKEA store in my life so it wasn't so much that I was avoiding IKEA than I never made a special trip to Chicago to go to IKEA. Now that I've visited the supposed monument to kitsch consumerism, I can honestly say that my current Danish living room could easily be in that Fight Club IKEA catalog scene. Seriously. Everything down to the really cool lamp in the living room and the three not-so-cool hot pink flower light sconces in the bedroom.

I did more than browse at IKEA. I bought four glasses that are large enough that I can stop drinking out of a measuring cup. And I also bought this sugar/creamer set because it seems you can't be a good hostess here in Denmark without it. (And I love it. Just a little bit.)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Photo Friday & Maternity Forms

Super Home Health Nurse!, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Isn’t this great? It’s a postcard I received at my first midwife visit. If you want to meet your home health nurse who will be providing all of your in-home well-baby visits before your baby is born, you fill out the back and mail it in. The graphic cracks me up every time.

This is one piece of a fairly significant amount of literature I received from my midwife yesterday. At my first OB visit in the States back when I was pregnant with John I received a little booklet on pregnancy that looked like it had been written in 1984. Lot’s of big, permed hair and so forth.

The Danish counterpart is another small booklet filled with colored pictures of ultrasounds, in utero pictures of babies at different stages of gestation, fitness instructions and side shots of the same very naked woman as her belly grew throughout her pregnancy. The Danes, shall we say, are a little less modest than Americans and a bit freer with their bodies. And that was certainly reflected in the rest of the pamphlets I was given.

A short review:

  • A basic black and white piece about the different places you can choose to birth your baby described here.
  • A short piece on homebirth.
  • A pamphlet for the breastfeeding mother with a picture of a tiny newborn fast asleep on her mother’s very exposed nipple.
  • A pamphlet on breastfeeding for fathers.
  • A pamphlet on breastfeeding for grandparents.
  • A pamphlet on breastfeeding for families.
  • A full color pamphlet on chemicals you should avoid while pregnant, like paint fumes.
  • A piece of paper with the hospital’s visiting hours for non-immediate family members. They are quite limited by American standards (4:00PM-5:00PM, and 7:00PM – 8:00PM) and the midwife explained that they strive to keep that time protected for the family as they learn to nurse and generally bond with their new baby.
  • A full color pamphlet titled “When 2 Become 3” which tells you what to expect your sex life to be like during and after pregnancy. It had this great graphic of a egg and sperm uniting. It definitely made me realize that there is part of me that still hasn't advanced beyond a 13-year-old maturity level given the time I spent giggling over that piece.
  • A full color pamphlet on exercise, diet and weight gain during pregnancy.

In addition to my four pamphlets on breastfeeding, I was also given a sheet to fill out that my postnatal hospital nurses will be looking for regarding my breastfeeding plans. It asks questions like, “Do you plan to breastfeed?,” “Does your spouse/boyfriend support your plans to breastfeed?,” “Did you have any problems nursing any previous children?” "What questions about breastfeeding do you hope to have answered?" etc. I had heard that the Danes promote breastfeeding quite a bit but am still surprised by how much thought and support seemingly go into it. I was trying to find some recent, comparative breastfeeding data between Denmark and the United States and the best I could find were two studies from 1993-1994 that found that after three months 60 percent of Danish mothers were still exclusively breastfeeding their children while only 27 percent of American mothers were doing the same [WHO]. I know breastfeeding is much more culturally accepted here - as in you won't get kicked out of the Danish version of Applebees for nursing your baby - but wow.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Earth Mother

This morning I had my first appointment with my Danish midwife, which in Danish literally translates into "Earth Mother." I was surprised when I received my letter to find my midwife appointment was in my neighborhood. I though for sure I'd have to take a 45 minute bus ride to Hvidovre Hospital where I'll be giving birth. I learned that while all the midwives work out of the hospital and do birth ward shift work, they also have one day a week where they come out to their satellite clinic to meet with patients for their prenatal work. Thus, all my midwife appointments from here on out will be on Thursdays at a small office about a half mile from my apartment. Very convenient and a nice walk.

I arrived early and had a cup of tea while I waited. (Incidentally I've noticed that just about everywhere you go in Denmark you'll find some type of warm drink waiting for you.) My midwife's name is Camilla, she was trained in Great Britain, and has been working as a midwife since 2003. Today she was working with a student midwife who took a more thorough medical history, took my blood pressure, measured my fundal height and listened to the baby's heart beat. She did a check of the old uterus and woke the baby up in the process. S/he began kicked in what I swear felt like annoyance. It was so naptime.

Since this was my first visit, midwife and student took some time to go over some of the basics of giving birth in Denmark. There are three different places you can give birth: the fødegang (more like a typical American hospital setting), the fødeklinik (more like an American birth clinic), or hjemmefødsel (at home). The hospital-like setting and the birth clinic are both in the same wing of the hospital and situated close to one another. In the hospital setting is where you birth if you want an epidural, or need a c-sections or other forms of treatment that may require closer physician supervision. It's not as private as the birth clinic version and you don't have access to a private room afterward unless you had a particularly traumatic birth.

In the birth clinic you are given a private birthing room [a 360 picture is here; scroll down a bit and look for "360"]. I am uncertain whether or not the hospital side patients have private birthing room. My midwife did mention that you can at least hear the other birthing women there and that can be a distracting. The birthing center room doesn't look that much different than my birthing room back in the States with two exceptions: the infant warming bed is right next to the birthing bed instead of far across the room and there is a big labor tub.

Since 2002 Danish mother's have had the option to birth at home. My midwife couldn't tell me how many Danes choose this option though the midwife student joked that all the students gave birth at home. (Perhaps because they didn't want to give birth at work?) The benefits here are you are able to have a baby in the comfort of your own home and the midwife who does all your prenatal visits attends your birth. With the hospital or the birthing center options, you are assigned whichever midwife is working in the pool the day you give birth and it is likely that it won't be the midwife you've gotten to know during your prenatal visits.

I honestly toyed with the homebirthing option a little just because I thought it would be really interesting to experience something that is functionally illegal in the United States (the mother cannot go to jail for having a baby at home, but her birth attendants can depending on how a particular state's laws are written). I have had one successful fairly uncomplicated birth which would make me a good candidate for homebirth. But I can't quite pull the trigger on this one. To be quite honest, I tend to be a pretty vocal laboring woman and I know it would really bother me psychologically knowing that I was probably disturbing our neighbors or scaring John. And we're renting our apartment from a private individual and I would constantly be on edge that something would stain the couch or mess up the wooden floors. I'm also really interested in experiencing the Danish version of managed childbirth in a setting that is more familiar to the American system. And there is always that big labor tub...

There are some other interesting things to mention too, but I'm going to save that for a special Friday post as this is already long enough.

Congratulations to my friend Rochelle who I just found out is expecting her fourth child!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Reformation Day!

Two years ago today, back when I would get up at 6:00AM voluntarily to run, I taped the crayon kiddie version of Luther's Ninety-Five Theses on the Power of Indulgences to the apartment door of our friends and neighbors, Phil and Rose.

This morning, I woke up to a little theological payback, blogger style. [drop to the comment]

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Adapt and Adopt

Coming to Denmark I had it in my head that I really wanted to embrace the whole experience of living in a different country and culture. I wanted to cook Danish food, bike around the city, love living in our tiny apartment, experience a “Danish” pregnancy and birth, and walk in the rain. Adapt and adopt!

One thing I’m having a little trouble with is certain Danish ideas regarding children. The first one is the Danes will routinely park their babies in their huge prams outside stores while they go in and shop. Usually these children are napping anyway but sometimes they are just sitting there playing with a toy, chilling out, waiting for Mom to come back. At restaurants, if the parents sit inside they’ll usually park the baby in the pram just outside the window on the other side. I was a little taken aback by this at first but think I’d be willing to do this if I thought John would go for it. Unfortunately I think I missed my pram/stroller training window. When the stroller stops, John is immediately straining trying to leap out and start running.

Another thing I just learned about over the weekend from some expat friends of mine. I had heard that after you have a baby, rather than taking them to a doctor’s office for their well-baby visits, a home health nurse comes to you so you don’t have to take the baby out in the weather. Great idea. Though one of the things they’ll ask you is if you put your little, tiny infant outside to sleep at least once a day. Even in the dead of winter. Apparently the Danes are really into fresh air as the key to health. They do have all this gear that you used to keep your child from getting chilled when it's below freezing outside - woolen onesies, down comforters, big prams that double as cribs with special waterproof covers - but still.

As much as I’m floored by all of this I really kind of want to ‘adapt and adopt’ and actually put my four-day-old baby outside to sleep in the Copenhagen February. But I'm also trying to figure out how that would work in our situation exactly. I was planning to buy the new baby a couple of woolen onesies and one of the big soft bunny suits anyway. I just bought a down comforter for John. But we’d need to buy a carrycot, which unfortunately appears to be expensive; though with the right mattress could double as a nighttime bed, which is something Number Two doesn’t have right now with John still in the Pack’n’Play. But then there is also the fact that we'd basically have to take the baby out back to the common courtyard and leave them there in order for wee Number Two to sleep outside. Do Danes use baby monitors when they do this? So the jury is still out on whether you’ll find little Number Two snoozing in the snow this winter.

"Look what John wrote while you were in the shower!"


Monday, October 29, 2007

Life in Miniature

When I was growing up I had a beautiful doll house that I filled with miniature furniture. I was fascinated by the teeny tiny doors that opened and closed, and the intricate detailing on these small recreations of everyday items.

Sometimes I feel a little like I'm living in my doll house. Just about everything here in Denmark is on a much smaller scale than in the US. The country is smaller, the neighborhoods are closer together, the apartments and homes are smaller, and portions of food are smaller. The list goes on but you get the idea. In most cases, I am more than willing to embrace this. I love that you can vacation in Rome as easily and as cheaply as you can vacation in Florida. I like that our apartment is small, cozy and had so many great nooks designed to expand space in unexpected ways. And we needed to eat less anyway.

The one thing that I can't stand though is small drinking glasses. Our largest drinking glasses - besides wine glasses - are about the size of a orange juice glass. When I'm thirsty I can gulp down one of those in three swallows. It's annoying to continually refill it and for a few weeks there I probably stopped drinking as much water as I should have been drinking. But now as I approach the water retention phase of pregnancy, I realized I needed to up my fluid intake. So meet my new drinking glass. Yes, it is a measuring cup. And water has never tasted so sweet.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Photo Friday

Guess Where I Was Tonight???, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chunky Marinara Sauce

Spaghetti is one of those great go-to meals for when you're not exactly excited about making dinner. We usually had it at least once a week back in the States - the Preggo + whole wheat spaghetti route. They do have jarred spaghetti sauce here but in the interest of cutting costs I start browsing for a homemade recipe and came across this easy recipe from Real Simple that I've doctored a bit. It's very simple and something you can put on the stove and let simmer for an hour before dinner while you crash on the couch after a long day of entertaining a 15-month-old.

Chunky Marinara Sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
2 T chopped fresh basil (or 2 t dried)
2 T chopped fresh oregano (or 2 t dried)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
2 T chopped fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and gently cook until just soft, about 5 minutes. Add the basil, oregano, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley just before serving.

You can also add chopped fresh mushrooms when sautéing the garlic and onions. And you meat lovers can also add a half pound of cooked ground beef when the marinara sauce has cooked completely.

I like to serve this pre-tossed with whole wheat penne or spiral noodles. Largely because John can more easily pick up penne than spaghetti noodles.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Good Housekeeping

We’re having friends over for dinner tonight so I’ve been spending spare moments cleaning today. Two uniquely Danish things about keeping house here: first I noticed that our neighbors will hang their down comforters out their windows to air fairly regularly. From what I gather it’s to keep them fresh and the down fluffed. We had a down comforter at home that I never did this with but when in Rome... so most Fridays I’ll hang our two “big people” comforters and John’s little comforter out our bedroom windows for a few hours or until the bedroom gets too cold.

Shortly after we arrived I made my first pot of coffee in our coffee maker and was perplexed by all this white grainy stuff floating around in the water. I couldn’t make the stuff go away and finally asked another expat friend what was up. Apparently the water here contains a lot of calcium and you have to “de-kalk” anything that comes in contact with water every few weeks. I de-kalked my coffee pot and hot water heater about a month ago and they are still looking good, and today I finally de-kalked our bathroom mirror and sink. With all this calcium in the drinking water, it makes me wonder if women suffer less from osteoporosis around here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ultrasound I

I had my first Danish ultrasound this morning at the hospital where I'll be delivering Number Two. The hospital is set up like a airport terminal with obstetrics in Wing 4. I didn't have any trouble figuring out where to go which is abnormal for me since I'm basically illiterate. I arrived about 30 minutes before my appointment time because I was taking the bus and wanted to give myself extra time for getting lost. I only had to wait about 10 minutes before I was called back for the ultrasound. I must say the Danes are very prompt if not ahead of schedule when it comes to medical appointments.

My ultrasound tech was a sweet Danish lady around 50. She seemed a little uncertain of her English though I rarely had trouble understanding her. I always feel a little badly about putting people in these situations as my Danish vocabulary is limited to Yes, No, Good, Hello, Goodbye, Thank You, Thank You Very Much, You're Welcome and, as I said one day to a Danish man at a cemetery, I Am The Little Danish Language (I was going for I Know Very Little Danish).

I received the guided tour of my uterus and am happy to report that we have one very healthy baby with a "beautiful spine." Also, lucky me, a very large head. The ultrasound technician debriefed me on the ultrasound report after spending some time clarifying how my US OB/GYN came up with my current due date: February 7. She finally came back and said that the baby's femur was measuring right on target, the head larger and the body smaller. They believe the due date is probably right but want me to come back in two weeks for another ultrasound to see if the rest of the baby's body catches up with the head. I'm pretty sure it won't if this baby is anything like his brother.

Finally I can tell you that we are having... an International Baby of Mystery. Little 009 has his/her legs situated in such a way that the ultrasound tech couldn't even get near the baby's tail. I watched her spend about 5 minutes trying to go at it from every angle and she finally gave up. The good news out there for those of you that have money riding on this is we get another shot in two weeks and hopefully Space Monkey will be feeling a little less mysterious.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sure, I'll Take Your Money

Here in Denmark if you have a child under a certain age you receive money from the government at the end of every quarter. We've been told by at least two different people now that we don't qualify for this money, but we've gotten three items in the mail regarding receiving this money since we arrived. The last piece of mail was the most specific. It stated we were to receive what amounts to approximately $631.45 for our dependent child John on 20 October.

They don't do paper checks here. All bills are paid by electronic wire transfer. I made a trip to our local Folk Center (roughly translated) this morning to ask about this letter and was told the money should already be in our bank account. It isn't. Michael is going to look into it tomorrow.

I think that, as an American, I shouldn't really be in favor of just giving people money to help support their kids. Where is the responsibility in that, right? And what if I don't really even technically need that money to get by? But if you think about it, we do functionally the same thing in the States. It just that it comes in one lump annual sum and we call it the $1000 Child Tax Credit.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Photo Friday

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Beans, beans... they're good for your heart...

Have I mentioned meat is expensive here? I tease Michael sometimes about how certain things are acceptable in Denmark that wouldn’t be tolerated at home. For example dinner without meat is not acceptable back in the Homeland, but is tolerated here in Denmark. That is largely because a pound of beef is about twice as expensive here as it is in the States and we don’t have a lot of extra money to throw around.

But we still need our protein so I have been making a lot – A LOT – of bean soup lately. We’re actually having bean soup three times this week. Monday it was in the form of normal bean soup. Last night we put it in burrito shells with homemade tomato salsa and cheddar and called it “Bean Burrito Night.” And tomorrow we’re back to regular bean soup.

It does help that we love, love, love bean soup. (And that I brought a large bottle of Beano with us). John especially gobbles it up. I always thought of bean soup as being, well, kind of bland, but I found a great Cooking Light recipe that I doctored up with a bit of McCormick Cajun Seasoning and here we are on week three of bean soup – with an occasional marinara spaghetti night and scrambled egg dinner thrown in for variety.

Bean Soup
Cooking Light, January 1999
1 pound dried black beans (we’ve been using brown beans and they are also very good)
2 bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon McCormick Cajun Seasoning
5 cups Chicken Stock or 2 1/2 (16-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

To prepare soup, sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; bring to a boil, and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain.

Cook the bacon in pan over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from pan. Add chopped onion, thyme, garlic, and bay leaves to bacon drippings in pan; sauté for 4 minutes. Add McCormick Cajun Seasoning, beans, bacon, Chicken Stock, and 3 cups water to pan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add salt, and simmer for 30 minutes or until beans are tender. Discard bay leaves. Place half of bean mixture in a blender or food processor, process until smooth and return to pot.

You can top this with any number of things. Our favorites are cheddar, tortilla chips and fresh tomato salsa with raw onions. You can also include lime juice and sour cream.

I usually double the recipe and that is enough to feed us for about three meals. If you do double the recipe, give yourself extra time to let the soup reduce. I usually start this soup around 11AM and it’s completely ready by 5:30PM. The most time draining part of the preparation is the bacon frying and onion chopping which can be accomplished in about 15 minutes. It’s a great Saturday soup that you can prepare between housekeeping, sports watching and other weekend activities.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

That's My Boy

We vacuum a lot here. At least twice a week and sometimes three times a week. While some of this can be attributed to the fact that I've taken to housekeeping as something more akin to a professional responsibility (you can take the working girl out of the workforce but you can't take the work out of the girl - or at least not her obsessive need to achieve at whatever she's responsible for), it's also because we seem to track considerably more grim and grit into the apartment than ever before.

All that to say John is very familiar with the vacuum. A machine that plugs in! And makes a lot of noise! And it comes in two pieces! And it has buttons! And knobs! And it tries to suck his fingers and clothes inside of it! Though one time he accidentally stuck it on his mouth and he didn't like that very much.

This morning we were vacuuming up the sandy grit all three of us tracked into the house after a walk on Monday. I took off the attachment to vacuum the corners and John's carseat/highchair. I finished and let John play with the vacuum for a minute and then put the vacuum away, but I couldn't find the attachment.

I spent about five minutes looking around our not large apartment for this attachment the whole time asking John, "Baby, do you know where the vacuum attachment is?" And he kept bending down to look under the bed where we keep the vacuum. I just assumed he though I was asking where the vacuum was. It's a lot to ask of an almost 15-month old to understand the word "attachment," right?

I finally peered under the bed and there was the attachment. John had put it away right where it was supposed to go. I can hear you saying, "Uh-huh. Is that all?" Well, look. John still can't do a lot for himself - he can play by himself and feed himself when we put food in front of him - so him doing something like putting away the vacuum attachment is one of the first things he's done to be helpful to someone other than himself. It was more than enough to make this mother proud.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Oh! The Places We (May) Go!

The JFP came out last Wednesday. Michael has been working nonstop since then tailoring pre-written cover letters, CVs and writing samples to 57 different schools. He just mailed off the last of them yesterday morning. As in Monday. As in about 120 hours after the list came out. And we're both pretty tired from the effort of it all.

The wonderful, crackerjack of a department secretary at ol' State U. is mailing out the bulk of Michael's application packet: teaching portfolio, transcripts, recommendation letters and so forth. Michael had all of that material to her well before we left for Denmark and all recommendation letters were in by October 1 so the packet has been ready to go for over two weeks. All this makes my organization-loving soul so proud of my man.

People keep asking me what my preferences are and at this point I hardly see the wisdom in picking my top five out of those 57 jobs. I'm going to wait to see where he has first round interviews and then I may start thinking about it. Well, I mean, of course I've thought about it but I'm not getting my hopes up.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

You've Got Mail

Perhaps it's just because I've not had the most prompt experiences when my Stateside doctors would tell me they were sending my paperwork anywhere that I was so surprised when I came back from a library/grocery excursion this morning to find a letter from my hospital where I'll be birthing Number Two. When G.P. said she'd be sending my paperwork over to the hospital, I thought it would be at least a week or two before I heard anything from the hospital - especially since next week is the annual "Potato Holiday" where Danes celebrate the days where they used to take a week to bring in the potato harvest.

The letter tells me that I'll be giving birth at Hvidovre Hospital and that I'll receive a letter shortly with my first appointment with my midwife. It also requests that I call and set up an appointment for an ultrasound. Apparently they typically do two ultrasounds here; the first around 11-14 weeks to measure the neck fold to diagnose Downs Syndrome and another around 20 weeks.

I've been told that Hvidovre is one of the best maternity hospitals in Denmark and I was hoping that I would be placed there. I found an interesting description of Hvidovre from a midwifery student who was observing at the hospital for a few weeks a couple of years ago. Hvidovre also has what looks to be a fairly informative website but, unfortunately for me, it's all in Danish.

Brrrr... what to wear?

The high here in Copenhagen is 48 degrees today and we finally turned on the heat in our apartment last night. We spend a lot more time outside regardless of the weather so I've been on the hunt for warm clothes for John. I brought a number of sweaters and other items with me, but discovered I needed some additional things once we arrived.

One of the best things I've found is they have undergarments that are cotton on the inside and wool on the outside. A few days ago I bought John a set of these - a onesie, leggings and a hat that covers his ears and neck. They are fantastic. One of my American friends that lives here in Denmark told me that you can't buy these things even in areas of the U.S. with colder climates. I know we do a bit more of going from the warm house to the warm car to the next warm house in the winter, but it seems like if you lived in a larger northern American city - Boston, Detroit, Chicago - you'd have occasions where you were outside in the cold more regularly.

They also sell this cotton/wool clothing for adults in the form of undershirts, leggings and even underwear. There is just something kind of funny to me about cotton/wool men's boxer briefs.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Photo Friday

Early Morning Book Reading, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Meet the G.P.

This morning I had my first appointment with our G.P. – General Practitioner. The office is about a half mile from our house and I had an appointment with a native English-speaking doctor in the practice. Promptly at my appointment time, the doctor, who I’ll call G.P. from here on out, came out to the waiting area and called my name. Back in her office, G.P. herself took my medical history and did my basic evaluation – blood pressure, etc.; something nurses usually do in the States. And her office was exactly that – a desk with a printer, computer, files and other trappings of someone’s office space – along side an exam table, medical equipment and toys for children of various ages.

I learned that during a pregnancy, the mother usually sees her G.P. three times. First at the beginning of the pregnancy, second around 20 weeks and finally at 35 weeks. After the first visit, the mother is assigned to a hospital and a midwife. I’m not sure how often they usually see the midwife at this point though I’ve heard that it doesn’t follow the States general standard of every four weeks with increased frequency toward the end of the pregnancy. I’ll be 23 weeks tomorrow (or around 5.5 months) so I’m getting into the system a little late.

After the first visit, the G.P. sends my paperwork to the closest maternity hospital in my area and, in a week or two, I should receive a letter with the name of my midwife and the time of my first appointment with him/her. In the letter, I’m also given instructions on where to go for an ultrasound. G.P. was suggesting that they do two ultrasounds in Denmark, the first at 11-12 weeks and the second at 19-20 weeks.

Because during a pregnancy you work with a number of different medical professionals you get what was described to me as a walking diary. I had a vision of a Hello Kitty diary complete with padlock but it is really just an envelope with two sheets of paper in it at this point. The vandrejournal has information on my blood workups, my height, weight and other stats, and space for other general comments. It’s basically my medical file and I’m responsible for taking it with me to appointments with G.P., the midwife and the ultrasound technician. I like being able to read my own chart.

After answering my many questions about the prenatal process and a few about how to handle John’s well-baby visits, I sat outside the nurse's station for a few minutes waiting for a nurse to draw a blood sample. G.P.’s comment on my Stateside blood workups was something like, “they test for a lot...” but they didn’t test for hepatitis which is commonly done here. So a nurse drew my blood sample then, while I was sitting in the same seat where she drew my blood, scheduled my appointment for my next visit with G.P. and John’s 15-month visit. It was interesting to me how so many of the nurse’s functions were performed by the doctor and then how many of the lab and receptionist functions were performed by the nurses. The system was very efficient though. I didn’t have to wait very long for anything and I was out of there in slightly over an hour.

One other noteworthy thing: none of the doctors wore white coats and none of the nurses were in scrubs. In fact I had a really hard time telling nurses, doctors and patients apart. They all wore the more casual side of business casual clothes. And seemingly everyone in Denmark is on a first name basis. My doctor was referred to by her first name by all the staff and she introduced herself to my by first name only. I had to look at the plaque on her door to finally discover her last name. At the end of the appointment, I finally asked G.P. if I should refer to her by her first name or Dr. M and she told me she went by her first name as did all her colleagues. I gather this is common among doctors, PhDs and other people who might normally go by a particular title back in the States. I’m not sure how much this has to do with a certain Danish cultural taboo against bragging that I’ve heard mentioned. It’s definitely very different from a few people I’ve met who become rather upset if you do not refer to them by their hard-earned title!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Parsnip and Carrot Soup

With food being so expensive here I find myself cooking with ingredients I wouldn't have normally used back in the Homeland because they are just so cheap. Parsnip is one of those ingredients. I didn't even know what a parsnip was until a few weeks ago. It's basically a white carrot and has a bit of a spicy flavor to it.

I found a tasty recipe for parsnip and carrot soup on the Williams-Sonoma website that we tried out a few weeks back. The recipe calls for using a chinois strainer; something I've only ever actually seen once in my life. I didn't have a chinois, a blender or a food processor so I crossed my eyes and thought real hard and this is what I came up with.

Parsnip and Carrot Soup
1 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/4 lb. parsnips, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 lb. carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the yogurt garnish:
1/3 cup plain yogurt
About 2 Tbs. milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 1/2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


In a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the parsnips, carrots, stock and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Using a blender and working in batches, puree the soup on high speed until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes per batch. Strain through a chinois set over a clean soup pot and, using the pestle, press on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Place over low heat and reheat to serving temperature. Season with salt and pepper.

While the soup is heating, make the yogurt garnish: In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and enough milk to make a barely fluid paste. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and drizzle with the yogurt. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately. Serves 6.

The original recipe (and a much more inviting picture of the end results) can be found here.

Monday, October 8, 2007

BOOM BOOM BOOM Mr. Brown makes thunder!

John has hit a stage where he really enjoys reading his board books. Some of them even have special names like Goodnight Moon is "maoohnn." He'll run to us with one his hand, climb up on our laps and wait for the reading to begin. If we're busy with other things, he'll plop down and start "reading" the books to himself. Sometimes I catch him making what sounds like the same voice inflections I'll use, or he'll find the picture of the cat and the dog and make the noises they'll make.

We brought a good number of board books with us and have picked up even more at the library so at any given time we have between 15-20 baby books ready to satisfy John's great need for the spoken, illustrated word. I've read some of these books countless times and during those especially tired moments, I find that these books are starting to become the narrative of my daily life. It's like the song you can't get out of your head.

"John, what would you like to wear today?"

Jesse Bear, Jesse Bear, what will you wear? What will you wear in the morning? My shirt of red...

"John, look. Mama can pick up. Why don't you pick up?"

Judy can pat the bunny. Now YOU pat the bunny.

"Did you go 'boom,' baby?" [e.g. fall down]

BOOM BOOM BOOM Mr. Brown is a wonder! BOOM BOOM BOOM Mr. Brown makes thunder! He makes lightning go SPLATT SPLATT SPLATT and it's very, very hard to make a noise like that!

"Would you like some carrots and peas, John?"

Carrots and peas and a little more please. Celery crunch and sprouts in a bunch. And apple to bite and a mustache of white. Juice from a pear and rice in my hair...

"Look sweetheart, a dog. What does a dog say?"

...and three little dogs go RUFF RUFF RUFF! Some other dogs go BOW WOW WOW! And cats and kittens say MEOW!

"Goodnight sugar pea"

Goodnight stars. Good night air. Goodnight noises everywhere.

Extra points go to readers who can name any of the quotes from these books.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Wednesday is a pretty big day if you're a graduate student or newly minted PhD in the academic discipline of philosophy. On October 10th the JFP - Jobs for Philosophers - list is released by the American Philosophical Association. While I did the MA and have friends who have careers in academia and did my part to recruit law professors for my old employer, I am slowly gathering that the college and university philosophy job market is a whole different beast.

There is a blog out there written by three philosophy grad students called Philosophy Job Market that Michael found a few months back that gives a decent glimpse into the madness. The blog somehow manages to be both obscenely hilarious and deeply troubling from the perspective of our own job search. (I say "our" because this is a family endeavor. And it will likely determine where we'll live for at least the next 5-10 years.) I comfort myself by telling anyone that will listen that the reason these grad students from this decent philosophy program haven't found jobs yet is because they have fundamentally unemployable qualities. Like bad b-o. Or dandruff the size of snowflakes. And you can tell this from their CV alone because the paper smells and dandruff floats out of their application packet. And the good people at Nor'eastern Nebraska figure they have enough philosophy professors with huge dandruff and bad b-o already.

When Michael asked my Dad for his permission to marry me (oh, the patriarchy!), reportedly my Dad's primary question was exactly how many jobs there are in philosophy. Let's say the number was 4,289 jobs every year. That may not seem bad until you consider the 21,425 desperate people applying for those jobs. Good thing we've been married for five years now. No take backs, Dad.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Photo Friday

Playground Fun, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Moo, Baa, La! La! La!

I remember when we used to be super excited about every single milestone John would achieve. HE CUT A TOOTH. HE SITS UP. HE WALKS. CALL THE GRANDPARENTS. This week John learned to climb up on our kitchen chairs. His parents' response?

"Oh great. Now he can climb. Up the chair and right out the window. We cannot unglue our eyes from him for a millisecond."

I'm kidding (sort of). One good thing is he is old enough now that we can start training him not to put keys in light sockets, run into the street and how to sit on his bottom when he climbs into the chair. So this isn't the crisis that we first expected. Though we did find him sitting on his bottom on top of a reception table at church on Sunday.

One thing that is really cool is John can tell us the noises that a cat, dog, car, duck and cow make. Which is completely hilarious to here "mee-owh" coming out of the mouth of a 14 month old. All those many, many readings of Moo, Baa, La La La must be paying off.

The YouTube video is here, Grammy.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Unchartered Territory

This day last year John and I boarded a plane back to the States after spending six weeks of my maternity leave in Copenhagen with Michael. I remember being surprised that it was already starting to get dark at 4:30p here. I also remember my parents picking us up and taking me to Starbucks on the way home since the one thing I couldn't get my mind off of was a pumpkin spice latte.

We're getting ready to move into unchartered territory. I don't really know what the weather will be like or how the darkness of winter will affect us. Coming back to Copenhagen surprisingly felt very familiar. Life here is falling into a pleasant pattern and while I can't seem to find canned pumpkin or scented candles or a glass bigger than a dixie cup, Denmark has it's charms.

All the same, go enjoy a pumpkin spice latte for me.