Friday, August 31, 2007

Photo Friday

Stopping to Smell the Roses
Originally uploaded by TilleyShots

Thursday, August 30, 2007


After three days of laundry, I decided that John and I would spend an afternoon of "Adventure," which really means I didn't know what we were going to do but it had to be out of the apartment and preferably out of our immediate neighborhood. One of the ladiess with the Fulbright Commission is letting us borrow a Christiania Bike while we're here so I can bike around the city with John. I'd taken it for a short ride with Michael on Sunday and a longer ride on Monday. I'm still learning the bike traffic rules and have found it can be really challenging to turn left. The bike is also large and feels like the bike equivalent of driving a semi-truck. So bike riding is a bit of a stressful experience for me. But the best way to get out and see the city is on a bike, so off we went for what ended up being almost a seven mile ride.

After about two miles of biking, I pulled off on a gravel path that looked as if it wound its way around the canal on the other side of Christianshavn. A few turns later I got a little lost and ended up biking through Pusher Street in Christiania.

Basically, Christiania is a commune of sorts created in the early 1970s by a group of hippies and squatters when they took over portions of a recently closed military base. I'd always had a vague notion that it was the center of the drug world in Copenhagen but recently learned that Christiania is a self governing community that has always banned hard drugs. Though until 2004, pot was sold openly from booths on Pusher Street. Many families and their children live there and it's not considered a dangerous place.

I ended up in Christiania after my pretty gravel path began to be less well tended and the buildings weren't quite as nice. And I started to smell something funny. Then I saw the Christiania flag flying from one of the homes and I realized where I was. There were a lot of people around so I decided to go across the bridge into Christiania thinking to myself that I would hug the canal, stay on the edges of Christiania and find the counterpart to my gravel path on the other side of the canal. A couple of turns later and I found myself riding my Christiania bike pass a mural with a picture of a camera with a slash through it and up Pusher Street with U2's "Where The Streets Have No Name" blaring from a loudspeaker.

It was the kind of place that I would have felt very uncomfortable being in the U.S. It has the look of a hobo village with rag-tag buildings, and booths with bright paint that sold thinks like cheap umbrellas and something that smelled just like funnel cake. I was wishing powerfully that Michael was there while John, in his Sesame Street bike helmet, was in heaven because there were mangy animals everywhere and he excitedly pointed out every one.

I finally navigated out of there and we continued with our afternoon of adventure, though nothing else was as exciting as that.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wash on Monday, Wash on Tuesday…

My first three days of stay-at-home motherhood has basically been dominated by trying to do the laundry. Today is the two-week anniversary of our arrival in Copenhagen and as of this weekend we were starting to feel the underwear shortage. We finally got in touch with the lady in the building who has the magic laundry tokens, and bright and early Monday morning, John helped me sort out four piles of laundry (help meaning joyfully fling socks and shirts around) after which we set off to find the washing machine in the basement.

It took three separate trips up and down the narrow corkscrew backstairs to find the laundry room, but it was finally located in the unlit basement hallway and I put in the first load. Things got a little complicated after that. I can’t read Danish yet and, of course, all the washing machine settings are in Danish so I guessed my way through picking the settings. Thus my first two loads came out with soap all over them. I finally found the right setting and completed two loads on Monday. There is no dryer so I either hung the clothes outside on a clothesline under one of the bike shelters, or lugged the wet laundry upstairs to hang on drying racks in the apartment.

Monday was exhausting because half the time I was carrying John with me during these trips up and down the stairs and he’s a solid 23lbs. Tuesday I wised up and worked out this system:

8:00a – Carry John, laundry and soap to basement to start first load. Rather than walking back up all stairs to apartment, walk up short flight to courtyard where John plays for 20-30 minutes while I recover from our first little adventure.

10:00a – John goes down for a nap.

10:02a – Carry second load down to basement. Take first load to courtyard and hang to dry.

10:20a – Collapse on couch and moan about how much my legs ache.

11:00a – John has approximately 30 minutes left to nap. Go to basement and hang second load before he wakes up.

It’s 10:47a now and my very last load for the week is almost ready to hang on the line. That’s because my four piles of laundry were really six loads not counting the two loads I had to run twice. Everything is miniature here including the washing machines.

I remember the good old days when my huge washing machine was right next to my huge dryer and I had to carry my laundry about seven steps to the washing machine. I know, I know… whine, whine, whine… but you have to remember, I am a big, soft American. An active lifestyle for me was purposely parking in the middle of the parking lot, taking the stairs and not going through the drive thru at Starbucks.

Come December when I’m really pregnant, we’ll have to start categorizing our clothes a little differently. “Is this shirt just a little stinky, or does it truly reek? Because I can’t really smell anything so I think you’re good to wear it another day.” Or “You’re not out of underwear. Oh please. Don’t pretend you didn’t reverse it when you were in college.”

Monday, August 27, 2007


Our phantom Internet connection has mysteriously returned so here are a few snapshots of our past few days:

  • John and I walked to a massive field about a mile from our apartment last week. It had rained earlier that morning and the slugs were out in full force. I'm not one of those people that gets freaked out by snakes, wasps, bees, spiders but slugs… slugs give me the willies. They’re so fat and slimy and, well, just grody to resurrect a word from second grade. But I felt I shouldn’t pass along my own issues with the grody slugs to my son so I found one that was moving and called John’s attention to it. He was fascinated. He walked all around it and squealed and reached down to touch the slimy, oozing, fat, living embodiment of snot and I decided discovery time was over for the day. I ended up having to pick him up and carry him a couple of paces away and even then he walked in circles trying to find the slug. I hope I didn’t kill the budding scientist within him.
  • I was checking out Google Maps last week trying to get a sense of where we live when I noticed that we were within 1.5 miles of a beach! An honest to goodness beach! Last Wednesday was particularly warm so I talked Michael into taking a walk out to the beach in the late afternoon. We could see the coast of Sweden as well as the bridge between Denmark and Sweden. Perhaps most fun was watching John trying to figure out the whole beach thing. [YouTube video here
  • Thursday and Friday Michael and I both had Fulbright orientation that included lectures on Danish history, culture and tradition that I found fascinating.  I finally understood the reasoning behind the most bizarre marketing slogan I’d ever heard (Carlsberg – “Probably the Best Beer in Town”) which I’ll explain at a later date. We also got to go on a canal tour and had a traditional Danish meal at one of the oldest buildings in Copenhagen. I tried pickled herring for the first time and it was delicious. Who would have guessed that raw pickled fish would be so tasty? Pickled herring – not grody at all.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Photo Friday

Chasing Pigeons, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Books and Beer

Our Internet service won't be installed until next week and the wireless we were "borrowing" from an obliging neighbor hasn't been available as often of late so we've taken to walking to the closest library to check email and take care of our other Internet-related needs.

There are many libraries sprinkled throughout the city and they are all lovely, cozy places with big windows and play areas for children. Our library also sports a café where, I discovered, they have the two local beers on tap. Just to make this clear, this café isn't near the library, it is in the library. I'm sure this is so normal that it's less than noteworthy to any proper European, but I find it a little hilarious that you can check out Crime and Punishment and immediately start reading while nursing a beer. Maybe it's the only way to really enjoy Dostoevsky...?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Instant What?

John had a weird night last night that resulted in my not getting a lot of solid rest. (He has all but completely adjusted to the time change.) On mornings like this, I'm glad the FDA and the good doctors at the Mayo Clinic say it's okay for pregnant women to consume 200mg of caffeine.

I am a committed coffee drinker going back 20 years ago when I was eight and my sainted mother allowed me to drink decalf coffee with skim milk when I wanted something warm to drink in the wintertime rather than hot chocolate because it had too much sugar. I'm pretty particular about my coffee. I love my Starbucks and I think McDonalds makes the best cup of less expensive coffee. I like to grind my own beans and filter the water for the coffee pot. I had a little milk frother, that I unfortunately forgot to bring with me, so I could make my own lattes. I can drink truly good coffee black; "lesser" coffees require milk and sugar

But then last fall, our Danish landlady left a container of instant coffee in the apartment and in a moment of desperation, I made myself a cup and puckered my lips preparing for the first awful sip. I liked it. It was actually good enough to drink black! Who knew Nescafé Guld Rund Og Mild could be so delicious? Taster's Choice doesn't taste like this!

During our stay here, I am determined to learn to make espresso with moka pot and the illy coffee (I have a vague memory that Ros Crinean said that was the best Italian brand). But when my son is clapping his hands at my feet and saying "ba? ba?" (translation: up) first thing in the morning, it's a whole lot easier to pop a spoonful of instant in a cup and pour on the hot water than go through my coffee snob morning ritual.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

the shower THE shower

It's a shower too!
Originally uploaded by TilleyShots

I’ve had a couple of friends and my sister Rachel ask about our shower situation here in Copenhagen. I should explain that when we were in Copenhagen short term last fall, we stayed in an apartment without a shower in the apartment. To bathe, we had to walk down four flights of stairs, through a courtyard and to the apartment public showers. This wasn’t a big deal largely because it was still warm enough even at the end of September that we wouldn’t get too cold on the walk. And we were only there for a couple of weeks and you can survive most things if you know you’ll be returning to your by comparison huge American shower in a few weeks. That being said, this time we were determined to find an apartment that had a shower in the apartment (and also one that required less stair climbing!)

We rented our Danish apartment having only seen pictures of the place and were told there was a shower in the bathroom. We weren’t exactly sure how this shower would work because, as you can see above from the picture our landlord sent us, it wasn’t exactly obvious where the shower was.

I made a beeline for the bathroom when we arrived on Wednesday and we do have a shower! This is how it works. You pull the shower curtain closed between the toilet and the sink. Then you pull the shower curtain between the sink and the door. Turn on the water over the sink and pull up on what you think should be the drain plug and – tada! – the shower head hanging on the right above the mirror comes on. It’s actually pretty cool. My only fear is when I’m nine months pregnant I won’t be able to turn around in a complete circle – not much space between the wall and the sink. But it sure beats walking wet and dripping through a courtyard.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Photo Friday

"Hey look, it's Mom!", originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


That pretty much sums up my day! We left around 9:30a to get a CPR number (the Danish equivalent of a social security number) and what we thought was going to be a half mile walk turned into a three mile trek. Michael and I were able to register though we're listed as unmarried and since we couldn't prove John was our child, we were unable to register him today. I called Dad and he's going to scan our marriage certificate and John's birth certificate and email them to us later today, so Michael and I will be married and John a legitimate child in the eyes of Denmark.

I spent about three minutes this morning trying to figure out how to turn on our stove. It's a new glasstop, digital range and I final figured out I had to hold down the start button to get it to turn on. Then I tested to see how high the heat would go (9), and also learned this thing heats fast and burned the egg I was poaching. Lucky thing eggs are cheap. Today I started down the road toward becoming a domestic diva by making homemade chicken noodle soup. I'm talking whole raw chicken, skinning the sucker, making my own chicken broth, the works. Tomorrow I'm going to make shrimp salad. Yum!

It's mid-60s here in Copenhagen and I'm going to have a cup of hot chocolate before bed. I just called Kentucky to talk to a friend and it's 100 there. I can't say I miss the weather (yet).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Very Good Place to Start

Not many people are crazy enough to spend half their maternity leave in a foreign country, but I was. My brilliant philosophy doctoral student husband received a short-term grant to begin his dissertation research in Copenhagen and there was no way I was going to do the single mom thing for eight weeks with a newborn. So the day my son turned one month old, we arrived at CPH.

Fast-forward one year later, the brilliant Michael has landed a Fulbright to research for a year in Denmark. It’s hard to pound out the dissertation with the ever-varying needs of a developing child under the age of one and the Fulbright was the perfect opportunity to crank out that monster and move on to the slightly more lucrative life of an assistant professor of philosophy at any college, university or place of higher learning. I gave up my job as communications director of my state’s flagship university law school to come to Denmark for a year, do a little freelance work, become a domestic diva and enjoy spending time with our sweet son John.

As it so happens, I’m also pregnant – due February 7 – which is sure to make our trip more interesting.

If you like reading random observations about Danish culture, motherhood musings, the autoethnography of my experiences with the Danish maternity system, my lost inner monologue on staying at home vs. working, recipes and adventures in cooking, make yourself a cup of tea and stay a while.

We arrived in Copenhagen today.