Friday, September 28, 2007

Photo Friday

And for my mother and Rosalie, a video of John spinning is here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Related to that...

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, there are certain fashion trends which I believe came out of Europe that make so much more sense now given the popularity of cycling.

The Skinny Jean: I was really, really sad when I saw that the skinny jean was coming back because I just don’t have the ideal skinny jean shape. But then I discovered that perhaps this wasn’t a conspiracy to make me feel badly about my thighs and really it was all about people not wanting to stuff their wide leg jeans into their wool socks when they bike.

The Black Leggings: A tricksie way to feel a little less immodest about the mini-skirt? Or a way to keep from flashing half the city when you bike in any length skirt?

The Head Scarf: I thought this was just a Jackie O. flashback but really it’s about keeping your hair presentable when you arrive at your destination.

The Long T-Shirt: A fantastic way to keep me out of ill-fitting maternity shirts for a few months longer? Or because no one wants to see your plumber’s crack when they’re following you on a bike?

Also, a friend emailed me yesterday asking how I was going to get around the city on a bike in January when I am eight months pregnant. The answer to that is I’m not. I’m planning to take the city’s great public transportation system. We have a bus stop at the end of our street and the buses are set up to accommodate the huge strollers – called prams – that Danish children are generally ferried around in. The same is true for the metro and train systems. You can buy a personalized monthly pass for about $50 that allows you to ride within two zones of the city (about as far as I ever need to go) on any bus, metro or train.

I’m not sure how the cycling Danes handle the cold wet weather of winter but I wouldn’t be too surprised if a lot of them switch to public transportation during the worst of it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

See the World on Two Wheels

One unique thing about living in Denmark is how bicycle friendly the country is. In the town we lived in previously the city has a policy of putting in bike lanes any time a major piece of roadwork is re-done (e.g. Richmond Road). These bike lanes are about as wide as a Barka Lounger and motorist cut in and out of them with abandon. Compare that with Copenhagen with their dedicated bike lanes and bike lights. You just don't have the same feeling of "I could die a horrible painful death at any moment... and these could be my last conscious thoughts..." here.

I read somewhere that 35 percent of Copenhageners commute to work or school on their bikes. I'm sure this has something to do with the fact that when you buy a car you pay 120 percent in taxes. But also it is just much easier to get around the city on a bike than in a car. Parking is incredible expensive and this old European city wasn't built for motor vehicle traffic so getting anywhere in a car can take forever. Also in the hierarchy of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, motorists are always last. The city is actually quite flat and it doesn't get very hot here so your not faced with arriving at work sweat-soaked. People are generally dressed very nicely as is documented on a local blog I recently found called Cycle Chic. They also do any number of random things while biking. Things I've personally seen include: mess with their iPod, drink a beer and have a heated fight with their girlfriend.

I'm ever-so-slowly becoming a more experienced cyclist here in Copenhagen. I spent some time while out walking with John learning the basic rules of "driving" a bike; hand signals, how to enter and exit the bike lane, etc. Some things I learned by doing. Such as if you want to turn left, you signal right and turn into the bike lane with the other bikes waiting for the light to change. You do not just turn left even if you've first checked to make sure a car or another cyclist isn't about to hit you. Of course I figured this out midturn, in that moment where you are in the dead middle of the intersection and there is no going back, when you want to yell loudly, "SORRY! I'M AN AMERICAN AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING."

I usually end up biking about twice a week - to church on Sundays and at least one other time with John. I'd probably bike more but it takes an incredible amount of effort to push a Christiania bike and it really wears me out to do a normal six mile bike ride with John in that bike. Michael bikes 4 kilometers (about 2.5 miles) to and from work every day on his bike. We met each other this afternoon to take John to feed the swans and I snapped this picture before we headed home.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Adventures in Socialized Maternity Medicine

Just a moment ago I called to set up my first appointment with what amounts to my primary care physician here in Denmark. We received the Danish version of the social security number - a CPR number - the day after we arrived almost six weeks ago, and had to wait six weeks before we were covered under the national insurance plan. Being a Big Ol' HMO American this is my first experience with socialized medicine and I'm really curious to see how this will go. First to see just what the experience working within the general medical system is like, and second to compare the maternity care of Denmark with that of the U.S.

At this point I've been told that you have to be a bit more personally involved with your care than in the States. I gather that you carry around your own medical files and set up your own ultrasounds.

As far as maternity care goes, I've been told the Danes are very much in favor of natural childbirth - which makes financial sense when you think about how much an epidural and c-sections cost. In the States you have to carefully choose a doctor that is on board with your goals of non-intervention and write a birth plan for the nurses that says, "I have prepared for a non-medicated delivery and prefer that you do not offer pain relief to me" while in Denmark you have to go through a certain amount of hassle if you DO want drugs.

Someone asked before we left if I was nervous about giving birth in Denmark and when I thought about it I realized I felt more comfortable giving birth here than I would if I were back in the States. I was one of those granola people who decided to go the drug-free route with my delivery of John, and succeeded with the help of Michael and my doula friend Guinever [check out her blog on childbirth]. Here, I've been told, I'll have a whole body of medical staff who share the same childbirthing philosophy that I do and are much better equipped to help me achieve a safe birth with as little medical intervention as possible.

The phone call was like many other's I've made to set up doctors appointments in the States. Name, address, gestational age, CPR number, does October 10 work for me? So hopefully in two weeks I'll have something interesting to report.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Uncle Ricky's Texas Chili

It has pretty much been fall since we got here in the middle of August, but now that the rest of you U.S. folks have caught up it's time for me to post about something that has become something of a legend - Uncle Ricky's Texas Chili.

Uncle Ricky is a real man - a native Texan who loves woodworking and romantic movies. He's Michael's uncle and became a bit immortalized last fall at our Cooking Club chili cook-off. We've made this recipe twice in the last couple of weeks (though we're making it frickadeller pork and veal meat these days). The recipe is below:

Uncle Ricky's Texas Chili
2½ lbs. lean ground beef
1 lb. sausage
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 t. oregano
1 t. cumin
1 t. paprika
2 15 oz. cans Heinz tomato sauce
1 2 oz bottle Mexene Chili Powder
2 t. Chili Sauce

Brown the sausage and beef with the onions. Drain grease from meat. Mix meat mixture, tomato sauce, and 1½ quarts of warm to hot water in a stock/soup pot. Stir. Add spices, chili powder, and chili sauce. Stir again. Bring to a boil while stirring periodically. After the chili has come to a boil, reduce heat and simmer the chili for at least another 3-4 hours. Water will need to be added at various times, and additional spices, including those above and salt, can be added to taste.

For "extra Texas-ness" serve over Fritos.

Because I grew up with my mom's version of Cincinnati chili, Michael will sometimes violate the purity of the chili and put in a can or two of red beans for me. He's never caved and put noodles in the chili for me - that's taking things a bit to far. I like to eat my chili with cheddar cheese and crackers, while Michael prefers corn chips of some variety. And then there is Phil from Iowa who we all know prefers his chili with a side of cinnamon roll. ;)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Photo Friday

Visit to the Kierkgard, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Baby Signs

When John learned to wave bye-bye we started teaching him a few bits of baby sign language. I wasn't the best at remembering to do this, and John really only "got" his first sign ("more") when he spent a few days at my parents while Michael and I were packing for the move to Copenhagen.

Now he can sign "more," "all done," "milk," and "help." He seemed to get that "more" meant more of whatever he just had, but John has changed it to mean "I need" or "I want." So he'll point at something and start beating his fists together in front of him - his version of "more" - and we'll eventually piece together what he wants. "Do you want the toothbrush?" He'll shake his head, point again and make the sign for more. "You you want Daddy's iPod?" Bingo. Sometimes we have no idea what he's trying to ask for, and at those times we figure he's saying, "I just really need more cowbell."

The other funny thing is when we figure out he is signing for something he can't have. He'll ask for the Very Sharp Knife and then will say, "No, John. You can't have the Very Sharp Knife because it will hurt you." He'll usually then point at it again, I guess thinking we don't understand what he's after. We'll tell him no again and tell him he did a good job communicating what he wants. Then he'll throw out all the stops and make every sign he knows in hopes that one of them will score him the Very Sharp Knife. MORE! ALL DONE! MILK! HELP!!!

He can also verbalize in some way juice ("oose"), bird ("burr"), hot ("hah"), book ("bouh"), up, banana, ball, balloon, bells, bunny (all "bah"), cheese and please (both "eese"). The meaning is completely based on context. If he's trying to get up on to the couch, "bah" means "up." If we can hear the church bells ringing outside (which they do at 8:00a, 12:00p and 6:00p weekdays; 10:00a and 5:00p on Sundays), then "bah" means "bells."

It's pretty amazing when you think about how in just over a year a wobbly little bit of baby that could barely see can now bring you a diaper when you ask him to and will communicate using something beside cries and grunts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Today I’m going to share with you a traditional Danish recipe for fricka-deller. Fricka-deller (pro-nounced “frick-a-dillah”) are Danish meatballs. They are traditional made with ground pork and veal, eggs, onions, breadcrumbs or flour, salt and pepper. I was talking with a native Dane about the difference between Swedish meatballs and Danish frickadeller and was basically told that Swedish meatballs are round and cooked with a sauce while Danish frickadeller are flattened a bit and usually served with potatoes and some other sidedish.

They sell a pound of “Pork-Calf” at the grocery store very inexpensively which is partly what led us to try making frickadeller in the first place. It is mixed 75 percent pork/25 percent veal and the meat is incredibly tender.

Michael has a Danish friend who passed along this basic frickadeller recipe to him:

1lb minced pork and veal
1 egg
2 tbsp flour
1.5 tsp salt

Mix everything together and leave it in fridge to 'set' for at least 30 minutes.

Form into small balls and flatten slightly with a spatula. Cook in butter on medium-low heat until done. The goal with the lower heat is to keep the balls from burning even the slightest bit.

You can spice these in anyway you like. I like putting minced garlic and a little red pepper into the frickadeller mix before forming it into balls. We like to serve them with pasta dressed with garlic, red pepper flakes and parmesan.

Back in the states we made these with ground beef.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Open Letters

We've been here a month and it's starting to settle in that this isn't just a really long vacation. With the overarching message being "I miss you all," a few letters:

Dear Mom,

You’d really like the coffee here. We were told at the Fulbright orientation that Danes like their coffee “strong and often” and it made me think of you. I finally found the seconds bin at Royal Copenhagen. Rather than a single coffee mug costing $80, it’s discounted to $40 as a second.


Dear Monday night group (the Bible study we belonged to for five years),

Monday nights just aren’t the same without you all and Angela’s soups. We have the picture you gave us from our going away party in a prominent place in our living room. It’s even more special because somehow it is the only picture we brought with us from the states. We’re praying for you all.

Dear Guinever and Elizabeth,

A church friend of mine here who has been feeding me information about the Danish maternity system told me last week that you can opt to have a home birth if you’d rather not have your baby in the hospital or birthing center. The midwife will come to your house, set up a tub and help you birth your baby; all on the Danish government’s dime! Can you imagine? It was such a sharp contrast to it being practically illegal to have a home birth back home. Guinever, are you sure you don’t want to come to Denmark in February to be my doula again?

Dear Cooking Club,

Michael is making Uncle Ricky’s Texas Chili tonight with ground pork since it’s so cheap here. I cooked a traditional Danish dish with ground veal this week. I felt guilty about the baby cow but, wow, that is tender meat. I ran across a soup recipe that needed a chinois strainer for the preparation. Another cooking instrument that I’ve only known Phil to own. ;)

Dear Doherty,

Can you believe that UK v. UofL game???

Love to all,

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Michael, John and I went to Tivoli with our pastor's wife and two children today. [The Flickr set is here.] Opened in 1843, Tivoli is the second oldest continually operating amusement park in the world. Originally it was largely comprised simply of gardens, the lake and cafes, though now you can find your typical roller coasters and ferris wheels. It's very beautiful, especially at night when hundreds of thousands of lights trim every edge of the 15 acre park.

They have a special play area for smaller children who aren't old enough or tall enough to ride even the children's rides. We let John loose over there for a while and he had a great time. He was mesmerized by all the new sights and sounds. And everywhere we went there was a new fountain for him to splash in.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Photo Friday

Afternoon Coffee, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


It's odd being here in Denmark and not in the States on September 11th. It all seems very far away. Much further than usual from my undergrad senior political economics class and the phone call from Michael in Texas six years ago.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Well Read Enough

I recently discovered that through the Danish library network I can request any book in any Danish library in the country be sent to my neighborhood library, and they have a wide selection of books in English (and Books in American). Since I have more free time on my hands I'm wanting to become better read. I've been looking for good top 100 lists of fiction and nonfiction books and have been a little ho-hum about the lists I've found.

So far there is the The Random House Modern Library list, the (Since 1923) TIME list, the Book magazine best fictional characters list, and the BBC Big Read.

I want to go with the BBC list because I've already knocked off 18 of the top 25 (it helps that five of those are Harry Potter books) but most of the books seem a little kiddie and I wouldn't expect to see The Princess Diaries in the list of modern classics I'm looking for. And I don't even recognize more than half of the titles from the TIME list. So I'm leaning Modern Library list. Unless you all, I'm sorry Y'ALL FOLK, have any other suggestions? Or a favorite from any of the lists?

Sunday, September 9, 2007


It struck me at some point this week that John has suddenly left babyland behind and is acting more and more like a full fledged toddler. Michael recently introduced him to our iPod and every day when Michael comes home from work, John will reach out for his iPod and will then spend 5-10 minutes listening to music. He'll hold an earbud to one ear and start bobbing along. The only baby-like thing about the whole production is he'll usually try to stick the earbud in his mouth at some point.

The YouTube video is here.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Photo Friday Saturday

Sweden, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

John and I took a trip to Sweden today with a few people from church. It's not often you get to say, "Oh, I went to Sweden today..."

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Tzatziki is a Greek yogurt dip and one of the first new recipes I made when we got to Copen- hagen. It all started when we went to the grocery store looking for yogurt and found this big tub that clearly was yogurt (we weren't so sure about some of the other stuff). We brought it home, tasted it and realized this isn't like American yogurt. It tasted a lot like sour cream and had a very rich, creamy texture. A Google search revealed that it is a goats milk yogurt that isn't widely available in the U.S. outside speciality grocery stores. I bet a place like Wild Oats or Whole Foods would have it though.

But what to do with a huge tub of Greek yogurt? I headed over to Real Simple recipes, typed in 'Greek yogurt' and tzatzkiki was the first recipe to come up.

Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt Dip)
1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup grated cucumber
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, dill, cucumber, and garlic.

I've made this recipe four times now and the key to tzatziki is to be sure that all the cucumber juices from the grating go into the dip. The sweetness of the juices balance the sour flavor of the yogurt.

I love to dip this with cucumber slices but it is also great with carrot sticks and red pepper slices.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

To Market, To Market

I enjoy cooking as a hobby and my recent lifestyle change is giving me more opportunities to expand my culinary abilities. Back in the Homeland, we belonged to the Ragamuffin Cooking Club, a group of people connected through work, school, church or random chance meeting who all shared a desire to become better cooks. In that spirit, I thought I’d post about my experiences with food, kitchen challenges and especially new recipes I’m discovering over here.

I have to start by talking about two things: grocery shopping in Copenhagen and my limited kitchen equipment. First, there are three-tiers of grocery stores that I’ll call: Independent Vendors, “Kroger” and “Big Lots”. Independent Vendors include green grocers, bakeries, butchers, and fishmongers. Your Kroger stores are expensive but have just about everything you could possible be looking for. Your Big Lots are small but numerous, carry different items from week-to-week and are as cheap as you’re going to find. We largely shop at the Big Lots stores because, despite the fact that in Denmark all food purchases include a 25 percent sales tax, we’re trying to cut our monthly grocery bill by 33 percent compared to what we used to spend in the Homeland. Thus a typical Saturday requires that we shop at at least three different Big Lots stores. It helps our budgeting goals a lot that we have to carry the food home in bags the we provide ourselves; it's either provide your own bags or pay for plastic bags at the store. A heavy, $4, one liter of Coke doesn't seems so necessary when you have to carry it three blocks home.

The other challenging thing about grocery shopping here is there are no preservatives in the food. Which sounds great at first. I mean who among us is willing to stand up and say, “Yes. YES. I want to put toxic chemicals in my body!” Well, after finding produce rotting in my refrigerator less than 48 hours after purchase on at least four occasions (and irregardless of whether I bought it at a Big Lots or a Kroger-like quality store), I stood staring at a bag of half rotten potatoes thinking, “Yes. Toxic chemicals. Sign me up!”

I’m ever-so-slowly learning that my American way of grocery shopping – meal plan on Saturday, go out and buy everything I’ll need for the week – isn’t the best idea. And the many, many green grocer stands are starting to make a lot of sense. “Eeegghhmm… so you buy your fruits and vegetables the day you plan to cook with them… ahhh….”

Second, my kitchen. Our Danish kitchen is darling. It has beautiful wood countertops, a sweet round sink and a brand new glass top range with four burners. We are lacking a dishwasher and an oven. For baked goods, I have what amounts to a large toaster oven to bake in. I’m learning it’s more than meets the eye since, after five collective failures, I’ve managed to bake chocolate chip cookies and homemade biscuits. There are a few equipment deficiencies like I don't have a blender, food processor or a mixer, but I'm learning to work around those things.

For dishwashing, I have Michael. :)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Library Time

One of our favorite "date nights" back in the States was to go to a bookstore and read for a couple of hours. Not exactly the kind of thing normal romance is made of but we enjoyed it. It was food for conversation. Here they have bookstores of course, but they primarily carry books in Danish (I know, surprise). Now that I'm in possession of my Danish CPR card, also known as the Magic Card that, like it's American counterpart the social security number, is the ticket to everything Danish; a bank account, access to the free healthcare system, and a library card.

A very kind Danish woman set up my account and took the time to show me how to check books in and out (which you do yourself), and directed me to the small selection of "Books in English" and "Books in American."

The pickin's are slim.

I came home with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, another classic I'd never read and a board book partly for John but mostly for myself. I need to expand my Danish vocabulary. I'm hoping to find the Danish children's book that tells you all the names of the food in hopes it will make grocery shopping easier.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Baby Einstein

I'm feeling a little less like a overly-concerned, psychotic parent for deciding with Michael not to let John watch television after running across this piece in the latest issue of TIME.

A few pertinent excerpts:

In the latest study on the effects of popular videos such as the "Baby Einstein" and "Brainy Baby" series, researchers find that these products may be doing more harm than good. And they may actually delay language development in toddlers. . .

The [University of Washington] research team found that with every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos.
These products had the strongest detrimental effect on babies 8 to 16 months old, the age at which language skills are starting to form...

Last spring, Christakis and his colleagues found that by three months, 40% of babies are regular viewers of DVDs, videos or television;
by the time they are two years old, almost 90% are spending two to three hours each day in front of a screen...

This growing evidence led the Academy to issue its recommendation in 1999 that no child under two years old watch any television...

Though the popular baby videos and DVDs in the Washington study were designed to stimulate infants' brains, not necessarily to promote language development, parents generally assume that the products' promises to make their babies smarter include improvement of speaking skills. But, says Christakis, "the majority of the videos don't try to promote language; they have rapid scene changes and quick edits, and no appearance of the 'parent-ese' type of speaking that parents use when talking to their babies..."

As far as Christakis and his colleagues can determine,
the only thing that baby videos are doing is producing a generation of overstimulated kids. "There is an assumption that stimulation is good, so more is better," he says. "But that's not true; there is such a thing as overstimulation." His group has found that the more television children watch, the shorter their attention spans later in life. "Their minds come to expect a high level of stimulation, and view that as normal," says Christakis, "and by comparison, reality is boring."

I've always been a little weirded out by the whole Baby Einstein thing and had read just enough before John was born to think that television in generally is a bad idea for small children. Thus we made a conscious decision to not set him in front of a television or watch very much ourselves from the time he was little bitty. We did attempt to not make a big deal about it and it's been pretty easy even when we're visiting friends and family to keep John away from the tube. He rarely shows any interest even when he does have access anyway.

I'm definitely not trying to down people that use Baby Einstein or let their kids watch Dora. (Though I'd hope it's not for two to three hours everyday. I mean, wow.) I'm sure I haven't done the stay-at-home mom thing long enough to really appreciate the times when you just need you child to sit down and be still long enough for you to take a shower, make a meal or just mentally regroup. And I just have one and I'm sure the more you have, the more tempting it is to pop in the DVD and take a few precious minutes to breath through a paper bag.