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."]