Tuesday, December 18, 2007

War in Viborg?

So, it was Sunday. My wonderful hubby was in Athens, Greece for business and I decided to do my capitalism deed for the day and go shopping! I love December - shopping exists on Sunday in Denmark in December!!

For those who are not familiar with the laws concerning stores in Denmark, the rule is, they are never allowed to actually be open. Okay okay, maybe SOMEtimes they are open, but never when you need them, and never when anyone who actually has time to shop can go shopping. On the average Saturday, you know that day when you don't have anything to do and have time to shop, you'll be hard pressed to find a store open past 1 pm. Now perhaps that's fine for most, but we tend to be late sleepers, or more accurately, while we may be awake, we are not showered, dressed and presentable for the general public.

But.. come December.. weeee... Jul is in the air and the Søndagsåbent signs go up all over Denmark. Truly a joyful time of year!

Off to Viborg I went, and I shopped. It is my firm belief that if I ever hope to see stores open at more reasonable shopping hours that I must always attend said stores when they are open at unusual times. We have the same philosophy about particular products we would like the stores to continue to carry. For example, Rema 1000 had good old Lay's potato chips on sale, so we bought some. Okay, we bought a whole case of them. But now they know people will buy them so hopefully (fingers crossed) they will continue to carry them. Every other potato chip sold in Denmark is burned and just odd tasting - so the Lay's thing is kind of important to me.

Okay, okay, okay. Making a short story long here! Anyhoo.. driving home from Viborg, this is the view I have in front of my car...

Ummm.. what is that - a tank? Well that's what I thought it was, and there were 3 of them, and a big army truck. My husband tells me it's a PMV - whatever that is. It's not every day you pull up behind a bunch of vehicles who appear to be heading straight for the front lines. Perhaps they were charged with keeping the shopping throngs in order? Could be - Bilka can get a bit crazy on a Søndagsåbent day!


Yesterday the temperature never went above freezing and it just made everything look soooo cool. All the trees, grass, etc., had this nice layer of white frost. Very pretty.

But the coolest thing I could find, in a frozen state, definitely has to be this:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Shopping Carts

I know, it's a strange topic, however, it deserves to be mentioned.

A shopping cart is something you just never really study or think about - it just works, usually. Sure we've all had the cart with the bad wheel, or the string stuck in the wheel, but in general, you push, they go, you fill, you unload, you reload in bags, you unload again at the car, you return it to the proper place (maybe) and you're on your way. Never taking the time to stop and study the cart - or appreciate it's simplicity.

But then you arrive in a strange land, with strange shopping carts. You see, the first few times we went to the grocery store, I found the shopping carts impossible to control. They look the same, so what was it that was making these darn things so incredible difficult to manage? And why does every Dane pushing a shopping cart through the parking lot appear to be stuck in the middle of hurricane force winds? No one heads straight to their car with confidence. Everyone has an unseen force tilting the cart to a 35-40 degree angle from their legs, resulting in a throng of sideways leaning cart drivers attempting desperately not to clip the back end of every car they pass.

While it is quite windy in Denmark, the poor shopping cart driving ability of the danes cannot be blamed on wind alone. This was bothering me greatly. Until it hit me - American shopping carts have two wheels that swivel, and two that do not. For the life of me I cannot remember if it's the front wheels or the back wheels that do the driving, but I know that two of them point straight ahead at all times. A Danish shopping cart, on the other hand, has 4 swiveling wheels. What this means is that, in theory, you can spin yourself around and around in a very small turning radius. What it also means is that you can never point straight ahead - ever. The wheels take over, they posess the cart.. you try to move forward, but your cart is instead heading down the aisle beside you - perhaps it hears the chocolate calling from aisle 3.

In a country known world-wide for its functional design, I'm simply stumped as to why the Danes have not yet redesigned the shopping cart so that it can actually push forward in a straight line. But then again, if a Dane redesigned the shopping cart, it would then be made of wood and stainless steel, have a designer name on it, and be sold for more than the total value of the products one were to place within it. So I guess I have my answer.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving in Denmark

Thanksgiving is all American and attempting to recreate the festivities here in Denmark was quite a chore, but one that I'm quite pleased to have taken on.

I searched high and low for a turkey. This was not quite as easy as I had hoped. After finding that Bilka had chicken, duck, goose and assorted other birds, I felt sure there must be a turkey buried amongst the poultry somewhere. But, no.. I could have purchased turkey drumsticks (mysteriously sold in a package of 3... so I'm assuming there is now a one-legged turkey hopping around Denmark somewhere) and a turkey breast (minus the skin) and rebuilt the bird on my own, but that seemed a rather daunting task and it just wouldn't be the same. We asked the store clerks, but they advised us to call back and speak with Andre in the morning - something we, of course, forgot to do.

Ole stopped at our local Super Brugsen and lo and behold, a french turkey! Oui, oui! Said turkey was purchased on Monday and left to thaw in the refrigerator until today. Yesterday I put together my official recipe plan and headed off to Kvickly in search of the needed ingredients. As it turns out, the only pumpkin sold in Denmark is in a jar, and it's pickled.. since I can't quite imagine what a pickled pumpkin pie might taste like, the pie was out.

Next stop, produce. Denmark is a potato country. They eat potatoes religiously with every meal. They sell multiple varieties of said potatoes so you would assume that somewhere in that veritable plethora of potatoes that one would find sweet potatoes. You would be wrong. They don't exist. Sweet potato pie is now off the list.

However, I did have a Eureka moment in produce. There, sitting quietly amongst the kiwis and oranges, lay a pile of bags of dear old Ocean Spray cranberries! The real thing, fresh from the US of A. Cranberry sauce can remain on the menu !!

Today I am proud to say that I made homemade mashed potatoes, homemade celery and onion stuffing, fresh cranberry relish, creamed spinach, turkey gravy and of course, the french turkey. Ole's parents joined us for their first ever Thanksgiving dinner and it was wonderful.

Who says the Danes can't celebrate Thanksgiving? And now, since I'm just as stuffed as a bird on Thanksgiving, it's time to say... bring on Christmas! (I think I'll start my shopping tomorrow - minus the black friday crowds!)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

One year in Denmark...

One year in Denmark and the world's your pastry
The stores close early but the bakeries rule
You'll find some chocolate and it's very tasty
A little sweet, a little bit of drool
I can feel the weight gain and I think it's cruel

One year in Denmark makes a woman joyful
The folks are happy but the dansk is hard
One year in Denmark with the language module
Can't be too careful with your d's and r's
I just hope my engelsk doesn't get too scarred

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Doggy Forests!

One of the absolute best things that I have found in Denmark is the Hundskovs, which translates roughly to Doggy Forest! What an absolutely brilliant idea! These are parcels of forest land that are completely fenced in. There is a gate at each entrance and the whole idea is that you go there with your dog, take the dog off the leash and just let your dog go wild running, sniffing, jumping, peeing and all those other wonderful doggy activities.

We have a very nice doggy forest about 5 miles or so from our house and there is a crowd of 'regulars' that we try to connect with as often as possible. There is no better way to completely exhaust Miss Zoe than to let her run loose with 3-4 other dogs. From the moment we pull into the parking lot she knows exactly where she is; she bolts out of the car directly to the gate and waits for us slow human types to catch up. Open the gate and woosh.. she's gone, off in search of other 4 legged creatures with which to connect and sniff.

Now, you must understand.. Zoe has a particular love for mud, glorious mud! We think she's trying to turn herself in to a chocolate lab, rather than a black lab...

Now if you're the owner of the white dog, at this point you have to be thinking.. who is this creature and what are they getting my precious white dog into?? MUD!

But, there's not only mud, there are other dogs to play with - and Miss Zoe loves to play with other dogs..

But alas, when all is said and done, Zoe comes home, gets a bath, and returns to her favorite spot on the back of the couch... (perhaps she learned this from the cats).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


The vast majority of homes in Denmark have a wood stove of sorts. It's not actually a stove at all, just a pretty firebox with a big pipe up through the ceiling to the roof (typically referred to as the chimney, duh). But my point is that no one really has a fireplace inside the wall, they're all these black boxes with nice glass windows so you can watch the fire, and they sit on a tiled floor somewhere in a corner, or just next to the wall.

Anyhoo, by law, in order to have said fireplace, you have to have your chimney inspected. Sounds logical, right? But here's the cool thing - you can't escape this little inspection. The kommune in which you live sends the guy to your house. They don't make an appointment, they just show up.

I'm home all day because well, I work from here, so, anytime the doorbell rings is an adventure for me... most times it's our friendly neighborhood postman grunting about the 75lb. bags of dog food we order, but this time, it was some old guy dressed in black.

Allow me to back up about 12 hours or so. Last night as we were driving to my classes we were discussing this whole chimney inspection thing. I'll just say now, had that discussion not taken place, this man at the door would've been quite the strange entity. Thankfully I was now prepared for a chimney sweep to show up at some point. ...Had no idea it would be the very next day after the discussion but perhaps the kommune saw the smoke pouring out of our chimney yesterday and told him to get here quickly!

Side note.. 55 degrees and rainy on August 27 .. that warrants a fire in the fireplace!

So now this man is standing outside the door while I hold back my crazy, excitable, loves-everyone, pleasepleasepleasepetme!, puppy Zoe from jumping all over the man. He says something in Danish, points to the roof and says something more. I reply with my usual.. "Jeg taler engelsk" and "chimney?". He then grunts something and grabs his belt buckle and starts waving it at me. Apparently the symbol on his belt buckle is fire axes and it is to assure me that yes, he is there to inspect or clean or do something to my chimney. I don't know if the wave of the fire ax belt buckle is the universally accepted Identification for chimney sweep, but hey, worked for me!

He then climbed up on the roof, proceeded to shove a huge brush or something up and down the chimney a few times (which Zoe found incredibly interesting from the inside view), then he came in the house and shoveled some ash out of the box and did whatever else he had to do, said "hej, hej" and in approximately 10 minutes, he was gone.

Rumor has it the kommune follows up with a nice little bill that comes in at less than $50.
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