Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ooooo it's electric

Someday, perhaps, I may get used to the electrical outlets here in Denmark. I hope I do, for no other reason than to save my sanity.

Let me explain. I've told you before about the toaster oven - the one I used to successfully charcoal two pieces of bread - well, apparently I'm equally talented when it comes to not crisping the bread at all.

I don't know if it's due to the 220V current running through the walls, or just an energy saving measure, but with every electrical outlet comes a switch. This is endlessly frustrating as the switch never seems to be in the 'on' position, even though you KNOW you left it that way. I believe, however, that I have figured out why it's never 'on'. Here is a picture of one such outlet in our home:

 
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The big switch on the top is for the lights, and the big switch immediately below that controls the outlet. Apparently when I'm moving through the house, doing the reach-around to flip lights on, or off, I tend to also accidentally flip the switch directly below it. I didn't grow up in a 2-switch world; I grew up in an old house that had just one innocent little light switch as you entered a room. So, the absent minded swing the hand around the doorway, flick the switch, always worked. If you didn't hit the first time, you just did a little wall grope until you connected with said switch and voila, the lights were on - or off.

But the wall grope here can result in all sorts of other things being switched on or off, so, apparently, I must now learn to look before flicking.

What does any of this have to do with a toaster oven? Well, the oven has one of those little timers that works whether or not the power is actually on. So, in went the frozen rolls, temperature selected, timer set so as not to burn anything, and 13 minutes later upon hearing the wonderful ding indicating that my breakfast rolls were now hot and yummy, into the kitchen I went. Hmm, no hot and yummy here - still frozen. Because yes, while the timer did it's job and the 'ding' happened, the oven had no power and I had no breakfast, and the whole process starts again.

I guess the moral of this story is: When in foreign lands, be careful what you grope!

p.s. If you've dropped in from Strange Shores, welcome! If you haven't, head on over there to hear exciting tales from around the globe.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bored


Ole: Cologne, Germany - furniture fair
Me: Karup, DK - bored

Yep, he did it again, he went away on business. It doesn't happen that often, but it still stinks. Oh sure, I do it to him too, but it's no fun to be the one left at home.

Strange really. I lived alone for a very, very long time. Enjoyed it too. I'll give you one little tidbit about our relationship. People sometimes ask me how I knew he was 'the one'. It was easy. He was visiting me for a week, when we still just 'friends' and when he left, I missed him. That sealed the deal. My apartment felt empty after he'd gone back home. It was the most bizarre thing ever for me. Why? Well, typically, even if I had a date and really liked the guy, I still wanted him out of my apartment after just a bit of time. It was MY space - I like you, now get out. So yeah, having the place suddenly feel empty after this one got out made me realize that this was different - I didn't want him to get out - I wanted him to stay forever. So it sealed the deal in my mind and there you have it.

Back to now, present tense, deadly quiet, bored. Wish I could be at the furniture fair wandering the convention center looking at all the cool stuff I could maybe, someday, put in my house. Sigh.

Guess I'll go to bed.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Visa Waiver Program

So, the US Department of Homeland Security issued this press release today.

All in all, it sounds like a great idea, especially if it means eliminating the stupid paper forms that have to be handed out to all visitors on the plane to be filled out, with a pen you don't have, on a postage size tray table, prior to landing.

My husband completed the online authorization form back in August, the moment it became available. And, he received the proper authorization. Fast forward to December, when we traveled to the states. He took the printed confirmation from Homeland Security with him, just to see what happened. Dying of curiousity?

Well, we landed at Newark, one of the largest airports for incoming flights from abroad and guess what - the immigration officer we spoke to said the green form was still needed as they didn't know what that electronic system was all about yet. He said he knew it was coming, but had no information on it yet. That was less than one month ago. The program has supposedly been in place on a voluntary basis since August. And yet, it was nearing the end of December and they couldn't accept that clearance?

Should be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Fish out of water?

I have spent the last several hours thoroughly immersed in expat blog world. It's a strange thing really. Before I moved here, I did try to find some blogs of Americans who had journeyed to Denmark so I could hopefully gain a bit of insight into what I was getting into. Either I was a terrible googler back then, or the blog world has grown by leaps and bounds, or a bit of both.

My google reader is beginning to explode with unread entries for blogs not only in Denmark, but in Germany, Sweden, Norway and around the world. I am addicted. I think the Scandinavian nations are closest to my heart, most likely because I can relate; I think many of the customs of Norway and Sweden are the same that are observed in Denmark, and I love reading them all.

I would list my favorites, but I fear I would leave someone out and then I'd have that overwhelming guilt!

My latest reading marathon began when another expat blogger, LadyFi, posted something about Strange Shores, and I felt myself yearning to participate.

I sent off an Email early this morning without even thinking about the date. Then I checked our host's blog, PaddyK, this evening and voila, there I was - how exciting!! And then, as is usually the case, one referenced post led to another, and another, and before I knew it, hours had gone by!

So, if you dropped by to read about chimney sweeps, hopefully you'll pull up a chair and stay awhile and enjoy all my other adventures.

And the chimney guy? There's a follow-up to be found here.

Feel free to drop by any time, and thanks for visiting!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Happy New Year!

Let me tell you, the 4th of July has nothing on the Danish New Year's Eve.

We did what we always do on New Year's Eve, stayed in with the dogs and relaxed. Unlike apparently everyone else, we did not see the Queen's speech. At least not that night. I did finally see it last week at Sprogskole - my teacher used it as a teaching tool so we could learn some of the expressions used, so it was pretty cool, but let's get back to the subject at hand - crazy Danes!

What we did do was watch a movie, and hang out in the house, waiting for the magic moment to begin. Some don't officially wait until midnight by most do, at least for the 'good' stuff, and at the stroke of midnight, the sky is ablaze with fireworks. These are not the little piddly stuff either, these are huge, and there are many of them.

Being a house on a corner has it's advantages and disadvantages. The advantage here is that we are totally surrounded by neighbors who probably spent at least one paycheck, if not two, on their New Year's Eve arsenal.

The disadvantage is that it means we get to scour the yard on New Year's Day for assorted debris from said fireworks, madly attempting to pick everything up before the dogs find the trash and decide it's new toys for puppies!

Zoe LOVES fireworks, and just like last year, she stood in the middle of the yard staring up at the sky. She is completely unaffected by the noise, and loves the show. Lexi on the other hand, umm, not so much. She tried to be brave, she didn't hide under a bed or in a closet, she stood with her paws on the window sill looking out at the magic. She bravely tried to come out to the yard, but each time she did, she was, of course, greeted with huge crashes of noise, which would immediately send her running back into the house. The only time she managed to stay outside for more than 5 minutes was when the neighbors wanted to say hello to her and pet her - she overcame her fear in exchange for some good luvin!

This is just over a minute, filmed just as it all began. I am standing in my driveway slowly walking in a circle. The film doesn't do the madness justice!

On the 5th Day of Christmas...

Okay, okay, it's my last Christmas post, I promise!

And really, this has nothing to do with Christmas. This is more about one of those things that I miss from the US.

What?

Squirrels!!

I grew up surrounded by squirrels. The street where I lived had these huge maple trees up and down both sides and it was so much fun to watch the squirrels run up one tree, jump over to another, run down, run up another, etc. It was like having your own little circus show.

In New York, we had grey squirrels. When I attended college in Michigan, the squirrels were black (very cute little buggers if I do say).

I'm told there are squirrels in Denmark, and I did see one.. one! I was always used to squirrels just being everywhere. Yes, they can be a royal pain as they can be quite destructive and they're a bit mischievious, but you have to admit - highly entertaining.

While visiting my parents, we grabbed the camcorder and filmed the squirrels swarming the bird feeder in the neighbor's yard. This video is a wee bit shaky - hard to hold it steady when you're on the super zoom! And, we didn't catch the best moments as there were several times when they were multiple squirrels on said bird feeder, but this little guy is too cute....


video

Friday, January 9, 2009

On the 4th Day of Christmas..

Okay, it actually happened before the 4th day of Christmas, but I'm trying to stick to bit of a theme here!

Anyone remember those old Folger's Crystals commercials where they would sneak into some high class restaurant and switch the fancy coffee for the Folger's and all the customers would then ooh and aah about how wonderful the coffee was?

Well, mystery switches when it comes to coffee don't always turn out so well, particular when they aren't actually a planned event. Allow me to explain...

After being in upstate NY for just over a day, I had a pounding headache. With the dry winter air, I blamed the lack of humidity; seemed a valid enough reason at the time. Add this to the fact that a few hours later, Ole also was reporting a headache. We were both feeling quite dried out in this mountain air and we had the chapped lips as proof, so of course that must be the cause!

The next day, we were out doing some shopping, and the headaches started to come back again. ARGH! After a stroll through Target, I then decided that perhaps the headache was because I had had only one cup of coffee that morning instead of my usual 2-3 cups and perhaps that was to blame. We made the immediate decision to make a fresh pot of coffee as soon as we got back to my parent's house.

So in the door we went, and Ole immediately went to work on the task at hand - making some coffee. He got the water into the machine, put the filter in place, saw a can of Decaf coffee sitting on the counter (see where I'm going with this?) and asked my mother where the regular, caffeinated coffee might be. My Mother, without missing a beat replied, "It's right there on the counter." Ummm.. NOPE!

As it turns out, my Mother had been brewing up the decaf each morning, thinking she was brewing regular coffee. Since she normally drinks decaf, she didn't notice. On the other hand, being a certified resident of a country where coffee is served at every meeting, function, school event, and fest, and a country that has no translation for the word "decaffeinated", we definitely DID notice - however, we noticed about 2 days too late to prevent the monstrous headaches we were now experiencing.

Needless to say, we immediately made a trip to the local Walmart and purchased a can of coffee, with the caffeine fully intact. Headache issue solved.

Yep, we're addicts.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

On the 3rd day of Christmas...

Yeah, so I'm a bit behind, but whatever!

On the 26th, chaos errupted as the remainder of my immediate family with spouses and children in tow, arrived at my parent's home. Well, they didn't actually arrive as scheduled! Everyone was supposed to arrive at some point around noon or so. But my oldest brother, who lives in Manhattan, went over to the car rental agency to get a car for the trip and despite having one already reserved, they had nothing. All that he could do was wait for the first incoming return. So wait he did, and ended up getting a big huge, very nice, SUV. My brother is not an SUV fan, but he feared waiting for another would take a few hours, so he took what he could get!

My other brother called, and little Rebecca had decided that she couldn't go potty, so rather than pack her in the car and worry that there could really be something wrong, they called the doc and headed off to the doctor's office.

Both brothers and their respective families did finally arrive upstate around 2-3 in the afternoon. My mother had been brewing our traditional Christmas dinner, turkey with all the trimmings, but there was no way in the world the kids were going to sit peacefully and eat when there were bundles of shiny packages tied up with bows awaiting them. So, the packages came first!

For me, it was cashmere heaven as I acquired 2 new cashmere sweaters. I also received some beautiful jewelry, a big basket of yummy smelling lotions and potions and assorted other wonderful things. Opening gifts with 4 children under the age of 12 is always fun, and always a bit nuts, but all in all a wonderful day.

Ole and I decided to share a Danish tradition with my family so the night before, Ole had made a HUGE pot of the rice pudding, and on the 26th we added the whipped cream and almonds to officially turn it into ris a la mande. Since there are almond allergies in part of the family, we had to divide the whole pot into two halves and only add the crushed almonds to one. This also meant we could only 'hide' the almond in one of the bowls. So rather than let them in on the secret, we told the kids, who were having the almond free variety, that there was a surprise hidden in the bowl and that they would need to eat some to get the special prize. I was worried they would think it was strange-tasting, but they absolutely loved it and kept running in to get more. What we didn't tell them, until they had finished almost the whole portion, was that instead of the traditional almond, we had put a sticker on one of their bowls. Joey (the oldest) then found the sticker and received the special gift. My brother Tim (Joey's dad) found the actual almond in the traditional bowl and got a special gift as well. It was great fun for us to be able to share a Danish Christmas tradition with my American family and to be able to bring something new to the table that everyone enjoyed.

A few pics from the days festivities:







Saturday, January 3, 2009

Bah Humbug

There are more Christmas updates to come but allow me to interject today's tale.

I woke up quite ill. Ole took the dogs to the other end of the house and I decided to remain in bed - this is something that I never do, but I just couldn't get myself out of that bed. When I finally did get up, it was 12:20 pm, so I stumbled into the shower hoping that it would make me feel human again. It worked, somewhat. However, it used up every ounce of energy that my body could muster up, so after showering, I put myself on the couch and ended up sleeping again for over an hour.

I finally decided that perhaps getting out of the house and into the air may make me feel a bit better so off to the Hundeskov we went. We had a nice walk around the hundeskov but I was running out of steam quickly so we decided to head home. Upon exiting the hundeskov, we found that we now had a flat tire.. argh.

Having before changed this exact tire myself, we thought no biggie, let's just change it and get home. If only life were that simple. The stupid tire would NOT come off the car - we pulled, tugged, pulled, tugged - nothing - it wouldn't budge. Luckily we have Falck, the equivalent of AAA in the states - so we called. And, naturally, they said it could take up to an hour. Waaaa.

The guy did finally arrive, he pounded the tire with a piece of wood and a mallet and eventually the stupid thing came free, the spare was put on, and we were able to come home again.

Now I sit, drinking some juice, hoping to recover from whatever ails me before Monday rolls around.

There is some good news in all of this - since we were just in the states, I do have some Nyquil now so at least I will be able to sleep peacefully tonight. :)

Christmas comes in many parts... part 2

Let's see now - I've covered the doggy and kitty vacation, I've covered our flight day and I've covered our little junket in NYC. But alas, there is more to cover!!

On Christmas Eve we left NYC to head north to my parents and along the way we just had to make a stop at Woodbury Commons Outlets. The place is gigantic and I feared it would be extremely crowded but apparently the crowds were elsewhere as the outlet center was basically empty. The bargains were unreal and we stocked up on all kinds of new clothes, shoes, etc. There is something a bit 'off' in the world when one can purchase Ecco boots, from Denmark, at an outlet center in the US for approximately 1/3 of what you would pay for the same boot here in DK. I LOVE a good bargain!!

We went to my hometown church for the traditional Christmas Eve candlelight service. It's a tradition that I grew up with and one that I miss anytime I cannot attend. As a kid, we went to the 'early' service as we couldn't stay up until midnight for the candlelight ending to the 'late' service - the moment we were permitted to attend the late service for the first time was one of those .. "oh cool!" moments and I have loved it ever since.

I saw many friends at church and we had a chance to say hello to quite a few people - everyone, of course, wants to know how I'm doing in DK, have I learned Danish yet, etc. Our wedding and reception are a bit of church legend - I'm betting it's the one and only time that the minister will ever say "I know pronounce you husband and wife" in DANISH!

Funny story that I must share...
An old friend I grew up with, and someone known to cause trouble at any and all inappropriate moments, was at the service. We sat in front of he and his wife and kids and we'll just say that probably was not the best idea - knowing him as well as I do. The service began with a half hour of music in various forms (handbells, brass quintet, organ, choir, etc.). Most of the music was printed in the church bulletin but apparently the violinist must not have chosen her piece until late as the bulletin said only 'Violin Selection'. Just as she was about to begin, I hear a voice say.. "Devil went down to Georgia". Needless to say, I did everything possible to hold in the giggles. A few times during the remainder of the service I also had pieces of paper land in my lap, whispered comments here and there - you get the picture. Mind you, this is a 40-year old, with his children!! Gotta love him!

We crawled into bed after the service (Ole and I, not the old friend and I!) and managed to get a good night's sleep. Christmas morning we had a delightful breakfast with my mom and dad and then exchanged gifts.

We also spent a good part of the day attempting to get my dad's PC back in working order - something we were told had to be done during our visit.

Christmas evening we headed over to see my closest friend, my "BFF" so to speak (though I have to admit that I never in my life thought I would actually type BFF!).

Ruth and I go back to junior high school - she was and is the one person in the world that will never require explanation - no matter what she does, no matter what I do, we will always be friends. We don't get to speak as often as we should, and this was our first visit since November 2006, but none of that matters. All that matters is that we are the same as we ever were and the moment I saw her it felt like we had just seen one another the week before.

We hung out for a few hours with she and her husband, Mark, had some beer and wine, got caught up, and all that good stuff. We opened some New Year's poppers, a week early, which contained these simply delightful, totally fashionable, paper crowns...



Ole and I; I guess the combination of beer and camera flash caused his eyes to close!



Mark and Ruth; Yes, she'll probably kill me when she sees this picture of herself holding a nacho chip! (Isn't that sofa the prettiest thing ever??)



My prince of denmark :)

Christmas comes in many parts... part 1

I know I'm going backwards in time, but please forgive me, there is just so many things to catch up on before I can close the 2008 chapter and move into 2009 with a clear mind!! In the next few days I will probably be sprinkling the blog with a bit of 'things I meant to blog about and didn't' but we'll get to that later.

Before the trip to NYC, before the hundepension, but shortly after the packing of the cats, we had our own little Christmas at home. Oh sure, we could've waited to open our packages from the DK side of the family until we got back from the US - but what fun is that! We couldn't take the packages with us, it just wasn't practical to do so and besides - there were a few big boxes that were simply calling my name, begging to be opened!!

I hate to write wish lists because I can simply never remember the things I've seen that I would like to have but didn't buy at the time, etc. But this year, I put a little google gadget on my homepage and attempted to add things to it as I thought of them. It was pretty empty, however, when family started asking for the list but I did the best that I could to fill it out a bit and alas, the wish list was a success. :)

My in-laws, Anny and Bruno (don't you love that name, Bruno??, it just demands to be said with gusto!), gave me electric salt and pepper grinders, a new pair of gloves, and one other item that I decided a few weeks ago that I had to have...

In DK, most homes have one of these...



Now I don't really understand the popularity of this type of toaster, nor can I see any practical reason for it, unless perhaps you have a desire to have just one side of your bread toasted. I'm more of a toast both sides kind of girl. I also tend to be a bit of a wreck in the kitchen unless I'm really focusing on the task at hand (Thanksgiving, for example). We do own something similar to the model shown above and we also own a toaster oven, however.. said toaster oven now has a bit of discoloration around the door and from each vent as I managed to make black hockey pucks out of 2 pieces of bread a few weeks ago. It wasn't my fault - really! - the timer didn't go off, I was working at the other end of the house, and by the time I managed to remember I had put some bread in the oven, there was smoke pouring out of every crevice of the pretty white toaster oven - all because it didn't go "DING" when it should have and therefore, didn't shut itself off. Apparently you're supposed to turn it past 5 and then back or something for the timer to activate properly - whatever! I decided then and there that I had use for a toast both sides, pop-up when done, shut itself off, kind of toaster, and yes, I got one for Christmas - yippee!!!

Some girls hate getting kitchen stuff for Christmas - I'm the opposite, I hate the kitchen itself, but I LOVE kitchen gadgets and I love getting new gadgets for Christmas. I think somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, I am convinced that if I finally find just the right magical kitchen gadget, I will suddenly be the world's most amazing chef, without actually doing any work. Hey - it's a goal!

So, on that note, Ole got me a breadmaker and while it can't solve all my kitchen woahs, it does magically turn a few carefully measured scoops of stuff into a magically delicious loaf of bread in just 3 hours and I didn't have to lift a spoon. :)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

While the cats are away...

Prior to our big adventure to the states, we had to send the cats and dogs to their vacation homes. There is a hundepension (aka dog kennel) just a couple of miles from our house and so we arranged for Lexi and Zoe to spend the holidays there. We would have loved to have had them with us, but it simply isn't possible to do so when you're spending Christmas 4000 miles from home! But, before we took the dogs to their temporary housing, we had to deliver the cats elsewhere.

We were extremely lucky because Ole's parents offered to take the cats during our trip. So, we packed up a litter box, a bag of litter, a litter scoop, their food, food bowls and water bowl, and finally - Mr. Pete and Coal, and loaded all of it into the car for the trip to Struer. I snapped a few shots of Coal and Mr. Pete in their travel crates - from the moment we put them in their boxes, they howled like it was the end of the world. Lexi was extremely curious about the whole thing!...





I wish I could've gotten the picture, but the camera was not where I needed it at the time.. Lexi put herself down on her belly in front of Coal's box and put herself nose to nose with him. I think she was trying to tell him that it would all be okay!

Mr. Pete, who NEVER meows (well, except for the one time that we decided he needed a bath, but that's another story for another time), cried in his box from the moment he was put into it and until the moment we arrived in Struer - poor thing must have had one hell of a sore throat!!

We unloaded them at Ole's parents and today we picked them up again. Rumor has it they pretty much hid out in the closet any time someone entered the room they were staying in, but that's no surprise. Coal has an intense fear of strangers and does not like his world interrupted. Mr. Pete is generally friendly but he's also a bit nervous about new places and new faces.

Lexi and Zoe shared a kennel at the hundepension and they were bouncing off the walls when we picked them up Tuesday evening. Who knows what adventures they may have had during our week away - all we know for sure is that the two blankets we left for them were in many, many pieces when we arrived. Hopefully the whole experience wasn't too traumatic!!

Everyone is now safe and sound and home again. :)

The weather outside was frightful...

... but the city was sooo delightful!

I love NYC but boy, oh boy, I'm not so sure the city likes us! We were in NYC a few years ago for Christmas and on that trip, the temperatire hovered around 5'F. We were in NYC again before and after our wedding, and the temperature was approximately 100'F. On this trip... oh, about 20'F. I wonder if we'll ever experience NY with 'normal' temperatures!!

We didn't do too much while in NYC itself as it was exceedingly cold on the only complete day that we did have there, but we had fun despite the cold. We walked from our hotel on 48th and 8th down to the Manhattan Mall and then over to Macy's to see the Christmas windows and enjoy the big Christmas sales. With the economy in such turmoil, the stores were doing everything possible to sell, sell, sell, which meant tons of bargains everywhere - hurray!!

At the Manhattan Mall, we were both happy and sad to see that one of our favorite stores, Steve & Barry's, was going out of business. Sad because Ole's entire family fell in love with the store when they were in New York for our wedding. Why? Well, if you've never been there, the store's mantra was "3 for $20!" - yes, three items of clothing for $20. When you're used to DK pricing, or even ANY pricing for that matter, 3 for $20 is a wonderful thing. And we're not talking junk clothes either - the store resembled an Old Navy and had awesome jeans, sweatshirts, etc. The prices were awesome, but perhaps their pricing also explains why they are now going out of business!

Happy, however, because the prices were even lower for the big sell-out and we took full advantage; we are now the proud owners of several college sweatshirts. It didn't matter to us what state was strewn across the front - it mattered only that we were purchasing big heavyweight sweatshirts for... wait for it...

$3.99

Yeppers - what a steal!

We had dinner at the Olive Garden (one of my favs!) in Times Square, looking down on the yellow sea of taxis and spent some hours just relaxing in our room. We didn't do all the 'normal' Christmas things in NYC but for us, it was just perfect. Here are a few pics from our adventure - including a rather frightening self-portrait!!







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