Wednesday, December 26, 2007
As I already mentioned, Christmas is a HUGE deal here in Denmark. However, Santa is not a big part of the celebration. Instead, you will see lots of Nisser decorating store-front windows and Christmas displays. Nisser are Scandinavian relatives of the pixie, the gnome, the elf and the imp and wear grey trousers (or grey skirt for Mrs. Nisse), wooden shoes and a long pointed red cap.
Advent is celebrated here in Denmark – you see advent wreathes everywhere. Children keep highly decorated advent calendars. They open the windows of their advent calendars to find a small gift, a piece of chocolate or perhaps an inexpensive toy.
Another important part of Danish Christmas Celebration is the Christmas brew. Danish breweries add to the spirit of Christmas by creating their own specially brewed Julebryg, or 'Christmas Brew'. Not to be outdone, Aalborg Akvavit comes out with a limited edition of 'Christmas snaps' . And, in case beer and snaps isn’t your thing, there is Gløgg, a potent variant of mulled red wine, served steaming hot and heavily spiced with raisins, almonds, cinnamon sticks and cloves steeped in pure aquavit or snaps.
Drink is an important part of the Danish Christmas celebration, but food is too. It is no surprise that sweets are a big part of it. Here are a few of my favorites:
Klejner, (flour, butter, egg and lemon cut into elongated rectangles, knotted in special way it's impossible to describe, and finally deep fried), brune kager (gingerbread dough sliced thinly, flattened and sprinkled with finely chopped nuts) and pebbernødder (small round cookies made of dough spiced with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and baked hard). Add to these, marzipan animals, fruit and nisser and the traditional accompaniment to gløgg: Æbleskiver, which are a special kind of doughnut usually served with a dusting of icing sugar and a heavy dollop of blackcurrant jam. Duck and goose are the preferred meats for Christmas Eve dinner and red cabbage is the appropriate side dish.
Here are a few recipes I found to make these wonderful Danish delights!
Ris à l'amande
4 oz (120 g) Patna rice
1 1/4 pints (3/4 l) water
½ vanilla pod
½-3/4 pint (3-4 dl) whipping cream
3-3½ oz (75-100 g) finely chopped almonds
2 tablesp. sugarcanned or bottled cherries
Cook the rice in the water until tender, together with the vanilla pod and sugar. Stir in half the cream and the chopped almonds. Whip the rest of the cream and fold into the mixture. Serve cold with slightly heated preserved cherries.
It is a Danish custom to hide a whole almond in the rice. The lucky person who finds the almond receives a small prize.
Æbleskiver - Danish Doughnuts
1/4-½ pint (2½ dl) cream
½ lb (250 g) flour
3-4 tablesp. stout
1 tablesp. sugar
6 oz (175 g) butter
1 teasp. lemon juice
½ teasp. cardamom
Beat the cream and flour together and beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Stir in the stout, sugar and cooled, melted butter. Flavor with lemon juice and stir in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Allow to stand for a while. Place a little butter in the hollows of a doughnut pan (the butter is necessary for the first batch only), and fry the doughnuts, turning on all sides until brown. Serve hot, sprinkled with icing sugar and raspberry or strawberry jam.
Brune kager - Brown Cookies
It is recommended to make the dough a couple of days before the actual baking.
1 lb (450 g) syrup
9 oz (250 g) butter
9 oz (250 g) brown sugar
1 oz bitter orange peel
1 tablesp. cinnamon
1 tablesp. ground cloves
½ teasp. cardamom
1 teasp. baking powder
2 tablesp. rosewater
2 lb (1 kg) flour
Warm the syrup in a saucepan, add the butter, orange peel, spices and sugar. Stir in the baking powder, dissolved in the rosewater. Gradually add the flour, kneading thoroughly after each addition. Turn into a bowl, cover with a cloth and keep cold.
Before baking, roll out thinly and cut into rounds. Place well apart on a greased baking-sheet, brush with water and decorate with sliced almonds. Bake for 8-10 min. at 400o F (200o C).
Pebernødder - Peppernuts
1 cup butter
1-1/3 scant cups sugar
4 cups flour
1 tablesp. soda
1 tablesp. ginger
1/2 tablesp. anise extract
1/4 tablesp. nutmeg
1/2 tablesp. salt
1/2 tablesp. cinnamon
½ cup sorghum
½ tablesp. vanilla
Work all ingredients together and roll in tiny balls about the size of a nickel. Put on cookie sheet. Bake 9-10 minutes at 300o F. Quantity depends on size of the nuts.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Now, the bad news: Well, it was bound to happen. I was hit by a car while riding home from work. I was riding through an intersection (I had the green light) and a car hit me while turning right. I am fine – I was riding slowly and managed to fall away from the car (which drove right past me and never even stopped!). I was a bit shaken but managed to ride the rest of the way home. I was especially upset because a mother and her two-year old (who was riding on her bike behind her) was recently hit by a car turning right about two blocks from where I work. Sadly, the mother was killed and the child is in critical condition.
I am trying to think of ways to make myself move visible while riding – I have a large light on the front and back of my bike, but my coat, helmet, and helmet are black (not ideal for riding in the dark). I may look for some clip-on lights to put on my backpack and street-side arm. We’ll see. I still have to look good while I ride, although, it is hard to look cool while picking yourself and your groceries up from the middle of the road, regardless of how stylish you are dressed!
Monday, December 17, 2007
...one little present accompanying the others made the journey "naked". Here is Robyn and her new pal, Cinnamon:
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Street decorations on Stroget. The Danes use hearts for Christmas decorations.
The sidewalks are crowded with flower vendors selling Christmas flowers -- tulips are just in!
The Royal Copenhagen and George Jensen stores on Stroget were beautifully decorated inside and out!
No one can escape the decorating in Copenhagen!
Many of the parks in the city are transformed into ice skating rinks in the winter. This is Kongen's Nytorv (King's Square). Rochelle and Ronnie... guess what we are doing when you visit!
The Christmas Market at Nyhavn.
Joel on the bridge behind the Nyhavn Christmas Market. Notice the lights on the back of the stalls!
I arrived at my campus canteen at 2 and was handed a glass of champagne. The hall was BEAUTIFULLY decorated with lots of Christmas candles and decorations. The Danes do love their candles! After welcoming speeches, a choir performance (don't know where they are from... everything was in Danish), and a"comedy routine" (don't know if it was funny... everything was in Danish!) we finally sat down and had our lunch. Lunch began with several types of herring and rye bread (several of which were actually pretty good... and by this point I was very hungry!). Then we had a buffet of traditional Christmas Lunch foods including country style liver pate with crispy bacon, comfit of duck, roast pork, cabbage, selection of cheeses and a special Christmas rice pudding called ris à l’amande, all lubricated with Christmas beer and snaps. The meal lasted several hours and we were entertained with another comedy routine and a very good jazz band. Once everyone was full and drunk, the dancing began. Now, remember, these are only work colleagues. I figured I would avoid most of the dancing... just a bit too much for me. But, I was wrong. Everyone dances. And, I did. I danced for several hours until they brought out another live rock band and hot snacks for us to eat (which was good because I was hungry again!). I finally biked home around midnight (I left a bit early).
It was a nice time... and a great cultural experience. I have really friendly colleagues and most workers in Denmark make collegiality a priority (lunches together etc.). I wish I had pictures to share with you, but there was a clearly understood but unspoken rule at the Christmas Lunch... what happens at the lunch stays at the lunch!
Friday, December 14, 2007
These are a few pictures of us preparing for our first dinner party. We had two couples from church over for dinner. Nothing fancy, but it was very nice to just relax and chat. And, I was pleased that we all fit in our flat -- and quite comfortably!
Here are a few pictures of our friend Rebekah and her son John. They came to our house to make Christmas cookies. John really liked our computer and decided to help Joel with a his work!
Monday, December 10, 2007
It’s been a while since I last blogged. It’s not that we’ve been bored… we’ve been very busy with work and social events. But, I do feel a winter melancholy settling in. I am normally very chipper around the end of the semester and Christmas, but I just can’t shake the feeling of melancholy. I have to attribute this feeling to the darkness. I can’t explain how dark it is here. The sun rises in the morning around 8:30-9 and then starts to set around 2:30-3. The worst part is that it is cloudy/rainy most days, which means it feels like the sun never really rises. My Danish colleagues tell me I should just like candles in my flat. I am all for candles, but seriously… how many candles can a girl light before her whole flat catches fire! And, candles are pretty, but they don’t replace the sun!
I remember when Joel and I first arrived in Copenhagen and we would walk at 10:00 at night. The street lights would just start to flicker on. We wondered what it would be like in December. Now we know… it is darn dark!
Monday, November 26, 2007
This is Robyn and her new bike:
Robyn likes her new bike! It is black and shiny, and has a bell that goes "Ring! Ring!". Robyn's bike also has a big basket in the front. Robyn puts lots of things in her basket. She rides her bike almost everywhere she goes. When she rides her bike, Robyn sits up very high, like a princess in her carriage.
Here is the store where Robyn bought her bike:
One day, Robyn went down to this store to look at bikes. A little later, Robyn gave a nice man some money. Then, the nice man let her ride away on her new black bike. It was a very exciting day!
Here is Robyn riding her bike. Look at her ride around the big truck!
Ride, Robyn, ride!
Do you like to ride your bike? Robyn sure does!
Ride, Robyn, ride!
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Snow! It's continuing to fall as I type. If this keeps up, Robyn should have an interesting time riding to school tomorrow morning on her new bike (more on that in another post)...
EDIT: So Google Blogs is being a bit cranky at the moment, resulting in some problems with video uploads. Since the video isn't showing up, I'll post some blurry pictures of the snow tonight instead. Just pretend that the blur is intentional and that the pictures are "artsy".
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
We had a great time in West Virginia visiting with family. The weather was cool, but not too cold, and the trees were in the middle of turning. The color was amazing! Here is a picture of the family with Grandma Remke:
I was very sad to leave the States... my first trip back since moving to Copenhagen. That said, coming back to my flat in Copenhagen felt like coming home. I think that is a really good sign.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Robyn and I both did some traveling the past few weeks. She attended a conference in Nebraska and then was able to spend some time with her family (including the doggies, of course)in Austin, New York, and and West Virginia--the latter for a family reunion. I missed out on the fun, alas. However, since she plans to post some pictures from this trip soon, I'll let her provide further commentary.
I traveled to Florida--the University of Central Florida in Orlando, to be more precise--to give a paper at a philosophy of mind and cognitive science conference. It was an excellent conference with many stimulating talks. But the most exciting part of my trip occurred a day before the conference started. Since I arrived a bit early, I decided to make a quick trip up to Riverview to visit Grandma Ginny and Papa. And, as always seems to happen whenever I visit them, I was thoroughly spoiled.
I arrived late on a Thursday evening (Google maps let me down, so it took longer than expected to find my way to their house). After a brief chat with my hosts, I retired to the guest room to enjoy a deep jet-lagged sleep. The next morning I awoke to a breakfast hearty enough to keep me full for the next 48 hours: piles of scrambled eggs, a bucket of grits and gravy, buttery biscuits so delicate and flaky that they fell apart if you simply stared at them too intently, and black coffee strong enough to revive a corpse. No one makes a breakfast like Papa!
Uncle Lynn, Kenneth, and Ronnie came over to join us for breakfast. We had a lot of laughs, and I got up from the table thirteen pounds heavier (which was not a laughing matter). Kenneth and I played a bit of catch outside. After working up a full-body sweat in the Florida humidity (also not a laughing matter), I was off to run a few errands. I returned a bit later and lounged around the house while dinner was prepared. Uncle Lynn returned, boys in tow, and Aunt Kay and Aunt Paula soon joined us. Another obscenely good meal and more laughs ensued. Soon, I had to leave to make my way back down to Orlando for the conference the next day. After enjoying that sort of spoilage, I wasn't in any hurry to leave!I had a great time. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to my next visit!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
The announcers are of course calling the game in Danish. And the garish set they keep coming back to during TV timeouts looks like it was designed and slapped together by a high school drama department. But it's the Cowboys, baby! No complaints from me.
...and the Patriots just scored on their first possession: Brady to Moss.
Not a good start.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Even Moby joined the fight! (This would also explain the shrill techno that pounded away for most of the afternoon).
Bicycles and rickety floats provided critical ground support during the conflict (note also the bloodthirsty spectators leering from the balconies):
Tractors also played a crucial role. Look at the brave soldier at the helm of this impressive machine, calmly nursing a beer as he awaits his fate!
Precise tactical coordination is critical for an operation this large. Here, a field officer pauses to establish contact with other leaders and plot our next move:
This soldier brazenly peers into the face of the enemy. We all drew inspiration from his defiant act!
The "Politi" has decided that enough was enough. The massive crowd began a hasty retreat. With burning throats and watery eyes, Robyn and I decided to put a hold on our social activism for the rest of the day and to talk a stroll through a more peaceful part of town. We tried to ignore the sneers of our fellow freedom fighters as we made our way out of the battle zone and into a park a safe distance from the chaos. It really was a beautiful evening!
Thursday, September 27, 2007
We had more visitors this week! My parents arrived last Thursday, Sept. 21. They left for the airport this morning--though not without some taxi drama; more on that later--and their flight should have just taken off. Thus begins the long trek back to Carlsbad. We all had a great time, and there's much to tell. While they did a few "touristy" things, most of our time was spent giving them a taste of everyday life here in Copenhagen. However, since Robyn is a much more polished blogger than I am, I'll simply post a few photographs for now and let her provide the "full report" a bit later.
We enjoyed our final meal together last night at a lovely Italian restaurant downtown (see the picture above). Robyn and I haven't eaten out all that much during the short time we've lived in Copenhagen, so my parents' visit was a good excuse to explore some different eateries. The restaurant was near one of the canals on perhaps the most famous street in all of Copenhagen. It's just out of frame in the picture to the right, which was snapped a couple of days before our meal.
Here's a shot of Mom and Dad near the city center, with the theater in the background:
And here's a shot of Mom and Robyn shopping very intently at a Saturday flea market:
Unbelievably, neither of them bought anything that day!
We've mentioned before that the people here in Copenhagen are quite handsome. On Saturday, we enjoyed a evening drink in one of the coolest bars in the city: The Library Bar. While there, we were able to discreetly capture a photograph of two of Copenhagen's more dashing specimens. We quickly took this shot right before they were overwhelmed by a flood of giggling schoolgirls, all frantically vying for an autograph.
In fact, here are two of them...
We all had a great time. We're very fortunate to have such loving families who come all the way to Denmark to spend time with us!
More pictures and stories soon!
Friday, September 21, 2007
The students are from all over Europe and very smart (the program is quite competitive to get into). They know several languages and are very motivated. That said, I do, at times, miss the more well-roundedness of the American students. Students in Europe take fewer “electives” and their studies focus primarily on their chosen “major.” Therefore, students don’t usually take history, math, science, philosophy etc. As smart and devoted as these students are, I do notice that they tend to have a more narrow academic approach to their studies and therefore their understanding of communication.
The students and the course was a lot of fun and I hope I have the opportunity to do this again, in part, because the location is absolutely amazing. I am here in Montserrat, Spain, which is an hour from Barcelona. I can never adequately describe the environment, but Montserrat, or the “serrated mountains” are beautiful. Nearly 1000 years ago a monastery was built at the top of the mountains (that look like giant rocks protruding from the earth!). It is a functioning monastery (which is why they begin to ring the church bells at 5am! – first Mass is at 5!), but they’ve added a museum, hotel, restaurants, and dorms (where the students stayed) and it now functions as a conference center as well. The land around the monastery is also the Spanish equivalent to a national park.
All of the buildings are beautiful, but the church is especially moving. While much of the church suffered destruction at the hands of Napoleon’s troops, Franco’s soldiers and others, there are parts that date back to the early 12th century! And, the church has been beautifully restored. They also have a world renowned boy’s choir and we were fortunate enough to attend one of their concerts.
If you are ever in Spain you must visit Montserrat. Spend the night in the hotel so you have enough time to visit the museum and church as well as hike the trails. You won’t be disappointed!
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