Merry Christmas everyone

Our own little toothless nisse (elf).
Our own little toothless "nisse" (elf).

I’ve written a Christmas letter – I do that every year – and added it to my blog as a page. If you scroll up a wee bit, you’ll see the word letter. Press that if you feel inclined to read a recount of the last year in our family. Don’t feel you have to :-)

Dane and I have just finished baking cookies. And pastry for more cookies tomorrow is in the fridge. A huge turkey is resting in my neighbour’s fridge – ours is just not big enough! I’m not cooking it for our own Christmas dinner (which is on the 24th. We’re Danish, you know!), but for the big Christmas thingy at David’s sister’s house on Christmas Day. We’ll be so many that we need two turkeys. Difficult to fit two turkeys, roast potatoes etc. etc. into one – or even two – ovens! I’ll use this recipe from Videojug. Then it can’t go wrong!

Unfortunately I can’t enjoy a totally relaxed Christmas, because I have to deliver a paper on January the 5th. Next year I won’t be a student and there won’t be a paper to deliver – can’t wait! I’m really late with that paper due to two unforeseen trips to Copenhagen. But I think it’s coming together nevertheless, so I’m sort of medium optimistic…

Dane is helping me with the presents, he’s just wrapped at least ten and is begging me to let him wrap his own present: “I promise I won’t look or shake the box” he says.

A not-so-good photo of our fireplace
A not-so-good photo of our fireplace

Tomorrow my oldest son Emil arrives around midday and then we’ll go food shopping. He loves that :-D        We have allready bought all the boring, trivial stuff, so what’s left is just all the nice convenience food and chocolate and stuff. All of the 24th we’ll just lounge around the fire and watch the telly and EAT. If we’re VERY energetic we might play a game of Monopoly or even venture out for a walk!

Until my paper is done, there won’t be many posts here, I’m afraid. I’ve forbidden myself to look at my feed reader, so the only inspiration I get is from real life. And since I hardly get out of the door these days, it isn’t much!

In the meantime – enjoy lovely holidays and be good to one another. Please!

Earlier this month we went to Wisley to meet Father Christmas. On the way we met this citrus Snowman
Earlier this month we went to Wisley to meet Father Christmas. On the way we met this citrus Snowman
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A family Christmas

The day before Emil and Ida’s arrival, we drove up to the Point Reyes National Seashore. It was a wonderful day with a good deal of hiking (to allow for the food and goodies over Christmas) and fantastic sights. We started out at the visitor’s centre, from where we took the short earth quake hike and the slightly longer hike to a remake of an Indian village. I’m afraid I’d let Dane to believe that there would be a big hole in the ground at the epicentre of the 1906 earthquake. Well, there wasn’t. It had been filled years ago. But there had been a fence, which had been split by the earthquake. This fence had been maintained ever since, so we could see how far it had moved. On the picture you can see me showing Dane the distance between the posts and explaining that I’m standing right on the San Andreas faultline, where the ground split open.

The Indian village even had a herb garden with good explanations of what the Indians used the various plants for. There were teepees for sleeping, food storage etc. Their staple food items were acorns and whatever could be salvaged from the Pacific. The acorns were ground into meal, which was then made into a variety of food stuffs.

Then we took the long, but very scenic drive to the Point Reyes lighthouse. It was 18 miles of up, up, up till we reached the very tip of the peninsula. Then we parked the car and went up again, this time on foot. Only to reach the top, from where the lighthouse is 302 steps down. Going back up corresponds to walking to the 30th floor of a highrise. But it was great fun and good excercise.

After that we drove to another vista point, the Chimney Rock, to watch the sun set over the Pacific. Before the sun set, we saw elephant seals down on the beach. What a peculiar creature!

We’d spent several days of serious Christmas shopping, so we were well prepared, when we could finally drive to the airport and pick up Emil and Ida in the early evening of the 24th. It was great seeing them and we had a really nice Christmas together. They had had a real Danish Christmas dinner with Ida’s mother on the 23rd, so we settled on a leg of lamb with all the trimmings. I love the Danish duck with red cabbage, sugarcoated potatoes and everything, but David and Dane don’t fancy it much, so there really wasn’t much point. The weather was great, so we walked down to the town and along the waterfront before dinner.

The following days we went to the top of Mount Tam (again) and took the boat to San Francisco. Today the four of them have gone fishing, while I’m in the local library writing this and researching for the next leg of our trip.

More pictures here.

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Happy Holidays

That’s what they say over here, so as not to offend anybody with the Christ-word.

We’re doing the last bits of frantic Christmas-shopping just like almost everybody else and enjoying it. We’re looking so much forward to receiving Emil and girlfriend Ida here tomorrow and are trying to guess what they’d REALLY like to eat and drink…

Dane is producing Christmas decorations as if his life depended on it.

The little Christmas tree stands gleaming with decorations and glittering lights in the living room; will post photo later.

We hope you all have lovely and peaceful holidays!

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A day in the city

From our local town Tiburon there’s a boat into San Francisco. It’s not exactly cheap, but neither is parking in town. Besides, parking in town seems to be an art form, which we’re not sure that we master.

We took the boat at 8:45 am and were in town 20 minutes later. We walked through Chinatown and watched the shopkeepers busily opening their shops. In North Beach we headed straight for lovely coffee and croissants at a boulangerie just across from City Lights Booksellers, while waiting for them to open. Boring Dane to bits we spent an hour or so in there. We didn’t buy any of their staple books from the golden era. I’ve never understood Burroughs and already have two copies of On the Road by Kerouac. But we bought a few newer books, also published by City Lights. If I remember it, I’ll comment on them once I’ve read them…

After that we headed towards the Coit tower. Up, up and up we strode. And then the last bit by elevator. Interesting to see everything from up there with a map handy – that way we got a much better idea of the location of various things. Dane loves the hilly streets, climbing up and running down. We spent another hour in a bead shop (yes!!!) by the name of Yone where Dane and I picked out beads, so he can make me a lovely necklace for my birthday. The old man who owned the shop had owned it since “The summer of Love” and must have been pushing 80. His younger brother was visiting from Michigan, and he wasn’t exactly young himself, a long time retired psychologist. So far the people here have been just as nice, talkative and friendly as the people in the South. That’s a positive surprise – I guess I expected Californians to be less forthcoming than Southerners.

We didn’t do much shopping, though we really ought to, Christmas being so near. We just walked. And walked and walked and walked. But enjoyed it thoroughly. At one point however, we accidentally wondered into a part of the city (the Tenderloin) full of what looked like homeless people and gang-types. Was I glad that it wasn’t dark yet! Without a word from either of us, Dane commented: “Mommy, I don’t like it here, these people look at me like they want something from me!” Oh, but was he right! We made it to Van Ness in one piece, so much the wiser. There we took refuge in yet another bookshop, Books Inc., where we sat down to rest our weary feet and have a cup of coffee. And we bought Dane a copy of The Guinness Book of Records. I never thought I’d buy that book, because I find it quite stupid, full as it is of idiotic records, dangerous scorpion longest in mouth or longest beard on a woman… But Dane is driving us nuts with questions like What’s the name of the tallest mountain in the world? How fast does the fastest airplane fly? Where does the world’s tallest tree grow? He goes on endlessly. And though we think we’re both rather knowledgeable, we really haven’t a clue about most of these fact-type questions. So there.

The boat back home was so homely, most of the people on board knew each other – at least by sight – and knew the staff. Coming into the harbour in Tiburon, we could see that many of the boat- and yacht-owners had hung Christmas-decorations from their masts and rigs. It looked very pretty!

Yesterday we drove south through the city and along highway 1 in the opposite direction. I won’t bore you with any more beautiful views, but will tell you that we saw fat seals sunbathing on the rocks just under us, when we stopped to see a lovely old lighthouse. We also had an excellent burger at Gazo’s Grill, a very cute place with fantastic décor. Any variation over the lighthouse theme you can imagine. How about a tablecloth with lighthouse-motif?

And we bought a little Christmas tree. There was no way around it…

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Wauw, we’re in California, the 23rd state on our trip!

Kind and incredibly generous friends have lent us their beautiful house with a stunning view of the San Francisco bay, the bridge and the city. It is situated in what is called Marin county, a lovely area north of the city, on “the other side” of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Once again we’ve been blessed with lovely weather, so we chose to spend the first days here (we have an entire month) exploring the local area. We started by walking on our feet, down to the nearest town Tiburon and around it. I think we probably looked at or into every shop… A lovely little town complete with yacht club, a number of good restaurants (or so the guidebook claims) and building styles to suit everyone. We spent an hour or so in the Whole Foods store in the next town to stock up the fridge. Then we were dead tired – had been up in the middle of the night in Texas to catch a so-called red-eye flight out of San Antonio. And there was the time difference of two hours.

Next day we drove north along the coast on famous highway 1. Phew, it’s winding! Both Dane and I got a little bit queasy to tell the truth, even if neither of us usually suffer from motion sickness. But it was well worth it – the views were stunning all the way and we finished off with a very rewarding walk along Stinson beach (our first close encounter with the Pacific) and a nice lunch including lovely grilled oysters (my favourite new food, I think). We drove around looking for the epicentre of the 1906 earthquake, which we’d heard was in the area, but there were no signs, and nobody we asked knew where it was. When we got home, we finally found a reference to it in the guidebook, so we’ll have a look at it next time we get up there.

Sunday was also spent in the neighbourhood, in two of the state parks, which I believe I’ve praised several times. First we went to the Mount Tamalpais (the locals lovingly call it Mount Tam) State Park and climbed the 2.571 ft (784 m.). No, of course we didn’t. We drove up – a road even more winding than Highway 1 (more queasiness) and only hiked the last half mile (a little less than 1 km) only to be rewarded with panoramic views of the Pacific and the bay, the city, the bridges, the redwood forests. Oh me, oh my!

The picture of us at the summit is taken by a couple of Berkeley graduates, who chatted us up. Once more we’ve come up close to some of these beautiful youths who innocently don’t know just how fortunate they are. They were sweet and gracious and chatted with us happily.

Finally we drove down, down, down to the Muir Woods National Monument. It’s the last standing redwood forest on the coast, thanks to a wealthy couple that donated the forest to the government a century ago. Once again a beautifully laid out national park providing both access to astounding natural wonders and good signs and brochures to explain it all. The redwoods stand so close and are so tall that even on a day like this with a clear blue sky, there’s not a ray of sun reaches the ground beneath them. We took the longest of the short hikes (around 4 miles (6,5 km)) and were very satisfied with ourselves afterwards.

Dane is driving us mad with Christmassy questions. Can we get a Christmas tree? Can we buy that wrapping paper? Can we buy those big red bows for the presents? Can we buy Christmas lights for the tree outside? Can we? Can we? Can we?

So far we’ve given in to the last one and bought a string of coloured lights for the tree outside the window in the living room. Dane cherishes it!

More photos here.

There’s no Internet at the house, so blogposts will be scattered.

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Culture shock

We had a culture shock the other day (December 1st). We had spent a nice afternoon in the cowboy village at Enchanted Springs. It was fun, we’d learned a lot about cowboys and indians, fed vicious looking catfish and petted several longhorns.

 

After that we had a most satisfactory meal at Chili’s and we were on our way home, when we came into Boerne (Bur-nee) and found the traffic being diverted. Everybody seemed to be parking their car and heading in the same direction, all towing kids. Ah ha, the intelligent tourists exclaimed: It must be something to do with Christmas!

And it was. A Christmas Parade. We used to think that Christmas in Denmark and the UK is over commercialized and utilized for a number of purposes that probably weren’t on Jesus’ list. But – lo and behold – we had not been to Boerne! The Danish and English cristmas is pristine in comparison.

 

In a brain-numbing mixture of love of uniforms, dress-up, marching, beauty pageants, pets, football and numerous other things, the parade made it’s way down Main Street. We were dumbfounded!

But you know what? It was also quite lovely… With all the bright lights, all the townspeople out and about, chatting and visiting and the antipicitation of the holidays, it had it’s own charm.

Generally, that is what we’ve found here in the US. The same people who are unbelievably kind, friendly and so helpful it’s embarrassing also harbour views of the world that we find appalling! The country is so beautiful and so charming and at the same time so incredibly ugly and scary. I guess that’s what makes it so attractive, compelling and fascinating!

This morning I checked the news on Danish national tv’s website. I found a disturbing news story about a Guantanamo prisoner, who’d cut his throat with his fingernails. Unfortunately for him, I guess, he survived. The official explanation from Guantanamo and Washington was that he did it to cast a bad light on the US. Yeah, that’s what it said.

We’ve had several discussions about the US media with the family and with other people we’ve met here. I’m sure it’s difficult to judge the quality of your own country’s media if you don’t have anything to compare it with. But I also think that most people (not only Americans) can’t be bothered to make that comparison. Well, I can. And I searched for this news story on a number of major American news sites. I found the story on CBS, but not on CNN, Fox or ABC.  The fact that I found it on most of the major newspaper sites is good. But it’s also a fact that most Americans don’t read a newspaper (or it’s website) and therefore rely solely on the TV networks to provide them with the necessary knowledge to form an opinion.

OK. Got that off my chest…

And, by the way, tomorrow morning we fly west. To San Francisco, California. See you there!

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