End of a Year

Hasn’t it been a strange year? It has for me. Started at a low, but ended well. Lots of ups and downs along the way. In a broader perspective I don’t know what to think! Obama is totally unpopular because he’s turned out to be only human and to constantly work for the consensus he’s always said he’d work for. This should be really strange, but isn’t, at least not in politics. Here’s a clip where he ads his five cents to the It Gets Better campaign. In the UK we got out in the nick of time – Oh me, can’t believe how Nick Clegg can sleep at night? Am told from people who move in the upper echelons of the British society that the only people NOT suffering from this deep crisis are exactly them, the VERY rich. The middle class is also feeling the pain, but it’s the working poor and the undeserving (that’s people who don’t work, no matter why) who are really feeling the axe. In Harrods, it’s business as usual.

In Denmark we have a conservative/nationalist government, which is luckily worn very thin. An election next year will bring some form of change, but I will not try to guess what it’ll be like. Hard, however, to imagine anything worse than what we’re experiencing now. The concept of “undeserving” as mentioned above is also very prominent here in Denmark. A very clever and passionate charity worker calls Denmark a “post-solidary society“. He’s right, but isn’t it sad?   I work for the Danish Refugee Council occasionally and that’s just so depressing. To get into the country is almost impossible with the Dublin regulation firmly in place and rigorously enforced, even though for instance Greece is totally incapable of receiving all these refugees and process their applications. Many countries in Europe have stopped returning refugees to Greece, but not Denmark. Obviously. Then to have your application granted is even harder. It’s like the bl**dy camel in the bible.

At my dad’s nursing home I regularly hear the old people abuse the immigrants who work there. And the management says that they can only admonish the staff, not the inhabitants. Imagine going to work every day, at the lowest possible pay, wiping people’s bottoms and then ON TOP listening to abuse for your skin colour and/or your (perceived) religion. I want to slap some of them. But you can’t, can you?

And then there are the wars. Everywhere there’s a war and in many places people who actually work actively to start one. Here, in my little segment of the privileged world it is totally and utterly incomprehensible. People get killed for no apparent reason and the dead are either totally innocent civilians or soldiers, recruited from the lower rungs of their society, more often than not without a clue what they’re getting into. That is clear from the books and stories we hear from soldiers coming home with their bodies but not their minds in one piece.

Our civil rights are threatened everywhere. And most people seem not to worry or care at all! Read here how the democracy United States of America is treating the 22 year old private Bradley Manning (allegedly behind the latest batch of  Wikileaks leaks). He has not yet been convicted of or even charged with a crime – nevertheless he’s treated like a convicted serial killer.

In many European countries you can now have your phone tapped or other measures taken against you without a court order. A great thing, however, is that the Danish court recently said NO, you cannot detain people because you THINK they are going to behave violently at a demonstration. Several hundred people were “administratively detained” before the COP15 summit in Copenhagen last year. But this is perhaps the only cheerful story among all the sad ones about how the “war against terrorism” is undermining the very society it’s supposed to protect.

In the midst of all the misery, there are still people who come up with amazing ideas and who are incredibly creative. I went to the TedXCph, which was a great event and there I heard some great speakers. The one that sat with me the longest was the most crazy and unlikely of them all. Had I been a smoker I might have missed it because the blurb was like “we want to build a mountain in Copenhagen”. You WHAT? Seriously. But I’m not a smoker and I did hear it. I suggest you hear it too. You must hang on till the second guy starts talking. He’s the kind of person who could sell sand in Sahara!

***

Christmas is the time of year where absent friends and family are most prominently on our minds. The ones I miss the most are the ones who are still alive, but who choose to not be around. On that account, I wish for a better 2011 and hope to understand my failings better.

I wish you all and our dear Earth a peaceful 2011.

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What's for tea?

my teapot
my teapot

The first many times I heard this, I quietly wondered to myself, What do they mean? Earl Grey or Darjeeling? Slowly it dawned on me that tea (look it up, it’s a hot drink FFS) in this country often (but not always!) means the evening meal. But no, no, not as in dinner. Dinner is something grown-ups have. No, tea is for children. Something they have in the late afternoon instead of dinner. And dad is not there and mum doesn’t eat tea, erh. (Apologies to the lovely househusbands I know, but you know you’re in the minority).

There, now it’s clear isn’t it? Tea is an afternoon meal for children. This is where some of the world’s least interesting and innovative cooking takes place, molding young peoples taste buds for the future. I cannot tell you how that upsets me! I’ve been in many British homes and seen tea being cooked. What I’ve seen is pasta, mash, peas, carrots (yes, boiled), sausages, fish fingers, chips, lasagne, beans on toast and eh, what else? Rice perhaps?

I’m not saying that my darling young son eats everything I set in front of him, far from it. And he’s had plain pasta with Parmesan and butter and some cucumber slices on the side more times than I care to remember. But, he sits with us at the table, he sees and smells what I cook and he’s made to taste everything we eat, if not every time then at least once in a while.

I realise that the evening meal causes problems for some families. Dad comes home late, children need to go to bed early. But this is not the case in all families and not in weekends? And in families with bigger children, surely they can have an afternoon snack, have homework done etc., so have evening meal when dad comes home? I fear that it’s not always the time that’s the issue, but parents who give in to tradition or give up the fight to make children eat a varied and interesting diet. I mean, nobody forces mums to put a packet of crisps in a child’s lunch pack, or what?

My oldest son was as picky as the next child when he was younger, but I pushed on and pressured him to try stuff and if he didn’t eat all the stuff I cooked, he certainly saw it and smelled it. Today I can only think of a handful of foodstuffs that he doesn’t eat and he eagerly tries new stuff all the time. I know a few young persons of his age (21) in this country. Suffice to say that they are not exactly courageous when it comes to trying out different food stuffs.

Also, how does this strange habit encourage “real” family life? When do these families sit down and talk about things? Obviously, most days it’s just the usual, “What did you do in school?” “Nothing much” conversation that goes on, but without dinner time I don’t know when the three of us could discuss important political issues and moral dilemmas? It’s fine that children talk with dad in the car on the way to football and with mum in the car to school, but it’s important for children to experience the dialogue between mum and dad. Also when it’s not rosy. This way they can also experience that one day there’s disagreement, but the next day mum and dad are in unison on something very important!

OK people, rant over. Voice your disagreement, but please argue your case. I’ll sit down with a cup of tea now, you know, the fluid hot stuff off of tea leaves?

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It Really Must Stop

If you look carefully you can see a little red person. Thats young son, perching on a branch.
If you look carefully you can see a little red person. That's young son, perched on a branch.

The Health and Safety regulations concerning children in this country are going totally overboard. In young son’s previous school, a Church of England state primary, we were already shocked by the number of rules they had, supposedly for the children’s safety. No playing football in breaks, during the heatwave they had to stay inside or sit down under the trees in all breaks, when we had the snow last year the school was closed for a whole week (explanation was that there was ice on the parking lot…) and teachers cannot hug or cuddle a child who’s unhappy or has been hurt.

Then there’s this horrible story about a dinner lady who got sacked for telling parents the truth about their daughter being bullied. And there’s this silly, silly new regulations at a playground: To accompany your child or grandchild or whatever into this playground you have to be vetted as a “playground worker”. If you’re not, you have to stay outside the fence.

And there’s this, where home baked cakes for school fetes have now been forbidden for hygiene reasons.

In yesterday’s Times, Jenni Russell tells another horror story and concludes that we, as parents in the UK, must really do something and protest!

Unfortunately, since I’ve moved my child away from the English school system to an international school, I don’t have much of a say in the matter. It’s my son’s good fortune that I’ve done so, the International school doesn’t appear to harbour these hysterical views on safety and believe that some good old-fashioned  common sense and respect for teachers, children and their parents goes a long way in keeping our beloved little ones safe.

However, it’s not all the government’s fault. We, as parents, must also look at our own views on safety. Where does good common sense end and over-cautiousness begin? Obviously, you can’t let your child play in the road, so that it will learn road safety. But you can let them fiddle with scissors and cut themselves a bit to understand why scissors are not toys? And where you can’t let a child stick its head into the fireplace, maybe you can let it light the candles on the table and burn their fingers a bit?

I remember an incident in my son’s preschool. He fell off the climbing structure and hit his head on one of the milk crates they used in their play. He of course hurt himself and had to have a few stitches at the doctor’s office. But a mum came up to me the next day and asked whether I didn’t think we had to pull the climbing structure or at least get rid of the milk crates, so a similar accident wouldn’t happen to another child. And she reminded me that a boy had fallen off the structure the previous year and broken his leg. She was rather surprised when I didn’t agree! It was the same mother who decided that her son could never again ride in a bus after she read about a tragic accident when a child was killed when a bus collided with a tractor. No number of statistics about children’s safety in cars versus buses could convince her to change her mind!

So now, let’s be sensible. If we let our children play and cycle and climb trees, there’s a good chance that they’ll scrape a knee, bump their heads or break an arm. But when I was young, we all had accidents like that! The only two real accidents, one fatal, I remember from school was a girl who was killed in traffic and another girl who got her finger crushed in a door, indirectly because of bullying. Neither of those episodes could have been prevented by all the crazy measures we take nowadays to protect our children!

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Like walking in water

is what my intellectual life has felt like lately. I’ve read a lot of very inspiring stuff but felt completely incapable of commenting on it in a way suitable for publication. But then I read how a children’s author found the courage to start writing: After decades of reading all the masters of both adult and children’s fiction, she’d built up a sizeable inferiority complex and felt incapable of writing anything of substance. But then she got the idea of approaching it the other way round. She went to the library and borrowed some really cr** children’s books and went home and read them. And then she read some more. And suddenly the writer’s block was gone  – ’cause anyone could write prose more engaging and interesting than what she’d just been reading.

So – after having read stuff by some of the world’s leading journalists and writers over the summer in Vanity Fair, Sunday Times, Wired etc., I’ve now stumbled around a bit and read some bits and bobs by more inferior writers and got my courage up :-)

I’ve been following the debate around Free. The debate started long before Chris Anderson’s book*, but it really took off after. And News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch has certainly stirred the pot with his claim that he’s very close to creating a pay-wall around his empire. What to think about all this? I’m still in doubt. I’m against downloading music without paying for it, but I happily use Grooveshark and Spotify to stream music. And I’m the first to say that the music industry has only itself to thank for its current predicament. I can still recall how my bosses in the Danish music industry laughed at me when I – in the very early 90ties – came home from a seminar in New York and told them that music was about to become digital and how that might have implications for copyright protection…

Would I pay for content? Yes, I think I would gladly pay for some content, if it were of high quality and delivered to me in a convenient and tailored format. I’m having news from BBC, Times of London, New York Times, The Guardian and Washington Post among others delivered to my computer and/or my phone on a daily basis. What if these could be tailored even more specifically to my needs and delivered in more reader friendly ways? Personally, I think micro-payment, as practised on Itunes and in the App store, is on the up and that our future credit card statements/phone bills will be full of miniature payments for all sorts of things, not only songs and apps, but news stories, TV-programmes, films, parking, bus tickets etc.

Anyway, if you haven’t followed the debate, here’s a few important articles on the subject: Anderson himself, Malcolm Gladwell’s dismissal of the idea, Murdoch’s vow to install a pay-wall, Andrew Keen‘s treatment of Pirate Bay and finally a summary on The Guardian’s tech pages (the best place to follow this debate, the Guardian’s online presence is by far the best on the web).

Another Big Story that I’ve been following over the summer is the story about the greatest swindler of them all, Bernie Madoff. Incredibly interesting and intriguing stuff! Vanity Fair is best for this story. Just go to their site and type in Madoff in the search field. The Guardian has collected everything about Madoff very neatly in one place if your time is too short for 3-4 VF articles…

Of course I’ve also been following the development in Iran – mostly via Twitter – and the situation in Afghanistan, which seems to deteriorate on a daily basis.

And then there’s the Birther movement and the “If Stephen Hawking had been English, he’d be dead” debate in the US. I absolutely love the latter – isn’t it just exceptional how the American right can get away with blatant lies. How can the people who work on Fox News and a whole host of other media spreading these insane rumours call themselves journalists? (Oh well, people who write about the latest shenanigans of 3rd rate TV stars also call themselves journalists – so much for that).

And I’ve been away on holiday – will not use the word st**cation – some of my Twitterfriends get sick when they hear the word – on the Sussex coast. We had a lovely totally holidayish time, kiting, crabbing, touring, playing Monopoly and Canasta, reading reading reading. Best book I read was Turbulence by Giles Foden. Absolutely brilliant – a must read. I’ll never badmouth the meteorologists again, promise! Above pictures are from holiday, inspired by Turbulence.

Finally, a recommendation. Youngest son Dane has been busy with scissors and glue since we came back. See the rather surprising results of his endeavours here.

* A funny aberdabei about Anderson’s book Free, is that it’s actually only free in the US. Over here we have to pay for it. So much for Free!

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I love this woman

Lenore Skenazy
Lenore Skenazy

Her name is Lenore and she’s a New Yorker. Some time ago she wrote a small article in a relatively obscure paper which inadvertently changed her life. She admitted that she’d let her child ride the subway alone… close your eyes and imagine the torrent of hatemail, calls etc. that landed on her. Or read her own very funny account of it all on Huffington Post. Here’s her blog – it’s all about Free Range Kids, she’s even written a book about it.

I’m completely devoid of inspiration today, so I’ll just pass you on to a handful of women, who all write very well, engaging and funny:

This one calls herself @titianred on Twitter, where she never fails to entertain. She loves Monday mornings – or so she says.

Here’s Razorkitty – an intelligent, beautiful woman, who’s comments are gold when you’re watching certain programmes on TV.

Clare is also an eminent Twitterer. She’s promised (it was you, wasn’t it Clare?) to write on her blog why it is that buying clothes at Boden is a no-go. I’m waiting in trepidation…

Last one – I’ve written about Tania Kindersley before – and her lovely book Backwards in High Heels, which you can read more about on her own blog.

Over and out from Sunny Surrey.

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Music festival for the convenience generation (that's me)

Many months ago I got newsletter from RHS Wisley, which is right around the corner from where we live, so we go there all the time – sometimes just for coffee & cake. This newsletter announced the yearly music festival. My inclination was to go for Katherine Jenkins (despite fear of repertoire of musical hits), but I knew Dane would find that utterly boring, so suggested to husband that we indulge the little one (a huge Abba fan) and buy tickets for Abba/Queen tribute night. He agreed and I bought the tickets. The concert was sold out a few days later.

Abba
'Abba'
Queen
'Queen'

So, Saturday night was the night. Luckily the weather was quite warm, if not dry. We packed a basket full of munchies, wine and coffee and set off. Lots of people of all ages and really lovely ambience. Every police officer I saw had a huge smile on his/her face!

Having spent a considerable part of my adult life in the more forward part of the (Danish) music business, I’m not a huge fan of copy bands and never was much of a Queen fan. It’s different with Abba – as a Scandinavian they were just THERE – all the time. You could not NOT know their songs, unless you lived as a hermit. I’ve disliked most music festivals I’ve been to except the Roskilde Festival, which I think I visited 17 years in a stretch. Because of being in the biz, I always had privileges, so didn’t have to queue for hours to visit yucky toilets. At Wisley nobody had to queue for toilets and they were ever so neat! And nobody stumbled around half unconscious with drink and drugs and the music was not loud at all. Actually, it was so muted that I wondered whether I’m just simply going deaf!

‘Abba’ wasn’t that good, although not bad either. Worst bit was ‘Björn’ trying to be funny with applied Swedish accent. Arrgghhh. ‘Queen’ really was rather good – so much like the real thing. Very entertaining.

Also entertaining was of course people watching. He. I can’t decide whether I find it hilarious or exhilarating to see middle aged chunky women (like yours truly) going crazy to Abba? I would possibly go crazy to a different kind of concert – who knows (Erasure – wouldn’t that be fun?). But this left me more amused than anything else and I rarely got out of my comfy chair… Next to us was the funniest family. 50ty-something parents, gaunt dad with long curly (uni-professor style) hair and steel-rimmed glasses, mum very overweight and eh, motherly, two pre-teens, a girl who looked like a boy and a boy who looked like he’d much rather be doing math course work. Both kids sat slumped in their chairs throughout the evening without saying one word to their parents or each other. Parents were singing and dancing, but didn’t seem to share the experience as much as living it separately… Their picnic consisted solely of “food” out of foil bags.

As you can see from the pictures, Dane enjoyed it very much and blabbered on for at least an hour after coming home about this that and the other he’d observed at the concert. So it was definitely worth it!

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Something to be thankful for? (and Aristotle for kids)

After using new Netvibes tools to arrange all the blogs I follow into neat groups, easy to sort through, I’ve hardly looked at them. The reason is the same as for not writing anything here. So today I thought I should have a quick look through them and see if there’s anything worth recommending. And of course there is. Lots.

Blogging

My favourite economist Tyler Cowen meets another favourite of mine, Happiness-blogger Gretchen Rubin IRL. He teases us with their discussion subjects, but ends post with this, which I find very promising for when I’ll someday meet some of my blogger-favourites myself:

I have never once met a person whose blog I like and then been disappointed.  Never.

Children

Another economist (author of Parentonomics) obviously writes a lot about parenting. He recommends this post, which is one of the best I’ve ever read about children. It’s about how to teach them to argue well. And yes, we DO want to teach them that. If you have children, read it, read it, read it.

Happiness

A blogger who tethers between economy and politics is Chris Dillow. He has an interesting and intriguing post about happiness, one of my pet subjects.

Food

On the very, very important subject of food, I’ve just finished reading this absolutely mouthwatering post about Southern (We’re talking about the Southern US here) food prepared in a Northern kind of way. Oh me oh my; for a person who was in culinary heaven while travelling the US South and particularly in New Orleans, this post will inspire to quite a few meals around here. What do you say to Garlic Bread Pudding? I say YES.

Via one of my favourite food writers, Mark Bittman, is here a little treat to go with barbecued greens: Chili oil.

On being a woman, a mum, a person

Quite a while ago Tania Kindersley wrote the most beautiful and poetic post about what we do when a bad mood strikes. Except that I could never hope to write such adorable prose it echoes what I often think myself on these matters. How I wonder where the bad mood came from, what to do to expell it or even if I should (when not affecting others, of course). Tania has taken time off from her blog and Twitter and I must say, I truly miss her! Btw Tania, I was thinking we should also reflect on those days when we wake up in a great mood, equally inexplicably. That’s one of my favourite experiences of daily life -when you suddenly find that your spirits are high and the world looks like a friendly place. Where did it come from? We might never know. But I’m thankful.

The debate about working mums contra stay-at-home mums is still roaring. Here are three prominent voices: Sarah Vine in the Times. A fuming reply from “Potty Mummy”, a stay-at-home mum and a reply to this from Times editor Jennifer Howse on the Times Alpha Mummy blog. (Don’t bother with the comments, they are depressing, I just hate it when women are so poisonous against each other).

I am an in-betweener. I work, but I do it at home and often I don’t do much of it. But I would never choose to be a stay-at-home mum for the sole sake of my children. Although I love to cook and bake cupcakes, I’m just not the type. And I hate, HATE cleaning. I don’t entertain my children, I’m lousy at keeping up with their homework, I always try to wriggle out of playing board games etc. etc. And excursions never EVER go to kiddy entertainment places, but invariably to National Trust properties, Good Long Walks or museums etc. etc. I find it difficult to relate to many of the issues raised by the stay-at-home mums of my acquaintance, as I find them boring, quite simply. And I worry that they over-protect and overwhelm their children with their presence.

But I’m glad that I don’t have to go to work every day, because I do get to pick up son after school and chat with him, I do get to sit down with him and do something he wants, I do get to watch his TV favourites over his shoulder and I do get to make sure that he eats good and varied meals (almost) every day. And I don’t have to live in constant panic of him falling ill (which is probably why he never does).

But I can certainly relate to some of the points raised by Sarah Vine – the total lack of social status, the complete invisibility at social gatherings, the lack of a social life (besides Twitter…). I thoroughly miss the social status my job used to give me and it’s no use claiming that I don’t. But I don’t miss the stress of office life, the (sometimes) awful malice of other women, the struggle to live with a boss who’s just not that bright…

Bottom line I guess is same old, same old. You can’t have it all. So sit back and enjoy what you do have, while you still have it. Veeeery philosophical and not even very profound, I know. But that’s me.

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Musings before Mother's Day

Feminism:

It being Mother’s Day tomorrow, the Times has asked six women, mainly writers, to write a letter to their children at 21 (they all have young children) or to share the advice of their own mothers. Some of these letters are so, so beautiful. I didn’t just well up, I had to go and get a clean hanky out of the drawer. I like Sarah Vine’s and Justine Picardie‘s the best. Found on Tania Kindersley’s brand new blog.

The Times has also compiled a list of the most powerful Muslim women in Britain. An interesting read!

So, at 49, I’ve finally found a word that defines me: Geek Mum

Olivia James writes a very poignant piece about Mother’s Day. Read it if you have a troubled relationship with your own mother!

Food:

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a weekly food column in the Guardian. If it wasn’t online I’d feel compelled to buy the paper every Saturday. Actually, I might do that anyway, the Weekend Guardian is a very good paper, lots of sustenance! Today it’s about flour. Also one of my pet causes. I buy almost all my flour freshly milled at the Farmers Market, not least the lovely spelt. It’s a totally different experience from the supermarket stuff. Hugh forgets to mention cornmeal – not the dreary stuff that you buy to thicken your gravy, but the real stuff. I use it in muffins, which then look beautiful and yellowish and as one of three types of flour in my sourdough bread.

Sourdough bread & cake with muscovado sugar, cinnamon & courgettes.
Sourdough bread & cake with muscovado sugar, cinnamon & courgettes.

I’ve promised Tania Kindersley to publish my recipe for Panzanella. It’s from The Blue River Café Cook Book. I hope they won’t sue me for copyright infringement…

Panzanella – serves 6:

  • 3 stale ciabatta loaves
  • 1 kg fresh, plum tomatoes, chopped, seeds removed, save juices (key to recipe is the tomatoes actually tasting of something)
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed (I always dump them in boiling water for a bit to take the top of the “sting”)
  • Maldon sea salt (or similar) & freshly ground pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 3 red peppers – grilled until black & skinned, then chopped
  • 2 fresh chillies – not necessary
  • 100 gr salted, large capers
  • 100 gr salted anchovies (these can be ground to a paste and mixed with the dressing)
  • 150 gr black, pitted olives
  • 1 large bunch of basil

Cut the bread (preferably stale) into bite-sized chunks. Mix all “wet” ingredients and toss the bread chunks in this. Mix all ingredients. Don’t serve cold.

Science:

Also in the Guardian, Ben Goldacre again crucifies a number of journalists for their faulty and misleading interpretations of a scientific paper about prostate cancer.

I’ll never stop recommending TED. Probably the best source of ideas on the web. It never, never fails to inspire and to lift my spirits. Here’s about how to grow your own fresh air… What to do when you DO NOT have green fingers?

Tech:

A lot of people are – as usual – angry with the new design of Facebook. Maybe I’m easy, but I’m fine with it… Here’s one who doesn’t like it, but makes a good joke of it.

Here are some very useful tips about how to customise the new Facebook. I’ve already done it – I have some FB friends whose updates are rather boring, to be frank. But I still want to keep them as friends. Done!

I don’t find any reason whatsoever to doubt this story about the GRU and the FSB in Russia using cyber “weapons” against Georgia in the war. But then I’m not a great fan of the Russian Leadership.

Oh yes, and as an Iphone owner I’m thrilled to bits by this. Can’t believe I forgot to write about it earlier!

Politics:

An American soldier tells the moving story of when he accompanied a fallen soldier to his final resting place. Very touching and also enlightning. The Americans are good at honouring their fallen. Would be nice if they were as good – or even better – at honouring the wounded and crippled.

Here’s about the methods of torture applied by the CIA. You know, the ones sanctioned by John Yoo, as mentioned yesterday.

This sounds like a good plan. Geithner reveals how the US will deal with its toxic assets.

See, here’s what sets a respectable Republican apart from one you can’t respect. Please Sarah Palin, can’t you just go elk hunting forever?

How can this and this take place in the same country at the same time? It’s about the right to life on the one hand and the right to a dignified death on the other.

With a few exceptions, which are from my RSS reader, all of the above were harvested over 24 hours on Twitter. So don’t tell me twittering is a waste of time.

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What can Google do for God's reputation?

There’s something about women’s rights out there every day. Even when you’re not looking for it actively. I don’t subscribe to any “feminism” blogs or sites, because, quite frankly, they often bore me. That doesn’t mean that I’m not supportive of the “cause” or that I necessarily disagree with a lot of feminism issues – it’s more that it’s so difficult to find the right balance between our “luxury” problems here in the Western world and the severe plight of women in the Third World, particularly the Arab world and Africa, where AIDS is hitting the women very hard.

Feminism:

This one I found on Twitter (twittered by a man, I should say). It’s about how Arab middle class women are using the web as an important tool in their struggle for freedom.

Israel/Gaza:

The truth always comes out in the end. The question here is of course whether the responsible will be brought to justice or if it’ll be like at Abu Ghraib, where only the foot soldiers got to pay the price. I suspect the latter, unfortunately.

In the National Security Journal they dare to ask the Big Question. Pointer from Andrew Sullivan.

Children:

Check this great blog with the fantastic title Freerange Kids.

Here’s the Times’ Schoolgate blog’s take on the story I had the other day about children’s lunch boxes and what ought and ought not to be in them.

Also on Schoolgate this heartfelt post about birthday party bags. I couldn’t agree more!

Food:

All I can say is YES YES YES! It’s not homemade food with butter, cream etc. in it that makes the world’s poor fatter and fatter. It’s processed food. How often must we say this?

God:

You won’t believe this. Google wisdom applied to religion.

That’s it for today – must dash to do my housewifely duties…

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Culture clash

Looking out of our living room window Monday morning.
Looking out of our living room window Monday morning.

OK, so it was a lot of snow. It really was. And I was fully sympathetic with the schools for closing on the Monday – many children couldn’t have come anyway or would have spent endless hours in their fretting parents’ cars before finally getting there. Tuesday – when it hadn’t snowed in our area for 18 hours, I thought OK – it’s still a bit of a hassle to get out and about and for us personally, it wasn’t a problem since we work from home. But when I read on the school website Tuesday evening that the school was STILL closed on the Wednesday I just couldn’t believe my own eyes! True, most smaller roads and parking lots and driveways are still icy and slippery, but it’s not like we don’t know that by now! And salt and/or gravel could be spread to ease the situation. But no. A lot of the parents who are not as fortunate as we are must have been desperate! I do realise that a school is not there to mind our children, but most of us depend on our jobs and we should be able to rely on the school to be open and to school our children, when it’s supposed to.

A tired Dane with his snowman.
A tired Dane with his snowman.

I’m told that this has to do with the extremely rigid Health & Safety Regulations in this country. It’s getting to me – I’ve written about this before, the ubiquitous worry-sickness. Children can’t walk to school, they can’t use a computer un-monitored, they can’t climb a tree. And adults have to be told that hot food is hot (!!), that roads are slippery after 15 cm of snow…. It’s like we just can’t handle any disruptions to our ordered little lives anymore. AAARRRRRGGGGHHHH! Can I PLEASE have the responsibility for my own life back! Anne Applebaum writes about it in the Washington Post. And there are loads of opinions on the Alpha Mummy blog.

Igloo lamps - Swedish style.
Igloo lamps - Swedish style.
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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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Close to home

Ripley bonfire 2008
Ripley bonfire 2008

Yesterday was Ripley Bonfire Night – one of the year’s biggest events in our neighbouring village where Dane goes to school. The entertainment starts with a procession of floats through the town. It’s not a very big town, so this year’s five floats were a record, I heard. Dane’s class at school were in charge of the school float. The chosen theme this year was to celebrate that the school has become a Primary School, so it was something with launch and rockets… The parents – some more than others (find me in the latter category) – worked hard on creating a spectacular float. Unfortunately we didn’t win the float competition. The girl scouts (called Brownies in this country) won with a float on the theme of the Narnia Chronicles.

The floats just finished - five hours before the procession.
The float's just finished - five hours before the procession.

There were around 10.000 people in Ripley, so there were a lot of spectators along the way. After the procession the bonfire was lit and then there was an impressive fireworks display. After that we were tired and went home for some tea and cheese sandwiches – with sore feat after hours of standing.

Dane with sweet teacher Mrs. G.

Today the weather has been really, really awful – although it’s cleared now and there’s the most spectacular sunset – so we’ve stayed in all day. First it was the usual – a couple of hours of Sunday Times. Dane has worked out the Catch up TV, so he spent the morning catching up on his favourite programmes on CBBC. Then we played Star Wars monopoly for I don’t know how many hours. Dane won – without cheating on anybody’s part. Now it’s time for me to get out of my chair and into my kitchen. The menu says Vietnamese prawn and cauliflower coconut curry. Hope it’ll turn out as nice as it sounds. Then it’ll be time for some serious TV watching – all the programmes we’ve recorded in the past week. First and foremost Merlin, a wonderful series for the whole family on BBC. We enjoy every minute of it!

The central cast in the tv series Merlin
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American television

 I’m often a bit behind in reading The Sunday Times. It is not always that you can devote an entire Sunday to the devouring of The Times. So this morning while I was having breakfast, I read the Culture section. After an interesting article about Baz Luhrmann‘s new film Australia (see trailer here), I got to the previously mentioned AA Gill commenting on British and American television. If you’re interested, you can read the bit about British television yourself here, but I’ll quote his bit about American television. I really wish I could have written it that way myself – we often thought and discussed along those lines while we were there:

 

I have spent the past fortnight in America, immersed, or submerged, in rolling news. There is something numbly comforting about the repetitious lapping of CNN. They say that, after the initial gagging and panic, drowning is quite a pleasant way to go, and that’s rather like watching Fox News — as you drift into unconsciousness, other people’s lives flash before your eyes. The rolling news channels give you the impression of being constantly informed while actually telling you very little. The world sidles past like a great river, and you never have to get wet. Disasters and basketball matches, comic animals and those strangely misshapen commentators all float away with equal inconsequence.

I was reminded again of two strange truths about American broadcasting. One is the astonishing number and variety of snake-oil medicinal commercials, not just advertising patent medicines but whole new diseases. Medical care is one of the main broken bones of contention in the coming American election, but nobody has actually pointed out that getting the halt, the flatulent, the palsied, the breathless and the hypochondriacs to pay for television is a very weird way of financing the entertainment and gaiety of a nation.

 

Brilliant powers of observation!

In a couple of hours I fly with boring Sterling to Copenhagen. Btw. if you’re NOT in Denmark, but want to fly there, Lastminute.com is always, ALWAYS, cheaper with the Sterling tickets than Sterling themselves. This particular ticket (out Thursday and back Sunday) I got for £100, whereas Sterling wanted £300. Don’t even mention SAS

Am going to participate in a 90th birthday celebration in the family. It really is something, isn’t it, to reach 90 and still have all your faculties?

So, see you on Monday…

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What did we have for dinner II

A couple of days behind… Day before yesterday we had leftovers. There was a bit of the couscous left and also some of the Jamie Oliver dish from the previous day. Together with other bits’n’bobs it made an OK dinner and left us with good conscience!

Yesterday was Saturday and the weather was gorgeous. David’s sister and brother-in-law are always full of initiative (thank you, L & R!!) and called in the morning to suggest that we went for a boat ride on the Thames. So we quickly threw a picnic together and met up at a boat yard. Here we hired a 10-seater motor boat and took off. We sailed up and down the Thames for four most enjoyable hours, going through two locks on the way. Later we had dinner together in their garden and it was, tada: Leftovers! A bit of this and a bit of that out of various fridges combined with leftovers from the picnic and there was food for 11…

 

More pictures on Flickr.

Today is Sunday and traditionally you have a Sunday Roast here. So I decided to try out the previously mentioned Videojug for recipes for this most traditional meal. And it worked out a dream! My stomach is still happy… I made Rustic Roast Chicken with Crispy Roast Potatoes and Gravy. It doesn’t always have to be posh to be good, although I readily admit to loving all sorts of “fancy” ingredients. Having seen it on video just once makes it stick in a different way than reading a recipe. Try for yourself! And bon appetit.

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How to…

I think I read about this wonderful site in The Times, but can’t be sure, it’s a while ago.  Go spend some time there. Check the film about sleeping comfortably with your partner. And to the new (or old as it is) owners of Iphones there are also helpful films. Send a link to the people you know who claim they can’t cook.

And – speaking of food: What did you have for dinner tonight? Anything interesting? Wholesome? Satisfactory? Not? Well, I did for once. That’s the awful thing about holidays. Either you eat out expensively and it is (or at least should be) enjoyable. Or you eat out inexpensively and it is rarely enjoyable, rarely healthy, rarely anything other than filling! Or you make something quickly at home, because it’s the holidays and you can’t be bothered to cook. Or at least that’s how it is for me. And it’s stupid really, because when else do you have this much time to cook a wonderful meal?

It can’t be sushi every day…

Back to what we had for dinner: Couscous mixed with lightly fried vegetables, sundried tomatoes, apricots, pinenuts and coriander. Fried scallops on top. Quickly made, tasted lovely and there’s more in the fridge. Why is it that I don’t pull myself together and make something simple yet wholesome like that more often? Too frequently I fall back to the good old meat, potatoes & 2 veg. Fine. But BORING and often too expensive. Tomorrow night a friend is coming for dinner, so I’ll cook a proper dinner. Will report back to you…

Here’s a couple of websites I go to, when I’m drained of inspiration but still haven’t given up: Epicurious, I think the biggest on the web. They have a section called Quick & Easy. Good Housekeeping and Sainsbury’s are behind Love your Leftovers. Quite good! Then there’s the Recipe of the Day from the New York Times. But that’s not exactly for your Monday night with the family. Good inspiration though! And I can recommend How to Cook like your Grandmother. Fabulous, when the elderly relatives come for dinner. Very untrendy and ever so American is Every Day with Rachel Ray – 30 minutes recipes. But they do work and they do take 30 minutes to prepare.

Finally a little jab about the credit crunch. Oh, I do feel sorry for the young families who can’t get a mortgage. And even more so for those who got one, but can’t renew it. And yes, we can also feel the rise of the petrol prices and food prices. But dear friends – relax a little. Unemployment rates are not skyrocketing, inflation is not exactly worrying and it’s not like the banks are rolling over in death cramps. So why not just take the opportunity to ask ourselves an extra time before we buy anything, whether it’s really something we need or which will make us truly happier? And I think I’ll start buying groceries weekly at Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s and have them delivered. That way I have to plan meals better and will use less petrol.

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