I’ve been reading some Danish blogs’n’stuff lately since I was in Denmark and was alerted to a friend’s new blog and reminded of an old favourite. If you don’t read Danish, don’t click these two links.

This woman writes about pink technology and how it’s a total turnoff for most women. So true, so true. I cannot think of anything  more dreadful than a pink mobile phone with little sparkly thingies dangling from it.

She has also written an e-book about women and technology and divides us into Electronistas, Electroneutrals and Electronots. Well, as no surprise to any of my readers, I’m an Electronista. Trouble is, however, that I’m in reality far too old to be an Electronista, they are supposed to be younger than 35! Apparently, when you weren’t born into the tech age, you can’t be a true geek?

I’m the geekiest woman I know, maybe save one. In our home I do all things that have to do with technology, including opening envelopes from LoveFilm… I’m unafraid of technology but make no attempt to understand how it works and get annoyed when a tech product tries to tell me what to do and to prevent me from doing things it thinks I shouldn’t be doing (Windows) and when products are totally un-intuitive like my husband’s work Blackberry. When you’re used to an Iphone and prior to that to Nokia, the Blackberry seems devoid of logic. My Iphone is my best baby and I break out in cold sweat by the thought of losing it. It’s already a dinosaur, 1st generation, no 3G, 2 years old. But I adore it and use it for any thinkable and probably also some unthinkable purposes (no, you twat, not THAT unthinkable!!!).

My other best baby is my new Macbook Pro. I’m supposed to be able to make do with something much smaller and less powerful and that’s probably true. But my last MacBaby was exactly the same as this one and we had a loving relationship for 3+ years. So why change horses? (By the way, it still works and young son now uses it).

On my previous computer I had Microsoft Office installed. On this one I’ve avoided it so far, using the excellent Apple office package IWork and, mostly, Google Documents.

As you’ve guessed, because you’re so clever, I love all things Mac. I really can’t help it. When the Iphone first came out I tried to not like it, I tried to brush it off as yummy-tech for the Really Smart People. But I couldn’t. The thing about the Iphone has been that I have loved it more and more the longer I’ve owned it. There’s no grass that’s greener on the other side. Of course I’m now eying the IPad. I’m quite sure that I don’t want the first version. Mostly because I would like it as an E-Reader and it doesn’t have its bookstore ready for Europe yet. But also because I’d like to have Flash (rumour has it that the next version will sidestep Flash and use HTML 5. I honestly don’t know what that means, so I’ll just wait and see). And apparently you can’t use a USB stick on it but need Apple’s own special memory thingummies – I’m not sure I like that. But knowing Apple, all these things will be resolved in one of the next versions. That’s what happened with the Iphone; all the little things that irritated at first have been mended since. In the meantime, another rumour has it that Amazon will start giving away Kindles to all their Prime customers. Now THAT would be nice. Because I’m drowning in books and would very much like to stop buying pulped trees and start downloading.

Back to the pink. I so don’t understand why women will sink themselves and particularly their daughters into the Pink Pit. When I go shopping, both on the Interwebby (thanks Lulu) and IRL (in real life) I’m appalled at the amount of pink and glittery stuff offered to women and their daughters. It’s not that I can’t abide pink at all, I have a pink scarf somewhere and I used to have a pink t-shirt. In my bathroom I even have a line-up of pink coloured perfume bottles… What’s probably even more appalling is that it’s not just pink and glittery on the outside, very often it’s pink and glittery on the inside as well – understood in the sense that it speaks to women and girls as if they were morons and 2nd rate people.

As you may or may not have noticed, it was recently Valentine’s Day. Pink was everywhere. Where there was no pink was on Wired Magazine’s advice on how to win a geeky girl’s heart. Great advice, I would very much like to be at the receiving end of that kind of treatment and to some extent I am, thanks to my Dear Husband. But what so totally puzzles me is why this wouldn’t be a treat for any woman? Why does she have to be geeky (and why are there almost exclusively ads for men in Wired)?

In spite of the fact that I have two sons and a horde of nephews and only one niece, I’ve joined a network here in England called Pink Stinks. Go there and read about it. And, especially if you have daughters, do join!


A can of worms (what??)

* Sainsbury’s have finally gotten back to me on this issue. Scroll down to bottom to read end of story.*

No, actually, what it was was a can of Sainsbury’s organic chopped tomatoes. But there was a worm in it. Or so I thought at first. It turned out to be less, eh, organic, namely a shoelace. I was making plain tomato sauce for vegetarian lasagne and so had only a bit of olive oil and minced garlic in the pan before pouring in the tomatoes. Which is why I know with absolute certainty that that’s where it came from. Besides, we’re not much of a shoelace family. Husband prefers loafers & son prefers velcro. As for me, eh, flip flops & slippers?

The next morning, Nov. 17th., I wrote this to Sainsbury’s:

Subject: foreign object in Sainsbury’s So Organic chopped tomatoes
User’s Comments: Last night when making sauce for lasagne I used two cans of your otherwise nice So Organic chopped tomatoes. When stirring contents “black snake” appeared. Since there was only garlic in the pan prior to adding the cans of tomatoes, there really was no other source of this. A LENGTH OF SHOELACE.

Can ID: PRO 1 BIO A 270
B.B.E. SEPT. 2010
Photograph can be seen here:

On November 19th I got this reply:
Dear Nene
Thank you for your email regarding the shoelace that you found in the JS SO chopped tomatoes.  I’m sorry that you had the displeasure of finding such an item in your product.

Can I ask you to send this by recorded delivery to our Product Quality department where they will investigate the cause of the shoelace appearing in the tomatoes.  The address is as follows:

Product Quality department
Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd

33 Holborn

Kind regards

Andrew Baillie

Customer Manager

On Monday 23rd I did as requested. Have receipt right here next to me. Enclosed my business card with all details – including Twitter ID – and the query number I’d been issued with. Recorded delivery ensures delivery on the next day before 1 pm. So can assume Sainsbury has received it? But of course, have not heard one word from them since then.

Or, I have. Because I have of course tweeted about it. Both when I just found it with the above picture as Twitpic and later when I still didn’t hear anything. Other tweeters suggested I tweeted directly to @sainsburys, who clearly doesn’t follow their own brand name on Twitter. How amateurish is that???

So I tweeted directly to @sainsburys who then asked for my phone number in DM. They then had this hapless, clueless girl from customer services call me. Without checking my Twitter stream first and certainly without checking whether they had received my complaint and the can & content. As my husband would probably say: W*nkers! I felt so sorry for that girl who called to tell me to do what I’d already done, namely send in the can & lace via registered mail. She wasn’t authorised to do anything else.

Here’s one week worth of Tweeting about shoelace in Sainsburys’ tomatoes. I do realise that you can’t actually read this, so try here (this link is to live search of Twitter for labeet + sainsburys). Sainsburys have access to this same tool, don’t they?

I know that Sainsburys is a huge, huge business and that I’m only one tiny little person (relatively speaking). But I also know that customer services are becoming more and more important as “the little man’s” access to a wider audience becomes easier. Scanning 5-6 hours worth of tweets including the word Sainsburys takes about 5 minutes (I know, I just did it). Most tweets that aren’t just mentioning Sainsburys because they’re either going shopping or orienting themselves via the local Sainsburys are positive or musing over the fact that they are now being followed by @sainsburys. Maybe they should explain to people why they start following them? One tweeter amusingly writes: The whole of Sainsburys is fllowing me? That’s a bit scary if you stop too quickly!

Quite a few of the tweets are recommendations of current in-store offers to others. @sainsburys could really profit from this if they tweeted back with related offers. What they seem to be doing is tweeting recipes and saying thank you to people for following them back. When queried directly, they assured me and @angpang and @EmmaJaneR that they were “listening”, but the above is all that happened? And since that tweet yesterday afternoon, @Sainsburys has sent out 5 tweets altogether, the last one 16 hours ago.

I am clueless as to why a company that large with that amount of resources chooses to do anything as half-hearted as that. I understand that for many smaller businesses it’s impossible to have one single person responsible for these things, but as I’ve just shown, scanning half a day of tweets takes 5 minutes!

I now have to go out, so won’t be here to take delivery of the huge hamper of guaranteed shoelace free cans of tomatoes and other goodies that MUST be on its way from Sainsburys. I hope the neighbours will.

Ah well, just kidding. I’ll keep you posted and will tweet link to this post with annoyingly regular intervals in the meantime. And, Sainsburys, I promise you that I’ll just as eagerly tweet and post when you turn around and “do the right thing”. Until then: @Sainsburys #fail.

Added 5/12:

On December 1st I wrote to Sainsbury’s again, asking if they had actually received the can and if they were going to do anything about it, ever?

And finally, yesterday evening, a woman with a peculiar accent (def. North, but where exactly, she had the funniest expressions and prolonged nouns?) called. She talked non-stop about what they were doing with their suppliers, quality control, etc., etc., and in the end finished her speech by offering me £50 compensation. I accepted. Maybe I should’ve taken the matter further, but £50 seems to be OK, all things considered. And I’m really, really bad at squabbling. Heated discussions make me nervous and get ridiculously high levels of adrenalin flowing – think it’s a leftover from childhood…


The perfect is often the enemy of the good

What will eventuallly become dinner
What will eventuallly become dinner

The above is a quote from this long, thorough and extremely well researched article on Mother Jones about the world’s food crisis and what to do about it.

The article details the problems facing food production in this century. It looks at the alternative farming methods that are not quite organic:

After decades as an unrepentant industrial farmer, the tall 59-year-old realized that his standard practices were promoting erosion so severe that it was robbing him of several tons of soil per acre per year—his most important asset. So in 2000, he began to experiment with a gentler planting method known as no-till. While traditional farmers plow their fields after each harvest, exposing the soil for easy replanting, Fleming leaves his soil and crop residue intact and uses a special machine to poke the seeds through the residue and into the soil.

But he still uses pesticides, only much less than he used to. The organic farmers though, turn their backs to him. And this kind of attitude is all too common in the battle for a sustainable planet. Instead of embracing every attempt to do things differently, better, wars are waged against different ideas as to how to save the planet.

The article also looks at food miles:

Consider our love affair with food miles. In theory, locally grown foods have traveled shorter distances and thus represent less fuel use and lower carbon emissions—their resource footprint is smaller. And yet, for all the benefits of a local diet, eating locally doesn’t always translate into more sustainability. Because the typical farmers market is supplied by dozens of different farms, each transporting its crops in a separate van or truck, a 20-pound shopping basket of locally grown produce might actually represent a larger carbon footprint than the same volume of produce purchased at a chain retailer, which gets its produce en masse, via large trucks.

And at the notion of only eating locally produced food:

Conversely, rural areas with good farm potential will always be able to outproduce local or even regional demand, and will remain dependent on other markets. “One farmer in Oregon with a few hundred acres can grow more pears than the entire state of Oregon eats,” says Scott Exo, executive director of the Portland-based Food Alliance and an expert in the business challenges of sustainability. “Attention to the geographical origins of food is great, but you have to understand its economic limits.”

Finally, about the need for government funding and hitherto unconsidered economic factors:

If we’re going to ask the market to pull in a new direction, we’ll need to give it new rules and incentives. That means our broader food standards, but it also means money—a massive increase in food research. (Today, the fraction of the federal research budget spent on anything remotely resembling alternative agriculture is less than 1 percent—and most of that is sucked up by the organic sector.) And, yes, it means more farm subsidies: The reason federal farm subsidies are regarded as anti-sustainability is mainly because they support the wrong kind of farming. But if we want the right kind of farming, we’re going to have to support those farmers willing to risk trying a new model. For example, one reason farmers prefer labor-saving monoculture is that it frees them to take an off-farm job, which for many is the only way to get health insurance. Thus, the simplest way to encourage sustainable farming might be offering a subsidy for affordable health care.

Discussing whether to buy organic or not, whether to buy Fairtrade or not and whether to look at food miles while shopping or not, mostly produces answers along the line of: “I read an article about how this Fairtrade operation wasn’t fairtrade at all and the workers on the tea plantation were treated awfully and underpaid, so I’m not going to support Fairtrade any longer.” Or “They can’t really check if eggs or flour is produced organically and I don’t really believe it is, so I’m not buying it – I’m not going to be fooled by that label into paying more for my foodstuffs.” Add your own answers. I find this pitiful. These people don’t stop shopping at Tesco’s just because they once in a while get a rotten tomato or meat that’s not tender. And they don’t stop dining at their friends’ house because once they got a dish they didn’t like. And they don’t stop driving their car, because they have a minor accident. But any excuse will do, to do nothing on this count. They also can’t be bothered to sort their rubbish, because so many other people don’t, so why should they?

What do I do and is it enough? To take the last first, NO, of course it’s not enough. I’m such a slave to convenience that there are endless things I could do, but don’t. What I do do, however, is to buy mostly organic – I guess that about 50-65% of what we eat is organic. Everything that can be bought Fairtrade, we buy Fairtrade. When we were in Costa Rica last year, we visited some fair trade coffee farmers and if we hadn’t been convinced before, then that visit convinced us for good. I’m also trying to look at food miles. Oh, but it’s so difficult! Yet, sometimes it’s easy, like when the choice is between American and British apples! And I’ll choose non-organic British apples over organic American apples. We should of course forego our beloved blueberries, when you can’t buy British, but I admit that I still buy them. From Chile or Argentina. And what about coffee? Should you buy African rather than South American, because there are fewer airmiles? I don’t really like African coffee :-(   What I’ve started doing lately, after reading Mark Bittman‘s book Food Matters, is to use less meat. Husband doesn’t favour a lot of no-meat days, so instead I just use less meat and more veg, beans, lentils etc. in each meal. So far it’s worked fine and I’ve found that my “I don’t like beans” standard reply to such recipes, shall now change to “I’m not too keen on kidney beans and I don’t like baked beans”. It was on Mark Bittman’s blog I found a reference to the above article.

I believe, that just because something is not THE ANSWER to a burning question, it doesn’t mean that we have to scrap that notion entirely. Because the Perfect is often the Enemy of the Good!


Dutiful parents…

… as we are, we tried to do something meaningful with Dane over the holidays. Possibly the best bit was finally getting up in the London Eye, which we’ve been talking about and meaning to do ever since we came over here. It was David’s birthday, so we wanted to combine something enjoyable for him with something enjoyable for Dane. They have a pretty good queuing system for the London Eye – first you queue for less than 1/2 hour to get your tickets. Then it says on the tickets, when you have to report back to another queue. After that it’s only another 1/2 hour. For us it was perfect – there was just time for a nice lunch a bit further down the river. Here are a couple of pictures – luckily it was sunny, but with ominous clouds, which lend quite some drama to the pictures.

London skyline with some bad weather coming
While we were still waiting
While we were still waiting

Later on we wondered around London for a few hours. I wonder if I’m quite normal. The two shops in London, which I feel I soon know inside out are the Apple Store and Hamley’s. Shouldn’t it be Harrods and Selfridges? Or Waterstone’s?

But since inside photographs from those two shops would probably be rather dull, here’s a picture from an encounter Dane had with two nice, elderly gentlemen in New Bond Street.

Its Roosevelt and Churchill in case you were wondering...
It's Roosevelt and Churchill in case you were wondering...

More pictures, also from Halloween and bonfire night here.


Customer service


  1. The action of helping or doing work for someone
  2. An act of assistance
  3. Assistance or advice given to customers during and after the sale of goods

And that’s from the dictionary.

Lately I’ve received appallingly bad service and really good service. All online.

Bad first. At an upscale gift shop (IRL) I bought a set of 9 Colour-Change Pens + 1  Magic Pen for Dane. He’d seen something similar advertised on TV, but I don’t want to buy things via TV-shop. Upon arrival home, we promptly try the pens and NOTHING HAPPENS! Not just a tiny winy little bit, but nothing at all. We think we’re probably idiots (don’t say anything) and try with a friend of ours who’s really into craft work and that sort of things. But no, they really don’t work at all.

I wrote a nice and polite e-mail to the company behind the pens, Nothing happened for a week. Wrote again, this time slightly sarcastic, quoting their homepage:

Our customers tend to be fun loving people with a great sense of humour (you’ll need it) and with an unbelievable imagination.

What I wrote was of course that we didn’t realize that we needed that much of a sense of humour… We haven’t heard anything yet.

A while ago I wrote to Liberty to ask whether they stocked a particular line of German porcelain. They already stock 2 other lines by the same manufacturer, so it wouldn’t be at all strange. Did I get a reply? No. But did they have the audacity to put my e-mail on their mailing list? Oh, yes.

 Now good. I ordered stuff from the online bike-shop Chainreaction twice. They ship same day, no hassle, no cost. Goods arrive next day. Order confirmation, shipping confirmation, all neatly in place.  And I regularly order stuff from Ethical Superstore, where I buy organic cleaning supplies and other things. They answer inquiries same day, ship within 48 hours and if something is not in stock, they ship it later without charge. And I sent an inquiry to Homeplug before I actually bought them, to make sure they’d work with Mac. Answer within 24 hours. The goods delivered at my door next day. The best one last: I wrote to a small manufacturer of homeopathic allergy medicine, which we’d bought in Australia. He answered the next day, that unfortunately he couldn’t export his goods to the UK because of the strict rules surrounding natural medicinal products and didn’t know of any similar products available here, but he’d send me some, if I wanted?

On Gretchen’s Happiness-blog I recently read a wonderful story about customer service. You can read it too, i guarantee it will make you smile.


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.


Samsø via The New Yorker…

A reporter from The New Yorker went to Samsø recently to learn about the island’s status as “Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island” and how they’ve actually had considerable success in renewing their energy sources so as to leave less of a carbon footprint. So Samsø is now energy selfsufficient. Well done!

Where they have not succeeded, the article informs us, is in cutting down on the actual energy consumption. Selfishness, is the simple answer to the question of why… We’re all waiting for the neighbour to start cutting down on consumption before we’ll consider it ourselves, says the interviewee. I tend to agree…

Apparently, Samsø has had the status of Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island for 10 years now and I had to read about it in The New Yorker. If you go to the project’s homepage and take a look in their press section, you understand why. It’s not exactly something that has mesmerized the Danish media…

But some international media have visited and reported. NBC, Italian RAI Uno, CBS and more.

The reporter from the New Yorker also visits Switzerland and the father of an organisation called the 2000 Watt Society. It does not have it’s own homepage, but it’s pretty well covered in the article and also on this Swiss organisation’s homepage. Its goal is rather obvious and it suggests numerous ways to get there. But you and I can’t do it on our own. Our governments and local councils must take the lead. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything at all. At the moment we Europeans use 6000 watts (the Americans use 12000 watts), so must reduce our consumption with two thirds. What can we do?

  • Drive less – in more energy-efficient cars (walk more, use public transportation more). Shop for more than one day at a time. Share the school run with another family. Get the (bigger) kids to walk or use public transportation. This is England (or Denmark, depending on the reader…), not Chicago or Philadelphia…
  • Fly less. This one’s hard because the footprint we leave everytime we do it is HUGE! I’ve just flown around the world for the pleasure of it! And been to Denmark twice in two months! And David flies (that’s work, but still flying) to Berlin or Geneva or whereever almost every week!
  • Don’t buy more food than we can eat. Use leftovers instead of binning them. (Try entering some of the contents of fridge into Google – you’ll be surprised!) Be conscientous when sorting rubbish. Compost if possible. Collaps all cartons before binning them. When they take up less space, we need less containers = less lorry-miles.
  • Change all lightbulbs to energy-saving ones. It also saves money! And switch the light off!!!
  • Try to think in food-miles while shopping. It’s not easy, but the exercise is educational…
  • Try to avoid the dryer and hang clothes instead. Fill up the machines, both washer, dryer and dishwasher.

I do believe that every little thing counts. And – for instance – everytime we pick an energy-saving lightbulb from the supermarket shelf, we encourage the supermarket to buy more of those and less of the other ones.

More about sustainable living and about the importance of diminishing our carbon footprint NOW on Why not become a “fan” of on Facebook?

And more about sustainable living on the microplane from No Impact Man and on Carbon Footprint.

This is a portable eco fridge. The above picture is an energy-saving halogen bulb. Both and lots more can be bought at the Ethical Superstore.


We’ve got a home

now all that’s missing is the furniture, which should supposedly arrive Thursday or Friday this week (cross your fingers, would you?). We just can’t wait – having vivid dreams of sleeping in our own bed again with our own duvets etc. Oh, what luxury!

Our flat (rented) is in a converted convent. On the pictures you see the whole convent and the part we’re going to live in and the fireplace in what used to be the convent library, but will now be our livingroom! Woah!

We’ve been windowshopping for a variety of necessities, both online and IRL. It has been both fun and exhausting! Except for a bed and a chest of drawers for Dane, we haven’t actually bought anything yet, since it’s probably best to be on the actual premises before you start acquiring stuff. Oh, but that’s not quite true; yesterday we ordered cable-TV, phoneline and (most important!!!) broadband to be installed. It should all be in place by the middle of the following week, so by then we’ll really have moved in…

In the meantime we’ve been enjoying the company of the family, the boys playing endlessly, the grown-ups chatting, cooking, eating, teasing each other and playing cards. Several members of the family play a neat hand of Canasta. I’m still a total novice, having to be reminded of one rule or the other every 10 minutes. But it’s still fun – we were never card players in my family, so I only know how to play a few games.

The second week we were here, we had a much missed visitor: Dane’s best friend Adam came to visit over Easter and it was the happiest of reunions. We were glad to see his parents too, but that was quite overshadowed by the happiness of the two boys.

On a lovely day with the promise of spring in the air, we visited the Brooklands museum, with a vast collection of old and not-so-old airplanes and cars. It was just down Dane’s and David’s alleys, but I have to admit that I got a bit bored after the first 2-3 hours…

Such an impressive and beautiful aircraft – what a pity we’ll never get the chance to fly in it!

Check the flag on the tail of the aircraft!

Today we woke up to what was an expected change in the weather. All the same it was quite a shock to look out of the window and see this:

Sure, it’s pretty, but honestly, it’s April 6th and this is Surrey, England, not Denmark!


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.


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!


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…


The grocery store

In Denmark and in the UK, we call it a supermarket. But here, where SUPER really is a matching term, they humbly call it a grocery store. Even if it’s 10 times the size of a large Danish supermarket.

We have actually been in the States for close to three months now, but we still get lost in the grocery stores. I guess if we’d stayed in one place and only went shopping in one or two different grocery stores, we’d have learnt to find our way round by now, but we’ve been to so many different ones… And even if I am beginning to see a pattern in the way they have them laid out, there are still items that I just cannot find. So everytime we go shopping, even if it’s only for dinner for one evening, it still takes an hour…

Readers of my blog(s) are familiar with my inclination towards organic food stuffs. They are not easy to come by here, but in most bigger grocery stores, you can get organic milk, butter, yoghurt, cream etc., mostly from Horizon. I haven’t seen organic meat outside Whole Foods, which I’ve written about previously. But some stores sell meat without hormones. I’ve also seen some organic fruit and veg and spices at Shaw’s (which we really liked), Kroger, HEB and Publix.

Generally though, I find that most of the choices they offer you in these huge temples of consumption are false.  For instance, I went looking for detergent. In the average grocery store I guess there are at least 30 different brands. And they all promise the same results (guess what), cost more or less the same and sport glaring, ugly packaging. I was – evidently – looking for a detergent which would promise me the least damage to the environment while getting the job done. I looked and looked, but none of them seemed to promise me anything of the sort. In the end I chose Purex – I guess deluded by the name and the relative simplicity of the packaging. However, I don’t really think it’s any better than all the other stuff…

In Whole Foods (the nearest one 25 miles away from here) you can get the whole range of Ecover, so clearly it can be had in this country, but isn’t in demand :-(

When you shop without a shopping list prepared in advance, you’re easily deluded by the choice. Like, look, you can choose between 50 different types of beverages! Ain’t that great? But when you look closer, the choice is very limited. There are the ones with sugar and the ones with sweeteners. And that’s it! At home I usually offer Dane some sort of cordial when I think he deserves something sweet. But here the only cordial-type beverages you can buy are either made from grapes, which Dane unfortunately dislikes or not from fruit at all… The type of cordial made from raspberries, strawberries or redcurrant,  that you dilute with water, which we always had at home and sometimes even made ourselves, just can’t be had here. So it’s water, milk, beverages with artificial sweeteners (which I try to avoid), chocolate milk or soda. Dane drinks a good deal of water, but isn’t too keen on milk. That leaves me with very little to choose from! In this, the land of choice!!!!

However, if you try shopping with a shopping list, for instance because you want to prepare a real meal with several courses, you find that there’s lots of stuff you just can’t get or where the choice is more than limited, even in a fairly well stocked grocery store. I wanted cardamom pods to ground myself. But they didn’t have that. And only one (non-organic) brand of ground cardamom. And vanilla: They had at least 10 different kinds of vanilla extracts and a veritable abundance of vanilla sugar. But only one kind of whole vanilla bean, which I had to have a store clerk to help me find. I don’t think she’d ever seen or smelled one. And it wasn’t a very good one either. I needed rapeseed oil. Couldn’t find that. And then there’s the weird thing about lamb. Americans don’t eat lamb. As David puts it, the founding fathers probably didn’t approve of lamb, so… The general explanation we get is that people had mutton as children and hated it. And so they are not trying lamb as grown-ups. What’s even more strange is that veal is so hard to come by. I mean, in a steak-loving country like this? All that said; some choices are real and abundant – in the good grocery stores they offer a marvellous selection of seafood. And it’s cheap too!

Don’t get me wrong, though. I love shopping here and I love walking up and down the aisles looking at all the strange products and sneaking looks into other people’s shopping carts. And if I were to live here in the US, I’d just have to settle down close to a Whole Foods store. I’d be happy then – foodwise!