Monday, July 28, 2014

Road Stars

After trolling through Kenya and South Africa for our last couple of mini holidays, Johan and I decided that a summer in Scandinavia was just what we needed. For months in advance we started scheming all the things we wanted to do, like going on a guided walking tour of our neighborhood, riding our bikes from Copenhagen up through Southern Sweden and eating gravlax at Stockholm's Saluhall.

BUT THEN! After months and weeks of anticipating all the things we wanted to do (which, by the way, research has shown to boost your happiness even more than your actual vacation), the weather gods threw a bunch of curveballs our way, rendering all of Scandinavia so damn hot we wound up doing only some 3% of all the stuff on our imaginary itineraries. Instead we stayed inside sipping too many Aperol Spritz'es while having the following Beckettian conversation on repeat:

Me: It's so hot
Him: I know...I can't believe how hot it is

THAT SAID, we did actually make it to Sweden. Not by bike but by air conditioned Volkswagen, and here are a few photos from the trip, which I would like to save and show my future grandchildren:

Here's Johan in front of a sign in the parking lot of a pull-up, which I think my family has stopped at every single time we've gone from Copenhagen to Stockholm (or thereabouts). It's funny, but once you approach this location, you always feel it's time to get out, stretch your legs, stock up on chocolate and ice cream and go pee.

On this trip, we went to McDonald's more often than I'd like to admit. But the thing I like about McDonald's in Sweden is that fact that they just take your order for a meatless burger like it's no big deal. In Denmark they're usually: "You want a burger without the meat? A burger...but no meat? Sorry, I need to call my manager...." 
Loved this sign. Wanted to bring it home and use it as a bed spread. Good work you, anonymous art director. I hope they pay you well anf give you a company car.

This was our first destination: My mom's country house. So cute :)

I kind of forgot to take pictures, which is silly, considering how picturesque everything is at her place. BUT, I did snap this photo of a cute little tree house, which my mom made. My mom is clever like that.

My grandmother was visiting too, so she, Johan and I took off on a mini-road trip to the city of Mariefred to eat lunch and check out a nice castle. Then I took this photo of Johan and my grandmother for their future company web page. I dig my grandma's relaxed CEO pose. Generally, I just dig her a lot :)

Then my grandmother took this photo of Johan and I. Love her even more! :)
Then we drove on to Strängnäs where most of my lovely family lives and my grandmother took us out for ice cream by the harbor. She's gonna hate me a little for posting this photo, but I just love it! Reminds me of one of those photos you would've kept back in the pre-digital camera days. "You'll have to excuse our faces, but look at that scenery!"

In the evening, Johan and I continued to Stockholm, where we stayed at my mother's peach colored city house....kidding! We stayed at her apartment - this is just a pretty little castle in the island of Djurgården.

One very specific thing we looked forward to doing in Stockholm was eating. Good food is my primary reason for traveling these days. It used to be visiting art museums but now I'm all about trying out restaurants. First stop was Ramen Ki-Mama. I'd also really recommend Beijing 8, if you're down for dumplings.
That said, we did stretch ourselves and go visit Artipelag - a newly built art hall slash cultural venue in Stockholm's archipelago. 
Everything was so Nordic and organically integrated into the surroundings it was almost too perfect.

They had a very dreary art exhibition, but I really liked this bit. It's furniture from the 1930s by Axel Einar Hjorth for a sportsstuga, a sports cabin or weekend cottage where one would retreat from city life to do sports and enjoy the outdoors. In fact, the entire place was kind of a modeled on a sportsstuga, I'd say.
The best part of Artipelag, we both agreed, was the location, right on the water overlooking the Stockholm Archipelago. If it weren't for that fact that our parking ticket was about to expire, we could have stayed on the sun-heated rock for hours. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer. In no particular order.

These days, Copenhagen is at its absolute warmest and most summerest of summer, Johan is home on vacation from Kenya, and at the cafes that line our street, guests linger long into the night allowing you to listen in on their chatter and cin cins as you doze off to sleep.

It's the kind of summer you don't want to end, in other words, and in this final week of vacation, I find myself not wanting to do much in an attempt to make time pass slower.

Anyway, in between work and enjoying all the perks of summer, my blogging mojo went AWOL. So here's an attempt at luring it back to business with a buck load of photos of food from above and other colorful, miscellaneous stuff :)

Johan came home for his 35th birthday, and this was the pretty table that awaited him at his mom's place - masterfully decorated by his 5-year old nephew.

I made a collage of a Fuji-bike. Johan used to have one in New York, which was eventually adopted by our super Al and within a few months it got stolen (i.e. sold for fast cash).

A bowl of woodland strawberries, which we handpicked at my mom's country house in Sweden. It felt very hedonistic to eat them by the spoonful considering how much sweat and fly-swatting that went into picking them in the woods.  

Elderflowers from a walk in our neighborhood.

And the juice I made from them :)

The courtyard in bloom.

Dinner by the canal in the evening sun. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

from a piece of blue

I've never even been to Big Sur, nor have I read Jack Kerouac's novel, nor have I watched the film adaptation of said book, in the light of which it seems downright bizarre to spend an afternoon making a paper collage that says Big Sur under a big blue wave.

Except, of course, it's such a delicious combination of words, I love how it feels when I say it my head and although I have to admit I have never explicitly articulated the fantasy of going there, I guess it is one of those places that capture my (cinematically indoctrinated) imagination.( Like Baja, maybe, which makes me wonder, did they talk a lot about Big Sur on Beverly Hills, 90210?)

Truth be told, I've also been thinking of Hokusai's waves (right now, I imagine Hokusai is all, "damn girl, why you dragging me into this?!" - except in 19th century Japanese, of course), which I finally got around to process into something.

By the way, I cut this from a piece of glossy, blue paper, and except for the G and two blue space gaps between the letters S U and R, it's all in one piece.

Insert applause.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A photographic tour of the neighborhood in which I was left behind as a human security deposit

Johan and I spent our first day in Cape Town wandering about a semi-gentrified neighborhood called Woodstock, which, I guess, one always feels like an ass for doing, because gentrification really is a two-cheeked thing.

One minute you feel kind of rugged and good taking the unbeaten path and investing your tourist-$$$ in a hitherto neglected part of town. The other minute, you feel like such a predictable doofus for spending time in a shop selling owl-printed ceramics and artisan nougat.

But hey, since this is not a particularly socially conscious blog, let's just go for it and take a culturally insensitive stroll through this really lovely and colorful neighborhood.

Misstep #1: First stop we made was in a discount grocery store where we admired the design of the generic brand Ritterbrand and bought a few samples of pineapple jello to bring back home. Buying food solely because of their aesthetic properties has to be pretty much THE most asshole-y thing to do. Especially if you document the process with your huge D-SLR.  

Incidentally, Woodstock is also the home of The Test Kitchen - the sole African restaurant that has made it onto the list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants. As luck would have it, we managed to bypass their 3-month wait and do a walk-in for lunch on account of someone just having cancelled their reservation.

Now, eating in a place like this is usually completely out of my price range, but thanks to a world economy and an exchange rate that are completely in our favor, we had the privilege of of experiencing a 5-course lunch with wine for two people for an indecently fair price. (Less than $100.)

And, as we were sitting there, savoring our luck for getting a table at this amazing place, who do we bump into but one of Johan's friends! (Seriously, what are the odds of meeting a fellow dane sitting down to lunch in the the exact same restaurant? Well, considering the guy is living in Pretoria, I guess the odds are greater than I make them out to be, but still!)

And, as we were sitting there feeling on top of the world for bumping into familiar faces in a fancy restaurant, God said from above: "Hey you two, don't be so cocky and full of yo'self. Have you even checked to see if you brought your credit card to pay for all this nonsense food, which honestly looks a little like cat barf?"

Of course we hadn't. And so Johan had to leave me behind in the restaurant as a human security deposit, while he drove back to the hotel to get money.

And that, my friends, was the end of our first day in Cape Town.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

For us, the anxiety-ridden

Via Monkino. One of those blogs that makes me high five myself every time a post pops up in my reader :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The things you do on a morphine high

A woman, who prefers to stay anonymous, but who may or may not have given birth to me, called me yesterday with an unexpected confession.

Said women recently had knee surgery, and while she's up and walking during the day, come night time, her knee hurts like a bitch. And so she has resorted to popping an occasional morphine pill when the pain gets unbearable.

"You know", she said. "I don't think I'll ever become a drug addict, but if I do, I bet I would grow obese in no time."

"Oh", I said, "why's that?"

"I get the munchies when I'm on drugs," she said matter-of-factly. "And. it. is. not. pretty."

The night before she had taken a pill, gone to bed and next thing she remembers was the feeling of toppling over. Turns out she had sleepwalked into the kitchen in her morphine haze, where she suddenly snapped out of it and found herself standing by the sink.

"And you know, what I was doing?", she asked.

"No, tell me", I said, although I didn't expect whatever she'd done to be half as good as it turned out to be.

"I was spreading butter on a piece of toast", she said. "With a dish washing brush. There was butter on the bristles and all."

 Apparently she had found slices of toast on the floor too, but no word if and how they'd been buttered.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Basically the best meal of your life (for a total for 600 Rand)

As I mentioned the other day, Johan and I lived and breathed by Miss Moss' guide to Cape Town, so when we decided to head out to vineland, we once again resorted to following her recommendation. (I feel I should write her a nice thank you note, but then again will such a super star blogger really appreciate hearing from a lowly blogger such as myself? Nah, right?)

Anyway, Miss Moss suggested that one head out to the restaurant The Table at the winery De Meye where one would have, quote unquote (I like saying that instead of adding actual quotation marks), basically the best meal of your life.

That's good enough for me, so off we went, to Stellenbosch, which is just so beautiful you wanna scream. Looks like something straight out of Lord of the Rings. (Which, I guess, is pretty much the same as saying that Stellenbosch looks like New Zealand?)
I snapped this from the window of our car, so I suspect that's why the clouds look a little dramatic. 

De Meye is the name of the winery and Johan swears he's seen the logo/bottles before, either in a restaurant or a store, in some country, which is either Kenya, Denmark, Sweden or the US, so I guess that narrows it down.

Everything was beautiful and in bloom, for but some reason this exact picture of the restaurant looks so fall-like. Makes me want to move to France, get myself a small chateau and wear clothes made out of high quality linen every day.

When we arrived, they had set up tables all around the garden, offering that you go choose the table where you wanted to sit. "We'll take this table!", we said and pointed to the one above and they were like "well, when we said choose any table, we meant any of the two-tops". And we were like "Fine, we'll take that beautiful one over there below the tree".
Then we went for a walk on the grounds, and seeing I had put on my best lady dress, I asked Johan to take a picture of me flanked by an avenue of beautiful trees. Here I am practicing my first lady pose and my WHATAREYOUSAYINGYOUSLEPTWITHTHEINTERN?-pose.

Is the divorce rate among bloggers conspicuously high? I sometimes wonder this when I ask Johan to pose for me, say if it's just occurred to me that his shorts match a field of blooming flowers and I think it will make a nice picture for this blog. And I mean, so often I look at family photos on other people's blogs and you can just feel the pain and emasculation the husband feels when he's forced to hold a bouquet of colorful balloons while looking dreamily at his pregnant wife while their kids throw popcorn and confetti into the air. But then after a while, I tend to remember how much mediocre sports my fellow sisters have been forced to watch since the dawn of time, and then I'm like screw it, this is OUR moment!
They also had a lazy, cuddly dog, who came running to our table as soon as they served our duck rillette. (Love how dogs have their life priorities straight. Imagine all these puppies lying in god's lap before being sent down to earth and they're like: "So, I'd like to grow up on a vineyard in South Africa, and there I shall bask in the shade of large trees and have my belly rubbed by strangers before they hand feed me farm-raised poultry, please". And all the ducks are like: "I'd like to grow up on a vineyard in South Africa, where I shall be slaughtered when I reach 12 weeks of age and then be cooked slowly in my own fat before people from Europe spread me on toast, please".

Before lunch, we sat down for a wine tasting, where honestly, I felt we were shamed a little for our lacking knowledge of wine by a lady wearing a neon lycra dress. But I can kind of sympathize with that, because honestly, if you do know a lot about wine, it must feel downright painful to pour your finest grape juice into a guest's glass, ask what said guest thinks about it and said guest goes: "Uhm? It's red...I guess?".

After our wine tasting, we sat down for lunch, and had an appetizer of creamy yet light cauliflower soup, duck rillette with leafy greens and fig marmalade, fresh farm butter and country bread - all sourced locally. (I feel this is kind of like dirty/scintillating talk for foodies, right? ).

"Bread with lettuce! Yum!" 

For our main course, we had that beautifully caramelized Tarte Tatin. We didn't finish it, because there was just so much food, and I sometimes lay awake at night thinking about that buttery crust and those sweet carrots, which we just left sitting there on a very pretty piece of butcher's block. Le sigh, as the fancy girls say.

Meals like this resonate with me. Simple, pimple yet so well-prepared and with such good ingredients it makes your stomach sing :) 

And then we finished off with a sorbet of something, preserved quince and a baked custard (I think). 

Look, so cute right? They put out blankets so you could lay down on the grass after your meal and unbutton the top button of your pants.

There's something very poetic about an abandoned dining table, don't you think? It's like you can still hear the chatter of the people who sat there. 

I know I mentioned it before, and I know I mentioned it in the headline, but people, I have to mention it again: All of this deliciousness including wine and coffee came to a total of 600 Rand, which is the equivalent of something like $50. Honestly, I think I'd return to Cape Town just to lunch here again :)