When we travel, especially to cities, we are always looking up. Up at the buildings with their glorious windows and doors, the sculptures in the parks, the stores with all their goods behind the clear plate glass, the pictures on the walls of the museums. Then there is people watching which can be fascinating. Just sit on a bench or at an outdoor cafe and watch the faces, the outfits, the interactions. Or gaze all the way up and view the trees and the sky and the clouds. But for something interesting or arty or fascinating do we ever look down at what is underfoot? On our trip to Copenhagen and Stockholm, we looked down. Here’s what we saw.
We have just returned from a ten day trip to Copenhagen and Stockholm. We had never been to Scandinavia and so when this popped up on Road Scholar, we thought, let’s do it. Well that was over a year ago and everyone must of had the same idea because by the time I tried to book the trip all of the dates had waiting lists. So when the 2018 trips were announced we quickly made reservations. Most RS trips are all inclusive, that is, accommodations, travel and meals are all included in the price. And they have you scheduled for tours and activities most of the day.
This trip however, was a Flex trip, lots of free time and many meals on us. Our guides still were available with suggestions and one afternoon before our first dinner “on our own” we asked Hanna her for ideas. Luckily Noma was closed as they planned their move to new digs (not that we had a reservation [needed at least a year in advance] or could have afforded it anyway). But she had a couple of alternatives in mind.
We settles on Vaekst (pronounced “Vixst” as best we can remember). When we arrived the hostess asked if we had reservations…oops…well no. She asked us to wait a moment and disappeared. After a few minutes she returned and told us we would be seated if we could be done by 7:45pm. It was only 6pm so we readily agreed. We were taken to the lower level, literally walking through a greenhouse of hanging plants. Our table for two was surrounded by large tables (6-8) of young professionals. This was a Wednesday evening in Copenhagen, Denmark and the place was humming.
Before we even had a chance to look at the menu a waiter arrived and poured us each a glass of champagne and announced they were celebrating tonight because they had achieved full sustainability. This was a good beginning.The menu arrived and it was very simple. There was a meat choice or a green (vegetarian) choice. The meat menu offered pork breast with the option of two items for substitution, beef tenderloin or brill. The rest of the menu was wine pairings. Curt went with the pork breast and I went Green. However, as you will soon see, it only looked simple on paper.Before our first course arrived a beautiful bowl of a cream cheese dip with baby carrots and zucchini, broccoli florets and French radishes was put on the table. The dark bits were malt crumble and the cream cheese wasn’t plain but had a bit of lemon and herbs I could not identify. It tasted fresh and summery. Then came the rolls and just fabulous butter. The Danes know how to do butter.
By now we were done with our champagne and ordered wine. There was also water on the table. And when you ask for water you always are given the choice of still or carbonated.
Next came our first course. On the menu mine said Tomatoes with Roasted Almonds, Ramson & Sesame sauce. I asked what the ransom was and as far as we could make out it was either ramps or green onions. What arrived was a bowl of red, yellow and green tomatoes in an oil and vinegar dressing with a sprinkling of, what I can only guess were, ransom shoots and almond pieces. The little cake was made with chickpeas and the “sesame sauce” was a delicate sesame soup.
Curt’s first course was the baked hake, which is a mild fish in the cod family. It came in a bowl along with chive blossoms, mixed herbs and micro-greens and a golden caviar. Once presented, the server poured a rich buttermilk broth into the bowl. Yum.
This was truly a fun beginning. The presentations were beautiful and the food well-prepared. With great anticipation we awaited our main course but before it arrived another dish came to the table. I believe the waitress called them pancakes but I would say they were little crepes filled with fennel, micro-greens and a lemon creme.
After this tasty snack, the main courses came to the table. Curt’s was Fried Pork Breast with Cabbage, Lemon and Yogurt. A salad arrived with the pork, which we think had the lemon and yogurt as a dressing.
Mine from the Green Menu was Grilled White Asparagus with Truffle & Porcini Mushroom Sauce.There were also artichoke hearts tucked under the asparagus. Another extra dish of small potatoes in a creamy sauce was put on the table.
By now we were getting pretty full because even if the portions were small, there were many of them. But we had come this far on our culinary adventure and would not be passing on dessert. Also by now our time was getting short and 7:45pm had come and gone, but no one mentioned it or tried to hustle us along. So Curt ordered an espresso with his dessert. His Strawberry Sorbet had White Chocolate Chips on top, and it was surrounded by a buttermilk and vanilla cream sauce. Mine was a Dark Chocolate Sorbet on top of a Rhubarb compote with a Caramel Chip. Okay, this was heaven.It was a wonderful evening but the final surprise came after we left. As I was taking pictures of the front of the restaurant, because of course I was going to write about it, we saw a little framed card on the outside wall of the building. We had just eaten at our first Michelin starred Restaurant. Wow! We walked back to our hotel smiling all the way.
“Reading is my favourite occupation, when I have leisure for it and books to read.”
― Anne Brontë,
Yes, June, once again heralds in all of the Reading Clubs. Not only the ones the local library runs but now Jimmy Fallon has a book club, Reese Witherspoon has a book club, Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) has a book club, The American Library Association (ALA) has a book club and of course Oprah still has a book club. But if you are like me, I don’t really need a book club to give me incentive to read. Sometimes I scan the various club’s selections but I usually have so many books on my “to read” list already, I really shouldn’t try to find more. Currently I am enjoying mysteries by Jane Harper and fantasies by Brandon Sanderson. Yesterday I started to read Stephen King’s latest, The Outsider, and I just downloaded the audio of The President is Missing by James Patterson & Bill Clinton…and the list goes on. Here’s what the group started with this summer.
1. The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig (2006) 345 pages. A coming-of-age story of a widowed father and his 3 extremely likable sons and their life on a Montana homestead in the early 20th century. It is also about the housekeeper they hire and her brother, who ends up replacing the teacher at the school. The book is told from the memories of the oldest boy.
2. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (1989) 288 pages. A novel about four Chinese mothers who came to America during World War II, and their four Chinese/American daughters. All eight characters have a narrative in the story as they speak of their relationships, the demands of the parents and the struggle for independence on the part of the daughters.
3. A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa (2000) 172 pages. In this memoir translated from the original Japanese, Ishikawa candidly recounts his tumultuous upbringing and the brutal thirty-six years he spent living under a crushing totalitarian regime, as well as the challenges he faced repatriating to Japan after barely escaping North Korea with his life.
4. Ruthless Tide: The Tragic Epic of the Johnstown Flood by Al Roker (2018)
320 pages. A gripping narrative history of the 1889 Johnstown Flood—the deadliest flood in US history from the Today Show’s legendary weather authority Al Roker.
5. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (1989) 637 pages. A bitter-sweet, brilliant, laugh out loud, tragic tale about an epic friendship between Owen Meany (a runty guy with a screechy voice) and Johnny Wheelwright, beginning in the 1950s and into the Vietnam War era.
6. Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon (2016) 336 pages. Flight of Dreams is a fictional portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg.
7. Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott (2014) 287 pages. This novel is set in the town of Lowell, Massachusetts during the 1830s. Lowell is one of the East Coast towns that were famous for the cloth mills that populated the area and were infamous for their “sweatshop” conditions. Alice Barrow is a farm girl who travels to Lowell to begin work in the mill.
8. Beartown by Fredrik Backman (2016) 432 pages. Beartown is a small Swedish town out in a forest in the middle of nowhere where winter temperatures reach sub-zero and hockey is the name of the game for its struggling residents. You don’t have to like hockey to love this story. Sort of the Friday Night Lights (high school football) of Sweden.
9. End Game by David Baldacci Will Robie #5 (2017) 408 pages. Will Robie and Jessica Reel are two of the most lethal people alive. They’re the ones the government calls in to take out those who plot violence and mass destruction against the United States. And through every mission, one man has always had their backs: their handler, code-named Blue Man. But now, Blue Man is missing.
10. Hard Way by Lee Child Jack Reacher #10 (2006) 371 pages. Who would have thought that just sitting and drinking coffee would get Jack Reacher involved in the investigation of the kidnapping for ransom of a woman and her child? Well that’s how it goes with Reacher and you know he’ll win in the end, no matter how many bodies he has to walk over.
11. The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan (2017) 440 pages. The fascinating true story behind the magnificent Gilded Age mansion Biltmore—the largest, grandest residence ever built in the United States.
Yesterday was the Wednesday Farmer’s Market in Green Bay,Wisconsin. Enjoy.
Thursday evening we hosted a casual dinner for friends. Chicken wings, baked beans, potato salad… we opted for Kofta instead of burgers and we added a Tabbouleh just because we could. It was a reunion of friends who had not been together for a while so when the evening ended, Barbara said, “If everyone is free on Friday why don’t we continue all this conversation over brunch? I’ve got some eggs and bacon, and I think there is some fruit in the fridge.” This worked for us and our out-of-towners didn’t have any obligations till that evening. We volunteered to pick up some cinnamon bread and so it was set.
When we arrived the next morning the wonderful aroma of bacon greeted us. But that was only a hint of the delightful meal awaiting us. When my friend said she had some eggs, I was expecting some scrambled eggs but instead we had a wonderful Egg Bake.
Then there was the fabulous oven-fried potatoes (white and sweets), bacon and fruit. The Raisin, Walnut, Cinnamon bread we brought fit right in and it tasted great with the Cloudberry Preserves from our Bellingham friends.
This was accompanied by coffee. The food was all wonderful but you know what really makes a great brunch? The people you share it with. Here we are in deep conversation about the issues of the day or maybe it was just a discussion about the latest Scandinavian Noir mystery series we watched on Netflix?
Below is the recipe for the Egg Bake. So simple yet sooo good.
Egg Bake a la Barbara (feeds 6 – 8 hungry people)
11 large eggs
1 cup milk ( 2% is fine)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper, to taste
1 1/2 Cups White Sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
• Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 2 quart shallow baking dish ( about 2″ deep)
• Whisk together the eggs, milk, S&P, and Cayenne till smooth, then whisk in the
• Pour mixture into baking dish. Bake until puffed and golden, and the eggs are set.
Check at 20 minutes. Time seems to vary 20-25 minutes.
A very versatile recipe. You can try it with fresh herbs or different cheeses. Makes a great presentation for your guests if you can time it to come out of the oven just before everyone is seated.
“He read while he walked. He read while he ate. The other librarians suspected he somehow read while he slept, or perhaps didn’t sleep at all.”
― Laini Taylor,
I very rarely miss this book group but it happened to fall during migration and I was off birding in Ohio. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t reading. I take books with me whenever and where ever I travel. However, I usually moderate our group and keep a list of what was read by the members. This month I asked someone to send me a list of the books. I loved the list I got. Those attending just passed a sheet around and everyone wrote down their book. Here is the list I received.Feel free to read their comments. I will add brief annotations to the list below.1. The Secret Life of Violet Grant (Schuyler Sisters #1) by Beatriz Williams (2014) 432 pages. I just had to quote a reviewer on Goodreads for this obvious Summer read, ” It had two awesome superstar heroines, lots of mystery, lots of banter, lots of cocktails, espionage, broken hearts and international travel! Plus did I say amazing lunches of tomato soup and grilled cheese and yummy breakfasts of Yuban coffee, bacon, scrambled eggs and toast? Oh…lest I forget…cigarette smoking…inside buildings! Yes…it was that era!“
2. Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper (2013) 336 pages. The story of a strained relationship between a mother and her fifteen year old daughter and how it is made whole again. The twist – most of this book is told from the point of view of their cat, Prudence.
3. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham (2017) 352 pages. This is a tale of four friends attending law school when they figure out the loans they took out for the second-rate school is somewhat of a scam. (Hmm? Trump University?) They devise a plan to expose the shady lenders by posing as lawyers.
4. Play Dead by Harlan Coben (1990) 452 pages. The story is about Laura and David who are on their honeymoon and then David dies?! Or does he? Laura then starts to find out things that were supposed to be hidden forever but should she? This was Coben’s first ever novel and in the beginning of the book he writes a disclaimer asking the reader “to please not start with this particular book if you haven’t read any of his work before, he’ll happily wait for you to come back, as he was only a young lad in his 20’s and a tad fresh”. You were warned.
5. Orders to Kill: The Putin Regime and Political Murder by Amy Knight (2017) 384 pages. Knight traces Putin’s journey from the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the late 1990s to his subsequent rise to absolute power as the Kremlin’s leader today, detailing the many bodies that paved the way. Though an interesting topic, by most accounts, the book is a boring read.
6. Crimes of the Father by Thomas Keneally (2016) 382 pages. The author, an ex-seminarian, tackles the complicated issue of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church. A thoughtful novel that exams conscience and celibacy, and, of what has made the church one of our controversial institutions.
7. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg (2013) 347 pages. The story follows two families; the Simmonses of Point Clear, Alabama in 2005 and the Jurdabralinskis of Pulaski, Wisconsin during WWII. The stories of the families are closely woven together as the novel progresses. Our reviewer particularly like the Wisconsin references (that’s where this book group hails from) and the information about the WASPS (Women Airforce Service Pilots).
8. Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (2017) 320 pages. One day while out chopping wood, Wade Mitchell’s wife does something unspeakable, sending their lives off course forever. Years later, Wade has remarried and is slowly losing his memories to early onset dementia. Can his second wife, Ann, piece together what happened before Wade forgets himself?
As I was preparing this post I discovered that I do a lot of whining about our asparagus patch. In 2010 I thought for sure that our then 30 year old patch was done, finished, kapoot! Then 3 years later I was amazed at how much asparagus I was picking even though the thistles and weeds had pretty much won the fight for supremacy.
But this year the almost 40 year old patch is really all but dead. There are not just mystery weeds, dandelions, and thistles but trees, invading raspberry canes, grass and lots of Queen Anne’s Lace.
The original patch began at the bottom of the above picture and extended to the edge just before the back field. Grass and dandelions are now the main crop. Curt has been mowing the front area but further back trees and raspberry canes have taken over and we will need a saw before we can mow that part.But as the saying goes, “Hope springs eternal.” Last week I noticed in the front area a few green stalks that looked different from the other stalks. Sure enough, a few asparagus roots were valiantly trying to survive. So I kept looking, even in the back section. Here are the Magic Eye pictures of asparagus hunting. In each pair, the top picture is of a spear, the 2nd picture has an arrow so you can see the spear. Scroll slowing.Or try this one.
So with enough patience and a little bit of foraging across the road (where some volunteers from somewhere are coming up) we came up with enough for our dinner salad with a few left over for omelets in the morning. Nothing like the 20-25 pounds we used to get when the patch was young but still interesting.
Thanks for sticking with me all these years but enough about asparagus, I hear the garlic crop is doing well.
We have two very large windows that face out into a garden that has a wide variety of bird feeders. We have seed, suet, oranges and jelly plus a Hummingbird feeder with sugar nectar. We get a pretty good variety of birds. I was working at the table by these windows yesterday afternoon when I got the idea of documenting just who was visiting our little buffet. So I spent about two hours with my camera at the ready. Some pictures turned out very well, others ..eh. Because this was the afternoon, lighting wasn’t ideal and some birds that visited were too fast for my camera. But here are the ones I managed to catch, mostly regulars and one surprise. Click on pictures to see them larger.
A variety of sparrows.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. I’ve put in three pictures because on the left is the male but only when he dipped his head could you see the ruby throat. If he faced into the sun it would have been brighter. The female is on the right.
The male Cardinal wouldn’t stay long enough for a picture but his lady friend did.
A Pine Siskin who would only give me his backside.
Female and male Baltimore Orioles being photo-bombed by a House Finch.
And finally the surprise visitor of the day, a Catbird. These guys do not visit feeders but I guess he was wondering what all the excitement was about.So this is the variety of birds we saw in about a two hour time frame. And these are only the ones I actually was able to photograph. Those who wouldn’t pose: Male Cardinal, Blue Jay, Black Capped Chickadee, Hairy Woodpecker and an Orchard Oriole. Not in the yard but flying by were Canadian Geese and calling from the field across the road, Sandhill Cranes. So check your yard, your life list could easily get much longer.
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke,
Spring is here, at least by the calendar, and our snowbirds are starting to return. We numbered 14 and there are still a few that haven’t broken away from their southern nests. Now I don’t blame those who won’t be back till May because they missed out on our April blizzard. That is why I have used a shelf of pastel books for the opening image. I am sick of looking at piles of snow. I am craving green, and birds and sun and blue skies and tulips and crocus. Well, you get the idea. Before I get to our books I have to mention the author that was reported on. Linda decided to do a throwback from her childhood, Carolyn Keene. It made all of us smile, even the guys because they were thinking of their own throwback…The Hardy Boys. So here’s a vintage Nancy Drew cover before we get started.
2. Robicheaux by James Lee Burke (2018) 447 pages. In this 21st book in the series – set in the Cajun environs of south Louisiana – Dave Robicheaux is involved in investigating several killings and an alleged rape.
3. Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West by Tom Clavin (2017) 384 pages. This book is more than the history of the Earp and Masterson brothers, it is also the history of Kansas and mostly of Dodge City. The author gives a brief history of the discovery of the West from the Spanish and the French to Lewis and Clark. But the primary focus of the book is the period from 1870 to 1880s in Dodge City.
4. Book of Harlan by Bernice McFadden (2016) 400 pages. During World War II, two African-American musicians are captured by the Nazis in Paris and imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp.
5. The Child by Fiona Barton (2017) 448 pages. When an old house is being demolished in London, the body of a small child is found buried. The story is told from the POV of three separate women, one reminded of a terrible tragedy, one with a dark secret and one an investigative journalist.
6. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (2018) 346 pages. If you could know the exact day of your death, would you want to find out? If you did find out, how would knowing that information affect how you lived your life? These are the questions at the heart of this book.
7. Lithium Jesus: A Memoir of Mania by Charles Monroe Kane (2016) 152 pages. “ In a memoir that blends engaging charm with unflinching frankness, Monroe-Kane gives his testimony of mental illness, drug abuse, faith, and love.” –Goodreads
8. Origin by Dan Brown (2017) 461 pages. Robert Langdon ( Da Vinci Code) is on another adventure. Our reviewer said if you are looking for good writing forget Dan Brown. But if you want a damn entertaining book with crazy puzzles, stunning secrets and shocking conspiracies then this is perfect. Don’t analyze, just have fun.
9. Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (2018) 435 pages. Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier. His PTSD, an undiagnosed condition in 1974, takes a toll on him and his family.
10. Arrowood by Laura McHugh (2016) 270 pages. A haunting novel about a young woman’s return to her childhood home—and her encounter with the memories and the family secrets it holds.
11. Green Earth by Kim Stanley Robinson (2015) 1088 pages. This huge SF novel, is assembled from a three-book series that came out in the mid-2000’s. The author decided that the work, about science, technology, politics and global climate change, would read better if combined into a single book, and brought up to present day science.
12. Don’t Wake Me at Doyle’s: The Remarkable Memoir of an Ordinary Irish Woman and Her Extraordinary Life by Maura Murphy (2004) 404 pages. Not as compelling as Angela’s Ashes, but still an enjoyable autobiographical account of life in a poverty-stricken home in Ireland.
13. The Disappeared (Joe Pickett series #18) by C.J. Box (2018) 400 pages. Wyoming has a new, highly unpleasant governor who tasks Pickett with finding a missing British businesswomen. Meanwhile, Nate Romanowski drags Joe into another case on behalf of a group of falconers. Good addition to the series with a wild end.
14. Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright (2018) 304 pages. A personal and urgent examination of Fascism in the twentieth century and how its legacy shapes today’s world,
On Wednesday and Thursday this week we went on a birding trip up to Door County which is the long thin peninsula that sticks out on the Ne side of Wisconsin. We had planned this trip about a month ago thinking Spring would have sprung and the birds would have begun their migration. Not strongly but enough that we would see some new birds for the year. Then on April 14th and 15th, Wisconsin got hit with a Spring blizzard. Many birds who were already in town were struggling. Food sources were buried in snow and the wind and cold for that long of a period just didn’t help. We have had late snows in the past but even in March we say, Ah, it will all melt by tomorrow. Not this one. We had huge drifts that made it difficult even to get out the back door much less try to get to the bird feeders. In the days after, many reports of dead birds came in to the bird reporting sites, a lot of them robins. So when we headed north two days ago, we didn’t know what we would find.
We mostly birded from the car or stayed on main paths. Trails in the parks were really muddy or still had snow packed on them. Some of our best finds were in flooded fields. The farmer probably wasn’t happy but the birds were enjoying the new lakes. One high note on the trip was in Peninsula Park. Further into the park from the main entrance is a Nature Center. It is a small building where you can talk to a staff person about recent sightings or ask questions about other flora and fauna. That is, when it is staffed. Park funding being constantly cut, doesn’t allow for someone there most times. But there are feeders and a white board where people can record what they have seen in the park.
When we pulled in on Thursday there was no human on site but instead we were greeted by a gang of chickadees. There was a pair of cardinals in the tree and a red breasted nuthatch swooped through. But the chickadees seemed quite friendly and seemed to be hoping we had handouts. Curt found a large can of sunflower seeds around the back of the building and was going to try to call them in. ( We sort of had this idea planted by the Park staffer at the entrance who wanted to know if we were interested in feeding chickadees but we declined). Now it seemed like a good idea. So Curt put seed on his hat and in both his hands and sat on a bench. I went for the camera, just in case.Well it didn’t take very long and in came the chickadees.
I tried really hard to get shots but those little guys were fast. I managed to get them in each of his hands but even though they also landed on his hat my only shot was one taking off.
Then it was my turn. Please ignore the dumb look on my face. I was trying to be as still as possible but still get to see the birds on my hand.
Their little toes tickled, and every time they came in and out there was a little flutter sound. It was so great. The cardinal was also hovering nearby when I sat down but they don’t feed like the chickadees so I put some seed on the bench right next to me and waited. Sure enough, Mr. Cardinal saw this was for him. It was marvelous to see him up close. He stayed for a bit taking in 4-5 seeds unlike the chickadees who grab one and fly off. Curt watched him when he flew and said he was feeding seeds to the female. He came back again. So cool!
It was a great experience. We were so glad the park wasn’t crowded or that a family with 4 kids didn’t come storming up. We might have called in the chickadees, they seemed pretty conditioned. But I don’t think the cardinal would have come in. Hope your encounters with nature are as fun as this.