May 31, 2009

Good Bye Spring!

Spring is the most rewarding season there is. Everything is fresh and pristine. It reminds me of youth; everything is about to begin.

Today is the last day in May and summer is already in the air. This year we have had, in my opinion, the most beautiful spring on record. In a way I hate to see it leave.

Below is my weekly update on my precious clematis; the difference is not as striking as before, mostly due to the fact that this year the honeysuckle (the plant to the left) has been growing unusually fast and has hidden the clematis. But if you look really carefully, you can see the new branches growing to the far right, just above the fence. I have actually put up another trellis today (after the photo has been taken) above the rose to the right, to aid the plant in growing. It will be obvious in next week picture.
I hope everyone is having a very laid back Sunday.

May 30, 2009

Lunch For One.

Although I never set the table when I eat alone, there are exceptions. These occur during the special summer days, that once in while settle over Scandinavia, when the easterly winds blow from the dry continent, bringing sunshine and warm air. Summer arrived a whole two days too early this year and I am soaking up the heat it as much as I can. Therefore, today I enjoyed a late light lunch outside on my terrace, surrounded by the green plants and blooming hedge. And I set the table.

Life is all about small and simple pleasures.

May 29, 2009

Progressive Photography: White Nights.

My dear blog-friend Hilary is a talented photographer. If you have not visited her blog filled with beautiful images yet, please do. She has an eye for details and she captures the simple in our surroundings and turns it unique. A rare and appealing talent.

Well, she wrote in one of her comments here recently; "You have such a knack for "progressive photography."" Without realizing it, she simply summed up my view of the world.

I love to take pictures of what I perceive; whether they are mental images that I replay in my mind when I choose to or actual photographs. At all times, I love to watch the changes that the seasons bring on in my surroundings. As a matter of fact, every morning after hugging Batcat, the first thing I do is to look out of my large windows facing my garden and the nature in the vicinity, to see whether any changes have taken place over night. I follow the birch trees and the changes in their foliage or observe the blooming seasons of my plants and bushes. I look for animal life and I watch the city below. Likewise I often look out onto the evening sky, watching the sun set later or earlier each day, or simply to follow the movement of the stars or the lunar phases.

Already when I got my first camera, I was fascinated by the circle of life that a year brings. I made a collage of four pictures taken out of the kitchen window in my parents house at different times of the year, depicting the four seasons.

I guess I love to enjoy the moments in time and photography helps me to document this. I have often longed to capture the changes that my garden undergoes during a year and without realizing it, writing a blog has made this possible. I also love those small - or extensive - countdowns to certain events. They help me enjoy the journey, instead of only the destination.
As after all, the best in life is all in the process, not always in the fulfilment of a goal.

Therefore, here is yet another post in the spirit of progressive photography; the increasingly late sunsets that are the countdown to summer solstice (please click to enlarge).

May 28, 2009

Beauty Of Beer.

I love beer. My father is Czech and I guess my love for beer comes from that side of the family.
Czech beer is world renowned for its quality and good taste and the history of brewing beer there stretches back into the 12th century.

Furthermore, I live in a beer-drinking country. Just like the Italians and French are proud of their vine, the Danes love their beer. Alongside numerous official breweries, hundreds of microbreweries are active all across the country. I am sure most foreigners are familiar with the Carlsberg beer, which is sold worldwide, but this is not - by any means - the only beer available here. Every city and even a small town will have its own signature beer beverage.

After meeting the Irishman I got introduced to the most wonderful beer there is - the Guinness. It is my preferred choice these days, but I do enjoy a glass of cold Weissbier (Wheat Beer) on a hot summer day.

I saw this commercial on television the other day and it made me laugh out loud. Hope it will brighten your day.

(Note from the author in March 2011: The commercial was no longer available online, thus was replaced by another clip for the same type of beer - Stella Artois 4%.  This ad is not as good as the original, but still funny enough.;)

May 27, 2009

My Mexican Oven.

I love open fireplaces. There is something very cosy about a fire. Who doesn't remember fondly the camp fires from our childhood, which unified us and made us feel safe and happy in a company of friends or family.
I also love to sit in front of a fire in solitude, such as my fireplace at home. A few years before I actually had it built, I was able to enjoy a fire outside using my "Mexican Oven".

I obtained it in an unexpected way. One day, when I came home from work I saw a strange looking thing made of clay next to the garbage cans in the parking lot. It looked like some sort of an oven. Upon talking to my neighbors I realized that it was once a property of the temporary occupants of a house that is now being renovated next door, which they rented briefly from the current owners. When they moved, they left the clay object behind and gave it to one of my neighbors. Now it was though not wanted anymore and my neighbor was getting rid of it. "Do you want it?" his wife asked me when she saw the puzzled look on my face. "It is a clay oven, a Mexican oven and it would be a lovely addition to your terrace " she added. "Yes!" I exclaimed imaging immediately cosy summer evenings in front of a crackling fire. "Then just please take it", she said and this is how I became the owner of the "Mexican Oven".

At that point, I knew nothing about the origins of this lovely outside fireplace, which looked more like a piece of art than an oven. Upon a search on the net I quickly realized that this was a somewhat expensive piece of clay and most likely I would not have been able to afford buying one, should I have ever chosen to do so.

Correctly called "The Chimenea", this is what is written about its origins by the wikipedia; "Originally, all clay open fire garden heaters imported to the U.S. from Mexico were known as chimeneas. As the story goes, chimeneas originated hundreds if not thousands of years ago by Mexican tribesmen who developed the chimeneas as a means of providing heat for their family as well as a vessel for cooking and baking. The original chimenea was designed to keep the rain off the fire and the family warm using merely a couple of sticks".

I love this wonderful clay oven, which prolongs the precious Scandinavian summer days into wonderfully warm and cosy summer evenings.

May 26, 2009

Ratatouille.

I have previously disclosed that I am a very bad cook. Nevertheless I love to eat. I enjoy food; any kind of food anywhere. Since childhood I ate everything. Some parents experience problems with their children, as they will eat only certain things at certain times or they might not want to eat at all.
Well there were no such problems with me. I was always hungry and had always a healthy appetite. And this appetite I have maintained. In fact, as a toddler I looked like the Michelin man; I was very cute and it looked like I had rubber bands tied around my tiny wrists and I had chubby cheeks like a cherub. How unfortunate that these days it will not look cute at all nor attractive if I looked like the Michelin man and to stay away from food is one of the hardest things to do for me, as I honestly love to eat.

Therefore I likewise enjoy movies that are based on the art of cooking. Here is my top five list of the best chef/food-cuisine movies:

1. The Perfect Man
An easy laid back romantic comedy starring Heather Locklear and Hilary Duff as a mother and daughter, dealing with all the problems and issues teenage girls and single moms encounter when the subject of love, life, relationships and food is concerned.

2. Big Night
This is a wonderful little comedy drama that I saw by a sheer coincidence in the US. I got reminded about it by steviewren when she posted a clip on her blog recently. It features Italian immigrant brothers Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci) trying to recruit Louis Prima to sing at their ailing restaurant in 1950s New Jersey.

3. Just Desserts
A wonderful romantic movie starring Lauren Holly about a handsome guy and a pretty girl that fall in love while trying to beat the competition at a baking contest.

4. Woman On Top.
Starring the sultry Penélope Cruz in a very romantic and very sensual comedy about love and food.

5. Ratatouille
This is an animated movie from Pixar and it is by far my favourite movie in this genre. I saw it this past weekend and I was completely surprised how it manged to capture me. The plot follows Remy, a rat who dreams of becoming a Chef and tries to achieve his goal by forming an alliance with a Parisian restaurant's garbage boy. Foremost a family movie, I can recommend it with all my heart to anyone who loves stories about animals, friendship, love and food. Below is a the movie trailer, to trigger your appetite; enjoy.;)

May 25, 2009

Last Week Of Spring.

This is the last week of May and therefore the last week of spring. This month has gone by so very fast; I deeply wish time would stop for at least a moment to let us enjoy the beautiful season for just a bit longer. I have no idea why January seems to be never ending, while May disappears in a flash.
May was cooler and less sunny than April was this year. It rained more, but somehow the month had the perfect combination of light and water to turn the nature green, luscious and alive.

This year was truly one of the most beautiful springs I can remember; hopefully it reflects and gives us a true preview of the coming summer.

My surroundings this spring:

May 24, 2009

Late May Sunday.

Today the weather has offered a bit of everything; it was a gorgeous sunny morning with blue skies, but now heavy clouds have moved in from the west. However, I can see that blue skies are visible in the far west and soon the sun will return.

My back hedge is now in full bloom. That hedge is my pride and joy. Wen I moved into the house, it was pretty much just a few sticks growing up out of the ground. After 6 years it is the most beutiful hedge around. Particularly in late May, when it blooms with white flowers. Last year I could hear people passing it on the outside, not knowing I was out on my terrace. They stopped for a while to admire the hedge stating it was the most beautiful one they have ever seen. Such compliments are of the best kind.

I am taking this opportunity, while there is a lack of sun, to post yet another update on my ever so growing clematis.
I hope everyone is having a wonderful laid-back Sunday.

May 23, 2009

The Season Of The Rhododendrons.

I am sitting outside while I type today's blog post and again this makes me marvel over the modern technology.
Today is what we might call a typical late spring day here in Scandinavia; westerly wind, blue skies filled with occasionally fluffy white clouds, which however bring chills if they cover the sun.

Today is also my nephews birthday, he will be seven years old. I recall it as it was yesterday when I boarded the train to take me to Switzerland in order to be there for my sister, when she was about to welcome the first grandchild of the family to the world.
He was born in late May, which is also the season of the blooming rhododendrons. These magnificent bushes explode with flowers almost over night. I am lucky to have a beautiful plant just outside my kitchen windows. During late May, every morning it offers me a view bursting with purple colours.

May 22, 2009

White Nights Countdown.

Yesterday was a holiday here in Denmark and a day off. So called Ascension Day was celebrated, a religious observance celebrating Jesus' humanity being taken into Heaven, 40 days after Easter. I am not sure how much of it is truly celebrated in this spirit anymore; basicaly this means just another day off from work for most Danes and Swedes. Most likely it is celebrated in other Scandinavian countries and parts of Europe. Furthermore, today is also so called "squeeze in between day", meaning a working day squeezed between a holiday and a weekend. Most people take today off as well, getting a really extended weekend out of it. I however am heading to work and as today is my favourite day, it doesn't bother me much that it is not a free one for me.
Below a little collage of my western skies, that are getting lighter by each day - the difference a week has made is pretty obvious (please click to enlarge).
Happy Friday everyone!

May 21, 2009

Wonderful Beans.

I love beans, yes I do. There isn't a more wonderful food than beans. The beans I have in mind are canned beans.

I am a terrible cook. I hate cooking for myself. I find no pleasure in making a meal and setting the table just for me. I admire endlessly those who do.
At this point in my life I have lived alone more than I ever did with other people. Which means I often eat my meals alone. As a child I expressed no interest in cooking; I did not enjoy helping my mother nor tried to learn how to prepare food, although she encouraged me relentlessly. My sister however grew up to be a magnificent cook.

Most scientists are excellent cooks. It is true. I think it has to do with the fact that in order to be successful in each, one has to be able to follow a recipe. Therefore, I am sure I have the potential to be a good cook. However, the few times I have had roommates, I have always been fortunate enough to be surrounded by people that enjoyed cooking more than I do. The Irishman is no exception. I love his cooking, as it is simple and tasteful. He is concerned about the ingredients and always cooks with fresh produce, omitting fat and salt. I can taste the food when he cooks; there is no extra additives or too many spices.

I truly enjoy the times when he is around; he prepares the dinner in the kitchen, while I watch the television or read a magazine. Always discussing what I am seeing or reading, or anything between heaven and earth, while we laugh and talk. I love to set the table and to light the candles as we sit down and enjoy a home cooked meal while we watch the sun set outside.
Those are the few precious moments of happiness.

Although he makes sure my freezer is stocked to the bursting point with meals he has prepared on his visits, they always disappear fast shortly after his departure.
And then I am stuck with my true friend in need, canned beans. I love them all; white beans, red beans, kidney beans, chilly beans. This is a magnificent and healthy food source. And it is very inexpensive, the most inexpensive cans in any grocery store. High in protein and very low in fat, they are nutritious and beneficial. Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants, grown as far back as ancient Egypt, and the common bean has been cultivated for six thousand years in the Americas.

Therefore, until the Irishman comes back again, I rely heavily on canned beans to tide me over.

May 20, 2009

My Meditation.

I like certain electronic music. I cannot adequately describe why. Nor can I exactly examine it and point out why some of the modern music has an effect on me. This effect is a combination of feelings that relax my mind and set my thoughts free, disconnecting me from my immediate surroundings, even if for just a fleeting moment. It can be compared to a kind of meditation or a reality escape. Everything becomes crystal clear and vivid. However, the right kind of music, combined with a particular beat inspires me also creatively. It is difficult to term this right; I often call this music "ethereal, escapist or airy". It fills a void in space.

We all have different ways we like to relax. Being very emotional in my personality, I feel everything very strongly. Life makes an imprint on me every day. I am very perceptive, for better or worse. Not to suffer emotional overload, I need an outlet for the emotions that arise from impressions. The way I let go is often through creativity but also through listening to music. Certain beat and the way a melody is composed, helps me to just relax and to daydream - it is amazing the places the mind can take me if I let it. I love and need these few hours of complete solitude, preferably while an incense stick spreads its wonderful aroma through the air.
The below is a perfect example of a musical piece that would qualify as an aid in my meditation.

How do you relax? Do you find it necessary to have a moment just for yourself? And can you find the time to enjoy such solitude regularly, despite the stress of every day life and the demands of family and workplace?

May 19, 2009

Preston & Child.

I used to be an avid book reader. Any spare moment was spend with a book. Particularly the weekends and holidays. Vacations spend on the beach were perfect for reading. I do not read that much anymore, as lot of my spare time is spend blogging and writing instead. These days I mostly like being read to by the Irishman. He has an amazing voice. There is nothing that I love more than hearing it late at night, when the world is still, just before I fall asleep.

My favorite authors of all time are a duo, who write suspense novels; Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I will never forget how I found their first book, by a sheer coincidence. It was a paperback on a sale about 14 years ago in a bookstore at a mall in North Carolina. I think it was the big poster that caught my attention, advertising for the upcoming movie that was based on this book, "The Relic". The title and the link to the supernatural stirred my curiosity and so I bought it. I think I read in in a course of couple of days, which is VERY unusual for me. I loved it! More than any book ever before. Very quickly I learned that their new book was out already, a sequel to their first, entitled "Reliquary" and so I bought it in hardcover this time around.

Today I own all their books (except the newest one) in hardcover. The first book I still only have in paperback - but in some way the paper cover, bearing signs of use brings me back in time and reminds me of a moment of discovery. That fleeting second in time when we make encounter with a new very best friend. Even if it is just a book.

May 18, 2009

My Views.

I live in a magnificent place. I love my house and my home. I am a fatalist to some degree and I believe that certain things are just meant to be. I just know without a doubt that I was meant to find my house and I was meant to live here.

Some things come to us effortlessly; we find ourselves in the right time and in the right place. I often try to be sensitive to that which presents itself for me and try not to miss out on opportunities, which might pass me by just because I am blinded by a hopeless pursuit.
With that said, I do however believe we should not always use fate to justify easy choices; some things in life are meant to be fought for and some do no come to us unless we make an effort.
The difference is to realize in time which ones are worth that battle.

In my life I never took the path less traveled and in retrospect nothing was ever ordinary, although I always wished for it.

My home is a serene place; so are the views from my windows. The below is a plethora of views from my house, which at all times make me marvel over the beauty of nature and remind me of the fact that life is all about simple and small pleasures (please click to enlarge).

May 17, 2009

Ruled By The Weather.

This weekend was weather-wise a total washout. That is the problem with Scandinavian spring; it's timing is always off. We can have a warm working week and a rainy weekend. One can never be sure of the sunshine. Weather is often a heavily discussed topic and it rules our lives up here north to a certain degree. Forget planning any parties or any celebrations outside, it can be a gorgeous warm summer day on a Friday, but comes Saturday, it will rain and be very cold. I remember discussing this with a Spanish born woman, that lived in Belgium. She told me, how surprised she was upon moving to Brussels, to find everyone always discussing the weather at work. This was something unheard off in Spain, where the weather is stable and rarely a topic for a conversation. However after years living there she now understand how an unstable climate can rule one's life. She too now turns on the TV in the morning just to watch the weather forecast, like everyone else.

So, as a back up plan I always have a few activities that I save for those rainy weekends. Here is my top five list over things to do on a rainy spring Sunday:

1. Sleep long.
2. Watch favorite romantic movies (or right now all those 250 channels on my TV).
3. Organize my wardrobe and try on new and old summer clothes so I am ready for warm days when the sunshine returns.
4. Sort out my pictures and photographs.
5. Make myself a hot cup of coffee and just look out of my windows and rest my eyes on the beauty of nature, while day-dreaming.

There you have it. Those Sundays are actually quiet relaxing.

Below is my weekly update on the growing clematis. The changes are not as obvious as previously, but upon a closer examination, the difference a week has made is noticeable nevertheless.

May 16, 2009

Eurovision.

Today is a very rainy Saturday, but I find it somehow relaxing to be inside, curled up on my red sofa with Batcat, reading a good book, while we await an evening of a famous European tradition; the broadcast of the annual Eurovision Song Contest. Most likely unknown to anyone outside Europe, this years contest is held in Moscow. As the name implies, it is a singing contest with entries from a multitude of European countries, which compete for the best song - some performed in the original language.

I think Europe might be divided into two camps in this respect; those who watch it and are great fans and those who couldn't care less and consider this broadcast to be a nuisance. I am not sure to which part I belong, but I have been definitely fan for many years; however as time passes, I find myself switching sides.

The song contest was first held on 24th of May 1956 in Lugano, Switzerland. Much has changed since its first concept. In the eighties, it was a broadcast that use to unite Sweden, where I grew up and the following Monday everyone would scrutinize the contest and would discus whether the "right song won". Although the winners would most of the time be soon forgotten, the competition still held some consequences for the participants. It launched the carrier of Abba that won with Waterloo in 1974 and also helped to jump-start the success of Celine Dion who competed and won for Switzerland in 1988.

I did not know much about the contest in the nineties, as I lived in the US, but upon my return I noticed a great change. It has become bigger, encompassing almost the whole former east bloc including many small countries in the former Soviet Union. In fact it is such a large an event today, that it is split over several days with two semi-finals. Today the competition is additionally surrounded by much controversy, in respect to for how the winners are decided and how the votes are counted.

I will watch the contest tonight more with amusement than anything else. Denmark has qualified through the semi-finals and will compete in this evenings final, making the event slightly more exciting. I do not have favourites, but I like the Norwegian entry. However, the Danish contribution entitled "Believe Again", performed by Brinck is actually not bad either.

I guess most of all this broadcast holds another sentiment for me and that is the sentiment of the European Broadcasting Union with it's particular signature melody and logo, which usually proceeds any European broadcasts. This means televised programs, that are send simultaneously in many countries. There is a feeling of a connection with other countries, when the so very familiar melody comes streaming from the TV set. Many know it so well, but very few are aware of the fact that this musical piece is "The prelude to Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Te Deum, H. 146, a rondeau".

Every time I hear this unique tune, which has not changed for decades, it will always make me feel as if I am part of a united Europe.



May 15, 2009

May Nights.

I love the month of May. It is a month of so many expectations. As a prelude to the elusive Scandinavian summer, it holds promises of long days and white nights. As the last spring month, it was in my childhood the last month of school, before the arrival of the sought after summer break, filled with carefree weeks. Sometimes they were sunny and hot, sometimes they rained away. That was the unique beauty of it all; never knowing what might be in store for us.
Even today, when school is not on my schedule anymore, I still love the anticipation.

This week, the white nights have become very obvious. Almost every day, minutes of precious light are visibly added to the days of May and the night sky is now no longer the colour of onyx. For the first time this year I could gaze from my windows at the brilliantly orange horizon in northwest shortly after eleven in the evening, with the traces of sun still in the sky over the city night lights below. In about five weeks, this will culminate in the longest day in the northern hemisphere, when sunset and sunrise will visibly meet and the night will be - almost - absent.

The white nights are now evidently upon us. My favorite time of the year has begun.

May 11th 2009, Time: 23:02








May 14th 2009, Time: 23:10

May 14, 2009

Season Of The Rainbows.

We are all familiar with that wonderful magical phenomenon that occurs during a summer rain. I love rainbows. Already as a child I found the colourful arch incredibly enchanted. I used to watch it emerge behind the sun drenched drops of rain, while it intensified on the canvas of the dark sky, only to slowly disappear into the air, as if it never existed at all.

Nowhere are there more rainbows than here in Denmark. I see them all the time in spring and summer, in the early mornings or late in the afternoons, almost always complete, like divine bows, so proximate, yet so beyond reach.

I am not surprised that these vibrant creations of nature have mesmerized mankind, giving rise to tales and stories of mystery and magic in fables and mythology.
However, the magic of the arch is nothing more than a refraction of light when it passes through a drop of water, causing the white light to separate into seven distinct colours; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Science aside, I still like to believe that some conjuring is indeed taking place - how could it not in creating such a magnificent piece of art.
My favorite still has to be the notion of the leprechaun and the secret hiding place for his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, as so well depicted in the movie musical, "Finian's Rainbow", which I recall fondly from my childhood.

Today, I still love to watch (and listen to) the so very romantic duet between Don Franck and Petula Clark; "Old Devil Moon".
They don't make music like this anymore.

May 13, 2009

"First" Meme.

The other day I became very curious about the origins of tags and memes. I have been tagged a few times and even "memed", if one can say so. I have even copied and "officially" stolen memes. But until now I never really understood the origins of the word nor the game itself. Being a scientist, I am very curious by nature and so of course I set on a hunt for knowledge.

So where do memes (or tags) come from?

First of all, I realized that I have been mispronouncing the word "meme" the whole time in my head. As I have never heard it being said out loud, I always just read it as it was written. Something to the extend of repeating "me", as in reference to my person, two times. That is however an error. Meme is pronounced more like "meem", riming with "dream". Another version is a short "mem", as a in "memory".

According to the Wikipedia, a definition of meme is (direct quote):
"...a postulated unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices that gets transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. The etymology of the term relates to the Greek word mimema for "something imitated".

The word meme originated in a book by Richard Dawkins from 1976, called The Selfish Gene. Here he initially defined meme as a noun which "conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation". In the book he presents a very interesting theory on the spread of information and ideas through "memes". Comparing them to natural "genes", he hypotheses, that just like these evolve by natural selection, even "memes" will undergo changes while they are passed on through the processes of variation, mutation, competition and inheritance. In simple words; any information that is passed on might have been chosen, changed and survived for its content.

Interestingly for me, this all gave rise to the science of "Memetics", which I have stumbled upon in my work as well.

But back to our Internet Memes. These are in theory; a quiz, a list, a joke, a clip, an animation or a story that is spread through the cyberspace via email, blog, internet forums or IM. These memes can stay the same or evolve and the rate in which they spread is depending on a natural selection due to their popularity.

So there you have it, a short history on the origins and function of meme's.

While doing my research, I stumbled upon a tag here. I liked it so much I decided to copy it and post it in order to contribute to the spreading of the meme information. Anyone who is up for a game, please feel free to play along.;)

1. Who was your FIRST prom date?
Prom doesn't exist in Scandinavian school system. Fortunately.

2. Do you still talk to your FIRST love?
No. It is a statue of a prince and I have never said a word to him.

3. What was your 1st alcoholic drink?
Czech Beer.

4. What was your FIRST job?
Delivering commercials in the weekends with my sister.

5. What was your FIRST car?
Red ‘77 T-bird.

6. Who was the FIRST person to text you today?
My telephone company.

7. Who is the FIRST person you thought of this morning?
The Irishman.

8. Who was your FIRST grade teacher?
It was a sweet old lady, but I do not remember her name.

9. Where did you go on your FIRST ride on an airplane?
To Italy.

10. Who was your FIRST best friend & do you still talk?
A girl I went to school with in Slovakia - and yes, I am still in touch with her.

11. Where was your FIRST sleep over?
I never had one. As a child that is.

12. Who was the FIRST person you talked to today?
Someone at the lab.

13. Whose wedding were you in the FIRST time?
Hmm, I remember the wedding, but not whose it was. I think the couple were friends of my parents, I might have been around seven years old.

14. What was the FIRST thing you did this morning?
Hugged Batcat.

15. What was the FIRST concert you ever went to?
Eric Clapton.

16. FIRST tattoo?
I do not have one.

17. First piercing?
First and last; my earlobes when I was about a month old. That is customary in my culture; all the little girls wear tiny, golden earrings since they are toddlers.

18. First foreign country you’ve been to?
Hungary.

19. FIRST movie you remember seeing?
Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). I must have been around 4 or 5 and I remember falling on the way from the cinema and ruining my beautiful coat.

20. When was your FIRST detention?
Never.

21. What was the first state you lived in?
Czechoslovakia.

22. Who was your FIRST roommate?
A cat called Gypsy.

May 12, 2009

I Am Batcat!

This is what Batcat looks like when his afternoon nap is brutally interrupted by someone (his staff). I managed to capture him in the middle of a yawn, which on the picture looks like a threatening roar.

I am not sure exactly on which day he was born, but it was in May 2003, which makes him six years old this month. Those years went by in a flash; actually, that year was a very significant one in my life and brought on many changes of a personal nature, among other things this was the year I found and bought my house.

Batcat was born on a small farm in the northern part of the Jutland peninsula. I have posted a few pictures from his childhood previously. The farm was owned by one of our student’s family and when the farm cat produced a litter of four kittens, our female student did her best to persuade me to get one.
Relentlessly she kept sending me the cutest pictures of all the kittens until my heart gave in and I decided to get a cat. Not just to me, but even to a colleague of mine, who chose eventually to go for the only completely black kitten. (I seem to remember that the student never worked in science again after finishing her education, but became some sort of a sales person. Well, this did not surprise me a bit, actually.)

I knew I wanted a black and white cat and there were two tuxedo kittens in the litter. One was beautiful, his colouring close to perfect. For a while, I was pretty sure he would be the one. Until the day before we actually drove to get our kittens. Suddenly I knew I wanted that skinny little kitten with very long legs, that looked hilariously funny and that was nicked named “Harry Potter” by the student, as he had a funny white mark in his forehead.
Well, his name became Samson, as I have always liked cats’ names to contain an "s". He was called Samson or “Samso-loono” as he was a truly “loony” kitten, always full of life and energy.
However, since the handsome Irishman came into my life, Samson is not called Samson anymore. Almost immediately upon their first meeting, he stated that Samson looked like a feline Batman - "BatCat”. With his two pointy black ears, he looks like he is wearing a BatCat costume - a true cat superhero. So, from that moment on, he is only called Samson by the vet.

Batcat is my most beloved feline friend. Being an inside cat, he looks almost like a toy. His paws are snow-white and always clean, his pads are soft and smooth - his whiskers are long as they never get worn and his fur is always pristine, luscious and shiny.
As no other cats ever enter his territory, which is the house, he is very laid back and relaxed, as he has no need to feel anxious about protecting it at all times. This also means he stays away from hostile encounters with other cats and animals that can spread diseases. My large windows offer views of surrounding nature where he can watch birds and other animals through out the year, without hunting or killing them, as other cats do.

He is Batcat and he knows it.

Happy Birthday Batcat!

video

May 11, 2009

Two Bottles Of Wine.

Recently I have described how much I enjoy watching constructions. In that context I mentioned that the neighbouring house is being heavily renovated. There is noise and dust and of course we are all anxiously watching, whether the extra windows, which are being added, will be a nuisance to us, the neighbours.

One day last week, upon my return home from work, after I parked my car in the drive way, I paused for a few moments to scrutinize the work, realizing for the first time that the addition will interfere somewhat with the seclusion of my front terrace. I immediately thought about the fact that the bushes lining the parking lot might have to be kept higher to maintain my privacy.
In that moment I could feel a sting of aggravation, which was not there before. A slight irritation appeared, one that made me somewhat mad with this change. Overall, I am very bad when it comes to changes. I often watch changes with dislike and I inspect them with strong pessimism.

With an exhale I locked my car and while contemplating what I have just seen I walked over to my front door. Immediately I noticed that something was lying at my doorstep. It looked like a wrapped gift. When I came closer, I could see it was a transparent gift-wrapping that contained two bottles of red wine. The card disclosed it was from a very reputable retailer. I was thrown and immediately assumed this was delivered to my door in error. No one ever gives me wine without a reason.

When I came inside I turned the card over to realize it was indeed intended for me. It was from my neighbours, the ones that carry out the renovation. It contained words of thankfulness and apologies for the interference the construction was causing all of us living in the vicinity. I felt suddenly not just startled, but also ashamed.

But then I came to the conclusion that I should feel blessed that I live in such a wonderful neighbourhood and that people can still surprise me with their kindness and generosity. Shortly after I came to the realization that the change the construction will result in will affect my life in a very small way, if at all.

May 10, 2009

"2 Days In Paris."

Yesterday the cloudy and rainy afternoon made for lovely escape into the world of cinema. I have always enjoyed the unusual movies that feature Julie Delpy. She has an ethereal, almost vulnerable charisma and her natural beauty is absolutely stunning. Appearing almost always with minimal makeup, she is a striking, intellectually sensual blond, impossible to miss in a crowd. "Before Sunrise" and the sequel, "Before Sunset", are on my top ten absolutely favorite movies of all time list, which now will include the splendid little gem of a movie called "2 Days In Paris". Watching it yesterday was a treat in every way. Julie not just starred in it, but she directed it and produced it as well, showing her absolute, multifaceted talent. The plot is simple, yet deep, dealing with the clash of two cultures, the problems of relationships and the big question; do we really know the person we are involved with? Does their past matter to us? Do we need to know about it? Eventually, it leaves us to ponder whether all that is really of importance, if we truly love someone. Love should ultimately be enough.

Weather-vise, this Sunday turned out to be a bit of everything. It was very windy, cloudy, with some sunshine here and there. Overall, just your typical late spring day in Scandinavia. The natives here would tell you that the wind is good as it keeps the air clean. Although I hate the wind, I must admit they are right in that respect. The quality of the air here is pristine. It should be bottled and exported, the Scandinavians would make a fortune.

My clematis is growing and it did benefit greatly from all the rain that fell this week. Now it longs for some sun and so do I. Lets hope it will come back again soon.

Happy Mothers Day to all the wonderful mothers out there, including mine.

May 09, 2009

My Front Terrace.

It is a strange Saturday in every way. A far cry weather-wise from last weekend, when the air was warm, no wind to speak of and the sky was clear.
I am always amazed how wrong the meteorologists seem to be at all times – almost. When I woke up this morning and checked the weather forecast, they promised full sun. However, now it is mostly cloudy with a threat of rain. Not my kind of weather at all.

Yesterday was a bad day for me; expecting a quiet day at work, I found myself instead dealing with a serious problem with one of the instruments, while I was all alone in the lab and the boss being currently out of town. This incident ruined not just my day, but also my night, which was sleepless and restless. Even today I can get a “creepy” feeling from time to time. I know I did the best I could, but I cannot help but wonder in retrospect whether I did all that I could anyway.

But, it is all in the past and if I have learned anything at all from previous experiences, it would be to try not to worry about something that is done and over with.

Even though it is cloudy now, this morning was sunny and I got to enjoy a moment of brief sunshine sitting on my front terrace, while having my morning coffee. As much as I love my back terrace, I have in recent years started to enjoy quiet mornings at my front terrace as well.

My house is a one out of five chain houses, all attached to each other forming an L shaped enclosed yard, which we all share. Each house however owns a small piece of land both in front and in the back of the houses. Although they all look the same from the outside, the houses are very different from each other both in size and layout. The size of land owned varies as well. I guess mine is the biggest front terrace. For many years I did not get to use it to its full extend as it was way to open and not very secluded. Five years ago however I realized that the two small decorative trees lining the terrace were attacked by some sort of a disease and were dying. Upon a visit of my parents and their advice and help, I decided to cut down the sick trees and plant four Cherry laurel bushes, which are sturdy and beautiful evergreens that bloom with white fragrant flowers in May. Well, actually I planted two in the autumn of 2004 and two in the spring of 2005. As January through March 2005 was a very cold period with huge amount of snow, I was really worried that my two newly planted (and expensive!) laurels were not going to survive. They were lying down for almost a month under the heavy snow and in the spring they lost all the leaves. But to my astonishment, in May that year they grew all the leaves back and today they line my terrace, creating a wonderful serene spot. The front garden is facing southeast, meaning it receives sun mostly in the earlier part of the day. Considering that the wind here almost always comes from the west, it is a wonderful, shielded spot and visitors that pass the bushes in bloom often stop to look at them with awe and admiration.

While spending those few precious moments of sunshine there this morning, my mind was slowly put to ease.