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Archive for December, 2015

OK for Christmas?


I may have just ordered a goose for my Christmas dinner…

Goose

A 12-pounder, to be exact… I do hope I will have some guests for dinner, because otherwise I’ll be eating confit of goose, goose paté, goose rillette and so on for ages to come! Though I suppose worse things could happen…

The goose will, though, be delivered quite dead and without feathers. (Or so I hope!)

In Denmark Christmas is in the evening on the 24th and really begins with the big Christmas dinner. It can be roast duck, roast pork or roast goose. The trimmings are the same: Braised and pickled red cabbage, boiled potatoes, caramelized small potatoes, gravy. And then you can add on as you like with other roast dinner trimmings. I like to do English roast potatoes instead of the boiled potatoes (because they’re SO much better, especially when roasted in goose fat), roasted Brussels sprouts, apple and prune stuffing for the goose, and maybe a waldorf salad.

After the roast comes dessert, which is risalamande, a Danish way of saying the French “riz á l’amande” – rice with almonds – though it has absolutely nothing to do with France. It’s a rice pudding with chopped almonds in it,and one whole almond that earns the winner of the almond a prize. The pudding is served with a warm cherry sauce, and I preserved some sour cherries just for this sauce in autumn after helping my uncle with his cherry harvest. Depending on who my Christmas guests are, the sauce will either be made with the cherries preserved in rum or the cherries preserved in syrup.

You see, I’m not quite sure who my guests will be… I’ve volunteered as a “Christmas host” with the Red Cross, so my guests could be lonely people who don’t have anybody to spend Christmas with, people who can’t afford to celebrate Christmas themselves or for that matter a group from the local refugee camp. (Hence the two options for the cherry sauce; Muslims are welcome at my rather secular Christmas where the star on the tree is really the only religious symbol, and that’s a fairly subtle one.)

I bought a tree last week, actually. It’s a bit smaller than what I got for Christmas in the old Copenhagen apartment, but my ceilings are lower and I still need room for the top star – and a safe distance from the upper-most candles on the tree to the ceiling! I mean, you didn’t expect me to put electric lights on my tree, did you?

It will still be around 7′, though, so not a tiny thing. It’s currently standing in the unheated garden room to keep fresh and will be taken inside in the morning of the 24th and decked out with paper ornaments of various forms – woven hearts, woven stars, woven cones for candy or cookies – and candles. I’ve been looking for nice baubles for a while but just didn’t find any that were my style, but I did find the perfect candle holders, which is more important.

Oh, how I look forward to Christmas… Even if spending Christmas with strangers turns out to be a nightmare I can always just put fresh candles on my tree and celebrate a second Christmas alone, and there’s BOUND to be some left-over goose!

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I’ve started tearing into my house. Literally.

Because I’ll be having guests for Christmas (part of a Red Cross scheme where you can offer to host Christmas for people who are either lonely or can’t afford to celebrate), the large front room will be left as-is for now. The carpet is ugly, the wallpapering poorly executed and the painting erratic, but it works as a large room to host a big dinner party with rooms for couches at one end.

So I am tackling the small sitting room off the kitchen first; the one I want to knock through into, so I don’t have to bee too careful.

6 layers of wallpaper… 6! Then a layer of wooden fibreboard – not ideal wall cladding in terms of fire hazards – and behind that half an inch of polystyrene as insulation – even worse in terms of fire hazards! Then another two layers of wall paper, a layer of concrete render to make the walls even and then…

So far I’ve only made a couple of 5″-diameter exploratory holes in the concrete render, but behind the concrete is an uneven, whitewashed wall. And it looks beautiful!

Tomorrow I plan to scratch off the whitewash to see what the actual fabric of the internal wall is, but this house is definitely rich in character and has the potential to become something quite amazing.

It feels so surreal to have actually peeled back the internal surface to the original wall, even if it’s just a few small holes so far. Attacking a house with a crowbar feel so violent, but it is also an act of love, because I want to know this house and make it as beautiful as it can be. Who knows what hides above the lowered ceilings!

The project is much bigger than expected, though, because there are so many layers before the actual wall. It will not be quick work, and it will not be easy.

So I’ve made a plan… There’s a gas cooker and a sink in the scullery, so if I start with the small sitting room and then move on to the kitchen I’ll still have a fully functioning house with a sitting room, cooking space and bedroom while I create my dream farmhouse kitchen. Bit by bit, this can be done.

I am so in love with this house. The generous space inside, the lovely garden outside and – of course – the views… Those views… When I stand in the shower I can see the local lake! Also when I do the dishes (NOT in the shower, obviously.) And the front room has a view of a field with a small clump of trees midway on its crest…

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New House…


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My first thought when I arrived at my new house: Oh, this isn’t so bad; I can work with this.

Second thought: Sheer panic and OH FUCK, WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO???

Third thought: I think I might be in love with this house.

When I stand by the kitchen sink I look down through the garden, past the old laundry house and across the field down to the lake.

When I look out the windows in the front room I can see the top of one of the local church towers peaking up over the field across the road.

When I look in the mirror I can see a little boy grinning because Santa came early and brought him exactly what he wanted for Christmas.

Oh, and the garden… Hydrangeas, hellebores, grape vines, asters, roses, physalis, strawberries, apple trees, ferns, forsythia, perennial sweet-peas, kolkwitzia, and so much more that I will only slowly begin to discover! And those views… Fields, small woods, a lake…

I now know that if this project becomes too much I can scale it back to nothing but painting walls and ceilings and laying new carpet – and still be happy with the house. It’s nice to have a plan B – but I’ll still do my best to make plan A happen…

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