Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Re-Post: Denmark Summary (or How We Got Daned)

Original posted on: June 11th, 2004

After our stay in Sweden, we headed across to Denmark to see Copenhagen and visit Legoland.

The town square in Copenhagen

We had our fair share of experiences in Denmark. Enough that we coined a special phrase in it's honour, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Karl and I had just arrived in Copenhagen. Our first goal was to find our hostel, get rid of our bags and proceed to having a good time. Feeling good about ourselves, we decided to walk to our hostel with our packs on. (Kyla had successfully convinced us of the economy of this in Amsterdam.) Besides, the distance in the hostel guide was only 1.2 km, a pleasant stroll. So the two travellers, practically fresh of the plane from Canada, set out to walk to the hostel. We walked. Then we walked some more. We consulted our maps. We walked and then for good measure, we walked some more, four kilometers to be exact. What we had failed to notice was that the 1.2 km referenced distance was from a smaller train system that ran within the city.

Well, we were at the hostel now. The walk was behind us. Time for step two of the plan, dump the bags and head out on the town. Seemed simple enough, but there was one catch. The lockers were incredibly small, barely big enough to hold one of our bags and as a little extra salute to our predicament, they had conveniently located a shelf right in the middle. After walking four kilometers to get here, a shelf was not going to be standing in my way. A little creative redesigning of the lockers (which may or may not have been reversible) and we were finally off.

Excellent, now all we needed was an objective. Karl was set on seeing the Little Mermaid, so this seemed like a suitable goal. We were feeling light without our packs, so we decided to walk it. And walk we did, for quite a ways, which is saying something since we walk everywhere. Then we found it. To really understand this moment you need to understand that as we trekked (endlessly it seemed) through the city to the mermaid, on every other block, we would pass amazingly grandiose statues of soldiers and important figures. The Little Mermaid is well, little, very little in comparison to all the other statues. At this point you may be beginning to grasp how Karl and I drew the inspiration to coin a unique phrase for this country. If you haven't, don't worry, we are by no means done.

The Little Mermaid

It was not all clouds in Copenhagen though, along our trek to the mermaid we met a backpacker from New Zealand who let us in on a budget travelling secret. You see, you can buy beer in six packs in small grocery stores close to a lovely stretch along the pier filled with cafes. This allows you to drink sitting along the side, without paying exorbitant amounts, but more on that later. So we decided to do just that. (Pictured here with us is an Aussie friend we met at the train station, who shared in our adventures for the day).

Sitting pier side

Heading back into the main part of the city we decided to try a pub. Here our Aussie friend, Ross, poses with a beer which cost him 12.50 Canadian. Not wanting to keep you waiting any longer, the expression Karl and I came up with for such a situation is "daned." As in, "Ross has just been daned."


After our day in Copenhagen we decided to try and head straight for Legoland to keep our costs as low as possible. Legoland is located in Billund but has no train access and no cheap hostels that we were aware of. So we decided to stay in Vejle and go to Legoland by bus. Things didn't quite work as planned. Upon arriving we discovered that of all thing, it was a Danish holiday, meaning practically everything was closed down and we wouldn't be able to make it to Legoland that day as planned. So, to cut our losses we went down to a "beach" close to our hostel. If I was in charge of translation, the term "riverbank" comes to mind as being exceptionally suitable. Regardless we had walked out there and everything else was closed anyway, so I went for a swim.

Swimming in the river

The next day luck was on our side. Which is to say, we missed our bus from the hostel, had to then madly hitch a ride, barely made the bus leaving for Legoland, discovered we would have no where to put our bags, but we had arrived. Denmark couldn't keep us down, we were in Legoland!


As you can see, we were quite excited to reach our elusive goal. To take care of the problem of the bags we took shifts. Legoland was a great flashback to the fun I had playing as a kid with Lego.

Doing the tourist thing

The most amazing part for me was the detailed replication of many famous landmarks as well as a lot of Denmark. Here is a Lego replica of the pier were we drank our beers in an earlier picture.

Lego pier

Denmark, despite my telling of it, was a great place to visit. To put things in perspective, we had incredible luck in Amsterdam and were pampered in Tilburg and Sweden, so the fact that our time in Denmark gave us a harder time shouldn't be surprising. Besides, it makes for a fun story to tell.

Ed: This is the first re-post that I have significantly fleshed out the account from the original. Everything actually happened and I've still followed all the points I covered in the original post, but when I first posted this I was already in Germany and just trying to catch up with all the posts. I posted this on the same day as the Swedish one and it was mostly an excuse to get pictures up quickly and then get off the computer and continue partying with Karl's cousins. In some of the later posts, once I had given up on posting pictures, I opt instead to do more storytelling and for those I will try to keep the same voice that they were told in.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Re-Post: Sweden Summary

Original posted on: June 11th, 2004

After Tilburg (in the Netherlands) we headed up to Copenhagen to meet with relatives of mine from Sweden (Hermann and Birgit Dueck), who live an hours drive away from Copenhagen due to the new bridge/tunnel. We arrived quite late in the evening after a long days train ride and had a brief but enjoyable coffee and tea before going to bed.

The next morning Herman drove Karl and I to their summer house situated close to the coast. There we met Eva their daughter, who helped to show us around. The landscape was uncannily like Grand Beach here in Manitoba and although nothing was exactly the same, it still left me with the feeling at the back of my mind that, at any moment, I could round a bend and discover myself somewhere I'd already been.

A pleasant stroll

Walking back from the beach towards the cabin was a small village that had been moved from northern Sweden to protect if from artillery exercizes.

A traditional village

After our walk along the beach we took a drive up to Ales Stenar, a set of stones in the shape of a viking ship. Here Karl randomly poses with some cows on the way.

Karl and some cows

Here are the stones, experts on the matter haven't agreed on what they're for, so I'm afraid I can't tell you either.

The stones

The view from where the stones were was amazing. The sky was bright blue and the green cliff dropped sharply to the sea below.

Observing the view

After coming down from the cliff we encountered a group of Swedish school children. In America the kids sometimes wear their pants low with boxers. Here a Swedish child appears to be trying to copy the trend, with the exception that he's wearing tight pants and what looks likes kids pajama pants. Always ready to document local culture, we've included this picture for you.

On assignment

Before leaving to return home we stopped back at the summer house for coffee and sweets. The Swedish drink a lot of coffee. According to statistics provided by Hermann (it's been a while, so hopefully I get this right), the Swedes drink the most coffee of any nation on earth and the top five countries are dominated by the Scandinavians.

Statistically normal

The next day we took off to see more of southern Sweden. However, not before posing in a supermarket with Swedish meatballs.

Swedish meatballs in their native habitat

Our host, Hermann, had a great sense of humour. As an example, when asked to teach us some Swedish phrases, the first one he gave us was, "What is the size of the currency reserve in your country?"

In order to bring you this find blog you are reading, we looked around the university town of Lund for an Internet cafe. While there, we decided to view an old church in the town as well. Interestingly, the church was mixed throughout with Christian as well as Astrological symbols.

Inside the church

Not willing to stop our stereotyping with Swedish meatballs, Karl and I visited an Ikea in Sweden.


Sweden was incredibly beautiful and filled with many old buildings dotting the countryside. As a bit of an exception here is a town they are building completely from scratch to look exactly like an old medieval town, down to the "fortress wall" they were building around it. It was a bit bizarre walking through it.


No exception to the visual appeal of the country was both the home and backyard of our hosts. Here Karl relaxes in the backyard while journaling.

The good life

Due to the nice weather, we enjoyed many of the meals outdoors. We were spoiled royally through out our stay, and here is but one example of the many amazing meals we received.

A casual lunch

Thanks again to Hermann, Margit and family for showing us such an enjoyable time in Sweden.

Ed: I particularly love that last picture for a number of reasons. The picture captures the bright vivid colours that remind me so much of Sweden. It captures the European style of eating that I love so much. As a bonus the bright yellow umbrella and blue sky are reminiscent of the Swedish flag. For me this picture embodies Sweden.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Oh Google, what can't you do?

Google just launched Page Creator today, which means 100MB of hassle free file hosting. This combined with their aquistion of KeyHole and subsequent free release as Google Earth, gives me the opportunity to easily do something I've been wanting to do for a while. Put up Google Earth references into my blog (also a free Google product), when posting about my travels.

To get an idea of where all this is going and if you have Google Earth (and if you're running Windows or Mac, I don't know why you'd hold back), this link will hopefully make all that clear.

Pretty much everything I do on the computer, whether that's web browsing, editing office documents, listening to music, posting pictures or even running my operating system, can now be done for free. At one time free alternatives were somewhat shoddy, but today I see no dissentives to doing everything using free products and services. In fact in many cases the free alternative is better than the one you would pay for. As a thank-you, I hope to play advocate in the near future and post a run through of some of the excellant products and services that are out there to be had for free.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Valentine's Fundraising Dinner

Last weekend I had the pleasure putting together a dinner as a Senior High fundraiser for my church. I posted earlier about some of the planning and advertizing, but a few days ago I had a chance to put all that effort to use. It was great and what follows is a quick summary.

Some red peppers lined up
Readying the ingrediants

The day before the actual dinner, Dave Allen (the previous events chef), my mother (the seasoned pro) and I got together in the kitchen and did as much preparation as possible. My mother was invaluable in evaluating the dishes beforehand and offering tips to streamline the preparation.

Mom steaming the peppers
Mom steaming the peppers

Although sometimes, I must admit, I didn't listen and created more work for myself. For example the red pepper hearts that I wanted to use for garnishing the chicken. The hearts are made up of two pieces each and they need to go on the chicken in the short window in which we are plating them. Common sense would dictate this as extraneous and possibly one of many things that could could make us late in getting the entrée to the table. On the other hand, I thought it would look nice.

The red pepper hearts
The hearts in question

After preparing as much as we could, it didn't take long before it was the night of the event. I had intrusted Ruth Maendal with doing the room's deocrations and she didn't dissapoint.

The table setting
The table setting

For the final night I had the added help of my good friend Curtis Todd and later my brother. Here Curtis and Dave add layers to the tarts.

Adding different cheeses to the tarts
Production time

After getting everything successfully in the ovens (an exact fit, we couldn't have fed more than the 64 plates we were preparing), it was time for the serving rush. This is one of my favourite times in the kitchen. The heat of the moment, yelling instructions, making last minute judgement calls to account for the unexpected.

The assembly line
Plating the appetizers
Fresh tossed salad with three cheese tart
The appetizer

The appetizers went flawlessly. The butteriness and warmth of the three cheese tart was the perfect offset for the fresh salad and tangy vinagrette. I loved the way this course turned out.

The main course was even crazier to get ready and out on time, so I don't have pictures of the production line, but I did manage to get a picture of the finished product.

Stuffed red pepper and chicken breast
The main course

I thought the main course worked out okay. The stuffed peppers had mellowed out nicely in the steamer. The saffron infused spiced rice with pine nuts was good, but nothing to write home about. The chicken parmigiana style chicken breasts (Curtis' last minute idea) were great and had a nice depth of flavour. The only exception I took with was the bed of vegetables we placed it on. We hadn't baked them on a grill, so they had sat in there own juice for a bit. This caused the eggplant to come out weak. It didn't taste meaty enough and had the wrong texture. However, there wasn't a lot of eggplant in the mixture and the other vegetables still worked out great, so I couldn't be too dissapointed.

The dessert had been prepared by the Senior High, so after that it was all out of my hands.

The spread
The dessert table

All in all it was a great night and a lot of fun. A big thanks to my main helpers as well as all the kids that helped with plating and serving. They were enthusiastic about helping and did a fantastic job.

Mardi Gras Social

This past summer Geoff and I had talked about getting a group of us to go down to New Orleans for New Years. Sometimes good ideas are just talk, so during a camping trip for a friend's birthday I had convinced myself that as soon as I got back in the city, I was going to figure out the logistics of the trip. As luck would have it, listening to the radio during the car ride back, the hosts began to banter about how New Orleans may never exist as we once knew it. In the course of my short disconnection from the world we almost lost one of the world's most famous cities. It was a surreal experience.

Although things turned out bad, they didn't turn out as bad as they could have and New Orleans is now fighting its way back. Which is all really a long winded ancedote for saying that, although I didn't get to experience New Orleans this New Years, I did get a little taste this past weekend.

Last Saturday our dance studio threw an amazing party. Replete with everything a good party should have, great music, atmosphere, food and most of all people. You can catch a glimpse of that through Theresa's photo album or my photo set.

Posing at our table
The Mardi Gras group

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Nearly 1,000 people drawn by Internet postings and word-of-mouth converged near San Francisco's Ferry Building on Tuesday night for a half-hour outdoor pillow fight.

SAN FRANCISCO / Pillow fight erupts amid shrieks, giggles / Big crowd lured by Internet postings, word of mouth

Social organization always interests me. It's fascinating to watch the way the world is reshaping outside of traditional state boundaries. Or more precisely using the existing structure for its own ends. For example, the way terrorism works and currently flourishes or, in a less negative example, the way Banksy communicates.

Hot linked image from the Guardian
Banksy graffiti

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Strictly Business

This past week I had the opportunity to go on a business trip to Tampa Florida. I could definately get used to that style of living, suits and expense accounts.

Relaxing at the Hyatt
Exhibit A: The working man

As a Winnipeger, the immediate question asked after leaving during winter is, "What was the temperature like?" Farenheit doesn't really occupy any reference point in my mind, so in qualitive terms it was nice enough that, pretty much every night I would take a swim in the outdoor pool and not feel cold.

The pool at the Hyatt
Exhibit B: Water which is not frozen

Tampa was at times both a beautiful city with lots of character and a faceless victim of corporatization. On first landing in Tampa, I went scavanging for food along with some guys I met at the hotel. The city's downtown contained many wonderful and architecturally interesting buildings, but many were vacant, some with boarded up windows and not a soul was to be seen on the streets. The downtown is a weekday show, since it was a Saturday that I arrived, it seemed that everybody had retreated to the comforts of suburbia.

Which isn't to say that Tampa doesn't party. Later that night I headed into Ybor City, which is a part of the city that still retains influence from it's Spanish heritage. The place is alive with nightclubs and restaurants of all sorts. I stopped in at a small Greek restaurant with absolutely fantastic food and obscenely loud music. As part of the "cultural experience" they had live belly dancers, which was the reason for said music. Not convinced that gyrating bellies went well with the consumption of food, I ducked into the adjoining room. Adjusting to my surroundings, I quickly realized that floor was heavily littered with napkins and broken dishes. Upon further inquiry, I was informed that this was the aftermath of the belly dancers. For all the restaurant's quirks, though, the food was exquisite. As a small token of appreciation I toasted the meal with a parting shot of Ouzo. Feeling perfectly sated, I headed off into the night.

Ybor city
Exhibit C: The nightlife

The following day was notable in that it was my first chance to watch a Super Bowl from within the United States. What's the difference? The commercials. In the US you get the product of millions of dollars worth of investment. In Canada you get reruns of budget ads by Canadian Tire repeated every commercial break. With good intentions I set out to go and see myself some Super Bowl commercials.

Things didn't turn out as planned. Watching an hour of football to see a few minutes of commercials didn't seem as worth it when faced with the task. So I spent the first half asleep in my hotel room. The third quarter relaxing in the outdoor pool and the fourth with small glimpses of the game while eating dinner in the lobby.

The hotel lobby
Exhibit D: Watching the Super Bowl

The following day I had no pressing business matters to attend to, so I spent the better part of it exploring the area surrounding Hyde Park. The area is quite close to the bay and features many upscale and fancy houses, so it was to my delight that I discovered many of them flew the Jolly Roger (The ol' skull and cross bones to ye landlubbers). Although it is possible that actual pirates would lead a lucrative life with nice houses in suburban neighbourhoods, the real reason that so many houses flew pirate flags was the Gasparilla festival, which is celebrated at the end of January every year in Tampa.

Pirate flag on house
Exhibit E: A pirate's life

Much of the Hyde Park shopping area is a commercially airbrushed version of what an old shopping district should look like. However, just on the outskirts of this area lies a little house turned tea shop and restaurant. I immediatly took to the place and enjoyed a beautiful sunny day sitting on the patio and reading over my script for a church play. Later the proprietor came out and we had a nice chat. It seems she was having trouble competing with the pre-packaged shops around her, but she was in good spirits and I think if people gave it a chance they would grow to love her little place.

A little tea shop
Exhibit F: The tea house

After that it was strictly business for me. You know, drinking wine pier side with a live band playing ("networking" on the expense claim). All in all it was good trip, but Winnipeg is home and I'm happy to be back with friends.

Support Our Teams

I read this article in Esquire after the 2004 Summer Olympics. In true Chuck Klosterman style, it took a facet of pop culture and made me look at it in a new way and laugh at the same time. With the Winter Games at our doorstep, I thought this was a fitting read.

This is when I realized that the Olympics are designed for people who want to care about something without considering why.

KeepMedia | Esquire: Boycott the Olympics, Save America

(Hopefully the link brings you there without needing a subscription)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

An evening at In Ferno's Bistro

This year Winnipeg is doing a fixed price menu event, where some of the city's finest restaurants are offering three course meals. Last night we took advantage of this event and went to In Ferno's Bistro, a little gem of a restaurant in our city's French district.

Pedro and Sherri chatting
Chatting over dessert

The restuarant itself is very unpretentious and quite small. Those of the fairer gender mentioned a few times that the place was "cute" (I don't claim to be an expert on such matters).

The appetizers were outstanding. I had the lobster cheesecake with mesclun greens and lemon thyme vinaigrette. The chef clearly had fun with this one and it's always good to eat something that somebody obviously enjoyed making. The presentation was excellant and they played off of the "cheesecake" idea by offering the lobster cheesecake in a small cake like wedge. The salsa that accompanied it played well with both the lobster and the mesclun greens. An absolute treat!

A good appetizer makes you anticipate the next part of the meal. In this case I was expecting a continuation of the fusion style, subtle touches and interesting pairings, but when the entrées arrived it was clear that they were showcasing some of their more traditional French Canadian fair (both of which the restaurant is known for). I had ordered the lambshanks with maple balsamic reduction and this came with a traditional baked potato and vegetable purée (as did all the entrées). The flavours were very robust and warm and the lambshanks were incredibly tender. I wasn't as amazed as with the appetizer, but overall it was still quite good.

With such a traditional comfort food style entrée, I was glad that the desserts which followed up were very simple and straightforward. Mine was the cappuccino crème brûlée, which was executed well and the perfect end to a wonderful meal.

If you draw any indication from the number of photos that were taken, you will notice that we were all too wrapped up in the great food and excellant company to fully document the event. However, we did take a few.