Engagement Photos

It was chilly in Minnesota this weekend (although according to the Northerners it was “really nice”). I no longer consider myself a true northerner. As far as I’m concerned, Iowa is the South. It’s typically 20 degrees warmer there than in ND/MN in the winter. Pretty big difference.

Anywho. Kyle and I braved the elements to have our engagement pictures taken outdoors on Saturday, by one of my lovely and talented sisters, Jen. She did a great job and kept us (ok maybe mostly me – Kyle was a good sport but I think he thought we were a teeny bit crazy) laughing the whole time. Our shoot involved a couple of outfit changes. These took place in an abandoned farm outbuilding. I’m not sure what the building’s original purpose was, but I was grateful for the windbreak, rotten floors and all! Here are a few of my favorite pics Jen captured. Check out more of her work here.





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Big fat fishies

Merry Christmas!! I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season.

I’m enjoying spending some time with my family. Today my dad treated my sister, brother-in-law, and me to an off-shore fishing trip. (We’re currently in Florida, which is a heckuva lot warmer than Iowa right now!) It was super fun! There were somewhere around 16ish people on the boat. I didn’t count. But that’s my best guess. At any rate, I have to brag a little bit about what awesome fisherpeople we are, because out of everyone on the boat, my family caught the three largest fish…

…sort of. My sister double-hooked a 24″ grouper with a little old guy in a green jacket, my dad double-hooked a 25″ one with the girl standing to his right, and he and I double-hooked one that was 25.5″. The captain, Chad, said it was the first time he’s ever seen three fish be double-hooked in one outing. I guess the groupers were greedy today. They must not have had lefse with their Christmas feast yesterday.

I don’t know if “double-hooked” is the correct term, which probably shows you precisely how awesome a fisherperson I truly am, but it was neat to catch so many big fish. Even with my dad working his reel, doing half the work, it was still really hard to drag that thing to the surface! Once it was near the surface, the boat workers scooped it out with a big net. They also cleaned everyone’s fish when we got back to the dock.

As the fish were being filleted, Little Green Jacket Man tried to con the Captain into giving him my sister’s share of their grouper in addition to his own. We squashed him down faster than a gasoline-soaked cat running through a campfire. We were already annoyed with LGJM because he butted his way smack dab into the middle of our family when we started catching fish. “There’s no fish on my side of the boat, mind if I squeeze in here?” His hook was in the water before he finished the sentence. Um, sure? We didn’t really care too much about that, but we draw the line at stealing our fillets.

On the way back, we saw a water tornado (cool!), a bald eagle, and we had a pair of dolphins following us, jumping the wake.

Here are some pictures. Click on them to open a nice photo viewer.

Rewind to France

I’ve been feeling guilty since July about not posting anything on my trip to Spain and France this summer. Time for that feeling to go away! I scrounged my emails and found a pretty funny one, sent to my parents and a couple of friends on my last full day in Paris. The email chronicles how my day, which started on a high note (getting into the Louvre in less than 10 minutes!),  spirals steadily downward, ending with stinky cheese for supper. The whole experience wasn’t funny at the time, but I got a kick out of reading about it today. Hopefully you will too! I’ll add some pictures:


July 23, 2012:

I got up at 7:45 this morning to go to the Louvre to try to beat the lines. The other girls [three of my cousins I was with] were still in bed when I left. They were going to go shopping today. I didn’t get to the museum until after it had opened, and there was already a really long line for security. I thought you had to have your ticket before going through security, so I asked a guard where to buy one. He directed me toward a little gift shop. There were only about 5 people in line so I didn’t have to wait long at all for that. Then I went back to the security line, but I was holding the ticket in my hand, and a guard came up to me and said, “You have a priority ticket, so if you go up and outside the big glass pyramid (I was under it – there are a couple different entrance lines), you can cut to the front of the line.” So I did and I got into the museum in under 10 minutes! Pretty lucky! Usually it takes a few hours!
Turns out that ticket (I still have no idea how I ended up getting a priority one – I didn’t ask for that kind and it was the same price as a regular one) also let you bypass the heavier security. All I had to do was open my backpack and let a guy glance inside it, instead of waiting in line to send it though the scanner. There were a few hundred people in that line. They would have seen my waterbottle then too and taken it away.
So anyway, once I was in, I went straight to the Mona Lisa. Man, was it jammed in that room! And I had a feeling that wasn’t as full as it gets. I got as far as only having one row of people standing in front of me before deciding I could see well enough (being tall has its advantages), taking a picture, and then turning around and fighting my way back out. Then I went and looked at some other paintings by daVinci and other people and then I went to the sculpture area. Paintings only hold my attention for a very short amount of time.
Crowd in front of Mona Lisa

Crowd in front of Mona Lisa

They have so much stuff in that museum!  It’s kind of unbelievable. I’d say 3 out of every 4 people I saw were clinging to a map and trying to figure out where they were. I gave up on the map and started just asking the attendants. It was way easier. I managed to find the Hammarabi Code stone and then I quit looking for specific things and just wandered. And then I ate lunch and found 5 euros on the ground. For real. Next I looked at Napoleon III’s apartments, which (in my opinion) are fancier than Versailles palace, and then I stumbled across some Sevres porcelain displays, and then I was exhausted and overwhelmed so I left.
Sevres Porcelain

Sevres Porcelain

By then it was near 4:00 so I went to the Sacre Coeur basilica.  I wish I had been able to get the other girls to go with me to that. It was so amazing I almost cried. They ask you not to take pictures inside, so I didn’t, and I can’t show you any of it 😦 . Lots of other people were taking pictures, though, even though there were signs everywhere and a guy was running around trying to get them all to stop. Anyway, the domes were WAY higher than I thought they would be. The stained glass was super pretty, and there were hundreds of mosaics made with little tiny pieces of glass or ceramic all over, in the most unexpected places.
Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

If you guys ever go to France and are short on time, skip Notre Dame and go straight to the SC. The basilica is in the Romano-Byzantine style. It’s on the top of what seems to be Paris’s only hill. You have to climb a lot of stairs and steep streets to get there. But it’s in a really neat area. [Neighborhood is called Montmartre.] Lots of shops and cafes and stuff like that – sort of what I imagined all of Paris to be like before we got there. Seemed like it was the “artsy” part of town. I guess Van Gogh’s house is up there and so is Toulouse-Lautrec’s, but I didn’t know that until I’d already left. I left kind of without thinking a whole lot because after I got out of the church I had a very France-hates-America-and-I’m-going-to-let-you-know-it experience that wasn’t very fun.
Steps in Montmartre

Steps in Montmartre

You can pay to climb to the top of one of the domes, which gives a really good view since it’s on a hill, and to go into the crypts. There’s an automatic ticket machine, but it’s set up to only accept credit cards. Specifically, credit cards with chips, which I don’t have because US credit card companies are having a hard time getting with the program. So I got in line to buy my ticket from a person, and when I got to the front, I saw everyone was paying with credit cards and it was working, so I figured it would work for me too (the checker-outers can bypass the chip thing manually somehow).
I dug my card out from where I was hiding it (in a moneybelt which I shoved way below the waistband of my shorts, practically into my underwear) and had it ready when I got up to the counter. I slid it under the little slot, and said (pleasantly, I thought), “I’d like one ticket for the crypt and the dome, please.” The lady promptly pushed it back at me and said in an unmistakably nasty voice, “NO.” So I confusedly said, “What?” I didn’t understand what she was talking about. Then she said, “No cards.” I was still confused, so I said, “But everyone in front of me paid with cards.” (I saw 3 people do it, and one of them was a British lady who had been standing in line talking about how her card didn’t work in the machine because it didn’t have a chip.) You know what her response was?? “Yes, but just not you.” Same lovely tone of voice. And that’s a word-for-word quote. I was completely blown away.
I was kind of in shock when I asked why, and she said, “Well, your card is probably no good.” I could NOT believe it. I was speechless. I said, “It is, but…” I took out a 20E bill and shoved it under the slot. Know what she did then? She very primly said, “NO,” to that too!! Then I got mad. I said, “That’s all I have. That’s it. I have nothing else to give to you.” Card or cash. Not sure what other forms of payment exist in France. As I stood there, fuming, cash and credit card on the counter, she whips this out, “Whoa! Calm down, calm down!!” Like she was trying to come up with a reason not to sell me a ticket.
I wasn’t about to give her that reason, so I stood there silently. Ball’s in your court, lady. I had no idea what she wanted from me. Probably to piss me off, and to let me know that I, as an American, am not worthy to see anything beautiful in this country.  It worked, but she wasn’t done yet! The total was 8E, so when she finally took my cash, I was due 12E back. Instead of giving me bills (they have 5s and 10s in paper, and 1s and 2s in coin), she gave me all 12E in coin, mostly 1s. She slapped it down on her side of the counter like I was magically supposed to scrunch my hand under the 3″ wide x 1/2″ high slot to retrieve it. Last time I checked, I don’t have jello for bones. I just stood there and didn’t move or say anything. After about 30 seconds of silence, where the couple behind me started peering over my shoulder, she grudgingly pushed the pile under the slot. I think she thought I’d be mad about getting that much coin since it’s so heavy, but I was actually glad because the metro station ticket machines don’t take chipless cards or paper bills, so we’ve been hoarding change for them all the time. And now I wouldn’t have to worry about doing that tomorrow en route to the airport.
Anyway, I FINALLY got my ticket and I went down into the crypt, where I promptly started to cry. Luckily, it was pretty empty people-wise down there. Unluckily, that meant the acoustics were great because there weren’t lots of voices or footsteps to cover sounds up. So the awful choking/trying not to cry and failing sounds I was making reverberated like crazy off the stone walls, floor, and ceiling. I wanted to try to sit in a corner and hide for a little while but I was scared I’d trigger some sort of security system. So then I wanted to leave but I forced myself to stay down there and look at everything. No way was I going to let that lady run me off.
After I sort of quit crying, I went up to the dome. There are 300 steps, and I bet 275 of them are in spiral staircases. It was a pretty neat climb. The spin of the stairs is really tight, so you can’t see anyone in front of or behind you. Being up on the dome was really cool too, and there weren’t very many people up there, unlike on the top of the Eiffel tower. You can see lots of the major monuments, and take your time looking and taking pictures because nobody’s pushing you or waiting for your spot. I took lots of pictures but haven’t looked at them yet. [Side note, the basilica is newer than I thought it was when I visited – it was started in 1875 and consecrated in 1919.]
On the main dome of Sacre Coeur

On the main dome of Sacre Coeur

Looking out at the city from the dome

Looking out at the city from the dome. Paris is WAY bigger (area-wise) than I thought it was.

After taking lots of pictures from the dome, I thought I was pulled together enough to go back down and try to get a picture of the whole church from the front. It was super hot, so I bought an ice-cold water from a guy on the street who was selling them out of a 5-gallon pail. A few seconds after we finished our transaction, some other guy standing a little ways away said something, and guy #1 grabbed his bucket and stashed it behind a garbage can, then leaned there nonchalantly. A few beats later, two police officers came walking by. So I’m pretty sure I bought illegal water! Ha!
Then I got my picture taken in front of the building, and then I got on the metro. I decided to go to the Arc de Triomphe as my last stop for the day. Well, I went to the metro station called, “La Defense,” which was labeled with an extra brown tag (for historical markers) that said, “le Grande Arche” (sp?) Naturally, I assumed this was the stop I wanted. It wasn’t. Turns out there’s another big arch in Paris. This one’s uber modern. I looked at it for about 5 seconds then turned around to try to find the other one. I decided I’d buy two metro tickets, since this was a main station and the ticket machines took paper money. That way I’d have one to get to the AdT and one to get to my hotel.
Le Grande Arche

Le Grande Arche

Well, they were the wrong kind of ticket. I got to the AdT just fine, but when I went back into the metro station, neither of them worked, not even the brand-new one (the old one should have been good for another hour too). So I tried to buy another ticket, but there was only 1 machine and it only accepted credit cards. You guessed it – credit cards with chips. OMG. So then I tried to ask the guy in line behind me if I gave him a 2E coin, would he buy me a ticket with his card please? The tickets were only 1.70E, so he would have gotten a tiny bit extra. But he pretended he didn’t understand me, even though I knew he did. His wife did too – she tugged on his arm and looked at me and said something to him, but he just shook his head and refused to look me in the eye. I thought I was going to cry again, so I went outside and started walking down the Champs-Elysees. I managed not to cry and I figured I’d hit another metro sooner or later. It took about 15 minutes, but I did, and that one had a machine that took coin, so I finally got to buy a ticket.
Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

There was also an older man working at the help desk there, so I decided to ask him if I could buy the special ticket you need to get to the airport, since by then I was thinking I’d have trouble with that tomorrow, based on my luck today. They’re more expensive than a regular ticket (by like 8E) and I didn’t want to run into a person-less booth or a broken machine or not enough change somehow or something crazy tomorrow. He was super nice. So nice, in fact, that I started crying when he innocently asked me if I was enjoying my day in Paris. Poor guy. After I explained to him (in a mix of really awful French and English) that it wasn’t his fault I was crying, he brought me into the little room off the sellers’ window area and let me sit down and gave me paper towels for my nose. He wasn’t surprised that I’d run into some nasty Anti-American stuff. He apologized for it even though it wasn’t his fault and said, “We not all like that. Just some, are ‘orrible.”
He sold me a ticket for tomorrow, and then I finally got on my train, but I wasn’t thinking and I got off at the wrong stop. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t find my connecting train and then I realized I’d gotten off 2 stations early. So I went back and got on the next No. 1 and FINALLY got back to my neighborhood. I stopped in a grocery store and bought some bread and fruit and yogurt and a cheese sampler tray for supper and breakfast tomorrow. Some of the cheese smells a little bit like feet. They’re all unlabeled so I have no idea what I’m eating. I’ve tried 3/4 of them and they’ve been good. The fourth one is a really strange texture and it smells the worst. I’m not sure I’m going to be brave enough to try it. I think one of the good ones is Brie, and another one is some sort of blue cheese. The weird one is white and grainy and in a ball. And it stinks.

Settling in

Hey! Did you know it’s possible to burn food in a crockpot? I didn’t. But I learned about it last night. I put some pork, potatoes, water, and bouillon in my trusty cooker on Tuesday night so I could take some tasty food with me to the studio for lunch on Wednesday. It worked well and lunch was delicious. But I only took half of the crockpot’s contents with me – I left the other half in the pot on low, thinking I could eat it when I got home.

Well, I didn’t get home until 11pm, but I thought it would be fine since I added more water before leaving in the morning. How wrong I was…. Apparently it’s not a good idea to leave things in there for 24 hours, even if it is on low the whole time. Despite the fact that there was plenty of juice left, the meat and potatoes were more than a little toasty by the time I got home. I ate the meat, figuring it was a “smoked bbq” flavor anyway, so the scorched flavor just added a little something extra, right? But I couldn’t choke down the potatoes. Bleh.

At any rate, some of you have been asking for pictures of my new place in Iowa. So here you go!

We’ll start at the very beginning (they say it’s a very good place to start):

All of my stuff, crammed into the first 3 feet of a 28′ long trailer, ready to move from MA to IA.

I moved using ABF Moving. I’d highly recommend them to anyone out there, and I’d use them again in a flash. They were super nice, flexible, and their prices were by far the most reasonable of all the options I looked at.

My lovely carrrr. (Now that I’m back in the Midwest I can start pronouncing my Rs again.) Full full full.

ABF lets you pack all your stuff in their trailer. Then they fill the rest of the truck with freight that they drop off en route to your destination. So, that meant I drove myself and my car from MA to IA. The last week of August. With no air conditioning. Good times. Needless to say, I got a lot of strange looks when I stopped to buy gas or food or sunseeds. Why? Because the back half of my clothes was sweat-soaked from being pressed against the seat and the front half was dry from being blasted by my open window at 70-75mph.

“Fruit flies” in the Super 7 motel in Coralville, IA. STAY AWAY. STAY FAR FAR AWAY.

While I’m happy to recommend ABF to anyone under the sun, I can’t emphasize enough how far away you should stay from the Super 7 Motel in Coralville, Iowa. My room was filthy and it was filled with what I decided to tell myself were “fruit flies.” I’m really hoping they weren’t fleas. I killed about 20 of them on the bathroom mirror without making a dent in their population. I gave up and complained. It didn’t get me anywhere. I was told the manager would call me, but of course she didn’t. (I didn’t have much hope after reading the note to employees, posted behind the counter where I wasn’t supposed to be able to see it, stating something along the lines of, “Don’t call me unless the person complaining ABSOLUTELY refuses to leave and you feel unsafe. -manager”) Lovely.

I got to the studio the first week of September. Here are some pictures of that:

Classroom at the studio (to the left of the main door)

Classroom (to the right of the main door)

Plaster/moldmaking area

Some of the cottle boards I made for my moldmaking class. (I was very proud of myself!)

As you can see, it’s a really nice classroom/studio! I’m teaching four classes this session – Families in Clay (kids + parents), Wheelthrowing, Moldmaking, and Special Topics (open exploration). Next session I’m going to teach the same things, except I’ll swap advance wheelthrowing for moldmaking. I’m enjoying teaching, mostly because everyone who comes to the studio is friendly and fun!

My studio space (it looks different now, John built me a new table and he and Brian cleared off a lot of the shelves).

After much ado, I moved into my apartment in the middle of September. It’s tiny. The picture below shows pretty much all of it. The kitchen is to the right and the bathroom and closet are through a doorway in the lower right hand corner. The windows have a great view, though! My room looks out onto the park in front of the public library.

What my apartment looked like up until last week.

I slept on an air mattress generously loaned to me by one of the people at the studio until last week, when I finally had both the time to buy a bed and a place to put it – there wasn’t room for a bed in there with all of the boxes!

I like my new place, now that I feel sort of settled in it. I’m having trouble with beetles in the kitchen though. I didn’t clean that room before I started unpacking, because it looked pretty good and I was in a hurry. I wish I had. I decided to wipe up the floor to see if that would help with the bug problem. I soon discovered that it needed much more than wiping up. The tiles I thought were grey are actually white. Yuck. Lauren, if you’re reading this, it was almost a repeat of the floor you and I spent 20 hours scrubbing with comet. There was a definite, visible line where my Bon-Ami (my weapon of choice, in conjunction with Lemon-scented Softscrub disinfectant foaming spray) and scrubby pad had reached and where it had not. The floor in there is 2′ by 6 or 8′ and it took me 40 minutes to clean. Yuck.

After that triumphant cleaning (it looks really nice now!) I decided I’d better scrub the bathroom floor too. It’s a smaller space but it took about the same amount of time. Then I threw the scrubby away. I figured I could spend a dollar on a new one next time I go to the store. Who knows what was on there…

This was my second greatest moving-in accomplishment. The first was finding a real bathtowel in all my boxes. I had been using one of those little camping ones. Switching from that thing to a beach towel felt like a pretty big luxury! Anyways, back to the shampoo holder shown above. My bathroom has an old clawfoot tub in it, which is neat, except the bottom isn’t flat, so you can’t set any bottles on the floor of it without having them tip over onto your feet. The novelty of that wore off after about 10 seconds. So I was extremely excited when I figured out how to get this shower caddy to hold my bottles – because did you know none of the ones for sale these days have backs to keep your crap from falling out? I stretched pieces of an old therapy band across the back of this caddy and now it works like a charm.

Okey dokey I’m all out of random stuff to write about. TTFN

Copenhagen, Christiania, and Louisiana

Hopefully I’ll be able to add some text to all of these pictures one day… 🙂

Click on a picture to open a bigger window with a slideshow. Navigate using the left and right arrows that show up on either side of the screen.

I will say this: people in Denmark like to ride bicycles. A lot.

For my Dad

I was in a grocery store in Copenhagen this evening. Wandering aimlessly down the beverage aisle, I found myself idly wondering if they carried Kozel. Right at that instant I looked up, and there it was! I was shocked. I’ve looked for it everywhere since last winter, when I was in Prague with my mom and dad. We had it there and we all liked it. And then we couldn’t find it anywhere else. I’ve looked on the East Coast and in Spain, France, and Skaelskor – my dad has looked all over in ND. So, I bought a couple and I’m going to save them for special occasions. I don’t know what those occasions will be, but I’m looking forward to them!


“Put a 10DKK coin in the slut”

FYI… It’s been a while since I last posted, so this post is going to be a lot of random things thrown together.

Okey dokey. For some reason, I’m still able to access a US-based VPN despite my being in Denmark. I’m a regular/certified member of this particular VPN, but until recently, I didn’t know I could access it outside the US. At any rate, it must do something to my IP address, because I discovered that when I logged in to the network, I could watch the Olympics online. NBC’s coverage was a little strange (I didn’t know there were only four women’s gymnastics teams in the entire world!), but it was nice to watch a bit of the Games every now and then.

I hooked my computer up to a projector one night so other people could watch too – here’s a picture of Christin trying to point her toes like the synchronized swimmers. We all agreed that those women (who are very talented!) have semi-frightening feet.

The Olympics have somewhat inspired me to start working out again (my other inspiration is insomnia). I didn’t bring any running shoes, so I’ve been doing some barefoot sprints in the park behind the studio. It’s a nice place to run. I always make sure to scout my running line in shoes before getting started, though. (Think: park + dogs + bare feet.)

Working out means sweaty clothes, which in turn means laundry. Here are the instructions for the washer and dryer at the studio. I laugh whenever I load them up…

The tile project is coming along, slowly but surely. As of this evening, I have 347/388 made and ready to go into the kiln. I think I can start loading tomorrow, which is a good thing because I’m out of storage space. I need to empty a few boards of them into the kiln so that I can reuse the boards to finish off the last few. Right now the kiln is filled with (cooling) work by a Danish artist named Susanna LastName?, who’s going to sell her mugs and plates at a big craft fair in Copenhagen this weekend. Masako and I are going to go check it out on Saturday. Want to come with us? Those are Susanna’s glazed but unfired mugs on the cart in the picture below.


Because I know you’re dying to see it, here’s a photo of one of the grocery stores. I usually ride a studio bike there, but if it’s not raining I try to get a little extra Vitamin D by walking instead.

This is how you leave your bike while shopping in Skaeskor. Coming from crime-ridden New Bedford, MA, the sight of all these unlocked bikes still blows my mind (in a good way).


I’ve been eyeing the fancy cheese in this store for the past 3 weeks, and today I finally broke down and bought some. Food is super expensive in Denmark, and some things are particularly, strangely expensive (for example, there’s a heavy sin tax on butter, but none on alcohol). I rationalized this purchase by noting that while definitely not cheap, Camembert and Brie are still less expensive here than they are in the US…

This snack was worth every penny!