Tuesday, December 30, 2008

circle the sun

With all of the up, down and around in 2008, there's little left to say at this point as we complete the circle on a year like no other. As the editor stamps his paw and signs us off into the promise of 2009, everyone here at felix's daily starfish and waffles wishes you the Happiest of New Years.

See you in January.

Strong, charismatic, and beautiful. As we sign off on 2008, we leave you with a snapshot of an Aleppo Pine, signature tree of the Mediterranean. Wied iż-Żurrieq, Malta. (2008).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

god jul från sjöstjärnor och våfflor

Just because we've taken our act across the pond, it doesn't mean we've left our old holiday traditions behind ... like the legendary starfish and waffles office Christmas party ... and, of course, the Christmas Pineapple!

The hard-working staff of felix's daily starfish and waffles wishes you the choicest of pineapple rings and the very best of the 2008 holiday season. Merry Christmas!

The esteemed Editor-in-Chief of felix's daily starfish and waffles - pictured here next to the 2008 Christmas Pineapple - celebrates the happy holiday season with cheer at the office Christmas party. (PS- Note the editor's Christmas colour-coordinated earwarmers!)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

solstice dog

Scientists define winter solstice as "the very moment at which the sun's position in the sky is at the greatest angular distance from the side opposite of the equatorial plane in the observer's given hemisphere." What?? All I know is that it's really dark and, at these northern Scandinavian latitudes, I'm watching the sun set at 3pm, sleeping approximately 20 hours a day, and not getting any work done. Bleh. Is there any respite in sight from this perpetual night? (Sidenote: hey, that rhymes!)

The ravenous editor of felix's daily starfish and waffles gets ready to gorge on a Five Alarm Ox-Chili Chorizo Dog. Lund, Sweden. (2008). And, in case you were wondering, no, the editor has not grown antlers. His ears are merely cold from the winter weather and he's using IKEA finger puppets as ear-warmers. (I will admit, however, he does look a bit like a reindeer).

One plus from all of the dark: it is causing me to eat more. And really, in the dead of winter, who doesn't enjoy relishing in a little gluttony? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Lucky for you, because starfish and waffles is now primarily a service website devoted to all matters philanthropic, we're going to kindly share another recipe from the dingobear kitchen in order to aid and abet your very own insatiable taste for overeating on this shortest day of the year. As the Scandies here say: hurra!

But bear in mind that this recipe isn't just any recipe. Our original Five Alarm Ox-Chili Chorizo Dogs have been carefully chef-ed (note: two syllables in the word "chef-ed") to combat the harsh conditions symptomatic of the winter solstice. Comfort food? Yes. Delicious? Yes. Heart healthy? HAHAHAHAHA! Good one. Sounds like you need an ox-chili chorizo dog, wise guy.

Five Alarm Ox-Chili Chorizo Dogs (Winter Solstice Edition)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
sea salt to taste
oregano to taste
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
500g lean ground ox (if ox is unavailable, ground beef is also acceptable - I guess.)
500g can of crushed tomatoes
400g can of organic baked beans
4 chorizo smokies
4 crusty kaiser rolls

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sweat them by adding several dashes of sea salt. Toss with a wooden spoon (can't in good conscience make real chili without using a wooden spoon) until the onions become coated with olive oil and start to become aromatic. Next, add in the ground ox. Cook and stir until the meat is no longer pink.

Stir in the beans, tomatoes, and red pepper. Season with chili powder and oregano. Bring your hot, hot, chili pot to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Mmmmm.

While the chili is simmering, in a separate pot, bring water to a boil over high heat and add the chorizo smokies. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer the dogs for 15 minutes or until they split, whichever comes first.

Serve the dogs inside fresh kaiser rolls and top with chili. Eat, enjoy, and then do it all over again!

For more original recipes from the dingobear kitchen, please refer to the corresponding section on the left sidebar of this webpage.

Monday, December 15, 2008

san andreas

A calm, peaceful file photo of some ivy leaves in October, on a day when there wasn't an earthquake that woke me up at 6am in the morning. Lund, Sweden. (2008).

Well, that was a first ... but I never really expected it would happen in Sweden. About an hour ago, I was awoken by the rattling of my bedroom windows. The culprit? An earthquake(!) registering about 4.7 on the Richter scale, according to this article in The Local, Sweden's English-language newspaper. Exciting!

But no worries, lest you be concerned, me and the editor are fine.

Friday, December 12, 2008

danish tom cruise

Back in the summer, I had scrawled about a spontaneous trip to Helsingør and sent the text up for review. Unfortunately, the piece never saw the light of day ... I guess it just didn't pass muster with the editor's exacting literary standards. What can I say? The bear usually knows best when it comes to decisions like this.

Given the related content of the last post, however, he's reconsidered his initial position and rescued this long-lost write-up from the cutting room floor. Imperfect as it may be, sometimes, completeness takes precedence.

The "Brohus" (I think that means "bridge house", in Danish), which guards the bridge leading over the moat to Kronberg Castle in Helsingør, Denmark. (2008).

Guilty of guidebook travel, the Lonely Planet decides that we're not long for Helsingborg minutes upon boarding the Öresundtåg, the high speed train that races up, down, and around our corner of Scandinavia. Helsingborg - and I hate to say it - just sounds too boring.

"Well, we could take the ferry across to Helsingør on the Danish side, and go to the Hamlet castle," I nonchalantly suggest without looking up from the pages of said Lonely Planet.

"Give me that," Connie cuts in with impish smile, snatching the book away from me. I always did have something of a weakness for girls with impish smiles.

Before long, Connie nods.

Helsingør, it is.

For would-be tourists, the big drawing card of Helsingør, Denmark (population: 35,000) is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kronberg Slot, a castle that overlooks the narrowest point of the Öresund, a channel of sea that separates Denmark and Sweden. Although Kronberg's strategic importance seems an obvious consequence of geography, the castle isn't famous for its military exploits but, rather, literary ones. Indeed, Kronberg - or Elsinore Castle, as it is also known - is, in fact, the the setting for one of William Shakespeare's most famous tragedies: Hamlet.

Yet, for all of the rain, darkness, murder, vengeance, and insanity which defines Hamlet, I find it somewhat ironic that we get to discover Kronberg on a summery, blue sky day. I mean, this isn't right. Where's the doom and gloom? Where's the Tom Cruise crazy? Where's the 16th century Danish court delivering impassioned prose in English iambic pentameter? I want to see some drama break out in all of its Shakespearean glory, damn it!

Everything just seems so - pleasant. But I suppose it's just as well. Right now, there's enough going on in real life that no additional drama is necessary. So, instead, I just enjoy the day for what it is: some nice, quality time spent with someone who I can find happiness in spending some nice, quality time with. And, really, there's no tragedy in that.

Kronberg Slot - the Hamlet Castle itself - on a blue sky day in June. Helsingør, Denmark. (2008).

Kronberg Slot's main banquet hall. Helsingør, Denmark. (2008). This is the scene of Hamlet's famous play-within-a-play, where the re-enactment of his father's murder is used by Prince Hamlet to gauge the reaction (and guilt) of his uncle and usurper of the throne, Claudius.

Kronberg Slot from beyond the moat. Helsingør, Denmark. (2008).

Ubiquitous, middle-aged, Japanese tourists photographing Kronberg Slot. Helsingør, Denmark. (2008).

The "Kulturcaféen," an icon of urban decay in North Zealand, is an eyesore of interest within earshot of Kronberg Slot. Helsingør, Denmark. (2008).

Thursday, December 04, 2008

three violets and a rose

Connie at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. (2008).

The first time I was in the Swedish coastal city of Helsingborg, it was nothing more than a two-way pass-through. I was en route, with Connie, across the Öresund to Denmark and the Hamlet Castle of Helsingør. Later that night, we came back the same way. For all intents and purposes, it had been a fine day, like so many with Connie were.

That was almost six months ago, in the short space between midsummer and the moment she left. Onto greener pastures, Connie's in Hong Kong now. I haven't called. I'm not really sure why.

Sarah's invited us to take the train up to Helsingborg for Julskyltning, the first day of Advent. Sure, why not? I take almost any excuse to spend time with members of the Berliner crew since it always seems to be good company, good times.

For all intents and purposes, it's a fine day. A walk along the seashore. Late lunch at a cozy café. Huddling with the crowds to to watch the crowning of this year's Santa Lucia, the lighting of the city Christmas tree, the loud fireworks.

That night, at some point over warm glögg, crunchy pepparkakor, and laughter amongst new friends, I shake my head at the apparent randomness of it all. 'Tis the season. Surely, there's something to be said for second chances when so many others don't have any.

Sean and Kajsa on the boardwalk along the shoreline of Helsingborg, Sweden. (2008). Fun fact: Helsingborg is home to the international corporate headquarters of IKEA, your favourite Swedish flat-packed furniture store.

Sean, Kajsa, and Sarah on the boardwalk in aquatone colours. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2008).

Sepia tones of Helsingborg Harbour. (2008).

Kajsa. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2008).

Sarah. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2008).

Julskyltning fireworks over the medieval tower of Kärnan. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2008).

Sarah takes a shot of the newly lit Christmas tree with her cell phone. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2008).