Friday, May 30, 2014

Basically the best meal of your life (for a total for 600 Rand)

As I mentioned the other day, Johan and I lived and breathed by Miss Moss' guide to Cape Town, so when we decided to head out to vineland, we once again resorted to following her recommendation. (I feel I should write her a nice thank you note, but then again will such a super star blogger really appreciate hearing from a lowly blogger such as myself? Nah, right?)

Anyway, Miss Moss suggested that one head out to the restaurant The Table at the winery De Meye where one would have, quote unquote (I like saying that instead of adding actual quotation marks), basically the best meal of your life.

That's good enough for me, so off we went, to Stellenbosch, which is just so beautiful you wanna scream. Looks like something straight out of Lord of the Rings. (Which, I guess, is pretty much the same as saying that Stellenbosch looks like New Zealand?)
I snapped this from the window of our car, so I suspect that's why the clouds look a little dramatic. 

De Meye is the name of the winery and Johan swears he's seen the logo/bottles before, either in a restaurant or a store, in some country, which is either Kenya, Denmark, Sweden or the US, so I guess that narrows it down.

Everything was beautiful and in bloom, for but some reason this exact picture of the restaurant looks so fall-like. Makes me want to move to France, get myself a small chateau and wear clothes made out of high quality linen every day.

When we arrived, they had set up tables all around the garden, offering that you go choose the table where you wanted to sit. "We'll take this table!", we said and pointed to the one above and they were like "well, when we said choose any table, we meant any of the two-tops". And we were like "Fine, we'll take that beautiful one over there below the tree".
Then we went for a walk on the grounds, and seeing I had put on my best lady dress, I asked Johan to take a picture of me flanked by an avenue of beautiful trees. Here I am practicing my first lady pose and my WHATAREYOUSAYINGYOUSLEPTWITHTHEINTERN?-pose.

Is the divorce rate among bloggers conspicuously high? I sometimes wonder this when I ask Johan to pose for me, say if it's just occurred to me that his shorts match a field of blooming flowers and I think it will make a nice picture for this blog. And I mean, so often I look at family photos on other people's blogs and you can just feel the pain and emasculation the husband feels when he's forced to hold a bouquet of colorful balloons while looking dreamily at his pregnant wife while their kids throw popcorn and confetti into the air. But then after a while, I tend to remember how much mediocre sports my fellow sisters have been forced to watch since the dawn of time, and then I'm like screw it, this is OUR moment!
They also had a lazy, cuddly dog, who came running to our table as soon as they served our duck rillette. (Love how dogs have their life priorities straight. Imagine all these puppies lying in god's lap before being sent down to earth and they're like: "So, I'd like to grow up on a vineyard in South Africa, and there I shall bask in the shade of large trees and have my belly rubbed by strangers before they hand feed me farm-raised poultry, please". And all the ducks are like: "I'd like to grow up on a vineyard in South Africa, where I shall be slaughtered when I reach 12 weeks of age and then be cooked slowly in my own fat before people from Europe spread me on toast, please".

Before lunch, we sat down for a wine tasting, where honestly, I felt we were shamed a little for our lacking knowledge of wine by a lady wearing a neon lycra dress. But I can kind of sympathize with that, because honestly, if you do know a lot about wine, it must feel downright painful to pour your finest grape juice into a guest's glass, ask what said guest thinks about it and said guest goes: "Uhm? It's red...I guess?".

After our wine tasting, we sat down for lunch, and had an appetizer of creamy yet light cauliflower soup, duck rillette with leafy greens and fig marmalade, fresh farm butter and country bread - all sourced locally. (I feel this is kind of like dirty/scintillating talk for foodies, right? ).

"Bread with lettuce! Yum!" 

For our main course, we had that beautifully caramelized Tarte Tatin. We didn't finish it, because there was just so much food, and I sometimes lay awake at night thinking about that buttery crust and those sweet carrots, which we just left sitting there on a very pretty piece of butcher's block. Le sigh, as the fancy girls say.

Meals like this resonate with me. Simple, pimple yet so well-prepared and with such good ingredients it makes your stomach sing :) 

And then we finished off with a sorbet of something, preserved quince and a baked custard (I think). 

Look, so cute right? They put out blankets so you could lay down on the grass after your meal and unbutton the top button of your pants.

There's something very poetic about an abandoned dining table, don't you think? It's like you can still hear the chatter of the people who sat there. 

I know I mentioned it before, and I know I mentioned it in the headline, but people, I have to mention it again: All of this deliciousness including wine and coffee came to a total of 600 Rand, which is the equivalent of something like $50. Honestly, I think I'd return to Cape Town just to lunch here again :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fangirling (and massive link dump....and lots of words that I suspect I'm writing mainly for my future self :O)

"So, what have you been doing in Kenya for all this time," asked no one, and so I thought I'd go on and tell you:

I've been painting! I've done actual work too and and a whole lot of house work, but mostly I've just been painting and indulging in other forms of art work.

This isn't exactly news, because I've been painting more of less regularly since I was 15, but for some reason I was always too impatient and insecure to try my hand at any straight up figurative work, because, honestly, I didn't think I knew how to.

Then a few years ago, on a whim, I started painting a portrait of David Hockney. Then followed a portrait of Jean-Paul Belmondo i Pierot Le Fou. And that's about when I started letting my mind go, forgetting all about painting something "smart" and basically just copying images I really like.

I've been listening to a whole lot of radio while painting, and incidentally came upon an interview with Tavi Gevinson (editor of Rookie and all around smart woman) on the show Nerdette, during which she discussed her take on fangirling.

During the show, she argues that there can be a lot of pressure associated with the idea of making good art, and translating the things you experience into original art. Instead she proposes that fangirling and nerding out can be just as creatively satisfying. That it can be just as rewarding to copy someone else's work rather than make your own.

I don't speak much ancient Greek, but after listening to that I was like: "Eureka! This is exactly how I feel".

David Hockney is by far the painter I'm fangirling the most on? at? (I'm sure you can use it as a verb, I clearly just don't know how to.), and hence I've been copying a lot of his pieces in somewhat meticulous detail.
Sadly, I didn't get around to finishing this one before leaving, but it's a copy of Hockney's "American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman) from 1968. I've just been oo'ing and aa'ing endlessly at how he translates different objects and textures into painterly shapes and colors. 
This here is a copy of Hockney's "Peter Getting Out of Nick's Pool" (1966), which I didn't get around to finishing either, so there are still a lot of details missing. The format of the canvas isn't right either, so next time I'm in Nairobi, I'm gonna add some hypothetical exhibition poster-wording on the dark blue patch - just like I did in the painting below.
And this, as I've posted about before, is a copy of "A Bigger Splash" (1967). And this, at least, I got around to finishing :) (sorry for the lopsided iPhone image, btw.)

I've also been nerding out a bit to Picasso, specifically his Harlequin/Commedia dell'arte work, which I just love to pieces.

This is a copy with a twist of Picasso's "Seated Harlequin" (1901), which I didn't get around to finishing either. I started out by meticulously painting a Florida Dolphins cap on his head, but found it got a bit too colorful, especially with my rendering of the Lotus patterned wallpaper in the background.
This too, I have posted before. Also a copy of one of Picasso's Harlequins, namely "Harlequin sitting on a red couch" (1905). I think I might have flashed the hell out of this bad boy, because really it's a much more sombre blue.
In general, I think I've kind of been turned on again by my old high school crushes. You know, stuff I used to like before I studied art history and suddenly the only thing worth your while was minimalism and conceptualism, and in a pinch postmodernism, provided you could apply some fancy-pants philosophical take on it.

Anyway, before that, I was really into pop artists, among them Roy Lichtenstein.
Roy Lichtenstein, as you may already know, was a major fangirl himself, making lots of gorgeous and quite amusing homages to Picasso. Here I've mashed up Lichtenstein's entablatures, specifically this one from 1974, with a "Picassoesque" take (how much do you wanna kill me right now?) on Lichtenstein's famous "Girl With Ball" from 1961, which, it should be noted, he did a Picassoesque take on himself in 1977.  I've also sponged off Lichtenstein's brushstroke series, his reflection seriesthis photo of a seated Picasso in front of a painting in his signature striped shirt, and finally those famous bread hands of his. Phew!
What else. Yes, I've also had a moment with The Case Study Houses.
That painting up there on the top left is based on one of Julius Shulman's photos from the interior of The Stahl House. It goes with saying that the seated woman was not actually wearing a paper bag on her head. I just got so fed up with not being able to get her face right, and eventually a brown paper bag seemed like a welcome solution.

And here, on the left, a collage rendering of the one section of The Eames House, and on the right a paper collage of a Japanese milk carton, which has absolutely nothing to do with post World War II architecture. But they're a good match none the less. 

And while, we're on architecture, I also did a rendering of a photo I took in Meguro in Tokyo.
It's based on this photo, and that's about all I have to say about it. 
Moving on. To collage work.
I love the copywriting of the American ad industry in the 60s and 70s. Pure art is what it is, and it made me so happy recently when we had one of Johan's friends from work over for dinner and he flat out laughed at the pieces of writing I've amassed in this one. I mean "How to look for mortgage money and not find it" :O)
And here the Guggenheim, cut in paper from old magazines. 

And now to something entirely else. Dead pan commercial food images suddenly struck me like such an interesting trope.
So here's a burger meal with a Chinese Coke cup, which I resorted to painting in lieu of a western Coca-Cola cup, because yo, those curlicue letters are a difficult to copy. I kind of regret I didn't do a graded background cause it kind of makes the food look like an epiphany of sorts, but on the upside here's a turtle dressed as a burger!

And here, aged steak. I now completely get why artists have taken to painting raw meat throughout art history, because it's kind of the BOMB.

Here I am copying Felix Valotton's painting of a steak, which reminds me that this post was all about fangirling and on that note I recommend you look at Valotton's work, because it is just booootiful
So, has it been all fun, asked no one still? Nope! In fact there's this one canvas I've been struggling with, which has eventually forced me to conclude that it's doomed. The canvas I mean. I started out painting a vista from a park in Japan, which was just a catastrophe. Then I took to painting a photo of James Dean playing table tennis, which annoyed me super much.
FAIL!!! If anything, this taught me that just because whatever you painted actually looks somewhat like the thing you set out to portray, it doesn't per se mean it's gonna turn out a great painting. I know duh! right? But whatever, sometimes you just have to go through that process yourself before you really learn.

I then rotated the canvas 90 degrees and painted a gentleman in a blue linen suit instead.
Johan is being really nice about this one, complimenting the brushwork and the details all the time, whereas I feel kind of meh about it. Can't put my finger on it, but I guess it looks a little too naïve for me and not in that cool, intentional way I had hoped for. 
Actually, when I look at that painting I keep thinking of what Ira Glass discusses in the video below, namely about the gap between your taste and the quality of your work. How you can just tell that what you're doing is just not quite good enough.

But here's the thing: I kind of feel really fine being mediocre. Throughout my life I've had this kind of blessing slash curse in disguise of being fairly good at a lot of little things, which has meant that I haven't really bothered practicing and trying harder at the things I wasn't so good at or the things that didn't seem intuitive to me.

Do I sound like an ass for saying that? If so, I'm sorry. Because all I really want to say is that being a fangirl and amateur painter in the process of learning kind of...ROCKS! :)

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Before going home to Copenhagen, Johan and I took a trip to Cape Town, which is just one of the most amazingly beautiful places I've ever visited. Such friendly people, affordable and out of this world delicious food and wine, neighborhood upon neighborhood with both charm and looks, and, to boot, nature at its most sublime.

(I really should add dreadful history and inhumane poverty to the list as well, but I figure that's not exactly what most people look for when they settle upon a vacation spot).

Anyways, some photos for your viewing pleasurrrrrre :)
Oh, Johan, such a handsome guy he is, and he even makes an effort to color-coordinate his outfit with nature :)  
Sunset in Sea Point. We went for a jog here, which, in my opinion, is just really one of the best ways to feel like a local for a little while. Jogging in a foreign city, I mean.
Wine tasting at The Table in Stellenbosch. We found the place on Miss Moss' guide to Cape Town, which was just THE BEST guide ever. We pretty much lived by it.
Sunday lunch at the The Table. We had a wine tasting, 3-course lunch (including that delicious carrot Tarte Tatin, which you can see in the background) and a bottle of rosé for a total of $50 I think (!). Actually, this place was so cute I have to write a proper post about it, so stay tuned for more :)

Beaches that went on forever and me looking kind of elegant...or perhaps I'm holding back a fart. Who knows?

Kids playing on the beach - wow, right? (I suspect Johan has takes this photo, so I should give him cred for that.)
Everywhere you look, there's a beautiful mountain serving as a picturesque backdrop.

And hiking. We went hiking. At least right until I got vertigo and nearly started crying. But that's a nice, humiliating story for another day.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

From the Antwerp Six to American Casual. Or, You Wear What You Read, or something along those lines.

When I first befriended Johan back in 2009, I usually found him clad in a blue Patagonia jacket, army-colored Fjällräven pants and a red, unicolored shirt, which, in hindsight, makes me think that my man was unknowingly normcore long before folks started throwing that term around like it was no big deal.
Patagonia leashless jacket via here.

6 months passed before we started going out together, and after that, he gradually started transitioning into a somewhat preppier, American casual phase, replacing those Fjällräven pants with chinos and cotton shirts - which is pretty much the way he has dressed ever since.

This is Johan in Miami in 2009. Nowadays he's more likely
to wear his hair shorter and his shirt tucked into his pants,
but otherwise this is pretty much the look he stays true to.

So imagine my surprise one day, when we were sorting through all the stuff in our closet and I found stacks of Johan's clothes b.m. (i.e. Before Me). Because here's what: Turns out Johan had a phase where he solely wore the clothes of avant-garde Japanese designers and The Antwerp Six! A pair of baggy Yohji Yamamoto's were his everyday, go-to pants along with big knitted Dries van Noten sweaters.

"Who are you?" I wondered as I watched him sitting in a pile of his old clothes on the floor. "Who are you, you stylistic chameleon, whom I share a bed with?" 

I was reminded of all this late last night, when I started sorting through our bookcase (oh, the things you do, when you're really supposed to be doing other things!).

Now, I'm not saying I've been a stylistically consistent reader throughout my life (cause honestly what would be the fun in that), but MAN, the clash between Johan's literary past and present selves is just plain fun!

In high school, one of Johan's best friends introduced him to Dostoyevsky, whom he subsequently had a long love affair with. And counting by their representation on our bookshelf, I'd say he grew infatuated with Thomas Mann and Shakespeare too, along with a bunch of Danish mid-century intellectuals, whom I shall not name because I'm too lazy to get up and look.

And the books he's collected during that time aren't just any books. They're carefully selected vintage editions, chosen, it seems, either because they've aged into a delicious antique white and are at the cusp of falling apart or because their covers are just too beautiful to let them sit all alone in an antiquarian bookshop. And all of these books, of course, elegantly match his Dutch-Japanese designer phase and his $300 sweaters.

When I met Johan, his literary interests lay elsewhere. While I don't think he ever fell out of love with Dostoyevsky, he was now having a full-blown affair with all things WAR! And drones! And fragile states! And I mean, look at these books. No-frills covers that go well with Patagonia jackets engineered for ice climbers and Fjällräven pants with knee patches.

After a while he transitioned into his American Contemporaries phase. This was when he fell in love with Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace and I introduced him to some of my favorite authors, literary heavyweights such as David Sedaris and Nora Ephron ;) You know, well-bred and and well-read folks, with a strong sense of heritage and tradition but still with loads of discontent and playful critique poking out at the edges. Just like my boo.

(See?! See?! See how I wrapped that up real romantic and nice? Before you barf I should tell you that I never really call Johan boo ;)

Anyway, in conclusion: Here's our book shelf - all cleaned up and nice and somewhat color-coordinated here and there.

Monday, May 19, 2014

I'll take all of that you got

All of a sudden I find myself in Copenhagen, which wasn't entirely planned for, but somehow life worked out that way. Just spent a tough weekend in Sweden, celebrating the much too short life of my sweet cousin, all of which was equal parts beautiful and so sad that every piece of me hurt. God I love my family. So much goodness there, which is why I can't grasp that we're suddenly one less.

And now I'm here. At home, adjusting, missing Johan, unpacking and adding little pieces of Kenya here and there while acknowledging that Nairobi kind of wound up feeling like home too.

Feeling homesick while you're at home is a tricky feeling. Remind me never to get a vacation home.
(I doubt I have afro-centric readers, but in case I do, then yes, you're right, this Binga basket isn't at all Kenyan but rather Zimbabwean.)

Anyway, to distract myself, I started cleaning and rearranging our furniture yesterday before eventually putting everything back in the same place as before...and deciding on rearranging art work instead. Time well spent, I tell ya.

Sooo, to distract myself some more, I went for a run in my sunny hood this morning, while listening to Seasons by Future Islands on repeat. And LET ME TELL YOU, if you haven't seen this band yet, I suggest you treat yo'self to 3:49 minutes of pure amazingness by watching the video below. "I'll take all of that you got", is what Letterman says at the end, and man, do I agree. That lead singer is so rad, I'm fan-crushing on the dude the way only a teenager can.
(Speaking of which, Johan's celebrity crushes are ScarJo and Mila Kunis. ScarJo, you guys. And Mila Kunis! So at least I get points for originality, amirite?).

In other news, I went straight to the grocery store after my run, where I really had to restrain myself from dancing like him in front of the cooler section while listening to the song for the 100th time. To illustrate, I give to thee the undercover cop dancing merengue in My Blue Heaven. Skip to 0:22 and enjoy!