Sunday, December 07, 2008

In Singapore, KL

I never got a chance to publish my comments and pictures on Wilhelmsfeld, Germany, and now, another "backlog". Of course no one is obliged to blog about their travels, but still ... We were in Singapore two nights. Ought to have been three, but my husband was stranded in Bangkok as a consequence of the airport being held for over a week by the "yellow shirt" protesters. Highlight of the visit was a tour, conducted by Elizabeth Lee, of a well-appointed public library located in a shopping mall on Choa Chu Kang! First library I ever saw in a shopping area was in Helsinki in 2001; I didn't realize until last Saturday that Singapore and other countries have had this feature for some time.

Visiting a foreign place, new or old, I'd prefer to stay away from the obvious tourist traps and try to see life as the locals do. Eat the same food, use the same public transpo. It's always a treat to be invited to a private home...

We stayed at one of the Hotel 81s, this on Joo Chiat Road, which I suspect is as red and as lighted a red light district as Singapore can ever have. More experienced travellers, correct me please. THe beautiful young bar girls spoke Thai and looked almost preppy...

Today, a five hour Aeroline bus ride to Kuala Lumpur, where the steward invited us to use the first level lounge. He was wearing blue contact lenses! Interesting. The bus stopped less than a kilometer from the Petronas Towers, and I looked up in disbelief as we drove past in the taxi. My husband promise we would go there tomorrow, but warned me that we could climb only as high as the bridge that connects them. The twin towers of the World Trade Center had looked much taller when I saw them, but then of course I had been just nine years of age at the time.

Our hotel is on Jalan Petaling, in Chinatown. The street is closed to traffic, sort of like Escolta once had been, I suppose, and part of it is roofed over and is a night market now. It is lined with stalls, all selling fake designer goods. Paradise. Not for me, but for various friends in Denmark who have asked for knockoffs of YSL and D and G. No export overruns in this section, but on our way from the bus terminal, we passed a huge establishment called The Reject Store -- "Never pay full price," or something like that. If I could only find my way back to that ...

We had dinner at a shopping mall close to Jalan Petaling that looked almost like Farmers' in Cubao. The poster boy of Europe seems to be David Beckham: he's everywhere. Tagalog seemed to be spoken in corners here and there, and there was an LBC and another Filipino establishment on the top floor. Next to our hotel is a place offering various massages and a trendy new service that I first heard of from David TK Wong fellow Mulaika Hijjas: the fish pedicure. One's feet are immersed in a tank, and then nibbled at by a certain finny species that has a predilection for dead skin cells and similar goodies.

On Tuesday, we will be hosted by the writer Baha Zain (current president of the Writers' Association of Malaysia)... looking forward to that. And in Penang, by the writer Muhammad Haji Salleh.

Friday, November 28, 2008

In Dumaguete

My favorite workspace at the moment is a table in the coffee shop of a hotel just a couple of minutes walk from the Silliman high school. I can sit for hours, nursing a cup of brewed coffee, occasionally dipping into the fries that they serve with their hamburgers. The staff know me from when I used to check in here for the privacy and airconditioning, whenever I had a big project to finish. My husband and I stayed here for a couple of weeks when he came to visit my family last year.

There are paintings by local artists: intricate watercolors of marine life, and genre scenes in oil, which give the hotel an elegant touch you don’t usually find in the Philippines, where similarly-priced establishments display the sort of cheapo Manansala rip offs and diligently-photorealistic images of coconuts and santan that I equate with the Mabini area of Manila. I watch the foreigners, and try to identify the nationality of the Europeans by their speech. It seems to be favored by Europeans rather than East Asians, perhaps it is promoted more heavily in Germany and Scandinavia as the owner (or part-owner? Manager?) is said to be Swedish.

The best part is that my workspace is just a hundred meters from the house where I was born (not literally: I was born at the mission hospital, like countless other Silliman kids). But it was the house where I grew up, and the view from the hotel’s windows, of the acacia canopy and Silliman’s fading residences, is the same view I had as a little kid heading home in my red checked uniform skirt, in the footsteps of my older sister. The patch of cogon where Ace and Tisoy, the Montebon’s dog, followed each other round and round over a path their paws had trodden out – that’s been gone, ripped out, and where we had a stand of umbrella palms, there’s a bright green VW beetle. I don’t go down to the house, which looks dingy now and utterly devoid of magic. I prefer to keep my memories as they were.

I suppose this project I’ve been working on for some time, as well as the next one, have been complicated ways of dealing with my sister’s death. Of preserving her in some way, in a more dignified state, a state from decades ago when she would have been free to undo the choices that ultimately led to her destruction. I couldn’t save her. I couldn’t protect her from the harm that resided close, so close.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Words of remembrance by Lakambini A. Sitoy

Spoken at the memorial service for Leilani A. Sitoy Nodado, November 29, 2007 at Silliman Church, Dumaguete City, 3 pm

April 19, 1966 - November 18, 2007
Dead at 41 of breast cancer, diagnosed in September, 2004 at Stage IIIB

I never knew life without my sister.

She was a constant presence as I discovered the world, ventured out into the garden of the small university faculty house near what is now Coco Grande Hotel where we lived, made friends with the pet cat and forayed into the homes of our neighbors. She was the initiator and mischief maker, and I was the clown.

When we were about 4 and 7 we began to make up stories, extending the worlds of our books and the few movies we then had seen, until we were the owners and creators of a complex and secret realm that we nurtured from those years until we were about 15 and 18 when her focus shifted to activities in school and with her friends.

She shaped the person who I am right now. My perceptions and expectations of life were channeled through her perceptions and expectations. We were like two trees emerging from a single substrate, molded and shaped by each other’s growth, never alike but always understanding one another.

She was the foremost influence in my life as a teen-age apprentice writer. She was influenced by ideas of feminine beauty and behavior, and lent another angle to my view of men. I was the feminine but coolly critical sister; she was the wild but hopelessly romantic one, who longed for a tough, streetwise lover The song “Old and Wise,” by the Alan Parson Project, is a song she requested, at age 17, to be played at her funeral. It is addressed, I think, to each one of us who were her friends, but also to that special someone, that soulmate that every woman, I think, longs for and which she hoped it would be her fortune to meet some day.

But from early adolescence, she only longed for a peaceful, stable, conventional and happy family life – the loving husband, the beautiful kids, the nice suburbia house, and the dog.

One of the most striking traits of my sister was her capacity to keep each component of her life – each barkada, you might say – hermetically sealed from the others, so that those who made her acquaintance knew only a component of the greater picture. I’m sure there are many of us here who are pleasantly surprised by the diversity contained within her single life. I’m glad so many of those who knew her and loved her are gathered here – each contributing to our picture of her.

One thing is consistent in that picture though – she was a selfless giver, a sharer, and a sacrificer, never seeking the limelight, who thought of the comfort and enjoyment and feelings of others before her own.

In a manner so typical of Lani’s doing things, she made provisions for her family. Her investments with AXALife and her insurance with Sun Life, and her two Metrobank Kiddie Saver accounts were for her children. For her husband, she bought a motorcycle and a car which she had registered in his name. She planned activities, outings and vacations in resorts in Laguna and Bulacan for her family. The specific question she usually asked the children after each outing or activity was: “Are you happy?” Because to her, the most important thing is to make them happy.

To make appropriate plans for her family, Lani did several specific things for them, as follows:

First, early in her service with her former place of work, the Solidbank Corporation, and this even before she had children, even before she got married, Lani took advantage of a Solidbank program to provide housing for its employees. Lani bought from the bank a house and lot at the bank’s housing project in Santa Rosa, Laguna.

Second, many years later, in fact, during this present year when it became clear that the family would not be staying in Santa Rosa, Lani decided to sell the house and lot, half of which she deposited with AXALife for a time deposit for Bea and Fia’s future schooling, the other half being spent for a car which will facilitate her going on a wheelchair first to work and then to the hospital, and for her immediate medications. Lani also started two other deposits to be “held in trust” for Bea and Fia, also for future needs. (NB: This money was subsequently claimed by her husband some weeks after the funeral.)

Third, in the last days of her illness, Lani specifically entrusted to her father and mother Bea and Fia, with a specific request that they live in the Sitoy family home in Banilad, and that they study in Dumaguete, so that they could experience the very same experiences of growing up and schooling, and acquire the same life-giving values, as she and her sister Bing had had. “Mama,” said Lani, “please take care of Bea and Fia.” Specifically, she wanted her children to study and grow up in Silliman University.

Fourth, to insure that Bea and Fia would know of this her decision, Lani asked that Bing video tape her declaration of this request, so that Bea and Fia, and all others, may be able to hear from her own lips and see her as she did it – this wish for her dearest children.

Lani has gone on, back to our Creator, but her legacy will live in our memories and in our hearts.

NB: "Old and Wise" by The Alan Parsons Project was played as per Lani's request to me way back in 198 -- "play it at my funeral." Our cousin She-She Sitoy provided vocals. Elmer Caguindangan on the Hammond organ.

Words from our father T. Valentino Sitoy Jr.'s eulogy:

Years ago, Lani had occasion to express her views of loving and caring when she said: “If you love someone honestly, truly, and sincerely, and your love is not reciprocated in return, it is not you the true lover who loses, but the one who will never know how it is to be loved honestly, truly, and sincerely by you.”

All her life, Lani loved honestly, truly and sincerely.

E-mailed Tributes to Lani 1966-2007

She is a very sweet lady. Always smiling. I asked her why she didn’t attend (our thanksgiving party for Pink Kitchen). She told me she was in a wheelchair and didn’t want to bother anyone. She told me she was always reading our e-mail exchanges but has not been updating us on the e-group coz she does not want to depress all of us with her condition. We will all miss her. - Leilani Eusebio (ICanServe), Nov. 18

We lost a breast sister (kasuso) yesterday. Lani was courage personified. I honor her memory, which continues to nurture me and sustain me in this struggle of hope against despair. God Bless her. - Carla Sison (ICanServe), Nov. 19

This is a sad day for me, for all of us…but then, I know now her pains are gone, no more tears, and she’s happily reunited with our Creator. - Jean in Saudi Arabia (ICanServe), Nov. 18

To us her sisters in ICanServe, she will always have a place in our hearts and will always be remembered. Lani is a tough lady and surely, her kids too will grow up to be like her and with her love in their hearts. - Mariefe Pojas (ICanServe), Nov. 19

When I joined ICanServe…Lani was one of the first sisters I felt very comfortable with. She was so pleasant always. I saw her at Pink Kitchen in a wheelchair. I was seated beside Bangge in our soda booth and jointly our hearts sank at seeing her as such…yet she waved cheerfully at me while she was also trying to help the other sisters in the ICanServe booth. Like all of you, I will mss Lani. - Pamsy Tioseco (ICanServe), Nov. 19

(Sharing Lani’s picture) is a great way to remember her vibrant life. - Ruella Esmele (classmate), Nov. 21

Lani is indeed a great loss, yet her demonstration of strength, her cheerful outlook, her “coolness”, will always be remembered. - Lincoln Tagle (Classmate), Nov. 18

Lani was indeed a very strong person…She had so much to live for as she fought the Big C. tooth and nail…Her husband, her daughters, her parents, her sister Bing were the reasons she had the will to live, which added years to her life. - Emy Miraflor (Classmate), Nov. 19

I remember Lani as a very consistent scholar, topping our academic requirements without sacrificing her social life. She was always sent to co-curricular and extra curricular competitions, bringing home pride and honor to our school. She was a prolific writer too…She was also an officer of our CAT unit (Company Commander, Bravo Company). She was firm but very fair in dealing with us. She was very fun to be with…One always gets surprised to hear Leilani talk the talk and walk the walk with our street-smart batch mates. - Leilani Abejuela Sitoy-Nodado was a symbol of human courage – an outstanding person who passed away when only too young.. who had been a testimony of a life that was truly inspiring – with her painstaking efforts as a mother who was a good provider, while silently touching friends with her loyalty and varied potentials that always worked toward definite success, yet still maintaining a deep sense of humility.
Sidney Lee (Classmate), Nov. 21

(In conversation with Lani’s parents). Lani is the only lady in a wheelchair I know who comes into the hall smiling and waving to us, and shaming us for the self-pity which we sometimes feel for ourselves. - Bibeth Orteyza (ICanServe), Nov. 20

Lani was very articulate, efficient and thorough. Her analysis and reports at the HR made our legal work easy for us. –Legal Officer (PSBank), November 21

Leilani A. Sitoy Nodado, in memoriam

April 19, 1966 – November 18, 2007

Leilani, whose specially chosen name means ”heavenly garland” in Polynesian, was born in Dumaguete City on April 19, 1966. As a toddler, she was called Len-len, while the name she chose for herself was Lani. Later she was affectionately known to her friends by other names, but her father and mother have a special name only for her, which is “Langgà,” from “Palanggà” (or “dearly loved one”).

A child with a happy and sunny disposition, the house constantly rang with her pattering feet and laughter. Her first intelligible utterance, at eleven months, was not one word but a complete sentence: “Ants in the ‘mok’ (milk) bottle.” Curious by nature and constantly seeking to know, she marveled at the natural things around her and asked such intriguing questions as, “Why was I born? Where did I live before?” When her younger sister Bing came, three-year-old Lani’s spontaneous response was to be most protective, most caring, and most loving. The ideas and principles that shaped her life were those that she learned from her father and mother, from the family’s purposefully simple Christian lifestyle, and from family conversations especially during meal time, in reaction to affairs of daily life -- regarding what is loving and caring, what is right and what is wrong, what is duty and responsibility, what is freedom and tolerance, or what matters most in this world. Given freedom to grow, Lani early ventured into all sorts of activities to develop her talents – story-writing, singing, swimming, dancing, drawing, painting, piano- and organ- playing, dramatics and play production, creative handiwork, etc., which would serve her well in school and in her professional career. By the time she was in high school, Lani had become an accomplished pianist, her favorite pieces being Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune and Christian Sinding’s Rustles of Spring.

Lani, with younger sister Bing constantly tagging along, was a typical Silliman “campus kid”. She studied at the SU Church Nursery School, the SU Kindergarten, the SU Elementary School, the SU High School, the SU College of Arts and Sciences, and the SU Graduate School. In 1978-79 when her family was in the U.S.A. in connection with her father’s sabbatical leave, Lani studied at the Ventnor Middle School in Ventnor, New Jersey. In 1986-92, Lani studied for an M.A. in Psychology at the Ateneo de Manila University, interspersing this with graduate studies in clinical psychology at the College of William and Mary, the “school of early U.S. Presidents,” in Williamsburg, Virginia, U.S.A. in 1987.

Lani was a consistent honor scholar from elementary school to college, receiving Class Honors in 1983, College Honors in 1984 and 1985, and finally University Honors (with scholarship key!) in 1986. A born leader and enabler, she happily entered into a myriad of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, receiving the Sophomore Student of the Year Award in 1984, the Talent Award in 1985, and finally the Most Outstand-ing Silliman Student of the Year Award in 1986. But the thing she loved to do most, whether in high school, college, or professional life, was being the brains, the planner, the organizer, and the director of events and activities, while quietly staying in the background and letting others take center stage.

Lani was also a happy, friendly, and gregarious coed who, as one friend aptly put it, could “also walk the walk and talk the talk.” During her junior and senior years in college, she was Governor of the College of Arts and Sciences and producer and director of the 1985 Miss Silliman Pageant. Along with her University Honors and Most Outstanding Student of the Year awards, she graduated in March 1986 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree, magna cum laude.

In November 1986 she left for Manila to study for an M.A. in Psychology at the Ateneo de Manila University, and worked as a psychometrician at the Central Guidance Bureau at the same university. In 1993 she transferred to Solidbank Corporation, particularly at their Human Resources Development division at their head offices in Makati City. After Solidbank was bought by Metrobank, Inc., Lani was employed in the corresponding division in the Makati head office of Philippine Savings (PS) Bank, subsidiary of Metrobank, Inc. The last rank in PS Bank she held was Senior Assistant Manager, her position being Department Head, Career Management Department, Human Resources Group.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Heidelberg and Frankfurt

Flying to Frankfurt/Main tomorrow, ostensibly for the book fair, though I probably will get a chance to visit it only on Saturday. The book fair, I'm told, will be immense, an impressive gathering of publishers, agents and writers from all over Europe. Besides the fair, I'm excited to be seeing more of Frankfurt/Main beyond the airport -- the point of entry when one flies to Europe via Lufthansa.

Another anticipated journey -- the one-hour train ride to Heidelberg, which Vagn's colleague Arthur Krasinilkoff describes as a very beautiful place, with a world famous medical college, now home to a research center for tropical diseases. It's the place where Jose Rizal, Philippine national hero, received further training as an eye surgeon. Sixteen kilometers north, through what seems to be a forest and nature park, is the town of Wilhelmfeld, where Rizal lived for a few months in the winter of 1886: it has a statue of him, in a park that bears his name. Seeing these places will be a dream come true.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hi, I'm Filter Skate

Hi, I'm Filter Skate Palin, and this is my hubby Geese Whalebone.

Poli Tsk tsk tsk features the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator, created by David Harrington: "What your name would be if Sarah Palin was your mother," at

My personal favorite is Blaster Commando Palin, aka Bubbo, the Sitoy family weiner dog.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


Vagn and I married on September 13.

Vagn Plenge, of Copenhagen, Denmark, is the proprietor of Forlaget Hjulet, a small publishing house with a specialization in the literature from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

We met in September 2003, when, on the recommendation of his friend National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose, he invited me to speak at the Images of Asia festival held in various cities throughout Denmark.

Monday, September 22, 2008

great photo

You won't find many photos of me on the internet, but here's one, with NY-based indie film maker Mike Sandoval, taken by Carlo Gabuco in Zambales, early 2007. Carlo uploaded it on Flickr some time ago, I suppose.

Great b & w image. Check out more of Carlo's photography and paintings on the same site.

currently reading...

Currently reading The Book of Other People, edited by Zadie Smith. Wow, hanep.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

my brush with royalty

The International Board of Books on Young People opens its 2008 Congress in a program at Glassalen, Tivoli, Copenhagen, at 7 pm this evening. Winners of the Hans Christian Andersen award will be announced. Guest of honor will be the Queen of Denmark herself, Margrethe II.

This morning Vagn, who is proprietor of the publishing house Forlaget Hjulet and chief organizer of the conference, gave me a task: to wrap up a present for the Queen. I went into a tizzy, then in the next moment calmed down. Me ... favorite aunt who has earned a reputation in our family for The Best Presented Christmas Gifts, floored by such an honor? No way!

I went directly to our gift wrapper hamper (yes, we keep one) and found an unopened role of white wrapping paper decorated with lovely silver, gold and pastel star shapes, from Netto by the way, that I had been saving, for some unknown occasion, since 2006. It stood elegantly among the loose roles of Santa Claus and Happy Birthday wrappings. There was a sad roll of thin red plastic ribbon, the kind that the Danes like to curl up into corkscrews with the edge of a scissor-blade. No way. That wouldn't do.

But in my room was a beautiful roll of sinamay, fuchsia with gold lights, that I had bought in Dumaguete and brought all the way here for some un-dreamed of special occasion. Oh, it looked wonderful binding the gift and gathered in a huge knot. It was a present for the girl in every woman. The Queen must have a playful streak in her because she designs lovely stage sets and ballet costumes. Would she notice? Would she remark on the sinamay ribbon? Has she even entered a Netto?

So there was my brush with royalty -- these hands put together this little confection for Dronning Margrethe II: Some pretty holiday paper and a lovely length of sinamay, carried all the way from Handumanan shop in Dumaguete City, Philippines, to Tivoli, Copenhagen, Denmark. And the gift itself? I won't spoil the secret, in case her very pleasant lady in waiting, who telephoned the house this morning, if not the Queen herself, happens to surf into this little blog. ;-)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

rowan berries

Ole came with his power saw and lopped off the tops and sides of the hedges, creating the smooth walls of green so beloved in Danish suburbs. He chopped off the ends of some rowan branches too, so when I got home last week I had quite a few to choose from lying in the mud, though I had to fight my way to the center of the hedge (thorn scratches and a face to face encounter with a four-foot high nettle) to find the best. They're drying berry side down ind skøret. Dean and Nikki can have some, for Rowan, if I find a way to dry them successfully and retain their color. I fear molds. It's cold and damp here. My gardening, and hence the main reason for reviving this blog, is over.


Contrary to what's been claimed in one blog, I am not "based" in Copenhagen. I studied at Roskilde University for one academic year (2006) and have visited Denmark often, having made several solid friendships and work-related contacts beginning September 2003. "Based" implies a fairly long residency, permanent in many cases, and/or a long-term job contract, neither of which apply in my case. Just ask the Danish immigration! I am currently visiting Copenhagen for several months.


I do think nasturtiums taste quite nasty, but I've found a way to make some use of them. (They self-seed in this garden every year, especially with the warm winters of late.)

I take the leaves, remove stems, chop them up and mix them with some chopped chives (needless to say, from the garden). I sprinkle on some salt, lime-flavored pepper flakes and add a dollop of creme freche. It's a combination of my own invention; I'm always finding some way to make up new stuff.

The taste of the leaves reminds me of the taste of unripe papayas. There's also a kind of slimy undertaste, which the combination of extra flavors and the creme freche serve to mask.

I've eaten ground elder, (svalderkaal) too. I gathered the small, new, yellow-green leaves. It would be best, I think, to remove all trace of stem. At first I simply steamed them for two minutes inside the rice cooker (above the freshly cooked rice, which stained the surface green), but since they remained quite stringy and tough (despite their tender appearance), I lighted on the barbaric act of putting them in the microwave for a few seconds, along with the butter-impostor I had tossed them with. They were easier to chew. I recommend boiling them for a short while, though.

What do they taste like? I've read numerous inquiries of this nature on the web. Lots of people recommend ways to cook this invasive weed, but nobody can describe the flavor. Well, it tastes ... good. Its merit, I think, is in the chewy texture, as most vegetables tend to be mushy even when steamed. If you grew up in Southeast Asia, you would understand this comparison: it feels and tastes like steamed camote tops. It has a flavor that is a stronger version than the scent of it as you pull it with your hands.

I can't keep digging up the ground elder; I have too much work, especially now that my stay in Denmark's coming to an end, so I just look out for new growth and eat it as it emerges.

latest news

A story of mine, ‘The Remedy,’ will appear in Cupido’s September-October 2008 issue, in Danish and Norwegian translation, under the pen name Aresgada. I have previously published two other stories for this publication, ‘Winter’ (2007) and ‘Always Connected’ (2006) under the same pen name. ‘The Remedy’ won first place in the magazine’s annual story competition, editor Terje Gammelsrud said in an email.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Free press awards

I learned last Friday that I had placed third in the essay category in the annual Philippines Free Press Literary Awards. A thousand thanks to the magazine, which has been ever-supportive Filipino writers, young and in mid-career. And special thanks to its ace literary editor Angelo "Sarge" Lacuesta, a very fine writer himself, for believing in my work.

The judges in the essay and short fiction categories were Katrina Tuvera, Vince Groyon and Dean Alfar. Here is the citation for my essay, which was penned by Alfar:

"Observations on the human condition are par for course for the best written essays, but the third prize winner for this year goes beyond banal statements of truth. Instead, we are taken on a road trip across Europe, from Denmark to Spain, where the crosses that commemorate road fatalities resonate with what makes us Filipino, and where the heart's internal geography is not a matter of location. At the end of the narrative, in a reversal of epiphany, the author shares something she already knew, even before the journey began - and that observation, that terrible truth, slowly and painfully revealed, strikes deep and hard.

The winner of the 3rd Prize for Essay is "The Absence of Sound Is Not A
Vacuum" by Lakambini Sitoy."

The ceremony was held during the celebration of the 100th Year Anniversary of the magazine, on August 27 at the Captain's Bar, Mandarin Hotel Manila.

First place winner in the essay category was Wilfredo Pascual, and in second place was Larry Ypil.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I've been digging out dandelions for two days. Backbreaking. I use a huge fork and a little hand spear with a two-pronged end. I throw the tines into the turf, force them down with one foot then lift. A little hillock gets produced. Something, inevitably, snaps. I pull the dandelion out by its foliage. If I'm lucky the entire thing comes out, all the way down to the pointy end of the root, leaking milk from all the disturbed root hairs. Most of the time, however, that snap means the damned taproot broke, leaving a length in the ground that will regenerate next spring. That's when I start poking around with the hand spear, usually without effect. Sometimes I get lucky and pull up a plant that started from seed this spring, meaning it's got lots of strong leaves and a small white root that comes out without issue.

The lawn is bald in spots from my efforts. I aim to uproot 100 dandelions a day but have quit around the 40 or 45 mark. It's like spending a couple of hours on strength training, and since I'm so bloody short I expend so much more energy on each freaking plant than the smiling effortless Danes.

Friday, August 15, 2008

baby petunias and the ivy invasion

I plucked out three perfectly healthy petunia seedlings the other week because I didn't know what they were! I'd never grown petunias from scratch and they seemed to bear no resemblance to the varieties I had bought two years ago from Netto. Those were surfinias for the most part. These had fuzzy leaves and had a sort of cactusy look.

There are other seedlings in different locations around the garden, growing in pots that I knew I sprinkled with the very fine seed some six weeks ago. I gave them a chance, just in case, and didn't weed (well, I was too busy to weed anyway) and now they have sprouted buds and branched out in that characteristic petunia manner. So now I know I got lucky. Still, what amazes me about these plants is that seedlings growing under different light conditions and in different degrees of wetness actually look like they came from different species.

Maybe they do come from different varieties, at least. The pack, which I bought in Nijosa (guess where that is, hehe) early this year, contains a mixture of different color flowers. I wonder if the diversity is restricted to that.

I found a blog post from a woman in Michigan who brought her petunias in for the winter and kept them on a window sill. I don't think my puny little seedlings will grow big enough to make a worthwhile show this summer, and I'm debating whether to bring them in or let them die with the first frost.

At least I now know what the seedlings look like.

In between revising and editing, I cleaned out ivy that had overtaken one wall. Incredible how vigorously they can grow. They make terrific ground cover, too: I'm still digging out some stems that broke off and refuse to come out of the ground. I wonder how well they might compete with skvalderkål. Something tells me I do NOT want ivy between the stones of my raised garden terraces.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I dag

I dag læste jeg i Kongens Frille af Philippa Gregory, på engelsk selvfølgelig.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

accidental angler

Finished The Accidental Angler by Charles Rangeley-Wilson. Great fun. Wish I could write with such nonchalance.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The tree growing on the corner of the property, with pinnate leaves and clusters of red berries in early fall, turns out to be a rowan. The bushes in the hedge that give me hell with the shears are young hawthorns. I have nettles and burdocks galore, which I dig out with various forks and spears.

My present reality is someone else's spec fic.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


I was mad about gladioli for a couple of months in 2006 and couldn't wait for the spikes to bloom. I did get gorgeous flowers off one variety that was pictured a deep red on the pack, only their colors seemed faded when the blooms finally came, sort of melon red. Overall they proved to be a disappointment: high winds broke the foliage and the flower heads, unstaked (we were in South Africa then) tended to break and rot in the wet earth.

Still, we gather the corms at first frost and plant them back out in spring. This year I was surprised to find little gladioli shooting out of the earth where a lone corm had been planted the other spring. It was the cormels, forgotten in the ground. They had survived the winter, a testament to warming temperatures in this part of the world. Weeding, I put them back. What a waste otherwise.


Shortly after I set the overwintered pelargoniums into the ground late in June, I trimmed them. I took a two-year old equal-parts mix of sphagnum (here they call it spagnum and pronounce the g as a w) and sand, and filled an old strawberry punnet with it. Then I stuck the cuttings in. They were about four inches long and had all but the top leaves removed. I was trying to do everything by the book, that is, as per instructions I had found on various university horticulture websites.

In about a couple of weeks I checked them. Roots had formed on two, which I potted up in a couple of plastic buckets I had drilled drainholes in myself. I placed them where they'd get lots of morning sun.

I checked the transplanted cuttings every day, which is apparently why I couldn't perceive much progress. (I was also revising a manuscript so I suppose the inspection had been fond but cursory). Then, after a week of rain, I looked and noted that the leaves and branchlets had considerably increased on one. As for the other, the flower buds I had noticed earlier had turned a definite shade of red.
It looks like I managed to propagate yet another a sister to my favorite red geranium (pelargonium) plants.

Friday, August 08, 2008

new potatoes

Was weeding out the nettles and burdock from the potato patch this evening when my fork turned up, you guessed it, a brand new potato,large enough to fit in my palm (quite a bit of heft) and a bit misshapen from all the bits of gravel in the earth. About that patch - I planted the first potatoes in June 2006, and they gave a good yield later that summer, and the following year. Apparently a few tiny tubers always remain, overlooked, in the soil, because some new growth asserted itself last year. And this year as well. When I arrived in June, the little sprouts were only a couple of inches tall. Now, six weeks later, the first tuber.

too late in the year

I have some dianthus (nelliker?) germinating in pots. They'll bloom next year, assorted colors. It's too late in the year to see the results of the petunias I seeded late in June; I'm surprised they're growing so slowly. It certainly was worth the bother -- I wanted to see if the seeds in the pack from Nijosa (all text was in French) would germinate, or if it had been one of those condemned or dumped products that marvelously make their way to my birth country. Well, something came up, but I don't know what species they are. If I'd only arrived earlier this year, the garden would have been showing great results.

Various websites tell me I should be taking cuttings from the pelargoniums now or next month, but what new growth there is seems so insubstantial. Plenty of flowers, though. Of a color that seemed the trend in 2006, a kind of tropical coral pink. The rage this year seems to be the pallid pink of a variety called Dronning Ingrid. I bought several from Metro, though the same sort was being sold at a gift boutique in Goteborg, a couple of doors down from Ulla's apartment.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Cleaned out a meter-square area using the gardening fork. Put in some lupine seedlings that had been stunted in their styrofoam container. There's a weed that drives me insane. It's got heart-shaped leaves and a root system that's always disproportionately large compared to the rest of the plant. Like pulling up ginseng. It's not skvalderkål, either. Fortunately in this sandy-loam soil it's not hard to remove. Wonder what the local name is.

back after two years

The skvalderkål have taken over, despite all best efforts. First sunny day in a week. Took up spade and prised out a mass from behind the flagpole, that could've been some wild aster-like plant. The stuff in my wheelbarrow looks like something Philip Treacy might design. Windfalls from both trees everywhere, rotting in the turf.

Too early to prune the pelargoniums and root cuttings.