The Danish Challenge: Prelude


IMG_4961A few years ago, I was in a book club and one of the books we read was The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner.  Weiner travels the world to 10 different countries in search of the happiest places in the world. He seeks out a Dutch professor, Ruut Veenhoven, who runs the World Database of Happiness (WDH) in Rotterdam to examine his research. As I was going through the book this evening, I stopped at a few pages I had earmarked. One of these contained the findings that Weiner noted from Rotterdam (with the thoughts I had as I was reading): 

“Extroverts are happier than introverts (well at least they look it); optimists are happier than pessimists (duh); married people are happier than single people (well, that’s just great for me); though people with children are no happier than childless couples (? Maybe that’s due to a lack of sleep?); republicans are happier than democrats (ok one in my favor); people who attend religious services are happier than those who do not (amen!); people with college degrees are happier than those without (so my piece of paper includes happiness? Awesome!), though people with advanced degrees are less happy than those with just a BA (MAcc and CPA- nevermind I retract my previous statement); people with an active sex life are happier than those without (no comment); women and men are equally happy; though women have a wider emotional range (see, it’s not just me, this is fact people!); having an affair will make you happy but will not compensate for the massive loss of happiness that you will incur when your spouse finds out and leaves you (thanks Hollywood for proving this one); people are least happy when commuting to work (reason #1 for why I live 5 miles from work 🙌); busy people are happier than those with too little to do (ha! Maybe that’s because we are too busy to realize we could be relaxing on a beach with a book and fruity drink); wealthy people are happier than poor ones, but only slightly (thanks for the added clarification).

One of Wiener’s last comments in the book are “Our happiness is completely and utterly intertwined with other people: family and friends and neighbors and the woman you hardly notice who cleans your office. Happiness is not a noun or a verb. It’s a conjunction. Connective tissue.”  <– sometimes the happiest person I see all day is that lady who takes my office trash!  True Story.

I found this book intriguing yet obvious, funny yet insightful and now I want to travel.

IMG_4820Fast forward to this past weekend and I started a new book called The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. Russell is witty. I found myself laughing even in the intro and I wanted to read more. (Which is something I rarely say!) Russell shares  the journey of moving her life from London to Denmark because her husband (referred to as Lego Man) landed a job with Legoland and she spends one year committed to living a Danishly- I don’t quite know what that means yet, but I’m soon to find out!

So what does The Geography of Bliss and The Year of Living Danishly have in common? I thought you’d never ask! According to the WDH, Denmark is ranked #1 among 155 nations as having the highest level of “inequality adjusted happiest” which “is measured as a linear combination of the mean and the standard deviation of the distribution of happiness in a nation.” Essentially if everyone in the country was completely happy, the country could score 100. Denmark ranks #1. Take away the technical, mathematical calculation, and I’m pretty sure we can summarize it as the Danes are pretty happy.

Russell knew this as well and set out on a journey to uncover why the Danes are so happy and how she might in turn, become happier by living Danishly. What’s their secret and how happy do they consider themselves??

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Since I really have enjoy this book so far, and have an interest in Danish living, I’m going to embark on my own journey – to learn why and how Denmark is so happy and see if I can incorporate Danish living in the US.

I’m going to call this The Denmark Challenge. Each month I will read and study a new chapter in this book, learn and adapt. The book is broken into 12 chapters, one for each month of the year. I’ll share what I’ve learned and how I’m “living Danishly in America” My hope is that I leave this challenge with much more knowledge of Denmark (not going to lie- I wasn’t even exactly sure where it was on the map) and a full embrace of happiness, which might be the Danish way of happiness, but only time will tell.

I’ll leave each post with a few Facts About Denmark and Living Danishly that I’ve gathered so far in the book and other research. I hope you take this journey with me to “Living Danishly.”

IMG_4736Facts About Denmark

  1. Legoland is in Denmark (some of the hotel rooms are themed and built legos – oh to be child-like again – that must be the key to happiness?!)
  2. Denmark has 5.6 million people
  3. Denmark is a progressive society
  4. Danes tend to look a lot alike- tall blondes (great, just great – dying my hair will not, I repeat, will not make me happy – no year-long test needed for that one) 

Living Danishly

  1. Christian Bjornskov is Denmark’s happiness economist- look him up later
  2. “mere penge, mere problemer.” translate 
  3. They are happy because their high expectations are realistic
  4. More than 70% of Danes believe most people can be trusted – wow. Just wow.


PS – After writing this, I now have Bob Marley’s “Everything’s gonna be alright” in my head… okay – not sure what Denmark and Bob Marley have in common but these are nice tunes to jam to as I’m getting ready for bed.

god nat [gohNAT] (good night)

a view of Nyhavn Copenhagen, Denmark

Punching the Road

weekend runDuring one of my workouts this week (you know, the one where I’m all sweaty, smelly and no one wants to talk to me), I noticed a guy working out with a punching bag.  The energy, passion, determination and strength that went into each hit of the bag made me think #1 – he’s had a rough day, #2 – he’s training fo something or #3 he actually enjoys it.   Then I thought, hey this isn’t far off from why I run… running is my time. It’s an outlet for me to focus my thoughts, pray, breathe or think nothing at all.  It’s also a training mechanism to make me faster and stronger.  And I enjoy it!  I really do love to run. Instead of punching a bag, I punch the road!

At first I thought the punching bag in the gym might be a little out of the norm from treadmills, ellipticals and bikes, but why and how can I judge a bag and not judge my running shoes and garmin?!  The bag was this guys mechanism, my shoes and garmin are mine!  So next time you think someone is ‘weird’ or ‘different’ try to think about why they like that and how you can relate.  Now I actually want to put on some gloves and see what happens!  Maybe the next rainy day!

weekend pupThis past weekend I spent the weekend at my friend’s house and watched over her husband’s dog(note: she will be happy it’s not ‘her’ dog here 🙂 ).  It was a stay-cation for me and I had a blast.  Meet Boomer (I call him Boom Boom)… 

I did some retail therapy and stopped at my favorite cupcake place in all Northeast Florida – Luli’s Cupcakes!  (Seriously-Best.Cupcakes.Ever.) We had a few days of solid rain day and night.  I weathered the storm for my key lime pie cupcake…. yummm So.Worth.It.

weekend cupcake

I wanted to eat something a little less processed and a little more healthy so  I ventured to a new place for me – The Present Moment Cafe.  It’s an organic, vegetarian cafe.  I got the Buddha Bowl and let me tell you… whoever said vegan and organic can’t taste good was SO wrong.  Chick peas, buddha rice, cherry tomatoes, spinach, legumes. DELISH

weekend food 

As I mentioned in my last post, this past weekend I had a 9 mile run scheduled.  After a few solid days of nothing but rain, the skies opened and Sunday was one of the most beautiful days yet!  So off I ran!  The runner’s high was in full fling and I ran pretty strong.  After my run, I spent a few hours relaxing at the pool and reading a book.  I actually had my book club book, The Interestings, and a book I am borrowing from a friend.  The book is called “Carry On, Warrior” and it’s from the famous blogger Glennon Doyle Melton who writes Momastery. Even though I still have over 200 pages in my book for book club (and we are meeting next week!), I promised I would pick one chapter and read it.

So I picked the chapter called “It will be Beautiful.”  I had no idea what to expect but as I read, I found myself laughing and crying and smiling and feeling empathic.  Crazy how this can happen in only a few pages!  The chapter I read was amazing and I HIGHLY recommend this book to any ladies.  Two sentences really stuck out to me.  One was very personal… “I…prayed that God would either open an adoption door to take away the desperation in my heart.”  No- I’m not adopting, but I can completely relate to this type of prayer!

The other sentence that stood out was “That was an important lesson” SHOW UP. You never know what might happen.”  This is so incredibly true and I think too often we (ok me!) get comfortable where we are, are uncertain or don’t think our contribution will make a difference to step outside the box, take a leap of faith and just say OK I’ll be there.  So I’m trying to living the attitude of Show Up and God will take over when you give it all to Him.

weekend poolweekend book words

I did get a few good hours of reading in but still have a ton to go.  I’m not a reader but part of trying new things and stepping out of my comfort zone was to read books and join a book club!  I love my book club and never thought talking about a book would be fun!

For now I have to finish start packing for my TRIP TO MICHIGAN!  Take off in T-minus 3+ hours!

Fondant, Flamingos & a Fire Pit

fun with fondant5

Whenever my stepmom throws a party, she really throws a party!  This weekend we celebrated a big year for her sister with a SURPRISE party full of food, fondant and flamingos… oh and a fire pit!

fun with fondant2

The surprise was a GREAT success!  The food was simply amazing.  I can’t take any credit for that but I did help with the cake!  The filling is the berry filling a made a few days ago.  The frosting is the yummy buttercream frosting I made over Christmas.  Click here for filling and here for frosting.  Since it was a big year, we used black fondant to make the cake look like a present and put a bow on top.  (note: we attempted to make a fondant bow but after an unsuccessful attempt, we bought one instead) We rolled fondant balls for the bottom and put candied beads and crazy candles for decor.  Notice the flamingo?!

This was the first time I’ve worked with fondant.  Clearly, I need a lot of practice!!

fun with fondant1

The cake was a HUGE hit.  Everyone loved the decorations and said the cake was delicious.  Frosting was “one of the best they’ve ever had!”  I’m just glad we didn’t have any left over because I may go into a sugar coma!

fun with fondant6

Another highlight of the night was a fire pit on the porch!  It’s more like a fire chimney but it’s the same thing.  So tonight, I am embracing the relatively cold weather (sorry northerners, this is why I said relatively!!) and making s’mores!

smore fun

Friday I started 30 days of intentional workouts to gear up for the River Run.  I couldn’t stop on day two so I started the day off with an intense 1 hour cycle class.  I LOVE cycle classes.  Each class is a little different workout, some focusing on strength, others speed and endurance, but in all of them I sweat like crazy and burn calories!

Day 2/30 – Cycle Class + party prep (preparing for a party is a ton of work and definitely beats sitting around doing nothing on a Saturday! I’m counting it as part of getting in shape)

Day 3/30 – Rest + Recover – Today I took off to recover from the 6 mile run Friday and super intense cycle class on Saturday.  Oh and recovering from the party!! I was able to catch up on a book Swamplandia! take a nap on the porch and pick up my bike from getting a tune up!

tune up1tune up

What was the highlight of your weekend?  Did you make any food worth sharing?  What’s your favorite workout?