Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Simple Reflection of 2011

It's the very last day of the year, closing in on the very last hour.

In one word, the year has been...eventful. It's hard to find a word that can pinpoint this mix of emotions: excitement, newness, challenge, stress, fun, and downright exhaustion. 

My only regret is that I wish I had written more - simply for the reason of wanting to be able to look back on it all later with perfect clarity.

Life has changed, to say it in the most obvious of ways, and changed in a way that can only be described as lovely and heartbreaking. 

This year I married a wonderful Norwegian guy that makes me laugh, brings out my best, and isn't afraid of my worst. This year my parents gave me a beautiful wedding. This year I moved far, far away from my family and friends and learned how to cope with things I couldn't have come up with in my wildest imagination a just a few years ago. 

This year, a new chapter of my life began. A bold chapter, as well. 

2012 will be a fresh beginning to an old story. 

Cheers and Happy New Year (Godt NyttÃ¥r) from an American girl in Bergen, Norway! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Things Will Be Different

How do you start a post about your upcoming first Christmas away from home? 

I know plenty of people have to be away from their families at Christmas either by choice or by force (or simply inconvenience). And I guess I'm one of them now. 

While I'm sad I won't be with my own family for such a special holiday, I have to keep my chin up: this isn't bad - this is just different. I refuse to be a mope and/or complete wreck because of it. 

And, like most other couples with families spread out too far to 'stop by' on the same day, we have chosen the every-other-year option. This year is Norway, next year is California. It's fair and it's easy (as easy as it can be) and it's just the way it is. 

I've made quite the investment in Christmas this year (it's seems so easy to do when it's your first Christmas with your other half in a new home). The first thing I bought to get into the Christmas spirit? A manager scene. It's handmade from Germany - I recognized the look because my family had been to the Christmas markets in Germany, and brought back some wonderful things. Naturally, I had to have something, too. 

Isn't it beautiful?

I bought some red table cloths and candle holders. I used one of Grammy's table runners to complete the look. Thinking of her often, lately.

Clearly, I don't know how to work a camera. It's terribly blurry, but you get the idea.
On my wishlist: a tripod. 
I picked up some darling little Nisse's, too. A "Nisse" is...hmm. Well, I've gotten SO many versions of what a nisse could be, that I'm not confident explaining it to you. I tried Norwegian Wikipedia which I Google Translated... but, I can't be bothered trying to figure it out at the moment, so when I know more, so will you. 

I love these guys! Aren't they cute?

And then the tree. Thankfully, I packed up some ornaments when I moved, but I still had to get a few the lights....and the tree stand....and the garlands...and the tree topper.....and oh yeah, the tree itself! I love this tree. I'd rather sit with the lights down low and hang out near the tree than watch tv. 
The first thing I do when I get home from work is turn on the Christmas tree lights (which brightens up the whole room because it's quite dark these days!!!!!!) 

I haven't had a real tree in years...and it smells so wonderful. I could do without the sap, though. 

We put up my "baby's first Christmas" ornament, and lots of others from grandparents and parents. I asked the hubby if he had any ornaments stashed at home from when he was growing up, and he didn't think so. 

I was slightly surprised, and then I realized that maybe they just don't do that here. I can't say for sure, but I haven't seen any 'keepsake ornaments' so far...but then again, I haven't been looking. In any case, I think it brings so much more pleasure to decorate a tree with things that are special...things, for example, that my mom has held onto for 24 years so that I could one day put it on my own tree (not intended to be 5200 miles away, but hey, you never can tell, right?). 

In trying to figure out what we want our home to be like at Christmas, we're wading through our own traditions of growing up in such different places to pick out some of our favorite things. I'm getting familiar with his traditions this year, and he'll get to know mine next year. 

While I'm not crafty, I know that I want us to have cross-stitched stockings like my mom made for all of her children. So, I better get started! It'll at least give me something to do for the next few's so dark! 

While writing this, I think I may have figured out what I'm probably going to miss the most about Christmas with my family (besides actually being with them, obviously). 

Three things: 
1. Christmas Eve at Grandma's
2. Stockings
3. French Toast on Christmas morning with the whole family before opening the presents that we thoughtfully picked out for each other....

Uff Da! Every time I actually write out the things I miss (instead of just thinking a fleeting thought), the lump in my throat grows. 

It's just going to be different. That's all. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Try and Try, Again.

I can't explain my motivation, but I have been cooking and baking A LOT. I cook everyday, but it hasn't been anything to brag about, until now.

I've learned that the weirdest thing about cooking is that it's exactly like life: you don't know what you're capable of until you try.

Was I capable of making a pumpkin pie, stuffing, and turkey (okay, fine, turkey filet) a week ago? Probably, but now I know for sure. Was I capable of making a marinade and then baking a chicken in it? Most definitely. I found that out the other day. I tried a recipe for teriyaki chicken (from dearest Fran), that was, in a word...delish! Soy sauce, butter, brown sugar, water, and chicken...they all had a party in my oven, and then a party in my mouth. Mmm.

Am I capable of making a "perfect roast chicken" (recipe courtesy of Flo). I think so. That's next on my to-try list.

All this cooking comes with a learning curve. Today I Googled "bulb of fennel" because I truthfully didn't have the slightest clue as to what that looks like, and there are just some things I won't ask of a Norwegian grocery store employee.

I learned my lesson of knowing when not to ask when I was looking for 'shortening' - which Google Translate translated incorrectly, which I then horridly mispronounced. As sweet and helpful as the guy was trying to be, he ended up walking away dumbfounded. I wandered the store for another 20 minutes, mistook a can of anchovies for a pot of Crisco and miraculously stumbled upon Matfett -directly translated to 'food fat'. Right - the only combination of words I didn't try. I was practically playing Taboo with the poor guy. I tried: fat; white fat; white fat that comes in a can; fat that you cook with; lard?; uhm, it's greasy when you touch it...and it's white. He didn't know. I tried my 'phone a friend' option, which was my mother-in-law, who was equally perplexed. So now I do my research before going shopping.

I baked cookies last night, too! Delectable cookies...and I got the recipe from Auntie Diane. She always makes the most amazing platter of Christmas cookies every year, and she gave me the recipe for my favorite one: Peanut Blossoms.

For my bridal shower this past summer, all the women brought a recipe to give me. I took a picture with each woman, and the pictures and recipes were put into a book. This book (I apologize for my terrible photography!):

This was Auntie Diane's page with her Peanut Blossom recipe:

So I set off to baking. The recipe calls for Hershey's Kisses, but I can't get those here, so I had to make do with Freia's Melkerull chocolates. Not nearly as charming as the Hershey's kiss, but there's something incredible about Norwegian chocolate that only your tastebuds can tell you about.

Ready for the oven!

My Norwegian chocolate substitution.
'Et lite stykke Norge' means: A little piece of Norway. 

Finished! Missing the 'kiss' look, but just as tasty! 

I realized after these came out of the oven that the recipe called for 48 chocolate pieces...I had just baked 12 cookies and used half the dough. Needless to say, I made the cookies smaller before putting them into the oven.

These were...heavenly. And happiness - all in one bite.

Thanks Auntie Diane!!!

(I took them to work and they were a big hit!)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Darkness, Mostly.

I knew it was was going to be dark here during the winter, but it genuinely surprises me most days when I get up before the sun comes up on the horizon.

On the weekends I sleep in, and if I'm not sleeping, I'm hanging out in bed with a cup of tea and a fresh Facebook newsfeed of California-happenings during my nighttime (remember I'm 9 hours ahead of California!). This morning, I didn't get out of bed until well after 9, and it was just barely starting to look like day break instead of the middle of the night.

I kept busy all day with a thorough house cleaning while Stian worked on fixing stuff in our apartment (how 1950's of us!), and when all that was done, the mister and I went to a museum. It was actually the local children's science museum, but I'm not going to deny how much more fun that is compared to a museum geared towards adults (you know the kind: it's silent like a library and everyone is walking around reading tiny placards that give information, albeit interesting, about something in a glass case in front of them).

I can appreciate a grown-up museum, but at this place we blew bubbles, built a dam, drilled for oil (I was incredibly bad at that!), played the drums, camouflaged ourselves like zebras, and learned that a human heart is capable of squirting it's own blood over a meter into the sky with every beat.

I wish I had pictures to share, but realized at the Bybanen stop on our way there that I had forgotten my camera (I was so busy tidying up that I put the camera in the drawer instead of my purse.. :( so sad!).

The point of telling you about the awesome interactive museum was that when we left (about 4 o'clock), it was already dark. We walked through the park to get to the center of the city, and by the time we got was really dark!

We went into the city to go to the Pepperkakerbyen (gingerbread city), which I've been desperately wanting to go to, but things keep getting in the way. Today, there was a line which we didn't want to wait in and we were getting we went home. Ah well, I'll be sure to bring my camera next time! I know you'll need to see pictures of it!

The days fly by, and the nights drag on, but what can you expect as we're approaching the darkest day of the year (December 22nd)?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanksgiving in Norway - oh, Bieber Invaded This Day, Too

I'm going to say something that I thought was obvious, but clearly isn't since I get this question so often: No, Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Norway. It's very American. To people in every other country in the world, "Thanksgiving" is just another Thursday - everyone is waiting for it to be Friday so it can finally be the weekend again.

I've been in Bergen for 4 months exactly (to the day!). I've met wonderful people doing wonderful things and I'm finding life to be pretty good here.

I'm part of a "tapas group" with some wonderful Norwegian ladies that I met, oddly enough, in line for the toilet in a bar just after arriving in Bergen. I think I've mentioned in another post how Norwegian's can be quite cold and unwelcoming at first - but these girls blew me out of the water because they talked to me first. I think just minutes after meeting them I might have said something like "I don't mean to be rude, but you're unusually friendly for a Norwegian girl." And I meant it. I've noticed that many girls are nervous to speak English, especially in front of friends or significant others, and then can seem a bit standoffish (which is rarely how they actually are, most of them are probably the nicest people you'll ever meet once you get to know them). I get it. I have to muster up lots of courage to try out my Norwegian, too.

Anyway, these sweet girls have kind of  'adopted' me, and somehow it came about that we should have a Thanksgiving dinner at my house.

I was looking forward to it, but I will be the first to say that I've only ever watched the meal being made; never really took part in the cooking.

While I was in California, I stopped by the grocery store with Grandma and bought a can of pumpkin pie mix and a can of condensed milk. I brought it back to Norway and set out to make the crust.

(I love to bake, but I've never, ever made a pie).

All I have to say is that I'm thankful for Skype so that my mom could offer up some suggestions. Once it was rolled out, I laughed because I had dreams of a perfectly circular crust, and this is what I created:

It was then that I realized I didn't have a pie pan. Tart pan, yes. Kiesh pan, yes. But not a proper pie pan. Oh well, I made do and it looked pretty normal:

Then I added the pumpkin mix and put it in the oven. Looked normal, smelled divine. The smell actually made me the slightest bit homesick. Before that smell, it was just another Thursday...after that smell, it was Thanksgiving in California and I was missing it. 

While the pie was in the oven, I needed to get started on the stuffing. I was doing this all the day before our Friday night Thanksgiving celebration. The stuffing recipe called for 2 loaves of white bread, torn into small pieces and left out for a day. So I began tearing...and tearing...and tearing...until my thumbs started to hurt from ripping the crust. Over a loaf in, I realized something important when my thumbs really began to ache: 


Sometimes I could kick myself for always doing it the hard way first. 

I finished prepping for the stuffing, made a plan for the big day, bought the rest of the the turkey (yep, waited til the last minute on that, too), and went swimmingly. 

Here was what the table looked like (the day before..unfortunately I didn't take any pictures on the day of): 

I didn't find a whole turkey nearby until the day before, which wasn't enough time to defrost it, so I went with the turkey filet option...I'm so glad for that! It tasted great and it was easy. A little butter and some seasoning and viola! Dinner! The stuffing was good, but really needed the gravy to make it great.

It was sort of a potluck Thanksgiving, so the girls brought the cranberry sauce, green beans, mashed potatoes, candied yams, meat pie, and an extra cake (we just weren't sure how people were going to like the pumpkin pie...). It all came together and it was really fun. 

Oddly enough, Bieber invaded Thanksgiving, too. How this boy has weaseled his way into my life, I'll never know. It came up because someone had a dream about him, perhaps as a result of reading my previous blog post, and then we started talking about what we actually knew about the guy. Collectively, this is what we found out: 

1. One of his songs goes something like " baby, baby, baby, oooh" (I think?)
2. He may, or may not, have gotten someone pregnant at some point in his life. 
3. He sang some song with another famous artist...Ludacris? 

And to top it all off, we watched a few Justin Bieber YouTube videos together. I think that might have been the strangest part of the night - not bad, but definitely strange. 

It was a good Thanksgiving. 

I was (and still am) thankful for new friends, pumpkin pie, skype, family (near or far) and not stressing too much about trying something new. 

Already looking forward to next year!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Park in the Airport, and Bieber Fever

I can't believe it's just shy of one month since my last post. 

I've been preoccupied with other things, the most important of which was my 97 year old grandmother passing away. One thing I learned is that it is incredibly hard to be so far away from family when important people in your life fall ill and ultimately pass away. No matter how many phone calls you make or emails you send, your efforts at communication can never compare with actually being with the people you feel you need the most. I have no doubt that this scenario will be the most challenging of all - it will never get easier and it will never change.  Unless, of course, we move back - but then it simply switches from being far from my family to being far from the hubby's family. It can summed up to a lose-lose situation. 

I have so much I want to share with you, but rather than a RIDICULOUSLY long post, I'll break it into many smaller ones. 

I wrote the following during a layover in Amsterdam: 

Travel time for my flight from Bergen to L.A. was 22 hours. That's not including the time it takes to get to and from the airport. All in all, the trip really took me at least 27 hours before I made it in the door in time for a cup of tea.

This amount of time is unusual - I try to keep it  under 18 hours, and always hope for something less than 15 hours.  That's enough time for a quick stop in Amsterdam to do some airport shopping with only minor stress.

I'm currently writing this post in Schiphol, the airport in Amsterdam, sitting in quite possibly the strangest lounge I've ever experienced. I took the escalator up to the wing where my gate was, and was amazed at the floor with a big green circle painted on it. Inside that circle were some fake logs and other trees (trees that look pretty real, with sap and everything!) directly outside the toilets. When I say that, I should translate to 'directly outside the bathroom', because if you're from America there's a good chance you're assuming that I mean in the bathroom, but near the stalls. So to be clear - there is no fake forest IN toilets/around the toilets/even in the bathroom, but rather in the common area near the bathroom.

This was definitely new, an update from the last time I flew through here.

Then I noticed the platform. The huge platform with an Astroturf  floor to give the appearance of grass. But, wait! There's more! More fake trees, another log, lots of fake plants. Oh, did I mention that they have bird noises playing in the trees?! Yes, the birds are tweeting away on the D wing of Schiphol. There are also nice recliner-esque chairs and…get ready….bean bags! The place was littered with them.

At first I thought all of this was very strange, but then realized how simply brilliant the whole thing was. You don't have to be a special member of a special club and pay lots of money to have a decent place to relax here. And as a traveler, when I have unexpected layovers after traveling for long periods of time, all I really want is to lay down and stretch out - let my body recover after being cooped up in an airplane.  And I also want a little peace and quiet. This place had it. Calming colors, calming noises, opportunities for relaxation horizontally. It was great.

This was what I needed. I didn't rest on the flight because of panicky thoughts that immigration was going to 'get' me on my way through Amsterdam. I only believed this because on my way out, they told me I had stayed too long and that when I returned I would be pulled aside for questioning. Not knowing what to expect, my imagination got the best of me and my flight was less than restful.

The time came for me to hand over my passport and I was just waiting for the guy to say "please step over here, ma'am…", and I would follow with my heart pounding. That is absolutely not what happened.

Here's our conversation:
Me: Hi. (I hand him my passport…heart still pounding).
Him: Do you like Justin Bieber?
Me: Uhm. I'm sorry?? I mean, I know who he is, but I can't say I like him…
Him: Oh. Well he just came through here.
Me: Really? (Completely uninterested).
Him: Yeah. He's going through security right now. Just over there (he points behind him to the security checkpoint).
Me: Well….(not sure what to say)…good for him!
Him: Okay. *stamp*. Bye!
Me: Oh - well, okay then. Bye…Have a nice day! *
*this is where I walk speedily away before he realizes that he most definitely did not do his job thoroughly because he was oddly preoccupied with a  14 year old pop star.

What a day. I needed nap, and luckily had the perfect place to take one. After some rest I was able to hop on my next flight to Bergen and finally get home to my own bed. 

It was quite a fast-paced trip but I was glad to get home. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ready For A Blog Change

I've grown bored of the way my blog looks. 

So bored that I looked up another word for 'bored.' I stumbled across its definition which more or less said "wearily dull" which I thought was fitting for how I felt. 

I love the picture I have at the top. I took it after a long hike up to Priekestolen (which means Pulpit Rock) in Stavanger. That was the hike where I dangled my feet off ledge with a 600 meter high drop straight into the fjord below. 

I think the picture at the top of my blog is also really important for people who don't know what a 'fjord' is. 
I understand those people, because I used to be one of them - much to the dismay of most Norwegians. I remember shocking the boys that came to the states to study abroad when I admitted that I had no idea what a fjord was. (It's a long, narrow, deep inlet of sea between steep slopes). Need more pictures than the one above?


So, I'm ready for a blog make-over. The thing is, I need to learn HTML and CSS  and I have no idea where to start. Also, I'm sure I don't have the patience for it. 
But I'll keep you posted and hopefully one day soon you'll look at my blog and see something fresh and fantastic! 

Wish me luck!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Foodie Friday!

Oh boy, have I been busy!!

After getting my mixer last weekend (oh yeah, and 3 months salary that I finally got because I finally got my tax card and was able to get a bank account), I'm quite inspired to cook. I have my own money to go to the grocery store and go a little crazy, so I've been stocking up on pantry items with complete monetary disregard.

It's not like I've been buying steaks or anything, but I go for the good olive oil now, if you know what I mean.

Stian went on a business trip earlier this week, and I decided to give a recipe that I've been looking at a try. The questionable recipes are a little bit more fun to try by myself for a "trial run" before feeding them to someone else.

The recipe I tried was a variation of chicken stir-fry. It had some Thai influences that I have absolutely no experience with - to the point where I didn't even know the ingredients existed.

The beauty of this recipe is that it comes from an online cookbook/blogger called The Stone Soup, and it features recipes that require only 5 ingredients and about 10 minutes cooking time. There are also variations for every recipe, so if you prefer meat in a seemingly vegetarian dish and vice versa, you have options.

One word: amazing.

I tried two recipes from that blog site this week, and was quite satisfied with both.

The first was the Thai dish I mentioned above. The ingredients? Ground chicken, chili peppers, lime juice, fresh basil leaves and fish sauce (I also made some basmati rice on the side). I have never actually tried chili peppers, so it was kind of exciting to cook with them, although.... I do have some bad news. Okay, more like a "rookie mistake" that I should share.

Or two, actually.

I cut up the peppers and pushed the seeds out with my thumbs, which resulted in my nail beds burning for at least 6 or 7 hours, maybe even into the next day. Then I thought (being so brilliant, of course): hmm....I don't think I've actually tasted a chili pepper (I like tasting things -like vegetables and other things that grow and aren't processed- in their natural state)....soooo I put a little sliver in my mouth. I gave it a little chew and immediately got a burning sensation that I could only handle by spitting out the pepper into the sink as fast as I could. Holy smokes. Those babies are HOT! And now I know for sure... (always have to learn the hard way!)

Alright, so two rookie mistakes in, I continued to make the dish. The chicken was cooked so I added the peppers (which at this point made me nervous), squeezed in some lime juice, measured some fish sauce, and picked off basil leaves from the little plant I bought at the store.

One observation that I feel you should be aware of: Fish sauce smells terrible. Foul, even. So awful that I thought I couldn't actually eat what I was preparing because there was absolutely no possible way that any food with this stuff in it could be appealing to the tastebuds. And in addition to that god-awful smell, there were also blazing hot chili's in there. Good grief. But I wasn't going to give up. I wanted it to be's the first recipe I've really tried that was completely new to me, and I simply wanted it to be good. It had to be. I added the basil (another thing I wasn't too sure about), stirred it all up, and looked at it without excitement.

There was only one thing left to do: try it. So I picked up a fork, got some chicken, a chili, and basil leaf all in one bite, closed my eyes,and expected the worst.

But I was incredibly surprised. The combination of flavors was quite good, and I especially loved the fresh basil flavor. Mixed up with a bit of rice and it was the perfect dinner.

I patted myself on the back, and called Stian to tell him that I think he'll like this new recipe (as long as he will stay out of the kitchen while I cooked it, because one whiff of that sauce would ruin it).

I was so pleased.

Then, the very next night I thought I would try yet another new recipe. This one, friends, has already become a new favorite and I plan to make it often (it's SO easy!).

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures for this one, but I can tell you about it and you can go back to that Stone Soup link above and check it for yourself. I really recommend this one:

Ingredients: Broccoli, butter beans, pine nuts, fresh cream, parmesan cheese.

Steam the broccoli. Brown the butter beans (from a can) in some olive oil. Toss in the pine nuts. When the broccoli is done, add that to the beans and nuts. Remove from heat and add a little bit of fresh cream and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Oh, and I put in a little bit of pepper for some extra flavor.

Serve. Enjoy. Be satisfied for hours.

I am in love with this recipe, and I'm dying to make it again. It was SO easy, and SO good, and SO satisfying! And fairly healthy too! I highly recommend it.

Also, I baked my dad's Aunt Olive's brownies this week. I got the recipe from Auntie Verna (another of my dad's aunties...aren't aunties great?!), who recently passed away from ovarian cancer.  Admittedly, I've never baked brownies (except from the box), so I was pretty excited. They were delish!

With my confidence soaring after so many successes, I'm searching the cookbooks for something else new to make.

Can't wait to share it all next time!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pat-A-Cake, Pat-A-Cake, Baker's (Wo)man, Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can!

When we got engaged and started talking about where we were going to live, I had a small list of requirements. 

When we decided on Bergen, Norway as our new home, my list became even more specific. Here's what I wanted: 
1. A guest bedroom. 
2. The bathroom away from the living room. 
3. A Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. 

Check, check, and...check! 

Our apartment has a guest room, the bathroom around the corner from the living room, and now, as of yesterday, a brand spankin' new stand mixer. 

The newest addition to our home sweet home: 

Ain't it a beauty??
Kitchen Aid's are notoriously expensive here. In the states, you can get a mixer for about $250, or if you're my sister, you can find a misprint in an advertisement and get it $150 (which is how my love for these mixers started). I always thought that was slightly expensive...until I moved here. If I could a mixer that was even $300 here I would be amazed. If I could find one here for $500 I would still be amazed. 

Get ready, you might want to sit down. We found a mixer that was "on sale" for 4998 NOK. How much does that cost, you might ask? Well, (seriously, sit down and take a deep breath) that's about $885. Gosh, just looking at that price made my heart jump. 

After happily carrying this out of the mall (okay Stian carried's pretty heavy!), I couldn't wait to get it home. I cleared a spot on the counter next to the coffee maker and washed up all the pieces. 

I hauled out my favorite cookbook, and turned to a favorite cake recipe: Angel Food. I made a grocery list and practically ran up to REMA 1000 (the local grocery store; pronounced ray-mah too-sen) to pick up some ingredients for the cake and whipped cream I planned to make to go with it. 

And so, I baked. I hadn't baked in too long, so I was a little bit nervous. Angel Food cakes can be finicky if you're not careful, and I really wanted this to be perfect. 

I've had my eye on a cake plate that was in a store in the center of the city, and thought that my first cake needs to be on a good cake plate. So I tossed the cake in the oven, ran down to the bybanen (the light rail system) in time to just barely catch one. I rode into the city, jumped off and ran into the little mall called Xhibition, grabbed the plate I needed and dashed home. It took me about 40 minutes, and I made it home just in time to invert the cake as soon as I walked in the door. ( Angel Food cakes have to be flipped over right after you take them out of the oven). 

Stian's parents came by, and I got a chance to share what I had made. It was a success! :) 

My new darling cake plate and the server we got as a wedding present...and a half-eaten cake. 

We cut up some fresh strawberries and I made whipped cream (for the first time!) and it was delish! 

While eating cake, I remembered that today, the 16th of October, is my dear Grandma's 85th birthday. How appropriate to be eating cake! And Mom's birthday is in just a few days as well. Since I couldn't be there to celebrate, I ate an extra piece and thought of you both. 

Getting back into one of my favorite hobbies has been so refreshing. I haven't baked in a long time (maybe even 2 years!), so I was happy to be doing something I loved again and be able to share it with others. 

It's been a good weekend. 


Monday, October 10, 2011

Palmolive makes _______, in Norway?!

There's been one thing I've found strange upon taking my first stroll in the grocery store, and each time I visit, I always end up a little puzzled.

When an American see's the brand "Palmolive" they immediately think: dishwashing soap. Nothing else. They imagine a bottle of green soap, a little picture of a hand holding up some kind of fancy stemware, and a pleasant scent.

Something like this:

Actually, exactly that. That reminds me of the early years of my childhood to be perfectly honest. 

But when I first came to Norway, I think I was taking a shower up at my husband's family farmhouse where I first spotted Palmolive Shower Milk. I remember glancing at it, then doing a double take thinking: did I really just see Palmolive on the edge of the bathtub?? 

Yeah. I did. 

Of course, I had to try it. It was so strange to me that I had no idea that Palmolive made anything BUT dish soap. 

Well, I loved it. I might even go so far as to say I think it's the best body wash I've ever used. Why don't they make it in the states? (Believe me, I looked). It was wonderful, and I was impressed. 

Now that I'm living here, I've noticed they also make hand soap. (Who knew?) 

That stuff is pretty amazing as well! My hands get pretty dry here, and usually cringe at the thought of washing my hands when they're particularly dry....but not with Palmolive. It's in our kitchen and it's actually relieves the dry, itchy, weather worn symptoms. 

You know what else they make that's amazing? Deodorant. Yep. I tried that too, and so far I'm satisfied. Granted, I've been using it for approximately 4.5 hours, but so far, so good! 

I'm just amazed that there is this whole line of products that I've never been aware of! And they're all pretty great!! 

I haven't seen this in stores yet, but Palmolive also makes shampoo and conditioner. I'm on the hunt for it because I have suspicions that those will be great as well. 

My world has definitely been opened up. Each of the products smell fantastic and are gentle on the skin.

The strange thing though, is the one product that Norway's Palmolive does not carry is dish soap. The only Palmolive thing I've been familiar with most of my life doesn't exist here. 

That's a bit odd, I think. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Moving In, Settling Down

I've tried to write this post 3 times - each time more unsuccessfully than the last.

My biggest dilemma was that I felt like I was unable to convey my delight, satisfaction, joy, and slowly growing homesick heart all in one post.

However, let me be clear, I am not homesick...yet. I don't think simply missing family, friends, and birthday parties counts as being homesick, but if you're creating a "homesick potion" of sorts, those would definitely be in the mix.

This post isn't about homesickness though, it's about settling into my new life in Bergen.

It's officially autumn here - heavy rain is starting up, accompanied by strong winds. While writing this, I noticed a very strange sound in the kitchen (I automatically assumed it was the dishwasher - and then realized the dishwasher wasn't on). I looked out the window and let the street light be my guide. I can always tell how hard it's raining by checking it against the light down the street. At that moment it was coming down hard, but that sound: It wasn't rain. I went to the kitchen window where the noise was loudest and peaked through the blinds only to see little pea-sized hail tinking against the glass.

I've seen hail a few times in my life, but in the few months that I've been in Bergen, the times it has hailed here has already surpassed my mere 24 years of witnessing it.

Moving into the new season makes it feel like the summer was ages ago. What a busy time that was!

Reminiscing  about the wedding aside, our boxes full of our things had been packed up, shipped over,  and delivered to our doorstep.

I had been waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Finally, it arrived - in perfect condition. Our nine boxes full of wedding presents and personal goodies were finally here! And it only took 8 weeks.

This was our pallet after I had taken off a few boxes.

In great condition for making the 5200 mile journey. 

After they pulled our the pallet off the truck, the delivery guy went back to the truck and began to pull down yet another pallet. I saw all the Home Depot boxes, and we immediately told the guy that it wasn't ours. He wouldn't take them back though. With our names on the shipment, he had to deliver them. So we were left with 8 boxes of stuff that did not belong to us:

They were full of "Diverse Halloween costumes," "children's games", "blankets", and other things, according to their horrible labels (no wonder their shipment was in the wrong place: they didn't label it properly!). Definitely not our stuff. The boxes were not packed well enough and this shipment was crushed. I felt sorry for whomever it belonged to. We had to carry all these boxes down to our basement to store them until the mix up was sorted out. (Side note: they charged us extra for this shipment and seem to be quite relunctant in refunding the money...)The boxes got picked up the following day, and it was just a minor set back in the sheer joy of opening all of our boxes. 

I can't describe my excitement. 

All of our wedding presents! Pots and pans! Knives! Extra towels! Kitchen utensils I've only dreamed about! It was delightful. It was like Christmas in September. I began tearing apart the boxes and making an utter mess. 

Before I started: 

Stuff everywhere!

Once I started, it was hard to stop. I emptied one box after another, barely leaving myself room to move. 

My kitchen...full of new dishes and crumpled newspaper from the last week in July.

There was only one thing to disrupt my excitement, and that was my new arch enemy: packing peanuts. Their super powers of defying gravity, static cling, and an uncanny ability to hide until you think everything is all cleaned up (only to surprise you later) was overwhelmingly annoying.


I thought I had taken a picture of the enormous bags of packing peanuts and bubble wrap that came out of the boxes, but apparently I didn't. The bags were about 4.5 feet high, and about 2 feet in diameter - packed full. One bag for packing peanuts, one bag for bubble wrap. All of the newspaper that I unwrapped from things was about as high as my knees when I stacked them all up, and we had an incredible amount of cardboard that needed breaking down as well. That's what happens when you pack boxes inside of boxes, I guess. 

It took a few hours to unpack, and a few more hours to clean up. 

Everything went through a round in the dishwasher before finding a home in the cupboards - but I didn't mind one bit: I was thrilled. All of our dishes, silverware, pots and pans, and baking was all here - finally! We could move on from the days of having 1 frying pan, 1 saucepan, and 4 cooking utensils. 

It's impressive to think that we managed with the bare minimum...but regardless, those days are over! 

In addition to kitchen goodies, we also got some special items: 

A quilt that was made by a very special group of ladies at church. It wasn't made particularly for me or anything, but in the few weeks that I was able to attend the Quilting (or is it Comforters? I can never remember) group, I spotted the quilt and just thought it was the bees' knees. A woman named Ruth noticed that I really liked it, and gave it to me as a gift. It's here in Norway with me, and I'm making very good use of it. 

A Viking ship that was an engagement gift. A man named John made it (who is, I believe, president of the Sons of Norway group in Los Angeles), and it is perfect in our window sill: 

Amazing! We love it. 

The ship actually sits quite nicely with another wedding present that makes just about every Norwegian who comes into our home chuckle: the words "uff da" carved out of wood and painted purple. An old family friend, Stephanie (one of my best friends' mom) gave it to us. I'm not sure I can give you a proper definition of what Uff da means, so this is from Wikipedia: "Uff da is often used in the Upper Midwest as a term for sensory overload. It can be used as an expression of surprise, astonishment, exhaustion, relief and sometimes dismay. For many, Uff da is an all-purpose expression with a variety of nuances, and covering a variety of situations. The expression has lost its original connotation, and it is increasingly difficult to specify what it means now in America. Within Midwestern culture, Uff da frequently translates into: I am overwhelmed. It has become a mark of Scandinavian roots, particularly for people from North DakotaSouth Dakota,Wisconsin, northern IllinoisIowaMinnesota, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.[2][3] Uff da can often be used as an alternative for many common day swear words." It's a big hit among Norwegian-Americans, that's for sure. My Norwegian grandparents said it all the time! I seldom hear it in Bergen, but then maybe I just don't notice it? Either way, this part of my living room is definitely a favorite:

Norwegian corner

On the other end of the window sill there is more of a beachy theme. 

These...I love. On the left is a candle holder from Auntie Diane. I think of her when I see it, and it reminds me of where I come from. On the right is something special an old friend made for me. This friend, her name is Brittany, made a collection of the sand and shells from my hometown, Manhattan Beach. It's such a lovely reminder of my roots, my friends, my family. It graces my window sill along with all the special treasures that came with me to start my new life in Bergen. 

Perhaps I'll have to make another post about the other treasures I have around my apartment to remember I'm loved by some pretty special people back in California. I miss you all, and think of you very often. The love, support, and little trinkets have made it so much easier to settle in to these new beginnings. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Climbing Mountains

(I've neglected my blog. I simply didn't get around to Foodie Friday, but hopefully I'll be more organized for it next week. For now though, let's catch up.)

The highest mountain in Bergen is called Ulriken. Bergen is surrounded by 7 mountains - which explains the concentration of frequent clouds and rain, but the highest is Ulriken at 643 meters above sea level.

There are gorgeous panoramic views from the top, and a cable car to take you back and forth to the restaurant. 

I desperately wanted to take the cable car, but we decided to hike up and then ride down. This hike was CAKE compared to the one I've previously posted about. 

Our destination was the funny looking tower on top (which glows interesting colors on clear nights in Bergen). 

We walked from our apartment up to the beginning of the trail, and then officially started the hike. It didn't take long to enjoy the first of many beautiful views on our way up. 

As is famous for hiking trails in Norway, we climbed up A LOT of rocks that only got bigger the higher we went: 

The hike was difficult, but the end was always in sight, and in comparison to the monster hike we went on upon arriving in Norway, this seemed easy. 

Some parts were so steep that there were handrails provided which eased the strain on your knees. 

Hand rails and beautiful views.

Towards the top, you could see the cable cars going (which, on a clear day, you can actually see from our apartment, spurring my interest in wanting to visit this mountain in the first place). 

Almost there!

We made it!

The weather turned out to be perfect hiking weather, and the sun even came out when we were at the top of the mountain. 

We found a place to sit down and have our snack that we packed with us, and bought a cup of coffee at the restaurant.

There was a definite chill in the air, so we were only able to sit outside long enough to eat and snap a few pictures. 

Rocking my Norwegian wool top! :)

And of course I had my darling hubby to take one too....

When we were sitting outside, I saw this lonely coffee cup on the table with gorgeous Bergen views behind and thought that is so Norway: hiking, pretty views, and coffee.

Sooo Norway

And of course, the Norsk flag: 

We bought a cup of coffee and shared a chocolate bar inside before taking the cable car down to the bottom. 

Our cable car's shadow. 

It was a great hike, and a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon: together and enjoying ourselves in the beautiful city that we live in. :)