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. :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Foodie Friday - Shrimp!

Goodness, Friday comes fast!

I nearly considering 86-ing the feature this week in favor of a post about finally getting our shipment and how wonderful it was to open everything. But Foodie Friday won, so you'll just have to wait a day or two for the other post (perhaps the more exciting post too...).

A trip into the center of Bergen is always fun. The famous fish market (Fisktorget) and Mathallen (food hall) down by the Bryggen is always crowded - full tourists and locals. We went down there on a nice afternoon, and spent time looking at everything. We came home with some Reindeer sausage, which is yummy, and loads of shrimp.

I've only had the shrimp experience like this once before, and that was when I was living in Stavanger (I should say staying, I wouldn't call what it was living). Never have I experienced this in the states, but that just might be the way I grew up and I've never known any different. In any case, I'll explain.

You buy the shrimp, bring it home and put it in a big bowl.

Get an extra bowl for the heads, tails, and shells.

Haul out the white bread (apparently it must be white, "legend has it" - aka, according to Stian), butter, and mayo.

So what you do is pick up a shrimp, rip off it's head, rip off it's tail, spread it's legs and pull of the rest of the shell to get to that delicious meat we're so familiar with inside. You can also suck out the caviar inside the ones with eggs. I found that repulsive. And then I tried it. And then I confirmed it was repulsive. 

About to be decapitated. Poor thing.

The remains. Unwanted heads and tails.

After you've gotten the meat out, take a piece of bread, spread some mayo or butter on it, and pile on those shrimp that you've worked ever so hard for. 

Needless to say, you work hard for a meal like this. You have to wash your hands about 3 times before the stink is gone and you might find random shrimp legs on your table the next day, but there is one good thing to say: it was delicious. 

Next week I'll share about something I made in my new pots and pans with my new cooking utensils and spices, and ate off of my new plates. Recipes welcome!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Things I Miss About California

I'm not homesick. Not yet at least, but every few days I think hmm, I would really love _____. And most of the time it's a California-something.

This morning I woke up and while making a cup of tea I thought hmm, I would really love some sourdough bread from Trader Joe's - toasted with melted butter on top. My old Saturday morning habit: take a cup of tea and some toast back to bed and watch something (usually Law and Order: SVU) on Netflix.

While "Tex-Mex" is mega popular here, it doesn't compare to Mexican food in California - something I definitely took for granted while living there. When I'm on Facebook and spot somebody's profile that I met while living in San Diego, I think hmm, I could really go for some food from Trujillo's right now. Correct me if I'm wrong, but were the fries covered in guac, sour cream, beef/chicken, and everything delish called the California fries? I can't remember, but they were good. Yum.

I think I need a good guac recipe for when we have taco night. Anybody have any good ones to share?

When I head to work in the morning after putting on my rain coat and shoving my feet into my wellies, I glance at my sunglasses sitting on the table on my way out and think it's been awhile since I wore those. They've been stuck to my face the last few years.

And finally, every so often, I think hmm, I would really love to drive. Drive up to Target....just for an hour - long enough to see what's in the entire store only to buy a pack of gum. I miss that store.

Oh, yeah. One more thing.

I've told you how I have to go outside in all weather with the kids at work. I've already grown weary of changing 27 three and four year old's in and out of their rain gear twice a day, but by the time we all get out, the fresh air is reward enough. This past week, after it poured like I've never seen it pour, the clouds parted and behind those big, ugly, dark gray puffs in the sky was...the sun. A warm sun. I took off my jacket and let it warm me up all over. I closed my eyes and all I thought was mmm. That's really nice. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Foodie Friday - The Debut Post

Foodie Friday is here!

I'll be upfront and honest and say that on my way home from work this afternoon this was my thought: Oh crap. It's Friday afternoon and I haven't cooked anything interesting this week or tried any new recipes.  

So, I'll share with you the best meal of the week: Cheeseburgers. 

Frozen hamburger patties (way cheaper than making our own) topped with Synnøve cheese: 

We also cut up some veggies: tomato, onion, cucumber, red bell pepper, onion and lettuce... 

....and were able to build a delicious burger, complete with a glass of wine for the lady and a beer for the gentleman - perfect for quiet Friday night at home. 

Our dinner! (Note the heart-shaped bell pepper. Total accident but very cute).
Oh, and don't forget the Norwegian ketchup which, as legend has it (again, by "legend has it" I really mean "according to Stian") is the best in the world. I haven't conducted a proper taste test, but the ketchup here tastes like ketchup. 

I was hoping our shipment from America with all our kitchen things would be here by now, but it's not. We still have exactly 1 frying pan and 1 saucepan. The spatula you see in the first picture is one of 4 cooking utensils we have. It's fun, I guess, but I'm looking forward to getting a few more things to ease the cooking process. For now though, burgers and the like. 

I have to say I'm a little disappointed with the first Foodie Friday post, but the good news is that it can only get better from here. Stay tuned, I've gotten some really great recipes from people and I'm looking forward to trying them all. Next week will be better, I promise! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Snails: Then and Now

When I was a little girl, I loved snails.

I still do, in fact. If I see a snail on the sidewalk, I have to "rescue" it. That means I pick it up and move it to what looked to be it's destination on the other side. My heart simply breaks a little more every time I hear the "crunch" of a snail dying under someone's shoe, so I can't just walk by and do nothing.

Poor little things. They can only go so fast!

Perhaps the rescuing comes from wanting redemption for the crimes I committed against the snail population when I was about 4 years old. There was a time or two when I was young, when I would wait until the rain stopped to go outside and "collect" snails. My mom lovingly handed me a giant ziplock bag, and I went on my merry way to the front yard and picked up every single snail in sight and "collected" them in my bag. I zipped the bag shut and watched them for awhile. Pretty soon it was dinner time, and dearest mom convinced me that the snails really needed to stay outside on the porch, in the bag.

I'd get up the next morning and find that my snails had turned into Snail Soup. Of course, depriving 25 snails of oxygen would most definitely be the reason they were all dead, but that didn't sink in until the second time I killed an entire community. I remember asking Mom what happened to the snails in my bag, but she never gave me a clear answer.

Sneaky lady!!! That's one way to get the snails out of your garden, I guess. I was morally opposed to helping Grandma sprinkle salt on the poor things - although before you realize you're slowly killing them it's kind of fun to watch them bubble and fizz. And while throwing the snails into the street with all my might with dear old Dad was pretty fun, I realized that was in an effort to kill the things, too. Can't a girl (and a snail) catch break?? Does it always have to be about murder?!

As I grew older and wiser, I collected them, took them to Grandma's backyard and raced them on her patio. That way, they could race, and go free. Knowing Grandma, however, there isn't a doubt in my mind that she salted them all when I wasn't looking.

(When I can get a scanned copy of the picture of me racing the snails, I'll put it in right here!)

Moving to Norway, the snail and slug population quite honestly amazes and disgusts me. Every so often you find the "normal" snail:

I found one like this sitting on the passenger window of our car a few weeks ago when we were on our way to Ikea. It rode with us the entire way (maybe 20 minutes), wandered around the window and door during the journey, waited for us in the parking lot, and rode all the way back home where I put it back safely in the bush it emerged from. I like these kinds of snails and found great joy in watching it's tentacles almost literally flop in the wind on the highway. I can't imagine what that could have felt like. 

This, however, is what I constantly see walking around in Bergen: 

Svartskogsnegl - Black slug

They are EVERYWHERE! I can't tell you how many times I've made Stian stop while we were on a walk to tell me about these. What intrigues me (and also happens to disgust me) is how huge they are! Yuck.

I see these quite often, too! 
The snails here come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Since it's often pretty wet from the rain in Bergen, there's very often snails and slugs out and about. 

This next one is a leopard snail (I don't know why these are called "snails" when they have no shell and they are actually slugs, but I'm guessing that since Norwegian is a word poor language, they use the same word to describe both things. Literally translated, the word for slug is "forest snail" -skogsnegl).

Legend has it (when I say "legend has it", I really mean this is what Stian has told me and I know nothing about it) that this particular snail (slug!) eats other snails/slugs. It's a cannibal! Apparently they're very good for the garden.

So, Grandma, we don't need to salt this one to death; Mom, we don't need to suffocate this kind; and Dad, we don't need to throw it into the street to be at the mercy of gravity and cars. 

The difference? These gross me out. I would never rescue something like this. If I saw it in the middle of the sidewalk, I wouldn't even wish the poor sucker luck, but rather hope it or something like it doesn't end up on the bottom of my boot...someone else's boot, maybe, but not mine. 

Slugs, especially Norwegian slugs, give me the heebeejeebies. 

Snails, real snails, the kind with the shell, always have a special place in my childhood heart. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Introducing: Foodie Fridays

I can't cook. Well, I can with enough instructions, but I don't know much about it and have already had one too many quibbles as a newlywed about what to eat for dinner. While I'm a darn good baker, it's quite an art to put together a healthy meal everyday, but I lack creativity (among other things). The good news is that I'm ready and willing to learn!

So I'm asking you, dear readers, for help.

I reached the point where I asked my Facebook community for help as well. Within minutes I got a great chili recipe and a good website. That got me thinking....if I post on my blog about it, and take the recipes you give me, I can do a "Foodie Friday" feature about one of your recipes every week, and I'll even take pictures! It could be really fun, and it gives me good motivation to get out of the "spaghetti, other pasta, carbs galore" routine. Plus, I think it's way more fun to get recipes on a somewhat personal level.

So, send me your recipes.

You can send me websites you like as well, but please pick a favorite recipe from that site so I can try something you found yummy, easy, fun, or all of the above.

You can either post the recipe in a comment, or send it in an email to ""

I'm looking forward to doing this, so I hope lots of you participate. It's been fun trying to guess what the back of a Norwegian box of lasagna is instructing me to do, but I'm ready for an me out and I'll see you at the end of the week for the very first "Foodie Friday" post! :)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

It's Raining, It's Pouring, the Old Man Isn't Snoring Because This Is Bergen and He's Probably Out Walking Instead

I think the title of this post gets my point across quite nicely.

Perhaps the biggest change in my life is the difference in weather (well, new apartment and recently married are major changes, too, but I don't feel like I have to adjust nearly as much to that). I've grown up with an L.A. attitude toward rain: if it's drizzling that's a good reason to stay home. The world sort of stops when it rains. You can go shopping when the sun is out again, so why bother getting wet? (I've already gotten some amused/disappointed glances from the husband as I explain why I couldn't take out the trash or walk the length of a football field to the recycle bin: it was raining! Just so you know, that's not an excuse in Bergen...ever.).

While the rest of the world laughs at such an idea, I have to defend it. Rain in Los Angeles (and even San Diego where I went to college) often gives everyone an opportunity to take a break from their manic life with their manic schedules. It gives everyone a chance to breathe. With so much sun and fair weather, you can keep yourself busy for weeks at a time, and sometimes rain is a relief. It's an opportunity to sit inside and maybe even have a cup of hot cocoa -which on this rainy Saturday morning in Bergen sounds divine.

(I suddenly realized I haven't had a cup of hot cocoa with floating marshmallows since I was a kid during the El Niño storms in the 90's, where we Californian's were confined to our homes to during torrential rains with lots of thunder and lots of was all very exciting, you know).

While rain in L.A. is a special event, it's a regular everyday thing in Bergen. In preparation, I bought some new rain boots, or wellies, made of 'natural rubber.' This wasn't a factor in buying the boots, but it sounded like an added bonus and after reading up on it, I have a feeling these boots will be more durable than the last (those were made of synthetic rubber and ended up getting holes/tears in the ankles). These boots were made (for walking.. ;) haha) by Viking, and I think they're pretty great:

If you've ever worn boots like this, you might have noticed that there is absolutely no insulation and your feet end up freezing and take the rest of your body heat, too. I've experienced this A LOT in California (yes, I liked to play in the rain there, and when I was little I preferred to be barefoot in the puddles). I was concerned that this would happen in Norway since it is significantly colder, but someone at the shoe store recommended some wool insoles. I didn't even know those existed! What a brilliant idea, they're wonderful!

I also bought some rain pants, which happen to do awful things to your figure. 

Good grief, I was so disappointed when I put these pants on top of my jeans (the jeans that I bought because they made my rear look fantastic). Here's a good tip: avoid mirrors in Norway. With the wind your hair doesn't look like it did when you left the house; with the rain there's a good chance your mascara is running (unless you're smart and bought waterproof (in the states where it's cheaper); with the cold your cheeks turn a color of blush you would never ever put on; and with the clothes you have to wear to keep yourself dry, your bum will look disfigured...In sum, just stay away from the mirrors and your day will remain happy.

Being prepared, I wanted to give my new rain gear a test in the elements. I was at work, outside with the kids, and I thought the slide looked pretty exciting. It's a steep slide, one that I'm fairly sure would be illegal in a preschool in the states, and it was raining. I got on, went down, and will never do it shot me off like a rocket!!!! I don't know if it was because the slide was wet and I was wearing slick clothes, but that was the fastest I have ever gone down a slide. I'm surprised I landed on my feet with a big smile on my face, because now I sort of expect the next person to go down to end up with missing teeth and unable to move.

While I'm learning how to stay dry, the rain won't stop. I've been forewarned about Bergen in October and need to ditch the California attitude towards rain. It's time to get up, put on my rain boots, and take a walk in the rain with the rest of the Norwegians. And if I really want to fit in, I shouldn't bother with my umbrella, either. (I guess don't want to fit in that badly because I refuse go anywhere without my umbrella in my purse...even on a sunny day in Bergen, you just never know when the rain clouds will come rolling in).