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 good...it'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 it...it'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 materials....it 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.