Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dublin (and Movember)

Before we start in on the Dublin pics, let's discuss the little strip of fur that you'll see above Ken's upper lip in some of the photos.  Semi-disturbing, indeed.  But, Ken's office participates in Movember every year, so it was for a good cause... 
Here is the lovely mo enjoying a Guinness at the factory.  This is three weeks into the growth.

I hope you kept your lunch down after that pic...

Anyhow, we took a nice, cheap trip to Dublin.  What a great city - pubs on every corner, green parks, beautiful old buildings, pretty mountains close to the city, and friendly people.  

On Day One, we arrived at our hotel, which just so happened to be two blocks from the Old Jameson Distillery.  Yes, please.  I don't even really like whiskey, but I'm fascinated by any sort of "how it's made" tour (it must go back to the Reading Rainbow days with the ever-so-mesmerizing crayon factory segment...who didn't want to go to the crayon factory??)

Anyway, the tour guide asked for four female volunteers.  There were approx four females in the group, so I got to be a volunteer.  This was not the sort of volunteering where you plant trees, walk dogs, or paint schools.  This was an opportunity to become a certified whiskey taster.  And that I did.

Perhaps one of my proudest accomplishments.

Someone was just a wee bit jealous that he wasn't chosen as one of the four male volunteers, and therefore did not get to become a certified whiskey taster.

After the Jameson tour, we went to a Spoon show at a small venue.  I was so excited, because: a) I love Spoon, b) I love seeing my favorite bands at the smallest venues possible, and c) I get the feeling that, in Europe, I'll be able to get as close to the stage as I want for most bands.  

So, there we were, front and center, enjoying an excellent show.  The last time I saw Spoon was sometime last year.  And I could barely see anything over the crowd at the Crystal Ballroom.  So this was great!  They always put on a good show, but it was lovely to be so close.

Day Two started off with a walk around the Medieval area of the city.  Excellent.

The old city walls.

Christ Church Cathedral.  Please note the gorgeous blue skies we got that day!

Dublin Castle.  I liked these guys.

Dublin Castle.

The very nice gardener at Dublin Castle told me these swirls were Celtic symbols.

St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Day Two then digressed into drinking.  We like to keep it balanced.

Pretty horses outside of Guinness.

Enjoying our free pints in the Gravity Bar after our Guinness tour.  Take a long look at that hott mo.

Now for Day Three.  We're both big fans of sheep, pretty green scenery, and mountains.  So, we really wanted to check out the Irish countryside.  We took a bus to Glendalough, which is an area in the Wicklow Mountains National Park.  Umm...hello gorgeous!  It actually reminded me a lot of Oregon, which I've been missing a lot lately.  So that was nice.

Beginning of the hike.

Okay, this is definitely a random photo.  So please let me explain. We came across a pretty patch of clover, and I started to take pics.  On the way to the bus that morning, we bought a little leprechaun ornament to commemorate the trip on our Christmas tree when we got home.  So Ken had the brilliant idea to put little Crazy Legs in the clover patch.   Still a random photo, but at least you now know why.

"Oh, stairs leading into a dark forest.  That seems like a good idea."

Approx 1,000 of those stairs later, and we stumble across this...

A little worn out, but loving the scenery!

Lovely moss.  Just like good ol' Oregon.

Beautiful old church and graveyard.

Sheep!  Grazing in a green field!

Ruins of an early Medieval monastic settlement from the 6th century, founded by St. Kevin.

The Round Tower and graveyard.

So, there's Dublin in a nutshell.  Didn't take my camera to the pubs, but they were awesome.  Also awesome: Leo Burdock's fish and chips.  A man dressed as a viking greeted us outside of the restaurant (bonus points).  Then I sat down to the largest battered and fried piece of delicious cod ever, with fries and garlic sauce.  I was too entranced to take any photos at the time.  The moment will just have to live in my mind and tastebuds.

And finally...the Moment of Zen?

The final mo product after four weeks.  He looks like some sort of Norwegian rapper here, eh?  

(And I didn't tell you that the mo was quite sparse in the middle.  You inferred that from the pic yourself, right?  Right.)

Anyhow, Movember ended Friday, and the mo said goodbye yesterday.  You know what they say...all good things must come to an end...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


We're packing up for a trip to Dublin this weekend, so here are just a few tidbits from the past week...

The living room is done and livable!  Actually, I set most of it up on day one of receiving the shipment.  I just finally remembered to snap some pics...

 Love all of the natural light.  Even though it's been fairly gray out, it's actually pretty bright in here. 

 Cozy little spot in the living room - love.

The kitchen and bedroom are mostly done, just putting on some finishing touches.  Once I finish my second Norwegian class next week, I'll be able to focus a bit more.  Class is really keeping me on my toes for now!

We also enjoyed some wintertime sportiness last week...

 We took a 10-minute bus ride up the mountain to Holmenkollen, and found all this lovely snow.  There isn't really any in Oslo right now (lightly dusted spots, but they don't count).  So it's nice to get to the snow so easily/quickly.

 Lovely trees.
 Pretty old wooden church we found.  Then we walked down some slippery iced-over stairs of destruction on the way down.  Despite our usual lack of sure-footedness (neither of us are the most graceful creatures on the planet), we made it down with no slips.  It's only a matter of time though, before the ice wins.

 Such beautiful detail in the wood.

 Skate Club!  Ice skating in Frogner Park with a few fun friends from Norwegian class: Hoan, Katrin, and Sylvie (not pictured - she was out shredding some mad ice).  I think we need to go as much as possible.  I mean, the 2014 Winter Olympics are just around the corner...

 Ken's actually a great skater!  Those hockey days came back to him the moment he stepped onto the ice.

Never really pictured myself living somewhere cold enough to actually buy ice skates.  But, guess life has a funny way of making its own plans.  One of the funniest moments I've had here involved me asking a guy at the sports store if they sold ice skates.  He responded, "You mean for adults?  We sell them for kids..."   Umm, hasn't he heard that ice skating never gets old??  Because it definitely doesn't.

This week's Moment of Zen doesn't involve food or drink (shocking, I know...)  On a very cold walk through the park, I saw the most beautiful color of blue I've ever seen in the sky.  This pic doesn't really do the color much justice, but maybe you can see it.  Or maybe you should just use your imagination and pretend like you see it...

I hope there will be many a Moment of Zen this weekend: pubs galore, fish & chips galore (YES!), and Spoon (the band) galore...can't wait.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Trondheim & Lutefisk

If these pics don't put you in the holiday spirit immediately, then I seriously question your ability to ever get into the holiday spirit.  There's snow.  Lots of it.  There's even a snowman.  There are also tons of evergreens.  And some cute little red and green Norwegian buildings....covered in snow.

The cause of this winter wonderland was a trip to see my friend Ingvar, who I met at the University of Oregon.  Ingvar is an authentic Norwegian, and it's fun to hear his take on living in America (and it's nice to talk to someone who knows what the heck we're talking about when we say we're from Oregon).  We also appreciate his use of Farenheit when he tells us about the weather (though we're coming around on Celsius conversions!)  

But back to the weekend...

Ingvar lives in Trondheim now, with Silje, who we enjoyed meeting very much.  Silje is also an authentic Norwegian (and she can do some amazing knitting to prove it).

So, thank you very much, Ingvar and Silje, for a wonderful, snow-filled weekend in Trondheim!

Photo time...

Hike in the forest with a view of the Trondheimsfjord.  This was pre-blizzard.

 Beautiful view!

 And the snow hits!  Ingvar and Silje pushed their absolutely adorable baby girl uphill in the snow (told you they're legit Norwegians!)  All Norwegian babies have these awesome warm sleeping bags in their strollers, and wear all kinds of wool layers to stay warm.  It's impressive.  And precious.

This happened in like 20 minutes.  Also, please note that I will never live anywhere without huge, pretty evergreens all around.  This forest reminded me of sweet, sweet Oregon.  And we only had to drive ten minutes through the city, compared to 1.5 hours to get to Mt Hood in the winter.

Ken tried to tell me to keep my eyes open.  Pretty sure that's impossible when there are huge snowflakes pelting you in the eyes...

 Our wonderful hosts for the weekend.

Now for a walk through the pretty city of Trondheim.  Snowman friend!

Love these colorful buildings on the Nidelva River.  And yes, that's snow falling in front of my lens in every pic...

 Cool bridge.  There's actually a track at the end of this bridge (behind me) where you can put your bike tire and have it pull you uphill.  It's genius.  Need to take that idea back to P-town.

 Beautiful Nidaros Cathedral.  The inside was incredible.  Just beautiful.  There was a church service going on when we quietly went in ('twas Sunday)...candles, dark, gorgeous.

 Very detailed and beautiful wall of the Cathedral.  The snow kind of interferes with the detail here.  But please rest was gorgeous.

It was a lovely weekend indeed.  Can't wait to go back this summer!

And now, I leave you with a moment that is the antithesis of a Moment of Zen:

This, my friends, is Lutefisk.  And it's definitely not delicious.  Ken's Norwegian co-workers have started the tradition of going to a restaurant for a Christmas Lutefisk dinner every year.  And since Norwegians obviously don't celebrate Thanksgiving, the Christmas season seems to begin in November here.  

Here's a description, if you're curious...

So, we decided to be adventurous and brave, and attend the dinner.  I took two bites of this gelatinous creation.  Then drank a lot of wine.  Ken took a few bites, gagging on the first.  Then he drank a lot of beer.  We also had some akevitt (also not that tasty, but at least it doesn't jiggle), which is standard with this meal.  Then we gobbled up the dessert of rice pudding with berry syrup, which was the only redeeming course of the evening (other than the beverages).   

And we won't even talk about how much those five bites of pain cost us. 

It was actually a very fun night though, with lots of laughter.  And we can now mark this off the list of requirements for our Viking badges.  

So here's to Lutefisk!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Yesterday was a happy, happy day.  And normally, 12 hours of opening packages and unpacking wouldn't be at the top of my list of happy days.

However, after being apart from my sense of home and normalcy for the past seven weeks, it felt like I got to open 80 Christmas presents.  

Well, Christmas presents that were wrapped very tightly with strong tape, plastic, and tons of layers of paper padding. 

Here's the chaos:

Bedroom - needless to say, we slept in the living room last night.  Looking much better today.

So many boxes.  My thumb is actually sore from using the scissors to open all of this (razor was packed...oh the irony!)

For someone who didn't cook much in my previous life, at least I was well-stocked with kitchen gear.  It'll come in handy now that I love to cook.

Ahh, my love!  How I've missed you...

Dear Mother Earth:  I'm REALLY sorry.  Really.  I truly hope the people who take this away are planning to recycle it...

So, the apartment is shaping up nicely, and I'll post pics after I get everything in place next week.  

Other than the apartment, errands and Norwegian class are keeping me quite busy (just finished Level 1 today, Level 2 starts Monday).  Work and Norwegian class are keeping Ken very, very busy.  

Also, our travels start this weekend.  We're heading up north to Trondheim, to visit my good and funny friend Ingvar and his family.  I met Ingvar at the University of Oregon almost six years ago.  We had class together, and ended up hanging out quite a bit.  Who knew we would ever live in the same country again?  Awesome.  Two weeks from this weekend we're heading to Dublin ($50 roundtrips from Ryanair, seriously!), then Germany two weeks after that to visit our friends Holger and Annett, who did a rotation in Portland like we're doing here in Oslo.  Then we're working on Christmas plans, which so far involve visiting our friends Bryan and April who are on a rotation in London, and hopefully another friend of mine from U of O, Lars, who lives in Copenhagen.  Love how small the world is!  And how cheap travel in Europe is...

This week's Moment of Zen:

I asked the guy at the Vinmonopolet if they had anything from Oregon, and he showed me three bottles of Pinot Noir and two bottles of Pinot Gris.  Feeling pretty complete now.