Wednesday, December 22, 2010

God Jul

This has been perhaps the most Christmas-y of holiday seasons for us thus far.  We've been covered in snow, and we've been to what seems like a gazillion Christmas markets.  

However, perhaps our greatest Christmas achievement has been this:

We met a reindeer!  Isn't he/she pretty?

And, contrary to popular belief (a.k.a. what Ken and I initially thought), this woman leading the reindeer is not dressed as an elf.  She's actually Sami, and dressed in a traditional costume.  The Sami are indigenous people who live in the very far north of Norway/Sweden/Finland.  Reindeer herding is part of their culture.  This woman apparently takes reindeer to various events, from what I could decipher from the Norwegian on her website.  Here, she just finished sticking her face in the reindeer's fur to warm up her face (also a conclusion Ken and I came to - or perhaps she was just showing it affection?)

 This reindeer hoopla took place in a little town called Bærum's Verk, northwest of Oslo.  It used to be an iron foundry, and now it has cute red buildings with art galleries and cafes in them.  It was also super cold here - hence the frozen creek above.  The moose burger stand at the farmers market here (no, we did not partake) actually had the ketchup and mustard bottles on a warming plate, so they didn't freeze.  That's cold.

Ken wandering amongst the pretty red buildings and the juletrær for sale.

Let's discuss the juletrær, shall we?

Normally, I love the look and scent of a huge, fluffy Christmas tree in the apartment.  At the end of November, Ken and I wondered where the heck to get a Christmas tree.  We figured Norway was the perfect place to score an evergreen.  And we heard rumors that stands pop up in the city (no car = no trip to the tree farm to cut one yourself).  But, apparently they don't sell trees until very close to Christmas here, so the stands near our apartment just started popping up about a week ago.  

So, we settled for a small potted tree at the end of November, and that will serve as a our Christmas tree (sustainable as well!)  No sense in paying who-knows-what for a tree and decorations, then dragging it up the block and three flights of spiral stairs, and later figuring out where to dispose of it (who even knows?) for only two weeks of enjoyment.  And we actually won't even be here on Christmas, so there's another reason to go cheap this year.  I think in terms of "I could be spending this scrilla on fun travel" now, since trips are so cheap.

Thus, we're off to London, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen for the next week.  Have I mentioned that this trip, including hotels in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, cost just a tidbit more than our usual two flights from Portland to Tulsa/Dallas for Christmas?  'Tis true.  We'll be sad to not be home for the holidays for the first time in our lives, of course.  But no need to sit at home and mope about it, eh?

I'll leave you with this week's Moment of Zen:

After some very short days, the winter solstice is upon us today.  Longer days from this point forward!  

And check out the June ahead of us.  Ahh...

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


This week we started in on the winter sportiness by learning how to cross-country ski.  Ken has always loved downhill skiing, and I've always despised it (something about flying down a hill on slippery sticks just doesn't do it for me...).  Now we can go on some ski trips together, if I eventually get the hang of it.

We tagged along with our new, fun friends Silje and Pierre to learn the ropes.  Silje may win the Patient Norwegian of the Year award for teaching two Americans and an Englishman how to cross-country ski...

Silje showing Ken the proper waxing technique.  

On the trail with Silje and Pierre.  Please note: if I look a bit rough, it's because this is the equivalent of running in snow.  While wearing very slippery sticks that slide out from underneath you while running.  Further evidence that this is a workout includes the fact that I ripped off my hat and gloves shortly before this, and shoved them into my pockets to "cool off" in 15 degree F weather.  Definitely felt the burn!

We enjoyed ourselves, and will try to go often, since we bought skis (before we even tried it...whatever).  The only cost to go is an $8 roundtrip on the train or bus - you can get to quite a few trails by quick public transit.  We've discovered two things that are inexpensive in Norway:  ice skates and skis.  Velkommen to our plan for making it through the long winter! 

I also went for a snowy hike with a couple of new girlfriends...

The lake, covered in snow.  The pic is a bit dark, but I loved the color of the sky.  Which you can't really see in this small version. was nice in person.

No leaves, but the snow makes it nice, eh?

The path around the lake.

All bundled up with Robin and Kaila.

Jeg liker trær.

And this Moment of Zen is from a couple of weeks ago, but I think it goes well with the wintry mix of photos for this week. 
Beautiful, cold, snowy run.

Alright, I'm off to go clean up the nice puddle of soot the chimney sweep managed to shove down through the chimney onto the wood floor surrounding our fireplace.   Excellent.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Last weekend we traveled to Germany to visit our friends Holger and Annett, who did a rotation in Portland for two and a half years.  Ken and Holger worked many, many hours together, and the four of us got to hang out at various happy hours.  When we found out we'd be living in Norway, we were happy to have a chance to visit them.  So we flew to Frankfurt, and made it out to their house, which is in wine country (so pretty, and it was covered in snow!)

View of the vineyards (and Annett's bird house) from Holger and Annett's patio.  
It was gorgeous to sit in their living room and have snowy vineyards in full view!

So apparently, Christmas markets are where the cool kids in Germany hang.  They were everywhere.  And they sold magical things like glühwein, which we enjoyed many a glass of over the weekend.  

Enjoying the good stuff at Christmas market 2 of 3.

My favorite thing about this particular glühwein experience was that is was purchased and consumed under this little gem:

The moment I saw this, my mind immediately darted to the scene in Christmas Vacation where Cousin Eddie is wearing a white sweater over a black faux turtleneck (otherwise known as a dickey), and one touch of his hand destroys Clark's Christmas pyramid.  

So the fact that we were actually inside one of these was excellent.

Anyhow, more Christmas market pics:

Booth where you can just walk up and take a shot of schnaps.  We'd had enough glühwein at this point, so we somehow managed to not patronize this booth.  Intriguing as it was...

A full pork steak, on a bun.  I can get into Germany's version of a sandwich.

Festive streets and pretty buildings in Bad Wimpfen, the town with the greatest of all the Christmas markets.

Annett and I imitating the cute polar bears.

And we'll end the Christmas markets with this one.  
Bet you can't guess the refreshment we're enjoying here...

In addition to the markets, Holger and Annett took us to beautiful Heidelberg. 

Heidelberg from the journey up the steps to the castle.

Heidelberg Castle.

The whole crew at Heidelberg Castle.  Thanks for remembering your camera, Annett!  
Forgot mine (seriously who does that on a day in a beautiful, historic city??)  Most of these are iPhone (and Annett gave me some of her pics as well).

Just some pretty buildings and streets along the way.  I found a delicious falafel on this walk, and almost cried tears of joy.  It's been awhile since the smorgasbord of delish falafel at the PDX food carts...ahh.

So, thanks to Holger and Annett for such a lovely weekend!  You were fantastic hosts.

Not pictured are some goodies we picked up along the way - bottles of Pinot made a few blocks from Holger and Annett's house that were ridiculously cheap (and delicious!), and reasonably-priced Christmas lights ($20 for a strand of white lights in Norway...)  And no, I'm not exaggerating.  My jaw dropped and I started to laugh when I saw that at the hardware store.

And this week's Moment of Zen occurred just a few moments ago, whilst I was out shopping in the neighborhood.  I turned down a street I'd never been down, and went into a small shop with an inviting array of veggies outside of it.  And found this inside:

It's the little things, friends.  BBQ has been on my mind the past couple of months, and I decided just this week to finally make some delicious BBQ in the slow cooker.   I had just hunted down quite possibly the only piece of pork shoulder in Oslo earlier this afternoon, and was prepared to resign myself to some inferior BBQ sauce that I found awhile back.  Then this little treasure showed up right in my lap (okay, maybe not right in my lap, because I go in every tiny corner shop and search the shelves for anything familiar and wonderful these days).  But still.  BBQ Friday, here we come!