Friday, December 23, 2011

December Round-Up

We're in the midst of an 11-day journey through beautiful places, and I'm nursing a cold in a (thankfully, very comfortable) hotel bed after powering through a day of sightseeing.  

So, as my holiday offering, here are some photographic tidbits from the past few weeks, before I attempt to slip into a feverish slumber...

Snowy fun:
A pretty walk in the forest.

Another pretty walk in the forest.

Statues in the dark at 3:30pm.

They're also begging the universe to take them to the longer-days side of the winter solstice (which, luckily, we've now reached after the solstice yesterday!).

Holiday fun:

Ken, picking out our tiny, crooked, $25 Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  And carrying it all the way home.

Andy, enjoying a traditional Norwegian holiday dinner (thanks to Linda and Inger!) and Christmas beer in festive attire.

A field trip to a big mall in the suburbs, where I was greeted by this frightening Christmas troll scene.  Trolls legends are big in Norway, and apparently also involve Santa?

Nutcracker at the Opera House with a fun group of girlfriends.

Thanksgiving.  Love these girls, and can't thank them enough for their fun, wonderful friendships over the past year.  I love our little hang-out dates.  They're gangstas in the kitchen, to boot.

This "holiday" involved the celebration of three Aussie birthdays with a pub crawl whilst wearing adult onsies.  Everyone else invested in the fabulous Norwegian OnePiece, while I went for the cheap option of an H&M little girls onesie, that I had to keep covered with a sweater all night.  Good times.

A visit from Ken's cool cousin Shannyn.  It was fun to get to know her - thanks for visiting, Shannyn!

We also attended a traditional Norwegian Christmas dinner (called julebord), that was perfectly orchestrated by Silje (Pierre did polish the glasses, so kudos to him as well).  Sadly I don't have any pics from the occasion, but thanks a ton S&P!

Crafty fun:

I've always wanted to learn to sew, and have had the opportunity to finally do it over the past few months.  This corduroy skirt was my first project, and the construction was closely overseen by my teacher.  We'll see how I do when I'm on my own some day...

Tamale-making with Hal and Alison. So delish!

Love, love, love the Baked recipe for brownies (here).

Sunny fun:

This winter has been SO much warmer than last winter.  The sidewalks were covered with snow and ice for a few days, then it rained and warmed up, and it all melted in the city.  So, I've been taking advantage of the freedom to run without ice.  It was snowing when we left for our trip, so we'll probably return to a winter wonderland in the new year...

Early sunsets aren't too shabby when blue skies are involved.

Moment of Zen:  Going to sleep before 11pm to hopefully shake this cold soon!  

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Long November

November was kind of a strange month this time around.  It started off not-so-great, and ended on a better foot.  'Twas a bit of a roller coaster ride, that's for sure.

The weather seemed to correspond to the emotions, with solid sheets of gray clouds covering the sky that made me want to hibernate for the entire winter, then glorious warm, sunny days of biking and running.

Most importantly, the snow held off, giving us at least one more month of way better weather than we had last year (which was one of the coldest winters in a long time...glad I could be here for that momentous occasion).  Apparently, this was the warmest November on record.  Quite the contrast!

Yes, I'm obsessed with weather, and I pretty much mention it in every blog post.  Weather isn't small talk to me.  It's serious business!

Anyway, here's a little November synopsis...

First, something amazing: We went curling.  

And yes, it was as awesome as it looks on TV during the Winter Olympics.


We had a fun visitor, all the way from Tulsa in fact.  Andy stopped by on his way home after a work trip to Paris.

Thanks for visiting, Andy!  Good times indeed.
(Please note that we also kicked off the ice skating season in the photo above.  Sweet.)  

We got to cruise outside of Oslo on a couple of road trips, thanks to some friends.  It's always nice to get out of town when we can, since we don't have a car here.  

Thanks to Silje and Pierre, we've now blown our own drinking glasses at Hadeland Glassverk.  And thanks to Henrik, we've now been to the End of the World (Verdens Ende).  Thanks friends, we appreciate the field trips!

It's the end of the world as we know it.  

Or, it's a really pretty rock formation in the Oslofjord...

It was a super gray day, but the colors of the rocks (granite?) were lovely.

Navigating the slippery rocks.  I may have had an awesome bruise on my back for a week from slipping on one of the first puddles we came across.

In a desperate attempt to fight the gray, I decided to try to capture just how gloomy it was one afternoon.  So, here we go:

Gray rocks, gray sea, gray sky.

Gray shells.

Gray boats (okay, so there's some green and brown here too).

Gray people begging to escape the gray.

Dead tree.  Not gray.  But the background is...

The gray left us for a couple of days here and there, which led to some excellent sunsets at 4pm, which I enjoyed during a nice run along the fjord.

I suppose the gray mood at the beginning of November was set on the first day of the month, when we had to say "see you soon" to some very dear friends who had become our family here in Norway.  They moved home, and it was a sad farewell.  A goodbye is never easy, even if you know it's necessary, and that it's going to happen eventually.  There's a void without them here, and I'm definitely feeling it.

So, beautiful friends, we miss you dearly, we're grateful for a year of excellent memories, and we love you very much.  And, we'll see you soon!

After the goodbyes, I tried to spend as much time with other good friends and stay busy to keep from moping around too much.

I went to some fantastic shows - Ryan Adams at a small theater outside Oslo (amazing!), Givers.

Saw the Nutcracker at the Opera House with fun American girlfriends.

  We enjoyed an awesome Thanksgiving dinner with fun friends (thanks Bethany, Alison, Brigita, Abbey, and the men!).  

Linda and Inger made a nice Christmas pinnekjøtt dinner for us to enjoy, and I mentioned our curling adventure, road trips, and Andy's visit above.  

Also, Ken traveled to Angola briefly for work...who knew he'd end up in Africa during our stint in Europe?  He seemed to really enjoy the trip.

So, November gave us some sunshine to help ease the gray.  Thanks to good friends, for the fun times to help balance out the sad ones a bit!

And the Moment of Zen:  Finding the American food aisle in a Swedish grocery store yesterday.  It actually kind of grossed me out a little, and made me really happy.  All at once.  Never thought I'd get that excited over a box of Stovetop stuffing...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


The fall weather this year was pretty seemed much warmer than last fall.  Thank goodness!

It's only November, you say?  So, why did I use the past-tense verb "was" when describing fall?  Shouldn't fall still be happening in November?!  

Nope.  Not here, at least.  The freezing temps have come out to play, the trees are now naked, and a thick, gray layer of clouds has settled over Oslo.  But, so far it's still better than last year.

Anyhow, here's a farewell to the gorgeous bit of fall we got this year...

Thanks to Silje & Pierre, we spent a weekend in a cabin at beautiful Hafjell, near Lillehammer.  I forgot the memory card for my camera, so the pics were limited.  Regardless, we spent the weekend with an excellent group of friends - thanks to the Strobe o'Clock crew for an amazing time! 
We stopped in Lillehammer on the way home, to visit the site of the 1994 Winter Olympics.  It was a teeny town, but quite pretty.

Olympic remnants.


Excellent mural.

A slew of fall photos around Oslo...

And the Moment of Zen: The amazingly ridiculous dance party we managed to get going at a cabin in the middle of nowhere.  I'm sure there are embarrassing pics somewhere out there, but trust don't want to see them.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Paris, and Queuing Up

We have a running list of places to visit in Europe before heading home to the U.S. (and it seems like we add more all the time), so I'm constantly trolling the calendar and flights to see what we can squeeze into the schedule for a reasonable price.  

When checking the flights back to Oslo from Tuscany, I researched to see if there was anything that would work for the weekend on the journey back...

...and I found an $18 flight to Paris.  

Done and done.

Kate stayed in Italy to finish up her trip, and Ken flew to Paris from Oslo to meet me for the weekend.

I had the morning and afternoon to explore a bit before Ken arrived.  He's been to Paris a couple of times, and this was my first visit.  So, knowing that the chances of getting him back into the Louvre were extremely slim since he'd already been, I spent the morning there.  

It was massive.  And gorgeous.  

I didn't take any pics inside the Louvre.  There were people taking pics next to every single piece of art, and I wondered if they were planning on setting up camp in there for the night, since it takes long enough to get through most of it while zooming through.  I opted for the zoom approach.

The beautiful Louvre.  It feels gigantic inside, and looks even more gigantic outside.

Still going...

After the Louvre, I headed to the d'Orsay.  And arrived to find the museum was closed due to a strike.  Well, shoot.  I just had to wander the streets of Paris in the sunshine, then.  Okay...

Charm.  Everywhere.


Clock on the d'Orsay.

Love love love the flower boxes and blue skies.

Gorgeous/delish bakery just down the street from our hotel in the Latin Quarter.  

Opera cake from the bakery...heaven.

Ken arrived Friday evening.  So I pulled myself away from the bakery, and we found a random restaurant where we enjoyed a "cheaper" (yep, Paris seemed a little more reasonable compared to Norway...who would've thought?!) and delish dinner.

After dinner, we had beers with Steven, a friend of mine from elementary school who's living in Paris for a bit while working toward his Ph.D. in French Literature.  It was fun to catch up and reminisce about growing up in T-town. 

Man beers, and girl beers (with glow sticks!).

The next morning, I decided to check out the d'Orsay again to see if the strike was over.  Alas, it was still closed.  So I took a long walk, and Ken went for a run.

Lone pic from the walk.  (Let's face it, I also did some shopping during the "walk" sans husband...)

After Ken's run, we headed up to Montmartre...such a fantastic area.

Gorgeous Sacre Coeur.

Fall wall in Montmartre.

The Eiffel Tower was next on the list...

A little hazy on the approach.

But very nice when we got there.  

A few notes regarding our headwear in the photo above:  

1.  Yes, it says "PARIS" on Ken's hat.  He needed a white hat for his Halloween costume, so he purchased this hat solely because the "A" in Paris was a bedazzled Eiffel Tower.  And he wore it only for this pic.  Too bad they didn't have a coordinating fanny pack for this hat...

2.  Yes, I'm wearing a beret in Paris.  It was frigid outside that morning, so I popped into Benetton (new love) on Champs-Elysees to see if they had a simple hat.  Lo and behold, they had a wall of cute berets in different colors, and I didn't really dig the other hats in the shop.  I only wore it until it warmed up a bit outside, then put it on again in mockery of Ken's bedazzled hat for this photo.  I'll now wear it in cities other than Paris, hopefully without feeling like a goon.

3.  Yes, we took these hats off immediately after taking the pic.

Pretty door on the walk back to the hotel.

LOVED this building.

We had a little time to explore before our flight the last day, so we visited Notre Dame and did a final lap around part of the Seine.

Beautiful Notre Dame.

The bus back to the airport was the most extreme case of line-cutting we've experience on this continent (queuing up in a civilized manner doesn't seem to be a priority in many places here).  We've put aside our line-waiting politeness during this season of our lives, and now make it a game to test our line-cutting skillz as well.  It also makes situations that would normally tick us off during long bits of travel quite entertaining, since we can make snarky remarks to each other about ruining our chance for the cut, getting our game face on for the cut, not edging ourselves in well enough to keep the others at bay, etc.

You have to experience the game yourself to truly appreciate it.  So, next time you're in Europe, don't get irritated when people cut.  Just cut in line yourself, and