Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is It Over? Maybe? Please??

I apologize for the post-less week last week.  The United States Internal Revenue Code (not so fun) and St. Patrick's Day hoopla (so fun!) took up a fair share of the hours last week.

One of my proudest accomplishments last week:

Baileys milk chocolate truffles bedazzled with white chocolate shamrocks.  Some of my favorite treats ever are the delicious Mayan and Baileys truffles from Moonstruck in Portland.  There appears to be an absence of worthy truffles here, so I took matters into my own hands.  Sidenote:  when you pay a hefty price for a delicious truffle, don't complain.  It's because they take FOREVER to make.  Seriously.  Forever.  Rewarding in the end though, for sure.

Anyway, back to the main idea of this post: this whole winter thing might be ending?  Sweeet.

I'll be honest: I'm not a winter person.  I always consider it one of those times to "get through" in the year, and it never helped that my most stressful time at work coincided with the season.  In Portland the temperatures were mild, it rained incessantly, and it was super gray.  I was indifferent to snow, and enjoyed it when I wanted it with a short drive to Mt Hood in the winter.  As soon as we got back to low elevation though, it was gone, and we returned to our rainy, gray, snowless lifestyle.  I will add that the trees start to bloom in Portland in mid February, and they are absolutely beautiful.  This makes the rain and clouds much more bearable.

Pic of the March Portland waterfront cherry blossom trees sitting above our kitchen sink (I didn't take the pic - bought it at the Portland Saturday Market).  

So, when deciding to move to Norway, I knew I was in for it and tried to psych myself up for a hardcore winter.  I checked the average temperatures, and they didn't look too terrible.  I also read about the snow, and how it's really here for five-ish months.  Told myself to get over it, and to keep a positive attitude.  Which I think I did (sometimes?)  I did mutter more than a few expletives under my breath when the sidewalks were covered in solid sheets of ice (which was a good portion of the winter).  Walking and running have been an adventure, to say the least.

Oh, and this was apparently one of the coldest winters in a long time.  All those average temperatures I read about were pretty much rubbish this year.

Anyhow, now that we've made it through the wilderness, I'd like to take a moment to thank a few items that helped me tremendously this winter.

We'll call it the Norwegian Winter Survival Kit (note: this version is for those who do not love skiing, because it does not contain any ski-related items).

Winter Survival Item #1:  Columbia Sportswear Women's Kaleidaslope Jacket

I can't believe they call this baby a "jacket."  Maybe because it's compact, lightweight, and doesn't feel like a bulky coat.  Which is what I love about it.  However, even on the coldest of days this little gem kept me incredibly warm.  I never had to wear anything bulkier than this, and believe me, it was cold.  Apparently it's Omni-Shield water repellent and has Omni-Heat stuff inside that keeps you super warm.  It sounds like some sort of scientific phenomenon, and it is.  I'll just call it Omni-Awesome.

Winter Survival Item #2:  North Face Primaloft Mittens

When it's too cold to take your hand out of a mitten for more than two seconds before it hurts (usually occurs when trying to answer the phone), these little goodies are there to bring the feeling back.  Lightweight, amazingly warm, and so soft inside.  Bonus:  I'm now pretty awesome at eating with bemittened hands.

Winter Survival Item #3:  Burt's Bees

This is a tribute to any and all Burt's products.  I've been obsessed with Burt's for about seven years now.  Face care, lip shimmers, lotions, this hand creme...all of it.  The air is crazy dry here.  My hair has even lost a significant amount of curl due to the lack of humidity.  Burt's came to the rescue for my skin.  And I'm kind of enjoying my not-so-curly hair for now (slight identity crisis aside).

Winter Survival Item #4:  The Good Stuff


Winter Survival Item #5:  The Blue Wonder

What goes better with a glass of glorious vino on a cold night than a crackling fire?  Ken and I are now pretty much gangstas at lighting wood fires (if we have lighting cubes, dry wood, and a lighter...we're not that rustic around here).

Anway, thanks to all of these lovely things!  I'll see you (except the Burt's, vino, and Baileys - you get to stay all year) next winter.  I'd say I'll miss you...but I won't :)

One more winter thing that we won't miss:  Ken's busy season, which is hopefully coming to a close this week.  It's lasted about a month longer than he originally hoped.  He did get to finally take an entire weekend off for a ski trip with his co-workers, so it's been improving slowly.  Fingers crossed for this week.

We'll end with a couple of fun parties from the past couple of weeks.  Good times.

With the lovely hippies at Ellie's 13th birthday party.  Definitely the best hippie party ever, and the nice teenagers even let us old timers come down and hang out for a bit (maybe because we kept bringing them food?)  I spent the day before assisting Mel with a sweet hippie van cake - it was awesome!

With Agnes and Mel.  Don't worry, the smoke is from a smoke machine (promise).

I just perused the pics from Robert and Esther's Moving to Copenhagen party, and I can't find one that doesn't feature embarrassingly bad dancing (we're all pretty amazing dancers, so it must have just been the camera angle, right?)  So, we'll just say it was a totally rockin' party, and we stayed out waaaay later than we have in a long time.

Moment of Zen...
Running on clear sidewalks.  Glorious!  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The More You Know

Continuing with last week's cultural theme, here are a few more tidbits...

Cultural Tidbit #1:  The Kvikk Lunsj.

It's easily the national candy of Norway.  Upon first seeing one of these in a vending machine back in October, I thought it was some sort of chocolate granola bar that would fill you up a bit (literally, a "quick lunch").  

But, it's not.  The Kvikk Lunsj is, essentially, a Kit Kat, made with higher quality chocolate.  I'll probably be deported immediately for saying that.  But really, it's a Kit Kat.  And apparently people like to snack on them during ski trips in the forest (they even have little trail suggestions printed inside the wrapper).

Anyway, Ken did some superior awesomeness-spotting at the ski jump when he found this little goody:

That's right, my friends.  A Kvikk Lunsj beanie.  Standing in front of us in all its glory.  Before next winter, I either have to a. find one of these, or b. learn to knit.

In honor of that amazing hat, we gave the Kvikk Lunsj some photo love.  
(This was before my feet were so cold that I was somewhat concerned about frost bite for the first time since moving here.  I stuck my feet in front of a heating vent after Round 1.)

(This was before we discovered that the U.S. was not actually participating in the ski jump event we attended.  I also found it amusing that we actually borrowed this huge U.S. flag from our Swedish friend/neighbor, Henrik.)

Cultural Tidbit #2:  A ski jump (and a beautiful day to be at a ski jump).


Representing with red, white, and blue all over the place (still prior to not knowing the U.S. had no chance/was not participating in this competition).

And the winner was...Austria!  We happened to attend this event with our fun friend Katrin, who is from Austria.  She was pumped (and so were we, once we switched our allegiance to Austria when the U.S. let us down).

Cultural Tidbit #3:  A proper Norwegian sandwich.

Open-faced, with brunost (Norwegian brown cheese).  The adorable Norwegian modeling this proper sandwich is our fabulous friend Agnes.  The funny thing is that this sandwich came as a regular, closed sandwich, and Agnes opened it up to two slices immediately.  I laughed.  Anyway, Agnes was our very first friend in Oslo, and she invited us to a party at her house our first weekend here (thanks for the introduction, Elia!)  I want to give Agnes, Øistein, Marianne, and Sunniva a shout-out for being cool, fun friends, speaking English to us slow foreigners, and telling us about Norway, from a Norwegian perspective.  We really appreciate it!  I have a good picture of the whole crew from the night Sunniva made us all a fantastic traditional Nord-Norge (Northern Norway) dinner, and now I can't seem to find it...will have to take another one I suppose!

Cultural Tidbit #4:  A group of foreigners skiing in a park. (Something Norwegians would apparently never do...although there were tracks there...so maybe they would?)

Pretty ski bunnies.  Love 'em!

Much less frightening than skiing with 1,000 other people in the forest.  Pretty sure my backpack-wearing would also be openly mocked by the general Norwegian skiing public.

Moment of Zen:
Nothing beats this for the week, other than maybe the dance-off they tried to have between some middle-aged Europeans during a break in the ski competition (which I could've watched for eight hours, and sadly have no photographic evidence of...)