Archive for » November, 2011 «

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

It’s Sunday, and a bit past the time of Thanksgiving for most of you, but we celebrated our Thanksgiving yesterday instead of Thursday so it’s still pretty fresh for us :) Chris doesn’t get American holidays off of work, so we opted to do Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday instead of trying to fit it in on Thursday after work. It was a good thing we did too because I ended up getting 5 last minute cake orders so I was up to my neck in frosting on actual Thanksgiving Day!

Thanksgiving was definitely a different experience for both of us this year. For one thing, we BARELY managed to squeeze 13 lbs of turkey into our tiny European oven! We did it though and luckily it still turned out! It was also a little sad not being home for Thanksgiving this year. We definitely missed the family gatherings and all the fun that goes with them and we discovered that it is A LOT of work to prepare Thanksgiving dinner with just 2 people cooking! We had lots of fun doing it together though, and to compensate for the lack of family we had a bunch of friends over instead :) It was a mix of Americans, Norwegians, and a Dane and it was fun to be able to share our traditions with our Norwegian friends since they’ve been sharing so many of theirs with us!

 

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Skittles helping pick out Thanksgiving treats.

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The Pie

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The Feast

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The Food

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The Friends

It was an adventure coming up an entire Thanksgiving menu all on our own for the first time! We came up with lots of ideas…and had way too much food. But leftovers are half the fun of Thanksgiving right? I tried to use as many local ingredients as I could from the farmers market downtown and for the most part I was pretty successful!

Here was the lineup this year:

Garlic-Rosemary Turkey with Mushroom Gravy

– The. Best. Turkey. Chris (a turkey fiend) has requested that we never ever use another turkey recipe. It was delicious! Definitely make sure to brine it if your turkey doesn’t already come pre-brined. It makes for a super moist, fall-apart turkey!

Chive & Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Rutabaga with Caramelized Onions and Apples

Butternut Squash Crumble

Paula Deen’s Sweet Potato Casserole 

 – You can NEVER go wrong with Paula!

Maple and Rosemary Glazed Carrots

Stuffing from Food Network Magazine.

-I wish I had a link to a recipe, but it was a “Mix & Match” feature in the magazine. We used wheat bread, leeks, onions, celery, bacon. Comment or email me if you want a more specific recipe, because it was yummy!

Josh’s Mom’s Pineapple Bread – Gluten-free version brought by Josh

Plain ol’ normal salad

Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream

We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving too!

Giving Thanks

Norway has a really funny way of getting you down. I’m serious. Ask anybody, even local Norwegians. Perhaps it’s the weather, lack of sunshine, or the great distance between friends and family, I’m not really sure. But it’s really, really strange. As much fun of a wonderful adventure it has been living here so far, I haven’t had to battle with this many ‘blah’ feelings in my entire life. (Which, as most of you know…is very uncharacteristic of me.) It’s been particularly hard lately with adjusting to the differences in holidays and national traditions, the stresses of getting my cake business up and running, and bouts of homesickness and I’ve found myself finding stupid little things to complain about and reasons to be depressed. Thankfully though, with Stavanger teetering on the edge of winter, I had a few different experiences aptly leading up to Thanksgiving that gave me a kick in the bum and changed my perspective greatly, and since it is still Thanksgiving weekend I wanted to share them with you :)

 

Experience #1: Brought to you by Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

We love our apartment, but it presents many different challenges. It is difficult figuring out how to make the best use of the small space and make it feel like a home because we have a lot of landlord-imposed rules about what we can and can’t do. For example, there are some ugly, bulky and useless pieces of furniture left by the landlord we aren’t allowed to get rid of, our kitchen table is too small, we aren’t allowed to put any holes in the walls to hang shelves or pictures to make use of vertical space. Over the past few months I’ve been working really hard to figure out solutions, but it has been a very frustrating thing to work around.

Then, the week Chris left for his business trip to Naples, I stumbled across a 2 day marathon of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I love that show! Every time I watch it I always end up leaking from my eyes. And this marathon was no exception. I had it on in the background while I was in the midst of working on a bunch of home projects as a surprise for Chris when he came home (while getting frustrated again at all the limitations) and I’m pretty sure I cried every episode. After watching it for a while, something hit me really hard.  Here I was, complaining and whining about the fact that we can’t put any holes in our walls to hang up pictures while these families on television were concerned with there being TOO MANY holes in their walls and freezing when the winter came (among many other severe problems). I instantly felt like a dirtbag. We live in a beautiful modern apartment that keeps us very warm and meets all of our needs. It has appliances that work well and don’t pose a safety hazard to our family, plumbing that provides great hot showers, and solid, sturdy furniture that even mostly matches! These families that were being helped by the Extreme Makeover team had houses that threatened the very safety of their family (or in a few cases were completely uninhabitable because of the danger posed, forcing the families to live in tents in the backyard), yet they were so grateful for all of the blessings they did have in their lives. And here I was getting depressed because I can’t hang curtains exactly where I want them. I decided right then and there that I would try my absolute hardest to NEVER complain about our home ever again and I would focus on all the positive things about it instead of the limitations.

 

Experience #2: Brought to you by Pinterest

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Pinterest, you are missing out on something wonderful. In a nutshell, it is an online pin board where you can “pin” all of the great ideas you stumble across on the internet and save them all in one place. Go check it out. It’s amazing and a really great creative resource.

Anyway, I was browsing Pinterest as I was in the midst of planning my trip to Italy to meet up with Chris half-way through his business trip. A lot of people (including myself) frequently pin beautiful photos of dream locations they want to travel to someday. For some reason, right as I was planning on going to Naples, there were a bunch of amazing photos of Naples that were being pinned. It dawned on me that in just a few days, I was going to have the opportunity to see the places in person that the people of the Pinterest world were only dreaming about. How amazingly blessed and lucky I was that little, undeserving me had the opportunity to actually go and experience the world. It was a really humbling experience and I suddenly had a much greater appreciation for the blessings we have here in Norway that I had previously taken a bit for granted. Seriously….I don’t have any right to complain about my life. EVER!

 

Experience #3: Brought to you by a Nigerian family from our church.

A little while ago, I became friends with a lady in our ward named TJ from Nigeria. One day after a Relief Society activity, I offered to give her a ride home. During the drive, we discovered that we both love to bake and so we made a whole bunch of plans to have a cake baking and decorating day to swap tips and ideas. I also discovered, as she was giving me directions to her home, that she lived in the refugee camp outside of Stavanger in Dale. Apparently her husband had witnessed something terrible back in Nigeria and they had to flee the country immediately, leaving their 2 children behind with their grandmother, in order to save him from being killed. They had been living as refugees in Norway for 3 years, trying to get asylum from the government to stay so they could bring their children to live with them. Unfortunately, we never got to have our cake baking day, because the Sunday before I left for Naples they received word that the Norwegian government had finally denied their request to stay and they had to be out of Norway and back in Nigeria in 3 days. They were happy to see their children again after 3 long years, but they knew they were returning to a very dangerous, life-threatening situation. Their flight left the same time as mine and while I was heading to Italy for a vacation, all I could think about was TJ and her family flying to uncertainty and danger…

 

I have been very, very humbled by all three of these simple experiences. It is perfect timing that these experiences lead up to the celebration of Thanksgiving, because despite all the preparations for food and entertaining company, I felt extra focused on the true meaning of the holiday. I have found I have an INFINITE number of things to be thankful for this year. Chris and I have been blessed by our Heavenly Father in so many ways and I know I have a lot to do to make up for the fact that I ever complained about any aspect of my life. My Thanksgiving resolution is to be more positive, to love more, experience more, and to be more focused on being thankful for what I have instead of pining for what I don’t. Life is amazing and life is beautiful, and from now on I choose to be happy and grateful no matter what life throws at me!

I hope you all know that we are thankful for you. Really. All of you. Because we know that if you are here reading this you have had some impact in mine and Chris’ lives and have shared some great memories with us. I am thankful for those memories and for your love and support. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and a Merry Start-of-Christmas-Season to you!

Trekking to the Troll’s Tongue

Fact: People in Norway love to hike to strange, precipitous rock formations jutting out over the fjords and get as close to the edge as possible. It has something to do with the fact that Norway has a plethora of such rock formations left behind by glaciers, and the fact that we spend all winter holed up in our houses so, naturally, as soon as Summer starts showing its face the best thing to do is to climb the highest thing you can possibly find. At the beginning of Spring we hiked Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock, so when our friends Josh & Kolie had the idea to plan a backpacking trip to Trolltunga (Troll’s Tongue) back in September, it seemed like a great way to ring in Fall.

The plan: Drive the 4 hours from Stavanger to Odda on Friday, camp the night near the trailhead, start the hike in the morning, reach Trolltunga and camp the night, hike out and drive home on Sunday. Simple right? Well, you know how in suspenseful adventure movies the protagonists always start out all bright-eyed and optimistic? Too happy and naive to notice all the little warning signs before they reach the point of no return? Yeah…

 

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Look at how innocent we were on our first night of camping. Warning sign #1 should have been the complete lack of information online about the hike. Josh (being the prepared outdoor rec graduate that he is) even called the tourist office in Odda to get info. All he found out from them was that the hike was supposed to be 8-9 hours round trip and we were allowed to camp anywhere we wanted as long as it wasn’t within 150 meters of a building or road. What the tourist office didn’t tell us, was that there was nowhere TO camp. We searched all over for a place, but in the end camped near the top of a dam. Right next to a road AND a building. Luckily no one discovered us and we hit the trail first thing in the morning.

 

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We thought we were so hardcore. Warning sign #2 should have been the pile of ripped, shredded, caked-in-mud, and otherwise destroyed hiking shoes underneath the sign. Please notice that I am not wearing hiking boots. I am wearing running shoes because I do not own hiking boots and “these worked just fine for other hikes”.

 

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Kolie and Josh were likewise feeling pumped.

 

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The Gear

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Warning sign #3 should have been the sheer cliff that was supposed to be the first 2 hours of our trip. We are staring at a 950 meter increase in elevation people.

 

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Josh taking a quick breather.

 

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Gorgeous fall leaves!

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It was about this point where we had been hiking for about 2 1/2 hours and ran into a nice Norwegian man on his return hike that kindly encouraged us along with, “You’ve only got about 2 more hours and then you are there!” Sweet. We were right on track…

 

 

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NOT. We hiked 2 more hours and ran into some more hikers on their way back down. They also informed us that it was about another 2 hours from where we were at now. Oh dear…

 

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So much gorgeous water…but it sure made keeping my shoes dry next to impossible, despite our best efforts!

 

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There sure were some stunning views though!

 

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Another 2 hours into the hike, we ran into another group on their way back down. You want to guess what they told us? “About 2 more hours and you will be there!” By this point we were all exhausted physically and mentally. Body parts were aching and bruised from various slips and falls on the wet rocks and we were covered in mud. Despite my best efforts to avoid water, my feet were soaked completely through. We had kept up our morale this far by playing question games and singing songs, but the sun was starting to go down and we still weren’t anywhere close to Trolltunga, so we decided to stop and setup camp whenever we came to a spot that was remotely dry and flat. We were all close to our breaking point. About an hour or so later we found a spot that was relatively dry and relatively sheltered from the wind, ate dinner as quickly as we could and climbed into our sleeping bags for a really rough night’s sleep after a total of 9 1/2 hours of hiking that day. 8-9 hours round-trip my butt.

 

Luckily the next morning we were feeling much better!

Before setting out we tried wrapping my feet in garbage bags before putting them in my shoes so that they would be safe from the wet and cold. Great fashion statement yes? :)

 

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For the record…I am modeling my garbage bag feet. Not taking a pee as Chris so kindly pointed out.

We discovered that we were only about 30 more minutes away from our destination! Whoo-hoo! That left us lots of time and energy to take some awesome photos.

Exhibit A: (click on the photos to enlarge them if you wish)

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Chris and I

 

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Josh and Kolie

 

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“The Coolest Sheehans Ever” and “C²”!

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The epic vistas made this trip SO worth it in the end!

 

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It took about 7 hours to get back down the mountain.

 

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But we made it! After we got down the mountain safe and sound, we decided that everything was completely worth it. Even though this was definitely the hardest hike I’ve ever done, it was still a grand, amazing adventure! It was even hard for Josh, who practically majored in backpacking. I think it would have been much better had we had more information and were more prepared physically and mentally. So if you are wanting to go sit out on this particular perilous rock, here are

JoshandKolieandChrisandChelsea’s tips for hiking Trolltunga!

 

1. All the guides say it is an 8-9 hour hike round trip. It probably is if you aren’t carrying 30 pound packs. If you are planning to camp overnight, be prepared that it will take you much longer than expected, even if are in pretty good physical shape.

2. If you do want to do half the hike one day and camp overnight like we did, there is a cabin that sleeps 6 at the top right by Trolltunga. You have to reserve it quite far in advance since space is limited, but it would definitely be worth it to book it. That way you don’t have to pack in all your tent and cooking gear, and while you are technically allowed to camp anywhere you want up there, there are very little places level enough, dry enough (even though it hadn’t rained all weekend), and sheltered enough to set up camp in. We got lucky. We highly recommend the cabins. (Call the Odda tourist office for information.)

3. Probably go sooner in Summer rather than later. We went towards the end of September and while the cold wasn’t a significant problem since we dressed well, you will probably have a much more pleasant experience if you go mid-summer.

4. Water. Proof. Shoes. I can’t stress that enough. The shoes you can hike Preikestolen in just fine are NOT going to cut it hiking Trolltunga. Learn from my mistakes!

 

I hope you get a chance to try it someday, because really…it was spectacular!

 

Seasons are a-changin’!

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A Highland Anniversary

Back in August (yes…I know I’m behind again…) Chris and I celebrated our 1st anniversary! Whoa. Time has gone by so fast, yet it already feels like we’ve been married forever! What an adventure it has been so far! I just want you all to know that I love this man with all my heart. He is a truly amazing husband and the perfect man for me. He has made me unbelievably happy this past year. I’m very excited for all of the future adventures we are going to have together in year 2 :)

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We knew we wanted to celebrate this awesome occasion by doing something, well…awesome. Unfortunately all of our previous plans fell through for various unforseen reasons. So about 3 days before our anniversary we decided that no matter what, we were going somewhere out of Stavanger. We looked at flights and the cheapest we could find landed us in…..

SCOTLAND!

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We flew into Edinburgh,  jumped on a MacBackpackers tour bus we had booked  for a 3-day trip to the Isle of Skye up in the Highlands, and then spent the last 2 days hanging out back in Edinburgh and checking out the Fringe Festival (performing arts) that runs most of August. It was a beautiful, romantic, adventurous trip!

Chris brought the big fancy camera from work so he could teach me how to use things like aperture and shutter speed to take better pictures. Naturally, that meant we ended up with about 1500 photos from the trip. No joke. I didn’t want to have to make you all scroll through tons of photos (nor did I want to have to sort through and edit them at the moment), so me and my friend iMovie made a video instead! Enjoy!

 

 Ok….so maybe I snuck a few pictures in there after all. I really just wanted you to be able to listen to the entire song without me editing it and I ran out of video footage. It’s an awesome song, eh? It’s by a band I just recently found called Seven Nations. If you like bagpipey folk music with a modern twist, definitely check them out!

 

 

A little more info about our trip in case you find it useful someday:

What we flew: Norwegian Airlines

Where we stayed: The first night in Edinburgh we stayed at the Novotel Hotel Centre. Gorgeous hotel with a pool and hot tub. Nights 2-4 were at the Skye Backpackers Hostel in Kyleakin, Isle of Skye. We booked a double private room instead of the bunk room with the rest of the tour. Night 5-6 were at the Holiday Inn Express Waterfront. Since we booked so late and the Fringe Festival was going on, we didn’t have a lot of options to pick from, but the HIE was nice and basic….just way too far from Edinburgh Center. Buses ran by frequently, but it was still quite a hassle to be so far away from all the sights.

Where we ate: To be honest…. Pizza Hut and Pappa Johns :) We may have mildly freaked out when we saw they had them in Edinburgh. We were so excited to eat good, greasy, cheesy American-style pizza again! On Skye we had delicious pub fare at Saucy Mary’s Pub. It was our most Scottish food experience of the trip. The rest of the time, we ate food we brought with us (such as noodle bowls and ramen dinners) which was easy to whip up in the hostel kitchen and worked perfectly using hot water heated with the coffee makers in the hotel rooms. Hey…we’re still newlyweds on a budget afterall :)

What we saw: Loch Ness, The Isle of Skye, Inverness, lots of old ruins, Kilt Rock, Battlefield of Culloden, National Wallace Monument, Faerie Glen, Glen Goe, Eilean Donan Castle, Braveheart Country, The Old Man of Storr, Edinburgh Castle, The Palace of Holyrood House, waterfalls, and tons of other stuff I don’t quite remember and am too lazy to look up. We loved the magic of Scotland :)

**About our MacBackpackers tour: If any of you are planning on going to Scotland and don’t want to rent a car to drive around in, we would both HIGHLY recommend a tour with MacBackpackers. Normally, I’m not a fan of organized tours, but this one was amazing! It was a great way to get out of the main cities see the highlights of the Highlands without worrying about where to stay or getting lost. MacBackpackers is a really down-to-earth tour company run through a local hostel that focuses on the younger backpacking culture, although anyone of any age can come along. It almost felt like we weren’t tourists. Our tour guide, Ruthie, was absolutely hilarious and told us all sorts of stories about Scottish history, legends and local culture. We stopped in gorgeous tiny towns that we never would have thought to stop in on our own. You do normally stay in a hostel on Skye as part of the tour, but they have private double rooms or you can opt to book your own room at one of the hotels/b&bs in town. It was a fantastic 3 days and we would highly recommend it if you are heading out to Scotland anytime soon!