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Happy New Year!
Stavanger really knows how to ring in the new year. The entire town lights up with fireworks in every direction!
After spending the evening playing games with Carrie and Kjetil, we snuck up onto the roof of the building next to our old apartment in downtown Stavanger to watch the big show. It always feels like the perfect way to start a new year :)
2014. Bring it on.

 

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Christmas 2013, part 2
This year on Christmas Eve, our good friends, Kjetil and Carrie, invited us to a real Norwegian Christmas with Kjetil’s family.
In Norway, the BIG day of Christmas is Christmas Eve, or Julaften, rather than Christmas Day. Everyone dresses in their Christmas best and gathers together for a big traditional dinner, dessert, and the opening of presents. Every family celebrates it a little differently depending on the region you were raised in.
At the Olsen’s, we had pinnekjøtt (steamed, salted and dried ribs of lamb), mashed rutabaga, potatoes, and of course, julebrus (the special Christmas soda that is only sold this time of year). Now, I had been warned about pinnekjøtt before. Chris had had it at work a few times and thought it was awful, and most other Americans I talked to all cautioned about what a “special” and “unique” smell and flavor it had. Obviously, we were naturally rather nervous going to a nice formal holiday dinner where it was being served as the main course.
Much to our surprise and delight though, we both loved it! Apparently, it all depends on how you prepare and cook it. Erna (Kjetil’s mom) made it wonderfully. She’s a bit of an expert, as this is her family’s traditional Christmas dinner that goes back generations. Most years she even cures the lamb herself! Even Chris, the self-proclaimed pinnekjøtt-hater couldn’t help going back for seconds.
The only reason I could keep myself from filing up on delicious pinnekjøtt and rutabaga was because I knew the dessert was on it’s way. Riskrem, or rice pudding, is pretty traditional across the country for Christmas Eve dessert. We had had risgrøt around Christmas a few times before, but this was only our second time having riskrem. (We actually didn’t know what the difference was until it was explained that Christmas Eve. Risgrøt is rice porridge made with milk and rice and served hot for dinner or breakfast with pats of butter, cinnamon and sugar. Riskrem is a dessert pudding traditionally made with the leftover risgrøt mixed with sweetened whipped cream and served cold with a red fruit compote on top. Now we know!) Needless to say, it was also delicious. Traditionally, a peeled almond is hidden in the riskrem. If you find the almond in your bowl, you keep it hidden until the last person has finished their bowl. Then everyone has to guess who they think has the almond. The goal is to keep a poker face until the big reveal and the winner gets a marzipan pig. Kjetil was the big pig winner :)
 
Lydia
Nathan and Grandpa Anstein
 
After dinner, it was time for presents!
Just kidding, we made the kids take family photos first. Poor things!
Carrie, Kjetil, Nathan and Lydia
Erna and Anstein and their grandkids
And of course, C2.
(Purple is one of the primary Christmas colors in Norway. We felt quite festive.)
 
It was an absolutely lovely evening with the Olsen family. We are so blessed they opened up their home and shared so many of their special Christmas traditions with us! We’ll most likely be adopting many of them as our own traditions in the coming years. It was definitely a Christmas Eve to remember!
 

And, since we are American, we got another Christmas the next morning when we celebrated OUR traditional Christmas Day.

We slept in, lazied around, stayed in our pajamas all day, opened presents, Skyped with family, made clam chowder (with cans of clams we brought all the way back from the US with us), and played the longest game of Killer Bunnies we’ve ever played before.
 
I’m normally not one to post Christmas present photos, but I couldn’t NOT post this one of Chris and his new drill (from yours truly ;) ). He just looks so rugged and sexy!
The drill was immediately put to use and I’m sure it will see a LOT more in the coming months as we put our new home together. (Literally. We live near an IKEA afterall.)

 

It was truly a magical Christmas :)

 

Christmas 2013

We got “settled” into our new apartment just in time for Christmas. (Why does it seem like we’re always either moving or traveling during Christmas time? We really need to stop that. It’s much too stressful.)

 

We still didn’t have any living room or dining room furniture (our “couch” was a pile of pillows in a corner and our “table” was an upturned moving box), and we were nowhere near being upacked, but we unearthed our decoration boxes and decked the halls for Christmas anyway.

Including our tree :)

 
I found a tutorial on Pinterest on how to take sparkly Christmas tree photos. I had some fun testing it out :)
 
And of course, the annual church Christmas concert. I was in charge of the decorations again this year and with a LOT of help from Carrie and Anita it turned out pretty fun!
Chris performed “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” with our bishop’s daughter, Anna, complete with full instrumental accompaniment and backup singers. One of these days I’m going to have to track down a video recording of the performance, because it was just darling! The ward has been a little obsessed with Chris’ deep voice ever since.
Since we weren’t traveling anywhere for Christmas this year, we were exposed to some more Norwegian Christmas traditions. One of our new favorites is ‘ribbe’ (roasted pork ribs) which is a traditional Christmas dinner in Eastern Norway. Our friends, Grethe and Leidulf, had us over for ribbe one evening and it was oh-my-gosh-delicious!
And oh yeah! It snowed! Fresh snow is such a magical way to get into the Christmas mood. We were hoping it would last until Christmas Day, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. We were happy to get one last snowy shot from our old apartment’s view before it all melted away.
 
We’re really learning to love Christmas in Norway!