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2015: Bring it on

2015 packed a punch right from the very beginning.

Our last day in London Chris and I were both suffering from ominous tickles in our throats (foreign germs in combination with tourist exhaustion combined with pregnancy (on my part)? Not a good combo…) After a harried flight home from London we arrived on New Years Eve just in time to go to our friends’, the Olsens, house for new year festivities (Nostalgia moment: On a plane heading to Stavanger on New Years Eve. Flashback to when we first arrived 4 years ago!).  While it was fun to hang out with Carrie, Kjetil, Erin and Barrett, staying out until well past midnight and traipsing through the cold rain to see the fireworks probably wasn’t the best decision on the heels of an exhausting trip and the edge of a cold.

 

Happy 2015!!

Chris didn’t end up so bad in the end, but I ended up steamrolled by a nasty sinus AND chest infection for almost two weeks. Being 8 months pregnant and majorly congested (more than I already was due to the pregnancy) with a raging cough was downright miserable. I had a moment or two where it felt like I was having an asthma attack it was so hard to breathe. I finally made it in to see the doctor and they gave me antibiotics for the sinus infection hoping that targeting that would help give my body the energy to fight off  the viral chest infection, which thankfully it did. Most unfortunately, though, I missed a whole week at the bakery that we were counting on as a team to continue training Lynne, the cake decorator who would be taking over for me once I started my maternity leave. When we only had a month left every week counted so losing that week was pretty stressful for everyone involved.

Work in general was pretty stressful all of January, despite it being our slow season. Because of the lingering cough and overall weakness as a result of fighting off such a nasty bug, I was commanded by my doctor and midwife to take it as slow as possible (I had pretty much coughed the baby down into my pelvis and it was starting to get pretty painful to stand for too long) but my job isn’t exactly the kind of job where I can take it easy. It was a mad scramble to get everything ready for Lynne to take over for me. In Norway, it’s expected (and often mandated) that a woman begins her maternity leave 3 weeks before her due date. That was SO not going to happen for me at Slikkepotten. Way too much to do! I surprised everyone who came into the shop when they asked when I was due and I would reply “In 2 weeks…” Katrine would quickly add, “She’s American.” as if that explained everything. I was planning to start my leave the week before my due date to give me time to finish up the things I needed to do before the baby was born (we figured she would be late, since we were told most 1st babies come after their due date), but the running joke at the bakery was that I would work straight up until the day I gave birth. Despite the pressing need to finish my huge to-do list in a truncated amount of time it was getting harder and harder to walk due to the baby pressing so far down in my pelvis and the residual swelling from London. I was so exhausted I would come home and crash as soon as I got home. So handling pretty massive stress while trying to keep my body calm for the baby was my primary task for most of January.

The question I got asked most frequently throughout my pregnancy was, “What are you going to do with Slikkepotten once you give birth?” Here in Norway typical maternity leave is ten months or more for the mom, so people were quite shocked when I replied that I was planning to come back after three months in time for the confirmation and wedding seasons. Three months is great from an American perspective, but utterly insane from a Norwegian one. In the beginning, Katrine kept telling me I needed to take the full time off and I would just say, “Can you really run the business by yourself for an entire year?” The answer to that was always no, so it settled the matter. We did hire a lovely lass from Scotland named Lynne to take over for me on the bakery side of things for those three months though. Overall, not an ideal situation from a business perspective, but Katrine and I went into it knowing Chris and I were trying to get pregnant so we were able to plan far enough in advance to make it work. Life and work once the baby comes is a whole lot of unknown territory, that’s for sure!

Chris got Lasik eye surgery in the middle of the month! Goodbye glasses! He had to wear these awesome eye patches whenever he slept for a few days to keep himself from rubbing his eyes. I thought it was pretty hilarious every time I helped him tape them on before bed :)
Getting the car seat set up and ready to go!

Once Christmas and our London trip were over, our due date suddenly seemed WAY closer. Christmas was always the milestone in my head (“Oh, the baby won’t be born until after Christmas…”) but now that Christmas was over it got real REALLY fast. I was struggling to finish my to-do list at work, let alone everything we needed to do before the baby arrived! Aaaaaah!  So much to do!

 

2015….here we go!

London: Churchill War Rooms
The very last thing we squeezed into our trip to London was the Churchill War Rooms. We almost didn’t make it. We had planned to go earlier in the week, but lines being what they were over the Christmas holidays we didn’t get to see as much as we had intended. Our London Passes had already expired, but Dad really wanted to visit the War Rooms so he, Chris, and I paid the entrance fee anyway and spent our last evening in London below ground in the bunkers while Mom and Rick visited the London Science Museum.
If you read my previous post about Hampton Court, you already know that I love the “slice of life” sort of experiences when it comes to historical destinations. The closer I can get to feeling like I traveled back in time the better (if I could only be granted such a superpower…). The Churchill War Rooms fit the bill perfectly! They were the secret underground headquarters of Churchill and his cabinet during the London Blitz. As soon as World War II ended packed up, turned off the lights, and locked the doors sealing it off exactly as it was the day the war ended (right down to someone’s sugar rations left in a desk drawer). The government understood the significance of such a place and such a moment to Britain’s history and they had the foresight to keep it sealed until it was reopened in the 1970s and converted into a museum for the public to see. So with the exception of some glass walls, information placards and wax war officials, it was as close to being there during the actual war as you could get!
Hitler doodle on one of the maps.
From our current methods of modern warfare with drones, computers and satellites it’s absolutely incredible to think that an entire world war was conducted and won from these very rooms with just little pins on giant maps. It was only three generations ago, but we’ve come such a long way since then! The methods they used back in the 1940s were simultaneously primitive and ingenious and it still blows my mind thinking about it as I review these photos.
So many pin holes!
The daily reported death toll during each night of the Blitz. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for Londoners during that time. I expect it must have been terrifying.
Why hello there Mr. Churchill.
Chris’ favorite part of the experience was the part of the museum dedicated to the life of Winston Churchill. In the US we don’t learn much about Churchill outside of the context of WWII but he was apparently quite a character! It was really amazing to learn about Churchill before he was CHURCHILL (you know, the politician Churchill we always read about). We spent almost as much time in this section of the museum as we did in the rest of the war rooms learning about his aristocratic heritage, his adventures as a war correspondent and heroic POW during the Second Boer War, his daring political career and more. Did you know he single-handedly saved an entire army division, but was captured himself and held hostage, later escaping and traveling almost 300 miles to safety after hiding in an old mine? We sure didn’t! There was way more to Winston than we ever heard about in schools. So much history contained within one short and stout person!
Dad’s and my favorite Churchill quote.
The kitchen that sustained the war.
An officer’s bedroom.

We all left the Churchill War Rooms with a much greater appreciation for England and it’s efforts during World War II.  Overall, London just added fuel to the fire that is my ever-burning desire to be able to travel back in time and see history in person. It was a fantastically exhausting trip for this pregnant lady, but so worth it to be able to spend this time and create these memories with my family. We sure love you guys!

London: Hampton Court
I have a problem. I tend to pass quick judgement on things before I even give them a chance.

 

A perfect example of this is movies. When I was younger, my mom had to force me to watch The Princess Bride. It sounded horribly boring and I remember putting up a big stink about it when it was announced we were watching it for family movie night. But of course I ended up loving it! It happened again with Pirates of the Caribbean. My mom and my friend, Julie, wanted to see it while we were visiting San Diego together so I had no choice but to go with them, but I secretly thought it was super lame that Disney couldn’t think of any better ideas and had to resort to basing movies off their Disneyland rides. Then BAM! It ended up as of my favorite movies of all time.

 

You would think I would have learned by now after a lifetime of this, but no, it happened AGAIN in London when one of the top things on my parents’ sightseeing wish list was to visit Hampton Court. To me it sounded like a huge hassle to waste a full day of our trip to take a train outside of London to see some country home of one of the hundreds of English kings. Why don’t we just stay IN London and see all the cool things there are to do there? Then BAM! It ended up as one of my very favorite things we saw on the entire trip. As usual, my parents were spot on and we all had a blast spending the entire day wandering the halls of this HUGE country palace of King Henry the VIII.

 

 

We learned all about the opulence and extravagance of King Henry the VIII’s court and his wives and the royal culture of the time. I had heard of King Henry the VIII and a few nuggets of information here and there sounded familiar (probably due to my world history classes in high school), but if I was asked a question about him on Jeopardy I would be a lost cause. However, being there and seeing it all in person suddenly made it all so much more fascinating and real! Henry the VIII was a pretty sketchy dude and the story of his life and the lives of his many wives could fill episode after episode of a TV drama (oh wait…it has.) 16th century English history suddenly became soooo much more fascinating.

 

 

Both mine and Chris’ absolute FAVORITE part of the entire palace was the kitchen. His Highness would frequently entertain a court of over 1000 people PLUS servants and therefore his palace had to have the kitchen facilities to accommodate all those hungry people at least twice a day. It was fascinating to see how food was produced on that large of a scale back in the day. I really think food can give you more insight into a time period and culture than almost any other historical artifacts. The kitchens at Hampton Court were huge! Rooms and rooms of food production, giant vats of boiled meat, tables and tables of meat pies and giant fireplaces with huge roasting spits. We saw where they had almost a steady stream of wagons delivering meat and produce day after day and learned all about the ingenious ways they devised to store it all. I can’t even imagine what this place would have looked like in full production!  According to Hampton Court’s website:

The annual provision of meat for the Tudor court stood at 1,240 oxen, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs and 53 wild boar. This was all washed down with 600,000 gallons of beer.

A Spanish visitor to the Tudor court in 1554 said that the kitchens were ‘veritable hells, such is the stir and bustle in them … there is plenty of beer here, and they drink more than would fill the Valladolid river.’

I left this room craving British meat pies. All I wanted was a steaming hot pastry filled with gravy, vegetables, and meat. It was immensely satisfying that later that night we ate at a pub that happened to serve them.

 

I also stumbled upon my new dream job (believe it or not decorating cakes is not actually my dream job) there at Hampton Court. These guys working in the kitchen dressed in costume were Experimental Food Historians. Basically, they work at Hampton Court researching methods of food production in 16th century England. They create all the pots, pans and tools using old techniques based on the designs of the actual artifacts they found from the time period and then cook food in them to try to figure out how they did it, what it tasted like, and what it means in terms of history. They base their studies off of old records, historical accounts, and paintings to try to figure out what food culture was actual like for the royals and servants at the time. They do a lot of their experiments in costume during opening hours so the tourists can watch them prepare the food and listen to them tell about the history of the kitchens and they roast their preparations on spits in the huge fireplaces like they would have back in Hampton Court’s heyday. Unfortunately, due to British health codes they aren’t allowed to feed the food they cook to the visitors, so at the end of the day they all gather together and have a big feast. Here’s a really good story from the New Yorker about the work of the experimental food historians at Hampton Court. I would SERIOUSLY love this job. I didn’t even know a job like this existed but now that I do I’m seriously looking into it for the future. I don’t plan on decorating cakes forever!

 


Today the food historians were trying to recreate a cockatrice, or a centerpiece dish that involved a pig and a goose being sewn together to create a “mythical” animal. We didn’t get to see the finished and roasted dish, but it sure sounded cool.


The giant roasting spits. 


It might only be interesting to you if you’ve been there (or if you have an interest in Tudor England), but just for reference here is a fascinating fact sheet about the Hampton Court kitchens and here is a cool article about a chocolate kitchen run by Henry the VIII’s chocolatier they recently unearthed. We thought it was all so cool!



Clearly we thought the kitchens were the coolest part, because we didn’t get very many pictures of the rest of the place (except for this room decorated with weapons!) I feel a little bad about it because the rest of the palace was almost just as impressive! We got to see the royal apartments, the chapel, the room where King Henry was married to Catherine Parr, and loads of other rooms all built to house the giant Tudor court. The whole palace was absolutely fascinating and I couldn’t get enough of all the history. I spent a good portion of that evening soaking in the bathtub (it was a whole lot of walking for a pregnant lady!) reading as many articles as I could find on King Henry VIII and the Tudor dynasty on my iPad and shouting facts to Chris (who was outside on the bed trying to relax with the TV and who was a really good sport about it :) ).  The best fact of all? What happened to Henry when he died! Totally grody.




Thanks Mom and Dad for another major win!

A Very British Romjul

 

 

My mom and dad are recent empty-nesters and while they are mostly loving it, this year when Christmas rolled around they decided that with us in Norway and my youngest brother on a mission, it was a little lame to have a tiny Christmas with just the two of them and my brother, Rick. So they decided a better option was to fly to London. Chris and I happened to agree with them, so the day after Christmas we flew in and met up with them to explore London for 5 days!

 

Mom and I went to London when I was 15 on a band trip (and I had just been back again 3 weeks before), but it was Dad, Rick and Chris’ first time in the city. We got the London Pass and spent 5 full days taking in as many of the sights as we could. We walked Hyde Park and stumbled upon the annual Winter Wonderland theme park  (where this pregnant lady got fairground churros, which pretty much made her entire week!). We toured Westminster Abbey, the Tower Bridge, Hampton Court, the Churchill War Rooms and the Tower of London (which we went back to two days in a row because we didn’t get enough of it the first day).  We visited Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, and saw all the primary London landmarks. My family indulged us in waiting in line almost a hour and a half to eat at Pizza Hut (oh how you miss food like this when you live in Norway) and we dragged Rick to see the newest Hobbit with us so we could read the Elvish/Orcish subtitles in English rather than Norwegian. It was a pretty magical trip.
Trafalgar Square
Did you know pelicans were this big? I had NO idea. Hide your small children!
Hyde Park
Westminster Abbey 

 

Walking around London 8 months pregnant started off hunky dory, but after about day 2 I started to feel it in my bones. Literally. I have never been so aware of my pelvis in my entire life. Luckily our hotel room had a bathtub, which was glorious beyond all reason. I’ve sure been missing baths something fierce during this pregnancy! Chris was also the best husband in the world and massaged my poor swollen feet and ankles whenever I needed him to. I don’t think I could have walked as much as we did without him! A little tip for anyone planning to go to London while pregnant: Keep a ready stash of change handy AT ALL TIMES. Most of the public restrooms charge you to get in and the precious moments needed to frantically search for the right coin are murder when the baby decides to kick you right on your bladder! Overall though, it went much better than expected and was the perfect little babymoon!


The Tower of London
Animal art installation at the Tower of London made out of chicken wire.

 

The Tower of London was one of the highlights of our trip. On the first day we went we hardly got to see anything due to the extremely long lines to see the crown jewels (which were totally worth the wait! So cool!) and technically you can only visit an attraction once using the London Pass, but we asked nicely and they gave us a pass to come back the next day. We were so glad they did! There was a lot more to see than we expected! Chris and I took lots of notes on what we liked and didn’t like for when we build our own castle someday.

 

Best picture of Rick ever.
Because Christmas. 
The view of the Thames from the sky walkway on the Tower Bridge.
There were some good views and interesting history, but we decided later that if we were to go back and drop anything from the trip the Tower Bridge Exhibition would be what we wouldn’t miss. The lines were too long and the payoff wasn’t really worth the crowds (unlike Pizza Hut ;) )
Props to Dad for timing this picture perfectly to get Big Ben and the red buses! 
Buckingham Palace

In Norway, the period between Christmas and New Years is called romjul (rom-yool) and this was definitely the best romjul ever!

Christmas 2014

Christmas was lovely and simple this year. So much of the past few months was stressful so it was nice to have some days to just relax and enjoy spending time with Chris. It was a little surreal that this was our last Christmas with just the two of us. Exciting, but surreal. We enjoyed every minute of it.

 

It was particularly fun to reminisce about where we were last Christmas. We had just moved into our new apartment and the only furniture we had in our living room was a desk and two bookcases. We had our traditional Christmas clam chowder on blankets on the floor. This year we ate it on our kitchen table and then snuggled up on our couch. Simple blessings and fun memories :)

Plus we woke up to the most magical of all Christmas surprises: A white Christmas!

Merry Christmas from C2, Skittles, and the growing baby!

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