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Oslo: A weekend of cakes and museums

As you know already from my previous post (and probably from my bazillions of Instagram uploads), Chris and I were in Oslo last weekend. I went to attend the Norsk Kakeutstilling, or Norwegian Cake Show, which is the biggest cake convention in Norway. And by biggest, I mean it had one showroom and 4 vendors. Gooooo Norwegian cake industry! We’re slowly growing!

It was still really cool to attend, though. I got to network with a lot of fellow cake decorators, make some new friends, and be inspired by some of the incredible cakes on display!

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Two of my favorite competition cakes.

I had initially planned to just spend the weekend by myself at the convention…but about a week beforehand it dawned on me that I have yet to attend a convention in Norway that would take a one-legged 80 year old lady with a walker half a day to see in its entirety…so Chris decided at the last minute to accompany me so we could play after I ran out of things to do at the conference. And play we did!

We got a 24-hour Oslo Pass (free museums and free transportation*), so we went crazy and crammed in as many museums as we could!

Here’s what we hit up:

Frogner Park (which is what I like to call the “Babies and Piles of People Park”),

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Babies.

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More babies.

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Piles of people.

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Bigger piles of people.

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Double piles of people.

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The Norwegian Folk Museum (the largest collection of cultural history in Norway)

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Sami guy hanging out in a Sami tent to instruct us on the Sami ways. 

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Classic wooden stave church relocated to museum grounds.

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Mmmm… Traditional lefse (Norwegian sweet flatbread) demonstration!

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We have officially been converted to the fresh baked stuff!

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The Viking Ship Museum (three old and buried viking ships that were dug up and put back together)

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The Kon Tiki Museum (home of the ACTUAL Kon Tiki),

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The Polar Ship Fram Museum (where I realized I had no idea how many people have died trying to reach the North and South Poles).

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Not bad for a single day!

* Ok…. so the museums and transportation aren’t exactly free. You still have to pay for the Oslo Pass. But it was 270 nok each for 24 hours and after keeping track and totaling our would-be expenses, we would have spent almost 500 nok a piece if we had paid for everything a la carte. And that’s not including discounts from certain restaurants and other shops. PLUS, you don’t have to take time out of your day to pay at each museum. You just flash your pass and walk right in. If you are going to be in Oslo anytime soon, the Oslo Pass is TOTALLY worth it!

C²’s #1 tip for an easier adjustment when moving to a foreign country

Sunset Over Hundvåg Bridge

Living as an expat (expatriate) in a foreign country certainly has its ups and downs. It’s not an easy adjustment by any means, even in a country like Norway that is fairly similar to the US culture we are used to (I mean… it’s not like the difference between the US and say, Africa or Asia).

However, one of the things Chris and I have become acutely aware of now that we’ve been living here 2 years is the prevalence of COMPLAINING among expats. Throughout the expat community, there are seemingly constant complaints about the food, the weather, the prices, etc. It has actually driven us away from a lot of expat gatherings over the past year because it feels like they are just an outlet for expats to get together and vent about differences between Norway and their home country.  And it’s contagious! During our first year here we definitely noticed ourselves falling into the habit of complaining and came to recognize that it created a very negative energy that, in hindsight, made it much harder to adjust.

Don’t get me wrong, we love our fellow expats, but once we noticed this issue and started making an active effort to avoid complaining ourselves, we’ve truly come to love it here in Norway! We’ve been able to accept and appreciate the differences rather than get frustrated by them and as a result we’ve been able to make friends with more Norwegians and become much more involved in the culture.  My number one bit of advice for anyone moving to a foreign country or currently living as an expat is to try your hardest not  to complain about your surroundings. You will be amazed by how much it makes a difference!

Just to hone my point, I read this story in a dietary cleanse book (of all things) but I loved the way it talks about complaining and the benefits of getting rid of that habit in your life so I just had to share!

The Art of Self-Mastery

From Clean, by Dr. Alejandro Junger, M.D

excerpt from pages 184 – 185

“I met Hugo Cory by chance one day at Cafe Cafe, a trendy coffee shop in Soho’s Greene Street. Sitting with him and discussing these ideas for half an hour was one of the most enlightening experiences of my life. I discovered that he meets with clients in an office on Madison Avenue and 67th Street and I began to work with him. Hugo describes his work as developing integrity and character through the learning and practicing of self-mastery. In this work, the simplest advice, which sounds almost superficial during casual conversation  is a powerful tool for transformation. “Stop complaining,” he says, and then remains silent looking right into your eyes. As if downloading a program over a high-speed Internet connection, I saw with a jolt how any complaint is really the expression of a negative emotion or state. It gives the complainer a sense of immediate relief, even pleasure. This is perhaps the reason why it is such a common practice worldwide.

I realized that 90 percent of the time, people complain about everything and everyone. The weather, the government, the economy, their jobs, the basketball game, their spouse, the cost of gas. Complaints are not always obvious. There are masters of disguise who make them sound like a joke, or make them so intellectually complex that they fool almost everyone. Except Hugo. His radar for the subtle energy of complaining has become so refined that it surprises people who truly believe they never complain (when he points it out to them without judgment). He explains that negative emotions create a certain inner turmoil that generates a type of pressure. Complaining is like an exhaust pipe in a car, it lets of the pressure, relieving the complainer in the short term. But this negative energy pollutes your environment and is doubly toxic to the people who are listening. The almost victim-like quality that this energy carries generates a curious phenomenon. Most complainers expect you to join them in their complaint. Even if it is with a nod of your head, or a lowering of your eyelids. Most people are so blind to this toxicity that they are eager to join the complainer  sometimes going as far as to engage in criticism of some they barely know. The apparent camaraderie that is generated by this interaction gives the one who joins the complainer a sense of immediate pleasure as well.

Hugo pointed out, and I confirmed by my own observation, that almost without exception, complainers and those who join them later on, when alone, feel depleted, somewhat depressed. Most never put these two dots together and have no way of ever breaking this cycle of quantum toxicity, both are personal and environmental. Over the years, I have witnessed several people completely transform their lives and end eternal cycles of drama while working with Hugo on this one aim alone, to stop and master all complaints and expression of negative emotions. Along the way, some of them saw the resolution of apparently completely unrelated health issues that were resistant to conventional and alternative treatment approaches. Take this idea and run with it. First observe and see if you notice yourself complaining. Then attempt to stop complaining about anything. Learn about Hugo’s work by visiting his website at www.hugocory.com.”

 

I can speak from experience when I say that trying your hardest not to fall into the habit of complaining will help you leaps and bounds when trying to adjust to life in a foreign country (or life in your own country too for that matter!) Yes, things are different and sometimes quite tough to get used to, but complaining about it really does produce a “pollution” in your personal environment and just as it is with smog… life is just so much better when everything is fresh and clear! You will be able accept a new culture and lifestyle much more readily and instead of focusing on the challenges and differences, you will have a much richer and fulfilling experience! This is one of our expat resolutions this year. What’s yours?

C²’s Tips For An Awesome Cruise

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Before we finally put this cruise to bed, we wanted to share with you a few tips we learned from our Mediterranean cruising experience.  This was our first cruise for both couples (except for Chris, who did a cruise to Mexico filming a reality show a few years ago, but that was for work so it doesn’t really count), so I’m not sure we’re entirely qualified to be handing out advice for how to go on a cruise, but we learned a lot on our experience so we’d thought we’d share in case other would-be and first-time cruisers might find it useful! A lot of this stuff I’ve mentioned in previous posts, but I figured it would be a good idea to put it all down in one place. So here we go….

1. If you are going on a sightseeing cruise, make sure you pick an itinerary with lots of days at sea.

We learned that not all cruising experiences are the same. There are Caribbean-style cruises where the focus is on sun, cool drinks, and relaxation and you spend most of your days chillin’ on the beach or pool. Ours was a sightseeing-style cruise. The focus was on seeing as much as you can during days at port rather than pure relaxation. Because we were only in each port for such a short amount of time and there was SO much to see and do, we found ourselves thoroughly dirty, sore, and exhausted by the end of each day. We loved it, but we were SO grateful for the sea days we had in between all the running around (4 days at sea total). So if you are going on a sightseeing cruise, DEFINITELY find an itinerary with plenty of days at sea. They sound boring, but you are going to want/need them! Plus, there’s so much to do on the ship, you won’t be bored :)

2.  Don’t be afraid to go outside of the cruise line when planning tours and excursions.

Even if you have never been to the country you are cruising to, be sure to research excursions outside of the ones provided by the cruise. We were inexperienced and a bit terrified of venturing off on our own in places like Egypt and Israel and Greece, where the languages and street signs weren’t remotely understandable. So we booked the majority of our excursions through the cruise ship. I wouldn’t say it was a big mistake, but we got quite frustrated with the way they were run. It was a lot of sitting around waiting. Waiting for people to check in. Waiting for people who were late. Waiting for the older folks. The groups of 30-40 people so the tours were extremely slow and oftentimes you couldn’t get close enough to the guide to ask questions. The guides got paid commission for certain purchases the tourists made, so they tried to sell you stuff while you were stuck on the bus and would take you to irrelevant shopping centers. Plus, the tours made you feel like an über tourist because you had to wear headphones and stickers and badges that made you stick out like a flashing neon sign.

Now, this style of tour might be great for some people, but we wanted more adventure and more of a local feel. Our excursion in Turkey made us realize there were many other options beyond the excursions offered by the cruise line. Our private tour through Ekol Tours didn’t cost any more than it would have through the ship and we got an extremely personal tour guide, Iksander. We got to ask all the questions we wanted and even got to customize the experience. Our guide was initially going to take us to a leather factory, but when we expressed that we weren’t wanting to buy any leather he routed us elsewhere. He also gave us loads of tips about places the locals go for us to explore during our free time so we could avoid the tourist traps and experience the real Kusadasi. It was fantastic and we really thought we got way more bang for our buck than we did on any of the tours through the ship.

I’m not saying never go with a cruise tour (in the end we decided we were grateful we went with the cruise tour in Egypt), but at least research other options. These places aren’t as scary as you think and doing a little research will give you a great idea of what is available. Don’t forget to read the reviews on Trip Advisor!

3. Be prepared for the insanely inflated prices.

 We knew that going on a cruise was going to be expensive. People told us how high the prices were on the ship, but we weren’t prepared for HOW high. At one point Chris needed some Nyquil and the only one available was a tiny bottle for $16. So take what your expectations are for expenses on board and double them. Which leads to tip #4….

4. Bring your own medicine and first aid. 

Plan for the unexpected. We didn’t think we’d need Nyquil because who plans to get sick on a vacation?? But with the amount of germy people on the ship, you’re bound to need some sort of cold medicine. All 4 of us caught various small bugs during the trip. Neosporin (for the inevitable blisters) would have cost an arm and a leg if we hadn’t brought our own. I would also recommend anti-diarreahals. We ate relatively healthy on the ship, but 3 of the 4 of us still ended up with some runs (TMI?). And if you try to get some pills for anything but seasickness from the first aid office, they will put you in quarantine for a day and cancel your shore excursions, even for a minor cold. So make your life so much simpler and just bring your own. Which leads me to my 5th point…

5. Eat healthy breakfast and lunches.

Splurge all you want on dinner and dessert, but if you eat short stacks with sausage and bacon and nutella covered toast and greasy burgers & fries for every meal every day, your bowels are going to be hating you. Use breakfast and lunch to stock up your system on fruits, veggies and fiber and leave the fatty, sugary, delicious stuff for dinner. Besides, we found the food at dinner to be far superior while most of the breakfasts and lunches weren’t worth the calories.

6. You won’t need as many clothes and shoes as you think you do.

Seriously…don’t bring 6 pairs of shoes. You’ll need flip flops, walking shoes, and dressy shoes TOPS. Pick outfits that will be multipurpose (mix and match with layers) that match your three pairs of shoes and you’ll be good to go. Learn from our mistake ;)

7. Pack some extra hangers. 

We read that tip on another blog (I wish I could remember which one to cite it!) and it proved extremely useful. The cruise closets have some, but definitely not enough.

8. When picking a cabin, go for the cheap interior on a sightseeing cruise. Save the windows and balconies for relaxation cruises.

We were cheapskates and got the smallest interior rooms we could. Our intention was to spend the money we saved on the room on better excursions and we were really happy we did!  We spent relatively little time in our room and we were glad we didn’t splurge for a sea view or balcony. I definitely think if were doing a Caribbean or Mexican cruise we would go balcony all the way, but for a Mediterranean sightseeing cruise we were glad we put our pennies to better use.

 

Well there you have it. C²’s guide to an awesome cruise. It’s not much, but from one beginner to another hopefully you will find it useful someday! If any of you veteran cruisers out there reading this have any other tips to share, please share them in the comments below!

Cruising for us was a great way to see a lot of countries that we normally would have been a too wary of traveling to on our own and opened up a whole new view for us. I don’t know if we will ever become “cruisers,” but I definitely see a few more in our future!