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Hurra for 17 Mai!
Chris got back from Menorca the morning of the 17th of May, otherwise known as Norway’s Constitution Day. I was planning to write a profound and witty anecdote or two about the tradition of bunads (the national Norwegian costume) and the fact that it was Norway’s 200th anniversary of their constitution, but considering I’m about 9 months behind on this blog now and I really just want to get caught up I’ll just say that Yay! Norway has been its own country for 200 years! and Yay! Bunads are awesome and beautiful!
We skipped the morning children’s parade this year so after a nice long nap, we met up with some church friends to watch the folketoget, or People’s Parade.
Love these kids’ faces!
Love this guy’s face too!
Our friends, the Olsens, all decked out in their 17th of May finest.
Church dogpile.
Lynne in her gorgeous bunad custom made for her by her mom!
More bunads because I love them so much.

Gratulerer med 200 års dagen Norge!

Easter Break

Looking back it feels like March and April were just one big whirlwind of cake, cake, and more cake. We were so blessed to have so many orders to fill so soon after opening, but Katrine and I hadn't figured out our groove yet and unfortunately took on too many orders for the two of us to sanely handle. We got everything done we needed to, but it meant a lot of 70 hour work weeks and we were completely and utterly exhausted and very close to our breaking point by the time Easter rolled around. Fortunately, Easter is a week-long work holiday here in Norway so we made the most of it and finally gave ourselves a little break. I can't even express how desperately it was needed. Especially since it meant Chris and I finally got to have some work-free time to ourselves for the first time in what felt like months.

One morning a day or two into the break, I woke up to a strange sound in the backyard. In my half-asleep state I couldn't figue out what it was, but then I realized with a start that it was the same bleating sound of baby sheep I had heard a week before out at Utstein Kloster! I jumped out of bed and over to the window so fast it woke Chris up in a bit of a panic. He was not as enthused as I was as I excitedly pointed out the window whispering, “Baby sheep! Baby sheep!”

But lo and behold, our backyard was full of soft and fluffy little lambs and it was so fun to watch them run and frolick in the spring sunshine all of Easter break!

Skittles does NOT like the sheep in the backyard. Whenever she sees them pass by our window she starts screaming at the top of her lungs. I assume it's a territorial thing, but it got especially bad with the baby sheep dashing about all day. When we bring her outside to look at the sheep up close, she suddenly gets all timid and hides in my hair. She talks all big when she's safe behind a window, but is a total chicken when it comes down to it. We are working on this…
 
Enjoying the most of the beautiful spring sunshine and weather while I could, I also used the break to get my patio container garden started again. This spring I expanded on last year's radishes, carrots, kale, peas, and broccoli with a potted rhubarb plant, green beans, spinach and five bags of potatoes. We'll see how it goes!

Between the arrival of the little lambs and the much-needed break from work the holiday afforded, there was a heightened sense of symbolism for me during Easter this year. It never got fully fleshed out into a spiritual thought in my mind, but watching the lambs in connection with the celebration of Easter was a definite reminder of the atonement and sacrifice of the Lamb of God and the peace that it brings to our lives that is the true meaning of Easter.

 

A Very Thankful New Years

One of the perks of Chris working for NATO is the annual opportunity we have to order real Butterball turkeys for Thanksgiving every year. The only thing is, we have to order them a few months in advance and you can only order in a size range (e.g. 10-15 lb or 16-20 lb, etc) so it’s kind of a crap shoot how much turkey you will actually get. Chris and I had talked about having a bunch of friends over for Thanksgiving, so we played it safe and ordered one in the 16-20 lb category back in September. And, since Chris REALLY likes leftover turkey, he played it extra safe and ordered an additional 10-15 lb turkey thinking we could have a smaller one just for leftovers.

 

Then as the months progressed, Chris’ little brother decided to get married around Thanksgiving so we bought plane tickets home instead of planning Thanksgiving dinner in Norway. Then the turkey shipment came in and we were given a 19lb turkey and a 14lb turkey! So we spent the holiday in the US with the Hills with two giant turkeys waiting for us back home. Yikes.

 

We had to do SOMETHING with the turkeys because as much as Chris loves Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, 33 pounds of turkey is a bit more than even he can handle. Since Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in Norway anyway, we decided we could celebrate our own Thanksgiving whenever we wanted to! So we picked New Year’s Day and had a bunch of our friends join us for a Thankful New Year’s feast!

We were lucky to be able to book the NATO boat house for the night, since we were still table-less and couch-less at our apartment. Eating Thanksgiving on the floor with 20 people just seemed like a bad idea…
I’m still on my quest to make the PERFECT Thanksgiving turkey. You know, like the ones on the cover of Martha Stewart Magazine with the perfectly even brown skin and juicy insides. I got pretty close this year! It looks a little charred in the photos, but in person it wasn’t far off. I think next year might just be the year I finally get it!
The group shot
Chris photobombing his own photo.
We spent the evening enjoying good food, fun games, and fantastic company! We couldn’t have asked for a better start to 2014!

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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 :)