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Summer Berries

Norwegian strawberries are the best strawberries in the entire world. I dare you to challenge me on that one. No really, go ahead. But I’ll totally win. Think of the best strawberry you have ever eaten and then times that by 10. That’s a Norwegian strawberry. They only come out for a few weeks between the middle of June and the beginning of August and man are they good! There are little stands selling them all over downtown and I bought a bunch the other day when I passed by one and the mouthwatering smell of them rendered me completely helpless.

As I was walking home, I realized I didn’t think we’d be able to eat all of them before the started going icky (that happens surprisingly fast here for some reason) so I decided to put all my Pinterest browsing to good use. You guys have seen that pin going around for ages right? The one for preserving berries with vinegar? Oh…you aren’t on Pinterest yet? Ok…. Well here’s the gist:

You soak your berries in 8 parts water and 1 part vinegar (white or apple cider) for a few minutes, let them dry completely, and it allegedly kills off all the mold spores that make your berries wilt so fast and makes them last 3 times longer than if you didn’t use the vinegar. So I decided to try it!


The results? The berries lasted precisely until Chris got home from work and then they were gobbled up in a matter of minutes between the two of us. So I’m not sure if the vinegar thing worked. I have another batch of vinegarized strawberries and raspberries sitting in the fridge as I type this though so hopefully those will last through the experiment.


Oh, and a tip to mention: make sure you let the berries dry completely after their soak. Otherwise you’ll be able to taste the vinegar. I made that mistake. Ick. But the vinegar evaporates as they dry and you won’t be able to taste it at all after that.

Anyway, I’m off now to go raid the fridge for a strawberry…or five (perhaps with whipped cream…mmmm). If any of you try the berry-vinegar rinse yourselves, let me know how it turns out!

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!