Oct 31, 2007

Oct 30, 2007

The Power Of A Comment

I now know that bloggers lie! Or, at the very least, stretch the truth. Because our pumpkins were not *that* amazing. Not 32 comments worth of amazing (that's right 32! Woo-hoo)!

Whatever.

I'm not giving any of my precious comments back, but I might print and hand them out to trick-or-treaters tomorrow. As proof that our pumpkins are certifiably fabulous, if, for some confounded reason, people don't swoon right away.

The truth is, your generous compliments may have saved a life, because what I neglected to mention about the weekend was that it rained and rained and rained some more.

It was the coldest and wettest weekend yet, and the fog lay as an impenetrably thick and damp blanket over the entire neighbourhood. It was m.i.s.e.r.a.b.l.e. Which is why, apart from the now fabled garage pumpkin carving session, the kids were inside the house.

The. Whole. Weekend.

And getting more antsy, irritable, whiny and difficult by the hour.

[I seem to recall a wise blogger who once suggested mandatory schooling on rainy weekends. Did I miss sign-up?]

My patience was wearing razor-thin, and I don't dare think what might have happened if I hadn't had the blogosphere to escape into every now and then.

Monday morning, relieved to know that we'd made it through almost unscathed, I even considered bringing out the flag to wave my children to school: "So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye."

With the boys finally out of the house, Mike and I are back to doing what we do best [get your mind out of the gutter, please!] , which is fantasize about exotic locales we might be able to squeeze into our European tour. Some decidedly un-European destinations have been thrown into the mix, including Cape Verde, Morocco and even Thailand. All currently offering gloriously warm temperatures, sandy beaches and lots of sunshine.

It's really wishful thinking, spurred on by the miserably damp weekend and the realization that we may have a long, cold and wet winter ahead of us (global warming be damned! We want snow, not rain!).

So far, we've decided to take a mini-cruise to Kiel in Germany some time in November.

- Yes, it's a two-day event.
- Yes, in a confined space with two boys. And it's sure to be cold and wet outside in November.

Why do you ask?

Oct 28, 2007

A Post Of Firsts

We bought our first Halloween pumpkins ever in Norway this weekend! I was so excited that we were able to find pumpkins at all, that I chose to ignore the fact that a) they were already in various states of softening and decomposition, and b) we had to pay through the nose to get our hands on these tiny suckers.
Despite the rain and generally dreary weather, the boys had a ghoulishly fun time in the garage, carving out their masterpieces...



...even if Mike may have been a tad too inspired by his oh-so-busy life here in Norway...



I had fun in the kitchen, toasting pumpkin seeds (my first attempt, but definitely not my last. Yummy!) and baking pumpkin cookies, courtesy of my friend Morag's fantastic recipe. They turned out pretty well, considering I had to do without a few of the recipe's key ingredients. Improvisation was the name of the game. I couldn't find chocolate chips here (gasp!), so I put some baking chocolate in a Ziploc bag and gave Benjamin a hammer. Presto - chocolate chips!



Another first for me is my being tagged to do the "7 random things" meme by the lovely Painted Maypole. I never really realized how hard these memes can be! I now have a new appreciation for the work behind them. But, ready or not, here I go...

1. I didn't get my driver's license until I was 28, something many of my friends - not to mention my husband - find very odd. In fact, it was Mike who signed me up for Young Drivers of Canada on my 28th birthday. Yes! I felt co-o-ol sitting in class with a bunch of pimply 16 year olds! Life in Canadian Suburbia would have been difficult to manage without a car, I see that now, but at the time we were living in the city, and walking seemed a fine alternative to me. Of course, I had not yet experienced the carting of diapers on an icy sidewalk in the middle of winter.

2. My pet peeve is that people assume that just because I chose to get married, I automatically took my husband's last name. Let me rush to say I have no problem with anyone taking their spouse's name (be it husband or wife), I just don't like people making assumptions about it. And while I'm venting, what's with the salutation title Mrs? Why on earth would a stranger need to know my marital status? Ms. will do fine, thankyouverymuch.

3. I love George Clooney. 'nuff said.

4. I'm naturally introverted, but have - through sheer luck - found fantastic friends in Canada, who have taught me to be more extroverted. My first instinct is always to huddle up at home with a good book by the fire, but I push myself 'out there', to be social. And when I go, I usually have the best time. And even though I'm loving our stay in Norway, I sorely miss my friends and can't wait to see them again.

5. Travelling is not new to our family. Benjamin, Christopher, Mike and I were all born in different countries (Canada, Norway, England and Denmark, respectively). Before we met, Mike lived in Japan, while I've lived in Greece. And we were married in Costa Rica, the place we called home at the time.

6. Although Norwegians are supposedly born with skis on their feet, I only started downhill skiing three years ago. I suck at it, but I love it. The exhilaration of speeding down the mountain can't be topped. Although my ego does take a bit of a bruising when, full speed ahead, I am easily beat by 3 year-olds barely out of diapers...

7. I started my blog as a log of our adventure here in Europe, partly for our friends and family in Canada, but also as a journal for my children when they are older. I did not anticipate what a revelation the blogosphere community would be for me. It's been a thrill to discover the multitude of incredibly talented writers out there, and get insight into their lives, all around the globe. Not to mention the appreciation I feel when they take the time to read and comment on my craptacular little blog on life Norway style.

And now...I'm supposed to tag 7 others to do this meme, which I do with some trepidation. If you are not into it, I promise I won't take it personally. But you may want to keep this one in mind if you're doing the NaBloPoMo in November. I would love to read 7 random facts about the following ladies: Alm from Come on Along!, Kellan from On the Upside, Lisa from Take 90 West, the lovely writer known as She She, Alpha DogMa who cracks me up on a daily basis, Carrie from Third Times a Charm?, and my very first blog pal, Linda, from another good thing.

My final first of the day is an award given to me by the lovely Kellan of On the Upside.



This award is "presented to awesome blog owners who keep their readers excited about their posts. Their blog posts are interesting and worth reading and keep their readers looking forward to each and every post."

How sweet is that? Kellan's own blog is a consistently hilarious tale of her life with four gorgeous and funny children in Texas. She has a wonderful "half full" attitude, and always looks for the upside, even when it is not obvious. Thank you so much, Kellan!

I know lots of bloggers who are deserving of this award, but as my children are hollering for lunch (the nerve!), I would like to present this award to the following two fantastic bloggers, whom I am so happy to have 'met' here in blogosphere: Victoria from Best To Keep Your Eyes Open, and The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch from Gifts From A Broad. If you have not yet had the pleasure of reading these blogs, I highly recommend them!

And those are all my firsts this Sunday. Hope you're all having a good one!

Oct 26, 2007

The Evil Forces Of Fall

Warning: Self-indulgent post follows...

You should know that the Universe is not in Order. That evil forces are at work, throwing expected patterns of development out the window. And you better run for cover before it's too late.

Need proof? I give you Three Irrefutable Signs:

For days now, ever since the thermometer started hovering around 0 degrees Celsius in the morning, I've had a battle on my hands to get my children to wear warmer clothes to school. A thicker jacket, a hat, perchance some gloves.

Benjamin's 7 year old protestations eventually wear down and he can be persuaded to do the right thing. A promise of extra computer and/or playstation time may have something to do with it. [ What?! Don't roll your eyes at me like that. I'm fighting the good fight, people!] Satisfied, I'll watch him march off all snuggly warm, only to have him return from school, his jacket stuffed into his bag, blithely declaring that he didn't need it. All day. Because it was So. Hot! Grr.

Christopher is an even harder nut to crack. He simply refuses to put on anything other than his very light spring/fall jacket. Since reasoning isn't working, I've tried appealing to his vanity by arguing that his winter jacket is 'cooler', but no go. Apparently his jacket prevents him from being able to move. And as anyone with two brain cells know, it is vital that he move when he's playing soccer at recess. This is all explained with a look of utter exasperation on his 10 1/2 year old face. Needless to say, he's won most days.

So I've been waiting for the day when one of them would come home sick as a dog. Everyone knows that running around outside, getting hot and sweaty with minimal clothing in freezing temperatures is a first class ticket to illness. Right?

- Sign Number One That The Universe Is Not In Order -

Well, sick arrived yesterday at 5 pm. Only not in a boy. In my jacket-wearing, gloves-sporting self! Ooooh, the injustice of it all. So here I am all, all snivelly and feverish. Didn't get much sleep last night, and kept Mike up in the process. Who still had to single-handedly get our supremely healthy boys ready for school this morning, as I crawled back into bed complaining of all kinds of woes. Yep, he is lucky to have me, that one.

Don't get me wrong. I don't wish for my children to get sick. I am just saying this is not how it's supposed to work! They're supposed to bring home the sick from their germ-infested class mates. Anyone with grade school kids knows this to be a Universal Truth.

And yesterday started out as such a nice day, too. I had a leisurely lunch with my mother in town, followed by a stop at the photographer's studio to pick out our favourites from what was a surprisingly good set of pictures of the clan. We made plans to exercise that night. All was well in Norwayland. Until 5 pm, when BAM, it hit me!

- Sign Number Two That The Universe Is Not In Order -

It is an undeniable fact that a cold is preceded by a sore and scratchy throat. A built-in warning for mothers that it is time to get the shopping and Mt. Laundry reviewed and at least partially tackled. All in preparations for a couple of days of feeling under the weather. But this time around, there was no warning. Nothing. Nada. Nil.

So, consider this your warning!

- Sign Number Three That The Universe Is Not In Order -

....'kay, so I only have Two Irrefutable Signs. But since things always come in threes, I've probably just missed one in my fever-induced haze. I'll be sure to post an update, once I've figured this one out.

Until then, for your amusement, some Benjamin words of wisdom:

*****************************************************

He had already turned his light off when I walked into his room to say goodnight. I bent down and kissed his forehead.

"Good night, Mamma," he giggled.

"How did you know it was me?" I asked.

"Because you are tall and not so hairy."

******************************************************

Stay well and have a great weekend!

Oct 22, 2007

Saturday Scramble

Saturday morning we were finally able to hike up Lauvdalsbrea, one of the most unusual peaks around our cottage. We'd been hoping to do it for years, but I am glad we waited. Christopher and my nephew Joakim were finally old enough to join us, and that made our trip so much more enjoyable.

The weather was pretty good on Saturday. The temperatures hovered around freezing when we got up, but rose to a balmy 5 degrees by the time we set off. The cloud cover looked to be high enough not to be a concern, although lower clouds did seem to blow in and out at a rapid pace.


Lauvdalsbrea is the peak to the far left


We had to drive a bit to get to the foot of the mountain, and as we got out of the car, we realized just how windy the morning was. The cottage is somewhat sheltered from the elements, but out in the open the wind gusts were surprisingly strong.


Christopher, Joakim, Mike and I


My favourite picture of the day is the one below of Christopher and Joakim taking a break on the way up. I love their rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. In the background you can see towards Hemsedal, a famous ski resort in Norway. This picture gives a good impression of just how cool the day was, and how barren and harsh the landscape is in the Norwegian mountains. And yes, the white stuff is snow.



We'd been taken aback by the windy conditions at the foot of the mountain, but were even more surprised by the gusts at the top. Here's my dad braving the elements, as the rest of us enjoyed our hot chocolate while taking shelter behind one of the cairns built to show the way.



Upon descending, we picked a slightly different route, and it turned out to be a fair bit rockier. I am not ashamed to admit I was down on all four occasionally, in order not to slip on the wet and icy rocks and break a limb.


Mike and Joakim on one of the larger rocks

Here I am in all my elegance...



...and can I just say it seemed a lot harder at the time than this picture indicates!

There is something innately serene and calming about walking in the mountains. I have to be vigilant and concentrate at all times, to not put a foot wrong and slip and possibly hurt myself. By focusing 100% on the present, I forget about those pesky little problems that often seem to be nagging at the back of my mind.

I look around at the mountains and marvel that they've been there for centuries, and will be there for centuries to come. My issues and anxieties become insignificant and melt away in the presence of such stoic tranquility. It is such a peaceful experience, with the added bonus of giving my body a bit of a workout.

Returning from the hike, I felt like I'd used my body and mind the way they were meant to be used. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

Friday Fun

Friday afternoon we packed the kids into the car and headed north. The DVD player was at the ready, but the boys only managed one episode of SpongeBob before B boy had had enough and asked to have it turned off. Worried that he might be getting car sick again, I climbed into the back of the car (no easy feat in a small Golf!) and squeezed in between the boys. Benjamin put his head on my shoulder and promptly fell asleep.

The trip to the cottage can take anywhere from 2 hours and 45 minutes to 3 and a half hours. On these single lane roads, a lot depends on sheer luck. Getting stuck behind a trailer or, worse, a farm vehicle, can easily add 30 minutes to your journey. Not a big deal, but with Benjamin's motion sickness, the less time in the car, the better.

Fortunately for us, the drive up was amazingly smooth. No traffic to speak of, and with both boys in a state of dozing-to-snoring, it was peaceful, too. The trip is just long enough to feel that you are really getting away from it all, and the views passing by outside the window never fail to entertain. The landscape changes gradually from rolling green hills to more mountainous terrain, from lush fields with grazing animals to rugged and rocky peaks which only the most agile mountain goat can climb. This time around, the fall colours added beautiful splashes of orange, red and brown to the vistas surrounding us.

Arriving in another car just 10 minutes later were my parents and the boys' cousins. The boys love spending time with their cousins, and were excited at the prospect of a whole weekend together.

The weather was markedly cooler in the mountains, so we dug out our fall clothes and made our way across the marsh to the fire pit we built a few years ago when the boys were much younger. This is Standard Operating Procedure at the cottage. The fire pit is not a long walk walk from our cottage, and if the kids had their way, we would have all our meals there. They love it, because they get to help light the fire, look for sticks to use to grill whatever food we may have at the ready, and generally play around jumping from rock to rock.



Nightfall comes quickly in Norway these days, and Friday was no exception. From our altitude, however, it was a spectacular sunset, as we watched the sun set behind peaks of snow-clad mountains in the distance. My little nephew commented that it looked as if the world was on fire. It truly did.

Oct 19, 2007

The Summit

We are off to the cottage for the weekend (and today we'll try to remember to bring the key). Weather-permitting (that's civilized speak for "no snow storm"), this is our mountain to climb:




********************************

Bad press apparently affects even Dr. Watson, who has issued somewhat of an apology for the idiotic statements publicized yesterday.

Now, if only those who came out in support of him would do the same, we'd already have reached a summit of sorts.

Have a great weekend!

Oct 18, 2007

I Want To Just Ignore This Article...

...because I DON'T want to add to the excessive publicity it's no doubt receiving.

And yet here I am, making a stink. But I feel like I have to say something. If nothing else, then for my children and their future.

This particular person's done it before. I wish he'd stop talking altogether. In my opinion, he's an embarrassment to the human race.*

Sometimes I wonder, though, does he really believe the things he spews out? Or is it all an attention-grab?


(*please note: singular).

Oct 17, 2007

One, Two, Three...Cheeeeeese!

My mother-in-law once commented that Mike brings his camera everywhere. It's true. We do take a lot of pictures of our kids and scenery. But not so many of ourselves. I don't know a lot of adults who love to have pictures taken of themselves. Well, maybe one or two. Who shall remain nameless.

Not only do we not really take pictures of ourselves, but we never go to a proper studio to have a family portrait taken. Benjamin was 3 months old when we took a family picture for Christmas. The result was awful, and we haven't been back since.

Fast forward 7 years.

For my mother's 60th birthday this spring, the kids and kids-in-law decided to give her a picture of the entire family. One new grandson and one move across the Atlantic later, and PICTURE DAY has finally arrived. So after school, a play date for B boy, and showers for all, we are meeting up with the rest of the clan at the photographer's studio.

It should be interesting.

Adorable baby Emil will have to smile for one hour, straight through his usual feeding and nap time, due to his mother and auntie's brilliant sense of timing when they made the appointment for 5 pm.

This would be good:




And I'll try to make my own not-so-little baby boy, Benjamin, smile without pulling his shoulders up to his ears, pushing his chest out, opening his mouth as wide as possible and raising his eyebrows to the sky in an attempt to not close his eyes.

This is what we don't really want:




Oh, and did I mention that my brother will be turning up with a bleeding finger? He cut it at work yesterday, and despite two visits to the emergency, it is still bleeding.

Yep, it should be interesting. Wish us luck...

Oct 16, 2007

Trimming The Budget

Norway is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The UN says so, the IMF says so and the list goes on.

So, I've been wondering how come everything in Norway seems small and cute, and not large and expensive, like in North America? I mean, they should be able to afford BIG, right?

Instead, Norwegians drive cute little cars, live in cute little houses, and eat all their meals at home. They don't wear flashy clothing. Jeans and sweaters are de rigeur. For fun, they go for walks in the mountains, the forests, and along the coast. In the wintertime, they cross-country ski.

A wholesome and idyllic existence, for sure, but also pretty frugal. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but what about all that cash that they are supposed to have? Where does it all go?

I think I may have solved the mystery.

A large chunk of their annual budgets is spent on changing this:


Into this:




You are looking at pictorial evidence of my boys' $50.00 hair cuts. Yep, that would be $50.00 per boy! In case you are wondering why Christopher doesn't look any different, that's because he wants long hair and talked us and the hairdresser into only getting a trim. A $50.00 trim.

So yes, I will be returning to Canada in May with very long hair. Because $50.00 is a kids' only rate, and does not even get me access to the chair...

Oct 15, 2007

Breakfast by Candlelight

Monday, 7:30 am
As he stumbles out of his bedroom rubbing an eye, he looks at me, all confused; "Why did you wake me up in the middle of the night?"

Just wait, kiddo, soon it'll be dark when you leave for school, too!

*************

Growing up during the winter months in Scandinavia, my dad would always light a candle on the kitchen table before breakfast. My groggy siblings and I would sit and admire the flickering light on the walls, while we waited for our porridge to be ready. Then he'd leave for work, and as he passed by outside the kitchen window, we could barely make out his wave before he was swallowed up by the morning blackness.

I knew I'd soon have to go out into the cold winter morning, too, and walk to school, but right then and there, I felt safe, snuggly and warm inside our kitchen cocoon.

My dad is retired now, but while my mother continues to work, he still gets up first, lights a candle on the kitchen table and makes her coffee and breakfast. He does this every morning, even when she has a flight to catch and needs to be out of the door by 5 am.

Oct 14, 2007

The Nobel Peace Prize

[Warning: Grap a drink and a snack before you start reading this post. You will need them to fortify yourself. This post was inspired by a conversation I had last night, and is a little more serious than normal. Regular programming will return tomorrow. I promise.]

The Nobel Peace Prize is one of five Nobel Prizes awarded annually in the name of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.

Following his death, Nobel left a will detailing his bequest, in which he specified that prizes for physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and literature were to be awarded on an annual basis by a committee appointed by the Swedish government*. The recipient of an annual peace prize, on the other hand, was to be chosen by a committee appointed by the Norwegian government.

Nobel did not explain his reasons behind this division, but since Norway was under Swedish control at the time of his death, and only had domestic rule, it has been speculated that he thought this would protect the peace prize selection process from being influenced by foreign powers.

Others believe that Nobel may have been attempting to diffuse the growing discontentment and desire for independence in Norway by giving that country the responsibility for awarding a peace prize. If that was indeed his motivation, however, his goal was not achieved. The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, but only four years later, in 1905, Norway acquired full independence from Sweden.**

The recipient(s) of the Nobel Peace Prize is announced each October, and a formal award ceremony is hosted on December 10th, the anniversary of Nobel's death, in Oslo, Norway. The relatively modest and low-key reception takes place at Oslo City Hall, attended by the Norwegian Royal Family. Unlike the Swedish ceremony in which the Swedish King presents the laureates with their medals, the Peace Prize is awarded by the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The ceremony is followed by a torch procession by locals and visitors towards Grand Hotel to honour the Nobel Peace Laureate, who usually comes out to acknowledge the well-wishers.

Over the years, the Nobel Peace Prize has probably become the most famous, and, at times, the most controversial of the Nobel prizes. Clearly, picking the person who has "done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses"*** can not be done without a certain amount of subjectivity and politics playing a role.

As announced by the Norwegian Nobel Committee earlier this month, this year's recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize are former Vice-President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change".

As in years past, controversy has been quick to follow. Some argue that the committee is completely off-track, awarding a peace prize to an environmentalist.**** They question whether this was what Nobel had in mind when he set up his bequest more than a century ago. Environmental issues were hardly on the agenda in the day, so this is probably not something Nobel could have envisioned. Nevertheless, I feel that the award captures the spirit of Nobel's wishes. Global environmental changes running amok could foreseeably become a massive destabilizing force threatening not just all human beings, but all living beings on our planet. Thus, in my opinion, this is also peace-promoting work, albeit on a different level.

Of course, the appropriateness of this year's winners presupposes the notion that climate changes are happening. Not everyone accepts this. Some dispute the entire notion of global warming, while others agree that the Earth is heating up, but argue that this is part of a natural cycle in which humans play little or no role. Others still believe that people are in fact causing climate changes, but that these are not as serious or happening as quickly as "doomsayers" will have us believe.

This year's Peace Prize recipients have presented compelling evidence that changes are happening on a large scale across the planet, as well as laid out the groundwork for safeguards we need to implement to counteract these changes.

Gore's own Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" effectively states his belief that the time to make broad global changes is now. He has even coined a new saying, based on the African proverb 'If you want to go quick, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.' His version: "We have to go far quickly."

For a layperson, it can be difficult to choose what to believe. There are layers upon layers of information to sort through, some of which is contradictory, much of it emotional, and all of it political. Personally, I find it hard to believe that years of excessive consumption, industrialized pollution and exploitation of our planet's resources, combined with an ever-growing population, have not somehow affected our planet's ecosystem.

It's the extent to which our planet is being affected that I am not sure of. And, frankly, the daily overload of information on the topic is not making that any easier for me to figure out.

In fact, on the very same day that Al Gore was named co-recipient of the Peace Prize, a British court ruled against "The Inconvenient Truth", stating that the film is a political work that promotes only one side of the argument, and further that eleven inaccuracies have to be specifically drawn to the attention of school children watching this movie in Britain.

I try to be cognizant of the fact that everyone can only speak to their own opinion and assessment of issues, and that certainly also pertains to Al Gore. His personal motivations - and possible, albeit unlikely, political aspirations - must have influenced his presentation.

But does that make everything in the documentary wrong? I don't believe so.

Furthermore, the ICPP, as a panel established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is open to all members of the UN and WMO, which certainly takes it beyond the ambitions of a single man.

Perhaps the Norwegian Nobel Committee chose Al Gore and the ICPP as co-recipients partly as an attempt to deflect the inevitable questions about Al Gore's personal motivations?

And in the process bring the focus back onto our planet as a place we need to protect for the generations coming after us.


* A prize in economics was introduced later by the Swedish Central Bank in Nobel's memory.
** Having said that, the separation from Sweden was exceedingly peaceful, all things considered, so perhaps a goal was reached anyway?
***From the will of Alfred Nobel.
****Al Gore is not the first environmentalist to win the Peace Prize. The prize was given to Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan campaigner for sustainable development, three years ago.

Oct 12, 2007

Destination Dream Land

As I was writing to one of my closest friends, I somehow got onto the topic of places in the world that I've not yet been to, but would love a chance to experience.*

In no particular order:

- Great Wall of China
- Great Barrier Reef in Australia
- Parthenon in Athens**
- Buenos Aires in Argentina
- Winter Palace in St. Petersburg
- Taj Mahal in India
- Hot springs in Iceland
- Grand Canyon in the US
- Victoria Falls in Zambia/Zimbabwe

I'm sure I missed a bunch, so I'd love to hear yours!

*Assuming a bottomless pit of funds, of course.
**I have actually been here, but I was young and would like a chance to see it again with more mature (read: appreciative) eyes.

Just In Case You Were Wondering

If you see a snail on the other side of a puddle, do not jump into the puddle. I know you're dying to, but you really shouldn't.

"Why?" you ask.

Benjamin will tell you that the snail has worms in it that come out as it moves through a puddle, and if you subsequently jump into said puddle, the worms may work their way through your shoe sole and bore into your foot. They will then crawl all the way up to you heart or brain. AND...if the worms stay there for long enough, you might die!

His source for this was National Geographic.

I'm thinking he may have missed a few things, but why take chances. Starting right now, I will never again jump into a puddle following a snail!

Still not sure about puddles that appear snail-free.

*****

In other news, we had a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner last night.

Improvisation was the name of the game, since, this being Norway, there's no pre-cooked turkey, fresh turkey or even frozen turkey to be found. Anywhere! There is also no Stove-Top anything, cranberry sauce or Reynold's plastic oven bags.

So here's what we ended up with:

Three chickens
Saucisses (mini sausages - huge hit with the boys)
Bacon
Roasted potato wedges (would have loved mash, but was voted down)
Homemade celery, onion and sage stuffing (which I have to admit was fantabulous)
Cranberry jelly
Brussels sprouts, carrots and green beans
Gravy

...not your traditional Thanksgiving dinner - but everyone loved it! Or if they didn't, they pretended really hard, because most of the food was gone.

And to finish it off - pumpkin pie being unavailable - we opted for crepes with chocolate mousse. Mmmm...delicious!

Thanks for all your well wishes. They were greatly appreciated.

Oct 10, 2007

Once Upon A Time There Was a Field Trip

or

I Love Norwegian School - Part Four Hundred And Seventy Three

Today, in between stressing about the Thanksgiving Feast I am preparing for La Famiglia tomorrow, I managed to get out in the glorious fall weather for a field trip with B boy and his grade 2 class. Fortysome 6 and 7 year-olds, two teachers, and two volunteers walked for about 40 minutes from the school and into the woods to an idyllic three sided timber "koie" (cabin) in a clearing in the forest. Surrounding it were logs and stumps strategically placed for seating, and inside the cabin was a massive fire pit with a flap system in the roof to allow the smoke to escape upwards, and more tree stumps for seating.

The kids spent the next two hours climbing around in trees and on the logs around the cabin. Robes had been tied from tree to tree for extra balancing or swinging amusement.

Although there was a chill in the air, the sun was shining and the crackling fire we lit in the fire pit provided plenty of heat. While most of the boys fought imaginary battles on an epic scale with sticks and branches, the girls had fun gathering leaves into giant piles they could jump into.

After a while, the kids were split into a boy group and a girl group. The girls were ushered into the cabin, where one of the teachers proceeded to read the fairy tale 'Goldilocks' to them. The boys, meanwhile, sat outside on tree stumps placed in a circle, listening to their teacher reading 'The Three Little Pigs'.

They were then divided into even smaller groups and told to reenact the story they'd just heard. This caused a great deal of amusement and boisterous applause from their peers, especially among the boys who were eventually told to lower their voices, as they were drowning out all other sounds from far and wide.

Lunch time finally arrived, and the kids whipped out sausages, cheese sandwiches, and even noodles (!) to cook over the open fire. Many of them had brought nifty little telescopic BBQ tools that could be extended and used to spear their food for grilling. They also had styrofoam seating pads to protect themselves from the cool ground and thermoses with hot chocolate to keep warm.

After lunch, we collected garbage in a couple of plastic bags and put out the fire in the koie, before we headed back to civilization again. As we arrived at school, the kids had an hour left of the day, which was just enough time to write about their experiences in the forest.

It was definitely Benjamin's kind of school day! And who can blame him?

I think it's great that the school is willing to sacrifice learning time in class for experiences like this. You can't help but smile when you watch the kids running around with rosy cheeks and bubbling enthusiasm for anything the forest has to offer.

Life is going to get serious enough for these second graders soon enough, so I am all for letting them be kids for as long as possible. And I'll try not to worry if B boy hasn't mastered long division before the ripe old age of 8.

It was also one of those moments when you realize that the boys do perfectly well without their PlayStation, Wii, DS, TV and MP3 player. They don't even need a fancy destination for their field trip. A couple of sticks and a friend or two, and they can make things happen all on their own!

Oct 9, 2007

Can I Thank You?

Why do the two countries celebrating Thanksgiving do so on completely different dates? Are they not celebrating the same thing? To an outsider, this is very confusing. Kinda like the summer/winter time situation. Can't we all just change at the same time?

Monday was Thanksgiving in Canada.

I haven't actually been in Canada to celebrate Turkey Day for the past several years, as I usually take the boys to Norway for a week's visit with their cousins at this time of year. Because of the University schedule, Mike has to stay behind and thus often spends Thanksgiving with his mother, who cooks up a feast for him. His life is rough, as we already know.

This year, of course, Mike is with us here in Norway, and Monday's dinner was spaghetti and meat sauce. Benjamin's request. He thought it was good, and Mike seemed to like it.

Good thing, too, because that is pretty much the extent of my cooking abilities.

Anyway, as I was enjoying my list of blogs yesterday, I couldn't help but get inspired by all the Canadians blogging about their Thanksgiving weekend. They described their meals and family get togethers in glorious detail. Which made me hungry and lonely.

Enraptured, I seized the opportunity and have now invited my family to join us for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.

I am really looking forward to it. It's going to be great! We are going to have turkey, and stuffing, and...eh... veggies...potatoes (?)...sauce (or should that be gravy?), and all that.


[....swallow...gulp...swallow...]

WHAT WAS I THINKING?

I have no idea how to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. I have never cooked a turkey in my life, barely even a whole chicken. And although I love stuffing, I have absolutely no understanding of what it is or how it's made. As far as I know, it's just "stuff" that you STUFF into the turkey. Somewhere. In either end.

Hmmm...maybe we won't be needing stuffing after all.

But what about the other integral parts of a Thanksgiving dinner. Exactly what are they? Should that be potato wedges or mash? Bacon or sausages? Veggies? Cranberry sauce?

How do I turn this:





Into that:



Anyone? I'm desperate!

Oct 8, 2007

How To Discourage Your Partner From Doing Laundry


Although we went to Cyprus with only hand luggage, we still somehow came home to a shockingly high Mt. Laundry.

Even Mike was taken aback when he saw the pile of clothing. And that's saying something. Mike is great at helping out around the house, he is a pretty good washer-upper, a super-duper vacuumer, and, most importantly, a fantastically hands-on dad.

But so far in our 11.5 years of marital bliss, Mt. Laundry has been my personal peak to climb. A solo conquest. For him to have even noticed the laundry speaks volumes about the sheer size of it.

And so it was that yesterday morning, as I was trying to catch up on an endless number of work messages that had accumulated while I was holidaying 'sans Internet', Mike set about teaching himself the art of sorting clothing and operating the washing machine.

Bright and insightful people would no doubt have encouraged this behaviour, perhaps even been thankful. Apparently, I am none of these.

First, I complained when he came to ask me how the washing machine worked, because I was chest-deep in panic emails from people who evidently cannot function without a Scandinavian translator on hand at all times.

Then he was told that he'd sorted the clothing wrong. In my defense, I was really thinking of the boys when I redid the sorting. I would have looked fine in the resulting pinkish hues.

But I digress.

After thinking about it for a while (not lightning fast, this one), I did apologize for being cranky and went back to my work mess.

I wish the story ended there. But nope, there's more.

I am ashamed to admit I also proceeded to correct the way he was hanging up clothing (that's right, we have no dryers in Norway) and the way he was packing the new load in the washing machine too tightly.

My pièce de résistance was this morning, when I criticized the way he was folding the dry clothes and putting them on dusty surfaces in the laundry room.

No wonder Mike finally had enough and told me so. In hindsight, I can't believe he even lasted as long as he did.

So now I am eating humble pie, while Mike will soon be enjoying lots and lots of chocolate bought by yours truly.

My name is Heidi. I'm a control freak.

Oct 7, 2007

We're baaaack....

...but I wish we weren't!

We spent an amazing week with the Wades, in a beautiful villa, perched on top of a hillside, overlooking an infinity pool which seemingly spilled into a canyon below and the Mediterranean ocean in the distance.

The weather was fantastic the whole week. It only rained once, and that was overnight. The temperatures were in the low 30s Celsius the entire week, but because we were close to the ocean, the air wasn't sticky.

The days were spent either lounging around the pool watching aquatic high jumping (a future Olympic event, no doubt):






...or at one of a couple of beautiful, sandy beaches within a short driving distance from our villa, building sand castles in an ever more heated competition between the girls and the boys (please don't forget to take the poll to your right):




Occasionally we would give the swim wear a rest for a quick excursion to one of the many antiquities around the island:



...before we'd return home to watch the sun set over the ocean from our villa:




As soon as it got dark outside, we'd hit the restaurants for a different flavour every night. We had Asian, Italian and even British pub food (Benjamin's favourite, because they had chicken nuggets!), but mostly we enjoyed local Cypriot dishes with a couple of fantastic meze dinners:



In sum, we had a wonderful week, and we returned to Norway late last night, relaxed, fairly tanned (especially those of us of non-Scandinavian origin) and happy.

[In retrospect, I now see that things had gone too smoothly. I mean, c'mon - all flights on time? That never happens. The Universe was not in balance. The pendulum was about to swing the other way.]

So this morning, we wake up to an email from our house sitting friend Cyril containing the following pictures (sadly with no pointing fingers this time):








Remember our leakage problem? Before we left for Cyprus, we had arranged for our insurance company to have an assessor visit our house, review the damage and provide a quote for any required repairs. We were still debating whether to even make a claim, because we were unsure of whether the cost of the repairs would be sufficiently high to warrant the resulting increase in our premium (don't you love that about insurance companies?).

Evidently, the insurance company decided to make that decision for us and take matters into their own hands! Without any efforts to contact us, and without consulting our friends staying in the house, walls have been torn down and plans are apparently being made to replace the kitchen cabinets?!

Excuse me, Mr. Insurance Agent and Mr. Contractor, I realize you are both...ehem...men...but how many women do you know who'll just let you redo their kitchen without any input?

So now I've done what I do best: I have instructed Mike to tell the insurance agent off! Big time! I have given him a play-by-play description of exactly what he should say when. The conversation has been scripted with no room for error.

Knowing full well that he will do it his own way anyway. Which will clearly be the wrong way, and my - untested - way infinitely better.

My plan (and Mike's, too...I think) is to ask the insurance company to halt all work (with a few pointed questions about why the work was started in the first place without a little something called permission ) and provide the quote that we requested.

Then we will decide what the next step should be. Our poor friends are now living in a construction zone with missing walls, which is hardly what they signed up for. We may just get the walls fixed in the dining room and bedroom, and then get the missing wall in the kitchen drywalled temporarily, until we get back to Canada in the spring. These are all things we will have to figure out in the next few days.

This has been a rude awakening after a week in Paradise. So right now, I am going to pour myself a very large glass of red wine, sit on the couch and wish myself back to...

Oct 2, 2007

Hello From Cyprus!



Limestone creations rising up from the blue Mediterranean ocean
Smooth, white pebbles perfect for a stone skipping lesson
Sand castles struggling to withstand the gentle waves



Ancient amphitheatres with stories of Greek gods and goddesses
Cicadas in citrus trees happily singing songs of summer
Whitewashed buildings with dark wooden shutters reflecting the sunset



Creamy chocolate ice cream melting quickly in a child's hand
Fresh feta cheese and olives in luscious Greek salads
Red wine and tsatziki in a winning combination




Am I in Heaven?
I guess not; not here
Where there's no reliable Internet connection