The end of the endless summer of 2014

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The summer of 2014 has been long and wonderful. It has been so long, warm and delightful that it has felt a little unnatural. I’v caught myself wondering what could be wrong with this world and realized quickly that I don’t want to know. I have enjoyed the sun, the warmth, the long bright days and the precious time with my family. But lately I have been expecting autumn. Almost waiting for it. I don’t mind having summer, but it was as if my body was expecting something else: warmer clothes, quiet dark evenings, crispy brisk air, and a new colour palette. Autumn arrived two weeks ago.

Well, autumn arrived, and then left again. But every time it left it left a little more of itself. First came the cold mornings, then the colours, and then the crispy air. We had a few days of autumn last week, which left us with dark, cold mornings. Now all we’re missing is the unpredictable weather.

It’s been an easy transition this year. Normally I don’t like the transitional phases of the seasons, I wear the heavy coat on warm days, or I wear too little on the cold, I forget my raincoat when it pours, or I carry my umbrella around in the sun. This year there’s nothing to complain about.

The last evening I’ve spent surrounded by candles. I’ve drunk large cups of tea and I’ve been sporting a proper cold. Autumn is here, and I like it. 

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Delightful life

Starting work is a strange matter. A strange matter indeed.

I glanced around me, as I often do when thinking of what to say next, and I now noticed the bowl sitting on the kitchen counter. The bowl holds what is tomorrow’s breakfast (a delicious wheat and barley bread) for some of us and it needed my immediate attention. Breakfast is, when the hours I’ve set aside for sleep are subtracted, only a few hours away. Bread needs kneading.

There, the bread is now sitting quietly on it’s tray. The bubbling yeast has been been reset and it is now trying to fight its way up and out again. The oven is ticking and clicking and making other small noises to quickly increase the temperature. Rufus Wainwright accompanies the noises with a soft, slightly melancholic voice asking me to raise my fists and stay. I’m not going anywhere, but my fingers are needed at the keyboard, and I only sporadically softly clench my fist when I reach for my glass of Bulmers pear. The house is quiet. The kitchen is a mess. I sit and cherish every moment. Breathe in. Breathe out. Life is good.

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Now, back to work. As I said, it is a strange matter. You see, Norwegian teachers are on strike these days. I’m still working, my union is small and work slowly, slowly but efficiently I hope. But my working days are strongly affected by the many teachers who are not working. I won’t venture too much into the politcal aspects of the strike, but I have to point out that this is not a strike concerning the teachers’ working hours or pay, but core changes affecting the entire schooling system that are initiated by not the teachers, nor the politicians, but a third party that should be responsiple only for the economic situation of the various communes and smaller parts of Norway. The strike’s been on since June. Many things aren’t right. It’s strange. A strange matter indeed. And so are my first days and weeks at work.

Still, life is good. The transition has been smooth, from stay-at-home-life to working-life. I suddenly have a whole new load of fantastic people in my life; intelligent, reflected, and enthusiastic people who inspire and comfort me in my new life. The transition has been easy. Now autumn is coming, that transition is harder on me. 17 degrees are not what they were a month ago. But I’m prepared. Boots have been located. Windowsill has lettuce peeping out from dark soil and will bring green goodness for many months to come. Life is good. Do your best to enjoy it as much as I am.

And, by the way, Rufus, Wainwright, is coming here in a few weeks time. What an out-of-the-blue-surprise. Never in a million years had I imagined that he would suddenly turn up here and sing only a few metres away from me. Because now he is. I have tickets. I am looking forward to it with that childish, bubbling enthusiasm that many claim will never survive into adulthood. Yay!

Home is on the horizon

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The setting sun as we leave Denmark. On the ferry going home

August is here again, and so am I. The past five weeks I’ve spent only a few nights at home. I was planning to write an ‘I’m home’-post, but I’ve left again. I’m close to home though, and it’s good, it’s good to be (close to) home again.

We started with a few days with bestemor and bestefar, my husband’s parents in the south of Norway. Then early one morning we took the ferry to Denmark, over to Hirtshals and the same day drove to Hamburg. In Hamburg we took the train to Munich, the Autozug, before we drove via Austria to Italy.

We had four stays in Italy: first we spent two nights at Ai Casoni, an ‘agroturismo’ near Treviso; second, we spent a week in Cavallino, just north of Venice; third was a hotel in Tuscany along with mormor and morfar (my parents), two of my brothers and their girlfriends; fourth and last was a short week by the Lago sea. We had one more stop in the very south of Germany, before taking the train back to Hamburg and then the ferry from Denmark.

The journey has been amazing; memorable, fun, and exhausting. The children have been wonderful and they have seen and learned much. We spent just about four weeks abroad and we have and still are visiting family before and after our roadtrip. Pictures and more bragging to come. This summer has been absolutely wonderful!

Vegetable garden – notes for next year

Petunia keep the pest away while the broccoli's thriving

Petunia keep the pest away while the broccoli’s thriving

I have now planted all my little sprouts out in the garden. I’ve built two more lunawood boxes (read more about building the box here) and a small add-on box for the largest one (it now looks sort-of like a ship). I have planted carrots, leeks, broccolis, sweet-peas, petunias, dill, coriander (cilantro) and courgettes (zucchini). I can proudly say that everything is alive and growing. I have learned very much the past month or so, and I thought I’d list some. They’re good to remember next year!

Courgettes are growing, after a few mishaps

Courgettes are growing, after a few mishaps

  • courgette plants are very crisp and easily break. I broke the main stem of two of my three plants and I thought they were doomed. But I placed them in a glass of water and after only a few days the stem had already developed new roots. I replanted them inside and let them have some peace and quiet for a few weeks before planting them out. They’re thriving!
  • do not underestimate the power of sunshine. I know very well that plants need sunshine and water to grow. I have few windowsills that are bathed in sunshine and thus my sprouts have only had a few hours of sunshine every day. They were growing well so I didn’t think much of it. Until I saw my neighbours plant, a courgette plant I gave here that I had planted at the same time as my plants, and although smaller than mine, her had five large flowers when mine has just started to develop the flower buds.
  • petunias keep pests away from plants of the cabbage family. My six broccoli plants are still without larvas and other yucky creatures, despite the many white and yellow butterflies that have visited out garden (those butterflies lay eggs that devour the broccoli).
  • carrots need space to grown. That is why I added the extra floor to my boat-box. That way they’re planted above the other vegetables and can stretch further down into the ground.
  • tomato plants benefit from having marigolds and basil planted close. These are apparently good companion plants, and marigolds also help keep some pests away from the tomato plants. They all also require sheltered spots with much sunshine.
  • start planting early. February is probably a good month. Then the plants are big and sturdy for when the warmed days arrive. And seeing the new life spring to life in the dark, heavy months of winter helps fight of depression.
Sweet-peas are climbing and needed support

Sweet-peas are climbing and needed support

 

Confirmation and bunad galore

We celebrated my oldest niece’s confirmation last weekend. She is fifteen and as a Evangelical Lutheran tradition we then celebrate her becoming an adult. Her life doesn’t change much at fifteen, but traditionally this is the age from which you were considered an adult. 18 is the age where you’re legally considered and adult in Norway.

The tradition involves weekly church meeting throughout the school year, although this varies from place to place. There are also non-religious confirmations based on various secular organisations, where obviously the church is not involved. The confirmations has long traditions in Norway, and was introduced during the 16th century, during the 18th century if was made obligatory. The confirmations coincided then with the last year of school and the confirmation became a religious exam, as well as a requirement for getting an apprenticeship. Today it is a matter of getting to know your religion, becoming more reflected, growing up and also the family party.

My niece was two when I met my husband and when I met her for the first time. It has been amazing watching her grow into the young lady she has become today, and it has happened so quickly. She went from a young girl to a young lady in the blink of an eye. She is lucky to have an amazing mother who can take credit for the level of maturity in my niece. She has done a good job in emphasising my niece’s good qualities throughout her upbringing and focused on the positive in life. But my niece is much more than just the result of her upbringing, she is also very clever, she has a brilliant sense of humour, she is well-reflected and mature for her age. She is insanely beautiful and determined. I’m very proud of her and consider myself very lucky to be able to follow her further in life.

I wish to keep my family anonymous and thus leave you with pictures of some of the gorgeous bunads present on that special occasion.

The most Norwegian of all days

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Two good friends parading together

Today is May 17th and that is not just an ordinary day in Norway. In 1814, on this day, our constitution was written up and signed. A little later it was rewritten a little to suit the union we joined with Sweden, but by and large it was significant to Norway’s later split with Sweden and the nation’s independence. This days has been celebrated extensively every year since, and this year, for the 200th time. We call the day simply ‘syttende mai’ which translates to ‘the 17th of May’, and if anyone asks we say it’s our national day, ‘nasjonaldagen’.

I really enjoy this day. It’s always been a tradition, but after the rose parades of 2011, I wrote about them here and here, I’ve learned to appreciated this day a lot more. And also now that I have children who participate I have been forced to look at it all from a different angle which has also improved how I see this day.

Delightful Chatter - Norway 17 May

She doesn’t remember much from her first 17 May celebration, but this year she has learned to shout ‘hurrah’ and wave her flag

The day starts with salutations being made. I’ve never really checked just how early this is done, but I’ve always considered extremely early. The salutations are often cannons being fired or something similar. These are often followed by early rounds of parading brassbands, I’ve often slept through these too. Then, sometime between 8 and 9 in the morning all school children, and younger children, gather to parade. The children group up or line up with their class, their kindergarten or with their brass/marching band to parade the streets for about an hour. Where I lived before it was always the head of the police who fronted the parade, where we live now it’s a fire truck. Everyone is dressed up, men in suits, women in dresses, and a whole lot, maybe even the majority is dressed in their ‘bunads’.

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Details of my bunad


The ‘bunad’ is Norway’s national costume, and they are different depending on where you’re from. It’s similar in idea, but not in style, to the tartans of Scotland. The embroideries of many of the ‘bunads’ can be traced back to specific farms where the patterns are based on family heirlooms with rose-paintings on or floral patterns on items found in the vicinity or made by residents of the farms. I got mine for my confirmation (a Evangelical Lutheran tradition to celebrate your transition into adulthood – I’ll get back to that in a later post) when I was fifteen. My ‘farmor’ (my father’s mother) embroidered mine and I cherish it more every time I wear it. It really is special to me.

Norwegians are seen as cold and unfriendly, at least through an untrained eye. And in this part of the world, street parades are not very common. And that it is not combined with alcohol can also seem shocking if you’ve spent some time in Norway.  But the 17ht of May is a day for the children. It is mostly the children who parade while the parents cheer as the parade passes. After the parade everybody gather up at school or in the town square, or in a similar area,  there are a few speeches and then activities for the children.

Delightful Chatter - Norway 17 May

Tasty, but a little puncture, a Pavlova cake in the correct colours – red, white and blue

The tradition in our family is to join the parade in the morning. When I was younger I went with my school, now I go with my children. We spend some time participating in the post-parade activities before we go home and eat ‘lapskaus’ (recipe here). When I was younger it was always ‘farmor’ and ‘farfar’ (my father’s mother and father) who made the lapskaus and they had all children and grandchildren over to eat. Now it is my parents (my children’s ‘mormor’ and ‘morfar’) who visit us. Often we also have friends over and there’s usually cake. It’s a good day.

A general rule is also that children are allowed about as many ice-creams as they can today, or the same number of ice-creams as their age. My five-year-old is allowed five ice-creams (poor boy only had two today – he’s still not aware of this rule).

Easter in Norway

I’m a little behind on my blogging, or rather, I have things I would like to blog about that I haven’t yet got around to. But who cares if easter was over a few weeks ago? In Norway we say that yule (christmas) lasts until easter, which I think would mean that easter should last until yule again.

Easter is ‘påske’ in Norwegian. The funny letter is pronounced like the vowel in ‘bought’ or at least if you pronounce the word like the Queen of England does. Or it’s at least a very similar sound. Whatever sound you manage to produce you’ll anyway be fine, as we have such dialectal variation in this country that it would fit into one or another. The word derives from Hebrew and has obviously followed the introduction of Christianity. Before the introduction of easter, or ‘påske’, the spring equinox was celebrated, so easter has proper roots in our culture. It’s still standing strong, despite the decreasing popularity of the church.

Cabin sunset. Delightful chatter. Today påske is ideally spent in a cabin, somewhere in the mountains, where you can ski wearing less clothes than you need while skiing in the winter. You should come home with rosy cheeks, white circles around your eyes and a white line across your temple (yes, from the sunglasses). You should eat oranges, marzipan, kvikk lunsj (a chocolate-covered biscuit), lamb, and eggs, but not combined.

I spent the beginning of easter by myself in my in-laws’ house while they borrowed my family and spent some quality time at their cabin, in the woods, with no snow, but with some sunshine. I had exams due, but worked efficiently for some days in order to push school work out of my mind completely for some days and spend some lazy days in the cabin with my loved ones.

I have no idealised pictures of us out skiing with our oranges and kvikk lunsj in tow. I did get a few freckles though, but not enough to brag about here. But just to show you how perfect it all was anyhow, I’ve added the one and only photo I took during those days in the cabin. A quiet sunset by a small lake in the woods about an hour from the coast. Easter was good this year!