13 December 2012

my first try at cross-country skiing.

After our trip to Granada, I ventured out on a cross-country ski trip. Two vastly different but, nevertheless fun, trips back to back!  Josh had to stay home to take a couple exams, but I joined our friend Benny, Benny’s brother and sister-in-law and another friend, Beat, in the ski adventure.  We stayed in a cute cabin in a small skiing village close to Lillehammer, about 2 hours north of Olso. Our little village was the picture of Christmastime.  Our cabin was one of many cozy cabins and there were pines trees covered in snow in every direction.  Plus, it snowed every day.     

The trip had a great combination of physical rigor and relaxation.  After a big breakfast every morning we skied for a 2-3 hours then spent the rest of the day relaxing at home, reading, drinking hot cocoa, eating a nice dinner, sitting in the sauna, playing games and even watching some ski tournaments on tv.  Although I really enjoyed it all, I must say that I found the skiing rather difficult.  I’ve grown up downhill skiing, but this whole cross-country business is new territory.  I borrowed some skies from a Norwegian friend who is just a bit taller than me.  Both the skies and the boots were a tiny bit big, but I managed.  A couple of the other people in the group had cross-country skied before, so they helped teach the others.  I still didn’t feel like I got really good instruction, so I mostly tried to nail down the technique I had been taught and which I saw the Norwegians on the trail using.  
(our cabin)
(other cool looking cabins)

The first day was awesome!  I was excited, had fresh legs and worked really hard to use the right technique. We took a really nice 8 kilometer loop that had a lot of ups and downs.  Even thought the ups were really hard, it was totally worth it for the nice easy downhill stretches.  The second day was pretty tough because my legs were so sore.  I mean, if I wanted to sit with my legs folded on the couch I had to use my arms to put my legs into the right position.  It was painful to move.  But, I kept on skiing.  While I really enjoyed being out in the fresh air and on the snowy trails, I was a lot slower than everyone else in the group.  That was kind of a bummer, but I was able to stay positive anyway.  We did a 14 kilometer loop and then I headed home while everyone else skied a little extra.  I stretched a lot that night and sat in the sauna, which maybe helped.  I like to tell myself it did.  Anyways, on the third day I did the same 8 kilometer loop from the first day, while the rest of the group set out for a 20 kilometer loop or something crazy like that.  This little loop really saw some of the best and the worst in me.  About 2 kilometers in, I came to a really tough uphill bit.  I think this is where it really hurt me that my skis didn’t fit quite right.  I kept sliding back and had to use all my effort to plant each ski and each pole in the ground and push off carefully so as not to slip.  I cried.  It was hard and I felt a little lonely being on my own.  But I kept going and finally made it to a downhill portion.  Oh wow.  This was the fun part.  I flew down the hill and then glided softly down the gradual slope for about five whole minutes.  Totally worth the uphill battle.  The rest of the loop had a mix of uphill, downhill and flat stretches; I took my time and enjoyed it.  I didn’t feel any pressure to go super fast even though Norwegians would whiz past me.  I was so thankful that I had set off alone so I could ski at my own pace.  Cross-country skiing turns out to be kind of hard.  I think I prefer downhill (right now, anyway), but I do want to keep learning how to cross-country ski.  Since this was my first attempt at cross-country and I learned some things, I’m sharing some tips for other first time cross-country skiers.  

1. Get skis that fit-- Your height and weight really affect what kind of skis and poles you should have.  I think I was a little light for my skis and didn’t weight them down enough. I think this caused me to slip sometimes. Plus, my poles were a bit too tall and I kind of had a hard time going up hills smoothly.  (All of this might also be due to my lack of experience, not just the equipment.)

2. Go with a Norwegian-- Obviously, you don’t have to go with a Norwegian, but it seems helpful to go with someone who really knows what they’re doing and who is willing to teach you.  Plus, with skiing you have to use this wax and it’s just nice when someone else can tell you which kind to use and how much, etc.  

3. Don’t be afraid to fall down-- Unless you’re a natural at this, you’ll probably fall down.  I found it helpful to expect to fall occasionally and to laugh when I fell.  It doesn’t hurt much and it’s pretty funny to imagine myself in a tangled mess of skis. 

4. Dress in layers, preferably wool layers--  I wore running tights and snow pants on my legs and on top I wore a long sleeved wool shirt, another thin wool sweater and a rain jacket.  With a hat, scarf and warm mittens (plus hand warmers) I was perfect! 

5. Enjoy the nature while you ski-- I think cross-country skiing is kind of liking hiking.  It’s not just about the skiing, but also a chance to enjoy the beauty of the environment you’re in. We skied in a really beautiful area and occasionally I would just stop and look around.  And, of course, have fun!

Have you tried cross-country skiing?  Do you want to try it?

28 November 2012

our trip to granada, spain.

Josh and I have been thinking for a while that we should do some traveling in Europe.  We haven't even done much traveling around Norway (although I did go to Stavanger) because I think we've been focused on getting settled in Oslo.  Josh had a break in his class schedule during Thanksgiving weekend, so we planned a trip to Spain!  Before I get into all the sunny Spain details, I would like to note that we had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration with some friends here in Oslo.  We cooked all day on Tuesday and then had friends over in the evening.  We took some time to reflect on what we're thankful for, we ate & ate & ate and we sang some folks songs.  It was good and we're both thankful to have some really good friends in Oslo.

On Thursday we flew to Malaga, Spain and then traveled by bus to Granada. We made it to our Bed and Breakfast around 7:30pm and after unpacking we wandered around the Albaycin area (the older Moorish part of the city)  looking for dinner.  Actually a lot of trip we spent just wandering through the streets, which was perfect for us.  We didn't feel the need to see everything or do all of the typical sight-seeing things.  We wanted to do what we enjoyed, which turned out to be renting bikes, walking, eating and enjoying the sun.  Our Bed and Breakfast was awesome!  The room was great, the view was great and we had fresh fruit, toast and coffee every morning.
On Friday, our first full day in Granada, we rented bikes and rode up to The Alhambra, the famous Moorish castle.  We were happily surprised to find that there are many parts of The Alhambra that are free!  Of course, you needed to buy a ticket for the coolest parts of the castle, but we felt satisfied with just exploring the free parts. The architecture is quite beautiful and I'm amazed that so many buildings are still there.  I imagine if we did toured other parts we could have learned more, but I was happy to just see and be amazed.

In the afternoon, as we were wandering around and enjoying the sun we noticed a large group of hippie musicians with matching drums.  It looked to be a drum line, so we stuck around to hear them play.  It turns out they were a sort of drum line with a couple guitars, a saxophone player and a couple singers.  This group starting playing in a plaza area and, after drawing a large crowd, they started walking through the streets of the old city.  We were swept up in the crowd and followed the music for about half and hour.  Cars and pedestrians who were not a part of the parade didn't seem to bothered by it.  For dinner we walked all over Granada looking for hummus and we finally found a little shop that had hummus, delicious salad, falafel and milkshakes.  It was a good day. 

Saturday was filled with more relaxing and wandering.  After breakfast and reading, we went on a long run.  We planned to run to a church that we saw on a nearby hill and, although we asked for directions, we ended up taking a much longer route than we intended.  And although it was hot and uphill most of the way, I enjoyed the challenge.  One of the more touristy things in Granada is the Hammam bath house, where you can relax in three different baths, get a massage, drink tea and sit in the sauna.  We partook in this seemingly extravagant activity and it was totally worth the money.  After a long run it was great to soak in the pools and get a massage.  The bath house was also decorated in a Moroccan style theme.  I just loved it.  On Saturday night our goal (well, mostly Josh's goal) was to watch an Arsenal game, which took some effort because Granada's team was also playing.  We finally did find a place (an empty restaurant) that was willing to change the game to Arsenal.   It was fun and we ate delicious vegetable paella, but Josh admitted that he's struggling with the whole fandom thing as he's not sure he feels comfortable being a fan.  

One reason we chose Spain was because I speak Spanish, so I could help us communicate.  Being in Norway, where we rely on English to talk to locals makes us feel handicapped.  Pretty much everyone here speak English, but it's feels better when we can talk to people in their native language.  So it was great to be able to speak Spanish, but I'm pretty rusty.  I'm not sure why, but a lot of people at restaurants or elsewhere would speak to English the second I fumbled with Spanish.  That was a bit frustrating, but I kept on trying to speak in Spanish.  Josh even picked up on some phrases and talked to people. 

On Sunday we headed back to Malaga thinking we would enjoy the beach and then go to the airport for the night.  Our flight left at 6am on Monday and we didn't want to pay for a hotel.  Our time in Malaga was kind of a bummer compared to Granada.  We spent most of Sunday afternoon walking around in search of a grocery store.  We just wanted some bananas and nutella.  Is that so much to ask for?! Finally, after several hours, we came upon Mr. Choco.  It's not nutella, but it's a hazelnut chocolate spread, so we settled.  We also made two trips through "A Taste of Malaga," where we sampled lots of goat cheese, honey and olives. And we felt guilty after going through a second time.  The beach was quite a bummer, but we still managed to have fun talking and laughing.  

So, we had a great time in Spain!  We were so thankful for sun the whole time and for nice quality time together. 

I had a tough time uploading photos, so I plan to post some more photos on facebook next week.  Tonight I'm leaving for a cross country ski trip and Josh will be home studying and taking an exam.  

05 November 2012

apples galore.

Oh the apples of autumn have been so abundant and wonderful!  Not only do we have a friend who has let us pick juicy, ripe apples off her tree, but we have found various neglected trees which we decided to care for by harvesting the apples.  We've made batches of applesauce and have added apples to our oatmeal, pancakes and coffeecakes.  I thought I would share our applesauce recipe and the links to a few of my other favorite apple recipes.
about 20 apples (but really, use as many can fit into your largest pot)
brown sugar
lemon juice

Okay, we don't really have a recipe with specifically measured ingredients.  But this is what we do:
1.  Core apples and cut into 8 pieces
2.  Put apples into a pot with 1-2 cups of water
3.  Add a few spoonfuls of brown sugar, several squeezes of lemon juice and several dashes of cinnamon.
4.  Cook for 1-3 hours or until apples can easily be mashed.  Taste the applesauce and decide if you want more sugar or cinnamon.
5. Eat some, let it cool and put your delicious apple sauce in jars for the winter!
Some favorite apple recipes found through the internet:
Apple Pancakes
Apple Cinnamon Coffeecake
Puff Pancake with Apples (Instead of sautéing pears, we sauteed apples)
Baked Apples
In addition to all the apples we've collected this fall, we've also accumulated two Norwegian sweaters!
Happy November!

31 October 2012

two things.

1. Autumn cards are now in the shop!  Get them here.

2. I though some of you might be interested in getting my blog posts sent to your email account.  If so, just scroll down to the "follow by email" spot and enter your email.  I'm not totally sure how this works yet, so if you try it and problems occur, please let me know!

Happy Halloween!
(We're not sure what people do for Halloween in Norway, but tonight we'll be celebrating our friend Benny's birthday with a German meal at Christian Union.)

30 October 2012

det snødde!

It snowed!  I was reading in bed on Sunday night when Josh said I had to get out of bed to see a surprise.  I jumped out of bed, ran to the window and saw beautiful, white snow flakes softly falling.  But snow...in October???  We haven't even had Halloween yet.  Or Thanksgiving.  It's strange to have snow this soon, but also kind of exciting.  I think the snow has given me a tiny bit of renewed vigor for life. And now that snow is covering everything, Kringsja, our student village, is actually pretty nice looking. Here are some photos of the snow that I took from inside our cozy apartment:
Josh and I found a small, plastic sled in the storage space in the basement of our building, so maybe we will go sledding soon! 

24 October 2012

peachy press is open.

This little shop of mine has been an on-again-off-again sort of thing for the past few years.  And right now it's on!  Being unemployed in Oslo means I have time to devote to crafty and creative things.  I was invited earlier in the semester to sell my handmade goods at an artisan market.  That turned out to be a really great opportunity and it was encouraging to see that people are interested in what I make.  So I've continued to invest my creative interests in peachy press.  I hope you take a peek at some of the things I've made!

Some information about Peachy Press:

Being in Oslo also means that materials for my products and shipping cost more.  For this reason, I have had to raise my prices a bit.  This pains me, but I had to do it.  But, I will be back in the States for Christmas (in Seattle and Greenville).  If you are a friend or family member residing in one of these places and want to order something, I can deliver it to you during my Christmas break and will cut the shipping costs.  That means you might have to wait a while to receive your product, but you can also save 3-8 bucks.  If you are interested in this deal, you can do one of the following:

 -Send me an email or note on etsy saying which product you would like and that you would like to receive it upon my return to the USA.  I will then change the shipping cost and make it a reserved item for you.  You can purchase the product and I will hand deliver it to you sometime between December 14- January 10.

-Buy the product as it is listed on etsy and include a note that says you would like to receive this product upon my return to the USA.   I will hand deliver the product to you sometime between December 14- January 10 and will include your shipping reimbursement in cash along with your product.

-You can also do either of the following and request to have your item shipped through the mail to you from the U.S.  I will give you a reduced shipping rate and mail it to you right when I get back to the USA (around December 14).

OR if you are in the USA but not someone I will see in person, you can do this:

-Enter a similar note saying you would like to receive your product upon my return to the USA.  I will give you a discounted shipping rate, since shipping in the U.S. is much cheaper than in Norway and I will ship your purchase right when I get back to the USA (around December 14).

Also, FYI Shipping takes about one week from Oslo to the USA.

I know this is a bit complicated and I'm sorry, but I guess that is just what happens when you go overseas.  Things get a little complicated.  I hope you'll bear with me.  I've really, really enjoyed making things and I hope the things I've made can benefit you as well.

Have a lovely day, friends!

22 October 2012

grandparent visit!

The afternoon after I returned from my adventure in Stavanger my Grandma Ann and Grandpa Matt came to visit us!  I’ve been looking forward to this visit before we even moved to Norway.  This summer my grandparents knew they would be living in Cambridge for a couple months in the autumn, so they planned to visit us.  They came on Saturday afternoon and left on Tuesday afternoon, so we had a short, but sweet 3 days together. Our extended weekend went something like this:

Josh and I picked the grandparents up at the airport, which was exciting.  I was giddy with the anticipation!  We finally started playing a game or something to calm me down.  And then they came through the gate and we all hugged and were merry. After riding the tbane home and resting a bit, we got back on the tbane and rode up to the Holmenkollen stop, where we had a great view of the city below.  From our look out point at Holmenkollen, Josh and I pointed out some of the museums and places we’d be going to in the next couple days.  Then we headed downtown to eat at a Mediterranean restaurant, which was delicious!  
(at holmenkollen)

Grandma Ann had researched Oslo and decided upon all the touristy things she would like to do and Grandpa Matt seemed up for anything.  We made a schedule for when we would go where and we ended up doing just about everything on Grandma Ann’s “must see” list.  Sunday we attended church at St. Edmond’s, ate lunch at Akershus castle, perused the Nobel Peace Prize Museum, took a peak into the City Hall building just to see the murals and visited the Munch Museum.  Whew.  We went to a lot of places!  For dinner we had pancakes (a new Zahniser-Cranston Sunday night tradition).  We eat our pancakes Norwegian style- with jam and sour cream and/or brunøst. Maple syrup is pretty expensive here and we’ve come to enjoy the typical Norwegian toppings. My grandparents are also fans of brown cheese now!  Josh brought out his book of folk songs, “Rise Up Singing” and my grandparents sang a bunch of songs from the book that we didn’t know before.  Josh played guitar and we sat around the table singing; it was both a relaxing and joyful way to end the evening.  
(the view from our lunch spot at Akershus)

Monday we awoke to another full day of sightseeing.  First, we had breakfast at a kafé that Josh and I like, called Åpent Bakeri.  Okay, we actually had never eaten at this place before, but we’ve had many of their baked goods. Our friend has a deal with the bakery, so she often brought left over baked goods to the community garden night we attend.  We thought it would be fun to actually eat there and we were able to give suggestions for the yummiest goodies.  Grandpa Matt got apple cake and coffee, Grandma got a scone with strawberry jam, Josh and I each got a chocolate boller (fluffy Norwegian buns) and I also got coffee.  The bakery is close to the garden we volunteer in, as well as University of Oslo’s main campus (Blindern), so we gave my grandparents a little tour.  Grandpa Matt seemed really delighted to see the University library.  

(at the folk museum)

We then headed out to some museums. On Monday’s schedule was the Folk Museum Kon Tiki Museum and the Viking Ship Museum.  On our way, we stopped to grab lunch at a the same Mediterranean restaurant we ate earlier.  The food is great and pretty cheap for Oslo, plus the four of us all have a fondness for this cuisine.  The Folk Museum turned out to be my favorite of all the places we went during the grandparent visit.  It was a beautiful day and we walked around outside looking at a Stave Church and traditional style houses, which have grass on the roofs.  We also learned a lot about the Sami people and got to see their traditional clothing, which is usually brilliant blue and red, with lots of other colors.  By the time we got to the other museums I was feeling pretty tired.  I think everyone else was feeling a little tired too because we didn’t spend too long at either the Viking Ship or Kon Tiki Museums.  We had another relaxing evening at home with a dinner made by Grandma Ann and me. The four of us took some time to look over our wedding pictures together.  It was really fun to remember the day and to see all the pictures again.  There is so much joy captured in those photos!
(stave church at the folk museum)

Tuesday morning we relaxed, my grandparents packed up and then I accompanied them to the airport (Josh was in class).  It was truly a great few days and we were so blessed that my grandparents came!  It was especially fun to have them staying with us at our apartment because we got to wake up and eat breakfast together and hang out until right before bed.  It was great.

Did you notice all the blue skies in our photos?  We had beautiful weather the entire weekend! The only time it rained was on Tuesday morning, except for the ten minutes we took to walk to the tbane.  It was truly incredible.

We LOVED having my grandparents visit and we look forward to future visitors!  Both Josh’s family and mine plan to visit towards the summer.  Is anyone else up for a trip to Oslo?  

14 October 2012

kjeragbolten + preikestolen (hanging rock and pulpit stone).

About two weeks ago I ventured out to Stavanger, Norway for hiking and camping with a group of nine others. A friend I know was planning this trip with some fellow students and they needed a few extra people to fill up their rental cars/ spread out the costs. So I joined in!  It was pretty great to go on a fun trip and not have to plan any of it.   Before leaving all I knew is that we would be hiking to two different famous rocks, camping one night and spending two nights on the train to get to and from Stavanger.  I also only knew three other people going on the trip.  Luckily, the trip went smoothly and I really enjoyed my fellow hikers!
Day 1: Hike to Kjeragbolten.  This hike was pretty difficult, but a challenge that I enjoyed.  The hike was around 5 hours round trip.  We hiked on rocks that were smooth and steep and we often needed the help of chains to pull us up the curvy sides of the rocks.  At other times we walked across a vast spread of open rock.  We felt like hobbits on the journey to Mordor. Despite the differing speeds of hiking amoungst our group members (some were super speedy, some were slower), everyone was positive and seemed to enjoy the hike.  The scenery was incredible!  These snapshots don't quite do it justice.  We were blessed with a beautiful sunny day.  For part of the hike I took off my layers and was just wearing a t-shirt! That is a rare and wonderful occurrence for me these days.  

Are those hobbits?
At the top, next to Kjerabolten, we stopped for lunch and a break.  Overlooking the beautiful fjord was really the best lunch spot I could imagine.  On the hike down the weather got a little bit foggy and the sun started to go down.  Luckily, we made it back without any major falls or injuries. The rest of day 1 was spent driving over to the area around Preikestolen, looking for a camping spot and setting up camp.  Despite the fact that in Norway you can camp for free on any public land, we spent 2 hours looking for a good spot to camp.  I guess that someone wants to make money on camping spots in areas around tourist destinations, like Preikestolen, because there didn't seem to be much open public space for camping.  We finally settled in a parking lot near the sea, which was designated as a swimming area.  By this point it was dark and we were all hungry and it had been raining.  Needless to say, it wasn't a cozy evening around the campfire.  It wasn't terrible, but wasn't the best.  We ate pasta for dinner made with sea water.  Maybe the worst (but also funniest) thing that happened was when someone looked up from the campfire and asked why our tent was in the sea.  Yes, no one staked down the tent and it flew into the fjord.  Benny waded in to get the tent, but, still, most of us ended up sleeping in the cars.  In this situation it was great to be small because I stretched out in the back seat and slept great!
Day 2: We woke up early-ish (8am) to get to Preikestolen and starting hiking by 9am.  (We had to return our car by 4pm, hence the rush to starting hiking early.) We were so glad that the hike to Preikestolen was easier than the first hike because we were all a bit tired.  Plus it was colder, foggier and a bit rainy.  Hiking up the slippery rocks to Kjeragbolten would have been tough in the rain, but it wasn't a huge problem for this hike.  It was actually quite a bummer that we didn't get a great view of the fjord and it was so cold that I just wanted to hike down. 
Even with the fog, I could tell that we were at a pretty special spot.  We didn't stay long at the top-just enough to take some photos and eat some chocolate.
The hike down was fun and at the bottom it wasn't even raining.  After drying off and eating lunch, we drove back to the city of Stavanger and spent a few hours exploring the city and playing card games while we waited for the train back to Oslo. It was really a great trip. I loved our group of ten and the chance to see a different part of Norway, especially a part with such stunning nature!

10 October 2012

autumn in oslo.

 Autumn in Oslo is truly lovely.
I love the crisp air, the colorful leaves and this new reading spot I found in the woods.

Photos were taken on October 1 (on Bygdøy Penninsula) and on October 10 (near Kringsjå student village).  Book being read in the new reading spot is Nature Writings by John Muir.