Thursday, December 27, 2007

We're off to our cabin today. There's not enough snow in Oslo to go skiing, but apparently the mountains where our cabin is have gotten a lot. We're all excited about going skiing for the first time this year. And now everyone has downhill skis, too (well, Gaute has telemark skis), so we're going to do some downhill skiing as well as cross country.

The webcamera at our cabin has been having problems lately, but Gaute is going to fix it when we get up there today, so check back on http://langaas.net/nokia/nrc/glenna.php and you should be able to see what it looks like up there.

I wrote a lot about Christmas Eve, but I should say that Christmas Day was great, too. The kids stayed in bed until their official wake-up time of 7, and then we went down and opened the presents. Lots of good stuff - everyone was very pleased!! Santa brought a new flat screen TV for our new "rec room" in the basement, and Grandma and Grandpa Jim bought us a foosball game, so we are set now. The kids had a good place to set up the new Legos and Playmobil they got for Christmas, between playing with the Playstation and foosball game.

Kari and Grim came over about noon for a Christmas brunch, with buttermilk biscuits and bread and lots of good stuff. They stayed for a few hours, and the kids got to show them all of their new toys. The rest of the day was pretty relaxing - we were all pretty worn out!

And now we're off to the mountains. We'll stay there until January 2nd and celebrate New Year's up there like we have the last couple of years. New Year's Eve at our cabin is so nice. We eat fondue and the kids drink soda out of wine glasses. On New Year's Eve in Norway, people light fireworks, the cool kinds like bottle rockets and stuff like that. When it gets close to midnight, we can see that there are quite a few people up at their cabins, because the sky starts lighting up with fireworks - it's really cool!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Skating

Yesterday was one of the most beautiful winter days ever. We still had frost coating everything, it had snowed a little bit the night before, and the sun was shining.

We went ice skating on Sognsvann, a lake about 5 minutes from our house....




Christmas Eve


It's the morning of Christmas Eve. As usual, I'm up early, since sleeping in seems to be a thing of the past for me.

I just made my daily list of things to do, and, thankfully, it's not long. I've already made lots of the yummy stuff that we eat at Christmas - gingerbread cookies, candy cane cookies, pretzel cookies, Mexican wedding cookies (my absolute favorites!!), English toffee and fudge. I need to make the Rice Krispie treats, vacuum and wash the floors. I also have to make a quick trip to the mall with Espen, since he hasn't gotten gifts from more friends than he was counting on and has to buy a few more things. He and his friends are pretty in to getting each other things, but luckily that trend hasn't reached the 4th or 2nd grades. Although, he's paying for these gifts with his own money, so I shouldn't complain.

Today is the official Christmas day in Norway, but it doesn't start until the afternoon. It's acually a regular work day until 12:00. Gaute won't be going in, though, and most people who have somewhat flexible hours don't work today. Most people take the whole next week off. The week between Christmas and New Year's actually has its own name in Norway - Romjul. Both the 25th and 26th are official holidays. We're heading up to our cabin on Thursday and will be probably be there until January 2nd.

Today will be the same procedure as last year, and as every year. This afternoon, we will put on our party clothes and at 3:00, we're off to church. I am quite the hypocrite, I know. It's fun to go to church in Norway on Christmas Eve, though. They have three services, at 1:30, 3:00 and 4:30. Each neighborhood has its own local church - Norwegian Lutheran Church, the state religion. The church is packed on Christmas Eve with all of our neighbors, everyone all dressed-up. The service consists mostly of everyone singing Christmas carols, and it's a nice start to Christmas Eve.

After that, we will go up to Kari and Grim's (Gaute's parents), where dinner will be almost finished. Grim will take us down to the basement where we will be served glogg (a type of spiced cider, with and without wine) and gingerbread cookies. Then, it's back upstairs again for the special ribs most Norwegians eat for Christmas, as well as Christmas meat balls and sausages, accompanied by homemade sauerkraut, boiled potatoes and the BEST brown gravy, ever. I'm not a huge carnivore, so I usually eat lots of gravy with potatoes and sauerkraut. And the rice cream which is served for dessert. There's always a scalded almond in the rice cream, and whoever gets that gets a marzipan pig. Last year, Johan won! And he was happy, because, like Anders and me, he thinks marzipan is manna from heaven.

After that, it's time to start opening some presents. While Christmas Eve IS Christmas in Norway, the 25th is still the REAL Christmas in our family. So, on Christmas Eve, we just open the gifts from Gaute's family, and none of the presents that we have given each other. Also, the Norwegian Santa Claus, julenissen, stops by with some gifts for the kids. Unlike Santa Claus, julenisse shows up at the door with a sack of presents and personally passes out the presents to the kids. For some reason, the kids think julenissen, although he is wearing a mask, looks a lot like Grim. Not that they want him to stop showing up, though. The American Santa Claus, though, who comes at night, is real, according to Anders and Johan. Espen is no longer a true believer, however.

In between opening gifts and greeting julenissen, we eat a large number of the delicious cookies that Kari has made. Full is not an adequate description of how I feel by the end of the evening.

At around 10 or so, we head back home, so that the kids can get in bed before Santa shows up. Everyone opens their official X-mas eve packages. Pajamas every year, but exciting nonetheless. Then the kids hang up their stockings and arrange a platter of cookies for Santa (with a carrot for the reindeer). And, as they say, the rest is history....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Summer vacation, part 2

After a night in Spokane (and a great dinner at the food court at the mall (hey, it was great, really - they had a Taco Time)), we drove into Montana and down to the lovely town of West Yellowstone. We considered for a long time camping in the park, or in Grand Teton, but decided that it would be too complicated since we would be flying over from Norway, and we wouldn't really be able to take any camping gear with us. I had been in West Yellowstone as a kid and remembered it as a kind of charming little western town. So much for childhood memories... The town itself wasn't so bad, but the people staying there were pretty scary. It seems that West Yellowstone is the town to stay in if you want to go to Yellowstone, but you can't camp because they don't make a sleeping bag big enough for you.

The kids loved the never-ending supply of powdered sugar donuts at the motel breakfast, though.

We got into town in the late afternoon, and one of the first things we saw was that there was going to be a rodeo just out of town that same evening. Yee-haw! Taking the kids to a rodeo was one of my goals for this trip. It was just a little local rodeo, but the rodeo clown was pretty funny, and we had a fun time.



Saturday, December 22, 2007

Summer vacation, part 1



I never got around to publishing my pictures from our summer vacation. I was looking through them recently with Anders and Johan, and we were talking about what an incredibly wonderful vacation we had. So now I'm going to try to get some of the pictures out there.

We flew into Seattle and spent the first night at a not-so-great motel, but we were so tired, that the condition of our hotel was absolutely not an issue. The next day, we got up and drove into downtown Seattle where we paid a lot of money to go up to the top of the Space Needle. It was worth it, of course. The Space Needle was pretty exciting for the kids, especially since it's a Seattle landmark that they see on TV a lot.

From there, we plotted a westward course. We were on a road trip, so we stopped at all of the cool places along the way.



The kids saw their first petrified trees.










Just across the river (the Columbia) from the petrified forest were these really cool metal horses.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Can you hide anything in your shoes that you cannot hide in your underwear?

Hmmmm, what a shock! A new report shows that there is no proof that all of the security measures that airline passengers have to go through make flying any safer.

But surely there's a reason I have to put my lip gloss in a ziploc bag...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Last Day of School

Today is the kids' last day of school before Christmas. They have two weeks of vacation - they start back again on January 3rd. They were pretty hyper this morning!

I took the boys to the mall last night so they could buy gifts for each other and for Gaute. I won't give anything away by saying what they bought, but I can say that they did a good job. I don't think anyone will be disappointed Christmas morning.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

The birthday boy unwrapping his presents



And the big brothers wishing that they were getting some presents, too...

O Tannenbaum, o tannenbaum

We put up our tree yesterday. We like to wait until after Johan's birthday, because a decorated tree with presents under it isn't the best thing to have in your living room when you're having a birthday party for a 7-year-old. Also, the tradition in Norway is to put up your tree late - the 23rd is the traditional day (that day even has its own name in Norway - Little Christmas Eve) - and then leave it up until January 13th. So people think we're pretty strange for putting our tree up so early. Not to mention the fact that we have presents sitting under the tree. No one can understand why the kids don't just rip into the gifts and start opening them. Which says a lot about Norwegian kids....

While we were decorating our tree yesterday, Anders made a comment about how our tree always looks "kind of strange" when we get the decorations up. Norwegians don't use many decorations on their trees either. Gaute's parents are considering having nothing but lights on their tree this year, for example. Our tree, on the other hand, is covered with all kinds of different decorations which I have been collecting since I was a little girl. My mom has given me a decoration every year, and has done the same thing for the kids (which is good, since there aren't many good tree decorations in Norway). And, of course, the kids have made many decorations at school through the years which also go up on the tree. But, as we told Anders yesterday, that's the way our tree is. His childhood memories of Christmas will include the tree covered with all kinds of decorations, each one bringing back a special memory.

And we all agreed that the tree looked quite nice....

Friday, December 14, 2007

Phew....

Johan's 7th birthday party just ended. Twelve 7-year old boys....it was lively....The great thing was that now that we have the basement for ourselves, we had a place to put them! We had the legos and Playmobil down there, as well as a CD player. They had a dance contest to Radio/Video by System of a Down - and it was really fun!

But now, it's Friday night, the party is over, and it's the weekend....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My friend, the Nobel Peace Prize winner

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, we celebrated Thanksgiving at my friend Karen's house on Saturday. Karen is a geography professor here at the University of Oslo. That I knew. I also knew that she does a lot of research on climate change. But I did not realize that she is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and one of the lead authors of the report they issued this year. You know, the IPCC, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.... Albeit, the report had many authors and the IPCC has thousands of members, but she has still played a part in winning this prize. And she is considered one of the winners! Just had to brag a little bit about her...

We had a great time at her house on Saturday night, also. Karen is a great cook, as are all of my other friends who brought yummy things with them. I literally haven't felt so full in years. Couldn't even finish my pumpkin pie!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Christmas programs

Anders and Johan had their Christmas programs this week. Anders' was on Thursday evening. The 4th graders had a great reenactment of the Titanic disaster. It was really impressive - they've been practicing for several months, and it showed.


video

Johan's school program was a more traditional one where the 2nd graders sang Christmas songs and did some little dances. It was in the morning when school started, and I couldn't be there since I had an exam that started at 9:00. Gaute was there, though, and took pictures!


video

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Final tomorrow

I have a 6-hour English final tomorrow - yikes! Everytime I mention that I have a test in English or a paper due, I get comments like "Oh, that must be easy for you, since it's English". I realize that's true, and I don't have to think so much about the actual language when I'm writing. But I still have to know what I'm writing about! So, basically, the moral of this little story is that I hope I get a good grade on this final, but I don't want it to be taken for granted....

Tonight Anders and the rest of the 4th-graders are performing a musical about the Titanic which they've been working on for the last several months. The 4th-graders last year performed the same play, and I hear it was great. And this year they've added more, so it should be really fun. I'll try to take lots of pictures to post here.

On Saturday we're celebrating Thanksgiving. Since it's not a holiday here, it doesn't seem so strange to be celebrating it so late. I have a group of 4 American friends who are all married to Norwegian men (actually, Janine's husband is British) and we each have 3 kids roughly the same age. We've started celebrating Thanksgiving together the last few years, and it's really a lot of fun. This year we'll be at Karen's house, and all together there will be 9 adults and 15 children!