Saturday, December 31, 2011

A very good New Year's Eve

Godt Nyttår!

We had a fabulous New Year's Eve.

In our neighborhood, a particularly musical family hosts an annual musical in their living room. Their children and friends compose and play their own songs and have a play revolving around a local issue. The play always involves a witch who starts bad and turns good at the end. It is a real treat to be invited to this party. About 50 neighbors pack into the living room and kitchen and enjoy coffee and cookies during and after the show.

At 7:00 a children's firework show is launched from the fortress. Maggie and her friend walked down to experience the fireworks directly overhead, the rest of us were content to watch the show from the balcony. The children's show give kids a chance to see fireworks without needing to stay up for the big show at midnight. We'd be staying up of course!

After the small fireworks show, we went to our neighbors for a lutefisk dinner. Lutefisk is pretty darn good if prepared properly, and it was. We piled on the tilbehør (accompaniments): bacon, mushy peas, brown cheese, sugar cane syrup and mustard. Mmmmm...! I ate and ate, stopping only because I was too full. Pam made an angel food cake that collapsed during baking and came out like a semi-transparent rubber ring. We dubbed it our "lute-cake". It was inedible for grown-ups, but the kids liked it well enough to eat the whole thing.

After dinner we did our own theatrical performance and then watched the show from the balcony. It is always amazing to me to witness the city on this evening. During the half-hour before the big show begins, we can see fireworks exploding in every direction from our vantage point overlooking all of downtown and the fjord. The air is filled with color and light and the constant popping of explosions. It's spectacular! The show begins at midnight, huge fireballs in the glittering night. Wow!

I learned that NTNU has a fireworks club, and students make some of the fireworks that are launched over the city. Cool.

The children were very keen to stay up until 2 a.m. ("Until I drop!" Peter insisted.) Pam and I didn't make it quite so long.

It was a great day of good food, friends and neighborliness. We start the new year in high spirits!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

UDI - visa renewal

Earlier this year we had a torturous ordeal at the immigration office (UDI) where we waited the entire day to hand in our paperwork to renew our visa, only to be sent away at the end of the day because they could serve everyone who came that day. It's experiences like this that make many people dread going to UDI. We've heard stories of people giving up their university jobs and leaving the country because they can't tolerate the process.

So it was with a sense of dread that I got the letters saying our visas had been approved and we need to come back to UDI to turn in our passports and some photos for the visas. Would we have to wait in line all day? Does the whole family need to come? I gave the office a call and was encouraged to fill out a visa application online and then I can schedule an appointment.

Yes! I felt like I was doing something wrong filling out the online application at – I had already filled out and submitted a paper version back in August. There was no other way to just schedule an appointment, though, so I went ahead with the form. It turned out to be short, much shorter than the paper application, and it only took 10 or 15 minutes to enter the info. At the end of the process I had the opportunity to pick an appointment time.

Our appointment was today at 11:30. We showed up at the police station, signs directed us to the window, and right on schedule at our appointed time we were able to hand our paperwork. We were out the door 15 minutes later. Hallelujah! The have a special time next week that we can pick up our passports with the visas inside, no waiting.

I'll definitely be doing electronic applications for next year. I'll have to fill one out for each member of the family, but they are much shorter forms and we get a scheduled appointment time. Nice!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dancing around the Christmas tree

We were invited to Peter and Maren's house this evening for a real traditional Norwegian Christmas party, complete with dancing around the Christmas tree. We did several songs holding hands and circling the tree. Some of the songs have actions with them – they were fun to do and it was a special feeling to be invited to take part in these traditional festivities. I think I enjoyed it more than the kids! After dinner and a few glasses of glogg we headed home, carrying the glow of the evening with us.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Big storm

It was a tough night last night. A big storm blew in. Wind tossed around furniture outside, trees bent over at alarming angles, sirens could be heard down in the streets. It was frightening. Pam was up during the night to close a window that had blown open and to check for damage around the house. This morning I surveyed the scene, no damages here just some mess. I can see down the street at our old house a tree was felled.

The newspaper online had plenty of stories on damages. Wind speeds of up to 150 kph (93 mph) were measured. Here's a few scenes, pictures from

Pirbadet, our swimming hall downtown, got its windows smashed by waves. We'd planned on going swimming this week, but it looks like that won't happen.
This was an inflated sports field in nearby Malvik.
Someone's unfortunate storage barn blew into their house.
Waves blowing into the harbor in a nearby community sunk boats and forced evacuations.

Blog merge

I've just merged all three Naylors in Norway blogs. There is no longer a blog 1, 2 and 3. Just this one.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

God Jul

It was a very happy and pleasant Christmas, one of the best I can remember in many years. All three kids were at the foot of our bed at 7 a.m. – we usually don't see Maggie until after 11. Santa had visited of course and I was very pleased to look forward to a day with absolutely no plans.

Leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy sandwiches for lunch was the greatest thing in the world. We introduced the kids to the game Risk and they spent a big part of the afternoon dancing to a Kinect video game (it's nice to see them playing a video game that gets them moving and jumping and dancing and learning rhythm). In the evening we watched the 1959 movie "Journey to the Center of the Earth." Just before bed some friends from Bellingham we hadn't seen in a long time called on Skype video and that was awesome.

The only thing missing from today was snow. Instead we had 6°C (42°F) temperatures and rain all day, washing away the snow. Yes, snow is pretty, but having the snow go away felt like a Christmas present just for me. Nice!

God Jul, alle!

(PS: I see this is blog entry number 500 on Naylors in Norway 3. Cool! There are a total of 412 posts on Naylors in Norway 1 and 2.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011


I knew the Norwegian name for Christmas, Jul (pronounced "yule") was the same as the word "Yule" in English. I had also noticed that "Yuletide" (as in "Yuletide carols being sung by the fire, and folks dressed up like Eskimos") comes directly from Norwegian Juletid which means "Jul-time".

What I didn't know was that Jul is actually the name for the entire winter holiday season and it has an interesting story to it. I stumbled across this Wikipedia entry which says it better than I could:
Jul or jol is the term used for the Christmas holiday season in Norway. Originally, “jul” (or “jol”) was the name of a month in the old Germanic calendar, corresponding roughly to the time from mid-December through mid-January, and the concept of “jul” as a period of time rather than a specific event, prevails in Norway.

Whereas the start of “jul” proper is announced by the chiming of church bells throughout the country in the afternoon of December 24, it is more accurate to describe the season five week event, consisting of five phases: Advent, Julaften, Romjul, Nyttår, and Holy Three Kings’ Day (Epiphany), which is the thirteenth, and final day of the season.

The modern day celebration is largely based on the Church year, but has retain several pre-Reformation and pre-Christian elements.

The main event in Norway, is Christmas Eve (julaften) , when the main Christmas meal is served and gifts are exchanged.
 True to the description, the church bells throughout town began ringing at 5 p.m. indicating the start of Jul proper. We had a traditional (American) turkey dinner and opened our gifts afterwards. It was a fun and special evening. The kids were off to bed late eagerly antipicating Santa's visit in the night. They are now asleep with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads no doubt.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

To Røros hospital

During our first stay in Norway back in 2007, Pam fell and broke her femur. She's carried the hardware in her for 4 years without trouble, but this last year it began to ache and give her troubles. She's been on the waiting list at two hospitals to have the screws removed, at Trondheim's big hospital St. Olav's and also at a smaller hospital in charming Røros about 2 hours south of here.

The Røros hospital came through first, as expected, so today we went for a one-day medical adventure. The taxi picked us up at 5:15 a.m., and off we went to catch the 5:45 train, arriving in Røros at 8:00. We weren't due to check into the hospital until 11:00, so we had time to find a place for breakfast.

Røros is a charming and scenic historic town. Every time we've visited it's been crowded with visitors. Now we got to see Røros in a whole new light. Literally. At 8:00 it's quite dark this time of year. In fact, it's the darkest time of the year right now. The streets of Røros were empty and large fluffy flakes fell gently in the darkness. It felt like some kind of magical Christmas scene as we walked slowly through the streets. We left temperatures well above freezing in Trondheim, but in Røros this morning the mercury stood at -13°C.

On the main street, we found a bakery/coffee shop that was open. The kids and I had delicious pastries and settled in a table just before a crowd of public works workers came in for coffee. The newspaper had an article proclaiming this winter's coldest night was in Røros last night, with the temperature reaching -23.9°C. Brrrr! We were glad it wasn't that cold this morning. We played word games and leisurely woke up over breakfast, then took a short walk over to the hospital.

The hospital is built into what looks like a farmhouse and stable. "I'm not getting my operation in a stable," Pam said. Inside the hospital was decked out with artwork very much in line with Røros' reputation as an arts and crafts center.

Once we were all checked in, visits with the doctors done, and then Pam was off for surgery, the kids and went to do some shopping and find some lunch. Along the way, we passed many people on sparks, a kind of kick-sled with long blades to glide over ice and snow. Outside of the shopping center a dozen of these were parked, showing how popular this form of transport is here in Røros.

Maggie wanted to eat at the soup shop, Suppestasjon, so soup it was. The kids got Danish potato soup (with free refills!) and I got French onion. Mine came with a cheesy biscuit floating on top – I took a picture of it because the biscuit was smiling at me.

Pam awoke from her surgery at 3:00, but wasn't steady enough for us to catch the 3:42 train back to Trondheim, so we stayed on at the hospital for more hours. I couldn't believe the amount of hardware that came out of her hip: two small screws, two HUGE screws with wicked looking boring ends, and a bracket that looks like a flag holder. In fact, I may just screw this on the living room wall to hold a small flag.

Finally, we edged our way back to the train station, just two blocks from the hospital. We had to stop several times to let Pam rest. The doctors said the walk would be okay, but Pam was still sore and will be for a few days. We caught the 7:42 train in good time and were back in Trondheim at 10 pm.

It was a long day, we arrive home very tired but pleased that today was a big success.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Getting into Christmas mode

It's taken us time to get into gear for Christmas. We've been very busy with moving out of our rental house, but on Monday we delivered the keys to the owner and had a smooth check-out, thanks in very large part to monumental efforts by teams of friends helping us with moving and cleaning.

Yesterday then was our first official full day of having nothing on the schedule, and how sweet it was!

We made and decorated Christmas cookies, went out shopping for a Christmas tree, unpacked decorations and set up the tree while listening to Christmas songs. It was a beautiful day and we are feeling relaxed and in good holiday spirits.

Today we celebrated Solstice with our family's tradition: a nature hike and then a candle and cookie 'ceremony' where we reflect on the past year and welcome back the sun for the start of a good new year. Because Pam can't walk very well right now, for this year's nature hike we walked only up the hill on our own property behind our house. I hadn't been all the way up, and the view was just awesome and magical. Jultid, we are ready.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Butter mafia

Butter shortage? It's been all over the news as of late, a story with such sordid elements as smuggling and black market butter sales. This close to Christmas, plenty of folks are getting anxious.

We're lucky enough to have contacts in the secret butter underworld. A couple of days ago we made a trip to see our "dealer". One of our friends was at the grocery store at just the right time a few weeks ago and bought up several blocks of butter and offered to share with us. She gave us half her stock, and now we will be well-buttered into the new year.

Disaster averted!

Monday, December 19, 2011


My work had their annual Christmas party with a craft workshop followed by a lunch. The workshop was hosted by Skolelaboratoriet,  our friends in the same wing. We made blinking decorations, and it was about 5 times harder than I thought it would be. You really need to have three hands to do soldering. After soldering my 20th connection though I was starting to get good at it.

Here's my ornament, it's a fractal Christmas tree (9 little trees that make 3 medium trees that make 1 big tree). It has nine lights in three colors that blink. I'm very proud! Thank you Skolelaboratoriet!

Fractal tree and proud me
Some of the other ornaments - beautiful!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas jewelry

Pam's been invited group after group of children over to make glass jewelry as presents for their parents. So nice! Here's a batch going into and coming out of the kiln. These will have pins mounted on them to make broaches or hangers mounted to make ornaments. I love hearing her sitting with Norwegian children talking in Norwegian as they correct her grammar and teach her new words and phrases. She's been learning rapidly lately. Go Pam!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


There's a very popular street for sledding next to our house. Peter loves joining his friends on this hill, and joins a tradition that stretches back generations. Everyone who grew up in this neighborhood has fond memories of sledding on this street in the winter. It makes me very happy to see Peter eager to run out to play in the snow. We've got a great neighborhood.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Anna's piano performance

Anna and her fellow piano students had their recital, but it wasn't in a traditional venue. Instead, for two hours in the evening the students played outside of a coffeeshop in a downtown shopping mall, providing lovely background music for shoppers.

We gathered at tables with friends, chatting and enjoying hot cocoa as the children played music. Our other children explored the mall and did some shopping. It was so nice we didn't even want to leave when the event was over -- I can't ever remember feeling that way about a recital before!

Anna played very well and was very proud of herself. We're proud of her too!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Okay, probably not many folks care about this. But my dad asked, so here's the long answer.

Last week I was swimming in plumbing problems. Kitchen drain and no hot water. Here's the resolutions...


The kitchen drain had been clogged for 10 days and I had tried everything I could from the kitchen end of the clog and was dreading opening the sewage line in the basement. Plus, I've been sick lately and just didn't have much energy left for such a project. I called three plumbers and all were booked for two weeks. One person quoted me a price of 3000+ kroner ($500+) which seems pricey to me, even for Norway.

So, I waited for a good day and bit the bullet. I knew the clog must lie in the last two meters of pipe in the basement near where the kitchen drain meets the main drain. There's a port in this line that I was nervous about opening, especially with an electric warm floor down there and potential for all kinds of mess. I set up a big bucket, a shield of tape, and a string of tape from the pipe down to the bucket to encourage water to flow in the proper direction. Then I opened the port on top of the line. It was dry inside.

This was not the scenario I hoped for. I hoped the clog would be just below the port and I could drain the water slowly from a semi-open port in a controlled way and then have easy clog removal. A dry pipe here meant the clog was further up, probably at the bend 1,5 meters up with water filling 6 meters of pipe above that waiting to come down.

I tried two different snakes, which pulled out small amounts of sludge but could not penetrate the clog. Something hard had clogged this pipe. Our house stood empty for 3 years while the owner was in a nursing home. That's plenty of time for a mostly clogged pipe to harden into some kind of impenetrable rocky cement thing. The pipes down here are big, thick, and welded together – cutting into them may be the last resort.

Running out of options, I decided I would hit the mass with the snake as hard as I could 100 times. It wasn't a good plan, but it was the only thing I could think of to do. I stood there patiently ramming the snake, counting to 100. It felt like absolutely nothing was happening. When I reached 100, I pulled out the snake and was rewarded with a small trickle of water. Exciting! I expectantly stared into the opening...

Suddenly, a shlorping noise and then, well, the word that came immediately to mind was a "shit-storm". And that's a pretty accurate description actually. Sludge came rocketing down the pipe spraying out of the opening. I clapped my hand over the top, preventing most of it from coming out, but the damage was done. See below.

I called for Pam. We went into emergency cleanup mode, washing, vacuuming, drying and then repainting the walls. The sludge was not as bad as it looked at first, it was more like mud that turned into dirt as it dried. Afterwards, miraculously, it looked perfect again.

Drain works! Hurray! We saved 3000 kroner!

Hot water

Now the other puzzle. Here was our old warm water heater - over the bathtub with faucet and showerhead attached. Weird, but it works. Well, it did work. The element went out and I had planned to just replace the element myself until I found out prices. A new element would cost 700 kr. and we were planning to remove the heater and buy a different one next year, and a new heater was only 3500 kr.  We went ahead and bought a new high-speed heater and had it installed in the bathroom closet out of the way of bathtubbing. That left this mess over the bathtub:

Ugh. Hot and cold pipes in weird places, faucet and shower heads to affix to a concrete wall somehow. I took pictures of the set-up, went to K. Lund and showed them the pics on my phone, and they set me up with parts. I borrowed a copper tube cutter from my tool man Martin and have this strange but perfectly functioning solution:

This will work well until we get around to remodeling the bathroom. Until then, we have the ugliest bath in Trondheim. But it works.

Incidentally, I've been told that K. Lund is one of the most expensive plumbing shops in town. But I'll tell you what, those guys were so eager to help, had great advice, and set me up with exactly the right parts first time. I think that's worth a little extra cash.

Loving it

We've been doing a lot of fix and renovating. And absolutely loving it. After renting houses for the past several years, it's a very beautiful thing to have our place that we can do whatever we want with it. It's worth every hassle!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Loi Krathong

Christmas concert at the school today. The kids were really exciting and were in several numbers each. Maggie played the bass line for "Ice Ice Baby" on the piano and had a big singing part for "Imagine" where she was dressed as a hobo. Peter had a big role in the singing of "We are the World". Pam kept busy running the silent auction, which earned about twice what it did last year.

Afterwards, a lot of folks gathered in the field outside of the festning to launch paper lanterns into the sky in celebration of Loi Krathong and Yi Peng, two Thai Budhist festivals that are now celebrated together. The floating away of candles represents letting go of one's grudges, anger, and bad things about oneself and starting the new year fresh.

It was an awesome sight to see the crowd of people grouped around large glowing cylinders of paper, holding them steady against the slight wind as the yellow flame inside burned and heated the fragile pocket of air. After a minute or two, the lanterns would begin to lift, and hopeful families would skeptically release their grip, hoping the lantern would lift into the night sky. Sometimes, the lantern would not lift but slide through the air at head level, eliciting shouts of warning as the flaming airship passed through the crowd. Children would run beneath their lanterns, sometimes nudging them upwards. The lanterns would soon lift, quickly becoming mysterious points of light gliding away into the unknown. Cars along the road slowed or pulled over to see the spectacle of dozen of lanterns lifting into the darkness, like ufos.

It was a beautiful and awesome evening.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chasing down disasters

Ahhh... new house, new experiences, new things breaking all the time. I've been working all week on a clogged kitchen drain, reluctant to spend $500 on a professional. I did call a few places, and they would need more than a week to get out here, so I continue. I've tried 3 different snakes, 2 different potions, boiling water and pumping. Today I'll make my final attempt, opening a port in pipe in the basement very near to where I'm certain the blockage is. This could get quite wet. With an electric heated floor down there, I've got to set this up very carefully. We're pretty tired of doing dishes in a bucket.

The element burned out on the warm water heater. It is an old heater that is mounted on the wall over the bathtub, with the faucet and shower head connected right to the water tank. I tested the element went to buy a replacement, but the replacement element was very expensive. We planned to replace the water heater this spring anyways because we don't like it in our bath and shower space. So, we bit the bullet and bought a new heater instead which was installed two days later. The installer was unable to reconnect the faucet and shower head, so now we have hot water but no shower or bath. I'll be heading to the plumbing shop today to buy some parts to rig something up. When it's done, it will be a snake nest of pipes over a steel mounting bracket and broken ceramic tiles. It's going to be very very ugly, but it will work.

The bathroom sink needs attention also. It is a very old sink with separate hot and cold faucets, which means it's impossible to comfortably wash your hands. And the water and drain hookups for the sink? Oh, they don't exist. The pipes are welded directly to the sink itself, so that will be exciting.

Anna set the kitchen table on fire last night. She put a plastic lid on top of 3 lit candles and didn't notice until the lid was in flames. The table is burnt.

It's just one thing after another. Oh well, it feels like we're slowly making progress!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

2 x 4s

OK, I complained to a Norwegian friend about the strange metric sizes that were made to match awkward export sizes, and I learned some interesting things.

2x4s used to be 2 inches x 4 inches, but when drywall became popular the wood was reduced 1/2 inch in each direction to fit with 1/2 inch drywall. The name 2x4 was already a standard name, and as I said earlier it sounds nice to say it, so the name stuck.

Here's the funny bit with Norway - what do they call a 38 x 89? They call it a "to ganger fire" - a 2x4! The same name as in English, even though inches are a very uncommom unit here. (Although TVs and bicycles are measured in inches, or "thumbs" as the Norwegians say (tomler).

So, it seems even though 2x4 is wrong, it's a nice name and it's international, even in a metric country. Which makes the name twice as wrong in Norway as in the U.S.

I can live with that.

Friday, December 2, 2011


I made my first purchase of lumber in Norway, buying it from Obs! Bygg, the equivalent of Home Depot. There were new things to figure out, for sure. I asked a fellow shopper to explain the system to me, and then it was pretty straightforward.

First, there's some sizing to get used to. In the U.S. the most common size is a 2x4, which measures 1.5" x 3.5". I've always that was insanely difficult. I guess I've always liked the name "2-by-4" – it's catchy. I just didn't like that the measurements were not 2"x4".

The equivalent here is the 38 x 89, which measures 38 mm x 89 mm. The name matches the measurements, but it's awful all around. Why not make them 40 x 90 and call them "4-by-9s" (4 decimeters x 9 decimeters)?

Well, 38 x 89 happens to be, maybe you guessed it, 1.5" x 3.5". The standard is international, the names are domestic. It's a bit of shame the numbers aren't easier. Metric fail!

Each piece of wood is stamped on the end with its length and quality. Instead of buying 6' or 8' pieces, you pick out the lengths close to what you want, anything from 2.5 meters to 4 or 5 meters long, and then cut only what you need if you like.

I was very impressed with the quality of the wood. Every single piece was straight and strong with clean edges. This was definitely not like sorting through piles of 2x4s in Home Depot, trying to find the straighter and less knotty pieces.

It cost 16 kr per meter, which is a bit less than $7 for an 8 footer. I think I'd normally pay about half that in the U.S., which makes it an okay price. Given the very high quality, it's a purchase I can feel good about.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent calendars

All the kids got advent calendars and were very happy this morning to be up early and seeing what is behind the window for day 1. Peter got a Lego advent calendar, Anna got a Kinder mix calendar, and Maggie got Smarties. Exciting!