Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve 2012

Fireworks as seen from festning ground
New Year's Eve is a big deal in Norway. A very big deal. Folks dress up in fine black clothing and head out to parties and children are excited to stay up to see one – and maybe two! – fireworks shows.

We went as a family (with dog) down to the festning at 7:00 pm for the children's fireworks show. They do an early show so that young kids can enjoy it without having to stay up for midnight. It's pretty amazing to stand just outside the fortress walls while the fireworks launch, huge and magnificient overhead!

We then came home, and having no party of our own to go to this year, played a family game of Settlers of Catan and then waited for midnight.

At about 11:45 folks began setting off their own fireworks. I love this part of the evening. We live on the side of cliff in this big bowl that forms the valley around downtown Trondheim and the fjord. We have a great view of the entire city, and so we can see fireworks everywhere – and tons of them! This year, the fireworks were in all direction except for over downtown. A couple of years ago it became illegal to set them off over sentrum because of the fire risk, but that didn't stop people from doing it last year. Perhaps there was a public awareness campaign this year (or very good enforcement last year that people got the point!) Regardless, the show was terrific.

Fireworks from our balcony
Then at midnight, another bigger show again from the fortress, but this time we watched from our balcony. The personal fireworks went on for some time afterwards.

The whole family loved it. Except for the dog. Poor Indy. He'll recover...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New park discovery

I spotted a park on my Google Maps app very close to our house, a park I hadn't seen before. I asked Maggie – she has explored all over and of course knew the park. "Lille Kuhaugen" she told me is the local name of the park. "Wanna go?" she asked. So we went. There's a breathtaking view of the city from up here, as well as a couple of benches. We met a nice dog for Indy to play with as well.

It's nice to have so many parks a very short distance from our house. These parks are protected by the kommune – there will be no houses built in these areas. I like that.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

God jul!

Merry Christmas! God jul!

Indy is very happy with his really really big chewie

The house is a disaster, the kids are very happy

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Art day

Today I spent the whole day making artwork... gluing cubes together and lacquering them, and framing artwork. A very nice way to spend a holiday Sunday.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Solstice was yesterday, but because of parties and weird schedules, we celebrated today instead. In Norwegian, solstice is 'solsnu', or 'sun turning', when the sun reverse direction begins climbing again.

 We went on our annual nature walk at noon, the sun unbelievably low in the sky. We collected small interesting things we found, brown sticks, red and white berries, green moss, and then brought them home for candles, cookies, and songs.

Afterwards, to the theater to see the Hobbit! (It was Maggie's third time seeing the film - she can't get enough!)
Noonday sun, December 22nd

Peter climbing a tree

Cookies! Norwegian tradition calls for 7 kinds of cookies during the holidays.

Off to see the Hobbit again – both Maggie and Anna dressed up!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Early Santa visit

There was a knock on the door this evening. It was Santa! He made a special visit to our house this evening because he had just picked up a present for Anna and it was too cold at the North Pole to store this gift until Christmas.

It's a dwarf hamster, and Anna could not be happier!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Private museum showing

A colleague arranged a special viewing of an exhibit at the Trondheim Kunst Museet (art museum) this afternoon. The artist, Annika Borg, has rolled 5 six-sided dice 101 times every day for 18 years and recorded the results. She uses these random numbers to create artwork.

A group of us from work met at the museum to see the exhibit and talk to her about her technique and the story behind the random numbers. Afterwards, we got a tour of some of the other works in the museum then went to Ni Muser (Nine Muses) coffeeshop next door to enjoy one another's company just before vacation. It was a beautiful way to end the work year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Anna's 'Scream' pepperkake

There's been a lot of cookie baking going on in the kitchen these past few weeks. Pam and Anna made pepperkake tonight. Pepperkake is like gingerbread, but with pepper instead of ginger.

Anna made this one special, it's inspired by 'The Scream' by Edvard Munch:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Santa Lucia katter

At work this early morning, a group of friends gathered us into a meeting room lit only by candles. At 8:30 in the morning, it is still pitch black outside. They then came in dressed in Santa Lucia garb: white robes with candles and pointy hats for the boys. They sang a Santa Lucia song and then served us Santa Lucia 'katter' ('cats'), which are special s-shaped buns with two raisins that are supposed to represent cat faces.

Santa Lucia's day was actually on the 13.December, but because of travel they couldn't celebrate it until this morning. I was very glad to be a part of this nice holiday surprise!

Later that day after a meeting, Svein and I decided to put some sound-insulating hexagons to good use. We built this truncated icosahedron (avkortet ikosaeder) and hung it in the lunch room. We were very pleased with ourselves!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Winter Concert

The kids presented their top-secret class performances at the school's annual winter concert. There was lots of food, a silent auction, and plenty of friends to meet.

Afterwards, Pam and I hustled off to another Julebord, this time with my business partners and associates. Fine food, drink and dancing. We are full-tilt into holiday spirits!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Deck the Halls

This evening we decorated the tree. In Norwegian tradition, the tree is not usually decorated until Christmas Eve. In fact, it is left outside until the evening before Christmas when it is brought in and decorated, and then festivities ensue such as dancing around the tree. We don't have enough space in our small house to dance around the tree, and we can't wait until Christmas Eve either. Nevertheless, we did enjoy cookies and eggnog and Christmas music.

Jul workshop

I ran a Christmas workshop with a colleague for math education students at the university this evening. We made wire beaded stars, origami stars, paper snowflakes with 5-fold symmetry, and trihexaflexagons and hexahexaflexagons.

Glogg and pepperkake were served, and we had a guitarist come and play a Christmas song. About 30 people attended. It was an exciting evening and a lot of fun!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Hobbit

The Hobbit opened Wednesday in Norway, two days before the U.S. opening. Maggie and Frøy had tickets to the first show (they bought them months ago), and went in costume, of course!

You go, girls!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Anna's piano recital

Anna had her piano recital this afternoon at Ila kirke (Ila church) down in sentrum. The church is located at the site of where there were city gates. Trondheim is protected by a curvy river that made it easy to secure the borders to the city. Plunk a fortress on the high hill and a naval base on the one island in the fjord and you've got a great place for a safe city.

Anna played two songs on the piano and joined in with a group that sang a song in Norwegian. She's becoming quite capable on the piano.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Getting acclimatized

We had quite a bit of snow last night and continuing on through today. Although we had a couple of days of snow at the end of October, last month was fantastically warm and we are quite happy the snow has held off this long.

Even tonight it feels warm... but oddly enough the mercury reads -13°C right now (9°F). How is it that this doesn't feel very cold? I'm afraid I know the answer, and it's related to this:

Last week I was ordering something online from the U.S. It cost $51. I wasn't sure what the current conversion rate was so I lazily typed into Google "51 usd to nok". Out came the answer: 286 nok. I looked at that number. It couldn't be right. $51 is a lot of money, but 286 nok is kind of like what you might give your kid if they're going to the movies and might want to buy a drink and a popcorn. $51 is serious money, 286 nok is not very much.

Could I have misplaced a decimal point? No, 2860 kroner was way too much money. After a moment it dawned on me. The number was right, my perception of normal prices in Norwegian kroner did not match with my perception of normal prices in US dollars. After all these years fretting about how much things cost in Norway, my mind has finally made the leap. I no longer think in terms of what something costs when I convert to dollars, I compare the cost to what other things cost in kroner.

So, I've made the money leap and the coldness leap as well.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas tree shopping

This morning we went down to Plantasjen to buy a Christmas tree. We'll decorate it later this week.
Can you find all three forest elves in the picture above?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Slow and beautiful morning

Slow Saturday morning, no big plans today. I've got a pot of risgrøt on the stove and the kitchen is filling with the sweet smell of a warm delicious breakfast slowly cooking. I'm sitting at the table drinking coffee and staring out across the fjord. It's 10:30 a.m. and the sun has been up for about half an hour, the "early morning" light low and pink, lighting up the clouds across the water in red and blue and deep purples. The rooftops are frosting with a sprinkling of powdered sugar snow. It's a fine Norwegian morning.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bårdshaug Herregård

We celebrated our first Julebord (= "Christmas table", or "party/feast" might be a better translation) of the season with the Math Center at a mansion in Orkanger, about 45 minutes west of Trondheim. Bårdshaug Herregård was built in 1860 and then developed by industrial tycoon Marius Thams in the early 1900s. He build Norway's first railroad to carry copper ore from Løkkenverk to a smelter in Orkanger and became very rich. He build an elborate bath house with electric showers, the first in Norway, and was popular with the king. The house is filled with hunting trophies from his many trips to Africa, as well as a library of valuable books, mostly French.

The Julebord was very fun, with entertainment, dinner and dancing until late late into the night. It was a beautiful way to celebrate the end of a good conference and the start of the holiday season.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Love on a Stick

The Norwegian name for a lollipop? Kjærlighet på pinne, which translates directly as: Love on a Stick.

How awesome is that?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A few shots from Ginger Swirl Studio

Pam's been doing a lot of workshops at her studio and managing to pay the bills and cover expenses with the courses. Lately, the classes are Christmas themed and participants have been making snowmen, trees and wreaths. Gorgeous stuff!

Here's a few pics I snapped in her studio last week.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Exhibition at Lademoen church

The insect exhibit was at Lademoen church, a short walk from our house. There were a couple other kids' crafts shows going on at the same time, a table where a school was selling cookies and juice and coffee.

There was also a musical show, which I hadn't excpected! First a few songs by some young teenagers, and then a performance by the band Mandarinsaft (which means Mandarin soft drink). We looked at art, chatted with friends, and chilled out to the sublime music of this popular children's band. They've got tunes up on their MySpace page if you want to give them a listen.

Here's some pics of the exhibition:

Peter's "spider-scorpion-cheetah thing"

Anna's "Silver Rex"

Thursday, November 29, 2012

November conference

It was a busy two days with the November Confernce, the Math Center's annual national math teach conference. The conference opened with a performance from Pirum, a student singing group. They dress in britches and suspenders, jackets and caps and personalized buttons and ties and other tilbehør. The sing fun songs with lots of acting bits during the singing. They are very funny and a joy to watch. Here's their website:

A highlight of the conference was the talk by Thomas Nordahl from the Center for Praksis Research at the University of Hedmark, especially the factors that have proven effect on learning and those that have no effect. You can find the presentation at Math Center's website. It's in Norwegian.

A great quote from his talk:
Ikke spør om du leder. Det gjør du. Ikke spør om du vil gjøre en forskjell. Det vil du. Spørsmålet er: Hvilken type leder vil du være og hvilke forskjell vil du gjøre?
 Don't ask if you lead. You do. Don't ask if you make a difference. You will. The question is: What kind of leader will you be and what difference will you make?
It was a terrific two days. I met a lot of old friends and made many new friends. There was a lot of work leading up to the conference, and it feels great that we've pulled it off.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Maggie has been visiting different videragående skoler (high schools) this week. After 10th grade, pupils in Norway apply to high schools, each with a different focus, perhaps science, art, music, dance, aquaculture, video, farming, etc. The programs are competitive and run for 3 years, 11th-13th grade. Some 95% of children in Norway attend VGS, and about 2/3 of those graduate.

She is most interested in the International Baccalaureate program at Katedral Skole in downtown Trondheim. It is the most academically intensive program and the only program offered in English. A diploma from this school would pretty much guarantee her a place in any university in Europe. She is also interested in the forestry or the large animal programs, but those schools are outside of town and she would live in a dormitory.

The past two days she's spent shadowing a class at Katedral Skole and really likes the environment there. The pupils call the school "Hogwarts". She'll need to get straight A's this year if she wants in, though she thinks she'd be just as happy though out in nature. I think she's really a Norwegian at heart.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


We began cooking Wednesday night. On Thursday, Pam and I both came home at lunch from work to finish preparations. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, cream cheese jello, salad, mmmm... We had 3 families over to celebrate with us.

Thanksgiving, I explained to our guests, has its roots in the idea that newcomers to America would have died without help from the natives, and so this feast was to celebrate how thankful they were for their help. Likewise, we would have died coming to Norway without the help of the natives, and so now we celebrate how thankful we are for our friendships. (Peter wanted to add that the newcomers later killed off many of the natives.)

After dinner, what else? American football! Since we couldn't get a live game, we watched the 2000 game between the Jets and Dolphins, which was rated one of the top 5 most exciting NFL games. With the Jets way way behind at halftime it looked like not a very interesting game. Somehow, we sensed a comeback on its way. It was hilarious explaining the rules to our Norwegian friends, and trying to explain what constitutes a fair catch and what it means when a knee is touching the ground etc etc etc. They were quite insistent that our game of "football" involved almost no "feet" and certainly no "ball"!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How long is 10 feet?

Anna (9) asked me last night, "How long is 10 feet?"

"3 meters," I answered.

"Oh. OK!"

I found that entire exchange shocking and delightful! My daughter doesn't know what a 'foot' is, but once related to meters she understands. We're definitely becoming European!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Insect class at Remida

Anna and Peter are taking a free course at Remida, the recycled material art center in Svartlamoen. It's being taught by our friend Dolores, and the kids are making a variety of insects. Tonight I came with them to help out and Dolores told me I should make my own insect ... I was so happy!

Peter paints his cheetah-scorpion
Anna works on her bug

Remida is filled with buckets of exciting waste materials
My creation

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Losing words

Norwegian is creeping into my English, more and more. For a long time I've been saying, "I'll ring you later" which is technically good English, but not a phrase I would have ever used before. It would have been "I'll call you later." A few days ago I said "I need to hent the kids" instead of "fetch the kids" and just now, looking for some lost papers, I suggested "we should seek in the paper recycling." I reported to Pam that "there were 15 pieces there" instead of "15 people" (you might say "15 stykker" in Norwegian which translates directly as "15 pieces" but refers to people). I don't know how many times I've told people I'm "opptatt" instead of "busy". Yep, I'm slowly getting better and better at Norwegian, and verre and verre at English.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012