Monday, January 30, 2012

New car

We have a short steep hill leading up to our house. It's too steep to be plowed but folks on the street take turns graveling it. Gravel is not enough, though, especially this winter. A continuous cycle of warm and freezing has resulted in a diamond-hard 3-inch thick layer of the slickest ice I've ever trod upon.

Of the six houses on our street, we are the only ones without 4-wheel drive and the only one who regularly get stuck. We use chains on our tires sometimes to get up the hill, but there's no ice on any of the main roads and the chains get broken driving on asphalt. So, we either break chains, put the chains on and off, or park at the bottom of the hill.

Friday and Saturday we got stuck on the hill both days. A crowd of neighbors came out to help push, pull, and eventually hook up a tow line to rescue us. Saturday we said "that's it, we're buying a 4-wheel drive car tomorrow." And we did!

There were many to choose from on (Norway's online private market site, totally awesome). I made several calls and we drove out of town 30 minutes to look at one that looked great and was inexpensive. We bought it on the spot.

It's a 1988 Toyota Corolla 1.6 XLI, 5 seat station wagon (red) with full time 4-wheel drive, sun roof, light rack on top (good for avoiding moose in the country), and brand new studded tires. It's got a tiny engine but it climbs up slick roads no problem. And we got it for 15000 nok (about $2500) which is about the least you can get a functioning car for in Norway. Our last car cost 12000 nok, and we've been driving it for 2.5 years. I hope we get as lucky with our new red one.

We're finally ready for the rest of winter!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Last day of skikurs

Final day of the kids' skiing/snowboarding classes in Bymarka. The kids get to ski through a finishing area where they get certificates, hot dogs and juice. A fun high school band plays and sings, and folks walk around filling cups with coffee from giant black kettles that are heated over a grill.

It was a beautiful warm skiing day. Both Anna and Peter said they've improved plenty, and Anna added that "it was the best day ever!"

Big kettles of coffee cooked on a fire
High school band
Anna moves through the award line
Some kind of parachute-glider comes down the hill
Peter and Nicholas come through the line

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A borrowed baby...

What do you think? My twin?

Takkie Kakkie

OK, not so much Norway specific here, but so awesome. Our Dutch friends had this game featuring a pooping dog. You feed him a putty and squeeze a bulb when you take him for a walk, and if you're unlucky poop comes out and you have to clean it up with a scooper. Oh my, the kids love this game! Weird and cool...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Farm visit

Peter's class will hold a fundraiser for a class trip selling hortensia plants. Today the kids had a day off of school because of teacher planning, so some of the kids took a visit to a farm where we will buy the plants.

We met at a classmate's house and I walked with the kids and the mom to the farm. It's actually a farm highschool... highschools in Norway have different focuses and you can choose a music high school or handicrafts or science, and so on, and some kids attend high schools far from home. This farming high school has a dormitory, greenhouses, stables, and many different animals.

The kids examined the plants they'll be selling in a few weeks as they come into bloom just in time for Norwegian mother's day. They took photos and will be designing the advertisement for sale. Afterwards we looked at cows, petted horses and rabbits, and walked back to the house for waffles.

The walk was pretty long, about 5 kilometers round trip, but the weather was mild and I was happy to get some fresh air and get moving after an idle week.

Checking out the cows

Peter with a horse

This horse is wearing a coat that says "Norsk Slakta". A slakta is a slaughterhouse. Good thing this horse can't read!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


My third game of Scrabble in Norwegian (well, Word Feud) gave me my first victory against a friend of mine in the south of Norway who is an excellent player. It came down me being 30 points behind with a single F in my rack. That's when I saw UFO, not a word in U.S. Scrabble, but acceptable in British Scrabble and Norwegian as well ("ufo" is not an abbreviation in Europe, it's a legitimate word pronounced "oo-foh"). It gave me 22 points plus my opponent's tiles, for a very narrow steal!

I don't have strong vocabulary, but I've got good strategy, can identify letter combinations that look like they could be Norwegian words, and I'm memorizing the 2-letter word list.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pictures of the Northern Lights last night, the online version of our local paper, had some nice pictures of the lights over Trondheim that folks from around the area sent in. These are much more impressive than what we could see from within the city. What we saw last night was great even if I couldn't get a really good picture of them stretching all the way across the sky, but these pictures are awesome.

They say we'll have them again tonight. It may be a good night for a drive into the country...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Word Feud in Norwegian

Completed my first game of Word Feud on my iPhone... in Norwegian. I'm a frequent Scrabble player, in English, and I consider myself pretty tough. So this was quite a shock to the system to play in Norwegian. Wow, I felt dumb. So many words I don't know. To be looking at a rack of letters and not know what the possibilities are is fairly humbling. Forget playing for the high points, it was a victory for me just to be able to find a play.

I think I did all right for my first game, though. I lost 313 to 409. I've now started new games with two different Norwegian friends. I'm thinking this is a great way to build some vocabulary.

Northern lights over Trondheim

Maggie's friend from next door was over this evening. She gets a text message on her phone, then leaps to her feet. "Nordlys!" she yells. Northern lights!

We rushed out on the balcony. There they were. I've never seen them this big before. In fact, this was my first time seeing them in Norway. They appear all the time in Norway, especially in the north, but they are hard to see in the city and there are few people that have seen them inside Trondheim city limits before. Green bands stretched the entire length of the sky, spreading out overhead. To the north was the most interesting part, it swirled and fluttered like a slow motion curtain, occasionally growing spikes or having dark vertical bands.

I stayed out on the patio a long time watching them, long after the rest of my family had gone in, long after the neighbors had had enough and gone in as well. It felt like a show, just for me. A sign of good things to come.


Saturday, January 21, 2012


In Norway, it is illegal not to love skiing. It's that time of year again, where the children have their ski courses to be properly indoctrinated into this mandatory Norwegian activity. Anna is enrolled in cross-country, and Peter is taking snowboarding.

It was some kind of miracle that we were able to find all of the equipment after the move. We found a pair of skis the perfect size for Anna, her ski poles, and a pair of boots that are a little too big. Peter's snowboarding boots which were a bit too big for him last year are now the exact right size. We managed to borrow a helmet from some neighbors. All equipment gathered, nothing extra to buy!

On the way to Bymarka, we stopped off at the grocery store to get hotdogs, buns, marshmallows, chocolate and tangerines. The dogs and marshmallows are for roasting after skiing, and a pocketful of chocolate and an orange are traditional Norwegian snacks for while out skiing.

We arrived at Skistua just in time; the parking lot filled completely 3 minutes after we parked. A lot of kids take these courses here in the winter. There are 50 or so groups of 10, and there are two periods in which courses are given, so there are at least 1000 kids enrolled.

Unfortunately, Anna's class is in the morning and Peter's in the afternoon, so I was prepared for a full day out here. After getting Anna to her group Peter and I set off to find a slope to practice. He hadn't been snowboarding since last winter and wanted to be ready. The wind was cold and biting, and I was glad I wore a hat with ear protectors and a scarf. We practiced until he hit a tree – ouch! We then decided to take a break inside the lodge for cinnamon rolls and hot drinks.

After Anna's class, we met friends for grilling hot dogs and marshmallows. Anna couldn't wait to get back on her skis and eagerly set off with her friends after lunch. Peter practiced some more, and then nervously joined his group. He wasn't sure he up to snuff for the intermediate group, but after the class he was all smiles and ready to come back tomorrow.

It was long day out in the cold, but the kids loved it. Tomorrow we'll do some ride-sharing with friends.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Manna brasserie

Joined some colleagues for dinner at a French restaurant in Solsiden. Solsiden was lit up with festive lights and looked fantastic. The meal and company were terrific. We shared some kind of flaming cognac dish with pork, beef, shrimp and chicken. Nom nom nom!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hez goes

My sister left today... it was a nice and relaxing visit. Thanks Hez!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Birthday bowling

My annual birthday ritual: bowling! We went out with a bunch of folks and had a great time eating pizza and bowling down at the Dora bowl.

Relaxing birthday

It's my birthday today! What better way to spend it than to do . . . nothing. Pam and the kids were at school and Hez and I just played guitar and recorded music and played Scrabble. Nice!

Here's a picture of Cream, wanting in. The cats have figured out how to find every window in the house and stare at us when they want in. I feel like a fish in a bowl sometimes.

"Mr. Mittens" wants in.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mat visits

We received another visitor today – an old friend from Australia came to town. We met him at a coffee shop downtown, then back home for movie night. Hez and I have played some serious games of Scrabble on our iPhones. It's been a happy easy few days.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Soup night

The weather has been full of surprises. It got very warm, melting all the snow. Then rain. Then rainbows! Today, big fluffy snowflakes covering everything. Beautiful!

The snowy day today was perfect for soup day. Pam and Hez made lots of homemade soups. Spicy thai soup for lunch and french onion and a broccoli cheese soup for dinner. Cosy!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hez visits

My sister arrived yesterday from the U.S. Her bags didn't arrive, they got routed to Vancouver by mistake. They finally arrived late this evening – two big suitcases packed full of gifts and goodies. Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies are my favorites. It was like Christmas all over again. Yay!

Maggie and Anna waiting at the airport gate

Monster hats from Auntie Hez
This evening we ate a Jadab Indian restaurant in downtown, our favorite Indian food in town.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Peter and Maggie's electives

Kids can run their own electives now at the kids' school. Peter started his today: a lego-animation elective. It runs for four 30-minute classes. He had 17 kids show up, mostly 3rd and 6th graders. He says it went great today. They'll spend 3 classes filming and then create movie files on the last class. Way to go Peter!

Maggie has registered to teach an elective as well. Kids will begin to sign up next week. Her elective: Starship Awesome! It will be a geek-themed elective. I'm dying of curiosity to see what she has planned! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hair dye

I don't know what got into them.