Hyttetur (Cottage Trip)

We returned today from a three night hyttetur–or a stay with friends in a cottage in the forest near the sea. It is hard to know how to begin to describe our experiences, and perhaps, Paul will at some point take a turn to write his thoughts. Until then, I may just ramble a bit from this to that, maybe returning to this subject in some future blog post, in order to try to remember it all.

The Norwegian hytte, or cottage, is a cultural thing. Many Norwegians own a small vacation home, not unlike a lake house which is common in the Minnesota area. They spend their down time there, weekends, summers, winters, whatever their particular hytte would accommodate. Hyttes can be in the mountains, forests, along the sea, usually away from the Big City. They are historically somewhat primitive and rustic, probably small, usually remote, and have a fireplace to encourage hyggelig, or coziness.  More recently, in the past generation, they may have more modern conveniences, like an indoor bathroom, electricity, hot water, or a dishwasher. Or not.

When our friends, Astrid and Asbjørn, and Britt and Magnus, came to North Dakota for two weeks in September of 2016, we did not have a hytte to which to invite them. So, we settled for a one-night stay in two cabins in Itasca State Park in Minnesota, where we cooked meals over the outdoor firepit, hiked in the woods, crossed the Mississippi River headwaters, and sang hymns into the night by Lake Itasca.  For our time in Norway this summer, they planned to host us for this hyttetur at two hyttes; one belongs to a son/DIL and the other is Astrid and Asbjørn’s. We all stayed in the first for three nights, and we spent the majority of one afternoon and evening at the second.

The first hytte is in the forest about 150 meters from the sea where one could fish or swim or boat. It is a modern cottage with a great wraparound deck and views of the sea. It seems to have been literally built on a giant rock, but we were told that there were actually trees and soil under the cottage. I still say it was on a rock. (which reminds me of the popular old children’s Sunday School song about the wise man who built his house upon the rock…but I digress.) It was remote-ish, in that our cars had to be parked about 150 meters into the woods, and we hiked to the cabin…over a giant rock. Like I said.

I cannot imagine the work that was required to build this cabin at this location. It was beautiful, and we all enjoyed our breakfasts, coffee-times, and evening meals at a different location on the deck with peaceful views. One late afternoon while we were having coffee and apple pie, a deer wandered past about 50 meters from where we sat. This may come as a surprise to most people, but there was only one indoor bathroom and shower for the six of us. If necessity struck, there was an outdoor privy down by the storage shed. There was also an outdoor shower, but it was not required for this trip.

Astrid and Asbjørn’s hytte is about 1.5 hours from this one, still in a forest, and hidden among the trees with a waterfall and river down the bank about 25 meters. It is an older cottage with two levels, three bedrooms, and a tiny indoor bathroom with a compost toilet.  To bathe, one would simply go to the river and pool and bathe in the  fresh water. They have a large outdoor kitchen prep area with a stone fireplace (as well as a compact indoor kitchen)–in fact, at their cottage, all the stone and concrete work was completed by Asbjørn himself. As the story goes, he was involved in the initial building of this hytte 20 years before owning it. We spent the afternoon and most of the evening visiting, walking, preparing the meal, and eating at, what I described as, the best seats in the house. The sunset, the waterfall, the river and pool, the peaceful forest; all so hyggelig.

Britt and Astrid planned the food for this trip so thoughtfully; we are humbled by the love and care they all bestowed upon us. We ate crab legs, duck confit with roasted vegetables and a mashed potato/broccoli sidedish, deer flanks with roasted potatoes, and papaya, and a deep dish quiche with green salad (yay, I made these!). Each morning, Asbjørn set out a breakfast buffet which we enjoyed eating, again, while sitting out on the deck overlooking the sea.

We also visited two smaller towns along the coast, Kragerø and Risør, during the days. I’ll write about those in another post. Thanks for reading!

Finally, the Norsk Folkemuseum

We used to take our kids to museums. All.The.Time. No, really. If you asked them where we went on vacations, I would expect them to say as part of their answer, “You mean besides museums?” Well, nothing wrong with a little education while on vacation, I always say. In light of that, Paul and I had planned to go into Oslo one time this summer and spend the day at the (mainly) outdoor Norsk Folkemuseum. We had not gone to visit this museum on either of the times we have been here, for whatever reason, maybe weather. They are open all year round, but, I tell you, it would not be very comfortable traipsing around the expansive grounds in the middle of winter.

We had mentioned our intent to do this to our friends, Otto and Grethe, and they had not been there in, I am guessing, about 50 years, so we all decided to go together. Yesterday was supposed to be good weather and no rain, so they picked us up at 10 am. We skipped the inside exhibits and went straight for the outdoor regional buildings and ‘living history’ part of the museum. Their grounds are divided up in Norwegian regions with the featured buildings having originated in those regions and painstakingly taken apart and rebuilt in the appropriate area in the museum. The regions featured are Telemark, Hallingdal, Numedal, Setesdal, Valdres, Østlandet, Hardanger, Sunn- og Nordfjord (Southern and Northern Fjords), Trøndelag, Østerdal, and the inner-city area of Oslo (circa 1910), Enerhaugen. They also feature a stave church from Gol which was built in the 13th century up on a hill. I think this must be the most photographed building on the premises. On up another hill (what is it with the Norwegians and their hills?) was a typical mountain ‘hytte’ from 1937. It was extremely primitive and had beds for eight people! Families could have been quite large.

There were costumed workers all around doing period-appropriate activites and answering all questions–lefse baking (their recipe included eggs and baking soda–gasp!), Norwegian fairy tales told in front of a roaring fireplace, weaving, pottery, silversmith, making coffee (in the 1959 house–where the ‘wife’ had been drinking coffee on the front porch with her classic “Farmer’s Rose” pattern china), horse-drawn buggy rides, merchants in their shops, and others. There were, every hour, folk music and dancing performances in the Telemark region. One interesting place was the  festival grounds and how the museum encouraged visitors to bring food and picnic there–we passed it from a distance, but could see many people grilling their meats on large public grills. I think the museum sold drinks and the meats for grilling as well. Great concept.

Walking around with Otto and Grethe was like having our own living history experts. Several times, one or the other would explain the reason why an outbuilding or home was built that way, or how the animals were kept, or that they used to use that product, or, on one occasion, Otto broke into song and sang the entire “Fredag Song” which was written on the chalkboard in the one-room schoolhouse! I really wish I had a video of that! Oh, and there was one building in the Hallingdal region (where Otto and Grethe grew up and still have a house) whose original owner (according to the name on the placard) was Otto’s great-great-…grandfather! Wow.

We stopped mid-day for a coffee (or, in the case of Paul, a $5.50 12 oz. Coke), water,  and a smørbrød. Can’t walk around all day on nuthin’. We even ran into someone we all knew from church–Kenneth is an American who has lived in Norway for many years, and , on the side, is a tour guide for groups of Americans who are touring Norway.

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Yesterday was a special day at the museum, due to celebrating Midsummer’s Day, and they were staying open late for a concert and a parade, but we left around 4 pm.

More to do. Like bake an apple pie for our ‘hytte tur’ which begins tomorrow! Adventures await!

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A Midsummer Night’s Date or Trope Natt på Mosseporten

Paul accused me tonight of having to do something or see someone every night while we are in Norway. I deny that accusation. In the just over two weeks that we have been here, there have been several days when we didn’t do anything at all. But seriously folks, we are only going to be in Norway for about 7 weeks (two weeks we are in Czech or Poland), and I don’t want to waste any of those days! So, I thought tonight, it being Midsummer’s Day and all, we should go out and do something. Being on a rather spartan budget, my idea consisted of taking a city bus to the indoor shopping mall on the outskirts of town (Mosseporten), walking around, maybe getting an ice cream cone (Softis–soft-serve ice cream for 10 NOK each [$1.25]), and returning using the transfer bus ticket so we wouldn’t have to pay double. Bus rides are not cheap here–they are 40 NOK or $5 per ride.

After our dinner of chicken salad on large cheese-topped round buns (they were out of the croissants when I went to the market today-drat!) and sliced raw veggies with dipping sauce (and, while I am on the subject, can I just say that even that simple meal took a long time because I had to look up the recipes for both the dipping sauce and the chicken salad dressing and prepare both from scratch. Thank you.), we took our umbrellas and walked the 50 meters or so to the bus stop. I cannot tell you how convenient it is having a bus stop so close to home.

As soon as we walked into Mosseporten, it was obvious that there was something special going on. There was a booth giving out cut up pineapple and watermelon! And they were also giving out different kinds of juices! And they were also giving out popcorn! For free! Our little date night just got better! Right next to this free food booth, there was photo booth all set up with a tropical backdrop and props and a gal available to take your picture! And give you picture bookmarks. For free! Of course we availed ourselves to all they offered and expressed our gratitude. Why was all this going on, you may ask? Apparently, today, and today only, was “Trope Natt” at the Mosseporten–Tropical Night because of today being the first day of summer, June 21st. So, there were decorations all over the mall. In every store, hanging from the ceiling, as well as another free food booth at the other end of the mall–and this one was also giving away cotton candy.  There was a face-painting booth, and not the type of face-painting I did for my kids’ kindergarten class, no, really fabulous face-painting with sparkles and detailed designs. All of the stores also were having sales (as all stores do). I actually bought a blouse, and while I was checking out, I asked the gal if this celebration was only for this day–she said, yes, and it’s so much fun! But, what I was thinking was, oh.my.word. So much work for just one day. 

I got to thinking, I wonder if all that work for one day’s celebration is like other things these Norwegians do–like how the food in restaurants is presented so nicely, or how the coffee tables are set so beautifully for just coffee and cake, or how they use candles to make one’s home so koselig (cozy). Yep, probably is connected somehow.

Oh, and yesterday, I baked an apple coffee cake, and couldn’t let it be wasted on just us, so fortunately, after the Wednesday night Bible Study, some friends came over for coffee and cake. Yes, coffee until 10 pm. Not decaf. She brought over some roses from her garden.

Today, June 21st, is our grandson, Weston’s, first birthday! We are thankful for his life, his health, and his Godly parents.

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Until next time, thanks for reading!

 

Jeg har…Vil du…Jeg ikke forstår…

“I have…Will you…I don’t understand…”

Whew. It seems that since my last post, I have attempted to speak more Norwegian than, well, since a long time ago.  We have been fortunate in the last four days to spend a lot of time with friends of ours, and since we are living in Norway, I feel as if I should at least try to speak the native language. Only problem is, I have never taken a real class in Norwegian. This can pose a bit of problem at times. For one thing, I seem to nod and say, ‘ja’ a lot. I try to read people’s faces–so when they look amused, I respond in kind. I do actually understand some words, really I do. I just interject additional words in my brain and make up the rest. Occasionally, this may have gotten me into trouble. But usually just some mild trouble. For example, on Thursday, a friend picked me up and we went shopping to two thrift stores (yay!), and when she asked (or so I thought) if I’d like to go have coffee at her house, and I said “ja”, we ended up at a very nice cafe on the nearby island of Jeløy, the Cafe Røed. We had a great time, and her cousin and daughter joined us. My friend bought my delicious onion soup and bread–she may have thought my just buying a cup of coffee was not enough.

So, on Friday, we were picked up by some friends and taken to the nearby seaside village of Son. Before we left for Norway, I had a hankering for some fish ‘n chips, so I did a bit a research on Trip Advisor and read that the village of Son had the ‘best fish ‘n chips’ in Norway. These friends were so kind to want to pick us up and take us there–we wandered the streets a bit before finding the place, but it was a delightful meal! Again, though, I am really trying hard to speak Norwegian as much as possible. Somewhat limiting in my making conversation, I find. Hopefully our friends are not finding me boring.

Finally, today, after church we all stay and have a cup of coffee and some tasty ‘julekake’ from the region of Hallingdal. We are invited by a good friend (you know who you are!) to have a ‘bit of food’ and ‘discussion’ after church and maybe a ‘short walk’. When a Norwegian invites you for a ‘short walk’, be prepared for a long hike. Just sayin’.  I think after the day was said and done, we walked about 5 km, but it was uphill! Both ways! Okay, not exactly both ways. Fortunately, we all took a break in the middle of our ‘walk’ at the cafe at Alby F 15 (on the nearby island of Jeløy) for, what else, coffee and cake! But, this was not just cake–it was the specialty of this particular cafe, kringler. And what was quite funny was, during our little break, Paul recognized and spoke with a student he had taught at the American College of Norway back in 2002.  Also, a young woman and her baby from our little church here came walking in and a couple we had not seen since our stay here in 2002 and who we had hosted at our home during that semester came walking in as well. So, all in all, we had quite the gathering at the cafe for coffee and cake. It seemed as if all of Moss had decided to visit Alby F 15 this afternoon.

The ‘bit of food’ was prepared by our friends, and I offered to bring my ‘broken cake’ I had made last night. The pan I used for this chocolate cake was a silicone one, and I had never used one like it before. Unfortunately, it broke apart while removing it from the pan–I figured gluing it together with ganache would work. Paul thought it not suitable for company, but I said yes. Plus, I covered it with strawberries and a dusting of powdered sugar, and voila! Good enough for company.

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Six hours later, we arrived back home. Tired from our walk and satisfied with our ‘discussion’.

And, Happy Father’s Day, dear Paul! You have been a gift to our children and to myself.

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Movie Time and More

I don’t want to get in the habit of writing too frequently on this blog–that may become boring for readers and repetitious for me. I think what may happen is I will write when either something interesting happens or it’s been what I consider to be ‘quite a while’.  Today’s post is being written due to both of these options.

While perusing the weekly free newspaper, Byavis, yesterday, [yes, it’s in Norwegian. No, I can’t understand most of it. I look at the pictures and read what words I can understand] I came across a large ad for the local movie theater, Moss Kino. They were advertising a bi-weekly offering for seniors called SeniorOnsdag and SeniorFridag, basically a choice of a couple of matinee showings of one or two movies at noon on Wednesdays and Fridays. AND all guests get free coffee and cake. I checked out the movies they were offering today, and one looked quite good--The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Alrighty then, can you say ‘date night [or afternoon]’?

I met up with Paul at the American College of Norway down the road where he was working this morning, and we walked the quarter mile or so to the theater. It’s in a renovated old factory along a river, several floors, winding corridors, ivy growing along the outsides, quite lovely.

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There were not many people there, in fact, in our movie salon there was just one other older lady. Funny thing, when you buy your tickets (which, by the way were a bargain price of 90 NOK [$11] each), they assign you to a specific seat. And they seem to clump all guests together no matter how many there are. So, this one other lady? She was seated right behind us in a theater which probably seated 80. Just sayin’.

We didn’t buy popcorn; well, because it was $10 for a large bag, and because they had free coffee and cake. Yep, that is a concept that I would welcome at our theaters in Grand Forks. Free coffee and cake. Can’t beat that. There was a little table to the side of the ticket counter with a large thermos of coffee, insulated paper cups, a box of packaged creamers (yay! not many take cream in their coffee here, like I do.), napkins, and a plate with a kind of frosted carrot cake cut into small rectangles.  Help yourself!

 

The seats had a nice wooden table between them for your refreshments. Oh, and the requisite commercials before the movie? Several were very funny, and one was, well, let’s just say that the movie theaters in the US absolutely would not show it. I can’t remember what it was advertising because I was so taken aback at the man showering during the entire commercial. Full length. Back and side view. Welcome to Europe.

The movie was great! It’s an historical fiction based on a best seller which came out in about 2008. So well done; the casting, acting, cinematography, set design, costumes, script writing–all first rate. I was taken to another time and place for over 2 hours. Cannot recommend it enough.

Later tonight, we went to our weekly Bible Study at church–I had mentioned to a couple last night that we had brought with us some chocolates to share (for you Grand Forks folk, it’s a large gold box from Widman’s), and they immediately said that they would make coffee to go with the chocolates. (can’t have too much coffee over here). I was hoping that some people would stay for this and that there wouldn’t be just one or two pieces taken (which might mean that it wasn’t that necessary). I was glad to see that that the 15 people in attendance tonight all stayed for coffee and passed around the box several times until only three small pieces were left.

Tomorrow is Mosedagen–seems like a Crazy Daze type of deal–many stores having great sales and booths from which to shop along the pedestrian walk at the downtown mall. Grethe told me about it. I’ll be there. I’m sure I’ll need something.

 

Garden Party, et al.

Paul’s 64th birthday was yesterday, June 8th. That is a notable birthday for anyone who is familiar with the Beatles’ song “When I’m 64” from their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. When I was a girl, I would listen to that album over and over with headphones in my brother, Tim’s, room. So I am quite familiar with the lyrics and tune. In preparation for this austere event, I asked our oldest, Nathan, if he would make a slideshow to that song featuring a compilation of photos of Paul from over the years, and he said that he would. Knowing that we would be in Norway on his birthday, I planned that if we were not invited to a dinner party for that evening, I would host one. Well, as luck would have it, we were invited to a gathering, a Garden Party, at Astrid and Asbjørn’s, and I told them it was Paul’s birthday and I would bring the cake and candles. She said the cakes were taken care of so I just brought the candles…and the special slideshow.

We arrived at 5 pm, and the 18 or so guests joined us soon thereafter. It was a sunny day with a light breeze, the tables were each set with flowers, glasses, drinks, cloth napkins, and ‘small bites’, and Øystein was hard at work at the grill. He had several kinds of ‘pølse’ (sausages) with toppings of onions, fried onions, ketchup, mustard, and homemade horseradish sauce. When ready to eat, they are wrapped in ‘lompe’ (a tortilla-like wrap) instead of a hot dog bun. Around the three tables were dishes of strawberries, cherries, gerkins, kalamata olives, potato chips, walnuts, and dates. The Froholt’s little pug, Carmen IV, joyfully ran around the party hoping for a treat and some attention. Unlike our dog, Rocky, she didn’t bark one time.

The party went on, we showed the slideshow, they sang Happy Birthday to Paul (the American version), and about 8:00 pm or so, Astrid began serving the second meal of the event (??), a delicious curry chicken and apple soup with hot crusty bread. The sun was still bright in the sky–this is Norway after all and Midsummer is just two weeks away–although it was heading towards the horizon and the temps were dropping slightly. So, people began putting on sweaters or wraps and kept visiting.

Finally it came time for coffee and cake–two kinds brought by guests, Anna and Bente–and the singing of the Norwegian Happy Birthday song. They sing it so enthusiastically, I wish I had videoed it, but restraint got the best of me, and I did not. You’ll have to imagine it.

Throughout the evening, conversations were mostly in Norwegian, but some, especially with me, were gratefully done in English. My Norske is rather rusty, and it may take a few weeks to get most of it back. It was now 10 pm and time for the party to end. I’d say five hours was long enough for a Garden Party. By the time we arrived home, the sun had just set below the horizon of Jeløy, although it was still considerably light outside.

 

Hitting the Ground Running

20180606_161113.jpgGood ol’ Magnus and Britt.  Dear friends who we’ve known since our first stay in Moss in 2002, they initiated the welcome wagon starting on our first day in Norway yesterday. Magnus, who said we should take the ‘Magnussen’ instead of the Flybussen from the airport (I thought that was a pretty clever play on words), was there, camera in hand, waiting for us as we stepped out of the Arrivals gate at Oslo Gardemoen. We had been traveling for 22 hours from our Uber ride to Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, but we found a new energy seeing his face. He drove us the nearly 1.5 hours to his and Britt’s home in Våler where a delicious lunch and additional friends were waiting for us.

It had been three years since we left after Paul finished his teaching here at the American College of Norway, and it hardly seemed that long at all. Everyone just immediately began visiting in Norwegian and English and enthusiastically hugging and greeting one another. There were Øystein and Ragnhild, Astrid and Asbjørn, and Britt and Magnus all here; the latter two couples stayed at our home in Grand Forks for two weeks in September 2016 so we all have had the opportunity to host gatherings. The food that Britt prepared for this luncheon consisted of smoked salmon with a mustard-dill sauce, roast beef, deviled eggs, shrimp, potato salad, brie, fruit, bread, plum jam, berries, yogurts, and lunch was followed by the requisite chocolate and coffee. We ate outside in their ‘garden’, and the weather was sunny and warm with a slight breeze.

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After an appreciated ride from Asbjørn to our little flat at 7A Verket (the street on which the factory workers lived a couple of centuries ago), we had about 40 minutes to change and freshen up before leaving for the Wednesday night Bible study at our home church while we are in Moss, Den Frei Evangelikirken. We will only be here this time for about two months, so we don’t want to waste any time or opportunities! It takes about 15 minutes to walk there. The Norwegian flags were waving out front as we arrived, and Marie was waiting for us. She said that the flags were put up in our honor. There were eventually 15 people in attendance for the singing/Bible study/prayer time lasting a little over one hour. Again, it was great to see these dear folk again after three years. (in spite of my faux pas of greeting Alice by calling her Åse–oops!)

We were offered a ride home, but we are hoping to take off a few unwanted pounds by doing some walking while we are here, so we declined the offer. The sun was still bright on the horizon over the adjacent island of Jeløy on our walk home at 9 pm, and it was still light enough to play ball by (according to Paul) on our walk home from the market at 10 pm. (This long daylight helps to make up for the sun setting around 3 pm in January.)

It was 1 am when we finally hit the hay, so to speak, but there was food in the cupboard, our clothes were put away, and we were cleaned up after a rather long, tedious and joyous, 35 hour ‘day’ of travel.

Thanks for listening. More to come.

 

 

Day 1

Yep. We are starting this new adventure today. Two months, living in a small flat in Moss, Norway with an equally spartan budget. I don’t know why or how we come up with these crazy ideas, but we do. I’d like to think that there was some divine intervention at work this time, mainly due to the perfect fit of the need of a family of Mennonite missionaries who are renting our house while we are away. They are attending the Wycliffe Summer Institute of Linguistics at UND this summer and needed a home for June and July-the exact months we would be gone. They are a family of 8 and our house fits the needs of their family perfectly. I think our house may be in better condition when we return!

We left our sweet dog, Rocky, with a daughter again, this time it was Rachel, and she lives in Fargo. He is getting up there in years, nearly 15, is somewhat deaf and arthritic, and she will take good care of him, just as Emily did three years ago in Florida.

We are also leaving our children, but they are hardly children now. In fact, as of just yesterday, we  are now the proud parents of all four kids employed, full-time, in benefitted careers! Whew! But, I digress.

Boarding our plane from DC to London will begin shortly. Excited. Exhausted. Etc.