Friday, October 24, 2014

Something for the weekend

We had a picnic with friends up in the canyons on Sunday, and I highly recommend it!
Hoping to get up into the mountains this weekend too.

We made it to Friday again, friends! Do you have a lot going on this weekend, or do you get to relax? Other than Espen going to a birthday party, we don't have a single plan all weekend long - which feel pretty great. Admittedly, there will be some yard work (I can't wait for the snow to come and save us from mowing the lawn!) and we might work on some shelves we (and by we, I mean Nick) are making for the bathrooms. That could potentially take up most of our Saturday, but at least we can do it while we wear our comfies and hang around at home. And I am definitely seeing a North Family Movie Night in our future.

A few things from the week:


  • This is such a weird little video, but I can't stop watching. Try picking one little person and following their journey across the screen. It's weirdly compelling, isn't? Fun fact: the software used to make this video was created by the company my husband works for! 
  • The Earth in true perspective. Oh man, this makes my head spin, especially when they get to the Hubble space telescope taking pictures of a seemingly empty spot of the sky. 
  • I think I mentioned this last week, but this Sunday is the week when the children at church lead the main meeting. At best it is sweet, spiritual and inspiring to learn from these tiny people. At worst it is completely hilarious as things start to unravel. I am so excited! This post from ldssmile.com will give you an idea of what we might have to look forward to. 
  • From the sublime to the ridiculous, posting about unusual book stores last week kept reminding me of the comedy show Black Books, which is one of my all-time favorites. Watch some clips here to get a feel of the show, or watch the entire thing here on Hulu. Moo-ma and Moo-pa is my favorite episode. :)
  • And on a completely different note again, I enjoyed this article about what the company Firestone did when Ebola broke out on their plantation in Liberia. It really illustrates, I think, what can be accomplished when you have innovation, resources and determination at your disposal. 
  • I've been wanting to see this exhibit of film costumes, and December 6th will be here before I know it, so it's time to get myself over to the BYU Museum of Art. Who's coming with me? I dearly love a pretty dress, don't you? Plus it might be the closest you and I will ever get to Johnny Depp!
  • Speaking of pretty dresses, eshakti.com just had a sale, and I treated myself to two new ones (this one and this one). Fingers crossed for good results, and thank goodness for good return policies! 
  • We have been talking about finishing our basement lately, and so we've been daydreaming about building an indoor treehouse for the kids. Wouldn't that be awesome? I'm tempted by this one from Pottery Barn Kids, but we're not going to have 11 ft ceilings in our basement! ... or $1500 to spare. Still, a mom can dream, right?
  • The others are cool too, but I loved this photo of Helen Keller meeting Charlie Chaplin. There's just something so candid, real and almost intimate about it that I really like. Plus Charlie Chaplin just looks like a nice guy, don't you think?
Have a lovely weekend!

Monday, October 20, 2014

On our walls: Instagram posters

Whenever I visit someone's home, I am always fascinated to see what they choose to hang on their walls. There's something so personal and revealing about the art and images people choose to surround themselves with, and I just enjoy that little glimpse into who people are and what they value. Maybe it's a holdover from being an art history student, and maybe I'm just a Nosey Nose Nosington. Either way, the art we have in our homes is really interesting to me. 


Posters in situ - more to come next year!

It might not come as a surprise to you that I put quite a lot of thought into the things that go onto our own walls. I want them to have significance, look good in the space I have in mind, and have a lot of staying power. I don't put anything up unless I know it's going to stay there, and I don't put anything up that doesn't make me smile or feel something that I want to feel.

2012 - see itty bitty newborn Gwen?  And Espen's second birthday!
Sigh, where did time go?!?

Our house has a long hallway with a lot of blank wall space upstairs, and I debated for a long time what I wanted to hang up there. I thought about vintage travel posters from some of our favorite destinations, I thought about a wall filled with framed photos of family and friends, I even debated some sort of mural or fancy-pantsed paint job to liven up the space a bit. At the same time, I was looking at all of these great photos I had amassed on Instagram, and realizing that they were really a record of our everyday life and something that should be preserved somehow. 

I hit on the idea of making a poster with a calendar year's worth of  favorite Instagram posts, and found a company called Printstagram* that were able to give me what I was looking for. I got one grid of 10 x 15 photos on a 20x30 print for each poster, which fit perfectly into a standard frame (thank you, Michael's 40% off coupon!). I really like how clean and simple the posters look, especially considering it's essentially a 150 photo collage. Then we hung them side by side in the upstairs hallway, where they filled and brightened the space quite nicely, thank you very much! And we still have room for more posters as the years go by. (Please don't go out of business, Instagram or Printstagram!)

2013 - lots and lots of good times. 

I pass these pictures on my way to and from the laundry room (so pretty often!), and I like to stop and indulge in the occasional nostalgic mom moment (sniff!). It's a pretty private space, so only our nearest and dearest get to see it, and they are honestly the ones who would appreciate something like this. And our kids enjoy it too! Espen likes to talk about the people and places in the photos, and Gwen likes to point out all the people she knows. Mostly her Daddy, who is the best person in her little world.

So, it's not high art by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a little slice of our family history, and maybe even something that the kids will enjoy looking at with their own kids in years to come. It tells a little bit about our story,  adds some color and is visually interesting to look at.

So, what's on your walls?



* This is not at all a paid plug for Printstagram. I think they're a great company, and would definitely recommend them, but am pretty sure they don't even know I'm alive! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Something for the weekend

The kids in the bath earlier tonight. Think they're having fun?

Friday is finally here! Do you have any fun plans for the weekend? I am spouseless until tomorrow afternoon while Nick volunteers his precious time off camping with the scouts, so here I sit with a bag of salt and vinegar crisps/chips and a couple of episodes of House Hunters International! I miss Nick terribly when he's gone, but for an introvert/hermit like me, it is nice to have a little bit of me-time. Up next: a book and a bubble bath. Gosh, I'm a wild one.

It's been a couple of weeks since I've done one of these, so I thought I'd put together a quick list of this and that from the past week:


  • I loved this compilation of different bookshops from around the world! I'm partial to a dusty old bookshop, not least because my mum co-owns a lovely one in Norway (go buy her stuff here - they ship all over the world!), but now I think I've gained an ambition to be a driver for Tell a Story in Portugal too! Maybe they'll consider a Utah-branch?
  • I'm still trying to work out how to be a gardener so we can take care of our big, empty yard, so this Fall Bulb Planting 101 post on Design Sponge was just the thing. It's a bit of work now, but I like the idea of snowdrops and daffodils popping up effortlessly in the spring. Oh, it's weird being a grownup and having to think about these things!
  • I was looking for something on the laptop the other day, and stumbled over this article about me and my Granny's pasty recipe that was published in a local newspaper when we were first married. I had completely forgotten it had ever happened, so it was a fun thing to rediscover. 
  • Someone actually shared this little essay as part of a lesson at church, but I looked it up when I got home, and liked it so much I thought I'd share it with you. I love the idea that we are all the perfect parents for our children precisely because we are their parents. 
  • I saw this video on Facebook this morning, and am still laughing. Be warned that you may get a few funny looks when you catch yourself wandering around singing "Jesus is a friend of mine - Jesus is my friend!" And you will. 
  • So what do you think of this? Amal Alamuddin (the lucky lady lawyer who just married George Clooney) has come under fire for changing her last name from Alamuddin to Clooney. Some people feel like taking your husband's name signifies that you are now his property, and that it's anti-feminist to give up your own name in favor of his. Not what you would expect from a highly successful human rights attorney! Here's what I think: I consider myself a feminist, and I do see the point - to an extent. But when I married my husband, I felt that we were jointly creating a new family together, and I wanted our names to signify that we belong together. I especially wanted our children to share their last name with both of us. And my maiden name is a bit of a beast (Robøle, if you were curious), so it made sense to go with my husband's last name of North. Plus I've always thought that Tamsin North sounded like a good name for a designer, or something cool like that. But, when push came to shove, I found it really hard to completely part with my maiden name, so I kept Robøle as my legal middle name. Basically, Amal, if you want to be Mrs. Clooney (and who wouldn't?), then you be Mrs. Clooney. And if you want to stay Alamuddin, then stay Alamuddin. You life your life, and we the people, will live ours. (Wouldn't that be nice?)
  • This is pretty great! Architect and designer Katerina Kamprani of kkstudio has created a series of objects called "The Uncomfortable Project" where each item is designed to be as useless, uncomfortable and impractical as possible. The open-toed wellington boots are my favorite, with the spoon a close second. Take the time to click around and figure them all out because they are so clever and funny! Furry plate, anyone?
  • Gwen's 2nd birthday is coming up next month, and I am plotting and planning what we are going to get her. She's a bit obsessed with dolls at the moment (serious understatement), and I am longing to get her a doll house. She might still be a little bit on the young side, but I'm thinking this one from Hape or this one from Melissa and Doug might be good for starters. We can always hide the teeny tiniest pieces (did you see the pots and pans in the Hape one?!?) until she's less likely to chomp on them. 

By the way, if you've noticed an increase in posts from Project Project lately, it's because I just noticed that I am 29 posts away from 500, so I am trying to hit that mark by the end of the year. Which means about three posts a week! Brace yourself, my friend.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Family Home Evening

An FHE favorite.

Every Monday night is Family Home Evening (or FHE) at our house, and every Monday night, after the kids are in bed and I am filled with the warm glow of having done something good for our family, I think that I should write a blog post about it. But then I'm also filled with exhaustion, and so I haven't done it yet. And honestly, it's kind of a Mormon thing, and so I'm just a little nervous that you're going to think we're strange. But that's not really you, though, is it?

Our church encourages its members to set aside one night every week to spend with our families. It can be any night of the week, but for convenience, no church meetings or activities are scheduled on Monday nights, which I think is pretty cool. And so at our house, Monday night is family night.

It basically boils down to three basic components, a lesson, an activity and a treat:

  • The Lesson: The kids don't have too much of an attention span yet, so we try to keep this part under 10-15 minutes. This is basically a chance to talk to the kids and try to teach them in a vaguely formal setting. We've taught lessons on helping at home, sharing, being kind, listening, how we want our home to be, working together, gratitude, family history, traditions and taking care of our bodies, to name a few. And because our faith is such a big part of our family life, we also teach lessons about faith, prayer, ways we can be like Jesus, the Holy Ghost, General Conference, the beautiful world that we live, and on and on. I'm sure you can see that the two lists aren't mutually exclusive at all. Sometimes the lessons are carefully planned and prepared, sometimes we fly by the seat of our pants (where did that expression come from?!?). Sometimes there are object lessons, like the time we built a lego tower to illustrate that we are all an important part of our family (what happens if you take one block/person away?), and sometimes the lesson is more practical, like working in the yard together and talking about why we do that. Sometimes the kids listen like little angels, and sometimes there are wrestling matches. 
  • The Activity: If you were to ask Espen, this is the most important part of Family Home Evening. The only real rule here is that we do something, and we all do it together (Espen would add that it has to be something fun). Sometimes our activity is tied to the lesson, like when Espen had to find us while blindfolded when we did our lesson on listening, or when we talked about taking care of our bodies and played soccer. Sometimes we just do something fun together, like go to the library or to the park. Sometimes Mama makes everyone clean up the mudroom. Espen's favorite is when we play a board game or the Wii together. The important thing is just spending time together without other distrations. 
  • The Treat: This one is fairly self-explanatory - after our lesson and activity, we eat a tasty treat together. Sometimes we might go out for ice cream, sometimes we might bake cookies, and sometimes I might forget to plan something and then we eat marshmallows out of the baking cupboard. 
I suppose you might be asking yourself how our kids feel about this. The answer is that for the most part, they absolutely love it, especially Espen. He asks us regularly throughout the week when it's going to be Family Home Evening, and is good at keeping us on track. He loves the activity part, and offers strong opinions on what it should be. Gwen is still young enough that she isn't quite ready to take equal part in everything yet, so we often let her wander back and forth as she chooses. She always shows up for the treat, though! 


Family Home Evening in the canyon.

This last Monday night we decided to take Family Home Evening on the road and head up into the canyons. For a special treat we stopped by Arby's on the way and got takeout which we ate at the picnic table you can see in the photo above. As we ate, we talked about the things we could see that we liked, and felt grateful for the beautiful world we live in. Then we explored the park, played Pooh-sticks on the bridge over the river and watched the sun set against the mountains. We talked about big, important things and we talked about silly, little things. In the car on the way home, we sang a children's song with the line "I'm glad that I live in this beautiful world Heavenly Father created for me". Our treat was hot chocolate when we got home. It was so simple, but such a great way to spend time together, which I feel like families really, really need these days. 

Making the time and wrangling the kids and getting everyone fed and watered in time for family night every week is no small undertaking. We sometimes get grumpy and frustrated as we struggle to get where we need to be. But every Monday night, with my little family gathered together around me, I feel grateful that we're trying our best to put each other first. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Adventures in berry picking

As much as I have been lamenting the end of summer since about the middle of August, it seems to be doing its level best to hang on around these parts. So much so, in fact, that the kids and I went raspberry picking with some friends in the last week of September. My good friend Tanya is one of those amazing people who not only cooks really delicious, natural food with fresh, clean ingredients, but also grows a lot of her own produce. And what she doesn't grow herself, she will pick, be it mushrooms in the mountains or fruit from pick-your-own farms. Fact: I want to be like her when I grow up.

The only thing better than a new place to explore, is a new place to explore that grows tasty berries.

 So even though I had never actually been to a fruit farm to pick my own fruit (we grew our own when I was growing up in Norway), when Tanya invited us to join her and her son on a berry picking expedition, I jumped at the chance. My kids are absolute berry fiends, and I like any opportunity to get them out of the house so they can breathe fresh air and run around. And run around they did! Espen and his good friend, Sam, picked about half a tub of raspberries which they snarfled as quickly as they could, and Gwen happily tromped around with her own little tub, picking a berry here and eating a berry there as she went. 

Espen may have sampled a berry or two. 

Because it was so late in the season and in the middle of a weekday, we were the only ones there, which was pretty nice. It gave the kids a lot of freedom to roam without getting in anyone's way, and let's be honest, gave us a lot of the same! It was nice to just hop from row to row, getting the best and juiciest berries without encroaching on other pickers' territory. And for a country girl like me, it was nice to get out of the suburbs and into the open to breathe some real air. Oh, it was the perfect way to spend a couple of hours, just picking and chatting in the sunshine.

See? Tanya even comes complete with adorable wooden baskets for picking in. 

 I didn't really head out with any huge ambitions for what I wanted to do with my berries, but seeing as I ended up with more than my family could really expect to just eat, I bit the bullet and decided to make jam. Seeing as I don't really have any proper canning gear (I know, what kind of Mormon housewife am I?) I thought I'd try my hand at freezer jam. I consulted with another friend who is some sort of food preserving genius, and she patted me on the head and sent me off with a box of her favorite pectin and her reassurances that I could do it. And it turns out that I could! Freezer jam, is little more than washing, mashing and bringing fruit, sugar and pectin to a boil, and I even I can manage that. I didn't quite have enough raspberries, so winged it and threw in a cup of the blackberries I had picked the same day. The result was crazy delicious! I gave away one jar, and we've already eaten most of one, but there are still six little jars all lined up in the freezer as a testament to my occasional domestic divinity, and as a remembrance of the lovely day we spent at the farm with good friends.

My jam haul - minus the one I gave to the friend who watched Espen while I made jam. I'm bringing bartering back! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

A bit of a ramble about a birthday weekend

Espen is playing at a friend's house, Gwen is napping, and there are a thousand other ways I should be spending this Monday afternoon. But instead of doing useful things like dishes and laundry, I am curled up on the couch with some leftover trifle from Nick's birthday, basking in the afterglow of a rather glorious weekend. We basically spent the whole entire thing celebrating his birthday in one form or another, and it has been lovely. On Friday I got to take him out on a date, so we went out to dinner at Mamacita's, then to a movie. We saw Guardians of the Galaxy which, let's be honest, I wouldn't have picked myself in a thousand years, but it was actually a really, really fun movie. It reminded me of adventure movies from the 1980s, back when they were just fun and unpretentious, y'know? 

The birthday boys. 

Then on Saturday (after hours of yard work and grocery shopping and all of the grownup ridiculousness that Saturdays bring) we had some good friends over for dinner. Nick and Clayton have been friends since they were about 11, and happen to have birthdays one day apart, so this year we combined forces for a two family birthday celebration. Nick and I had prepared a Norwegian-style smörgåsbord with rolls, cheeses, meats, veggies, eggs, jams, etc. and Clayton and Amy brought a delicious salad and a birthday cheesecake. So the four of us sat down and ate and ate and ate while our kids rampaged around us. Good food and good company is hard to beat, and I think we all went to bed in a happy, stuffed-to-the-gills stupor. 

Just look at this tiny piñata I found! Could it be any cuter?
I stuffed it full of mini peanut butter cups, and everyone rejoiced.

Sunday was Nick's actual birthday, and probably the simplest celebration. The kids made cards and I wrapped gifts while Nick slept in, then we opened gifts* and got ourselves off to church. Gwen's greatest birthday gift was happily going off to her nursery class by herself (imagine a room full of 2 year-old girls in foofy dresses) for the first time ever. On the flip side, Espen was brought to me twice because he kept pinching a boy in his class. I asked him why, thinking that maybe the boy had said or done something mean, but Espen cheerfully told me that he had just been acting out of boredom, and pinching his classmates was more fun that practicing for the primary program**. You can't win them all! 

After church we headed home, and I started working on dinner. Nick had requested a very grown up dinner of skirt steak with tomato, feta and herbs and a less grownup dessert of trifle. I found the recipe in Real Simple a couple of months ago, and it is absolutely delicious, especially if you like your flavors fairly punchy. So glad I made it again, because yum! The kids had chicken and french fries, so everyone was truly happy. Nick's brother Cody, and his wife Becky joined us for dinner, dessert and games. Another chill, but happy evening with people we love. It's hard to ask for anything more. 

Tasty trifle!

Also, in case you haven't worked it out by now, I am nutso crazy about this husband of mine. When he's not busy taking me to Venice or gifting me jewelry (I know!), he's building the bathroom shelves I wanted or patiently parenting our little wildebeests. Or working ceaselessly for our little family. If gloating wasn't such a terribly unattractive thing to do, I'd be tempted to throw in a little "neener-neener" at this point. Still. Thanks, Love, for sticking with me for yet another birthday, and continuing to make me feel like the luckiest girl alive. 

xox




* Funny side note: Nick was explaining what one of the DVD's he got for his birthday was to Espen, and was saying something about "this man named Stephen Fry," when Espen said in an offhand sort of way "Oh, I know who Stephen Fry is. He reads my Paddington stories." Proud parenting moment!

**Every year the Primary, which is our church's children's organization, takes over the sacrament meeting/main worship service to present a program about what they have been learning in the past year. There are lots of songs, some talks given by the kids and their teachers, and the cuteness factor is usually pretty high.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Finishing up my Facebook Break.

A completely unrelated shot from my photography homework. 

Well, it's the last day of my one week Facebook break, and the finish line is within sight! I am going to make it. Admittedly, at this point my fingers are itching to log in, and I think about Facebook (how sad is that?) every 3 minutes, but I think that's only because I am so close to being done.

Overall, it has been a really good experience, with the best part being me seeing just how much of a time sink Facebook really is for me, and how much better I use my time when I'm not constantly glued to my phone. I mean, I get stuff done even when I use Facebook, but I was honestly shocked to discover the extra minutes and sometimes hours I gained throughout the day when I left it alone. I even managed to do a few things I've been trying to get to for weeks, like sorting through the kids' shoes (they've outgrown so many shoes!) and vacuuming the couch.

I also feel like I've been more present and connected in our family this week. When I'm not distracting myself with things that are less important, I have the presence of mind to really ask Nick about his work, or see how Gwen has figured out how to open all of the doors with different locks on one of her toys. I've read books and played a bit more with the kids than I usually do, which is something they love and really want from me, but that I am sadly not always that great at making time for. But this week I had more time, so I was happy to give some of it to them!

OK, so this is all sounding very grand. But I have to admit that life without Facebook isn't all sunshine and rainbows. As you may know, I am a stay at home mother, and so I sometimes spend entires days where the only adult I interact with is my husband after he gets home from work. That can get lonely, and much as I adore them, my kids are still a bit limited in their conversational skills. (Gwen's longest sentence to date is "Oh no! Show all done.") So having an outlet like Facebook that let's me chat with friends and family all over the world is quite valuable to me. I like feeling like I know what's going on in their lives', even if it is relatively superficial. And believe you me, I know a lot more about what my cousins are doing (decorating their basements, doing triathlons and moving onto houseboats) with Facebook, than I ever did without it. And I've missed seeing my friends' chubby-cheeked babies climbing into laundry baskets this week!

I also use Facebook as a bit of a news source, and follow several sites like NPR, BBC, Aftenposten (Norwegian newspaper) and will often view their news stories via Facebook, which I haven't been doing this week. I've still kept up on the news somewhat, but haven't really seen the more in-depth articles that the various sites will post to their Facebook page. What I'm saying is, I miss you, NPR!

And finally, back to the stay at home parent thing. I'm not sure how related this is to my Facebook break, but I was pretty grumpy by the end of the week. Being a more aware parent has probably meant that I have clamped down a bit more on things like iPad time and have let less naughtiness slide (I promise my kids have not been as neglected as I'm making it sound!). Which made both of us grumpy and there may have been tears and tantrums. So by Friday night I had to pawn him off on Nick just to go for a walk and get a little breathing space and perspective before I could feel like a decent mom again. But I ultimately don't feel like it's worth being a zombie mom with my nose glued to my phone just so we can have a little comfort buffer between us. Does that make sense? I need to really be completely present for them a bit more, even if it might be a little hard for all of us at first.

So, moving forward: I'll start using Facebook again tonight, and will be absolutely delighted to see how many notifications have built up in the past week. But I've decided to not put it back on my phone, or either of the iPads. I like to feel connected to people I care about and the world in general, but I have also liked the feeling of having more time and awareness. So either I'm going to find myself pulling out the laptop to use Facebook a lot more, or I'm going to spend a more appropriate amount of time checking to see who commented on my latest Instagram post. Fingers crossed for the latter!