Friday, May 28, 2010

Celebrate: 17. mai

The 17th. of May is Norway's national holiday. A day when Norwegians dress up in their best, often traditional clothing and hit the streets for a celebration. There are parades, ice cream and singing. Everyone you know is out and about and feeling festive. Even people you don't know are entirely likely to greet with a "gratulerer med dagen!" (congratulations on the day), which, if you've ever met a Norwegian, you will know is saying something because we're generally pretty reserved.
The middle of May is also one of the prettiest times of year in Norway (although, let's be honest: anytime is the prettiest time of year in Norway!) when the trees are starting to turn green and you can just feel that summer is on its way.


The 17th of May is also one of my top three homesickness days. A day when my poor little heart tries its hardest to pull the rest of of me across the Atlantic ocean to my home. My other home.

But, if I can't go to Norway for the 17th, the 17th can come to me! And it does in the form of the 17. mai celebration in Salt Lake City. Every year on the Saturday following the 17th, displaced Norwegians like me, friends of Norway and people who are pretty sure someone in their family was Norwegian at some point get together at the International Peace Gardens for a celebration. And there is a parade! And people dressed in national costumes, and ice cream and singing and people we know. And it just feels like a great big band-aid for my aching heart.

This year was extra special, because we had Espen. Not only because the 17th of May is largely a day for the children, but also because it was an introduction for him to his own Norwegianness. Not one that he will remember, of course, but something we will be able to look back on and know that being Norwegian has always been a part of who he is.

And, of course, him having his own bunad (national costume) didn't hurt one little bit.

My mother knit a bunad for Espen to wear and, oh!, my heart was exploding with motherly and national pride every time I looked at him. Can you blame me?

Of course he was the little man of the hour, a junior celebrity with his own following of groupies.At one point they asked anyone wearing a bunad to stand up, so I help Espen up over my head so he could join in. There were gasps and oohs and aahs and smiles... and I loved it! It seems the way to my heart is through the adoration of my son, because I was absolutely delighted for his fans to come up and meet him. It also seems that while I'm generally not inclined to tooting my own horn or self-promotion, I am absolutely shameless when it comes to Espen. He is just so cute!

So, in conclusion, it was a great day. The weather even cooperated so far as to lend us that extra flair of Norwegian authenticity by sending a hail storm our way. As I watched the crowds disperse, I was reminded how nothing says "17. mai" like umbrella-clutching women in 17th century dress clambering into SUVs.

Maybe next year we'll be in Norway? Until then, gratulerer med dagen!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Know your Fork: Main Street Shopping

One of the things at the top of my mum's list when they came to visit was to see the shops on Main Street in Spanish Fork. You would think that, seeing as we've lived here for almost two years, I would make an excellent native guide. But in spite of the best intentions, I've never actually made it out of the car on Main Street, unless you count the grocery store at the end.
So, being a support-your-local-businesses kind of girl, off we went.

We parked by the library on Center Street (which will be getting its own blog post sometime soon) and headed north on Main Street. We focused our efforts on the walkable part of town, which was from Center Street to about 300 North. Downtown Spanish Fork has a bit of an old west, small town feel, with just enough going on to keep you occupied for an hour or so.

A few highlights:

Our first stop was Rocket Rebellion, a 1950s retro store that brings "bijou" to an entirely new level: it was tiny! So small, in fact, that I felt bad bringing Espen's stroller in because it took up a good third of the available floor space. But they did manage to cram an amazing amount of stuff into that small space, and we spent a good fifteen minutes or so poking around, until my dad started telling the girl who worked there how hard it was to find women's shoes in his size, at which point we left in embarrassment. Don't ask.

Next up was was Wild Ivy Memories, a scrap booking store that was unfortunately closing down. So much for supporting local businesses! But they were having a huge sale, and my mum was going to make a scrapbook from their trip, so in we went. While we were there, it occurred to me that I should probably take advantage of the sale seeing as I'm planning to make a scrapbook for Espen. However, never having scrapbooked anything in my life (and feeling entirely uncomfortable using "scrapbook" as a verb), I was completely overwhelmed by it all and ended up scurrying away with a few sheets of stickers. Which the people at the store might have referred to as "embellishments", I don't know, I was hyperventilating too hard to really remember. We will return to my pathological fear of scrapbooks in a future post.

Continuing with the retro theme from earlier, we next went into Confetti Antiques and Books, which you might be familiar from their...shall we say, locally produced commercials shown here in Utah. The store has three levels, but we only saw the main one because I couldn't get up or down the stairs with Espen's stroller. So, negative points to them for that, but I was a fan of the combined book and antique store. It's definitely a place you where you could spend some time and money!

Antiquing (I can't believe spell-check recognized that as a word!) made us hungry, so imagine our delight when we wandered into Stone Drug and discovered their lunch counter! As you can see in the photo above of me and my dad doing our best "Nighthawks" impression, it looks and feels like it was lifted straight from the 1950s. Likely along with one of the waitresses, who ruled with an iron fist. But the burgers and fries were good, and it was fun to hang out with the locals. Which I guess I technically am by now.

And that just about sums it up. There are of course other stores that I could have told you about, but these are the ones that stood out. Also, Spanish Forkers, if there is anywhere in Spanish Fork you'd like me to write about, please let me know!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Spending Hiatus: Week 1 update

One week down, seven more to go!
OK, it has actually not been bad at all. While this past week hasn't made much difference in our bank account on its own, I think a few more like it could.

Where we saved
  • We made a pretty concerted effort to eat out of our pantry this week, and use ingredients that we already had. So this week we've had tacos, fish soup and bread rolls, homemade lasagna, pizza, chicken alfredo and one night of leftovers. We bought the pizza, the vegetables for the tacos and the cheese for the lasagna, but that was pretty much it. We'll be following through on this trend as much as we can in the future, because it felt good to put the food that we already had to good use.

  • We also made the switch from Blockbuster Online to Netflix. The six dollars it will save us every month isn't a huge amount, but by using their "Watch Instantly" feature and streaming movies to our Wii, we now have easy access to a lot more movies without even leaving our house, which will be nice now that Espen is going to sleep at 7 P.M. And having something to entertain us at home will make us a little less likely to spend money elsewhere. Bonus: We got a free trial for the first month!
  • And we laid off the unnecessary spending, in spite of entering two different Costcos (they always get my money!)

Where we didn't
  • On Friday night some good friends of ours were in town from Ohio, so we all went out to dinner. Eating out is not generally a good saving strategy, but friends are important, which is why we have the "only eat out with friends" rule. Friday night also marked Espen's first time with a baby sitter, which was a pretty big step for all of us, I think. I even asked Stepper (who was kind enough to take care of him) to text me periodically throughout the evening so I wouldn't lose my mind, which she did so I didn't.
  • Saturday marked the annual celebration of the Norwegian Constitution day in Salt Lake City, which we had to attend, especially seeing as my mum knitted Espen his very own Norwegian national costume, which caused my mother heart to burst with pride and delight every time I looked at him. In terms of saving money, it was a bit of both: The event is free, so didn't really cost us anything, but we did drive for 45 minutes to get there, and spent $3 on raffle tickets to raise money for the celebration. And of course we had to have pølse med lompe to make the day complete.
  • And finally, we went to see some friends who have just found out they are having a baby girl. This naturally called for a little baby gift, so I got to scratch the itch a bit with a spot o' shopping. Did you know how cute baby clothes are? You should be extremely proud of me for making it out of the store without anything for Espen.

And so that wraps up week one! Some of you have already told me that you're on a spending hiatus of your own right now, and I'd love to hear from anyone who might be interested in joining us. Where is it hard for you to save money?

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Spending Hiatus

Yesterday marked the beginning of 1) My first ever shared project and 2) My first ever two month project. The North family household, Spanish Fork division is embarking on a two month spending hiatus!

This means that between May 17th and July 17th, there will be no unnecessary spending chez nous. No random impulse buys, only eating out if we go with friends, no recreational shopping, just say no!

The reasons for this are many and varied. OK, actually they're not at all. The reason is that we like to do fun things, eat good food and own nice stuff. We also like to own a car and a home and have electricity. These things all cost money, which in all honesty is fair enough. However, the problem with this is that if you do too much of A, B and C, it leaves less of said money for D, E and F (and G through Z). And did I mention that we had a baby?

This little guy = expensive.

Now, don't you worry, we are not on our way to a Dickensian style poorhouse just yet (although, briefly hold that thought as I just know I'd make a positively charming Victorian poor person. And can you imagine Espen in a sixpence?!?). Rest assured that Nick and I are the same creatures of comfort and leisure that we have always been. We* are however hoping to emerge as a little more fiscally responsible at the end of it.

Obviously, saving some money and getting in better financial shape is the number one goal for this project, but I'm seeing some other potential benefits as well:

  • Using things we already own rather than buying more stuff. I think we could really benefit from poking around our closets and cupboards and reacquainting ourselves with what we already own.
  • Learning how to practice a little self-restraint. Friends, I have so little!
  • Maybe it's the Anne of Green Gables romantic in me, but I'm sort of hoping we'll get a bit creative in how we spend our time and resources when we take money out of the equation.

So, this is how things are going to work on the blog for the next couple of months: I will post an update of the previous week on Mondays and tell you how things are progressing. I'm hoping that by making myself accountable to you, I'll be more likely to behave myself.

Bring on the pecuniary prudence!

Hmm, what's that you say? The hiatus ends the day before My Big Birthday? Oh, I hadn't really thought of that.

*Let's be honest, about 93% of the time when I say "we", I actually mean "I". Nick was likely fiscally responsible from birth, and has only recently had to contend with batting eyelids and pouty lips vying for his wallet.

Image borrowed here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Back from a break

Hopefully someone has noticed that I haven't blogged in over three weeks (and subsequently missed me terribly), and the reason for that is that my parents have been here to visit from Norway. We've had such a great time and kept ourselves busy with tulip festivals, train rides and trips to San Francisco (to name a few), but this morning they finally had to go home. So now I'm moping.

However, as soon as that moping ends, I have a few posts in the works for you, so check back over the next couple of days to see what I've been up to.

In the meantime, enjoy this photo of Espen and my parents. It actually sums up the past three weeks really well: my mum loving Espen and my dad stealing my laptop :)