Monday, July 26, 2010

Introducing... Project Service Project!

What I want to tell you with this post, is that I am so lucky and so happy. I want to tell you this without waxing too poetic and without sounding like I'm trying to make you jealous of my super-shiny life. And I want to tell you that, in my book, great happiness comes with great responsibility.

When I was pregnant with Espen, the thought kept returning to me that I was going to have everything I have ever wanted by my 30th birthday: a loving husband, a child, an education and a home of our own.

OK, sure: There are a lot of things I would like on top of those, but nothing that I can't live a completely full and happy life without. A life without Nick or Espen, or without the knowledge I gained in school, or the sense of home we have created together, is no life for me. Everything else is just stuff.

I'm also not unaware of the fact that these things that are so important to me have not only all happened in the past five years, but they're also all things that I seriously feared might not ever happen for me. So it is with a happy, grateful and humble heart I acknowledge all of the wonderful gifts I have been given.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the words to a hymn we sing a lot in our church:

Because I have been given much, I too must give.
Because of thy great bounty, Lord each day I live.
I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see,
who has the need of help from me.

Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care…
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share-
my glowing fire, my loaf of bread-my roof’s safe shelter over head,
that he too may be comforted.

Because I have been blessed by thy great love dear Lord,
I’ll share thy love again according to thy word.
I shall give love to those in need. I’ll show that love by word and deed,
thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.

Here's where my new project comes in!

Project Service Project

Because I have been given much, I too must give - and that's exactly what I intend to do: Once a month, for all of my 30th year, I am going to have a little service project. It doesn't have to be big, it doesn't have to be small, it just has to be a way for me to give of myself.

I will be starting my first project in August, which is coming up fast. Please feel free to make suggestions of ways I can serve!

Image borrowed here

Friday, July 23, 2010

Spending Hiatus: Summary

Another summary!

Well, it seems I just couldn't stay away from you for too long - was that even two days?

I just popped back to tell you about the Spending Hiatus, which also officially ended on the 17th. We kept it up like good little children, but here on the blog the project was completely outnumbered and overshadowed by all of my birthday shenanigans. As it should be.

As some of you know, back in May, Nick and I decided that we needed to curb our spending a bit. To deal with that, and to hopefully teach us ourselves some good habits along the way, we determined that we were not going to spend any money unnecessarily for two months. This meant no impulse buys, no recreational shopping, and no eating out unless in the company of friends.

And we actually did it!

Yes, money was spent along the way, and yes, we did occasionally flub things up a little bit, but, all in all, we did it! And just like in an after school special, the true reward was found in our journey and in the lessons learned. What's that you say? Oh, you'd like a list of the things we've learned? Well, why didn't you say so!

  • You really don't need as many things as you might think you do. I will happily admit that I am exceptionally skilled at spending money, and always have a growing list of things we "need," but I have survived just fine for the past two months without them.

  • Along those lines, I think we got better at using and enjoying the things we already do have. I didn't plant anything new in the garden, but I took pride in weeding the flower beds and keeping them tidy. So many of our meals came out of things we already had on hand, and I think getting a bit creative was good for us. We've invented some new meals because of it, and saved a good chunk of change by using up what we had already, and planning our shopping lists around ingredients that could be used for more than one meal.

  • Going out to dinner should be a treat, and is not a human right. We had gotten so into the habit of eating out at least every weekend that I especially felt completely deprived if there wasn't a restaurant in my weekend plans. Making the rule that we only go out with friends, means that going out to eat has become the treat that it should be. And really, if you think that we typically spend about $30 on dinner for two every single weekend, the Spending Hiatus has saved us about $240 by eating at home.

  • Making sacrifices is hard. Giving up all of my summery dreams for the backyard was, and still is, hard. This is the third summer we have spent in this home, and our yard is still a barren wasteland of mostly dirt (and admittedly, a Japanese maple). We had wanted to do some pretty extensive (and expensive) work in it this summer, but opted to postpone those plans when we decided to do our Spending Hiatus. But as disappointing as that is, it does feel really good to know that I am capable of giving something up for the greater good, and make the right decision, even when it's not a particularly fun one.

  • But it actually was kind of a fun one! Not spending money for entertainment caused Nick and I to get a bit more creative. So we played games, we baked, we watched movies on Netflix, we went hiking, all things that didn't cost anything extra. And on the few occasions that we treat ourselves to dinner with friends or a movie (thank you for the gift card, Tess!), it was extra fun and special to go out and do something different.

  • And finally, we learned that the good ol' belt-tightening trick does work! No, our bank account isn't overflowing with wealth, but for only having done this for two months. there has been some definitely positive results.

I have to say that it's a relief to be finished. And I have to say that we're not actually finished yet, because we've decided to adopt some of our strategies into every day life.


Image borrowed here

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

30 days of 29: A summary

The presents have been opened, the cake is almost all gone and I've cleaned up after the party, so it's looking a lot like I'm just plain old me, aged 30. For those of you also approaching this monumental birthday, let me reassure you that it feels a whole lot like 29. I checked closely, and no new wrinkles or gray hair appeared overnight. I did, however, gain some really cute toes, thanks to my pre-birthday pedicure, so all in all, if you have not already done so, I highly recommend that you have this birthday yourself.

What I can also recommend is taking on a project like unto my 30 days of 29, because it was really fun! And challenging and rewarding and fulfilling and difficult. It would absolutely knacker me to keep up this pace long term, but for a month it was perfect. And I hope you've enjoyed it too!

It would be extremely ungracious of me if I didn't thank all of you for your participation in my own personal month of fun and self-indulgence. I couldn't have come up with half the things I did without your suggestions, and your comments and feedback are honestly a huge part of what keeps me writing. So, thank you! Really, really, thank you.

I got over 60 suggestions for the project, and just didn't have time to do all of them within the scope of this project, no matter how much I wanted to. So please don't be disappointed if I didn't get to your suggestion! I really loved a lot of the ideas that were just too big to fit into one day, so I will revisit some of them in the form of bigger projects down the road. I might get to yours yet!

I'm going to be taking a little bit of a respite from my frenetic blogging pace of the last month, but expect to be back over the weekend, with another project in the works.

Until then, let me throw yet another link to the 30 days of 29, The Complete Works Of, at you so you can spend many a merry hour getting caught up on my exploits.

Or something.

Monday, July 19, 2010

30 days of 29, day 30: Throwing a party.

The final project of 30 days of 29!

Due to happy circumstance (AKA clever and deliberate planning) my last project coincided with the day before my 30th birthday, which happened to be on a Saturday. This could only mean one thing:

Birthday party!

I love me a good party. Specifically, I love planning and throwing a good party. And this party was no exception. Thanks to the lovely Stepper and an extremely hardworking Nick, we celebrated my 30th birthday in 1930s style. We had a record player playing Duke Ellington, we had hairbands for the ladies, we had a little display of books from the 30's, we had people in costume, we had a 1930s trivia quiz and above all else, we had a mocktail bar.

(Sidenote: Nick and I don't drink, and neither do the vast majority of our friends. A mocktail is therefore a cocktail without any alcohol in it.)

Oh, did we ever have a mocktail bar. Sadly, tragically, and so far the only regret of my 30s is that we didn't get any photos. I hd a baby in my arms for one half of the party, and was having too much fun for the other half to even think about taking photos. Nick spent the first half of the party in the kitchen and the other half with a baby in his arms, so he didn't get any photos either.

Beloved Ari did save the day, however, by taking the only party photo of me and Espen and my Hindenburg mocktail as the party was just getting underway. Alone, with a baby and a drink in my hand. If the drink wasn't all juice, I'd say this didn't bode well for my 30s.

But let's get back to the party!

The mocktail bar was by far the most fun part, I think. Stepper and her lovely husband Bill manned the bar in their perfect 1930s garb (please tell me you took pictures before you left the house!) and all the little teetotaling Mormons had fun ordering their drinks in ways that don't often come about when your favourite tipple is lemonade.

"Bartender, I'll have a Bette Davis on the rocks!"

In keeping with the theme of the night, we gave all of the drinks 1930s names.

And of course there was food, don't you worry! Nick and I are already notorious for overshooting how much food people can actually eat, and Stepper has absolutely no breaks on her hospitality, so together we could probably have fed close to 50 people. Stepper baked my birthday cake, and then, because she was worried there wouldn't be enough, she baked another one. Yup, two birthday cakes, people! And then we had fruit and vegetables, bruschetta, mounds of strawberries, brownies, chips... we could keep going. In fact, we had so many leftovers that we had a leftover party with Stepper and family today just to make room in the fridge. Ai-ai-ai, we'll be celebrating my 30th for weeks to come.

It was very, very fun. Lots of good friends came, and I think (and hope!) that everyone enjoyed themselves. I certainly did!

I have finally gotten caught up on all of my posts for 30 days of 29! Day 28 is here, and day 22 is here. If you read anything, for the love of all that is good, pure and shiny, read about when I hiked the Y. Blood, sweat and tears people! OK, at least there was sweat.

Friday, July 16, 2010

30 days of 29, day 29: Ask me anything

Today I am answering your questions! You have until midnight to ask me anything you like, and I will do my best to answer.

Keep your eyes on this post, as I will just keep adding to it as the questions come.

Has anything about motherhood surprised you?

I have definitely been surprised by a few of the obvious things, like how well I can function without sleep, or just how many songs and nursery rhymes I can pull out of my brain at a moment's notice, but the biggest best surprise so far has been just how much I like my son. Obviously I expected to love and adore him, but I have been surprised by how fun he is to be around. Even at five months, he's just a funny, personable little guy who makes me laugh and whose company I just really enjoy.

Can I ask a few?
Yes, go ahead.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
It's impossible to pick just one, but I do love remembering the (seemingly) endless summers, spent half on my grandparents farm in Cornwall and half running wild at home in Norway. In my memories it's always sunny, we're always outside and there are always friends or cousins to play with.

What is your favorite (English)crisp flavor?
Cheese and onion. Oh baby! And I have some happy memories of eating Hula Hoops off my fingers.
Who were you supporting in the World Cup Final?
First England. Then Ghana. Then I stopped caring. Sorry Tess!

How do you feel about turning 30?
Happy and relaxed. I'm just at such a good stage in my life right now, so I am really looking forward to more of the same in my 30s.

1. What did you study at university?
More to the point, what didn't I study at University? I started out as a Print Journalism major, but knew within a semester that it wasn't for me. Then I wanted to study Photography, but that didn't pan out either. And neither did Visual Art. But I finally settled on a bachelor's degree in Humanities with an Art History emphasis and a minor in Scandinavian Studies. Now say that fast 10 times!

2. Is Espen's name British/Norwegian/American and how did you pick it?
Espen's name is a very old, Norwegian name. Nick and I both liked the idea of him having a Norwegian name, but we wanted one that non-Norwegians could easily pronounce too. We both liked Espen a lot, and after we met him, it just seemed to fit. We hope that he will like it too!

3. Do you think you will stay in America now?
We are very happy here for now, and little Spanish Fork is really starting to feel like home to me, but if the opportunity to move arose, we would consider living in either Norway or England, as well as relocating within the US.

4. What's your favourite past time?
Nick and I have always watched a lot of movies together, and both have a huge weakness for English murder mysteries! Since Espen was born, we have been watching a film or a television series together almost every night, so that's definitely a popular pastime! Other than that, I love to travel and visit new places, I love visiting museums, and I like to dabble vaguely with photography.

5. What's your favourite colour?
It was red for years and years, but now I seem to be back to blue again, with a little penchant for green. I also go nutty for anything robin's egg blue, especially in home decor.

6.what's your favourite food?
I LOVE Indian food, and could probably eat it every day. It's sort of a mystery to me why I was born in Norway, and not India. I also have a love affair with strawberries and dark chocolate. And I drink milk by the gallon!

7.what are your hopes for the future?
To become a little bit better every day, and to make my little corner of the world a happy and safe place to be.

How did you meet your husband?
Short version: I came home from school one day and he was in my kitchen making mashed potatoes. Six years later, we went on a date.
Long version: Nick was serving in Norway as a missionary for our church, and I lived in his first area. He was only there for two months, so although we liked each other well enough, we didn't really get to know each other very well. Two years later, we were both students at BYU, and would see each other as friends every once in a while. After four years of being friends, we finally went on a date, and the rest, as they say, is history...

1. What do you enjoy about knitting?
Cheap therapy? There's just something very relaxing and satisfying about slowly, but steadily creating something with my hands. I think I also like the systematic, organized nature of it, almost like solving a puzzle in a different language. And I have the control to make things exactly the way I want them. Wow, I sound like a nut.

2. Are you a morning or night person?
I'm a night person by choice, but am becoming more of a morning person by habit. Espen does not like sleeping in, which means that my day starts when his does. However, most nights it is almost impossible for me to get to bed before midnight, because I just enjoy staying up with Nick.

3. Favorite cereal? Favorite breakfast food?
My favourite cereal goes in waves. But frequent faves are Honey Nut Cheerios, Kix and Cinnamon Oatmeal squares. I like most breakfast foods, but lately I've really wanted poached eggs. Sadly, no egg poacher.

4. If you could have any calling in the church, which one would you choose?
I really liked being in the Primary presidency and I liked teaching Sunday School, so those would be good. But really, I'd like to be the wife of the president of the Norway Oslo Mission.

5. Which parent are you more like? ....or which qualities do you see of both of them in you?
I think I'm a pretty good mix of both of them. I love history like my dad, I'm pretty capable in the kitchen like my mum, I'm a conflict-avoider like my dad and I love my family with a fierceness nigh unto death like my mum.

6. What's one of your fears?
Losing someone I love. Even the thought makes me sick.

7. What's one of outrageous dreams that you don't really think will come true, but it's fun to think about it anyway?
Haha, I'm just like Ralphie in a Christmas Story when he imagines his teacher reading his essay to the class and they break out in applause and carry him on their shoulders in celebration of his genius! I always have these crazy 8 year-old day dreams about how I'm going to do something, and everyone I know will just be blown away by it. "Wow, Tamsin: I had no idea you could sing/bake/dance/ski jump/reupholster like a goddess! I am just in awe of your amazingness!"

Alternately, I like to day dream about our future home and how it has an indoor swimming pool with a roof that lifts off in the summer, and a fireplace in every room.

8. What new talent do you want to develop?
I'd really like to take a photography class so I can move beyond the "point and shoot" setting on our camera.

9. How do you feel about your name? Have you always liked it? Where does it come from? Does it mean anything?
I used to hate my name, because I hated being different. Then I grew up and realized that I'm always going to be a little different, because that is just who I am. Now my name is just part of who I am, and I love it.
Tamsin is the Cornish (from Cornwall in England, where I was born) form of Thomasina, which is the feminine form of Thomas, which means "twin" in Hebrew.

10. How did you and Nick go from friends to dating?
I think it all started when Nick came to a math conference in Norway the summer of 2004. I was home, and so we spent a few days together traveling up the West coast of Norway, and then a few more days at my parents house. We'd been friends for a long time, but didn't really realize how comfortable we were with each other until we spent that much more time together. Then, in the fall of 2004, we started going on a few casual dates, and by Christmas we were both pretty sure we liked each other and had even held hands - gosh!
I went out of state for Christmas break, and we both missed each other a lot. I think we were "officially" dating within 24 hours of my return, and engaged six weeks later.

A few more from Madsta

1. whats your favourite place in all of England?
I love-love-love Cornwall and just feel so lucky to have family there. My favourite places in Cornwall are St. Ives, my grandparents farm, Truro cathedral and Gwithian beach. To name a few!

2. what do you love most about Utah?
That my family lives here :) It's a beautiful part of the world, and even though I've lived here for 10 years, I still find myself commenting on how beautiful the mountains are on a near-daily basis. It's also honestly nice to be surrounded mostly by people who share my faith, so I don't have to feel like a weirdo all the time.

3. do you want to have a big family?
I only have one brother, and Nick comes from a family of six kids, so we will probably meet in the middle somewhere.

4. do you have a favourite old pet?
Several. We always had cats and dogs when I was growing up, and I loved all of them. It doesn't seem fair to pick favourites!

5. what is your favourite shop and why?
I yearn for things from all sorts of places, but IKEA is somewhere I always want to go. They have good design for not much money, and we can buy Scandinavian food there, which is the world's biggest lifesaver when you are as far from home as I am. Now, if they could only transport Tesco's out here.... :)

6. your favourite restaurant?
The Bombay House in Provo. Don't let anyone tell you they love it more than I do, for they are all filled with lies. It is mine, all mine!

1.If you could have any occupation you wanted (in addition to being a momma), what would it be, and why?
If there was a plausible way for me to work and take care of someone who needs me 24/7, I would love to be a curator for a small museum. That way I could be surrounded by art and history, and boss people around. Dream job!

2. What is your most embarrassing moment? (if it's too embarrassing, you don't have to answer).
It might not be the most embarrassing, but there was the time that I thought my professor suggested that we go and take a nap together. Which wasn't even remotely close to what he said at all, but it was what I responded to. Not even the earth swallowing me whole could have made that one go away.

3. What is your favorite form of dance and why?
I really like to watch modern dance, it's so expressive and unpredictable. Also, if 1980s dance movies count as a form of dance, then sign me up for the fan club! :)

4. If you had a mystery to solve, which fictional British detective (or Belgium--if you want Poirot) would you choose to help you solve, and why?
Probably Inspector Morse, because I like him so. I have to admit that I have a bit of a creepy crush on him! However, if there was time travel to be involved, I would probably pick Poirot or Miss Marple, so I could dress more prettily than I do now, wear red lipstick and drive around in awesome cars.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

30 days of 29, day 28: A day as my best self.

I spent Thursday trying to be my very best and shiniest self, and living up to my own expectations.

It was kind of hard - and extremely productive.

I started the day by getting up and taking care of Espen. Which, of course, I do every day. But, instead of multitasking our time away by checking my email and reading blogs (always the blogs!) while I fed him, I just stroked his hand, made eye contact and sang some songs. This is all stuff I usually do anyway, but My Best Self manages to focus on one thing at a time. And My Best Self had that one right, it was really nice to just pay attention to Espen and remind both of us how important our time together is. So that is highly repeatable and something I'll try again.

Next, after putting Espen back to bed for a nap, My Best Self informed me that she is the kind of girl who likes to get some exercise in the mornings, and not just think about it woefully before squeezing in a quick nap. The fact that I can't actually leave my house during Espen's nap time was no excuse for her, she just pointedly looked at the Wii Fit balance board and politely reminded me that it was, after all, purchased as a fun way to get a little workout into our day.

Naturally, she was right. I did a 30 minute work out, got all hot and sweaty and felt all kinds of good after moving around a bit. My Best Self also got a new high score for her Warrior Pose and step aerobics, because that's just the kind of girl she is.

Then I hopped in the shower, where My Best Self reminded me that it was probably time for me to shave my legs, and won't it be nice to be a smooth-legged and summery? And it was. My normal self often forgets or decides that it takes too long, but she was overruled.

After showering, I actually blow dried my hair and put on make up! Then I got dressed, and, as a quick inside joke with myself, put on my pearl necklace. If I was going to look that cute at 10 AM with only Espen to see me (and he thinks I'm fantastic at 3 AM when I'm half-asleep and half-dressed), I may as well go all the way.

The rest of the day passed in cleaning, blogging ("you can't let yourself get too far behind!"), taking care of Espen and doing laundry. My Best Self is very productive and knows how to get things done! She also knows how important it is to drop everything to crawl around on the floor with Espen, sing songs and practice sitting up with him. I like that about her.

My Best Self had intended to make a lovely meal for Nick when he got home from work, but ended up being thwarted by having the A/C repair guy show up right at prime cooking time. This is when my Pragmatic Self popped her head in and said: "Guess what, friends? We are ordering pizza." And I like that about her.

In the evening, after Espen had gone to sleep, my Best Self went outside and weeded and watered the garden. My regular self has looked out of the window at those weeds for weeks and not done anything about them. And when it was time to slow down and relax, My Best Self put down the laptop, and skooched over to the other end of the couch to watch a movie while snuggled up to Nick. Because he likes to have her attention, and she likes to give it to him, rather than playing solitaire or melting her brain on Facebook. My regular self often forgets that and was glad of the reminder.

A few thoughts about My Best Self:

She knows what's up, she gets things done and she does them right. She is hard working and conscientious. She tries hard to be aware of the needs and feelings of others, and really wants and tries to act in their best interest.

On the flip side, she is also highly motivated by guilt, and mostly does things because they "should" be done, rather than because they are things that she would like to do. As a result, she gets very tired from continuously pushing and pushing through one thing after another to get them done. She couldn't take naps even if she tried, because she just lies there feeling guilty about everything she should be doing instead. Plus, if she spends too much time around here, pushing and pushing to get things done and done right, I get anxious and highly strung about all of the other things that not even My Best Self has gotten around to doing yet. And, outside of relationships, My Best Self spends very little time doing anything silly or selfish.

And... insert your own obvious paragraph about finding balance and allowing oneself to be a complete person.

30 days of 29, day 27: The last box

Nick and I just passed the two year mark of living in our first home.

So did this box.

We will continue living in this house for a few more years.

As of last night, the box will not.

Take that, box!

30 days of 29, day 26: A toy for Espen.

This was a bit of a "three birds with one stone" project, because I have been wanting to work a knitting project into these 30 days, and I've also wanted to make something for Espen myself. And, I've wanted to try inventing something knitted without a pattern for ages (note how I am avoiding phrases like "design my own pattern") , so tadah - Espen's knitted toy!

As you can see, it resembles something between a dog toy and a donut. But that doesn't really matter because 1) I wanted to make something quick and easy that Espen would be able to grab, and 2) Espen is a fan.

For those who are interested, I knitted a 12-inch stocking stitch cylinder of 18 stitches, and added a few rows of pearl stitch here and there for some added tactile bumps.

It was a quick and satisfying project for me, as I don't often sit down and make something from start to finish in a matter of hours. More importantly, it's a big hit with our resident five-month old, and I'm pretty sure that if we had a dog, he would like it too.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I need your help - again!

This coming Friday, for my second to last day of 30 days of 29, I am going to have an Ask Me Anything Day, where you can ask me... well, anything.

Up until Friday night at midnight, my time, leave me a question as a comment to this (or any future posts), or send me an email if you prefer (tamsin dot project dot project at gmail dot com).

Ask me anything, and I will do my very best to answer.

And (because I'm scared that no one will really want to know anything about me) feel free to ask as many questions as you like.

I am an open book.


Image here

Monday, July 12, 2010

30 days of 29, day 25: Top 20 Best Moments of my 20s.

These are only a few of the strong and the proud, but I think I picked some good ones:

In order of occurrence:

  1. Seeing Niagara Falls in December with Caren, and having our eyelashes freeze from the spray.
  2. Receiving my endowment in the Timpanogos temple.
  3. Standing on stage in front of an audience of 20,000 people every night for two weeks with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir behind me, during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
  4. The Peach Palace years.
  5. Hiking to the top of Prekestolen.
  6. Realizing I was in love with Nick.
  7. Being proposed to, and being so happy to be asked, I said "yes" twice :)
  8. Our marriage and wedding day.
  9. Our honeymoon in the Smoky Mountains. A moment can last for a week, right?
  10. Running away to Paris with Nick.
  11. Getting the keys to, and then spending the night camped on the floor in our very own first home.
  12. Taking my parents to see the Grand Canyon in December. Rushing around in the snow, absolutely awestruck at the beauty of that giant hole in the ground.
  13. Finding out, and then telling Nick, that I was pregnant.
  14. Taking my last exam at BYU, and knowing that I was finally done.
  15. Hearing Espen's heartbeat for the first time and feeling him move.
  16. Seeing my best Erin get married to a good man who loves her so much.
  17. Meeting my son.
  18. Seeing Nick as a father.
  19. Seeing Espen's first, unmistakable smile.
  20. Introducing my parents to their first grand child.

30 days of 29, day 24: A letter to myself at age 40.

Wow, friends! I only have five more days of this project and six more days of my twenties left! Time is F-LY-ING. Will you still stay with me when I'm not projecting and posting quite as frequently? Will you still need me, will you still read me when I'm 30?

Also, I should get caught up on the posts I got behind on two weeks ago. Tadah! If you've missed any posts for this project, you can find a complete list here. Because, clearly, your life revolves around my blog.

To the project!

Last night I wrote a letter to my 40 year old self.

(OK, side note: as tranquil, zen and poised as I am about turning 30, the idea of being 40 is a little chilling. Good thing I have a decade to get used to it!)

I've always wanted to write a letter to my future self, but for one reason or another, have never gotten around to it. Probably because it seems like the kind of thing you should do for a more significant birthday, and 17 or 26 just didn't seem to cut it. But, people: a letter written when you are 30 to yourself at age 40 is perfect.

Because I want to keep the letter secret, sealed and in a safe place for the next 10 years, I won't be posting its content here on the blog for you to read. Because where is the fun in opening a time-sealed letter when I could read it every day online for the next decade? But I will tell you a little about what I wrote:

  • First I gave myself an update on where we currently are in life. I am sure the future me will be just as enamoured with every detail of Espen as I am now.
  • Then I made a few predictions about our family in the future, including number of children, and what we would currently name them if they were to show up.
  • I reminded 40 year-old Tamsin of how fantastic her husband is. Hey, 15 years of marriage is a long time! A good reminder never hurt anyone. She needs to not be taking 41 year-old Nick for granted! I know how she gets.
  • I wrote a bit about some of my hopes for the future. Some expectations, and a lot of dreams.

Then I sealed it up, and put it in our box of keepsakes. Until 2020.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

30 days of 29, day 23: Plan a dream vacation

There aren't too many advantages to living as far away from my family as we do, but it does give us the opportunity to travel. Whenever my parents come and visit us here, we try to show them somewhere new, and whenever we go to visit them in Norway, we try to plan a quick side-trip somewhere else in Europe.
In spite of this, and in spite of actually living the first 20 years of my life in Europe, AND in spite of the whole art history major thing, I have never been to Italy.

Not even a little bit.

So, although this is a domestic travel only year for us, I decided to spend day 23 cooking up some plans for a little Italian dream vacation for Nick and I to take at some yet-to-be determined point in the future.

We would start out by flying to see my parents in Norway, where we would then deposit Espen (and any potential siblings, depending on how futuristic this is) to bond with the grandparents for a few days. OK, so built-in transcontinental babysitters are another benefit of our highly impractical life style. Especially ones that would leap at the opportunity to love and spoil our offspring without parental intervention.

Then we would hop on a cheapy flight with Norwegian to Venice. Where we would hold hands, eat gelato and stay at this hotel for two nights.

On our full day in Venice we would stare open-mouthed at a heck of a lot of art and architecture, including St. Mark's basilca, the Tetrarchs, St. Mark's square, Santa Maria della Salute and the Doge's Palace - to name a few.

There would also be more gelato. And handholding. And boats.

On our second morning in Venice we would take the train to Florence. Three hours through the Italian countryside sounds pleasant enough to me!

After checking into our hotel , things start to fall apart a bit. Because there is so much I have to see. During my last year of college, I took classes in Medieval Art and Architecture as well as Renaissance and Baroque Architecture, and so much of the art and architecture we studied is found in Florence. So actually being able to go there would be a bit of a pilgrimage for me. OK, more of a total geek-out nerd fest.

I won't bore you by listing all of the churches and palazzos I will tear my hair out trying to choose between, but we would absolutely go to the cathedral, the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace. And the Accademia di Belle Arti. And and and!

There would be more gelato.

After three nights in Florence, we would hop on the train to Pisa, where would take a quick, American look at the the Piazza del Duomo with the leaning tower and the baptistery being the big attractions.

In the evening of the sixth and last day, we would catch another Norwegian flight back to Oslo, and live long and fat on the memories of art, architecture and pasta.

Friday, July 9, 2010

30 days of 29, day 22: Hiking the Y

I live in Utah Valley, which, as some of you know, lies at the foot of of the Wasatch Front, which is the mountain range that forms the backdrop of just about anything in Northern Utah. The mountains just become part of life here: we look at them, we talk about them, we go for hikes and drives in them, and, for some reason, we adorn them with 380 feet high concrete letters.

Y Mountain in Provo is BYU's (my alma mater) pet mountain, which sports aforementioned giant letter. I am not going to give you a history and culture lesson on how and why this happened, but I will let you read all about it here.

All you need to know for the purpose of this exercise is that "Hiking the Y" is an integral part of the BYU experience. Something so ingrained in BYU culture that girls hike it in their formal dresses during homecoming, and I think it might even be part of new student orientation. It is a huge part of BYU culture, and somehow, something that Nick and I both managed to graduate from college (twice, on Nick's part) without doing. It was time.

So, on my 22nd day of this project, up the mountain we went. And it was hard.

I need to tell you that girls not only do girls do this hike in ball gowns, I once (very briefly) went out with a guy who used to run up to the Y for exercise and fun (!!!). The trail only 1.2 miles (1.9 km) long, but my goodness, that was the hardest thing I have done in ages.

Did I say it was hard?

Some of you are probably giggling and rolling your eyes at this point, because my goodness, it's not that hard!

I was never it the greatest shape to begin with, but then pregnancy really did a number on me. Between five months of morning sickness, and four months of just being huge, plus the recovery after having a baby sliced out of my body, I've just spent the past year being a nice and round little potato on my couch. Try rolling that little potato up a trail that rises 1000 feet over one mile, and you get a very frustrated Tamsin.

It was a hot night after a hot day in July. There was a thunderstorm brewing across the valley, and the air on the mountainside was close and humid.

I whined. I almost cried. I hyperventilated. My ankles hurt so much that it was agony just putting one in front of the other. I stopped at each and every one of the 10 switchbacks and usually halfway in between. And sometimes halfway between halfway.
I thought about quitting. I thought about giving up, turning around and making up another project for day 22 ("Oooh, I could buy red lipstick! I've always wanted red lipstick!"). But as it happened, the only thing harder than dragging myself up that mountain, was admitting to myself that I had failed.

So with Nick's endless encouragement, patience and badgering, I somehow kept putting one foot in front of the other ("I can do hard things, I can do hard things!") and made it to the top.

I made it to the top!

(Let me take a brief moment to point out that my face is normally not that lovely shade of puce. Let me also point out that this photo is of me sitting on top of the Y!)

No, friends, a hiker of steep mountains I am not. My knees almost gave out about six times on the way back down again, and it was dark by then, so I had to hike by flashlight, but I did it. I am now a member of the illustrious club of (tens of thousands of) people who can say "Oh yeah, I've hiked the Y. Did you know the surface is super bumpy?"

And I am the president of the "Never-doing-that-again" club.

But I did it!

Top image found here.

30 days of 29, day 21: Painting a picture

There was a time when I was quite the prolific little artiste, and would pull out my paint brushes or sketchbook at the drop of a hat (who doesn't want to paint dropped hats?). I never took any classes, but enjoyed art for art's sake.

Fast forward to when I studied Art History in college. I spent years studying, thinking about and viewing some of the most beautiful, exquisite, expressive works of art ever created. There aren't really words to express how I feel about certain works of art, but there are a few pieces that make my heart feel like it's going to burst just from thinking about them. I might not talk about it a lot, but art is something I am fiercely passionate about.

Which is why I stopped doing it myself.

Having spent years studying Great Art, I have become pretty adept at spotting hooey. And hooey is what I see stuffed in the back of the guest room closet in an embarrassing heap. How can I possibly even think about picking up a paint brush when I have seen a Caravaggio? Or a Vermeer? Or a Rothko?

I know, I know. I've got to silence my inner critic and be my own rainbow and all of that good stuff. Which is what I tried to do last night, when I pulled out my water colours for the First Time in Seven Years and did the quick little study you can see in the picture.

I had to force myself to move quickly and not worry about being perfect, so I wouldn't die of shame and intimidation, but I got there in the end.

Of course everything is wrong with it. The perspective is a bit funky on the roof, the colours are off, the shading is iffy at best, my brushwork is sloppy... I could go on. But guess what?

I'm kind of happy with it. Happy I did it, pleased that it's not too awful for a first attempt, and delighted at how good it felt to immerse myself in painting again.

Maybe I won't wait so long until next time.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

30 days of 29, day 20: Memorizing the US State Capitals

My friend Caren (whose blog you are going to love, just as soon as she creates it) suggested that I learn the 50 state capitals. Which, considering I've lived in this country for over a decade now, seemed like a reasonable request. So, tonight that is what I did.

So I got out the old atlas and started looking up all the states, one by one. Wait, no, I didn't. I went to google, and found this United States Capital Map Quiz.

Question 1: Trenton is the capital of...?

Answer: Trenton? Where the blimming heck is Trenton? I'm pretty sure they made that one up.

Question 2: Lansing is the capital of...?

Answer: *Muffled sobs*

All in all, I got 85% on my first attempt, in spite of my sure conviction that Montgomery is the capital of Maine. So I tried again. And again. And again. Finally, on my 8th attempt, I got 100%.

At which point it was time to make sure I was actually learning the capitals, and not just how to beat the game, so I tried my hand at this quiz, which gives you a map and 10 minutes to type in as many state capitals as you can remember. I came up with 46. Sorry, Jefferson City, Madison and Richmond. And kind of sorry, Minneapolis/St. Paul. The first quiz said that Minneapolis was the capital of Minnesota, the second one said it was St. Paul.
Get your facts straight, internet!

So, does this make up for my dislike of Reese's peanut butter cups, milk shakes and donuts, America?

More to the point, what did you score?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

30 days of 29, day 19: Flowers

My plan for today was to channel my inner six-year old by picking wild flowers. This is something I would often do when I was growing up, partly because I love flowers, and partly because I knew full well how adorable I looked with my long pigtails and a bunch of wild flowers, posed romantically in a conveniently located meadow.

Now that I've grown up, I'm a little less self-assured about my own adorableness, but I do still love flowers. Ever so, ever so much.

While Espen was sleeping today, I took the baby monitor outside and checked out the wild flower sitch in the overgrown wilderness outside the back gate. And I found some prettiness there! But as soon as I picked up my shears to cut them, Espen woke up and my flower picking fantasy turned into Espen's lunch time instead. So I decided I'd come back after he went to bed.

Fast forward to this evening, when Nick walked in the door with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. We had hardly talked during the day, so he had no idea that I'd been feeling the need for some floral fortification, but there he was with exactly the thing I'd been wanting. Because he thought they'd make me happy. Because he wanted to make me feel loved and special. Which he did.

So, no: I didn't pick my bouquet of wild flowers today. But sometimes, friends, you don't have to do everything yourself. Sometimes you can allow someone to love you enough to let them do wonderful things for you. And that is where happiness lies.

Monday, July 5, 2010

30 days of 29, day 18: Scrapbooking

For some inexplicable reason, I have an irrational fear of scrap booking. For years I have sneered at it as a pseudo-craft where millions of (mainly) women pressure each other into spending ridiculous amounts of money on paper and machines that can cut said paper into adorable shapes, all so they can paste it all together and make something that looks exactly like an example in a book. "Scrapbooking", I would say, "clearly demands little thought, a lot of money and zero creativity, so where is the fun in that?"

Seriously, what was the deal with all of the zombie scrap booking herds?

Enter my own adorable offspring, whose cuteness leaps off the charts into uncharted territory with ever-increasing intensity. Clearly a mere photo album wasn't going to do the job of documenting The Life and Times of Espen. Clearly a click-and-drag photo book couldn't show the depth and breadth of my devotion to the little Master.

Clearly a scrap book was called for.

As it happens, my mother-in-law is a Scrapbooking Goddess. I'm pretty sure poofy-haired women with excessive paper supplies come from far and wide to kneel down at her feet, she is that good. In fact, for Christmas she made wedding scrapbooks for all of her married children, and I, the Despiser of all Things Scrapbooky, loved it so much that I left it on our coffee table for a good five months. And then I only reluctantly put it away once I realized everyone we knew had already seen it.

Therefore, when we spent the weekend with Nick's parents, she condescended from her crafty throne to instruct me in the ways of the Scrapbook.

It was scary. It was overwhelming. I felt totally inadequate in the face of that much paper. But it was also somehow... fun? I liked putting the composition and colours together, as well as looking for ways to keep the page balanced and not too over crowded. But I also really lacked in thinking up "scrapbooky" designs and solutions, because it just wouldn't occur to me stick a random bit of paper somewhere on the page. But somehow it all works and looks good.

Pictured are the unfinished fruits of my labours. I still need to print and crop a photo to stick on the light coloured part, and I need to make a facing page to go with it, but it gives you an idea of what I was able to do in an hour or so.

Now I just have about, oh, 30 more pages to do, and Espen's scrapbook will be complete. I think outsourcing a scrapbook might be wrong, yes?

News flashie flash!

OK, friends, I am still alive and still projecting up a storm. But not so much with the blogging, seeing as I had a crazy couple of days followed by a loverly three-day weekend in SUNNY St. George.

I can report:

  • Family.
  • BBQ-ing.
  • A swimming-loving baby.
  • Board games.
  • A mama sleeping in three days in a row - thanks, Nick!
  • Jiu jitsu choke holds.
  • A real live date with Nick in a movie theatre with no baby!
  • Book reading.
  • Video games.
  • Strawberry short cake.
  • Water melon.
  • Naps.


I will start some insane-o blog catching up just as soon as I get home and don't have to contend with borrowed laptops or the inability to post pictures. I'm a Mac, my in-laws are PCs. Please note that the projects will be posted in the order I did them, so you might have to scroll back a bit to get caught up. But you, my friend, are all over that.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

30 days of 29, day 17: Espen meets Great Grandma Jo

Our Espen-themed weekend continues!
Whenever we're in St. George, we always visit Nick's grandma Jo. This visit was extra special because it was the first time that we introduced Espen to Grandma Jo, who is his oldest living relative at 100 years of age.

Grandma Jo enjoying meeting her youngest living relative (we think - Nick's family is enormous, and so it gets hard to keep track of all the great grandchildren and the great great grandchildren), and Espen enjoyed having an enthusiastic audience to watch him babble and kick his feet on the floor. In spite of the somewhat skeptical look on Espen's face in the picture, I think they liked each other. They were even a little bit in awe of each other, and spent a lot of time just looking at each other. How amazing that they span a century between them!

It was very important for Nick and I that Espen and his oldest great grandmother (all four are still with us!) got to spend some time together, and we hope they'll get to spend a lot more time together in the future. I never met any of my great grandparents, and have sometimes wondered about what they were like, so I'm happy that Espen has the chance to meet his.

Hopefully Espen will grow up to treasure this photo as much as we do.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

30 days of 29, day 16: Espen goes swimming.

One of my favourite suggestions for this whole project was Photoknitdog's idea to take Espen somewhere he's never been before. Of course, when he's only four months old and lives out the majority of his little human drama in our living room, that's not too hard to do. We could take him outside the gate in our back yard and it would be a whole new experience for him. But, of course, being his mama, I wanted to make things special and exciting for him, so for the 4th of July weekend, not only did we take him on his very first visit to grandma and grandpa's house, we also introduced him to grandma and grandpa's swimming pool.

People often describe Espen using words like "skeptical", "interested ", "worried" and "curious", and let me assure you that we got the full range of those emotions when we first brought him into the pool. His thoughts seem to go something like this:

"Where are we going now? Whoa! This is cold and wet! But, oh, I like water. There's quite a lot of it in here. Oh, the light is bright. Is that my daddy? I like my daddy! Oh, but I'm cold. But look at all that water! I should touch it. What does it taste like? I'd better kick my legs, just to be sure."

And so on.

Before too long, Espen got cold and shivery in the pool so we got in the hot tub instead. Which sounds like an insane thing to do in Utah in July with a temperature sensitive baby, but fortunately, we were able to control the temperature ourselves, which was nice. And if Espen liked the swimming pool, he loved the hot tub.

Of course, Espen loving something doesn't always look like you or me loving something. He just gets this little look on his face that says "I must not miss a single moment". So we bounced him up and down and swooshed him through the water, and let him touch the waterfall, and he had a grand old time. But I think he most enjoyed relaxing in the shade with me, with his head resting on my chest and his little body floating in the water, while his legs kicked happily.


Added bonus: We discovered that swimming completely wears Espen out, as he couldn't take a nap fast enough both of the times we brought him in the pool. His second, 15-minute swimming adventure resulted in a 4.5 hour nap!

So, yes, we will be going swimming again in the future :)

Friday, July 2, 2010

30 days of 29, day 15: Ghana vs. Uruguay

To call me a sports fan would be a bit like calling a goldfish ambidextrous - it just doesn't make sense.

Sure, I care about "my" team winning, especially if BYU is playing the U, England is playing Germany or Norway is playing anyone at all, but not really enough to involve myself on much more than a "that's nice" sort of level.

So me getting all into the World Cup this year was a little surprising, but not nearly as surprising as me deciding to watch the Ghana vs. Uruguay match all by my little self.

Photoknitdog suggested that I watch something on TV that I'd never been interested in before, so a football* match between two countries that I've never visited and have very little connection to seemed to fit the description.

Here's the thing, though: I got really into it. I mean really into it. Nail-bitingly, TV-shoutingly, child-neglectingly ("you can take a nap at half-time, baby") into it.

I think I briefly became Ghanaian.

I even started tweeting about it:

And then, of course, Facebook had to know all about it too:

To be fair to my firmly established, non-football loving ways: it was a really, really exciting match with lots of really tense moments, so it's not too surprising that I got sucked in. Or really disappointed when my (by then) beloved Ghana lost at the very last penalty kick.

Am I a born-again footfall ban? Nope.

Would I watch another football match? Probably.

Will I watch the World Cup Final? Probably not.

*Please note that when I say "football," I am referring to the game where you primarily and frequently kick the ball with your feet. Not the other one where you mostly carry it around. Also, a "match" is what most Americans would refer to as a "game", not a small, combustible device for creating fire.

30 days of 29, day 14: A book for Espen

A few years ago, when I was still working outside the home (suggest that I no longer work and I will detach your larynx with a spoon) my boss gave me a big hard-covered sketchbook. I decided immediately that this book needed to be used for something special, and so I set about saving it for Just The Right Thing.

Which turned out to be letters to Espen.

I found a quiet moment and sat down and wrote what will hopefully be the first of many letters to my son. I told him about his latest accomplishments, the things we like to do together and the things that make him laugh. Above all, I told him how much he is loved.

Then, at some point in the future when the book is full and Espen is old enough, I will give it to him so he can read all about himself. And know that he was always loved and special and absolutely his parents greatest source of pride and joy. And that he really enjoyed the taste of his toes.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

30 days of 29, day 13: Baking bread

As the more sharp-witted among you may have picked up, I consider myself to be a pretty good cook. I also consider myself to be an abysmal wreck of a baker. I really don't know what it is, but baking scares me. In fact, I once sat in front of the oven and wept as Nick's birthday cake baked, because I was so sure I had ruined it. I hadn't.

As it is, I have about two go-to recipes for when I want to bake something, and everything else is created in a state of abject terror when the mood strikes me, which is extremely seldom. Everything else is baked by Nick, who really knows his way around a rolling pin. And that works too.

But I wanna do it! Me, me, me! I want to be the kind of domestic goddess that can whip up a quick Sacher torte and loaf of bread and still have time to vacuum in my pearls before breakfast. OK, not really. But I do want to be a better baker.

Which is why, when Gibknitty suggested that I try my hand at baking bread, I thought "Well, alright then."

So, I tried my hand at this recipe for Almond-Chocolate bread.

Of course, I couldn't just do it normally. If course I had to bake it in the oven rather than use our bread machine. Of course I had to try to be smarter than the recipe, and then forget to pay attention to what I was doing. And of course that showed in the result. The bread didn't rise as well as I had hoped, and ended up pretty dense, but it was still really tasty.

So, I'm going to make it again.

Stick that in your back pocket, bread monkeys!