Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

As you can see, it's all glitz and glamour around here tonight! I generally feel like December 31st is a waste without a party, but we've had some crazy (good!) stuff going on around here lately (no, not pregnant) and even the thought of entertaining is exhausting. Espen is in bed, so tonight it will just be me and Nick, some blankets and a movie. Oh, and a bottle of Martinelli's at midnight :)

Hope 2012 will be a happy one for you and yours!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


We're arrived home tonight from our week-long Christmas trip and are getting settled back in. The next few days will be spent unpacking, finding homes for new Christmas gifts (mostly Espen's), doing laundry, grocery shopping and getting caught up on the errands we got behind on while we were away. Pretty soon the Christmas decorations will be boxed up and back in the attic and we will be back to normal again. But before we get to that point, can I just tell you that we have had the most wonderful Christmas?

We relaxed, we spent time with family, we ate good food. Espen was all the best kinds of excited about celebrating Christmas and opening presents. But what he loved the best was spending time with his Grandma and Grandpa. Seriously. They both have the ability to absolutely drop everything and just focus their whole attention on Espen, which is something I feel I could learn a lot from.

As for me, my favorite part of Christmas had to be seeing the joy and excitement in Espen. He's not even two yet, and he was already too excited to sleep on Christmas eve. When he was taking a while to fall asleep, Nick went up to tuck him in (about half an hour after we said goodnight) and Espen asked him: "Daddy, is Christmas Day?" I understand now why parents run themselves ragged to find the perfect gift for their children, spend too much money and stay up all hours of the night assembling gifts. I understand because not only have we now done those things ourselves, but now we have seen the joy and the magic of Christmas on our little boy's face, and it doesn't get much better than that, friends.

Will you forgive me if I unleash an avalanche of Christmas photos on you?

Espen opening his (now) traditional gift of pajamas and a book on Christmas eve. 

Modeling his new pajamas. New book in the bottom right.

12:45 AM on Christmas morning, and I have finally finished knitting Espen's Kipper
Why yes, I was as exhausted as I looked, thanks for noticing. 

 But it was all worth it in the end, because Kipper was a hit!

Espen and Daddy playing with the new remote controlled fire truck. 
A gift that only a grand parent could give!

His wooden train set from IKEA was probably the big favorite. I've lost count of how many times he's taken me by the hand and asked: "Mama, play trains? OK?"

And his new Doodler. I think Grandpa wants to try! 

Espen couldn't wait to try out the water color paints in his stocking, so we stripped him down and let him loose. He loved it!

Espen's first painting. Clearly the kid's a genius. I mean, come on!
(Don't be surprised if you see this framed in my house. Sentimental fool + proud mama = me.)

 The day after Christmas just got better, as Nick and I sneaked away for a few days on our own. But that is for another post!

How were your holidays?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The North family is headed South for Christmas and we are literally one lunch salad from being out of here! Before we go, though, I just wanted to stop by and wish all of you a very happy Christmas. It's such a gift to have an actual, bonafide readership out there (even if half of you are family and friends!), and I love how you make me feel like what I have to say is worth your while. So thank you!

I don't anticipate being back online for a week or so while we bask in the glory of family and free baby sitters, so with this I wish you a merry Christmas and quite possibly a happy New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2011


Happy Monday! How was your weekend? We had a fantastic one filled with family and friends. Highlights included a highly successful dinner out with Espen (not always guaranteed), Christmas lights, Grandma and Grandpa babysitting, the wedding of some very good friends and a lovely Sunday evening spent with new friends. We've been so spoiled, I haven't cooked since Thursday!

Although our weekend was pretty busy, we still managed to sneak in some time to bake pepperkaker. They are a Norwegian type of cookie, a lot like thin gingerbread. You can buy the Swedish equivalent in the US as Anna's Ginger Thins, and they are basically the same thing.

We let Espen in on the fun, and he had a fantastic time getting coated in flour and cutting out the cookies. We were impressed that he could identify all of the shapes correctly too, including the angel. That boy, I tell you what! He kept attacking the dough with great gusto, and then proclaiming the mangled remains "perfect!" We didn't get a whole lot of cookies out of our little baking session, but we all had a lot of fun. 

Our yield from round one of baking. We tried a new recipe, and I have to say I wasn't super happy with it. The cookies ended up paler and thicker than I like them, and the flavor wasn't quite "right" somehow. They were still good, though, and it was fun to try something a little different. I think we'll probably do another round of "our" recipe later on in the week. 

A little tip if you'd like to try making your own pepperkaker: Ikea sells their own refrigerated dough that you can just roll out and bake, and it is delicious! I know several Norwegians in Norway that choose to go that route, for the simplicity of it as well as for the tastiness. If you want to make your own dough, this recipe looks pretty close to the one that we use. Just make sure that you refrigerate your dough overnight, and keep the rest of your dough cold while you roll it out in sections. It's useless once it warms up to room temperature! 

What kind of treats do you just have to have for it to be Christmas? Pepperkaker are at the top of my list, followed by krumkaker, which we'll also be making one of these days. Oh yum! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas cards

I love getting the mail in December, because there's always a chance that there will be a Christmas card. I love Christmas cards! Photo cards with Christmas letters are my favorites, because I love catching up with friends and family ("Look how much those kids have grown! She looks just like her mom. Oh, I didn't know he had a new job!") Traditional cards are my other favorites, because I love how they're such an instant shot of Christmas cheer. 

We always like to display our cards somewhere, and this year they have ended up around the clock in the living room. The collection has grown a bit since I took this photo a few days ago, and I'm hoping for even more. 
Does anyone offer a class on how to take better bloggy photos? I mean, really! 

Although I've always tried to send Christmas cards, even as a single college student, we have definitely kicked things up a bit since the arrival of Espen. Our family and friends span a couple of continents, and so a photo card and a Christmas letter seem like a good way to go. Below is a little sneak preview of our card and letter. Don't look too closely if you suspect you are on our list!  

Also, don't worry; Nick is still part of our family, he just hasn't signed the letters yet when I took this photo!

I love thinking of our cards and letters winging their little way across the globe, and finally finding their way into a loved one's hands. It reminds me of this quote by Phyllis Theroux: "To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart." So if you get a card from us, know that that is our intention! And if you'd like a card from us, email me your address, and I'd love to send you one. 

How about you? Do you send Christmas cards? Do you love getting them, or do you find them a bit of a waste of time and resources in this day and age when you could just as easily send an email? 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

More julevask

You guys, it only took four days, but I have finally finished cleaning my kitchen! The julevask bug got me good, and so I have spent every spare moment cleaning. I am a little creeped out by how good it feels. I mean, seriously. This is how I get my kicks now?

No matter. Espen is still napping, and Nick is at work, and I have even banished myself to the living room  to prolong the kitchen's spotless state. I know it can't (and won't) last beyond dinner time, but I'll enjoy it while I can.

And I took a picture, because it lasts longer:

While I'm clearly not an interior design blogger (I don't think they feature battery chargers in their photos), I am categorizing myself as a house proud braggy blogger. Perhaps only the parents of small children will recognize the mad sense of accomplishment that comes from having something, anything not be covered in fingerprints and Legos for more than 10 minutes. 

When I was standing on a chair this morning, unscrewing the shades from the lamp above the kitchen table, Espen came and stood beside me repeating "Careful, mama! Mama! Be careful!"because he knows that is what you say when someone (I'm not naming names) climbs on the furniture.

I don't think interior design bloggers typically show you the rear view of a high chair either, but this does give you a chance to see our advent calendar in action, along with a few oranges with cloves. Our breakfasts have been quite festive in December, with candles on the table and three calendars to open (Espen's chocolate calendar can be seen in the background). No wonder January is such a dreary month in comparison!

Nine more days until Christmas Eve! Are you ready?

Monday, December 12, 2011


Do you love all of your Christmas traditions, or are there any you keep around for who-knows-what reason? Christmas in Norway is filled with all sorts of traditions, most of them absolutely lovely, and some of them slightly... well...

One of those traditions is julevask, or Christmas cleaning. Basically, Norwegians do all of their spring cleaning in the month before Christmas. And then they do it all again in the spring. On top of Christmas shopping, decorating, Christmas parties, baking and all of the other things that happen in December, Norwegians also feel the need to scrub every inch of their homes before settling in to celebrate Christmas. Literally. It's not just a little bit of vacuuming up after bringing in the tree, or dusting before putting up the decorations. No. In my family (usually spearheaded by my very traditional father) we would empty out closets, vacuum behind the couch and scrub down the walls. I may or may not have memories of sorting my Barbie shoes. And it all has to be finished by Christmas Eve at the very very latest. Needless to say, this results in a lot of stressed out Norwegians!

There is an upside or two, of course. At the top of the list is the glowy, virtuous, exhausted feeling you have as you sit down to enjoy your Christmas in an absolutely spotless house. And Norwegians traditionally spend the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve visiting each other, so at least it's good to know that no fastidious old aunty is going to catch you with dusty baseboards!

It has to be said that I'm probably remembering this in a slightly unfair light. My mum is English, and still views a lot of Norwegian traditions from an outsider's perspective, maybe especially this one, which she sees as slightly mad. Why not enjoy the pre-Christmas season, rather than scrub it from existence? My dad, however, talks disdainfully about how the English decorate around the dirt, rather than go that extra mile to make things nice for the holiday. And I think I fall somewhere in between.

I've always thought Norwegian Christmas cleaning bordered on slightly hysterical. As my cousin just said on Facebook today, if you're not planning on celebrating Christmas inside your cupboards, don't waste December cleaning them. And yet I found myself yesterday morning, writing a check-list of everything I wanted to clean in our kitchen before I could consider it properly done. Rest assured that the top of our fridge has been scrubbed, and the inside of the freezer has been wiped. The light fixture is about to be dusted and the floors mopped.

And the absolutely bonkers thing to me is that nothing we have done so far this holiday has filled me with as much Christmas spirit as blasting Christmas music and giving my kitchen a really good scrub. I've never felt so connected to my ancestors in my life! It must be in my DNA.

Image borrowed here

Sage Digital Designs Winner!

The lovely Carolyn is the winner of the Sage Digital Designs Giveaway. Show off those adorable kids, Carolyn, and be sure to send a Christmas card my way. Kristen from Sage Digital Designs will be in touch :)


Friday, December 9, 2011

A special ornament.

We have made it a North family tradition to buy something new and special for the tree each year. When we were just starting out and didn't have much holiday decorations, it was often bigger things like a box of ornaments or a tree skirt one year, or spools of ribbon another year. Now we're not so worried about having enough to simply cover the tree, and can focus on finding something really pretty or meaningful each year.

This year's special ornament is a hand painted Delftware bell that we bought in Delft this summer while we were visiting Nick's sister Tess in the Netherlands. (Tess, why did you stop blogging?) We bought it in a little store on the square, where the owner was painting pottery in the store. She was friendly and endlessly patient with Espen, who wanted to touch everything. Bull in a china shop? Pshaw! Try a bored toddler.

Sitting here in my living room and looking up at tree, I am reminded of so much about that day, it's almost like being transported there in my mind, right up to regretting all over again not buying some of those silly wooden tulips they sold to tourists everywhere you turned.

My hope is that, years from now, our whole tree will be filled with things that bring back memories of places we've been, people we love and the wonderful things we have done.

What do you love about your Christmas tree?

Also, don't forget to enter my current giveaway from Sage Digital Designs! If not for Christmas cards this year, then maybe for an upcoming holiday or event next year! Show off that beautiful little family/dog/cat/face of yours! :) Enter here

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sage Digital Designs Giveaway

Hands up if you have procrastinated your Christmas cards! Well, if you have, you might just be in luck, and even if you haven't you might be in luck too! 

The very talented Kristen of Sage Digital Designs is offering one lucky reader a free design of their choice. Naturally Christmas comes to mind (and Kristen says she can have your completed design to you in a day or two, so there's still time!), but Sage Digital Designs also offers wedding invitations and inserts, baby announcements, thank you cards, graduation announcement and birthday/shower invitations. She promised she'd even make you a Happy New Year's card if that's the way you roll. Yo. 

The basic idea is that you select a design of your choice, send Sage Digital Designs an email with your photos attached, telling them what fonts, colors and text you want on your card. Then the lovely Kristen will create a design to your specifications, which she will email to you as a digital file, that you can print out wherever you prefer. The truly amazing part is that the whole process only takes a few days, including time for your input to get everything just how you want it! You can read more about the ordering process here

Giveaway Details

  1. To enter, simply visit Sage Digital Designs, come back here and leave a comment on this post, telling me what your favorite design is. Be sure to include a name and email if you don't have a blog where I can easily contact you. 
  2. For a second entry, mention this competition on your blog, Facebook or Twitter, then tell me about in a separate comment. Honors' system here, although I'd love to visit your blog if you leave me a link! 
  3. The competition is open to anyone, and runs until 12 noon MST, Monday 12 December, 2011. At that time, I will announce the winner here on Project Project. 
  4. Please note that this giveaway is for any type of design, not just for Christmas cards! I'd be sad if you didn't enter just because your cards are already done. 
Now go win yourself something pretty! 

In the advent calendar today

I thought you might be interested in what goes inside our advent calendar. So far there has been a lot of chocolate (Espen is in heaven), some music, and today's gift was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

The good thing about being the driving force behind the advent calendar, is that I get to decide what goes in it, and today was a day for some self-indulgence. If you read my Christmas wish list last week, you already know how I feel about the clothbound,  hardcover Penguin Classics (swoon), and I have actually wanted to read A Christmas Carol for years. Every year the leaders of our church and the Tabernacle Choir do a special Christmas broadcast together. This year, Thomas S. Monson, the leader and prophet of our church mentioned that he reads A Christmas Carol every December to help him remember the true purpose of Christmas, which was the nudge I needed to add it to our family library, in the hope that Nick and I can read it together in the weeks leading up to Christmas. 

As much as I love the fun of decorating, presents, parties, baking, music, friends and family, I think it's important to remember that for our family, Christmas is a celebration of Christ, and the best way I know to celebrate him is through showing love and kindness to others. And if a beautifully written and bound book can help us remember the importance of doing that, all the better. 

How do you make your Christmas meaningful? If faith isn't part of your celebration, do you prefer to keep it light and fun, or do you try to add a "deeper" meaning to it?

Watch President Monson's address here

Monday, December 5, 2011

Graham cracker house

A quick peek at Espen's graham cracker "gingerbread" house. We made these at a play date with some friends last week, and they are a great alternative for kids too young for a full gingerbread house. I thought it was going to be a bit out of his league, but Espen was all about sticking on those marshmallows with frosting! I masterminded the marshmallow roof, and Espen "rearranged" them as we went. The gummy bear door is mine, and the randomly attached piece of cracker and candy on the side is Espen's. It originally went on the roof with the marshmallows, but truly great artists get to change their minds, right?

If I am completely honest, I have to say that I struggle with some of the stickier aspects of parenting, and it can be hard for me to relinquish control and let Espen have at it. But I knew going into this that Espen was going to get messy, so I did some deep breathing and tried my hardest to just let him have fun with it. And he did! I loved seeing how proud he was of his masterpiece, which is now prominently displayed in our kitchen.

If you'd like to make your own, I found a quick tutorial here. I would like to add, though, that if you're doing this with young kids, I'd recommend following my friend's genius idea of putting a little chocolate milk carton inside to help stabilize the house. Definitely a plus when it's being manhandled by tiny hands! We just glued the crackers directly onto the carton with frosting, and it worked great! I'm sure your little architects won't mind drinking the milk :)

PS, I just noticed this was my 300th post! Yay :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The surest sign of Christmas at our house.

I love this song so much it's not even a guilty secret anymore, and December is the month for all out 1984, big-haired, moon-bootsed, puppy-eyed Whamtastic indulgence. Seriously. Last Christmas - this Christmas and every Christmas. 

Won't you join me? 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent calendar (with tutorial)

December 1st always marks the official start of the Christmas season to me. As is traditional in Norway where I grew up, we have an advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas. And as is traditional, the mother of the house (me) stayed up until midnight finishing it up. We actually have four  advent calendars on the go this year: a chocolate calendar for Espen (because those were The Most Coveted calendars available when I was a kid), one that a friend made for Espen, a Norwegian 24-episode advent calendar on DVD (Skomakergata!) and the home-made one that the whole family shares:

You're going to have to use your imagination a bit as far as presentation is concerned; I did buy a cute basket for it last year, but that has been misappropriated as our kitchen counter catch-all. So the punchbowl gets the job for now, until I find something better. Maybe a white old-timey enamel basin?

I actually made most of this calendar last year, but being the slovenly crafter that I am, I started reusing the empty bags from the beginning of the month rather than sewing up the last six bags. There's only so much blanket stitch a girl can handle! I finished it up yesterday, though, and took a few photos in case any of you are interested in a tutorial of sorts.

(If not, stop reading now, because this is going to be long!)

Advent Calendar Tutorial

You will need: 
  • Red felt. Seeing as you decide the size of your bags, how much is up to you, but 2 yds. should be plenty. 
  • White felt. I just bought a couple of the 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheets of cheap felt and used that, although a heavier felt might fare a bit better longterm. 
  • Needle, thread and scissors. OK, here is where we all see why I should not be doing a sewing tutorial, especially a year after buying my supplies. I used a heavier white embroidery thread and an embroidery needle. Stitch School is smarter than me, and can point you in the right direction on that. 
  • Pretty ribbon, and plenty of it! I like my bag ties short and poky, but if you're going to be doing 24 (or 25, if that is how you roll) pretty bows, you're going to need a lot more. 
  • Glue. Use fabric glue if you're feeling fancy, I just used Elmer's glue and everything is still sticking just fine one year later. 
  • Numbers 1-24 (really, 1-9 will do) cut out from felt. More on this later. 
  • Hole punch.


I made mine a year ago, so my photos are a bit limited. The process here is pretty simple, though: 

1. Cut out numbers in red felt. If you're fancy and have a cutting machine, you're golden. If you're a ghetto crafter like me, here's what I did:
      • Choose a clear, open font (I used CK Frosting) and print out the numbers 1-9 on plain old paper.
      • Carefully cut out the numbers. 
      • Trace them onto some red felt, making sure that you trace the numbers backwards so you don't get visible pencil marks. 
      • Cut them out, and repeat until you have enough for the numbers 1-24. 
2. Take your white felt, and cut out 24 rectangles. Mine measure about 2x3 inches (5x7.5 cm). With an 81/2 x 11" sheet, you can fit 4 by 3, 4 if you get a bit squidgy on the height of the tags. It doesn't really matter if they're not all identical.

3. Cut the corners off one side of your rectangle to make it tag-shaped. 

4.  With the hole punch, make a hole for your ribbon to go through.
5. Glue the numbers onto the tags. Tadah! (Bonus points: stitch the numbers into place with red or white thread. I haven't done mine, but I keep thinking about it.)


1. Cut out 24 strips of fabric in varying widths and lengths. Fold them in half widthwise to determine the size of each bag. Think about the things you'll be putting inside to determine the size and shape of the bags. A few pieces of candy can go in a very small bag, but a DVD needs a pretty tall bag. Take into account that you will need enough fabric at the top of the bag to tie a ribbon around it.

2. Fold bags in half and stitch along the two long sides. Stitch School has a great tutorial for blanket stitch here, although as I look closer, I appear to have invented my own bastardization of blanket stitch on my bags. Oh well. I told you I shouldn't be making sewing tutorials! 
3.  Repeat and repeat and repeat until you are done! 

To finish

1. Fill your bags with goodies. 
2. Slip tags onto lengths of ribbon, and tie onto corresponding bag. 
3. Slap bags into a vessel of your choice, and you are done!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A cute little exchange about Christmas

Mama, what are you talking about? 

Espen: Mama, show me Christmas? I see Christmas?
Me: Uhm.... it's hard to show you Christmas. There is Christmas music, and Christmas trees, but really, Christmas is in here (touching his heart).
Espen (utterly bewildered, poking his little pajama-clad belly) Christmas here?

The poor kid is truly confused now, but you've got to start somewhere, right?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

All I want for Christmas is...

Do you make Christmas wish lists? We used to in my family when we were kids and teenagers, but that seemed to go by the wayside at some point, and I haven't made one since. But now, of course, all the best bloggers seem to be posting them, and they're all so pretty and dreamy that I just wanted to make one too! 

Left to right, top to bottom: 

  1. Farmer's Egg Crate, from Anthropologie. I love pretty kitchen things, and this is no exception. I may be insane for wanting to pretty up the inside of my fridge, but the thought of seeing that every day just makes me smile. 
  2. La Roux: La Roux. I'm in need of some new music, and I've liked the sound of La Roux for a couple of years without every actually getting the album. 
  3. Design Sponge at Home. I've followed the Design Sponge blog for ages, and was excited to see that Grace Bonney has put together a book. My house may not look anything like the homes you'll see on Design Sponge, but I love looking and getting some new ideas. 
  4. Is anyone else in love with the clothbound Penguin classics? I love pretty things, and I love books, so this is pretty much perfection for me! I'd love any of them, but Sense and Sensibility and Little Women are at the tippy top of my list. I haven't read either of them yet, but have wanted to read either for years. 
  5. Leather gloves. Not necessarily these ones from Overstock (although I do like them!), but I would love a pair of warm, lined leather gloves. I love how a nice pair of leather gloves look, and I'd like them for driving in on those winter mornings when the car hasn't quite warmed up yet. 
  6. The entire Farmer's Market line from Anthropologie is killing me softly with its (siren) song, but these little baskets are especially adorable. I mean, look at it! 
  7. I want a bright, splashy,vintage-y calendar for my kitchen. This vintage travel calendar is really ticking my boxes, but I'd really love anything with the same feel. The only thing I'm really married to is the big whitespace around the image. It's just crisp! 
  8. Domino: The Book of Decorating. I loved the magazine before it went out of print, and just really want to snap up the book before it disappears for ever. 
  9. Asymmetric collar felted pea coat from eShakti. Here's the tricky thing about this one: I've actually had my eye on it for about a year, and this year my mum ordered it for me for Christmas. It arrived today, and I am so pleased with it that I included it on the list :)
  10. Regina Spektor: Far. I've liked Regina Spektor for ages, but haven't ever gotten any of her music. Really, though, I am just interested in new music. Any ideas?
  11.  Savon de Marseille.  I know, I know: it's a $23 bottle of soap, so help me. But I've been dying to try it,  I love the glass bottle and the styling, and I could refill it with cheapy (cheapier, anyway) soap when it was empty. And bonus! This particular one is grapefruit scented, which I think smells fantastic. And bonus-bonus, I would smile every time I saw the French word for grapefruit, which is pamplemousse! 
  12. This is really the same thing as #4, but I wanted to show you the pretty cover for the Penguin clothbound copy of Little Women

A few less specific things are on my list too:

  • A scarf or a brooch to brighten up my new coat. 
  • A subscription to Better Homes and Gardens. I think they're only $6!
  • Jewelry. I am not very good with jewelry, but I feel like I could use a few statement pieces. 
  • Tops and cardigans. 
  • Norwegian books, music and films. Oh, and chocolate. 
  • And can I just say, I love me a good old fashioned gift card. 
Gosh, that was materialistic! And fun :) At least I have a good shopping list for the after-Christmas sales, right?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving Thanks: November 21

You guys, I am trying my hardest here to hold back the Christmas blogging until after Thanksgiving, but it is tough. I am sticking to my guns that Christmas should be contained to December, or at least until after Thanksgiving or the first Sunday in advent. I love Christmas, but I love Thanksgiving too, and really feel like it deserves to be its own holiday. My problem this year, though, is that I am just starting to feel so dang Christmassy already! I think it's probably because it's the first Christmas where Espen can really grasp what's going on, and so I am just exploding with excitement over all the fun we're going to have. GAH!

Oh, it feels good to get it out of my system. But expect Christmas to be pretty fair game around here after this weekend, ok?

Anyway, I am still feeling grateful over here. I haven't been posting every day, but this whole Giving Thanks has really helped me to be constantly mindful of the things I am grateful for. Even when I haven't posted, I have still found the time at the end of each day to ask myself what I am grateful for today.

November 21st: I am thankful for the internet. 

No, really. I am! The internet has been a completely life-changing phenomenon for me in the last decade. When I first moved out here to Utah, I had to buy phone cards to call my family at home in Norway. We would talk for about 20 minutes or so every other week, and I'd pay as much for a phone card then as we pay for our entire phone service now. We had email of course, but it was no easier in early 2000 to find the time to sit down and write an email than it is in 2011. Internet connections were often slow, and websites had very limited content compared to today. 

I love how I sound like I'm talking about The Olden Days (Erin :) ) and this was only 11 years ago! 

Anyway, so much has changed! It used to feel like my home and my family were so far away from me, but now it's almost like having a foot at home in Norway. Thanks to the internet, I read Norwegian newspapers daily, we watch our favorite Norwegian shows on the day they air, I stay in touch with family and friends via Facebook and blogs, I can look up Norwegian recipes when I'm feeling homesick, I can share photos and videos instantly with my family, I can talk to them on the phone as much as I want to for a tiny fee, and holy-freaking-crap, I can see them whenever I want to! 

A very young Espen Skypes with Granny. 

Skype has been a fantastic thing for our family. We talked my parents into giving it a try when I was pregnant, and Espen had his first Skypedate with Granny and Granddad on the day he was born. Now we Skype a couple of times a week. Espen will often ask to "Skype Granny?" and he completely has a relationship with his grandparents even though they're almost 5,000 miles away. They can watch Espen play, and I can see my mum's latest shopping treasures and knitting projects. It has been a great comfort to be able to actually see my dad since his cancer diagnosis too. Just being able to see how he is doing with my own eyes has given me a lot of peace of mind. 

I could go on and on. There's online bill pay, Google, Netflix, Pinterest, blogs, amazon, and all kinds of conveniences and entertainment to be had. Of course this isn't a very nuanced point of view, seeing as I am only focusing on the parts I like. There are plenty of downsides to the internet too, from fraud to causing problems for people with a variety of addictions. But of course there is going to be a downside to essentially allowing the entire world into your home. Today, though, I am grateful for all of the wonderful benefits to be being able to do exactly that. 

Are you grateful for the internet? Why? Why not? 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Giving Thanks: November 15

November 15th: I am thankful for four little words

Photo taken by my mum, via Skype. She is sneaky like that.

Kids really do say the darndest things. Why, it was only this morning that I was burying my head in my hands as my 21-month old son repeated "oh shoot, oh shoot, oh shoot" over and over again. Other Espen classics have lately included "Mama, draw poopy?" and a suggestion that his Daddy should sleep outside.  The things that come out of his mouth vary from giggle-inducing, to stupefying (Did he just say...?) to outright mortifying. 

And sometimes they just melt my heart: 

I was putting Espen down for his nap after a very wild and raucous diaper change. He was squirmy and wiggly and I was thinking to myself that this nap is just not going to take (it still hasn't). After getting him settled in with his crazy cat, two giraffes, a hippo and a blanket, I stroked his face and told him good night. That was when Espen looked up at me said said : "Mama, I love you."

He has never said that before. Granted, he's not even two yet, so it's not too surprising, but this is also a little boy whose vocabulary includes words like "hexagon", "ambulance" and "sculpture". We tell him that we love him all the time, so it's a phrase he's heard, and as his mother, I know it's an emotion he feels. Today was just the day he decided to put the two together, and I am so grateful I was there for it. So grateful to feel the impact of having those words meant for me. So grateful to know that, together, we are doing something right. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Giving Thanks: November 14

November 14th: I am thankful for insulin

This gorgeous photo is of me and my lovely Erin, bestie and former roommate extraordinaire, and was taken during our college days. Don't we have "serious students" written all over us? Anyway, the reason why I'm treating you to this blast from the past is that today is World Diabetes Day, and Erin has diabetes.   
You can read more on her blog here

Before we were roommates, I didn't know all that much about diabetes. I mean, I knew that it meant that your body didn't produce insulin, and that you had to give yourself insulin shots to compensate. I knew that you shouldn't eat sugar (not technically true), and I knew that you could go into something called a diabetic coma. 

(My spell check just tried to correct that to "diabetic roman.")

Then I met Erin. Erin spoke German, painted pictures, owned a Mac before they were cool, played the flute and the piano, liked Indian food and double-stuffed oreos, double-majored in psychology and anthropology, and loved Sting with a fiery passion. And she had diabetes.  

I could say that Erin's diabetes didn't matter. But it became part of our lives, because it was part of her life. She had an insulin pump attached to her body at all times, tested her blood sugar many times a day and always carried a test kit with her. You could find stray test strips anywhere within a one mile radius of our house. Erin got loopy when her blood sugar was low, and grumpy when it was high. She kept insulin in the fridge, and a bin of pump supplies in her room. In spite of all of this, diabetes never, ever defined who Erin was or what she did. 

The summer before I got married, Erin packed up her diabetes and moved to Ghana for three months. I'll let you read all about it here but think power outages (remember insulin has to be kept cold!), eating goats, being stranded in Burkina Faso and fixing a moped with a hair tie, oh, and crocodiles. 


Clearly I am grateful for Erin and the influence she's had on my life. But I am also so grateful for the simple existence of insulin that has taken diabetes from a death sentence to a chronic illness. And that has given me one of my best friends. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Giving Thanks: November 13

November 13th: I am thankful for these guys

The startled look is due to the flash. They are playing in the dark because that is how we roll, yo.

As I write and our shepherd's pie bubbles away in the oven, Nick and Espen are in their blanket fort, racing cars. And, I believe, giraffes. If you can think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon, I'd love to hear it.

(Oh, and yes, those are his pajamas.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Giving Thanks: November 7,8,9 and 10

Hello internet! Just stopping by to confirm that I am, indeed, still alive and still feeling thankful. I've just had to work a little harder to get there in the last couple of days. Espen got sick on Sunday night/Monday morning, and so we were up with him every hour until about 6 AM. Needless to say, we were all exhausted and grumpy. Then, after a few days of randomly bursting into tears, I notice that Espen has a new tooth, and it was like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Until yesterday morning when Nick and I both woke up with sore throats. And then tonight I discover that Espen has another new tooth on the way. Poor little guy!

So I've been having to dig a little deeper to find the gratitude. The amazing thing though, is that there is always something to be grateful for.

November 7th: I am thankful for grandparents

Espen and Grandma in happier times.

On Monday afternoon Espen went from being a tearful, listless little lump that only wanted to be held and watch illicit amounts of Kipper to a squealing, giggling little streak of happy running around the living room in about 3 seconds flat. The difference? Grandma and Grandpa came over for a visit. They live over three hours away, so I have to say that their timing for a quick trip up North was impeccable. And while they were playing, it gave me a chance to do some listless slumping of my own. But seeing Espen so happy and having so much fun, and knowing he really didn't feel good, was great. And I'm thankful for Grandma and Grandpa, the only people who could make that happen. 

And then later that evening, Espen got some dinosaur stickers in the mail from Granny and Granddad. Way to grandparent from halfway around the world! Sticking those all over the kitchen window completely saved the day on Tuesday when we were stuck in the house for day two of the North Family Sickathon 2011. 

November 8th: I am thankful for my life situation.

I hope to tread a little carefully with this one: Lots of parents work outside the home, and lots of parents don't work outside the home. I think that each family needs to decide what will work best for them. This week I am grateful to belong to the latter group. I know how fortunate we are to even be able to consider having me stay home full-time. I'm always happy we made this choice, because it feels like the right one for us. This week it was great to just know that I was free to take care of Espen without worrying about anything else. 

November 9th: I am thankful for restaurants. 
When I picked Nick up from work we were tired, we were hungry and none of us were feeling great. Nick works in downtown Provo, so we were within seconds of about 12 restaurants that we like. Yesterday I was thankful for Guru's and their California Club wrap. Bonus gratitude points for their kids menu and a cheese quesadilla that Espen would actually eat. 

November 10th: I am thankful for friends, visiting teachers and plates of treats.
OK, I know that I was thankful for friends on Monday, but I was thankful all over again today. In our church we have something called visiting teachers. It basically means that every woman in the church has two women assigned to her to basically look out for her and whatever she needs. My visiting teachers have brought me meals when Espen was born, when I was getting over surgery or when I was even just not feeling good. So today, when I heard a knock at the door and I saw it was my visiting teacher, I had no hesitation in hauling my un-showered, sweat-pantsed self to the door. Of course it helps that she's a good friend too, and in this case, a good friend bearing a plate of chocolatey treats. Definitely a highlight of my day! And while the treats were delectable, what really meant something was that someone had taken the time to think of me and how to brighten my day. 

What are you feeling thankful for?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Giving Thanks: November 6

November 6th: I am thankful for friends.

Anyone who has read this blog, or known me in person, for any length of time will know that I get very braggy about my friends. And for good reason! I'm not sure how exactly we have done it, but somehow we've managed to surround with the loveliest, kindest, funniest, most generous group of people imaginable. Somewhere in our youth or childhood, we must have done something good, I suppose. 

Me, Annika (one of my oldest and best friends) and a very little Espen.  

I was reminded of this fact yesterday when we sat down to dinner with some very good, old friends, as well as an old acquaintance/new friend and his lovely wife. We all had so much to talk about that we could hardly get a word in edgeways between the six of us and Espen, who was perhaps our liveliest conversationalist. It felt especially poignant to sit down with a new friendship and all the potential that holds compared to an old friendship so close that it borders on family. On the one hand we were all introductions and getting to know each other, on the other hand we were completing each other's sentences and reaching back into a shared history of many, many years of friendship. 

I am thankful for friends, old and new, near and far. I am thankful for the blessing of the family we are allowed to choose: our friends. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Giving Thanks: November 5

November 5th: I am thankful for the weekend. 

That is all. Proceed. 

Giving Thanks: November 4

November 4th: I am thankful for a perfect moment. 

After lunch today, Espen brought his Legos into the kitchen while I worked on a sweater I am knitting for Nick. I sat at the kitchen table, he played on the floor beside me while we both listened to music. I looked down at Espen playing by my feet and realized that I was perfectly happy. For a short, fleeting moment everything was right in my world and my heart was filled with pure joy. I am grateful for that moment and for the quiet voice within me that reminded me it was there.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Giving Thanks: November 3

November 3rd: I am thankful for play dates, friends and so much more.

The boys enjoy some story time. 

Espen has two little friends, and the three of them are all born within four weeks of each other. These little friends happen to all live within walking distance of each other, and more than that, they happen to have some pretty wonderful women for their mothers. Well, the other two do. Espen has me. 

The six of us have been getting together pretty regularly lately for a weekly play date. We say it's for the kids, and we mean it, but really, truthfully, it's for us moms too. It certainly is for me. Being a full-time, stay-at-home mom is a wonderful gift. It is truly the most rewarding, significant thing I have ever, ever done. Having said that, it can also be frustrating, tedious and even a little lonely. Which is why it can be so good for everyone involved when you find someone else who speaks your language and knows where you are coming from. I am especially grateful for the love and the kindness that these women show to my little boy; reading him books, letting him climb all over them, being patient when he decides to drive trains on their child's faces. 

 It's about the kids too. It's about learning to share toys and attention, learning to interact with other people, how to be social. It's about wrestling and toddler pillow fights and working together to figure out who's going to sit on the car and who's going to push. It's about having fun, and discovering the joy that comes from having friends. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Giving Thanks: November 2

November 2nd: I am thankful for electricity... and the occasional power cut. 

Just as we were finishing up breakfast this morning, we had a power cut. Clearly, nothing like people have been experiencing in the North-East, but still, we were without power for a good two hours. Which meant I got absolutely nothing done. No dishes, no laundry, no vacuuming, no internet... nope. Oh, and no heat. That was the tricky one. The other stuff I could just throw my hands up over, because, let's be honest, not being able to do housework isn't the end of the world. But not having heat was a little harder to ignore. At first we were OK; I worked on a sweater I'm knitting for Nick and Espen played his little heart out. Then Espen came up to me and said: "Cold, Mama. Blanket?" Break my heart! 

So I scooped him up and headed upstairs where we camped out under the duvet in my bed. We watched cartoons on the iPad (thank you, 8 hour battery!) and read books and just played together. It ended up being a really nice way to spend the morning. And just like every cliche about power cuts ever, I was a little disappointed when the power came back on. But let's be honest, not when the vents started gushing with lovely warm air. 

Going without all of our day-to-day conveniences for a few hours was a great reminder of how fortunate we are to live so comfortably. At the same time, spending some time being unplugged showed me how easy it is to get wrapped up in those conveniences and completely miss out on the simple pleasures like snuggling up with a book and your favorite toddler. 

It's amazing what you can accomplish when none of your appliances work. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Giving Thanks: November 1

Before we get all swallowed up in our preparations for Christmas (or The Holidays, if that's how you roll), I would like to take some time to reflect on the things that I am grateful for. One of the things that I love about the American holiday of Thanksgiving, is that if you take even the tiniest moment to stop and think about it, you find yourself considering the things that you have to be grateful for in your life. 

This year, rather than a fleeting thought at the Thanksgiving dinner table, I would like to take the whole month of November to reflect on some of the things I have to be grateful for in my life. I will try to do a short post every day about something I am grateful for, big or small. Won't you join me?

November 1st: I am thankful for a warm and sunny October.

This morning we woke up to a wet and rainy November, which soon turned into a cold and snowy November. Quite a contrast to the sunshine we went trick or treating in last night! But we knew that winter and cold weather was coming, so I am just grateful for all the sunshine and mild weather we have had. It feels like a gift to know that the long, dark winter will be just that little bit shorter this year. 

 My roses on October 31st. 

Playing in the sunshine at the park, October 22nd. 

Trick or treating, October 31st. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween aftermath

I am writing this from my couch, where Nick and I are eating leftover Halloween candy and watching British people being murdered (specifically Scottish people, actually).  I'm a little sad that I didn't do my annual Halloween week here on the blog, but I just haven't been feeling it for blogging lately. You can see what we've been up to in previous years here.

We have been getting our Halloween on, though!

First I got a little crafty with some friends and made this little witchy thing, that now lives on top of my fridge. It's not typically my thing, but I had a really fun time and am quite pleased with how it turned out. 

 We went to a pumpkin patch in search of The Perfect One, 

And to a corn maze. 

We made paper pumpkins - again

And we took this little train driver out trick or treating. 

 But not before he had spent some serious time driving his train on the pipes outside. Priorities. 

 Espen and his loot.

 Because it was close to bed time, and he's still such a little guy, we only hit a handful of houses. He loved it, and soon caught onto the drill of knocking on doors and carefully selecting his candy. Or "cannies" as he lovingly calls them. We let him have one piece after dinner, but he was so wild and excited about the trick or treaters coming to the door that Nick ended up finishing it up for him. Parenting is rough stuff, I tell you what.

It's really true that holidays really come into focus when you have children of your own. I've always thought Halloween was fun, and have gotten into dressing up and decorating before, but it never really meant much. Seeing the pure joy and excitement on Espen's face tonight, though, made it about so much more than pumpkins and candy. It's fantastic to be given a second chance to catch a glimpse of the magic in the world that only children can see.