Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Celebrations

Just a little peek at our Easter celebrations this year. Last Easter we kept our celebrations pretty low key because Espen was only two months old and slept for most of the day, so this year we got into things a bit more. Espen's grandparents came up from southern Utah for the weekend, which Espen very much enjoyed. It was really great to see how much fun they had together. We had wanted to go and see the Carl Bloch exhibit at BYU while they were here, but apparently the rest of the valley also thought that would be a great way to spend the Easter weekend, because they were out of tickets. I'd love to sneak in a visit before we leave for Norway, though.

We had roast lamb for dinner on Easter Sunday, and as usual I enjoyed setting the table. I tried to keep things fairly simple, and just used the painted eggs as a center piece. Did any of you try making those? I'd love to see your results if you did! We didn't do Easter baskets this year, but I did make sure that everyone got a little chocolate bunny. Next year I will make sure to buy the pretty Lindt ones earlier. We made most of our Easter preparations on Saturday (I know, I know...) and the shelves at Target (and Walmart and Macey's) were just wiped for candy.

I found a tutorial for these bunny napkins, which Nick very graciously helped me make. He liked to do origami as a kid, and I liked to do things that required zero patience and very little attention span. Marriage is a beautiful thing.

The highlight of our Easter was Espen's Easter egg hunt. We filled six eggs with things like Annie's Bunny Grahams, fruit leather and a few Legos. And M&M's, which were a huge hit with Espen. Then we placed them around the living room in fairly obvious locations so he could find them. Let me promise you that it did not take long for him to figure out what the aim of the game was! At first he was just delighted to have six new shiny toys to play with (which he calls "balls" or "apples"), but then when we showed him that there were toys inside, life could not get much better.

Until, of course, we presented him with a new box of Legos.

It was a lovely, relaxing weekend with family, and we had so much fun showing Espen a few traditions. As he gets a little bit older, we hope to teach him a bit more about the religious nature of Easter, but until then, it's lovely to just spend time together.

How was your Easter?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nine days

Nine tiny days. Next Wednesday we are taking off for Norway, and we have lots to do to get ready before then. I have a couple of blog posts up my sleeve for you, but until they're ready, I thought you might enjoy a little bit of a giggle:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One Pretty Thing

I was lucky enough to have my Easter Egg Tutorial featured on One Pretty Thing! Yay!

It was the first tutorial I have ever put together, so I was delighted to see it end up on one of my favorite craft sites. I don't consider myself to be an especially crafty person (certainly not compared to some people!) and definitely not a craft blogger, which made this extra fun for me. :)

Yes, fun enough to use a smiley face in a blog post.

If you haven't checked out One Pretty Thing yet, and are even the slightest little bit on the crafty side, head over there right now and take a look. So much to see!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Painted Easter Egg Tutorial

I've had some interest in how I make our hanging hand-painted easter eggs, so I thought I'd put together a quick tutorial for you. This is something I learned how to do when I was growing up in Norway, and I think it's pretty traditional in all the Scandinavian countries. I remember always looking forward to painting eggs as part of our Easter celebration. As a grown up I like that this method allows you to use the eggs to cook with, but also to keep the painted eggs for future use. I just store ours in an old egg carton.

You will need:
  • As many raw eggs as you want to paint.
  • A bowl to blow the egg yolks into.
  • A needle or pin for making holes.
  • Thread for hanging the eggs.
  • Toothpicks or matches for hanging.
  • Paints or markers for decorating.
  • Bonus points: an egg cup. This helps to hold the egg steady and limits the odds of plunging needles into your fingertips. You could also use a shot glass or an egg carton. I'll be using an eggcup, because I am taking my own pictures and don't have enough hands.

1. Find the top center of the raw egg, and push straight down with a needle or pin to make a hole. You will need to push quite hard, at the same time being careful to not break the egg.

2. Once you have a hole, use the needle to make it big enough to fit the toothpick through.
3. Flip the egg over and repeat on the bottom.

4. And now the tricky part: place your lips around the hole on the top side of the egg and blow until the egg yolk and whites come out of the hole in the bottom. Sore cheeks from blowing is just part of the charm! Make it easier on yourself by poking a hole in the membrane surrounding the egg and in the yolk with a toothpick. It helps to make the bottom hole slightly bigger than the top. You can also shake the egg a bit to move things along, but please don't flip the egg over and try blowing from the bottom. Salmonella from accidentally ingesting raw egg is not part of the charm. Refrigerate the raw eggs to cook with. Omelettes, anyone?

5. Tadah! You now have one empty egg shell with holes on the top and the bottom. Rinse it well with water (you can blow it out like you did with the yolk) and set the egg to dry. Bust out the hair dryer if you're feeling impatient, or just move on to the next egg. 

6. Decorate your egg! I like to use water color paints, but markers work well too. I haven't tried myself, but these eggs would also be good for decoupaging. I recommend painting your egg in stages or layers, and letting the paint dry completely before moving on. Fortunately, water color wipes off very easily if you mess up.

For a super-easy cherry blossom motif, first cover your egg with brown twigs.

Then dab on random little splooshes of pink for the flowers. Hooray, it's all flowery!

7. Now that your egg is all painted and pretty, it's time to hang it! Cut the ends off your toothpick, and tie some thread around it in a loop, so it looks like the photo above. You could use ribbon instead of thread, but that requires a bigger hole in the top of the egg, so it's kind of a prettiness tradeoff.

8. Make sure that the hole on top is big enough to fit the toothpick and the knot. Feed the toothpick inside, being careful to not slide the thread off the pick. Once the tooth pick is completely inside the egg, pull on the looped thread and...

9. Tadah - your egg now hangs! You are done.
10. Repeat again and again!

In Norway it is traditional to bring in some cut branches to hang your decorated eggs on. Even if your trees don't have leaves yet, you can always bring some branches in and force them. In a place with winters like they have in Norway, you could see why they might want to bring some spring green inside. I always thought it looked so pretty and fresh. Here is mine:

I hope that made some sense! Please let me know if you have any questions, and if anyone decides to actually do this, I'd love to see some photos!

Friday, April 15, 2011


We took abreak from all of our travel preparations to spend an hour outside in the sunshine yesterday. I took a deep breath and let Espen roam freely while I pulled weeds and planted a few seeds. He was absolutely covered in damp soil by the time we went inside for some lunch, but so happy and content. I loved seeing him pick up our little garden shovel and dig around with it. Our yard is a tiny little box, but it was plenty to keep him entirely occupied for an hour. Exploring, digging, pulling a weed or two (we thankfully only made one sacrifice to the tulip gods). Sometimes he'd crawl over and peer out of the back gate at the ducks swimming in the pond and loudly declare: "Ducks! Wak-wak-wak!"

I love seeing Espen grow into an independent little boy. I love watching him discover the world around him, and I love catching little glimpses of the person he is becoming.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Norway 2011: Lists and planning

There was a time in my life when a four month long trip across continents would cause me to spend an hour or so chucking things in my suitcase the night before departure. These days - no. These days I arm myself with checklists and spreadsheets and start planning months in advance.

Admittedly, this trip is the most planning-intensive to date, and for good reason. There's the fact that we're going to be gone for over five weeks instead of our usual three, we'll be visiting three countries this time (more on that later), and of course we will be traveling with a 14-month old. And let's be honest, there's not much that has occupied my mind more than how to successfully travel with a person who is prone to willfully putting himself in dangerous situations, primarily communicates about books, ducks and animal sounds, will only sleep in his bed and expresses displeasure by screaming at the top of his lungs. Yes, a lot of thought has gone into how to keep him comfortable and happy for the three flights and 16 hours or so it will take us to get there.

At this point, my planning has reached the list making stage. I like to break things down into a few categories:
  • Things to do: This involves everything from the absolutely essential like "figure out how to get to the airport and back" to the more mundane and obvious like "place mail on hold" or "clean out fridge". Basically, if it has to be done before we leave, it goes on the list.
  • Things to buy: Snacks for Espen, chocolate chips for my sister-in-law, a flag for Cheryl (!), whatever things we're bringing for family and friends, or will need while we're gone. Thankfully, the new iPad made the list :)
  • Things to pack: This category is all about making sure we have the essentials, and making sure we have them in the right bag in the right spot. And yes, Espen's carry-on is the most essential of all! :) I don't really worry about making lists of outfits in detail for the three of us, I just make sure that we can all make it through our longest side-trip without having to do laundry.
I sit down once to get each list started, then keep them handy so we can add or check off items as we go. It may seem like a semi-psychotic way to go, but for someone like me who frets and worries, it makes it so much more manageable to get it down on paper. And for pure organizational triumph, nothing beats a good old-fashioned checklist. Or three.

Me and the trusty green notebook - keeper of lists.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Norway 2011: Buying Plane Tickets

We don't travel a lot as a family, but when we do, we tend to travel far. I think that might be one of the reasons why people often ask us about is how to buy plane tickets without getting completely ripped off. We're not experts by any means, but having spent more than a decade traveling back and fort across the Atlantic, we have picked up a thing or two about getting a good price. And so, I submit for your perusal:

The North Family Guide to Buying Transatlantic Plane Tickets
  1. Start looking early. Not obsessively, not every day, just a casual perusal every now and then. This will help you to get a feel for good dates to travel, and roughly how much you can expect to pay. It's hard to recognize a good deal when you see one if you don't know the regular price.
  2. If possible, be flexible in your travel dates. It will allow you to shop around with more freedom and take advantage of the bargains that are available to you. While there are plenty of exceptions to every rule, midweek is often cheaper than the weekend.
  3. Prices fluctuate frequently. Be ready to pounce when you see something that is truly a good deal, but don't despair if you miss it. You are bound to be able to find something similar. Bear in mind that prices often change within the same day, so if you have been looking at night, see what you can find during the day.
  4. Once you have found your ticket, stop looking. You'll drive yourself crazy if you start agonizing over potential savings lost. Instead, start looking forward to your trip. HOWEVER, the notable exception to this rule is if you booked your flight through a company that offers a price guarantee. Delta, Continental and Orbitz (to name a few) will all reimburse you the difference if you can show them that you paid more for a flight than what is now available. To keep yourself from going bonkers from constantly monitoring flight prices, use a service like Yapta that will notify you if a certain itinerary drops in price.
  5. And finally, here are some good places to start looking for your flights:
  • Matrix Airfare Search. Like a lot of services, they will search a large number of airlines all at once for you. What we especially like is the "calendar of lowest fares" option. This allows you to tell them what month you'd like to travel and how many nights you plan to be away for, and they show you a calendar with the cheapest fares on it, which makes it very clear and easy to book.
  • Don't discount the obvious: Orbitz and Expedia have both come through for us as the best and cheapest option on several occasions.
  • Even more obvious: check the major airlines. Nine out of ten times their prices will be much more than you can find elsewhere. The tenth time they will be having some kind of promotion that lines up just right with your travel dates, and bada-bing, you've got yourself a steal! That's what happened for us this time when we booked our flights through SAS.
And that's basically it! Hopefully that was vaguely interesting, and possibly even ever so slightly helpful for someone. I'd love to know what your best tips for booking a flight are - please share!

Image borrowed here. Remember paper tickets? :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Norway 2011: What in the?

Yesterday was the one month mark of out trip to Norway, so we are now officially on the downward slope! As we get progressively deeply entrenched in travel preparations, this also marks the temporary conversion of Project Project from random, spasmodic project-blog to European travel blog. So, if international travel with small children doesn't interest you, I suggest you look away until, oh... the middle of June.

I thought I'd start out my new career as a travel blogger by telling you a little bit about the background for this trip. "Norway?" I hear you say, "Why Norway? What in the Sam Hill?" Well, friends, as it turns out, I am in fact Norwegian. I grew up there. I have a Norwegian passport and a Norwegian fondness for fish and skepticism of new ideas. And most importantly, I have a little Norwegian family that I don't get to spend nearly enough time with.

Me and my parents celebrating Norway's Constitution Day way back when in 2003.

We've lived in different countries for 11 years now, but I will never stop feeling like their little girl, and Norway will never stop feeling like home to me. That, paired with the presence of one grandchild that needs to see his grandparents, and, unfortunately, the ever-present C-word* makes for some pretty compelling reasons to go. While it might not necessarily be practical, making the trip to Norway just feels like something we need to do. And so off we go!

I'm sure that a lot of you have questions about this trip, and I will attempt to answer some of them in upcoming posts. If there's something you're just dying to know, please ask, and I will do my very best to answer.

*Please note that this is an older post, and that my little Dad is out of the hospital and doing much better now than he was then. Not cured, but comfortable.