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!