Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jan's Bicycle race ~ Garborgriket Rundt Rittet (May 18, 2014)

This area has a lot of nature to explore.  Hiking, walking, running, cycling, skiing, roller skiing (not sure what the correct term is), kayaking, surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, stand-up paddling, sailing…seriously this is an outdoors person's paradise.  Its just a little on the chilly side at times.

A few weeks ago, Jan participated in the Garborgriket Rundt Rittet mountain bike race, which was both roads & trails.  It was 82km (approx.  50 miles)  The race started and finished in the town of Bryne which is about 25min away.  Jan drove down earlier in the day, then the kids and I drove down to watch him finish the race.  Lucky for me, Jan has a new Garmin which allows him to send me a link so I can track him.  I wasn't sure where we would be able to park so we had to leave on time.  If you know me, that is hard to do alone and with two kids its next to impossible.  But I checked out the link before we left and we had plenty of time…I hoped.  

We made it to Bryne in plenty of time and found a great parking area.  I unloaded the double BOB stroller, re-attached the front wheel (not enough room in my car for it to remain in tact, not a big deal, I had to remove it in my SUV in Houston too).  Got the kids out of their car seats, loaded up the stroller, backpack, signs.  

The finish line...
We walked to the finish line to see how many people were there.  It was a bit crowded so we walked back towards our car and found a good spot.  We were hoping that Jan would be able to see us.  We had our signs… Go Jan with a Norwegian flag and "Go faster Daddy," which we have had for a few years...several marathons, half marathons, and triathlons.  I brought 2 whistles for the kids to use.


The kids are having a great time, yelling Heie, Heie, Heie.  Holding up their signs and blowing their whistles.  We started getting a few looks and one lady moved further down the street.  Yes we were loud Americans, well I'm American and the kids are half so there is another whole one ;-).  So I told the little cheerleaders we need to move.  We found a great spot, no one around us on our side of the street.  It was just past where the riders were coming out of the woods making their way onto the paved street.  It was great, there was a little ramp up to a building where the kids could run around without bothering anyone else.  They blew their whistles and yelled, holding their signs looking for Daddy.

I was constantly tracking Jan.  The kids were getting restless, so I told them they could play in the grassy area just behind us.  I told them Daddy would be here in about 5 minutes.  The next thing I see is a huge group and I see Jan's helmet and his jersey. Opps I was wrong, there was a huge delay on the tracking link I was using because he was in a wooded area.   I scream his name out, but he looked the other direction.  So all that and he didn't even see his cheering section.  

I told Rebecca & Marcus to get in the stroller, we needed to go to the finish line.  They hopped  in the stroller an away we went.  We found Jan in the finish area.  He had found his friend Lars who had been cycling with him for the majority of the race.  We chatted for a few minutes then we all made our way to the "festival" area.  The contestants had a food tent they could go into which after being on a bike for a few hours they needed to eat.   I had packed a lunch for the kids so we had a little picnic while we waited on Jan.
Our little picnic - Strawberries were dessert 
It was a fun afternoon and it was  beautiful day.  

I'm still trying to figure out this format with the photos and such…so bare with me on the placement of the photos.  Also I couldn't add captions because then it would really mess up the layout

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

1st Photowalk - Orre Strand (February 8, 2014)

Before moving to Norway, I joined few Facebook expat groups for the Stavanger area.  One of them was a photography group.  I have a good camera and over the past few years I’ve been learning with it.  Someone suggested to do a photo walk on the beach.  I thought it would be fun to meet some new people, I was nervous because I wasn’t sure how “professional” these photographers were.  I asked a friend  (who is a professional photographer) if these meet-ups were only for professional and luckily she said no they are all levels and are super nice people.  So I signed up.  The walk was taking place about 30 minutes south of Stavagner at a beach, but we planned to meet up at the train station then caravan out to the location.

Jan had mentioned to me the day before, its suppose to rain.  Well, I live in Stavanger now, the first month and a half it rained everyday.  I took along my winter rain clothes, and a cover for my camera…we drive down south get to the location and its WINDY and raining.  So its almost raining horizontal…but we go out anyway to do our photo walk.

Photo by:Neil Friestad
Photo by:Neil Friestad
 We went to Orre Beach,  there were about 8-10 people both men & women.  We walked out on a path to the beach.  WOW, windy, did I say windy.  The rain felt like little pellets hitting me. Thankfully, I came prepared, I had 4 layers on top and 3 layers on my bottom, with a fleece neck gator and a wool hat under my jacket hood with a pair of gloves.  And my boots, I so love my boots,  Nike winter boots with a fleece liner and they are waterproof.  (I wish Nike still make them because they have been my favorite pair so far this winter) with a pair of thick wools socks. 

The following photos are of me on the photo walk…taken by Neil Friestad
Waterproof jacket needed


So we start walking and taking photos along the beach.  Some had fancy cameras with huge lens, others had tripods, some had multiple cameras.  We walked at our own pace along the beach.  It was yucky out but some of the photos that were taken were AMAZING.  I had a few that could possibly be print worthy ;-).  

I really enjoyed my time out on the photowalk. The people were so nice even though we couldn’t talk much do to the less than ideal weather conditions. 

We spent over an hour taking photos then it was time to walk back to the cars.  I had  no idea we had walked so far…it probably felt farther on the way back since we were walking directly into the wind and rain. 

I’m looking forward to the next photowalk.  J

Just FYI, I'm trying to catch up with all my blog postings.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Picnic with Rebecca (February 2, 1014)

One of the last few days Rebecca and I had together before she started BHG we went on a picnic.  It was a beautiful sunny day…windy.  We dropped Marcus off at BHG then we went back home.  We prepared a couple sandwiches and grabbed our backpacks and off we went.  For clarification, we walked.

There is a small sheep field (also known as the Iron-Age Farm)about ½ -3/4mile from our house.    Rebecca requested that I pull out the stroller and I told her no we were walking.  She was a bit slow at times but we made it to the field. 

We ate our lunches then walked to the top of the hill.  We could see the fjord and it was beautiful with the rolling hills around us.  Have I mentioned how beautiful this country is???
This is the top of the hill…such beautiful views

The sun was out but very windy on the top of the hill
We walked around and saw the sheep.  I always thought seeing the cartoon with the big fluffy sheep with the teeny tiny legs was fictitious.  Not at all..Ive seen sheep at the county fairs and such but I don’t think any have had these massive coats of wool.

Then it was time for the walk back home.  Yes, she walked the entire way.  It was slow at times but she did it. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


We wanted the kids to learn to speak Norwegian and the best way for them to do so by being surrounded by it.  We also wanted the kids to have some playmates and friends here in Stavanger.  Many of the family have both parents working so there aren’t many kids playing at the parks in the neighborhoods.  Luckily, Jan’s company has a sponsored barnehage (BHG), which is like a “day care” in the US.  Since we are expats we were given a spot for Marcus early in January and Rebecca was able to start mid-February.

The first day for Marcus at BHG was more of a meet & greet.  Jan and I both met at the BHG, while Bestemor came over to play with Rebecca.  It lasted a couple hours so we could see what the children did and who his teachers would be.  The second day, I went back to BHG and sat with him for a while in the classroom.  He really hit it off with one of his teachers who was laying in the floor with him playing with his cars.  I left for a short while and then came back and he was still a happy little boy…  The next days I left him longer each time until he was staying a full day, well what we consider a full day.  He takes a nap and they provide a bed for him to sleep in complete with a sheepskin under the bottom sheet, blanket and a thick duvet.  Let me explain, they sleep in an unheated room all the younger children in one large room and they have done this forever.  Some of the BHG have the children sleep outside in their stroller, regardless of weather, with a plastic cover of course, its just a different culture ;-)  Marcus sleeps very well in his new nap surrounding. 

The BHG is open from 7:30 until 4:30, I think.  The BHG our children attend serve three meals to the children, they get breakfast, then a hot lunch and a big snack mid-afternoon.  I usually drop them off around 9a and pick them up at 3:00p.  There isn’t a strict schedule at Norwegian like in American programs or the ones we have attended.  It is a play day all day, they do have learning sessions but their focus is on playing.  The one HUGE thing they do differently is the kids play outside almost every day regardless of weather.  Please keep in mind, there aren’t many thunder & lightening storms like in Houston and they have proper clothing.  They have a full winter suit that is insulated, with wool thermal underwear, and then a fleece layer and Goretex boots when its cold.  And then when its raining or muddy, they have a rubber suit complete with rubber boots.  Typically we leave the suits all week and if they need cleaning or we plan to use them we bring them home on weekends.  But on more than one occasion, Rebecca has had to bring hers home mid-week because it was so MUDDY.  Yes this girl is not scared of getting a little muddy J and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

While we were waiting for Rebecca’s spot to open up, she was missing her friends and wanted to make new ones.  We tried a couple of toddler play groups but the average age of the children were much younger than Rebecca.  There are some open BHG, which a caretaker (parent, grandparent, nanny) needs to be present while attending.  The first one we went to was great because she made a friend, a little girl who was about the same age and they played so well together.  It was so nice seeing the girls play.  Rebecca came home and was so excited because she made a friend.  The next week we met her new friend at a different open BHG and the girls were fast friends.  It absolutely warmed my heart to see her making a friend. 

Then it was time for Rebecca to start BHG.  We were a little nervous because all of the 18 children in her class speak Norwegian and only three speak English.  The “play” language is Norwegian, but all of her teachers speak English.  Jan met Rebecca & I in her classroom after we dropped Marcus in his class.  I had all her suits prepared with a couple extra sets of clothes…you know in case she got muddy or wet playing outside.  She was a little reserved at first, but two of her classmates came over and helped her complete a puzzle.  I could tell in her eyes she was super excited to be there, finally.  Jan could tell as well, he left after a short time.  I hung out with the class and then stood back so she could interact with the teachers and the other children.  Then it was time to eat lunch, which is when we had planned to depart…key work: planned.  Rebecca asked what they were having…hotdogs & mashed potatoes, ummm some of her favorites.  So she stayed and ate with the kids.  Then after eating some of the children started changing their clothes and putting more layers on.  I asked what they were doing and her teacher said oh they are going outside now.  She looked at me and said, Mommy can I stay and you leave, my teachers will look after me.   How in the world could I tell her no, she was having so much fun.  I asked her teacher and he said sure she can stay.  (yes, she has a male teacher and two female teachers, Marcus has 3-4female teachers)  We agreed, I would only go for about an hour then return to see how she was doing.  Guess what???!??  I get back to pick her up and she is playing with a little girl in the sand and said mommy I’m not ready to leave… can you come back later ;-).  I was so happy!!!!  I spoke with another one of her teachers and they were wanted to make sure we ended on a happy note and didn’t want to push her to stay too long on the first day.  I tried to explain,  she has been counting down the days until she would be ale to start BHG.  The teacher agreed to allow her to stay another hour until I picked up Marcus.  I had one happy little girl that evening and tired too.  The next day was suppose to be only a couple hours, nope not for this little girl.  She was there from 9-3. 

So these days I drop both Rebecca & Marcus off at 9 and then pick them up around 3p.  They both enjoy going to BHG, they play all day both inside and out, rain, snow, mud and on the occasion SUNSHINE.    Rebecca’s class usually takes a “field trip” every Monday to a nearby forest to search for creatures and such.  They walk together and its normal, throughout Stavanger & Norway, you see little BHG classes walking on the sidewalks and through fields exploring.  Marcus’ class not as frequent because his class has ages 12mos until 3yr, then they are promoted to the older class, but they have gone on walks and my American boy wants to ride in the cart for the younger kids.  

I’m not sure if Marcus is speaking Norwegian in class but we think he understands it.  Its hard to determine with him because he hasn’t built up his English vocabulary.  Rebecca came to me last night and said sko momma sko, I looked at her for a second then I realized she was saying shoe in Norwegian.  So for the 3 weeks she has been in BHG she is learning. 

I know they love it at their new BHG, both of them are super happy when I pick them up.   This past Friday, Marcus kicked me out of his class, telling me to leave, ha det momma ha det (which is Good bye in Norwegian).   So it makes me feel so good that have adapted to their new life so well and are making friends.

The kids were celebrating Carnival, they were allowed to dress up.  I'm so glad I packed their  costumes.  Superhero Rebecca & Fireman Marcus

Update: this post has been sitting in my "draft" box and needed to be posted.  I'm trying to catch up.  They are still loving BHG.  Rebecca is learning more Norwegian words daily and Marcus is understanding more and more.  

Cupcake decorating class...

I'm trying new things while the kids are in barnehage.  There is a group here in Stavanger that plans activities to do during the week days…its name currently is - People Who Connect, formally called the Petroleum Wives Club.  Last monday, they offered a cupcake decorating class and I signed up.  I have attempted cupcakes before but only doing the swirl, which I usually have issues with getting it even on all sides.  We went to a bakery called Slikkepotten Kakebutikk (translated: Spatula Cake Shop).  There were ten ladies who were attending the class.

The cake shop had pre-made the chocolate cupcakes and the chocolate icing.  Katrine was our instructor and she demonstrated several ways to apply icing to the cupcake.  She made it look super easy, then she demonstrated how to make the pretty little flowers using marzipan (fondant in the USA) with food coloring and other decorations.  Then they gave us a very valuable tip on how to flour the table/cooking surface without making a HUGE mess, by filling a "knee high hosiery" with flour and patting the surface.  Its brilliant and so worth the cost of the class.

Then it was our turn to do the work.  The bags of icing were already on the table ready for us to use… I liked making the swirls and for once in my life I made decent cupcake topping.
The closest one I'm pleased with but the one in the background not so much...
My friend, Becky, decorating her cupcakes. 

They aren't the best looking cupcakes but better than I could do before the class.  The lower left was rushed because we ran out of time.

It was a good class, its always fun learning something new.  The best part was eating these cupcakes and not having to clean the kitchen. :-)

Monday, April 21, 2014

The hunt for Aurora Borealis (aka Northern Lights) April 20, 2014

Another item I wanted to see/do while on our assignment in Norway was to view the Aurora Borealis.  Most of the time you need to be north of the Arctic Circle.  I have signed up to receive notifications when there is a good chance to see the lights.  It can happen here in Stavanger but its very rare.  So yesterday I received an email.  I thought about it for while then I sent a message to my friend, Maria to see if she wanted to join me on my search.  Lucky for me she was up for the hunt for most likely nothing.  

We decided we would start our adventure around 9:30p because it should be dark by then.  Nope, at 9:15 while I was waiting for the kids to go to sleep it was still too light outside.  The sunset must have been beautiful.  From our house we can see down to the ocean over the countryside…it was beautiful with all the different colors in the sky.  
This is the view on our upper floor at 9:30p on April 21, 2014
We agreed to postpone the start of our adventure until 10:00p.  I loaded up my camera stuff and drove away there was still a tiny bit of light but we were driving about 30 minutes away so we would be good.   We have to get out of the city and avoid as much light pollution as possible.

I picked her up and we had decided to drive over to Rennesøy an island north of Stavanger.  We needed to drive through two tunnels to get to the island.  We got to the place we thought was our destination but couldn't find a good place to park or the road.  We kept driving…this area was PITCH black we really had no clue where we were and what was around us.  We had our iPhones and GPS but we needed something to tell us the trails etc.  
We ended up driving through another tunnel to Finnøy.  While we were driving into the tunnel and I read the fee sign…holy cow 150kr one way. ($25USD) Oh well, its too late now and we are on a mission.  As we are going through the tunnel there is a place where there we could make a right or continue on straight.  This was first for me, a turn in a tunnel.   

We get to Finnøy, its a small island. Which we would later drive around 1 1/2 times ;-)  While we are looking for a great place to spot the Northern Lights.  We pass tractors, couples walking on their midnight stroll.  One man wasn't even wearing his reflective vest he was carrying it.  I guess he didn't think any crazy people (Maria & myself) would be driving around the island looking for the Northern Lights ;-)
We drive around once, nothing then we decide to take a different turn...yippee, we find something promising a "park" area.  We take a left turn and drive down the road, which then turns into a grassy road, hmmm.  We drove about 200 meters more then decided to get out on foot…  The grass road was damp and neither one of us had been there before…grass, wet, car, not a good combination especially after midnight.  But being a Texas girl, I knew what I would need to do to if we got stuck in the mud but thankfully we didn't.  We walk a few meters and came to a fence, there is a small stream running beside the road, we couldn't see anything without a flashlight and nothing remotely close to the Northern Lights.  We get back in the car, I will remind you its pitch black, no street lights around anywhere.  Let’s just state for the record, not easy backing down a grassy road with one reverse light (normal for Jan's car).  So Maria gets out of the car, I handed her my flash light (Thanks to a special lady who made sure I had one to find my way back home) and she guides me down the road.  A couple times I had to pull forward and start back again just to keep from driving off the "road" into the field.  UGHHHhhh finally we made it back to the gravel road then the paved road.  

By this time it’s after midnight, we decide its time to head home.  We drive back into the tunnel, another $25usd…crazy, but we didn't have a choice.   Jan's car isn't half boat so we couldn't float home.  Those of you in the Houston area complaining about the $1.50usd tolls for Beltway 8…you're getting off cheap, this was just over 5K long for $25.  Anyway we get out of the tunnel and chatting away, who knows where we are and then Maria said slow down…I think I see it.  We quickly find a little section to pull off, turn off the lights (except for the parking lights, safety).  There were other crazy people out on the road too.  She said look over there…it looks very light neon green and in the shape of a rainbow.  We sit there watching…and then we start seeing movement in the light.  It’s very faint…but by this time I'm getting very excited.  We get out of the car and stand beside it watching the sky.  Maria sees a shooting star and then notices a satellite among ALL the stars.  We continue watching the sky and I start to see the "lights" get a little brighter. Then out of the "rainbow" we see some rays of light shooting upwards, it was starting to dance.  The “rainbow” would dim and then get brighter, it would become thin and then very wide, constantly changing.  OMG I was super excited, this was amazing.  It was almost like my eyes were playing tricks on me.  Finally, I got my camera out and set up the tripod trying to watch the lights at the same time. Thank goodness I didn’t drop my camera.  But I hadn't preset anything on my camera so none of my photos turned out.  I was a little bummed but I was so excited I was able to see the "northern lights." We stayed there for about 40 minutes looking into the sky waiting to see if it would start up again…I did see a shooting star, which was icing on the cake.  I still can’t believe we found it,   Mission Accomplished!!

This is a not a common thing for the lights to be viewable this far south.  And for this to happen on a clear night well, that's even more rare here in Stavanger.  From what I understand its also rare for the lights to show the late in the year.  I still want to see them again and hopefully I will get a trip above the Arctic Circle before this assignment is up.