A quick getaway

Thanks to the kindness of some really sweet friends, we spent a couple of nights last week at a hytte/cabin just a couple of hours from home.

It was nice to get away and disconnect a bit. And when I say disconnect, I mean it. No running water, no electricity. But what a charming place with beautiful views, cozy interior, easy access to great hiking, and lots of peace and quiet. We enjoyed laughing together over a made-up game, picking berries, grilling dinner outdoors, and going on a long hike. I was especially proud of the guys. They made it to the top of Reskjemnipa – 717 meters (2352 feet) above sea level! (I made it about two-thirds of the way and then waited for them!)
A couple of photos on the way there…
Relaxing on the porch
Cool waterfalls on the hike
Amazing views
Look how high they were!
On the way back down
Beautiful sunset to end a nice getaway
And once back home, we enjoyed the fruits of the boys’ labors by indulging in homemade blueberry muffins!

 

Boats: living by the sea

Living in a seaside town means boats. Lots and lots of boats! Summertime is especially fun, walking down to the brygga/harbor to see what might be docked that day.Many times we see names of cities – or even countries – that aren’t exactly close by. Interesting to see all the different people and places that end up in our little town here in Norway. I always wonder who they are, how they ended up here, what their story is…

Here are just a few of the boats we’ve seen in our area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer: so far, so fun!

While we haven’t done our big summer travel yet, we are enjoying summer holidays so far.
Life here really is quite different during the summer. The rhythm changes. People seem a bit more social and a bit less rushed. Our city’s normally quiet and distant veneer seems to fade in the summer sun, as many travel to the area to spend the summer in their seaside cabins.
With that comes a big population increase, but also a population shift. While we do have a lot of tourists, it seems the majority of the faces we see most often have also travelled away from home. This is especially true in July, the official holiday/vacation month. This means most regular events and activities are suspended during the summer, including the majority of church services. This was a big cultural difference for us!
So what have we been up to the past few weeks?We’ve hiked a lot, been to the beach a number of times, attended some cookouts, and strolled around the city. We’ve made some new friends, and worked on building upon existing relationships. We enjoyed a weekend visit from an American friend, spent a few days in Stockholm, visited Oslo, and grilled by the sea. We attended a couple of conferences. We’ve experienced some disappointments, as well as some much-needed encouragement. We’ve met folks for coffee, and shared meals as a way to slow down and grow closer. We’ve taken the time to rest a bit, to practice language in less formal settings, and to simply enjoy each other.

Still to come: a weekend trip to a cabin, and then a big road trip to Germany!

How is your summer going?
Enjoying coffee with a friend from Georgia
Strolling through our city
Our version of a ‘church fellowship dinner’
Look what we found while driving through Sweden!
Zack took this shot during a bike ride with the boys
Oslo
Making a meal with friends
Silly friends taking a break during a summer conference
Mølen
Mølen

 

Daniel made a tree friend 🙂
Just a few of the beautiful flowers in Sandefjord

 

Crab catchers
Dinner break in Stavern
You never know what you might see around here!
Evening concert after a day filled with conference seminars
Driving home from Larvik
Hiking at Bøkeskogen
Hiking at Bøkeskogen

Four years a family of four / National Gremlin Appreciation Day

Four years. 48 months. 208 weeks. 1,461 days of adventure.

On July 10, 2010 we arrived very early in the morning at a place we had come to know very well the past few weeks. We made our way into the building and found our little guy, still quite sleepy headed and looking a little uneasy. We dressed him, gave gifts to all the kids in his group, and said our final good-byes. And with that, we walked out of the gates of Graceland and officially became a family of four.

 

When I say it has been 1,461 days of adventure, I mean it. This guy certainly keeps us on our toes. But he has also come such a long way. He has a joyful spirit and contagious laugh. He tests boundaries. Constantly. He can bring encouragement just when you need it. He is clever and witty. He is mischievous. He loves his family and adores his big brother. He is artistic and creative. And he has so.much.energy.
He is a lot of everything in a concise little package, our little stick of dynamite. He has stretched us and challenged us, and taught us so much. We love him big, and look forward to seeing him develop into the man God wants him to be!

Here are a few fun photos of our dynamite guy, in no particular order…

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Nana / Homesick

Most days this place feels like home. But occasionally something will hit out of nowhere.  It can be quite random, and usually catches me by surprise.

And so it was today. As I looked at pictures on Facebook of my grandmother’s early birthday dinner from last night, the homesickness sunk in.

For me, homesickness is not about a place, but more about memories and people. And today, it is about my grandparents.
My Nana & D’Daddy hold such a special place in my heart. Incredible grandparents that they are, they are really like a bonus set of parents to me. As a child, I think I spent almost as much time at their house as I did my own.
My Nana served me my first cup of coffee. That was just one of the bonuses of sleepovers with them: a kid-sized mug once used by mom and her siblings, with more milk and sugar than coffee. Also included was the chance to stay up late and watch the Johnny Caraon monologue with my grandfather (though I think he watched part of it through his eyelids!).
I remember baking snickerdoodles at Christmas, enjoying weekly Sunday dinner at their house, playing makeover with the Avon and Mary Kay samples tucked into the 50’s-era Barbie lunchbox, and so much more. If I had a dance recital, band concert or chorus performance, they were always there. They are so strong in their faith in Jesus, and committed to serving others through ministries at church and in their community. And the way they honor each other in their marriage is something that I’ve kept with me over the past sixteen years as well.
So while homesickness creeps around, I can also sit and enjoy the memories and the impact that both of them have on my life. What a blessing they are to me and so many others!
Happy birthday, Nana. I hope you enjoyed your fiesta last night. And hope you have a wonderful day today!

 

Coffee Culture: Stockholm

We returned from Stockholm on Saturday, after several days spent enjoying the city. The weather was cooler than it has been here, but we were just glad we didn’t have to deal with rain until we started driving home.
As is standard for any trip for Zack and me, we had to check out a few coffee shops around town. Have you ever heard the Swedish word fika? It’s brilliant – it’s basically a coffee break, and often includes something sweet as well. It can be used as a noun, a verb, and more – Wikipedia says fika is a Swedish social institution. I love it!
We were staying on Södermalm (thanks to friends who offered their apartment while they were out of town!), an island district in central Stockholm. Södermalm is a trendy bohemian-type community – much cooler than we are – and a great place for people watching, shopping, and finding an excellent cup of coffee.
We got recommendations from friends in the area on what they had either heard or personally considered to be the best shops. A few Google searches confirmed what they shared, letting us know we needed to make a trip to two places in particular, both on Södermalm.

Up first was Drop Coffee. Simplistic and unassuming, I would likely have overlooked it had it not been for the tip. Aside from the fact that there are a number of places to sit in the cafe, it really reminded me of Tim Wendelboe in Oslo (good luck finding a seat at Tim’s!). I ordered an Ethiopian roast, while Zack went with the barista’s suggestion and tried the Kenyan. Both were great – a very light-colored beverage, akin to Wendelboe coffee’s tea-like appearance. But we agreed that the Kenyan was definitely best.

Unfortunately, only one photo from Drop Coffee – the boys were with us 🙂
Next up was Johan & Nyström Konceptbutik. This time, we had a bit of time to ourselves (the boys were with friends), so we were able to relax a bit more. J&N definitely has more to offer in the way of atmosphere. At first glance it doesn’t look very large. But once inside, you’ll find additional seating just past the register, as well as in the upstairs loft area. The baristas were knowledgeable and friendly, and as is the norm for us, we ordered two different roasts, both prepared as a pour-over. This time around, I went with Picknick, and Zack tried the coffee from Nicaragua. And once again, Zack won. Both were nice, but the Nicaraguan was far superior.
We tried a couple of other places as well, including Espresso Bar which has locations throughout the city. Zack said it was the best espresso he’s ever had.
All in all, we were very impressed with the coffee options in Stockholm. While the winner for ambiance goes to J&N, the coffee is what  really matters. And though it was a narrow margin, we both liked Drop the best.