Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Surviving Winter in Norway: Hibernation is over!

I've posted before about wintertime in Norway.  This year I got to experience it at the secluded farm house in the mountain.  Never-ending darkness. Sideways rain. Slush. Wind that sounds like it will blow the house down.  Maybe a little snow. Cold.  I wasn't sure how I was going to make it without completely freaking out.  I am not as Norwegian as my blood says.  The rain does stop me from going running outside or taking a day trip to visit friends for coffee. Well, I did it.  This is how...

1. I had a good hang-out buddy.  

Not only is is quiet and relaxing (and dark) during the winter months, but it can get a little creepy.  I was scared walking outside to my car at 8am.  Thank goodness I had Isra there to keep me company and remind me that Zombies aren't real.

It helps if your buddy is this cute

2. I found a good series (or two).

Thank goodness for Netflix.  Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead.  Followed by some Friends or The Office.  When the sun goes down at 3:30 and your living room window looks like a car window inside a car wash, sometimes the best thing is a good show, cozy blanket and a cup of tea.

3. I learned how to bake bread.

The smell of bread baking is one of the coziest smells ever and somehow warms me up inside and out.  Plus, baking bread takes time, which you have when you stay inside for more hours than usual.

4. I became obsessed with a new game. 

When you decide it is time to turn off the shows, you need something else fun to do.  Isra and I became obsessed with Rummy 500 and Liverpool (card games).

5. For the times I had to go outside, I wore wool, rain gear from head to toe, and considered goggles a few times.

It is impossible to avoid the outside.  We must live and work of course.  So, it is important to ensure you are covered as much as possible when facing the outside.

6. Last but not least, soak up any and all good weather.  

There were times when the sun would come out and we would run outside (with our warm jackets on), just to get a glimpse of the sun, and a view of the pretty landscape.  Because after all, it is gorgeous here.

Now the spring is here.  The days are getting longer and longer and the sun has been shining for nearly 3 weeks.  It is time to switch gears; put up the dark curtains, turn off the tv and go for a hike in the sunshine.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Everything is better homemade.  Homemade chicken noodle soup has the ability to cure a cold.  There is nothing more refreshing than a glass of homemade lemonade.  And I think I piece of homemade chocolate cake can make any day better.

Over the last few months, I have realized that this is more true than ever.  Not only is it less expensive to make your own, but it is much healthier.  I am almost 30 (seriously??) and suddenly I've realized how important it is to think about everything that is going in my body.  Making things on my own means I know exactly what is in it and I can be sure I am not filling myself with weird chemicals and preservatives...and SUGAR!!  Plus, I've been in Norway for 2 years and I've learned what things that I just can't live without and have to make on my own.

Here is my new list of things you should make at home if you can. Simple, delicious and oh so much better for you.

1. Chicken broth
Chicken stock flavor in that you get in the grocery store almost always contains MSG.  I haven't been able to find any without.  That stuff is not good for you.  And it is so easy to make at home!! I made a big batch and freeze single serving bags of it.  That way, I can just pull out one bag when I need it for whatever recipe I am making.  Here's how I do it:
- chicken bones (the bones of a whole chicken) or sometimes I just use some chicken legs or thighs.
- Chopped onion, celery, carrots
- pepper, salt, thyme, bay leaf
This simple: put it in a pot and fill with water.  Simmer on low for a few hours and strain. Done!!

2. Yogurt
This is my favorite homemade item.  Store bought yogurt is full of sugar and in Norway, it is expensive!! It is so good for you and can be used as a substitute for sour cream, or regular cream.  And the live cultures inside are so good for you!! I made a big batch and it is gone by the end of the week.  If you strain it a little, it turns into Greek Yogurt, which is also expensive here in Norway.  And this is how I do it:
- 1 liter of milk (I use 1%)
- 1-2 tbsp of plain yogurt with live cultures
- Make sure all of your cooking items are sanitized (went through the dishwasher on hot).  Heat the milk in a saucepan until it is just about boiling but don't let it boil.  Stir it for about 20 minutes (or up to 1 hour, the longer the thicker and creamier it will be).  Take it off the heat and let it sit until it is just warmer than body temperature (a little warm to the touch).  Add the plain yogurt (at room temperature).  Put the yogurt into a bowl and put in the oven with the light on (or at 40 degrees C) for about 6-8 hours until it is thickened.  Then refrigerate overnight and its done!  If you want to make greek yogurt, just strain the yogurt (I use a coffee filter).  Delicious!!!

3. Bread
This is a hard one for me to fight for in Norway, because the bread here is so tasty and fresh!! The only reason I have is that a good loaf can cost around 30kr, that is over $5.  It is cheaper to make at home, and tastes yummy!! My favorite is honey whole wheat with flax seeds.

4. Speghetti sauce
It is not hard to make, and contains much less sugar than store bought sauce.  Plus, you can mix in lots of veggies and it is so yummy!! And it is easy to freeze.  Here's my recipe:
- onion, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tbsp brown sugar, seasonings
- sauté the veggies until soft, add meat if desired.  Then add tomato sauces and seasonings and let simmer for a while. Done!

5. Salad dressing
This is absolutely something that is cheaper and healthier to make at home.  You an make nearly any dressing at home with basic ingredients.  My most favorite is a balsamic vinigerette, and maybe lately, honey mustard.
balsalmic: olive oil, half as much balsamic, garlic, dash of mustard, dash of sugar, salt, pepper. Mix.
Honey mustard: 2 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp mustard, homemade yogurt (instead of mayo), salt and pepper. Mix

6. Breakfast burritos
I miss these so much! In Colorado, these are everywhere.  It is so easy to pop this in the micro and have a healthy, hot meal.  They are really not hard to make on your own, then package and freeze. This is how I do it:
- Tortillas, potatoes, bell pepper, onion, ham, beans, eggs, cheese, salsa spices.
- cube potatoes and boil.  While boiling, saute onion, potatoes, bell pepper until soft. Add potatoes and brown with veggies. Add ham, eggs and cook. When cooked, add cheese, salsa and spices.  Fill tortillas, place in individual plastic bags and freeze.  Then just pop in the micro for 1-2 minutes and eat whenever!

7. Pizza
This is almost a national dish in Norway and I can't believe how expensive it can be!  If you buy the make your own, it is 50kr for the dough, 20kr for the sauce, then the toppings.  It is much cheaper to make on your own and so yummy!!  Plus, there is a lot of sugar and just stuff in the crust and sauce that I'm not sure is great for your insides.
Pizza dough: find any recipe online. My favorite it honey wheat
Pizza sauce: tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, paprika, garlic powder.
Romme dressing (expensive at the store): homemade yogurt, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika.

8. Breadcrumbs
I just can't find these in Norway.
What I do: Use the cheese grater with stale bread. Done.

9. Croutons
I miss these and they are very easy to make. What I do:
Cube up some bread.  Warm a non stick pan with olive oil.  Put bread cubes in and add salt, pepper, garlic powder and rosemary.  Mix around until toasted and cool. YUM.

I can easily say that I have taken full advantage of my big kitchen.  I love it, and so does my belly.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Back to Blogging: 2014 so far...

So it occurred to me the other day that it has been far too long since a post has gone up.  The new year has already been very eventful and I expect it to continue to bring many new things.

What has happened over the last few months??  First there was my trip to Spain (fantastic), followed by some challenging and sad times for my family, changes at the farm and a new job!!

Last summer, I brought Isra to Colorado to meet my family (the ones he hadn't met yet).  This Christmas, it was my turn to meet his family.  So, we flew from Bergen to Madrid and spend 9 days with his wonderful family during Christmas.  I knew from the start that his family spoke very little English and I knew I did not remember any of my Spanish.  So yes, I was a little nervous.  Isra changed that quickly because he was such a great translator and his family was just too sweet.

Isra and I in Madrid

With Isra's parents in Avila

I learned so many things about Christmas in Spain.  All wonderful.  We shopped, visited christmas markets, met a wise man and saw nativity sets everywhere!  In Spain, they do not celebrate the same way we do in the US.  The kids aren't counting the days until Santa comes to town.  Instead, they are waiting for the 3 Wise Men to come to their house with gifts (on January 6th).  And in every house, and every shop window, there were nativity sets.  Complete with farm animals, running streams, and of course the 3 Wise Men (and a pooping man).  The best part about these was how much everyone loved to see them.  There would be crowds surrounding different store fronts to look at the nativity set.  Fantastic.

Checking out a nativity set

The pooping man

Awesome Christmas present from Uncle Isra

Yum!! Spanish food with fantastic company

Holidays in Madrid

The second part of our Spain vacation was in Malaga with my parents.  It was warm, fun and so wonderful to see them!  Their holiday plans changed when they decided to come to Norway, which was an extended vacation for me.  I felt very lucky to have my Mom and Dad, then sister and our friend visit us at the farm.

Fixing Spanish drains with Nils

And eating Spanish tapas with Mary

Serious mancala battle

Love seeing my Mom and Dad (and Aunt) at my breakfast table

Exploring Bergen

The girls at Bryggen

A house full of family

After saying goodbye to my family, I was offered a new job at the school as a Norwegian teacher for 10th grade.  It sounds intense, but it is a beginning Norwegian class.  While I am not fluent, I do know my basic Norwegian (for the most part).  It has been two weeks now in this new position and it has been an exciting challenge.  I have realized I know more than I thought, and that I have a lot to review! Every week, I spend time planning for my lessons, then time reviewing everything to make sure I can teach it properly.  I am so grateful for this opportunity because I really can't think of any better way to perfect the language I came here to learn!

The biggest and most life changing thing that has happened over the last few months is the change at BB Farms.  We have had to take a big step back from our farming venture.  This means that plans for the Spring/Summer are somewhat unknown for this year.  I don't anticipate that we will have as many animals or as many days open at the cafe.  All is to be decided and I'll continue to keep everyone updated.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Month of Thanks (2)

There are so, so many things to be thankful for every day.  Last year, I posted about one thing every day for the month of November of which I was thankful.  This year, I am posting about 2 things per day that I am thankful for!!

November 1

I love holidays, especially ones where you get to dress up.  Even as an adult, dressing in creative costumes is fun!!
Dexter and his victim

I also love this holiday.  I am looking forward to it already and it's only the 1st!

November 2

Friends who throw fun parties
Today was my friend's halloween party.  Lots of fun costumes, friends and cocktails on a Saturday night. Lovely (and spooky)!

Candy corn
Need I say more. Yum

November 3

We were hungover today, so it makes sense to be thankful for...

Yes, we always look like we are having this much fun when we are watching Netflix

Frozen pizza
A large part of a Norwegian's diet (maybe because they are also hungover quite often)

November 4

Sometimes the quiet farm life needs a little excitement.  So, I am grateful for the things that keep me entertained.

Addicting series
Yes, we have finished Dexter, Breaking Bad, and are now working on Homeland and the Walking Dead (a perfect series for a house up on a dark mountain).

My boyfriends birdwatching hobby
One of my favorite things that happen throughout the day at the farm house is Isra looking out the window at his bird feeder to see if the birds are happy with his newest treats.  Makes my day.
Checking the bird feeder

November 5
Funny kindergartners
It is always funny to listen closely to what kindergartners have to say.  They are brutally honest and never embarrassed to share what's on their mind.  I think my favorite was "Ms. Liz, you have a big bottom".  Well, thank you M.

A quiet house
After a full day with kindergartners, I am so grateful that my house is quiet and childless.

November 6
Rema 1000
They had turkeys today, which means I get to celebrate Thanksgiving this year with a real turkey dinner!

A big freezer
The turkey is big.

November 7
Mom's emails
I miss my mom, and I love her funny emails.  They make me smile every time.

I can't think of a more beautiful and peaceful place to live.  I am the luckiest to be able to call it home.

November 8
Our kind neighbors
My car is broken and needed to be taken into the shop.  I didn't have jumper cables so we asked our kind neighbor if we could borrow his.

Jumper cables
So I could start my car

November 9
Free firewood
One pack of firewood (about 6-8 logs I think) is about 50kr (9 dollars).  We go through about that much wood in one or 2 cold days.  We have a lot of wood stored up in our barn and don't have to buy it and carry it home.  Thank goodness for that!

My boyfriend who likes to chop and carry the wood
I don't like to do this.

November 10

I love being able to talk to my nieces and nephew on Skype.  These days, I love it even more that they love skyping with me.

Teacher in service days
Even though I am not getting paid for a day, it is still nice to have a day free.

November 11
My car
I have lived without a car for many weeks.  I forgot how lucky I am to have a car in Norway.  It is not easy here. But it is certainly easier than walking up and down the long, steep hill every day.

The repair shop 
The neighbor recommended a repair shop nearby who was able to fix my car and at a reasonable cost.  I am certainly grateful for both.

November 12
My nephew's imagination
Every day is different with Kaden.  Today, he was looking in his superhero book and decided "Thor" wasn't Thor at all.  He announced this character was ISRA-MAN!! Stunning resemblance.

November 13

It was a long day, with many loud children. 

Sometimes it's a coffee AND chocolate kind of day.

November 14
Spanish food
I have learned so much in the last months about tasty Spanish food.  I love everything I've tried so far.

My Spanish man
There are many, many reasons why I love him, and his ability to make a delicious Spanish meal is only one of them.

November 15
Rain gear
I have never seen as much rain as I saw today, and I had to stand outside in it for nearly 2 hours.  Thank goodness for rain gear.

A roof
There is no rain gear strong enough to protect you through the night.  I am grateful I don't ever have to test that point.

November 16
My cousin came over today to help me and Grandma make Fårikål (lamb and cabbage).  Grandma was so happy to see us cooking together to make one of her favorite Norwegian recipes.

I am grateful for grandma for many reasons, but tonight I was especially grateful she is able to pass on some of her greatest recipes to us.

November 17
Peg tires
Expensive as they may be, they work wonders on a snowy hill.

For when the peg tires don't work.

November 18
Friendsgiving dinners
It's a bummer not to be home on Thanksgiving, but it is fantastic to have a wonderful group of friends to invite to dinner to celebrate.

A big kitchen
There is no way I could have prepared such a big dinner for 18 people without my big and spacey kitchen.

November 19
Leftover turkey sandwiches
I sometimes wonder if I enjoy the leftover turkey sandwiches more than the actual Thanksgiving dinner.

Because leftover turkey sandwiches wouldn't be the same without it.

November 20
Chap stick
Isra might hate it, but I love it. I can't go to sleep without it.

Nothing brings a smile to my face like a little warm sunshine.

November 21
Because you can find almost anything. For all of those random gifts I like to buy for christmas:)

Christmas shopping
I love buying gifts for people.

November 22
My first language.  The reason I have been able to travel and live in other countries, teaching English.

Norwegian's sick days
I make my living working for those who are out sick.  It happens enough that I can still buy groceries and gas.

November 23
In a place as rainy and wet as Bergen, you must be grateful for wool.

A warm fire
For the time wool won't do the trick, the warm fire certainly helps!

November 24
I have so many that I always lose count.  They are a group that feel like brothers and sisters and act like great friends.  My group of cousins are especially unique and I feel so grateful that they are such a big part of my life.

Family support
Even with all my international travels and crazy ideas, I always have support from my family.

November 25
American football "matches"
Staying up late on Sunday nights to watch the Broncos is one of my favorite things. Mostly because Isra loves it so much!

American commercials
I used to hate these, but these days, watching them during the football games makes me happy.

November 26
Phone apps
I found one today that helps me practice spanish.  So, for an hour each way to and from work, I can practice!!

This is the new spanish app.

November 27
Today was a co workers birthday and we got cake. Yum.

3 year old honesty
As I walked into school today, late and flustered after running through the rain, a little boy looked up at me and said "Ms. Liz, your hair looks weird today".  I walked a little further into the classroom and a little girl saw me and said (with the biggest smile on her face), "MS. LIZ, are you with us today?!!!".  You never have to wonder if the children are telling the truth.  It's always the truth.

November 28
Just the best

Couldn't live without them!