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Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree…

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“Christmas in Egersund”

I put up my Christmas tree last night -thats right, I broke tradition and put it up early this year. Lets just say I needed some early Christmas cheer. My mother puts her’s up the day after Thanksgiving and it stands there until after New Year. I love Christmas, but thats just a little too much Holiday cheer for me. I guarantee we’re the first house in Egersund Norway to have our Juletre (xmas tree) up -oh they’ll decorate, but the tree won’t go up before the 23rd. I’m quite the American-rebel this year.

I know its a bit morbid, but every time I pack away the ornaments I wonder if I’ll be here the following year to unpack them again… A lot can happen between one christmas and the next, right? Go away bad thoughts, it’s Christmas!

For the sake of my marriage, my husband and I bought a pre-lit (lights permanently on) artificial tree, in America and brought it with us home to Norway. It would take all day in the freezing cold for me to find a tree that was good enough and I hated all the needles dropping on my floor. My husband and I had some of our worst fights over stringing lights -hence the pre-lit, fake tree.

One summer while visiting my family in New Jersey we went to a pool store in search of diving masks for my sons and found a Christmas tree clearance sale. Turns out, during the winter the Pool Supply Store, becomes a Winter Holiday Supply Store and all left over trees are sold half price the following summer. Its been ten years since we hauled that tree home and it still smells like chlorine. Ho… Ho… Ho…

Norwegians are very patriotic and love their flag. They fly it for all occasions, but never after dark. If it’s even near dark and we haven’t taken it down, neighbors will start calling to remind us. They even hang paper flags on their Christmas tree’s and that’s one tradition I like to keep. Along side the flags of my adopted country hang all the ornaments of my past. A collection of sentimental reminders. Some from my children, some from places we visited and places we’ve lived.

Have a peek…

In honor of our two years in Houston

In honor of our two years in Houston “Deck them halls Y’all!

In honor of three years in the Netherlands

In honor of three years living in the Netherlands

I may live in Norway but I'm still a Jersey Girl at heart

I may live in Norway but I’m still a Jersey Girl at heart

And just to even out all those Norwegian flags on the tree, an American angel

And just to even out all those Norwegian flags on the tree, an American angel on top

Could this be a sign?

To say that I’ve been preoccupied with everything going on in America lately is an understatement. With a six hour time difference between here and there I’ve been spending most of my nights on the sofa watching CNN, and following my friends (from over there) on Facebook. I watched as Sandy struck my home-state of New Jersey and then walloped the area in which I come from. Due to power outages and poor cell service, I’ve had very little contact with my family this week. The news reports and pictures I’ve seen are heartbreaking.

And then I found a piece of burned up paper on my doormat this morning.

I picked it up, turned it over and saw a picture of a globe. The paper was burned all around the edges, almost in a perfect circle like the globe. As I stood there looking at this picture that had somehow blown to my doorstep in the night, I just knew, America will be alright.

My mother called a few hours later, they finally got their electricity back!

Here’s a picture of a giant oak that blew down and is now hanging over my parents swimming pool

And here’s a picture taken in my brother’s kitchen

But everyone’s fine and that’s all that matters.

Preserving memories

Some of my scrapbooks

Hello, my name is Maggie and I am a scrapaholic.

Well, I used to be – lately I just can’t seem to find the time for it. I started scrapbooking about seven years ago, while living in Houston. My neighbor was a Creative Memories consultant with a great sales pitch. In no time, I was running back and forth across the street buying her products.

My scrapbook supplies

The idea of making albums and preserving memories completely resonated with me. I started out making an album of our time in Texas and that lead to making albums for each of my children. I soon moved on to the grandchildren, weddings, vacations… I couldn’t stop!

I went to all day cropping sessions and on weekend scrapbooking retreats. Women would gather to spend the day clipping, pasting, sharing supplies and ideas. Some of their books were like works of art, they were beautiful. I wasn’t quite as talented, but I had fun.

When the time came for us to leave Houston and move to the Netherlands I went out and bought a hoard of supplies to take with me ($$$$). I was making keepsakes and you certainly can’t put a price tag on that. Can you?

Scrapbooking can be a very expensive hobby. The more embellishment you use on your pages, the more its going to cost you. I’ve made some examples:

Cover the pages with paper and add pictures. Basic and easy.

Cut the paper, add pictures with minimal embellishing.

Layer paper, frame pictures and lots of embellishment.

I have a die cutting machine for making my own letters, flowers, hearts and butterflies, but I cheated and used sticker letters instead.

See the sticker letters? (not so nice)

Eventually I went from not writing anything more than a name, a date or a place in my albums to journaling whole stories. Thats when I realized I needed to take some writing classes, which led to the book, which led to the blog.

The only thing I have time to make now, are digital ones.

Really easy, surprisingly cheap and I can make them right on my Mac.

The perfect Sunday

 

 

 

 

Today was such a great day here in Norway that I thought it might be nice to share…

First the grandkids came for a visit.

Emily danced for me.

Adam colored a picture.

Emily shows off her little sister Annabell. (I didn’t forget to turn the picture, I took it like this)

I spent the rest of the day enjoying the nice weather and doing absolutely NOTHING!

Don’t you just love days like this?

 

 

Another fresh start

 

This is not a blog-award-post, but I am going to tell you two things about myself.

First, I love sugar. Especially when it’s in cake.

Second, I hate exercise. I’m more of a sofa lying, cookie eating type of gal.

I struggled for a long time feeling tired and unfocused. I also had headaches and a persistently runny nose. Fed up with feeling bad all the time, I begrudgingly decided to cut back my sugar intake. I also gave up dairy, and was determined to exercise a bit more than just walking my dogs everyday. I joined a gym.

Everyone says (and I read), the more one exercises, the more one likes it – Not true. (for me)

Everyone also says (and I read), the more one exercises, the better one feels – This is true.

I also found it easier to stick to my diet when exercising. I didn’t want all the work I was doing to be in vain. I spent half an hour on the treadmill and went to a forty-five minute spinning class three to four times a week. Luckily I had friends who also joined, otherwise I may have given up (I’m very easy on myself).

I also bought a juicer and started making my own juice every morning. This gave me energy to keep up at the gym and get my ‘five a day’. I tricked my son, who doesn’t like any fruits or vegetables into drinking it as well and we had a remarkably healthy winter.

Then summer came – School ended and we started traveling. I had no time for the gym, and who passes on desert while vacationing? Not me, thats for sure.

Once I was off track, I started using that as an excuse to stay there. For example; I’ve already had one piece of cake, so why not have another.

Now here I am, back to square one…

Thats why as much as I love summer (and I had a good one) I’m ready for it to end, get back to the gym and get my sweet tooth under control. For some reason, I can only make fresh starts after summer and Christmas.

So here goes…

A list of what I put into my juicer every morning (it may vary from time to time):

3 apples

1 pepper (any color)

A small piece of ginger

Half a cucumber

1 celery stick

1 orange

Half a lemon

A couple of radishes

A couple of carrots

A piece of pinapple

A handful of Kale

 Cheers!

A world tea party

 

I love tea and have been wanting to do a post about it for quite some time now. It’s my addiction and I cannot make it through the day without it. I brew a pot every morning and am still drinking long after its cooled off, I’ll drink it at any temperature, but never spoil it by adding milk or sugar. My favorite is green tea with mint, but I’ll drink all sorts. In good times and bad, I’m always comforted with tea. So if you ever come to visit, you can be sure I’ll serve tea.

Back in June, a good friend and fellow tea drinker named Marita, (who at this very moment is on her way to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro!) informed me of a tea party that was being held at a local lighthouse. As most of you already know, I live on an island in Norway and there is a light house out on the very tip, called Eigerøy Fyr. 

 The tea party was being hosted by a Canadian artist, calligrapher, Asian scholar, and tea historian named Bryan Mulvihill. He travels the world talking about tea and its origins some 4,000 years ago, in China. He also talks about the global journey of this precious commodity and how almost every culture has a tea tradition.

He has served tea in a palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice and in a greenhouse in Kew Gardens, London. He has also served tea at International art fairs, local community centers, Buddhist temples and Jewish synagogues. He has served to as many as 17,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl, during the World Festival of Sacred Music in 1999, and to as little as twenty people at Eigerøy Fyr in Egersund, Norway.

Marita and I took the 2km. hike out to the lighthouse on a winding path that ran both up and down green hills dotted with grazing sheep. Wind and rain pushing and pulling us all the way. Once we arrived, we were served four different teas, in tiny porcelain cups. Each of them tasted light and refreshing, with a flowery sweet aroma.

A few weeks later I received an e-mail from a Norwegian named Christi, living in Ningbo, China. She heard about my book and wanted to congratulate me, she would soon be coming home to Egersund for the summer, and asked to visit.

She came by last week, we had a delightful chat and to my surprise, she brought white tea, all the way home from China. There were two shiny bags inside a small canister, one held tea leaves, the other small rose buds, used in flavoring the tea. The canister was then covered in a silky green kimono.

Yesterday, I decided to share my good fortune with another friend named Anja.

As the sun shone down on a lazy Saturday afternoon, two friends whiled away the hours…

Enjoying fresh strawberries, sweet cake and a delicious Chinese nectar

In Anja’s beautiful rose garden, in Norway.

The tea was fantastic! Thanks again, Christi.

Live in the moment

We have had the most beautiful weather in Norway, eleven days of warmth. Thats big here and this Jersey girl has appreciated every moment of it. To be able to wander in and out without a jacket, shake the mothballs off my summer clothes and drive with the window down for eleven days may seem like nothing, but believe me its something.

 

Don’t get me wrong, Norway can have beautiful weather, but seldom is it this nice and for so long. I think what I enjoyed most was watering my plants everyday, that’s something the rain usually takes care of. I can’t remember the last time I spent this much time in my garden and my husband managed to paint the whole house!

 

Its amazing how good the sun makes me feel. In the winter when its dark I can’t wait to go to bed at night and now in the bright evenings, its the furthest thing from my mind. At this time of the year we always wake up and usually go to bed with the sun still shining. For me this makes the short, dark days of winter, well worth it.

 

I don’t know how many days are left before the bad weather returns because I learned years ago not to check weather reports, but I do hear people talking… The temperature has already gone down a bit and there are a few clouds today, but I refuse to think about it and have decided to live in the moment.

 

I’ve posted pictures taken from my garden and from a window in my house, so you too can enjoy the beautiful weather in Norway…

Keep on knocking, but you can’t come in!

 

A good friend of mine from America has been here visiting for the last few days. Sadly, she had to leave yesterday and her plane was departing at 6:20. We live one hour from the airport, and she had to be there at least one hour before departure. Getting in our last hours of nonstop talking, we weren’t able to make it to bed before eleven and set the alarm clock for 4:00. Whenever I go to bed knowing I have to get up early and do something important (like driving someone to the airport) I always wake up before the alarm. I was awake at 3!

I returned home at 7:00, got my son off to school at 8:00, took the dogs and went back to bed. I woke up two hours later to a knocking sound on my window, which in turn caused the dogs to stir. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep, but there was no convincing the dogs. Tap, tap, tap.  As the fog began to clear, curiosity got the best of me and I got up to find out what all the knocking was about.

It turned out to be a little brown sparrow striking the window. At first I found it somewhat amusing, but it didn’t take long before it became quite annoying. The dogs barked at the window and chased it away several times, but the bird was not about to give up. It was almost as if the little birdie were goading them. Tap, tap, tap. 

Having been gone from my computer this last week and with 250 e-mails to read, I decided to turn a deaf ear to my new feathered friend and get busy. Tap, tap, tap. But the bird was relentless. Tap, tap tap. It was time to release the hounds!

Two silky little, floppy eared, King Charles Spaniels scurried out the front door to chase the sparrow off. After a good ten minutes of barking I decided tapping had to be the lesser of two evils, and let them in. Giving up trying to work, I took a shower, did laundry, made the beds and vacuumed. Tap, tap, tap.

By now the dogs had given up and were fast asleep on the sofa. Tap, tap, tap. By mid afternoon I began to wonder if the Universe was somehow trying to relate a message to me through this tiny bird. I checked and saw all of my children had logged into facebook. Tap, tap, tap. I called my parents in America and asked about my ninety three-year-old grandmother, who is in the hospital with a collapsed lung. Tap, tap, tap. Everything seemed to be fine. Then I remembered hearing somewhere that a bird in the house meant a death in the family. Tap, tap, tap. Although he was not technically in the house I began to worry, my friend was flying back to America and my husband was flying home from a business trip. Tap, tap, tap!

I spent several hours trying to take a picture of the pesky little beast, because I figured no one would ever believe my story. The bird obviously didn’t want its picture taken because every time I tried, it would fly away to another window. I chased the damn thing from window to window snapping endless pictures of tail feathers flying off. If anyone saw me they would probably think I was crazy. Tap, tap, tap!

My persistence finally paid off and I got two good pictures of the bird and fifty-three pictures of various windows around my house. Tap, tap, tap. By the end of the day my friend had arrived safely in America and my husband safely home. The bird finally stopped tapping as dark set in, sometime around nine o’clock in the evening. I went to bed exhausted and thinking if the Universe was in fact sending me a message, it was probably that I was cuckoo. Tap, tap, tap.

 

Khloe on bird patrol

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