Monday, January 31, 2011

Norway Day #1

We arrived in Oslo on Friday, January 21st after connecting through Newark on Continental.

Oslo or bust!

We landed in Oslo and promptly looked for food before our next flight to Tromso.  Although we weren't in the mood for hot dogs at 9am - Oslo had both a "New Orleans" and "San Francisco" hot dog at their airport.

breakfast of champions
loved the super seeded bread
We landed in Tromso and took the easy Flybussen to the waterfront Rica Ishvahotel.  At both the Oslo and Tromso airports, they had the Flybussen shuttle that would take you to the popular tourist hotels for a very reasonable price (around $10/person, much cheaper than a cab).  I thought it was a great idea.  It ran every 20 minutes and dropped us off in front of our hotel.

View from the our room at the Rica Ishvahotel
The weekend we were in Tromso happened to also be the weekend of their International Film Festival.  Therefore the city was busy and the restaurants full.  Since we were still getting our bearings that night, we walked all around town to find a place to eat and settled on Amundsen's Restaurant.  It was a warm and cozy spot with good people watching. 

My meal was a fish in wine sauce with potatoes

The hubby got the Scandinavian sampler platter
While we were eating dinner, it started to snow!

Fresh snow

Tromso is a city with a rich polar exploration history - apparently it was often the launching point for expeditions to the north pole.  Famed explorer Roald Amundsen is a much loved figure by the town and there were several statues in his honor sprinkled around.

Roald Amundsen statue in the snow. 
Tromso was a very charming little town and would be a good launching off place for our arctic adventures.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my hubby and I just took a mini-vacation to northern Norway.  It was a fantastic trip!  I have so many photos and stories of adventure to share (which I will do over the next few days).  However, I thought I'd start by sharing some of the resources we used to plan the trip.  Turns out that we don't know anyone who has ever traveled to Norway or who is from Norway - so planning the trip was an interesting process.

Through a Norwegian friend of a Swedish friend of an American friend, we ended up finding a Norwegian travel agent who helped us plan an amazing trip.  Her name is Christine Gaffney and she owns a travel agency called The Travel Designer.

Our itinerary overview, planned by Christine:

  • Thursday, January 20th
    • Departed California (United) and connected in Newark, NJ (Continental) on our way to Oslo 
  • Friday, January 21st
    • Arrived Oslo around 9am
    • Immediately boarded another plane (SAS) to Tromso, Norway (north of the Arctic Circle)
    • Arrived Tromso around 2 or 3
    • Checked into the water front Rica Ishvahotel
  • Saturday, January 22nd
    • Explored Tromso
    • Around 5pm departed Tromso for a nighttime snowmobiling adventure
  • Sunday, January 23rd
    • Had a lazy morning in Tromso
    • Headed to the airport around 2pm to catch a flight to Sorkjosen, Norway
    • Flight was canceled, so took a 4 hour bus to the Lyngen Lodge in the Lyngen Alps
  • Monday, January 24th
    • Snowshoeing in the Lyngen Alps
  • Tuesday, January 25th
    • Early flight from Sorkjosen to Tromso and then on to Oslo 
    • Explored Oslo
  • Wednesday, January 26th
    • 11am flights out of Norway
I put together the Google My Map to show you where we were on a map!

View Norwegian Vacation in a larger map

If you're interested, before we found Christine we had planned a strawman itinerary for ourselves.  Looking back, had we done this itinerary we would have missed our favorite part of the trip - Lyngen Lodge!  I also think that the Hurtigruten would have been too much of our previous 5 night timeline.  We should have considered flying between the two cities (a very short flight).  I say this in case anyone who stumbles across this post wants to plan something similar. 

Our almost itinerary:
  • Thursday, January 20th
    • Departed California (United) and connected in Newark, NJ (Continental) on our way to Oslo 
  • Friday, January 21st
    • Arrived Oslo around 9am
    • Immediately boarded another plane (SAS) to Tromso, Norway (north of the Arctic Circle)
    • Arrived Tromso around 2 or 3
  • Saturday, January 22nd
    • Explore Tromso
    • Around 4pm departed Tromso on the Hurtigruten coastal steamer
  • Sunday, January 23rd
    • Day on the Hurtigruten popping in and out of the coastal inlets of northern Norway
  • Monday, January 24th
    • Hurtigruten arrives in Kirkenes (near the Russian / Norwegian border)
    • Dogsledding in Kirkenes
    • Night at the Snow hotel in Kirkenes
  • Tuesday, January 25th
    • Fly to Oslo
    • Explore Oslo
  • Wednesday, January 26th
    • Leave Norway
So would we do anything different next time?  Honestly, we would have probably preferred one less night in Tromso for one more night at the Lyngen Lodge.

Our itinerary for next time:
  • Thursday, January 20th
    • Departed California (United) and connected in Newark, NJ (Continental) on our way to Oslo 
  • Friday, January 21st
    • Arrived Oslo around 9am
    • Immediately boarded another plane (SAS) to Tromso, Norway (north of the Arctic Circle)
    • Arrived Tromso around 2 or 3
    • Checked into the water front Rica Ishvahotel
  • Saturday, January 22nd
    • Explored Tromso
    • Around 5pm departed Tromso for Lyngen Lodge by bus or flight through Sorkjosen
  • Sunday, January 23rd
    • Dogsledding or snowmobiling from Lyngen Lodge
  • Monday, January 24th
    • Snowshoeing in the Lyngen Alps
  • Tuesday, January 25th
    • Fly to Oslo
    • Explored Oslo
  • Wednesday, January 26th
    • 11am flights out of Norway
Last, but not least, we rounded up some Norwegian recommendations from our friends of friends.  I have put them all in a Google doc in case they might be useful to others.  I apologize in advance, I didn't really take the time to format - but I think it is still readable for the most part.

Enjoy!!  Norway was one of the best places I have ever been in my life. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Merry Chadian Christmas

I mentioned that my brother Tommy spent Christmas in Chad.  He sent us this photo to show how he celebrated his holiday. 

a Chadian Christmas Carol
He works for an oil company and most of the photos showed his co-workers in their uniforms watching a band play in front of a Christmas mural.  I'm going to have to ask him if he works with any women over there, because from the looks of it there are only men on his project in Chad...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

birthday party!

I had a wonderful 1.11.11 birthday this year!  My husband planned a little party at a local wine bar and invited some friends.  You may remember Vino Locale for my favorite summer pastime - mystery flight night on their back patio.  He organized a mystery flight night birthday party! It was sooo much fun.  

He bought me a big cake with lots of frosting.

My birthday cake
He also bought me an obscenely large ballon.  It was fun walking home with it because random people on the street would say happy birthday. 

big balloon
Alison and Eli arrived at the party with a plate full of birthday brownies.  By the time we walked in the door at the end of the night, this is what we had left.  Can you blame us?  The walk home is several blocks... Thank you for my edible treats!

1/11 brownies!
Thanks to all of my wonderful friends and family for the amazing birthday wishes and coming out to Vino Locale.  1/11/11 was even better than I could have dreamed!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


To say I've been waiting for this day all of my life would not be an understatement.  Today is a special day - my 1.11.11 birthday!  A numbers nerd at heart, I was excited that last year was a palindrome - but this year is even better because it is all 1's!  Even better, I share this day with one of my best friends Rachel - who recently was a very beautiful winter bride.

Last year, I spent my birthday eating king cake shipped to us by my parents in New Orleans! Delicious!  I would be lying if I said that I didn't eat most of it while wrapped in my LSU purple and gold snuggie...
switching to three candles over the actual number... 
Thanks to all my wonderful friends and family for the happy birthday wishes!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Christmas gift for the neighbors

So it is a bit weird to blog about Christmas in January, but I'm behind!  Sometime soon I'm actually going to get around to blogging about our halloween party this year too, so don't be surprised.

This year we gave the neighbors the same thing we gave our families, friends, and coworkers - the sherry pecans!  However, for one special neighbor, we gave the pecans a special treatment.  I bought the little green dish at Sur la Table for a few dollars on sale, put the candies in a polka dot plastic treat bag and topped the whole thing with a red bow.  I thought it came out really well for under $5.

Christmas gifts!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Women in Leadership

An interesting TED talk from Sheryl Sandberg (COO Facebook).

Her key messages:

  1. Sit at the table
  2. Make your partner a real partner
  3. Don't leave before you leave

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Southern New Year's Day

Ever since I can remember, my mom made us eat black eyed peas, ham, and cabbage on new year's day.  She said it would bring us health, wealth, and good luck in the new year.  The superstition seems to have stuck because I find myself needing to eat those things every year on January 1!  This year we were just returning from a 5 day trip with my husband's family, so we didn't want to cook an elaborate meal (similar to last year).

Black eyed peas are never my favorite, but my hubby (in a stroke of genius) suggested we make them into a hummus.  However, the store only had dried beans (I usually cheat and either get them canned or in those plastic tubs). We figured it was the perfect time to use our pressure cooker, which promised soft beans in 9 - 11 minutes (pretty amazing actually).

9 - 11 minutes under pressure! 
I found two recipes for black eyed pea hummus online and used our copious amounts of beans to make both.  Turns out a bag of dried beans makes A TON of food!  We got around 6 to 8 cups of beans when cooked!

Recipe #1 from Cooking Light (1999): No olive oil, plus cumin (recipe at the bottom)
I didn't have any tahini, so I left it out and still thought it tasted great.

Black Eyed Pea Hummus #1
Recipe #2 from a blog called Pink Parsley: had olive oil and no cumin
Also called for tahini which I didn't have so I omitted. Still tasted good!

Black Eyed Pea Hummus #2
So which was my favorite?  It was really hard to choose.  We eventually put them side by side in the same bowl and I still couldn't choose!  I probably marginally liked #1 better, but I would make either one again.

Moving on to the cabbage and ham.  We made the same recipe we used last year (cabbage, fennel seeds, water), but just added chopped ham.
cabbage and ham

On Monday when I went to get our mail, I got my first issue of my new subscription to Southern Living (thanks to Amy for the suggestion)!  I flipped it open to a story on the history of eating black eyed peas and greens on new years day in the south.  Pretty cool.  Check it out for a little history lesson.

"According to folklore, this auspicious New Year’s Day tradition dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops pillaged the land, leaving behind only black-eyed peas and greens as animal fodder. Rich in nutrients, these were the humble foods that enabled Southerners to survive. Details of stories differ, but each celebrates a communion of family and friends bound by grateful hearts and renewed hope for good things yet to come." - Southern Living, January 2011

Cooking Light Black Eyed Pea Hummus

Make-ahead tip: Hummus can be made up to two days in advance; just cover and chill.
Yield: 3 1/2 cups (serving size: 2 tablespoons dip and 2 pita wedges)


  • 3  garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2  cup  fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/3  cup  tahini (sesame-seed paste)
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  paprika
  • 2  (15.8-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained
  • 14  (6-inch) pitas, quartered
  • Fresh chives (optional)


Drop garlic through chute of food processor with processor on; process 3 seconds or until garlic is minced. Add lemon juice and next 5 ingredients (lemon juice through peas); process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Serve with pita wedges. Garnish with fresh chives, if desired.

Pink Parsley Black Eyed Pea Hummus
adapted from Carolina Cooking by Debra Zumstein, originally from 700 Dayton - The Mansion at Forsyth Park
  • 1 (16-ounce) can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tahini paste, well stirred
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika, plus more for sprinkling
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh parsley leaves
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the black eyed peas (reserving 2 tablespoons), garlic, salt and pepper, paprika, cayenne, and parsley,  Process 15 seconds, until almost fully ground.

In a small measuring cup, combine the tahini, lemon juice, and oil.  With the machine running, pour through the feed tube and continue to process 1 minute, until the mixure is smooth.  If it seems too thick, add water, a few teaspoons at at time, until the desired consistency is acheived.

Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with paprika, drizzle with olive oil, and scatter the remaining black eyed peas over the top.  Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

my recent obsessions

If you're wondering what I've been doing instead of posting on my blog... here are my most recent obsessions (i.e. I spent a lot of time on ebay).

1. Liberty Puzzles
We got one of these for Christmas and it became my obsession for 2 straight days.  The pieces are all kinds of crazy shapes - actually no two pieces in the puzzle are the same!  The puzzle is thicker than most normal puzzles and made out of wood.  I then bought myself an early birthday present at Anthropologie - another Liberty Puzzle off the clearance table (and then used a 15% off coupon).  They are expensive!

Look closely and you can see the odd shaped pieces!

2. Settlers of Catan
I played this game a lot over the holidays and I got two expansion sets for Christmas - Seafarers and the 5 -6 player expansion set for the original game.

Catan and a new nail polish under the tree!

3. Steamer Trunks
I saw an old Louis Vuitton trunk from the late 1800's in a decorating magazine and I am now obsessed with finding an old steamer trunk in good condition (no way can I even afford the old LV ones).  I've spent too much time on Craigslist and Ebay trying to find one so far...

Wouldn't this $8,000 one from the 1880's be awesome!?  Just search ebay for "louis vuitton steamer trunk" and you'll see lots of cool examples.
yes please

4.  After Christmas Sales
I got a jar of Gingerbread Butter at Williams Sonoma for $1.99 over the weekend.  Enough said.
I'm going to make baked brie with it!
5. Scandinavia!
My husband and I just booked a vacation to Norway today!  We're off to see the land of the midnight sun - in the winter!  You might think we're crazy, but think dogsledding, the arctic circle, northern lights, ice fishing, fire places, a language neither of us speak, and a new cuisine to try (lutefisk anyone?).  Try watching this video and NOT going to Norway.

So that is a quick summary of how I've been spending my time. :)
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