Thursday, 29 January 2009

A Little Piece of Paradise

There have been a number of people asking me my cabin by the seaside. While I of course won't go into great detail, I do think I can share a bit that will satisfy most. Our cabin lies between 1 and 2 hours north of Bergen, which covers an awful lot of ground. While the cabin itself dates back to World War II (due to short supplies building materials, another house was purchased, taken apart and transported by boat here), the stone foundations of the cabin, which can be seen in the photo below are dated to the 1600's.

The above picture is taken from the sea itself. To be very honest, it was taken my husband as he was bobbing gently in the water, lying in a yellow rubber dingy. Originally the cabin was only as wide as the top two windows. We have expanded it to the right (extended the kitchen, added a toilet [there was only a bucket when I first moved her 10 years ago] and a second upper bedroom). The windows we want are extremely expensive, so we will probably have enough money saved up to purchase our next window next year.

We do a lot of fishing at the cabin - here is a boat that the entire family owns together - all 18 of us. The one rule that no one is allowed to break is that any gas used by someone must be refilled IMMEDIATELY. No exceptions.

So far there has been no problems.

I for one prefer fish from the land. I'm quite good at it as well. It always gives me such pleasure to have my brother-in-laws tease me about what it takes to be a 'real fisherman/woman'. Then within an hour I've caught the above, and they come home as the sun is setting with nothing to show for their efforts.

Yes, life out in the country side can be pretty good.

Monday, 26 January 2009

A Work Place Flower Virgin

I learnt a new life lesson today: no matter how sick you are, how much you shiver, how much snot your blowing out of your nose, despite all the hours you are sleeping during the day, never, ever, ever forget this: always wear a bra!

I'm on my second week of being sick with a really good influensa that I just can't shake. I don't need to go into details. Needless to say, after going to the doctor, having some bloodwork done, receiving new 'governmental sick leave papers' and delivering them to my boss, I went home and slept for another 5 and a half hours.

So I wake up, take some more Ibprofine and eat some of the dinner that my better half (especially at this point in time) and my kids ate for dinner. My better half, who has been up since just before 4 AM this morning asks if he can sleep on the couch for a bit, before putting the kids to bed.

The kids are happily addicted to Play Station. I agree to this.

So I'm flipping through the channels on the tv, wrapped in a wool blanket with hot tea. It's a sad state when one has over 100 + channels, and nothing is of interest. Not even Jamie Oliver is very entertaining tonight.

And the doorbell rings. 'Jeez-Louise!' I think to myself. Who in the name of Paradise and Lawn Clippings is ringing my door now? I don't even have any loose change if it should be someone collecting for the Cancer Foundation, Askøy Football Association, or some local high-school band arrangement.

There's a man out there, super blond hair and high cheek bones. Suddenly I'm aware that I'm wearing wrinkly pajama bottoms that have been used for a couple of days now, and a ragged army green sweater that I used to wear in Canada over 10 years ago. My hair is not yet brushed since I've woken up a few hours ago.

-- Is this number #%? he asks.
-- Yes, I say.
-- Are you Nicole? he asks.
-- Yes, I say.
-- These are for you, he says. And hands me this:

I'm kind of stunned as I take this fantastic boquet into the kitchen. I understand that this is because I'm not feel great, but I can't figure out who would send them to me. After 10 years of living in this country, I still can count the number of true friends I have on one hand. Such is what happens when you move often and change jobs frequently. The one possibility I can think of is a friend who is now up in the Song region for a couple of weeks and we haven't been sending SMS's like we normally do. She knows I'm not well but.....

So I open the card: Dear Nicole! Wishing you a good recovery. Greetings from both the small and big at your workplace.

Now I'm stunned for a second time. In all my work experience, I've never had anyone of my work places send me flowers when I've been ill. Even when I fell 10 meters in the mountains of Canada, had to be rescued by helicopter and could not work for 3 months because of some rehabilitation that needed to take place, I did not receive flowers from my work place. The only question was if I should be docked one day's pay because my parents did not contact my work place immediately to let them know of the incident. (Silly them - they were worried if I would be a vegitable or not).

I understand it's the virus at work here, and I know that I'm not the first to receive flowers from my work place. I'm fairly confident there's an unsaid rule that those who are sick longer than a week will be sent flowers from money that's put away every month for such occasions. Even so, I'm getting pretty emotional about it. I'm not crying, but I've had to take a couple of deep breaths now and then.

Wow - someone sent me flowers. I think I'm starting to feel a bit better already.

And in the future I will always wear a bra. Maybe a pair of jeans as well.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Back to Knitted Postcards

I've been home sick with my son this week - not a lot of fun. But while both of us have taken it easy, watch tv, drinking lots of vitamin rich juice, and tea (and a little bit of hot chocolate to keep the moral up), I've been playing with my knitting needles. I think even in a severe coma, I would still be able to knit something wonderful.

I've gone back to knitting postcards for while. Why, you might ask? For a number of reasons:

1) I'm not feeling well enough to even work on a scarf.
2) I have a whole lot of yarn, wool and material that needs to be used up in one for or another. I can see that haunting look in my husband's eyes - time to get on it.
3) I like being forced to enter the world of 'EXTREME CREATIVITY' to make something that looks nice from a lot of odds and ends that, well... really don't look nice at all.

With Valentine's Day around the corner, I've of course cut out lots of hearts - close to 100 of them in fact, that are now stored in my 'Applique Box'. I have found some flowers I had forgotten about as well. It's nice to be able to put these to good use.

As I'm making these cards, my mind starts to wander, wondering what it can make and how to diversify my cards as much as possible. What kind of appliques can I can I make from a sewing machine? Cupcakes? More flowers? Whales? Words/Sayings? Birds? Hmmm.... I think I might have to start doing some free hand drawing to see what I am capable of.

And should anyone have a good idea that might work, I would be willing to give them a free sample of any card I made from that idea. Crafters Unite!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Working Partnerships with VKNO

I have begun to establish a good working relationship with another Etsy seller who lives on the east side of Norway. While we have only met once for coffee, we have spoken often through email and SMS. And it seems that our personalities fit perfectly together.

At the moment I love making scarves. And I have plans to make all different types, all sorts of variations. One of the ideas that has been coming back to me again and again is to make a 'Viking Princess' Scarf. While the details of how I will make it and what it will look like are under wraps for a while, I discovered that I was going to need a special pin.

Secondly, I like to reuse materials, encorporating 'upcycling' as often as possible. VKno also encorporates themes of 'upcycling' in many of her products, some of which include aluminium. So I approached her with my idea, asking if one could make a strong enough pin for me and my plans. The thought had never occured to her before, but she was willing to take on the task of at least trying to find some artistic solutions to this problem.

Last weekend I recieved this package:

A variety of different pins made from aluminium wire and folded, upcycled aluminium. My job was to critique them, and then send them back to her so that she can work futher on this project.

However, I found that each of these pins had so much potential that I had to share them with my friends and with the world.

Pin 1 - Is an upcycled aluminium frame that is encircled in copper wire, and has a wire needle. It's a rougher style, and while I have no immediate plans for this style, it is somethikng that would go well with what I make - tiny, fine stitches are not usually the way I do things.

Pin 2 - Is a flat, hammered copper circle encircled with wire. I actually do like this particular style, but wonder what other decorations can be used instead of the copper crown that was used here. VKno, in her personal letter that she included with this package, has already told me that a number of different decorations can be used.

This basic style, in my opinion, can be appropriate to a number of different articles that I make, and I might end up ordering a number of these in similar styles in the future.

Pin 3 - This is one of my favorites. It's another upcycled, aluminium frame tightly wound with wire. While it might be a bit difficult to see in this picture, VKno has added many seed beads on the outer edge of the frame. She herself has said that the corners are not to her satisfaction and that she plans to make them look more professional. This in my mind, is a very nice, classic pin that could possibly be used for more formal occasions.

Pin 4 - A heart shaped pin. What could be more perfect for Valentine's Day? Or for a special birthday or anniversary? I absolutely love this pin, though I do have some questions for VKno on its strength. This however, if it is a flaw, would be a very minor flaw in my opinion and can no doubt be corrected quickly. (She's so smart!) I see this pin being popular, both for me, but also for other Esty Buyers out there.

Pin 5 - The whale. Silly me. When I came home on Friday evening from work and opened the package, I didn't even see it was a whale until I read her letter. On the other hand, my husband immediately exclaimed 'Wow - Cool whale!' when he saw it, as did my four-year-old daughter. It is now of course very obvious to me, and I admire VKno's creativity. She says that this is her favorite, and for someone who lives on the sea-shore, I can understand why this is.

I love her use of beads in this piece. This would be perfect for many 'Norwegian pieces' I have thought of, or have thought of since I have seen the pin.

Pin 6 - This is my least favorite pin of all that have been sent to me. However, it is more the shape that doesn't feel right. I'm not sure if it's the shape, or the size, or a combination of the two, but I just don't like it.

Having said this, I really like that she combined two colors/materials. I see this as a good starting point for something much better in the future.

Pin 7 - This is nice pin, but for me the beads take away from the pin itself. I much prefer the styles of square pins seen in Pin 1 and Pin 3. In my opinion, the square would have to be much larger to support large beads such as these.

And now a personal thank you from me! Thank you so much VKno for taking on this project. I will send you further personal comments via email, and your package will be sent back to you later this week. :) As always, my opinions and comments are only my own. I hope that you will have great success with this idea, with many other customers other than myself.

You're a true pal!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Stormy Family Hike

Today we joined up with another family in our family and took our family hike on one of the smaller islands surrounding the large island where I live. The day was windy and dark - the past 40 hours or so we've had pretty extreme weather, with winds blowing up the the category of a 'little storm'.

Here we are driving out towards the island of Ramsøy - now there is a direct road here, with land bridges made of stone. This however does nothing to keep the water from washing up over the road during fierce weather.

Getting closer and closer to the water....

Pretty much as sea level here......

Here we can see the houses of Ramsøy in the distance.

Getting closer....

Once here, we head towards some old German Bunkers left over from WWII. My children and those that were with us were looking so forward exploring the 'caves' and 'tunnels'. It crosses my mind that while I was born in 1973, the war was still 'in my lifetime' as my grandparents lived through it and I heard direct stories from them. Now those people in my life are gone, and WWII getting close to being a full century old. I imagine this war will have little meaning in my children's lives.

We don't tell the children that all of these bunkers were made by Russian prisoners of war, almost all who lost their lives doing so. When does one begin to share such tragedies with small ones?

70 and 80 year old rubble still lying around....

A view back towards the island that I live on (that would be the dark mass far into the distance).

A really cool and scary hole where 3 of the kids swore in all honesty that they could hear a troll lurking in the depths.

A machine-gun bunker where no doubt dozens of planes were shot down from.

One nephew getting a little too close to the dark and chilly waters for our liking....

The last and final reminents that are eroding away. What will my children show to their children?

Friday, 16 January 2009

Scarf with Attitude

Sometimes life is a bit difficult. Sometimes people push your buttons in ways that don't like. Sometimes things are a bit out of your control and there's not much you can do about it.

So what can artistically inclined people do during a time like this? Let their nasty feelings out through some of the work in a humoristic means.

What can I say? Life was difficult for me during the coldest time of the year. It's always good to vent your anger towards a semi-mythical figure.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Winter Hiking Outside of Bergen

My family and I went winter hiking a few weeks ago. There are a number of mountains right behind Bergen that the general public has easy access to, and the three that we walked around were Fløyen (where we took a tram to the top), Blåmannen and Rundemannen (these are located right behind Fløyen).

Below are a number of photographs of the scenery we were able to enjoy... when we were not engulfed in trees.

Above: looking to the east of Bergen.

Looking out beyond the harbor of Bergen. The first island (Askøy) is where we live, with 22 000 other people.

Looking over the southern mountains of Bergen. Out beyond that final island is the great big ocean of the Atlantic.... next stop: Stavanger.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Breakfast in my part of thw world....

Well, it's not a very good picture. There's not a lot of light so early in the morning... around 6 am. But what you see here is a pretty standard Norwegian breakfast. Two pieces of bread (not toast) with with cheese and mayonese zig-zagged over the top. It's quick, easy, and fills you up. Together with two madarine oranges and I'm set until lunch time later on.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Nobody Likes Me Scarflett

I was given a ball of wool from a friend - she had one left over from her workings. Knowing that I like to use things that others would just get rid of, she asked me if I could use it for anything.

From this ball, I knitted a scarflett. I thought it was fascinating how the extra colors that were entwined within the navy blue wool appeared at a random pattern of their own making: purples, pinks, greens, oranges, and even a bit of yellow making appearances at will.

I knew a piece like this needed a pretty big border. To this I added a fringe in baby pink, in order to bring out the reds found in the purples and to off set the light blues.

Imagine my shock when I held a contest a couple of months later: each participant was required to go through my store and find a piece that they would never, ever, ever buy. Even if someone paid them a large amount of money to do so. This piece got the most votes.

However after a lot of thinking and searching my heart, I've come to the conclusion that this piece is wonderful, and wonderful for someone out there.

I will continue to hold out, until this person and myself cross paths.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Alpaca for Men

Who ever said that the soft, luxurious alpaca wool was just for women? Men also would love to have something cuddly and butter soft against their skin.... as long as it doesn't look as soft as it is.

Friday, 9 January 2009

A Game of Balance

It has been a long time since I have posted a blog. There has been a lot that has been going on and a lot of things that needed to be sorted out in my life. And my body and mind really needed some rest.

I left a really horrible job last August - the kind of job where the boss runs the place like it's his or her own little empire, breaking laws and threatening employees left, right and center. And to make matters worse, most of those who were hired were either young, or had no working experience (ie - new mothers who had spent many years at home), or a combination of both. I was able to find a better job and move on towards the end of the summer. But I had spent two years at this former job, and needed to both get used to a new job (with new expectations), shake off the bad experiences that I had been experiencing before, and renew my relationships with both my husband and my children, which had been strained the last year or so due to stress.

I needed to take care of my mind and body. I had decided that while I would start exercising, I wouldn't actually change my diet too much. I do eat a lot of fruits, veggies and healthy food. The problem however was that I was also greatly addicted to chocolate and coffee (and chips on occasion). However coming from a low point, I decided to continue to indulge myself in these treats on a *reasonable level* until Christmas. This I have done.

Now Christmas is over, and to be really honest, I'm really tired of the coffee and chocolate. I also am a lot stronger than I was back in September, when I started my new job. As the days go by, I am exercising more and eating less junk. I am having less desire for the things that got me through the days before. It happens that I make myself my first cup of coffee in the evening, and then throw half of it out because it just doesn't taste as good as it did a couple of months ago.

I'm exercising, usually, 3 days in a row with one day's rest. When I started exercising in September (which was only maybe twice a week), I found it incredibly hard to burn more than 150 calories in 30 minutes - and I was on the lowest level of my elipse machine. The last few weeks I've been burning 300 - 350 calories in just under 30 minutes. It's amazing. And this evening I hit a new record: after a day's rest, I have worked out for 35 minutes, and have burnt 410 calories.

It's not often I stun myself.