Friday, 24 April 2009

Purchasing Gifts on the Internet

Living half a world away from family and friends for over 10 years does make gift giving difficult. What size are they now? What are their likes and dislikes? What can I purchase that doesn't weigh too much, won't break or won't be confisgated by customs in other countries?

I found a solution to this for Mother's Day. For those who do not live in North America, Mother's Day is the 1st Sunday in the month of May. (I think - I'm starting to get these days mixed up now.... if it's not the 1st Sunday, then it's definitely the second). I found a great seller on Etsy makes home made soaps and jams. Bovine Bubbles located at:

(For those looking for a more precise location, she lives in Saskachewan.)

I fell in love with the pictures of her products. While her tripple digit feedback attests to the quality of her products, her store attests to her success as a business woman. This is what I ended up buy for my mother:

Peppercorn Lime Bath and Body Bar

Pear Shea Butter Soap

Citrus Sunshine Bath and Body Bar

Sweet and Spicy Garlic Jelly (Although I think my Dad will really like this).

Blueberry Lime Jam

White Peach and Vanilla Bean Jam

Kiwi Lime Daiquiri Jam

I can imagine her before me, soaking in the tub after a hard day at work.... or having a slow Sunday morning breakfast with a cup of good coffee, some toast and one of these delicious jams. (And I can see my father using the garlic jam when he's cooking some sort of roast on evening).

In addition to these great photos and great feedback, Bovine Bubbles is registered with both Canada Health and Saskachewan Health. And all of her products are labeled nicely with a list of ingredients. And, small notes can be added to gift wrapped packages, wishing friends or family members Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Happy Mother's Day or even just a Thinking of You.

Do check out her store. It will be worth it!

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Crab Fishing, Fish Fishing and Getting The Creativity Done!

Today was a wonderful day. The sun was shining, there was very little wind and it felt almost as if summer had come. A good day for not doing any work and being with the kids

Now, I can write a long list of all the things I can do. Let's just say I've picked up various skills here and there, legal and otherwise. But one thing that I have not yet learned to do is drive a boat. I mean, it looks pretty easy, especially if one takes it slow. And considering all the other vehicles I can drive, legally and otherwise, it shouldn't take me long to learn. But in the meantime I need to wait for my husband to give me a lesson or two.

And since my brother-in-law was using the boat with his family in the beginning of the day, I spent the day crab fishing with my children.

We had help from one of the bigger cousins, who was also waiting his turn to use the boat. Here my son is given a lesson on how to bait the crab-fishing-pole. Yes, in Norway you can buy fishing poles made just for fishing crabs. I have yet to hear of anyone actually catching a crab this way. Instead it appears that this is a fun way to give all the smaller fish in the area a free lunch. Which is much more exciting for my kids anyway. If an actual large crab appeared, I'm sure it would monsterously terrifying to both of them.

The first thing you need to do is find some sort of shell animals. When I do this, I tend to go hunting for mussels. In this case, my nephew has chosen to use those cone shaped shellfish that glue themselves to large bouders. Then you take the nearest available rock and in proper primitive, neanderthal style, you smash the living daylights out of it.

And then you squish the flesh between the clothes peg that is found at the end of the fishing line.

Point number one: I do not know why clothes pegs are used instead of fishing hooks. Having said this, I don't see how either do a good job in actually catching crabs. If of course we continue to work with the theory that this is crab fishing and not simply providing free meals for underpriviledged fish.

Point number two: My nephew has a bandage on his hand because he cut it badly the previous week during a scouting adventure in the forests of Norway.

And then you bend over the edge of the dock and you wait.......

And you wait......

And you wait....

Finally my nephew, being as clever as he is, decides to find some super small fish hooks and re-ties the fishing lines. After another 30 minutes the result is this:

A makeshift aquarium of three small fish who thought they were getting a free lunch and a lot of shrimp that just got in the way.

But low and behold, my brother-in-law and family come back from their boat trip early than expected (he actually hates fish and is relieved every time they come back without fish - we secretly think he visits the places where everyone knows you can't find fish) and my mother-in-law gives me the elbow and suggests that we take the boat out.

You can imagine the the kids are filled with glee.

Now, for the little bit of complaining that I do, I really do have a pretty cool mother-in-law. My kids adore her, and she is absolutely a super cool mor-mor (grandmother).

Knowing that my kids are still small enough to think our boat is a true racing boat, she hits the throttle and roars around in circles on the water.

Who's not having fun here?

Soon enough we go to a good fishing spot and start our gamble with the sea.

Who's not having fun?

Almost immediately my son gets a fish. This was great for him and now we have dinner for tomorrow night.

This was however the only fish that we caught in 45 minutes, though we did get 2 strong nibbles that bend the rods, and got stuck on the bottom 3 times.

And for my fellow members of the European Etsy Street Team, I have actually been completeing some projects! (We can't just be having fun all the time, can we?) :) I was able to complete this during my afternoon coffee. It will be up in my store next week.

I definitely can't wait to get back here next weekend.

Friday, 17 April 2009

A Means to an End -

This friday the trip to the cabin was almost hell. A major accident had blocked the only road north out of Bergen and we were stuck in the middle of it.

With no way out.

With four hungry kids in the truck (we took two extra just to be sure the experience would be as extreme as possible).

And no way out.

And myself looking at the gas guage which says I have less than a quarter tank of deisel.

And no way out.

But we made it out.

When we got to our cabin it was freezing could. A lovely north wind was blowing, which guarantees sunny skies, but not the cloud cover to hold in the heat.

So I gave each of the kids a small suitcase, while I loaded myself up with a big backpack, two grocery bags of food and a large duffle bag of washed linens from our last stay. We all hurried along the pathway to our cabin, rushed in and closed the door behind us. I made dinner and we all ate like wolves (everyone was excused their lack of politeness at the table tonight).

And then I dressed the kids in winter jackets and hats and sent them out to play for a bit.

And then I made myself coffee, poured it into a thermos mug and went out myself.

And saw this:

(stage left)

(stage center left)

(stage center right)

(stage right)

In an instant everything is vanished: clutching in and out of first gear for over an hour, 4 kids asking how much longer it is before they can get out of the truck, me wondering if I'm going to make it to the gas station before I need to call a tow-truck, me getting very hungry and very irritated at small, little people who are also very hungry and very irritated.

It's just me, my coffee and my breath rising from my lips. Not bad for a Friday evening.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Working with Nature --

I am pleasantly surprised. Not shocked, but there's not a lot that shocks me anymore. I've come to expect the best and the worst from those of us living on this planet. It's all the stuff that happens inbetween that intrigues me and impresses me.

So imagine my pleasantly surprisedness when I found some great yarn (in my favorite yarn and fabric store) which was made from BAMBOO. I've now finished my first product from it, I am so completely satisfied with the yarn that I can't wait to get my hands on more of it.

Still, it takes me a bit to wrap my brain around the whole idea. I mean, we start with this:

(minus the dog)

and this:

(the above photos were stolen from

and end up with a product like this:

The benifits of using bamboo yarn are numerous.
  1. It's a completely renewable resourse. Even the hard cored, left handed environmentalists will be happy. The bamboo can be harvested without destroying the plant itself, leaving the plant to continue growing so that it can be harvested in another 6 months.
  2. By itself, it is completely biodegradable.
  3. Has the ability to be dyed by 'natural dyes'. This is better for the evironment. (And until this point I had not given much thought to unnatural dyes that are harmful to the environment being used on other types of yarns. Hmmm.... food for thought).
  4. Bamboo yarn has natural anti-bacterial properties. (Great news for me working in a day which involves wiping a lot of snot and being sneezed and coughed on regularily throughout the year).
  5. Bamboo also has natural ultra-violet light protective qualities (perfect for that full body protective sun-suit I'm thinking of knitting)
  6. Bamboo is softer than silk. (This I can personally attest to. My fingers were happy little fingers while working on my first project)
  7. Bamboo has a beautiful NATURAL luster.

This is my first product with this great material. Soft and silky against the skin.... This is my new favorite invention since peanut butter.

I look forward to showing off future products.

All is of course not perfect in the real world. This is true of bamboo yarn as well. The one downfall that I have been able to research is that it does absorb water and expand when soaked in water.

But as always in my life, when life gives me lemons I do try to make lemondade. In this case I'm thinking: Asset enhancing swimwear for both men and women.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Working Together as a Team -

This is a close up of my sea side cabin, located approximately 1.5 hours north of Bergen, Norway. It's a family retreat, where everyone goes to relax and fill the soul with the time and space that daily life takes away from it. My husband aquired this property from an elderly family member over 20 years ago, and when he took it over it was falling apart in every sense of the word. All the windows had been broken by storms, two of the walls were rotting out, some of the floor boards had broken through to the stone basement below.

Since I have joined the picture 11 years ago, the two of us have been working together (in every sense of the word) to rebuild this place. We've replaced the roof. We've extended the building and extended the kitchen on one side (where one can see the white door) while adding a bathroom with a ecological toilet and a space promised for a small foot-pump shower (which is a big improvement from the bucket in the basement that was available when I first moved here) as well as adding a second bedroom on the second floor.

This summer we'll be extending the wooden porch around to the sea side of the cabin.

8 years ago we build a porch in front of the doorway. Before there was only wet dirt and cracking cement. We also added the fiberglass roof so that we could be outside when it rained.

3 years ago, after replacing the roof and extending the cabin, we added a porch on a second side of the house. At the far end where the railing is we've enjoyed many breakfasts looking over the sea, while listening to my mother-in-law shouting good morning to us from her own cabin further up the property.

Now we're going to extend the porch into a balcony on the sea-side of the cabin.... both to get even closer to nature and to find a bit more privacy.

Now the problem is that while we do have access to a concrete mixer, it is located further up the property. And considering that it rains an awful lot on the west coast of Norway, the ground is almost always saturated with water. After a quick discussion, my Viking husband and I decided it would take just as much work to mix the cement by hand as it would be to take the concrete mixer up and down wet grass.

The descion was made pretty quickly. I had dug the holes to solid rock while Viking searched through all of his materials to find planks that could be used to make forms. I would mix the cement and he would carry it and fill the forms. Mormor would make sure the kids did not get in our way.

The lesson begins:

Two parts sand from the wheelbarrow above....

Plus one part gravel.....

Plus one part cement.....

(Which in the end, when using my shovelfuls, turned out to be about 4.5 parts sand to 3 parts gravel to so-and-so much dry cement. But in the end, it was good cement).

There's the dry mixture.... almost looks like BisQuick Mix, doesn't it?

And there's the final, usable product. Which also resembles BisQuick Mix when the milk has been added.

After almost 2 hours and 9 small batches of cement later, all the forms were filled.

And always the romantic, Viking needs to leave his mark.

Secret Easter Bunny -

Being a member of the European Street Team on Etsy has it's social benifits. Like getting secret gifts twice a year from someone you are not expecting at all.

We have two occasions where we exchange gifts: Christmas and Easter. I unfortunately was not able to participate in the 'Secret Santa' give away, but I was one of the first to jump on board to participate in the 'Secret Easter Bunny' give away.

The person I received to make a gift for was a woman I've actually be aquainted with for a couple of years now. Malene lives in Denmark and has the store Elves Garden ( where she makes wonderful pieces of jewelry with a mystical or mideval feel. I really like her work and have bought a number of pieces from her already.

Because we live in 'similar' climates (though this word should be used carefully as it is warmer in Denmark, though some what windier), I decided to make for her two cowls. One made from a Danish wool in wonderful orange and yellow colors, as well as a summer cowl made from a yarn that is a combination of wool, cotton and chitin. (Fantastic material to work with). I was very glad when she liked the parcel that was sent to her. She has posted about it here, in her blog:

It turned out that my secret Easter Bunny lives in Italy! Mette is an avid knitter and sells both her wares as her patterns at this store: And she has sent me the below:

A cute little refrigerator magnet that my daughter has completely fallen in love with....

And a wide variety of goodies for me, myself and I. :) I cute little knitted Easter Bunny was perfect for our Easter Holidays out at the country side, as well as some Easter Candles, a handful of Italian body creams and tea from Italy. In addition to this I got a marshmallow Easter Bunny as well as what I assume was an Easter bunny made from white chocolate. However, that one melted a bit before I got it. Regardless, it tasted very good!

Thank you very much Mette!

Friday, 10 April 2009

The problem with being Canadian in a foreign country is that we're just too trustworthy. I mean, come on – we're CANADIAN. Everyone likes us. The world is generally unaware of any major global mistakes that we've done, in comparison to our neighbors to the south. Even Bin Ladin has put us quite low on his list of countries to 'get'.

This being my frame of mind, it left me in a position to be really taken on April 1st. And I got taken good.

For those who don't know me personally, I work at a private day care. 100+ children and 30+ adults working in 6 different teams. April 1st, 2009 was a really warm day, one of the warmest days of the year. For the first time, the group of children I work with were all outside. My team members were out with them, and I was left in charge of making lunch for the group. I was running late, and trying to cut tomatoes and make a mental list of all the eating utensils that we needed.

And the the phone rings.

I look at the receiver and the number is hidden. Strange, I think. It must be one of the parents phoning from work. So I answer the phone.

Is this Nicole -- ? I was asked. I answer affirmitively.

Yes Nicole, this is the Stig Andresson phoning from the local distric police. We're phoning because we had a speed control earlier this morning and have documented a vehicle registered to both you and Cato – , a dark blue Pajero with license plate number: ###### driving at a slighly higher speed than what is presently allowed on the roads of Ask√ły.

[Now the thing is, I normally NEVER speed. I mean, I'm a good Canadian girl. We ALWAYS follow the rules, the classic joke being: How do you get a pool full of Canadians out of the water? Say: Okay everyone – swimming hours are now closed! --- However, this particular day I was a bit late. And I did drive slightly faster than normal, but did not drive faster than 10 km an hour more than allowed. Because I know it's very unlikely you'll get a ticket at this speed.]

Okay, I say. I admit nothing.

Yes, he continued. As I was saying, we have documented you driving slightly faster than currently allowed. We take this kind infraction very seriously. Because of this I am phoning to find out if you can please come down to the station some time today so that we can discuss the matter further.

[At this point there is a bell ringing in the back of my head. But clearly it's not ringing loud enough]

I still say nothing. I mean, I of course will do everything in my power to assist the police, but not when it involves getting my own hide strung out.

I need to know, says Stig Andresson, when it it possible for you to come in so we can handle this matter. Can you come in right away? His voice is affirmative and authorative.

Well I'm at work, I say. I can't give you a time of when I could come in.

Is there any way you can come in on your lunch hour? Stig Andresson asks me.

[At this point in time, I know I'm not going to get a fine, warning or even worse. After all, if I had driven so fast, why would they have not pulled me over then and there? Suddenly it occurs to me what date it is.]

Is this because of April Fools Day? I demand.

In an even more serious voice Stig answers: I can understand how you might think this. And I sympathise with your worries. However let me assure you that this is no joke. This is a serious matter that should be dealt with as quickly as possible.

[I am still hesitating at this point. But, this is the police phoning. I mean, what if it was actually real? Best to play it safe, I decide].

Can I have your phone number? I ask.

Of course you can. It is.... and Stig in a completely professional nature gives me a mobile number.

Is there a land number I can reach you at?

Stig does not miss a beat. Of course, he says. If you wish to reach us through our central board, you can dial this number [gives a land number that is not very suspiscious]. Here you can ask for me and you will be directed quickly.

Okay, I say, submitting completely. I will probably get my lunch break between 1 and 2 pm. I will do my best to come in during this time. If I am unable to, I will come in contact with you. [Two can speak like a professional.]

Thank you Nicole, says Stig. I look forward to meeting you. Then we hang up.

The very next thing I do is phone my husband, just to hear what he has to say about the situation. Then Stian, a co-worker of mine. Tears are running down his cheeks.

I have been caught. I was sucked in so badly that there's no way out of this one. It does not matter if I had some suspicions, I choose to take the safe road and I was duped.

I'm sure I could have smacked Stian, without too many consequences later. And I'm sure I had DEATH written in my eyes as Stian did start backing away from me when I approached him.

Instead I decided to give him a big hug. I was duped. I was conned. I was suckered. April Fool was written across my forehead in big, flashing, neon letters. But I was going to take the high road out.
And after wallowing in my embarrassment for an hour, I came to the conclusion that Stian wouldn't do this with just anyone. I choose to believe that he tricked me because he considered me as a friend.

Though it is a strange initiation, I accept Stians friendship. Until next April.