~ Frogs and Blueberries ~

After a pretty hectic (and challenging) couple of weeks at work, Mike and I have just returned from an ace weekend in the mountains. Sometimes I am blown away by the culture here in Norway, and how different it is to the UK. One of the best things we’ve discovered so far is the ‘DNT’, or Den Norske Turistforening, cabins. DNT is an association that builds fantastic cabins on popular hiking trails all over Norway – so far they have 460 – which can be used by anyone for a nominal nightly fee. Some cabins are very basic: just a warm bed for the night; some are staffed and there will be someone there to cook you a hot meal at the end of your hike; the rest are halfway between. We chose one of the halfway cabins to walk to: Tomannsbu.

One of the views on outward hike.

I don’t like to paint a bad picture of the UK – I was born and raised in England and spent many happy years in Scotland – but the level of trust here in Scandinavia is so high compared to back home. The DNT cabins are unlocked to allow anyone to enter at any time. Tomannsbu was spotless when we arrived, clean and cosy. The food larder (in case you don’t want to heft your own food for the weekend on the 3-hour hike it takes to get to the cabin) was also unlocked and fully stocked with tinned food and a price list for each item. You pop in your name and bank details in a locked box so that DNT can charge you for your stay later. There is nothing to stop you spending the night without paying, emptying the larder of food and leaving the place in a mess. Yet, nobody does that here. There is always a certain percentage of any population that might take advantage of such a lovely system, and I’m sure it does occasionally happen here, but I know for sure that the percentage of bad apples in the UK is significantly higher.

Mike and I managed to finish work early on Friday, and drove up to Hunnedalen straight from the office. We were faced with a fairly steep climb up the side of a waterfall to begin with, and I immediately began to regret bringing so much stuff with us in our bags! When we reached the top of the first hill, the terrain flattened out for quite some time, and we began to really enjoy our hike. The scenery is quite similar to the Scottish hills, but on a much larger scale – and really stunning with the light running in time with the clouds over the valleys and mountain lakes. After two hours, we were about 2/3 of the way there, so stopped for some crisps and grapes by the side of the clearest body of water I’ve seen in ages – we were a few metres above the surface on the path, but we could see all the individual pebbles on the bottom. Along the way we stepped over scores of frogs ranging from a couple of centimeters long to quite gigantic in froggy terms! We passed a group of two mums and their 5 daughters who were heading in our direction, knowing we’d see them again soon once we reached our destination. 3 and a bit hours later, the cabin popped into view from behind a heathery hill – a welcome sight for sore feet and shoulders from our bags.

We were the only occupants so we chose a room on the top floor and changed into some comfier clothes for the evening before exploring our surroundings. The cabin was very traditionally Norwegian – wooden and cosy, with two wood-burning stoves for heat and a couple of Primus hobs for cooking. There were two small living rooms with soft sofas and lots of board games for the kids. A huge dining room lead off the kitchen, big enough to seat all of the 30 people the cabin was equipped to sleep. We’d brought up some leftovers from last night’s dinner with us, so we heated those up and opened a bottle of wine, too. The family of girls arrived and the kids were so excited to be on a sleepover in a cabin – they were lovely smiley little things that were too shy to speak to us and just listened as we chatted in a language different to their own.

After dinner, we lit the wood-burning stove and some candles and opened our books to read for a while. The cabin did have some electricity, fired by solar panels on the roof, but there was no need to use it. We headed to bed early, and found our room to be really cosy (it was above the wood-burner!) and comfy. We must have been asleep in seconds! When we woke up, the sun was out and Mike was brave enough to have his morning wash in the lake – brr! I just heated a basin of water on the wood-burner and threw it over myself on the balcony instead – much warmer :o) After a very chilled out morning, we were left alone in the cabin so we decided to head our ourselves to a nearby lake. While Mike fished I picked wild blueberries – I was much more successful than him and we came home with no fish but a bowl full of berries. On our arrival we discovered we had some new neighbours for the night – a group of two dads and their kids, and two men who both volunteered for DNT and who were up to do some odd jobs around the cabin. We spent another lovely night eating some great food that Mike cooked up and drinking wine by candlelight.

The next morning we woke to clouds hanging low over the surrounding hills, and after a very brief wash in the lake for me, and a sweep and mop of our room, we decided to head back to the car. The hike was a little more challenging on our return journey as, although it was dry for our walk, it had been raining heavily all night and the moorland was slick with mud. We both plunged into deep boggy puddles a few times on our way home! As much as I enjoyed the walk, I was awfully happy to see Viking (our Norwegian Volvo) in the car park at the bottom of the waterfall we had first walked up.

Mike and I split the drive home and then took turns to have a reaaaaaally long, hot shower when we got home. I made us salmon with dauphinoise potatoes for supper and we napped on the sofa as half-watched comedies played on the TV. A fantastic weekend and one we will definitely repeat in future.

K

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~ Green Fingers and Golfing ~

All this outdoor living, good food and more free time has inspired me to begin gardening. I’m starting small, with some herbs. I usually buy a plant when I need herbs for a recipe – basil, coriander, chives – and I usually kill the entire plant within the week: first by first overplucking its leaves (have you ever seen a recipe that calls for less than a handful of coriander?) and then forgetting to water it, followed by a deluge when I suddenly realise it’s drier than Ghandi’s sandal. 

Getting into the planting - crazy fringe due to a warm, but very strong, breeze!

Getting into the planting – crazy fringe due to a warm, but very strong, breeze!

Hopefully the 4 herbs I chose (basil, mint, coriander and rosemary) survive a little longer. I’m leaving them outside for now, but I suppose they will live indoors in the winter. Mike says if I can keep them alive for 2 months, he’ll buy me a watering can. 

After splurging on my new plants, Mike and I decided to have a quick go on the driving range at Sola Stranden. I’ve been thinking about buying myself a new set of clubs for a while – the ones I own were bought for me by my parents when I was 12 – so I made a casual enquiry about 2nd hand sets at the pro shop. The guy behind the desk was stunned at the coincidence: they normally don’t keep 2nd hand ladies’ clubs, but a member had sadly recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and was looking to sell her set. They were really good quality, almost mint condition and a good size for me. I paid 3 000,00 NOK (around £300) for a set of Taylor Made irons (5-9), a Taylor Made driver, a Calloway hybrid and a lovely putter. They came in a nice Titleist bag, too, which was stuffed full of golf balls, a couple of gloves and other paraphernalia. I don’t think I’d have got a better deal in the UK – especially with what I’d have had to pay to take them back over here with me on the plane. I had a go on the driving range, then on Sunday tried them out on the 18-hole course, too. Good fun – especially the driver – and I finished only 18 strokes behind Mike: not too shabby since I was using the men’s tees.

Made a very disappointing chicken tagine on Sunday – one of Tori Haschaka’s, who is a favorite of mine. Bland in colour and taste, and severely let down with the poor-quality chicken we got from the supermarket. It’s very hard to find chicken that isn’t breast here – or so I’ve found. Must have a look in the butcher’s tonight to see if I can get hold of some thighs to freeze for use later.

Finally, I had a really exciting message from one of my old work colleagues on Sunday evening – her and her partner, who met on Match.com a couple of years back, are engaged! I am so incredibly happy for her. I was really lucky to work with some fantastic girls around my age back in Aberdeen, and I’m so glad we’re still in touch. I can’t wait to see the diamond in real life soon – it looked gorgeous from the pictures. 

My own wedding planning hasn’t really taken off yet – I must get on it this week so that I can update my Wedding Planning page with a bit more information!

K

~ Stargazing and Sunrise Watching ~

 

What a belter of a weekend. Scorching temperatures in Stavanger again! After growing up in England and living my last 7 years in Scotland, I cannot stand to be inside when it’s warm. On Saturday we spent the day at the Gladmat festival (see my recent post under ‘Cookery’!) followed by a trip to Ikea and some flat-pack-furniture assembly.

 

 

As the evening wore on, warm and clear, Mike and I moved our furniture outside to enjoy the sun for as long as possible. We’ve found the best way to be comfortable outside is to disassemble our sofa and make a nest from the cushions on the decking!

 

 

 

We both had a good book to read; Mike was enjoying a bottle of rioja and I was enjoying a pot of tea; the stars were starting to come through and even though the sun had dipped below the horizon, the air was warm. I’d read about a meteor shower in National Geographic so we decided to take a blanket outside and stargaze for a little while.

At just gone 12:30am we hadn’t seen any meteors, but we’d had a lovely evening and were ready for bed. We decided to set the alarm for 03:15am to get up and see the sunrise, so we had a couple of hours’ sleep before I shook Mike awake. While he stumbled around in a sleepy haze, I made some jam sandwiches and a flask of coffee, and we drove out to Dalsnuten. We parked in the car park and walked for 30 minutes uphill to the viewing point, 323m above sea level. The sky was rosy as we arrived, and we had half an hour to wait until proper sunrise.

We opened our coffee and ate our jam sandwiches in total silence, gazing out over Gandafjorden and the twinkling lights of Sandnes and Tasta – where we’d left our apartment. A strong but warm breeze tugged at our clothes, so we sheltered by a cairn while we waited for the sun. It was absolutely magical. As the sun rose over the mountains to the east, the light levels crept up and the sky became blue rather than pink… The start of another beautiful summer’s day. We began our descent and were back in the car by 06:00am, back home by 06:30am and in our bed again by 06:35am. We slept late and woke up at lunchtime. What a lovely start to Sunday.

K

 

~ Engangsgrills and Jelly Stings ~

With all this gorgeous weather we’ve been having in Stavanger (it’s been 30+ degrees every day for 4 days now), Mike and I decided we’d head to the beach after work on Tuesday. We picked up some burgers and an engangsgrill (a disposable BBQ), drove to Hellestø beach and had a brilliant couple of hours relaxing by the sea.

The water at Hellestø is super clear, and the sand banks mean that it’s shallow for hundreds of metres from the shore – which makes it both safe for kids and warm. I love to swim; Mike, not so much. He does enjoy a wee paddle though! I had a dip while he got dinner going, then we both went in again after we’d eaten. It felt like we were on holiday! Warm water, most of the population of Stavanger in their bikinis on sun loungers, the smell of BBQs and the happy shouting of children. We came home salty, sandy, freckly and with crazy-beach-hair (OK, that was just me) – what a lovely afternoon.

Yesterday Mike was working a little later than me at the office, so I decided to do a repeat performance before I went to collect him in the car. As soon as I got in the water, my leg was itching and burning – youch! Only then did I remember that on Tuesday we spotted a jellyfish on our second swim, and after we got out the water my leg was a bit stingy. I think I probably had a little jelly sting on Tuesday and hadn’t realised until I was back in the saltwater! Still, it didn’t spoil my swim – I spent absolutely ages in the water, floating back and forth and diving under the swell that was rolling in. Bliss. No BBQ this time, though – I just picked up a sandwich and a big bottle of water which was enough to keep me going until Mike and I bought a couple of ice creams on our way home!

Tonight I’m going to Gladmat with a couple of the ladies from work – a food festival in Stavanger that’s eagerly anticipated by all the locals. I’m looking forward to trying some tasty morsels and hopefully getting a few people-photos to upload here later.

K

~ Weekend Sun ~

It’s been a wonderful weekend in Stavanger. 31 degrees Celsius, all-day sun and even the largest of the nearby lakes now warm enough to swim in! Mike and I cooked up some tasty food and spent time with friends; I thought it was a good time to start the blog I’ve been meaning to post since we moved over in March.

Mike had to work on Saturday morning, so while he was away I took myself off for a run. It was 24 degrees by 10.30 and although the first 3k went past quite quickly (I was on-track for a personal best!) the last 2k nearly beat me, and I finished at 36 seconds under my PB (32 minutes 43 sec). Very disappointing – all I want is a 30-minute 5k! After speaking to some friends who have been running much longer than me, the advice seemed to be interval training. The idea of intervals does make my heart sink a little, but I think it has to be done.
Once I’d recovered and Mike had arrived back home from the office, I baked a cake for our friend Andy as a belated birthday celebration and took it over to his house. We had a lovely walk in the forest at Brekko then a dip in Ålgård lake before heading back to Andy’s for a BBQ and a soak in the hot tub. Perfection.

Unusually, Mike had to head back into work on Sunday (neither of us has had to do much overtime since we started working here!) so I decided to go with him and help out. Having never worked in a workshop before I’m not sure if I was just a hindrance, but by late afternoon I felt like I’d had a workout! Mike’s not often in the workshop – his main job is business development – but he enjoys getting his hands dirty sometimes. We came home via the lake near our apartment (Stokkavaten) and washed some of the dust from ourselves in the water, then spent the afternoon sleeping on the decking in the sun.

Post-swim paddling at Stokkavaten.

Post-swim paddling at Stokkavaten

Excepting the part where Mike was working, this weekend was fairly typical of our life here in Stavanger and we had a really relaxing couple of days. I hope to update this blog fairly regularly with recipes, photos and other bits and pieces to record the kinds of things we get up to and the things we enjoy. That’s all for my first post for now, thanks for reading :o)

K