Friday, December 28, 2012

A Norwegian Christmas...

I did a blog post about how Norway celebrates their national day. So I thought I would share how Norway celebrates Christmas. Or at least how my family celebrates Christmas here in Norway. I'm sure every family has their own personal traditions, as does ours.

Christmas does not start nearly as early as it does back home in Canada, where sometimes the Halloween decorations come down as the Christmas ones go up. Usually, people start decorating the first Sunday in Advent with advent lights and Christmas stars in the windows. And people often decorate with purple in the Advent season, which I assume, has to do with Norwegian culture being strongly tied with the (once) State Church (Lutheran). Most people have Advent candles at home and they light a new one each Sunday before Christmas.

Norway's Santa Claus is called Julenissen. A "nisse" is a figure of Scandinavian folklore. A small person/elf like creature that usually hid in the woods/barns of farmers. They helped out the farmers but could also do mischief as well, especially if they were offended. Julenissen brings presents to children on Christmas Eve. Julenissen really likes his "grøt" (rice porridge) so tradition dictates that a hot, steaming bowl of grøt with a big pat of butter and generously sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, is left outside for julenissen. I suspect there are a lot of happy kitties with full tummies on Christmas Eve. As commercialism has taken over Christmas, julenisse has become to look more and more like the Santa Claus of American culture. But here is a somewhat more traditional picture of Norway's julenisse.

The main Christmas celebration happens on Christmas Eve evening. Everyone dresses in their finest and the men wear suits. The Christmas meal is very traditional depending on where you live in Norway. You can not mess with the traditional Christmas meal!! If you were to suggest having, say... lasagne, on Christmas Eve, Norwegians would be horrified. In our family, the traditional Christmas Eve meal is pork ribs with crackling, sausages and meat cakes, warmed sour kraut, potatoes and veggies with gravy and lingen berry sauce. It's delicious. 

Often dessert is rice cream, made from the left over rice porridge and mixed with whipped cream and served with strawberry or raspberry sauce. Delicious! Other traditional meals are cod, dried, salted lamb called pinnekjøtt (blech), or lutefisk (double blech). 

My 3 girls anxiously waiting as the evening is about to begin!

After the meal come the presents! Yup, the kids have to wait all day to get to the highlight. We have a big family and there's usually a huge mountain of presents to get through. After the presents comes the coffee and cake and general "stuffing of one's face" the rest of the evening. Ahhh. 

I love Christmas in Norway. It's very elegant. I still miss getting up at the crack of dawn and opening up presents in my jammies but I do love the celebrations here and it's absolutely become Christmas for me. Even the traditional Norwegian Christmas carols which were completely foreign to me before, are really Christmas for me now. Like this lovely Christmas melody called "Mitt hjerte alltid vanker" (My Heart Always Wanders) sung in the style of Norwegian folk music. 

I would love to go home to Canada for Christmas one year though. There's nothing like the Christmas of your childhood....

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Settling in for the Holidays

It's Christmas time again! My days have been busy with all the preparations, Christmas concerts, and a sick kid. And a sick me. But, thank goodness, we're all healthy now, we're all on vacation, and we're enjoying putting the last Christmas details in place. Today we gave the house a good cleaning, Sindre worked at the house while I did some baking, and this evening we got the last of the shopping and groceries bought, and we got our Christmas tree. And I was by the house to take a few pictures. 

Everytime I'm there, I'm surprised at how far things have come along. But, I'm also struck, every time, at how much there's still left to do. But as far as the exterior goes, we're getting very close to being done. The east wall is still covered in a tarp but the carpenters are finishing that as soon as the Christmas holiday is over. But the rest of the house is looking really good! 

This is what the back looked like after we had torn off the old porch and the basement had been dug out but the concrete not poured yet. 

This is what it looks like today!

I think it looks so good and so much bigger! The trim around the windows didn't get a coat of white paint yet, but that's coming this spring. The green door is the one that was in the house but it's just there temporarily until the new door comes in 5-6 weeks. We chose this one from Swedoor:

It will be a medium/light grey on the outside and white on the inside. We also ordered a side window to go with it. 

This was the west wall:

Now it looks like this:

Pretty, no?

This is the addition looking from the green door and in. I can't get back far enough to get a good picture but this will be our entrance, a small bathroom, and tiny laundry room. Directly to the left and not in the picture, is a whole in the floor where we'll have the staircase down to the basement. 

This is what it used to look like looking down the hallway on the 2nd floor from the top of the stairs.

We've now ripped out the wall to make way to the addition.

And this is the upstairs addition looking through the hole in the wall. The left side will be Rebecca's room and the right side will be our main bath.

And we've finally decided what to do with the ceilings upstairs. We're removing the ceilings in both the end bedrooms, so our's and Emilie's, and opening it right up to the attic rafters. It's going to be so gorgeous!! Our's will just be a vaulted ceiling. But in Emilie's room it will be a vaulted ceiling with a loft. The girls will have a ladder to take them up to the loft where they'll have an "overnight" room where they can invite their girlfriends to spend the night and watch movies. The back wall of the loft will have a door leading to extra storage. And the loft will be for all the girls even though it's in Emilie's room. I'm really excited about this! I think it will look wonderful! I tried to take a picture from our bedroom but it's hard to get a feeling of how high the ceiling is. 

Tomorrow will be the last day Sindre will have to work at the house for quite a while. Dec 26th he leaves for the coast of Poland for 4 weeks. So after tomorrow, we're settling in for Christmas, for family, for food and for togetherness. Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I'm Dreaming of a White....Kitchen.

I've done my duty for today. I've painted a numberless amount of window trims in the freezing, see-your-breath cold of my very airy house. Then I made lunch for the guys, cleaned it all up, put on a load of laundry, picked up Madelen at a friend's house and now, now, I'm going to relax for a bit. So I'm sitting in the sofa with my girlies, a cup of coffee and my lap top. The girls are watching "The Neverending Story" for the umpteenth time. And I thought to myself, why not write a blog post! So here I am.

The carpenters were at the house for a few hours on Friday and put up a few rows of siding. It's going to look so nice! And the bottom trim of the siding looks really great. Thanks to my great paint job. *pats self on back* The guys are almost done everything for the concrete to be poured on Monday. When I left the house, Sindre was just starting to put down the in-floor wiring for the new part of the basement.

This is the new part of the basement before they leveled it and put on the styrofoam, plastic, steel reinforcement and wiring.

But I thought that today, I'd talk about some other house related stuff.

We've decided on what kitchen we're going to have. It's from Ikea, naturally. We have an Ikea kitchen in our current house and we've really liked it. You get a lot of kitchen for a reasonable price. So.....the decision came down to..... *drum roll*..... Lidingø. Which is this pretty white kitchen.

The plan is to have these lovely cabinets, a solid oak counter top, and either wallpaper or paneling behind the counters except where the stove will be. There we'll have white subway tiles. The back wall of the kitchen where the table will be I think I'm going to have this wallpaper.

And I'm so excited about my farmhouse sink!

And this lamp for over the sink.

As you can see, I've already given the kitchen a lot of thought. It's the room I'm most excited about.

 Emilie and I have been out looking for wallpaper for her room. She found one she liked but it was mostly purple and she was really wanting blue. And then I came across a wallpaper series called Pip by Eijffinger. It's very pretty and feminine. Emilie will be 10 in a few months so I'm hoping it will grow with her into her teenage years. She hasn't narrowed it down yet because there's so many she likes. But here are a few that she's looking at. 

Sindre leaves on Monday for 10 days. So we won't be doing anything at the house but the carpenters will be there doing the siding and windows so there should be a big change by the time he gets back. And I'll be holding down the fort here with our 3 girls. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Week 3

Yet another week has gone by. And we're that much closer! The carpenters weren't at the house this week. They've been waiting on the siding to come. Which arrived yesterday!! So it's waiting at the house. Hopefully today or tomorrow they will start putting it up. They are going to completely finish the front (south) wall and the west wall with all the windows and siding. Then they'll fix the east wall and rebuild the stained glass porch. Then it's on to the addition! And things are going forward there too!

There was some necessary damage done to the stone wall when the excavator dug out for our basement and removed a section of the basement wall. So before the guys could get on to leveling the gravel and preparing for the concrete to be poured, they had to repair the wall. They added a weight bearing beam and studs and are now working on repairing the stone wall.

This week they also got all the leveling done and a layer of styrofoam and plastic in the old basement. 

They've even managed to get the steel reinforcement on top of that AND last night Sindre started installing the in-floor heating cables and the electrical wiring for outlets. BECAUSE.....we've ordered the concrete!! Yay! The concrete truck is coming (for some reason I've got an image of the Coca Cola trucks all lit up with "The Holidays Are Coming" playing in the background) on Monday and pouring the floor for both the old and new basement. Yipee!! Once that's poured and dried, then the guys can start putting up the walls for the new basement using leca blocks. Apparently leca is not common over in Canada so here's a pic in case you're curious. 

Then the carpenters can take over and build our extension. They're doing the entire build, installing the new roof on the back, and inside they're putting in the separating walls for the various rooms and the floor between the first and second floors. This is pure luxury for us! When we built our current house, we had the contractor put up the house, windows, siding and roof but it was just a shell. The inside was completely empty, from the concrete slab to the rafters. It was sooo much work. 

And we learned a few (or more) things from our first building experience. We knew without a doubt that we'd be getting pre-painted windows this time, for example. After painting 3 coats of oil paint on s.i.n.g.l.e window in this house we learned that you really don't save any money after factoring in all the paint and the countless number of hours it takes. We don't do plastic or vinyl over here. Everything is made of wood and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

I've also been contributing this week as well. I can't do the heavy labour but I can paint. The carpenters are putting up the trims and decorative blocks around the windows so we needed to get a coat of paint on them first. Which means I had to choose a paint colour. Thank goodness I decided to take a sample of the prepainted windows with me. To me they looked pure white. But when we started comparing colours we found out that they're definitely not pure white. The colour is called cotton which has a bit of yellow in it. So I chose the same colour for the window trims. It would have looked awful if I had gone for pure white. The windows would have looked yellowed and dirty in comparison. Phew! 

Above is my window trim work station. Sounds professional, doesn't it. It's not. And it's SOOOOO cold in that house right now!!!!! Insulation was a brilliant discovery and I can't wait until it's yellow glory is gracing my walls. ;)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Week 2

The second week with actual real carpenters at the house has gone by. And of all the weeks that have passed since we bought the house, this has been the busiest, by far. Everything kinda all needs to be done at once.

The guys are trying really hard to get at the new basement section so that the concrete can be poured. However, they had to remove a section of the old stone basement wall to open it all up. Plus we could see it wasn't very sturdy in that section. So they've been really busy trying to remove the very large stones. And then supporting that section of the house with new beams and a wood wall. It's been a lot of work for them and the guys have been at the house late every night.

This is looking down into the new basement from the kitchen door.

In addition to working on the basement, they also have to remove the siding and outer walls of the house, one at a time, for the carpenters to build up again the next day. So the front (south) wall is done, as well as the west wall and part of the east wall.

The carpenters told us today that the little stained-glass porch on the east wall is pretty rotten.

So now we've got to tear that down too so that they can build it up again properly. The whole house is more rotten than we hoped. But like I mentioned before, we expected the unexpected in this old house. I'm thankful that we had already planned to more or less gut it inside and strip it outside. Easy to find and replace everything that needs replaced. Essentially, we're going to end up with a new house.

And....drum roll please........the windows arrived!!!!! Yes!! And they're just as nice as I had imagined them.

This weekend will be very busy as well. We've got to clean up inside so that the carpenters have room to work. They're not coming back until later next week, after the siding finally arrives. We've got to tear down the stained glass porch and the upper part of the east wall. And get moving on the basement.

Because after next week, Sindre isn't going to be here. I haven't mentioned it yet, but Sindre got a new job in August. He had to give 3 months notice at his current job and next week is his last week. It's going to be strange. He's been working there for a lot of years and it's only up the street. His new job will be 30 minutes away. AND he will be travelling offshore for his new job as well. Which means I'm going to have to get used to doing the "single mom" thing for 2-3-4 weeks at a time. And it all starts with a 10 day course far from home. So I guess I'll get a practice run before he starts going offshore. I'm a little nervous. And I'm going to miss him desperately. But it was the absolute right decision for us now. And Sindre is really excited about this job as well. Change is hard, but also very healthy. We figured since we've turned our lives upside down this year, we might as well go all the way. ALL THE WAY!!  We've been soooo blessed and we're very thankful.

And a little shout out today. Hurrah for Roy, Markus, Tore and Karsten for their very much appreciated help! And also to the always positive and very helpful Elin for watching the girls and making meals while I'm at work so Sindre can be at the house. We couldn't do it without you all! <3

Saturday, November 10, 2012

First Week

It's been an exciting week with both the carpenters and the excavator at the house. Things are moving forward and that it sooo satisfying! Ah, progress.

Last weekend the guys removed the front of the house. 

This week the carpenters replaced all the rotten studs and both the bottom and top sill. And apparently, the dormer was more or less floating up there but now it's all put right. 

It's all ready and waiting for the siding and the windows. The rumour is that the windows are touring the country before heading to Lindesnes. And the pre-painted wood siding was painted while the wood was still wet so the contractor had to send it back. So windows and siding are supposed to be here next week. We'll see. I won't be holding my breath.

 But it seems the more we get done, the  more we realize there is still left to do. Originally, we had thought we really didn't need to do much to the existing upstairs of the house. Just the new windows and some paint. But that's been pretty much gutted too. And the carpenters recommended that we tear down the ceilings as well. So now we're wondering if we should leave it open up to the rafters in the attic. It would be veeeery pretty with the high ceilings. And the girls could have a little loft with a ladder and bunk beds up there where they could have sleep overs. Or their own personal hideaway. But I'm not sure what the extra cost will be, if any, or how much extra work. And then there's the all important question of insulation. We need to have enough insulation in the roof to keep us all toasty warm. And we're not sure keeping it open like that will allow us to be able to put in enough insulation. So more things to think about. I do like the idea though.

The excavator has finished ripping off the old porch and has dug us a lovely hole where the guys will be putting in a basement foundation for our new addition. Last night they spread gravel over the old basement plus the new basement section and leveled it. 

Doesn't look nearly as impressive in the picture as it does in real life. It's been nasty, pouring down rain all week. There's been an excavator driving up down our driveway and to the back of our property and the place is one GIANT muck-hole. 

Today, the guys removed the west wall as that's the next thing the carpenters are going to work on while they wait on the windows and siding. This is before and after:

And from the inside we've gone from this:

to this:

and now to this:

So thing are moving ahead, slowly but surely. It's been a struggle to find the time to do what needs to be done. Sindre has been on call at work this week and was, of course, called out on 2 evenings while trying to work at the house. I substituted for a colleague and had an extra evening at work. Emilie had a birthday party to go to and an awards ceremony. We can't do it all. Some things are just going to have to slip through the cracks. It's not renovating a house that's stressful, it's all the other obligations. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012


After months of waiting, everything is all happening at once! We found out on Thursday that we got approval from the county to go ahead with our addition. YAY! The contractor was at the house on Friday and put up the scaffolding.

And the carpenters are coming on Monday!!! Wohoo! Which means we've got to get the siding and windows out this weekend. The excavator is going to come Monday or Tuesday and the windows are supposed to be here on Tuesday. It's all so exciting! We're hoping by the time the carpenters are done with the old part of the house, that we'll be done with the basement foundation for the extension. So that the contractor can go right to work on the addition without having to take a break in the work. So the clock is ticking! 

So today, Saturday, Sindre, Roy, and Markus are doing the last ripping down job. OH MY!! Let's just say that my house is very airy right now. And now that the siding is almost gone on the front wall, we can see how completely rotten it is. 

The foundation sill and the top sill separating the first and second floors are completely rotten. And the studs are so rotten, they're only standing out of habit. 

They guys ended up putting up a temporary support wall/studs just along the inside of the wall. The guys have had to do a lot of bracing and supporting. 

And now I'm praying for no hurricane force winds (not all that uncommon!!), or driving rains and that the house won't give up the ghost and fall apart before the carpenters come on Monday.

Here you can see where we removed the first few floorboards in the living room. We wanted to see if the floor joists were rotten. Now it's open to the free outdoors. 

And remember this picture? This is standing in the kitchen looking into the living room. 

And then it looked like this?

Well now it looks like this:

After all the waiting and waiting, there's finally some ACTION! :)