Happy New Year, suziebeezieland! Long time no talk to. How are you doing?
We moved into our new house the day after Thanksgiving, and the whole month of December was a crazy blur of busyness. But yay, we were able to host Christmas here, which was truly a great motivator for getting moved in and unpacked in just under a month.
I love my family.
We also celebrated our nineteenth anniversary and my mom's seventy-fifth birthday, and found time the glorious week after Christmas (probably my favorite week of the whole year) to take naps, watch movies and HGTV marathons, and do nothing.
I'm still "putzing" a bit, but other than that, we're settled in and loving this new house. Every day, I hang up something or organize a little something. I'm also figuring out what to do with the front courtyard once spring is here.
I will post some house photos for you soon, but in the meantime, here are links to two blog posts that are helping me decorate the built-in shelves in our living room. That is always tricky for me, so I was happy to see that it is tricky for almost everyone. :)
How to Decorate Shelves (Layla Palmer at The Lettered Cottage blog)
We removed the laundry room sink in the new house. It kept the laundry room and dryer doors from opening all the way, and I am not a laundry sink user. The painters are also going to remove the pineapple border and the old cabinet above the washer/dryer. :) The walls will get a nice coat of Benjamin Moore Gray Lake in semi-gloss, and the ceiling, trim, and doors will be Benjamin Moore Simply White.
They will patch up the hole in the wall tomorrow. The interior wall space is clean and clear, but old suziebeezielanders will understand the rich pageant of emotions that marched through my head around midnight when I awoke from a nightmare in which a rat crawled out of the wall and slowly ambled into the new kitchen.
Charlie and his helpers finished our floors up on Friday night. I cannot believe they did the entire house in two days! I am so happy with how they turned out. There are so many different colors and variations in the wood. They are just lovely.
I know the trend now is to go dark, and whenever I see dark walnut-colored floors, I think they are very beautiful. But then I always head more toward light and bright with everything.
Besides, if we had dark floors, they would never, ever look clean, because our dogs have light-colored fluff. :)
Claire spent the weekend with her cousins, and Bob and I spent the weekend over at the new house. First, we dusted everything after the floor sanding. Thank goodness for Swiffers! Then we lined the kitchen cupboards with shelf paper, and I will move some of the kitchen stuff over this week, since it won't be in the way of the painters if it's hidden inside the cupboards.
A plumber is coming this afternoon to take out the little laundry room sink (I never handwash anything, the dogs are too big to fit in it, and I can use the space for a little pantry), the electrician is coming tomorrow to replace some outlets and switches (some of them were white and some were black, so we're standardizing them all to white) and the painters start Wednesday. I'm very excited for the paint.
The new house has an avocado tree and bougainvillea, which will be lovely in the spring. I feel like a real California girl. I'm not one, but I kind of feel like one.
These are the listing photos of our new house. Escrow closed yesterday, and we are officially the owners. Yay!
We are having the floors sanded and refinished and the interior painted, and then the day after Thanksgiving, we will move in. I am excited to set up house and make it our own.
The house was built in 1930 and is Mediterranean Revival. Here in southern California, we tend to call any home with a red clay tile roof "Spanish style," but I am going with "south of France." :)
The sellers are super nice, and I am happy they are staying in the neighborhood. We are so thankful for the work they have had done on the house over the years. It is in very good shape.
I was down in Old Town Pasadena this morning running an errand. Since we've been in escrow, Bob and I have figured out what we need to do to the new house before we move in (paint, refinish floors), what we need to do as soon as we move in (window coverings), and what can wait (almost everything else). The house has been kept well, and there is not much else to do to it other than make it our own.
After about a week of intense drapery research :), today I hit the Pottery Barn drape sale and bought drapes for two windows in our new family/dining room, and four windows in our new living room. Later on I will get some smaller curtains for Claire's bedroom and the bathrooms. Thankfully, several other windows already have wooden blinds, so those are good to go. The curtains I just finally hung up in our bedroom here will transfer to the new guest room. Yay.
Anthropologie didn't have anything to do with this errand, except that it was across the street from the parking garage. :) So I popped in real quick, just to look. I love that going to Anthro is like going to a museum.
Since I was down by Bob's work, he took me to lunch at a new Thai restaurant on Lake called Abricott. It is charming! And yummy. I had the yellow curry with chicken. I will have to get photos of it next time. I was too busy oggling the menu to remember. :)
Great post by one of my favorite bloggers:
Dear Moms, Jesus Wants You to Chill Out
It is actually not that clean, because I cannot keep a certain very fluffy corgi off the sofa.
I just took these pics and sent them off to our realtor, and then I noticed a couple funny things. For instance, the vases don't have any flowers in them (I threw a bunch of dead sunflowers away yesterday) and two of the pitchers in the shelves by the fireplace are missing. They are in the dishwasher. Ha.
Also, I still haven't gotten around to buying a mirror for above the fireplace. Which I probably won't do now.
I hope these details don't keep anybody from buying our house. :)
We are getting our house ready to go on the market next week. It is never this clean. And look! No more temporary paper windowshades in our bedroom. They were only up for four or five years...
We're in escrow on another house close by. I'll share more about that later. :) In the meantime, unnaturally clean room photos!
On June 20, we took a train from Oslo to Myrdal, and then took the Flåmsbana (the famous Flåm railway line) from Myrdal to Flåm.
It is billed as the most beautiful railroad journey in the world, and I believe it.
This is the Kjosfossen waterfall. The Flamsbana stops so you can get out for a second and see it up close.
I wish there were a job where you ride trains around Norway taking photos. :)
Flåm (pronounced almost like "Flome") is a village at the inner end of the Aurlandsfjorden, which is a branch of the Sognefjorden. The Sognefjorden is the largest fjord in Norway, and the largest open (ice-free) fjord in the world.
Flåm is a good base from which to explore the Sognefjorden.
We stayed at the Freheim Hotel, which was lovely and had a view of the fjord, the train, and the village. And a tour bus. :)
The next morning, we got up and took a cruise of the Nærøyfjord, from Flåm to the village of Gudvangen and then back to Flåm in just under three hours.
Nærøyfjord means (you guessed it) "Narrow Fjord," and is a branch of the large Sognefjord. Nærøyfjord was used as inspiration for Arendelle in Frozen. :) I have never seen anything like it in all my days.
In Gudvangen we bought a few souvenirs, because it was cold on the boat. :)
It was really a very beautiful and inspiring morning. When we returned to Flåm, we grabbed some lunch and then went to the Ægir Brewery, which is a Viking-style pub. I wasn't sure we were going to be able to get Bob out of there. It was very cozy. (The Norwegian word koselig, like the Danish word hygge and the Swedish word fika, are very interesting to me, and mean something a bit more than coziness.)
Claire even took a nap.
It was such a beautiful day in every way. In the afternoon, we took the Norled express boat from Flåm to Balestrand, and I will tell you all about Balestrand a bit later. :)
On June 20, we got up and had breakfast and then visited the Norsk Folkemuseum, the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, which is on the island of Bygdoy, not far from the center of Oslo.
It was a lovely time, but I think I'll mostly show rather than tell, since I talked so much in the last post. Although I may have to throw in one or two random facts.
The Gol Stave Church was originally from Gol, Hallingdale, Norway, and was built in 1200. It was saved from demolition in 1880 by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments :) and King Oscar II bought it and rebuilt it. It still (kind of) belongs to the reigning monarch, I imagine in the same way that the swans on the Thames belong to Queen Elizabeth.
In the photo below, do you see how there is a big gap between the steps and the threshold? This was to keep mice from climbing into the storehouse.
There are a few really nice artisan shops at the museum. I thought this was a good place to get my Norway souvenir, so I bought a pottery candleholder, and had a nice chat with the woman who made it. Her name is Ellen Kjaergaard.
Her pottery is wheel-thrown slipware made from a local clay from Sadnes, and the methods and colors used are all according to the old potterymaking traditions. Some of the designs she uses date back to the 17th century. This is old school, time-consuming, great-skill-needed potterymaking.
Now every time I look at it, I remember what a nice day we had.
Oh, man, we loved (LOVED) Norway. I am excited to share a little bit of it with you. Our first taste of Norway was the city of Oslo, so I will start there.
On Wednesday, June 18, we took the Crown Seaways Copenhagen-to-Oslo overnight ferry, and cruised into the Oslo fjord the next morning at about around 9:30.
We caught a cab to Saga Hotel on Eilert Sundts Gate. It is a lovely hotel, with very nice employees. We had missed the laundry pickup (and were at the point in vacation where you have genuinely run out of clean clothes if all you've brought is a carry-on) and they let me use their own washer down in the basement. It was kind of an adventure. I got lost downstairs and ended up popping up inside the restaurant instead of the hotel lobby. Some nice busboys asked me if I worked there, and then helped me find my way back. :)
I should mention that I get lost easily. I have no inate sense of direction whatsoever. I am so thankful I am not an ant or one of those swallows.
We would stay at the Saga again in a second. The location is residential and quiet.
After we got settled in, we went for a walk.
Pretend the blue dots are us. :) We walked southeast from the hotel along Uranienborgveien and then Karl Johans Gate toward Slottsparken (the Palace Park), Det Kongelige Slott (the Royal Palace), Nationaltheatret (The National Theatre), and Oslo Rådhus (Oslo City Hall).
We were catching an HMK bus tour of Oslo close to City Hall at 12:45, so we were heading in that general direction.
The neighborhoods were so charming. We did not have a lot of time in Oslo (two nights and one full day), and we obviously did not see all of it, but we were so impressed with what we did see. It was very clean and very warm feeling, with lots of trees and green spaces. We would like to go back some time and explore more.
(To me, Copenhagen felt very lively and youthful, while Oslo felt more staid and very peaceful. I might have a different impression if I saw more and stayed longer in both cities.)
I felt very drawn to Oslo.
When I look at the map now, I can see where we were walking, but at the time I was just following Bob. So I was so surprised when we got to Slottsparken! Suddenly, a gorgeous park in the middle of the city. (Less sudden if you are looking at a map and know where you are, I imagine.)
I was even more surprised to come to the Palace! Suddenly!
This, the Royal Palace, is King Harald and Queen Sonja's primary residence. (Norway also owns a bunch of residences that they use, and they own several private estates.)
King Harald has been king since 1991. The first king of Norway was also a Harald (Harald Fairhair) who united a bunch of kingships into one realm in about 885.
But! You will perhaps be surprised to hear that the modern nation of Norway has only existed independently since 1905. I know I was surprised. Before that, Norway was in a union (a constitutional monarchy) with Sweden. And before that, it was briefly its own nation, but before that it was in a union (an absolute monarchy) with Denmark.
This King Haakon VII was the present King Harald's grandpa. (The present King Harald succeeded his dad, King Olav V.)
Got all that? :)
Here is the National Theatre, which is surrounded by statues of many of Norway's great playwrights.
Claire is peeking out from behind a statue of Gunnar Sønsteby, who is the most highly decorated citizen in Norway. His nickname was "The Chin," and he was a resistance fighter during WWII. His escapades make Jason Bourne look like a cowardly and unadventurous individual. Sønsteby was very high on the Gestapo's list of most-wanted men, and operated under 30 or 40 different names and disguises. They never caught him, and he died in 2012 at the age of 94.
He was also the first non-American awarded the United States Special Operations Command Medal.
Below is a statue of the playwright Henrik Ibsen. I went through a brief Ibsen phase (it lasted one weekend) in college and read A Doll's House and Hedda Gabbler. (But I don't think I have read Peer Gynt.)
Here is Oslo City Hall. This is where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held. You know my feelings about this kind of architecture (functionalism schmunktionalism), but the City Hall was named Oslo's "Structure of the Century" in 2005, and so who am I to argue?
We had a nice bite of lunch at a cafe across from City Hall, and then it was time to get on our bus tour.
I use recommendations from Trip Advisor to plan most of our trips, but I had found this particular tour just Googling "Oslo tours" or similar, and was a little nervous that it wouldn't be good. But it was very good, and our tour guide was delightful. She was Czech and we really enjoyed chatting with her. She and her husband had lived in Oslo for four years.
It was a tour that included all the major and "must see" attractions in Oslo, which was perfect for us since we were only there one full day.
We got great seats on the top decker of the bus, right in front.
Our first stop was the Viking Ship Museum. I was so thankful we got to see this, because we hadn't had time to see the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, which is a half-day trip out of Copenhagen.
This first ship is the Oseberg. It was found in a burial mound at Oseberg farm near Tønsberg in 1903.
The farmer, Knut Rom, had dug into a big burial mound on his property, and suspected he'd found a ship. He decided to go visit Gabriel Gustafson (I call him "Gabe"), who was from the University's Collection of National Antiquities in Oslo. Because of the wild weather, they had to wait until the following summer to excavate the ship. The excavation was a big deal, and so many people showed up to watch that they had to build a fence to keep them away, because Gabe was getting bugged by all the spectators while he was trying to work.
The excavation only took three months, but it took twenty-one years to restore the ship and all its finds.
More than ninety percent of the Oseberg ship is its original (oak) timber. It is exquisite. It was built in Norway in around 820, and was the final burial place for two presumably wealthy women. They were buried with gifts: clothes, combs, shoes, ships equipment, kitchen equipment, farm equipment, sledges, a wagon, tents, and some animal heads.
Thank goodness for the Panorama setting on iPhones. :)
The Viking Age display at the museum included grave goods, like this sledge. (This is when Bob embarrassed Claire by singing "So He's a Bit of a Fixer-Upper" from Frozen.)
Below is the Gokstad ship. It was built during the reign of our friend King Harald Fairhair. The wood it is made of was felled around 890 AD, which was the height of Viking expansion in Dublin, Ireland and York, England. It was found in 1879. Two teenage farm boys were bored and started digging in a burial mound on their farm in Sandar, Sandefjord, Vestfold.
Can you imagine? "Mom! Mom! We found a Viking ship!" (I imagine Phineas and Ferb, but Norwegian.) You can read more about the Gokstad ship here.
The third ship at the museum, the Tune, is not intact. Before it was found, the burial mound it was in had been opened and partially excavated, so oxygen got in and started to decompose the ship. It was found in 1867 (on a farm...Norwegian farms are exciting places to be, it turns out), and despite its shape is still the third-best preserved Viking ship in the world. You can read more about the Tune here.
Our next stop was the Fram Museum, where we learned about the Norwegian Polar explorers Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup, and Roald Amundsen (the first man to reach the South Pole, and the greatest polar explorer ever). Those guys were NUTS. I mean that respectfully--they were inspiringly brave and courageous and tenacious and tough (I even bought a postcard of Amundsen, to remind me to be brave and courageous and tenacious and tough)--but the stuff they did was completely insane.
For example (this is one teeny example), in 1911 Amundsen crossed Antarctica (over frozen glaciers and snow-packed mountain passes) in temperatures so cold it broke his compasses and froze his sled dogs to death.
Roald Dahl was named after Amundsen.
The Fram ship, used in Artic and Antartic expeditions by all three explorers between 1893 and 1912, is so huge that I couldn't get a good shot of it. You can go inside it and walk around, and if your imagination is good, it feels like it is moving.
Our next stop, right next to the Fram Museum, was the Kon-Tiki museum. The Kon-Tiki museum celebrates another brave (and nutters) Norwegian explorer named Thor Heyerdahl. I remember hearing about him when I was a kid. He crossed the Pacific Ocean (5,000 miles) in 1947 on his handmade raft, named the Kon-Tiki. He was trying to show that Polynesia's fauna could have reached the island from the east (South America) rather than from the west (Asia).
Although scientists still believe that Polynesia was originally settled from west to east, there are some indications that South Americans may have made it to Polynesia, perhaps as traders. (South American sweet potatoes are a dietary staple in Polynesia, for instance.) So Thor was at least partially correct.
The Norwegian documentary Kon-Tiki (directed by Thor himself) won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for 1951. (The award went to Olle Nordemar, the film's editor.)
I think it's funny that I am from Los Angeles, and the first time I have seen an Oscar statue in real life is in Norway.
Next up on our tour was The Vigeland Sculpture Park. It is actually called Frogner Park (Frognerparken), and the Vigeland sculptures (Vigelandsanlegget) are an installation in the park, but everybody calls it Vigeland Park, and the tram stop is called Vigelandsparken. The park gets over one million visitors a year.
The park contains 212 sculptures of people in bronze, granite, and wrought iron. Gustav Vigeland created them all between 1924 and 1943, when he died. He modeled all the sculptures in full size plaster casts, and craftsmen carved the stone and cast the bronze.
Vigeland chose not to clothe the people, so that they would remain timeless.
The final stop in our bus tour was Holmenkollen, which is the world's most modern ski jump. The jump tower is about 196 feet above the ground.
Do you see it there, on the hill?
Really, do you see a pattern here? CRAZY ADVENTURERS. I mean, NUTTERS. You could not pay me to ski jump.
But oh, I bet it is the most glorious feeling in the universe.
Our bus took us back to downtown Oslo, where we did a bit of shopping and looking around before dinner.
I had made us reservations at Statholderens Mat & Vinkjeller. I kind of wish I had taken a few photos inside, but it was very nice and I did not wish to embarrass my loved ones with my photo taking. :)
Bob had the elk. I don't remember what the rest of us ate, but it was all delicious, and the service was outstanding. (You can see a 360 tour of where we ate here. When we were there, there were smaller tables set up, and the wine rack wasn't there.)
Our full day in Oslo was wonderful. The next day, we went to the Norwegian Folk Museum, and I will post about that later. :)
On June 17, we took a six-hour private walking tour of Copenhagen with Kristian, who is a nice and extremely knowledgeable guy.
He picked us up at our hotel, and we walked over to Amelienborg, which is where the Danish royal family lives in the winter. Think of a fancy version of Hyannis Port...a very regal family compound. There are four palaces built around an octagonal courtyard, facing each other, so Queen Margrethe and her family can all wave at each other. Here is one of the palaces. The other three look pretty much like this one.
By all accounts, the Danish royal family manage to act simultaneously down-to-earth and regal, which is no mean feat. They are well-loved. You can read about them and see what they look like here.
They are all pretty impressive. For example, the Crown Prince of Denmark, Frederik André Henrik Christian (I call him "Freddie"), is fluent in Danish, English, French and German, trained as a Navy Frogman (the equivalent of a Navy Seal here in the U.S.), is a Commander in the Navy, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force, and participates in long dog sled expeditions. And this is what his family looks like.
(Note: I did not take this photo of his family.)
Then we walked north, through the lovely Churchillparken (Churchill Park) (look how good your Danish is) and past St. Alban's Church, which is the Anglican Church in Copenhagen.
We kept going north, up through the grounds of Kastellet. Kastellet is a star fortress and is celebrating its 350th birthday this year. It's an historic site and a park, but also houses military activities.
I was so intrigued by Denmark's openness. It truly feels democratic. So many places were accessible and free, and you could just walk right in.
We walked a bit farther north, to the Little Mermaid. She is smaller and sweeter than I expected.
Kristian was clever in setting up a good photo with no other tourists in it for us...there were loads of people there. We are standing on rocks in the water to get this shot. :)
So thus far, we've walked something along these lines. (Ignore the bit that says 21 minutes. You would have to be (1) running and (2) not stopping to discuss things or take pictures of ducks.)
So then we took a quick ferry back down the harbor, to get to the other side. Our route kind of looked like this. I can't actually remember if we got on the ferry exactly at the Little Mermaid or not, and I'm not sure if the ferry swung out from shore so much at the beginning...that was just me spazzing out with the drawing tool. (As you know, Google maps does not have a "boat" option for charting directions.)
We got off the ferry at an area of Copenhagen called Islands Brygges. It still feels a bit industrial (which it used to be), but it is now actually a very fashionable place to live and hang out in the summertime.
I thought I was just quickly taking a photo of people sunbathing, but when I got home and zoomed in on this photo, I got a surprise.
I'm telling their mamas!
This waterfront area in Islands Brygges is called Havneparken, and includes one of Copenhagen's harbour baths, which are public swim and dive areas cordoned off from the harbor.
I like his cool shadow.
We walked along the harbor (north and slightly east again), through Christianshavn. I was interested in seeing it on foot, since we had been by on boat the day before.
We stopped and had lunch, and Kristian showed us where we'd been and where we were going.
When we got to Vor Frelers Kirke (Church of Our Savior), everyone but me climbed the bazillion steps up to the top.
I stayed down at the bottom. I am very afraid of heights.
(Also, I am lazy.)
I can't remember how we got back across the harbor again. We either took another boat, or crossed a bridge. We enjoyed the swans in front of Holmens Kirke (Church of Holmen). The church was originally built as an anchor forge in 1563, and, despite some fires and bombardments, hasn't changed much from its original shape.
This is Børsen, the Old Stock Exchange. I think I mentioned it in the last post during the canal tour. Its spire is four dragon tails twined together. The original spire was from 1625, but was replaced (with a near identical spire) in 1775. It is said to guard the building against fire and enemies.
I like to think of it as the Danish Godzilla.
Here is the Finansministeriat. Your Danish is good enough to guess that there is nothing really interesting to say about the Finansministeriet. I thought the roofline was pretty, however.
And here is Christiansborg Palace. There is plenty interesting to say about Christiansborg. For instance, it is the only building in the world that houses all three of a country's government branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. It's where the Danish Parliament is, and the Supreme Court, and the monarchy also uses some of it. The Royal Stables are there, for instance.
You can just walk right in, free and breezy, because it's Denmark.
Here is Frederik V. He was King of Denmark and Norway for a good chunk of the eighteenth century. His official motto was "by prudence and steadfastness," but that's a bunch of malarkey, because he was a wild and crazy party boy. He does not deserve to be buried next to Queen Louise, if you ask me. (Nobody asked me.)
Kristian said you could often see the Folketinget (the Danish parliament; Folketinget means "the people's thing") hopping on their bikes to go home after work.
I am telling you, the Danish democracy is really fascinating.
This is Christian IX on a horse. (I call him "Chris.") He was King of Denmark from the mid-nineteenth through the beginning of the twentieth century. He is known as "The Father-in-Law of Europe" because most of Europe's current monarchs are descended from him.
He tried to marry Queen Victoria, who was his third cousin, but she turned him down.
If you are interested in knowing how Christian IX became King of Denmark even though he was not in the immediate line of succession, you can look at the extremely complicated House of Oldenburg family tree diagram here.
We liked the fancy marble-and-mahogany stables. I think the horses were outside in the sun somewhere.
Then we walked to Det Kongelige Bibliotek (the Royal Library), which is the National Library of Denmark, the university library for the University of Copenhagen, and the largest library in the Nordic countries.
This statue is a guy named Peder Griffenfeld, who was the Royal Librarian during the seventeenth century. He was charming and brilliant, and ingratiated himself into the monarchy. Unfortunately, he was also arrogant and made some enemies, and was eventually sentenced to decapitation. He was saved at the last minute, but ended up a prisoner for over twenty years, until his death.
Our walking tour with Kristian ended here at the library by Kierkegaard, whom I call "Captain Kierk."
(Kierkegaard had a ton of pseudonyms, including "Vigilius Haufniensis" and "Hilarius Bookbinder," so I don't think he would mind "Captain Kierk.")
My whole life, I have been wondering what Tivoli Gardens is like. I think I must have seen a children's book about it sometime.
I thought it was charming...just flat-out charming. It is cozy and old-fashioned and immaculate and low-key, and I just loved it.
I am not really sure what to say about Bob in the next three photos, except to note that by this time he had been awake for a very long time. Although so had my mother-in-law, and she is keeping it together.
So many restaurants we saw in Copenhagen that had outdoor seating provided blankets. We loved this.
I really wanted to move this Sommerhuset to our backyard!
After everyone had gone on it without me, I gave in and went on the big old scary wooden rollercoaster (Rutschebanen) with Claire. It is celebrating its centenary this year and is one of the oldest running rollercoasters in the world, and she is never going to forget that as long as she lives because I almost never go on rollercoasters, and I screamed and laughed so hard. :)