Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Un Conte de Noël

Yes, this was the first French movie I've seen in a long time.  (Too long time!)  The title translates "A Christmas Tale"/ "En Julefortelling", and the story is about a family coming together for Christmas in the parents' grand townhouse.  
Love, death, hate and secrets bind them all together in various ways.  
This film is often described as a "dark comedy", but I'm not sure if I agree with that definition.  Dark, yes, and sometimes strange, but comedy, no.
Catherine Deneuve is fantastic as Junon, the matriarch, and Mathieu Amalric is convincing as Henri, the middle child and  black sheep of the family.  Chiara Mastroianni is Sylvia, the daugther-in-law.
I'll definitively stack this DVD among my Christmas movies.

Holiday DVD Movies

Just thought I would share the list of movies I got to see (DVD) these Christmas Days.  (Yes, in Norway, there isn't only one day!)

  • Home Alone 
  • The Holiday
  • Un Conte de Noël 
  • Elf 
  • Home Alone 2, Lost in New York
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas 
  • Paris
  • Love Actually
  • Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Most of these movies I watched with my family. One of them (Love Actually) with my husband and eldest daugther, and three of them (The Holiday, Un Conte de Noël and Paris) with my husband.

There will be some more elaborate writing about at least one of these films.  Coming up!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Piano Man

A picture of my oldest son, playing "Silent Night" on the grand piano at his Christmas recital, a week ago. 
He was very nervous earlier that day, but it went really well, and Mom was happy and proud! 

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Two Christmas trees

The day before Christmas Eve, we all went out to choose, chop down and bring home our Christmas trees.  A big one for our living room, and a small one for our downstairs room.  

Christmas Snapshots

All four children, just before dinner on Christmas Eve.  (Jonatan is actually very sick from chicken pox, but smiles for a few seconds...)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ballerina Girl

These pictures are taken at my  youngest daugther's dance recital last week:  I was so proud of her, my little ballerina girl!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Crafts

Yes, there was finally time for some Christmas creativity: 
Frosty twigs at my door and entrance and heart pillows on my coach. 
  • First my husband went out in minus 20 celcius to gather branches and twigs from our backyard, branches which were cut this fall, but never made it to the waste deposit place, and now lay frozen under 1/2 yard of snow...  
  • Then, I spray-painted them white.  I had to do this outdoors, of course, because of the fumes, and my fingers were half-dead from the cold (and white) when I was finished...
  • Next, I found some zink buckets, scrubbed them semi-clean and placed the branches and twigs in them.
  • The following problem occurred:  Buckets falling over because of the weight and twigs spreading in all directions.  
  • Solution:  Gravel.  (We have a wheelbarrow full of it, have no idea where to put it, so I scraped away the snow, and my half-dead fingers got the not-so-fun task of clawing away on the frozen gravel...)
  • Result:

The pillows don't need a whole lot of explanation.  
They are made of polar fleece, soft and fluffy, with my own heart design appliquéed on top.  My youngest daughter loves them!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Crazy Days of December...

Yes, when December comes, there are Christmas parties for the children's schools, for their piano classes, ballet and choirs. Throw in a few birthday parties (at our place and others') and it's a wonder that none of these nights are double-booked!
And, even if all this celebration, singing, playing, eating of cookies and drinking of coffee is very nice, I'm happy to see the end of it. Tomorrow is the last party, with my son's piano class. He is practicing "Silent Night" as I'm writing this. I'm really looking forward to more silent and lazy days of our Christmas holiday, with nights spent indoors, cozy, warm, with candles and hot chocolate, knowing we don't have to be anywhere else, and not having to get up and out early in the cold, dark morning...
When it comes to these end of the year-parties, I have to admit that often they are kind of stressful,with younger siblings running around, too many people stuffed into an over-heated classroom, and maybe not-too-well rehearsed shows...
But, then I realize something strange has happened to me. 
Age, maybe?
Because, even though, with three school-aged kids, there are a lot of these happenings to attend, I realize with surprise that I'm far more touched by it than I used to be. 
I had a hard time not crying when I was listening to my youngest daughter and her choir singing a beautiful Norwegian Christmas song: "En stjerne skinner i natt". (A star is shining tonight) And, two days ago, while attending my oldest son's school party, and they performed the Advent song "Tenn lys" (Light the lights), I had serious problems not making a complete fool out of myself, while sniffing loudly, and trying my best to breathe normally.
There is something, isn't it. Even if we think it has all gone. Magic is still there, Christmas spirit, and today it was pictured in the eyes of my two-year-old, when we lit the fourth candle.

Tenn lys!
Nå stråler alle de fire lys for Ham 
som elsker alt som lever, hver løve og hvert lam.
Tenn lys for Himmelkongen, som gjeterflokken så.
Nå møtes jord og himmel i barnet lagt på strå.
Eyvind Skeie.

Light the lights!
Now all the four candles are shining for Him
who loves all the living, each lion and each lamb.
Light the lights for the heavenly king who the shepherds saw. 
Now earth and heaven meet, through the child on the straw.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rome by Morten Krogvold

Piazza Navona

Yesterday my husband and I went across the lake, to  Hamar, to see Morten Krogvold's photographs from Rome. 
I saw the photos several times while in Rome this fall, and now  it felt like I was meeting old friends!  What a change of scenery for these pictures... In Rome they were in a palace, with high ceilings, marble and decorations all over, and here they were hung on the wall of an old factory, turned into art gallery.  
But, it really worked!  The white-washed walls and the beautiful lighting made a wonderful backdrop for these gorgeous photographs.  If you have the possibility, go and see them!  They will be on display for two months.
Click here for more information (in Norwegian)
Morten and Tarand Krogvold have been working a very long time with these photographs, who also are part of a book project on Rome, together with Thomas Thiis-Evensen.  See here.

Piazza del Popolo

These versions of the photographs are borrowed from Italian promoting websites: and 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cold and Dark is here...

Well, I guess, for this area, minus ten degrees (14 degrees F) isn't that cold, but I still think it is!
It's beautiful out there, though.  A new snowfall a couple of days ago, so the world is all white and frosty.  The sun is hovering just above the hills, after sleeping in until nine-ish.  It would be wonderful to bundle up and go for a walk, but I don't have time for that.  Electricians are adding some lights and heat sources in our home, and I have 1000 things that should be done around here.  Tonight I'm off to the other side of the lake, for a photo exhibit.  Babysitter is booked, and maybe there will even be time for dining out...
A couple of hours more of daylight now, at 4pm it is all dark again.  And, think of it, we are in the south part of this country.  In more than half of it (lenghtwise) there is no sun at all at this time of the year.  Hope they have lots and lots of candles, and good electricians who can install some more lights!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Girls' Night Out!

After a day of juggling up to six kids, pre-Christmas stuff, and even some work in between, 
I'm heading out tonight with a group of friends.
We're having dinner in a nice restaurant, and I'm really looking forward to it!  Dress nicely, some makeup, no diaper bag, no crayons, and getting to talk with friends all night!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Away We Go

I live in a small town on the outskirts of the world, and that means that we don't always get to see foreign movies while they are brand new in our little cinema theater.
As with this Sam Mendes directed movie, Away We Go.
For those who haven't seen it yet, I can say the film is about a couple in their thirties, expecting their first baby, and undertaking a trip, crisscrossing North America to find the ideal place to start a family.
I had read about it this summer.  It was a rather bad review, saying the story was unrealistic and too American.  Well, this bad review made me want to see it!  And, then, this fall, I remember my brother mentioning it, saying it was funny.

At last - I got to see it this weekend, and I'm so happy, when I not too often get to go to the movies, that I'm able to sort through and choose works I'll actually remember!
This one is not grand or spectacular.  It's not really extraordinary either, but that's part of it, at least for me.
The main characters are ordinary people, searching for a home, for the life they want to have.  But, on the same time, it shines through that this home, this place they're looking for, is just the stage set for their life.  The two of them are what count, really.  The same goes for their jobs.  We don't learn a whole lot about what they do for a living, and it really doesn't seem to matter in this story.
I see this film as being profound in the way it treats our main aspects: Life, death and love.  Who we are, where we come from, what we search, what life is about.

On the other side, the movie is also a comedy, and many of the scenes had me laugh out loud!  I love this duality, being able to both laugh and reflect - within the same story.
Last, but not least, the movie has good photography, and this, together with the music, paints a beautiful and evocative backdrop.

Photography(cinematographer): Ellen Kuras

Monday, December 14, 2009

Santa Lucia

Yesterday was Santa Lucia, the day we remember this 18-year-old girl from Sicily, who died on December 13th in the year 304 AD.  She was killed because she openly refused to worship the Roman emperor (Diocletian) but confessed to the Christian faith.  She said that she, as well as all the faithful, could be compared to  a mirror.  A mirror who reflected God's light, and thus helped brighten the lives of people around her.  She was convinced about her mission in life, and 1705 years later, she is still remembered all over the world, and in many countries the day of her death is marked by children dressed in white, carrying burning candles and singing.  In Norway, this often takes place in schools and preschools, early, early in the morning, while it still is totally dark outside.  In Norway, and even more in Sweden, this has become part of the pre-Christmas tradition, and most kids know the tune and the words of the Lucia song.
This year, the Lucia Day was on the third Sunday of Advent, with three candles burning.  I just realized that the text of this Sunday's Advent verse has a strong resonance with Mr. Obama's Nobel speech...

Svart senker natten seg i stall og stuer.
Solen har gått sin vei, skyggene truer.
Inn i vårt mørke hus, stiger med tente lys
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.

The black night is settling on stables and homes.
The sun has left us, and the shadows are threatening.
Into our darkened house, she is entering with shining lights,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.
Lucia Celebration, by Swedish painter Carl Larsson

Tenn Lys!
Tre lys skal flamme for alle som må sloss
for rettferd og for frihet, de trenger hjelp av oss.
Må ingen miste motet, før alle folk er ett.
Tenn lys for dem som kjemper 
for frihet og for rett.
Eyvind Skeie

Light the lights!
Three candles shall flame for those who has to fight
for  justice and for liberty, they need help from us.
May nobody  lose courage before  all peoples are one.
Light the lights for those who stand up
for liberty and right.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Obama comes to Norway

Yes, the President of the United States arrives in Oslo tomorrow, the day before he will receive the Nobel Peace Price.  
The Norwegian people is divided, there are those who are excited about the whole thing, and then there are those who feel strongly against it, think it's ridiculous.
Well, I happen to be among the first half.
The Nobel Peace Price has a rather long tradition of being given to people, or organizations who don't have  a specific result or achievement to show, but who do want peace, and who, systematically, throughout time, not only talk, but also work with that goal in mind.  People like that is what the world needs.
In the beginning, when I first heard about Mr. Obama and the Peace Price, I admit I was surprised.  
-How is that possible, I thought,  -he just started working, he's barely been able to say or do anything yet.
Now I know that  I was ignorant and wrong.  Mr Obama has worked towards his goals for many, many years, and now, with him being the President of the United States, he actually has the power to do something.  
There is a lot of hope and encouragement that goes into the Nobel Peace Price.  
I believe this is for the good, 
for all of us.
Welcome to Norway!

Official Photo: Pete Souza

"Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we 
leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today"
President-elect Barack Obama

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Second Advent Candle.

Tenn lys!
To lys skal skinne for kjærlighet og tro
for dem som viser omsorg, og alltid bygger bro.
La fanger få sin frihet og flyktinger et hjem.
Tenn lys for dem som gråter
og dem som trøster dem.

Eyvind Skeie

Light the lights!
Two candles shall shine for love and faith.
For those who show compassion, and always build bridges.
Let prisoners have their freedom, and refugees a home.
Light the lights for those who cries
and for those who comfort them.

Eyvind Skeie

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Spanish Greek

Last Saturday, while strolling around in Oslo, we decided to drop by the National Gallery, my daughter and I.  
And so I share with you this picture by Domenico Theotocopoulos, known as  El Greco.  He was a Spanish painter, born in Crete.  His pictures are very characteristic, and even if I didn't know this painting, I could see from across the room that this had to be El Greco.
The painting is called "Saint Peter repentant" ("Den angrende Peter"), and it is full of deep feelings, sorrow and regret.  I carried it with me inside when I walked out in the cold November afternoon. 

Photo: Store Norske Leksikon

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jonatan two years!

Jonatan turned two this Sunday.  
We celebrated our toddler with a huge (belated) Thanksgiving dinner, shared with good friends, and the birthday cake was, of course, a pumpkin pie!

Jonatan ble to år på søndag.
Vi feiret toåringen vår med en diger (litt forsinket) Thanksgiving-middag, som vi spiste sammen med gode venner, og bursdagskaken var, som seg hør og bør ved Thanksgiving, en gresskarpai!

Blowing out his candles

With his friend Karen, and the baby.

And here are a couple of pictures, to see what he looked like one and two years ago...

One year

Five minutes

Advent - not Christmas - yet

Advent is here.  In the US, as well as many other countries, we are now in what is called the Christmas Season.
In Norway, Christmas doesn't start until Christmas Eve, and traditionally it lasts until Epiphany. (January 6th)
This is what it's supposed to be, the Christian Christmas, "The twelve days of Christmas" and all that.  
The season we're in right now is Advent, not Christmas.  Advent means Coming (Latin), because these weeks are about preparation for the one who is coming, and for the Holiday that is coming.
In many ways it can be compared to the preparation that goes ahead of a wedding, a big travel, or a childbirth...
In Norway, we have lots and lots of Advent traditions.  There are special cookies to be baked, there are decorations to be made, songs to be sung, and of course cards to be written and gifts to be wrapped.  
These things, these actions, scents, sounds, are important for may of us.  Important because they are much like a ritual, something that has to be done, but in a good way, because it fills us with the good Christmas feeling.
I love the anticipation, the up-building of excitement,
and longing for what is yet to come.  
Unopened gifts, unopened joy.

We have the Advent star up in the kitchen window, we have our Advent calendar, and the four Advent candles.  
Last Sunday we lit the first candle, while we sung the verse that goes with it.  Next Sunday we'll be lighting two of them, and so on all the way to the last Sunday in Advent.  
The Christmas tree is only taken in and decorated the night before Christmas Eve.
However, I can see that Norway is taking after other countries in christmasizing Advent.  People talk about "Christmas calendars", they start earlier and earlier with the decorating, it is almost like they rush it to be done with it!  "Baked cookies, check!  Decorated tree, check!  Wrapped gifts, check!"  So, instead of the up-building, anticipation and longing of Advent, people just jump in, skipping this important step.
I love Christmas,
and I love Advent 
maybe even more...

Tenn Lys!
Et lys skal brenne for denne lille jord.
Den blanke himmelstjerne, hvor vi og alle bor.
Må alle dele håpet, så gode ting kan skje.
Må jord og himmel møtes,
et lys er tent for det.
Eyvind Skeie

Light the light!
One candle shall burn for this little planet.
The shiny heavenly star, where we and others live.
May everyone share the hope, so good things can happen
May Earth and Heaven meet,
one candle is lit for that.
(Translated from the text by Eyvind Skeie)