Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My 3-year-old!

Yesterday this little man was three years old.  Just crazy how time flies.  I asked him if he still was my baby, and he said no, that he is big now. 
Then I asked him if that meant he wouldn't be carried on my back anymore. (In the carrier).  He was thinking for a little while, before lightening up and saying, "You can carry the big Jonatan now!"

Monday, November 29, 2010

Do You Light a Candle when You're Alone?

My great-grandmother was widowed at 60, and lived to be 90.  She lived alone for these 30 years, but she never became one of those bitter, old women, talking about how awful life has treated them, and how much better everything was "in my days."  No, she would never even use that term, simply because her days were just now, always in the present.

She was a true lady, concerned about her appearance, and she never left home without a pretty hat and some lipstick.

So yes, she was absolutely a little vain, in a perfectly good way, but then she was also deeply interested in the world and the people around her!

She was into charities, donated money and made crafts for mission sales.  She bought gifts to her grand- and great-grandkids.  The two of us wrote letters to each other, and I was lucky enough to have her until I was 20 years old.

As a child, I remember my mother said that great-grandma always cooked real meals, and set the table with a clean tablecloth, and a lit candle, even though she ate all alone.

I think that's just beautiful.  And, maybe that's the key, or at least one of the keys, to inner peace and happiness: To light a candle, even when you're all alone.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tears in Heaven. Just that.

Tears in Heaven 
by Eric Clapton and Will Jennings

Just because it's that day again, November 26th, the day where I'm thrust back to the moment when I picked up the phone and learned that my Dad had passed away...

Eric Clapton lost a child.  That's maybe the worst possible loss, but then again, one person's grief can never be mesured against another's.

I lost a father, a life coach, a rock... and the words of Tears in Heaven can speak for me.
"Would you help me stand?.."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pasta Bolognese and some Home Cooking Philosophy

 As I see it, there are two extremes when it comes to people and home cooking.  (As with most things, of course.)  On one side, the ones who rarely or never cook anything from scratch.  They usually pick up either a box, a can or a jar of something that allows them to just heat and serve.  What they like even more, of course, are ready-made dinners, which they thaw/cook in the oven/microwave, but this is usually a more expensive solution.

On the other far side, there is the eco-biological DIY-cook, who will make absolutely everything from scratch, no exception, and who would rather starve then eat a frozen pizza (that is a cooked one, of course.) These people bake their own spaghetti, grow all of their spices and vegetables and they secretly (or openly) wish they lived on a farm.

I guess most of us find ourselves somewhere in between, but to be honest, I don't care to much for ready-made dinners, with all the "extras" you get, often without knowing it.  However, I will occasionally serve a frozen ready-made dinner (usually a pizza or some kind of oven baked casserole), but this is mainly reserved for days where it comes down to either that or nothing.  Typically if we just arrived home from a trip, and the fridge is empty, everybody's hungry and it's getting late...  There will also be occasional times where I arrive home late at night after teaching a class.  My family already ate their dinner, there is nothing left, and I'm craving a hot meal.  In those situations, the freezer and the microwave are wonderful to have.  

But, in my everyday life, I prefer real cooking.  It doesn't have to be fancy, and it doesn't necessarily require a  lot of time, but I prefer using real food, knowing what I'm going to eat, and what my kids are served.
Some cans I do use almost all the time, for instance the cans of diced tomatoes.  They contain just that, tomatoes.  No addittives, nothing but good tomatoes already chopped.  
Another big exception to the rule would be pesto.  I just can't make that, or I choose not to.  I've tried, with no great success, and since a local store have a very yummy pre-made one, I buy these jars of pesto, and feel good about it too.

Yesterday was a really busy day.  I had desk work all morning, my husband only arrived home for a brief visit, before taking off again, and the kids had piano, ballet and boy scouts.  So, I decided to make the trusted, old  Pasta Bolognese.  
Here you get my recipe:  (That is, the way I made it yesterday.  It will never be exactly the same, since it depends of what is on hand.)  It serves 6, with leftovers.


About 1 pound ground beef / ca. 500 g kjøttdeig
Two onions, peeled and finely chopped / 2 løk, skrelt og finhakket
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped  / 3 fedd hvitløk, skrelt og finhakket
2-3 tbs olive oil / 2-3 ss olivenolje
2 15oz cans diced tomatoes / 2 bokser hakkede tomater
2 tbs cornstarch / 2 ss Maisenna-mel.
About 1/3 cup cold water / mellom 1/2 og 1 dl kaldt vann
2 tbs  dried basil / 2 ss basilikum
1 ts sugar / 1 ts sukker
Salt and pepper
More water if necessary / mer vann hvis nødvendig.
500 g (about a pound) pasta

First I sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil.  You can use a large skillet or a cast iron pot, which I use.  Make sure to have low to medium-low heat, and let it simmer for about ten minutes, stirring it now and then.  The onions will be soft and  transparent.
In another skillet, this one as hot as possible, I cook the ground meat, turning it over, and parting it constantly.  When it's all brown, it goes over to the cast iron pot to join the onions and garlic.
Add the tomatoes, the basil, salt and pepper (to taste) and some water if the mixture is too thick.
Stir the sauce to make sure everything is well mixed, and then let it cook at medium heat for about five to ten minutes.
Just before serving, I mix the cornstarch and cold water in a glass with a lid, just shaking it until it becomes smooth.  Then I let this cornstarch mixture run slowly into the sauce, while stirring with the other hand.  This simply gives you a thicker sauce.  Let the whole thing boil again, and stir it for a couple of minutes.
While the sauce was cooking, I heated water, salt and oil in another pot, and cooked the pasta accordingly to the type of pasta I'd chosen.  Today it was twists, so it didn't take more than about 10 minutes to cook.
Usually I will have grated parmesan to go with this, and some lettuce on the side.  But today, no parmesan or lettuce, as we we were out of these items.

But, this was a quick made, healthy and yummy dinner, with lots of leftovers.  (That was intended, since I love having some bolognese sauce in my fridge, to make fancy grilled cheese sandwitches, when there is a late night craving, or simply for lunch.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ensemble c'est tout (Hunting and Gathering)

It has been a while since I last picked up this book by the French author Anna Gavalda.  I've read it three times, and there will surely be a fourth.   Since I first discovered it in 2005, it has kept it's throne as the best book I've ever read.  

It was one of my friends who suggested it to me, five years ago, when we sat outside in the silky dark and warm night of Southern France, finishing a bottle of red wine and talking about books and reading.  She told me "Ensemble, c'est tout"  was amazing, but I did get a little apprehensive because of the size.  It's a real brick, and I wasn't sure my French was good enough to plough trough it.  Luckily, my worries were very much misplaced!

The English title is "Hunting and Gathering" and the Norwegian "Saman er ein mindre aleine".  I'm sure the translations are good, and a friend of mine, who just read the Norwegian version, loved it, but for me this is a very, very French book.  
Not because of the culture, really, or maybe a little, but mostly because it takes place in Paris, my home for 5 1/2 years.  It's the city I lived as a newlywed, where I had my first baby, where I've studied, worked, lead the everyday life of a resident Parisian, just like the people of this story.  And, the places, the apartments, the streets, I can totally picture the whole thing in my head, as well as hear them talk, using the familiar expressions of normal, everyday French language.

But, when I think about it, even if this story took place in a country I'd never visited, in a culture I didn't know, I would love it.  To be honest, the story could easily be placed anywhere, because it's about something as universal as human relationships.
It's a story about four so different persons you wouldn't think they could have anything in common, and still, they're connected, and there will be tenderness, friendship, arguing, crying, laughing, fun, grief and everything that is part of plain life!
The awkward noble guy, the fragile young girl, the stubborn old woman and the angry, impolite cook.  These four people, their lives, in the span of a few months.  Nothing grand.  Just life.  I laugh and cry every time I read their connected story.

This novel makes me look at life and the world with hope.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winter already??

Yes, it's true.  In my corner of the world, we have had winter for a week now.  Snow, ice and temperatures  ranging from 14 to 28 Fahrenheit (minus 2 to minus 10 degrees Celcius).  
It's too early for me, really it is.  I'm not made for this kind of climate, and I'm sure Mankind never was ment to live in a place where we can expect several months now where 14 degrees Fahrenheit is nothing...  
(Last January, it descended all the way to minus 18.4 Fahrenheit /minus 28 degrees Celcius.)
The first humans walked the soil of Africa, or so I've heard.  Makes sense, doesn't it, to live in a place where you wouldn't have to evolve to the point of being able to build your own house or make yourself clothes just to stay alive.
I know.  The human population grew, and spread out, but, it's beyond me that somebody, one day, decided that waaay up North, where it's cold and dark in the winter, where nothing grows, except for a few months in the Summer, just there, it would be nice to settle down. Like I said, beyond me.  I'm sure he was some kind of extreme sports guy who totally got a kick out of this.  And, his wife was of course pregnant, didn't have the strength to argue, and, a few months later, the Norwegian tribe was a fact.
I think my soul belongs in another climate.  Not the tropical one, though, since too much sun bugs me too, but the temperate, smoother seasons of, for instance France or the Pacific Northwest in the US.
A little homesick for my other homelands, maybe?  Oh yes, right now, you bet....

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Approaching India Trip.

In less than three weeks I'm going to India for the first time of my life. 
It's strange.  I think I have travelled quite a bit in my life.  I've lived in four different countries, had a baby in three of them, but right now, I feel butterflies fluttering all over my stomach, almost like it was the very first time I'd ever go anywhere.
Maybe because I'm leaving my kids for a week?  Or, maybe because it's a new country, a new continent for me?  Or, maybe because it's just before Christmas, and I will probably be behind with everything related to the holidays this year?
Maybe all of it.
I'm learning Marathi language, tiny baby steps of it, and I try to read about the country, the area, but my days are too full, and the hours have a tendency to slip away, so I feel very, very unprepared for this.
I guess I have to speed up my India preparing, that's all, if not I'll be all panicky about the whole thing.

Most of the important things are taken care of, though. Immunizations are done, there is just a liquid vaccine I have to take a couple of times before leaving.  We don't have the visas yet (hoping we will very soon!), but tickets are bought and arrangements made for a car to pick us up at the Mumbai airport.
Well, I have some preparations to go back to, after making pizza for tonight, preparing packed lunches for my four kids and folding a small Mount Everest of laundry.
Some google-found pictures from Pune, the city I'm going to:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Picture of the day: Moving On...

This picture was taken during my 10 days in Italy this summer. 
(I can't recall the name of the village now, but it was on the road between San Giminiano and our farm Pieve a Salti.)
I chose this picture today to illustrate the idea of moving on. 
Sometimes we need to go to another geographical place, change scenery, house, city, country,
but this is not necessarily about that kind of move. 
I'm talking more about moving on in life, leaving matters behind to embrace something new... 
Sometimes, that would mean to move on internally.
-Relocating in your thoughts and feelings,
and maybe finding a small opening in the brick wall...
An opening that will lead  you to green fields of possibilities.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro)

I just watched this 2004 Spanish movie. Mar Adentro is based on a true story, about Ramón Sampedro, who, after a diving accident, is paralyzed from the neck down. For 28 years, he has fought for the right to die, not seeing any dignity left for him. A lawyer is engaged to help him.

This is a tremendously strong story, where everything, from the fabulous actors to the amazing filming, music and the words go together in creating a heartbreaking, but also life exalting movie.
The question of euthanasia is an extremely difficult one, but even though I'm fundamentally against the sole idea of it, I still gain symphathy for Ramón Sampedro and his struggle. If you cry easily, make sure to stock up on paper towels before sitting down and watching this one. (Kleenex won't do...)

Direction is by Alejandro Amenábar, the lead role is played by Javier Bardem, with Belén Rueda and Lola Duenas in strong supporting roles. See here for more information.

Cinema Trailer:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Book Review: Eat, Pray, Love

My husband bought me this book, Eat, Pray, Love, and I just finished reading it.  Yes, I know, it has been a bestseller for years now, a hit since it first was published in 2006.  But, the thing is, one never gets to read all the right books at once, and I think this particular one reached me at the perfect moment.
Yes, I loved it.  I really, really loved it.  (I don't really see the point in writing about books I hate...)  
It's totally autobiographical.  Elizabeth Gilbert is writing about her own life, her own struggles, and more specifically, the year she spent living in Italy, India and Indonesia.  The four months in Rome was about finding pleasure, to enjoy life on earth, eat drink and have fun. Then, in India, it was all about the divine aspect of life, the meditation, prayer and the spiritual journey.  In the end, the last months spent on Bali, was about finding a balance between the first two.
This book spoke to me on so many levels, I don't even know where to start.  The Rome experience first, I love that city, and I love Italy.  I went ahead and learned Italian several years ago, because I wanted to, just like the author.  India, - I'm going to India in December.  It's a wedding and not an Ashram, that's right, and it's only a week, not four months, but still...  
And, the balance thing, the need for enjoying the here and now, but on the same time craving the silence, the nothingness, the eternal...
I just say, -Wow, what a book.
And, in case you are wondering, I haven't seen the movie yet, and I'm not sure if I ever will.  
I'm really sceptical when it comes to movies adapted from books I have previously read.  If I hated the book, of course I wouldn't bother watching the movie, and, if I loved the book, which is this case, I'm so scared of destroying all my images.
For now, the problem solved itself, because our small town cinema theater don't show movies more than a couple a weeks, so Julia Roberts is gone from the posters.
But, just to end this rambling, - I loved, loved, loved this book, and I'm actually sorry I'm done reading it.  I was looking forward to bedtime, just to be able to travel with Elizabeth Gilbert.

One last note, though.  In Norway, the book (and the movie)  is translated "Eat, Live, Love"... (Spis, Lev, Elsk) That's so typical of the Norwegian culture of today.  A total fear of anything religious, and where anything slightly more than material is considered "silly" or just plain dumb.

It's sad.  And, it makes me feel less Norwegian.