Monday, November 23, 2009

Locals have long been wont to brag that Bergen hosts the largest gingerbread city in the world.  The whole world people!  I have no idea if this claim is true or not, but they do throw together a pretty big ass gingerbread city every year.  And it is a cherished tradition of just about every family in the area (mine included) to open the holiday season with a visit to this spicey, winter wonderland. 

Schools, barnehages, businesses, and individual households are welcome to donate a gingerbread creation to the city.  Over a thousand are collected every year, and set up in an elaborate layout complete with snow capped mountains and trains that run throughout.  It smells wonderful inside, and it really is pretty neat to walk through.

Over the weekend, a couple of as yet unknown jackasses broke into the place where it was being built (finishing touches were just being put on everything, as it was supposed to open this coming Friday) and wantonly destroyed the entire city.

The citizenry is up in arms.  Completely beside themselves with rage.  Indeed, I find myself rather furious about it too.  Such a shame!  Especially for the kids.  As you can see, these are not professionally made, delicately constructed works of art.  Though there are always a handful of larger perfessional looking pieces, by and large you'll find a motley collection of rough, crooked, wildly over-embellished houses pasted together with pure whimsy.  They're the obvious masterpieces of some very eager, very imaginative children.  How heartbreaking that someone felt the need to stomp all over them.

Not to worry though.  Time, resources, and raw determination are being donated from all corners, and they're hoping to have a new gingerbread city (complete with night guards this time around!) constructed by the middle of next week.  Indeed, by Thursday, which is when they've asked to have all the new donations delivered, I'm guessing they'll have twice as many gingerbread houses as they've ever had before.

Hear the Grinch! Christmas is still coming to Bergen, so there!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Oh For God's Sake

I'll be the first to admit that I'm no master speller; I make my own fair share of stupid mistakes. But this is a bit much. From Emma's class schedule for the week, practice words in English will be:

Unless, of course, they meant the verb 'to wolve' meaning: to behave like a wolf.  Or (and this one was new to me) "of a pipe organ : to produce a sound like the howl of a wolf (as from failure of air supply)", as in:
He had returned to his schoolboy's script, to distant Evensongs, to the wolving of the ancient chapel organ as the last light is extinguished and the door latched for the long night.

2006, Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day, Vintage 2007, p. 784
Retrieved from ""
All in all, a rather brilliant sentence, but unlikely to be what her teachers had in mind. I fear I shall have to make a nuisance of myself come Monday.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A-ha Just Released A New Album Too

So, you know how at a certain moment--usually a little too early on in November--by seemingly subliminal accord, an army of janitors are sent to their respective basements to retrieve their dusty garlands and fairy lights, junior sales clerks in malls everywhere are tasked with arranging gaudy displays of tinsel and beglittered glass ornaments, and suddenly pepperkake and juleøl are back in your life? Well, maybe that last example only happens here in Norway, but that's just too bad for the rest of ya'll, isn't it?

My point is, the arrival of Christmas is cyclical. Predictable. If you live anywhere in the western world, it's inescapable.

It's becoming increasingly clear to me that the fashion world runs on pretty much the same uninspired principle.

I swear, last summer a light in a basement somewhere started flashing neon, and a message went out to retailers the world over: FASHION REBOOT, 1985, STIRRUPS OPTIONAL. With great haste all those eager junior sales clerks were sent into the darkest corners of their storage rooms to retrieve boxes and boxes of unsold chunky belts, plastic shoes, and leg warmers that had been languishing...muldering...waiting for this very moment. Maybe--just maybe--they'll get lucky enough to unload all this garbage this time around!

Perhaps I over-simplify. I guess the advent of this season has been coming for a year or more. It started with the return of jeans to the waist where they belong. And continued with sightings of high-top Reeboks, and sassy black ankle boots. But this, ladies and gentlemen, this then--right now--must surely be the high season.

I'm seeing mohair, for crying out loud! Chunky, loose knit sweaters in pastel colored mohair.

Last week I was in Oasis looking for something to wear to a wedding, and I saw a glossy sign on the wall that read Does this jacket make my shoulders look big? And sure enough, there below the sign, was a rack of dress blazers, all with thickly padded, oddly pointy shoulders. All hail the great Joan Collins!

But the blast from the past that has most caught my attention, the iconic relic that makes me most certain that H & M wants me to believe that I'm back in 1985, is the blue. The deeply saturated, highly synthetic, so royal it all but commands your attention blue that is everywhere at the moment. It was the color of my very first pair of stirrups. I had a wool coat with huge plastic buttons in that color. When I was home for the summer, I cleared out a drawer of old clothes and threw away a faded pair of socks that were once that color.

I'm not sure--I haven't quite decided--but I think I rather like it. Not just the color, but the whole current fashion reboot. All those loose fitting, blousy, off-the-shoulder shirts and sweaters are certainly a lot easier on a frumpy frame than the low-riser, skin tight cuts of two seasons ago. I'll tell you that much.

And it's got me missing my Swatch watches too. The ones with the pastel straps. Mine were pink and blue. Some of the girls preferred the white and yellow. But we all agreed that there was no point in wearing them if you didn't wear them two at a time. Man, you were nothin' at my jr. high school if you didn't have at least two Swatch watches!

So--what do you miss about 1985?

Monday, November 09, 2009

I'm thinking of starting a new blog, or at least a new sub-section of this blog, entitled:

Stupid Shit My Cat Does That Makes Me Wonder If Dogs Aren't The Way To Go Afterall

#1--Deftly impales tail with own expertly honed claw.


She may look all growed up an' all, but she's still got plenty of kitten in her, right? So every morning while I'm getting dressed, she bounces all over my bed chasing lint, shadows, and, mostly notably, her own tail. It's cute. A light-hearted little romp to start off both our mornings.

This morning, however, when I sat down at the foot of the bed to pull on my socks, I hear a plaintive, squeaky little mrrrrrroooouuuuuuu coming from behind me. I jump up quick thinking for sure I must have sat on a paw or her tail maybe, but instead I see her lying on her side curled into a fetal position with her tail over one shoulder and both paws buried somewhere between her back legs.

"The hell, cat?" I ask, thinking maybe she's got something reasonable to say for herself and her ridiculous position.

"Mrrrrrrrroooooouuuuuuuuuu," she pleads, sounding a little indignant that I would take the time to discuss the matter when she's obviously experiencing some considerable amount of discomfort here.

I reach over to unwind her, and discover that she's got not one, but two claws so deeply imbedded in her tail that she can't retract them to free herself.


Obviously, I didn't say it out loud, or anything like that, but you can be sure I was thinking it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Funk Of Forty Thousand Years

I'm going to go right ahead and give myself a big ol' pat on the back for my efforts in throwing this Halloween party together.  I did it up right this year. 

Jack o' lanterns 'n all!.......though we didn't ever put them outside, because, without any trick or treaters to impress, what would have been the point?

And how cute are my tombstone cupcakes?  Those are meant to be undead gummy zombies clawing their way out of their curséd graves.  The kids were dead impressed, but wondered why none of them had legs...

Not to mention my perfectly awesome mummy dogs.  I think, by the way, that these would double at a Christmas party as infant babes wrapped in swaddling clothes.....must resist the sacrament jokes......

Bobbing for apples is sort of a classic Halloween game, right?  We opted for the cleanier, fuss free version where you hang one off the end of a broomstick.  Giggles galore.  The older girls loved it.

I hinted in my last post about the costumes that Alpha Grandma made for Boy and Missy this year.  She went all out with some tapestry remnants she's had laying around for awhile now.  They turned out fantastic,  even though my kids were totally lame in the eleventh hour, and wouldn't let me add some finishing touches to their get-ups with make-up, and up-dos, and such.  That baby pirate face is screaming for a rum-red nose and a handle-bar mustache!

The camera seemed to hate Princess Amanda all night, so I never did get a decent picture of her dress.  She insisted on the red shirt under it.  Not me.  When I suggested that the party was going to be inside, and, this being a special occasion and all, maybe she might consider going without the under clothes...she pouted and whined until I said, "What.ever."  She's all Norwegian, that one.  And no way, no how was she going to let me fix her hair all pretty like.  "Step off and let me at those skeletons," she said, "This here's what it's all about!"

I found a couple of cheapy, plastic skeletons that I could pull apart.  Then we had races to see who could put them back together the fastest.  Some were better at this than others, but they all seemed to enjoy it.

There were 10 of them altogether.  A manageable number.  The older girls thought it was hysterical to run around screaming in terror at the top of their ever-loving, squealy-ass lungs.  The boys were not even a little bit amused. 

They did end up getting to do a bit of trick-or-treating.  Earlier that afternoon, Mister went around to all of our nearest neighbors with a bag of candy, saying, "Look.  In a couple of hours a bunch of becostumed kids are going to come knocking at your door.  Just give them this, and they'll leave you alone."  One lady--the older one in the blue house--was way into it.  She ended up getting out candles, and was wearing a witch hat when she came to the door.  She refused our candy saying she had plenty and wanted to put together her own goodies.  She served it up to them out of a plastic cauldron.  That's the spirit!  I liked that lady immediately.

All in all, it was a pretty painless and (dare I say) fun four hours.  I won't even terribly much mind having to do it all over again next year.  In fact, I'm already cooking up ideas in my head to find a way to cover the ceiling with spiders and bats.  And we definitely need a  ghost hanging from the loft upstairs.....

Mister needs to work on his costum a bit though:

The stubble's alright, but the hair will never do.