Wednesday 31 December 2014

Looking back on 2014

I think this year will stand out most in my mind as the year of pain. Not constant, but getting progressively worse over the year. Of course it was also the year of Oswin, my new friend. Of holidays, of getting used to living in the country and of a lot more. Here a short look back. If you click on the months, you will get to the post of that month. 

January: It was cold and windy. Both outside and in. Mind you, leaving the front door open is not a clever idea in the middle of the night when it's blowing a gale! But, I did manage to get the first thing that was on my bucket list for 2014 done. 

February: I watched the Olympics and was rooting for both the Netherlands and Norway. The first symptoms of the pain showed up, although not a clue what it was. And I needed to get a new car!

March: The mystery light, Murphy's law and the bathroom flood. But especially the bathroom flood!

April: The conclusion of the watersaga. I went cross country skiing. A visit to my sister in Northern Ireland didn't go quite according to plan. Although it did get dirty at some point!

May: Another tattoo (the musical one, not the body one), this time in Oslo.We rowed to victory in the annual rowing race. I met some new Dutch friends, who live on the same road. My Frysian inspired outfit had its first outing. I told you how my life has changed in the last 25 years and I got a new housemate.

June: I spent a week in Scotland with my new friend Yamini and Oswin got used to living in the country. And I had a massive brain freeze which caused me to not blog for a week!

July: It was summer in Norway. Proper summer with temperatures over 20 degrees for several weeks. There were visitors from the Netherlands, there was work, Oswin and of course the best birthday present ever. EVER!

August: I started walking. The storm that killed my apple and plum harvests. A holiday to the Netherlands. And the pain.

September: Free entertainment in the form of sheep wrangling. Another win at the Tide Games, this time for best horse. Plus I was nominated for a gold bus. The visit to the doctor that finally got the ball rolling. And cowshit.

October: I saw toadstools. And had an MR scan. And my sister came to visit. And we went on a walk.

November: This was the month where I slipped and slided with a bus. With a great deal of laughter as well, since it was on a specially prepared course. I had a visit to my gp again. Who finally referred me to a gynaecologist.

December: I did culture Icelandic style (ie shopping). I baked two cakes that tasted of Christmas according to my colleagues. Love for a feather duster was the order of the day for Oswin. We had a white Christmas. And the source of the pain was finally discovered!

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Spinning a blog

Instead of the usual prompt for the Spin Cycle, this time there were a lot of questions (well 10) to answer. And where I don't always find the inspiration to follow the prompt, answering questions is something I do do! So here goes:

1. What do you love the most about blogging? 
Oh wow, where to start. I think the best thing about blogging is the people you meet. They might only be in cyberspace, but on occasion they cross over! And I haven't been disappointed yet. This year I met Yamini and I had a wonderful week being her guest in Scotland. 

2. How do you find the time to keep up with all the aspects related to blogging (posting, reading, commenting, responding, etc)? 
I don't always unfortunately. But I am very happy to put off housework if that will get me to the posting, reading etc. No qualms about that at all!!

3. Does your family know about your blog and does this affect what you blog about? 
They do and it does affect what I blog about. Mind you, not very much, since I will blog about anything anyway. If it is important I will make sure of telling my parents or whoever is involved first though and some things I will tell the people I feel are important to me, but will not blog about. I think what affects my blog more is my job. Having learned from experience that it is sometimes wise not to blog about everything!

4. If you didn’t blog, what would you be doing with that time? 
Not blog? Wow, even though I have been a lazy blogger of late, I can't imagine not blogging at all. Nope, not at all!

5. Have you been in a blogging rut and how did you pull yourself out of it? 
Oh yes, the last few months have been a bit of a blogging rut. I just decided to start posting again. People are interested in what I write, so I might as well. Doing prompts also helps a lot, that way you are forced even if you are not quite out of the rut yet. So thank you Spin Cycle! And of course there is also Oswin! 

6. Have you ever considered leaving the blogging world and why? What stopped you? 
No, never considered. I love to blog. I want to write and since I am good at writing my blog...

7. Show some blog love: Name another blog that you adore. 
Are you really asking me to name favourites? Really? Well, if you must know: this blog is a great one. It's not really a blog anymore, but the person behind it always shows great photos of his trips to Norway and other places. I wouldn't mind getting some photography lessons of him!

8. What’s your favorite social media outlet for sharing your blog posts? 
Ehm, did I ever mention anywhere that I am quite a digilliterate? So, I don't quite get this question. Sorry. 

9. What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself since you started blogging? 
That I blog like I talk. And that blogging takes tension away from me. Not having a sounding board at home to complain to when things go awry at work or elsewhere in my life, my blog takes on that role. 

10. Any new blogging plans or ideas for the new year?
No, no real new plans or ideas. Just to continue blogging, either with help from prompts or by what happens in my life. And you are welcome to come and join my life!!

This post is prompted by Spin Cycle. Thank you Ginny Marie at Lemon Drop Pie.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Photo on Sunday 2014-35

Well, it is the last Sunday of the year and I thought (and promised) to show you the photos of Oswin in the snow. As I said before, she wasn't too unhappy about being in the snow, as long as she could follow my footsteps. The snow was quite deep and she is quite low to the ground and didn't like the snow going up to her belly.

I will try and get back to regular Photos on Sunday in 2015. Hope you will be here to see them with me!

Friday 26 December 2014


Well, some snow had fallen for Christmas, but this morning when I woke up: there was even more! About five centimeters (two inches) I guess, but enough to make everything look magical. Like snow does. 

After getting dressed I went out with my camera to take some photos. Oswin went out with me, but even though she didn't like the snow very much, she also didn't try and get back in too soon! The photos of her will be shown in the last Photo on Sunday of this year.

Right now however I will show you the other photos I took. Even of the snowman I built. Right now it is snowing again. I am just glad I don't have to work until Monday!

Thursday 25 December 2014

Christmas 2014

Well, I got the tree up on Christmas Eve Eve (ie the day before the day before Christmas) and even though Oswin was quite interested in it, she only tried to climb it once: when it was still empty. Since she has more or less left it alone. But I did hang some of the unbreakable ornaments on the bottom. Mind you, if she were to climb it and it would fall over, having the unbreakables low on the tree wouldn't do it much good. Ah well, just have to hope it will be okay.

On Christmas Eve I had to work. I had an early (ish) start, since it was Saturday shifts. The day started off great, but it soon deteriorated. As I was driving along in my large green vehicle (the bus), somebody didn't see me and crashed into me! The damage was considerable and I got a hefty dose of adrenalin cursing through my veins as well. Fortunately it wore off quite soon, but it was a shock. Nobody was hurt though. I didn't have any passengers and the driver of the car was okay as well. 

The day got better after that. Hardly any passengers, so not much of a problem to stay on time. I found a krone (smallest denomination coin) on the street, there were gingerbread cookies and mandarins at work and all routes finished at 3pm. 

On getting home, I found a letter, a card and a package in the mailbox. And then another package hanging on the front door. The package in the mailbox was from a colleague and contained chocolates (not tasted yet, but I think they are going to be good), the package on the front door contained Christmas bread (or Stollen. Home made. And Yummmmmmmmy!!). The letter however...

The letter was from the hospital. Now, somebody from the hospital had been trying to get in touch with me last week, but I didn't hear the telephone in time. When I phoned back, it was the main switchboard and they didn't have a clue as to who had rung me. They would probably ring me back. So, I waited and then forgot. Until the letter came. I had my bloodwork done nearly two weeks ago and something was not right. It was too high (not quite sure what). The results are now in Bergen and it is now a question of where I will be operated? And my next question is: will it be the same day? Ah well, wait and see, no need for panic just yet!

The day ended on a plus though. I had been invited by a colleague to a Christmas dinner Icelandic style, so I made my way back to Haugesund and enjoyed shrimp salad, smoked and salted pork, apple salad, fried sweet potato and chocolate ice cream with berries and cream. And when I drove home later that night, the snow was coming down and when I woke up this morning: a White Christmas.

So, to everybody out there reading my blog: I hope you have a very merry (white) Christmas however you want to spend it!

Friday 19 December 2014


I went up to the magazine stand and saw that the new Donald wasn't there. I turned to the newsstand lady and asked why it hadn't come. It would come on Friday she answered. I realised it was only Wednesday! 

I knew it was Wednesday and yet realising it wasn't Friday upset my whole week. It ruined my Wednesday, it didn't do much for my Thursday and even today (being really Friday) it didn't quite sit well with me. Despite the Christmas porridge and the cake we got at work. 

On the plus side: I got some good feedback this week. Yesterday I was asked to stand for the Tide branch of the union. I declined (work, course, team leader, operation coming up: I think I have enough on my plate). And today I was told by one of my team that despite original reservations, I was doing a fine job and he liked working with me! 

Of course it is now Friday and I have the weekend off. Then only three days of work and four more days off (ie: no working on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or next weekend). Plus I am finally getting to grips with it being Friday.

By the way: even though the new Donald Duck magazine came out today (it being Friday), in the end I didn't even get it! Will have to get it tomorrow. Which is Saturday. I think...

Wednesday 17 December 2014

The dark ages

Once again I am sitting in the dark. This time however, it was expected. Although I had expected it an hour later. Fortunately I already had a fire going in my wood burner and the first candle was lit as well. Unfortunately I was in the basement when the lights went out and it is dark in the basement. Very dark! I had to feel my way around while carrying a heavy log basket!

Looking out of the window right now, I can see some of the other houses. All with their Christmas lights twinkling away and porch lights inviting people in. So, I wonder whether it is just me! Or are the houses that I cannot see affected as well? 

The mysteries of life. Or rather: of the dark!

Sunday 14 December 2014

Photo on Sunday 2014-34

When I heard the mailbox open and close yesterday, I wondered what I would get. Would it be the box I was expecting from my sister, would it be the package I was expecting from Germany, would it be a boring bill? Or would it be a package sent by my parents containing all sorts of goodies. After all, my sister had just received one...

Well, it was the latter! Yum! Thank you parental units! Very much appreciated (and partly eaten already, I couldn't resist). I only have one question: what's with the bitterkoekjes????

Saturday 13 December 2014

Black outs, Dutch vampires and more!

I had a course on being a teamleader this past week. Two days were spent trying to learn on how to behave, what to say and what to do while being a teamleader. A lot to take in, but it was fun. We had to travel to Bergen (about three hours by bus) and there we stayed in a hotel. We met teamleaders from other places around Norway and we learned a lot. Early next year we will have another two days to learn even more!


After coming back and driving home, I was met by a bit of a nasty surprise. Apparently the weather had been very bad all day long: thunder and lightning all day, which had caused some major disruption to the electricity supply. In other words: it was dark driving home. At home it was even darker. And cold, because of course no electricity means no heat. And as I found out: it also means no water! Fortunately I still had some bottled water, but my bed looked like I was living in the Arctic there were so many blankets on it!


After my appointment on Tuesday I needed to get my bloodwork done. So, I went down and found out they had closed for the day. Since I was away on that course for two days, I wasn't able before Friday to go to the hospital again for my bloodwork. I went in, waited ten minutes, got a Dutch vampire to get two vials of blood and walked out again. 

And on that subject: my surgery is scheduled for early February. Just over 7 weeks away. Let the countdown begin...

Friday 12 December 2014

A taste of Christmas

No, not made by me!
Have you ever wondered why we make gingerbread men and houses for Christmas? Why not eat them all year round? They do taste good enough to do so. Yet, most of us don't. So, what is so special? 

The ingredients to make gingerbread men are ordinary flour, butter and ginger and other spices. And those last two ingredients make the gingerbread men so special. Because they were expensive. They were shipped from far away, it took a long time and that meant that the only people who were able to afford them were either very rich or had saved up. And Christmas would be a time to enjoy the best you could get. If you had to save all year to get your hands on a bit of ginger...

Imagine not only using ginger, but also cinnamon, cardemom, coriander, anisseed, nutmeg and cloves. Imagine the amount of money it would cost. Imagine how you would savour the taste and enjoy it. Imagine the taste of Christmas!

So, get you to a shop and get buying some ingredients for my Christmas tasting Speculaaspie! Here they come:

For the speculaas spice mix:
5 ts ground cinnamon
4 ts ground cloves
1,5 ts ground ginger
1 ts ground cardemom
1 ts ground coriander
1 ts ground annisseed (I couldn't get hold of that, so used ground fennelseed instead)
1 ts ground nutmeg

ts = tablespoon
Take a clean, dry glass jar with lid. Put all ingredients in jar, put the lid on and shake until well mixed. It will keep and if it runs low: just add more ingredients!

For the dough:
300 grams of ordinary flour
100 grams of brown sugar
pinch of salt
200 grams of cold butter, diced
2 table spoons of speculaas spice mix

For the filling:
75-100 grams of dried apricots
75-100 grams of raisins
2 large and firm apples, peeled and diced
2 dl of fresh orange juice
300 grams of almond paste

1. Mix the four, the sugar, the spice mix and the salt in a bowl. 
2. Add the butter and knead until you have a consistent dough. If it is still too crumby, add a bit of water. 
3. Wrap in a bit of clingfilm and put it in the fridge for at least an hour. The longer you leave it, the more flavoursome it becomes.
4. Preheat the oven at 175 degrees Centigrade. Grease a 24 centimeter loose bottomed round tin.
5. Put the apricots, raisins and orange juice in a small pan and heat. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes until the juice has nearly evaporated. Let it cool.
6. Mix the cooled fruit mix with the diced apples. Set aside.
7. Divide the dough in two. One part is used to roll out and cover the bottom and sides of the pie tin. Make sure it fits properly by pressing it down and cut away any excess. 
8. Roll out the almond paste and cover the bottom of the dough completely. Put the fruit mix in and press down with the back end of a spoon.
9. Use the rest of the dough to make small balls. Put them on the top of the fruit and press down lightly. Cover the whole of the pie! If you haven't got enough, cover in a symmetrical way.
10. Put the pie in the oven (middle or lower shelf) and bake it for between 50 and 60 minutes until done. Leave to cool in the tin. 

Eat and enjoy your own taste of Christmas

This post is part prompted by Spin Cycle. Thank you Ginny Marie at Lemon Drop Pie.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Forget about Pat Cash (although he is cute)

There will be a few people who know who Pat Cash is, for those who don't: he is an Australian tennis player. And he is cute. Not that his ability to smack a ball around or his cuteness have any direct influence on my life. Although those tennisballs...

As you may remember I went to see my gp several months ago (late September) about this pain in my lower abdomen. She sent me to get an MRI done. Which happened a month later. Another two weeks later I was back at the doctor's for the results. Which showed a large tennisball sized lump in or on my uterus. I would need to see a gynaecologist. Five weeks later and today was it...

Now, here is a diagram here that shows how it should look. Apparently with me it doesn't. What should go straight up, tilts at a very heavy angle, What should have some volume is flattened. Plus the myomas of course. Which were not as big as a tennis ball after all. The main one was nearly twice as big! No wonder I am in so much pain. Not only does it flatten my uterus, it also severely hinders my intestines. Which is most likely the source of the pain. 

Anyway, after calling in the main man on the floor (head gynaecologist) I was told the good news. Yep, it has to come out. And quite likely the ovarian tubes as well, although they were not certain about that yet. Depending on who performs the operation, I will either have a large scar going sideways, up/downways or a few holes. The most important thing though?

The time frame of course. They have given me three months, but they will try sooner. So, fingers crossed!

Sunday 7 December 2014

Photo on Sunday 2014-33

Oswin has this little thing she plays with. Three feathers bound together and she treats it like it is a bird. So, what do you do as a good cat when you find a whole bunch of feathers tied together: treat it like it is a big bird for her to play with!!

I have to keep my feather duster behind lock and key or otherwise she will be dragging it all through the house!!!

Don't you just love cats??

Friday 5 December 2014

Preparations are under way!

The meat for Christmas dinner has been bought and freezered. The main will be kale 'n' mash and the freezered meat. I know what I will have for desert (the Speculaas cake/pie). The side will probably be a home made husar salad (Dutch recipe). I still have some plums in red wine that will go down well with ice cream at some point during the day.

The choice of Christmas films to watch is growing by the day. Either they arrive in the mail or they are recorded off the telly (Channel 5 has a great choice). Of course the old favourites will be on my list as well: White Christmas, Arthur Christmas, the Muppet Christmas Carol, a Muppet Family Christmas plus many more. 

This Sunday I will do some preliminary Christmas cleaning and some serious Christmas decorating. No tree yet, but I am hoping to get one next week. I already have some presents to put under it as well, although there was one I had to unwrap today already!

Mind you, with all of these preparations going on, I don't even know yet whether I will have to work. Or perhaps I will be recovering from surgery (although I severely doubt it, seeing how 'fast' things are moving here in Norway). But at least the preparations are going fine!

This post is prompted by Spin Cycle. Thank you Ginny Marie at Lemon Drop Pie. 

Thursday 4 December 2014

One of those

There are days where everything goes smoothly. Today was not one of those. Today was one of those days where everything went a bit wrong. Not massively, not damagingly, but wrong nonetheless. 

I was tired to begin with. Then the keys to the bus were missing. I got a spare set instead. The first two trips went fine. No delays, no problems, everybody behaved. My third trip and fourth trip were on time as well. But there are some road works en route, which always cause a bit of trouble since it is a narrow stretch of road. 

The real 'pester Mara day' was still to start however. Lorries getting in my way, more roadworks, loads and loads and loads of children and to top it off: lorries in my way while I was trying to negotiate roadworks while the bus was still filled with a fair few children. 

I got back to the office and was asked whether I wanted to do some overtime. Today. The answer was no. My head was still reeling, my ears were still ringing and I was mentally tired as well as physically. Rest and Doctor Who (the first series ever) were in order. 

Tomorrow is another day. Hopefully without lorries and road works!

PS: I didn't damage the bus (although it was close at one point), I left on time for every single trip and everybody behaved and was nice (compliments about my new Christmas earrings were plenty). Oh, and the hair was fine as well!!

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Life as I know it

When I first thought about moving abroad, I never thought that I would end up living in a small wooden cottage in the Norwegian countryside. But, as of last week (November 27th) I have been in Norway exactly two years. Running on adrenaline those first few days, not sleeping well and a week later: a new job. 

I have been in that 'new' job for two years tomorrow (December 3rd) and when I mentioned being in Norway for two years last week on Facebook, one of the first things mentioned to me by my colleagues was cake. Norwegians have a fondness for cakes which is quite astonishing. I think I have eaten more cake in the last two years than in all my other 41 years combined! 

Anyway, cake. But what type of cake. I didn't want to do the 'usual' chocolate cake, nor did I want to do something Norwegian really. Come in Google! Something Dutch inspired, yet possible to make here in Norway. In the end I found a 'speculaas cake'. I made two yesterday. A spicy cake (cinnamon, cardemom, cloves, nutmeg and a few more) filled with apple, raisin, apricot and almond paste. I am actually salivating as I type!

I hope my colleagues like it...

Monday 1 December 2014

Being cultural

On Friday night a colleague asked me whether I would be working on the weekend. When I replied in the negative, he asked me whether I would like to go cultural in Stavanger. Well, I had never been to Stavanger (apart from the airport), so I thought that might be a good idea. 

On Saturday morning he picked me up at 10am and we made our way to Stavanger. It was quite chilly, but it was dry and pretty good weather so we were happy. Our first port of call was... a shopping center. From there we made our way to the city center where more shops were to be found. He told me about Stavanger (he lived there for a few years) and occasionally we stopped to take a few photos.

But mostly it was a shopping trip. I kept my purse strings mostly closed, but I did get a few things. My concession to 'culture'? A book by Shostakovic. About the work camps up in Siberia and stuff. Oh, and Robin Hood! I think I like culture Norwegian (well, Icelandic really) style!!