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Bonnie Scotland…

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Our trip to Scotland wasn’t exactly what I’d call a vacation, but it was however, a very interesting trip…

As our plane reached cruising altitude and the captain was about to give his customary announcement on weather conditions and flight time, I heard something odd. He started the announcement saying, Your Royal Highness, ladies and gentlemen.

Hmmm… Could I have heard wrong? No one else seemed to notice, not even my husband or son. I took a quick look around and saw the whole first row was empty except for one man, sitting next to the window, on the other side of the plane. Behind him, in the second row there were just two men sitting in the isle seats. By now my mind was racing (out loud) and my husband had to tell me to calm down, but I couldn’t. I finally asked the flight attendant, right out… Is there a royal onboard this plane?

Sure enough, Kong Harold, the King of Norway was sitting fifteen seats in front of me and it turns out he always flies commercial.

The King was the first one off the plane where a car was waiting for him. I took this picture from inside the plane, it's the closest I've ever been to a king!

The King was the first one off the plane where a car was waiting for him. I took this picture from inside the plane, that’s him getting into the car. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to a king!

When my son came to me last summer and said he wanted to learn how to play the bagpipes, I thought it was a joke. Turns out he was serious and has worked diligently this past year learning to play the chanter, which is the part of the pipe with the finger holes. The next step is getting the actual bagpipes, which is what brought us to Scotland. We spent five (cool and drizzly) days in Glasgow, where we stayed and my son attended a piping course at the National Piping Centre. He got his pipes and his kilt should arrive in about six weeks (it had to be custom ordered).

This is the tartan my son chose for his kilt

This is the tartan my son chose for his kilt

Because he had four classes a day with a lunch break of two hours in the middle of them, it was impossible for us to get out and do very much. All the sightseeing points of interest closed at five, which is when his last class ended. I did however, manage to get in a wee bit of shopping on Buchanan Street. We took evening strolls in Kelvingrove Park and the Necropolis Cemetery next to the Glasgow Cathedral. I know it sounds weird to stroll around a cemetery but the gothic-style mausoleums and giant headstones are quite a sight.

The headstones almost look like giant chess pieces.

The headstones almost look like giant chess pieces.

The other thing I did, was drink tea. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the UK. I’m always in search of a tea shop and I found some nice ones in Glasgow. Among them, Bradford’s, The Willow Tea Rooms, which were designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1903, and my favorite, Cup Tea Lounge. Where I had the most amazing cup of White Jasmine Tea imaginable! And the cupcakes weren’t bad either 🙂

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I’ll leave you with this:

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Words to live by…

Friendship

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English tea and Norwegian chocolate, nothing goes better

It’s funny how people float in and out of our lives and while some stick others don’t.

After leaving America and moving to a small town in Norway twenty-four years ago, I met a family from England. I couldn’t speak Norwegian and there weren’t many expats or foreigners living in this area at the time. I felt lost, misplaced and longed for my family and friends back home. I was offered a job at a local school and that’s where I met this family. I’m not sure how I would have gotten through those first couple of years in Norway without them. Connected by the English language (their’s proper, mine not) we bonded and became fast friends and then suddenly they were gone.

I was heartbroken and didn’t know how I’d manage without them…

We kept in touch with an occasional phone call, Christmas cards and a handful of visits over the last twenty-four years. Our daughters have also challenged the years and miles, by remaining close. This past weekend, me, my daughter and granddaughter journeyed from Norway to England to visit them. It’s been at least ten years since we’ve seen each other last, but it felt as if we’d never been separated at all. We caught up on the present, reminisced over the past and made a promise to visit again soon.

As our granddaughters met and played for the very first time, I couldn’t help but marvel over the power of friendship.

A third generation of friendship

A third generation of friendship

An American in Dublin

I was in Dublin this past weekend with my husband and four other couples from Norway. While I may have been the only Yankee in the group, I was certainly not the only American in Dublin. There were 35,000 American football fans in Dublin to watch Notre Dame take on and clobber, Navy in the Emerald Isle Classic.

We didn’t go to the game but we found plenty of other things to do. For me the high point of the trip was seeing Riverdance at the Gaiety theater. The thrilling experience of pounding feet and swirling music left me breathlessly mesmerized.

We also went on a musical pub crawl. This is where a group of people are led to different pubs by a couple of Irish musicians, telling stories and singing songs along the way. Its great fun!

My husband and I decided against purchasing a hop-on-hop-off tour bus ticket, this being our ‘second’ trip to Dublin and all. Except for a trip to the Guinness Brewery, we decided to abandon our group of merry friends and strike out on our own for the day.

Knowing my love for tea and that I was going to Dublin, a few of my fellow bloggers recommended some new places to visit. With a list of addresses and a map of the city in hand, we set off with great determination…

This one was closed

The first Tea House we found (Tea Garden) wasn’t far from our hotel but unfortunately, not open. Just down the road we stumbled across the second place we were looking for. The Winding Stair Bookshop & Restaurant, formally known as The Winding Stair Bookshop Cafe. Named after a Yeats poem, this was a popular meeting place for writers, musicians and artists. Here I bought a book of Irish myths and a pack of Irish literary postcards.

We then headed over to the Temple Bar area, where we found Joy of Chá which was one of Dublin’s first tea shops. Here we sat and sipped on a cup of fresh brewed, Irish Morning tea.

Joy of Chá

Afterwards, we trudged across the city to the Portobello area and found Wall & Keogh, a small tea house loaded with a variety of different loose leaf tea. A very kind girl helped me find a Maté Energy Boost blend and an Improved Mood & Memory blend (don’t ask) which I took home with me. I haven’t tried them yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

By now you may be wondering how I got my husband to agree to this excursion… It was easy, for every tea house we visited we also visited a pub for a pint.

The perfect bribe

Next we made our way over to the more touristy, fashionable side of town to Clement & Pekoe. I left with 100 g of (my favorite) Mint Green Tea and some Gunpowder tea, which I had never tried but have heard so much about from all my UK blogger friends. I’ve now tried them both and give them a two thumbs up.

Clement & Pekoe

Last we caught up with our friends at Bewley’s, on Grafton Street where we enjoyed a delicious meal. Bewley’s is an Irish Co. that has been selling coffee and tea since 1840. I bought a box of Pure Sencha Green Tea bags for myself and a box of Irish Breakfast Tea, to bring home to a friend.

Bewley’s

It was a great day!

My tea stash

All tea houses can be found here.

Summer so far…

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Have you ever had trouble making up your mind? It looks like this flower did. I took this picture in my garden.

Do you ever feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? Well, this guy does. I took this picture in Monterosso Italy.

Have you ever had a submarine sandwich? Jersey Mike’s are the best! I took this picture in Brick, New Jersey.

Is there anything better than a cup of tea with an old friend? This is my friend Annie, we met in kindergarden. This picture was taken on her front porch in Jersey.

Is there anything more precious than a baby? I would have to say, no. I took this picture of my granddaughter last week in Norway.

Have you ever seen pink and purple water? It always amazes me. I took this picture a few weeks ago from my kitchen window in Norway.

How about orange water? This picture was taken at midnight. Don’t you just love Norwegian sunsets!

 

Behind the scenes

 

Cinque Terre part 4

For those of you following along, this is my last post on our fantastic adventure in Italy. I would like to now share with you some random facts and pictures from behind the scenes of our trip.

While my husband and I both consider ourselves to be rather fit and healthy, we did have a few small problems hiking. We live in Norway where the number one thing to do is walk and its mostly uphill, so that wasn’t a problem. It was the heat we struggled with. It didn’t help matters that on our first day my husband wore leather boat shoes, with NO socks! Needless to say, by the time we reached our destination his shoes were full of puddles and his feet full of blisters. I told him to wear socks but no one ever listens to me. (I know, I sound like my mother)

I knew Cinque Terre would be a beautiful place, but was in no way prepared for the splendor of these five villages and landscape around them. Hiking through olive groves, vineyards and passing lemon trees along the way was heavenly. That’s why I cannot, for the life of me, understand a person’s need to defile such beauty.

Everywhere I looked I could see names, initials and curse words carved into the leaves of the surrounding cactus and Aloe Vera plants. Why would anyone want to mar these robust and time enduring plants?

I insisted on an unplugged vacation, which meant no laptops, iPods, iPads or iPhones (one phone for emergency use only). The television in our hotel room had NOTHING on in English, not even CNN. There’s only so much talking a couple can do (he’s the quiet type). Luckily, I brought a book (two things one must always remember to pack, aspirin and a book). I also had to give my husband permission to cruise the net on our ‘emergency’ iPhone, while I read. I must now confess, curiosity got the best of me and the book I brought along was, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ (I swear, I don’t usually read erotica and don’t ask for a review).

Now for the best part – food, drinks and dessert. Cinque Terre is located on the coast and their speciality is most definitely seafood. Now when I think of seafood, I think of lobster, shrimp, crabs and salmon. Here the delicacies are anchovies, squid, octopus and sea bass. The sea bass was good but I didn’t care for the rest, my husband loved it all. I would have been happier with a bowl of pasta, but even that had seafood in it.

Seafood spaghetti anyone?

 

Lunch was never a problem, we always ended up at an outside cafe eating salad and pizza. The pizza was always thin, crispy and loaded with melted mozzarella. The tomatoes plump and red with fresh mozzarella and basil on top.

We found a restaurant on our last night that served real spaghetti, minus the seafood and along with some crusty bread, I chowed down!

I have just two words to describe desert, Panna cotta and Tiramisu. I shouldn’t have, but I did and it was worth it!

We ordered a bottle of  Cinque Terre wine everyday, for lunch and dinner. The local wine is a dry white (my favorite) with a delicate bouquet and nice finish. Being a costal wine it also has a bit of sea tang to it (my husbands words). I don’t usually drink soda, but I have to admit ‘La Limonata’ (Lemon Soda) sure tasted good, on those hot afternoons. The one thing I didn’t see, was iced tea and was only able to drink hot tea for breakfast and in the evenings. I’m surprised I didn’t go into withdraw.

I love eating out in foreign countries, surrounded by people from all over the world. One night as we sat waiting for our meal and enjoying our wine, I noticed there were Swedes sitting to our right. A couple from down-under to our left, a family from somewhere in the UK behind us and Americans everywhere. I’m sorry, I have a bad habit of listening in on the people around me…

Every evening after dinner we’d wander out to a charming little Cliffside Bar, where I’d sip tea and we’d watch the sun go down on another perfect day in Italy. Bellissimo!

ABC Award

In the midst of getting my book launched two very special things happened; I was nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award and an ABC Award! (My mom always said good things come in three.) I literally jumped for joy. You see, I’ve struggled to get my blog up and running and have made a few embarrassing mistake along the way… Thats why no one could have been more surprised or delighted by these awards than I.

I accepted the Versatile Blogger Award in my last post, so now its on to the ABC (Awesome Blog Contest) Award. I received this award from Ms. Katykins at Beforiforget. Even though we’ve never met (only through our blogs) I feel as if Kate is a true friend. Her blog is without a doubt my favorite, she writes and shares everything and anything, do check it out! Thank you Kate 🙂

The award asks recipients to name 26 alphabetical things about themselves and then nominate other bloggers…

A = Alive and well and living in Norway.

B = Blond hair and blue eyes.

C = Cake, I love it.

D = Divorced and remarried.

E = Eager to please.

F = Fussy, about certain things.

G = Grandmother to four and one on the way.

H = Harry is my husband.

I  = Invisible at times.

J = Jane Austin, my favorite.

K = Kind to all.

L = Lucky in many ways.

M = Mother to six.

N = Nag, yes its true if I want something I can be a real nag.

O = Overwhelmed, lately.

P = Pessimistic, I see the glass half empty.

Q = Quality over quantity, is what I believe.

R = Realist, is that another word for pessimist?

S = Scrapoholic. I love to scrapbook.

T = Tea, I drink countless cups a day.

U = Unsure of myself.

V = Vacuum, I do it a lot.

W = Worker!

X = Xmas, my favorite holiday.

Y = Yawn, sorry its getting late.

Z = Zucchini, I throw it in everything.

Since I live in Norway, I think I should do the three extra letters in the Norwegian alphabet as well.

Æ = Ærlig, it means honest.

Ø = Øl, it means beer. Make mine cold.

Å = Åpenhet, it means openness. You can’t get any more open or honest than writing a memoir.

Now for the blogs I nominate…

Its All About Purple – reading this blog is like taking a five minute coffee break (tea break for me) its always short, sweet and colorful.

Rendezvous With Renee – This blog makes me laugh out loud and lets face it, we all need to do that.

One More Morning – I love poetry but can’t write it myself, thats why I come here. Lily’s beautiful poetry always pulls on my heart strings.

Expat Alien – She’s lived everywhere… Here is where I go to meet the world.

I Was An Expat Wife – I have a connection with this blog, because I too was an expat wife. (Who has now come home).

Wordgeyser – This is a special blog written by a special lady, who has kindly answered all my desperate messages asking which widgets I need for what.

A Good Sense of Smell

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Imagine my surprise when on a dreary day in March 2005, my Norwegian husband came home from work and made this announcement:

“There was a meeting at work today, and I was asked to work in Houston for the next two years!”

After living fifteen years in Norway, this Jersey girl was finally going home. Well, not exactly…

In a blur of packing and unpacking we made our way to the lone-star state, where we lived for the next two years in an elegant home on a quite cul-de-sac.

It was at my sons bus stop where I met the other ladies of the cul-de-sac. Congregating at eight o’clock in the morning, dressed in work-out-attire, clutching mugs of steaming hot coffee and squeezing any scrap of fresh gossip they could from one another. (Note to self…bring a cup of tea to the bus stop with me tomorrow) I felt exactly as if were on Wisteria Lane.

I showed up, introduced myself and we quickly fell into a one sided question and answer session. They already knew we were from Norway because they knew someone, who knew someone, who knew our landlord. Long after the bus had driven off with our children one of them remarked on how good I spoke English, for being Norwegian. I set the record straight, letting them know I came from New Jersey! Which in turn opened a conversation on how I met my husband and ended up living in Norway.

Long story short, I don’t think any of them made it to yoga that morning and by the time I finished telling my story one of them said, “I think I smell a book.”

Well, she must have had a very good nose because here I am seven years later, on my way to The Hague, for my book launch on Friday!