Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Our Lives in 2010

At the end of 2010 it seems fitting to cast my mind back at the year and think about some of the things that happened to us - a year which has been full of changes for us as a family with The Professor taking up a new job in Edinburgh. We knew it would be a challenge, but although it is not ideal for the family to be split over two places, we feel we can conclude that the arrangements are working.
At least for now.

Here are some pictures to give a few snapshots of the year that is almost over (as I started blogging in February these snapshots start then as well):
Our Boy posing with the Best Neighbor in the world before going on a winter hike

Visiting Hard Rock Cafe in London with relatives from Norway
Celebrating Nowruz - Persian New Year
Buying the flat in Edinburgh for The Professor

walking in the English countryside
Speech Day at Our Boy's school

summer fun - learng to punt on the river

... and on a different type of boat in Norway after our holidays in France

back to school...

visiting the farm shop at Gogmagog
Meeting up with 'old' friends in London
Christmas with new decorations from Namaste
I wish you all a very happy 2011!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Recommended Viewing: Yet another period drama from BBC: Upstairs and Downstairs

borrowed from BBC

BBC's Christmas gift this year is the period drama "Upstairs and Downstairs". They are showing episode no 3 tonight (not certain how many episodes there are).

I love these period dramas, but I am not sure this is as good as Downton Abbey , but I am happy to spend another lazy
evening in the company of some of Britain's very good actors...


Sunday, 26 December 2010

Barrel Race!

We woke up to a gloriously sunny and bright day which was perfect for the Barrel Race!

The pubs in Grantchester arrange the traditional Barrel Race on Boxing Day. It is a bit of fun where four of the pubs in the village set up teams (men/women/open) to compete in a barrel race in one of the village streets. People come from all over to watch the antics and end the outing with a visit to the pubs for some lunch. Not sure who won, actually - not that important, really...
Perhaps I shouldn't say that - there are county divisions too!

Our Boy and I walked over the meadows to watch the race and had a quick spot of lunch in one of the pubs. On the way home we found this ice sculpture somebody has painstakingly made from ice sheets taken from the river.
See the thickness - that is a good 10 cm on some of them!
There were lots of people about on the meadows and some tobogganing as well!

The rest of the afternoon was spent watching the old Danish series Matador which I picked up some episodes of when I was home. It is taking me a long time to get through them as I savour every moment and only allow myself a little at the time

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

A little belatedly (because of no Internet for a couple of days...):
Merry Christmas to all!

We have had a couple of very nice and quiet days after the hectic run up to Christmas. Isn't it strange how it ALWAYS is hectic in the run up, no matter how well you think you are prepared? But I guess it goes with the territory... My added complication this year was catching a nasty cold. It knocked me out a bit, but not too much. What is worse is that I have thus not tasted any of the Christmas dinner. Don't misunderstand me - I have EATEN it, but it is incredible how you need your nose to be able to taste the food! Not to worry - my men said it tasted better than ever, and I will most likely make the same meal again for New Year's Eve and hopefully my tastebuds will be restored again.

But Christmas Eve brought a surprise I had completely forgotten about. The lovely and very sweet Namaste from the blog Kreativ Impulsiv sent me the incredibly cute little "nisse-girls" on the bottom right in the collage above as well as really nostalgic little tablecloth (which I have forgotten to take a picture of so that will be later).
What an amazing surprise - and right in time! The little nisse-girls already belong to the Christmas tree decorations and I will be reminded of you every Christmas!

Christmas is the real time for traditions.
I am lucky being married to somebody who "only" knows how to celebrate Christmas through being with me so we do it MY way and there are no compromises to be made ;-)

But I noticed this year that even our "fixed" traditions change a little with time. Yes, we have porridge for lunch (with a secret almond in and a marsipan pig for prize), Our Boy gets a stocking with a magzine and some sweets and clementines in the morning on Christmas Eve (actually MY 44 year old stocking from the USA - top right in the top collage), we eat pinnkjott for Christmas dinner followed creme caramel pudding for dessert at 5 pm and open the presents thereafter.
But it dawned on me that these years in England has also brought some new traditions for us: we now have party crackers decorating the table (top right in the collage above), we play charades and groan and laugh at the silliest jokes in these crackers, I now prepare the Brussel sprouts with pancetta and I make roast potatoes (will post a great recipe some other time)  in stead of (boring) boiled potatoes. Ok, I admit they are not big and drastic changes, but for a day that for so many years was impossible to fantom could deviate from the fixed script, these are still changes.

Still, the events of Christmas Eve is very predictable in our house.
I admit Christmas is a very sensitive time and we miss our families and friends overseas, but given the weather and the difficulties with travelling this time of year -
this is still how WE like it.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


The Cat posing in the garden this summer

Today is the 5th anniversary since The Cat joined our family!
Our Boy and I had been wanting a cat for a long time and amazingly enough there were no cats to be had that fall... I had called all sorts of organisations like the RSPCA and as December approached I was told they would not give out any cats as it was too close to Christmas.
"A cat is for life - not just for Christmas" is the saying.

But suddenly on 22 December 5 years ago I had a phone call from a lady saying she had 7 little black male kittens in her RSPCA branch and as she had heard I had been looking for a long time, she felt sure I was serious about having a cat.

Our Boy, my friend and I jumped in the car and drove to the RSPCA unit. Lo and behold - there were 7 little black kittens in a pen and now came the difficult choice - who to take? We wanted them all! However, we were already stretching The Professor's patience with ONE cat, so bringing 7 home was out of the question...
I told Our Boy to go and sit in the pen and choose one while we dealt with the paperwork. The deal is that we give a donation of £50 and the cat is then guaranteed vaccinated and also has an appointment to have it neutered when it is old enough.

After a short while Our Boy came out with a tiny little creature with big eyes: "It wasn't my first choice as I had decided to take the first one that came to me, but then I saw this one - the smallest of them all. His brothers bullied him and pushed him away from the food bowl and wouldn't let him eat, so I decided he was the one for us".

Of course this little dear came home with us and in the car we discussed a suitable name for him.
Well, it was close to Christmas... and who are we all waiting for on the 24th....? Saint Nicholas, of course or better known as Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus...SNIX!
Snix became his name even if he like everybody else here on the blog has an alias -
The Cat. 

He is a very cuddly and loving little fellow with a distinct place in our lives and like all cats enjoys the comforts of life.
In other words - he has not stepped outside for almost a week now...

To be honest, I am mildly allergic to cats and also reacted to The Cat. But I didn't want to admit this to The Professor (who had been against having a cat in the first place...) so I persevered and didn't say anything...
To my delight I discovered after a couple of months that I was no longer reacting to The Cat...
I still react to other cats, but our cat is safe!


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Tried and Tested: Chocolate Peanut-Butter Cups

This recipe was made thinking of my cousin's-cousin (yep) who is MAD about a lot of things ;-) particularly Reeses Chocolates.
I will make these for you next time you are over, V!

I have based the recipe on Nigella's, but with some amendments to her chocolate mixture. It still became a bit thicker than I would have liked, but the taste is divine and they melt in your mouth...!

So V, - this is for you:

Mix to a sandy paste (either in a mixer or by hand)
50 gram dark brown sugar
200 gram icing sugar
50 gram soft butter
200 gram smooth peanut butter

Roll into small balls and press them into small petit-four paper cases to form the base of the sweet. You should get about 45-50 out of this recipe.

For the topping:
Melt gently 200-300 grams of choclate in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water
(I used mainly dark chocolate, but that might be a bit too bitter to some people's taste)
Here is where I differed from Nigella as I added
1 dl single cream
50 gram icing sugar
because the melted chocolate was just too thick to work with and this also made the chocolate less bitter.

Let the chocolate mixture cool a little and spoon 1 teaspoon ful into each of the petit-four cases to cover the peanut base.

Cool and store in the fridge.

Monday, 20 December 2010

... and then the snow came...

There has been chaos here in England over the weekend.
So many people have been stuck because of the snow. Here in our corner of England it started snowing late Saturday afternoon - just as we were waiting for The Professor to make his way back from Edinburgh for Christmas. He was only delayed a little over an hour - nothing really! Given this weather, we are fortunately not going anywhere for the holidays and can therefore enjoy and marvel over the beauty of the white landscape. My heart and thoughts go out to those stuck in airports waiting to go and see their families!

I took this picture of the light in our garden late in the night after it had stopped snowing.
The snow is piling up on the spiderwebs - strong stuff!

Last night The Ladies Who Dine went to the Carols by Candlelight service in Great St. Mary's Church. This is our annual event and it really puts us in the Christmas spirit walking in the snow past the beautiful college buildings on our way to singing the old hymns while the church is only lit with candles.

Earlier in the day I had been cleaning the house and getting it ready for the decorations which will be going up in a few days.
I also made some more Christmas treats - it seems we are all hatching down, getting ready for hibernation and preparing for more bad weather.
Not even The Cat wants to go out ...


Sunday, 19 December 2010

Tried and Tested: Rocky Road (to Heaven)

Last year Our Boy and I made for the first time Nigella's Rocky Road and it is divine! It has already made its place in our annual "must have's" for Christmas.
I have renamed it
"Rocky Road (to Heaven)".
Please don't think about the calories...

You need:
250g dark chocolate, chopped
150g milk chocolate, chopped (we actually prefer to use only dark chocolate)
175g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
4 tbsp golden syrup
200g Amaretti biscuits (you can use other types of bisquits if you have a particular favorite)
150g shelled Brazil nuts (optional)
150g red glacé cherries
125g mini marshmallows

1 tbsp icing sugar
edible glitter, to decorate (optional)

How to do it:
1.Place the dark and milk chocolate pieces into a heavy-based pan with the butter and golden syrup and cook over a low heat to melt and combine.
2.Place the amaretti biscuits into a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin to make crumbs of various sizes.
3.Place the Brazil nuts into another freezer bag and bash in the same way.
4.Take the pan of melted chocolate mixture off the heat and add the crushed biscuits and nuts.
5.Add the glacé cherries and mini marshmallows.
6. Fold the mixture carefully to coat all with the syrupy chocolate mixture.
7. Pour the mixture into a 25cm/10in x 30cm/12in greased and lined baking tray and smooth the surface as much as possible - don't worry - it will look bumpy
8.Refrigerate for two hours, or until firm enough to cut. Dust with icing sugar, then sprinkle with edible glitter if you wish.
9.Remove the block of rocky road from the tray and cut into sensibly sized pieces
- at your discrection...


Thursday, 16 December 2010

Domestic Goddess

borrowed from the Internet

Life has just been a whirlwind this last week with all sorts of farewell-do's from office parties to farewell lunches and end-of-year-productions. Mixing into this is my pre-Christmas trip to Norway, so no wonder it feels like I am on a merry-go-round... But this time of year is always like this and although I enjoy it, I am looking forward to next week. Advent is the best part of Christmas for me. The build-up, the anticipation and the preparations are what matters. Come Boxing Day I am kind of done with Christmas...

I therefore tend to take the week before Christmas off so I can thoroughly enjoy being a Domestic Goddess! There is no end to my plans for all the cooking, cleaning, decorating I have in mind ... I even woke up at 5.30 am today with all sorts of plans spinning around in my head...!


Most of the gifts are done or at least thought of, but I am sure I will make time for some visits to the shops. It kind of goes with the territory to be stuck in the shops for some hours.

The Pinnekjøtt for our Christmas Eve dinner is in place, and yesterday I accidentally discovered that our local butcher can supply me with pork belly with the ribs on so I can make "ribbe" - traditional Norwegian Christmas fare - for Christmas Day
(or perhaps wait till Boxing Day as it tends to become a lot of food on Christmas Eve...).
I wonder why I never asked them before! This will be the first time in the 11 years I have been here that I make it, so even more things to look forward to!

The local butcher is such a blessing and we are lucky to have an old fashioned butcher in our neighborhood!
I noticed that today is the last day to put in your order for turkeys before the holidays. We don't bother with turkey in our family as it is simply too much food and we find the meat rather bland and often too dry. Goose is also very popular over here. However, it seems to have become even more popular to order ready prepared from the butchers "Bird within bird within bird" which is a boned goose stuffed with a chicken, stuffed with a pheasant with pork & orange stuffing between each layer.

Sounds very interesting, but again, too much food for us, I think...

Monday, 13 December 2010

"Kongepjolter" - Royal Highball

I am back after a lovely long pre-Christmas weekend in Norway.
It was great seeing friends and family in Halden and Oslo and to bring back some Scandinavian Christmas spirit as well as our Christmas dinner (pinnekjott, mmmm)! And it wasn't too cold, down to -15 only...

Like everywhere else, friends and family gather in these days of anticipation to enjoy seasonal food and drinks and I was treated to many lovely meals and tasty drinks. 
You are all so generous and loving.
I feel very blessed and miss you all.

Just thought I would share a tip for a great festive drink with long roots in Norway. I was introduced to it by my best friend back home many years ago and I have taken the liberty of translating it to "Royal Highball" (Kongepjolter).
Although, I don't like brown liquor (ie cognac or whiskey), this combination is absolutely delicious.
Word of warning - please beware - it is very potent stuff!

You need Cognac and Champagne.
Over a couple of icecubes, pour one centiliter of Cognac in a class and fill the rest with Champagne.
That is all there is to it.

It is the stuff that stories and legends are made of...


I am now off to the office Christmas Party
- I wonder if they are ready to be introduced to Royal Highballs too!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Christmas Recycle Tip

Every year after Christmas I go through the Christmas cards we have received. Some are saved and most are usually put in special recycling  boxes in the supermarkets.

Last year I had an idea to reuse those that didn't have any writing on the back of the picture page and cut them up to use them as 'to-from labels' to decorate the presents.  Just punch a hole in the corner and they are ready to be threaded onto the parcel's ribbon.

This way I didn't have to buy any labels this year and also now reuse the pretty pictures!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


picture borrowed from

This gripping cold is having severe consequences on our family life.

The Professor was due back this afternoon after almost three weeks away in Edinburgh, but he called yesterday morning saying he had NO WATER in the flat! We couldn't quite believe the pipes could be frozen as the flat is on the top floor and you would expect the pipes to freeze at the entry point to a property, but that seems to be what has happened as all the other neighbours still had water. The plumber couldn't make it as he was snowed in(!), but he was hoping to manage to get his car out to come and have a look today. Obviously, The Professor can't leave till we know the pipes are safe and the water is flowing as normal. 

It is not a good feeling not knowing what damage might already have happened and I can imagine the neighbour in the flat below ours is also concerned...

At least he has now met and spoken with all the neighbours in the building...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

The Ship of the Fens
I can't believe the end of My Friend's stay is approaching the end.
I have been so lucky to have had a friend from Norway staying in town this fall and it has been wonderful. But as Christmas is approaching, they are getting ready to return back home.
We took a break from the normal Christmas preparations on Sunday and went to Ely to see the Cathedral.
Ely itself isn't much to talk about, in my opinion. A rather sleepy little town, still very cute, but the Cathedral is the big reason for going and for the existence of the town in the first place.

Don't be fooled by the pictures!
It was absolutely freezing. Whilst most of the country is wrapped in a blanket of snow, we don't have any in our parts, but the temperature is absolutely "chillin' us to the bone"!

Being so close to Christmas it seemed very fitting visiting a cathedral.
The Cathedral is simply beautiful.
It is absolutely enormous and very richly decorated although much was destroyed during the Reformation. It was built during 1083 - 1375, as a shrine to St. Æthelthryth, daughter of the Anglo-Saxon King Anna of East Anglia. Despite two marriages she remained a virgin and in the end became a nun and founded a monastry in Ely. 

More of the history can be found here.

It must really be something special attending service in this Cathedral on Christmas or even just a concert.

It must really be something special attending service in this Cathedral on Christmas or even just a concert.

It was a great time to go sightseeing as everybody is busy gearing up for Christmas...

Back home like most parents around the world we are attending (and enduring) end of term celebrations and Christmas performances.
Last night was the end of year event for Our Boy's scout group. Actually, the group has left the scout movement as their activities are a bit too tough for the Scouts. The boys (and now girls) are very fortunate to have a dedicated team taking them on annual mountain climbing events. Depending on their age these events range from climbing mountains in Wales, Sweden, Kenya or even the Himalayas.
I am really pleased Our Boy gets to 'rough it a bit' seeing that he doesn't really have the most 'out-doors type' of parents.


Sunday, 5 December 2010

A Different Beauty Date

picture is borrowed from the Internet and is very true to the experience

Before going off to Ikea yesterday to secure this winter's supply of candles/napkins and Swedish foodstuff, I had an appointment for a different kind of beauty treatment. The Ladies Who Dine had among other things got me a gift voucher for my birthday for a
fish pedicure...

I have to admit I was slightly sceptical at first, but thought
"hey, you only live once, so why not.."

I arrived for my appointment and I was seated in a very comfortable chair while my feet were gently washed by the beauty technician. She then turned the chair and a tank of water with hundreds of tiny little fish swimming around in it appeared. She ordered me to put my feet in and I have to admit I was slightly worried and carefully dipped one foot in - ready to jank it out if need be. The school of fish immediately rushed over to the immersed foot and I giggled as it felt like what I assume it must feel to put my feet in fizzy water (no, have not done THAT before)! I immersed the other foot in the water and a bunch of them came over to the other foot.

It was very strange.

"You will relax into it", said the technician. And she was right. It took a good 10 minutes for me to just sit and watch the fish do their thing and I finally agreed that "no, they are not chewing my feet off" and "yes, it is weirdly comfortable". The fish does not have teeth, rather they are sucking the dead skin cells off. This is apparently a very ancient technique, discovered in Turkey or perhaps in Far East Asia, I believe. For generations, it seems these finned therapists (species Garra rufa) have been employed in the treatment of skin conditions, particularly eczema and psoriasis. It's all to do with the fish saliva as the enzyme (diathanol),  improves the skin regeneration process.
The technician explained how the water was constantly being filtered and that it was completely cleaned between each customer's treatment.
In some countries apparently, they go for whole-body, full-immersion fish spas.
I don't think I could do THAT!

Would I go again?
Hmmm... think it is a case of 'been there, done that'.
The 30-min feet-sucking fish did make the skin feel a bit softer, but I think a good 'normal' pedicure would be equally beneficial.

Besides, the fish didn't paint my nails...

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Inspiration in the Air

picture borrowed from

For those of you in the UK with an interest in anything handmade, crafty and arty, I am sure you are familiar with Kirsty Allsopp's series 'Kirstie's Homemade Home' on Channel 4.
You can pick up lots of inspiring ideas about how to redecorate your home in a creative, budget-friendly and eco-friendly way.
 She shows how to make anything from stained glass windows to crocheting and stitching curtains.

I don't think you can watch the programs on the Internet, but the series has a website with all sorts of short explanatory films with lots of "how-to" instructions like how to make candles/soap/decoupage/crochet/patchwork/print blocks/fit roller blinds or even more seasonal crafts on how to make a Christmas stocking/wreath/Christmas cake/Christmas garlands/Christmas cards etc. etc.

Yep, home making and crafts are definetely 'in the air'!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Advent Surprise!

picture borrowed from

What a surprise!

I had recently asked my Best Friend back home to buy me a copy of the new magazine BoligDrøm to keep till I get to Norway next weekend as I was worried it might be sold out by the time I get there.

But lo and behold!
The magazine was waiting for me as I picked up the post today!!!
And what excellent timing since it is Friday and time to put the feet up, chill out and enjoy!
Thank you, thank you, thank you, snuppa!!!
I am sure I am the happiest Norwegian girl in this town tonight!

Like so many in 'Bloglandia' I also loved the magazine and found much inspiration in it. Also very nice to read more about many of the blogs I read regularly! Yep, this will be one of my regular purchases when I go 'home'!
Me like!

2nd weekend of Advent is soon upon us.
As I mentioned, I will be going 'home' next weekend (I seem to have a lot of 'homes') and this doesn't leave much time for preparations in my English home before the holidays.
One of my traditional 'must-do-before-Christmas-things' is to visit Ikea (need more candles - the English just can't do proper candles...!). We live only about 1 hr away from several Ikea outlets, but somehow it just seems much further and my men are not very keen to accompany me... 
Our Boy claims I have agreed to an annual quota of 1 visit a year (NEVER!). However, I seem to have taken out so many advance visits, that according to his calculations I should not be going there again until he is about 35 (he is presently 14...).

So, he has refused to come, but my Danish Friend will join me and together we will satisfy our need for some Scandinavian Christmas influence from the Swedish retailer.

Talk about Scandinavian harmony!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Through the Eyes of a Visitor

I had briefly mentioned that we had another visitor from 'back home' last weekend, but in the run up to advent I completely forgot to put up any pictures from the visit.

We shared some lovely meals and it is always such a pleasure to show 'the folks back home' my town. It is so easy to become blind to the beauty in the surroundings, so seeing it again through the eyes of a visitor is always a lovely surprise! The pictures are from one of the colleges where we had lunch. The college system means than each student MUST belong to a college in addition to the department or faculty of their chosen study field. Students live in the college, eat here, have most of their social life here and the colleges are responsible for their welfare and tuition. There are 31 colleges in our town and 3 are only for women. Some of the colleges are very old - the oldest was founded in 1284, while the last was founded in 1975.

Look at those worn steps!
Wonder how many feet have climbed these steps since they were built in1347...
Also amazing to see the roses still blooming - just a few days ago! Our Cat woke me up at 6 am this morning in an attempt to go out, but he quickly changed his mind when we saw it was snowing.
Wonder how the roses are doing...