What can you fit in a box?

This is a post I wrote the day after I came back from my 3-months in Norway, never posted it, and found it on my computer over the weekend.  Better late than never!

I plan to start blogging regularly again for 2009.  Right now, all my free time is taken spending time with my new roommate, eating my new roommate’s delicious cooking, and wishing that my new roommate and I had a dishwasher.  Two people who love to cook produce a seriously endless stream of dirty caked-on-nightmare-what-is-growing-on-that dishes, pots and pans that don’t even begin to fit in my refrigerator-sized kitchen.  

Okay, I haven’t just been sitting around eating and washing dishes.   I’m also taking a couple classes – a children’s writing course and Italian class aka my weekly massacring of a beautiful language.  I’m pretty sure I sound less Italian every week and more like a Midwesterner with a mouthful of Jolly Ranchers trying to eat a bowlful of ziti. 

Happy holidays and lots of love to you all!

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Last week as I was packing, I said to Fabio – I can’t believe that I have entire APARTMENT full of stuff back in NYC. This summer I felt like I had everything I needed

Now that I’m home though, I missing what I didn’t know I was missing.  There’s a sense of comfort you get from being around your stuff – what you’re used to.

In NYC, this means convenience. My first night back, I did what I do every time I come home. I got out and WALKED. It was a blissfully un-Norwegian hot, sunny, steamy September city heat. And everything was within footsteps. Stopped at Zabars for tomorrow’s breakfast then across the street, stopped at my regular pedicure spot. Every NY woman has a reliable Asian-run spot on her block in Manhattan. Then ordered take-out food on- line, no need to talk to a soul and crashed on my couch watching a Pay-Per-View movie eating Thai green curry chicken.

These conveniences are certainly something I could do without in a foreign country, right? Every New Yorker has to adapt to life without them when they inevitably move out to the foreign lands of New Jersey or Westchester County. Is Norway or Italy any different in this regard?

Then there’s the stuff I am missing in hindsight. Is this some kind of neurological disorder? I am back. I miss my teakettle. I miss that there’s a spot on the wall to hang my Sierra Club calendar that I buy every year. I miss my big fat, paper cookbooks. I miss my stash of greeting cards that I can sort through when someone has a birthday I’ve remembered at the last minute. I miss my Alpico plates from Zabars with the unmatching NYC bowls from Fish’s Eddy. I am so happy and comfortable to be ensconsed in all this cozy, familiar world that I am missing it in retrospect.

I especially miss my comfy bed and the four pillows I pile around me every night. 

Although last night, even the smothering comfort of my four pillows couldn’t drown out missing my sweet Italian boyfriend sleeping next to me, warm and adorable.

There’s also no replacing making a new recipe for dinner with Jen or sipping tea while she’s nursing the bean.

With a few special exceptions, my friends and family live such a distance that the relationships are portable. I hope. Because the rest of it I can put in a box.

When is a rug a doormat?

craigslist rug

craigslist rug

I’m sick of being nice, honest and midwestern.  If you’re midwestern and NOT nice and honest, please don’t be offended by my use of the stereotype. 

I just sold a rug on Craigslist for $35.  It was posted for $50.  Here’s the dialog of the trade.  You be the judge. 

Rug-Buying-Dude: Thanks for showing me the rug.  Hmmm…it really is a very SMALL rug.  $50 is a lot…  You know, I’m getting divorced and refurnishing my whole apartment…. giving her everything. 

Midwestern-Girl: Oh really?  Well congratulations!  So what do you think is fair?  Make me an offer.

RBD: Oh!  I thought you’d feel bad for me!  How about $30?

MWG: No, I’m divorced too.  It’s the start of a new chapter in your life.  Really!  How about $35?*

RBD: (Puzzled pause.)  Why didn’t you counter with $40?

MWG: Because I felt bad…

RBD: Ha!  So my story worked!  Do you have change for $40?

MWG: No.*   Oh, just kidding, I actually do. (reaching into my back pocket)

So let’s review.  I had 2 opportunities to stay firm and get more money, as indicated with asterisks* in the above dialogue.  I waffled on both.  WHY AM I SUCH A WOSS?

Granted, the real reason that I “felt bad” is because I KNEW that the rug was heavily used and only semi-vacuumed, unlike MY craigslist story of rug newness and recent professional cleaning.  I felt that the rug wasn’t really worth what I was asking.  Furthermore, I had just eaten a large quantity of garlic in my fresh pesto dinner and was self-conscious of my deadly garlic breath talking to this craigslist dude.

So I lose because HIS fake story trumped MY fake story?   Because I’m unable to fib, even in a craigslist situation where it’s totally expected and possibly acceptable?   grrrrrr

Going 100% digital

Today’s accomplishments:

1) Completed uploading entire CD collection to computer.
2) Sold 90 CDs for meager but exciting profit of $112.22 on spun.com.  Was not able to sell Justin Timberlake’s Justified, Arrested Development (the group not the show), or Ravel’s Bolero.
3) Disposed of 30 cassette tapes excluding ancient recording of Lynn, Jen and Emily singing John Denver’s Country Road at Troy High’s All Night Graduation party (1989).  I don’t have a tape player so this retention is inexplicable.
4) Took out garbage.
5) Completed no real “work” related to corporate paycheck.

Next step, organization and shipping of the contents of approximately 20 photo albums and 3 boxes of hard copy photos to online photographic scanner.  Paper be gone!!

The piece de resistance…  the glossy paper cookbook stronghold.  This digital thing might just turn out to be all talk.

I can’t read, Liz Lemon!

Two days ago I was sure there was a reality TV show competition going on at our local supermarket, ICA. The market was PACKED in the middle of the day on a weekday and people were running around like mad in the freezer section with shopping carts, trying to snatch up as many frozen food items as possible. The checkout lines were horrendous with all these cart people and I was pissed off that I had to wait my turn behind a woman with a full cart AND hand basket full of frozen cod, salmon and fish sticks.

I was thinking, wow, these Norwegians really like their frozen seafood.  And then I thought, maybe a really big storm or the apocalypse is coming and that’s why they’re stocking up on frozen food items.  That’s what happens every time there is a blizzard watch or hurricane warning in NYC.  Bread and milk fly off the shelves.  Maybe Norwegians stock up on fish instead.  Maybe I should be buying more than 6 strips of bacon and some olive oil today.

Anyway, I left the ICA, the sun rose the next day, and I forgot all about the incident… until I passed the supermarket again.  Absolute SCADS of people in the produce section.

I still can’t read Norwegian, but I finally interpreted what the advertisements outside the store were saying.  “40% off all fresh fruits and vegetables on Thursday.”  So I went in with the rest of the hoard and picked up some tasty discount fruits and veggies. 

All Norwegians speak English, but everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is written in Norwegian and rarely translated.  I now know what it’s like to be illiterate.  I have considered starting to sign my name with an ‘X’.  Although I love foreign languages and have learned some Norwegian basics, I struggle with motivation since this impractical language is only spoken by 4 million people – half the population of New York City. 

That, and I’m still trying to crack the code on the language my boyfriend speaks – Italian.  One foreign language at a time, please.

When you’re illiterate in Norway, every day holds mysteries.  I can now relate better to the ancient Egyptians, unable to explain the incomprehensible sunrise and sunset, they determined that Ra, the Sun God, pulled a chariot across the sky while wearing a sun disk hat on his head.  I’m sure it seemed logical at the time.  Everyone needs some order and explainations in their universe.  When I was unable to explain the frozen foods frenzy, I determined that there was a reality TV show competition going on in our local ICA.  It could happen.

Today’s ICA offering is 40% off the entire Santa Maria Tex-Mex product line.  Authentic Mexican food did not survive the long trip across the Atlantic.  I cannot bear to witness to carts full of powdered, fake-Mexican caca, so I’m boycotting ICA for the day and cutting up bargain fruit salad at home instead.

ICA in the Aurlandsfjord
ICA in the Aurlandsfjord

Photo of another ICA on a fjord, from the fjord tour I took this week. 

It seemed like a really exotic place for an ICA.

The death gong of summer

I really hate my job. 

And that is what I would like to talk about, but it’s not productive, so I’m going to talk about photography in a minute.  But seriously.  I f-ing hate it.  The return date for my leave of absence was set at Sept 1st.  Suddenly my company realizes Sept 1st is a holiday and now they are trying to make my return date Sept 2nd so they don’t have to pay me for the holiday.  Bastards.

Additionally, I just found out I didn’t get a raise this year for the first time EVER IN MY LIFE.  Yes, I know I’ve been on leave of absence for the last 3 months.  So that means none of the satisfied clients and late nights and weekends worked in the first 9 months of the performance year count?  I see.

Furthermore, I am mad at myself because I’ve totally dropped the ball on one of my Goals for 2008: Find a new job that provides some level of motivation and inspiration.  I haven’t used my Red Le Cruset braising pot yet either, but I am confident that the pretty pot and I will be fast friends upon my return, so that goal is no biggie. 

I did have a revelation on the train from Boston to New York earlier this month.  I was force-feeding myself this book on climate change and realized I don’t want to go back to school for environmental studies.  I thought I did.  But I realized I can be conscious of not trashing the planet on a daily basis and that’s enough.  I’m still reading the book.

As the train passed Mystic, Connecticut and some other really adorable New England towns and marshes filled with herons, I had another insight.  I thought about how much I really enjoyed tending to my boyfriend’s tracina wound in Tuscany this summer.  I enjoyed every bit of it – popping the blister, trimming the dead skin, analyzing how best to treat and bandange and extract the sand getting trapped inside the sore.  (Tip: do not walk on the beach with an open wound.)  There’s a reason I majored in Biology.

So I have narrowed my future job list down to physical therapy, nursing, massage therapy, and fake-Italian zonzelle shop owner.  I am totally serious about all of these.  I’ve never seen the yummy zonzelle in the U.S. but I think Americans are being deprived of this super yummy Tuscan delicacy.  Dough fried in olive oil (so it’s healthy!) that can be:

     – eaten plain and hot, 

     – stuffed with pancetta, mozzarella, etc and then fried and eaten oozing and hot,  or

     – fried and afterwards spread with nutella and eaten hot

Shit, I just drooled on the keyboard.  It can also be eaten cold, but as you can see, I recommend eating it HOT.  We’d either sell them out of a truck like the Wafels people – maybe get lucky with a spot in the Village, SoHo, or Williamsburg – or out of a tiny shop on the Lower East Side.

mmmm zonzelle

mmmm zonzelle

Despite my enthusiasm for the zonzelle shop, it is more likely that I will go into something medically related. 

I’ll have to talk about the photographs tomorrow.  I don’t want to taint them with today’s angry ranting.

Dried fish snacks at midnight

The midnight sun makes you feel like you’re on drugs. 

How else could the sky look as clear and blue as noon, while the light is yellow like a sunset?  This phenomenon happens in the arctic latitudes around June/July when the sun never dips below the horizon.  There’s 24-hours of daylight…spectacular, inexplicably magical, really-beautiful-but-I-wish-this-stupid-hostel-had-curtains-so-I-could-sleep daylight. 

I’m not sure how it feels for other people, but I believe our midnight sun euphoria was heightened by the Amazing Race challenges we had to surpass to get to our arctic sun-watching destination:

– Tempermental arctic weather forecast:  We obsessively stalked the forecast for two weeks on three websites before booking our flight the day before departure. As our plane departed, the forecast was for cloudless skies.  By the time we arrived several hours later, massive arctic cloud banks were gathering exactly where the sun would be dipping that night. 

– Location, location, location:  Immediately upon arrival in the Lofoten Islands, we realized that we couldn’t see the midnight sun from the southeastern side of the mountainous island where we booked our stay.  The sun dips in the northwest.  Yes, we were in precisely the right place notto see the sun.  And there was no rental car agency in the town of A i Lofoten, population 11, where our ferry docked. 

These are the mountains I'm talking about.

– Youth hostel, old people:  We booked our 2-night stay in a youth hostel, the only room available in high season.  Fab and I are both 37 years old.  A youth hostel is alsoprecisely the wrong place to be.  The hostel had bunk beds and handkerchiefs for curtains.  I repeat, handkerchiefs for curtains.  In the land of 24 hour sun.

As fake Amazing Race contestants, we were ready to kick some ass to see the midnight sun.  We were going to see the damn sun.  No matter what.

First off, we needed to get to the midnight sun watching spot.  Then we would deal with the clouds.   Our options: 

a) spontaneously hike 7 hours over a mountain pass to a spot on the uninhabited, north-facing other side of the island, hike back to hostel at 1am

b) bike 34 kilometers each way over above-pictured mountainous arctic terrain to northern beach, or

c) take a bus (which stopped running at 9pm) to a town 64 km away to pay exorbitant fee for the last rental car within a 3 island radius.  Car only available for 18.5 hours. 

We selected Option C.  And as we drove up at 11pm to our midnight sun watching spot, the clouds parted.  I swear. 

Okay, we’re not meteorologists and we were being a little paranoid.  I told you, the midnight sun is like drugs.  The cloud banks were never actually where the sun was dipping.  We were looking in the wrong spot.  But still.
The light is inexplicably beautiful and makes you do strange, cheesy things.  I was moved to take a picture of a white horse in a midnight sunny meadow, munching grass in the golden sun.  I’ll post it later, so you believe me. 
A little before midnight, a retired Norwegian fisherman and veteran of the north sea oil rigs stopped by our watching spot for a chat.  He was a tough salty sea dog.  Like all Norwegians, he spoke nearly perfect English and was extremely kind.  He offered us some of the dried cod he was carrying around in a plastic bag, a popular local snack, eaten right off the skin of the fish.  He left a little before midnight, giving us the rest of the fish, bag, skin and all, to snack on til til the sun started rising again. 
30am Lofoten

12:30am Lofoten

Serves me right for sleeping in

Let me preface this adventure from my recent trip to England with the fact that I absolutely adore Kayte and her family and they are welcome in Oslo, New York, whereever, anywhere, anytime. 

 

– Kayte, forgive me for using your freaking adorable kiddies as fodder for my blog and more so, for the really hideous vocabulary lesson. 

– To all others, Kayte’s kiddies are under normal circumstances phenomenally well-raised, well-behaved and well-mannered British children who respond with statements like “Yes please, Daddy” when asked if they would like some milk.  

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I woke up to the sound of muffled children’s voices.  My ears were stuffed with foam earplugs.  More murmuring and giggles.  Behind the my thick, dark eye mask, I pretended to still be asleep in the guest bed at the far end of Jaego’s room. 

 

The 3-year old was usually up early and it sounded like Jess, Jaeg’s 2-year old sister, had waddled in to wake up her brother and play.  The kids whispered more in quiet voices, then scampered out of the room.      

 

I could still hear them talking softly and laughing in the hallway outside the bedroom.  I figured their mom, my friend Kayte, was still sleeping, so I pulled out my earplugs to keep an ear on them, thinking, it’s great that they can play together so nicely.

 

 Jess is a bit difficult for me to understand if she’s talking right to my face, much less in the other room, but I thought I heard her say, “Those yinn’s socks?  Those yinn’s socks.”  She pronounces my name with a silent “L”.  Why was she asking about my socks out there?  I thought I’d left them by the bed.  Oh well, maybe the kids had taken my socks out of the room and were playing with them.  No biggie. 

 

 Foreshadowing:  It is worth noting that Jess is into all things girly, shiny and pink.   My socks were none of these things.

 

I dozed in and out of sleep for the next 30 minutes or so, then decided to get up for good, carefully tip-toeing through the jungle of Jaeg’s plastic knights, wooden castles, and shoes toward the door.  My ugly green socks were still next to the bed.

 

Through the doorway, Jaeg’s round grinning mug in is the first thing I see.  His chubby round head is covered with the usual tousled mop of sandy blond curls and of course, he’s wearing his red and blue Spiderman pajamas, but there’s a new, thick coating of black paste covering his ruddy cheeks, nose, and forehead.  His bright blue eyes and grin smiling broadly behind the black muck. 

 

I am moderately confused.  “What’s that on your face?” I laugh, squatting down to touch some of the black crust on his cheek and hear a giggle to my right, coming from the bathroom. 

 

There’s Jess, her face marked with the same black crud in a slightly more sophisticated pattern kind of like a cat.  A big black Cheshire grin, black nose and long streaks of black goo in her strawberry blonde hair.  She’s wearing her pink flower nightgown, which also has the black mystery substance on both sleeves, and is holding a roll of toilet paper.

 

My eyes travel underneath the white pedestal sink to my paisley toiletry bag.  It’s overturned and is barfing all the airline regulation sized bottles out onto the white tile floor.  Half of them are open and oozing onto the tiles.  It kind of looks like each tiny bottle was set with a mini explosive device to detonate at the same time. 

 

 “Jesus Christ!” I curse in a whisper, trying not to wake Kayte.  The first bottle I see is the waterproof mascara tube, lying open on the orange bath mat, which is now covered with a waterproof pattern of black smudges.

 

“Shit!”  With each new discovery, there’s a new expletive, none of them fit for the kids’ ears.  My toothbrush is laying on the white floor tile, the bristles coated in mascara like thick eyelashes. 

 

 “What the fuck.”  There’s my lychee-scented body cream, antioxidant nighttime facial lotion, and SPF 45 sunscreen moisturizing the white porcelain of the sink and wood-patterned toilet seat. 

 

 “Why??”  My tiny bottle of prescription eye drops is also open, it’s pink lid off and mascara caked around the eye dropper.

 

Still squatting, I spin on my heels to face them.  I’m not a parent, but I guessed that I needed to make it clear that this was not okay… before I took photos of the hysteria for posterity.  “You knew this bag was mine.  You know you shouldn’t have touched something that wasn’t yours.  I think you owe me an apology.”  Jaeg’s lip trembled and a meek “sorry” emerged from the blackness of his face.  Jess just stared with big eyes, blinking through her cat mask. 

 

I reached into the bag for the unopened eye-makeup remover.  “So you know this stuff is permanent unless you use a special cleaner.  It will stay on you all day, all night, even in the swimming pool, forever…  Do you want to me to use the special cleaner to take it off?”  Big vigorous nods and wide blue eyes from both of them in response.

 

I started the scrubbing process with Jess, too young to know how to apologize, but old enough to know how to find and open everything with a pretty, girly pink lid within reach the bathroom. 

 

 

  Jess, suspected instigator and pink predator

 

  Jaegs, accomplice with alleged weapon of destruction