Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cooking Up a Storm

Surprise - eating out in Stavanger is expensive.  Even Thai takeout (meals only) can total $50 for the two of us.  Even when we lived in Houston, though, I tried to cook more often than eat out since I believe it's the best way to make sure I (and my family) eat healthier.  Good thing I've always liked to cook.  I thank my mom for the skills and good old fashioned hunger for the motivation.  It's inspiration that is sometimes difficult to come by..

Enter food blogs, my "map" of choice for new recipes!  I know I'm not the first or the last person to look to food blogs for inspiration, but there's a reason why the popular ones are so... popular.  Their recipes are easy to follow, the meals are tested in their own kitchens on their own families, and the writers are funny and endearing.  If it's also healthy, well that's a good bonus.  Here are 5 meals I've made in the past few weeks from two of my favorite blogs.

The Pioneer Woman - Ree is funny. She uses butter in about everything. And she lives in Oklahoma. We are practically best friends (or, we would be if we ever met...)

Pork Chops with Pineapple Fried Rice

BBQ Comfort Meat Balls
Perry's Plate - Natalie knows a thing or two about processed foods and how to avoid them.  She regularly incorporates fresh fruits and/or vegetables into every meal.  Eating healthy can taste great too!

Creamy Spinach and Avocado Pasta

Sweet Potato Foil Packet Tacos

Food blogs are fun to scan, but I still ask my mom for recipes all the time and help on techniques (her white gravy should win awards) as well as my sister (Thai Chicken Tacos anyone?) and friends for their tried-and-true recipes.  I love the sense of community that sharing food creates and meals bring people together, whether hours are spent in the kitchen or not. Now, who's hungry?

PS I'm also expanding into Norwegian inspired dishes - sveler and shrimp sandwiches so far, but I'll leave the lefse and kumle to the professionals...  I'm also sharing things like green bean casserole and smores with my new friends here! 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mom Visits Norway!

To my adoring fans (aka family) I'm sorry for my long absence!  Between our trip to London and this weekend, we have experienced some of the best and worst weather that Norway has to offer all while introducing our new home to our first three visitors!

Acting as host and hostess has kept Jeff and I on our toes and has made us realize that we have really come a long way in adjusting to our life here.

  • The bathroom window is uncovered and right by the glass shower?  No matter, people can only see your face unless they try really hard to see more (we've tested this).  
  • Need to do some laundry?  Watch your head as you crawl into our "dungeon".  
  • Hands dirty?  Try not to scald yourself because that water can get H.O.T. 
  • Oh, and those people outside with their cameras turned toward the house?  Those are just our friendly, temporary neighbors from the huge cruise ship docked at the harbor.
My mom was our very first visitor AND it was her first time to Europe! She is the perfect first guest because of her "what could be bad about this? I'm in Europe" attitude.  Good thing she was so positive too as gale force winds threatened to blow her back to Oklahoma.



Luckily, her second day was decent and allowed us a pleasurable hike to Manafossen and Man Farm.  Mom is always prepared and had bought hiking shoes before her visit and she was so glad she did!  Warm, dry feet make a girl happy.  She also used those chains like a champ (though, she was admittedly intimidated at first) and completed her first Norwegian hike in high spirits.





Since it was her first time to Europe, we made the most of it and spent a few days in Paris.  Not one of our hardest decisions!  



Even though this was my third time to visit, I always find something new that I love about this city.  This time it was the food*.  I know, I know - how did I not experience great food the first two times?  Answer: tour groups and college budget.  Don't go to Paris on a tight budget and definitely don't go to the restaurants with your whole tour group.  The former prevents you from going to the best brasseries (that really aren't THAT expensive) and the latter sets you up for pre-made, group friendly food.  Not this time! We indulged in wine, escargot, veal, and tarts - oh my!  Thanks Mom for such a fun trip! 



After leaving Paris (and wiping the tears from our eyes) we returned to Norway, in all its rainy glory.  Mom's last few days were filled with a scenic drive and celebrating Norway's independence.  Happy May 17th Norwegian friends!  And even though it was the coldest May 17th on record, the streets were filled with beautiful bunads-wearing Norwegians and the foreign population tough enough to brave the elements.  Did the weather slow down the locals?  Not one bit - smiles were seen on everyone's faces.



Mom eventually had to return home. And I was sad.  But then Jeff drove me to work amid the fjords and the mountains. And I was a little happier.  I'll live closer to her someday, but for now I'm going to enjoy my time in Norway, rain or shine.  I guess that Norwegian spirit is rubbing off on me after all. 



*Curious about where we ate and we thought of our experience?  I am adding reviews to TripAdvisor with username Audrey B! 



Sunday, May 6, 2012

London

London has just soared to the top of my favorite cities list.  I'm not sure if it was the company, the shopping, or the city itself.  Probably a mix of all these plus a dash of royalty - I mean, who doesn't feel like a royal when walking from Buckingham Palace through St. James Park? Well, a girl can pretend at least...

We didn't let a little wind or rain hold us back either.  If Norway has taught us anything, it's that you can't wait on the weather.  Just dress accordingly!  A quick visual of the few stops we made exploring this grand city:












We are fortunate to have a good friend living in Chelsea who hosted us for the weekend (see red X for general location).  We took the Heathrow Express from the airport to Paddington Station (1) where Brittany met us for lunch and took our bags.  First stop - Hyde Park and Kensington Palace (2)!





We enjoyed walking through Hyde Park and would love it if we had Pistol with us, but other than all the puppies, there wasn't much to look at.  We took our time though and eventually made it over to Buckingham Palace (3) where we were surprised with beautiful flowers and sunshine (but, sadly, no Princess Kate sighting, ugh).



A quick stroll through beautiful St. James Park and we were at Westminster Abbey (4), Parliament and the clock tower housing Big Ben (5).  We could even spot the London Eye (6) across the Thames from Westminster Bridge







We ended our excursion in Trafalgar Square (7), wandering down Whitehall along the way.  




With Brittany's guidance and Oyster card in hand, we mastered the area's bus system and felt comfortable using the metro.  I can't believe I've never tried the buses before in other cities - they are cheap, a great way to get your bearings/sightsee, and if you are going the wrong way just hop off!  

Another benefit to knowing a "local" - restaurant recommendations.  London isn't exactly known for its culinary experiences unless you are only looking for beer, fish, and chips (which of course we indulged in).  Some to note:

(A) Thomas Cubitt - a pub in Belgravia with a great atmosphere and yummy pub food
(B) Baker and Spice - scrambled eggs with creme fraiche? Yes please!
(C) Wagamama Noodle Bar - quick, filling, inexpensive, noodles. Enough said.
(D) - Cantina Laredo - a Texas chain in London? How could we resist?
(E) 202 - trendy brunch near Portabello Road, a market shopping mecca

King's Road and Sloane Square provided distractions from the rain on our second day.  


But once the clouds went away, we took a bus back into the city center and walked from Piccadilly (9) to The Tower of London (10).





Not sure if you noticed, but we walked a LOT.  Our last day was very relaxed with brunch in Notting Hill, a little more shopping, and naps in Brittany's cozy flat.  A perfect, rainy afternoon in London to end our trip.


I want to go back!!