Monday, June 29, 2009

Farewell, Happy Birthday, and Good Night

We are a little bit sad, a little bit happy, and a whole lot full! We attended two social events this evening: one farewell supper for our friends Jason and Miranda and one birthday party for my colleague Suzanne. Jason has accepted a job at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, WY, so they're moving tomorrow and hosted a final get-together for their friends this evening. Of course it was sad to say goodbye, but it's always exciting to think of new beginnings in better jobs. We wish them all the best!

Jason, Arabella, and Miranda

Suzanne's birthday isn't until Wednesday, but our friend Michelle invited her over to her home for supper this evening and then surprised her with cake . . . and with other guests! We popped over after supper with Jason and Miranda and enjoyed visiting with Suzanne and the others, drinking wine, and eating cake (lemon poppyseed with cream cheese frosting, made by another colleague, Paul).

Our daughters were reminded in advance of the dictum, "Children should be seen and not heard." Yet at both locations, they flouted it! Which was just fine, actually. They played with Jason and Miranda's two-year-old daughter, allowing the adults to visit rather than keep an eye on her; and at Michelle's, they visited with the adults seated near them and kept them amused, I think, with their stories and vocabulary. These girls just can't resist an opportunity to visit! They wouldn't have gotten by well in Victorian England.

Suzanna's Buns Rise and Shine

Remember Suzanna's having made supper by herself for our family at the beginning of the month? Well, she has struck again--this time preparing breakfast for us! She had intended to do so yesterday, but she encountered a slight snag when she awoke and looked at the instructions for one of the recipes: she was supposed to have prepared the bread dough the evening before and let it sit out overnight. So Susan stepped in and whipped up an alternate but still delicious Sunday morning breakfast, and Suzanna got the bread dough ready last night in preparation for making breakfast for us today instead.

Suzanna got her buns out of bed bright and early this morning in order to pop the cinnamon buns into the oven on time (so that we could eat before the girls needed to be at morning swimming practice). Last night Susan set the oven to turn itself on this morning and be ready for Suzanna's use by 6:30 A.M., but Suzanna came to get me first to see if it was safe to bake the buns. They had risen quite a bit overnight, and Suzanna was alarmed by their towering appearance. I told her just to bake them and see what happened.

While they baked, Suzanna put together a fruit salad. When the buns were done, she served them and the salad with glasses of juice. A very tasty breakfast! (Some of the buns' tasty caramel sauce was pushed out of the bundt pan by the rising dough and dripped onto the bottom of the oven while baking, so we had a smoky house this morning! Didn't affect the taste of the buns, though.)

Cinnamon Bunnies: frozen dinner rolls, brown sugar, instant vanilla pudding mix, cinnamon, raisins, and butter. This is what they looked like last night before rising . . .

. . . and this is what they looked like out of the oven this morning!

Breakfast Salad: oranges, bananas, green grapes, and lemon juice. Refreshing!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Backyard Flowers

This afternoon the girls wanted to "go for some exercise" and ended up jogging around the block and taking bicycle rides around the neighborhood. They got out their iPods and MP3 players so that they could listen to music as they got fit. Late in the afternoon, when I went outside to fire up the grill for supper, I stepped into an eerie scene from a Salvador Dalí painting: three little blondies draped limply upon the grass of the back yard and across the furniture on the veranda. They were all perfectly still, each one staring off blankly into space, and no one reacting to me as I walked past her to the grill and then back into the house. Apparently they were recuperating from the workout by lounging about in the shade and listening to their music. However, because they were wearing headphones and earbuds, their music was audible only to them, not to me. From my perspective, it was a silent scene from some zombie movie.

They livened up for supper, however: grilled pork chops with barbecue sauce (ordered from my sister), potato packets steamed on the grill, leftover cabbage and beets from last night, and ice cream sundaes for dessert. We ate on the veranda, enjoying the slight breeze and the beautiful sight of our backyard flowers:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Where's the Marzipan Pig?

After a two-week hiatus, Scandinavian Saturday is back. Well, it was for Scandinavian reasons that it was put on hold: two weeks ago, we were at Camp Trollfjorden (eating Scandinavian food anyway); and one week ago, we were at our Sons of Norway lodge's Midsummer's Eve picnic (eating food brought, potluck-style, by Scandinavians). But we've been home today; so after doing yardwork this morning, I planned the menu for tonight's supper and then went grocery shopping with my helper this week: Abigail. When we got back, here's what we made for supper:

potato and leek soup with smoked salmon

The thick, mild soup (potatoes and leeks cooked in cream and vegetable stock seasoned by bay leaves) was the perfect backdrop for the flakes of salty salmon. The girls gobbled this up before Susan and I were even halfway through our portions!

main course
red cabbage braised with beets
coquilles St. Jacques

Coquilles St. Jacques is French for "shells of St. James" (you might appreciate this explanation). It's essentially a scallop casserole. It may be a French dish, but "seafood" is very Norwegian--so that's my justification for the casserole that we served in individual stoneware ramekins (the ones that Susan uses for baked French onion soup). We cooked scallops and onions in a broth of white wine, parsley, and lemon juice. Then we thickened the liquid with butter, flour, cream, and Gruyère cheese. We added crab, shrimp, and mushrooms; spooned the mixture into the ramekins; topped them with garlic bread crumbs; and popped them into the oven. The result was a creamy, cheesy seafood medley!

(Chefs say never to cook with a wine that you wouldn't drink--in other words, don't cut corners by buying something cheap for a recipe, because bad wine cooked into a dish makes the dish itself bad. I took that advice to heart and bought a bottle of a Riesling that Susan and I have had before and really like. She and I each enjoyed a glass with the meal, too.)

As a side dish, we chopped red cabbage and grated raw beets, braising them with browned onions in a mixture of water, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. The beets helped the cabbage maintain its bright red color. This dish is often served with pork in Norway, so it's a good thing that we're having pork chops for supper tomorrow night (yeah, we made a lot of cabbage and beets tonight).

Abigail and I bought a package of lefse (a soft flatbread made from potatoes) in the grocery store, and I had her butter, sugar, and roll each piece when we got home. I told her to use plenty of sugar, and she surely did as she was told! Sugar poured out the ends of the lefse onto the serving plate, and it crunched audibly between our teeth as we chewed. (It even covered the kitchen floor beneath the counter upon which Abigail had worked her magic.) I told Abigail that my mom would have liked the way Abigail prepares lefse!

riskrem ["rice cream"]

This traditional Norwegian dessert is similar to "glorified rice," a white-rice-and-whipped-cream dish popular in the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century and a staple of church potlucks and family get-togethers for Midwestern Lutherans even today. Glorified rice is easy to make, but some cooks still mess it up by undercooking the rice, using fake whipped cream ("whipped topping") instead of whipping real cream themselves, or adding wacky ingredients to the mix (marshmallows and pineapple are acceptable, but "fruit cocktail" is simply an abomination). Even good glorified rice cannot rise beyond its own limitations: whipped cream soon separates, and white rice rinsed of its cooking water does not give off enough starch to thicken the cream into which it is mixed. Thus, glorified rice becomes watery within a day, which isn't very appealing.

Not so riskrem--at least not ours! We used Arborio rice (the kind that makes Italian risotto such a naturally starchy/creamy dish) and cooked it with milk and salt in a double boiler for two hours. Then we added vanilla extract and sugar and chilled it. Then we made whipped cream (whipping and sweetening actual heavy cream ourselves, thank you very much) and stirred it into the rice. We served it with seedless raspberry sauce on top. Delicious!

(We broke from tradition by not hiding a whole almond in the riskrem. When that is done, whoever finds the almond gets a gift: a marzipan pig! Because we did not buy any marzipan--or make any ourselves--we skipped this part of the recipe.)

Next week Scandinavian Saturday will go on hold again; we'll be at a family reunion. However, it's a gathering of "Scandihoovians" (Hillary's new favorite word for our ancestors), so we're likely to encounter some Scandinavian cooking there anyway. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Independent Picnickers

Today's guest blogger is Suzanna:

Today I asked Mom if we could go on a picnic. I thought it would be a good time to spend outdoors, and it would be a fun activity for the three of us girls to do together. Mom said, "If the weather's okay, of course you may go."

So at dinner time, I made peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches. We packed those into a bag, grabbed three cheese sticks, three bags of chips, three pears, and three bottles of flavored water. We grabbed a blanket, my camera, and three rain jackets and two umbrellas (we checked the weather and read that there was a chance of rain). We packed everything into the wagon and walked up to Rocky Butte Park, which happens to be about two blocks away from us. As we went walking along, we saw this flat area, and I knew that we had found the perfect spot to lay down our blanket. I divided up the food evenly.

By the time we were there, it was about 12:30 P.M.; and Mom said we had to be home by 2:45 P.M. I thought she meant 12:45 P.M., so I was kind of having Abigail and Hillary rush to finish eating. Finally at 12:45 P.M. when I said, "We have to go," Abigail said, "She meant 2:45 P.M., Suzanna. We can eat normally!" So we were done with our food at about 1:00 P.M. We packed everything up, and I took a photo of Abigail and Hillary sitting with the trees in the background. But I don't have the picture to show you because it's a disposable camera.

We walked up the trail to the big rocks that happen to be sitting in the middle of the park, and we played for about two minutes. I couldn't see the wagon, and I didn't want anyone taking anything. There was this old man there who kept eyeing it, and I was scared. So I said, "Let's get home now, you two." And they both reluctantly agreed to go. As soon as we got home, it started to rain!

It was so much fun just hanging out with my two sisters that I want to do it all over again!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Free Food

Quickly! Get thee to Country Kitchen! As a gesture of customer appreciation, the restaurant is offering you a free country scramble today with the purchase of a beverage. You'll get two fluffy pancakes and a good portion of scrambled eggs with cubed ham and grated cheese in them--yum! That's where Susan and I are headed today for our dinner date (while the girls are at Bible school).

Monday, June 22, 2009


Are you watching NBC's new series Merlin? If not, you should be! It's a British import that has already run its first season in the United Kingdom, where it was quite popular. NBC is hoping that American audiences will like it as much, although why they waited until the summertime to run it (when people are more apt to be on vacation or frolicking outdoors than watching TV) is beyond me. I just so happened to read something about it in a magazine a few days ago; otherwise, I wouldn't have known that it premiered last night, and we would have missed it entirely.

I'm glad that we didn't! It's an imaginative retelling of the Arthurian legend starting from when Arthur was a young man, not yet a king--and Merlin was a newcomer to the court, not yet a fully developed magician and not immediately on good terms with Arthur. There is the potential for years of storylines that incorporate characters that audiences will recognize from Arthurian tales but that tell stories no one has ever heard (e.g., "What might have happened before so-and-so grew up and met Arthur?").

The cast is appealing, the special effects are good, and the stories have, so far (in the two episodes shown last night), completely engaged our whole family. The girls jump during tense moments, laugh at humorous ones, and hide their eyes at moments that smack of romance. It reminds me a bit of Crusoe, a show that we watched together this past winter (remember?) and that also featured a good cast, believable special effects, and self-contained episodes that nevertheless carried forward an overarching plot from the beginning to the end of the series.

Reasonably intelligent family-friendly episodic shows are not the norm on TV these days, so we count ourselves lucky when we find one that we like and can watch together as a family. Check it out; maybe you'll like it, too!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's My Day!

Father's Day began in our household with a delicious breakfast of eggs Benedict with asparagus, sausage links, lemon blueberry muffins, juice, and cappuccino. I got greeting cards from all four blondes, each card with a wonderful handwritten message of love and adoration. Then I opened gifts. I must say, these ladies have a good memory when it comes to casual comments that I make from time to time about what I might like to have:

Just because I'm the griller extraordinaire of the household. It's got a lot of easy-to-make recipes for all sorts of meats and vegetables.

I have often bemoaned the fact that we do not own grapefruit spoons. A grapefruit spoon, with its serrated edge perfect for removing grapefruit sections, was an often used utensil in our house when I was growing up, but Susan and I just don't see them in the stores. So she ordered a set online!

As soon as I saw someone wearing a dress shirt like this--with the collar and cuffs a different color from that of the shirt itself--I knew that I should have one for my own collection. However, as with the grapefruit spoons, such a shirt was nowhere to be found in local stores. So, again, Susan consulted the Interwebs with success!

I have traveled more in the three years since starting work at the university than I had in the decades of my life before that. We own several suitcases, but in airports I have often envied those who own a "pilot's case"--so easy to tote with its wheels and retractable handle, so easy to stow in the overhead bins. When the girls and I took Susan out for Mother's Day (remember?), we saw these suitcases in a store, and I remarked that such a one would be useful for my own travels. Et voilà!

After gift opening, we phoned my dad . . . and talked with him for two-and-a-half hours!! Lots of catching up and reminiscing. We had leftovers for dinner, and then it was off to church. Today began a week of vacation Bible school. As Sunday school director, Susan's in charge, so she enlisted my help to serve ice cream floats at an ice cream social that preceded the start of activities this afternoon. When the social ended, she and the girls stayed at church for the actual Bible school session (she to run things, they to participate), and I came home to make roast beef and vegetables for supper. Because it's Ice Cream Sunday (remember?), we had sundaes for dessert and hung out together in the family room. Fun day!

(Remember last summer's Bible school program? Well, this year there are separate themes for the preschoolers and for everybody else. The older kids are being led by day camp staff from Badlands Ministries, which sends its staff out to various sites to run daytime camps locally. The theme of their activities this week is "Love to Serve." In a few weeks, many of these same staff members will be seeing all three of our girls again when they attend Bible camp at Badlands Ministries' camp site south of Medora. Our girls loved Bible camp last summer [remember this and this?].

The preschoolers are being led by Susan herself in activities following this theme: "Christmas in June." An explanation: During the school year, the Sunday school classes use weekly materials supplied by the publishers of the curriculum that the church has ordered. However, they never get to use the Christmas-related materials because, at the time that they should be using them, they are instead practicing for the Sunday school Christmas program instead. This year Susan cleverly saved all the unused Christmas-themed curricular materials so that she could use them this summer for vacation Bible school instead. Isn't she thrifty?

To wrap up their week of Bible school, at a church service this upcoming Thursday night, both the "Love to Serve" and the "Christmas in June" kids will share some of what they learn throughout this week.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Midsummer's Eve Picnic

Our Sons of Norway lodge, Hardanger 4-652, invited the nearby Dunn County lodge, Vang 4-674 (remember them?), to join us today to celebrate Sankthansaften ["Saint John's Eve"], or Midsummer's Eve. Would you like to know more about how and why Scandinavians celebrate Midsummer's Eve? Then see this, this, and this. Bonfires, processions, and music are important parts of midsummer celebrations in Norway. If I understand correctly, our lodge usually gathers at Lake Ilo outside Dunn Center, ND for a picnic and bonfire each Sankthansaften (this is our family's first summer in the organization, so I'm sketchy on the details), and that had been the plan for today, too.

However, so many of the fish at Lake Ilo died this spring that it's not a very pleasant place to be at the moment (think: stench of rotting fish), so we had the picnic at the city park in Dunn Center. We canceled the bonfire idea altogether due to the wind-tunnel-like gusts blowing us around all day. Instead we held our lodge meeting at a picnic shelter in the park followed by the potluck picnic, after which people trickled away gradually.

To the south of this picnic shelter, in the sunlight, is the new playground equipment, which the girls enjoyed after eating. The tablecloth-covered table in the front is where we piled up the potluck. Susan made a tater tot hotdish and a fresh fruit salad to share. Others brought macaroni salads, fried chicken, baked beans, cookies, and desserts. It was delicious!

The Mobergs, of course, were some of the last dogs to leave town; but we had a good visit with some of the lodge officers who hung around until the end, too. One of those officers is the lodge's cultural skills director, and during the meeting she called upon our family to give a report on our recent weekend at Camp Trollfjorden (remember?). Susan and Suzanna, having learned to knit at camp, will start attending the weekly cultural skills meetings to learn even more about knitting from this woman. Another of those officers is the secretary, and she's originally from northwest ND, as am I, so she likes to talk with me about my dad and what's going on in that area these days. (She also made an official announcement during the meeting that it's so great to have our family in the lodge: a young family that is so interested and active. "Yay!" for us!) Another of those officers is the president, and his extended family has many connections to Susan's dad's family because of having been raised in the same area of southwest ND. Small world!

After we had eaten and the girls had played on the new playground equipment in the park and enjoyed its clean, modern restroom facilities (with showers for campers' convenience) and we had stayed visiting until the bitter end, we collected the remains of our food and got in the van to drive home. On the way we decided to drive around Lake Ilo; we'd never been there before; and it's just off the highway between Dunn Center and Killdeer on the route home for us anyway, so we thought we'd drive by and take a look. We parked at a spot that featured a couple informational signs so that we could read a bit about the history of the refuge and take photos of some of the birds perched nearby.

In just a few moments, who should happen to pull up behind us but the secretary and the president, whom we had just said our goodbyes to only minutes earlier in town! They wanted to check on the status of the fish stink and so decided to drive out to the lake, too. Upon hearing that we had never been to Lake Ilo before today, they offered to drive us to a few points of interest. We took them up on the offer and ended up with quite a few great photographs of the excellent scenery and beautiful summer evening sky.

Can you see the birdies sitting on the island in the lake?

Here, we'll zoom in on them a bit.

Soon the tour ended, they went on their own way, and we drove the gravel roads from the south side of Lake Ilo back to Highway 22 north of Manning and then home to Dickinson. As it turns out, we had been on that stretch of gravel road before: it's how we got from Vang Lutheran Church to Dunn Center after the Syttende Mai festival in May (remember?). This time, however, we saw/heard something that we hadn't the first time around: a war of the words between two cattle. As we approached the intersection of two gravel roads, we heard one bovine dude in the southwest corner of one pasture bellering at another in the northeast corner of the pasture across the road. He had been bellering so long and hard, in fact, that he was losing his voice! (I made him sound like a freak of genetics when I said to our daughters, "Look, girls! A hoarse cow!")

I pulled over in front of him, opened the windows, and shut off the vehicle so we could listen to him. Susan wasn't enthused about being the person closest to him and seemed less amused than I was by his pawing the ground and giving us the evil eye as he continued to bray. She really didn't appreciate it when I pointed out how unsturdy the fence posts appeared that held the thin wires separating him from us. To be fair, I then pulled over to the other guy, putting myself in a similarly dangerous position. We got photos and video of both of them and then went on our way.

Bellering at Susan (for interrupting his bellering at the guy across the road).

Being standoffish toward me (for blocking his view of his hoarse adversary across the road).

(Update: For dinner at noon, I grilled the venison that I had marinating in the fridge since yesterday afternoon [remember?]. I turned the leftovers into the filling for what my mom called "hot meat sandwiches": a homemade barbecue sauce for simmering pork or beef before serving it on toast. It was always a delicious way to eat up leftover roast, and I figure it'll do good things for the venison, too.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hillary's 8th Birthday!

That's our baby, Hillary. Does she look eight years old to you? Because that's what she is as of today! (Compare.) For breakfast she requested doughnuts from The Donut Hole, so she went with Susan this morning to pick up a half-dozen (and frou-frou coffees for Mommy and Daddy). She opened a birthday gift, too--an outfit, complete with sunglasses, from her SC aunt, uncle, and cousin--and ended up wearing it today. Then she was ready to begin her busy day.

A few weeks ago when I phoned for a haircut, I learned that today at noon was the only available opening, so I took it. When I hung up the phone and Hillary learned that my haircut would be on her birthday, she started to cry! June 19 was supposed to be all about her, I guess. However, she handled it just fine once today--and the haircut appointment--finally rolled around. The whole family accompanied me to the salon, from which we headed afterward to Sanford's (Hillary's request) for birthday dinner.

Suzanna, Hillary, and Abigail pose with Daddy!

Hillary had planned to share a Buffalo chicken salad with me, but after a few bites, she decided that it was too spicy for her tongue--and ended up swapping her share of the salad for Susan's bowl of chicken noodle soup. However, the real reason for being at Sanford's, of course, was the complimentary birthday cookie sundae (the server led us in singing "Happy Birthday to You" when she delivered the sundae to Hillary): a plate-sized chocolate chip cookie covered with three scoops of vanilla ice cream, one covered in strawberry sauce, one in butterscotch, and one in chocolate, sprinkled in butterscotch chips and chocolate chips and decorated with dollops of canned "whipped cream" product and a maraschino cherry. Behold:

She shared, and we all gorged ourselves and left in time for the girls to stop at home and change into swimming suits (and for Hillary to open another gift: matching outfits from her NE aunt for Hillary and her Build-a-Bear Workshop teddy bear) before the next event in Hillary's day: a swimming party at the West River Community Center. I went grocery shopping while Susan supervised the swimmers (our three girls plus a handful of Hillary's friends), after which Susan brought them back to our house for the birthday party. They played games, they opened gifts, they ate tacos-in-a-bag for supper, they played more games, they ate birthday cake, and they got into pajamas and nestled into their sleeping bags for a movie before the sleepover.

One of the girls sleeping over is Madeline, Hillary's best friend and our neighbor. Madeline's younger brother was part of the swimming/playing troupe, but he's not spending the night, so his parents, Chuck and Reba, stopped over after supper to pick him up. Of course, they were here for quite a while visiting before hauling him away for the night. Hillary's aunts Cassie, Sandy, and Cathy all phoned today, too, although Hillary was too distracted by the presence of friends in the house to concentrate on lengthy telephone conversations with any of them today.

Love that expression on Hillary's face! She looks so much like her aunt Cassie. Anyhoo, Hillary is holding up a necklace with the letter "H" on it from her friend Madeline. Not coincidentally, Hillary gave Madeline an "M" necklace for her birthday a couple weeks ago. Reba told us that Madeline wanted to give a matching necklace to Hillary as a token of their friendship. Ahhhhh!

The flip-flops on Hillary's ice cream cake are appropriate considering her wardrobe and today's swimming activity. She also gave flip-flops to her guests as party favors today.

I spent a good portion of the afternoon and evening in the kitchen. We have a lot of venison in our freezer (from Susan's dad and brother, both of whom are hunters), and I was on a mission to use some more of it. I created a robust marinade (dark beer, red onions, fresh rosemary, and various seasonings) for some venison chops and set them in the fridge to soak up the flavor overnight. I will grill them tomorrow for dinner.

Then I assembled the meat grinder attachment for our mixer and made some hamburger out of equal parts of sirloin tip roast, various venison cuts, and smoked bacon. I stopped grinding when Chuck and Reba arrived, but now that they're gone and the girls are quieting down, I'm going to turn that into Swedish meatballs, fry them up, make some gravy for them, and refrigerate them for our enjoyment in the next couple days. Cooking at midnight! Woo-hoo!!

While I was in the kitchen earlier this afternoon, one of the party guests, Lita, came upstairs, sent on an errand from Hillary, and found me before anyone else. She started her question with, "Hillary's Dad, can you . . . ?" I thought that was cute. I went downstairs with her and helped Hillary with her request. As I left the room to go back upstairs, I heard one of the girls say, "Your dad is so nice." Awwww.

Also nice is little Hillary. We can hardly believe that our youngest child is already so old! We have eight years of great memories and are looking forward to decades more!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Documentary on Northwest ND

Have you heard of a recent documentary called Crude Independence? I just stumbled upon some Web sites regarding it, and I'll bet that many readers of Pensive? No, Just Thinking would find it interesting. Its topic is the current oil boom in ND with a focus on how it's affecting small-town life in northwest ND, where I grew up and where my dad lives! Check these out:
  • an interview with the documentarians, Noah Hutton (son of actors Timothy Hutton and Debra Winger) and his step-brother Sam Howard (son of actor Arliss Howard) [the executive producer is Jonathan Demme, famous director, producer, and actor]
  • a press release for the documentary's showing at the Oxford Film Festival this past February
  • another interview with them after their film won "Best Documentary" at the Oxford Film Festival (includes the trailer* for the documentary)
  • the documentary's Web site (also includes the trailer*)
It appears to be a fair look at how the resurrection of the oil industry in western ND is affecting the quiet, rural lifestyle of those who have grown up in the region. I'd like to watch the entire documentary someday!

*The trailer includes an interviewee who uses crude (pardon the pun) language. Don't watch it in the presence of children or adults with delicate sensibilities.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Norwegian Camp, Day 4

Camp Trollfjorden ended today with a church service at Metigoshe Lutheran Church followed by brunch before we packed up and left. Metigoshe Ministries is getting ready to start summer camps, so all the camp staff were on hand today to lead music throughout the service. Some of them played guitar, keyboard, bass, harmonica, and drums while the rest stood on risers behind the altar and sang with the wall of clear and stained-glass windows behind them overlooking the lake--a lovely view. The floor of the A-frame church is made of pebbles covering the ground, and there are screen-covered vents along the sloping walls to let air into and out of the building. Being inside the rustic church and hearing the upbeat, modern Christian songs made me feel as though I were a kid at Bible camp myself!

Trollfjorden staff had set out cold cereal early in the morning to "tide over" those who just couldn't wait for brunch. After church, we had our final meal at Trollfjorden: vafler og pannekaker ["waffles and pancakes"] topped with bær saus og fløtekrem ["berry sauce and whipped cream"] or sirup ["syrup"], eppler og appelsiner ["apples and oranges"], blåbær banan brød ["blueberry banana bread"], yoghurt, saft, and kaffe. We resisted the urge to go back for seconds because we had plans for dinner--more on that in a moment . . .

It was a great weekend filled with learning and having fun (the girls had a blast and want to come back again next summer). We enjoyed meeting new people and getting to know better not only the other two attendees from our own lodge in Dickinson but also the two people attending from the Vang Lodge near Killdeer (remember their having hosted us for Syttende Mai?). Mange tusen takk for alt, Trollfjorden ["Many thousand thanks for everything, Trollfjorden"]!

View Larger Map

We were in no particular rush to get back to Dickinson, so we chose an unusual route home that would take us through towns and terrain we had never seen. We started by driving around Lake Metigoshe and then made our way to Bottineau. After a photo session with a gigantic snowmobile-riding turtle (see below), we went to Denny's Pizza Inn for some of their wonderful pizza (thus the light brunch, mentioned above). Five years ago, on our way back home from visiting my sister Cathy in OR, we drove through Bottineau on our way to visit the International Peace Garden. A friend had told me beforehand that Denny's in Bottineau serves the best pizza in ND, so we decided to try it out. He was right; it did--and still does.

The ladies pose in front of Tommy the Turtle. Here is his story.

Then we "took the backroads" to Minot and stopped at the Scandinavian Heritage Park (an appropriate stop for this particular weekend, no?), spending several hours perusing the gift shop (notable T-shirt slogan: "Norwegian Girls!"), wandering the trails in the park, touring the buildings, and posing for photographs. The park celebrates the five Scandinavian countries--Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland--and has buildings and statues to represent them all. It's a great (and free!) place, and the weather was perfect for being outdoors.

Notable story: When standing at the top of the waterfall in the park, Abigail stepped up onto the railing in order to get a better peek at the water below, and one of her flipflops fell off, tumbled down the waterfall, and lodged itself in the rocks and out of our reach. So she spent the rest of the afternoon hopping along on one foot, peeking into the buildings from outside, and crying over her lost shoe. We'll have to return someday when she is more securely shod and can go into all the buildings. In the meantime, some groundsperson someday is going to discover a bright yellow and orange flipflop either wedged between two rocks or else floating leisurely downstream.

This troll sits on an elaborately carved log bench in the Heritage Center.

Look! He's frightening the children!

Oh, wait, they were only kidding. Friendly troll!

The Norwegian flag flies alongside the flags of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland, all of them flanked by the flags of Canada and the United States of America. They comprise the flag display just to the north of the Heritage Center.

This windmill represents Denmark but was built by a man from Powers Lake, ND--just a few miles from where I grew up!

This stavkyrkje ["stave church"] towers over the grounds of the park and is definitely the highlight--a beautiful building with a fascinating history. Read about it here.

This stabbur ["storehouse"] is decorated with some of the same kind of intricate woodcarving featured on the stavkyrkje. Note the grass growing on the roof! I wonder how they get the lawnmower (or the goat) up there . . .

From Minot we drove south to Washburn and then headed west for a pretty drive on curvy roads that took us over and alongside the Missouri River, past little lakes tucked between hills, and into a horizon of green grasslands and buttes rising in the distance. We stopped for supper in Beulah because we know from prior experience that the Subway restaurant there still offers creamy Italian dressing for its sandwiches. Sadly, we now know that it used to offer creamy Italian dressing. It has gone the way of the national chain and discontinued that choice of sandwich topping. Heavy sigh. Still, the subs were tasty, as were the ice cream treats from Dairy Queen on our way north out of town.

"But why north?" you wonder. Yes, going south from Beulah to the Interstate and then west to Dickinson would have been a more direct route home, but I wanted to go to Zap. I had never been there, but I had heard of the infamous Zip to Zap (read this and watch this) and wanted to be able to say that I, too, had zipped to Zap. So zip there we did. We drove through town (it didn't take very long) and then got back on the road, making our way to Richardton to glance at the beautiful Assumption Abbey there. We took Old Highway 10 from there through Taylor and into Dickinson.

What a carefree day full of culture and nature! But it's good to be back home, and I'm looking forward to sleeping in a real bed again.

This guy waved to us from the north side of the road just outside Golden Valley (after we had zipped out of Zap).

Here's a view of the Assumption Abbey. We intend to take the girls to the abbey for a tour someday. Would you like an online tour? Then click here.

P.S. No, Susan did not get an uninterrupted night of sleep last night. Early this morning, Abigail made her way to Susan's room to announce that she had thrown up. Abigail was fine afterward and fine all day today. I guess she just felt as though she should do her part to make sure that our children interrupted Susan's sleep every night of our stay at Camp Trollfjorden. Mission accomplished, Abigail and Hillary.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Norwegian Camp, Day 3

(Note that, once I have defined a Norwegian word, I am not defining it again with subsequent uses. Need help jogging your memory? See this and this.)

Another day of fantastic food at Camp Trollfjorden! Here's the menu from today's frukost: eggerøre ["scrambled eggs"], pølser ["sausages"], muffin ["muffins"], brød og smør med bringebær syltetøy, kjeks og ost (both Jarlsberg og brunost/gjetost), sardin og sursild, yoghurt, frukt, kaffe, melk, saft, and te ["tea"].

And here's the menu from today's middag: smørbrød [literally "butterbread," but it refers to open-faced sandwiches, which Norwegians take pains to make not only tasty but also visually appealling (see this)--ours today were on dark bread and included toppings such as ham, cucumber, summersausage, hard-boiled egg, tomato, and sardine], salat, grønnsak suppe ["vegetable soup"], flatbrød, frukt, cottage cheese med grønn løk ["cottage cheese with green onion"--unusual and savory], lemonade, melk, vann ["water"], and gresskar kake ["pumpkin cake"] for dessert.

And Signe's name was drawn for KP duty! And Hilde's name was drawn to help clean up the spisestue after dinner (shake table cloths, vacuum)! So far Sonja is the only one from our family not to be put to work after a meal. I think the drawing is rigged.

And here's the menu from this evening's kveldsmat: torsk med hvit saus ["cod with white gravy"], kokte poteter ["boiled potatoes"], gulrøtter ["carrots"], salat, boller, leftover kjøtkaker og brun saus, lefse, and for dessert an item they called "sweet lefse" that looked like a thick whole-wheat lefse with a diamond pattern pressed into it, spread with almond-flavored butter, rolled up, and sliced into wide chunks. They said that it's a kind of lefse that must be moistened in water before serving. Hm, I've never heard of that . . .

The leftover smørbrød was served for lunch this afternoon; and just before bed, they served us rømmegrøt, a sour cream porridge that is topped with cinnamon and sugar and eaten hot. Delicious!

Oh yeah, we did other things today besides eat. We learned some more Norwegian words and phrases. Signe og Sonja carved yams, and Hilde had another cooking class. We finished our Norsk håndverk and displayed our items in the butikk area for everyone else to see. [Because I finished my clock yesterday, I spent my two karveskurd sessions today using a spare block of basswood to practice new chip carving techniques that I read about as I paged through a book on the subject.] We posed outdoors for a group photo before the lowering of the Norwegian flag.

Birdhouse painted by Kaia.

Birdhouse painted by Sonja.

Wool headbands knitted by Signe (middle) and Hilde (bottom of photo).

Clock (center bottom of photo) chip-carved by me!

Trollfjorden campers 2009!

There were two others attending from our lodge, so we posed with them for a "lodge photo." They're both knitters, too, so they've been sharing advice and techniques with Hilde og Signe all weekend.

The kvelden program included a slide show of photos from a fashion show that was held last autumn at Minot's annual Norsk Høstfest. It was a Norwegian bunad and Scandinavian folk costume fashion show, and some of the ladies here at camp brought along their own bunads and wore them this evening. A woman played her fiddle afterward, and the children danced. Many of the adults played cards while they ate their rømmegrøt before going to bed. It was another full day of Norwegian heritage!

Campers posing in their bunads and folk costumes. Some were hand-made; others were passed down to them from mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, etc.

P.S. Aargh! Kaia spent last night with Hilde, too! It seems that another girl at camp--a particularly annoying girl--decided to move into Kaia's room last night, which annoyed Kaia and her roommate so much that they each moved out. Hilde laid a blanket on the top bunk above her and put Kaia there for the night. So, will Hilde be able to sleep uninterrupted tonight?!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Norwegian Camp, Day 2

Camp Trollfjorden equals a half-day (last night), two full days, and a half-day (we'll be done before noon on Sunday). Here's the daily schedule for today and tomorrow:

  • 7:00 A.M. -- rise and shine (someone walks from one end of the resort to the other ringing a cow bell--is that what passes for a Norwegian alarm clock?!)

  • 7:30 A.M. -- health walk (led by the camp's sykepleier ["nurse"] along a walking trail decorated with trolls carved from wood and attached to various trees along the way--we are encouraged to be alert in order to find all 11 trolls)

  • 8:00 A.M. -- flag raising (of the Norwegian flag while we all sing Ja, Vi Elsker Dette Landet ["Yes, We Love This Country"], the Norwegian national anthem--I recommend your listening to this beautiful version)

  • 8:15 A.M. -- frokost ["breakfast"] and announcements for the day

  • 9:00 A.M. -- språk klassen ["language class"]

  • 10:00 A.M. -- Norsk håndverk ["Norwegian crafts"]

  • 12:00 P.M. -- middag og synge ["dinner and singing"]

  • 1:30 P.M. -- språk klassen

  • 2:30 P.M. -- Norsk håndverk

  • 4:00 P.M. -- butikk ["store"] (for us to buy camp T-shirts, imported Norwegian candy, and other souvenirs)

  • 4:30 P.M. -- ulike aktiviteter ["various activities"]

  • 6:00 P.M. -- kveldsmat

  • 7:30 P.M. -- kvelden program ["evening program"]

  • 10:30 P.M. -- stillhet ["quiet"]
Going for a walk along a wooded trail that peeks out over the lake in the early morning on a day with serenely beautiful weather would be pleasant enough, but it was added fun to be on the lookout for trolls along the path! Here are some highlights:

One of 11!

Don't you just want to crawl into the photograph and follow that trail?!

There's Lake Metigoshe partially hidden by the trees. Beautiful.

Because I'm all about the food, here's the menu from today's frukost: egg ["eggs"] (covered in individual warmers knit to look like chickens--and served in eggs cups), yoghurt ["yogurt"], frukt ["fruit"], brød og smør ["bread and butter"], bringebær syltetøy ["raspberry jam"], knekkebrød ["hardtack"], kjeks ["crackers"], Jarlsberg ost ["Jarlsberg cheese," similar to Swiss in flavor], brunost/gjetost ["brown cheese"/"goat cheese"--remember?], sardin ["canned sardines"], sursild ["pickled herring"], melk, kaffe, and saft ["juice"].

And here's the menu from today's middag: brennende kjærlighet ["burning love," basically a ring sausage cooked, cut into bite-sized pieces, and stirred into mashed potatoes], leftover lapskaus, salat, brød, flatbrød, lefse, melk, kaffe, lemonade, hardkokte egg ["hard-boiled eggs" from this morning, some sliced to eat as is, and some made into egg salad and served on dark bread--the egg salad had horseradish in it, which gave it a nice tang], cottage cheese ["cottage cheese"], sylteagurk ["pickles"], and gulrot kake ["carrot cake"] for dessert.

And my name was drawn for KP duty, so I burned my hands handling the directly-from-the-industrial-dishwasher plates and flatware. Good times.

And here's the menu from this evening's kveldsmat: kjøttkaker og brun saus ["meatballs and gravy"], potetmos ["mashed potatoes"], salat, erter og mais ["peas and corn"], boller, lefse, and iskrem ["ice cream"] for dessert.

As if that weren't enough food, in the afternoon they served kjeks og ost in the spisestua while we shopped in the butikk nearby. (We bought camp T-shirts for the girls and CDs of the Norwegian songs from last night's folk dancing.) Is it any wonder that they offered a second health walk after supper?! That was followed by a bonfire near the lake where the kids made s'mores (and served them to the adults) while we all sang Norsk sanger ["Norwegian songs"]--many of them with actions to go along with each verse, which the children really "got into"! We have the lyrics to about 20 songs; so when we get home, just stop by and we'll teach you a song or two!

The språk klassen is very low-key. It's taught by a woman we knew from our previous church (remember?) . . . who talked throughout today about needing to speak Norwegian to us the next time she sees us in church. It soon became apparent that she didn't realize that we moved away almost three years ago! She's doing a fine job teaching a large class of mixed ages: from the youngest kids to youthful adults (such as Hilde and I) to grandparent-aged folks. Perhaps not surprisingly, the little kids are picking up on vocabulary and pronunciations far more quickly than their grandparents are. Susan and I, who have studied foreign languagues, are maybe too cerebral about it all; we would like to know more about grammar rules, whereas the teacher is keeping it simple: how to count to 20, the days of the week and the months of the year, parts of the body, common foods, parts of the house, how to tell time, how to greet one another, etc. That's probably for the best. Some of the senior citizens seated near Hilde and me look like their heads are going to explode as it is; imagine if we were to start discussing conjugating verbs!

I also enjoyed the Norsk håndverk sessions at which I learned karveskurd--or at which I taught myself karveskurd. We are chip carving square pieces of basswood which, when finished, we will stain, drill a hole into, and insert the workings for a clock. The instructor is an elderly man who showed us some of his work as well as a model for our project. He then handed out the wood and karveskurd knives, gave us each pencils, laid out one compass and one protractor on the table, and made himself scarce. The seven of us in the class looked at each other and realized that we were pretty much on our own. We had to use the compass and protractor to create the design on our pieces of wood, mark the portions to remove, and then figure out how to hold the knife at the proper angle and depth while chip carving. We helped each other through it and laughed a lot along the way. There are four total sessions reserved for our crafts, but I finished my project this afternoon, and the instructor applied a coat of stain. So, what will I do during tomorrow's Norsk håndverk sessions?

Sonja og Kaia had a good time during their Norsk håndverk classes; they are painting birdhouses and napkin rings and creating watercolor paintings. Hilde og Signe are now addicted to strikke. Ever since this morning's Norsk håndverk session, every time that I see them, they are furiously knitting, making excellent progress on the wool wintertime headbands that is their project. Hilde used to do counted cross stitch projects quite a bit, and Signe has done a little bit of embroidery; but this is their first time knitting, and they're liking it. A lot.

During ulike aktiviteter, Signe og Sonja joined Hilde for a cooking class, and Kaia joined me for a yam carving class. Yep, we each got a yam and a paring knife, and we carved trolls out of the vegetables. We'll take them home, and in about a month, they'll be completed dried out and hard. As they dry, they will shrivel and curve, accentuating the lines that we carved into them and adding "character" to the trolls' faces. We saw some samples of dried-out yam carvings, and they really do look like intricate wood carvings, the product of an artisan's expert hands--even though they're quick and easy to make!

Anyhoo, after the bonfire, we gathered for the lowering of the flag and went inside for more folk dancing. I was too pooped to dance, so I enjoyed reading a collection of Viking-related books set up in a nook at the resort. Here and there throughout the building, camp organizers have left books on Norwegian topics: Vikings, trolls, touring Norway, learning the Norwegian language, etc. At one of those areas, there are also several CDs of Norwegian music to which Hilde and I listened while relaxing before heading to bed.

P.S. Let's hope for no nighttime adventures tonight with the children. Last night, Kaia "felt queasy," so she hiked it from her second-story bedroom at one end of the resort down to the room of the sykepleier, who walked her down to the room where Hilde was sleeping. Kaia ended up spending the night in Mommy's bed, meaning that Hilde did not get a good's night sleep (on the bottom bunk with a plastic mattress in a sleeping bag with a little girl lying/breathing on her all night).

P.P.S. Happy birthday today to my sister Cathy!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Norwegian Camp, Day 1

Our whole family is at summer camp!

As relatively new members of the Sons of Norway, our family has spent the past many months getting to know the organization by participating in our local lodge's activities: lutefisk supper, monthly meetings, Syttende Mai celebration, and so forth. When we found out that the Sons of Norway sponsors summertime Norwegian language and cultural camps, we did some research to find out where the nearest camp is, thinking that we might send the girls. We found two about the same distance from Dickinson: outside Red Lodge, MT and outside Bottineau, ND on Lake Metigoshe. We brought up the topic at a monthly meeting, hoping to find out if other members knew about either camp and could recommend one or the other.

Well, it turns out that our lodge has sent children to Camp Trollfjorden ["the troll inlet"] at Lake Metigoshe in the past and even pays kids' camp fees! Furthermore, we found out that Sons of Norway camps are for people of all ages: littluns, teens, parents, grandparents--whoever wants to learn more about Norwegian culture. So, of course, we signed up to go together as a family.

View Larger Map

Because we had a bit of a drive ahead of us, we left early enough this morning to allow time for a stop in Minot for a restroom break, more fuel for the vehicle, and dinner (at the Captain's Cove, a ripoff of Long John Silver's). Just a couple hours later, we found the Metigoshe Ministries Lakeside Christian Center and checked in for camp.

Velkommen til Trollfjorden ["Welcome to Trollfjorden"] plus many little Norwegian flags placed strategically around the grounds greeted us when we arrived.

We were asked to select, from lists that they provided, Norwegian names for ourselves to use for the weekend. Then each of us told that Norwegian name to a man seated at another table, and he used a wood-burning tool to write the name on a thin disk cut from the trunk of a birch tree. He tied a string through pre-cut holes in the bark-fringed disk, added a laminated card containing the lyrics to the Norwegian national anthem, and voilà: a rustic name tag to be hung from around the neck. Here are our names for the weekend:
  • Kevin = Karsten
  • Susan = Hilde
  • Suzanna = Signe
  • Abigail = Sonja
  • Hillary = Kaia

A woman showed us to our rooms, and then we hauled in our stuff from the vehicle. The girls are in the farthest-away-from-us wing with all the other girls here at camp. Signe og Sonja are roommates, and Kaia is in the room next to them with a roommate with whom she became fast friends within seconds of meeting her. There are bunkbeds in each small bedroom, and their rooms are on a floor above a game room with a kitchenette and restrooms with showers.

At the other end of the retreat center, the adult females are sharing a couple bedrooms separated from the adult males' bedroom by a room reserved for the boys here at camp this weekend (yes, there are more girls than boys). So Hilde and I don't get to share a room, but we're sleeping just across the hall from one another. There's nothing fancy about our sleeping rooms or the built-in bunk beds (we'll sleep in our sleeping bags atop the plastic mattresses); but there are modern restrooms with showers just outside our bedrooms, so we're definitely not "roughing it."

We took a tour of the grounds (complete with posing and photograph-taking) before joining the large group for kveldsmat ["supper"] in the spisestue ["dining room"]. Tonight's delicious meal included lapskaus ["stew," this one containing ham, summersausage, potatoes, carrots, and rutabaga], salat ["salad," with not only mixed salad greens but also peas, yellow peppers, fresh cauliflower, and other vegetable delights], boller ["buns"], flatbrød ["flatbread"], lefse [a soft potato flatbread], smør ["butter"], melk ["milk"], lemonade ["lemonade"], kaffe ["coffee"], and sitron kake ["lemon cake"].

Together we sang this table prayer before the meal ["O You, who feeds the little bird, bless our food, O God"].

And we sang this one after the meal ["For health, happiness, daily bread, we thank You, O God"].

Before each meal, the names of two adults and two children will be drawn for KP duty after the meal (and another adult and child to clean tables and vaccuum the spisestue). Guess who got KP duty after kveldsmat? Kaia! Yep, there was little Kaia in the kjøkken ["kitchen"] with the industrial dishwasher pushing out stacks of steaming-hot plates and flatware toward her! She was game to help out however she was told to, but I think they assigned her light tasks and kept her away from the dishwasher (whew!).

Kaia is in the kjøkken ready for KP duty!

Kveldsmat was followed by an introduction of the camp staff and an overview of the camp's schedule, activities, and procedures. Everybody will be taking Norwegian language classes the next couple days, so we signed up for the level of class that we felt reflected our abilities (all five of us are in the "beginner" class). We'll all be learning a craft, too, and there were several options from which to choose. To help us out, they gave us a tour of each craft so that we could see what would be involved in learning it before we made our decisions. Kaia and Sonja both signed up for "small crafts" (a hodge-podge of drawing and painting; because they're both younger than 10, their options were limited); Signe and Hilde both signed up for strikke ["knitting"]; and I signed up for karveskurd ["chip carving"].

Afterward we gathered outside for the nightly lowering of the Norwegian flag and sang Aftensolen ["The Evening Sun"] . . . which you can listen to if you click on "Segment 3" of this A Prairie Home Companion program. Then we gathered inside where we learned several Norwegian folk dances and danced off our little Norwegian-American rumper ["butts"] until bedtime, children and adults alike! Camp Trollfjorden is veldig moro ["very fun"] so far!

Can you spot Signe in the yellow pants and Hilde in the purple striped shirt, both with partners near the camera? This particular dance required regular changes of partners; at certain points (synchronized with the music), the partners inside the circle move backward to join whoever's on the outside of the circle behind them.