About Prosecco & Pampers

An American mother and Norwegian father, living abroad in Istanbul and raising one small boy who obviously runs the show. Three years into the game, we're still trying to find a happy medium between our pre-baby Prosecco days and our recently-departed Pamper days. It's not always a successful combination, but it's certainly never dull.

Word search

I’m searching for a word…

… one word that seems to elude me…

… one word that is somehow capable of encompassing gratitude, humility and an overwhelming feeling of both astonishment and being blessed…

Whatever that word is, that’s what this post is about.

As almost everyone on the planet knows, this project has almost entirely consumed the Svendsen household since the beginning of July. It’s required previously unimaginable hours of my own time, and it is by far the most exciting project I have ever lent my professional time towards.

However, the project was not mine alone. Besides the 62,642 people directly involved, there exist many more who have lived & breathed it from the shadows. This project, and its success, also belongs to the innumerable friends, family and loved ones who stepped up and helped my family manage the chaotic intersection of business timelines and household responsibilities.

This post, this word, whatever it is,… is for you.

To my mother and father, who allowed a three-year old to set their house on end and forced their dogs into hiding for an entire month, who made sure a sandwich and/or glass of wine were never far from reach, and who taught me in the first place to work hard for what you love….

Word.

To my mother-in-law, aunt and uncle, who traveled from Norway to Istanbul to take on said three-year-old in his natural environment, who offered to spend their holidays in my home, and who invested heavily and willingly into the Turkish wine industry…

Word.

To my friend and female soulmate Katy May, who selflessly lent her various homes and wi-fi connections to my insanity, who spent her airline miles and vacation time on my account, and who took on Google’s incomprehensible customer service desk when I was near tears…

Word.

To my friends Robert & Neda, who sacrificed our long-planned Italian holiday to a cooler on wheels…

Word.

To my former classmates and colleagues who provided advice and referrals over the past two months, and to every friend who liked, shared and promoted this project throughout the internet stratosphere….

Word.

To my entire project team scattered across the world who managed to respond personally to over 20,000 comments, inquiries and criticisms, who provided structure when there wasn’t any and who even now continue to invest time and energy into this project…

Word.

And, of course, to Per, who allowed me to leap without fearing the landing, who is my never-faltering cheerleader in all things, and who has now learned enough about coolers to last a lifetime….

Word multiplied by 1,000.

I’m increasingly a believer in the “you-can-have-it-all” mentality, but I’m also rapidly learning that no one can do it alone.

Word, folks.

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V Day 2014

I’ve heard a lot of exclamations about V Day recently – victory day, one billion rising day, barbie-on-the-sports-illustrated-cover day, someone-complaining-about-something day…. I just can’t even keep track anymore. I don’t mean to be glib about anyone’s missions or passions or quests for social equality – really, I don’t.

I just really, honestly can’t keep track.

But my V Day today, for example, involved red roses and a babysitter. Really, can it get any better than that?!

Valentine’s Day used to be something I taught my foreign language students about in Russia. “Hmmmm…yeah…I think saint so-and-so….somewhere….did something…. so we get chocolates and cards with hearts. Yeah! Let’s practice love poems in English, shall we?

(Except I’m an American and would never, ever say “shall” in public. Not a chance.)

Back in the day, my (then) boyfriend / (current) husband and I would make grand plans for the day, starting with champagne for breakfast and ending with lingerie and other things I can’t mention because my mother-in-law still reads these posts.

But these days… give me a night out with a few J&B on the rocks and – BAM! – Happy V Day to us, baby!

Now, listen ladies. LISTEN! This is not to say that romance is dead. Nothing is further from the truth! I had roses delivered to my door and a lovely note that expressed good, honest, true-to-the-bone emotion (which, as all you women know, is essentially the equivalent of Bilbo Baggins searching for the Holy Grail… )

So grab your man/woman/partner/animal and CELEBRATE all you lovely people out there! Celebrate, as a friend recently reminded me, the moments when you dance in the kitchen and crack open a bottle of champagne on a Tuesday for No Reason Whatsoever.

Good stuff!

Happy v-day to everyone, no matter what your cause of celebration or method for intaking happy substances into your system. Enjoy the moment, dance in the kitchen, and enjoy the babysitter while they’re still on the payroll!

Good stuff 🙂

Christmas toothbrushes

Holidays spent abroad are always a mixed bag. Sometimes you get lucky, and you find yourself surrounded by a great group of entrepreneurial-minded friends who manage to make pumpkin pie from scratch. Other times, you find yourself in a new apartment with no furniture, no lights and no idea how to oh-so-politely inquire, “Where the *&(#$!* is my internet line?!” in Turkish.

We Svendsens somewhat unwillingly selected the latter option for Christmas 2013. Per tried to make the best of it by saying we’re having a “camping-style” Christmas, which actually sounds quite cozy and romantic in its own sad little way. Of course, anyone who actually knows my Proscesso-adoring husband knows that camping is the least likely activity for him to pursue ever, anywhere….. but still, his intentions were good.

As for me, I was so depressed on Christmas Eve at the sad state of our cheaply-purchased Charlie Brown tree with no legs and plastic needles disintegrating every second, that I very nearly canceled Christmas.

And then a funny thing happened… It all actually turned out okay.

For beginners, the sun set and the tree (similar to a coyote-inspiring hook-up) didn’t look so bad in the dark.

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Per taped the tree’s legs together and hid the worst of its flaws with well-positioned twinkling lights. I must give credit where it’s due – a Christmas miracle was performed on that tree.

We covered our borrowed hotel dining table with red and green wrapping paper to imitate a festive tablecloth.

We lit candles in the room and the windows and played classic Christmas songs on our cell phones.

Per managed to open a bottle of wine with the back end of his toothbrush.

Our new Turkish neighbors, who hardly even know us, stopped by with a lamp. And then a television. And then a television stand. I remained in the kitchen, cooking and marveling at the wondrous nature of Turkish hospitality.

We got to speak with two sets of grandparents, who both have equally charming/disastrous stories of holidays spent eating off the floor of empty apartments in years gone by.

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Our young, mischievous toddler learned the unrealized potential of the phrase “Christmas presents!” (a skill that, I fear, will not be unlearned for quite some time).

Per opened many, many more bottles of wine with the back end of his toothbrush.

We roasted a chicken and vegetables and potatoes and had lots of fresh fruits and salads and even some “pepperkake” (gingerbread cookies) we miraculously found in a nearby shop.

And we exchanged gifts just as we would anywhere else, and we experienced the same sense of satisfaction as parents everywhere when our kid was more mesmerized with the boxes and the wrapping paper than the actual contents.

In the end, it all turned out okay. We missed our family dearly and still at times had to ward off some depressing thoughts about being alone this holiday season. But, as it turns out, this Svendsen family actually does know a bit about camping.

Just as long as there’s a toothbrush around….

Happy 2014 to all our P&P readers!

Moving day: Tips and tricks to survive the chaos

Let’s be honest – this isn’t our first run around the rodeo.

As I posted here almost exactly two years ago, moving is always a mix of emotions. On the one hand, you have the excitement of something new around the corner. On the other hand, you have the total fear and utter uncertainty of something new around the corner.

Same experience, different hands.

We get a bit smarter with each move. We pack less ourselves (and by “we” I mean, obviously, “me“) and we leave more to the paid professionals. We ask the right questions, we get the right documents and we pay for it without a second thought (and by “we” I mean, obviously, “not me“). There are few things in this world that I research more than moving companies, and trust me when I tell you it’s time well-spent.

Leading up to the day itself, I get rid of loooooooads of stuff. Anything I don’t absolutely love gets donated, delivered or dumped. All those quick-fix items around the house that stuck around out of sheer apathy? Gone. All those half-empty bottles of shampoo that were bought and then not used? Gone. All those sexy skirts and jeans that linger in the closet with pre-mommy hopefulness? Gone.

And all those half-eaten cartons of ice cream in the freezer…

Oh, wait. Nope, those get eaten. Duh.

I keep one file folder with original documents like birth and marriage certificates in my suitcase while the rest gets shipped. I keep scanned documents and files on a flash drive or in my Google Drive account, just in case they’re needed before our shipment arrives.

My goal before the moving company pulls up outside is just to get everything in the right room, in the general vicinity of where it ideally belongs. So then, when everything gets packed, it ends up in approximately the right box for unpacking. Laundry is tricky – I woke up my husband at 6am this morning so I could wash the sheets before the movers arrived. But he was really understanding and quite happy to be of assistance (and by “happy” I mean, obviously, “very, very grumpy“).

On moving day, I pamper the packers with coffee and food and lots and lots of fresh water. I don’t hover, but I stick around in case there are questions. Beers afterwards are always offered, but rarely accepted. Such treatment isn’t required, of course, but I like to believe that well-fed, relaxed packers help ensure my sh*t won’t stink at the next destination.

And then, finally, when all is done, dusted and loaded, I look around at the house where my son took his first steps and shed a few tears. We pay homage to the home that housed us for the past two years, that absorbed our nicks and knacks and scratches and scrapes. I always, always get nostalgic at the point when I see our former home, stripped of all its trimmings, an empty stranger to me once again.

It’s said that “home is where the heart is.” But does that mean you leave a little piece of your heart behind in each home you inhabit? In 20 years and 10 houses from now, will we have any pieces of our heart remaining? Or will they all be left behind and scattered around the globe, I wonder.

Thank you, dear Calle Nayra 83, for all your sunny days and breezy nights, for your large terrace that hosted our BBQ’s and birthday parties and our first-ever Christmas dinner. Thank you for your rooms where our guests have slept and for your close proximity to the wine bottle recycling station. The only thing I won’t miss is your tiny dishwasher that never allowed enough space for all our champagne glasses, and that ain’t really so bad…

Sometimes

Sometimes, I think we really, really are crazy.

I mean, seriously…. who gives up this kind of life?!?!?

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This is not a holiday picture.

It’s not even unique – just another normal Svendsen day in the Svendsen land of Gran Canaria.

Then again, sometimes I think it’s really, really time to get this kid out of here….

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Istanbul, here we come… 15 days and counting!

My toddler’s one true love (in photos)

If you look at the world through the eyes of a 2-year-old, there’s a lot to love. There’s play-time and cuddle-time and story-time and bath-time. There’s the great outdoors, which in Gran Canaria means the beach and the sand and the water and never-ending days of sunshine. And there are special treats throughout the day – the simplicity of yogurt with Cheerios or red, individually-sized boxes of raisins.

These things are all great in my son’s eyes. But nothing – and I mean nothing – can beat the pure love, joy and spiritual intimacy my son shares with ice cream. He’s a completely unbiased purveyor of the frozen treat…. any flavor, any shape and any size will do, thankyouverymuch. It’s often messy and often requires a change of clothing afterwards. But it’s always, always beloved.

So without any further ado, here’s a chronological compilation of Per Christian’s affair with his one true love, past and present…

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Good thing they have ice cream in Istanbul, too!

The Next Chapter

If I wrote a book about the past few years of my life, it would look something like this:

Chapter 1 – Marguerite Meets her Match: A Love Story with Fruit (aka Per) in Azerbaijan

Chapter 2 – Marguerite Gets Schooled: Beer-Stained Spreadsheets in Oxford

Chapter 3 – Marguerite Moves North: Separating “Titte” from “Tisse” in Norway

Chapter 4 – Marguerite Births Fidel: A History in the Making

Chapter 5 – Marguerite Takes a Time-Out: Adjusting to Mommy-hood in Gran Canaria

And now… !

Chapter 6 – Marguerite Gets Her Groove Back: Moving the Family to Istanbul

Yep. Istanbul. Can and get a “WTF?” from my dear readers, please?

It’s hard to even imagine the changes in store for Family Svendsen as we move from relaxing, peaceful Gran Canaria to the buzz and chaos of Istanbul. But I’m somehow irrationally excited about returning to an urban address after two years of beach living. Most people hear the news and think we’re insane, giving up our easy existence here for a big, fat Turkish-speaking question mark. And I get your point, really I do.

But I have this song running on replay in my head these days, courtesy of living with a two-year-old who adores Winnie the Pooh (and Tigger, too)…

Eeyore: Well I’m not sure.
Tigger: Oh stop that gloomy roomynation
All you need is a little bit of Tiggerization
Eeyore:Wait!
Tigger: Why wait? Don’t you see it’s gonna be great?
It’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be great!

Strike me down! Give me all ya got!
Bounce me! Trounce me! Flounce me! Pounce me!
Do it! Do it! Do it!
It’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be….
Greaaaaaaat!

I suppose quoting Tigger is perhaps not the most auspicious beginning for this next chapter of the book called My Life. Maybe my senses are dulled by the fumes of moving boxes already filling the house, or the weariness of researching Istanbul’s numerous neighborhoods online in an effort to focus our impending house hut.

Surely the fact that I’m writing this at 4:36am has nothing to do with it.

But the wheels are set in motion and momentum is building. Over the next month, I’ll be dis-assembling the house we spent two years putting together (which, let’s be honest, mostly involves negotiating with my husband on whether we really need to take that unused cord plug or unwatched DVD with us). And I’ll be emptying the freezer of our totally unnecessary stockpile of food, trying to assure my family that we can live on frozen chicken, peas and beer for a few weeks (plus about 24 bottles of duty-free Prosecco our friends just delivered, but nobody’s complaining about that one.)

And I’ll slowly be saying good-bye to Gran Canaria, a place that looks amazingly attractive now that we’re leaving.

But hey –

It’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be great!

Glory days

I have no words to describe the complete and utter beauty of a true Norwegian summer. Long, sunny days spent lounging around the various lawns of our friends and family, followed by equally long, cozy evenings spent sitting around the picnic tables and feeding troughs of the same.

Such idyllic summers don’t happen every year in Norway, but when they do decide to make an appearance…

YES. A thousand times… YES.

Enjoy!

No fence is tall enough to keep this boy from his ice cream.

No fence is tall enough to keep this boy from his ice cream.

Per Christian gets his first guitar from Uncle C.

Per Christian gets his first guitar from Uncle C.

The downside of simultaneously having a 2-year-old in the house and train tracks nearby.

The downside of simultaneously having a 2-year-old in the house and train tracks nearby.

Boys... rocks... enough said.

Boys… rocks… enough said.

No, Tante Eline, you press THIS one!

Nei, Tante Eline, you press THIS one!

Farfar introduced his plane-crazy grandson to the world of Merlins (which he lived to regret at 7am every morning)

Farfar introduced his plane-crazy grandson to the world of Merlins (something he came to regret at approximately 7am every morning).

Nothing beats a snooze in the fresh sea air.

Nothing beats a snooze in the fresh sea air.

More boat time with the two uncles.

Norwegian-style driving lessons with the two uncles.

A wonderful day with the animals and rides at Dyrparken, just outside Kristiansand.

We spent a wonderful day with the animals and rides at Dyrparken, just outside Kristiansand.

Look, Momma... I'm adorable!

Look, Momma… I’m adorable! (And no, I do NOT need a hair cut!)

Cheeky bugger learned early how to cut the line for train rides.

Cheeky bugger learned early how to cut the line for train rides.

TRAIN! TRAIN! TRAIN! (Seriously, how can a little person physically generate so much noise?!)

TRAIN! TRAIN! TRAIN! (Seriously, how can a little person physically generate so much noise?!)

Tractor rides came in a close second to train rides.

Tractor rides come in a close second place to train rides (especially if Oliver is on board).

Fevik beach, where we spent our early mornings while the rest of the house was still sleeping

Fevik beach, where Momma and her Noise Machine spent some early mornings.

Cool enough for a long shirt in the morning...

Cool enough for a long shirt at first…

... but quickly warm enough for bathing suits

… but quickly warm enough for bathing suits!

The lovely Norwegian coastline and quiet beach

The lovely Norwegian coastline and quiet local beach.

Typical summer day in Fevik...

Just a typical summer day with our Fevik family…

... and typical Fevik-style entertainment.

… and typical Fevik-style entertainment.

Per Christian continues his auspicious musical education.

Per Christian continues his auspicious musical education.

The annual Fevik White Party begins!

The annual Fevik White Party begins!

The much-adored Uncle Per Fredrik.

The much-adored Uncle Per Fredrik.

Quick! Take a picture while his clothes are still white!

Quick! Snap a picture while his clothes are still white!

Ooops! Too late.

Ooops! Too late.

Thank you to all the friends, family, grandparents, chaperones, drivers and fellow revelers who made this summer holiday so wonderful. We’ve been incredibly blessed to take a slice of Norwegian summer back with us to Gran Canaria… until next year!

Fiesta del Carmen 2.0

One of the great things about living abroad is celebrating the local holidays. There’s always something a bit quirky and unfamiliar on these special days – from Russian marathon “piknik” days in the woods, to British horse-and-hat exhibitions, to Norwegian bunad costumes… and, now, to the crazy, overwhelming and hangover-inducing land of Spanish fiestas.

For the past two weeks, our little town of Arguineguin has been in the throws of its annual Fiesta del Carmen, celebrated every July in tribute to St. Carmen, patron saint of the sea. I’m not sure how honoring this lady translates into foam parties and all-night DJ extravaganzas, but so it is.

The highlight of the fiesta is on the last day when St. Carmen is paraded through town, loaded onto a boat and taken down the coast to her sister church in Mogan. Sounds like normal, respectful behavior towards a beloved, sea-faring saint, right?

Hardly.

Do you remember that flotilla boat parade they organized on the Thames in London for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee? The Queen and her entourage stood in full ceremonial attire with proper British decorum, calmly waving to the crowds and the boats that passed.

Respectful flotilla behavior (The Guardian, 2012)

Respectful flotilla behavior (photo courtesy of The Guardian, 2012)

Yeah. This one in Arguineguin is slightly different…. (Note that some photos below are from last year’s celebration but never posted before. ‘Cause that’s the punctual way I work.)

I'm sure St Carmen appreciates your tribute (2012)

I’m sure St Carmen appreciates your tribute (2012)

Parading down to the harbor (photo courtesy of La Provincia, 2013)

Parading down to the harbor (photo courtesy of La Provincia, 2013)

The boats begin their journey (2012)

The boats begin their journey from Arguineguin to Mogan (2012)

Boat procession (2013, photo courtesy of Gran Canaria Info)

Boat procession (photo courtesy of Gran Canaria Info, 2013)

Shipping St Carmen to Mogan (with a totally-no-obvious plug for Per's hotel in the background, 2012)

Shipping St Carmen to Mogan (with a totally-not-obvious plug for the Radisson resort in the background, 2012)

Arrival in Mogan (2013)

Arrival in Mogan (2013). No idea where the lady saint went, not sure it matters to these people…

Per, Per Christian and "Uncle," thankfully wearing more clothes than many other fiesta-go'ers

Per, Per Christian and “Uncle,” thankfully wearing more clothes than the other fiesta-go’ers

Honestly, this fiesta and boat procession will be one of my favorite memories from living in Gran Canaria. The crazy-factor is high and people-watching opportunities abound, but even despite that, it’s a great day out on the water with an authentic Canarian party atmosphere. What could be better than that?

You can read more about the annual Fiesta del Carmen here, here or here.

Gender stereotypes… Guilty as charged.

The Svendsen clan is going on holiday to Norway soon and we’re having friends stay at our house in Gran Canaria while we’re out. These friends are two very normal, male friends of ours – two decent, responsible and more-or-less mature 30-something men.

So how do I stock the house for them in our absence….?

Beer. And toilet paper.

It was completely unintentional, but as I was unpacking the groceries I realized what my subconscious had accomplished. It made me laugh a little because, yeah… Men… beer… toilet paper… Duh.

I’m sure when said friends arrive and see how I stocked for their visit, they’ll offer me a virtual high-five and wonder why I wasted money on the toilet paper.

So am I guilty of gender stereotyping now? Are the gender police going to come after me about my archaic view of male roles in society? Should I have substituted the beer for white wine and the toilet paper for scented bath bubbles?

I’m so over all these debates raging about gender in the news these days – about who said what about whom during whatever sensational interview. If a woman wants to focus all her attention on her family, let her. If she wants to work 60 hours a week and build a nursery in her office, let her. If she wants to sit around and drink beer and wipe her bum with toilet paper all day, for goodness sake…. let her.

My life right now is almost a dictionary-perfect version of old-school stereotypes. I haven’t worked for two years because we moved overseas for my husband’s career. I put my management consulting career on hold to take care of my family and support our life abroad. My son loves cars, trains, helicopters and dump trucks – not a single doll or pink tutu is evident anywhere in our house.

Some people would say I’m wasting my potential, that I can’t possibly be fulfilled “just” staying at home. But here’s the point…. I know that in a few mere minutes, the situation will have changed again to who-knows-what. Jobs come and go, new homes come and go, time passes and roles shift and life gives us something else to make work. And nothing that anybody says on Fox news or elsewhere is going to impact that. I don’t need the gender police to make sure I’m not offended by some idiot’s ramblings – karma, dude. It’s a bitch.

So I apologize in advance to our visiting friends who will have to live under the yoke of gender stereotypes while in our home. If you feel oppressed and can’t manage to live to your fullest potential while on holiday, I can direct you to the nearest supermarket to buy your own damn wine and bath bubbles.