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.


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!

17 Mai, again….

It was the 17th of May yesterday, which means it was time once again for Norwegians everywhere to impersonate an American July 4th celebration. Except with a lot more formal clothes and without all the fireworks, or the tailgating, or the sparklers…. but still fun, yay!

Heia Norge!

Seriously though, this is Per Christian’s third “17 Mai” celebration since he was born – first dressed (somewhat unwillingly) as an intoxicated sailor and last year with no celebration at all besides Cheerios and laundry. But this year he finally was old enough to dress the part and participate in the infamous children’s tog (literally a train, but also a parade).

I’ve been begging Pappa P to show me a 17 Mai tog every year since I first moved to Norway in 2008 – it just seemed like an authentic cultural experience that shouldn’t be missed. But Pappa P, scarred by years of forced tog participation as a child, has always managed to redirect my attention to champagne and brunch instead. Go figure.

So this year we got the full 17 Mai experience – nice clothes, breakfast at the school, the patriotic raising of the Norwegian flag and, yes, finally! The Tog.

And you know what I learned about walking in a 17 Mai parade with my son?

It’s just like going for a walk any other day.

So there’s one thing off my Bucket List. Next year it’s back to champagne.

Happy 17 Mai, everyone!

17 Mai cuteness, Gran Canaria-style

17 Mai cuteness, Gran Canaria-style

Heia Norge!

Heia Norge!

Per Christian's nursery director in her traditional bunad

Per Christian’s nursery director in her traditional bunad

All the Svendsens in one photo - it's a miracle!

The entire Svendsen threesome in one photo – it’s a miracle!

Handsome boys

This is why women everywhere should marry Norwegian men

Mommy and Per Christian

Mommy and Per Christian

Pre-tog chillin' with girlfriend Jamila

Pre-tog chillin’ with girlfriend Jamila

Learning the national anthem with Pappa

Learning the national anthem with Pappa

Is it time for ice cream yet???

Is it time for ice cream yet???

The stroller section of the tog

The stroller section of the tog

Per Christian "walking" in the parade

Per Christian “walking” in the parade (he didn’t last long)

The Norwegians of Gran Canaria all descend on Anfi beach

The Norwegians of Gran Canaria all descend on Anfi beach, 17 May 2013

17 Mai, take two

I posted here about last year’s 17th of May holiday in Norway. Per Christian was just over 6 weeks old and was dressed like a drunken sailor. We had a fantastic brunch with a large group of friends in Oslo, and we got to enjoy everyone’s traditional bunad costumes.

One year later, and my-oh-my how things have changed!

Pappa S is at work today – there’s no holiday here in Spain, and especially if you’re opening a hotel in two weeks. I’ve spent the morning in my pajamas, and I have no plans of changing in the near future. Per Christian is movin’ and grovin’ a lot more than he did last year, when he spent the day sleeping on various shoulders and pieces of furniture.

Here are a few more changes I’ve noticed since this day last year:

Our friends’ terrace in Oslo has been replaced by our own terrace in Gran Canaria:

Last year’s sailor hat has been generously donated to a furry little friend:

Our Norwegian brunch has been replaced by an intimate breakfast of fruit and Cheerios:

And a day off from work has been replaced by a day of laundry:

However, despite all these changes, our little sailor has still managed to wear some semi-appropriate Norwegian attire this morning:

Gratulerer med 17th Mai, Norge!


A funny thing happened today in Gran Canaria…. it rained. I know this sounds like I’m mocking everyone who lives with rain throughout the year, but I am actually serious. I’ve seen rain three times since we moved here last October, so it is indeed a rare thing to behold.

Funny enough, the rain makes me homesick for Oslo. I always enjoyed curling up under a blanket and sipping coffee in the mornings, but such a thing is more unusual here. “Koselig” (the Norwegian word for “cozy”) is used in all kinds of situations – an evening with friends around the table, a gathering of children happily playing together, a weekend getaway to your cabin in the mountains. But most often, I think of koselig as snuggled under a blanket with either rain, snow or grey skies outside my window.

Norway is in the news a lot these days because of the Breivik trial. My family was traveling back from Crete on the day of the attacks, so we only heard the news through frantic text messages and patchy media coverage. We were in Oslo for much of the aftermath though, including the street closures caused not by the attacks themselves, but rather by the heavy outpouring of roses and flowers around Oslo’s main cathedral.

Never once did I hear that Breivik’s message against multiculturalism had taken root and would continue to grow. Instead, I heard the Prime Minister say that the attacks would make Norway stronger in its resolve to be an open, democratic country. In typical stoic Norwegian fashion, crowds gathered to mourn silently, yet proudly, and to illustrate that this tragedy would not be their undoing.

So when I read about yesterday’s gathering of more than 40,000 people to – once again – stand together against the hateful messages coming out of Breivik’s trial, I am filled with awe at the Norwegian people’s resolve.

I miss my dear town of Oslo. Even though I was only there two years, it does feel like home to me. Maybe because it’s where so many of our friends live, or maybe because it’s where my son was born. Or maybe because it’s where I spent so many koselig days and nights. Even more likely, it’s because I can identify with the Norwegian people gathering together to sing in the face of ugliness.

The world is watching you, dear Norway, and you are setting a sublime example for us all.

Number 7

I’ve written here and here about how to spot a Norwegian in Gran Canaria. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I have a new addition that tops the list!

Yesterday I was out walking with Per Christian and I saw something unmistakably Norwegian. Like good, dedicated researchers everywhere, I quickly grabbed my camera and sneaked off two photos paparazzi-style. ‘Cause that’s how unbelievable it was.

So here it is – #7 on our growing list of How to Spot a Norwegian in Gran Canaria:

Roller-skis! Frequently seen in Norway for cross-country training during the warmer months, but they still crack me up every time I see them.

Number 6

Although I personally believe my Top Five to be fairly comprehensive, I think I’d be doing a disservice to y’all if I didn’t add just one more tip for spotting a Norwegian in Gran Canaria.

Without a doubt, the presence and enjoyment of brown cheese will 100% undeniably indicate that a Norwegian is in the room.


Proceed with caution – coming in between a Nordman and his brown cheese can be dangerous!


How to spot a Norwegian in Gran Canaria

After my last post, I received a lot of emails from people asking, “But Mommy Svendsen, how do you really know all those people passing you on the steps are Norwegians?”

(Okay – not really. Such popularity is only in my head. Nobody wrote and asked me anything. Moving on…)

Despite this self-imagined popularity, the question still remains – how exactly does one spot a Norwegian in Gran Canaria? I mean, when people greet you, do you respond by saying, “hola” or “hello” or “heihei”? This is an important thing to know!

To answer this important-only-in-my-own-head riddle, I took it upon myself to spend a pleasant (i.e – “childless”) afternoon hour in downtown Arguineguin sipping cortados, people-watching and gathering my thoughts.

(Okay – not really. Arguineguin doesn’t have a downtown. Such grandness is only in my head. It’s more like of a small town’s main street. But I was childless for the hour, which is definitely something. Moving on…)

The result, outlined below, is now available free of charge for all my adoring fans and readers worldwide.

Top Five Ways to Spot a Norwegian in Gran Canaria:

1. SandwichesThis might sound like an odd way of spotting a Norwegian, but not once you’ve lived and breathed in Norway for a few years. After living there, you’d never do anything as crass as actually eat a sandwiches with your hands. No way! Norwegians eat their sandwiches, burgers, etc. with a fork and knife. Very civil-like. Take a look around the Arguineguin cafes, spot the clean-fingered sandwich eaters, and you’ll instantly know you’re among friends.

2. Backpacks – Look closely and you’ll notice these aren’t just any normal backpacks. These are the ubiquitous “Bergans of Norway” hiking backpacks, famous throughout Norway where every person lives and breathes the Great Outdoors. Bergans is so much a part of everyday life that you don’t ask if someone has their backpack or jacket before leaving the house. You ask if they have their Bergans. If you see someone with a Helly Hansen backpack, proceed with caution – their origin is questionable. But a Bergans? The answer is obvious.

3. Trekking poles – I know a lot of older people come to Gran Canaria during the European winter in order to defrost and enjoy the numerous hiking trails. That’s impressive, and I can respect that. Good for you for being 80 years old and regularly hiking up the side of a mountain for exercise. Bravo! But listen, do you really need your mountain-essential trekking poles while walking around the cement sidewalks of Arguineguin??? There must be some serious pedestrian perils I’m missing in my ignorant youth, but the older Norwegians among us  – they know better.

4. Ecco sandals – This one’s a bit tricky. The presence of these god-awful sandals doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve met a Norwegian. You may be amid Germans, or even a Dutchman. BUT! If those sandals are worn in combination with a Bergans backpack OR are worn by someone eating a sandwich with a fork and knife – breathe easy, my friend. You’ve definitely found yourself a Norwegian. However, beware if these sandals are worn with socks, especially black socks. In that case, no matter what the assumed nationality, do not stop and chat. Keep walking because you do not want to know this person.

5. White wine before noon – Norwegians, especially sea-faring ones, usually have rules about these things, like “no alcohol before noon.” Such rules keep many a drink-lovin’ Norwegian (my husband included) from succumbing to the seductive lure of alcoholism. But just as they sometimes forget their own national etiquette rules when abroad (like not helping stroller mommies, or shamelessly walking topless in public), Norwegians on holiday also love themselves a bit of liquid before lunch.

There’s a hierarchy to the liquid though, so be careful that you’re not mistaking a Norwegian with someone else. For example, if there’s beer in their glass, keep walking – they could be from anywhere… if there’s something dark in their glass like Canaria’s famous honey rum, then you’re getting closer – maybe you’ve met a Danish or a Finnish friend…. but if there’s white wine in their glass and the clock has yet to strike twelve, you’re in luck. Pull up a chair, order yourself a drink, and feel confident that you’ve entered some welcoming Norwegian territory.

So go ahead – with this essential information, you can wave and say “heihei!” to all the Norwegians in town without fear of being misunderstood! Bravo!

(Okay – not really. Norwegians don’t talk to strangers. Such an extroverted display of cheeriness from a real, live Norwegian would only happen in my head. Moving on….)

Brain fail #1,269

As both my father and father-in-law have pointed out, I need to take a refresher course on scientific history.

This post should of course have referred to Murphy (anything that can go wrong – will), rather than to Newton (gravity and apple-on-the-head).

Damn. Sorry folks.

In an attempt to hide my utter embarrassment and avoid any further blunders, here are some recent photos of our precious little meatball. Current favorite activities include grabbing at anything within arm’s reach and throwing them across the room/table/jet plane. I’ve heard this is typical Boy behavior, as opposed to Girl behavior that includes playing quietly with minimum destruction (sugar and spice and all that….)

He’s teething badly enough to drive mommy to distraction. Thank goodness pappa returns home from Gran Canaria tonight.

One week left in countdown to the Big Move – wish us luck everyone!


Uh oh…. I think there’s another bar-loving Svendsen in the house:

Playdate with girlfriend Nina, Auntie Eline and Auntie Larissa:

Traveling like a big boy to the airport:

Excellent promotional material for Norwegian Airlines (en route to Auntie Gøril in Tromsø):

Classic Nordic baby-style:

Look everyone…. up on all fours!

The season of skoposer

The Summer of Infant Travel is complete and autumn has arrived in Oslo. I know this because (1) it’s raining and (2) the skoposer have appeared. “Skoposer” (literally, “shoe bags”) are blue plastic shoe covers that are placed inside the doorway of nearly every building you enter in Norway. They look like this:

(Note that not all places have such fancy application devices for your skoposer. Usually it’s just a basketful of blue bags that you apply manually…)

Everywhere you go – coffee shops, office buildings, even the gym – you’re expected to stop and slip the skoposer over your shoes before trailing your wet, slimy mess into the corridors. This is important because (1) it’s raining and (2) Norwegians don’t care.

Seriously – Norwegians are fearless about the weather. Rain or shine, they’re outside. There’s a famous saying in Norway that everyone learns as soon as they step off the plane: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” I’ve been hearing this for nearly three years, but I’m still the stupid American wearing ballet flats in the rain when everyone else is in ponchos and wellie boots.

A case in point this rainy Monday morning. The Svendsen family awoke to a smiling, happy baby at 8am (yeah! more about that next time….) and promptly dashed through our usual morning rituals before baby swimming class. Per and I were the chumps who drove three minutes to the pool and then spent 10 minutes looking for parking rather than schlepping through the rainstorm. Trust me, we were the minority. Within minutes, the entire entrance hall was filled with families in all assortment of rain gear. Parents covered in plastic ponchos wearing plastic boots and maneuvering plastic-wrapped baby strollers. No matter what the weather, those babies were going to swimming class gosh darn it.

And of course, right inside the entrance — the large basket of blue skoposer. My first of the season. It brought back memories of my last skoposer experience five months ago when I had to struggle over my enormous baby bump and reach my feet. Now I’ve joined the legions of mommies pushing their plastic bubbles around Oslo. (And yes – I’m finally on the hunt for a good pair of wellies to fit inside my skoposer. In case you have any suggestions….)

Today’s photo album has snippets from Per Christian’s recent baby swimming classes. His reactions to the water have varied from sheer joy to absolute misery, all captured for me to proudly share during my CNN interview after my son upsets Michael Phelps’ world records. This will of course happen.

Enjoy, and stay dry!

17 May

I love the 17th of May in Norway. It’s just like the 4th of July in the US, but swaps out the shorts, t-shirts and barbeques for traditional costumes (bunads), blue suits and brunch. The entire town is covered in Norwegian flags, even the trams and taxis are outfitted in patriotic gear. And until you have school-aged children who march through town in the children’s parade (we still have some years before that…), it’s the perfect excuse to get dressed up and drink Prosecco in the middle of the week.

Our good friends Christian & Eline hosted this year’s brunch at their fabulous new home just outside Oslo’s city centre. Christian worked round-the-clock before the holiday to finish their terrace outside – the weather gods rewarded his efforts and showered us with sunshine on the big day.

It was also Per Christian’s first 17th of May. I hope he will someday forgive his mother for dressing him up like a drunken sailor for the occasion:

Some examples of the bunads on display yesterday are below. These are serious get-ups, quite expensive and usually passed down from generation to generation. Each bunad has colors and patterns that represent a region of the country. They’re only pulled out for the most special of occasions, such as weddings, baptisms, confirmations and the 17th of May. (I have also heard that they are made with expanding waistbands so you can still use them as you get older and fatter. Good call – those crafty Norwegians really know how to make a garment last…)

They even include shoes and tights the remind me on the Jolly Green Giant, but are essential for full bunad correctness:

Per Christian spent the day sleeping on various shoulders and charming the crowd per usual:

So from a happy Svendsen family, surviving our way through early-stage parenthood and still sipping the occasional prosecco along the way, we hope you all had a glorious 17th of May!