Whitby test-drives our latest purchase

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Cold

It’s been around -6 all week. Today was -8. Highs of -10 are predicted for Monday and Tuesday. They said last winter was the coldest, snowiest winter in 50 years. They say this winter will be worse. Luckily there hasn’t been a lot of snow yet. A small amount fell about a week ago and has been tossed around like sand in the wind ever since. It’s a strange, dry cold, which makes sense of the way arctic climates can be described as deserts. It’s so cold that the windscreen doesn’t frost up. That’s also a blessing because scraping thick ice from the outside and the inside of the windscreen and praying that it will remain transparent enough to drive safely is a very unpleasant start to the morning.

Today I went into town to lodge some paperwork and get a haircut, and I made the executive decision that it’s the last time I venture out without thermal underwear. I’ve invested in wool socks, which make the winter boots come into their own. I bought a thick dressing-gown and warm pyjamas, and have been regularly using a hair dryer for the first time in my life. Wet hair is just not an option at the moment. Michael has started laying more insulation in our loft, and we are sleeping in the spare room because it’s much better insulated than our bedroom. (Though that’s next on the list.)

We don’t let the kittens out much because they come back with cracked and blistered paws.

The harbour is already frozen over and today the sun gleamed on its grey and shiny surface.

The Norwegians say there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

Thank you Nanna!

My Nanna (my Dad’s Mum) reads this blog, and when she read what I wrote about not knowing what to get for the baby, she promptly sent over some cardigans and booties she has knitted for him! We love them. They will be perfect to keep him warm. And I love the little pearl buttons. I remember when I was a little girl I loved little pearl buttons. I miss you Nanna. We both send our love.

For anyone wondering, here’s the bump in progress, at almost 30 weeks. I get a shock whenever I glimpse myself from the side. It looks much bigger that way than it does from above. He is starting to feel like a bit of a lump in there. Last night he decided he wanted to lie sideways for a while and kick and poke me, which wasn’t much fun. But sort of amusing all the same.

Aside from that, it has been cold. The forecast says cold and colder. I’ve been struggling with the November blues the past week, not to mention the never ending head-cold which developed into a nasty sinus infection. It’s hard knowing that just about now it’s sunshiny and gorgeous in Australia.

Here’s the frost on the balustrade of our deck. These crystals cover everything, every morning. Well, until it started snowing yesterday. I took these frosty pictures on Friday morning, but I haven’t raced out to photograph the snow yet. When you know it will be a pretty constant companion for the next five months or so, you lose the sense of urgency…

The frosty mornings are beautiful though. It’s hard to capture on camera the puffy yellow clouds of the sunrise shining through the iced branches of the trees. And things are coming together. We’ve spent the weekend snuggling in front of the fire, eating soup, figuring out how to better insulate our loft. My doctor prescribed me some antibiotics on Wednesday, and I’m starting to feel a little more human. And I have my winter boots.

Breakfast with new teapot, for Stephanie

And new egg-cup, but don’t tell Michael. I’ve actually been wanting a proper egg-cup for ages, so that’s ok. They come from my favourite shop in the oversized Swedish shopping centre that perches on the border to Norway. It’s the iittala outlet, which is a Finnish company that produces crockery. They’ve recently brought this Swedish range in too, Hoganas (with a couple of funny Swedish letters in there that my keyboard isn’t equipped for). They have a whole new range, so they are selling the old one off half price. The new teapots were pretty gorgeous too, but four times as expensive, and I love the simplicity of this old one, its balance, its sheen, its wooden lid, and its beautiful big handle, perfect for fitting your whole hand inside. Now I just have to restrain myself from going back and buying up all the mugs and plates and bowls…

Shopping!

No, not for baby clothes – but thanks for the advice!

I just had my first entirely frivolous Friday off in ages. After a delightfully slow morning I went shopping in Sweden. I bought not one but two pairs of winter boots. Although I have already lived through seven northern winters (that’s if you include the English ones, which don’t really compare to Norwegian ones but are difficult enough for antipodeans), I have never bought winter boots. This is due to a general frugality when it comes to buying clothing (and especially shoes), and to a general attitude of ‘making do’. (I’m not sure this is particularly admirable, it’s related to a habit of reading books but not attending to practicalities.) But the shoes I have worn practically every day for the past three years now have cracked soles and let the water in. And tying the laces to my hiking boots was getting increasingly difficult due to a certain little being taking up space around my middle. Anyway, now I have one pair of uber-practical ‘snow fun’ boots which will be suitable for ploughing snow from our driveway, outdoor activities at the kindergarten, and any kind of walking when the weather is treacherous. And another pair of nice warm boots that aren’t quite so hard wearing but much kinder on the eye (and very easy to put on) that I can wear on the days that it doesn’t resemble Antarctica out there. So I’m pretty pleased with myself really.

I also bought a cutting board thing to help me cut fabric in straight lines. Last night I finally got around to pulling out the sewing machine Mum bought me for my birthday. I am starting on a couple of very simple projects to try and get the hang of it. (I don’t think I’ve touched a sewing machine since I was about 10.) And last night I realised I’ll never get my seams straight if I don’t cut the fabric straight. So. Problem solved, I hope. (And I bought a couple of other bits and bobs to help me finish my first projects…)

Last but not least, I bought a cornflower blue Swedish teapot. It is beautiful. I have missed having a teapot. There is a kind of promise in teapots. Of friendship and warmth, of giving time and space to being together. I used to drink tea from teapots with my girlfriends in Adelaide. This teapot is the perfect size, not for a huge gathering, but for two or three. I’m sure it has a happy life ahead of it. It makes me calm just to look at it.

28 Weeks

That makes me third trimester, right? I’m quite pleased about that, as it feels I’ve been pregnant forever. Spring, summer, autumn… And winter arrived with a thud this week. Yesterday there was a veritable snow storm, complete with howling winds. The snow needed clearing from the driveway this morning. Today it was calm, but still snowed most of the day. The kittens are intrigued. At least black cats are very visible in all that white!

It’s a good thing I took a photo of our bright yellow beech tree last week, as now it’s pretty much lost all its needles and reverted into a very spindly miserable brown thing indeed.

I have had a head cold for what also feels like forever. At least eight weeks. It took a turn for the worse last weekend. I was nearly ready to call the doctor in my frustration, but I worked out it’s probably not one cold but at least three overlapping ones (the cost of working in a kindergarten), so I don’t suppose there’ll be much she can do. My voice has been AWOL since Sunday and I’ve been hacking my lungs out, but I feel marginally better this afternoon. They’ve reduced my hours by 50% at work – the benefits of living in a highly taxed but family (and pregnancy) friendly place like Norway – so hopefully that will help me recover. I’ve been exhausted.

Michael has gone to Germany so I have the place to myself for a few days. I lit the fire this evening. We bought a reverse cycle air-conditioning unit a couple of months back, and it’s been a life-saver, but for once the place wasn’t heating up to my liking. At least we have plenty of wood! It still feels a little strange to live in a place like this where surviving the winter has a whole different meaning. As I got the fire going (very easily thanks to Michael’s foresight in ordering and stacking the wood, collecting bags of kindling, and chopping some of the logs into little bits for fire-starters), I couldn’t help but think back over the generations of Norwegians who have survived here. The families who have lived in this house over the past ninety years. And even before that. Imagine living in Norway during the Middle Ages! The whole summer must have been one careful preparation… And I live in the south, where it’s pretty mild. I shudder to think about how they survived up north.

Meanwhile, in the kindergarten, we bundle the babbies up in hats and scarves and blankets and gloves and woolen suits, and put them out in their prams to sleep in the snow. Even the little eight month old. I still can’t quite believe it but they don’t seem to mind.

Speaking of preparation… Twelve weeks until my due date doesn’t feel like very long at all. It’s funny to think that the little creature who whacks me from the inside occasionally but aside from that hardly makes his presence felt and seems pretty happy in there will all of a sudden require a lot more attention. And stuff. Like clothes to wear and nappies and blankets and somewhere to sleep. And very warm clothes in case we ever need to take it outside (or upstairs for that matter). We really haven’t got very much ready yet. We ordered a pram a couple of weeks ago, so that should be ready soon. One of my colleagues says I can go through her baby stuff and borrow a car seat and some other things, so I need to do that shortly.

And then I suppose we need to work out exactly what else we need and start getting hold of it. I had a bit of a look in a baby shop yesterday. It frustrates me that all the boy’s clothes are blue. But despite my best intentions, I find it hard to come at buying the suit with the pink squirrels on it. (Why shouldn’t he have pink squirrels?) Besides, I haven’t met the little creature yet, how do I know what will suit him? Michael’s mum gave me a very cute little pair of overalls with owls on it, but I’m afraid it will probably be too small. It says 0-1 month, but it’s size 46, and I think European baby sizes are basically how big the baby is meant to be in centimetres. Given that the average new born baby is 50cm, and Michael and I are both in the 95th percentile for height, I think it’s unlikely that we’ll get a little one… The smallest clothes I saw in the shop yesterday were 56, which is probably a safer bet… Advice anyone?

Anyway, I guess we’ll work it out! There’s lots of little things I want to get done around the house too over the next couple of months. I think I need a list. The fire is lovely, by the way.

Happy birthday Grandma!

It was my grandma’s 81st birthday yesterday. I even remembered to call her. (It helps that it’s Guy Fawkes day: remember remember the 5th of November.) Anyway, I’m glad you had a nice day Grandma and that everything is going so well for you. I thought of you as I heated up my soup for lunch yesterday. I miss being able to drop in to your place for lunch! (My Grandma has a pretty much open house policy for family members. If you turn up around midday you get lunch. She even gives us keys so we can raid her chocolate biscuit stash even when she’s not home.) And even though she’s on the other side of the globe, she insisted on buying me new curtains – proper curtains, with lining – to help keep us warm this winter. Here’s a shot of them. I love them. I wish she could come around for a cup of tea.

In other news, I’ve been writing and writing and the big siberian larch outside my window is turning brown. Michael thinks it looks pretty depressing, but in the sun (which has finally returned after two weeks of rain) it lights up like a birthday candle.

New template

What do you think? I moved across to wordpress from blogger about two and a half years ago, when I moved to Norway from the UK, with only nine months left of my thesis to write. It felt like a new home deserved a new configuration of my online space. I’ve used the same template since then. I like the old template a lot, but what I don’t like is how it navigated the archives. This template is much better for browsing past entries and photographs…

In other news… We have new curtains!!! (Thanks grandma!) I’ll take a photo when we’ve got them all up. We put up the first set on the weekend. I ironed them first. I’ve never ironed curtains before. That was an eye opener. After ironing what felt like forever I was only a third of the way through. I love them though. I can’t wait to get the rest of them done.

About ten days ago it was freezing for a whole week, a couple of days not climbing about minus five before lunch time. And then it snowed, just when we’d planned to drive up to Oslo for the day. The journey was impossible on our summer tyres, and all the garages were booked out because everyone suddenly wanted their tyres changed, so Michael had a go at them. It was going great until one of the screw heads broke off. Which meant we were stranded for a week until we managed to get a garage to fix it. As soon as we got it back the temperature climbed to ten degrees and it’s rained ever since. At least we’re ready for winter when he decides to show up again.

We did make it up to Oslo in the end, a week after we had first planned. It was quite stressful but strangely entertaining. I’ll tell you about it another time.

Over the Halloween weekend we were inundated with little Norwegian witches and goblins who made off with all our chocolate. A sad thing, I’m telling you. We should have got Mermos to scare them away.

The belly is getting bigger and bigger, and the little monster kicks frequently, which is most reassuring. I’ve managed to reduce my hours at work thanks to the generosity of the Norwegian system, which is very lovely indeed. My eleven weeks left of work suddenly feels a lot less daunting. I dragged myself off to the pool tonight for the first time in weeks and felt like a very slow very heavy fish.