Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A new thrill in my life -

Okay, it has been a long time since I have written a blog post.  What can I say? Fall has come and with it the usual colds that go around, meaning I've been home with the kids or I've been working double shift because some of my co-workers have been at home with their kids.  Thank goodness I work at a fabulous workplace and we take care of each other as much as we can.

On top of that, my soap sales have really taken off, including two inquiries about making 150+ soaps as wedding favors for weddings over the New Year.  All of this has been good, but also means I've been balancing my life on a knife's edge.  I've been taking lots of extra vitamins and cod liver oil, been watching even less TV than I normally do, and forcing myself to stop what I'm doing (no matter what it is I'm doing) and going to bed at reasonable times.  It's paid off so far.  I myself have only had one really good cold, but I managed to keep working thanks to my great co-workers.  I have it in the back of my head: when I get fever, I can call in sick with a good conscience. 

But this is not at all what I wanted to talk about.  What I wanted to talk about was the new thrill in my life. Anita Blake 

I was lucky enough to come across a written interview with the author Laurell K. Hamilton

Official photo from Twitter - lkhamiton

What caught my attention was this: she writes about a strong woman, Anita Blake, who's profession it is to legally do away with vampires, zombies and the like.  She has practical knowledge of a wide variety of weapons, and she knows there is a time and a place for each weapon, depending upon where she'll be, what she's wearing, etc.

If this was not interesting enough, what really caught my eye was the fact that Hamilton has received criticism due to the fact that as the series of novels progresses, Anita becomes involved in a number of sexual liaisons that are unbecoming of a woman. Needless to say that this type of criticism seems to come primarily from the USA.  Apparently if a male character is involved with 2 or more women, this is quite acceptable.  But should this be the reverse then it is not appropriate for the general reading audience. 

Mind you, I have not progressed that far in the series. 

(Photo nicked from

The first novel was a very good read, though not a fabulous read.  It took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that in Anita's world vampires and zombies live alongside humans and there are various laws governing both.  Though towards the end of the book it I did naturally accept this reality.

What I did really like about this book was that I was able to get a good insight into Anita.  And let me tell you, she rocks.  She's cocky, yet has high morals. She doesn't take crap from others, especially male police officers, though she doesn't put them down either.  They have a mutual understanding of each other.  Her job is an official executioner sanctioned by the state and she sleeps with stuffed penguins.  Basically she's the kind of person I wish I could hang out with once in a while. 

(Also nicked from

I just finished reading the second book last night, and I really thought it leaped forward from the first book in great bounds.  She encounters a number of really gruesome characters, and takes them on in a way that leaves you thinking: Yeah, that could really happen.  She shows both her tough side to us as readers, as well as to her close friends as to how far she is really willing to go when faced with decision making between right and wrong, both to stick it to the bad guys, and to outwit them to save those who are clearly worth saving.

I'm 37 now, and this if the first time in 3 years that I've read something that has really drawn me in and has been a lot of fun to read.  Ask my husband - the last couple of years I've read book after book and have thought again and again: Well that was a complete waste of brain cells.  This is true even to the point where I stopped purchasing books because I could not trust that it would be money well spent.

I've heard comments from some who have read her books that they have hopped off half way through the series because Anita begins to change too much.  I'm really interested to see how I respond to this when I get to this point.  I know for myself that I've had intimate conversations with close friends where we admit to each other that we are clearly NOT the same person we were 15 years ago.  We have totally different values, what we think are more open minds and a completely different way of looking at life.  What will I think? We'll just have to stay tuned to find out.

But for now, I think Anita was one of the best things to happen to me right now. James Bond and Indiana Jones have nothing on her.

Friday, 8 October 2010

A fun purchase that turns my world upside down -

I made a purchase the other week. Something that I thought would be fun to wear  at work.  For those who don't know, I work full time in Norway's education industry, working with pre-schoolers. (95% of Norwegian children go to day care full time, which is incorporated into the Norwegian school system).

I saw the ring below from my friend, RenatheSchneider

I had expected the kids to think it was super cool, and my co-workers would be skeptical, roll their eyes and think: Yeah, we expect that sort of thing from Nicole. 

Instead and much to my surprise it turned out to be quite the reverse.  My co-workers thought it was really cool, asked me who I bought it from, how it was made and what the price was.  From my co-workers I had my 'outside-the-box-personality' accepted and even honored a bit. 

From about 30 kids over a two day period I had conversations like this:

Is that a bee in there? -- No it's a fly.

Is it dead? -- Yes.  

How did it get in there? -- The woman who made the ring put it in there.

Why? -- She thought it was a cool idea.  I also thought it was a cool idea and so I  bought it from her. 

Does it still make buzzing sounds? - No, it's definitely dead.

Did she kill the fly? -- No, the fly was already dead on a window sill before she made the ring.

Why? -- Because flies are born and only live a few weeks before they die.  That's the way they're made.

Why would you put a dead fly on your hand? -- That's a really good question.  I think it's a fun thing to do.  

My mom got mad at me for squishing dead flies. -- I can understand that.  Squishing dead flies can be a bit yucky. 

I don't think my mom would like that ring.  -- Yeah, I can bet a lot of mommies wouldn't like that ring.

Why do you like that ring? -- I guess I like it because it's different than all the other rings I see. I don't think there's anyone else in Norway that has a ring like this.

Are you sure you're allowed to wear that?  -- ????

And so the questions continued.  I honestly didn't think that this ring would cause such a stir with all the little ones I work with.  There were a lot that did think my ring was cool.  But I was very surprised at the number of children who DID NOT think it was cool, and who questioned in a 4-5 year old way if it was acceptable to use animals as decorations.  Which does to go show that our hard work of introducing ideas of ethics and philosophy are starting to pay off. 

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Ten Things that Went Right This Week -

I've always been a believer in positive thinking.  Earlier in my life when things were tough I was keeping a journal where I wrote positive things almost daily.  Perhaps now when things are really good in my life I shouldn't forget this.  Perhaps certain habits should be kept up continuously regardless of the situation.

1) Even though I was feeling pretty bad with a big head cold, I still went to work and was treated well by those I work with.  It made the week livable and by the end of the week I was feeling much better and glad I pulled through without staying home. -- Yeah to the good people I work with.

2) I received a second wholesale order. 

3) My daughter was invited to her first birthday party since she's started 1st grade.  She's very excited and it makes my heart sing.

4) The group of women I work with and I had a meeting with the parents of the children we work with and almost all the parents had great things to say about the work we did.  Those who wanted something changed had small wishes that were not big deals.  Everything seems really positive.

5) I've eaten candy every day this week.  Since it's been a bit of a rough week and since I have not gone overboard, I'm deciding that this is a good thing that is needed for my soul.

6) I'm starting training again tomorrow.

7) Today I drove into Bergen today, alone and without kids.  Even though I was just in for soap supplies and didn't even treat myself to coffee, I listened to my favorite music driving to and from the city.  And I started day-dreaming again about what I want to do for my 40th birthday.  Maybe I'll invite the Canadian Ambassador to Norway or even the King of Norway.  Not that I expect them to show up, but it would be really cool to show off some rejection letters. 

8) My kids have  been exceptionally nice this week.  I mean, I have great kids who have good boundaries.  I'm just saying that they've been exceptionally nice this week, especially on a week that I really needed them to be.  I think I'll feed them Nuggati for breakfast tomorrow.

9) My husband made dinner tonight - Fårikål - which is Norway's national dish.  And he made enough to eat tomorrow evening as well.

10) It's Sunday tomorrow...... and I have all day to think of things that will make me happy.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Building Building Building

I think my friends (both on the net and off) as well as coworkers, acquaintances and finally even my friendly post man don't actually believe me.  The question always arises in various forms: What did you do over the weekend? How did you spend this summer? What are you plans for the autumn?

The answer is pretty much always the same: building.

So this is what we were doing last Saturday (our Sundays being saved for family walks and hikes).

We built an outside shed for the new bar-b-que that we bought earlier this summer. It was a little bit of an investment and we intend to keep it for quite some time to come, so that means building it its own house where it can hibernate during the wet, wet winters we have.

My apologies for the unfinished picture.  We did manage to put a sealed roof on it as well, but I forgot to take a picture of that. What can I say? Both my hubby and I were  so tired after building this that we actually bought 'store-bought-pizza' (Oh My!! The Horror!!) and slept for almost a full hour on the couch afterwards.... 

It seems to be my curse in life that I am an effective painter.  Which means that this will forever be my job.  As my father used to say, 'No good deed should go unpunished.'

Need I say more?

In any case, I was able to prime all sides of our Grill Shed, all the while lifting roof materials up to my hubby, telling the kids they could not go in and watch TV, making jugs of juice to drink as well as pots of coffee for hubby (Norwegians should take their coffee intravenously if you ask me, but that's another blog post), and washing and hanging up clothes.

But it got finished, and our bar-b-que will live to see many happy summers.


Other projects that are waiting to be finished:  above are foundations forms for a cement wall.  We're waiting to next paycheck to order the cement.  (Both hubby and I have made enough cement by hand and we're really tired of it.  This time we're phoning the cement truck).

It is on this wall we will be planting a small hedge.... and will be having an eating area just behind this wall and in front of our house.

This wall should have been completed over a year ago.  It was my brother-in-law (digging and foundation expert in our family) who had started helping us build the foundation forms.  He spent one weekend with my husband and started building the forms, and then was diagnosed with cancer the week after that.  And six weeks after that he was gone. In our grief, we just couldn't go back to working on it even after months had passed.

When my husband did finally get to finishing the forms last autumn, they weren't strong enough. The result was that the forms broke and the cement spilled sideways, which can be seen above.  With the help of my father-in-law, we built a second form on top of the first unsuccessful wall and finished the job.

This raised flat space will also be covered with concrete, and then layered with stone tiles of some form or another.  We are thinking of uneven, natural shapes, but this is not something we will be doing this year.

Finally, we have dreams for this area on the side of our property.  Where the cars stand we would like a garage.  And to the right of the swing set (which will probably disappear in a year or two at most) we dream of having a glass winter garden.  These are pretty big dreams at the moment, and we are not quite sure how we will finance it (I need to sell at least 5 times as much soap as I am now.... and I don't think this is possible under the restraints of being a mother and working wife like I am at the moment), but the two of us get so much joy simply talking about the dreams.  

It's been said in many different ways by many different people, but the line in Amanda Marshall's song rings in the back of my head as a constant these past couple of years: The joy's in the ride.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Prepare for Christmas Early This Year

If you're like me, Christmas gift shopping is a double edge sword. The desire is still there: we want to show our friends and family that we care and think about them. We want to symbolically tell them that they are still special to us.

The down side is that it can be so inconvenient to Christmas shop. We need to pay for parking (if we can find a parking spot!), we often have little ones in tow that do not want to be with us in the first place, we've worked long days and are tired, the weather is really bad and we're worried about getting to and from our favorite shopping places, or packing and sending parcels in the mail can take longer than originally planned for. The list can go on and on.

This is why I am offering an Early Bird Christmas Offer. If you order soaps from me as Christmas gift between now and the end of November, I will package your soaps in holiday colored wrap, include a small Christmas/holiday note, have your package ready addressed with stamps and will send it off on November 25th, which is generally the last shipping day which will guarantee that all packages will reach their destination before Christmas. (I can also send it earlier if you give me instructions to do this).

Purchase your Christmas gifts in September, October or early November. Simply write a message to me in the 'Message to Seller',give me instructions on what I should write on the little holiday card to the recipient of your gift, and where I should send it. Then cross those names off your list and breath a sigh of relief. Your work is done! That's it.

And all of this for no additional cost.

Then you can spend the time before the holidays concentrating on the important things: decorating the house as you wish, baking the Christmas treats you remember from your childhood, attending your children's Christmas concerts while being able to pay full attention to what your youngsters are doing.... not thinking about all the other things you need to get done.

Nothing could be easier. Everyone deserves to have a great holiday this year.

For any other questions, just contact me in my store: Ultimate Organic Soap

Saturday, 28 August 2010

A Sunday Walk

We as a family are doing our best to be more active about taking more family walks/hikes on the weekend.  

Last weekend was such a weekend, but our time was really cut short so we drove to a fairly easy route - a gravel road that follows the power lines into the wilderness between where we live and Bergen.  It's a very popular route as the road is flat and well maintained by the city, and has enough hills, dips and turns to provide exercise for all ages and skill abilities.  This weekend that we were here, we met an awful lot of people - other families such as ours, seniors out for their daily walks, hard core trainers running with headphones attached to their ears as well as those new to exercise who were obviously working up their strength and endurance.

We park our car at a parking spot just off the highway.  It is here that many park their cars before taking buses into Bergen.  We then cross the road and make our way to the pedestrian over cross.

Here is the view to the left of the over cross.

And here is the view to the right.

And of course my kids need to take the opportunity to be really tough and sit for a few minutes high under the overpass, with the cars passing directly over their heads.

But only 20 meters from the overpass the gravel road starts.  We can hear cars driving pass us for about 15 minutes.  But after that we have moved far enough away from the main highway that we only hear the birds and the last of the summer insects buzzing.

As mentioned, a nice terrain for all types of people to walk/cycle/run/train on.

My son insisted that I take this picture because he was convince that the possibility that this hole led to a magical underground kingdom was better than average.

Nice scenery.

Nicer scenery.

Open spaces.

Secret places.

Must make a mental note that the Heather is getting ready to harvest.

Another beautiful scene. Here we stopped to eat some apples and let our kids splash in the water.

Small corners of the forest that look like fairy tales where trolls live.

And where princesses collect their flowers and herbs.

And knights in shining amour train.

After walking for an hour, we reach a nice meadow.  It was here we rested and had a bite to eat before heading back.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

My Newest Latest Soaps

I made a bunch of different soaps just before going on summer vacation, and now the school is starting they're ready to go.

I think they look fabulous. All of these soaps are made from olive oil, sunflower oil, soya oil and coconut oil.

This one will be known as PURPLE JASMINE OATMEAL. The lovely flower leaves are picked and dried at my sea side cabin from the wild rose bushes we have there. Unlike commercially purchased flowers, these petals keep their color when dried. Also added is crushed oatmeal (great for the skin) and Jasmine Essential Oil.

This is my new MARIGOLD soap. It crushed oatmeal and dried organic marigold flowers on the top.  

EUCALYPTUS AND LEMON BALM SOAP. Both of which are good to get rid of mosquitos. :)

DARK JASMINE TULIP SOAP - This soap is made with the essential oil Melati, which belongs to the Jasmine family, but has a heavier smell to it. Perfect for winter days when we want to remember the summer.

These are my new, HUGE, bars of MOCHA SHOWER SOAP. Perfect for great scrubbing action.

This is my new SILVER CHRISTMAS SPICE SOAP - a soap with the spices of Allspice, Cinnamon, Ginger and Nutmeg. This combination of spices gives a lovely silver sheen to the soap as well. The smells with be great for the upcoming holiday season.

A new batch of TURMERIC soap. Turmeric is great for those suffering from extra dry skin or exceme.
Should you wish to purchase one of these soaps before I get a chance to put them in my store during the next couple of days, do send me a line at:

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Another Painting in My Collection

Well, I've purchased another painting. I hope it doesn't become too addicting.

This one was purchased from a used store not far from our cabin. At the moment it is hanging in our bedroom there. However, I plan to repaint the living room next year and then make place for this piece.

I purchased it for one basic reason: The first because I really am trying to keep with the traditional theme of Norwegian cabins (and my husbands traditional family) but add in some of my modern wishes and likes.

The style of the painting that you see is pretty abundant in Norway: a picture of a cabin of some sort by water, trees and with a mountain or two in the background. Usually however, the colors are incredibly subdued or even dark and depressing in nature.

However I really liked the colors in this painting. When I first saw it, it was hanging really high on the wall of the used store.

After the work was taken down for me, I saw that the buildings were made three dimensional with matchsticks and some sort of thick paper. In the windows the artist used gold foil to simulate candle light shining outwards through the glass.

I did write the name of the artist down to research him/her when I came home, but have misplaced that note somewhere. The woman who sold us the painting (and who would not give my husband a discount of any kind even though this work only cost us about 50.00) said that the artist was famous locally and that many of his works were in many houses in western Norway.

Regardless of the truth of this story (which could be completely true for all I know), I in any case liked this piece enough to think that 50.00 was well worth the price. I will be looking forward to giving updates on my research of this piece in the near future.

Monday, 16 August 2010

What I did last summer.....

So I've been back from vacation for a couple of days, and have had a number of friends and collegues ask me what it was I did over the summer.

I painted.

I painted three sides of a two story cabin, the walls twice and most of the window sills 4 times.

I've come back with one arm looking like it belongs to someone who trains seriously, 5 times a week, and the other arm looking like... well... an arm of a 37 year old who does not train as much as she should.

This side of the cabin had not been painted in many years, and is the side that faces the sea. When I was painting the walls, you could almost hear the wood sucking in the paint.

As one can see, these two windows are all foggy. This is because when my husband took over the cabin and it was falling in on itself, he needed many windows at the lowest prices just to fill in the holes. He was able to purchase a bunch of punctured windows for next to nothing. We have since been replacing the windows, one every couple of years. We hope to replace these in another 3-4 years.

We will have to hurry though. As you can see on the green, unpainted window frame, the wood is falling apart and rotting. When I was scraping the window that was white, I almost took out the entire bottom part of the frame with one little flick of the scraper. I gently pushed it back and asked it nicely to behave for just a couple more years.

This is our front door, saved from a security firm. We've been meaning to paint it and this year I got around to doing it.

First coat with white paint.

Second or third coat with white paint. I forgot to take pictures consistently.

Fourth coat with white paint.

All the windows and crosses in the windows were painted four times. I actually don't know what the word is for those crosses in the windows, as we never had them in my part of Canada where I grew up. In any case, they too needed to be painted 4 times, in super thin coats.

Luckily these crosses are easy to take off. You just need to put your fingers underneath them in the proper spot, apply a little upward pressure, and pop they're off!

Here's the first batch, with rocks and pieces of wood underneath them to keep them from sticking to the plastic.

Oh yeah, I also scarped and painted the kitchen door twice.

Now we're starting to see pictures of the finished job.

A long stretch of wall that's got two coats. There's a glimps of the scaffolding my husband made for me to paint the upper reaches because I didn't want to stand on a ladder. Considering he learned a few things from his father who is a Master Carpenter, I completely trust his constructions.

This is a picture of the same side of the cabin as the first pictures in this post. Everything looks so much better with some good coats of paint. Although I will have to paint the nearest window white again. I was desprately trying to get this wall painted before it started raining and sacrificed the white windows to get it done. But at least I know I'll have something to keep me busy the next time I make a trip to our little paradise.
I'm pretty proud that I got all this work done. Don't forget I did it while making most of the meals (my husband was helping his father on other construction work), keeping order inside the cabin and washing clothes by hand once a week.
Even my mother-in-law is impressed. :)