Two birthdays in one year…

September 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

makes me one lucky girl!

Jannie was in Sweden for my birthday this year, so she “booked” me for a day in September so that I could celebrate a second birthday with her. That day ended up being Thursday the 5th of September and I was instructed to meet her downstairs at 3:00 pm. One of the benefits of our new apartment is that it is right around the corner from Jannie’s place. It’s going to save both of us a lot of travel time this next year!

At 3:00 pm, I ran into Jannie in the foyer of our apartment building. She has our code and can therefore sneak in whenever she wants ;). We started through the front door and took a turn to the left, towards her apartment. Soon, the beautiful Basilica popped into view and we made our way towards its wide crowded steps. “Part 1!” Jannie said, arms outstretched.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

There is a lookout from the roof of the Basilica but we have never gone up there. We took the elevator to what we thought was the top floor and after traveling through a sort of art gallery, we found ourselves exploring a seemingly endless series of spiral staircases.

Finally we emerged at the balcony, after passing through the rafters above the dome that makes up the ceiling of the cathedral. The view was spectacular and the warm breeze was more than welcome on that hot summer afternoon. Jannie asked if there were any cameras and after a few sneaky looks over her shoulder, pulled two mini bottles of sparkling wine from her purse. We stood up there for almost 2 hours, enjoying the view and discussing our summers, life and the challenges ahead.

After enjoying the view over the city, we headed back to her place for some veggie dip and wine. While there, she surprised me with a birthday present. Since Skjalg bought me a bike for my birthday, Jannie had made a guide on biking in Budapest, full of fun facts, tips and rules. For the second part of the present, she surprised me with a Swedish cookbook focusing on different vegetable dishes. It was the perfect gift! Since my juice fast, I’ve been visiting the Central Market almost twice a week and filling up on as many veggies as I can carry (sometimes using Skjalg to help). It’s such a luxury to have access to such fresh and inexpensive locally grown fruits and vegetables – and I’m going to take advantage as long as I can. Jannie joked that there was a hitch with the cookbook: since it is in Swedish, I am going to need her to be there to translate and of course, eat! One of my bucket list items is to cook my way through a cookbook. This might be just the one!

As the clock struck 8:00 p.m., Jannie said that we needed to leave. The theme of my second birthday was “Exploring the New Neighborhood” and for dinner, we were going to a restaurant hidden away in the streets of Deák. She had stumbled across it earlier that day and knew it would be perfect for a birthday dinner. And that it was! We ate and drank until only the stragglers remained. A perfect ending to a perfect 2nd birthday!


Blog post flashback: Jannie’s 26th!

Home Sweet Home

August 31, 2013 § 8 Comments

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning and I’m sitting at the glass dining table in our kitchen cove. All three windows here are open and the curtains are dancing on the warm summer breeze. The windows look out over the park and there is classical music playing as they do sound check from  what looks like some kind of festival setting up there. It is amazing that I am sitting in the comforts of my own home and yet still feel such a part of the city. This is, without a doubt, the best apartment we’ve lived in – both in Norway and Budapest.


Our apartment was furnished when we got it, but it was missing some bigger pieces. It was worth it to us to put in a little bit of money into making this place feel like home. We got bookcases, rugs, curtains, decorations – you name it! Before our first trip, I used an online floor planner program to make a virtual version of our apartment. I was up early so I had some extra time and I thought it would help us to visualize which furniture to get. Here is a link to the design, where you can look in closer detail and move the apartment around to see it from different angles, in 2D and 3D.

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The virtual apartment really helped us decide which pieces to get. Whenever we go to IKEA, we always spend way too much time thinking about whether or not something will fit and if it will look good or if we should go for something else. I wanted to make it as easy as possible this time around. My plan didn’t work so well, however. Our first trip to IKEA lasted for 6 hours – it was hell! Here’s an idea of the madness we were facing at home. It was so overwhelming!

And now, here is the finished project. Some of the photos were taken at night and are a bit dark, so I will swap them out when I get the chance.

Celebrating the big 2-6 in Budapest

August 30, 2013 § 6 Comments

It’s been about a week and a half since we got back to Budapest and almost all of our time has gone to finishing our apartment. We moved into the new apartment at the end of June, after Skjalg had already left for Norway. Since he wanted to be part of the moving-in process, I (gladly) left most of the boxes unpacked. It was strange to think that we were returning to an apartment that we hadn’t technically lived in before. I’d spent a few days here before leaving for Norway in July, but it felt more like a waiting room then. Getting the place ready was a huge project and took a lot more work than we anticipated, but four trips to IKEA later and we are finally done! I’ll upload some photos soon.

We arrived in Budapest on Tuesday the 20th, the day before my 26th birthday. We decided that we would push the unpacking to Thursday so that we could relax and enjoy my birthday. On Wednesday morning, I lay in bed watching an episode of Under the Dome until Skjalg came in to “surprise” me. It’s a tradition in my family that the birthday person gets woken up by the whole family – humans and animals alike – with birthday cake, candles, balloons and presents, singing etc. It’s a bit more fun when there are more people in the house than just Skjalg and I, and the “surprise” element gets kind of lost, but we still do it. Who doesn’t like to feel special on their birthday? 😉

As I lay there watching my show, I heard movement in the living room and then classical music. Skjalg opened the door and entered with a tray of champagne, candles and cheesecake. It was the “classy birthday” as he called it. We’re lucky enough to live by the famous Café Gerbeaud, where Skjalg picked out a beautiful fruit-adorned cheesecake as my birthday cake.

After enjoying the morning sun, champagne and cheesecake, we got ready to head out. My present was somewhere out in the city and we were going to find it! We ended up getting a little side-tracked, however, and ended up at West End mall. Skjalg found a place to get his phone fixed and while we were there, I splurged on a new phone. My phone was stolen before my anatomy exam in May and since then I’ve been using a really cheap Samsung (which has been driving me crazy).

In addition to a phone, I bought a juicer! After being brainwashed by Stian ( 😉 ) I made up my mind to do a juice detox. I haven’t felt healthy for so long and thought it was worth a shot. I’m now on Day 9 of a 10 day fast – drinking nothing but fruit/veggie juice 5 times a day – and I’m feeling really good (tired…but good!).

After a quick trip home to drop off the juicer, it was present time! I had NO idea what Skjalg had in mind. I love surprises, but I also love figuring them out – two qualities which obviously clash. One of my birthday wishes was to walk around Margit Island and since we were going to get the present before, I figured it had to be small enough for me to carry in my pocket. Other than that, I had no clue!

I followed Skjalg onto the metro, back to the stop where the mall was, down two side streets and then a turn to the right. “There it is,” he said. I was looking at Wasabi (an Asian restaurant), a hair salon, and a bike rental shop. “Am I getting my hair done?” I asked. “Nope,” he replied as he led me across the street and then down into a cellar shop. “We’re getting bikes!!” Haha, was definitely wrong about the “small enough for me to carry in my pocket” part.

We spent almost two hours trying out bikes and picking out the ones we wanted. I was so happy and surprised that I had no concept of time at that point. Then we were off! Budapest is such a different city when seen by bike – I had no idea! We rode down side streets we probably never would have seen otherwise to get to the island. Even Margit Island was a completely different experience. Normally, we walk around the island along the shore and don’t head in to the inner paths. This time, we went right through the center, past huge fountains, flower parks, a zoo and a beautiful giant tree.

The rest of the afternoon was spent riding around the city and then stopping in at Culinaris, a specialty shop with hundreds of imported foods, for some guacamole and chipotle chips. To close out the night, we enjoyed an unforgettable steak dinner at La Pampa. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to bring in my 26th year.


Summer Day in Oslo

August 18, 2013 § 2 Comments

Sandwiched between a rainy Friday and a cloudy, drizzly Sunday was a warm and beautiful summer Saturday. Stian and I started the morning with fresh juice (using his awesome juice maker) and watched an episode titled Is There a Creator? from the series Through the Wormhole (narrated by Morgan Freeman). Stian shares the same love for science and documentaries that I do and we take no hesitation in indulging each other.

When the afternoon rolled around, we decided to take a walk through Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen. There was a multicultural festival going on at Rådhusplassen, so we enjoyed walking through the crowd and experiencing the array of ecclectic food smells wafting through the air.

Aker Brygge and the newly expanded/developed Tjuvholmen are so amazing to walk through on a sunny day. Stian and I moseyed through, stopping for some gelato and people watching, and even checked out the view from the tower elevator.

We returned to the apartment about 3 hours later and settled into the couch to watch Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (Stian’s trying to convert me to juicing 😉 ). Afterwards we took a sunset walk through Akershus Festning – a medieval castle built to protect Oslo. To close out the perfect summer Saturday, Stian made an amazing steak dinner while I skyped with my mama and stepdad. Dinner was enjoyed with red wine and good conversation and followed by watching Oblivion (with Tom Cruise).


August 16, 2013 § 4 Comments


Rainy and humid in Oslo. I’m enjoying orange rooibus tea and The Fountainhead in a cafe while I wait for Stian to get home from work. My errands are all taken care of and I’ve spent some quality time with my friends Roar and Karolina. We met at a mutual friend’s Halloween party several years ago where Karolina and I were both dressed up as Snookie from Jersey Shore. No one knew who we were, thus the bonding began between this California girl and Miss Brooklyn.

I’m here until Tuesday morning, when Skjalg and I will be heading back to Budapest. On Wednesday we will celebrate my 26th (!!!) birthday – and the fifth of my birthdays that we have celebrated together. Life is good 🙂

Cabin by the Sea – Part 2: Jannie visits Norway!

August 14, 2013 § 2 Comments

Summer is flying by even faster than it was last time I posted. Today is my last day in Bodø before heading to Oslo, where I will be staying for a few days before heading back to Budapest. Then it is only 3 weeks until school starts up again!


We spent the past weekend at the cabin in Halsa. The weather was pretty bad up until Jannie arrived. There was a major bicycle race in Bodø that day, so all the roads were to be closed between 13:00-19:00. Since her plane was arriving at 14:30, I got a ride with Skjalg’s mom to the airport. As I was sitting and waiting, the skies began to open up and scattered rays entered the airport. I crossed my fingers that it would hold – this was Jannie’s first time in Norway and bad weather would dampen her first impression.

As soon as she arrived, we walked into downtown Bodø and stopped in at Vinmonopolet (government run and controlled liquor store – the only place to get wine and anything stronger that beer in Norway). Afterwards, we grabbed coffee and sat in the main square as we waited for Skjalg to get off from work. The bicycle race had just ended, so the square was busy and entertaining. Soon it was home to pack and then off to Skjalg’s dad’s thai restaurant for dinner – which was amazing as always. To close out the evening in Bodø, before starting the drive to Halsa, we had waffles and coffee up at Skjalg’s grandparents. The 3-hour drive landed us in Halsa at around midnight, so we enjoyed some red wine and then head to bed.

Our days in Halsa were unintentionally themed. Day 1 was Glacier Day, Day 2 – Fishing Day and Day 3 – Whale Day. Our luck with the weather was unbelieveable! I took about 600 pictures on the trip and tried as much as I could to narrow them down while still retaining the story feel. Ready for the longest blog post I’ve ever published? Hope you like pictures! Click on the pictures to view/scroll through larger versions.

Day 1 – Glacier Day

We started the day with an egg and bacon breakfast. Jannie slept in, so Skjalg and I enjoyed coffee and sheep watching on the balcony before heading to the store.

After breakfast, it was off to Svartisen! We dressed warm for the boat ride into the fjord – which takes about 30 minutes – and packed hiking bags for the trip. Since we’d arrived at night, it was Jannie’s first time really seeing the mountains and fjord – and what a way to see it all!

The walk up to the main path leading up to the glacier is about 2 km. It was lunchtime by the time we got to the beach near the fjord, so we stopped in for a small bite at the cabin restaurant overlooking the glacier. Skjalg and I shared a small plate of lefse (potato pancake with butter and sugar) and a waffle and Jannie had a waffle with freshly made strawberry jam.

The rest of the walk up to the glacier path was nice and calm. Jannie and Skjalg both drank water from the waterfalls – nothing like fresh glacier water!

Then began the hike up to the glacier! The hike is pretty much navigating across huge expanses of rock and large boulders. The rocks had such beautiful patterning and the view got better and better with each step.

Finally, the glacier reared its head over the rock maze. It has receeded quite a bit since Skjalg and I visited it for the first time in 2011. Still, it is Norway’s second largest glacier – about 260 sq. km. The part that we are able to walk up to is called Engabreen and is the lowest glacier point on the European mainland.

The sides were a bit dangerous, since there was a large gap between the ice and the rocks leading straight down under the glacier, but there was a sort of sand beach near the head of it, right above the waterfall. We managed to climb down there and were met with one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen in my life. The ice was a vibrant blue and the water was a cloudy turquoise with small pieces of ice floating in it. The cave leading into the glacier was pitch black – despite the glowing blue of the glacier. We took the opportunity to take some candid shots.

After about half an hour up at the glacier, we started back home. The trip back was spent in a sort of state of bliss. It was such an amazing experience.

We got home and warmed up a little bit – it had gotten cold out on the water. For dinner we grilled pork chops and corn and then relaxed a little before taking out the boat for a midnight fishing trip.

Day 2 – Fishing Day

Woke up to another beautiful sunny day. It was a little chilly, but I found a comfy spot in the sun and enjoyed a cup of coffee and The Fountainhead for a couple of hours. We packed a picnic lunch and loaded fishing gear into the boat. It was perfect fishing conditions and the view was amazing. Jannie had never caught a fish before, so we made it our mission of the day. Within the first hour, she’d caught three – one of which was big enough to feed us for dinner. Mission: accomplished!

After 4 or so hours out on the sea, we found a perfect little picnic spot on a small island.

We fished until 9 or so and then headed home to gut, clean and bake the fish. We’d forgotten to go to the store before it closed at 6 and had to make dinner with what we had available. No cold fish, sour cream, potatoes and cucumber salad for us!

Day 3 – Whale Day/Return Home

Since we would be driving back to Bodø on Sunday, we’d planned to take an easy morning. Skjalg and I were enjoying coffee on the patio when I noticed something black pop up out of the water. Skjalg went to grab the binoculars and we were soon able to confirm that it was, not just one, but two whales! I ran to get Jannie since she had really been look forward to seeing a whale while we were there. The two whales played in the fjord for a couple hours, making for a perfect end to the trip. Dark clouds rolled in just as we were packing up the car and cleaning the cabin. Lucikly, we were able to catch some shots of the beautiful scenery on the way back.

For Jannie’s last night in Bodø, we had dinner at Pepe’s pizzeria and went to see The Heat at the local theater. Though short, the trip was a major success and absolutely unforgettable. I still can’t believe how lucky we got with the weather! I’m sad to say goodbye to Bodø and all the amazing memories we’ve made this summer, but we’ll be back next year for some more.

Crossing the halfway point

August 7, 2013 § 7 Comments

Summer is seemingly flying by and I feel the need to remind myself that it is, in fact, only a few days past the halfway point. Somehow that makes it an easier pill to swallow. My last exam was on the 28th of June and since we spent the remaining days of June moving, I consider July 1st as the first day of my summer vacation. Since classes resume on the 9th of September, that left me with 70 days of summer to call my own.


In the last weeks of the semester, I kept myself sane by daydreaming about all the amazing things I was going to do over the summer. I had so many plans, so many tasks, that I was just itching to get started on. When that free-time finally rolled around, none of it went to any of those things I’d ached to do. Instead, I’ve spent countless free hours sleeping, watching movies and TV series on Netflix and playing CandyCrush (an annoyingly addicting iPad game that I am embarrassed to admit I’ve played).

On the other hand, I’ve done many other things I hadn’t planned, but am very grateful to have done. Since we are staying up in Bodø, we have had the opportunity to spend quality time with Skjalg’s family. It’s very hard for me to be so far away from my family and the pain of distance is less in the company of Skjalg’s. I feel so welcome and included and feel so lucky to share in this aspect of Skjalg’s life. There have been many brunches and lunches, teas and dinners, a cabin trip, a mountain climb, midnight fishing excursions, movie nights, picnics and heavy yard work – family style. It’s been an amazing summer, but as a new semester approaches, I find a sort of restlessness creeping in. We’ve heard that the first two years of med school are the most difficult and that, of those two, the second is the major challenge.

I spent an hour or so this afternoon tracking down the physiology website and downloading old lectures and notes. Then I caught myself. It’s so like me to do this. When I was in the middle of exam period, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things I could do with free time. Now that I have the free time, I am stressing about exam periods. I need to exist now, to allow myself to take it easy and to do so without feeling guilty about it.  For the past 5 days I have been bed-ridden with the flu and this is my first day where I am finally feeling functional again – there is no need to tire myself out right away! Plus, tomorrow is a big day – Jannie is coming to visit from Sweden! She will be arriving in the afternoon and we will be leaving for the cabin in Halsa in the evening. The weekend will be spent talking, fishing, cooking and exploring. There is a time for relaxing and there is a time for cramming. Now is time for the former!

Speaking of living in the moment, here is a picture of one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen in my life. Skjalg and I saw in while riding our bikes home after a movie. The colors were unreal! The picture doesn’t do it justice.

Pink Sunset

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