Guilty Pleasures


It’s really dangerous when you live in a place filled with so many good types of candy. And specifically chocolate.

Seriously. I find myself exercising more or walking a little extra, to justify a little treat at night.

Take for example my newest guilty pleasure:


You may think they look like brown peanut M&M’s. Okay, they do. But they are amazing. One of my friends from language school came over last night for dinner, and brought some to the boys. And I am having a tough time staying out of them!

What is your favorite ‘guilty pleasure’? Is there something you save to snack on until after the kids are in bed?


These are Freia Easter eggs –
similar to the Cadbury eggs we get in the states.
Freia makes so many great candy bars.
These are two of our favorites – especially Daim!
The orange bag is from our city’s chocolate company.
The red bag is some of our favorite gummy candies.
This was actually in Sweden –
but fun to see a humongous chocolate bar!

Ticket to Drive

I’ve posted about what it’s like to drive here in Norway (see post here). What I didn’t address was a driver’s license.The idea of having to take a driving test scared me. Sure, I’ve been driving since I was 15, but being tested on rules in a European country? Whoa. And in another language? Even more frightening! And trying to learn road rules and take a theory test in a second language? No thanks.

There are different requirements based on the license you already hold. Lucky for us, the requirements for someone with a US driver’s license weren’t so bad. As long as we began the licnse exchange process within the first year of arriving, we could exchange our license by completing a one-hour lesson and passing the road test. No theory/written test required. But only if we passed the first time (had we not passed, the requirements were significant.)

Zack began his process last fall, and it went smoothly. After his ‘lesson’ and test, he was the proud owner of a Norwegian drivers license. He was also happy to report that both the school instructor and the driving test examiner did everything in English.

The one-hour lesson does two things 1) it allows you use of the driving school’s car to take the test (we were not allowed to use our own car). And 2) it involves driving with the instructor from Sandefjord to Larvik (where the testing facility is). You get instruction along the way, tips on things to improve, and reminders about rules that are a bit different from what we know from America.

So in late January (about four days shy of one year here – yes, I’m a procrastinator) I began all the paperwork to exchange my license. A few weeks ago, just after Zack returned from the states, I took my test. Same instructor and same examiner. And same result: success!

While we probably could have managed fine taking the test in Norwegian, it was nice to have one less stress factor involved.It feels good to have one more thing in place to make life a little easier here in our new home!


What’s it like: Being the new person #expatliving

I don’t know about you, but the thought of being the new person has always brought on a lot of anxiety for me.I remember the summer before fourth grade, when my parents moved us to a new city. I left the comfort of a small private school where I knew everyone, and began public school for the first time. The first day was filled with lots of butterflies in the stomach. But I have to tell you how relieved I was when I met another girl in my class who was also a first-timer, after her first few years in private school. We quickly became friends, and remain friends now, nearly 30 years later.

Then came the bigger move, in the middle of tenth grade. After years with friends and many layers of comfort and familiarity, I had to transfer mid-school year to a new high school, an hour+ away from our old town. I knew no one. No.One. Sixteen years old, with my own car, I suddenly found myself alone again. And riding the bus. Yes, humiliating. And this was the country. So all the kids – from elementary to high school – rode on one bus together. As the bus driver blasted Billy Ray Cyrus.

That transition was a bit harder, but I made it. In America, at least in my experience, people tend to be curious about the new person. They introduce themselves to you, and ask questions.

And I thought that was normal. But as with many things over the past year, I’m learning that some of what we considered ‘normal’ is really more cultural.

Foreign to Familiar
by Sarah A. Lanier

Such is the case with being the new person. Thankfully, we read about what to expect before we arrived in Norway. So it wasn’t a total surprise. But there is a difference in reading something and experiencing it firsthand…

In America, people introduce themselves to the new person. But here in Norway, the new person should not simply assume or expect the same. We’ve learned that if you want to meet people, you need to just go ahead and introduce yourself. It’s one of the cultural differences we’ve come to recognize and accept.

What is it like where you come from? Who introduces whom? Have you ever had a cross-cultural difference that created difficulties?

Related Reading: Much of this stems from the differences between Hot and Cold cultures/societies. A year or two ago, I read a book that helped me a lot in processing these differences: Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot and Cold-Climate Cultures. A great read to help you recognize and hopefully avoid cross-culture misunderstandings.


Architectural Digest: follow up (where we live)

I probably should have included it in the original architecture post (HERE). But for those who might be curious about what our house looks like, here’s a picture of it taken last year.As I mentioned before, we have been told that it was built around 1897.

The house is divided into two separate homes/apartment, and we live in the second floor apartment.
Just today I ran across a website with a few photos of our city (here). The fourth picture down was taken on our street, just a little south of our house.
And for those of you who are history buffs, we’ve also discovered something on YouTube. It is a chronological slideshow of Sandefjord, dating from 1870 – 2012. It is about 15 minutes long, so if you aren’t familiar with our city, it might be a little boring. But I found it quite interesting to see the city grow and change over the years!

Good Question…

Sitting around sipping coffee and chatting, we fielded questions from our local friend, just as we always do. She loves to ask questions. A lot of questions. And we are happy to share with her. We have come a long way with our relationship over the past year.

Not totally related, but we have been
working on feeding our physical selves
better. I’ve tried lots of new recipes. Last
week we enjoyed homemade black bean
burgers on homemade whole wheat rolls.

She asked about our level of comfort here. About Zack’s recent trip to the states. We talked about our kids. And about language learning. Lots of different topics, as well as questions about our work.

And then she asked it. A question no one has asked in the fourteen months since we came here.

Are you being fed?

Of course she wasn’t talking about food. She wasn’t trying to make sure we had enough money for groceries. No, our sweet friend wanted to know if we were getting what we needed spiritually.

Thankfully, we have found various ways to get spiritual nourishment. But what a thoughtful question. One we were grateful to hear. One I probably should ask more often to teachers, pastors, mentors.
And maybe even myself from time to time. Am I taking time to make sure I’m receiving nourishment? What good am I to my family, friends and others if I am weak?
And what about you? Are you being fed spiritually?


Architectural Digest: Sandefjord Edition

We’ve had a number of people ask us what houses look like here in Norway. So on Sunday, we went for a walking tour of our neighborhood to show you a little of what we see around us.Architectural style can vary from fylke (county) to fylke. And of course, styles and methods change with time as well.

We live in Vestfold fylke, and while most of the homes around us have a similar style (more akin to the home where we live, a 2-story built around 1897), it is not hard to find some variety as well. And it doesn’t take more than a stroll to the next street north of us to see what we’re talking about. Go up the hill and take a left, and you just might feel like you’re walking through a very random issue of an architecture magazine.

This is the first we come to as we begin to turn off our street. An interesting house – very large – and a mix of stone and mortar. It looks impressive at night!

This style of home is fairly ordinary here: particularly the white with black roof combo. It must be nice to have that garage in the back!

When my mom and step-dad visited last year, they couldn’t get over the fact that much of Norway is rock. And what do you do when you want to build and there are rocks in the way? Just work around them, as was the case with this home.

Here is another angle of the house built on the rock. Reminds me of a parable in the Bible (you can read it HERE),

While most areas remain consistent in architectural style, this particular street really does exhibit a wide range of eras and materials. This structure appears to be at least two apartments (not at all uncommon: many homes here are multi-family homes), and was obviously built more recently than many of their neighbors.

Every time Zack and I walk past this house, it reminds us of Doc Brown’s house in Back to the Future. Great Scott!

It’s hard to see here, but I really like this modern home built on the hill.

Here, you can see how the houses are built regardless of elevation. They keep going up!

In another month or two, you won’t be able to see this one for all of the trees.

Zack and I like this one a lot. It has a bit of a German/alpine feel to me.

And the green roof here is fun.

You can occasionally spots a house with a grass roof. We don’t see them often in our area, but did see a little playhouse with one.

Finally, this one is on a different street. But we think the dragons are interesting – definitely has an Asian feel to it!

Do you see anything similar to homes where you live? Which one is your favorite?

Happy One Year Friend-iversary!

One year ago today, we sat down to Norwegian waffles with a couple I (Jenn) had met just a few days earlier. They invited us into their home to share a bit of their culture with us that day. Little did we know, they would quickly become some of our best friends here. Kai & Synnøve are always quick to share important cultural events, introduce us to traditional food, help us with language questions, and make sure we are doing well in our new setting. Synnøve has also been the one who’s taught me all about Norwegian baking!We are so thankful for the way God blessed us with such great friends!

So, happy “anniversary” Kai & Synnøve! We are grateful for your friendship and look forward to many more adventures together.