Tag Archives: Sandefjord

Three Years in Norway?!?!

On February 1, 2013, four weary travelers arrived in Oslo. Tired, jet lagged, and quite overwhelmed, yet relieved to have made it. And ready for whatever was to come.Well, we thought we were ready. What was to come was a lot. Ups and downs. Good days and frustrating ones. But through it all, we’ve come to love living here.

Happy Three Year Anniversary to us!


Twenty Years and Counting

Friday was 20 years since Zack and I went on our first date.

20 years since we sat in a restaurant overlooking Atlanta, and talked about our backgrounds and our futures.

20 years since we saw the movie Dangerous Minds.

20 years since we first held hands.

20 years since I got back to my dorm room and told my friends that I knew who I was going to marry.

We’ve lived through a lot together in twenty years! Of course not every day has been easy. But the hard times pale in comparison to the seasons of fun and laughter, adventure and unknowns, excitement and opportunity. It’s been crazy, and it’s been great!

I love getting to spend each and every day with my best friend.


As we walked through our city Friday night, I looked around and once again tried to take in the fact that we’re living on the other side of the world, speaking another language (or at least trying to!), the parents of two pretty rockin’ kids, with friends and family from one side of globe to the other…

… and then I looked at Zack and said, “could you have imagined all of this twenty years ago?”


They say time flies when you’re having fun. And I believe it’s true.

Here’s to twenty more… and twenty more after that!





Back to School

William MY1 (7th grade) ~ Daniel PY4 (4th grade)

As of about two weeks ago, William and Daniel are back to school!

They’re starting their fourth school year in Norway (the first was only a half of a year, but you get what I mean…). We continue to be thankful for the education they are receiving at the international baccalaureate (IB) school in our city.

We get a lot of questions about the boys’ school here. While I cannot speak for others, our family’s experience with IB school has been great. The way they teach is less about sitting at a desk & looking at a book, and more about learning hands-on. I feel our boys are getting a well-rounded education and experience. The IB approach is a whole-learning focus, seeking to create lifelong learners who are inquisitive, thoughtful, involved, and engaged. Its focus does not isolate academic subjects, but uses units of study that incorporate a variety of subjects and concepts at the same time.

The boys love their school experience, and that makes us happy! They have good relationships with the teachers and staff. The classes are fairly small (in primary school there are typically 15 – 20 students). And I think another benefit is the multi-cultural aspect of international schools. A lot of their friends have at least one Norwegian parent, and the majority have one foreign/non-Norwegian/expat/immigrant parent. So they have classmates who come from all over the world. And their teachers are very international as well!

Daniel is now in fourth grade, or PY4. The PY (Primary Years) program covers grades 1 through 6. Daniel is excited that he is now in the upper grades part of the PY program. This means more responsibility and more self-sufficiency. This is a big change and challenge for him, but also a great opportunity!

William is in his first year of the MY (Middle Years) program, MY1. In American school it would be 7th grade. He is still in the same building as before, but on a different floor. He is changing classes, has a lot more responsibility, and must do much more without teacher guidance. This is the first year of foreign language, and he chose Spanish. He laughed yesterday as he said that he’s basically working on three language right now: English, Norwegian, and Spanish.

So we’re geared up and ready for a new school year.

Here’s a look at the boys’ first day of school each year since arriving in Norway…

February 2013
Daniel PY1 ~ William PY4


August 2013
Daniel PY2 ~ William PY5
August 2014
William PY6 ~ Daniel PY3
August 2015
William MY1 ~ Daniel PY4


Celebration recap

We had a fun day celebrating Daniel and celebrating family.

Tradition dictates (at least in our family) that when it’s your Gotcha Day, you get to choose everything.
So Daniel made his selections! We started the day with Nutella toast and cheese eggs.
Then we were off to the ‘bowling area’ – Daniel’s name for the bowling alley.

Next up was eating McDonalds in the park.

We walked around the city and visited the Tivoli (carnival).


Then it was back home for dinner.
One of Daniel’s favorite foods is mussels. He is really the only one who likes them, so we enjoyed salmon while he feasted on a seemingly endless pot of his fave.


We had a fun day celebrating five years with our funny guy!


Viking Festival

We happened upon a viking festival a couple of weeks ago. It was a sun festival, but apparently the sun didn’t get the memo. It was a bit drizzly and quite chill!


But despite less than ideal weather, we had fun. There was music and dancing, and a couple of us even geared up for battle!




We tried viking bread and fish on a stick.

It is always fun to stumble onto interesting cultural celebrations like this!

The Graduate: a European Tour

Two weeks came and went, and before I knew it, I was driving my niece back to the airport.


Anna made her way back to the states on Wednesday. Based on my own experience and the occasional iMessages we exchanged, it was one of those days that seemed it would never end.

But now that she is back home, I want to take a little time to show a bit of what we were up to.


Her grandparents were gracious enough to help out with plane tickets and passport to get her here, and we really appreciate it.


And once here, we found some low-cost airfare so we could show her a few of our favorite places.


For the first week, we spent time in our city, as well as Tønsberg and Oslo. After that, she and I had another day in Oslo, before flying to Stockholm for a couple of days, and then to London for the weekend.

It was a great trip, and I look forward to sharing a bit more about it in the coming days.


Lørdagsjazz – Saturday Jazz

You never know the connections you might make on Facebook! We are in a few groups that have allowed us to meet some really cool people. And we met yet another one this past Saturday.I connected with Kelly in an expats group. And then I found out that she is quite the accomplished vocalist. So when I found out that she and her partner were performing at a local place this past Saturday, I thought it might be fun to check it out.

We had never been to Draaben before. We invited a couple of friends to meet us, and it turned it to be a really fun evening. I had been sick all week and started to back out last minute, but I am so glad I didn’t. We had a great time. Draaben is a cool place: not overly large, a bit more intimate, perfect for a concert like this one.

Here is a quick peek at a special number that Kelly and Werner performed especially for us. You can check out more from Kelly at http://kellydickson.com.

Mobile Coffee Tour: Bønna in Sandefjord – Norway

A 1967 Citroen camper from Paris has experienced a rebirth of sorts, thanks to a team of redesign experts in England, and the very detailed and specific dreams of the owner/operators of Håndverkeren Kaffe og Te in our charming town of Sandefjord.

They’ve named her Bønna. And if you ask me, their coffee wagon is a little slice of heaven.

The former camping truck-turned-mobile coffee bar is a perfect compilation of retro-chic styling and color, quality coffee, and a pair of owners whose passion for their craft pours out as smoothly and richly as every delicious cup they serve up. And the result of their labor of love is fun and whimsical, and unlike anything else around this area.

After chatting for a few moments with Terje and Tabitha Hals, the braintrust behind Bønna, I sat at the accompanying table, painted the same playful shade of green, and slowly enjoyed a lovely pour-over. And I observed the parade of people who stopped, stared, waved, gawked, and then usually proceeded to step up to order a drink.

Children dragged their parents by the arm to get a closer look. One van made a near u-turn so the driver could run over to place an order. And no matter who walked past, one thing was always true: no one could take a look at Bønna without a smile on his or her face!

I love the enthusiasm and energy that are so evident in the Bønna pair as they talk about their coffee shop on wheels. It is clear that this is so much more than a job for them. Terje showed me around and shared details about the process of converting the van. Tabitha smiled broadly as she shared how much fun it is to see the reactions of passersby when she and Terje drive Bønna around. Honks, waves and countless ‘thumbs up’ have come to be the norm anytime they set out.

In between customers, I continued to chat with Terje & Tabitha – and before I knew it, nearly an hour had passed! But it was so interesting to hear about the journey of this little camping truck in France, its adventures in the speciality refurbishing shop in England, and now its new life on the corner of Kongens Gate and Jernbanealleen.

Bønna is a coffee wagon with great coffee. And yet, it is much more. While quality coffee is important, it is even better when those serving the coffee do so in a way that expresses their skills and flare for coffee craft.

Håndverkeren’s popular hot drinks are served via their mobile shop. It’s the same quality and the same service we in Sandefjord have come to know and love at the little shop on Kongensgate – just out on the streets!

Sandefjord residents – and those just passing through: be on the lookout for this delightful piece of nostalgia. Stop by for a warm drink, and maybe a pastry on the side. And be sure to tell them Notes from Norge sent you!

You can follow Bønna on Twitter and Instagram: @kaffebrenneri
Takk for en skikkelig flott opplevelse, Tabitha & Terje!
(og for at dere var så tålmodig med min dårlige norsk!)

More baby steps

Photographic evidence of my short outing today

I got out this morning, for the first time since coming home from the hospital last Tuesday. One week in this house will definitely give you cabin fever!

I rode around with Zack while he ran some errands. I even went in a couple of shops with him (when we could park close!). We were only gone for about an hour and a half, and I spent the majority of that time in the car. It felt good to be out.

But I. am. tired.

Now I’m back home, resting up so I can stop by for a quick visit this evening for a dear friend’s birthday. Amazing how much motivation birthday cake can provide, isn’t it?

2014: The year in review

It has been a crazy, busy, fun, frustrating, exciting, exhausting, energizing, and all around interesting year.

Here are just a few highlights from our year.