Sunday, August 21, 2011

Scandinavia Day 7

Day 7 started out with breakfast in the hotel and then a trip to the airport.
by the way, here's the hotel where I stayed, right on the water:

And this was my room, which was very simple, but I loved it.

Have I mentioned how awesome the airports are in Norway? I was checked in and was on my way to the plane in about 5 minutes. Security has not changed much through the years. It was quite refreshing.

So I flew in to Stockholm and met up with Julia. This is a city in which she lived years ago, so now it was her turn to freak out about how weird/awesome it is to return as a civilian. We went and checked into our hotel and headed straight for Gamla Stan, or "Old Town."

Unlike in Denmark, where I could read all the street signs because the written language is pretty much the same as Norwegian, in Sweden, I could kind of read them, but would get a little thrown because here the language is just a tiny bit off from Norwegian. But it was fun to try. So, to make sense of the phrase Gamla Stan, I would call it Gammel Sted, which is "old place" in Norwegian.

The first day, we walked around a bit and then went to this museum about medieval Stockholm. Apparently, they were digging up the city to build underground parking and found some ruins and decided to make a museum out of it. So the whole museum is underground, which is sort of cool, especially when looking at skeletons and stuff. This is a carving of the medieval city.

Julia's plan of attack for day one in Stockholm was to wander around Gamla Stan and get a lay of the land, so day two, we could hit all the places we wanted to go.

My BFF Esther has always said her last name is unusual enough that people here in the old U S of A don't know how to say or spell it. It must be a bit more common in the land of her people, because here it is on a sign!

I love the manhole covers.

Looking at Gamla Stan from across the canal...

Walking across the bridge that goes into Gamla Stan, there was a "protest" going on in the city from people demanding a train that goes to their small town (at least that's what Swedish-speaking Julia said.)

Inside Gamla Stan...

I popped in a shop and picked up this T-shirt for my nephew because I didn't find a hat or gloves for him. He liked the soccer shirts I bought in Brazil 5 years ago, so I thought this was a good choice, especially because our peeps are Swedish.

More Stockholm to come...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

in the eye of the beholder

One of my job responsibilities is to do mental health screenings on many of the 300+ children in foster care in the Queens region of the agency. This means that all the kids are seen by me, our psychologist or one of the interns, and we ask the children or their foster parents, depending on their age, a bunch of questions from a questionnaire to see how things are going in the foster home. If we are even one day late doing the screening, we don't get credit when audit time comes around, so I have to keep track of who is seen and when and make sure they are all seen within the year.

One of our kids was scheduled to be in for a medical appointment and was also supposed to see me afterwards. But I didn't see him for what ever reason. Our secretary kept telling me that I did see him on July 20, and although I am a total slacker, I do keep track of who I do and do not see. I have a very complicated system which involves a list of names on a Post-it. Once I see the kid, I write his/her name on a Post-it. It may stay on that Post-it for a day, a week, or whatever, until I get around to writing up the report. While it's waiting to be written, the questionnaire and all my notes on the child sit in a pile. Once I write up my report, I save it on my computer, and then cross the name off the Post-it list, and then put my notes in a different pile. It's very technical, don't try to understand it.

Anyway, this child's name was not on my Post-it, no notes were in either pile and no report was saved on my computer, which means this child was NOT seen by me in 2011.

But the secretary kept telling me I did it, and I am telling her I did not do it, so she tries to get to the bottom of it by calling the foster mother. The foster mother said that the screening was done by a "young woman with long brown hair." Everyone immediately says, "OH, that means Mary did it." Mary is a young woman who was an intern with us this year, and she indeed has brown hair. But my immediate reaction was to make a silly joke and say, "What?? I have brown hair too. Are you saying I'm not young?" They all laugh, and of course, now that they have a description, realize that I was right all along and that I did not do the screening because young Mary did it. So they start to figure out how they are going to get the information from Mary, whose internship ended a month ago.

I figure out it can't be Mary because Mary only worked on Fridays and this screening was supposedly done on a Wednesday. So the next thought was, "It must have been Melanie." Melanie is a young woman with brown hair who used to work in our office, quit last year, moved to London, didn't like it and moved back and then started working at my agency on a volunteer basis on Wednesdays. When this discussion happened, she was on vacation in Greece. My supervisor tells me to email Melanie because she will surely read her email while in Greece and we can finally put this mystery to rest. However, I'm 99.99% positive that Melanie did not do this screening and I'm not even going to bother emailing her because I have already figured out who did the screening and that was NO ONE and the foster mother does not remember that I did the screening, not on July 20, but in February on a different child.

So even though she does not believe me, the medical secretary reschedules the screening for today. And even though the foster mother believes it was done already, she agrees to come back with the boy.

When they arrive, she takes a look at me, says, "Didn't we already do this? I know I was just here and we sat in this office." I said, "Yes, you did, but that was six months ago and that was for the older sister." She thinks for a minute and finally agrees that I am right.

The moral of this story is I AM THE YOUNG WOMAN!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scandinavia day 6

In planning my trip, I wanted to go someplace I'd never been and decided on Ålesund after one of my facebook friends posted this video :

I mean, seriously!!! How beautiful is that? So here are some views from the boat:

Docking in Ålesund...

Once I arrived in Ålesund, I set out to explore this lovely little city at the crack of dawn (sort of... the sun never really set up there), but first I needed some breakfast! I walked for quite a while until I found a grocery store where I found my most favorite "second breakfast" from when I lived in Norway. I never liked yogurt before I tried Norwegian yogurt. Then I didn't eat it for about 10 years after I came home. I can tolerate some American yogurt, but I'm still partial to theirs.

Views of the city...


After checking into my hotel, I hiked up the the Aksla viewpoint overlooking the city. I got a couple of photos before my camera battery died (another moment of poor planning -- I didn't bring a converter and planned to use Julia's but by the time my battery died, we were in different countries).
To get to the top, you have to walk up 418 steps....

But here's the reward... ice cream, of course!

Here I am, wearing my new sweater...

After the hike/sightseeing, it was (finally) shopping time...
They have a very cute gågate, but since my battery was dead, I have no pictures. I wanted to get some hats and gloves for my nieces and nephews, but they don't really sell that stuff in May. So, I found one hat for my niece, seen here.

I also bought some sweaters . You can never have too many.

While I was talking to Bowcutt the night before, I said, "I can't believe I haven't seen any missionaries! When we were missionaries, we were always out." And low and behold, the very next day, I ran into two elders on the gågate. The upshot of the conversation I had with them... They asked if I still knew the language. My answer, "Not really." When I told them I had lived in Bodø, they kind of freaked -- not only that sisters were that far north, but that we had missionaries there at all. They told me that their mission president pulled all the missionaries out of the north so that they could concentrate on the southern part of the country with the hopes of getting a second stake, and had only recently put missionaries back in Ålesund, but nowhere else. (Of course, Trondheim always has plenty.) I have to admit that I laughed, almost patted them on the back and said, "A second stake? Good luck with that!!" Nineteen years ago, we were talking about a second stake plus a temple.... and about the same amount of members, but more than double the missionaries. So.... yeah... good luck!! Can you believe that they have something like 56 missionaries, and only SIX sisters?? What if you were one of six sisters and got stuck with some lame companion for, like, half your mission? (I'm not naming any names, but I'll just say it rhymes with Crunch.) Nightmare!!

After shopping, I went back to my hotel for dinner. It wasn't the best dinner ever, however, they did have three kinds of pudding with vaniljesaus:

(can you believe they have a youtube video for this?? I'm drooling right now!!)

The last thing I did in Norway, besides taking a cab to the airport, was to go to the gift shop of my hotel and try to spend down the last of my kroner. I had just enough for this tasty treat...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Scandinavia day 5


Julia had to get back to Copenhagen for some of her plays, and I stayed two extra days in Norway. At the Bergen hotel they had mini tubes of Nugatti, about the size of a travel-size tube of
toothpaste. Somehow I had forgotten about this delicious Norwegian treat. I went up to the buffet, put a couple tubes on my plate, took my plate to my table, and slipped the tubes into my pocket. Trip #2 to the buffet, I did the same. After staying at that hotel for two nights, I had quite a stash of Nugatti to bring home (I ate some, I shared some).

After breakfast, I walked to the gågate. There is an annual music festival in Bergen in the month of May. I went to the closing ceremony 19 years ago, where they played lots of lovely music including this one by Grieg (this is not the actual performance I attended, FYI, because I know someone will ask).

So when I heard that they were going to have the opening ceremony on the gågate and it was free, I knew what I'd be doing. The king was also there. I didn't understand much of the speeches going on, but I did understand every reference to the weather, because it was not raining. Our good fortune could not last, however, and the skies opened up towards the end of the performance. Look at these cute kids in traditional clothing!

This video was from this performance. To all my Norwegian peeps out there: if you know this song, tell me what it is in the comments section. I think it was a song dedicated to the king. Everyone in the audience was singing along.

Here is a shoe store that I went to during my first week in Norway -- my greenie area. I needed some shoes that were a little more appropriate for doing the walking and running that we did. However, I should have bought shoes that were more appropriate for the bad weather, too. So after a couple days of typical Bergen weather, I realized my mistake. Pretty soon I came up with a plan... every morning, I put my foot in a plastic bag, put on my shoe, and then cut off the extra bag parts. Ridiculous, but effective. The following winter, I bought boots instead.

Walking around the gågate, I saw this group of children, dressed in their Helly Hansen jackets and rain pants. It's one of my most vivid memories of living in Bergen.

After the concert, I went shopping for some lunch. Instead of lunch, I found dessert at this little bakery. I didn't expect to find cupcakes in Norway. The cake wasn't so good -- a little too dense and not sweet enough for my taste, but the frosting was good.

Next, I took the Fløibanen to the top of the mountain. It was still raining a bit, so my pictures did not come out, but it was just like I remembered.

More kiddos at the top of Fløien.

I heard from Anne Lise's mom that this was a great place to get sweater bargains, and she was right. I bought this sweater, with the intention of giving it as a gift, but then had to wear it because it was cold and rainy. (this picture was taken in my next stop.)

Next up, I met up with my friend, previously known as Eldste Bowcutt, now just Bowcutt or KB. He has been (unfortunately) living in Bergen for the past decade plus. I haven't seen him in many years and it was unbelievably good to see him again. I didn't get a picture of us together, but I do have this one, taken in Oslo in 1993.

Notice me wearing my BYU sweatshirt, which I am wearing in many, many pictures from this time. Also notice that Bowcutt is wearing his mission clothes but since we weren't he must have taken off his tie and unbuttoned his shirt, but kept his tag on, like the goofball that he is. I don't know why the ladies were being casual and the gentlemen weren't. Sitting in between KB and me is Anne Lise, and at one time in life, the three of us were the best of friends. I wish things didn't have to change! (Also pictured is my trainer, Crane, and Bowcutt's trainer, Kasteller.)

Day five ended with me getting on this boat and sailing north....

Monday, August 8, 2011

Red Bank Cupcakes

Jill recently moved to Red Bank NJ and for a town that small, they have THREE cupcake places. I tried one place called Cupcake Magician this weekend, and I have just one word to describe them: CORRECT.

I looked at this vanilla vanilla and was very skeptical. The frosting is really just some white chocolate -- maybe ganache? I don't know but it didn't really matter because the cake was the real star of this show. Dense, moist, and the right amount of sweetness... they had some of the best tasting cake I've had.

We also tried the "Devil Dog" cupcake, which was also quite delicious. The chocolate cake was really good and different -- the chocolate was almost like a German chocolate cake because it wasn't super rich, which is good for me. The frosting was similar to the previous cupcake, but it also had this delicious creamy filling.

We also got the "Peanut Butter Explosion" which was similar to the above Devil Dog, but the filling was peanut butter. Needless to say, this one was also ridiculous.
I didn't taste the Tiramisu, but Jill did and here is a picture of it:

I'm going back!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Scandinavian break

I really do have lots more to say about my trip, and it's coming soon.