The Norwegian national costume, or bunad, is an extremely exciting part of Norwegian culture for me. In the United States, we don’t really have this sort of thing unless you are Native American and have some kind of traditional tribal dress. Norwegians wear their bunader (plural) at big events, such as Constitution Day, confirmation, and wedding celebrations, along with a handful of other occasions.

My sweet mother-in-law gifted me a bunad this summer — it is one that she made when she was in school. This remarkable gift, which usually costs upwards of $3,000 if bought new, is even more precious due to the fact that a loved one made it by hand.

Vestfold bunad, incomplete

Trying on the bunad in order to take some measurements

While there are hundreds of bunad varieties, the one she gave to me is from the Vestfold region. Here, you can see the typical look of various Vestfold bunader, both for men and women.

While the bunad she gave me was mostly complete, one element it is missing is the apron, or forkle. Alone, such a piece might cost $450, used, and up to $900, new. Now, I’m no expert on apron prices, but that seems a bit steep. As my sister-in-law once told me, everything having to do with bunad is expensive!

So, I have decided to sew the forkle myself, using the sewing machine as little as possible, per tradition.

Now, understand — sewing the national costume yourself is rare. You would think that as expensive as buying one new is, more people would sew it by hand. However, it would seem that there is a veritable monopoly on the bunad and its methods and materials. The only information online I can find about making it is the website “Sy bunad selv!” and a couple of books in the National Library (linked below with descriptions, only accessible with a Norwegian IP address). The problem with this is that every region’s bunad is different. These resources address how to make one type of bunad, but maybe don’t have the techniques needed for my particular one.

So, I’ve started on an adventure in embroidery, the likes of which I’ve never embarked upon before. As far as I can tell, there are no transfers or similar for the embroidery patterns used on the various bunader, so I’m having to make my own and, well, figure it out.

We’ll see!

National Library Resources:

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Painting is horrible.

This probably isn’t a surprise to anyone who has ever owned a house.

Forget the act of painting — just the psychological bit is bad enough. Is it the right amount of shiny? The right color? Does it need a primer? What kind of sandpaper doesn’t “clog” with paint (who knew that was a thing)? Do I get the yellow or blue or green painter’s tape? Why do all of these tutorials use cool gadgets that only American retailers carry? What were the people before me thinking?

However difficult the decision-making process is, once that part is done, it’s time to do everything but paint. Sanding, sweeping, wiping, vacuuming, taping, on and on. Thank goodness for the internet. The Family Handyman knows literally everything.

The second floor of our house is four bedrooms, a tiny hallway, and a closet at the end of said hallway. So, we have decided to use two of the small bedrooms whilst painting the other two. Then, we’ll move across the hall into the actual master and office and commence painting what will become the guest/kid (hopefully) rooms.

Upstairs

We’ve run into any number of issues, not least of which is that I have tendonitis in my shoulder, and have had for weeks. However, we are making progress in chunks. The ceiling in the future-office is painted, as is most of the trim. Additionally, the hallway has become a painting accouterment storage area, which, who wouldn’t call that progress.

Just wait. It will get better. I promise. And, yes, I know the floors are different in every room.

The first week we were in the new house, I could go into the basement without a second thought. I was fearless, free.

And then.

And then, there was a giant spider in the basement. My Viking slew it. Yes. Good.

Then, the next day, there was another one.

Giant.

Not.

Happening.

I went on a laundry strike. I couldn’t very well go down to the basement to do laundry! However, it was piling up, and something had to be done.

So, we bought some “sikt effektivt” spider spray. So far, it has been ok. Jens checks the basement for me before I go down there to do laundry. Or, he does the laundry. I like that option, but I also like to have free run of my house — to move about without fear. He’s at work all day, and I’m home (at work), so I’m the better candidate to manage the laundry. Also, I like to Marie Kondo my stuff, which my beloved just doesn’t care about enough to do himself (though he does like opening his tidy drawers to see all his clothes neatly folded at his fingertips, and that makes me happy).

Today, I was able to go into the basement for the first time by myself since the enemies invaded our home. I talked loud the whole time and told the (probably) empty basement that no weapon formed against me would prosper (Isaiah 54:17, you know), which led me to the thought that spiders probably weren’t specifically formed against me, so maybe then they would prosper, and that would be very grim indeed.

However, I did make it out alive and am now using this blog post to put off going down there to change the wash over to the dryer, since Jens is at work.

I’m now a homeowner in Norway.

We found this really cute 1970s house. Jens calls it “floffy” because of the way the roof opens like a book, and there are no gables (if they are even called that) or anything disturbing the “floff” (so to speak).

Please, note the floff. Also note that these pictures probably belong to DNB Eiendom. Shout out to DNB.

Any house from 1971 is going to have its problems. I previously owned a house built in 1970, so I was a bit gun-shy with this one. Let’s just say that experiences with flooding and black mold didn’t exactly instill a sense of love for ’70s houses. Nonetheless, this house had what we were looking for in every single aspect, so we went for it.

Yeah, it’s very yellow. It’s cute yellow. Baby chick yellow.

The buying process here was a lot simpler than in the US. The seller’s disclosure is posted on the sales ad, along with the inspection report. All this is posted on Finn.no, which I have not blogged about before but certainly plan to at some point. At closing, we signed like six pages of documents (by “we” I mean “Jens”). In the US, you sign about 50 pages of documents plus about 20 more, and don’t forget the last 30.

The Lågen flows pretty much right behind our house, so we have some lovely “hikes” ahead of us. There are several trails, which, I don’t know if “excited” is the right descriptor for how I’m feeling, but I’m not displeased.

Hopefully, I’ll be posting some of our home improvement journey. The first floor looks like this:

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The second floor looks like this:

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Going up the stairs is like going into a time machine from 2019 to 1971. We have plans to remedy this so that we are not time-warping every time we have to go to the bathroom.

More to come 🙂

Ever since I started “dating” my husband — I say “dating” because he was in Norway and I was in the United States — he has spoken about The Cabin.

I daresay anyone in the United States who has a cabin or extra residence is reasonably well-off, financially. Well, anyone in Norway who has a cabin is Norwegian, because I’m pretty sure basically every Norwegian has at least one cabin available for family use.

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The view from the end of our hike to the Easter Tree.

Intrigued, I loved hearing about the cabin and its various aspects — the well, the outhouse, the lack of amenities, the two-hour ski trip to get to it, that sort of thing.

This past weekend, I finally got to join a trip to the cabin.

Frankly, I was dreading it. As interesting as this romantic, remote cabin is from afar, the idea of spending the weekend in a rustic abode with an outhouse is not my idea of a good time. I spent the week prior to the trip telling Jens that I am not a Wilderness Person, and having the occasional cry.

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We stopped at a store, and there was a polar bear because Norway.

We stopped for dinner at a place that serves Norwegian food — kjøttkaker, medisterkaker, salmon, cucumber salad, mashed peas, sauerkraut, that sort of thing. It was so good, and although it was way too much food, I really felt it necessary that I eat it all, you know, to get the full experience of the cabin.

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Pre-cabin dinner.

For those of you who don’t know, the cabin is about a six-hour drive into some pretty remote areas. Jens’s great-grandfather dragged it up there a million years ago; the cabin itself is more than 100 years old. Every time the family goes to visit it, they fill out the hyttebok (cabin book), a blank journal where you can detail what you did whilst at the cabin. There are entries into the hyttebok from when Jens’s grandparents started going, Jens’s parents’ honeymoon, Jens’s childhood, and more recent trips. They draw and they write, and in doing so, record a history of a family full of love and changes and God’s generational blessing.

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The old and new hyttabøker.

The cabin itself is adorable. Like many Norwegian properties, there are several buildings that form a sort of compound — the main cabin (Gamlestua), the mini cabin (Jensbo), the storage shed, the outhouse, and the flagpole.

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The front of the cabin.

The cabin itself is very simple. There’s no running water, and the electricity comes from a solar panel hooked to something that I don’t understand. It provides enough power to run a few lights and an electric outlet. The portable heater, mini-fridge, and camp stove all run on gas. We washed dishes in a tub, fetched water from the well, and got most of our heat from the fireplace.

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Jens drawing water from the well.

I had pictured a nursery rhyme’s version of a well — a brick cylinder with a cute roof and a crank, rope, and bucket. As you can see, the cabin’s well is a three to four-foot hole in the ground, and it has a plank cover. The water came out of it ready to drink and was probably the best water I’ve ever had.

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Charting a course is important work.

We went on a hike to the påsketre (Easter Tree), a tree that looks like a cross when it has fewer leaves. It was nearly six kilometers through some really lovely marshes and moss, and you can see Sjølenfjell behind us in the distance.

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Hiking, with Sjølenfjell in the background.

The cabins in that picture are on an old farm, and are now family cabins maintained by individuals you are rarely around. The likelihood of seeing other people is slim, but we did run into a few characters, mostly hunters and the owner of those red cabins.

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Stopping for lunch at the påsketre with our lunch packs. There are definitely salmon, caviar, and brown cheese involved.

We ended up cutting our trip a day short, but I want to go again. Whether or not I will want to go at Easter when a two-hour cross-country ski trip is required to get from the car to the cabin, I don’t know. However, I have the whole winter to learn how to stop on skis, so that’s something.

Last month, I participated in the Nattvandring til Gaustatoppen (roughly translated, the Long and Dark Hike Up Gaustatoppen with Lots of Rocks).

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See the tiny spire in the back? That’s where we’re headed.

I have compiled a list of questions I had that were answered along this trek up the 4.4-kilometer (about 2.75 miles) trail. I also have a few that were not answered, but we’ll see if I get to those in this post.

Why are we doing this?

  • To save the planet in a variety of ways. Apparently, this hike helps the homeless, hungry, thirsty, uneducated, environmentally offensive, etc. How it does that, I’m not sure, since it seemed like a free event.
  • It was Renate’s birthday.
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Anything for Renate’s birthday 🙂

How much farther?

All the way. Plus rocks and darkness.

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Rocks. All the rocks.

How much farther, now?

Still basically all the way. But also, now, people who had already finished the climb are coming down the mountain on the same trail you’re climbing, at a rate that seems impossibly fast and entirely determined to knock you off the side.

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Rocks and Darkness

Why isn’t my headlamp working?

Because you forgot to put fresh batteries in it. However, there will be an angel with an incredibly bright headlamp on the trail. That angel will stop and offer batteries only seconds after you’ve started crying.

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Thank you, headlamp angel.

What will we eat?

Norwegians have a genetic trait that allows them to pack food that would normally spoil, but in Norway it doesn’t, and then you eat it once it has been in your giant backpack for at least half a day. Usually, the food includes something that an American would consider gourmet, but that a Norwegian is genetically programmed to pack for the trail. They call this food bundle the Lunch Pack, and every Norwegian is born understanding how to make one of these. Here is what our lunch packs contained as toppings for our bread and gluten-free knekkebrød (Norwegian stale cracker that is also delicious somehow).

  • Smoked salmon + Brie
  • Caviar + sliced hardboiled eggs
  • Shrimp salad
  • Brown cheese (so Norwegian)

How will we get down the mountain once we’ve finished the climb?

After waiting for two hours in a very cold tunnel, you will get on a train, and it will take you to the bottom. The train will be inside the mountain. Though expensive, it sure beats walking down the mountain in the dark — a task which would no doubt end in your demise. Going down is a lot harder than going up, despite what seems like sense. This is Norway. Then, you will board a bus. Then, you will get back in the car and drive two hours home.

Questions that were not answered:

  • Where did all these rocks come from? No idea.
  • Why are there so many children here? My best guess was, Because Norway. Like the lunch pack gene, Norwegian children are born with skis on and an innate need to hike up things.
  • How are these ancient people passing me? Seemingly ancient humans were speeding by me on the way up the mountain, again, Because Norway. FYI: The exercise called “mountain climbers” doesn’t actually prepare you for climbing a real mountain.
  • Why is Norway so beautiful everywhere? It’s just the truth. Norway is just beautiful.
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Forget the landscape. Look at that handsome man.

The entire 4.4 kilometers took 3.5 hours (well, only three for Renate). It was quite a challenge, and I’m proud I only cried once. Jens was such a trooper, carrying everything except my waist pack with my water bottle. The train was an engineering marvel — a 1-kilometer track at a 45-degree slope with two trains acting as counterweights on a single track that split just long enough for the trains to pass one another on the way up/down. It was really neat!

It was an experience that I’ll never forget, and I think I will never repeat…though if Renate wants to go next year I may be down if we start earlier in the day.

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The trail of headlamps, as seen from the top of Gaustatoppen.

I went back and forth on whether or not to have wedding programs.

We finally decided that we had to have them because we needed the psalm lyrics printed. Of course, everyone was expected to sing along. This is Norway.

How hard could it be to make a quality program, right?

The first place I went to was Google. Norwegian wedding programs. Norsk bryllupsprogram. Norwegian wedding vocabulary. Brud og brudgommen (hoping more vocabulary of similar ilk would pop up). On and on. Forums, images, Word Doc templates, asking friends and family. When trying to research wedding programs in a country and culture as ancient as this one, the volume of unhelpful information is so intensely vast that I just wanted to give up and have no programs. I thought about going the song-sheet route, maybe having a cute card with the psalms’ words on it, which would solve my vocabulary problem. However, nothing was quite exactly what I wanted, and I admit that I gave up for about a month.

I won’t even approach the topic of finding a professional printer to print my impossible-to-write programs. Everyone prints cards, invitations, posters, shirts, etc, but finding a satisfactory template on a printing website was rather difficult. If the template was cute, it either had an unalterable graphic that included English, or it didn’t understand that date and time formats, address formatting, and the alphabet are different outside of the US. Long story short on printing — I found a Norwegian printer, Optimal Print, who did a lovely job printing what ended up being our programs.

So, after all of the research and digging, what I ended up with is the following:

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If some bride who is in a similar situation to me happens upon this blog, here is the template in the form of a Word Doc that you can download and fill in. The leaves on the cover I drew myself in Adobe Illustrator, so feel free to replace them as you like:

The fonts on the program are free ones I found on the internet.

I hope all this is helpful! Let me know if there are any questions or any way I can help with your own Norwegian wedding programs.

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