Food, Glorious Food

If you’ve seen the October issue of Viking, you could guess that our staff has had food on the brain. Comfort food, to be exact. As I was working on our cover feature with culinary expert Scott Givot, I was in an almost constant state of hunger, thinking about the meal we were creating: savory Lapskaus (lamb stew), accompanied by Havregrynsbrød (oatmeal bread), topped off by Tilslørte Bondepiker (“veiled farm girls”—that’s apple trifle for the rest of us).

In my search of the Web for culinary inspiration, I came across a great resource. Kari Diehl, Scandinavian food blogger for, shares her favorite recipes from the Nordic countries. Check out her recent post: “10 Best Back-to-School Breakfasts.” I found some of my old favorites on the list, such as baked Finnish pancake, and some new ideas that I definitely want to try, like September porridge. God Appetitt!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minnesota, where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585. Amy is a Nordic folk music enthusiast, and when she’s not working or parenting, she can often be found making music with friends.

Norwegian Experience Wrap Up

This year’s Norwegian Experience winner, Bruce Johnson, is back at home and has some thoughts on his trip of a lifetime. Here’s what he had to share:

What was your favorite part of the trip?
Norway is amazing. We spent some time in England, Scotland and the Netherlands but nothing compares to the beauty of Norway, fjords and all. The trip was so well planned and executed that we really couldn’t have asked for a more seamless and unbelievable trip from start to finish. On a more personal note, visiting with my cousins in Norway was really special.

How was it working with Borton Overseas during the duration of the trip and planning?
Excellent. Linda McCormick is super! Every question and concern we had was answered. The itinerary was superior to anything we’ve ever done before. I still don’t know how they managed getting us the captain’s suite on the MS Balmoral!

If you could do the trip over, is there anything you’d change or do differently?
I don’t think there is anything that I would change. This trip was different for my wife and I because we had the opportunity to see Norway from a cruise ship, which gave us a completely different perspective. It was amazing, we learned so much!

Any favorite souvenirs from your trip?
We have 9 grandchildren that love trolls. We couldn’t come home from Norway without getting them each some trolls and some Norwegian t-shirts. For Mary and I, the photos and memories of the trip are really the best souvenirs. You can buy things, but memories are really the best things you can bring home from a trip like this.

What advice do you have for future winners of the trip?
Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy. This truly is an experience that the average person could never do or plan again. You really need to absorb every minute!

What about people recruiting for next year’s trip? Any advice for them?
I joined 4 years ago and membership has really been a great adventure. After the September 2009 issue of Viking our lodge started offering ½ price 1-year memberships to new members. Our lodge paid for one half of the membership and the new member paid the other half. I was able to sign up 10 new lodge members after that. Watching the newly recruited members get excited about Sons of Norway really is a trip! Recruiting just 1 family member would make a huge difference in membership numbers. We can do it!

How has this trip helped connect you with your Norwegian Heritage?
It really is unbelievable. Before joining Sons of Norway I didn’t even know that I had family in Norway. Now I have Norwegian 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins!* I’ve learned so much and am so much more connected to my heritage now--my cousin Jon is even trying to teach me Norwegian!

*Here’s a recap of Bruce’s story in case you missed the Norwegian Experience preview blog post. Shortly after joining, Bruce learned through military records that his grandfather had emigrated from Tønsberg, Norway at the age of 16 to join the U.S. Navy. After discovering his grandfather’s Norwegian roots, Bruce went in search of his family’s ties to Norway, writing an article for the Olso-based magazine “Familien.” In the months afterward, Bruce was able to connect with his Norwegian second cousin and visit them in Tønsberg.

Now that you’ve had a chance to look back at your time in Norway, do you have any final thoughts on the experience?
Sons of Norway and Borton Overseas really outdid themselves. Every member should make an attempt to win this trip. I literally cannot describe all that we did and saw and what a great experience it was!

I also want to offer that any members who wish to contact me about our lodge's member recruitment ideas or about the trip are more than welcome to. I'd be happy to help! You can reach me at

Dear Pen Pal

Long before Hello Kitty and stretchy bracelets, having a ‘pen pal’ was all the rage. A magazine, the name long forgotten, matched up pen pals..sort of an eHarmony for the elementary school set.

When I was ten…the age I decided I wanted to be a writer (or the First Lady, or Mrs. Donny Osmond, or save the seals and the environment) a girl named Diane and I started corresponding.

She was a couple years older and lived in Pennsylvania, a fact that just now comes back to me all these decades later. We hit it off and even spoke on the phone several times over the years. We never met but the written word cemented our friendship.

One summer night after my sophomore year in high school (the grade my youngest son is in now), I came home from my job at the ice cream/sandwich shop run by a local pain-in-the-keister businessman. The pay was low, the work was mundane, and at the end of the night we had to make the restrooms hospital-clean.

My mom, my Rock of Gibraltar, told me Diane’s mother had called. Diane and her boyfriend had been killed in a van accident that evening. If my pen pal had lived, she would have been a vegetable.

I sobbed into my mother’s arms, my sophisticated 16-year-old bravado dissolved.

Since then I’ve lost friends to the ravages of disease, but never one whose only connection to me was words.

Cherish the power of words. They have the ability to bind, to wound, to wrap us in a cocoon of love and warmth or shatter our illusions and make us no longer whole.

Lutefisk Unleashed!

Is anyone in the Twin Cities looking for something to do this weekend that mixes fun activities with Norwegian culture? If so, I've got the perfect thing for you.

This past Wednesday I was slowly making progress on some writing projects that had been on my desk far too long. I was knee deep in updates to internal documents and wrapping up some info for the November Viking magazine when a call came in that would instantly grab my attention and give me a good shot of wonder, which I was in serious need of. I picked up the receiver and said hello.

A pleasant voice on the other end responded with, "Hi, Mr. Evans, I'm a reporter with the Chaska Harald and I'm calling to see if you know anything about Lutefisk tossing?"

Now I've worked with reporters from all sorts of media outlets from the Blaine Banner to USA Today. I started my career more than a decade ago at one of the eminent PR firms in Minneapolis and had some great mentors who prepared me to respond to almost any question in any situation imaginable. Yet there are still situations that I don't think anyone could prepare for.

Like this one.

Which is why my initial response was, "Uh...I'm sorry...would you mind repeating that?"

I know, real eloquent, right? I sure earned my paycheck on that one.

I'll save you the play by play, but the reporter went on to tell me about a Sons of Norway lodge in Waconia, MN who is hosting the second annual Nordic Music Festival at Lake Waconia Regional Park. As part of the day dedicated to celebrating Nordic music, there is going a contest where teams of individuals will compete in the ultimate test of precision and skill (if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm talking about the lutefisk tossing).

According to event planner and Scandia Lodge President, Dick Keller, "There’ll be a 5-gallon pail at one end of the toss area. We’ll cover the ground with plastic sheeting and we’ll have a backboard. We don’t want to contaminate the grass even though it [lutefisk] is considered by some as a Scandinavian delicacy.

“We’ll have a line about 25 feet back from the pail. Each member of each team will have three tosses to get the lutefisk into the pail. The team that gets the most in the pail wins the prize, which is a handsome trophy with a fish on top."

Dick admits its goofy, but I think it sounds like a great time and I'm encouraging everyone to go. I may even try to get down to Waconia to check it out myself. If you want to learn more about the event, you can get the full info from the news article found here.

In the meantime, if you want to see what a lutefisk toss looks like, check out this video from Two Harbors, MN.

Ok, next week I'll be reporting live from Norsk Høstfest. Make sure to come back to see all the excitement in Minot, ND!

Guest Post - On Balance

Four years ago my good friend poet Kirk Judd and I journeyed to Tennessee to attend the SAWC (Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative) fall gathering. It was a glorious October weekend filled with opportunities for renewing creativity and making new friends. One of these is guest blogger, Jim Minick. Jim is an essayist, a poet, a teacher, and the author of The Blueberry Years, a memoir on blueberry farming and family. He and his wife, Sarah, currently live in Virginia. The topic here is near and dear to my heart, and Jim is an extraordinary friend. - PAH

On Balance

By Jim Minick, author of The Blueberry Years

When I was working intensely on The Blueberry Years in the first six months of 2009, I developed a pattern for what became my ideal day. I wrote at the computer from roughly 9:00 to 3:00, with a break for lunch, and then I headed out on our farm to do something physical. In the winter, I took a mattock and chopped bushes of invasive, multiflora rose. In the summer, I took a hoe and chopped thistle, again, an invasive, non-native plant that, untended, can cover a pasture in a few years, leaving nothing for the cows to eat.

This balance of work, of mental with physical, of creating with “destroying,” all of it seemed to fine tune my whole being. Our bodies and minds were both created for action, both meant to be used, and only in our recent history have we become a nation of couch-veggies. Yet writing, while great for keeping the mind sharp, seldom physically exercises more than the quick, soft pushups of fingers on keypads.

So getting out every afternoon released that morning’s pent up physical energy. And nothing like the pleasure of killing a thorny rose to also work out a thorny problem in the prose. Usually, though, I found a certain inner blankness in the afternoon where I could focus just on finding the next thistle or stepping into the center of a massive rose bush to uproot it with a few swings of the mattock. Always I sweated, even in winter, and often I swore as the thorns tore skin or cloth. But also, always I stopped to rest, listen, watch, and listen some more—the physical world once more becoming more alive than the one in my head.

The blueberry, the “hero” of The Blueberry Years, also echoes this theme of balance. It was first domesticated 100 years ago by a man and woman working together. Frederick Coville brought his scientific understanding of the blueberry, while Elizabeth White brought her family’s land and her community. She recruited her neighbors, the “Pineys” around Whitesbog, New Jersey, to find wild, exceptional bushes and bring her samples. Then, in the dormant season, they ventured into the swamps to dig up these plants and bring them back to the growing nursery. Soon Coville and White had a huge project, and in six years time, they were able to sell the first domesticated crop of blueberries.

In our own blueberry field, we can see in a plant’s leaves if the soil is ‘out of balance’ and needs some amendment, like sulfur to lower the pH.

Or when we prune, we try to balance the number of new canes with the old. And here, when I forget about the day’s troubles, when I just focus on the plant and lose myself, I begin to find some inner balance as I imagine what each bush needs to become, begin to see what to cut and what to keep. What is and what could be. I work to bring some openness to the berry bush’s interior, and I try to imagine a space in its heart large enough for a sparrow to fly through. Balance on my haunches to snip a few canes and create that space, and then move to the next.

AZU was useless anyways, here's one reason why

Bloviating Zepplin has the old AZU blog on life support at the moment and I could not be happier. I'm sure the evil ones will pop up again sometimes but it the break in the action has been refreshing. The concept of protecting the internet from active "pedophiles" may be a noble goal, but there was nothing noble about AZU's actions.

The main problem with AZU was fanaticism coupled with a lack of basic human comprehension. They were witch hunters that accused anyone that was not like them a witch. They could not differentiate between a man who was rolling online for children and a grieving mother of a teen caught up in a firestorm of ludicrous sex offender laws for having consensual sex with a younger teen.

Dodia Fae is a good example of stupidity. Recently Dodia Fae put this crap up on her Facebook page, which was repeated on T-Sand's Roar For Lies blog:

Okay, Dodia Fae uses Facebook, I don't. However, if you go to the page she's bitching about you'll see this:

Dodia Fae goes on to say, "Having a non-repentant sex offender like Derek Logue on FB is dangerous."
Read the disclaimer, DF. This is a "community page" on FB. Every major topic that appears on Facebook pages apparently have a community page. Community pages ARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH, OR ENDORSED BY, anyone associated with the topic. In other words, it is a page created to give info about the website Apparently DF doesn't want to believe my website actually has thousands of readers.

I thought this might be an isolated incident but then I got curious and looked at DF's FB page:

She comments on a decade old article about a couple falsely accused of CP for taking an innocent pic of their child bathing and calls it "pro-pedophile propaganda." What is worse is fellow idiot Rob Taylor backs up her stupidity with stupidity of her own.

Bloviating Zepplin, here's one reason AZU is dying. They're fanatics and they are stupid. It is a bad combination. They will not be missed.

A Week from the First Day of Autumn….

The first day of fall is a week from today and will technically mark my third prairie autumn. I’m always a tad confused by this bit of calendar counting. We moved to Nebraska from West Virginia right around the 4th of July, 2008. So, while we’ve lived here just over two years, it’s the third autumn I’ll experience in the flatlands.

Is that right? Ah, math and semantics…the former my nemesis, the latter my solace.

A few more weeks forward marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. Erik, my older son, would have just left for his second sojourn to German. I would have still been carrying around the last ‘Erik goes to Germany’ pounds and facing the prospect of turning the big 5-0.

Hence, I decided to do what writers do: procrastinate by blogging.

Even so, productivity this year has not been at an all-time low…a couple books got written, and currently my mom and I are thrilled to be working on a Christmas novella for our current publisher.

My three-times-a-week blog has become weekly if not sporadic.

And I’ve dropped, if not all the pounds I wanted to, quite a few. Even more importantly, I haul my behind out of bed every morning to get to the local YMCA and take great classes taught by awesome instructors… I come home, eat breakfast, gulp coffee, and walk.

A far different lifestyle then the work practically 24/7 one I lived previously.

And thanks to the wonders of a social media site, I can be in contact with old friends and much-loved students, many of whom are getting married, having babies, becoming the wonderful adults they were destined to be.

So this morning as I’m walking, glad for the long-sleeved tee I pulled out since there’s a real chill in the air, sadness overwhelms me.

In just shy of three months, I will turn 51. I think about the friends I’ve lost, some who didn’t see 40, others who didn’t see 50. I so embrace my life and am so reminded again of the finite-ness of it.

Again, I am reminded of the wonder and sorrow of holding on and letting go.

Dear Wally,

I haven't been able to keep up with the Hiawatha news this past year because of the serious illness of my husband. I have taken care of him myself, so I haven't had much time for my computer. Fortunately he is better now.

I was so happy to find the picture of my sister, Nadine Gleason (Babbel), and the third and fourth grades she taught in Hiawatha when she was young. I didn't have this picture of her.

I was also very sad to learn of Carma Rae Allred's passing away. I send my sympathy to her family. I remember her as a very beautiful little girl.

I enjoy the pictures you have of Hiawatha Day and the Hiawatha breakfasts. I still recognize a lot of the people. I moved away from Hiawatha to New York State when I started the 9th grade, but Hiawatha remains in my memory and I thank you for your wonderful site.


Shirley Gleason Jones

Message from Eldon Miller

Wallace, I only have 30 Hiawatha Memories books left. I'd like to make sure everyone from Hiawatha has a chance to get one. Would you put it on your Hiawatha Blogger page so that those that may not know of it can know it is available. They can write me at: Eldon Miller, 819 Castle Gate Circle, Helper, Ut.,84526. The postage is $2.77 and the book is $15.00. The way they are going I may have to do a 2nd printing. Keep up the good work. You are doing a great service.

Ruby Jean Reaveley Nelson obit

Norwegian Experience: Day 7

We’ve got the latest from the 2010 Norwegian Experience winner, Bruce Johnson, as he concludes his first day of sightseeing in Oslo. Below you’ll find some of the highlights of the day’s tour, including a visit to Vigeland Park, Holmenkollen and the Norsk Folkemuseum.

Today we had a four hour guided tour of Oslo. Our guide was Gro Steimler. Gro's former husband was the 1st employee of the Sons of Norway and his name is Asle Thorseth and he was the General Manager for the SON in Norway in 1982 so Gro was really happy to be giving a tour to people from the SON.

We first went to the Vigeland Park. We had visited here on our trip in June but with the guide we learned so much more than just walking in the Park. The Park opened in 1950 but the sculptor, Gustav Vigeland died in 1943 before the park was open. He lived at the park and worked for 40 years. The park has 5 sections, The Gate, the bridge where the famous angry boy statue is made of bronze, then the fountain, the monolith and the wheel of life. The sculptures represent the wheel of life and relationships. The statues start with babies and children and progress to the end of life.

Our driver and guide then took us to Holmenkollen. The museum is currently closed for construction but we
were able to walk close enough to see the new ski jump being built for the Feb competition.

We next went to the Norsk Folkemuseum and we saw the Stave Church that was moved here from Gol. It was built around year 1200 and relocated here in 1884. We viewed a few of the other buildings but due to lack of time will hopefully return tomorrow.

We visited the area known as Aker Brygge and saw the Fortress built in 1299 to protect Oslo from the enemy which was Sweden at that time.
Gro then took us to see the old part of Oslo and gave us a lot of history on the area and of Norway which became independent in 1905. She told us about the present monarchy and the future Royal family.

We then visited the Oak Hill area and saw the building that once housed the school for maritime studies but today is a school called Atlantis. One room was painted by Per Krough and depicts life in the country and in the city in all four seasons. Oslo has
a lot of new development underway. They are building a new cultural center and park and a new sculpture park with only sculptures of women. One man is paying for the new sculpture park and building a gondola to get up to the park. If people come here next year it will look a lot different.

Our trip includes the Oslo pass that we would highly recommend for anyone spend 48 hours in Oslo. It includes transportation and admission to most of the attractions in Oslo. The City Hall was closed today and tomorrow as the prize for technology was being presented.

In the afternoon my cousin and his wife also named Gro, their daughter and granddaughter met us and we went to the Norwegian resistance museum. After a great dinner we walked up the famous Karl Johan pedestrian street and saw the law school where Susanne attends school. My cousin's name is Gro Hillestad and her aunt lives in San Diego and is a member of SON. Her name is Kanneola Mreing.
It was a beautiful sunny day and if anyone comes to Oslo it was great having a guide to show us the city. I tried taking lots of notes but know I did not capture everything she told us. I will pass on the name of her company tomorrow. She donated a really nice book on the Open Air Museum to our Lodge and her name is Gro Steimler.

We’ll have more stories and final thoughts from Bruce as he enjoys his last full day of the Norwegian Experience trip and returns to the U.S. on Thursday.

Puppy Love Redux

My first crush was on a little red-haired boy named Tommy, an ‘older man’ of four.

I’ve confessed before to bopping his sister on the head with a toy truck when she got in the way of my ‘pursuit’ of him. Over the years, I carried a torch, no matter how briefly, for other boys until I met the one who made me hope the flame would never be extinguished.

Many factors shape who we become as adults, including previous loves, likes, and the more than occasional passing fancy.

What prompted this introspection was a good friend’s musing about her child’s upcoming first date. She wasn’t sure whether to be proud or cry, knowing the first heartbreak is the natural next step.

As parents we want desperately to shield our children from heartbreak, while at the same time being keenly aware that love and loss is an integral part of the growing up process.

My favorite scene in the movie Jaws, which in 1975 was my first official date, takes place at night aboard Robert Shaw’s boat. Roy Scheider listens as an inebriated Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss swap fish stories and compare shark bites.

One upmanship takes over and Dreyfuss shrugs out of his shirt, indicating his chest and the greatest wound of all:

As Hooper, he says: “There. Right there. Mary Ellen Moffit broke my heart.

Not long after, the Great White chomps Robert Shaw’s Quint in half. Somehow I think a broken heart is more easily mended.

Sure, sometimes whether you’re a teenager or an octogenarian not even diving into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s can cure what ails you.

But we can take something valuable away from each time we’ve loved and lost. Even though I didn’t marry one, I gained a life-long affinity for redheads from my pre-schooler crush on Tommy F. in that Detroit suburb back in the 60s.

If you don’t open your heart to the possibility of loss, how can you know love?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Chris Hansen target of sex crime internet hoax

Someone decided to target Chris Hansen, and considering how often those who use sex offender issues to advance their careers, it sounded legit at first. Too bad it was an elaborate hoax by an infamous online organization. It is ironic a man who promoted a internet group notorious for false allegations gets falsely pegged by another internet group?

How Did 4Chan and Gawker Get Chris Hansen "Arrested" for Child Molestation?

Chris Hansen -- the host of NBC's infamous child sex scandal exploitation show To Catch A Predator -- was not arrested for child molestation. Yet "chris hansen arrested for child molestation" is a "volcanic"-level trending Google search, currently ranked in the top spot. How did this happen and what does 4Chan's kind deed from yesterday have to do with it?
First, it's worth knowing that To Catch A Predator has long been a subject of heavy media scrutiny and external police investigations centering around the people baiting the "predator" into being arrested. Most of this reporting on the show was fired off by a started with a September 2007 Esquire profile of a suicide that resulted from the show by Luke Dittrich. The lawsuit against NBC regarding the man the Esquire profile centered around, Bill Conradt, who killed himself after he was featured on the show, was for $105M and was settled by NBC in 2008. The major grievance against the show centers around the idea that NBC is encouraging men to pose as men trying to have sex with minors, thus resulting in a roundabout entrapment. Hansen, who is the host of the show, has also been reported on throughout these investigations.
So of course, it would be nothing short of incredibly shocking if Chris Hansen were to ever be arrested for the kind of crime these vigilantes go after on the show. Which is why, if you were to see on Google that the top search for right now is "chris hansen arrested for child molestation," you'd be pretty shocked. Well, he hasn't been, and its been confirmed by multiple news outlets.
Supposedly, this search originated from the arrest of this guy, James William Hansen, who was, in fact, arrested in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last night for "inappropriate sexual contact" with minors. Reportedly, Hansen's Wikipedia was changed by a prankster to reflect that he, too, had been arrested. Thus, the Google Trending and viral nature of the meme.
So what does mischievous, anonymous message board 4Chan have to do with this? Take a look:
chris hansen 4chan.jpg
Click to Enlarge.

The only related search to "chris hansen arrested for child molestation" is "William J. Lashua," which is the name of the 90 year-old war veteran that 4Chan decided to bomb with positive, happy birthday mail yesterday in a separate viral meme that yielded us wondering whether or not 4Chan was becoming "nice" yesterday after showing their "sweeter" side. We weren't the only ones, because Adrian Chen at Gawker -- whose writings about the viciousness of 4Chan's notorious "/b" board caused 4Chan members to declare war on Gawker and Chen (thereafter bombarding Chen with hate mail and at one point, actually bringing the massive gossip news site down) -- wrote about 4Chan yet again last night, about the same "William J. Lashua" meme we covered yesterday afternoon. Chen's headline?
Is 4chan Turning Into Internet Good Guys?
Looks like they decided to show everyone otherwise, just in case we were wondering.

Norwegian Experience: Day 6

Another great communique from Bruce, the latest winner of the Norwegian Experience Recruitment Contest, sponsored by Borton Overseas and Sons of Norway. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Today we arrived in Molde which is known as the town of jazz and roses because of the international jazz festival that takes place every year in the middle two weeks of July. The town has beautiful roses growing everywhere including the roof of city hall. Molde is a new modern city unlike most of the small villages we have seen on this trip. 2/3 of the town was destroyed when the Germans bombed the city in 1940. It now has a new football stadium, Aker Stadium that 2 wealthy men who were born in Molde paid for. It opened in 1998 and is said to be the grandest stadium in Europe. It has a beautiful Church with a separate bell tower. It houses modern shops. Norway has 19 counties and Molde is the capital of this county and has 25,000 people. In front of city hall is a nice statue of a Rose Maiden.

We took a bus tour to see the Norwegian countryside and fjords. We got on a ferry to cross the Romsdalfjord. We continued by bus across the Orskog Mountain Plateau to the Storfjord and passed the village of Stordal and stopped to visit the Rose church which we found really interesting. Rose-Kyrkja, The Rose Church was built in 1789. The entire Church is painted using a Rosemaling technique which was described as a baroque style. Several artifacts from the medieval stave church are now in the Rose Church. The walls are decorated with scenes from the Bible. The crucifix of Jesus from the Stave Church depicts Jesus with 4 nails holding him to the cross and he has a crown showing him as a King. The crucifix on the alter is a later style showing the suffering Jesus and he only has three nails holding him to the cross. The church is only used for special services and on May 17th and July 29th, which is flag day and the day the famed King Olaf, who introduced Christianity to Norway, died.

The tour guides are always relating facts about Norway that many of you may already know such as Norway is 2nd longest country after Chile. The coast never freezes thanks to the warm Gulf stream from Mexico and the weather is milder than most think along the coast. In summer the Oslo area has 22 hours of sunlight. There are still 28 Stave churches in Norway. 98% of electricity is from hydropower and we saw new hydroelectrical plants recently build in the mountains. All that is visible is a big door in the mountain. Norway is also leading the world in alternative sources of energy form tidal energy, thermal energy and converting salt water into fresh water producing energy.

From there our bus took us to Valldal where many strawberries and grown and harvested and we ate at a small Norwegian restaurant and the buffet was Norwegian foods such as salmon, reindeer, meatballs, flat bread, boiled potatoes and all the fixings plus much more food and deserts.

Back on the bus we stopped at Gudbrandsjuvet, s steep gorge with a foaming river at the bottom. We then traveled to the Trollstigen Mountain Plateau. The drive down the Troll Road has eleven hairpin bends where Bruce held on for life. The waterfalls in this region are beyond description. We stopped at the Troll Wall for pictures and then traveled through tunnels and ferries back to our ship. The Troll Road was built by hand in 1936. Some people do base jumping here but it is illegal due to the many injuries and death but some still jump. Base jumping is not illegal in any other place in Norway. On the way back we passed the town of Afarnes with about 2000 people and they manufacture lots of uniforms.

We have had a very memorable cruise. We have met the best people from all walks of life and we will never forget our journey. We feel so lucky to have won this trip and it was not just a cruise, we really fell in love with Norway.

Ok, that's all for now. Be sure to check back for more from our Norwegian Experience winner!

Lodge Programming Opportunity

Just before I left for the International Convention, I received some information about an interesting lodge programming idea. There is a gentleman named Olav Richard Crone-Aamot, or "OBA" as he was once known, who is one of the decreasing number of Norwegian-Americans to have lived through the Nazi occupation of Norway. This month he will be traveling from the South-East U.S. to Minot, ND for Norsk Hostfest and he would love to share his story with any lodges along his route.

Here's a little info about him:
Olav was then ll years and 4 months old when the Nazis invaded and from that day on Oba was obsessed with making trouble for the German invaders. He and his classmates searched for ways to irritate the Germans, anything from putting sugar into the gasoline tanks to sticking raw potatoes up the tailpipes of their vehicles or courier motorcycles.

Olav's father was an artillery gunner on Rauoey island, the very first island invaded by the Germans early on the morning of the 9th of April, 1940. The Germans overpowered the defenders and captured and imprisoned every one of them. When Olav's father returned home some five months later he was confronted with the problem of finding a way to help his family survive. How he did it is a facinating story and a testimonial to the Norwegian's will to overcome adversaries.

Oba went on to become a member of the Norwegian MILORG the resistance movement to the German occupation. From there he volunteered to become one of the 160 first Norwegians to join the Royal Norwegian Army in July of 1945 and participated in the liberation of Oslo from the German Army.

If you'd like to learn more, or schedule him to speak at your lodge, you can contact him at 304-775-5152 or e-mail

“Upperdog” Is Underdog Winner in Haugesund

If you read Rob Nelson’s article on Norwegian Cinema in the July issue of Viking, you know that the Amanda Awards—Norway’s version of the Academy Awards—were held on Aug. 21 as part of the Haugesund International Film Festival. In the article, Nelson wrote that “few will be shocked if the prize for Best Norwegian Film goes to ‘A Somewhat Gentle Man,’” a dark comedy directed by Hans Petter Moland. I’m sure Rob wasn’t the only one surprised to learn that “Upperdog,” directed by Sara Johnsen (pictured here) won a total of five awards, not only for Best Picture, but for Best Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Actress.

“A Somewhat Gentle Man” (“En Ganske Snill Mann”) did win one award: Stellan Skarsgård brought home the Best Actor award for his performance in the film.

You’ll find the entire list of Amanda award winners on the Norwegian International Film Festival’s website. You can also check out trailers for both of these films on YouTube.

Photo: Helge Hansen

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minnesota, where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585. Amy is a Nordic folk music enthusiast, and when she’s not working or parenting, she can often be found making music with friends.

Norwegian Experience: Day 5

Today we have another great report from Bruce, the 2009 Norwegian Experience Winner!

Today we arrived in Olden which is at the head of the Norjiford. The fjord goes 60 miles inland from the sea and stops at the foot of Norway's largest glacier, Jostedalsbreen. There is a lake in the village called Moldevatnet. There is a pretty church and beautiful waterfalls.

Today we took a 7 hour tour to see Fjordland Scenery. We had a wonderful tour guide who was full of information about Norway history, politics and geography. Our bus drivers name was Rasmus Faraldset. He has family in Minneapolis who belong to Sons of Norway. One is Foanell Dyrstad 1991-1995 Red Wing, Orlyn Kringstad who was a member as well as Betty Bergland in Saint Paul and Karen Backer also of St Paul.

On our tour the bus drove along the fjord and we passed many farms, mostly cows, sheep and goats. This area has a large Dairy. There was also a Fox and Mink farm. The farms are disappearing as young people do not want to remain on the farms any longer. We then traveled to Vatedalen known as the wet valley. We went to the northern end of Jolster Lake which is the richest fishing lake on the west coast.

We went through a four mile tunnel that was just opened last year. Walter Mondale's family is from this area. We then saw the largest glacier in Europe called the mighty Jostedal Glacier. We visited the Norwegian Glacier Center which was really interesting. We saw a movie about the glacier and walked through simulated ice caves. We had a nice lunch in Skei at the northern end of the spectacular Jolster Lake.

Some of the facts that our tour guide related to use were:
1. Unemployment is at 3.5%
2. 80% of the people in Norway are Lutheran but people are not attending church any more so the church changed its music and service to attract young people but the young still do not attend and now the older church members do not like the changes.
3. The population now has 10% immigrants mostly from Poland, Iraq and Somali
4. The second largest church is now Muslim
5. Norway gives an 11 month maternity leave with full pay and if a child is ill the mother can take time off and get full pay.
6. Norway has a law called right of access and anyone can camp or hike etc. anywhere even if they do not own the land, no keep out personal property signs.

The guide gave us a lot more interesting facts about Norway and it sounds like a really great place to live.

Tonight we had a party in our cabin and invited the people from the USA and people we have met on the ship and everyone had a good time. After dinner we went to a Buddy Holly tribute show and now it is after midnight and we have a busy last day on the ship tomorrow so going to bed and will write more tomorrow.

Thanks for the update, Bruce. I'm sure the readers at home are really enjoying the blog posts!

Lisa at the Emmy's 2010

International Convention: Board of Director Elections Part 1

It is my pleasure to announce the new Sons of Norway International Board of Directors Executive Committee for the 2010-2012 biennium!

Dan Rude, International President
Marit Kristiansen, International Vice President
Audun Gythfeldt, International Secretary
Bill Fosmoe, International Treasurer
There is a fifth member of the Executive Committee, however I'm still awaiting confirmation on who it will be and shall post that info soon.

As you can see, the only change for this biennium was in the Treasurer spot. I'll admit it was sad to hear that our previous International Treasurer, Gene Brandvold was retiring from the board. I've gotten to know Gene over the past 10 years that I've been with Sons of Norway and it's been a great experience.

That said, I also know Bill pretty well and I'm looking forward to working with him in the future! I know he's going to do a bang-up job and be a great asset to the organization. So, join me in welcoming Bill to the Executive Committee!

I'll post more about the International Director elections tomorrow or the day after. Until then, have a great day!

Norwegian Experience: Day 4

Today we have a great report from this year's Norwegian Experience winner! It sounds like Bruce is having the time of his life! Here's what he had to say:

We have been traveling up the Sognefjorden, the western part of Norway. Today we went on a 3 hour tour through the Jotunheimen National Park. The road was very narrow and very steep and we went up 4,600 feet. They had snow up there about a week ago and the roads had to be plowed before the buses could travel back down. We saw beautiful glaciers and waterfalls. The road is called the Sognefjell mountain road and is a national tourist route and the highest mountain crossing in Northern Europe. It is a very winding road up to Turtagro and we went all the way to the top, coming down we met a bus going up and our bus had to back up this very narrow road and we were very close to the edge of the cliff looking down the side of this very high mountain, a little scary I must say. This is where the alpine sport started in Norway. International teams come here in late spring and early summer to practice their cross-country skiing as the snow remains here until quite late.

Along the road are tall sticks and that is how the snowplows know where the road is so they can plow in the spring. The road is closed in the winter. There are also large round stone piles with a stick in the middle. That was how people hiked through the mountain going from pile to pile and the stones had compass direction carved into them.

The road is also called the hand made road as the government was slow to act so the farmers from each side began building the roads themselves by hand so trade could take place from east to west to bring and sell their fish and other commodities.

The areas has mostly farming and produce mostly meat and milk. They have lots of sheep and cows. They have to move the animals to other places soon as they only use these farms in the summer months and government makes them move the animals before winter.

Only about 2.5% of the land in Norway is used for farming, 25% is forest and the rest is lakes, rivers, mountains.

It was cold in the mountain summit today but really beautiful with the sun shining on the glaciers. Some people come here to hike in the mountains and they have little camps that you can pick up a key at the hotel and use the cabins. Payment is by the honor system, you leave whatever amount you think is right in the cabin and return the key when you leave. This is a new port of cruise ships and the roads are just being build along the pier. Many buildings are being constructed and the road will be completed by next year so area will see lots of new growth with the ships coming in.

Upon the ships arrival this morning a man was standing on the pier playing an accordion and two Norwegian ladies waving the Norwegian flags. The Norwegians seem to be very happy to have the smaller ships visit Norway as they can come up the Fjords and stop at small villages. This is a great way of seeing Norway. We passed an old Stave Church today that we could see from our ship. The captain is Norwegian and does a great job of coming onto the PA system to let us know when areas of interest can be seen such as the church or waterfalls. Most of the stave churches no longer exist near the ocean because of the salt. The one in this village was destroyed by arson about 10 years ago. Their are less than 25 left in Norway and Sweden.

As I finish this post, we are sailing along the Sognefjorn and will continue for about six hours before entering the North Sea again. I'll e-mail more tomorrow.

Well, thanks for the great report, Bruce! Make sure to check back for more tomorrow!

Norwegian Experience: Day 3

Today Norwegian Experience winner Bruce Johnson enjoyed an excursion from the MS Balmoral to the Hardangerfjord, which Bruce says “is incredibly beautiful.” The boat then dropped the Johnson’s off in Ulvik, a municipality in Hordaland county. Ulvik is situated in the innermost part of the Hardangerfjord and stretches to 1800 meters above sea level. Due to the lush gardens and famous fruit blossom in May, tourism has been a big part of the life in the small village. It only has 1000 residents.

While in Ulvik, Bruce and his wife toured the Lekve Fruit Farm and learned about the production of apple cider and juice. Afterward they sampled local cuisine from the farm’s restaurant that opened in 2009.

The cruise ship is now traveling along the Norwegian coast, heading toward tomorrow’s destination of Skjolden, Norway. Bruce described the view saying, “we have breath-taking views right from our balcony of waterfalls and salmon farms and glaciers. Norway is the most beautiful country anyone can imagine and this must be one of the most wonderful ways in the world to see Norway.”

Check back in later this week with more updates from Bruce, and of course, more details of this amazing trip. Also, if you’d like to learn more about the Ulvik area, Bruce recommends contacting Caroline S Lehmann at

Last year's first day (scrapped!)

Now that I have two kids in school in the afternoons and one kid who takes afternoon naps, I *think* I have enough time to start scrapping regularly again.  Yay!  It's really therapeutic and fun for me, plus I really think it helps me keep things in perspective.

I love designing at The Digichick for a lot of reasons, and one of my favorite perks is that I get to try out others' designs.  I'm especially loving templates lately-- they make it so quick and easy to put together a really classy page.  Today I used a template from the "Scraps to Go" collection by the amazing Jennifer Fox.  Love it!

Here's my page from Gordon's first day of pre-school last year:

All paper and elements from School Days by Jennifer Fox. Template from Scraps to Go 6 also by Jennifer Fox. All at The Digichick! Font is Pea Christen from Kevin and

While browsing for pictures for this page, I came across this little gem from September of last year...

Where has my long-haired emo baby gone?  Don't you just want to run your fingers through that luscious hair???  Ugh, me too!

International Convention: I'm Proud to Be a Sons of Norway Member

I’ll be the first to admit that when the general session opened on Wednesday morning, I thought we were going to be in for a loooooooong day. It felt like there was still a ton of work to be done and a lot of resolutions to be discussed and voted on. AND we still had to vote for the International Board of Directors. At 8:30, when everyone was settling into their places, it seemed like there was no way we’d be finished on schedule.

Uh, now would be a good time to point out that I’ve been known to be wrong now and then.

With drive and dedication heretofore unknown to me, the delegates got down to business and wrapped up their day with 15 minutes to spare. They discussed, they debated and they voted on the business at hand. I should be able to provide you with a final outcome of the resolutions in a few days, once all the t’s have been crossed.

It was absolutely amazing to see! Or so I’m told.

You see, I wasn’t able to watch the entire session because while the delegates were wrapping up and winding down, so, too, was the business operations at the convention. We had booths to tear down, an office to disassemble and pack up and a lot of stuff to prepare for the banquet happening later that night. By all rights it should have been pure pandemonium, but thanks to a little forethought and a great team it was more what I like to call “a controlled chaos.” It got a little crazy, but we got our jobs done quickly and efficiently.

But back to the convention itself.

This was the day that I felt the most proud to be a Sons of Norway members. You see, on the last day there were a lot of resolutions and law changes to be voted on. Some were hotly contested, and some appeared to be outright divisive. But (and here’s where the pride come in) through it all, every time a delegate approached the mic to raise a point of discussion or disagree with a previous statement, they did so with great aplomb and respect for the International Board and fellow delegates. There were times when the matters at hand could have easily devolved into a shouting match with fingers being pointed in every direction, but that did not happen. There were moments when I feared for the worst and was shown, time and again, that my fears were unfounded.

Quite simply, the delegates to the 2010 International Convention were of the highest caliber and I’m proud to say that I spent a few days among them in Coeur d’Alene.

Oh summer, leaving so soon?

I just returned from back-to-school night, where I met the two fabulous women who will be spending a lot of time with my two fabulous boys for the next nine months.  We've been lucky thus far with our great schools and great teachers, and I'm feeling very grateful that my children are being taught and cared for so well.  I'm excited for their new adventures in learning!

I'm pretty sure that I say this every time I post, but life is just so busy!  I find myself worrying frequently about overdoing it with the lessons, sports, scouts, activities and whatever else it is that finds its way onto my packed-to-the-gills calendar.  Then, of course, I worry that I'm not giving my kids enough opportunity to discover talents, meet friends, and have fun.  I'm sure it's a classic double-edged sword of worry that most parents deal with.  For now, I'm letting them do the things they want to do, pushing them a little bit, and trying hard to relax as much as possible.

Life is good.  Busy, of course, but good.

Norwegian Experience: Day 2

Yes, it is that time again. Time to play “where in the world is the Norwegian Experience winner, Bruce Johnson, today?” If you’ve been following the progress of the MS Balmoral with the ship locator feature then you know that Bruce has arrived in Stavanger, Norway.

When we left off yesterday morning, Bruce was enjoying his last views of Scotland before heading off to Norway and the North Sea. Later that night Bruce and his wife attended a reception for the ship’s international travelers and met 4 other American passengers, two of which were from Minnesota and had also booked their cruise with Borton Overseas. Apparently Bruce hasn’t forgotten how he became eligible for the recruitment contest in the first place, since he shared Sons of Norway materials with his fellow American travelers and even worked on recruiting them.

Upon arriving in Norway, the Johnson's took a walking tour of Stavanger, enjoying the “beautiful town and cobblestone walks and nice shops.” After the tour, they took a 3-hour boat trip to the Stavanger archipelago and the 31-mile-long Lysefjord. During the tour the boat traveled just underneath the Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), a natural cliff that is just over 1,800 feet above sea level. Bruce says the tour boat actually got close enough to the waterfalls in the area that the crew was able to collect some of the water in a container for them to drink. They also got up close and personal with some of the wildlife and hand fed mountain goats. They finished their tour with freshly made waffles and cream and coffee.

Tomorrow, Bruce will be visiting Eidfjord, a municipality of the Hardangerfjord area. The Hardangerfjord is the third largest fjord in the world and second largest in Norway.

Don’t forget to visit the blog later this week for more updates from Bruce’s trip.

International Convention: Breakout Sessions

After a long morning of business, the delegates broke for lunch, which was followed by an afternoon of great Breakout Sessions. Delegates in attendance learned about Social Media Best Practices, using the Foundation to improve your lodge, programming ideas and how FBCs can help a lodge with their recruitment efforts.

I had the pleasure of presenting the social media session with our IT Director, Rachele, and we received a lot of great questions and positive comments. The one thing that most people seemed to want, though was the PowerPoint presentation, so I'm making it available to members via the Sons of Norway website members' section. I'll also try to make the other presentations available as well.

Ok, more later, but until then, please enjoy my view from the back.

International Convention Correction

This morning I need to make a correction to one of my blog posts yesterday. In all the excitement of International Board nominations I mistakenly wrote that there were three people running for secretary.

In actuality there are two people running for International Treasurer and just one for Secretary. Roger Espeland and D2 International Director Bill Fosmoe are running for Treasurer and Audun Gythfeldt is running unopposed for Secretary.

Sorry about the mistake and thanks to Delegates Norm Carlson and Mary Beth Ingvolstad for pointing out the error.