Saying goodbye to… stuff

We move out of our apartment in two months, which means we only have two months to pack up our entire lives into suitcases! We’re luggage lovers in this household, so we actually have 9 suitcases, backpacks and duffel bags of various sizes to haul everything across the world in.

While that may sound luxurious to you, it’s actually quite the challenge when you’re a nostalgic hoarder that would severely stress Marie Kondo out. I love all of my things! They all spark so much joy when I look at them once a year!

So I’m struggling a little bit with prioritizing what comes with us and what gets tossed or left behind to rot forever in my parents’ storage unit (sorry mom).

It stresses me out that I have to make a decision for every single item in our apartment. Like, what do I do with my squirrel pelt that I got at a roadside leather shop on a trip with my dad and sisters to Idyllwild?!

What becomes of my MRE kit that I bought when I was really into watching people unbox them on YouTube 5 years ago?!

And my FURBY – do I find a loving new home for it, or hold onto it to give to my future kids who won’t understand why it was truly one of the best days in my life when I opened it for Christmas in like 1998?!

It would crush me to dispose of the stuffed corgi bouquet Bendik got me for Valentine’s Day last year!

Don’t EVEN ask me to prioritize any of our coffee mugs – they’re all my precious children and I will gladly sacrifice an entire suitcase so that I can take them all with me!!! Bendik’s dad told us that if you own more than 3 coffee mugs, then the coffee mugs own you, which is 100% true in our case! (The photo below does not do our mug collection justice – we brought an additional 10-15 with us to Norway last November, and several more are floating around the apartment. This is for you, Xuesong!)

Half of me is sad that I have to part ways with most of my beloved, extremely miscellaneous stuff. I’m very nostalgic and love having connections to the past that I can touch and feel – I might have inherited this trait from my mom, who has a giant ponytail of my hair that was cut off when I was a kid, and I think she might also have Tasia’s baby teeth, which is equal parts sweet and weird (sorry again, mom!). I just love reminiscing about happy times in my life and am a sucker for souvenirs. I wish I could have a room in my house that was just a Museum of Tabby.

But the other half of me is kind of looking forward to a true fresh start, with minimal emotional attachments to things that just clutter my life and our future home. One of Bendik’s long-standing fantasies is to have his very own room that’s just four white, bare walls and a chair in the center, free of all my messes and random tchotchkes, where he can just sit and think – luckily, he’s getting an office in the new house and can finally have his wish come true!!!

It sounds weird, but when my apartment burned down several years ago, I was surprised to find that I wasn’t that sad about losing all my stuff (minus one or two irreplaceable family heirlooms and my foreign coin collection) – it was strangely liberating to start over and decide exactly what items I wanted in my life (having to buy everything sucked, though). It’s funny how things come full-circle, actually – one of the very first things I bought after the fire was a stuffed dog pillow which brought me a lot of comfort. But now I have to decide – does it stay behind or does it come with me to my new life?

So I don’t know what my strategy will be for purging my junk. Will I regret saying goodbye to my unopened roll of One Direction duck tape that Matt gave me 5 years ago? Will I shed a single tear every time I remember putting my dirty stuffed animals from IKEA (a daddy and a baby bulldog!) in the trash? Am I okay with recycling my amazing irreplaceable vintage copies of Arizona Highways?!

This purge is a great opportunity to hit the reset button and no longer be weighed down by things I don’t actually need. The new house doesn’t have much storage, which is probably for the best, really – it’ll force us to only keep the stuff we love! Hopefully my pack rat days are over!

If you’ve ever made a big move, how did you prioritize what to keep and what to part ways with – especially for items of personal significance? Any advice you have is appreciated!!!

This is a semi-pointless and needlessly long post, but I think when I look back on it in 5 years I’ll laugh because our house will again be filled with stuff that I’ve managed to squeeze into every nook and cranny. Please give me your tips for living a clutter-free life!!!

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11 weeks out – how I’m feeling about the move

Hi everyone! I’ve been having a hard time thinking what to write about on the blog. But yesterday I realized we’re moving out of SF in 10 weeks and America in 11 weeks, which made me get really emotional! So I figured I’d write about how I’m feeling about the move right now. (Warning: this post will probably be whiny and emo, so apologies in advance for complaining about first-world problems.)

I should start off by saying I’m REALLY excited. A fresh start in life is a really rare opportunity and I’m super looking forward to life in my new home country. I know I’ll feel supported when I get there and am thankful to have such a great network of people there already!

That being said, I am also EXTREMELY nervous, scared and stressed! This move was so theoretical for so long, and I didn’t really think that hard about it until pretty recently. But now it’s 11 weeks away and I’m starting to realize how much stuff has to happen in the next year of my life.

I have to say goodbye for now to all my friends and family! I have to purge everything I own so my entire life can be contained in 5 suitcases (which is more than many people have moved across the world with, but if you know me well, you know how many crazy trinkets and coffee mugs I own)! We have to somehow offload all our furniture! We have to throw a going away party! We have to write a complicated contract for our work arrangement! We will DEFINITELY need to consult a Norwegian and American accountant. Then we MOVE, which will involve me sobbing uncontrollably at the airport security gate. Then once I get to Norway, I have to learn the language by going to classes 4 days a week 4 hours a day, take hella expensive driving courses to learn how to navigate Norwegian roads (and hopefully pass my driver’s test because if I fail I have to take ~$1,500 in mandatory driving courses), RENOVATE A HOUSE, work late nights, eat different Norwegian food all the time, casually learn how society functions all while I’m 6,000 miles and a 9-hour time difference away from my mom. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed!

I’ve struggled a lot with emotional and physical energy over the past few years and I’m feeling a little unsure of how I’m going to function with so much change happening all at once. I want to hit the ground running in Norway as much as possible so integrating and getting situated in our own home doesn’t take too long, but I also don’t know why I’m putting so much pressure on myself to have everything be perfect and settled ASAP. Bendik does his best to comfort me by saying there’s no rush to figure everything out right away, but I have a tendency to set impossibly high expectations for myself. I unfortunately don’t know how to just relax and deal with things as they come. Maybe this move will help me with that?

I think I just want some stability when I’m over there, because moving away from home and friends and family is going to be really stressful and I’ll want to feel comfortable in Norway so I don’t get crazy homesick. I know I will be homesick no matter what, but I feel like I need to power through it so I don’t feel sad and isolated all the time.

I’ve been joining “Americans in Norway” type groups on Facebook, which I thought would be helpful (so I can see what life is like there for My People lol) but unfortunately, it seems to be mostly people complaining about Norway/Norwegians (at least the posts I’ve come across so far). I truly hope this doesn’t mean I’m going to be constantly uncomfortable in my new country. Well, I know I will be mildly uncomfortable (there’s so much shrimp all the time!!!! And no cheddar!!!) but I hope that I can handle the culture shock without becoming a curmudgeonly expat.

It’s been really difficult thinking about the fact that I’m now experiencing so many “lasts” in America – my last time hanging out with friends, my last time eating at our favorite restaurants, my last time ordering something on Amazon and it showing up at my doorstep 2 days later, my last sugar-free popsicles, my last time shopping at Old Navy, etc. I’m so comfortable in SF and America – I know how everything works, I have a ton of friends that I can hang out with at any time, and I truly feel at home in the city. Leaving America means leaving my comfort zone, and I don’t handle change and ambiguity that well.

I know everything will be fine once I’m there and find my rhythm, and I’m much luckier than many immigrants who don’t know the language, have no connections, no job, no place to live, and come from difficult situations in their home country. I try to keep my experience in perspective, but still do feel nervous about leaving home behind. It’s not like I’ll never talk to my friends/family again, and we’ll come back to America once or twice a year, but if I’m being honest about my feelings, I’m pretty stressed about making such a huge life change.

So, I’m really excited to move, but am equally freaked out! I hope my next update is a happier one, but a lot of people have been asking how I feel now that the move is so close, and this is what I’m experiencing. Please bear with me over the next couple of months – I might get super emo when we hang out/start crying (I have a tendency to do that when I don’t know when I’ll see someone again).

If you’ve ever made a big move, how did you handle the stress and emotions that come with starting over? I would love to know!

Why I fell in love with Norway

Norway is my “happy place.” I’m always so relaxed when I’m there – from the moment I step off the plane into the tastefully-designed and weirdly peaceful Gardermoen airport, I feel my shoulders relax and jaw unclench (reversing my default setting). My anxiety gets dialed down from 11 to ~2, and I feel like I can actually relax, which is not something I’m very good at. I also get to take deep breaths, which is not something I often do in San Francisco, where if you breathe too deeply, you’re guaranteed to get a whiff of human feces or weed.

This is one of the reasons why I’m so excited to move – if Norway is even 5% more chill than SF, I’ll be thrilled. My mom is obviously sad I’m moving far away, but I think she’s more excited that I might be able to unwind a little.

Moving across the world from my family and friends is obviously a huge decision to make. In this post, I’ll tell you a little more about what’s made me fall in love with Norway over the past 4 1/2 years and what’s great about my new “home.”

Friends and family

The obvious place to start is with the people who have made me feel so welcome in Norway – my friends and family. Norwegians sometimes get a bad rap for being closed-off and impersonal, but that’s never been the case with anyone I’ve met there.

I was extremely nervous to meet Bendik’s family the first time I came out to visit him. He’s really close with them, and I personally feel that parental/friend approval is important when choosing someone you’re going to spend your life with (just my opinion!). So I put a lot of pressure on myself to nail it and make Bendik’s “people” feel like I was worth the effort of doing an LDR. I felt like I needed to have a speech prepared or something, and Bendik pointed out that I was overthinking it (classic Tabby).

He was right! When I met both sets of parents, they were all extremely nice, easygoing and interested in getting to know the American girl that came out of nowhere. And they all had great senses of humor! I felt comfortable with all of them right away.

Impressing parents is one thing, but getting the approval of friends is way more stressful! But again, all of Bendik’s friends made me feel like part of the crew from the start. It was so much fun getting to know them – we swapped stories about life in Oslo and San Francisco over beer and cozy dinners out in the city and at home. I feel really lucky that Bendik is intentional about who he keeps in his life (whether he’s aware of it or not) – so we spend all our time with funny, kind, interesting and genuine people. Even Bendik’s coworkers were awesome, welcoming me into the office and to the lunch table whenever I was working from abroad.

Now that a few years have gone by, I feel really comfortable in my skin around Bendik’s friends and family. In the early days, I definitely did try to be my “best self” around them so they would trust that Bendik had picked a good one, but now, I’m able to relax and be myself completely – which has so far gone really well! Making the move to Norway will be much easier knowing that I’m going to be surrounded by wonderful and welcoming people who all want to see me succeed. I’ll have a strong support network to help me as I learn the language (hope they’re ready to have some very slow, bumpy Norwegian conversations with me) and get used to cold winters. My mom feels okay with me moving because she knows I’ll be in good hands when I get there.

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(Friends and family celebrating a very koselig Thanksgiving dinner in 2018!)

How beautiful it is

Living in California my entire life means I have extremely high standards for what kind of natural landscapes wow me. The thought of living somewhere landlocked or  with no greenery stresses me out. Luckily, my new home is one of the most beautiful places on earth!

The first time I went to Norway, my mind was blown by how beautiful it was – I literally shed a tear on the Bergensbanen train ride when we emerged from a tunnel into a beautiful snowy mountain landscape (I’m corny).

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(Some scenery from the Bergensbanen, which you MUST take if you ever visit Norway!)

My phone is full of hundreds of photos of trees, mountains, fjords and snow from my trips to Norway. I’m so excited to live somewhere so beautiful!

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(From a ferry ride… casual breathtaking scenery, nbd)

Even our little neighborhood is beautiful!

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(The view from Bendik’s dad’s window!)

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(The view from our house’s living room window!)

Even Oslo is beautiful! Not to say San Francisco isn’t… but the first time I went to Oslo, I visited a beautiful cemetery where Edvard Munch is buried, and people were sunbathing/picnicking on the grass in the beaming sunshine.

Bendik and I are going on a road trip up and down Norway after we move, so I’ll be sure to post a million highlights of all the mountainscapes and fjords we come across!

How cozy it is (the culture of koselig)

You may have heard of hygge – the Danish concept of “cozyness,” the closest English translation of the word. Norwegians have their own version of hygge – koselig. Norwegians love everything to be koselig as much as possible, a lifestyle that I’ve fully bought into. What is koselig? A homemade dinner shared with friends or family, in a dimly-lit room (ideally with candles providing the light), with some nice wine and pleasant conversation is koselig. Curling up on the couch in the family cabin when it’s cold outside, with a crackling fireplace and some skiing on the TV and a cup of coffee after a nice meal is koselig. Going camping and ending the long day of hiking or fishing by looking up the sky for shooting stars with loved ones is koselig.

I love that Norwegians always strive to make things as cute and cozy as possible. That’s exactly what I need after living in the city for 12 long, noisy years. I’ve had plenty of cozy experiences in SF (like dinners at Kyra and Dave’s and many a picnic in the park!) but day-to-day life in the city is decidedly NOT koselig, when I have to fall asleep to the sound of motorcycles and cars constantly ripping by and people randomly screaming outside my window. Life in the forest, and with Norwegians who are obsessed with creating the most koselig scenarios possible at all times, will be… koselig.

fireplace

(Sitting around the fireplace for the first time with Bendik’s parents in our new old home, talking about how exciting the next year would be, was PEAK koselig.)

The food and drinks

We San Franciscans are blessed with amazing food and drink scene. I think what I’ll miss most about SF besides friends will be the restaurants and bars – there’s no equivalent of Saru or Nopa in Oslo, and the specialty beer stores don’t sell our favorite local craft brews (although they do sell Coors Light for $5/bottle).

As sad as I’ll be without easy access to especial burritos with volcano salsa from Pancho Villa, I’ll be just as pleased with a kebab rull from Balkan in Ski, which is the size of a newborn.

kebab rull from balkan

(IT’S SO BIG!!!!! But I have never had a problem eating the entire thing in 5 minutes. It’s just sooooo good!!!)

Over the years, Bendik and I have settled on a few “favorites,” mostly in Grünerløkka, where Bendik lived and where we spent most of our relationship.

I’m so excited to live near Tim Wendelboe, my absolute favorite coffee of all-time! We even have a coffee subscription from them shipped to us in SF (it’s not that expensive, surprisingly). We love doing coffee tastings at the shop when we have time. Tim Wendelboe is actually where we had our first date! If you’re ever in Oslo, I highly recommend you stop by and get either a cup of Aeropress coffee, or one of their delicious specialty coffee drinks, made by friendly and talented baristas. We served Tim Wendelboe at our wedding in California!

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(The stylish interior of Tim Wendelboe a few years ago, before they moved out the grinder which now gets used at another favorite coffee shop/cocktail bar in Oslo, Fuglen!)

And as much as I’ll miss Dalva and Mini Bar in SF for their cheap but tasty cocktails, I’m happy I’ll be close to Bettola, the coolest mid-century modern Italian-themed cocktail bar in Oslo. I’ve never been disappointed with a drink there – they have amazing, unique and delicious cocktails in a super stylish interior. It’s super fun for a date night when you want to get a little fancy – and the crowd is pretty mellow, so you don’t have to yell to talk to your friends. It’s just… perfect.

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(A beautiful, tasty cocktail I got at Bettola when we went with Astrid and Anders recently!)

Our other favorite neighborhood spot is Territoriet, a super-cute wine bar that has really unique wines available by the glass (even super fancy wines for a pretty reasonable price!). It’s mellow in there, too – so we usually, embarrassingly end up being the loudest ones in there, talking over the hip, relaxing vinyl that’s playing.

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(Territoriet is a warm, cozy refuge on a chilly winter night!)

And my favorite food isn’t just found in restaurants – I’m fortunate that the most common meal in Norway, bread with some stuff on it, aka brød med pålegg, is extremely delicious. I know it’s annoying to be like unnnnhhh bread in Europe is sooooo much better Americans don’t even know what bread is supposed to taste like, but seriously, bread in Scandinavia is for some reason just WAY better than what we have in America (besides San Luis Sourdough, which is superior to anything I’ve eaten in Norway).

Whenever we’re back visiting Norway, every day, twice a day, we eat a roll or slice of bread with pålegg, which has no real direct translation – the closest I’ve gotten is “sandwich toppings.” Pålegg can be meat, veggies, liver paste, mayonnaise, spread made out of shrimp, eggs, etc. Whatever you put on top of your carbs, is pålegg. My favorite combo is this:

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A seeded rundstykke (roll) with mayonnaise, spekeskinke (salted ham, kind of like prosciutto), a slice of Norveiga white cheese and agurk (cucumber). I’ve literally eaten this exact combination like 5,000 times, and refuse to change. Maybe someday I’ll branch out and learn to love liver paste, but I doubt it. If it ain’t broke, why fix it tbh.

Norwegians reading this will be happy to know that I also like brown cheese (brunost) – it’s an acquired taste, for sure, but I’ve learned to love it on waffles! My favorite application of it is in the brown cheese ice cream with cloudberry sauce Bendik’s dad Nils has made us a couple of times.

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(So…. sooooooo good. If you haven’t tried cloudberries picked from a secret patch that no one else knows about… you haven’t lived.)

Fun cultural differences

There are tons of things that make Norwegians unique (in good and bad ways) – for example, no one talks to strangers in public or sits next to each other on the bus, which I very much appreciate. But also, you can’t buy alcohol after 3pm on Saturdays for some reason, which leads to you running out of booze at your party by 7pm with no way to acquire more (which happened at our Norwegian wedding party – we had to scrounge around for wine in people’s basements as well as enjoy some neighborhood-made moonshine).

But one of the biggest cultural differences between Norway and America that I really like is that in Norway, the key to happiness is not about acquiring stuff and wealth, but how cozy and relaxed your life is. The American Dream is all about making more money, getting your dream house, driving a sweet-ass car and having an awesome title and power in the workplace. To me, the idea of always trying to climb the ladder so that you can someday be happy when you’re rich and chilling on a yacht is so stressful – trying to have the “perfect” life has left me deep in debt and constantly unhappy with what I’ve achieved, even though I’m doing just fine (but fine just isn’t good enough!).

Things are a little different in Norway – from my perspective, anyway. People there seem to be more motivated by comfort and “authenticity” than money and status. Sure, Norwegians love their Teslas and vacations in Spain, but I think they’d be just as happy spending a week in a cute cabin with no running water or electricity as they would be at a Four Seasons in Bali. I think Norwegians’ social status is more determined by how “real” and down-to-earth their life is than by how much money they make or if they’re a VP by age 30. Peak happiness in Norway is enjoying an orange and some chocolate after climbing a mountain with your family, versus dropping $1k on disposable souvenirs for your kids at Disneyland. I want that kind of simple life! I’ll be happy to let go of my hangups over professional success and how much I earn, and be more motivated by maximizing the amount of time I spend at the cabin that summer. It’s a slower-paced life with more humble aspirations than financial wealth.


 

That’s just a few reasons why I love Norway! I’m excited to write more in the future about all the new things I discover that make me love my new home even more, but I thought it would be fun to tell you about what’s made visiting there for the past 4 years so fun. Thanks for reading!

Our house: Siggerudbråten 7 – “before”

Hi everyone! Now that you’re all caught up on me and Bendik’s lives, I wanted to write about the thing that currently occupies 99% of our mental energy (the other 1% is taken up by opinions about Beat Bobby Flay episode outcomes): our house in Norway!

Last summer, I was browsing house listings in Norway (just for fun, I told myself) and found one that piqued my interest – it was a renovation project in Bendik’s dad’s neighborhood, in the “village” of Siggerud (which is what I guess you could call it? it’s not a town, but more than a neighborhood), a 20-minute drive from Oslo. Bendik grew up in this neighborhood, which is in the forest (Østmarka to be specific), situated right on a lake (Bråtatjern). It’s quiet, feels isolated (but is so close to the city for when you get bored), and is full of happy, friendly neighbors. All the other houses I’d looked at before were either in weird locations, or were super expensive and still needed work. This house seemed perfect for us! It looked old and rundown, but because Bendik and I are obsessed with home reno shows, I wasn’t daunted.

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(The house, from its original listing! I thought it was super cute and cabin-y, and a good shape to work with.)

I casually dropped a link to the house listing in our family group chat (and just said something like “huh! interesting!”) – and from there, we went from 0 to 60 REAL QUICK.

Bendik’s parents checked out the house and thought it had great potential – plus, it got sunlight all day! We suddenly started having some very Real Conversations about whether we might actually want to go forward with bidding on the house – could me and Bendik afford the mortgage? How much would we have to spend renovating it? Are we ready to move to Norway in the first place??? But we all felt confident that this was a good buy and a good move, so we put in a bid! A few days later, we found ourselves in a dreaded bidding war, which is not something I would wish for anyone to endure. Even though I told myself I wouldn’t be sad if we didn’t get it, I had already started Pinteresting ideas for the living room, the bathroom, the kitchen… so I was ready to be massively disappointed. But one afternoon, as I was on BART going to the office and Bendik was in NYC presenting to a client, our parents gave us minute-by-minute updates on the bids, suddenly dropping off for a few minutes before I got this message:

we got the house!

And just like that, we owned a house! Is it insane to buy a house without ever setting foot in it? Yes. We are wild. BUT, we figured that it was a 100% renovation either way, so ultimately what we were paying for was the property and the foundation, so everything was going to be changed either way.

We had to wait almost 5 months before we got to step foot into the house! It was agonizing looking at the same 15 pictures from the listing over and over again, trying to piece them all together to understand what it really looked and felt like. But the night we arrived in Norway, Bendik’s parents took us to the house, where they had built a fire in the fireplace, and we got to see the beautiful view from the living room window for the first time.

first night fireplace

(It was sooooo koselig sitting in front of the fire for the first time! This fireplace will go, though!)

Over the next few days, we returned to the house to take photos, come up with ideas on how to use the space, as well as meet with architects and contractors who bid on the project. We wanted to get started as soon as possible!

I filmed a tour of the house in its “before” state (warning: it’s 10 minutes long and my voice is extremely annoying, but Bendik is a super entertaining Vanna White):

The house was built in the mid-60s, and has basically remained untouched since. I kind of like the retro, stuck-in-time feel – you can tell it was someone’s home, and was extremely customized to their somewhat eclectic tastes.

Some highlights of the house as it currently stands:

my favorite room

(My favorite room in the house, the cloud room! It sadly will be completely torn down. But we’re going to cut out a chunk of the AMAZING wallpaper and frame it! It will probably hang in my office because Bendik hates it so much.)

living room

(The current living room, complete with a pea-green ceiling which all of my friends have begged me to keep… which I absolutely will not. It’s kitsch, but not something I can live with forever! Literally everything in this room is gonna go, from the admittedly awesome wood paneling to the worn-out hardwood floors and the weird robot-looking fireplace.)

my future office

(My future office, current murder dungeon.)

master bedroom

(The previous owners LOVED statement wallpaper! This is where the “master” bedroom will go, minus the faux-brick wallpaper – not pictured is the one wall with carpet-like wallpaper. Choices.)

We had a great time meeting with all the contractors and architects! Each person we talked to had great ideas on what to do with the house, but we ultimately went with Ana, who really impressed us with her creativity and understanding of what we wanted out of the house. She “got” us and our “vision” (or lack thereof) – she had a good idea of an effective way to rearrange the spaces and additions we could make.

Here are some initial drawings of the house, which are very much subject to change.

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This is the top floor!

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The bottom floor! (The “Mountain Room” is quite literally a room with the mountain in it. It’s part of the foundation of the house, and basically all it can be used for is housing for spiders and maybe storing a few bottles of wine.) The offices will also be smaller guestrooms, probably with futons (but comfy ones, I promise!). Actually, the thing I’m most excited about for the house is my office! I have a very specific vision for it… but am open to whatever for literally every other aspect of the house.

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This is ideally what the house would look like with a wraparound deck and carport!!! (Bendik LOVES the show Mega Decks so is fantasizing about having his very own mini-mega-deck.)

You can check out my Pinterest board for our “house vibes” – it’s basically 100 versions of the same concept, including a velvet couch, which Bendik says no to :( But it will give you an idea of what look I’m aiming for.

For now, we’re still working on finalizing the design of the house before submitting it to the county (Ski kommune) for approval. Where we live is actually a protected area (kind of like a national forest?) so we’re somewhat limited in what we’re allowed to do with the house. We want to add a couple of windows, which requires approval. The deck seems like a longshot to me, so I’m not getting my hopes up. We’re not sure how long the submission/approval process could take, but we’re really hoping to get started on work before we move out to Norway. We’ll live with Bendik’s parents while it’s being renovated, so I don’t want us to overstay our welcome too much :)

I’ll plan on posting more about our desired ~lewk~ for the house, plus any updates on the building process! It’ll be super fun to look back on these posts someday and be shocked at how much the house has changed! I’m gonna miss how “interesting” it looked, but will be very grateful for my subway tile and farmhouse sink. AND DISHWASHER. Oh my god all I want in this world is a dishwasher. Soon!!

house on the hill

(Our house is in the center of the photo, above the orange roof! We have a fantastic view of the neighborhood and surrounding forest.)

For now, I’ll continue to Pinterest and dream about having a double vanity. Hopefully by this time next year, we’re living in our li’l dream home! :)

shabby chic

The story so far – part 2

Hi everyone! I’m back with part 2 of me and Bendik’s origin story. It was great to hear from some of you that the story of how we met was cute! I usually have to give people the ultra-condensed 15-second version of the story (“I went to Norway on vacation, he worked for my company, we hung out and now we’re married”) so it was actually kind of nice getting to reminisce about the details!

Part 2 is going to cover a lot of ground – picking up from when Bendik went back home to Norway until today! Luckily I’ve got way more pictures of this time period so they should make the post slightly more palatable. Here we go!


Saying goodbye to Bendik after his first trip to America in November 2014 was really difficult, because we knew we really liked each other but had no idea what came next. In our situation, we couldn’t exactly date casually and see how things evolved. The 10 hours he was in the air going home were spent agonizing over whether or not I’d made a good enough impression to convince him that the 9-hour time difference and spending thousands of dollars on airfare was worth it for a very new, untested relationship. I tend to be all-in on decisions (more on that later) and I had already made my mind up – I wanted to go for it.

The next month was spent IMing and FaceTiming during all waking hours. I would stay up until until 3 or 4am to talk after he had started his day. We talked about our opinions on everything, our plans for the day (well, his plans – he was always busy and I was… watching a lot of Law and Order SVU), life in each other’s cities and the details of mundane day-to-day living. But we didn’t talk about what “we” were, as much as I was dying to. Women are told to not be “pushy” or clingy, so I was afraid that if I asked him what he thought about “us,” it would all fall apart. But eventually, I had the courage to ask when a good time for me to visit him would be, and we settled on Easter 2015.

Now that we had a Next Step, I let myself get more invested and hopeful. He told me about our plans – hanging out with his friends, meeting his family (!!!) and… attending a 4-day metal music festival. I’m not a super fan of Norwegian black metal, so wasn’t entirely sold on the plan, but was just grateful to spend time with him.

When I landed in Oslo, he greeted me at the arrivals gate and I gave him the world’s most awkward hug and kiss that only made contact with maybe 1/3rd of his lips. We were so unsure of how to interact with each other! I’m pretty sure I didn’t look him in the eyes on the whole train ride to the city, and couldn’t think of anything to say, even though I was boiling over with emotions. We got to his apartment and I showered and asked if we could nap, because I was running on 24 hours of no sleep. When we went to lay down, I realized there was no way I could sleep – I had way too much on my mind. I told him I wanted to say something and asked that he not freak out, but if I didn’t get it out of my system, I’d be so disappointed with myself the entire trip. He very nervously agreed, and at this point, I think I blacked out and went into autopilot and asked “do you… like… want……. tobemyboyfriend???” He smiled and said yes, and I let out a huge sigh of relief… and then 3 seconds later blurted out “also I think I’m falling in love with you soooooo hopefully that’s cool???” He was quiet for a second, or long enough for me to regret completely blowing it, and then he said “I think I am too.” That moment was one of the happiest in my life. I could finally relax and not feel like I was hiding a huge secret anymore.

We had an amazing week together. We went to his mom Lisbeth’s house to paint Easter eggs, and she immediately made me feel comfortable – she had the best laugh and reminded me so much of my own mom! I also got to meet Cathrine, a close family friend (and Bendik’s sister’s best friend). I was SO nervous to meet everyone and make a good impression, but they made me feel so welcome. Another sigh of relief!

(Our Easter eggs!)

I also got to spend time with his dad Nils and stepmom Eli during a trip to the family cabin in Kragerø. It was my first real taste of the koselig life – we stayed warm around the fire, had a shellfish feast, and I even went out in the boat with his dad!

(Out on the water in Kragerø, nervously trying to convince his dad I was worthy of dating his son.)

And the metal festival ended up being so much fun! I very much appreciated the no-moshing rule. I spent probably $100 on “cheap” beer every night that I drank in the back of the venue while Bendik was headbanging.

After my trip, we immediately started planning our next meetups. I ended up going back out in July (when we went back to the cabin and I got too drunk on Fisher’s Storm and yelled about how great Bruce Springsteen is while blacked out – I’m the queen of acting a fool in inappropriate situations!), and Bendik came to America in August, where he was my date to Lisa and Sergio’s wedding, where many of my friends met Bendik for the first time. He was a HIT! Sergio’s mom loved him, which was a very important stamp of approval.

(Looking cute at the wedding! When I originally posted this in 2015 I got many confused IMs asking if we had eloped!)

We went back and forth between America and Norway throughout 2015 and 2016. Nils and Eli came to America for Easter, to travel around California and meet my family. For some reason, I decided that I was the only person who could drive the rental car that week, so subjected everyone to my… interesting driving skills). We had a fantastic time in SF, Monterey, Paso Robles and Joshua Tree. Meeting my family went super well – my grandpa definitely made some fans!

cabazon

(Braving the winds to see the Cabazon dinosaurs on our 10+-hour drive home from Joshua Tree!)

I spent a summer in Oslo staying in an Airbnb I rented in Grünerløkka, where Bendik and I got to “live together” and play house for the first time, making dinner and drinking Negronis every night. It was so much fun, and was the first time I really thought about what life would be life if I lived in Norway. Since it was summer and light all day, I felt pretty convinced Norway would be a nice place to settle down.

(Celebrating my first May 17th in Oslo!)

our apartment

(Drinking fancy wine over dinner in our apartment on Københavngata in Rodeløkka)

Bendik and I flew back to America together, and he’d spend the next month with me in SF. We had no idea this trip would be so life-changing. Early into the trip, my company’s CEO heard Bendik was in town, and cryptically asked him to put together a sample presentation that he would give the US management team. Bendik didn’t have any nice clothes to wear, but went for it and put together a sample deck to show them. He obviously nailed the presentation, and our CEO offered him a job in the US office, to start as soon as possible. This was a huge breakthrough for us – we could finally just be together in the same place at the same time! We felt so relieved that the future was starting to become more solid and predictable.

Staying true to my habit of going ALL-IN on life decisions, we started casually talking about how nice it would be to get engaged someday, now that we knew we could live together. So obviously a day later we “casually” looked at engagement rings, just to “feel out” what was “out there.” And so, a week later, while getting ready for dinner at Foreign Cinema, Bendik asked me to come into our closet to look at something and proposed to me. He had no residence permit, no contract with the US office, and no plane ticket to San Francisco, but that didn’t matter – we loved each other so much and couldn’t picture being with anyone else, so why not go for it? We had an amazing dinner that night and even ordered the expensive sparkling wine, and spent the rest of the night talking about how much life ruled and how much we loved each other. It was so wholesome!

(YAY!!!!)

Unfortunately, Bendik had to go home for a few months while his work visa was processing and to prepare to move to America. I don’t think I’ve ever cried harder in my life than when I said goodbye at Oakland airport, even though I knew he’d be back soon. The next four months were filled with stressful paperwork, long distance wedding planning, and late-night FaceTime calls where Bendik made me show my ring every time, just to prove I hadn’t lost it, as I was likely to do.

Finally, December 2016 came and Bendik flew to America with his mom, stepdad and sister. We spent an amazing Christmas together, where we all wore matching pajamas!

From then, Bendik and I really started our little life together. We spent a lot of time planning our wedding, making our favorite meals together and navigating life in a tiny mosquito-infested studio on Turk street. We loved walking on Divisadero, getting coffee at Mojo and buying trinkets for the apartment at Rare Device. We created routines, ate at our favorite restaurants, hung out with all our friends. Bendik settled into his new job, we went on vacations (including one to Belize, where we spent a lot of time getting sunburnt and drinking expensive watery beer at Ramon’s resort) and bought a lot of coffee mugs.

And then suddenly, it was time to get married! The whole Norwegian family flew out for the ceremony in Paso Robles, where it was approximately 10,000 degrees. We spent an amazing week with our entire families together, swimming in the pool, barbecuing, and talking in grandpa’s living room. The ceremony was beautiful and it was amazing to see how many people cared about us – many friends came from across the world to see us!

After the most relaxing vacation I’ve ever taken in my life, our honeymoon in Hawaii, we REALLY settled into domestic life. We didn’t make as many individual decisions anymore – whatever we did, we did together. I like to think our relationship didn’t really change much after getting married, but everything suddenly felt more significant, and I felt more Grown Up. We moved into a new apartment in the Inner Richmond (after I “casually” browsed apartments on Craigslist for 1 day), a ONE-BEDROOM! with THREE walk-in closets!!! Across the street from Golden Gate Park! And a block away from Safeway! We were truly living the dream!

fulton st apartment

(Our somewhat messy new apartment on Fulton and 6th – not pictured: all 13 doors and multiple walk-in closets, plus our massive bedroom or miniscule kitchen.)

I’m extremely future-focused and have a hard time staying present – I’m always planning my next escapade (if you’re my friend, you’ve probably experienced me trying to plan our hang-outs 2 months in advance). Bendik and I started talking about What Came Next. I was getting tired of life in the City, which was dirty, smelly, sometimes dangerous and insanely expensive – it was all really wearing me down and making my depression and anxiety worse. And, after my BFFs Kyra and Sara had kids, I suddenly wasn’t afraid to start a family (they made it look so easy, which I’m sure they’ll lol about once they read this). We also wanted a house, after sharing walls with neighbors for our entire adult lives. The more we talked about it, we realized that the life we wanted wasn’t really attainable (or affordable) in San Francisco. We had to make an extremely Real decision – do we stay in the US, or take the plunge and go all-in on moving to Norway?

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I would be far away from my family and friends, have to learn a new language, somehow have an income, and find a place to live. But one day, I again decided to just go for it. I filled out all of the immigration paperwork, but didn’t hit submit. We had no timeline, no idea where we’d live, and no idea how we’d make money once we moved. We were in no rush, so my paperwork remained saved as a draft, just waiting to be paid for before being processed.

But suddenly, we found ourselves buying a house – I had always been “casually” looking on Finn.no (again, just to “feel out” what was “out there”) – and found a listing for a house in Nils and Eli’s neighborhood. Houses in this neighborhood never come on the market unless people that live in them die (or so Bendik says), so this was a rare opportunity. It was my dream to live near family so that our kids could be near grandparents, and this was the neighborhood Bendik grew up in, and was full of amazing, supportive folks that loved us. The house would need to be completely renovated, but that didn’t daunt us – in true Us fashion, we went for it, and one afternoon, became homeowners. (Okay, there were maybe a few more steps in the process, but this post is becoming way too long).

house

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(Our house in Siggerud!)

Once we had the house, we submitted my immigration paperwork, anticipating it to take up to 6 months to work its way through the system (which is what UDI told us to expect). A week later, I got my approval!

screen shot 2019-01-03 at 14.13.43

(I woke up to some extremely good news on September 17th!!! But it got approved so quickly, my last date of entry was a month earlier than we’d planned on moving. THANKS, efficient Norwegian government!!!)

We told our company we were planning on moving, and very nervously waited to hear whether or not we could keep our jobs and work from abroad (as quite a few of our coworkers do). They finally told us they were willing to keep us on, which was a HUGE relief – I wouldn’t need to find a new job upon arrival. Our managers were incredibly supportive of our crazy idea to pick up and move to Norway, which I’m so thankful for!

And that brings us to today – we’re getting ready for our move by working with an architect on the house’s design (my Pinterest board for our house’s vibes is here), starting to decide what comes with us in our 11 suitcases to Norway and what gets left behind, and trying to hang out with as many friends as possible. I’m also taking Norwegian language classes at The Scandinavian School in SF, with a lovely teacher and great classmates! My pronunciation leaves something to be desired, but it’s been a lot of fun learning something new (even though Bendik usually can’t understand anything I’m trying to say).

I’m extremely nervous about all the change that I’m about to face (I don’t handle ambiguity that well), but am extremely optimistic about the positive changes living in Norway will bring. I’ll write more about what I’m hoping to get out of moving there, but for now, I’m looking forward to living in the forest in a house that’s all ours, near family that loves and truly supports us in every way (we’re a 5-minute walk to Bendik’s dad and stepmom, and just a 15-minute drive to Bendik’s mom, stepdad and little sister!). Even on tough days, thinking about the excitement that lies ahead keeps me going.


That ended up being extremely long, but I didn’t want to do a part 3 – but now, you’re all caught up! Coming up: posts about the house, things I love about Norway (and things that I’m not necessarily a fan of?) and more updates on the move. If you have any ideas/request for posts, leave them in the comments!

Hope this post was somewhat enjoyable! It’s kind of more for me to go back and read when I’m having a sad day, but also gives friends and family a little insight into our adventures. Thanks for reading :)

The story so far – part 1

Hello, friends! In my comeback post, I mentioned I’d write a little bit about how I found myself moving to Norway. This may be a long post so buckle up!

I’ll start with what brought me to Norway in the first place – my love of Scandinavia! I was lucky enough to study in Århus, Denmark in 2009, where I made a ton of amazing memories with wonderful people in a very cozy place. When I first found out the program I was going to participate in was in Denmark, I’m pretty sure I’d never met a Dane, ever heard the language, or knew anything at all about the country. I was worried my study abroad experience would not be as glamorous as my friends’ who were in the south of France or Spain. But when I got there, I immediately loved the culture of coziness and having fun times with your friends in a peaceful place – something about Scandinavian culture just resonated with me. So I traveled back to Denmark and went to Sweden a few years later and felt all those same cozy feelings. I belonged here! These were my people! So when, in 2014, Norwegian Airlines started offering dirt-cheap fares to Oslo in Norway, I figured I’d add another Scandinavian country to my passport! I didn’t really know anyone there, and had no idea what to do for 10 days by myself, but I figured it would be beautiful and hyggelig enough that I’d enjoy myself.

My company has an office in Oslo, so my lovely friend and coworker Kathy reached out to them on my behalf to see if I could drop in and say hello. The CEO there said of course I could, and asked a CCed guy named Bendik if he could make sure I was taken care of. Bendik said it would be no problem, and to stop in anytime! So I arrived in Norway, enjoyed my first $35 cheeseburger and a $12 pint of crappy beer, spent a day walking around the city, acquainting myself with adorable Oslo. The next day, I went to the office and very nervously rang the doorbell at Inkognitogate 37. Everyone excitedly greeted me! They were all so cute and bubbly! And well-dressed! I felt so sweaty and underdressed, in a tank top and jeans. But they were sooooo nice – especially Bendik, who had an infectious laugh and immediately made me feel welcome and comfortable. We all talked for what seemed like hours over coffee on the balcony overlooking the street, and when it was time to go back to work, Bendik said it would be fun if I wanted to join him and some friends for dinner and drinks that night. I said sure, and we exchanged phone numbers. I then headed back to my hotel and immediately passed out – jet lag was literally killing my soul and I considered not going out when Bendik texted me where to meet up. It took literally ALL of my emotional energy to say “see you there!” and actually shower and get ready – but I knew this was my best chance to meet some fun, friendly Norwegians!

We all met up at, funnily enough, an American diner, and I ate my second $35 cheeseburger of the trip while trying to pry my eyelids open. Bendik was so good at involving me in the conversation! He could probably tell I’m a little socially awkward and it’s in his nature to make sure everyone in a room feels comfortable. We headed to a bar, where he bought me a beer, which didn’t seem like a huge deal to me at the time, but in retrospect it was like $16 for an 8oz glass, so I like to think that he had already fallen in love with me at that point.

(Bendik and Ann Cathrin at Crowbar, one of the first places we ever hung out!)

The first day I met Bendik ended around 4am, after a long night of talking and laughing and comparing life in SF to Oslo. We decided to hang out the next day, and said goodnight. I had a hard time sleeping, even though I was running on fumes – everyone was just so nice, I felt so comfortable, and Bendik was so… cute!!!!! I immediately had a crush, and couldn’t wait to hang out with him again the next day.

We ended up hanging out every day I was in Oslo, going to different bars, an all-day music festival, out to dinner. And when I left for a few days for Bergen, I texted him pictures of snowy mountains and beautiful farm fields from my train window seat, and tried to think of any excuse I could find to just.. keep talking to him. I’ve gone back and read our first texts to each other and they’re so insanely wholesome and bursting with energy – we obviously liked each other but didn’t want to say it. So instead, I sent him pictures of sheep on my mountain hikes in Flåm, commented on how expensive beer was, and told him how quaint Bergen was. I couldn’t wait to get back to Oslo to see him.

I finally returned from my trip across the country, and we immediately made plans to meet up again. We went out drinking my last night in Norway, and I had so many mixed emotions – it was so fun being with him and his amazing friends, but I knew I was just going to go home alone, thousands of miles away. We stayed out again until 4am, and he walked me to my budget hotel. We stood outside the entrance for probably a half an hour, unable to find a good way to end the conversation. A drunk guy walked past us and shouted KISS HER, MAN! which made us even more nervous!!! We ultimately parted ways without a kiss – but decided to make plans to meet up in the morning for coffee before I left for the airport. I think I slept for like, an hour, the night before our first coffee date.

We met up around noon at Tim Wendelboe, which I had discovered was the BEST COFFEE EVER!, and talked about nothing in particular for an hour. But then it was time for me to leave, and all we could say was how fun hanging out had been, and hopefully he would maybe visit America on vacation someday! Or if I ever went back to Denmark, maybe I could make a pit stop in Oslo. Walking away was so really difficult – I hadn’t gotten a kiss! Did he even like me?! Or is he just super friendly?!? Had I misread this entire situation!!? I let those panicky thoughts invade my mind for the entire 18-hour journey home.

The first thing I did when I landed in Oakland was turn off airplane mode and message him that I had made it home. And from there, we talked every single day, from the moment each other woke up, to the moment we fell asleep. I would stay up until 4am just to message with him about nothing in particular. He was so funny and sweet, but I couldn’t tell if he actually liked me, or if this is how all Norwegians are and I’m just a dumb emotional American. But after a month of constant back and forth, he told me he was wondering if he could maybe come out to SF to visit me! I was so excited – could we be a thing? Could we make something work? Would he be willing to fly across the world to hang out with dumb ol’ me? He booked his tickets for November, and we excitedly talked about all the things we could do together in America. I offered to let him stay with me, but he decided to get a hotel – one of the grossest and cheapest in town. Again, I was like – does he not like me?! Why would he fly to America if he doesn’t like me?!

Time passed, and we were getting excited for his visit. And then, one early morning, I woke up to a message from him saying he had lost his sister. There had been a car accident, and she didn’t survive. Her daughter, his niece, was okay, but his entire world had come unraveled in that moment. I wished I could have been there to hold him and comfort him, but all I could do was message him that I cared about him and was there to talk. The next few weeks were so hard for him and his family – picking up all the pieces left behind, having to come to terms with this new reality. Bendik tried to be brave, but was hurting so badly. I checked in everyday to see how that day had gone – not to probe his feelings and make him sad, but as a way to let him process. This was an important, tragic and life-changing event for him, and all I wanted in the world was to be there to comfort him.

I assumed his trip to America was canceled, but didn’t want to ask as I thought it would make him sad to think about it. Bendik was in a bad place already, and I wasn’t sure a trip to America at that time was going to be doable emotionally. But a couple of weeks before the flight, he told me he wanted to come – and that it might cheer him up. I was so happy to hear that he was feeling up for it, and assured him we would only do whatever he was feeling up for.

I remember how nervous I was waiting for him to land in Oakland – my friend and coworker Elizabeth and I parked nearby the airport and listened to the radio while I waited for a text from him to say he was out front. Would he still like me when he saw me? Would he be comfortable with me? But when we pulled up to him at the curb, we had the best hug of all time. I squeezed him tight, hoping it would let him know I would take care of him this trip, and he didn’t need to worry about anything.

(Bendik’s first meal in America was obviously In n Out!)

We spent an amazing week together – eating burritos (his first!), wine tasting in Yountville, walking around the city and just relaxing at home. It took us a day to realize we obviously liked each other, but when we did, it was the best feeling in the whole world. I felt like a 13-year-old when I held his hand and cuddled on the couch with him. I hadn’t felt that giddy in a long time. I knew I wanted this to work. He came to my family’s Thanksgiving – and survived the gauntlet! My grandpa hugged him and whispered in his ear “look out for this one – she’s trouble.” Thanks, grandpa!

(A picture from a walk we took to Crissy Field, and one of my favorite pictures of us together!)

Saying goodbye was bittersweet – we had an amazing time together, and I think he was able to relax and feel some small scrap of happiness after the trauma of his sister’s passing. We didn’t know when we’d see each other again – but I was happy to get a kiss goodbye this time.

WOW! That was a wall of text! I promise the rest of my entries won’t be like this. But this is part 1 of the journey to now, and it’ll be much more brief in part 2 :) Hope you enjoyed learning how we met and eventually got together! Part 2 will cover my first time meeting his family in Norway, our long distance dating life, and him moving to America (spoiler alert). Just had to stretch the ol’ writing muscles! Bye!

Reviving the blog!

Hi everyone! Hope you’ve all been well in the last 11 years since I last updated this blog. A lot has happened since then! I graduated college, moved to many different apartments in SF, traveled a lot, got an awesome job and most notably, met a Norwegian dude that I was able to trick into marrying me! That’s actually why I’m updating the blog after all this time – we are constantly going on adventures, and our next biggest one will be our move to Norway in April 2019! Not such a big move for him, but for me, a pretty radical change of scenery. We bought a house in his childhood neighborhood, and will be renovating it from its current sorry state (but also kinda retro and fun!) into something cute and livable.

A bunch of people have suggested that I start a blog about my move to Norway and life there once I arrive. I’m not great at blogging consistently (as you can tell from my 11-year absence), but I thought I’d give it a try! Maybe it’ll only be interesting to my mom, but maybe another American that’s making the move might find it someday and think it’s helpful.

I’m planning on writing a few “backgrounder” posts that quickly summarize my journey to this point, a few months before we fly out to our new home – maybe that’ll be helpful for anyone who doesn’t know me well already.

Here’s hoping I turn this blog into something entertaining! Even if no one reads it, it’ll be nice to look back a few years later to see what was on my mind while I started life in beautiful, socialist, cold, cozy Norway.

Stay tuned (famous last words)! Snakkes snart!