Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bit by the Travel Bug?

Have you seen January's travel issue of Viking? I'm afraid the whole Viking staff was seriously infected by the travel bug while we were working on it. Among this month's features, you'll find "From Sea to Sky," an inspiring travelogue by Carter Walker describing a day trip her she took with her family through central Norway.

If you've also been bitten by the travel bug, you'll enjoy this amazing gallery of Norway photos on the National Geographic website. While you're there, you'll find helpful background information about the country, some interesting travel-related features and an interactive map--perfect for planning your next Norwegian adventure. Enjoy!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Suomi Star

Friday, December 24, 2010

Great Grøt for a God Jul

It’s Christmas Eve! Do you know what you’ll be feeding your nisse tonight? In the December issue of Viking, Carter Walker writes, “At Christmas time, dutiful farmers always made sure to leave offerings, including porridge, as thanks to the nisser for their magical help around the barn.” And whether or not you have a nisse living in your barn, garden shed or garage, you will certainly want to have some porridge on hand tonight when the julenisse visits your house.

My family tested this traditional recipe for risengrynsgrøt, or rice porridge, last night and it was a hit! It’s easy to make and delicious topped with a little sugar and cinnamon.

You can read more about Norwegian Christmas traditions in the December issue of Viking.

From the staff of Viking, we wish you a God Jul!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user apoxapox.

Getting into the spirit of Christmas!

In anticipation of all the festivities throughout the weekend, I give you two great videos to help get you in the spirit.

First is a video of Sissel Kjyrkebø singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.




Next is a video of Rick Steves' Christmas in Europe series, highlighting Christmas in Norway. Specifically in Drobak, Norway. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010 Julekonsert on PBS

The annual julekonsert, is a real Norwegian Christmas tradition. One which has been broadcast throughout Norway from a church in Hamar. I've seen video of it before and it truly is an amazingly beautiful juletide tradition.

Now, I've just heard that a number of PBS stations throughout the United States may be broadcasting the 2010 Julekonsert! Normally I would recommend spending the holidays enjoying the company of family and friends, rather than zoning out to another Charlie Brown Christmas Special, however this broadcast is so wonderful I'll break my rule this once. If your PBS station is showing the concert, definitely take the hour or so from your day and enjoy the luxurious sights and sounds of this awesome tradition.

Here's a preview with an intro by Princess Martha Louise and Harald Zwart.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lutefisk Capital of America? You Decide.

Here's a great video about a Sons of Norway member (and champion lutefisk eater) in Madison, MN. Enjoy the lutefisk!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gifts for the Young (and Young at Heart)

Not quite done with your holiday shopping? For a heritage-filled gift for the young people in your life, consider a “campership” to Norwegian language camp. Every Sons of Norway district is home to at least one language camp (including District 8 in Norway, home to camp Little America.)

And remember … camp isn’t just for the young. It’s an experience the whole family can enjoy together. Districts 1, 2 and 6 (any maybe others) offer family camping experiences. Check out your district website to find the opportunities and scholarships available near you.

If you live in the Midwest, consider the Norwegian Family Fun Weekend at Skogfjorden, Jan. 14-17. Northern Minnesota in January might sound like a frigid destination, but Skogfjorden is a wonderful, koselig place in the winter, especially if cross-country skiing or hiking is something you enjoy.

For more heritage-themed gift ideas, check out our holiday gift guide in the November issue of Viking!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Lutfisk on the Radio

In keeping with this weeks tasty, though totally unintentional, food theme, let's talk lutefisk. A curious food, to be sure; rarely will you find a culinary dish that is so widely, and vocally, debated by supporters and critics alike. For example, Jeffrey Stengarten once compared it to a weapon of mass destruction, while many others spend great amounts of time searching for and attending as many lutefisk dinners in their area as possible.

If you follow my Twitter feed (@SonsofNorway)then you probably saw the tweet earlier this week about KCRW, a public radio station in California, doing a piece on Sons of Norway and the making of lutefisk. During its "Good Food" segment, contributor Eddie Lynn visited Norrona lodge 6-050 in Van Nuys, California. While there, he interviewed lodge members, including VP Gerald Rowe, about lutesfisk and the tradition of lutefisk dinners.

To listen to the entire story, click here and fast-forward to the 15:20 mark. For me, the highlight of the story was when the interviewer called lutefisk "a poor man's lobster." Sounds to me like there's another lutefisk convert waiting in the wings!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Favorite Krumkake Recipe

Something interesting happened to me yesterday. A colleague asked me what I like most about this time of year, and I must admit it was a tough question to answer. Not because I'm some sort of grinch, exactly the opposite, actually. There are so many things I love about this time of year that I'm hard pressed to narrow it down to any single thing.

If I had to narrow it down, though, I'd have to say it's the food. Beyond the fact that this time of year is famous for the variety, the flavor and sheer volume of food, it's also notorious as a time of reflection. Maybe it's because December offers a great vantage point from which we can survey the year gone by; remembering the things that brought us joy, finding contentment in our successes and humor in our failings and considering the road not taken. More likely though, it's probably because it's been proven that food (or more accurately the smell of food) is one of the strongest triggers in recalling memories. I'm sure we all, at one point or another, have come to relate a certain smell with a memory of good times gone by.

For me, it's the smell of cookies baking. Specifically the smell of krumkake being made on a griddle. That particular smell takes me back to my childhood, spent with great-aunts and uncles who were one-generation-off-the-boat Norwegian Americans living in Northern Minnesota. It makes me think of their kitchens filled to the brim with people; some of them baking, some watching, some tasting, but all of them enjoying each others' company. And the noise, oh the sound of them all talking and laughing! Great memories to be sure.

So, because food is so important to the holiday season, I thought I'd share my favorite krumkake recipe with everyone! This is a tried and true recipe, that my wife and I love. In face we just made it over the weekend and can attest to its wonderful flavor. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have and that it can be a part of your own cherished memories.



Ingredients (makes approximately 50 krumkake)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (approx. 1 stick) unsalted sweet cream butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Directions
In a mixer, combine eggs and sugar and slowly beat together. Next, pour the melted butter or margarine into your mixer along with the vanilla extract and ground cardamom.

Sift flour and corn starch then add to egg mixture. Mix together until dough has a thick pancake batter-like, or somewhat doughy, consistency.

Once your maker is up to full heat, it’s time place the dough on the griddle. For expedience it’s a good idea to use two spoons (one to scoop batter and the other to scrape the batter onto your krumkake maker. Remember to place krumkake dough a bit above the center of your griddle pattern, so there is ample room for the batter to move forward as you close the lid.

Leave the batter in the maker with the lid closed for 35 seconds.

Once done, remove with a thin spatula and roll or lay flat to cool. If you are going to roll them into their traditional cone shape, you will need to do so immediately as they cool and harden quickly. 

This recipe definitely has been described as very "cardamom-y" in that the cardamom flavor definitely comes through. If you are looking for a krumkake that's a bit sweeter you can either serve this recipe with whipped cream and preserves (which I wholeheartedly recommend), or you can reduce the amount of cardamom and increase the amount of sugar used. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Certainties in life: Tomorrow the sun will rise and we shall make Gløgg!

We’ve all heard the saying that “only two things in life are certain: death and taxes.” Now, I don’t know about you but I find that to be a very bleak perspective. I'm guessing good ol' Ben Franklin came up with that little saying because he never heard of Gløgg. If he had, then he'd probably have demanded that this holiday staple be served at all of his Christmas and New Year's parties!

So, since it 'tis the season, I bring you something that will brighten up the day and help spread joy among all:  the annual posting of the Gløgg recipe!    

I’ve been monitoring a marked increase in searches for a Gløgg recipe, so it’s time once again to post a link and make it easier to find. Just a reminder, this is a 40+ year old recipe and even though it dates back to the days of LBJ it still holds up as good as ever.

To serve 20-25

2 quarts dry red wine (about 2 standard 750 mL bottles)
2 quarts muscatel (or muscato)
1 pint sweet vermouth
2 tablespoons Angostura bitters
2 cups raisins
Peelings of 1 orange
12 whole cardamoms, bruised in a mortar with a pestle or by covering with a towel and crushing with a rolling pin
10 whole cloves
1 piece (about 2 inches) of fresh ginger
1 stick cinnamon
1 ½ cups akevitt (preferably Linie)
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups whole almonds, blanched and peeled


 Adapted from Recipes: The Cooking of Scandinavia. Time-Life Books. New York, 1968

Before you start cooking/drinking this holiday elixir, though, make sure you read the original blog post with commentary from Cultural Advisor, Colin Thonsen. It’ll make the preparation and cooking process go a lot smoother.

Enjoy the Gløgg!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rosemaling the winter away

If you've been following the news lately, then you know we Minnesotans have had a heck of a winter so far. Let's run down the checklist, Shall we?
  • So much snow that it caved in a professional sports stadium? Check.
  • High temps in the single digits and overnight lows in the negative doubles? Check.
  • Getting less than 7 hours of sunlight per day? Check.
If the winter so far is any indication, I think it's fairly certain that most of us in the upper Midwest will be spending a LOT of time indoors over the next couple of months.

Unfortunately, for many of us, cabin fever sets in all too easily, which can make the coldest months of the year some of the longest and most excruciating of all. So, that leaves us with the question of what to do to fill the time until spring comes?

How about rosemaling?

I've just gotten word that Sons of Norway and Vesterheim are collaborating on an new type of rosemaling class. It's going to follow the first level of the Sons of Norway Rosemaling Cultural Skills Program, but will be taught in a group setting by Vesterheim Gold Medall Winner, Shirley Evenstad! If you aren't familiar with her work, check out one of your recent Viking magazines and look for the Sons of Norway Christmas ornament--Shirley is the talented artist behind this year't Hallingdal Rose design! She's an amazing artist who has studied with several master teachers at Vesterheim and in Norway.

This four-part class is going to be held every Saturday, from January 22nd until February 12, 2011 at Church of the Good Shepherd on 48th and France Avenue in Minneapolis, MN. Aspiring rosemalers will learn the basic strokes, simple flower and scroll forms, and complete a small 5-6 inch design done on a backgrounded plate or paper. Cost the class is $85 for Sons of Norway or Vesterheim members, plus an additional $40-$50 for supplies.

I think this sounds like a really fun way to while away the hours this winter! If you do as well, then all you need to do is register contact Vesterheim Museum at (563) 382-9681 or by e-mail at info@vesterheim.org.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Scandinavian Chic

Looking for a heritage-inspired gift for your favorite fashionista? If you haven’t noticed, Nordic-inspired knits are bigger than ever.

Travel + Leisure magazine recently featured a lovely assortment of woolly wares in their October issue. Seem strangely familiar? Yep, they are to me too. These are the type of staple items—many of them hand-knits or hand-me-downs—that have gotten me through a lifetime of Minnesota winters.

CNBC’s Consumer Nation website featured a Scandinavian-style sweater among their trendiest holiday gifts for 2010. “Nordic chic—I think this trend is only going to grow bigger,” explains fashion trend consultant Catherine Moellering in the site’s gift guide.

Feeling inspired? You’ll find a traditional Norwegian mitten pattern in the September issue of Viking. If you’re not a knitter, you’re still in luck. Scandinavian retailers like Ingebretsen’s offer a great selection of hats, mittens and sweaters online. Bargain hunters might want to check out eBay or Google Shopping for serious deals on new and vintage knitwear. Even Target is picking up on the trend with Nordic knit slippers.

I’m glad to know that—at least this winter—my collection of well-loved Norwegian sweaters, hats and mittens are in style. But I won’t be packing them up when the trend is over … I’ll just be ready when it comes around again!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user aslakr.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Royal Respite

This time of year, everyone is ready for a change of pace. Apparently that’s true for Norway’s royals as well.

Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit began a two-month vacation with their children at the end of November.

“We want to be together as a family,” the Crown Prince told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. “We want to show our children a bit of the world, that there are many different cultures and many ways of living.”

The family isn’t disclosing where they will be traveling and they’ve requested to take a holiday from the press as well. They chose to travel now because their royal duties were relatively light in December and January, according to an article on the website News and Views from Norway.

To read more about the Norwegian monarchy, check out the December issue of Viking. You can also follow the Royal Couple on Twitter, although I wouldn’t expect many Tweets from them until the family returns home at the end of January.

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Photo: Sølve Sundsbø / Det kongelige hoff

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Welcome New Cultural Coordinator, Marit Barkve!

Sons of Norway’s Fraternal Department is happy to welcome our newest staff member, Marit Barkve. Marit comes to us with a wealth of Norwegian knowledge and will be working closely with our members as our new cultural coordinator. But, before we learn more about what Marit will be doing, lets learn more about her. So here goes!

Where are you from originally?

I grew up in Shoreview, Minnesota.

Where did you work before joining Sons of Norway?
I worked with two non-profit organizations, one based out of Washington state called Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, the other was Refugee Council USA out of Washington D.C.

What is your educational background?
I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Norwegian Language and Global Studies as well as a minor in Political Science from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. I also had the opportunity to study abroad at Hedmark University College or (Høgskolen i Hedmark) in Hamar.

So, I have to ask…Are you Norwegian?
Yes! Both of my parents have Norwegian ancestry. My father’s side of the family emigrated from a town in Norway called Jørpeland, just east of Stavanger, where my Norwegian “slekt” (family) resides today. I’m actually in contact with my fantastic relatives in Norway – I was fortunate enough to celebrate jul with them a few years back.

As the newest member of the Fraternal team, what are you most looking forward to in working at Sons of Norway?

I am thrilled to be a part of the Nordic community at Sons of Norway. I’ve always had a passion for my heritage and Norwegian culture and it is great to be able to work with it on a daily basis. I’ve been very warmly welcomed at headquarters and am really looking forward to learning more about Sons of Norway as an organization.

As Cultural Coordinator, what types of things will you help members with?
Primarily, I will be organizing and maintaining the media lending library, however I will also be working on the Sports Medal Program, doing some event planning and assisting with any basic Norwegian language or culture questions.

Now that you will be overseeing the Media Lending Library…Do you have any favorite Norwegian films or musical artists?
I enjoy Scandinavian films in general but if I had to pick a favorite it would be a Norwegian film called “Folk flest bor i Kina.” Unfortunately, the film isn’t available in the U.S. yet.

Any hobbies?

Running. Swimming. Biking. I really enjoy being active and being outdoors. My favorite activity is downhill skiing. When I lived in Washington I went skiing on a regular basis. My newest venture is relearning how to cross-country ski.

Do you have any hidden talents that will be handy at Sons of Norway?

Usually when I get asked about any hidden talents I can fall back on the fact that I can speak fluent Norwegian, although at Sons of Norway that talent certainly won’t be hidden.

Have you ever had any experience with Norwegian food? Lefse or Lutefisk? If so, what did you think of it?
I grew up in a Norwegian family and lived in Norway for a year so I have had a lot of exposure to Norwegian cuisine—I’ve pretty much tried it all! I haven’t yet learned how to make lefsedespite it being a holiday tradition in my family—but I am looking forward to learning to make it later this week at headquarters. There aren’t many Norwegian foods that I dislike except for lutefisk – but don’t tell my grandmother, as she will not tolerate lutefisk badmouthing or disloyalty.

When I lived in Hamar I worked in a cafe that had a variety of types of food that were both traditional and untraditional. There was a local elderly customer who came in regularly who always ordered the same traditional Norwegian meals, reinforcing the stereotype that Norwegians like their food mild or bland. One day we were able to convince the customer to try lasagna instead…he couldn’t believe how exotic it was! It was funny, as an American, to think of lasagna as being exotic.


Are there any things at Headquarters that you’ve learned or experienced that have surprised you?
I’ve been really impressed with how active and passionate the lodges are! There really is a lot of activity, which has been really exciting for me.

Any closing thoughts or things you want the members to know about you that we haven’t talked about?

I’m really excited to be here and am looking forward to collaborating with the staff and members to learn and try new things.


We are all very excited to welcome Marit to the team and look forward to working with her. So if you wish to extend your own words of welcome or if you want to pick up a great title from the lending library, just leave a comment on the blog or email Marit at culture@sofn.com.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Best Lefse Recipe Ever

Today is lefse-making day in my family. This afternoon my kids and I will head over to my sister’s house, where she and my dad have already peeled enough potatoes for a triple batch of lefse for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving dinner.

In honor of the day, and just in time for Thanksgiving, I thought I’d include a recipe from Scandinavian-American chef Beatice Ojakangas’s blog, called “The Best Lefse Recipe Ever.” (Beatrice’s recipes were featured in Viking’s June food issue.) That’s no small claim—I happen to think my dad makes the best lefse ever! Note that Beatrice’s recipe is wonderfully large—it makes about 100 pieces! (Hmmm….could that be what makes it best?) The recipe looks very similar to my family’s recipe, affectionately called “Lena’s Lefse,” (named for Lena Trygestad, who lived near Bellingham, Minn.), although I see that Beatrice’s recipe calls for less flour than Lena used.

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to be carrying on this family culinary tradition of lefse making, while teaching the next generation. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. And may you find a plate of lefse on your holiday table!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user little blue hen.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Arctic Winter Awaits

I may be sitting here at my desk, but my mind is far off in the Norwegian Arctic this week. I’ve been editing the Viking travel issue, including a feature that’s set in Norway’s frozen north.

While Americans are gearing up for Thanksgiving, Norwegians living north of the polar circle are anticipating the onset of mørketiden (literally, "the dark time"), when the sun slips below the horizon on Nov. 25, not to be seen again until Jan. 17. This is the payback for all those glorious weeks of midnight sun that Norwegians bask in during the summer. While the dark winter sounds like a huge challenge to me, the people I know that live in the far north seem to take it in stride, seeking out the company of friends, lighting plenty of candles and enjoying the spectacular displays of northern lights that accompany the darkness.

If you want to experience the Arctic winter for yourself, Visit Tromsø has a website to get you started. Look for more resources and inspiration in Viking’s travel issue, coming your way in January!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user RunarE.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Countdown to Christmas

It was a treat to collaborate with long-time Skogfjorden staffers Elizabeth “Elsebet” Halvorson and Valerie “Magna” Borey on the Holiday Heritage feature in this month's issue of Viking. Magna and Elsebet are highly creative teachers who know how to get kids excited about Norwegian language and culture. Among the fun ideas and resources listed for parents, teachers and lodge leaders in the article, there’s a link to this year’s Barnas Superjul advent calendar. Beginning Dec. 1, I know my own kids will be excited to count down to Christmas with a daily visit to this website, produced by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

NATB on WCCO!

I just got word that there will be a story on WCCO about the Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast this afternoon! Apparently the NATB is the winner of today's Good Neighbor Award and it will be broadcast at 12:40 CST! You can listen for yourself by clicking here to stream WCCO News Radio. Otherwise, I am going to try to put a link up to the archived audio when it is available.

This is exciting news, to be sure. But even more, it is a testament to the hard work of the all the volunteers, board members and benefiting charities!

Don't forget! There's still time to purchase individual tickets or entire tables! All you have to do is call (800) 945-8851!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast 2010

It's time again for the 2010 Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast! This is one of my favorite events of the fall and this year is going to be even better! Not only will those in attendance be treated to the musical stylings of the 34th Red Bull Division's M-Saxteen Ensemble, but they will also hear MN Supreme Court Justice Alan Page give his thoughts on freedom, Public Radio's Krista Tippett's reflections on faith and Margaret Anderson Kelliher's insight into family and friendship.

It's going to be a great event and if you are in the Twin Cities, I encourage you to call and order your tickets now, before they're gone! The deadline for ticket purchase is November 16th! All you have to do is call (800) 945-8851 and place your order by phone to be part of this fall's signature event!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Viking Wins Magazine Awards

Last night I attended the 14th annual Minnesota Magazine Publishing Excellence Awards. Apparently, our readers aren’t the only folks who like Viking: the judges did, too! Our May wedding issue won two silver awards: one for Best Single-Topic Issue and one for Best How-To Article (that is, how-to add some Norwegian touches to your big day). Our January “Get on Board” feature won a silver award for best use of visuals/photography. And remember the speed skater on our February issue? It won a bronze award for Best Single Cover.

Now it’s your turn to be the judge. Did you have a favorite issue or feature in Viking this year? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Share your thoughts by emailing me at vikingeditor@mspcustomcontent.com.

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fall for Nordic Film

If you like Nordic film—and who doesn’t—you’ll be happy to know that Nordic film season is right around the corner! The Nordic Lights Film Festival takes place in Minneapolis Nov. 19 – 24. Since 2008, the festival has brought contemporary films from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland to the Twin Cities. This year, there’s even one for the kids!

If you don’t live in Minnesota, pull out your August issue of Viking for a list of Nordic film festivals around the U.S., many of which take place in the fall and winter. For example, both Seattle and Los Angeles host festivals in January. Can’t wait that long? As a Sons of Norway member, you don’t have to. You have access to a treasure trove of Norwegian movies and other media any time by taking advantage of Sons of Norway’s Media Lending Library. For more information about the service, log in to the members’ section of sonsofnorway.com.

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Havregrynsbrød Recipe Correction

The Viking team recently discovered an error in the Havregrynsbrød (oatmeal bread) recipe in our October issue. The correct amount of rolled oats should be 2¾ cups, not 2¼ cups as printed in the magazine. Here’s a corrected copy of the recipe. Apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused our readers!

4 cups skimmed milk
½ oz. dry yeast or 2 oz. fresh yeast
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. dark cane syrup
1½ tsp. salt
2¾ cups rolled oats
2¾ cups finely milled whole-wheat flour
2¾ cups white flour (approximately)
Rolled oats for topping

Heat milk to 105 to 115 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm milk and let stand 5 minutes.

Add vegetable oil, syrup and salt. Stir in rolled oats, whole-wheat flour and most of the white flour. Knead the flour until the dough is firm and pliant, but not tough. As an alternative, beat the dough for about 5 minutes with an electric mixer. Roll into a ball and return the dough to the bowl.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm area for about 40 minutes. Turn out the dough on a floured surface. Divide in two. Knead in a little more flour and shape two oval loaves. Place in well-greased 1½-quart loaf pans.

Cover with a clean dishcloth and allow dough to rise again in a warm location for about 30 minutes.

Brush the surface with a little lukewarm water and sprinkle with rolled oats. Bake at 375 degrees F for about one hour, on the lowest oven rack. Cool loaves on a rack. Let oat bread stand overnight before slicing.

Photo: John Mowers/Unleashed Productions

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Eurovision Time Capsule

Today I came across something that’s just plain fun. Concordia’s Norwegian Language Village, Skogfjorden, recently posted a retrospective summary of Norway’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest. There’s a short history of the contest (many North Americans are unfamiliar with it but it’s a big deal in Europe, with more than 40 countries participating), a list of Norway’s representatives each year since 1960, and some great video clips of memorable performances over the years.

Alexander Rybak made history for Norway in 2009 when his winning performance received the most votes in Eurovision history. Since Norway was the winner last year, it became the host of the event this year. (You may remember reading about this in the May 2010 issue of Viking.) After all the dust settled and the beans were counted, NRK, Norway’s public broadcasting corporation, lost an estimated NOK 5 million on hosting the event. Ouch! They won’t have to worry about hosting next year’s contest, however, since Norway’s 2010 entry—Didrik Solli-Tangen singing My Heart is Yours—took 20th place.

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

New Addition to Sons of Norway Team

For those of you who may not know, there is a new face in the Fraternal Department at Sons of Norway headquarters. His name is Joe Eggers and he will be working with our members and lodges as our new Membership Coordinator.

Since Joe is quickly learning the in’s & out’s of Sons of Norway, let’s take a minute to learn more about him.

Where did you work before joining Sons of Norway?

I worked for two years with the Minnesota Public Interest Resource Group (MPIRG). During my time at MPIRG I worked closely with students at the University of Minnesota and Augsburg College to empower and teach students the skills needed to support the causes they were passionate about by utilizing grass roots campaigns, lobbying and working with the media. We also focused heavily on recruitment and retention and giving the students the skills to appeal to others with a common interest.

Where are you from originally?

I am originally from Appleton, Wisconsin. After graduating from college I moved to Minnesota.

(Writer’s note: I have to interject and say that as a fellow proud Wisconsinite I am happy to have another Fraternal department team member who likes green and gold and badger-red.)

What is your educational background?
I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and International Studies from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls.

So, I have to ask…Are you Norwegian?
No, I am not Norwegian or even Scandinavian. Although, my girlfriend does work for the Danish Institute for Study Abroad so maybe we should complete the Scandinavian trifecta and see if our dog could volunteer at the American Swedish Institute.

As the newest member of the Fraternal team, what are you most looking forward to in working at Sons of Norway?

I am really looking forward to getting out and meeting the members and learning the lodge structure. I’ve never worked in a cubicle before so I really hope to be able to spend some time with lodges, attending meetings and building those relationships. During my time at MPIRG, I worked really closely with young people and was able to hone my skills to fit the challenges that were presented. Now I have the opportunity to broaden those skills and apply all that I have learned to the members at Sons of Norway.


Any hobbies?
I really enjoy traveling. I’ve had the opportunity to go to Europe 3 or 4 times and have been all over the U.S., Mexico and Canada. I also really enjoy the outdoors and like to spend hiking and camping or playing golf and tennis.

Do you have any hidden talents that will be handy at Sons of Norway?

Just this past summer I became a pretty good cook. So I am looking forward to testing out some Norwegian recipes. I also have a completely different talent in that I am very well versed in parliamentary procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order. I also have a knack for remembering factual information.

Have you ever had any experience with Norwegian food? Lefse or Lutefisk? If so, what did you think of it?
I’ve never had any experiences with Norwegian food. Growing up in North-Eastern Wisconsin I wasn’t really exposed to Norwegian culture and cuisine until I moved to Minnesota. I’ve heard that some of the headquarters staff usually makes lefse at Christmas so I am looking forward to giving it a try!

It is only your first week, but are there any things at Headquarters that you’ve learned or experienced that have surprised you?
As an International Studies major I always had an interest in history and culture but I was surprised how fascinating Norwegian history is. I’ve spent some time this week familiarizing myself with Viking magazine and catching up on a number of the older issues and stories. I’ve especially enjoyed learning more about Norway during WWII.

Any closing thoughts or things you want the members to know about you that we haven’t talked about?
Just that I am really excited to meet them and share ideas!

We at headquarters are all very excited to welcome Joe to the team and look forward to working with him. So if you wish to extend your own words of welcome to Joe or just want to say hi, just leave a comment on the blog or email Joe at jeggers@sofn.com.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Buy Less ... Knit More!

If you’re a knitter (or want to be), I hope you enjoyed September's issue of Viking. Our cover story, “Knit, Purl, Improvise,” by Denise Logeland, provides plenty of inspiration, resources and even a couple of great patterns to get your needles clicking. On page 9, you’ll find an article about the popularity of Norwegian sweater designs from Oleana. The brand got a boost recently when Michelle Obama bought four sweaters while visiting Norway.

Viking isn’t the only magazine lauding Oleana. In her article, “Wearable Art from Norway,” (which appeared originally in Nordic Reach magazine) writer Eva Stenskär highlights Oleana’s feminist philosophy, its profit-sharing practices and its refusal to outsource its labor. Stenskär quotes Oleana’s founder Signe Aarhus: “Our sweaters aren’t cheap, but we want to teach people that they need [fewer] but more beautiful clothes. It’s better to buy one beautiful item that you can wear for a long, long time than a lot of cheap stuff that you end up not wearing more than once anyway. This is in keeping with the ecological movement, too. We should all buy less.”

Yes to beautiful sweaters. Yes to buying less. And knitting more, I might add.

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Oleana photo courtesy of Flickr user lazysaturday.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

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 About.com, 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.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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 bjohns8@maine.rr.com.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

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!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

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.

Monday, September 6, 2010

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!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

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 twoaamots@frontiernet.net.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

“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!

Friday, September 3, 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!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

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 caroline.lehmann@ulvik.hommune.no.

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.