Friday, January 29, 2010

Norwegian Literature Making Headway in the U.S.

Anytime I come across words like “Nordic” or “Norwegian” in U.S. mainstream media, I gobble up the information. So it was exciting last Friday when, during my regular morning scan of the Wall Street Journal, I came across this headline: “The Strange Case of the Nordic Detectives.” The near full-page article by Laura Miller delves into the “growing appeal of Scandinavian crime fiction.”

Miller writes about authors I’m familiar with, but have yet to read (Stieg Larsson and his Millennium Triology, for example), but also introduces authors I’ve never heard of and am putting on my must-read list, including Norwegian Karin Fossum. Miller called Fossum’s book, The Indian Bride, “heart-rending.” Last year, The Indian Bride picked up the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for best mystery.

“Counterintuitive as it may seem,” Miller writes, “the Scandinavian brand of moroseness can be soothing in hard times. Its roots lie deep in the ancient, pagan literature of the region, preserved in sagas that were first written down in medieval Iceland.”

The genre seems a perfect accompaniment to the gray and glum Minnesota winter we’ll be trudging through for another two or three months. I can’t wait to dig in.

Viking magazine alert: Look in the April issue for recommended Påskekrim (“Easter Thrillers”) to read.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

One Travel Mistake You Won’t Need to Make

While editing “Get on Board!”—Viking’s cover story for January—I was reminded of a Norwegian travel adventure of my own. Actually, a misadventure. To avoid it, I have just three words of advice: Beware Kristi Himmelfartsdag! Not familiar with it? That’s Ascension Day to you and me. And while you might live your whole life unaffected by this day, that would not be the case in Norway.

My husband and I had invited my in-laws to join us on a trip to Northern Norway. We planned the trip using the schedules and resources we found on the Internet, but I missed the crucial fact that public transportation provides limited service on religious holidays--many of which are also federal holidays.

Kristi Himmelfartsdag was the day my husband and I parted ways with his parents. Our bus to Sweden ran as expected, but my in-laws’ bus to the train station didn’t. They missed the only southbound train that day and were left scrambling to find an alternative route back to Oslo. A “memorable,” if not relaxing, experience for them, thanks to my mistake. Good thing they don’t hold grudges.

Just so you aren’t caught unaware, Kristi Himmelfartsdag falls on May 13th in 2010.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Smitten with These Mittens

Every year about this time, I find myself pining for winter wear—or even just an accessory (a hat, a scarf) to freshen up my tired Minnesota winter uniform of black down coat and black fleece-lined boots. Rather than venturing to Macy’s or REI, I decided to do an Internet search for “Norwegian mittens” and happily came across, a website that celebrates all things knitting.

Hello Yarn is a knitting shop in Pennsylvania, and its owner, Adrian Bizilia, is a self-proclaimed knitting fanatic who raves about Selbuvotter: Biography of a Knitting Tradition, Terri Shea’s book about traditional Norwegian stranded mittens. Bizilia blogs, “It is filled with so many beautiful patterns. One pair, called NHM #10, are especially gorgeous and dainty. They are copied from a pair of mittens housed at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, WA, that feature a lovely scroll on the back, as well as the date (1932) and someone’s initials.”

Now the amusing part: I’m not even a knitter. But my mother is, and I can’t wait to give her this book—and maybe some yarn so that she can get started right away on my first pair of Selbu mittens. As she and I discover the tradition of Norwegian Selbu knitting together, I might finally catch the knitting bug, too. My mom would be thrilled!

Photo from

Monday, January 25, 2010

Get on board with these train travel tips

This month’s Viking cover story features the Oslo-Bergen railway, called “northern Europe’s most scenic train ride” by travel writer Rick Steves. If you’re planning to visit Norway, I highly recommend fitting this into your itinerary. Whether you make the trip in as little as seven hours or as much as seven days (as Viking writer Aaron Dalton suggests), you’ll be blown away by the beauty of the experience.

To make the voyage as hassle-free as possible, consider these tips I learned while chatting with Teri Behr, a Scandinavian travel specialist at Brekke Travel.

  1. Make your reservation early. Train travel is a popular mode of transportation in Scandinavia, especially in the summer months. It’s very possible that trains will be full on the days you want to travel.

  2. Consider sending your luggage ahead. If the seats are full, the luggage compartment probably will be too. You can avoid the hassle of traveling with a giant suitcase at your feet by bringing your luggage to the train station the night before you depart. For around $25, you can send a large bag on the (less popular) night train, and it will be waiting in the station when you arrive the next day. This is especially helpful for those planning a “Norway in a Nutshell” excursion, which involves schlepping your luggage on and off the train, ferry and bus.

  3. Find out if you qualify for a discount. If you’re 67 or older, you are eligible for a senior discount. Children under 4 can travel free with an adult and kids 4 to 15 can travel half price. Groups of 10 or more also qualify for a group discount.

  4. Know your options. There are two types of tickets on Norwegian rails: Komfort Class (yes, that’s Komfort with a “K”) and Second Class. Komfort Class includes a seat in a separate compartment, complementary tea and coffee, a Norwegian newspaper, and access to a 2-pin power outlet for your laptop. (Make sure you have the proper adaptor and power converter so your laptop survives the trip!) Komfort Class costs about $18 extra (so, depending on how much coffee you drink, you might come out ahead!). If you prefer to travel overnight, you can book a sleeper car for an additional $170 each way, which will roughly double the cost of your trip.


Here's another post from Nichole about the 2010 Eurovision competition!

Is it really that time again? Indeed, Eurovision qualifying competitions are heating up all over the world, with a lot of action seen in Norway. Contestants are starting to compete for a spot in the Melodi Grand Prix, which qualifies a Norwegian contestant for the international Eurovision competition. You can follow Norway’s progress here.

You’ll recall that the Sons of Norway blog followed last year’s competition, won by Norwegian Alexander Rybak. (Archived posts here and here). But there’s even more reason to keep our eyes on the 55th annual contest as the days progress – the lucky national winners all head to Oslo for the final competition in May!

Check back for updates on Norway’s progression in this fun contest of song.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It’s an Art Shanty? No, it’s a Nordic Shanty!

Today we have an excellent post from Nichole Neuman. Enjoy!

For those members who are blessed to live in warmer climates, know you are the envy of us here in the TC, where temperatures recently reached the epic -12 F. What better way to cope with the miserable cold than heading to a frozen lake to visit an ice shanty? Strike that—make that an art shanty.

For many years now, artists have built these temporary structures on Medicine Lake in Plymouth, MN for four weekends in January and February. It is an excellent way to embrace the weather and fuse artistic values and vision with our natural climate.

This year, Nordic culture will be heartily celebrated on ice with the Nordic Immersion Village Shanty, where visitors will choose a Nordic name and participate in the fun, which includes (and I quote):
∙ dressing up as Vikings
∙ herding imaginary reindeer
∙ choreographing dances to Eurovision songs
∙ learning and participating in Nordic crafts and language classes

For those in the area, members will want to put the dates of January 23rd and 24th in their calendar, for those are the Norwegian days!

More info on the Art Shanty Projects here.

A Look Back at Christmas 2009

I packed up our Christmas decorations earlier this month and, as I seem to do every year, found myself wondering if I’d done enough to bring my Norwegian heritage into my family’s holiday celebration. As a 100-percent Norwegian American married to a “melting pot” American, it’s up to me to carry the heritage torch for our young family—three boys ages seven to three with a fourth addition set to arrive this spring.

This year, as every year, we decorated a small Christmas tree with Norwegian flag garland and knit heart ornaments. We had a traditional meal of torsk, lefse, and Swedish meatballs on Christmas Eve. (My mom reminds us every year that the Swedes “stole” the meatball recipe from the Norwegians, so we’re not being too traitorous in including Swedish meatballs in our Norwegian feast.) On Christmas day we snacked on open-face sandwiches topped with rollepølse and spike mör mail ordered from Renner Corner Locker, in Renner, South Dakota. And my siblings and I shared some stories with our kids about the Christmas celebrations we experienced at our grandparents’ farm in Baltic, South Dakota—a bicentennial homestead settled by my great-great grandparents in 1864 when they emigrated from Trondheim.

But in comparison to my childhood Christmases, which were infused with Norwegian food, baking, language, music and traditions, the Christmases that I’m creating for my children seems much less culturally rich. Was our 2009 Christmas rich in other ways? Absolutely. In fact, my husband and I agreed that, in my ways, this was our favorite Christmas yet.

Still, the hope for a “more Norwegian” 2010 Christmas celebration persists. As a contributing editor to Viking magazine as well as a Sons of Norway member, I would love to hear how your family celebrated your Norwegian heritage this holiday season. Send your ideas and inspirations to me at

The Future's So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)

Greetings everyone! Welcome to the 2010 version of the Sons of Norway blog. As you probably noticed there was a bit of a hiatus in blog posts recently--sorry couldn't be helped. BUT now that we return to business, I've got some great news to share. Starting today I've got a couple new blog contributors who I am really psyched about!

That's right, in addition to my little missives there will be some fresh, new content by a couple of VERY talented writers who also happen to work on Viking magazine. They are going to be contributing weekly to the blog with their clever insight, astute observations and ever-welcome input.

Oh, and did I mention they are both Sons of Norway members? How cool is that?

So, with that, allow me to introduce Amy Boxrud and Heidi Pearson!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. The mother of two grade-schoolers, Amy and her family live in Northfield, Minnesota where she is 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. She is a founding member of Northfield’s Nordic Roots Session and performs with the groups Scandium and Hütenänny.

Sons of Norway member Heidi Pearson serves as a consulting editor to Viking magazine and has written stories for the publication for ten years. A “full-blooded,” fourth-generation Norwegian American and mother of three young children, Heidi is always on the lookout for ways to infuse her family’s busy life with touches of their Nordic heritage. She lives in the Twin Cities.

I'm really excited about this because I think that both Amy and Heidi are going to make some really awesome contributions to this little corner of teh interwebs. Both of them come from very interesting professional backgrounds and I, for one, think this portends great things to come for Sons of Norway and the blog.

Join me in welcoming Amy and Heidi. Their regular blog posts will begin later today and each week there will be plenty of new content for you to enjoy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Viking magazine goes online

Big announcement for Sons of Norway members and friends! Viking magazine has gone digital and is now available online in its entirety to members.

However, as a special surprise, we're making the first month's edition available to EVERYONE! That's right, by clicking here you can read the entire January edition of Viking magazine online. Take a look and let us know what you think--we'd love to hear your feedback!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Nordic Lites: Norway Scores on Soccer Soundtrack

Happy New Years Day!

As I'm sure you've probably read by now, EA Sports' new FIFA 10 video game has a heavy Norwegian flavor with four appearances of Norwegian bands on the game's soundtrack. In celebration of this fact, I've found some online vids of these Norwegian contributions. Enjoy!

Casiokids - Fot i Hose
Datarock - Give it up
Royksopp - It's what I want
The Whitest Boy Alive - 1517