Sunday, September 30, 2012

Across the Ocean to Oslo: Part 2

September’s Viking cover story had some great advice from five young North American professionals who have moved to Norway. Earlier this month we shared Kara Eliason's extended interview with Elizabeth Moorhead Halvorsen. Read on to learn more about Lixian Cheng.

Lixian Cheng

Hometown: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Where she works in Oslo: I currently work as student advisor for the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo. In addition, I work with international student exchange and the department’s Ph.D. program.

Why she moved: I moved to Oslo in 2007 to do a Master’s at the University of Oslo, where I worked on issues of multiculturalism and integration in the Norwegian theater sector.

The best part about living and working in Norway: There’s a great respect in the Norwegian workplace for having a healthy work-life balance that I really appreciate. As an outdoors junkie, this means that I get ample opportunity to take advantage of Norway’s beautiful nature.

The most challenging part of relocating to Norway: As a foreigner one often arrives with few contacts—it’s integral to spend time getting yourself out there and building your network.

Favorite place to spend free time in Oslo: On a sunny day, the islands in the Oslofjord are the best place to be. You can swim, barbecue, even camp on one of the islands—all this just a short ferry ride away from downtown Oslo. If the weather’s bad (and hey, this is Norway after all), you can find me playing backgammon or curled up with a book in one of the cafés in Grønland, central Oslo’s most vibrant and diverse neighborhood. 

Advice for others considering a move to Norway: Learning Norwegian is key, even though the majority of the population speaks English at a high level. Much of the private sphere operates in Norwegian—so you’ll need the language as your ticket in! Learning Norwegian is also essential in increasing your job prospects. Lykke til! (Good luck!)

Photo by Nancy Bundt.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Viking Talks Fashion with Siv Elise Seland

The September issue of Viking features Norwegian fashion designer Siv Elise Seland. After sharpening her design skills in Milan, she launched iiS of Norway, a company that adds a touch of glamour to traditional Norwegian knitwear—some made from eco-friendly fabrics. (To learn more about sustainable fashion in Scandinavia, check out our cover story in the February issue of Viking.) Here’s an extended interview with Seland by Megan Willett.

Viking: When did you know you wanted to have a career in fashion and design?
Siv Elise Seland: Around 20 years old, I had a “stage” with a local designer. I was her secretary when she had just started her company. I was her right hand—doing accounting, some modeling, and followed her very closely. That was very interesting to me, and I think that’s when I knew I wanted a career in clothing design.

V: Why did you go back to Norway instead of taking a position with Versace?
SES: Going back to Norway happened some months after the offer. I was hoping to go to Tokyo or Paris, but I wanted to have a family. I had to make a choice because if I had children and was working at a national fashion company, I would not earn that much money. I would work for several years just to have a position as a fashion designer, and that’s if you’re sacrificing a lot. I really wanted a family and the chance to create my own dream. And my mother had started a fashion company (Davina) some years earlier, so there was so much already lying there to work with. I decided I wanted that life more, and I wanted to see what I could develop on my own and together with my mother in Norway.

V: How did you become interested in sustainable fashions?
SES: Right now just a small part of my collection is eco-friendly and produced by Recycled Rule, which is a producer in France. I think this idea grew from when I was studying in Denmark. There was a lot of information at that time about sustainable fashion and we had a lot of people talking about how conventional cotton is grown and how polluting and damaging it can be to farmers, the environment, and also for people. When you’re wearing the materials, there’s still a lot of pesticides and bad stuff in the fibers. I think that was an eye opener for me, and I believe there could be a lot more information about this available for people to read. I think a lot of consumers would react if they really knew how bad it is, because growing cotton especially is very damaging to the environment. It’s a future goal for our company to have 95 percent of the whole collection produced with eco-friendly fabrics. We are very eager to make this goal a reality because we view it as our responsibility as a growing company.

V: Where did the idea for your clothing line, iiS, come from?
SES: We wanted to create a fashion line that was mainly about knitwear because we had a lot of experience in traditional ethnic knitwear. We wanted to make the regional, traditional knitwear fashionable again, and make it cool and available not only for Norwegian mountain youth, but also to wear to work or to parties. We added sequins and designed it to be more glamorous, or more so than the traditional wool fibers. We wanted to make something beautiful and something that had a strong identity to our Norwegian culture.

V: How has Norway influenced you and inspired your aesthetic as a fashion designer?
SES: Quite a lot. It’s the basis of each collection and is a great inspiration for me. I chose to come back to Norway because I love my country a lot. I love nature. I love the cleanliness and the space that we have here. I’m kind of an urban girl, and I love staying in Milan and going to big cities, but I think I need both city life and nature to feel a little bit more balanced.

V: What’s your personal style?
SES: I think it’s very eclectic. I love to mix different styles and I’m not so concerned about what’s in or out of fashion. I dress how I feel and how I want to dress. I like mixing second hand stuff, my own stuff, designers’ wear and chain store wear.

V: Where can we purchase your designs?
SES: We have a web shop where you can purchase them ( We ship worldwide.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New Fundraiser: Sons of Norway Foundation Auction

Are you on the lookout for a new addition to your personal collection of Scandinavian heritage items? Or maybe a special gift for a loved one?

If so, then the Sons of Norway Foundation has a great opportunity coming up. On October 1, 2012, the Foundation will be offering a number of unique items and experiences to be auctioned off to raise money for their scholarship and grant programs! All the items will be available for preview starting next week on the 24th. Once the preview is open, we’ll be posting a link here.

In the meantime, if you have an item you’d like to donate to the auction, or know somebody you might, please click on the Donate Items link on this page. Also if you know someone who might be interested in bidding on any of these great items in order to help the Foundation succeed, please click the Refer a Friend link below. Be sure to let all your friends know about this great opportunity and encourage them to participate!

About the Sons of Norway Foundation
If you are unfamiliar with the Foundation, it is the philanthropic arm of Sons of Norway that awards scholarships and grants to promote the heritage and culture of Norway, and provide assistance to our members, lodges and their communities. Since 1966 they have awarded over $1,000,000 in grants and scholarships to our members, lodges and their communities. As Sons of Norway continues to flourish and create new initiatives, the Sons of Norway Foundation will continue its support.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Show Your Heritage This Christmas!

Christmas is a joyous time of year when people come together in good cheer and celebrate family traditions. For many in the Sons of Norway family, that means celebrating their Norwegian heritage.  For that reason, I’m happy to announce that we are releasing the official 2012 limited edition commemorative Christmas ornament for sale, beginning today!

This year’s ornament beautifully displays an American-Rogaland style of rosemaling, which was inspired and developed by Vi Thode of Stoughton, Wisconsin, after studying with Norwegian master painter Bergljot Lunde.

Subtle shading going from very dark to very light on each segment of the design demands excellent brush control and symmetrical precision not found in other styles of painting from Norway.  Bright colors were used on dark backgrounds in various shades of blue, red, yellow and green that harmonized with each other and the background.  The shading, cross-hatching, colorful tulips and bonnet flowers, and lots of teardrops are very common in most designs making this style very pleasing to view.  

Remember, this year’s ornament is a limited edition and it will sell out fast, so don’t wait to place your orders. To get your own ornament, or to purchase them as gifts for your friends and family, all you have to do is call 800-945-8851.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy Roald Dahl Day!

If you're a Facebook or Twitter user, you may already know that today is Roald Dahl Day! I was pleased to read about it on my morning bus commute, and it seems like perfect timing, since I'm currently working on a story about Dahl, written by Olivia Herstein, for the November issue of Viking.

I think most people are familiar with Dahl's work. (Anyone heard of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," " James and the Giant Peach," or "Matilda," by any chance?) But while his work is well-known, readers are probably less familiar with the author's life. For example, did you know that Dahl, who was born in Wales, was the son of two Norwegians? You might have read his story "The Witches," but did you know that the author created the wise and wonderful Grandmother character as a tribute to his own mother, Sofie? You also might be surprised to learn that Dahl spent his summers with his family on the Norwegian island of Tjøme, which he called "the greatest place on Earth."

To learn more about Roald Dahl's life and his Norwegian influences, be sure to check out 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. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Across the Ocean to Oslo

This month's Viking cover story offers insights and tips from five young North American professionals who have moved across the pond and carved out new lives for themselves in Norway. They offered our readers so much great advice that we couldn't fit it all in the magazine! Read on for Kara Eliason's extended interview with Elizabeth Moorhead Halvorsen, who lives with her Norwegian husband in Oslo. And be sure to check back for more extended interviews throughout the month of September!

Elizabeth Moorhead Halvorsen
Hometown: Eden Prairie, Minn.

Where she works in Oslo: I have several jobs. I have a 25 % position at the French school in Oslo teaching English. I have a 50% position working for Lingu Nordic, where my title is Academic Director. This means that I am in charge of setting up the course schedule each semester, hiring and assigning teachers to the various courses, ensuring that the teachers are prepared for their classes, helping students with questions and sign ups, and thinking of ways to keep improving the school. I also teach English and Norwegian on a freelance basis.

The best part about working in Norway: It’s the feeling of security and relaxation that comes from knowing that I get paid enough to pay my bills and more, and that if I need to go to the doctor, I can go. When I was living and working in the United States there was always a feeling of stress about the choices that had to be made. Should I pay more for food? Or should I save up in case I need to see a doctor this year? Can a really afford to go out with friends?

I also think it is fantastic to be so close to Europe. It is relatively cheap and easy to travel throughout Europe. It is also relatively easy to get to Asia and the Americas. It is definitely an adventure to be so connected to the rest of the world, especially when you love traveling as much as I do.

The biggest challenge of moving to Norway: Starting out was challenging. Finding a job in Norway is not the same as in the United States. The process is different, the expectations are different, and it is not always clear how to get your foot in the door. I think it is especially hard for Americans who are used to working hard and doing well. Not only is the work ethic different, but many believe it is just as honorable and worthwhile to work in the cash lane at a grocery store as to work as a professor at a University, and I think that mindset is very different from the American way of thinking.

Where she spends her free time: I love to spend my time by water no matter where I am. In Oslo this often means sitting or walking along Aker Brygge. I also like taking hikes in the woods surrounding the city, especially if that walk will take me near a stream or lake. In the winter I like to take advantage of the many ski trails in the area.

Advice to others moving to Norway: For Americans considering the move, I would first of all recommend that you check out the visa situation. It is pretty much impossible to move here unless you are studying or have married a Norwegian.

Once the visa is sorted out, I would say that it is important to learn how to fit in while maintaining your own identity. Learning the language and culture of the people will help you to feel more at home and have an easier time getting to know the people and country. At the same time, Norwegians are not going to reach out to you, so let your American side shine and say hello. Your new neighbors may be a bit surprised at first, but once that ice is broken you will find out that they are really nice, caring people. It is also helpful to join clubs or groups that do things you like to do. You will have fun, make friends, and feel much more at home.

Photo by Nancy Bundt.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fine Dining at En To Tre

It's that time of year again when people throughout Norway and North America are finalizing their plans to travel to Minot, ND for Norsk Høstfest, the largest Scandinavian Festival anywhere!

This year promises to be very special with all the entertainment and dining options available to the tens of thousands of attendees. One that we’d like to draw special attention to is the return of En To Tre, the ultimate dining experience in Oslo Hall.

Each day at Norsk Høstfest, professional Scandinavian chefs from around the world will be preparing a variety of Nordic delicacies for everyone to enjoy in a couple of different ways. First, there is the authentic Norwegian buffet, which offers Norway’s best foods in a hot and cold buffet that includes a range of Scandinavian seafood, meats, cheeses, breads, jams and more! The buffet is offered every day from 11am to 1pm.

The other option, which is definitely my favorite, is the fine dining experience. Here you will indulge in a three-course dinner menu that includes selections of seafood and meat, decadent desserts and a selection of Gård Vintners wine.

Whichever you choose, it’s truly an experience to behold! Space definitely fills up quickly, so don’t wait to make your reservations for this oasis of peaceful, fine dining at Norsk Høstfest. To make your reservations today, visit or call (701) 852-2368.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Norwegian Experience Day 7: Isfjorden

Isfjorden from the south shore near DeGeerdalen, Svalbard, Norway.

Today Rob Kodalen and his wife Donna, our Norwegian Experience winners, are making their last pass by Spitsbergen aboard the MS Fram, courtesy of Borton Overseas and Sons of Norway. Did you miss the past few days of trip coverage? Check out our daily blog posts here.

As the last day of sightseeing, Rob and Donna will be spending the day enjoying the sights of the Isfjorden. In central Spitsbergen, the Isfjorden is the largest fjord system in Svalbard. One of the most prominent mountains here is Alkhorn, where thousands of Brünnich’s guillemots nest during the summer season. In the afternoon the expedition team will search for a fitting bay where tour participants can make their last expedition landing.

Be sure to check back to the blog in the next few weeks for our wrap up interview with Rob about the big trip, and don’t forget you too can be eligible to win the Norwegian Experience contest! All you have to do is recruit one new, dues-paying member and make sure your name is listed in the “referred by” field. Entries are taken from members recruited between January 1st and December 31st, 2012. Also, remember that you can enter as many times as you recruit throughout the year, which increases your chances of winning!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Norwegian Experience Day 6: South Spitsbergen National Park & Hornsund

Small iceberg in Hornsund by Flickr user heatherlyone
Today Rob Kodalen and his wife Donna, our Norwegian Experience contest winners,  are making their way along the southern coast of Spitsbergen aboard the MS Fram, courtesy of Borton Overseas and Sons of Norway. Not following our blog posts about the big trip? Catch up here.

The highlight of today’s travels is a visit to Hornsund. This fjord faces the Greenland Sea, and is just under seven and a half miles wide and 18 and a half miles long. The landscape of Hornsund is alpine with some very special mountains like Bautaen, or in English, the Obelisk, which, seen from the right angle looks like a giant Viking sword.

Southern Spitsbergen is largely comprised of South Spitsbergen National Park, a national park and bird sanctuary established by Norway in 1973 in the southern corner of the island of Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. With an area of 2,046 square miles, the park has four separate bird sanctuaries located off the southern and western coasts: Sørkapp, Dunøyene, Isøyene, and Olsholmen. Eider ducks and barnacle geese breed at the park, and there are several seabird colonies. Large areas of the park are covered with glaciers and permanent snow and ice.

Be sure to check back to the blog tomorrow to find out where Rob and Donna will be next!

"Snowshoe" Thompson Screenplay in L.A.

I was recently contacted by screenwriter Aaron Lerner, who is working on a new screenplay based on the life of Norwegian-American John "Snowshoe" Thompson. He's inviting Sons of Norway members in the Los Angeles area to a sneak peek of his project by attending a table reading of the screenplay at 7 pm Sept. 12 at Howard Fine Acting Studio in Los Angeles.

Lerner describes his project: Set during the California gold rush, a Norwegian immigrant accepts a death-defying challenge to transport the U.S. mail across the mountains. He proposes to use homemade wooden skis, something never seen before in the West. Friends and family think he’s crazy. Gamblers and miners make bets he will not return. Undaunted, he carries hundreds of pounds of mail on his back, survives life-threatening ordeals in the mountains, and proves that he can ski across the Sierras.

The event is open to the public, but seating is limited and RSVPs are suggested. For information, contact Lerner at

Snowshoe Thompson is just one of many Norwegian Americans with a great story. To learn more about Knut Rockne, Ole Rølvaag, Fred Kavli and others, check out the February 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. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Norwegian Experience Days 3, 4 & 5: North East Spitsbergen Nature Reserve and Edgøya

Bearded Seal at Monaco Glacier by Flickr user kerryinlondon
Saturday and Sunday are sure to be full of wonderful sights for our Norwegian Experience contest winner, Rob Kodalen and his wife Donna. They are aboard the MS Fram off the coast of Spitsbergen enjoying a spectacular cruise courtesy of Borton Overseas and Sons of Norway. On Saturday they will be exploring some of the most remote areas of the Svalbard Archipelago. Perhaps even reaching Sjuøyane, the cluster of islands at nearly 81º N, which are closer to the Geographical North Pole than any other landmass in Europe.   

Svalbard Polar Bear by Flickr user kerryinlondon
Another stop along the way will be the giant Woodfjorden system on the Northern side of Spitsbergen. Which is home to the enormous and fast moving Monaco Glacier. In front of this dramatic glacier the mixing of fresh and saline water creates excellent feeding grounds for sea birds. The Jotunkjeldane thermal springs in another branch of the Woodfjorden system are unique – they are the northernmost documented thermal springs on Earth.

On Sunday they will be visiting the spectacular bird cliff of Alkefjellet, which is referred to as the Piccadilly Circus of seabirds; its 300m spires rise directly from the sea and create perfect nesting conditions. Tens of thousands of breeding pairs of Brunich’s guillemots as well as Kittywakes and Glaucous gulls nest in this area.

Brunnich's Guillemots at Alkefjellet from Arjen Drost on Vimeo.

Monday will bring a visit to Edgeøya, the third largest island in Svalbard, and the South West Svalbard Nature Reserve. The reserve is rich with wildlife, especially polar bears, reindeer, walrus, sea birds and geese. Navigating the Storfjorden also yields spectacular views of the east coast of Spitsbergen.

Be sure to check back to the blog on Tuesday as we update you on the next Norwegian Experience destination on the cruise!