Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Celebrating New Nordic Cuisine

New Nordic cuisine continues to generate a buzz, with recent articles the New York Times and City Pages, the Twin Cities' alternative weekly. Both articles celebrate the thriving Nordic food scene in the Twin Cities, highlighting the success of Bachelor Farmer, the restaurant opened in 2011 by Eric and Andrew Dayton in the Minneapolis warehouse district, and announcing the opening of Fika, the new cafe of the American Swedish Institute.

The New Nordic lovefest continues in Viking. You'll find an interview with Chef Ørjan Johannessen, winner of the prestigious culinary competition Bocuse d'Or Europe 2012,  along with his recipe for Venison Carpaccio "Austevoll" in our August 2012 issue. If sweets are your thing, you'll find dessert recipes from three of Norway's historic hotels in our April 2012 issue. For an overview of the New Nordic food movement, check out Kari Diehl's article in our October 2011 issue. And be sure to stay tuned for our October 2012 issue, where we explore the fusion of traditional Nordic ingredients with the Japanese sushi tradition. God Appetitt! 

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

Monday, July 30, 2012

More Expert Travel Tips

We've got another great post today about tips for traveling to Norway from our friends at Borton Overseas! Last time we learned about planning a self guided tour of the Atlantic Highway, and this time we have an interview with Borton Overseas' Jen Schak about cruise experiences in Norway.

Cruising the Norwegian Fjords
What could be better than waking up every morning by sailing through a beautiful Norwegian fjord, counting the waterfalls as you slowly pass by on your way to a new town that sits along the blue water?
On my Norway cruise we visited Ålesund, Olden, Flåm, Gudvangen, and Bergen over the course of 6 days. I extended my stay in Bergen and flew home from there instead of taking the cruise ship back to the UK, where we originally departed. Check with your cruise line; many will allow you to disembark earlier than their itinerary states.

Type of experience:
Cruise/Land Tour/Active Adventure

Top things to do:
  • In Ålesund, climb the 418 steep stairs up Mount Aksla to reach the Kniven viewpoint. You won’t regret it!
  • Kayak in any fjord you can. Many outfitters provide a grilled picnic lunch if you book a tour.
  • Go white-water rafting in Voss, known as Norway’s adventure capital.
  • Take samples at the waterfront fish market in Bergen and don’t be shy.
  • Ride on the Flåm Railway. The winding ride will take you to new heights.

Don’t forget to pack:
  • A day pack - when you leave the ship for the day you don’t want to have to come back for anything.
  • Water bottle - buying water can be expensive, so fill up on the ship.
  • Water-proof camera to capture the views of the fjords from the water. It’s a great perspective.
  • Small Norwegian dictionary with food and drink translations – with this you can have confidence to dine at off-the-beaten-path Norwegian restaurants that may not have an English menu.

Cruise line:
  • Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is known for its British flair onboard, and for their Norwegian heritage. The company started in Hvitsten, a small town on Oslofjord in Norway, in 1848 by the three Olsen brothers and remains a family run company today. I sailed on the 900-passenger Boudicca from Newcastle, UK.
Travel tip:
  • Bring your Borton Overseas final document book with you! This handmade book will have EVERYTHING you need in it including where you will go, what you will see, and journal pages. Journal every night before you go to bed, even if it’s for 10 minutes. When you get home from your journey you will be able to remember every town, restaurant, fjord, and person that you visited and met along the way!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Decorah Celebrates Nordic Fest

If you're in the Decorah, Iowa, area this weekend, it's a great opportunity to take in the 46th Annual Nordic Fest. The festivities began with opening ceremonies in the Courthouse Square on Thursday evening, and they conclude with an old-time street dance with Decorah's own Footnotes on Saturday night, followed by fireworks. Saturday's events kick-off at 10:30 am with the Grand Parade.

Those with a competitive spirit might consider Saturday's Nordic rock throw, lutefisk eating contest or kubb tournament. If you're an arts lover, you'll enjoy the free entertainment available throughout the weekend, as well as the arts and crafts on exhibit at Vesterheim Museum. Street vendors offer a boatload of Norwegian delicacies, including kringle, lefse and Norwegian meatballs on a stick. If you go, you'll want to download a copy of the event program for more details.

While this weekend is a wonderful time to visit Decorah, you can enjoy the area any day. Check out "Statewide Tastes of Norway" in the August issue of Viking to plan your next getaway to the Norwegian-American meccas of Decorah, Clifton, Texas or Poulsbo, Wash.

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, July 26, 2012

What Can For-Profit Companies Learn From the Fraternal Model?

This morning a I read a very interesting article about for-profit auto insurance companies on USA Today's website.

After spending a number of years using humorous ads and memorable, comedic spokespeople, the lesson learned is that humor doesn't sell financial products. Now the companies mentioned in the article are moving away from humorous ads to "a series of slice-of-life vignettes aimed at generating an emotional connection."

On the one hand, this is smart decision-making because if you learn that your marketing efforts aren't working and are big enough to acknowledge that fact, the best thing you can do is try a different approach.

On the other hand, for anyone who belongs to or works for a Fraternal Benefit Society, like Sons of Norway, then this is really not news. The reason being that since the beginning of the fraternal movement our focus has always been on the member. We've known for a long time that the key to growth is focusing on the member experience, as well as the protection and peace of mind they enjoy when they own a fraternal life insurance product.

Maybe the problem is that for-profit companies view the people they serve as "customers" or individuals who are merely buying a product, while fraternals have members, who not only purchase insurance, but are also part of something much larger and more meaningful? Personally, I think that's the key: make your audience's experience meaningful, not just beneficial. Again, this is something that fraternal organizations are experts in. If we weren't, we wouldn't have lasted as long as we have and that's the simple truth.

The next time you are at a lodge meeting, or for those who will be in Fargo this summer for the International Convention, think about why Sons of Norway is meaningful to you and what makes it meaningful. If you've got some thoughts already please share them with us in the comments section below.

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 22 Memorials Held This Weekend

In remembrance of the terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utøya, Norway, Friday July 22, 2011, there's probably going to be a number of memorials happening throughout the United States and Canada this weekend. One that's happening close to where I live is a memorial service that's going to be held at Mindekirken, the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church in Minneapolis, on Sunday, July 22, 2012.

This Sunday's event marks the one year anniversary of the tragic 2011 attack in Norway that left 77 dead and more than 300 injured. It was the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II and an average of one in four Norwegians knew a victim affected by the attacks. This is an especially poignant memorial since many throughout the U.S. (especially within the Midwest) and Canada have friends and relatives in Norway.

In a statement from Rev. Kristin Sundt, Mindekirken's pastor, she said “Minnesota has nearly 900,000 citizens of Norwegian descent and it is fitting we honor those who perished or were injured last year. The presiding bishop of the Church of Norway, Rev. Helga Haugland Byfuglien said that the July 22, 2011 pain did not have the final word with Norwegians. It brought together the nation and its descendants from around the world in love, peace and understanding. We will continue this fellowship on July 22.”

If you're in the Minneapolis area and would like to join in the memorial, the service will begin at 11am on Sunday, July 22.

Now, after learning about this memorial service, I got to wondering about how many others were being held this weekend. Is there a remembrance or memorial happening in your community? If so, leave a comment below and let Sons of Norway know about it because this is a time to join together in our support of Norway and its citizens who are still healing after a tragic day.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Song for Norway

It’s been nearly a year since the tragic attacks in Oslo and Utoya on July 22, 2011. With the first anniversary coming up in a couple weeks, I’m beginning to hear about a lot of different memorials happening in the U.S. and Norway. There will be outdoor wreath laying ceremonies, church services and concerts celebrating the lives of those who were lost during the tragic events.

Recently I was made aware of another kind of memorial, or tribute, if you will, to those affected by the attacks. Singer/songwriter James Rogers who performs at Dollywood in Tennessee, wrote a song reflecting his grief and solidarity with the Norwegian people.  Calling it the Song for Norway, James has created a musical “card” from America to our friends and strong allies in Norway. 

He sang this song before an appreciative audience including the Norwegian Ambassador and his wife and the members of Sons of Norway’s Hampton Roads lodge 3-522, on March 31 in Virginia Beach.

It’s a very pretty song and I hope everyone enjoys it as much as our members in Virginia Beach did.

Is there a July 22 Memorial happening in your community? If so, let us know about it in the comments section below.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Expert Travel Tips

Often when planning a trip, especially one that will take you overseas, it can all seem so overwhelming. Not only do you have the logistics to plan, but you may also feel stressed about what you want to do while there. You know you have a finite amount of time and don't want to waste a single minute or miss out on anything, right? Well Sons of Norway is here to help.

If you are considering a trip to Norway in the near future, then the Sons of Norway blog has got a great new resource for you! Starting today and continuing over the coming weeks we at the blog are working with the good folks at Borton Overseas, interviewing some of their most knowledgeable team members about traveling in Norway. In each blog post they will share their expertise and insight on a variety of topics, including types of experiences, things to see and do, and special packages available from Borton.

With that, let's start with our interview with Elaine Peik, Borton Overseas' Scandinavia Director.

This past April, Elaine explored an area of Norway for the first time, which is hard to believe because she has traveled extensively throughout Norway during her 13 years of selling Scandinavia. The Atlantic Road zigzags across low bridges that extend out over the sea, linking the islands between Molde and Kristiansund in the western fjords of Norway. The impressive road connects island to island, across eight bridges. The tallest bridge, Storseisundet Bridge, has a dramatic and beautiful curve and almost brings an artistic perspective into the technique of building bridges.

Type of experience:
Sightseeing/Self Drive/Adventure

Tips for traveling to this location: 
Best if done by car so you can stop along the way and enjoy the magnificent bridge structures and architecture.

Top 5 things to see:

  • The bridges of The Atlantic Road, only just finished in 1989, these bridges now connect islands that once took hours to travel to and from by ferry; now it can be done in a few hours by car. 
  • The city of Molde, also known as the City of Roses. Make a stop at the cathedral and the Varden overlook.
  • The fishing village of Bud which was one of the largest between Bergen and Trondheim in the 16th and 17th centuries. 
  • The city of Håholmen, once an old fishing community, is a great area to enjoy the sea.
  • The Norwegian Klipfish museum on the island of Gomalandet near Kristiansund. Take the ferry from the pier in Kristiansund to discover the method of making Klipfish (salted dried fish) and the trade of it to other European countries and beyond in the 1690’s.

Top 5 things to do:
  • Kayaking, fishing, scuba diving, or paddle boarding in Håholmen.
  • Stay at Hotel Håholmen Havstuer. Its location on a nearby island offers beautiful ocean views.
  • Stop in Bud and visit the Ergan Coastal Fort and enjoy the exceptional views over the fishing village of Bud and the waters of Hustadvika.
  • Listen to music in Molde at the annual jazz festival in July. 
  • Visit the fisheries museum on the island of Hjertøya, learn about local culture, have a picnic lunch or go for a walk along guided paths.

How can Borton Overseas help you get there and have a great experience? 
We can help you plan your entire itinerary including flights, car rental, hotel stays, and even pre-booking your activities so you can maximize your time in Norway.

Package: Atlantic Road, Norway 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

An Interview With Erlend Viken

Back in March I had the pleasure of interviewing Norwegian fiddler Erlend Viken of Earlybird Stringband for our "Norway to Nashville" feature in Viking's July issue. While a student at Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, Viken began playing American folk music with classmates, and the Earlybird Stringband was born. Since 2005, the group has released two albums, both of which have been nominated for the spellemannsprisen (Norway's grammy equivalent). While Viken is quoted in our July article, there was a lot more to that conversation that didn't find its way into the story. Here are Viken's thoughts on bluegrass, old-time, Norwegian folk music influences and more.

Viking: Did the Earlybird Stringband meet in music school?
Erlend Viken: Yeah, in music academy…. Me and Olav Christer [Rossebø], he plays mandolin in the band, we studied folk music at the academy, and the others studied jazz. So we talked about just coming together and starting a bluegrass band because the vocalist Hanz Martin [Austestad], he bought a banjo, and Christian [Skaugen], he’s actually a drummer, he bought a dobro. We wanted to start a band to have fun, not a serious thing. So we did.

V: You’ve listened to American folk for a long time. What were your early influences?
EV: Before I started playing bluegrass, I had played some old-time for some years. I heard this recording with Bruce Molsky. So that was the first time I was interested in old-time music.

V: How prevalent is American old-time music in Norway? 
EV: Bluegrass has wide appeal. I guess old-time is also pretty popular. There’s quite a lot of bluegrass bands in Norway. Maybe some because of “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”

V: Was there a surge in popularity after that movie?
EV: Yeah. And of course “Deliverance.”

V: Did you and your group learn mainly by listening to recordings?
EV: Yeah, we did. We studied old recordings and how they played together, how they used the instruments. And what functions the different instruments had. We figured out how to play with all these instruments together and make it sound good. So we played all these old songs, and then we started making our own, and composing our own songs.

V: Is there anything Norwegian you bring to the sound? 
EV: Yeah. I’ve got comments that people think that it’s cool that our band, because we are also Norwegian folk musicians, several of us, they say they hear the Norwegian folk music also in our band.

V: What do you think they hear?
EV: It’s small details here and there. When I play, you can hear a certain trill in a certain way that they maybe don’t do here. And small details, for example in our fiddle playing—that is very Norwegian.

V: Have you had the opportunity to play here in the bluegrass tradition or old-time tradition?
EV: Yeah, I’ve had some jam sessions with some old-time musicians. But I haven’t played it in concerts.

V: Do people ever wonder why you play American music?
EV: I guess I have gotten questions, but not often because American culture is very deep in Europe, maybe especially in Norway. … I know friends who play many different styles, and so I think with my generation it’s usual to learn different types of music from different countries.

V: Are there challenges to playing bluegrass or playing a tradition you didn’t grow up with?
EV: Yes, you know Norwegian folk music—I grew up with it. I have that under my skin. But bluegrass, it’s a lot of different challenges. Like improvising, that was very new to me.

V: And that’s a big part of the tradition, isn’t it?
EV: Yeah, you don’t have to improvise, but it’s a big part of the bluegrass style. And of course, they use some other trills and some other styles, more improvisation. That is something I still work with and I don’t feel like I have the bluegrass style under my skin like I have the Norwegian style.

V: Did you know the music before you came to the states?
EV: I knew the music before I came here the first time, yeah.

V: Do you feel like having studied the music changed your impression or your feeling about the states? 
EV: Yeah, I think so yeah. I feel like I know the culture better. … When I’ve worked close with some music, for me then the country feels closer.

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

Monday, July 9, 2012

Coming Soon to Viking: Sami Education

I just finished writing a feature on the history of Sami education for the September issue of Viking. While doing my research, I was reminded of some of the great resources available out there. This video, called "We are the Sami," is found on the website of Galdu: The Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I first came across this site a couple of years ago when I was helping my daughter do some research for a school project.

After learning about Galdu, I was fortunate to hear its founder, Sami rights pioneer Magne Ove Varsi, when he spoke at St. Olaf College last year. His lecture on the rights of indigenous people around the world is still available on the St. Olaf website.

On a lighter topic: Did you know that the Sami hold their own Grand Prix music contest each year in Kautokeino, Norway? The winner goes on to represent the Sami in Liet International, an annual festival for musicians who speak Europe's minority languages. Just for fun, here's a link to the winner for 2012, Inger Karoline Gaup.

Stay tuned—you can read about the history of Sami education in the September 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. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Calling all Norwegians, or those who want to be!

Starting today there’s a couple of great events happening on the web that Sons of Norway members might be interested in. Long time Sons of Norway supporters at the Bloomington Convention and Visitors Bureau are hosting a contest and online auction with some Scandinavian goodies up for grabs.

First, from today through the 12th of July, the Bloomington CVB is holding a contest on their Facebook page for the best recipe that uses lefse as an ingredient. The submitter with best recipe will win a free Uff Da! apron, which they can wear with pride in the kitchen or even while making some tasty salmon on the grill. All you have to do to enter the contest is visit the CVB’s Facebook page, “like” the page and then post your recipe. It’s as simple as that! Once the contest is closed, a winner will be chosen and notified.

Recipes can be for lefse, itself, or other foods that contain our favorite flatbread, like lefse pizza, pølse med lompe, or lefse chips are all eligible for this great contest! I plan to post a recipe I have later today, and I hope you’ll join me. This is going to be a lot of fun to see how many people can come up with different recipes!

The other exciting element is an online auction, hosted by the CVB, with a number of really cool items up for bid, including shiny, new lefse griddle package! If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at making your own lefse, this is a great opportunity, because the winning bidder will have all the tools they need to get started. Not only will they receive a lefse board and griddle, they will also receive a copy of all the recipes that were entered into the Facebook contest! 

To view all the great things available through the online auction, click here, and be sure to bid! There’s a lot of great items to bid on (I’m eying the lefse griddle and family getaway packages, myself).

So, let’s get moving and start posting our recipes! That’s where I’m headed right now, in fact.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Gratulerer med dagen, Your Majesties!

While today is Independence Day in the U.S., it's also a day of great celebration in Norway. Today is the Queen's birthday! All throughout Norway, the day is being commemorated in a number of ways; people are gathering to wish Her Majesty the best of days and many to come, an official coin has been struck to mark the 75th Birthday's of both Their Majesties, and even Sons of Norway undertook a special project to celebrate the event.

Back in May we sent out a call to children throughout the organization, asking them to help us create a birthday present for Their Majesties, which was fitting because of their long-held dedication to the youth of Norway. Over the course of a couple weeks, dozens of children from all over North America sent us their drawings, containing heartfelt birthday messages. We then took those special drawings and had them bound in a special gift book dedicated by all of Sons of Norway.

The book was then delivered to the Palace by Sons of Norway CEO, Eivind Heiberg, to Their Majesties Deputy Private Secretary with a birthday message and a greeting from the entire organization.

So, with that, let's all join together in wishing both Their Majesties a rousing gratulerer med dagen!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Keeping Tabs on Kon-Tiki

This terrific poster for the original 1950 "Kon-Tiki" movie caught my eye on Facebook the other day. Ever since we interviewed actor Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen for the November 2011 issue of Viking, I've been anticipating the release of the new "Kon-Tiki" movie. Originally scheduled to come out this spring, the movie's revised release date has been pushed back to August 24—not too surprising, given it's Norway's biggest and most expensive film production to date.

If, like me, you're eagerly awaiting the film's release, don't despair: there are plenty of ways to catch a little Kon-Tiki fever in the mean time. How about watching the original, Oscar-winning "Kon-Tiki" documentary? In addition to checking out the new film's official Facebook page, you can follow "Thor Heyerdahl" on Twitter or track the crew on Google Maps as they make their way across the Pacific. (How fun is that? C'mon, you know Thor would have tweeted if he could have!) If you're in Norway, check out the Kon-Tiki museum, which is one of Norway's most popular. And of course you can always watch the official trailer below. 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.