Monday, 31 May 2010

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Things Take (a frustratingly long) Time

Since this blog is meant to be about interior design, I suppose it’s time to invite you all inside the house. (Just wished I had tidied first…) Hilltop House is a relatively large house by Norwegian standards, approximately 300 square meters (3.200 ft2). One should think that the two of us would have enough space but somehow clutter seems to be everywhere. Where does it all come from?

MEMORY OF GRANDMA. This old paraffin lamp came from my grandmother’s home. I have no idea how old it is, but it’s dear to me.

When we first moved in Husfruen was full of plans for all the things we were going to do in the first few months; redecorate the kitchen, paint over the horrible baby pink walls in the hallway, build a library from scratch in the downstairs spare room, build a patio in the backyard and tear down a part of the upstairs hallway to make space for a huge bathroom. And maybe, in my spare time, I’d do some craft; embroider a national costume or two perhaps. Oh, and (this really goes without saying but still…) loose a few kilos at the same time.

And how much have we done? You guessed it, not a lot.
After the final piece of furniture and the last box had been hauled inside and put into place, our arms felt two inches longer. (Books are heavy, so we really ought to get library cards soon. I wish shiny, lovely dust jackets were easier to resist.) All we had the energy to do was sit and stare catatonically at each other, but not for long, for we had a wedding to plan.

A MUST-HAVE. I’m sure you’ll all agree that candles are one of life’s necessities, and they obviously need pretty little lanterns to shine out of.

THE NOOK with winged chairs from Slettvoll. They’re a bit old now, but they have been reupholstered and still look ok.

All I can say about that is that the house was tidy and clean when the wedding guests arrived, though I sincerely hope none of them ventured down into the cellar when exploring the house. After all, we had to throw all the clutter someplace. To digress a little: The guests who had arrived a few days early probably felt as though they were being thrown the same way. The day before the wedding Husfruen, in a fit of cleaning frenzy, sent them, along with Hubby, out of the house and wouldn’t let them back in before the house was ship shape. They came back to find the living rooms locked and barred with a note saying: “Keep out!” They were allowed to enter the downstairs den, under strict orders that there would be no moving anything and that there under no circumstances would be any eating of crisps or other crumbly food. Hubby senior (Hubby’s dad, that is) looked a bit put off but I thought I could see a humorous glimpse of understanding in my mother in law’s eyes.
If anyone is worried: Our wedding day turned out to be fantastic - sunshine and romance all the way. And everybody admired the house.

OLDE WORLD. Husfruen has a soft spot for English reproduction furniture. The right accessories are important too.
Still, despite being tired and worn out, Husfruen’s imagination and creativity couldn’t quite be kept in check for long afterwards. There were just so many possibilities here; the house was a blank canvas. Hubby on the other hand couldn’t quite see what the heck the point was of starting to redecorate just as soon as we had got everything into place but he was gently nudged and persuaded into activity. (Perhaps not so gently, according to the man himself, but then again, are there any housewives out there who manage to get anything done around the house without nagging at all? If so, tell me the secret, please.)
Anyway, Hubby rose to the occasion and did a great job in the kitchen. We’ll show you that soon. 

By and by we’ll get around to doing everything we have planned, and sooner rather than later you will get a proper tour of the house, we promise, but today we’ll just let you have a few glimpses of it all. As you’ll be able to see, it’s a far cry from the shabby chic, white style we see so much of in Norwegian blogs. We tend to go more for the classical English style, with bits of travel memorabilia thrown in here and there.  Enjoy!

CULTURE FUSION. This frame was made by a wood carver in Ubud, Bali; a place famous for their talented craftsmen. The workmanship is just amazing and I love the art nouveau inspired flowers and curves combined with the very Indonesian bird. I did not want the frame to compete for attention with a picture, so I fitted it with a mirror.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Howdy folks

Well, Husfruen had planned to be quite a bit more sophisticated when she presented her first cooking post on the blog but alas, it was not to be. Tonight’s dinner was as far from cordon bleu cooking as it is possible to come. It would probably have Nigella running in horror. It was pretty tasty though.
We were in the thank-God-it’s-Friday mood and after a hard day’s work we were too worn out to spend hours in the kitchen, so we ended up with a quick meal of cowboy food – bacon, sausages and eggs on toast with mushrooms and baked beans in tomato sauce. All washed down with a cold beer.  (Also known as a Full English Breakfast, but when consumed in the evening accompanied by a beer, we call it Cowboy Dinner.)

Hubby thought it was just the right thing for a hungry man who’s been slaving away in the garden for hours. He also found the perfect musical accompaniment to get us into the country and western mood: Chet Atkins and Mark Knofler having fun together. The Tyneside lad can certainly hold his own, in the company of the Tennessee country music legend. Just listen for yourself. That's some seriously good guitar picking.

The music triggered Hubby’s dancing feet, so he persuaded Husfruen to do a little waltz around the kitchen, bumping into chairs and almost knocking down glasses.
Hope y’all have a lovely Friday evening as well. 

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Norsk side kommer

Vi har valgt å ha bloggen vår på engelsk fordi vi har så mange venner og bekjente i utlandet. Men, allerede nå er det mange som har etterlyst norsk tekst. Sylvia, som har den kjempeflotte "Hjemmebest"-bloggen, foreslo Google translator. Det prøvde jeg - med ganske festlig resultat. Bare sjekk dette sitatet:
På motsatt side av huset et par blå puppene er hekkende under flisene også. De er ikke så opptatt det virker. Kanskje litt blåmeis babyer ikke spiser så mye.
Vel, vi ikke egentlig sinn har husokkupanter rundt. Vi skal ikke prøve og sleng dem med en stor regningen for leie eller noe, men vi er litt opptatt med dem å gjøre en skikkelig rot på loftet. Neste år vi kan styre opp hullene og henge noen fuglekasser i trærne for å tilby dem riktig overnatting. For denne sesongen selv om vi bare ønske dem lykke til med deres lille diskanthøyttalere. 
Jeg måtte bare le høyt da jeg leste det siste ordet. :-D

Akkja, i alle fall skal vi prøve å lage en underside med norsk tekst, så alle kan lese det språket de selv liker best.

The flutter of tiny wings

We have recently discovered that our house is home to several families with children. Some starlings have decided that the sheltered space under the roof tiles would be a good place to bring up their chicks.
We think they may have tried in the woodshed first, because we found an abandoned nest there. It probably wasn’t safe from the neighbour’s cat. The woodshed is one of the stops on his patrol of the neighbourhood. Today he’s been lying in the long grass for hours staring longingly up at the roof but alas; he can’t reach it.

Being bird parents certainly looks like a lot of work. Mama and Papa starling have busy days, constantly flying in from the forest with their beaks full of bugs and grubs – probably very yummy for little hungry chicks.

On the opposite side of the house a couple of blue tits are nesting under the tiles as well. They’re not so busy it seems. Perhaps little blue tit babies don’t eat as much.
Well, we don’t really mind having squatters around. We won’t try and slap them with a big bill for the rent or anything but we are a little concerned with them making a proper mess in the loft. Next year we might board up the holes and hang some birdhouses in the trees to offer them proper accommodation. For this season though, we just wish them good luck with their little tweeters. 

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Spectacular Spring

As we only recently moved to Western Norway, we frequently drive across the country to visit family and friends back east. It is a six hour long drive past fjords, across mountain passes and through deep forests. The scenery is quite impressive in places but as we have seen it so many times, we tend not to take much notice. Usually, we just concentrate on getting there and back as quickly as possible.

AAKRAFJORDEN is far inland. Behind the snow covered mountaintops you’ll find the Folgefonna glacier. 
However, as we drove back from celebrating Norway’s independence day on the 17th of May, we were perhaps in a bit of a patriotic mood, and decided to stop and enjoy the landscape, which was showing off its best side.  The sun shone brightly down on mountains and valleys, and glittered merrily on the fjords. A thousand meters up in the mountains snow was still lying thickly and the lakes were frozen, but nearer sea level spring was in full bloom. I love the sight of the fresh green new leaves on the birch trees. We call them “mouse ears”. The furry buds on willow trees are nicknamed “goose chicks” or “kitten paws”. Makes it even nicer, doesn’t it?

The steep slopes along the south facing sides of the fjords are popular for fruit farming and the first cherry trees were blooming. It was all very picturesque. 

But the most spectacular sights at this time of the year are the many waterfalls. Carrying a flood of water from the melting snow, they roar down the mountainsides at a fantastic speed on their way to the fjord.

LANGFOSS is considered by some to be one of the most beautiful cascading waterfalls in the world. We are inclined to agree. 
We made a stop at the aptly named Langfossen – “long waterfall” – where the water cascades 612 meters (more than 2000 feet) down. This is one of the highest waterfalls in the world and the fifth highest in Norway. We weren’t the only admirers. German tourists are already flocking towards this end of the world in their campervans, stacked with cheap beer and sausages. “Wunderschön!” they shouted over the deafening roar of the water as they shot their obligatory holiday snapshots of each other in front of the water.

Hubby takes photography a bit more seriously and took his time wandering around to find the right angle, varying the shutter speed and aperture. Husfruen was impressed with the result and have duly admired the pictures. Here are some for you to see. Hope you like them too. 
RAPID WATER. Hubby was surprised at the dreamy look of the water even at a shutter speed of 1/8000 sec. But on the photo below you'll see what happens with running water at a slow shutter speed.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

A Painted House

Giving our house a much-needed lick of paint has been on the agenda for a while, because at the top of the hill we are exposed to the wind and rain. The wet and cold climate puts the paint to a real test and it was high time to do something. Years of dirt and grime had caked the surfaces and black algae thrived in the shaded areas. It wasn’t until we started cleaning it that we realized how bad it really was. But a few days of scrubbing and washing with the pressure washer revealed the bright yellow paint underneath. The house almost appeared to be shining as we came up the driveway.
It actually looked very nice and sunny and I almost began to regret my decision of going for a lighter more discreet greyish green colour. But I had grown tired of yellow and the paint had already been bought (at great cost, I might add), so I kept my second thoughts to myself, fearing that Hubby would perform his raised eyebrows sigh and utter his usual “No comment” that he always does when he thinks I’m being daft. Besides, one must trust one’s instincts, mustn’t one? And mine said that greyish green would look stylish.
A problem that quickly appeared was how to reach all the nooks and crannies, particularly the gables. The house has been extended in different stages and getting all the gables painted meant climbing on to the roof. Hubby spent a few frustrated hours going around shops and searching the Internet for a roof hook for the ladder but it was not to be found. – Rent a lift, people told us. But that was not an option either, as it would be too difficult to manoeuvre into place. So Hubby had to climb, something neither he nor Husfruen was very happy about. After a few attempts of trying to juggle everything up, while Husfruen bit her nails watching from the ground, he thankfully decided to throw in the towel. It was time to recognize the fact that rock climbing (or roof climbing, as may be the case) is a hobby he really needn’t ever seriously contemplate.

THE DREADED GABLES are in a difficult position to reach. Balancing on the roof isn't Hubby's cup of tea.
Rescue came in our nephew Henning. Thin and wiry, weighing all of 60 kilos, the climb didn't represent much of a challenge to him. Quick and steady as a mountain goat he sprinted up and got the job done in no time. Refusing to use the safety rope we had spent hours painstakingly arranging, he balanced on the tiles, bucket in one hand, brush in the other, cigarette dangling from his lips and his mobile nonchalantly tucked between his ear and shoulder. Obviously he wanted to multitask and try to chat up a particular blonde while he had the time. Or else he listened to Slipknot (hardcore rock) on full volume. Today’s news of their bassist dying was a blow.

MOUNTAIN GOAT. Nephew Henning couldn't be bothered for long wearing the safety belt. He was more concerned with chatting up girls on his mobile.
MEN AT WORK. Hubby and Henning busy on the north facing wall above the garage.
In just three days we had the first coat of paint on and I will say that my instincts were good. It looks fantastic. But painting it is said, is the art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critics. So please let your comments rain upon us.

VOILA! Our freshly painted house in all its glory.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Welcome all, to my new blog

Thanks for dropping by. Hope you will like it.

Blogging is something I have long thought about doing, but with a busy job it somehow kept being pushed further down on the list of things to do. Journalism is how I make my living and I was afraid that taking on more writing would mean too much time bent over the keyboard. However, as an editor of a magazine that deals mainly with serious stuff, I found that I needed this little space of my own to rediscover the joy of writing what I want about things I like. No deadlines, no difficult interviewees, no yawn-inducing topics. Ah, bliss!

So welcome again - to our house on the hill, situated in Western Norway, overlooking a small fjord. Within these walls Hubby and Husfruen (Norwegian for "lady of the house") reside in loving harmony. (As long as Hubby takes more or less enthusiastic part in Husfruen’s many redecorating projects, and as long as Husfruen doesn’t pester Hubby too much about tedious business like cleaning and such.)
Hilltop House, which has been our home for a year, is not exactly a fixer upper but there seems to be no end to the things we need to do to get it into the shape we (that is Husfruen) want. If you like, you can follow our efforts here and share in Husfruen’s little musings about the pleasures of life as a homeowner.