Thursday, August 25, 2011

Summer In The "Hammer"

  We've been a little MIA the last few weeks so I thought I better send out another update!  Trying to get out of the apartment and enjoy the Summer for as long as we can...which won't be that much longer unfortunately.   Gino started his exhibition games last week (3 of them so far..which they all won!)  so he's been busy training and working out to get ready for the regular season.  I, on the other hand, have gotten back into the Euro routine of waking up at 10:00 AM, having a morning cup of coffe as I check my email, get in a little cardio at the gym, meet Gino at home for lunch, little grocery run..etc..etc.  It feels good to be back here and back in the swing of things.  I promised some pictures last time and made it a point to take a bunch!  If you get bored looking at them...scroll on through.  Remember those strawberries I was talking about!?  There are a few of these stands set up around town.

 We've been taking alot of walks into town and strolling around the parks.  Its just beautiful in August!  I wish the weather could be like this the rest of the year.  Just like a Minnesota Summer! 
Walking down into town from our apartment

In the town square area,  by the movie theatre and behind the main walking street, is a farmers market.  I just had to post this picture.  So many beautiful colors!

Oh, by the way, we bought a new camera (Canon SX 130IS).  Hence, the bright colors!  Not to say they aren't this bright in person, but I'm sure my camera enhances them a bit, ha. 
We have a car that we're sharing with a few of the other couples but Gino and I have been trying to walk as much as possible while the weather is still nice.  There's an area about 1/4th a mile away from our apartment that has some walking trails and a gorgeous creek that runs into a little pool of water.  I've see people swimming and sun bathing on the grass/rocks the few times that I've walked by.  I felt the water the other day and its FREEZING! So, Im not sure how the heck they were able to jump in and swim around.  Not for me!

Instead....we've been taking full advantage of our little patio. Gino's probably going to kill me for posting this picture. Oops!

This is sort of a side note...and may be a little boring for some of you, but I have to share!  I decided at the last minute to pack my small appetizer crockpot and lug it over with us.  It was, without a doubt, the single best item I brought over!!!  Before we left MN, we bought a huge oversized suitcase and it fit just perfectly.  This has brought my cooking repertoire to a whole new level! My friend Blair, found this blog about a woman who cooked every meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) out of a crockpot for a full year.  Her site talks about how to make candles, drinks, etc with a crockpot.  I have the blog posted under, Other Blogs Worth Following.  It's called "A year of slow cooking".  If you're a crockpot fanatic, like I've become, you'll love it!

So, the car that we have this year is an automatic!!! YES...AUTOMATIC.  This means everything to me!  I wasn't able to learn how to drive the standard we had last year beause, a few weeks after I did the snow.  I wasn't about to start the driving lessons in snow, let alone a town built on a steep hill. It's not the most fun having to ask your husband to drive and pick you up all the time. In a way, your sense of independence is out the door.  So, it's great that I don't have to learn how to operate the vehicle.  I just need to feel comfortable driving on the Euro roads and not using stop signs (there isn't a stop sign in the entire town...RULE: cars on the right get the right of way).  I took the car for a spin a few days ago, and we decided to drive up a little higher into the hills.  This day was pretty cloudy.  You can tell the top of the picture is all white, half the mountains were under the thick clouds.

Later that day, we walked into town for a stroll through one of the parks.  There were dozens of people lounging around.  We found a cafe with a pavillion where people were drinking wine and beer. Having a grand ol' time! I still can't figure out anyone's work schedule....the town is consistantly busy with people drinking, eating, and moseying around all hours of the day.  Looks to me like happy hour is every hour!  I took a picture of this old Protestant church at the edge of the park.  It reminds me a little of the church we got married in!

Speaking of church, Gino, Kyle (another MN on the team) and I, went to a Catholic service last Sunday.  The church is about a mile from our apartment, pretty close to the church in the picture.  Anyways, its very small and shaped like a triangle.  There were probably about 50 people at the service and the church looked full.  The entire mass was in Norwegian, which I thought would be difficult to understand, but we basically knew what part of the mass they were at the entire time.  We would recite the English version in our heads!  We weren't able to understand the homily or gospel but could pick out a few words. They have handouts with the gospel readings in four different languages, German, Polish, Norwegian, and English.  They happened to be out of the English sheets that day.  For communion, no one put there hands out to receive the bread.  Instead, the priest dipped the bread in the wine and fed it to you.  I actually preferred that, rather than drinking out of the same cup that 50 other people just had their mouths on.  Seemed a little more healthy!   It was a cool experience, and we all said we would go back this Sunday.

On Monday, we took a walk into town and got a cup of ice cream from one of the outside street vendors.  The cup was about half the size of the smallest Coldstone cup, but it was delicous! It better have been cost us $7!  We got some kind of carmel coffee flavor.  We took our ice cream and sat on a bench down by the creek that runs through downtown.

Not to look like a creeper...but I saw these little girls throwing penny's into the water, assuming they were making a wish.  Thought it was cute!

Tuesday was probably one of the warmest day's since we arrived.  The guys had a game and were pretty much housebound the whole day so my friend Jillian and I decided to head down to the lake.  We brought magazines, a blanket and just sprawled out on the grass near the water and talked for a few hours.  It was so beautiful!  I told Gino he has to take me down for a picnic next time!  There were a few picnic tables, fire pit and sand volleyball courts.  Again, there were a few kids swimming in the water but it was as warm as Lake Superior (cold, cold, cold!).  I don't know how they do it!

  This next weekend, Lillehammer is hosting a huge bike tournament called the Birkebeiner.  It's about a 55 mile race that starts in Rena, Norway which is straight East of Lillehammer up in the mountains.  The race brings roughly 40,000 people to Lillehammer each year.  The finish line is at the Olympic arena where we work out.  So, this entire week, the town has been preparing for the festivites by setting up beer tents, stages, parking lots, etc.
 That's all I've got for now!  Ill hopefully have a fun update in a few weeks about the race and also about the Strandtorget Cup Tournament that Gino's team will be playing in Sept 3 & 4th.  Have a great week!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

New Year, New Hockey Season, Same Town!

Round 2!  You're probably thinking..."hockey! already?, it's still Summer!".  Yea, I know, I was thinking the same thing.  Gino signed for another year with Lillehammer in May, and we found out shortly after that training camp would start August 1st.  CRAZY.  I feel like we just ended the 2010/2011 season yesterday!  3 1/2 months at home was just not enough but this is the life we signed up for and we were excited to know that we would be heading back to the same team, town, friends, apartment, etc. 
Our travel over here was pretty easy, except for the 6 hour layover in Newark, NJ.  Our flight was slightly delayed because of weather in MN so when we finally got off the plane in the Newark airport we had about 4 1/2 hours to kill.  We met up with another Minnesota guy (Justin Bostrom), who also resigned with Lillehammer,  at the airport and grabbed some dinner and drinks.  The flight to Oslo left at 8pm which was a great time to fly overseas.  We jumped on the plane, ate some dinner, watched a movie, slept for a few hours, ate breakfast, watched another movie, and we were there!  Having the tv screens built into the back of the seats on international flights is a LIFESAVER.  You could literally watch 3 movies, take a cat nap and you'd be over here. 
We arrived in the Oslo airport at 9:45am (2:45am MN time) and had to wait around for one more Minnesota guy to arrive, Kyle Schmidt (UMD).  He had his layover in Iceland and was arriving at 12:30.  Side note: Did I mention how many Minnesota guys are on this team....let alone Gophers!? 

1. Gino
2. Justin Bostrom
3. RJ Anderson
4. Kevin Wehrs
5. Kyle Schmidt

That's almost unheard of over in Europe to be on the same team with 5 guys from the same state let alone same college.  They all have wives/girlfriends that will be over here too so it should be a good year!
Anyways, We got to Lillehammer and into our apartment around 3:30 pm. That gave Gino and the guys just enough time to drop off their bags, grab a little water, and head to practice.  The coach wanted to meet with all of them before.  That left ME to do the unpacking.  ICK.  I was pretty tired on the drive up to Lillehammer but when we got here and got into the apartment, I got a second wind and unpacked and "decorated" in 2 hours! 

We're in the same building as we were last year but a different apartment layout facing the lake.  It's slightly bigger than last year and we have way more windows! Which will come in handy when the  winter arrives and the Norwegian sun is sparse. Here is the beautiful view from our patio.  We almost forgot how green and lush everything is!

You can see the lake through the trees

Our first night we made a little frozen pasta meal that was already in the freezer.  One little perk that's very helpful especially to new guys on the team, is the fridge and pantry is stocked when we arrrive with basic food items to get you through a couple days until you get your feet on the ground. 

We stayed up until midnight not because we weren't tired...we were! But we were trying to keep our selves up so that we could sleep through the night.  At one point, I looked out the window and saw the sun was going down and thought it was about 9:00pm...turns out it was 11:30pm!  The next morning I woke up to go to the bathroom and saw the sun was already up, so I went to check the time and it was only 4:00 am.  Welcome to Summer in Norway! Got to soak in the sun while we have it!

The jet lag hasn't hit either one of us too bad.  We were pretty tired the first couple of mornings but are trying to get on a schedule so we've been forcing ourselves to wake up at decent times.  The weather has actually been beautiful! The guy who drove us to Lillehammer told us that they've had a disappointing Summer, if you'd even call it that.  It's been predominantly rainy every day and they've  only a handful of sunny warm days.  We must have brought the weather with us cause the last few days have been perfect!  Mid 70's and sunny.  Hopefully it can stay this way for a while...

The day after we arrived, Gino and I went into town to fill out paper work for our visa's.  I didn't get one last year, but we made it a priority to have it in Gino's contract this year. The team is working on getting a few of the wives part time work at the local hockey school.  So a visa is a must!  Since we're living here for the next 8 months, a visa is pretty vital for traveling in and out of countries.  I got by last year but don't really want to chance it again.  You can only be in a country for 3 monthes without a visa.  So if we were traveling after that, there's a chance I wouldn't be let back into the country.  It's better to be safe than sorry! 

Yesterday was gorgeous, not a cloud in the sky. The guys had a team building event all day playing paintball and a scavanger hunt.  They finished the day at a BBQ.  One of the wives and I strolled around town to check out the cafe's etc.  I meant to bring my camera, but forgot!  Otherwise I would have some pics.  Oh well, I'll have plenty of time to take pictures!   Colored umbrella patio tables and hanging flower plants were lined up and down the streets.  I had forgotten how beautiful the town is without snow on the ground.  Gino brought some strawberries home from the BBQ that were the sweetest, redest strawberries I had ever eaten!  He said that all the Norwegian guys were bragging about how good their strawberries were and he laughed.  But they weren't kidding!  Apparently, Since the Summers are so much cooler in Norway, the strawberries turn out sweeter.  Here's an interesting article I found about them.
That's all for now, I promise to have more photos in the upcoming blogs.  Thanks for reading!