Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Cloutier's Conquer Norway!

It's hard to believe September has passed us by, and we have officially entered into a new season.  One of my favorite seasons, FALL!! Not to say I don't enjoy a good ol' Minnesota summer, but fall signifies bonfires, comfy sweaters, long walks, apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and scarves!  My mom taught me to knit while they were here, and I just finished my second infinity scarf.  I love it! Luckily, yarn isn't so expensive here so that's one hobby that we can afford.  I'm a knitting machine! Ready to learn how to make other apparel.  I have the time, so I will be letting Youtube teach me!

On October 4th, we will have already been in Norway for 2 months.  Wow, that unfortunately makes a typical, 1 week vacation seem like a day trip!  September was a busy month for us.  With the official start of Gino's hockey season and my parents visit, our calendar was jam packed!  (When I say "jam packed" I'm referring to coffee dates, hockey games, market visits, entertaining my parents, hikes and of course the start of the new fall tv series).  But, I've loved every minute of it!
 Lillehammer hockey is well underway and they've had 6 games and won 4 of the 6.  Pretty good!  Gino's been playing great and jumping right back into the swing of things.  Again, if you would like to follow the stats you can by clicking on the link below.
Pointstreak LIK

Oh! before I forget again, here's a great article about Gino on the MN Star Trib Hockey Hub website.  He was chosen as one of the top 100 greatest players in MN high school hockey.  Wonderful accomplishment!  He was contacted by one of the reporters and gave a little interview a few weeks ago.  We weren't sure at the time what number he was going to be.  I'll let you find out for yourself! 
NOTE: Please no comments on the hair...he's sensitive:)
100 Greatest Minnesota Highschool Hockey Players Of All Time

My parents arrived in Norway on Thursday 15th.  It marked their first trip to Europe with hopefully many more to come.  I took the 9am train to the airport and got into Oslo, Gardermoen at 11ish.  Their plane was getting in at 11:05am, so it was perfect timing.  I'd told them to stop in the Duty Free shop, before retrieving their bags, for a few bottles of wine!  For those of you who aren't familiar with Duty Free, it's a one stop shop where you can purchase items that aren't taxed.  In some countries it's worth it....Norway being one of them!  I can buy a "cheap" bottle of wine for around 90 NOK (~$16).  They were able to purchase 3 bottles of wine for 160 NOK ($27).  So it was definetely worth it.  Anyways, after picking up the wine and their bags, they met me outside of customs.  They looked suprisingly rested for an 11 hour plane ride! I was so excited to see them! After a few hugs and a bathroom break,  we ran over to the train ticket counter to purchase our tickets back to Lillehammer.  At this time is was about 12:00 and the next train was scheduled in 5 minutes, which again was perfect timing!  The train ride was a great way for them to be welcomed into Norway.  The ride is a little over 2 hours and follows Lake Mjosa most of the way with views of the mountains around every corner.  Its really beautiful.  (If you want to see pictures of the train ride, you can look in my archive at my first blog entry...I think I have a few there)
Gino was waiting for us at the train station with the car when we arrived in Lillehammer.  Thankfully, the weather was cooperating, so we gave them a quick drive through of the city and back up to the apartments to unpack.  The team had an extra apartment open that just so happened to be on our floor so my parents were able to stay there.  It was fully furnished and equipped with dishes, pots/pans, bed sheets, towels etc.  Gino and I stocked the fridge with a few basics before they arrived so everything was ready for them.  After unpacking, they came over to our place for a quick coffee on the patio and then were ready to take in the scenery!  Talk about troopers! 
Gino had a game Thursday night so after coffee my parents and I went for our hike and left Gino to rest up before heading out to the game.  I took them to the trails near our apartment to show them the waterfalls.  They just loved it!  Again, everything was so green and lush.

After a little hike, we headed back to the apartment for dinner and relaxation before the game.  Side note...this was the first game that my parents have ever seen Gino play! Seems strange after all these years.  When he was playing for Anchorage,  my parents were at their condo in Fort Myers and Gino was going to be down for a few days playing against the Everblades in Fort Myers.  I flew down to see all of them and out of 3 games Gino didn't play one! Such a bummer.  Anyways, everything worked out for the best because he ended up leaving Anchorage to play for Phoenix a few weeks later, but thats another story!..moving on.   My parents were really excited to FINALLY see him play.  Well, they obviously brought the luck because Lillehammer ended up beating Manglerud 7-1.  Better yet, they saw Gino score!
It was beautiful on Friday! So, we ventured into town for coffee and a waffle at our favorite cafe, Nikkers.  It was nice enough outside to sit on the back patio and enjoy the creek.  My parents were just in love with the scenery.  You forget how beautiful it is here until someone visits and you see it through their eyes for the very first time.  I have a whole new appreciation for Lillehammer and Norway! 

We strolled down Storgata for a while and stopped in a few shops along the way.  My mom wanted to find some Norwegian decor for the house and after seeing the prices in some of the shops they were a little suprised.  We happened to walk buy the Fretex (a "nice" salvation army) and decided to browse.  This was not a typical salvation army we have back home...that's for certain.  Alot of the items sold still had tags on them and the place was packed with people just like us.  My mom ended up finding a pair of cheap leggings with the tags still on them. She was now ready to walk the streets in European fashion:)  After such a great find, we ended up venturing back into Fretex numerous times throughout the week.  
Before heading back up to the apartments, we strolled down into the central park and over to the cemetery by the old Protestant church.
That night we took them out to eat at Toscanas, a local Italian restaurant that we had been eyeing up since last year!  It was really great food and pretty resonably priced for Norway standards.  After dinner we showed them the brewery/restaurant built into the side of a hill.  As we were walking in, my mom ran into a stuffed grizzly bear......she was scared.  Sorry mom!  Just too good of a pic not to post.

Gino had a game on Saturday in Hamar, which meant he was pretty much out of commisson most of the day leading up to the game.  So my parents and I took a long hike up the mountain.  As we were walking to the start of the trails we saw a herd of people in running gear trying to take a group picture.  I asked them if they needed me to take the picture so I did and we proceeded to ask what they were up too. They said 15,000 people were going to be running in a 24 km race starting at the top of the trails and the finish would be at the Olympic Park (where Gino's arena is).   I've noticed in the last year that Lillehammer hosts a variety of sports events throughout the year.  A few weeks ago they had a huge bike race and this week a running race.  In winter they have a cross country skiing race etc.  It was a cool set up for my parents to see. After mosying around Olympic Park for a bit we continued to walk down a few side streets just to explore.

Saturdays are always great days to walk into town because the streets are very lively!  They have street vendors selling food, pan handlers playing music for money, and all the patio's of the cafe's are packed.  We headed to the farmers market to purchase some cheap fruit, which my parents loved.  There's just something about farmers markets and buying fresh fruit and vegetables from the growers themselves.  It makes you feel like you've done a good dead or something!
On our hike back home, we took a little detour and found this great photo spot!  I ended up taking Gino here a few days ago since he missed it.  Just spectacular panoramic views of Lillehammer
 When we returned to the apartments we had to quickly get ready and head out to Gino's game in Hamar (biggest rival and about 45 min from Lillehammer).  Since I have the luxury of driving an automatic WOO HOO, I drove my parents there and Jillian picked up the rest of the girls and followed.  Gino ended up giving us directions to Hamar via Google Maps.... they were awful!!!!  Not Gino's fault at all, but none of the street signs Google Maps told us to look for were right!  Luckily he wrote down the name of the arena and as we were approaching Hamar there were all these random signs saying Ol Amfi (the arena).  We followed those and made it to the game with 20 min to spare!  The game was pretty intense and my parents had alot of fun.  Lillehammer ended up beating Hamar 4-3, scoring the 4th goal with 3 min on the clock.  It was so exciting!  That makes it the 4th game in a row that Lillehammer has won in their arena dating back to the playoffs last year.  I think I can officially say, my parents are hockey fans!

Sunday was a little rainy and cold so we had planned to do a few indoor touristy things.  But first we took a drive to the ski resort town, Hafjell (about 15 min away) to show them around and also to stop at the grocery store to pick up some pasta sauce.  Side Note:  Everything is basically shut down in town as far as clothing and grocery stores go and we found out that there's a Kiwi (local grocery store chain)  that is open on Sundays in Hafjell!
It was a really beautiful ride through the mountains, even in the rainy drizzle!  We stopped for a photo of the man holding the Olympic torch that's cut out of the trees on the side of a mountain.  I guess it's supposed to be a pretty neat view as you're skiing down the opposite hill. Not the best photo.... but you get it.

On our ride back to Lillehammer we took a drive up the mountain on the opposite side of the town to  see a new view point.  I wish the weather would have been a little better but it was so neat to look down on the town!

You can see the arena with the white dome on the left.  At this point it was 3:30pm and we had wanted to see the Olympic Museum but it closed at 4:00pm.  We ended up driving over just to see how big it was and if we could get in for a quick walk through before 4pm.  When we went to the enterance it was locked so we started walking away a little disappointed but a little blond Norwegian girl quickly came around to open it for us and let us in.  I guess there was some creepy man causing some issues around the building so she had the door locked.  She actually wasn't sure if he was still in the building somewhere or not but let us in anyways... strange.  Since we were there so late she just let us in for free!  Nice, considering its about $20/person to get in!  I had thought the museum was going to showcase only the 94' Olympics in Lillehammer but there was a little display on the history of the Olympics and every city its ever been.  Afterwards, we walked around the huge arena where the hockey was played for the 94' Olympics and also saw the Olympic egg used during the opening ceremonies.

Monday was my parents last full day in Lillehammer.  So naturally, we started the day off with a coffee and waffle at Nikkers.  I love how cozy this looks!

We took them down to the lake after Nikkers and enjoyed the serenity of the water.  It's always so calm down there.  I haven't really ever seen any boats or jet skis tooling around the lake so it must be pretty cold year round. 

This has absolutely no relevance but, I had the creative bug and made everyone pose for a "head" shot.hehe

Anyways, we had just one more thing to show them before the trip was over and we happened to wait until the last day to take them.  It just so happened to be the best day to go!  THE TOP OF THE SKI HILL.  As you can see, we live in a relatively small town and the hike to the ski hill is a big deal!  We actually decided to drive up because of all the hiking and walking we had done all week.  At the top of the ski hill is this beautiful restaurant but unfortuanatly closed a few months ago... I think it's just seasonal.

I was able to zero in on a picture of our apartments from the deck of the restaurant. You can see the two twin apartment buildings...ours is on the left.

We started walking towards the ski hill for a few pics and noticed there were people jumping!!! How exciting.  Here's a pic of us walking down the stairs to the area where the ski jumpers started their descent.  I have so much respect for ski jumpers...and have no idea how they can do it with only a suit and a helmet!

Where the jumpers started....ugh. 

What a perfect time for my parents to see the ski jump and witness ski jumpers in all their glory!

Oh and we had to obviously take a picture with one of the jumpers.  I couldn't resist being a complete tourist.  I'm sure he was flattered...or maybe weirded out. Oh well, not my problem!

It was such a great trip with my parents and we're so thankful they were able to make it out here and visit.  They can now understand why we love the lifestyle and know what we are experiencing over on this side of the pond.  After the week in Norway, they traveled to Paris for a week.  We skyped with them a few times and I think it's safe to say they left their hearts in Paris! What a great 34th Anniversary trip. 
Our next set of visitors will be Gino's parents in November!  This is the year for visitors.  Again, we are so blessed they can also make the trip out to see us and we're excited to show them around our town!
This update has been SUPER long so I will post my reciepes of the week in the next entry.  Gino was SOOOOOOOOOO jealous that I was blogging about recipes and decided he would like to join in on the fun and cook 1 new meal a week to add to the blog.  His day is Friday.  Can't wait to see what he comes up with:)  Stay tuned!

Monday, September 12, 2011

When It Rains, It Pours...Literally

Well, its been a rainy few weeks! For a while, I thought that the "warm" sunny weather we had the first 2 weeks was a fluke.  It rained everyday for, honestly, the last 12 days.  Not all day, but enough to keep you indoors.  Luckily, things started to dry up enough for us to take a little hike earlier this week.  We walked up the trails by our house, which we have started to add into our weekly routine.  The water level from the creek was so high!  It was crashing up on the rocks close to the trail.

Check out how high it was in the picture below!  This is the bridge that we cut across on our way to the arena and gym.  It almost felt unsafe to be on the other day with how high the water was. We ran into a man on the trail that told us that there hasn't been this much water held up in the reservoir since the late 70's!
Anyways, you get the rained alot!  But the rain also left everything so darn green. It was hard not to stop flashing pictures.  I will show you one more that I think is really cool.  I didn't notice this waterfall last year...and maybe it's just because of all the rain but it was beautiful.

Gino's team had a tournament against 4 other teams this past weekend, called the Strandtorget Cup.  There were 3 teams in Gino's league, including Lillehammer (Stor Hamar and Sparta) and one Swedish team, called Leksand.  The Swedish team is from the 2nd league in Sweden and probably a step up from the Norwegian league. Side note: Lillehammer played them in an exhibition game before the tournament and ended up winning 3-2 in over time.  Let's just say the game against them was intense!  Lillehammer wouldn't back down.  From the stands, both teams were playing very aggressively. It was a great win but unfortunately didn't count for the tourney because it was an exhibition  For the first game in the tournament they played Stor Hamar, which you will remember from last year, is their rival.  We ended up beating them 4-1, not as intense.  The final game was against Leksand. Lillehammer ended up losing by 5-2 but out shot them by about 20 shots.  That was ok with everyone, they played really hard and it was an exhausting weekend for the guys.  After the final game, there was a beer tent with food music and of course drinks.  A couple of us went and enjoyed a glass of wine before heading over to a friends house for a few more glasses of wine!  It was a fun night. 

I just came across this picture that I have to share.  When the girls and I were waiting for the guys to come out of the locker room after the game I saw this contraption that looked like a coat rack.  Except, there were two hairdryers plugged into the wall that were attached to the base with tape, blowing air up through each arm.  Guys were putting their gloves and skates on the arms, assuming they were drying them.  Obviously, I thought it looked ridiculous! 

For all of you "unknowledgable" hockey fans: Little did I know, the contraption wasn't as weird as I thought. Look strange to anyone else!?  Gino told me later that night that they use them back in the States but they're an actual product made to dry gloves and skates.  This was pretty much a home made glove dryer, hence the hair dryers taped to the bottom.  Learned something new!
I've been trying out a few new recipes every week and thought I would share a couple of them in each blog update.  None of the recipes I use are too tough  or call for a million ingredients.   Of course, some turned out better than others, but these were a few of our favorites this week.  You must try them out and let me know what you think! PS.  These are not my beautiful photos...taken from the websites I found the recipes on.

Chicken Rollatini with Spinach alla Parmigiana

Shrimp Foil Pasta

Friday was another spectacular day for weather, so a few of the girls and I went for a hike.  We left the house around 1:45pm and didn't realize we had been gone for almost 2 hours by the time we started to head back.  I have to share a few photos, of course.  We stopped to take pictures of this rainbow, and a man on the path behind us said that we had to make a wish.  Am I the only one that didn't know you're supposed to make a wish when you see a rainbow?  I know about wishing on a star...but not a rainbow.  hmmm.

Oh and did I forget to mention we all randomly decided to wear pink and black on the hike?  How crazy is that! All of us, unplanned, decided to wear pink and black.  You can imagine the laugh we had when we all saw each other for the first time. HA

One big change from last year to this year is that I will be working!  I was fortunate enough to have met this guy after one of the games last year named Kevin.  He right away started talking to a few of us girls and told us he was from Detroit Lakes, MN.  SMALL WORLD.  He moved to Lillehammer three years ago and was working, at the time, at a hotel restaurant.  We kind of kept in touch over the year/Summer and met up right when we got over here this season.  He is now working at another restaurant in town called Lundegarden, one of the more fancy restaurants. Its catered to groups with a more sophisticated pallet....or people that like meat, ha.  One of the best and most popular dishs on the menu is Reindeer.  We haven't tried it yet but it looks delicious!  Ok, moving on...
So after meeting with Kevin, he told me and my friend Jillian that he had some fill-in catering jobs available.  He also had two cleaning jobs opening up in November at another resturant in a ski resort about 20 min outside of Lillehammer.
 We went in for a "trial" on Saturday night, catering for a wedding of 47 people.  The wedding was actually for a guy that owns a popular grocery store chain in Norway, so he was pretty rich.  His one request of the night was to make sure that no one had an empty wine glass.  It turned out to be alot of fun and we made a little money!  I guess the minimum wage varies depending on what industry you work in, but Kevin said that we would be getting 130 NOK/hr..which is around $25/hr.  BUT, he said that with the high taxes, to expect that at least 36% will be taken out. That leaves us with about $15/hr.  Doesn't sound as good as $25! But, it will be great to make a little of my own money here and there.  I won't be working a typical 9-5.  Just basically filling in on random catering events.  The cleaning job will be a few hours a week starting at the end of November. Ill keep you posted on all of that.

I'm kind of jumping around here but we're happily awaiting the arrival of my mom and dad this Thursday 15th!  They'll be here until the 21st and then jetting off to Paris for a week.  Everytime I take a walk to the cafe's or hiking through the mountains I think, "man, my parents would LOVE this".  Now they'll get to experience it for themselves and not live vicariously through my many photos!  It'll be great to have them visit and see how we do things "Norwegian" style.  We found out earlier last month that there's an extra apartment in our building that we can check out for visitors.  Works out perfectly!

Gino's first regular season game was just lastnight (Sunday) against Stjernen (pronounced steer-nen).  The game was in Fredrickstad, about 45 min south of Oslo.  Lillehammer outshot them but ended up loosing the game 3-2.  Stjernen played hard and the goalie played really well.  Gino said they had alot of chances but couldn't seem to score.  We're hoping for a big win on Thursday at home against Manglerud, from Oslo.  This will also be the first game my parents see, so hopefully they bring some good luck!  If you'd like to follow Gino and the team/league you can click on this link

That's all I have for now, but I wanted to touch on one final note...

I'm sure by now most of you have heard of the horrific plane crash involving the Russian KHL hockey team, Lokomotiv. This has truly hit home for us. The day it happened, Gino had an away game and ended up finding out about 20 min into his roadtrip. He said that the team had a hard time playing that night and that the focus was taken off the game and more so on finding out how something like this could have happened. When you play hockey you know what goes on with the team dynamic (families, friends, teammates) and you become so close to those people as a group. It just makes you think that this could have happened to any team and how unimaginable it would be to lose an entire group of guys with wives, children, etc in the matter of minutes. I think I can confidently speak on behalf of everyone in the hockey world when I say that this horrible tragedy has numbed us all and has made us all realize how precious life is. My prayers are with all of the families involved. I hope they can soon find peace.
RIP Lokomotiv