Sunday, August 31, 2014

Spiselig Sopp

Rain in late summer is good. The mushrooms love it. Taking regular walks outdoors in the forests and keeping our eyes on the ground ensure a constant supply of mushrooms. Yes, we pick those edible kinds. Obviously I wouldn't even attempt to identify which sort of mushrooms are edible. I go with someone who knows mushrooms. When in doubt, leave them alone. Most mushrooms are toxic and poisonous to humans, especially the pretty ones.

Mushroom-picking is done on a regular basis on weekends when no one stays in the city and everyone heads out of town and hits the countryside in just 45 minutes. That's the beauty of Oslo. It's surrounded by so much natural beauty that it's impossible not to grow a love for the outdoors be it in summer or winter. There's plenty of huge steinsopp to be picked as well. I know it as 'porcini'. MY FAV. Fantastic.

On a random jaunt halfway up the mountains, the friends spotted a species that they knew is edible. It's a type of butter mushroom (smørsopp), specifically the ringløs smørsopp or commonly known as 'Weeping Bolete'. It's pretty close to 'Slippery Jack' but not quite. The smooth undersides are a cheerful butter-yellow. Sometimes we're prepared to pick edibles by taking along ziplocks. Often we carry them to put phones and credit cards in case of rain. When we don't, we improvise. In this case, with pieces of paper till we got back to the car where there were little baskets in the boot to hold the smørsopp.

The amount of smørsopp we picked that afternoon was sufficient to feed eight people at dinner that evening. It was made into chunky mushroom sauce to go with the meats.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Boys Made Lunch For Us

The perks of having teenage boys in the house. We could set them to work. Muahahah. I've bravely ordered one to take out the trash a couple of times. Even the youngest was asked to help out. He could easily peel garlic, slice them and got the pounder to mash them up for us to make marinade.

And we've made two teenagers cook us lunch. Kinda unplanned. The boys were at home lurking around the kitchen, looking rather unoccupied, i.e free of schoolwork and other chores. So we kept them busy. They cheerfully did so. Lunch was made for us on two occasions, so far. The girlfriend and I are planning a third. :P

Can't stress this enough- the girlfriend churns out fantastic dishes and doesn't mind that I can't quite cook and can only be a helper. Hehehe. She has cleverly trained her boys to sort out many meals on their own. They could dice, slice, watch the fire and do something savory, and kinda clean up after themselves. Back to these lunches done for us. Lunch is always kept simple. Hot food, yes, but none of that three-course meal thingies we do for dinner. The boys, on separate occasions, made us an omelette and grilled a yummy tomato-cheese-ciabatta sandwich. Very awesome.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fiken Sesong

It's the season for figs (and many berries and apples) till the end of next month I think, for countries slipping into autumn soon. But it has been a warm summer, so that means a shorter season for figs. No matter. We'll get whatever we can get for the now and enjoy them. Bought bucket-fuls.

That's the thing about Singapore. I never know which season offers what types of fruits. To me, I get them all year round, with the only variable being quality, and as usual, freshness. This is Norway, so figs aren't cheaper than what we get in Singapore. We get four figs in a box for something between S$7 to S$17. Depending on the country of import, in Oslo, they range between NOK6 to NOK16 per fig. Yup, between S$1.20 to S$4.20 for ONE fig. Although figs here are better in terms of variety of species and quality; they're superbly huge, fresh and juicy.

Love figs fresh, love 'em in all forms. Ate them during breakfast with granola or just as a snack in the afternoon. On one of those late afternoons when the boys were gobbling bread because they were so hungry before dinner at 8pm, we followed suit with nibbles, but not with the bread. Sliced up a few figs, squished goat cheese in the middle, put them in the oven and in five minutes, we had forretter. With a dark imperial stout 'Odin's Tipple' by HaandBryggeriet. They complemented each other so well. Very satisfying.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Forbidden Music

There was at least one performance we wanted to check out at Oslo Kammermusikkfestival. Quite a substantial programme over two weekends. We chose a short programme in the morning themed 'Forbuddt Musikk III'. Of course the theme could only refer to composers the Third Reich banned. Some of the performances of the festival, like this one, were aptly held at Villa Grande, which used to be executed traitor Vidkun Quisling's home, and now turned into the Holocaust Study Centre. The three composers featured were Gideon Klein, Arnold Schoenberg and Beethoven. Pieces for the violin, viola and the cello. Klein's Terezin (Theresienstadt) 1944, Schoenberg's Op.45, and Beethoven's Op 9 No.3.

The musicians of the Phoebus Stryketrio (Phoebus String Trio) comprised Tor Johan Bøen, Bénédicte Royer and Aurélienne Brauner. Klein was safe and offered easy listening before the discordant melodies and extreme contrasts of Schoenberg's Op 45. I like Beethoven's 'String Trios' because they're so different from the symphonies and the piano sonatas, and Phoebus Stryketrio did a lovely job interpreting that.

Still nursed heartache over my fried Macbook, but the music made the pain easier to bear. Not so much about the data within. Those are retrievable. It's more of anger at my own carelessness. To think I've got a cover for the keyboard to protect it, yet spilled the glass of water straight into the back vents of the switched-on Macbook. Schoenberg's Op 45 amplified that pain (yah, #firstworldproblems), lifted it and by the end of Part III, the ache was soothed. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pacific Northwest Wines in Oslo

Was invited to a ladies' wine-tasting session themed 'Pacific Northwest'. I grinned. How very nice. On the menu were seven bottles of whites and reds from Washington State. Did you know that Ballard in Seattle has fairly strong Nordic influences in its buildings and food mainly because of its early Nordic settlers who came for the salmon?

I don't know wines. Unfortunately, they're just fermented grape juice to me. New world wines and grand cru are all the same to my tastebuds. Neither am I all that fond of them. Yeah, I know my tea, coffee, whisky and beer. But not wine. So the usual easy merlot of the Pacific Northwest are great. Not keen on their pinot noir. I prefer Australian pinot noir for easier drinking. Contemplated wearing a Pearl Jam tee (I brought it here!) to the host's home, and in the end, settled for a plaid shirt to look less grunge. Heh.

Grinned even wider when I spotted Charles Smith Wines' 'The Velvet Devil'. I drank loads of that just this spring in Seattle. Kinda miss it. Had two glasses of that. Yummy. Avoided the whites. Didn't quite feel like the acidity. Not very fond of the lighter flavors that more or less end up tasting sour on the tastebuds. Whites are often wasted on me.

The tasting session was hosted by one of the ladies at her home. The host took loads of effort to prep the table, lit candles, sorted out table linen and all. Another collated tasting notes and printed out the information for all who attended. Couldn't believe how hospitable they were. Dinner was done potluck style with everyone contributing a dish, and the host coordinated the menu. It was quite a lovely party. Surprisingly, I found many common topics with majority. If I'm not just a visitor to Oslo, but a new resident beginning to reach out, it's a wonderful way to meet new people, hear their stories and get a feel of the city. After all, I crashed this intimate party and was made to feel welcomed.

Reds for the evening. The whites were still in the fridge.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I quite enjoy History Channel's 'Vikings', although I know it might be a load of bull. Created by Michael Hirst, the television drama can be bit cheesy in terms of plot and actors' lines. Oh whatever, I like the re-imagining of that period in history and see it come to life on the television screen.

Not like the era of Viking supremacy was so romantic. It was the most violent period and Vikings had a fearsome reputation for good reason. Trade back then wasn't a civilized process. Raids, wars, pillage and colonization. People didn't live long and usually lived in fear.

Had to visit the Viking Ship Museum. It's a small musuem. You could finish it in 15 minutes if you're not keen on wooden ships or Vikings. It's got three precious ships of which one (Tune) was destroyed, and two standing (The Gokstad and the decorative Oseberg). It's amazing how the ships washed up inland or how the geological formations arranged it so that the ships were buried under soil at the deltas. Also of interest to me were the skeletons and artifacts found that gave a hint to life back then.

Well, I had more photos from the visit, but they've been half-lost along with my fried Macbook. Till I retrieve them, that is, if I can be bothered to do so. The most important data required for work purposes had all been backed up. WHEWWW. Never mind, I've got postcards and a scarf from the museum! The friends had taken some photos of the day and donated them to me. The girlfriend told me to go to York and join the Jorvik Viking Festival next February. Apparently this is the 31st year of the festival. Hahaha. Not sure I'm that dedicated.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Reading From The Children's Library

My understanding of spoken Norwegian is of course close to nil. But reading it isn't so bad. There're patterns and grammar rules. It'll take a while, but it isn't that difficult to acquire an understanding of it. It's the spoken which I'll need to practise. It doesn't work like Thai because I don't have this 'feel' for how to pronounce the words with rising or lowered tones.

There're two types of Norwegian- Bokmål and Nynorsk, both of which are legal equals. Municipalities, schools and organisations are free to choose either to teach, publish or use as their 'preferred official language'. In Oslo, you generally hear Bokmål being spoken and written, and Bokmål is the one I start with.

Clearly, I can't read the newspapers, brochures or novels. Can't guess the meaning of the Norwegian words in English either. Sometimes words seem like a derivation, but more often than not, it isn't and it certainly doesn't mean what I think it means in English. I can read children's books. If I need help with pronunciation, I ask the girlfriend's children. Hahaha. They're just really tickled that I'm starting from ground up, like when they were four years old. So, I combed through picture books, and this, 'Lille Gruffalo' by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

I was like, what on earth is a 'vedstabelhus'? A something-something house. Asked the girlfriend. She described it as a little shed of sorts, maybe to stockpile wood or something. Okay. This is the story of Gruffalo's Child who went out in the night and found a trail in the snow and a tail sticking out and wondered if the strange creature was the Big Bad Mouse.

Åhå! Spor i snø, i bukt og i bend!
Hvem setter slikt spor? Hvor går det hen?
En hale stakk ut fra et vedstabelhus.
Er dette halen til Store Stygge Mus?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Getting Around Oslo

While the friends drive and all that, and don't mind taking me around, I like to take some time alone too. The city of Oslo is small and getting around is easy. The friends didn't even bother to tell me how and what beyond showing me the nearest three train stations to the house. Hahahah. They completely trust my sense of direction.

There's the commuter rail of which also leads passengers to and fro the airports. There're options of the Metro or called the T-bane, the tram or the bus. I like the T-bane best. They run every 15 - 20 minutes. It's the most convenient option for me and it takes me everywhere that I want to go. Although, why do so many train stations stink of urine. UGH.

Downloaded the Ruter app onto my phone and buying tickets has never been easier. I'm just really thrilled the Ruter made an app for the Windows phone. Heh. With a local data-SIM card, it makes travel easy, checking train schedules and buying tickets. E-tickets are downloaded to my phone. Depending on whether there's an officer to check the tickets upon exit, then I'll flash the email/PDF copy of my ticket upon request. The best part- I could pay for these tickets with a credit card (as long as you have a PIN code for it), even if it's only NOK30 (~S$6). It's quite awesome that I haven't had to change cash at all! I have zero Norwegian kroners on me. Wheeee.