Mount Floyen Friday

Mount Floyen Friday

It is a Mount Floyen Friday, can someone please take me back to Bergen?  I’ve been good this year, so pretty sure they’ll be no coal in my stocking this year. In lieu of coal, feel free to stock my stuffing with tickets back to Bergen.  Although I’m sure the beautiful city and mountain look a little bit different in December than they do in July.

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We took the funicular up to the top of Mt. Floyen first thing one morning, so we could hike and explore the mountain.  Fortunately, Mt. Floyen offers a lot of activities to those travelling with families.  There are number of different trails, a ropes course, a play ground and some other activities.  Moreover, if you’re really ambitious, you can do the day long hike from Mt. Floyen to Mt. Ulricken.  In addition, there is also a cafe, gift shop, a restaurant and bathrooms atop the mountain.

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The hike on Mount Floyen is significantly easier than the hike at Ulricken.  There are several walking trails, appropriate for all fitness levels)  along with rockier hiking trails through the woods.  Additionally, there are no significant drop offs around the trails (at least the trails we explored at Mt. Floyen), which makes it a little more child friendly than Mount Ulricken.  Truly, it is a good hike for all ages and all abilities.

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Fortunately, when the kids tired out from hiking before we did, they had activities they could do while we hiked.  Consequently, when the kids got bored and the grandparents got tired, they headed back towards the funicular where there was a nice playground.  While the kids played on the playground, Jake, myself, my brothers and my sister-in-laws decided to hike into the woods and off the paved path.

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The paths through the woods were incredibly beautiful.  In some places, it reminded me of the Valley of the Living Rocks where the trolls resided in Frozen.  You could easily imagine that trolls, witches and fairies inhabited these magical woods.  There was moss on the trees, delicate mushrooms carpeting the forest floor, little structures and fallen trees.

Unquestionably, it was a magical, beautiful place that was also peaceful and serene.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that once we finished our hike we were able to get a nice, hot latte before heading back down the mountain.  We headed back down the mountain to make our way towards Bergen’s tallest mountain Mt. Ulricken. That morning we hiked off the beaten path and were transported into a magical woods that was reminiscent of Narnia. Needless to say, if you’re in Bergen, make a trip to both Mt. Floyen and Mt. Ulricken a priority.

Tonight’s song comes to us from Nirvana and it is “The Many Who Sold the World.”

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge – Weather

Its my first time participating in Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge and the topic is weather.  I chose this beautiful picture from Quebec City in 2016.  We were there for Peewee Quebec.  Consequently, on one of our last days in the city, our boys were playing the Islanders in an outdoor scrimmage.  As they played hockey outside, they were blanketed by the freshly fallen snow.  The snowfall was the nice, wet and heavy snow that is perfect for making snowballs and snowmen.

Ice Hotel

Ice Hotel

For our Florida kids, the ice hotel in Quebec City was a modern marvel.  Their marvel was short lived as there weren’t a ton of activities for them to do.   Consequently, they ended up having a snow ball fight as the parents traipsed through the ice hotel and its bars.  They served wonderful drinks in glasses made of ice.  Both the hotel and our glasses were only temporary fixtures of the Quebec Countryside.

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While the ice hotel melts as winter transitions to spring, it is sure to be back as the arctic air reclaims the region the following fall.  I’m hopeful that my youngest will have the opportunity to play in the Peewee Quebec tournament.  If so, we’ll have the opportunity to return to this beautiful hotel.

If you’re thinking about taking a trip to beautiful Quebec City, which I would definitely recommend.  The hotel offers tours, over night stays and will even host your wedding.   You can book a room or a tour of the Ice Hotel (Hotel de Glace) here.

I am a neophyte to the daily photo challenge, but I look forward to posting more photos in the coming weeks.

happy birthday Goalielocks

Happy Birthday Goalielocks

Happy Birthday Goalielocks!  Today you’re 14 years old and I cannot believe how quickly time has flown by.   You’re a good egg and the perfect panacea to my bad days.  As you grow older, may your heart stay big and loving and may your mind stay open and curious.  Never stop challenging old assumptions or challenging yourself to be better, smarter and stronger than you are today.

“I never want this to go unsaid,
So here in this poem is for it to be said.
There are no words to express how much you mean to me,
A son like you, I thought could never be.
Because the day you were born, I just knew,
God sent me a blessing- and that was you.
For this I thank Him every day.

You are the true definition of a son, in every way.
It is because of you that my life has meaning.
Becoming a mom has shown me a new sense of being.
I want you to know that you were the purpose of my life,
Out of everything I did- it was you that I did right.
Always remember that I know how much you care,
I can tell by the relationship that we share.
For a son like you there could be no other,
And whether we are together or apart,
Please do not ever forget-
You will always have a piece of my heart.”

by Valerie Capasso

On Top of the World

On Top of the World

On top of the world in Bergen, high upon the city’s highest peak of Mt. Ulriken, the boys and I hiked with their aunts and uncles as the Mayor, the grandparents and my hubby waited at the overlook.  The Mayor, who had injured himself on Mt. Floyen, reluctantly sat out the challenging and rigorous hike to the peak.

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The hike was challenging, but rewarding.  As we neared the peak, a Norwegian Air flight soared closely over our heads as it approached Bergen’s main airport.   On top of the world in Bergen, there were running trails, multiple hikes and even a farm with sheep.  It would be wrong to be atop a mountain in Norway and not see sheep or goats.  Truly, it would be unnatural.

From our vantage point, we could see all of the beautiful city of Bergen. Far in the distance, you can see where the Norwegian land meets the north sea.   The city of Bergen is nestled between seven mountains on the Byfjorden (also known as the city fjord.)  Between the beautiful city and the North sea, there are several islands that protect Bergen from the harsh North Sea.  Undeniably, I cannot wait to explore those when we return to Hordaland.

There’s something soul cleansing about being on top of a mountain.  2017 has been a devastating year of unfathomable loss, but here atop the mountain we found peace  Moreover, in the peace and solitude of the moment, the beauty of our surroundings became a profound reminder of the beauty of life.  Unfortunately life, as much as we would like it to be pain free, is not without its rocky patches.   However, it is these rocky patches that made our time in Norway together so richly rewarding.

Albert Einstein, thanks to the internet and memes, has been credited with some great quotes.  In this instance, one of his quotes (and it is actually his) comes to mind.  “Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”  From atop the world in Western Norway, I sat amazed at the symbiotic relationship between the Norwegians and their land.

It is experiences like this that I love sharing with my kids.  These are the types of experience that broaden their world by exposing them to new worlds.  While they enjoyed the hike and the time with their family, they unknowingly broadened their circle.  Moreover as a mom, there’s nothing I enjoy more than sharing the beauty of our world with my boys.  I cannot wait to explore new places with them.

It begins

And So It Begins

And so it begins, after much anticipation Irma and her nasty weather are here!  We’ve been able to enjoy time outside with the neighbors today before the storm and in between the feeder bands.  I can’t say enough about how amazing our neighbors are, but we are super lucky.

I had to laugh when I walked out earlier today and the neighborhood men were taking turns riding the dirt bike.  No better time to learn how to ride than during a hurricane!  Life is all about making lemonade from the lemons and that’s truly what we’ve been doing.

 

While the adults played on the bike, the kids were indoors.  Interestingly, the kids came back outside after the dirt bike was put away.  They love playing football.  In between the rain bands, and even during them, the boys were playing football with their neighborhood friends.  It was a godsend for the kids to have a chance to burn off some of their energy.  We are all getting stir crazy inside and the storm has barely just begun.  We’ve been trying hard to overcome the boredom all day.

We’ve had several tornado warnings already tonight, but have not lost power as of yet.   As long as I can post and film, I will continue to do so.  To all my readers in Florida, please stay safe and godspeed!

Irma Approaches

Irma Approaches

As Irma approaches the Florida peninsula, our preparations are completed.  The caramel rolls have come out of the oven and the champagne is chilling.  We’ll be kicking this storm off with a mimosa brunch. Life is too short to panic, to be bored and not enjoy it.  So enjoy it we will!

If there’s anything that’s awesome about impending hurricane doom, it is hurricane shutters.  Our house is so dark that we all slept until 9:00 am.  It was simply amazing!  I don’t think I want to take them down ever.  We leapt out of bed once we realized how late we had slept.

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We hurriedly rushed into the car and headed to Gulfstream Beach.  Not surprisingly the beach was closed to the public, so we headed south to Delray.  Delray Beach is public and impossible to close completely.  We found a parking spot on the north side of the beach and made our way towards the water.

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The roar of the water and wind was deafening.  Between the wind and the waves, it sounded like there was a jet engine constantly running.  As the waves crashed, they left behind a brownish white foam.  Beach erosion will definitely be a problem with this storm.  The water had a markedly brownish tint as the waves retreated back into the sea.  You could see how the waves from Irma would soon overcome the beach.

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As the waves crashed upon the beach, the onshore winds peppered with us a sand.  The palm trees’ fronds were blowing westerly in the wind.  As the  howled, the air was thick and hazy.  It was so humid and so hazy that my canon t6i couldn’t focus on anything. The pictures I was able to capture with my cell phone don’t capture the haziness of the air.

After the beach, we headed home so I could finish up preparation for brunch.  There’s no better way to prepare for a hurricane than a mimosa filled brunch.  I baked my caramel rolls that I usually reserve for the holidays.  My boys, who beg me to make them all the time, were thrilled to hear I was making them.  They’re pretty easy to make, but they’re time intensive.  I started them off last night and then finished them as soon as I got home.

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Soon after they came out of the oven, my bro and his crew arrived.  We had several mimosa with several different sparkling wines: peach champagne, asti (my favorite) and champagne.  That last minute trip to Publix clearly paid off.  Everyone enjoyed the rolls and the mimosas, which were followed up by board games.  The boys started off with the game Klask, which is sort of like table hockey with magnets.  it will be a great way to pass time during the storm.

Once they finished the rousing game of Klask, we played a frightening game of Cards Against Humanity.  Goalielocks nearly won the game, which is scary since he’s 13.  They may be a little too knowledgeable for our tastes.  Nevertheless, we played a game full of laughter and good times.  Meanwhile, all four of the puppies enjoyed the extra company and attention.  Alas, our good times had to come to an end since Palm Beach County is under a 3:00 pm curfew.  We snuck in a group picture before the crew headed back to South to Boca.

Exploring Undredal

Exploring Undredal

By far one of my favorite excursions in Norway was the day we spent exploring Undredal.   Undredal is a famous city on the Aurlandsfjord.  It is famous for having more goat inhabitants than human inhabitants.  It is also famous for having the world’s smallest wooden stave church. 

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Our adventure to Undredal started with a bus ride from Flam to Gudvangen.  At Gudvangen we got on the ferry to cruise the world famous, and UNESCO protected Naeroyfjord.  The Naeroyfjord is the narrowest arm of the Sognefjord.  It is rated as the number one natural heritage site in the world by National Geographic Magazine.  The cruise on this narrow fjord did not disappoint.

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The water of the Naeroyfjord is a beautiful and pristine blue green color.  Dramatic mountains rise out the fjord matched only by equally waterfalls.  The sides of the mountains are covered by grass and trees, which are perfect for the goats and sheeps that inhabit them.  Unquestionably, there isn’t an adequate superlative to describe the beauty of the Naeroyfjord.   Consider the fact that this Florida girl and her son Jake spent the entirety of the Naeroyfjord cruise on the top of the ferry, so we wouldn’t miss a minute of the scenery.  We were utterly transfixed even as we were pelted in the face by ice pellets and the blistering cold wind.

We soon turned into the Aurlandsfjord and headed towards our destination of Undredal.  The town looked absolutely magical as we made our approach to the small dock.  Undredal has the appearance of a quintessential Norwegian Fjord town. The buildings of Undredal are colorful, well kept and inviting.

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When we disembarked, we met our guide who would lead us on our walking tour of the tiny town.   As we gathered with the rest of our group near the pier.  A short teenage boy/girl approached as we waited. It took a moment, but we realized that Mark was a guy and our guide.  He had to be younger than Jake most likely a high school student in town.   Mark was absolutely wonderful.  As a tour guide he was perfect, he was knowledge, engaging, funny and entertaining.

There is not a ton to see in tiny Undredal, but it is absolutely worth the visit!  Our guide took us to the raging river showed us the old school, and where we’d go for our cheese tasty.  The piece de resistance for our tour, however, was the smallest stave church in the world.   At its inception 1147, it was even smaller than its current iteration.   In the 18th century, they added own to the church.  Even in its larger iteration, it is only 39 ft x 13 ft with 40 seats.

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Most noteworthy in spite of its small size, the church’s interior packs quite the punch.  The sides of the church and ceiling are home to very interesting religious murals and paintings.  Norwegian churches, unlike most European churches from the Middle Ages, incorporate both Christian and pagan themes.  In addition, this is the only church where you will find a painting of Satan on the ceiling.  According to local legends, the townspeople of Undredal felt by putting Satan in their church they could keep a better eye on him.  I guess its that whole “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” thing.

If you sit in the benches, you can see where a board parishioner had carved a drawing into the wall.  The artists painted the ceilings with stars, biblical figures, angels and as noted above satan. Lighting in the church is provided by candles and a very unique deer antler chandelier that was a gift from the Germans.  In contrast, the alter area is simple and beautiful.  I can’t imagine going to church or holding a wedding in such a small church.

Despite its size, the Undredal and its small wooden stave church pack quite the punch and are well worth the journey.  If you are jumping off from Flam, it is pretty easy to get to Undredal and you have several options.  Moreover, I highly recommend taking the Naeroyfjord cruise option as cruising the Naeroyfjord is truly spectacular.    The particular excursion we chose included a bus to Gudvangen, the ferry to Undredal and a van back Flam.  In addition, it included a walking tour and a goat cheese tasting in Undredal, both of which were amazing.   This was the perfect excursion for families.  We were travelling with family members from 7 to 87 and each and everyone of us enjoyed the day trip.  

You can find all of the photos from this trip here: Photo Album

Hangry

One of my favorite commercials, is the Snicker commercial featuring the Brady Bunch’s Marcia Brady.  Marcia is so hangry that she’s morphed into a big, mean biker dude.  As soon as she takes a bite of her Snickers bar, however, she turns back into the sweet all American girl we know and love.  I’d be lying if I said I was any different.  I would also be lying if I said that food makes me happier than coffee.  I run on Dunkin.

As cranky as I can get when I’m hungry, my younger boys can be absolute curmudgeons.  They’re like an 80 year old man going through puberty.  Quite frankly, it’s ugly.  Like the sour patch in the commercial, he goes from sugary sweet to dastardly sour.

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When we were hiking on the Vindhellavegen section of the Kongsvegen, the Mayor had become hungry.  As we hiked the Sverre hjornevik, one of the most picturesque parts of the trail, the Mayor’s hangriness started to peak.  One problem…  The trail was wide enough, but was gravelly in places. If one were to fall of the side of the road, one would fall into a rocky gorge.  It wouldn’t be a good outcome.

 

The Mayor felt the entire mountainside from Borgund to Husom should know of his discontent.  He was not quiet in sharing his displeasure.  Jake and I trekked to the bottom to see Husom and take pictures, while the Mayor, Goalielocks and the Hubby waited on some benches up the hill.

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We finally made our way back up the trail, which was much steeper on the way up than it had been on the descent.  The Mayor whose hangriness has reached a new level of ludicrousness was beside himself.  His antics were annoying Goalielocks and Jake, leading Goalielocks to ask the Mayor if he could be any louder.  This wasn’t not a good question to ask.  The Mayor started to scream, shout and clap as he did a jig a la GOB from Arrested Development.  Out of breath, I had to stop hiking because I was laughing too hard.

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While the Mayor was attempting to annoy his brothers, the rest of us ended up in hysterics because it was truly the funniest thing we’d ever seen.  This, of course, only made it worse.  It wasn’t until he saw my iphone recording that he started walking normally.  As soon as we got back to the Borgund Stave church and museum, we got him some food.  We couldn’t unfurl the wrapper off the muffin quick enough. Once the food was on board, my sweet angelic Mayor was back.

 

 

Memories

I’ve been using Shutterfly to house and print my photos for the last eleven years, so many of memories are housed there.  In fact, I’ve been on Shutterfly longer than I’ve been on Facebook.  That’s a long time.  One of the thing, I love about Shutterfly is the memory emails.  Much like Facebook Memories, Shutterfly now sends email with a link to your old photos.

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Today’s memories email from Shutterfly was of memories from 10 years ago.  What a fantastic trip down memory lane.  Ten years ago, Jake was starting 3rd grade.  This year he’ll be starting at Palm Beach State.  The Mayor was a doll at a year old and Colin was almost four.  Now both of them are in middle school.

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You can see how digital photos has evolved since 2007 when comparing the quality of photos from 2007 to 2017.  Their are several super cute, but super grainy pictures of the boys.   Admittedly, part of the problem could be that they simply were unable to sit still long enough for me to get a quality photo.  However, they haven’t changed that much and the photos should still be super grainy if that was the case.  Grainy or not, the photos from 2007 are a wonderful trip down memory lane.