A Postcard-Image-Worthy Hike

Norway is a country filled with incredible drama in its natural landscape. As you can imagine, this land of numerous fjords, lush green valleys, and enormous glaciers offers unending opportunities for creating awe-inspiring images. One of those is called Preikestolen. Preikestolen_Board10 My husband first brought this place up a few months ago when he was planning our annual sojourn to the motherland. In a 2-3 week family vacation, we have plenty of time to visit family, relatives, and friends, and insert an excursion to parts of Norway we’ve yet to see. One of the images you’ll often see in a Norway postcard is that of Preikestolen or “Pulpit Rock.” Preikestolen_Board01 Preikestolen_Board02 Pulpit Rock is as dramatic as they come. Sheer drop-offs over 600 meters (or about 1800 feet) with no guardrail in sight to secure any curious tourists reminds us that we are no longer in the States. Here, you accept the risks and consequences of your actions. If you happen to fall over the edge, well then, that’s your fault. Nobody to blame; no one to sue. I like that philosophy…but I digress. Preikestolen_Board03 Preikestolen_Board04Preikestolen_Board05 A 2-hour hike to the top and a 2-hour hike to the bottom. Couldn’t be that bad, right? I mean, my hikes to St. Josephs Hill at home should have been good preparation for such a journey, right? Hahaha Well, it was and it wasn’t. Perhaps the idea of trudging uphill for a couple of hours didn’t bother me because of the weekly St. Josephs Hill hikes. But I didn’t expect that most of the way up to Preikestolen would be along paths created with various sizes of uneven rocks. Ugh. I hadn’t counted on the fact that it would take a bit of concentration on my part to pick out my line along these steps. And some of those steps were rather high, at least with respect to the level of flexibility and strength I have with my artificial hips. Preikestolen_Board06 Preikestolen_Board07 Preikestolen_Board13 Preikestolen_Board11 Preikestolen_Board09 Ugh. I’m sooooo glad I was never curious enough to see if anyone provided a description of what this hike would be like (on the Internet) beyond elevation and duration. All I knew was to bring my hiking boots. Had I known the path would be a rocky one, I may not have attempted it at all.

Hiking uphill is far better and easier for me than hiking downhill. After all, hips are what help slow me down and that strength is still building. Then again, hiking uphill does take strength to move from step to step, especially the big ones.

We took frequent rest stops as our girls ran up ahead to check things out and wait for us to catch up. I was a little worried that our girls would get bored, tired, and whine most of the way. Not so. Not at all. They were as curious and bouncy the entire way up and down as I could have hoped. They are in great shape from their hours of sports and their youthful curiosity kept them going until we returned to our car. We often caught up to them standing atop a nearby boulder ready to point the way forward. They were also very good about showing me the smallest steps up the rocky pathway for me. Once we reached the top with the rest of the early crowd, it was truly breathtaking. Did I mention the absence of guardrails? Preikestolen_Board12 Preikestolen_Pic02 I could feel my legs get a little wobbly anytime I got a little close to the edge. The view over the sheer drop is enough to make you a little dizzy and lose your balance. Because of that, we crawled to the edge to take a quick peek. And that was all we needed. The all encompassing vista was easily and safely seen from at least 5 feet from the edge. The views down and around the fjord were nothing less than spectacular. I don’t have enough adjectives at hand to justify the beauty of the site. Let’s just say that you have to see it to experience it.

Likewise, the climb itself offered several postcard-worthy spots. Of course, there were several brave [or stupid] tourists who sat with their legs hanging over the edge. Did you know that only two people have lost their lives falling over the edge? It was not an accident, though. They had created a suicide pact together and Preikestolen was their choice for death by elevation.

The climb down the mountain took just as long as climbing up. It wasn’t an easy descent because you still had to pick your lines along the same rocky paths you took uphill. And for me, it was a little scarier making sure I didn’t get going too quickly, lose concentration, and miss the next step. Preikestolen_Board14 Preikestolen_Pic01 But I’m glad I did it. I knew my legs would be screaming at me the next day (and they did!) but it would be a soreness well earned. One that would remind me, painful though it might be, I did it!

An original post by mommytwingirls for It’s Never Easy…But It’s Always Fun blog.

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Spring Break 2012 – Luau

No visit to Hawaii would be complete without an evening luau. Yea, I know they’re terribly commercial and focused on drawing in as many tourists as possible. But I love them! I love eating poke, lomi lomi salmon, sweet potato, and Kalua pork. But the show is what I enjoy the most – particularly the fire dance. Not all luaus offer a fire dance. In fact, the last one we saw a couple of years ago, did not include a fire dance, though it was just as entertaining. This one by Island Breeze included some arts and crafts activities before the unearthing of the roasted pig. My girls chose the making of a fish out of a palm leaf and it provided hours of entertainment as my girls made it swim in the pool when we returned to our house. Alternatively, you could learn to hula dance, get a “tattoo” and play an instrument. There was time for only one activity before the Imu ceremony and the subsequent feast.

But the show was the main reason we were there. We’ve been to a few luaus and all are different and fascinating. I like seeing the different costumes the dancers wear. But I really look forward to the fire dance – which tends to be the last dance of the evening. My husband was the designated photographer for our evening as I chose to live in the moments.  🙂

An original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

Spring Break 2012 – Volcanoes National Park

Spring Break 2012 (Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden)

Spring Break 2012

Our girls chose our destination this time. Fond memories of their stay in Maui influenced this choice, I’m sure. But as they’ll learn, we just hate to repeat ourselves when there are so many destinations to be seen and experienced. So, we settled on the Big Island of Hawaii. The last time we were here was pre-children and as we all know, experiencing a place with your children is a whole new experience.

Knowing our active 8-year-olds are great travelers but do have their limits, we decided to stay for a few days on the Hilo/Volcanoes National Park side of the island. This would give us the ability to take our time exploring the park and checking out things like a lava tube, a magma lake and the end of the road (as defined by lava having flooded the road many decades ago) without worrying about a 3-hour drive back to the Kona side of the island.

Our first day out, we happened upon the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. What a find! So lush and colorful, we were awed and grateful that we followed the “scenic drive” sign to this spot. Imagine all of Hawaii’s flora and fauna in one spot – spectacular!   [BTW, photos taken by both my husband and me. He did all the cool foamy water pics.]



An original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

Spring Break 2012 – Volcanoes National Park

Spring Break 2012 – Luau

Summer Vacation – Langedrag Nature Park

Summer vacation is winding down and soon will be a fond memory. But I didn’t want to miss sharing one of my all-time favorite parks – Langedrag Mountain Farm and Nature Park. It’s located in Nesbyen, Norway. It is a sanctuary for animals and birds and a fabulous getaway for locals and tourists alike. There are over 22 different types of wild and domestic animals including lynx, reindeer, wolves, moose, fjord ponies and more. The location is phenomenal with sweeping vistas of mountain ranges and dramatic fjords in the distance. The architecture is rustic and traditional. The park is a harmonious combination of nature and modern conveniences. It’s a park I look forward to visiting when we travel to the family cabin in Hallingdal.

Cross-post to It’s Never Easy, But It’s Always Fun blog from Life As We See It, the official blog of Solheim Photography.

Summer Vacation – Karius og Baktus Children’s Theater

Staying in Oslo all summer meant that we would be able to see some special events we have missed out on in past years because our timing just wasn’t right. A few years ago, a company of actors started acting out well-known children’s stories in one of my all-time favorite parks – Vigeland’s Park (aka Frogner Park). Our girls are well-versed in popular Norwegian children’s tales, songs and folklore. Karius and Baktus is a favorite book, written and illustrated by Thorbjørn Egner, especially among parents, because it encourages children to brush their teeth and keep them clean. Karius and Baktus (a play on the words, caries and bacteria) are two brothers who live in a little boy’s mouth who cause all sorts of trouble. They absolutely love it when the little boy eats loff (white bread) and syrup, without taking care of his teeth properly afterward. However, one day, the little boy sees a dentist who instructs the little boy to brush his teeth – not a good thing for poor Karius and Baktus who have worked hard to hammer out holes in the boy’s teeth and make themselves a nice, cozy home. During a subsequent dental appointment to fix the cavities wrought by Karius and Baktus, the brothers face the end of their stay as a drill ruins all their work and washes away the home they had so happily built. It’s an amusing story that stays with children for years. Our girls have often asked about Karius and Baktus during their nightly routine, wondering if they are in their mouths. We, of course, encourage them to brush, rinse and floss to make sure Karius and Baktus don’t hang around.

I was happy that the theater did not mind if anyone took pictures during the show – as long as no flash was used and no video (of course). It was time to push my Canon 5DMkII for this low-lit scene. The only light source was the theater lights strung above, hanging from the top of the big tent. I alternately shot these images at ISO 1600 – ISO 2000 with a 24-70mm zoom lens (fully zoomed in at 70mm) at f/2.8 to f/3.2 and shutter speed set from 1/60 to 1/80 seconds. I was pretty high up in the stands, so I knew I’d be cropping these photos in much tighter later. Though I worried about the amount of noise I might get from such a high ISO, I was rather happy with the results.

The children’s theater in Vigeland’s Park takes place under a big tent – and a good thing because you just never know when it will rain. All the kids were invited to sit on the ground right next to the stage, like my daughter, Storyteller (here), and the cousins.As in the DVD we have at home, there is a narrator that tells the story from scene to scene. Here, Karius (dark hair) and Bactus (red hair) check out their new space and immediately start planning and building a new home in the little boy’s teeth.Karius and Bactus are ecstatic with their new home. They sing, laugh and dance and encourage the little boy to eat more bread and syrup!Unfortunately, just when Karius and Baktus start decorating their new home, the little boy feels the pain. A trip to the dentist reveals that the little boy has not been brushing his teeth regularly. So a thorough cleaning is in order and Karius and Baktus meet the Teeth Cleaner. A fight ensues but in the end, Karius and Baktus are forced to run and hide.When they come out of hiding, they find that all their work has been washed away. The narrator tells the audience how the little boy has received strict instructions on keeping his teeth clean. Another trip to the dentist will rid the little boy of Karius and Baktus completely. But Karius and Baktus give it one more try – and scream for loff and syrup, hoping the little boy hears them.

But their optimism turns to despair and finally, to fear as they hear a rather loud roar – a drill! As they try to evade the drill, the Teeth Cleaner suddenly appears again and washes them away, out of the little boy’s mouth.

And the actors take a bow. What a treat to see this play. Certainly a highlight in our summer abroad in Norway.

Cross-post to It’s Never Easy, But It’s Always Fun blog from Life As We See It, the official blog of Solheim Photography.

Summer Vacation – Farmor’s Garden

Whenever our parents visit, they always leave our gardens filled with flowers so vibrant, you can’t help but feel a little light-hearted at the sight. Here are a few images from my parents-in-law’s garden. Don’t they bring a smile to your face? Enjoy.

Cross-post to It’s Never Easy, But It’s Always Fun blog from Life As We See It, the official blog of Solheim Photography.

Summer Vacation – On the Island

Norway is a beautiful country with such a unique look to its landscape…or island-scape. My parents-in-law rented a couple of cabins on an island situated at the east side of the Oslo fjord about 1 1/2 hours drive from Oslo. It’s actually rather close to the border with Sweden. All of the grandchildren, sons and daughters came out to enjoy a relaxing 2-week vacation. Large boulders dot the fjord, offering a unique playground for children – a slide and climbing rock in one. The opportunities to explore were endless and the grandchildren (well, 8 of the 9, one is a 9-months-old baby) were constantly scampering up and down the rocks. We parents basked in the sun (when it shone) and enjoyed the views of miles of sea and islands that surrounded the cabins. In addition, the dock and nearby beach kept the kids going all day long. Swimming in the water? Jumping from the dock? Rock climbing? Building sand castles? Water fights? And I couldn’t begin to recount the numerous pretend scenes our kids played out. All in all, it was a fabulous trip because once the kids were entertained, there wasn’t much more for us moms and dads to do but relax and enjoy the sun and sea.

Cross-post to It’s Never Easy, But It’s Always Fun blog from Life As We See It, the official blog of Solheim Photography.

Summer Vacation Means Summer School for Mom

As many of you know, my life this summer has taken on a very different pace. While I’m on a summer hiatus from my photography business, I am taking a Norwegian language immersion course at the University of Oslo International Summer School. In a previous post, I mentioned how I’m spending this summer. It’s been a fantastic experience thus far (only 2 weeks into it) mainly because our instructor is entertaining as well as a great teacher *and* the students themselves come from many different countries. In our class of 24 students, 30% of the students are American while the rest are represented by 10 different countries. These include Luxembourg, England, Japan, Sri Lanka, Canada, Bulgaria, Russia, Pakistan, Greece, and Uganda. When I decided to take this class, I didn’t consider how much fun it would be to meet and get to know my fellow classmates. Here are a few images from the last couple of weeks. Enjoy!

Meet my class (photo courtesy of my classmate, Asuka).

On the first evening, there was a welcome ceremony and cocktail reception for all International Summer School students at the Oslo Radhuset (City Hall). I love this building. Not only are the colorful murals on the interior walls amazing, it is the site where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded.

Cross-post to It’s Never Easy, But It’s Always Fun blog from Life As We See It, the official blog of Solheim Photography.

Cross-post to It’s Never Easy, But It’s Always Fun blog from Life As We See It, the official blog of Solheim Photography.

This [Hawai’i] Camp Was Better Than Watching TV!

IMG_3447 copy C hahaha High praise indeed coming from Songwriter. After we picked up the girls from Hawaii camp a few days ago in Maui (we’re home now), she followed that statement up with, “This was the best camp ever, Mommy, in my whole life! It was so much FUN!” This is three weeks of veteran day camp experience and 5 years of life experience talking here. <wink>

Even though it ended up that no hula lessons took place at Hawaii camp, she (and her sister) still had a great time. It could be that since they participated in the mini hula lesson before the Old Lahaina Luau, they were somewhat mollified with that particular requirement for vacation. (Truls thinks that the hula instructor had a case of “large swells” – waves, that is…at the beach. We’d hung out at a beach favored by many surfers while the girls were in camp.)

“The man was so funny. He made me laugh and laugh. I told him he was a big Cheese!” Songwriter smiled in memory. “And then he laughed and I laughed and everyone laughed,” and Songwriter cracked herself up again. She was referring to the guy that came to teach everyone how to play the ukulele.

So Storyteller, what was your favorite part of the camp?” I asked her sister.

Swimming in the pool and…[she thought for a moment]…catching a lizard!” exclaimed Storyteller. Typical. Anything that involves an insect, reptile or animal would certainly trump anything else the day had to offer.

And I liked making the necklaces with flowers,” added Songwriter.

Oh, you mean the leis?” I asked.

Yes, Mommy, arent’ they beautiful?” beamed Songwriter as she lifted them up again for us to crane our necks to take a look.

Yes, they certainly were beautiful. But even more beautiful was the fact that the girls had such a wonderful time. After a whole week with only Mommy and Pappa and no other kids to play with, we were happy they got to play with kids their own age. Don’t get me wrong. They loved having our exclusive attention all week racing the waves with them at the beach, swimming in the pool, playing cards at night, and the like but they’ve also asked whether there would be other kids at the luau or the aquarium, or other places. They’re rather social little girls and like making new friends. In fact, they made a new friend in Lily, at the aquarium. So, spending the day at Hawaii Camp (Keiki Lani at Fairmont Kea Lani) was a great “break” for them and a “more” relaxing day for us. And they are already talking about going back next year.

An original It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog post.

You may also find MommyTwinGirls at Silicon Valley Moms Blog telling tales of parenting in Silicon Valley, at Mad About Multiples recounting the ups and downs of raising twins and at Solheim Photography posting favorites from her latest photo shoots.