Oslo + Bergen 2017

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One of the places I was absolutely most excited to go during my Europe trip was Norway.  Not only am I obsessed with lefse and green mountains, but I have Norwegian heritage, and I just really couldn’t wait to visit the motherland and meet my kin!!  And guys.  It was #perfect #worthit #thebestnorwegianexperienceever #hashtag.  It was four hashtags amazing, and I had some of my greatest times there, and when can I go back?!?!

I started my Norwegian adventure in Oslo, where I saw viking ships and so many naked people!! (And by people I mean statues).  I stayed with a man from China who had lived in Norway for years, and he gave me some of the best recommendations and was the nicest ever!  I spent my nights before dinner eating chocolate, drinking tea, and sitting in his kitchen talking about the world with him.  After dinner, I would walk around Oslo until late hours of the night, because it’s ALWAYS sunset there after 9 PM.  I found some amazing coffee shops with beautiful blonde baristas and even found a secret lake where the metro ends.

After Oslo, I got on an eight hour train ride through the Norwegian mountains to Bergen, and it was absolutely, hands-down, the best train ride I took in all of Europe.  The rail slowly climbed through the tippiest-toppiest point of Norway, through a field of white and blue even in the middle of July.  In the more hospitable parts of Norway, I looked down upon rows of tiny, brown cottages with white trimmings, rainbow flower gardens, and older couples sitting on their porch enjoying wine and snacks.  I snuggled in my seat with a cup of milky, black tea from the snack carriage and stared in awe for the entire journey.  I think it may have been one of the best parts of Norway.

When I arrived in Bergen, the magic ended momentarily when I got caught in the biggest rain storm in my life, dragging my suitcase through puddles while trying to find my airbnb.  And although my suitcase never dried the entire time I was there, I had a blow dryer to fix my hair, changed into a new dress, and met up with my airbnb host at a tiki bar with his friends, where we drank the sugariest drinks of my life and danced and danced and danced.  It was one of the times that I felt most welcome, and I will always cherish the experience of being taken in my a group of strangers in Bergen.  After the tiki bar, we met with all the other Bergen locals at the kebab shop down the street and sleepily leaned against the doorjambs while we waited for our takeout.  Upon arriving home at 3 a.m., I cozied up in my jammies, drank a pot of tea, and ate while chatting with my new friends.  Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe Bergen is just a secret hub of amazing Middle Eastern food, but I think it was the best kebab of my life.

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Oslo Stuff:

  • The Kasbah – a super cool Mediterranean restaurant & cafe with a boho vibe in a locals’ area of Oslo.  This place has lots of seating, some great hummus, and a yummy chicken pita!
  • Supreme Roastworks – A lovely coffeeshop with an even lovlier barista walking distance from The Kasbah.  I went twice, and I highly recommend their pour overs ♥
  • Sognsvann – the secret locals’ lake that is literally at the end of the metro.  Get off at the metro stop with the same name, and enjoy a serene walk around the lake right outside of the city!  Also, don’t forget to bring a picnic, because it’s the perfect spot.
  • Vigelands / Frogner Park – For a free, outdoor art experience, stop by Frogner Park and see hundreds of naked people statues.  The gardens are breathtaking, and honestly I just can’t believe this whole art gallery is in the middle of a park!
  • Oslo Opera House – the perfect, and I mean perfect, place to sit with a bottle of wine to watch a sunset.  I ate one too many chocolate-covered marzipan bars here while walking along the opera house roof and watching a pink and purple sky.
  • Bygdøy – take a ferry to this island to see all the museums including the Viking Ship Museum which I can’t recommend enough!!
  • Fuglen – an adorable coffeehouse with a name that translates to ‘the bird’.
  • National Gallery – a museum full of Monet, Degas, Picasso, and Munche!  I saw some of my favorite art pieces (I loooove Degas!) and then I went for more coffee at Supreme Coffeeworks.

Bergen Faves:

  • Selam – a really delicious Ethiopian restaurant recommended by my airbnb.  It’s barely advertised, hardly noticeable, but has a beautiful inside and delicious sega tibs!
  • Kaffemisjonen – my favorite coffee place in Norway, this is about a minute away from Selam.  The baristas are so knowledgeable, and the atmosphere is relaxing on a misty day.
  • Mount Fløyen – take a fernicular up the mountain for a pano view of the city.  Also, there is a music note fence up there, and it’s so cooooool!!!
  • Walking around town – it sounds silly to add this as a favorite ‘thing to do’, but this was one of the coolest experiences in Bergen!  I found some really adorable bakeries, great thrift shops, walked by the zoo, and got to see some adorable houses.
  • Fish market – ok, ugh.  I couldn’t do this.  I had to walk through it multiple times to get to Bryggen, and I gagged the whole time.  But if you like eating fish and whales and reindeer, I guess go here and live your best life.  On the positive side, the market vibe was wonderful!
  • Bryggen – old town Bergen with the best art shops, sweater stores, and restaurants!  10/10 recommend.
  • Naboen – a really wonderful restaurant with delicious steak + potatoes + beer.  It’s a more upscale place, and I had a lovely romantic solo dinner.

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: It’s Always You by She & Him

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12 Days of Christmas

I’ve decided to start off the official twelve days of Christmas by posting a holiday recipe every day until the 25th!  Cookies, candies, and other foods that are bad for you (but it’s okay because it’s the holidays).  The recipes will be some old, some new, but all worthy of your holiday baking list.

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First Day of Christmas:  German Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

This is an old recipe, dating back to 3 years ago (didn’t really think I had a blog that long ago tbh).  These cookies remain one of my favorites, and I also like how they look snowy!

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Second Day of Christmas: Soft Sugar Cookies with Sour Cream Frosting

These cookies are perfect for the holidays, because the recipe makes a lot, everyone likes them, and you can decorate them with holiday sprinkles.  They take a little extra time than most cookies, but it’s worth it, I promise!

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Third Day of Christmas: Orange Drop Cookies

This is my grandma’s recipe that I bake entirely too much (although, I don’t really see anyone complaining about it).  It’s been one of my favorite desserts since I was really little.  If you’re indecisive about holiday baking, just trust me on this: make these cookies.

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Fourth Day of Christmas: Cheesecake Crumb Bars

Taking a break from the cookies to present cheesecake crumb bars!  A mix between cheesecake, crumb cake, and shortbread.  Customize with different flavors, or go simple with a little vanilla.

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Fifth Day of Christmas: The Best Nut Caramel Ever

This is one of my family’s favorite holiday recipes!  The caramel is super easy to make, and it’s customizable, because you can just add in whatever nuts you have on hand (although I highly recommend walnuts and hazelnuts).  Wrap them in mini Christmas cupcake liners, because it’s cute.

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Sixth Day of Christmas: Pineapple Zucchini Bread

This bread is a nice break from all the super sweet that comes with cookies and candy during the holidays.  Filled with zucchini, walnuts, and pineapple, it’s perfect with a little butter and some coffee for breakfast!

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Seventh Day of Christmas: Cinnamon Butter Candy

Unique, spicy, and the hardest part of the recipe is boiling the water.  Wrap as a gift, and give your friends a break from peppermint chocolate bark.  Or just keep it for yourself (trust me, you’ll want to)!

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Eighth Day of Christmas: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

These are time consuming, but if you make these, you will pretty much win Christmas baking altogether.  P.S. They’re not hard.  They just have to rise for a few hours!

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Ninth Day of Christmas: Cranberry White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies are really easy to make, and I love how festive they are!  Sweet from white chocolate, tart from the cranberries, and chewy from the oatmeal.  Santa will be happy 🙂

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Tenth Day of Christmas: Butter Cookies with Walnuts

Effortless, buttery icebox cookies filled with walnuts that melt when you eat them.  Keep them simple with vanilla, or add extra flavors to get more creative with your holiday baking.  This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so you have plenty to wrap up and gift!

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Eleventh Day of Christmas: Espresso Hot Chocolate with Vanilla Whipped Cream

This is by far my favorite hot chocolate I’ve ever had.  Only 5 ingredients and perfect for Christmas brunch!

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Twelfth Day of Christmas: Norwegian Lefse

My family’s Christmas tradition every year!  Lefse is a cross between a tortilla and a crepe, made out of potatoes.  I look forward to making lefse every year, because it’s fun and of course, it tastes amazing!  If you’ve ever wanted to make Nordic food, this is the best place to start.

Merry Christmas, my friends ♥

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Norwegian Lefse

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Merry Christmas!  I’m extra excited to share a recipe today, because it’s a traditional Norwegian recipe my family has been making for years.  For non-Norwegians, lefse is pronounced lef-sah, and it is a flatbread made out of potatoes.  It’s kind a cross between a tortilla and a crepe.  My family makes it every year, and we always have it on Christmas Eve with oyster stew (and other things, because as it turns out, many people aren’t necessarily fans of oyster stew).

I’m not quite sure if lefse is a Christmas tradition in Norway.. Actually I’m pretty sure it’s something they eat year round (??).  However, we make it for Christmas, and we always have it with butter and sugar.  Just roll it up and eat it like a tortilla!

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I love lefse, because it’s my family’s “thing”.  We never have to worry about it coming out perfectly round, and if it turns out too dry or too thick, nobody cares.  When it’s covered with butter and sugar, it’s always going to be good!  Growing up, we always had it during the holidays, and I love being able to share the tradition with my friends.  I watched my grandma make it growing up, and now I make it with myself with my grandmother, mom, and brother!

Like I said, we always had it with butter and sugar, but if that isn’t your thing, there are many other ingredients you can put on lefse: cinnamon, PB&J, meatballs, ham and cheese, veggies and cream cheese, jam…whatever concoction you create in your mind.

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Some lefse making tips:

1. Microwave your potatoes instead of boiling them.  It avoids any unnecessary water.

2. Mix riced potatoes with butter and refrigerate overnight.  Again, this dries out the potatoes a little so the dough isn’t too wet.

3. Roll them as thin as you can.  Thin lefse is a lot better than thick lefse!  (Although, if they do come out a little thick, they’ll still taste good!)

4. Don’t worry about them coming out perfectly round.  I don’t even understand how people make that a reality.

5. Only add cream if the dough feels too dry.  Otherwise, leave it out.

lefse!

Merry Christmas friends!

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*Song of the Day: Baby It’s Cold Outside by Zooey Deshchanel and Leon Redbone*