mandag 26. september 2011

New York News - the end of a journey

New Yoooork!

Out of all the places and cities we planned, New York has maybe the one we've heard the most about in genereal. Both Åslaug and myself are huge fans of the sitcom "Friends" and ecpecially the one and only "Sex and the City", which takes place in NY. There was a lot of excitement, it also being the very last stop on our journey, when we landed on Newark airport. We had booked a hostel West 63rd street so close to Central Park we saw it from our window. Not the nicest room, but the it was the most expencive accomondation on our entire trip and the area was great. On our first day we started walking and rather randomly we ended up in Times Square (or maybe all the roads goes to Times Square?) Just as shiny and full of everything and everybody, as expected. One thing led to another and suddenly we were watching the broadway version of "Phantom of the Opera". A very beautiful experience I highly recommend.

The Phantom is present

Times Square at night

We did alot. A lot of walking, and a lot of tourism and some things not so touristy. Jogging in Central Park, walking around the Village, Soho, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, etc. The 2 km long queue kept us from taking the ferry aorund the Island but we did of course see Lady Liberty. Walking from the Guggenheim Museum we figured we'd just keep walking and see the area. As we kept climbing the street numbers, someone told us we could take the train from 125th street, it became more and more different from what the rest of towm seems like. Someone shouting "white girls" after us and seeing no others who could be mistaken for tourists we realised we had entered the spanish/latino part of town. We enjoyed it and weren't scared at any point, though we were glad we were two. Blake told us later he would have advised us not to go beyond 100th street.

We got a makeover at Barney's by the NY brand Sue Devitt


Outisde Magnolia Bakery

Inside The Guggenheim museum

Blake is a relative on our dads side (the only one we visited that we're both related to). He and his wife Jennifer lives in Fairfield, Conneticut with their lovely golden retriver, Skyler. The daugthers Laura and Emily are a couple of years older than me and Åssi. They were amazingly welcoming and let us stay with them. Among other things, we visited Laura where she studies in Amherst, Massachussetts.
Taking the train from them to Manhatten only takes a little over an hour, and we're so grateful for all the pick-ups and drop-off. 4th of July was celebrated in NYC watching the fireworks over the Hudson River from the top of Rockefeller Center. Amazing! I'm so glad we got to do that.


Laura and Åslaug

In the Yellow sofa where Laura sings on open-mic on fridays! (Laura's song areawesome! Witness, right here!)

New York is it own kind of thing. There's still much to see there. But it's a lot of people crammed into not so much space and I think the fact that we came during the high season for tourists, affected at least my own impresion of the city. Our first cousin from Norway, Synne, happened to be in NY with her boyfriend when we were there, so we had lunch in Bleeker street. We rarely see her in Norway, so it was kinda ironic, kinda awesome, seeing her there. The cupcakes at Mognolia Bakery, the sunset over Empire state building, Grand central station, my gorgeous new DNKY shoes, the list goes on, and now (almost two months later - i'm sorry, i suck) I find myself smiling thinking back. It was the perfect place to end our little trip around the world. On our last night, Blake and Jennifer brought out the Champagne to celebrate. And I've got to say I think it's worth celebrating. We did good.

I'ts an end of a journey - a journey we will never forget..

fredag 5. august 2011

A week in Wisconsin!

Don and Donna, relatives on my mother’s side, were on my list of people I wanted to visit in the US from the very beggining! They live in a little town called Alma Center in Wisconsin. Their daughter Jenny with family also lives right by. By coincidence my uncle Olaf with family were visiting the same week. Quite the Norwegian invasion, suddenly we were 7 visitors at once! Our hosts handled it without trouble and claimed there could never be too many Norwegian in one place. We were impressed!

Visiting the farm were my great grandfather's brother, Gerhart Arntsen Ullerud, first settled down. Me, Sanna, Hayley, Whitney and Donna. We got a ride on the back of a tractor!

Our first day there we all went to the “House on the Rock” a couple of hours away. It had started with a man who decided to build his house on and into a huge rock. Spectacular enough itself but he also collected all kinds of things. Today there were massive collections of pretty much all things imaginable. Our feet hurt after hours of walking, there was so much to see! Dolls houses, enormous self playing orchestras, weapons, puppets, model boats – you name it! The most amazing thing was the massive carousel put together with all kinds of different wooden figures. And not a single horse!

One of the smaller (!!) carousels with all kinds of dolls and wooden figures..

A lot of impressions! Me, Olaf, Andreas, Lena and Amalie taking a little break. 

One of the perfect little rooms in one of the MANY dolls houses..

We also visited Action City in a town nearby. Gokarts, Lazer Tag and a whole bunch of games kept us busy and happy for several hours. Lazer tag especially was great fun, despite a couple of injuries. That’s what you get for getting too excited and ignoring the ”no running” part. Another day Scott was going fishing from his boat and was nice enough to let us tag along. We set off down the river, nuts and beer and fishing rods. Although we didn’t catch any fish we definitively enjoyed the trip. No wonder guys go fishing, the perfect excuse for doing absolutely nothing while having a beer!

Holding on to the girly side of fishing with Haylee's pink rod!

And yeah, we did catch fish. Or at least the fish caught Scott! ;)

The annual Strawberry Festival was going on the weekend we were there. Everyone told us it was nothing to get excited over but we thought it was fun to see! There was a fun fair, a beer tent (that Scott, our excellent guide, took us to!) a parade and the coronation of Miss Alma Center (!!).  The Queen and the two first runners up go to different parades every Sunday and wave down from a float, representing their little town. We watched the parade from Jenny and Scott’s house right on the main street. There were old cars, floats from the nearby villages and a lot of candy! Sanna was more than happy to run around collecting it! Jenny and Scott had a party the day of the parade so we got to meet a lot of relatives and friends I have heard about and recieved Christmas cards from since I was a kid!

Parade and a Bud Light? Yes please!

Little kids collecting candy that was being thrown out, they had to fight Sanna for it!

Don and Donnas three girls at the swimming pool!

The new and old misses of Alma center doing their duty..

One of the other floats and the strange kind of sideways wave. 

We feel like we have really experienced a lot of different parts of the US. The actual real deal at people’s homes and visiting their favorite places. I think we get so much more doing it our way, thanks again to everyone who made it possible! We appreciated a little break from the cities in the Wisconsin countryside – then we felt ready for finishing it all off with one of the biggest of them all: NEW YORK! 

søndag 17. juli 2011


We would like to introduce those of you who are not familiar with it to the American wonder of Yoghurtland! Jenna brought us there our second night in Denver and after that we managed to squeeze in 4 visits 5 days.. We completely fell in love!! The store sells frozen yoghurt with every imaginable flavor and topping. The true beauty of it is that you get to do it all yourself! Pluss you get taster cups you can use as freely as you wish (and dare). The flavours are on taps and come by themselves or swirled together. Some of our favorites were devil's chocolate, coconut, tart, key lime and vanilla. Then you get to top the yoghurt with anything from fresh fruits to chocolate to all kinds of candy. At the end your master piece is payed for by weigh. Cheap and so, so, soo good! Fingers crossed it will make it's way to Norway real soon!

Four delicious works of art!

The Mini apple, a lake cottage dream and Norwegian wannabes

Whenever people asked us where we were going in the US many would cringed their noses and repeat disappovingly "Minnesota?". Now we've been there we realise the poeple who did that, have never been to the wondurous place "Minnesota" (im sure you all can hear the deamy and excited voice I'm saying it with). I met the Finsnes family 5 years ago at my grandparents house and all I remember is how excited I was to speak English and the little Christmas ornament that they gave us and we hang up on our tree every year. Andy is my moms distance cousin, his wife Lisa and their kids Andrew, Kate and Maria gave us the best time and impression of Minneapolis (If New York is the big apple, naturally this is the Mini Apple -lis).
From the left, Sanna, Andy, Maria, GG (mother of Lisa), Kate, Andrew, Kirstin (Andrews girldfriend) and Lisa

We started our stay with a real american Graduation Party with some of Maria friends (Maria just graduated High School - Hurrah!) Minnesota and Wisconsin is where all the Norwegians settled in the old days and we met SO many people who with great enthusiasm told us they were half or a quarter or three eights Norwegian. When they heard we were 100% and real ones the excitement was extatic. At Edina High school where Maria goes they have a "Norwegian club" with t-shirts saying "Jeg forså ikke" on the back. It means "I dont understand" just slightly misspelled .
The next day we got to visit the university of Minnesota (UofM) where Maria is going next year. So much fun to see the campus of this huge university and get the feel of going from High school to College. Minneapolis is a sunny city, using the Niceride bike system (one can borrow bikes from one station and return then in another one), we got to see the city in an easy and perfect way on a warm summer day.

With the Niceride bikes infront of Mississipi River.

Being the 10 000 lake state a lot of people have a Lake Cottage in Minnesota, but I cant't imagine anyone having a better one than the Finsness. Almost a four hour drive from Minneapolis, Lake Melissa is the perfect getaway. When we arrived friday evening it was live music and dancing at the local and only pub in the area. There we learnt something new when they showed us how to stick a pin through a dollar bill and wrap a quarter inside it. Then you're supposed to throw it up into the air so it'l stick to the ceiling. and the quarter will fall out. The ceiling was full of dollar bills and we actually managed to do it both of us. Awesome!

The back of the Cabin

View of the lake and their boat.

The Ceiling at the bar.

I'm ready and I did it!!!

It was a weekend filled with fun in the water. Jetski, boats, tubing, waterski, we did it all! Saturday evenig we had a little unformal party where got to meet more long lost family, neighbourds and "lake cousins". Meeting all these people and how they all show interest in us was very thouching. Lake Melissa is a social lake, and the sunday fleemarket is packed with people selling more of less worthless stuff. T-shirts and baseball caps with "Lake girl" written on them, showed us a thight knitted community where summers are spent year after year. It was perfectly relaxing and fun and I dont know why we norwegiand have huts in the mountains when one can have them by a lake.

Maria let me "drive" the boat. Scary but pretty cool. (I kinda want a boat now)

Åslaug stood on her second try waterskiing!

Åssi, Kate and Sanna at the bbq party.

Crazy Daisy, they're alien dog.. its NOT a dog!

Another thing that MInneapolis have thats awesome, in addition to the lakes and the bikes and the sunny weather (this is just based on my experience of course), is Mall of America! We ended up spent one and a half day in the biggest mall in the United Stated. They have it all, every shop you could ever wish to shop in, a funpark, a hotel connected, a cinema, and best of all, there's no tax on clothes and shoes!
      Thank you again Finsness, we had a great time, it's certainly a place we'd like to go back to and we hope to see you again in Norway.
Sunday Dinner outside at the Cabin. From the left, GG, Åssi, Sanna, Andy, Maria, Kate and Lisa

Yes, We're fans! Go Minnesota!

lørdag 2. juli 2011


 When my dad was in high school he did an exchange year in the US. His host brother, Doug, and his daughter Jenna visited us in Norway a couple of summers ago. Ever since that I have always wanted to visit them in the states. They were kind enough to warmly welcome two norwegian travellers. Thats how we got to see Denver, Colorado!

Compared to LA and San Fransisco we knew very little about the city.. Doug, his wife Julie, Jenna and her boyfriend Josh did a great job as tour guides! We felt like we were really doing it the American way: Baseball, hamburgers and peanut butter sandwiches. We were also treated to some Norwegian delights in the form of brown cheese (Gudbransdalsost produced by Tine in Norway, by the name "Ski Queen Cheese"!) and rice porridge. Mmm. Doug also had his Norwegian flag out on the table and impressed us with Norwegian vocabulary. Together with the families great hospitality we felt like we were at home, only with an American twist!

"Brunost" and brown bread. THE BEST!

Rice porridge done our way with sugar, cinnamon and butter. Notice Doug's Norwegian flag!

Julie serving the best "pizza" I've ever had. BIG cookie with cream cheese/cream and fruit. Yum!

Our first day in Denver Doug showed us around town and took us to the Red Rocks. They are like nothing I have ever seen. Massive rocks with a deep, red colour placed seemingly randomly in the landscape. We took a walk around the rocks fighting the urge to climb on them. The penalty of a 999 dollar fine and/or 180 days in jail kept us in place. As did the rattlesnake warnings! There is a huge amphi theater placed between the rocks used for concerts and other arrangemants. Our last night Jenna and Josh took us to "Film on the Rocks" to see "Scott Pilgrim Against the World". It was a beautiful night to sit under the stars (and blankets). Everyone ooohed and aaahed and clapped at the right moments which worked great with the movie. We had such a good time!

Sanna and Doug at the Red Rocks. When Doug took my dad there a couple of years ago they saw a rattle snake.. Fortunatley all the wild life we saw was a rabin!

"Film on the rocks", movie in an amfi theater between the rocks. Spectacular!

Åslaug, Sanna, Jenna and Josh. Good times!

We also took a road trip up to Mount Evans, the highest road in the country. With it's 14,260 feet (4346m) it is the highest mountain we have ever been too! It's also the first time I've really felt light headed because of the altitude and even the short climb to the top left us short breathed! At the top it was 7 degrees celsius and really windy, but totally worth it. The veiw was amazing! We took some great photoes but decided not to stay fro long. Brrr. The road up to the summit was also beautiful, but really narrow and seemed to be simply carved into the mountain side.

The climb to the top of the summit.

Top of the world!

After our mountain adventures we went to Josh's house to have a barbeque. We were so glad our first American hamburger was a real good home made one, not from Mc Donalds! We also had "s'mores", a fabulous invention that eveyone were shocked to find out that we had never tasted. DO do this at home, kids! Grill a marshmellow over the fire, then squeeze it between two crackers with some chocolate. The warm marsmellow melts the chocolate and glues the sandwich together. YUM!

Andy (Josh's sister), Jenna and Josh!

Want some more, s'more?

We also got to see two baseball games! Our first one was the team Josh is playing for, a local league. We loved their name "Lumberjacks for Justice" and enjoyed the atmosphere of the game! A couple of days later we went to see the Rockies play the San Diego Padres at Coors Stadium. With help from Josh and Dough we feel like we're getting the hang of the rules. We had bought baseball caps and were really feeling the mood! The dark clouds were building up while we were watching and after a while the oooohs were not just for good play but massive lighting in the sky. Then it started to rain and the game was prosponed. We waited for a while but when the thunderstorm warning was sent out we decided to head home. Which worked out for the best because we could drop by Yoghurtland! By the time we got home the storm had passed and we could watch the last couple of innings dry and warm from the sofa. The rockies lost but we really enjoyed it none the less!

Jenna, Julie and Doug at Josh's ball game.

Baseball babes ;) Supporting the Rockies of course!

In action!

Then the game was rained out.. Which was also an experience!

We were sad to leave Denver but very thankful for the time we got to spend there. We met some great new people and had a lot of fun. Thank you again for all you did for us :D