Can I still write about my vacation last month? Its old news, probably not, but I’m doing it anyway. I have had a lot going on in the past three and a half weeks since we got home and I haven’t had the discipline to sit down and write about my trip, but, as Chris keeps pointing out to me, I will enjoy reading about it someday if I make the time to write about it now. So, here it is, I’m making time.

When I first sat down to look through my pictures from Norway, I realized that there were not many pictures, and even fewer good ones. I’m a bit disappointed, but not really surprised. It is pretty difficult to manage Kai while effectively taking photographs. We have a lot more pictures from the second half of our trip in Prague where Chris joined us and championed the photography effort.

In my last post, I went on a rant about the high price of food in Oslo, although, all said and done, I managed to only spend $298 on food, entertainment, and transportation over the three days that we were there; I feel pretty good about that.

So what does one do in Oslo anyway? That was a big question for me before our trip, but I quickly found out that there are many exciting things to see there.

We visited many museums such as the Fram, Munch, Nobel, and Viking Museums as well as my very favorite, the Ski Museum. I almost didn’t make it to the Ski Museum because it is a bit out of the way and involved a long walk, ok, not that long, maybe a mile, straight uphill from the nearest Metro station, but I am so glad that we went. I really enjoyed reading about the history of skiing and, for some reason, Kai patiently allowed me to do so.

Because the weather was chilly and drizzly, I sought out as many indoor activities as I could find. Kai seemed to stay quite warm in her stroller sleeping bag*, but I kept getting chilly and I kind of regretted leaving my Uggs at home. Don’t get me wrong, we did many outdoor activities as well, just fewer than we might have done had it been warm outside.

*If you live in a cold climate and need or want a stroller sleeping bag, I highly recommend the 7AM Enfant one. It is by far the most awesome one that we have used, Kai’s feet stay warm even in sub-freezing temperatures when she kicks her shoes off.

So more about Norway, I’m not finding a lot to say. I am glad that we went. I cherish the opportunity to go new places, see new things, learn about other countries and cultures, but I’ve had trouble writing because it wasn’t all that I had hoped for. I still haven’t written posts about the Maldives for the same reason. [Chris, remind me that I should get on with that as well!]

My main hangup with Norway was the people. They are very beautiful, arguably the most beautiful people in the world, but they can act kind of ugly. They were friendly in much the same way that I have experienced friendliness in France; read that how you will. I had a few experiences in Norway that just rubbed me the wrong way. None of the situations were dangerous and I understand that they do not reflect the behavior and attitude of each and every person in the country, but I’m just having trouble getting past a handful of extremely rude people who I encountered.

Overall, Oslo was a safe, clean, beautiful city with many activities for tourists, nevertheless, I don’t think it is at the top of my ‘revisit’ list.

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Our first day in Oslo started off pretty well. We took a short nap and got cleaned up before heading out for some lunch and some sightseeing. We hit up several of the sights in Central Oslo before I decided to look for somewhere for us to eat.

Big mistake. Finding food for us took much longer than I expected. I quickly found out that it would be difficult to find even a fast food sandwich for us to split for under $12. I was also realistic enough to realize that splitting a European-sized sandwich with Kai would not even come close to filling my oversized American appetite.

I started to get kind of nervous. I had been warned that Norway was expensive, heck, I had even been warned by a Brit who thought Oslo was far more expensive than London. It just didn’t sink in though until I was converting the prices of things in my head.

Thinking back on our trip to Japan, I made a beeline for McDonalds. We had a few meals there in Japan and they were pretty reasonably priced. I shuddered at the idea of feeding Kai McDonalds. Bad. Mother.

I could not believe my eyes when I saw that the price of a Big Mac Value Meal was more than $17. Yikes. My fear of feeding Kai McDonalds went out the window because even that didn’t seem like a reasonable option.

I needed to buy some time while I figured out what to do. I stopped at a convenience store to buy a small (~16 oz) carton of milk for $3 and a banana for $1.22. At least Kai would forgive me for another hour or so while I got this sorted out.

Finally, I found a grocery store that was open. I bought some fruit and bread so we would have something to snack on while we were out and about, but there was nothing in this store that would make a meal suitable for Kai without my having access to a kitchen.

I eventually settled on getting us $12 fast food sandwiches. Naturally, I ended up eating nearly two $12 sandwiches because Kai didn’t like either one. I should have seen that coming.

In the end, we did not end up spending a fortune on food in Oslo, but we also never ate at an establishment that offered seating of any kind. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing though; sometimes it is stressful to take a toddler into a restaurant by myself, so alfresco dining had its perks.

We got to see a lot of awesome stuff in Oslo, but I’ll share more about that another day.

Kai and I took two flights to get to Norway and, thankfully, they may have been her most successful yet. After both flights, passengers commented to me that they had no idea that a baby was sitting adjacent to them.

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The first leg of our journey took us to New Jersey where we had a twelve hour layover and an opportunity to hang out with my family all day. We got to have blueberry pancakes, a trip to the zoo, and a big dinner before heading back to the airport for round two.

For the second time that day, Kai fell asleep before takeoff and managed to sleep until the final approach into our destination airport. The sounds pretty good, but there is a bit of a downside for me; it means that I did not sleep much at all as I was dealing with various limbs falling asleep from her weight and the inability to get up to use the bathroom for nearly seven hours. Still, this was a much better alternative than a cranky, wakeful baby.

Sunday morning we arrived in Oslo, caught a train into town, and secured a super early check-in into our hotel. So far, so good!

Saturday morning Kai and I embarked on a mini adventure before joining Chris for our ‘real’ vacation later this week. I suppose that the excitement really started on Friday night when I was supposed to deliver Duke to the kennel.

Have you ever wondered how Duke gets in and out of the car? I can tell you for sure that he does not jump and that he leverages all 200 pounds of his weight to keep all four feet on the ground. I didn’t really give much thought to loading and unloading Duke until it fell on my plate to do it last week and it dawned on me that I could not pick him up.

Thankfully, after tormenting me for several hours, Chris spilled the beans; he has been using a genius technique to get Duke into the car: put him on a leash and ask him to walk right in.
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Not so bad at all!

After kenneling Duke, Kai and I spent the bulk of Friday night figuring out how we were going to share a carry-on suitcase for nine days. It would have been pretty easy if she didn’t wear diapers, but we’re not quite ready to leave those home yet. [Foreshadowing: It was a really good decision to pack enough diapers rather than buy them in Norway!]

Saturday morning Late Friday night, we set off for the airport and the beginning of our adventure.

After I finished this weekend’s cooking marathon, I flopped into my favorite chair, iPad in hand, for a little internet browsing. As I filled my mind with inane fodder from all corners of the World Wide Web, I happened on the discovery of the century: Mason Jar Salads. I love salad of all kinds, but this once a week cooking business has all but eliminated salad from our menu, after all, who wants to eat a limp, soggy, week old salad? I never would have dreamt that I could make salad on the weekend that would taste fresh days later.

I was so excited. Probably more excited than I should have been. I woke up early Sunday morning, searching feverishly for the perfect salad recipe. Not only did it need to sound tasty, but it needed to use up the veggies that were left over after making Pad Thai the day before and as many ingredients that I already had on hand as possible. By the time the sun came up, I realized that the perfect recipe didn’t exist, but, I hope, I had figured out how to properly layer an Asian themed salad which could use leftover romaine, mushrooms, and carrots, from the Pad Thai and edamame from the freezer.

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After a trip to get more mason jars, I was excited to get started building my salads in a jar. Carefully layering the ingredients in the jars was kind of fun, in large part because they looked so pretty when they were finished.

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On day two, I can confirm that my first salad tasted freshly made. I will try to remember to update on Friday to report back on how the salads hold up through the week. From what I’ve read, they will hold up just fine for up to five days. The key is that the wet ingredients are separated from the more delicate ones by the height of the container. In theory, this means that the lettuce does not turn into a pile of slime after a few days.

I look forward to a success story later in the week, as it will certainly be quicker and easier to only cut and wash salad veggies once per week!

Ingredients:

  • 10 tbsp sesame ginger dressing
  • 1.5 cups shredded carrot
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 clementines, peeled and sectioned
  • 2 cups edamame pods, shelled
  • 1 head romaine, cut into bite sized pieces

Directions:

  • Layer ingredients in five mason jars in the order listed above.
  • Do not shake or turn upside down until you are ready to enjoy!

All winter long I have been super stoked about a snowboarding trip to Vail, one of my most favorite ski areas. For a week or more, I have been excited to the point that I had trouble focusing on anything except for daydreams of shredding. Last night I could barely sleep. Finally, I found myself counting down the hours of the work day.

With just two hours until I planned to leave work, I logged onto the Internet hoping to find a flight upgrade notification. I did and I was super stoked all over again.

Until I looked more closely. Our flight from Indy to Denver was cancelled.

Immediately I called United on one phone while using the another to blow up both of Chris’ cell phones with calls and text messages. Minutes later he arrived at my desk to finish my phone call with United while I packed up my stuff. Our only hope to get to Denver tonight was to rush to Cincinnati and catch a Houston-bound flight and we needed to leave ten minutes ago. We picked up Kai on the way out of town and decided to go for it.

I felt a rush of adrenaline as we drove to Cincinnati, excited that we had a second chance, but nervous that we wouldn’t make it. With eleven minutes before the checked bag cutoff, we pulled into the expensive parking garage closest to the terminal. Chris jammed inside with our suitcase and the snowboards while I packed up Kai and the car seat before hurrying inside to meet him. As I approached the ticket counter, excited that we had made it, Chris’ face told a different story.

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Two hours after we began our journey, we were again piling into the car, hungry, tired, and deflated. Shortly after getting back on the road, we ran head on into the storm that had grounded our flights. Snow, sleet, and freezing rain were flying at us in a scene reminiscent of Rad Racer, if you are the right age, you know exactly the level that I am talking about.

We crept back home from Cincinnati at a snail’s pace, our return trip taking almost twice as long as the journey there. I’m super disappointed that the trip did not work out; it seems that Vail is getting hammered with snow right now and the conditions will be perfect for anyone who can make it out there.

Hopefully we’ll have a chance to get out there later in the season.

At the end of last year, I decided to be a marginally responsible adult; I downloaded all of our credit and debit card transactions for the year, sorted them into categories, and made a huge pivot table so I could figure out what was going on. My initial reaction was, I’m hoping, a normal one, when I stared at the numbers in disbelief.

After the initial shock wore off, I decided that it was time to take charge of two of our highest spend categories: Eating Out and Groceries/Toiletries/Other Household Goods, aka ‘The Walmart Bucket’. It turns out that Duke’s House is single-handedly keeping both Walmart and our local restaurants in business. It was time to make a change. In that vein, I have started doing this crazy thing that other people have reportedly been doing for years. I have been meal planning.

So far meal planning has been working. For the most part my grocery lists have been quite accurate. I can only think of one instance where we needed to go back out to the store for one more item and we have been avoiding weekly trips to Sam’s Club, which we all know can get expensive in a hurry. In short, not only is meal planning working, but it is going really well.

When I plan our meals for the week, there are a few critical factors that I keep in mind:

  • We usually get home from work, more or less, at 6pm. Dinner must be on the table by 6:20.
  • The meal must be Kai-friendly.
  • Bonus points if it can be frozen. (I can make a double batch and have less work to do during a future week.)
  • Dinners that can, in large part, be cooked or prepped on the weekend are a plus.
  • All meals must be “from scratch”. No processed foods allowed, with the exception of “good” lunch meats three times per week.

Sounds simple enough, right?

I didn’t think so at first, but it is going really well so far. Most weeks, I have been able to cook double batches of about four of our dinners for the week on Sunday then freeze them in two portions, one for later that week and one for the future. Kai has been much more open to eating foods than I expected her to be. She has tried and loved all kinds of things from Chicken Curry to Tofu Pad Thai to, Chris’ all time favorite, Fish Tacos. There has only been one night so far that I just could not get dinner on the table before Kai went to bed (don’t worry, we fed her something else) and that was a result of me being at work too late, not the meal I chose for that night.

(If you are super curious, click to enlarge.)

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I am still working to expand our breakfast and lunch items, but I think I have the dinners solidly in place. You’ll notice that not all of the lunches are populated, the basic plan is to have turkey, chicken, roast beef, veggie (usually mashed white bean), and peanut butter (except for Kai) sandwiches with fruit (and veggies for Kai) each week for lunch. Our breakfasts are super boring, Green Monsters for me, bagels for Chris, and either a bagel with sunbutter or a bagel with ricotta cheese for Kai. As I get more adept at planning, I think I can expand the breakfast and lunch menus some, for now, I think we’re doing pretty well with it.

For the first time in years, I finally feel like we are able to eat “real” foods without me sacrificing entire evenings to making dinner and the next day’s breakfast and lunch. It has been pretty amazing so far. I will do another post to get into the how, for now, here is a peek at our menu from the past two weeks.