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  • hello, june

    In my last post I mentioned that I was going to Oslo for the weekend, and that turned out to be a very good idea - after a weekend of summer-like temps and sunshine in Oslo, it was snowing in Tromsø when I arrived home late Monday night. "Velkommen til vinteren," said my cab driver as I got into a taxi a the airport (that's "welcome to winter"). It's been above freezing, so the snow didn't really stick around, but the higher altitudes on the island turned white again for a little while. I posted a video of the snow on Instagram from the university campus, which was reposted by the CNN account this morning (it's a bit surreal to see that something you filmed on your iPhone has over 100,000 views).

    In any case, Tromsø is still distinctly un-summery and I'm even feeling a little bit under the weather today, so I thought it would be nice to revisit some of the photos I took over the weekend (which was absolutely jam-packed with buddies and lots of time spent outdoors in the beautiful weather). Katie, who started the Oslo Strikkefestival, was telling me that May is her favorite month in Oslo, and it's easy to see why. The whole city feels like it's in full bloom, and the new green leaves feel positively lush. 

    These photos were taken in Slottsparken (or Palace Park), the public park that surrounds the royal palace, but we visited several parks over the course of the weekend, including Frognerparken (always a favorite) as well as one I knew of but had never been to, Ekebergparken, which sits up on a hill east of central Oslo and features some truly beautiful views over the city and the Oslofjord (and it's also a sculpture park). Even though I've spent a summer in Oslo before, I didn't arrive until mid-June, so I never realized how many lilacs there were all across the city! The smell as you stroll around is simply divine. Up north the lilacs bloom much later - and spring/summer up here is even later this year than normal.

    I'm so incredibly grateful to have had such a beautiful weekend, and I'm feeling pretty spoiled by it all. Oslo truly is one of my favorite cities.

    I've also continued to have lighter-weight spring and summer knitting projects on the brain, and I've made headway with my two laceweight projects. I made some progress on my Loess wrap (aka my "sommarøya wrap") while in Oslo, and I've been focused on my Garland pullover since I got home. I finished the main body, so you can finally see the garment starting to take shape, and I've started the first sleeve. This welthase yak lace is such a pleasure to work with.

    The slightly desaturated pink of the yarn goes quite nicely with all the photos of blossoms, don't you think? Now, if only we had some blossoms of our own in Tromsø...

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  • late may postcard

    My thesis is turned in (hurra!) and the midnight sun began about a week ago, both of which sound like markers of summer's approach, but we're still trying to free ourselves from winter's grasp up here in the north. Tromsø has been declared "snow-free" based on the marker outside the weather station, and it is mostly snow-free now, but when you get off the roads and into the woods, or up on higher ground, there are plenty of stubborn patches still hanging around. I took a walk up to Prestvannet this evening, wanting to see what it looks like this year at the end of May.

    We had snow early in the month, and while that's not unheard of here, winter has lingered longer this year than it did last year (looking at this photo from roughly a year ago, I can say definitively that the mountains still have a lot more snow on them now). There are hints that winter's grip is weakinging, however. The first leaves are finally getting ready to unfurl on some of the trees, a marker of spring/summer that I've been eagerly awaiting since the beginning of the month. Most of the branches are still bare, as you can see in these photos, but hopefully not for long. The temperature hovers around 5-7°C (40-45°F) during the day, and while the snow has largely retreated, Prestvannet (which freezes over and accumulates several feet of snow on top of the ice during the winter) hasn't yet melted, though the thaw is definitely in progress. The many migratory birds that make this their home during the summer are here and out in force - they make quite a racket, and around the clock too, since the sun never sets. I'm glad to hear them, though, because it means that summer is coming. The sound of running water is another small pleasure I've been enjoying in recent weeks.

    Even with these encouraging signs that soon, soon this landscape will be transformed into a lush green summerscape, I have to admit I'm really glad that I'm escaping to Oslo this weekend, where there are definitely flowers in gardens and leaves on the trees and I plan to enjoy the positively summer-like temperatures being forecasted. While I truly love Tromsø, the lack of a real spring is one of the things I find most challenging about living here. Lucky for me, it's a quick trip to Oslo and I'll get to see some friends while I'm there as well. I'll be packing the sunscreen.

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  • march

    I think March is one of my favorite months here in Tromsø. It's often beautiful outside, and definitely still winter, but by the time we reach March we're practically dashing towards the equinox, in the middle of the few magical months where daylight and darkness are so in balance this far north. And when there's still so much snow, the daylight can have special qualities.

    On a sunny day, it can be positively blinding. But yesterday the light was stranger, moodier. A change in the weather was beginning as we moved into a week of unusually mild, above-freezing days. The clouds hung in the sky like a heavy curtain of gauze, not blocking out the sun, but turning the world around me into one big softbox. The mountains to the south looked flat, like two-dimensional block prints across the horizon in light and dark grey.

    It was, I have to admit, one of my favorite kinds of days for walking. To revel in the bright whiteness of untouched snow without being blinded by it - but at the same time getting to see depth in the sky, and knowing where the sun is too. Since I knew that the weather would be changing this week, yesterday felt like my one chance to get that kind of walk in before it all turns sloshy. The city streets quickly turn into the world's northernmost Slurpee. (That bit is not one of my favorite parts about living here.)

    In the midst of longer work days, trying to squeeze in some extra transcription for my thesis project which is now due in just two months (eek!), it was so nice to set aside a little bit of time for a long walk. Despite the shifting weather, it was very calm and quiet yesterday. I stood at the southern end of the island, and when you are standing at that point staring out across the strait at the mountains beyond, it is so easy to remember to breathe in big, and to breathe out slowly. In, and out. The slow, calming rhythm is encouraged by the gentle waves lapping at the rocks on the beach. 

    I'm sharing these photos so that I can soak up this late winter landscape - and I can't help but notice it's full of all of the colors and nuances that drew me to the sock yarn I bought in Montréal (mentioned in this post), which I've enjoyed knitting with immensely. Sometimes people ask about how my environment influences my knitwear design work, and there are several ways to answer that question - but it's always clear to me that the lanscape seeps into whatever it is I'm making through colors first and foremost. And aren't these lovely colors to see outside your window?

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  • december light

    Today is Luciadagen, or St. Lucy's Day, traditionally a day for celebrating light in the darkness here in Scandinavia. We started our day with an early morning walk up the hill to Elverhøy church for a fairly traditional celebration: one of the university choirs and a youth choir joined up to put on a Lucia procession and concert, lit only by candlelight. One of the girls from the youth choir was dressed as Lucia, with the wreath of candles on her head (those were the only electric candles - the rest were real). Saffron buns (known as lussekatter in Norway) were served. In the age of electricity and artificial light, an experience like that feels like a rare luxury. It was beautiful. (It was also not conducive to phone photos, but you can get a glimpse of what it looked like on my Instagram.)

    It also made it feel like this day is an apt choice to share a few of the photos I've collected in the past week. It's been three weeks since the sun disappeared below the mountains in the south - three weeks of no sunrise or sunset. Three weeks of mørketida. But that does not mean it's always dark. The light that we do have in this season can be so beautiful. It isn't always - we've got a week of rain ahead of us, which will mean dark skies and no snow to brighten up the ground, either. But the past several days have been pretty magic. And as the photo at the top of this post shows, even the grey days can be beautiful in the little bit of daylight that comes.

    I got to take a nice long walk on Saturday during the daylight, and it was such a treat. It was my favorite kind of cotton candy pastel sky. The rest of these photos are from that walk. The world looked like a painting.

    For me, there is so much beauty to be found in the dark season here. Even on the darkest rainy days, I am so grateful to be living here and experiencing this. I hope these photos bring a little light to your day today, too.

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  • first snow and FOs

    Things have gotten very busy lately, but I wanted to pop in to say hello and share a few things.

    First up: Pomcast, the podcast of knitting & crochet Pom Pom Quarterly, has a new episode up featuring an interview with me! I a live interview with Lydia at the Oslo Strikkefestival, though the audio unfortunately didn't make it, so Sophie caught up with me via Skype after the fact (we largely covered the same questions, so don't feel too sad if you missed out on the original interview, and don't expect it to be wildly different if you happened to be there!). Still, it was fun to do an interview in a room full of lovely people knitting while we chatted and I enjoyed the novelty of wearing a "Britney Spears microphone," as Lydia called it.

    Secondly: while we're on the topic of the Oslo Strikkefestival, I have a couple of FOs to share that I knit up using yarn I bought at the marketplace! I finished my Lupine shawl, which I wrote about in my last post, and I'm so pleased with how it turned out.

    The pattern is by Cory Ellen Boberg of Indie Knits and the yarn is the gorgeous gradient I picked up from Squirrel's Yarns, which was one of my impulse purchases at the festival (the Pécan Fing base in the color Hématite). If you like gradient yarns, I can't recommend Lisa's gradients enough. The transitions are impossibly smooth and the finished shawl is so pretty to me in its simplicity.

    The other FO is also knit up in one of my marketplace purchases: it's a Simple Hat by Hannah Fettig in the spælsau yarn I purchased from Værbitt. This was the first time I've knit with a 100% spælsau yarn, so I wanted to knit something simple that would get a lot of wear and let me really get a feel for the yarn knitted up in a fabric. I also didn't want the pattern to compete with the subtle variation in the colorway.

    I have to say, I love the finished hat. This yarn's a little bit rustic and it feels slightly wiry in the hand - it's very strong - but it's also surprisingly soft considering that, and when washed and blocked it developed a bit of a lovely halo that adds to that soft feel. This hat has gotten a lot of wear already and I think it'll continue to do so.

    Lastly: we've all been impatiently waiting for the snow in Tromsø, as last week we passed the previous record for the date of the first snowfall of the season (that means in recorded memory, it has never been as late as this year: yikes). But finally, on Saturday evening, the snow started falling. It kept coming down through Sunday, when I got to take a walk down to my favorite park. It's nice to revisit the photos, because Tuesday turned suddenly warm again, bringing rain, and the snow started to melt almost immediately. Between the rain clouds and the fact that we bid farewell to the sun last week (it won't rise again until January), it's been very, very dark this week. Hopefully before too long it'll cool down again and the snow will come back, but for now, enjoy these photos from Sunday's walk.

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  • nordland rundt

    I'm recently back from a whirlwind trip around Nordland, the Norwegian fylke (county) just to the south of Troms, the county where I live. We've had some dear friends visiting from the states, and it seemed like a great opportunity to get ourselves off the beaten track and show our friends a nice cross-section of northern Norway. We were lucky to have some very nice weather and the autumn colors were pretty spectacular, all of which we got to enjoy from planes, trains, and automobiles - and on foot too, of course.

    Nordland is long and narrow from north to south (the mainland part is so narrow that one of its larger fjords, Tysfjord, ends just 6km from the Swedish border), but it's also home to the famous Lofoten archipelago. The Arctic Circle also cuts through Nordland. We began our journey with a train ride from Bodø to Mo i Rana (after flying to Bodø - there's no train that goes to Tromsø)*, where we rented a car and started heading north. We stayed somewhere new each night and the drives were short, which meant there was time for long pit stops or detours depending on how we were feeling each day - it's an approach I can highly recommend. A few highlights:

    The flight! Flying over northern Norway on a clear day is always a special treat. Tromsø to Bodø is just a quick 45-minute hop.

    Saltfjellet is incredibly unique. The area surrounding this mountain range is all national park, and I'm so glad we got to spend some time here. Going north meant a stop at the bizarre gift shop at Polarsirkelsenteret (situated at the Arctic Circle) before we made it to our lodgings for the night, the charming Saltfjellet Hotell Polarsirkelen (which has a great big common room that's lovely for knitting or reading, for the record). The hotel is surrounded by nature, and it's a short walk from the Lønsdal train station if you don't have a car. This area is incredible for hiking, and the colors are just beautiful in autumn (I feel very lucky that we got to see it like this - as the woman at the hotel said, "one windy night and it's all gone!").

    Wobbly time lapse from Saltstraumen, the world's strongest tidal current. #Saltstraumen

    A video posted by Dianna Walla ⚡️ (@cakeandvikings) on

    Saltstraumen has one of the strongest tidal currents in the world, and I've been looking forward to seeing it in person for a long time. We arrived at just the right time, as the tide was changing, and the speed of the water and the meandering whirlpools were difficult to wrap my head around. We also got to see some "Saltstraumen safari" boats zig zag and run circles across the water. We stayed a night here at a rental cabin, but on the quiter side of the water at Saltstraumen Brygge (on the peninsula just to the south of the strait - that was our view in the photo directly above).

    Visiting the former mining town of Sulitjelma tucked into the inland mountains on a lake is an experience I'm unlikely to forget. We weren't able to walk through the mine museum, but as mining was an active industry here until 1991, the traces were easy to see.

    And one last highlight: we took a Hurtigruten boat from Svolvær back to Tromsø, and were blessed with clear weather and some very active northern lights that night. Unfortunately, a moving boat + long exposures don't make for the best photos, so I left my camera in the cabin. 

    Aside from the stops, the drives themselves were just beautiful. It's hard not to love long drives down tree-lined roads at this time of year, especially when the pit stops are also beautiful.

    If I haven't convinced you that a road trip through Nordland in autumn is worth it, Van over at Snow in Tromsø went on a roadtrip through Nordland last October and shared a photo essay on her blog. Since she was there a few weeks later in the year than my trip, the mountains all have a lovely dusting of snow.

    --

    * After having watched Nordlandsbanen minutt for minutt (the slow TV program produced by Norwegian national broadcaster NRK that documents the train journey from Trondheim to Bodø) multiple times, I was really excited to spend three hours on the northern end of the route. Someday we'll do the whole thing. The full journey is 10 hours - I often put it on TV in the background when I'm working, as it's relatively meditative background nosie - and you can check it out here (for free) on the NRK website if you're interested.

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  • first days of september

    Yesterday evening the weather was good and I got to take a nice long walk around Tromsøya (I hope you all enjoy these posts about my walks around Tromsø, because they're often the highlights of my weeks). I know many of you are trying your best to hang on to what's left of summer, but here in the Arctic, fall is truly beginning (and I have to admit I'm quite happy about it). Autumn is a special time in Tromsø. The transitional seasons are short here (snow in September is not unheard of), but somehow that makes the way they mark the passage of time even more special to me. Ephemeral joys, and all that. 

    I love the life cycle of the fireweed. Five weeks ago it was in full bloom, and while there are a few stubborn blossoms still clinging to their stems, now most of the plants have lost their flowers and opened up their seed capsules (I love the silky hairs of the seeds). And in fall, the green leaves turn a vibrant red-orange. Many of the fireweed plants have turned already.

    The leaves on the birches and the rowans have started changing, too. There's still a lot of green - in some places the change is overall and subtle, and in others great tufts of leaves have changed at once. In a few weeks everything will be golden and red.

    Autumn means a return to the most beautiful light. During the midnight sun, the light can be very mundane - the most beautiful time of day to see the sky is the middle of the night, when the sun is low in the sky (and if it's overcast, the sky is just the same all the time). There are no sunsets. I'm so, so excited to have proper sunsets again, because the sky here is so incredible.

    And of course, with sunsets comes a dark night sky again - the return of stars, and the return of one of my favorite things, the northern lights. The sky was clear enough on Friday to see them, even if they weren't very strong.

    So I'm quite content to welcome autumn with open arms. Bring on the changing leaves, the northern lights, and the stars. I'll keep walking with my camera, the closest thing to bringing you along with me.

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  • technicolor sun

    I hope you're ready for a big photo post.

    It's just past midnight as I'm writing this post from my couch, looking out the window at the blue sky outside. The midnight sun continues to be disorienting; my husband pointed out that the lack of night seemed to be affecting him creatively and he's right - we're both night owls by nature and have a history of getting good creative work done in the wee hours. Which can go sideways when the wee hours don't look or feel like night anymore. I think we'll both be relieved when the sun starts to actually set again next week (the nights will still be light for several more weeks, but at least it marks the transition toward the night's return).

    The photos in this post were not taken at midnight, but rather earlier this afternoon. The weather's been chilly and rainy since we got back to Tromsø, as it so often is at this time of year, but today we woke up to nearly cloudless blue skies and sunshine, and we hit temps around 24ºC / 75ºF (hot for Tromsø!). That's a rarity to be taken advantage of, because in the summer when the weather's like that, the whole world here is in technicolor. You immediately forget all about the weeks of grey weather as soon as you step outside. I decided to head out for a long walk in the afternoon to take advantage of the weather, because I always love exploring new paths and nooks and crannies of this island.

    First I went up to Prestvannet, the lake on top of Tromsøya. The pictures look serene, but the racket is no joke - several species of birds nest here every spring and summer, and the noise is non-stop when the sun never sets.

    After a whole winter of seeing Tromsdalstinden covered in snow, it's almost strange to see it with very little left.

    I wandered some new forest paths...

    ...and documented some wildflowers. One of my favorite things about the Norwegian summer is the wildflowers, and up north they grow like crazy due to all the daylight. It's light and lush all at once. (I seemed to be very drawn to the purple ones today. Also, I'm no botanist, so it's possible I've misidentified one or more of these.)

    I think this one's skogstorknebb, or wood cranesbill.

    One of my very favorites: geitrams, or fireweed (or rosebay willowherb if you hail from the UK).

    Rødkløver! The red clover here is enormous and super saturated.

    I even spotted a few thistles. 

    While they're not widlflowers, the lilacs bloom late here and I've certainly been enjoying their fragrance as I walk around town. The blooms make me think they might be dwarf lilacs, but I'm not really sure.

    I also can never resist a good dramatic patch of light coming down through the trees in the woods. It feels so inviting, cozy, and intense all at once.

    I mapped my route when I got home, and it turns out today's walk was 8 kilometers. I think I'm going to feel it in the morning...

    The rain is supposed to return next week, so I'm sure there's some knitting on the horizon! Hoping to share some of that soon. For now, I hope you're enjoying your summers as well. x

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  • summer days

    The midnight sun is disorienting. In Tromsø, the sun literally doesn't set between May 18 and July 26 due to its location above the Arctic circle. We had many sunny (and even warm!) days in May, but once the calendar flipped over to June, the chilly clouds rolled in and we've seen a lot of rain. The thing about a cloudy sky when the sun never sets, though, is that midnight looks a lot like noon. Time does not exist. There have been clear pockets of weather, however, and in the evening on the summer solstice the clouds slowly dissipated and the sun came out. My friend Beth was in town for a visit and since the skies looked like they were clearing up, we decided rather spur of the moment to take the cable car up the mountain. It was still fairly cloudy while we were up there, but it was worth it. (We opted to walk home to enjoy the middle-of-the-night sunshine, and the photo above was taken at two in the morning!)

    We made it up the mountain just before midnight, and it was pretty amazing to walk around the mountaintop at that time of night. The light was constantly shifting and the reflection of the sky on the water was soft and beautiful.

    As you can see, the mountains still have some snow clinging to them, but otherwise, Tromsø is very green now. After the long winter and late spring, it seemed to happen very suddenly.

    I took Beth to the university's botanical garden during her visit and for the first time, the little cafe that serves waffles and coffee was open while I was there (it's always been closed on my previous visits to the garden). It was a highlight to sit outside the adorable building, surrounded by tulilps and other blooms, sipping coffee and eating Norwegian waffles. It was wonderful to see the botanical garden really coming alive again after the winter, too - in about a month I think it's going to be spectacular.

    I'm off to Seattle for a couple weeks now, and I'm looking forward to seeing the night sky again. Stars! Remember those? 

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  • a year in tromsø

    The anniversary marking my first year in Tromsø has come and gone - I arrived on August 2nd, 2015, and this year on that date I found myself back at the airport as I embarked on a quick trip to Canada. The past few weeks have been a bit crazy and intense but I'm back in my cozy apartment now and have a moment to reflect before diving headfirst into my second year as a graduate student here (hello, thesis; let's get acquainted, shall we?). 

    Living abroad for extended periods of time is a curious experience, sometimes exciting and invigorating and other times isolating and deflating. I've had the incredible privelege of spending long stretches of time abroad before, and each experience is different. Norway has presented us with both incredible experiences as well as unique and frustrating challenges. But at the end of the day I usually feel very lucky to be living in this littly city in the Arctic, and as I've said before on this blog, one of my favorite things about being here is documenting the changing landscape around me through the seasons' changes.

    I've shared many, many photos of Tromsø on my Instagram account over the past year, and sometimes I have little videos to share too. What started as a whim - collecting little snippets of autumn into one video - turned into a four-part series of snippets of Tromsø in each season. I thought it would be fun to share those videos all in one place. (If for any reason the embedded Instagram videos below aren't showing up for you, they're also collected under the Instagram hashtag #ayearintromsø and can be viewed there.)

    Snippets of Autumn in Tromsø, collected in September and October.

    A video posted by Dianna ⚡️ (@cakeandvikings) on

    Snippets of winter from the past few weeks. I live in an incredibly beautiful place. #tromsø

    A video posted by Dianna ⚡️ (@cakeandvikings) on

    Summer snippets. #sommeritromsø #ayearintromsø

    A video posted by Dianna Walla ⚡️ (@cakeandvikings) on

    Autumn and winter are shorter, because Instagram's limit for video was 15 seconds when they were posted, but I was able to be more indulgent with spring and summer.

    I also enjoy revisiting photos of the same places in different times of year, and I think that our iconic peak, Tromsdalstinden (known colloquially as just "tinden," or "the peak") is a perfect example. On the top is a photo from February, and below, one from last month. Both photos are taken from Prestvannet, the lake on top of the island. I love seeing the lake frozen over and covered in snow in winter (with ski tracks!), while it forms a glassy mirror of sorts in the summer.

    I must admit, looking back through photos from the past year has gotten me more than a little bit excited for the arrival of autumn... the midnight sun has ended, the nights are growing darker, and soon this whole landscape will change yet again. September will bring visiting friends, and it's always nice to have things to look forward to.

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  • ut på tur

    Thank you all for your feedback on my last post! I'm happy to hear it seems like so many of you are interested in hearing more about wool in Norway, and I'm looking forward to sharing what I learn here on the blog. Today, though, I just have a few photos to share from a walk I took earlier this afternoon with my friend Anna. It's the end of the sememster for us, which means we're both spending a lot of time working on papers and presentations and generally being shut up indoors with laptops and books. I like that well enough, especially when I can get into a bit of a groove, but it's important to take proper breaks to clear one's head, too. And Sundays are the perfect days for that, especially when the sun is shining and the temperatures are getting warmer. 

    Spring in Tromsø is interesting because throughout April, you have pockets of warmer days but it also still cools down regularly - enough for it to snow. There's also still a lot of snow lying around, especially on high ground and on trails and things that aren't plowed - our maximum snow depth this winter was just over a meter. You can imagine it takes awhile for all of that to melt away. So today we went traipsing around the northern half of the island, which I haven't explored anywhere near as much as the southern half. It was actually quite nice to be in the snow, since it's all melted in the city center and the roads are quite dusty. The north half of the island is less developed and there's a lot more forests and trails, too, which meant that the sweeping views we enjoyed today were all pretty spectacular.

    Spring comes late here, but there are signs that greener times are on the way. Aside from the melting snow, I've seen crocuses sprouting up at the university! I'm looking forward to the leaves coming back as well.

    Looking to the south, the rest of the island of Tromsøya is visible behind the trees, as well as the mountains on the mainland (to the left) and on Kvaløya (on the right, at the back). 

    Could we have asked for a better day?

    While we might get a dusting of snow tonight overnight, it's supposed to get much warmer this coming week. I'm already looking forward to the spring giving way to summer, since the summer in Norway is so absolutely magical. I feel incredibly lucky to live in this beautiful place.

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  • daylight walks

    Winter is dark in Tromsø. I wrote on back on November 21st that we said goodbye to the sun that day (and then I cheated, because I wasn't in Tromsø for the darkest four weeks of the year). Today, January 21st, is soldagen ("the sun day"), the day we welcome the sun back. All week the weather forecast for today has been cloudy, but we got lucky and the clouds stayed at bay just long enough for the sun to make its first brief appearance of the year.

    Unfortunately, I was in a classroom during the few minutes it came out (the photo above was taken on Monday). I watched it happen on screen via NRK's live feed (for the very curious, you can watch the playback here - the video is just under ten minutes). I was able to participate in other soldagen traditions, though, like eating solboller, which are sweet buns or donuts eaten on soldagen. In Tromsø the preferred type seems to be a frosted jelly-filled donut! What's called a "solbolle" can vary from region to region. I must say, I'm in favor of holidays where it's traditional to sit around with something warm to drink, eating donuts.

    Even though I didn't see the sun today, I'll see it again soon enough. In the meantime, I've been taking lots of walks during the daylight hours. For me, the two most important ways to cope with the long hours of darkness are spending time outside during the daylight, and getting plenty of exercise. Long walks around the island during the daylight does a wonderful job of feeding two birds with one seed.

    People's reactions when they first learn how little daylight we get at this time of year often aren't that far from "horror-struck." But somehow, I find it easier to really commit to darker days than to spend a winter with dark setting in at 4:00 pm all the time. I know it's going to be dark for the vast majority of the hours in a day, so the daylight hours become precious (it's part of why it's so important to spend as much of the daylight outside as possible). 

    The other thing, though, is that the light during the daylight is magical. It has an incredible quality. There is a time of day referred to by photographers as "golden hour" (or sometimes "magic hour") and while without the sun I'm not sure it's a true golden hour, it's no secret the light at the edges of day has a special quality. The light we get here in winter? It's like 4-5 hours of magic hour. On a cloudy day (and it seems my long walks have mostly been on cloudy days) there's a softness cloaking everything, while on clear days, the sky turns into a giant ombre cotton candy daydream. Pair that with the snowy mountains all around, and I don't feel sad about the darkness at all; on the contrary, I feel so lucky that this is the place I get to live and walk and breathe. And the snow makes it sound different too; the physical properties of snow make it a sound-absorber, which is why the world feels quiet when you're out walking in a fresh snow.

    Thinking back to Tromsø when we arrived in the summer, it feels like a different planet. And while I am certainly looking forward to the days growing longer, and eventually, warmer (because the Norwegian summer is glorious), for now I am incredibly grateful for my long daylight walks through this magic winter wonderland.

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  • new year

    It's been a surreal start for 2016. Here's a glimpse:

    Emma Watson started an online feminist book club (it's called Our Shared Shelf, and you can join the group on Goodreads, if that's at all appealing). I read most of the first book, Gloria Steinem's My Life on the Road, on a flight to London over the weekend. My route back to Tromsø included an overnight stay in London where I got to hang out with Lydia of Pom Pom and some lovely folks at Loop. I didn't take any pictures until the train ride to Gatwick (that always happens these days), but I had a lot of fun. I love London.

    Monday morning I woke up at six (thanks, jet lag) and spent some quiet time hanging out in the tiny bed in my tiny hotel room. It was there that I learned about Bowie's passing, via Twitter. It felt absolutely unreal, and then I was just sad. It's still surreal.

    I finished My Life on the Road in the first hour of my flight from London to Tromsø. It was really, really excellent. I tweeted about this, and then Emma Watson replied and retweeted me (!). I've now had a (very) tiny glimpse of what it's like to be a celebrity on Twitter, and I'm grateful that's not my reality. Not only do I have a lot of respect and admiration for Emma, but she's an actress near my age who I watched grow up on screen, so the surreal score is off the charts for seeing my tweet right there at the top of her feed.

    I'm back in snowy, dark Tromsø now and the beauty of this place at this time of year is as surreal as ever. The days have been clear since I got back and the light's been incredible. In less surreal news, I've started classes for the new term and already have a stack of reading to do, but I've managed to get in a few stitches here and there on some small projects. I'm sensing a color theme; it might have something to do with the light outside. I love these wintry blues. Also, now that I'm thinking about it, the fern pattern and the tree motif have quite a lot in common...

    The embroidery is a kit I bought last summer at Urban Craft Uprising, from Studio MME. It's one of those fantastic and simple little kits where the pattern is printed right on the fabric so the stitching is relatively mindless but the end result is stunning (I'm sort of halfway through, so if you look very closely you can see the difference between my stitches and the printed bit I have yet to embroider). You can find this particular kit in their online shop (although it appears that it's now being sold with a round hoop, instead of the oval one I got). The knitting is another kit, a Toatie Hottie by Kate Davies. The pattern is for a hot water bottle cozy and the kit (not currently available in Kate's shop) came with yarn and pattern plust a mini-hot water bottle just for that purpose. I bought the kit ages ago and have actually used the hot water bottle several times, but I'm using it more regularly in Tromsø and I thought it was about time I actually knit the thing. I managed to knit most of it in an evening, getting through the whole chart with just the top bit and ribbing left.

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  • snow days

    It's been snowing off and on since Tuesday; at first just a dusting, but now, in droves. There's a substantial amount blanketing the ground outside; cars look like marshmallows. Since our first snow several weeks ago, I've been patiently waiting for its return (as a native North Carolinian, snow will always be pretty magical to me).

    The timing is good, because snow makes the dark season immensely more cheerful. And today, the dark season, mørketida, officially begins. November 21st marks the first day of the year in Tromsø when the sun doesn't rise above the mountains in the south. We've said goodbye to the sun until January 21st! The middle hours of the day will be filled with twilight, which means that on a clear day, for a few hours the sky will be filled with the most beautiful colors - an hours-long dramatic sunrise/sunset (for it is both but neither, of course).

    Christmas lights have started going up around town, too. For an American, it can feel like holiday lights before Thanksgiving is too early - but Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in Norway, of course, and as the sun disappears, lights around the city are a welcome sight. Tromsø's holiday street lights are absurdly charming: garlands of evergreens strung with soft white lights framing huge red hearts. It's hard not to love the warm glow.

    The city is also preparing its Christmas tree. This tree was brought in by helicopter just a few days ago; next weekend, the lights will be lit in a celebration. It sits in Stortorget ("the big square") in the middle of town. I remember the tree lighting in Debrecen, so I'm looking forward to seeing the lights go on next weekend. With any luck the snow will stick around.

    If it's cold where you are, I hope you're keeping warm! I'll be mostly snuggling up indoors (lovely) working on term papers (less lovely), but I'm also working on that blog post about making modifications for Aspen. It should be up soon!

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  • autumn days

    If October was "focused" last time I wrote, it got busy. Very busy. The last two weeks of October were my absolute busiest so far, and I'm hoping that the frenzied pace peaked with the two presentations I gave last Friday and I'm on the descent side of the slope now.

    In between and around a bunch of schoolwork and an extra three-day course I took (focused!), I've continued to enjoy life in Tromsø. 

    I made pickles for the first time. I used the light pickling solution from The New Nordic and these were a delight (that's radishes on the left and onions on the right). One of the bonuses of living in Norway is that I can basically find any of the ingredients used in that cookbook. I also made some fancy cookies which I can't show you yet, but more on those later (edit: the piece went live, so now I CAN link you to those fancy cookies!).

    I collected a few short video snippets I've been taking over the last couple of months into one video. It's just snippets, but for the curious, here's a glimpse of autumn in Tromsø:

    Mørketida, which I mentioned in my last post, draws ever nearer (or is already upon us, depending on how you look at it). Daylight Savings Time ended here on October 25th, which very suddenly made the days feel much shorter. The sun set today at 2:30 in the afternoon and it's really not long now before the sun disappears for the winter. One thing that makes the dark easier to cope with, though, is the northern lights that visit us when the weather's clear. I don't get tired of watching them from my living room window. I love how they often look like twisting green flames coming from behind the mountains to the east.

    Another thing that makes it easier to cope is snow. About a week ago we had our first snow in the city. It started snowing on the 26th and by the morning of the 27th there were several inches on the ground. It stuck around for a few days before mostly melting away, but man, it was beautiful. From what I've heard, the snow-melt-snow-melt cycle is pretty common here, but after Christmas the snow is more likely to stick around (and it also starts to get lighter again, so that's when skiing season really begins).

    This city is absolutely charming covered in snow. It's such a treat to see my daily landscape transform so dramatically. The university campus, too, looks a little bit more magical in the snow.

    So between the northern lights, the dramatic skies, and the snow, I think I'm going to get by okay during the dark season. 

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  • an autumn walk around prestvannet

    One of my favorite walks in Tromsø is the loop trail around Prestvannet, a lake at one of the higher points on Tromsøya. It's a small lake (the loop trail is only 1.7 km) but the surrounding area forms a public park and nature reserve. The lake itself and its marshy perimiter are a nesting area for a variety of bird species. It's only a twenty minute walk from my flat, but when you're up in the park, it's a serene spot to go walk, run, or simply sit and reflect. It's a sanctuary.

    My sister-in-law is in town for a visit and we took a walk up there this evening so I could show her the lake, and I was pleased to see Tromsø really starting to show its autumn colors (it was all green the first few times I was up there, as seen here). It's a special joy to watch the landscape begin to change like this for the first time. 

    I hope you enjoy seeing this shifting landscape too, and I'm looking forward to documenting it throughout the seasons.

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  • september bits

    September second marked one month in Tromsø for me. It also seems to be a seasonal milestone: in the past week there's been a noticeable change in the weather, almost like someone's flipped a switch. The air outside feels fresh and brisk. A few of the eager birches are starting to turn golden yellow, and the colors on the mountainsides have (just barely) started shifting from green to bronze. I turned on the heat in my apartment for the first time this week. As someone who grew up in North Carolina, where it always felt like it took aaages for fall to come around (especially since people started talking about it in August), I have to admit I'm enjoying the early shift. I'm already looking forward to snow appearing on the mountains nearby, and I'm very curious to see when the first snow in the city will be this year. We shall see!

    In an attempt to bottle up some of the remaining arctic summer, I made red currant jelly this week. I got the idea from Unlikely Pairing and then loosely followed the instructions on this blog. Highly recommended. Otherwise I've still been working on settling into the new apartment (we finally got some of the art up on the walls) and focusing on school. I've been scoping out study spots and I'm pretty sure I've found my favorite on campus.

    For those who are curious about what it is I'm doing in school, I wanted to point you toward this bit on BBC Radio 4 (streamable online through the end of the month). It's an episode of Fry's English Delight - and I love Stephen Fry - called English Plus One, all about bilingualism. The area I'm planning to focus on for my thesis is bilingual language acquisition in children, which is one of the topics that comes up. It's a half hour segment and interesting stuff for anyone who's interested in language.

    Finally, I've actually been able to start knitting again regularly! Some days it's a few minutes and others it could be an hour or two, but it's been so nice to be able to unwind with knitting again. The change in weather has certainly helped encourage me to pick it up this week.

    And speaking of knitting, some pieces of knitting news:

    - Karen has highlighted some of the creative mods knitters have made to Laurus over on the Fringe blog. You know I love mods, so I loved this post!

    - If you've ever wanted to knit yourself a Sundottir but you've been putting it off for whatever reason, you might want to join in on Fern Fiber's Sundottir KAL! Cast-on date is September 23rd and you can get the pattern for 10% off if you're joining in. Fern Fiber is a natural dye company run by Maria and Nikki (who you've probably heard before if you listen to the Woolful podcast - they're frequent Man on the Street contributors) and they'll also offering a limited number of yarn kits in the colors of your choice for the KAL. You can read up on the KAL details in their Ravelry group and check out the listing for the naturally dyed yarn kits on Etsy.  Fern Fiber hail from North Carolina (my home state!) and I'm so excited they've put this KAL together. It makes me wish I had time to take part (or that I needed another Sundottir).

    - Have you heard that Kate Davies has developed a yarn? I'm ecstatic about this news! It's called Buchaille and you can read all about it on her blog in a series of posts - everything from how they sourced the fiber (all Scottish), where is was scoured and prepped for spinning (with a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility), what kinds of colors will be included in the line, and more. There will, of course, be a collection of patterns to accompany the release of the yarn.

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  • summer days

    The longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere is right around the corner (Sunday the 21st, this year).

    The days have been hot lately, too. The entire west coast is in a drought - not just California, which you've probably heard about in the news, but up here in Washington, too. The cherries are early this year. Everything's early. I can't remember the last time it really rained. Just endless sunshine and 70-80 degree days.

    It might sound nice to some, but it can make a Seattleite grumpy. I'm yearning for cloudy days and and some actual, proper rain. Still, I'm doing my best to savor the good parts. Mary Jane is in town, so she and I and Cirilia headed out to the Ballard Locks this week with some treats to do a little outdoor knitting. We hovered in the shade, but it was certainly beautiful. We enjoyed watching the bird life - so many blue herons! - and eating the homemade cookies Cirilia had brought along. 

    I've been enjoying the lingering light as the days have grown longer, too. It's hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that when I get to Tromsø, the days will still be quite long and there will be no real darkness my first few weeks there. The days will rapidly grow shorter, though, so I'm enjoying the long daylight as long as I can, whether I'm here in Seattle or in Tromsø.

    I hope whatever your summer is like so far, you're enjoying it! 

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  • photographic milestones

    I got a new camera!!

    My very first camera was a 35mm SLR: a Nikon FG-20. It was a hand-me-down from my mom and I loved it. I used to walk around my yard and my neighborhood as a teenager, snapping photos of anything and everything (but rarely people). I remained a faithful Nikon photographer when I bought my first serious digital camera, a Nikon D70 that I bought second-hand in 2007. It wasn't my first digital camera, but it was my first serious digital camera. I bought it a few months ahead of a semester abroad in France - I remember wanting to have a good camera to document my first extended trip in Europe. That D70 remained my faithful companion for the next seven years, coming with me on a cross-country move as well as trips on four different continents. I basically used it all the time. But at some point last year, that started to change. I got an iPod Touch before going to Norway for the summer, and even though my D70 came along, I used the iPod almost exclusively. Last fall I replaced the iPod with an iPhone. The cameras have come quite far in smartphones, as we all know, and for everyday snaps you really can't beat the ease and portability they provide.

    As I started using my phone more and more to take photos, I think my old D70 really started showing its age. My relationship with it had changed, too. I didn't want to bring it along to document much of anything, and it really only came out to shoot pattern photos or knitting projects. In the last few months, it's finally given up. I can no longer shoot with it. Whatever's wrong with it is probably fixable, but I decided that I'd rather look at buying a new camera than pay money to have a rather old one fixed, especially since digital photo technology has moved forward by huge leaps and bounds since that camera was released. And there's something to be said for investing in a camera that moves me to take pictures again, that's inspiring just to have in my hands. So I started looking around.

    What I landed on is the camera pictured above: the Fujifilm X-T1. I went for the "graphite silver edition" because the silver top is reminiscent of the Nikon FG-20 that was my very first camera (nostalgia totally sells; smooth move, Fuji!). The purchase of this camera marks a rather momentous occasion for me: it's the first time I've bought a proper pro camera totally brand new. There's a lot about it that's very different than my Nikon - the biggest thing being that the Fuji is mirrorless - but I love the photos it takes and I love how it feels in my hands, and that stuff matters to me just as much as the technical specs (if not more). 

    I took a long walk today to spend some time getting a feel for it. Walking around with this camera in my hands, I almost felt like that teenager walking around with her first camera again. It's been a long time since I've felt that sort of giddy excitement about a new creative tool. Most of the photos I took today are just snapshots, really, but I thought I'd share a few here on the blog. I hope to be sharing a lot more photos on the blog again, especially once I get to Norway in August.

    I also wanted to say thanks to the friends who sat and talked cameras with me as I worked my way up to this decision, particularly Kathy and Rachel. Your enthusiasm and encouragement means so much, and I'm grateful for it.

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  • north x west

    I'm starting to get back into the Pacific Northwest vibe now that I'm home. It's been a typical PNW winter since we returned last week, with lots of clouds and drizzle, but that makes the sunny days all the more beautiful. It's a good excuse to get out and go for a walk (especially in the middle of doing business taxes.)

    With days in the upper-40s Fahrenheit (~10ºC), it feels positively balmy after spending new year's in Montreal. I hope those of you on the east coast of the States and Canada are bundling up and staying warm in your sub-freezing temperatures!

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  • slovenia

    Slovenia was special.

    I'll be up front about the fact that before we started planning this trip, I didn't know that much about Slovenia (even having lived in a bordering country, Hungary, for a year). A small country on the Adriatic Sea, sandwiched between Italy and Croatia, it has a population of just over two million people. It's mostly mountainous, and there's a lot of forested territory. We entered the country from the Italian side, as we were coming from Venice, and as it was a clear day, we had beautiful sweeping views of the snow-capped Julian Alps the entire time.

    And then we got to Ljubljana. We were utterly charmed by this city, and I think it would be hard not to be, especially when it's all lit up for Christmas. The center of the town is the historical center, full of cobblestone streets and bridges criss-crossing the Ljubljanica river. I've been fortunate to see some pretty spectacular lit-up-for-Christmas city centers in Europe in my life, but Ljubljana's was unlike any I'd seen before. Mostly forgoing the typical snowflakes, bells, horns, and traditional holiday imagery, many of Ljubljana's holiday lights were astronomy, math, or art/design themed. My very favorite was probably the street full of shooting stars, pictured above. 

    I also managed to find what I later learned was the only commercially-made yarn in Slovenia - made by Soven (website in Slovene only). Not purely a yarn company, Soven deals in a wide range of woolly industries, and carry not just their yarns in the store but also a selection of knitted goods (both hand knits and machine knits), a variety of bedding materials, wool insulation for construction, and more. Quite a different type of company than I'm used to interfacing with! I spent the most time looking at the yarn, of course, which came in a range of solid colors, both dyed and undyed, as well as a selection of marled yarns. I kind of fell in love with this pink/cream melange above.

    I commented on Instagram that there seemed to be a lot of knitters/crocheters/weavers around, and put out a general call for information on Slovenian textiles. A Ravelry member sent along a very sweet message with some info, particularly on the lace-making tradition (thanks Neža!), which had caught my eye. If you're interested in lace, I recommend checking out this link on Idrijan lace that Neža sent along. It's bobbin lace, not knitted lace, but it's incredible beautiful and the lace school in Idrija has operated continuously since 1876, which I think is quite a feat. I'd still love to hear suggestions of links or texts to check out on Slovenian textiles, and welcome suggestions in the comments!

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  • norsk folkemuseum, part 2: indoors

    I've been back from Norway for nearly two weeks and I'm finally settling in again and beginning to get back into a work flow. It's so easy to forget how much of a buffer is sometimes needed between long travel and diving back into work. In any case, today I'm writing about the other half of the Norwegian Folkemuseum in Oslo: the indoor exhibits!

    There are a host of different permanent exhibitions inside the main museum buildings (you can view the list here), my favorite of which were the exhibits on folk dress and folk art, and of course, the knitting history exhibit.

    The gallery was dark, so as to protect the items on display, which means it wasn't the best place to try and take photos of things (as is usually the case). I grabbed a few, though. In particular, I was pretty smitten with this chair:

    Between the carving, the painting, and the woven seat cushion, it's a crazy and beautiful amalgamation of several different folk arts.

    There was a wonderful description of the Husflidsbevegelsen, the home crafts movement that is the origin of the modern husflidslag:

    "Due to the great changes that occurred in rural society during the second half of the 1800s, long-standing traditions in crafts gradually began to vanish. In order to halt this trend, and to combat unemployment and poverty, the home crafts movement arose in the 1860s. Starting in the 1880s, museums of applied art became involved in this movement, primarily in order to ensure high artistic quality, but also as a result of the national romantic spirit of the times. In 1891, three home crafts associations in Kristiania (later renamed Oslo) merged to form the Norwegian Association for Home Arts and Crafts [Den Norske Husflidsforening]. This association opened shops in the city, and established a contact network with producers all over the country. The home crafts movement flourished, and similar associations were established in many towns, and eventually throughout the country."

    The husflid movement is still going strong today, with organizations all over the country (you can find their website, in Norwegian only, at husflid.no). The closest equivalent I can think of in the U.S. would be the guild system, but it's not an exact equivalent. A husflidslag from a specific area of Norway will be interested in protecting the regional crafts and styles historically specific to that area, for example, and they cover far more than just knitting. Many of the regional organizations have shops you can visit, and the national Norges Husflidslag has a shop on the bottom floor of the historic GlasMagasinet department store in the middle of downtown Oslo. The yarn selection is great, for the record!

    But back to the museum: the Knitting History section was small, but they managed to cover a lot. I could've simply stared at the items on display:

    That's an original copy of Annichen Sibbern Bøhn's landmark Norske Strikkemønstre (Norwegian Knitting Designs, 1929) to the left. Annichen spent 1927 traveling around Norway collecting different designs and patterns, taking photographs of samples, and writing charts for the different designs. It's a wonderful source of inspiration for anyone interested in Norwegian knitting and while the book was out of print for years, it's been republished thanks to Terri Shea (author of Selbuvotter: Biography of a Knitting Tradition). You can take a peek here, and if you're interested in learning more about Annichen, you can check out the PDF of an article Terri wrote for Piecework Magazine here (PDF link).

    Moving to the right from Annichen's book, there's a stocking from Selbu, a mohair brush, and a collection of straight and circular needles in different sizes. And that painted needle case on the end! 

    There was also a large selection of sweaters on display. Lurking up on the wall, in the top right-hand corner of the photo, there's a Skappelgenser, the super simple sweater that took Norway by storm in 2012 (I've knit one myself). Many Norwegians who weren't knitters learned to knit to make themselves a Skappelgenser. 

    There was also a case full of sweaters designed by Unn Søiland Dale, who designed many sweaters for the Sandnes factory. Her most famous and most recognizeable design (especially as it's seeing a resurgence right now), is the iconic blue, red, and white Marius sweater. Many of her sweater designs became Norwegian icons and are still recognizeable today, like the Marius sweater. Check out this lady's style:

    There was also a beautiful temporary exhibition on when I visited, featuring photography by Italian photographer Luca Berti. Luca cycles around Norway taking photos of people and the countryside, and the results are gorgeous. The photos were shot recently, but most are shot on film and many with large format cameras, so they feel quite nostalgic. That exhibition is up through September.

    My souvenir from the museum gift shop was splurging on a book:

    Ren Ull, or Pure Wool, by Tone Skårdal Tobiassen and Ingun Grimstad Klepp. It is exactly as it sounds: a book all about Norwegian wool. It's a history, an account of wool in the lives of everyday Norwegians, and it tells the story of wool from sheep to product. Here's an English translation of the description from the book jacket:

    Wool is part of the Norwegian soul, a warming gold that is spun, knitted, woven, and transformed into wonderful products like our national costumes, sweaters and undergarments, upholstery and rugs. Everyone knows that the South Pole was reached because of Amundsen’s wool undergarments, and everyone knows that wool is tantamount to a happy childhood. With winter sport idols Vegard Ulvang and Kari Traa (who added a dose of sex appeal), wool  undergarments have undergone a renaissance.

    In PURE WOOL we follow the path from sheep to product. Here you’ll find the story of quality, Norwegian industry, nostalgia and tradition, and modern design. Here also we discount several myths – for modern wool neither scratches nor shrinks. The starting point is Norwegian sheep, but in a globalized world, the wool takes some detours that few know or think about. So let yourself be surprised and seduced into a world that affects us all. [Translation mine.]

    It was released in conjunction with The Campaign for Wool's Wool Week in 2013, Norway being one of several other countries that has taken up the campaign since it was started in the UK in 2010. I'm so pleased to know that the importance of wool is being given real recognition in a country like Norway where it has historically been so important. I'm not terribly far into the book yet (I'm a much slower reader in Norwegian than in English) but it's chock full of color photos past and present, and the topics covered are certainly wide. I'm really enjoying it, and I'd definitely recommend it to any Norwegian speakers (as far as I know, there is no English translation). It is nice to be reading it as I prep for the Nordic Knitting Conference, and I have a feeling a lot of the subject matter may come up in my classes.

    All in all, the Folkemuseum on Bydøy is absolutely worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Oslo. Give yourself at least a whole day - it's the largest museum of cultural history in Norway, after all - and try to go when the weather's decent so you can enjoy the open-air museum. It's also a great spot to hit if you're doing research on many aspects of Norwegian culture, and you can read about the collections and archives of the museum here.

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  • norsk folkemuseum, part 1: the open-air museum

    I've been wanting to get to the Norsk Folkemuseum on Bygdøy all summer, and last week I finally made it! The official English name is the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, but for the sake of simplicity, I'm simply going to refer to it as the Folkemuseum. One of the perks of attending the International Summer School at UiO is that students get free entry to several museums around Oslo with their ISS student cards, and the Folkemuseum is among them (lucky me!).

    I'll be writing about the Folkemuseum in two posts, because it's a vast and multidimensional museum, one I could easily spend several days at. In a way, it's several museums in one: there are many indoor exhibits, permanent and temporary, dealing with the life of Norwegian people over time in a variety of different areas, but there's also a large open-air museum outdoors. The indoor exhibits were quite good, but I must admit the open-air section of the museum was my favorite. I'll be writing about that first.

    The museum was officially founded in 1894 and established at Bygdøy in 1898. All of the buildings that belong to the open-air museum are actual historical buildings that were moved from their original locations to the museum over the last 100+ years, which is pretty remarkable. They're laid out according to their location of origin, so there are many sections corresponding to geographic regions, such as Telemark, Setesdal, Hallingdal, and so on:

    (image courtesy of the Norsk Folkemuseum)

    The first two buildings that the museum acquired were a bur and a loft, both from Telemark. The bur is a storehouse, and in this case it was the larder on the farm. The loft was the guesthouse, where guests to the farm would be lodged and entertained. A majority of the buildings in the open-air museum are from old farmsteads, and storehouses, lofts, and farmhouses from different parts of the country, from several different points in history. I found myself thinking often of Kristin Lavransdatter, the classic trio of novels by Sigrid Undset that depicts the life of a woman in 14th century Norway. None of the buildings in the museum are quite as old as that, but the first farmhouse I stepped into was from the second half of the 1600s, and farmsteads hadn't changed all that much by then: the buildings were largely the same, the crops were largely the same, the wife/mother of the farm was still the keeper of the keys to the storehouse, etc. It's quite an experience to be transported back in time simply by stepping into a building (through a very low doorway, I might add). In any case, here are the loft and bur from Telemark, which date from the mid-1700s:

    I adore the intricate wood carving and sod roofs. Both are typical of Norwegian buildings from the countryside, and the spectacular woodworking skills of the Norwegians were also put to use on one of my favorite types of buildings: the stave church. The Folkemuseum has a stave church of its own, from Gol:

    Built of sturdy pine, the Gol stave church dates from around 1200. The stave churches first appeared in the latter years of the Viking era, after King Olaf Tryggvason converted Norway to Christianity. At that point the Norwegian churches were Catholic, and the Norwegians simply took the concepts of the layout of a Catholic church (nave, circular apse, columns, vaulted ceilings, etc.) and used traditional construction techniques to apply them. This meant churches were built entirely of wood, with tarred exteriors (to weatherproof the building) and often an exterior set of walls for extra protection, which created a sort of hallway around the church hall itself. One of my favorite details is that for a church the size of the Gol stave church, the vaulted ceiling inside was effectively an upside-down longship - master shipbuilders that they were, it's no surprise the Vikings borrowed that technique for their churches. The churches had to be tarred every three years to keep up with the weatherproofing, which was quite an undertaking. Everyone helped out with the task.

    The Gol stave church was moved from its original location in Hallingdal to Oslo around 1885. King Oscar II had a private open-air museum on Bygdøy at that point (oh, royalty); King Oscar's Collection merged with the Folkemuseum in 1907. To this day, Oscar's section of the open-air museum is known as Kong Oscar IIs Samling, or King Oscar the Second's Collection. The gold leaf you can see halfway up the church front commemorates the relocation and restoration of the church. Unsurprisingly, there are only a handful of stave churches left in Norway, but if you're curious about them, you can read more here. I am very fortunate to have been in more than one - I visited the Borgund stave church in 2012, and to give you an idea of the intricate carving around the entrance (symbolic, of course, as the gate through which one steps into God's house) as well as a peek of the interior, here's a photo from Borgund (the entrance and interior of Gol was very similar):

    And the top of the portal of the Gol church:

    Keeping up with the theme of beautifully carved wood, this was a door on a storehouse in the Setesdal section of the museum:

    I found it especially noteworthy because the carvings on either side of the main door greatly resemble stockinette! It was also in the Setesdal section of the museum that I got a close-up photo of the edge of a sod roof:

    While I think many of us find sod roofs incredibly charming, as it so happens, the grass on the roof is really just a by-product of this method of roof-building. The cheapest way to build a weather-proof roof in a wet, windy, and snowy land was to use readily available materials. Birch is abundant in Scandinavia as well as strong and resistant to water and soil, and so people would strip the bark from the trees and lay on top of the wooden roof boards in layers (around 8 layers or so, on average). To hold the birch "shingles" in place and keep them from falling off or blowing away, they're weighted down. Sod was an obvious choice for this job, as it was (obviously) readily available and an insulator to boot. So next came a layer of sod, topside down (the bottom layer of grass helped with drainage and insulation), and then another layer, topside up. Once you put soil on your rooftop, the grass just grows! I love how you can see the ends of the birch bark pieces curling over at the edge of the roof.

    In addition to the countryside areas, there's a little Gamlebyen (old town) as well, to give museum-goers an idea of what life in a Norwegian city would be like at different points in history. 

    I was running out of time by the time I got to Gamlebyen, but I did have a chance to pop into the weaver's shop and pick up some yarn. I chose a beautiful hank of Telespinn yarn, in a 2-ply variety called Symre (named after a flower that commonly grows in Telemark, where the yarn is sourced and spun). I couldn't pass it up: as you can see, it's gorgeous yarn, but I was also immediately drawn in by the company's goals and values. Based in Telemark, they're interested in learning about and preserving both the history and cultural landscape of their area, as well as the relationship between livestock farming and natural landscape (as regards their mohair goats, in particular). Symre is a mohair-lambswool blend, and it feels both hardy and luxurious at the same time. I wanted to buy all of it. You can learn more about Telespinn, their goats, and their mini-mill on their website here (link goes to the English version).

    One of the other great things about the open-air museum is that many of the buildings have guides working inside, typically in costume and often partaking in a daily task typical of the building and time period they're representing. I saw some tablet weaving of decorative belts, a folk dance demonstration, and I spent a few minutes in a very hot kitchen building chatting with some ladies making lefse in the most traditional way: on an iron tray over an open hearth (hence the heat). Then I got to eat some (it was delicious).

    I've been quite wordy, so I'll leave you with just a few more photos. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, though, and I'd love to hear if any of you have been to the Folkemuseum! Or if you've been to similar museums in other places, I'd love to hear about that too and I'd welcome your recommendations! I'm flying back to the states tomorrow, so I won't be posting about the second half of the museum until later this week. I'm looking forward to getting home and regular posting should resume shortly thereafter.

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  • rvk part 2

    Barbara borrowed my hat when it started snowing on us.

    Friday was spent at the National Museum and ended with a fashion show, a precursor to Saturday's events. I didn't take any photos at the museum (though Cirilia did take a handful of them), but if you're interested in Iceland's history even a little bit, I feel like the National Museum is a must-see in Reykjavik. I spent two hours there but I could have lingered longer. I definitely spent some time nerding out over medieval manuscripts, and as a drop spindle spinner, I really enjoyed seeing the Viking-era stone spindle whorls and woven (or nalbinded) fabric remnants. There was also a really great photography exhibit on the the ground floor while we were there, and all the work being featured was shot by female photographers. The works spanned over a century of photography.

    The fashion show we went to was over at the art museum by the harbor, Hafnarhúsið. It was a very different vibe than the shows the next day. I think that the fashion world tends to take itself a little too seriously and the folks in attendance at the Hildur Yeoman show seemed to fall into that category. Still, it was an interesting experience and I'm glad we attended. The show was for Hildur's new collection, called Yulia. I believe it's named after (and partially inspired by) her great aunt. Or grandmother? Either way, it was a badass lady in her family, and I'm all for being inspired by that.

    The clothes weren't for me, but I managed to grab a photo or two anyway. Black, white, and red were th thematic colors for the collection. The girls you see at the back were doing a choreographed dance piece, which also kicked off the show.

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  • reykjavík so far

    Hello from Reykjavík, where we're halfway through DesignMarch 2014 and the Reykjavík Fashion Festival!

    I've been posting on Instagram since arriving, as have Cirilia and Stephen, and I put a bunch of our photos into the montage above. If you want to follow along, you can follow us at @cakeandvikings, @cirilia, and @westknits.

    First of all, Iceland is beautiful. I may be here for the design and fashion events (and to galavant around with buddies) but it wouldn't be that hard to skive off and stare at the landscape or out over the rooftops all day instead. Truly. 


    I arrived early in the morning on Tuesday. I had the Flybus drop me off at Reykjavík Downtown Hostel, near my friend Peter's place, which worked out well for me because I could have a coffee (I didn't sleep on the overnight flight) and some breakfast while I waited for Peter. We got to spend the day together, but I also got to get some work done and take a nap (very necessary).

    Stephen and his friend Barbara (of Chillimint) arrived from Amsterdam later that day, and Cirilia arrived the next morning. Our days thus far have consisted of a lot of coffee, snacks, and knitting. And outfit changes. Reykjavík is known for its street style but I'm not sure this city's residents can hold a candle to these guys. 

    Cirilia, Stephen, and Barbara headed down the hill to Harpa for Thursday's opening day Design Talks. I love how Harajuku Cirilia's pimped-lopapeysa look feels.

    post-coffee on Wednesday

    I feel positively tame standing next to them, swathed in black, white, and grey (right down to the lopapeysa I bought at the Handknitting Association today, seen in the Instagram montage above). But I feel like me, so it works.

    Opening day's talks on Thursday were really excellent (you can read about the programming on the DesignMarch website here). "Design" is such a diverse, broad term, and the wide range of speakers really drove that point home. The morning started off with two speakers who work in urban planning & design situations, and one of them, Kathryn Firth, might have been my favorite speaker of the day. She's working on the ongoing redesign of Olympic Park in London in the wake of the 2012 Olympics, and I have to admit I hadn't given much thought before to what happens to all the giant Olympics complexes after the games.

    After lunch the talks switched gears: we had some tech talk first (with Robert Wong from Google) and then moved on to fashion, with Mikael Schiller from Acne Studios and finally Calvin Klein. The Google talk was good, and about what you'd expect: Robert was charming in a humble, not-smooth-talking kind of way, with funny quips and emotional hooks and appropriately placed "instructional videos" that are totally ads, no matter what Google claims. I got caught up in the moment during his talk, and found my feelings toward Google (which are mostly good, but I do have some grievances) shifting in a more positive direction. After his talk, however, I came down from this magic Cloud (I guess Glass isn't a great thing to stand on) and realized I'd just been expertly emotionally manipulated. High five, Google. You're winning whatever game you're playing and it still makes me uncomfortable.

    I really enjoyed Mikael from Acne's talk. He was funny and genuine and seems generally bemused that people like what his company is doing (though of course he works very hard to make it so that people do). I probably won't buy their jeans or other clothes, but Acne's really on the up right now.

    Calvin Klein... well, he's undeniably a legend. Instead of giving a presentation like the other speakers did, his talk was in the form of an interview, and his interviewer was Icelandic designer Steinunn (a former employee of his). It was clear that CK and Steinunn have somewhat of a special relationship and the utmost respect for each other, which is lovely, but it made for a pretty vanilla interview, I must admit. I'm very glad to have heard Calvin Klein speak at all, and he gave some great advice for aspiring designers, but it would've been a much richer and more interesting interview if his interlocutor had been willing to bring up critique or controversy, or anything other than glowing praise. Perhaps if you're Calvin Klein, you have the authority (or maybe the ego) to pretend critical analysis doesn't apply to you and choose your interviewers accordingly. He was so casual when he mentioned hanging out in the Hamptons and deciding to send his personal plane to Boston to fly Marky Mark down to talk about underwear... and it was at that moment that I realized how far Calvin Klein's reality was from mine, or most of the other people in this world. Nonetheless, it was interesting to hear his story and I'm grateful I had the opportunity. 

    --

    The weather the morning of Design Talks was gorgeous, and we took advantage of the gorgeous light outside Harpa (reflected off the geometric, multi-colored windows) and snapped a few goofy photos:

    I have more to write about what we've done so far (especially the National Museum!), but I think I'll save that for the next post. Until then!

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  • WIP wednesday

    I'm still totally underwater trying to get everything ready in time for the Paper Tiger F/W 2013 launch (the official release date is 10/29, but I'll have a sneak peek around the 22nd!), so this post's short and sweet, but I thought I'd share a photo from yesterday, a WIP. Yesterday was my first day back at Norwegian class at the Scandinavian Language Institute, and I grabbed the photo below with the norsk flag shield in it. I was finishing up one of the F/W samples later that afternoon when I noticed the red/white/blue (or rød/hvit/blå, if you prefer) theme happening.

    The second and final shoot for the F/W collection is happening on Sunday, so I'll be back with new posts next week!

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  • signs of autumn in ballard

    When I need a break at work, I like to take walks around the neighborhood (and maybe stop for a donut at the coffee shop up on the hill...), and I've been enjoying them more than usual lately. Here are just a few signs of fall from around (and in) the Paper Tiger studio.

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  • the new paper tiger hq

    A few weeks ago I made a very exciting decision - I signed a lease on a studio/office space for Paper Tiger! While there are some things I loved about working from home, I feel like making the leap to a workspace outside the home has been a fantastic decision for my creative work. Change can be a little scary, but over the past few weeks I've been working on putting together a bright, inviting space that is both comfortable and inspiring. It's still a work in progress, and there are a few more pieces of furniture I need to procure before it's "done" and presentable, but I thought I would share a sneak peek of a few details of the space in progress!

    For those who are curious: the succulent is Burro's Tail; the teal fabric on the wall is a Michael Miller print I bought at Drygoods Design (available here); the ombré curtain is from Target; the dreamy pendant lamp is the Garland Light by Tord Boontje; the mirror with Norwegian on it says "to dream and to do"; and the coat rack yarn holder was totally my husband's idea.

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  • video: cat camera likes to travel

    First, a little bit of background. A year and a half ago I got a camera for my birthday, and it just so happens that this camera looks like a cat:

    Seriously. It's the Necono Digital Camera, and not surprisingly it's a Japanese product. Cat camera has four modes: it takes still photos, still photos with a self timer, it shoots video, and it has a time lapse feature.There's a mode button to switch between the four modes. The cat's right eye is the lens, while the left eye is the self timer sensor. The microphone (yeah, the video records audio, too) is just below the cat's nose. All your photos and video are stored on a microSD card, and you can connect it to your computer via a micro USB cable to transfer its contents. Oh, and its feet are magnetic, which is how it's perched on that pipe up there. It's a pretty remarkable little piece of technology.

    The first question people usually have is what the photos look like. I typically describe them as pretty lo-fi, a little bit like a cheap cell phone camera. But it can be all over the map. Some photos are better quality, some are totally terrible. Sometimes in focus, but not always; it's a little bit of a gamble. Sometimes the colors are crazy and totally blown out. You never totally know what you're going to get. In general though, cat camera does well outdoors with daylight, and less well indoors and at night. Here's a photo I took in Budapest to give you an example:

    Cat camera has a tumblr, if you'd like to see more photos: cat-camera.tumblr.com

    I was given cat camera while I was living in Hungary, and I've taken it on all my travels in the last year and a half. I've been collecting short video clips along the way, not knowing exactly what I'd do with them. I've always thought it'd be fun to compile them somehow, though.

    Enter my dear friend John Vanderslice. John's gearing up to release his new record, Dagger Beach, next Tuesday. I kind of fell in love with one of the in-between tracks, "Interlude #1," and thought it would complement the cat camera clips really nicely. So I put them all together and here's where I ended up:

    Interlude #1 from Dianna on Vimeo.

    Thanks to JV for permission to use the song! The record (which is totally great) is available at daggerbeach.com, and if you'd like to follow the travels of cat camera you can do so here.

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  • sydney favorites

    I wanted to round up a list of a few favorite discoveries from Sydney, Australia. Five days is not a long time to explore a new city, and though I did my best to get out and around different areas of the city, many of these favorites are located in the neighborhood where I stayed, Surry Hills. It's a neighborhood I can heartily recommend visiting, though, and I enjoyed strolling up and down Crown Street, checking out a myriad of awesome local shops and restaurants. But without further ado, on to the favorites:

    Hyde Park / Metro St. James

    Hyde Park is in the center of town, a gorgeous green couple of blocks full of tree-lined walks and fountains. I found myself in Hyde Park every day I was in Sydney, but the walk through the park early in the morning my first day there was pretty magical. We stopped for breakfast at Metro St. James, a brand new French cafe built into an old building that's part of the entrance to the St. James metro station. The cafe opens up onto the park so that even when sitting inside, you feel like you're out on the terrace. And this place is good. Great coffee, and I had the best avocado on toast of my life. Both the park and the cafe are worth your time.

    Kürtősh

    It's relatively rare to see Hungarian restaurants, bakeries, or shops outside of Hungary, so after my year spent living there I get really excited when I stumble upon one. Kürtősh isn't specifically Hungarian themed, but the prioprietors did take its name from the Hungarian pastry kürtőskalács, one of my favorites (anglicizing the name with an 'h' at the end, so that you might come close to pronouncing it correctly!). They even traveled to Hungary in order to purchase the traditional oven kürtőskalács is baked in, and they trained with Hungarian bakers to learn how to make this specialty properly. I can vouch for the authenticity: their kürtőskalács is super good and exactly like what I've had in Hungary. The philosophy of this cafe, which has a few locations, was to create a cozy space that feels like home, reminiscent of childhood memories of a kitchen filled with the smell of fresh baked goods. The selection of treats reflect that, with a mix of different offerings, from the aforementioned kürtőskalács and traditional Hungarian dobos torta to the less exotic but totally comforting 'mum's chocolate cake'. I visited the Surry Hills location three times in five days, where the staff was super friendly and amazing, and they have two other spots, in Randwick and Crows Nest.

    Follow

    During an afternoon downpour we took refuge inside a little shop called Follow. I didn't get any photos of the shop interior itself, which is a shame, because it's tucked inside a beautiful old pharmacy storefront - and I mean old. All the old wooden pharmacy cabinets lining the walls have been preserved and now showcase beautiful products by independent Australian designers. This is one of the best curated boutiques I've come across in a long time, carrying clothing by independent designers, a range of artwork and other handmade goods, paper goods and stationery, and jewelry. This spot was another Surry Hills find.

    Taronga Zoo

    As far as zoos go, this one's pretty spectacular. Taronga Zoo is a short ferry ride from downtown Sydney, so the journey to the zoo is a trip in itself, with great views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Everything about this zoo felt so well done, and there's a huge emphasis on education and conservation, helping park visitors to learn about the impact our everyday lives as humans have on the natural world and ideas for how to reduce that impact. (Public thank you to my mom for suggesting a trip to this zoo - we wouldn't have made it over otherwise.)

    Mardi Gras Parade

    This last one's kind of cheating, because it's time-dependent, but I couldn't not include it in this list. We had no idea until right before we we left for the trip that we'd accidentally booked ourselves into Sydney Mardi Gras's culminating weekend, but I'm so glad we did. Mardi Gras in Sydney is basically a three week-long pride festival, drawing hundreds of thousands of people every year, with a big emphasis on LGBTQI rights and equality. The parade was immensely fun and while I didn't make it to any of the other events going on, this festival is both one big party and a great opportunity for discussion and education. It was hugely inspiring and I encourage anyone interested to check out the official Sydney Mardi Gras website.

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  • sunny sample knitting

    Instagram photos are a poor excuse for blogging, I know, but on a sunny day like this in Seattle it was too hard not to take my work outside. Fortunately for me, I knocked out a bunch of bookkeeping/business-end work I needed to get done in the morning, so I had a chance to get outside and do some sample knitting in the sunshine for a design I've been working on.

    It's pretty hard to beat Seattle in the springtime! The top two photos are my own (I'm @cakeandvikings on Instagram) and the bottom one is by my friend Kathleen. For those of you who are stuck underneath fresh snow and wishing for warmer temperatures, I hope these photos give you something to look forward to. Seattle will probably be shrouded in a thick chilly mist from April to June, so we've got to get out and enjoy nice weather when we get the chance.

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  • color/texture/pattern in sydney, australia

    The biggest impression that Sydney, Australia left on me was one of color and life. This city felt like it was brimming with vivid saturation, a reflection of the vibrant, bustling, and creative communities that have sprung up over the last decade. I have more to share about my time in the city, but I wanted to put some of the examples I collected of that color and life around the city into one post.

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  • home again

    After a year abroad, on the move, traveling and teaching, I'm back home in Seattle.

    I'm very happy to be home, and I've been getting the new Paper Tiger studio set up and running, which is very exciting! I already have some projects in the works, and you can expect to see more new stuff in this space very soon.

    In the meantime, I thought I'd share a few photos from my walk yesterday. My work right now leans way toward the running-the-business end of Paper Tiger, and my days are spent sitting at my desk more often than not. In an effort to get out and be active, I've been setting aside time for long walks. Yesterday I took a walk through the Ballard Locks and Discovery Park. One of the things I missed most about Seattle when I was living in Hungary was its proximity to so much natural beauty; we are spoiled by our views of the sound and the mountains surrounding us.

    Discovery Park is a little piece of nature (or a rather large one, really) in the middle of Seattle, a place where a few steps away from the parking lot you forget how near the roads and houses truly are, because it feels like you've stepped into the middle of nowhere. The presence of a few paved access roads and the other people enjoying the park are some of the only reminders that you're still within the city limits. It is a favorite spot.

    Both the park and the Locks were good places to catch glimpses of autumn creeping into Seattle (particularly the Locks).

    I'll be sharing my new projects here very soon, but until then I plan to keep sharing photos. From daily walks, from this last year's travels, from anything that seems fit to share. I'll leave you with this photo of a salmon in the fish ladder at the Locks. More soon!

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  • photo assisting for kyle johnson / the portland mercury

    Last month fellow Seattleite (and rad photographer) Kyle Johnson shot the spring fashion shoot for the Portland Mercury, and I went down to Portland with him to photo assist. I always love a trip to Portland, and I'm a huge fan of Kyle's photos, so I figured it would be a fun time and a good experience. I wanted to share a few images from that day because even though we pulled it off in the end, it was a little bit more of an adventure than any of us were expecting. We started off the day like this:

    "Unnamed Rd." Consider this foreshadowing. Twenty minutes later, we found ourselves in this:

    That's snow on the ground. In May. Now, this was up on a mountain, but we quickly realized we weren't going to do a spring fashion photoshoot up here in the snow. The theme of the shoot was "open season" which meant the feel was supposed to be woodsy/hunting and there were going to be models holding guns as props. So we made the best of it and the one thing we did do up on that snowy mountaintop was shoot up the Portland Mercury sign you see in the photo at the top of this post (or, more precisely, Jay did all the shooting). The only shooting I did was photos.





    Aside from the water droplets on my lens, those photos make it really hard to tell that there was still snow coming down from the sky. At any rate, we went back down the mountain and ended up shooting (photos) down by the river. You can check out the whole spread with Kyle's photos here (scroll down and click on "slideshow"). Until the next adventure, I've got these photos to remember it by.

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  • inspiration: chris mcveigh

    I haven't had a proper "inspiration" post for awhile, but I came across Chris McVeigh's work yesterday and had to share. He's a graphic designer and a photographer and shoots a lot of different things (there's a lot of Legos and action figures on his photostream), but my favorites of his have to be the little Lego worlds he creates as well as the shots of chipmunks with Star Wars action figures. If I had to describe his work, I'd probably say it's ridiculous in a good way.


    "A Balanced Breakfast"


    "I've Got a Bad Feeling About This"


    "Business is Slow"

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  • tiny telephone

    I took a road trip down to California in July and while I was there, I stopped by my friend John Vanderslice's analog recording studio Tiny Telephone in San Francisco. Some of my favorite records have been made there so I was thrilled to finally see the studio - and after a recent remodel too, with some gorgeous work done by Claire Mack.

    I took a bunch of photos of the studio while I was there, and I'll post a few of them below. You can see the rest over at the Tiny Telephone tumblr page.







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  • god jul / godt nyttår

    Wishing everyone a warm and happy holiday from my native North Carolina. Normally I try to keep this blog to art/craft and inspiration related to those things, but this is a special time of year for me, and I always like to reflect on the year gone by. I have thought a lot in the past few days about the significance of this season, about tradition, about the importance of cherishing time spent with loved ones, be it friends or family or in some cases both, and simply being grateful for everything that we have. 2010 was a rough year for many folks I know, but there was a lot of good that came out of it. I am always inspired by the ability of people to take something bad and turn it around into something good - something from which to draw experience and strength, something to inspire them to make good happen. I've watched it happen over and over again this year and I am so grateful for all the good that came to me in my dark times this year.



    Winter is not known for being a bright season, but this year it is filled with brightness in my eyes. I no longer live close to my family and so I cherish my time with them like I never did before. Tonight I listened to my grandmother tell stories and was overcome by the urge to record them (something which I am now planning to do) - she always wanted to write a book but perhaps we'll have to do it for her. After dinner I went for a Christmas Eve walk around my old neighborhood. The air was crisp and smelled like woodsmoke and the neighborhood was quiet and filled with lights and I found myself wondering how anyone could not like this time of year. I ran into some old family friends on my walk, took a few photos, and went on my way. As I sit by the Christmas tree, I feel content and grateful. And ready to face a new year.



    Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it, and a happy holiday and happy new year too.

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