a quick road trip to smøla

Mountains and water are visible through the window of a ferry boat. A table and red seats are visible in the foreground.

At the beginning of the week, the heat finally broke, and we’ve been enjoying a bit of rain along with much cooler temperatures. For anyone whose summer holiday started this week, I recognize that that’s probably inconvenient, but since I’ll be working on and off throughout July (I only have half the usual allotted vacation days this year since I only worked 6 months in Norway last year) I have to admit I’m finding the change in weather more conducive to getting some work done. It feels quite a lot like it did this time last year – we had a lot of chilly rain after a period of beautiful weather.

That being said, I did take two days off this week and we drove over to see some dear friends who were spending the week on the island of Smøla. Smøla is a few hours west of Trondheim, in the neighboring county of Møre og Romsdal. It was a quick trip for us being only two days, but still really enjoyable and a nice break from the daily grind.

The last leg of the drive involves car ferry to get over to the island, and even though the ferry ride is a short twenty, it was nice to be on a boat. Smøla itself is pretty flat (I think the highest point is just over 60 m / 200 ft) so I wasn’t expecting the islands we drove through on the way to have such high peaks, but I enjoyed the dramatic landscape. It definitely made me want to come back to the Nordmøre region.

We did have grey skies and rain on our first day, but Wednesday was unexpectedly clear and we were able to enjoy a bit of sunshine as well (which also made the drive home that evening much easier). The change of scenery, staying in a seaside cabin with friends, eating fresh fish, and visiting different corners of the island were all so nice. We had cake and coffee on the deck at Villsaubutikken, serenaded by a chorus of villsau sheep. Or more accurately, gammelnorsk sau (“Old Norwegian sheep”). This sheep breed is very commonly known as villsau in Norway, but that name literally means “wild sheep” and is thus a misnomer, as the Old Norwegian sheep isn’t actually wild. There were quite a few of them on Smøla, in any case.

I brought along one knitting project, a shawl I started last weekend. It’s the Trelawney Shawl by Tyne Swedish, which has been in my favorites basically since she released it, and I’m knitting it up in two gorgeous colors of yarn from Birch Hollow Fibers. I was able to make some good progress on our trip.

And a shift from the tone of the rest of this post: normally I would link to the Ravelry pattern page for the pattern, but given Ravelry’s redesign and the health hazards it has posed for many, I’m opting not to do that here (but clicking Tyne’s name above will take you to her Instagram profile at least). As for Ravelry, the rollout of the new site design has been…tough. I have so much love for the people who make that site run, but like many others, I’ve been disappointed with the response from the team to the health & accessibility issues raised by so many. While people are resistant to change, and there have been negative reactions based solely on the aesthetic choices made in the new design, the people who have spoken up about accessibility and health risks are talking about something much more serious. The decisions that have been made and the communication from the team really makes it seem like they’re not taking it seriously and that they don’t get it. Or worse, that they do get it, but they don’t care. I keep hoping that what feels like radio silence (on questions they have specifically avoided responding to in their sporadic updates) is due to furiously working behind the scenes to make corrections or to compose an apology. But the more time that passes, the smaller that hope becomes. It’s kind of heartbreaking.

I’m still using the site for now because there is nothing else like it out there, but I’ve switched to the classic view and plan to keep it that way as long as I’m able. And in the meantime, I’m thinking about possible contingency plans for pattern sales, given that many of my patterns are only available on Ravelry. I’m also thinking about accessibility in my own online spaces in a way I haven’t before. I welcome thoughts on all of these issues in the comments here, especially if anyone has specific feedback about Paper Tiger (the website or my pattern formatting), but know that if you dismiss the needs or experiences of users who are unable to use Ravelry’s new design or other web accessibility problems, that’s not going to fly.

suddenly, summer

Trondheim fjord in the summer sunshine, with sailboats on the blue water and flowering cow parsley in the foreground

Summer feels like it came out of nowhere this year. After we had several days in May of waking up to fresh snowfalls that would melt away in the afternoon, the weather turned relatively quickly. June has been hot, sunny, and dry. I’ve been swimming in the fjord once or twice a week for the past couple of weeks, which has been a real source of joy. I’ve been finding small joys wherever I can, given how much of this year has been so difficult. The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone and it’s alarming to see infection rates continue to grow back in the US. If you’re reading this from somewhere where cases are still on the rise, I hope you’re staying safe. Additionally, the Black Lives Matter protests have been both inspiring, and in the case of the police brutality being directed at protesters, infuriating. It’s been a time of massive amounts of learning for a lot of us. At times I’ve felt overwhelmed, but I’m doing my best to work through whatever feelings I have so that I’m able to take action in the ways that I can. All if this is part of why it’s been quiet here for several weeks. But I want to come back to this space again.

A red boathouse in the sunshine fills the left side of the frame, with green grass and cow parsley growing alongside it. Trondheim fjord is visible in the background to the right under a blue sky.

My hand held up in front of a massive butterbur leaf

I’d forgotten how quickly things grow in the north in the months around the summer solstice, when night recedes so far away that there’s no real darkness. Pictured above is a massive butterbur leaf (although I prefer one of its other names, “bog rhubarb,” because I find it hilarious). Back in late April, there were little butterbur flower stems popping up all over Trondheim. There are no leaves at that point, and the little flower stems are low to the ground. But now these plants are maybe a meter and a half tall, and I can’t get over how huge the leaves are. Quite the transformation. Watching the flora change on the way into summer has been a source of joy for me as well – we arrived just before midsummer last year (June 17 marked one year in Trondheim) but now that we’re a bit more settled it’s been easier to watch the changes in real time.

A white horse grazes in a field of green grass. Wildflowers grow by a fence in the foreground and deeper green trees sit in the background.

A wild-looking rose bush with white blossoms blooms in the sunshine

The lilacs are just about done, but the roses have all started blooming now. The blossoms on our apple trees came and went and now there are tiny apples appearing. We’ve slowly been getting a kitchen garden put together as well. I started some things indoors earlier in the season and while it’s taking awhile to get things moved outside, I finally feel like we’re getting somewhere. Yesterday we assembled the little greenhouse we purchased back in March, so before too long I should actually have my tomato plants into their beds. I’m still such a novice at growing vegetables, but I’m finally not afraid of making mistakes and doing things “wrong” like I used to be – learning from experience is an excellent way to learn some things. At the very least we’ve done well with greens so far this year and have enjoyed some really delicious salads from our arugula and kale.

A birds-eye view of my planter box growing healthy kale and arugula. In my left hand I hold a jar of iced coffee, and my feet in brown leather shoes are visible at the bottom of the frame.

Orange and yellow primulas bloom in the sunshine

So I’ve been doing my best to soak it all up. I feel like these summer treats are how I’m recharging right now. I’m not getting enough sleep – the clear bright nights have been so beautiful it makes me not want to miss a thing – but I know that there’s clouds and rain on the horizon and there will be space for cozier summer days too (and a little bit more sleep).

I hope you’re keeping well, and I hope you have the headspace for a little bit of making or whatever is helping you recharge these days. We’re gonna need it.

A half-eaten lemon popsicle is held up in front of the Trondheim fjord at sunset

april

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The blog migration to WordPress is officially complete! Thanks for bearing with me as I’ve gotten everything moved over. Although I still have to go through my pattern catalog and fix all the broken links to support & tutorial posts, and that may take me some time to get through. If you find broken links elsewhere on the web, please feel free to let me know – I’d love to get them fixed.

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I feel like I have lots to catch up on here. April wasn’t busy, exactly, as it’s hard to feel busy when you spend so much time at home. But I did fill my time: knitting, sewing, baking, reading. Project planning. Garden planning. Planning planning planning. We are planning for a summer spent at home – and for once, we were actually planning on that anyway. I hope by July there’s an opportunity to do some more local travel within central Norway, but we shall see. Norway is slowly reopening (with restrictions), but I’m still trying to exercise an abundance of caution.

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I plan to share some of what I made in the month of April here on the blog very soon, so you can keep an eye out for that.

one last bit of housekeeping + signs of spring

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First up: this will be the last post before I migrate the blog to my new hosting platform, and as I can’t guarantee that the RSS feed will transfer seamlessly, that means that if you use a blog reader to subscribe to the RSS feed for the blog, you may need to update that to be able to see future posts.

If you’re a current email subscriber: luckily, I should be able to update the feed through that service, so you should continue to receive email notifications when new posts go live. That means you won’t have to do a thing! So that’s good news.

Either way, thanks so much to all of you who follow the blog. This space is first and foremost a place for myself – I have been documenting and sharing snippets of my life online for a very long time, and I enjoy being able to look back at what I’ve written in the past – but I am so grateful my musings are interesting to so many of you as well. I’m only sorry the existing comments won’t move over to the new platform with the blog posts, because there have been some lovely and interesting exchanges there over the years.

With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, I thought I’d share just a few photos of the transition to spring here in Trondheim. Spring has well and truly arriving – while we had a couple of light snows in April, they melted away quickly, and over the past week blossoms have started appearing and tiny leaves have started to pop out of the tree branches. This time of year always makes me incredibly excited.

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I’ll be back very soon with more to share. I hope you’re all keeping well.

checking in

One piece of housekeeping before I get into this post: I was notified a few weeks ago that my web host will be shutting down by the end of May. I’ll need to migrate the entire Paper Tiger website to a new platform, which will take me some time. I’ll be moving to WordPress over the course of the next two months. If you’re an email subscriber of this blog (or if you use a blog reader), unfortunately I’ll have no way to transfer that email list, but I will give you some warning before I make the final transfer. The website will still be paper-tiger.net, but links to other pages will be changing. So I anticipate some hiccups, as I’ll need to update links to blog posts or tutorial pages in a whole long list of places: pattern PDFs, YouTube video descriptions, and so on. So I hope you’ll bear with me through that process and forgive any bumps in the road. Now, on to the post…

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Hello, all. I hope you’re as well as can be. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned life upside down for us all, and it’s a strange time to… well, to do much of anything. The Norwegian prime minister held a press conference on Thursday, March 12, announcing a number of initial measures they were taking to try to slow the spread, including closing schools and universities and instituting the social distancing policy we’re all now familiar with. March 12 was the first day I decided to work from home, and the press conference came as a relief, to know the government was taking the threat seriously and once they decided to take action, it was swift. My physical university campus is effectively shut down now, and employees have been instructed to work from home if they can. Looking at the calendar, today’s day 11 of isolation/social distancing/shelter-in-place/whatever your terminology. I’ve been out for walks at least every other day, and to the grocery store once, but otherwise, my partner and I are just home. There have been ups and downs, as you might expect, but overall we feel very lucky – lucky to be where we are (in this house, in this country), to not be worried about our jobs or work for the moment, to be able to go outside. We’re incredibly fortunate. We’re also worried about friends who have already lost their jobs, whose livelihoods are threatened. We’ve only seen the beginning of what this whole thing will bring.

It’s hard to know what to do to help, but I’ve been doing my best to support small businesses, both local and further afield. Even though I’ve been eager to knit from my stash this year (and I still am), I’ve been buying yarn I had no plans on buying a month ago. Buying patterns. Buying music on Bandcamp. Buying books. And feeling grateful to be able to lend that kind of support in some small way.

I find it hard to work on my academic work at the moment, and those I work with have been very understanding. I am getting some work done, but I’m trying to be gentle with myself too. And when it  all becomes too much, I knit. Or bake. Keeping my hands busy helps with the anxiety.

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I hope you’re taking care of yourself and your loved ones as well as you can. I hope you’re taking social distancing seriously, but I also hope you’re able to get outside and take in some fresh air when you can. It’s difficult to try and find a balance right now, but do your best – connect with others using the means we have available, but take a step away and take some time for yourself when you need to. This is a really emotionally complex time. People lives are at stake. If you’re part of the high risk group, take extra care. We’re all in this together. xx

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a few snaps from january

January felt like it went by in the blink of an eye, but I was better about getting outside for midday daylight walks than I was in December. Here are a few snaps from my walks, all taken between about 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM.

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January was pretty mild, and we had a lot of rain, so the days with peeks of sunshine felt extra precious. I haven’t minded the weather too much, though – I think that getting outside regardless probably helps with that. Here’s to keeping that up as the days continue to grow brighter!

on seasons

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A bit related to my post on darkness: today I’m thinking about seasons.

For awhile now I’ve found it curious how so much our modern (western) society chooses to strictly adhere to the astronomical seasons as the only true definition of “season” (that is to say, the idea that each solstice or equinox marks the first day of a new season). As if seasons have borders. The winter solstice is December 22 this year, but does that mean that December 21 is “technically” still autumn? Plenty of people would say yes to that question, but for any of us who live in a climate where it’s been snowing already, that actually makes zero sense. Autumn one day, winter the next? (Maybe so, but that day came weeks ago here.) Perhaps printed calendars have something to do with it, but the older I get the more bizarre I find it, all the same.

In some ways I feel like social media has amplified this effect in my own life – many of the people I follow, and I myself, often post about the changing seasons at the solstices and equinox. (See a few of my old examples here and here) But the more I see posts about how it’s not “technically” some season yet but it sure feels like it is, the less relevant this strict adherence to astronomical seasons feels. So I guess I’ve been craving something different. Does it “sure feel like winter”? Cool, sounds like it’s winter to me.

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There are, both today and historically, different ways to define or conceptualize a season. Many places have or have had only two seasons: either a summer/winter dichotomy, or in more tropical regions, a wet season and a dry season. The Nordic countries are one of the regions that historically only distinguished between winter and summer – which makes the idea that Midsummer happens around the summer solstice make much more sense. I’m sure there must be others, but that’s the example I’m most familiar with.

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Even in four-season models, there are different boundaries for the four seasons. I’ve already mentioned the astronomical sense, where the seasons begin on the corresponding solstice or equinox. But do you know about meteorological seasons? Professional meteorologists in many regions use these definitions, and they correspond very neatly to three-month chunks: with winter beginning December 1, spring on March 1, summer on June 1, and autumn on September 1 (this is vindication for all you autumn-lovers out there who consider it autumn once the calendar hits September – remember this piece of information and you can use it next time someone tries to tell you “but it’s no technically autumn until September 21/22”).

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There are systems with six seasons, systems that pay no mind to the calendar at all but rather correspond to temperature or other natural or ecological cues, and other ways of marking seasons that you’ve probably never even considered. The “Season” Wikipedia page actually has a lot of interesting information about all of this, if you find all of this as fascinating or as liberating as I do to learn about.

It goes without saying that I speak from my own perspective as someone who grew up and has always lived in the northern hemisphere, so the dates here correspond to that. The photos in this post are all from 2015-2017, when we were living in Tromsø (which is probably the place where I started to disengage from the supremacy of astronomical seasons, because they made so little sense there beyond the summer/winter distinction).

darkness

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I saw an anecdote on Twitter this week about the words for December in Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic – in Irish Gaelic it’s Mí na Nollag (Month of Christmas) and in Scottish Gaelic it’s An Dubhlachd (The Blackness). There are historical and cultural reasons for this somewhat amusing difference, but nonetheless it’s quite striking. I’ve been having talks with friends in the past several days about this darkest time of year, as Norway is now gearing up for Christmas. Advent has begun, and the city streets are positively full of twinkling lights. There are multiple traditions that involve bringing light into the darkest month – one that comes to mind in the Germanic countries is the tradition of having four advent candles (often arranged in an adventskrans, or an advent wreath) which are lit on the four Sundays of advent. On the first Sunday, the first candle is lit. On the second Sunday, two candles. And so on. The tradition is strong here and for many, it’s largely secular, despite advent’s Christian ties. Viewers of Skeindeer’s Vlogmas videos will be familiar with the poem that many recite while lighting the candles. These days, Norway also celebrates Saint Lucia on the 13th. Other religious traditions and cultures have their own versions of bringing light into the darkness, and a common thread is that bringling light into the dark creates hope. I meditated on this theme a little bit on this blog back in 2016 (see the post “on darkness and light“).

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I continue to be drawn to these themes. When we lived in Montreal, one of the things I really missed in summer and winter were the extremes of light that came with the solstices in the north. We knew Montreal’s winter would be brutally cold, but we expected to cope better because the sun would rise every day. On the contrary, we found ourselves missing the darkness of the northern winter. For me, I felt so in tune with the cycle of the seasons and the movement of the earth when we lived in the north. So in many ways it’s a relief to come back, even if in Trondheim we’re not quite as far north as we were in Tromsø.

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The weather has been in flux here as the days get shorter – the snow has started, but then it’s followed by rain, which is followed by more snow, and then more rain. The rainy days are darker, because the snow forms a giant bright reflector on the ground. At the moment, though, I’m not minding the rainy days. I’m just happy to be back in the north.

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And while we’re on the subject of the days growing shorter, a few weeks ago a book I’d been looking forward to was released: The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Carson Ellis. I’ve been a big fan of Carson’s work for years and years, and I found out about this book because she was working on it. “The Shortest Day” is a poem by Susan Cooper, and here it’s been turned into a picture book for kids, accompanied by Carson’s beautiful illustrations. The poem is an ode to the winter solstice, a celebration of the fact that the shortest day is a turning point – once you finally reach it, the light starts to return again. It touches on the cyclical nature of it over time that I enjoy so much. “Welcome, Yule!”

peak fall

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I think Trondheim finally hit peak fall color in the past week (yes, I know, I am still talking about autumn, but I just can’t get over how long and slow it is here!). But on Tuesday a serious windstorm blew through and knocked down quite a few of the leaves. I have a few snaps from the weekend and the past few days, though, that show some of the beautiful golden color I’ve been surrounded by lately. Luckily, there are still a few leaves still hanging on even after the windstorm, though these photos are all from beforehand.

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I’ve also finished a few knitting projects lately. Both the No Frills I mentioned in my last post, as well as the Featherweight Cardigan you can see in this one, and I also finished up a new design. We got to take some pattern photos last weekend, pre-windstorm, and it was nice to take advantage of the fall colors both on the trees and blanketing the ground. These mitts are for a pattern that will be called Oak Hollow, about which more soon.

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If it’s fall in your part of the world, I hope you’re getting the chance to soak up some color. The autumn gold that’s ubiquitous in Norway always makes me feel like I’m in Lothlorien (especially if it’s a birch grove), and I love it so much.

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transitions

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Trondheim in the autumn continues to charm. I’m starting to adjust to the general level of busy-ness that my life here is going to involve, but it’s definitely been a big shift for me. Partly that’s because I’m still working on some patterns in the background along with my new day job at the university; partly it’s because my PhD coursework has started as well and my to-do list is growing longer; and partly it’s because we’ve still been living in temporary accommodations and it can be a challenge to get into routines when there are things about your living situation you can’t change. But we’ll be moving into our new long-term home in November, and I’m really looking forward to that.

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While we wait for that, though, the weather continues to shift. The leaves are changing, but we still haven’t reached peak color yet. We had a couple of weeks of solid rain in the middle of the month before the sun came back out last week. I was in Kraków for a conference the tail end of last week and over the weekend, and I got home to Trondheim last night after dark. This morning I woke up to much cooler weather than we had last week (a few degrees above 0°C) and saw that the higher peaks in Bymarka (which are still relatively low) had a dusting of snow on them. The mountains across the fjord, as well. Now it well and truly feels like Norwegian autumn. I love Norway at this time of year, and I still can’t get over how much longer and slower the autumn is here in Trondheim compared with up north in Tromsø. This city is truly beautiful in its fall colors.

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One of the things the weather’s change has brought on is a mild panic over the fact that I don’t have that many warm clothes in my suitcases with me (the rest of our clothes are packed away with the belongings we moved from Montreal – patiently waiting in storage for us to move into our new place in November). I feel like I haven’t had much time for knitting recently, but now I’m determined to knit a little more and a little faster, if I can. I have two sweaters which are only missing sleeves, so I feel like with some concentrated knitting time in the evenings I could finish this No Frills sweater by next weekend.

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I don’t usually knit the same pattern over and over, but this will be my third No Frills (or Ingen dikkedarer as it’s known in Scandinavia), and I’m approaching this one a little differently than my first two. I’ll elaborate more on that when it’s finished, perhaps, because each of them is different and brings something unique to my wardrobe even as they all feel like everyday staples. I adore this color, a limited edition colorway of Hillesvåg Tinde made for Drople Design called Villbringebær (“wild raspberry”). It’s a color I fell head over heels in love with when Anne first launched it over a year ago and I’m so thrilled to finally be knitting a garment with it.

So I’ve been enjoying knitting on this sweater very much, even if it’s felt like slow going. Knitting on a wooly sweater goes so well with changing colors, chilly rainy days, and the smell of woodsmoke in the air, after all. I’ve been getting into the spirit of autumn in other ways too. Some of the local apples have been wonderful recently, and the other week I baked a fyriskaka (a Swedish apple cake with cardamom) from Fika, which is one of my favorite bakes for this time of year. I also received a massive bag of little plums from a friend at work – the plum tree in her garden went crazy this year, it seems – and I managed to turn some of those into a few jars of pickled plums and roasted plum butter. I’ve been enjoying the plum butter on toast or lomper in the mornings for breakfast. (We’ll see about the pickles, which were more of an experiment.)

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I’ve also been getting out for long walks or little hikes whenever possible. Now that I’ve seen that the snow is encroaching on the mountains in Bymarka, I’d like to get in a short hike in the next week or two to soak up the season. I always enjoy walking by the water as well. I’m always drawn to the water like a magnet – the smell of saltwater was another thing I missed so much in Montreal. The Trondheim Fjord can feel so much like Puget Sound in Washington state, a similarity I really enjoy.

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Of course there are challenges that come with this transitional season (both of the year but also of our lives), but overall we have fallen in love with this city, and I was so happy to come home to it after a weekend away. I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky that we get to live here. Vi trives godt her i Trondheim.