A 3-Year Blogiversary

It’s been three years this month since I started Outside Oslo. While my friend Christy and I were driving away from a book signing for Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef the other night (if you haven’t bought her new book, My Berlin Kitchen, yet, please do–you’re in for a treat), my friend suggested that I do a “blogiversary.” I dismissed the idea at first, since the official anniversary of my first post was a few weeks ago. But after considering it more, I realized that it would actually be fun for me to go back and read through my old posts and reminisce over the events and experiences of the past three years.

I took the leap and published my introductory post on September 1, 2009. After Grandma Agny, whom I wrote about on Tuesday, died earlier that summer, I found myself clinging to my Norwegian heritage as a way to try to get closer to her. As part of the grieving process, I went to a Scandinavian bar in Ballard to drink an aquavit in her memory and took a trip to the mall to seek out Scandinavian cookbooks and try to find a Norwegian perfume called Laila. I bought my first cookbooks–Aquavit and The Great Scandinavian Baking Book–and I started a blog.

It took a little while to get my bearings, due in part to what seemed like a limited availability of Scandinavian cookbooks that weren’t old-fashioned (I’ve since discovered many wonderful ones and have a page dedicated to them). I featured the first recipe–Potatoes and Chanterelles with Lemon and Dill–later that month. As the weeks and months went on, I alluded to “an emergency at work” and the stress that accompanied it. Being new to blogging, I didn’t want to get too personal, but looking back at it, the words “emergency” and “crisis” are about as vague as I could have gotten! I woke up one October morning to a voicemail from the newsroom where I used to work. The assignment editor was calling me for the scoop on the fire at the theatre where I was the communications manager. A fire? At the theatre? That’s some way to find out. I skipped the morning shower and got out the door as quickly as I could to get to the scene. Emergency crews blocking the road couldn’t tell me much, but we all soon learned that the theatre and its adjacent building were the target of a serial arsonist. The adjacent building was destroyed. The theatre had to be gutted, but thanks to the firefighters’ aggressive efforts to save it, it could be restored. That experience defined much of that fall as we worked on finding a temporary home for our Christmas production and race to get the theatre restored in time for the beginning of the 2010 season. I got calls from media all the time, and on opening night of the first production back in the original space, I greeted not only the usual critics, but also fielded reporters and photographers in a celebratory frenzy–we were back, and all four local news networks were there to mark the occasion.

While all of that was going on behind the scenes in my life, I blogged about baking lefse with Grandma Adeline and shared scenic photos I had been taking. Over the past several years, Grandma has been teaching my mom and me how to make the perfect lefse, rolling it out round and thin and cooking it just right. We’ve also made sandbakkels, krumkake, and Norwegian waffles, as well as an assortment of cookies. While I’d share photos of our lefse lessons, I’d mainly hint at the other items, not realizing at the time how perfect each one of those experiences would have been to share here on Outside Oslo. As time went on I found myself struggling to keep to a theme, which I had made too broad. I set out to write about my experience discovering my Scandinavian heritage, when what I mainly wanted to write about was the food. I baked cakes–Tosca Cake and Swedish Brandy Cake being two of my favorites–and shared even the non-Scandinavian recipes I loved here on the site (the crab cakes from summer 2010 are amazing).

The next year I kept writing–here on Outside Oslo, and increasingly elsewhere as well. I started another blog, Nooks & Cranberries, with a friend, developed a story for a novel and participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and resumed the freelance writing I had taken a break from. I was working, too, and I discovered how hard it is to balance so many different roles and projects. Before I knew it, I was expecting a baby, and–bam!–the exhaustion and fatigue hit me by surprise. We were also actively trying to buy a new house, and I gave myself permission to put aside my writing goals temporarily and just focus on the immediate needs in my life.

Much of 2011 and the first part of 2012 were pretty quiet here at Outside Oslo, though I tried to touch base here every once in a while, even if just to document progress on the move or share something I thought might be of interest here. Looking back at it, I think that hiatus was one of the best things I could have done for my writing career. It could have been dangerous, had I not started writing again, but stepping back and taking some time to adjust to the changes in life and modify my writing life in the process gave me the ability to dream big. I started sending out queries not only to local publications, but to national magazines, and now I’m officially a nationally-published freelance writer–and a professional food writer! When I left my in 2011 to be a stay-at-home mom, I had visions of trying to reboot my freelance writing career, but I had no idea how exciting it would become. It’s been an exercise in improvisation and trial-and-error to figure out how to keep writing while taking care of a very active little boy and trying to cook and keep the house clean, but I’m doing it, and feeling so encouraged and energized by the progress. I’m excited to see what comes next!

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Best Scandinavian food – I want to hear from you!


This time, it’s all about you. What do you love best about Scandinavian food? Do you have a favorite Norwegian soup recipe or a beloved Swedish cookie you remember eating while growing up? What memories do the foods of Scandinavia evoke for you? I want to hear from you!

I’ve enjoyed hearing from many of you who read this blog and have shared your enthusiasm for the recipes and stories you’ve found here. Your comments always make me so happy, and it’s great to know that what you read here on Outside Oslo resonates with you.

So, this time I want to hear about your experience with Scandinavia and what the foods of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland mean to you. Please leave a comment below or e-mail me. Or maybe get in touch on Facebook or Twitter. One of the great things about blogs and social media is that they’re all about the conversation. Now it’s time to hear from you!

Back home

Hi friends, those among you in Seattle and those from the far corners of the world. I’m amazed when I read the blog stats and see where you come from. Some of you—most of you, actually—are from the United States, while others are in the United Kingdom, Norway, and in countries on all continents (except for Antarctica, but I imagine that people in Antarctica have much more amazing things to see and experience than to be sitting and reading my blog).

I myself am writing from my own little corner of the world, in a charming Seattle neighborhood that boasts a rich Scandinavian heritage. It’s good to be here, back home after a week and a half out of town. Last night I arrived from a Hawaiian vacation with my husband’s side of the family. Eleven of us shared a house in Kauai, basking in the sun and drinking mai tais by day and conversing over home-cooked meals by night.

It’s always bittersweet to come home from vacation, especially when landing at the airport means parting ways. But now that I’m starting to settled back in at home, I’m reminded of what I love about being here: quiet mornings drinking coffee at the computer with my baby, lunch dates with friends, the rhythm of day-to-day life. I’ve also just come home to some exciting things I’d like to share with you.

First, in my stack of mail last night I found a package from the Norwegian American Weekly, containing copies of the March 16 issue, which includes an interview with me! The issue came out while I was gone, so it was fun to open up the package last night and finally see the article, “Norwegian in the kitchen,” in print. Thanks to managing editor Christy Olsen Field for discovering Outside Oslo and sharing my blog and my story with readers. I’m absolutely flattered to be featured in the publication, and my heart is warmed by what Field writes: “Her beautiful photography and stories capture Strong’s love for Norway, and her blog is a fresh voice in the blogosphere.”

I’m also excited to tell you that I’ve come home to a new writing opportunity. The women over at Wanderlust and Lipstick have selected two people, myself included, to write The Flying Salmon, a Pacific Northwest travel blog. As I explore the region where I live, I’ll be sharing what makes this part of the world so wonderful. I hope you’ll check it out in the coming weeks as Louise–the other writer–and I start posting about our experiences.

Finally, speaking about writing, I’m working on a few articles about the topic in preparation for a relaunch of Nooks & Cranberries, a Destination Inspiration resource that I coauthor with my friend Sarah. We put the website on hold last year, and now that we’re both getting the hang of being new moms, we’re getting ready to resume our reviews of writing destinations, how-to articles on the craft of writing, and more.

So, yes, there are wonderful things about being back home. There are wonderful things about being back home. There are wonderful things about being back home. I’ll keep repeating that to myself as I feel wistful thinking back to a week and a half spent with family in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

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Walla Walla

Walla Walla

I’m back.

After being away for a long weekend, I’m back at my desk at home, checking e-mail, uploading photos from the weekend trip, and writing this message.

I spent a long weekend in Walla Walla with my family. Cayuse Vineyards holds its annual wine release party during this weekend each year, and though I’ve gone wine tasting in Walla Walla several times in the past couple of years, this was my first time getting to experience the party at this master winemaker’s domain. We also visited some other great wineries. What a weekend. What a treat for my palate. What a disappointment returning to reality! But that it must be. And that means I’ll soon have more to write to you about.

I’ve read that bloggers should develop a regular posting schedule, so that their readers will know when to anticipate updates. I’m not sure that’s such a good plan for me, as I want to write when I have something to share. But in an ideal world, I would like to post something at least once a week. So look for something else soon.

In the meantime, here are a few more photos for you to enjoy from this weekend. Santé, or skål!

Walla Walla

Walla Walla

Walla Walla