July 4: The Making of Harry Potter

Wow, what a day. As a birthday gift to Nora, we visited Warner Brothers Studios: The Making of Harry Potter. All. Day. The level of detail and artistic attention to these movies is astounding. We bought a guided tour, so we went through for one 3-hour tour, then we could go back in for a self-guided look at any items and activities that we didn’t get to do the first time around. We spent about 5 hours total, so many details to explore.

Outside were huge posters from the Daily Prophet, and statutes of the wizard chess match from the Sorcerer’s Stone.

The studio portion started with a short movie talking about how the producers found the first Harry Potter books from an unknown author, J.K. Rowling, just as they were beginning to get popular. As Nora can tell you, the publisher suggested that she use her initials instead of her full name because a book about a boy wizard written by a woman might not sell as well. Shows them! Only the first few books were published when they started making the movies. I wonder if they knew what they were getting into–it was a good bet!

The first scene we entered was The Great Hall, where all new wizards get their introduction to Hogwarts. The ceiling is unfinished because there is a magical ceiling in the movie, showing the night sky or whatever they want, so there was no need to create a faux-stone ceiling in the studio.

Right now the studio is featuring The Goblet of Fire, so they had the working goblet available, and a tour guide “lit” it and it popped out a bit of parchment with Harry Potter’s name on it. It’s amazing to realize that movie was made in 2005–13 years ago–and still has such popularity.

Costumes from the Yule Ball in the Goblet of Fire movie. Nora loves Hermione’s pink dress in the middle. It was made of silk and she was so scared of ruining it that she actually fell on the stairs the first time they tried to film a scene, then she realized it wasn’t so fragile and everything went fine after that.

The colored fountains from the prefects bathroom in the movies, enhanced with Anders’ photography skills.

The Gryffindor common room. They explained that each character has a color palette, so their clothes are always identified with their character.

More color palettes for Harry, Hermione, and Ron. The Invisibility Cloak is here with the green inside, so that the green screen is used for the special effects.We got to walk in to Dumbledore’s office (of course we couldn’t touch anything). Ask Nora about Dumbledore’s beard–lots of funny stories about the actors. Honestly, actors kind of sound like a pain in the butt!  

The Mirror of Erised, which shows the “deepest and most desperate desire of one’s heart.” (“Erised” is “desire” spelled backwards, as if reflected in a mirror). The happiest person in the world would look in the mirror and see a reflection of exactly the way he or she is. Looks like Nora is happy. The Potions Room set was pretty cool, although we could only look from afar. Our tour guide could go into the sets and show us things close up, like the Potions books. They had to make lots of full books so that when the kids are working and flipping through them, the audience sees something on the pages! They also went to the zoo and bought toy animals that they took apart and reassembled in creepy ways then put in the jars.

We got to play some special effects magic–in Hagrid’s Hut they took a picture with our camera for us. Anders is seeing his future.

Now some bad guys. This is a gruesome scene. They filmed a live snake separately, then the actors pretended the snake was there, then they put it together. To get a picture of a snake attacking, looking right into the mouth, they would sit with a camera and wait until the snake yawned, then zoom the camera toward the snake–clever!

Delores Umbridge, we love to hate her. Her pink color palette grew more intense as she gained power in the movie, with her clothes starting out pale pink and getting darker as the movie went on. They actually painted the kitty plates decorating her office specifically for the movie. They got kittens from a local shelter to model, then they gave the kittens away to local families, who never knew that they were famous.

They offered several special effects opportunities (that you could purchase afterward, of course). The kids both took the broom rides–here’s the video of Nora. They start with an explanation of the special effects, and her ride is the last 50 seconds or so.

Into the Forbidden Forest! They used lots of animatronics for the huge magical animals. We saw Buckbeak bow to us, there was thunder and lightning and Arogog the giant spider came out of a cave, and all of its children descended from the trees. It wasn’t so scary, they make it for little kids.

We got a 1/2 hour rest on the guided tour. It’s great that they let us bring in our packed lunches, and we bought some Butter Beer and Butter Beer Ice Cream (which costs a fortune, of course). It’s kind of a butterscotch soda, and everyone agreed it was too sweet!

Then on to the backlot where we saw some sets outside. They actually shot the scenes on Privet Drive in a London-area neighborhood, but had to move the house here because the neighbors were always dealing with tourists.

In the house we got to see the cupboard under the stairs! But not inside, unfortunately.

The Hogwarts Bridge, which looked a lot longer in the movie because of the way they shot it.

Then to Diagonally! Olivander’s wand shop, the Weasley Twin’s joke shop, and all of the other favorites.

And the Hogwart’s Express. The train actually belonged to a collector. We could walk through to see the mock-ups of scenes from the movies. They also had a chance to sit on a train set with the scenery going by and direction to tell us how we are supposed to act (but we didn’t buy that video).

There were several rooms of art design, animatronics, costumes, mock-ups of buildings and sets. So much detail and imagination! 

The last room had a huge model of Hogwarts, which they used to shoot any of the views of the whole castle. The detail is astounding. You can walk all the way around it on a series of leveled walkways. Nora got a little extra explanation from our guide.

At the end there are several rooms of wand boxes, one for every person that was a part of making the movie. Nora found some of her favorite characters, and they showed us where J.K. Rowlings box is, which is also near Emma Watson (Hermione). I asked how they were organized, they said that they are not organized! Some of the guides work in there and know where the favorites are. They could even immediately find some of Nora’s favorites that are probably not so in-demand, like Tonk and Luna Lovegood.

Just ask Nora for any more stories, this is just the tip of the iceberg. It was fun and fascinating for all of us!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

July 3: Central London

We’ve been home for 1 week, and I finally made it through the London pictures.

Day 1: Central London. We did it all with the The Original Tour–double decker buses, a ride on the Thames, the Tube, and our own Chevrolegs. Don’t ask me what all of these things are, it was a beautiful urban historic contemporary blur! What a vibrant city!

Many photo credits to Anders. We are going to present this in reverse chronological order, because that’s the way the pictures loaded into the blog. Enjoy!

We used AirBnB to find this flat on the southern side of London, about a 30 minute ride on the Tube to Central London.

The Sphinx and obelisk were taken from Egypt, and their twins are located in New York. These were lost in a storm at sea, but later recovered and installed here in London. It’s amazing to see something so old, by human hands. The Sphinx has damage from bombs in WWII as well.

This funny guy was on the street near a food stand. Ha!

Gardens outside…maybe the Parliament building, I think. People were playing table tennis!

The Tower Bridge, as seen from our boat tour on the Thames. Stunning! And the drawbridge opened while we were watching, and a pirate ship sailed through! More of the bridges that we passed on the boat trip.

This was a fortress used for centuries, torture and death. When you went in those gates, you didn’t come out.

The Eye of London as seen from the boat tour.

Outside some government buildings they were showing some air force planes–Ted knows all about some of them, like the Spitfire.

We were in time to see the changing of the Horse Guard. They looked like kids (probably were), and were guarded by heavily armed policy. Guards for the guards.

Outside Buckingham Palace, a horse-drawn carriage came out as we were walking up, and later a marching band started playing somewhere nearby. We didn’t follow the festivities, but enjoyed the glimpse of the carriage.

It was a beautiful day, and Anders enjoyed taking pictures of Winged Victory atop the Victoria Memorial, for Queen Victoria, right outside of the palace.

The hop-on-hop-off tour was a great way to see the city, on top of the open-air double decker buses.

The buses had an audio tour with interesting tidbits. This statue was huge, and was hollow at one time, so when it rained it would fill up and it would look like huge horse mucous coming out of it! It’s been modified to avoid that look.

Trafalgar square was hopping with all kinds of people and performers, including 2 floating yodas!

The Tube was easy enough to navigate, but a hot tight squeeze at rush hour. We couldn’t get on 2 full trains that came in and left, so we finally stood right around the “Mind the Gap” sign so that we would be right in front of the doors, and pushed our way on to the 3rd train on the way home. We made it!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 26-27: Nora’s birthday party and new do

Nora’s birthday party! What a riot! She invited 5 friends from school. They all came dressed up, which was pretty cute. Nora had everything planned out, of course. First, theymade their own bday treat (I underestimated their love of whipped cream). It was supposed to be a contest, but they just went wild and only wanted to eat their own concoction.

There was general silliness, chasing Anders around, and finally we got them to play a game of moving 1.5L of water using only straws (that kept them busy for awhile). They made 2 teams, each trying to fill their own water bottle. That kept them busy for quite awhile! Then they came inside to open presents, play charades, and general silliness. Nora made some sweet and spirited friends in Norway.

Nora decided she wanted a haircut that day too, so we made an appointment for the following day. Then in the chair she wanted a (temporary) color–a bit subtle in the picture–but so cute! Raspberry sorbet!

Ted and I ran some errands downtown, then went to Pirabadet one last time with the kids and friends (no pics, only fun), and dinner at Smak–falafel, tikka masala, fries–so much good food but everyone was so hungry. Great ways to spend the final days in Norway.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 26: Birthplace of the Sons of Norway

Ted’s professor from his PhD studies in Norway, Tore Undeland, took us out for a long twisty trip to find the stone marker at the birthplace of the founder of the Sons of Norway. He had hiked in that area many years ago and come upon it by accident, so he wanted to find it again with us. It was quite a search through farms and grassy meadows, but after a tip from a local we found it! SoN magazine, here we come.

First drove to the end of the road and we checked out the area, hoping to find the farm with the stone. The houses and cabins appeared to be in use, but no one was home. Anders took the chance to get some nice pictures. Not having any luck, we drove back the way we had come in and looked around a few other places. Tore flagged down a passing car and asked about the stone, so we finally knew where to go! We walked down to this place, still in very nice shape but it doesn’t seem to be used as a living space or farm. The barn looked more like a meeting room. And the stone was there, between the house (middle structure) and the loft/shed (on the right). Tore took a picture of the whole family, so we should be getting that. Sending that one to the Sons of Norway magazine! We will be norsk-famous!

We also enjoyed a visit with Tore and his wife Mona, lunch of innherredsodd, a very traditional trøndersk soup (although they both come from Bergen, I guess they have embraced the local foods), and coffee in the sun.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 24: Children’s Theater at Munkholmen

Nora and I went out on a theater date  to see Mio, Min Mio (an Astrid Lindgren story) at Munkholmen. We took the bus downtown, then a ferry to Munkholmen island in the Trondheim fjord to see the play by a local children’s theater.

The old stone building was a unique setting, and sitting on the hard wooden benches for 2 hours brought to mind the experience of the monks in the olden days (oi). The production was fun and it was a full house–and guess what? Nora wants to perform this play too!

At intermission, we went outside to explore the grounds. Nora found the ledge around the tower, along with the rest of the kids. But she spent most of her time perfecting her superhero jump off a low wall. The weather was cool and cloudy, but at least it wasn’t raining on us. Back to town on the ferry for a late falafel fix, and a slow bus home in the only traffic jam I have seen in Trondheim as the Rosenberg soccer game finished. It was a sweet date night for the girls 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 22: And then she was 10!

Gratulerer med dagen til vår Nora! Double-digits today!

You will always be our strong punk rock star girl. Nobody gonna make you eat borscht.

Today was the first day of summer vacation, no school, no schedules, no plans. She tried to contact her friend Kristin in the morning, then ended up going with her to an indoor play place, then back to our place to play, then we agreed to a sleepover! A sign of a new era in her life, shifting focus to friends and growing independence.

She got the blue glass heart necklace, a souvenir she wanted from our visit to Sorrisniva, the ice hotel. When we were ready to check out the necklace was gone…and guess who had bought it and kept it a secret! She is slowly uncovering my tricks.

Our trip to Harry Potter Studio in London next week is also part of her gift (quite a gift), and she got Luna Lovegood’s wand as well, along with a Wonder Woman swimming suit! That will be good for trips to the pool back in Oregon this summer.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 21: Sommer blåtur

My colleagues at Ruralis have been extremely inclusive and friendly to me. The stereotypical taciturn Norwegian isn’t so common here, they are cheerful and social.

Two of them organized a “sommer blåtur” for everyone who wanted to come. “Blå” literally means blue, but in this context it means “blind” because the destination and activities were a secret–like into the great blue sky, maybe. “Sommer tur” is a summer tour or excursion. We were told to dress for the Norwegian weather (very common in any outing instructions, klær for norsk vær).

The afternoon started with snacks and beers in the conference room at 3pm! Everyone had a few and even brought one on to the tour bus, and of course it is good practice to eat, and dinner would be much later. Although they are already a cheerful and social bunch, the alcohol really improves the mood. Then a long bus ride, but intentionally longer than necessary so that we were guessing about where we were going along the way. At one point the bus entered a tunnel (there are lots of tunnels), and this particular tunnel has a traffic circle inside–then the bus went around the traffic circle twice, and went out the way that we came in! Norwegian traffic circle humor! I was glad that I wasn’t drinking yet, because I didn’t want to be the one to get bus sick!

Finally we arrived at a farm that is known to be one of the first human settlements after the ice ages passed. We had a little welcome from the owner and he took us up on a short hike that had signs posted where water levels or ice levels were at various points in human history.

We arrived at a gathering space with covered tables, a wide open courtyard with a huge fire, and a big deck looking out toward the fjord (pics farther below of the view). 

Then the games began! They hired a kind of comedy/music/group teambuilding duo that are elementary school teachers by day. They lined us up by “original” hair color, then made the blonde team and the dark team–with such a high proportion of blondes, I made the dark team. First, we got these foam puzzles–we had to make a cube out of the pieces, show the judges, then put them back together in the puzzle again. I made mine in the nick of time!

Then we went into the forest to do some physical challenges–moving from one platform to the next by only stepping on wooden planks that we could put down on the ground, but there were not enough to make it to the other side without picking one up from behind you. Heidi had good technique. I made it, but not at a record pace. After several more silly games, we had a delicious dinner of several types of salad and protein options, most from the Trønder region, with wine, beer, or other drinks.

Then our musical duo entertained us with Trønder music from yesterday and today. I didn’t get all of the references and couldn’t sing along like everyone else, but they were darn good and funny (from what I could catch, anyway!) We even got lighters with their logo to hold up during the slow songs!

The guitar player fired up some back-up music and his electric guitar to play pop/country songs, lots of people danced on the deck as the summer solstice sun shone on it. Most of us stood around and chatted. We got so lucky with the lighter cloud cover, it had been cloudy and rainy all week. But it was darn cold out there, outside for about 6 hours. The first and the dancing kept people warm.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 16: Tautra Island

Trond and Sylvi treated us to a day trip to Tautra, an island about 1 hour away from Trondheim. It is a wildlife and wetlands sanctuary, home to the ruins of a monastery from 1200, a cafe and gift store, and a brand new cloister. There are also small towns and farms right on the fjord. It was a delightful day and evening with friends, one of the last outings on our trip.

A long narrow bridge connects the mainland to the island. There is a large automatic gate half way across to stop animals from the mainland from entering the island via the bridge, to protect the birds and other species there.

We started at the monastery, and were thankful that the rain cleared up, the sky was richly blue, and the clouds were majestic.

The cafe was just steps away, so we stopped for a delicious lunch of monk soup (tasted like mushrooms, as one would expect a monk to taste), quiche, roasted pork with vegetables, waffles and cakes. The kids explored the grounds. Then we went to another part of the island that has a convent with a beautiful new building, built by some fancy Norwegian architects in 2006. The chapel is a beautiful sparse open space with intricate latticework in the ceiling so that the shadows shift as the sun moves across the sky through the day. The nuns there are part of a order that is dedicated to dialog between religions and host retreats, have a peace garden for meditation and contemplation, and many of the nuns come from the US and other countries. They raise money by selling soaps in the gift shop.

On the way back, we stopped for a bit at the fjord so that the kids could play in the water. When we arrived, we noticed a large group of girls in bikinis not far away…then they started migrating as a flock toward us! As they got closer, they were heard saying “it’s the wrong boy.” Haha! They alighted on an outcropping beyond us, then migrated back to their original party spot.

Then, of course, our kids had to get into the water! It was cold, and there were jellyfish, seaweed, and little crabs around. They didn’t go in too far.   We went back to Trond and Sylvi’s house. The kids were thrilled to get to play on a trampoline! And a homemade pizza dinner hit the spot at the end of the day.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 18: 4th Grade Year-End Party

We celebrated the end of the school year with Nora’s class–BYO picnic, parents v. kids fotball (I was one of only 2 moms out there, and only tried to get in the way), and performance in the gym. Fun times!

Leaving at the end of the school year worked out very nicely. It gives them some closure with school, everyone wrapping up and leaving for the summer break makes it easier for them to feel like it’s the right time to go too.

Nora and I were out there playing soccer, in the back here, just trying to get in the way…I mean…playing defense! Nora is rushing up to make an effort though (gray shirt, mid-left side of picture in back).

Nora and one of her good friends, Kristin.

All of the 4th graders!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 14: 7th grade Finale

Here in Norway, elementary school (barneskole) goes until 7th grade. Anders is in class with kids who have mostly been together for 7 years of school, and now they are graduating from Steindal and going on to middle school (ungdomskole) next year (which is conveniently right next door!).

The end of year, end of barneskole celebration was a performance by the kids–there are 55 kids in three 7th grade classes. Each class did a musical rock band performance and kids organized themselves into other small groups. They produced 15 different dances, skits, and songs for about 1.5 hours of entertainment.

Anders played bass in his class band…

Performed a dance number with 7 other boys–they were so great! He’s usually pretty shy about this stuff, but he resolved to go ALL IN! It’s better to be totally into it than to be timid–such a great lesson. Here’s a video of the dance!

He and his friends Jonas and Robin (the other 2 in the first part that are doing soccer tricks) also created a little movie–I had to take a video of the video 🙂

I have never experienced such a strong pull for a crowd to clap in unison, even in general end-of-performance applause!

The principal then gave a speech to the students about their time at Steindal and moving on to the next stage, then to the parents, then each child received a diploma and a flower, followed by speeches and honors for teachers. It was a long evening.

Then a potluck tapas feast provided by parents, and more honors for their teachers. Anders got his hair cut in one of the standard-issue Norwegian boy cuts, he considers it a souvenir 🙂

It is an honor for Anders to be included, after only 6 months with   them. Norway is a welcoming place. Kids from 22 countries are in 7th grade of 55 kids, although the US flag didn’t make it on the list because Anders came halfway through the year.

Norway, Sweden, Greece, Vietnam, Somalia, Germany, Myanmar, Thailand, Bulgaria, Russia, India, Sri-Lanka, Finland, Columbia, Austria, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan, Philippines, and Italy! Everyone is all in.


During “culture time” the kids choose between music, crafts, or sports. The kids that chose crafts knitting blankets for premie babies. They were soft and sweet

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment