A Toast to Norway On Constitution Day

Norway is on my mind today because I am about to visit a friend from there and because I once spent the Summer Solstice in Norway. Norway oddly enough is a country I feel close to. Oddly I say because I don’t have a stitch of Norwegian in my genetic tapestry.

What I do have though are dear friends from Norway. In fact, when I first moved to Milan in 1995, I lived with some Norwegians. For seven months I slept on their couch, ate “brown cheese” and gravlax as often as possible. We became fast friends and have been so ever since.

My lovely friend Kristen is from a beautiful part of Norway called Kristensund. It is on the west coast of the country above Oslo. I was able to visit some years ago.

I was there on the longest day of the year, June 21, and got to see the midnight sun. This photo was taken around midnight if memory serves.

The country is incredibly beautiful and I have always found the people to be warm and funny. My Norwegian is terrible so I’m sure I didn’t get most of the jokes but my friends were some of the brightest and most entrepreneurial people I know.

Kristen created a women’s networking conference that has become one of the most important women’s conferences on a global scale, the W.I.N. Conference. She created the conference during the period of time when we both lived in Milan. We lived for a time in her home which was on the 7th floor with no elevator. Needless to say we didn’t do a lot of grocery shopping. We ate pesto and the Norwegian brown cheese for the better part of that year.

Living with Kristen was one of the most fervent moments of my life. She was filled with endless ideas about work and making women’s lives better. She has been an inspiration to me ever since. It’s amazing what one strong woman can do.

Just a word about the brown cheese which became a staple in my life for a time. Brunost is the name for the cheese in Norway. I believe this is the brand that we had. It was a delicious and odd combination, savory and sweet at the same time. When I was a baby, my family lived in Denmark for three months as my Dad – an urban planner at the time – was studying model Scandinavian cities. Dad loves everything about Scandinavia and always talked about the herring. Mom though remembers the brown cheese as  well as I do. I am looking forward to spending time with my friend very, very soon.

I have a second good friend from Norway, Sunny Gandara, who lives in the states and is a chef, a vegan, and a wine expert. She launched Artic Grub where you can find recipes from her native land and all sorts of great classes and offerings.

I know both Sunny and Kristen are celebrating their native land today perhaps even in traditional dress. Today is Norway’s Constitution Day, May 17th when they celebrate freedom. It started in 1814. The national costumes are beautiful but even more beautiful is a nation celebrating democracy, especially these days.

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