Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Our trip to Norway was eventful and full of delicious surprises. This was my first ever venture to a Scandinavian country and I must say has been an enlivening and truly different European experience. Scandinavia has a flair that rivals the traditions and feelings evoked by mainland Europe.

My husband is a trip planner from heaven. He has cultivated a unique skill-set for finding out-of-the-ordinary excursions and manages to fill every moment of the day with wine festivals, art museum visits, chamber music concerts, jaunts to historic districts, hiking expeditions or a trip to the local aquarium. Thanks to his extensive knowledge of art, history, culture and tradition, he can always think of several meaningful sites to include on any vacation we go on. He outlined a glorious vacation for us during our week-long honeymoon in Norway.

Our first 2 ½ days we stayed in the city of Bergen—the 2nd most populous city in Norway. Bergen lies in the southwestern part of Norway and sits right on the North Sea. With high wooded hills that surround the city and an inner harbor that abuts the central district, Bergen is an unusually picturesque city. Large, brightly colored houses dapple the surrounding hills and city. Along the waterfront are bustling fish markets and also a covered area with many kiosks offering freshly grilled seafood platters to tourists or locals who wander the grounds. Everything is expensive in Norway. Seafood is plentiful here but it isn't cheap. A plate of grilled shrimp will cost you around $35. Without much consolation, a Big Mac at the local McDonald’s will cost you $17.  

Bergen Norway, the famous "Bryggen District" near the Hanseatic Museum we also went to.

On our first day in Bergen we went to a nearby art museum which included a free guided tour featuring notable Norwegian artists. A sizeable collection of Edvard Munch’s paintings were present. Our museum tour guide was superb. Not only did the paintings seem to grip her emotionally but she had a knack for uncovering many of Munch’s hidden devices used in his paintings. Many of Munch’s paintings were entrenched with elements of symbolism. Anxiety, depression and also an obsession with the FEMME FATALE seemed to be themes in his own life that were interwoven into the brush strokes of his paintings. Unfortunately, "The Scream" is not located in Bergen but in Oslo. :( 
We did get to see one of my favorites though, "Evening of Karl Johann Street".

The first evening in Bergen we attended a chamber concert in an old, stately Lutheran church. The musicians raptured the audience with the sounds of Camille Saint Saens and Edvard Grieg.  The cellist—a rotund, flamboyant German—seemed to emote and throb in synchrony as he played his musical piece to perfection. I highly recommend ending a vacation day in Norway with a classical music concert like this; it is a feast to the ears!

Our hotel in Bergen was lovely. It was probably the most affordable hotel and conveniently located in the heart of the city. My favorite part was the free Norwegian buffet breakfast that lasted until noon. The breakfast buffet showcased a variety of hearty, freshly baked breads, yogurt, cold cuts, cheeses and smoked salmon. Large plates of sliced bell peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers seemed to be a Norwegian breakfast staple. I always loved getting the crepes and smothering them with homemade strawberry preserves (grown fresh from the agricultural village of Valdal) and butter.

Our 2nd day in Bergen was full of new and exciting treats including a visit to the Edvard Grieg museum. We also attended a piano music recital here. The young pianist played the music of Grieg. We learned that some of Grieg’s compositions were inspired by baroque music. Indeed, some of his work seemed to have a baroque style to it.

Our 3rd day we were ready for the Hurtigruten cruise. Our cruise came packed with added adventure options. We chose two excursions on our four night cruise. Our first excursion was a bus trip that took us up the zigzaged treacherous Trollstigen road all the way to the top of the mountain where we had spectacular views of the most famous fjord—the Geiranger.  This area of Norway was also famous for its troll sightings. To my dismay, I learned that only children are able to see trolls (or act like them).

Our bus tour drove us all over the mountains and the countryside that the surrounded the Geiranger Fjord. The landscape was some of the most dramatic I have ever seen. Tall, 1,500 meter mountains jutted out of rocky outcroppings and formed craggy, rugged mountain tops. Pastures of the brightest green sprinkled the land to the ecstasy of grass munching sheep, cows and goats. Rivers from melting glaciers weaved their way through the enigmatic terrain. Every once in a while a stone bridge made of neatly placed cobbles could be seen arching over a river or stream. I thought of these as little troll bridges. Other interesting sightings included many houses with grassy roof tops. There were also classic red barns in the sparse countryside. (I learned that only 3% of Norway’s land is available for agricultural use).

Geirangerfjord, along the Trollstigen road

Several of the planned stops along our bus trip were at restaurants and gift shops. This seemed almost clandestine—as if to urge us tourists to spend our money there. At one stop, we entered a lodge-style restaurant nestled in the core of the mountains. It was cold and wet outside and the Norwegian afternoon snack of warm baked waffles with cream and local strawberry preserves hit the spot! I must say I grew quite fond of the Norwegian snack of waffles and strawberries during our trip.

The following day the cruise ship plowed its way through the Arctic Ocean and upwards, through the Arctic Circle.  Large, granite rock cliffs jumped out of the land and formed much of Norway’s mountainous coastline. Small patches of farmland with green pastures and even some yellow grain fields could be seen scattered among the low-lying areas of coastline.

Some light reading while on the ship. 

When the light hit the ocean water a nearly translucent cerulean blue emanated forth. Even from our seat on the cruise ship, we could observe waves crashing against the rocky cliffs that formed Norway’s coastline.

Ornes, Norway

Breakfast on the cruise ship was a chance to indulge in some of life’s most glorious fare. Not only was the variety of food overwhelming, the setting was unmatched. During breakfast you could look out the window and witness the changing scenery of the Arctic and Norway’s radical coastline while sipping coffee or plunging your teeth into toast coated with Nutella. If that wasn’t enough, you could serve yourself heapings of fruit, vegetables, fish, crepes with strawberries and all the other typical breakfast food imaginable. The only problem with a cruise ship breakfast is that you are allowed to keep going back and serve yourself infinite amounts of food.

I had never been inside the Arctic Circle before, or even a cruise ship, but I felt this adventure yielded the intensity and surprise that could not be achieved in other locations.

 Visiting the Lofoten Islands in the Arctic Circle was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. While on this island we went to an ancient Viking longhouse where we partook in a traditional Viking feast with Vikings, dressed in typical Viking garb. This made the event very fun and seemingly realistic.

The Viking feast was rustic but very tasty. We were given plates of savory herbed lamb meat paired with a cloudberry preserve. Chalices full of Mead were offered, one after the other! Root vegetables and something that appeared to be barley-style gruel were added as tempting side dishes. After the filling meal there was group dancing, singing, laughter and happiness.


In front of the Viking LongHouse. A typical Viking stands in the background.

LOFOTEN ISLANDS, countryside

Inside the Longhouse

MEAD with a Viking feast :)  SKAL!!!!

A viking leads us in prayer to the Norse gods Thor and Odin before we eat our food. 

VIDEO of VIKING praying  to the gods :)

When our Viking field trip was over, we headed back to our bus. We were given an extra tour of the Lofoten Islands. We even got to see a wild moose chomping on arctic tundra.  By 10pm we were back at the cruise ship which was anchored at the Island’s harbor in the city of Svolvaer.

At 11:30pm that night our ship brought us into the famous Troll Fjord. It was cold outside, not crisp, it was cold.  The Troll Fjord was unduly narrow with high walls of rock that appeared to dive straight into the frigid Arctic Ocean. At this point the Captain of the ship advised everyone to purchase a “Troll Toddy”. This is a hot tea spiked with Rum—a concoction that trolls apparently drink. Since we were headed through the Troll Fjord, “It might be nice to have a troll toddy to go along with the ride” he gushed. Like tourists being suckered, we succumbed to the suggestion and bought troll toddies to drink while going through the Fjord.

If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I always enjoyed dining on the cruise ship. While I was entertained by the changing arctic scenery I found it most pleasurable to sit by a loquacious geriatric couple from Canada and another couple from Australia.  Dining with well-traveled tourists and exchanging discussion while one-upping each other on countries visited is always a mature way to handle any civilized discourse over brunch.

We spent our final night in Tromso, gateway to the North Pole. We were finished with our cruise and would spend a day and night here. Tromso is one of Norway’s northern-most cities and resides at 70 degrees latitude.  This city features the famous “Arctic Cathedral”, the northern-most brewery in the world and also Polaria, the northern-most aquarium.

Polaria was awesome. We got to see bearded seals being trained and all sorts of starfish. We also learned a lot about the Svalbard archipelago.  The brewery turned out to be very fun. The bartender was a Tromso native—born and raised—and was quite amiable. He pulled up a chair and told us all about city of Tromso and about the famous Tromso polar bear hunter from the 1930’s who killed more than 700 polar bears and would frequent this very bar. He told us all about Norway and was excited that we chose Tromso as one of our honeymoon destinations. We asked him how much bartenders make in Norway. He told us that if he was to covert the amount he made in NOK to dollars per hour, it would be about $30 an hour (tips are not expected in Europe as they are in the states, so this is without tips).

POLARIA: aquarium in Tromso, Norway

Arctic Cathedral in Tromso

The northern-most bar on planet earth. 70 degrees latitude.

 Fun facts I learned about Norway:

  1. Norway is NOT part of the European Union.
  2. Norway is part of NATO
  3. After the discovery of petroleum in 1969 Norway has become one of the richest countries in the world.
  4. Before 1969, Norway was a very poor country with over 42% unemployment. It was during that time that many Norwegians moved to the US.
  5. Norway is a leading producer of oil.
  6. Just 3% of Norway’s land is used for agriculture
  7.   Prices in Norway are high—McDonald’s Big Mac is about $17 a small container of yogurt at the convenience store is $6.
  8. One of Norway’s exports is Frozen Pizza.
  9. The AVERAGE SALARY per month in Norway is $5000 EURO. (when NOK is converted to Euro)

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Mark Driscoll New cult leader of Evangelical Christianity??

I've been following pastor MARK DRISCOLL for a long time...LOOONG TIME. I knew who he was before he became big...famous...celebrity pastor.  I remember when I was a Christian living in Seattle, I attended a little church in the Ballard area--about 150 members--and Mark Driscoll was the pastor there. At the time (year 2000-2002ish), my friend Elizabeth was going to this little church regularly and she said, "Renee, you have to come to this church with me, the pastor is really different. I like him a lot." And, like a sheep who doesn't think, I started going to it with her. After church services there would usually be coffee and cookies in the church basement, something that kept me coming. Also, I remember Mark Driscoll's plans to a build a mega church...and even more. He would sometimes detail his grandiose visions for church planting during his sermons. Although the man clearly had some passion and intriguing oratory skill, I found myself wondering, "Is this guy crazy? Does he think  he can actually obtain hundreds of thousands....millions of dollars like that?" It was all very shocking to me back then. Little did I know he would be one of the most sought after pastors...speakers in all of modern Evangelical Christiandome.

Now, pastor Mark Driscoll is a mega pastor but it looks like he might be losing some of his momentum. A lot of his former church members and leaders are coming against him. From my perspective as an Atheist, his position of celebrity pastor has made him into an autocratic cult leader. Christians are even starting to see him as he really is. He is very anti-women, anti-feminism, anti-gay, anti-single mother, a plagiarist and maybe even a little narcissistic. You can read his PUSSIFIED NATION RANT below where he (not so) cleverly poses as the user of WILLIAM WALLACE II. He even admits to it now (yeah, it is old, but it is interesting to see how he thinks (thought?).



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rhine River Adventure!

Rhine River Bus Tour and Cruise

Our journey started early. We arrived at our bus stop at 6:00AM and the bus left promptly at 6:30. We were on our way towards the Rhine River. Our travel bus brought us through landscape that suddenly began to burst with many cornfields, wheat fields and Riesling Grape vineyards. The countryside was lush and verdant. Interspersed through the open landscape were compact villages with red and gray roofed houses and always a church with a tall steeple.

The tour bus dropped us off in the village of St. Goar which sat right along the Rhine. From there we entered various little shops where we sampled delicious desert wines including a $495 bottle of Eiswein (Ice wine). We also tried a peach brandy that made you feel like you were lying in a peach orchard, eating peaches on a warm summer day.

Next, we trekked our way through the village square and encountered little shops selling notoriously unfashionable Cuckoo Clocks and other wooden toys—endearing as they were—but  screaming with bright, obnoxiously fun colors.  Window boxes hung from nearly each and every window sill and were overflowing with red and pink geraniums. We discovered quaint eateries and cozy little cafes offering apple Streusel and coffee with freshly churned cream. I noticed many of the locals were sitting outside, under umbrella covers and exchanging lively conversations.

After our village adventures, we embarked upon a Rhine River cruise ship which forged its way up the Rhine river. Many villages were situated along the Rhine and some had castles peering over the river from high up in the hills.

Our tour bus dropped us off at Reichenstein, a notable castle that was up for public tours—provided that you purchase apple cake and coffee upon your departure. We were given a walk-through tour of the castle. Afterwards we enjoyed the apple cake and coffee in the castle courtyard. From the vantage point of the highly positioned castle one could see the murky, olive green Rhine carving through the valley below. All along the sides of the river were patches of land comprised of Riesling vineyards. Many of these were on steeply slanted terrain that almost seemed to descend into the river. The German’s seemed to be adept at using every spare piece of land in a productive way.

We went into the town of Rudesheim to have a late lunch. Our lunch which was included in our tour package, consisted of jagerschnitzel with a richly delicious mushroom gravy and also French fries and salad.

I’ve noticed that restaurants in Europe typically do not serve water with the meal. In fact, you have to specifically order water and when you do, it costs money, usually between 2-3 Euros. In the U.S., I’ve taken it for granted that a glass of water is something you automatically get with your meal. Another thing that I’ve noticed about eating in German restaurants is that the portion size is not suitable for the average American glutton. For instance, a small coke is really just a small coke. I measured a scanty 6oz in my glass; it did come with a lemon slice floating on top, perhaps to compensate for its’ paucity in size.

After our meal in the little German restaurant, we ended our day by trying the famous Rudesheimer Kaffee. It is a specially made coffee made of brandy, sugar and whipped cream. They actually make it right at your table!


Monday, August 11, 2014



I recently made a decision to exercise vigorously (running or jogging) for at least 17 minutes each day.  I have never been much of a disciplined health fanatic but I figured it was about time that I start.  I’ve started to realize that health maintenance is a significant component in living well and having a happy life in general. Additionally, as I realize that there is likely no after-life and that this is the only life chance I will ever get, it behooves me to value my health even more.

My health journey these past few days has been an exercise in shrewd decision making with an emphasis on eating healthily and squeezing in nightly trips to the convenience store—err, gym.

Day 1

I arose bright and early the first day of my diet bound and determined to find health. You can imagine how surprised I was when I discovered that my feet had brought me into a local Cinnabon.  I suspected that the 2 inches of gooey frosting dredging the bun would surely be offset by the prodigious health benefits offered by the splattering of cinnamon. Cinnamon is a spice that is known to help ward off Type 2 diabetes.

For lunch I marched straight for McDonalds’. I was sure to be conscientious about how much I consumed and refrained from supersizing every single of the 6 items that I purchased. I even avoided the allure of French fries drizzled in oil and salt (which I congratulated myself for later). While I was aware that sodium was a valuable electrolyte, too much of it could result in interstitial edema.

Later that day, I decided that little health decisions added up. I heard that looping around the parking lot 7 times in your car to find a parking space right next to the entrance was not only a waste of gas and time, but a waste of potential exercise. Thankfully, someone who had parked at the entrance of the store was pulling out just in time for me to park there; sure I did need the extra exercise but I figured there would be plenty more times over the course of my life where I would be able to walk or go to the gym.

Day 2

I have decided that attempting to lose weight and exercise vigorously is not what it’s cracked up to be. I may think about doing it again, maybe in the next 10 years when I have more time. Can someone hand me the remote control?

My video "SELF ESTEEM Thoughts"

Here is a video I made a while ago on SELF ESTEEM. I'm posting it here since I do not post to my other youtube channel anymore.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


 (a little excerpt I wrote in 2007)

The world was clearly a wonderful place, completely covered in water.  The commotion of torrential rain pouring outside the boat rivaled the chaotic zoo that prevailed inside the boat.  Zagorba, Ham’s wife, was annoyed, once again.  God had designated her with the responsibility of housing for the future generations of civilization a special type of tapeworm.  Sure, she didn’t have the disgusting viral infection with lots of  pus and sores nor the wicked bacterial concoction that Japeth, her brother had to carry throughout the duration of the boat ride, but tapeworms were not really that pleasant either.  After all, how could civilization survive without the glorious tapeworm inside her loins, the gazillions of pesky flies or all the various infections being carefully housed by those on board, graciously spared of God’s wrath? God had planned to lovingly endow future generations with ticks (lyme disease), Anopheles mosquitos (excellent vectors for malaria),  tapeworms (starvation)—all of the treats of existence we simply couldn't live without. 

Life was clearly a beautiful experience.  

By Renee

Monday, August 4, 2014



Tired of being hit on by every single male who intersects your proximity? Are you one of those young women who constantly complain about being called “TOO HOT”? Do you detest having to interact with “losers who annoy you and waste your time”?  Do you take it for granted that you are in your 20’s and at the prime of your existence in terms of health and beauty? Do you hate it when people say “You look way younger than you are”? Do you always announce to your friends, “I still get carded when I buy alcohol”?

 Have no fear!  We've listened to your cries and wails and you finally have our attention. We want to help you out.  Because of your constant whining, we have developed a line of skincare products for young women such as yourself. Our line of skincare products is sure to decrease your chances of being hit on and “all the annoying attention you receive”. You got that right.

Instead of your traditional anti-aging cream that helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles, we have created an exquisite formula that accelerates aging. Our unique blend is called “Pro-Aging Cream”.  All you have to do is buy our product and slather it all over your nice, youthful skin. In one week we GUARANTEE permanently aged skin—or your money back!!!

Our pro-aging cream is composed of a rapidly aging skin plaster. This facial plaster is made of the finest pro-aging ingredients that include a mixture of carcinogens from cigarette smoke and ashes, charred meat and UVA radiation concentrate to help irreversibly destroy collagen and elastin fibers. Next, we dump these Active Ingredients (as we like to call them) into the most unrefined lipid we could find. For this we use a petroleum based mineral oil emulsion that is sure to cause added congestion and pore distention—something sure to please you immensely. Once our cream is applied to your epidermis it instantly creates the appearance of crow’s feet and wrinkles all over the surface of your formerly youthful skin. Marionette lines appear with a vengeance while your nasolabial folds increase in depth. In addition to this, we guarantee nodular and cystic acne to help with the “please ignore me” look you have been going for.

As the youthful glow from your skin disappears with our products, you’ll notice that the boys do too. What does this mean for you? Thankfully this means you’ll be ignored by society a lot more. You won’t be carded when you purchase alcohol for your nightly binge. No more modeling scouts harassing you for your contact information or offering you modeling gigs (that are probably low paying anyways). The time you save from being contacted by irritating modeling and acting agents can finally be used to study for that much-coveted liberal arts degree that we all know results in a high-paying career. No more annoying distractions or time-wasting rendezvous with “boys who you don’t really like but simply enjoy leading on”—even those duffers will be long-gone.  Studying at college becomes a breeze because people will stop asking you out and even ask you to stop texting them! Your phone will be a silent cadaver. Voila! Your problem is solved and hopefully your whining will be too.

By Me :)



What if newspaper horoscopes read something more like this?

You're a generally unhappy person with a boring personality.  To try and compensate for such lack, you often resort to grandiose expressions about your noble, interesting, socially enviable pursuits that are often made up to assuage your ego.  

           You do as little as you can to participate in group interactions, preferring to sit on the sidelines, gawking in contempt of those who are actually the life of the party.  

         You try and produce a humorous phrase every now and again but have an enduring proclivity to repeat the same joke every time, unable to come up with anything original.

          You're likely to think of yourself as having a unique grasp of subjects both perfunctory and sophisticated, but in reality, you have difficulty just putting two and two together.

          You have few friends. Those willing to make your acquaintance endure you only out of pity, not for any particularly respectable quality; though for reasons of self esteem, you'd like to think otherwise.

          Your flexible, but only when it comes to sexual positions.

          Bragging for you is a hobby.  You enjoy every possible chance to blather on about every senseless quark of data that enters your cerebral hemispheres to whoever intersects your proximity. 

        You pride yourself as a dependent thinker, often requiring the higher reasoning faculties of others or simply copying the faddish ideas promoted on television or the internet.

        The good news is, you are adept when it comes to survival skills, knowing when to run or hide when danger prevents itself; knowing how to eat when hunger sensations emerge. 

By me :)

Friday, August 1, 2014


I hear people express their emotions every single day and I quietly listen to their diatribe about losing their parking space or not getting promoted at work. I have never resorted to “advice giving” or suggesting that they “see the positive side and count their blessings”.  I simply listen to other people and empathize with them while I try and not be the most effusive personality in the room.

Recently I've learned that those who freely express themselves and emotionally vent their feelings are likely to experience better health outcomes than those who repress and “hold in” their emotions.

In a book that I've been reading, “Harness your Dark Side” by Al Galves, he mentions a study where one of the groups in this study was asked to write about topics that didn't provoke their emotions—like what they want for their future, what they did last summer, world peace etc. The other group tested was asked to write about the most emotionally gripping experience of their lives.  A couple months later when both groups were compared, they discovered that the group that disclosed the most painful details had a better immune system and had fewer doctor visits than the group who wrote about more mundane, emotionally neutral topics.