Kreativ Blogger? Wow, thanks!

I want to say a big thanks to Montessori Mama, who has given me the Kreativ Blogger award!!

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You know, it feels kinda good.  I needed the boost — thanks again, MM.  Coming from one of the most creative of all bloggers I know, this award means a lot!

Now, on to the rules:
– List six things that inspire my creativity
– Pass the award on to 6 more kreativ bloggers
– Link back to the person who gave you the award
– Link to the people you are passing it on to and leave them a comment to let them know.

so…

SIX things that inspire my creativity:

  1. family night — We decided to rotate the responsibility to each family member each week  to choose an activity for Friday night that the whole family would enjoy.  Last time that it was my turn, I chose painting, and we had a marvelous time just hanging out and painting together. Never done such a  thing together ALL three of us at the same time.  Cool!
  2. Christmas — Something about that holiday brings out my creative side.  I relish the chance to make things beautiful, to use my hands to create something new out of something old (ornaments, table decorations, handmade cards….)
  3. teaching a text that students seem to find boring — Ah, I love that challenge! That’s when I revert to drawing crazy pictures on the board, jumping on top of furniture to act out a concept, bringing in wigs and hats for students to stage an impromptu dramatization of that boring 18th century poem, etc.
  4. dinner parties — I know you aren’t really “supposed” to make up new recipes when you have company coming, but I love to get creative in the kitchen for my friends.  Almost always there’s enough delicious food (if I do say so myself) in the meal to make up for anything borderline.  Even the flops are food for funny stories later on. 🙂
  5. scrapbooking — Okay, I admit it.  I actually like doing this activity.  I haven’t been able to work on anything for years, but I love how it is both a creative (making something new) and retro- and intro-spective activity.  I need to find a way to do this craft again, as it gives me much pleasure both in the doing and in the viewing later.
  6. Grandma’a life — I find my beloved grandma to be incredibly inspiring.  Writing her book is one of the most meaningful things I have undertaken in my life and one of the hardest.

Now, on to listing SIX more kreativ bloggers:

The Sruggling Writer is a wonderfully creative guy — I like how he just keeps on writing despite being busy with work and his young family. I’ve seen a noticable change in the quality of his writing, too, clearly proving that practice makes perfect. Paul, you’re awesome!

I read Kitty’s delightful blog  The Show Must Go On almost every day.  She is witty and hilarious and kind.  Check her out!  But bonus…she is also a gifted photographer and has another blog The Cuckoo’s Nest filled with interesting pixs.  This gal can do anything.  She even turned me on to cooking cabbage (yup, Kitty, I finally bit the bullet and cooked that thing in the bottom of my fridge — delicious!  Who knew?)

Ginny over at Praying to Darwin is a crack up.  Always makes me LOL when I read of her and her family’s escapades in the great white north of Canada.  I’ve actually snorted with laughter when reading her before.  Thanks, Ginny, for cheering my day!

I love handmade paper products (books, cards, etc.), and I really admire Diane Aldred’s work, often showcased on her blog Much of a Muchness.  She has a real knack for choosing just the right design.  She’s also a good writer, and despite my jealousy over her exciting travels, I’m nominating her as well.

I don’t recall exactly how I first found Katie Hoffman’s blog Paint Fumes, but I have enjoyed visiting it and viewing her paintings for a long time now.  I always find something worthwhile to contemplate there, and I’ve enjoyed learning more about the art wold from her interesting written posts, as well.

When I first began blogging a year and a half ago, I was searching the blogosphere using the keyword “grief”  and came across Linda’s mysteroriley, a “blog I never wanted to write.”  What strikes me so much about this blog is Linda’s courage and the strength of her creative energy in the face of the painful loss of her 20-year-old son.  Linda, I admire you both as a writer and as a human being.  You inspire me!

So, there you have it folks!  And I want to encourage everyone to visit Montessori Mama‘s site, too.  She is a gifted artist, teacher, and a great gal. Thanks!

Lefse Making: Then and Now, Here and There

On Saturday my Grandma’s niece and her husband came to “Christmas Eve” dinner at our house.  They live in Vermont and had to drive down (and back) through a snow storm to share this time with us (what nice relatives!)  My son and I made the lefse right before they got there, so as to have the freshest and most tender lefse possible for our dinner.  If you don’t know what lefse is, well, it’s a Norwegian flatbread made of mashed poatoes that looks like a flour tortilla and is rolled up with butter and cinnaomn-sugar.  (See my Lefse tab above for more posts on lefse.)

Bubby knows that the cooks always get to eat the first lefse.  What he didn’t realize was why we have this tradition: basically because the first one never looks quite right and Grandma never wanted to serve it that way.  So we would always eat it and destroy the evidence.  Well, this time, the first piece of lefse REALLY wasn’t all that great.  Far too much flour and overcooked — came out stiff (always a bad sign!)  Bubby and I ate it, but we had to “try” the second one, too, cause after the first failure, we had to be sure that we would not be serving the family low-quality lefse!  🙂  I remarked that when I made lefse with Grandma, our fist one never looked THAT bad before — I must be losing my touch.  Or maybe it’s just this darned head cold I’ve got….

Our technique did improve, you’ll be happy to hear, and we served a nice stack during dinner.  In fact, I serve lefse with the Christmas Eve meal (even though technically it should go afterwards with the sweets). But we could never wait until after the main meal was over.  If it were up to me, we’d just have Swedish meatballs and lefse on our plates.  What’s the point of all the rest?  I noticed that Bubby ate his lefse first, and well, who cares.  I smiled cause he’s Momma’s kid, isn’t he?

After dinner, gift opening, rice pudding (I got the almond again this year, so good luck to ME!), and after our cousins left, our dog Maggie decided she was not to be left out any longer, and she pulled half of the remaining lefse off the plate and onto the floor.  BAD DOG!  BAD DOG!!!!!    Ah, but who can blame her?  They are so delicious!

When I was recently going through some of my Scandinavia trip pictures, I found these ones of the lefse exhibit at the Folk MUseum in Oslo, Norway.  The young woman is making potato-less lefse, which I learned last year from my on-line friends is, in fact, legitimate lefse.  Hardanger lefse with flour and milk — very lovely.  Not what I think of as lefse, but still yummy.  Anyway, here are the pictures.  Makes me glad that I have an electric griddle to cook mine on — a heck of a lot more convenient that a wood fire hearth (though not as picturesque)!

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Lefse season fast approaching

Ah, the crispness in the air 9we’ll hit a low in the 20s tonight), the wind swaying the bare branches of the trees, the red and green decorations appearing in the stores…yes, it’s … lefse time!  HUH?

For those of you uninitiated ones, lefse is just the most delicious treat ever, that’s all.  I’ve already posted a number of times on lefse, so I won’t repeat. You can click on the tab above to see those posts.

But I will add something new.  Someone recently searched my site with the terms, “making lefse large batch.”  So I wanted to give some advice on this topic.  I don’t know just HOW large a batch this person has in mind, but I’ve made a hundred lefse before, and that’s a lot for one person.

Do not cut corners on the mashing part, i.e., I always recommend ricing the potatoes to avoid lumps.  You can’t roll out a piece of potato lefse dough if there are hunks of potatoes left in it.  Maybe if you have a LOT of lefse to make, you could run the potatoes through a food mill, like you would applesauce — just make sure you leave no lumps.  Effort on this front pays off in the end.

Also, do NOT add all of the flour to the cold mashed potatoes at once.  Yuck!  It gets too sticky if it sits for a while.  Only add flour to maybe 2 or 3 cups of potatoes at a time, mix, and then roll out the individual circles of lefse.  Then repeat until finished. This will keep you from making too sticky a dough and then having to add too much flour.

When people tell me that they have had potato lefse and thought it was too heavy, I always think that the problem is the potatoes are not properly whipped and too much flour was added.  If you make it right, potato lefse is tender and moist.  That’s what Grandma taught me, and I’ve found it to be true as I’ve taken over the lefse-making in my family.

Ah, now I’m hungry.  Darn.

Dear Grandma…

Dear Grandma,

I miss you.  Lately these flashes of memories keep intruding on my day.

Your laugh.  You looked so regal, so classy.  But your laugh was down home, real folk, spilling out of you whenever the smallest opportunity for mirth arose.  How much we laughed, working on your book, our book.  Every Sunday night when I called you on the phone, we inevitably found our way into a laughing fit.  Such simple things, too. Silly, really.  But you and I, fifty years apart, found so much to chuckle over.  No cynicism in you.  Honest and kind good humor.

I miss you.

Your reassurance.  When I sometimes had not had a chance to work on the book that week and we spoke on Sunday, I knew you were disappointed, but you always said such kind words. You knew I had other responsibilities. You never pressured.  You had faith in me to carry on after you were gone.  And I feel so bad that sabbatical is over and the book is still not finished.  I’m sorry, Grandma.  I’m still working on it. I thought I’d get farther.  Of course, I traveled a lot to research the book settings and stories.  And that was a jolly good thing I did since I found so much usable information that the book is being transformed into a much fuller account.  You’d hardly recognize chapter one anymore, Grandma.  Did you know that Grandpa Skaug’s mom was illegitimate?  Did you know your Dad’s relatives were soldiers back in Sweden?  Did you ever hear about the shipwreck at Kløkstad, Norway?  Did you know our famiiy church was built in 1240 and is still standing?  Did you know that the sea off the coast of Bodø can be as still as a pond and turn savage within minutes? Did you know in Sweden they had a big stick in church to poke people with when they fell asleep during the sermon?  No, you never knew these things.

I miss you. Lately all I want, suddenly, is write your story.

But timing is everything.  I know you’d say now that I ought not to be too hard on myself.  That I have to work and take care of my family.  You’d never begrudge me that.  I was thinking only the other day about the story you told me of when my mother was a baby and Grandpa wanted to go to a movie (always go go going, that Grandpa).  So you swooped up the baby in a blanket and got your coat.  In the theater, you wondered what was poking you, only to find the coat hanger still inside the coat you were wearing.  I understand such exhaustion. I know it’s okay with you that this project is taking a while longer than anticipated.  After all, we moved at a snail’s pace, and I asked you if you wanted me to speed up.  You said, “Do it right!  It’s more important for it to be good and to be read than for me to see it finished.” So you died without seeing it.  And here I am pluggin along over two years later. Still.  I’m sorry, Grandma.

I miss you.

Pickles, Wonder Food of the Future; or all about carflickles

I thought pickles were a nothing food, no value, no calories, not really food, just salt. I thought they were just there on my plate in a restaurant for the crunch and the pucker, you know? Something sorta green on the plate to make it look like there’s more variety? Turns out I was wrong.

According to an old book my mom sent me called All About Pickling (Ortho Books, 1975): “The art of pickling predates recorded history. It’s roots probably go deep into Chinese culture. We know that laborers on the Great Wall of China ate lunches of salted vegetables…. Cleopatra valued pickles as a secret of beauty and health. She introduced them to Julius Caesar and soon he added pickles to the daily diets of the Roman legions and gladiators, thinking pickles would help keep the men in top physical condition…. The ‘new world’ was even named after a Spanish pickle dealer ‘Americus Vespucius.’… Early Puritan settlers believed that pickles should be served daily as a ‘sour’ reminder to be thankful for the ‘sweet’ gifts of the land.”

I had no idea America was named after a pickle dude. How weird is that?

So I just had to make some!!

I made a few other food items this weekend, too, actually. From left to right: six cups of cooked down strawberry puree sweetened with maple syrup to use as flavoring for homemade yogurt (I bought a yogurt maker to start cookin that treat myself!), eight pints of strawberry jam (only three left from the first batch I made in late June), a jar full of apricot fruit leather (yummo!!), a half-filled jar of dried blueberries (eight cups of fresh berries made only THAT much? SOOOO not worth the effort), three quarts of a pickled vegetable medley which I like to call carflickle (carrots and cauliflower, in a pickling brine with purple onions, garlic, and dill), and dilly beans (pickled green beans). Whew! And if you think I’m tuckered out…yup, you’d be guessin right!

But all the produce is local and mostly organic, and I’m trying hard to do what I can within my current means (financial and time) to preserve some of this summer bounty for the long winter ahead when the cool, crisp crunch of pickled cauliflower might bring us back to that lovely Saturday in August when we spent the day at J and S’s house puttin’ up our veggies. (J and S went to Peru in Jan. on the same trip as I did — they are good people, those two.) Ah, but do pickled veggies really have any food value?

On this count the book shared some interesting nutritional facts that surprised me. For instance, the brining solution is high in potassium. The “vitamin A content of fresh produce is actually increased through the pickling process. Even though some of the vitamin C is decreased, pickles still retain richer deposits of the vitamin than other processed foods. … Vinegar prevents oxidation which allows the vitamin to escape from cut surfaces.”

Who knew? Well, other than my grandma, and pretty much all the immigrants who came to our country and homesteaded, and well, most people throughout the world. Ah, yes, well, okay, so I’m late in coming to this but at least I’m gettin there! I’ll be sure to report how they came out when we crack ’em open in November or December. Hope it’s worth the wait. 🙂

Norma needs… (meme)

Diane @ Much of a Muchness tagged me for this meme. Thought I’d play along! 🙂

She says: “I found this meme at Kim’s @ Laketrees. She borrowed it from Sandee’s @ Comedy Plus who was tagged by Mimi of Mimi Writes for the The Needs Meme. Mimi was tagged by Shannon’s Moments of Introspection who was tagged by Dawn’s Daily Life ….”
The rules: Just Google your first name with the word needs behind it and post the results.

Since I don’t use my own name or my picture on this blog, I’ll follow directions a little differently. My avatar photo is of my grandma, so I’ll use her name for this experiment: Norma. (My name is too common and has already been done for this meme by others several times in the recent past anyway!) Here’s a sampling for grandma:

1. Norma needs the right tools to keep all her plants growing well.

2. Norma needs a loan of 1000 soles, money which will be invested in the purchase of rice, sugar, noodles and fertilizer.

3. Norma needs money to pay for nursing home care.

4. Norma needs a vacation like NOOOOOW!

5. Norma needs a soprano who prowls the stage like a panther, whip-lashing through a whole catalogue of emotions with a passion that leaves only debris behind her.

6. Norma needs a mature, harmonious, not very acid and non-tannic white wine.

7. Norma needs to understand my flexible nature, and I need to understand her detail-oriented nature.

8. Norma needs a control group consisting of 10 bald or balding … [ellipses not mine — end not given!]

9. Norma needs a writer to edit her screenplay and facilitate her return to cinema.

10. Norma needs to go back to high school and get her diploma, as she cannot spell and a few big words does not make her protest seem logical.

Quite a group! A fun meme but I think I’ll just “encourage” readers to give it a try….

Anniversary Gift

This week my husband and I marked our 18th wedding anniversary. The hubbster gave me a thoughtful and well-written card (he’s a fabulous writer), and I gave him my annual poem written for the occasion and enclosed in a less thoughtful and well-written card. But, hey, he got a poem, so I’m off the hook for the card, right?

My poem this year, no surprise, arose out of my research on the ancestors. Turns out that in Swedish, the word for married is GIFT! (Not at all pronounced as it is in English, but when reading the word on my geneology, it tripped me up each time.) Anyway, the poem is about the ancestors who were gift in the past and the choices they made to be with one another, to make a life together, and in some cases to leave their life in search of a better future in a new land. Thank God they were so brave and strong!

So yesterday I gave my partner his poem even though Tuesday was actually our anniversary. But he is taking classes (in addition to working full time) and had to finish up final exams and all that this week, so we postponed our official anniversary card exchange, etc., until Saturday. On Tuesday, though, we did manage to watch some of our wedding video with our ten-year-old son, who had never seen it.

Wow! First of all, we were SOOOO young! I mean, compared to now. We got married when we had both just turned 26, which is young, sort of, though not really that young to get married, I think. But looking at us! Oh, my, we were so goofy.

Then my attention was grabbed by grandma and grandpa, who were all over that video. My heart skipped a beat when I first saw them. I had no idea that I had them on tape. What a joy to see them once more! Grandpa was so funny. He just didn’t understand what the video camera was. Every time my step-sister pointed it at him, he’d say, “Take it. Take it, Michelle!!” He was waiting for the flash of a still camera. They just couldn’t get across to him that they were filming moving pictures. 🙂 All the while there was Grandma, serene as ever, gracious and loving, never once cracking a smile at her husband’s expense. They were married over fifty years.

And last night, after all of this thinking about the anniversary, the wedding, my grandmother, I dreamt one of those beautiful and rare dreams when Grandma came to visit me in my sleep. She and I were walking around together before my wedding. I was marveling how well she was managing to walk. Of course, she used to walk all the time (duh!), but she had many years with a walker and then was bed-ridden in the final years of her very long life. Those later years had taken over, it seemed, in my memory of her. But here she was walking with me, arm in arm, around the hall where I was married. We were laughing and talking, and I was so happy. As happy as I was that day.

And I was very happy that day. I recall with crystal clarity that I felt complete assurance that I was doing exactly the right thing in marrying this man. I KNEW that it was right. I still think that today. Not that everything is always rosy. But I knew going in that life (and marriage) aren’t like that. No, I knew, though, that here was a guy to be tied to for life. A guy I could trust and enjoy and who would work beside me to build a good life together.

A lovely gift.