here’s a laugh…Finnish goats

A friend of ours sent me this link to a cartoon made by some Finns of the “Three BIlly Goats Gruff” story.  It includes the most addicting little song.  My husband tried to turn it into a ringtone.  We all sing it to one another at odd moments to lighten the mood.  My son begs for it!  I secretly watch it all the time. 🙂

I could not get this video itself to show up on my site, but it is SOOOO well worth the click.  Hope you enjoy!

Baaaaaa!!  🙂


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)!





Happy Sankta Lucia Day

Yes, I know that all of you American and English readers are busy eating your Lucia buns and drinking the coffee that your eldest daughter brought to you at the crack of dawn and all that.  Sorry to bug you.  I just wanted to wish all a happy Sankta Lucia Day.

In case you don’t know (though I’m sure EVERYONE does), Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated in Sweden and Italy.  Yeh, that’s weird, huh?  Lucia was an Italian saint, a martyr who brought food to the Christians hiding from the Romans in the catacombs.  She is famous for wearing a crown of candles to light her way in the subterranean caverns (her hands were busy holding big baskets of food, get it?)  Of course, she was murdered, but not until after all the requisite miracles.  Etcetera.

So the Italians celebrate her feast day (Dec. 13), but why the Swedes?  Well, one thousand years ago King Canute was experiencing a bit of Seasonal Affect Disorder and feeling glum because, well, Sweden is relatively cold and dark this time of year.  Then he heard about Saint Lucy and said, “Ah, ha!  This is the saint for us!!” So he proclaimed that Sweden would observe her feast day, too.

The Swedes today celebrate with Lucia buns and coffee in the early morning.  Girls wear electric lighted crowns and bring their parents the food.  Boys wear funny pointed hats and are called “Star Boys.”  There’s lots more to it and all, but that’s the basics.  Oh, and there’s a song, of course, as well!

Anyway, happy Sankta Lucia Day to one and all!

Church Year Begins with … Bagpipes?

Our church does not hold regular services during the summer.  It’s not that we completely shut down — there are still some informal services held in the air-conditioned common room, but the regular ones in the sanctuary stop for three months.  Then we start up again, the Sunday after Labor Day weekend.  And, weather permitting, we hold that service outside on the green.  Our minister says the same thing every year: “I’m not ready to be back inside yet!”

Well, this year, we had an excellent reason to be outside for the first formal service of the church year.  Bagpipes.  Yup a corps of nine bagpipe guys played for us.  Turns out this group was first formed in 1964 when the then minister of our church (can’t recall his name) asked the “men of the church to form a band.”  They thought about a banjo band at first but could not find anyone to teach them to play that instrument.  So they turned to bagpipes!

Over the years the group lost all association with our church, and now not a single person in the ensemble is a member.  The award-winning group lives on, though, and last week we had the pleasure of listening to them play…outdoors…on the lawn.  It was a windy day, in fact, the day after the remnants of hurricane Hanna passed through New England. I honestly didn’t think we’d be outside that morning, but when I saw the bagpipers, I understood the particular need.  Bagpipes are pretty loud.  Cool.  But loud.  Really strange instruments, I think.

Here’s an odd tidbit.  I always find myself humming the drone note when I listen to bagpipe music–you know, the note that stays the same throughout the whole song.  Why is that?  How weird of me!  But I do it every time.  It’s like I get dragged into the song, riding along on that plodding underlying tone.

Anyway, when the band played “Amazing Grace,”  we stood and listened in honor of our fellow UU’s in Knoxville, Tennessee, who were killed and injured by the lone gunman who entered their church and began shooting during a children’s performance this summer. The music was incredibly moving. All the more poignant as we could look off to the sides of the town green where our church is located and see our children running and playing during the service, climbing a lovely ancient mulberry tree–their perennial favorite.

Many of us brought water from our summer travels and dropped some into a common bowl.  We will use this (later sterilized, of course) for child dedications throughout the year.  I brought water back from Sweden and Norway especially for this purpose and was happy to add my drops to the pool.  And I was happy to be back in my beloved community.  It is good to be together.  I am ready to go back inside.

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.

Coming of Age

Saturday my son went to a classmate’s bat mitzvah. It was the first he’d ever been to, so I was curious about what his reaction would be.  He said the service was nice and that his friend did a good job speaking.  She didn’t look nervous at all, he reported.  The party afterward was a bit of a wash, though.  My son is not the kind of kid who relishes being one of a hundred children, most of whom are running around in a sugar rush screaming.  The loud music didn’t help either.  “Pop,” he said, when we asked what kind of music they played.  Frown.  He isn’t much into pop, he informed us. I think he’s become a tweener.  That seems like a tweener thing to say.

So, anyway, this coming of age thing is a bit of a puzzlement to me.  We aren’t Jewish, and we aren’t Latino (quinceanero celebration), or Norwegian/Swedish (confirmation).  Seems like all three of these groups really go to great lengths to mark a time for a child to enter adulthood.  When I was in Scandinavia, I was surprised to discover that confirmation was still such a huge deal, that confirmants are given a lot of money and other gifts and are really thought to have passed a significant milestone.

Why doesn’t mainstream America have any real coming of age ceremonies like this? I asked my husband this question on Saturday afternoon while we were waiting to pick up our son from the party. A party which did not, as the invitation said, end at 5 p.m. but rather around 3:30!! (Poor kid just sitting there waiting.)

My husband’s answer: “Because in America, we don’t want to grow up.  We want the lines to be blurred so we can be perpetually a child.”

Wow.  Hadn’t thought of it this way, yet it makes perfect sense.  If we do not have a ceremony to mark a pasage into adulthood after which a child takes on more responsibilities and enjoys more privileges, well, then maybe we just won’t HAVE to take on more responsibilities….

My son saw how much money the girl got from her hundred plus guests in the cards we all dropped into a basket.  He’s good at math. He’s wondering why WE don’t have a bar mitzvah tradition. 🙂 Yup. He’s a tweener.  How will we know when he’s an adult???

A few Pixs from Northern Norway

Wish I could put up the photos I took of the relatives, but I do not have their permission, so I’m sticking to scenes of great natural or urban beauty/interest and strangers, who are in my picture by virtue of being in the right place at the right time. 🙂 For now, I’m just putting in a few pictures from the Norway part of the trip. I’ll upload more later, but these were handy!

The island of Landegode is a well-known landmark in the Bodø area (northern Norway). Here is a view as seen from the mountain above the neighborhood of Rønvik (where my grandma’s grandma herded cows as a youngster):

Looking a different direction from that same mountainside viewing spot, you can see these lovely peaks. There are a lot of such snow-capped beauties (yes, snow in July) all around the area:

We visited an old home near where my family used to live in the villages of Kløkstad and Skau. The traditional colors for houses were this ocre, a brick red, or white (if you had money). We were lucky enough to get to visit this house and see the inside as well as the outside. Charming and cosy!