Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Childhood Christmas In Sweden -- Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas!

     I don't have any photos of Christmas in my childhood home. I hope I can describe the sights, sounds, and particularly the smells of a Christmas in a Swedish home in the late 1940s, early 1950s.

A part of a Christmas table runner made by my grandmother.
In the kitchen of my childhood home, it was a busy time preparing for lunch and the big Christmas dinner later in the day. While the Christmas ham simmered in a big pot, various meats were added. After the ham and the added ingredients cooked for a long time, something wonderful happened in the
pot: A spicy broth, thick and juicy, was getting ready for the traditional dipping in the pot, dopp i grytan, ceremony. After my mother removed the ham and rubbed it with brown sugar and mustard and studded it with cloves, she put it in the oven
to glaze. Then the family gathered around the pot to dip bread in the hot broth.     
     If our family hosted Christmas Eve for our grandparents and other family members, they would arrive in the afternoon. By now we, the children, would be beside ourselves with excitement and curiosity about our presents. Oh, what could it be, will I get what I really want and so on. When we were older we would look at the presents under the tree and, reading the poems that hinted at their contents, we would try to figure out what was inside. Home made glogg, was served throughout the day. Glogg is the Swedish Christmas drink. It smells heavenly and I think it's the smell that does it for me. There is nothing like it. Made from a sweet and a dry red wine, with orange rind, raisins and spices, it's heated and when hot, vodka, or some such alcohol, is poured in and put on fire. While it's burning, sugar cubes in a strainer are dipped through the fire into the wine, creating a wonderful taste and smell. It's something special for sure.
     Dinner started with the traditional smorgasbord. Eating was frequently interrupted by a toast of aquavit, brannvin, which involves the following ceremony:
     You raise your glass, look the person you are toasting in the eye and say: Skoal! Everyone then replies: Skoal! Then you drink the shot glass of this strong alcohol, followed by some of the Christmas ale to wash it down. After several of these toasts, I'm sure the lye fish, lutfish, that followed was more palatable. You also drink the traditional Christmas ale throughout the meal. I wonder now how tipsy the adults were by the end of the day. What with the glogg and all.

 My most treasured possession, this Tomte was made by my grandfather.
    After the fish, it was time for the wonderful Christmas ham and after that the rice porridge, risgrynsgroten. There are a couple of traditions involved with this porridge as well. With the almond that I told you about in an earlier post. If a single person gets the almond in their bowl, it's said that he or she will get married in the following year. If it lands in a bowl of a married person, he or she will prosper in the year to come. And, finally, in olden days, a plate of porridge was placed in the barn for the little gnome, tomten, who was thought to live there. 

In the land of the reindeer, strangely, Santa arrives in the company of goats! Straw goats, like this one, stay under the Christmas tree in Swedish homes. 
     After this seemingly endless meal (to us kids) it was time for the presents. As I said above, my grandfather was Santa when we were small. He would trudge through the snow, up the steps, and knock on our front door with a question: Finns det nagra snalla barn har? ("Are there any good/nice children here?") You were supposed to be good and nice in order to get your gifts from Santa, so of course we yelled: "Yes!" And then we had to wait for my dad to read the poem on each gift before we could proceed to rip off the red sealing wax and open our presents.
     I believe the evening ended with coffee and cakes and a glass of the Christmas punch, not an American kind of punch, but something else, in a bottle. A very 19th century kind of drink that evokes smoky libraries where the gentlemen would withdraw after dinner to drink their punch and smoke their cigars. That's about all I can think of to describe it.

I'm sorry I have been too busy to read and comment on your blogs, thereby missing all the ways you, my blogger friends, prepare for the holidays. I miss you all lots. I will take a break from blogging until the end of the year when I will tell you about what happened in the Sweden of my childhood during the 12 days of Christmas. Have a wonderful Holiday Season!

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Childhood Christmas In Sweden -- It Was The Week Before Christmas

     My cousin left a comment on my last post that made me think that things are done differently in Sweden these days. And of course things do change everywhere. But I treasure my memories, so back to my childhood where we went shopping for the Christmas tree the week before Christmas. Imagine that – so late, compared to the way it is done here and now. In Sweden we celebrate Christmas with a family dinner on Christmas Eve. After dinner the presents, jul klapparna, are shared. In my family we dressed the tree the evening before Christmas Eve. On the morning of Christmas Eve, the tree was up; it was fresh and smelled heavenly. I will never forget the Christmas Eve mornings of my childhood.
     The evening before Christmas Eve was bustling with activity at our house. We dressed the tree and wrapped our presents. My parents waited until we went to bed and then wrapped ours. Everything was hush, hush and secret. The presents were wrapped and sealed with lack (I can't remember the English word for that red stuff that sealed envelopes and documents in olden days, so please let me know if you recall) and stamped with an insignia my Dad had. 

I love this photo of my parents when they were first married, I'm sure they are both composing their poems here.
     Both my parents were very good writers and my Dad was a great poet. He would write poems for every occasion and never more than at Christmas time. He came up with the most wonderful verses and rhymes that were then attached to each present. Rhymes on presents were a tradition in our home, but I don't know if it's a Swedish tradition or where it came from. The rhymes always hinted at what the present might be. So my brother and I had a lot of fun looking at the rhymes the next day, trying to figure out what might inside the packages. I still remember how thrilling it was to wake up on the morning of Christmas Eve, full of delight and anticipation. On a dark and cold morning the tree with its pretty ornaments, the candles and the star on top always took my breath away. When my brother and I were small, there would be just a present or two under the tree. We would get one or two that morning to keep us quiet and occupied until the evening when Santa, in the form of our Grandfather, would come walking through the snow carrying a large burlap sack full of presents.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Childhood Christmas In Sweden -- The Food

     The time between Santa Lucia and Christmas Eve, Julafton, the day we celebrate Christmas there, was spent getting ready. Cooking wasn't really my mother's thing, but she would make several dishes for Christmas. Fortunately what my mother lacked in cooking interest and skill was made up hugely by my paternal grandmother and her sister. They were the most fabulous bakers and cooks. 

     In olden days in Sweden, a bride needed to know how to prepare herring in at least 25 different ways. My mother knew a couple, but the one I remember best only appeared at Christmas time: Matjes herring pickled in vinegar, sugar, with Coleman's dry mustard, onions and a lot of white pepper corns added. It's called Skarpsill. I still make it when I can find the ingredients.

     Then there was the Lutfisk, or Lye fish, which is a peculiar dish that originated in Norway. I remember the big slab of dried/salted cod or a cod relative, called ling (I have no idea what a ling is, but it said so in my book, so there it is) that was left to soak in lye in our basement laundry room. This room had huge vats for boiling and rinsing clothes – before washing machines, doing laundry was quite a chore. After soaking, the cod turned white and flaky, as I remember. While I can understand how the then plentiful cod, salted and dried, helped provide people with food during the long winters, I cannot understand all the trouble women went through for this dish. I guess some love it or it is just a tradition that must be carried on. A pretty good sauce went with it and made it tasty as far as I can remember. 
     With the exception of the traditional gingerbread cookies, pepparkakor, I don't remember much baking going on at our house. I'm sure my grandmother and her sister baked everything and brought all the goodies with them to the Christmas dinner.

     After the smorgasbord and the lutfish came the main course, the glazed Christmas ham, jul skinkan. A ham prepared this way is absolutely delicious. In Los Angeles, I lived close by the only Swedish delicatessen in town, owned by a Mr. Olson. When the Christmas hams arrived, all the Swedes in Southern California appeared at one time and there were long, long lines around the block. A really fun time in L. A. for me.
     Back in Sweden, after the meal came the dessert, which in our house was a traditional rice pudding. The pudding contained one almond and it was said that if an unmarried person got the almond, he/she would get married in the coming year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday's Treasures & Things

The small elf or gnome we call Tomtenisse in Sweden is a part of the rich Swedish folktale tradition that includes trolls, elves, giants, fairies, witches and the little tomte who often lived in the barn and was thought to be benevolent, looking after the farmer, his family and animals. As you can see, he bears little resemblance to the big and burly Santa of today.

I treasure this little plate, a gift from my cousin, Anders. Anders and I share an interest in Old Town, Gamla Stan, the oldest part of Stockholm. We love the jazz clubs in the ancient cellars, the magic of the narrow alleys and crooked medieval buildings. When I'm in Stockholm, Anders always treats me to a nice dinner in one of the many restaurants there. The plate is made by Arabia, Finland. Every Christmas I look at it and remember many good dinners and conversations with my cousin in Gamla Stan.

It seems like this little tomte has always been with me. Maybe he is keeping an eye on things around this place.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Samson Updates On Soldier And Complains As Usual

Samson Says:

     Yesterday, mommy and daddy had an ARGUMENT about how much laundry you could put in the machine. The laundry bag was outside the front door and mommy was in the door opening. Soldier was inside but saw his chance. Out he went, down off the porch as if there was nothing wrong with him at all. Maybe he just faked it all this time, I'm thinking now -- to make me feel bad -- since it was supposed to be all my fault. 
    He took off at a good quip, running even! I don't know what to believe now. Mommy tried to catch him, but she's so slow, so daddy took off after him and caught him. 

As you can see, we're behind bars here, so you can't really blame him for wanting to go for a run around. 

Here he is without that contraption on his back. Mommy washed it this morning and he's getting along just fine without it. I think he misses it though. It sure made him feel important. 

Just like me, he wants out of here!

Here he is, looking really good, I must say. Soldier says thanks again to Terry for sending that contraption. I bet he'll fake it some more so he gets to wear it again. I just bet ya!

Now if I could just figure out how to open this gate.


OK mommy, which part about us wanting to get out of here didn't you understand?!

Posted by Samson, the Samoyed Pup

Me: Thank you all so much for your comments regarding the problems I'm having with Google. I does not surprise me that I am not alone. I'm glad to know that my posts have shown up on the blog rolls. Sometimes when I open mine, it says I am not following any blogs and I have to get out of Blogger and back in and hope for the best. It is really annoying, but good to know I'm not alone.
Hilary Melton-Butcher left this site link, which she said helps her stay informed:
And Kim said this:
 Did you know that Blogger is doing away with 'Google Friend Connect' in March because it's so unstable--The issue you and others mentioned may just be why they are. They are replacing it, with something else and in reading about it, I don't know if what they are replacing it with will transfer current followers with it, or if your 'audience' has to be rebuilt. I am trying to figure that out...
Me: I need to find out more about that. I hadn't heard. Finally, I just love what my friend fishducky said in her comment:  Google--not I--decided a few weeks ago that I did not want to follow one particular post that I love. I re-followed up to a half dozen times a day. This lasted for about 2 weeks, but it's okay now. She says she's up to almost 100 followers--it's possible 50 of them are ME!
Me:  What a lovely thought, 50 of your little yellow duckies among this person's followers!!  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Morning Reflections

In line at the post office, I talked to a man.
He told me he went down south to pick up his dad
who, suffering from dementia, was in a bad place.
The man told me his dad has fits of rage, falls down,
gets hurt, wanders off, police has to be called.

I asked the man if he could take care of himself 
in the midst of all this.
He said, “I always thought it weak to take pills,
now I take a Valium every morning 
just to make it through the day”

He told me his mom raised her kids by herself.
“What about your dad?” I asked
“I was terrified of my dad,” he said 
“and glad when he left.
He beat my mom and us children too.
I was very scared of him then.”

“And now you’re taking care of him?”
The man said, simply, “he’s my dad....”.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Did Google Eat My Recent Followers? And Some More Stuff!

Displayed at the Huntington Hotel, Pasadena, CA

     Looking at my followers photos and avatars, I notice that the most recent ones have disappeared. I know for a fact that my old friend Amy from the UK signed up again as she has a new blog now, then there was this nice guy from New Zealand and my new blogger friend, Dee Ready, author of Dulcy's Story. And the most recent follower, who didn't have a link to a blog. I took a quick look at the list of followers by clicking on them in my Dashboard and the same thing happened there. Even more folks may have disappeared. Sometimes they mysteriously appear again, but I have no idea why or how it is accomplished. Is Google throwing them up? Ouch, that's not  a pretty picture, sorry! I have no idea what is happening and I'm wondering if any strange disappearances have occurred on any of your blogs. If anyone can offer some insight into my Case of the Missing Followers, please let me know. Their number remains the same, so that's not a problem. Just the pictures.
     The other day, I read that The Golden Eagle had some problems with Google Reader. Unfortunately, those problems went above my head, as I know nothing about Google Reader. Should I learn? So little time, kvetch, kvetch!!

A brave Soldier marching forward with his life.

    About some of your recent comments: Soldier and I want to thank you for all your well wishes. It really touches my heart when you send greetings and let me know how happy you are that he is doing better. He's one lucky dog to have so many supporters out there.
     I'm also glad you are enjoying my Swedish Christmas traditions once again. I love to read your comments about your traditions old and new, like Christine's church beginning to light a candle on the Sundays in Advent. I have been very busy with some other things involving paperwork that only I can do here and this will continue for a while, so I have to limp along with my reading, writing and commenting on blogs. At least I'm here and have my camera and my computer working, which is better than it was last summer.
     Samson Says: Excuses, excuses, so when am I going to blog again? I mean, I could be of some help here, but I guess I just don't count. At least Daddy takes me for super long walks now, while you're busy working for him on the computer. So there!
This is Suki. My dentist and his wife, Lois, belong to her.

     Finally, I went to the dentist yesterday and was greeted by my friend Suki, the most adorable dog in the whole wide world. Samson says: Hmmmm, I heard that! The temporary filling from the root canal was replaced by a permanent one. I hope this marks the end of the year of the infected tooth for me. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Childhood Christmas in Sweden -- Advent

     In churches all over the world, Christ's coming is anticipated on the four Sundays of Advent (ad'vent) n. [< L. ad, to + venire, come]. In Sweden we have special Advent candle holders for four candles, one for each of these Sundays. For me as a child, anticipation began when the first candle was lit on that first Sunday. My family was not religious in a church-going sense, but we celebrated the birth of Christ and it was both a joyous and a serious time. The spirit of Christmas arrived at our house with that first candle and in the coming weeks we were getting ready for our celebrations on Christmas Eve.

     The Advent Calendar, with all its little windows to be opened one for each day leading up to Christmas, was part of the excitement. In Sweden, it is also a custom to hang a golden star, made of paper with tiny holes and with a light bulb inside, in a window on the first Sunday in Advent. Stockholm in December is a dark place with few hours of daylight and I remember how lovely it was to see all the stars shining bright in the windows of the city.

     I'm glad those of you who read about my childhood Christmases in Sweden were happy to have me post them again. Last year, there were four very long posts, plus some Tuesday's Treasure posts as well. So I have a lot of material that I can split up and, hopefully, entertain you with. I am very busy with some things that have nothing to do with Christmas, but rather to do with paperwork.  Two more trips to Bakersfield -- one for a lab appointment and then a dental appointment in town. All I want to do is stay HOME!!!  But I am trying to take it all in stride, just sort of resenting all this going on when Christmas is coming. 
     Soldier is doing really well. He has been off all medicine for a while now. My vet has been on vacation but will be back this week so I can discuss what's next. Soldier is probably back to having his original back and hip problems that do not seem to hurt him, but make him walk funny. The injury he sustained when Samson threw him in a hole (boy that sounds terrible, but it is what happened) seems to have healed. He is as happy, lively, whiny, and excitable as ever. 


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa Lucia a Festival of Lights in Sweden

     Last year, I wrote several posts about Swedish Christmas traditions.  Because so much is going on right now and I have little time, I will post some of those posts again this year.  I also have new followers since last Christmas who may enjoy learning about Swedish holiday  traditions. 
     Today, December 13, Santa Lucia is celebrated all over Sweden. This is a very special time, reminding people who live in this cold, dark, place that there is light in the world and celebrating this light.

     According to tradition, the eldest daughter in the family, wearing a crown of candles, brings coffee and Lucia buns (lussekatter) to her parents in bed. Yes, that's me as Santa Lucia with a crown of real candles on my head! (I did have a wet napkin on my hair, underneath the crown.) The girl and her court of younger siblings sing the old Italian song, Santa Lucia, in a translation that celebrates light coming to this dark season. This tradition continues in Swedish homes today, but with battery operated candles, I'm sure.
     Each community crowns their Queen of Light, their Santa Lucia, and in Stockholm there is a parade in the evening, ending in City Hall.
     The original Santa Lucia was a Sicilian woman, who became a saint. She is always presented with light in some fashion in art and literature. How she came to represent the Queen of Light in far removed Sweden is a legend too long to tell here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Morning Reflections

     Please join me in congratulating three remarkable women: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman, who fought dictatorship, injustice and sexual violence in Liberia and Yemen. On Saturday, December 10, 2011, the three women received the Nobel Peace Prize in Olso, Norway. 
     On a dark December day in Norway, a light began to shine with hope for abused women around the world...... 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rachael and Sahara on Animal Planet's PETS 101 Tonight!

I'm So Excited!
I have to type in RED!
To ALERT you!
To this:
      Tonight, our friend Rachael, who runs Sydney's Legacy, an animal education program, will appear on Animal Planet's Pets 101.  Rachael's segment, titled So Creepy Its Cute, will be featured on PETS 101, Season 2, Episode 1. In most markets it will air at 8:00 p.m. tonight, but please check your local listings because here in our market Episode 2 will air at that time. 
     The following announcement appeared on our DirecTV blurb: Which garden guest can live to be 100 years old; can you teach a gold fish to play music, etc. Rachael's segment may be toward the end of the show. I am thrilled for her and I hope you will decide to watch her segment of the show -- I would love for you to see and hear Rachael as she teaches the kids about creepy, but cute animals. 
The class that appears in the show.
     Those of you who have read my blog for some time, know how much I care about Rachael who is such an animal lover and wonderful speaker and educator. I know many of you, my blogger friends, are not into animals like Sahara, Rachael's 14 ft albino Burmese Python. Many people are not, but Rachael is teaching that all animals are relevant in the ecosystem. That it is not, for example, a good idea to adopt a cute little snake of a few inches that will grow to Sahara's size and more and then dump it in the Everglades or some other place, where it, not being native to the environment, will cause havoc. 
Boys and girls alike are thrilled to meet Sahara, and

to pet and interact with this most gentle of the larger snakes.

About Sydney's Legacy:

Sydney's Legacy is a mobile animal education program with a Mission Statement of:  "Teaching the relevance of all animals in the ecosystem."  We are based in the L.A. area and do 1- hr long programs anywhere that fun and education come together -- i.e. schools, senior facilities, birthday parties, etc.  We are available for programs.  
Email contact:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Attention All Cat Lovers And Anyone Who Has Ever Loved A Pet

Great News!
A Cat's Life -- Dulcy's Story is now available! 
     A few weeks ago, I told you about Dulcy's Story and the impact it had on me. I found it to be not only best book by a cat that I had ever read, but the best book ever. And, believe me, I have read a lot of books in my day, from the classics, to English literature, to the great Russian writers, to a lot of  memoirs, mysteries, and so on. And no other book has touched my heart the way this book did. 
     I shared my thoughts and feelings about Dulcy and her story as she told it to the wonderful writer, her obedient servant, Dee Ready, in my Wednesday's Book post on November 29, 2011. (Dulcy may not have known it, but she was lucky to have shared her life and her story with such a soulful and talented writer.) 
     I have since become friends with Dee Ready and I now read her blog regularly. Today, Dee is writing about Dulcy's Story on her blog. She tells the story of the book and the impact it has had on her and others. Please take a minute to read it. 
     The trade paperback edition of the book can now be purchased directly from Dee's blog. Also, if you own a Kindle, the e-book version is available from  Actually, for both my friend Fran, AKA Fishducky, and I, Dulcy's Story became the very first book we each reviewed for amazon. I'm willing to go out on a long, long limb for this book. You know I never plug anything on my blog, but this is such a great story that I want everyone to read it. And Christmas is coming. This is a book with a great heart and I love it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Off To A Wedding We Go!

Our friends eldest daughter, Melissa, got married on Sunday. The Alice in Wonderland theme from her bridal shower continued at the wedding and it was just wonderful. Since I am aware that not everyone likes to have their picture posted on the internet, I am trying to only post clear photos of the Facebook generation here. 

We have known Melissa since she was born, now she is a scientist, a geophysicist, beautiful, brilliant, and kind.

Her sister, Mia, is our goddaughter, a studio art major at UC Riverside, a wonderful artist, and like her sister, beautiful and kind. Our friends raised their daughters to be the best they can be and they are. I believe Mia was responsible for much of the art work and design of this Wonderland wedding.

The bridegroom's parents are from Nigeria and his relatives dressed in traditional dress. They were absolutely stunning. 

On the way to the fabulous Langham Huntington Hotel in South Pasadena, we saw much of the damage from the huge wind-storms that passed through there earlier in the week. Many traffic lights were also out.

This grand dame of hotels is truly magnificent.

With beautiful gardens, velvet lawns, and tall palm trees. 

Inside, I found tall trees of another kind. All very beautiful and I chose this one for now.

The reception was held here, outside. I was very, very cold and my husband had to go and locate the car to retrieve my winter coat. Then it got better.

The dining tables were decorated with lavender rose petals, teacups balanced on antique books, all kinds of beauty all around. I had salmon for dinner, hubby had steak.

The bride and groom dance. And soon everyone else danced too.

While I watched and chatted with this really nice guy who also, as it turned out, is a New Orleans native. 

This was a wonderful wedding. I can only hope that the bride and groom were not too tired to enjoy it. We certainly had a wonderful time in a glorious setting and we are so happy that Melissa found her soul mate.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Morning Reflections

Man's heart away from nature becomes hard.  ~Standing Bear

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gate With Landscape

Our blogger friend, TexWisGirl, has recently posted so many fun and creative ranch gates from the great state of Texas.  That made me wonder if I had seen any around here. At the other end of the valley, lies the ranch that belonged to Jack Palance, and I believe I saw a high and mighty looking gate there many years ago. Then there is a place with huge horses, and statues of even bigger horses, and I'm sure they must have a cool gate, but I just can't remember. Other than that, just ordinary stuff. Looking around our place, I took this photo of one of our two gates. While I love the gate posts, I had to laugh because you can't even see the gate itself. Oh, yes, it is made of barbed wire, very simple, but it would keep some critters out if needed. And it sends a message that this is private property. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Samson Climbs A Hill

Remember I said I was bored with walking on the road? Just some silly donkeys and cows to look at and I know all the smells around there, soo boring. I guess I was heard because daddy took us up a hillside where we'd never been before. 

Mommy said this is the hill that she and Soldier tried to climb last year, but they didn't get far. Daddy said that's because they tried to climb straight up the steepest side. Even I would know better! Up the side, you go. Daddy was a mountain and rock climber so he too knows how it's done.

About half-way up, mommy and daddy sat down and rested and checked out this view.  And did some smooching too. I saw them! Angel was breathing hard, so she rested, but I got busy digging in the soft earth. All kinds of wonderful smells came out from the earth and I was a happy boy because there is almost nothing I like better than digging and getting my white fur dirty.

Here I am checking on Angel. You know, she's awfully old and I have to keep an eye on her.

This is the sight we saw after we rounded some bushes and came up on the backside of the hill. Lots of little houses where people live were spread out all around. I'm glad they're not close to us. We can't see any houses at all where we live. Sometimes mommy uses some big black things that she puts in front of her eyes. Then she can see a farm in the distance. Why she would want to do that I have no idea. 

Here we are, daddy and me, at the top of the hill! We made it and enjoyed the view that was spread before us. 

Here I am with my tongue hanging out. Catching my breath before we head back down and home. You can see how dirty I got my face! 
  Have a nice day everyone!

Posted by Samson, the Samoyed Pup.


Related Posts with Thumbnails