Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Happenings

Maya's newest job...candle snuffer!Dad's tradition....PISCO SOURS! (a Peruvian delicious drink!)
Maya has learned at school how to give massages! She is quite good at them! Swedish studies have shown that children who touch each other in kindness are less likely to touch each other in meaness! A couple of times a week they sit in pairs and massage each other for about 5 minutes. She has learned many different hand motions for this almost like a little story (jumping dolphins, waterfall, spider crawl, etc). The head massage is the best!
My Dad's favorite present! "Feed the birds" says the squirrel in disguise!
My mom has been busy since she arrived making 4 of these little cross stitches! She's amazingly fast!

This will be my last post until next year!

Wishing you a safe and fun evening with family and friends!

Christmas Day & Leif's 45th

Santa Claus (American) came in the night of the 24th....he ate the cookies, gave the reindeer the carrots we had left them and left a pile of gifts with a card for Maya. He thanked her for all the ways in which she has been "good" this past year! Maya was so pleased!

The stockings were knitted by my mom over the of each of us. They stay in Sweden now and we use others when we are in Florida for the holidays. Unfortunately, we have to be careful hanging the stockings to close to our fireplace because we use it and it gets extremely HOT!
After a morning of opening Santa's gifts and our "American" gifts...we went to Malmö to celebrate Leif's birthday. Maya is ready to go....but Mom was not feeling well and stayed home to rest. She looks pretty good for not feeling well, eh? can still be GOOFY at 45 years old! Leif is Bo's youngest brother!
Why is Maya standing at the table? She's singing Happy Birthday to Leif Swedish style! Everyone stands up to sing to the honored person and children often stand on the chairs to be just as tall. "Vi gratulerar lille Leif idag!"
My mother-in-law is just as goofy as her sons at times...I appreciate it so much because in her infinite experience as a mother of 3 boys, grandmother to 5, and a professional "fritids" (after school teacher) she knows just when to employ the goofiness to the adults' advantage to get a task accomplished! In this case, get Maya's jacket on to go home after the exciting party at Leif's place!

Swedish Christmas on December 24

Maya could hardly wait to open the last of the advent calendar gifts! Up early to see what was in the top of the tree! Later in the morning, she and Uncle Tom made gingerbread cookies to serve with the glögg in the afternoon. Messy fun!
Bo's parents and brother, Leif, arrived before "Calle Anka" (Donald Duck) Disney shows started. It's a tradition in Sweden to watch about an hour of Disney at 3:00pm on Christmas Eve. I think this tradition started back when there was only one channel available and the staff was not there at the station on Christmas Eve so that they just played a film with continuous Disney all afternoon. (Giving parents a moment to prepare food, etc) Well, that's my theory anyway. Some day I'll find the truth as to why most Swedes watch these condensed versions of Disney shows on the 24th. (Maybe my Swedish friends could tell me?)

So here we are after the Disney, drinking glögg and eating cookies! Yes, my husband is wearing our cat, Basil, as a scarf around his neck! Later we ate the traditional JulBord food....(herring, potatoes, rye bread, eggs, meatballs, prince's sausages, cabbage, beets, snaps, Christmas beer & soda) YUMMY! (Now that I"m used to it!)
This year Maya was so excited about making and giving gifts! We all loved the things she made us! Here she gives Farfar a window ornament she made.
Later in the evening we heard a knock at the door....who could it be? It was the JULTOMTE! And he asked if there were any good children in the house! Maya, a bit shy, piped right up and said "YES, ME!" He handed her 3 gifts and then he left as quickly as he came! He was having a busy night!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fun Ornaments

Each year we are in Sweden for Christmas we have a real tree in our living room. As we unpack the ornaments, I am reunited with memories of our travels, family, family and even my former students. Each ornament tells a story about a person or place. Some day , I keep saying to myself, I will document them into a little book for Maya to have after I'm gone so she will know how many of the ornaments were acquired. This one is from Köln, Germany (Cologne in English). Isn't the angel semtress cute? I got this one and the next two during our trip to visit Bo's brother, Ulf, who lives outside of Köln.
Can you believe it? An ornament of fabric stash!
And a little Santa wood worker in honor of my husband's hobby!
Some of my favorite ornaments are these handpainted wooden figures from Russia. I purchased them in 1997 while visiting my dearest Peruvian friend, Giannina when she lived in Moscow. The details on them are incredible! I have a whole set with men and women holding food, instruments, toys and animals. (The glass ball behind her is from Bo's mother...she gave it to him when he moved out of their house when he was a young man.)
My good friend, Justinian, made these for us a few years ago. What's so amazing is that he stitched them entirely by machine, just glue and thread. It took him a long time!

Later I'll post more about what's been happening over the holiday.

My brother left for Florida yesterday so we're a little sad, especially Maya. She loves him so...her favorite uncle! But now it's back to reality! Time to put the presents away...and get ready for New Year's Eve! My parents will be here a few more days but will leave before we return to school so that will give us some time to readjust our schedules again to more normal hours. We've been rather upside down for a week or so...going to bed very late and sleeping very late. Easy to do when the days are so dark anyway!

Hope your holidays have been relaxing and healthy!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas & GOD JUL & Feliz Navidad!

Have things to time to load up photos....but wanted to wish you....

Merry Christmas to all my BLOGGER FRIENDS!
God Jul till Er!
Feliz Navidad!

I hope you are warm, healthy and filled with HOLIDAY CHEER!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Quilting Cheer

Haven't been sewing much lately but I should....have one big present to finish! But I still have some days....I'll show you some of my Christmas projects from the past that are adorning my walls now thanks to my handy husband who cut and sanded dowels for me to use! This little wall hanging I started in Long Beach during a "coffee sew" with good ol' Betsy! I just finished it last year at one of my AWC crafty days (with Kelly Sue and Neitha).I just did a simple "stitch in the ditch" quilting. It's FINALLY hanging up! The pattern is from ...(when I find it I'll tell was just here ;-)
I took a class in Manhattan Beach a LLLLLOOOONNNNGGGG time ago to learn to make this stained glass window technique. The black fabric is ALL ONE PIECE and required nerves of steel to finish...I'll NEVER do that technique again. The tracing freezer paper,cutting, ironing, folding under and eventually sewing all around the edges nearly killed my enthusiasm for sewing. But with Betsy's perserverence and reminder that "We paid for this class!" I stuck it out and I'm so glad I did because it really is a lovely piece. This is the first time it's hung up properly!
This is my tribute to all the multi-cultural Santas* that exist in the world! I got the pattern from a magazine my dear colleague, Ella, gave me while I was in Los Angeles. I started work on it when I spent a 'crafty weekend' in Copenhagen with my Peruvian/Danish friend, Anna Maria. Many of the faces are made with various shades of brown silk...and red silk caps. I love the affect of the silk to make it shiny and lushy in places. This fall I finally finished it during another 'crafty weekend' but I absolutely hate how I machine quilted it...I think I ruined all that hard work. Taking the stitching out is an impossiblity as I did it on the tightest of stitches. (not smart!) Perhaps after the holidays I will embellish it with bells, buttons and other things to hide the ugly quilting. This mistake, however, inspired me to get a walking foot at last!
Here's my little red elf! Maya has been such a good helper this holiday! She loves to decorate and create her own presents! I can't wait to see what she's been hiding in her room! Today is shopping with her grandparents in Helsingborg! She'll come home tomorrow...leaving me time to do my secretative things! Hope you all are enjoying the few days before Christmas in a crafty sort of way!

* I find Christmas time to be a big festival to worship the "white men". Although I do love the white men in my life...sometimes it just seems wrong that all the little children of the world are praying and idolizing white men. Couldn't Santa look like they do? So whenever I can I like to buy and create Santas that have different skin tones from the normal, stereotypical Santas. My collection is growing....I have a lot of ornaments and Christmas cards. But I'm still looking.....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Uncle Tom visits

My "little" brother is visiting us for 2 weeks....and it's so nice to have him here! Maya just LOVES him!
Tom and Dad went into the forest with Maya to cut down a "Charlie Brown" tree for her bedroom. She was thrilled and carefully decorated it with unbreakable ornaments and easy to turn on (not plug in) lights. She also made a sign that says "Don't forget to water the tree" since I told her it would be her responsibility to keep it wet! The star Maya made took some cardboard, paint, scissors and some patience to get it just right!
Tom is willing to be put to work doing about anything! Helpful guy! Here he is doing something very Swedish...putting together IKEA furniture! But his visit is not all work....he spends a lot of time with his favorite neice! Much to her delight! Shouts of "Uncle Tom, Uncle Tom" can be heard all day long! And I've been replaced as the bednight story reader...first by my mom and now by Tom! We have to make up for all the times we aren't together!
Last night we played a good game of Pictionary with Maya...she's such a good drawer and our team won! (Mom read her the card that said what she was supposed to draw and we skipped the really hard ones like "lurch" and "bargain".) Another game tonight....

Surprise Gifts from Generous Gail

Look what the postman left in our Florida Room yesterday....only I didn't see it until today!
A very surprise gift from a blogger friend, Gail , in Canada! Thank you so much Gail! That was totally unnecessary but very very sweet of you! The torn paper is from the presents she sent to lucky Maya! Both things were IMMEDIATELY loved, Gail. You know your Princess stuff! A princess placemat and a Barbie ballerina stamp...wait until you see all the tree ornaments she has made with that stamp! (I'll try to post tomorrow!) I got a bundle of beautiful 'moda' fabrics! Crayons to make my embrodiery projects and pretty magnets! Thanks Gail! While I create and look through my magazine I will be thinking of you in winterwonderland! (or in Barbados!...lucky lady!)
Unfortunately, Gail doesn't have a blog...although she ought to and I've been pleading with her to start one...just for the quilting stuff if nothing else! Maybe in the new year we'll welcome her into blogland for 'real'!

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Happy for Christmas! "

Each year a Jultomte (Santa Claus) comes around to all the classrooms to give out candy and fruit to the kids...even my Grade 4 and Grade 5 students! After the visit this time around on Tuesday the kids were quietly working on the art projects and two of my 5th graders said to me "Carol, you should have been the Jultomten this year." (I immediately thought negatively that they were referring to my size especially since this year's Tomte was quite skinny. ) Obviously another student thought the same and he said "Yes, because you're soooo big!" But the other two boys looked startled and quickly said "NO, that's not what we mean!" Then they spoke to each other with bowed heads and both looked up and said at the same time..."We mean because you are SO HAPPY for Christmas!" Then they proceeded to point out all the things I have been wearing or saying or singing and even the feelings I have been projecting to my classes these last 2 weeks of school. (Just as a side comment...both of these boys are Muslims.) At the end they agreed that I would have made a far better Jultomten than the one that came to visit us this year. I was so touched by their observations and kind words to me! That was the best present any student could have given me! Affectionate recognition!

And that leads me to another kind recognition... I got this from Suzie at littlebuzybee.....Thank you Suzie!
The Award is for Christmas Spirit!
Here are the rules for Christmas award.
You must be a true Christmas lover to receive this award.
The person to whom you give the award must also be in love with Christmas.
You must link back to the person who gave you the award.
You must list 5 things that you love about Christmas.
If you can't limit it to 5 things, then keep going till you run out of space!
Pass the award along to as many people as you like.
That can be 1 or 45; it's up to you. But, you must pass it on to at least one person in order to keep the Christmas cheer going!
Let your recipients know that you have tagged them by leaving them a comment.

5 things I love about Christmas:
1. The "buzz" of excitement in the air everywhere!
2. Fun secrets between friends and family...presents bought and wrapped secretly!
3. Cozy house decorations...some are new, some I've made, some I've had a long, long time!
4. FOOD...cookies, gingerbread, glögg, eggnog, gingerbread yogurt for breakfast, pickled herring, Jonsson's, ham, turkey, pumpkin pie, rice pudding...cranberries! (not to be eaten all together though!)
5. FAMILY TOGETHER....doesn't matter where...Sweden or America or Mexico...but just together!
6. Smells...cinnamon, pine, snow, candles a glow!

Now I must pass this along to some others! Hum.....Visit these fine blogs for more Christmas Spirit!
Maya Luna

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I felt the earth move under my bed......

We had a 4.7 level earthquake today in Skåne! The last strong one in Sweden was in 1904! I knew it was an earthquake as soon as I felt the whole bed shake and the house walls creeaak...I jumped out of bed along with the dog who was already up and the cat! I screamed "Earthquake" to Bo but he only replied by saying "jord...." (the word in Sweden which I've already forgotten since I've never used in a practical way before). Then Bo went back to sleep but the animals and I stayed up and checked things out. The centre was much further south of us near Malmö so they must have felt it quite strongly. (Read about it here.) Some of my colleagues reported that their dogs started to bark just before it happened.

So I was thankful that there were no earthquakes in Sweden....but now I know otherwise! Should I prepare an "earthquake kit" like I had ready all the time in Los Angeles? If the next one happens in another 104 years I don't think I have to worry too much! I should still be thankful!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nutcracker Adventure

When I was growing up my mom always took me to see The Nutcracker Ballet before Christmas. During the few years we lived in Indiana we went to the ballet with a live orchestra at the University. It was quite a treat as IU has a very good music school and dance department. Going to the performances at the University of Florida wasn't nearly as spectacular although I usually knew some of the children performing in the dance program. Nearly every year of my "adult life" when I lived in Los Angeles I saw The Nutcracker with my dear friend, Carol B. The LA Symphony Orchestra playing for the New York City Ballet or Joffrey Ballet or Bolshoi Russian Ballet was a something that made me a "Nutcracker" spoiled snob, you could say. Since moving to Sweden I've had a pause from The Nutcracker...partly waiting for Maya to be a little older to appreciate it as Bo has no interest in seeing ballet. Last year we were in Florida for the performance at the university, I must say that the overall dancing was better (they had several guest dancers from various countries) but the music was still "canned" (recorded). We were lucky to get tickets in the 10th row and 5 year old Maya really liked it and Bo, too!

As we are staying in Sweden this holiday season I looked into buying tickets for the Royal Danish Ballet performance back in October. It's a good thing I didn't wait longer! We had good seats but at the back of the first balcony. To join us on this adventure in Copenhagen (about 2 hours from our country village), we invited our Danish cousins, Emelie and Louise Arzrouni. They are Maya's 3rd cousins technically speaking, their grandfather is my mother's first cousin. Another time I will relate the story of why we have cousins in Denmark, but not today.

I have to say that this was one of my FAVORITE performances ever! There were some elements of technical "magic" that I haven't seen before...especially with the use of mirrors to enhance the scenery and movements. The mixture of classical ballet with whimsical comedy made it very attractive and entertaining for children and adults without being cheesy. I LOVED IT! And so did the girls! (No one feel asleep or mishaved) Oh, and to hear live music! Wonderful! We decided to do this again next year! The only thing we'll change is the eating part of our adventure....Elsina will search for the perfect place for us to share nibbles before the performance rather than waiting until afterwards.

Here's how our adventure progressed...... Mommy and Maya dressed up and ready to leave on our Nutcracker Adventure! (Maya fixed my hair!)
First we drove over an hour south to Malmö (Sweden)...then parked the car in "Finland" (only the name of the parking lot parking in "Daisy Duck" at Disney) ....then we took a train over the Oresund Bridge to Copenhagen (Denmark). Here Maya looks a little motion passed after she ate a small sandwich.
The theatre is on the "King's New Square" in Copehagen. A skating ring was set up in the center of this square. Many people were out and about shopping in the crisp slightly sunny weather! Shops are not usually open on Sunday in Denmark but they are open during the holidays!
The cousins get along quite well together although they do not have a common language, yet. The girls can understand each other a bit as the languages (Swedish and Danish) are so similar but mostly they speak with smiles and gestures for now. Emelie, in pink, is 1.5 years older than Maya and Louise is only a month older. They were accompanied by their grandmother, Elsina, who is a retired language teacher (French, Danish, English and Italian). Both girls speak a little French as they spend a great deal of time at their summer house in Provence but soon they will start studying English in school.
After the show we grabbed a chocolately bite to eat at Illum's Department Store (sort of like Macy's you could say)...although we were really looking forward to eating a meal since none of us ate lunch! All the places were closing at 5pm and the kitchens close an hour before so all that was being offered were cakes and drinks. So we forced down these delicious brownies with milk, coffee and blackberry soda! Then we said Hej Då to each other at the metro and went off in opposite directions...with promises to see each other soon!

Does anyone out there in blogland like to see The Nutcracker?
What about The Little Matchsitck Girl? A Christmas Carol?
Are there any other performances that are a part of your holiday traditions?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

St. Lucia Day

Happy St. Lucia Day!
Last weekend we baked all the Lussekatter (Lucia buns) for today's Lucia Celebration of the Winter Solstice. They are made with saffran to get the lovely color and flavor. Maya loved designing the buns into their different shapes and she wanted to go beyond the traditional our buns have butterflies, flowers and snails in the batch. It was a pj day and we watched "Little House on the Prairie" DVD's while waiting for the buns to rise and bake. It was the first time that Maya was really interested in making them with me and she helped during all steps of the process. Here she is brushing the egg on the tops to make them shiny.
Always add a few raisins for extra decoration...
All finished! Lussekatter! Lucia Buns! Delicious with coffee, milk, hot chocolate and glögg!
Click here if you would like to see the recipe!
This photo is from St. Lucia Day in 2005 when Maya 4 years old. I made her candle crown instead of buying the flashlight kind but you can see that it was rather "floppy". It still looked very cute! Click here if you would like to see and hear the real Lucia song.
I'll post another photo when she is Lucia later today! She's been singing the traditional Lucia songs all week!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December stitchings, anniversary and Nobel dinner....

Greetings from my Fabric Post Card (FPC) Group have been arriving...first was Brenda's little tree with beads! Love the zig zag tree!
Next came Debb's colorful fall theme with mixed materials! Clever!
This week arrived Debb's Cute Christmas tree card and Rhonda's fuzzy stocking! Thank you, my friends! I'm not sure if I'll be sending out mine for December but I'll try.
Started the project for my mother with Maya's bird drawings and fruits & seeds for the birds! It looks fabulous, if I can say so. I liked this one much better than the other one...I think the simplier designs worked better. I'm almost finished just want to get some advice about corners from a friend at work, then I'll show it to you!
Last week Bo and Maya gave me 3 bunches of tulips to say "Happy 9th Anniversary in Sweden" on December 3. Wow...nine years, can hardly believe it! I should tell more about the night I arrived but that can wait until another time.
Today is the Nobel Prize Day, December 10. We usually watch the ceremony, the dinner and the entertainment show. It's like watching the Oscars of Academics! The prize ceremony is always special and interesting to learn about the winners' work. And the dinner decor and food is to die for! The Royal family in their full regalia, famous Swedish and international scientists, authors and politicians are all eating dinner & later dancing in the Concert Hall in Stockholm. It's extremely fancy and very impressive to see! What an honor to receive such an award!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Don't mean to brag or nothin'....

but my brother, Tom has some awesome photos on Flickr which I think ya'll should check out! He recently updated his collection there.

Photography is his hobby mostly but he also does 360 degree photos professionally for realtors, resorts and golf clubs, etc. When he doesn't have a camera in his hand...he's doing THIS.

Look and see for yourself...many of his photos are taken in Sweden during his visits with us!
You'll recognize a certain little model with big blue eyes!

Sunday's Rest

Every other year we spend the Christmas holidays at home in Sweden with Bo's family and my family. Last year we were in Florida and Mexico during the holidays for 4 weeks (I was on a leave of absence from my job to study Swedish during that term and my husband took "paternity days" and vacation days to be with us for that long time). Since we weren't at our home I didn't bother decorating at all ....but this year we are here so....I'm using it ALL! What fun to change the house into a Christmas cozy place! And this year Maya is such a helper with many ideas to contribute. See the little pillow in the middle of the couch? (made by Betsy, btw) Maya has tied a thread around it and made a cardboard "needle" so that the mouse is "sewing" the's all tied together so one need be careful sitting next to it. I made all the pillow covers during my afternoon sewing sessions with Bets in Long Beach. (when I first got the patchwork bug!) Can you see the Swedish straw Christmas Goat? It accompanies the Jultomte (Santa Claus) on his rounds to take presents to the good girls and boys. We have a really big one of those I'll show you another time. My mother-in-law has great talents & ideas but she never uses them...which drives me buggy because she's always talking about doing this or that but not feeling up to it or not having the time, etc. Today as I was contemplating my stash assortment it dawned on me that I'm just like her...only worse because I'm really relatively healthy (cough, cough) so therefore have no legitimate excuse for not doing the things I talk about doing. And with that revelation (on a Sunday at that!) I pulled out the easiest Christmas project that I"ve been meaning to do for years...Christmas curtains! It's quite common in this part of the world to change one's curtains during the holidays. I'm not sure why exactly but it does give a change of scenery to the inside of the house and provides time to launder the normal curtains. The pre-sewn curtain fabric makes this super easy to do (just cut and hem) and I had my new curtains up in no time! I also hung "curtains" on the lights for an extra cozy touch.
At last I have one of the grandma's gifts ready with Maya's drawings embrodiered on the pockets. It didn't turn out quite as I had imagined but I think Farmor will like it very much.
More importantly, Maya thought it was GREAT! I think we'll do some other collaborative projects in the future!
So many more things to get done before Christmas....but one thing at a time...trying not to stress! Almost have the holiday cards done so that they arrive on time! And some of the cookies are made....but more to do! I'm regretting not participating in the AWC cookie exchange this year because it sure would be nice to already have batches and batches of different cookies made! (Note to self: SIGN UP as a YES next year! Liz: hold me to it! ;-)

Want to make my December fabric post cards too....have a cute idea in mind but don't know if I can make them in time. This may be the month I hop Brenda says...ours is a no stress swap! Whatever I don't make this year I can make another year!

Hope your holiday plans and activities are progressing well!