Sunday, November 30, 2008

Julmarknad in Ystad and
Marsvinsholm Slott (a Swedish Castle)
The beginning of advent marks the beginning of Jul/ Christmas season in Sweden. There were Christmas markets with lots of crafty gnomes and traditional straw decorations made by little old ladies in local villages. To visit a market, see the Skåne Christmas market schedule here.

Enjoying Pepparkakor and Bulle...and some super yummy rice pudding. There was also some nice surreal Swedish Weirdness, like a the chicken with the tiara...

And the tomte's evil twinsA view of Marvinsholms and the grounds, which are at their best in the spring and summer.
In the nearby town of Ystad there were lots of festivities in the streets, markets, and even some medieval activities going on.

This is Agnes, who also goes to our daughters Waldorf school, and sells us our veggies each Saturday at the local organic farm. (For those who Shop at Jessica's stand, she is like our new Allie :)

And Me!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Celebrations!

So, when the American student in my swedish class who spent Thanksgiving by himself last year started decribing in drooling detail the pleasures of a traditional Thanksgiving meal (and how to use the leftovers) to the other forgeign students, we decided I should host a proper celebration.

So I did...I made (for the first time ever!) a roast turkey, stuffing, broccoli casserole, sweet potatoe casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie. We had an authentic American Thanksgiving in Sweden, complete with all the trimmings including board games between meal and pumpkin pie, with my fellow swedish language students- from New York, Switzerland, and Japan.
The canned pumpkin for the pie filing was purchased at the 'ethnic food store' Gray's American Eats. I drove 25 miles both ways, and paid $4.50 a can!!!
The $6 can of Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce, in all it's glory. My favorite quote of the night:

Q: "What is this? What do you do with it?"

A: "That's Gravy....." WARNING: The Game Cranium has a distinct cultural element, and when playing with people of other cultures, you may need to edit questions for cultural fairness, as not every young Japanesse boy will recognize your Martha Stwerat impression, even if you DID brine the turkey per her "Living" Magazine! Perhaps we will choose Yahtzee for our next multicultural game expereince. We also felt the need to have family Thanksgiving, so we did it all over again the next day, and introduced Thanksgiving foods and the feeling of being over stuffed to our Swedish relatives. Again, lots of comments along the lines of "Oh, this is good, I have never tasted anything like this food...." The amount of food consumed at the ten person family gathering was slightly less than that consumed by the student gathering. Twenty year olds who live in dorms, have had only boiled 'korv' and meatballs and no proper meal in three months can seriously EAT!!! Preparations made for charades- she wanted to make sure there was NO TALKING!!!! (or maybe using all the tape was just FUN.)

We also managed to go to Thanksgiving dinner the next day as guests of one of our daughter's new preschool friends, who has a dad from New York.

We.Are.Stuffed!!! (and it was all soooo good!)

Who says there is no Thanksgiving in Sweden?!!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Blessing to keep in mind as you begin to clean, cook, and travel for Thanksgiving.

(My turkeys brining....they look like they are snuggled up and co-sleeping! Somehow, they look funny to me... perhaps I am punchy as I am trying not to freak out about how much I have to cook! I have never made a big holiday meal before and I am doing it twice this year. I am trying to remember to count my blessings!)
HAPPY THANKSGIVING from the Iroquois Nation!

Let us greet the world in Thanksgiving as if we were sharing one mind, one heart, and one body. Today we have gathered and come from many different places. We have arrived safely at this place to share with each other our gifts from the Creator. So we bring our minds together as one in Thanksgiving and Greetings to one another.

We now turn our thoughts to Earth Mother. She continues to care for us and has not forgotten her instructions from the beginning of time. Now we bring our minds together in Thanksgiving for the Earth.

Now as one mind we turn our thoughts to the Waters of the Earth for they too have not forgotten their instructions from the Creator of Life. The Waters continue to flow beneath the ground, in little streams and in rivers, in lakes and in wetlands, and in the great seas. They quench our thirst and help keep us clean so we can fulfill our duty to Creation. We now bring our minds together in Thanksgiving to all the Waters of the Earth.

We now address all the Beings both seen and unseen that dwell in the Water for they too have not forgotten their original instructions from the Creator of Life to provide for us in many ways. With one mind we send our Thanksgiving and Greetings to all the Nations who dwell in the Waters.

Now we direct our thoughts to the many kinds of plants that live upon the Earth- for they too have not forgotten their original instructions. Many members of this Nation sustain those who walk upon this Earth, and many others who continue to fulfill their duties to take away the sickness of the human family and elevate human consciousness.

With one mind we send our thoughts and Thanksgiving to the Plant Nations. With one mind we now think of our relations in the many Insect Nations. Like the other members of the natural world, they too have not forgotten their original instructions to fulfill their obligation to Continued Creation.

With one mind we send our thoughts and Thanksgiving to all the members of the Insect Nations. We now gather our minds together and send Greetings and Thanksgiving to all the Animal Life in the world, for they continue to instruct and teach us even today. It is said that the Creator knew that Humans would take too much for granted if they were given all the wisdom, so instead the Creator gave a little piece of wisdom of how to live on the Earth to the different animals. We are happy that many still walk with us on our continuing journey. With one mind we send Thanksgiving to all the Animal Life in the world.

With one mind we now think of the Trees. According to their original instructions the Trees still give us shelter, warmth, food, and make the environment a suitable place to dwell. The trees remind us of the beauty and power in the natural world. With one mind we send our Thanksgiving to all the members of the Tree Nation.

We now bring our minds together and send our Greetings of Thanksgiving to the Birds. At the beginning of time the Birds were given a special duty to perform. The Creator gave the Birds instructions to each find a special place to live in the world and they should learn the song of that place. During the day, our minds are lifted by the songs of the Bird Nations. With one mind we send our Thanksgiving to the Birds of the world.

We are thankful to the Four Winds who continue to blow and cleanse the air according to their original instructions. As we listen to the Winds it is as if we are hearing the Creator's breath, clearing our minds as it blows through the trees. With one mind we send our Thanksgiving to the Four Winds.

We now turn our attention to the Thunderbeings. For they too have not forgotten their original instructions and welcome the Spring with their loud voice. Along with the lightning, they carry the waters of the spring on their backs. It is also said that the Thunderbeings were given the job to hold down the beings beneath the Earth which would prevent life from continuing. With one mind we send our Thanksgiving and Greetings to the Thunderbeings.

Our minds are as one as we send our thoughts to our oldest brother the Sun. Each day the Sun continues his instructions from the Creator of Life, bringing the light of day, the energy source of all life on Earth. With one mind we send our Thanksgiving to our oldest brother the Sun.

We now gather our minds together and give thanks to our oldest Grandmother the Moon. She holds hands with all the women of the world and binds all of the female cycles and rhythms of the Waters so we may continue to carry out our obligation to Creation. With one mind we send our Thanksgiving and Greetings to Grandmother Moon.

With one mind we send our thoughts to the Star Nation who continue to light our way during times of darkness to guide us home, and hold the secrets of many forgotten stories. Even though many of the stories are no longer in our minds, it is said it is enough to be thankful to the Stars and perhaps one day we would learn these stories again. With one mind we send our Thanksgiving and Greetings to the Star Nation.

With our minds as one we think of the Four Spirit Beings who live in the Four Directions. At the beginning of time when the Creator first made the Human Family, it was seen that they very quickly got themselves into trouble. The Creator knew that they needed extra help and so created the Four Spirit Beings to remove the obstacles from our paths and guide us with our feelings. And now we gather our minds together as one and send our special Thanksgiving to the Four Spirit Beings.

Now we have arrived in a very special place where dwells the Great Spirit, the Creator of the Universe. As one mind we turn our thoughts to the Creator, for without the Creator we would not be able to walk on the Earth fulfilling our original instructions. Everything we need is provided for us and all we have to remember is to give thanks. With one mind we send our Thanksgiving and Greetings to the Creator.

We have now become like one being. We send our Prayers and special Thanksgiving Greetings to all the unborn children of the future generations. We send our thoughts to the Elders and the Children for they give us guidance and purpose to live in a good way. We are thankful to all the Enlightened Teachers who have come to help us throughout the ages. We send our thoughts to the many different beings we may have missed during our Thanksgiving.

With one mind we send Thanksgiving and Greetings to all of the Nations of the World.
Our Home in the Snowy Landscape! Frosty.....

Looking out the kitchen window at the girl as she harvests more snow for snow cones:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sledding on a Saturday

The Girl got to go Sledding with her cousin. Thanks to the Pappa who hauled them both around on their sleds, and managed to capture a bit of video as well....
Here's a look:

And they had a nice picnic lunch as well:

Snow, and REAL Snow Cones!

So with all the nice fluffy snow, we decided to try out making real snow cones. It was great success, using one of the best things about Sweden- the yummy blueberry juice concentrate that is so readily available here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Our First Stick-on-the-Ground kinda Snow

It snowed! The SwedeGirl got to enjoy a day sledding at her Dagis/ Preschool.

The school and playground looked so lovely covered in snow.

(Note it is about 4 pm, but the sun is setting...)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This was the morning we rose and saw the first real snow flakes fall!

I have seen snow just a few times in my life, this was the Swedegirl's first snow ever.

It did not stay around long (though luckily more came in the days to follow! )

Sunday, November 9, 2008


The Girl is going to a Waldorf School, and part of what makes Waldorf school special is that they observe seasonal changes with a variety of festivals. Now that we actually live somewhere with real seasons, we were glad to observe and mark the change. Our days are now notably colder and shorter. We went to the school on a Friday evening for a Martinmas lantern walk.

Martinmas is November 11th. It is observed in France, Germany, and Estonia. It is as a day to recognize the triumph of darkness over light in the human spirit. It is associated with the story of St. Martin, who is said to have encountered a homeless beggar who had no clothing to shield him from the weather one very cold November night. Martin gave him his own cloak, and later had a dream or vision that he had given his cloak to Jesus. It is a story to remind us to recognize the divine light in each person, everywhere, all the time.

Martinmas is celebrated by children who make lanterns and walk through the village singing traditional lantern songs. In Estonia, this is a door-to-door activity much like trick or treating. I suspect, due to the nature of the celebration, that calling it St. Martin's day's is another instance of the church trying to reassign a christian meaning to a pagan holiday observed in areas they were trying to Christianize, as a way of allowing the locals to keep their traditions but to do so in the church's name. Lanterns, or their modern counterparts in flash lights and reflective clothing, become a necessary part of life at this season. The observance of festival that involves illuminating the night with lanterns seems like an ancient and seasonal concept. Martinmas is considered the end of the time that begins when Halloween/ Samhain/Day of the Dead/ commences, which is when 'the veils between the world are thinnest'. So it is like a closing of the psychic doors with little lights. Samhain was a lunar holiday, and I suspect Martinmas was probably traditionally the first full moon after Samhain.

At our observance at school, we listened by candle light to a story (in Swedish) about a little girl who takes a journey to the sun to reignite her lantern which has burned out. Along the way she is sheltered and helped by many animal friends who encourage her that she will find her way to the light. She wakes after a long sleep to find the sun has come and lit her lantern, and she in turn is able to share the light with her animal friends on her return journey, when she finds their own fires have ceased burning. We went outside and the lantern walk began, the children sang lantern songs, and we all gathered in a circle. We finished with some socializing with warm glögg and pepparkakor.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fall Colors I have never seen fall leaves change colors before. I grew up in the tropics, so this autumn was the first I was able to see time actually pass, and the wheel of the year turn to fall. Our camera was out of commision for a while after we arrived and there were many lovely summer sights I planned to photograh. And then it changed. Before I was able to capture summer, it was suddenly fall. And things looked totally different. I am used to things looking more or less the same all year, and the seasons meaning things like hurricane season, orange season, mosquito season, and such....Fall even got away from it me. The leaf season was only about three weeks long,. Somehow, I think I expected it would be as long as summer! still, I got a few shots of our home when the leaves were still turning...(never mind the photo dates, the camera got reset and it took us awhile to notice)
Happy Birthday Farmor! Three years ago, we flew to Sweden for a ten day trip to celebrate Farmor's birthday. This year, we were happy to be able to host the dinner ourselves in our new house. So after a fun but exhausting birthday trip to IKEA, we dined on lots of lovely hor d'eurves, salmon with dill sauce, green beans, and roast potatoes right in our own home. We had the whole group of young grandchildren/ cousins, and both of her children to celebrate the day, and not one of them had to trek from around the globe for the occasion.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama Wins Presidency

I am not the "we" Alice Walker speaks of here, a black southerner, but I love her advice to a leader with heart about the importance of keeping it intact.
An Open Letter to Barack Obama
By Alice Walker
Alice Walker on expectations, responsibilities and a new reality that is almost more than the heart can bear.

Nov. 5, 2008

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

© 2008, Alice Walker