Friday, December 26, 2008

White Christmas, Blue Christmas,
How do you have a
Wish-Come-True- Christmas?

This Christmas, we were not bombarded with Christmas music everywhere we went, so we played our own. We usually rely on the computer and Pandora radio for holiday music, but we can not get it in Sweden. So we had just one Christmas CD on hand- a mix we have called 'Christmas in Las Vegas' that has songs by Frank Sinatra and the old crooners, which we listened to over and over again.

After listening to the lyrics so many times the Swedegirl was getting to know them well. She does a very fine 'Santa Baby', asking for a 'sable to be slipped under the tree/ for me/ been an awful good girl....Santa Baby') So while listening to "I'll have a Blue Christmas without You" she asked very carefully what exactly is this 'Blue Christmas' and noticed the song was making her feel sad. So we talked about missing people, and not being with loved ones at holidays, and she said she might have a Blue Christmas because she really misses her Nanny and Pa who are in Florida.

She also took in the idea from the old songs about a 'White Christmas', and decided that's what she'd really like. Snow on Christmas. I was wishing hard with her. After the Thanksgiving Turkey, we had a wishbone. When I put it up on the shelf to dry I explained to her how when we break it, whoever gets the big piece can have a wish come true. She told me she was going to wish for a White Christmas, and for whatever I had wished to come true, as well. Pretty darn clever, including getting the other person's wish granted as part of the wish!!! But we both wanted a White Christmas, so we thought it would be easy, since we only had one wish between us. She asked a few times for the wishbone, and the day I went to reach for it it was gone- it had been on a window sill that opens to the outside, and I recently did a big cleaning...Had it fallen out the window? Gotten mixed up in the trash? Composted? I put her off until I could find it.

As Christmas approached, we got weather forecasts that it was going to be 5+ Celsius or so on Christmas, too warm for snow. I began to prepare her that we were not going to have a White Christmas after all. On hearing this news, she blinked, and said in a voice that lets you know the answer will be burned in her heart forever- "Even if we wish on the Chicken Bone?"

I began to explain wishes versus the weather, and how sometimes our wishes don't come true. And I stopped, hoping I stopped in time before too much harm was done. I felt like I was telling her fairies were not real, and felt the crash of little tinker bells falling dead all over the planet.

I started to recall a story from a grandma I met once named Edwene Gaines, who was speaking at new thought Churches around the country on prosperity thinking. She came to Unity in our town, and told some great stories of her grandsons, and how she holds the space for them that their thoughts do create their reality, that we live in a world of infinite possibility, and they can do anything they can dream of.

She told a touching story of how when they were old enough to travel without their mother, she brought both of her grandsons to England, and took them on a tour of the areas mentioned in King Arthur's tales. She took them to a secret waterfall in the woods and held a ceremony to knight them both. She said no matter what happened in this world, they could do anything, absolutely anything. And that she was always there to believe in them. She went on to say how this was challenging to uphold at times, and told a story of a time the belief became really hard for her to stick to for one of the boys.

When one of the boys was about 10, and the Gore/Bush election was closing in on a finish, he decided he wanted to talk to Al Gore and find out if he was the best man for the job. Grandma choked a bit, and was about to talk some sense into him, after all it was nearing election day, and Al Gore was an awfully busy man right then. But she held her tongue, and decided to encourage him. But she had her doubts, but to her grandson, all she offered was hope and encouragement, and her blessings that that sounded like a great idea.

Well, just two days later, the boys mom went for coffee with a study partner from one of her classes from her Atlanta College where she was doing her Master's Degree. They had been meeting all semester, and on this one occasion, the study buddy confided "I feel so behind, I am coordinator for the local Democratic committee, and in in just one week we are hosting Al Gore, and I have no volunteers lined up to help!!" The mother of the boy volunteered to help out, and yet, she was still unaware of the wish her son had expressed to his grandma. The woman volunteered and was given the job to help receive Al Gore and help get things in order for his stay. Well, when grandma heard she was beside herself, and let the mother know of her son's expressed wish. The little ten year old boy helped his mom on the campaign, and in the end he spent 30 minutes touring Al Gore's private jet and interviewing him.

The amazing thing, the grandma noted, was at the time of the seemingly impossible wish, all the pieces were already in place, but no one knew. Something magic happened when he made his wish, and without effort, without knowledge, those pieces and possibilities fell into place for him. She still works to hold the space of the possible for each one of her grandson's impossible dreams.
This is what I was thinking when my girl asked if there would be no White Christmas "Even if I wish on a Chicken bone?" Well I never found the turkey bone. My husband brought it up that she had asked for it and become distressed over it Christmas Eve day, and he had dismissed it saying we will get another one out of the turkey tomorrow. I explained its importance to him, that it was her last sure fire chance to make a wish for a White Christmas before the big day. I felt awful sad we had not made our wish sooner. But we had wished together, none the less. That had to be worth something, 'chicken bone' or not.

Well, the day after Christmas, we woke to this wonderful icy frost. It may not have been snow, but it was the best the world could give, and it did seem like an awfully White Christmas to us. (Thanks to my husband who took these great pictures, as he knew I was not likely to get out of PJs all day long that day...)

So it was a bit of a White Christmas, a Blue Christmas, and a wish-come-True-Christmas after all...I hope this Christmas you have someone who believes in you and your dreams, and that they all come true one way or another. The possibilities are infinite, and the pieces may already be in place. All you have to do is make a wish, chicken bone or not.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!

We did our normal American Christmas where Santa comes in the middle of the night, even though he had made his visit to the Swedish Children around 3 pm the previous day. He left a nice bit of Christmas Cheer, and so did our far away family, who sent lots of lovely gifts that all made it on time! Thanks everyone! We may not have been there to enjoy the SwedeGirl's usual Christmas fan club, but you sure were with us in spirit.

Santa left a few presents under the small tree in Swede girl's room

The tree with all the goods Santa left

Santa ate the cookies and the reindeer ate the carrots we left them...

Santa Came! The Stocking.... She may be the only kid on earth who loves a stocking full of tea and bandaids. And of course all the stuff her Nan (I mean Santa) sent, her, as well!!!

The gift she wanted most, and got: The Roller Skates she told Nannie she wanted ages ago!

Thanks Uncle E!!! The Best Surprise, The Most Original Gift Prize goes to Uncle D and Aunt J, who made the great collage of my family of origin, in "A Yellow Submarine!"Awesome. Thanks Aunt J!!!!
And the most thoughtful and Christmas Spirited gift from Farfar and A, the Heiffer International Gift and World Wild Life calendar. She actually knows about Heiffer, thanks to the cool book we have called "Faith The Cow" about how it started. We were trying to talk about the meaning of Christmas, which is slightly harder to do in Sweden, where every one's needs are met. There are no concert fund raisers to pay for medicine for kids with leukemia, or soup kitchens (since everyone gets food), no homeless people (housing is a human right), and no toy drives for the poor kids because no one is that bad off. So we had been talking about poverty and Heiffer to try to talk about how lucky we are....A Big Thanks for making it a part of the Holiday!! The post-gift wrapping paper melee

However, with out the family cooking made by my parents, we are getting to be good at making things we never did- roasting turkeys, making gravy, pie crusts, mashed potatoes....we are starting to feel like real gorwn up now we are hosting and cooking for holidays.

The Family Christmas Dinner- Roasted Turkey with sausage and cornbread stuffing, broccoli cheese casserole, sweet potato casserole, masked potatoes, gravy, and pecan chocolate chip pie. And The Swedes!
BIL saying Cheese for the camera.... Gifts were appreciated by all...

The Swede Lil' Cousin and his Pappa

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

God Jul !
I liked the Pickled Herring

So Christmas Eve, the Swedish Christmas big day, was celebrated with dinner at SIL's house with a Swedish 'Jul bord'. Daytime was calm, less festive, but eventful none the less.

I missed Kalle Anka- the big Disney/ Donald Duck show everyone in Sweden watches thanks to my car over heating when I made a quick trip to the store to find something that would suffice for southern style sausage for a cornbread- sausage stuffing recipe for our Christmas Day American style holiday meal . I could not complain too much as at least I got the store and bought the extra food BEFORE the car overheated, and since I ran out the door with out socks, a coat, or a cell phone (or the ability to recall accurately my husbands cell or my own home phone number) at the exact time there are no cars on the road in Sweden, as everyone is glued to the TV watching Kalle Anka, I was lucky to be able use the grocery store facilities to make my call for help. So it was a Christmas Miracle, if nothing else, that it was an easy to handle break down.

So the Jul Bord- smorgas means sandwich in Swedish, so this was it- the Jul Bord is the original smorgasbord, fellow English speakers. There is a tradition of eating seven courses at the Jul Bord, that progress from cold fish to dessert. I think I made three trips- cold fish and warm food, a tad more cold fish and tad more warm food, followed by a heap of Jansen' fresetelse/ gratin potatoes to cure the lingering salty taste lingering after all the salty food! Then there were chocolates, and the relatives said for some reason they always, always have a box of Maribou chocolate's with a little map of what is what- the type of Chocolates we give for Valentine's Day. Later we had ris a al malta, or rice pudding in whipped cream with jam for dessert. We also drank JulMust....

As mentioned above, I tried the pickled herring, and I liked it! It was vinegary, sweet, and protein-y, not too fishy and just fine. I was only offered it thus far once, when we first arrived and I was still in the first trimester. I thought it wisest to avoid, considering the ability of food to nauseate in the first trimester, and the life long aversion that can follow. I waited till now to give it an honest shot, and it was good. Not anything I'll run out and stock up on, but I'll not starve if it is served to me again.
Here are some photos of our Jul Bord spread:
The infamous Swedish Meatballs/ köttbullar, nestled next to the PinceKorv sausages, Jannsen's Frestelse, and brown cabbage sauerkraut-ish stuff
The cold fish section, with cold salmon (like what we know as lax), which I love, esp with the special Swedish dill and mustard sauce. This is one of the best foods Sweden has to offer, in my opinion, and as a matter of fact I should remember to eat it more often...There was cold herring salad in loads of may sauce with caviar, eggs you eat with a dab of caviar, and sill- the pickled herring!

The ham, with sesame paste and little cloves stuck in it ala the SwedeAunt...
The Ris a la Malta eaten topped with Hjörtron jam, lingon, or fresh clementines. You should have seen the quAlign Centerantity of whipped cream that goes into this- it is half whipped cream and half rice pudding. No wonder the SwedeDaddy thinks whipped cream is a food group!

It was great to be with the SwedFamily this holiday after being in the States and missing out on what the Swedes were doing this time of year. You get to know something special about kids when you know what they want and got for Christmas, and to just hang out near by, in the spirit of things together.

The teenage cousins, almost 13 almost 16....

Hanging out....

The Tree at the SwedeSister's

Homemade Egg Nog Christmas eve is usually a quiet day for us, with perhaps some last minute shopping that is over early in the day, followed by Christmas music, egg nog, some appetizer type foods like a beef dip my mom makes, and hope its cold enough in Florida for a fire in the fireplace. Then, a late night wrapping frenzy....

Ok, that is what I remember for childhood, and last year, but if I think back to my midwife days it meant running around doing ALL the shopping, getting a tree up (we usually got free trees since we would go so late the lots were closed and we would just have to grab a tree!), and trying to take a breathe and hope no babies would be born for a few hours while I tried to recover my nerves from another year of baby catching. Did I mention I do not miss midwife work as I did it in the US? I am so much less manic right now.
So this year, things were calm by comparision to some. But if I was to have the egg nog as part of the day's tradition I would have to make it myself since, it is not sold in Sweden. Its orgin is debated, and thought to be from england, and the name nog to orginated from the type of cup used- called a noggin. I am not super attached to egg nog or think its the world's greatest drink or anything, but I seldom have a Christmas with out tasting egg nog and being far from home, wanted to do what I can to make the holidays feel familiar and traditional. So I took on the challenge of making egg nog from scratch. Who knew egg nog, which is obviously rich, but comes in packages with nutritional labels I refuse to read, actually has 12 egg yolks and 4 cups of whole cream in just 2 liters??? Wowsers. I had that much cream but could not bring myself to stir it into something I may end up drinking by myself, so I used low fat milk instead, to replace cream and rum in this recipe. Yes, the texture suffered. However, I only have to think of the bagillion egg yolk instead of the loads of fat, at least, when I drink it.

Here is the recipe I used from Again, who knew there even was such a site?? But it is there is you too ever need it- I am so grateful for the internet.

Christmas Eggnog
12 egg yolks
5 cloves, whole
4 cups milk
4 cups cream
3 cups light rum
1+¾ cups sugar
2+ ½ teaspoons vanilla essence
1 teaspoon cinnamon,
ground¾ teaspoon nutmeg, ground

In a saucepan over low heat, blend the milk, cinnamon, cloves and half a teaspoon of the vanilla essence.Keep stirring while mixture heats, and remove from heat just before boiling point.In a bowl, mix together the sugar with all those egg yolks.Make sure you whisk them well so that they're light and fluffy.Gently and a little at a time, pour in the milk mixture while continuing to whisk.Transfer mixture back into your saucepan over a medium heat while continuing to stir.Keep stirring until your eggnog mixture starts to resemble custard.Never let the mixture to reach boiling point!!Pour and strain the mixture into a jug, making sure to remove the cloves.Stand jug in the fridge for an hour or two.Gently stir in the cream, light rum, remaining vanilla and ground nutmeg.Put back into the fridge overnight.Serve in cups with a little extra ground nutmeg, cinnamon or baking cocoa sprinkled lightly on top.
Serves: 8.

I love my old school hand blender, it made the egg yolks all frothy
And I thought we would never use the double boiler I got for Christmas last year, Thanks mom! I was to cook until custard texture, well, having never made custard before I guessed it meant until it was creamy. After that I poured it in a pitcher, and sure enough it got all custardy...Have you ever seen how beautiful nutmeg is inside when you grind it fresh? I served some to the Swedes on Christmas and they were excited to try the exotic only heard of in movie drink egg nog. But after a few tastes, I poured most of it down the sink- they agreed it was too sweet, and tasted like vanilla sauce, and thought it seemed more like something to pour over a fruit dessert than to drink.

But I got Christmas Eve egg nog, and was happy!
Christmas eve photo before dinner:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Deck the Halls
Since I can not invite you over, dear far away friends and family, I thought I would show you how things look this season in the new house. We got decorations up the 13th, 14th, and 15th.

It's nearly Christmas Eve, which in Sweden is the day Christmas is observed. I can report more clearly on the sequence of events after we have participated, but it involves a Donald Duck show the whole nation watches at 3pm, Santa coming during the day while everyone watches this show, then eating lots of pickled fish. More to come on that. We plan to spend the day with the SwedeSister's family for a Swedish Christmas observation, then have our own American style celebration on Christmas Day.
One observation about Christmas here is that Sweden has noticeably less consumer madness than the States, when it comes to Christmas. The SwedeDaddy and I made it out last night to do some shopping, and even in the major city nearby, just days before Christmas, everything was closed down at 7pm. Imagine that, Swedes would rather work sane hours and spend time at home during the holidays than boost the GNP. Very Swedish.
Also, since Christmas eve is the day Christmas is observed, there is one less day to shop and receive mail. I was thinking this was what was tripping up the order I made from in the UK, until I tracked my order and read the fine print that says allow 3-5 days for shipping, or up to 28 if you are outside the UK. So, we had to go out and replace a few gifts ordered two weeks ago I thought we would be getting.....some of those Christmas gifts for the girl may be February Birthday gifts instead....Plus, we are scrambling trying to make sure we have all our Christmas Day needs met now - do we have tape? enough wrapping paper? eggs? butter? as there is no all night Wal Mart to turn to, or 24 hour Walgreens if we find something lacking for our holiday celebrations.

I kinda like the old school 70's gnomes...
And lest you confuse me with someone who blogs about their craftiness, I picked up this needle point where old craft go to die, the local thrift shop. The abundance of 70's gnomes and Christmas fabrics are exciting, the possibilities there are vast enough to make me wish I was a craftier momma. I am sure I could make a cool retro something out of all those old gnome-y fabrics. And old school gnome- fabrics are all over the thrift stores, since Swedes like to put up special Christmas curtains, seasonal and often tacky curtains just for the holidays.

On Selecting a Christmas Tree
Our motto when our daughter was young was "Listen to the Baby". We found that when you routinely meet a child's needs, they stay adept at concisely expressing them, and we found her requests overall very reasonable- calls for comfort, nourishment, etc. As she grew older, she maintained the ability to express pretty clearly what needed to happen, or what was the truth of what was going on. She was a trust worthy communicator from the start.

We were reminded of our old mantra when it came time to get our Christmas tree this year. It was a snowy weekend and we had fantasies of taking her out in a sled and selecting a tree from a nearby tree farm, cutting it down ourselves, and joyfully hauling it back home... and then decorating it, and perhaps making a few cookies by the wood burning stove.

It was beautiful, snowy, and felt very Christmas-y the weekend we were decorating. A grassroof "smurf" house we passed on our ride

We thought this all would take a few hours. 'Time Optimism" is a concept in my husband's family, a disorder he and his father are both often accused of. Well, we had a date the night before the designated tree cutting day, and our little one had a successful sleepover at her cousin's. So reality was we did not wake up or pick her up in time to execute the big tree plan. We were not in the car and actually leaving for the tree farm town until about noon. Not to mention we were pretty sure we had not moved the Christmas tree foot, so we had to locate one of those as well, in order to complete the tree decoration plan that day. I think maybe I thought our new tree would somehow be 'metric' or something, and not get along with our old AMERICAN stand. (Dumb move, my advice to all who move, and must make those keep or toss decisions that come with it- bring the Christmas tree stand. It is an annoying thing to spend money on. )

But still, in our time optimism, we were driving towards the forest and describing going in and cutting down our own tree to our daughter, which sounded like lots of fun to us, and it became remarkable that no matter how much enthusiasm we couched this plan in, she always responded "No, lets BUY a tree this year, and go cut one down NEXT year!" For a three year old, I was simply impressed with the fact that she was able to make plans for the coming Christmas, already internalizing the flow of annual holidays. But after several discussions to this effect, and her persistent request to BUY a TREE from a STORE, both the SwedeDaddy and I began to listen to her, and were finding it spooky she was so insistent. We were both reminded of the old mantra- 'listen to the baby'. It began to seem she was channeling some good advice...So we cut the trip short and headed to a tree lot we saw in town.

We bought our tree at a lot down near the local grocery store. Our purchase supported our local rotary club, or Lion's club, or whatever. Swedish trees are generally smaller, and there were a lot of "Charlie Brown' style tree's- short and sparse. But still, we found one just right for us:
Our daughter also had been saying all along "don't forget the free one for me! The little one that is just for me!" Again with amazing recall, she was remembering that the guy who sold us our tree last year. He had taken the branches he trimmed from our big tree and put them in a little wood foot, and gave her her own 'tree'. We asked the sales guy this year if he could do something like this for us, and he kindly gave us this little tree bit he had trimmed up, which the SwedeGirl set up in her room with some colored lights she had picked out to decorate her room with.

It was the day we had celebrated Lucia, so she was still wearing her outfit. She loves her tree!

Next year we plan to play the 'go find a tree in the forest' game, and do the adventure version of tree shopping. As it was, it took us another 4 hours of shopping and driving to locate a tree stand for under $45 (it was $20 in the end) so it was just as well we did not try to haul a crabby kid through the woods with an axe. It turned out getting all we needed to decorate was hard enough with out involving actual saws or sap. This year, we listened to the baby.