Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year


Christmas decorations in a roundabout I passed on my way back from town yesterday afternoon - photo taken with my phone. (The building in the background is a school.) As you can see, we still have some snow and ice on the ground... The temperature has stayed close to zero (freezing point) since the snowfall on Sunday. Thawing a little in the daytime, but colder at night.

As some of you know, I had the misfortune of breaking a tooth on Christmas Eve. No pain involved, though, so I survived the weekend without "serious" problems. Phoned my dentist on Monday morning, got an appointment for Tuesday afternoon, and he was able to fix it in one sitting; so that's behind me now. I hope it's not tempting fate (or the tooth fairy) to say that I'm hoping not to have to see the dentist again at least until next year!

New Year's Eve tomorrow I'll be spending as usual with a handful of friends in my own home - a tradition we've been keeping up for 16 years in a row now. (Three of us were neighbours living in the same building back when it began.)


I wish us all a Happy New Year 2016!

Linking to Mersad's Through My Lens

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Open Live Writer & Snow

Have been unable for a while to publish to my blog from Windows Live Writer, and haven’t had time to investigate why, so lately I’ve just been using Blogger. Today I took a little bit of time to look into the mystery though, and found that there is a new software available: Open Live Writer. This is a test post to see if that solves anything…

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And here is the first snow of the year, arriving too late for Christmas but just in time to cause trouble for everyone who was/is driving home from their Christmas adventures today. Myself I’ve had no reason to go out today though, and this photo was taken through my window (this morning).

Friday, December 25, 2015

December 25 - The Tooth Fairy & Co


These are some of the new additions to my collection of "odd" Christmas ornaments, found in the parcels waiting under my tree yesterday. (It's mostly a passive kind of collection, mind... They just keep coming, and the population keeps growing...) 

The little grumpy-looking grey creature really came bearing another name (the original sign says "data virus"); but was renamed by me towards the end of the evening (Christmas Eve) - when I happened to break a tooth! Only three weeks after my annual check-up at the dentist's... And it was neither fudge nor toffee nor chocolate that did it... But a piece of dentist-prescribed fluoride chewing gum! Believable story, eh? (Sigh.)

It was one of the four corners of a molar that went. The filling in the middle is still in place, though, and I'm not in pain. The answering machine at my dentist's informs me they'll be back on Monday morning, so I think I'll manage to survive until then - even if it involves some slight changes in the Christmas menu.

Ah well, as I'm spending a quiet Christmas in my own company this year, it's not as if I had all that much of a special menu planned in advance anyway... Plenty of food though; no worries about that. So today I chopped some ham very fine and put it in a quiche (very tasty and hardly requires any chewing at all).

Outside, a Christmas storm with rain has been raging most of the day today. Protected by some more friendly Christmas fairy (perhaps), I managed a short walk in the late morning, in between showers. Five minutes after I got back in, the rain was hitting my windows hard again. Anyway I have been quite happy to stay in the rest of the day.

Yesterday morning at 11 am (before the tooth incident), I also managed a visit to a Nativity church service.





Thursday, December 24, 2015

December 24 - Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

I'm pre-scheduling this post for Christmas Eve; so even I do not know when I write this what may be inside those parcels! I will be opening them on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, as that is the tradition here in Sweden. Santa has to start somewhere, you know, and we're rather close to the North Pole after all... Here he also sometimes comes knocking on the door in person, handing out parcels (well, obviously he's not intending to come here, as mine have already been delivered by post!) ... So I guess that's why when he gets to America, he only has time to drop parcels down the chimneys in the middle of the night ...

 
 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December 23 - Santa Parade


Come on... Wakey-wakey! Christmas Eve tomorrow! High time for you guys to get out of hibernation...

 They do look a little sleepy still...

 Ho-ho-ho. Everyone there?

 1, 2, 3 ... 10. Yes, that's how many Santas were sleeping in that little house! Originally they were 12, but six went to live with a friend of mine. But then some of them came wandering back. Two of them are still with her, though (I think). The migration of the gnomes took place back when we were neighbours, often watering each other's plants at Christmas time... 

(If you like, you can read more about The Return of the Gnomes in a post on my first blog from 2009.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

December 22 - Kitchen Gnomes




Here are some more little Christmas gnomes (tomtar). As you can see, there are several different sub-species! These all live in my kitchen.

Now, how many more do you think there may be inside this little house? (You'll have to wait until tomorrow for the answer. I haven't let them out yet...)

 

Monday, December 21, 2015

December 21 - The Christmas Tree


My Christmas tree is 60 cm high, and is celebrating its 30th Christmas with me this year. Originally it came with the lights and twelve litte balls (six red, three silver, three gold - which are still all intact). I've added more decorations over the year as I've found things in the right size. I pack them all away carefully every year in January and always redecorate the tree anew in December. It's usually the last of my decorations to be put up - a few days (up to a week) before Christmas. 



The first ten years of my adult life I did not have a Christmas tree of my own at all. I always went home to my parents for Christmas anyway (and we did not live in the same town/area back then). Sometimes during Advent time I had a few branches of pine in a vase. 

My parents always had a full-sized Christmas tree. Back in my childhood it was not brought into the house until the day before Christmas Eve. There were very few changes in decorations over the years. Theirs were chiefly (besides the lights) plain glass baubles in different colours (later a set of plastic ones were added, because every now and then one of the fragile glass ones would get broken), and tinsel - and Swedish flags.

I also remember that the trees in my grandparents' houses were differently decorated. In my paternal grandparents' tree they had even more flags (not just Swedish ones but for all of the Nordic countries); and crackers made of thin tissue paper (which were never actually cracked open), and little gnomes (tomtar) made of red yarn (not knitted, just tied together).

And from my other grandfather's tree, I remember a different kind of tinsel, and the electic lights being covered with some fluffy stuff called angels' hair. 


This is a photo from my very first Christmas (1955); with me (4 months old) sitting on my paternal grandmother's lap - in front of her tree with all the flags.


And this is my grandmother and my dad, in 1931! (And then, in the tree, real candles - but unlit.)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 20 - What's This?

Today I'm picking another thing from a kitchen drawer, to ask if you know what it is? Some of you may have been familiar with it a lot longer than I have... I had never seen or heard of one until I happened to find it sold at my supermarket a couple of summers ago. In spite of feeling a bit sceptical, I decided to give it a go.




  It was sold as a melon slicer:



I've never yet quite managed what they do in that video (for one thing, it's very rarely that I want to cut a whole melon all at once).  But I've found the tool just as useful (or even more so) as a mango cutter.


(...mixing it with yoghurt for breakfast...)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

December 19 - The Christmas Gnomes

Last weekend, Frances Garrood posted a photo of a knitted crib. In a comment to her post I mentioned that my mum used to knit little dolls for Christmas fairs in the village where my parents lived in their retirement years. But mum's were not crib figures, but little (Christmas) gnomes (Swedish: sing. tomte/pl. tomtar). 

The 'tomte' of Scandinavian folklore is a small creature reminding of British brownies or hobs. Later on (late 1800s/early 1900s), the old stories about 'tomtar' got blended with St Nicholaous and Father Christmas traditions from Europe, England and America, to become Jultomten. We still sort of live with both kinds, though - both in Christmas decorations and songs and stories. Hard to tell these days really, whether there is just one tomte (with helpers) or many of the same kind; whether they live under the floor, or in cabins deep in the woods, or at the North Pole; and whether they prefer horses or flying reindeer. (I suppose that's part of their magic - to keep us guessing...)

All I know for sure is that this particular little family used to live in a wardrobe in my parents' house (most of the year), and spent their Christmas vacations on my mum's bedside table. Nowadays they live in my storage room in the basement; and spend Christmas on a shelf in my living room. (They're about the size of my hand.)



Friday, December 18, 2015

Decemer 18 - Battery Candles

These are especially for Sandra the Madsnapper, who posted about her own battery candles recently. Mine are a bit different, as they have no bulb sticking up, pretending to be the flame. Especially seen from the side, they look very real. And when touching them, the outside feels just like real candles too.



I'm not quite sure I would trust the Madsnapper with my fake candles though...


... because when these are not lit, they look so much like real ones that someone might actually try to light them by putting a match to them...

I'm not kidding! A few years ago I put one of this kind in a lantern on my parents' grave for Halloween. It seemed like a good idea, because they also have a built-in timer. From when first turned on, they will burn for five hours, and then will put themselves out for the next 19 hours, and turn themselves on again automatically at the same time the next day. So will burn every night for a few weeks without change of batteries.

However, I did not get to visit the village churchyard again until months later; and then when I took the candle out of the lantern, I deduced from the sooty marks on it, that at some point in between, someone (probably some old friend of my parents from the village) must have tried to light it with real fire - not realising that it was a fake one! Ooops...

So since then, I have not tried using these kinds of candles on graves again!

I often use these two on the table in my living room by the sofa, though - because it's safe to leave them burning while I go to and fro; and no fear of anything catching fire if I sit nearby and read a newspaper either. I do light real candles too, sometimes - but only when I feel it's safe... :)
  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

December 17 - The Outsider

I asked yesterday if you could spot the figure in my Christmas crib that really does not belong there. What I had in mind was this little red horse - correctly identified by Meike as a Dala Horse (or Dalecarlian Horse); a traditional carved and painted wooden horse from the Swedish province of Dalarna. I have a bigger one as well, once upon a time blogged about here. I think I have had this little one since childhood too, even if I can't recall exactly when I got it or who from.

The Dala horses are not Christmas ornaments - actually usually more associated with summer. This little one just happened to already be on the shelf where I was going to set up the crib... And on a whim I decided to let him stay for Christmas this year. 

Janet spotted something else as well, though - and quite correctly, even if it was not what I had in mind when I asked the question. The star on top of the stable is really a starfish. To be more precise, it is a little brooch... And as it happens, I have seashell one too. They're not real gold, just cheap trinkets.

 
 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December 16 - The Crib


The crib was also put up on its usual shelf yesterday. It's a motley crew... The original crib pieces bought together, once upon a time, are the stable, Mary & Joseph, the manger with a rather oversized baby Jesus, and the three wise men. This year there is one thing in the picture which is even more 'motley' than the others. Can you spot it, and do you know what it is? (I'll post a close-up of it tomorrow.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December 15 - The Angelic Choir


Laundry, vaccuming, and unpacking the angelic choir.
There's another December day gone by! 

The calendar angel seems happy to have company at last. (Obviously she can't wait for Christmas - having already set the date forward one day, thinking I would not notice...)


Monday, December 14, 2015

December 14 - Frosty Morning



Sunrise from my kitchen window this morning.
 
 And from the living room.
 







Went for a walk around the old cemetery nearby.
 

No, they are not ski poles... They are walking poles!
I have not been on skis since I was 12 - and even then I was no good at it...

Linking to Mersad's Through My Lens

Saturday, December 12, 2015

December 12/13 - Lucia

I have blogged about our celebrations of 13th December as Lucia/St Lucy’s Day several times before – for example last year. This year’s official crowning of a Lucia in my town took place as usual last Saturday; but it was such a dark, wet and stormy day that I was not even sure they’d go through with the event… So I did not go. (To be honest – even if I had known for certain that the ceremony would take place as usual, I would not have gone out in that weather for it!)
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Nowadays, the celebration of Lucia also every year causes heated debates in schools and the media etc. An article from The Local Sweden may give you a rough idea: Six things not to say on Sweden’s Lucia Day.

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Clipart from forskoleburken.com

For some reason, we (and by “we” I mean all mankind, not just Swedes) seem very prone to assume that traditions have always been what they are – or should always remain as we remember them from our own childhood, or whatever other time in our lives that we consider to have been the best of times…

For me, my most fun Lucia night was probably around 40 years ago, when I was member of a youth gospel choir, and some of us planned a kind of coup. The initiated ones (8 people) gathered very early in the morning, dressed in various Lucia kinds of outfits. And then we went all over town to wake up and surprise one after the other of the other choir members in their homes, and ask them to come along. (I don’t remember details but we must have had a few cars to begin with. And I think we were supposed to sing in the church later or the next day, so that even those not initiated in the prank probably had their outfits ready.) The final visit was to our youth pastor with family. By then there were 25 of us; more or less the whole choir. I know this because of photos with notes in an album. 

Doesn’t feel right to share those photos here, so instead I show you one from one of my grandmother’s albums, which provides evidence that Lucia traditions have not always been about an Italian saint wearing a crown of candles handing out saffron buns – and points, perhaps, to even older magic being connected to this night (once upon a time considered the longest night of the year).  


It is a rare photo, and I’ve never seen another like it. But a note beneath it in the album connects it to “lusse”=Lucia night. The note also gives the name of a village; but it’s not the village where my grandparents lived, and I don’t know who they may have known who lived there, or who the people behind the masks are. There is no date, and the photos have not been put into the album in chronological order either. Possibly the couple sitting in front could be my grandparents, though. In which case I think it would most likely be from around 1929 (which is the year when they got engaged).





PS. This post will have to cover both today and tomorrow. I feel I need a bit of a break! 

PPS. And Windows Live Writer is refusing to post to Blogger again. Driving me mad. I was hoping yesterday that it would just prove temporary but the same thing happened today. I haven't had time to investigate why. It's been quicker to just do the last two posts over again in Blogger...

Friday, December 11, 2015

December 11 - Twins




It’s late Friday evening and I suddenly remember that I haven’t put in an advent calendar post yet. Who was it that came up with this silly challenge, in the midst of everything else going on in December? Oh, right… It was me, wasn’t it…

Have you solved the riddles yet, from yesterday?
I shall of course give you the answers but I’ll wait another day. 


As I mentioned in passing, besides the book of riddles, there were two other books without spines in that old cover. One came from my mother’s side of the family, and I get the impression this was originally published serially in a magazine, in 1945 – but all the parts collected, so that the book is complete (just not bound). It’s a story about a pair of Scotch twins, translated from English. 

I used to read this, and a few other books that had belonged to my mum and her sister, when visiting my maternal grandfather back in my pre-teens and early teens. (When his house was sold after he died, I kept a few favourites, including this.)

Last night before I went to bed, it occurred to me to check with Amazon, if the English original of The Scotch Twins might nowadays be available among the Kindle classics. It was; and for was free. So I downloaded it and have started rereading it in the original language.



Moreover, when looking it up on the internet, I learned that this was far from the only book written by its author, Lucy Fitch Perkins. She lived 1865-1937 and was an American illustrator and writer of children’s books who got quite famous in her day for a whole series of books about twins. But not the same twins. Her stories are set in various countries all over the world, in quite different circumstances and time periods. But they’re nearly all about twins. Besides the Scotch Twins, she wrote about Dutch Twins, Belgian Twins, Japanese Twins, Eskimo Twins, Swiss Twins, French Twins, Mexican Twins, Italian Twins, Irish Twins, Cave Twins, Spartan Twins, Puritan Twins, and American Twins of the Revolution… And possibly even more twins that I haven’t come across yet. Quite a few of them are available free for Kindle. Just out of curiosity, when I’ve finished rereading this one about the Scotch twins, I think I shall have to try at least one of the others for comparison… if only because the very idea seems so unique!

(I’m thinking that of my blogging friends, Meike might be the most likely to give one a go as well…?)

The Wiki article says that for each book, Perkins would try to interview an individual who grew up in the given country to gain an understanding of the particular customs there.

Another article I found online also says that Lucy Perkins was active in a number of community arts, social reform and women's rights movements, including the Chicago Woman’s Club and the League of Women Voters.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

December 10 – Old Riddles

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Today I was catching up on Meike’s blog From My Mental Library, and among her recent posts was one on Puzzles and Riddles, which stirred up memories, and made me comment:

I had a book of riddles in my childhood that had belonged to my dad. I'm not sure what happened to it... I know it was torn and tattered and barely kept together even then.

Having written that, I was struck by a thought, rose from the computer and went to have a look among some old books from my childhood (kind of hidden as they reside in a bookshelf covered by a curtain). I found what I was looking for in this old textile book cover, into which were tucked no less than three old books with the spine missing. One of them was the one with the riddles. (G├ątor in Swedish.)

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The printing year is 1926, and my dad was not born until 1931.
So the book may originally have belonged to my grandfather or my grandmother, even before they got married (which was in 1930). 

Just glancing through the book now, I find many of the riddles untranslatable (being of the wordplay kind), and others more or less unintelligible to modern readers because of how our ways of life and thinking have changed over the last 90 years.

But I’ll follow Meike’s example and give you some to ponder.
(The numbers in brackets are for my own reference within the book.)

1.  As long as you don’t know it, it is something, but as soon as you know it, it is no longer what it used to be. (574)

2. As soon as you pronounce me, you have also broken me. (598)

3.  What reaches from the earth far beyond the sun and the moon? (456)

4.  How can you avoid getting bitten by fleas in bed? (103)

5.  How do you prove that 20 minus 22 equals 88? (624)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

December 9 – Time To Watch Out

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The wrist strap on my watch was worn out and needed replacing, and today when I was in town I stepped into a shop to buy a new one. Strap, that is – not watch. I was somewhat taken aback when, after I had expressed my wish, the girl behind the counter said: “It would be cheaper to buy a new watch.”

It’s not that I’m surprised at the fact as such. I know that’s how it is nowadays. My watch is not a valuable one; it was not expensive even when I bought it (some years and one or two straps and battery changes ago). I don’t wear it as a piece of precious jewellery, but for practical reasons when I’m out and about. At home, I take it off, as I have clocks in every room. But when I go out, I put on the watch. For one thing, when I’m not walking, I travel by bus. And buses run by timetables. (I might have to wait for the bus, the bus does not wait for me!)

But I digress. Back to the watch shop. From private economy point of view, I don’t doubt that it would be cheaper to just buy a new watch every time the clasp on the strap breaks, or perhaps even each time the battery runs out. To me it would still feel like a waste to do so, though, as long as I’m otherwise happy with the watch. So I just bought a new expensive black leather strap.

 

 

 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

December 8 – In the Dark

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Feeling uninspired today. Also a bit frustrated because it seems that the flash on my camera has stopped working. Not that I use the flash much, even for indoors photography… But still! (Even less reason for it to go on strike, one might think.)

Ah well. I guess I may take it as an excuse to start thinking about getting a new camera, perhaps. Even if not immediately.

Anyway, there I was, feeling uninspired, and not knowing what to post about today. So turned back to the box of old drawings from my childhood. (See Dec 5.) Besides rabbits, it seems I was also into ghost stories. And beneath the picture above, there was a message written to my future self: Did you know that ghosts have “flashlight” eyes which they turn on when they are out scaring people, and want to see in the dark?

I have to confess I had completely forgotten.

Monday, December 7, 2015

December 7 – Christmas Village

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I think I have blogged about this before, but I take my chanches - if I don’t remember when or where, you probably don’t either!

Besides – isn’t repetition is the very essence of tradition anyway?

Wall hangings, both embroidered and paper ones, belong in old Swedish traditions – and not least for winter/Christmas. This is a textile one my mother made some time in my childhood, using a mix of patchwork and and embroidery. The size is 64 x 26 cm (25 x 10 inches). Mum  also used to sew a lot of our clothes, so used leftover pieces of fabric from that.

She was always sewing or knitting or doing embroidery. The house was full of it, and in her retirement years she also made lots of things for sales or lotteries at fairs for the local history society. This is one of her ‘early’ works though, which I found in some drawer or box of Christmas decorations when going through things in the House. And it is one of those I chose to keep, as it had memories attached for me…

… Because besides “itself”, this also reminds me of a minature winter village landscape that she/we used to set up on top of a bookshelf in my room at Christmas, with little houses and a church made of cardboard, and figures of home-made play-dough, all made and handpainted by mum. They stood on snowy ground made of cotton wool, sprinkled with boric acid crystals; and there was a little lake made by a mirror.

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

December 6 – Stamps & Postcrossing

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Today, I finished my Christmas cards and letters going off abroad, and put stamps on the envelopes. It’s been an extremely stormy and rainy weekend here, and I’ve stayed indoors. But we’re supposed to get a break from the wet weather tomorrow, and I hope to get out to post my cards and letters then.

When going through the piles and shelves and drawers of paperwork in my dad’s study after he died a few years ago, I kept finding lots of old (but not too old) stamps, still good for use. I do like stamps - many of them are wonderful little pieces of art. But I don’t collect them. And rather than just letting them lie in a box unused, I decided it would be more fun (for them, and for me) to send them travelling around the World – which is, after all, what they were made for!

So I joined Postcrossing.

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Collage of some of the postcrossing cards I received in 2015

2½ years later, I have used up most of my old stamps of higher value; but have received a lot of fun and interesting postcards (with stamps!) from around the world instead. (It might argued that the postcards take up more space than the stamps did. But I still feel it was more fun!)

I still have some old stamps of lower value left; but am now using a mix of old and new to make up foreign postage (or else there would be no room left to write anything on the cards)… I’ve also cut down a bit on the number of postcrossing cards I send. The system is pretty much self-regulating, so that’s not a problem. (If I send less, I also get less.)

This week, I still have a pile of Swedish Christmas cards to write.

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