31 December, 2007

Happy New Year's Eve; Snowballs...

Hope you all have a wonderful New Year's Eve. We've had an awesome weekend in London - King Tut, Kew Gardens, old friends, new kid friends - and we're home recovering. Meanwhile, enjoy this snowball fight with David and Lily, sent by Grandma Doe. So cool. So very cool!

[Edited to delete the Gushy Gram because I can't get the thing to stop TALKING when the page loads. You can go here to see it, though. Sorry 'bout that.]

26 December, 2007

On Books, and Love

I've been sitting this morning, with BOWLS of coffee from the cafetiere (I got to put my grounds in my new kitchen compost bin!) , thinking about mom, and about books.

For Christmas, I bought this edition of Pippi Longstocking for myself and for the family. David took it up last night for bedtime reading. My mom read this book as a child, and I remember her reading Pippi to me when I was very small. She obviously thought it was very funny. Later, I read the original and the sequels for myself, loved them, and still do. I know mom would have loved this edition. The illustrations are by Lauren Child, who writes Charlie and Lola - a new favorite in our family.

I have so many memories of books and mom. When I was 7 or so, I got a book called Arabel's Raven - I found it laugh-out-loud hilarious, and I just had to share it with someone. I must have read most of it aloud to mom, who listened, and laughed, with a patience I only truly understood once I had children of my own. I still love to read aloud, when it's something worth sharing, but it's so hard to LISTEN when someone else does the same (small David and Foxtrot comic anthologies, I'm talking about you), so I try not to read out loud too much, or too long.

In second grade, when I changed schools because we moved to New Haven, the teacher told my mom I was reading too much. Mom didn't take that well, thank God, and the (awful) teacher shut up about it.

Mom introduced me to books that she had read as a child (Mrs. Pepperpot, The Spettecake Holiday, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils - it's interesting in retrospect that all these Scandinavian books were available in the New Haven branch library we frequented...such variety is tough to find in the libraries I know today). And she found new books that she thought I'd like. I remember the first book I read was Sam and the Firefly. As soon as I figured that out, she gave me On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I was off to the races, reading "like the wind, Bullseye!"

Mom loved those Little House books as much as I did, I think, and she re-read them often. She liked Farmer Boy best, because of all the food descriptions, and she really had an empathy for the characters in The Long Winter, because of all the long, hard Swedish winters she remembered. She didn't talk much about her childhood, but she did talk about the snow, the incredible deep snow that you could tunnel through, and wearing felt boots because leather would freeze and crack.

Later, I met books like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lords of the Rings trilogy (and The Hobbit, of course), and the best of the best, The Once and Future King. I have read it uncountable times now, and it's still a book I'd take to a desert island. Mom loved it so much she embroidered a t-shirt with saying from the part where the Wart is turned into an ant: "Everythng Not Forbidden Is Compulsory." She grocked that.

Even when we were poorer than poor, there were always books. Books and bookcases were the defining decorative element in all our homes. Curtains? Thrift store finds or made from sheets. Chairs? Sofa? Thrift store for sure? (I got my love of thrift shops and yard sales from mom, as well. So many wonderful things we got second hand...) But books, books were always with us. The library was an important place, always. Wherever we lived, we knew the library intimately. And whenever there was any money to spare, we bought books - new, used, just books. I'm still a sucker for a bookstore, and I find it hard to say "No" to my own kids (or myself) in a bookstore, even here in England where books cost twice as much as in the States.

As I grew up, our tastes in comfort reading stayed similar - Josephine Tey (The Daughter of Time, Brat Farrar, The Singing Sands, all of them really), Dick Francis, Nevil Shute's A Town Like Alice, Helen MacInnes, Mary Stewart. When the Harry Potter books came out, she was every bit as hooked as the rest of us. It became a family affair, going to the bookstores on launch night. When I pick up old favorites from the shelf now, they're ones that mom and I both held and read many times, so I feel connected to her. It's a lovely feeling.

Reading is perhaps the best gift my mom ever gave me. I do wish so much she were still around to share that gift.

25 December, 2007

A Photo-laden Christmas Post

David The Younger woke up at 8:30 this morning and Daddy called just a minute after that, so we woke up the Lilster and headed downstairs to see what was there. I had put out our gifts, and Santa had come as well.
We got to open some gifts while David was on the phone (he gets 15 whole minutes, so obviously couldn't stay on the line while they checked everything out).
Here are all the pictures I sent to Dadster this morning, so he could get a look at what was going on.

Once David opened this book (Do Not Open), it was difficult to get him to open anything else. It's just as riveting as he thought it would be. Seriously, he sat for the better part of an hour before he opened his other gifts.

He was quite happy with the Doctor Who action figures when he did open them, however. Here's Brannigan.

Lily, she was thrilled with her fairy wand and fairy wings from Santa Claus. Apologies for the blur in some of these pictures, but it's tough to find the right setting for early morning inside shots without making everyone look pasty white.

Probably the biggest hit for Lily apart from the fairy bits is Baby Alive. As you can see, they've bonded already. Lily said "She's the doll I've always wanted!" BA has been christened Isabelle. Thank you to Auntie Laura and Uncle Doug!

Apologies, Gentle Readers, for the poor layout of this post. My Mad Bloggin Skillz are not up to the challenge of getting the text to stay in the right spots today, but I did want to put the pictures in for you.

This wondeful thing is my present from David; it's an electric "wood stove" to heat the hitherto-unheated knitting house, and I've been wanting one for over a year. It's even nicer than I hoped, and I have it going in the big house today just so I can enjoy it. I hope you are having a cozy, comfy Christmas morning too, wherever you are.

24 December, 2007

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part...

How do you spend Christmas Eve? We have a little Norad Santa tracking happening, a little Christmas music playing, a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle to puzzle over, and some Christmas cards to marvel at. It's all good.
All our love to all of you - may you have a lovely Christmas.

23 December, 2007

A Little of This and That

Latest baking efforts - star-shaped gingerbread minicakes. Yummy. Lily and I are very fond of them, but I am being very strong and saving some for Santa.

Re the comments on the gingerbread house - yep, we really used duct tape! To keep it stable after changing from one to two floors, I frosted the gingerbread to a cardboard backing. Then I duct-taped the cardboard pieces together from the inside to form a frame before adding the roof. It worked really well. We do eat bits and pieces from the house over the season, but never before Christmas, and usually it's just the candy that gets nibbled. That may change with this house because I tasted some of the unused gingerbread and it ain't bad at all.

Watched The Santa Clause with kids this afternoon, which was fun. Now that they are abed, I am watching this:

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? It's Casino Royale, with the Hawesome New Bond Daniel Craig. As one of the mummies in the schoolyard put it, "He's tasty. " (Sorry, O husband mine :)...) This movie is a winner in the Bond genre. The opening foot chase blew my mind when I saw it in the theater, and I'm still impressed.

While I watch, I'm also working some mindless knitting - a version of the Yarn Harlot One-row Scarf. My evening knitting for the last little while has been a Sunday Market scarf of this same yarn (yes, Jill, the beloved Noro Kureyon is stiiiill going - I've gotten to knit so much neat stuff from this). I finished that this week, in time for Christmas giving even.

Anyway, the Market scarf/wrap was a loooong piece of straight stockinette, time-consuming because of its length but not particularly challenging. When you're done, you drop stitches allll the way down and end up with something nice and airy. The dropping of the stitches actually took me a couple of hours. It ended up about 2 feet wide by almost 8 feet long, I think, but scrunchable. It looked very dramatic in the Noro but I didn't get a picture on the recipient. I will try to do that.

This one-row scarf is a much smaller endeavor, about 6 inches across, and I am using my light-up needles for the first time, although the flash washed out the lights as well as totally changing the color of the wool. Knitlite needles - they are tres cool, and so easy to use while watching telly.

That's the news from Happy Acres. I hope you all are having good Christmassy fun, wherever you may be.

20 December, 2007

Yuletide Bakey Goodness

In celebration of finding my camera (let us not dwell on the fact that I have also misplaced D's camera and he is in the desert without it until I unearth it...), here we have pictures of the cookies we made today (I iced, kids decorated) and the gingerbread house we put together the other day.

To be honest, the gingerbread house was pre-baked (IKEA purchase) but we furnished the icing, the candy, and the duct tape. We took two ranch house kits and tinkered to make a two-story house. And it worked. Amazing.

14 December, 2007

Miscellany, with Pictures

Greetings, Gentle Reader(s). Got some pictures, some chat, and some what-have-you this evening.

David left yesterday afternoon. Got e-mail today and he's arrived safely. Before he left, we decorated the tree. Trees.

One main tree (pre-lit and artificial) decorated to the nines by all of us, two little trees (also faux) decked out by the kids, and one pink tree dressed by Lily. They're all clustered in the playroom, with the nativity on the mantel.

We went The Way of the Fake Tree this year because I wanted to put it up while David was still here, but strangely, I wanted a tree that still had needles at Christmas. Now, me, I am not so good with the watering and care of cut trees. Additionally, taking out the real tree after Christmas is a two-person job. I'm burning piney candles, and pretending...

On Tuesday evening, Lily was one of four angels in the school Nativity pageant, which is the Big Annual Event for the Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 classes (pre-K, K, and first grade in the US). Here's a pre-performance shot. She was lovely, of course, very serious and focused. There were also many innkeepers, multitudes of animals, and the Holy Family. My favorite line? "You'll wike the bye-bee" by Mary, who has quite the Norfolk accent. [You'll wake the baby...]

On Wednesday morning, the costume got a repeat wearing when Lily and I woke up early so she could put a green "leafy" crown on and carry coffee and pastries by candlelight to the others in the house for St. Lucia Day.

This is a tradition in Scandinavian countries and I have foggy memories of doing it as a child with my own mom, who was Swedish. The holiday is really on the 13th, but because Dadster was leaving the 13th, we pushed it forward a morning.

D. left on Thursday. We dropped the kids to school, he said goodbye, and I drove him to the terminal. We were able to have lunch together because the plane was delayed coming in.

Then it was back home to collect the kids and head down to the unit's Christmas party. Babysitting was provided, the kids had a great time, and the grownups (that would be me) had a wonderful time. It was a good way to distract ourselves from the farewell.

Today, Lily woke up with a fever so she stayed home with me so as not to contaminate the classmates. Now that the kidlets are in bed, I'm going to read The Ipcress File, by Len Deighton, a golden oldie. A few months back, I watched the movie version, and found it really interesting. Very early Michael Caine.

06 December, 2007


Today, Chrissie and I went to Newmarket for a spot of rainy day shopping. We checked out all the charity shops within our sights, of course, and look what hopped into my wheeled shopper (you know you want to be a groovy shopping chick like me, with a wheeled shopping cart...). Isn't it fantabulous?

When I brought the bag to the counter, the woman at the till asked if I would like the box it came in. Why, yes. Yes, I would! It's so nifty to know a little bit more about an item. This was an applique-by-numbers bag kit, from General Crafts in Baltimore, MD (obviously, karma meant for me to have this bag, with all my Baltimore time), from 1967. So it's 40 years old, and absolutely mint for all that. I'm absolutely tickled by my find. Now I just need the hairstyle and some white gloves, so I can be every bit as rockstar cool as the model on the box.

This blog showcases zillions of vintage bags; click on that embedded link for several that come from the same maker as my new baby. I like the travel-themed one, and the peacock bag, myself.

05 December, 2007

The Donkey's Trip

This is part of David the Younger's project for school, a collection of work about The Road to Bethlehem. Here it is, exactly as typed by David last night - sans the cool Word Art (something I didn't discover until I was in my thirties. God bless computer class at school. God bless my very amusing son, and his distinctive writing style. He impresses me beyond words.

Hello. I’m the donkey Mary and Joseph chose to ride to Bethlehem. Out of all the donkeys, why me? And Bethlehem, of all places!
It’s so far away! Ah well. Shh, they’re talking! “Are we there yet?” That’s Mary. Nice woman, but kind of heavy. “Mary, just relax and hope the baby doesn’t come yet.” That was Joseph.
When we pass people, I hear whispers about kings and something called “the East” or “the Orient”. What could it mean? Oh look! There’s Bethlehem. And there’s the inn where we’ll stay. Peace at last! Wait!
Joseph and the innkeeper are arguing. Joseph says to let them in because his wife is about to have a baby, but the innkeeper says they’re full. Ooh, now they’re shouting. The innkeeper says they can stay in the stable. Just in time, too! Mary’s just had her baby! He’s in the manger. Ooh, that’s a bright light outside. It’s almost like a star…

02 December, 2007

Tag, I'm It!

I've been tagged by Marianne over at Busha Full of Grace (amazing lady; amazing blog, by the by) for Seven Things. I've got to share seven random or weird things about myself, and tag seven people. Of course, my brain has been completely blanking since I got tagged earlier today.

1. I (not-so-secretly) want to be an archaeologist when I grow up, and I think the archaeologists on Time Team are haaaawt, even the big scary, hairy guy.
2. I regret not haven taken physics in high school, and sometimes think about taking it now, except that college-level physics is going to be far beyond my ken.
3. I'm afraid to make a fire in our fireplace by myself.
4. I used to keep random action figures, like She-Ra, on top of my computer monitor at work. This amused me much more than it probably should have.
5. I like to draw out quiet people in a group setting. I probably talk too much in groups. Is this two things? Yes, yes, it is.
6. My mother made better lasagna than any Italian.
7. In my heart, I'm monumentally lazy.

I'm tagging David, Susie, Lynn, Vyvyan, Clarke, Samantha, and Jill. Go to it, my friends!

The Rules are as follows:
1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

01 December, 2007

New Month, Same Old Look

No exciting new blog format here, Gentle Readers. Just the same old stuff. Being December 1, the Advent calendars are back in action. This year, we have the felt pocketed ones with Nativity scenes, chocolate calendars (Princesses and Doctor Who), and (because Daddy is The Generous Man) extra Playmobil ones. I believe our children will be WELL aware of the date each day this month.

Can I just say that Playmobil Advent calendars are "some assembly required" items? Sheesh. Good value, though. A couple of years ago, I bought the Nativity one. This year, they are completely non-Christmas in theme - gamboling unicorns and princesses, and treasure-seeking knights. Good stuff, and they'll make a lovely addition to our Playmobil collection.

The Jultomten is back, and Lily was overjoyed to find him this morning. The Christmas elves come to houses where there are children of Swedish descent, and make behavior reports to Santa Claus. Handy, those elves.

Many events coming up this month, but one exciting Christmas-related one for our Swedeliness is Lucia Day. Lily is old enough for it this year. I have fuzzy memories of celebrating this when I was very small. Little girls in the household dress in white with a wreath of candles (maybe we'll make paper ones), and go around waking everyone serving coffee and pastries. It's a Good Thing. Depending on when D. leaves for Operation Deny Christmas we may celebrate earlier than 13 December, but I think it is a lovely tradition to keep.

We have Breakfast with Santa on the 8th, D's big party on the 9th, David's work Christmas party for the kids on the 10th, Lily's Nativity play on the 11th, as well as Lucia day and the work Christmas party on the 13th. BUSY week or two ahead.