Thursday, December 31, 2009


As is customarily done here in bloggytown, today's blog will feature my New Year's Eve 2009 round-up.

Let's start with the blog itself. Dear readers, this is your life:
  • About 5000 people have stopped by my blog in 2009. Admittedly, most of them were probably either me making sure a new entry had posted right, or the same 20 people checking to see if I have updated yet, but still: 5000 makes me very happy.
  • Visitors to my blog come from 33 different countries. Of course, 67.80% of you live in the United States, 13.60% are from Norway and 5.00% from the United Kingdom, so thank you, family and friends! 0.60% of you (or two) live in Egypt and have adorable daughters named Rachel and Miriam. Thanks, Heisses!
  • 41.60% of you Americans live in Utah, and of those, 13% of you live in Spanish Fork. In fact, I bet if Stat Counter let me look even closer, we'd find that most of those 13% live within two blocs of my house. Thanks, ward!

Looking at the posts themselves, your top three favourite posts (with the most hits) from 2009 were:
  1. A few things and an extravagant Project Cheer
  2. Project Baby and Guest Blogger Week: Carina
  3. Project Baby: Guess the Gender Giveaway!

So, from this I surmise that my readers like it when I bare skin, have other people write my posts for me and give prizes.

Nice, readers. Very classy.

Ok, so look for more of those to come in the future!

(I suppose I could also conclude that y'all like babies.)

Back in the real world, 2009 was a pretty busy year:

  • I went back to school full-time. And worked part-time. And fell into an exhausted heap on the couch every night.
  • We discovered my cute daddy has cancer.
  • We found out that I was finally pregnant!
  • I celebrated my very first 29th birthday. (Look for more of those to come in the future too.)
  • I finally graduated!
  • We celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary in Stockholm, then spent two weeks in Norway.
  • We found out that we're having a boy!
  • We flew to Ohio for a wedding and visited friends.
  • We celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas in grand style with Nick's family. Total number of hours spent on the freeway: 21. Total number of candy bars handed out on Halloween: 800+. Total number of people at Thanksgiving dinner: 17. Total number of hours spent playing games (board or video): incalculable. Total number of nephew brains devoured by zombie uncles: 2+ resurrect and repeat = an infinity.
Did I mention that I was pregnant for most of this?

And so the very last evening of 2009 will be spent in absolute bliss: Bombay House take out, an empty house and just me and Nick and a 12:02 bedtime.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas: Christmas!

In a few short hours we will be off to Nick's parents for four days of Christmas fun. I should continue my running around like a chicken with my head cut off as I attempt to get us all packed and ready to go, but I just wanted to sit down for a minute, eat a brownie and tell you about a few things that make my heart happy today. These are the Christmas gifts that matter most of all to me:

  • Nick. He will always be at the very tippy top of my list! And really, who wouldn't love a man who bends over backwards to make sure I get to keep all of my Norwegian Christmas traditions (Skomakergata, pepperkakebaking, Askepott og adventskalender) just because he knows they make me happy? And who bought me the nativity set I've been dreaming of since we first got married early, so I could enjoy it for all of December. Isn't it pretty? And let's be honest: even without all of these things I've just mentioned, we could be so perfectly happy living our life in an empty cardboard box together. As long as I have Nick, I can do anything at all.
  • Friends. I don't know how we did it, but somehow we've managed to land ourselves some of the kindest, most generous and considerate, fun-loving and outstanding friends known to man. If I could only figure out what the recipe is to having friends like ours, I would let you know!
  • Family. Both Nick's family (who have really become my own family over the past four years), who we will be spending Christmas with, and my own lovely family at home in Norway. We have a Skype date set for this afternoon, so we can open presents together via webcam before Nick and I leave town. It's an amazing thing that we can do that from opposite sides of the world.
  • Our little baby. With all of the times we weren't sure if we'd ever be able to be parents, the fact that we're now only weeks away from the arrival is nothing short of a miracle and the greatest Christmas gift I could ever ask for.
  • Finally, while I rarely talk about my faith on my blog, I have to express my gratitude to the Heavenly Father who has given me all of these fantastic gifts and all the happiness that fills my life. I know that He has watched over me through difficult times and led me to where I am today. I'm equally thankful for His son and the incredible gift of his sacrifice and atonement. This world would be so different without Him.

I hope you have a fantastic Christmas, filled with all of your favourite things, whoever and wherever you may be.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas: parties!

This has been the year of the Christmas parties for us, with five in the last two weeks alone. Lots of food, lots of fun, lots of staggering home and collapsing on the couch in a heap of pregnant exhaustion and overindulgence.

Our pre-Christmas party season culminated last night with a Charles Dickens themed dinner, hosted by the illustrious Stepper. Because, y'know, everyone with a two-year old and a four week old baby wants to cook a full turkey dinner for 12 people. The food was fantastic, the company, if possible, even better (and all dressed in Victorian garb) and we even played parlor games. Other than Sufjan Stevens playing in the background and a few references to The Cure during our game of charades, it was just like spending an evening in the company of Mr. Fezziwig and friends.

For more photos from the hostess herself, go here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Orange and cloves

For me, a lot of Christmas has to do with smells. Fresh and endless baking, the scent of a Christmas tree, a mug of hot gløgg, all the spices that just smell like Christmas... the list goes on. One of the best "instant Christmas" smells for me, though, has to be oranges and cloves. And when we decided that my Scentsy wasn't cutting it anymore, Nick and I sat down and defaced two oranges for our olfactory pleasure.

Let me give you the incredibly simple and obvious recipe:

You will need:
- as many oranges as you want to decorate. An arrangement of even numbers looks more formal, odd numbers are more organic. Ha! (OK, that was actually slightly insightful. I amaze myself.)
- Whole dried cloves.
-Shove the spiky cloves into the orange. I've seen people do amazing patterns on these, mine did not quite fall into this category. Next year.
-Enjoy the insanely Christmassy smell. Especially on your fingers.

One of these is probably good for about two weeks. It won't go bad if you leave it for longer, the orange just starts looking a bit sad. In fact, oranges with cloves are traditionally used as advent calendars in Norway: you add 24 (or 25, if you celebrate on Christmas Day) cloves to your orange, then remove one each day until Christmas. It's a very sweet tradition, but the thought of keeping an orange full of an increasing amount of holes sitting around for over three weeks kind of gave me the heebiejeebies.

But that smell! Amazing!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Celebrate: Christmas and the tree.

One of my very favourite parts of December has got to be getting out the Christmas boxes and rediscovering all of the decorations that help make our home look and feel like Christmas.
When we first got married, we didn't really have any holiday decorations at all, so we decided that rather than rush out and spend a fortune that first year, we would buy a few things for each holiday for years to come. This year will be our fifth Christmas together, and I think choosing our special Christmas purchase each year is something that we both look forward to doing together. Added bonus: it takes off a lot of the pressure to buy all of the pretty, sparkly things that I want to take home with me every time I walk into a store.
So, for the rest of December, I thought it might be fun to take you on a little tour of some of the things that make our home feel like Christmas.

First up, the Christmas tree. How could we do it any other way?

If you click on the image to make it bigger, you'll see that it's kind of a mishmash of styles. We have some very traditional things going on, like the round baubles, and a few less traditional ones like the ribbon wrapped around the tree. Because Norwegian Christmas is hugely important to both of us, we have some very traditional Norwegian things too, like the woven paper hearts (which, in a fit of extreme adorableness, we made ourselves, thankyouverymuch!) and the Norwegian flags.

And no, that does not make us extreme nationalists and a threat to national security. :)
Lastly, my cute mama started a new Christmas tradition for us last year when we visited the Grand Canyon, and she bought us this little clay angel for our tree:

We liked the idea of adding ornaments from our travels so much that when we were in Stockholm earlier this year, we bought this hand-blown glass bauble and carefully transported it all the way home again.

It's a great way of buying something to remember your trip by without ending up with a barrage of fridge magnets or touristy t-shirts. Of course, now I love how it catches the light, and already have an ambition to go back to Stockholm and buy it a couple of siblings.

And finally, lest you think we're all ethnic, hand-made and internationally awesome, we also made one of this year's Christmas purchases these ornaments:

Five dollars for a set of six. From Target. And I think they are beautiful.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A few things and an extravagant Project Cheer

Things have been a little quiet around here for the past month. On top of being out of town a lot, we've also both been sick. Nick with the cold-that-wouldn't-go-away and me with some abhorrent pregnancy-related nastiness. It wasn't anything serious, and without going into detail for all the internets to see, let me assure you that the baby is fine and I'm getting better quickly. Thank you, modern medicine!

I am planning to get some posts of our Christmassyness activities up pretty soon, but until then, I'd like to tell you about something lovely that someone did for me for Project Cheer. My lovely friend Emily was in town from LA for Thanksgiving, and kindly offered to do a maternity shoot with me. Now, I have pretty much spent the past six months hiding from cameras. Yes, pregnancy has made me feel that pretty. However, knowing from experience what Emily can do with her camera, I jumped at the opportunity. Because, really, who wouldn't want photos taken by someone who can make them look like this?

So, little Emily came over and we spent a few hours talking and laughing and taking photos. It was fun, low-key and relaxed. At least until she asked me to get my bare tummy out! I was admittedly skeptical, but trusted in Emily's magic working abilities, and now I'm so glad I did. Ladies and the occasional gentleman, I am proud to tell you that the glowing white orb you see in the top left corner of this post is my tummy. And I'm actually quite delighted with it.

Emily's act of kindness wasn't just being able to provide us with beautiful photos to remind us of this special, and frankly miraculous, time of our lives, or to allow us to share it with my family who live so far away. What she also did was to help me see beauty in myself and my ever-expanding proportions which, I think, is a little magical all on its own.

For more of our photo shoot, see here and here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Project Baby and Guest Blogger Week: Carina

Friends, I am out of state for the lovely wedding of a wonderful friend. Until I get back to Utahland, please enjoy the writings of Jetset Carina, AKA the lovely Azucar! Some people I have friend crushes on, some people I have people crushes on... Carina is my blog crush. And she is about to become yours too.

Beautiful Things, by Carina
Do you know your beautiful things? That lamp that you serendipitously found in that tiny thrift shop? The gorgeous necklace your aunt gave you for graduation? The glass vase from your wedding, the antique sideboard, your new taupe couch with the perfect pillows?

Say goodbye.

Pick them up, handle them with care, and shed a tear, because none of them are safe.

Congratulations, it's a boy.

I don't remember the first beloved possession of mine to disintegrate in front of my eyes, but I remember the feeling. I loved it with a memory, it was whole, and now it was broken.

I lost my new turquoise necklace to an afternoon pirate who had raided all the drawers to find wearable booty. One minute the necklace was swinging through the air, the next, blue beads shot across the room in a shiny spray. We grew alligators on our carpet, so the boy had to jump from chair to chair. They weakened until the pedestals collapsed to the side, forever tipping the chairs at a jaunty angle.
Do you know how to catch a monster? Smear toothpaste on a wool rug. Do you wonder why that lamp stands up so straight? Perhaps a few hits with a light saber will make that prideful lamp shade tip its rim and fall off every time you go to turn it on. Can't find a wipe for your bum? Just use a merino wool sweater.

Rocks in pockets go into your dryer. Green army men march down your drains. Glass doors are more fun in pieces. Pots are just for banging.

And sometimes, when you take a head butt in the ear, breaking your earring, driving the post into the soft skin, it's OK to cry a little. When you just can't face your shattered clock, your newly Sharpie'd wall, or the burned Anthropologie hand towels that were put inside your oven, just let the tears fall. What else can you do?

There is a reason that there are daddy's girls and mama's boys: a boy fills a mother's heart with more love than she has ever known for a man. You need that love, because you can't love just things anymore.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Project Baby and Guest Blogger Week: Melissa

My family life up until this point has provided med with pretty limited experience with babies. The most recent baby in my immediate family was me, and my only sibling is a brother two years older than me. So I'm the baby, and thus my only source of familial experience with infants.

Fortunately, our friends have been more than obliging on the baby front, and so Nick and I have been able to live and learn vicariously through them. One of our favourite sources of baby and little boy wisdom and amusement has been our friends Melissa and Paul, and their three year-old son Caleb.

Caleb, who at age two, once asked his mother why it was dark in outer space.

Caleb, who takes a keen interest in politics and was at one point convinced Barack Obama was a Hawaiian man in his ward.

Caleb, who was bitterly disappointed to discover that his brand new cousin neither walked, talked or possessed the ability to like diggers - yet.

Caleb, who once requested that their future home have 'a "big bubble" and a "hee-yoooge train on top! Dat I can climb to on a ladder!"'*

Caleb, who gave me the first inclinations that having a son had all the promises and potential to be one of life's most hilarious and rewarding adventures yet.

In the following, Melissa proves me right.

On Having a Son, by Melissa.

I have been the mother of a son for three years, nine months, and--as of this writing--six days. It seems both longer and shorter than that, but one thing is absolutely true regardless of which perspective--long or short--I take. And that is this: all 31 years of my life have been building up to this. To him. To our family. That may seem like a dramatic thing to say, and I am currently 40,000 feet in the air over middle America lurching around in moderate turbulence on my way back home to him after a 48-hour jaunt in Ohio. So it could be that my perspective right this minute is just a little more hysterical than usual. In my clearest moments, though, I believe that it's true: I've waited for this for three decades.

I never expected to be partners in crime with a skinny three-year-old, but I'm pretty sure that's exactly how my little man sees our life together. I'm the Sally to his Lightning, the Wendy to his Bob, the Frog to his Toad, the pink strawberry topping (something in our world has to be pink) to his mini-wheats. Recently, he was describing to a phlebotomist the mysteries of which letters comprise his name, and he got stuck after "c" and "b." He lowered his voice, bowed his head in my direction, and whispered conspiratorially, "And what ovver letters are dair, Mama?" 'Cause he knew I had his back with the alphabet. That's one of my duties in our relationship.

His duties include things like putting away the silverware (minus the knives) when the dishwasher's clean, coming up with spontaneous songs about construction and emergency vehicles, and also jumping. If there's jumping to be done, Caleb's your man--unless that jumping is in the house, because Caleb jumping in the house (also known as preschooler parkour) has been outlawed and results in time-outs. And time-outs inevitably result in Caleb saying to me in a hurt tone, "But Mama, I like you." Which, I think, is to say that partners don't give partners time-outs.

(Too bad.)

Besides having a built-in partner-in-crime (and -cooking and -reading and -exercising and...), having a son has changed my life in too many ways to count. I know because when Tamsin asked me to contribute here on her fine blog, I started trying to list all those ways. And then I had to resort to making a list of all the lists. To wit:

Things I've found in my pockets
Things I've found in the dryer (because I didn't look in his pockets)
Things I find myself having to say
Things I didn't expect to find so entirely charming
Things we have lost and will never see again and the tragedy inherent therein
Number of pictures on my computer of my three-year-old
Number of Cars/Bob the Builder characters I can recognize in a single glance (I think this might be a superpower)
Amount of time I've spent thinking about superpowers since he learned to talk (compared to the previous 28 years)
Percentage of the movie Cars I can quote
Level of familiarity with construction equipment
Percentage of increase in knowledge over the last three years regarding aircraft of all kinds
Amount of time dedicated to anything dealing with firefighters
Number of fire trucks currently in our home
Embarrassing moments initiated by the child's socializing
Occasions on which I've cried since I became a mother (at which I might well have laughed four years ago)
People with whom I--usually an agoraphobe--have struck up conversations as a direct result of having a man child
Number of months left until I can willingly allow action figures into my home

I could go on. (Blessedly, I will not.) It's amazing, though, how natural all of the changes he's brought into my life are--which I guess is why becoming the mother of a son feels like a culmination of everything that's gone before. I like it. A whole, whole lot. My guess is that Tamsin and Mr. Nick will too.

* All of these delightful bits of information (and so much more!) are to be found on Melissa's blog, which is always read aloud at our house and frequently laughed at so hard we have to take breaks.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Project Baby and Guest Blogger Week: Stepper!

Much as I promised this wouldn't turn into a Mormon Mommy Blog, it turns out that being pregnant makes you think about things like babies and motherhood quite a lot. It seems that tiny little feet pounding on your bladder will do that to you.

In the weeks since my last Project Baby post when we found out that we're having a boy, I've spent a lot of time thinking about what that means for me, for us and for our little family. It's amazing how different it feels to go from "we're having a baby" to "we're having a son". And I'm honestly very, very excited because little boys are amazing!

For this weeks blog project, I asked some friends and fellow bloggers who just also happen to be the mothers of sons to share some of their thoughts on the raising of boys and the having of sons.

First up is Stepper, who seems to be becoming something of a celebrity on my blog. If you don't believe me (and you're not using Google Reader), look to the bar on the right at my current featured blog. Don't be shy about leaving her a comment here, or about clicking over to her own blog. I'm sure you'll like her as much as I do.

Boys by Stepper

When I walked trustingly into the ultrasound office the summer of 2007, I was sure I was having a girl. I had flipped back and forth during my whole pregnancy thus far, saying things like, “it appears he is not a fan of tuna fish – please go eat your sandwich in some dark corner away from me.” and “she is doing the kitchen dance in there!” But a few weeks before U-day, my mind and (surely!) my Mother’s Intuition had settled on a girl. I should be able to intuitively know what sort of person inhabited my space with me – and this person was decidedly female.

We even had her name picked out.

So when I caught a glimpse of what would prove me wrong as the ultrasound technician moved her cold black rolly-stick over my bump to discover all fingers and toes, I didn’t believe it. Those grainy pictures are squidgy at best, anyway. What I saw could have been anything! A bunched umbilical. A third leg! But not that.

“Do you want to know the sex?” asked the technician.

We nodded.

The cold black rolly-stick moved back into position. That was no third leg. “Well!” said the technician as she digitally circled the proof and typed “it’s a boy!” in tiny white letters across the screen, “he certainly isn’t shy!”

(she had no idea)

For a flash of a second, I was consumed with disappointment. What about the daughter that I was so certain I had been talking to all this time? What happened to her when this interloping boy had taken her place? Boys were a complete mystery to me. I had three sisters – no brothers. My poor dad had to resort to buying a huge and flashing fire truck to donate to charity at Christmas time. Little boys were inscrutable with their obsession with trucks, balls, and bandaged knees; teenage boys had completely baffled me (why on earth would anyone think that burping the alphabet was funny?); adult men were intriguing and mysterious, but still beyond me. How the heck was I supposed to change one’s diaper, let alone raise one to adulthood?

I looked at Bill – the one male on this planet that I did understand. His eyes were wide and wet, staring at that monitor, and his mouth barely formed the whispered words, “it’s a boy.”

Our eyes met, and my brief flash of doubt completely dissolved into something else. Something I’d never felt before. Something strong. I was swept away with it.

I was having a boy. A son. My son. And suddenly, I had never wanted anything else. I had never wanted anything so desperately than I wanted this boy in my arms, in my life.

“You’re having a son!” I blubbered to Bill. He pressed his sleeve cuffs against his eyes and grinned.

“You too,” he said.

The ultrasound technician tried to move on and explain all the other parts we were seeing. We listened and appreciated and ooh’d and ahh’d at how cute his tiny little features were – and they were. Seriously. Adorable. My little man.

But in my head, I was already five months from then. Sitting in the rocking chair Bill had just bought for me – for us! My little man and I – with this child in my arms, knowing him and loving him and watching him grow to be a man the caliber of his father.

I think I may have interrupted the ultrasound technician when I suddenly blurted to Bill, “You’ll have to change his diapers; I don’t know how!”

Bill just laughed.

I’d learn.

This boy thing – I’d learn.

Wyatt is almost two years old, now – and I’m still learning, every day, why being the mother of a boy is the absolute best thing in the entire world. I had no idea boys were so much fun.

One evening while kneeling next to the tub giving Wyatt a bath, I looked up at Bill who was watching the fun. “I want boys. Lots of boys. I want a whole house FULL of sons!” And I meant it! Girls were probably great, too – but boys? I had irrefutable proof that boys were divine.

A whole house full of them, please.

Now Wyatt is about to become a big brother. To a girl. Her little protector. And I’m looking forward to learning how girls are the absolute best thing in the entire world. Because I know she will also be irrefutably divine. And she will make me want a slew of daughters to give baths to, also.

But I still plan on that house full of boys.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Week: The Grand Finale

*Please prepare for a LONG post*

We decided a year ago that we would be spending this Halloween with Nick's parents in good ol' Hurricane, UT. As it turns out, this tiny town is trick or treat central for most of Southern Utah. At least, specifically my in-laws street is. We'd heard tales of people descending by the thousands on a two-block neighbourhood of spookily decked out houses. So, this year we went.

And they did not disappoint.

We started off on Halloween morning with some nice family baking.

These witches fingers were pretty quick and easy to make, as well as surprisingly tasty. At least the non-green ones were. I still have a very Scandinavian fear of food colouring. I liked the almond fingernail part the best, as it added some nice crunch. If I make these again in the future, I might try baking some pretzel sticks into the center of each finger for a surprise bone crunch. Or maybe a red jam center?

Then we followed that up with the all-essential pumpkin carving. As it turns out, two pumpkins are more than enough for three adults, especially when one of them (me) has the attention span of a very small insect and got bored with tracing the pattern onto the pumpkin. That's right, this year we opted for the no-creativity, but highly impressive (if you don't think about it) stencil!

Then we returned to our baking and decorated our spider cupcakes. All of this had the very fortunate effect of functioning like little Halloween activity stations. Perfect for little kids and 29 year-old pregnant women with short attention spans!

Before too long it was time to gear up for the trick or treaters. I honestly thought my in-laws were being a bit ridiculous for stocking up on 350 pieces of small candy for the little kids and a similar amount for the older ones, and still worrying about running out. But between the hours of 5:30 and 9 PM, the doorbell rang so constantly that we eventually pulled up a row of chairs by the front door to save us the walk from the couch, as well as the hammering of tiny impatient fists on the door.

Along with Nick's sister Tess, we handed out candy for the first hour or two to the smaller kids that came early. The little kids were cute and funny with their head first lunges into the candy bowl and parent-prompted choruses of "TWIIICK OR TWEEEEAT!" But we knew that once it got dark and the older kids started coming around, it was time to hand things over to the professionals.

Nick's younger brother Cody is the Halloween candy master. No kid grabs candy from his bowl without saying anything: Cody will stop them with a "Dude, now you're just taking my stuff" and a firm, but fair reminder of Halloween manners. At least be a polite mercenary of sugar.

The best part is when older kids come to the door. Cody will give them the full-sized candy, but first request some effort from them in return:

- "Do 20 push ups!"
- "Will you moonwalk like Michael Jackson for a full-size Snickers?"
- "Show me some jumping jacks!"
- "You're a big group, make a human pyramid!"

It's fun to watch people's response. Some of them balk at the idea of actually doing anything in return for their candy and leave, but most play along and think it's fun. And if they don't want to do one thing, they'll often offer do something else instead, so we had people cartwheeling on the front porch, as well as some singing, dancing and the occasional bird call.

All from giving an 18 year-old a little bit of power.

Our almost three year-old nephew Gavin also showed up in his Spiderman suit, and we got to take him trick or treating, which was fun, because I've never done that before. We didn't celebrate Halloween in Norway. Don't get me wrong, we'd still maraud around the neighbourhood in wanton search of candy, but our assigned time to scrounge candy off the neighbors was the week after Christmas instead. Gavin is too young to have developed too much trick or treating stamina yet, though, so after two houses he asked if we could "go home to Grandma's house, please?" There he got hopped up on spider cupcakes, professed his true identity as Spiderman and squealed excitedly every time there was a knock at the door. Then he made three more trick or treating raids with Grandpa, two houses at a time.

We attempted to take some photos of the street at its busiest with hundreds of people everywhere and every house ghoulishly decorated, but nighttime photography is a bit beyond our skill level:

Still, you get the idea. This place was decked out.

After all the candy was gone, all 700 plus pieces of it, we curled up and watched A Nightmare Before Christmas. A perfectly spooky end to October and the Halloween season.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Week: Scary movie

Of course we had to see a scary movie during Halloween week, so when we saw that the International Cinema at BYU was showing Låt den rätte komma inn (or in English, Let The Right One In) we jumped at the chance to see it.
Briefly, it's a Swedish vampire movie featuring twelve year-olds. Not so briefly, it was an amazing film about love, loyalty and free will. I don't want to give too much away, but it has been a long time since I've been so engaged by a film. The characters were so well-played and the story line was so compelling that I often forgot it was a film about vampires.

Don't get me wrong: there were freaky vampire skillz, gory deaths, gratuitous blood shed and the occasional spontaneous combustion - in short all the ingredients for Halloween fun. But I wouldn't recommend for your annual Halloween shriek-fest. Not unless you want to spend the next couple of hours in quiet contemplation of selfless love and moral agency.

As for me, I went home and had a really intense dream about vampires wanting to kill me, but not until I sympathized with them to the point of wanting my own death for their benefit.


Isn't that Stockholm syndrome?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween Week: Paper pumpkins and gettin' crafty

Friends, sometimes I am just too adorable for words. This is one of those times.

Now, I'm not generally what you would call a crafty sort of girl. Sure, I knit and have been know to sew in a button, but on a day to day basis I'd much rather spend my spare time on movies and the internets. Y'know, useful stuff. The kind of thing that fills you with a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Today, however, the power of the craft was upon me. After a day of cold and snowy weather, no car and too much internet, I knew I had to do something. So I whipped up these little beauties.

I found the instructions on a visiting teaching website, so they have a spiritual quote on them. Which works out fine, seeing as I made them for the girls I visit teach. But it would be super easy to adapt the instructions to make them plain, just by cutting your own paper strips and leaves. In fact, they were so quick and satisfying to make that I'm thinking about getting some pretty card stock and making a few more.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween Week: A spooky scary playlist for you!

It's been a long time since I last did a weeklong project, so to remedy that I give to you: Halloween week!
Every day this week I will be doing some Halloween related activity that I will then post about right here on my happy little blog!

First up is this fabulous playlist that I have put together for your very own spooky enjoyment. Please note that the 80s and early 90s had a tremendous impact on my early life ( I imagine, due to the fact that my early life took part during the 80s and 90s), so much of what fills my heart with delight is from that time period. That does not mean I condone tucking your skinny jeans into your slouchy knee-high leather boots! My goodness, talk about things that fill my heart with dread.

But I digress.

What I meant to say was, enjoy this playlist, jam packed with Halloween classics, old and new! Just perfect for your very own Werewolf bar Mitzvah.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Project Eco Geeko: Freecycle

In a quest to not entirely devote this site to Mormon Mommy Blogging, we will return to our regular, pre-pregnancy programming. At least briefly, until we get the nursery decorating underway. Or buy a stroller. Or something.


As I have mentioned previously, I hate waste. The thought of sending something off to the landfill when it could be recycled and repurposed into something else makes my little heart sink. Almost as much as the thought of leaving said item here to clutter up my house. I hate waste and I hate clutter. So what's a girl to do? What's anyone to do when they get a new television, and the old one is still functional, but not really worth selling to anyone? What do you do when you pretty up your kitchen with a new kitchen tap (faucet, to those of you who don't speak my language) but the old one is in perfectly good condition?

Enter Freecycle.

Freecycle describes itself as "a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns." Basically, it's Craig's List, or the classified ads, without the money transaction. And I love it with all of my young girl heart.

Mostly we use it to get rid of stuff we don't need anymore: televisions, old stereos, a rice cooker than needed new fuses, etc. One of my very favourites was when our old, fake Christmas tree went to an old man with a brain tumor who was confined to his bed. His daughter was looking for a tree to decorate his room, so we gave her ours.

Just recently I decided that pregnancy might provide exactly the kind of objectivity that I needed to go through my closet and weed out the things I don't wear anymore. I soon ended up with a big pile of stuff and a much roomier closet. Then I realized that, really, the pile of stuff had just been relocated from my closet to my bed. Clearly, this would be a problem by bedtime. So I went downstairs, pulled out my laptop and posted a quick message to the Spanish Fork freecycle community, informing them that I had a bag of women's clothes up for grabs. Within an hour I had a taker, and had made arrangements for her to come and pick them up. Within 3 hours, they were gone for good. Tadah! Clean closet and warm fuzzies for helping a mother of five without money to spend on herself.

Now. There are a few things to consider about Freecycle.

  1. Safety, safety, safety. I never say things like "stop by at this time, because I'll be home alone all day" or "We won't be home between these hours." Just because someone says they're a mother of five with no money and a broken leg, doesn't necessarily mean that they're not a 300 lb. man with personal boundary issues. The safest thing is to meet people in a public area, but that's admittedly not always the most convenient. I usually arrange for people to stop by when we're both home, and I always keep whatever they're picking up right by the door so they don't have to come inside.
  2. More safety. If you're already giving a stranger directions to your house, don't give them your full name, email address and phone number as well. Use a junky email address (think fluffybunnykins at generic email provider dot com). This won't stop a "professional" identity thief, but might keep the eager amateur at bay.
  3. This is a small one, but most Freecycle communities ask that you give more than you request. A good idea to keep the freecycling moving, but frustrating if you really need something and don't currently have anything to offer.
  4. Also note that using Freecycle limits donations given to your local thrift stores. I have donated plenty to both and feel like they are both good causes. Thrift stores, like Good Will or Deseret Industries, use the money they make on sales towards humanitarian aid as well as to help their local communities and that is not to be sneezed at. However, a lot of what is donated to them, just gets tossed because it won't sell, or is out of season. Freecycle, on the other hand, allows you to donate whatever you like, with the only restriction being what people are willing to take. DI will likely throw away something that doesn't work well, but a freecycler might want it for parts or to restore themselves.

In our first married, starving student days (and before IKEA came to Utah), we requested things like a bed frame to get our mattress off the floor. When I was relearning how to knit, I got bags and bags of yarn to play around with until I knew what I was doing. Just before we found out I was pregnant, we got a retro awesome desk for our office. Now our office is about to become a nursery, and the desk needs to go to make room for cute little baby things. So we will freecycle it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Project Baby: It's a... and the winner is...

Holy freaking comments! It seems that if you want people to comment on your blog, host a giveaway! Twenty-three of you commented, and that is pretty significant for my little page o' silliness. Thank you!

Before I posted this little competition, more or less everyone we talked to guessed that we were having a girl, so we were expecting your guesses to be heavy on the girl side. But as it turned out, twelve of you guessed girl and eleven guessed boy, so that's a pretty even split.

At this point I can reveal that roughly half of you were right.

Three of you clicked the "like" button and one of you requested "more, please!". To you I can only say: more giveaways or babies? Sadly, none of you laughed at my "a womb of one's own" joke.

And for those of you who haven't already scrolled down to the bottom to see the results, let me reveal that:

We are having a boy!

And the winner is...

who said:

PS, that rather masculine hand is Nick's, not mine. The only masculine thing about me is my baby boy.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Project Baby: Guess the Gender Giveaway!

We will find out the gender of our baby this coming Wednesday night, so to celebrate I'm having Project Project's first ever giveaway!

Naturally, you all want to know what you can win. Naturally, I want to tell you: One lucky winner will get to pick the prize of their choice from the following selection, soon to be lovingly hand-knitted by me.


Prize Option 1
As this is a baby-themed giveaway, what prize could be more appropriate than your very own hand-knitted baby?

Prize Option 2
Or, should you be more scientifically minded, I will knit you a uterus, complete with ovaries and fallopian tubes! A womb of one's own!

Prize Option 3
Not too enthused about the whole baby thing? Don't need a uterus just yet? Then option 3 is the one for you: your own little monster to take home and love!


The Rules
Here is how this competition will go down:

  1. The competition is a short one, and will close at 6:30 P.M. MST on Wednesday, October 7th( that's 2:30 AM on Thursday morning for you Norwegians). That is the time of our doctor's appointment, and I very seriously doubt we will be keeping things quiet for much longer than that.
  2. Enter the competition by leaving a comment on this post, specifying 1) if we are having a boy or a girl (those are your only options) and 2), which prize you would like.
  3. Don't forget to tell me who you are, if it's not already obvious.
  4. Once we know the gender, I will take everyone who guessed correctly and drop their names in an old-fashioned, impartial hat. Then a mostly unbiased judge (Nick) will pick the winner!
  5. The winner will be announced with much pomp and circumstance, along with the gender of the baby, on Thursday, October 8th.
  6. At this point I will begin making the chosen prize, and the winner will just have to wait patiently (with much pomp and circumstance!) for me to finish and present it to them.

Let the games begin!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Project Cheer: Aubrey is amazing

Somewhere in all the craziness of summer with morning sickness, a last desperate push to finish school and leaving the country, I ended up very sadly remiss in reporting back on the most amazing Project Cheer to date!

For those of you who might have forgotten, or joined us later, Project Cheer is my small way of keeping my dad's spirits up while undergoing cancer treatment. I asked anyone who reads this blog to do something kind for someone else in honor of my dad, and then report back to me. And thank you so much to anyone who has! You have brought sunshine to an otherwise dark and scary phase of my family's life.

Enter my lovely friend Aubrey. That's her up there in the photo with her cute family. When Aubrey heard about Project Cheer, she decided to help out. Then she decided get two birds/parents with one stone by organizing a yard sale for her mama who just moved in honor of my papa. Or in Aubrey's own words:

"I got to thinking…what act of kindness could I perform for Reidar? The garage. Then I think I got a bit carried away. Helping my parent in need could help Tamsin’s parent in need. Doing something difficult both mentally and physically could help us remember Reidar’s difficulties. Clearing out my mom’s garage seemed overwhelming and discouraging. Thinking of how it would help my mom and how it might cheer Reidar could give us the perspective and encouragement we needed to accomplish the task. "

Oh, how I love my little Hauber. Please go to her blog and read all about her adventures in yard saling and project cheering in honor of my daddy-o. It will give you all kinds of warm fuzzies, even if you aren't a) pregnant or b) the proud possessor of a poorly parent.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bump of the Day: Me!

More projects are on their way, but until then:

My cute friend and neighbour, Stepper, is devoting her blog this week to baby bumps and the women who have them, and I have the great honor of being the first interviewee of the week!

Read all about it here.

Please consider yourself warned that Stepper writes a great blog and has an absolutely adorable son (OK, and husband), and you are likely to become just as smitten with her as we are.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Project Baby: In which grandchildren are spoiled rotten months before birth. And a promising career in the recording industry?

We recently got back from visiting my family in Norway. We had a great time and it was so good to see my parents after all of the worry and stress they've been going through lately, and still have ahead of them. And of course it wouldn't be my family if there wasn't some crazy drama going on while we were there. But I'll leave all of that for another post.
We hadn't really intended on focusing too much on our ever-growing baby while we were there - after all at four months I was only just into maternity clothes and looking a bit chubby around the middle, and we didn't know (and still don't know) if we are having a boy or a girl, so we thought we'd just pick up a few gender neutral things here and there.

Little did we know.

We had, of course, forgotten to take my mother being a first time grandma into consideration. Within minutes of getting into the house, we were sitting under heaps of wrapping paper with mounds of tiny little garments everywhere. And it didn't stop there. Everywhere we went, we somehow ended up in the baby section and tiny little items somehow made it into our hands, courtesy of my mama. And then her generous friends started gifting us too. Wow.

So, we went from having nothing for our baby when we left, to coming home with this.

Why, yes, that is indeed a hand-knit Norwegian baby sweater in the center. Why, yes, my mother did make it. In the background you can see a down baby duvet from some of my parents friends that we've never even met, and some cute decal things from auntie Annika. Our only two purchases are the adorable jammies in the front. The crazy thought, of course, is that we have only just begun acquiring everything a baby needs. Yikes!

And now a short message from the star of the show him-/herself. Doesn't that just make your heart sing?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Project Black Thumb: Summer's lease hath all too short a date

OK, not really. At least not in Utah, it doesn't. I'm on of the people who fail to see the point in summers so hot that you can't go outside in them and who looks forward to September and cooler weather with a song in my heart. Jeans! Knitwear! The outside of my house!
So to remind myself of some of the glories that summer brought to our particular house, I give you the fruits and flowers of our labour:

First up, our raspberries! The previous owners of our house left us some raspberry canes, and they have been valiantly battling for world domination ever since. Seeing as we haven't put much work into our little garden yet, we have mostly let them grow where they wanted to, and this summer they rewarded us with a bumper crop of berries. We ate them by the fistful, on cereal, with ice cream and with chocolate pudding. We also made jam, which was so tasty that we gobbled most of it up before we had a chance to take a photo of it.

Then we decided to prettify the other garden bed, previously a sand box for the three little boys who lived here before us. We planted a pink cosmo, lots of salvias and (I think) a begonia? It was such an improvement on the weed filled sand box that it made me happy just to look out of the window and see all the colours.

And finally, our front door needing a little tarting up, so we filled a glazed blue ceramic pot with pink petunias, and they kept flowering all summer long. Especially nice, considering my propensity to kill every plant within a 30 ft radius.

Sadly, our flowers didn't look quite as lovely and healthy after three weeks of neglect while we were in Norway. So I'll let this little post serve as a memorial to them, and a reminder to me of what plants are supposed to look like, as opposed to the sad little brown things we have right now.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Project Baby: Oh my!

We are delighted and amazed to discover that this little squiggle will be joining our family in February next year!

As some of you already know, this little project has been in the works for quite some time and we just could not be happier or more excited to finally be embarking on the adventures of parenthood.

So far Project Baby has mostly involved lots of naps, flopping on the couch and frequent trips to "le petit coin," but stay tuned for thrilling updates of all sorts of fun things like doctor's visits, ultrasounds, selection of colour schemes and swollen feet.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Project Cheer: More kind people

Two more good friends have reported back with acts of kindness!

First Emily told me that she had spread the love of random acts of kindness by going to a "friend's house who has a baby and folded all her laundry and helped her clean her house." Emily is also awesome for being my own private sounding board and cancer whisperer. So yay for her!

Then the lovely Amy left me this comment: "Tamsin, I made whole wheat muffins with coconut honey butter and sent them to the funeral of an older gentleman in our ward that I didn't know. I made the basket extra pretty:) Also, I'm on my way to bring some grub to my neighbor who just had knee surgery. Onward Project Cheer!"
That girl never ceases to amaze. Click over to her blog and find out why :)

Can I just add that my favourite thing about all of the acts of kindness that have been done so far are the kind of thing that seem like no big deal to the person doing them, but that mean so much to the recipient. I know this, because a friend has been doing my dishes and taking out my trash for the past month and it is one of the greatest luxury ever!

Thank you so much friends, it means more than you will ever know.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Project Cheer: Quickly, quickly

Just a quick little post to let y'all know that if you're looking for updates on my dad's health, you should go to my mum's blog. While I'm going to keep Project Cheer going for as long as we all keep up the good work, I won't be posting much about my dad's current condition. That's not my story to tell.

So read my mama's blog!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Project Cheer: An Update

First of all, I have to say thank you to all of you: For your comments, emails, phone calls, love, prayers and friendship. Wow, people! Thank you so much. I can honestly say that every time I've felt down, worried, frustrated over the distance and time difference, one of you has popped out of nowhere to make me feel better. And I'm not even the star of this show! But my mum tells me that my dad reads my blog now (Hello Daddy!), so your kindnesses to me are reaching him too.

You are doing well, Helper Brigade!

Now, let me tell you about some of the people who have reported back their acts of kindness to me so far:

  1. The first person to tell me about something they had done was our good friend Clayton, who is blessed with mad hair cutting skillz. Not only did he give a young relative a stylin' new look, he also decided to never charge money for a hair cut ever again. Present and future kindness! Thanks, Clay, for getting us off to such a great start :)

  2. Next up is Jessica, who reported that she "bought someone who was a having really hard day her 4 favorite chocolate bars." Let's be honest, aren't we all wishing we had a friend like Jessica at this very moment?

  3. My very own Mummy contributed! Last week she was able to get a friend any fellow knitter a little part-time job knitting for money! Only a knitter (this is for you, Heather) would know and appreciate 1) what a huge deal it is to get paid to do something you love (and spend every free moment doing anyway), and 2) the sheer magnanimity it would take to hand over such a gig to someone else. Helpful, kind and selfless - that's my mama!

Keep the kindnesses coming, friends. Oh, and should you happen to be modest as well as filled with the milk of human kindness and don't want to post in the comment section, tell me what you did via email (tamsinrobole at gmail dot com) or in person.

Also, the above photo is me and my pappy on mine and Nick's wedding day. Happy times - with more to come.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Project Cheer: I have a project and you can help!

My dad has cancer.

Throughout the month or so since we've found out, my family has gone through endless cycles of feelings of shock, confusion, anger, fear, regret, hope, optimism and lots and lots of love. Ultimately, we think it's going to be OK.
However, the next couple of months for my Daddy-o will be filled with radiation therapy, chemo, surgery and endless trips back and forth from the hospital. Lots of stress and worry. And meanwhile, here on the other side of the world, there is so little I can do and it's driving me crazy.

On the day we found out, I spent a few hours in shock and a few hours crying in Nick's arms. The feeling of helplessness was almost overwhelming. Then I remembered some friends who were having a much, much harder day than mine (believe me!) and I thought: "Well, at least we can do something for them." So we dried my tears, washed my face and sneakily planted some flowers in their garden to surprise them when they got home.

And we felt so much better.

Which got me thinking: My dad isn't really one for get well cards and sentimental goop. But he is one for helping people. In fact, one of the things that made my mum fall in love with my dad was his kindness and ever-readiness to help. And my parents both taught me to value kindness. While I was growing up I may not always have appreciated sharing our family Christmas with the random elderly bachelors of the neighbourhood, but looking back with adult eyes, I'm impressed by my parents willingness to help and to share. My dad has always been willing to do anything for anyone. But that will probably not be possible for the next few months.

This is where you come in.

Will you go out and do something unselfish and kind for someone else in honor of my dad? While he's out of commission, will you fill in for him as part of the Helpful Brigade? And when you've completed your kindness, will you come back here and leave a comment or send me an email (tamsinrobole at gmail dot com) and tell me about it, so I can tell him about it? I think he's going to like this.

Thank you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Eco Geeko: Paper Recycling

Friends, in a series of new project posts in which I attempt to be a responsible citizen of the planet, I am going to voice to an opinion of an eco-conscious nature.
At this point I'd like to recognize that there are bound to be those among you who are rolling their eyes and thinking words like "band wagon", "dang hippie", and perhaps even "bah, humbug". For your benefit I'd like to explain one thing:

I really hate waste.

You can be wasting food, water, paper, electricity, money, gas, clothes or furniture, it all drives me insane because it is so pointless. Right now the Daily Herald is running a promotion where we get the paper for free for five days. Which is great, except we don't actually want the Daily Herald. So every morning, some poor schmuck wastes their time and energy (and probably some gas too) and the Daily Herald's money in delivering something to our door that is basically trash to us. Ads and junk mail are essentially the same thing. They're delivered to our mail box and we throw them away. Six days a week. Typically, these go in a landfill somewhere and that is a waste. Paper can be as biodegradable as it likes, but it's still a pointless waste that serves no purpose to either me or the company it was advertising for.

Enter recycling.

After acknowledging that "Wow, we sure do take out the trash a lot" and "Heavens, we get a lot of junk mail", Nick and I decided to be recyclers of paper. It turns out that fair city of Spanish Fork has a brand spanking new recycling program. Yay! It also turns out that because we belong to an HOA with our own waste removal, we can't participate. Boo. It's not easy being green, indeed!
Except... it turns out that Spanish Fork offers a plethora of community dumpsters where you can drop off paper and cardboard for recycling! We have two within as many minutes from our house, so now we keep a box for paper in the harry Potter Closet (under the stairs) and just dump our junk mail in there. It's easy, clean and keeps me from completely losing my mind every time we open the mail box. When the box is full, we just transfer it into a paper bag (because those always seem to mysteriously appear at our house too) and drop it off. Instant virtue!
Also, bonus: Whenever you think "Wasn't there a coupon for that in the mail the other day?" you can just go through the junk mail box and look. Very convenient.

So there you have it: our meagre effort at being nice to nature and humanity. And seeing as I happen to think it's our duty to not be complete boneheads where our stewardship of the planet is concerned, I'll be trying a few other eco projects too.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Project Pneumonia

If you've been thinking that things have been quiet around here, you're absolutely right! The end of the semester had me snowed under with term papers and whatnot, then, as soon as finals started, I got pneumonia.
Suffice it to say that I've spent the past week and a half more or less entirely in bed. Suffice it to say I've been tired, grumpy, whiny, self-pitying and needy. And you, my bloggy friend, should be happy I didn't make you read about that.

Anyway, spring term starts tomorrow, I'm on my last day of the anti-biotics, the sun is shining and I'm starting to feel more like myself. I'm even willing to start negotiations on giving up my bottle of liquid Codeine sometime soon.

Expect some new projects soon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Celebrate: Easter Sunday

For mostly superficial reasons, I love Easter. Don't get me wrong: The spiritual significance of the holiday holds tremendous meaning to me, but it's one I try to reflect on and feel gratitude for throughout the year, as well as on Easter Sunday itself.
But is there any other holiday as dedicated to Pretty as Easter?
I love the celebration of spring with all its daffodils and tulips. I love all the pretty pastel colours and Easter dresses. Nick and I serve in the Nursery (kids between 18 months and 3 years, for those who might be wondering) at our church, and Easter Sunday was just make-you-melt adorable with all of the little girls in their finest.
Oh, and there's chocolate. Cadbury's Mini Eggs! Pretty pastelly m&m's! Cadbury's Creme Eggs! It's hard to argue with a holiday that encourages that much chocolaty goodness. Well... at least it is at our house. And I get to use my pretty Easter candy dish!

Seeing as I'm trying to make holidays more special, I started out our Easter Sunday celebrations by getting up early (-ish; it was the weekend after all) and making breakfast. We had freshly baked croissants, hard-boiled eggs and orange juice. And lest you be under the delusion that I am some sort of wonder woman, the croissants came in a tube and the orange juice out of a carton. But I did boil the eggs myself, thank you very much.
The most important part of Easter breakfast at my house growing up was always the table setting. In fact, if you're curious to see what I have to live up to, my mum just wrote about Easter on her blog and posted a photo of her lovely Easter table.
Well! Seeing as not everyone has (self) hand-painted Easter plates, Kindereggs and sunlight streaming onto their kitchen table, I did the best with what I had and this is what I came up with:

It looks a little forlorn in this photo, but it was quite nice in person, I promise! I started with a sage green table cloth and plain white plates topped with cloth napkins. And we used our fancy glasses for the orange juice. Nick had already bought me some beautiful purple tulips earlier in the week, so we didn't really need anything else for a center piece, but I wanted to display our Easter eggs, so I cut some branches from an obliging tree, and did this Norwegian style:

Lest you read my last post and start thinking that Norwegians are endlessly lopping branches off unsuspecting trees to use them as holiday center pieces, you are only partially right. You're really supposed to keep the branches from Fastelavn going until Easter, but that wasn't going to happen at our house. So I got some fresh branches, stuck them in a vase and decorated them with eggs that we decorated together the first year we were married.

In a fit of sheer adorableness, I had bought a special little decorative egg for Nick that I had cunningly planned to place in his egg cup in lieu of an actual, edible egg. Except, of course, that we didn't have any egg cups. Except, of course, that America as a nation has missed out entirely on the concept of egg cups being an essential part of Easter. Except, of course, the horribly lame novelty ones that Target had to offer. I looked and looked, but had to give up. Nick's egg seemed doomed to be without receptacle. Unless...

So I knitted one.

And that is frankly all I have to say about that particular aspect of our celebration.

Easter was a really nice, really relaxing day (apart from the two hours spent in the company of 21 under-three year olds). It was sunny enough to finally feel like spring, and the first daffodil of the season finally made an appearance in our flowerbed. I really enjoyed how good it felt to just be our little family spending some time together.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Celebrate: Fastelavn

As if living in a foreign country wasn't enough to send me over the edge of excessive Norwegian-ness, I've also found that marriage has created a huge desire in me to celebrate holidays. Norwegian holidays. English holidays. American holidays. If people celebrate it, I will come. Or at least attempt to recreate it in my home.
This desire probably comes from a couple of different things:
1) I miss the holidays and celebrations from Norway that no one knows about here, and so I need to celebrate them myself. I think part of my own identity and Norwegianness is tied up in doing things that Norwegians do, and that includes celebrating holidays.
2) Holidays are a huge part of my associations of what being a family means. My mum is really good at making an occasion special, and I really want to continue that with my own family. So many of my best childhood memories are of Easter breakfasts, getting dressed up for the 17. of May celebrations, Sancta Lucia at school or birthdays at home. While we don't have any children yet, the thought of our kids not knowing about these important (to me) occasions because we didn't celebrate them is really sad and kind of scary to me.
3) I love the idea of taking an ordinary day and making it into a celebration! It doesn't have to be expensive, elaborate or time-consuming, it just has to be fun, special and extraordinary. A little bright spot in the midst of the mundane.
So! Another project of mine is to celebrate more holidays, big and small, starting with the somewhat odd Scandinavian holiday of Fastelavn, which Nick and I celebrated on February 22nd this year.

It is basically the Norwegian version of Mardi Gras, and is celebrated the Sunday before Lent. Norwegians being somewhat too conservative to dance half-naked through the streets (unless drunk) celebrate this day by eating. Now there's a holiday I can get behind! Way back in the day people used to eat nine times (!!!) in each corner of the house to ensure food for the rest of the year, but nowadays we settle for these:

Fastelavnsboller are little sweet rolls filled with whipped cream and sprinkled with powdered sugar. If you're extra bold, you'll add a teaspoon or two of jam inside too. We were. The point of the holiday is basically to eat as much fatty stuff as you can before Lent kicks in, and these little guys will send you well on your way.
Another important part of the holiday is the fastelavnsris, which is basically this:

You place small cut tree branches in a vase filled with water and then decorate them with colourful feathers. One of my favourite things about this is that the tiny little buds on the twigs eventually grown into pretty little green leaves, so it's like getting an early start on spring right inside your house. Admittedly, I didn't even know why this was part of the holiday until I looked it up this year, and apparently it's a fertility thing: husbands would spank their wives with the branches to ensure their ability to have children. Oh my!


No, we didn't try that part!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Know Your Fork: Holi Festival of Colours

Note: It's going to become really apparent really quickly in this post that I favour British-English spellings. I suggest you learn to deal with it.

Ah, small Western towns: The rodeo ground, the feed store, the Hare Krishna temple...
As it happens, Spanish Fork, Utah boasts its very own Krishna temple, and on Saturday that temple boasted their very own Festival of Colors, aka Holi.
As far as I have understood, the Hindu festival of Holi commemorates the day when a five year old boy, Prahlad, escaped death by fire.He was sentenced to death by burning for refusing to worship the king, and his sister Holika, who was a witch and a demon volunteered to carry him into the fire. Nice! Holika had a special talent that allowed her to not be harmed by fire. So happy Holika carries poor Prahlad into the flames, expecting him to burn and die. But Prahlad is a faithful sort of kid, and prays to Lord Vishnu, who hears his prayers. Not only does Prahlad make it out of the flames alive, but Holika loses her nonflammable skills and burns to death. That's what you get. So now Holika is burned in effigy every spring, and coloured powder and water are thrown around too.

Being English, I could naturally get behind a good effigy burning, and we'd heard tell of 15,000 people flinging colour around, so off we went with a few friends to the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple to see it all for ourselves.

Now. It started off fairly low-key with some llamas and peacocks and long lines for vegetarian curries. The temple looked suitably exotic and filled with Eastern Promise, and there were a few people milling about in saris (among the rampant hordes of BYU students). A couple of thousand people (us included) were seated on the hillside to watch Indian dancers and politely ignore any religious content that might not mesh with our own beliefs. Mostly it felt really good to relax outside on a rare sunny day in March.

None of us had ever been to Holi before, so didn't really know what to expect. We bought our bags of colour which turned out to be vibrantly dyed corn starch, scented with jasmine and.... something else that I can't remember. I found it charming that the bags were imported from India, and labeled "Spanish Fork, UT, USA". They also had a large "No. 1" emblazoned across the front, which I am going to take to mean that we got the good stuff. No inferior dyed cornstarch for us!

As the time drew closer to 5:30, we were getting pretty excited. As were our 15,000 new friends on the hillside beside us. In fact some of them were getting so excited that they took it upon themselves to light the effigy of Holika early. Side note: I'm not a huge stickler for rules (Ok, actually, I kind of am) but I think that when someone invites you to join in their religious celebration, you do not take it upon yourself to jump the gun on the entire culminating moment. Unless of course you're some punk kid from Utah. Did someone say the Age of Entitlement? Sheesh. So that part was pretty lame, and I was annoyed.

And then this happened:

A-mazing! The temple completely disappeared from view for a while, there was so much dusty colour in the air. It looked like fire, it looked like smoke* and it looked like clouds. Here's a shot from inside the crowd that actually captures what it felt like to be there pretty well:

And this is what we looked by the time we had emptied all of our bags onto each other.

I think (I hope!) that the main reason I look slightly crazed in these is because my face is a lovely shade of purple. Violet Beauregard would be proud.

In summary: That was really fun! The colour gets everywhere (I'm talking pink and purple tissues for the next two days), and the crowds are above and beyond what a little place like that can handle, but I would not be surprised if we went again.

*Oh! I get the symbolism now! The clouds of colour look like fire and smoke, and so the people inside them appear to be unharmed by the flames, like Prahlad! Thank you, Humanities major!