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!