Friday, December 30, 2011

An Evening with the Shepherds and Angels

Joseph hanging with the Shepherds and Wise Men with a little help from Dad
I love Christmas.  I love little kids.  When you put the two together, it's always a winning combo.

On Christmas Eve, I had the privilege of being a part of a quiet, but stunning theatrical performance of the Nativity.  It was a lovely show with the finest actors available.

There was singing and dancing!
The Angelic Heavenly Host apparently not only sang for joy at the Saviour's birth...

... but apparently also expressed their joy through interpretive dance. 
I didn't know this before.  I feel enlightened.
The actors and actresses all took their roles very seriously. 

I was so impressed by their stage presence and fine acting skills.  They all did a wonderful job.  I was transported by the story they told so simply.  It was really theatre at its finest.
The beautiful Virgin Mary on her Daddy's lap, while the sweet little lamb holds Baby Jesus
I really recommend this little acting troupe and its excellent crew. 

However, their performances are very exclusive.  I believe you've missed them for this year!
The Shepherds couldn't help playing a bit with their staves. 
I feel myself very honored to have been able to witness this event.

Lucky me!

So, Happy Christmas and, especially, a Happy New Year to all!
After their fine performances, three happy actresses pose with their matching Christmas PJs
... And to all a good night!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Merry Christmas in Cuautla!

Elder Nils writes, "This is a picture from our interpretive dance skit.  It was pretty dang awesome."

The Sisters and Elders of Cuautla cutting loose for Christmas.

President and Sister Spannous and the Sisters and Elders of Cuautla, cleverly disguised as mild-mannered missionaries.
Elder Nils writes, "Needless to say, it was pretty much epic."

Hope yours was epic, too!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

The Prophet Isaiah saw the coming of the Saviour in vision, as did other prophets of old

10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
Alma 7:10-12

Mary, Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger

The Christus Statue on Temple Square in Salt Lake City
The great message of the Restored Gospel is that Jesus Christ is the son of the living God.  He is the light and life of the world, the Only Begotten of the Father.  He is the Messiah who was chosen before the world began and whose coming was foretold by prophets from the time of Adam until that day in the meridian of time when he came to earth. He lives!  He is real.  He guides and directs His church on the earth.  He cares deeply for all of us.

So, Merry Christmas, dear friends! God Jul, Joyeux Noel, Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad, or, however you say it - and wherever you may be in the world, all the best to you and your loved ones for a very happy holiday. 

Choose to rejoice this holiday season!  We have so much to be thankful for. 

God Bless Us, Every One.

Friday, December 23, 2011

No Bag Left Behind

 As I've mentioned before on these pages, Jack has a "No Bag Left Unconquered" policy.
 He had an interesting "conversation" with the Polly's Pies bag recently!

This was particularly fun because the bag made lots of great crinkly noises.  Jack really likes to play with things that make a great deal of noise.

Things that make noise are just inherently more fun.
I think it's just the right size for a kitty.

Does that mean that Jack is pie-sized?

Hmmm... a thought to ponder on a nice quiet day. 

The Norwegians call this day Lille Jul Aften, or Little Christmas Eve.  For Americans, it's called The Last Regular Work Day Before Christmas.  In honor of the occasion, my coworkers are running around with little silly gifts for each other.  It's a nice tradition.

As for Little Christmas Eve, may yours be merry and bright.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Decorating for Christmas

I have a sweet little Nativity set that I've put up on the TV every Christmas for years.  It is small and simple, with a shepherd peeking in through the window of the stable, sheep, a chubby angel above them, a charming Joseph, and, of course, a beautiful Mary holding little baby Jesus.

I love the shepherd peeking in at the window

A few years ago, when my niece was a teen, she made little Swedish Lucia and Stjerne Gutt (star boy) figures.  These little figures have also become a part of my Nativity scene.

Star Boy has suffered through the years, and his star wand has been glued and taped together countless times.  Lucia has fared better.

Last weekend my family celebrated the Lucia festival with other Scandinavians.  They live in another state, so I only got to see photos of my youngest nephew in his star boy costume.  Which the kids jokingly refer to as their "dresses and dunce caps" (see my post on 12/16/11).

The Star boys and Lucias are all part of a Norwegian, Swedish and Danish Christmas - a holdover from pagan times when they served as a reminder that the dark times of winter would evenutally give way to light.  I think the idea of the triumph of light over darkness was appealing to early Christians.
Upon closer inspection, I realized this year my little Stjerne Gutt's hat was full of tiny little kitten teeth marks...
Trust me, the teeth marks are there, just not visible in the photo.

It appears that the symbols of Christmas also had a certain appeal to a little kitty boy who lives at my house!  I'm going to have to have a talk with that little boy.  Jack?  You got some 'xplaining to do!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Alpine Village

This Oktoberfest tuba playing guy was not there.
On Saturday, I and a few of my friends drove down to the Alpine Village in Torrance for a taste of German lunch.  It felt very Christmassey, as it was chilly, overcast and raining all the way down there.

The Alpine Village is a collection of restaurants and shops that specialize in German food and imports, and also Scandinavian imports of all kinds.  It's a little bit of Deutschland in the South Bay.
A little bit of Bavaria right in Southern California
We had a delicious lunch.  They feature menu items such as wienerschnitzel, bratwurst, sauerkraut, red cabbage, spaetzle and other German delicacies.  It was really yummy!
Yummy food!
Afterwards, we hit the shops.  I was able to get things that make my Christmas complete: hearty brown bread, Norwegian gjetost, a marzipan pig and a jar of pickled red cabbage. Great comfort foods of the season.  I'm looking forward to my Christmas feast!
Authentic German grocery shopping for Christmas
The Alpine Village market has a deli and a bakery with all kinds of traditional foods.  I had to curb my enthusiasm!  I wanted to buy everything.
Delicious baked goods

All kinds of German and European imported foods

We sat near here, but didn't see any waitresses dressed like Heidi!
I think it's funny that they should show this beautiful dirndl wearing waitress in their ads.  Our waiters were efficient and friendly, but short, dark and Hispanic.

It was a great lunch with good friends, and made me a little nostalgic for the Norwegian-American home I grew up in.

Frohliche Weinachten!
Note: All photos are from the Alpine Village website. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Det Bor En Baker..

Christian the Baker

The Swedish Club had a St. Lucia party recently, and Christian was the baker for the song, “There is a baker…”

In Norwegian the words go:
Det bor en baker
I Østre Aker
Han baker kringler og julekake
Han baker store
Han baker små
Ha baker noen med sukker på
The Swedes sing:
Det finns en bakare
Han bor i sta’n
Han baker kakor mest hela dagen
Han baker stora
Han baker små
Han baker nogra med socker på
Translated, the gist of it is: There’s a baker (in Norway he lives in East Aker, in Sweden he lives in the City), he bakes all day and makes Christmas cakes and all kinds of good things, large and small. Some of them have sugar on them.

It sounds better in Norwegian and/or Swedish. It’s a kid’s song that I sang when I was little, too.

I think he looks adorable in his costume.  The red-striped apron says "God Jul", which means Merry Christmas!

I love that these fun songs of my youth are getting passed down to the next generation.  You go, Christian!

Hope you have a holiday filled with delicious baked goods.  Ah-Yup - that's the most Scandinavian holiday wish I can think of at the moment! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Decorating the Office

The Office Tree
The office finally got a holiday dressing.

It looks very festive.
Poinsettias on the slate floor of the reception area

The IT Manager's Office looks festive

Brian clowns around with our tree

Cute decorations in the Corporate Marketing area

Friday, December 16, 2011

St. Lucia Fest

On Stage Again

My beautiful sister-in-law in Swedish bunad and my brother in his dashing Norwegian sweater
 giving away the raffle prizes
Saint Lucia Day is a day celebrated in Scandinavia just before Christmas.  There is a Swedish Club in my brother's area which has a big party every year for their St. Lucia celebration.
My sister-in-law plays as the children "dance" around the Christmas tree singing carols
Rehearsals for this program, in which all the children participate, teach the Swedish language and traditions to the next generation.
Lovely Lucia girls make a dramatic entrance with their candles
 It's a lot of fun, a lot of hard work, and a good time for all.
The Lucia Girls and Star Boys sing Swedish Carols
 I'm glad the kids have a chance to learn the Christmas songs I sang growing up.
After the program, a feeding frenzy!
I'm glad that my niece and nephews have had the opportunity to learn something of our Scandinavian roots through programs like this.  It's a fun way to get a cultural heritage lesson.

Teaching your own cultural heritage to your children helps them to have a sense of belonging and helps them to know something of their ancestors, if only in a small way.

Americans have a diverse heritage.  We come from so many countries all over the world, but we embrace a culture of freedom and representative government.

As we enjoy this wonderful Christmas season, it's fun to see all the traditions that combine from divergent cultures, to make this such a wonderful country.

What traditions do you enjoy from your cultural heritage?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bullar og Sjokolade

Homemade Saffronsbrød (Saffron bread rolls)
December 13th was Saint Lucia Day. My brother said his wife woke him in the morning, bringing him rolls (bullar) and hot chocolate (varm sjokolade) in bed.

When my niece was still living at home, she would prepare the breakfast and bring it to her parents.

Sounds like a nice tradition!  Now if I can only find someone to come to my house next year....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cuautla Service Project

Cleaning the Turtle Lake in Cuautla

My nephew, Elder Nils, recently participated in a service project for the city of Cuautla, Mexico.  He writes:

The service project was incredible. We spent most of the time cleaning out the mini turtle lake. We had to take all of the turtles out of the lake and put them in a small turtle pond, and then, with small hand brushes, clean out all the algae, and turtle and fish poo. It was pretty fun to catch turtles and fish with your hands, though. You gotta be a little careful.. those turtles bite.  We had a few kids with some small bites on their feet.

It was pretty fun, though.  We had a huge crowd there by the end of the service project. The leader of the DIF [a Community leader] showed up, bought us all food, and gave us a commemoration thing. (Is commemoration even a word? I'm forgetting my English!) We got to contact a few people while cleaning the place out, so it was pretty cool.

The Missionaries of Cuautla, Mexico

That's Elder Nils in the front row with the gray USA tee-shirt, and his arm around his companion, Elder Blair.

And, yes, they felt the earthquake the other night!  It was felt from Acapulco clear to Mexico City.  It hit at 7:47 local time on Saturday, December 10th and measured a magnitude 6.5, centered at Guerrero, Mexico.

Both Nils and Elder Blair were at the church making phone calls when the earth started moving.  Neither one of them had experienced an earthquake before, so at first they thought they were going crazy - until it happened again!  When they tried calling out they discovered the phones weren't working.

They finally asked their neighbor if he had felt it.  To play a prank on them, he said, "No, I didn't feel anything.  You boys should quit drinking so much if the ground starts moving!"

They are all fine, by the way.

Just another exciting week in the mission field.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

1st Christmas Party

I love a party!  There was so much food of all kinds in four or five serving areas!
I attended my first Christmas party of the season on Saturday night.  The house was packed with people, food and good Christmas cheer.

Jackie's Delightful Christmas Village
 The house was decorated beautifully.
The Tree was beautiful too

The dogs were banished to the yard, but attended vicariously via screensaver

One of the kitties was hiding in Santa's hat in the bedroom
It was great getting together with good friends.  It was also fun to see the 9 cats and two dogs that also live in this large home. 

My Jack came from this home.  He was rescued by these friends.  I will be forever grateful for that.

I have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dear Jackie

Glen and Jackie Campbell
A wonderful and valiant woman has left mortality.  My good friend Jackie passed away early (1 a.m.) this Sunday morning, the 11th. 

It's funny, but I woke up on Sunday knowing she had passed.  It was a calm feeling.  I'm so glad she is free from her broken body and at peace.

Jackie was one of those ladies I just loved from first meeting her.  She was passionate about her husband, her boys, her grandkids, football and the gospel.

Jackie was not shy and retiring.  She was intelligent and engaging and outspoken when it counted.  She taught Seminary, Sunday School, and Relief Society, for many years.  She was a real champion of the Restored Gospel and loved by all who knew her.

A series of strokes over 10 years ago, left her incapacitated and a shell of her former self.  It was hard to see this vibrant women silent and in a wheelchair.

Her kind and loving husband, Glen, took care of her daily needs with cheerfulness and gentleness.  He would get up and bear his testimony on Fast Sunday and proclaim, "We've had a great month", even when I knew the difficulties he had in being a caregiver.

Glen read the Book of Mormon to Jackie every day and has found comfort in its pages throughout the past 10 years.  I'm so blessed that he has been my Home Teacher for many, many years, too.  He always has a smile for me and asks me how I'm doing, and he's always been there for me when I needed it, in spite of his circumstances.

This next little while will be tough for him, I'm sure.

Jackie will be sorely missed by many.  It will be hard to see that vacant space in the back pew at church.

Friday, December 9, 2011


UNO Night at the Evensens
Okay, this photo was taken last year at Christmastime, because that's the now Elder Nils with his back to the camera - but it chronicles a weekly activity in my brother's household: playing UNO.

Playing Uno is serious business in our family!

For those of you who may not know, UNO is a card game.  It is a simple game to learn to play, and since it relies solely on numbers and colors, it is universal in its appeal.

Simply put, you can play UNO, even if you can't speak the language.

My dad and stepmom put this to the test.  They went through dozens of decks in their 17 years of living in various European countries.  UNO was always playable, no matter what language barrier existed!  They ended up giving decks away to most of the folks who played UNO with them in their home after dinner.  It was an ice breaker, and a friendship builder.

It was fun.

Because of them, I've played UNO in English, Swedish, French, Flemish and Norwegian.  Not necessarily in that order.  (As Brother Dobieski is wont to say, "your mileage may vary".)

My brother's family is doing their best to keep the UNO mania alive.  Their weekly games are pretty exciting.  Trust me.  Okay, maybe you have to be there to know what I'm talking about.  (Refer to above picture.)

Recently, they decided to send an UNO deck to their son, Nils.  As chronicled in this blog, Nils is currently serving as an LDS missionary in the wilds of Cuernavaca, Mexico.  He has just been assigned to Cuautla.  He has some funny experiences with the game in Spanish.

In case you need a refresher, this is Elder Nils surrounded by his crazy, UNO playing family
Nils writes from Cuautla:

The other day I saw someone in our ward with UNO cards.  I didn't realize how weird that was until I tried to explain it to a Mexican Elder.  I guess the conversation would translate something like this:

'Do you play one?'

'Uh, what?'

'You know, ONE.'

', I play a lot more games than just one.'
Now that Elder Nils has his own deck, he'll have to spread the Word... no, he's already spreading THAT word, I mean he'll have to teach people about UNO.

I think the Mexican people can handle it.