Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Traditions

I'm editing this a little and reposting this due to the season.  I hope it helps you reach back into your own memories of Christmas past and those traditions near and dear to your heart.  Christmas is definitely a time for remembering.
Warmest greetings of the season
and every good wish for the coming year.
Önskar dig en trevlig jul 

och allt gott för kommande år.

It is hard to decide on what traditions are from our Swedish heritage and and which ones are from other influences. Definitely the food has a Swedish flair as do the decorations.

Our country church is the result of Swedish immigrants that started worshiping together in dugouts and sod houses on the prairie when a traveling preacher came to the area in 1872. Julotta was a part of their service for many years, depending on the weather, the early Christmas Day service was a tradition carried down by ancestors of those first immigrants who traveled by sled across the plains to gather with family and friends at church. Candles are a traditional item used, starting with the days long ago when the trees were lit with candles and candles were placed in all the windows of our church on the highest point in our home county. Many services during the season are candle lit services.

My great Grandmother Anna Swanson (1863-1932) kept "Julafton" (Christmas Eve), a Swedish custom, with a Christmas Eve dinner including "Julegröt" (made with rice) and creamed "lutfisk". She had a large Christmas evergreen tree (spruce) decorated and lit with candles. A Christian Christmas program was followed by presents dealt out from under the tree.

As a child in the 1960's, I remember going to my Grandma Phoebe Johnson's (1900-1971) to celebrate with the aunts, uncles and cousins. Her 10 grandchildren kept themselves busy exploring the large home as the women prepared traditional foods such as lutfisk, meatballs, ham, potatis korv, pickled herring, serving limpa bread as well as treats of other special breads, spritz, rosettes, jellied cookies, kringlor, lefse, krumkaka, pepparkakor and lingonberry deserts. It took some coaxing to get the younger ones to try the lutfisk, I myself, did not eat it until older. (It is a treat now.) When I was little everyone, even those that didn't indulge, would at least get a custard cup to have a taste of the traditional fish.  Following the food, the evening would proceed with the children saying their Christmas church program pieces and or singing a carol or playing their instrument, followed by Grandma reading the Christmas story from the Bible. The evening would be full of activity. The youngest children were in charge of handing out of gifts to the group as the paper flew and presents were enjoyed by all, young and old. After much time playing with the toys and each other, the food was wrapped up, meant as treats and treasures sent home with all of those present. The tired group, the youngest having taken a nap under a big feather filled comforter, would head for church to attend the midnight service. Here we would meet with other friends and extended family at a candle lit service celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Throughout the holiday season children are told they will only be left presents by Santa if they are good, so many a child was on their best behavior awaiting the treasures of Christmas eve and morn. At home we would leave a treat for Santa by the fireplace for him and his reindeer before going off to bed for a few hours. Of course Dad and or Mom would eat the treat as if Santa himself had been there. In the morning we had to wait to open our presents after my maternal Grandmother Celia Wettestad (1891-1972) was awake. We would stand over her bed, staring at her, discussing if she was awake or not, until an eye would open to her grandchildren staring down anxiously at her.  Smiles and laughter would follow!

As soon as presents are opened it's time for more Christmas delicacies. The plate with treats is always full and the coffee pot ready throughout the season for that welcomed visitor that might stop in for a holiday visit.
Santa always brought the family a game on Christmas and Christmas afternoon became game time.  A puzzle was always out on a card table and recently we've all sat down together to watch a movie together.

Four generations of our neighbors family have continued the traditional dopp i grytan and often invite the neighbors in to dip and celebrate with them!

Over the years, fruit soup would be cooking on the stove and then jarred up for the older neighbor who appreciated the treat from the past. Years ago many of our holiday gatherings had older single neighbors of Swedish heritage joining us for our lutfisk meal with all the goodies to follow.

Now we're all headed for warmer weather, Christmas in Arizona! How traditions change... but we're still planning on lingonberries, limpa bread, lefse, meat balls, lutfisk and much much more.  The Christmas story, read from the bible, is one tradition that won't change either.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I recently returned from three weeks on my parents farm.  It was a wonderful time packed full of family, friends, celebrations, reunions, work, appointments and food.
35th Reunion of the West Lyon Class of 1976
Getting together with long time friends was easy this trip as my high school class had their 35th reunion.  We've all decided we haven't really aged (ok, a few of us have and some just lie and say "you haven't changed!")  Most of us are past the point of having to impress each other but you still want to put your best foot forward as you meet some people you only see every 5 years.  This year we planned to tone it down and meet at a classmates home instead of our usual golf course club house.  Wow, his place was beautiful!
Me and classmate Norm
The perfect location for visiting and relaxing with long time friends, with a huge patio, pond and breathtaking views.  The catered meal was delicious and you know you're getting older when you get excited about the soft serve ice cream machine and sundae toppings instead of an open bar!  We had some classmates who hadn't been in attendance for 30 years and an exchange student from Belgium who hadn't been back since she graduated with us! Linda and her husband definitely beat out everyone with having traveled the farthest.  These friends are lifelong friends.  You know, those people you can pick up a conversation with, five, ten or thirty five years later!  There was lots of laughter, sharing and plans to be made.
I made it back to hit a couple family reunions too.  There was the Cousin's Breakfast with the Berg branch of the Johnson family held at the Fryin Pan in Sioux Falls, SD.  As generations pass it's too easy to loose touch with cousins you don't see often.  Dad, my aunt Carol and Josephine are the only 1st cousins left of Grandparents Albertina and Anders Johnson who will have their Johnson Reunion August 7th.
I also got a chance to see more relatives from this branch at Mark and Marilyn's housewarming.  They lost their home to a flood last year and rebuilt on ancestral farm land where Mark's Great Grandpa Long homesteaded back in 1868.  They built their home overlooking the Sioux River with help from friends and family and held a barbeque to show their thanks and allow people to see their new home.
Margaret Swanson Scholten
The Swanson reunion was held July 3rd.  The generations are passing here too with Margaret the only 1st cousin left of Adolph and Greta Swanson's grandchildren.  This reunion was held in Brandon, SD at the Pizza Ranch.  Does food seem to be a theme of my gatherings while home?  Definitely.
Lynne & Ray Aaro and Me!
In 2004, I wrote a letter to my Mom's brother from her birth father's side.  Since that time everyone in my family was able to meet her brothers Don and Ray but me.  Due to distance and schedules I missed out on opportunity after opportunity until this summer.  Ray and his wife Lynne we coming to Sioux Falls for a few days and met us at the casino for the afternoon full of food and some gambling and followed us home for more visiting.  It was a wonderful afternoon of getting to know each other in person even though we've been internet buddies for many years.  We parted hoping our next reunion doesn't take as long as our first face to face one took!
I also met up with many others throughout the weeks home... neighbors, cousins Robin, Kacie and Bill, church family, friends,... it can't get much better than that!

- Always remember to slow down in life; live, breathe, and learn; take a look around you whenever you have time and never forget everything and every person that has left a place within your heart. - unknown

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Family, Farm & Art Therapy

As summer arrives for a teacher it's time to "catch up" on things I've let go during the school year.  I've taught for 30 years now and my schedule still keeps me busy and running with things revolving around school during the year that it's "a breath of fresh air" to finally reach summer vacation.
This summer I've already gone home to the farm for a week.  My sister Deb was there visiting for a few days too and we filled our days with activities, wishing for more time.  We both really enjoy being on the farm and helping our folks, the results were a scratch at the surface but still visible.

Deb weeded, I planted.  Deb helped Dad pick up sticks and clear away a fallen tree in the grove, organized tools, searched in the attic...  I drove everyone around, worked on Mom's computer, planted a garden for them,...  We planned on a small one and I don't know how, but it got larger than any of us imagined!  The area where the old chicken house once was is now a garden in full view with tomatoes, cucumbers, beats, squash, onions, pumpkins and watermelons awaiting sun and rain.
I also made some hanging vases for Mom to use as table favors, for a lunch she will have for friends, using copper wire, beads and antique bottles.  Of course there were extras to give away that week.  There were errands to run, people to visit, meals to make and things to look through.
This was the first Memorial Day for Deb and I to be home in many years.  The Grandview Cemetery service was our first time to attend since Steve had died.  We picked fresh flowers and put them in a can we covered with the bottom of a jeans pant leg, it looked rather nice and represented flowers that have grown on the farm for many years.
It touched my whole family to see others put flowers on his grave as well.  He had made a difference in others lives, what we all can only wish for.  Visiting with friends, neighbors and relatives at the cemetery was a joy.  We all share something from our past and some of it connects to the reason we were all there on that hill overlooking the Sioux River valley.
Making the trip from Hill City, SD were my Auntie Carol and Uncle Wes!  It was great to see them and a few relatives that came back to the farm for more visiting time and a meal.
Back in Denver, I busily prepared for friends that shingled my house and the start of "spring" cleaning that had been put off way too long.
This past week it's been time for some art "therapy".  Friends Mike and Janine were in mind when I started a painting of a beach/lake scene on canvas.  This was a joy to paint again, not for a class project but with someone else in mind.  I posted daily updates on facebook for friends to critique and now it is finished and ready to deliver to Clear Lake on my way back to the farm in a week.
Time goes by so fast during summer vacation.  I've packed in a lot during the past three weeks. I hope the rest of the summer is as productive and relaxing.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Longtime friends

Back in February conversations started via emails with some college roommates of mine, with plans to get together and watch the Royal wedding of Will and Kate at the end of April.  With the February "blues" hitting us, four of us (and two husbands) quickly jumped on the chance for an excuse to get together and take off a day of work to have our reunion.  We started our countdown to the date via rotating e-mails discussing plans for the weekend, and the entertainment of weekly Will and Kate trivia provided by Janine.  It wasn't just the wedding enticing us to meet, but of seeing each other, getting away from our daily grind, finding the familiar in a friendship over 30 years old.  Clear Lake was the destination and we took out from Beaman and Denver, IA, Shakopee, MN, and Roscoe, IL.

There was sharing to be done; gift bags, crafts, photos, travels to hear about and technology to be played with.  Beth is so talented, she creates so much; books, quilts, memory containers,...  Here are a couple of her creations she's made that share family stories and photos to capture a moment in time.

Janine had tiaras and boas for us to sport for the wedding.  Mike and his Mom made us a delicious English breakfast in honor of the wedding in the early hours and from there on we talked, laughed, shopped and ate all weekend long.

We "found" old friends on facebook, reminisced and renewed friendships that have withstood time.   Thank you Janine and Mike for your hospitality and all of you for your timeless friendship.
Janine, Penny, Beth and Diane (AKA J-rod, P-rod, Miller and Johns)
The view from their patio in Clear Lake.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Decorah, IA, Eagles

An amazing view is available on line via  Mesmerizing viewers around the globe, Mom and Dad Eagle are sitting on 3 eggs, due to hatch around April 1st.  They are brought to people via The Raptor Resource Project.  The eagles are on a nest on private property next to a fish hatchery in Decorah. Check their camera out here.

I've been taking computer screen shots from the video on line.  None of these photos are retouched or cropped.  From time to time someone manipulates the camera remotely to get panned views of the area, the nest as well as closeups!
There is also an on going chat on line to join or read.  People visit from across the states and I've seen entries from Europe and Australia.
These majestic birds take turns sitting on the 5-6 ft. wide nest.  Mom is 30% bigger than Dad.  She is thought to be about 7 or 8 yrs. old.  Dad is about 12-15 years old and lost his first wife while sitting on a nest.  Once she died, Dad was unable to hatch the eggs and get food, so abandoned the nest.  All this is shared on a PBS video, available on line called American Eagle.  I highly recommend it.
I hope you check the Eagle Cam out, it's addicting!

Sunday, February 27, 2011


As we come to the end of February I reflect back on the month and can't believe for such a short month it was full of so much.
First of all I lost my hard drive on my computer.  Everything from the last 4 1/2 years is gone... no backup.  A reminder to everyone to back up your information, photos, files, etc.  Thank goodness for an OLD computer I kept with my things on it from 2006 and before.  I have some things but have lost almost everything else.  I had a few CDs with photos and of course have everything I've posted on this blog as far as family history and photos.  Photos I posted here and to my FB account are still available, but I usually lowered the resolution of the photos before posting them on line so only have the low resolution/size.  Luckily I had made a CD of many of last years photos for my sister Deb at Christmas and will have those available to me.  I thought about getting a new computer but decided to just put a new hard drive into the computer.
Then the month gets filled in with school; grading, midterms, end of the trimester, lesson plans, parent teacher conferences.  I teach 8 different classes everyday and one of those classes rotates different groups of kids every three days, so I see 10 different groups of kids at school.  Teaching 6-12 art and 7-8 Technology keeps me hopping.
Fill in the time that's left and we've had a few snow storms, rain, snow days to allow the weather to dictate how the days progress.
I also had a tooth ache start until finally I couldn't put off a visit to the dentist.  It was more than my regular dentist could attack and I had to go to another dentist and am now scheduled for surgery where they will cut across my gum on four teeth, peal the gum back and then cut out a root that is abscessed.  Oh joy!
So there is a short review of the month, after hearing how February treated me, I'm sure you'll agree with me, it's time for March!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Happy 80th Birthday Mom!

80 years Young!

Dear Mom,
As your 80th Birthday arrives this weekend, it's time for reflection.  Imagine those days long ago as a child and what special times and special people meant to you.  As a teenager it was all about fun and friends, laughter and smiles.  Then as a young wife and new mother your days were filled with wishes and dreams you had, not only for yourself but your family as well.  Loving arms wrapped around you, kisses and hugs too numerous to count, XXX OOO XXX OOO.  Your birthday became a day to celebrate friendships and the community our neighbors share.  Many have shared your special day with you, in one way or another, ahhh... good memories treasured.  
Reminiscing over the years, a walk through time.   But birthdays aren't just for looking back, it's also time to look forward. New friends to make, places to see, skills to learn and teach, love to continue and grow.  What an exciting ride we take through life.  What goes around, comes around.  It's all about give and take, love and laughter, helping others and being helped.
This special birthday greeting is being sent your way, with many happy wishes for a truly perfect day.
Love Always, Diane

PS I wish I had my computer files and photos to add to this posting but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my hard drives not dead!
By the time you're eighty years old you've learned everything. You only have to remember it.  ~ George Burns

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.  ~ Mark Twain


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