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Category Archives: Christmas

in lieu of real snow, may i introduce frosty the pancake

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One of our advent activities this year was to make snowman pancakes with daddy. Most of the advent activities I plan go over like lead balloons (make an ornament for our new neighbor? no. make a present for grandma? sigh. put out treats for the birds? blah.) so when one is actually embraced with enthusiasm I get really excited. As was the case with the snowman pancakes that Jim cooked and Pia and her friend decorated.

After dusting their snoman-cakes with powdered sugar the girls decorated them with chocolate chips (regular and mini) and tiny carrot noses. Oddly, the one thing Pia kept eating wasn’t the chocolate chips but the carrot noses. I think I ended up cutting three dozen noses before they made it onto the snowmen. Kids are funny.

Of course, eating pancakes for dinner is always a treat, so maybe that was part of the allure. As for the perennial favorite of the advent activities? Hands down, the candy cane hunt.


on the norwegian heritage note

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In my krumkake post I mentioned my half-Norwegian blood. My dad’s dad came over from Norway when he was a boy. My dad’s mom’s parents came over when they were young. So I do know that I am solidly Norwegian on that side. On my mom’s side is a collection of German and Bohemian genes. Bohemia, mind you, NOT Czechoslovakia. This is what we were told over and over when we were kids. Which was confusing as kids because Bohemia isn’t a country. So we would ask where it was and then were told it was in Czechoslovakia. At which point we would say, “so, we’re Czech?” and then the whole thing would begin anew with the Bohemian thing. As a result, I think it was easier to latch onto the Norwegian heritage thing. It was more concrete. There was the lutefisk. And the fjords. And Johann Olav Koss.

Anyway, for Christmas this year Jim and I made a board game for my parents called “Off to Norway” and the premise was that the entire Gundersen family (all 25 of us) had become bored with the U.S.A. and decided to move back to the old country. In the game, teams compete to be the first team to get all the Gundersens back to Vardo, Norway (where my Grandpa was born). To do this they have to answer questions, draw pictures, and have a bit of good luck. Not just any questions, of course, but questions from the vault of Gundersen Fact or Fiction questions (a search of our blog archives has alerted me to the fact that I have never written about GForF… must remedy this situation). And not just any pictures, but pictionary terms that have a slight Gundersen twist to them, like “Mosby” (our family cat that had a bit of a litter box problem) and “Winnebago” (our first motor home) and “Parkcrest” (the pool we went to as kids). I had the most fun coming up with the ‘luck of the draw” cards where I wrote funny things about how each of the Gundersens would handle a trans-atlantic move. For example:

  • Jim decides this move is the perfect time to attempt a north pole conquest. He straps a kayak to his backpack, dons his wooden cross country skis and tells the family he’ll meet them in Vardo. 4 days later the family has to rescue him as global warming has made the passage impossible. Go back 3 spaces.
  • Grandma, faced with the wide Atlantic Ocean, stands firm in her refusal to travel by plane or ship. The family must build a bridge for the motor home. Miss two turns for this construction.
  • Van decides to organize a “soldier boy” flashmob in the airport. It is a huge hit, but takes up some time. Miss a turn.
  • George (the youngest of three boys) finally stands up to Henry (his older brother who is a bit rough) and wallops him. Go ahead 2 spaces for the underdog.
Of course these are only really funny if you are a Gundersen, but you get the idea. Surely there are quirks about every member of any family that make everyone else laugh. Anyway, I spent many a night before Christmas laughing out loud while writing these down. If the players of the game get even an eighth of the amusement that I had making it then it will all be worth it. Actually, even if the game never gets played it will be worth it because it totally cracked me up. And gift-giving is all about the giver, we’ve established that before, no?
Jim designed the game board and we glued it down to an old “Go to the Head of the Class” game board. I love that I can tell Jim any random idea I have in my head and ask him to design it on the computer and he will say ‘ok’. And do it with a smile. And it ends up looking cool.

Now I need to go brush up on my Bohemian history. I will start by reading  Neighborhood by Norbert Blei. While eating kolache.

krumkake was made, and no one was hurt

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Of all the Christmas traditions we have my favorite is the making of the krumkake. This is odd as I really don’t like to cook and try to only go into the kitchen to retrieve a cup of coffee or pour a bowl of cereal. But krumkake is different. Perhaps because it is so ceremonious. First I put on Tracks, disc 1, by Bruce Springsteen and skip ahead to Bishop Danced. Then I clean the kitchen counters and make a lovely working environment for myself. I may even don in apron. I definitely pour a glass of wine. Then I pull out the krumkake iron, a splurge of a purchase made in the early months of our marriage when spending $50 on something as unnecessary as a griddle that you use but once a year was unheard of. I like to say that I’m Norwegian, and technically I am 50%, but really the only Norwegian thing I do is make krumkake. Once a year.

This year Pia wanted to help. I was on the fence about this as a) it is a wicked hot iron, and b) I tend to need a bubble of space around me when I cook, a 10 foot bubble preferably.  But, realizing that my favorite Christmas tradition was one where I was alone (with Bruce) seemed a bit out of sync with the Christmas spirit. So I said yes. And we had a ball. And none of her fingers, hands, elbows or hair got scorched. A Christmas miracle indeed.

Yes, that is my hand in the picture, ready to yank her arm out of the way in case her hand got too close to the iron. A bit overprotective? Perhaps. But there is no faster way to ruin a good Christmas tradition than with a burn injury, no?

Holiday lights

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One of the highlights of the season for us is walking through the Rotary Gardens holiday light display.  Even though there was no snow on the ground this year (Tea asked me today if it will ever snow again, EVER?), the lights still made it feel festive.  This year there were roaming reindeer that the boys were reluctant to stand near, and a sleigh we all piled in to attempt a group picture.

Terrified of the reindeer, my boys were of *course* beyond upset 5 minutes later when it was mobbed by other children that they hadn’t pet the stupid thing.

If you could see under Pea’s coat, he’s dressed *all* in red – his current obsession.  Santa related?  We’re not sure.

The garden paths were lined with luminaries and we walked under lighted arches.  The garden was supposedly lit with 300,000 lights, but I’m sure I didn’t see more than 259,840 – someone owes me 60 cents.   😉

As pretty as the lights were, I didn’t have a tripod, so I quickly tired of trying to get traditional shots.  If you can’t beat the blur, embrace it, right?  I started swinging my camera around randomly as I hit the shutter, claiming, “I totally meant this shot to look just like that.”  Luckily for my family, my fingers got too numb to keep at it for long.  But I still said, “Just one more” enough to earn myself a time-out if Tea’d had his way.

I’ll spare you from looking at the other 42 shots.  Kyle was not so lucky.

We never did get holiday cards out this year, so would you kindly pretend that picture of us sitting in the sleigh was delivered to you by your post-carrier?  Thank you very much, and Happy Holidays.  We wish you a very bright new year.

Off the needles, on the tree

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I finished the doll blanket for my niece a full 90 minutes before she arrived on Christmas morning – plenty of time to spare.

The boys also did a little crafting for Christmas gifts this year.  They helped make a few (20?) ornaments, but I couldn’t post pictures until they’d been handed out.  Tea’s were hand-prints-turned-snowmen and Pea’s were thumbprints-turned-reindeer.  The boys managed to not get craft paint anywhere but on their ornaments – a true Christmas miracle.  We also made a clothespin tree forest that I somehow neglected to photograph.  Tea has been asking if it’s too late to make gingerbread houses, so we may try to construct one sometime during the week he’s home on break, but I suspect he’s mainly interested in eating the candy decorations.  Maybe I’ll save myself the effort and just buy him a bag of gumdrops?  We’ll see…

Find the pickle

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This weekend we performed the anual “find the pickle” at Kyle’s dad’s house.  A glass pickle ornament is hidden in the Christmas tree and we race to see who can find it.  The winner gets a prize.  This year we hid it twice so that the girls and guys could search separately.  Not surprisingly, it is difficult to find a green ornament hanging on a green tree.   There was an awful lot of trash talking by the guys while we girls searched, but once it was their turn, they were strangely silent.  For a very long time.  I’m pretty sure that was the longest pickle search in history.  We girls rule.

What silly holiday traditions do you have in your family?

a carrier for lamby

Pia was hiding her beloved ‘Lamby’ (a stuffed animal lamb) in the closet where I had chosen to store all the Christmas presents and I panicked a bit. “Lamby!” I cried, “you can’t go in there! Your Christmas presents and Pia’s Christmas presents are in there!” At which point Pia looked at me with those big, wonder-filled eyes that kids get when something they had never thought of before occurs to them. “Lamby gets presents?” she asked in amazement. Until that point I had no intention of giving Lamby a present, but the moment was too cute and I decided to go with it. “Of course Lamby gets presents, she’s Lamby after all.” (Lamby had been by Pia’s side at school during her tear-filled first two months of kindergarten… she is far and away Pia’s favorite stuffed animal.)

As luck would have it, the always-inspiring light blue grey had posted about a doggy bag she had made for her daughter’s stuffed dog just earlier this month. So with that in mind, I made this for Lamby:

which she fits in perfectly:

And, yes, I have now moved all the Christmas presents to a different hiding spot.