onsdag 31 december 2008

Life’s quilt

Not long ago I had tea with three of my friends. As always when together with close friends your conversation meander like life self — from the deep and dark to the light and sunny subjects. We have all reached the age where, when you look back on the year, you more often than not, have lost someone dear to you.
My Amish friend has lost both her mother and her mother in law this year, in her Christmas letter she wrote about this hard year. And I thought that maybe not only my three friends might like to read what she wrote.

I used to wonder why the accolades are given so often after a person has departed from this world, but I finally had to think that a lifetime is somewhat like making a quilt, some dark colors and some light, and not always perfect. When a person has passed on from this world, we take the quilt of the frame and hold it up and admire the completed work, and see that in spite of some flaws, it is a very beautiful quilt and there is always something in it that we wish to copy in our lives. Each is unique and original and yet we do have some lovely examples left back for us that we thank God for, and ask for His help that we may serve and glorify Him that we may leave behind something beautiful of our own. May God help us to that end is our prayer and desire.

tisdag 30 december 2008

Send some summer please!

Åskar is bored. What can a little — or not so little — cat do when it is too cold to spend any time outside?

Some mornings he stays in bed. Aren't we all tempted to do like this some mornings?
Other days he hangs out in the staircase — in case something should happen...


Happiness is a box or a bag.....

You can't spend the whole day in a box...
But you can always take a catnap

But sleeping gives you ENERGY.

Under the rug is fun — for a while....
Hide and seek is another option if only
somebody will look for you.

It is tricky to hide all of you.

So pleeeease someone, send some warm weather!

lördag 27 december 2008

Saturday with Gutenberg

From "The Little People of the Snow" by William Cullen Bryant
Illustrator: Alfred Fredricks and Engraved by A. Bobbett
This cold day has been perfect for a rendez vous with Gutenberg by the fire. He didn't have a lot to offer though. Or have I finally learnt that I can't read ten books at the same time? I did save some interesting links but only downloaded three books.
"The Little People of the Snow" from 1873 is a terrible sentimental story where a small girl dies in the snow — the only reason I downloaded it, is that I like the illustrations.
"What became of Them? and, The Conceited Little Pig" by G. Boare, Illustrator: A. M. Lockyer
The other book I couldn't resist was "What became of Them?" mainly because I have a mouse theme going on in one of my Swedish blogs (it started on December 20 and has more pictures than text).
The third book is a horrible little book that was meant to teach young girls to know their place and be content with what life offers. I downloaded it only because I have it in Swedish and wanted to take a look at the English original.The book is "A Princess in Calico" by Edith Ferguson Black — this book is from 1904 but I’m sure it is older as my Swedish copy was printed in 1901. I found a review from New York Times published April 29, 1905. Even at that time they found the book too good to be true:
Here is a book designed to help young girls to attain that high eminence of virtue which should be their natural ambition. Pauline Harding was the eldest of many children -- most of the younger ones being the issue of her father's second marriage with a woman not too mild of temper. On the little farm of Sleepy Hollow there was much to be done; and Pauline dragged through the dreary days without finding much happiness. At last, however, an invitation to visit some Boston relatives changed all that. She became a member of a refined and wealthy family, applied herself properly to her books, and acquired many noble and enviable traits. And it was while on this Boston visit, through friendship with a beautiful and religious invalid, that she first laid the foundations of the charchter which the author intends should undoubtedly prove an inspiration to all young girls.
It must be confessed that although Pauline was almost too good to be true, she appeared to get very little fun out of life. Indeed, to those who neither have nor expect to attain her altitudes she seems dangerously like a little prig at times - but there is not much fear after all, that many of the readers of Mrs. Black's story will attain Pauline's extreme goodness.

torsdag 25 december 2008

A luxury problem

We had a lovely and peaceful Christmas Eve. Even the sun joined us — a rather pale and tired looking sun but at our latitudes we are not spoiled with a hot and frisky sun in the winter.

Now I'm sitting here surrounded by books and my only problem is to choose which book to start with. A problem I can live with even if I wish this were the only kind of problems mankind had to tackle.
For the moment I'm reading "Mary Cassatt: A Life" by Nancy Mowll Mathews. I just started so I can't say much about it other than that it seems to be a very thorough biography.

I find it hard to pick one painter or even one period when asked who's my favorite painter — I like so many painters but if pressed I probably land in the beginning of the twentieth century. Sigrid Hjertén is one of my favorites and yesterday I got a beautiful book about her. This article is in Swedish but it also have some of her paintings.

onsdag 24 december 2008

Lucka 24

Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.
000000000000000000000000000 Mortimer J. Adler


Rufus M. That’s the way Rufus wrote his name on his heavy arithmetic paper and on his blue-lined spelling paper. Rufus M went on one side of the paper. His age, seven, went on the other. Rufus had not learned to write his name in school, though that is one place for learning to write. He had not learned to write his name at home either, though that is another place for learning to write. The place where he had learned to write his name was the library , long ago before he ever went to school at all. This is the way it happened.
One day when Rufus had been riding his scooter up and down the street, being the motorman, the conductor, the passengers, the steam, and the whistle of a locomotive, he came home and found Joey, Jane, and Sylvie, all reading in the front yard. Joey and Jane were sitting on the steps of the porch and Sylvie was sprawled in the hammock, a book in one hand, a chocolate-covered peppermint in the other.
Rufus stood with one bare foot on his scooter and one on the grass and watched them. Sylvie read the fastest. This was natural since she was the oldest. But Joey turned the pages almost as fast and Jane went lickety-cut on the good parts. They were all reading books and he couldn't even read yet. These books they were reading were library books. The library must be open today. It wasn't open every day, just a few days a week.
"I want to go to the library," said Rufus. "And get a book," he added.
"We all just came home from there, " said Jane, while Joey and Sylvie merely went on reading as though Rufus had said nothing. "Besides," she added, "why do you want a book anyway? You can'nt even read yet."
This was true and it made Rufus mad. He liked to do everything that they did. He even liked to sew if they were sewing. He never thought whether sewing was for girls only or not. When he saw Jane sewing, he asked Mama to let him sew too. So Mama tied a thread to the head of a pin and Rufus poked that in and out of a pieceof goods. That's the way he sewed. It looked like what Jane was doing and Rufus was convinced that he was sewing too, though he could not see much sense in it.
Now here were the other Moffats, all with books from the library . And there were three more books stacked up on the porch that looked like big people' s books without pictures. They were for Mama no doubt. This meant that he was the only one here who did not have a book.
"I want a book from the library ," said Rufus. A flick of the page as Sylvie turned it over was all the answer he got. It seemed to Rufus as though even Catherine-the-cat gave him a scornful glance because he could not read yet and did not have a book.
Rufus turned his scooter around and went out of the yard. Just wait! Read? Why, soon he'd read as fast if not faster than they did. Reading looked easy. It was just flipping pages. Who couldn't do that?
Rufus thought that it was not hard to get a book out o the library . All you did was go in, look for a book that you liked, give it to the lady to punch, and come home with it He knew where the library was for he had often gone there with Jane and some of the others. While Jane went off to the shelves to find a book, he and Joey played the game of Find the Duke in the Palmer Cox Brownie books. This was a game that the two boys had made up. They would turn the pages of one of the Brownie books, any of them, and try to be the first to spot the duke, the brownie in the tall hat. The library lady thought that this was a noisy game, and said she wished they would not play it there. Rufus hoped to bring a Brownie book home now.
"Toot-toot! " he sang to clear the way. Straight down Elm Street was the way to the library; the same way that led to Sunday School, and Rufus knew it weIl. He liked sidewalks that were white the best for he could go the fastest on these.
"Toot-toot!" Rufus hurried down the street. When he arrived at the library, he hid his Scooter in the pine trees that grew under the windows beside the steps. Christmas trees, Rufus called them. The ground was covered with brown pine needles and they were soft to walk upon. Rufus always went into the library the same way. He climbed the stairs, encircled the light on the granite arm of the steps, and marched into the library.
Rufus stepped carefully on the strips of rubber matting that led to the desk. This matting looked like dirty licorice. But it wasn’t licorice. He knew because once when Sylvie had brought him here when he was scarley more than three he had tasted a torn corner of it. It was not good to eat.
The library lady was sitting at the desk playing with some cards. Rufus stepped off the matting. The cool, shiny floor felt good to his bare feet. He went over to the shelves and luckily did find one of the big Palmer Cox Brownie books there. It would be fun to play the game of Find the Duke at home. Until now he had played it only in the library. Maybe Jane or Joe would play it with him right now. He laughed out loud at the thought.
"Sh-sh-sh, quiet," said the lady at the desk.
Rufus clapped his chubby fist over his mouth. Goodness! He had forgotten where he was. Do not laugh or talk out loud in the library. He knew these rules. Well, he didn't want to stay here any longer today anyway. He wanted to read at home with the others. He took the book to the lady to punch.
She didn't punch it though. She took it and she put it on the table behind her and then she started to play cards again
"That's my book," said Rufus.
"Do you have a card?" the lady asked.
Rufus felt in his pockets. Sometimes he carried around an old playing card or t wo. Today he didn't have one.
"No," he said.
"You'll have to have a card to get a book."
"I'll go and get one," said Rufus.
The lady put down her cards. "I mean a library card," she explained kindly. "It looks to me as though you are too little to have a library card. Do you have one?"
"No," said Rufus. "I'd like to though."
"I'm afraid you're too little," said the lady. "You have to write your name to get one. Can you do that?"
Rufus nodded his head confidently. Writing. Lines up and down. He'd seen that done. And the letters that Mama had tied in bundles in the closet under the stairs were covered with writing. Of course he could write.
"Well, let's see your hands," said the lady.
Rufus obligingly showed this lady his hands, but she did not like the look of them. She cringed and clasped her head as though the sight hurt her.
"Oh," she gasped. "You'll just have to go home and wash them before we can even think about joining the library and borrowing books."
This was a complication upon which Rufus had not reckoned. However, all it meant was a slight delay. He'd wash his hands and then he'd get the book. He turned and went out of the library , found his scooter safe among the Christmas trees, and pushed it home. He surprised Mama by asking to have his hands washed. When this was done, he mounted his scooter again and returned all the long way to the library . It was not just a little trip to the library . It was a long one. A long one and a hot one on a day like this. But he didn't notice that. All he was bent on was getting his book and taking it home and reading with the others on the front porch. They were all still there, brushing flies away and reading. Again Rufus hid his scooter in the pine trees, encircled the light, and went in.
"Hello," he said.
"WeIl," said the lady. "How are they now?"
Rufus had forgotten he had had to wash his hands. He thought she was referring to the other Moffats. "Fine," he said.
"Let me see them," she said, and she held up her hands.
Oh! His hands! WeIl, they were all right, thought Rufus, for Mama had just washed them. He showed them to the lady. There was a silence while she studied them. Then she shook her head. She still did not like them.
"Ts, ts, ts!" she said. "They'll have to be cleaner than that."
Rufus looked at his hands. Supposing he went all the way home and washed them again, she still might not like them. However, if that is what she wanted, he would have to do that before he could get the Brownie book. . . and he started for the door."Well now, let's see what we can do," said the lady. "I know what," she said. "It's against the rules but perhaps we can wash them in here." And she led Rufus into a little room that smelled of paste where lots of new books and old books were stacked up. In one corner was a little round sink and Rufus washed his hands again. Then they returned to the desk. The lady got a chair and put a newspaper on it. She made Rufus stand on this because he was not big enough to write at the desk otherwise.
Then the lady put a piece of paper covered with a lot of printing in front of Rufus, dipped a pen in the ink well and gave it to him.
"All right," she said. "Here's your application. Write your name here."
All the writing Rufus had ever done before had been on big pieces of brown wrapping paper with lots of room on them. Rufus had often covered those great sheets of paper with his own kind of writing at home. Lines up and down. But on this paper there wasn't much space. It was already covered with writing. However, there was a tiny little empty space and that was where Rufus must write his name, the lady said. So, little space or not, Rufus confidently grasped the pen with his left hand and dug it into the paper. He was not accustomed to pens, having always worked with pencils until now, and he made a great many holes and blots and scratches.
"Gracious," said the lady. "Don't bear down so hardl And why don't you hold it in your right hand?" she asked moving the pen back into his right hand.
Rufus started again scraping his lines up and down and all over the page, this time using his right hand. Whereve there was an empty space he wrote. He even wrote over some of the print for good measure. Then he waited for the lady, who had gone off to get a book for some man, to come back and look.
"Oh," she said as she settled herself in her swivel chair, "is that the way you write? Well . . it's nice, but what does it say?"
"Says Rufus Moffat. My name."
Apparently these lines up and down did not spell Rufus Moffat to this lady. She shook her head.
"It's nice," she repeated. "Yery nice. But nobody but you knows what it says. You have to learn to write your name better than that before you can join the library."
Rufus was silent. He had come to the library all by himself, gone back home to wash his hands, and come back because he wanted to take books home and read them the way the others did. He had worked hard. He did not like to think he might have to go home without a book.
The library lady looked at him a moment and then she said quickly before he could get himself all the way off the big chair, "Maybe you can print your name."
Rufus looked at her hopefully. He thought he could write better than he could print, for his writing certainly looked to him exactly like all grown people's writing. Still he'd try to print if that was what she wanted.
The lady printed some letters on the top of a piece of paper. "There," she said. "That's your name. Copy it ten times and then we'll try it on another application."
Rufus worked hard. He worked so hard the knuckles showed white on his brown fist. He worked for a long, long time, now with his right hand and now with his left. Sometimes a boy or a girl came in, looked over his shoulder and watched, but he paid no attention. From time to time the lady studied his work and she said, "That's fine. That's fine." At last she said, "Well, maybe now we can try." And she gave him another application.
All Rufus could get, with his large generous letters, in that tiny little space where he was supposed to print his name, was R-U-F. The other letters he scattered here and there on the card. The lady did not like this either. She gave him still another blank. Rufus tried to print smaller and this time he got RUFUS in the space, and also he crowded an M at the end. Since he was doing so well now the lady herself printed the offat part of Motfat on the next line.
"This will have to do," she said. "Now take this home and ask your mother to sign it on the other side. Bring it back on Thursday and you'll get your card."
Rufus's face was shiny and streaked with dirt where he had rubbed it. He never knew there was all this work to getting a book. The other Moffats just came in and got books. Well, maybe they had had to do this once too. Rufus held his hard-earned application in one hand and steered his scooter with the other. When he reached home Joey, Jane and Sylvie were not around any longer. Mama signed his card for him, saying,. "My! So you've learned how to write!"
"Print, " corrected Rufus.
Mama kissed Rufus and he went back out. The lady had said to come back on Thursday, but he wanted a book today. When the other Moffats came home, he' d be sitting on the step of the porch, reading. That would surprise them. He smiled to himself as he made his way to the library for the third time.
Once his application blew away. Fortunately it landed in a thistle bush and did not get very torn. The rest of the way Rufus clutched it carefully. He climbed the granite steps to the library again only to find that the big round dark brown doors were closed. Rufus tried to open them but he couldn't. He knocked at the door, even kicked it with his foot, but there was no answer. He pounded on the door but nobody came.
A big boy strode past with his newspapers. "Hey, kid," he said to Rufus. "library's closed!" And off he went, whistling.
Rufus looked after him. The fellow said the library was closed. How could it have closed so fast? He had been here such a little while ago. The lady must still be here. He did want his Brownie book. If only he could see in, he might see the lady and get his book. The windows were high up but they had very wide sills. Rufus was a wonderful climber. He could shinny up trees and poles faster than anybody on the block. Faster than Joey. Now, helping himself up by means of one of the pine trees that grew close to the building, and by sticking his toes in the ivy and rough places in the bricks, he scrambled up the wall. He hoisted himself up on one of the sills and sat there. He peered in. It was dark inside, for the shades had been drawn almost all the way down.
"Library lady!" he called, and he knocked on the windowpane. There was no answer. He put his hands on each side of his face to shield his eyes, and he looked in for a long, long time. He could not believe that she had left. Rufus was resolved to get a book. He had lost track of the number of times he had been back and forth from home to the library, and the library home. Maybe the lady was in the cellar. He climbed down, stubbing his big toe on the bricks as he did so. He stooped down beside one of the low dirtspattered cellar windows. He couldn't see in. He lay flat on the ground, wiped one spot dean on the window, picked up a few pieces of coal from the sill and put them in his pocket for Mama.
"Hey, lady," he called.
He gave the cellar window a little push. It wasn't locked so he opened it a little and looked in. All he could see was a high pile of coal reaching up to this window. Of course he didn't put any of that coal in his pocket for that would be stealing.
"Hey, lady," he yelled again. His voice echoed in the cellar but the library lady did not answer. He called out, "Hey, lady," every few seconds, but all that answered him was an echo. He pushed the window open a little wider. " All of a sudden it swung wide open and Rufus slid in, right t on top of the coal pile, and crash, clatter, bang! He slid to the bottom, making a great racket.
A little light shone through the dusty windows, but on the whole it was very dark and spooky down here and Rufus really wished that he was back on the outside looking in. However, since he was in the library, why not go upstairs quick, get the Brownie book, and go home? The window had banged shut, but he thought he could climb up the coal pile, pull the window up, and get out. He certainly hoped he could anyway. Supposing he couldn't and he had to stay in this cellar! Well, that he would not think about. He laooked around in the dusky light and saw a staircase across the cellar. Luckily his application was still good. It was torn and dirty but it still had his name on it, RUFUS M, and that was the important part. He'd leave this on the desk in exchange for the Brownie book.
Rufus cautiously made his way over to the steps but he stopped halfway across the cellar. Somebody had opened the door at the top of the stairs. He couldn't see who it was, but he did see the light reflected and that's how he knew that somebody had opened the door. It must be the lady. He was just going to say, "Hey, lady ," when he thought, "Gee, maybe it isn't the lady. Maybe it's a spooky thing."
Then the light went away, the door was closed, and Rufus was left in the dark again. He didn' t like it down there. He started to go back to the coal pile to get out of this place. Then he felt of his application. What a lot of work he had done to get a book and now that he was this near to getting one, should he give up? No. Anyway, if it was the lady up there, he knew her and she knew him and neither one of them was scared of the other. And Mama always said there's no such thing as a spooky thing.
So Rufus bravely made his way again to the stairs. He tiptoed up them. The door at the head was not closed tightly. He pushed it open and found himself right in the library. But goodness! There in the little sink room right opposite him was the library lady!
Rufus stared at her in silence. The library lady was eating. Rufus had neyer seen her do anything before but play cards, punch books, and carry great piles of them around. Now she was eating. Mama said not to stare at anybody while they were eating. Still Rufus didn't know the library lady ate, so it was hard for him not to look at her .
She had a little gas stove in there. She could cook there. She was reading a book at the same time that she was eating. Sylvie could do that too. This lady did not see him.
"Hey, lady," said Rufus.
The librarian jumped up out of her seat. "Was that you in the cellar? I thought I heard somebody. Goodness, young , man! I thought you had gone home long ago."
Rufus didn't say anything. He just stood there. He had gone home and he had come back lots of times. He had the whole thing in his mind; the coming and going, and going and coming, and sliding down the coal pile, but he did not know where to begin, how to tell it.
"Didn't you know the library is closed now?" she demanded, coming across the floor with firm steps.
Rufus remained silent. No, he hadn't known it. The fellow had told him but he hadn't believed him. Now he could see for himself that the library was closed so the library lady could eat. If the lady would let him take his book, he’d go home and stay there. He’d play the game of Find the Duke with Jane. He hopefully held out his card with his name on it.
"Here this is, " he said.
But the lady acted as though she didn't even see it. She led Rufus over to the door.
"All right now," she said. "Out with you!" But just as she opened the door the sound of water boiling over on the stove struck their ears, and back she raced to her little room.
"Gracious!" She exclaimed. "What a day!"
Before the door could close on him, Rufus followed her in and sat down on the edge of a chair. The lady thought he had gone and started to sip her tea. Rufus watched her quietly, waiting for her to finish.
After a while the lady brushed the crumbs off her lap. And then she washed her hands and the dishes in the little sink where Rufus had washed his hands. In a library a lady could eat and could wash. Maybe she slept here too. Maybe she lived here.
"Do you live here?" Rufus asked her.
"Mercy on usl" excIaimed the lady. "Where'd you come from? Didn't I send you home? No, I don't live here and neither do you. Come now, out with you, young man. I mean it." The lady called all boys "young man" and girls "Susie." She came out of the little room and she open the big brown door again. "There," she said. "Come back on Thursday."
Rufus' s eyes filled up with tears.
"Here's this," he said again, holding up his application in a last desperate attempt. But the lady shook her head. Rufus went slowly down the steps, felt around in the bushes for his scooter, and with drooping spirits he mounted it. Then for the second time that day, the library lady changed her mind.
"Oh, weIl," she said, "come back here, young man. I’m not supposed to do business when the library' s closed, but I see we'll have to make an exception."
So Rufus rubbed his sooty hands over his face, hid his scooter in the bushes again, climbed the granite steps an without circling the light, he went back in and gave lady his application.
The lady took it gingerly. "My, it's dirty," she said "You really ought to sign another one." And go home with it?" asked Rufus. He really didn’t believe this was possible. He wiped his hot face on his sIeeve and looked up at the lady in exhaustion. What he was thinking was: All right. If he had to sign another one, all right. But would she just please stay open until he got back?
However, this was not necessary. The lady said, "WeIl now, I'll try to clean this old one up. But remember, young man, always have everything clean – your hands, your book, everything, when you come to the library."
Rufus nodded solemnly. "My feet too," he assured her. Then the lady made Rufus wash his hands again. They really were very bad this time, for he had been in a coal pile, and now at last she gave Rufus the book he wanted – one of the Palmer Cox Brownie books. This one was "The Brownies in the Philippines."
And Rufus went home.
When he reached home, he showed Mama his book. She smiled at him, and gave his cheek a pat. She thought it was fine that he had gone to the library and joined all by himself and taken out a book. And she thought it was fine when Rufus sat down at the kitchen table, was busy and quiet for a long, long time, and then showed her what he had done.
He had printed RUFUS M. That was what he had done. And that's the way he learned to sign his name. And that's the way he always did sign his name for a long time.
But, of course, that was before he ever went to school at all, when the Moffats still lived in the old house, the yellow house on New Dollar Street; before this country gone into the war; and before Mr. Abbot, the curat, started leaving his overshoes on the Moffats' front porch.

Eleanor Estes,1906-1988

tisdag 23 december 2008

A beautiful Christmas tree

My father and I always went out together to cut the Christmas tree on the 23rd of December. Of course I've been thinking back on all those Christmases the two last years when I've been out on my own to find a tree.
I had the privilege of having a father who told me many stories from his childhood. Yesterday when I went out to get our tree I started to laugh when I remembered when he and his friend were to cut a tree for the school’s Christmas party. They were nine or ten years old — the friend was the son of a wealthy farmer and it was in his woods they went to look for a large and beautiful tree. They walked and walked, looked at trees and rejected trees. Finally they found a beautiful tree, they cut it down and started to drag it towards the school when they found an even larger and even more beautiful tree. Let's take this instead the friend said — and they did. So they started towards the school again when — yes, you guessed it.... they found the perfect tree. My father didn't remember how many trees they felled and left in the woods — at least four or five.

From "Christmas Holidays at Merryvale, The Merryvale Boys
by Alice Hale Burnett, illustrator Charles F. Lester

Lucka 23

Books like friends, should be few and well-chosen.
000000000000000000000 Joineriana

The Little Intruder, by Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885)

People who have what they want are very fond of telling people who haven't what they want that they really don't want it.
And I wish I could afford to gather all such people into a gloomy castle on the Danube and hire half a dozen capable Draculas to haunt it.
I don't mind their having a lot of money, and l don't care how they employ it.
But l do think that they damn well ought to admit they enjoy it.
But no, they insist on being stealthy
About the pleasures of being wealthy.
And the possession of a handsome annuity
Makes them think that to say how hard it is to make both ends meet is their bounden duity.
You cannot conceive of an occasion
Which will find them without some suitable evasion.
Yes indeed, with arguments they are very fecund;
Their first point is that money isn't everything, and that they have no money anyhow is their second.
Some people's money is merited,
And other people's is inherited,
But wherever it comes from,
They talk about it as if it were something you got pink gums from.
This may well be,
But if so, why do they not relieve themselves of the burden by transferring it to the deserving poor or to me?
Perhaps indeed the possession of wealth is constantly distressing,
But I should be quite willing to assume every curse of wealth if I could at the same time assume every blessing.
The only incurable troubles of the rich are the troubles that money can’t cure,
Which is a kind of trouble that is even more troublesome if you are poor.
Certainly there are lots of things in life that money won’t buy, but it’s very funny –
Have you ever tried to buy them without money?

Ogden Nash

måndag 22 december 2008

Gift wrapping

Ready, all I need now is a nice gift tag.

All is under control — Christmas can come.

and his person

Apples & bread

Since we have candles in our Christmas tree I need apples to balance the candle — but I can't find the small red Cox's Orange Pippin any longer. So I picked out the smallest apples I could find and hope the branches can hold them.
I cut the tree today and will bring it in tomorrow evening.

I've been baking today — when the bread had been in the oven for a while I noticed that the pilot light wasn't on. A fuse had blown. It took quite a while before I got it all straightened out so it will be very interesting to see if the loaf still is doughy inside......

Everything is under control — I made a date loaf yesterday and will make lemon curd tomorrow.

Lucka 22

What is the most precious, the most exciting
smell awaiting you in the house when you return
to it after a dozen years or so? The smell of roses,
you think? No, moldering books.
0000000000000000000 Andre Sinyavsky
Karin läser (Karin reads) by Carl Larsson
Christmas in Bullerby

I don't know when Christmas starts in other places, but in Bullerby it starts the day we bake ginger snaps. We have almost as much fun that day as on Christmas Eve. Lars and Pip and I each get a big chunk of ginger-snap dough, and we can bake it in the shape of anything we want. The last time we were to bake ginger snaps, Lars forgot all about it and went to the forest with Father to get wood. Right in the middle of the forest he remembered what day it was and rushed home so fast that the snow whirled round him, Father said.
Pip and I had already started to bake. It was just as well that Lars came a little late because the best ginger-snap mould we have is a pig, and when Lars is there it's almost impossible for Pip and me to get it. But this time we had baked ten pigs each before Lars came puffing home from the forest. How he hurried to catch up with us!
When we had almost finished baking we put all our last little pieces of dough together and made a big prize biscuit. We always do this. Then in the afternoon, when all the ginger snaps had come out of the oven, we put 332 dried peas in a bottle and went all round Bullerby to let everyone guess how many peas there were. The one who made the closest guess would get the big biscuit for a prize.
Lars carried the bottle, Pip carried the prize biscuit, and I carried a notebook where I wrote down everyone's guess. Grandpa was the one who won the prize, and I was so glad. He guessed that there were 320 peas in the bottle, which was very close. Anna guessed that there were three thousand peas. Wasn't that crazy?
The day after we baked the ginger snaps was fun too, for then we went to the forest to cut the Christmas trees. All the fathers go along when we cut the Christmas trees - and all the children too, of course. The mothers have to stay at home and cook, poor things! We took our big sleigh, which we use for carrying the milk from Bullerby to the dairy in the big village. Lars and Pip and I and Britta and Anna and Olaf rode in the sleigh. My daddy walked beside it and drove the horse. Olaf's and Britta's and Anna's daddies walked behind it and laughed and talked. All of us in the sleigh laughed and talked too.
There was so much snow in the forest that we had to shake it out of the fir trees to see if they were pretty or not. We cut three big fir trees, one for each farm. And then we cut a tiny little tree for Grandpa to have in his room, and another little one to give to Kristina, because she is an old woman who lives all alone in her red cottage in the woods.
The night before Christmas Eve I felt sad because I didn't think Mother and Agda could ever get everything ready for Christmas. It looked so untidy all over the house, and especially in the kitchen. I cried a little after I had gone to bed.
On Christmas Eve morning I woke up early and ran down to the kitchen in my nightie to see if it was still untidy. But instead it was beautiful! There were new rag carpets on the floor; there was red and green and white curled tissue paper round the iron pole by the stove; there was a Christmas cloth on the big folding table; and all the copper kettles were polished. I was so happy that I gave Mother a big hug. Lars and Pip came rushing in right after me, and Lars said that even his stomach felt Christmassy when he saw the rag carpets.
On Christmas Eve morning all of us Bullerby children always go over to Kristina's with a basket full of goodies from our mothers. But first we go to Grandpa to wish him a Merry Christmas and watch Britta and Anna decorate his little tree. We help a little too, although Britta and Anna prefer to do it by themselves. Of course Grandpa can't see what we hang on the tree, because he is nearly blind, but when we tell him about it he says that he can see it inside his head.
When we walked over to Kristina's cottage the weather was very beautiful, just as it should be on Christmas Eve. The road that goes to Kristina's cottage is so narrow that we could hardly see it under all the snow. Lars carried the basket, and Pip and Olaf the little fir tree. The boys wouldn't let Britta and Anna and me carry anything. How surprised Kristina was when we came! WeIl, she probably was just pretending to be surprised, because she knows that we come every year. Lars unpacked everything in the basket and put it on the table, and Kristina just shook her head and said,
"My, my, it's too much, it's much too much!"
I didn't think that it was too much, but it was a lot: a large piece of ham, a sausage, a round cheese, coffee, ginger snaps, candIes, sweets, and I don't rememiber what else. We put the candIes on Kristina's tree and danced round it a little while to practise for later on that night. Kristina was very happy, and she stood in the doorway and waved to us as we left.
When we got home Lars and Pip and I decorated our tree. Father helped us. We got the red apples that we were going to use on the tree out of the attic, and then we hung some of our ginger snaps on it. We put raisins and nuts in the Christmas baskets we had made of coloured paper. We also hung up the cotton angels that Mother had used on her tree when she was little - and then, of course, a lot of flags and candIes and sweets. The tree looked very pretty when it was finished!
Then it was time to "dip in the pot". Mother gave us large slices of rye bread that Agda had baked, and we dipped them in the broth that the ham had cooked in. It was very good. Then there was nothing to do but W AlT. Lars said that times like those hours in the afternoon of Christmas Eve, when you don't do anything but wait and wait, are the kind of things people get grey hairs from. We waited and waited and waited, and from time to time I went to the mirror to see if I had any grey hairs yet. But strangely enough, my hair was just as yellow as ever. Pip hit the clock now and then, because he thought that it had stopped.
When it got dark, it was time at last to take our presents over to North Farm and South Farm. You can't do that when it's light because it wouldn't be exciting at all. Lars and Pip and I put on our red Santa Claus caps and Lars took the Santa Claus mask that he was going to wear later in the evening. (It's Lars who is Santa Claus at our house nowadays. When I was little I thought that there was a real Santa Claus, but I don't think so any more.) Then we took our packages and slipped out into the dark. The sky was full of stars. I looked towards the forest, standing so dark and still, and imagined that perhaps there was a real Santa Claus living there who soon would come, pulling a sled loaded with Christmas presents. I almost wished that it were true.
There was no light in the kitchen at North Farm. We pounded on the back door, and then we opened it and threw our Christmas packages inside. Britta and Anna came rushing out and said that we had to come in and taste their Christmas cakes and sweets. So we did, and they gave us Christmas packages too. Britta and Anna put on their Santa Claus masks, and we all went over to South Farm to see Olaf. He was sitting in their kitchen, and he was just waiting too. Svipp, his dog, barked like everything when he saw five Santa Clauses coming. Then Olaf put on a mask too, and we all ran out and played Santa Claus in the dark.
At last it was really Christmas Eve, and we ate supper at the folding table in the kitchen. There were candIes on the table and an awful lot of food, but I didn't eat much except ham. I did eat porridge, of course, in case I should get the almond. The one who gets the almond in the porridge is sure to get married during the coming year. But I didn't get it. It had broken in two, and Oscar the hired man and Agda each got a piece. How Lars and Pip and I laughed. Agda got cross and said the whole thing was probably one of our tricks. But how could we help it that the almond had broken in two ?
We made up rhymes to the porridge too. Lars made up this one:
You saw the almond break in two,
So Oscar is certain to marry you.
We thought that was pretty good, but Agda didn't think so. She got a little more cheerful afterwards, when we all helped her to dry the dishes. We did that so that we could get ready sooner and start giving out the presents.
When we finished we went into the dining room. The tree was lighted and so were the candIes on the table. I got goose flesh the way I always do when anything's very beautiful and exciting. Father read to us from the Bible about the Christ Child. I read some terribly pretty verses that start this way: "Oh, little Lord Jesus, asleep in the hay." It goes on to say in those verses that the Christ Child should really have a whole lot of Christmas presents and a cake. That's what I think too. But instead we're the ones who get all the presents.
While the rest of us sang "Silent Night", Lars slipped out and in a little while he came back, dressed as Santa Claus, with a big sack on his back. "Are there any good children here?" he asked. "Yes, there are good children here," said Pip. "But we have a real naughty boy too, whose name is Lars. He seems to be out at the moment, thank goodness."
"I've heard about him," said Santa Claus. "He's the nicest boy in this country . He should have more presents than anyone else."
But he didn't get any more than anyone else. We all got the same number of presents. I got a new doll, and three books, a game, a piece of cloth for a dress, mittens, and all kinds of other things. I got fifteen presents altogether.
I had made a tea cloth with cross stitch for Mother. She was very happy when she got it. I had bought a calendar for Father. He was happy too. I like it when people are happy about the Christmas presents I give them. It's as much fun as getting presents yoursef. I gave tin soldiers to Lars and Pip.
Afterwards we danced round the tree, and everyone from North Farm and South Farm came and helped us. Grandpa came too, although he couldn't dance. I think we danced the polka and the barn dance at least twenty times.
That night I put all my Christmas presents on the table by my bed, so that I'd be able to see them first thing when I woke up in the morning.
Christmas is wonderful! It's a great pity that it isn't Christmas a little more often.
"The Children of Noisy Village" by Astrid Lindgren, 1907–2002

söndag 21 december 2008

Lucka 21

A room without books is like a body without a soul.
0000000000000000000000000000 Marcus T. Cicero
The Reader, by Federico Faruffini (1833-1869)

Winter was no more typical of our valley than summer, it was not even summer’s opposite; it was merely that other place. And somehow one never remembered the journey towards it; one arrived, and winter was here. The day came suddenly when all details were different and the village had to be rediscovered. One's nose went dead so that it hurt to breathe, and there were jigsaws of frost on the window. The light filled the house with a green polar glow; while outside – in the invisible world – there was a strange hard silence, or a metallic creaking, a faint throbbing of twigs and wires.
The kitchen that morning would be full of steam, bbillowing from kettles and pots. The outside pump was frozen again, making a sound like broken crockery, so that the girls tore icicles from the eaves for water and we drank oiled ice in our tea.
'It's wicked,' said Mother. 'The poor, poor birds.' And she flapped her arms with vigour.
She and the girls were wrapped in all they had, coats and scarves and mittens; some had the shivers and some drops on their noses, while poor little Phyllis sat rocking in a chair holding her chilblains like a handful of bees.
There was an iron-shod clatter down the garden path and the milkman pushed open the door. The milk in his pail was frozen solid. He had to break off lumps with a hammer.
'It's murder out,' the milkman said. 'Crows worryin' the sheep. Swans froze in the lake. An' tits droppin' dead in mid air.' He drank his tea while his eyebrows melted, slapped Dorothy's bottom, and left.
From "Cider with Rosie" by Laurie Lee, 1914-1997

lördag 20 december 2008

Saturday with Gutenberg


I found quite a few books today.
"The Seven Secrets" sounded interesting so I took a look at the book — but not even the fact that Queen Alexandra was one of Mr. Le Queux's most ardent admires — made the book less boring. But there were still enough to keep me occupied most of the day.

Next title to catch my eye was "Cobwebs from a Library Corner" by John Kendrick Bangs from 1899. It turned out to be poetry — very light poetry but sometimes amusing.

He writes bad verse on principle,
E’en though it does not sell.
He thinks the plan original—
So many folk write well.

He was a poet born, but unkind Fate
Once doomed him for his verses to be paid,
Whereon he left the poet-born’s estate
And wrote like one who’d happened to be made.

Flying is one of my passions (sailplaning) — but since I got grounded due to health reasons, reading about it is as close I get. "Learning to Fly — A Practical Manual for Beginners" by Claude Grahame — White Harry Harper, has lovely photos of old machines — and it looks much more adventurous than modern sailplaning.

I love all the books by L. Leslie Brooke that I've seen. Today I fell in love with his "The Tailor and the Crow, An Old Rhyme with New Drawings". Isn't this tipsy pig wonderful?

Jul och nyår

painting by Elsa Beskow

JUL — Christmas
Christmas is the biggest and longest holiday of the year. Schoolchildren are on holiday for a couple of weeks. The height of the celebration is Christmas Eve, the 24th of December, followed by the two holidays Christmas Day and Boxing Day.Christmas festivities involve numerous traditional activities and attributes, the most important of which are the Christmas tree, the Christmas meal, and the visit of the "tomte" or Christmas gnome.Introduced into Sweden from Germany, the Christmas tree has been a part of Christmas in Sweden since the 1700s. It was not until well into the last century that the custom became general, however. Nearly every Swedish household now brings in a tree one or two days before Christmas and decorates it with sparkling objects, gaily wrapped candies, glass bulbs and other small trinkets, many made of straw. The tree is also adorned with lights — usually electric these days, although some still use stearin candles. The tree is kept watered, and many households keep their trees until the very end of the holiday, which falls on the twentieth day after Christmas — Knut's day in the Swedish calendar. Lighted trees outdoors have become increasingly
common, and every town and village decorates a community tree.

painting by Elsa Beskow

Christmas Eve, then, is the height of the festivities. Traditionally it is a day when no work should be done other than seeing to one's livestock. This is the day of the Christmas feast, which comprises a smörgåsbord including a few traditional dishes such as ham, jellied pig's feet, "lutfisk" and rice porridge. "Lutfisk" (literally "lye-fish") is most likely a throwback to a period of fasting from pre-Reformation times. It is a dish prepared of ling that is dried and then boiled. The Christmas feast also includes a tradition called "dipping in the kettle", in which the assembled family and guests dip bits of bread in the broth left over after boiling the ham. Both "lutfisk" and "dipping in the kettle" are actually poor man's fare from olden days, but they live on thanks to their role in holiday festivities.After the meal, it is time for a visit from the "tomte" or Christmas gnome. He was believed to live under the floor-boards of the house or barn. The "tomte" was credited with looking after the family and their livestock. In the late 1800s a Swedish artist began producing greeting cards illustrated with gnomes. Her figures were a tremendous success, and soon the "tomte" had assumed a role comparable to that of the various Santa Claus figures in other countries. He is believed to come with presents. In many households nowadays someone disguised as a "tomte", a big sack of presents over his or her shoulder, appears on the doorstep sometime toward the evening of Christmas Eve. By tradition Swedes attend church in the small hours of Christmas morning. In olden days it was customary to race in sleds or horse-drawn wagons home from the services. The winner was believed to have the best harvest the coming year. Otherwise, the day is spent quietly within the family circle, with Christmas parties and get-togethers the following day and on through the holidays until Knut's day a week after Twelfth Night.

painting by Aina Stenberg

New Year' s EveNew Year's Eve in Sweden is not the carnival-like occasion it is in many countries. Swedes are apt to celebrate the New Year by inviting a few friends home, and many greet the coming year in front of their television sets. Since the turn of the century Stockholmers have gathered at Skansen (an open-air museum) at midnight to hear a reading of Tennyson's "Ring- out the old, ring- in the new". When radio arrived on the scene in the 1920s, this reading was broadcast through-out the country, a tradition now carried on by television. Perhaps this is part of the reason why Swedes tend to stay at home on New Year's Eve. Restaurants are, of course, fully booked, and some people let off fireworks, but very often New Year's Eve in Sweden is spent quietly at home. If you know the right tricks, you can predict the fortunes of the coming year. You might, for example, melt lead and cast the molten metal into a bowl of cold water. The shape of the resulting lead clump bears a clue about the coming year. This custom is widespread in Germany and most probably came to Sweden from that country. I t was also customary in olden days to go out into the frozen fields or roads in the dark of the long midwinter night and stand and listen. If you thought you heard, say, the sound of a scythe cutting grass, it meant a good harvest for the coming year, but if you heard, say, the clang of sword against sword, there might be rattling of arms and war afoot.
Author: Ingemar Liman
Translation: Charly Hultén