The Festivals of Light is an annual Seattle Children’s Museum exhibit which explores winter holiday traditions and celebrations from cultures around the world. Children explore the food, decorations, games, activities and music associated with each holiday. They have the opportunity to do crafts and read books associated with the different festivals. This season, the museum explores the traditions of Diwali, Hanukkah, Santa Lucia, Los Posadas, Christmas around the world, Kwanzaa, and the Lunar New Year.
The Seattle Lilla Spelmanslag was given the opportunity to participate in the Santa Lucia exploration. About half of the Lilla Lag were committed to attending ScanFair in Portland that weekend, but six fiddlers, including Thing Two, represented the group in Seattle.
Our weather has been sunny and chilly for the past few weeks. We’ve been bringing in the hummingbird feeder at night so it doesn’t freeze, and every morning a little hummingbird patiently waits on a branch by the feeder for its warm breakfast. Thing Two was a good sport to stand outside in the 21 degree morning to pose for pictures in his festdrakt and overcoat.
The navy peacoat is a much beloved hand-me-down from Cousin K to Thing One, and this is most likely the last winter it will fit Thing Two. It’s a little small, but it suits the festdrakt so well that I couldn’t resist pairing them together, plus Thing Two would need something warm to wear on the walk across Seattle Center to the museum. When I told him he looked like he had stepped out of the 19th century, he said, “People must have been very cold in the 19th century.”
On this Saturday morning, the Seattle Center was bustling with a variety of Winterfest activities. On our way to the museum we passed families carrying ice skates for the rink, watched the model trains in the Winter Village, and saw brief bits of a few other youth performance groups while we waited for the show time downstairs in the Children’s Museum.
Most of the museum patrons are very small children with short attention spans, so the Lilla Lag shared Nordic music with the children through two thirty-minute concerts, with many opportunities for clapping, jumping, and dancing.
After the concerts it was time for an obligatory photo session under the Space Needle.
Blue steel! It was noon, but still cold.
Thing Two had a great time at the concerts and enjoyed playing all the tunes. The little ones and their families loved the music, too.
It seems fitting to begin this year’s Christmas season with a carol that originates in Thing One’s mission: Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella. This Provençal tune started out as a ritournelle, a type of lively court dance in triple time, then was published as a Christmas carol in 1553.
Georges de La Tour’s painting The Newborn Christ is inspired by this carol. It depicts two milkmaids, Jeanette and Isabella, who arrive in the stable Christmas morning to milk the cows and discover that the Christ Child has been born. They were so excited that they took their torches and ran to the village to spread the wonderful news. The villagers, also bearing torches, followed the girls to the stable to see for themselves, approaching as quietly as possible so as not to wake the sleeping baby. To this day in Provence, children dress up as milkmaids, shepherds, and other humble folk and carry torches and candles to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve while singing this and other carols.
This year’s Christmas season was much simpler than usual. Between a second holiday season where the Gimlet is still searching for work and my new Relief Society duties, Team Gimlet had neither the resources nor the time to send cards, bake cookies, or shop for gifts. I’ve always heard about families who opt for a service-only holiday season and while finding it admirable, it was a surprise to find ourselves having exactly that experience this year. It was a joyful and humbling experience to have the opportunity to bring cheer and happiness to others, especially when our own circumstances are similarly reduced this year.
Thing One performed in his school orchestra’s annual Hollyberry concert, where the chamber orchestra played Beethoven’s Sinfonia No. 7 in D – Allegro.
The Sunday evening before Christmas, we welcomed Santa into our home for an early plate of Hå’s cookies and a short visit, as he has done every December since Thing One was born.
Thing Two has grown progressively more excited about Santa’s visit over the years, but he still keeps a respectful distance when Santa is actually in the house. Note that this year he is using the armchair and his big brother as a buffer.
Santa requested a little holiday violin music, and it is safe to say that Thing Two was much more nervous about playing one tune for Santa than he is when playing a set for a full room.
Christmas Eve was the usual family party with plenty of delicious food and lively conversation; we didn’t return home until midnight.
Originally we expected that Christmas Day would be unscheduled and quiet, but the Sunday before Christmas, we learned that the LDS missionaries assigned to our congregation didn’t have anywhere to go for Christmas. This looks like a job for the Relief Society President! And how do you throw together a Christmas dinner on short notice? Hå offered to sponsor our favorite (and ridiculously easy) holiday meal: Dungeness crab. One of the missionaries was from Alaska and his Utah companion had learned to love seafood, so they were as excited about the delicacy as we were.
We joined the crowds at the grocery store on Christmas Eve morning to throw together the rest of the menu before the shops closed and we had to begin the drive south to our own party. Hå also contributed some Christmas crackers to the festivities, which were a new experience for the missionaries. Their favorite part of the evening, however, was the time they spent Skyping their families, as Christmas is one of the two times per year that the missionaries are allowed to talk with family. One missionary chose the desktop and the other used the laptop, so they didn’t have to take turns and both could enjoy long holiday conversations. Next Christmas we will be Skyping or FaceTiming with Elder Thing One from wherever he ends up serving his mission, and we hope his Christmas host family takes good care of him.
Our New Year’s Eve also ended up being more fun than expected! Hå decided she would like to see the zoo’s WildLights Winter Festival and invited us to join her. The night was cold, but it wasn’t raining, which is enough incentive to get outdoors for a good walk. The light displays were pretty and we’re looking forward to doing the WildLights walk again next year.
After dinner at a nearby burger place, we drove Thing Two to a New Year’s Eve party where he and his teacher would play together to start the dance. This was Thing Two’s first experience playing for dancing, but his teacher encouraged him to keep his eyes on her and not be distracted by all the activity and noise around him (in Scandinavian folk dancing, the musicians stand in the center of the hall and the dancers move in a circle around them). He played three tunes with his teacher and managed to keep up, although he was a little tired by the end of the set. Then he got to watch his teacher play for two more dances, including one tune he is currently learning.
Thing Two enjoyed a cookie after his performance, and he and his entourage (formerly known as Thing Two’s parents, but we can see that entourage is in our future, so we’re trying to get used to it) visited with the party guests. After the hosts set the glögg aflame and poured a few fiery ladles into the pot for dramatic effect (Thing Two was asked, “Isn’t this better than Harry Potter’s Goblet of Fire?”), it was time to drive a sleepy Thing Two home and tuck him into bed just before the beginning of the new year.
It’s been a while since we’ve managed to take a photo of the entire family, and here we are, all bundled up at the zoo on a frosty New Year’s Eve. When did Thing One get so tall? For that matter, isn’t Thing Two about the size Thing One was when the blog began?
In the spirit of moving onward and upward, best wishes to you and your families for a happy and abundant 2013!
We’re happy to report that the Gimlet residence has officially been rat free for one week! Hooray! The exterminator caught six rats, we rat-proofed our house as per the exterminator’s recommendations, and we are ready to move into the cleanup phase. For now we try not to think about how many pounds of rat droppings are just over our heads in the attic.
Christmas is a busy time for churches, and in addition to the expected holiday festivities and charity for families in need, it was also necessary to coordinate another memorial service (that makes two in two months for my tenure). As our congregation meets in a different building now, and we’re still getting used to where things are, the Sunday before the service we planned to check out the resources in the kitchen and cultural hall. At the entrance to the cultural hall we stopped, stunned by the sight of a massive Meso-American-style pyramid which took up almost one-third of the space in the hall and reached almost to the ceiling. The ward council was of one mind in calling it a Rameumptom. We soon found out that it was actually Samuel the Lamanite’s wall from the other ward’s Book of Mormon-themed Christmas party, and as the party had already taken place, the Rameumptom/Samuel’s wall/ziggurat could be removed before the memorial service.
Fortunately the very impressive structure was still standing the following day when we were doing some preliminary setup, so it was possible to take a photo:
Before the (Rameumptom-free) memorial service, we attended the annual ethnic brunch at Thing Two’s school: a holiday party for all the first grade classes to celebrate world cultures and friendship. The children sang several holiday songs, and then Thing Two played his violin. Earlier, when the children were practicing for the brunch concert, Thing Two told the music teacher that he played the violin and volunteered to participate.
Thing Two was eager to perform and enjoyed himself immensely, playing a set of three tunes from Denmark and Sweden. We seem to have a showman on our hands! (Meanwhile, Your Humble Narrator was probably nervous enough for both mother and child.) Long time GimletBlog readers may recognize Thing Two’s festdrakt, or Norwegian folk costume, as the one that Thing One wore when Thing Two was a baby.
Late one night after Thanksgiving, we heard a scratching sound inside the bedroom wall. Not a good noise! The next day, The Gimlet inspected the roof and couldn’t find any holes. We had pretty much justified the scratching as cat noises that echoed strangely in the house as if they were in our wall (but of course there really wasn’t anything in our wall, right?), but The Gimlet figured he’d better check the attic just in case. As he opened the trap door, he was greeted by a shower of droppings: we had houseguests.
A little reggae soothes the nerves
A second outdoor inspection turned up a very small, hard to find hole in the roof … but it was big enough. The exterminator confirmed that we are hosting a thriving population of rats in the attic, who have depleted our insulation and filled the space with their droppings. He did not tell us how many rats he estimated were in the attic, but he set ten traps and made an appointment to return in one week.
Recommended Reading: The Church Mice Adrift from the Church Mice series by Graham Oakley. This children’s picture book series about Arthur, Humphrey, long-suffering church cat Sampson and all the other mice who live in the Wortlethorpe Vestry is packed full of adventure and humor. The super-detailed illustrations are a hilarious treat. In Adrift, the mice and Sampson are forced out of the vestry by a pack of rowdy rats and must think up a cunning plan to get rid of the squatters and win back their home.
Meanwhile, Chinook and Nanaimo have been oblivious to the party in the attic, focusing their attention on the Christmas tree. They compete to sit under it: usually Nanaimo is clever enough to lure Chinook away from the tree by playing with a squeaky toy, and when Chinook runs over to investigate the noise, Nanaimo quickly takes his place under the tree. Lately Chinook has been taking the low road to secure his territory:
Is it really the end of the year already? To paraphrase another blogger, 2011 has been a year never to be forgotten and we hope never repeated.
Since we last posted in mid-October, the Gimlet and his employer parted ways just before Halloween, and the Things’ great-grandmother (whose 90th birthday was celebrated in grand fashion) passed away Thanksgiving Day, exactly six months to the day after Bopa died. With so much sorrow and uncertainty occurring in a short space of time it’s been challenging to think positively and move forward, and we’re so grateful for the support of family, friends and our church community during this difficult year. We’ve especially taken to heart some advice given to the Gimlet to focus on the abundance in our lives: not just the good things we currently enjoy, but the great potential for future success:
- “The Liturgy of Abundance” by Dr. Walter Brueggemann (from religion-online.org)
- “Living the Abundant Life” by President Thomas S. Monson, January 2012 Ensign
We’ve had a genuinely happy holiday season, with plenty of delicious food, lively conversation, and continuation of the traditions from years past as we remember our loved ones who are no longer with us. We agree it has been the sort of season they would have wanted us to have. While we dropped the ball on blogging, our newest family blogger, Hå, has been busily recording all of the past months’ events in great detail. (That is why she is the unofficial family historian!) Just remember: it’s not shamelessly harvesting all of her hard-written content if we call it outsourcing. Visit her blog and read all about our November and December there:
- We love Yulefest at the Nordic Heritage Museum
- Remembering great-grandma
- Thanksgiving 2011
- A day trip to Lynden, WA would not be complete without watusi cattle, caramel apple pie from the Dutch bakery, and a sedated angry cat in the back seat of the car. Well, we could do just fine without the cat next time.
- Santa’s annual visit
- Christmas Eve dinner party
To provide our readers with a little original content, here are a few photos from a Christmas shopping visit to the Pike Place Market.
We had fresh Dungeness crab for Christmas Eve, but we buy ours at a neighborhood fish market much closer to home.
Seattle-native uncles will find it heartwarming to learn that Thing One discovered one of their favorite Market haunts (and a must-stop for any geek tourist): Golden Age Collectibles. Meanwhile, Thing Two keeps an eye out for more Daleks.
Several adventures are already in store for the coming year and will be revealed in good time … until then, best wishes to you and your families for an abundant 2012!
One of our friends coordinates a visit to a local fire station to bring them holiday treats and thank them for their service in the community. This year, Thing Two and Your Humble Narrator were able to go.
When we arrived the fire engine was away assisting with a traffic accident, but we didn’t have to wait long before they arrived, followed by the ladder truck! The ladder truck is based at a different station but it was driving around the neighborhood today so its new crew could get used to operating the truck.
The firemen put on a wonderful presentation for the children. We saw how the infrared camera works to help the firemen see in smoke filled buildings, and one fireman put on his gear, explaining to the children how each piece protected firefighters or helped them do their work.
Then, they were invited to climb aboard the fire engine and explore it.
Thing Two and the other children (and their parents) had a wonderful time! It was a fun morning.
Team Gimlet has two firemen in their family history: Great-Grandpa Gimlet was a fire chief in the town of Logan, Utah, and one of the Things’ great-great grandfathers was one of the early firefighters in Seattle’s history. When we returned home, a call to Hå was in order, and she soon found and emailed some pictures.
Based on what we know about this great-great grandfather’s careers in both the fire and police departments, we believe these photos were taken around 1900, and judging from what can be seen of the building we think this is probably Fire Station #3. Great-Great Grandpa is fourth from the left in the back row, the clean-shaven gentleman wearing a vest. Love the dog! It looks like the dog owned by these great-great grandparents; perhaps theirs was a puppy or grandpuppy from the firehouse dog? We don’t know, but it’s fun to wonder.
Isn’t this a great action shot? Look at those horses go!
And here are the great-great grandparents; Great-great grandpa is wearing his fireman uniform.
One of our neighborhood firemen suggested that we visit the Fire Department Museum downtown. We would like to get a better look at the apparatus the horses are pulling (a hose carriage?), hopefully identify some of the other men in our group picture, and learn more about what it was like to be a fireman over one hundred years ago. Sounds like a good field trip for the upcoming school holiday break!
Christmas came and went so fast this year, as did the rest of the holiday vacation. Now Thing One’s Court of Honor is fast approaching (as are the houseguests), so we’d better bring the blog up to date before we are hopelessly behind.
At Santa’s annual pre-Christmas visit, Thing Two walked up to Santa and announced, “I used to be afraid of you but I’m not any more!” followed by:
“Santa is big … “
“Santa is very big … “
“I’m going to stay with Mommy.”
We did manage to get him to sit on Santa’s lap. His time with St. Nick is best described as “cautious”.
After Santa left and he was describing his visit to the grandGimlets, he told them Santa was eleven feet tall.
Christmas Eve festivities were held chez Gimlet, with the traditional holiday crustacean (Dungeness crab). There were also a few hjortebakkels left, although since it has been several years since we last made any, their numbers had decreased considerably over the course of the month.
Just before Christmas we were able to pick up Thing One’s Eagle certificate and awards. (One of the advantages to living in the city is that the scout office is a relatively quick trip from home.) While we were at the Scout Shop looking over all the goodies in the Eagle aisle, another mother nudged her new Boy Scout and Cub Scout sons and pointed out Thing One. (“Look at that boy. He’s a brand new Eagle Scout!”) The younger boys watched him from an awed distance as we made our purchases. Not so long ago we were the ones watching the soon-to-be and new Eagle Scouts, wondering what Thing One’s trail to Eagle would be like, and how he would reach that goal.
After Christmas preparations for the Court of Honor shifted into high gear. We had found an online card design shop which we had hoped to use to make the invitations, but discovered that they were closed for the holidays and wouldn’t take new orders in time for our mailing deadline. However, Costco was luckily offering a sale on photo cards, with a blank template option among their choices, so Your Humble Narrator dusted off her armchair graphic design skills and put together an invitation that looks as good as the online shop’s products, if she dares say so herself. With the savings from that part of the project we splurged on Eagle Scout stamps from Zazzle. Not necessary, but a fun extra touch.
The Court of Honor slide show has been a lot of fun to make, and we hope family and friends enjoy it too. Sorting through pictures brought up many memories of campouts, hikes, and other activities with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. But to harp on a familiar theme, our children grow up so quickly! There are events for which we wish we had taken more pictures, but we’re thankful for all the pictures that we have, and we’re especially glad that somebody (was it Uncle C? We can’t remember.) had the presence of mind to record a little something which will appear at the beginning of the slide show. (How’s that for a teaser?)
We hope to see many of you at the Court of Honor, and a report on the party and family reunion will follow once we’ve recovered.