31 December 2012

Goodbye 2012

I suppose I ought to do one more post before the year ends.  Here's the checklist from the beginning of the year.

No visa woes
Visit Uzbekistan
Don't run out of money
Best homeschooling year ever
Stay in Bishkek till the summer
Don't move more than twice
Dissertation done
Read more
Write more
Research more
Fit more
Russian more
No mooching
Play more games

We didn't make it to Uzbekistan (again) and I didn't do much writing, and Russian learning stopped when we left Bishkek (and was undermined anyway because I heard more Russian on the streets in Tokmok than in our particular neighborhood in Bishkek).  And the dissertation isn't done, although that's not my husband's fault.  It has to be done in the next few months or the world will come to and end, so I'll add to to this year's list.

I don't have very much to say about this year, but I can come up with something, I hope.  I'm really only willing to talk about the next seven months though because that's how long our lease is and how long we have to work here.

Go to the ocean
Colonial Williamsburg
Explore, explore, explore
Read more
Great homeschooling year
Camp more
Hike more
Play more

It appears I want to get out this year.  Virginia is a great place to do that.

21 December 2012

Kyrgyzstan Ornaments

And here are the Kyrgyzstan ornaments.  We got the yurt when we lived there the first time, but all the rest are from last year.

Starting at the top center, there's a red beshik, then a kalpak, a camel, a Marco Polo ram, a chuko bone, the yurt, and a do'ppi. 

Love these.

20 December 2012

Seattle Ornament

After we stopped getting a gold star each year, we decided to get an ornament that represented the place we were living at the time.  Since we move a lot, that's sort of fun.  Anyway, here's our Seattle ornament. 

When we lived there, we were really close to an outdoor mall.  My boys' favorite store was Bartell Drug because they sold legos.  So when we saw this ornament at Bartells, with a Bartells sitting right in the middle (not that you can really see that in the photo), we thought it was a good Seattle ornament for us.  It doesn't only remind us of Seattle, but also the specific place we lived.

19 December 2012

Stray Gifts

My favorite here is the Star Wars ornament that a dear friend gave us about 5 years ago off her tree.  We all think of them when we pull this one out. 

18 December 2012

Russian Ornaments

When my parents lived in Russia, my mother wanted to send ornaments to all her grandchildren.  That turned out to be quite a feat (mailing things from the former Soviet Union is hardly straightforward), but they all arrived safely and before Christmas.  She even sent one for my littlest who hadn't been born yet.  I love these unique ornament and am not looking forward to their leaving my tree someday.

Later she gave us the wooden bell along with a book.  The bell is from St. Petersburg and even though it wasn't necessarily designed as an ornament, it's happy on the tree.

17 December 2012

Off My Mother's Tree

This photo should have gone up about a week ago since these are all older ornaments even if they haven't always been mine.  My aunt and uncle made the julehjerter at the top when I was younger.  My mother's ancestry is almost entirely Danish, so I like it because of that, and because it reminds my of the aunt and uncle, one of whom died a few years ago.

My sister made lots of the shell ornaments on the bottom when my mother switched to a more organized look for the Christmas tree.  As I remember the story, they'd decided on the design but hadn't been able to find shells that would work (no surprise in Utah before the internet), but we stumbled on some when we were visiting Florida.  It seems like they were in some touristy souvenir shop, but they were perfect and now there are many of these.  Enough that my mother was willing to share one with me a few years ago.

The other two ornaments are two more ways I benefited later from my mother's new tree style (I also got some of my grandmother's ornaments that I posted earlier).  They were on the tree when I was little and were favorites.  One summer our garage flooded and some of the Christmas decorations were damaged or ruined.  I remember worrying specifically about these.  They barely survived, and they're on my tree now.  My boys love them too.

16 December 2012

10000 Villages, Part 1

The year we lived in Salt Lake, I took the boys (the two that were around then) to 10000 Villages to choose ornaments because they have unique and inexpensive ornaments.  We all loved that, so this year, since we live near a 10000 Villages again, we did the same.  I don't have photos of those yet, but I'll get them up later.

One reason I like to go there is to see what the boys choose.

Tunduk Creche

And here's the last nativity.  I got it a year ago in Bishkek.  The felt pieces are hanging from a tunduk, which you can't see very well since this is really hard to get a good photo of.  Most people wouldn't understand everything that's going on here if they saw it, but that's okay.  Because I do.

I don't think we'll be getting a nativity this year.  We don't always, and ornaments are always easier to store and display. 

15 December 2012

Crocheted Ornaments

I should have posted these sooner since I made them before some of the others posted here.  These always remind me of my oldest son.  I was experimenting with different ways to stiffen these and sugar was one of those ways.  He was about 2 at the time and discovered that some of the ornaments on the tree tasted really good.  Others, however, just had cornstarch and he wasn't so impressed. 

I made a lot more than these, but some got chewed on and others weren't my favorite.  One year I had a lot hanging in the windows.  But now there are just these 5.  Maybe I'll make some more this year since I know which ones turn out best now.

Made in Thailand Nativity

I really like this metal nativity that was made in Thailand.  I don't have any special stories about it. I just like it.

14 December 2012

Homemade Ornaments

I only have a few ornaments that my boys have made.  They've often made lego or origami ornaments for the tree, but they never survive till the next year.  The balls are what we've kept from the ornament-making fest we had when we lived in Boise.  They were easy for the boys to make (just pour a little watered-down paint into a clear glass ornament, plug the hole, and shake) and they made them to give away for several years. 

The Russian Creches

 When my parents were living in Russia a few years ago, I asked my mother to try to find a Russian nativity for me.  She searched high and low for something that she liked, but the best she could do was to find the two nativities in the first photo.

Personally, I like them.

But since she didn't like them so much, she got me the one in the lower photo later when she found it in a store in the US.  For the record, it was made in Russia.

I really like it too.  So I lucked out and have three Russian nativities that I like.

13 December 2012

Danish Cardamom Christmas Cookies

This is my take on cardamom cookies.

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cardamom
2-3 tablespoons sugar

Cream the butter and sugar, then beat the eggs in one at a time, then slowly add the flour and cinnamon.  Cover and stick in the fridge for at least 30-60 minutes, or overnight, or whatever.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Combine the cardamom and sugar in a small bowl.  Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll around in the cardamom and sugar, then put on a cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.  Bake for 8-12 minutes.

Ground cardamom works fine, but if you have cardamom seeds, open them up and bruise about 1 tsp worth and mix that with your sugar.


So pants are the hot topic this week in some of my internet circles.  Or, more accurately for some, trousers.  Seems like an odd topic for everyone to get bothered about, but there it is.

I know this is getting spun as a protest by many people, and certainly for some people it is, but it's not for many people.  There is a difference because protesting (something I don't want to do in sacrament meeting) and supporting (something I want to do) even if the actions might appear similar.

If you happen to see a woman at church in pants, please don't automatically assume she's protesting anything and dismiss her attitude as inappropriate for sacrament meeting.  Maybe she's cold.  Maybe she's in nursery.  Maybe all her skirts are dirty.  Maybe she wants to see changes in our clothing expectations. Maybe she rode a bike to church.  Maybe she doesn't own a dress or skirt.  Maybe she likes pants.  Maybe she is trying to show support for something.  Maybe her pants look nicer than her skirts.  Maybe she's mad.  What does it matter?  She's still someone who showed up for church, and that means a lot.

It's simple for me to decide whether I'm wearing pants to church on Sunday.  Since I don't own any dress pants, I'm not*.  I will, however, be wearing a purple shirt (amazingly, I own one) because I want to show my support for anyone at church who doesn't fit the mold, who doesn't feel comfortable, who doesn't always say or do the right things, who's cold, or who's mad.  Even the mad people need someone to care.

I'll definitely be looking for the pants-wearers.  Because I'm a supporter of the pants-wearers.

*I could probably find the money and the time to buy some this weekend, but it's far more likely that I'd rather find the time and money to buy something more personally fulfilling.  Clothes are never that for me.  If I had to bring a well-written book or a delicious international meal to an event to show my support? Count me in.

Updated much later:
I did wear pants for this the next year since I finally had a pair of dress pants.  I wear them often now especially when I've traveling.  They're easy to wear in some places and less comfortable in others.

Happy Birthdays

Today my littlest turns 5 and this blog is 8 years old.  And it's the Geminids tonight (and maybe a new meteor shower, did you know? they'll be around Pisces, if they happen, and maybe earlier).

Birthdays are so much funner when you're 5.

12 December 2012

The Abstract Creche

This may quite possibly be my favorite nativity of all.  My oldest son put this together when he was seven.  He had a bucket of wooden pieces of all shapes and sizes and one day produced this nativity on his own.  I took it over after discovering it in his room later. 

I'm perfectly happy if you think I'm just a doting mother, but I think this creche is amazing.

Boise Ornaments

These all are from when we lived in Boise.  That's probably been the place where we most felt like part of the community.  We built a house there 10 years ago, planning to stay for awhile (this is the biggest thing, I think). There were lots of people moving into the area but not really too many moving out.  We had neighbors with kids the ages of our kids. Our ward was wonderful and welcoming.  The spiders and the snowman are from all of these people.

And then my husband got laid off and we returned to our wandering ways.  We moved to another part of Idaho where the sons of two of our friends also happened to be moving to for college.  We had them over for dinner often and the mother of one of them sent us the ornament in the lower left corner just before he left on his mission.  It doesn't technically match our family anymore since we have our littlest now, but we had two children for so long and we have so many good memories of Boise, so this is one of my favorite ornaments.

11 December 2012

The Snow Child

When I was going through book lists a few months ago, this one came up and so I put it on hold and finally got it not too long ago without knowing anything about it, just that one of my friends liked it.  Then I started reading the dust jacket and immediately clued in that this is a retelling of Snegurochka.  If you've read any Russian fairy tales, you've probably read this one and I was delighted.  We don't get so many retellings of Russian stories in the US.

And fortunately, this was really well done.  Alaska was the perfect setting for an American version of this, but I felt like it was true to the original tale.  I enjoyed it very much and think it would be an interesting book to discuss for a book group.

Golden Stars

These photos are pretty much awful, but they'll have to do.  It's pretty much impossible for me to make it work when there are 5 shiny objects.

Anyway, we gathered these stars over 13 years, only stopping a few years ago.  For a long time these were the ornaments we got each year.  We started with the one in the lower left corner in the photo on the right because it's from the Alhambra. The others are based on various designs from around the world and all are from the Met.

We stopped mostly because we had enough and so we could branch out into other ornaments. And it was time to stop.  I'm glad we did it.

Wooden Kyrgyz Creche

This one has been on here before too.  My husband put it together while we were in Kyrgyzstan the first time.  They do sell sets that use these, but I like this one because I can rearrange the people the way I want them.  It's the only set I have where there are women besides Mary (the one with the shorter white fabric hanging from her chin is one, and the other is the right side of the short pair). 

In this photo they're arranged to have Mary, Joseph, and Jesus with Anna and Simeon standing behind them; two short shepherds, male and female; and two Wise Men.  I've also rearranged it with the one who's Simeon above as a Wise Man and Anna as a midwife.

10 December 2012

Felt Yurt Nativity

I've posted this one before (and I'm using an old photo of it, because it's gotten slightly squished over the years and the yurt has a bit of a slump).  Some expat friends of ours gave this to us.  I've loaned it to creche exhibits several times because it's unique, even with the slump.

This would have cost about 5 dollars in 2005.  Not anymore. 
I think I've covered all the ornaments I had when I got married. My sister made us many ornaments the first Christmas we were married (well, technically the second, but since we got married right before Christmas, the second felt like the first one).  We were living across the country from the rest of the family and were lucky to have a tree at all, and these ornaments filled up the tree nicely.

These are the only two left now.  Some have broken when we've had hardwood floors, others were repurposed into ornaments my sons made after the tree started filling up with other ornaments.  My husband calls them the garter belt ornaments. 

I love having ornaments that remind me of people I care about.  It meant a lot to me that my sister would spend the time to make all of these and then ship them across the country.  It was the perfect gift.

09 December 2012

Religious Ornaments

These are some of the last ornaments I got from my mother.  You probably can't see the top black round one very well, but she got it the year that I'd just come back from Jerusalem the first time and it was perfect.

Uzbek Creche

I've posted this before, but it can be done again.  This isn't a very good photo at all, sorry.  This isn't really a nativity scene, but a collection of Uzbek ceramics that we turn into a creche in December.  A Russian friend from Uzbekistan gave us the two large figures in 2001 and a Korean friends from Uzbekistan gave us the three smaller figures we use as Wise Men in 2007. 

I really like using the figurine here for Mary.

08 December 2012

High in the Clouds

I suppose the next nativity is this one, although I'm not entirely sure if it should come before the next ones.  This one is definitely the oldest one I have since it was in my parents' house while I was growing up.  Sometimes I benefit from my mother's decluttering.   There were other nativities that we were given before this one, but they got moved on our end.

It always amuses me that this set has identical shepherds.  It really isn't the most beautiful set (which is probably why my mother passed it on), but it reminds me of getting out the Christmas decorations and finding the long blue box where it was stored.  There were a satisfying number of pieces to unwrap and set up.  And it seems it was on a green cloth?  I could be making that part up.


There's not too much that's interesting to say here.  I liked these and requested them one year for Christmas when I was a teenager.  I started with six, but one broke sometime along the way.

I do still like them, although they're not really my style anymore.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

I liked this one.  Didn't love it, because sometimes I just didn't like Budo.  Always liked Max though.  And the crisis was just a little unbelievable.  But there was a lot to like here.

Connie's Ornaments

My aunt sometimes sent us ornaments when we were younger.  I'm not absolutely sure that all three of these are from her, but I think they are.  Even if the Snoopy one wasn't, it should have been, because she loved Snoopy.  She'd also write us letters sometimes. 

Another Olivewood Set

My husband came with his own olivewood set when we got married.  His is one of the more modern ones, if you want to call it that, where carving isn't as detailed.  This always lives under our Christmas tree because it's completely safe there, even when there's a two-year-old in the house.

05 December 2012

Celtic Creche

I think this one should go next.  There's nothing special about where I got it.  I just saw it in a catalog when I was a teenager and asked for it.  Always loved it.

Travel Ornaments

This batch is mixed in with yesterday's chronologically and are from places we'd visited the year I got them.  They're probably pretty obvious, although the bell might not be.  It's from Arizona when we visited my oldest sister there and cut our own tree.  It was fun to cut our own tree even if it was a little scrawny.

04 December 2012

The Cute Ornaments

So after we got past the round ornaments we switched back to cute ones.  The dolphin one really should have been in a different photo, and I'll explain why tomorrow, but it's still cute.  The viola on the bottom is a favorite of my own children and I got it when I played the viola in junior high. 

These aren't entirely chronological now because there are a few that'll be in tomorrow's photo that come in the middle of these, but it's pretty close.

First Olivewood Set

This would be my second nativity since my sister brought it back from Jerusalem when she lived there (I won't say how many years ago).  Since she was the first to go, she got stuck with bringing back lots of these sets, not to mentioning shopping for them too. 

You see olivewood creches all the time, but I like mine.

03 December 2012

The First Nativity

Like I said, I like to pick up nativities here and there.  This was the first one I got more than 20 years ago and here's the story, or, the version I remember.

My church has lots of programs for children and teenagers where you set goals and work on different projects and things.  There were various rewards for meeting certain goals, and unfortunately those rewards were (and still are) often jewelry for the girls.  When I was about 10, my mother was in charge of running everything for all the children in my church in a fairly large area, and so she decided to skip the jewelry and instead got nativity set pieces instead.   

I promise, that was a much better system.

The Round Ones

So the first three ornaments were all cute little things.  The way the story goes, my older sisters got more traditional round ornaments those years. Someone pointed that out to my mother- that the older daughters got "boring" ones and the younger ones were more unique.  So my mother switched the pattern after that and their ornaments were more creative and my little sister and I got round ones for the next few years.

I don't know if I have the story entirely right, but I like it no matter what and always think about it when I hang these three ornaments. And I like them even if they are boring, athough one does have sappy daughter sentiments on the side.

02 December 2012

The First Three Ornaments

So, like I said, my mother got us ornaments when my sisters and I were growing up.  She started sometime between the time my next-older sister and I were born and these were the first three I got.  The dangly one on the right is a favorite of my own children too. One of them broke off the lowest elf when they were little and it was like that for years till we were at my parents' house one Christmas when I had my ornaments with me and my dad fixed it. So that's what I think about when I hang that one up. 

The little drummer boy is missing a stick, but I honestly don't remember it ever being there, so that's okay too.  The soldier with the thimble hat had had a less traumatic life than the others.

01 December 2012

Grandma Nisson's Ornaments

I've been meaning to take pictures of my Christmas tree ornaments for years so I'd at least have photos of them when I can't put them up, and I finally did it now.  This series of posts will be boring for you.  Sorry about that.

I'll do these in chronological order.  As usual, the photos aren't great, and it's even worse than usual on some of these because it's hard to take photos of groups of shiny things.

Anyway, these 6 ornaments were on my parents' tree while I was growing up and they were my mother's mother's tree before that.  I don't know where she got them, but I like having them on the tree since they were hers at some point.

On my parent's tree there also was a coveted blue glass ornament that was always hung high on the tree by someone responsible.  Since I'm the shortest in the family (and I'm not even short), I was way down the line for hanging it, but I got to one year.  It's not even that exciting an ornament- it's just blue.  But it's a tradition. 

Ornaments and Nativities

We don't do much decorating for Christmas here because Christmas decor is just something else to move.  But we do have a box of ornaments and a box of nativities.  We always get an ornament each year, and we get nativities every so often when the mood is right.  Ornaments in particular are great for our family because I can always fix one more in the box, they're very lightweight, and they're great mementos. 

The nativities are a little trickier and I've even had to cut back on those to keep the most important ones in the box.  But we still have the ones that are the best.  My mother sent me this book last year which is another great way to see more nativities.

I think it would be fun to design my own nativity.  It would have some midwives and Anna in it too, and how about Elizabeth?  If we can put the three Wise Men in when they apparently didn't even make an appearance till long after Jesus' birth, then I vote we can find room for many more women in our traditional nativity scenes.