When I was a child, when my immediate family wasn't visiting relatives on the Catholic side, we'd usually go for singing and hot chocolate on xmas eve - our church was agnostic usually but the songs were more hymns than carols in deference to many of the adults' Christian childhoods, and I always found religious lyrics alienating. Then we'd drive by and look at the ostentatious lights on the houses in the gated suburban communities on the way home. That was pretty much it for xmas traditions, and family visits were about the visiting, without even any special formula for the food (there was usually a lot of it, but that's it).

Here in Finland the traditions are family-oriented. The first few years I came to Finland, when Eldest Deitychild was an infant and the only representative of the next generation, there were Waxfamily gatherings where my mother-in-law had like, enough food to feed the seven adults present for two weeks and her flat festooned in greenery, red satin curtains, straw and red felt and brass traditional Nordic Christmas decor, three kinds of homemade candy with the Swedish gingerbread on the sideboard, and the Christmas Eve dinner was followed by Swedish drinking songs and snaps, wine, cheese, boardgames and puzzles. At that time, there was always plenty of snow at the end of the year too (hasn't happened the last five years or so), so the whole experience was a lovely advertisement for the Finnish holiday, and I was happy to go over to this model and felt no nostalgia for the childhood ones (except missing my family).

Now that my brothers-in-law have four and two children respectively, they have their own family celebrations in addition to the Waxfamily arrangements, which aren't hosted by my mother-in-law anyway. We've had some big holiday dinners hosted by Wax's brother and his wife, which were festive, but all the relaxed and pleasant atmosphere of the evening is removed by the noise of a lot of children and the fussiness that sugar and presents bring.

This is my mother-in-law's last year before retirement and she's mostly moved to a new flat nearby which is too small to host the whole family anyway, so that probably won't be part of whatever Waxfamily does in the future.

This is also the first year she's eaten xmas eve dinner with (just) us. We have a table with leaves this year, so that is doable for the first time on our end. We put out candles and a tablecloth and supplied mashed potatoes and bread and cheese. For three people - and Wax and I each typically eat about half an adult restaurant serving per meal - MIL brought:

  • A leg of cold mutton

  • Enough chicken and vegetable patés to fill our second-largest platter

  • A pan of sauteed mushrooms, which is a traditional xmas dish for their family

  • A big salad

  • An entire basket of fruit

  • A box of homemade chocolate truffles that we didn't even get around to eating

And Wax was deputized to prepare a disturbingly pink beetroot "herring" salad and a bowl of bright pink vinegared whipped cream on the side.

It took longer to put the food in the fridge and pack it up than to eat it, almost.

I made two kinds of Christmas cookies and some peanut butter cups and took them to brother-in-law's place today, where we went to eat pizza and give the niblings their presents. The cookies always get a warm reception there, and I enjoy making them (obviously eating them too, but making them for other people even more so). It doesn't seem quite as cosy and festive to me, somehow, though. Maybe I'll put cut greenery up or find a way to hang more ornaments without a pet-vulnerable tree next year.
I think this Xmas marks our most successful round of presents for the triplets (Age... 8?) yet.

#1 was like "OMG LOOK EVERYONE LOOK AT THIS DID YOU SEE THIS YET OMG LOOK AT PAGE 2"
#2 was like "Huh... it's a puzzle... [thinks] [very solemnly] Cim, I think this looks like fun to make!" [small smile]
#3 was so busy staring at Funko Pop Batman that he forgot to say how he felt about it for several minutes, but he just kept staring and eventually said something like (quietly) "Batman!"
1. Alarums at Arrivals and the Sleep-Deprived Queasy Roadtrips That Nightmares are Made of )

2. Arrival at Cloudland Canyon and a Severe Lack of Flashlights )

3. The Lookout That Didn't Look Out, plus Finnish Delicacies )

4. Worrying symptoms )

5. Bae's First American Speeding Ticket )

Wax's mom pulled up with our box'o'kitties exactly as we walked into the parking lot with our suitcases, so we carried them up in the same trip. Snookums started shouting in the box and didn't stop for a couple of hours after we got him inside.

PS: We brought Wax's mom a bottle of Southern Comfort, which neither of us has ever tasted, and a box of her favorite duty-free chocolates, to thank her for caring for the kitties and houseplants.
We came back with:

  • Four bottles of ibuprofen caplets (200 mg x500) and some Sudafed

  • Three bags of Butterfinger minis and one bag of mini Reese's Cups

  • One pair each of flip-flops from Old Navy (they were $5 USD together whereas the cheapest I could find the identical plastic Made in Chinas for in Finland was over 20€)

  • Three pairs of yoga leggings and a sports bra, two tank tops and a 100% cotton plain white Oxford shirt (me)

  • Sweatpant shorts, a long-sleeved popover shirt and foldover-waistband white linen pants (Wax)

  • A souvenir t-shirt each & a baseball cap from Cloudland Canyon State Park, a pair of sunglasses and a big sunglasses case each, and a bag of cotton terry-cloth crew socks (I looked EVERYWHERE I COULD THINK OF for cotton terry socks here)

  • An eye-searing blue paisley suitcase that looks like a Lily Pulitzer knockoff


Also a giant pop-up book of dragon illustrations from my mom for our niece who loves dragons, the silk phoenix kite my dad brought me back from Singapore in 1988, and a pink glitter USB cable.

We consumed a bunch of Pop-Tarts while there but forgot to bring the extras back with us. I also wish I'd brought back some extra goldfish crackers, but the suitcases were pretty full.

Many things went wrong, but nothing catastrophic; everything managed to recover and occur at the right time in spite of these snags. That will take longer to write up.
"X and Y are the guests of honor, but I don't know who they are," said my sister.

"I don't either, but I know I'm not interested in their work because they're both men," I said.

My dad said, "Yeah. And weren't all the other names on the list of guests men, too?"

(They were... except for one.)
On the Ashkenazi side of my extended family, 9 members in 3 generations have lived past 50, and of those 2 have died of breast cancer and another's been in treatment for a few years (male breast cancer in his case). Now we've found out my aunt is entering treatment for it too, and she's only 55.

Statistically, this is troubling. (Personally, my aunt's prognosis isn't bad and the rest of the oldies seem sanguine, so I'm not TOO upset.)

Thanks to my atheist great-grandparents, though, neither of my aunts were even aware that we're Ashkenazi, hadn't even heard the term -- and naturally, her doctor asked her specifically since it's a risk factor. (I didn't learn it from my family, either, even though my dad knows; I think it came up in the genetics chapter of high school biology... .) I said "I can't believe they didn't know that!" and my sister replied that she didn't either. =_=
I was gone from home for a week, for 5 days with my little sister in Stockholm! [personal profile] waxjism has been feeling under the weather, which meant switching anti-depressants, and has been in the midst of tapering off one and onto another simultaneously for a month or so, and therefore feeling even MORE under the weather. So she didn't come along.

Table of Contents:
1. Wed: The Shoe Affair, The Mall that Cthulhu Built, and a Digression: Don't Try to Eat Vegan in Downtown Stockholm's Central Tourist Destinations
2. Thurs: Medieval Museum and Museum Tre Kronor
3. Fri: Drottninggatan and the Historical Museum
4. Sat: Kungsholmen
5. Sun: Gamla Stan and Gustav III's Antiquities Museum
6. Mon: National Gallery at the Academy of Fine Arts and St Clara's Church

Read more... )

My photo posts from my photoblog at Tumblr: Walking in Gamla Stan - On the Street & in the Church - The Medieval Museum - The Historical Museum - Plaster statues at the Academy of Fine Arts





I just found out that my dad is my sister's long-distance cheerleader when she has to catch a bug inside her flat to release outside, and he has been doing this for years.

When it comes to Crunch Time (ie time to put a bowl or something over the bug) she'll say "Okay, I have to put the phone down now!" and hang up, but then she'll call back after to notify him that she successfully ejected the bug from the premises.

"One time I walked by him talking on the phone and he was saying solemnly, 'That was really brave,'" said my mom.

So this could be useful. Like I could call my dad on the phone when I'm afraid of my inbox and let him coach me through the process.

Although the only thing that upsets me as much as I've seen my sister get upset about grasshoppers are like, having to initiate conversations with people. And I'd need two phones for that one probably. ("Turku Health Center Tallbacken 2." "Can you hold a second please? - Daddy, a nurse answered the phone! She said the name of the health center!")

Honestly, I'd moved in with Wax when I was her age, but a few years before that I was living alone, and I did have to call my dad a lot. He's definitely coached me through filling out scary forms that had to be mailed places. And also with leaving my room and braving the horrors of a communal kitchen to make myself food.
"I thought that now the kids are pretty grown up, we could have a movie night together and pick a nice animated film... but when we got there they all wanted to watch the same thing: Monster High. Not one of them wanted anything else." - sister-in-law

Dear Mom & Dad,

I'm sorry that for all of 1988 the only video I ever wanted to rent was Barbie & the Rockers.

Love,
Cim

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