On Wind & Sail: Letterboxing in San Francisco

One of the benefits of homeschooling is the flexibility of our schedule. When Patrick has business meetings out of town, we are often able to accompany him. This works not only to his benefit – he has company on the long drive, we often share in the task of driving so the other can catch up on work, and he can take advantage of the carpool lane – but to ours.

While he is engaged at his conference, we hit the road to explore the city or surrounding area. This is just what brought us to San Francisco earlier this week.

We assumed that we would be staying in downtown or the financial district as we had in the past. Come to discover, this conference took place near the airport in Millbrae. Not exactly convenient for walking. Though the proximity to the BART would have been ideal – our plans for the day provided only a small window of time and we wanted to squeeze in as much as possible.

A las, I made the decision to drive back into SF proper myself and take our chances with parking. Our first destination was Golden Gate Park. In all our previous visits to the city, we had not previously explored this gem. My goal was to locate the Roald Amundsen or Gjoa Monument as well as two historic windmills.

On Wind & Sail: Letterboxing in San Francisco @WellTraveledFamily.netIn October 1906, Roald Amundsen and his crew arrived in San Francisco aboard the 69-foot Gjoa. Previously a herring boat from Tronso, Norway, she had been retrofitted for Amundsen’s quest to discover the famed Northwest Passage. The Gjoa took the small crew up and over Canada, east to west, finally arriving near Herschel Island, in arctic Canada.

To get word back to the outside world of his success, Amundsen left his men behind in the icebound ship and skied some 500 miles into Eagle, Alaska, where he telegraphed the good news home. As he and his crew arrived in San Francisco a few months later, they were hailed as heroes.

This epic quest was not Amundsen’s only feat, however. He led the Antarctic expedition (1910–12) to become the first to reach the South Pole in December 1911, an epic race against Robert Falcon Scott. In 1926, he was the first expedition leader to be recognized without dispute as having reached the North Pole.

We had visited the Gjoa ship at the Maritime Museum in Oslo. It was exciting to experience this full circle. Not far from the Norwegian granite stele is located a short distance from two windmills.
On Wind & Sail: Letterboxing in San Francisco @WellTraveledFamily.netBuilt between 1902 and 1908, the two historic windmills that overlook Ocean Beach at the far west end of Golden Gate Park were originally designed to provide water for the fledgling park at the beginning of the last century.

Fresh water was essential to transform the sand dunes of the Sunset district into the green that it is today.  The ground water inland was insufficient, so the coastal winds were harnessed to pump deep water closer to the ocean shore.  The windmills were in use only until 1913, when they were replaced by more efficient electric pumps.

The North windmill, known as the Dutch Windmill, was the first, built in 1902 to fill the artificial ponds within the boundaries of Golden Gate Park. The South windmill, known as the Murphy Windmill, was the largest of its kind in the world, with gigantic 114 foot sails, each cut from a single log. These sails turned clockwise, unlike traditional Dutch windmills which turn counter-clockwise.

While in Golden Gate Park, we also enjoyed one of our most favorite pastimes, Letterboxing – the ultimate scavenger hunt. Hunting letterboxes in San Francisco is always enjoyable – the boxes tend to be well maintained and the stamps are amazing! Often, intricately carved or multiple stamps that “stack” within one another.

We hunted three boxes (Aphrodite, Artemis, and Breathe) and were delighted to find all three with ease. My girl has become quite adept at locating the boxes – often without the complete set of clues .. a real sleuth.

We also picked up a hitch-hiking stamp and hope to be planting it in Ashland next week. 🙂

To learn more about letterboxing, visit AtlasQuest.

 

5 Signs You Might Be Norwegian

Sons of Norway lodges are found throughout the United States, Canada, and Norway. Together, we work tirelessly to promote Norwegian traditions and fraternal fellowship through cultural activities and social opportunities. These activities include language camps and classes, scholarships, handicrafts, cooking and heritage classes, heritage and sports programs, travel opportunities, Viking Magazine, and outreach programs sponsored by the Sons of Norway Foundation.

The mission of Sons of Norway is to promote and to preserve the heritage and culture of Norway, to celebrate our relationship with other Nordic Countries, and provide quality insurance and financial products to our members.

Each district hosts a heritage camp for the children and grandchildren of members (our heritage members). Ever since my kiddos were toddlers, we have talked about going to heritage camp. They have looked forward to the opportunity and been eager to meet other lodge heritage members. Due to one circumstance or another, this was the first year that they were able to attend.

In our district, heritage camp is a two week experience filled with reverie and cultural traditions. While they were a little nervous (especially my son who had not previously been away from us for more than two nights – and then he was staying at Grandma’s), they gave us a big bear hug before gingerly bounding down the steps to their tent sights to get settled into camp.

I have been wanting to write this most for weeks now and am delighted to finally share some of their experiences with you. I thought a little tongue-in-cheek would do well. 🙂

heritagecamp1

5 Signs You Might Be Norwegian

You might be Norwegian if you are eager to throw a few belongings into a longboat and forge your own way across treacherous seas. Your adventurous spirit knows no bounds!

The fact that these kids spent two weeks away from home – without the trappings of modern devices they’ve become so fond of – is a testament to the their Nordic spirit of adventure!

They really connected with one another and forged strong bonds of friendship that will last a lifetime. Now that they are back home, they have connected on Instagram and write letters to one another. They are already talking about next year’s camp and have pledged to go every year.

My kids even connected with one another – seeing their sibling as a partner and ally, rather than a thorn in their side. Upon their return from camp, they argue less and play together more often.

Their experience at camp not only built relationships but also built character.

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You might be Norwegian if you have no qualms about dressing up in heavy woolen bunads and thick woolen sweaters in the incessant heat of summer. The bunad is a traditional Norwegian costume worn by both men and women.

Today the bunad is worn for celebrations and special occasions.  During the wedding season (May-June), you often see Norwegians dressed in their bunads on Saturdays walking to and from Churches.  Baptisms and Confirmations, Balls and Norwegian Constitution Day are typically bunad wearing days.

At camp, the kids were fortunate to have access to bunads in a multitude of sizes. They donned the traditional costume proudly (see the photo above) and recognized the importance of honoring traditions.

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You might be Norwegian if you believe in Trolls, Huldra, Nisse, and numerous other mythological creatures.  The Vikings were not only raiders and warriors, but also skilled navigators, craftsmen, traders and storytellers.

At camp, the kids enjoyed learning about Norse mythology. One of the stories they shared was that of the Huldra or Skogsrå (forest wife/woman), a dangerous seductress who lives in the forest and lures men down into an endless cave  or into the forest in order to secure her freedom. She has a long cow’s tail that she ties under her skirt in order to hide it from men. If she can manage to get married in a church, her tail falls off and she becomes human.

heritagecamp2

You might be Norwegian if you are eager to earn knots. While the Vikings have earned their place in history as a seafaring warrior culture with strong ties to the sea, the knots to which I refer are not sailor’s knots.

In the month before their final exams, graduating high school revellers in Norway are known as russ, an abbreviation for the Latin phrase cornua depositurus, which translates as ‘take off the horns’. The russ are easily recognizable in April and May, when russefeiring (russ celebration) is under way. They wear brightly colored, baggy trousers with big pockets, and a matching hat or cap with a long string at the end.

While the kids at heritage camp didn’t dress in jumpers, they did take part in a variety of skits and pranks that could compare to the russ tradition of competing for russeknuter, or knots – badges of honour which have to be earned in a variety of bizarre ways.

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Finally, you might be Norwegian if you enjoy Lutefisk and Fiskebøller. At camp the kids had the opportunity to try numerous traditional Norwegian dishes.  As heritage members, many of the dishes were familiar but there were a few that were new to some of the kids.

Lutefisk (dried cod treated with lye) must surely be the strangest culinary effort credited to the Norwegians, but what a treat when prepared properly. Everyone of course is not a devotee of lutefisk, but those who are defend it vehemently. Others go to the opposite extreme and claim it’s a national disgrace.

Fiskebøller are white balls made up of ground white fish and served in a rather “naked” state only with a bechamel sauce, boiled potatoes, coleslaw or broccoli and asparagus.

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Heritage camp was a huge success! Attending camp meant that the kids missed the opportunity to compete in the long course Junior Olympics swim meet. While this was initially difficult, they made the decision partially because this year they would both be competing at the bottom of their age groups.

When we picked them up on the final day of camp, they were loudly proclaiming, “Camp was awesome! We want to go again every year!” knowing full well they would have to miss out on the Junior Olympics yet again.

The fact that their heritage is important to them made me very, very proud.

Many thanks to these kind blog hop hostesses:

Syttende Mai :: Norwegian Constitution Day

Constitutions are groundbreaking documents that establish fundamental principles by which a body of people are to be governed. Norway’s Constitution was written in 1814 at a time when cultures were emphasizing democracy and free will. The start of the 19th century brought with it new concepts on politics and national independence. The revolutions in the US (1776) and France (1789) paved the way and Norway was intent on following their lead.

Syttende mai constitution day
Norwegian Constitution Day
 is the National Day of Norway and is an official holiday observed on the 17th of May each year. Among Norwegians, the day is referred to simply as Syttende Mai. Signed at Eidsvoll on May 17 in the year 1814, the constitution declared Norway to be an independent kingdom in an attempt to avoid being ceded to Sweden after Denmark-Norway’sdevastating defeat in the Napoleonic wars. 

Vi Feirer Grunnlovsubilet :: We Celebrate Constitution Day

A noteworthy aspect of the Norwegian Constitution Day is its very non-military nature. All over Norway, children’s parades with an abundance of flags, national costumes, and big smiles are the heart of the celebration. Decorations of leafy birch branches, in celebration of winter’s end, and ribbons of red, white and blue make for a festive atmosphere.

Syttende Mai is also celebrated in many Norwegian immigrant communities throughout the world, with traditional foods (I share one of our favorite recipes below), sometimes including lefse and lutefisk, but simple hot dogs are equally popular.  In the United States and Canada, the local lodges of the Sons of Norway often play a central part in organizing the festivities. Our small lodge is no different; we gather for an annual brunch and special cultural programming including games and folk dancing.

syttende maiLitt På Norsk :: A Little Norwegian

syttende mai – 17th of May

Norge – Norway

nasjonaldagen – national holiday

festdag – celebration

barnetoget – children’s parade

flagg – flags

Barna jublet og vinket tilbake med sine flagg. :: The children cheered and waved back with their flags.

Barna fant igjen foreldrene sine, og nå fikk de spise så mye de ville av iskrem og varme pølser. ::  The children found their parents, and now they got to eat as much as they wanted of ice cream and hot dogs.

 

One of our favorite treats on Syttende Mai are Fastelavnsboller:

Fastelavnsboller :: Shrovetide Buns

fastelavnsboller3 1/2 cups (800g) plain white flour
3/4 cups 140g) sugar
10 1/2 tbsp (150g) butter
1 7g package active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups (525g) whole milk
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/3 cups (300g) whipping cream
powdered sugar for garnish
1 egg

  1. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, cardamom and yeast.
  2. In a medium saucepan melt the butter.
  3. If you are using fresh yeast, in a small bowl mix together the yeast with some of the milk.
  4. Add the remainder of the milk to the melted butter and mix.
  5. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add liquid ingredients. Mix well, work into a smooth dough and knead lightly.
  6. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size.
  7. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Form into 20-24 buns, rolling them into an even size with your hands.
  8. Put the buns on a baking sheet and leave to rise for another 15 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
  10. Beat the egg and lightly brush onto buns with a basting brush.
  11. Place the buns into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes.
  12. When the tops of the buns are light brown and there is a light brown ring underneath them, remove them from the oven and let cool on a wire cooling rack.
  13. While the buns are cooling whip the cream, add superfine sugar to your taste. Place whip cream in refrigerator while the buns finish cooling.
  14. Halve the cooled buns and fill with the whipped cream and sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
  15. ** We like to mix lingonberry preserves into the whipped cream.

For more activities and ideas to explore Scandinavian culture, check out my Barnesklubb Pinterest Board.

Gustav Vigeland: Artist & Visionary

Oslo’s Vigeland Sculpture Park is unlike any other; it showcases the work of only one man—Gustav Vigeland. Vigelandsparken was mostly completed between 1939 and 1949. It’s the world’s largest sculpture park by a single artist and according to the Vigeland Museum’s website, the park boasts more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron.

vigeland

The Artist

In 1921 Vigeland, already an established artist, made an agreement with the city of Oslo. In return for a home and studio at Frogner Park, Vigeland would create a park built around the bulk of his work and it would forever belong to the city. 

“I was a sculptor before I was born. There was no other path, and no matter how hard I might have tried to find one, I would have been forced back.” – Gustav Vigeland

I first discovered Gustav Vigeland when we visited the park in May of 2011.  I’ve never been as touched by any piece of art in my life. I could recognise myself, people I love, people I know, what we feel, and what we have felt, in almost every single sculpture in the park. I would look at a sculpture, walk away and look at several others, turn around, and then return to the same sculptures over and over again. The concern on a father’s face, an elderly man’s frailty, the joy in a mother’s smile, each emotion he captured held me enraptured for hours.

For 20 years, the last two decades of his life, Vigeland lived and worked here, creating more than 200 projects for the park. The work includes the impressive entrance, impressive two-dimensional iron gates, a bronze fountain with a tableau of the circle of life. The pinnacle is a five-story monolith of the bodies of men, women and children—more than 120 figures—carved from a single column of solid granite.

The Visionary

The theme of the garden is life and all its stages. Vigeland’s figures show mankind from birth to death and the sculptures are arranged in groups along a series of pathways.    The figures, especially those in granite, are massive, but there is a striking delicacy to each piece.

The bridge leading from the entrance to the crest of the hill is lined with more than 50 bronze figures, including the famous Sinnataggen a furious toddler captured in full tantrum. The figure of the angry baby has become the park’s signature and his left hand shines from the constant touching and rubbing of visitors. My kids loved this one, of course. 

Beyond the bridge is the Fountain, a massive sculpture of six men holding up a large basin who give water to life, nature and mankind, surrounded by 20 bronze groups of trees and human figures represent the never ending circle of life. The huge basin of water in the fountain is a symbol of the burden of life. It represents life’s struggles. It is thought that the man struggling under the weight of the dish was Vigeland himself. Vigeland had lost contact with his children after he separated from their mother. This is the oldest part of the park. It was built between 1906 and 1914, but was not erected in the park until after his death.

The highest point in the park, to which all the paths lead, is the Monolith, an intricate pillar with 121 figures carved from a single block of granite. The imagery is said to represent humanity’s yearning for a higher spiritual plane. Three stone carvers worked fro 13 years carving the Monolith. It is 17 metres tall and is hewn from granite. It depicts 121 figures which coil around each other with a child on the top. Around the Monolith are 36 large granite groups of figures depicting human relationships of various kinds.

The Man

GVigeland

(Photo credit: National Library of Norway)

Adolf Gustav Vigeland was born on the 11th of April outside Halse og Harkmark in Mandal, Norway in 1869. He was born to Anne and  Elesæus Vigeland. His father was a master cabinetmaker. Gustav was interested in wood as a medium too, but he wanted to carve it, not make cabinets with it. He went to Oslo at 15 to apprentice at wood carving. His education was put on hold when his father died and Gustav returned home to help support he family. By 1888 he was back in Oslo studying under sculptor Brynjulf Bergslien. In 1889 he premiered his first work, Hagar and Ishmael.

In the early 1890s, he traveled to Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin and Florence. His stay in Paris, studying  at Auguste Rodin’s studio had a particular influence on the young sculptor. Themes of life, death and love — at once intimate and grand in scale — made their way into his sculpture. His works were well received in art circles and by critics, but Gustav found he couldn’t make a living sculpting naked images of death or love.

He took a job helping to restore the Nidaros Cathedral in 1897 for a few years — it was there that he began to carve dragons and lizards, animals he used later to symbolize sin and the force of nature working against man. He spent a decade carving busts of Norway’s famous writers and thinkers.  He also designed the Nobel Peace Prize which was first awarded in 1901.

Gustav secured an abandoned studio from the city of Oslo starting in 1902. He used the work space for nearly two decades before it was demolished to make way for a new library. At that point he negotiated with the city council for a new workspace; they agreed to provide him with a new studio/living space and he would donate all his future art works to the city.

When he died in 1943 his studio was converted into The Vigeland Museum. Today the museum “houses approximately 1,600 sculptures, 420 woodcuts, and 12,000 drawings, as well as other artifacts such as notebooks, photographs, books, and thousands of letters.  Sadly, we were unable to tour the museum during our visit (it was closed for renovations) but it is on the top of my list for our return.

vigeland

The true magic of Vigelandsparken is the way the sculptor imbued granite and bronze with human emotion. His figures carry the joy, anguish, fear and desire of life. They draw you in and stay with you after you leave.

If you have enjoyed his work and would like to engage your kids in a fun, hands-on art activity, be sure to see my next post, Sculpting with Vigeland, whereby I describe an art lesson I taught my Barnesklubb kids.

Our Scandinavian Holiday Traditions

The holiday season is upon us.  A time when family traditions come to life. Customs and beliefs are passed down from one generation to the next and celebrated each year.  In our home, the traditions of Scandinavia are most evident. Today, I share with you our Scandinavian holiday traditions.  Perhaps you will wish to add a few new traditions to your own.

The Advent Calendar is common in Norwegian homes during the holiday season. Typically, these calendars give you a tasty chocolate surprise for each 24 days leading up to Christmas.

In our home, rather than a confection, the doors conceal a little note on which a favorite holiday activity is noted.  To create our customized Advent Calendar, I used simple Advent Action Cards designed by Ali Edwards.  The activity noted on the card can be simple (read a favorite holiday children’s book) or more elaborate (take a drive to enjoy the holiday lights).  This takes a little pre-planning as the notes are coordinated with our calendar in advance.

In Scandinavia, hand-made ornaments are traditional and our family tree is adorned in a similar style with paper flag garlands, straw ornaments, crocheted snowflakes, and woven paper hearts.  The woven heart baskets are a great project for all ages and a great decoration for the tree.

It is quite common in Norway to get your julestrømper – Christmas stockings on Christmas Eve morning.  The stockings are packed with candy and small toys.  Children like to enjoy them while watching the traditional Christmas movies and TV shows played for the holiday season. The entire day is spent with the family getting ready for the Christmas Eve meal and relaxing at home with the family.   

Christmas cookies are a must-have for any Christmas celebration and baking them at home is a great way to bring the family together. Some of the popular cookies in Norway that you can try your hand at are: pepperkaker or gingerbread, krumkaker (waffle cookie curved in a cone shape), sandkake or sand cakes that are simple short cake baked in molds and filled with jelly, and fattigmann (poor man), a recipe that dates backs to over 100 years ago.

For more delicious cookie recipes, check out my series 5 Favorite Nordic Christmas Recipes

Another annual tradition in many Scandinavian homes (at least in the United States) is to make Lefse.  My mother and my grandmother before her would make lefse every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We now continue this tradition on our own as well as with our extended, lodge family. 

Try mixing up your Christmas meal with a different recipe. Different parts of Norway indulge in their own traditional Christmas Eve meal. In Østlandet (Eastern Norway) it is common to have ribs and pork sausages with potatoes. In Vestlandet (Western Norway), pinnkjøtt lamb with rutabagas and potatoes are the dishes of choice. While in Nord Norge (Northern Norway) lutefisk, peas, bacon, and potatoes are prepared.

Try mixing some of these foods into your holiday meal. A few years ago, I came upon an article in Sunset magazine, Christmas in the Rockies, have since began to adapt many of these recipes for our own tastes.

Follow up your Christmas meal with a delicious, traditional dessert! The popular riskrem (rice pudding) is eaten in almost every Norwegian home on Christmas Eve for dessert. The simple yet tasty dessert contains rice, in almost pudding like texture with cream or milk and sugar added. Top it off with raspberry sauce and it is ready to eat. Try it the Norwegian way by hiding an almond in the recipe before dishing out each serving. Whoever uncovers the almond in their rice pudding wins a marzipan pig, another popular holiday treat in Norway.

These are just a few of the Scandinavian traditions we honor in our family. How do you your do Christmas in your homeschool?

Lefse Day

Every year, we gather with our lodge family to make lefse.  It is an all-day affair.  It is a great social time, allowing everyone to chit chat as we work collaboratively.  This year, the lodge here in Northern California used 140 lbs of potatoes and we yielded 75 dozen lefse!

Lefse is a traditional soft, Norwegian flatbread. Lefse is essentially made from riced potatoes, flour, and milk or cream, and cooked on a griddle – however, the recipes vary with each family.

lefseday

Growing up, lefse was prepared as a special treat for the holidays. We still make it every holiday season and prefer to eat ours with butter and cinnamon sugar. You can also spread them with jam and peanut butter, cream cheese, or nutella, or you can go the savory route and roll up your Thanksgiving Day leftovers.

Every year, Sons of Norway lodges around the country gather to make lefse for their members or for annual bake sales. My kids have always loved to help in the kitchen and have thereby made lefse since they were toddlers. My daughter has become quite adept at rolling and my son prefers to man the grilling stations.

Historically, the first lefse in Norway didn’t contain potatoes, it was made only from flour. Women would travel from house to house, village to village to make lefse to last the winter months. The flour lefse would cook up like a cracker and be able to last through the season.Many households stored their lefse is wooden boxes covered in cloth or just stacked on shelves. When you were ready to enjoy some lefse it was dipped in water and soaked between damp cloth until softened.

Potatoes were introduced some 250 years ago which were easy to grow and soon abundant. The potato was thereby  incorporated into many Norwegian foods, even lefse!

Like Ireland, Norway suffered from the effects of the potato famine in the mid-1800′s, which is about the time that many Norwegians came to the United States. They brought their knowledge and rolling pins. The result is a Norwegian potato bread delicacy that’s part of a special tradition replicated in many Norwegian-American homes for more than 150 years.

A tradition that you can be part of once again. For everything you need to know about making lefse, visit my Squidoo lens, How to Make Lefse.