God Jul

 Grapevine wreath in the dining room alcove.

Santa Lucia dinner with our dear Swedish friends yesterday.  The 1800s farmhouse was beautifully dressed in all things Scandinavian . . . red candle holders and wooden hearts, tiny tompten - cheerful, Swedish forest elves - frolicking about, decorations made of straw, Swedish linens on the table and aromatic glogg to sip while eating salmon and cheese and crackers.  Dinner included traditional Christmas ham, Jansson's Frestelse (potato and anchovy casserole), Sillsalat (pickled beet and apple salad with potatoes, herring and relish), and aquavit . . . followed by wonderful cakes with strawberry and cloudberry fillings between the layers. Ann-Margret creates memorable meals like this many times each year and has been doing so for far longer than the thirty years I have known her. She is incredible . . . I have learned so much about life from her and I treasure my friendship with her as well as all her wonderful family.  
Matilda, Finnigan, Anders, Lucie, Kajsa * Photo by Kate Kenney

After dinner we were treated to the Santa Lucia procession -- all six children dressed in finery, with crowns of lighted (electric) candles on their heads. Not many sights more beautiful than happy children at holiday time. Suddenly it was time to exchange gifts . . . what? Oh, no! I felt so stoopid. We usually do a poor job of getting together before Christmas and we end up celebrating together in January. I am so used to this that it actually never crossed my mind that this was (obviously) going to be our traditional Christmas gathering. So there we were, opening such lovely gifts, with nothing to give in return. No problem . . . it gives us an excuse to get together again in January, this time at our house.

We came home with generous packets of food for Adeline, who had stayed behind to study. I wasn't home more than ten minutes before I was happily savoring a little sandwich of Christmas ham, followed by yet another slice of cake. 

God Jul!