A Letter Home to Norway, circa 1848

I was sorting through a cabinet I don’t normally sort (or look at for that matter), when I came across something I didn’t know I had. It’s a copy of the book, “Pioneer Memoirs and Stories of the Jacobson Immigration and Pioneer Life.”

You say you never heard of it? Well, that’s probably because it was something my family in South Dakota put together and published themselves. Using a copier, I think.

I leafed through the book and I must say, after the Norwegians totally crushed it at the Winter Olympics, leaving everyone wondering, “but whyyyy?!” and most people crediting their wealth, healthy lungs, and the fact their babies are born wearing skis, I found this publication interesting. It’s the story of my dad’s side of the family, how his great-grandparents left Norway to make a better life for themselves in “Amerika.” It even includes a picture of their place in Norway (please pardon the poor quality):

Norway homeSafe to say my family was not a wealthy one, but who knows? Had they stuck it out in Norway, maybe our lot would have improved and years later I would storm the winter Olympics and cross-countried my way to a gold medal or two.

I mean, that mountain right behind the shack? Looks like mighty fine training ground, don’t you think?

In any case, included in this “Pioneer Memoirs” is a letter my great-great-grandfather wrote to his family back home. A footnote says the original was typed out by someone in Norway, who sent it back to family in America and in 1974, my dad’s aunt Charlotte (aunt Lottie) translated it to English.

There are several items to make note of: 1) his listing of prices and wages show a clear head for business, 2) the gender wage gap; ah yes, we’ve come so far, but we’ve still a ways to go, 3) the formal way he addresses his family (no nicknames for this bunch) and, 4) as much as he praises “Amerika” he clearly misses his family very much.

Muskego in Wisconsin
the 27th August 1848

Dear father,

The 29th of May we left Norway; five weeks and three days over the ocean to New York and from there to Milwaukee two weeks. I went to Hans Thorgrimson Thveden who is doing well and is in good health. We were all well and healthy during the entire trip, both on the ocean and on the inland sea (Great Lakes).

I am sure I will never regret having made the trip here as we have not talked to anyone who has such regrets. We are all happy that we came. Here there is no lack of provisions for living, and there are good wages for both men and women. A man can earn one or two dollars a day, a girl five to six dollars a month. Pay for a man is from 17 to 25 dollars a month. A blacksmith like Niels Jermunsen Egerude could earn 30 or 40 dollars a month.

Living is cheaper than in Norway. A bushel of wheat costs 2 to 2½ dollars, rye 1 dollar a bushel, a pound of butter 1 dollar, and a pound of pork ½ dollar. A cow costs 14 or 15 dollars and usually a calf comes with it. I believe that if my brother Halvor Abrahamsen Krokanne could come over you could live better than you do in Norway.

My wife Gro Jermunsdatter is well, and we are happy that we have come over here. If my brothers could come they would live better than in Norway. Jakob Thorgrimson Biorktuft and your brother Niels would I think live much better here than they do in Norway and their brother Ole Thorgrimson also. There are good wages for tailors. A suit costs 3 dollars and so on for all tailoring.

I see that I have praised Amerika too much. I suppose things are about as usual in Norway. To Jermun Torjusen Stens… try to come to Amerika rather than to stay in Norway. Here there are good wages and living is cheaper. I ask that you will be so kind as to greet my brother Thomas Abrahamsen. Tell him that I am well, and happy that I came to Amerika. I wouldn’t wish myself back in Norway even if I could get the Norder Hadeland gaard (farm). I am sure I will live better in Amerika without a farm than I would in Norway with one of the largest farms. The 6 dollars I lent Mattis Helleksen Krokan at Milan I have been repaid by Kittil Thorsen.

I close my letter this time with warm greetings to you my old father and mother, to brothers, friends, relatives and all acquaintances. Also from my wife Gro warm greetings to everyone.

Jakob Abrahamsen Stenbøle

Jakob was 37 years old when he came to Amerika, his wife Gro (Lord, how I love that name) was 46, his oldest son, Abraham (Dad’s grandfather), was 12. After a short stint in Wisconsin, they settled on a farm near Decorah, Iowa. A good sized farm, larger than he could have gotten in Norway according to “Pioneer Memoirs.”

Decorah farm
I don’t know who took the photo, but I’m awfully glad they included the horses.

So although my Olympic chances were shot all to hell when they got on the boat, it looks like my family did okay coming to Amerika.

And let’s see, it’s now 3:00 pm on this 28th day of February and my outside temperature is… 65°F.

Current temperature in Oslo: 9°.

Great-Great-Grandpa: you win this round. No regrets.

I Never Got What I Wanted for Christmas

If that sounds like a whine, I don’t mean it as such. It’s true that as a child I never received anything I wanted for Christmas, despite the fact that I noted page numbers in catalogs, circled items, made note of color preferences and quantity, and any other helpful information my mother might need.

Nevertheless, it’s true. I never got a single thing I requested.

If you remember, a few weeks ago I also told you how Santa Claus never visited my house. That’s true too, but I’m not asking for your pity. In fact, if there was ever a child less deserving of pity than myself from days past, I’d like to meet them. For not only did I have a family who loved me, I had parents who knew what was best for me. And what was best for me was rarely what I wanted.

This is a picture of my brothers and me on Christmas Eve, before the evening’s festivities began.

Brothers and me

My two older sisters are missing, the oldest one married with a little girl of her own, the other sister… well, I’m not sure where she is. Maybe she was still getting dressed.

The sparkly dress I’m wearing was my “movie star dress.”  I wanted to wear it all the time.

“Mom, mom, can I wear my movie star dress? Pretty please? Pleeeease?”
“No dear, that’s too fancy. That’s for fancy events.”

Christmas Eve was our fancy event.

The entire family gathered for dinner, relatives came from out-of-town, everyone dressed in their Sunday best. It was a sit-down meal with Mom’s finest plates (Corelle®) and her only set of matching silverware. We may have used fabric napkins, I don’t remember.

After the meal, everyone helped clear the table and the adults washed the dishes. By hand. We had to wait until every dish was clean, dried, and put away.

Finally, after the last piece of silverware was put in the box (not used again until Easter), Mom wiped her hands, removed her apron, and announced it was time. Everyone took a seat by the tree, we children sat on the floor.

One gift at a time, that’s how it was done. Usually Mom, but sometimes Dad, would select a gift, hand it to the person it was intended for, and we’d watch as they unwrapped it.

If this sounds ponderously slow, I should point out that children received three gifts each and the adults, as I remember, received one. If that. Even so, when you’re six years old and the last of five kids…

This particular year, the year of the photo, I wanted a doll. But not just any doll. I wanted Dancerina Ballerina.

Dancerina Ballerina ad

Push a button on top of Dancerina’s head, her leg kicks out and… get this… she twirls! Just like a real ballerina!

I told my mom: That’s it. That’s all I want for Christmas. Dancerina Ballerina

My mom, I have to give her credit, she looked into it. She must have for a few days later she broke the news: It exceeded her price limit for dolls.

You see, my mom was a great believer in budgets and rules. She had many rules, most of them her own creation. Two of her long standing rules involved dolls.

Mom’s Doll Rule #1: Every little girl should have a doll at Christmas
Mom’s Doll Rule #2: No doll should cost more than $20.00

Dancerina Ballerina cost slightly more than $20.00.

It wasn’t a lot, maybe a dollar or two at the most. But it was a dollar or two over $20, and that broke Mom’s rule. Other parents would have thought, “Oh, it’s not that much. We can swing it.” But those parents weren’t my mom. Mom was a rule follower. 

Plus, Mom was German. Dancerina Ballerina didn’t have a chance.

Even so, I had hope. When Mom handed me the wrapped, doll-sized box that year, presented it with a comment along the lines of, “This is Christi’s special gift,” I was certain it was Dancerina.

But of course it wasn’t. If it was, I would have titled this post something other than, “I Never Got What I Wanted for Christmas.”

Here I am with the doll I did get, along with my two other gifts:

Giggles and me
The larger doll, the one with the shiny golden hair, that’s Giggles. When you held her hands and moved her arms, she giggled. As I recall she sounded a bit like a dolphin, but that was okay by me. I loved her.

The next morning, Christmas Day, my brothers and I headed outside to show off our new toys to friends, who were all outside for the same reason. It would be several years before I realized they probably opened their gifts that morning. At the time, I thought everyone celebrated on Christmas Eve. I had no reason to think otherwise.

That morning’s “look-what-I-got” exchange is an especially memorable one for me. Of all the girls my age who received dolls, I was the only one without a Dancerina Ballerina.

I realize how that sounds. You probably think I’m exaggerating for effect, but please believe me, I am not. I truly was the only one without a Dancerina.

Again, don’t pity me. For there’s a funny thing that happens when children see the same toy over and over, then finally see something different. The different toy becomes the most popular.

Giggles was the life of the party.

And why wouldn’t she be? Everything made her happy, nothing ever got her down. She was the friend who cheered you up, the playmate who laughed at all your jokes. She was a perfect delight.

As for me, I remember holding another girl’s Dancerina and feeling her stiff, awkward limbs, seeing the odd button on top of her head. Without a word, I handed her back to the girl and gave quiet thanks for my mom’s rules. She really did know best.

Many parents worry over whether their children will be disappointed on Christmas Day if they don’t get exactly what they want. Personally? I think it’s a needless worry.

Children are resilient. They can handle much more than we give them credit for, even a few strange rules and a strict budget. And the way I see it, no one would be more deserving of pity than a child who always got what they wanted and never heard the word ‘No’.

In the end, all that truly matters is whether or not they were loved.


Merry Christmas, friends. I hope the day brings you every good thing, many happy memories, and lots and lots of love. ❤️

A Thanksgiving Logic Puzzle – the Feeding on Folly Edition

Your Thanksgiving plans (flying to Barbados for a romp with Pedro) sadly fell through. But wait! All is not lost! Your Aunt Carol invited you over to her place.


Though you’re sad about Pedro, you think “What the heck, how bad could it be?” You grab the Pinot Noir you planned to enjoy with Pedro, hop in your car and head to Aunt Carol’s.

So how bad will your Thanksgiving be? Solve this puzzle to find out!

Thanksgiving Details:

At the House: Aunt Carol, Uncle Harold, Cousin Penelope, Brother-in-Law Dick (no idea where your sister is), and Lydia (friend of the family)

What They Made: Turkey, Tofurkey, Green Bean Casserole, Pumpkin Pie, and Apple Pie

What They’re Wearing: Suit and Tie, Best Dress, Best Sweatshirt, Old Sweatshirt, All Black

What They’re Doing: Watching TV, Cooking, Delegating, Spilling Things, Drinking Your Wine

Bragging Rights: They Have the New iPhone, They Drive a BMW, They are a Minimalist, Their Oldest Attends Julliard, They Recently Found the Lord

Your objective: Find out what everyone brought, what they’re wearing, what they’re doing and what they’re bragging about.

  1. The woman cooking the turkey (and doing all the cooking thank-you-very-much) does not drive a BMW and is wearing an old sweatshirt.
  2. Uncle Harold, who does not attend church, thinks it’s too warm to wear a sweatshirt and hates pumpkin pie.
  3. The person who brought the apple pie is careful not to spill things and does not drive.
  4. The man watching TV – okay, come on, you KNEW it was a man – never wears black as it’s simply not his color.
  5. Aunt Carol has two children, but only talks about her oldest who is a far better musician than you or Penelope will ever be. (You never kept up with those lessons, did you?)
  6. When you are introduced to Aunt Carol’s friend, Lydia, you begin singing this song from the Muppets. In response, Lydia, who is not wearing a dress, hits you in the face with her pie.
  7. Your cousin Penelope, also not wearing a dress, has never been more annoying than she is today. That’s saying something, given how she once glued together the pages of your favorite comic book. But today you find common ground as you make fun of the relative fumbling with their new iPhone. Also, she helps you pick the apple pie filling out of your hair.
  8. You desperately want a bit of fresh air, but upon opening the back door, notice that the relative wearing a suit is outside drinking the bottle of wine you brought. He appears to be sobbing. You decide not to go outside and instead see if your Aunt Carol needs help.
  9. The person who made the green bean casserole is wearing a lovely dress and staying out of the kitchen.
  10. The one who made the tofurkey does not appreciate your humor so stop it. Tofurkey is so a real food, no matter what Aunt Carol says. Also, could you wipe up the miso-mushroom gravy she spilled? Thanks.
  11. Aunt Carol wishes the person doing the delegating and the one wearing all black would find the missing bottle of wine.
  12. After pointing out where the wine went, Aunt Carol sends you to the store for another bottle, as well as a pie to replace the one you got in the kisser. The BMW driver can’t go because he’s hammered.
  13. Uncle Harold, who uses Amazon’s 1-click shopping far too often, hasn’t worn a suit since 1983 and thinks BMW drivers are a$$holes.
  14. Dinner is finally ready and Lydia says grace for approximately eight minutes, ending only when the person wearing black spills the new bottle of wine on your pants.

Below is your handy-dandy puzzle grid to help you solve this puzzle. Just click on the upper right toggle to open in a new window and print.

(By the way, it took me 5x longer to make this grid than it did to make the whole puzzle, so even if you don’t use it, admire it anyway. My shattered ego will thank you.)

If you don’t know how to solve logic puzzles, here’s a Video with instructions
Condensed version: Put an X in the boxes you know to be false, put a dot in the boxes you know to be true.

Here’s the Solution to this Puzzle (Yes, it really is solvable, but even if you don’t work the puzzle, go ahead and read the solution anyway. You might enjoy it. 😉)

Happy Thanksgiving!


Top picture (of my future self) is by Alex Harvey on Unsplash
Picture of a few of my favorite things is by Alex Geerts on Unsplash

Thoughts from a Noble Woman: On Holidays and Family Dinners

In honor of the Season, and all the accompanying stress it brings, I hunted through M.A.’s journal hoping to find something that could help us. (In case you missed it, our discovery of M.A. was first mentioned HERE.)
Sure enough, we found something! Not only that, we found a most intriguing recipe for apple pie that includes… wait for it… wine! (Gasp!)

MA 2

From M.A.’s Journal

The holidays bring mixed feelings: Joy, for what we hope they will be, Dread, for what we fear they will be. We place so much importance on these days, wanting everything to be perfect, only to be tired by the end of them.
Remember that holidays are made by humankind, for humankind. No more than that. They are what you make of them. Resolve now to make them what you need, not what you imagine you want.

Family is coming. Why does that make us nervous? Are these not the people with whom you shared your childhood?
Yes. Perhaps that explains it.
When apart, we choose to think of our past as we want. When together, we’re forced to see things as they really are. No matter what we want to believe of ourselves, these are the people to whom we belong.
Are we shamed for not living up to their standards, or for they not living up to ours?
No matter, for both are folly.
If it is your actions, then change them. If it is theirs, accept. It is all you can do. That, and love. Love the quirkiness, the eccentricities, the pain. Yes, even the pain, for all of it is what made you who you are today.
Therefore, the Noble Woman has three tasks before her with regard to others:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Forgiveness
  3. Love

With regard to herself, a fourth task is added to these:

4. Resolve to do better

Also, make a pie. Families who eat pie together, smile together. No one argues. No one fights. The world is a happier place when people eat pie.

This is truth.

From M.A.’s Recipe Drawer

Tipsy Apple Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy with cheats
  • Print

There's not enough alcohol in this pie to qualify as tipsy, but the wine helps bring out the flavor of the fruit. If you'd rather not use it, I suggest a tart fruit juice such as cranberry.

Apple Pie


  • basic pie pastry for a 9″ double-crust pie*
  • 6 to 7 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I used the Golden Delicious variety)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine (I used a Zinfandel)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Egg wash and raw sugar for top of crust


Heat oven to 425°. Roll out pastry for bottom of pie, line 9″ pie plate. Roll out top crust; cover with a clean towel as you make the filling. (See note below for alternative to using crust.)

In a large bowl, combine apples and lemon juice. In another bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add to apples, along with wine, and stir. Fill pie plate with fruit, top with bits of butter. Cover with top crust, cut and flute the edges. Cut a few vents on top of crust; brush on egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, then lower oven to 350° and bake for another 30 minutes. Test to see if the fruit is tender by inserting a knife through a vent.

Note: You can use pre-made pie crusts to make this easier, or skip the crust altogether and make an Apple Crumble: Pour fruit filling into a greased 9″ baking pan or casserole dish. For crumble topping, mix together: 4 tablespoons softened butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and a pinch of salt. Bake as directed above. 

Why Are White People So Sensitive?

White peopleWarning: This post does not contain the folly typically found therein. Sorry. But non-folly thoughts were in my head and I needed to let them out.
Totally understand if you click away.
(I’ll judge you, but I’ll understand.)

This last week, I came to a startling realization: we White People are a sensitive lot.

Make that damned sensitive. Continue reading “Why Are White People So Sensitive?”

The Thanksgiving Game: 2016 Edition

Setting the scene:

Your family is gathering for Thanksgiving dinner. You haven’t seen these people for a whole year, and you were perfectly fine with that. But now you’ll be with them and you’re still feeling raw from events a few weeks ago. Will you survive? This game can show the way! Continue reading “The Thanksgiving Game: 2016 Edition”

A Fabulous Football Quilt From 1939

quiltA few days ago, someone brought a quilt into the office that was made by his great-aunt. She made it in 1939 when she was 15 years old, living in the small town of Ajo, Arizona.

Fifteen years old!

She made it in honor of her high school football team, the Red Raiders.

It’s clearly been well-cared for and the workmanship is excellent, but it was the attention to detail that impressed me the most.

See for yourself: Continue reading “A Fabulous Football Quilt From 1939”

A Poetry Lover is Born

The Family Book of Best Loved Poems. Tattered and stained, yellowed pages, glorious old book smell. Wow, the memories it contains…

On Monday, I sent out a request for poetry suggestions. As of now I have 2 journals, 22 poets, and a number of online resources to explore.

You don’t leave a girl hanging, do you? Consider this my personal thank-you, as well as my pledge to do you proud.

One comment (left by Claudette from To Search and to Find) mentioned her father with two childrenfondness for silly, humorous stuff, reminding me of my dad’s favorite poems.

Dad had a fondness for silly rhymes too, and he would recite them often.

For one, he had a bit of help from Longfellow: Continue reading “A Poetry Lover is Born”

What Was I Thinking?

In which both kids’ wisdom teeth are removed and I live to tell the tale.

Remember last Friday, when I told you both my kids were getting their wisdom teeth removed? As in, BOTH kids.


Image33Usually I’m so much smarter than that.

Oh, and let’s not forget we did this while Husband was out of town.


But hey, beings how this here’s a full-service blog, I’ve managed to derive some helpful tips from this situation.

You know. Should you ever find yourself in a similar oral-surgery hell.

You’re welcome. Continue reading “What Was I Thinking?”