Sunday, December 26, 2010

God Jul!

Although this was Myrna's third Christmas, one could argue that it really was her first. At least it was the first in which she might start to understand what was happening. We had a wonderful Christmas - of course white, small and peaceful (well, as peaceful as can be managed with a 2-year-old). Myrna awoke Christmas morning and, once in the living room, headed straight for the tree, just as she usually does (to "help" plug in the lights). Only this morning, there were presents under the tree. She immediately grabbed two of them, raced back down the hall to "show Dada." Returning to the tree, she was distracted by the new coffee set Santa had brought her.

She immediately started on the coffee service - not a bad idea at all, since it wasn't quite 8 a.m.

Another exciting surprise was the yellow building block we'd placed under the tree, after finding it under the couch the night before. She'd been searching for it with grave concern for several days. Worried that the block could become the highlight of the day, we soon commenced the unwrapping, Myrna helping everyone with their gifts (and, in turn, requiring help for her own too) in the unwrapping. Here she is with one of her Christmas presents, ready for an adventure.

After coating herself with blueberries at breakfast, we moved onto playing with the new presents. Her friend Lizzy had given her some playdough, and we all attempted to make some holiday sculptures.

Myrna even managed to model her parents' gifts - both dad's scarf and, here, mom's legwarmers. (She got her own pair today - I really don't like sharing that much.)

Besides coffee making, she also is perfecting her pasta with her new veggies. She even combines the two for her still life exercises.

God Jul! (that would be Swedish for Merry Christmas, though I have absolutely no idea how one pronounces it)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Monday Walk In The Snow

Monday morning, Myrna and I suited up and took a stroll around the neighborhood, with the stated goal of finding some ducks. This past month, we'd tried to do this a number of times, and failed. Virtually all water in Stockholm having thickened to concrete slabs of ice, the nearest duck community has been pushed an additional block from our building, where they must swim in perpetual circles to keep the water in motion and unfrozen. That added distance, combined with the cold, the icy pavement, and Myrna's intolerance for snow on the toes of her boots has ended previous duck hunts at about the halfway mark, Myrna carried home in tears, whimpering "cold" at pathetic intervals.
But this time, as you can see, we made it. The ducks are doing well, but it looks like a rough business protecting their home and food supply from the elements. We saluted them, and then went on to check out the Christmas trees. All the courtyards to the (staggering number of) apartment buildings in this area feature their own holiday trees, and they're looking quite lovely under nature's glaze.

We also tried to go to the playground but, uh...

And then something rather surprising happened. Myrna quite deliberately led me back towards home, then right past our apartment and past the Nativity scene in the chapel window to... yup, the Konditori, pushing open the door and waltzing in like she ran the place. Which is kind of funny, because we'd only been twice before. So, okay, we bought a bulle. Myrna carted it home, hugging the bag, and shouting "treat!" and "home!" all the way back to our place.

There was some discussion of saving a bit for Mom. But that didn't pan out.

Meeting Santa

We've been enjoying pictures of many little ones meeting Santa this Christmas time. We found the one Santa in the city for Myrna to meet, at the big department store NK. We started by looking at the Christmas Windows, and we should have known we were in for a treat, as Myrna seemed quite unsure about them all. She actually asked to get back into her stroller - we weren't sure if she was cold or scared, but either way we weren't going to dawdle.

Once inside, she was much happier - pointing out all the Christmas trees. We wandered up to the kids floor, and had an hour before Santa would actually arrive. Myrna worked on a list for Santa, before she led us around the toy department, destroying any toys in her path.

Visiting Santa here was a bit different than in the states, as there was no photo session with Santa, just a haphazard line of kids and parents snapping photos. When Santa arrived, we were ready to go, but as soon as we were "next in line," Myrna started wailing, and there was no way she was getting anywhere near Santa.

What I love about this photo (other than all the kids staring at Myrna) is that you get to see Santa's ever so stylish threads, certainly not the same-old red suit. I do remember my sisters getting scared of Santa and crying, but we still managed to get that photo, and I have no idea how my Mom did that.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Myrna the Swedish Chef - Christmas Cookie Episode

We took our first foray into baking in Europe this weekend. For two-and-a-half years, I've skipped out on the baking, with the very valid excuse that American recipes don't translate. Sure, you can convert cups into metric, but there is the problem that flour and baking powder are ever so slightly different that straight conversions don't work (or so I've been told). But decorating cookies seemed like something Myrna would like, and we were getting a hankering for good old American Christmas sugar cookies (Pepparkakor are good, but you can only eat so many ginger snaps). Furthermore, we had lots of American-Swedish families that we wanted to get together. So Saturday, while Myrna napped, Chris and I rolled out dough and cut out sugar cookies (from a German recipe, just to keep things complicated).

First, I should point out that pigs are a big Christmas decoration. So we can all blame my Swedish heritage for my love of (Christmas) pigs. Any pack of Christmas cookie cutters you buy, includes a pig - isn't that just wonderful?

We had just taken the last batch out of the oven when Myrna woke up - so far so good. But then we started get messages from our Sunday guests, and all the kids were running temperatures. Needless to say, we were alone for the frosting, but we still had a ball. Myrna's first icing:

She's very concerned when icing gets on her fingers

After each successful icing, she announces "clap" and we are all to clap at her masterpiece

At first she was very careful with the sprinkles

On her second go, she dumped half the bottle on one cookie. It resulted in very right-side heavy sprinkled cookie, not unlike her recent paintings (and if you haven't read the recent review of her work, you are really missing out - it's far more clever than this account). She still made quite an effort to retrieve the bottle

And what batch of Christmas cookies wouldn't be complete with out a cookie ode to Piggy Wiggy?

We now have lots of Christmas cookies. Wish we could send boxes to you all, but I don't think the trip to them would be kind.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Easter in December - Why You Don't Argue with a 2-Year-Old

We've had at least a month of snow and cold. Nevertheless Myrna has recently found her Easter dress* from last year in the closet and insisted on wearing it today. (I just learned from Chris that she has been asking for the last week to wear it, but little did I know when I said ok.) We squeezed it on (over a turtleneck), and let her run around the apartment. There was no telling her that she had to change to go out and about, so we stuffed the tulle and big bows into her snow pants - a truly funny sight.

If she had her way, she still would have that dress on, instead of her pajamas. Though, to Myrna's defense, when she wore it last year on Easter Monday, it actually was snowing.

*A quick look back at photos reveals that this wasn't her Easter dress - rather her Father's Day dress - oops (and it certainly wasn't snowing in Seattle on Father's Day).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Your thumbprints are on the paintwork...

We've been taking Myrna to play at the Kulturhuset for some time, but it's only in the past several weeks that we've taken advantage of the arts studio in the back. It's terrific. They have a full stock of paints, brushes, smocks, and easels. And, crucially, it's no big thing if paint finds its way onto floor or furniture - something you can't always say about home.

An avid colorer, Myrna plunged right into the new expressive prospects afforded by painting. Her earliest work with paint was characterized by heavy brushwork, dense fields of earthy color, and gritty impasto. Though her work to date falls in the realm of the abstract, there's more than a passing similarity in her first work to the hues and application of paint found in the portraits Myrna refers to as Modigliani's "Mamas." Perhaps a legacy of her 2008-2009 residency in Cologne, Myrna additionally liked to cut into the wet paint with pencil or with the back tip of a brush handle à la Gerhard Richter. These disquieted scratches, combined with the clay reds of the paint, give the below composition a brooding, anxious quality that belies the giggly enthusiasm that went into its making.

If I have one criticism of this painting, it's that the thick application of paint led to a dampness-warping of the paper that's made it difficult to properly display.

It's telling that, for sketches and studies at home, Myrna's shifted from thick crayons to soft color pencils. Her latest painting - finished just yesterday - follows suit. There are links to earlier work - a concentration on the right side of the composition, for example - but here she opts for a lighter touch and airier mood. The handling color is more considered, and the lion's share of Myrna's creative process is now devoted to the mixing of colors to meet her acute demand. This is no doubt a product of Myrna's growing understanding of color. She spends much of the day pointing out the pinks, reds, blues, yellows, and greens of the world around her. And, more and more, these correspond to the adult world's chromatic taxonomy. The brighter feel of this latest piece probably also benefited from the unfussy approach Myrna took to painting it. Far from over-thinking the finished product, she completed this one in half the time needed for her first painting. This time she was, it seemed, very eager to wash her hands and brushes in the row of toddler-level sinks she'd discovered on her last visit to the studio.

It's tricky gaining a concrete foothold on Myrna's work and methods, given the abstract nature of the compositions and her reluctance to discuss her art in any satisfactory detail. I took a stab, though. "What are you thinking about," I asked her as she added a few rapid pencil accents to her last piece. Her answer was enigmatic, but certainly in character. "Ducks," she said blithely, reaching for a brush and resuming her work as though no longer aware that I was in the room.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ohhhhhhh Christmas Tree...

For the first time since moving abroad, we decided to attempt a Christmas tree. Our first Christmas in Germany, we didn't spend at home in Köln, but instead in Berlin. The second Christmas, we had our hands full with Myrna, and last Christmas, well I guess we had our hands full with Myrna too.

Sunday we made the trek to Ikea. I was pretty sure we were setting ourselves up for a disaster - Ikea on a weekend before Christmas sounded daunting. But it actually was just like any other day at Ikea and Myrna was having a ball - starting with ice cream at lunch, and then pure fascination at the Ikea floor displays. If for a moment, we actually believed that she would sit in a kids sized chair while she watched Pippi, we would have easily bought her a miniature lounging chair - but we knew better. Then we hit the kid area, and she was in heaven.

But the real reason for our trip was for Christmas decorations. We had decided a full sized real tree was not for us. A planter sized one was tempting, but we opted instead for the designer metal tree. Of course, the idea in my head hasn't quite been realized. There were no Christmas tree lights at Ikea under $40 a strand (some special eco-friendly power saving fancy things), and once we found some a day later, they had their own surprise. Apparently Christmas tree lights are not available in single strands that you attach together, but instead in one self contained loop (thankfully our tree is tiny and only needed one loop). I'm now conducting a survey to find out what other countries mess up Christmas lights.

Here it is in all it's glory, sitting atop a new red end table. We're still hoping to add some more green garlands, but it's at least a start.....

We did the majority of the decorating after Myrna had gone to sleep. The next morning, we had the celebratory hanging of Piggy-Wiggy. Myrna got excited and tried to put some other pigs on the tree, but we convinced her to put them near the tree instead. She did quite a good balancing job with one of the pigs. This arrangement, by the way, is a family portrait of "Baby, Momma and Dada" (as is any arrangement of animals or buses and staircar).

Myrna still wants to take off the ornaments and hold them, remove their hooks, etc, but we've at least made it two days without it toppling over.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Who's in charge of scheduling?"

We've found one more reason to cling to our German habit of buying bottled sparkling water from Lidl: they make decent bowling pins. Admittedly, we've never had a full set of ten pins, but Myrna's not exactly rolling a lot of strikes either. And certainly no spares, as she charges into any bottles still standing, kicking them over before I have a chance to explain that she's entitled to a second roll.

Anyway, it's a fun way to pass fifteen minutes on a cold, dark mid-afternoon. I do, worry, though that she will overexert herself -- just look at the heft of this nerf soccer ball!

Ah, and the title to this post does relate to bowling. If you know how, the next round of White Russians is on me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

-17 deg C

We ended November with a bang here in Stockholm. The chill came on and we hit a low 0f -17 deg C on the 30th, the lowest November temperature in Stockholm since 1965. I'm still not able to switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit without a calculator, but -17 deg C is 1.4 deg F. Actually I don't think either of us really realized it was that cold. Myrna and Chris still played outside in the snow for a bit (that's just how Swedish we have become). Today's forecast has us at 30 deg F (sadly not C, that would be really nice) and we're totally excited.