What I’ve Been Reading Lately (April 2024)

Welcome to another round of “What I’ve Been Reading Lately” when I join other readers through Modern Mrs Darcy’s monthly QuickLit posts in sharing what we’ve been reading lately.

I love when an unanticipated common thread appears between reads. Sometimes it’s obvious very quickly; other times the common thread is more obscure. This month it was between two very different crime fiction reads, one I read for my Nordic Literature Reading Challenge and the other in anticipation of an author event at the LA Times Festival of Books last month. The settings and the unique cultural and historical aspects of these settings were so very different, a remote village in northern Sweden versus a diverse suburb in the American South, that at first I didn’t consider them similar at all. However, the two books shared some strong noir elements: flawed protagonists, brutal crimes, and an exploration of the darker sides of human nature. It was fun to mix up my Nordic Noir reading with some Southern Noir.

What have you been reading lately?


Yours Truly (Part of Your World, #2) by Abby Jimenez (2023) 🎧
Narrated by Kyla Garcia & Zachary Webber

Loved this story! I listened to it; the audiobook with the two narrators was excellent. This is the story of Brianna and Jacob, two ER doctors, whose lives cross as Briana’s divorce is finalizing and Jacob has moved to her hospital to get away from his ex who is now marrying his brother. Their first encounter is rocky, but a letter from Jacob resets everything. The characters are mature, thoughtful, and funny. They each have their own real issues affecting their take on their relationship. It was such a heartwarming story. I couldn’t wait to return to it after every listen. (Though book #2 in the series, it was totally fine to read as a standalone.) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


The Last Snow by Stina Jackson (2020) 📖
Translated from the Swedish by Susan Beard (2021)

As is often the case with Nordic Noir, the setting was bleak (remote village in northern Sweden) and the characters were flawed, in this case very flawed. There was nothing heartwarming or pleasant in this story, but it did have intriguing mystery and suspense that kept me reading. Liv lives with her domineering father and sullen 17-year old son. She is miserable and unable to leave. The father is hated by the community and believed to have a fortune hidden away at home. His death comes as no surprise to the community. It’s also the story of Liam who has a young child and is trying to break away from his controlling drug-dealing brother. There is unease and tension between everyone; anyone could have murdered the father. It took me a while to follow the jumps in the story and timeline at the beginning (the formatting and/or chapter titles could have been done better), but it soon settled for me. The ending was surprisingly satisfying. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Us Against You (Beartown #2) by Fredrik Backman (2017) 🎧
Translated from the Swedish by Neil Smith (2018)
Narrated by Marin Ireland

I wasn’t the greatest fan of the first book in the series (Reading Lately, March 2018), but I enjoyed the ending enough to want to read the second in the series. Here I am 6 years later finally reading it! And I loved it. An omniscient narrator is telling the story of Beartown after its star hockey player has left town. Mia is trying to get on with her life after the sexual assault. The town’s beloved hockey club is struggling to survive and a new hockey coach is brought in to build a winning team. The town is very divided and there is a lot of tension and conflict, but there is also kindness, compassion, and hope. Can’t wait to read the final book in the series, Winners (but I must admit that the page count of 671 pages/21+ listening hours is a little intimidating).  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


All the Sinners Bleed by S. A. Cosby (2023) 📖

I was a great fan of Razorblade Tears (Reading Lately, June 2023) so I was quick to pick up his new title as well as buy a ticket to see him on a panel at the LA Times Festival of Books in April (an experience that didn’t disappoint!). In this story, readers follow Sheriff Crown, a former FBI agent and now first Black sheriff of his hometown in Virginia, as a shooting of a popular white teacher by a Black former student who is then killed by deputies opens up a whole sinister serial child killer mystery. It’s not for sensitive readers. At times, it was hard to keep track of all the characters, and occasionally, the writing was a little overdone, but overall a very engaging and riveting read. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


What have you been reading lately?

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May 2024: In-Person & Virtual Nordic Events

It’s a big month for Scandinavian enthusiasts in Southern California and Norwegians worldwide.

Norway’s national day, known as 17. mai or Syttende mai, is Friday, May 17. Norwegians celebrate the 1814 signing of their constitution with flags, children’s parades, traditional costumes, ice cream, and more. Read more here about the history of Norway’s constitution and Norway’s unique traditions for the day. Once again, Norway’s national TV station NRK will broadcast live on the big day starting 7:50 a.m. Central European Time (Monday, May 16, 10:50 p.m. PT).


IN-PERSON SOCAL EVENTS

For SoCal Norwegians and their friends, the Norwegian Church in San Pedro will host its annual “17. mai-feiring på kirka” on Friday, May 17. All the usual food and festivities will be there — the national song, speeches, music, entertainment, and last but not least, a parade around the block with music and flags. Doors open at 4:00 p.m. for food sales and the program begins at 5:00 p.m.

This celebration is followed closely by the 50th anniversary of the Scandinavian Festival on Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, in Thousand Oaks. There will be musical and dance entertainment, children’s craft stations and entertainment, food and craft demonstrations, a Speaker’s Corner, and of course food sales and vendors. Have you purchased your tickets?

Consider volunteering at the festival! There are a variety of volunteer opportunities for adults, college students, and high school students. They need assistance with children’s crafts, family activities, ticket sales, and gate entrances. I have previously volunteered at gate entrances and the head wreath booth. This year you’ll find me at the Norway Craft Booth with a friend. Have questions? Reach out to scanfestvolunteers@gmail.com.


VIRTUAL EVENTS in MAY

Online book clubs continue to meet. Visit Nordic Book Club Meetings: May 2024 to see details about book selections and meeting dates.

Vesterheim’s online folk art courses sell out quickly. To see what’s coming up in later months and sign up before it’s too late, visit Vesterheim: Online Folk Art Courses. August 20 is the upcoming opening date for registration of classes that will take place October 2024 through March 2025 (details).

The Norwegian American Spring Auction: 17 for 17 for 17 (May 1-17)

The Norwegian American announces its spring auction “17 for 17 for 17,” filled with exciting items to celebrate your Norwegian heritage. The auction will run for 17 days starting May 1 to raise $17,000 by Norwegian Constitution Day on May 17!

Films from the Faroe Islands (Virtual Screening Package) (Available until May 5)

Presented in Faroe Islands Culture Days, see virtual screenings of some of the best contemporary films from the Faroe Islands in “Fog-Swept Cinema”. From April 19 through May 5, a virtual screening package will be available with three feature films — the coming-of-age drama Dreams by the Sea, the surrealist feature 111 Good Days, and the documentary Skál — as well as four short films, showcasing today’s leading filmmakers from the North Atlantic archipelago. Virtual screening packages are available throughout the U.S.

Intro to Finnish (Sunday, May 5)

Curious about the Finnish language, but not ready yet to commit to a multi-date class? Looking for a quick and low-pressure way to get excited and prepare for an upcoming visit to Finland? This two-hour introductory workshop taught by instructor Joona Sundström is the perfect way to get a feel for Finnish, pick up a bit of grammar, and learn how to pronounce some words as part of basic conversation.

ASI Nordic Table Event: Swedish Cardamom Buns with Kristi Bissell (Thursday, May 9)

Turn out kardemummabullar (cardamom buns) worthy of a bakery display case with a little help from Kristi Bissell of the Scandinavian cooking blog True North Kitchen! Cardamom buns are a popular option in Swedish bakeries which go all in cardamom’s deep floral flavor by incorporating the spice into the dough, filling, and glittery sugar topping. Luckily these decadent buns can also be tackled at home with some basic baking techniques. In this hour-long demo, Kristi will demonstrate how to mix and knead the yeasted dough, prepare the filling, and bake a batch of buns at home. Students will leave with the recipe and lots of tips, inspired to bake their own batch of buns at home!

Vesterheim’s FamilieTid: Nordic Songs Through the Years (Saturday, May 11, Free)

Have the whole family come together and learn some Norwegian songs. Singer, Norwegian language instructor, and youth educator, Eddy Galstad will lead the family in learning songs from “way back when,” as well as share some songs that the kids might have heard already. This free event will be a learning and sharing opportunity for multiple generations of the family.

Introduction to the Basic Strokes of Rosemaling: Hallingdal Style (Saturday, May 11 & Sunday, May 12)

If you’ve ever thought about trying rosemaling, here’s a great opportunity to take the brush in hand! Rosemaling is the wonderful folk art of Norway that is based on the flowing scrolls and flowers that are made up of “C” and “S” strokes. This class introduces students to these basic strokes that are the foundation of rosemaling, as well as the detailed line work that completes a rosemaling project. The class will include demonstrations and plenty of hands-on practice. Students will practice strokes and complete a project on board. The class will be taught using acrylic paint. If you’ve painted with oil, this would be a good opportunity to explore acrylics. A complete kit of supplies (a $40 value) is included in the cost of enrollment.

Vesterheim Family Language Adventure: Life North of the Arctic Circle (Registration deadline: May 17)

In June, join Vesterheim for some family fun and learn some Norwegian language and culture along the way. The vocabulary and phrases will focus on life north of the Arctic Circle! Through hands-on activities, fun crafts, light-hearted games, and short videos, you and your family will learn and practice your new Norwegian skills. A kit will be delivered right to your home containing supplies for these language activities, a helpful reference sheet for all the new words and expressions you will be learning, a fun craft, and a yummy treat.

Design and Weave a Repp Band (Saturday, May 18 & Sunday, May 19)

Join Swedish textile artist and educator Kerstin Neumüller for two online sessions to design and start weaving a repp band on a small rigid heddle-style band weaving loom. This virtual class is an excellent option for students who need a refresher on band weaving, or for anyone who owns Kerstin’s book Simple Weave but wants to work alongside her live.

Intro to Swedish (Sunday, May 19)

Curious about the Swedish language, but not ready yet to commit to a multi-date class? Looking for a quick and low-pressure way to get excited and prepare for an upcoming visit to Sweden? This two-hour introductory workshop taught by instructor Jean Hanslin is the perfect way to get a feel for Swedish — pick up a bit of grammar and learn how to pronounce some words as part of basic conversation.

Experimental Archaeology: Recreating Goods Found in Grave #619 in Birka, Sweden (Wednesday, May 22, Free)

In this webinar, Steph Anderson will talk through what went into the study and recreation of Birka grave Bj 619. The goal of this project was to look at the archaeological notes from 1877 when it was first discovered and textile analysis from 1974, and then to create an interpretation of the grave. This grave dates back to the late 700s to early 800s. Steph will walk through the process of research, talking to archaeologists and working with the Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, textile producers, blacksmiths, and others to get as historically accurate information as possible. Let her introduce you to the woman of Bj 619 and give you a brief glimpse into her life.

Genealogy Session with Swedish American Museum (Saturday, May 25)

Delve into ancestry and history with the Swedish American Museum at one of their educational Genealogy sessions. In May, Kathy Meade will be discussing ArkivDigital. What is new in ArkivDigital? ArkivDigital provides online access to newly photographed color images of Swedish historical records. We have added many searchable indexes, so you can now search by name for more church books, estate inventory, census, and military records. We have also added some more Swedish-American church books. You will learn how these updates make researching your Swedish heritage simpler and faster.


LOOKING AHEAD

Crash Course in Nordic Myths (Wednesdays, 6/5-6/26)

The literature containing Norse mythology remains one of the most fascinating bodies of medieval storytelling anywhere. Norse myths include a great wealth of digressive anecdotes and an equally large cast of characters. This class will attempt to make sense of Norse myths by examining the structures of the tales and investigating the background in which they were written down in manuscripts. Come explore what is known (and unknown) about Norse mythology with Old Norse expert Dr. Paul Peterson. The course will be held virtually and take place over four weeks with one meeting per week.

Vesterheim Filmprat: Stolen (Wednesday, 6/12)

Register now to join Vesterheim’s Filmprat to discuss Stolen, the new Netflix original film based on Ann-Helén Læstadius’ novel of the same name which premiered April 12. This spellbinding Swedish story follows a young indigenous woman as she struggles to defend her family’s reindeer herd and culture amidst xenophobia, climate change, and a devious hunter whose targeted kills are considered mere theft in the eyes of the law. Based on real events, Ann-Helén Læstadius’ award-winning novel Stolen has been adapted into a film by Netflix that is part coming-of-age story, part love song to a disappearing natural world, and part electrifying countdown to a dramatic resolution—a searing depiction of a forgotten part of Sweden.

Scandinavian Strawberry Cream Cake (Thursday, 6/20)

Ready to tackle a showstopper of a summer dessert that is secretly easier than it looks? Kristi Bissell of True North Kitchen is here to walk you through each element of the classic strawberry cream cake, a must-have for early summer celebrations across Scandinavia. Kristi will demonstrate every step, from baking a vanilla cake to mixing a pastry cream, from mashing up a fresh strawberry filling to finally assembling and decorating, taking questions, and sharing her tips along the way. Students will leave with a full recipe to try on their own just in time for Midsommar. You may register for the class even if you don’t plan to attend live, as the class will be recorded, and the recording made available for all registrants for one month after class for viewing.

Ode to the Midnight Sun: A Midsummer Cocktail Celebration (Friday, 6/21)

Let there be light! Revel in the enchanting Nordic Midsummer with two handcrafted cocktails and a refreshing alcohol-free option. This class will discuss the history and traditions of Sankthans, the Norwegian celebration of the summer solstice, and incorporate ingredients that will bring the magic of the season to your homes and palates. This Vesterheim cooking class is designed as a small-group cook-along, and we invite exchange between the instructor and students in order to build community around food traditions.

Family Handcraft at Home: Rosemaling Rocks (Registration deadline: 7/16)

In August, join beloved rosemaling instructor Lise Lorentzen to explore basic rosemaling techniques and paint rocks that you can use in your garden or give to friends! Inspired both by a painted rock in Vesterheim’s collection and by the groups that paint rocks to hide in nature, this class is the perfect way to explore the traditional handcraft of rosemaling as a family. This program has been designed for families to experience on their own schedules. The $30-per-family price covers the cost of a special folk art class kit designed for two participants to explore rosemaling.


Which events or experiences look interesting to you?

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (March 2024) & Nordic Literature Reading Challenge News 

Welcome to another round of “What I’ve Been Reading Lately.” This past month I traveled all over the world — Maine, Uruguay, Vietnam, and Panama — and two of the books were even very new releases from 2024 which is unlike me.

I have finally finalized my Nordic literature reading plan for 2024. It’s going to be slow and steady (not meant to be completed by the end of 2024) with general reading categories for each of the Nordic countries to guide me along the way. Read more about it at 2024 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge.

What have you been reading lately?


The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters (2023) 🎧(📖)
Narrated Aaliya Warbus and Jordan Waunch

This story opens during the summer of 1962 when a Mi’kmaq family from Nova Scotia is in Maine for berry picking season and 4-year-old Ruthie disappears. Her older brother Joe, 6 years old at the time, is the last to see her and is affected by this the rest of his life. What follows is a dual perspective narrative following Joe at the end of his life and the missing girl growing up with her new, overly protective mother and emotionally distant father. There is no mystery for the reader; it’s about how this early childhood trauma affected them both and how they are reunited. This was a highly anticipated novel that didn’t quite land with me like I expected it would. Maybe it was the narration of the audiobook that threw me. I ended up finishing the book by reading it. ⭐️⭐️


Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis (2019) 📖(🎧)

This story follows five queer women in Montevideo, Uruguay, who come together in secret during the Uruguayan Dictatorship and become friends, lovers, and family. They are a mixed group – a young high school student, a former activist, a married woman, a butcher, and one who is very reserved about her past and current life. A defining act of this group is discovering and buying a shack in an isolated, remote area along the coast which becomes their secret sanctuary. I read this for its setting in Uruguay and greatly appreciated the insight into life before, during, and after the dictatorship (1973-1985). I also admired the women for their resolve and determination to build their found family and to live as who they really are, despite dictators, trauma, and fear. ⭐️⭐️⭐️


The Women by Kristin Hannah (2024) 📖

Loved this book. Strong female characters, deep friendships, history I’m not as familiar with. It’s about three female nurses in Vietnam during the Vietnam War and then their re-entry into life when they returned to an America that wanted to forget Vietnam and didn’t acknowledge that women were there. In particular, it follows one woman, Frankie, who volunteered to serve thinking it would make her family proud, but instead it had the exact opposite effect. It’s a heartbreaking story in so many ways, but also a powerful story of patriotism, sacrifice, and courage. I was engrossed the moment I entered Frankie’s life.  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


The Great Divide by Cristina Henríquez (2024) 🎧
Narrated by Robin Miles

This was not a unified story but instead a series of glimpses into the lives and backstories of individuals living in the Panama Canal zone during a period of its construction. Marian Oswald left America with her husband whose goal it was to eradicate malaria from the area. Sixteen-year-old Ava Bunting ran away from her home in Barbados so she could earn money for her younger sister’s surgery. Francisco was a local fisherman whose 17-year old son Omar decided to work in the cut despite his father’s protests. Joaquin was a fishmonger in Panama City whose wife became an activist when her small home village was threatened by the building of a dam. Over time, their lives intersected. It was an interesting behind-the-scenes look at a great historical feat and visit to a part of the world unfamiliar to me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️


What have you been reading lately?

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April 2024: In-Person & Virtual Nordic Events

Happy Spring! And welcome to the latest listing of Nordic events. In addition to the usual list of virtual food, arts & crafts, book & film, and genealogy & history events, this month’s post includes a few special online premieres and in-person events happening in Southern California. Let me know in the comments what interests you the most.


IN-PERSON SOCAL EVENTS

For Southern California readers, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County invites you to celebrate their 70th anniversary with a performance of Nordic folk music by Danish String Quartet at the Westside Museum in Costa Mesa on Friday, April 12. “The versatile members of the Danish String Quartet bring the musical flavors of their homeland, weaving Nordic folklore into the sound world of classical music. The string quartet sound further enhances the depth of feelings invoked by the sublime melodies and harmonies in sophisticated arrangements of traditional Faroese ballads, waltzes, and Nordic folk tunes.” Tickets are $35 and readers of AVikingInLA can receive $5 off with code HYGGE.

On Saturday, April 20, the Daughters of Norway, Turid Jespersen Lodge #44, will host their annual Scandinavian Heritage Fair in Mission Viejo. There will be demonstrations of traditional crafts such as rosemaling, spinning, weaving, wood carvers, and wood burners, as well as a genealogy booth. Watch the preparation of traditional foods such as aebleskiver, krumkake, lefse, and Norwegian waffles. Enjoy open-faced sandwiches, rømmegrøt, soups, kransekake, and other Scandinavian desserts. The fair will also feature products from Norrdesign T-Shirts, Norwegian Seamen’s Church, Karlsson’s Scandinavian Designs, and Joan Johnson Watercolor Cards. Admission is free. See their flier for details.

On Sunday, April 28, the Los Angeles Kubb Club is holding its 8th annual West Coast Kubb Championships in South Pasadena’s Orange Grove Park. They welcome players of all levels and ages. A team can have anywhere from 2 to 6 players. There will be a full morning of group play and two playoff brackets in the afternoon. Everyone is guaranteed several hours of kubbing fun and there are many opportunities to bring home some hardware – even if you’re not a touring player! Since 2016, the LA Kubb Club has welcomed friends and fellow kubb enthusiasts from around town and all over the country to Orange Grove Park every April for a day of fun and friendly competition in the sun. They hope you’ll join them!

Then on the weekend of May 18 & 19 in Thousand Oaks, the Scandinavian Festival returns for its 50th anniversary. Tickets are already on sale. Consider volunteering at the festival. For your time, you will receive an official festival t-shirt and complimentary admission. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities for adults, college students, and high school students. They need assistance with children’s crafts, family activities, and gate entrances. At the last festival, my son and I volunteered, him at the Take a Liking to a Viking photo opp station and me at the Head Wreaths booth. Interested or have questions? Reach out to scanfestvolunteers@gmail.com.


ONLINE PREMIERES

Last month the website Crossings: Norway & North America 1825-2025 went live in anticipation of the bicentennial of the first organized Norwegian migration to North America. Visit the website to learn about this first migration from Norway to North America in 1825, find resources for the bicentennial year, and view upcoming events around the country. The website will be updated as the bicentennial year approaches.

Premiering on April 12 is the Netflix film Stolen directed by Norwegian Sámi Elle Márjá Eira. It is an adaptation of Swedish Sámi author Ann-Helén Laestadius’ novel of the same name. “The film adaption portrays a young woman’s struggle to defend her indigenous heritage in a world where xenophobia is on the rise, climate change is threatening reindeer herding, and young people choose suicide in the face of collective desperation. But the story also lays bare the tensions that arise when modern ideas come up against a traditional culture with deeply rooted patriarchal structures” (source). I really enjoyed the book (Reading Lately, April 2023) and am eagerly looking forward to this film adaptation.


VIRTUAL EVENTS in APRIL

Online book clubs continue to meet. Visit Nordic Book Club Meetings: April 2024 to see details about book selections and meeting dates.

Vesterheim’s online folk art courses sell out quickly. To see what’s coming up in later months and to sign up before it’s too late, visit Vesterheim: Online Folk Art Courses.

ASI Nordic Table Event: Barley in the Nordic Kitchen (Thursday, 4/11)

Barley is one of the earliest cultivated grains in the Nordic region, and thousands of years later, it still deserves our attention! Low in gluten and high in fiber, barley was historically used for bread baking as well as brewing. In this virtual demo, Kristi Bissell of True North Kitchen will help us decode the different types of whole barley available, and also share why this is one of her favorite flours to keep on hand. Kristi will demo a delicious scone, a fresh salad perfect for spring, and discuss how she incorporates it into other dishes from breakfast to dinner. Healthy, delicious, and accommodating, barley might become your new favorite grain! This class is designed as a demonstration, so students can watch the entire process and ask questions before tackling the dishes at home at a later date.

Norwegian Raspeboller ​​(Potato Dumplings): Techniques and Different Ways to Serve as a Traditional Feast (Saturday, 4/13)

Join Vesterheim and Nevada Berg of North Wild Kitchen in making traditional Norwegian potato dumplings, known by many names such as raspeballer, komle, and klubb. Nevada will show various techniques in how to make them and the different ways to serve and stuff them. We’ll include mashed rutabaga and various meats for a complete meal. So, come and enjoy a whole platter of dumpling deliciousness. This course is currently full, but you can be added to the waitlist.

Decoding the Baldishol Tapestry: Learning to See the Hidden Stories, Symbolism, and Techniques in the Textile (Sunday, 4/14, Free)

Created in the late 1100s and rediscovered rolled up and stuffed under the floorboards of the Baldishol Church in Norway in the late 1800s, this impressive fragment of a much larger tapestry (or series of tapestries) depicting the “Labors of the Months” remains shrouded in mystery. In this webinar, join tapestry instructor and historical enthusiast Laura Berlage of Erindale Tapestry Studio on her journey to crack the code of what this piece has to tell us. From expressions of wealth to ancient churches, raising doves to the Medieval fur trade, constellation calendars to the language of love, there are so many overlapping stories to explore, including thoughts on why the piece was tucked away for centuries.

Family Handcraft at Home: Hand Quilting (Enrollment Deadline: 4/16)

Enroll now to enjoy this family course that begins May 1 and will be available all month. Enjoy the slowness of handcraft while learning to sew a finished quilt block without a sewing machine. Quilt blocks can make lovely wall hangings, a small mat for your morning coffee or tea, or a sweet blanket for a child’s toy. This project is perfect for school aged children (and up) who can confidently use a needle and thread. Enjoy the process of working at your own pace while watching the detailed video tutorial, leading you through each step of your quilt block. The $30-per-family price covers the cost of a special folk art class kit designed for two participants to explore quilting. Enrollment Deadline: 4/16

Vesterheim: Chip Carved Butter Spreader (Friday, 4/19)

Learn basic carving and chip carving while making a butter spreader! In this course you will learn Scandinavian knife holds to carve a butter spreader and then adorn the handle using chip carving techniques. Each student will receive two butter spreader blanks made out of dry basswood. One will be carved and adorned in class while the other will be saved for practice. This course is currently full, but you can be added to the waitlist.

Films from the Faroe Islands (Virtual Screening Package) (Available 4/19 – 5/5)

Presented in Faroe Islands Culture Days, see virtual screenings of some of the best contemporary films from the Faroe Islands in “Fog-Swept Cinema”. From April 19 through May 5, a virtual screening package will be available with three feature films — the coming-of-age drama Dreams by the Sea, the surrealist feature 111 Good Days, and the documentary Skál — as well as four short films, showcasing today’s leading filmmakers from the North Atlantic archipelago. Virtual screening packages are available throughout the U.S.

Springtime Smørbrød with Kristi Bissell (Thursday, 4/25)

Join Vesterheim and Kristi Bissell of True North Kitchen for a celebration of spring smørbrød! In this hands-on virtual class, you will prepare an assortment of Scandinavian-style open face sandwiches showcasing the delicious ingredients of the spring season. Kristi will also share tips and tricks for styling your smørbrød with Nordic flair. This course is currently full, but you can be added to the waitlist.

Genealogy Session with Swedish American Museum (Saturday, 4/27)

Delve into ancestry and history at one of Swedish American Museum’s Genealogy sessions. This month, Marie Thourson will be discussing the Great Chicago Fire. In October 1871, roughly 10,000 Swedish immigrants were living in Chicago. Half of them clustered in the neighborhood around Chicago Avenue, known as “Swede Town,” where merchants, doctors, and other businesses flourished. Five Swedish churches stood in this area as did the Svea Society, a cultural magnet for more secular Swedes. When the Fire broke out in Mrs. O’Leary’s west side barn on the evening of Sunday, October 8, north side residents thought they were safely distant from the flames. By morning, they were fleeing for their lives. Based largely on eyewitness reports in Swedish and Swedish American newspapers, this talk brings to light the experiences of the Swedish community.

Vesterheim: Sámi-Inspired Bracelets with Liz Bucheit (Sat., 4/27 & Sun., 4/28)

In this online class, you will learn to make a Sámi-inspired, iconic, three-strand braided bracelet using traditional materials of reindeer leather, pewter thread, and a reindeer antler button. The pewter is nickel-free and contains 4% silver. The class will consist of three sessions over two days, and each session will be accompanied by a short video that will help you see the hand-work techniques up close. In between each session you will have time to complete the steps that Liz has discussed and demonstrated before moving on to the next part of the bracelet construction. Enrollment Deadline: 4/13

LOOKING AHEAD

Vesterheim: Gravlax 101 with Patrice Johnson (Saturday, 5/4)

Join Patrice Johnson, the self-titled “Nordic Food Geek,” for a delicious Nordic-inspired brunch that will teach you the beginning ins and outs of gravlax and all of the important accompaniments. This class will have your kitchen smelling like a Nordic deli! We’ll also make a signature cocktail and mocktail, and other delicious bites perfect for your favorite weekend meal. Enrollment Deadline: 4/19

ASI Nordic Table Event: Swedish Cardamom Buns with Kristi Bissell (Thurs., 5/9)

Turn out kardemummabullar (cardamom buns) worthy of a bakery display case with a little help from Kristi Bissell of the Scandinavian cooking blog True North Kitchen! Cardamom buns are a popular option in Swedish bakeries which go all in cardamom’s deep floral flavor by incorporating the spice into the dough, filling, and glittery sugar topping. Luckily these decadent buns can also be tackled at home with some basic baking techniques. In this hour-long demo, Kristi will demonstrate how to mix and knead the yeasted dough, prepare the filling, and bake a batch of buns at home. Students will leave with the recipe and lots of tips, inspired to bake their own batch of buns at home!

Vesterheim Filmprat: Stolen (Wednesday, 6/12)

Register now to join Vesterheim’s Filmprat to discuss Stolen, the new Netflix original film based on Ann-Helén Laestadius’ novel of the same name premiering April 12. This spellbinding Swedish story follows a young indigenous woman as she struggles to defend her family’s reindeer herd and culture amidst xenophobia, climate change, and a devious hunter whose targeted kills are considered mere theft in the eyes of the law. Based on real events, Ann-Helén Læstadius’ award-winning novel Stolen is part coming-of-age story, part love song to a disappearing natural world, and part electrifying countdown to a dramatic resolution—a searing depiction of a forgotten part of Sweden. Enrollment Deadline: 5/23


Which events or experiences look interesting to you?

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (February 2024)

Welcome to another round of “What I’ve Been Reading Lately.” I normally try to get this out mid-month, but I needed a couple of more days to wrap it up this time. I continue to move forward without a 2024 iteration of my yearly Scandinavian/Nordic reading challenge, but I aim to have something in place by the end of March.

In the meantime, I’m motivated by challenges I’ve already committed to, in particular the #DiversityAcrossGenres reading challenge, and reading off my own shelf which certainly includes Scandinavian books. This month, I also wrapped up the reading challenge that my elementary school hosts every winter in which students are encouraged to read certain books and vote for their favorite. Parents, faculty, and staff are invited to join. I participated with the 4th grade booklist this year and am very proud to add the 2024 4th grade button to my collection.

What have you been reading lately?


The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (2018) 📖

This young adult novel has been sitting on my shelf for a while and I am relieved to finally check it off my unread BOTM selections list. It’s about high school student Leigh, half Asian and half white, whose mother dies by suicide after struggles with depression. Leigh’s mother turns into a bird and Leigh travels to Taiwan to try to find the bird and to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. Unfortunately, the concept and execution did not land with me. I appreciated the trip to Taiwan which provided insight into sights, foods, and culture. However, the jumping back and forth in time and in and out of other people’s memories was a little disconcerting. And the writing was just too colorful for me.


Happiness Falls by Angie Kim (2023) 🎧

I went into this one knowing there were mixed feelings about it among my reading friends at work. For me, it turned out to be one that I loved. It takes place during the summer of 2020. Mia, a biracial Korean-American college student forced back home due to the pandemic, narrates what happened when her dad went missing after having gone to a local park with her 14-year-old non-speaking autistic brother. She is intellectual and honest. She analyzes and scrutinizes all leads in the case and it goes in many directions. There’s a lot going on in the book, including a discussion of happiness, understanding neurodivergent people (brother had dual diagnosis of autism and Angelman Syndrome), insight into speech therapy, and more! It is thought-provoking and would make a great book club read. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Jakthundene by Jørn Lier Horst (2012) 📖
(The Hunting Dogs translated by Anne Bruce)

This is my fifth William Wisting installment, not read in any particular order and all except one in Norwegian. I always enjoy returning to the duo of police detective William Wisting and his crime journalist daughter Line along the coast south of Oslo. They don’t work together but their work overlaps. He’s a trustworthy and respected detective; she’s an eager and independent reporter. I like them both. In this installment, Wisting’s reputation is questioned and he’s suspended due to new evidence in a 17-year old case about a murdered missing woman. Line is investigating a recent murder. Seeing how the two cases converged made for a fun and interesting read. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


4th Grade Reads for School Reading Challenge 🎧📖

My absolute favorite of the three 4th grade selections was The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan (audiobook was excellent). It was such a sweet and heartwarming story of a Turkish American girl whose mother had to return to Turkey for immigration reasons. During the mother’s long and difficult absence, the daughter formed a touching friendship with a grandfather figure, an unusual classmate, and an elephant. The other two books I read were Odder by Katherine Applegate, a very sweet novel-in-verse about a playful otter and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga (also a great listen), an entertaining story of a Mars rover with humanlike feelings which included letters to the rover from the daughter of the female scientist assembling it. I appreciated the Arabic heritage of the main human characters.


What have you been reading lately?

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March 2024: Virtual Nordic Events & Upcoming In Person Events

It’s a short and sweet list of online activities and events for March! However, Nordic enthusiasts in Southern California have a couple of big events they can look forward to in the next couple of months.

On Saturday, April 20, the Daughters of Norway, Turid Jespersen Lodge #44, will host the Scandinavian Heritage Fair in Mission Viejo. There will be demonstrations of traditional crafts such as rosemaling, spinning, weaving, wood carvers, and wood burners, as well as a genealogy booth. Watch the preparation of traditional foods such as aebleskiver, krumkake, lefse, and Norwegian waffles. Enjoy open-faced sandwiches, rømmegrøt, soups, kransekake, and other Scandinavian desserts. The fair will also feature products from Norrdesign T-Shirts, Norwegian Seamen’s Church, Karlsson’s Scandinavian Designs, and Joan Johnson Watercolor Cards. Admission is free. See their flier for details.

Then on the weekend of May 18 & 19, the Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks returns for its 50th anniversary. Tickets are already on sale. Early bird pricing ($15) is available through March 31. Children 12 and under are free and parking is always free. Consider volunteering at the festival. For your time, you will receive an official festival t-shirt and complimentary admission. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities for adults, college students, and high school students. They need your skills to assist with children’s crafts, family activities, head wreath station, and gate entrances. Interested or have questions? Reach out to scanfestvolunteers@gmail.com.

What’s on your calendar for March?


VIRTUAL EVENTS in MARCH

Online book clubs continue to meet. Visit Nordic Book Club Meetings: March 2024 to see details about book selections and meeting dates.

Intro to Swedish (Sat., Mar. 2, 1:00 p.m. CT)

Are you curious about the Swedish language, but not ready yet to commit to a multi-date class? Are you looking for a quick and low-pressure way to get excited and prepare for an upcoming visit to Sweden? This two-hour introductory workshop taught by Jean Hanslin is the perfect way to get a feel for Swedish, pick up a bit of grammar, and learn how to pronounce some words as part of basic conversation.

Intro to Finnish (Sun., Mar. 3, 1:00 p.m. CT)

Are you curious about the Finnish language, but not ready yet to commit to a multi-date class? Are you looking for a quick and low-pressure way to get excited and prepare for an upcoming visit to Finland? This two-hour introductory workshop taught by Joona Sundström is the perfect way to get a feel for Finnish, pick up a bit of grammar, and learn how to pronounce some words as part of basic conversation.

Nordic Spirit Second Friday: History of Scandinavia Leading to the Viking Age (Fri., Mar. 8, 7:30 p.m. PT, Free)

Join the Scandinavian American Cultural & Historical Foundation for a Zoom video presentation to learn about Scandinavian history from the end of the Ice Age leading up to Viking Age. Topics include Nordic Bronze Age and amber, thriving long-distance trade and expansion, kings and longhouses, diffusion of metallurgy, bog iron and Nordic Iron Age, regional warlords viable, replacing elite of the Bronze Age, Hjortspring boat c. 350 BC, Clinker-built connection with Viking ships 1200 years later. Email nordicspiritclassics@gmail.com to receive the Zoom link.

Webinar: Exploring Numedal Style Rosemaling with Patti Goke (Thurs., Mar. 14, 7:00 p.m. CT, Free)

Come and explore with Patti Goke, Vesterheim Gold Medalist, the different looks of the painted items from Numedal Valley. It is hard for even experts in rosemaling to think of a typical Numedal piece. That is because it had so many influences from Hallingdal and Telemark painters. Patti Goke has traveled twice to the valley known as the “Valley of the Middle Ages,” both times with Vesterheim on Folk Art Study Tours. She has also done individual study of the style and painters. Registration required for this free event.

Genealogy Session with the Swedish American Museum: Cemeteries (Sat., Mar. 23, 10:00 a.m. CT)

Delve into ancestry and history with the Swedish American Museum at one of their educational Genealogy sessions! The topic for March is cemeteries. Genealogists love cemeteries, and headstones make a good source material. This lecture explains some important differences in burial traditions between Sweden and the U.S. and how you can use resources online to search for gravesites in Sweden.

ASI Nordic Table Event: Open Faced Sandwiches for Spring (Thurs., Mar. 28, 1:00 p.m. CT)

Nordic open-faced sandwiches are a wonderful way to highlight seasonal ingredients. Known by various names including smörgås in Swedish and smørrebrød in Danish, open faced sandwiches are often eaten singly or in combination for a light lunch or as a part of a celebratory buffet. Join Kristi Bissell of True North Kitchen for this demo which will take us right into spring flavors—from fresh and colorful produce to favorite Easter ingredients—with assemblages of simple components that make for impressive sandwiches. Kristi will share her philosophy for building beautiful and interesting sandwiches, including tips for prepping components ahead for spring gatherings such as Easter, Mothers Day, and graduations. This class is designed as a demonstration, so students can watch the entire process and ask questions before tackling the dishes at home at a later date.

Meet the Author and Bake Along with Nichole Accettola, Scandinavian from Scratch (Sat., Mar. 30, 2:00 p.m. PT)

Join the National Nordic Museum for a special edition of Meet the Author, a bake along with Kantine chef (a Scandinavian-inspired eatery in San Francisco) and author Nichole Accettola. You’re invited to bake hazelnut cookies with Accettola from her cookbook Scandinavian from Scratch: A Love Letter to the Baking of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The cookbook brings to the page an assortment of baked goods and simple morning and midday meals rooted in Scandinavian cuisine.

ASI Nordic Table Event: Barley in the Nordic Kitchen (Thurs., Apr. 11, 1:00 p.m. CT)

Barley is one of the earliest cultivated grains in the Nordic region, and thousands of years later, it still deserves our attention! Low in gluten and high in fiber, barley was historically used for bread baking as well as brewing. In this virtual demo, Kristi Bissell of True North Kitchen will help us decode the different types of whole barley available, and also share why this is one of her favorite flours to keep on hand. Kristi will demo a delicious scone, a fresh salad perfect for spring, and discuss how she incorporates it into other dishes from breakfast to dinner. Healthy, delicious, and accommodating, barley might become your new favorite grain! This class is designed as a demonstration, so students can watch the entire process and ask questions before tackling the dishes at home at a later date.

Which events or experiences look interesting to you?

What I’ve Been Reading Lately & Reading Goals (January 2024)

It’s a new year with new beginnings, and it’s been a fun, strong start! I’ve set some reading goals and recommitted myself to reading challenges. I continue to join Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit where I join other readers in sharing what we’ve been reading lately.

A highlight of 2023 was the diversity of books I read both in regards to author perspective and genre, so in 2024, I am once again participating in the #DiversityAcrossGenres reading challenge. This year I am tweaking the genres a little. I’ll be reading General Fiction (a catch-all for all fiction that may otherwise not be included in the challenge), Romance, Mystery/Thriller (instead of Thriller/Horror), Historical Fiction (instead of Sci-fi/Fantasy), and Nonfiction.

I am also traveling around the world again using the The Book GirlsBook Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge as a framework. Their intent with the reading challenge is to travel from region to region together, but I will be jumping around as desired. My goal is to read more books set in countries I have not visited yet.

As for my Scandinavian/Nordic reading challenge, I am still thinking about the best way to proceed in 2024. When possible, I will certainly be reading Nordic books for the other challenges I am participating in, but I do want to plan a specific reading challenge as well to keep me focused throughout the year.

And finally, always a reading goal but really this year, is reading my own book shelf, especially unread Book of the Month selections. I’ve paused my membership until I’ve made greater process on that goal. I love exploring the new books every month, but I don’t normally get around to reading my selections in a timely manner. Once I clear some space on my unread shelf, I’ll start up again.

What have you been reading lately? Are any reading challenges on your horizon this year?


Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (2022) 📖

There was something about this book that kept me from reading it for a long time — the supposed disconnect between cover and story, the mixed reviews, etc. I finally read it now when my sister and nieces gave it to me for Christmas for a read-along. I loved it and zipped through it in no time. I admired the main character – her quirkiness and all – and loved all the supporting characters, especially the dog. The setting of the early 1960s in STEM and TV was both interesting and frustrating. The ending was very satisfying. It was a fun read with depth which I wish I had read sooner. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Read My Own Shelf: Gifted

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (2015) 🎧
Narrated by Jennifer Ikeda

This was a book club selection which I was not thrilled about reading since fantasy is not my favorite genre and I have so many other books I want to read. But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it! I was not expecting the romance aspect of it; I thought it would be pure fantasy. I learned a new term, “romantasy.” I just let myself enjoy the ride. I did not question any world building. I appreciated the strong, independent, willful female protagonist. Listening to this book was a great escape and took me to a world I wouldn’t be surprised if I returned to when I needed another escape. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


American War by Omar El Akkad (2017) 📖

This was an interesting book. I can’t really decide how I liked it, but it intrigued and engaged me until the end. The book takes place in the near future, 50 years from now, when the second American Civil War breaks out. Political and geographical US borders have shifted. Besides the North and South being divided, Texas is part of Mexico and much of the coastal land, including all of Florida, is underwater. Oil is outlawed. It’s about Sarat, only 6 when the war begins, her father is killed, and she and her family are displaced to a refugee camp in the South. Over time, she is influenced by a mentor and plays a significant role in the war. And there’s a plague that affects the whole country (interesting after our own pandemic). This would make a great book club read to discuss with others. ⭐️⭐️⭐️(⭐️) Can’t quite decide 3 or 4!


The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb (2022) 🎧
Narrated by J.D. Jackson

I loved this book. I listened to it. The narrator was excellent and there was even music included between parts of the book. Ray, a Black boy in love with playing the violin, did not get any support from his mother or his school to pursue his dream. Luckily for him, his grandmother saw his talent and believed in him, even giving him her grandfather’s old fiddle, which turned out to be a Stradivarius. What ensued was all sorts of drama and stress for Ray as he became an up-and-coming musician in a predominantly white field, most notably his violin getting stolen and held for ransom right before he was scheduled to compete at the most important competition of his life and in the world. I was immediately sucked into the mystery of who stole the violin and then the additional drama of who really owned the violin (Ray, his mother and her siblings, or the descendents of the slave owner who originally owned it). It was a great mix of coming-of-age, family drama, mystery, and history. I highly recommend it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • #DiversityAcrossGenres: Black / General Fiction or Mystery/Thriller
  • Read My Own Shelf: Little Free Library find

What have you been reading lately?

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February 2024: Virtual Nordic Events, Sámi Film Fest, & Nordic Spirit Symposium

February brings an interesting mix of in-person events for Nordic enthusiasts in Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York City and online events for everyone.

Of special interest this month is Sámi National Day on February 6, an ethnic national day celebrated by the indigenous Sámi people across northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Kola Peninsula in Russia. It is always on February 6, the date of the first Sámi congress in 1917 in Trondheim, Norway, when Sámi from Norway and Sweden met to discuss common issues. For more information on the history and culture of the Sámi, visit Life in Norway’s “The Sami People”.

If you or friends are in the New York City or Seattle areas, the 6th Annual Sámi Film Festival takes place in person February 9 and 10. Otherwise virtual screenings will be available nationwide from February 8-11. The program will include a variety of contemporary and historical Sámi features, documentaries, and short films curated by Liselotte Wajstedt, an award-winning Stockholm-based Sámi multimedia artist from Kiruna, Sweden.

This month also features the annual Nordic Spirit Symposium on February 9 and 10 at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA. This year’s topic is “Vikings: New Technology, New Discoveries.” Experts from Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden will join for an in-person symposium on recent exciting Viking Age discoveries. A top scholar from the Netherlands will embellish the program with a presentation about the Vikings in the Low Countries. Please note lunch and dinner must be ordered in advance. Registration for dinner ends February 1 and lunch ends February 4. For more details and registration information, visit the website or view the brochure.

Save the date for the Scandinavian Heritage Fair in Mission Viejo hosted by the Daughters of Norway, Turid Jespersen Lodge #44, on Saturday, April 20. There will be demonstrations of rosemaling, spinning, weaving, wood carvers, and wood burners, as well as a genealogy booth. Watch the preparation of foods such as aebleskiver, krumkake, lefse, and Norwegian waffles. Enjoy open-faced sandwiches, rømmegrøt, soups, kransekake, and other Scandinavian desserts. The fair will also feature products from Norrdesign T-Shirts, Norwegian Seamen’s Church, Karlsson’s Scandinavian Designs, and Joan Johnson Watercolor Cards. Admission is free.  See their flier for details.

What’s on your calendar for February?


VIRTUAL EVENTS in FEBRUARY

Online book clubs continue to meet. Visit Nordic Book Club Meetings: February 2024 to see details about book selections and meeting dates.

Introduction to Norwegian Genealogy (Thurs., Feb. 1 & Fri., Feb. 2)

Join the Norwegian American Genealogical Center in Madison, Wisconsin, for this online class. It is for those who are familiar with genealogy basics, but haven’t dug into Norwegian genealogical research yet. The class will focus on Norwegian naming traditions, history and geography along with strategies for reading old handwriting and finding where in Norway your ancestor may have originated. This class also includes a copy of their “Research Guide for Norwegian Genealogy: For Beginning and Experienced Genealogists.” This class is two days with different material presented each day.

Intro to Northern Sámi (Sunday, Feb. 4, 2:00 p.m. CT)

Are you curious about the Sámi language and culture? Are you looking for a quick and low-pressure way to get excited and prepare for an upcoming visit to the north of Finland, Sweden, or Norway? This two-hour introductory workshop taught by Áila O’Loughlin is the perfect way to learn some history of the nine living dialects of Sápmi, get a feel for North Sámi, pick up a bit of grammar and learn how to pronounce some words as part of basic greetings. Families are welcome!

Religion and Norwegian-American Quilts (Tuesday, Feb. 6, 7:00 p.m. CT)

Can you imagine a time and place without quilts? It may be hard to believe, but few Norwegians in the nineteenth century had ever seen quilts. Immigrants to the United States needed quilts for warmth and to help their homes look more American. Quilts from Vesterheim’s Textile Collection tell the story of the immigrant experience between 1860 and 1940. Join Vesterheim Chief Curator Laurann Gilbertson and the Northeast Iowa Quilters Guild for this presentation.

ASI Nordic Table: Scandinavian Chocolate Treats with Kristi Bissell (Thursday, Feb. 8, 1:00 p.m. CT)

Very few of us can say no to a chocolate treat, and Scandinavians regularly end up on the list of top 10 countries for chocolate consumption per capita—so let’s join Kristi Bissell of True North Kitchen for an overview of their favorite classic chocolate bakes! From kladdkaka (chocolate gooey cake) to a few beloved cookies, and even an oven free chocolate treat, the chokladboll, Kristi will share tips and tricks for working with cocoa and chocolate to create satisfying and easy treats perfect for dessert or fika.

Virtual Sámi Film Festival (Feb. 8-11)

The 6th Annual Sámi Film Festival is a partnership between the National Nordic Museum in Seattle and Scandinavia House in New York City with virtual screenings available February 8-11. Virtual selections in the lineup include seven short films, with narrative and documentary subjects spanning topics ranging from traditional ways of life and cultural practices, historical traumas and conflicts in the present day, to alternative universes.

Ædnan Virtual Book Talk with Linnea Axelsson (Tuesday, Feb. 13, 11:00 a.m. ET)

Join Scandinavia House for a virtual book talk with Sámi-Swedish author Linnea Axelsson on Ædnan, her epic, August Prize-winning multigenerational novel-in-verse about two Sámi families and their quest to stay together across a century of migration, violence, and colonial trauma. The author will be joined by moderator Matilde Augusta Huseby for a talk about the writing of the novel. This event will be followed by a related online book club meeting at 6:00 p.m. ET (details).

Knife Skills in the Nordic Kitchen with Kristi Bissell (Saturday, Feb. 17)

If you’ve ever watched a cooking show and marveled at the speed that the ingredients get prepped, this class is for you! Instructor Kristi Bissell will share tips and tricks for slicing, dicing, chopping, and mincing quickly and safely and discuss how to care for your knives. Best of all, at the end of the class, you’ll have a delicious Nordic soup and salad prepped and ready for dinner! Enrollment deadline: Feb. 3 (spots available as of publication date).

Family Handcraft at Home: Wet Felting with Laura Berlage (Registration deadline Feb. 16)

Begins March 1, available all month! Using hand-dyed wool from the instructor’s sheep, learn how to both wet and needle felt over a bar of soap. Felted soaps are beautiful, and they will help your bar of soap last much longer too! Great for all ages. The kit comes with everything you need. This program has been designed for families to experience on their own schedules. Through a detailed video tutorial, Laura will take you step-by-step through the process from start to finish, with plenty of pro tips and invitations for personalizing your bar of soap. Roll up your sleeves, prepare to get sudsy, and enjoy this tactile-rich experience!

Intro to Sámi Knitting with Laura Ricketts (Sunday, Feb. 18, 10:00 a.m. PT)

The Sámi are Scandinavia’s only UN-recognized indigenous people and have a culture rich with fiber traditions. In this virtual Introduction to Sámi Knitting class, students will be introduced to traditional Sámi knitting, which was almost exclusively used to produce hand garments. Students will view many images of mittens from the instructor’s trips to northern Scandinavia and learn about the four characteristics that set Sámi mittens apart: cuffs, thumbs, decreases, and braids (with and without tassels). Students will create a sample swatch by practicing each of these elements and leave with the knowledge to translate their skills into a full-sized pair of mittens. Click here to learn more and view the class level and required materials list.

FamilieTid: Family Cook Along – Nordic Tacos (Sunday, Feb. 18, 11:00 a.m. CT, Free)

Join chef Patrice Johnson for this fun and delicious way to experience Scandinavian food culture. Tacos are a long favored Friday evening meal across the region, and families who love this tradition are finding ways to vary their beloved tacos. In class, students will dabble in traditional Nordic tacos and an Icelandic Skúffukaka (chocolate brownie cake topped with coconut).

Vesterheim Folk Art School Registration for Summer Classes Opens (Tuesday, Feb. 20, 12:00 p.m. CT)

Registration for online and in-person summer classes (April-September 2024) opens Tuesday, February 20. Get ready to register by checking out this PDF catalog of classes. You will find classes in Rosemaling and Painting, Fiber Arts, Design and Inspiration, Heritage and Language, Music, Weaving, Nordic Cooking, Knifemaking and Metalwork, Woodworking, Youth and Family, and Jewelry.

Scandinavian Flat Plane Figure Carving: One Blank to Rule Them All with Charlie Banks (Saturday, Feb. 24, 1:00 p.m. CT)

Join carving instructor and Vesterheim Gold Medalist Charles Banks for a lecture on Scandinavian flat plane figure carving and his creative process. In this webinar, Charles Banks will talk about the different figures and characters he has made all with the same starting blank, and what that means for the development of his creative process. He will discuss how he has used this simple blank to push himself to try out new character designs and poses. Come learn about how starting with one blank, a whole menagerie of characters can be made. Leave with the inspiration to start carving yourself!

Which events or experiences look interesting to you?

What I’ve Been Reading Lately & Reading Challenges Update (December 2023)

The 2023 reading year was a good one, so many different reading experiences. I didn’t quite check off all my goals as planned but new and exciting reading opportunities came up along the way.

Once again, I traveled around the world with The Book GirlsBook Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge. I visited 19 countries (not including the USA), three of which were new to me in reading (Albania, Argentina, and Italy), and I traveled to more of South America than in previous years. Books in translation made up 50% of the Book Voyage books.

I didn’t complete my 2023 Nordic Lit Reading Challenge as planned – a unique Nordic country for each of the six categories – but I still felt good about how it played out.

What I thought would be a simpler approach with fewer categories (in the past it’s been 12) turned out to require too much research and planning for all the pieces to fall into place. Also, I was distracted by new reading challenges.

I did read two new-to-me Nordic authors, Denmark’s Kim Leine (Reading Lately, May) and Finland’s Emmi Itäranta (Reading Lately, March). I also read two Norwegian authors long on my radar, Brit Bildøen (Reading Lately, August) and Abid Raja (Reading Lately, September) as well as a highly anticipated Swedish Sámi novel (Reading Lately, April). Looking back now, all I needed to do for the pieces to fall into place as planned was to read a Swedish book by or about a marginalized group or another book by or about the Sámi people and their history and culture, fiction or nonfiction. Goals for 2024!

Somewhere in the middle of 2023, I picked up the #DiversityAcrossGenres reading challenge, which I greatly enjoyed participating in. I read many diverse authors and different genres that I wouldn’t necessarily have read if I weren’t on the lookout for them. Click here to see my 2023 reads. I ran out of time to complete some categories, but I have those titles on my TBR for 2024’s challenge.

What have you been reading lately?


The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong (2016) 📖🎧
Translated from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim (2018), narrated by Johnathan McClain & Elizabeth Liang

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one. It had been on and off my radar for a while as a book in translation by an Asian woman, and I finally read it now since I needed a thriller/horror by an Asian author for #DiversityAcrossGenres. It’s about a 26-year-old man who wakes up to find his mother dead in their home. He does not remember much from the night before, but as he tries to figure it out, more and more is revealed, both about what happened and about his past. The author really takes the reader inside his mind as he pieces everything together from bits and pieces of memories. It’s a dark and disturbing story (decent amount of  violence) but intriguing to see it all come together. ⭐️⭐️⭐️


People Like Them by Samira Sedira (2020) 🎧
Translated from the French by Lara Vergnaud (2021), narrated by Susan Nezami

This story by a French-Algerian author is loosely inspired by a quintuple murder that happened in 2003 in France. In that case, racist motives were completely overlooked. In this novella, the author takes into consideration race, which she believes to be an essential key to understanding that tragedy. The story begins mid-2015, a significant year for France with terrorist attacks both in January and November.

A wealthy Black man and his family move to a newly built chalet in a remote French mountain village. A little over a year later, they are murdered by a local whom everyone described as “normal”. The story opens with a retelling of the brutal murder. There is no doubt of the defendant’s guilt, just questions about his motivation. The story is from the point of view of the murderer’s wife. Reflecting on the tragedy and her husband’s role in it, she alternates between the trial and how she and her husband met and life in the village before the murder. It’s a thought-provoking look on human nature and race and class relations. The translation and the narration were both excellent. ⭐️⭐️⭐️


Our Last Days in Barcelona (The Perez Family #5) by Chanel Cleeton (2022) 🎧
Narrated by Almarie Guerra, Elena Rey, and Victoria Villarreal

I read and enjoyed Next Year in Havana, the first book in the Perez Family series. I started but had to set aside the second one, When We Left Cuba. Now I skipped ahead to the last in the series, which was not a problem, but the family tree I found in the back of the book was helpful.

This is the story of Isabel, the oldest of four sisters. She travels from Palm Beach, Florida, to Barcelona in 1964 to track down her younger sister, Beatriz. The story jumps between Isabel in Barcelona in 1964 (unhappily married in Palm Beach) and the sisters’ mother Alicia in Barcelona in 1936 (at her parents’ home after leaving her cheating husband in Cuba) with some chapters from the perspective of Alicia’s cousin in Havana in 1936 (husband went to fight in Spain). There were many similarities, too many, between the storylines which made it hard to distinguish them at times. What I appreciated the most was the historical aspect of the novel. It takes place during the Civil War in Spain and also explores the historical relationship between Cuba and Spain, both of which have been rare topics in my reading. However, at the same time, I wish there had been a stronger sense of place in Barcelona. ⭐️⭐️⭐️


What have you been reading lately? Do you have any reading challenges planned for 2024?

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Nordic Events for January 2024: Virtual & Scandinavian Film Festival LA 

Godt nytt år! Happy New Year! January brings both virtual events available to all and a couple of special events happening in the Los Angeles area that might be of interest to local readers. Additionally, online book clubs continue to meet. Visit Nordic Book Club Meetings: January 2024 to see details about book selections and meeting dates for the current and upcoming months.

What’s on your calendar for January?


LOS ANGELES AREA IN-PERSON EVENTS

A reminder that Thomas Dambo TROLLS: Save the Humans is on display at South Coast Botanic Garden on the Palos Verdes Peninsula through January 14. Danish artist Thomas Dambo is considered the world’s leading recycle artist and is known internationally for his larger-than-life, folklore-inspired, whimsical troll sculptures made from reclaimed materials. I’ve been fascinated by Dambo’s work found around the world and was thrilled to be able to see it for myself here in Southern California. I highly recommend a visit to see the collection of trolls before they leave.

The Scandinavian Film Festival LA with BalticFilmExpo @SFFLA celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The festival will be back at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills for two weekends, January 13 & 14 and 20 & 21, with films from Scandinavia and its Nordic and Baltic neighbors. The festival program features a wide variety of films, including the Oscar entries for Best International Feature from each of the Nordic countries. Will any of these Oscar entries make it onto the list of nominations announced on January 24?

🇳🇴 Norway: Songs of Earth, written and directed by Margreth Olin (Saturday, January 13, 1:30 p.m., view trailer)

🇸🇪 Sweden: Opponent, directed by Milad Alami (Sunday, January 14, 4:30 p.m., view trailer)

🇩🇰 Denmark: The Promised Land, directed by Nikolaj Arcel (Sunday, January 14, 7:00 p.m., view trailer)

🇫🇮 Finland: Fallen Leaves, directed by Aki Kaurismäki (Saturday, January 13, 7:00 p.m., view trailer)

🇮🇸 Iceland: Godland, directed by Hlynur Pálmason (Sunday, January 14, 2:00 p.m., view trailer)

Festival goers can purchase a festival pass which includes access to all screenings as well as the opening gala on Saturday, January 13, or buy individual tickets. Buy passes and tickets now.

Save the date! The annual Nordic Spirit Symposium will take place February 9 and 10 at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA. This year’s topic is “Vikings: New Technology – New Discoveries.” Experts from Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden will join for an in-person symposium on recent exciting Viking Age discoveries. A top scholar from the Netherlands will embellish the program with a presentation about the Vikings in the Low Countries. For more details and registration information, visit the website or view the brochure.


VIRTUAL EVENTS

The History of Norwegian Sweaters (Thursday, Jan. 4, 6:30 p.m. CT)

Learn about the history of different types and styles of Norwegian sweaters, including Setesdal, Fana, Marius, and Olympic from textile expert and Vesterheim Chief Curator Laurann Gilbertson. Laurann will also discuss the symbolism behind some of the patterns and colors on sweaters made today. This is an open online meeting of Sons of Norway Lodge 1-001 Nidaros, from the Minneapolis, Minnesota, West Area. Laurann will join the meeting remotely to share the presentation. Visitors wishing to attend the meeting may sign up for the Zoom link here.

Intro to Finnish (Sunday, Jan. 7, 12:45 p.m. CT)

Are you curious about the Finnish language, but not ready yet to commit to a multi-date class? Are you looking for a quick and low-pressure way to get excited and prepare for an upcoming visit to Finland? This two-hour introductory workshop taught by Joona Sundström is the perfect way to get a feel for Finnish, pick up a bit of grammar, and learn how to pronounce some words as part of basic conversation.

Intro to Swedish (Sunday, Jan. 7, 1:00 p.m. CT)

Are you curious about the Swedish language, but not ready yet to commit to a multi-date class? Are you looking for a quick and low-pressure way to get excited and prepare for an upcoming visit to Sweden? This two-hour introductory workshop taught by Jean Hanslin is the perfect way to get a feel for Swedish, pick up a bit of grammar, and learn how to pronounce some words as part of basic conversation.

Sámi Histories, Colonization & Today Lecture 1 (Wednesday, Jan. 17, 6:30 p.m. CT)

This is the first of a three-part lecture series held on the third Wednesdays of January, February, and March over Zoom. The Sámi are the only recognized Indigenous people in Europe, whose lands, Sápmi, are claimed and divided by the Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Russian nation-states. Despite the central roles they’ve played in Fennoscandia, the Sámi are commonly rendered as marginal, ahistorical wildlings whose lands are a mismanaged frontier, ripe for the taking. This lecture series illuminates how untrue those renderings are. In this first lecture, students will learn about Sámi oral and archaeological histories, diversity, and land tenure.

ASI Nordic Handcraft: Stamped Tea Towels with Kayla Ann (Thursday, Jan. 18, 6:30 p.m. CT)

Create your own stamps and print a tea towel in just an evening. Kayla will guide students through the process of carving a simple stamp or two, then printing a tea towel right at home. These skills will work for all kinds of future printing projects on paper or fabric, plus you’ll keep your reusable stamps and all the tools you need to keep printing. Suitable for ages 18+.

ASI Nordic Table: Easy Finnish Flatbreads with Kristi Bissell (Thursday, Jan. 18, 1:00 p.m. CT)

Join Kristi Bissell of the True North Kitchen food blog for two easy Finnish flatbreads featuring whole grains for flavor and nutrition! Kristi will start by demonstrating ruisreikäleipä, or Finnish ring bread. Originally hung from the rafters, Kristi’s version of this yeasted rye bread features honey and a cereal soaker, which creates sweet grainy flavor and a soft texture. Kristi will also share her un-yeasted version of rieska, a quick bread that uses buttermilk, baking powder and baking soda for rise. This bread can be made after work for dinner, and uses barley flour and oats for wholesome nutrition, texture and flavor. Students will be ready to start their ovens immediately after class!

ASI Nordic Handcraft: Scandinavian Loom Beaded Folk Band (Fridays, Jan. 19 – Feb. 9, 2:00 p.m. CT)

Explore the beauty and fun of beading on a loom in the Scandinavian tradition! Inspired by designs from Nordic bandweaving, this class will take you from start to finish to make your own red and gold beaded bookmark. Learn about the historic use of loom beading and how a remarkably simple process can transform glass seed beads into delightful designs. Over the four sessions, students will practice warping their own loom, reading a chart, and various finishing options; they should also plan to work on their projects outside of class. Suitable for ages 16+.

Immigration Stories – From Closed Doors to Open Doors (Saturday, Jan. 20, 1:00 p.m. CT)

Artist Arna Rennan will give a presentation about emigration from central Norway featuring songs, images, and anecdotes that she collected in Bøverdalen, Norway. Between 1900 and 1920, half of the population of Bøverdalen immigrated to the United States. Another portion of the population left around 1950 to join relatives who had settled in the United States. Economic and social conditions were among the primary reasons for leaving. Arna takes a closer look at the existing class system found in Norway at the time and how the rural communities dealt with poverty. She will share some of these stories to bring the immigrant experience to life. This is a hybrid presentation. Watch from home on Zoom as Arna presents at Vesterheim.

Exploring Numedal Style Rosemaling with Patti Goke (Sunday, Jan. 28, 1:00 p.m. CT)

When you hear of the style of painting that comes from Numedal, Norway, what image comes to mind? It is hard for even experts in rosemaling to think of a typical Numedal piece. That is because it had so many influences from Hallingdal and Telemark painters. Come and explore with Patti Goke, Vesterheim Gold Medalist, the different looks of the painted items from Numedal Valley. She has traveled twice to the valley known as the “Valley of the Middle Ages,” both times with Vesterheim on Folk Art Study Tours.

Wellbeing Workshop: Embracing Winter with Norwegian Friluftsliv (Tuesday, Jan. 30, 11:00 a.m. PT)

In 2024, the National Nordic Museum is prioritizing their personal well-being! Join health psychologist Kari Leibowitz, PhD in this one-hour interactive workshop to learn about the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv; the psychological and health benefits of getting outside, connecting with nature, and practicing friluftsliv; and how you can incorporate the practice into your own life to make the most out of the winter.

Introduction to Norwegian Genealogy (Thurs., Feb. 1 & Fri., Feb. 2 (10:00 a.m. CT)

Join the Norwegian American Genealogical Center in Madison, Wisconsin, for this online class. It is for those who are familiar with genealogy basics, but haven’t dug into Norwegian genealogical research yet. The class will focus on Norwegian naming traditions, history and geography along with strategies for reading old handwriting and finding where in Norway your ancestor may have originated. This class also includes a copy of their “Research Guide for Norwegian Genealogy: For Beginning and Experienced Genealogists.” This class is two days with different material presented each day.

ASI Nordic Table: Scandinavian Chocolate Treats with Kristi Bissell (Thursday, Feb. 8, 1:00 p.m. CT)

Very few of us can say no to a chocolate treat, and Scandinavians regularly end up on the list of top 10 countries for chocolate consumption per capita—so join Kristi Bissell of True North Kitchen for an overview of their favorite classic chocolate bakes! From kladdkaka (chocolate gooey cake) to a few beloved cookies, and even an oven free chocolate treat, the chokladboll, Kristi will share tips and tricks for working with cocoa and chocolate to create satisfying and easy treats perfect for dessert or fika.

Virtual Sámi Film Festival (Feb. 9-12)

The 6th Annual Sámi Film Festival returns to the National Nordic Museum this February. Presented as a partnership between the National Nordic Museum in Seattle and Scandinavia House in New York, the festival will take place virtually from February 9-12 and in-person at both venues. The program will include a variety of contemporary and historical Sámi features, documentaries, and short films curated by Liselotte Wajstedt, an award-winning Stockholm-based Sámi multimedia artist from Kiruna, Sweden.


Which events or experiences look interesting to you?