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“Kappakjolen” – the Story of a Dress

We have just celebrated my mothers 90th birthday this weekend, and during the festivities, an old family photograph turned up. Below I have cropped the photo so it just shows  a 7 or 8 years old me in the most beautiful dress I have ever owned.

My mother related the story of the dress, which for the most part I knew, but there were some new-to-me details. Anyway, here it is:

My parents had built their house close to my paternal grandparents’ home, and we moved in when I was two years old. At about the same time, an old chapel (bedehus) was taken from its original location and moved further into the valley, closer to the farms where we lived. My paternal grandmother, Helene, and neighbouring women formed a society with the aim of raising money for a new organ for the chapel. They organized bazaars and raffles, and my mother helped by making some of the prizes for the raffles. She made this dress and gave it to the society to use as a raffle prize. She made it out of a thin, white nylon fabric with tiny raised dots, using an old Bernina treadle machine, and at a time in life when she had 4 children aged 1 to 6, was expecting her 5th child, and still had no washing machine. How she mustered the time and energy I do not know. Just hemming all those ruffles would have taken forever.

My grandmother Helene won the dress at the raffle, and she gave it to me, probably because I was the right size for it at the time. Lucky me.

The first time I remember wearing it, was during the Christmas celebrations when I was 5. By then I was in a hospital in Oslo, 600 kilometres away from home, and alone, except for some distant relatives and friends visiting now and then. When it was decided that I would not be able to come home for Christmas, my parents sent the dress and a pair of not-quite-new shoes, which my father had made glossy and new-looking by applying some black lacquer, so I would have something nice to wear for the celebrations. I remember the nurses oohing and aahing over my dress, and I was very, very proud of it.

Later I remember wearing it to the Sunday school Christmas celebrations at the chapel, where there now was an organ, partly thanks to the dress that my mother made. We did not have a car (they were rationed till 1960), so my parents loaded the family on two kicksleds, two children on each seat, and one standing between the seat and the parent, who then kicked our way the 3 kilometres to the chapel. Once a storm blew up on our way home, and I can still remember the feeling of hails stinging my face as we crossed an open, boggy area before we got in between the trees. Of course we were all dressed as if we were going on a polar expedition, but the beautiful dress was underneath it all. So the first thing we did upon arriving, was to go downstairs to shed all the thick wool, put on our best shoes we had brought along, and then it was time for my mother to comb our hairs and put in the big bows (which I hated, by the way) before entering the big room. 60 years later I have been told by some of my contemporaries that they still remember that dress.

The photo above is the only one that exists of that dress, that I know of. I was then 7 or 8 years old, and the dress is already too small. Later it went to my two younger sisters, each in their turn. I am not sure what became of it after that, but it was probably passed on to some younger cousins, – that was how things were done back then. If so, I hope they enjoyed wearing it as much as I did.










Unexpected Treasure



Thanks to a family friend, this lovely book found its way to our home this Christmas.


I have not read it yet, and know nothing about the content of the book.


But I saw that it was beautiful the second after it emerged from the wrapping paper, and it felt good to hold it in my hands.


Of course, I also saw that it is not new, as it has some wear to it both front and back, but that adds to its charm.


When opening the front cover I discovered these lovely endpapers, which took me back to our childhood school library.  The first leaf has come loose, and I am debating whether to tape it or not. At the moment it has been left as it is.


Also, the old fashioned pattern reminded me of tone on tone quilting fabric.


On the next page was another surprise: the year of printing. This is one of the reasons I think paper books are superior to digital ones: someone can still hold them in their hands and enjoy their beauty 164 years after they were printed.


As I mentioned above, I have still not read it, but the first page looks promising. It has only two sentences, – the second one even continues on to the next page. There will be a lot of untangling to do, and I will probably expand my vocabulary as I already see a couple of words I will have to look up.


When closing the book, I also noticed there was a pattern of very fine blue and red lines on the leaf ends.


According to Wikipedia, Tauchnitz was a Leipzig based print business and publisher, providing a series of affordable reprints of works of American and English authors. The books were like mass market paper backs of their time, although paper back is not something that comes to mind when handling this book.

It will be treasured.




Christmas, – and Decorations

I am breaking the blog silence to wish you all a Happy Christmas, and to show you some old Christmas decorations displayed in a local gallery this month.


Gallery Frøya in Kalvåg issued an invitation for the locals to show some of the old Christmas decorations that they might have in their possession.


People responded by bringing some very old, and some not so very old, decorations.

I remember us having chains of baubles just like the ones here when I grew up.


When I visited the exhibition on the last day, some had already come to fetch their small treasures. I managed to snap a photo of this box before it left.  Christmas decorations do not come in such simple cardboard boxes with stapled corners any more, – it is either flimsy plastic, or more elaborate boxes for the more expensive decorations.



Paper hearts similar to these are traditional, but not all are quite as fancy as the ones here.


The oldest pieces in the exhibition were some chains of baubles like the one above. A  young couple bought them right after their wedding in 1912, so they are 100 years old.


This one also looks old, but not as old as to have lost its shine. It can still reflect both the camera, and some of the decorations around it.



The one above has adorned the Christmas tree in the local church for many, many years.


I have always loved the baubles with one dented side with many, many colours in it. This one seems to have lost some of its colour, but is still beautiful.



People have manages to save quite a lot of old baubles, even though they are so very easy to break.



Pine cones in every colour is also a favourite….


… and I loved this mushroom.


This wooden sugar cane was also very cute.


Birds are also favourites. This one has lost its feather tail.


There were two of these in the exhibition. It seems to be made of paper mache with glued on cardboard wings and tail.


The wooden one here was a charmer.


Of course there were also angels, both on the tree…


… and as candle holders.


There were also examples of Madonna figurines….


… and a Madonna and Child made of wooden shavings to hang on the tree.

Of course, when it is Christmas, you cannot escape the “nisse”:


The small one here is always allowed to ride on the straw goat when it is out for Christmas.


I loved this one with its hair and beard made of unravelled rope.


This one showed very little wear, although it is quite old.


The person who made it paid a lot of attention to decorative details. This was before the time that ready made toothpicks were sold in the shops, so it was told that he painted with sharpened matches.



Merry Christmas to everyone.

God jul


Happy Christmas

I just wanted to share some photos of some of the delightful Madonna-and-Child paintings that I took in the Vatican Museum this autumn, – along with the very best wishes for a Happy Christmas for everybody.



A couple of weeks before Christmas my husband and I spent a weekend in Bergen. Although it is not far, we seldom spend much time there as we usually just travel through. This time, however, we enjoyed ourselves a lot.

We were travelling with a group, and it was mostly a social trip, but with plenty of time in between for walking around the town, and for shopping.

The Saturday was very nice, so most of the day it was possible to walk the streets without an umbrella.

The harbour area is a very nice place on a day like this.

People were coming and going by boat, just as they have been doing for centuries in this place.

I could not resist zooming in on some of the patterns created by the reflections in the water.

Walking past the market stalls was also a feast for the eyes.

… and you could grow hungry just by looking…

We also walked over to the Bryggen area, where the Farmers’ Market was open this weekend.

The stalls were filled with lots of goodies, and there were lots of people looking and buying.

It is hard not to be tempted to buy even more than you can carry.

We were especially tempted by all the delicious home made cheese, and we bought pieces from several stalls. They will be a tasteful addition on our Christmas lunch table.

Bryggen has some very old and pittoresque buildings, which are on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

The narrow alleys between the buildings are worth exploring.  Many small shops, galleries and studios can be found here.

There are also many charming open spaces at the back of the buildings.

When it started to rain, we ducked into one of the shopping centers nearby. As this was two weeks before Christmas, they were not too crowded, and as we were not in a hurry either, we had time to look around and enjoy the Christmas decorations.

I especially liked theese:

When strolling along the festive streets, we also came across this sculpture:

A useful reminder that not everyone is prosperous, and someone might be in need of assistance, – and not just at Christmas time.

We also visited the Gingerbread City, but I’ll have to make a separate post about that. After all, it is the world’s largest of its kind.


There is a First Time for Everything…

. . . . even at tradition bound Christmas.

This year we went plastic for the first time, but probably not the last, – and also probably not forever.

Every second year my husband does not come home till the day before Christmas, or thereabout, –  so getting a decent, thawed, and/or dry, Christmas tree in time, may sometimes be a problem.

On one afternoon, about a week before Christmas, a farmer from further inland usually brings a truck load of Christmas trees for sale to our island, so that those of us who do not want to take an axe to a local tree ourselves, may still be able to bring one home.  So many a time I have picked up a tree in the parking lot by the local shop and wrestled it single handed into the car during drenching rain, sleet, or a howling gale, – but never ever accompanied by softly falling white snow.

So last year I thought ahead, and in order to forestall another dreadful Christmas tree expedition this year, I caved in and bought a plastic tree as a present for my husband. (Nothing wrong in giving presents that benefit more persons in the household than the recipient himself). So underneath our lovely, original, two-topped Christmas tree of last year, was a wrapped plastic tree, which graces our living room this year.

The little bit of irony is, that we have had lovely winter weather through almost all of December, so this year I really could have collected a live tree accompanied by softly falling Christmas card snow, – but that is a First that was not to happen this time around.

And I am happy with stressless plastic for now.

Merry Christmas everyone!