Southern California’s Annual Scandinavian Festival Returns

The annual Southern California Scandinavian Festival took a hiatus last year, but it’s back again this April for the 42nd time. It’s one of my favorite Scandinavian events in the greater Los Angeles area. We’ve gone as a family throughout the years and enjoyed lots of family friendly activities and great food. And the setting in Thousand Oaks is lovely. But then sports began taking over our weekends making it more difficult to attend, especially since the outing required close to an hour drive each way.

At the last festival in 2015, I chose to spend a day there alone instead of squeezing in a visit by the whole family. First I volunteered at an entrance selling tickets for a few hours, and then I wandered the grounds for a couple of hours more. What I love about the festival is that there is something for everyone, whether you’re there as a family with kids (kids 12 and under are free) or as adults enjoying on your own.

When we went as a family, it was all about keeping the kids occupied and happy, which certainly wasn’t hard. During their many visits throughout the years, my kids have made wooden butter knives, created fish print totes, made braided bracelets, marveled at Viking life, been fascinated by Viking weaponry, dressed like Vikings, fought like Vikings, played Kubb and croquet, played bingo, and climbed rock walls. They’ve eaten Swedish meatballs and pancakes, Danish aebleskiver, and Norwegian lefser.

We’ve always had a great time, but I wasn’t left with much of an opportunity to explore the more adult offerings. During visits with the family, I always spotted out of the corner of my eye the booths that demonstrated Nordic arts and crafts and food, but I never had a chance to really take a closer look. The musical performances on the festival stage I only enjoyed from afar. My perusal of the shopping area was always very quick.

Last year when I went alone, I still looked to see what activities were available for kids. Every third year my children’s elementary school has an International Day and I’m always on the lookout for activities that I can offer to highlight Norwegian or Scandinavian culture. I learned about Viking whipcord braiding, where weighted bobbins (in this case bottles) are swung back and forth to create a braid. It certainly looked like something we could do at our school’s International Day. Also, I saw the butter knife making station was as popular as ever.

Needless to say, I was able to leisurely visit the demonstration booths. I learned more about arts and crafts such as bobbin lace making and traditional Norwegian rosemaling. I visited the food demonstration booth while they were making rosettes.

At the Nordic Shopping Mart, I admired a great assortment of products such as jewelry, linens, woodwork, and other Scandinavian inspired items. I enjoyed food from the food court and performances on stage.

This year promises many of the same fun activities and experiences for all, plus more. Kids will want to pick up a Children’s Passport when they arrive and set out on a quest to complete a trip through the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. Each country will offer a hands-on craft, and upon completion, the kids can get their passports stamped. In Norway, they will have a chance to make their own rock troll to take home. In Sweden, they can make straw ornaments, and in Denmark, paper fish are the main attraction. There will also be much happening on the Children’s Stage. The schedule includes songs, games, stories, puppet shows, and more. And of course, kids will also be able to visit Torsten the Troll, play Dala Horse croquet and Viking Kubb, make a wooden butter knife, and visit the Viking Encampment and Sami Village.

New for adults this year is a DNA and genealogy expert who will represent Family Tree DNA. DNA kits will be available for purchase if you wish to see how much Viking blood you have. There will also be local experts from the Conejo Valley and Ventura County Genealogical Societies to give advice and assistance.

The festival opens on Saturday, April 1, at 10:30 a.m., with a colorful parade of flags, along with dignitaries from the participating countries. Many will be in traditional costumes which will add a nice festive touch. The festivities then continue with a full schedule of performances, lectures, demonstrations of crafts and foods, and activities.

There will also be screenings of the documentary Yoik Fever, produced by Ellen-Astri Lundby (2013), both Saturday and Sunday at 12 p.m. It’s about “a young Sámi-Norwegian music major yearning to connect to her heritage through the dwindling Sámi singing tradition of yoiking. Part road trip, this wholly inter-generational journey undertaken by Ylva to master the art of yoik reveals the conflicted and courageous state of Sámi identity today… Filmed in an entertaining cabaret-style mash-up of film styles and genres, the film’s ending will leave you with a serious case of ‘yoik fever!'”

I will be returning to the festival this year again as a volunteer. Sports schedules are not set yet so I don’t know if the whole family will be able to go. Whether I go alone or the family joins me, I’m certainly looking forward to the return of the festival.

What I’ve Read: Vidunderbarn (Child Wonder) by Roy Jacobsen

Recently, I read Roy Jacobsen’s Vidunderbarn (Child Wonder) for my Scandinavian Book Group. I always make a point of reading a Norwegian book in anticipation of (or during) our annual summer trip to Norway to brush up on my Norwegian, but I don’t often read another beyond that. I’m grateful for discovering this book group because it’s given me an added incentive to search out new (to me) Norwegian authors and carve out more time to read Norwegian.

I first became aware of Roy Jacobsen when I was home in Oslo during the summer of 2016. A Roy Jacobsen book, Hvitt hav (published 2015), was on the display of top 10 paperbacks at a local bookstore, and another of his books, De usynlige (published 2013), was on a table of popular books on sale. I was happy to find a contemporary Norwegian non-crime author who wrote novels set in Norway, and I made a mental note to consider him for a future read.

When it came time to pick the next read for the Scandinavian Book Group, the other members of the group were happy to make the next pick a Norwegian one in my honor (it was my first meeting with them). The only requirement was that it had to be available in English, and they preferred a non-crime book. They had already read Jacobsen’s The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles (Hoggerne, published 2005), so I suggested Child Wonder (Vidunderbarn, published 2009). The description and reviews sounded interesting, and it had received the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize in 2009 which made it even more promising.

Child Wonder takes place in Norway in the early 1960’s and is about 10-year Finn who lives with his working mother in an apartment complex in a working-class suburb of Oslo. He is a boy who does well in school and enjoys playing outside with his friends. He and his mother get along well. Then their world begins to change. First, they convert Finn’s bedroom into a room that they can rent out, and soon a lodger is staying with them in their apartment. And he brings along a television that ends up in the shared family room. Next, they welcome Linda, Finn’s unknown 6-year old half-sister, into their family.

The book looks at their life together for a little over a year through the eyes of Finn. We see Finn’s relationship with the lodger take shape. We see Finn being a surprisingly mature support and help to his new half-sister. We see his relationship with his mother progress. We see Finn wonder about his worth and place in the family. We also begin to understand that the mother is struggling with something unknown to Finn.

My favorite part of the book is the summer they spend on the island of Håøya, the largest island in the inner Oslo Fjord. The lodger lets them borrow his 6-person tent that is set up on the island. Finn and his half-sister spend a few weeks there enjoying the “green paradise”.

One of the things that makes this book interesting is that Finn is an unreliable narrator. He is young and obviously doesn’t know or understand everything yet. He also doesn’t share everything he experiences. We are left to question and wonder about what we read, in particular about the half-sister (there’s something not right about her), the lodger and the mother’s relationship with him, and the nature of the mother’s struggle. It makes for a good discussion with others who have read the book.

I actually read part of the book in English (the e-book is available through Los Angeles Public Library). Jacobsen’s writing style consisted of very long sentences with very few periods and it slowed down my reading pace, so I had to switch over to English for a few chapters to get through it a little faster in order to finish in time for the book group meeting.

It was interesting to read part of it in translation. It was a British English translation so I had to think twice about some translated words and phrases. In particular, the British word “estate,” used very often, did not suggest the right meaning to me, but I understood what was meant. I found the translation to be consistent with Jacobsen’s writing style. One thing that shocked me, however, was that the translator didn’t just translate, he actually added to the English text. I noticed it in one case, but since I only read a small part in both languages, it made me wonder what other additions or changes the translator may have made in the rest of the book.

I enjoyed the book very much. This was a character-driven story that was both heart-warming and heart-breaking at times and that kept me questioning and wondering, even after finishing the book. I’m open to giving one of his newer books a chance. Norwegian readers, please let me know if you have a recommendation – whether it’s one of Roy Jacobsen’s books or another Norwegian read.

Book Details:

  • Norwegian Title: Vidunderbarn
  • Author: Roy Jacobsen (born 1954)
  • Norwegian Publication Date: 2009
  • English Title: Child Wonder
  • Translator: Don Bartlett with Don Shaw
  • US Publication Date: 2011
  • Awards: Norwegian Booksellers Award (2009)

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Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2017: A Preview

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The 18th annual Scandinavian Film Festival LA is around the corner. It is one of my favorite annual Scandinavian events in the Los Angeles area. The festival takes place over two weekends in January (14th and 15th followed by 21st and 22nd) at Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills. I always look forward to seeing what’s being offered and hope there’s a movie that will transport me back to Norway through language and setting or bring alive a part of Norwegian history for me. I also don’t mind being an armchair traveler to other countries in the region. Continue reading

Volunteering at Norwegian Church’s Christmas Bazaar 2016

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This year I switched things up and volunteered at the Norwegian Church’s Christmas Bazaar instead of just attending as a guest. My day was all about food which suited me perfectly.

For me, food has always been a main reason for going to the event. I come to eat foods I only eat once a year, to buy freshly baked goods from the bakery, and to stock up on foods and drinks for Christmas time. On this occasion, I was assigned to the kitchen and café, and that was an assignment I appreciated and enjoyed greatly.

My day started out with getting wienerpølser (Norwegian sausages) in a pot for simmering, stirring lapskaus (meat stew), and slicing geitost (goat cheese) for julebrød (sweet bread with raisins). Once the event officially began, I headed out to the café and served cake and sandwiches to eager guests. Continue reading

Norwegian Language Opportunities in Los Angeles

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Norwegian Alphabet by Jana Johnson Schnoor

Norwegian is not in high demand so opportunities to learn and use the language here in Los Angeles are very limited. There are, however, two establishments that stand out as centers for Norwegian language and culture here in the Los Angeles area: Norwegian Church in San Pedro and Scandinavian Center in Thousand Oaks. At both places, you can not only pursue your interest in learning Norwegian, but you can also learn about Norwegian culture and customs. Continue reading

Guide to Norway’s Slow TV on Netflix

netflix-slow-tvIn August 2016, Netflix introduced Norway’s Slow TV to American viewers. I was curious about the Slow TV phenomenon that had enthralled Norwegians and now had arrived in the US.

According to Wikipedia, Slow TV is “a term used for a genre of live ‘marathon’ television coverage of an ordinary event in its complete length.” What I quickly learned was that not all the Netflix Slow TV offerings were true Slow TV. Some of the episodes were actually segments of a much longer original broadcast or documentaries of live broadcasts. I also learned that there are different sub-genres of Slow TV. Some are meditative and relaxing; others are informative and entertaining. Read on for an overview of Netflix’s Slow TV offerings.

Don’t have Netflix? You’ll find links to the programs elsewhere on the internet at the end of the post.

Continue reading

Hipp Hipp Hurra for Norge: 17th of May Celebrations at Nansen Field in Los Angeles (2016)

Doobie & SonnyNorway’s National Day snuck up on us this year even though it was on our calendar. We didn’t decide to attend the festivities at Nansen Field until the evening before. The next morning we rallied the troops, dug out our Norwegian flags (and once again remembered we need new ones for next year), and headed down to Rolling Hills Estates, about a 30-minute drive south of Los Angeles.

We arrived just in time. They had just started playing the national anthems and were raising the flags of the United States and Norway. We found a spot next to friends of ours and listened to greetings from Honorary Consul of Norway in Los Angeles, a sermon by the pastor of the Norwegian Seaman’s Church in San Pedro, and the traditional 17th of May speech.

17th of May CeremonyIt didn’t take long for Sonny and Doobie to head off to the open soccer goal on the huge empty field. But it also didn’t take long until they were overrun by little kids and their parents and had to abdicate the goal.

Photo courtesy of Sonny

Photo courtesy of Sonny

Something new to me this year that I really enjoyed and thought added greatly to the festive feel of the day were the musical performances. Continue reading

Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2016: Intense and Touching

Scandinavian Film FestivalIt’s that time of year again when the Scandinavian Film Festival takes place in Los Angeles over two weekends (Jan 9 &10 and 23 & 24). There were not a lot Norwegian films on the schedule this year, only the documentary Maiko: Dancing Girl (about a Japanese girl who becomes a star ballerina at the Norwegian National Ballet) and thriller/disaster movie Bølgen (The Wave). Luckily, The Wave fit into my schedule the first weekend, and I was even able to take 11-year-old Sonny. Continue reading

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for January 2016 & Scandinavian Film Festival LA

January 2016Happy New Year! Is one of your new year’s resolutions to get out more and take advantage of what your city has to offer and to experience something new? January offers many such opportunities for folks in Los Angeles. Popular recurring events continue, such as the weekly family art workshops at Barnsdall Art Park, monthly walking tours of Chinatown, and the annual Scandinavian Film Festival (which is already marked on my calendar, I plan to see the much anticipated Norwegian film The Wave). There are also special events such as the exhibition A Path Appears: Actions for a Better World at the Skirball and Toyota Symphonies for Youth at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. There’s a variety of activities from which to choose. What will you attempt?

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 2 & 3 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking TourThe Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown, Saturday 1/2, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Offered every first Saturday of the month). Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more when guided to the unique treasures–not to mention great bargains–to be found in Chinatown. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A.’s Chinatown.

2016-Oshogatsu-Festival-Year-of-MonkeyOshogatsu Family Festival – Year of the Monkey, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown, Sunday 1/3, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Ring in the New Year and the Year of the Monkey with fun arts ‘n crafts, food, exciting cultural activities, and performances.

Skirball-a-path-appearsA Path Appears: Actions for a Better World, Skirball Cultural Center, ongoing until February 21. Inspired by the bestselling book A Path Appears by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the exhibition is both a gallery installation and a community engagement project—a place where every visitor can take practical, results-driven steps to bring about social change. Get inspired inside innovatively designed pavilions exploring four critical humanitarian issues: education, health, good jobs, and empowerment. Tap into the power of grassroots action as you learn of organizations—both local and around the globe—that are developing workable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Then join in building a better world as you engage with ActionLab, a mobile-friendly tool that uses storytelling to promote social change and spark a commitment to human rights.

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 9 & 10 *

Scandinavian Film FestivalScandinavian Film Festival, Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills, Saturday 1/9 & Sunday 1/10 (also weekend of 1/23 & 1/24). This is a yearly showcase of films from northern Europe and its Baltic neighbors. During the course of two weekends, the festival screens not only films submitted by Nordic countries to the Academy for consideration in the “Best Foreign Language Film” category, but also other Nordic feature films, short movies, and documentaries. During the first weekend is the screening of Norwegian disaster film Bølgen (“The Wave“) followed by the Opening Gala and Ceremonies. See website for schedule and ticket information.

Barnsdall_Art_Park_SundaysAncient Rome: Lares Altar (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday 1/10, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructor Quan Trang for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Bowers_KwanzaaKwanzaa Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday 1/10, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Celebrate the beauty and excitement of the African American cultural experience in America with a Kwanzaa ceremony, spoken word, drumming and dancing, and 3rd Degree Blues Band.

Free Second Sunday: Thailand, USC Pacific Asia MuseumUSC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday 1/10. The museum is one of a few U.S. institutions dedicated to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Join them this Sunday as they celebrate the arts and culture of Thailand. Activities include Silk Road Story Time, an art activity, Spotlight Tours, and a music/dance/art demo by Thai Community Arts & Cultural Center. See website for schedule. In addition, visitors can peruse permanent and special exhibitions and explore a special interactive family-friendly exhibition called Journeys: The Silk Road which takes guests along the legendary trade route that linked Europe and Asia for more than a thousand years. Admission to the galleries and the day’s programming are free all day.

* MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WEEKEND OF JANUARY 16 & 17 & 18 *

Barnsdall_Art_Park_SundaysUSA: MLK Day Posters, “I Have a Dream” Painting (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday 1/17, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructor Quan Trang for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

CAAMCAAM’s Annual “Cake for King” Community Celebration, California African American Museum, Exposition Park, Monday 1/18, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. CAAM invites the entire LA community to join them for their annual recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and his life’s work as a charismatic and dedicated leader of the modern civil rights movement. CAAM will offer an art workshop, documentaries, face painting, story time, and slices of homemade birthday cake (while supplies last).

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 23 & 24 *

TSFYToyota Symphonies for Youth: City of Light: Debussy’s La Mer, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Downtown, Saturday 1/23 & 1/30 at 11:00 a.m. The LA Phil’s pioneering Symphonies for Youth mix music with fun and fantasy for children ages 5 to 11 (children under two not admitted). Tour the colorful and rich orchestral music of France with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in celebration of the LA Phil’s French festival. Come for the chance to experience a live orchestra through the fantasy of theater. Each performance is preceded by a choice of art workshops, including an instrumental petting zoo, dance, and more starting at 10am. Buy tickets in advance.

Scandinavian Film FestivalScandinavian Film Festival, Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills, Saturday 1/23 & Sunday 1/24. During the second and last weekend of this yearly showcase of films from northern Europe and its Baltic neighbors, you can view a children’s animated movie from Finland, Moomins On The Riviera, based on popular Finnish comic strips, among many other films. See website for schedule and ticket information.

Barnsdall_Art_Park_SundaysBali: Shadow Puppets (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday 1/24, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructor Sarah Hage for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 30 & 31 *

TSFYToyota Symphonies for Youth: City of Light: Debussy’s La Mer, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Downtown, Saturday 1/30 at 11:00 a.m. The LA Phil’s pioneering Symphonies for Youth mix music with fun and fantasy for children ages 5 to 11 (children under two not admitted). Tour the colorful and rich orchestral music of France with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in celebration of the LA Phil’s French festival. Come for the chance to experience a live orchestra through the fantasy of theater. Each performance is preceded by a choice of art workshops, including an instrumental petting zoo, dance, and more starting at 10am. Buy tickets in advance.

Barnsdall_Art_Park_SundaysItaly: Marionettes (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday 1/31, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructor Sarah Hage for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

It’s Norwegian Christmas Time!

2015 plakat julebasar

Click image to clearly view details

I’ve gotten used to the fact that the Norwegian Christmas Fair happens before I’ve even had a chance to plan my Thanksgiving. I look at it as a way to begin the whole holiday season. This year I was grateful to have an American friend whose other half is Norwegian join me for the excursion to San Pedro. We headed down Friday morning to be there when the fair opened.

I love the warm welcome we receive as we enter, and the offer of gløgg (mulled wine, in this case non-alcoholic) and pepperkaker (ginger snaps) certainly helps put you in the mood for what’s waiting inside. The inside of the church is festive with Christmas lights and decorations.

Just as you enter, you’ll see The Bakery. Don’t delay buying baked goods because they run out. I especially like the ones that come right out of the oven. I always buy to bring home. The after school treat that day for my boys was a fresh skolebolle each along with saft I’d bought from the church store.

Norwegian Christmas Fair BakeryIn the nave of the church you’ll find all the booths. They offer Scandinavian goods of all kinds, both imported from Scandinavia and homemade by members of the church. We arrived when the fair had just opened so the area around the booths was packed with eager shoppers. There was no way to take a picture that would actually show anything. I had to return and take pictures when all the first attendees were enjoying their lunches from the café. Continue reading