Livet är bra! (Life is good)

Ace, our resident foodie photographer, let us know that our glamping trip to Lindsborg, Kansas, would be extra special for her. Her family members are Swedish-speaking Finns and, well, why don’t I just let her tell it?

Take it away, Ace!

Uff da! Where to begin? Lutefisk and köttbullar (Swedish meatballs) have been a Christmas tradition in my farmour’s (grandmother’s) house my whole life.

My farmour, Ingegerd, was born in Jakobstad, Finland, a Swedish-speaking border town in Finland. And my farfar (grandfather), Edwin, was raised by his Finnish immigrant parents in logging camps in northwest Washington.


Life was hard for my grandfather. One of his childhood friends, Agnes, wrote two books about her experiences growing up as one of many Scandinavian immigrant families in PNW logging camps. The first, Where the Huckleberries Grow, mentions my grandfather, Edwin, a few times.


But he always was a proud Finn, through and through! One of his favorite stories to tell was of his 50th birthday, celebrated with family and friends in Finland. My dad and my uncle backpacked for three days into Finland for the surprise.

Here is a picture of my dad (left), uncle, and grandparents visiting family in Jakobstad/Perdersöre. My grandmother, Inge, is wearing her traditional Bunad. Notice my uncle (to the right) striking a pose.

My uncle John plays the accordion and is an avid member of the Sons of Norway, Normana Lodge #3, in Everett, Washington, the local membership group for Scandinavians.

family_photos1I grew up reading about the Moomintrolls, going to Scandinavian summer camp at Normana, and generally not understanding conversations between my dad’s side of the family. (If only they taught Swedish in high school!)

When visiting my grandma, I can still guarantee that the Finnish flag will be flying and a relative from Finland will be on the other end of a phone call.


A picture of the cartoon The Moomins, “Muumit,” courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Acdx

The summers I spent at Scandinavian camp at Normana are full of treasured memories for me.

Having visited last week, here I am with a new statue of our Viking mascot, Hagar. The “camp” is mainly composed of little cabin houses, a lodge, pool, and lake for fishing. My grandparents have their own cabin there, complete with a Finnish sauna (but of course!).


While at camp, I learned traditional dances, rosemaling, plenty of cultural history, and took a lifetime of memories back with me. Here is a picture of me and my camp-mates in our traditional Bunads for the end of camp “dance show.”


That’s me on the left!


I also spent time a few Christmases as Santa Lucia, singing traditional songs, dressed in a white gown, and wearing candles on my head to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Not what a girl of 13 envisions for themselves! But now, treasured memories of my heritage.

And, while my grandmother, grandfather, father, and uncle speak Swedish fluently, I am schooling myself in my off time. Below, is a picture taken in 1962 of my dad’s auntie Alvina from Molpe, who spent the summers with his family when he was growing up. Not speaking a lick of English, she was the catalyst for my dad and uncle to really dig in and learn Swedish.


Something look familiar? All grown up! And wearing Alvina’s traditional outfit while glamping in Lindsborg. 🙂


Thanks, MaryJane and Meg, for adding to my wonderful bank of memories!

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Ace, thank-you for sharing your family heritage with us! My husband’s family is 100% Norwegian and I have so enjoyed learning about the Scandinavian traditions too. This summer we will visit Norway and Finland and I can hardly wait! Plus this year, I found some online friends who are all equally obsessed with Scandinavian traditions. I love your photo with the traditional outfit beside the Dala. Lindsborg is definitely on my list of places to visit soon! Letefisk however, is most likely not to become a personal favorite. But, Warren’s Aunt Ethel’s Fiskbolle, on Christmas Eve, were quite delicious with a crab meat cream sauce just the way Nana Marthilda made it!

  2. NancyB says:

    It is a small world. My grandparents were also from Jakobstad, Finland area and settled in the Ironwood, Michigan area when they came to the U.S. After WWII, my father went to Mullan Idaho to meet up with two of his brothers who had gone there mining. As a child, we were involved in many Scandianvian events but sadly, these became very rare as I got older.
    I have a trip to Finland on my bucket list for retirement which is very soon and look forward to it.

  3. Laurie Dimino says:

    What a wonderful journey you took us on Ace! Loved reading about your family’s heritage and traditions. Good luck with your language studies too!

  4. Deborah Granay says:

    Wow! I haven’t seen the words Uff Da! used since I lived in nothern Wisconsin in l980. I met lots of Norwegian descendents whose immigrant relatives settled there. I well remember being introduced to lutefisk and lefse. (Personally, I’ll take the fried catfish and cornbread from my Kentucky heritage!) It was a great experience living in the northern US and I enjoyed learning about the folkways of the Norwegian people. These folks had settled in a rural area and the descendents stayed on as it was now their homeland. It is great living in a location where you are welcomed to learn about another ongoing culture.

  5. Nancy Boyd says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your families rich traditions and culture with us. It is so neat to learn about other cultures and traditions.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Lovely pictures Ace. Thank you for sharing some of your treasured memories with us (I love older pictures~the real ones you can hold in your hands are priceless). I can readily see the joy in your camp group photograph; your face is radiating appreciation & happiness at that moment in time. Looks like you embraced the experience…& it’s a bit infectious as I am going to the library today & ask for a copy of, ‘Where the Huckleberries Grow’ by Agnes Rands. If the book is shelved at any library in the state then I will soon get a chance to read it:-) Love the title!

    • Ace says:

      It’s a really good book Elizabeth! There is a sequel to it titled, “Even Seagulls Cry” you’d also enjoy. Just got back from vacation to see all your comments, it’s great to meet all of you fellow Scandinavians. That’s so exciting Winnie! Oh man, you’ll love Finland and Norway! They are some of the best places to me. 🙂

      Nancy, that’s super ironic! I wouldn’t doubt it if they passed each other in the supermarket. When my farmour and farfar met and married and introduced their families, they found out that each of their grandmothers went to elementary school together. It’s truly a small, small, world!

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