Feliz Navidad! God Jul! Mele Kalikimaka! Tchestita Koleda!
Merry Christmas can be said in many ways. Some ways we can easily understand, and some take a little bit longer to figure out. Like this letter. It was going to be about my new obsession with tea, but I just couldn’t figure out how to make you really understand, so let’s communicate using our common language skills…

I’ve always been a tea drinker. I’m the holdout in this coffee household. Yes, Dave and Pat, if you expect to have a leisurely cup of coffee with Chr’s anymore, you better drink faster, because the pot gets shared now with Han, Shan, and Liz. Shan is all about the additives, Liz learned to drink flavors with Aunt Holly this summer, and Hannah likes it with plenty of ice cubes and a straw. Chr’s never wavers. It’s thick and black. Sitting with your cup of coffee is a communication device itself. It says, “Sit awhile, tell me your story, I’m listening.” Even Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory knows the social importance of a hot beverage.

Having married into a Swedish family, I know the ‘sitting with the coffee cup’ tradition well. My mother-in-law keeps hot chocolate in the cupboard just for me as I’m sure she has given up on ever getting me to drink the coffee. I tried to become more Swedish this year. Really, really, tried. Tried so hard, that my blue crocs and I ventured across the ocean to Sweden where we fell in love. I’m talking ‘love of your life’ love, and complete and total “love at first sight’ love. Oh, yes, Chr’s was with me! It was our 25th wedding anniversary after all, but this love was between me and my new 100% Swedish Volvo. I know very little Swedish and the car knows very little English, but after the introductions, it beeps and whistles, and heats up the seat, and has incredible headlights and, best of all, goes up the driveway with 4-wheel drive all for me. (4-wheel drive is true love in Minnesotian.) I drank a lot of tea in Sweden. Chr’s drank a lot of coffee, but that’s nothing new. We also ate Swedish meatballs and other white bland food and I loved it! We couldn’t read well in the country, but we did sleep well on these amazing mattresses with the softest bedding… zzzzzzzzzz……

Then, to the capital of tea, we hit London. Some would say we went to England, but we didn’t, we just went to London. And there, I totally overdosed on tea. Yes, we did touristy things, but did we mention all the tea we drank, and the tea we saw at Twinnigs Tea Shop and Harrod’s. Heaven! We drank tea after bloody cup of tea, and even had to use the bathroom in the Buckingham Palace Queen’s Gallery. Fancy that! Absolutely fancy. And, to top it off, they speak English in London. Mostly. Kind of. Unless you are ordering food or getting directions, then all bets are off. And, while still in the flush of new love with the Volvo, I then had what should probably be considered an affair, as I also fell in love with scones and clotted cream. I know, I couldn’t believe it either! Two timing, and right in front of my husband! In public! Over and over again!

We had to go back to the real world as we had to get Hannah off to college to study and be a cheerleader. I did drink tea in South Dakota, but it just didn’t have the same zing in a 24 hr café on the prairie. Han decided after three days that she loved college. It had plentiful amounts of two of her favorite things, blow-up bounce houses and coffee. We are fairly certain she studies, but we know it is with her personal coffee pot on high.

Shan has many detailed rituals in her life and we know that she never goes to bed without brushing her teeth because no matter how tired she is from this activity and that one, you can hear her go through her entire teeth cleaning ritual every night. (Dr. Norton, you should get a tattoo of her teeth as a dental example!) She has a similar routine in the morning with her coffee. We never see her drink it, but there are many complex steps to her morning beverage so that it is piping hot and mixed perfectly just before she steps into the car. She works a morning shift with elementary kids so she needs this pick me up so that she can keep up with the little darlings. She is NOT a morning person, but she does NOT have coffee stains on her teeth!

Liz is more of a pretty coffee drinker. Pretty little tin of coffee, pretty smells from the cup, just enough of the Swedish blood in her to sit down and drink it with a cookie, and a table, and a conversation with whoever is available. She doesn’t haul around the thermal carafe; she is a mug drinker through and through. She had a school FFA trip to Indiana this year, and it was go, go, go, the whole time. No time for coffee! Not when you are going to concerts, and halls, and rodeos! She and Chr’s had to get their caffeine in cold carbonated format there, but I just snuck around with my tea, iced and bottled, and survived just fine, thank you.

There’ve been other beverages consumed this year in odd places – not in the Volvo though – don’t drink in the Volvo unless you have a lid because you don’t want to be the first one to spill something in it –

Let’s see, what can I share about…there was the never ending, frequently lost water bottle that Hannah took on her school Washington DC trip with WePo (We the People to those of you not familiar with the contest in which you have to defend the constitution against other schools who have students who live eat and breathe it, but if you are from Minnesota you just take a deep breath with Mrs. Loeschke behind you and spill every fact you know!) Now, she fills this water bottle with water from a certain bathroom faucet and takes it back to college with her because, “That faucet has the best water in the whole house.” I know, we don’t get it either. Maybe other college students are afflicted with this behavior also, I’m not sure. I don’t talk to them about that specifically; I just make sure they get occasional care packages with chocolate in them to fuel their souls.

Shan flits in and out and has a direct line to the McDonald’s drive through for her Mocha Frappe, not Caramel. I’m sure the pavement is worn thin between here and there with the number of times she goes there. She will have a rude awakening when her school trip next summer is to Italy and not only are there no McDonald’s; you fill your water bottle in public fountains. She sleeps with a hand on a water bottle and even has an app to track her liquid consumption. We’ll look up the Italian word for toothpaste before she leaves.

Liz is going Southern and country. We think this comes from a combination of spending summer vacations babysitting in Virginia every year, and her FFA projects. She raised chickens this summer. She raised them like a farmer. The rest of us just sat around cooing at them until they turned ugly about mid-way though the process. Then, they got cute again and were hysterical with the dog, who became their private bodyguard and herding guru. They walked all over him, and he spent every minute of every day watching each and every one of them and making sure they were where they were supposed to be. She had to water them many times a day, probably because the dog worked so hard he just helped himself to their water so he wouldn’t have to walk all the way around the house to his water dish and leave the chickens unattended. She attended many fairs and events this summer and slurpped many malts from the dairy booths. We are going to visit Virginia again this winter, and our first stop will be to eat chicken at Chick-fil-a. If you can raise em, you can eat em! No chickens will ever be as pampered and nurtured and tasty as Liz’s home-grown chickens though! It is a slow process, much like how they do things in the south, with the slow drawls and slow brewed sweet tea.

Chr’s has had his fill of different beverages and foods as he and the airlines are again on Diamond status as he jets here and there. We love getting weird texts about his quest for food in the middle of the night as he lands in some strange place, and he gets the same food in the same airports so often that he is now known as ‘a regular.’ He has had a few issues with communication in other countries and cities this year, and it is amazing how chipper he can be when the UK calls at 4am. He is also not usually a morning person but coffee can do magical things apparently.

Our year has not been all beverages and rainbows. A favorite cousin died in September and my mom died in November. Darla was a coffee drinker, Mary was eclectic and went from coffee, to tea, to Robby Tea, to Ovaltine. Robby Tea is a fascinating blend of I don’t know what, but it smells divine and tastes just as good, and as his Fairy Godmother, I know that when I finish what’s left at Grandma’s house, Rob will make me some more. Cancer sucks, and there is even coffee for that. Hannah’s friend Nikki passed away four years ago and her sister does the Tartan High Relay for Life. They sell Seroogys coffee in Oakdale as a fundraiser.

Our wish for you this season is to take your cuppa tea, or your mug of coffee, or your bottle of water, and sit. Sit and have a conversation, listen to a story, or get to know a little about someone around you. Take a cue from those Swedes and sit-a-bit. The world will keep going around and around even if you get off and breathe quietly for a few minutes. We all need that once in awhile, and probably more often than we think. So, again…
Glaedelig Jul, Buone Feste Natalizie, or Rock On – no matter how you say it, or what beverage you toast it with, it all means Have a Great Holiday! (…and a hot beverage would make it oh, so much better!)

Julie and Co. 2011

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