Curl Up For an Olympic Read

Today we’re talking about curlers. No not those curlers: 

we’re talking about these curlers:

Norwegian curlers to be exact. Curling is part of the Winter Olympics and the Norwegian curling team is the talk of the town. But not necessarily for their prowess on the sheets. No not these sheets:

But these sheets:


Sheets, by the way, is the name of the ice surface where curling is played.

They are a hot topic with social media because of the fashion statement they are making this year and have been making since 2010 in Vancouver. It was in Vancouver  that the curling team began wearing a uniform that has been described as hideous, marvelous, retro, avant garde, hysterical, and historical.

The team won the silver medal in 2010 for curling and the gold medal for fun.

In 2014 for the games in Sochi the team and pants were back – but with a total outfit this time. They made a stop in New York to help pedestrians “sweep” across the icy streets.

They did not medal in 2014, but they were still the topic of much conversation. At a curling competition in Vegas in 2016 the team demonstrated another talent — putting on their pants without hands:

So they are back in 2018, and looking as dapper as ever. They even had special pants for Valentine’s Day:

Of course there is more to a team than their pants — I honestly never thought that was a sentence I would write.

You can meet the Norwegian men’s team here.

And grab a cab with them here:

Norway also has a mixed doubles curling team. They are Kristin Skaslien / Magnus Nedregotten.

Unfortunately they just missed the Bronze medal in a loss to the “Russian” team.

Not well known for their pants, the Swedish team is a contender for gold and is currently the leader on the board.  You can meet the captain Niklas Edin here:

In fact Sweden has a men’s team and a women’s team.

Denmark also have a men’s and women’s team. Finland has a mixed team.

And if you want to know more about curling here is pretty much everything you need to know:

except, of course, what to wear.


Written by Mary Hirsch

Olympics 2018: Name Those Jumps and Skaters

The Winter Olympics are in full swing and we will be posting some factoids about the history and current Olympics with a Scandinavian flavor to it.

Ice skating is one of the favorite events. Two words you will hear a lot in the commentary are “axel” and “salchow” (not sow cow). These terms pay homage to two Scandinavian skaters.

Norwegian Axel Paulsen was the first to do the jump now referred to as an axel. The axel is a figure skating jump with a forward take off. It is named after Norwegian figure skater Axel Paulsen who, in 1882, was the first skater to perform the jump.

Here is a description of how what the axel jump is and how to do it:

In 1909 Swedish skater Ulrich Salchow was the first skater who landed a jump in competition in which he took off on the back inside edge, and landed on the back outside edge of his other foot. This jump is now known as the Salchow jump in his honor.

Here is a description of how the Salchow is done:

You can see more about Paulsen and Salchow in this video (the skating segment starts at 0:48 if you are impatient like this writer). [Note this link will take you to YouTube.]


More Scandinavian Olympic posts to come. Subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss them.



Written by Mary Hirsch

Hygge – Have Your Cake And Eat A Lot Of It Too

Food is a big part of hygge. Since hygge translates to cozy/comfort in English when it comes to hygge+food = comfort food. Everyone has their own comfort foods, often based on what they ate when they were growing up. Grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, any kind of hot dish are common ones. One of my favorites is tomato juice and noodles – yes it’s a personal choice.

Hygge is about being kind to yourself, giving yourself and others a break from the demands of healthy living, giving and sharing a treat. Sweets are hyggelige; cake is hyggelight.

Meik Wiking says

“Cakes and pastries make everything hyggeligt, both eating them and baking them. They also bring an atmosphere of casualness to any business meeting.”

One of the most popular and traditional cake shops in Denmark is La Glace. Established in 1870 it is Denmark’s oldest confectionary shop. While they make many cakes, their most famous is the sportskage (sport cake) that they created for the premiere in 1891 of the play Sports Man. Known for its ocean of whipped cream the recipe can be found here.

There are two types of Danish birthday cakes — one for adults and the other for children.

Dansk Fødselsdagskage or Danish birthday cakes for adults consist of three layers alternating with cream, berries, custard, and any other mix-ins of your choosing. The recipe and directions can be found here.

You can see it being made and hear a Danish birthday song:

However, for children a kagemand or kagekone, is in order.

It is a rolled out pastry, decorated to look like a cake man or cake woman. Using chocolate, candy, and icing, the cake child is cut into pieces to enjoy while the children scream in mock fear and the birthday child nibbles on the head. (Paging Stephen King!)

This video shows how to make it but it is in Danish with no subtitles so it will give you an idea how to do it:

You can find the recipe and directions here.

You have to love a lifestyle that includes cake.

Written by Mary Hirsch

Celebrate a True Viking Super Bowl Weekend at Norway House

A warm invitation from Also Ingebretsen’s and a few words from Kari Tauring:

Feeling blue about the purple? Come join us at Norway House where we can celebrate the “real” vikings on Super Bowl Weekend! In fact, the Iron Age Scandinavians who set out on longships would more likely be wearing blue, not purple, since the Byzantine royal family controlled the mollusks which purple came from. Take the horns off your helmets and dress up in your best Iron Age “viking” garb for a free drink ticket. You may even win a prize for best costume! Vølve Kari Tauring is our staff carrier of ceremonies on Saturday February 3rd. A specialist in runes, ballads, and longdances of the Nordic people, vølve Kari will educate while entertaining us in what it really means to be a fan of the vikings. We will “drink skol” at the ice bar sing songs, dance, shop, and show the world how we can be gracious hosts – Welcome to the North

Please join us for an exciting weekend of free, family-friendly fun as we celebrate Midwinter in Minnesota and American Football in true Nordic style! Outside, embracing the cold, with tons of exciting festivities and activities for all ages to enjoy!

“Welcome to the North” will take place on February 3rd and 4th, 2018 at Norway House in Minneapolis, Saturday, February 3, 2018 3:00 pm until 9:00 pm and Sunday, February 4, 2018 2:00 pm until 9:00 pm.

As a celebration of Winter, Northern Culture, the original Viking people, and American Football, “Welcome to the North” features a unique array of outdoor and indoor fun!

Our weekend festivities will include:

  • Northern Lights Ice Bar
    • Sponsored by Borton Overseas
    • Featuring Nordic Cocktails, Beer, Wine, and Mead!
  • Viking Costume Contest
    • Two categories: Historical & Fantastical
    • Prizes for best woman, man, & child in both categories
  • A Celebration of Traditional Viking Culture
    • Featuring Kari Tauring, Vølve and leader of the Vølva Stav Guild
    • Viking History Lesson and Quiz
    • Stories and songs from the Viking Era
    • Traditional Viking Music & Dancing
    • Plus learn some Skål songs and Long Dances
  • Mini-Market featuring local artisans and small businesses
    • Viking Drinking Horns, Winter Apparel, Scandinavian-Inspired Swag, and more!
  • Norwegian-inspired food and treats
    • Served by Also Ingebretsen’s Kaffe Bar (inside Norway House)
    • + “Make Your Own Matpakke” Culture and Food Activity!
  • Official Opening of the “In Play” Exhibit
    • Inside the Galleri at Norway House
    • Regular admission fee applies + become a new member of Norway House and see the exhibits for free!
  • Live-Streaming of the big football game on Sunday evening!
    • We’re also sad that our home-team didn’t make it to the end, but we’ll make the game fun anyway!
  • North Country Raffle
    • Many exciting prizes ranging from Viking drinking horns, to winter apparel, footballs, and sports tickets!
  • Winter-Inspired Kids activities
    • Led by Concordia Language Villages!
    • And other exciting activities to be announced leading up to the event…

We are so grateful to all of our sponsors including: The Norwegian Honorary Consulate of Minneapolis, Mindekirken Norwegian Language & Culture Program, Larkin Hoffman, NACC, Spot Stuff, Intercomp Company, Gamle Ode, Vikre Distillery, Urban Forage Winery, Bunker’s Music Bar, Boost Liberia, Jarlsberg, Concordia Language Villages, Kari Tauring, and many individuals who give of their time, energy, and other valuable resources.

This event is FREE and open to ALL!

Important links

Facebook Event Link:

Norway House:

NACC Minneapolis:

InJoy Events & Outreach:

Borton Overseas:

Kari Tauring:


Welcome to the North is brought to you by Norway House, the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce – Upper Midwest Chapter, and InJoy Events & Outreach, with our Presenting Sponsor, Borton Overseas.

Hygge and More

I’ve been writing about hygge for the past few weeks but I would like to introduce you to three new Scandinavian concepts that are popular and getting a lot of attention.

Hygge is from Denmark and is roughly translated as cozy. It is about finding places, people, things, foods that make you feel cozy. A good concept in a Nordic country (or state as the case may be).

Lagom (pronounced lah-gum, as in fa-la-la gum) is the basically the Goldilocks concept of “just the right” (you know, the three beds, chairs, bowls of porridge but only one was just right). Lagom’s basic idea is not too much, not too little, just right. Lagom knows what extremes are and finds the moderate path between.

From “The Little Book of Lykke”

Lykke (pronounced LOO-ka; as in Skip To My LOO-ka) is the Danish concept of pursuing and finding the good that exists in the world around us every day. Lykke translates to happiness in English. Meik Wiking, the author of “The Little Book of Hygge,” also writes about lykke in “The Little Book of Lykke.” He identifies the six factors that explain the majority of differences in happiness across the world—togetherness, money, health, freedom, trust, and kindness—and explores what actions we can take to become happier.


decor8 holly flickr

Swedish Death Cleaning (pronounced wha-ut?) is not as morbid as it sounds. It is basically about decluttering but with the emphasize on not being a burden to anyone after you pass on – especially your spouse or your children. It is also called döstädning which derived from the Swedish words for death (dö) and cleaning (städning).

This blog will talk about all of these in the future because each concept has something to help make our lives better.

Written by Mary Hirsch



Hygge and Light – Part 2

Meik Wiking, the hygge master, says:

“Lighting is not just about candles. Danes are obsessed by lighting in general….Danes select lamps carefully and place them strategically to create soothing pools of light.”

As indicated in last weeks post, light is essential for a hygge atmosphere. There is the warm glow of a candle but also lamps that are not just there to provide light but to create a soothing and inviting feel. Light is a critical element in the hygge approach. Lighting design is the quickest, easiest way to create a warm and cozy atmosphere.

George Clarke discusses lighting as part of his 3 part YouTube series on hygge:

If you want bring the coziness of hygge into your home, make sure you have multiple sources of light: floor lamps, table lamps as well as wall lights and pendants lights. That will give you plenty of options for different moods and settings. You can play around with the combinations until you find the perfect hygge setting for every occasion: crisp mornings, rainy afternoons, winter evenings.

One “rule” I read over and over again was to limit overhead lighting.

To quote the Swedish fashion and lifestyle Youtuber Jenny Mustard:

“Ceiling lighting is where hygge goes to die.”

She discusses hygge and light on YouTube:

Hygge, of course, being the Danish word that describes that calm, cozy, joyful feeling that you get from gathering with close friends around the campfire. Creating mood lighting is very important in making a room hygge and nothing is less hygge than stark overhead lighting that makes you feel like you’re being interrogated. There are a few ways to make your electric lighting warmer and cozier.

In a wonderful article “11 Scandinavian Lighting Tricks to Add a Cozy Glow to Your Home,” written by Jesica Versichele for the home website Curbly,  you can find a lot of great advice for lighting your home. Some of Versichele’s tricks are listed below, and the full article elaborates on each trick. You can find the full article here.

  • Using floor and table lamps instead of overhead lighting .
  • Install warm colored light bulbs with a low lumen number.
  • Dimmers create cozy, warm light.
  • Use Fairy Lights to Create a Romantic and Festive Atmosphere.
  • Bring the Outdoors in Through Lighting

This past Christmas my nephew gave me a wonderful and unexpected gift. It was a small version of the leg lamp from the movie “A Christmas Story.”

Last week after taking down my Christmas decorations I found the perfect spot for my lamp – right next to my hyggekrog. I already had a floor lamp there and was really seeing it as more of a decorative object. But when I turned it on, with it’s low lighting (25 watts) and amber shade I found it gave me the feel of hygge. Now it may not be the lamp that a lot of people would want but not only is the lighting very hygge, it gives me a cozy feeling and makes me smile.

If you want to learn more about lighting in general, this is a video you may find helpful:


“The perfect antidote to dark, cold and creepy is light, warm and cozy.”

Candice Olson

Written by Mary Hirsch

Hygge and Light: Part 1 – Candles

Candles are to hygge as water is to swimming.

From what I’ve read I feel confident sharing this analogy although it gives me flashbacks to taking the ACTs.

Actually lighting is an important part of hygge. This post will be about candles and next week will discuss lamps – yes there are lamps that are more hygge than others. But for now it’s about candles.

According to Meik Wiking the author of The Little Book of Hygge:

No recipe for hygge is complete without candles. When Danes are asked what they most associate with hygge, an overwhelming 85 percent will mention candles.

A study done by Wiking found that 28% of Danes say they light candles every day, 23% 4-6 days a week, 23% 1-3 days a week, 8% less than 1-3 days per month while only 4% say they never light candles. 14% said they don’t know and I’m hoping that means they don’t know how many days and not that they don’t know if they light candles.

And the candle business is booming in Denmark. According to the European Candle Association, Denmark burns more candles per person than any other country in Europe. Each Dane burns around six kilos of candle wax each year which is 13.2277 pounds (which takes me back to high school math).

When it is dark and cold outside, there’s nothing more hyggeligt than peppering your home with candles. But it’s not just a winter/darkness custom, Danes use candles in spring and summer.

Rufus Gifford, former United States Ambassador to Denmark, spoke about the abundance of candles:

“…it is not just in the living room. It is everywhere. In your classrooms, in your boardrooms. As an American, you think “Fire hazard! – how can you possibly have an open flame in your classroom?”

[On a side note, Ambassador Gifford starred in “I Am The Ambassador,” a reality show in Denmark while he was the Ambassador. You can see a report from PBS News Hour here:]

A good example of how important the candle is in Denmark, in Danish lyseslukker is the word for what English languages would call a spoilsport, cold fish, killjoy, party pooper, stick in the mud, wet blanket (someone who puts an end to others’ fun). Lyseslukker literally means “the one who puts out the candles.” I can’t wait to use this term some time. I wonder if Rose Nyland ever used in on The Golden Girls?

What Type of Candles.

One draw back to candles can be soot. Studies have shown that lighting just a single candle fills the air with more microparticles than traffic in a busy street. (One study can be found here.) Scented candles are not the norm in Denmark. They are considered artificial – Danes prefer natural and organic candles.

Safer alternatives are candles that use a cotton or paper wick, and are either unscented or scented with essential oils. The candles themselves should be made with 100 percent soy, beeswax, coconut wax, hemp oil, or some combination that doesn’t contain any paraffin.

Special candle occasion in Denmark.

On May 4th you are likely to see more than the usual number of candles in the windows of homes in Denmark. It is a reminder that on the evening of May 4, 1945 the BBC announced that German forces who had occupied Denmark had surrendered. As with all countries there were many blackouts at night so enemy planes could not find the cities or targets. When the announcement was made the Danish citizens put a candle in their window to welcome back the light.

The official celebration of Denmark’s liberation is May 5th. However, the official papers – when the German army surrendered in all of Northern Europe, and Denmark was declared free, were signed on May 4, 1945. The signing took place in a forest outside Luneburg in Germany on Timeloberg Hill.

The place is not easy to find – and no local tourist guide book indicates where it is. However, a memorial stone was placed in 1995 to commemorate the surrender on its 50th anniversary. It reads:

Capitulation on the Timeloberg
May 4 1945 – 1995
Never again war.


Written by Mary Hirsch

Hygge Vocabulary

The word “hygge” is often translated as cozy or a sense of well-being. And I’ve discovered there is a whole world of hygge words that are part of the concept. In this post I’ll share a few of my favorites.

Four seasons of hygge:

  • Forårshygge (spring hygge)
  • Sommerhygge (summer hygge)
  • Efterårshygge (autumn hygge)
  • Vinterhygge (winter hygge)

Familiehygge (family-hygge). When you set about to create a gathering time with family to eat together, play games, watch a movie, anything that creates that feeling of hygge.

Filmhygge (film-hygge, of course) Enjoying a film with family, friends, or yourself and a furry friend (see Vovsehygge).

Fødselsdagshygge (birthday-hygge) Being with family and friends celebrating your birthday in the way that you like.

Sondagshygge (Sunday hygge) Taking it easy, relaxing with family or friends. Ingebretsen’s practices Sondagshygge by being closed on Sundays so everyone can be sure to have that one day to come together.


Hyggebajer or Bajerhygge. Hygge with a beer. Skol!!!

Hyggebukser (hygge pants) That pair of pants you wear at home but would not wear in public. Admit it, you have at least one pair of hyggebukser and would live in them if you could.

Baggrundshygge (background-hygge) This can be background noises that are either chosen such as music but is often just a sound that evokes hygge like friends chatting and laughing, kids playing, birds chirping.

Hyggeonkel (the uncle of hygge) A person who plays with the kids, probably spoils them and lets them get away with a little bit of mischief. Hyggetante is a hygge aunt.

Hyggekryds – Doing a crossword puzzle for relaxation and pleasure.

Hyggebamse (hygge-teddy) That little stuffed critter that gives you a feeling of comfort or coziness.

Vovsehygge (dog hygge) Practicing hygge in the company of your dog. And dogs instinctively know how to hygge. Katthygge is also a wonderful practice.

Hyggesnakkede (hygge talk) A wonderful conversation with friends and family that is more chitchat and doesn’t include controversial (i.e. political) issues.

You can actually create your own “hygge” word. You can have your hygge socks to go with your hygge pants; a hygge sweet to eat on your Sondagshygge; or maybe a hygge spot to enjoy your Bajerhygge.

So go forth and hygge.


Written by Mary Hirsch




Hygge ‘Till You Drop

The art of hygge is therefore also the art of expanding your comfort zone to include other people.

“The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking

Last week our discussion of hygge had you creating a hyggekrog – a space where you can be comfortable and read or knit or just relax by yourself.

Today we are going to ask you get up from your hyggekrog and open up your home and invite others to warm their feet by the fire. You can certainly hygge by yourself but hygge mostly happens with small groups of family and friends. In a study it was learned that 60% of Europeans socialized a minimum of once a week. However, in Denmark, where hygge is rooted, that average is 78%.

Socializing is an important aspect of hygge. Perhaps one reason some people are hesitant to have others over and socialize more is we often refer to this as “entertaining.” Hygge is not about creating events that are worthy of an Academy Award – it is about creating moments we will remember. Hygge socializing is, in fact, made up of smaller groups and the goal is warmth of people and becoming closer. It might help take some of the pressure off to replace “entertaining” with “gathering” or “get-together.”

Continue reading