Christmas Day Julotta – Tradition #10

December 25, 2017

We participated in a really neat new tradition this year.  Someone at my dad’s work mentioned she was going to be volunteering at a Swedish breakfast on Christmas Day so my dad got more information about it and shared it with us.  It is called a Julotta service (pronounced “yulata”) and it is a traditional Swedish service done before dawn to welcome in the light of Christ’s birth.  My dad vaguely remembered going to these as a kid.  This one was to be held at Peace Lutheran Church in Cleveland Heights and much of the service would be in Swedish.  It was to be held at 6:30am!  On Christmas Day!  Zach and I were in!  Mike, not so much, so he decided to stay home and get our breakfast in the oven for when we got home.

Zach and I drove over to grandma and grandma’s and then grandpa drove us to the church.  We arrived early at about 6am so we could look around the church a bit.  It was beautiful all dark when we first got there.  The stained glass windows were neat and the real candles in the windows were very cool.  I took a picture of the front of the bulletin because it looked traditionally Swedish.  The choir sang “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” in Swedish which was very cool.  Probably the highlight of the service was the gospel read in Swedish in the middle of the aisle by candlelight from this giant Swedish bible.  I had no idea there was a Swedish contingent in Cleveland!

The pastor (a woman!) gave an awesome message and then the service concluded at about 7:15am.  Zach said to me, “is it over already?” which brought a smile to my face.  After the service there was a traditional Swedish breakfast for all attendees.  We weren’t planning to stay long as our breakfast was being prepared at our house, but we did stop down to meet folks and visit a bit.

Gospel reading
Traditional Swedish dress

I mean to tell you it was a traditional Swedish breakfast complete with hard tack, cheese, 3 different kinds of rice pudding and herring!!  No sausage and egg casserole here!  I did not try the herring…maybe next year!  We met one of the volunteers in a traditional Swedish dress.

Rice pudding with custard on top
Traditional rice pudding
Rice pudding topped with ligonberries
Pickled herring













I could tell my dad had choked up a few times during the service.  That plus having my almost 16 year old there voluntarily to share this experience with his grandparents made getting up at 4:45am well worth it!  God Yul!

Christmas Eve – Tradition #9

December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve is one of my favorite times during the whole Christmas season.  There is just something so magical about the night.  Since we moved to Hudson in 2003 we have followed pretty much the same tradition.  That is 15 years – yikes!

Rice pudding – food from heaven!
Swedish korv – meat and potato

We have a typical Swedish meal at my mom and dads on Christmas Eve featuring a Swedish sausage called korv, hard tack and Bondust (pronounced boondoost) cheese and of course, rice pudding!  Incidentally rice pudding was a litmus test of sorts for guys dating the Pillsbury girls.  Thankfully both my hubby and my brother-in-law passed!  We cracked up when Zach gobbled up the stuff even as a baby.  Yep, he’s a Swede alright!  You can serve it warm or cold.  I prefer it cold and with a mix of 2% and half and half mixture.  Yum.





Swedish Apple Tree – made by my Grandpa Peterson
German candle – lit every Christmas Eve since the early 1970’s













We enjoy a nice, relaxing meal together before heading off to church.  I also love the Christmas Eve service the most.  I’m not sure if it is because it is at night (normally we attend church on Sunday mornings) or what, but it is just so special.  We sing all the traditional carols and it is nice because it is the one service that Zach actually sings a little bit.  I remember one Christmas Eve years ago before he thought it wasn’t cool to sing at church, he sang his heart out on all the carols and I was so happy!  He has told me that he loves the Christmas Eve service too.

Confection plate from Emmy, our German nanny from long ago
Youth group lookin’ sharp!

We light personal candles two different times during the service – one during the Gospel reading and one during Silent Night.  Usually I sing a solo during the service too which makes me feel good.  This year our service was at 7pm so it was nice to be able to come home early and prep food for Christmas day.






Ram Fam
The G-rents looking dapper!

We usually find some special Christmas music on television and wait for Zach to go to bed so Santa can come!  Yep, some things never change no matter how old he gets!

Frosty 5 Miler – Tradition #8

Frosty Five Miler
Sunday, December 24, 2017

This is the second year I’ve done this race sponsored by Western Reserve Racing.  It is really nice because it is right downtown Hudson so I don’t have to travel far.  This year the weather was 28 degrees and cloudy.  We had gotten a dusting of snow the day before so it looked pretty and Christmasy, but the roads were clear.  I was determined to to win the ugly sweater contest this year.  Here I am in my new blinking sweater.  Yes, it is making a encore appearance from the zamboni ride.  I also remembered to wear my blinking hat that I got last year.  Add some Christmas socks, a tutu that I may or may not have bought at the children’s department at Target years ago and you have an outfit!  I had to bust all this out since we missed the jingle bell run this year!

There were over 700 runners participating this year.  I eagerly lined up for the ugly sweater contest, but had a lot of competitors.  Even Santa showed up!  It turns out that my sweater actually would have won the “cutest Christmas sweater” contest as the runner-ups and winners were truly bad.  One funny thing happened on my way to the race.  No seriously.  A complete stranger offered to give me a hug.  Of course at first I forgot that my sweater had “hug me” on it so I gave him a weird look until he reminded me that my sweater said “hug me”.  Duh.



I ran into a few people I knew so that was fun.  The run itself was uneventful.  I was too hot with 3 layers on.  I took my gator and gloves off after mile 1.  I felt challenged running this morning.  I haven’t run outside for awhile and when I run the treadmill I usually don’t set an incline so I wasn’t really prepared for the hills.  I could totally tell this during this race!  I walked a bit during it.  I was about 3 minutes slower than last year, but it was just fun to get out there.

Here are the stats from the race:
Time: 55:18/11:04 pace
Overall place: 577/709
Age group 38/53
Female: 316/408




Zamboni Ride – Tradition #7

Wed, December 20, 2017

First let me say that this isn’t really a holiday tradition in that it has nothing to do with the holidays except for that it falls during late December and it is not a tradition since this is the first time and I’m not sure it won’t be the only time.  However, that being said, it is a good story and I decided to include it anyways.  So, there you go.

Well, that was fun!  It all started when we bought club seats for the Cleveland Monsters for this season.  As we started going to more games I noticed that people were riding on the zamboni each time it cleared the ice between periods.  At first it seemed like there were only kids that rode it, but as soon as I noticed adults riding it I said to Mike, “how do I get on one of those?!”  He called the ticket rep and it turns out that club members can sign up to ride the zamboni…and for free!  But only one per family can reserve a date.  I asked Zach how badly he wanted to ride it and he said, “mom, I know you really want to ride it.  I’m fine to just watch the game with nachos.”  That was all I needed to hear.

The email confirmation we got said that it was a “pre-game” ride so we had to be at the game early to sign a waiver, etc.  My partner rider on the other zamboni was a boy named Conner and he looked to be about 8 or 9.  Of course there was a kid on the other zamboni.




They took us down a special elevator to the lower level where the zamboni’s live.  We signed the waivers and next thing you know I’m hoping up on my ride!  Here is the look from the tunnel and then on the ice.


It took me a second to get my bearings and see my family in the stands to wave at them, but I couldn’t miss them all flagging me down.  My parents came too so they could witness the event.  They introduced us by name on the sound system and on the jumbo tron so it was cool.  The zamboni is actually pretty loud and so I could hardly hear the announcement and the music from my special seat.  Zach took some cool pics of me practicing my queen wave.  Oh, I also wore a Christmas sweater with blinking lights.  Go big or go home I always say!  What a hoot!  And as if the night could not get any better the Monsters won 5-4 in overtime!  Plus a few good fights for an added bonus!

Cleveland Orchestra Christmas Concert – Tradition #6

Friday, December 15, 2017

It is hard to believe.  It is hard to believe that I had lived in NE Ohio (the second time) since 2003 and had never been to Severance Hall before.  But, alas, it is true!  Until this year!  Over the last few years we have done something theater-esque in Cleveland as a special Christmas thing.  For a couple of years in a row we have gone to see “A Christmas Carol” at Playhouse Square, which was fun.  This year, however, I wanted to do something different and mix things up a bit so we bought tickets to a Christmas concert at Severance Hall.  As an added bonus we brought my parents too as they had never been to one of these concerts before and always wanted to go.  These concerts all feature the world renowned Cleveland orchestra, of course, but also the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus so I knew we were in for a treat.

The building was absolutely gorgeous!  We got there a little bit early so we got a chance to hear the Cleveland State Chorale singing in the lobby before the concert.  Here are some pics of the family prior to the start of the show.


Our seats were literally almost at the top of the theater.  As a matter of fact, there was only one row behind us!  However, I don’t believe there is a bad seat in the place as the acoustics were phenomenal.  I mean, there was one piece that featured only a harp and an oboe and we could hear it clear as a bell.  From the first note the performance was fantastic and really magical.  The director did such good job of introducing the pieces in an entertaining way.  It was so great that the program featured mostly traditional Christmas carols, but with some unique arrangements.  And the choir was perfection!

The highlight of the night came after the intermission.  One my friends who sings in the choir gave me a heads’ up about a special tradition that happens during each performance. 

The orchestra/choir plays/sings the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and invites audience members to sing in microphones for the “five gold rings” part.  Excuse me, what?!  Did you say the words audience and microphone in the same sentence?!  I’m in!  So, I got the 411 from my friend and made my way down to the main level of the theater after the first song in the second half.  A few ushers guessed that I was coming down to participate in “twelve days” and I was giddy with excitement.  As I stood in the back listening to the group up close, waiting for the cue to go in, I was in awe of the musical genius before me.  I know it might sound corny, but I felt I was in the presence of absolute beauty.  Before I knew it the director was giving instructions to the audience about how “Twelve Days” would work and encouraged folks to come down the aisles to the choir members with microphones.  I might have been the first person down the aisle.  And no, I did not push any little kids out of my way.  But in my defense I was thinking that there would be only like 7 people selected to do it since there are only about that many verses with the gold rings part.  They started the piece and got to the gold rings part and the audience all sung it together first.  On the next verse it was time for the people on the microphones (a capella).  The first person was a man in the aisle opposite from me and then it was my turn.  They gave multiple people the chance to sing for each verse.  I let ‘er rip with my four notes in the microphone and as I headed back to my seat an older gentleman gave me a nod and said, “nailed it!”  So, so fun!  So, my story is that I sung a solo with the Cleveland Orchestra.  Work with me, here!  Of course, Zach said to me later that night, “but, Mom, they weren’t even playing when you sang!”  Punk.  That is my story and I’m sticking to it!

Such a wonderful evening and great memories.  Hopefully this is a tradition we can continue!



HHS Band Winter Concert – Tradition #5

Thurs, Dec 14

Okay, so as some of you know, I’m a big sucker for kids making music, especially around Christmas!  It is always fun to listen to concerts done by the Hudson Music Department and this year was no exception.  All three groups, White, Blue and Wind Bands were fantastic as always.  What amazes me the most is that all of these groups have only been practicing since marching band stopped, so they literally had only 5 weeks to rehearse!


Don’t you wish you could have been there to hear them?  Oh, well, the good news is you still can!  Thankfully Hudson Community Television streamed it live on Facebook so people from out of town could listen.  And now you can too!  Got presents to wrap?  Make a hot cup of cocoa and click here to hear the whole concert program!  Treat yourself!  You’re welcome!

And for those who know Zach, he is in the Wind Symphony band, the third group at about 45:52 on the video.



Christmas Letter – Tradition #4

December 16, 2017

Yep, we are one of those families.  I still send out a family Christmas letter via snail-mail to friends and family, near and far, with Christmas greetings and updates from the past year.  This tradition dates back to when I was in graduate school (mid-1990’s).  Back then I was single and did not have as much to share, but over the years I have really gotten into writing this annual update.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  But I would have to give a resounding, “NO” to the question that has just popped into your head.  No, I do not send out a yuck letter!  You know, the type that just brags about accomplishments ad nauseam?  Like the kids are all brilliant geniuses, good at everything, and everyone is wildly happy 365 days of the year?  Please tell me you have received at least one of these.  Unless it is mine, then I don’t want to know.  At least I hope our letter does not fall into the yuck category.  I try to make it a mix of highlights from the year with a little bit of humor thrown in to keep it real (I know in my heart I’m funny).  But most of all I try to find a cool format, or let’s call it a theme, if that sounds better and less marketing-ish from which to shape the letter.  I’ll admit this is for totally selfish reasons and really has nothing to do with the receiver.  I just like to write and I like to have a challenge.  Frankly, it is just fun!

Here is a little glimpse into my process.  I usually get my idea around Thanksgiving and write the rough draft by early December.  Then I revise (keep it to one page, front and back) and try to get it in the mail by mid December.  I don’t usually include pictures, but some years I have.  I’m all about the words, baby.  I’m a bit embarrassed about how much time I spend on this project (sorry, not sorry).  Like I said it is fun, satisfies my creative outlet and is an integral part of my Christmas!  Here is a list of themes I’ve used in the past:

Newsletter format in MS Publisher (favorite when Zach was little)
News from the dog’s point a few (always a crowd pleaser)
News by the numbers (e.g. 7 – number of years we have had our furry kid)
News by person in the family (paragraph form- standard, but kinda boring)
Inspiration from the 4 weeks of advent – Hope, Peace, Joy and Love

This year’s theme uses the word GRATEFUL as an acrostic and shares news under broad categories under each letter in the word.  I’m pretty happy with it.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my Mom’s Christmas card tradition in this blog post.  My very creative and talented mom has made hand-made cards since 1975!  For those who don’t want to do math, that is 42 years!  Most years there is some sort of Swedish theme to them since our Swedish heritage is so important to her and my dad.  Oh and she sends more than a handmade card.  She includes an ornament in each and every card.  There are many long-time friends of my parents who have special Christmas trees just for my mom’s ornaments.  In the early years of this tradition before jobs away from home demanded more of her time, the ornaments were very intricate and detailed, usually involving some sort of cross-stitch or other craft all for which I did not get the gene, by the way.  Did I mention the quantity?  She makes between 180 – 200 of these bad boys!  Yes, that is two, zero, zero.  My mom usually gets her idea in the summer and works on them throughout the fall with the goal of getting them mailed by mid December.  She even hand delivers cards to some of the local merchants of Hudson every year.  I’m so proud of her and this wonderful tradition that is almost a lost art for many.  Oh, and you better believe my mom’s cards would never be in the yuck category.  And yes, I am bragging!

St. Lucia Day – Tradition #3

December 13, 2017

December 13 is St. Lucia Day in Sweden.  And for some Swedes in the US December 13 is St. Lucia Day too!  Growing up we celebrated St. Lucia Day for many years.  And what is St. Lucia Day?  I’m glad you asked.  Long story short, it is the day when the oldest daughter of the family gets up and makes buns and coffee for the family.  She wears a long white robe and a crown of real lit candles in her hair.  She sings a special St. Lucia song and everything.  You can learn more about the history of St. Lucia here.  Be sure to scroll down and watch the video about half way down this page.  It is interesting and humorous in that it is St. Lucia for dummies. 

I remember one year growing up (I think I was in 5th grade) my mom threw a St. Lucia party and invited neighbors and teachers to our house and my sister and I both dressed up in the white robe, crown with candles and everything and sang for people.  Oh, yeah, I was in my glory!  This is not from my childhood, but an example from a festival in Jamestown, NY more recently.


About 5 or so years ago I decided to make the St. Lucia buns, as we called them, for my son, Zach to carry on the Swedish tradition.  What I remember from that experience was 1) they took forever to make, 2) it made a gigantic amount of buns and 3) the buns were just okay, 4) my mom’s mail carrier thought the buns I put in my mom’s mailbox were for her (oops!).  Then this year I decided to make them again, but I tried a different recipe.  This year I tried an altogether new recipe.  Come to find out they were really not St. Lucia buns at all because they featured cardamom spice and not saffron.  No worries because they were still Swedish tea buns!

The morning was really a comedy of errors, however.  I got up at 5am to make them as they needed to rise twice for 30 minutes each time and I wanted to be sure they were ready for breakfast.  First I had trouble crushing the cardamom seeds with my mortal and pestle.  Those things are tough suckers.  I finally decided to use the coffee grinder which worked great!  Next, my kitchen aid mixer quit working in the middle of mixing the dough.  I hurried up and turned it off and the top of the mixer was all hot.

Ugh!  I guess I have had that mixer for about 13 years, but still!  So I had to take the dough off the hook before it was totally ready.  Next, I could not find the rolling pin anywhere in the kitchen.  I ended up waking up Mike to ask him and he said that the handle broke so he threw it out!  Ugh!  I ended up using the mixing end of my immersion blender which worked a little bit.


Mostly I palmed the dough with my hand and did the best I could to get it flat.  I couldn’t find my cookie cutters so I ended up using my 1/4 cup measuring cup as the cutter.  Oye!  In spite of all of this they actually turned out and I shared some with my parents (not in their mailbox) and shared some with folks at work.  Zach was not a big fan of this recipe so I think I’ll go back to the original one next  year.  It was fun to celebrate this fun Swedish tradition and share some of it with my colleagues at work!

Mixer followup – I tried using the mixer later that night to make cookies and it worked!  I think it just needed to cool down a bit!  At least I hope so!  So all is not lost.  I might have my “Swedish card” taken away, but at least I have my mixer so I can try again next year!




Messiah Sing – Tradition #2

Thursday, Nov 30, 2017

For me Christmas=music.  And further, Christmas music=Handel’s Messiah!  Hence, my second tradition is The Messiah Sing!

My first introduction to the Messiah was in high school where my high school choir sang a couple of the choruses.  Also, in high school I sang a few of the arias in my voice lessons for solo contest and enjoyed the challenge of them.  But I didn’t truly fall in love with the entire work until college in the Thiel Choir.  We sang many of the choruses in the Christmas portion of the work most of the four years I was going to school there.  What is it about that Hallelujah Chorus first soprano part?!  So awesome and absolutely beautiful.  During those years I bought the Messiah highlights CD (yes, people used to buy those) and memorized the solos that I didn’t already know.  If nothing else each year I would pull out that CD and listen to it, singing along, of course, multiple times during the Christmas season.  It wasn’t the same as my choir, but it was something.

Cut to a few years ago.  My mom told me about a Messiah sing done at Western Reserve Academy (WRA) in Hudson.  The music was played by the high school kids orchestra and solos sung by the kids as well.  The community was invited to come and participate by singing in the choruses.  Holla!  Yes, I was in!  My mom sang some of the Messiah in high school too so it is special to her also.  We went for a few years and I loved every minute of it.  Then WRA took a sabbatical for a few years so we were without a Messiah sing!  Thankfully, a friend of mine invited me to her church, Trinity Episcopal for their sing.  This was wonderful!  The cathedral was breathtaking and the musicians and soloists were all professionals.  What a treat!  However, this sing was (and always is) in the middle of the work day and downtown so it was not as convenient.  But so fabulous!

Then this year my mom saw in the paper that WRA was back in the Messiah business again.  It turns out that the director had been on sabbatical for last couple of years.  So mom and I went again this year and had so much fun!  What is funny is that I know soprano parts for most of the choruses, but for a few I know both alto and soprano parts because I sang alto in high school.  So sometimes I was singing both!  Who cares!  This is one tradition that I intend to continue for as long as I can.  It means Christmas to me!

Advent Calendar – Tradition #1

Dec 2, 2017

This year as I pondered the events and special traditions that we have planned throughout the month of December I thought it might be fun to blog about them! Truth be told, it was a colleague’s suggestion to me after I was sharing some of our plans. This sounded like fun for many reasons. First, any excuse to write about something is a win for me. Second, I love everything about Christmas so it would be a fun topic to write about. And lastly, I think it would be fun to have some of our special traditions documented for posterity. No, but seriously! I have boys and I never know how much of what we do will transfer to them once they have families of their own. I hope they do, but one can’t be so sure these days! So I made a list – just love doing that – and easily came up with 12 traditions. Some are old and some are newer, but they all mean something to me. Plus some are just kookie, but you know, its me! So here goes. Here is the Tradition #1.

The Advent Calendar
It is fitting that I start with this as my first tradition to blog about as it spans the entire month of December (well almost!). Also, it is over 40 years old! It is an advent calendar that my mom made when I was a little girl and we used it growing up – through high school, at least. It is a hand-crafted cuckoo clock image made out of sequins on a felt fabric background. You can probably identify “rick-rack” on it too. And yes, I grew up in the 1970’s! Numbers in sequins were sown down the calendar from 1-24 and below each was a gold ring from which a gift was fastened by ribbon. I think my mom was deliberate in making this with an even number of spaces. With 2 girls there would be no fighting – one would get odd numbered gifts and one would get evens. Many a year did we come down before school ripping open our present for the day. I remember lots of tootsie rolls and Barbie shoes!!

My dumb luck I “inherited” the advent calendar. My sister got the piano and I got the advent calendar. Seems fair. In full disclosure, I had a kid first and, let’s just say I was not a fan of practicing the piano.

So ever since I got married and Nick was in my life (age 6) I took over this cool tradition and the calendar has hung in the Ramsey house and been a part of our Christmas. When both boys lived at home they had to share too and so that was fun. I generally fill it with candy, little toys and other stuff I find in the dollar bins at Target.

Jump to today. Zach is a sophomore in high school, but believe me, the calendar is in full swing! This year there is a theme to the calendar because I needed some inspiration. I am doing A-Z gifts. Actually it is A-X. So yesterday was an almond bar for “A” and today was bubble gum for “B” and so on. I had a ball making my list and shopping for this year.

Oh, and this is the advent calendar that I use. It is a tree made out of empty match books made by none other than my mom!  But who is surprised?!