Caitlin and Kelsey are jammie-clad and nestled all snug in Caitlin's bed as C. reads one of her favorite tales, Little House in the Big Woods to Kelsey. They have finished making and wrapping presents, put out cookies & milk for Santa, and enjoyed a last glance at the snow-covered yard (praying it will last until morning) before heading off to bed.
We have actually had quite a relaxing evening tonight, in part brought to us by the Icelandic tradition of truly celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve. After days of frenetic shopping, cooking and cleaning, Icelanders begin their Christmas at 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The bells ring at the Lutheran Church, although not many will necessarily attend services. Families then enjoy a sumptuous feast and open presents when the food has all but disappeared.
While we did not follow the tradition exactly (we supped a little bit later), we did spend time cleaning, cooking and preparing for friends to join us for our Christmas Dinner tomorrow evening. Despite the enjoyment we would reap from a gathering on Christmas Eve, it was quite relaxing to simply take the time to prepare for tomorrow as a family. As everything was closed, there are truly no last minute errands, just quiet time at home.
Tomorrow we will have our celebration (post-gift opening) in the early afternoon. It will be a little more casual than the dress at an Icelandic household, but will be special all the same. We will even dine on a Jól specialty of hamborgarahryggur (ham) blending the Icelandic standard with the more traditional American dishes of mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, salad, and Ostakaka (cheesecake) for dessert.
While Santa has many hours before he arrives in the States, we are already headed towards prime gift-dropping time and should probably already have nodded off. Lest I forget, Merry Christmas (Gledileg Jol) to all and to all a good night!
We have long regaled you with the tales of $20/lb chicken and an $8.50/gallon tank of gas. You have listened (or, more beneficially for your ears, tuned us out) when we tried to explain how airline tickets round-trip home are close to double the price of flying here round-trip from the States (economy prices on a good day). Multiply times four and it is lots of fun!
Now, yes, we have unique circumstances involving a less than adequate COLA adjustment that is based somewhat on the exchange rate. However, prices in the grocery stores are not held to any sort of standard here and often seem to change between the time you take the item off the shelf and the time it hits the checkout lane conveyor belt. It seems the minute the dollar grows stronger, the prices in the stores are quickly increased to negate any slight up in buying power we may experience. Don't ever, ever purchase anything unless you are at least 99% sure of the price.
Given that we are not eligible (and rightly so) for any discounts (health care, etc.) as we are not citizens, we are hit even harder by the consistently rising prices (food prices to go up next year - yea!). While we do understand that even residents feel the pinch here, it often seems we are the only ones who are truly stuck between a rock and a hard place. Imagine my surprise when I saw this article online today confirming that perhaps others might feel the same way, differing financial circumstances notwithstanding.
I don't normally subscribe to the English language e-zines (or otherwise), however, what we have long professed to be the case is finally stated in black and white. I have to say that no matter how they came up with the results, it certainly feels far more true than other recent articles I have read. It is also refreshing to read someone state the obvious and I feel almost justified in (some of) my whining (yes, call a spade a spade).
Sadly, it does not less the frustration of day to day life. We do enjoy the overseas way of life and our girls are quite happy here. On the other hand, I do grow so weary of "we can't buy, too expensive" mantra. I would understand far more if it seemed like those who made the products were receiving more money for their efforts, yet in fact, it does not seem to be the case. Or if it is, I will gladly eat my words!
I continue loathe anything related to grocery shopping and the girls chant quietly to themselves "I know, I know, it's too expensive" on the way to each and every store. Otherwise, they fret they may forget and be tempted by the items calling them from the shelves, whether it be clothes, toys or just decent produce (okay, that one we splurge on).
And, yes, we know there are larger problems out there. However, those seem even more insurmountable when we realize how much less we can help (financially or otherwise) given how little we can squeeze out of the dollar here. Or how little we can save when we are supposed to be in the middle of our 'prime saving years'. And, to find out we are headed to only a slightly less expensive place for our next tour of duty?
PSA - For those of you previously unaware (like most of us), Icelandair, that fabulous airline with "website of the year" (ha) is cutting services in Baltimore as of January 13, 2008. Yep, no more flights from the DC area, one must now head to the major metropolises (metropoli?) of either New York (ugh) or Boston (not as much ugh, but two so close together?!).
Why? Well, read the reasoning for yourself at Icelandair's fantastic, user-friendly (not) website. Sorry, not biting on their reasoning at all. Anyone who has flown the BWI circuit recently knows it is nothing if not jam-packed almost every flight, especially heading to the States. Stories of free tickets and cash for getting bumped on flights to BWI, especially during the summer, are rampant.
Now, if they had offered the reasoning of the small, lackluster "International" terminal at BWI, I would have a little more understanding. With only 8 gates, one shop and a tiny cafe, there is little reasoning to call it a hot-bed of international flying. That being said, it is still extraordinarily close to the DC metropolitan area, far closer than Boston or New York for those heading to other locations across the U.S.
So, where is their new "Northern" base? Toronto. Yep, read into it what you will, but frankly, seems to me they could have included Toronto without dissing the mid-Atlantic... or perhaps adding flights to another locale such as Atlanta. Nope, think there is a little more to it, yet now is neither the time nor place...so discuss amongst yourselves.
Meanwhile, if you have a flight "scheduled" for the spring from BWI to Keflavik, you might want to give Icelandair a call. As we have learned those who are hopping (halfway) across the pond to visit us this spring (!!), Icelandair has taken customer service to the new (lowest) level of not bothering to do squat on their own initiative. They can and will rebook you, but apparently you have to bring their, er, errors to their attention and at that point, they will "work with you".
or an exact(if not confusing) quote from the Kelsey. "Them" would be the Yule Lads, destined to arrive at our house around 3 a.m. today, according to one of the teachers at the school. Well, not all of them, just one will stop by tonight. Each child who leaves their shoe on the windowsill (and has behaved respectably recently) will receive a small gift or toy in their shoe tonight and every night until Christmas.
Should the child misbehave during the day, they will receive a potato in their shoe. Now, Kelsey has been looking forward to the visit of Stekkjarstaur all day, even going so far as to put my slipper in the window as soon as she came home from school. She felt it was better to leave in the kitchen as that way the Santa of the day would not wake her up upon his arrival.
For whatever reason, by tonight she had become somewhat wary of the Jolasveinar. Not only didn't she want him to wake her up, she was now afraid of them coming in the house. So, she asked me to contact them (specifically to call from my phone) and ask them to hand me the gift, so I could put it in the shoe.
I agreed, "made the call" and set the plan in motion...now we just have to wait until morning to see what appears!
In other news, tonight was 'time for Jen to be verklempt, part II'. Caitlin had her real piano recital and was surprisingly not very nervous. She was a little upset, however, that none of her friends were able to make it or so she thought.
She was bemoaning this very fact when Peter told her to turn around. Not only had her friend come, but her sister (also a friend), their brother (Kelsey's classmate), their mom (Kelsey's teacher) and their dad (well, their dad). Cait's face lit up and she no longer worried that she had to play...first!
So, yes, I was almost a little weepy. She did so very well, and given how she worked so hard while not being able to use both hands, we were extremely proud. The teacher even pointed out how she had only had the cast off for two weeks, which only added to the applause for her fine work.
It isn't quite ready yet, but do expect a You Tube video very soon. Now, go get your shoes...if you are on the East Coast, you only have a few hours til Stiff Legs/Sheep-fold Sneaker shows up!
As many of you may know, Peter has long has a rule about smiling in photos. Perhaps due to the fact that for the past 9 years, he is either posing for i.d. cards or (for 3 or so years) was randomly featured in AP, Getty and weird shots on CNN. Hence, not much time to pose and frankly, really wasn't supposed to be concerned with that sort of thing.
For whatever reason, this tendency played over into personal photos as well. Not that we are the best at remembering to do family portraits or even casual photos of all 4 of us, as we usually don't have anyone to hold the camera.
Thursday night we found someone and not only did we take a photo that I consider to be 'somewhat' decent of me (it's me, not the photographer if the photo isn't up to standard), but....in the photo...Peter is smiling!
Mind you, I am so used to it, I didn't say a word....but apparently other folks who had attended the Embassy Christmas party and saw said photo pointed out the smile with much excitement.
So, there you go....now question of the day...can you see the bump or not?