Norwegian Woman Resurrects Traditional Art Form

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Good Norwegian housewives were always supposed to have at least seven varieties of cookies to offer their guests.

"Now, they buy them in stores," laughs Inger LeGrande of Gisela, over a platter of cookies that holds 10 delicate varieties.

The fit, cheerful woman who teaches dance at the Payson Senior Center claims she only has this many cookies around because of the holidays.

Her annual glug party for her dancers will bring a cheery end to another year of living in Gisela. Glug, or gløgg, is a spiced liquor punch served in Scandinavian countries as a Christmas drink

LeGrande spent her childhood on an English farm called Skredshol during the Nazi occupation of Norway. She likens it to an English manor with its own carpenter and blacksmith.

"It has all the outlying small farms," she said. "People could work the land on the small farms, but they also had to work a few days a week at the big farm."

Skredshol is nestled in a valley just south of Lillihammer. In addition to the manor, there was a large separate house that tradition dictated belonged to the doctor and his family.

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Inger LeGrande found this pre-Columbian frog while living in balmy central Panama. Crafted by hand out of soft gold more than nine centuries ago, it is one of her treasures.

She recalls 1945 as the worst year.

"(The Nazis) were desperate," she said. "The Nazis came in the middle of the night and chased everybody out and we had to stand against the wall for hours while they searched."

Her father, a prominent country physician serving many districts, did his part for the resistance by smuggling medical supplies. The supplies were hidden in false cupboard bottoms.

"Of course they couldn't find anything in our house," LeGrande says. By the last few months of the war, most of the men farming in the Ringsaker valley were rounded up and sent to concentration camps.

LeGrande's father was among them. His job in the camp hospital was to revive tortured men. Echoing the voices of so many daughters, wives and mothers of the past hundred years, she described his time as a prisoner, "It was pretty damaging. He was never really was the same after that."

Jan Moslet, the manor's current owner, is one of LeGrande's best friends from childhood.

"The manor house was pretty fabulous," LeGrande said.

LeGrande and Moslet used to have fun sneaking into the locked rooms they weren't normally allowed into, to peek at the Dresden porcelain and other treasures.

There has always been a farm on the land; Viking-age artifacts can still be found there. LaGrande has a penchant for unearthing relics -- she discovered her 900-year-old pottery and pre-Columbian jewelry while she was living in Sona, Panama.

LeGrande is a self-taught painter in the distinct Norwegian style called rosemailing. Artists, to earn room and board, painted exposed beams, furniture, anything a farmer wanted. Rosemailing has more curlicues than the artwork on the heirloom trunk that has been handed down to the eldest daughters in LeGrande's family since 1814. The beautiful sky-blue chest that looks like it was painted yesterday, in the flowery Swedish tradition, was actually a museum restoration.

LaGrande's husband Bill, with a twinkle in his eye for the woman he married 32 years ago, says, "At least she hasn't started painting the walls."

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