Monday, November 26, 2012

Hard & Fast Cooking Rules-Momma's Old Fashioned Ginger Snaps

Baking with Mama always comes with rules, doesn't it? 

After a thorough wash, rule numero uno is of utmost importance-roll up your sleeves. Nothing irks my Grandma more than someone working in the kitchen with their sleeves hanging down, all sloppy like that Martha Stewart on the TV. How could you go on national television with your sleeves hanging down while you work in the kitchen? Yes, ladies, my Grandma does truly have the cornerstone on home making and probably could out cook Martha any day, with her sleeves rolled up. 

This ginger snap cookie recipe comes from my Momma-my great Grandma on this side of the family. It has been faithfully made in our family for several generations, and I can remember the warm scent of my mom cooking these up in our kitchen around Christmas. If I was helping at Grandma's house, she was sure to give us girl's a taste of molasses straight off the spoon. When I was eight years old this seemed like a delicacy. Have you ever tried it as an adult though? Not quite what I had envisioned. 

Mom always pushed these cookies flat with a fork, and they were so nice and crispy with a cup of tea. I like to roll them into tiny balls, covered in sugar and they are left soft and chewy. 

Try them out, but please, make sure to avoid being anything like Martha and roll up your sleeves. 

Momma's Ginger Snaps

3/4c shortening
1c brown sugar
1 egg 
1/4 c molasses
2 1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves

Mix wet ingredients together with beater. Mix dry ingredients in and add cloves. Roll in small balls & dip in sugar. Bake 12 minutes at 350F.

Mix in double or triple batches around Christmas. These cookies freeze well and are the perfect addition to any chilly winter day with a glass of milk or tea. 

Proof is in the pudding-or in this case, cookies. Served best to a three year old with milk!

Black Friday---Cross Border Shopping

For my friend T- may your travels be merry, your children patient, and the best deals to be had. Have fun this week. 

Road trips are exhausting!

Some grain farmers from Alberta head to the deep south in winter, to see a little sunshine and experience warmth in their Canadian winter bones. My grandparents and their friends head south too, only not quite as far across the border as others. Great Falls, Montana seems to scream their names, and the deals on Black Friday have been no exception to this calling.

We have travelled with neighbours in the past to hit up Great Falls, and some might scoff heading to a 'smaller' city to shop. Alas,  Albertans love a good deal as much as they love their beef. Young ones burn down in two tone trucks- different shades of dust-all gussied up with teased  hair and made up ivory skin for a cheap vacation and to haul back el cheapo Wranglers.  Throw fifteen years on their lives and they will be buying cheap shampoo and Shasta, with car seats pinched in the back of the 'burb'.  Momma's buy snow suits, carefully planned Christmas gifts, and stock up on brands of baby gear you can't find at home. A mighty whoop whoop would be hollered at the Big R and a small hallelujah at Target.  Cross border shopping is no stranger to some and Albertan's know which hotel has the nicest pool, which will squirrel up the most packages ordered in, and hands down which facility has the finest continental breakfast. For the rural Prarieites who don't get to town a lot, gracing the streets of Great Falls is as much as holiday as heading to Cancun, only the souvenirs brought home aren't little trinket shells. Border guards are used to trucks full of Ivomec, cheap fabric, and Carhartt's stacked to the hilt. I'm always just a little afraid that they think we are hauling stuff home for a 125 person mixed farming operation, and that they are a bit confused that my name isn't Dorothy and my husband's isn't Jake on our passports.

Now, although I have never experienced Black Friday in the US, the stories of people roaming the streets at the oddest hours have always struck me as a little wild. The day following a calendar day that is supposed to honour gratitude for what you have, people seem to just plumb lose their minds and race into the cities to haul more. stuff. home.

I had heard stories of people getting trampled in these American cities, all pushing and shoving for the best deals that might be pinched in the back of the store. When my Grandma came home from a trip to the US on this blessed day, she was sporting a big, black shiner and glasses that were taped together and our concern hit a high note. Learning that she took a tumble on the curb at the border lessened our worries of Grandma shopping in the States.

Really, I don't know why we should ever worry about this Grandma. She is able to carry more bags than my sister and I combined and is generally referred to as our mom, not our Grandmother. She would never wake up like those "crazy people who line up at 0300" but at 0400 she had said the lines were thinning as she sidled up to get the best deal on boots in town.  Energy flows in this lady's blood and sometimes I wish that it had somehow flowed down to me.

Grandma and her posse stay in the same hotel year after year on this weekend and would book far in advance, looking for that deal that was out there. Coolers were packed in their trucks alongside their suitcases, to bring back grated cheese, blocks of cheese and basically any kind of cheese that was cheap as chips. It wasn't uncommon for there to be ten cake mixes tucked in the vehicle, and it was then that I realized that some things might be coming home that wouldn't always get used, but the fact that they were basement bargain's placed them at home in Grandma's pantry.

Now, these folks who would travel down together were bargain savvy. After a full day of shopping for ingredients to make the finest Christmas crackers around (that of course couldn't be found in Canada), these gals would make their own meals in the evening. They wouldn't just cook to save cash,   but because you could bet your bottom dollar that they could cook better than most restaurants in town. Cards were played in the evenings and the clock would tick until it was time to get up and hit repeat  on their day.

The woman who put on miles with Grandma, that have a few decades on me, make me long for a small fraction of their energy. I wish for their incredible deal shopping ways and hey, if we're making wishes that aren't worth a plugged nickel, you might as well throw me some cooking skills too.

For Black Friday next year, Montana watch out! Grandma is coming for you and I might just be along in her shadow, puffing away to try and keep up. We'll eat you out of your deals and drink up your southern hospitality--feel free to head north for Boxing Day to probably pay twice what you do for your jeans in the south, but you'd be welcome just the same.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Keeping Truth Alive----Dan Carlson

A big thank you to Libbie at The Middlest Sister for sending in a special story, in her own words of someone who served-her father. If you have a photo or a few lines of someone's story you would like to tell who has served for your country, please send it to me at

Dan Carlson is my Dad. He survived living in a home with his wife Cheri and three girls. He has always made sure all his girls were completely taken care of & spoiled a bit too :) Even today I have four kids (5 in a month) and an amazing husband but wouldn't you know my Dad is still trying to take care of us all. I never leave his house without finding a case of diapers, a few boxes of cereal or even a huge package of toilet paper in the back seat of my car (and I am there all the time!) He is a loving Dad & I couldn't be more proud of him.
One thing I am very proud of him for is his service in the U.S. Army. He served from October '63-October '65. After PostalSchool in Indianahe served overseas in Verona, Italy. Here are some of his stories I really enjoyed:
My Dad worked the Army Postal Service in Italy. He worked the counter and guarded the mail as he picked it up from Milan. "All the military mail was handled by Americans. Even payroll. We would go pick up cash for payroll with no guards and no guns. We were driven around by crazy Italian drivers. I was in three accidents while I was there. I delivered a lot of Dear John letters. Almost every solider got one eventually"
"We could not make the trip from Milan to Verona, in the Deuce& amp; a Half, without filling up so we would stop at this one fruit stand to pour the gas in. We would always buy the cherries during cherry season. But every time we got back to the base we would all have diarrhea because the farmers used human manure. The cherries were so good that we didn't even care and bought them every time."
"On one trip the Italian driver was talking to the fruit stand owner and he told him how I was a good solider, that I never fell asleep like all the other American GIs and took my job to guard the mail seriously. He told them what a hard worker I was. The fruit stand owner rounded up his five daughters and lined them up. He told me to pick one." (My Dad was smiling big as he recalled that. I asked him if he picked one but he said no:)
"During a drill one night they told me to run back to the base for something. It was completely dark outside & I ran smack into a barbed wire fence. Thank goodness I had been holding my rifle up, it took most of the shock but I cut my upper lip badly and had to be sewn up by a plastic surgeon. It is the only time in my life I had to grow a mustache because I couldn't shave until it healed. I looked a lot older with it."
"One night soon after I was walking a girl home from the service club and I asked her, 'Where have you been all my life?'
She said, 'Probably not born for half of it.' I was really only 23 but it was my mustache."
"Vietnam was just starting up when I was getting out. We were each required to give up one uniform because they were recruiting heavily for Vietnamand they needed more uniforms for the incoming soldiers."
"Veronawas beautiful. It is the home of Romeo and Juliet's balcony, has sidewalks made of marble, and boasts the 2nd largest coliseum in Europe." He actually just returned this week from visiting Italy, and even Verona where he served, again with my mom.
My Dad had many more memories that I am so thankful to have written down. I wouldn't have thought to write down his stories without Cheyenne's blog here, and now I am going to make a keepsake for our family! Thanks Cheyenne for letting me share my very special Dad with you!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Winter Training

Back in the day when water was free, the hallways in our little school would literally come alive at half past ten in the morning and the sound was deafening! Not only was there laughter and chatter, but a monotoned, "swish, swish, swish" floated through the air like a sound machine set to white noise. 
"Come on, walk to momma! That ol' snowdrift ain't nothin, come on, little lady! Momma put spikes on your boots, nothin' to worry about that bit of ice for!"

Bib overall ski pants, winter jackets, mitts, and all sorts of flashy toques were pulled on, the thought of Fox and Goose alive in our minds. I'm not sure how our fifteen minute recesses were not solely taken up with the prep for going out in wintertime weather. With the majority of our school days spent playing on a swing set dusted in white and the little hill on the south end full of crazy carpets, our mommas around here have to start training young.

Coaching to pull on that full winter apparel in the shortest amount of time possible with the least amount of fussing, should just about come in a pamphlet from Public Health in Alberta. We know hardcore encouraging phrases are yelled out,  "MAKE SURE YOU'VE USED THE POTTY!" "Come on, you CAN move in those snow pants!" Soon digress to muttered, "now where in the blue blazes are your mittens?" 
Oh yeah! Diggin' extra fast--more arm muscle!

Now if I was a bettin' woman, I'd be pulling out my wallet, because I know any other mother from the north can take one peek at these photos and know the mess in the back porch that follows a morning like this. All the Grandma's say the same things, "Oh, they'll sleep so well after some fresh air!" And all harried young mom's silently chuckle at the truth we know-the hot chocolate after only brings the wildness up fourteen notches. 

Don't be fooled that our skills on the hockey rink come freely, the muscles in our babies legs are being worked from the time a soother still hangs out of their mouth. Mommas' set their marshmallows with legs outside and tell them to run to the barn. With a "get set, go!" we know that this is a finer workout than any treadmill. Coupled with a few treks back up the hill after a toboggan ride down, I'm wondering why Jillian Michaels makes all the cash? I'm just going to start filming the kids and selling a pair of ski pants to go along with my workout video. Ski Pants Power Routine-no big deal. 

Dear Woofie,
Thank you for looking after the children. I will chuck a bone outside later as payment for your kindness.
While rosy cheeks were tucked into bed tonight, I was grateful for where we live, the here, and the now. Here's to winter and all it's glory. Love it! These are your moments. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fall Supper

A couple weekends ago I was reminded that a group of pink aproned, fixed up hair, fancy jean-wearing women from rural Alberta are nothing to mess with. Resourceful, strong and can work a draft horse under the table, these women are reminiscent of a small army. Oh my! Don't you get in their way. 

Across our wind sculpted prairies some old traditions hold current today. Years ago fall suppers, where folks gathered in churches to chow down on chicken, salads, and potatoes, were an important way to connect after the grueling days of harvest were over. These meals were all prepared without running water and electricity and ladies groups, did just that -- grouped together and cooked. As fundraisers for the women's clubs in churches, fall suppers were a place where neighbour after neighbour would show up to visit, eat, and enjoy a short program. My Grandma remembers as a child being all shined up and waiting upstairs with a nervous stomach, for her number to be called to eat. The nerves weren't for the meal, but for the program afterwards that the children helped put on. 

Now, our fall suppers are generally a buffet style spread of deliciousness. Turkey is served instead of chicken, and potatoes, vegetables and salads adorn the plates. Accompanied with coffee and pie, it's too bad that there weren't couches to have a snooze on afterwards.  Ladies organizations from churches, as well as Town and Country clubs from our small rural communities unite to make money and serve up a full meal. As a girl, I washed dishes in the back with other young girls from the community. You always wondered who you would get to chat with while going through tea towel after soaking wet tea towel, drying dishes.

A few days ago, I washed my girls up, getting ready to haul them into our nearest community, a place where less than a hundred people reside, probably counting kittens and pups all around.  The sun blazed down on the snow left over from two weeks of ice fog that had caused power outages. Folks rendered themselves a little crazier than before, from the lack of brightness in the sky, and the sunshine was welcomed! We plowed across muddy gravel roads, with a sort of tricky Spring feel in the air with the snow turning into liquid in the ditches. 

Heading into the hall, we were greeted with the sound of dishes crashing, and a dim room with a few candles on the tables stretched out before us. We might live in the boondocks, but these aren't the pioneer days, no sir, the power was still having major glitches after the hokey weather of the past few weeks. Apparently on this day, of all days, there was an outage for several hundred miles and women gasped in the morning, not daring to open their ovens as turkeys were being browned to perfection. You can imagine the scene being set; nerves were racked and nails tapped maniacally on the counter with eyes on the clock, waiting for light to flicker in the kitchen.

People far and wide came. Turkey was fed to four times the amount of folks that reside here. 

These women were something! I have never seen the like, and you would think that I would have been prepared, having grown up in this area - moulded, raised, and supported by these ladies. When the power went out, a stern phone call was placed to our local electricity provider and a reminder was made to put our teensy hamlet on priority.  Forget those communities with hospitals in them, there is near three hundred pounds of turkey cookin' around here!

In the hall murmured conversations led to phone calls and a general consensus of "this show must go on!" People joke about gas-powered blenders, but folks, with my very eyes I saw extension cords hauled around and generators brought in, and gas powered blenders were indeed used. Warnings of, “Watch your step!”, blenders whirring to mash potatoes and electric knives coming to life, the women worked at Mach speed to make up time lost to black. A cheer went up when the lights came on, and almost like something out of a storybook, a collected sort of 'awwwww!!' when the power went off again. Like an army of ants, these women put a spread on, but I tell you, the process was somewhat scary to get there. I have an awed sort of respect for these gals, in a, "Heck yes, ma'am, I'll do whatever you say! I know that pink apron means business!" kind of way.

If you want to experience a piece of prairie history, find a small town in the fall, ask about their turkey supper and you surely won't be let down as you help celebrate the completion of harvest and support a women's organization. You might sit down next to your Grandpa's old neighbour who can tell you tales of round ups from years past, or you might meet the tiniest, newest neighbour to the community, swaddled up tight. No matter who you cross paths with there, you will be better for it.  It might not be as exciting as our last one was, but it will have some sort of tasty pie to punctuate whatever adventure it will hold and trust me -- all are welcomed. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Snow Antlers

Have you heard of Return to Rural? If this doesn't make you want to move to Oyen, Alberta- what else would? 

There is nothing quite like Tumbleweed Wilds from the east. These are the kind of kids author's hope to find in life and replicate-they make a great story. The kind of children that put fear in their mama's hearts and make their daddy's ticker swell with pride!

I'm afraid, dear sisters, that these are the kind of kids my tiny baby girl's somehow pray to become. I know they are heading down that free and untamed path and I'm following along in a delirious state. 

There is a fine line between kids who make snowmen like these, and those that construct a regular frosty. Some kids just stand right on that fine line, and I know mine would surely push them over, running to get a bow and arrow. 

The only thing that frighten's me a bit more than the children, are the daddies and uncles who probably made the snowmen themselves and said the little bambino's did it. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The War to End All Wars

This poignant post, written by my Auntie, brings a great lump to my throat. 
If you would like to send in photos or some written words about someone who has served for your country, or is serving now, please e-mail me at You can also simply share these stories. Help keep truth alive. 

The War to End All Wars

Many years ago, I visited my great aunt (the little girl shown above standing in front of her mother) for what was to be the last time. She had cancer and died later that year. It was a week of sharing and getting to know each other, she a widow in her seventies and I, a young married mom in my twenties. Because I shared her name, she was very special to me. And I certainly felt special to her.
One of the many stories that Aunt Johan shared, took place in her childhood on the windswept prairie near Three Hills, Alberta. Two brothers, William and Alex had neighbouring homesteads. One day, Johan’s father, William, called to her in an urgent voice. “Johan, I can see John coming. He’s running. Something is wrong. Go now, and learn the matter.” With that, Johan, just a child herself, began to run up the road toward her cousin.
These 90 years later, I picture the scene. I know that road; we still own that land. Young John winded but continuing to run; Johan, a small girl, running with all her might to learn the reason for the urgency. When at last they met, John’s message was not one of trouble, or concern, but rather one of joy. John’s family had just returned from town where they learned the wonderful news, “The war is over!”
I can still see my aunt’s eyes filling with tears as she ended the story, “and that was the First World War – the war to end all wars.”
No one celebrating that day would have considered that two short decades later, the world would once again be at war. And then another, and another…
This morning as I pause to remember those who died for our freedom, I also want to remember that we are promised a time when “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). Imagine it!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lest We Forget

We need to remember what our forefather's sacrificed for our 

freedom. We need to be mindful of those that are serving 
today and their brother's in arms that have fallen to continue 
to make our nation what it is; a land of opportunity and 
choice.  We need to keep these stories alive to keep it fresh in
our mind what has been given to us. It's up to us to record 
these stories and to pass them along. Please join me this month, in a month of remembrance to write these things down. If you have a relative or friend who has served or is serving for our nations, whose story you'd like to share, please send it to me at I'd love to feature someone's story for the next few weeks on my blog. It doesn't have to be long, it doesn't have to be perfect, even a photo with some simple words is great-it is simply to keep the truth alive. 

Grandpa Bill
It's stories that our generation is called to continue to tell as the days of our Grandparents' are being laid to rest. It's these legends that will stick in our minds; it's the faces, not the statistics. 

My Grandpa Bill signed up to serve in the second world war, at the signature of his mom's hand as he was only seventeen years old. Grandpa was a prairie kid from central Alberta that hadn't known the water. He headed to Calgary to train with HMCS TECUMSEH, leaving his younger brother Glen to run the farm; their dad had died a year earlier. The next year the farm was going to be left to a hired man when Uncle Glen would sign up. 

Grandpa Bill was a gunner in the Navy, on the triangle run in the North Atlantic on a corvette. The ship  was only 100 feet long and there were 100 plus men on it. I wish he was still here so I could hear more about everyday life on that great creature that lived on the water. 

I know Grandpa's very favourite meal on that ship was Red Lead & Bacon. Canned stewed tomatoes cooked up in bacon grease with little bits of bacon in it were a delicacy! Grandpa Bill also learned about rum in this time of his life. A big barrel of it sat on the ship. Grandpa had a bad cold, and never having had a drink before didn't know the appropriate amount of rum to take to finish that cold off, so filling his whole mug up, he woke up in the morning with the cold gone; but he could ring out the sheets he had slept on.

Grandpa Bill

Grandpa made special friends in that time of his life, too. Ted Forshner would go on to guide with my Grandpa for Uncle Glen for years to come and we'd so often hear of dear Jonny Bonhamm. Our family never realized that his actual name was Jean Louise Bonhamm, as a man from Quebec's name would be, not Jonny. Jonny's family didn't know Grandpa's real name either, he was always talked about as cornflake.It was Jonny that relieved his fears in their biggest storm out on the Atlantic. As Grandpa sweat bullets each time the ocean swelled against the ship, and it leaned so far it threatened to topple over, Jonny came to the rescue. Jonny was a wise old man to Grandpa Bill's young seventeen year old mind, and so when the twenty five year old talked to Grandpa, he listened. Jonny assured him the ship wouldn't sink; it would act just like the clowns filled with air that children knock over, and no matter how hard they hit, they will always pop up. It wasn't until they were both old men, sitting around my grandparent's kitchen table that Grandpa learned that Jonny, in spite of his calm demeanour  was just as afraid, and told Grandpa the first thing he could think of to alleviate some fear. 

For all the hardship and the lonesome days away from his family and farm on the flatlands, this was the highlight of my grandfather's life. Those were his glory years, he spoke of them with fondness and with pride in his voice. Every year, on Remembrance Day a cousin from Ontario would phone Grandpa to thank him for serving for our nation, and for our people; now that Grandpa's gone, he phones my mom and my auntie's. We are all still very proud of our Grandpa who served.

Lest we forget. 

***Thanks to Steph for asking some questions. HMCS in Canada  stand for Her Majesty's Canadian Ship. TECUMSEH was named for a great man, a Shawnee chief, that during the war of 1812 served with Canadian & British forces.***

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