Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ella's Will

Beautiful and beloved only daughter of a kind, generous, recently-deceased widower.
Stepmother and stepsisters who are narcissistic, vain and just plain cruel.
And a great, countryside manor falling into disrepair as the daughter of the house tries vainly to keep it—and her step family—cared for.
Sound familiar?
This is a new twist on the old, familiar story, as told by the young man who figures strongly in the tale.
Ella, struggling to fulfil her father’s final wishes, has become little more than a slave in her own household. But she carries on.
Will, who has loved her since the days he served her father, watches her pain and suffering, helpless to offer any aid.
And then Ella falls under the purview of the Prince. A young man who spells, at once, Ella's salvation and Will's doom. 
Which man will act as her final escort to the ball?
Ella’s Will is a gentle, beautiful story of love, patience, responsibility, and honour.
As well as good old virtues like dependability, duty, restraint, kindness and most of all forgiveness.
But Ella’s Will begs the question: Which is worse? Suffering oneself, or watching a loved one suffer?
I enjoyed my little trip into Ella and Will's world immensely.
Give Ella’s Will a read.
It’s a trip worth taking!
Please Note: I was given a copy of this book to read and review. I was not compensated in any way for said review. Unless you count the enjoyable hours I spent reading . . .

About the author: Jessilyn Stewart Peaslee graduated with a BA in English from Brigham Young University in 2004. She loved taking creative writing classes, and was particularly fond of the works of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and the Bronte sisters. She also studied French and the humanities. Jessilyn grew up in the beautiful deserts of Southern California and now resides in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in Saratoga Springs, Utah, with her husband and five boys.
About the book: Will Hawkins is just a simple stable boy. How can he hope to woo Ella, his once-wealthy childhood friend who is stubbornly independent, especially when his competition is the prince? Without any magic or fairy godmothers, Will must show Ella that he is her true prince charming in this perspective twist of the Cinderella story.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


I'll be away for the next couple of weeks.
I'm here.
On the Royal Clipper.

I'm doing this:

There's room for you!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Baby Painting

The day started out normally enough.
Babies playing quietly while I snatched a couple of minutes online to look at drapes.
“Hmmm—the green or the teal?”
It had taken days to narrow my choices down to these two and my husband’s frustration with me was growing. “Make a choice. Any choice! If you don’t like them we’ll send them back. Need I remind you the neighbours can see into our bedroom when the lights are lit? And no, I don’t want to keep on shutting them off. The lights, not the neighbours.”
He was right. I wouldn’t admit that to his face, but I will to you.
I sighed. Green. Or Teal?
Feeling a bit parched from my time perusing, I decided a nice cup of herbal tea would be in order.
As the water was heating, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t been hearing anything from my toddlers for the past minute.
Silence is golden. But in a toddler, it’s suspicious.
I quietly moved toward the living room where they had been playing.
If they were happily engrossed in something harmless, I did not want to draw their attention. Then I’d have to entertain them.
And my drapery decision would be put off just that much longer.
I stopped in the doorway. Both of them were on the couch and I could just see the tops of heads. They looked all right. Happily engrossed in something.
Could I leave them alone for a while longer? I took a step back toward my kettle and future cup of tea.
Then, something told me to look a little closer.
I still tried to walk quietly, figuring I could just peek over the couch without them knowing. I moved nearer.
And that’s when all thought of leaving them on their own or drapes or decisions went right out of my head. In fact, everything went out of my head.
Because my toddlers had been busily--happily--engaged.
Little baby hands painting each other with diaper cream.
I admit it, I screamed.
Then dove for my camera.
You understand. This needed to be recorded.
For the slide show at their weddings.
And posts on Facebook.
Yeah. I’m on it.

Each month, Karen of Baking In A Tornado organizes a group of bloggers in a word exchange.
My words this month? teal ~ parched ~ baby ~ frustration ~ cream ~ herbal
They were submitted by the inimitable Carol Graham.

Like what you read? See what the others did with their assignment! Do it. It'll be fun!
Baking In A Tornado
Southern Belle Charm
Not That Sarah Michelle
Spatulas on Parade
The Bergham Chronicles
The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver
Dinosaur Superhero Mommy
Confessions of a part time working mom
Never Ever Give Up Hope

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Back To School

Mom is third from the left.
‘T’was seventy-six years ago this year,
On Alberta’s new frontier.
My Mama started school that day,
In Millicent, not that far away.

Swedish was what she knew the best,
And not a word of all the rest.
But for this day that pint-sized girl
Would, English, give a little whirl.

Her mama coached her carefully,
On what to say at Teacher’s knee.
The words that would the class transfix?
“My nom Enes, I’m halfpastsix.”

Clutching book in tiny hand,
Mama entered ‘No-Girl’s Land’,
Then sat down in the nearest seat,
And tried to make herself discreet.

But Teacher saw her sitting there,
With press-ed dress and flaxen hair,
And called to her to please advance,
And of her schoolmates, get a glance.

My Mama went, but she was tense,
She did not want to be thought dense,
So, hoping they would not despise,
Recited what she’d memorized.

But when her class did mock with glee,
The words she’d said so carefully.
My Mom, like ice (or stuff that melts),
Wished she could be someplace else.

From then, my Mom deliberately,
Forget her Swedish publicly,
And ever after English spoke,
When e're she talked with other folk.

Before you sympathize too much,
For kids that did make fun and such,
Please note Mom didn’t cry or bawl,
And scholastically outpaced them all.

Every Month, Karen of Baking in a Tornado issues a challenge. In rhyme.
This month? Back to School
Where would I go but back to the past?

See what these other bloggers have done with the theme!
Karen of Baking In A Tornado: The Evolution of Back to School
Dawn from Spatulas On Parade: Back to School and Off the Streets
Jules of The Bergham Chronicles: Summer’s End

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

For Raisons Unknown

It only LOOKS delicious . . .
I love raisins.
Especially in trail mix.
Or coated in chocolate.
I should probably point out, here, that coating in chocolate is not really an accurate test of raisin love.
If you coated a hubcap in chocolate, I'd eat it.
Moving on . . .
I did not always love raisins. (Even now, I prefer my cinnamon buns and other baked treats to be raisin-less.)
It wasn't until after I was married that I learned to appreciate them.
There is a reason for that . . .
My brother, George, is two years older than I. Throughout our growing-up years, his prime responsibility was the teasing of his younger sister.
He practised his craft at every opportunity.
And became very good at it.
One day, our mom made cookies. Something she did a lot.
On this particular occasion, she had produced mounds of raisin cookies.
They were spread out temptingly across the table.
The aroma drew my brother and I from the depths of the house.
“Mmmm. Raisin cookies,” George said. He turned to me. “I knew that Mom was going to make raisin cookies today.”
“You did?” I asked innocently.
“Yep. I did,” he said.
“Did Mom tell you?”
“You can tell by the smell?”
“Partially. But that's not the real reason.”
“Well, I give up. How did you know?”
He leaned towards me, a big grin on his face. “I knew Mom was going to bake raisin cookies because I saw her picking the raisins off the fly-paper at the back door.”
And from that moment on, in fact for the next twenty years, George had all of the raisin goodies that emerged from Mom's kitchen to himself.
Smart cookie.

P.S. He also tried to convince me that my rice was moving.
But that is another story . . .
He only LOOKS cute!

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Little Bit of Courage

It's bigger on the inside...

We visited the Horne Lake caves on Vancouver Island near where our middle son lives.
Getting ready.
The area is beautiful and the caves undeveloped and natural, which we found exciting.
But I learned something unexpected from the experience.
Let me tell you about it . . .
We went, first of all, for our son, who has Tourette’s and suffers from anxiety.
The fact that he acceded to our wishes to explore the caves is a testament to his courage, his trust in us and/or his very good team of health professionals.
Things started out well.
We donned our protective gear and mugged for a couple of pictures. Then our guide started out with us trailing (pun intended) along behind him down the forest path. A couple of young women were in our group just ahead of us and when we got to the very narrow cave opening, the one put up her hands and said, “Nope. Can’t do it.” They were guided to a secondary cave a short distance away. One without the ‘turn-sideways-and-suck-in-your-gut’ entrance.
I followed the guide, a little anxious for my son coming along behind me.
But then we reached the first cave and there he was. (Handsprings are not encouraged inside these caves. Just FYI.)
I had to keep my celebrating to a “Well done, Son!” and a smile.
We continued on through the ‘mud room’ and the ‘boulder room’ and the ‘crystal room’.
A lot of rooms.
Crouching and sliding to get from some to others.
And still my son stayed with us.
Sometimes even leading.
We saw rock formations that flowed and dripped.
Myriad colours and shapes and sizes.
Were told ‘not to touch that!’ or ‘Ooh, feel how cold this is!’
Lots of things to look at and experience.
A couple of times, I saw my son look upward toward the sky of stone above us.
I did the same.
Then realized that things down below were lots more interesting if I didn’t think about the tons and tons (and tons) of rock hanging over our heads.
We made it through, unscathed and perhaps a little more knowledgeable than when we had gone in.
And with an increased respect for my son’s courage.
But then I thought of something else.
Something that was only peripherally related to the caves we had just explored . . .
Those caves were like our little piece of our world.
There is much that is scary hanging over our heads. Crime. Terrorism. Natural disasters. Disease.
We could allow this to paralyze us and keep us from going forward.
Or we can maintain our focus and simply carry on. Not let fear stop us.
Keep on exploring.
Keep on living.
Which do you choose?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Still Writing...

I have exciting news!
Well . . . exciting to me! :)
Announcment: My newest novel, Daughter of Ishmael is to be published on January 10, 2017 by Cedar Fort Publishing.
Editing is finished.
It is now in the hands of the copy-editing department.
The artwork is done.
Tell me what you think!

As the publication date nears, I will be holding contests for free books and/or author appearances.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Milk, Anyone?

Not for the shy or faint of heart . . .
Recently, there had been a lot of press about women nursing their babies.
Usually because it has been carried to extreme lengths.
I nursed my babies.
And loved doing it.
But this isn't a commentary about that.
Though it is about 'extremes'.
Maybe I should explain . . .
A veterinarian friend of my father's had stopped in for a chat.
An immigrant from the UK, he was very fond of his tea.
My father offered him a cup.
Uncharacteristically, he declined. With a slight shudder.
Dad stared at his friend. What could possibly have put Dr. Ilovemytea off his favourite beverage?
The friend realized that he had aroused Dad's curiosity and an explanation was in order. He told Dad that he had just come from a vet call to a farm at the furthest border of his practice. 'Out in the sticks', you might say. His veterinarian business had been concluded.
And successful.
Hoping to prolong what was, to her, the highlight of a normally solitary day, the woman of the household had invited Dad's friend into her front room for a visit. She had recently given birth to a fine son and was anxious to share her story with someone.
All was well.
She and baby were thriving. Baby was nursing well and growing rapidly.
The woman offered the doctor a quick cup of tea before he began the long trek back to town.
Happily, he accepted.
The tea was brewed.
The woman brought it in and set it in front of her guest. “Would you like milk?” she asked.
Dad's friend said that, indeed, yes, he would love milk.
Whereupon (good word) the woman flipped out a breast and squirted some milk into the doctor's tea.
He blinked. Well . . . at least it was fresh.
As the story unfolded, Dad burst into laughter.
“So, did you drink it?” he asked his friend.
“Of course,” the doctor said.
“How was it?”
“Well, it tasted just fine,” he said. “Tasted fine.  But put me off a bit.”
Tea, anyone?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Very Good Ship

Where memories are made...
It was just a routine trip to the local recreation centre.
Something we did often when our kids were small.
Who knew it would result in someone’s fondest memory . . .?
With six children and one income, Husby and I had to choose our family entertainment carefully.
We went to a lot of free things.
We did manage Adventure Food (any nationality other than Canadian) once a month. And for our big splurge, we bought an attractions pass. A valuable little tool that gave us admittance to any of Edmonton’s many parks and attractions as well as every one of the numerous swimming pools.
We went swimming every Saturday night.
That way, they were all entertained, played out, and bathed and clean for Sunday morning.
Yeah. I’m just clever that way . . .
Earlier one Saturday afternoon, we changed things up a bit and took the clan to the Kinsmen Recreation Centre instead of our usual Millwoods Wave Pool.
The kids were excited at the prospect of a new pool.
And their Dad and I were excited to have them excited.
Let me describe the swimming part of the centre as it looked then: There was the large tank, with swimming lanes, for the serious swimmer. The diving tank for the serious diver. (Note: this pool has been used for competition diving as well as for shooting movies. Interesting, right?) The warm-up tank--also used for lane swimming and family groups and toys. And the smallest tank. Shallow. Warm. For families with young children.
Our family instantly separated into three pools.
Husby had the youngest in the ‘baby’ pool, I had our middle two in the middle pool, and the two eldest disappeared to try out the diving boards.
The middle tank was the most interesting to me. It had large floating toys perfect for family fun.
I had my son in a ‘coracle’ (a small, circular boat) and was pushing him around.
And singing.
Because that’s what I do.
Did you know there’s a song for nearly every activity?
Well, it’s true.
In this case, the music of choice was “The Good Ship Lollipop”.
We swam/floated back and forth for much of the afternoon. He lying relaxed in the little boat. Me, pushing and singing.
Then we fished everyone out, showered them off and headed home.
It had been a pleasant afternoon, one that I was to tuck away with my memories of other pleasant afternoons.
Move forward nearly thirty years . . .
Husby and I were visiting with our middle son at his home on Vancouver Island. During our stay, we started telling stories.
And talking about favourite memories.
Our son told us his favourite memory of growing up was one day when we went to the Kinsmen pool and I sang ‘On the Good Ship Lollipop’ to him while I floated his little boat back and forth in the water.
His favourite memory.
I guess I need to remember that when we think we are providing simple entertainment for our children, we are also making memories.
And one of those memories is going to be their favourite.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Riding the Wave

Now wave! It might be someone we know.
The Stringam Ranch was twenty miles from the Town of Milk River.
For the first ten miles out of town, you were passing through other ranch properties.
So your chances of meeting another motorist were pretty good.
After that, there was just one destination.
The Stringam Ranch.
Any traffic that came out that far needed emergency veterinarian assistance.
Or knew the family and my mom's cooking.
This is a long-winded way of telling you that, on any given trip into town, Dad knew every single driver that we passed.
A cloud of dust would appear on the horizon, growing larger. Finally a small dark spot could be detected, right at the base of said cloud.
The speck grew larger.
And larger.
Finally became recognizable as a vehicle.
Dad would slow down and pull over to the right side of the road.
Because lines hadn’t been introduced into our part of the country. And who could paint a line on dirt anyway?
The other driver would also slow and pull to his right.
The two would give each other a friendly wave.
And continue on.
Whereupon (good word) I would bob up out of wherever.
“Dad! Who was that?”
“That was Mr. Angel.”
I would disappear again.
Another vehicle.
Another wave.
Me bobbing up.
“Dad! Who was that?”
“Mr. and Mrs. Lindeman.”
As we grew closer to town, the vehicles were more numerous.
“Dad! Who was that?”
“Mrs. Swanson.”
I should mention that there was one vehicle that recognized. Even as a four-year-old.
It was an old car, driven very, very slowly.
I don’t remember what year or model though my brother, George, will.
It was driven by a hat.
I am not kidding.
A hat.
A nice men’s hat.
I would stare in astonishment as this particular, peculiar vehicle drove past.
Just a hat.
It was the one time during our entire trip that I wouldn’t bother my dad.
Because I knew who that hat was.
It was Grampa Balog.
After it passed, I would slump down on the seat.
Why couldn’t have a hat for a Grampa?
A hat that could drive cars.
Some kids have all the luck.
Moving ahead many years . . .
Yesterday, I was driving with one of my grandkids.
One of the hundred-or-so cars that we passed was driven by someone I knew.
I waved.
“Gramma! Who was that?”
And I was instantly transported back fifty-plus years.
I was four years old again.
And my Dad knew everyone on the road.

Daughter of Ishmael

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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