Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Hair Wars

See? And yes, Daddy's winking at you.

 I am the daughter of a Swedish-Canadian mother.
Her parents emigrated from Sweden and she and her brothers were all born here.
Let’s just say the ‘blonde’ gene is alive and well among my extended family.
I inherited it.
Throughout my childhood and into my teens, I had ultra-blonde, fine, soft, ‘candy-fluff’ hair.
The kind that looks good in a picture.
Or on a kewpie doll.
But is impractical.
And painful to look after.
Especially if anyone but me was doing the combing and arranging.
Now I know this would suggest that I actually did said combing and arranging.
I didn’t.
Mom did her best.
Chasing me about. Holding me down.
Issuing such statements as: “Diane! You look like a wild girl!” or “Hold still, I can’t let this go another minute!” or “I think there’s monkeys living in here!”.
Followed by the producing of a (Dun-dun-duuuuun!) comb.
And/or hair ornaments.
I will say that I liked it when mom washed my mane in the bathroom sink.
And then allowed me to play for a few minutes with my soaped-up tresses.
Just FYI: Soaped-up hair can be sculpted into the most amazing shapes.
True story.
But the inevitable ‘washing out’ and ‘arranging’ followed.
To this day the sound of an elastic being twisted into hair makes my head hurt.
It . . . remembers.
After the battle. Notice the curlers . . .

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Nose in a Book Generation

I guess it comes as no surprise that I love to read.
I started early.
Miss Woronoski's Grade One class. Milk River Elementary School.
Milk River, Alberta.
I had the first seat, first row on the left. Next to the windows.
And sitting on the cupboard beside me, my very. First. Book. Ever.
The Cat in the Hat. By Dr. Seuss.
I loved that book.
Though I highly disapproved of Mr. Cat's antics.
If you haven't read this classic, you just have to know: he was very disobedient.
And made a HUGE mess.
My little six-year-old heart nearly failed me.
I could just see my Mom's reaction.
Let's just say fur would be flying and leave it at that.
It took me days to read it through the first time.
I’m sure my gasps of shock and awe were notable throughout the entire room.
And my thirty-plus schoolmates.
Moving forward two years.
For my eighth birthday, I received the amazing new invention, Lego.
But that has nothing to do with this story.
Ahem . . .
I also received a book.
Nancy Drew: The Hidden Staircase.
And the world of ‘chapter books’ suddenly exploded in my life.
In a totally non-violent, un-dynomitish way.
Like the Cat in the Hat had two years before, it took me days to read it through the first time.
And it changed my life.
Suddenly I wanted to READ.
I saved my allowance and the next time we went to the city, made my very first purchase of a book.
Nancy Drew: The Ghost of Blackwood Hall. 

Chosen from among the vast selection because it had ‘ghost’ in the title.
Yeah. It was pretty much a no-brainer.
And it cost a whopping 49 cents.
From that day forward, I was perpetually nose-deep in a book.
Every waking minute.
And stolen from a lot of my ‘should-be-sleeping’ ones.
Because of me, Mom had to coin new phrases. “Diane! Get your nose out of that book and come and set the table!” “Diane! Put the book down and finish the vacuuming!”
Or the ever popular, “Diane, it’s four in the morning! Go! To! SLEEP!”
Yeah. It was a problem.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because my eldest grandson has discovered my hoard of Nancy Drew (and Hardy Boys, but that is a whole other story). He is at present working his way through the lot.
Gramma is so proud.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Marble(d) Dough

A couple of days ago, I spoke of finding a prize in my cake.
Turns out similar things have happened to others as well . . .
Husby comes from a large family. Five boys.
One girl.
The boys were . . . eaters.
Need I say more?
Fortunately, their mother was a fabulous cook and well capable of producing the large quantities of food needed with amazing regularity.
She was most famous for her bread. Something that had to emerge from her fragrant kitchen eight loaves at a time at least twice a week.
And she did it ‘Old School’.
Mixing the ingredients with a cakespoon in a large, ceramic bowl until the dough was too stiff, then dropping said spoon and kneading with the hands.
I know you know what I’m talking about.
The entire process fascinated her boys. And they were often close observers.
Just not for the reasons you might think . . .
Now, I probably don’t have to tell you that young boys are composed primarily (85% or so) of mischief.
With a goodly dose of ‘clever-little-monkey’.
And that those same boys have toys.
So: Boys-mischief-cleverness and toys. See where I’m going with this?
Keeping careful watch on their beloved parent’s actions, they would wait for just the right moment and, when she turned away for something or other they would . . .
. . . drop a marble into the bread dough.
Which was then kneaded in along with the deliciousness.
At which point they would run away.
Giggling maniacally.
Hey. I’m telling the story. I’ll tell it how I want.
Their mother knew, when she heard the laughter and the footsteps that ‘something’ had happened.
And, knowing her boys, had a pretty good idea of what.
She would search for whatever had just been dropped into her dough.
Occasionally, she would find it.
More often, not.
On those days, she would sigh and mold and bake and pray.
And just FYI, no teeth were broken in the making of this story.
It’s a good thing.
Like this. Only baked...

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

For Those Who Doze

I think I’m in trouble.
Let’s face it, when one is seated, warm, and comfortable, it’s inevitable.
Okay, I admit, it didn’t used to be. But as I grow older, definitely.
I’m talking about those of us who habitually doze off.
In public places.
Movies. Concerts. Classes. Meetings.
It is this last that most concerns me.
And the date, February 28, has something to do with it.
Let me explain . . .
On February 28, 1646, one Roger Scott, of Lynn, Massachusetts was rudely awakened from a deep and restful slumber.
By the business end of a tithingman’s long, knobbed staff.
Being energetically applied to Goodman Scott’s head.
I don’t know about you, but being roused by being rapped in the head by a heavy wooden cane wouldn’t bring out the best in me.
Heck, I used to get mad when my dad called to me gently from my bedroom doorway.
It didn’t in Roger, either.
Bring out the best, I mean.
Obviously forgetting he wasn’t in his own warm bed, and just a trifle annoyed at being knocked awake (so to speak), he woke up flailing.
Mistake number one: Dozing (gasp) in a publick place.
And number two: Protesting the meted-out punishment.
This second mistake only caused further punishment.
Roger, for his actions was sentenced to a public(k) whipping.
And the dark designation of: “A common sleeper at the publick exercise.”
(I wonder if they have T-shirts?)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Prize on the Bottom

See? Dresses. Pfff . . .
Birthdays are magic.
Oh, and chew your cake carefully. You never know what's in it.
Maybe I should explain . . .
My friend was turning six.
And I was invited to her birthday party!
A whole year away.
Okay, it probably wasn't a year. Likely only a few days, but time mooooves reeeaaalllyyy slooowllly when one is six and waiting for a birthday party.
Finally, it was time.
I not-so-patiently submitted to being scrubbed shiny.
Then scampered across the hallway to my bedroom and dug out my favourite jeans and western shirt.
Mom followed me, laying a frilly dress on my bed while I donned the requisite undies.
Wait. What? I have to wear a dress?!
I stared at her, my six-year-old face the picture of dismay.
I'm remembering this how I want . . .
Mom insisted, so I again submitted, this time under protest. I'm sure my arguments included some or all of: "I can't play in that!" or "I look like a freak!" or "It's too squishy!" or my patented "None of the other kids will be wearing dresses!"
A note here: All the other girls were wearing dresses. Traitors.
A short time later, I appeared in the front hallway pressed, dressed and combed (Incidentally another thing I hated.) and ready for excitement.
Just so you know, I can't remember whose birthday it was, or what we did.
I'm quite sure it was fun. And featured the requisite games, gift opening and ooh-ing and aah-ing.
There is one thing that really stands out in my mind.
The cake.
Angel food.
We were each given a large slice on a fancy plate.
And that's when the magic happened.
In the bottom of my piece was a little toy.
I'm not making this up.
There really was a toy in the bottom of everyone's piece. Wrapped in a tiny piece of waxed paper and baked right into the cake!
I carefully released my toy, and ate the cake.
Then spent the rest of the party playing with my little trinket.
Now looking back on this with adult eyes, I realize that the toy was probably made of metal, otherwise it would have melted.
And maybe painted with lead-based paint, which none of us knew about in 1961.
All I knew was that there was a toy baked into my piece of cake and that was the coolest thing ever.
And just so you know, I still look at the bottom of my piece of cake.
Every time.
Even when I've made it.
You never know when the magic will happen.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Poetry Monday Re-Visited

I've been remiss.
And away.
Those two things have added up to my missing Poetry Monday!
I apologize.
And hope this belated valentine poem makes up for my absence.

Oh, Valentine, my Valentine,
Toward your kitchen, I incline.
What ecstasy again is mine,
Your bread is great, your cakes, divine.
At night upon my bed, recline,
For gastronomic Heaven pine
And toss my head, all leonine,
And think of trips so clandestine.
I’m lost in hunger’s great ravine,
Until I hear the bread machine.
And know perfection will be mine,
My engine fueled by food sublime.
Though my figure trends toward ‘bovine’.
Your name upon the stove enshrine.
And write in letters nine-by-nine,
My heart is yours, my Valentine!

Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin,
With gentle thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Now post our poems for you to see.

And when you’ve read what we have brought,
Did we help? Or did we not . . .

And next week, from my friends, and me, 
A Winter poem for all to see!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

One Last Word

Recently, Husby and I made the 'Snowbird' decision to spend some of the GREAT CANADIAN WINTER (Deliberately capitalized because . . . yikes!) somewhere warm.
We had had an unusually busy November and December and were feeling . . . run down.
The thought of the darkest/coldest part of the winter made us feel tired.
Just that.
Thus, the decision to follow the sun.
We wandered about in unusual places, hearing strongly accented English and French in delightfully cadenced tones.
We shopped.
Ate way too much.
And we floated in blue-green Caribbean water.
The two of us returned six weeks later renewed.
This morning I was reading an article about the benefits of salt water.
Natural salt water.
And I quote:
Salt water is said to benefit your skin in the following eleven ways:
  • Closes open pores
  • Soaks up excess oil
  • Balances oil production
  • Kills acne-causing bacteria
  • Diminishes scars
  • Heals scrapes and cuts
  • Exfoliates dead skin cells
  • Restores skin’s natural pH
  • Improves skin barrier function
  • Enhances hydration
  • Reduces inflammation
I would add one more:
Floating in Natural Salt Water for extend periods of time restores . . . everything.
I highly recommend it.
That is all.
Tolley Beach. So-named because there was literally no one else there!

Happily salt-encrusted Snowbirds.

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E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
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