Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Nutella Protocol

I love Nutella.

For many reasons.
This is the main one . . .
Sometimes, miracles are tasty!

Five years ago . . .

My Husby had been ill.
Scary ill.
We first noticed it in September.
He was . . . tired.
Through October and November, he just couldn't seem to get enough rest.
We attributed it to the fact that he was busy producing yet another play for our drama society.
A stressful job.
The play closed on November 21st and we were on the road for a book tour on the 24th.
No time for rest.
By the time we returned home two weeks later, he was very ill.
But he concluded that he was simply overtired and determined to get some real rest.
Which stretched into sleeping twenty hours a day.
And giving up food.
A rather important part of every day, in my mind.
In a two week period, he lost fifteen pounds.
I finally decided to ignore his protestations and made an appointment with our physician.
Who immediately ordered him into emergency.
Where they began pumping blood into him.
The next few days were touch and go as they tried to treat him/determine just what the problem was.
They finally decided that his body was systematically attacking and destroying his blood.
Not good.
Throughout this time, he still wasn't eating.
Nothing appealed.
They finally sent him home from the hospital, but with strict instructions to come back every day for more testing/treatments.
And to start eating.
Still nothing appealed.
Finally, as he was rummaging through the cupboard, he discovered a jar of Nutella, mostly full.
I should mention, here, that Grant lived in France for two years before we were married. Nutella was a habit he brought back with him.
Huh. Holding the familiar jar, it suddenly looked . . . good.
He spread it on a piece of homemade bread and took a bite.
It was good.
Over the next couple of days, he went through that jar of Nutella.
Sometimes spread on a bit of bread.
Sometimes on a banana.
Sometimes with a spoon.
Then he bought more.
And ate those.
He was finally eating.
I don't know what they put in Nutella.
Hazelnuts and chocolate and yumminess. And, let's face it, if you spread Nutella on a hubcap, I'd eat it.
But there must be some other secret goodness in there, because it brought him back from the brink.
And I do mean brink.
He calls it the Nutella Protocol.
I call it a miracle in a bottle.
It kept his motor running.
Gentlemen, raise your spoons!
Taken the day before he went into hospital.
P.S. Husby still struggles with this little health problem.
But with regular treatments, he is able to live a completely normal life.
Well...regular treatments along with the regular 'application' of  Nutella!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Cattle Showed

Dad (Right) and one of his classmates, Grant.
Oh, and their dates for the Little Royal.
You probably can't see it, but they are standing just outside of . . . well, read on . . . 
Dad was a veterinarian.
He received his education at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
It was an . . . interesting three years.
For everyone involved . . .
In the spring of each year, everyone in the area geared up for the much-anticipated Little Royal Agricultural Show. There were numerous displays put on by all three colleges in the area: The Vets (My Dad’s group) from Guelph Veterinary College, the Aggies from the Ontario Agriculture College, and the Mac Hall girls from the MacDonald Institute for Women.
There was also a show of livestock right on the campus.
Being a Hereford enthusiast, Dad chose to show a Hereford cow. Two of his classmates chose similarly and the three of them spent most of their evenings working with their animals, gentling and training them.
A week before the show, they decided that their animals had worked hard enough to have earned a little R and R (Rousing and riotous fun).
Because . . . Dad. I'm sure I don't need any further explanation . . .
The quiet, gentle animals were led out into the compound.
All was well.
The boys led them around the campus.
Still good.
Finally, they led the cows up the stairs and into the humans’ residence. Happily, the animals trotted along behind.
The three men and their ‘exhibits’ circled the hall to loud acclaim, (Okay, there was a lot of shouting and laughter, I’m going to call it ‘acclaim’.) and started back toward the door.
Which suddenly became blocked.
By the Dean of Men.
For a moment, the three boys and their Dean simply stared at each other. Then, without a word, the Dean backed away and let them out onto the porch.
After a quick couple of pictures there (What event doesn't need to be recorded – or proved?), the cows were meekly led back to their barn and re-in-stalled. So to speak.
For a week, Dad walked about gingerly, expecting at any moment to be called onto the Dean’s carpet.
Nothing happened.
I guess because the cows didn't leave anything on the dorm carpet, the Dean was happy to overlook the whole episode.
Then, too, he probably knew my dad . . .

Thursday, September 27, 2018


My Daddy and me
My Dad and I had a trick.
Something that only Daddy and I could do.
It was my favourite thing in the world.
Let me tell you about it . . .
My Dad was strong.
And tall.
He could take my hands and hold me steady while I walked up his body.
I know this sounds like something out of Cirque Du Soleil, but it’s true.
I would lift my feet and plant them on his legs, then walk up till I reached his chest.
Then - and this is the exciting part - I would flip over and start again.
It was immensely fun.
For a four-year-old, hugely entertaining.
And didn’t happen nearly enough.
Dad would come in the door and be greeted by, “Daddy! Daddy! Pick me up!”
Obligingly, he would take my hands and let me use him as an acrobatic frame for my . . . acrobatics.
Again and again.
Then smile and set me down and go on with his duties.
I would happily return to mine.
This went on for years.
Then one day, I think I must have been about eight, Dad uttered the fateful words, “Sorry, honey, you’re just too heavy for me!”
I stared at him, aghast.
How could this be?
He was still taller than me.
Stronger than me.
Broader than . . . you get the picture.
How could I possibly be too heavy for him?
But, sadly, it was true.
And, just like that, my 'Daddy’s-Frame' climbing days were over.
Recently, I was watching one of our youngest granddaughters climb up her daddy.
Giggling happily as she did so.
And suddenly, I was remembering.
Being four-years-old again.
Holding my Daddy’s hands.
Using his help and his frame to do my acrobatics.
Daddy is gone now.
Climbing for each of us is in the past.
But we have the memory.

My newest novel is out!
Tom, Becoming is my first romance novel in over a decade. 
A sweet, tender story of a man who changes. And re-discovers the love of his wife and family.
And community.
The reviews so far have been stellar!
Order your copy today!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Blowing My Own Horn

Yet another Diane Stringam Tolley novel has hit the shelves (so to speak!).
Tom, Becoming, my first romance in over a decade,  has . . . become.

Thomas Burroughs is a vicious businessman.
Measuring himself only by his financial successes and his overweening ambitions, Thomas eschews friendships and family to feed this one desire.
To his business associates, he is a force to follow. At a discrete distance.
To his family, someone to be avoided.
Then a simple wooden award, tossed unheeding into the trash, sets Thomas on a different path.
Can someone who has lived his life only for gain . . . change?
Truly change?
Then, faced with the decision to live as he was or die as he has become . . .
Well, what would you choose?

My first review is in and what a sweet one!
5 stars!
Thomas has everything and it's not enough. Mean and petty just because he can be, Thomas has so much he doesn't have the capacity to know he doesn't have what matters most. A beautifully written story, an easy read but you'll want to savor every word. Perfect for Book Club because there is much to explore. Keep a box of tissues near by and be prepared to feel your heart swell. As Thomas Becomes, you will be moved in ways only very special stories have the power to do. Treat yourself and read this, slowly.

Tom, Becoming is a piece of my heart and my soul. 
My take on whether or not a man can change.
I hope you'll give Tom a read!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Bread or Chocolate

My daughter and son-in-law were sitting at the breakfast table.
Over delicious French toast, they were discussing their grocery list.
The subject of bread came up.
And the best places to get the least expensive.
“We never buy our bread at the regular grocery,” my daughter told me. “That’s far too expensive!”
“Yes,” my son-in-law agreed. “We always get ours in packages of three loaves for $6.00. It’s much, much cheaper.”
I stared at him.
Okay. I admit it. It has been some time since I actually ‘purchased’ bread.
We’re a homemade kind of family.
So it was quite a shock to hear someone describe a two-dollar loaf of bread as inexpensive.
Yes. I’m deplorably, woefully behind the times.
Perhaps because I spend so much of my day in the past.
Moving on . . .
As the discussion went on, I suddenly remembered the first time I saw my Mom purchase bread.
(She was a homemade kind of person, too.)
We were in Ellert's Red and White grocery store in Milk River.
Mom had a cart and was getting important things done.
I was perusing the candy display.
Also important.
Mom passed me on her way to the dairy case.
“Diane, could you please run over to the bakery aisle and see what the price of bread is?”
I tore my eyes away from the tempting display of chocolate bars and made some quick mental calculations.
Hmm. Was there time to run to the bakery and get back before Mom again walked past the candy on her way to the checkout?
 I should mention, here, that the Red and White, though one of Milk River’s two modern grocery stores, could hardly be described as ‘large’.
There were, maybe, six aisles.
With the bakery being two aisles away.
I could do it if I scurried.
“Okay!” I shouted.
Then scurried.
There was a large sign tacked up at the end of the row.
‘Bread – 8 Loaves for a Dollar’.
I sprinted back, just in time to see Mom grab a couple of cartons of milk.
“It says eight for a dollar!” I hollered.
Mom looked at me. “Okay,” she said. “Grab eight, then.”
I made the twelve-foot dash once more and, with a bit of finesse, managed to grab the ends of eight plastic bags.
Then I manoeuvered them into Mom’s cart.
Mom started toward the front of the store.
It was now or never.
“Mom? Can I have a chocolate bar?”
Chocolate bars were ten cents.
Surely she could spend ten cents on a chocolate bar if she could spend a dollar on . . .
“Sorry, dear, we can’t afford it today.”
. . . stupid bread.

Monday, September 24, 2018


The theme for Poetry today, 

Is Games our family liked to play.

I'm not sure if they're games or not,

But skiing and riding's what we got! 

My Sister. She only looks tough.
In youth, I was a daring sort,
A heedless, reckless charge-right-in.
In games, activities and sports,
In all events, through thick or thin.

My sister, she of softer mien,
Would often follow where I led.
On dusty trails or tracks unseen,
The paths where ‘Angels fear to tread’ . . .

Upon Montana’s ski slopes there,
smooth trail beckoned through the woods.
A path, the incandescent air,
Promised everything that’s good.

But I’m a cowgirl to my toes,
Even up upon the mountain side,
I had one speed and t’wasn’t slow.
My sister’s caution, I’d deride.

Spectacular and fast, my run,
I made a final, breathless stop.
Then waited for my Chris to come,
And happily scanned the mountain top.

She didn’t show, I’m sure you’ve guessed.
She’d fallen, twisted up her knee.
And now her holiday was messed
Cause she’d been trying to catch me.

One summer, as we headed home,
Bedecked in prairie dust and grime,
From checking through the herds that roam,
(And it was nearing supper time).

The lot fell to my sister there,
To man the gate so we’d get through.
She finished the small task with flair,
Re-mount was all she had to do.

But as she slipped her foot into
The stirrup, something went awry,
Impatient me had spurred my horse
And off t’ward home this goose did fly.

My sister’s horse did start to run
And spilled her owner in the dirt
A badly injured knee (not fun),
And for my Sis, a world of hurt.

The message that I’ve tried to frame
In my telescopic, silly way,
Is: We all know the one to blame
And who the piper is we pay.

If adventure’s what you crave,
If, into sports, you plow headfirst,
Remember: Though they may seem brave,
Avoid the cowgirls. They’re the worst!

Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin
With pleasant thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Have posted poems for you to see.
And now you've seen what we have brought . . .
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week, because it's harvest time,
We'll talk of harvest. All in rhyme!           

Sunday, September 23, 2018

One More Horse

The Depression gave us many sad stories.
But there are also stories of service and sacrifice that are truly inspiring . . .
My Grampa Stringam was a rancher.
He also served as an MLA in the provincial legislature.
It kept him busy.
And gave him a much broader scope in which to help those in need.
One morning, he announced to Grandma that he was heading over to the neighbours.
When Grandma asked why, he told her that the neighbour had a horse to sell.
“Oh,” she said. “I didn’t know we needed another horse.”
Her response? A cryptic, “We don’t.”
Grampa disappeared, returning some time later. Without the horse.
When Grandma asked him if his business had been concluded satisfactorily, he nodded and smiled.
Fixing him with her best frown, she asked him what was going on.
His smiled widened. “I bought the neighbour’s horse.”
“But why? When you admitted that we didn’t need another.”
“Well, his wife needs medical help and he needs the money to pay for it.”
Enough said.
There is a codicil . . .
Grampa paid the man for the horse.
A fair sum for the times.
The man’s wife got the medical help she needed.
And all was well.
But there is one other point to this story.
An important one.
Grampa never did go and get the horse he had paid for.
Grandma was right.
He didn’t need another horse.

Today is Ancestor Sunday.
Tell me about yours!

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Read it! You know you want to!

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What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

Join me on Maven

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Essence: A Second Dose

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