Monthly Archives: August 2011

The First Day of School

I remember our oldest son’s first day of school.  Well, actually his first day is less memorable to me than the night before his first day of school.

I made sure that we were all home early that evening to enjoy a very wholesome home cooked meal, complete with dessert.  The house was organized and prepared for our newly advanced step in parenthood.  Becoming the parents of a student was a very big deal for us. 

All of the laundry had been done, folded and put away so that everything could be found easily should there be the need for a last-minute wardrobe change.  His new school outfit was carefully pressed and laid out on his dresser ready for him in the morning, complete with underwear, socks, and little clean shoes for inside.

He was bathed, scrubbed and polished, and put to bed early in his fresh clean sheets so that he could be bright and alert for his new teacher on his first day of school.   – Oh crap I have to stop writing here so I can have a good cry –

OK, I’m back.  Hopefully Kelly doesn’t read this one, she’ll be a mess.

I spent the rest of the evening putting every box of cereal we had on the table in the order of his favorites so that he could easily choose what he would like to eat.  I set out 4 bowls and 4 spoons in an effort to encourage his little brother and his Dad to eat with him on such a big day.  Oh, but what if he wants toast?!?  I made sure that there was bread on the counter by the toaster and that all of the toppings were ready with a spoon beside them so I could quickly put whatever he wanted on his toast.  Glasses were set out for juice. 

Finally, my husband gently let me know that I was being crazy and I went to bed.  But not before I reorganized all of his school supplies in his little back pack and made sure his name was on everything.  I didn’t pack his lunch because I wanted to have an excuse to go see him at lunch time, and then everything would be nice and fresh.  I added a little snack incase he got hungry at recess time.

The first day of kindergarten went off without a hitch.  Thank God for that.  If there had been a hitch I probably would have crumbled.  His first ride on the big yellow bus was amazing and so much fun.  I beat the bus to the school and was there to greet him and help him find his classroom.  His teacher, Mrs. Johnson was there to get all the new kindergarten students settled in, and her amazing assistant – Mrs. Jeannie Smith – was there to get all the new kindergarten parents settled out.  I remember her gently telling us that we could leave now, they had everything under control. 

I need to mention here that Mrs. Smith mailed each student a letter the summer following kindergarten telling them how proud she was of them and how she knew that they would do well in grade 1.  Amazing hey?  More amazing is the fact that she mailed them letters at the end of Grade 12 telling them how proud she was of them for graduating that year.  By this time she wasn’t even working in the school system anymore.  How’s that for making a difference in a child’s life?  We are all proud of you Mrs. Smith!  I need to remind our son to write her a letter and tell her that. 

Hold on, I need to get more Kleenex.

Well, today marked our 14th first day of school.  That little boy who was in kindergarten is finished school and returns to college in January, our middle son is starting grade 12, and our daughter is in grade 6.  Today ran a bit differently.  

Yesterday, I realized that our daughter has been living in flip-flops and cowboy boots all summer.  Feeling that neither of those would be appropriate for gym class I went to the public pool in town and, after a few failed attempts, was able to pull my 11-year-old daughter from the water and from her friends long enough to go to the store and buy her some shoes.  It was down to the wire, but we managed to find something suitable and saved her from being the shoeless kid on the first day of school.

Dinner last night was leftover lasagna, and there wasn’t enough for everyone so some had to fry an egg or nuke a hot dog for themselves.

I went to bed before my sons did last night, so who knows what time they shut down.

This morning, our oldest son left for work very early and told me to wish the kids good luck at school today.  That was sweet.  I wondered if he was wishing that he was going to school too…..

….then I started to wonder if there were any clean clothes ready for school this morning!  And did we have any milk for cereal, or bread for toast?

It turned out that we were mostly prepared.  There was food for breakfast, although I don’t think our middle son ate, but I can’t be sure.  Our daughter looked stunning in the outfit that she had apparently set out for herself last night.  Our son had no socks, but he’s used to that, and I think that his jeans were floods but it seemed like the wrong time to tell him.  I’m sure someone at school will let him know.  He has other choices, but he doesn’t appreciate my help with his fashion sense, so I backed off this morning.

Take one....not going to work for a few obvious reasons.

We took the annual picture by the door before they left.  The dog lay down in front and pawed up our daughter’s clean shoes with his muddy feet.  She quickly got over it and they were gone. 

Take 2.......does the dog look bored to you?

I went back inside and found our son’s lunch had been forgotten on the counter.  Hope he has his debit card …. or maybe I should use it as an excuse to go find him at lunch time and bring him something nice and fresh.

Take 3 ..... let's try another dog.

 

Take 4 ... get rid of the dogs.

 “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”   William Yeats

<Terra>

 

The Yukon

She was beginning to show her age.  She had the odd liver spot here and there.  She wasn’t as fast as she used to be.  She would hiccup and burp from time to time, sometimes trailing smelly gaseous expulsions with no regard for where we were or how many people were behind us.  The worst part though, was how she would choose to just lie down and take a nap right in the middle of an intersection or worse….when we were passing someone on the highway.

Our old GMC Yukon had seen better days.

The Yukon requiring a bit of help to get home.

It was clear to me that these signals I had been getting for the past year were not going to get any better.  We were regulars at Herle’s auto repair.  They did everything they could, but in the end that old car had just given up.  It would fool us into believing that this time we had found whatever was causing so much trouble, but inevitably, just when the timing was terrible, it would stall. 

Trips to town for groceries that used to take 1 hour now were taking 4 hours.  Heat made the stalling worse, so I never left home during mid day.  This seriously cramped my lunch and parts deliveries to the field.  If my husband needed a part picked up, I would gently remind him that I could probably get that to him by next Wednesday if I left right away.

Desperate measures had to be taken.  However, as hard as I tried, no one would steal my car.  I left it at the Edmonton International Airport for 35 minutes with the windows down and the keys in it.  This seemed like the perfect place to have your car stolen, but no luck. 

I left it at various locations around our city with the windows down and the keys in it.  Still nothing.  I thought about leaving it running, but it wouldn’t stay running so that wasn’t an option.  I needed to ‘sweeten the pot’ a little.

Opportunity knocked one sunny summer day last month when I fell in the lake while carrying my camera.  It was a beautiful, (and apparently hilarious) move that involved me ‘walking with purpose’ onto a slippery dock.  I slid and rolled and hit the water on one side of the dock while gracefully flinging my camera into the water on the other side of the dock.  The camera didn’t recover.  Don’t believe those people who tell you to put it in a bag of rice and everything will be fine.  I used a big bag of rice, and I even added a little oatmeal and my camera is still broken.  I don’t recommend trying the oatmeal move.  That was a little lack of judgment on my part….I may have hit my head on the dock.

This broken camera gave me an idea.  It’s a nice camera.  People would like a camera like this.  What if I leave my car unlocked, windows down, keys in the ignition…..with a nice camera on the dash!!  Great idea! 

I never did it.  That just seemed too manipulating.  To fool the would-be car thieves into stealing a camera that didn’t work and a get away car that would stall on them as soon as they tried accelerating just seemed cruel. 

On an overcast and cloudy day, we decided to take our chances and drive the car to town to trade on something that ran.  It seemed like the grown up thing to do.  It only stalled 5 times on our way to the dealership.  When my husband started muttering something about ‘maybe we’ll get lucky and hit a moose’.  I knew we had left this just a little too long.

In the end, trading in our old Yukon was effortless.  We met a nice salesman at the first dealership we came to who assured us that our old vehicle would go to a nice home that would strip it for parts and not sell it to some unsuspecting young family who would get left on the side of the road.  We chose the first suitable vehicle with a running engine and headed home without stalling even once!

The moral of my story is this….car thieves take the summer off.

“For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong”

 – H.L. Mencken

<Terra>

Drill Team

I love it when our kids are lucky enough to have some great experiences with truly special leaders and coaches. Experiences that they will always look back on with great memories. One such experience for our girls has been the Valley C Riders Drill Team that performs at the opening of the CPCA Chuckwagon Finals in Lloydminster in August.  This is Chuckwagon Week in Lloydminster and the girls will perform five times. Over the last two months they have spent many hours practicing under the expert coaching of Judy Noble. There are twelve girls and they have learned two routines this year. Last night was Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night as a tribute to breast cancer and the girls, and their horses, followed the theme.

 

The girls are doing an excellent job. Some times things go like clockwork and sometimes they don’t. There is a lot of excitement going on with flags, music, loudspeakers, crowds, wagons, horns, and crowds of people.  They are a great group of young  horsewomen, who have a lot of support from family and friends. We can’t forget their sponsor Bob Campbell, from Valley C Construction. He is always, always, there to help no matter what situation arises.

Hats off to the girls!

-Kelly

PEI Potato Fries

My sister came for a visit yesterday.

This is fun on so many levels.  The most obvious thing is that I get to have a visit with my sister and her four awesome kids.  That’s right.  She has four kids. The oldest is 9 and the youngest is 2.  I have only three kids.  My oldest is 18 and my youngest is 11.  Notice the gap.  This is why my sister is referred to as the fertile one.  If we were a herd of cows, she would be the favorite and I would have been culled about 13 years ago….because I’m less fertile, and possibly also because I’m mean when I’m cornered and I’ve been known to jump fences.

But that’s just silly because we can’t possibly be a herd of cows.  There are only two of us.  We are merely a pair of cows.

During her visit yesterday, it was decided that we should feed the mouths that were gathering at our table.  My sister was there with her kids, along with my family, and three extra 19 year olds who my son had brought home with him.  All together, there were 13 people milling around the kitchen, eating cookies and throwing glances toward the refrigerator and the pantry. 

Having extra people stop by at meal times is not unusual or unwelcome at our house.  I quite enjoy having an ‘our door is always open’ policy.  However, my Grandpas’ superstitions kick in at unfortunate times, and having 13 people at the table is one of those times.  I am so surprised that the things he told me about our ancestry have slipped right out of my grasp, but I remember the time he jokingly said to Grandma that it was bad luck to have 13 at a table.

Looking around, I couldn’t conjure up one more person to feed, and it seemed rude to tell someone they would have to leave, so we set about making food for *gasp* 13 people.

Here’s what we made:

Oven Fried Chicken  It’s very simple, I won’t even write a recipe because there isn’t one.  Cut up your chicken into serving sizes (drumstick, ½ breast, thigh, etc).

In a bowl mix together some flour, salt, pepper, poultry spice and whatever else you like to have on your chicken.

Coat the chicken in the flour and place onto a greased 9×13 baking pan in a single layer. (I had four baking pans for 13 people).

Bake this at 350 F for around 15 to 20 minutes until the juices run clear.  The time really depends on how thick your chicken is.

Garden Beans  Steam them in a double boiler over a bit of water for around 8 minutes.  Add butter.

PEI Potato Fries

This is the fun bit of what we had for supper.

 Cut your potatoes into thin slices.

Watch your fingers...

 

 Let them soak in salted water for around 20 minutes.

 

Dry the potato slices well.  Our daughter told me that they won’t crisp up if you don’t let them dry.

Season them with garlic, steak spice, dill, or whatever spices you like on your potatoes.

Fry them in oil for about 15 minutes.  Let them cool down a bit in a dish…..

It's good to wear long sleeves to fry potatoes.

…and now for the fun part.  Double bag some brown lunch bags.  Put the potatoes in the lunch bags with around 1 teaspoon of salt.  Not a heaping teaspoon of salt.  Level is better.

Shake it up baby!

Shake these potatoes in the salt until you don’t want to anymore.  Then serve.

This is a fun way to get kids of all ages involved in cooking dinner.  There are a few precautions though, like make sure the potatoes are not cold, but cooled down enough that they don’t burn fingers through the bag.

An equally  important precaution is to make sure that you double bag your brown lunch bags.  I didn’t know this the first time that I tried making PEI potato fries, and when I shook the potatoes they went flying out the bottom.  They were still hot.  They were also very greasy.  This made the floor very greasy.  This made me fall down later when cleaning up the dishes…..this made everyone else laugh hysterically. 

Another precaution is to limit your salt.  They’ve already soaked in salty water, and have been spiced, and now we’re adding salt to the bag.  Salt is one of my favorite things.  It’s probably why every time I make these potato fries they are overly salty.  The kind of salty that is reminiscent of your last trip to KFC, sending you running for the water cooler repeatedly for days afterward.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  When Taylor was here from PEI he taught our daughter to make these fries and they were delicious.  Just watch the salt.

Peach Pie

We love peach pie.  Well, who am I kidding, we love any dessert but peach pie is very definitely a favorite. 

For the crust, I just follow the instructions on the back of the tenderflake box.  The recipe makes 6 balls of pastry, which when you roll it out thin enough can be trimmed off of your pie plate to make 8 balls of pastry.

My sister uses a different recipe for pastry.  It’s called go to the store and buy frozen tenderflake pastry.  This is because she has four little kids….and because her genetic code leans more towards our English/Protestant side and mine leans more towards our German/Catholic side.  She lets some of the less important things slide so she can have tea and crumpets, and I enjoy setting unreasonably high goals as a way to punish myself for my sins….but I have better teeth.  Having said all of that, the pie crust that you buy in the store is also a good and quick way to have pastry ready for whenever you are struck with the need to bake pies.

The peach filling is very easy as well.

Peel 5 cups of peaches.  If they are ripe this is easily done by just starting at the top of the peel and gently pulling it off towards the bottom.  If they are a bit unripe, drop them in boiling water for about 2 minutes and run the peels off under cool running water.

Dice the peaches and add ½ cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of flour. Stir this together and pour into your pie shell.  Cover with a top layer of pastry.

Bake at 425F for 10 minutes on the bottom rack of your oven.  Turn the heat down to 350F and bake for approximately another 40 minutes until the crust is a nice golden brown.

Serve with ice-cream….delicious!  Sometimes I add a bit of chocolate sauce, but only when no one else will see.

Our quick little meal went off without a hitch.  The kids ate and still had time to go exploring and rock picking.  The older ones hurried off to attend an event in town, so there was no need to worry about the potential for bad luck resulting from 13 at the table.  I believe they said something about attending a study session at the library….or maybe it was at the local Tavern, I can’t be sure.

I hope you try making PEI Potato Fries.  Thanks again to Taylor, our visitor from the Maritimes for introducing us to this yummy new recipe and for giving us another way to keep the little ones involved in preparing their meals. 

“If you have enough butter anything is good.”   -Julia child

 <Terra>

Another Great Spot

In our continuing summer adventures with the Ontario cousins, we spent the last few days northeast of Spiritwood in the Thickwood Hills at the Carlton Trail Guest Ranch, carltontrailguestranch.com.  It is a lovely spot on Savard Lake with a few rental cabins and a lodge. The cabins are roomy and done in a rustic style, with verandahs that overlook the lake.

There are no motorized water craft so it is quiet, peaceful and very scenic. There are other lakes close  by to take bigger boats on. It is a great place to go with large groups, as everyone can have some space. The fishing is supposed to be good but our keen fisherman got skunked. They still enjoyed paddling and swimming. All in all we had a most enjoyable, relaxing time.

 

-Kelly

Fun Times on the Train

It is always great when you find fun things to do in your own backyard. Admittedly Stettler is two and a half hours away but in the big scheme of things it is not that far. Easy to make a day trip of it.

Alberta Prairie Steam Tours runs trips from Stettler to Big Valley and back again. While on the train, we were entertained, free to roam around and have a beverage and even robbed.

Once in Big Valley we enjoyed a fabulous prime rib beef meal in the community hall. We were further entertained with a musical production with many great tunes from the ’50s and ’60s. Then we wandered around the town and boarded the train for the return trip.

It was a great family outing, unique but relatively local. If you get the chance, take the train.

– Kelly

One Hundred Stories

For those of you who are counting – this is our 100th post!! 

That's a lot of fence posts...

Who would have ever thought that we would have this much to say??  Don’t answer that.

It was decided that this post should be something special….something exciting….something memorable…..

So to mark our 100th post we are announcing our first big event –

Cowgirl Yoga!

We have read about other Cowgirl Yoga retreats, but they all involved travelling with our horses to exotic locals like Montana and North Dakota, and sometimes even further than that.  In order to explore our own local resources and to cut down on the travel time  (anyone who has been in a vehicle with me for more than one hour will understand), we have decided to take the bull by the horns and create our own event right here.

Operating under the name ‘KT and Company’ we have created a retreat that is truly unique.  We will enjoy guided trail rides through the natural woodlands of Turtle Lake, Saskatchewan.  We will have two separate yoga sessions with a very accomplished yoga instructor – the yoga is for the cowgirls, not the horses….although in my case it might be easier for my horse to touch his toes than for me to.  We will enjoy gourmet dining and picnic fare, and most of all we will enjoy each other’s company for two days and a night at a luxurious lodge.

Does that not sound like the best thing ever?

The really great part about planning something like this for yourself and your friends is that you can make it be exactly what you want.   Which is great for someone who likes to be in control…..someone who doesn’t easily hand over the reins….someone like Kelly.   (I’m checking to see if she reads this post….don’t tell her I said that).

Here is the poster that we created for our first annual retreat:

It should be said that actually, we didn’t create this poster.  Kelly’s daughter created it from a picture that my daughter took.  I am starting to get a bit of grief from my girl for not giving her photo credit in our blog.  Both girls deserve credit for being so talented. 

We are very excited for this event.  I have no doubt that we will be creating some great memories and very ‘bloggable’ moments.

Another shameless plug…..

Stay tuned also for the Lloydminster Exhibition Association’s second annual ‘Harvest Feastival’ on November 2, 2011.  Feastival is an informal banquet featuring food which has all been sourced from local producers.  Last year we had beef, chicken, turkey, bison, pork, cheese, sausage, wine, vegetables, rice, and more that was all purchased from producers in our area.  We even had homemade buns that were made with flour ground by hand from wheat grown near Lloydminster!  The turnout and reviews were fantastic, so we’re doing it again.  Kelly and I work with the Exhibition Association as volunteers for this event, but we feel like we own it. 

We are having so much fun creating and living these stories, and we are so grateful that there are people like you who want to hear about what we are doing.

Thanks for enjoying our stories, and we are excited to write the next 100….and the next 100…

“How old are your stories?”  – Linda Edgecombe

<Terra and Kelly>

PEI Mussels

We are clearly hitting the big time, because today Cowtrails and Pony Tales will be featuring a guest blogger.

This is a recipe that came from Taylor, our unrelated family member who was visiting last week from PEI. 

I have never attempted to cook mussels before, because being a prairie girl, they look a bit weird and smell a bit different and I was pretty sure I would food poison anyone in my attempts to learn to cook them.

Turns out it’s really no big deal….here’s the recipe:

All the ingredients:  mussels, carrots, onions, fresh garlic, Montreal steak spice, and 1/2 bottle of beer.

What it should look like prior to cooking.  Mix all in a large pot, bring to a boil reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

What it should look like during the cooking process.

Ready to eat!

I got to the lake after Taylor and our son had cooked up this feast, so had it cold out of the fridge.  I have to say, even at 11:00 PM and cold out of the fridge this was really delicious.

I shared it with some other family who were visiting.  Our cousin Dominica is also from the Maritimes and is a very talented and passionate cook.  She loved it as well! 

It was 11:30 PM and Dominica and I were in the kitchen making Tiramisu, drinking wine, (actually Dominica was making Tiramisu and I was mostly just drinking wine ),and furtively eating the mussels behind the counter so that no one would see us and ask us to share. 

I have no idea of what possessed her to look, but Dominica discovered that the PEI mussels had been packaged at our grocery store in Alberta 10 days before……..

I instantly had a belly ache, but we finished eating them anyway and  I am very pleased to announce that there were no adverse side effects to eating the very very old mussels.  Maybe the wine helped.

It was delicious, and I can’t wait to try to cook them myself.  Maybe tonight!

Taylor went back to PEI this morning.  We miss him already.

<Terra>