Saturday, 17 December 2011

A Country Drive

Yesterday was a special day for a few reasons. Doug had the week off, and we decided to make a trip to Olds, AB to visit his Grandma Taylor. She is an amazing woman in her 90's who continues to live on her own, and we don't see her often enough. It's only about a 75 minute drive, so we are making an effort to get there more often.

I put together a plate of baking for her, and added some fancy chocolates. She loves cookies! We also picked up a poinsettia on the way to her place, to brighten up her condo. The smile on Grandma's face when we arrived said it all -- she was sure pleased we had come to visit.

We took a look at the many balls of yarn in her tv room, and listened to her tell the story about the minister's wife, who comes to visit every so often to pick up whatever grandma has knitted for the disadvantaged children in other countries. Mostly hats and scarves, she has knitted over 1000 now! Grandma loves to stay busy, and her eyes are not as good as they once were, so she is not able to do the needlework or put together the puzzles she once enjoyed. Knitting is perfect for her, and she sits for hours in front of the tv clicking away!

It was lunchtime, so we headed out to find a place Doug could have eggs benedict, his favorite. We found a Smitty's and went in to find it was lined up -- good sign it was a decent place to eat! Before long we were seated and had our lunch. Good soup for Grandma and me on a chilly day.

After lunch, we asked if Grandma would like to go for a drive. She was absolutely thrilled to get out and see the countryside, even though it was covered with snow. She grew up on a farm, and we heard many stories about life in the old days. Not a glamorous life, but it kept the kids out of trouble, and made them into good people, according to Myrtle. We heard about how much she enjoys living in Canada, as we have 4 distinct seasons here. She can't travel much any more, but says she doesn't really miss it much. How nice that she truly enjoys her home and her surroundings.

We listened to many stories about life on the farm, and the routine of each day, month, and season. Doug remarked that the scenery wasn't much to look at this time of the year, but Grandma said she really enjoys each season, and agreed that winter is a time of rest to some extent. The spring keeps people busy preparing the land and seeding, the summer is a time of tending the crops, and fall is when people harvest. Animals continue to need care during the winter, but generally it's a quieter time.

Grandma talked about the stature of the others in her family. She said her paternal grandpa (Iverson) wasn't very tall -- he only came up to her chin! Her maternal grandpa (Rice) was a tall man, however, at about 6 feet. They were all Norwegian. Grandma told us that the first few kids in her family were born in Minnesota, and the rest were born in Saskatchewan, where they lived in a Norwegian settlement. None of them spoke English until they went to school, and then gradually they all spoke English at home, as the kids didn't want to speak Norwegian any more, and they found it easy to learn the new language. Eventually, even the parents had to speak English. What a surprise to hear that Grandma didn't speak English until she was about 5 or 6 years old -- you'd never know it now!

After a few hours of visiting, we dropped her off at her lovely condo and said we'd look forward to seeing her over the holidays. We're hosting the family for dinner this year, and we'll happily anticipate hearing more interesting stories!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Family Traditions - Lefse

One of my favorite family traditions is making "lefse" each year before Christmas. This is a Norwegian flatbread, made with Russett potatoes, flour, real butter & real cream. The Smith family has traditionally brought everyone together to make lefse on the 2nd Sunday of December. Everyone contributes to a potluck lunch, and until this year, the whole gang has gathered in one person's home. The number has grown over time, and this year the family will gather at a hall, which will be wonderful.

As our family lives many hours away, and driving can be treacherous this time of year, for about 15 years we have had our own lefse-making day in Calgary. Sometimes I've invited neighbors to join us, and we've discovered that many of our friends share our tradition. Many years ago, I was quite excited to learn that my husband's family, who have Norwegian roots, also makes lefse! Grandma Taylor has a real lefse grill, and has loaned it to any of us who would like to use it. That's been good, but the Taylor family has also grown, so this year I ordered all of the equipment from a place in Wisconsin, had it shipped to a buddy of Dave's in North Dakota, and Dave was kind enough to bring it back for me.

This year we went to Sherry's for lefse in Calgary, and made about 10 dozen giant lefse. Really, they're about the size of a large pizza! A good time was had by all, and everyone got involved. The kids all helped with rolling and baking, and we all contributed to the wonderful food, which we grazed on all day. It was a perfect opportunity to catch up on life, with Hazel & Eric, and Rob & Corina with their girls. Emma & Teagan made it later in the afternoon, as they'd been to another party earlier in the day. Teagan was sporting some very fancy face paint, and did a great job of rolling!

All in all, it's a day for great fun & laughter, a wonderful opportunity to relax and catch up on everyone's lives, and we all go home with some traditional food to save for Christmas. I was really pleased to take home an extra package for Mom & Dad and Karen & Jeff. Even better, Doug & I will be able to deliver it in person when we visit them in Victoria in a couple of weeks.

We always miss the big Smith clan on their lefse day, but are really pleased to have established the tradition ourselves as well. Looking back at our family history, we're not sure if the tradition came from the Swedish Sundell family or if it was perhaps the Johnston family who influenced the Smiths in North Dakota. Whatever the case, we love our lefse, and it's just awesome to know we have carried on the tradition for over 120 years in our family!