Making Maui Memories

Image

As many people do while making preparations for the Christmas season I was thinking yesterday about the fun I had with my daughter’s family two years ago on Maui. I had enjoyed that vacation with my grandchildren during the week before Christmas and arrived home just in time to celebrate Christmas Eve with the rest of my family and create the Christmas turkey feast the next day.

Waterproofing a child -- Maui 2012

Because we always lived beside the ocean it was a goal of my husband and me to have our children ‘waterproofed’ and it pleases me to see that these parents have set a similar goal. While away with them I had witnessed once more the good that regular swimming lessons can do, even if you live in Alberta. I was delighted to find the grandchildren are turning out to be ‘water-babies’ too.

Having spent so many Christmas seasons in ‘the Islands,’ Maui itself holds a special place in my children’s memories of Christmas; my grandchildren are now having a similar opportunity to experience its delights.

When our children were little my husband held a sales position within the logging industry, which meant he travelled a great deal, often spending several nights a week away from home. Anyone who knows that business, will acknowledge the month of December is generally a slower time, with many logging camps shut down for unfavourable weather conditions or simply their scheduled crew holidays.

We were never a family that went away during the school’s summer holiday time. Instead we chose the Christmas school break for our vacation. When the kids were 4, 6 and 8 we tried our first warm vacation – Maui was the choice. It turned out to be a fabulous change from winter at home, an opportunity to extend the summer swimming lessons and best of all, the telephone didn’t ring.

We treated those weeks as true family time and came home and back to school with a better understanding of each other. Because of the assignments the children completed for their teachers we learned together a great deal about the history, traditions and industries of the Hawaiian people. It was a good experience for all of us and for 12 years it was an accepted family tradition.

Some will ask, “How could you be away from home during that celebration time?” We could for the benefits I’ve mentioned, we could because we had a very small nuclear family of only our parents. Having Christmas on Maui differed from ours at home only by the day’s temperature and its activities.

Here was our typical Christmas Day: Christmas morning open stocking, eat breakfast and clean up the dishes, then open the few packages from grandparents we had brought along. Next came my dressing a turkey and packing a lunch; just before we left for the beach I put the turkey into the oven.

When we arrived back at the cabin at sunset with sun touched, sandy, salt-crusted skin everyone had a shower, maybe even a dip in the pool. Then it was into pajamas for the children, followed by a celebratory dinner. It was the same meal as we served at home but with less fuss and scrambling to meet an unspoken deadline for its service. The next day for our lunch sandwiches we had turkey meat and cranberry sauce. And so our vacation continued, back to a different beach each day.

Maui Beach

Religious Freedom?

I’ve always enjoyed reading but lately I’ve become alarmed by the number of books and stories in the general media that tell the story of people, predominantly women, who have finally escaped after long years of virtual imprisonment by leaders of some religious sect, or in some cases more accurately described as a cult.

Through my interest in the rights of women I’ve discovered that around the world there are many beliefs that place women on the lowest rung of humanity, some established by male leaders as breeding machines for increasing the followers of that sect, many as a source of income because of the work they accomplish without being paid. Others keep women hidden away under strange clothing deemed to be the only acceptable way for them to appear in public and when they do, in some instances only with a male relative.

Canada prides itself in having freedom of religion, which is frequently used as a defense for these, to most of us, unusual practices. But Canadians also believe in equality under the law. Where does that equality go when a person attempts to leave the community only to be told by the captor that they must follow the precepts of the religion or they will be excommunicated, or depending on the group, go to Hell.

I submit this brief introduction to explain my thoughts as I offer the names of some of the books I have read about such apparent “bondage.” And there are many others. You’ll find these ones listed on my Goodreads bookshelf.

Hutterites: Our Story to Freedom Shamed: The Honour Killing That Shocked Britain – by the Sister Who Fought for JusticeBeyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape  Property: The True Story of a Polygamous Church Wife Reading Lolita in Tehran Not Without My Daughter A House in the Sky Infidel The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women Stolen Innocence Keep Sweet: Children of Polygamy

Rose Hip Jelly

In the late autumn and into winter wild roses produce a seed pod valuable for their Vitamin C content and ready to be made into a flavorful jelly or jam. In my book, from Fjord to Floathouse, I referred to them:

The outer reaches of the craggy mound I thought of as my personal space were covered with wild roses whose blooms and delicate fragrance in May kept me returning. Before long the same plants yielded tasty nibbles in the form of gigantic rose hips. Mom encouraged me to pick these for her to use to make jelly.

Here is a recipe I’ve used successfully. By the nature of the fruit, amounts and preparation times are approximate. Rose hips have very little pectin; therefore using pectin is strongly advised.

5 – 8 cups rose fresh hips
3 – 4 cups water
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 pkg. pectin crystals
4 cups sugar

Rose hips simmering in a large stainless steel pot.

  1. Rinse the rose hips thoroughly and cut off the stems and scraggly ends. (I use sharp garden clippers.)
  2. Place rose hips in a large stainless steel pot, add water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until rose hips are soft and can be mashed. (up to an hour)
  3. Using a potato masher or electric hand blender crush the pips until entirely broken down.
  4. Softened mixture in 4 layers of cheesecloth.Prepare 4 layers of cheesecloth in a colander held with clothespins over a saucepan, or use a jelly bag. Transfer softened mixture and allow to strain into pan. (several hours or overnight)
  5. When the fruit ‘mess’ is entirely drained measure liquid. If there is less than 3 cups of juice you can add hot water and allow it to drain through the fruit again.
  6. Discard fruit pulp. Place measured juice into large stainless pan. Add lemon juice and stir in powdered pectin.
  7. Bring to a boil and when pectin is fully dissolved, add sugar. Stir in thoroughly.
  8. Allow to maintain a rolling boil (one that cannot be reduced by stirring) timed for one full minute. Then remove from heat.
  9. Pour into sterilized jars leaving ¼ inch at the top. Seal with sterilized lids and label.

6 jars of jelly ready for the pantry.

My Grandfather’s Pipe

Grandfathers-Pipe

In August of 1998, and after three years of family history research, I made my first trip to Norway where I met 18 second cousins and three elderly ladies who were first cousins of my deceased father. Hosted by families – the grandchildren – of two of my grandfather’s brothers I walked the farm he had chosen to leave and explored the old church and cemetery that held the names and seat of his Forberg relatives.

I will never know why he left his birth place. It was likely a desire for a better life, because with large families and the scarcity of what farmland produced, life was not at all easy. But his determination not to live his life as a farmer was more likely the reason. He had left home to work in a nearby forested area before deciding to emigrate.

I had only recently learned then that he was the eldest of four brothers and according to the rules of the country at the time he would have inherited the large Forberg family farm. This was apparently not a role he wanted, so he left the farmer responsibility to his next eldest brother whose grandson, Einar, now runs the Forberg farm that I was visiting. At the farmhouse I saw the family heritage displayed: the original home he had left, carved boxes made by a younger brother who did not marry, wooden trunks, bowls and implements decorated with rosemaling and the family bible my grandfather had returned to Norway after he decided not to move back ‘home.’

In a roundabout way this brings me to my present conundrum. I am the eldest grandchild of the eldest son and my father, Einar, was the eldest son of our Canadian Forberg ancestor Einar, he who emigrated in 1896. Dad had no sons, only me and my younger sister, but he did have a brother, Ingolf. Rules of inheritance have changed since then and in Norway a daughter is now eligible for a primary inheritance. Had my grandfather remained in Norway, as the eldest grandchild I could now be running that Forberg family farm.

My difficulty is over deciding who should inherit my grandfather’s Norwegian pipe. It has come to me from my sister who no longer wants to devote space to it. In fact, I was not aware she had it! In my memoir Beyond the Floathouse, Gunhild’s Granddaughter, I have written,

I remember Grandpa Andy as an elderly gentleman, and recall being absolutely mesmerized by the process he went through each evening to prepare and smoke his pipe. On special occasions he would use a traditionally carved long Norwegian pipe festooned with red tassels attached to a cord from which the pipe hung on the living room wall.

I watched him lift it from the wall hook and pack the bowl with a particularly pungent brand of tobacco which he smoked only rarely. Seeing him hold the bowl almost at arm’s length, suck in to get a fire started enough that we could smell the smoke, was an even more fascinating procedure for a little girl of six to observe.

But let me return to Ingolf Forberg, who did have a son, Cory Forberg. Cory has both a son and a daughter and they have children. Should the Norwegian pipe go to Cory’s young son or is it more fairly placed with my own son Eric Siebert, who has no children of his own? Another alternative is his sister’s son Tait Ackermann? After some discussion with my friends who study genealogy, the consensus seemed to be that by following the modern view of inheritance my son Eric had the right to have his great-grandfather Forberg’s pipe.

Myrtle’s Impossible Pies

Myrtle’s Impossible Chicken and Broccoli Pie

1½ cup cut up cooked or canned chicken             3 eggs
2/3 cup chopped onion                                            ¾ cup biscuit mix
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese                           ¾ tsp. salt
1 1/3 cup milk                                                             ¼ tsp. pepper
1 10oz. package frozen, chopped broccoli or 2 cups fresh broccoli, steamed

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 10in. x 1½in. pie plate.
  2. Rinse broccoli under running, cold water to thaw. Drain thoroughly.
  3. Sprinkle broccoli, chicken, and onion in plate, spread shredded cheese over top.
  4. Beat eggs, milk, biscuit mix, seasonings in blender until smooth – 15 seconds on high.
    Pour into plate.
  5. Bake until knife inserted in centre comes out clean, 15 – 25 minutes.
  6. Top with remaining cheese. Bake just until cheese is melted, 1-2 minutes longer.

Cool at least 5 minutes.   Makes 6 – 8 servings.

Myrtle’s Impossible Tuna and Cheddar Pie

500 ml chopped onion                                  300 ml milk
50 ml vegetable oil                                        250 ml biscuit mix
2 cans tuna, drained                                      2 ml salt
250 ml shredded cheddar cheese                1 ml pepper
3 eggs                                                              2 tomatoes, thinly sliced

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Celsius. Grease pie plate, 25cm x 4 cm
  2. Cook onions and oil in skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are light brown.
  3. Sprinkle tuna, half of the cheese and the onions in the plate.
  4. Beat eggs, milk, baking mix, seasonings in the blender until smooth – 15 seconds high.
  5. Pour into plate. Bake until knife inserted in centre comes out clean, 25 – 30 minutes.
  6. Top with tomato slices and remaining cheese. Bake until cheese is melted, 3 – 5 minutes.

Cool at least 5 minutes.   Makes 6 – 8 servings.

To Reheat in Microwave:

Remaining pie can be covered and refrigerated up to 24 hours.

To reheat in microwave, place slice on a microwaveable plate. Cover with wax paper or microwave lid. Microwave each slice about 2 minutes on medium power until hot. Let stand about 2 minutes before serving.

Proud to be a Logger’s Daughter

Trimming the SequoiaI’ve just come in from a session in the back yard using my trusty saw. It’s one I chose and bought myself because at 10 pounds I could lift it above my head. This little work horse is a De Walt XRP with an 18 volt rechargeable battery pack. My husband gave me two more batteries and some extra saw blades for Christmas! So much for the implement I was using, why was I, at my advanced age, out there up on a ladder holding such a wicked instrument? I am a logger’s daughter.
In our large back yard we have 3 beautiful sequoia trees. When we moved here 21 years ago the smallest one was just the right size to be adorned with lights during the Christmas season. We used an extension ladder to arrange several strings of bright lights plugged into an electrical outlet we installed for the purpose. Today it is impossible to even get near enough to the bottom branches for decoration. The tree is absolutely enormous. Trees grow quickly in the Pacific Northwest.
A second tree is a different variety of s sequoia and in its unobtrusive location grows at will. The largest tree has spread wide over the lawn and driveway so that from time to time both my husband and the gardener have complained about the branches hanging down – they scratch them as they ride the lawn mower and get in the way of large delivery trucks. Their answer is to clip off the errant branch so as to be out of the way. The tree has grown quickly where it had been cut and then as a result strangely shaped branches appeared until the tree looked misshapen and unnatural.
I like my shrubs and trees to have a natural shape and over time have taken responsibility for trimming everything that needed it, except the hedge. On this occasion I was simply correcting the shape of the tree by cutting the errant branches closer to the trunk, the way they should have been cut in the first place. When you drive into our yard now you will see the view beneath the lowest branches, which incidentally will not drag after a heavy snowfall, and my family and workers will be happy with my result.

What Will You Leave to Your Descendants?

When I am gone my written stories will be among the other inherited gifts my children and grandchildren, and beyond, will have. Memoir writing is for them, not for the child as much as an inheritance for both, to help a new generation of people understands the choices we made and why. In hindsight I wish so very much that I had paid attention to what my mother spoke about when I was a self-absorbed teenager, and later during the years I was a busy at-home mother of three. She knew some of the stories but not all of the family history I have now discovered through research.
I expect it is much the same in many families who make the mistake I did. It was my good fortune to have my sister recording her discussions with our father during his Christmas visit with her one year. Those interviews became the basis for the time line of my book, from Fjord to Floathouse. He told her the years and locations where his father had worked during the early years when he hand-logged on the British Columbia coast before I was born. Thankfully she transcribed their conversations and I still have the tape of his voice talking to her.
At the book signing of a well-respected local author I received some excellent advice that I continue to relay to others. He said he had spent a year travelling between his home and his father’s to ask questions about those first years after the father returned from serving in World War II. My friend confided that now that the book was published none of those memories were available to him; his father had aged and was suffering dementia. Once more I appeal to all of you to in some way record the words of your people for they so quickly become lost to all of the descendants. (More specifics next week)

Myrtle’s Master MIx

Myrtle’s Master Mix

2,250 ml all-purpose flour
75 ml baking powder
15 ml salt
10 ml cream of tarter
50 ml sugar
500 ml shortening
250 ml powdered milk (optional)

Method:

  1. Measure all dry ingredients into a very large bowl.
  2. Using pastry blender cut shortening into dry ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. (an alternate method is to use two knives and clean hands)
  3. Store at room temperature in covered container. (i.e. ice cream bucket) Makes about 3 litres mix.

This mix recipe containing powdered milk is especially useful on camping or boating trips because the need for fresh milk is replaced by only the addition of water. I always have it on hand at home without the powdered milk to make biscuits, pancakes, impossible pie, roll-ups, even dumplings. I’ve found its simplicity of use saved the day when guests arrive unexpectedly or I’m without needed time to cook rice or potatoes.

What are you doing with your grandchildren?

Post 2 What are you doing with Your Grandchildren?

Last week I wrote about my own grandparents and their gifts to me as I was growing up. I also mentioned some of the ways my children had benefited from having grandparents. What I did not explain was why it has been so important during these later years to know my own grandchildren.

 When I began researching my genealogy I discovered that all of my grandparents had come ‘from away’. At the time I was simply doing family history research, out of curiosity and so that my children would have a record should they ever wish to go back further. And then a surprise – my youngest daughter remarried and produced a child. What excitement! Having had no expectation of ever being a grandmother – my other two children had made different choices – I was thrust into learning about the meaning of ‘Grandma.’

This daughter lives a 10 hour drive or a 1 ½ hour plane ride away. I went to her asking to be a part of her child’s life. With her enthusiastic assent I began finding ways of seeing him every two months. Without frequency it would have been easy to lose our comfortable relationship. Now there are two other children in that very busy household and I look forward to being with them whenever I can. Sometimes it is to give Grandma-care when there are just too many priorities in their parent’s lives, other times they come here, or we vacation together.

Each visit is precious time spent as I learn more about the developing personalities and interests of each child. We have fun together in new-to-them ways, like the ritual of a tea party with real china and tablecloth we have begun together, puzzles and games they teach me, time spent in the water learning of its powers and delights.

Whenever I consider how fortunate I am to be able to come to know the children at all, I am reminded that my own grandmothers had no similar grandparent relationship available to their children. My paternal grandparents emigrated from Norway as a young couple and their three children had no connection with the ‘old country’ where they had come from. My maternal grandmother came from Belgium as a child, with a similar result.

I find myself agonizing about how sad it is that both of my parents and their siblings did not have benefit of shared experiences with grandparents. The loneliness for the familiarity and support of family members those mothers felt in their new country would have been dreadful. I salute them for all they endured and although they have passed on, I thank them again for their gifts to me.

What do you do for your grandchildren?

Post 1 – What do you do for your grandchildren?

A bright sunny day in July seems the right time to begin blogging about the things that are important to me. I hope you will find them of relevance to your life and decide to follow along the path where these irregular posts lead.

My first question, “What do you do for your grandchildren?” brings to mind the gifts my grandparents offered me. Most significant is the life skills I learned from my Norwegian grandmother, my Dad’s mother. She showed me how to knit, to crochet, to embroidery, to make and serve coffee and when I was old enough to manage with my left hand guiding the fabric and the right hand turning the handle, how to sew a simple seam on her hand cranked sewing machine.

We had no electricity there, no refrigeration or roads to the outside world; we were essentially locked in by water and our escape was by water. With her quiet assured manner Grandma Gunhild, who I called White Nano for her silver white hair, made everyday life lessons interesting. Until I was nine years old she was a daily influence on me.

My mother’s mother, Little Nano, was as different from White Nano as she could have been. Short and solid with a wide range of farm and gardening knowledge she taught me the difference between the weeds and the cultivated plants as we moved together along the rows, showed me how to thin beets, turnips and carrots, called upon me to pick the peas and beans and let me feed the chickens and collect the eggs, all life skills in her world but not as significant in mine. My grandfather’s made their own contribution to my knowledge of life but that story is for another time.

Dead now for twenty years, I’ve had some time to think about what my own parents gave to my three children. They came to visit us regularly and were present at every Christmas and family celebration, taking a serious interest in what each of them was interested in and what they were doing. I think the important thing is they were present in their young lives and made a positive impression on it.

In my opinion, perhaps also in the view of the children, Grandma and Grandpa, from the time the child were five or six years old took each grandchild separately for a week of ‘summer holiday.’ My parents had a truck and camper rig in which they went out to the forest back roads for extended periods. Their aluminum boat loaded on top and with assorted gear and games packed away, they managed to successfully amuse each young one they happened to have with them at the time. Some days it was trout fishing, others berry picking, swimming, or exploration hiking along the lake or stream’s edge. Helping with the campfire, cooking on the two burner stove, washing dishes, all became part of what they learned to help with.

The children came home suntanned and dirty from their week away telling stories of the fun they had and the people, and animals, they had seen and met. For us at home that week we were dealing with a different configuration of children and as much as possible took the opportunity to spend time according to their preferences. When the siblings came together again there seemed to be a settling in time during which everyone shared stories about what the other part of the family had missed.

Although what my husband and I will be able to offer will be quite different than what my folks undertook I hope we will be able to offer ‘summer holiday’ time to each of our three grandchildren soon I have spoken to my daughter about it and she enthusiastically agrees with the concept. Other ideas next time . . . .