Monday, 17 December 2012

Finding familiar in the strange

   It is hard to know where to start when I've been silent on the blog front for months. Upheaval makes me quiet, but now we are settling again in a strange land, anticipating our first Christmas on the Canadian prairie. It seems a little crazy at times, but then compared to most things in the world right now it seems pretty minor.

   It is different in so many ways here, the cold, the landscape, the people, the huge, never-ending sky that opens up on the horizon every morning. The train whistle blowing every night, its mournful sound echoing across the sleeping city and the prairie that crouches at its edges.

   I miss the red cliffs dusted with snow, and the December whitecaps off the coast, and the warmth of our family and friends nearby, but I must admit the adventurer in me has re-awoken after years of post-parental slumber. I have long been fascinated by the prairies, and several trips driving across Canada have convinced me that Saskatchewan is in fact the most underestimated province in the country. The sheer horror of many people when I told them where we were moving made me laugh. 

   It's okay, I wanted to say, we know just what we are getting into and we will embrace it. 

   Still, it seems a little unreal to be celebrating Christmas here next week. Our big farmhouse lent itself beautifully to Christmas finery, and it is a wee bit harder to make a modern city townhouse look quite as charming. I find myself looking for familiar things, the music we love, the movies, the food, the books that we return to every year.

   Stuff like these icebox cookies, which my mom always made, and my grandmother before her. They are perfect because you make a big batch, stick it in the fridge or freezer and just pull it out, slice some off and bake them anytime you need a treat. Oh, the smell of cloves and molasses and ginger, supreme.

Molasses Ice Box Cookies

1 cup blackstrap molasses
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup butter
3 3/4 cup flour
2 tsp soda
1 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt

Mix ingredients, then form dough into blocks. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate at least an hour, or several weeks. Slice thinly and bake in a hot oven.

Mine are baking right now and it smells like home.

Christmas CDs we have on repeat
Wintersong by Sarah McLachlan
A Christmas Cornucopia by Annie Lennox
A Canadian Brass Christmas by the Canadian Brass
Raffi's Christmas Album by Raffi
Any Putumayo Christmas CD


  1. I was waiting for this, your first blog post from your new home. As a dabbler in writing myself, I understand the need for calm inside. Looking forward to learning more about the prairie way of life.

  2. I hope you will find what you need to keep writing. You had me at Laura Ingalls Wilder. I remember reading those books with my kids, and thinking such similar thoughts. I would never have been able to leave the little house in the big woods. And I know it's different now, in many ways, but in some it is not. Still mostly on your own, in a land with such a huge sky. I would love to know how it is to do that now.

    So glad you commented so I could find you here.