~~I've got dreams in hidden places~~
Welcome to the Cabin

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

~~On Christmas Eve~~

In Scandinavian countries, the big feast was on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day was a day for going to church and relaxing 
at home.  It's a custom we still observe in the same way
my mother did.  It was a plain meal and until grown children 
began changing it with likes and dislikes of their own,
it was the same every year.

Flaky boiled potatoes; lutefisk piled high on a white platter;
potato sausage piled even higher on a smaller platter;
milk gravy plain and milk gravy with homemade mustard;
I'm sure there was a vegetable but I have no memory of it-
my plate was already filled; white buns and rye bread with
raisins; jellies and pickles and homemade root beer.

And for dessert, always rice pudding with raisins and one
single almond.  Whoever got the almond in his serving
would be the next to marry.

Now, two and even three generations removed from that
household, it's still the same.  Never are the dishes done so
quickly and the last of the leftovers whisked away so quickly
as on Christmas Eve!  For it was time to go into the parlor,
one of the few times in winter that the room was opened
and the radiator turned on. One by one, the tongues of flame
 danced on the candles as they leaned out on the tips of
 each bough.  And one by one the presents under the tree 
were passed around.


Monday, December 22, 2014

~Her Back Steps~

My uncle John and Aunt Jennie lived in a handsome house
that faced the highway in front and whose back pasture ran
all the way to the Great Northern railroad tracks in back.
It was just outside Cokato, Minnesota.
Among the aftermaths of the Depression were the tramps,
or hobos, who rode the boxcars and cooked in tin cans over
an open fire in hobo "jungles."  Some were derelicts and
drifters. But many had left families, striking out for places where
there might be work, maybe even a fresh start.

One of those jungles was near the tracks just past Uncle
John's pasture.  So most of the men found their way to 
Aunt Jennie's back door.  "Could you spare a bite
 to eat for a hungry man?"

Uncle John owned the local butcher shop.  While things
were hard for them, too, there were always soup bones
and ham bones, and even sliced meat for a thick sandwich
on home-baked bread.  They sat on her back steps and ate,
next to the cosmos and zinnias she watered with her dishpan
water, soap and all.  She heard their tales and her heart ached
for them, especially the young ones on the road for the first time.

And they repaid her kindness.  Mostly they made baskets of
willow branches, notching the corners together like a log cabin,
forming elaborately curved handles.  Sometimes they sold them,
making enough to buy a little gilt or varnish to touch them up.

Aunt Jennie's living room and sun parlor had dozens of house
plants in willow baskets, even plant stands fashioned of
willow boughs from the brush that grew up and down the tracks.
Before she married, Jennie had been a cook in the Cokato Hotel.
Chances are, no fancy guest there ever ate better bean
soup than she served the hungry men on her back steps.

               Notes From A Scandinavian Kitchen
               A memory by Florence Ekstrand

I will be posting a few more excerpts from this book,
Mom gave it to me years ago, only now did I pick it up to read.
The title of the book is
"Notes From A Scandinavian Kitchen"
Not only does it contain recipes from the old country
but history from the old country as well.  Little did I know,
I thought it was just another cookbook.
The stories are amazing, being the history buff that I am
I was pleasantly  surprised!
 Mom's mother was a an immigrant from Sweden,
she came to this country as a young child,
settling in Northern Wisconsin.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

~~How Sweet and Clear~~

A Christmas Memory
My mind goes back across the years to our first Christmas in
our little poplar log cabin in Northwood, Saskatchewan.  I was
only a little lad, but no amount of years could ever blot it from
my memory.  Some weeks before Christmas, Mother became ill 
and had to be taken to the hospital.  Dad was away from home
 working with a railroad crew.  A blizzard prevented him from
reaching home with provisions for Christmas.  Things looked
pretty poor and bleak for us, isolated in our wilderness cabin.
But the spirit of Christmas was not to be denied.

We cut a little aspen tree (there were no evergreens in that
part of Saskatchewan) and set it up on the floor.  Rummaging in
the trunks, we found some Christmas decorations from our
homeland far across the seas.  Our Christmas dinner?  Well, we
didn't have many ingredients to work with.  The only food left
was flour, salt and corn syrup.  We cooked a porridge, "vatten grot",
using water, salt and flour.  We even mixed water with the
syrup to make it go further.  It was a good dinner!  The comfort
of having each other, despite cold and hunger, made it so.
After we had eaten, brother Hans, being the oldest, lined us up
around the Christmas tree according to age, down to the littlest
fellow.  Then we marched around the Christmas tree singing the
Christmas songs so dear to us from the homeland.

How meaningful and real Christmas was to us! 
 How sweet and clear 
the angelic message of God's good will toward His
children!  And it is ever so.  While there is nothing wrong with
making our homes as festive looking as possible, it still remains true
that the real joy and peace of Christmas is not dependent
on a wealth of material things.
"Where meek souls will receive Him still,
the dear Christ enters in."

Rev. Nels Norbeck of Montana,
wrote about his most memorable Christmas.