Winter Beauty

Nature’s beauty can be found anywhere – even in the middle of the frozen Saskatchewan prairies. Here are some winter pictures taken by Clarissa. Enjoy!

Picture by Clarissa Fehr
Picture by Clarissa Fehr
Picture by Clarissa Fehr
Picture by Clarissa Fehr
Picture by Clarissa Fehr

Still Savouring Fall

October is over but I’m not quite finished with pumpkin flavours this fall (I am enjoying a pumpkin spice latte as I type this…). I had some leftover pumpkin puree in the freezer so I decided to try my hand at making a pumpkin cake from scratch. Continue reading “Still Savouring Fall”

WIP Part II: The Light Attendant and the Bluebird

After a couple of passes through our editing team, I am thrilled to be working on the final draft of my upcoming historical romance novel: The Light Attendant and the Bluebird.

Set in World War I, The Light Attendant and The Bluebird tells the story of Private Henry Ryzack who battles not only the Germans, but also his own personal vices and demons on the battlefields of France as he struggles to keep promises made and become a man worthy of Nursing Sister, Abbigail Grieves.

I am very excited to share this story with you. So eager, in fact, that I cannot help but give you a “sneak peek” into the first two chapters of the novel.

Continue reading “WIP Part II: The Light Attendant and the Bluebird”

The Garden: Autumn 2021

Autumn is my favourite season in the kitchen. Oh, I like the others well enough: the heady scents of Christmas baking, with its spices and sugared fruits; the bright flavours of radish and egg and green onion in early spring, giving way to dozens of delicate early vegetables; followed by endless salads and greens to brighten our summer season. The other seasons are enjoyable—but they are not autumn.

Perhaps I am biased. Perhaps it is my October birthday, or the candy and colours of Halloween, that make me love autumn more than any other season. But I suspect there is something more to the equation. There is, of course, the garden. The days are shortening, the nights are cold, and I am now allowed to collect on the investments I made in spring and summer. The planting, weeding, watering, and fretting have made something, and I am allowed to be a part of this too.

Continue reading “The Garden: Autumn 2021”

Thanksgiving day Ginger Cookies

October 11, 2021

Today is Thanksgiving, and we are wrapping up a weekend of cooking, harvesting produce, and eating plenty of turkey and pumpkin pie. I decided to make these chewy ginger molasses cookies this Thanksgiving Monday to add a little spice to the week ahead.

Chewy ginger cookies

Continue reading “Thanksgiving day Ginger Cookies”

Summer Baking

Pineapple Whip Dessert

July 9, 2021

Something about summer screams out for fruit desserts.

That being said, I’m not sure this pineapple square from the Mennonite cookbook actually counts, given that it’s mostly whipped cream and butter. It also calls for canned pineapple, which won’t showcase your horticultural expertise or even your ability to obtain fresh produce. And yet somehow, it’s refreshing and somehow very suited for summer barbecues. My mom used to make it for family gatherings, and it was always one of my favourites.

It’s actually a fairly simple dessert. A traditional graham cracker crust with a buttercream filling and topped with whipped cream speckled with crushed pineapple. It’s quite attractive when all is said and done, and serves a crowd, although it does tend to go quickly.

Side notes: the crust tends to go soggy after a couple of days in the fridge, so plan appropriately for your crowd size. I would estimate that the 9×13 inch pan (one full recipe) would feed about 20-25 (depending on how many go for seconds…). Also, it’s a chilled dessert, so it’s likely best not to leave it on the buffet table for too long, especially given the heat we’ve been having this month (38 degrees last week!)

Pineapple Squares

Original recipe from “Squares and Slice” in The Mennonite Treasury of Recipes, 1961

This version has been adapted from the original based on personal preferences.

Yields one 9×13 inch pan

Base:

  • 3 cups graham wafer crumbs
  • ¾ cup melted margarine

Mix crumbs with margarine, press into pan. Bake 12-15 minutes in 350° oven. Cool.

Filling:

  • ¾ cup butter
  • 2 ½ cups icing sugar
  • 2 eggs

Cream butter. Add sugar and eggs. Beat until fluffy and spread over base.

Topping:

  • 1 can crushed pineapple (well-drained)
  • 1 ½ cups whipping cream

Mix pineapple with whipped cream and spread on top of filling. Chill before serving.

Notes

  • Make sure that the crushed pineapple is verywell drained before mixing with the cream. Otherwise, the dessert will get soggy from the excess moisture. Squeeze out the juice thoroughly and pat dry.
  • This dessert contains raw eggs.
  • This dessert is best after it has been chilled for several hours, but the crust may get soggy if left for more than a day or two.

 

In other news, we pulled in another basket of strawberries from our little patch in the garden last night, and I’ve had my eye on a recipe for strawberry buttermilk cake for a few days now. Stay tuned, perhaps it will make an appearance in the coming weeks (that is, if I get to baking them before they are eaten straight from the bowl…)

Clarissa

Tomorrow

Harvey Nelson awoke like he was surfacing from a deep plunge in cold water. His eyes snapped open and he drew in a sharp breath. He half-rose out of bed, only to relax again, sinking back into the sober white sheets of his sister’s guest bed.

Harvey took another breath, this time letting it out slowly, and stared up at the ceiling tiles of the basement bedroom tying to decode the Rorschach design created by the brown water stains. Dusty grey light filtered in through the small, filmy window, barely disturbing the darkness that lingered in the corners of the room. The only items in the room aside from the metal bed, an ancient, chipped dresser, and a bedside table (equally old), were a few boxes filled with clothes and personal items. The boxes lay scattered about the room, one or two spewing their contents across the floor. Aside from these things, the room was bare.

Continue reading “Tomorrow”

The Garden: Spring 2021

Garden

The snow has melted, the dirt mostly thawed, and I am surveying the damage. In less than a month this is supposed to be a garden. Right now it’s a disaster zone. I question myself:

Was all the mulch really necessary?
House in spring And what was the rationale in leaving behind all these dead plants?

What are all these unidentifiable sticks lovingly planted in flower pots, anyway?

It’s a mess, but hidden in the winter’s decay are signs of new life: slender green onion shoots, dandelion leaves, and the indomitable tulips that arrive in April like impolitely early party guests, standing with their arms crossed while I apologize for the state of things.

In the back garden, other early greens have appeared—but these are the ones for which I am responsible: early lettuce and radish sprouts, and tomato seedlings that have this year, to my great dismay, insisted on bolting to ridiculous heights.

 

 

 

 

They are heirlooms—Brandywine Reds, Romas, Manitobas, and Mortgage Lifters. I taste the names and think about tomato sauce.

They, like the rest of the garden, exist in a constant experimental flux. Crop locations are rotated, planting times are altered to see if produce will arrive earlier or later, and the sticks, I now recall, are the gruesome remains of a rose-cutting experiment gone wrong. The garden tolerates a great deal of my poorly conceived “science”, but each year I have to remind myself of one crucial factor in the building and maintenance of a garden: it does not really matter what I do. I can’t make the plants grow, I don’t control their biological impulses, and in the end a garden only attends to one mandate: to grow. Garden

I will, of course, fuss over the garden. I will expend a great deal of anxiety over the plants, even though my family members will gently remind me that I could always buy more plants if these die. Of course I could—but in the face of nature’s unperturbed persistence, I balk. I want to be involved. And so, though it is still too early, I am out here with rake and spade, working the soil, clearing the mulch.

Even though I know that in the end, the garden will look much like it did last year.

Sarina

 

 

 

 

 

Work In Process

My latest work in progress began quite some time ago. I have always had a fascination of the World War I era and the ensuing Spanish Influenza outbreak—a pandemic that wreaked as much devastation as the war itself in some parts of the world. One could think endlessly on the parallels between man-made destruction versus the destruction of nature…talk about a battle between two colossuses.

Spanish Flu newspaper article
Spanish Flu Newspaper Article

In addition to my interest in the Spanish Flu pandemic, I have always had a great respect for the men and women who fought and worked in the first world war. I am completely in awe of their deeds. These men and women accomplished a monumental task with equipment and tools—both military and medical—that were in their formative stages and they did so in the worst of conditions. They endured hardships and circumstances we have not seen since and they did it so we could have the life we now enjoy.

I cannot comprehend the sacrifices they made.

I have worked with the elderly and have always been amazed at the wealth of stories and knowledge they have collected over their lives. It disturbed me to think we were losing the generation of knowledge-keepers from the first world war and an early pandemic experience. One could only guess what significant information would be lost along with them. I feared the disappearance of stories that told of gritty fortitude, determined sacrifice, and breath-stopping adventures. The stories of those who had served in the war and had survived the pandemic were far too rich and far too consequential for them to be forgotten. After all, those acts of courage form the underpinnings of what each of us have become. And, thus, I began doing some research, gleaning what stories I may—and there are a great many indeed.

20th Century Physician
20th Century Physician Reference Book

The Light Attendant and The Bluebird (working title) evolved over many years, its beginnings tracing back to an anecdotal story mentioned briefly in the third book of the Shifters trilogy. My resolve hardened into firm research in the summer of 2019 when I mis-read a book title in some dyslexic moment of scanning a book store shelf too quickly. The title as I had read it stuck in my head, attached itself to my musings of WWI and the Spanish Influenza and turned those thoughts into a story. Over the summer and fall and into the next year, I researched the war and developed my characters and plot.

Timing is everything, as they say, and in March, 2020, I was re-deployed to the COVID Assessment and Testing Centre as our very own, real-life pandemic took hold of our country. I began a fascinating journey of writing about the war and the following 1918 pandemic as our own pandemic matched pace with my story.

It was an interesting year.

I have now finished the first draft of my story and have turned it over to other members of our Creative Collective for a first edit. I already know there are a few changes to be made—I thought of one addition at 04:00 one night, an occurrence with which most authors will be familiar. The manuscript will take a bit of refining, but I am excited about this work and wanted to begin sharing it with others.

Stay tuned for updates.

wf

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