November 27, 2018

The Best Meal, Ever!

Thanksgiving is over - traditional food devoured (sorry about the stuffing). Pumpkins, orange tablecloths and lights now line my storage bins in the basement. A momentary reprieve of cooking and preparations then shortly onto the next celebration.

As I explore potential meals to create for the Christmas holidays, my mind wandered on a little memory trip recalling The Best Meal I've eaten.

The Siberian wind rushed over the Ural Mountains in Perm, Russia, where we stayed while waiting for our children's adoption and paperwork to be completed. The January blizzard was sharp as we searched for a food kiosk where we would purchase lunch.

Our meals were sparse due to the constant activities our visit required - so we were particularly hungry. The bitter cold made us visibly quake to the elements and shiver with hunger. Our small family of my husband, young daughter and I were surrounded, warmly, on the streets with Russians wisely wrapped in traditional fur hats and coats - we Americans wore inadequate zippered coats and ski hats.

Finally - a kiosk - where our interpreter ordered pizza. Not the typical pizza we grew up with as this pizza offered a crust … a flattened round piece of chewy dough … topped with a heavenly mixture of sour cream, mayonnaise, cucumbers and tomatoes. No familiar red sauce graced this white meal.

Biting into the pizza brought a mixture of an exquisite stinging liquid enhanced with mellow, sharp and creamy - very chewy and substantial with pops of sweet cucumber and tomato. Our moans of pleasure over this delicious meal were doubled as we topped off the food with warm Faygo common to this region.

The most delicious meal – ever!  A Russian feast on a little round plate.

Back to the present, I search for something old and something new in our menu selections. Would love to hear about your favorite dish reserved for the Christmas holidays. Please tell...

November 19, 2018

Grab a Coffee - You Have Mail

As the holidays approach, you will find me at bookstores searching for the perfect boxes of Christmas cards. I stop at the post office to melt over the pretty holiday stamps until I settle on a few designs, then end up nestled in coffee shops, at times with a companion, writing notes on these cards to friends and family.

It is with pleasure to confess that I have saved almost every letter and card received. Particularly precious ones are:

· Letters written by my father over the years filled with humor and signing off on each with Love Daddio.

· A cherished letter from King Olav’s secretary (Olav V was the king of Norway from 1957 until his death in January of 1991). I wrote him to introduce myself and to form a connection as family lore shared that my great uncle, Thorvald Olsen of Norway, and King Olav were friends. Our family has pictures of them sitting next to each other at formal royal dinners. The King’s secretary wrote back to let me know that King Olav had read my letter but died before he could write back.

· Letters from a family in England who took my father in during World War II after he was injured. Dad lived with this family during his recovery and the wife would write to dad’s parents in Marquette informing them how his healing was coming along – also sharing some of their situation living in England during this war.

· Letters from aunts, uncles and grandparents, which piece together portions of our history which would be lost and forgotten if these had been tossed away.

· Letters from my uncle, Captain Richard E. Olsen, a great lakes ship captain. In these he describes life at sea, particularly on Lake Superior. I asked him if he would record his adventures on (cassette) tapes, he agreed, so followed a long period in his life where we sent these tapes back and forth. My husband took the cassettes and put them on CDs after my uncle’s death to present to his wife. She missed his voice and would fall asleep as he told tales of his high sea adventures.

· A letter from the actress, Carol Burnett, in response to one I had written to her during a very trying period in her life. She wrote kind words of thanks for the support during this difficult time.

· A notebook filled with all our family newsletters - The Olsen Chronicles - written by family, edited by me, recording their stories of trials, milestones, and greetings.

· Lastly and truly, a binder filled with all your Christmas letters, short or long, 3-hole punched, and placed with love in this book of memories.

These stories through the written word is a gift to our ancestors. Think about the future [you may not be living, but bear with me]. Imagine your children sitting around a table with steaming mugs of coffee or tea sharing family stories, and, of course, missing you tremendously. A pause in the conversation as they struggle to share what they learned growing up from the stories told around tables by family members. The conversations run dry of memories so they pull out “the box” and read aloud about our funny lives, which authenticate their discussions, thus themselves. They will know deeply who they are from what we share about ourselves.

But so sad if nothing has been shared … no letters are found. Mom, dad, grams and grampa are long-gone (this includes us, dear reader).

So, with that in mind and my favorite pens sorted and ready, I write little tidbits.

Sharpen those pens, dear friends. I’ll eagerly grab a hot mug of coffee to drink as we read your card or letter.

Your stories matter more than you can imagine.

"Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid, 5 cents a glass"

My family and I have often and happily traveled Back Roads on our forays from one area of Michigan to another. My children grew use to the ...