Alberta Whisky Cake

It’s becoming increasingly prevalent to consider source (local) and company (niche) in our world. In a sense, our western culture has perhaps always leaned more towards a high standard of craftsmanship, than an overload of cheap trappings. We cherish one well-made bit crafted from a local artisan, over 10 made overseas. A pair of chaps so beautifully constructed they must be passed on from mother to daughter. And so on.

I’ve as much as possible refined and practiced the same criteria in my kitchen and lifestyle. I’d rather have less, and enjoy quality than stack up on bulk buys of ridiculously processed foods.

awckamlaAll part of why I never grow tired of this friend, and her consistently positive mind and joy of life.

It took baker Kamla McGonigal of Calgary, Alberta, four years to perfect her recipe. Determination, baby, that’s what it took. The fourth generation Calgary native wanted to use whisky, locally distilled at Highwood Distiller’s, from grain at nearby farms as one of the main ingredients in her delectable cakes. Finally after countless hours over an oven, McGonigal developed one of the best tasting and most unique baked-goods available to those with discerning palates – the Alberta Whisky Cake.

awcwhiskeycakeboxUsing only the finest locally-sourced ingredients, Alberta Whisky Cakes offer a seductive flavor. You will be able to smell it’s sweet, distinct goodness before you will ever taste it, but as whisky advocates know – this is a desirable trait.

awcradioSo, as I’m working through my Christmas list of gift-giving and thank-you’s – both personal and corporate, Alberta Whisky Cakes in their delightful western-styled packaging are a top pick. The beautiful bundts are simple to order, and because of the dense, whisky intinction, keep well through shipping and into the Christmas season.

Find Alberta Whisky Cake on Facebook or, here.

The Little Things

Photo by Jenn Webster.

Photo by Jenn Webster.

With those of you who know me, you will understand the whole randomness of this thought process as you read. For those of you who do not know me, this is how I think.

I ride and train barrel horses for a living. Love it. Although my days are sociably lonesome from any human contact, I am surrounded by what I find to be the most amazing animals. Horses. Throughout the day, as I ride and work, my thoughts are many and random.

One that has really kind of bugged me recently are people around Christmas time. I am certainly not a grinch, but read on and hear me out.

As we all know from the songs, greeting cards and shopping – “It is the most wonderful time of the year.” Is it? Really?

I recently read on a Black Friday massacre, people beating each other in the stores and in the parking lots, over deals on items; you go to town, and everybody is in hurry-up mode. Nowhere for parking, people absolutely stressed about having extra money to shop and spoil their loved ones, and you rarely hear “excuse me” if someone wants past you. Whatever happened to the true meaning of Christmas? And when did it become that a simple card with meaningful words was not enough?  I wonder if you randomly asked children of today what Christmas is all about, would they know?

To me, of course it is the Birth of Christ, and the get-togethers with family and friends. Today’s society has become so focused on materialistic items, and the thought pattern has become that the only way to show love is to buy people more and more and more. So my main thought for all of the rambling is: Do materialistic gifts fill your heart forever? Can you look back in 50 years and remember how gifts made you feel, or would you even care, or remember that gift anymore after that long? I understand some gifts are very meaningful, and yes, I believe there is room for that. But ultimately, the older I get, the more people I meet, I am now realizing that quality time and good memories you spend making with those you love and care about are the ones that fill your heart forever. It is the kind words, the meaningful hugs, and the good old cheek pinch from Grandma no matter how old you are.

As I work with the horses daily, and spend hours watching them, I appreciate all that they teach me, every day. The gratitude they show over just getting a pat or a good brushing; the excitement they have and how they nicker when they see you coming to their pen; the craziness and playfulness they have when you turn them loose to run in the arena; or, even just the enjoyment of finding a little green blade of grass through the snow. The little things.

So, with what I am learning from the horses on a daily basis, it urges me to ask these questions: What if we all just had a little more gratitude for everything we already have in our lives? What if we all just treated each other a little bit better? What if we went out of our way for a stranger and had manners like “excuse me, please and thank-you,” or helped an older person with their groceries to their car? When is enough, enough?

I think there would be a lot more happiness throughout the world if we could all impose this sort of change, and not just around Christmas. Always. I hope this blog has reached those that need it and it is nothing personal to anybody. Take notice – where can you help out and make someone’s day good? It’s the little things.

7 weeks ’till Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

Music is a constant at the log house. We each have our influences and our tastes meander all genres. Shelves and cupboards overflow with CD’s, and I’m mildly grateful the era of albums is over, for the room it’s saved me. Even with the overabundance of our current collection, and the advent of itunes, new CD’s regularly find their way into the house. I don’t know about you, but itunes just doesn’t cut it for me. Hits aren’t sustainable enough to hold my attention, too much like soundbites of a larger picture. I need to listen to the full CD, to hear the entire story told.

In this house, the gift of music, in any form, excepting of course, Toby Keith, can never be misguided.

Here’s some of the latest we’ve been listening to.

Ryan Fritz writes all of his own material, inspired by the trails and cowboying life he’s led. He grew up in southern Alberta, and worked for many years on Canada’s renowned ranches such as the Gang and Douglas Lake Ranches. Ryan Fritz and his family now live in eastern Saskatchewan where they run cattle and manage a 5,000 steer pasture. And, play guitar. Produced by fellow prairie musician, Eli Barsi and John Cunningham, Wind Blown Buckaroo is Fritz’s fourth album, and his best, keeping the tradition of cowboy music alive. Order direct from Fritz at [email protected]

Western Horse Review writer Deanna Buschert interviewed Tim Hus for an earlier issue this year, and upon the edit, I was awed by his humbleness. He didn’t let an answer go by without thanking his mentors, fellow musicians and always, his fans and friends. Just one of the reasons why it’s so satisfying to see his latest album, Western Star, receive such fantastic reviews and play. Some compare him to the late and great Stompin’ Tom Connors; I don’t see that comparison myself in the music, but one thing is sure, he is a true Canadian and original roots musician.

And, finally, Johnny Cash. Insight Editions recently published House of Cash:  The Legacies of My Father, Johnny Cashwritten by his son, John Carter Cash. This book gives you an insight into the Man in Black the likes of which you’ve never seen before. It is an intimate exploration of the soul behind the music, housed in a beautiful mock-leather binding, with a feature CD, accompanied by reproductions of handwritten song lists, lyrics and liner notes.

Gathering together previously unpublished photographs, lyrics, art, notes such as this humorous “to do list”. . .

. . . letters to June, and recollections from the Cash family archives, John Carter paints a portrait of his father’s inner life, and the values he imparted to his son and family.

This is truly a unique portrait of a deeply spiritual, creative, and passionate soul whose music sprang from the way he lived, and one I don’t mind saying, I would love to find under our tree.

9 Weeks ’til Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

Christmas is just around the corner . . . nine weeks away today.

What was once a 12 Weeks ’till Christmas countdown here at Screen Doors & Saddles has evolved into nine weeks. Really, what was I thinking? Does anyone really want to know this detail, whether nine or 12? Seriously, I’m just getting my head wrapped around Halloween.

Still, I can’t deny it, the 25th of December looms and over the next nine weeks I’m going to share a few unique Christmas gift ideas with you – offerings geared specifically for country and western living – my favorite genre of shopping. I hope you’ll find something that catches your eye and incites a cross off your list.

By the way, if you’re not a subscriber to the print magazine, it’s a great time to join up, and also give a gift. We have a holiday subscription special currently on – two for one! Only $24.95 – two subscriptions for the price of one – catch it here. 

On to this week’s Christmas gift idea. I recently caught wind of a nifty new equine subscription service. A Horse Box is a unique home delivery gift idea that’s been omnipresent in the U.S.A. for sometime, and just launched this August in Canada.

Photo by Krista Kay

The folks at A Horse Box kindly sent me the August box to review and it really impressed with the choice of products. I really like this idea. How much fun is it to receive A Horse Box? Akin to a mini-Christmas, I tell ‘ya! It’s innovative, brilliant, fun and a perfect anecdote for the hard-to-buy for rider, or anyone who loves to try new horse products.

This box of goodies in mini-sizes merit attention, and offer up a perfect way to test out an array of equine products you might otherwise miss on the store shelf, or just never think of trying.

Photo by Krista Kay

Here’s how it works: Each month members receive 5-7 handpicked items – from grooming products to alternative health items and gourmet treats.

Even. . . MAGAZINES!

That’s right, I’m thrilled to let you know that A Horse Box has partnered with Western Horse Review and thousands of A Horse Box deliveries in early 2014 – in both the U.S. and Canada – will contain the Jan/Feb issue, bundled with a special subscription offer.

I hope you love the sample issue, as much as I love A Horse Box.

P.S. A Horse Box is available for order in the United States and Canada, each with a separate order website. I’ve linked them here for your convenience.

Last Minute Gift Ideas

Christmas, wreath, barn

Pic by Jenn Webster

Procrastinators take note! There are exactly 10 days until Christmas Day. And that means, if you haven’t started your shopping yet – you better get crackin’! Luckily, My Stable Life is here to help with some last minute gift ideas. According to Canada Post, December 19 is the latest suggested mailing date for Xpressposting a parcel to a loved one within Canada. So if you’d prefer to stay out of the craziness of the malls, here are some wonderful suggestions for all of the horse people in your life.



Ranch Organics

Ranch Organics

The gift that keeps on giving! Send someone you love something truly pleasurable for the senses, each season from the ranch. Sweet Grass for Spring; Rose Geranium for Summer; Lavender for Fall and Cedar Wood for Winter. When the seasons change, the ranch hands at Ranch Organics will pack up your special gift and send it to your loved one – with only a one-time shipping fee!

Options include the Goat Milk Soap Set (1 Basin and 1 Tub size Goat Milk Soap) $64; the Wash/Lotion Duo (2- 8 oz pump bottles) $110; Ranch-size Gift Crate including Wash/Lotion Duo and Goat Milk Soap Set $175; or the set pictured above of Cedar Wood Lotions and soaps $64.


Charm Bridles

Charm Bridles

Jewelry for your trusty steed and best friend! There are charms for almost every special occasion, so why not also for your horse? These unique hand-made brow bands feature everything from turquoise gems, to flowers and everything in between. Gorgeous gemstones, sparkle, letters and even bullets to adorn your pal. All beautifully arranged to your preference.




mecate reins

Horsehair Mecate

Watch your man’s eyes light up when he finds a beautiful set of mecate reins under the tree this year! This high quality horsehair mecate by Jose Ortez is available online from Frontier Western Shop and is made from tightly twisted mane hair. Available in different color combinations. $109.95


work king jeans

Fleece-Lined Jeans

Got a hard working guy? Make sure he stays warm outside this winter with fleece-lined jeans from Work-King! These jeans have a polyester fleece lining, making them better for cold weather than any other pair of denim pants. They are machine washable and come in a relaxed fit – making those winter chores a breeze. Available at Sears!



kids play teepee

Play Teepees

What kid doesn’t love their own little playhouse getaway? These teepees offer the ‘fort’ experience anywhere you want them to play. Made of 100% cotton, duck cloth (canvas-type) fabric. Available in black and white reiner, brown and cream longhorn and pink with a black buffalo. So cute and so western! With poles $199.99.

Growing Up Western

Harry the Horse, the official Calgary Stampede mascot, is always a hit with the kids!  If you visited the centennial celebration of the Stampede this year, this cuddly, plushy toy makes the perfect gift for a little one.  In another 100 years, they’ll be a collector’s item! But beware – once these are in the arms of your child, you’ll never get it back! And if you’re in need a gift in a real hurry, these are available at many Alberta Co-Op Gas station convenience stores.



Alberta whisky cake

Alberta Whisky Cake

This cake is sure to be the talk of the town! Alberta Whisky Cakes are made from the finest ingredients to provide a rich and savoring flavor, making it the ideal dessert. Each cake is baked with the perfect blend of Canadian Whisky and all natural flavors. Now available in two tantalizing flavors – Canadian Maple and Chocolate.

2 Weeks 'till Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

photo by Krista Kay

We’re setting up the tree this weekend at the log house, so it’s all about tree and gift ornaments.

photo by Krista Kay

Wee, Teenager and I have used a particular recipe for ornaments – from a 2003 Martha Stewart issue – several times over the years. It’s a simple afternoon project. Or, in the case of Western Horse Review Managing Editor, Dainya Sapergia, who was tasked with creating a few western-styled examples for our Christmas photo shoot – a 1:00 a.m.-night-before-the-shoot project.

It’s how we occasionally roll here.

The western cookie cutters I mentioned in my 3 Weeks ’till Christmas post would work really well for this application.

Simply mix together one cup of cinnamon and 1/4 cup applesauce. Then stir in 1/2 cup white craft glue. Roll it together, let it sit for an hour, and then roll it out about 1/4 inch thick, cut out your ornaments (remember to poke a hole with a straw for hanging it) and bake them in the oven at 200° for about 2 hours, flipping once to keep them flat.

photo by Krista Kay

Once they are cool and dry, you can decorate them with glitter sand or whatever you choose. Here’s the link to the original Martha Stewart recipe for Cinnamon Bird Ornaments, there is a full step-by-step included and a few Martha-perfected decorating tips.

Caveat: to avoid any emergency trips to the dentist or emergency room, remember to let your family know these are inedible ornaments!

Finally, if you’re looking for a few homemade gift tag ideas, I love the selection at, particularly these vintage typographic beauties.

Simple download the template from this post, and print them out. I used a few textured, sandy old letterhead sheets I had hanging around. Pretty!

Happy decorating!

P.S. If you haven’t yet, be sure to take part in our Grand Christmas Giveaway and treat yourself to the opportunity to win a

gorgeous handcrafted belt by Paige Albrect. It’s a good thing, as Martha would say.

Christmas in the Country

I love this time of year! Christmas is in the air and there’s just something about the way people come together to celebrate the season. The babes and I already went for a sleigh ride and this month, the scenery is particularly striking. The trees are heavy with snow. Even the barbed wire seems beautiful…

With the weather we’ve been having lately, my husband might even be able to put together that skating rink he’s been dreaming about!

Inside the house, I’ve been trying to figure out whether or not I will decorate. With two busy munchkins – a tree and all the trimmings could be interesting, to say the least. Here are the cowboy Christmas lights we’ve been toying with:

We’ve had a great time checking out all the local Christmas markets lately…

The Market at Millarville, AB, was a cold weekend, but it was fabulous shopping nonetheless!

And, there is just something about Christmas splendor at this festive Farmer’s Market…

The Lane of Lights at Aspen Crossing in Mossleigh, AB, is beautiful. This display’s grandeur is captivating enough for children and adults alike! It’s free for everyone and if you would like to bring a canned food item, the good people there are accepting donations to the local food bank.

The hoarfrost around our ranch this year has been incredible. But that also means it’s not wise to leave your halters on the fence…

Peanuts seems happy just chillin’ out. He’s always available for a photo-op!

Stay tuned! My Stable Life will be coming back at ya in the next couple weeks leading up to Christmas with some handmade gift ideas and more to put you in the spirit of the season!


3 Weeks 'till Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

I have a love-hate relationship with baking cookies. I love the idea of it. Less captivated with the clean-up. And, often not quite satisfied with the result, particularly when attempting the odd new recipe.

There is undoubtedly a lesson here from my mom. She was an accomplished cook, but only ran with a few signature Christmas cookies. One was a dark Pfeffernusse, a hard cookie made with molasses and honey, and spiced with ginger, cinnamon, cardamon and pepper. A perfect dipping cookie. Offering a visual offset to that complicated dark cookie, were her simple vanilla cut-out cookies, spiced with cinnamon and baked with finely chopped hazelnut; and, thirdly, a consummate gingerbread, from which, with a bit of royal icing for glue and decoration, she would build Santa’s sleigh, pulled by four reindeer – an annual creation which would make it’s debut on Christmas Eve, filled with sweet candy and Christmas oranges.

Mom would bake her cookies weeks before Christmas and hide them in cold corners all over the house. They’d emerge on pretty Christmas plates when friends or family visited. I love these ancient cookie cutters, they are laden with memory for me, and I like to think I honor my mom’s beautiful German cookies by decorating a small tree with them every Christmas. And, of course, by baking cookies!

One of the items which turned up at our Christmas gift guide shoot was a lovely set of cookie cutters from the Calgary Stampede Store. These retail for about $24.95, and as you might guess, they did not make it back to the store.

Wee and I made these sugar cookies with the cutters, which feature a tall boot, horse head, horseshoe, cowboy hat and our hands down favorite, a bucking horse, a few weeks ago. They made a great after-lesson treat at the 4H ride. I still have the December 2000 issue of Bon Appetit with the Sugar Cookie recipe in it, as well as great decorating tips, and one can now reference it online here.

My favorite go-to recipe for a more adult cookie is Martha Stewart’s Cream Cheese Walnut Cookies. These are a cinch to whip up in a hurry and the large recipe allows one to save a log of dough in the freezer when a quick need invariably rises later in the season. They are pretty and rustic, not too sweet and package well.

Finally, a new recipe I’ll now relegate to the “keeper” list, partially because I love the orange, coconut and bittersweet chocolate mix, but also for the visual juxtapose they offer to more traditionally shaped cookies, are these Ambrosia Macaroons.

And, that’s my Christmas gift idea for you this week. Get baking!

P.S. stay tuned later this week for a fantastic giveaway we’re offering – a bit of a Christmas comes early sort of idea. Be sure to be signed up to receive our e-newsletter to get the heads up on it.


5 Weeks to Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

photo by Megan Beierle

Giving always leaves a better vibe within me than receiving, thus the gist of this week’s great gift ideas.

Soaring temperatures, widespread drought, wildfires and a general overpopulation of horses in the U.S. has seriously depleted the supply of hay, driving the cost of hay up to $25 a square bale in some regions. It’s created a desperate need among equine caretakers. Thankfully, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is on board with the giving spirit this year, and recently announced the ASPCA Equine Fund, which pledges a total of $250,000 to 53 equine welfare organizations and animal control agencies across 19 states as part of its Equine ‘Hay Bale-Out’ grant program. A great form of relief for equine rescue owners impacted by the high cost and low supply of hay in these drought-stricken states.

Photo by Megan Beierle

Here in Canada, the giving spirit appears to be thriving as well. My 4-H friend, Megan Beierle, president of the Midnight Express 4-H Horse Club recently sent me a sweet piece about their club’s effort to help this year. They teamed up with the boarders from the Lazy S arena just west of Airdrie, Alberta to gather and present a variety of much needed items to a local horse rescue.

This stash of warm winter blankets is just part of the supplies they donated as part of the club’s fundraising and community service efforts this year. Together with a large cash donation largely funded by the Lazy S arena boarders, they made a significant contribution to the care of many equines.

Megan and her fellow club member, Victoria Moore, penned the following story and interview with Kathy Bartley, owner and operator of the rescue. It really gives a good sense of the amount of feed, goods and supplies that is needed to maintain an operation of this kind. And, of course the overall need. It inspired some charity gift giving of my own, and I’m happy to share their story here.


The Midnight Express 4-H Horse Club: Bottom (L to R): Carson Moore, Erin Kruisenga, Erna Munoz-White. Middle (L to R): Victoria Moore, Rheanne Beierle, Kylee Kruisenga, Melissa Gablehaus, Megan Beierle. Top (L to R): Kathy Bartley, Emily Tuff, Arlyn Bouchard

Bear Valley Horse Rescue

~ by Victoria Moore (9) and Megan Beierle (18)

Every year, our club, the Midnight Express Horse 4-H Club, chooses an organization to commit community service to, and this year, we decided on Bear Valley, an organization that rescues, rehabilitates, and rehomes horses that have experienced trauma or distress. In order to help this organization, our club worked to donate around 15 used horse blankets, and hundreds of pounds of feed. Recently, we paid a visit to the horses and the people at Bear Valley Horse Rescue.

It takes a lot of donated feed to run a rescue. Photo by Megan Beierle

We had the opportunity to speak to Kathy Bartley, owner and operator of the rescue, and asked her a few questions about the organization.

How did you start Bear Valley? I already lived on the farm, from which we operate the rescue. I started going to horse auctions and bidding against “the meaters”. Many of the horses we have on the farm come from PMU barns.

Why do you do what you do here? I find that I am compelled to do this, because it just seems natural to me. I had just come into new money, and decided to pursue what I have always wanted to do. All of these young and old horses just pull at my heartstrings. I also believe that the feedlots are way too full of horses that could go to better use. Eventually, I just ended up adopting more and more, and it just snowballed.

When did you start? I started adopting the horses in the year 2000, but Bear Valley became a registered charity in the year 2003.

How many horses do you rescue each year? Lately, we have not been bringing home as many horses. Last year, we adopted 26. Some years, we just stay out of it, and do not adopt at all. It really depends on if we think we can rehabilitate and rehome the horses that are up for adoption.

Is there an age limit on the horses that you adopt? We bring home everything from weanlings to ancient horses. We do not like to see any horse go to waste, especially when we know that we can help out.

What are your restrictions? In terms of bringing home horses, we just need to be careful what we purchase. We do need a plan before we head to the auction, and we stick to that plan. Before adopting them out, we go through an interview process. For example, whoever buys a horse from us is not allowed to resell the horse, or bring it to an auction. We are very diligent about researching whom we sell to.

As members, some of the things that caught our attention were the amount of horses Kathy and Mike have worked so hard to rehabilitate. Being passionate about horses, it was wonderful to see the commitment present in these people. The foals were so cute, and it was nice to see that they had formed a type of family among themselves. This is definitely a good place to go if you would like to see true passion for the animal in action.

Rescue weanlings enjoying a bite to eat. Photo by Megan Beierle

Owners of Bear Valley Horse Rescue, Mike and Kathy Bartley, encourage everybody to make a trip to their home and rescue farm. It is recommended that you call (403-637-2708) to make an appointment to take a tour around the property.