The light has to be just so and your viewing angle must be perfect to see it. The labour of a spider, the web of entrapment is a mesmerizing piece of detail and finery that humans cannot reproduce.
As I sit quietly with my morning coffee, sunlight is streaming through the kitchen window. It’s summer sunshine and the first full day of the season in which we place so many hopes.
We make plans for places we’ll go, day trips we’ll take, visits we’ll make to friends and their cottages, books we’ll read, deck barbeques we’ll plan, beaches we’ll walk, hikes we’ll take…. And the list could go on.
How much can one squeeze into one short season? How much time will we give ourselves to be at home or at the cottage and just BE in that space, in that place, and allow ourselves to enjoy the greenery of the yard, the flowers on the deck?
So while my mental to-do list is long, it is made of similar plans that I made last year and the year previous. My season will be a success if I accomplish time, time to be, to relax at home and enjoy the greens and the breezes provided by the beautiful Bay of Fundy.
No matter where you live, may your summer be good for you.
In the words of John Donne,
“No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main…”
Almost daily we are reminded of how important it is to be part of a community, how one can thrive in a group, find purpose, yet still be singular and individual.
All around we see effective teams working on significant projects or causes. Individual roles are given, supported by the collective group to create, to perform, to assist others.
Here in Amherst, my church community recently suddenly lost our leader, our priest. But there is evidence all around of the strength of so many individuals and groups within the parish to keep us connected as a strong and vibrant faith family.
In the first day of spring my husband and daughter joined me for our annual walk into the Sugar Woods. It’s a Cumberland County thing to do.
The road was packed smoothly with snow on that chilly day and it was busy with people of all ages, families spending the day together, children, lots of stollers and dogs too, all going in and out of the woods. Many returnees were enjoying some taffy on a stick or a maple leaf.
There are three camps along Maple Lane, two were boiling that day. The furthest one in is ‘off the grid’ and features an old homemade waterwheel. The ice formations around it were pretty interesting.
We bought treats at each camp as their products differ in darkness. I am told that it has to do with altitude and the sun. Nonetheless, all are yummy.
So again this year, we have Cumberland County maple syrup right out of the woods, to marinate our salmon, add to dressings and baked beans, to top our pancakes, and yes, to sweeten our lives.
Making light work
And work light.
Fostering a home,
Stitching a quilt,
Working a garden,
Knitting for others,
Hooking for fun,
For relaxation therapy.
Hands are for helping,
Motto for school,
Hands of the elderly
Teaching hands of the young,
All working to build,
To create, to produce
At Deanne’s studio, we are always pleased when customers bring in their finished pieces to show us their work. Nilda dropped in a few weeks ago to let us have a peek at her work in progress and to select more perfect colours. Georgina then took a photo of her almost finished winter scene and many of you saw it posted on the studio FB page.
I was nicely surprised when Nilda came in again last Tuesday with not just one completed project, but two. Her hand drawn winter scene is shimmery and icy with sparkly snow, but warm and cozy at the same time. The skies tell us that there may be more snow in the way. There is so much Canadian winter in this piece!
Her second piece really surprised me. I had seen a small image that was the inspiration, centred around a birch tree, but as you can see, it is so much more. Aren’t the colours amazing? Quite a bit of studio dyed jersey made it into this fabulous piece.
When I first heard that some of my friends had made hamburger soup, to be honest, the word ‘delicious’ did not come to mind. Now I am a convert and I enjoy making a Dutch oven full of this hearty soup, enough to share.
This is how I made it yesterday.
Cook 1 1/2 pounds of loose hamburger and one cup (or more) chopped onion in a Dutch oven. When the meat is no longer pink, drain out the liquid.
Add a few minced garlic cloves. Cook for a minute, stirring.
Add: about two cups of both chopped celery and sliced carrots, 1 large can undrained diced tomatoes, 1 small can tomato soup, 2-3 cups beef or vegetable broth, 1/2 cup barley, a handful of dried thyme and basil, salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer on low heat for a few hours, stirring occasionally.
This tastes even better the next day and freezes well.
Serve with a fluffy biscuit and enjoy while your cheeks are still tingling after a great winter walk.
I slept in a little,
Woke with anticipation for
Delicious hot coffee,
Read of weekend violence
And hardships in our world.
Opened the drapes to a sunny day,
Siding on the house was creaking as
The sun warmed it.
All was bright,
Fresh, white, clean, untouched snow.
So much beauty all around
Needing to be appreciated.
Feeling so fortunate to live where
We can open the drapes to
How did we do?
Were we kind enough,
Generous in thought and deed?
Did we pause enough
To reflect on what we’ve been given,
The comforts in our lives?
Were we sufficiently appreciative?
Did we treat our bodies with respect,
Moving them enough and honouring
Them with healthy choices?
Did we drawn enough deep fresh air breaths,
Enjoying clear skies, picturesque clouds,
And even raindrops on our faces?
Did we smile enough,
Speak to strangers,
Assist those in need,
2015, were we grateful enough
For our family people,
Did we take the time to slow down,
Even for a few moments each day
To give thanks?
A year of unknown outcomes,
Here we come
To do the best we can,
Many years ago when I was experiencing a difficult pregnancy, my doctor ordered bed rest but did not offer much hope that the pregnancy would continue. A fierce determination raged in my heart as I felt so connected to this baby, wanted her so much to survive.
I followed orders, rested and kept busy by spending some time stitching six little Christmas bears that were in a kit that I had purchased a year or so earlier. Each stitch was a labour of love for my little baby.
All went well and we had a beautiful little girl, now a cherished adult. And every Christmas I make sure that those little bears find the perfect spot to remind us of the great fortune we received. This year, they are adorning an inside wreath.
Really, those bears are just a few pieces of now faded felt, but they are so much more. They remind me of the sanctity and beauty of life and the fortune we were bestowed.
We say, “Oh no, not yet!” when we hear of the predicted early December snowfall. We cringe, scan ahead to forecasted temperatures for the next few days and then feel optimistic that this will be a temporary condition.
Last night at bedtime, we were in the midst of a rather steady snowfall. This morning it was over and we awoke to a winter wonderland of white.
It is difficult not to appreciate the beauty of fresh snow on our fields, our decks, clothes lines, trees and yes, even on our driveways. It means work but for today, white will be my favourite colour!
I’ve been thinking about Christmas. Yesterday I ventured up to the attic and took a few decorations downstairs. They got no further than the spare room. I just was not ready to decorate or string up some lights.
I have also been thinking about Christmas baking and went as far as to purchase extra sugar, butter, chocolate and gumdrops. But so far, no baking has occurred.
I have also pondered Christmas shopping. To date, much more list making than shopping has been accomplished.
And then last night, as my Book Club was emerging into the night, we walked out into a light snowfall. It was beautiful and cold, and a wee bit inspiring.
As I write, I am watching the sun just beginning to climb over the horizon and I see that the deck and grass do have a layer of fuzzy, airy snow. This I am sure will soon melt away but later today I may be inspired to bake or decorate or shop. Or maybe I’ll wait for the next snowfall to motivate me.
Shortly after we moved into our home, so many years ago, we planted an ash tree in the backyard. It grew quickly and in summer, while in full leaf, it provides both a welcomed shade and appreciated privacy.
The leaves of the ash tree turn slightly yellow in autumn. After a frosty night, as the sun warms the air, all of a sudden the leaves begin to fall. When our children were growing up, on sunny and cool October mornings, we would wonder if it was the day, the day for the tree to disrobe. Often it seemed to occur on a Saturday, fortunately, as we would be home to wait and watch for a sign. Many times we would watch in awe as leaf after leaf would fall to the ground. Unlike our maple trees, which drop their leaves over a period of a week or more, the ash would be bare and empty within an hour. It made a great show, our tree was telling us that it was beginning the season of hibernation.
Today was that day.
It was a sunny mid October Saturday morning. My boots crunched over colourful leaves as I made my way downtown to the bustle of the final day of our annual Fibre Arts Festival.
At the Zonta Fair, tables were filled with exceptional goods, in a multitude of beautiful ( and yes, delicious) fibres, both a visual and a tactile delight.
Two of our downtown churches were displaying an overwhelming number of pew draped and hung quilts, all colours and designs imaginable.
The Town Hall’s entrance was not only welcoming but displayed beautiful handwork and more quilts, modern designs this time.
Local rug hookers filled a very large gathering area with their work. I was left in awe by their designs, their precision, their colors. I was inspired to try to hook in new ways.
Everywhere I went, I met people, mostly ladies, in groups, happily chatting. With the love and appreciation of fibre as a common thread, conversations between strangers was easy. The air was filled with positivity, an appreciation for the talents of the hand and for the fibres that allow creativity.
As my downtown tour was ending in Saturday, a lady I chatted with while admiring a quilt together, mentioned how much she was enjoying our little town. She said, “You must love living here.” And I do!
As I walked home in that sunny day, crunching newly fallen leaves, my heart was full and I was inspired.
Nilda is a sweet, happy person. She is a friend of a friend and over the last few months I have had the pleasure of getting to know her. We have bonded over, among other things, hooking. She sometimes comes to the studio on my workdays in search of specific colours, usually beautifully mottled dyed pieces of wool cloth.
Recently Nilda showed me her latest finished hooking project which was inspired by a picture taken in Africa. It will be gifted to a niece, a very lucky niece. The colours are amazing and vibrant and you can almost feel the heat in the sun and on the sand. The shadows are fantastic. Beautiful work!
We’ll be looking forward to seeing your next project Nilda!
Late summer sunshine is enjoyed
As evening air cools,
Spent garden plants are pulled out
While tomatoes ripen on the vine.
Carrots taste like they are meant to, sweet with a soft crunch.
It’s time to attend hockey and football games
But miss some to follow and cheer for the Blue Jays.
Dusk comes earlier
And the sedum flowers
“It’s great weather for sleeping,” we say.
Late August meananderings recently brought Greg and I to Bouctouche, a pretty little town found along the Northumberland shore of New Brunswick. Properties are well kept and coastal flavour is rich.
As we drove to the well known dunes, we passed beaches with groups of people busy digging for clams, some up to their knees in the water. Clumps of upturned sand attracted a gaggle of Canada geese who were checking out clams for their supper as well.
The beach along the dunes is perfect and families were enjoying the warm late summer day. The breeze russelled the sea grass as we sauntered along the serpentine boardwalk while the crickets noisily sang their song. It is a respectful place where one can learn of the natural dunes and the impact of environmental changes all while enjoying the breezy salt air.
Supper followed at a nearby restaurant where we enjoyed a fabulous meal, seafood of course!
The Mariimes in the summer – perfect!
“The sun was setting in the west…” That traditional campfire song, Farewell to Nova Scotia, was actually going through my head as my husband and I enjoyed a beautiful drive along the marshy areas just metres from the New Brunswick/Nova Scotia border. The glorious setting sun nicely outlined the round hay bales on the freshly mowed fields. Beef animals grazed on pastures as the huge moon rose over the giant windmills. The moon and its tidal power and the mills generating wind power, were together in one shot, one cast of the eye on a beautiful peaceful late August evening.
Last week at Deanne’s studio we hosted a large group of young children from our local YMCA. They were taking part in a week long arts and crafts camp and one of their experiences was learning how to hook at the studio and I was pleased to be their instructor.
The children were eager to learn how to hook and every single one of them was successful at pulling the wool and yarn up through the backing. They loved the variety of textures and fibres and especially the colours.
Today, two young girls who were part of that Y group came in with their grandmother to show her what they had learned and to teach her how to hook. All three sat around the frame for some time. Nanny was a good student!
Summer days means that most of our living happens outdoors. We are much less inclined to hunker down for a marathon of TV viewing. Instead we cook outdoors, tinker around the yard, work at our vegetable and flower gardens, wash the car and relax for a reprieve under a shady tree. We are outside enjoying our property, the beach, our neighbourhood.
Good neighbours are a blessing and we are truly among the blessed. Positive relationships are everywhere. People are friendly and help one another, keeping an eye out for the elderly and the young. On our quiet street, we sometimes casually gather and chat while children play. We laugh and call these our street meetings as we catch up on our news and enjoy the talents of the young ones playing around us.
It’s much the same for our beach neighbourhood. We are not alone but among people we can count on when a need arises.
And yes, as in days of old, we do go between houses occasionally to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar.
Local produce is always the best, and that most definitely applies to strawberries. While year around, we can purchase imported berries, the very best, the juiciest, and the sweetest are grown right here on Maritime soil.
Strawberries are so versatile. You can enjoy them in a breakfast cereal, with yogurt or ice cream, or with a sweet biscuit for a dessert shortbread with whipped cream. Try a few slices in a glass of crisp white wine, tastes like summer! And during these warm days, many kitchens are busy making a year’s worth of strawberry jam. It’s that wonderful flavour that is we seek year round.
We have a very little patch of wild strawberries at the cottage. It takes a lot of picking to make a handful but they are so flavourful and sweet and they always make me reminiscent of picking those little berries as a child. It was a rite of summer. The warmer it would get, the more those wild berries seemed to shrink. It was challenging to manage to get even a cupful. But then, sampling was part of the job, wasn’t it?
No pressure Summer, but so many are so invested in you. We have plans, many plans that we want to jam and cram into two short months. We ask and are asked about our intentions for you Summer. We make lists, book trips, plan barbeques and family get togethers. We think greedily of the time we’ll have, all we’ll accomplish, the friends we’ll visit, the books we’ll read.
So Summer, we are invested in you. Be good to us.
So much work for a short season,
But worth it.
How will the mixed colours come forth?
And wait for summer blooms.
The chimes are playing
Beautiful music into the
In the distance
A happy cow is mooing.
Tractors are on the field
Gathering silage for
Animals to eat
When grasses are gone.
A hummingbird whizzes by
And all is well on
This day for planting.
Tulips have faded and withered and the forsythia flowers have fallen and created a golden carpet. Now lilacs are having their turn at brightening our spring days.
My neighbour across the street has a lovely lilac bush and when the winds are favourable, we are treated to the sweet and distinctive scents from these flowers.
Just the other day, my friend Margaret and I were completing our walk when we came upon a lovely but lonely lilac bush. Soon we were both walking down the street with beautiful bouquets in hand. What a sight we must have been!
So for this short time, while they are in their prime, I am enjoying lilacs. Next, wild roses?
Perhaps as Amhertonians we see it so frequently that we take it for granted. But the fact remains that we have a very lovely and welcoming border crossing here, just across the Missaguash River from New Brunswick. Flags fly, the lighthouses are picturesque and camera ready, and the views of the Bay of Fundy are incredible. This is really a perfect way to welcome our visitors to our beautiful Nova Scotia.
Ahh, early June,
Nature is greening,
Leaves are unfolding,
And plants expanding,
Early bloomers, flowering crabs splendid,
Gardeners are digging,
And optimism is everywhere.
Cottages are opened,
Fire pits reused
Deck furniture readied.
With the last month of school,
Excitement builds for summer.
It’s early June
And it’s all ahead of us!
Friday was a cold, rainy, dreary kind of spring day, a perfect day for a simple supper of scallop and lobster chowder. The result was delicious as it ‘hit the spot’ on that cool evening.
Cube up and cook 3 to 4 small potatoes. Do not overcook. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile melt about 4 tbsp butter in a large pot. Chop 2 onions and 3 stalks of celery. Sauté in the butter, being careful not to brown the vegetables.
Add 2 tbsp dried thyme and salt and pepper to sautéed mixture. Add potatoes and the meat of 1 or 2 lobsters (or a thawed freezer pack) and a pound of small scallops.
Blend in 2 cups of 18% cream and 2 cups of milk. (I used skim.)
Heat up slowly in a low heat. Sprinkle with dried tarragon and serve.
I grew up on a dairy farm that my parents built with hard and dedicated work. My brother farmed that same operation and now my nephew is preparing to do the same.
Farmers talk about their beautiful animals, about production and lineage, of silage, corn, grain and grass. Their schedule is dictated by the seasons and successful spring, summer and fall crops are so important to feeding their livelihood throughout the year. They watch for that perfect timing, for letting the animals out to graze, for fertilizing, for cutting and harvesting. They observe nature closely.
As I live over two hours north of my family, I was always asked by my parents if they were “further ahead” than in Cumberland County. What they were asking about was the greenness of the grass and the state of the buds on the trees. Over the years, my brother would also ask that question and last week, my nephew asked the very same thing. Farmers all, watching and talking about the land.
Now I know that come August, the question will change when it will be about the height of the corn crops. “Is the corn this high in Cumberland?” I chuckle in anticipation.
Generations of farmers who provide food for our tables, for our health, are all connected through their love and respect for the land. Here’s to a successful growing season!
‘Tis the season again, the time of the year when we enjoy our first ‘feed’ of lobster. It sounds rather coarse but really, in my house, a ‘feed’ may just consist of one lobster, or whatever it takes to satisfy you.
The cold waters of the season, or the always chilly Bay of Fundy waters, provide the best of this crustacean delight. Cold waters means hard shells which in turn means full shells and nice sweet lobster meat.
As per tradition, we covered the table with newspapers, made up a nice green salad, cut up a whole wheat baguette, added some lemon juice to hot butter and we were set to enjoy our delicious lobster. To make our day even more special, a visiting cousin from overseas joined us for his second ever taste of lobster. A step by step demonstration of lobster technique was successful and we truly enjoyed his enjoyment.
The first ‘feed’ of the season is always the best.
Recently we have had to say a final good-bye to some very fine people who fought hard but lost the battle. They were family men foremost, men involved in their community, people who loved to laugh and who enjoyed being in the company of others. They crossed our paths regularly and over many years, shared happy times with us.
We call the final service a celebration of life and fittingly it is. A daughter said to me recently that from that service, surrounded by so many, she received the comfort she required after the loss of her father. We listened to scripture aptly chosen, to the words of homilies and ulogies which brought nodding smiles and quiet chuckles, and to the messages of hymns meant to lift our spirits. We shed tears as we listened to ‘Ave Maria’in Latin and to a strong voice accompanied by piano sharing the specifically chosen ‘I Did it My Way’.
Yes, these were final celebrations but maybe they were also meant to carry us to the next level where we smile when recalling good memories and further to that, to make us pause and reflect on our own lives, to say hello to our own lives and how we are living. Maybe we can take a piece of a good person lost and bring it forward in ourselves.
And as I have been told many times over the years by positive, happy, elderly people, that just to wake up each day is a blessing. And it is. Have a great day.
The best part of cooking a turkey at my house is usually on the third day, when we make a pot pie. On Sunday, the bird was cooked and today, Tuesday, we had a delicious pie for supper.
It’s very easy to make. Start with a nice layer of chopped turkey in a casserole dish. Top it with vegetables, whatever you have. If they’re firm, you may want to par cook them first. Today we had carrots, onions, red and yellow peppers and snow peas. White or sweet potatoes or squash, peas, corn or beans, these all make for a delicious pot pie. Warm up left over gravy and pour a few scoops over the turkey and vegetables. Add some extra seasoning (like rosemary or tarragon) and top this off with some biscuit dough. I add an extra tsp or two of sugar to the dough.
Bake in a 400 degree oven with foil covering the casserole for approximately 20 minutes and then another 15 minutes or so without the foil until the biscuits are nicely browned and the gravy is bubbling.
Today the weather was bleak, cloudy and snowy. But inside our house, it smells of delicious pot pie!
Snowbanks are receding,
Winter coats have been washed and are timidly put away,
Mud grounds are bouncy, springy,
Days warmer, cool breezes,
Faces lifted up to catch rays,
Walk into the Sugar Woods,
Emerge with syrup and taffy,
Rubber boots necessary,
Street hockey games,
People walking, unleashed,
Puddles, flooded fields,
Skateboards and bikes,
And clothes again hanging on lines.
We have survived the winter.
Spring is victorious!
Every Tuesday is different. When I arrive at Deanne’s studio on Tuesday mornings for my day of work, the first thing I do is to look around to check out what changes were made since the previous week. And every week, something is different. It could be a new rug on the wall, a new product, new wool colours, new yarns, or the furniture, well it could very well be changed all around. There is always something.
Today was as most days are, filled with variety. Interesting people passed through to gather wool for projects, Bill Hopper came in and made us laugh, Harry the Printer dropped in, orders were filled and kits were prepared. We talked as we worked, that happens with a work force of women. It’s a great place to work.
Today Deanne spent some time drawing one of a kind designs on linen and burlap.
Laurie was busy at the serger preparing backing for Deanne’s designs.
Megan was catching up on emails.
Poppies on the Edge of Town kits were prepared.
Sometimes a few days away is just what a person needs. It’s about being someplace where your routine is different, when you are doing something outside your ordinary day. Not that there is anything wrong with a regular day, but merely changing it up can be a good thing. You don’t need to go far, maybe only an hour or two, and ideally, you should travel lightly. That part is the challenge, to keep everything as simple as possible.
Except for packing little, that is just what we did recently. We stayed in a nice hotel, spent time with family and friends, attended numerous curling games and ate many wonderful meals at a variety of restaurants. It was a mini vacation, such a treat not to cook or clean, to be guests who did not pitch in to help.
Now we are tired but refreshed and glad to be home with our ordinary routines. Life is good!
We’ve had a whole lot of white in this Maritime winter. We shovel, scrape snow off roofs, pick at ice, shovel again and again after the plows go by, and we talk in amazement about the huge banks that have accumulated.
Enough! The season of spring has technically arrived and while we are still living in a white world, it is time that our thoughts go to green. Being the optimistic type, I am going to focus of the tiny bits of grass that show up occasionally along the edges of driveways and sidewalks.
At Deanne’s studio, I’m enjoying (and encouraged by) all the shades of green wool on the shelves. They make me excited about the promise of fine weather, weather that warms the soil and allows us to enjoy the outdoors without layers of clothing.
In my basement, under grow lights, geraniums have long ago been cut back, repotted, and are now a beautiful and vibrant deep shade of green. It’s all very promising.
So be with me, shovel again if we must, but remain positive and keep your eye on the ‘peek-a-boo’ bits of early spring green. It’s under there!
Sometimes when changes are about to occur, even good changes, you feel a bit of a tug, missing what was, before embracing the new.
I knew that I would miss the view through the clear glass of our church, (Maritime Mary: Through the Window), but I was aware that bringing back pieces of our torn down church’s stained glass would be lovely. Well, lovely is a word that shortchanges the effect. A brilliant glass designer combined pieces of the old windows with an artistic representation of The Tree of Life. Now we have dazzling light and history to solidly our old building with the new and we are ‘oohing and sawing’ over the transformation.
So now I will no longer watch clouds drift by when in church but my eyes will still be looking up and enjoying all the wonderful colour that makes a simple modern church a place with beautiful character.
Watching birds at the feeder in winter is an enjoyable diversion from clearing away snow. The pretty little chickadee is a favourite of ours, always polite, and not bossy or aggressive as some of the others who frequently dine at our feeders.
In close proximity to our town, we have a great natural spot that we call ‘the Glen’, otherwise known as the Amherst Point Bird Sanctuary. While walking the paths there, usually there are many little chickadees flitting around. They are quite used to people and will actually light upon your hand if it is filled with a tempting bird food. Their tiny little feet almost feel ticklish, they pick up a seed and fly off. Sometimes you have to be patient and you must remain quite still to attract them.
It is so sweet to watch the faces of children when they they are focusing on being calm and while they experience the thrill of a little chickadee eating from their offering.
Feeding our feathered friends, whether it be from a backyard feeder or at the Glen, keeps us in touch with the simpler side of winter.
I know that it’s not why I attend regularly but I am very drawn to looking up and out the windows at church.
They are lovely windows, way up high above the altar, and are soon to be filled with beautiful stained glass refurbished from our old church. But for now and until then, I look up and watch through the clear glass. Only a bit of a tree top is visible but I have watched pretty little clouds drift by, various bird pass, dark sky give way to blue. I just cannot help looking up and waiting. I’ve even nudged the person sitting next to me to draw their attention to something up there.
But really, isn’t this part of the reason for going to church anyway, to pause, reflect and be quiet? The bonus is observing nature through the window.