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Saturday 30 August 2014

Zucchini Mustard Pickles

Last November I wrote about making pickles with Sylvia, my mother-in-law. Now we are busy again, cutting up the vegetables for the zucchini pickles, red and green pepper, onion, cauliflower and zucchini of course. Our biggest obstacle this year is getting the time to do the pickles. Life is busier this year it seems and that's a good thing.

As we work, we talk about current happenings in our family but inevitably about the past, family, friends, events. Today we talk about Pop Lawrence, Sylvia's grandfather. Pop was in his one hundred and second year when he died. Imagine! His mind was perfect up until the day he died as well. What an incredible gift, to live into a second century and remember it all. Imagine the changes he witnessed in his lifetime as well.

Before long the vegetables are ready for the hot briny solution.

The recipe belongs to Shirley King, Sylvia's lifelong friend.

                                     Zucchini Mustard Pickles:  full recipe below.

Peel  and chop onions.

Peel and chop zucchini.

Chop peppers and cauliflower. Place the vegetables in the same bowl.

Mix 8 cups of hot tap water and 1/2 cup of salt. Add chopped vegetables. Cover overnight.

             Chopped vegetables in brine

Day 2

Next day drain the vegetables well. Prepare the bottles and lids as you normally do. We get 6 pint bottles from the recipe.

                  Drained vegetables

Mix vinegar, sugar, tumeric and mustard seed and bring to a boil. Pour over the vegetables in a large pot and cook for one hour after the mixture returns to a boil. 

                      Pickles cooking

Meanwhile, combine cornstarch and sugar.

          Thickening:  cornstarch and sugar

When the vegetables have cooked for an hour, sprinkle the sugar/cornstarch mixture over them. Stir to combine and let the vegetables cook for another ten minutes.

          Thickening added to pickles

Pour the cooked pickles into the processed bottles. Seal in a hot oven or hot water bath, whichever method you prefer.

          The result

                                                          Zucchini Mustard Pickles
                                                            Recipe by Shirley King

8 cups zucchini chopped
2 red peppers chopped
2 green peppers chopped
2 lbs onions chopped 
1 big head of cauliflower chopped

Place the vegetables in the same bowl.

Mix 8 cups of hot tap water and 1/2 cup of salt. Add to the chopped vegetables. Cover overnight.

Day 2

Next day drain the vegetables well. Prepare the bottles and lids as you normally do. We get 6 pint bottles from the recipe.


1 quart white vinegar 
4 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons mustard seed 

Mix these four ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour over the vegetables in a large pot and cook for one hour after the mixture returns to a boil. 

Meanwhile, combine

3 tablespoons of cornstarch
1 tablespoon of white sugar.

When the vegetables have cooked for an hour, sprinkle the sugar/cornstarch mixture over the vegetables. Stir to combine and let the vegetables cook for another ten minutes.

Pour the cooked pickles into the processed bottles, and cover with the processed lids. Seal in a hot oven or water bath, whichever method you prefer.

These pickles look, taste and smell delicious. They are great with chicken, meat or fish cakes, pork, beef or fish. They are excellent on sandwiches, hamburgers or hot dogs as well.

Make them with someone you love and share the result. The experience is as great as the pickles.


Today, September 1, marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, the meeting which began the formation of Canada. This year on Prince Edward Island we are celebrating the anniversary in numerous ways and welcoming many visitors to celebrate with us. 

We have much to celebrate with the beginning of the country that we love today and the foresight of the people who started it so long ago. For example, this past weekend the world was in turmoil, ISIS terror in Iraq, Russian troops in the Ukraine, and a multitude of other miseries worldwide. Meanwhile, in Summerside, the top story in the Journal Pioneer was the Festival Acadien with a picture of a young woman grooming a cow on the front page. In Charlottetown, the capital, the lead story in The Guardian was the Shania Twain concert.  Oh how we love thee, "our home and native land!"

One of the interesting things for me with these celebrations was the glimpse at women's clothes of the 1860s. So restricting, they required careful consideration before sitting due to the large hoops which were very awkward! In addition, the clothing was heavy, and multi-layered, making summer heat unbearable.  Also the width of the dresses made it difficult to maneuver in tight spaces. Such clothing was not conducive to a busy work life because the women who wore these dresses weren't the ones who worked. They had servants who wore less cumbersome attire without hoops.

   Émilie in period dress

              1860s attire

In addition, the women also wore corsets and two or three petticoats. Another curious garment was the pantalette which took the place of panties or knickers, as my granddaughter, Sylvie, calls them. These garments of the time were crotchless with a bit of embroidery around the legs and tied with ribbon around the waist.  No other comment is necessary! 


I visited Eptek Center in Summerside to see the 1864 display and talked to Émilie who worked there for the summer. She found the costume heavy and uncomfortable but she only wore it for the summer job, wearing it for the last time today. The original wearers of such dresses didn't know anything else so they were accustomed to them. When I asked to see the hoop, Émilie commented that it was considered indecent in 1864 for a woman to lift her dress to expose her underclothes or feet. 

     Petticoats and hoops

As women moved out of their homes and into the work place, clothes evolved as well. Today clothes for women in the western world are designed for comfort, ease of laundering and movement, light weight, versatile, 

What would the women of 1864 think of the clothes in 2014?


Thursday 28 August 2014

The Fishing Derby

Over this Labour Day weekend, my brother and his wife, Frank and Michele (Taylor) Pretty, have a fishing derby at their cabin in Placentia Junction, Newfoundland. This is the fourteenth year for this derby in honor of Michele's parents, Jack and Mary Taylor. 

                 Cabin in Placentia Junction

This fishing event started after Mary died and Michele, with the help of her father, organized the derby on the last long weekend of the summer. The cabin was the place Jack and Mary spent the best months of the year. It was a fitting way to celebrate and remember Mary's life in a place she loved so much.

                           The deck

The cabin at Placentia Junction is a beautiful spot on a pond, along the T'railway (the old rail bed), just off the highway on the road to Argentia/Placentia. It is a heavily forested area, with several ponds and summer cabins dispersed through the woods, by the ponds and on both sides of the T'railway. In more recent times, some people live there all year long though the population jumps significantly starting mid spring.

One of the wonderful things about the Junction is that people are so relaxed. After a long winter of busy work days and family life, everyone who frequents the area looks forward to the break from the regular routine. Here life slows down, the air is clean and fresh, the quiet envelops you, people are friendly and the weather is often better than in the city. Such was the case for Jack and Mary Taylor.

Both Taylors loved the cabin, and went there for decades, starting when their children were young. One of the things they both enjoyed, but especially Mary, was fishing; she spent many hours, casting a line, waiting for the big one. After Mary died, Jack enjoyed measuring the fish for the derby and being such a gregarious person, everyone became his friends soon after they met. However, Jack especially enjoyed the time spent with family who gathered to celebrate with him.

               Mary                               Jack
After Jack died, Michele and Frank bought the cabin and the tradition of the derby continues. As many of the seven children and their families as can make it visit the Junction this weekend to fish or just join in the fun. Saturday night, Michele and Frank host a family dinner after which the fun begins with stories, music, song and dance. 

In the derby, each entrant pays $10.00 and the prize money is allocated to the anglers catching the four longest fish. There are enough other prizes donated by friends, family and businesses that every year thus far each participant has received a prize. The highest number of participants was one hundred and fourteen. The number of participants is dependent on the weather usually; the first year there were eight, last year, ninety-five.

           List of winners

The Taylors are a close family and all live on the Avalon peninsula. There are five girls, Belinda, Heather (Cookie), Michele (Mickey), Colleen, Jackie. The two boys are Noel and Damian. My brother, Frank, who was raised in a family of two children, who only has one child, Samantha, and whose parents are both deceased, is fortunate to be part of such a large family.

There is a writer in the Taylor family as well. Heather, called Cookie by her family, has had numerous stories published in Downhome magazine. She is the family's poet laureate, Newfoundland's answer to Robert Service. Cookie wrote this poem the year her father died, 2007.

                                                  Dad's Last Prank
                                          By Heather (Cookie) Taylor Benoit

Well, Labour Day is here again and the derby's on the go.
Mickey wants the big one, but Damian, he says, "No."
He's gonna walk his legs off till he finds that fishin hole
That's gonna give up the big one and land it on his pole.

So, for miles and miles he travelled, over marsh and hills and vale. 
Tried Second Pond and Burn's Pond, and Healy's on the way.
But, the fish they weren't a bitin', seems his luck had all run out
But he vowed that he would not go back until he had "that trout."

So, on and on he soldiered, till he couldn't go no more,
The flies they had him eat to death and his feet were mighty sore.
He'd set out in the morning and fished and walked all day
But now it's almost 9 o'clock with the darkness on its way.

He sat on a rock at the edge of a pond, and down he laid his pole.
He hung his head in sadness, he felt he'd lost his soul.
When all of a sudden the winds came up and the waters, they did churn,
A light shone down from the heavens above, and his eyes did burn.

Then Damian heard a voice from above that brought him to his knees.
And tears of joy welled in his eyes, he couldn't hardly see.
Damian felt so happy...How could he be sad
For the man from above who was speaking to him...It was his dear old Dad.

"Son," he said. "Don't give up. You'll have that trout tonight.
Just cast your line in the water. I'll be your guiding light.
There's a fish in this pond, it's 2 foot long, with your name upon its head.
Now, pick up your pole, God love ya son,"...and that was all he said.

So Damian grabbed his fishing pole and stood at the edge of the pond.
He looked across the water, it had become quite calm.
Down from the sky came a beam of light which landed straight ahead.
And Damian cast his line out, directly where it led.

And then out of the water, the trout it seemed to soar,
It grabbed the fly into its mouth and turned away from shore.
But Damian knew that it was his, for Dad wouldn't let him down.
So he played it well and got it in, then headed back for home.

It took him 3 long hours, but he didn't mind the walk.
Even though he was eaten alive and beat up from the falls.
He finally reached the cabin with a big smile on his face.
"Quick someone get the measuring board, I think I've got first place."

So Frank put the board on the table and measured from tail to head. 
The trout was exactly 2 foot long, just like dear Dad had said.
Damian danced and screamed and cried. He couldn't believe his eyes. 
He yelled,"I've finally done it boys, I've finally won first prize."

But the smile disappeared in the blink of an eye when Frank delivered the blow.
He put his arm around Damian and said, "There's something you should know.
Mick went across the road today, she was gone only a minute or two.
She caught a fish, it was bigger than yours, for it was 2 foot 2."

Damian won the derby the year his father died.

 The original copy of the poem

Greetings from Prince Edward Island, everyone. Have a great derby.

P.S. Hope you catch that big one this year, Michele.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Woman's Work

During the recent renovation of our bathroom something unusual happened; a woman installed the cabinet. I wish this occurrence wasn't so notable but it was.

Carol DesRoches has worked at her job for eighteen years and stayed in her home province doing it. She was the only tradeswoman when she started work. Today she sees women painters, burner mechanics and a variety of other tradeswomen.

        Carol DesRoches

In the late 1990s one of the young women in the school where I worked did a welding program after she finished high school. That year, I took my classes to visit her college nearby in an effort to introduce the students to the viability of the trades programs for everyone. It was great to hear the instructor describe what a good welder this young woman was, the best in his class, with precise hands that did great work. She beamed with pride and rightly so.

Jobs in the trades obviously provide better pay than traditional jobs in retail, the service industry or other minimum wage jobs where so many women are employed. With such low paying jobs, women can't get ahead financially or see a better future for themselves or their children. Many will stay in situations which are less than they deserve because they can't see a way out.

Seeing Carol in our home, competently doing her work, gives us hope that the roadblocks to women in the trades, whether imposed by themselves or society, are disappearing. 

We live in hope because of Carol.

Monday 25 August 2014

I Got the Mail

During our first year teaching, Rick worked in Grand Bruit on the southwest coast of Newfoundland while I worked in Buchans. The phone system was terrible on the coast so we recorded messages and mailed cassette tapes back and forth to each other as a way to hear the other's voice privately. These tapes were delivered by coastal boat out of Port aux Basques to Grand Bruit and back in addition to the trip over land.

During our married lives we've had postal boxes, super mailboxes and door-to-door service which we currently have in Summerside. However the postal service in Canada is changing. Over the next few years, Canadians will be losing their door to door service all across the country. The super mailboxes that are now in use in some areas will become a fixture throughout the country. 

This change in mail delivery brought to mind an old saying of Rick's father, Melvin Smith. Coming in from the mailbox, empty handed, he often smiled and said, "I got the mail. There was none."

One of the reasons that "snail" mail is changing is because of email of course. Now, as I sit in my home in the evening, periodically Rick's computer signals that he has mail. Will there come a point in our lifetime when we won't need the super mailboxes because everything will be mailed electronically? It certainly is possible.

The lack of any mail service would make Melvin's commentary a national reality.

Thursday 21 August 2014

Island Blueberries

It's a beautiful day after several days of intermittent rain with a nice east coast breeze to keep the mosquitoes away. Sylvia, my mother-in-law, and I head out to a blueberry field just outside Kensington, Prince Edward Island, to pick some of those luscious blue delights.

Having grown up in Newfoundland, I am accustomed to picking wild blueberries. There weren't any of those high bush blueberries where we picked. Just up the road from our home in Mount Pearl grew the most delicious patches of incredible berries. Near my grandparents' home in Maddox Cove was another berry paradise. In Buchans the area by the old airstrip was a favourite picking site. Also any area which had been burnt over became a blueberry patch and I loved picking them. 

These wonderful blueberries are at the end of long fields over one of the rolling hills in this area north of Kensington. The road is in good condition and you pass fields of hay and potatoes this year. Next year something else will grow on these fields to preserve the soil and help with disease prevention. Agricultural science helps farmers keep the soil producing valuable crops for generations.

        Blueberry road through potato and hay fields

The blueberry field here is sectioned off with string and the workers lead you to a section with lots of berries, close to the ground, plentiful, deep blue and plump. Today what sounds like crickets are actually chickadees according to other pickers. Nearby two young girls are speaking French, some of which I understand. Across the field a worker guides a mechanical picker over the bushes. I settle into a patch and fill the dumper numerous times and empty into a bucket. 

           Blueberry patch and  mechanical picker

           Mechanical picker

I'm a roamer when it comes to picking berries. Always in search of the 'biggies,' I move around an area while Sylvia picks every berry in a spot. Other pickers include roamers as well but there are plenty of berries to go around.

                Blue delights

Before long the buckets are full and it's time to pay for the lovely delights. The owner of the field is here, David Woodington. He tells me about the fields he and his wife, Alice tend; they will mow this field in the fall, almost down to the soil. Next year, the blueberry bushes will start to grow in this field but berries won't be harvested in this same patch for two years. Next year, the field across the road, which was picked last year and mowed last fall, will be full of berries again. These berries are carefully nurtured wild berries.

           David Woodington

The Woodingtons would prefer to burn the field to clear it for the next generation of blueberry plants. However there are strict regulations for burning which makes it impractical. These berries are shipped to Nova Scotia for processing. However, there is a processing plant on the island. Berries are used for jam, juice, sold fresh or frozen.

        Next year's patch

The blueberries that I took for granted when I was young have a story of their own in Prince Edward Island.

          Yummy bucketful

Mr. and Mrs. Woodington, you grow delicious blueberries!

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Mind Yer Mout

When I was growing up children were seen and not heard. We were left out of adult conversations, in the background. As a child, you knew your place. When we did speak, we were reminded to 'mind yer mout,' and we did. It's a phrase used by some Newfoundlanders. It reminds you to be careful of what you're saying. 


In our house, Frank and I were taught not to back-answer our parents. They had the authority and we were not to rudely reply to their pronouncements. Back-answering was a serious transgression. I remember being told about it when I was young and again when I was older and testing my independence as a teenager.

I remember on the rare occasion Frank ever back-answered, thinking, uh oh, knowing that Mom or Dad would be quick to remind him as they did me. We were never punished, put on the naughty step or grounded like parents use today with their children. A word from Mom or Dad was enough. We thought twice about things we did and didn't want to disappoint our parents.
                      Teaching over the years 

As a teacher in the 1970s, I worked with many students who had been raised the same way. Generally they respected their teachers and very few back-answered. Over the period of a thirty year career, the students changed. This had its benefits because children who were seen and not heard could become victims of abuse which some were. There were drawbacks too because respect was often lacking. If we encourage our children to question everything, we sometimes forget to teach them how to be respectful doing it. Lack of respect for teachers made the job very difficult as the years passed.


The challenge today is to teach our children how to speak up for themselves in an age appropriate and respectful manner. It is better to question appropriately, and have a voice rather than be a silent victim. Balance is the key or in the Newfoundland vernacular, mind yer mout.

Sunday 17 August 2014

The Value of a Porch

It is common to hear the word 'nar' used in Newfoundland to mean no. You might hear things like

"We caught nar fish today." 

Or, " I got nar cigarette."

However, one of the most interesting uses of nar is with the word porch; the value of which is connected to the weather, an important character in the culture and lifestyle of the province. So much of what people did, fishing, hunting, or harvesting wood, depended on the weather conditions. In fact, the long preoccupation with weather even continues today because it can change in a few minutes. If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes, is commonly heard in Newfoundland and other parts of Atlantic Canada.

As a result of the often harsh weather, homes in Newfoundland are designed for the elements. Whether a porch is attached to the outside of the house or the interior entry of the home, it is almost essential to any Newfoundland dwelling. It separates the main living area of the house from the outdoors, like a weather or windbreak. Years ago porches also served as storage areas for wood or supplies. 

The importance of the porch is understood by the saying,

"The worst thing you can have on your house is nar porch." 

So true...

Friday 15 August 2014

Green Park, Prince Edward Island

It was a glorious day as we headed out to Green Park about fifty kilometers northwest of Summerside. Rick, Sylvia, my mother-in-law, Georgie, the dog and I were going for another picnic. We hadn't been to Green Park before so we were looking forward to exploring a new area.

The rolling countryside with its patchwork fields of various crops and hay certainly make PEI green. However this park lives up to its name with various types of huge trees; the day use area has huge birches which provide an incredible canopy on such a hot day. Again today there is a breeze to keep away the mosquitoes.

          Day use area

After a lunch which included sandwiches made with Sylvia's flax bread, we walked the beach. There was a man in chest waders who greeted us as we approached his area of the beach. It looked like he was digging in the water then straining the soil through a basket. I asked what he was doing. 

                         Clam digger

"Digging for clams," was the reply. 

"Are they plentiful?" I asked.

"I'm getting about ten pounds an hour. I'll get enough for the crew," he said.

We walked along the beach where the effects of erosion are very obvious. I had taken pictures of the warning sign on the edge of the beach above, near where we ate. The precariously perched trees near the sign were clinging to the ledge, looking like they would topple at any minute with the gusty winds.

                       Sign of erosion

             Hanging on

          Ready to topple

This park has a camping area besides the day use area. There is an Rv camping field as well as rentals available. The rentals are single rooms, with bunk beds and a table and chairs, great for people who don't want to sleep in a tent. They look clean and well maintained.


The whole park is clean, tidy, lawns manicured. There are several washrooms, showers, cook houses, lots of picnic tables, a lovely park. There were a few people on the beach that day but we were alone as we explored. We were also the only people in the day use part of the park. Nearby, preparations were underway for a wedding reception that weekend. 

                   Camping site

The park has historic value as well. The location was the site of the shipbuilding industry in Prince Edward Island in the 1800s. We didn't explore the museum or the shipbuilders house that day but plan to go back another time to check them out. The natural beauty of the park that day was enough.

           Outside the Shipbuilding Museum

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Garden Respite

It started over three years ago now. Rick and I were waiting behind one of those windows for the news. In our case, at that time, the news was good. I remember looking out the window and thinking that it was strange to have a window on the internal side of the hospital. That's when I saw the garden in its early spring condition. It was a peaceful looking place during what felt like a world of turmoil.

heard about the volunteers who looked after the garden at the Summerside Garden Club which organizes the group. I started later that year and I've been involved since then. It was a way to give thanks for the great work the hospital staff did for our family.

The garden is in a courtyard in the center of the hospital, with patient rooms, corridors, stairs and offices in the building surrounding it. The brick walls are in sharp contrast to the shrubs, trees and plants that abound in the garden. Over the last year lovely sculptures have appeared as well, donated by generous people.

By mid August, there isn't as much colour in the garden as there is in the late spring, but the annuals still add their vibrant splashes. The varieties of green provided by the hostas along the walkway grab the eye. The work of the volunteers is obvious in the condition of the garden.

The volunteers today, Betty Miles and Deb Vickerson, each pick a spot and begin their work for the morning. Betty, who lives in an apartment, loves gardening and without a garden of her own now, enjoys her work in this peaceful place. Deb, whose husband is a doctor at the hospital, loves gardening as well and volunteers as a way to give back to the community.

As with any garden, you could spend hours working at this one every day. In this place, you pick a spot or a job and begin. Today I decide to trim the flower stalks on the hostas. While we work, one of the hospital staff pushes the door open enough to tell us how much she enjoys the garden and appreciates the work of the volunteers. This has happened a number of times as we've worked there.

An hour later and the hostas are trimmed. A brief chat with Betty and Deb and that's it for another month. That's as long as my back can take. There'll be another weekly tidy next month, then the fall clean-up will roll around in October. 

The combined efforts of all the volunteers in maintaining this garden certainly provide respite for patients, their families and staff. Knowing this fact makes the effort so worthwhile.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Bagpipes, Drumming and Dancing

Summerside has a College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts and every summer the staff, some students, along with a dedicated group of volunteers put off a great program of Celtic music and dance. Before I came to Prince Edward Island, I didn't really like the sound of bagpipes, but since living in PEI, I have come to appreciate it. This year, my mother-in-law, Sylvia and I went to the Highland Storm.

           Lone piper

The show always offers the best possible performers from the various subjects offered at the college, drumming, bagpiping, step or highland dancing. The mix of traditional or contemporary music with a Celtic arrangement is an interesting combination and one I've come to enjoy. The fiddle music was especially enjoyable this year and as Sylvia noted, "That young man enjoys playing the fiddle. He seems to caress it as he's playing."

       Dancers, drummers, fiddler and pipers

This year two of the pipe bands are headed to Scotland for competition. This trip takes the groups back to part of the roots of Celtic music and a place long associated with bagpipes. The lower drones and the higher notes played on the chanter giving the bagpipe its unique sound were a part of Scottish culture for many centuries, even on the battlefield.

                  Pipe band

Listening to the pipe band that night made me wonder about my great grandfather, Alexander Stewart. He was born in Scotland in 1799. We don't know when he came to Canada or how old he was at that time. It is hard to imagine that he didn't know and love the sound of the bagpipe. Arriving in Nova Scotia, he would have other Scots in the area at least. Did they congregate and keep their culture alive? The strong link to Scottish culture even today in Nova Scotia, makes me think that they did.

             Step and highland dancers

The part of me that is Celtic from Scotland has awakened to this musical style and developed an appreciation for it. I am lucky to live in Summerside for a number of reasons and the Celtic experience provided by the College of Piping is one of them. 

                      The band

Thursday 7 August 2014

Stompin' Tom

We had the pleasure of attending a musical about Stompin' Tom Connors which is playing at the Harbourfront Theater in Summerside this summer. Whether you enjoy Tom's unique musical style or not, the realization of his unique place in Canadian music and how his style evolved is well worth the price of a ticket. The story of the neglected child then the youth who fled Prince Edward Island to make his way in the world is shocking but inspiring as well.

             The Ballad of Stompin' Tom

Born in 1936 in St. John, New Brunswick, Tom had a single mother who married his father thirty years later. His mother eventually lost custody of Tom and he was adopted by a family in Skinner's Pond, Prince Edward Island. He ran away at the age of thirteen and eventually travelled across Canada in boxcars or hitch hiked.

Tom wrote about the country he loved and the people he met along the way. The songs are sometimes funny, always real, sincere. Because he was playing alone, he kept rhythm by stomping his left foot on the floor initially and later a piece of board.

Listening to Tom's story, I was struck with the courage and determination of the young man who set out to explore the country and pursue the dream of a career singing and playing his music. He was a poet who put his words to music and thereby told stories of a country and its people, who helped form him.

Songs like Bud the Spud, Sudbury on a Saturday Night, The Ketchup Song and The Hockey Song, will live on in Canadian musical history. The abandoned boy, like so many of his time, rose above his circumstances.

It is a great story and the musical is well written and performed. Stompin' Tom is certainly a Canadian original and the musical, The Ballad of Stompin' Tom,  is well worth a look and listen.