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Sunday 30 August 2015

The Power of Older Women

We often focus on the negative aspects of the power surges, commonly referred to as hot flashes, experienced by older women. For example, they can be so disturbing in their frequency and intensity that they can interfere with daily life and sleep. Embarrassment can be a result as well when the heat strikes during a meeting, a movie or a concert, requiring a fan or clothing removal. Years of life with this daily, though intermittent challenge, makes these surges unwelcome though familiar visitors. We learn to adapt and get on with life. However, there is a distinct advantage to these power surges.

This summer, I notice that my husband is sometimes overcome with the heat and I am just comfortable. Years of the power surges have made me comfortable in warmer temperatures and because the power surges are not constant, they make normal heat bearable the remainder of the time. 

So, I have a theory. With global warming a reality, older women have a biological edge. A warmer planet will not affect us as much and neither will colder conditions. Our ability to generate our own heat will become an enormous advantage.

For older women, age means power. 

Thursday 27 August 2015

Generations at the Park

There were four generations of the Smith family at the park that day, Rick's mother, Sylvia, Rick, our daughter, Claire and her two girls, Sylvie and Caitlin.

The setting was Belmont Park, Prince Edward Island, Canada. We had a picnic and spent time on the beach as well.

Sylvia has the health and energy to play with her great grandchildren

 and they love their time with her.

I wonder how many great grandmothers can go down a slide 

with their third generation descendants?

How I wish my mother, Mary, had lived to see these great grandchildren. She would have been delighted to spend time with them too. Watching Sylvia with the girls is bittersweet.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Island Heritage

There is a connection to islands for our family. Our ancestors were Newfoundlanders for generations but originally came from England, Scotland and Ireland. We lived in Newfoundland but moved to Prince Edward Island when we retired. Life on an island is familiar to us, comfortable, written in our genetic code after generations of life influenced so much by the sea.

Our granddaughters were born on this island and their father is from England, with a family heritage from Cornwall.

The girls have the island genetics from both sides of their family. How does their island heritage influence them?

Even at an early age, they love the beach and the ocean, which is a wonderful part of this island heritage. Learning about sea life such as hermit crabs, building sand castles,

learning to swim, 

walking on the beach, 

are part of their lives as pre-schoolers. Lobster is already a favourite food as are cod and haddock.

The sea already has its influence in their young lives.

With ancestors who for generations made their livelihoods on and near the ocean, it is hard to imagine our girls will not be drawn to the sea in some way during their adult lives. Time will tell.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Bother With Bees

We have spectacular weather this week, hot and sunny. Because we are not fans of air conditioning in the car, we often drive with the windows open this time of year. On such occasions, bees and fond memories of our fellow Newfoundlanders are on our minds.

In August one summer before our daughter was born, Rick and I drove to St. Anthony on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland for a short vacation. On the way down the peninsula, we picked up a man who waved us down as we noticed a truck out over the embankment. It looked as if the truck had sailed over the embankment and plopped down on the rocks.

The man was agitated as he described how he was driving along the road with the windows open, when a bee came in and hit his hand. The inflamed welt on his hand showed the result. He said, "I jus' lost control o' da truck. I would a soved 'er but 'e fisted into me."

"You were some lucky," I said.

"Yes, maid. Me truck is broke up but I can go home tanite. Dat's a good ting," he said.

The moral of the story is: wen da windows is down, look out fer bees cos dey might fist into ya and ya might not sove da vehicle or yerself.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Bread, Then And Now

When we came home from school, my brother and I loved the smell of fresh baked bread. Mom always made delicious bread, at least once a week. Bread day was the best because the fresh bread was a snack or dessert that night with butter and molasses.

                       Bread made by Betty Simms

During my summers with my grandparents in Maddox Cove, Newfoundland, bread was a staple of the menu. Nan made bread which had a thick crust, cooked in the wood stove. Also, the mother of two of my friends baked bread often as well. On bread day, she gave each of us a small bun, hot out of the over, slathered in butter and sugar. We thought we had the world; it was so good.  

In western Newfoundland where my husband, Rick grew up in Corner Brook, bread was also a staple of the menu. Both of his grandmothers, as well as his mother, baked delicious bread and Rick loved it too. Even today, he eats a sandwich for the bread rather than the filling. In addition, Rick's father preferred bread and butter to any dessert.

Rick's Aunt Marie speaks of her father, Ern, and his love of bread. It was his dessert most days, preferring it to sweets. He liked molasses, jam, or peanut butter with it though. As he got older, bread or crackers with a condiment was often his entire meal. 

It is easy then to see why our two granddaughters are bread lovers. If there is bread on the table, the girls will eat it rather than the rest of the meal. We hide the bread sometimes so that they will eat their meal.

                    Bread made by Betty Simms

There was a time that bread was a vital part of the menu for a family when other food was scarce. Today, with the availability of food, we limit bread consumption. Prosperity brings concerns of its own.

Thank you to Betty Simms for the pictures. We know your bread is as delicious as it looks.

Sunday 16 August 2015

Not So Smart...Phone

During intermission at a recent theatre event Rick and I attended, everyone but two of us in the row was using smart phones, not talking to the friends or family present. This astonishes me that one would go with someone to an event and not even speak to the person.

It is the same everywhere you go today, people are on phones or texting people located elsewhere, and not talking with the people next to them. Many people make themselves available all the time for such conversations. There was a time when going out to dinner with someone meant that you spoke to your companion. That may not happen today.

Not only are people using their phones for communication but surfing the internet keeps people from talking to each other as well. Today, you never have to wonder about anything. All knowledge is at your fingertips all the time if you have a smart phone, which precludes social interaction for answers.

Our granddaughters, at two and four, are familiar with smart phones and all of their uses. These phones are the least of what they will use during their lifetimes. Where is it going?

    Sylvie on the cell phone

Will people lose the art of face to face conversation? Will we have communication and internet implants at birth which keep us available and "plugged in" at all times? We cannot even imagine where this phenomena will go.

Sometimes, I lament the old ways.

Thursday 13 August 2015


Our granddaughters were born on Prince Edward Island, Canada. They are native islanders, the common name for residents of this place. At four years old, our oldest grandchild, Sylvie, is beginning to identify with home and at the end of vacations, looks forward to coming back to her yellow house in her neighbourhood. Island identity begins early. 

Islanders love their ice cream 

and visits to dairy bars 

are a common occurrence during the summer months. 

Our girls are steeped in this island tradition and love the creamy confection 

almost as much as their grandfather Smith. However, they will never be able to equal their grandfather's love of ice cream, though they are off to a superb start.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Astronomical Delight

About this time every summer, the Perseid meteors streak across our night sky. This yearly spectacle requires clear skies of course, but every year it seems, there is at least one night in August when the stars are visible and the brief streaks of light captivate their viewers. 

When our daughter, Claire, was young, we had a piece of land by Grand Lake, behind Howley, Newfoundland. My in-laws owned a piece of land there as well and we always visited when they did. The nights were lit by the campfire, a lamp, flashlight or a full moon. Sat around the fire, in the enveloping blackness, we were in an ideal location to watch the Perseids. Those nights around the campfire were some of the best experiences of our lives.

Over the next few nights, when the Perseids are at their peak, people all over the world will watch the spectacle, like they did millennia ago, as they will for eons to come. For this moment that is our place in time, we have the privilege of observing the Perseids, and without a full moon to lighten the sky this year.

I wish you clear skies the next few nights. Look up! 


Sunday 9 August 2015

The Colours of Summer

The colours in the garden this season are spectacular.

The purple,






Even white,

Provide a beautiful backdrop for meals on the patio.

We love summer in all its splendor.

Thursday 6 August 2015

Just Call Me Florence

Our daughter, Claire, decided on nursing as a career after exposure to nursing during a co-op education course in high school. It was a good fit for someone who embraced technology and enjoyed working with people.

It is fitting then that we have a Florence in the family, based on Florence Nightingale, the nurse in the Crimean War who was the mother of modern nursing. It is my nickname, given to me by my husband, Rick. I received this name for my skill at bandaging a burn. Rick had a burn on his wrist and wanted the blister wrapped to protect it. He started to wrap it but needed assistance. While cutting the tape, I put the scissors through the bandage into the blister, breaking it. Hence the name Florence came into common use in our home with respect to my nursing skills.

It was common to hear, "Don't let Florence at it," if anyone required bandages at our house. Claire knew my bandage history and also used the name on occasion. This went on for years and was a family joke which we all enjoyed.

When Claire was in a first year nursing class about the history of nursing, she was shocked when the instructor mentioned Florence Nightingale, and her contribution to modern nursing. Claire almost fell off her seat when she made the connection to my nickname and the Florence reference. She had not understood why Rick called me Florence though I swear we told her about it when she was young. That day, it finally had meaning for her.

Years later, when Claire and her husband, Ben lived in London, on one of our visits there, we went to the Florence Nightingale Museum. We saw the history of modern nursing, artifacts and a summary of the life and work of the woman who was my nickname source. 

I am proud to be a part of the Nightingale legacy.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

The Old Beef Bucket

In her later years, my mother, Mary, took a variety of pills. She took blood thinners, plus pills for blood pressure, acid reflux, and diabetes to name a few. She kept these pills in an old salt beef bucket that she kept in her bedroom and carted to the kitchen once a week to re-fill her weekly pill case.

Mary had this ritual for years and every time she filled that case, she always commented on the number of pills she took. 

"See this," she said, pointing to the pile of pills. "That's pretty good now, isn't it? How would you like that?" She was disgusted with the pills and her need of them.

Mom came home from an outing on one occasion after having met one of her friends who was the same age. "You know, she doesn't take a pill," she said. "Not one pill. I told her what I was taking and she couldn't believe it. She hardly sees a doctor. How lucky is that?"

About two months later, Mom phoned, upset. Her friend was dead.

I commented, "Mom, maybe she'd still be alive if she was taking a bucketful of pills too."

Mom never said a word about the pills again. Meanwhile I have a beef bucket on stand-by.

Sunday 2 August 2015

Jim Jams, Please

The girls came for lunch on Thursday. Our daughter, Claire, her girls, Sylvie and Caitlin, and their great grandmother, Sylvia, often share our noon meal. Sylvia brought jim jams, a family favourite, which are date and oatmeal cookies.

We cooked Jiggs dinner, a Newfoundland meal of salt beef, turnip, carrot, pease pudding and cabbage or in this case, turnip greens, grown in our garden. The flavour of the meal is familiar to our granddaughters now and they love the vegetables. They often eat the beef as well.

The highlight of the meal was our granddaughter, Caitlin and the jim jams. Both girls love dates, having eaten them with porridge since their earliest days. It was not a surprise when each ate a full cookie without saying a word. There were others available and both wanted more. Sylvia, cut a cookie in half and offered a piece to Caitlin, but she wanted nothing to do with it. She reached for a full one which we gave her.

                                               Jim Jams

Then Claire asked Caitlin for a bit of her cookie, to which two year old Caitlin said, "You don't want it," and shaking her head for no. She repeated this sentence as often as her mother asked. It is obvious, baby loves her jim jams.


The recipe for these cookies is from our granddaughters' great great great grandmother, Clarinda Moulton Mercer. She was born over one hundred and fifty years ago in Burgeo, Newfoundland. Clarinda could not have known how popular her jim jams would be so many generations later.

Here is my original blog post about jim jams and the recipe.