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Friday 21 December 2018

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings, Happy Holidays. I hope, over the next few weeks, you have the opportunity to spend time with people you love.

For the first time in five years, I am taking a break from my blog. It is hard to let go after five years of at least three posts a week. The habit will be a hard one to break, even briefly. 

Part of the reason for the break has to do with my frustration with Blogger. I cannot respond to people on my blog any more and for days at a time I can’t comment on other blogs. Sometimes I have a few minutes to make comments for days of posts. I have reported the problem numerous times to no avail and tried different fixes suggested by other bloggers. I enjoyed both of these aspects of the program and the frustration, with the writing and photography is too much for now. The weather and the busy season haven’t helped either. I will continue to follow my favourite blogs and comment during the brief windows of opportunity I have to do so. I hope to be back in the new year. 

For now, take care.


Wednesday 19 December 2018

Hungry animals

There were few walkers along the boardwalk. It was after 3 p.m. and many of the regulars to the area had been there already. The sun was headed to the horizon in the next hour. 

I was alone as I did the usual trek in silence, except for the sounds of the birds. They were busy feeding on the seeds and peanuts left by the earlier walkers and chatting amongst themselves. Even a woodpecker made an appearance.

I had forgotten to take the seeds from the car. The birds didn’t know that. The blue jays were in the trees around the bridge, some puffed up, warming the captured air around their bodies. 

They watched every move I made, ready to swoop by if more food appeared.

At least eight chickadees came around as I stopped on the bridge to look for muskrats in the water below. These Black-capped chickadees hopped along the railing, approaching as I stood there. I reached into my pockets for a tissue and the tiny birds took flight around me. I could hear the vibrations of their wings as they circled. They expected sunflower seeds. It was impossible to take photos of the swarm however. I held up my empty hands and off they flew. I captured a photo when one landed.

Someone had attached a new feeder to the bridge railing, replacing a feeder destroyed by the recent storms. A young squirrel was busy eating seeds in the house-like structure, but he paused long enough to see if I had any peanuts to offer. His presence kept the chickadees away from the feeder.

I stood on the gazebo to take in the scene. It was too cold to wait for the magical moments of sunset. Another day!

Monday 17 December 2018

Seafood anyone?

We purchase our seafood from a local fishmonger and on our latest visit, he gave me a package of smelts. Neither my husband nor I had ever eaten smelt, though we see the fishing shacks, used for that fishery, on the ice here every winter.

Though we are both Newfoundlanders, we were not familiar with smelts, though they resemble capelin, which we know well.

When it comes to Prince Edward Island customs and traditions, I rely on our friend, Eleanor. She is originally from the lower north shore of Quebec, along the Gulf of St. Lawrence, from a small community called St. Augustine. Her paternal grandfather was from Newfoundland too. However Eleanor married Eldon, who was originally from Prince Edward Island and has lived here for many years. She knows this island and is a wonderful cook.

Eleanor was familiar with smelts from growing up in St. Augustine, where fishing for smelts in the winter is similar to this island. There too, fish shacks are hauled onto the ice and lines are jigged through the ice for the tiny fish. Eleanor gave me a smelt cooking lesson and we had a seafood feast.

I made scallops martini which is scallops in a vodka marinade. 

Eleanor made fish cakes out of salt fish which is our favourite.

I cooked shrimp and Eleanor fried the smelts or white fish as it’s called on the lower north shore of Quebec.

We had baked potato and another veg dish as well. And of course, we had dessert. 

The smelts in the package were cleaned which was a great bonus. We used a thin coating of flour and seasonings and gave the fish time to brown. The trick when eating them is to slice them through the dorsal fin along the back and open the fish to expose the backbone, which is then easy to remove. They are tasty fish which my husband and I both enjoyed.

We had way too much food, but leftovers for the next day are always great. Such a seafood meal is in keeping with our heritage, though my ancestors would have been lucky to have one type of seafood at a meal. And you can bet, there wasn’t any vodka for the scallops either!

Friday 14 December 2018

The lure of a bench

Seeing them these cold days makes me shiver, though I have enjoyed them immensely in warmer weather. Benches have a tendency to draw you to them, though the temperature can be off-putting. Such is the magic of a bench, whatever the design or location, though some of my favourites are by the sea. This time of year, they represent hope.

This bench in North Rustico was inviting but it was too cold to sit and ponder or just enjoy the setting.

The bench at the end of the boardwalk in Summerside 

has a distant view of the Confederation Bridge, making it a great place to sit for a time. Not today!

Benches can be battered as well as snow covered.

This long bench comes with its own cover.

Some benches, like the one below, will wait until spring for their next guests.

And some are a perfect part of the scenery any time of year!

Wednesday 12 December 2018

The Nutcracker

As part of our Christmas tradition when our daughter was young, we read the story of the Nutcracker. It was one of the books our daughter kept over the years and brought into her own family. 

Sylvie wasn’t two when Claire started reading the story of Clara and her Christmas dream/adventures. When she saw the video of the ballet, Sylvie was hooked. One day, as she watched the video, her grandfather attempted to engage her in conversation about the various characters and Sylvie commented, “I want to watch it by myself.” Poppy stopped talking!

Caitlin met Clara and the cast via book and video as well. Meanwhile, at three, Sylvie joined ballet, and has enjoyed it for four years. Caitlin joined at three as well.

Their parents discovered that Casse-Noisette, Nutcracker, was performed by a ballet school in Moncton, New Brunswick, before Christmas every year. Moncton is across the Confederation Bridge but less than two hours from home. The family has seen the performance for four years now. From the beginning, the girls paid rapt attention. It is an important part of their Christmas tradition.

This year, their grandfather and I had the opportunity to go with the children and Claire to Moncton. Poppy stayed with eighteen month old Owen, while the girls took in the ballet. It was such fun!

The dancers were wonderful, from the tiniest mice to the oldest parents! The costumes and sets were so colourful and well done, each a perfect representation of the part and the setting. The small orchestra, a first for the show which previously featured recorded music, filled the theatre with its big sound.

Those familiar musical phrases of Tchaikovsky came to life. The piece, Opus 71, was written for ballet and first performed in 1892. Imagine all the people who have watched the ballet and listened to that glorious music in that time!

Our girls were enchanted as were the adults! I couldn’t help but wonder how many future generations will fall under the spell of Nutcracker. 

Monday 10 December 2018

In the shadow

It was -7C without any wind. I was eager to spend time outside after a week without a walk in nature. My husband decided to come along though he would prefer to forego the nature walks in the cold.

And it was cold, the damp cold that cuts to the bones. We drove around to some of our favourite haunts but unplowed side roads 

prevented access so we headed to Chelton. We knew one of the roads there would be plowed.

Chelton Beach lies along the Northumberland Strait on the south coast of Prince Edward Island, in the shadow of the Confederation Bridge. We have visited there before in the off-season, when the cottagers are long gone back to their winter lives. The location is the draw for us, a place you’d find by accident if you make the wrong turn.

Overcast heavy blue-gray skies made the bridge look like it was suspended in a gray medium.

Without the sunshine, the muted light this time of year gives a twilight appearance to the late morning.

We walked the beach until we were too cold to stay any longer. As we were leaving, the sun gave a valiant effort to peek through the clouds. It illuminated the sky enough to brighten the scene and I took my favourite photo of the day. 

The heater in the car didn’t warm us enough and we both felt chilled all evening. It’s going to be a long winter!


Friday 7 December 2018

Old people

Our five year old granddaughter was excited when she woke on Wednesday morning.

“Mommy, we’re going to the old peoples’ house after recess this morning. It’s for Christmas and we’re going to play bingo,” she said with delight. 

Our daughter, a nurse in a seniors’ home was familiar with such visits from school children. She engaged her five year old in conversation about wheelchairs, walkers and beds, what to expect and not to be afraid. Caitlin listened with interest, eyes wide. Claire encouraged her to sit with the people, listen and speak with them and answer their questions.

“I put on this special shirt. Just look, it has a bow,” she said as she lifted her hair off her neck to reveal a bow at the back of the collar. 

“Old people will like that,” said Caitlin.

“I should put your hair up so people can see it,” replied Mommy.

“Would you like to wear this Christmas sweater too? I think the seniors would like this as well,” added Claire. Caitlin loved the sweater.

“And Mommy, we have to walk over there so I am going to need three scoops of breakfast,” said Caitlin as she ate, happily looking forward to the day.

On hearing the news, her grandfather and I wondered where we fit in Caitlin’s idea of old people. Did she, like her mother before her, consider “old people” to be like her grandparents?

When Claire finished her nursing degree, she decided to work with seniors. For her, it’s like working with her grandparents every day. She enjoys her job.

While my husband and I can still enjoy our own home and an active lifestyle, there may come a day when we will be in a nursing home. We can only hope to be so lucky as to enjoy visits from excited young children.

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Even the crows

The winds were high and it was bitterly cold with drifting snow for two days. During that time, few people walked the boardwalk in Summerside which meant the animals living along its length didn’t have their normal treats. They were hungry.

I saw them before I heard them, dozens of crows near the entrance to the boardwalk. When I opened the car door, their chorus of crow voices included tenors and bases singing harmony. As I approached the trails, they took to wing.

Crows are always present in this area though they are usually inconspicuous. Not this day. The murder filled the trees, 

flew across the now frozen stream, 

or landed on the bridge.

The chorus became solo performances and the whole area was alarmed.

Meanwhile residents had been busy already, spreading peanuts and seeds in the usual places along the boardwalk as they walked. 

The crows watched them with interest and commented as people walked by. The people noticed them and remarked about them too.

“The crows are alarmed about this early winter,” was the common sentiment. 

They aren’t the only ones!

Monday 3 December 2018

Stopping by the park on a sunny day

The park sits in a quiet residential area where there aren’t many young children any more. It has huge maple trees which keep the park cool on a hot summer day. Squirrels and birds reside there.  

This time of year, sunbeams shine through the trees to the park floor for a few hours every day. Snow has already begun to accumulate as the shadows stretch during the diminishing hours of daylight.

We take our grandchildren there on occasion and the girls love the playground equipment, especially the seesaw. My husband introduced our youngest grandchild to the park recently. Our grandson and his oldest sister, visited the park with Poppy one day just before the snow arrived. The toddler enjoyed the seesaw as much as his sisters do. He giggled as his sister lifted him skyward and eased him down again.

On this particular day, with the snow still clinging to the trunks of the trees, you can almost hear the echos of children’s laughter hanging in the cold air. It will be some time before before the kids are back again to add to the collective joy of this small park. Winter has arrived.