An Exceptional Gathering, Romanian Style

If I write all that is on my heart before bed, I will be up very very late and tomorrow there is the food prep still ahead.  Suffice it to say that gatherings out in Chestermere with the Ya Yas continues to be one of the most delightful events possible for me.  We are six women (we missed Dar today) who have grown to support, confide and laugh loudly together and today was no exception.  The visit shifted my entire view of things and caused me such peace that I have been happily working away with my own meal preparations ever since.

As I have written several times before, Wendy’s husband, Darren, treats us like we are all princesses.  He is a genuinely talented chef, but also very entertaining with his tremendous knowledge about food, ingredients and food preparation.  If I get a minute tomorrow, I’ll make certain that I tag some of his previous menus.

But for now…just wanting to link up with Darren’s own blog and his narrative about his special creamed chicken recipe.  Today’s menu was delicious!  Homemade Borscht and sour cream, perfectly mashed potatoes and some sort of corn meal ‘stuff’…(Oh…just wait a minute; I’ll go and look it up….)

I’m back. (didn’t find the name for the dish that was made of cornmeal) OH YES I DID FIND IT….Creamed Chicken served with Mamaliga (polenta).

I didn’t grab a photograph of our dessert…poppy seed loaf and special cookies made with a substitute flour and hot tea served in ornate tea cups.

Here you go…a link up with the narratives around this particular dish, Creamed Chicken.  Such a wonderful and detailed accounting of tradition and preparation of this meal. 

Thank you for hosting, Wendy and Darren….and thank you to each of you for your generous hearts.

Food Narratives and Traditions: Pierogi

It was the second year that I had the opportunity to work alongside Michael, a friend who grew up in the tradition of his mother making Perogies, spelled Pierogi (for those who really know what they are doing).  Last time, we took the project on in my little U shaped kitchen and this year, in the far more organized kitchen in Michael’s home, edging the bike path where, at this time of year, tall trees are clothed in glorious colour.

I am very grateful for the experience and feel like I really did get into the groove of the pinching and such.  I tried to be a support back-up person for Michael who moved through the kitchen rolling and boiling and pinching as though a well choreographed machine.  We stopped about half way through our shared experience to sit and sample the goods and they were delicious, but this only after whipping downtown to see if we could pick up a batch of miniature books on the topic of the 94 calls to action, resulting from the Truth and Reconciliation process.  I explained to Michael that I really wanted to make certain that each person who attended this years THANKS-giving feast would leave with one. No such luck! We arrived at the stroke of 4:14 when the Native Counselling Center closed at 4:00.  Drat!

Back to our culinary experience…

These tasty treats will be shared around with many friends and family members over the coming days and I really hope that Michael and I can make Pierogi as an annual event.  Good music, cold drinking water and much activity makes for strong friendships.  Working side by side in the kitchen is a great way to really get to know your friends!  Highly recommend!

(Thanks to Ellinor for the sour cream!)

Amounts for a single batch…divided and rolled a third at a time, after a half hour rest in a plastic bag.

5 level cups of flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold milk
1 cup hot water (not boiling hot)

Whisk together your wet ingredients and then add your flour gradually.

Fillings this year… and we think we made approximately 30 dozen of these little gems because we worked up three batches in all.

#1 Potato, cheddar, homemade pickled peppers

#2 Mushroom, leek, truffle oil and dill

#3 Potato, cheddar and green onion

Thank you, Micheal, for your generous heart.

 

Lost on Range Roads!

Alright…so, I threw my meatballs together and when they were piping hot, packed up my wine glass and my bottle and my meatballs and headed for Custom Woolen Mills.  There was a big accident south bound on highway 2…I did a bit of a rubber neck there, but once that was long gone, I couldn’t believe it when I kept driving north on the highway, past the Carstairs turn off.  For a moment, there was panic…I didn’t want to really drive so far as the Didsbury exchange, but, finally resigned myself to going north for a bit and finding my way back to the mills on country roads.  When I go on a road trip, I find it so relaxing.  There is nothing better than enjoying the landscape and the wide open sky of Alberta.

Light was fading, but still there, as I headed east on whatever-its-called.  I knew that I needed to find the 791 to go south.  Hmmm…overshot that by a good 20 kms…but, not before my Spidey senses told me to go south anyway, on some range road or other…I asked myself, “How bad can it get?”  These range roads are all numbered…I’m sure I’ll zig zag my way there, eventually.  In the meantime, I enjoyed viewing a beautiful owl and many grazing deer, some with very large racks…I even considered pulling off for photo-moments, but thought, “No, you really have to get there…”  I spotted a sign for Linden somewhere on the way.  “Now, that sounds like some place I’ve heard about before…”  And on and on I went, feeling like Milo in his little car, lifted right out of the pages of The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

Never mind…dangit…the sun was slipping down fast.  It might be that I have to do that thing I don’t like doing.  “I need to back track.”  Heading west, the sun was blinding, as it peeked out at eye level from behind the pink clouds.  I thought to myself, “Now, don’t race…watch your way…you can find that 791…just notice.”  And I did…some miles later, I turned east again and then just needed to hook up with 272.  That, too, was a little shaky….the cattle, munching away to the north of me seemed to be snickering.  But that was likely all in my imagination.  From a distance, on the narrow (soft) dirt road, I saw the familiar silhouette of the mill on the horizon…I saw the warm lights…and said out loud, “I’m home.”

Entering in to the mill, Ruth’s voice was reaching above everything.  The audience was spell bound.  Displays of woolen things were to the left.  Lots of people were knitting.  “I love this place.  I love the smell.”  At the edge of the display created with works by Artist-in-residence, Sylvia Olsen, sat a Golden Fleece wool blanket, brought as a gift to Fenn by my new friend, Leah.  I felt nothing but happiness about being at the mill, bathed in love.

I poured myself a glass of wine…rustled up a plate of pot luck food (nothing better) and snapped a few photographs.  This morning, as I think back, I’m grateful for life and love and friendship.  Thanks to all of the folks at the mill for hosting such a wonderful event.

Attics of My Life

I took liberties, borrowing this title…Grateful Dead’s title for a tune on their album, American Beauty.  My brother was listening to Grateful Dead and Gregg Allman (RIP), when I was listening to Three Dog Night and Gordan Lightfoot.

Over the years, I’ve kept some excessively sentimental journal entries, scattered, some in notebooks and some typed up.  I’ve belonged to Brat Newsgroups and followed writing by other children of military fathers.  An excellent novel is based on a very similar life experience during the Cold War: Anne-Marie Macdonald’s Where the Crow Flies.

In The Way the Crow Flies, Ann-Marie MacDonald takes us back to the early 1960’s, a time of optimism infused with the excitement of the space race and overshadowed by the menace of the Cold War–-a world filtered through the imagination of Madeleine McCarthy, a spirited nine-year-old. Unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in his own web of secrets, she at first welcomes her family’s posting to a sleepy air force base in southern Ontario.

The base, however, is home to some intriguing inhabitants, including the unconventional Froehlich family, and the odd Mr. March, whose power over the children is a secret burden that they carry. Then tragedy strikes, and a local murder intersects with global forces, binding the participants for life. As tension in the McCarthy’s household builds, Jack must decide where his loyalty lies, and Madeleine learns about the ambiguity of human morality–a lesson that will become clear only when the quest for the truth, and the killer, is renewed twenty years later.

As Father’s Day approaches and I’m thinking a lot about Dad and my family, but especially Dad, I’m putting together a bit of a reflection.  I am proud of my Dad.  I’m also pleased, in looking back, that I lived what I imagine is an unusual life, with very unique experiences.  As you dwell a bit on your father, you will think the same.  I’ve snapped some photos of bits and pieces and put them in chronological order here.  The writing is sappy and poorly executed for the most part, but, I’m glad that I’ve documented some things.

Sherbrooke, Quebec and my parents met and fell in love.  My parents knew and loved the Fortier family.  We made trips to visit my Gramma and Grampa once we moved away. I remember my Grandmother’s home and her gardens.

Mom and Dad and cool car from old negative

Summer 2009 154

Summer 2009 100

My brother, John, was born.

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John, Dad and Winston, the dog.  This is either Sherbrooke or Falconbridge; I’m not certain.

Falconbridge, Ontario (Sudbury)

Summer 2009 110

And a year later, I was born.

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RCAF Falconbridge Circa 50s

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RCAF Falconbridge

Ste. Sylvestre, Quebec…50 miles from Quebec City. Brutal winters with banks of snow up to the tops of our windows.  The birth of my brother, Stuart. Playing in a creek bed some distance from the house. Back yard clotheslines.  Mom, alone, a lot.  I watched my mother sew the dress that she is wearing in the photograph below.  I remember it.

1957 Mom and Dad New Years

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RCAF Ste. Sylvestre

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RCAF Ste. Sylvestre

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Family Car

Ste. Sylvestre with Dad January 1960

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Ste. Margaret’s, New Brunswick...some miles from Chatham.

I guess we didn’t have a camera to snap photographs in Ste. Margaret’s in New Brunswick.  I haven’t any archive for this period, apart from a few bits of ephemera. An old fashioned bell rung outside of the school for my kindergarten and grade one year. I remember my coat hook.  I remember faking that I could play the notes on my recorder.   I remember secretly loving Holmer Berthiaume.  I remember clam digging and clam chowder.  I remember neighbourhood fun.  And, my brother, Cliff, was born.  I broke my collar bone.

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Kath St. Margarets

A neighbour-photographer asked my parents if he could grab some photos of me.  This is one.

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Chatham New Brunswick Rec Center 1967

Recreation Center

Chatham New Brunswick Guard Gate 1966

 

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Battle Creek, Michigan

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This Blog Post was a tribute to a friend, Laurel Barclay, a friend I never forgot.

North Bay, Ontario…three different postings and some very special years.  The dock, Chief Commanda, Expo ’67 and a field trip to Montreal, Winter Carnivals, fishing…

Big Fish

Trout Lake, Cabin stays and learning to play Cribbage, Mr. Carlin and the first inkling that I loved art, hiking through the gully, Gus.

Gus Road Tripping

Gus and the Rambler Station Wagon.

North Bay Couch

My sister, Val, was born.

Mom and Val four months North Bay

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Tent CaterpillarsIMG_6168

Air Shows 

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My brother, Cliff (Hammer), at one of our annual air shows.

 

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Teen Town

Teen Town RCAF North Bay

 

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I have reconnected with many of the people in this photograph over the years.  Social Media has been a blessing for Military ‘Brats’.IMG_6172

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On I went, during our second posting, to Widdifield High School, grade nine.  My friends were lunch time friends, including Kathleen and Susan.  Debbie Harris took the bus with me to Hornell Heights.  We were walking-to-school friends.  I have since, lost her. Later in life, I painted Miss Mitchell, the librarian, and the Library Club, using a photograph in the 1969 Pendulum as a reference.

Patricia Kirton

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I treasured, most, my time in the art room.  I still have some of my sketches from that time. I reconnected with David Carlin some years ago as he had an exhibit in Callandar when I was on one of my Trans Canada migrations.

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Great Falls, Montana for Grade 10, 11 and 12.  Ramona and I have done well to stay in touch all of these years.

5 of us Great Falls

Livin’ it up on Fox Farm Road!

 

CMR Mona

My best friend, CMR, Ramona

The thing about military people is that they DO have attached to them, many group photographs and records.  I will spare you this collection, but for the sake of my family members, I have photographed Dad’s collection and accessed several that he did not have from on-line research.  If ever you want these, please be in touch.

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Dad, you mean the world to me.  I’m grateful for your love.

Feast: An Edible Roadtrip

Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller are the co-creators of a recent and beautiful collection of insights, recipes and images, Feast: An Edible Roadtrip

I missed Mark’s birthday celebration last evening.  Happy birthday, Mark and I’m sorry I wasn’t there to share the brilliant conversations that are so typical of your backyard gatherings and the culinary treats that always seem to surface.

I registered some time ago for a session at the Alexander Calhoun branch of the Calgary Public Library, a book talk with Julie Van Rosendaal.  I was pretty pumped about the experience.  My friend, Pat, and I were very impressed with the beauty of the blooming Mayday Trees that edged the park-like grounds  of the Alexander Calhoun.  We were greeted at the door…a lovely touch.  Immediately, we were offered our choice of tea or coffee and a selection of cookies…one with its origins in Cape Breton and the other Grandma Woodall’s Oatmeal Marmalade Cookies.

I liked the idea that we were invited to share a memory of ‘Canadian’ food that we enjoyed from our childhood.  This brought to mind a dish prepared by my Great Grandmother (Mamie) in Summerside, PEI.  I decided that I would go on a search for that recipe so that I might prepare it.

Julie Van Rosendaal was not able to present…apologies were given…and very quickly, we were introduced to Julie’s replacement for the evening, Gwendolyn Richards, writer of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers.  She was fantastic…very much fun, spontaneous and capable.  A great presentation, interview and conversation ensued.  I am very excited, as a result, to have a whole list of new resources in my repertoire, as well as an interest in exploring recipes from across the country, beginning with a quest for a recipe for Acadian Rauper (my recollected title for the recipe based on family pronunciations), a comforting potato based treat that attendees, last evening, described as Rappie Pie.  (and based on the image on this particular link…it is obvious there are regional distinctions)  For my reader’s information, my Mamie’s recipe was spelled Rapture and pronounced raw-purr.

More on that later…

I enjoyed the fact that the session included places to purchase ingredients locally…ways to incorporate some of these ingredients…and a bit of the background on the FEAST source book.

Here are a few recommended titles and such…

Vegetarian Cooking for all by Deborah Madison

Spilling The Beans: Cooking And Baking With Beans Everyday by Julie Van Rosendaahl

THE FLAVOR BIBLE:
The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity,
Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs

by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Photography by Barry Salzman

Looneyspoons :Low-Fat Food Made Fun! & Crazy Plates By Janet & Greta Podleski

Whitewater Cooks

Patent and Pantry, a blog by Gwendolyn Richards

A wonderful evening and another successful program.

What foods and recipes connect you with family memories?

On my paternal side, my Gramma Moors always put a huge Blade Roast in the morning and it cooked on very low all day long.  For a treat at the kitchen table, it was a simple matter of dipping white bread into molasses or sprinkling white sugar onto a slice of buttered bread.

My mother, having come from the Arsenault/Gallant lineage, prepared beautiful boiled dinners…whether that was with fish, corned beef or pork hocks.  She also made the most amazing clam chowder.  My daughter, Cayley, just prepared her first pot of clam chowder the other day. ;0)

This morning, while drinking my morning coffee, I fired off an e mail to my Auntie who lives in Quebec.  She makes large batches of our family dish to this day and responded very quickly with the recipe.  I’m going to try it.  I think it’s an important practice to share our family recipes with our children.  I hope that my kids will make this one with me.

Hi, nice to hear from you… yes I make it on a fairly regular basis for Paul, your lady was somewhat right. Yes it is quite a job, but so worth it for us.  As for recipe, it is kind of this and that.  That saying I do have an official recipe from Canadian Living magazine.   It is not what mom did, at least exactly.   For us and for you it depends on how many people you are feeding.  I made a lot of extra so Paul can take it home, he really loves it.   If you want send me your address and I will copy the official one to you too.

So here it goes.  I peel 30 pounds of potatoes
                              I cook about 3-5 pounds , when cooked I mash them.
                              This  is the long part, grate with a machine the rest of the raw ones.
                              Once done, squeeze as much of the starch juice out with your hands as possible 
                              Put in a container that you can easily mix after. Fairly large
                              For the meat we always use pork, I cut a large roast uncooked into small pieces.
                              Understand that I use a roast pork loin, a large one, can’t tell you the weight
                              Also you must use at least 4 cups of onions chopped in small pieces,  I grind them in my
                              Chopper.
                              Once this is all done, mix all ingredients together,  this is when the special touch comes 
                              into play.  Mix and mix and mix again.  Everything must be mixed evenly. 
                              
                              While you are doing this in the oven should be your pans with pork fat, to coat the pans
                              For the grease  like Pam.  I do this in the beginning of everything,  the oven is at 300° until I 
                              finish mixing. 
                              I put everything in the pans, and cook at 275 the first hour, then raise to 325 for at least 
                              another 2-3 hours.
                              Don’t  forget salt and pepper, more salt than pepper because the pepper taste is strong
                              for some reason
If you remember correctly,  this is a mushy kind of meal somewhat like a casserole.   As many say a little bland. Joan’s husband uses creamed corn, Ray uses ketchup,  but we Thompson eat it just as is.
This seems complicated,  but it just about feelings, I wish I could be there to show you, I love to carry this tradition for mom, 
Call me if you need more explanation…. I would be more than happy to help.
Should this be enough, let me know how it goes. By the way, I peel my potatoes the night before, put in cold water until the next day, also I cut my meat, put fat in one bowl,  and meat in another. This is the fat I use for my pans. I have a large black spotted spaghetti pot I use for my potatoes.  Something like what you would use for a corn roast.
Hope this is enough, thanks for wanting to carry on this tradition,  it’s  a good one.
Pat

People of Belleville, Ontario

I’ve grown to know and love the people of Belleville and most especially, the “People of Parkwood”!  As I’ve been nesting today, I’ve been looking back on albums and photographs, ones that weren’t saved off of my memory stick and these were heart warming, so I want to archive them here.

There is a community of people in Belleville that welcomes me when I make my migrations east and that is a lovely feeling.  The lesson our family members have learned because of a lifelong connection with the military is that where ever we go, we can adjust, settle in, make new friends and reconnect with old friends.  Just this past year, I reconnected with a kindergarten teacher, Stella Pelkey and her daughter, Lila.  It was as though the years had not gone by.  We shared laughs, tears and stories of Hornell Heights and Paul Davoud School.

While visiting Belleville last summer, my dearest friend from high school years, Ramona Venegas, drove all the way from Michigan, enroute to the east coast of the United States and we shared two magical days together. This happens where ever I travel in Canada and on into the United States.  We are graced in these times with social media that links up dear friends.  Moving on is sad, but we are well cherished beyond time and distance.  This is something I’ve grown to know and understand.

Here are some of the people of Belleville…many are not here because some how they got away without having me snap a photograph.

Dear friends, Beth and Christine Self.  Beth was the youngest of the Self family, three postings to North Bay, Ontario.  Stan was our Padre and the Protestant Chapel on base and our shared activities included many barbecues, Christmas parties, sing songs, church choirs, Youth Groups and mutual support through difficult times.  I love this family, deeply…always will.

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Barb and Morley…exemplars of faith, family and love.  We met in Belleville.  Barb is a mean cook!  Morley, an inspiring minister, faithful, fun-loving and a great banjo player.  He played and entertained for my father’s 80th birthday party and my dear Mom who suffered Alzheimer’s disease, was well aware that day about how special she was as we also celebrated her birthday.  When I think of these two, I am reminded to have hope.  They took the time to come out last summer to my art exhibit and I am so grateful.kaths-art-14

My beautiful cousin, descendant on my maternal side, and I found one another in Belleville.  We have both searched and searched family roots, but from opposite sides of Canada.  Belleville connected us.  Liane is so absolutely beautiful and it was like an explosion of love and joy to meet.  Our ancestral research continues, but a link was made by her generous use of time.  (And by the way, she purchased THAT painting!)img_1649

St. Columba Church garden…this photo represents the beautiful Presbyterian community that my mother loved and my father continues to love.  As the summer’s drought was coming to an end, this photo represents the last of the harvest…only a week before I headed out on my drive back to Calgary.img_1648

At my father’s prompting and his generous contribution of shipping, I donated a painting to this newly designed and decorated meeting space in the church.  Here he is with some AMAZING human beings, Gary, Jane and Jen, the beautiful minister of St. Columba.  Jane and Gary have been long time family friends and with each of my migrations east, I have built relationship.  Prayerful, loving and supportive…these three showed my Mom and Dad such support.  They are to be cherished.  Special prayers for all three this morning, as I type.img_1633

I simply love this photograph of my father and so I include it here.  One of the greatest gifts that Mom gave to me was a relationship with my father.  I used to spend most of my time gabbing on the telephone long distance, with my Mom, as Mom and daughters do.  As Mom’s health failed, Dad did not hesitate to sign into Skype every day at 5:00 so that Mom and I could spend time with one another; singing, talking, laughing and crying.  Since 2013, my father and I have continued that ritual, chatting via Skype almost every day.  I have treasured my alternating yearly drive out to spend summers with him.  We have created memories by sharing our own time together, attending theater, going for beautiful drives, eating out and sharing the feast table in his apartment. (and sharing the odd bottle of red wine with one another)  img_1629

My cousins through my Auntie Mary and Uncle Pete, Laura, and Brenda and Gwen (no photograph…for shame) are very special to me.  They also lived the military life and ‘get it’. Distance doesn’t change our shared experience and our connection to our roots in Magrath.  On this past visit, I feel I got to know my cousin Laura (the youngest) better and was so thrilled for that knowing.  Recently, Laura traveled out west, and along with her brother, Peter, we went up the Custom Woolen Mills.  That afternoon was heaven, it was so filled with laughter!img_1604

My Auntie Mary, beautiful Auntie, attended my art exhibit.  We hardly see her enough, but when we do, it is like yesterday.  She was generous in allowing me to collage her image( a professional photograph taken by her best friend’s father during Moose Jaw days) into one of my paintings this past summer.img_1596 img_1592

Here, she recreates the dreamlike expression captured in the earlier photograph. Makes me smile!img_1585

I met Ina at Parkwood Estates.  She and I had two treasured visits in her apartment.  Now in her 90s, Ina and I spent time looking at her photo albums and she shared stories of cottage country and the process of building their cottage from the ground up.  She told me about Roy, her husband…his work, his plans and his health.  Ina shared about her teaching in Montreal, what teaching was like in the day…the expectations, the challenges and her passion for teaching.  We had very beautiful talks and now we write letters to one another.  I treasure Ina.img_1484 img_1481

Ina and Roy.img_1478 img_1477

Dianne has a thick french accent.  She comes in every two weeks and cleans Dad’s apartment.  But, she is more than that!  She offers enthusiastic conversation with all of her clients.  (Can my readers tell?)  Max loves her!  Dianne and her husband love to fish.  It is not an uncommon thing for her to bring fresh pickerel to my father and she says, “Just fry it up in a little butter.”  She does a beautiful job cleaning, but she has a big heart as well.  She exemplifies ‘goodness’.img_1427 img_1423

One Euchre table.  My Mom and Dad were always big Bridge players.  I didn’t inherit that passion nor do I understand how it is played.  I also don’t know a thing about Euchre.  While I am familiar with these people of Parkwood, I don’t remember their names.  This is a common gathering space and there is always something happening. The renovations are beautiful in this location!img_1354

Marjorie and Trevor White have been another great couple who shared many years, many experiences and many social gatherings with Mom and Dad, in the military life.  A pilot, Trev had the most wonderful stories (unbelievable stories) and was such a smart and funny man.  Marj lost Trevor recently, but she continues to share those stories of times with Mom and Dad and I love this connection.  We write cards to one another.  I need to keep this connection. Thank you, for fresh Basil from your garden.img_1353

Peter Paylor and Lisa Morris….amazing artists and artisans in Belleville!  These two are such visionaries and have huge energy in the arts community; music, visual arts and theater.  They welcomed me into their circle and for that, I will always be grateful.  All the way from Calgary, I will always support their efforts and their projects.  I love ’em.img_0941

…and who wouldn’t love this?img_0940 img_0938

A series of photographs here…just because these folks are so beautiful!  As I would leave to walk Max on beautiful summer days, I’d always stop and chat with whoever was gathering in the common space.  Usually there were laughs happening, often, serious conversations.  Bev is the one with her hand on her head here.  Bev and I shared a small conversation every single day.  She gives swimming instruction, wears a fit bit and can tell you at any time of day how many steps she’s made.  She is warm and lovely and I had the chance to sit next to her during a very special One Act Play festival in Belleville this past summer.  Her husband, Gerry, is a Belleville historian and writer of several books.  He and I met, quite by surprise, the summer that I was making a big fuss about Susanna Moodie’s marble head stone being made into a memorial.  I did a lot of research in the Belleville Library this past summer on the Marchmont Home and the BHC of the area.img_0934 img_0933 img_0932 img_0928 img_0927

Here’s Ina…always impeccably dressed.  Former school teacher, she and I shared so many stories.  I love Ina.img_0739

She explained how Roy, given that they didn’t have children, was always called upon to be MC at various people’s weddings.  He was a strong orator and he and Ina always gave the newlyweds a copy of Desiderata because they loved it so much.  Ina has this copy hanging near her front room.img_0738

Ina told me about the day that they moved into the Parkwood Estates and how Roy brought this Dogwood tree in and planted it in the corner.  Ever since then, Ina has been collecting these little birds.
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Jen, Dad’s minister, stopped in for a visit and gave Buddy a ton of love.  I love this woman so much.  She gave prayers for Mom and sent Mom on to the path of Paradise, with many blessings.  She is a strong and wonderful person and a great support to our family.img_0718 img_0716

Denny…always a big one for greetings.  He is like a welcoming committee to the apartment.  I typically found him outdoors on a short stroll or sitting on the bench when I would head out with Max on his morning walk.  Here, he is getting the machines set for Wii Bowling.img_0713 img_0712 img_0711 Heck if I could figure this out either, but weekly, Wii Bowling achieved a huge enthusiastic group!  I always stopped and said, “Hi”.img_0710

Carolyn and Bob….Carolyn is my Ya Ya in the east.  She bubbles over with enthusiasm!  This past summer we enjoyed the Festival Players of Prince Edward County under the dome tent, a beautiful heart wrenching piece, A Splinter in the Heart, that left both Carolyn and I crying at the end.img_0697

Yes.  Lisa again…here, we were at an open mic event in the ‘old boy’s club’ downtown Belleville.  Lisa had just come over from a rehearsal for an amazing steam punk piece she would be performing in in the One Act Play Festival.img_0662

More of Aunty Mary as we headed out for lunch on The Lake On the Mountain.  GOOD BEER!img_0508

Artist, Janet Beare, living a magical life in her downstairs space…a world many may not know a lot about.  MAGIC!

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Ina with her bird mug…this is the occasion when I learned that she had a bird tree and “May I come to see it some time?”img_0446

Coffee and birthday cake gathering!img_0445

Cold Creek Winery and Dave!  Amazing guy with such a huge heart!  I see Dave every time I drive out east, simply because Dad and I drink red. ;0)img_0379

Maureen and her daughter, Cathy.  Perched above the Bay of Quinte, these were the first friends we visited on last summer’s trip.  Maureen is an amazing artisan, always creating with her hands.  She was very close to my mother and kept Mom’s fingers going, creating beautiful things for the Mistletoe Market, for as long as was possible.img_0344

Barb and Rob, resident managers extraordinaire, back when I began my journeys east.  Always kind, generous and very very good at what they did.  I’m happy for them for the adventures that they have enjoyed since retiring, taking their RV across and around two countries.  They epitomize what potential is in all of us to care and give.  Love you, two.barb-and-rob

Home is what we make of the places we visit and where we nest.  We take home with us wherever we go.  People do not have to remain constantly within our view to remain constant and caring forces in all that we do.  We just owe it to them to try to stay in touch, how we can.  Wishing my friends of Belleville, love and care.

The Principles of Uncertainty

by Maira Kalman

Two days ago, before or after Emelia’s funeral prayers, I wanted to write a post titled something like, “The Loss of Children”. About that choice of title, I thought, “Who are you to write a post titled, ‘The Loss of Children’, when you have been so blessed and your children are safe and healthy?” So much has happened, in my head, during this Christmas/New Years holiday, that I postponed the post and now I’m writing this.

I woke at 5:35.  I’ve had a lot going on in my head.  (I guess I already said that.)

I dusted off the final two shelves of books.  It’s been a two-shelves-a-day project ever since the dust settled and the window casings were clear-coated.  If you are connected to my Instagram account, you’ve seen that I’ve snapped a few shots of books, but I stopped that because it was actually distracting me from getting the job done.

A side note: I was able to, with the guidance of the book,  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo,  choose twenty books to box up and deliver to a WIN shop.  Apart from the books in the cardboard box, I can say that the titles that remain, give me joy.

To celebrate the completion of the task and to stall Max’s walk at the pond (Facebook status: [Big fat flakes falling, beginning at around 6 this morning. It is easy to see them, lit up by street lamps. Morning light is still some time away.]), I sat under the green quilted blanket, cozy, on the red couch and read the most beautiful book, The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman.  The smell of home made turkey soup was heavy on the air…yesterday’s cooking continued because the carrots still had a tad too much crunch.

I loved this book so much that, for a short while, until my next book, it is my favourite.  Yes!  I finished it a short while ago.  It is that type of book.  For its sparseness, it is absolutely overflowing and packed with content of the heart.  It is an entire history and archive of those bits of life that are inspiring and magical, in part, anyway.  I also like that Maira dedicates the book to her mother.

Maira Kalman  is a woman of my own heart, very much captivated by the magical moments of life.  A fabulous illustrator and person.  I highly recommend this book.  I’ll be moving on to her other books.

I attended a gathering last evening at a friend’s house.  She’s just recently completed a kitchen renovation.  Ten women sharing a meal on a wintry night…just beautiful.  It is our habit to talk about everything, really.  And, at some point, we always share our current reading, authors, genres and such and last evening was no exception.  I was a bit embarrassed to share that I was still struggling my way through a werewolf story, titled Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones.  I think I’ve decided that werewolf stories are not for me.  Anyway, back to The Principles of Uncertainty, the book gives me a fresh perspective on the human condition. The themes are very personal and yet universal.  Everything is uncertain…even the books that we pick up and our experience of them.  I felt warm and happy looking around that room last evening, with the realization that, for the past twenty-five years, these women have shared their reading with me.  Ours is a delicious friendship.

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I will be writing about the loss of children at a later time, not because I know that experience, but because I can’t imagine that experience.  And why? What will that do or help or prove? Absolutely nothing…just that I can.

2016 Visiting Al Gerritsen

Today marks the Feast Day of St. Nicholas and I was blessed to share an afternoon in Al Gerritsen’s studio with a friend.  Every time I visit Al, I feel calm and happiness and I take in everything I can; the visual aesthetic, the smell of wood, and the recollections of so many wonderful stories.

My nativity is set up in the front yard, the indoor nativity figures are set out on the table for Advent and it has become a bit of a custom for me to make an annual visit to the woodcarver’s shop, just to enjoy the friendship and the creative energy.

Today, I had the opportunity to hear about Al’s Christmas posters and selected four for my Gerritsen collection.  Each one, unique, and again, with a story all of its own.  I don’t think I’ve ever known such a prolific artist.  This second week of Advent is all about PEACE…and today was certainly that!

Following the visit, a hot cup of peppermint tea and some pretty special ocean vessel talk! Overall, a magical afternoon!

-18 and -30 with windchill, this day brought with it, sun dogs, two eagles circling above the Bow and frozen eyelashes at the pond.  Amazing day!

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Writing on the Studio Wall

I have a long history of writing on walls.  But, what a friend recently told me is that Sharpie fades and will only last so long on drywall. (this explains why my affirmations, written on my bathroom wall in metallic gold pen, have begun to disappear)  So, as I looked at my studio walls, I DID realize that many of the original song lyrics and early writings of friends have begun to disappear.  I have documented these so that as they fade, they can be remembered as they become a part of the history of place.

I’ll begin with the most recent signing…that of my furnace tech, having just cleaned out my furnace and vents for this year.

If you do not see your writing on my wall, it is time for a studio visit!  Scout…looking for your writing. ;0)

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I need to change my filter more often.

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Annie Lennox: The Saddest Song I’ve Got (yup…sometimes when you’re painting, you feel sad and I would have been playing this CD while I painted, likely after I saw her playing a concert with Sting.)

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My oldest Kananaskis Country map plastered on the studio wall. I think about the mountains whenever I’m not in them. When I thought to, I recorded the odd hike…just so that I could remember the circumstance. Most times I forgot.

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Oh my gosh…winter hot dog roast at Sandy McNabb…that was a long time ago! I DID DO RAE GLACIER again!

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I didn’t keep this up…but, I thought it would be cool to list the new CDs that came into the studio. Don’t know what the Martha Stewart Wedding memo was about.

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This boy has a big influence on me. He got over some addictions. He helped me recently.

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Alan put up some shelves in the studio when I first built it…now, that was a long time ago! It seems we reused wood. I painted it up and it looked great. I remember when the studio was empty.

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Pat, from the Ironwood, was out with another buddy. I was bugging him about the fact that when the move happened from the present day Blue’s Can, they took Mussels off the menu. We were drinking wine in the studio that evening. These things happen.

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My niece, Mandi, wrote beautiful words for me on the morning of my first born’s wedding…and it’s almost impossible to read them anymore. I treasure them and always will. I send her love, abundant love.

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Bee, my dancing partner, when there’s good Honky Tonk music playing, continuously shares hilarious bits of blah blah…usually, I write them down.

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Oh, good grief…weird stuff ends up hung on my studio wall, but, I am always prepared. Nothing’s worse than having to leave a painting, in order to floss your teeth…and times wasted looking for it.

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Oh my gosh…I was obsessed with getting large storage for my big canvases. Thank you to all my friends and family who had to listen to my musings on this subject and to the two men who eventually built them. I’ve been afraid that they are going to fall on me while I paint, ever since. lol

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Yes, I was this obsessed. To the right, a beautiful mosaic created by a Larche artist, a gift from Father Clair Watrin a zillion years ago.

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One view of the storage that I love so much.

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The other side…

 

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Chris and Clayton…former students. Every so often the kids come back to visit…they’re both grown up now. We don’t forget, though. Proud of both of these dudes.

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Broken hearted, I cut three travel journals up into little squares, when my trucker boyfriend dumped me over the telephone. (I may as well be honest). Chances are that if you’ve got one of my paintings since 2006, one of these squares is buried in your painting. I thought it would be good to send a bit of my heart out with each new piece…the nice thing to announce is that it barely hurts at all any more. This is what happens with broken heartedness.

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Awe…my cousin, Clayton, just before he headed out for a huge walk for the support the Kidney Foundation? Correct me, if I’m wrong, Clay. Karina and Clayton…a gift to share an evening with them.

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Jen Hall took the first and only ‘real’ portrait that I’ve had done of me…and Max…and she documented a few paintings for me. She’s awesome.

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I have a habit of picking up things in old frames, especially if they look like they were hung in some one’s kitchen for a zillion years…where mayhaps tea was served and ladies talked.

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I read stuff about our animal/bird/insect/plant species that are in trouble…I clip them here…I don’t want to forget. Some of these land in paintings…it all depends what I’m thinking about at the time.

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My son….he was my very young batman…he wanted to keep everyone safe and happy and calm. These are two of my favourite photos of him. The other one…well, you saw it earlier.  James and sister, Cayley, at Angel Glacier.

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Yeah…more journal squares…a piece from Ashleigh Bartlett’s workshop at Esker…more salvaged religious memorabilia from the second hand stores…a postcard of Tim Belliveau’s glass…my all time favourite glass artist.

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Book suggestions…words from my sister-in-law, Grace. Aaron, Angela and Wisdom visited me and took away my teaching table so that I would never, again, be tempted to teach in the studio, but instead, paint.

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Yes…my daughter’s wedding. Trying to remember neighbour’s names…

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Karina…beautiful. I wish more of my relations from Raymond and Lethbridge and Magrath would stop in for visits. Love them so much.

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Youngest person to visit my studio…Wisdom is growing up so fast. Love the Sponge Bob!

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Leaves of Grass: Walt Whitman Read it! WHEN the true poet comes, how shall we know him— By what clear token,—manners, language, dress? Or shall a voice from Heaven speak and show him: Him the swift healer of the Earth’s distress!

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Bill used to move my art…I loved him so much.

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Bill Webb…still painting luminous landscapes of the Livingston Range and winter roads. New adventures are happening for my dear friend.

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James Blunt…during heart wrenching moments in the studio.

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Margy…oh my gosh…how many times did we watch the music video and sing along with this tune??

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Bob Nelson…drove all the way from Helena and we went down to Knox and listened to acapella music. High school friend and talks about life, the world and Kant. I’m catching waves.

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I didn’t see this note about the scissors until today. Cayley, sorry that I wasn’t helpful. lol The scissors are hanging in the scissor place over there!

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Beautiful lady, Angela. And, I guess some sort of recommendation from Dylan. Dylan and Kristan, former students, have visited. But…it’s been a while. Both are doing inspiring and exciting things. I still have a JH self portrait in a portfolio for Kristan to pick up. lol

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Oh dear…I can’t read this. Can you? Please let me know…something about meditation…I can read “Remain Radiant”

REMAIN ‘RADIANT,’AS JOYCE PUT IT, IN THE FILTH OF THE WORLD.

The goal of life is to be a vehicle
for something higher.Keep your eye up there
between the pairs of opposites
watching your play in the world.Let the world be as it is
and learn to rock with the waves.Remain ‘radiant,’
as Joyce put it,
in the filth of the world.”~ Joseph Campbell, Excerpt From: “A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.” Joseph Campbell Foundation, iBooks

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This young man…an accomplished and published photographer/journalist out of Toronto. Look for his stuff on cars…and his road trips! Proud of you, Clayton.

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My brother, owner of Cliff’s Chinook Charters out of Comox, wrote about the plight of the salmon. I love my brother…he knows how much I think about him. I caught a big one out there, while sharing a trip with my daughter and father.

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Leslie Champ, former student and amazing man! Christmas visit 2013. The little piece matted in purple, a piece of art created by student Katie McGreevy for me when I taught at St. John’s Fine Arts School…again, a zillion years ago. A couple pieces of my paint-by-number collection.

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I cherish Leslie’s words.

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Jen…another artist extraordinaire. A part of a powerhouse teaching team at AGC when it was before the boss woman went down in flames.

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Middle Child, daughter Cayley, is one of my two daughters. Both have taught me about courage. I could not have learned the lessons of courage in life, without them.

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Thank you.

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Rita, I miss you. You opened up so much discourse. You supported me.

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First born. I can’t type anything about her without getting teary. Such a warm, funny, organized, loving human being! Brave! Pam and Larry, that was a fun night! Such fun!

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“The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.” ― Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark

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lol You’re welcome, Larry.

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In two places.

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Jen, I miss you. A bit of a piece done with Asheigh Bartlett, as a response to work by Jack Bush.

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People leave me stones, shells and earth from places they have traveled…these came from Australia. Thank you, Bob.

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Natasha…former student studying art in Vancouver. Love you and so proud of you.

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Darwin stones.

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Prince Edward Island Sand…touch it every once and a while and my mother comes to mind.

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Shells and stones…Prince Edward Island. I get teary looking at these.

The Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell

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Last evening, I had the chance to hang out and chill with my sister-friends.  Thanks, Darlene.  The only disappointment was that Wendy wasn’t with us.  It was the intention to hop right into the hot tub, but, as per usual, the snacks came out and the conversation began.  It doesn’t matter how often we see one another, there is lots to say.

Being with friends is a very healing experience.  There is much that is revealed by getting ideas out of heads and hearts and hearing the perspectives of women you completely trust because of the years that you have shared.

I thought that since this got me thinking about my long-time friends, I would share a book that I read early in October.  It’s a good one.  I’m big on reading Memoirs.  Not everyone is keen on that genre.  If, however, you wish to read a book that has a heart warming component, this is one you might want to consider.

Victoria Rowell shares with the reader, sometimes-complicated, but always-treasured relationships with women who ‘raised her’.  I think that we all have teachers and friends and extended family who have supported us and certainly we know the beautiful thing that is a relationship with a mother or a sister or an aunt…but, for reasons out of her control, Victoria’s mother could not be in the picture that was her life, not to a deeply nurturing extent.  This book is about the women who stepped up.

I am blessed to belong to several circles of friends.  While I am not a part of a traditional family of my own (with a life partner), I have been deeply blessed by the friendship of women in my life (sure, and a few guys, too…you know who you are).  While I would have liked it to work out that I had a life partner who would be a help mate and spiritual companion, I have learned that life offers us a richness in ‘other’ forms of relationship if we are receptive to those invitations.

Of this book, I particularly enjoyed the opening chapters where Victoria lays down the tracks of her life by introducing us to the history of her family.  I think that we are all rooted in stories and her stories were fascinating. Matters of fostering and adoption live at the core of this memoir. While I typically go for more complex writing, this one flowed nicely and made me feel happy for the women in my life.

You might enjoy, The Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell.  3 1/2 out of 5 as Goodreads ratings go.

“Do not look around thee to discover other men’s ruling principles, but look straight to this, to what nature leads thee, both the universal nature through the things which happen to thee, and thy own nature through the acts which must be done by thee. But every being ought to do that which is according to its constitution; and all other things have been constituted for the sake of rational beings, just as among irrational things the inferior for the sake of the superior, but the rational for the sake of one another.”

Marcus Aurelius