Monday, March 27, 2017

Roughing It In The Bush

When I was in school I remember reading excerpts of Susanna Moodie's book, Roughing It In The Bush and passages by her sister, Catherine Parr Trail in a Social Studies text. Both depicted pioneer life in Canada from the perspectives of female British immigrants. Catherine wrote about the beauty of her new wilderness home while her sister, Susanna, held nothing back in her description of the hardships of making a go of it in the woods of Southern Ontario in the 1830's. If anyone would have suggested that I read Roughing In In The Bush this time last year, I would have said that I'd rather poke my eye out with a stick! And, needless to say, the idea of reading it when I was in school was definitely out.

Illustration from Roughing It

My recent discovery of specific ancestors who arrived in a part of Ontario, not that far from the Moodie's home in the bush, just a year before the arrival of Susanna and her family, motivated me to pick up this thick book, first published in1913. Mrs. Moodie was an experienced writer before she and her husband decided to immigrate to Canada to seek a prosperous life. Thus her descriptions of sailing up the Saint Lawrence past Grosse Isle and Quebec City and eventually to the "back woods" of Southern Ontario are vivid. While her passage on the ship was more comfortable than most, being upper class, the journey was rough and dreaded Cholera was rampant. Her arrival among the hordes of immigrants in these eastern Canadian ports disgusted her and she describes these lower class newcomers as,"uneducated barbarians, who form the surplus of overpopulated European countries".  (Surely she can't be referring to MY ancestors?!!) In fact she describes in vivid detail her experience with many of the "lower class" neighbors she encounters in her back woods home. The "Indians", however, she refers to as "Nature's gentlemen".

"There never was a people more sensible of kindness, or more grateful of any little act of benevolence exercised towards them. We met them with confidence; our dealings with them were conducted with the strictest integrity;"

While the book was long, it was an easy and entertaining read. The author describes an interesting character who attended their family's "logging-bee" (similar to a barn-raising that included lots of whiskey). She describes his attempt to entertain the attendees like this:

"Arrah. ladies and jintlemen, do jist turn your swate little eyes upon me whilst I play for your iddifications the last illigant tune which my owld  grandmother taught me.

I learned a lot about the tough life of pioneers in the late 19th century in Canada. And, of course what my ancestors, who lost two children on the passage over must have went through. The author and her family suffered greatly in an attempt to create a successful farm in the back woods, and eventually left the bush for a more prosperous life in another part of Ontario.

So, if you are interested in the "unromantic" struggles of a pioneer woman .... check out Roughing It In The Bush by Susanna Moodie at your local library  917.13042 MOO !

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Scavenger Hunt

What do fun loving fifty and sixty year olds do on the coldest night of the year? Go around town on a scavenger hunt of course!
We could go bowling, see a movie, or stay in where it's warm and play a board game ....... but why do those boring things when you can climb on playground equipment, pump gas for strangers, gather pine cones or squeeze into a shower with three other people?

In the shower with my teammates, Nancy,(me) Danny & Richard. We got extra points if someone wore a shower cap, so Dan volunteered .... doesn't he look great?

Ha! You thought the "shower thing" was going to be risqué!

So, how did this all start, you might ask? Well, our "queen of party planning", Cathy, got the idea and somehow convinced our "let's stay indoors and have wings and beer" group to break out of our comfort zone.

Cathy, adding up the score card!
We did, actually, end up enjoying wings and beer but not before each team of four set out into the cold and dark to check off all the items on our list. Here are some examples:
  • get a vinyl record (extra points if the cellophane is still on)
  • get a purchase receipt for $1.00 worth of gas
  • get a pinecone, takeout menu, fortune cookie (extra points if the word "happy" is in it)
  • group picture on playground equipment, in a shower, at an ATM (extra points for a withdrawal receipt)
  • photo of a team member pumping gas for a stranger, behind the counter of a coffee shop (Tim Horton's, Second Cup etc.)
We had twenty items altogether and two hours to complete the tasks. To our surprise, both teams were done well before the time limit and both teams managed to check off everything on the list! So we had to share the trophy!

Team 1: Dan (bottom) Cathy, Ross, Juliette  Team 2: Richard, Nancy, me, Danny

So here are some of the shenanigans we got up to in -17 C (- 24 C with the wind chill!) temperatures, out and about in the beautiful  Kennebecasis Valley! Thanks Cathy for a great night. A good time was had by all!

Richard pumps gas for a stranger.
Danny finds a nice stranger to pump gas for.

Danny makes a cash withdrawal at the ATM to get the receipt for extra points!

Our group pic with a stranger .... extra points because he has a beard!

Team 1 with bearded stranger. (we thought our guy had a better beard lol!)

Group pic with a piece of sculpture.

Group photo (Team 1) of all members drinking out of one can of Coke with their own straw.

Monday, February 27, 2017


Recently we went to the theatre to see the movie Lion. Friends of ours had just read the book and recommended it. So, off we went to the early movie  (6:30) after a quick dinner at five .... just in time for us old folks to be tucked in for the night by 10:00!

Lion is an amazing, true, story about a young boy (about five years old), from an impoverished family who, by accident wandered onto an empty train that took him across India, far away from his family home. He lived on the street for a while then entered a detention center, then an orphanage, where eventually an adoption to an Australian couple was arranged. You'll have to see the movie, or read the book (which I am doing now) to see how his life in Australia turned out and if he was ever reunited with his family in India.

Bottomley Orphanage

Many of the scenes from the movie reminded me of my year in Bangladesh. The crowded, chaotic streets, trains with masses of people (including clusters of them sitting on the roof tops of the moving trains!), brought back memories. The one memory that connected me with the movie, however, was from our visit to the Bottomley Orphanage on the outskirts of Dhaka.

Group photo of the girls in the orphanage (our teacher Kris O'Brien behind the sister)

The purpose of our day trip was to deliver some clothing that one of our teachers, at the school I was working at, collected through a clothing drive. During our visit we had the opportunity to meet the children as well as the "sisters" (who ran the orphanage). We also had a grand tour of the building and property that housed and fed 140 girls.
As you can see from the photo, there was a large yard for the girls to play in. Some of the girls in the photo have short hair or bald heads .... victims of head lice! We had the opportunity to see where they slept, metal framed beds jammed side by side in dark stone walled enclosures..... similar to a scene from the movie. Depressing? Yes, but they were safe from the perils of the street!

Ross (my husband) and our friend Paul (the VP of our school) have a chat with the sister in the dinning "hall".

Some of the girls in the orphanage were actually not "orphans", they were there because their parents were not able to feed them. A better life than living on the street. Some children in these circumstances are actually compelled by their parents to forgo school in order to beg or scrounge and bring back what they find to help support the family.

Kris O'Brien, one of our teachers, plays a game of blind man's bluff with the girls.

The movie Lion was, for me, an uplifting story with a happy ending. However, it did remind me of just how privileged we are in Canada (or other first world countries). Yes, we do have poverty in Canada, but not to the extent that it is in other parts of the world. Another thing that struck me in the movie, was the selflessness of the Australian couple who adopted the young boy (as well as another) from India. When the boy, Saroo, was older, he said to his adopted mother that he was sorry that she could not have children of her own. She looked at him and informed him that she was actually able to have children, but she and her husband decided that the world did not need more people and that it would be better to save one or two children from a life of misery. How wonderful is that!

Typical pic that I grabbed of a train going by with a woman giving us a big smile!

Typical street and shopping area in Dhaka.
This movie also reminded me of a photo essay that a student at the school I taught at in Dhaka created. (I posted this quite a while ago in a previous post.) This high school student took photos of some of the "less privileged" people living in our neighborhood. These were common sites! We actually saw many of these people every day as we went about our comfortable lives going to and from work, out to shop or to eat in a restaurant!

Life Without Luxury

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Beach is Like a Box of Chocolates

A beach is like a box of chocolates ....... you never know what you're going to find!

I love beach combing and collecting little treasures along the shore .... sea glass, smooth stones and of course sea shells. The "therapy" is in the hunt. Forget your worries and just concentrate on searching for those unique little gems.

Recently, in Cuba, I enjoyed collecting a small bag full of gorgeous little shells that I smuggled home in my suitcase. A few years ago, at a different beach in Cuba, I found an abundance of sea glass that now sits in a decorative bowl on my coffee table. I've also been know to lug home a few egg smooth rocks from the shores of the Bay of Fundy.

A harmless pastime right? I do know that you are not supposed to disturb the ecosystem, but somehow I just couldn't resist pocketing just a few souvenirs ..... it's only a few! What's one more homeless hermit crab?

After doing a little research, I am now a "reformed beach comber". (Although I think the sea glass is still fair game.) I plan to take treasures from the beach in the form of photos only!

Guide to Ethical Shell Collecting

 (Ethical) Beach Collection Photos

Collections from the Bay of Fundy and Cuba

Sea Glass from Cuba

Photo collections are perfect when the "treasures" are too big to lug home!

Monday, January 23, 2017

All Inclusive Packing List

So my last blog post was all about how I am embracing winter....... Well, so much for that! We just booked an all-inclusive trip to Cuba. Our son and his girlfriend are joining us and this is her first time at an all-inclusive in the Caribbean so I am trying to think of some good "packing list" recommendations. She has lots of friends who have been so I'm sure she will have no shortage of suggestions.

We have been to the Caribbean about 6 or 7 times so packing is quite routine. The resorts we stay at are not "high end", so no need for fancy schmancy stuff. The basics are:
- your passport!! / bathing suit / toiletries, medications and personal items / flip flops / an outfit for evening dinner / an out fit for day time (in the heat) and that's it (not really but make sure it's in your carry on!) The hubster has his collection of Hawaiian shirts, several pair of shorts and an insulated beer mug.

Last year's trip to the DR.

Seriously, however, I do have a few standard items that I always include in my packing (sorry, this leans toward the female gender):
  • travel attire: comfy yoga pants & short sleeve t-shirt, zip up fleece and sneakers (the fleece will keep you warm in case of cool air conditioning on the plane and when you get there you can survive the heat in your T & yoga pants until you get to the resort).
  • make sure your carry-on has personal toiletries (100ml size liquids only, in a clear, 1 litre ziplock) / bathing suit and an extra outfit so that you could survive comfortably should your luggage get lost or delayed. (in all of our travels south and overseas, this has only happened once; my suitcase was delayed by one day coming back from Singapore to Beijing)
  • since most of your days will be spent in your bathing suit at the beach or pool, make sure you have at least two and a cover-up, flip flops, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses etc. as well as a beach bag to put this stuff in.
  • clothes for during the day (if your not at the beach) or on an excursion including comfortable foot wear, shorts, capris, t-shirt etc.
  • clothes for evening: a dress or capris & a nice top (you can just have a couple of capris and several different tops .... your only wearing them for a few hours so you can "repeat if necessary"!) And, perhaps little bag or purse to carry your room key, or lip gloss for the evening.
  • Odds & ends: cheap towel, or sarong to put on your beach/pool chair to hold your place (if it gets nicked it's not the end of the world) / travel mug for filling up at the bar to save an extra trip and keep drinks cold / electrical plug adapters if you need them (we won't in Cuba) / Imodium - I prefer the "quick dissolve" kind (they are expensive but worth it just in case)
  • Travel documents: Last but certainly not least - your passport is the most important item! Also, credit/debit cards, Medicare card, health insurance card, and some cash ( US funds are always good, but in Cuba you are charged more to convert them into Cuban currency ... better to have CDN funds.
  • Electronics: We plan to take our cell phones but no other electronic devices except perhaps a reader. The internet is not good where we are going, and we are there to soak up the sun, not surf the net. Our service provider offers a travel plan for $75.00, So we decided not to bother - texts are 75 cents (no charge for incoming) and calling is $3:50 per minute (without a plan). We don't intend to call anyone for the short time we are there, except for an emergency ... so no plan for us.
So, there you have it!  ......  in the meantime,  back to embracing the winter!

Some Useful Websites:

Monday, January 9, 2017

Happy Winter!

Happy Winter Outdoor Adventures!

For some strange reason, I am not obsessed this year with seeking out a "fun in the sun" winter escape (not that I am opposed to it, mind you!). I believe that there are two reasons for my uncharacteristic change in attitude.
One is my Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, that I did last year in Portugal and Spain. That adventure got me walking ... in all kinds of weather, and I discovered that I really did enjoy it, and felt better, the more I walked!
The second is a group of local walkers, called The KV Walkers (KV is short for Kennebecasis Valley, where I live). This group has organized regular outings for walking and snowshoeing in our area. They have shown us a variety of routes and trails and provided information and camaraderie. One walk was done at night in very sub-zero temperatures with a brisk wind chill. Normally I would stay hunkered down at home in those temperatures. However, with their encouragement and another friend joining me, I did the walk! ..... six kilometers in the cold and I loved it! Once you get going your as warm as toast!
So, because of the above, I am enjoying winter outings. A group of my friends and I are going to make a regular thing of walking this winter in the evening (in the dark) once a week. I still do my thing at the gym and take in a few classes but I prefer "plein air"!

Snowshoeing Solo!

This weekend we had a big snowstorm that cleared in the morning with a mix of sun and cloud, leaving a thick blanket of fluffy snow. Perfect for snowshoeing! I contacted a few friends but they were busy. So ..... I headed out on my own with my snowshoes on a local trail that I had been on before with the walking group. It was perfect!

A familiar trail that someone had blazed before me.

A trail that I had to blaze! Such fun!

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

All this winter walking means you have to dress for it. And ...that means you need a hat. My mother always said that I looked like "Grama Grunt" in a hat (I didn't know who "Grama Grunt was, but I knew the comment wasn't flattering). Anyway, that brings us to the discussion of winter hats.
I have a friend who says that if you can't find what you are looking for in the stores, it is probably out of style! I believe she is right.
However, the hats that seem to be in fashion at the moment, are knit with big pompoms at the top. Pompoms, lets face it, are cute on kids but look ridiculous on my sixty(ish)yearold head. Many of the knit ones tend to fit tight to the head and I need a little "bulk" ...... more hat to look at than head! Anyway, I found a fleece hat last year at a used clothing store and it kept my head warm and didn't look too ridiculous. (Purchasing things at a used clothing place is a sure sign that the item is out of fashion ... but that's okay.)
So, after a search for a new winter hat that suited me failed, I decided to try to make one myself. Usually these "projects" end up being a waste of time, but this one actually turned out okay.

I bought a half a meter of fleece that was on sale for about $3.50 (only 30cm is really needed). I found a few patterns on YouTube but ended up using my old hat as a guide.

Cut out 2 rectangles, 12" x 24" and 4" x 24", plus a circle 7" in diameter.

Fold both rectangles over horizontally, good sides together and sew.

Begin pinning the smaller rectangle (that has been stitched to form a band) to the circle, right sides together and then sew to form the top of the hat. Next, take the large rectangle and fold it vertically to form a double layered band, right sides out (see top right photo).

Sew the large rectangle, folded over in two layers, to the bottom edge of the hat. This creates a wide cuff that can be folded over. Sewing three thicknesses of fleece seems to go well.

These instructions may not be quite as good as a YouTube video, but if you sew at all, you'll figure it out. I can make one in about 30 minutes ..... and I am no expert seamstress!

Happy Winter!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Happy Holidays!

back row: Joel, Ross, Lynn, Candice, Scott - front row: Alicia, Khloe, Courtney

Happy Holidays!

From my house to yours! I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I am very grateful to be able to enjoy the company of my family and friends this holiday season.
...... and, I am grateful for the selfie stick that Candice (my daughter) got me last year for Christmas.
......and, I am grateful that I actually got everyone to put on the silly Christmas hats and gather for a pic without any complaining!

Top: Scott and Ross "cozy up" with a beer. Below: Joel & Alicia / Candice & Khloe check out the Christmas presents.

Sights and sounds of the City Market and Candice enjoying the sign at Picaroons!

The Same But Different

As the years goes go by our family celebrates pretty much in the same way, with the same traditions, the same foods etc. but each year is a little bit different. And so it should be. As time goes on our families grow, expand, change. I have grown and expanded just in the last two days!
This year we loved having our son and his wife Alicia with us on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, and enjoyed Christmas Eve at our son, Scott's place with his girl friend, Courtney and her family. This was the first Christmas Eve (aside from the two we spent overseas) that we have not hosted the celebration ..... it was the same for Courtney's mother and we both appreciated letting someone else take on the task!
On Christmas Eve day, we visited the Saint John City Market, a popular spot for locals to enjoy the sights and sounds of Christmas. We poked around in a few of the interesting little shops downtown and then, of course, took a little time to have some Christmas Cheer at Picaroons micro brewery.

A Few Tidbits

Noticed these odd shaped bottles in a little antique shop downtown. I love the torpedo bottle!

We got this lovely card from Joel and Alicia (created by one of their friends) depicting a "Maritime Christmas Dinner". I love it! I could easily give up turkey for lobster!