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!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Early Days of Christmas 2016

While it's "early days" yet, I am beginning to get my act together for Christmas 2016. I'm not one of those people who start shopping after Labour Day or have my tree up halfway through November. Nope ..... I start December first. Why be miserable for several months when you can only be miserable for one? I used to be known as the Grinch. Can you tell? (I've always loved the line from W.C. Fields - "Anyone who hates kids and dogs can't be all bad.") ..... I'm getting better though, in my old age.

So far the outside of our house is decorated and the inside has a few hints of Christmas here and there, ..... and I've started the Christmas baking!

This recipe called for brandy ....so, I thought, "one for the bowl and one for the cook"!

I have never been a fan of putting "things" on a fridge. I hate the cluttered look, especially since our refrigerator is the first thing you see when you enter our kitchen. However, as I was rifling through some old family photos, I decided that it might be fun to do a bit of reminiscing over the holidays when family and friends are here.

There are some great "oldies" here, including pics of folks who are no longer with us and it is nice to recall fond memories of them, especially at Christmas time.   ......... now, onward and forward to Christmas!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Heritage Discovery

Recently, I made a discovery about my ancestors that began with The Juggler's Children by Carolyn Abraham, a book that I picked up randomly at the library because it looked interesting. The author's family had European heritage but lived in India and eventually immigrated to Canada via England. As a science journalist, she was interested in DNA testing to provide information about ancestry and used it in her journey to discover her own family history.

I was never seriously interested in researching my family history, but the book inspired me to do a little "Googling". After about an hour of typing in a few family names, I was amazed at what I found!

It turns out that I can trace my grandmother's (on my mother's side) ancestry back to 1751 in Scotland! This information was thanks to a site that I stumbled upon called Canadian Headstones. It seems that a "relative", who I do not know, did a lot of work and created a family tree of the Storie family (Storie is my grandmother's maiden name.) ..... since first writing this post I have been in touch with my 3rd cousin 1x, removed, Doug Storie who lives in the U.S.!!

The Storie Family Tree Tells the Following Tale:

William Storie was born in 1751 in Renfrewshire, Scottland and married Elizabeth Stewart (born in 1757). (They would be my great x4 grandparents).Their son, William Storie (Jr.) married Mary Ann McQueen from Ayrshire, Scotland. In 1829 William and Mary Ann sailed across the Atlantic to Canada with their five children, William, John, Elizabeth, Agnes and Thomas, While at sea, their two young daughters died, Elizabeth was four years old, and Agnes three. One of the children was buried at sea and the other on an island in eastern Canada.
The family settled in McNab Township, Renfrew, Ontario and had eight more children. One of those eight children, Agnes Storie (presumably named after her deceased sister) had a son named John Storie "Harvie". The documents list his mother (Agnes) as "not married"! (interesting!). The family tree goes on to show that one year after her son, John, was born, she married a fellow by the name of John Harvie and together they had nine children. I wonder if her first son, John Storie was the biological son of John Harvie?? (Nice to have a little mystery in your family tree!)

Anyway, John Storie "Harvie" eventually married Annie Ferguson and they are my great grandparents! The woman in the photo below (top left) is Annie (Ferguson) Storie. The woman beside her (top right) is Mary Minerva Storie, my grandmother and the child she is holding is my aunt Mabel, who was the oldest of my mother's three siblings. The woman sitting in the chair is Marion (Frood) Ferguson (Annie's mother, I assume). I believe that the photo was taken in 1903 or 1904 since Mabel looks like she is only a few months old and her birth date is 1903.

Top left, Annie Ferguson, top right, Mary Minerva (Storie) Neil, bottom left, Marion (Frood) Ferguson, bottom right, Mabel Nellie Neil

So, you might have noticed that the William Storie of 1751 and his family were from Renfrewshire in Scotland and the family that sailed across the Atlantic settled in McNab Township, Renfrew Ontario. That was no coincidence. The original settlers in the area were from Renfrewshire and thus the name Renfrew. My ancestors, William and Mary (McQueen) Storie , from Renfrewshire, Scotland likely came with or followed other relatives to the new land. It seems that most of the Stories settled in McNab Township, a plot of land once dominated by the last Laird of McNab , one of the last clan chieftains. "Laird" McNab was a colourful character to say the least, and not in a good way for the settlers. He ruled the township as a feudal lord, treating the settlers poorly. The families he brought from Scotland arrived with little provisions in place for them, living in roughly built shanties and forced to make steep debt payments. Eventually McNab was forced out by the government and fled to France.

Thus it was such circumstances that William and Mary Storie would have arrived into after making the long journey across the Atlantic as well as suffering the loss of two young children. They obviously survived and went on to have eight more children!. ...... oh that we of the twenty first century could be made of such stern stuff!

The Last Laird of McNab

Storie Family Tree

The Storie Family Tree was found on "Canadian Headstones" thanks to the work of my 3rd cousin x1, Doug Storie.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

French Dinner Party

It all started with  My Life in France by Julia Child. I picked it up at the library thinking it might fill my need for a good summer read and I wasn't disappointed. Then, I recommended it to my friend Juliette (who is French by the way), and she lent me her Laura Calder book, full of great French recipes and anecdotes ... we both love her show, French Food at Home. So, over a glass of wine by a summer fire we thought that our next "gourmet night" just had to be FRENCH! (We hadn't told our "gourmet club" friends at this point ... but hoped they'll be okay with it!)

Juliette had the brilliant idea that we should come up with a typical French dinner menu and everyone in our "gourmet group" (six couples) would contribute. Normally we choose a theme, such as Chinese, or Italian or "rib" night and everyone brings a dish - potluck style. Our vision for "Nuit Frances" would be to have a more organized menu. This is one that Juliette found  (on Sauveur.com) and I thought it was brilliant!

A Classic French Dinner Menu

·       Chicken Liver Pate

·       French Bread

·       Selection of French Cheeses

·       Coquilles St. Jacques

·       Winter Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

·       Blanquette de Veau (Veal in Cream Sauce)

·       Chocolate Mousse

So, we began to organize, deciding to give our friends the choice of either choosing an item on the menu to bring, ..... or "we" Juliette and I (and our hubbies) would prepare the whole meal but share the cost among the gang. Everyone chose the second option....... and that was okay with us as we were excited to try out these recipes ourselves.

Planning a "French Dinner Party" is not all about the food. We had to decide what dishes to use, table linens, and of course, what to wear! We chose a dark blue damask table cloth with my mother's Limoges dishes and matching napkins which were folded in a "French Fold" .... gotta love Pintrest! My pansies were still thriving so I picked them for the table and even used them in the salad! Since Juliette and I (and Richard and Ross) were the chefs, we wore aprons and pearls, naturally.

The day of our dinner began with Juliette arriving with her super-duper mixing machine around 10:00 am. We began with the Chocolate Mouse and then moved on to the Coquilles St. Jacques.

Juliette tips the bowl of meringue over her head .... if nothing falls out, it's ready!

Juliette pipes the chocolate mousse into martini glasses and it turns out beautifully! Since this was a collaborative effort, our "better? halves" were not off the hook. Ross prepared the pate and the blaquette du veau and Richard was in charge of logistics.

It was great to have dinner guests who thoroughly embrace the theme of the evening ..... French attire and all!

I had clearer photos, but decided to post the one below .....  hands in motion, Cathy in a "blurry" of laughter and an arm in the way pouring some wine. After all that's what a French dinner party is all about right? The food is just an opportunity to bring us together for a good time! (Don't tell Julia Childs!)