Giving Thanks


I’m thankful for many things in my life:

Family. I feel so grateful to have a family. There are actually some people in this world who are alone without another soul in their family. I can’t imagine how lonely that must be. My family is huge! Seven grown children, 5 children-in-law/girlfriend, 5 grandchildren, two amazing Sisters and their families, nieces and nephews, Aunts, and cousins galore!

2005 plus new additions to the family

2005 plus new additions to the family


Home. I’m grateful to have a roof over my head that I’ve called home since 1981. The walls could tell all those stories over the course of those years! The births, weddings, funeral…..

Food. I love food. I’m grateful that I live in a country like Canada that has so much fresh food. There are local farmers who work extremely hard to grow food for my table and I appreciate their efforts immensely . I am thankful that there is a local store that’s been in business for over 50 years, the B & H Community Grocer, which strives to bring locally produced items in to their store for customers like me. Even those people living in a challenging place right now in their lives have access to food through local food banks and ‘soup kitchens’ across our country.

Canada. I’m a proud Canadian. I have the privilege of living in a country where I’m free to be a person, a woman, a citizen.

My grown children and granddaughters who will be filling my woodshed today. I’ve moved aside the dry firewood left over from last winter in my woodshed so I can burn it first. My sons Darin, Taylor, and Melvin as well as my two granddaughters almost 11 year old Kalia and 9 year old Livi are coming today to fill my woodshed and stack the other 8 cords beside the garage, for the next few years.



I’m thankful that my winter chores list is getting shorter. The hardest thing was catching that last goldfish in the pond to put in their winter home in my coldroom. I must have walked ten miles around that pond trying to catch the little escape artist! I have to dig my canna lily bulbs tomorrow but a few other things will have to wait, like getting my winter snow tires on.

Today, after the wood is stacked, we will celebrate this season of giving thanks with a roast turkey dinner and all the trimmings like mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, carrots, turnip, dressing like my Mom used to make, Nellie’s cabbage salad, and my pasta/tuna salad (without onions for my granddaughters). And Sarah’s pumpkin pie for dessert.


When Mum Died


This has always been a hard week for me every year for the past 40 years….. my sisters too.  My Mum died unexpectedly on September 24, 1975 from a sudden stroke caused by a brain aneurysm.  She was 45 years old.  It was the end of the world as we knew it:  in one single instant, I went from the happiest I’d ever been in my life to the deepest, extreme sadness that I never knew existed.

In mid-August 1975, I had just given birth to my first baby when I was 22 years old.  I was absolutely ecstatic, over-the-moon, with a joy that I’d never experienced before.  My Mum was very pleased to have a new grandson to go along with her one year old granddaughter.   I was living in a city an hour away but managed to come home to see my family every weekend.  One Sunday afternoon in early September, we were busy taking photos with our Polaroid instant camera outside with the grandbabies on the lawn swing when my Mum decided it was too cold for my newborn and we should go inside.  So we went indoors because Gramma knows best.  She said that there would be lots of chances to get more pictures anyway.  Sadly, there wasn’t and I never got one single picture of my Mum holding my baby.


Mum 1972


I’ll never forget where I was and what I was doing when I got that phone call from my sister – I was walking through the dining area of our apartment in the married students’ residence at the University.  She told me first not to worry but that Mum had been in the hospital for the past few days.  Mum had asked her not to tell me because I had a new baby to look after and didn’t need to worry.  She had been experiencing headaches for the past year and her Doctor didn’t know why.  She’d had a complete physical the week before and everything seemed okay except for a urinary tract infection.  I remember that because I drove her downtown to pick up her prescription the week before.  The night she went to the hospital, my sister Faye found her lying on the floor in the hall while she was talking to my other sister Betty on the phone – she talked incoherently.  She was first admitted with possible ‘psychological’ problems – which WE knew was wrong.   Three days after that, doctors diagnosed a brain aneurysm.  That’s when I got the call.

Doctors put her on medication and assured us that it would heal itself even though it was inoperable.  I came to stay and help my sisters with my Mum while she was in the hospital.  We planned how we would all take turns looking after her when she got home.  I had a nursing newborn who wasn’t allowed into the hospital with me while I visited my Mum so I had to leave him with my wonderful in-laws at times for a few hours.   I remember vividly when we washed my Mum’s hair for her and she kept saying how thankful she was to have us.  We honestly believed the Doctors and expected her to return home soon.  The next week, I went back home for some rest and to get more clothes as I anticipated taking care of my Mum at her home in the next couple of days.  Instead, I got a frantic call from my sister to come right away because something happened and Mum was in the ICU.  I finally arrived in the middle of the night.  My beautiful, sweet Mum was laying there with a respirator breathing for her.  I just stared.  Watching her chest go up and down.  Her eyes were opened slightly with little slits.  Her forehead looked bruised and swollen.  Hot tears slowly streamed down my cheeks – I was paralyzed with grief.  I stroked her arm, now hooked up to an I.V.  Someone said that her brain aneurysm had burst inside her head.

We were told to come back at ten o’clock the next morning – after they’d had a chance to do a brain scan.  We sat there solemnly, wringing our hands:  Dad, my sisters and I and probably spouses.  I was looking at the floor when the two Doctors told us that my Mum was brain-dead.  Dead.  I felt like I couldn’t breath and I was going to pass out.  My chest hurt, my heart hurt – it really hurt, like it was being ripped into a million pieces.  The respirator was still breathing for her and keeping her heart pumping – she looked alive.  What were they talking about?  As I sat there frozen, shocked, and numb, they started asking us about organ donation – they wanted to know if we would consent to donating my Mum’s kidneys.  To this day, I cannot believe that we agreed so quickly.  But we knew that Mum would want to give this last gift.

Years later, with all the experience and knowledge I now have, I still feel guilty that I didn’t question the Doctors or ask to see these results or tell them “no” they have to keep her going on the respirator for however long it takes for her brain to heal or………

It wasn’t over.  We had to make “the call” down home to my Grandparents which we did right there from the hospital.  Several relatives had wanted to come up the week before but we assured them that it would be best to wait until she got home from the hospital when they could help out.  Instead of good news, we had to tell them she was gone.  I heard my Grandmother was de-feathering freshly killed chickens when she got the news – she could never, ever do that again as long as she lived.   They made plans to come up for the funeral.

I had never been to a funeral or seen a dead person before.  It was surreal going to the funeral home just up the street from our house – I’d passed it almost every day when I went to high school.  Walking through the ‘coffin room’, deciding on a casket, planning the visitation and funeral was numbing.  I cried all the time.  I cried myself to sleep.  I cried while nursing my month old baby.  I cried every day for a year.   So many people loved my Mum.  There were so many flowers and meals brought to the house.  I especially remember my Godmother with her hand on my shoulder, steadying me – she walked me back to the house during afternoon visitation because I was convinced I saw my Mum breathing.  But in fact her skin was cold and hard – not warm and soft like I remembered.  Even the make-up couldn’t entirely disguise the bruises on her forehead.  I even got scolded from one aunt for bringing my nursing newborn to the funeral home’s family room during one of the afternoon visitations.

The funeral itself was held at the church my Mum went to and it was packed.  At the graveside, my Godfather held me steady.  Back at the house, I was horrified when relatives started going through her closet and taking ‘souvenirs’.  Down in the basement, I was upset again to find the men drinking.  My Godmother told me that people have different ways of coping and expressing their grief.  I couldn’t understand then but I do now that I’m older.

I think of my Mum every day.  I think of all the times I needed her and she wasn’t there to talk to.  I grieve that she didn’t see my other children and share in their growing up.  I really wish they had a chance to know what a kind, sweet person she was but then I remind myself that she lives in each one of them.

Writing this blog post has been cathartic for me.  I’m grateful to finally write down, for the first time, about my Mum’s last days which have shaped the rest of my life.

Last picture of Mum with Brodie, August 1975

Last picture of Mum with Brodie, August 1975




Down Home


Down home ~ the mere thought of those words brings a warm and fuzzy feeling to my heart. Down home is where my ancestors have lived, some for 2,500 years in the area (native Micmac on my Grandmother’s side) while others arrived in Canada from a few hundred years ago. It’s where I have some of the most cherished memories of my life, spending many summers as a child on my Grandparents farm and bringing my own children for visits.

1967 Down Home

1967 Down Home painting


I recently travelled down home, a.k.a. New Carlisle, Quebec on the Gaspe coast, with my two sisters Betty and Faye. It was a trip of a lifetime – actually the first time the 3 of us have gone down together at the same time, ever: no parents, no children, no ‘significant others’, just the three of us.
We took two days to drive down to the Gaspesie stopping overnight in Riviere du Loup where we rented a lovely 2 bedroom cottage overlooking the St. Lawrence River.

Riviere du Loup sunset

Riviere du Loup sunset

The next day we drove the old highway 132 which we took back in the day before there was a super highway – it was absolutely beautiful and worth not rushing to get ‘home’. Along the way, we stopped at the old ‘wishing well’ which still houses the spring that we always visited as kids on the old road through the Matepedia Valley.  We had reserved a room down home at the Maison Blanche that had a little kitchenette in it to help us prepare simple meals and snacks. After settling in, we ventured down to The Green, a park on Chaleur Bay. The boardwalk was impressive, the park was in great shape, and the cantine was still open. Every time we went out of our hotel room, we drove down to The Green to see if anyone was there – and there usually was someone we knew………… and were related to!

Cousin Maureen and Murray

Cousin Maureen and Murray

Our relatives were SO generous and thoughtful by inviting us for lunches and dinners! Of course, we had to visit Maureen and Murray Sinclair first. My cousin Maureen and her sisters Carolyn and Verna were especially close to us girls – when we were growing up, they came to visit us by train many times or we went down home and hung out with them every single day. Maureen and Murray even stayed with us for a time when they came up to Hamilton to live for a while. Maureen’s great home cooking was the perfect lunch after travelling for a few days. She even took care of the painting from my Grandparents’ farm that I did in 1967 for them – after the farm was sold, Maureen looked after the painting and to returned it to me this year.
My cousin Dale and her husband Dave also had us over for a scrumptious lunch one day after taking us on a tour of the renovated homestead (a.k.a. Mom’s). After my Grandmother and uncles died, they purchased the family farm and renovated the old house – it’s truly beautiful. I especially love that they reused the original banister post that I used to lovingly hug when I was a child – it’s my favourite part of the whole house. I’m pleased that the homestead has become a working farm again with a huge garden, pigs, and chickens.

Up home at "Moms"

Up home at “Moms”

My Auntie Mary had us over for supper twice – once for a ‘boiled dinner’ and another time for her famous scallops and fish. Oh my goodness, it was delicious. Then she took us back the four miles to the old homestead site where my Grandmother was raised and told us stories of the incredibly hard life they lived back in the early 1900’s on their amazing farm. Even a family friend, Dolly, had us over for a delicious cod fish dinner.
A trip down home wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Perce Rock. We three sisters went down to Perce for lunch, an hour and a half drive each way through majestic scenery along the coast.

Perce Rock

Perce Rock

We discovered that the town of New Carlisle still pretty well shuts down after supper. But we also realized that the Tim Horton’s in the next town of Paspebiac is the place to go if you want to see anyone! We were sitting there on Saturday evening when a gentleman and his wife came up to us and asked “are you Dave’s girls?”. Incredibly, he had seen our picture of lunch at Maureen’s on her Facebook page. This man, John, had known my father when he was very young – in fact, my Dad lived with his family before he joined the army in 1939! John told us all kinds of stories about my Dad and his family – we never knew anything about my Dad’s youth.

Window Dad broke 1930s

Window Dad broke 1930s

My Dad once told John that he used to rock him in his cradle. It was a real pleasure to meet John and Anne. They even took us to John’s parents’ old homestead and showed us around – describing antics my Dad used to do like doing a flip and touching the kitchen ceiling with his feet or showing us the dormer storm window that my Dad broke and fixed one year, still in it’s original condition fixed with putty.  John showed us the now vacant lot where the house my Dad was born in used to stand.  We found out that my Dad didn’t always live by the railroad tracks as we had thought; they first lived on Craig Street (go figure) right behind John’s farm. I felt comforted knowing that my Dad spent some of his childhood in a loving family home helping on the farm in return for room and board in a home where he was really wanted. It was fascinating! And a real highlight of our trip.



We left already planning our next trip down home in two years for our Auntie Alberta’s 90th birthday celebration.




Man on the Moon


Forty-five years ago today July 20, 1969, the first human being, Neil Armstrong, stepped on to our moon uttering these words: “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” (watch it here).

Neil Armstron stepping on to the moon

Neil Armstrong stepping on to the moon

Indeed it was. I was 16 years old at the time and I witnessed that historical event. I’ll never forget it. I was down east on holidays at my grandparent’s farm with my Mom and Dad at the time. To this day, I can recall vividly sitting all by myself in the dark, watching it on the black and white TV. It was ironic that I was sitting there on an old fashioned farm that still had milking cows, chickens that laid the eggs, a garden full of the year’s potatoes and vegetables, and hay growing in the fields and yet, there I was, watching a man walk on the moon – live on TV!
Apollo 11 was the name of this space mission to the moon under the direction of NASA – the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In the sixties, there were a series of space flights beginning with a simple flight to the outer atmosphere of our planet Earth and culminating with several moon landings. We watched almost every space ship launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on the east coast of the U.S. on our TV in the living room. It was an exciting time for a kid and adult alike. Little did I know the politics involved in the space program. The United States and the Soviet Union were in a space race. Russia was the first country to put a man into space (up through the atmosphere and straight back to earth), much to the chagrin of the United States. This was a race like no other. These two countries were in the throws of a ‘cold war’ which basically meant that they didn’t trust each other, weren’t getting along, and were always trying to ‘one up’ each other. The late President Kennedy had promised in 1961 “that before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”


Crew of Apollo 11

The crew of Apollo 11 included Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin (the second man to walk on the moon) and Michael Collins. The rocket that launched them into space on July 16, 1969 had three parts: 1. a Command Module (nicknamed Columbia from the Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon) with a cabin for the three astronauts, and the only part that landed back on Earth; 2. a Service Module, which supported the Command Module with propulsion, electrical power, oxygen, and water; and 3. a Lunar Module for landing on the Moon, nicknamed the “Eagle”. It took 3 days to get to the moon from the earth. The world held our collective breath when the Lunar Module, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on board, was landing on the moon’s surface in an area named the ‘Sea of Tranquility’ – nothing like this had ever been attempted before in history. The entire world cheered when it was successful. These two men were on the moon for 21 1/2 hours and participated in a two and a half hour moon walk. It was breathtaking! They planted an American flag and left some momentoes like a piece of wood from the Wright brothers’ 1903 airplane’s left propeller, in addition to the footprints in the moon’s surface.

First footprint on the moon - photo by Buzz Aldrin

First footprint on the moon – photo by Buzz Aldrin

Again, when the Lunar Module blasted off from the moon, our global breath was held until they successfully docked with the Command Module circling the moon’s orbit with Michael Collins. They returned to Earth on July 24th in the Command Module which splashed down with parachutes in the Pacific Ocean. The astronauts where quarantined for 21 days in a retrofitted Airstream trailer, in case they brought back any ‘moon pathogens’.
Of course, the American’s held huge parades in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles for the Astronauts and celebrated their successful win of the space race with the Soviet Union.
But what I remember most is sitting alone in the dark at my Gramma’s, watching the moon walk late at night and looking out the window at the moon and the stars with incredible wonderment.

Earth from the moon.

Earth from Apollo 11






Barbequed Pizza


Recently one hot summer afternoon, I had a craving for homemade pizza.  It all started when I spotted the pizza crust dough in the freezer that my daughter-in-law Jeanette had left.  I took it out and let it sit until it was room temperature.   I also took out a small jar of pasta sauce from the freezer.

I dusted flour on a piece of wax paper on my center island and proceeded to roll it out to fit my cookie sheet.  It was easy to pick up the wax paper with the dough on it and lay it on the oiled cookie sheet.  I then fired up the barbeque to fully heat up.  I cut up some onions, a red pepper, a tomato, and grated some mozzarella cheese.

Pizza ready for BBQ

Pizza ready for BBQ


I spread on some pasta sauce then sprinkled the cut up veggies and sliced olives from the fridge then topped the whole thing with mozzarella cheese.  By this time the BBQ was hot (around 550F degrees).  I brought the pizza outside and placed it on the upper shelf inside the barbeque.  Then I turned all the burners down to their lowest setting and set my timer for 15 minutes.

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

After it was cooked, I let it sit for 5 minutes.  Wow, what a delicious pizza!  I ate several square pieces and let the rest cool to put in the fridge for later – actually it lasted for 3 lunches.

Here’s Jeanette’s Pizza Dough recipe:

Mix together:

2 teaspoons dry yeast

¾ cup lukewarm water

2.3 cup flour (white)

Let sit for 30 minutes, then add:

1 cup of flour

1 cup of cold water

Let sit for another 30 minutes.


4 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup olive oil

Add  flour ½ cup at a time until dough pulls from the side of the bowl.  Knead for 10 minutes and let rise until doubled in size.   Freezes well in large baseball size pieces.






Remembering Hill Park

Recently I attended my high school reunion.  This was a bittersweet event because my old alma mater Hill Park Secondary School is being closed and demolished.



This reunion was the last opportunity to walk the halls and the rare chance to toast with alcohol in the school cafeteria.  I estimate that over a thousand people attended during the evening.  The Alumni Association did a bang-up job organizing the afternoon walk down memory lane through the halls, gyms, library, and classrooms.  In the evening, the girls gym was set up with displays by decades (50’s and 60’s; 70’s, 80’s, etc.) and the cafeteria hosted the bar and outside teachers’ parking lot sported food vendors.   I attended with my sister Faye who was a student in the early sixties while I was a student in the late sixties and early seventies.  It was awesome.




When it was built in 1955, Hill Park was a state-of-the-art school and the first high school on the Hamilton mountain.  Later, long after I graduated, a community center with pool was added as well as an Early Childhood Center.

My years at Hill Park were probably one of the best times of my life.  I met my first husband there.  I actually don’t remember much of what I learned but occasionally something from that era will pop out of my head, like a quote from Shakespeare or the simple typing skills I learned which I’m using right now.  I know I retained a lot regardless.  Some friends that I knew in high school have reconnected through Facebook while others have slipped from my life long ago.   In high school, I LOVED sports.


I was on most of the girls’ school teams, played all intramural sports, and even refereed intramural games of volleyball and basketball.  I was on the basketball team (yes, I’m only 5’2”), volleyball team, track and field team, and gymnastics team.



I recall that many winter nights after practice, I’d phone my sister Faye and ask her if she could pick me up at school to save me the 5 mile walk home in the dark – bless her heart, she never said no and always came to get me even in her bathrobe and hair curlers.

Infamous Phone Booth

Infamous Phone Booth

I LIVED for sports.  Our school teams were called the Rams.  Classes where a way to pass the time until gym class or after school for team practises or games.

1971 Spring Formal in the dress I made.

1971 Spring Formal in the dress I made.

My favourite teacher of all time was Miss Joyce Reynolds, my gym teacher.  Long after I left Hill Park and was married with children, I found out that Miss Reynolds lived beside my mother-in-law.  I was able to tell her then how much she meant to me and the important impact she had on my life.  Another teacher I ‘admired’ (okay, was gaga over), was a young British lad who seemed not much older than us students – now, remember, this was during the decade of the Beatles and other British rock groups and ANYONE with an English accent was SO cool.  He was dreamie………. I worked so hard in his class dissecting my and other classmates dead specimens (for ‘brownie points’ I’m certain),  that I ended up with 92% in that biology class.  Even though I was in the course stream which was destined for post-secondary education, I loved Home Economics class and Art the best.  At the reunion, I met someone at the ‘70s display who didn’t even know that Hill Park offered Art class.  I still love art and practice ‘home economics’ on a daily basis lol.

'71 Grad Day

’71 Grad Day

I remember that I spent a lot of ‘spares’ in the cafeteria or the library with friends.  In my final year there, I was part of the ‘Soc Club’ that helped organize various events like the Christmas toy drive where some of my fellow students had tons of fun playing with the toys like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot.  Or Grad Day where I was JestHer and my boyfriend was JestHim – we made bristle board size playing cards and hats for costumes.  It was great to have the day off to just goof off and spend time in the exclusive ‘Grad Lounge’.  Ahhh, those were the days with nothing much to think about ……..

As Faye and I walked the halls and visited the library a few weeks ago, I noticed that all the years worth of student councils photos were on display on the far wall.  I remembered that I had been on student council one year and there I was, all this time on display and I didn’t even know it, Sentinal Executive of 1969-70, grade 11 Rep.

Student Council

We also walked into the Auditorium where we proudly graduated on stage after grade 12.  The Board of Education made a completely brainless decision that year to make all the grade 13 students attend one of two schools downtown the next year which meant that we couldn’t finish our high school career in our beloved Hill Park.   I had to leave the school that I loved, the friends that I had, and take public transportation to a foreign school – I lasted until the new year then eloped, quit school, and moved to another city.

Sadly, I didn’t get to see any of my old friends during the reunion – there were SO many people there!  I guess we should have planned a meeting spot but I didn’t expect such a crowd.  Actually, I didn’t recognize anyone anymore.  However, one gentleman at the sixties display remembered my other sister Betty who wasn’t there because she lives on Vancouver Island! lol  Everyone remembers Betty!

once a Ram Always

I will always remember Hill Park, those teachers, and friends who left a tremendous impression on my life.  Cheers to Hill Park!  Go Rams Go!!



I spent a pleasant half an hour yesterday afternoon in my back yard cutting organic Stinging Nettle leaves into a bucket.  I was careful (this time) not to touch any part of the plant to avoid the stinging.  Nettles grow wild around here.  I used to pull them out, roots and all, and chuck them in my fire pit.  Now I’m just careful not to touch them.  I harvested a half a 5 gallon bucket of fresh nettle leaves with my vinyl kitchen gloves on – enough to fill six dehydrator trays.  This first batch is promised to my niece Brodie.

I remember once when my boys were small and they were playing a game of hide-and-seek in the back yard.  One of them (Taylor or Darin) hid in the nice big green plants and came yelping out, jumping up and down as they were stinging from head to toe:  he had hid in a patch of stinging nettle.


Stinging Nettles growing by the river

Stinging Nettles growing by the river

Urtica dioica, often called common nettle or stinging nettle, is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant, native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and North America, and is the best-known member of the nettle genus Urtica.  Nettles are an amazing herb.    They’ve been used medicinally for hundreds of years to treat joint/muscle pain, eczema, arthritis, gout, anemia, urinary tract infections, hay fever, joint pain, tendonitis, insect bites, sprains, and strains.

It’s no wonder that stinging nettle is a wonder herb:  per 100 grams (1 cup = 89 grams) contains Total Fat 0.1 g; Sodium 4 mg; Potassium 334 mg; Total Carbohydrate 7 g; Dietary fiber 7 g; Sugar 0.2 g; Protein 2.7 g; Vitamin A 40%; Calcium 48%; Iron 8%; Vitamin B-6 5%; and Magnesium 14% (% based on a 2,000 calorie diet)!   It can be taken as a tea, tincture, or included in a skin cream.

As with all herbs, nettle should be respected when it comes to possible interaction with other herbs, medications, or medical conditions.  It’s always a good idea to speak with your health care professional.

  • Nettle can raise or lower blood sugar so diabetics need to monitor their blood sugar closely to determine the effect of nettle on their own body.
  • Stinging nettle can have a diuretic effect, raising the risk of dehydration, and it can increase the effects of Diuretic drugs
  • Stinging nettle may affect the blood’s ability to clot, and could interfere with blood thinning drugs.
  • Stinging nettle may lower blood pressure, so it could make the effects of drugs for high blood pressure stronger
  • Because stinging nettle can act as a diuretic, it can increase the effects of these drugs,
  • Stewed stinging nettle leaves enhance the anti-inflammatory effect of NSAIDs, reducing pain in acute arthritis.
  • Pregnant women should not use nettle.


Drying Nettles

Drying Nettles

This morning, the nettles were crisp and dry in the dehydrator overnight.  I crunched them up in a Ziploc bag then put them in a Mason jar to store.  I’ll get outside later and cut off some more stinging nettle leaves to dry.





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