Early morning is my favourite time of the day. I love getting up early to watch the daylight nudge away the darkness. Today was no exception. It was pretty cool at 1C degree. In fact, the water in the river was warmer because there was steam or mist rising from it. I felt the urge to go outside in my rubber boots and walk throught the moist, long grass down to the river and take some pictures to share with you …… it was quite cool standing there waiting for the sun to slowly, very slowly, show itself from over the eastern treeline. But I couldn’t resist the temptation to take pictures to show how lucky I am to see this every day.

Mist over the water and dew on the anchor

Mist over the water and dew on the anchor – waiting for the warm sun

Mallard ducks in the water and Canada Geese flying overhead waiting for the sun

Mallard ducks in the water and Canada Geese flying overhead waiting for the sun

Here comes the sun!

Here comes the sun!

second by second rising slowly

second by second rising slowly

from the dock

from the dock

Ahhh, it felt so toasty on my cold face

Ahhh, it felt so toasty on my cold face

Double sun reflecting off the water

Double sun reflecting off the water

View from the dock

View from the dock – we call this ‘Primetime’

View from back up at the house where it's shady

View from back up at the house where it’s shady

Reading Nancy Drew

With the ‘lazy days of’ summer waning, I have been making some time for myself.  I can always find myself doing other things that need to be done like house cleaning, gardening, grass cutting, or computer work.   In fact, I could do that constantly if I don’t force myself to do something relaxing.  Once I decided to take a break, it didn’t take long to remember those innocent days of my childhood summers and reading Nancy Drew Mystery stories.

My sister Betty got me interested in reading Nancy Drew – in fact, in reading, period.  Before then, I was an outdoor girl, always climbing trees or hiking or basically living outside when not in school.  Betty is two years older than me and had already a collection of several N. Drew (as we still affectionately call them) books.  One boring day, she threw one at me while I was lounging on my parent’s bed.  I clearly remember studying the hard cover of The Secret of Red Gate Farm, even reading the back cover with interest.  Then I slowly opened the book in true dramatic fashion – well that’s how I remember it anyway.   I couldn’t put it down until I was finished reading it!  The rest is history.


The Nancy Drew books were written by Carolyn Keene, who was actually a series of ghostwriters over the years.  The first mystery story was The Secret of the Old Clock published in 1930.  I have a first edition copy of that treasured favourite along with several other first editions.  Today, there are new (and different) Nancy Drew mysteries for young audiences but I LOVE reading the old classic books – the first 45 mysteries.  I love how I’m swept away to another time when life was simpler, except for Miss Nancy Drew.

Both Betty and I bought hard cover Nancy Drew books while we were teenagers.  I know I continued to purchase them even after I grew up, married, and left home.  There was one book, out of print by then, that I was missing to complete our collection of original books but I found it at our local second hand book store.  Actually the owner had taken my name and the specific book I was looking for and when it came in a year later, she called me.

When Betty’s daughter Brodie was a teen, all the books I had were sent to her to read.  Then when my daughter Kristi was a teen, all the books came back to me where they have remained lovingly tucked on the top 3 shelves of my bookshelf.

First Editions Collection

First Editions Collection

This summer, I wandered downstairs on a mission to choose a N. Drew book to read.  I thought I would be able to leisurely spread the reading over a week, but alas, I was swept up in the mystery story and finished reading it a few hours later.  Now I have a few Nancy Drew books on the table beside me so I can read whenever the mood strikes me.  I know why I like these books because the print is larger than most paperbacks and the paper is heavier.  It’s easier on my eyes.   AND because 50 years has passed since I read my first N. Drew story, I can’t remember how they turned out so it’s like reading them for the first time!

I have to admit, I STILL love reading Nancy Drew books.  I have to thank my sister Bet for lending me her first books to read and starting me on a lifetime path of reading.  And yes, Betty, they are still YOUR books!  lol


I love Milkweed plants.  Even though they grow wild around here and are considered ‘weeds’ by some, I let them grow in amongst my flower gardens.  I used to pull them out!  Yikes!!  That’s until I discovered that Milkweed is VERY important to the Monarch Butterfly.


Milkweeds are the only plants on which the monarchs deposit their eggs and on which their larvae feed. No milkweed, no monarchs.  I noticed a few years ago, that there weren’t nearly as many Monarchs flittering around here as the year before.  I researched online and found out that there is a serious decline in the Monarch population in North America.

Milkweed growing in my flower garden

Milkweed growing in my flower garden

One report stated “In the 1990s, up to one billion monarchs made the flight each fall from the northern U.S. and Canada to the forests north of Mexico City, and more than one million overwintered in forested groves on the California coast. Now, researchers and citizen scientists estimate that only about 56.5 million monarchs remain, representing a decline of more than 80 per cent from the 21-year average across North America.”

Another news report this summer said “One of the most widely recognized butterflies in North America, the monarch, is disappearing fast. Most of that decline is blamed on changing land use, but property owners can help shore up the population by setting aside monarch “way stations” filled with milkweed and other nectar-rich plants.  The extent of the milkweed-monarch habitat loss since 1996 is believed to be an area roughly the size of Texas.”

Milkweed flowering in my garden

Milkweed flowering in my garden

I was determined to do my part to help bring back the Monarch butterfly.  Whenever I have the opportunity, I encourage Milkweed to grow on my property.  I let them spread by root and go to seed, hoping that more plants will come up next year.  The Milkweed isn’t taking over my flower beds and actually looks quite attractive mixed in with the rest of my ‘cottage-style’ garden.

Milkweed seed pods

Milkweed seed pods

I’m glad I made this observation about the missing Monarchs several years ago because now I have a good start on my Milkweed-enhanced garden.  Since I read that the most effective response is planting monarch “way stations” or habitats to provide the resources needed to produce successive generations of monarchs and sustain them during their migration, I believe I’m on the right track.

Family Treasures

This morning I dusted off the top of my wood cookstove’s warming oven where I keep important collectibles.  I had a good time, believe it or not.  Every time I picked up something which needed dusting, I was sent down memory lane.

This hard piece of fungus was brought home by my son Marty in 1997.  He skillfully scratched his name and date into it’s surface at that time.  I’ve kept it ever since as a tribute to Marty’s love of nature.


Driftwood.  I love collecting driftwood from the shores of both eastern and western Canada.  I’ve brought home hunks of driftwood sticking out of my carry-on luggage on an airliner or on top of my vehicle.  This wee piece was picked up on Vancouver Island and rests between a large chunk of redwood bark and a small twig covered in moss and lichens.


All over my house, I have artwork created by my children when they were young.  This funky mug was made by my daughter Nellie.


Along with collecting driftwood, I like to walk along beaches and collect rocks and shells.  I have baskets of shells and sea glass on my front porch.  When my granddaughters Kalia and Livi were small, they used to love inspecting each and every shell over and over again.  This sliver of rock had fallen off the sheer rock face along the shore beside Percé Rock in the Gaspe where we visited with some of my grown children and grandchildren in 2008.


In low tide, you can walk on the sand bar out to the magnificent Percé Rock.  Years ago, I picked up a small piece of the rock which had falled off into a large heap at the base of the rock.


My daughter-in-law Nici painted this seagull in flight on a slice of granite.  Beautiful.


When I was a little girl, we used to visit my grandparents’ farm on the Gaspé.  We would always go on little day trips to Hull’s River or Percé or down the Line Road to old family farmsteads to pick berries.  This old iron was found by my Mother in an old falling-down farm house which used to be home to a long-gone relative.  For years, my Mother used it as a door stop.


I have other treasures that my children made for me or I picked up along the way of my life’s journey – they are scattered around the house where I can see or touch them and think.

Wild Raspberries

Sorry, but I won’t be making wild raspberry jam this summer.  Or pie.  The rain has been favourable for my wild raspberries – there’s a good area just before the lawn swing along the side of the backyard where they’ve totally taken off this year.  Every time I walk down to the garden, I pause and pick a berry or two……actually a handful or two.  They are perfect with no bugs, mold, or rot.  Better than the cultivated raspberry patch.  In fact, they are so perfect that I can’t seem to get them into the house.  I just keep eating them!  When my hand gets full of raspberries, I just pop them in my mouth and eat while picking another hand full.


When I was a young girl in the 1950’s, I used to pick wild raspberries at my Grandparent’s farm on the Gaspe coast when we visited.  My Grandma, Mom, would tell us that if we picked a potful, she would make a pie.  So my cousins, Maureen and Verna, and I along with my sisters Betty and Faye would walk along the back road and pick wild raspberries along the fence lines.  We’d talk and play while we walked and picked a pot full.  Sure enough, Mom had a pie or two ready later that afternoon.

I wish that now I could resist eating all the berries that I pick.

So, again, I apologize in advance for NOT making jam.  Or pie.


Cinnamon Buns

One of my favourite memories of visiting my grandparent’s farm on the Gaspé is my Grandmother’s (‘Mom’ as we affectionately called her) cinnamon buns.  The smell of them baking was heavenly!  As a young woman, I never even attempted to bake these delicious rolls because I knew I’d never match those of Moms.  I’ve now accepted the fact that I cannot reproduce those specific buns or that smell of cinnamon mixed with the farm scents of manure and the ocean’s salty air in my grandmother’s kitchen.


About 15 years ago, I got a bread making machine for Christmas.  I use it these days to make my own cinnamon roll dough.  The Basic Sweet Dough recipe calls for the ingredients to be added to the bread maker and the setting set on ‘Dough’.  After 90 minutes, the dough is ready to be rolled out on a floured countertop.  Last time I made these, I was outside during the machine-making phase and was so busy in the garden that I forgot about it until 2 hours past the time it was done.  When I got inside, the dough  completely  filled the entire bread machine right to the top!  It was the best dough ever!  I gently rolled it out being careful to maintain all the air bubble which make it rise.


Once the dough is rolled out to approximately 12 inches by 18 inches, I butter it generously over the entire surface.  Then I spoon or shake on LOTS of cinnamon all over which I cover completely with brown sugar.  I roll it up into a long ‘log’ and cut one inch ‘rolls’ – about 12-15 of them.  Sometimes I put them in a glass pan but usually I bake them on a large cookie sheet.  I move my oven rack up one level so it’s not too close to the heat.  Preheat the oven to 325F degrees   and bake for 12-15 minutes.  I have a ‘hot’ oven so I usually take them out after about 14 minutes when they are just starting to brown.  We usually can’t wait for them to cool, so I carefully pull one apart to ‘taste-test’ it…….. well that’s my excuse anyway.

rolled out WM

Here’s the Cinnamon Buns recipe:

Basic Sweet Dough

Put all these ingredients into your bread-maker in order:

1 Cup Water

2 large eggs

¼ cup Butter, softened

2 teaspoons salt

4 cups flour

½ cup sugar

3 tablespoons Skim Milk Powder

2 teaspoons quick-rise Yeast

As I mentioned, select the ‘Dough’ setting on your bread-maker and start.


Once the dough is done, in 90 minutes (like I said, I’m letting mine sit in the bread-maker for another 2 hours from now on), lightly flour a countertop.  Dump the dough onto the flour.  Use a floured rolling pin to roll it out.  Check to see if it’s sticking to the counter and if it is, add more flour to the counter.  Completely butter it, add the cinnamon and sprinkle on the brown sugar with your hand, roll up, and cut into pieces.  Grease the baking pan with butter and ‘very lightly’ sprinkle a little bit of flour.  Place the round buns on your pan and cover with a linen cloth, waxed paper, or plastic wrap.  Put in the oven and turn the light on (which will add a bit of heat).  Let rise for one hour.  Remove from the oven after an hour, preheat to 325F and then bake for 12-15 minutes.


You can add icing if you want – I don’t usually.  Mix icing sugar with a wee bit of milk so it’s thick enough to gently spread.  AFTER the buns have cooled completely, drizzle with icing.

Store at room temperature in a container with a tight fitting lid.  I use a cookie tin.  It takes the two of us about 3 days to eat 15 cinnamon buns and the last one is as fresh as the first one.


For my cousin Bruce, in honour of Andrea

Shoreline Naturalization

I’ve lived along the shores of the Rideau River for almost 35 years.  I’m grateful that nature has shared it with me and others.  This river and the canal system that’s part of it, is a National Historic Site, Canadian Heritage River, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it remains the most extensive, well preserved and significant example of a continuous working canal/river in North America.  Most sections of the river remain in their natural state, even rugged wilderness, while other areas support farms, homes, small towns, two big cities, and historic lock stations.

Our local conservation association is helping waterfront homeowners to restore their shoreline to a natural state to encourage a more positive ecosystem for flora and fauna through their Shoreline Naturalization Program.  I first heard about this program a few years ago and even talked to someone at the local Ecofair last year.   I read up on it and even found the guidebook On the Living Edge Handbook: Your Handbook to Waterfront Living at last fall’s book fair.  I believe I already follow sustainable waterfront living, as mentioned in the book, like using clean recycled 45 gallon plastic drums (we were told they used to hold Coca-cola syrup) for our docks. But I was also guilty of a few things like making a beach 33 years ago with trucks of sand for the kids to play in.  In the last few years, I’ve let the cattails and natural plants grow back in along the beach.

Siberian Iris among the cattails

Siberian Iris among the cattails

This spring, I contacted the conservation authority to say that I was interested.  I was too late for this spring’s projects but I had an on-site shoreline consultation about my vision.   Luckily, I agreed to receive the ‘surplus stock’ from this years’ plantings:  a variety of 106 native trees and bushes including White Pine; Red Maple; Sugar Maple; White Birch; Bur Oak; Tamarack; Cedar; Sweet Gale; and Pagoda Dogwood.  They came as bare-rooted seedlings from 12-36” (less than a meter) tall.  I planted them in 3 days.

Most of the tree seedlings were planted along the sides of the property – sugar maples closer to the house for easier accessibility for tapping in the spring when there might still be snow on the ground.  The lower growing bushes, Sweet Gale and Pagoda Dogwood, were planted down along the river and up along the sides.  I’ve saved a few for my ditch project.



Along with these plantings, I’m practicing natural management of my grass cutting along the river.  I’ve left a wavy swath 5-15 feet wide along the river’s edge this year with a path to the dock.  I’m so thrilled that I have my own wee meadow!  There are all kinds of native plants already growing like Daisies, Siberian Iris, native Irises, ferns, Joe Pye Weed, orange Daylillies, and wild Morning Glories.  I’ve transplanted some ostrich ferns and other plants that love wet areas.  I also have some Rue Meadow growing prolifically on the path by my pond that I’m going to transplant down by the river.  Yesterday I noticed places where snapping turtles have probably laid their eggs.  And I think we have a resident muskrat under the old dock.

I’m looking forward to watching nature do her thing down by the river.

"Flags" wild Iris

“Flags” wild Iris

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