Tuesday, 29 December 2020

In Between

We're in the bit in between Christmas and New Year. The time when we normally visit friends, or take the kids to a Holiday movie, or crowd the stores looking for end of year bargains, or go to a hockey game, or a football game... but this year is very different. The area where I live is in lockdown. People are encouraged to stay at home, and only go out for essential shopping or for exercise. 

Christmas Day was very quiet for me... I was at home all day, and had a very short but welcome visit from OlderSon and family.... fully masked, and following the rules. Just enough time for tea and a cookie and a little gift exchange and then they were off home to their own Christmas. 

But a friend dropped by on Boxing Day with a gift of some fresh figs.... lovely!

I was able to spend an early Christmas with YoungerSon and family a week ago at their country property before the lockdown started. We had a Christmas dinner, presents under the tree, lots of chocolate and snacks, and played our traditional party games. I played far too much Monopoly, Catan and Scrabble. 
One of my special gifts this year was from grandie Isaac. Now that the family has moved to a home 1-1/2 hour drive away, he doesn't see me very often, so he documented all the happy memories of growing up and visiting my house.
Then he said "Turn them over, Nana!"
A thoughtful gift full of love, treasured forever!
Their country property has a large tree.... species yet to be determined.... and the kids have nailed a home made ladder to the trunk and fixed up a tire swing, so I made some sketches and then some lino cut printing plates and now this masterpiece is hanging on their wall. 

Only a few more days until the year 2020 is history, people the world over will be glad to see it go. Lots of optimistic hopes for 2021.... getting the vaccine, being able to gather with family again, restarting activities that have been cancelled, trying to live a "normal" life. This is one occasion where the special words HAPPY NEW YEAR really mean a lot!

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Almond Crescents and Holiday Greetings

I haven't done much baking this Christmas due to nobody available to do the eating. Thanks, Mr. Covid!  But I did make almond crescents. Blogger Boud sort of challenged me to post pictures. She made some and they looked really good so here are mine. Not perfect but soooooo delicious! A definite Christmas tradition in my house.

I'll be on my own this Christmas Day, but that's OK with me. I spent 4 crazy days with YoungerSon and family last week and we had our Christmas dinner and party around the tree, presents, and chocolates and board games and Pass-the-Parcel and Consequences (gotta play those games every Christmas or it's not a proper Christmas). Great fun.

I'll be seeing OlderSon and family on Christmas Day for a physically distanced dog walk (weather permitting, there's a nasty storm headed this way) and perhaps we can sit in the garage and enjoy coffee and some of the famous almond crescents and exchange gifts. A weird Christmas, but necessary. The whole Province of Ontario is going into Covid lockdown for 28 days starting on Boxing Day. Infection numbers are steadily rising and hospitals are filling up. The vaccine is on order and I can't wait for my turn. So we have to be sensible and follow the rules.

Meanwhile..... happy holiday season to everyone, whether you can be with your loved ones or apart.... whether you celebrate Christmas or not.... and let's keep our hopes up for a Covid-free, peaceful and healthy 2021!

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

This Week

Well, I'm sad to report that my region is back into Covid lockdown as of Monday morning. All non-essential stores have to close but can offer curb pick up or delivery. Restaurants and coffee shops too, and gyms, hairdressers, museums, theatre, everything that we all used to consider part of normal life. But the big stores like Walmart and Costco can still open, because they sell food, but can also sell everything else, while the family owned shops have to close. It's not right!

I cut the Christmas cake I made into quarters, and covered each one with almond paste, or marzipan. There should be a layer of royal icing on top, but that's even more sugar which is just too much. Family will be getting some of these.

We had an overnight snowfall a few days ago, and the trees looked very pretty for a while, until the temperature rose and all the snow melted. You can see where the treerats have knocked the snow down along the squirrel highway.
Last year at this time I took part in an ATC trading event.... ATC = Artist Trading Cards 2.5"x3.5"..... I wrote about it here and showed pictures of the cards here. We met at a local Art Gallery for the afternoon, it was a bit crazy with everyone exchanging cards and trying to add the best cards to their collections, but so much fun.
Of course, 2020 and Mr Covid has put a stop to any in person events, so one of the artists organized a physically distanced remote ATC exchange . 18 people agreed to make cards, and we dropped them off at her house, along with a small donation to the local food bank. She sorted them, and made sure everyone got at least one card from each artist.

Here are a selection of the cards that I received, already filed into their plastic storage pages. Little tiny works of art.  This was such a welcome creative distraction in an otherwise gloomy time. I hope that by next year we can do this in person.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

The Triangle Project

Since July, our local art gallery has been building this 8' long panel full of colourful triangles. Anyone in the community was invited to do some art, make some shapes, paint some colours, create some collage, all on triangles the same size and drop them off at the gallery.

It's finally complete... and I can't wait to see it in person, Sadly, I'll have to wait until after January 10, as our Region has been ordered into Covid lockdown again, so the gallery will be closed. Some lovely stuff here, provided by almost 60 different artists. A community project.

Yes, some of the triangles are from me, I am not going to say which ones.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Christmas Prep.

I have no idea regarding how Christmas family celebrations are going to happen this year. Currently in Ontario, only two households will be allowed to combine over the Christmas holidays. And people who live alone (like me) can visit one other family... so who do I visit? It's all such a rotten mess. 

All the usual End Of Year parties, dinners, lunches, get-togethers aren't happening. And I really don't want to spend a lot of time... or actually ANY time at all... doing Christmas shopping in person.

However, there are some Christmas preparations that have to happen regardless. I've done some on line shopping for toys (well, mostly LEGO!) for the grandies, and sorted out a major wrong delivery address for a parcel. I haven't put up a tree yet, but I did get the lights out of the basement for the tree outside. Weather should be good tomorrow so I'll put the lights up.

And of course, no Christmas is complete without cake.... if we can't visit, then I can happily eat this myself. It smells so good coming out of the oven. A dousing with some rum or sherry and then some almond marzipan icing. 

And it's time to make the 2020 linocut cards and get them to the Post Office. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

We Will Remember Them

On November 11 every year we remember those who have lost their lives in the service of their country. For many Novembers I have attended the Remembrance service at the local Cenotaph, and shivered in the cold while the bugle sounds the Last Post and local dignitaries lay the wreaths of poppies, but this year is different thanks to the Covid restrictions. The Remembrance services will be live streamed via the internet in the comfort of home. 

Two minutes silence at 11:00 o'clock on the 11th day of the 11th month.

I have posted about these two brave men before. I remember them with honour every November.









John Turnbull CHANDLER was my mother's cousin. He was born 31 August 1896 in Lincolnshire, England, and was known as Jack.

Jack left England to learn farming techniques in Canada and settled in GrimsbyOntario. He joined the 86th Machine Gun Battalion of the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force on 13 August 1915 at WellandOntario, stating that his date of birth was 1894, not 1896. At that time he was already a member of the 44th Regiment of the Canadian Militia. His enlistment papers show him to be “apparent age 21 years 8 months”, 5’4”, fair complexion, blue eyes, brown hair, a member of the Church of England, and fit to serve with the Forces.
His life ended in 
France on 3 July 1917, serving with the Canadian Machine Gun Corps.

His obituary:

GEDNEY DYKE SOLDIER FALLS We regret to report the death in action of Pte. John Turnbull Chandler, son of the late Mr. John W. Chandler, schoolmaster, Parson Drove, and of Mrs. Chandler, schoolmistress, Gedney Dyke. 
The deceased was educated at Barbourne CollegeWorcester (1908) and Framlingham College (1909-1912). He learned farming and went to Canada in April 1912. He enlisted in January 1916 in GrimsbyOntario, came over to Shorncliffe June 1916, went to France October 1916, and was killed in action July 3rd. He was only 20 years of age. He leaves a mother and six sisters to mourn his loss.

I visited his grave in France with my two sons in 2005. Perhaps the only family members to do so.


Herbert Leonard Darchknown to his family as Len.

Len was born in the village of Combe Martin, in North Devon, England in 1895. He was the son of Matthew Darch and Sarah (nee Rooke), who lived at Glenwood, Combe Martin.

Len had three brothers, Theo, Bert and Wilf, and one sister, Aileen, who married my Uncle Albert in 1919, and therefore became my Auntie Aileen.

Len joined the 1st/7th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, and was sent to France to fight in WW1, also known as The Great War.  1/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regt was part of 144th (Gloucester & Worcester) Brigade. This photo may have been taken when he first volunteered.

Herbert Leonard Darch, Private 202233,  probably took part in the ‘Pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line’ (14 March – 5 April 1917), but on Monday 24 April 1917, at the young age of 21, he was killed in action at Gillemont Farm.
Image result for remembrance poppy images
His life is comemmorated with honour on the Thiepval Memorial, Thiepval, Department of the Somme, Picardie, France, Plot: Pier and Face 5 A and 6 C.  As there is no grave, his body was not recovered. His remains are probably still lying where he fell in a farmer's field.

Monday, 9 November 2020

Seaton Trail

The Seaton Trail is located along the West Duffins Creek in Pickering, Ontario. It runs for 12.9 km (around 9 miles) from 3rd Concession Road near Brock Road northwest to Highway 7 at Green River. 

The trail follows historic hunting and fishing routes on the creek, used for centuries by aboriginal people. In pioneer times, the creek and valley became the site of several water powered mills. 

This last weekend was sunny and warm.... not typical November weather at all, and of course, lots of people were out walking, and many of them chose to walk the Seaton Trail. 

We parked at the village of Whitevale. From there, the trail heads both south and north. We decided to go southbound. I walked with my friend and her little dog on Saturday afternoon. Great opportunity for exercise, but no hope of seeing or hearing any wildlife due to the many weekend warriors out in full force. But we managed to log over 8200 steps, and I'd love to go again on a weekday when there aren't so many people out on the trail. Perhaps we'll try the northbound trail next.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

The Lone Horseman

Perhaps one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse has taken a wrong turn and ended up in my Hallowe'en neighbourhood. The ultimate in Scary!

I think I'll have to go back when it's dark and get really scared!

Happy Hallowe'en!

Monday, 26 October 2020

Reflecting on the Reflections

 Walking along by a nearby pond and admiring the autumn colours reflected in the water.

Just looking at this photo is rather disorienting... everything is upside down. Makes me feel a bit dizzy.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Shaggy Ink Cap

This Shaggy Ink Cap (coprinus comatus) is definitely past its prime. When these mushrooms are young, they have a grey shaggy appearance and they are edible, although I've never tried one. Once picked, it should be cooked and eaten fast, as it literally degrades into a black puddle very fast.

Because the gills under the mushroom cap are very close together, its hard for the spores to be released, so as the mushroom matures, the edges start to dissolve into a black inky liquid and curl upwards, enabling the spores to escape and make more Shaggy Ink Caps!

To actually make ink, the black ink cap liquid can be heated with a little water and some cloves, and voila! you have ink! I think the world of fungi is fascinating. I'm a closet mycologist.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

The Ironwood Tree

Along one of the main trails at Drysdale Woods is a large Ironwood tree, (ostrya virginiana), and according to this plaque, it's believed to be the largest Ironwood tree in the Province of Ontario.

I had never heard of an Ironwood tree, but they have the hardest and densest wood of any native tree species in Canada, hence the reference to iron. In the past the wood was used for tool handles, sled runners, mallets, ladder rungs and firewood, but owing to the rarity of these trees, they are no longer harvested and should be protected.
Another common name for this tree is hophornbeam.....  "hop" refers to the similarity of the fruit clusters to hops, an ingredient in beer-making; "horn" refers to the hardness of the wood; and "beam" comes from an archaic English word for tree. 
The tree is growing on a slippery slope, so I didn't climb up to measure the trunk, but it's wider than my outstretched arms. There are a few baby hophornbeams growing around it too. It's a slow growing tree, so I think this tree is over 100 years old.
The bark is composed of shaggy peeling narrow strips that look a bit like strips of fried bacon! These trees rarely grow taller than 12 m (40') but I don't know how tall this one is, it looks pretty big to me.
I'll go back to visit this Ironwood tree again, and I'm keen to see it in the spring with its male and female catkins.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Giving Thanks!

It's Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. The weekend where families get together around the dinner table and feast on roast turkey, or ham, and an array of vegetables, usually followed by dessert of traditional pumpkin pie. And we give thanks that we all live in such a great country!

Sadly, the Covid 19 infection numbers are steadily rising here. The advice from both the government and the docs is that we should all stay within our own households this year. No large Thanksgiving family gatherings. No big parties. No travelling long distances to see relatives. Stay safe. Stay at home. Keep the infection numbers low.

And so there's no big family dinner happening for me this year. I am at home by myself. Older Son is at home with his family, and Younger Son is at home with his family. It's just not worth the risk. But even though we can't celebrate our togetherness, there's a lot to be thankful for. We are all healthy, no positive Covid tests thank heavens, nobody has lost a job through the lockdown, the grandies are back in the swing of school, and we all have a positive attitude.

It has been a beautiful warm sunny day so I explored the trails through the nearby Drysdale Woods. This area of 55 hectares was a Christmas Tree farm operated by the Drysdale family for over 60 years, and was given to the York Regional Forest in 2014. There's a spruce and pine area, and lots of maple, oak and beech too. This is a wonderful time of year to walk in the trees... so of course, more photos.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020


Earlier this year I liberated some coloured papers from the rubbish bin at the gallery (never waste anything that might be useful is my policy), and I was wondering what to do with them. I know.... make them into a simple little paper book.

Well, I did that, then decided that books need stiff covers, so the next little book has a cover made from a discarded watercolour page.  These books were bound using the three hole pamphlet stitch. Very simple to do, I learned it at school 100 years ago.

Then I got ambitious. I thought I'd try something more complicated so I investigated numerous youtube tutorials showing Coptic stitch binding. I covered front and back boards with fishy gelli prints from the discard pile, and got started sewing everything together with waxed embroidery threads. Well.... it looks OK but it's not perfect. And the paper that I used inside is sort of textured and hard to write on. The advantage of the Coptic stitch is that when the book is open the pages will lay flat.

My second attempt at bookbinding using the Coptic stitch was better, I had an idea about what I was attempting. The front and back boards are covered with suminagashi paper that we made at art group last year. I wondered what to do with it, and this was the perfect solution. The pages were cut from an unused sketch book that I bought at a thrift shop.

The Japanese art of Suminagashi is the process of floating ink on the surface of the water and creating patterns, and then transferring the ink to paper, transforming plain paper to something unique and attractive.
My Coptic stitch along the spine leaves something to be desired, but I suppose practice makes perfect. In this little book, each page is called a folio, and each signature contains 3 or 4 folios. The signatures are sewn one by one starting with the back cover and ending in the front. Of course I misjudged the length of cord required, and had to make a join in the middle, making a rather untidy knot.
But I'm pretty pleased about the way this one turned out. I'll be making more.

Friday, 2 October 2020

Emerald Ash Borer

The Emerald Ash Borer is a highly destructive nasty little bug that is killing millions of ash trees throughout Ontario and the Great Lakes Region. It probably stowed away in a shipment of infected wood from Asia, and it's thrived ever since. Its larvae tunnels though the trees vascular system cutting off water, nutrients and sugars, and once infected with these little devils, the poor tree doesn't stand a chance.

Wood from infected trees shouldn't be moved to another location as the infection can move with it to previously clean areas. 

A young ash tree in front of my house suffered the same fate in 2015. It was replaced with an Armstrong Maple.... I blogged about it here.

This lovely ash tree is managing to stay healthy so far.... with a little help from the Forestry people.

Fingers crossed that this mature tree will survive. I gave it an encouraging pat and told it to be very brave and to trust the Forestry people! They know what they are doing.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Michaelmas Day

Today is Michaelmas Day.... the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, celebrated on 29 September.   Saint Michael is the patron saint of the sea and maritime lands, of ships and boatmen, of horses and horsemen. Traditionally he was the Angel who hurled Lucifer (the devil) down from Heaven for his treachery. 

Michaelmas is one the four quarter days in each year on which servants were hired, school terms started, and rents were due.  The quarter days have been observed at least since the Middle Ages, and they ensured that debts and unresolved lawsuits were not allowed to linger on. Accounts had to be settled, a reckoning had to be made and publicly recorded on the quarter days.

And as the Autumn Equinox happened just a couple of days ago,  here are some Autumn colours. The reds, golds, yellows and purples.... a beautiful time of the year.

Saturday, 26 September 2020


Jolena was limping. She couldn't keep up with her girlfriends when they went out in the morning and she was getting left behind on the search for snacks. Jolena had a very sore foot. Jolena is a chicken.

She's not just any old white chicken you might encounter on a chicken farm. Jolena is special. 

Jolena is a Columbian Rock. She lays an egg almost every day. And she lives with her chicken girlfriends Ruby, Frenchie, April, Mango, Ms Silkie, um.... I forgot the other two chicken names, sorry, please don't tell..... with my grandchildren on their country property.

Jolena needed some first aid, so she was placed in a chicken style hospital bed to soak her foot in warm water and epsom salts for a while. The towel is to stop her jumping out and running to tell her friends what an awful time she's had.

It's hard to keep chicken's feet clean, and they don't like wearing shoes and socks! Her foot got a bit better after a few of these treatments, but I think she will always have a slight limp. Poor Jolena! However, the eggs keep coming.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Mulberry Tree?

 Are there any tree experts out there? Can anyone tell me if this is a young mulberry tree?

It seems strange that the leaves at the bottom of the branches are a different shape and also a different colour from the top leaves.

It's about 2 metres high, lots of thin branches, and is growing in a very weedy grassy area beside the pond near my house. Probably planted by a bird!