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Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas at the Old Robertson Homestead.

It finally happened.  We broke down and decorated the house for Christmas.  Ron even helped put up the trees, yes that's right...trees, as in two.  The halls are decked, the sparkles flung far and wide. (No, seriously, there are sparkles EVERYWHERE...we'll be cleaning them up until next Christmas!)  It was a rather magical Sunday morning, in that the sun was shining, but it was also snowing.  I don't know if you've ever experienced that, but it's pretty neat, like a scene out of the movie "Legend".  (Yes, that cornball movie of Tom Cruise's before he hit the big time with Top Gun...and well before he lost it on Oprah's couch.)  Our friends in Quebec (shout out to Gilles, Lucinda & Chulita!) had pictures up of their beautiful home adorned with lights and glowing like a gem.  We don't have an outside plug to put lights on the front of our house (or for a porch light, for that matter...or doorbell).  I'm not bitter, no, not at all, but our house does look a little bit sad with the two trees in the windows (one upstairs and one down) and no happy twinkling lights on the outside.  Just so you don't feel badly for us, here are some photos of the inside of the house:

Upstairs Bathroom
Dining Room

TV Room


TV Room
Living Room

Living Room

Ron is planning on tackling the downstairs bathroom over the dark of winter.  We've been much more disciplined about that renovation (compared to the upstairs bathroom, where we lost our heads a little bit).  (We aren't yanking out the bathtub, just updating the flooring and replacing the vanity and toilet.  We've put our food cart idea on the back burner for now, as there are a lot of start up costs that don't make a whole lot of sense right now.  So it's back to the drawing board for a home business.  By the end of this week (hopefully) I will have sent off my submission to the publishing company for their appraisal.  Apparently (sorry if I've said this before) it can take 6 months to hear anything back.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Off to the Big City!

No pictures this time crew, but I've been off on a shopping expedition to the big city of Halifax.  Some girls from work and I all piled in to a minivan and trekked off in the wee smalls of morning (well, you know me...we didn't leave until 8;30 or so).  It's a three hour drive to Dartmouth, where the malls are, so we shopped until we dropped grabbed a bite and then turned around and came home again.  Most of you know that I'm an impulse shopper and I really don't know what I need until I see it, but to go on a preplanned shopping extravaganza is completely new to me.  (I guess I've never lived far enough from a shopping mecca before.)  As most of you also know, we're now on a fixed income, so I was quite restrained...honestly I probably could have easily spent over a $1000, but I didn't.  (I did get a little crazy at the M.A.C. counter, but I don't usually spend a lot on makeup.)

My travel companions made out like bandits, as they have experience with this sort of blitz shopping attack.  It made for a long day, as I didn't get home until 10.  (Thanks Tracey for getting us back in a safe & yet timely manner!)

It's currently snowing, even though the weather forecast says it doesn't expect any precipitation between Saturday and Sunday morning.  Pretty typical for this time of year, I don't think anyone knows what the heck is going on weather-wise.  That being said I have a weekend filled with good deeds and volunteer-ism.  I'm helping out a friend who is helping out the Salvation Army, so will be manning a Christmas kettle at the liquor store.  (Well, if you have to do it, isn't that a good place to be???) And tomorrow, I have the Kensington Christmas parade to participate in, plus I'm making some treats for the staff Christmas party, but don't tell any of the staff, as it's supposed to be a surprise.  (It's a joint effort, I can't take all the credit!)

We have yet to set up Christmas in the house.  Everyone is talking about their garlands on the fire place, sparkling lights, trees and stockings hung by the chimney with care and I have one little beaded tree sitting on the wine cabinet and one, erroneously placed, in a vase on the dining table, but nothing else.  I may not get to it until next weekend, as this weekend seems quite busy.  Of course, Mr. Scrooge, who also resides here, would be more than happy to skip the entire thing and proceed directly to 2012, do not pass go, do not get a stocking from Santa.  (& you all thought retirement would soften him up!)

We have another installment of Ron vs. the Squirrel.  "Persephone" seems to being living somewhere between the floor boards and Ron is having a Wile E. Coyote moment trying to keep the critter out of the house.  A couple of hundred of dollars worth of supplies later (no, not from the ACME company...I draw the line there, no dynamite for us!) and we think that he has successfully managed to close off any entry ways in to the house.  (Of course, we can't prove it entirely as it's hard to keep track of a squirrel that seems chronically addicted to speed - perhaps a stint in rehab might get it thinking about what it's done (or doing) to our house.)


Sure, they're cute, but not scrambling up the inside of our walls!  They also have a blatant disregard for authority, refuse to pay rent and are known to enjoy chewing on all things electrical - including wiring, none of which as endearing not matter how adorably they gnaw on little pine cones, fallen apples or purloined bird seed.  This particular squirrel seems to have a deathly hate of peanut butter (another reason not to trust it!) and refuses to be caught in our nice humane live trap.  In layman's terms "It is on!"  So far: human's score 3 (from earlier in the year) & squirrel's 1.

Breaking News!!! 

Well an update really...we have not closed off all the access points, but we now know where it's getting in and once the little rotter comes out, we can seal up the house, once and for all.  (Cue the evil laughter!)  Such are the life and times of the Robertsons of Freetown.  Ah, the country life.  I will update you on the progress of all things Christmas in the land of Leaning Poplars, bu until then, be well and happy and know that our thoughts and hearts are with you!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Oh, How Novel!

I know that my posts are getting fewer and farther between, but let's face it time and distance make forgetting easy and life has a way of filling up free time, like sand fills up a flipped hour glass.  I can tell by my traffic reports that this blog sees fewer and fewer visitors (except of course for the random people who look up things like: "Textured wall paper in a living room" or "Stories about squirrels", or even the random "Humphrey the cow".  (Don't think those things don't happen...I have the proof!)  Please don't take that poorly, I understand that we are all busy and have better things to you can tell by my (in)frequency of posting!

Anyhow, our lives here are finally coming to some sort of normal keel and there's less to do in the house and less discoveries to share.  I did however learn that "a well cooked meal" here means it literally, at least for the country folk.  They like their meat firm (very firm) and their veggies soft.  I guess there's something new to learn at every corner.

Driving home from Charlottetown.

You may be wondering, if you've taken the time to look this up, what's going on in the old Robertson homestead.  As you can see by our survey, we're thinking of trying to start a little side business of a dessert truck/cart and are trying to develop a business plan etc.  I'm also working on the logo for the cake business so that we can start advertising and perhaps get a proper website up and running.  I'm also trying to get my novel published (hence the title of this installment), but you either have to shell out cash for a POD (printing on demand) self publishing company which may or may not be entirely reliable, or you have to flog yourself to the publishers.  I've found a likely one, but I have to write a curriculum vitae, a synopsis, get a sample of my book together (formatted correctly) and other sundry tasks that make it rather daunting knowing full well that I'm far more likely to get a rejection slip than and acceptance letter.  (Did you hear my big sigh, all the way over on the West Coast?)    Here's a sort of concept for my front cover ( just the idea, not the actual picture, as I don't have rights to it:

I'm also trying to get to writing something new, which with everything else (work included) seems to be almost impossible.  Ron continues his epic adventure in basement insulation.  We've come to call it his "man cave" & it's probably the most literal description of such a thing as is possible.  (Considering it's a dirt basement that tends to flood in heavy rain!)  I can't envision a big screen TV down there.

The weather is finally turning, even though it's milder than normal, the winds are picking up and we are awaiting the first big snows.  We keep hoping that they won't come until later, like last year.  For you westies, the light here is very different, particularly in the spring and fall.  I can't quite pin down the how or why of it, but it's strictly "East  Coast".  There's something about it that is very moving.  I continue to drive around marvelling at how beautiful this place is; around every corner and over every rise.  It's not marred with huge strip malls, billboards or massive commercial buildings.  I hope that the locals appreciate what they have here.  (Excluding you, Noella...I know how you love this place!)

Vote while you have the chance about our little side business, we really want to know if you think we have it in us.  Until next time, be well, happy and good to each other.  We miss you.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Old Man Winter

He may not officially arrive until late December, but he's sent his calling card, letting us know he's on his way.  We woke this morning to a fine blanket of snow and have been treated to hail as we sit and enjoy our morning coffee.  It's hard to think that in another month or so we'll look out our window and see vast stretches of white rolling snow drifts, highlighted by blue vallies and sparkling crests.

Before that happens we have to deal with an autumn occurrence...the march of the mice.  We haven't had a repeat of Mr. Scritchy, but mice we do have.  (We're in the middle of the country, so I guess it's expected.) Ron has located their point of entry (hopefully) and we're working on getting it sealed off, but our pantry fell victim to one of the wretched little buggers, so we've gone out and dropped a couple hundred bucks on a pantry with doors and nice sturdy plastic (BPA free, of course) containers.  We also have a new resident squirrel.  I've named her Persephone, but Ron says she's likely more of a Jill.  She's smaller than Heathcliffe(tte) was and even more energetic.  (I wouldn't have thought it was possible, but she literally flies from branch to branch...we've watched her sail though the air from tree top to tree top.)  Needless to say the live trap has been deployed, but she seems to have no interest in peanut butter crackers as there is a wealth of apples to be had.  (We can't keep up with the windfall.)  Is it just me or does this sounds VERY similar to blogs written at the same time last year???

We've switched over to the snow tires and are looking for a good deal on snow shoes, to aid my trips up the driveway this winter.  We feel better prepared, as Ron has been spending his free days increasing the insulation and sealing off the foundation.  It's very messy dirty icky work, but it makes us feel like we're preparing more thoroughly for winter.  The green machine is also in for a tune up and to have the snow blower attached properly.  No more lawn mowing this year.

Sunrise at Leaning Poplars (I'm trying out a new name for the "estate".)
We've been enjoying some of the items we brought back from Vancouver, things like dried ancho chilies for fish tacos and toasted Lebanese couscous pearls.  Here's what we had for dinner last weekend:

Lobster Provencale on Lebanese couscous...yummy!

Ron seems to have mastered getting the claws out whole with the cartilage removed.  An impressive task for those of you unfamiliar with lobster "shucking"...I don't know if that's the official word for shelling lobster, but I like it!

We must now organize our new pantry and get the kitchen reordered, as we have plates on the counters and everything is in a state of upheaval.  Wish us luck in our quest against the nefarious mice & Moriarty like squirrel.  (Sorry!  We watched the entire Lord of the Rings movies last weekend as a wicked Nor'easter blew through, so I seem to be in that sort of mode.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There & Back Again

Ron and I have logged over 12,000 kms over the past two weeks and spent 15+ hours on planes.  That doesn't include time spent lolly gagging around airports, or in transport to and from, for that matter!  (PS, Thanks Bill Bryson for the nifty title...he's a travel writer and I shamelessly stole it from one of his books.)

Our flight out to Vancouver was a bit of a disaster as we were re-routed through Calgary, as Montreal's airport was under runway repairs.  (They could have at least TOLD us...but Air Canada did their very best to get us where we needed to go as efficiently as possible.)  Anyway, on our arrival in Vancouver, we basically started eating and didn't stop until we ran out of time.  Dim Sum, Tunisian, Japanese, Indian, West Coast Fusion...we ate it all.  Delicious!

We visited old haunts and enjoyed many of the amenities that Vancouver had to offer. Here are some photos (of course!):


Commercial Drive Produce Store

Thought this was a funny & ironic sign...our door is open, just not this one!

Very possibly the best photo I have ever taken...thanks sunshine!

Hand made lollipops a la Hallowe'en at Granville Island.

 For my people from "Here", (as opposed to away) here are some pictures of Granville Island, which may explain why I miss it!
Produce as far as the eye can see.  Need guilan?  They've got it!

Flowers, flowers, flowers!

Fancy Italian?  Stop here.

Don't want to cook?  Try their sweet potato country salad, risotto cakes, tomatoes & bocconcini...
Sausages, deli meats, cheese of all descriptions

Broths & soups & sauces
Care for goat cheese?
There's tons more pictures, but I think you get the idea. That's what I miss, along with family and friends who are never far from my thoughts or heart.

I guess that's all I have for now. I've run out of steam having walked so long down memory lane.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Last Days of Summer

Is this what qualifies as "dog days"???  I want to know.  I've heard the phrase, but never really got the specific gist.  It's been glorious out the last few days (mosquitoes not withstanding) and Ron is taking every advantage of the good weather to get the house "winter-fied".  He's painted most of the trim on the lower level and done the two windows in the front.  He tackled the big bay window in the living room and our pretty house looks fantastic now as you come up the drive.  I've been sitting in an office, smouldering, as the A/C is on the fritz and wishing I was out frolicking in the sunshine.

Porch & trim complete (except for the 3rd floor!)

Besides that life is pretty good here in little PEI.  We received a free 50 pound bag of potatoes and have distributed them amongst my work folk.  (I mean, who can say "no" to free ba-day-duhs?  Yes, there is no "T" in potatoes here, at least not traditionally.)

Our apple trees are full and we're at our wits end as to what to do with them all.  Our oldest tree has Gala apples, but it's been hit with blight, so most of the apples are ruined and the Granny Smith tree has been invaded by bugs of some sort, but some of the fruit is okay.  Only our little Macintosh tree has good edible apples, but it has tons of them!  I can only make so much apple sauce and it seems unwise to have a still in the outbuilding...tempting, but definitely unwise!  I've never had apple jack.  Perhaps I can figure out how to make cider.  The finches and hummingbirds have headed south for the winter, so we are left with only the blue jays, morning doves (or are they mourning doves...I'm not sure) and crows for amusement.  The leaves have yet to change, but that means the cold weather is coming and we aren't in any hurry for it.

Mac, Gala & Granny Smith - fruit from our "orchard"

Little Macs, all cleaned, in our kitchen sink

Afflicted Granny Smiths, some are salvageable.

Our "go to" Macintosh tree, no bugs thanks to the potato farmer...I think that's what's fogging the apples.

We're coming up to the one year anniversary of our permanent arrival on the Island, so we've been wandering down memory lane by reading the small journal I kept on our road trip.  On this day last year, we left Albert Lea, Michigan and headed for the Windy City, we got stopped for speeding and pleaded "metric" (who knew it was a defense - but our car has a digital readout), which seemed to work, as we got off with a warning.  We stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of the city and took the train in from the airport.  (Bless free airport shuttles!)

Ron's got a wacky idea in his head about starting a food truck with just desserts.  He figures we could make a killing at the university and colleges.  I think I'll put up survey to see if you think it's a good idea or not.  I recently saw something in an email about a guy who lived in a converted garbage truck.  (Not the traditional kind, something more cutting edge and NOT used!)  It made me think of doing the same thing for the food truck and calling the business "Garbage" in food that isn't good for you, maybe spelled out in desserts that look like the letters!  Too much?  Maybe.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fall is coming...

They say pride goeth before the fall, but that's not the fall I'm talking about.  I'm talking, AUTUMN!  I know, I know, it's a dirty word, especially after the abbreviated summer that some of us have experienced, but tide, time and seasons wait for no man (or woman for that matter).  We're trying to get the house winter ready, which involves all sorts of industrious home repairs...window sills to be replaced and weather proofed, doors to be re-weather stripped, better curtains to be found, to cut down on the nasty nor'easterly winds etc. 

We've been quite pleased with our geothermal heating, as we're averaging (over the last 9 months) about $225 on heating and electrical, which is impressive given the fact that electricity is 3 times what you would pay in BC per kWh.  Be that as it may, there are always improvements to be made and maintenance to be conducted.  Ron spent 3 hours last weekend dumping out our two water tanks to clear them of any sediment which purportedly stretches out their life span by another ten years or so.  Because of the geothermal, we have two 60 gallon water tanks, so it took some time in doing.

We've tried to climb back on the workout band wagon and went for a 8.5km run (well, I had to walk some of it) this morning.  It was a fairly good day, as it's not too hot, but we did find ourselves running against the wind on a few occasions which made it a harder go.

My cake orders have fallen off once again and I'm starting to think about logos and such. shang-haied my URL and they want over $30,000 for it.  (Cheeky devils!)  I think I can secure fairly cheaply, but that begs the question, what if we move?  Oh, I know...we never move!  (HA!)  The last tenants of this house were here only three years, but I'm still not certain that we'll break their record.  It's hard for both of us to imagine staying in one place longer than that, even though we managed to in the 90's, but the kids were little then.  The longest I've ever lived in one location is with my sister and that was for almost 8 years.  (I'm sure she thinks it was longer!)

Ron took pictures of the machine that makes the giant marshmallow shaped hay bales, so I thought I'd throw those in for fun and I made fish tacos a couple of weeks back & thought I'd throw in a picture of those as well.  (Too bad the cabbage wasn't a darker green, but the chipotle salsa was fairly tasty (HOT!) and the Mexican cream sauce made it go down quite well.  We used tilapia for the fish, but the batter could have been crispier - maybe my oil wasn't hot enough.  Live and learn.

The back hinges open and spits out the bale of hay.

Our farmer is old school - if it runs, why buy something new?

Not as pretty as I had hoped, but fairly tasty!
That's it from PEI this time.  I've added a flavours page to the cake blog, if any one's interested!  Be well, all of you and congratulations Tom & Michelle on your 30th wedding anniversary!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hey, hay! And Yet Another Cake!

For those of you in doubt of the fact that your urban friends actually live amongst fields etc, here are some photos to prove our rurality.  (Okay, I know that isn't really a word, but it makes sense to me!  Spell check certainly doesn't like it.)

Yes, those are actual hay bales, right by our house!  The farmer came by and mowed his field (the tractor breaking down after just a pass or two - not a John Deere, I must point out) and, several days later, returned, got the thing running and completed the task.  This was followed by a squarish trailer attachment  that sucked up the grass, bundled it and spat out round bales, reminding me of a large metal rabbit.  (Too graphic??)

This picture is just a showy-offy picture of a summer sunset, right from our driveway - yes that's a hay bale on the left side.  Indeed, we've had moments where it seemed like summer was almost real!  Imagine!  Here is the Casablanca lily I was bragging of earlier:

My shadow...aren't I clever?  Oh well, the flower is pretty.
Last but not least, our kitchen has birthed yet another cake, this one for a 50th wedding anniversary.  (I'm sure you would have gotten it without the description, but there you have it, none the less!)  Making the bow almost did me in, but I prevailed...apparently it was so warm out that one of the hearts slid down the side of the cake.  Stupid humidity.  When you hear them complaining on those cake shows about heat and moisture, they aren't kidding!
Front (obviously)


One side (the other looks basically exactly the same)
Will update you soon on any interesting happenings here on our sleepy little island!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Take the Cake!

Hello All! Many greetings from the Gentle Island.  It's official, I've launched my cake business website/blog.  (I haven't bought a domain name yet, so a free blog, it will have to be!)

Here's the link: TAKE THE CAKE!  The site is under construction, but I do have a few pictures up, most of which you've already seen, but it's nice to see all the cakes together.  It you don't want to leave this stimulating blog to check it out (ha ha) here are some pictures of my latest cake (showing the process):

Hand made - each one by little old me.

Butter creamed bottom layer & fondant in the foreground
(The cake isn't off kilter, but it sure looks like it is!)

More hand made flowers
With fondant, ribbon & topper
The final product.

Detail of top.

Back of cake.
As with anything this continues to be a learning process.  I have another cake to get ready for next weekend and a possible third in September, so I'm back to being a cake factory.  At some point I'm hoping that I won't need to buy anything to complete a cake order, but for now we're learning as we go.  (Things like: mental note, make fondant of ribbon a grey colour & THEN paint on the silver!) 

We spent part of the morning watching a hawk sitting up in one of our apple trees.  He seemed quite put out about something, as he kept yelling from his perch.  He must have sat there for a half hour or so & then just flew off towards the river.  Not sure what he was trying to tell us, but it was lovely spending some time with him.  We also have a marvelous Casablanca lily blooming out back.  I'll bore you with pictures on another installment and we've harvested our coriander seeds.  Its very nice having fresh herbs for cooking!

Ah well, not much else to report from the land of potatoes and lobster, but we are getting ready to have a lovely feast of mussels!  Living la vida loca!  Yup, in the wilds of PEI!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Around, Then Off the Rock.

It's hard to believe that the family visit is over already. It seems like we spent weeks preparing and then the time just went so quickly. The weather was mostly uncooperative, but we muddled through anyway. Better cloudy and rainy than 50 on the humidity index. Here are some photos from the visit, proving that we went from North Cape to East Point & places in between and even left the Island to go see some more of the Maritimes.
Seacow Bay, I believe...the map is in the car.

North Cape - one of the windiest spots in Canada

Still North Cape

Singing Sands Beach
Singing Sands is named for the strange squeaking sound your feet make when walking on the beach.  Its rather like a chirp, but can only be heard when the sand is the right temperature.  Fortunately for us, the day turned sunny, just as we arrived, so we enjoyed a lovely picnic and some lazy down time and sand that sang to us as we walked.  The clouds (in the photo above) were amazing.  The picture doesn't do them justice at all; they looked like a painting (not really surrealistic, but impressionistic, I guess).  It was truly amazing and almost everyone at the beach noticed and commented on the unusualness - that may or may not be a real word.

East Point Lighthouse

And we then ventured over Confederation bridge (a 13 kilometre stretch, for those of you curious about such things) and made our way to Nova Scotia.
Steel Sailing Vessel in Lunenburg, NS

Quaint Fishing Shack in Lunenburg

Michelle and Tom venturing in to see the Blue Nose II (under construction)

Pretty Lunenburg Street Scene
Morning Fog on the Inlet - Halifax
Changing of the guards at the Citadel...pure fluke that we were there!

Peggy's Cove - a must see if you're in Nova Scotia

It was a wonderful trip!  Many thanks to our tour guide Liz (one of Michelle's girlhood friends).  After 3 full days in Nova Scotia, we hopped back in the  car and headed home.  I'm very much a fair weather photographer, for the most part, so there are very little photos of our trip when the sky was filled with clouds.  We did visit some lovely little (& larger) places like Victoria-by-the-Sea, Brackley Beach. Souris and, of course, Charlottetown.  We had two very lovely dinners, one at the Inn at St. Peter's and the other at the Dunes Gallery and Restaurant.  At the Dunes we also enjoyed a lovely thunder and lightening storm and were lucky enough to have finished dinner before the power went out.  (No espresso for me...)  That sounds so dreadfully rural & backward, losing their power, but I don't think I could recommend the restaurant any more highly, even for the most distinguished of palates!  It really was delicious.
From the PEI Side of the Confederation Bridge

View from our front door
(Yes, we've put in a new screen door, isn't it pretty?)
 I have three (yes, count 'em) cake order over the next little while, so expect updates.  I had mostly given up on the cake thing, as orders had evaporated, but here I go again!  Be well & don't forget about us!  Lots of love from Prince Edward Island.