How I Came To Be Making Crab Cakes Today

It started innocently enough. I was doing a bit of research for my brother Roy, who has a new music project in the works. I was looking for contacts in the Nova Scotia Mi’qmaq community who have some legends to tell about Cape Split.

My search took me to a woman who works at Kejimkujik National Park, where she is a story teller and guide. So I spent the next 20 minutes reading about ancient petroglyphs in the park, like this one (photo credit http://www.muiniskw.org):

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From there I went searching at the Nova Scotia Natural History Museum, and eventually found myself learning about Charles MacDonald. He started a concrete factory in my home town close to 100 years ago. He apparently didn’t pay his employees, but instead had a company money pot. Staff took what they needed whenever they needed it. MacDonald also hired workers to build five cottages for him (this was during the 1930s when employment was scarce and so this was a bit of a ‘make work’ project). All the cottages were constructed of concrete of course. Four of them are still standing. They are known as the ‘Fairy Houses’ and are located at Huntington Point near Hall’s Harbour. (Photo credit for next three pictures http://www.valleyfamilyfun.ca)

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If you become a member of the Charles MacDonald Museum Society you can stay in the blue cottage for a donation of a few hundred dollars a week.

Then I fell down another rabbit hole…hikes in the Annapolis Valley. This led me to this beautiful waterfall, which is just a stone’s throw from where I grew up. Funny that I didn’t know of its existence before now.

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By this time it was getting close to lunch, and I was good and homesick. There was only thing one thing to do…make crab cakes. So while I didn’t get far with my brother’s project, I did learn a pocketful of other facts, and I had a tasty lunch to boot.

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On Aging, and Fighting Back

A couple of weeks ago a co-worker had a mild heart attack. She is my age. Someone else I am close to, a few years older than me, just found out he has arthritis.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have reached the age where I can no longer take good health for granted. Enter my new regime. I have never been a runner, even as a kid. Never liked it. But a couple of very supportive colleagues of mine have started me on a learn to run program…zero to 5 k over the course of several weeks. I am in Week 2, and in fact am quite enjoying it. Also enjoying my morning shakes…today it is cherry, mango, banana, chia seeds and flax meal with almond milk. Onward and upward.

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Aftermath of a Holiday

My plan had been to ply you with many tales and photos from my wonderful holiday in Turkey. However life has been absolutely crazy since my return. Until I have time to turn my attention to this, I am – temporarily – opening up my Facebook page so you can view the images I posted over the last few weeks. The header photo, by the way, is from a balloon ride we took in Cappadocia in the central part of the country.

Bird’s Eye View

Although totally exhausted, sleep escapes me as I lie in our little guest house in the old part of Istanbul. I will have photos of the city for you soon, but for now here are a few aerial shots of the flight across Europe.

Near London
Near London
Flying into Istanbul
Flying into Istanbul
Germany, with its crazy quilt of colours
Germany, with its crazy quilt of colours

A-P

piesUsually by 5 a.m. I am on the yoga mat. Not this morning. This morning I was elbow deep in pie pastry.

As part of a fundraiser for the local United Way, I donated a promissory note for two homemade pies. The winner (my boss – but no pressure) decided today was the day to cash in his prize.

As I rolled out the pastry, my mind wandered back through the decades. Much of our family history can be told with pies.

There’s the now legendary tale of my oldest brother, who – as a toddler – plunked his diapered bottom into the middle of a pie at a family picnic. Everyone ate it anyway; apparently taste-wise, it was none the worse for wear.

I smile and think of Garth, an old family friend who had an unencumbered enthusiasm for good home cooking, especially my mom’s. It was a given that there would be pies on the menu when he came for dinner. He always had at least two slices (one of each kind).

Pies marked the seasons of my childhood…June meant rhubarb and strawberry; July was blueberry and cherry; August peach; September apple; October pumpkin. And on it went through to the mincemeat pies of Christmas.

There’s the apple pie I made for the first Thanksgiving feast I hosted after leaving home. One of my guests misbehaved and I had to ask him to leave, but the pie dissolved my anger. Even I was surprised at how tasty it was.

There are sweet memories of making pies with my own children; Alan, age four, perched precariously on a red IKEA chair so he could reach the counter to roll out pastry; two-year old Iris gleefully mucking about with her hands in Alan’s freshly baked pie; Jamie, also age two, looking pleased as punch with himself as he finger painted the dining room wall with blueberry pie filling.

As I finished making this morning’s pies, I poked vent holes…A for the apple/cranberry pie, and P for the peach/cranberry.

I looked at my handiwork. AP. Alice Patterson. Pie maker extraordinaire.

Mom, I think you would be pleased.

Freak-Out

It’s round about now that the familiar feeling of panic sets in.

I know the pattern well after 34 years in the Canadian north.

The first couple of days of -30 plus put me in a bit of a funk, but I can cope. There’s still optimism that this is a fast moving weather system that will return us to more reasonable temperatures within hours.

The next few days are harder. I force my body into situations it wants no part of and so must endure its loud and whiny toddler-like protests.  No, I do not want to get out of bed. No, I do not want to be forced into seven smothering layers of clothing. And no, I definitely do not want to walk out that door and into a freezing car so I can drive on square tires thud thud thud to an icy cold office.

But there are bright moments. I am thankful for the warming beef barley soup that I have had the foresight to make and freeze in lunch sized batches for days like this. And the light! It is coming back after a dark December and January. That truly is a gift.

However by about a week in (which is where we are now) the edges of my sanity are really fraying and it becomes a struggle to pretend otherwise. My dreams are peppered with images of Maria von Trapp manicly hurtling down sunshine-drenched grassy slopes, and angry bears that have been woken prematurely from their hibernation. Last night such a bear chased me through a maze of streets for hours while I unsuccessfully tried to find my way home.

I go through the motions. I work. I socialize. I make more soup. Big, big pots of the stuff. And I spend an inordinate amount of time considering an expedition to Lake Labarge to search for Sam McGee’s crematorium. I get you Sam. I totally get you.

But I have a trick up my sleeve; something that Sam didn’t possess. It’s an airplane ticket to Vancouver, dated next Thursday. It’s the one thing that is standing between me and raging madness.

As an aside, I just watched the film “Antarctica: A Year on Ice”. It tells the story of a group of people who choose to live and work at the South Pole 12 months of the year. Some of them have been there for years. I thought it would make Whitehorse by comparison seem downright balmy to me. No such luck. My only recourse now is to go back to staring at that airplane ticket. Which I am going to do. Right now.

Then I am heading out into the cold once more to see another film. The title? Freak-Out!