Mid-June

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I would like to bring a little perspective into my previous post where I was quite despondent on the situation in Canada. One blogger I follow for some time now and who lives in British Columbia on the other side of this country in the beautiful rocky mountains, https://palliserpass.ca/author/underswansea/ always has wonderful pictures of nature around him and of his wirehair Dachshund Willow. He provided a perspective which I found helpful to understand what is going on today in Canada. Though the author is a younger fellow than me by about 10 years, is comment left me with the feeling of even handedness and with some wisdom. Basically things are getting better bit by bit and we have to look at this in the greater context if you look at the last 60 years, progress is achieved. Also not listening to the media report which have a knack to bring out the most negative outlook without nuance or context, call it lazy journalism. We seem to have a lot of it in Canada.

As we are now in Mid-June, we spoke to day with the lady who owns the cottage where we are going in a month to spend 2 weeks at French River, so looking forward to it.

Will is making another batch of his cocktail that takes a month to cure, a recipe by the French Author Colette. He made a batch with lemons, with orange and now he is doing mandarins and another one with Strawberries. These cocktails are potent but so refreshing in the Summer, served very cold. The base is fruit and white wine, in the second phase you add brandy. We are also looking at what to bring in terms of food, there is a nice gas bar-b-q on the deck.

There are also lots of nice little restaurants in the area, all serving seafood, oysters, mussels, lobster. The most popular is the lobster roll, everyone appears to have a recipe for it. Basically its 4oz of lobster mixed in with other ingredients.

The beach at French River is very nice and this year I will try to get across to the big sand dunes which are part of Cavendish beach. You need a boat to get there, cannot swim it, the current is far too strong. At low tide it looks like you could walk across but no, the channel in the middle is too deep. 

We hope that the nice couple who live by the Cousins Cemetery will be there, they live in Nova Scotia but with the closures they have not been able to come so far this year. They have a lovely house and a great view of the water and the New London rear Lighthouse which is about 100 feet from their front door.

Almost everyone now on PEI has been vaccinated what is left is mostly small children under 12. On 27 June we are suppose to enter a new phase with even less restrictions and this will make a big difference. What everyone is waiting for is the Atlantic bubble which would allow all to travel from one province to the other in our region. 

Into the weekend

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This week has been strange in some ways and worrisome. On one hand we have the media in Canada going into overdrive with negativity and what is presented as fact then becomes muddled and is no longer clear.

A story that made headlines around the world that of the discovery of the remains (bones) of what is believed to be 215 indigenous children who died at a Residential School run by the Catholic Church. At first it was reported as small bones, then as bodies, then as remains and no one appears to know if it is 215 or 250. However this was enough for activists to turn this matter into a highly emotional question.

Politicians in the House of Commons made some very controversial statements all trying to look more concerned than the next guy or girl. The gist of it, Canada as we know it today and all non-native people are squatters and they stole everything from the Indigenous people. Some Cities in Canada have cancelled National Day 1 July celebrations because nothing good has come from this project called Canada and 38 million people living here today should just pack up and go back where they came from. Victoria the Capital of British Columbia has announced such plans.

If you go to any show which receives funding from the Canadian Government you will hear the message that whatever building you are in and the land on which it stands belongs to Native groups and you must atone for your past wrongs. A silly message given that no one has any intentions of giving anything back to indigenous groups.

So this message you hear each day has a corrosive effect, and it is not about to stop. The idea of the Prime Minister is to force change upon society through a social engineering. The belief is that we will achieve reconciliation. The problem is after 500 years of European building a country and 45 Canadian Parliaments and 8 Sovereigns, it is not going to happen.

So statues of people long dead have been attacked and defaced as if they and they alone are responsible for what happened while society at large appears to suffer from amnesia.

Now we are finally getting to the short list of who will be the next Governor General and the Government and the Prime Minister are making noises that it will be an Indigenous person. I wonder how that will work out if that rumour proves true.

What is interesting is the push back by people who immigrated to Canada and who are non-white. The attack on Canada, a country they chose for their future life is not acceptable to them. They found acceptance here and prosperity something they did not have in the country of their birth.

Not all indigenous groups accept the current approach, many prefer a pragmatic approach of teaching history correctly and fully and let’s all move along. Unfortunately our Prime Minister is Mr WOKE but it remains to be seen if he can be re-elected serving that line to Canadians daily.

I am a tad tired of Justin T. and his attitude, he lacks judgement and he is dividing the country dangerously. He truly opened the Box of Pandora and this is not going to end well.

Car wash days

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It looks like we are having 7 days of sunshine now, so today I got the car washed. The gas is now 1.40 a litre meaning that is $5.60 a gallon and this is not the top most expensive gas at the pump. The most expensive supreme is $1.60 a litre.

Another beautiful day, so very nice and not so hot, still at 22C very nice.

I am very busy at the Club with the newsletter every week, lots happening, events of all kinds and now that the PEI Government has announced the first relaxation of the rules, the only change is the number of people you can have inside. With this good weather, we have a large garden with big mature trees around 100 years old and the cedar deck, bar-b-q so we can do lots. Our membership is also getting more diverse, in the Maritimes there is a large African community, mostly educated West Africans and from Cameroon and Kenya. So one member who is from Kenya is doing a special dinner for the Club member this Friday, she is very well known and has cooked for lots of big names here in PEI and has her own restaurant for the last 20 years. Her food is wonderful, this woman has a sense for good food. Another member is from Senegal, a charming fellow and I am trying to entice him to do one of his signature dishes. He started to cook for friends and PEI is still a place where people are discovering exotic dishes. Some 10 years ago it was still pretty much meat and potatoes country, not anymore. So our friend also makes great desserts and pastries, however he is an executive with a big corporation and he can’t cook all the time for friends, our lost. Thanks to the Vietnamese and Africans community their grocery stores carry all manner of wonderful spices, you can find pretty much everything that the regular grocery stores do not carry.

A view below of one of our many beaches, quiet and clean.

Hot and Muggy

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For the last two days the weather has been around 30C and humid, little wind. It is unusual for this time of year, a bit early really, more like July weather, but I am not complaining. This is much better than freezing rain or snow.

So it is not just Phoenix that gets hot weather. In Ottawa a 1000 Km to the West of us today is close to 40C which is highly unusual, but hey Climate Change, its here folks.

Also typical of this time of the year coming into Summer is how the weather is unpredictable in general. Tuesday and Wednesday rain! NO Tuesday was humid and hot sunshine with one 2 minute sprinkle of rain. Wednesday will be cooler but only Sunshine, no rain, in fact no rain for the next 7 days. Which is great for us town dweller but not so much for farmers.

I am now scheduled for my second Covid 19 shot, the first one was in early May and was a Pfizer. I am looking forward to my second shot. So far 90k people in PEI out of 150K have been vaccinated. So we are moving rapidly towards total vaccinations. A friend was at the pharmacy today to buy something and the pharmacist, out of the blue, said did you get your shot yet? She said no and he offered a shot of Moderna, she was very happy and took it. Her second shot will be mid-July.

It looks like we are getting the Cruise ship back, not this Summer but in 2022. Yesterday I saw a promotion for Ritz Carlton Hotel Yachts. Meaning they will come here.

Busy, busy

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Last weekend appeared as if there was nothing to do, quiet. However like the weather in PEI, if you wait 10 minutes things take a dramatic turn.

So Friday morning we went to a schedule appointment at the Vet with Nicky and Nora for their annual physical, they are both 12 yrs old now and for their annual shots. They are both in good health with some medical problems connected to age. Otherwise spoiled and happy puppies. Nora is particularly a drama queen at the Vet and it is quite the scene. Nicky on the other hand is quiet and stoic, not a peep out of him, such a good boy.

We returned home and out the door we went to Rocky Point for lunch at friends Summer home, though they can also live there year round and they have been doing that quite a bit in the last 15 months. Rocky Point is reached by doing a semi-circle around the bay of Charlottetown, crossing the North River and the East River to reach the point which faces the Strait of Northumberland. Our friends just extended their property to 70 acres. From the road you cannot see a thing, it is all treed and you have to know where to turn off to the long unpaved driveway towards the house, at on point you turn left and then right again facing on a high cliff the Strait and the view of water with in the far distance Nova Scotia.

When they bought this property many decades ago, the land belonged to the great grandfather of my current barber. The next door neighbour is the brother of our neighbour in town. The land itself back then did not have one tree on it. It was all farmland and no house. Today a forest has grown all around and dominates the area, making it a very private and secluded residence. The house is also quite beautiful, all wood recycled from the old railway platforms of Charlottetown Train Station when it was all decommissioned 35 years ago and the wood was free for the taking. The house is filled with art work and has a giant deck which dominates and gives panoramic views of the Strait.

The only reason we wanted to see our friend was to give him a birthday gift and say hello, but we got invited to a fantastic lunch of Quahog clams and spaghetti with lots of lemon and clam juice for the sauce, a green salad and a tomato salad, accompanied by beautiful wines. For dessert we had ice cold Limoncello. The sort of lunch we would have in Italy.

We also walked around the new purchased land which is connected with their own.

The land seen extending into the strait is Point Prim, where one of my favourite lighthouse is located. It indicates the way for ships into the bay of Charlottetown. This photo is taken not far from the Block House Light House which indicates the actual narrow entrance into the bay. It is a big lighthouse and has a house attached to it. The house belongs to the Federal Government but no one lives there and apparently it is for sale. It is a located next to the old French Fort of 1700 and is splendidly isolated with views of the water and the city in the distance. All ships coming in past this lighthouse.

We have been many times to the Summer house but this time was somewhat special.

High Tide, the beach is red sandstone.

Then on Saturday we went to York which is outside Charlottetown, very rural and green.

We love to go there to chose plants and flowers for our garden. They always have a good selection and offer good service at reasonable prices.

Corner of the deck, with the terra cotta head of the Prince of Palenque bought in Mexico in 1986, it travelled with me all over the world.
Citronella plant on top of the terra cotta pumpkin bought at the florist in the Drake Hotel in Chicago in 1994.

We have been busy and now tonight we are promised muggy weather in a few days. The expression here on PEI is, We are having the muggys (high humidity). I have not mentioned what I am also involved at the Club or everyday, so no we are not bored.

The Haviland Club at Haviland and Water street in Charlottetown.

Food and Flowers

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I have been inspired by fellow blogger living in Fuengirola, Spain with the beautiful pictures of flowers, sea, food and fashion. I had mentioned recently that as part of our Spring ritual we had to go to the Garden Centre for flowers, we did yesterday. There is a garden centre just outside of Charlottetown in York. It is a family run place, lots of choices of flowers, some we had never heard of, like Goldalia which is of the Dahlia family.

I love garden centres, so many flowers to look at displayed on mass, riots of colours, it is soothing for the brain, it is simply beautiful. A handful of people, it was quiet.

They also had begonias with candy bright colours to the point of looking good enough to eat.

We did buy for our 2 flower boxes a mix of geraniums and something called

Pechoa, the leaves are beautiful and come in a variety of colours.

Then this past weekend, it was the first long weekend of Summer, Queen’s Birthday or Pentecost, every year we use to go to Salzburg for the music festival. This year with the Pandemic we are at home and invited friends for lunch.

I bought lobster and made a Lobster salad with asparagus. Then since we had lots leftover Will made a Quiche with lobster & Asparagus, there is no cheese in this recipe.

The lobster salad was a big hit with our guests.

Finally the Barman at the Dukes Hotel in London is famous for his Martini and other cocktails, his name Alessandro Palazzi. He makes a martini that is not shaken nor stirred. A cold martini glass, a tumble of Vermouth, slosh it around then simply pour it out. Fill the glass with good quality vodka and top with a twist of lemon.

“For me, a Martini is a drink which has to be strong and three ingredients,” he said. “An Espresso Martini is not really a Martini. A Martini is supposed to be all alcohol. It’s the most simple cocktail to make: it’s the temperature, the quality ingredients, the lemon. There’s the vermouth, gin or vodka, and the oil. That’s what a Martini is.” 

Duke’s certainly isn’t cheap, at £22 for a Martini. But Palazzi defends the prices: “You get five shots of premium gin, Amalfi lemon, Sicilian olives, snacks, and if you want you can buy one drink and have the table all night.” Now this is a place I will want to visit once we are allowed again to travel. As for the Amalfi Lemons, they are wonderful, too bad we cannot get them here.

In retirement, time …

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I saw this question on the Blog of my good friend Dr Spo, the question was about time and retirement and how it is viewed all together. Are there weekends or Monday Mornings? No not at all. Time becomes very fluid and the old markers established by school or work life are gone. They are no longer important, you have all the time in the world in front of you and you decide how to use it.

I remember when I retired some 9 years ago now, that day leaving the Office for the very last time, never to return, passing through the doors and unto the street, it was like leaving prison. The next morning I did not have to get up, I did not have anywhere to go, I could stay in bed all day, do as I wished, no more constraints.

What I discovered since you simply re-organize your life around activities you set up for yourself, you can become as busy or lead a quiet life, it is all up to you. I was told that it was important to decide before retirement from an active work life, what you will do afterwards. To decide to do nothing is dangerous and can lead to depression and an early death, television/internet is not the answer.

I knew what I wanted to do and went after it. I became involved in activities I liked. You become the manager of your own time and not the one being managed by others who set your schedule.

So no there is no melancholic Sunday afternoons, no dreaded Monday morning or TGIF either, none of that matters anymore. In fact I find that I simply forget what day of the week it is and just do what I want. As I often say to people if I am waiting in line for service, I have no where to go so don’t worry, I’m retired. I think that in retirement you can be very happy and have no stress, just enjoyment, you make of your life what you want it to be. Work what a concept, someone invented it, but who?

Villa Borghese Park in Rome, a beautiful, peaceful place.

Long Weekend

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This weekend is a long one in many countries around the world. Pentecost Weekend is celebrated in Europe, in Canada it is the Official Birthday Weekend of the Queen, it use to be known as Victoria Day but this has now changed. In the USA it is also a holiday.

Here in Canada it is seen as the first long weekend of Summer, time to go to the Cottage and fire up the Bar-B-Q. Plant the garden, make plans for the Summer months.

Friday we had a wonderful lobster dinner, I had a 2 lbs lobster, one of the best I have ever had and it had been all opened up, so I did not have to fight with it. Friday was a gorgeous day weather wise and though Saturday and Sunday have been a washout sort off with uncertain weather, Monday promises to be another sunny day.

I am going to make a Lobster Salad for dinner Monday, we will start with fresh asparagus in Hollandaise Sauce and we will have orange slices with syrup for dessert.

The Lobster salad I have wanted to try for some time, it is very easy to make and lobster I can get very easily, the price in fact has come down by $2 dllrs a pound.

We have done a lot of transitioning from Winter to Summer, going through wardrobes and giving away big bags of clothing, bought new summer cotton sheets the first in 11 years, washed and put away the flannel sheets, all this takes time. I have not gotten around the garden yet nor I have looked at flowers to get for window boxes. Still have to wash windows but too many rainy days put a stop to it. It will get done eventually.

There seems to be in the Press and amongst the Conservatives this fascination with vaccination rates. In January it was ”not enough” vaccines, despite the fact that millions of doses had been bought by the Federal Government. Then in March it was ” delays in delivery” we are doomed, then in April it was ” The USA is doing better than us vaccination wise” of course forgetting that the USA is 10 times our population and economic size, so you really cannot compare. In May now its ”another Summer of restrictions” Yes only 50% of the population has received on dose of the vaccine and the two dose level will be reached in September for 75% of the population. The big problem in our Canadian Federation is that the National Government buys supplies but it is up to the Provinces to vaccinate since Health Care falls under their jurisdiction and we have several stauch Pro-Trump Premiers in Canada who do not believe in the pandemic and will do nothing about it, not even organizing a vaccination campaign. So the Red Cross and the Army have to do it. Not to mention that Premier Pallister gave a 5 cent increase to minimum wage workers in his province. A nickel increase, should change his name to scrooge.

Manitoba, pop 1.3 million is the latest now to see its health care system collapse sending patients 600km away to Ontario for ICU beds and treatment. Again the Premier Brian Pallister prefers to blame everyone else but himself for his gross incompetence. Again happy to be in PEI where 40% of the population is vaccinated and probably by July most if not all of us will have our 2 shots.

Every night we will have dinner mostly at home and Will or I will cook dinner. So it is different every night from fish to seafood, to steak to pasta or some kind of dish like meatloaf, the recipe of Helen Corbett or macaroni and cheese from a recipe we may have seen no YouTube. We also decide in the morning what we will have for dinner that night, unless we decide to go out for dinner.

This evening I had 7 chicken thighs with bone and skin and I was wondering how I would cook them. I looked up a recipe which cooks them in a cast iron pan, it take all of 24 minutes to cook on both sides, starting with the skin on side. In the second part of cooking you add a chopped onion and when the thighs are cooked, you remove it all from the pan and then pour about a glass of white wine like a Chardonnay and stir to get all those juices from the cooking, add one table spoon of Crème Fraiche, one table spoon of Dijon mustard and one tea spoon of a grain mustard or in this case I had orange and tarragon mustard, mix it all up in the pan and then add back the chicken thighs let rest for about a minute and serve. The sauce with the chicken was very good and the onion added to the flavour. I was surprised how easy it all was to do.

Here is the recipe on YouTube, the heat on the stove should me medium high but I reduced the cooking time of the chicken because my chicken portions was not as big as hers here. Keep on eye on the onion also to avoid burning.

Music for Spring

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Le Printemps what a lovely season, the weather is getting warmer by the day, Friday should be 22 C. which is Summer weather. This coming weekend is also the first official Long Weekend of Summer, the signal to open the cottage and start up the bar-b-q.

I was looking up recent photos of Versailles which re-opens today after months of being shut to all due to the pandemic restrictions in France. During these longs months the restorers of the Palace did a lot of work in various areas of the vast Chateau. This included a deep clean of various rooms and the return of furniture from the central national warehouse of important historical furniture of France. One piece in particular was the work desk of Louis XV made up of 20 different types of precious woods and of a secret mechanism operated with one key to close and lock it. This desk stayed in the bureau of the King until the revolution. It is now back where it belong, a magnificent piece of furniture. The restoration of the desk was paid for by Caterpillar France and Rolex, the desk has a two face clock which allows the king and his visitor on the other side to see the time. This wonderful piece of furniture was made in 1769, a real marvel and the clock works perfectly.

Many other private rooms or intimate rooms used by the King or Queen or other members of the Royal family have also been restored recently including carpets and drapes, all reproduce in the original fabric. This work is made possible due to archives and detailed descriptions, drawings and paintings and some piece of fabric which survived. You can see these rooms by appointment with a guide only. The rooms contain unique original artifacts of the period, rare books and porcelain and you would not want someone to bump into something.

The caveat is that Versailles you see today, the inside of the Palace evolved and is not what Louis XIV or Louis XV or even Louis XVI would have known, the palace was transformed and redecorated with each king and time and fashion dictate. Then the Palace was closed at the revolution, the furniture sold in most part to British and other European collectors for a pittance. Some was saved by Napoleon and by the return of the Bourbon Kings in 1814 under Louis XVIII and his brother Charles X and then their cousin Louis-Philippe remodelled wings of the palace where the apartments of the various Princes of the Kingdom were located into great galleries for his painting collection. So when visiting it is important to keep that in mind. Same for the gardens and le Petit and Grand Trianon or even le Hameau de la Reine which lost all its original furniture and is now decorated with Empire style furniture belonging to Empress Marie-Louise the second wife of Napoleon.

What has been recently recreated is the Grille Royale, which was the inner golden gate of the Cour d’Honneur which separated the first inner courtyard from a more sacred area which brought the special visitor within the proximity of the King. This golden gate was taken down at the revolution and was only restored starting in 2007, the work based on original drawings took 2 years to complete, cost 5 million Euros, is 80 meters long and weighs 15 tons, some 100,000 sheets of gold leaf was use to cover the gate.

The first gate on the street which allowed people to enter the first courtyard in the morning and at the back the Golden Gate which only opened for those the king wanted to see. Notice also the roof line, all in gold leaf and the window frames, all that was done in recent years and gives a wonderful impression of what it was like under Louis XIV when visitors came to Versailles they were suitably impressed. This is why the Palace was built to impress.

In this photo around 2000 you can see the roof before it was restored and the Cour d’Honneur being excavated, archeologists know from very early description of the time of Louis XIII when Versailles was nothing more than a Hunting Mansion, they wanted to see where the early foundation of the mansion and early palace were, finding many artifacts and the original traces of the old gate to the palace. There are large teams of artisans and art historians working on such projects. This is not the only palace in France where important restoration is taking place. Look at Chantilly the residence of the Duc d’Aumale.

Here we see two artisans applying gold leaf to the Crown of France on the roof top of the Chapelle Royale during the restoration of that building which lasted several years. You can also see the brown coating applied to the lead sculpture of the putti and window frame, this type of putty is to make the application of the gold leaf stick and prevent rust, a painstaking job but the final results are stunning.

here is the finished look of the roof top of the Chapelle Royale which is by far the tallest building of the palace, indicating that God is above the King.

Gold leaf and blue slate of the roof.

Here it is the final look as you arrive at Versailles looking to the right the Chapelle in sunlight, the blue of the slate of the roof and the gold leaf. The inside of the Chapelle also was restored including rebuilding the original 17th century organ which has a different more nasal sound than today’s instruments.