The storm announced yesterday turned out to be largely a non-event. High winds, no ferry crossings, bridge to the mainland closed, but that was it. We are without snow, all green everywhere so this is Christmas in PEI.
The city is quiet tonight, because of the storm of yesterday, no one could leave the Island, no flights and bridge closed. Moral of this story, just stay home for the holidays.
So tonight we are quiet at home, the wind is still strong and it is cool. In the city there are not many displays of lights on private homes, this is more a suburb and rural area thing. We are not having company or dinner parties, but this week people will come to have coffee and cake every day starting with Boxing Day.
As for New Year’s Eve and Day, well will see, no plans yet.
I only hope that 2023 will be a better year than the past 3 years. I would love to travel a little bit even if it is not far.
Winter scene in a Quebec village by Clarence A. Gagnon.
During this Christmas period, I look for old French carols one is a Seventeen century carol by Louis Claude Daquin, it is in old French and for amusement the words are those of simple people who are so in awe in the presence of God that they stutter.
The carol speaks of the generosity of those who came to see baby Jesus, commenting that “there was no one young or old who did not offer all his riches” to Mary and Joseph. It also mentions the Three Magi who offered gold, frankincense and myrrh. The carol concludes that we must believe in God-King as our refuge. It would have been sung at the Chapelle Royale of Versailles in the presence of the King.
The other one also ancient, Ca berger assemblons-nous which was part of the Christmas Eve and Day service. This one speaks of the humble beginning of Jesus and is asking the simple shepherds to come and see him abandoning their herds which are overseen by angels during their absence. God is calling you the carol proclaims. Ah quel grand mystere is another carol which is sung scripture around the Christmas story.
There are so many beautiful old French carols, the words are poetry taken from the Scriptures. They are considered sacred music. The Adeste Fideles which is sung in Latin at a time prior to 1962 when mass was in Latin speaks of the Glory of God and the need for the faithful to come and adore the Messiah. All this music was composed for organ, with a tenor and a large choir to lend majesty to the Christmas service. There are many more but when I think of it, it is a distant past which by today’s standard belong to another time.
This music of French Canada is not well known in the rest of English Canada. The other problem today is that English culture in Canada today is dominated by USA influence which smoothers.
Today we had an appointment to see one of the doctors who is treating Will’s cancer, the news was very positive, the mood jovial. Will has gained weight and his blood work is normal. Recommendation is that he eats more to gain more weight. We were both so happy to hear this news, could not come at a better time. We are not out of the woods yet, but it is all positive. The big test is in February with the CT scan and then we will know if all these treatments were successful.
When we got home Will made some pastry and then used the mince meat to make little turnover with a Calvados glaze. They are very good. He has also invited some close friends to come for coffee in the coming days during the Holidays another good sign.
After a 5 year $100 million complete restoration of the Legislative building, Province House should reopen next year and the Members of the Assembly will return. It was built in 1834 but never well maintained. It is a beautiful Georgian Building. This is the North side, the South side is the main entrance and is identical.
Well a few weeks back, Will said that this Christmas he would not make any Plum Pudding because he did not fell up to it, given his health. Ok no problem, we have a wonderful freshly made one year ago Christmas Fruit Cake from our friend John who for the past 40 years has sent us his home made cake which is beyond good and wonderful. I think it must be a secret recipe, the cake smells heavenly and it is so delicious it is difficult to stop yourself from going for more than 2 pieces at a time, it is very rich and soaking in Brandy.
So Will asked on FB if anyone knew of a place where you could buy a good Plum Pudding. Out of the blue came a reply from an old school friend from 70 year ago. Now that is a lifetime when you think of it, she offered to send us one, she makes them every year. It arrived my mail from Vancouver. At the same time I asked a friend here on the Island, who lives just outside of Charlottetown in Vernon Bridge if he was making any Plum Pudding, yes he said and then went on to ad that he would let me know. Heard nothing and yesterday he brought us a pudding which is quite large and in Island fashion is made in a can, the recipe is somewhat different from the traditional one but nonetheless very good. So now I have Christmas Plum Pudding and Will is going to make the hard butter sauce with brandy to go with it.
So we made shortbreads and now Will wants to make a Ginger Cake and a Gum drop cake. We will have to have a lot of people over to eat the stuff. I can’t eat it all by myself.
Last night I saw on Instagram a recipe on how to cook the perfect Prime Rib Roast Beef. I am fascinated by this recipe and how easy it is. The fellow is a chef and he cooks all manner of dishes. This one suggest cooking your Prime Rib at 500 F. 15 minutes per rib, so 2 ribs would be 30 minutes and then turn off the stove and leave your prime rib in the oven for 2 hours, do not open the door at any time. After 2 hours it will be ready to eat. He also gives a recipe on how to make a rich gravy with red wine and beef stock. I am very tempted to try it.
Winter is going to be mild, today again the weather is mild 3C and light rain. I hope that if we cannot have snow on Chritsmas day we have at least no rain and some sunshine.
The dinner Friday at the Club was a huge success about 70 people came and the food was wonderful. The entertainment was also very good and everyone had fun. The Mayor showed up and had dinner and spoke to everyone. There is a New Year’s Eve party with more entertainment and then the Levée on New Year’s day which is a very old tradition going back to the Court in France in 1563. In Canada as of 1812 we followed this tradition where people come and pay their respect to the Representative of the King, in this case the Governor of PEI at Government House. One year I worked it and 600 people showed up to shake hands and offer good wishes. The Club has a Levée so does the Mayor and the Commanders of the Army and Navy in Charlottetown. But this year I am staying home because of infections and Covid running around still. I am going to see the Governor this week privately and will offer my good wishes then.
Tomorrow Monday we have an appointment with the doctor for Will and we will get more results on his cancer etc. I hope for good news. He is looking so much better now.
Queen Charlotte’s Levée Room at St-James Palace, London. She was the wife of King George III and Charlottetown is named for her.
Living on an island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence means that the weather can change in a blink of an eye, as they say here, if you do not like the current weather just wait 10 minutes it will change.
Today around 2pm the wind picked up and sleet and snow started falling, then the wind picked up some more and became nasty North Eastern. So it is not so much snowing now as very high winds. The streets are deserted and many businesses closed at 3pm. Schools were closed all day and tomorrow will be the same. The majority of kids live on farms on frozen mud roads and it is too dangerous to drive school buses on such roads in very high windy conditions. That is Winter in PEI, not as charming as Summer.
Had a tea and cake with friends this afternoon at the home of another friend on Sydney street just a block from where I live, the house is known as the Music Teachers House circa 1860 at one point the Presbyterian Church next door use to house its music director in that house. The church was pulled down a long time ago and moved one block to a far larger stone building. The land was bought by the Catholic Church for a community centre in that ugly 1950 architecture. The house remained on a street full of similar houses now all attached to a luxury hotel, The Great George. A beautiful house with a very nice garden. Was pushed home by the wind at my back.
Walk the dogs tonight just around the house, the wind is strong, the streets are totally deserted and the city plows have started to clean streets which they will do all night due to the drifting snow. I do like the quiet of Winter in the city, no traffic and little noise.
The rest of the week will be quiet, Friday is the Xmas party called Winter’s Light with dinner and show. Should be loads of fun. A slow end to the year. A strange year again, since March 2020 nothing has been like it has ever been before and there is no end in sight it seems. I am focusing now on Will’s health and hoping for a full recovery by end March, fingers crossed.
The weather is not very nice at the moment as we approach Xmas. This morning I was listening to a very nice rendition of Black Bird by Paul McCartney on saxophone it was beautiful, modern interpretation. It is one of my favourite piece of music. The other one which makes me stop to listen is by Cesar Franck, Prélude, Fugue, et Variation. Absolutely wonderful and this is the music I love to listen before going to sleep or before I die this would be the music I would want to hear. It evoque in me many recollections. Have a listen it is well worth it.
We do live in troubled times, it seems the world is gone mad, pandemics, inflations, climate change, extinctions of species, war in Europe, failed politics and violence, threats to democracy. It has been getting worse since March 2020 when Covid became a thing. Let us hope that 2023 will bring a return to more balance and stability. Though I know that it is unlikely, possibly more horrors will come our way. But in the past there has been periods like 1929 to 1945 deep economic depression and then world war and all the horrors of it, with millions of dead. Before that 1914-1919 another great period of turmoil with a flu epidemic. I just feel strange that we will not return to a life as it was prior to 1990, it will never be the same.
I hear friends who are my age or older saying they are happy to be at the end of their lives because they lived through good times, though there was trouble but never as we see it now. From 1946 to 1990 there was stability despite some events, people remained optimistic for the future. This optimism seems to have gone out.
We have talked of travelling in 2023 but we would do close to home travel, nothing in Europe despite wanting to go. Then again at home much will depend on the recovery and good health of Will. More months to go before the final word.
Given that we are 2 weeks away from Xmas, today I decided to go and get my Xmas bird, well not a turkey but a Cornish Hen which I will cook and serve with the appropriate side dish and for dessert will have the Plum Pudding sent to us by Will’s old school friend who lives in Vancouver.
Tomorrow Tuesday the first Winter storm is coming our way with hurricane force winds which is the real concern since the clean up from Fiona continues and many trees are still to be cut down and taken away. We may get more power outages. Though I am not worried here being on the strategic power supply axis of the capital. Winds from the NW at 90Km per hour and snow accumulation of 15cm.
We have done our Christmas decorations and this year it is a small 3 foot tree, no sterling silver balls, no Wedgwood ornaments, only smaller simpler ornaments still collected over 40 years from all around the world. Maybe it is better to go for simpler, nothing says you have to over decorate or go over board with gifts or meals. I prefer to listen to music from J.S.Bach or other classical composers Praetorius, Charpentier, or old French 18th century music or some Chet Baker.
Whatever you do this year, I hope it will make you happy. By the way in and around 1100 AD you would have said Merrie Christes Maesse. The photo below by Mauro Pagliai is the centre of Rome, Piazza Venezia and the lighting of the City of Rome Christmas tree. The long straight lighted street is Via del Corso which takes you to Piazza del Popolo. This street was known in antiquity as Via Flaminia built in 220 BC. imagine walking on a street that is 2220 years old and still very much in use. If you follow it outside of Rome it would take you over the Apennine Mountains to Ariminum (Rimini) on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. How we miss Rome and living there after all these years.
Another view this time from the top of the Vittoriano dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuelle II who unified Italy in 1870 with Garibaldi.
So again this week has been busy with many chores and events, Will’s health, my return from a 48 hour trip to Halifax and then attending to finding the food formula for Will, that was an adventure. Several companies make this injectable formula and it is a big seller for patients. Abbott is one company and the other manufacturer is Nestlé. So the product is now sold in cartons instead of metal cans. Because of this conversion from one container to another a delay in Canada is happening and the product will be available again on 15 December. What do you do in the meantime, that is anyone’s guess. Luckily the Cancer centre was able to help us out and we can substitute for the time being to another similar product. We were caught short and the nutritionist mentioned also that with Winter storms on the Island the bridge which is the only link to the rest of Canada in Winter can close for a day or two due to very high winds. This means that you should always stock up on essentials in Winter, just in case.
The weather is still very mild, no snow in the forecast and I think that this year will be like last year, the snow will be very late probably in January. When prior to Climate Change just a few years ago, snow would arrive by early November or sometimes late October. This Winter we are having the Canada Winter Games so we will need snow and cold weather, not rain and mild weather which is likely now.
Today we made Tourtiere, which is a very old Canadian recipe from the 17th Century and extremely popular at this time of the year. Originally it was game meat from the hunt, usually from a bird called Tourte. Nowadays it is a mixture of beef, veal, pork. Everyone has a family recipe but it is a variation on a similar theme. Mine has no beer and no potato in it. If you go on YouTube look for Food Wishes with Chef John, he has an excellent recipe for Tourtiere.
I also want to make a shortbread with pistachio and orange peel. Again it is an old recipe and the New York Times has a recipe this weekend, however theirs has chocolate in it, mine does not. A good cookie does not need chocolate.
Recipe for Shortbread Orange Pistachio, Cranberry
Orange Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Cookies have the perfect balance of butter, orange zest, cranberries, and pistachios.
They are tender and melt in your mouth with a lovely flavor. I love that the dough can be made a few days ahead of time so you can pull out and slice enough to enjoy each day, but they also store wonderfully in an airtight container.
First remove the zest from 1-2 large Oranges. I like using a vegetable peeler and then scraping any excess white pith off the zest with a sharp knife.
This allows a little bit larger pieces of Orange Zest than using a zester.
Chop Zest finely.
1 cup Butter
3/4 cup Powdered Sugar
2 tablespoons Orange Zest
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1/4 teaspoon Salt
Until well combined.
Add 3/4 cup Dried Cranberries and 3/4 cup Pistachios, and mix until well combined.
Stir in 2 cups All-Purpose Flour just until combined, being careful not to over mix.
Divide cranberry shortbread dough into 2. Shape into 2 logs 2″-2 1/4″ thick and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour
Slice Orange Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Cookies 1/4″ thick and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake cookies in a 350 degree oven for 16-18 minutes until edges are just lightly brown. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet to ensure centers are well cooked and crispy.
We also made the tree today, however this year because of Will’s being unwell we have downsized the whole Xmas affair, so we went from an 8 foot tree to a 3 foot tree. The tree is also decorated with ornaments we have been collecting for 44 years and we are using cloisonné balls because of their small size instead of the usual sterling silver balls.
For Christmas dinner instead of turkey or goose, I will have Cornish hens and dessert will be the traditional plum pudding flaming. A friend of Will’s sent him one from Vancouver. Again usually he would make his own but he does not have the energy this year.
Well today is the traditional Santa Claus Parade in Montreal, it has always been a big affair and indicates the start of the Xmas Shopping Season. In the old day, maybe 40 years ago EATON’s dept store hosted the parade and it always ended at the Store on St-Catherines street in Montreal. Now the dept store is gone like all great dept stores and the parade is on Sherbrooke street, still downtown of course and still a very nice parade. The one thing I do remember was that in the old days Santa had to enter the store through a window on the 5th floor of the facade of EATON’s this was way, way, up there, I always thought he would not make it, it was so high, it was all part of the spectacle.
This morning I got up and after walking and feeding Nicky and Nora, I prepared all the ingredients to make a Chili con carne in the slow cooker. It will be ready by 6pm. I follow a recipe which is fairly simple and I add to it celery, a carrot to the usual garlic and onion with one Jalapeno and one red pepper. I do not like it too spicy, it does not agree with my stomach. I also mix veal and beef in the recipe. What I do not eat right away can be frozen.
The newsletter is done for this week and it is about all the preparation for the various events at the Club in December. We also had our Annual general Assembly and I was elected Chair of the Membership Committee. Recruitment is a big portion of this job.
Will is completing is cancer treatment on Monday, he has done well all along and was quite brave considering the aggressiveness of the treatment over the 6 weeks. Now we wait and return to the centre in December for further assessment. Only in March will we have the final word. Patience is of the essence and a certain degree of serenity.
Other than that, life is very quiet now socially speaking. This coming week I am giving a talk on diplomacy at the Irish Benevolent Society. In PEI a very large number of the population is of Irish descent or Scottish, in both cases, descendants of poor people who were deported by the British to PEI with the promise of a better life. A lot of people I know told me they were coming to hear me talk. So I better be prepared to say something half way intelligent.
Yesterday I got the Sirius XM system for my car, I was tired of having bad reception and very poor radio choice. Preachy radio hosts and always the same music over and over.
Sirius has a great choice of music and no commercial and no news, I mean at least I can get the news I want like NPR and BBC World service. The sound is also very good.
Today we bought SONOS speakers for the house so we can use them with Sirius, again the sound is very good, it is a big improvement.
I got the car tuned-up for Winter and bought new Winter tires replacing the 11 yrs old ones I had. In the Spring I may get new Summer tires the current ones are 5 yrs old.
So the last cruise ship left us a few days ago and the next day all the tourist restaurants closed, so it makes for a much quieter city now and the evenings really give the city a small town feel.
The municipal election came and went yesterday, it was a dismal affair from the point of view of public involvement. PEI has a national reputation as a place where voter turnout is always very high, around 84% or so about. Well this campaign was super quiet, no lawn signs, only one Q&A with mayoral candidates, no debates.
Of the 57 municipal councils on the Island 16 had no candidates to replace the municipal council leaving office including mayors. So now the Province has to find people to be appointed to serve, not an easy task, no one wants those jobs it seems. So they will be under trusteeship of the Minister of Municipal Affairs until some people can be found to fill those positions. This has never happened before and it is a puzzle, what happened?
The voter turn out is also very low, I voted early and was the only one at the polling station. I went back the day before the election and spoke with the returning officer who confirmed that indeed it was very quiet, abnormally so. The Official count in Charlottetown gives 47% total voter turnout. Some Councillors were acclaimed no opponents, others won with a handful of votes. This does not bode well for our democracy, but it seems people have become cynical and have lost faith in our politicians. In other municipality it is as low as 33% turnout, really not acceptable but there you go.
On the Covid front it seems that more and more people are affected, because people in the large part are vaccinated and or boosted, many are sick for 2 to 3 days and it is mild. Nonetheless we are really careful and we are getting our third booster shot, just in case.
The clean up from FIONA is continuing around the Island and it may take more months until Spring probably to complete the job. Nice to know that PEI was totally unprepared for this storm, no emergency plans, no generators at gas stations or pumping stations. Critical infrastructure totally vulnerable, politicians absent from the scene. Why you ask, well the short answer is; That’s the Island Way. Sad but true.
This week is Remembrance Day, Le Jour du Souvenir, it usually speaks more to the First World War 1914-1918, but nowadays the veterans we have are from the war in Afghanistan, the longest war Canada has been involved in, 11 years, with no results to show for it.
Finally I always like to look at paintings of the 16th or 17th century for all the hidden meaning and symbolism. One painting I saw recently was of a girl with a basket of eggs, she dropped it and some eggs are broken. Standing near her is an older women pointing and irate at the girl, the older woman is speaking to a man and is denouncing the girl. But is this about broken eggs? Only 1 broken out of several dozen, why the fuss?
Well the question is what do broken eggs mean in this case? The painting is called Broken Eggs, by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1725-1805.
Well the broken eggs mean Lost Virtue, the girl lost her virtue possibly to the young man and the old woman is irate because of this fact. Even the little boy as a side glance as if to say; oh she is so naughty.
Today was the first day of 4 advance voting days before the 7 November date for the Municipal Elections in PEI.
I follow the candidates most of whom I know at a certain level to have spoken to them or met with them since 2018 when I ran for office in Charlottetown. I do remember their stand on various issues and do we ever have lots of urgent and pressing issues in Charlottetown, from housing which is in an acute crisis no matter how much money you have to buy, rent or build. Homelessness in a city of 40K and infrastructure in general in a state of decay or in complete fail mode. A city council that is completely dysfunctional, financial scandals and nepotism on the grand scale.
We also have elections in other towns like Cornwall, Summerside, Stratford and in many small settlements in rural areas. In the smaller settlements, it has been very difficult to find anyone who wishes to run for office, this means the Province has to step in and put those area into trusteeship.
The media in general does not cover much of the election or the candidates, a lot of fluff pieces and roundtables where the candidates make nice statements and every one smiles a lot. You have to appreciate that the media in general in PEI, this includes the National Broadcaster CBC are very gun shy when political topics come to the forefront. The population being so small, you cannot speak of someone without bumping into a relative or an old school chum. People can loose jobs for not voting for a certain candidate, this is why people never want to say who they are going to vote for. The political actors are also pretty much the same gang, related to business or political parties. This year because of FIONA and the tons of debris still laying around, many candidates have no signs. They go door to door instead, but there is a strange apathy amongst the population.
In Charlottetown, we have 3 candidates for Mayor of the Capital ( a big village) one is the incumbent whose own family have been public office holders for several generations, they are also in construction and are well known. The other fellow is someone who is the head of the Landlord and Owners association, a group devoted to defending the privileges of the powerful who are so often maligned. He is also a housing crisis denier. The third fellow is totally unknown and speaks non-stop about abortion which is clearly NOT a municipal issue.
In my Ward which is the old town of Charlottetown of 1779, we have 3 candidates, this is probably the most important Ward in terms of population, tourism, businesses and political power. The population has attracted more and more wealthy people and wide gentrification is underway, tourism yes all the hotels and Air B&B are in Ward one, the cruise ship port is also here and the Legislature and all the government buildings including City Hall. So we have the incumbent who is closely allied and employed by the most powerful business family in PEI. The other candidate is a young women, who made her name by creating a group who organized help in PEI for everyone needing it after FIONA, her efforts have been widely appreciated, the Government being largely absent and totally disorganized or unable to help. The Premier Denny King, a former comedian, thought he would give money to people, a cheque for $250. for anyone asking for it. The Red Cross is handling this charitable endeavour, problem is, the Red Cross has virtually no staff and cannot really do this. The other problem is that a lot of Islanders have no fixed address OR we should say they have 2 addresses, one is formal but they do not live there and the other is informal where they actually live. It makes things complicated when you want to check on the home address of people for official purposes. So the Red Cross has a tough time cross referencing who lives where and who is the the real beneficiary? Ah! the Island way.
The third candidate in Ward 1 is a fellow who believes that the first priority is to build nuclear silos on the docks to prevent an attack by Russia. Yes we always have kooks in every election it provides entertainment.
So I voted and I was the only one there with 6 employees of Election PEI, they were not very busy this morning. In all it took me 3 minutes, in and out. It is all paper ballots with a pencil. I always preferred paper ballots so simple and old fashion and no fuss. There is also a register where you sign your name to indicate that you did come in to vote. All very civilized.
Today I also gave a bath to Nicky and Nora, they don’t like it and Nora knowns something is wrong when she sees us get their towels and soap and run the water. She gets this look in her eyes, too funny. Both needed it and they feel better afterwards. All their blankets were also washed.
Tonight is home made pizza night, fresh made pizza dough, toppings, Fontina and Parmesan cheese, sliced tomatoes, sauté mushrooms and a green pesto sauce. I always prefer a white sauce or a pesto sauce, I am not big on tomato sauce on pizza. In Italy, the variety of pizzas is interesting and ever changing and tomato sauce is not common. Again it looks like it is an Italian immigrant cuisine invention. The pizza is cooked in the oven in a black cast iron skillet pan at 500 F. for a few minutes.
Pizza ready to be cooked toping is arugula Pesto, Mushrooms, slice fresh tomatoes, red onion, Fontina cheese and Parmesan.
Well we are at the end of week 3 of treatment. We have 3 more weeks to go. There is progress and that is good news. Thank you to all who have sent good wishes, it is very much appreciated.
We are coming to the end of October already, time is flying so quickly, I am surprised by how fast events come and go.
We had a visit today by a friend and we sat outside it was such a beautiful day. She lives with her family in the St-Peter’s Harbour area, quite a lovely area of the Island, it is also where the Greenwich National Park is located. They have a large garden and we got some bounty of vegetables. So this evening I am having a large salad for dinner.
Will today made a Sweet Potato Cake, it is very good and an easy recipe to follow.
Our friend also brought some zucchini cake and it is wonderful. The weather is cooler but the brilliant sunshine makes all the difference.
Telling the stories of the history of the port of Charlottetown and the marine heritage of Northumberland Strait on Canada's East Coast. Winner of the Heritage Award from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and a Heritage Preservation Award from the City of Charlottetown