Friday, 29 June 2018

On the Road Again

Road Trip

No matter how where you travel, there are always adventures. Travelling through three New Brunswick counties on Pete’s Tours in May was a memorable beginning to my summer jaunts. My latest trip took me to Ontario for 12 days.

Destination: Ontario

I set out from Fredericton with my cousin Lynn and my sister Kathy on our way to Ottawa. As expected, there were very few moments of silence for the next 12 hours as Lynn chauffeured us through three provinces. What do three aging cousins find to talk about for 1000 kilometers? Car-shopping, bra-fitting, gender fluidity, Trump, hypnosis, the price of gas, Royal weddings, fermented milk, canoodling on the couch, haunted houses, sperm sales, lawn pests, the f-word, etc. As T.S. Eliot says, it’s “the journey, not the arrival, that matters.”

Words of Wisdom

Of course, my sister and I had to have at least one major disagreement. It centered on potato salad this time. Listen up:
Barb: “Mom used to cook the potatoes in their skins, then peel them when they were cold. I think that’s what made her potato salad taste so good.”
Kathy: “I don’t think she cooked the potatoes with their skins on.”
Barb: “Yes, she did, Kathy.”
Kathy: “I don’t think so, Barb.”
Barb: “Yes, she did. I remember.”
Kathy: “No, she didn’t.”
Barb: “Yes, she did.”
Kathy: “No, she didn’t.”
Barb: “Yes, she did.”
As usual, our discussion was very productive. Lynn just gripped the wheel and kept us moving forward. That got us to Woodstock. 

Heading West

We were avid Canadian tourists in Ottawa. We had a private meeting with New Brunswick Senator, David Adams Richards, we had lunch with Marc Garneau, and we hung out with Lisa Raitt. Well, I embellish a little. Marc Garneau came into the Parliament cafeteria while we were eating, and we had to walk by Lisa Raitt’s office on the way to the washroom. But we really did have a private meeting with DAR. 

Marc Garneau, MP

Lisa Raitt, MP

 David Adams Richards, Senator

We sat in on the House of Commons and the Senate while they were in session. The seats were mostly full in both houses, and the members were attentive to their jobs—a contrast to the shameful behaviour I observed at the New Brunswick Legislature last year. We visited the “Women are Persons” monument a few times, thanking The Famous Five--Henrietta Muir Edwards, Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby and Louise McKinney for winning the Persons Case in 1929 which declared women as persons under the law and made them eligible for appointment to the Canadian Senate.

The Famous Five

We had a pub dinner one evening at the Heart and Crown in The Byward Market with 10 of our Ottawa relatives. Our party---first cousins, second cousins, first cousins once removed, first cousin twice removed---ranged in age from 3 months to 60-something. Good to keep in touch!!

Extended Family Dinner 
at The Heart and Crown

The next day, we took an amphibious bus tour of the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau. Yes, 20 minutes of the tour is in the Ottawa River. New experience!

Floating around the Ottawa River

That evening, after a nasty altercation with a malfunctioning vending machine in the Ottawa Via Rail Station, my niece Anne and I boarded the train for Toronto, leaving Lynn and Kathy to return to NB without me.

Consumer Activism
(or Super-Cheap?)

The Toronto part of my tour included an evening at The Dakota Tavern to hear Fredericton’s own David Myles and his band.

David Myles and Kyle Cunjak 

I attended a lovely June wedding at the Terra Cotta Nature Preserve. Sarah,first- cousin-once-removed, and Michelle, first-cousin-once-removed-in-law.

Sarah and Michelle

I spent one afternoon with Ben and Eleanor, Julia's charges. Made them each a 30-minute hat.

Eleanor and Ben

I attended 3 Pilates classes, a Mother’s Day gift from Julia. Challenging!

Meghan Mesheau
Pilates Instructor

I saw Come from Away at the Royal Alexandra. Was reminded of the extraordinary generosity of Newfoundlanders.


I watched Doug Ford get elected as premier of Ontario in 17 minutes. 

New Era

I had a meal with everybody I know in Toronto, and some I didn’t know.

Bellwoods Brewery

I tried to keep up with Julia, walking---and in other ways. Couldn't.

Julia, my Baby

I shopped at all the RFRs in Little Italy. Four mushy avocados for one dollar---delicious!

RFR Shopping 

I finished this great book. Strongly recommend.


I started this great book. Became an overnight expert in narcissism.


I watched 15 hours of Forensic Files with Julia. Became an overnight expert in forensics.


Upcoming trip---Denver, Colorado. Tune in next month for a travel update!

Ibu Battuta

...Until Next Time...


Friday, 25 May 2018

The Roads Less Travelled: Trip of a Lifetime

The Roads Less Travelled: Trip of a Lifetime

"The same blood courses through our veins."
A friend of mine who has no extended family in this country, is envious when I speak of my siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, in-laws, out-laws etc. I have a wealth of relatives that certainly adds to the richness of my life. This past month, I made a withdrawal from the family bank—or was that an investment?

The Family Bank: Jeaneology 2013

My sister, Kathy, has been trying for years to organize a tour of back roads around Millstream,NB, home of our cousin Peter Holder who has an abundance of knowledge, a wicked sense of humour and a flair for story-telling. Last week, the tour became a reality. With Peter behind the wheel as driver and tour guide, we knew the trip would be entertaining.

Signage, 2018

The five women who signed up for the tour arrived at Peter’s Millstream home with picnics and great expectations. Peter’s two sisters, Lesley and Sylvia, Peter’s two cousins, Barb and Kathy, and our friend Sue, who claims she would like to be adopted into our family, all piled into Peter’s Dodge van and we hit the road. 

Tour Bus

Of course, Peter knows most people, cows and farms for miles around. And those he doesn’t know, Lesley does. Lesley is married to John, the AI Man (Artificial Insemination Man). Let’s just say, he gets around! Sometimes Lesley goes with him and she could give Siri, Hey Google, GPS and Wikipedia a run for their money.
The conversation in the van would go something like this:
Kathy: “Who lives there, Peter?”
Peter: “Well, I think that’s the Folkins boy. Lesley is that where young Folkins lives?”
Lesley: “No that’s the Pearson farm. The Folkins farm is at Pleasant Ridge." 
With Peter behind the wheel, and Lesley in the very back corner of the van, there was a bit of yelling going on.

Tour Guide and Driver

Our first two forays into actual driveways of Holder cousins brought disappointing results. In both cases several vehicles were parked in the yards, but no-one answered Peter’s rapping at the door. “They’ve got wind of us coming,” Peter suggested when he returned to the Tour Bus. “I imagine they’re crawling on the floor under the windows, hiding,” Lesley added, nodding her head in agreement.

Hiding from The Tour Group

On our third visiting attempt, there were people in the driveway. They could not escape us. Our Tour Guide graciously introduced us to Hoyt and Elizabeth, owners of a meticulous home in Highfield complete with stone fences and woodpiles constructed with mathematical precision.  “We’re on a tour, today. These are my sisters, Lesley and Sylvia, and my cousins, Barb and Kathy.” Sue, award-winning author and all-round wonderful human being, was not mentioned. From her back corner, she attempted to make herself known, but, alas, her feeble, “And I’m Sue White,” was drowned out by the five cousins/sisters/brother all talking at once about Hoyt’s stone fence and remarkable woodpile. 

Susan White, Author of 7 books

Woodpiles became a theme on the trip as were horses, fences, churches, graveyards, rhubarb hills and clotheslines. We must have passed 20 little white churches. Isn’t it interesting what you notice? I was reminded of my mother’s complaints about Sunday drives with my father. “He wants to stop and look at every manure pile in Kings County!”

"Every Manure Pile in Kings County"

We visited several communities including Lower Millstream, Manitoba Road, Collina,  Pearsonville, Highfield, Long Creek, Snider Mountain, Keirstead Mountain, Berwick, Pleasant Ridge, Morgan Hill, Head of Millstream, Perry Settlement, Havelock, Cornhill, Annagance Ridge, Knightville, Mount Pisgah, Plumesweep, Roachville, Berwick, Lower Millstream and Parleeville—in three different counties—Kings, Queens and Westmorland. And this was not just a “fun” trip. There were tests—for example, naming the 15 counties of NB. Can you do it?

Name the 15 Counties of NB

We ate our picnic lunch on the steps of Snider Mountain Baptist Church. Our Aunt Jean, mother of the Holder children, always attended the Remembrance Day Service at this church. Milton Gregg, local Canadian war hero and recipient of the Victoria Cross, is buried in that cemetery. Aunt Jean would encourage other family members to join her at this service to honour the Canadian military in which she served overseas in World War Two. Following the service, she would invite family members back to her house to celebrate her November 4th birthday. Aunt Jean was not only a veteran, a history buff, and a Royalist, she was also efficient and practical! It made perfect sense to celebrate Remembrance Day and her birthday at the same time! 

Aunt Jean in London, 1945

There are a lot of green rolling hills in this part of the province. According to my research, these are like the “foothills” of the Appalachians and the Caledonia Mountains. We had the honour of meeting 90-year-old Murray Steen, mayor of Snider Mountain, who claims that his mountain is so high, he can leave his driveway, put his car in neutral and coast all the way to downtown Sussex, 25 kilometres away! 

Murray Steen (Mayor) and Peter (Tour Guide)

The countryside is beautiful, fields lush and fertile. At this time of year, the bilberry blossoms are in full bloom and the trees are budding. More Tour Bus Conversation:

Kathy: “What kind of trees are those?”
Barb: “Poplar.”
Kathy: “They are not poplar. They’re maple.”
Barb: “They’re poplar.”
Kathy: “They are not poplar, Barb. They’re maple!”
Barb: “Popple! Poplar!”
Lesley: “I think there’s both. Maple and poplar.”

Poplar or Maple? Barb or Kathy?

As the hours rolled by, definite roles evolved in the Dodge Caravan. Clearly, from the beginning, Peter was Tour Guide and Driver. In addition to her role as encyclopedia of local geography and every farm in three counties, Lesley became the Calm Voice of Reason. She had to intervene on occasion to settle the sibling waters and put a lid on the general hysteria which ramped up from time to time. Kathy, securely buckled in the navigator seat, earned the title General Manager. As the chronicler and photographer of our sojourn, I proudly accepted the title, Public Relations Officer. In the middle seat beside me sat the Highway Safety Officer, Sylvia. And back in the corner sat Sue, struggling to hear and to be heard. She worked tirelessly to earn the title, Cousin-in-Training.  

Tour Guide and General Manager

The Highway Safety Officer took her role very seriously.
“Peter, do you have your signal light on?”
“Oh my God, here comes a bus!”
“Why aren’t there any guardrails up here!?”
“Peter, don’t run over those kids!”
“Oh my God, here comes a dog!”
“Watch this car.”
“What’s wrong, Peter? You’ve got your brakes on.”
“Oh my God, where are you going now?!!!”
“There’s a truck, Peter, and it’s coming pretty friggin’ fast!!!”
By the end of the day, we were all Highway Safety Officers. You could hear a chorus of five women screaming, “Oh my God, Peter, here comes a truck!!”

Highway Safety Officer

The three Holder siblings, Peter, Lesley and Sylvia, were more familiar with the area than the rest of us, of course. It was reassuring to hear the following statements as they got their bearings:
“Oh, we’re right here.”
“I know exactly where I am now.”
“Do I know where we are yet?”
“We’re not in the right place for that house.”

"Oh, we're up here."

Peter is a great storyteller--both the content and the delivery are memorable. There was a story to go with every farm, covered bridge and ditch. Unfortunately, it was difficult for our Cousin-in-Training to hear at the back of the bus. So, every time Peter started a tale, Miss Sue would yell, “What did you say, Peter?” We heard that loud and clear more than a few times. And of course, by the time the rest of us repeated it to her, the relayed message was often wrong. The Quilt Collector became a Quilt Corrector, the Clane Family Farm became the Clang Family Farm, Freeman became Herman and clothesline became fraulein. Just outside Havelock, when Stanley Floyd phoned the Tour Bus to see how the trip was going, the first thing Peter said was, “We need an intercom, Stanley!”

Intercom Next Time

 In midafternoon, we stopped for refreshment at the Cedar CafĂ© at Cornhill Nursery. When the waitress arrived to take our order, Lesley told her this was the first day for the up and coming tour company, Pete’s Tours, and the Tour Guide and Driver needed a cup of tea. 
“Oh, a new tour company. That’s nice,” the waitress said.
“Yeah, but he could only find five people to come on the tour,” Lesley added.
With that, our Tour Guide and Driver fell into hysterical laughter and was unable to regain composure. Exhaustion, we figured. He’d been on the road for five hours with five Highway Safety Officers and no intercom.

Cedar Cafe, Cornhill

We continued on our way, passing Frank Jopp's farm in Mount Pisgah. Conversation in the Tour Bus went like this:
Peter: “That’s Frank Jopp’s farm.”
Sue: “What did you say, Peter?”
Barb: “Oh, the guy with all the solar panels?”
Peter: “Yep.”
Kathy: “Let’s stop.”
Sylvia: “We can’t stop! There are people in the yard!”
Peter the Tour Guide and Driver drove on by.
Kathy: “Turn around, Peter! Let’s go back.”
Sylvia: “Don’t you dare turn around, Peter! There are people in the yard!”
Kathy: “So what. Turn around, Peter!”
Peter: “Do you want me to turn around?”
Sue: “What did you say, Peter?”
Barb: “Yeah, let’s go back.”
Sylvia: “Well, where are you going to turn around? You can’t turn here!”
Kathy: “Pull in here.”
Sylvia: “Oh my God, here comes a bus!”
Lesley: “Namaste. Om. Om. Namaste.”

Frank Jopp: Solar Farmer

We had a good look at the 25 solar panels Frank Jopp has erected on the sidehill behind his barn. They generate enough energy to power 8 homes. Frank told us the cost of each solar panel and four of us heard one price, and two of us heard another. (Sylvia and I are right.) We argued for the next few miles until Lesley intervened once again with her Calm Voice of Reason.

"$25,000! No, $35,000!

Our next stop was at a Mennonite greenhouse in Plumesweep. The six of us piled out of the car and entered the greenhouse where we met a grandmother, a mother and four young children. The women and three little girls were dressed in traditional Mennonite garb—long dresses, aprons and bonnets. The one little boy was dressed in shirt and pants. We stood facing the family chatting about the greens they had for sale. All of a sudden, the little boy walked up to me, took me by the hand and led me out of the greenhouse. He did not speak or smile or give any indication of where we were going, but he moved with intention! As we were nearing the end of the yard and heading toward the field, the little girls joined us. The eldest girl told me the little boy, Brian, was two years old. She thought maybe he was taking me to the field where his father and grandfather were working. We got him turned around and headed back to the greenhouse where he picked up a carrot off the floor and gave it to me to eat. That soft little hand in mine was enough to warm any heart made of granite.

Little Brian and Granite

The last road on our trip was the one you see from the back of Peter’s house, across the wide meadow and the Millstream River. When we were directly across from his house, Peter pointed to a scraggly tree at the edge of the field. “See that tree,” he said. “I get  my grandkids to look out the window at night when there is a full moon. I tell them, if we came over here some night, we could climb that tree and hop right on to the moon.” What an enchanting story from a devoted grandfather to eight lucky grandchildren.

Moon Tree

We returned to Peter’s kitchen and ate the rest of our picnic for supper. Although our sides were aching from laughter, the stories continued until we departed at seven, well-nourished in so many ways. If you want to sign up for an exclusive tour with Peter, let me know asap! Spaces are filling up fast!

Pete's Tours

Cornhill, NB

…Until Next Time…

Monday, 30 April 2018

Your Signature Dish

Your Signature Dish

One of my cousins recently inspired me to do an informal poll on our “Henderson Relatives” Facebook page. The poll had one questionWhat is your signature dish? You know, the dish you can rely on to always turn out, the one people ask you to bring to the next get-together, the one that is all gone at the end of the meal. It "can be thought of as the culinary equivalent of an artist finding their own style, or an author finding their own voice."
The question elicited some interesting responses such as:

"When is the family potluck? Where?"

Family Potluck

"I’ll bring the beer!"
Maritime Delicacy

"Stop! You’re making me hungry."

"Are you making a family cookbook?"

Family Cookbook

"I can finally make brown bread like Aunt Charlotte did just using left over oatmeal porridge." 
Aunt Charlotte's Brown Bread

“I sure miss Grammie's rolls. Don't know how many times I asked for her recipe but she always said, "I never wrote it down. I just do it." But I miss her more than any baked good."

Grammie's Rolls

The family poll stirred up a lot of memories involving these women, our aunts and mothers. 

Betty, Mary, Jean, Gladys, Charlotte, Margaret

They were all good cooks, famous for baked beans, potato scallop, rolls, biscuits, chocolate cake with boiled icing, molasses cookies, a fine cup of tea and much, much more. And they were all good mothers, famous for warmth, comfort, humour, patience, generosity and gentleness.

The Henderson Family, 1920s

Honestly, how much love is imparted through food? There is pleasure in sharing a meal. There is comfort in comfort food. There is healing in a good cup of tea.

A Good Cup of Tea!

Think about this. What dish will you be remembered for? Meatballs? Lasagna? Broccoli Salad? 
Then think about this. What will you be remembered for? Your red hair? Your optimism? Your fabulous singing voice? Your sense of humour?

...Until Next Time...