Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Happy Birthday, Eh!

Happy Birthday, Eh!

Canada is getting a lot of attention this week as she/we/it turns 150. We are challenged to define what it means to be Canadian, to rethink our symbols, and to simply embrace the word “eh”, eh.

Canada 150

When I was 10 years old, Canada turned 100. I thought that was really old. In an effort to broaden the horizons of the New Brunswick relatives, my Toronto aunts generously arranged for a number of the country cousins to attend Expo 67 in Montreal. Remember this ditty?:

“Come one, come all

 Come one and all
 To Expo ’67, Montreal”

Expo '67 Montreal

Although I only remember snippets of that trip, I’m sure my horizons were broadened. I remember elevators, escalators, Place Ville Marie, the American pavilion which was a geodesic dome, the bags of pamphlets and brochures I dragged home with me and kept in my bedroom closet until after I finished university. My aunts sublet an apartment in Montreal for the summer, and the various New Brunswick relatives stayed there over the summer months. I remember being so impressed by the words “sublet” and “apartment”, concepts so foreign to my rural experience of 10 years.

American Pavilion

What does it mean to be Canadian in 2017? That discussion has been all over the CBC this week. CBC---speaking of what it means to be Canadian... One radio discussion I heard this morning cautiously agreed that we should be proud of our country, but not too smug as we have some black marks in our history that we need to atone for.


And what about those symbols? Mounties, moose, beavers, maple syrup, hockey. Do they still represent Canada? There are more Canadian adults playing golf than playing hockey, and twice as many kids play soccer than play hockey. In 2017, one in five Canadians is foreign-born, and 81% of us live in urban centres where it is unusual to meet a moose or a beaver.

Urban Moose 

That little word “eh” continues to set us apart. According to CBC, it is still widely used across the country, but is declining in use by the younger generation who replace it with “right, hey, you know, or don’t you.” It is still alive and well in my house. But I’m old. And I have a case of maple syrup in the basement of my urban home, eh.

Maple Syrup Stereotype

...Until Next Time...

Friday, 26 May 2017

Spring Tonic

 Spring Tonic

It is rhubarb season again. I’m back in the field for the fifth year, picking then peddling the beautiful stalks. Just raking in the dollars!

Beauty in a Banana Box

I have the same intern. He has the same complaints---hard work, poor pay.

Super-Tom: Rhubarb Intern

K-9 Security is still with me, a little slower, deafer, blinder, cuter.

K-9 Security: Nuggett

I always think of my great grandmother, Alice, while I am picking rhubarb. Although I have absolutely no memory of Old Gram, we lived in the same house for the first two years of my life which were the last two years of her life. She is really just a myth living in my mind. 

Robert, Alice and Baby Bob

Old Gram called rhubarb “Spring Tonic”, the idea being that the first fresh food available on the farm could revive you after the long winter. “She used it as a physic,” my mother said. A physic? Here you go: Physic definition, a medicine that purges; cathartic; laxative. 

A Physic

There are a couple of stories about Old Gram that stand out in my mind. One is that she would go out to her verandah and yell to her adult sons who lived on farms on either side of her. She did not need a phone. She just stood on the verandah and hollered out "GEOOOOOORGE" to the right of her, and "FRAAAAAANK" to the left of her. I have the impression she liked to be in charge. 


One of my older sisters has a vivid memory of Old Gram cutting her toenails on the verandah. With a knife. In my imagination, it is a rhubarb knife.

Pedicure Anyone?

There is so much you can do with "Spring Tonic". I recommend just stewing it if you want to use it as a physic. Rhubarb pie is a sure hit---my mother always added a handful of raisins to soak up the excess juice. There are TONS of Rhubarb Recipes online, from Rhubarb Chutney to Rhubarb Punch. Here is an easy but delicious Rhubarb Cake recipe from my sister-in-law's kitchen.  

Rhubarb Cake
1/2 c soft shortening
1 1/2 c light brown sugar
Cream above together
1tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 c buttermilk
Mix all above
Add 2 c flour mixed with 1/2 tsp salt + 1 tsp b powder
Stir until almost combined
Add 1 1/2 c raw or still frozen rhubarb
Mix until combined
Put in a greased oblong pan
Sprinkle with a bit of white sugar mixed with cinnamon
Bake at 350 until done

Rhubarb Cake

I leave you with a few “Fun Facts” about Rhubarb:
·        It is native to China
·        The leaves are toxic
·        The word “rhubarb” can also mean a heated argument or dispute
·        It is very high in calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, dietary fibre and more
·        It is considered a vegetable, not a fruit

·        rhubarb   - Word used to describe anywhere you didn't originally intend to be, usu. a roadside ditch or somewhere off of a sled or wheeler trail; "He got goin' too fast and put 'er in the rhubarb." Occasionally, rhubarb functions as a verb, as in "He got goin' too fast an' rhubarbed 'er." See also: pucker-brush. (From Carleton County Colloquialisms)

Barb's Pie Social

...Until Next Time...

Wednesday, 26 April 2017



I couldn’t decide whether to write about Forest Bathing, Mono-Tasking, Thought Monogamy, or Marbles this month. I’ve opted for marbles as it seemed most fitting for the season. I’ll save those other intriguing subjects for another time!


When is the last time you played marbles? I think grade four was my peak marble year. Tag, skipping and marbles were the top activities on our playground at that time. I was pretty good at marbles. Remember the rules? Clearsies, keepsies, fairsies, pinky shots? I had a neat black leather marble bag with a drawstring that held my crockies and my aggies. 

Marble Bag

I don’t remember the “cat’s eye” marble being in my grade four lexicon. However, it’s a very important motif in Margaret Atwood’s 1988 novel, if you care to do some literary exploration on marbles.

 Cat's Eye

On Easter Weekend, in a game with my Little Brother Noel, and his little brother, Kolten, I found out that I’m still pretty good at marbles. Bending over is a bit of a challenge, but I still have a mean pinky shot. 

Marbles with Noel, Kolten and Nugget

There was more to Easter weekend than playing marbles. There was biking on the trail...

Trail-Bikin' With the Boys

...and the Easter Egg Hunt. I splurged and bought four bags of foil-wrapped eggs at the Dollar Store. I hid 60 eggs around the house and yard. After the two boys found them all, and counted them, I hid them again. And again. And again. That $6.60 went a long way. 

Easter Eggs in a Fancy Easter Basket

All of this marble/spring activity/nostalgia is to remind you of the rewards of being a Big Sister to a sweet little boy. When I signed on to this gig, I didn’t give much thought to what this relationship would bring to me. Spending time with this kind, thoughtful,creative, inquisitive, reflective, appreciative little boy brings great joy to me and my extended family.  

Ice-Fishing at Killarney Lake

Consider becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister. It’s all about spending time, not money. Currently, there are about 40 kids in our area awaiting a match. You too could re-discover your prowess in marbles! It’s a definite ego-booster.
(Click on this link for more informationBBBS).

Adult Marble Champion

April is the major fund-raising month for BBBS. Thanks to many of my friends have already donated to this year’s campaign which ends on April 30th. If you would like to contribute online, follow the link below. Thank you for your support in funding this organization that makes a positive difference in kids’ lives.
Donate to BFKS:My Little Brother, Noel

...Until Next Time...

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Learning Curve

The Learning Curve

Proceed with Caution

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about learning. As you know, I am a retired teacher, so I’ve always thought about learning, but I’m not referring to “school” learning. I’m talking about things I learned that are so important to me now in my “leisure” years. 


Like swimming. I learned to swim when I was about six at my grandfather’s beach under the patient guidance of my Uncle John and Aunt Muriel. Thank you for teaching me to swim! Fifty-four years later, I still swim frequently, and I love it! My life would be less if I did not have my swimming.

At Grampy's Beach circa 1963

And knitting. If you read my blog, you know I spend a lot of hours on the needles. What would I do without that? How could I possibly justify the hours I spend with Netflix if I was not doing something productive at the same time? You see, I also learned the Protestant Work Ethic to a degree along the way. 

Protestant Work Ethic

I learned to knit in my grandfather’s parlour under the careful tutelage of my Aunt Audrey. Thank you Audrey! She also gave me my first taste of alcohol in that very parlour where alcohol was strictly forbidden. So in addition to knitting, I learned how to break the rules a bit, and that sherry is not meant to be gulped. Sip it.

Fine Old Sherry

And reading. Well, I don’t exactly remember the one moment I caught on to reading. I guess that was a team effort between home and school. I remember Dick and Jane readers in Grade Two. I loved them. I loved Spot and and Puff and Zeke and Sally and Mother and Father and that car. That perfect life they had. 

See Sally Run!

And I remember the first book I read at home, Arty the Smarty. I recommend it. Reading. God, how empty my life would be without that. Thank you Dick and Jane and Arty the Smarty!

Arty, Bold and Curious

So here is an exercise for you: Think of 3 things you love to do. Who taught you how to do them? Maybe you would like to thank them. If they are in heaven, you could send a prayer.

...Until Next Time...

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Words with Friends

Words with Friends

Among my retirement routines, I include many past-times concerned with words. There is the crytoquote and two crossword puzzles from the local paper, not to mention the word jumble which I do daily with my room-mate—our special together time.

The Jumble: Recipe for a Happy Marriage

I have recently discovered Words with Friends, an online Scrabble game. I now understand how people become addicted to online games. I am hooked. I have about 14 games going at a time.

My New Addiction

Let me tell you about the competition.
There is my 80-year-old Aunt Frances in New Hampshire. In 5 months of playing with her, I might have won one game. Does that sound right to you? Fair? 

Aunt Frances

Then there is my friend, Janet, whom I met in grade 4. She also usually beats me GOOD! She’s so strategic. I don’t really like losing to her all the time, but I feel her strategies are advancing my skill, so I endure the losses. She was really smart in Grade 4, and she’s still really smart!

Not Janet and Not Me in Grade Four

There is my new friend, Christine, whom I just met through a book club I have joined. We had been running neck and neck over the last few months, but she’s starting to draw ahead…

Christine Competition

And through Christine and the book club, I have met Louisa, a Scottish lady. I like to drink Scotch when I’m playing with her, and the more Scotch I drink, the more Scottish words I come up with. That is just coincidence. Loch. Tam. Nae. Aye. I invite her to join me in a drink so I feel like I’m not drinking alone, but I think she refrains for the most part. 


I have a couple of games going with my daughter, Emma, who lives FAR AWAY in Colorado. I feel in touch with her, connected everyday through this game medium. I know, that sounds lame, but it comforts me to have contact with her daily through such an ordinary activity. Almost like she is next door. 

Barb and Emma

My old friend (I mean long-time, not old) Smokey and I usually have a game going. So far our competition has not adversely affected our friendship. We have been through a lot together over the years, including walking across the north of Spain for thirty consecutive days. Surely we will withstand Words with Friends. Emphasis on the friends.
Barb and Smokey:
Camino Graduation

My room-mate Tom and I always have two games in progress. When I hear swearing from the next room, I know he’s looking at a good move I made. If I hear a nasty little snicker, I know he’s made a good move. He's also been playing with my above-mentioned, long-term friend, Smokey, whom he absolutely adores. When I hear him calling Smokey filthy and unprintable names, I know she must be in the lead.  

 (Not) Tom Losing to Smokey

Frankly, I am enjoying my online relationships with my new and old friends. I get a cozy feeling when I sit down to have my coffee with Christine in the morning, or my Scotch with Louisa in the evening. It is nice to rekindle my friendship with a girl I met when I was 10 years old. I would rarely touch base with my aunt if I was not in fierce competition with her on a regular basis. My daily interaction with Emma allows me to stay on top of my parenting duties. I can count on Smokey coming online at about 11 pm to end the day on a positive note. And there is that smug feeling when I hear Tom cursing and swearing in the next room...

Online Relationships

Experts claim that word games, crossword puzzles, sudoku etc are good for brain health. When I spend an hour trying to find the best way to play my “q” or “z”, I justify the time-waste as a brain workout. That is working so far. Only a little guilt….

In my case, it's not so good for my physical health. Back in the day, when I was a teacher, I once attended a professional development workshop about different learning styles. There was one category called The Intake Learner. This is the learner who learns best while eating. Yep, that’s me, The Intake Learner. So, not only I am sitting in front of the computer and not moving for hours, but I am also stuffing food down my throat at the same time so that my brain works better. The lack of exercise and surplus of food is showing. 

The Intake Learner

You might think this past-time would enhance one’s vocabulary. Let me tell you, I am learning words I have never encountered before. Here are some words currently on my boards: wae, jee, ava,fid,sh,dif,mi,ose,raya, and  hame. I don’t see myself using any of those words in my next scintillating conversation. However, those words do have meanings which you will find in the Words with Friends dictionary. Occasionally you will play some obscure mess of letters and the WWF dictionary will tell you that the word “is valid in WWF but has no definition.”

Two-Letter Words:IMPORTANT!

It’s very important to know that “qi” and “za” and “xi” are words so you can get rid of those difficult letters, hopefully on a triple letter square. Then there are the “swear” words, some of which are not acceptable, and some of which are. For example, “slut” is not acceptable, but “_w_t” is. I can’t even write it here, it’s so bad. Not Twit, but it’s close. 

The Plural of Qi 

Oh, what a feeling when you manage to play all seven letters and maybe even hit a triple word square and a double letter or two!! The highest word score I ever got was 120, but the best word I ever played was RHUBARB!

...Until Next Time...

Monday, 30 January 2017

I Beg Your Pardon

I Beg your Pardon ... 

(Mis)Communication Communique

     I have a fairly significant birthday happening in four days. I won’t disclose the exact number, but, let’s just say I’ve been around for several decades! That’s a good thing. I have found, as I advance in age, that people are not speaking as clearly and as loudly as they used to. Or, could it be my hearing? If it is hearing impairment, it seems to be happening to many others in my peer group. 

Speak Up!! Enunciate!!

      Recently, my room-mate and I were at a friend’s house for dinner. Tom and I were in the living room while our hostess, Jody, was tossing the salad at the island in the kitchen, about six feet away. Tom was explaining something to Jody, and made reference to her “nephew Mitch.” She slowed her tossing of the greens and said, “I beg your pardon, Tom?” He repeated his sentence and she laughed in relief. “Oh, my nephew Mitch. I thought you called me a Neptune Bitch!”

Neptune Bitch

     Later that evening, I was discussing knitting with another guest while Jody was again slaving away in the kitchen. Sula and I were talking about Fairisle knitting. “What is THAT?” Jody asked, rather incredulously. I explained briefly and she laughed. “Oh,” she said, “I thought you were saying Feral Knitting.” That conjures up a whole other image!

Feral Knitting

Fairisle Knitting

     Two weeks ago, my roommate and I participated in the historic Women’s March in downtown Fredericton. There was a live performance by a local singer. She introduced herself, saying she was going to sing “Ten Cents is Sexy.” At least that’s what I heard. And, to me, ten cents IS sexy. As many of you know, I do LOVE money, any amount. The singer was about four verses in, repeating the chorus, when I realized the title of the song was “Consent is Sexy” not “Ten Cents is Sexy.”

Ten Cents is Sexy

Consent is Sexy

      Along with miscommunication due to hearing deficits, we now live with miscommunication via texting. We have all experienced the autocorrect faux pas. Or how about hitting the wrong letter while texting or typing? I do like the story of a friend texting to her husband that she had arrived safely at the cottage, and she was all “tucked up in bed” except she hit the “f” instead of the “t”. In a similar vein, my teacher-sister was mistakenly labelled in the yearbook as Ms. Fukkerton instead of Ms. Fullerton. The “K” and the “L” are side by side on the keyboard, after all.


     And there is the time error when questions and answers get criss-crossed in cyberspace. Not long ago, a friend and I were texting about how much I would charge to knit her daughter a hat, while simultaneously discussing the cost of a plane ticket to Denver. My friend got the message that it would cost her $1,000 to buy a hat for her kid. Needless to say, I lost that sale!

Child's Hat: $1,000.

     One of my favourite forms of miscommunication is the malapropism--
"the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with unintentionally amusing effect.”  I never corrected my darling four-year-old Julia when she asked for a “red, malicious apple.” It just made perfect sense, considering the Garden of Eden and Snow White where the apple is, indeed, malicious.

The Red Malicious Apple

     And there is the example of my own childhood church malapropism. Until I could read with precision, when I sang along with “Take My Life and Let it Be, Consecrated God to Thee”, I was belting out “Take My Life, and Let it Be, Concentrated God for Thee.” But it works, too. Concentrating your life for God.

Concentrated God for Thee

     Ricky, of The Trailer Park Boys, is famous for malapropisms. They are commonly referred to as “Rickyisms.” Can you figure out what Ricky really wants to say in the following notable examples?
Worst Case Ontario
Eternity Test
Water under the Fridge
Rocket Appliances

Ricky: Far Left

     How many times have you communicated the wrong message simply because you were nervous? A friend of mine in university was uptight going into a job interview and, instead of telling the interviewer that she was doing two courses in intersession, she told him she was doing two sessions in intercourse. I’m not sure if she got the job.


     Another interesting miscommunication skill is the phenomenon of getting the initials correct but the names wrong. My roommate once met a man at a party named Dave Wagoner. Forever after, he referred to him as Dick Wheeler. D.W. Wagon. Wheel. See the connection?

Dave Wagoner/Dick Wheeler

     At times, my father exhibited this same "name/initial" mix-up. Upon his return home from visiting relatives one weekend, my mother asked him what one of our cousins had named her new-born. Granted, baby names were never of much interest to my father, so maybe he was not exactly attentive. He told Mom the baby’s name was Morning Dew, when in fact, it was Misty Dawn. Well, he had the right initials and the right concept.

Misty Dawn/Morning Dew

     Keep your eyes and ears open for Miss Communication! 

Miss Communication

… Until Next Time ...