Tag Archive | Newfoundland

The Heart of the Home

I am now the proud owner of an antique Enterprise stove (thanks Sherry and Bob)!  For those of you reading this who are not from Newfoundland, you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal about an Enterprise stove?”  However, those of you who grew up in Newfoundland (before the 1980’s when things went modern) are probably thinking, “Ya lucky bastard!  How did you get your hands on that?”

stove 1

Growing up in outport Newfoundland, wood and oil stoves such as these were the very heart of the home.  One of my earliest memories is of waking on cold winter mornings, with at least 2 of my sisters in the bed with me, to the sound of Dad starting the stove to heat the house before we got up.  Soon we would hear the crackling of burning wood and the heat would fill the house, slowly erasing the magical patterns that Jack Frost had painted on our windows overnight.   My sisters and I would make our way to the kitchen where mom would be making home-made bread toast, using a grill placed directly on top of the stove.  Stacks of this delicious toast, saturated with Eversweet margarine, would be placed at the back of the stove to keep warm, along with a pot of hot, sweet, Tetley Tea.  Toast and tea was the traditional breakfast of outport Newfoundland, sometimes with a bit of molasses or blueberry jam to sweeten the toast. 

Although the stove was run by both oil and wood, oil was considered “dear” (meaning expensive), while wood was practically free.  On crisp, white winter mornings, the ringing of the horse’s bells would break the silence of the harbour, as they headed out, sleigh in tow, for a load of wood to fuel the stove. 

Since the stove was used to both heat the house and cook the food, the temperature in the house was often determined by what was being cooked.  On bread baking days, the house was at its warmest.  There is nothing that can compare to the comforting smell of mom’s freshly baked bread taken from the oven of the old wood stove.  My favorite part of the bread was the “heel” or end piece.  My mom complained that taking the heel when the bread was still hot would dry it out.  But I simply could not resist this crunchy treat with melted butter and molasses……and of course a cup of tea.

stove 5

This stove, belonging to Mrs. Sarah Edwards of my hometown, Lawn, Newfoundland, is no longer in use, but still holds a special place in the home.

The stove is where we gathered on long winter evenings to listen to stories of ghosts and fairies from our parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  My Grandmother Kearney, who is still “smart as a top” at 93 years old, is a skilled story teller.  Although I lived right next door, that run to my house at night seemed a long and scary one after listening to Nan tell stories of children who were taken by the fairies, never to be seen again. 

stove 6This stove is in the home of the late Steve and Mary Edwards of Lawn.

 My favorite memory of the old stove, is coming home, feet frozen after an evening of sledding down the hill by my house with my sisters and cousins.  My woolen mittens, knit by my Nan with “real wool”, would be knobby with little snowballs.  It was a pleasure to beat them out on top of the stove to dry them, and watch the water droplets dance across the top of the hot stove.  Best of all, was opening the oven door to stick my cold feet inside and warm up, while having a “mug up”.   Mug up is the Newfoundland word for snack, and the traditional mug up before bed was……..you guessed it….toast and tea. 

 

stove4Stephanie Jarvis warming her feet  by the wood stove, in Lawn, NL

This stove is my retirement gift to me.  In five years, God willing, I will retire from my work as an Educational Psychologist.  A dream that I share with my partner, Steve, is to have a cottage on the water where we will indulge in our passion for writing.  We are not sure where this cottage will be located…..it may be in Lewin’s Cove, Newfoundland, or at the other end of the country, on Gabriola Island, British Columbia.  Where ever it is located, you can be sure that my old stove will be the heart of this home.   It is here that I will sit with my feet in the oven, while my rose tea pot simmers on the back of the stove, and I will write my stories.   When I am blessed with grandchildren of my own, I will scare them with stories of ghosts and fairies, while gathered around my old wood stove, eating toast and drinking tea. 

stove3

This stove still stands at the family home of the late Adolf and Evelyn Jarvis, of  Lawn.

 

Ellen Mary: A Woman of Confidence and Courage

EM

When I was a child growing up in Lawn, my aunt, Ellen Mary, was a frequent visitor to our home. As you can imagine, with five little girls running around, the house was often in an uproar! There was no shortage of bickering, fighting and sometimes out right physical brawls.   Mom would try to keep the peace with idle threats like, “You kids better quiet down or I will tell your father when he gets home from work!” Yeah Mom, like that was going to scare us. Dad is even gentler than mom, and I don’t remember him ever even raising his voice to us girls. So needless to say, mom’s words would go unheeded.   But then Ellen Mary would speak up, “Listen to your mudder or I will haul down your pants and smack your arse!” Suddenly, the house would go quiet. It is not that we really believed that she would hit us. Ellen Mary was a very kind hearted woman. However, she spoke those words with such conviction, that we obeyed her, not out of fear, but out of respect for her authority. That is the kind of woman she was.

Ellen Mary was a person who will be remembered in our home community of Lawn, for her volunteer efforts. While she was not a woman of great wealth, she gave freely of her time. In the mid-eighties, she made history by becoming the first female fire fighter in our province! At the time, as a teenaged girl, I thought it was silly. Why would a woman want to join the volunteer fire brigade? But as an educated woman, I now respect Ellen Mary as a “trail blazer”, leading the way for other women to enter this noble profession. Today, as an educator, I help to teach young people the importance of equal rights and acceptance. Nobody had to teach Ellen Mary that. She just knew that her contribution would be as good as that of any man. Her forward thinking was way ahead of her time!

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I recall another way in which Ellen Mary clearly demonstrated a way of thinking that was ahead of her time. When I was attending university in the eighties, she would sometimes stay at my apartment in St. John’s when she was in town for medical appointments. She had no problem making herself at home; putting on the kettle, taking out her tub of tobacco and rolling up her dearly loved home-made cigarettes at the table. One summer, I rented a place from a university professor, and he would often drop by for a visit, sometimes accompanied by another professor. I remember once feeling embarrassed, as Ellen Mary would go on and on with stories about our home town. I thought, “Why is she boring these educated men with stories about the bay?” It surprised me to learn that they were not bored at all, but rather entertained and fascinated by her stories (especially the Folklore profs!).   That became clear to me when after one of my classes, my prof called me aside to ask when my Aunt Ellen Mary would be visiting again, and be sure to invite him over so he could talk to her again.   Even years after I graduated, any time I saw my former prof, he would ask about Ellen Mary. She certainly knew how to leave an impression.

While we now recognize outport Newfoundland as having a rich culture, back then being “from the bay”, was not something you bragged about. But Ellen Mary did.   While she was not a highly educated person herself, she could easily hold her own in a conversation with any professor or doctor. Her confidence was unshakeable. As a shy young woman, who felt intimidated in the presence of people who were more educated than me, Ellen Mary taught me a very valuable lesson.   Sure, there will always be people out there who are smarter than me….richer than me….and better looking than me. But there is nobody out there who is BETTER than me.   Nobody had to teach Ellen Mary that. She just knew it.

One of the fondest memories I have of Ellen Mary is seeing her arrive on her 3-wheeler ATV, with a bandana tied under her chin, and a smoke dangling from her lips, to deliver the AVON.   “AVON calling,” my sisters and I would joke when we saw her trike pull up in the yard. Of course, driving an ATV on the roads is illegal, but that did not stop Ellen Mary. In fact, she once got pulled over by an RCMP officer who was about to ticket her for her blatant offence of the law. But somehow, she managed to talk herself out of the ticket.  I can almost hear her, “Now listen here, me child, I am a member of the fire department, and this is my only means of transportation. If I can’t ride my trike, then I have no way of responding to a call for help.”   From what I heard, not only did the officer rip up the ticket, but he also apologized to her.

As these stories clearly demonstrate, Ellen Mary was a woman of great confidence. She will also be remembered as a woman of great courage. Right from the day that she drew her first breath, fate would deal her a heavy blow. Her mother died from giving birth to her. Later in life, she lost a child of her own, a beautiful, infant girl, named Yolanda. She also had a son, Michael, with medical issues, who spent much of his childhood at the Janeway Children’s hospital, with his mother always by his side. These are just a few of the challenges that Ellen Mary faced in life, but she faced them all with courage.   Never one for self-pity or bitterness, when life dealt her a blow, she took it in stride and carried on.

It saddened me to hear of Ellen Mary’s sudden passing on May 20th, at the age of 63. However, remembering her life brings a smile to my face. Ellen Mary is a beautiful example of a life well lived. The true measure of a person is not the wealth that they accumulate over a lifetime, but the love that they give and receive. Ellen Mary was certainly well loved, by her husband, Mike, her daughter, Denise (Conrad) who gave her two adoring grandsons, Patrick and John, and her youngest son, Michael, who through his volunteer efforts, is following in his mother’s footsteps. She was also well loved by a large extended family, friends, and community members. As a final tribute to Ellen Mary, I would like to leave you with this poem:

 

What is Success?

 

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people

and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics

and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;

To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by

a healthy child, a garden patch

or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed

easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

 

By: Ralph Waldo Emerson

My Simple/Perfect Day!

Well, bonjour mes amis!  It has been far too long since I’ve talked to you…nearly 3 weeks to be exact…..  which happens to be my longest blogging hiatus ever!   Believe me, I have felt obligated to blog several times, but to be quite honest, I have just not been feelin’ the love.  Truth be told, had I written anything uplifting over the past few weeks, I would have been faking it.   Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of blog worthy moments, like Susan’s fabulous visit to Newfoundland last weekend, for one.

Flo, Shawn and Susan (caution: Flo does not actually look this good in real life: good hair day, good make up day and good lighting)

Flo, Shawn and Susan (caution: Flo does not actually look this good in real life: good hair day, good make up day and good lighting)

However, I digress.  Despite there having been many blog worthy moments over the past three weeks, I have been feeling just plain down in the dumps. (Hey, what can I say?  Even us Psychologists sometimes have a bad day!)  Oh, don’t worry; It is nothing that you said or did.  It is just how I get this time every year.  When the clocks turn back, and it gets dark before supper time, I start to feel my spirits slip.  I suppose it’s because I am so in tune with nature and my garden that I think I too should be able to just pull a blanket of snow over my head and sleep until the spring.  But alas, I must face the darkness.  And face the darkness I have done.

As the early night closed in around me, I found myself conjuring up old hurts from the past, and re-living them as if they were fresh new wounds.  Often it was silly stuff, like, “I can’t believe she didn’t invite me to that party in 1988!”  And then in my mind I would re-live the experience, sometimes creating a new and improved version of the event in which I told her right where to go!  Not that that helped me to feel any better. Then, when I tired of living in the past I would project myself into the future:  “What if the cancer comes back?  I can’t bear the thought of going through chemo again.…….and what if…..how can I be sure???????”

So that’s how it has been for me for the past few weeks, kinda Jeckyl and Hyde-ish.  But I’m back!  What brought me back, I think in part, was having a “perfect day”.  Hmmmm……I guess I should stop you before you let your imagination run wild!  After all, a “perfect day”, for you may conjure up images of jetting off to Tuscany on a wine tasting tour, making love to a tall dark stranger, or even eating the best cheesecake ever.  Well, my day wasn’t THAT kind of perfect, it was just perfect for me.

It all started with a surprise phone call one morning.  I set the alarm for 6 a.m as usual, stumbled down the stairs to grab a cup of coffee, when lo and behold the phone rang.  I grabbed it quickly, wondering who could be calling at such an ungodly hour, when I heard the recorded voice of my vice-principal:   “Due to slippery road conditions, school will be closed for the morning.”  SNOW FRIGGING DAY!   And I was not even aware that it had snowed over-night. What an unexpected and pleasant surprise!  It is amazing how much you can get accomplished around the house when you have 4 surprise hours added to your day!  By lunchtime the sun was shining and the snow had melted so it was off to school for me and my sidekick/son Ben.  I went to my office and examined the piles of files sitting on my desk.  Where to begin?  But I dug in, and for the entire afternoon, I did not get one phone call, no one knocking on my door, and no troubled kids sent to see me (I guess they were all on a high from their snow day).  So once again, I got LOADS of work done!

Feeling a great sense of accomplishment, I decided this would be a good day to get back on track with the exercise portion of my “Survival Plan”, so I dusted off my sneakers and went for a 5 km walk.  I could actually feel the negative energy pass out of my body as I pounded the trail.  Next it was home to cook a delicious veggie stir fry, worthy of making love to, it was that good.  Finally, the icing on the cake:  My 16 year old son, Donovan volunteered to watch Ben for a while so that I could take a bath.  A rare treat when you are the single parent of a little boy with autism.  So that pretty much concluded my perfect day.

Hey, who said that?   Did I just hear someone suggest that I must be living such a boring life to find happiness from these simple things?  Well, I’ve learned a few things in my 46 years on this planet.  One of the most important lessons I have learned is that true happiness is found within.  Given the exact same set of life circumstances, one can find either happiness or misery.  As the old expression goes: two men looked through prison bars, one saw mud, the other stars.  I think there for a while I was seeing mud.  I was getting weighed down with pains from my past and worries about my future, and I forgot to live in the present moment.   When I “got out of my head” and just enjoyed each moment of my simple day for what it was worth, well, then my simple day became the perfect day.  So go on then, you go out there and enjoy YOUR perfect day today, my friend!

My On-Line Relationship

I don’t care what people think, there is something to be said for “online relationships”.  Take me and Susan, for example (my co-writer of 100 Perks of Having Cancer).   Right from her first comment on my blog:  “I flippin’ LOVE your blog!”, there was a spark.  When I followed her link to the Savvy Sister blog, and cyber-met this feisty red-head who knew so much about cancer prevention, I was smitten.  We flirted around for a few months, making witty comments on one another’s blogs, and then I took a leap of faith.

I wrote to her:  “Susan, will you marry me?  Just kiddin’, actually what I really want to propose is that we write a book together which combines our two blogs.”

She replied, “Flo, we live in two different countries.  How will we ever manage to write a book together?  I think it would be easier if I just marry you!”

But I was not giving up that easily, I pursued her until eventually she gave in and said yes to my proposal…..ahhhhhh, I mean the book proposal of course.   After about 15 months of hard labor, we finally gave birth to our baby:  100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving It.  (Which, by the way, is now available for pre-sale at Amazon….find it HERE)!

Well, finally on June 25th, I got to meet Susan in person for the very first time when she came to visit me in Newfoundland.  I was feeling kind of apprehensive as I drove to the airport to pick her up.  You know what it is like when you are talking to someone on-line.   You think you are talking to this person:

sexy lady

When you actually are talking to this person:

old lady

It is very easy for people to misrepresent themselves as being nicer, smarter, funnier, more attractive, and yes, even skinnier, when they are hiding behind a computer screen.   However that was certainly not the case for Susan, the Savvy Sister.   While this is the image I had of her before meeting Susan:

susan pic

This is how she looked in real life:

BSusan

Even more bubbly, full of fun and beautiful, both inside and out, than I could have ever imagined.

So we had loads of fun:

Eating (healthy, delicious, plant based foods….Susan is a fabulous cook!):

Susan 010

Sightseeing:

Susan 002

And doing some work, including two radio interviews:

Susan 013

You can listen to our CBC interview HERE.

And now Susan and I have resumed our on-line relationship, but are so pumped about seeing each other at our book launch in Nashville, Tennessee on August 22.  WOOT!  WOOT!

Da Bile Up!

 

trout

Once agin, anudder ole mauzey twenty-fort of May weekend.  It never fails!  The wedder could be perfect all week, but come da long weekend, and you’re guaranteed drizzle or sloppy snow (or like the poor buggers in Cent-rel got, full blown snow!).  So I wakes up Saturday morning and looks trew me window.  R, D & F, as us Newfies are so accustomed to: Rain, Drizzle and Fog.  I pulls da blankets up over me head.  Not even the taughts of a bile up can entice me out of da fart sack.  But he’s self  would have none of it!  He was goin’ troutin’ no matter what the wedder.  Since I drove all da way to Town to see ‘in, I spose I had to get up and go troutin’ wit ‘in.   So off we goes and loads the Rhino aboard da truck.

I wasn’t too concerned wit  gettin’ cold.  I had me winter parka wit me, see?  And a good pair of cowshit rubbers, right?  So I was all sot.  Just to be on the safe side, doh, I trew a blanket in da Rhino to go over me legs in case it got too cold.  So off we goes, in around Bay Bulls-Big Pond (which Townies tinks is the cunt-ry.  Sure if dey goes past da over-pass dey tinks dere out in da bay!  But I digress…..)

So da troutin’ was goin’ good, right?  I caught meself two beauts (as you can see in dee above snap).  But den, go figure, I goes and falls head over heels in a mud bog.  Honest to my God, I was mud arse hole to naval.  And friggin’ froze to det besides!   So I curls up in da Rhino under me blanket and texts he’s self, who had shagged off about a mull down the gully:  “Get me da frig outta here, I’m froze!”   So dat was the end of it fer me.  I was so pissed off, I didn’t even bodder wit da bile up, and you can ask anybody, dat’s not like me.  Not atall. I fair loves me bile ups!

TRANSLATION:

Once again, another unseasonably cold Victoria Day weekend in Newfoundland.  It never fails! The weather could be perfect all week, but once the long weekend arrives, the weather forecast is likely to be drizzle or light snow (or as those poor people in Central Newfoundland experienced, several centimeters of snow!).  So I woke up on Saturday morning and looked through my window.  R, D & F, as we Newfoundlanders  are so accustomed to: Rain, Drizzle and Fog.  I pulled the duvet up over my head.  Not even the thought of a meal cooked on the trial could  entice me out of the bed.  But my partner  would have none of it!  He was going fishing for trout no matter what the weather.  Since I drove all the way to St. John’s to see him, I suppose I had to get up and go fishing with him.   So we loaded our side-by-side all terrain vehicle (ATV) on to the truck.

I wasn’t too concerned with getting cold, since I had a winter jacket and a pair of rubber boots.  So I was all set.  Just to be on the safe side though, I threw a blanket in the ATV to go over my legs in case it got too cold.  So off we went, to Bay Bulls-Big Pond (which people from St. John’s tend to think is in the country.  If they even go past the over-pass, they tend to think they are “out in the bay”.  But I digress…..)

The fishing for trout was proceeding very well.  I had caught myself two fine specimens (as you can see in the above photo).  But then, as fate would have it, I fell into a mud bog.  I was completely covered in mud, and cold besides!   So I curled up in the ATV under my blanket and texted my partner, who had wandered about a mile  down the river:  “Please take me home, Darling.  I am really cold!”   So that was the end of the adventure for me.   I was so disillusioned, I didn’t even bother with the outdoor cook-up, and you can ask anybody, that is not like me.  Not at all.  I absolutely love having boil ups!

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Da Bile Up in July, 2011!

Hard Grub

 

Healthy Pea Soup

Healthy Pea Soup

 

 

For my non-Newfoundland friends, here is the definition:

Hard Grub:  (Noun).  Food staples.   Food that is eaten routinely and in such quantities that it constitutes a dominant portion of a standard diet.

I am happy to report that I am loving my new job as a School Counsellor.  That is due in part to the fact that I have with me, the BEST Counsellor  Intern ever….Debbie Walsh.  When I started back at work in September of this year, after a 17 month hiatus, it was with a light heart.   While I had not worked as a School Counsellor in a long time (having spent the last 15 years employed as an Educational Psychologist)  I knew that my transition back to the work setting would be made a lot easier with Debbie by my side.  Debbie has more than 20 years of experience in the field of special education.  More important than that, she is a KIND person.  When you work with kids, as far as I am concerned, no amount of education or experience can take the place of a genuine kind heart towards these little angels.    And Debbie has just that.

What does that have to do with hard grub, you may ask?  Well, if you put two women together in ANY setting for long enough, as you well know, the topic will sooner or later turn to food.   So Deb and I have had many conversations over the past few months about food.   As it turns out, we are both big fans of the old fashioned, Newfoundland-style, “hard grub”.

Years ago, Newfoundlanders subsisted mostly on fish and vegetables, along with staples such as beans, peas, oats, and other non-perishable foods, mainly because  that was all that was available.  Things like meat and sugar were considered luxuries!   So, basically we were all vegetarians, but not by choice.  That was all we could afford.  Some later generation Newfoundlanders rebelled against their vegetarian upbringing by turning into complete carnivores.   For others, like me and Deb, well, we kind of developed a fondness for things like boiled white beans, pea soup, fishcakes and cabbage stew.   We don’t eat that stuff because it is cool to follow a vegetarian diet…..we eat it because we don’t know any better.  It is how we were reared.

Luckily for me, when I switched to my new “cancer fighting diet” last January, I did not have to make a big lot of dietary changes, just add in some new veggies.  That said, I wonder what Debbie is having for supper this evening?  I am planning a feed of cabbage stew, fortified with cancer-fighting kale and sweet potato.  Healthy eating is not that hard when you have been raised on hard grub.

Here is a simple recipe for old fashioned pea soup (I have ditched the ham bone from the recipe, and it is just as good without)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/3 cup chopped carrot

1/3 cup finely chopped celery

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

fresh ground black pepper

salt

1 1/2 quarts vegetable stock

2 cups dried split peas

Directions:

-Heat the oil in a saucepan over low heat. Add the carrot, celery, onion and thyme, season lightly with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes.

-Add the stock and split peas, and bring to a boil quickly over high heat.

-Lower the heat and simmer until the peas are tender, about 1 hour.

-Puree 2/3 of the soup in a blender and stir it into the remaining 1/3.

-If the soup is too thick, thin it by adding a little more stock. Raise the heat and bring the soup to a boil for 15 seconds.

-Add salt and additional pepper to taste (sea salt is the healthier option).

Enjoy!