Our First Dusting of Snow

Winter is on our doorstep and creeping into the garden. Earlier this week, I tucked in the garden for the season. The only thing left to do is cover up a few plants with evergreen boughs when the temperature remains mostly around zero degrees.

On the morning of November 18th, we had the first dusting of snow. It didn’t stick around long, but I captured a few images in the garden. I’ll share them here.

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Christmas Memories: Hunting for the Perfect Tree

Many years ago, in the late 70s, when I was around 12, my younger brother, a neighbourhood friend and I were hiking through the woods as we often did. I can’t recall why we were out there on the trail leading towards the railway tracks on this particular day. Sometimes it was just where we walked. I can say it wasn’t to go fishing at the river that ran under the railway because it was mid-December, and everything was frozen solid. There was more than a foot of snow on the ground. However, the path had been beaten down somewhat from our constant travels, and the light layer of snow that had fallen since the previous day didn’t slow our pace.

More than a mile into the woods, we spotted a beautiful evergreen. To my eyes, it was the perfect Christmas tree. My brother and friend agreed. Since we had yet to get a tree for the house, we decided to bring this one home.

We always carried hatchets back then, so we chopped down the tree, swung it onto the trail and began the long trek. Given the tree’s size and our size, we took turns dragging it. Once we got onto the old farmer’s road, which was partially grown in from lack of use, there was room to get two people on the tree, one on either side.

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“A December Knight” Takes Place in the Year…

There is no year mentioned in my Christmas romance novel, A December Knight. However, it definitely didn’t take place in the last five years. I wrote the story in November 2015, so it was contrived from that viewpoint from little ol’ Nova Scotia that is thankfully 20 years behind the rest the world.

Cell phones are in use, and they’re not plugged into a battery pack hooked to a vehicle, so it’s after 1995. The 18-year-old in the story has a cell phone and can text, but the general population is not addicted to their phone. From a quick search, the first text message was sent in 1992, but that was crude from computer to phone and no reply could be issued since phones were incapable of sending texts.

Body piercings, tattoos and unnatural hair colours were rare, so they stood out in public. In some places in Nova Scotia, they still do cause heads to turn.

Digital picture frames were all the rage. I’ve never owned one, but I recall when my mother—who is technology challenged—received one for Christmas from a well-meaning family member.

Photoshops were still shops customers who wanted to make prints from negatives visited to get their roll of film developed and printed. These shops sold digital cameras, but many other stores were also starting to sell cameras on a large scale.

Jan Cooper, the main character in the story, manages a camera shop, so these details are important.

The Sears Christmas Wish Book, the one Emmie searches through to find the doll in question, is still published. This catalogue teased and entertained children from 1933 to 2011. It was resurrected in 2017, but once again returned to the tomb of time. This indicates the story was before 2011.

I recall the many hours pouring over this wish book as a child, dreaming of what I might get. Long before Christmas day arrived, it was tattered with pages torn out and would-be gifts circled with pen or marker. In its golden years, customers knew ordering from Sears meant quality. However, by year 2000, that promise had been broken. Perhaps because things came marked “Made from China” instead of “Made in Canada” or “Made in the USA”.

The Welcome to Cole Harbour – Home of Sydney Crosby sign at the corner of Caldwell Road and Cole Harbour Road stands. It was put up before I moved from the area in 1996.

A December Knight takes place in a simpler time, before politics dominated every conversation and before identity politics divided the landscape. It’s about work, financial security, family and the smell of a real Christmas tree in the house. It’s about realising dreams and having the courage to follow them. It’s about finding love in the chaos of snowstorms, Christmas rush and retail madness leading up to the big day.

If I had to guess, I’d say the story takes place in 2004. It was a time when my kids gathered around the television to watch Frosty the Snowman and The Year Without a Santa and made snowmen in the backyard. It was simpler and better than the social media world of today.

A December Knight arrives just before Christmas.

Fall in My Garden

If spring can spring, does that mean fall can fall? If so, it has fallen in the Maritimes.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in my Nova Scotia garden. While temperatures reached 13 degrees Celsius, grey clouds consumed the sky, a thin veil of fog perched in the distance and a slow mist fell throughout the day, there was no wind. I worked outside all day in shorts and a light sweater.

Here are a few photos of my garden that captured the season.

Red Berries

High Bush Cranberry

I planted this bush several years ago because I love cranberries, and I wanted the ability to pick some from my yard. However, these berries taste nothing like the low-growing cranberries that grow in Nova Scotia. The berries taste horrible. I’ve tasted them before the frost, after the frost and after may frosts, but they still taste horrible. However, the birds enjoy them in winter.

Ninebark

This shrub has been growing in my garden for more than two decades. Last winter, I cut it back hard because it had grown lanky and wild. This summer, if filled out better than the first few years of it living in my garden.

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Introducing Lady Diane McGyver

Not long ago, I saw an interesting ad. It claimed: Become a Scottish Lord or Lady Today. Intrigued by all things fantastical, archaic and Scottish, I clicked to learn more. Shortly afterwards, I became a Lady.

But let’s put a little history to this first.

Castle ScotlandBack when Europeans were exploring The New World by boat and by foot, Scotsman Sir William Alexander devised a scheme that would profit the king in two manners. He “proposed that it might encourage development of a New Scotland if His Majesty were to offer a new order of baronets. The King liked the idea. After all, his creation of the Baronets of England in 1611 and the Baronets of Ireland in 1619 had raised £225,000 for the Crown.”

In other words, they’d sell land in New Scotland to men who wanted to gain status in Scottish society.

While some Baronets came to Canada and developed land, many didn’t. Yet, they were sworn in on Nova Scotia soil and received the title in society. How was this done?

Soil was brought from New Scotland (Nova Scotia in Latin) and put in an area of Edinburgh Castle, which was then declared Nova Scotia territory. It was here “knichts and gentlemen of cheife respect for the birth, place, or fortounes” became baronets, and they then could put Sir in front of their name.

“By the end of 1625 the first 22 Baronets of Nova Scotia were created”. The Order continued for 82 years and by 1707, 329 baronetcies were made. Many of these are honoured still today.

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Surprise! Greenvale Already Exists in Nova Scotia

the Salvation of Mary Lola BarnesFive years ago, when I wrote the Salvation of Mary Lola Barnes, I made up a name that probably existed somewhere in the world, but I’d never heard of it in Nova Scotia. After all, green and vale were two popular parts of many place names. In Nova Scotia, we have Greenfield and Greenwood. We also have Elmsvale, Irishvale and Hillsvale.

For all the purposes other writers choose to create a fictional place within a real place, I stuck with Greenvale up until the editing process in September. Curious to see if Greenvale existed in the Maritimes, I plugged it into Google. Imagine my surprise when a place name showed up not only in Nova Scotia, but in the general area I wanted it to be. Eek!

Checking out the place on Google Map, I found it was pretty much forested area. There were no houses there or surrounding it from what I could see. There were, however, what appeared to be a maze of logging roads that connected to the 347 (Sherbrooke Road). This was far from the image of Greenvale in the story I had written.

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It’s the Season for Blueberry Cake

Every year in late August, blueberries enter my house by buckets or boxes. This year was no exception, and I face the Gathering of the Bird season with 20 pounds of fresh, locally-grown blueberries in my refrigerator and freezer.

As usual, the fresh blueberries weren’t in the house one hour and I started making cake. The recipe I use has been in my family for decades. My mother made the cake for me and my siblings when I was a young girl. Where she got it and how long she had been making it before I arrived on the planet is anyone’s guess. The recipe could be 70 years old – Mom is 92. Or it may be older, a recipe made by my grandmother in the 1920s. Either way, this recipe makes excellent blueberry cake.

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Community Day at Truro Raceway: I’ll be there

I’ll have a table at Community Day taking place at the provincial exhibition grounds and raceway in Truro, Nova Scotia, today. I’ll have copies of all four fantasy – Shadows in the Stone, Scattered Stones, Revelation Stones, Beyond the Myst – for sale.

The event takes place at 60 Ryland Avenue from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

NOTE: My Twitter account has been flagged for possibly being hacked, so I have no access to it at the moment. I hope this issue will be cleared up quickly.