The way to a husband’s heart, circa 1954

Vintage cooking brochures

Leaflets with handy vintage recipes and cooking tips, scored at a recent yard sale near Madoc. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

I’ve written before (here and here for instance) about what a sucker I am for vintage cookbooks. Not so much because of the recipes – which I will say seem to be pretty much evenly divided between those I would love to try and those I would not touch with a ten-foot pole (these latter tending to have a lot to do with Jell-O and/or marshmallows and/or tinned pineapple – or tinned anything, actually) – but just for the vibe they give off. A lifestyle long gone, shall we say. When women stayed home, which apparently was their place at the time.

Anyway, I struck a big find for 50 cents or so at a Madoc-area yard sale a few weekends ago, and the photographic evidence is above. Not cookbooks, per se, but cooking brochures put out by food companies (Borden’s, the people who brought you condensed milk, whatever that is); and food organizations (the Canadian Canned Tuna Council or some such); and other companies – insurance firms and whatnot – that apparently felt like the best way to get their message into the home (where the wife was, naturally; it was her place, remember?) was to send out a booklet of recipes.

Because we all know that women trapped in the home are just dying to try more recipes.

Anyway, my favourite of this lot is the one containing baking recipes with the title “The Soft Way to Your Husband’s Heart.” Apparently if you baked enough sweet (and soft) things with Maple Leaf Flour, you would have a place in your husband’s heart.

True romance indeed.

Happy significant birthday to Raymond!

Raymond in morning suit

This is my husband all dressed up and looking ever so handsome! And no, he’s not dressed up for his significant birthday today; this photo was taken on a Sunday morning a few months ago when communion was to be served at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in Montreal. Raymond, like all male elders of the church, is required to wear a morning coat, if you please, for serving communion. Formal? You bet.

Today is a landmark birthday for Raymond, my honey and my husband and the other half of the ownership of the Manse in Queensborough, Ont., that gives this blog its raison d’être. And so I want to say (and please join with me in saying it): Happy birthday, dear Raymond!

And I thought I might have some fun in marking the occasion by showing you Raymond in his different guises, from downtown big-city-newspaper editor to homebody to driver of the almost-famous red pickup truck that graces the driveway of the Manse (and that shows up on Google Street View photos of Queensborough, for all the world to see).

First, here is Raymond in slightly more casual mode than in the photo above, though still in the same room, our library in Montreal. With his cat Sieste:

Raymond and Sieste

And here he is looking casually handsome in one of his favourite places, North Hatley, Que. – on the terrasse of his daughter Justine’s excellent food shop, Saveurs et Gourmadises. Note how his shirt matches the geraniums:

Raymond at Saveurs et Gourmandises, North Hatley

Here’s Raymond in another of his favourite places, Stonington, Maine. This is the deck overlooking the ocean outside the American Eagle suite (where we always stay) at the wonderful Inn on the Harbor:

Raymond in Stonington

And now we get to more casual Raymond, doing his thing at the Manse and environs. First, Raymond hard at work on yard duty at the Manse:

Raymond on yard duty at the Manse

And Cowboy Raymond (wearing newly purchased hat) at the Madoc Fair, 2012:

Cowboy Raymond at the Madoc Fair

And finally, Red Truck Ray:

Red Truck Ray

And that is, to quote the name of the legendary Guy Clark‘s latest album, my favourite picture of you. Happy birthday again, my dear Raymond!

That is one shiny trailer hitch.

New trailer hitch on the red truck

I bet you wish you had a nice shiny new trailer hitch like Raymond (Red Truck Ray) now has on his red truck. Next step: acquiring the trailer to go with it.

Okay, so we haven’t got the trailer for Raymond’s red truck yet. We still have trailer envy (I wrote about that here), which will get much worse the next time we need to take a big load of stuff (bags of yard rakings, for instance) to the Tweed municipal dump at Stoco. That said, neighbours have been kind enough to offer to loan us their trailer if we need it, and since it seems like everyone in Queensborough – except us – has a trailer, we should be just fine for that dump trip.

But eventually we will get a trailer of our own, and then won’t we be sitting pretty? And meantime, at least Raymond has taken the first step, which was to acquire this nice shiny trailer hitch from our friend and neighbour Chuck. Because Chuck just happened to have a spare trailer hitch on hand. That’s the kind of thing people just have in Queensborough. Which I happen to think is delightful. Not to mention convenient for neighbours needing trailer hitches.



Did you know that I am the universe’s oracle of Freshie?

Freshie drink mix package

A reminder (to all those Canadian readers of a certain age) of the drink of our childhood. Just add water and stir!

In June 2012 I did a post about Freshie, the powdered drink mix from my childhood that was pretty much the Canadian equivalent of Kool-Aid.

In searching for information on Freshie for that post I discovered that – well, basically that there wasn’t really any information out there. Wikipedia has the sum total of this to say: “Freshie was a Canadian drink mix that was a popular alternative to Kool-Aid in the domestic marketplace from the 1950s to the early 1980s.” (Well, it then lists the flavours it came in, but that’s it. And besides, I frankly don’t believe that Freshie ever came in root-beer flavour.)

Anyway, not letting that lack of information stop me, I blithely went on and did my post, which included some mention of homemade popsicles made with Freshie (or Kool-Aid), a bit of a comparison between the two delicious (and so nutritious) beverages, and some commentary on how hideous the stylized bird featured on the front of the Freshie package was:

blog post on Freshie drink mix

And that was that. Or so I thought. But let me tell you: Freshie is probably the single most-read topic I have ever written about in the more than a year and a half that this blog has been extant. Very rarely does a day go by when someone somewhere in the universe doesn’t find his or her way to Meanwhile, at the Manse by Googling “Freshie” or “Freshie drink mix.” (WordPress‘s statistics tell me these things.)

So I am very happy that I randomly hit on Freshie as a topic!

The back porch, or summer kitchen, of the Manse

This is the currently very messy back porch – or, as Raymond calls it, summer kitchen, which undoubtedly is what it once was – at the Manse. We hope to someday open up the walls a bit, screen it in, and turn it into a beautiful porch. And vintage things – like old metal Freshie signs, for instance – would look terrific on the walls!

So happy, in fact, that I was all set to commemorate my brilliant and popular choice of topic by buying a cool bit of Freshie memorabilia. It was a vintage metal sign that must have been used in grocery stores once upon a time, and it just said “Freshie.” And I found it last summer at the Stratford Antique Warehouse, a place Raymond and I like to visit every time we’re in Stratford, Ont., to take in some Shakespeare at the famous theatre festival there. And I almost bought it for the Manse in Queensborough, thinking it would be a good addition to the walls in the back porch there – but held off because of the price, which was somewhere north of $40, a little much for a whimsy, I thought at the time.

You totally know where this is going, don’t you? Yes, just like that vintage Stock Ticker game that I stupidly failed to nab when I spotted it at another antiques place, I let it go, and have regretted doing so every single day since. Especially because every single day since, my WordPress stats show more and more evidence of people’s lingering interest in Freshie, thanks to their online searches that bring them right here.

As it happens, I was back in Stratford one recent weekend to see Measure for Measure with my mum. As soon as we’d unloaded ourselves at the motel, I zoomed over to the antique warehouse, hoping against hope that the Freshie sign that I had stupidly let slip through my grasp might still be there for me to retrieve a year later. It would have soothed my non-buyer’s remorse forever!

Dairy Queen sign at Stratford Antique Warehouse, from

I couldn’t resist throwing this in: this great vintage sign is for sale at the Stratford Antique Warehouse (which you can see in the background), and every time I see it there I wish I could afford to buy it – and had a place to put it. (Photo from the blog De Facto Redhead [] – where here you can find a post that includes not only this great photo but also some tales of the blogger’s own non-buyer’s remorse!)

I went straight to the booth where I was pretty sure it had been. No dice. I searched all the other booths in that general area of the warehouse. Nothing. Then, of course (you knew I would) I searched every single booth of that entire huge place. I don’t know what I was thinking; maybe one of the dealers had bought it from the first seller and was reselling it? Craziness, I know. Desperation, actually. And then as a final last-gasp move I asked a staffer if she remembered the Freshie sign. And she didn’t, but said she’d ask the others. And they didn’t either. Which indicates to me that someone (someone smarter than I) bought it quite a while ago, probably right after I was boneheaded enough not to a year ago.

So yeah, non-buyer’s remorse strikes again.

But all that aside: don’t you just feel better knowing that when you come here to Meanwhile, at the Manse, you are coming to perhaps the single best (and most popular) source of information in the entire universe on the subject of Freshie?

I know I do.

An offer of a vintage gate. Now all we need is a fence!

vintage garden gate

This old gate is very similar to the one that used to be at the end of the footpath at the front of the Manse. I’m quite tickled that my cousin Bruce has offered it to us. Now if we could just see about getting the fence that the gate would be in reconstituted…

My cousin Bruce emailed me a while back with a very nice offer: he had come into possession of this vintage gate and, as he put it, “It looks like it would fit right in if you ever reconstitute the [Manse’s] front fence – and you may need to if you get a beagle.” (That last comment was of course in reference to Raymond’s newly acquired interest in having a beagle named Kip to ride shotgun with him in his red truck.)

vintage fence with maple leaves

Do you remember these pretty old metal fences? That’s what we had at the Manse – and I would love to have it again. (Photo from Loyalist Trails, the newsletter of the United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada)

I have fond memories of the old fence and gate that used to run the length of the Manse’s front yard when I was a kid growing up there. It wasn’t the fanciest of fences, though it did have those decorative metal maple leaves that are now very hard to find, and valuable. (Why oh why do people – including us at the Manse many years ago, I guess – throw stuff like that out? Why does that kind of thing seem like old junk at the time, only to be revealed as a much-sought-after treasure a few decades later?) Raymond and I have no particular need for a fence – unless, of course, Kip comes to join us. But as I nostalgically long for so many things about the way life used to be in Queensborough, I also long for that fence, and that gate.

(I wrote here about the row of natural flagstones that used to run from the main door of the Manse to that gate – and how thrilled I was last year when I discovered that they are still there, buried under a layer or two of lawn turf. I swear I will dig them up and bring them back!)

The gate at Mrs. Lynn's

The gate at the pretty old house that I still think of as Mrs. Lynn’s – exactly the gate we once had at the Manse.

Anyway, here’s one final photo, of the front gate at a neighbouring house to the Manse, which looks as it did when my old piano teacher Evelyn Lynn lived there. And that is precisely the look I am seeking. And, people, we’ve discovered an antique barn that, while it doesn’t have any of the old maple-leaf fence, does have some of the old maple leaves – which, with a bit of metalworking expertise could perhaps be incorporated into the gate Bruce is giving us… and come to think of it, there is a metalworking genius, Jos Pronk, who has a shop in Queensborough… Hmmm…

Summertime on the Manse porch

summer on the Manse porch

Evidence that Raymond and Katherine were very recently here, watching Queensborough go by from our vantage point on the front porch of the Manse on a lazy summer afternoon: two Solair chairs, reading material, a good cigar (for Raymond), and two wine glasses. Let’s have a little more rosé and get Raymond and Katherine back in those chairs! (Photo by Raymond Brassard)

Croquet, anyone?

vintage croquet game

This could be us and our Queensborough friends, straw boaters and all, playing croquet on the Manse’s lawn! (Photo from, where you can learn the history of croquet and watch a video on how to play it.)

“There’s not a single level spot on this whole lawn,” Raymond remarked one day last spring as we were raking up leaves and winter debris. And he is absolutely right. The Manse’s grounds aren’t hilly or anything, but there are a lot of bumps and slopes and dips.

vintage croquet set

This is just what I need for the Manse, non?

But you know what uneven lawns are good for? Croquet!

And with that in mind I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled at local auctions and yard sales for a vintage croquet set that’s in good shape. No luck yet; I’ve seen several that were in rough shape, but I want one where you can still see the colours on the balls and the mallets. (What’s that I hear you saying? That I could just buy a brand new set? But where’s the thrill of the chase in that?)

Anyway, take a look at a this view of our spacious, if wildly uneven lawn…

croquet lawn 2

and this one…

croquet lawn 1

and you tell me: does this not look like it has the makings of a challenging, perhaps even world-class, croquet court? Don your boater and come on over!

Mark your calendar! There’s some good stuff coming up

Today’s post is a bit of a coming-events bulletin board, aimed at all of you who live in the Hastings County area, and all of you who might be thinking of paying a visit. There’s some  fun stuff happening in the coming days and weeks – and these are just the ones I know about! I’ll list them in chronological order.

Al Purdy Picnic

This Saturday, July 27, the first (though I’m sure not the last) Al Purdy Picnic takes place in and around Ameliasburgh, in gorgeous Prince Edward County. I’ve written before about poet Al Purdy and how he perhaps better than anyone else captured in his work “The Country North of Belleville” (as one of his most famous poems is called) – the country where Queensborough and the Manse are. I’ve also written (here and here) about the excellent project to restore the rustic A-frame house in Ameliasburgh that Al and his wife, Eurithe, built, and to transform it into a place where future generations can learn about Al, and poetry, and Canadian literature generally. This event (which you can read more about here, on Lindi Pierce’s brilliant blog In Search of Al Purdy) runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes food (hey, it’s a picnic!), Al Purdy films, book sales, tours of the area – and of course a chance to visit the famous A-frame, where Al and Eurithe hosted generations of Canadian literary icons (Atwood, Laurence, Ondaatje, and the list goes on and on and on) for Eurithe’s spaghetti, copious amounts of beer (or Al’s wild grape wine), and late-into-the-night literary talk.

Food for Thought Art Show, Madoc, 2013In Madoc on Saturday, Aug. 10, and Sunday, Aug. 11, it’s the Food for Thought Art Show, a show and silent auction of works by a raft of very talented Hastings County artists. The artists have donated their work for this good cause: it’s a fundraiser for the Central Hastings Support Network, which runs the food bank in Madoc, a local transit service and a variety of other services of support in the community. Last year the first such event raised an extremely impressive $5,000! So listen: anytime from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and between noon and 3 p.m. Sunday, drop by Arts Centre Hastings (230 Durham St. S., by the town’s fantastic skatepark complex), enjoy the beautiful artwork – and put in a bid! You might be the lucky one to take home a piece of great local art, and you’ll be helping an excellent local service at the same time.

Hazzard's Church

On Sunday, Aug. 18, it’s the annual summer service at historic Hazzard’s Corners Church. Raymond and I attended last year’s service, and it was just wonderful; I wrote about it here. Things get under way with a rousing hymn sing at 1:30 p.m. (think “singing that makes the rafters ring,” as I wrote in yesterday’s post about another service in a historic country church), and the service proper starts at 2 p.m. It will be conducted by The Rev. Caroline Giesbrecht, the minister at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough, and her husband, The Rev. John Young. And there will be special music by Don Bailey of Cooper and his granddaughters. Which will be very nostalgic for those of us who remember Don and his brothers, The Bailey Boys, singing together back when all of us were much younger. Their beautiful voices and harmonies – often with their mother, Jean Bailey, accompanying them on piano – were a highlight of any community event. How wonderful to see the family tradition continue!

Old Hay Bay ChurchAnd finally, on Sunday, Aug. 25 at 3 p.m., the annual summer service will be held at the Old Hay Bay Church at Adolphustown, Lennox and Addington County. Hay Bay Church is a very significant place: it’s Canada’s oldest Methodist building, and a National Historic Site. I remember my family attending the summer service there when I was a young child growing up at the Manse; and I wrote here about an amusing Hay Bay Church-related poem that my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, composed once upon a time. It will be good to go back and visit the church once again. And The Rev. John Young, a specialist in church history, will be conducting that service – and I expect (this having been built as a Methodist meeting house/church, and the Methodists always having been known for their singing) that the congregation’s voices will make the rafters ring there too, with some great old Charles Wesley compositions.

As you can see, there’s a lot going on in our neck of the woods this summer!

Hymn singing that makes the rafters ring

Old Ormsby Heritage Church

The tiny, historic Old Ormsby Heritage Church. It ceased holding regular services two or three decades ago, but Gary and Lillian Pattison have restored it and organize lovely special services there. (And weddings sometimes take place in it too.)

Before we get too far away from it, I want to do a little post about the service Raymond and I attended this month at the Old Ormsby Heritage Church in the teeny-tiny hamlet of Ormsby, northern Hastings County. (I’ve written lots about Ormsby and the interesting goings-on there – a great old-fashioned general store and emporium, a wonderful tea room/restaurant, special events and the restoration of both heritage buildings and community spirit – here and here.)

Gary and Lillian Pattison and Ernie and Debbie Pattison (Gary and Ernie are twin brothers) are the driving forces behind Ormsby’s renaissance, and it is Gary and Lillian, who now own and have beautifully restored the sweet little building that was Ormsby’s Presbyterian Church, who are behind the special services that take place there from time to time (including a musical Christmas one that is by all accounts absolutely magical).

The service Gary had invited Raymond and me to was an anniversary, marking the building’s 109th year. We knew the church would fill up so we’d better get there early – and fill up it did. It’s a tiny building and doesn’t seat a lot of people in any case, but it was packed to the gills and standing room only.

The service itself was simple and unpretentious, and featured special music by Lillian (a marvellous singer), a brass section including Gary on French horn, and organist Sharon Adams playing a tiny yet very impressive pipe organ that had come to the church from George Beverly Shea – you know, the singer who performed at Billy Graham’s Crusades for decades and decades and decades. (Shea, who was a Canadian born in Winchester, Ont., died just this year, at the age of 104. How the organ he’d once owned and played came to be at the Old Ormsby Church is a charming story that I’ll save for another time – or perhaps let Gary and Lillian tell.)

Anniversary service at the Old Ormsby Church

People who attended the anniversary service mill about and chat afterward. I took this photo so you can see how beautifully restored the building is. And for that we have Gary Pattison (who’s in the blue shirt at left) and his wife, Lillian. Both of them also provided special music for the service.

But what I’ll remember most about the service was the congregation singing How Great Thou Art toward the end of it. Everyone there knew that one, as does everyone who’s ever set foot in a North American church (and many who haven’t). So we sang “lustily, with a good courage” (as John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, prescribes in his famous Rules for Singing; he goes on, “Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.”). And the sound practically raised the roof of the Old Ormsby Church, and it did my heart good. It brought back happy memories of the days when it was not uncommon for churches to be full to overflowing. And when a country church is full to overflowing, and you’ve got a good rousing hymn to sing (like How Great Thou Art, or any of the hundreds written by John Wesley’s brother Charles), and you’ve got good musical accompaniment (like in our case, George Beverly Shea’s pipe organ and a brass ensemble) – well, the sound is like no other. I wish I had an audio excerpt to play for you so you’d know what I mean.

Then again, those of you who lived through those days, like I did, don’t need an audio clip. You have your memories, and they will bring back for you the sound of the walls and rafters of an old country church resounding with that glorious singing. Lustily, and with a good courage.

A problem that only “city folk” could have

vinegar section at the 5 Saisons in Outremont

I am not a vinegar snob, I swear! But when you get used to having this as the vinegar section of your local grocery store (and this photo doesn’t even show the full extent of it), it can come as a shock when you can’t find something as ordinary (to you) as white-wine vinegar.

It was a hot summer day in Queensborough, so when Raymond and I were considering what to make for dinner that evening, the idea of barbecuing something from the excellent One Stop Butcher Shop in Madoc and accompanying it with a nice cool potato salad seemed like a splendid one.

Needed, therefore: a potato-salad recipe. While I am happily working up a collection of vintage cookbooks at the Manse (as I’ve written about here and here), I generally don’t go to them for recipes, perhaps for fear of the frequent appearance of things like Jell-O in their ingredient lists. Instead, I consulted my go-to source: the iPhone app for Mark Bittman‘s seminal cookbook How to Cook Everything. I love Bittman’s common-sense and no-fuss-no-muss approach, his love of good food, and his determination to demystify the process of preparing that good food.

So I wrote down the list of ingredients for Bittman’s Classic Potato Salad: potatoes, salt and pepper, parsley, green onions, mayonnaise, and white wine or sherry vinegar, and some of his suggested extras: hard-boiled eggs, radishes and fresh peas. And off Raymond and I went to Madoc to buy groceries.

First stop: Tim Toms’s One Stop Butcher Shop, where the service from Tim and his assistants could not be friendlier, or the meats better. We love that place! It’s a perfect small-town butcher shop.

white-wine and sherry vinegar

A bottle of sherry vinegar or a bottle of white-wine vinegar: was that too much to ask? Apparently, that Saturday afternoon in Madoc, it was.

Next: the Foodland, a big, bright, and also very friendly store that I like a lot. All was going swimmingly, until I got to the white-wine (or sherry) vinegar section. Which actually is not the right name for it, because there was no white-wine or sherry vinegar in it. I could not believe my eyes! I looked through every bottle on every shelf devoted to vinegar, thinking I must just be missing it. There was regular white vinegar, and cider vinegar, and pickling vinegar, and one or two kinds of red-wine vinegar, and ditto for balsamic vinegar – but absolutely no white-wine vinegar, let alone sherry vinegar. “Surely there’s some mistake!” I thought to myself. Wait! Perhaps there was an “imported and specialty foods” section that might have it? Well, there sort of was an imported-and-specialty-foods section – but there was no white-wine vinegar to be seen. Then Raymond, who’d been in a different aisle, came along, and I explained the predicament. “Surely not!” he said – and proceeded to go through the whole vinegar section himself, just as I had.

What to do? It was after 5:30 on a Saturday afternoon. Foodland is the only supermarket in Madoc. Were there any specialty food stores in town that might have it? We thought about Amazing Coffee – which truly does have amazing coffee, and some other great stuff, but we were pretty sure they wouldn’t have white-wine vinegar. Would the Valu-Mart supermarket in Tweed have it? But it’s a 20-minute drive to Tweed from Madoc, we didn’t know if the Valu-Mart would even be open when we got there, and of course we didn’t know if it would have white-wine vinegar either.

What to do?

This is a crisis that only citified people could have.

While there are some things about living in a big city that get to me – the density, the traffic, the constant construction (in Montreal’s case, anyway) – there are other things that I love and (obviously, from this story) take for granted. One of them being a good selection of vinegars at the supermarket. You should see the vinegar selection at the 5 Saisons, the grocery store up the street from us! (Well, actually, if you look at the photo at the top of this post, you can see it.)

In fact, at the risk of sounding very annoying, I have to say that my own home vinegar selection is better than that of the Madoc Foodland: in addition to plain old white vinegar and cider vinegar, I have (and regularly use) not only red-wine, white-wine and several kinds of balsamic vinegar, but tarragon vinegar, sherry vinegar and champagne vinegar. (Though why I have that last one I’m not quite sure. I kind of doubt that anyone needs champagne vinegar.) But anyway, perhaps you can see why Raymond and I were a bit hornswoggled when a simple bottle of white-wine vinegar didn’t come readily to hand in the grocery store that day.

I do want you to know that I did not have a meltdown. I came to my senses and laughed at myself for being, as a friend of ours says, a “citiot,” (“cidiot”?) and thought: what would any ordinary Madoc person do? And it came to me.

People, we used red-wine vinegar instead. And you know what? The potato salad was perfect.