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!