Surrounded by beauty

Sparkling morning on Queensborough Road

Winter has come late to the Queensborough area this year, but come it finally has. This past couple of weeks we’ve seen buckets of snow mixed with several bouts of freezing rain. It’s been kind of miserable, especially given day upon day of cloudy greyness. But then, a few mornings ago, we woke up to a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant sunshiny day.

It was the morning after yet another round of freezing rain had coated roads, fields and, notably, tree branches. But instead of my drive to work in the morning being a slippery endurance test under grim skies, it was a study in, and a reminder of, the beauty that surrounds us here in North of 7 country.

The roads had been well-sanded by the time I set out around 8 a.m., so I didn’t even have to think about (to use a phrase from my misspent late-teen years) keeping ‘er between the ditches. Instead, I drove west along Queensborough Road absolutely stunned at how beautiful the icy-branched trees and the snowy landscape looked underneath a sparkling blue sky and a radiant morning sun. “I should stop and take a picture!” I kept saying to myself. And finally, after rounding the huge curve in the road by the old Sager Brothers farm (everyone from Queensborough knows the one I mean), I had the sense to actually do it.

And so, people, you have just a brief post from me this Monday here at Meanwhile, at the Manse. It’s partly because I’ve been really busy with non-blog activities, notably some volunteer work for St. Andrew’s United Church here in Queensborough. And partly because I’m saving up for what I am reasonably confident will be some humdinger posts based on excellent and surprising comments that have been coming in from readers near and far, on posts old and new.

But mainly it’s because I think the photo speaks for itself. Don’t you wish you lived here?

Have you heard the one about the terrific DJ’s goofy joke?

Oh my my: can anything make you happier than the songs that were on the radio when you were 14 years old?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself on this springlike day in Queensborough, as I’ve been searching out suitable songs to share with you as part of a post that technically isn’t about music at all.

Or at least, it is about music, in that it’s about a radio disc jockey. But really this post is about a joke: a silly, long-drawn-out joke with an unexpected punchline that a long-ago fan of that radio DJ remembered all through the years – and that, thanks to the power of friendship and the internet, I am able to share with you all, including that long-ago fan, right now.

Our story begins – well, where does it begin? That’s a good question.

Does it begin with a post I did here at Meanwhile, at the Manse three years ago this month, looking back at the great songs that one used to hear on AM radio in my childhood and early teen years? (When I was living right here in the Manse in Queensborough where Raymond and I now live once again, and where those songs came to us via good old CJBQ radio out of Belleville.)

Or does it begin with a landmark followup post in October 2014 when I proudly announced that I had found and made contact with Joey Edwards – the very guy who, as CJBQ’s weekday-evening disc jockey, played many of those songs for us?

Or does it begin with a comment on that post that I received only recently, at the start of this month, from a another person with fond memories of the music and voices and stories and hijinks of Joey Edwards?

Actually I think our story begins in about 1974 in the kitchen of a home in Tweed, Ont. (which is just down the road from us here in Queensborough; Tweed is one of two villages that vie for the title of being “town” to Queensborough folks). Let me take you back to that kitchen, where a teenager named Iain is plugging away at his homework while perhaps his mum is finishing up the supper dishes and maybe his dad is reading the latest issue of the Tweed News. In the corner of the kitchen is a radio, and out of that radio come songs like Takin’ Care of Business, and Then Came You, and The Joker, and Let Me Be There, and Top of the World, and Annie’s Song, and Midnight at the Oasis, and Sundown, and… oh, I have to stop. This is just too, too good, music-wise. Let’s take a pause and listen to one of the catchiest of those 1974 hits:

Anyway. Back to that warmly lit kitchen on an early-spring evening in Tweed, a little more than 40 years ago. In between all those great the songs on the AM radio comes the voice – or more correctly, voices – of DJ Joey Edwards. Joey was great at funny voices and imitations (notably of various Beatles), and his between-song patter and jokes were easily as entertaining as the music he played. Here’s how Iain put it this month when he came across my blog post about Joey:

“That is SO COOL! Growing up in Tweed we listened to Joey Edwards doing our homework in the evening… His stories were always great – ask him if he remembers the one that ended with “tag – you’re it!” … Thx again for the memories!”

Now, my response to Iain was that I had a feeling I should remember the “You’re it!” story – but I just couldn’t quite. Since I am fortunate enough to be in contact with Joey, however, I promised Iain I’d ask him about it.

And what a response I got! First, some more memories from Joey about his CJBQ gig all those years ago:

Joey Edwards on the job

Joey Edwards, the star DJ at local radio station CJBQ back in my childhood days at the Manse, and my new friend, thanks to Meanwhile, at the Manse. (Photo courtesy of Joey Edwards)

“I am still amazed that so many people remember my little radio show. Every night at 7 p.m. as I sat in front of that CJBQ microphone, I was never thinking about how many were listening or who they were. There was only ONE question on my mind: ‘I wonder how much fun I’ll have tonight?’ I figured if I was having a blast, so were the listeners. Every night when I did my show, I was like a little kid with a new toy. Even today I am still VERY much in touch with my ‘inner child.’ Now if only I could get in touch with my ‘inner adult!

“But I digress … Nightly on my show I presented my ‘Joke de Jour’ which was very popular. Below is the infamous ‘YOU’RE IT’ joke … It was one of my favourites.”

Upon which Joey proceeded not only to share the text of that kooky joke, but also an audio file of him telling it. Which means that – drum roll, please – Iain and all you other Joey Edwards fans out there (including me) get to hear the story all over again, straight from the source. Without further ado…

Oh boy. I don’t even know what to say, and I bet you don’t either. Except that those were simpler times, and it makes one smile to think that that ridiculous story made kids having a go at their homework in Tweed and Madoc and Queensborough and Belleville and Trenton and Stirling and Frankford and Marmora and Picton and Ivanhoe all stop what they were doing and have a chuckle.

To be followed with another great song from that totally great era of pop music. Let’s pick one with a title appropriate to what we’re doing right now: Reelin’ in the Years. And hey: Thanks, Iain. Thanks, Joey. And, as Joey always said at the conclusion of his show (in a Liverpudlian Beatles accent): Thaynks, Muum.

You know you’re living in the country when…

Manse mailbox

Our mailbox, properly accessible, on the sparkling cold morning after two days of non-delivery of mail because we had been neglectful of the winter obligation of keeping it completely shovelled out. Lesson learned!

Anyone who lives in a rural area of Canada knows the following rule: You have to shovel out the mailbox.

That is: If it is winter, and if your mailbox is on the side of the road that runs in front of your house, you have to shovel away any snow that accumulates in front of it. If you don’t, the person who delivers your mail won’t be able to drive up to it, open its door from inside his or her vehicle, and pop your mail in. (Canada Post‘s rules prohibit mail deliverers from getting out of their vehicles to put stuff in your mailbox. I expect it’s primarily a safety precaution, but possibly also a time-saving measure.)

Now, longtime readers of Meanwhile, at the Manse might remember that I have previously declared myself fully cognizant of that winter requirement on the mailbox front. In a post I did a couple of years ago (and which you can read in full here), I invoked my late father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, in recounting how I was making it a point in the midst of a very snowy winter to keep the mailbox shovelled out so as to clear a path for the mail carrier. And I’ve kept up my mailbox resolution, shovelling it out many, many times since that post was written.

But as those of you who live in the northeastern part of North America know, the winter of 2015-16 has not, to date at least, been a very snowy one. I’ve shovelled out the mailbox a few times this winter, and Raymond has too; but when the amount of snow on the ground is little more than an inch or two, mailbox shovelling is not top of mind as an essential Manse chore. As a result of this complacency, two things happened recently: one, we failed to get mail for a couple of days; and two, I learned a valuable and happy lesson in how things work in small towns and rural areas.

Last Wednesday, Raymond and I were thoroughly puzzled when the red flag on our mailbox – the indicator that one does, in fact, have mail – failed to go up. There were a couple of things we were vaguely expecting to arrive that day; but more to the point, Wednesday is the day that the Tweed News weekly newspaper comes by mail, and the Tweed News never fails to appear. Why, the only thing surer than that columnist Evan Morton (curator of the wonderful Tweed and Area Heritage Centre) will have a good read in the paper about some aspect of Tweed’s history is the fact that the paper will show up, like clockwork, on Wednesday in the mailbox.

Not last week, though. “That’s odd,” Raymond and I said to each other Wednesday evening at the non-appearance of the Tweed News – and any other mail. But we shrugged and assumed that everything had just been delayed a day for some reason.

But when no mail – and especially no Tweed News – appeared Thursday, we suspected something might be wrong. It never crossed our minds that an unshovelled mailbox was the problem; we hadn’t taken the shovel to it in a while, but there seemed no reason to. The amount of snow on the ground was pretty small, and to the casual observer (i.e. us, from our front porch), the mailbox looked quite accessible.

But that is where we had it wrong. And that is how I learned my lesson.

On my way to work in Belleville on Friday morning, I stopped in to our local post office, which is in the village of Madoc. (Long gone, and very much missed, are the days in my childhood when Queensborough had its own post office at McMurray’s general store, and the late Blanche McMurray was the extremely capable postmistress.)

Madoc Post Office

The Madoc Post Office, where you always get service with a smile.

On duty at the counter that morning was Sheryl, one of the two very pleasant people who staff the Madoc Post Office. “Hi, Sheryl!” I chirped as I walked in. “Hi, Katherine!” she cheerily responded. “Is there something up with the mail?” I asked, starting to explain that we uncharacteristically hadn’t received anything for the past couple of days. (I had worriedly been wondering if our carrier had been ill and they’d been unable to find someone to replace her.) Sheryl knew instantly where I was going with that, and I didn’t even need to finish my sentence. “She [the mail carrier, that is] hasn’t been able to get to your mailbox for the last couple of days,” she explained.

Well! I was mortified, knowing as I so well do, from my earliest childhood, the importance of keeping the mailbox shovelled. I blithered something apologetic about not having realized there was a buildup of snow, plus an assurance that things should be okay as of Friday because the neighbour who snowplows our driveway had, the previous afternoon, taken a good swing at the area in front of the mailbox. Sheryl assured me that all should therefore be well: the carrier had our accumulated mail in the truck with her at that very moment, and so it all should end up in the mailbox that day. And she was right. It did. Tweed News and all.

(Which, I will add parenthetically, was especially good because Raymond had, as in each of the previous few Februarys since we bought the Manse, placed a Valentine’s Day message for me in the classifieds! How sweet is that?)

Valentine in the Tweed News

Raymond’s (“R.B.”) 2016 Valentine’s Day message to me (“K.S.”) in the classifieds of the Tweed News. He generally chooses Shakespeare, my favourite – this time A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

So why am I telling you this story? Because it’s actually not, despite appearances, about an unshovelled mailbox. I didn’t even realize it was a story until the end of the day on Friday, when I was recounting to Raymond (who was in Montreal) my exchange with Sheryl. As I told him how she had had the answer to my query about not getting mail before I could even get that query fully out of my mouth, I suddenly burst out laughing. It was a laugh of delighted recognition at another of the joys of living in a rural area. (For other examples of said joys, I refer you to many hundreds of previous posts here at Meanwhile, at the Manse.)

Think of it this way: if you lived in a larger town, or a city, what are the chances that:

a) You know the first name of the person behind the counter at the post office, and she knows yours?

b) The post office is actually a post office, and not a corner of a Shoppers Drug Mart?

c) The post-office person whose name you know, and who knows yours, is completely familiar with the condition of your mailbox? And knows off the top of her head the specifics of why you haven’t had mail for a couple of days – without having to look into it, or check the computer, or make a phone call, or promise to get back to you, or – most likely of all – tell you it’s not anything he or she knows anything about and therefore why are you bothering him or her with your dumb question? (Though they might phrase it more politely.)

d) The person behind the counter would know the whereabouts of your accumulated mail at that very moment (in the truck with the carrier, on the way to Queensborough)?

My laughter as I told the story to Raymond was delighted laughter – delight at living in a place where people know each other by name, and problems get fixed, and mail gets delivered, and lessons (about always being vigilant about mailbox shovelling) are learned – and we all just get along. And we do it, in part, through knowing more about each other’s business than people in the big city do. Is that a bad thing?

I don’t think so.

What I want in a kitchen is … lots and lots of colour

Turquoise and white kitchen with Northstar appliances that you see here.

I absolutely adore this photo, though I hope I don’t sound like a grump if I say it could stand to lose the little boy. A bright turquoise-and-white kitchen is exactly what I dream of for the Manse. This photo comes courtesy of a blog by the folks at Elmira Stove Works who make those brilliant (and brilliantly coloured) vintage-style appliances.

This past week, and not for the first time, I have been inspired in my Manse-renovation fantasies by something I found on the blog Retro Renovation. (If you’d like to check out the previous times when I’ve given a shoutout to this fantastic blog, a couple of them are here and here.) The women behind Retro Renovation, founder Pam Keuber and her managing editor Kate Battle, are my heroes. They post almost every day, and their love of all things midcentury is contagious. As you’ll see if you’re a regular reader, they love to shine the spotlight on renovation projects that give, or bring back, a gorgeous retro vibe to a home. (They are particularly fond of pink bathrooms.) They’re terrific locaters of sources of cool stuff; just recently I learned from them (thanks to a post here) about a company in Winnipeg (of all places), unbelievably named Acme Chrome Furniture (I can just hear the Roadrunner meep-meeping) that continues to make the glorious dinette sets we all remember from our childhood. And Pam and Kate do it all – and it’s got to be a ton of work – with a great sense of fun and encouragement to would-be renovators like Raymond and me.

Something they posted last week really got my attention, because it spoke to me – or more precisely, it helped me feel vindicated. You see, I seem to be one of the few people who can look at pictures of so-called dream kitchens, on places like Houzz, or Pinterest, or a million other renovation and design sites, and most of the time go: “Meh.” I’m talking about pictures like this:

Brown dream kitchen

“Dream kitchen” in brown and white, brought to you by Pinterest.

And this:

Beige and black dream kitchen

“Dream kitchen” in beige and black.

And this:

Beige and white dream kitchen

“Dream kitchen” and beige and white.

Why do these beautifully appointed kitchens fail to do anything for me? Me, the person who is so desperately in need of a kitchen renovation?

Because they’re beige. Or at least, that’s how they look to me. If you Google images for “dream kitchens,” you’ll get a screenful of brown and white and grey. Here – I’ll show you what I mean:

"Dream kitchens"

I’m afraid my eyes just glaze over.

It seems Pam and Kate feel the same, because they included this sentence in their entertaining report (which, once again, is here) on taking part in this year’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (an absolutely monster annual event in the renovation industry) in Las Vegas this month:


A super-cute yellow Aga oven (also available in other great colours) that caught Pam and Kate’s eye. Readers might remember that an Aga is my dream appliance for the Manse. Photo from Retro Renovation,

“Surrounded by a sea of quartz countertops and grey kitchens — yes, low-chroma greiged out everything still appears to be the ‘aspirational’ mass market norm — any booth that used color magnetized us.”

(I will confess I had to look up what “low-chroma” meant. According to one explanatory site I found, chroma is “the quality of a colour’s purity, intensity or saturation. For example: A grey colour is a neutral – an extreme low chroma. Fire-engine red may be a high-chroma red. Brick red may be a middle-chroma red.” To which I say: Hurray for high-chroma fire-engine red!)

I was delighted that one of the examples from the Retro Renovation gals of booths at the show that featured some blessed colour was none other than Elmira Stove Works of Elmira, Ont. Here’s Pam appreciating it:


Retro Renovation’s Pam Keuber enjoying Elmira Stove Works’ great retro-style Northstar appliances line, in Buttercup Yellow and Robin’s Egg Blue. Photo from Retro Renovation,

Red Northstar fridge

The vintage-style red fridge in the window at Bush Furniture in Tweed that stole my heart.

Now, I’ve had my eye on those Elmira Stove Works Northstar appliances for the Manse for quite some time. It was back in September 2013 that I spotted a gorgeous bright-red retro-style fridge in the window of Bush Furniture in the village of Tweed, just down the road from Queensborough. When Raymond and I made inquiries of friendly proprietor Robert Bush, we learned that the Elmira folks also make stoves, dishwashers and microwaves in that great vintage style and in an array of fabulous colours – including the one you can see in the photo with Pam, which is called Robin’s Egg Blue but that I prefer to call – yes, you guessed it: turquoise! The colour that the kitchen walls of the Manse were painted in my childhood in this house (you can watch a video here of my brother John exposing them after many a year of them being hidden behind 1970s “wood” panelling), and the colour that I would like to bring back to our kitchen. Turquoise and bright white, like the photo atop this post; I love it! Perhaps with some red accents thrown in for good measure, something that, again thanks to the Retro Renovation team, I’ve learned might work beautifully.

If you’d like to see lots and lots of photos of real-life kitchen renovations that feature wondrously bright colours, I strongly encourage you to spend some time poking around Retro Renovation. For starters, click on the posts here and here and here and here. All that colour will cheer you up, I promise.

And finally, I also want to share yet another way that Pam and Kate have made my life better. You see, the reason they were at the huge Las Vegas kitchen and bath show in the first place was to help the Wilsonart company promote a new line of retro-style countertop laminates that they designed for the company! And they are beautiful!


The countertop laminates produced by Wilsonart in collaboration with the folks at Retro Renovation. How cool is that? Photo from Retro Renovation,

Here are a couple of closeups that allow you to see the great colours and the funky boomerang pattern:

First Lady Pink, Retro Renovation

First Lady Pink, which the Retro Renovation folks describe as “a warm pink colour popularized by Mamie Eisenhower in the 1950s.” Photo from Retro Renovation,

Retro Renovation Delightful Jade

Delightful Jade, inspired by the jadeite kitchenware we surely all love and some of us collect. Photo from Retro Renovation,

You can read all about these funky laminates (and where to get them) in the Retro Renovation post here, but I wanted to share three reasons why I think they will be perfect for our Manse-kitchen renovation.

  • They are not quartz, or marble, or granite. I know that kitchen countertops and islands made of those materials are all the rage at the moment. But I would be terrified of installing them because, to put it bluntly, I am a klutz. There would be endless breakage of crockery and glassware in our kitchen if it contained those supremely hard surfaces. Also: quartz, marble and granite tend to fall into my generalized non-preferred colour category of “beige.”
  • Just look at this photo that Pam and Kate posted featuring the Aqua Ripple option!
Aqua Ripple Retro Renovation Wilsonart laminate, with Blue Heaven plate

Photo from Retro Renovation,

People, the pattern on that saucer is none other than Blue Heaven, a popular midcentury style that was produced by the Royal China Company of Sebring, Ohio. Thanks to our love of antique barns and flea markets, Raymond and I have a pretty good collection of Blue Heaven plates, bowls, cups and saucers, and we use those sturdy and funky dishes at almost every meal. I had to smile when Pam and Kate used Blue Heaven in their photo of the Aqua Ripple laminate. Can you say: “Meant to be?”

  • They are all about colour. Colour, colour, colour. Which is what our kitchen needs. And will have – eventually. I can’t wait to show you!