Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gatherings: Celebrating Summer with Family and Friends

Summer in Nova Scotia is spent like summer everywhere in Canada with family get-togethers, barbecues, reunions and visiting with friends from near and far.  It is a beautiful time of year with generally warm--sometimes hot--sunny days, clear skies and often a breeze.  It is also a busy time of year.

The top picture below is the view from our deck in N.S.  The picture bottom left is of a small lake near the Bay of Fundy where a group of us met on a Friday evening.  The bottom right picture is on the ferry between Dartmouth and Halifax in Halifax harbour.

I arrived in N.S. at the end of July and found that many family members had already made their way to the Annapolis Valley for their annual visit.  For the next two months, family and friends continued to arrive from across the country, a few for brief stopovers, others for longer stays.  Past summers have been no different.

Pictures below as follows:  top left, a family get-together at my sister Paula and Laurie's with their daughter Carol and grandchildren.  Picture right:  Our friends Ron and Nancy with Hans on the right.

Below left:  dinner at our house with my sister Paula, Laurie and my friend Mary, who was visiting from Ontario.  Below right:  Hans with his son Heiko and Heather, Heiko's wife.

The picture below is at Paula and Laurie's where she and I hosted our cousin Dick and his wife Marion who spent the day with us..

In the Annapolis Valley--where we are--the community halls host various suppers throughout the summer and into fall.  A couple of towns host annual country exhibitions while others celebrate with small fests.  Friends gather together on Fridays for TGIF (better known as "Thank God It's Friday") and others head to their cottages beside one of the nearby lakes or the Bay of Fundy, about 20 minutes north of Bridgetown, where the highest tides in the world occur.

 The Lawrencetown exhibition each year features oxen.  Below left are two; the right picture shows a set of dress yokes.

Lawrencetown is a small town about 15 minutes east of us.  Cattle at rest and a pair of winners on the right.

 The three pictures below were taken at a TGIF at our house.  Some of the group out on the deck on a Friday evening.

 Joan and Jane at David's TGIF on the left; David, Ruth and Frank on the right.

  The men in the kitchen at the Manns' TGIF.  On the right, TGIF at Judy and Bob's beside the lake.

In our family we sometimes celebrate in a most unusual way and it is always a lot of fun.  The following pictures showcase one of those occasions, which was in "honour" of our sister Anne and Stephen's 20th wedding anniversary.  Our sister Paula is a Justice of the Peace so she officiated--though certainly not officially!  My sister Carol and I played our parts.  The brothers-in-law, Hans and Laurie, also were part of the show.  Here are some of the pictures from that special summer afternoon, held at my sister Carol's in Hubbards, on the Atlantic Ocean.  Note the headgear:  I wore a lampshade, Carol wore a headpiece filled with dangling birds and Paula's headpiece included the Canadian flags!

Below, the bride and groom with Paula as the JP.  This all took place on Carol's deck, facing the water.

Hans is peeking from the back.  On the right, I am the one wearing the lampshade with Laurie and Carol.


Below left, the ceremony continues.  On the right, the group after the "wedding."  Carol, 2nd from left, had blackened her teeth for the big day.

Of course, when friends and family gather, it means food, drinks and stories about days gone by.  The dips and finger food come out to enjoy with wine and beer and sometimes a special cocktail (Hans's summer specialty is a Caesar, made with clamato juice and vodka.).  It is a wonderful time with lots of laughter and a short time to enjoy the company of those we care about and usually see only in summer. 

Jean, Mary and I at the Trellis Cafe in Hubbards where we went for breakfast after staying overnight at my sister Carol's (who wasn't at home at the time).  I ordered French toast, something I hadn't had in years.  It is dipped in milk and sauteed in butter, with maple syrup on the side along with bacon.  It was decorated with fresh strawberries and was delicious.

Picture below left of Carol and Paula on Carol's deck in Hubbards (I love Paula's hat!).  On the right, Paula and Anne getting ready for a birthday celebration at Paula's.

 My niece Liz below left..  Her sister Carol and Carol's husband Jack on the right. 

All enjoying Paula's seafood chowder, shown on the right.  Son Ken, Christine and children, Laurie & Paula.

B.J. and Jake enjoying supper, too!  With help from Laurie.

Mary at a waterfront restaurant in Halifax

Lunch at the End of the Line Pub in Bridgetown.
Jean, Leona, Sheila and John

For Hans and I, summer also means sitting on our deck outside or in the porch inside listening to and watching the birds and other animals that may come by.  One little squirrel has been a constant visitor this year; he is now busy storing his food for the winter to come.  In spring, pheasants come by as does an occasional deer.  This year we both saw a coyote, not an animal one is apt to see but one more apt to be heard at night howling in the distance.

As our property is large, it means a lot of mowing--the easy way on a sit-on mower, but time-consuming nonetheless.  Hans at work.

We spend hot afternoons beside the pool, a wonderful part of our life here, the centre of many get-togethers with friends and family over the years.  My sister Paula and brother-in-law Laurie, who live just up the road, also have a pool and their seven grandchildren--all visiting from other parts of Canada--spent their days in the water.

Paula's grandchildren and relaxing days at their pool

Our pool below and Mary having a late-night swim

Summer also means special food and in the Atlantic provinces lobster and scallops, clams and mussels are offered everywhere.  You will not find better as they will be fresh from the sea.  Fish such as halibut and haddock are also on restaurant menus everywhere and sold in the supermarkets and fish wagons.

The cooked lobster below is showcased at the Halifax International Airport.  The sign next to them gives the prices.  The airport personnel will pack lobster and other shell fish to carry on board your flight home.

This summer I have eaten all of those crustaceans, mollusks and fish.  The Bay of Fundy is renowned for its lobster as well as for scallops and other seafood.  Digby is a small town about 40 minutes west of us famous for its scallops.  I have seen Digby scallops in supermarkets in Strasbourg, France--at a far greater price than we pay in Nova Scotia.  Lobster can be bought in Strasbourg as well but the cost is prohibitive.  As far as I am concerned, it is far superior when any shell fish is taken directly from the sea and on to the stove within a couple of hours.

The sign and the live lobsters were in Meteghan, a busy fishing town, on the French Shore of the Bay of Fundy.

Gertrud strolling along the boardwalk in Digby

Fishing boats at rest in Hampton, 20 minutes north of us on the Bay of Fundy.  The sign is on a retail fish store in Parker's Cove, along the Bay of Fundy.

Heiko and Heather treated us to a lobster dinner at home, picking up the lobster in Hampton, fresh out of the Bay of Fundy.  Heiko and our little granddaughter Natasha below.

The lighthouse and the fishing boats are in Hampton.

The Atlantic coast is also known for its seafood.  One of the special meals I enjoyed with two friends this summer was a lobster supper in Hubbards on the South Shore of the Atlantic Ocean, about two hours from us on the opposite sea coast.  Jean, Mary and I stayed at my sister Carol's house there.  We enjoyed a wonderful meal across the inlet at the Shore Club, which included not only a whole, freshly cooked lobster each, but all the mussels you could eat.

 My 1-1/4 lb lobster fresh from the pot

Mussels and lobsters!

Lobster bibs are used and when we have lobster at home, we wear them there as well.

Here is a recipe from my sister Paula.  It is delicious.

Paula's Fish Cakes
Saute 3 to 4 pieces of fresh or frozen (thawed) haddock, sole or other white fish until cooked through or simmer it gently in water until cooked through.  Drain and flake (break apart).  Peel and then boil 8 or 9 medium-size potatoes until tender; mash them well.  Saute some diced onion in butter so that it is a bit soft but not fully cooked.

Mix the flaked fish, mashed potatoes and onion together.  Add some butter, about a teaspoon of celery seed, McCormich's herb and garlic or, instead, a little Italian parsley, garlic powder to taste, salt and pepper.  (The salt and pepper are important for fish cakes.)  Mix everything really well and if need be add 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream to make combining it all easier.  The mixture will be fairly soft.  Then form the mixture into thick patties.  Cover them and place them in the refrigerator to rest and firm up.

When you are ready to cook the cakes, place fine breadcrumbs into a bowl with some salt and pepper and some McCormick's herb and garlic.  Gently beat two eggs in another dish.  Dip each fish pattie in the egg and then dip into the bread crumbs until all the patties have been covered with the crumbs.

Fry the fish cakes in lots of butter--the key to fine-tasting fish cakes--and fry on both sides.  You want them
nicely browned with a bit of crispness.  Serve with butter.  Salt and pepper to your own taste.

These fish cakes are superb as Paula made them this summer.  They were very soft inside and crisp on the outside.

Hans's Mussels

In 1/2 cup of olive oil, saute 4 large green onions, chopped, and 4 cloves of chopped garlic.  Add 1/2 bottle of dry white wine and the following herbs and spices:  lots of chopped parsley, 2 to 3 small tomatoes chopped, 3 to 4 slices red pepper, fresh basil, salt and pepper, a sprinkle of Fondor, a drop or two of Tabasco, basil and paprika.  Simmer 15 to 20 minutes.  Then bring it to a boil over high heat and add about 2 kilogram of mussels.  Add 1/2 cup water--or more.  Cook until the mussels open.  They are then ready to serve.  Just before the mussels are ready, add more parsley.  Hans cooked mussels this way in Spain one year.  They were superb. Both mussels and clams are steamed in a small amount of liquid, not boiled in a lot of water.  Note:  The wine used in this recipe would have mostly boiled off before the mussels were added.

Our time in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley is a time to renew friendships, to enjoy reminiscences, to see family and to gather together for food and drink.  It is also a time to relax and enjoy a totally different way of life from our life in Germany.

A rainbow at the end of a day at Hubbards

My next blog will be from Germany.  Enjoy the beautiful fall here in Nova Scotia everyone!

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