Sunday, 24 June 2012

Green hats and rainy wedding days.

The new Anne of Green Gables chocolate plant is up and running! This past week was spent cleaning, moving heavy machinery, assembling the kitchen, and getting our new home organized. We officially opened on Thursday and jumped right into production making one butter cream after another. The tourists piled in and stood at the windows looking into the kitchen and watched as we worked. For the first few tourists you feel like a celebrity and then the novelty quickly gets replaced with your responsibilities. My favourite customers are mothers and children. Mothers bring their child up to the window and point out what we are doing and the kids press themselves against the glass hoping with every inch they close between them and us will bring them closer to our chocolate enrobing machines. I love the way their eyes light up when they see the chocolate waterfall cover the butter creams, truffles, and chips. Their delight often ends in their parents buying them a box of chocolates and it’s satisfying to see customers leave with paper bags full of our product. Now that chocolate production has begun and most of the boxes, tools, and other do-dads have found a place to resided the opportunity to find our rhythm in this new home is a tangible reality.

The summer treasure adventures continue with a trip to Victoria by the Sea last Sunday afternoon. My vibrant and adventurous spirited friend Bernice and I quickly found ourselves strolling through the small shops and show box sized boutiques with Island crafts. We found an enchanting antique shop with wall to wall dressers, mirrors, night stands, chesterfields, whicker rocking chairs, tea cups, vases, and other previously loved and cared for treasures. It was at this antique shop that I found the love of my life! Tucked in a corner I caught the glint of a green ribbon as sunlight shone through a dusty window. I pulled away the cobwebs and freed the treasure from its shelved life and held up a beautiful green wide brimmed straw hat with a green ribbon and faded white, green, and brown flowers. I lifted the treasure and placed it on my auburn crowned head. It fit perfectly in everyway! I can’t begin to describe the bliss I felt with that green hat crowned upon my head. It flung me down the rabbit hole to my romantic heart and I found my imagination trapped in the ideal village of Avonlea.

Bernice and I took to the beach to look for sea glass. With my hat snuggly placed in its new home I decided to stroll aimlessly along the low tide shore and gaze out at the surf instead of digging through the rocks to find lost glass and pottery. I allowed myself to get lost along the long stretch of sand bar venturing further and further out to the edge of the water wading through ankle deep tidal pools. I just needed to breathe. I could have stayed out there all day but Bernice had one more treasure to show me. We drove out towards Kensington and found a steep ditch covered in lupins! We plunged in and picked as many as we could carry before turning the car homeward and closing our adventures for the day.

On Saturday I was blessed to be apart of another wedding. This will be my second out of three weddings this summer. My beautiful friend Chantale married her favourite person on June 23rd at 2:00 in the afternoon. It was a simply stunning wedding. Everything flowed beautifully and was tied together with such joy. The ceremony was short and sweet and to the point and held in a renovated barn. Chantale looked radiant floating down the isle in a white last dress. The threat of rain hung over the day and as we left Charlottetown we were chased by a heavy sky sweeping a curtain of rain across the Island. As Chantale and Blair stood together at the front of the barn it began to rain, it’s as if the sky could no longer contain its excitement for this union and showered down a delightful applause of approval. After the ceremony and a brief time for pictures the party began! We ate, drank, and danced the night away celebrating Chantal and Blair. My heart is spilling over with joy, best wishes, and deep prayers for the new couple. They are stepping into the best adventure they will have in their lives. Be blessed, my friends. Weddings make weekends so much happier.

As the hour draws closer to my bedtime so does a heavy cloud glower over Charlottetown. It hides the sun and drapes the city in a flat dimensionless shadow. But the sun is coming, and it will wake and sleep whether hidden or seen.

Beside the antique shop

Bernice and I sitting in the lucky chair at a candle shop

Bernice wearing my hat

Me wearing my hat


Chantale and I on her wedding day!!

I really love my hat!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Starting Summer of with a Smash

Before you read this blog you may want to take the morning off work. It is especially long. It is also a good idea to have tissues handy.

Monday morning brought another day off work as the plant wasn’t quite ready to be moved in to. To pass the time I sat down, pulled out my note book and began plotting an afternoon adventure. The weather was particularly fabulous, warm, breezy, and gentle, a true PEI summer day. I decided to do something courageous and crazy and bike to Brackley and back. I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the beach but I would make it to Brackley and as far as my legs would carry me after that.

If you have similar biking adventure aspirations then I suggest Mama Jo’s bike adventure survival kit:
1) Sunscreen. If you are a fair maiden like myself and burn faster than an egg on a hot tin roof then don’t be afraid to rub in generous amounts of sunscreen before facing the sun.
2) Water. Water. Water. Enough said.
3) Travel snacks. I am partial to a big Johnny Gold apple but if you favour trail mix and berries go to it. It’s important to keep yourself energized and a rest stop along the way to indulge in a yummy snack is a great idea too.
4) Camera. Keep your eyes open for all the visual treats you will see along the way and having a camera handy will keep those treats close to your heart.
5) Bandaids, and general first aid kit material. Even if you don’t plan on falling on your face someone else might so be prepared to help out a fellow traveler.

With my bike basket packed with all the necessary provisions I headed out. I decided to follow the confederation trail. It would be free of motor traffic and I knew on a day like today there would be friendly travelers enjoying it so the potential to make friends was high.

The trail was beautiful it curved through the middle of Charlottetown, with trees along either side of it shielding it from the bustle of the city. Ditches full of lupins hugged the trail closely hanging a thin dreamy aroma in the air. I pedaled along the trail and stopped at the first beautiful site I saw: a graffiti covered picnic table, gazebo, and trash can. Random words and symbols were tattooed on the surfaces with various colours and thickness of paint. I was captured by it. The words didn’t make sense to me and there was a tremor of misunderstood hurt vibrating through the sprays of paint. There was something so beautiful about the rebellion, it was raw and an effort to be heard. Had the delinquents that defaced the picnic table and gazebo known that I would find their rebellion worthy of my attention they probably wouldn’t have done it, which is another testament to its beauty.

The trail continued and I saw butterflies and lupins and fields of red soil. When I made it to Brackley I carried on, biking down the highway and side roads. I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular just curious to see what I would see. I have mentioned that the inland of PEI is just as rolling as the ocean that surrounds it. After about my fourth especially large hill I made a bargain. If I got to the top of this hill and I could see the beach and it was all down hill, I would press on. If I didn’t I would go back. I made it to the top of hill and starred off into the distance. I could smell the sea and feel the salty air prick my skin. I could just barely see a thin line of ocean but it was protected by another hill, bigger than the one I had just conquered. I parked myself under a shade tree in the ditch and took a moment to rest. I ate my apple, reapplied sunscreen, and drank more water. Finally I pointed my bike home and set out, along the way I picked some especially beautiful lupins, accomplishing another goal on my Island to do list.

I was called in to work on Tuesday at the new plant on the edge of Charlottetown. I was so excited! I had mapped my course, packed an excellent lunch, and even had a carb heavy breakfast so I would have energy to bike there. After being laid off work for a little over a week I was ready to jump back into the saddle and get my elbows dirty with chocolate, butter, and toffee.

I hoped on my bike and started out of the driveway, looking both ways making sure it was clear of traffic and followed carefully behind a big pink bus. I slowly scootched into the middle of the lane hoping to make a left hand turn at the intersection. As I began making my turn I saw out of the corner of my eye the hood of a car. “Wow, that’s close,” I thought. No sooner had the thought left my mind when I was hit. I remember everything that happened to me in those following 5 seconds.

I felt my body travel along the hood of car, clattering and folding awkwardly. When I hit the windshield I bit my tongue and was sent into the air. Like a rag doll being tossed my limbs fell around me limply and I tumble toward the ground. I hit the ground with a vicious thud, my butt hit first, just below the lower back and tail bone. The impact and position of my limbs caused me to roll onto my side, my leg scraped against the pavement and my head hit with a sharp bang. I heard my bike clatter to the ground 4 feet away from my head and something on my bike shattered as it made contact with the pavement. I could smell the warm pavement and heard a calamity of confused cars screech to a halt. ‘Praise Jesus I am wearing my helmet,’ I thought to myself. After the fullness of the impact of my body was absorbed into the pavement I rolled onto my back and my legs slumped into an uncomfortable position. As my body relaxed my left shoulder brushed heavily against the ground and finally I was still. I instantly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit run his hands up and down my body, “You are fine, Joelle, you are completely fine.” He left and in that moment I had the thought to get up, ‘I am fine, I should get up, this is embarrassing, I’m in the middle of the street, I could get run over.’ Jesus came up beside me, firmly placed His hand on my left shoulder and said, “Stay down, you just got hit by a car, stay down.” I obeyed and opened my eyes and was starring up at the blue morning sky dotted with a few puffy clouds. A saw a bird fly across the sky and studied the span of its wings, the pace of the wing flaps and how it carried itself in the sky. ‘There’s a blue heron,’ I thought to myself.

I became very aware of what had happened, where I was, and what this meant. When I looked around I saw a man running up to me. His face was rigid with concern but calmness. He knelt down beside me and starred into my face searching for me to respond to him. His face was so handsome and kind and calm, he had curly brown hair and bluey green eyes. ‘Thank you Jesus for sending a handsome man to my side,’ I thought.

“Are you ok? My name is Daniel, I am the first responder, where are you hurt?” The touch of his hand on my arm said he wouldn’t leave my side until the paramedics came. I looked at him and thought about what he said, ‘First responder?’ That’s the professional way to say “I have first aid training or I am in a profession where I see tragedy all the time.” I could see a fireman crest on his navy blue t-shirt. ‘What are you doing here? The fire department is in the other direction.’ I thought, ‘Hm, he must be getting coffee for the guys.’

“I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok,” I repeated, my voice was trembling from the shock, I didn’t like the sound of it and I tried to push my voice to sound controlled, and brave but it wouldn’t change its tone. “My lower back and neck.”
“What’s your name?” He asked.
“Joelle,” I said. From somewhere off to my right I heard the shrill voice of a woman screaming. Her voice got closer and closer. ‘I need to calm her down,’ I thought. ‘If she doesn’t calm down she will go into shock and be in worse shape than me.’
“Joelle, what happened?” The fireman asked again. This time I saw another fireman standing off behind him. He was assessing the situation and nodding and pointing at by standards.
“I was biking to work, I was making a left hand turn, I didn’t see her, I got hit. I was on my way to work.” I said, disbelief of what had happened setting in.
The woman was in hysterics her hands were covering her mouth and she was crying. She had long dirty blonde hair and it swished back and forth as she trembled. I smiled up at her. ‘I needed to smile. A smile is a good sign,’ I thought. “It’s ok, I’m ok, I’m ok. We’re ok. It’s going to be ok,” I said. She knelt down beside me and leaned on the fireman. I reached up and held her hand, rubbing it with my thumbs, and repeated that I was ok and that we would be fine. The fireman smiled and relief flooded his face for a moment. He then returned to business and waved a by standard over to console the woman and take her away.

“Joelle can you tell me where you are hurt again?”
“My lower back and neck.”
“Ok just lie still, try not to move, you’re doing good. Where do you work?”
“Anne of Green Gables chocolates, on the Cossway, outside of town.”
“Oh that sounds like a fun place to work. You’re smiling still, that’s good.”
“I’m always smiling,” I said. “It’s a bad sign when I’m not.”

The highest level of hysteria had been reached and I could feel the situation deescalating. A nurse on her day off arrived and called the hospital and an ambulance. When I knew the situation was under control and that I was safe a list of things to do in that moment to help those who were helping rolled through my mind.

“Someone needs to call my roommate, his name is Ian, I just live two houses down from here.” I instructed the nurse to get my phone from my back pack and call Ian. He was called and came two minutes later. “How is my bike?” I asked the firemann, afraid of the answer.
The fireman looked at my bike and his raised his eye brows in surprise. “Your bike is fine actually,” he paused, “But your coffee cup is gone. Yeah its completely smashed. You won’t be getting your coffee today.” At that moment I started to cry. I didn’t sob or scream of become hysterical, but a small well of tears trailed down my cheeks as I mourned the lost of my favourite drug. The fireman made more small talk with me keeping me alert, asking me questions he had already asked and some new ones like where I was from, how long had I been in PEI, what did I study at school, etc.

The police came and rerouted traffic. I saw a transport truck creep around me and I noticed that I was directly inline with the traffic like. ‘I am right in the middle of the intersection,’ I thought. The paramedics came and checked me over, asked me the same questions the fireman did and began checking my body for injuries. I closed my eyes for a moment, hoping to fall into some space of peace where I could just breathe, where the calamity would melt. ‘Stay with them, stay alert,’ I told myself. I looked up the paramedic treating me, her name was Alice. “I have a friend who is a medic.” I said, grasping at this conversation topic made me smile, I needed to talk about something familiar and happy. I suddenly remembered that I had texted my medic friend, Eric, that morning. He was flying in from Holland the night before and I knew he would still be up and jet legged. I had said, “Welcome home!!” and I am thankful that those would not be the last words I would say to him.

“Really? Where is your medic friend? Why aren’t they here helping you?”
I chuckled, sort of, it was more like a shaky exhale of air with a smile attached to it. “He lives in Ontario.”
“Where in Ontario?”
“Kitchener-Waterloo area.”
“Hey I was just there last week,” the fireman beamed.
“Oh really?” I said. I felt relieved that someone could fly back and forth to Ontario on the weeks I couldn’t, haa haa. I was about to ask him why he was there when a stretcher appeared and they began to load me on. The fireman, with the kind face, held my neck firmly and yet so gently that I could barely feel his hands. It felt like sunlight around my neck.  The paramedic took off my helmet and the second fireman held my head. Because I had back and neck pain it took six people to move me. There were so many hands guiding my limbs and body where to go that I didn’t instinctively try to move. I was strapped to the stretcher starting from the chest down. With every strap that encompassed my body I felt like I was being harnessed into a roller coaster. I was able to just close my eyes now and let them tinker with me. A stiff collar was strapped around my neck and another to do list popped into my head. I would need my health card, the insurance card for out of province health care, ID, etc. Ian retrieved my wallet and then I was slid into the ambulance, the doors were shut and I was off to the hospital

‘I am in an ambulance. Cool,’ I thought. Because I was strapped in tighter than a fat lady in a corset I could barely move my head to look around. I darted my eyes around the cabin, I saw an oxygen mask hanging to my right, an identifiable machine to my left, and other medical gadgets and gizmos. The paramedic asked how old I was, where I was from, what my name was, if I had any allergies, etc. All of these questions she knew the answers too but I realized that answering them consistently again and again assured them there was no brain damage. She tested my blood sugar levels and the thought occurred to me that I should ask if she could test if I was diabetic. Being a pastry chef diabetes is an occupational hazard, but asking that might cause more questions and more concern and then I would be at the hospital all day. So I decided not to.

I was wheeled into the hospital and suddenly I felt like I was a victim on an episode of Greys Anatomy. We were met by a nurse and the paramedic rambled off medical jargon to her. “We have a 23 year old female victim of a car verses pedestrian accident. Pain in neck is 2 over 10, pain in lower back is 4 over 10. Cognitive respond is clear and consistent, no external injuries . . .” The nurse placed two blankest that felt like they had just come out of the dryer over me to prevent me from going into further shock. I am really fortunate that I was awake and responsive to everything around me it made the hospital experience enjoyable. I was moved onto a bed and my body sighed with relief as the stretcher and straps were taken off. More nurses moved around me and hooked me up to machines and asked me more of the same questions, they passed in and out of the trauma room and every time someone came in it was a new face to memorize, hmm, maybe they do that on purpose.

I suddenly heard a mans rolling and jovial Scottish voice resonating down the hall way. ‘Oh sweet Jesus I hope that voice is coming my way,’ I prayed. It was! A few seconds later a bearded, jovial, bright eyed Scottish man was at my side, he looked me up and down and said in a thick red accent, “Hello darling, my names Eugene, what’s yours?”
“Joelle,” I answered, smiling and shamelessly blushing.
“Joelle, what happened to you?” he asked in a teasing tone.
“I got hit by a car while biking to work.”
“You got hit by a car while riding a bike? What’d you do that for?”
“I don’t know,” I chuckled.
“That’s a smart way to start the day, well you’re smiling and your vitals are good, I think you’ll live. The doctor is going to come in and check you over and maybe send you for some x-rays and hopefully we’ll have you on your way. Ok I’m going on break.” And just like that he left. The rippling golden texture of his voice remained nestled in my ears.

The doctor came just as Eugene had said and after listening to my heart, poking me, and asking me questions I was asked to slowly move my neck and limbs one at a time. When I sat up the doctor looked at me surprised.
“Wow, you are completely fine for just getting hit by a car. You may be sore for the next couple of days, go home take a nice hot bath, don’t go to work, take something for the pain, but if you have any problems come back in right away. You are free to go Joelle, you are one lucky young woman.”

‘Divinely lucky,’ I thought. Ian came with my health card and I filled out some forms and just like that I walked out of the hospital. I walked out of the hospital. I did as the doctor said and took it easy. At first it was easy to rest, I just wanted to fall into bed and never get out. But as my body rested my mind became restless and I had energy to do things that my body wouldn’t permit me to do.

A mean case of cabin fever was coming over me when my friends Lindsay and Nathan invited me out for ice cream. I was overjoyed at the invitation and couldn’t get out of the house fast enough. I thought we would go to someplace in Charlottetown for my favourite treat but they took me all the way to Kensington, a decent 45 minute drive out of town. The scenery was refreshingly beautiful. Lupins filled the ditches with waves of blue, purple, and pink. The sun was setting in a flaming display of red, orange, and yellow. Against the blazing sky was the dim silhouette of quiet farms. Beauty is so comforting after a tragedy. The ice cream was fabulous, sweet, thick, and it coated my mouth in curtain of classic vanilla.

As I went to bed that night I felt overwhelming guilt. I had caused so much trouble today. Not only had I given all the people I care about mini heart attacks but what about the witnesses that saw the accident, what if I scarred them for life? What if they never drive again? What about the woman who hit me? How is she? I know it wasn’t my fault but think of all the tragedy I had caused that day, a mean butterfly effect. It didn’t help that every time I closed my eyes all I could see was the accident over and over again. I prayed for relief of nightmares and in that moment a friend texted me out of the blue. He enjoys teasing me and after telling him what happened and that I was alright he started to tease me. It felt so good to be teased, to be treated normally.

The following day I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a car. Obviously. I was sore all day. The scrapes and bruises started to show up and I counted 3 decent external injuries on my body. I rested all day, staying on the couch reading, writing, watching the Euro Cup, and movies. In the evening a friend from church offered me her bath tub to soak in, it had jets and was especially deep. I painfully climbed in and then melted. The water flowed around and over me, soaking away my pain, and sweeping me into bliss. After I arrived home and had gotten ready for bed I saw Ian enjoying a glass of $50 whiskey. I inquired to how it tasted and if it was worth the purchase, he generously offered me a glass, and let me say that a $50 bottle of whiskey is well worth the purchase. The texture was warm and smoky it laid in my mouth like sunshine on restless pastures. The taste was rich and graceful and reminded me of aged mahogany. It was the perfect treat to end the day. I slept well that night.

I awoke on Thursday with no pain. I walked around the apartment freely and without favouring my injuries. I puttered around and could hear someone singing, I realized that someone was me! I was singing again! I had gone two whole days without singing that is an eternity in my world. The sound of my voice cheerful and bright bouncing off the walls told me I was officially out of the woods. The accident had happened, I was sore, sad, worrisome, and guilty for two days and now I was fine. Everything would be fine. My injuries were on the mend, my scrapes were scabbing over and my bruises were changing colour just as quickly and vividly as the Northern Lights. All was well.

Over those 2 days of rest and healing I discovered 3 things that speed the healing process and that bring bliss after getting by hit by car, or any injury:
1) A hot bath. As soon as you are able after an accident submerge yourself in the hottest bath you can stand for as long as you can. Fluid relaxation does miracles.
2) Surround yourself with beauty. Watch the sunset, eat ice cream, look at pretty pictures, people watch, etc. Beauty is comforting. I made a point to wear skirts while I was resting mostly because they were the easiest thing to slip in an out of it, but they made me feel pretty and special. I even fingered through my jewelry box and admired the craftsmanship of my favourite pieces.
3) Drink whiskey. Especially a $50 bottle of whiskey. Invest in an especially crafted whiskey and save it for occasions such as this. And drink it after a long bath and before bed.

Finally Friday came and I was called into work again. I found a ride to work rather than taking my bike, but let me say that I am not afraid to bike again, I just haven’t had the energy to. Work was wonderful. The new plant is HUGE! The walk in fridge alone is the size of the first floor of my apartment. Seeing everyone at work and laughing with them and talking was a welcome ray of sunshine. I have missed them so much! We worked hard all day, cleaning and moving heavy machinery, assembling tables and cupboards, putting boxes in their rightful place, organizing and slowly unpacking. By the end of the day the plant didn’t look so thrown together anymore, the maze of trolleys, carts, machines, and boxes had been sorted and there was a clear path through the plant. I am very excited for the plant to come together and for production to begin.

So there you have it, the start of my summer with a smash. I pray the beginning of your summer is much less traumatic, but if you should be so unfortunate, have the doctor prescribe you a bottle of whiskey. Cheers.

Beautiful rebellion

The Confederation Trail

I made it!

Decisions, decisions


This is as far as I got. 

Back home to Charlottetown!

Island summer goals #1: Pick a bouquet of lupins. 

Sunset the evening after my accident. Beauty comforts.

Injury #1

Injury #2

Injury #3

But I'm still smilin'! My inspiration wall is behind me, by the way, visual therapy. 

Made the front page! Colour picture and all, impressive.

Souvenirs from the hospital and what's left of my coffee cup. 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The many colours of rhododendrons

The start of this week was blessed with cake. I was asked to make two cakes for my friend Chantale’s surprise bridal shower. With there being lack of work at the chocolate factory because we are in the middle of moving I was more than happy to do them. I rolled up my sleeves, slipped on Mama Jo apron and got to work. The small kitchen in my apartment was soon enrobed with the smell of chocolate and vanilla cake and the sound of my “Get out of my kitchen” playlist. At the end of it all my hands felt comfortably gritty with sticky melted sugar between my fingers, a thin layer of egg whites in the palms of my hands, buttery fingertips, cocoa powder on my elbows and flour caked under my finger nails. I missed that feeling. The cakes turned out like a dream, moist, and fluffy. One was deep in chocolaty flavour and sinfully delicious, the other was a hallo of golden colour and taste.

I had contemplated making a simple shortening, butter, and icing sugar frosting for the cakes but my pastry schooling got the better of me and I ambitiously made an Italian butter cream. I think the appeal of the word “Italian” is what swayed my decision. If you know me you know I have an insane infatuation and yearning for Italy. It is my dream to bike across Italy for a month with three simple tasks in mind: biking, site seeing, and eating. The butter cream turned out fluffy and divine and all those who ate cake at the party agreed.

The bridal shower was a hoot! As I like to affectionately call it: a good old fashioned hen party. There were about 20 women crowded into my friend Natalie’s kitchen and living room bubbling with conversation, laughter, and smart comments about marriage and relationships. Amongst the cake there was a chocolate fondue to indulge in, coffee tea, punch, and oodles of fellowship to fill up on. We didn’t play any of those silly and embarrassing bridal shower games like: pin the kiss on the groom, making wedding dresses out of toilet paper, or losing a clothes pin if you cross your legs. Instead we put Chantale to the test and everyone wrote down a question about her and her husband to be and she had to answer it. Some of the questions were: “When was your first kiss?” “How did he propose?” “Is he going to carry you over the threshold or are you going to carry him?” and my personal favourite, “Are you going to breed like Protestants or Catholics?” We howled with laughter and affectionately teased Chantale until she was red in the face. It was a perfect evening for just the gals to get together and let loose.

The rest of the week quickly grew into a bit of a slump. With no word on Wednesday from when work would start up again I tried to keep myself busy and puttered around the house catching up on reading, writing, sketching, and other such relaxing activities. But there was a shadow of anxiety as I realized I was missing a week of pay. I know God will provide for me and this week of rest is a gift to be enjoyed but when you have been conditioned to think that your livelihood depends on what you work rather than what God gives it is hard to curve that mind set. To get me out of my funk my roommate Sandra and I checked out the new Sobeys they had just opened. It was twice the size of the old one with an entire aisle dedicated to international food. Italian pasta, south African curry, escargot seasoning, and other such exotic flavours lined the shelves. I pierced the shelves with a vision for one international food: Dutch food. My search turned up fruitful with stroopwafles (syrup waffles), kaas wafletjes (little cheese waffles), king peppermints, and nasi goreng!! Oh joy of joys, the Dutch have come to town!! I don’t have to ask my sister to send nasi goreng in the mail, or stock up on gegalslag when I come home for visits anymore. Het is heel goed!! I got a little Dutch food crazy and bought more than I needed and I will shamefully admit that between my roommates and I we ate an entire package of stroopwafles in one day, but it was worth it! And here’s a little known fact about the Dutch population on PEI there are 500 Dutch immigrants on the Island. Neat.

On Thursday the sun spilled through the clouds in a glorious shimmer of hope. It was impossible not to go outside and before I knew it I was on my way to Victoria Park to pass the afternoon by the water on my favourite park bench. Armed with my journal and sketch book I clocked away the minutes basking in the warm sunlight and immersed in my imagination. Every now and then I looked up and smiled at a passer by who was equally enjoying the sunshine. I broke out into teasing chuckles more than once when I saw the big pink tour bus rolling by. Oh tourists. I feel that I can say that now with an air of sarcasm and exasperation because I have been a resident of the Island for 9 months. I spotted a cute trio of Asian women gingerly strolling through town with a map unfolded before them. They snapped pictures, pointed excitedly and jabbered back and forth of what I could only imagine was delightful commentary about what they saw. I have seen a few pairs of back packers hike across town as well and the odd group of adventurous cyclists. It’s refreshing to see them and the way their faces light up as they look around. Their shining faces remind me that I can still be romanced and beguiled by the Island and there is still so much to do and see.

After a particularly long stretch in the park I hopped aboard my bike and meandered through town, carefully choosing my route home and picking only the prettiest streets. As I rode slowly through one of the Kings parks I nearly fell over with excitement. There, stretched out in a rainbow of colours was a garden of rhododendrons in almost every colour of the rainbow. Languid creams, bashful pinks, succulent crimsons, sassy violents, shy yellows, and loud oranges exploded over pillows of lush greenery. It was breath taking. I was astounded at the richness in colour, the texture in their blossoms, their intricate design, and the proud unfurl of their petals. I wanted to swim in them! I don’t know how long I spent gazing at them, taking picture after picture, lost in their beauty. As I admired them I felt a flood of warmth surround my heart and I felt so encouraged and affirmed, how can a flower with this much craftsmanship displayed not be crafted by Master hands. God is so creative. Sometimes when I look at the unleashed beauty of nature I think God made it just for His own personal enjoyment and the fact that we get to share in it is a rich and attainable gift.

I pulled out the apron again on Friday and made chocolate pudding and apple tarts. And when the rain came on Saturday afternoon, suddenly cancelling my plans of sea glass hunting, I kept to my room and cleaned. I am proud to say there are considerably less dust bunnies in my room now, oh I still have a pair hopping about keeping me company but most of their friends have been swept up.

I suppose as I look back over my week I can see that I was blessed with rest and refreshment. I found rest in enjoying the slower pace of life especially in the mornings as I sipped coffee and ate stroopwafles. I had visual refreshment in spending time admiring flowers, the rhythm of the ocean, and dappled sunlight. This week was a gift of rest for me and a challenge to recognize that gift and to truly enjoy it without the anxiety of thinking about hours lost at work. How often do we look at time away from work as a punishment, a test, and a time of loss and stress rather than a gift? A gift to catch up on your reading, invite someone out for coffee, invest in your spiritual alone time, or a time to admire the many colours of rhododendrons.

Mmm, fruit for the . . . .

 . . . chocolate fondue!

Surprise Chantale!!!!

Couple of my favourite gals shooting the breeze.

The bride to be and two fabulous cakes. 

Chantale and me.

Stunning beauty around Charlottetown.

The Basilica through the alley.

Languid creams . . .

 . . . loud orange . . .

 . . . shy yellows . . .

 . . . succulent crimson . . .

 . . . and sassy violent rhododendrons. 

A stroll by the beach. 

Epic drift wood. 

Me 'trapped' in the epic drift wood. 

Fearlessly climbing the drift wood. 



More lupins!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Shenanigans, silliness, and shared treasures

Do you know what my favourite thing to do is at work? Unwrapping butter. Do you know what my least favourite thing to do is at work? Rewrapping butter. On Monday we made two double batches of brown sugar fudge on and each batch calls for 12 pounds of butter. Larry measured out the other ingredients and left me to the simple task of counting out 24 pounds of butter and dividing them into 2 bowls. However when he came to check on my progress he looked at the mountain of butter I was creating and asked, “What are you doing?”
I answered, “Measuring out the butter.”
He counted the piles, puzzled. “How many pounds of butter are you doing?”
“24 pounds.”
“Are you sure?” Larry asked giving me a funny look. “How many batches are we making?”
“And how many piles do you have?”
An awkward silence fell between us and Larry looked at me like I had an extra nose. “Joelle, count the butter please.”
I proceeded to count, convinced Larry needed his eyes checked, I know my butter. “One, two . . . oh. Three?”
“Why do you have three piles of 12 pounds of butter?” Larry asked, stifling a chuckle.
My face flushed with embarrassment and I looked at the butter piling on the counter. Sure enough there were three piles of butter, not two, which for those of you have great math skills can clearly see that is 36 pounds of butter, not 24. Larry and I both burst out into spats of giggles and chuckles. I looked at the extra butter, knowing what I had to do with it. With a heavy sigh I began individually rewrapping the butter in its original packaging. Larry puttered around the kitchen and glancing at me every now and then smiling to himself amused by my lack of basic math skills. I suppose I should have told them before they hired me that I failed math and have dyslexia. Oh well, it all adds to the adventure.

The next day, my boss Mary-Ellen, got mischievous with us and locked three of us in the walk in fridge and then turned off the light. I loved it and was laughing the entire time but Larry came out of he fridge scolding and shaking a disapproving finger at Mary-Ellen. It was all in good fun though and I hope this is the beginning of many harmless jokes in the kitchen.

I learned some new skills this week: how to sprinkle sea salt on caramels, how to make a curly Q on the coffee butter cream chocolates and how to place the potato chips on the enrober conveyor belt.

Sprinkling sea salt on chocolate covered caramels is harder than sounds. If you sprinkle too much on it tastes like a mouthful of salt water and confused caramel. If you add to little it just tastes like chocolate and caramel. I must confess that I had both experiences and after about 30 caramels I finally got the hang of it and sprinkled like a pro. Making a curly Q on the coffee butter creams is equally challenging. We use a special high tech tool called: a paper clip. As the butter cream comes out from the water fall of chocolate you gently swirl the tip of the paper clip on the surface of the chocolate quickly and deeply until the perfect swirl is achieved. I admit that placing potato chips on a conveyor belt is a simple enough task. But you have to make sure you space them far enough apart or they may over lap and get stuck together. Sometimes the chips get stuck in the belt and you have to straighten them out before the chocolate sets, so in actuality placing potato chips on a conveyor built is a delicate kitchen task.

Mary-Ellen put my pastry chef skills to work this week as well and assigned me the task of drizzling melted milk chocolate over the chocolate butter creams and blue berry butter creams. Drizzling chocolate, sauce, or any other delicious liquid is a fine skill to have. If you drizzle too much it looks thick and awkward, but too little and your product looks stingy. Maintaining a consistent flow of chocolate is no walk in the park either and your hand is liable to cramp more than once. But I drizzled like a pro and the chocolates look divine, if I do say so myself.

With the production part of work moving to Charlottetown the last half of the week was filled with packing and cleaning the chocolate shop. I look forward to moving to the new plant. We will be moving from a 1300 square feet to 5000!! There will be so much more room to create and make chocolates and other yummy goodies, I can't wait! Plus with the plant just on the edge of town I can bike to work. That is what I am excited for the most! Zipping through Charlottetown at the break of dawn, inhaling the quiet streets as they wake up and get ready for the day and then following the flow of five o’clock rush hour home at the end of the day.

On Saturday I was invited to share in a treasure. My dear friend Bernice and I went to her favourite beach on the north shore and spent 3 hours looking for sea glass. In Ontario we call it beach glass but they are one in the same. Small shards of rounded and smoothed glass from sunken ships and broken bottles are naturally scattered precariously along the edge of the water. When we arrived the tide was out leaving a vast bed of treasure to be found. Nestled between, under, beside, and even on top of small pebbles was 100’s of pieces of sea glass. In the three hours that we spent hunting I must have found at leas 60 pieces of sea glass, 4 unique sea shells, and 3 pieces of pottery. The sea glass came in a range of colours from yellow, green, brown, black, and white. Bernice told me about countless adventures she had while hunting for sea glass, special finds that were like diamonds to her, and hours she spent in worship on the beach just looking for beauty. She told me about the different colours of sea glass and how some are more rare than others and about sea glass hunting etiquette.

Rule #1: If it is still sharp throw it back. The perfect sea glass has edges that have been rounded and weathered over years of traveling the sea. Edges that still have well defined lines and sharpness are no good.

Rule #2: Know what you are looking for. It is easy to pick up every piece of sea glass you find and coming home with more than you need. Look for a piece that is special and unique to your definition of beauty. If you delight in the tiny mosaic like pieces then nothing bigger than your fingernail is ideal. If you’re a “go big or go home” character than keep an eye out for the biggest chunkiest pieces. Perhaps you favour certain shapes like diamonds, tear drops, or oblongs, there are plenty of that variety as well.

Rule #3: Leave some for the rest of us. It’s easy to take all the sea glass you find but if you already have 5 green pieces shaped like tear drops and you’re debating whether or not to take the 6th leave it for someone else. I doubt the ocean will ever run out of sea glass but it’s polite to leave treasure for some one else to find.

As the summer opens its arms on the Island I am struck with the yearning to loose myself in the treasure hunt. Trees have stretched out their leaves into full foliage and paths through the forest are hidden by their green canopy. Glimpses of such mystical paths are enticing beyond ignoring and I itch to spend hours weaving my way through the Island on paths less traveled. Who knows what treasures I will find this summer, who knows what paths my feet will find, and who knows what adventures I may find myself in the thick of. 

The North Shore

Treasures, treasures, treasures!

An old piece of pottery

A beautiful and aged sea shell