It Smells Like Home

In the quest for domestic bliss, I have found that often it is prudent to just follow ones’ senses. Whether you are cooking, cleaning, or decorating, following your instinct will more often than not lead you to your destination. Many times it is the quirky vase you picked up in a vintage shop on a whim that becomes the oft-mentioned focal point of your living room. A last minute substitution to a recipe will quite often find its way to becoming a regular ingredient. Our senses guide our taste, and taste is what inevitably puts our mark on our residences, making them our homes.

It’s difficult to say which of my senses has the greatest effect on me. Since I love cooking most would assume I would choose taste, and that could be true. I do know that smell has a significant influence on me and I would say that my sense of scent could weigh a slight bit more heavily on me than even taste.

Scent is at the heart of so many memories. I’ve smelled turkeys roasting at many different times of the year, but the one in the oven on Christmas Eve always smells a little different, better somehow. It smells not only of the feast to come, but of excitement, anticipation, and joy. New pink erasers and freshly sharpened pencils (the yellow ones, made of wood) evoke September and back to school. Barbeque wafting out of someone’s yard and into the neighborhood air, even in the middle of February, makes me feel a little bit warmer.

And then there’s home. Everyone’s home smells different, but distinctive. Homes possess a signature scent that is often only discernable to its residents. Some take years to develop, and some evolve over time, but most people would know the distinctive scent of their home if they smelled it on the moon.

It’s little wonder that we spend so much on scented candles, room sprays, incense, and the like, trying to cultivate the perfectly scented home. I love my scented products but sometimes they fall a little short. It’s great to have a room that smells like fresh cookies, but if there’s nothing in the cookie jar when you need a midnight snack, the scented candle that made you crave them will suddenly lose a bit of charm. And artificial scents rarely generate the same emotional response as the genuine article (again, the Christmas turkey). Homes develop their scents from years of cooking, and cleaning, and life.

And so, if your Monday has been stressful and you are already dreaming of the weekend, consider indulging in some at-home aromatherapy. Whether you bake some cookies, sniff your scrapbook paper, or take a bubble bath, enjoy!

In Praise of Pork & Beans

A topic that seems to be near and dear to everyone’s heart lately is the rising cost of living, in particular, food. After the economic crisis exploded a few years ago, few people remained untouched. Suddenly, everybody was talking economy. Thumb through your favorite magazine and where once before there were recipes for gourmet goodies, there are now articles on how to stretch your grocery dollar. Beans have never been more en vogue! Turn on your television and the commercials are focusing on phrases such as “frugalista” and “fashionomics” (thank you, Winners!) My mother and I had a good giggle a few years ago after reading a list of tips on how to cut back yet still live a rich and fulfilling life in the wake of the economic collapse – all their tips were things Cape Bretoner’s had been doing for years!
Whether out of necessity or a good dose of common sense, more and more people are giving their shopping lists a frank perusal and looking for the places they can cut back. Being budget conscious has become trendy, and frankly, that’s a good thing on a lot of levels. Not only do you save money, but occasionally there are other benefits, such as a healthier diet and lifestyle, and a greener home. In our household alone, we made a decision to stop buying bottled water and to reduce the amount of processed and pre-packaged food we purchased. Two years later, I wonder why we ever purchased bottled water in the first place, and cringe at the thought of all those bottles. Giving up the pre-packaged stuff wasn’t a big deal; we were never that into it anyway, although I did occasionally throw candy and snacks into the cart “just to have on hand.” Inevitably, these goodies got cracked open while I was putting the groceries away. Simply by not allowing them in the door, I’ve eliminated the temptation and saved money!
Making frugality into a challenge and a game is great, but it can be even trickier depending upon where you live. As anyone who’s ever lived “off the beaten path” can attest, the further your provisions have to travel, the more they’re going to cost!!! In particular, if it’s heavy or fresh, you can almost guarantee it’s going to cost a lot more than the national average. This is the case in our neck of the woods. And although we may grumble about it on occasion, it’s just part of the reality of living in the North, and you learn to adjust. For myself and a lot of people I know, that means watching the flyers and stocking up on basics when they are offered at a good price. You can imagine the excitement that ensued last week when our local grocery store announced it was having a CASE LOT SALE!!!
For those of you not familiar, a case lot sale, (or truck load sale as they’re also known), happens when a retailer brings in large quantities of certain items and sells them at a discount for a limited time. Generally, these items are sold in bulk on flats. It’s a great time to stock up on canned and dry goods, such as tomatoes and rice.
Among the items I purchased was a case of beans and pork. I consider beans and pork to be one of the most charmingly retro staples money can buy. They are low-fat, filling, and have stood the test of time. No camping trip is complete without them! And during case-lot week, they were dirt cheap. In our household there is always a debate between tomato and molasses; this time tomato won (in case you were wondering, I prefer molasses!).
Now, while there is nothing wrong with eating the beans “as is,” they can get a little dull. As I was getting ready to heat up a few cans for lunch yesterday, I got to thinking about the ways people jazz up good old pork and beans. My dad likes to put relish on his (regular green will do but my mom makes a zucchini relish that’s unbelievably great!). A friend of mine adds pineapple chunks (this was really delicious!! I’m going to try it some time with a few chunks of leftover ham thrown in as well.) And let’s not forget beans and wieners!!!
Inspired, I decided to try my own interpretation. To two 398 milliliter cans of pork and beans in tomato sauce, I added half a 796 milliliter can of drained, diced tomatoes, a handful of frozen peppers and onions, another handful of frozen corn, a teaspoon of chili powder and a generous squirt of chipotle hot sauce. The result was terrific, Barbeque Baked Beans that I would have no problem serving alongside ribs instead of my regular slow cooked baked beans!
In future posts I’ll be revisiting the concept of using every day, sometimes boring ingredients in new and delicious ways, as well as ways to stretch your grocery budget. If you have a trick or tip, email it to me at .
In the meantime, I’d love to know if you have a creative way of dressing up canned beans! Share in the comments!

Sheep Gave Their Wool For This?

Sheep Gave Their Wool For This?

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my family and I recently relocated from the East Coast to the West Coast. As much as we miss home, we love British Columbia and our new town of Kitimat. Kitimat is a small city in BC’s Northwest. It is similar to home in many ways, and its natural beauty charmed us from the moment we drove past the snowflake that lets you know you’ve arrived. Also like home, the citizens of our new town have a good sense of humour about the more remote nature of the city, which is literally at the end of the road. During our first few months we were frequently teased about how long the winter could seem and how were we coping with the lack of activities? Frankly, Kitimat is one of the most active towns I’ve encountered and we have not suffered for lack of fun. Perhaps because of its geographic location, the citizens of this town are good at making their own fun and that enthusiasm passes along to those of us who are temporary residents of Kitimat. When an event is coming to town, whether it’s “Bull--Rama” (a bull riding rodeo event that took place in the summer) or the more recent hockey playoffs, everyone makes sure that everyone is in the loop and has an invitation to attend. Hobbies and pastimes are important too, and everyone is active with fishing, hunting, quading, and snow-showing. Not to mention the crafts! There are some truly talented craftspeople here, which leads to the focus of this post. I was often asked if I knit. When I answered "No," I was told, "You will."

Now, to say that I didn’t knit was technically not true. I could knit, I just couldn’t perl. Or cast off. Or cast on properly (I just knotted the wool onto a needle and gamely started looping stitches on by hand). One of my aunts, a truly talented wool crafter, tried several times to teach me as a child and young adult, and I have many 2 inch long strips of bright acrylic wool clinging to needles to demonstrate these attempts. As an adult, I worked for two summers at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site and there I learned to knit enough to “fake it” in costume. This time, the strips were a bit longer, and they were homespun wool, but they were still clinging to needles since I didn’t know how to cast off. The truth was, I’ve always wanted to learn to knit properly. I love when someone gives me a hand-made gift, and knit items are a particular favorite. The thought of busily working away on something soft and lovely and then giving it as a gift appealed to me. I’ve had several people offer to teach me over the years, but in my previous life I was always so busy it never worked out. And then I moved here, and discovered that knitting not only passes the time and keeps your hands busy, apparently it also lowers your blood pressure and helps you make friends.

I was invited to a “knitting night” organized to teach beginners how to knit. It was hosted by a very talented knitter (check out her blog, Fibre Rox). We had a choice of two projects, a scarf or a toque. I chose a scarf. Our hostess was busy buzzing around the room, teaching newbies how to cast one, then to knit and perl. Anyone who’s learned how to knit knows how frustrating it is to initially teach your fingers how to do those most basic of stitches. Luckily, our teacher was incredibly patient. I was lucky enough to snag a seat between two experienced knitters who helped me out. By the end of the evening I could (really) cast on, and I now knew (in theory) how to perl. We decided that it might be best for me to abandon (temporarily) the basket weave pattern and instead knit a row, perl a row.

Over the next few days I plowed on, determined to get something finished and off the needles!!!! I decided that I would plow ahead, mistakes and all, no matter what the finished product looked like. I think I started off with 24 stiches and ended with 36. It was a back and forth battle between the knitting and the perling. I would knit a row with ease and be quite happy with it, but by the time I completed the perled row my stitches were so tight they squeaked and the row was always a stitch or two (or three or four) longer. About half way through I had my “Aha!” moment; when I was bringing my wool forward to perl I was somehow wrapping it around the needle instead of just lying it forward. Suddenly it all fell into place. I clicked away to the end and a few nights later learned how to cast off. I held my completed scarf aloft and smiled, all the while silently apologizing to the poor sheep that gave their beautiful wool for this abomination. (As a side note, variegated wool is not the best choice for learning on.) And yet, for all its ugliness, I felt a rush of pride. I could sense my aunt nodding approval. It was several feet long, it was off the needles, it was finished!! I could knit, perl, cast on, cast off, and read a basic pattern.

I was hooked.

Over the next few months knitting evolved past something to check off my bucket list into to a real past time. I would browse through the wool section at our local department store and pick up a few balls for future projects. I bought a huge ball of bright turquoise acrylic and tackled the basket weave scarf. I finished this one very quickly and made a matching toque. Another toque followed and a scarf for my Nana’s Christmas present. Presently I am working on a beautiful Kochoran wool, silk, and angora blend scarf in seed stitch with tapered ends. Next, the coveted socks…

Have you tried a new craft lately? If so, what was it and what were the results? Looking forward to your comments!

Happy Monday!

"A Sunday well-spent brings a week of content." -Proverb

Sundays have always been a special day in our family. As an adult, having a day with no obligations was wonderful. I was more than a little disappointed when my home province of Nova Scotia allowed Sunday shopping after years of resisting.

Back home, after sleeping in, we would often take Molly to a local park with lots of walking paths and fields and let her run. Afterward, we would drive to our favorite bakery and purchase some goodies for a snack. Sunday afternoon tea at my grandparents was another tradition. Since moving West, Sundays, if the Sea Dog isn't working, usually involve sleeping in, followed by a big breakfast and a morning of reading with lots and lots of coffee.

A good Sunday sets the mood for the whole week. Today, since the Sea Dog was working, the Baby Bees and I slept in and then got up and had coffee. After a bit, Molly and I bundled up and went for a big walk around town. She slept the rest of the afternoon while I cooked and did a bit of paperwork (not a regular Sunday activity but a necessary one today!) Tonight, I'm relaxed and happy and looking forward to the week ahead. And I'm excited about this week, because this week I'm beginning regular posts! Watch for new content on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. You'll see posts under labels such as "Milk & Honey" (for cooking and food) "Bee Creative" (for crafts and other creative pursuits), "Baby Bees" (about my pets and pets in general), "Hive Care & Maintainance" (for household items), and "Because I am Queen" (for my musings, thoughts, and miscellany).

This blog grew out of my trying to reconcile the turns my life and lifestyle has taken over the last few years. As I've moved from a fast paced professional lifestyle in Cape Breton on the East Coast, to a more laid-back, dare I say
domesticated way of life in Northwestern British Columbia, I have found myself questioning what is important to a good life? Increasingly, the Sea Dog and I are finding ourselves embracing a lifestyle rich in activities and practices that have stood the test of time. Whether it's been learning to knit or learning to navigate a boat, we are cultivating an appreciation of the wisdom of our ancestors, who did a lot more with a lot less. While we are not giving up our modern comforts and technologies, we are trying out traditional activities with a modern twist.

Comments are always welcome although they are moderated before publishing in order to keep this blog a friendly, positive place for everyone to visit. A good rule of thumb is to use good manners and not to write anything you wouldn't want your Nana to read!!!

And so, welcome to our hive!! Join me as I learn to knit socks, fillet a salmon, plant a garden, put up preserves, sew, and the list goes on! I'm looking forward to the adventure and I'm happy to have you along!

Mental Note

I’ve just had the worst evening and I don’t think anyone will understand.

After attending a craft night the previous evening, I had been motivated to rearrange my scrapbooking supplies. I’d been keen on this for some time as I had been admiring photos of other “scrapping spaces” in many scrapbooking magazines. They all looked so cozy and neat, with their mason jars of ribbons and buttons and brads, shiny work tables, and shelves and shelves of paper. Suddenly, I needed to work toward such a space for myself. And if I couldn’t dash off to Canadian Tire to accessorize, well, I would make do with my shed full of wonders.

In the end, I didn’t transform the room completely that day. I managed to fill the mason jars and arrange a few stickers into page protectors, but I didn’t have a binder for the page protectors, and the perfect shelves hadn’t materialized in the shed, and so my interest waned. Staring at my mason jars, however, I sensed the familiar call. The urge to compartmentalize memories was beckoning. I’d been to the scrapbooking store AND Walmart the day before and therefore had new supplies and tiny photos. In particular I had a new set of chipboard cards that I fancied making into a momento of our recent cross-Canada trip. I gave into the urge and decided to set up at the dining room table.

I arranged bottles, boxes, books and containers until it looked quite nice, in my opinion. While standing back admiring my workspace, I remembered the half bottle of syrah under the kitchen sink, an anniversary gift from a new friend that hadn’t been completely consumed. Perfect. I poured a large glass and padded back out to the dining room table. Setting down the wine, I peeked at the clock and realized that it was almost nine and that back to back episodes of Sex and the City were about to begin. Since our “dining room” is actually cozied into a cubby type space in our living room, the television was right there. I grabbed the remote and settled in. As I perused the guide for the channel, I realized that I was too far back from the television and that if I didn’t move the table I was going to kink my neck. I put the remote down beside my wine and stood to move the table.

About this table. It is a prized possession my mother and I found at an antique store many years ago. It was square, which I loved because it was different, and oak, which I loved because it was oak, and it was carved which I just plain loved. As well, its legs were unique. Instead of having four separate legs, it had two sets of two legs that screwed into the bottom of the table top. It was heavy and different and oak and carved and unique and a steal because it was missing a leaf. I put it on layaway and a few months later acquired my first grown up furniture. Properly assembled it’s rock steady, however, when we assembled it after our move we realized that, along with many other useful things, the movers hadn’t packed all the screws. We got it standing well enough and both made mental notes not to entertain at the table until we made a trip to the hardware store.

The thing about mental notes is that they tend to resurface about two seconds too late. I had just begun to slide the table out closer to the center of the room when I heard a crunch and the table gave a sickening lurch. I held on, thinking in vain that if I could will the table top to land on top of a chair, a disaster could be averted? Everything seemed to suspend for one moment (just long enough to read my mental note) before beginning its slide toward the floor. Down it all went. Jars of ribbon, glue, pens, scrapbooks, magazines, boxes of paper (oh yes, the paper!), my new chipboard book, cutting boards, and, of course, the glass of wine. While still holding onto the table top, I vaguely wondered how much wine a standard glass holds, since at that moment it looked as though an entire barrel had come uncorked in my living room.

It wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. The most recent issue of "Canadian Scrapbooker" took the brunt of it. My precious scrapbook was saved thanks to plastic page protectors. Ironically, the only page in my scrapbook that didn’t have a protector over it was one I made to remember a wine festival I had attended. Perhaps I’ll keep that little detail to myself and say that the splash pattern is intentional.

The casualties were: a glass of Laughing Loon syrah, a wine glass, and several sheets of stickers (although the wine was considerate and aimed for the cheap dollar store ones). I poured myself the end of the wine and spent the rest of the evening with Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, Samantha and a power drill, properly assembling my table once and for all with the screws I found in the utility drawer. Purchased by my dear husband, who apparently reads his mental notes on time.

The moral of this story? Never move a solid oak table with a bum leg alone, and when scrapping, drink your wine from a travel mug. I’ll take a (mental) note.

Birdwatching with the Yorkshireman

It didn't take long for Tinky Wink to settle into our hive. Like a lot of rescues, he had a sense of relief about him that even his occasional fits of anxiety couldn't hide. Initially, he spent many hours sleeping on comfy surfaces, regaining his energy. As his vigour returned, however, so did his spirit. He became more adventurous, and it wasn't long before we noticed that Tinky Wink had a past-time; bird watching. Our living room window has a wonderful view of the mountains that surround our town, and Tinky Wink took to sitting on the back of our sofa and enjoying the view. Around the same time we got a bird feeder and soon many, many birds were visiting our yard. The Yorkshireman loves them. Usually he just watches them intently but occasionally he get very excited. When we come to see what has him so animated we occasionally find obvious evidence, such as a dog or cat, or a large bird. More times than not, nothing seems amiss, except for the insistent barking of our small dog.

A few days ago the Sea Dog and I were having coffee in the living room and Tinky Wink was bird watching. A particuliary large group of juncos were lunching on our patio as a flock of red winged blackbirds looked on from a nearby tree. We're unsure whether it was a sudden move from the Yorkshireman, the blackbirds, or something else too large (or small) for the Sea Dog and I to comprehend, but suddenly all but 5 or 6 juncos took off as if predetermined. After a few moments Tinky Wink calmed down and resumed watching the yard, the mountain, and the remaining juncos. I commented to the Sea Dog how strange it was that all except a few juncos had flown away. The Sea Dog agreed, and pondered "Are they the really smart ones in the flock, or are they the ones who are too stupid to fly away?"

The Yorkshireman may know, but he's not telling...

Meet the Baby Bees

The Sea Dog and I are the happy parents of four fur babies. We've been acquiring our strange little family over the course of our 13 years together, and they bring us a lot of joy.

Phelts is our oldest. The Sea Dog brought him home from a film set and it didn't take long for us to realize that he is more an entity than a cat. He is a beautiful barn cat, part Siamese, and quite articulate. He is 12 now but seems much younger. He is dedicated to the Sea Dog but tolerates me!

Junior Mint came next. Minty was supposed to be a short haired male however she quickly evolved into the long haired beauty you see today. The Sea Dog brought her home to be my kitty (since Phelts is his), however, she became Phelts' constant companion instead. She is very much a cat; she likes us well enough but is quite independent and tends to keep to herself. She is know for adopting sock and mitten babies and can be found nesting them and crying to them.

Molly the Woodle came next. We rescued our beautiful dog daughter 3 years ago at 4 months old when her current owners were no long able to keep her. A terrier / Schnauzer mix, Molly is beautiful, smart, rugged and loyal. She is a story unto herself and you'll be hearing a lot more about her on this blog.

Our newest baby is Lemmy, aka Tinky Wink! We discovered him in our local newspaper where he was listed as the humane society's "Pet of the Week." We couldn't tell much about him from the description other than that he was very small and very sad. At the adoption we discovered that he is a purebred Yorkshire Terrier, between 7 and ten years old. He had a lot of issues, but during his four months with us he's come a long way and he is a beloved member of our hive.

The baby bees are a big part of our life and will appear regularly in future posts. We are strong believers in rescue animals and can attest to how rewarding saving a life can be!


Welcome to Simply Bee! I'm looking forward to sharing my busy bee life with you! The last year has been one of change for my hive, and we are embracing it! We're looking back to a simpler time and getting inspired. You'll learn more as we go, and I look forward to sharing our adventure with you!!