Pell’s Hell’s Bells, Sin, and a Cardinal Christmas?

When Richard and I first lived together in ‘cardinal sin’  we called our little house “Cardinal’s Inn”. It was overflowing with his grown children and we never had much time or space to ourselves.  But now at Blue Belldon Farm we are lucky enough to have plenty of it… And in both places there was always at least one red cardinal who fluttered past our windows on a regular basis, (although I have to say we saw rather more of him before the snow fell than we have since – AND we have food in the feeder an’ all!)

First off, let me say how happy I am that this week Cardinal George Pell was found GUILTY for the 1990s altar boy cases, and in February goes back to hopefully be found guilty of the 1970s cases in Ballarat, Australia.  His high levels of Catholic authoritarianism have been stripped and he is no longer ‘fluttering about in red on the Vatican high pedestal’.  Toodles, Georgie – and good riddance!

My favourite composer,pianist/actor Tim Minchin made many victims’ prayers get answered when he raised money with his Cardinal Pell song a year and a half ago (it reached no. 1 in Aussie-land!). All the money from it went to get the victims and their families flown to Rome to hear personally why “Georgie” couldn’t make the trip back to Australia to take his place in the courts at that time. (He claimed to be ‘unwell’).  If you haven’t heard this wonderful up-beat song about a dark time in Aussie history (that’s Tim’s magic!) do give it a toe-tapping listen and realize how many benefited from it.

And now – just a bunch of Christmassy Cardinal photos and card-art, starting with friend/artist Jane Wright’s wonderful card:


I’ve tried to pick the most unique ones, or ones that remind me the most of Blue Belldon, and with this we wish you the very best of the season (there MAY be one more brief blog before Christmas, but for now, this is the modern way of sending out Christmas cards, I guess… not that I want to be doing anything ‘modern’!)  Enjoy these – you can almost curl up in some of them, they are so cozy! (I’ve left the artists’ names on wherever possible, but sadly, many of them are not shown).

23Male and femal cardinals in tree on snowy day56789101112131415161719

And finally, here’s a still from a short video we just received this evening.  It is of Chevy, working at his lovely new home, pulling in two Christmas trees for his new family, and being driven by their youngest daughter, who has all she can do to keep up with him! (which our old hips and knees couldn’t manage here – and we always had lots more snow to plow through than that as well! Down closer to the ocean, they don’t have nearly the same amount of snow as we get here in the mountains, of course!)  We know Chevy is very much enjoying his new home – there are more animals, more people and there’s more work, too – all things he loves!

chev, luke's daughter





Nogs, Noggins, Song’n’s and Toboggans

Richard’s been a very busy dude this last month or so.  Since the end of October my ‘good’ knee has steadily become worse than my ‘bad’ one (the one scheduled for surgery on Jan. 18).  So I’ve mostly been lying on couch or bed due to pain AND just trying to save wear and tear on them as they are both now ‘bone on bone’.  Meanwhile poor Richard has to pick up all the extra chores I can no longer manage as I’m mostly on my walker (kept, thank goodness, since my back surgeries). So he’s doing ALL the barn chores, PLUS milking Cammie and running up and down the basement stairs attending the furnace fires, and even some meal prep -with shouted instructions from the adjoining bedroom, of course!

Yes, I know some of you do not have snow, but we had our first big snow storm at the end of October and have had several more storms since then – and big winds as well!  So, there’s a lot to do outside as well as in! Richard IS very much enjoying his new ‘toy’, though:4b

He decided his hip couldn’t handle pushing our snow blower up and down the laneway again this year.  Personally, I’ve always thought that in winter our entire laneway and parking lot/barnyard doesn’t need to be plowed, – we could just park near the front of the house and leave the rest –   but R. still is a bit of a  suburban Yuppie in some of his thinking. He feels ALL areas should be cleared – and by cleared I mean RIGHT to the pavement (which of course only causes more potential for dangerous falls on ice in my opinion, but we have this argument several times every year and I never win).  Thus, we got the attachment to the John Deere this year and his brother once again came to the rescue with help in this big endeavor:

I can’t seem to get Richard to protect his head (and mustache) properly though, and he always comes in with icicles hanging from his eyebrows and upper lip.  I looked at getting him a plastic ‘tent’ for around the top of the mower as a Christmas gift but a) they are pretty expensive considering how much we already spent on this contraption, b) we try not to BUY gifts for our family, just make them and c)  you all know how I feel about adding ANY plastic – even a piece of Saran Wrap – to my carbon footprint, so I didn’t feel that was a good choice.  Of all the hats and toques Richard’s been given over the years JUST since moving here, including  a balaclava which would help the stache-icicle problem, and including the red one with the pom-pom which his mother bought specially for all of us to MATCH, in Christmas 2016 and which he REFUSES to wear…

(The last hat is from the CBC show Still Standing – one of the producers gave it to me for doing some admin. for them getting the still photos they used, and getting waivers signed,  etc. and I passed it on to Richard last Christmas as it’s a lovely green!  If you still haven’t seen the episode in which we/New Denmark appear, the link is here:  )

…the one he seems to now be preferring is one that isn’t MEANT to be his!  His brother gave him a slightly used winter coat for ‘good’ and inside the sleeve was tucked his BROTHER’S favourite toque.  Which Richard has now taken a Finders Keepers motto about and decided it was MEANT to be his own!

We thought it would be nice if we gave our old snowblower to neighbour Pierrette and her son Zeb who have helped us out so much since moving here, and who live like hermits WAY back off a tertiary road in the middle of the woods. So hubby just went past my window again making sure everything is working properly before we turn it over to  them. And yes, that IS his brother’s toque covering most of his noggin. Again. Plus he’s wearing the big black parka Mom gave him last year to  – ‘cover what little bum you have whilst snow-blowing!’


Another snow-job is to get food out to Chevy who, until he leaves to go to his wonderful new owner Dec. 13, has been allowed to have his summer pasture area still open to him.  When the snows get heavier this isn’t possible as they cover the electric fence, but for now he’s usually found WAY up at the top of the hill, and Richard likes to feed both him and Cammie up there sometimes as it keeps the stall and corral area cleaner.  So, out comes the toboggan and away goes the food:


Sometimes, though, when R. thinks he’ll have the luxury of dragging back an EMPTY toboggan, others have a different idea!


In the meantime I haven’t been out of the house in a month.  One month yesterday, to be exact (more on that in a moment).  I am most comfortable in bed, as it has the best view, is supportive in the right places, allows my legs to spread out away from each other so the knees don’t touch,  and has enough space to spread my various projects out around me. The couch offers none of these, but once in a while I go into the living room for a change of scenery and to have a fire in the fireplace.  If my poor over-worked hubby (don’t feel too sorry for him, he’s spending MOST of his days cuddled up reading or napping!) is willing to make us a cozy fire, that is, since I can’t go fetch in wood myself or even stoop down!  I am primarily involved in writing a stage musical, one that’s been hatching slowly on the back burner (talk about mixing metaphors!) for some years now.  And I needed to do some research first, so since I can’t go to the library these days (getting in and out of the house is painful, and even more so is getting in and out of the vehicles!) one of the things I LOVE about the province of N.B. is that you can mail-order your books!  A big black pouch arrives in your mailbox, and you just put the return label on and send them back when you’re ready – for FREE! So, without giving too much away about my musical, you can get a glimmer of some of the subject content from these:  (I know any cousins or extended family will know where I’m likely going with this subject matter…) :

The next problem I faced, however, was that while most of the script (‘BOOK’, in correct musical theatre lingo ) and the lyrics to more than 20 songs have been written in the last month I could NOT sit at the piano to compose.  Sitting with my legs bent, as an upright piano necessitates is painful. So I asked for a melodica for Christmas and my mother very kindly arranged to get it here well in advance and allow me to have it right away. So, most of my days are spent like this:

Which the cat just HATES because a) until the last 30 days,  he’s used to having the bed uninterrupted all day long with plenty of room to spread out and b) neither he nor Smitty can STAND the sound of the melodica. Smitty comes up to the bed and whines, and the cat tends to run down to the basement yowling in anger.  I also am having hot flashes again (thought I was done with those a year ago, so I can only guess it’s thanks to complete lack of exercise now) and I frequently have to throw the blankets off my legs- which in and of itself is cause for a hefty scowl:1

As many of you will know, especially if you follow my FB pages, I come from a shortish line of theatrical as well as musical and literary personages. “Song’n’Dance” men as well as women! And by that I mean we can tell a good fictional tale as WELL as literally treading the boards. Grandma Johnson wrote many novel manuscripts which were never published because she only tried once, was told she needed more ‘boudoir’ scenes and never approached another publisher… I have a trunk still full of most of these manuscripts which I always promised her I would try to do something with one day – not that SHE cared, it was wholly my own idea to not let those years of writing be completely wasted (possibly, because I feel like all my own years of writing are being wasted in the same way!) “Like Grandmother, Like Granddaughter” in more ways than one, then.  This first pic was Grandma J (Ivanel) circa early 1930s, and the bottom, from one of my newspaper clippings, is me in similar pose (although you can’t see the red blinking lights on my nipples —- I was playing one of the prostitutes in “No Sex, Please – We’re British”. Which really should have been Grandma’s motto considering the reason she stopped approaching publishers! )


Since writing, music and drama have all been such an important part of my life (and in fact my degree was a combination of all 3, as Queen’s allowed for an Artist in Community Education B.Ed. if you had experience in at least 3 facets of artistic life and a previous degree in 2 of them!  Eek! ) I decided to also base my musical on an important-to-Canada family who have all 3 as an integral part of ITS life.  And who also, as I do daily, fought to keep the environment protected.  (AND who, incidentally, have several towns of Perth cropping up in their various lives, as I have had 4 of them be important to me!  There’s a LOT of Perths out there! )  I didn’t think this musical would ever actually get written until, on October 26th Assistant Perth-Andover Choir Director Sandi Tattersall and I did a ‘ditty’ (“What Baking Can Do” from the musical Waitress by Sarah Bareilles)  for a charity show:

At one point I was to go behind Sandi as she sang a lovely and upbeat solo verse (she’s got an amazing voice and has had proper singing lessons for years, so it would have been MORE fitting if I’d just stayed behind her through the whole thing!)  and duck from one side to the other of her.  As my ‘good’ knee had already gone fairly ‘bad’ at this point, this ducking/deeking was pretty much the end of it. CR-A-A-CK !

sandi, julie, ducking

I tried one time after that (on Oct. 30) to make it to the choir rehearsals for our Christmas concerts and knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep going.  Richard, incidentally, IS still going and they had a very successful first concert  on Thursday night with a few more to go.  I missed the concert season in the spring from having that 5-week virus, and now I am missing this whole season as well. Very frustrating!  HOWEVER, as the love of the performing arts has CLEARLY been passed on to my 12-year-old nephew, who at this time last year was on European tour with the Atlantic Boychoir, I am NOT missing out on his first-ever singing solo. AND it’s in a professional cast of over 130 with his mother accompanying the show as part of the small band/orchestra they’ve hired.  This is a BIG deal!  Sydney is even mentioned in the Arts & Culture Centre’s flyer as a featured performer, which is pretty amazing for a kid, I think:


There are 5 performances (one’s a matinee) next week with sold-out crowds of over 1,000 people at each performance —- and Mom has already flown to St. John’s to help with all the extra craziness going on in a musicians’ household at the run-up to Christmas. Of course my sister always plays, as part of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, for the annual Nutcracker concert, the annual Messiah concert, and has numerous other gigs right now, as does Sydney with his school concerts, his ‘cello, his viol-de-gamba, his choral singing with the Boychoir and now soloing in the big Diva’s show.  That’s “big Diva’s show”, NOT ” Big Divas’ show “. Please note difference!  He’s singing the gorgeous melody from The Greatest Showman, called A Million Dreams. If you haven’t heard it, you MUST; it’s luscious.  Here’s the young lad , Ziv Zaifman, that sang it for the soundtrack. No doubt there will be no recording done of poor Sydney’s efforts, as seems the case with most of his performances, and of course we lowly family members (even those who have to province-hop and go doped up on painkillers and in a wheelchair!) can’t take recording devices into theatres, so this is the closest we’ll likely have:

I DID, however, do up a little ‘gif’ of my sister playing for the Divas show last year (they had an Irish/Celtic theme then) and of Sydney on CBC radio last month for the Boychoir.

gif with snow, for Our Divas, 2018

As you’ll have noticed in the above, like me, my sister is very dramatic, facially – especially when playing.  Some of you may remember that she has always been this expressive since our early days playing as children.  However, as you can see by this video of a gorgeous piece by Franck, which SHE just did this year for a charity concert, her playing is unrecognizable compared to what it was when we were children!

Anyway, I leave for St. John’s on Friday, being pushed through the airports and to the theatre two nights in a row (thanks for the ticket gifts, Jennifer!) by the good folk at Air Canada, and my poor brother-in-law!  Wheelchairs courtesy of Air Canada and the Red Cross. Thanks very much!

While I’m plugging Atlantic Canada professional stage shows here, I should also mention that my singing partner from above, Sandi Tattersall, has an equally talented sibling and nephew, the former who is appearing in the professional cast of Beauty and the Beast in Moncton in a few months  (Curtis Sullivan is often seen in a lot of Drayton Productions in Ontario, and I’m sure many of the Ontarioites reading this blog will have seen him in those.  My theatre-loving compatriots from the Stratford teaching days will surely recognize him as the Drayton company has expanded so much recently, hasn’t it?)   Sadly, I don’t THINK my knees will be rehabbed enough to make it to the Moncton production, as I’d planned when it was originally announced, but if you’re in that area (which, in N.B. means – ANY OF THE ATLANTIC PROVINCES!)  here’s the link for tickets and a cast summary. Click on the Nov. 14, 2018 part of the blue, as it seems to split:

Posted by Théâtre Capitol Theatre on Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Sandi’s nephew is a phenom. in his own right, and I pray/hope/expect my own nephew may be following along these lines – for the purely selfish reason that I can have years of exciting and proud theatre to see!  His name is Jeremy Leo Curtis and he just finished a run in downtown Toronto as Joseph, in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Jeremy got stellar reviews, one of which – by the Gaisins for the Ontario Arts Review -says: “The title character is portrayed by Jeremy Leo Curtis and methinks this young man has a promising potential theatre career. He can sing up a storm; utilizes his face & posture to advantage; is obviously charismatic…and in addition – movie-star handsome.” 

MORE photos and reviews here:

So, Ontario theatre-goers of whom I know many are reading this blog (despite it supposedly being about how to live self-sufficiently on a homestead in the Maritimes!) – keep your eyes open for Curtis Sullivan and/or Jeremy Leo Sullivan!  Now THAT’S a musical theatre family! (but still not the ones I’m writing my own musical about. You’ll have to wait for another non-homesteading-themed blog posting to find out more about that!)

Also in Perth, and if you’re in the Maritimes you might have heard about this on CBC Radio Noon yesterday,     our Choir Director (and esteemed mayor) suggested to her young and massively creative Baptist minister that they do what is apparently a ‘first’ – possibly in the world.  (Remember we sang as ‘angels’ last December for the same church’s drive-thru Nativity? if you don’t remember and want a peek, and yes – one of Richard wearing yet a DIFFERENT toque on his noggin,  see this blog posting:    ) .  Marianne Bell and  the Rev. Michael Fredericks with another cast of ‘manymany; have filmed a series called ‘Online Advent’. Each day, starting today, they will have a little clip of their ‘show’ telling the Christmas story and yesterday on air Rick Mercer said, (even if it MAY have been tongue-in-cheek) that’d he’d consider being in their production another year as it ‘has all the production quality of Murdoch Mysteries’!

Here’s Jessica Theriault , and Sheila Cummings, who sings with us in choir and went to Moncton to Choralfest with 6 of us in October. Sheila’s lovely grand-daughter Kelsie also went with us and helped us out with our “Baking” ditty also!  More examples of grandmothers passing the performing arts down the generations!   This is taken from the ‘trailer’ to which I’ve also given the link below:


Now, whilst musical theatre season (and in England also silly ‘panto’ season!) is very HOT in December, this blog posting isn’t particularly Christmassy OR Homesteady as yet – so as a build-up to your festive season, and to not get off track TOO much (too late!) re: living self-sufficiently, here is what to do when you have lots of fresh goat’s milk and eggs:

HOMEMADE EGG NOG – take 3 or 4 day-old goat’s milk (want it to have sat in fridge for a few days for best thickness and richer taste), fill up half a blender, throw in up to 6 fresh eggs from your chickies, add 2 tsp. of vanilla, 1/2 a cup of sugar or Stevia, 1/2 cup of vanilla frozen yogurt (your own if you’ve some made up!) and some cinnamon and nutmeg.  Blend it up – if your eggs were very fresh it should be yellowish in colour, but not to worry if it isn’t — and when it’s finished put only a very SMALL amount of rum in, if you wish.  I find more than a dollop ruins the whole lovely beverage, though I know many who will disagree!

Cardinal card by our wonderful artist friend (and my former art teacher!) Jane Wright.  Richard has been inspired by Anne Schultz to suddenly enjoy cardinals again, as he once did… so I might make the next blog posting a Christmassy-red-snowy-Cardinal-based posting!