Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Destination Guy's Frenchys

Guy's Frenchys"I won't buy anything from a bin", this is what an out of province relative said when Guy's Frenchys was described to her. The idea of buying used clothing was not appealing at all to her, in fact it was appalling. The eco-conscious will say it's "recycled clothing", I say roll up your sleeves and dig in.

Recently, I went on a "Frenchys run" where we started in Digby one day and traveled along the Evangeline Trail to the Yarmouth and Acadian Shores Region the next. Through villages such as Meteghan, Saulnierville and Church Point.

6 Guy's Frenchys in 36 hours, a new record.

Here's what I got:
3 sweaters (American Eagle, Banana Republic and Aeropostale),
2 hoodies (both Aeropostale)
1 blouse (Banana Republic)
3 shirts (Banana Republic, Gap and H&M)
= one happy camper who paid a fraction of the cost for gently used clothing

Guy's Frenchys BinsThere are so many diamonds in the ruff just waiting to be grabbed. Seasoned "Frenchys" goers have a particular method of how they sort through the clothing. Just like how you may have a strategy for hanging clothes on your clothesline or how you unload your dishwasher. It's fascinating to watch them but then again, there's no time to waste, there are diamonds to be found!

Most of what you sort through will be quickly passed over. Hold tight because every hour, on the hour, there is a new arrival of goods that are tossed in the bins. Clothes, toys and household items are checked over by staff many times for quality. Some items still have the original store tags on them.

FrenchysWhat started as a small store in Digby Guy's Frenchys has expanded to 18 stores throughout Nova Scotia and New Brunswick processing thousands of pounds of clothing daily. I've heard that many girlfriends take weekend Frenchys getaways, stopping at various locations along their pre-planned route. Even travel tour companies offer Guy's Frenchys motorcoach tours.

Oh, remember that relative who said she'd never shop from a bin? They say it took her 20 minutes to convert, only after finding a designer cocktail dress. This new convert joins the rest of the evangelists.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Nova Scotia Wild Berry Bushes

Winterberry HollyI like to go "au naturel" when I decorate my home for the holidays. Wait a sec, that came out wrong, I am FULLY clothed. What I meant to say is that I like to use natural sources for my seasonal arrangements. My sister calls it "wild crafting" and we've been doing it for years now. My collection method is gathering pine and balsam fir branches and picking red berries from land that is soon going to be developed.

The end result is fabulous. I have to admit to something though. For the longest time I didn't have a clue what the berries that I like to use in my arrangements were called. So, after 30 minutes with Google Search, Detective Maria finally found out what they were. Here's what I found out, they are called Winterberry Holly and Rosehips:

Winterberry HollyThe top two berry pictures are what "Winterberry Holly" looks like. A holly has glossy evergreen leaves, right! No, not always. Ilex verticillata, Winterberry Holly, or Winterberry is Nova Scotia's native, wetland holly that loses it leaves each autumn. This beautiful shrub is a gorgeous burst of bright red colour during the winter months. Watch out though, their berries can easily fall off when shaken. Birds love these bushes and provide the avid bird watcher hours of entertainment.

RosehipsThe last picture are Rosehips. These bushes tend to grow in bunches. If you want to snip off a few of their limbs for their burgundy coloured berries, you practically have wear metal-plated gloves and garden clippers. This plant to thorny and you're guaranteed a few scratches and thorns if you're not careful. Take my advise and don't make wear your favourite down-filled jacket.

Also known as Rosa canina (Dog Rose), Rosehips are very high in Vitamin C and contain vitamins A, D and E, and antioxidants. These babies are sometimes made into jellies, preserves, syrups, tea and even wine. Who knew that something on my doorstep had so many uses.

Cooking with Rosehips

Winterberry Holly Attracts Birds

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Canada's Best Smoked Salmon (from Nova Scotia)

Willy Krauch's Smoked Salmon and Smoked MackerelGrowing up on Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore, I was aware that there was famous Danish smokehouse just up the road. So when time came for me to host a holiday brunch and wanted to make a smoked salmon quiche, there was no choice but to use salmon from J Willy Krauch's and Sons.

So off I went to my trusted Canadian Living website to search for recipes and came across a Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Quiche recipe. This quiche was simple to make but difficult to contain my urge to nibble on the salmon. I went a little overboard and made four quiches but knew they'd freeze well if there were leftovers, there barely were any.

J. Willy Krauch & Son's Smokehouse smokes high quality Atlantic salmon, mackerel and eels in traditional Scandinavian style. Their newest flavour is lemon pepper and garlic mackerel or try others such as Cajun or Maple Pepper. You will find other delicacies such as smoked herring, smoked eels and smoked trout. Their products are available in most grocery stores in Nova Scotia.

Willy Krauch came to Canada from Denmark and began smoking fish in 1956. Willy developed a method that was uniquely his own and using only Nova Scotia hard wood kindling and sawdust. Willy passed away several years ago and the business is now run by his sons. They continue the fine craft of smoking the finest quality fish. In the tiny village of Tangier, Nova Scotia (about 1 hour 20 minutes outside of Halifax) you can see smoke billowing from the smokehouse. Tours are available but I recommend contacting them first.

The local rumor is that they ship their gourmet fish to famous people all over the world, royalty included. If you don't live in Nova Scotia, they'll even ship it to you.

To Order:
J. Willy Krauch & Son's Smokehouse
Tangier, Nova Scotia - Eastern Shore
Phone: 1-902-772-2188
Toll Free: 1-800-758-4412 or 1-800-299-9414
Email: willykrauch@ns.sympatico.ca
No website available

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nova Scotia Christmas Trees, A Tradition

A few minutes ago I asked my daughter, "what feeling do you get when you see a Christmas tree?" She simply replied, "happy!"

Christmas just wouldn't be the same without a real Christmas tree. Big or small, fat or skinny, with needles or rapidly falling ones - this over-sized air freshener brings the outdoors in and over three short weeks can add so much cheer.

Did you know that Nova Scotia is one of Canada's top three producers of Christmas trees (along with Quebec and Ontario)? Up until this year, 80 per cent of Nova Scotia's Christmas trees were exported to the United States. When I visited a tree lot the other day, a grower from the South Shore told me he cuts his trees in late October to get ready for the season.

Each year, it's tradition that a Balsam Fir from Nova Scotia is sent to Boston to become the Boston Christmas Tree. This tree is a thank you gift from the province to the people of Boston in remembrance of the city's response after the Halifax Explosion in 1917.

How we decorate a Christmas tree, we all know, is a personal choice. Many trees this year will be "green" with LED lights. It'll be a preference between multi-coloured or plain white lights or blue or red. Some trees will be professionally decorated while many will be decorated with heirloom ornaments and dough treasures our kids made in pre-school. Whether your tree is 8 feet or a table top, decorated from head to toe or only the bottom third (thanks to an overzealous toddler), every tree is beautiful. Even Charlie Brown's.

Mine definitely won't have tinsel. "What's tinsel?" my daughter asks.

Happy Christmas.

Beaver makes home in Halifax, NS subdivision

We have a new resident in our neighbourhood. She's pretty shy but you can't help but notice her presence. A beaver has taken up residence on a small island in the middle of pond here in Halifax. Since last spring, my daughter and I've taken notice of our busy neighbour and have been intrigued since.

Beaver dam on an island in a Halifax lake Her name is "Hailey", after the pond she lives in. By the way, we have no clue of the sex and my daughter likes the idea of her being a girl anyway. So, Hailey's den (lodge) has really taken shape over the past month as she prepares for her first winter in the pond. What began as a modest mound on the island now has a considerable shape to it. See the den in the middle of the picture on the right?

Evidence that the Halifax beaver was here I think it's fascinating having a beaver nearby. I've read online all about beavers and I'm proud it's on our 5 cent coin. As long as no body gets hurt and she's respected from a distance, I'm okay with Hailey being in the neighbourhood. In fact, a couple landowners have wrapped their favourite trees with steel mesh so they don't fall victim to Hailey's industriousness. To think that this beaver crossed a busy four lane highway from Long Lake Provincial Park to get to this pond, I shudder at the thought of her deciding to return.

Here are some interesting facts I learned about our national symbol:
-It's the largest rodent in North America
-A skillful engineer
-Can live up to 12 years
-They are most active from dusk to dawn

I hope Hailey has a great winter under the ice, we'll miss seeing her glide gracefully across the pond.

And now, here's one of those famous Hinterland Who's Who Public Service Announcements: