Spring is “sugaring off” time

Longer days and sunshine are the mark that it is time the sap starts moving from the roots of maple trees to the branches. Most Canadians know the term “sugaring off” for this procedure.

Woodlland Maple Syrup farm tapped tree

The “sugaring off” season usually begins mid March and can last into late April during a late spring. The average season lasts three to four weeks. It is very important that it is cold at night and warm in the day.

Did you know it takes 50 litres of sap to make 1 litre of maple syrup. 95% of the maple syrup in the world is produced in Canada and most of that is made in the Province of Quebec.

Tapping the tree
Woodland Maple Syrup Boiling sap

I grew up in the Province of Quebec and it was always an important tradition to go to a “sugaring off” party. A “sugaring off” party involved a meal where everything is cooked or flavoured with maple syrup. The meals I remember are ham, baked beans, scrambled eggs. Dessert would include maple pie, and maple syrup poured on snow to make taffy.

Woodland Maple Syrup Fire
Making taffy

Woodlands Maple Syrup Farm is the only place in PEI that you can visit to see how maple syrup is made. Woodlands Maple Syrup Farm uses a traditional method of production: Maple sap is collected in buckets, gathered by hand from over 450 Sugar Maple Trees and boiled on a wood fired evaporator.

Woodland Maple Syrup
Maple syrup candy

In our family we love to use Maple Syrup on pancakes and French toast. I also like to use it in my granola in the mornings. There are lots of yummy desserts where you can add maple syrup. One of my favourite recipes is Maple Pecan Tarts from the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company.

We hope everyone is well and you can come to visit us soon to enjoy brunch with lots of food cooked in maple syrup. Happy Spring!

Visit Prince Edward Island on a shoestring budget!

There are many things to do when visiting Prince Edward Island even if you are on a shoestring budget. If you have a car, a map, a sense of adventure and a picnic and you can spend many days exploring PEI without spending a lot of money.

If you like to enjoy the outdoors Prince Edward Island has a fabulous network of Provincial Parks which offer an opportunity to enjoy spectacular beaches, scenery, nature trails and lots of outdoor recreation programs. The Day use Parks are open from Mid June to Mid September, seven days a week from 8 to 5. All the services in the park are free of charge. One of my favourite Provincial Parks is Chelton Beach: one of PEI’s best kept secrets – it is always empty! it has a beautiful beach and a spectacular view of the Confederation Bridge.

View of Confederation Bridge
Red cliffs of PEI
Peaceful vistas
White sands

Prince Edward Island also has many lighthouses. The first kind of transportation for Islanders was by sea and lighthouses were important to guide ships into harbour safely. Today many of the lighthouses are great places to visit and or stay overnight.

The West Point Lighthouse is a museum, country inn, restaurant and gift shop. It is a fantastic experience to wake up in the morning and lookout towards the Northumberland Strait.

One of my favourite light houses is Cape Tryon – it is a bit of a challenge every year to find it and a hike to get in but I am always impressed when I get there. The view is breathtaking, and you can usually sees flocks of seagulls and gannets.

Cape Tryon
Sunset at Covehead lighthouse
West Point Lighthourse
Victoria by the Sea

We hope you can visit soon and enjoy the wonders and nature of our beautiful Island!

Helen, Neal and the girls!

Coronavirus changes the way I work.

For many years I have taught English face to face and welcomed Japanese students to our home in Prince Edward Island. Comments from our guests. The Coronavirus has forced me to think and do things differently. Due to the virus I have increased my technical computer skills and learned to be a little more creative in lesson planning. As a result I have had many wonderful virtual English conversations with students via Skype or Zoom.

Shows me working at my computer
Zoom meeting

Our face-to-face tea parties have also moved to become Virtual Tea parties using Zoom. I have been working with Club Tourism for the last four months and we have hosted four tea parties. It has been an absolute joy to share my love of PEI with men and women all ages who are interested in PEI. For now, Japanese people cannot come to PEI, so we are bringing PEI to them via the internet.

Tea cup via Zoom
Helen on a Virtual tea party

Each virtual tea party lasts about 90 minutes. During that time, I talk about our family, our home, the seasons, Prince Edward Island, LM Montgomery, and my Anne tour. Guests are learning about PEI and learning English. During the party, guests enjoy tea from the PEI Preserve Company and cookies from the Blue winds Café. These have been sent directly from Prince Edward Island. Guests have a chance to ask questions to me.
There are always a lot of questions about the weather in PEI, when to travel here, foods that I like to cook, our family and how I use maple syrup. Everyone is very surprised when I showed guests the BIG maple syrup container that I have at our house.

Snow covered birch trees
Victoria Homestay in the winter

I love talking about PEI and answering questions from the guests. I think that everyone is very courageous to try to speak English even if they feel shy and nervous. I look forward to the day when we can welcome guests in our home at Victoria Homestay however, I think that this is a very creative way to bring PEI to Japan during these unusual times we are living in.

The next tea party is about Life in the winter in Prince Edward Island. If you are interested in joining the party, please sign up at this link: https://clublog.club-t.com/_ct/17393962

Places to stay while visiting Anne’s land?

Prince Edward Island, our home, is a small province on the East Coast of Canada. I have heard many people say it feels like it is a place that time has forgot. Many guests from Japan know it better as “Anne’s land”. I am always amazed at the number of Japanese guests that come to visit. We are famous for beautiful beaches, pretty fishing villages, farmhouses and churches, fresh shellfish, lobsters and oysters, and world-renowned author LM Montgomery. I think many of our guests from Japan love PEI for its friendliness. People are always surprised that everyone waves to each other or says hello as we are walking down the street.

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People visit for various reasons – to relax, to play, to eat, to be active, to visit family or a combination of all these reasons. With over one million visitors annually there are a variety of accommodations dependent on your budget and reason for coming to PEI.

Charlottetown, capitol of PEI

A big decision on where you are going to stay depends on the amount of money you want to spend and if you have transportation. If you have a car the choice of accommodations is amazing throughout the province. In Charlottetown, guests can choose from a range of accommodations: economical rooms at the University of Prince Edward Island or the Youth Hostel or high end cozy and elegant five-star boutique hotels. https://www.tourismpei.com/pei-accommodations

Fairholm Boutique Inns

Neal and I recently spent a night at Fairholm Boutique Inns – Charlottetown PEI (fairholminn.com) to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. It has beautiful architecture and charm. We wanted to enjoy a relaxing evening in a beautiful setting.

Fairholm Suite
Historic Fairholm Boutique B &B

Summer accomodations

If I was looking for accommodations in the summer, I would look for accommodations directly on the beach as we would be spending most of our time outdoors. I would like to try is called Treetop Havens. Visit Treetop Haven PEI | Nature and Wellness Destination Their accommodations are domes or tree pods elevated in the trees.

Domes in the sky
View from our bed

Please remember the type of accommodations you choose while visiting Anne’s Land really depends on the type of vacation you would like, transportation and your budget. If you have stayed in Prince Edward Island please leave a comment where you have stayed and why.

Victoria Homestay in the Winter

Victoria Homestay in the winter

We hope everyone is staying well !

Helen and Neal

Happy and Healthy New Year.

I am sitting in our living room looking at the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree with a big fire in the wood stove and I realize how many things I am thankful for in the past year even though it has been challenging with Covid.

Twinkling lights on our Christmas tree!

Last winter we spent a lot of time outdoors – Erin trained for her Level 2 certificate in Snowboarding. She is the youngest person in PEI to try it. Neal also took additional training – his goal is to get his Level 3 in Downhill skiing.

Happy and healthy skiers and snowboarder!

During the pandemic we were still able to celebrate Catherine’s 18th birthday, her graduation from high school and successful entrance to Universite de Moncton. We also celebrated Erin purchasing her first car, being elected president of the Student Conseil and recently being accepted into University of Ottawa.

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catherine 18

As we close off 2020 Neal, Catherine and Erin and I want to wish each of you a Happy New Year filled with laughter, joy and prosperity. Keep in touch and we hope that we will be able to see you again in Prince Edward Island at our “piece of heaven”

8 Our home in the winter time
10 Snow covered birch trees 2
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Christmas family traditions at Victoria Homestay

Christmas family traditions at Victoria Homestay start early! Traditionally we bring out an Advent Wreath four Sundays before Christmas. The four Sundays represent Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Each week we light an additional candle! I love this tradition – as a child I can remember going out with my father to cut pine branches and make our own wreath.

Our Advent wreath with the first candle lit for Hope.

Another very important family tradition starts on the 1st of December. We buy Chocolate Advent Calendars – every day there is a piece of chocolate – again this is a tradition that I remember as a child however when I was younger there was no chocolate. The calendars were usually sent to us from my aunt and uncle in England. Even though our girls are older they still look forward to an Advent Calendar.

Our daughters especially love the Lindt chocolate brand !

Tourtieres is a tradition that Neal brought into our family traditions. There are many kinds of tourtieres – some have rabbit, moose, chicken, beef, or a combination of any of these. They are mixed with potatoes and herbs. When Neal was younger – his mother would make as many as 40 pies each season. Neal and his brothers and sister have kept their mother’s recipe and they have a friendly rivalry every year trying to decide who makes the best tourtiere!

Neal making our supply of tourtiere.

Decorating is another tradition we enjoy. Very early in December we see Christmas decorations pop-up all-over Prince Edward Island – some people love to decorate the exterior of their homes; other people spend a lot of time decorating inside. It is wonderful to see Christmas lights on houses in the evening on a starry night – especially if we have fresh fallen snow. We also have many ornaments to decorate the Christmas tree and the inside of our house.

9 Cutting the Christmas tree
13 Family sleigh ride
10a Cousins building a Gingerbread house

This year with COVID 19 Christmas will be a little different – we will not be able to visit as many neighbours and friends. Normally we spend Christmas Eve at my sisters house with lots of family and friends. All the cousins build a Gingerbread House, lots of food and singing Christmas carols and telling jokes.

Our family hope you have a Merry Christmas wherever you may be in the world – please remember to be kind to one another and stay healthy.

Pumpkins, ghosts and witches

Pumpkins, ghosts and witches start appearing by October 1st. Halloween is a very old tradition (two thousand years ago) when people lit bonfires and wore costumes to scare off ghosts.  The symbols of ghosts, witches and bonfires continue, however I don’t think they carry the same symbolism. Many people enjoy decorating their homes!

Inflatables!!

At Victoria Homestay we have several Halloween traditions. We decorate inside and outside. Our daughters have always enjoyed carving pumpkins, baking sugar cookies and dressing up for Halloween. Every year they go to a second-hand clothes store to buy costumes. On Halloween night people of all ages go house to house in costume singing trick or treat. They usually come home with a big bag of candy.

The first steps in carving pumpkins – taking out the seeds!

We wish each of you a Happy Halloween!!

Our creative jack o lanterns!

October in Prince Edward Island!

October in Prince Edward Island is a beautiful time of year! I love it because of the breathtaking colours, the bounty of vegetables and fruits and spectacular sunsets.

Sunset at Victoria Homestay.

October is also a wonderful time to pick pumpkins and apples. We usually make it a family activity and pick many apples for the winter season and pumpkins to make pumpkin pie.

A popular Fall activity !
Fall colours at Victoria Homestay!

I have many things to be thankful for – a healthy family, a beautiful place to live, the ability to grow many of my own vegetables and many friends around the world. Please take a moment and think of all the things you are thankful for. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Enjoying a campfire at Victoria Homestay!

Back to school this year was an emotional experience!

Back to school this year was an emotional experience. Our oldest daughter was accepted at a French University in the province of New Brunswick. She was making lists all summer. She packed her personal belongings, as well as everything needed to make her own meals.

It was a momentous day when we packed the car with all her belongings and drove across the Confederation Bridge to Universite de Moncton. We helped her move in and then went shopping for food and all the little things she had forgotten.

Neal and I spent one night at an AirBnB in Moncton and returned to her dormitory on Sunday and cooked brunch together. We spent a few hours exploring the city of Moncton with Catherine and left her on her own. It was a hard day for us both – we didn’t realize how difficult it would be to say goodbye.

Eating Brunch with Catherine in her dorm room!

Our youngest daughter Erin Marie started her last grade of high school. She is very independent this year – she bought herself a car and drives to school rather then taking the bus. She is the president of the school council and the editor of the school year book. She hopes to join the Volleyball team later in the season.

Even though school life for both the girls has changed with COVID they continue to be optimistic and excited to continue their journey of learning.

Erin on the first day of school

To the bridge and beyond!

To the the bridge and beyond: Erin and I bicycled 38.5 km yesterday to the Confederation Bridge and back to Victoria Homestay. It was a beautiful day- sunny, 30c and a light wind.

A stop at the Iceboat park.

We enjoyed relaxing by the water and talking together. We visited a few shops but it was very quiet. There are very few visitors because of COVID.

At Borden Carleton
Sunshine, warm weather and Erin!!

We visited Cows shop and enjoyed a picnic lunch before returning to Victoria Homestay! It is always fun to go on adventures with Erin.

Enjoying lunch!
Picnic at Gateway Village