Earlier this year, Robert’s family began making arrangements for a summer gathering. The reason was, ostensibly, to celebrate Pearl’s wedding – but the Macgregor clan also likes getting together, so there didn’t really need to be a reason. It just worked out that way this time around.
The Macgregors being the generous and welcoming sort of folk they are, I was invited to join the family as well. Robert’s family is fun and boisterous, but in a completely different way from a Nicholas Family gathering. I feel like there’s more volume included when my family gets together. But that is neither here nor there.
The site of this year’s gathering was the very lovely countryside of Prince Edward Island. As I was a young girl when a certain version of Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea miniseries and the Road to Avonlea t.v. series came out, I was familiar with Prince Edward Island in a sort of idyllic, quasi-historical fictional sort of way. I had admired the countryside and the sea as it had been presented in the films and series, but had never actually thought I might see it first hand. When I was presented with the opportunity to go, I entertained the notion of bringing along an Edwardian-style outfit for some photographs, but we all know what a laughable idea that is. First off, there’s the fact that my sewing room still isn’t accessible for whipping up a new historic outfit. Second, there’s the fact that I loathe having my picture taken.
So, with normal summery-type clothing in hand, Robert and I escaped to the landscape of the wild north (aka Canada) for a week of fun.
My first impression of the island was…I have never seen a place so covered in flowers. In. My. Life.
And I’ve lived in Colorado, with its random fields of delightful wildflowers, as well as spent most of my life in the DC Metro area, which is so filled with flowers and blooms and various pollen-filled organisms come Spring that even those of us without allergies sometimes find it hard to breathe.
None of that was enough to prepare me for the number of flowers that covered PEI. From field after field of potatoes (most with white blossoms, but there were some varieties with purple flowers), to other fields full of yellow canola blooms, to the goldenrod and fireweed that pop up in brilliant patches throughout the countryside…it seemed, everwhere I looked, there were beautiful flowers to brighten the day.
Queen Anne’s Lace was the most ubiquitous flower of all, on the island. We drove past entire FIELDS of the stuff. I even mentioned to Bill and Robert that, if I needed to dye anything deep golden-yellow, I had certainly come to the right place.
There were even thistles near the beach…which really shouldn’t surprise me, considering how many Scottish families came over and set up new homes on the island.
[Unfortunately for Robert, the abundance of flowers meant allergen overload and he spent the majority of the trip a bit sniffly and scratchy.]
Looking around the island, I kept thinking of trying to capture the beauty and color of the island in some kind of textile project. I did my best to distill the island into a color palette – yellow and sky blue and lots of white (for the Queen Anne’s Lace and potato blossoms) and several shades of green and LOTS AND LOTS of red with a slight brownish tint to it, to represent the color of the dirt in PEI.
I really think this colorway needs to find its way into something that I do…the question will be…what? I don’t think this would translate to a quilt the way I would want it to. I’m thinking this might have to show itself in wool – either all the colors dyed onto a skein of wool, or felted onto a scarf. If I had my own drum carder, I might consider attempting something like this.
One of the things I learned about the Macgregors…they love building sandcastles on the beach.
Of course, “sand castle” is probably too small a word for the behemoths they managed to construct while we were there. More like sand villages. They made three different ones during the week we were there (that I know about). The one they created on our last full day there was beyond words. They created bridges and forts and channels and fields for little shell livestock to work. It was impressive.
I found myself with a car on our last full day on the island and decided to make use of a little bit of spare alone time to track down some nearby wool shops. I had originally hoped to stop into McAusland’s Woolen Mill, but it was a little more of a trek than anyone was willing to accompany me on. Instead, I tracked down a shop called Knit Pickers. I had spotted the sign on the way to the cottages on our first day, and thought to myself “That has to be a yarn shop!” It was! The shop – which is probably the smallest of its kind I’ve managed to find – was well stocked with yarn, knitting accessories, and knit and woven items. Despite the small footprint of the shop, there was no shortage of interesting things inside. Margaret McEachern, one of the owners of the shop, was in that day and we had an absolutely lovely chat about wool, sheep, weaving, and the island itself. I picked up some Ewe Love soap (peppermint lavender) and some other small items. Margaret is a weaver of considerable skill. Had I known beforehand, I would have budgeted for a few of her woven items in the shop. Lucky for me, you can purchase items online! (Which is a good thing, as I am now absolutely in love with their peppermint lavender soap…it has made the entire bathroom smell lovely!)
From there, I stopped into the Rustico Bay Wool Sweater Company and the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company. The Wool Sweater Company had a selection of wool yarn in the back of the shop, in addition to a full inventory of assorted knitwear (sweaters, jackets, socks, mittens, etc.) The store seemed more like a regular commercial enterprise than the smaller specialty shop of Knit Pickers. I picked up a skein of some brown tweed wool there. I’m not sure what it is going to become, but I have a few ideas.
After I ran around the island a bit, I ran a few errands before dinner. I ended up being tasked with getting beer for folks, which I found hilarious considering I don’t drink. I just sort of guessed and picked things that looked like they were made locally. On my way out of the liquor store, I noticed a small roadside food stand advertising fresh fish ‘n chips. Being that I had already been craving fish ‘n chips, and given my love of random roadside stands (and my wonderful experience with them in Hawaii), I wandered over. Since it was a little mom-and-pop type place, housed in what looked like a converted shed, it was a cash-only type of establishment. Counting out my meager Canadian offerings (I was leaving the next day, so I had tried to get rid of my remaining Canadian currency), I was sad to realize I didn’t have enough to get the advertised fish ‘n chips. I didn’t even really have enough for an order of chicken strips (which were less expensive). Seeing my crestfallen face, the guy who ran the shop asked “What did you want, originally?” I replied “The fish, but I’ll just take the chips.” He nodded and said “Tell you what…I’ll give you a half order of the fish, and you can pay me what you have.”
Oh, people. This was the greatest blessing of that trip. I’ve had fish ‘n chips a couple of different places now (my favorite local spot is Eamonn’s, in Old Town Alexandria) but his took the prize. There was barely any breading on it, which is actually how I prefer it. Just enough flour to keep the fish together and give it a little crisp. SO GOOD! If you find yourself in North Glasgow, Prince Edward Island make sure you stop into Route 6 Fish ‘n Chips (it’s right next to the North Rustico liquor store)
While we were in PEI, we made sure to pick up some lobsters for dinner. Pearl’s father-in-law, Dwight, came over to show us how to crack them open (I’ve cracked open crabs before, but never lobster). We went through a fair number the first night, but still had an entire bag of them left over. Connie decided to make a lobster chowder the second night with the leftovers. I offered to crack open all the lobster claws (at least eight lobsters’ worth!) the next afternoon. Unfortunately, I didn’t think ahead and do my lobster meat extraction outside…so the living room of the hotel where Connie and John were staying reeked of lobster that evening and into the next morning.
I had an absolutely lovely time in Prince Edward Island and only have one bad thing to say about it….it was entirely too short a visit.